Battle of Bannockburn – 700 Years Ago

Battle of BannockburnThe 23 and 24 of June hold a special meaning for Scotland and England as the two countries commemorate one of the longest battles of Medieval times: the battle of Bannockburn. This battle marked a brief period of independence under the rule of King Robert Bruce, a much coveted time of relative peace in the tumultuous campaigns of Scottish independence.

Since historical events never happen in isolation, the best way to revisit the Battle of Bannockburn is starting with the campaigns that preceded the victorious clash.

Around the world, most people will remember the name William Wallace – represented inaccurately by Aussie Mel Gibson – and associate it with the campaign for Scotland’s independence. While Wallace did set the background for the success at Bannockburn, he died a gruesome death before seeing Scotland achieve this victory.

During Wallace’s time, England and Scotland faced each other in the battlefield several times. England wanted to invade and control Scotland, while Scotland fought to remain independent. Things were looking up for England at first, having won the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, and at the Capture of Berwick in 1296. The Scots, despite their fewer numbers and less equipped men, were victorious at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

It was a brilliant and opportunistic victory, with William Wallace and Andrew Moray leading Scotland in a less than chivalrous encounter against England. Funnelled down Stirling Bridge, the English army quickly became sitting ducks as the Scottish forces waited in the other side to slaughter them. The Scots were also helped by what could have been seen as providence: the Stirling bridge collapsed under the weight of the armies, drowning many an English soldier. The spirits were high in Scotland, but the country would suffer a whiplash that would end in Wallace’s death.

Edward I didn’t take lightly the English defeat in Stirling, and with the support of Welsh longbow-men claimed victory for his country at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Defeated, Wallace handed over the power to the future king, Robert the Bruce, and to John III Comyn. It was in 1305 that William Wallace was captured and met his gruesome fate. And when we say gruesome, we mean it: he was hanged, drawn by horses, emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and chopped into four pieces in the traditional torment reserved for traitors.

With Wallace gone, it was up to Robert Bruce to reclaim independence for Scotland, using the tried method of guerilla warfare and territorial advantage. Small victories against England cemented Robert Bruce’s leadership and the credibility as head of the Scottish armed forces, formal or otherwise.

By then, Edward I had died, and Edward II took his place on the throne of England. He wasn’t the warrior and strategist that his father had been, and this became an advantage for the Scottish forces. He fought and lost several encounters against Bruce, and was only able to hold onto a fortress in Berwick and one in Stirling. It wasn’t looking good for Edward II and his army, who suffered due to his lack of assertive military tactics and the constant disputes within his senior command.

Amidst this inner turmoil, the English forces moved forward to meet Bruce’s army in a woodland near Torwood. Where exactly, it’s hard to tell. Bannockburn is one of the most disputed battlefields, with at least 5 alternative locations in which historians assure the battle actually happened.

Numbers are hazy at best, but it is clear that the battle for Scotland’s independence was a David and Goliath story, with less than 10,000 Scots facing more than 16,000 English soldiers. Cavalry, infantry and knights against foot soldiers and a handful of horsemen, it became a war of wits versus power, and terrain advantages versus military training.

A trustworthy source of battle knowledge, The Complete Guide to the Battlefields of Britain by David Smurthwaite, states that the armies that clashed on the battlefield may have looked like this: on the English side, there were up to 18,000 men, which included 1000 to 2000 in heavy cavalry. On the Scottish side, Smurthwaite suggests there were probably around 6000 men plus some 3000 poorly trained and equipped local forces and up to 500 of light cavalry.

During the first day of battle, Scotland showed England loud and clear that they had learned from previous defeats. The heavy English cavalry and knights needed to traverse main roads, while the light Scottish forces could fight in the woods or the marshes, a definite advantage for them. To lure the English into their trap, the Scottish forces pretended to flee into the woods and hoped to be followed by their enemy. It worked.

Those who feel for animals should avert their eyes now, because Bruce’s forces devoted their first efforts to bring down the cavalry with traps, pikes and ditches designed to kill the animals that gave his enemies an advantage. During the first day of battle, the Scots demoralized the English forces with “hit and run” tactics that threw the invaders into confusion.

When the second day of battle started, the English started on foot and left the cavalry behind. Bows and lances came first and were met by the Scottish forces, including their light cavalry, though some historians suggest that the Scots were all dismounted. But England wasn’t exclusively fighting Scotland at the moment. The conflict inside their infantry and the weak command chain was at least partly to blame for the defeat that came by the end of the day. The English King fled, and the remaining of the army died in pits, drowned in marshes or barely escaped their lethal fate. Scotland was independent again, and the English army had ceased to exist.

