26 January 1316: The Battle of Ardscull on this day. Edward Bruce, the Scottish claimant to the Crown of Ireland, defeated an Anglo-Irish army led by Edmund Butler the Justicar of Ireland*, John Fitzthomas Baron of Offaly, Arnold Power, Seneschal of Kilkenny and Maurice Fitz Thomas (afterwards 1st Earl of Desmond). The battle site, near the great Motte of Ardscull (Hill of Shouts) is about three miles east of Athy, Co Kildare. Bruce had been making his way south out of Ulster, raiding and burning as he went but his men were tired and hungry by the time he reached this place. A terrible famine was sweeping across the land and provisions were in short supply. To put a stop to the depredations of the Scots, the Anglo-Irish assembled a large but ramshackle force to meet them in the field. In the event the day was won by Bruce who had an easy victory over the Sassenach, as he led his battle hardened veterans against what was primarily a scratch force of country yokels with a leavening of English and Anglo Irish fighting men.
After the Battle, the Scottish dead were buried in the graveyard attached to the Dominican Priory in Athy, which occupied the area on the east bank of the River Barrow. Among those buried were two Scottish chiefs, Lord Fergus Andressan and Lord Walter de Morrey. The English lost two men worthy of note, Hamon le Gras and William of Prendergast. No doubt many of the lesser fry on both sides fell on this day as well.
This was the third defeat that the forces loyal to King Edward II of England had suffered since Edward Bruce had landed in Ireland the previous May. The English charged with defending the Colony were mortified to be defeated once again and John of Hotham, who had been commissioned by King Edward to make arrangements for the expulsion of the Scots, sent a report to him that excused the loss of the battle with the words:
‘but by bad luck the enemy kept the field, losing however some of their good people, while the kings forces lost only one, thanks to God’.
Clearly being the bearer of bad tidings was an enterprise fraught with danger for one’s career then as now!
However it was a Victory that was of limited use to the Scotsman as conditions rapidly became so bad that he had no choice but to turn round and march back to Ulster and the relative security of being in a Province where the Gaels of the North could offer him succour and his back would be towards Scotland and the promise of further help. Thus this battle decided nothing other than that if the English of Ireland wished to defeat the Scots here and stop the Country slipping completely out of their control they needed better equipped and supplied forces than were currently available during this campaign.
* the man apppinted to rule Ireland in the name of Edward II the King of England