HOW A PLOUGHMAN WON A BATTLE
Years passed on, king following king, and still the land
was filled with fighting and strife. But out of the con
fusion and war of these stormy times Scotland grew.
There was war with the Saxons ; there was war
with the fierce sea kings who came sailing over from
Norway and Denmark. Wild heathen men were these,
tall and strong, with long fair hair and blue eyes. Fear
less, and brave, and cruel, they landed in the islands to
the north of Scotland, burning, destroying, conquering,
and carrying off both men and women as slaves.
Fiercely the kings of Scotland struggled and fought
against these wild invaders. Again and again they were
driven out Again and again they returned. They
swept round the island ; they wrecked the monastery of
St. Columba on the island of Iona. Everywhere they
carried fire and sword, leaving death and desolation
In the reign of a king named Kenneth III., these Danes
were defeated in a battle called the battle of Luncarty.
The fight had been sharp and cruel, and the Danes fought
with such desperate bravery that at last they drove the
Scots backward. In confusion they fled from the field.
Down a long lane fenced on either side with high walls
they fled, hotly pursued by the victorious Danes.
But in one of the fields near. a ploughman and his two
sons were quietly at work. When the old man saw how
the Scots were fleeing, he seized the yoke from the neck
of his oxen, and calling to his sons to do the same he
sprang into the lane. Side by side the three men stood
barring the way. They were armed only with their
wooden ox-yokes, and with them they beat back all
those who fled.
‘ Would ye flee and become the slaves of heathen
kings ? ’ cried the old man, whose name was Hay. ‘ Nay,
nay, turn back, turn back, and die rather as free men.’
So stoutly did he speak, such blows did he deal, that
the Scots took heart again. They turned, and led by Hay,
they once more attacked the on-coming Danes. And
the Danes, thinking that a fresh army had come to help
the Scots, were seized with fear and fled. Then the Scots,
who had been so nearly defeated, now filled with new
hope and courage, chased them from the field. Many
were killed in the battle, many more fell in the chase,
and the victory of the Scots was great. But all the
honour was given to the ploughman and his two sons,
who had won the day after it seemed lost.
The King then commanded that these three brave men
should be dressed in splendid robes, and brought before
him. But they did not care for fine clothes, so they
refused the robes of silk and satin which were offered to
them, and they went before the King wearing their old
shabby clothes, covered with dust and mud, in which they
All the people were eager to see the men who, by
such bravery, had saved their King and country from the
terrible Danes. So they crowded along the road to see
them pass, and with cheering and shouting a great throng
of people accompanied them, doing them as much honour
as if they had been kings and princes.
HOW A PLOUGHMAN WON A BATTLE 81
Thus, followed and surrounded by a rejoicing crowd,
they came to the King‘s palace. All the courtiers wore
their most splendid robes. The King sat upon his throne,
his golden crown upon his head. Before him stood Hay
and his sons in their old shabby clothes, carrying their
wooden ox-yokes upon their shoulders.
‘ What can I do for you ? What can I give to you,’
asked the King, ‘ as a reward for your great services ? ‘
‘ Give me, sire,’ replied Hay, ‘ as much land as a falcon
will fly over without alighting.’
‘ That is but modest asking,’ said the King. ‘ Let it
Then the King and all his courtiers went out into the
fields near the palace, and watched as a falcon was let
loose. As soon as the bird was free it rose high in the
air, then spreading its wings it flew away and away.
On and on it flew, on and on till, to those who
watched, it seemed but a speck in the distance. Then
it disappeared. The horsemen, who followed its flight,
rode fast and they too were lost to sight. On and on
the falcon flew, till at last it alighted upon a stone.
It had flown six miles without stopping, and all that
six miles of land was given to Hay and his sons to be
theirs for ever.
The King then made Hay and his sons knights. As
you know, knights always had something painted upon
their shields in memory of the great deeds which they
had done. So King Kenneth commanded that Hay
should have a shield of silver, and that upon it three
red shields should be painted. That was to show that
the ox-yokes of Hay and his sons had been as shields
to the King and country. On either side was painted a
ploughman carrying an ox yoke, and over all was a
82 SCOTLAND’S STORY
I must tell you that some people say that this story
too is a fairy tale, but there is still a great family whose
name is Hay, and who bear these same arms with the
motto, Serva jugum, which is Latin and means ‘ Keep the
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