Hero Black Douglas remembered in new painting

By Gareth Edwards of the Edinburgh Evening News

 

Black Douglas painting

Photograph by Gordon Terris

A PAINTING of a "forgotten" Scottish hero who fought alongside William Wallace and Robert the Bruce was unveiled today at a Lothians stately home.

The Black Douglas was commissioned by Lord Selkirk of Douglas, who was determined to see his ancestor's place in history remembered.

It was painted by Corries singer Ronnie Browne, best known for the unofficial Scottish anthem Flower of Scotland but also a talented artist.

The work was unveiled at Lennoxlove House, East Lothian, this morning by the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, together with the Marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale and Lord Selkirk.

While the Scots warrior - real name James Douglas - has been overshadowed by his more famous contemporaries at home, he is still revered hundreds of miles away in southern Spain.

In Teba, where he died in battle fighting the Moorish invader Mohammed IV, he is remembered in annual celebrations even 700 years after his death.

Lord Selkirk said: "I was particularly struck last year, when a delegation from Teba arrived in Scotland to present me with a photograph of the memorial to Black Douglas at Castle of the Stars where he fought his last courageous battle to help the Spanish king repel the Moorish army.

"If Black Douglas was remembered in Spain, why not here? Here was a soldier who perfected tactical warfare and won more victories over the English than any other leader, more often than not against armies far larger than this own. He was a man feared and revered in his time.

"As his indirect descendants it was important to us that there was some celebration of his life within the Hamilton Collection at Lennoxlove House.

The painting shows a battle at Douglas Castle and the beheading of soldiers, a frequent tactic of the Black Douglas to warn off other attackers.

The painting also features the Castle of the Stars in Teba, and the casket containing King Robert the Bruce's heart - which the Black Douglas carried with him to Spain.

Artist Ronnie Browne said: "I was honoured to paint such a key character in Scottish history. The painting illustrates the significant features of the Black Douglas and his life on the battlefield.

"It was a challenge to paint a portrait based around historical description as there are no surviving images of the Black Douglas.

"I was given excellent information which allowed me to recreate significant events in the life of the Black Douglas.

"History is such a key subject in Scottish culture and it is important that we recognise the impact the Black Douglas made on Scottish history."

Bruce's heart was incorporated into the Douglas coat of arms and subsequently in the 17th century, when the Douglas and Hamilton families joined through marriage, it also became part of the Hamilton crest and still appears there today.

The Black Douglas can be viewed by the public in the Great Hall at Lennoxlove House on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

Forgotten hero

A master swordsman, formidable soldier and supreme tactician, the Black Douglas was instrumental in the fight against the English in the 14th century.

He was a specialist in fighting under cover of darkness, won more victories over the English than any other Scottish leader, and commanded a quarter of the Scots army at Bannockburn.

In 1314, he and his men attacked Roxburgh Castle at night disguised as cows, and recorded the first use of rope ladders with hooks on the end to scale the walls. His often ruthless deeds on the battlefield - including beheading enemy soldiers to warn off other attackers - struck fear into the hearts of the English. Mothers would warn their children to behave or the Black Douglas would get them.

To the Scots however, he was the Good Lord James who, true to Robert the Bruce's dying wish, carried his king's heart on crusade against the "heathen Moor" in southern Spain. Knights from across Europe joined the campaign, but Douglas died in battle at Teba.

 

This page was last updated on 01 August 2017

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Last modified: Monday, 21 April 2014