The History of Leith

October 31, 2012

Robert Prendergast

In 1337, about the time that John II. was abbot,
sanctuary was given in Holyrood church to a remarkable
fugitive from the Castle of Edinburgh,
which at that time was held by an English garrison
under Thomas Knyton. In one of the forays made
by him in search of supplies, he had been guided
to a rich booty near Calder Muir by a soldier
named Robert Prendergast, an adherent of Baliol,
who served under the English banner. Upon
returning to the castle, instead of being rewarded,
as he expected, the Scottish traitor, at dinner in
the hall, was placed among the serving-men and
below the salt.
Filled with rage and mortification, he remained
silent, and declined to eat. Thomas Knyton
observing this, asked the reason in a jesting tone,
and on receiving a haughty and sullen reply, passionately
struck Prendergast on the head with a
weapon that lay near, and so severe was the blow
that his blood bespattered the floor. He affected
to bear with this new outrage, and nursing his
wrath, quitted the fortress; but next day, when
Thomas Knyton rode through the gate into the
city with a few attendants, Prendergast rushed
from a place of concealment—probably a Close
head—and passing a long sword through his heart,
dashed him a corpse on the causeway.
He then leaped on Knyton’s horse, and.spurring
down the street, reached Holyrood, where he
sought sanctuary in the chapel of St. Augustine;
there his English pursuers found him on his knees
before the altar.
As they dared not, under pain of excommunication,
violate the sanctuary, they set a guard upon
the church, resolving to starve him into surrender;
but fortunately for Robert Prendergast, the monks
of Holyrood were loyal to their king, and thinking
probably an Englishman less in the world mattered
little from a Scottish point of view, they conveyed
to him provisions every night unseen by the guard.
For twelve days and nights he lurked by the altar
of St. Augustine, until, disguised in a monk’s cowl
and gown, he effected an escape; and more than
ever intent on revenge, joined Sir William Douglas,
the Black Knight of Liddesdale, whose forces lay
in the fastnesses of Pentland Muir

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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