Distress of the Norwegian fleet
But the measure of Norwegian success was now full: the spirit of the Scottish nation was highly exasperated—time had been given them to collect their forces—and, as had been foreseen, the elements began to fight on their side. Upon returning to their ships in Loch Long, the invaders encountered so dreadful a storm, that ten of their vessels were completely wrecked. King Haco still lay with the rest of the fleet in the Firth of Clyde, near the little islands of the Cumrays, when, on Monday the 1st of October, a second tempest came on, accompanied with such torrents of hailstones and rain, that the Norwegians ascribe its extreme violence to the powers of enchantment—a prevalent belief at this period. The wind blew from the south-west, making the coast of Ayrshire a lee-shore to the fleet, and thus infinitely increasing its distress.
At midnight a cry of distress was heard in the king's ship; and before assistance could be given, the rigging of a transport, driven loose by the storm, got entangled with the royal vessel, and carried away her head. The transport then fell alongside, so that her anchor grappled the cordage of the king's ship; and Haco, perceiving the storm increasing, and finding his own ship beginning to drag her anchors, ordered the cable of the transport to be cut, and let her drift to sea. When morning came, she and another vessel were seen cast ashore. The wind still " increased; and the king, imagining that the powers of magic might be controlled by the services of religion, rowed in his long boat to the islands of the Cumrays, and there, amid the roaring of the elements, ordered mass to he celebrated. But the tempest increased in fury. Many vessels cut away their masts; his own ship, although secured by seven anchors, drove from her moorings; five galleys were cast ashore, and the rest of the fleet violently beat up the channel towards Largs.
Meanwhile, Alexander had neglected no precaution which was likely to ensure the -discomfiture of this great armament. Before it appeared on the coast, the warders in the different castles which commanded a view of the sea, were directed to keep a strict lookout; a communication by beacons was established with the interior of the country ;f and now, when the tempest seemed to threaten the total destruction of their enemies, a multitude of armed peasants hovered on the surrounding heights observing every motion of the Norwegian fleet, and ready to take instant advantage of its distress. Accordingly, when the five galleys, with their armed crews, were cast ashore, the Scots rushed down from the heights, and attacked them. The Norwegians defended themselves with great gallantry; and the king, as the wind had somewhat abated, succeeded in sending in boats with reinforcements; but as soon as their crews landed, the Scots retired, satisfying themselves with returning during the night, to plunder the transports.
When morning broke, Haco came on shore with a large reinforcement, and ordered the transports to be lightened, and towed to the ships. Soon after, the Scottish army appeared at a distance, upon the high grounds above the village of Largs; and as it advanced, the sun's rays glancing from the lines, made it evident to the Norwegians, that a formidable body of troops were about to attack them. The cavalry, although they only amounted to fifteen hundred horsemen, had a formidable appearance on the heights, most of them being. knights or barons from the neighbouring counties, armed from head to heel, and mounted on Spanish horses, which were clothed in complete armour. All the other horses were defended with breastplates; and besides this cavalry, there was a numerous body of foot soldiers, well accoutred, and for the most part armed with spears and bows. This force was led by the king in person, along with Alexander the High Steward of Scotland.