Now, 700 years later, the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn will acquire a political tint as a referendum to vote for Scotland’s independence is held on the memorable date. The Yes or No that Scottish citizens will cross on a ballot on 18 September will be certainly charged with historical memories and anti-English sentiments, according to Sir John Major, partly stemmed of the battle of Bannockburn. It may or may not be deliberate that, as speculated by several No voters, the referendum will be held the same year of the 700 anniversary. Will Scotland be independent again? Time will very soon tell.

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New Poll: Gerry Adams and the IRA

Gerry AdamsMost Americans no little of the troubles of Northern Ireland and the I.R.A. We watched during the late 70s and early 80s on the news each night about the bombings and the murders – but the reasons for it all and the discord between peoples of the same stock seemed to escape us.

Perhaps it is our youthful United States that makes the glue that binds us stronger than the hundreds and thousands of years of troubles between the people of Ireland, Scotland, England seem trivial and in the past. Letting go of our history, our culture and our way of life for a new life in America allowed us to let fall these ancient hatreds in the ocean and start anew.

Still, when one begins to read the story of Jean McConville (mother of 10) and how she was murdered by the I.R.A. for simply helping a wounded soldier – you cannot help but feel thankful that we live in the country of America where this would hopefully never happen.

Read the full story and take the Poll on Celtic Radio!

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Medieval Black Plague

blackplagueThe plague was horrific, could hit without warning and killed tens of millions in 14th century Europe. But paradoxically, the population that survived ended up better off, with higher wages, cleaner living conditions and healthier food.

Game of Thrones doesn’t tell you the half of it. Life during the medieval ages was nasty, brutish and short. That was especially true during what became known as the Black Death. The widespread outbreak of plague struck between 1347 and 1351, killing tens of millions of people, resulting in the loss of 30 to 50% of the region’s population. The disease itself was horrific. “In men and women alive,” wrote the Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio, “at the beginning of the malady, certain swellings, either on the groin or under the armpits…waxed to the bigness of a common apple, others to the size of an egg, some more and some less, and these the vulgar named plague-boils.” And it seemed to strike indiscriminately and without warning. People could be healthy in the morning and dead by evening…

Read More from Time Magazine.сео оптимизация

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The Henry Girls

The Henry Girls are an Irish folk and roots music group. The band consists of three sisters: Karen, Lorna and Joleen McLaughlin. All three have studied music and are multi-instrumentalist, utilizing fiddles, ukulele, banjo, guitar, harp, mandolin, piano, and accordion. The Henry Girls often sing in harmony and their sound has been described as a mix of traditional Irish folk music and Americana. They have contributed backup vocals to Mary Black’s album Stories from the Steeples. They have also collaborated with Session Americana, Dónal Lunny, Moya Brennan, Jennifer Kimball, and The Fox Hunt.

Watch their video “Couldn’t Ask for More” from their CD “December Moon” and you will agree the Henry Girls are sounding good!

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Go Wireless – OontZ Speaker

oontzCambridge SoundWorks – is highly regarded for designing some of the best sounding high-end home speakers, home theater systems, WiFi music systems and now the OontZ family of Ultra-Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speakers.

The acoustic engineers of Cambridge SoundWorks designed these proprietary high quality lightweight speakers that deliver excellent sound quality, with distinct mid-range and clear crisp highs. They offer a number of wireless speaker products ranging from the low end OontZ curve, the mid-range OontZ Angle and the premium Oontz XL.

The speakers offer good battery life (10 hours), built-in speaker phone capabilities and an attractive design. A carrying pouch is included with all models along with an audio cable. What sets these speakers apart is their bigger than size sound and their competitive price structure if you buy directly from their website.

Features include wirelessly connecting to any of your portable gadgets, skip ahead and pause your music, and there is an auxiliary input for non-blue tooth devices.

Overall these are good speakers if you need to boost your portable device with better sound quality. All in all a good purchase if you have a need to listen to your music in an attractive product that can fit nicely in your car, desk or backyard oasis.

While a great innovative product that can definitely help your wireless solutions for music, we will reserve our review to a solid 4 stars as a good value, but not necessarily a great price considering the high-end model lists for $99.95. If you have been looking for a product like this we would highly recommend the XL which has an extra bass feature as well as the best sounding of this line of wireless speakers.
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