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The Battle of DornoThe Battle of Dornock, 1333


The Battle of Dornock was a minor engagement between England and Scotland, fought on the western border on 25 March 1333 at the outset of the second of the Wars of Scottish Independence. The Scots were defeated in what was later viewed as a foretaste of the much greater disaster at the Battle of Halidon Hill.

By the beginning of 1333 Scotland and England were moving ever closer to open war. The previous year a group of Anglo-Scottish lords, known as the disinherited, had defeated and killed Donald, Earl of Mar, the Guardian of Scotland, at the Battle of Dupplin Moor. However, with very limited support in Scotland, the disinherited were soon driven from the country. Their leader Edward Balliol, a pretender to the Scottish throne, was forced to flee for his life when intercepted by a party acting for David II, the underage king. Balliol now made appeals to the English king, Edward III for direct aid, promising large tracts of Scottish land in return. For Edward, who had hated the terms of the 1328 peace with Scotland established by the Treaty of Northampton, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Balliol was given permission to raise fresh forces, while the king himself prepared to join the struggle.

In Scotland Donald of Mar was replaced as Guardian by Archibald Douglas, the brother of Sir James Douglas, also known as the Black Douglas, who had been one of King Robert Bruce's leading commanders. It was not a good choice, as time was to show, for Archibald had little in the way of soldierly skills. He faced his first great test in March 1333, when Edward Balliol crossed the border with a large armed force, laying siege to the important port of Berwick-upon-Tweed on the eastern march. In 1319, in responding to a previous English attack on Berwick, Archibald's brother had led a large Scottish force into Yorkshire and to victory at the Battle of Myton. As a consequence the siege was abandoned. The Guardian, perhaps hoping to imitate this famous episode, launched his own cross-border attack in the west on 22 March into Cumberland, harrying Gilsland. Not only did this fail to have any impact at all on the situation in the east, but it also provided Edward with justification, if any more was needed, for his own military preparations. Most serious of all it provoked a retaliatory raid, leading to the first reverse suffered by the Scots in the new war.

Chief among those affected by the Gilsland raid was Sir Ralph Dacre, Lord of Naworth and Keeper of Carlisle Castle. Two days after Douglas recrossed the border, Dacre, together with Sir Anthony Lucy, led a large party of English raiders into Dumfriesshire. They were accompanied by one William of Lochmaben, possibly a renegade Scot, the whole force-800 strong according to one source- advancing some twelve miles inland, looting and robbing on the way. The object of the raid seems to have been little more than one of simple reparation; for no sooner had enough cattle been collected than the English turned south, intending to cross the Solway by the ford at Dornock.

News of the incursion reached Lochindorb Castle, then under the command of William Douglas, afterwards known as the Knight of Liddesdale. Douglas, accompanied by several local knights, including Sir Humphrey Boys and Sir Humphrey Jardine-amusingly miscalled 'Sardyne' in one contemporary account-set off in pursuit. In all he had some 50 men, which either suggests that the English force was far smaller than claimed, or that the venture showed more of valour than good sense. They were all referred to by the chronicler of Lanercost as 'solemn malefactors'. On 25 March the 'malefactors' intercepted their enemy, laden with booty, at Dornock. Without pausing the Scots, in the words of the chronicler, fell with one accord upon the person of Sir Anthony. The contest seems to have concluded in a remarkably short time. Boys and Jardine were killed along with some 24 men-at-arms. William Douglas was taken prisoner, as the rest of his party were driven off. On the English side only two squires are said to have fallen. Sir Anthony was badly wounded in the foot, eye and hand, but afterwards recovered.

Douglas was an important prisoner, and King Edward himself wrote to Dacre instructing that he and William Barde, another captive, should be kept safely ironed and in prison. Douglas was to remain in captivity for two years. Andrew Wyntoun, a Scottish chronicler, later recorded his feelings about the 'Battle of Dornock':

“ That ikle tyme at Lowchmabne

Off Annandyrdale the floure was tane
With off the West Marche men
That had thame in till Ingland then.
Amang thaim Williame of Dowglas
Takyn an till presone was.
That was bot erlys for to tell
Off infortwne that efftyr fell.


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