THIS weekend marks the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Harlaw, fought just outside Inverurie, the outcome of which is considered pivotal in the history of Scotland.
Aberdeen City Council are organising a series of events to mark the occasion. The battle took place on July 24, 1411, when an army of Highlanders under Donald Lord of Islay, “The Lord of the Isles”, who were intent on sacking Aberdeen, were halted by smaller force under the command of Alexander Stewart, the Earl of Mar.
On Sunday, the anniversary of the battle there will be a Church Service at 11am in St Nicholas Kirk, Aberdeen, followed by an Official Commemoration and Wreath Laying Ceremony at the monument to the battle for invited guests. From 3pm onwards the memorial will be open to the public. Later in the week on Thursday, July 28, there will be a Harlaw 1411 Event and Clan Gathering from 5.30 to 9.30pm in Duthie Park, Aberdeen.
The battle came about as a result of a dispute over the Earldom of Ross, after the regent of Scotland The Duke of Albany had claimed the earldom as guardian of Euphemia Leslie. Donald claimed the Earldom through marriage, and invaded Ross in 1411, capturing Dingwall Castle and assembled his men at Inverness, which they sacked and burnt, prior to marching on Aberdeen. The residents of Aberdeen and the surrounding area, fearing they would meet the same fate as Inverness, assembled a force under the Earl of Mar which contained armoured men-at-arms from most of the prominent families in the North east, including Forbes, Leslies, Keiths and Irvines. The grave of knight Gilbert de Greenlaw, killed in the battle,and buried in Kinkell Churchyard gives a good idea of how the men-at-arms under Mar would have looked and the arms they would have carried.
The battle was particular ferocious, which gave rise to the nicknames “Bloody Harlaw” or “Red Harlaw”, lasted from dawn to dusk, and its believed that more than 1,500 men were killed. Amongst the dead was the Provost of Aberdeen Robert Davidson. When dawn broke the next day the lowland force discovered that Donald and his Highlanders had withdrawn during darkness, and that Aberdeen was safe.
To commemorate Robert Davidson and all those that fell that day a monument was erected at the site of the battle in 1914 by the then Aberdeen Town Council.