THE BATTLE OF THE BUTTS
There are several, varying, accounts of this battle in the literature on Glasgow - the following is only one of them, but gives the substance of what transpired.
With the ascension to the throne of Mary Stuart in 1542, James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran and Duke of Chatelherault, became Regent of the kingdom. Initially he favoured, and proposed, the marriage of Mary to the son of King Henry VIII of England, Edward. However, when his own claim to the Scottish throne was thereafter threatened - he was next in line of succession - the Regent reversed his policy. He withdrew the proposal, converted to Catholicism and supported the Church against the reformers.
Infuriated that his plans to unite the kingdoms had been thus thwarted, Henry attacked Scotland in 1544. Historically, this became known as Henry's "Rough Wooing." A traditional enemy of the Hamiltons, Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, was promised the Governorship of Scotland by Henry on coming over to the pro-English camp. The Stewarts were a powerful force to the west of the country, including Glasgow where the 2nd Earl had been Provost at the turn of the century. The current Provost was Stewart of Minto and a supporter of Lennox.
En route to Dumbarton to raise an army against the Regent, Lennox took the Bishop's Castle in Glasgow, which was at that time in the possession of Archbishop Dunbar, and garrisoned it with his own men. The Regent soon laid siege to the Castle, but massacred the troops when they had surrendered after 9 days resistance on the promise of mercy.
Lennox, with the aid of his compatriot the Earl of Glencairn, determined to revenge this atrocity by attacking the Hamilton lands in Clydesdale. The Regent, to forestall this plan, attempted to return to Glasgow and hold it against his enemies. Glencairn reached the town first and recruited many of the citizens into his army of 800, the Glasgow contingent led by the Provost himself.
Arran, with 1000 men, marched on the town and was met by Glencairn at the Butts on the Gallowmuir. There followed a long and bloody battle, to be known as the Battle of the Butts, in which nearly 300 died. Victory almost fell to Glencairn, but the Regent triumphed. He then entered Glasgow and allowed it to be sacked by his troops in retribution for having supported Lennox. This was not forgotten by the townspeople, who later fought for the Regent Moray at Langside against Queen Mary and Hamilton's army.
© 2005 Gordon Adams
NOTES: Updated for 1st March, 2010.
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