Hollinshed on Edward Bruce

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXI

"'Edward Bruce,' say the Four Masters, 'a man who spoiled Ireland generally, both English and Irish, was slain by the English, by force of battle and bravery, at Dundalk; and MacRory, Lord of the Hebrides, MacDonell, Lord of the Eastern Gael (in Antrim), and many others of the Albanian or Scottish chiefs were also slain; and no event occurred in Ireland for a long period from which so much benefit was derived as that, for a general famine prevailed in the country during the three years and a half he had been in it, and the people were almost reduced to the necessity of eating each other.' Edward Bruce was, however, unquestionably a man of great spirit, ambition, and bravery, but fiery, rash, and impetuous, wanting that rare combination of wisdom and valour which so conspicuously marked the character of his illustrious brother.

"During the sojourn of Edward Bruce in this kingdom, he did much to retard the spread of English rule. Having for allies many of the northern Irish, whose chieftain, O'Neill, invited him to be King over the Gael in Ireland, and whose neighbourhood to the Scottish coast made them regard his followers as their fellow-countrymen, he courted them on all occasions, and thus the Irish customs of gossipred and fostering—preferring the Brehon laws to statute law, whether enacted at Westminster or by the Parliaments of the Pale—destroyed all traces of the rule which the English wished to impose upon the province of Ulster. Many of the English settlers—Hugh de Lacy, John Lord Bissett, Sir Hugh Bissett, and others—openly took part with Bruce.

"The eastern shores of Ulster, Spenser informs us, previous to Bruce's arrival, bounded a well-inhabited and prosperous English district, having therein the good towns of Knockfergus, Belfast, Armagh, and Carlingford; but in process of time became 'out-bounds and abandoned places in the English Pale.' According to the metrical history of Barbour, Edward Bruce was by no means disposed to continue a subject, while his brother reigned King; and, though Robert conferred his hereditary Earldom of Carrick upon him, it by no means satisfied his ambitious projects:—

"'The Erle of Carrick, Schyr Eduward,
That stouter was than a libbard,
And had na will to be in pess,
Thoucht that Scotland to litill was
Till his brother and hym alsua,
Therefor to purpose he gav ta
That he of Irland wold be king.'

"Shortly after his landing at Carrickfergus he proceeded towards the Pale. Dundalk, then the principal garrison within the Pale, had all the Englishry of the country assembled in force to defend it, when the Scots proceeded to the attack, 'with banners all displayit.' The English sent out a reconnoitering party, who brought back the cheering news, the Scots would be but 'half a dinner' to them. This dinner, however, was never eaten. The town was stormed with such vigour that the streets flowed with the blood of the defenders; and such as could escape fled with the utmost precipitancy, leaving their foes profusion of victuals and great abundance of wine. This assault took place 29th June, 1315. It was upon this success the Scots crowned Edward Bruce King of Ireland, on the hill of Knocknamelan, near Dundalk, in the same simple national manner in which his brother had been inaugurated at Scone.