Scotland's History, Legends, Wildlife and Hunting Practices...because the past lives in us and guides our footsteps.



The castle of Linlithgow was in the hands of the English,
but it was won from them by the help of a poor farmer
called Binning.

The castle was very strong. It was surrounded by a
loch, and a moat crossed by a drawbridge. Under the
archway of the entrance there was a portcullis.

It seemed hopeless to attempt to take the castle, it
was so strong.

One day the English Governor ordered Binning to
bring a cart­load of hay to the castle, as he was in need
of some for his horses. Binning promised to bring it, but
he made up his mind to take the castle at the same time.
Quickly and quietly his plans were made. During the
night some Scottish soldiers crept as near to the castle
walls as they dared, and hid where they could not be seen
by the English. Then very early in the morning Binning
loaded his cart. But he did not load it with hay only.
In the cart lay eight strong men, clad in steel, and armed
with swords and battle-axes. Over these men, so as quite
to cover them, Binning placed a light load of hay.

He then harnessed his oxen with ropes to the heavy
cart, and set out for the castle. A servant sat in front,
driving, and Binning himself walked by the side of the
cart, with a stick in his hand and his woodman’s axe at
his belt.

164                    SCOTLAND’S STORY

Slowly the cart creaked along the silent street until it
reached the castle gate. The drawbridge was lowered at
once, for the sentinels knew that hay was expected, and
asked no questions. The heavy load passed over the
wooden bridge, the hoofs of the oxen sounding loud in
the still morning air. With beating heart, but seemingly
calm, Binning walked along. The portcullis was slowly
raised and the cart passed under it. But, just as it was
directly under it, Binning sprang forward, and quick as
lightning, with a blow from his hatchet, cut the ropes
which bound the oxen to the cart. The oxen moved on.
The cart was left beneath the portcullis.

‘ Call all, call all,’ shouted Binning. It was the signal
agreed upon. ‘ Call all, call all,’ cried the soldiers in the
cart as they threw off the hay which covered them, and
sprang to the ground with drawn swords. ‘ Call all, call
all,’ replied the men from without, rushing in to help

The portcullis was lowered, but it was of no use. The
heavy cart stood underneath it and prevented it from fall­
ing to the ground. The gates could not be shut for the
same reason, so the castle was taken and all the English
soldiers were put to death.

Bruce rewarded Binning by giving him a great estate,
and even to this day the name of Binning is remembered
in Linlithgowshire.

Roxburgh was another strong castle, and it was so near
the Borders that the English were very anxious to keep
it. But Douglas had quite made up his mind to take it,
however difficult it might be.

Douglas was a great soldier and a gallant knight. By
his friends he was called the Good Lord James, but by
his enemies, because of the fear they had of him, and
because he was very dark, he was called the Black


Douglas. Indeed the terror of his name was so great
that mothers would frighten their naughty children by
saying to them, ‘ Be good now, or I shall fetch the Black
Douglas to you.’

On Shrove Tuesday there was great feasting and drink­
ing, and on that day Douglas and his friends made up
their minds to take Roxburgh Castle.

The only hope of doing this was to take it by surprise.
But to get to the castle some fields had to be crossed.
If the Scots had marched across these fields, they would
have been seen by the garrison, who would then have had
time to prepare for them. So, waiting until it was dark,
they threw black cloaks over their bright armour, and
crawling on their hands and knees, passed through the
fields to the bottom of the wall. They went a few at
a time, so that in the dusk they looked like straying

Some were safely over, and were hiding close against
the walls, when the watch went their rounds. The watch­
men paused on the wall, just above the spot where
were Douglas and his men, and looked across the fields.
‘ There be cattle late afield,’ said one soldier, pointing
to the slowly moving objects in the distance.

‘ Yes,’ said the other, ‘ the farmer is making merry
this Shrovetide, and has forgotten to shut up his cattle.
If the Black Douglas comes across them before morning
he will be sorry for it.’

Then the men moved on, little dreaming that the
Black Douglas was listening to what they were saying,
and that the ‘cattle’ were no other than the Black
Douglas‘s own men.

At last all had safely reached the walls. The ladders
were placed ; the men mounted. Everything was quiet
within the castle. Only a woman, the wife of one of the

166                    SCOTLAND’S STORY

soldiers, sat upon the walls with her child in her arms,
singing it to sleep.

Hush ye, hush ye, little pet ye,
Hush ye, hush ye, dinna fret ye,
The Black Douglas will no get ye.’

Don’t be so sure of that,’ said a voice close beside
her, and a steel-gloved hand was laid upon her shoulder.
With a scream the woman looked round. Beside her,
tall, dark, and strong, stood the very Black Douglas of
whom she sang.

In a moment the alarm was given. The fierce cry of
‘ Douglas ! Douglas 1 ‘ with which his men always rushed
into battle, sounded through the night, and the fight
began. Nearly all the English were killed. But Douglas
took care of the woman and her child, so she lived to
know that he was not so dreadful as his name

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