Philiphaugh 13 Sept 1645 

After the battle at Kilsyth James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, was in virtual command of Scotland and was recognised by many as the King`s Viceroy, Edinburgh had released prisoners and Glasgow had opened its gates to him. But fate struck hard as he alienated his Highlanders by forbidding any plundering of Glasgow. Alasdair MacColl (McDonald) was rewarded with a knighthood but preferred to return to the west and continue his war against the Campbells. The Gordons road off in a jealous huff and were seen no more; and there were no replacements coming forward from the Lowlands. Thus denuded, his army was caught by surprise in the early morning mists on 13 September at Philiphaugh near Selkirk. 

Montrose had camped his forces on the plain of Philiphaugh in what seemed a good defensive position. The haugh ( a low lying area near a river) was about a mile long and half a mile wide in the valley of the river  Etterick. There was higher ground to the west which provided a good defensive position if needed, and the woodlands of Harehead to the south protected  his forces from cavalry. Feeling secure the officers had retired to their quarters in Selkirk. Meanwhile David Leslie and his army  of some 4000 horse and infantry had rapidly marched from Hereford and had arrived via Gala Water and the Etterick valley at Selkirk on the night of 12 September.

James Hogg, the Etterick Shepherd, wrote a poem called "Wat Pringle o` the Yair" which relates that Wat Pringle on his gallant steed, led  2000 troops  up Phillhope, over at the Fowlshiels Swire, and then by a narrow  and difficult path  through the Harehead Wood. By this manoeuvre  they achieved complete surprise.

No doubt Montrose and his small army were feeling confident after their year of successes and relaxed their guard to some extent, but that was no excuse for not putting out sentries or outriders to ascertain how far away was the Covenanter Army. They were after all, in hostile territory and would have received little help and even less reliable information about the Covenanter forces from the local people. It was also uncharacteristic of Montrose to separate himself from his troops and take quarters across the other side of the river. In the early morning mist Leslie`s forces advanced through Melrose and crossed the Ettrick at Lindean to achieve complete surprise. Montrose, awoken by gunfire, hurried from his bed but was unable to reach his troops and organise them into previously successful  formations. The Irish troops and the horsemen under Airlie and Gordon were soon overcome by the disciplined cavalry of Leslie. Montrose was not helped by some 1200 `gentlemen` who withdrew to a safe position from where they were later to join with the victors. Montrose himself fought his way out, first saving the standards, but his cause was at an end. Though he tried to re muster in the Highlands, no support was forthcoming from the Gordons nor the Irish and in May 1646 the King sent word to abandon a hopeless cause. Broken, Montrose went into exile - for a while.

David Leslie`s cavalry hacked and butchered their enemy in an orgy of retaliation for the defeat and murders at Kilsyth. Although greatly outnumbered the 300 Irishmen fought to the bitter end with some 250 of them killed before quarter was given. Philiphaugh is remembered also as the scene of the dreadful slaughter of the camp followers, wives, children, wounded etc of whom 300 were butchered like animals, without concern, in the courtyard of Newark Castle, overlooking the river Yarrow. Hewison in The Covenanters explains that this must have been done with the cognisance of the Council of War - Argyll, Crawford-Lindsay, Buccleuch, Lauderdale, Lanark, Yester, Barganie , Rutherford, Forrester and Scot. The massacres did not stop there as some fifty men who had been given quarter were executed; and on the way to Edinburgh about eighty women and children were thrown into the river Avon near Linlithgow and drowned.

 The captured Irish leaders O`Cahan and M`Lachlan were executed in Edinburgh. Sir Philip Nisbet, Sir William Rollo  and Alexander Ogilvy were beheaded in Glasgow. Lord Ogilvy escaped from prison in a dramatic way disguised in his sisters clothes. Lord Johnston of Hartfell, a kinsman of Lord Warriston, was pardoned. Spottiswood, the Lord President was tried and executed at St Andrews on 20 January 1646 along with Nathaniel Gordon and Captain Andrew Guthrie, son of the Bishop of Moray. It is told that David Dickson, professor of  Divinity in Glasgow University  commented on the executions "The work goes bonnily on.".

 It is highly likely that the hatred of the Irish stemmed from the 1641 rebellion in which some of the Irish officers had been involved in the atrocities. The Estates, however, were determined on vengeance and  ordered all prisoners taken at or after Philiphaugh to be executed `without any assize or process` which included six Irish women who were held in Selkirk gaol.

 

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