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Timeline of Scottish History

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Expedition of Bruce against Western of Isles

The ships which had transported Edward Bruce and his army to Ireland, were immediately sent home; and the king undertook an expedition against the Western Isles, some of which had acknowledged his dominion; whilst others, under John of Argyle, the firm ally of England, had continued for a long time to harass and annoy the commerce of his kingdom. Although constantly occupied in a land war, during the course of which he had brought his army into a high state of discipline, Bruce had never been blind to the strength which he must acquire by having a fleet which could cope with the maritime power of his rival; and from the complaints of the English monarch in the state papers of the times, we know, that on both sides of the island, the Scottish vessels, and those of their allies, kept the English coast towns in a state of constant alarm.

Their fleets seem to have been partly composed of privateers, as well Flemish as Scottish, which, under the protection of the king, roved about, and attacked the English merchantmen. Thus, during Edward Bruce's expedition, he met, when on the Irish coast, and surrounded with difficulties, with Thomas of Doune, a Scottish " scoumar," or freebooter, " of the sea," who, with a small squadron of four ships, sailed up the river Ban, and extricated his countrymen from their perilous situation.

In his expedition to the Isles, Bruce was accompanied by his son-in-law, the Steward of Scotland, and having sailed up the entrance of Loch Fine to Tarbet, he dragged his vessels upon a slide, composed of smooth planks of trees, laid parallel to each other, across the narrow neck of land which separates the lochs of East and West Tarbet. The distance was little more than an English mile; and by this expedient Bruce not only saved the necessity of doubling the Mull of Kentire, to the small craft of those days often a fatal enterprise, but availed himself of a superstitious belief then current amongst the Western islanders, that they should never be subdued till their invader sailed across the isthmus of Tarbet.