- Blaen from the splendid fort of Eidyn inspired
- The faithful warriors who followed him
Back in the Dark Ages, Embra Castle was held by a tribe called the Gododdin, whom the Romans knew as the Votadini. Sometime in the late sixth century Britain was subject to a wave of illegal immigration - with the resultant takeover of jobs in the native herding and farming communities, not to mention the odd kingdom or two.
Anyway, the castle (fort) became a rallying point for resistance to this inexorable wave of Europeans under the leadership of one Mynyddog Mwynfawr who decided to take on these upstarts at a place called Catraeth.
The Angles, having recently taken over York, were now in a position to control the strategically important road junction at Catraeth which led to both Edinburgh and Carlisle. In addition, Catraeth was where the opposing allied armies of Bernicia and Deira (Angle) conjoined and was therefore the point of least cohesion. Smart lad, our Mynyddog.
Having formulated his plan, Mynyddog then set about raising his troops. Now, in Dark Age Britain, what this involved was sending out invitations to the best warriors to turn up at your gaff for a bit of feasting and quaffing. In this particular case, Din Eidyn (Edinburgh Castle) became the site of a year long hoolie:
- His drinking-horn was handsome
- In the hall of Eidyn....
- His mead was intoxicating
- He drank strong wine
You can see where this is heading, can't you?
You wouldn't be wrong, either. The problem with strong drink is that it tends to lead to unfortunate and intemperate boasting about just what you, personally, are going to do to these (in this particular case) poor, unfortunate Angles; and, what's more, having enjoyed a year on the piss at someone else's expense you are going to have to back it up with your little pink body, collosal hangover notwithstanding.
Some centuries later, when the lights had come back on - albeit on a 10 watt setting - the new incumbents knew they had a castle and town but weren't quite sure where it had come from (Welsh no longer being the lingua franca in these parts, drink, eh?). Luckily, Geoffrey of Monmouth had been busy on his rip-roaring best sellers which enabled them to indulge in that famous medieval pastime, "Making Stuff Up." A method of claiming political legitimacy not unknown today.
It was reckoned by Andrew of Wyntoun that the castle and city had been established in 989 B.C. by Ebrauke. This character was reputed to have had twenty-one wives, twenty sons and thirty daughters. The preponderance of women leading to the castle being named, "Castle of Maidens," or "Virgins Castle."
At this time, the castle had been used mainly as a hunting lodge and shagging pad by the Kings of Scots; there was the odd bit of internecine bickering, but nothing to write home about for the time.
All that was about to change......
1295 - the Three Hundred Years War has kicked off:
- "The Wednesdaie to Edenbrough the abbey, and causid ther to be set up iij engyns castyng into the Castell day and nyght; and the Vth daie thei spake of pees."
Now, this was obviously long before the Barnett Formula, and Scotland was somewhat lacking in the wherewithal to fight on England's terms. Being an inventive lot, though, they came up with a new tactical doctrine:
- "On foot should be all Scottish war
- Let hill and marsh their foes debar
- And woods as walls prove such an arm
- That enemies do them no harm."
Edinburgh Castle had to go.
At this point in our narrative, yet another of God's Mercies comes into play; alcohol having played such an important part in a previous incarnation, sex was now about to play its part - albeit indirectly.
The castle was garrisoned by the English and was used to store supplies sent north by sea. In fact all the Scottish castles were garrisoned by the English. The Scots had neither the men, money or equipment to lay siege to them or hold them in the event a siege was successful.
Accordingly, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, was tasked with a commando raid to seize and then demolish the castle. Fortunately, there had had been a resident of the castle who had previously had to circumvent the, "no girls in the block," rule. One William Francis, in order to get his jollies, worked out a way to visit his bint involving a rope ladder and a somewhat precarious way down the rock face which, obviously, could be employed in the reverse so he could get back in time for Muster Parade.
|Soldiers' Monument in Canongate Kirk|