The Battle of Flodden took place in turbulent times. Pope Julius II had manipulated the European sovereigns, Henry VIII of England, Emperor Maximillian and Ferdinand of Spain to invade France. Despite the fact that his wife was the sister of Henry VIII, James IV of Scotland felt obligated to invade England in support of his ally France. The ensuing Battle of Flodden was a national disaster for Scotland. According to George Buchanan (1582) 5,000 Scots lost their lives, including King James IV himself, his illegitimate son (the Bishop of St Andrews), ten earls, thirteen lords, a bishop, two abbots, a French ambassador and a host of local nobility. However, most of those slain in battle were ordinary men called to arms by their feudal superiors.
In the aftermath of the slaughter the bodies of the nobility were taken to nearby Branxton Church and some were buried there. The bodies of ordinary participants in the battle, and of King James IV, were less well disposed of. It is said that the King’s corpse was transported from the battle site in Northumberland to London where Henry VIII had promised to give him a Christian burial in St Paul’s Cathedral. James left as his heir a seventeen month old baby, who was crowned as James V in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle on the 21st of October, 1513.
Strathgryffe suffered great losses, as did the rest of Scotland. The local nobility was decimated and hundreds of their followers lost their lives. Lord John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill, was among the 13 Lords who lost their lives following their king. He was one of the lucky ones whose body was buried with respect. His corpse was returned to his estate in Lochwinnoch, where the Collegiate Church was extended with the addition of an apse to house his tomb. William Cunningham of Craigends was also slain in the battle. He was the second son of the Earl of Glencairn and had been granted Craigends in 1479. Robert Wallace of Johnstone Castle was another victim of the slaughter. The Wallaces of Johnstone owned the original Johnstone Castle which was situated on what later became Milliken Estate. William Fleming of Barochan, died with six of his sons. He left a seventh son who succeeded him. Peter Houston of Houston Castle, thought to have been born c 1460, also died in the battle. Houston Castle, at that time, was possibly the original tower house built on the site of a later Houston Castle, the remains of which are incorporated in the Houston House of today. Robert Crawfurd, 5th Baron of Auchinames, another of the casualties was succeeded by his eldest son. The land of Auchinames, in the west of Kilbarchan Parish, had been granted to Robert’s ancestor, Reginald Crawfurd, for services to Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn. The decimation of the local nobility and hundreds of their retainers, un-named in history, must have been a devastating tragedy in Strathgryffe.
The dead are remembered by the song (and pipe tune) “Flowers of the Forest”:
We’ll hae nae mair lilting at the yowe-milking,
Women and bairns are dowie and wae.
Sighing and moaning, on ilka green loaning,
The flowers of the forest are all wede away.
© 2016 Helen Calcluth