JAMES IV.—THE STORY OF A GREAT SEA-FIGHT
King James iii. was only thirty-five when he was murdered
in 1488 a.d., having reigned for twenty-eight years.
The battle did not last long after the King had fled
from the field. The rebels won the victory, and soon
after, Prince James was crowned, under the title of
But at first no one knew what had happened to
James III. At this time Scotland was beginning to be
famous for her ships and her brave sea-captains. Sir
Andrew Wood, one of the bravest of these sea-captains,
was lying in the Forth with his ships. As the King
could be nowhere found, the lords began to think that
perhaps he had taken refuge in one of Sir Andrew‘s boats.
So they sent messengers to Sir Andrew, asking him if
the King were with him.
‘He is not here,’ replied Sir Andrew. ‘ Search my
ship if you do not believe me.’
So the messengers went back. But the Prince and
the lords were not content. They again sent to Sir
Andrew commanding him to come ashore.
Sir Andrew came as he was commanded. He was a
very handsome man, and was grandly dressed. As he
came into the room he looked so splendid that the Prince
ran to him crying, ‘ Sir, are you my father ? ’
‘No,’ answered Sir Andrew, the tears running down
his cheeks, ‘no, I am not your father. But I was his
true servant, and the enemy of all those who rebelled
At these words the Prince turned away sadly, for he
had most unwillingly risen against his father.
‘ Do you know where the King is ? ‘ asked the lords
sternly, for they did not like to be spoken of as rebels.
‘ I do not,’ replied Sir Andrew scornfully.
Still the lords did not believe him. ‘ Is he not in your
ship ? ‘ they asked again.
‘ He is not,’ replied Sir Andrew. ‘ But would to God
he were there safely, and I should defend and keep him
from the traitors who murdered him. I hope to see the
day when they shall be hanged for their evil deeds.’
These bold answers made the lords very angry, and
when Sir Andrew had gone back to his ship, they called
all the sea-captains of Leith together, and ordered them
to fight Sir Andrew and to take him prisoner.
But the captains refused, and another brave sailor,
called Sir Andrew Barton, spoke up bravely, ‘ There are
not ten ships in Scotland,’ he said, ‘ fit to fight Sir Andrew‘s
two, for he is well practised in war, and his men are
hard to beat on land or sea.’
Later, Sir Andrew Wood came to great honour, for
James IV. was fond of ships, and was glad that Scotland
should have brave sailors like Andrew Wood and Andrew
James saw, too, that it was necessary for Scotland to
have a navy. For an island lying in the sea must have
ships to guard her shores, and also to carry goods to other
countries. People were at this time slowly beginning to
learn that a country was richer and happier when at peace,
and that it was much better to trade with other nations,
than to fight with them. They were also finding out
THE STORY OF A GREAT SEA-FIGHT 265
that Europe was not the whole world, and many brave
sailors had sailed into far, unknown seas, and discovered
strange lands, and had come home with curious tales of
the wonderful countries and peoples they had seen. So
James built ships, and encouraged his people to fish in
far seas, and to trade with distant countries, and soon the
Scottish flag was known and respected far and wide.
Among the ships which James built was one called
the Great Michael. It was the greatest ship that had
ever been known. All the carpenters in Scotland worked
upon her for a year and a day, till she was ready to put
to sea. All the forests of Fife were cut down to get
wood for the building of this monster, which cumbered
all Scotland to get her to sea, says one old writer. King
James was so interested in this great ship that he used
daily to go on board to watch how the work was going
on, and would often dine there with his lords. At last
she was finished, and sailed proudly out on the waters
of the Forth. Then the King commanded that cannon
should be fired at her sides, to see if the vessel was strong
enough to stand fire. And the Great Michael was so well
and strongly built, that the cannon did little harm to her.
The English, too, had great ships, and they used to
attack the Scots whenever they met upon the sea. They
would even come right up the Scottish Sea, as the Firth
of Forth was then often called. King James was very angry
at this, and he sent Sir Andrew Wood against the English ;
and Sir Andrew, with his two ships, the Yellow Carvel
and the Flower, beat five of the English, and carried their
captains and men prisoner to the King.
When King Henry heard how his ships had been
taken, he was very angry. He sent through all England,
saying, that whoever would go to fight Sir Andrew, and
bring him prisoner, should have great honour, and a
266 SCOTLANDS STORY
thousand pounds in gold. So Stephen Bull, a daring
sailor, said that he would go and would bring Sir Andrew,
alive or dead, a prisoner to King Henry.
Stephen Bull, with three great ships, sailed away till
he came to the Firth of Forth. There he found some
fishing-boats, whose crews he took prisoner.
Then he sailed on again, but still could see nothing
of Sir Andrew. Very early one summer morning, how
ever, an English sailor on the lookout saw two ships far
away. Stephen Bull made some of the fishermen, whom
he had taken prisoner, climb the mast, so that they might
see whether it was Sir Andrew or not.
But the fishermen, not wishing to betray their own
countryman, said that they did not know.
‘ Tell me truly,’ said Stephen, ‘ and whether we win
or lose, you shall have your lives and liberty.’
Then the men confessed that the ships were the
Yellow Carvel and the Flower.
Hearing that, Stephen was very glad. He ordered
a cask of wine to be brought up, and all the men and
captains cheered, and drank to their victory, of which they
felt sure. Then Stephen sent each man to his post, and
prepared to meet the enemy.
Sir Andrew Wood, on the other hand, came sailing
along, little expecting to meet any English. But when
he saw three ships coming towards him in battle array,
‘ Ha,’ he said, ‘ yonder come the English who would make
us prisoners to the King of England. But, please God,
they shall fail in their purpose.’
He, too, ordered a cask of wine to be brought, and
every man drank to his fellow, and, speaking brave words
to them, Sir Andrew sent each man to his post.
By this time the sun had risen high, and shone
brightly upon the sails. The English ships were great
THE STORY OF A GREAT SEA-FIGHT 267
and strong, and had many guns, but the Scots were not
afraid, and they sailed on towards the English. Soon
cannon boomed, and the fight began. All that long
summer day the battle raged, the heavy smoke darkening
the blue sky. The people who lived on the shore watched
and wondered, till at last night fell, and the fighting
ceased. But next morning, as soon as it was light, the
trumpets sounded, and once more the battle began. So
fiercely did it rage, that neither captains nor sailors took
heed of where the ships went. They drifted with the tide,
and the fight, which had begun in the Forth, finished
near the mouth of the Tay. It ended in victory for the
Instead of being taken prisoner to Henry, Sir Andrew
took Stephen Bull and all his men, and led them before
King James thanked and rewarded Sir Andrew greatly,
then he sent Stephen and his men back to England.
‘ And tell your King,’ he said, ‘ that we have as manful
men, both by sea and land, in Scotland, as he has in
England. Tell him to send no more of his captains to
disturb my people. If he does, they shall not be treated
so well next time.’
And King Henry was well pleased neither with the
news, nor with the message.
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