The examples of valorous dames are innumerable, but one from the History of Scotland is sufficient. During the struggles between Edward Baliol and David Bruce, the young son of Robert Bruce, the Castle of Dunbar was held for the latter by the famous Countess of March, daughter of Thomas Randolph, Earl of Murray, commonly called “Black Agnes,” on account of her jet black hair and eyes. Montague, Earl of Salisbury, came to besiege her stronghold, and kept a huge stone-throwing machine continually at work. The inmates made a valiant resistance, and “Black Agnes” and her maidens, to show their contempt for the enemy, appeared on the battlements, and with clean towels wiped the places where the stones fell. A still more powerful machine of war called “the Sow” was next placed close to the wall. Concealed inside of it were soldiers, who with pickaxes were speedily undermining the fortress. On seeing “the Sow” approach, the countess ordered an immense piece of rock to be hurled on it, which broke in the roof. As the engine was being dragged to the walls, she cried derisively:-
For farrow shall thy sow!”
– and when the soldiers rushed away, pursued by a shower of stones and arrows from her followers, the dauntless lady shouted, “Behold the litter of English pigs!” The earl, along with another knight, rode one day towards the castle, and although the latter was clad in three coats of mail over a leather jacket, he was shot by an arrow from the battlements. As he was falling, the other exclaimed, “That is one of my lady’s love tokens; Black Agnes’s shafts pierce to the heart.” The valiant dame, however, once nearly took him prisoner. She sent a messenger to Salisbury feigning a desire to give up the castle, and, accepting the proposals in good faith, he proceeded to the gates, accompanied by a squire of Northumberland, John Copeland. The latter, pressing forward, entered, and the portcullis at once was dropped, leaving the wished-for captive outside. The siege lasted for nineteen weeks, when the countess was relieved by Alexander Ramsay, and the foe retired. her determined conduct has been celebrated in many a ballad, for –
She kept a stir in tower and trench,
That brawling, boisterous Scottish wench,
Came I early, came I late,
I found Agnes at the gate.
– Newcastle Chronicle, Saturday 18th January, 1890, p.9.
Aberdeen Weekly News, Saturday May 3rd, 1890, p.2.
- Chapter I. – Hallowe’en at Wedderburn Castle.
- Chapter II. – A Double Marriage in Wedderburn Castle.
- Chapter III. – A Night Ride to Dunbar.
- Chapter IV. – The Castle of Dunbar and its Mistress.
- Chapter V. – How Adam and Elsie were Received by Black Agnes.
Aberdeen Weekly News, Saturday 10th May, 1890, p.2.
- Chapter VI. – How it Befel Hepburn and His Bride.
- Chapter VII. – Hepburn and Betsy Agree to Betray the Castle to Lord Salisbury.
- Chapter VIII. – How Betsy Fulfilled Her Mission.
- Chapter IX. – A Cannonade in the Olden Time.
Aberdeen Weekly News, Saturday 17th May, 1890, p.2.
- Chapter X. – A Messenger from the Castle to Visit the Camp of the Enemy.
- Chapter XI. – The Castle Messenger Arrives at the English Camp.
- Chapter XII. – Black Agnes Before the Earl of Salisbury.
- Chapter XIII. – The Judas Slit in Dunbar Jail.
Aberdeen Weekly News, Saturday 24th May, 1890, p.2.