The History of Leith

January 6, 2012

Your major is neither a soldier nor a gentleman

In 1640 the Lawnmarket was the scene of a remarkable single combat, of which we have a very clearly-detailed account in ” The Memoirs of the Somervilles.” In that year, when Major Somerville.
of Drum commanded the garrison of Covenanting troops in Edinburgh Castle, a Captain Crawford, who, though not one of his officers, deemed himself privileged to enter the fortress at all times, walked up to the gates one morning, and, on finding them closed, somewhat peremptorily demanded admission. The sentinel within told him that he must ” before entering, acquaint Major Somerville with his name and rank.” To this Crawford replied, furiously, “Your major is neither a soldier nor a gentleman, and if he were without; this gate, and at a distance from his guards, I would ‘
tell him that he was a pitiful cullion to boot!” The irritated captain was retiring down the Castle Hill, when he was overtaken, rapier in hand, by Majpr Somerville, to whom the sentinel had
found means to convey the obnoxious message with mischievous precision. ” Sir,” said the major, ” you must permit me to accompany you a little way, and then you shall know more of my mind.” ” I will wait on you where you please,” replied Crawford, grimly; and they walked together in silence to the south side of the Greyfriars churchyard, at all times a lonely place. “Now” said Somerville, unsheathing his sword, ” I am without the Castle gates and at a distance from my guards. Draw and make good your threat! ” Instead of defending himself like a man of honour, Crawford took off his hat, and begged pardon, on which Somerville jerked his long bow lhilted rapier into its sheath, and said, with scorn, ” You have neither the discretion of a gentleman, nor the courage of a soldier; begone for a coward and fool, fit only for Bedlam !” and he returned to the Castle, accompanied by his officers, who had followed them to see the result of the quarrel. It is said that Crawford had been offended at not being invited to a banquet given in the Castle by Somerville to old General Ruthven, on the day after the latter surrendered. As great liberties were taken with him after this in consequence of his doubtful reputation for courage, he resolved, by satisfaction demanded in a public and desperate manner, to retrieve his lost honour, or die in seeking it. Thus, one forenoon, about eleven o’clock, when the Major was on his way to visit General Sir Alexander Leslie, and proceeding, down the spacious LawnmarkSt, which at that hour was always thronged with idlers, he was suddenly confronted by Captain Crawford, who, unsheathing both sword and dagger, exclaimed, ” If you be a prettyvman—draw ! ” With a thick walking cane recently presented to him by General Ruthven, the Major parried his onset and then drew his sword, which was a half-rapier slung in a shoulderbelt, and attacked the Captain so briskly, that he was forced to fall back, pace by pace, fighting desperately, from the middle of the Lawnmarket to the goldsmiths’ booths, where Somerville struck him down on the causeway by the iron pommel of his sword, and disarmed him. Several of Somerville’s soldiers now came upon the scene, and by these he would have been slain, had not the victor protected him; but for this assault upon a superior officer he was thrown into prison, where he lay for a year, heavily manacled, and in a wretched condition, till’Somerville’s wife, who resided at the Drum House, near Gilmerton, and to whom he had written an imploring letter, procured his liberation.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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