David Banks: Battle of Flodden rages on

This 500th anniversary year of the Battle of Flodden has just been celebrated as David Banks explains

You have to hand it to the Jocks, they never give up. Not like us English...

Somehow I can’t see the bewildered second-in-command at Flodden, a sort of Middle Ages Ally McLeod, having inherited what little was left of the Scots’ army along with his king’s head for a football, saying to the victorious Earl of Surrey: “Well done, my lord; damn fine game but the best team won.”

This Ally’s Army, in tartan Tammies with sticky-out orange hair, would barely have had time to loot a few bars and wade back across the Tweed at Norham before starting to plot their revenge.

But apart from a few Border skirmishes they have failed to come up with a Second Bannockburn (free prescriptions, free care for the aged and free university education don’t count. They just hurt).

But here in Godzone, where the thin red, white and blue line holds firm against the foe, we have thankfully been delivered unscathed through the Borders rid-out season, a kind of Ulster marching season but one made jolly through the addition of drink and the absence of religious fanaticism.

They ride the bounds in Galashiels and Hawick and Melrose, among others, and in Coldstream a cavalcade of horses and riders do their damnedest to support Alex Salmond’s attempt to undermine the ‘English’ economy by snarling up the traffic for three hours as they swarm across Coldstream Bridge to assemble on Branxton Hill and strike terror into the hearts of the locals.

This 500th anniversary year organisers missed their target of 500 horsemen and women by just a couple of dozen but it was still a powerful enough sight to worry the elderly and feeble in the community.

“By God,” muttered the Byreman downing a third large brandy to calm his nerves. “Another 50 or so riders and the Jocks might beat us next year!”

But, as I was saying, they never give up. There are now TWO fresh battles over the bodies that fell at Flodden: a skirmish between an English nobleman and a Scot called James (sounds familiar?) and a determined fight by the ever-faithful 1513 Club of Coldstream to lay down a graveside memorial to their slaughtered king

James Bell, (Scots) chairman of the 1513, is fighting a rearguard action to stop archaeologists digging on the site of what is thought to be the field where many of the 10,000 Scots and 1,500 English dead were buried.

To his adversary, the (English) Lord Joicey, James wrote as diplomatically as any red-headed Scot can: “These are war graves. It is sacrilege to the men who died there and have rested in peace for 500 years.”

Rather than go to war, Oor (peace-loving) Laird replied that the dig would be a superficial attempt to discover the extent of the burial pits in order to improve the site’s current legal status from that of Registered Battlefield to the more powerful Scheduled Ancient Monument.

“No bodies will be disturbed nor interfered with,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, a second action has been waged successfully by 1513 to persuade the Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club to erect a plaque recording the 13th fairway as the possible site of James IV’s burial site.

The former Sheen Priory where James’s (headless) corpse was last reported seen before the Carthusian headquarters was torn down by Henry VIII in the 16th Century

All should be made clear at the 1513 Club’s annual Flodden remembrance dinner tonight, where secretary Gerald Tait might have the trickier task of the two when he relates to non-golfers in the audience how James the Fourth became James the ... Fore!

david_banks@hotmail.com

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