The Gordons at Otterburn

Otterburn Battle

Otterburn Battle

On the 5th of August, 1388, the Battle of Otterburn took place. This was a skirmish between Scotland’s James, 2nd Earl of Douglas, and England’s Henry “Hotspur” Percy, the son of the Earl of Northumberland. This battle was part of continuous Anglo-Scottish border conflicts that were quite common at the time. It was a decisive Scottish victory, but was also a relatively bloody affair, with thousands of casualties, mainly on the English side.

Since it was a border fight, many of the lowland clans fought along with the Earl of Douglas. Some of these families included Clan Lindsay, Clan Johnstone, Clan Montgomery, Clan Graham, and Clan Gordon. Since it was such a decisive and famous victory several ballads were written about it, including a ballad called The Battle of Otterburn.

In the ballad a number of the families get mention, including the Gordons on a couple of occasions.

The ballad begins:

It fell about the Lammas tide

When the muir men win their hay,

The doughty Earl of Douglas rode

Into England to catch a prey.

It then continues to mention some of the clans there:

He chose the Gordons and the Graemes,

With them the Lindsays light and gay -

Later on in the ballad it goes on to claim that the Scots proved to have been quite blood thirsty, particularly the Gordons, and slayed a lot of their enemy.

The moon was clear, the day drew near,

The spears in flinders flew,

But mony a gallant Englishman

Ere day the Scotsmen slew.

The Gordons good in English blood

They steeped their hose and shoon.

There were also a number of Scottish casualties too, including, unfortunately for the Gordons, their leader, and father of Sir Adam Gordon, who also went on to give his life for his country.

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