Through Great Britain and Ireland With Cromwell - H. E. Marshall

The Story of Willie Wastle

Oliver stayed only a "week-end" in Glasgow. On Sunday he went to church in the great cathedral, and listened to the preacher who railed against him and his soldiers, in a sermon two hours long. We can imagine the grim, stern soldier, with iron-grey hair, and face bronzed and deeply lined, sitting calm and unmoved, while the equally stern and fearless preacher called him "blasphemer "and "backslider."

But all who listened to him were not so patient. "Shall I pull him down? "asked one of Oliver's friends.

"No," replied he. "He is a fool and you are another. I will presently pay him in his own fashion."

And so he did, for he asked the preacher to dinner, and ended with a prayer lasting three hours.

Oliver's treatment of the Scots was very different from his treatment of the Irish. Here there was no butchery, as at Drogheda and Wexford. The Scots were godly men though mistaken, said Cromwell. He did not wish to conquer them but to bring peace between the two countries. Peace, it seemed, could only be brought by the sword; yet his "heart yearned after the godly in Scotland." "In Glasgow," says one writer, "Cromwell's soldiers behaved as if they had been in London."

When they returned to Edinburgh they did not go by the way they had come, by Kilsyth and Linlithgow, but through the uplands of Lanarkshire, by heathery moor and deep-wooded glens, now heavy with rain, then over the Pentlands to Edinburgh. "The worst march we have ever yet had homeward, over mountains and bogs such as no army ever passed," says one of them.

The winter was now near, the weather was very wet, so Oliver and his men took up winter quarters in Edinburgh. All this time Cromwell had been mining away at the rock of Edinburgh Castle, hoping to blow it up, if it would not yield. But he found it very hard, and the mines were of no use. Now he got some big guns and began to bombard the castle. But even that did little harm to the massive walls, and had the castle been held by a resolute man, Cromwell would perhaps never have been able to take it, for there was food enough to last many months within the walls.

But the governor was young and of no great courage. So on Christmas day he gave up the castle to Cromwell, marching out indeed with colours flying, but to be looked upon by his brother Scots as a traitor and a coward.

"Indeed the mercy is very great and seasonable," writes Cromwell. "I think I need say little of the strength of the place; which, if it had not come in as it did, would have cost very much blood to have attained, if at all to be attained."

During the winter there was much marching out, and marching back again, skirmishing, and taking of castles. Hume Castle, not far from Kelso, in Berwickshire, was one of the strongest of these. Berwickshire, like the Lothians, is a fertile county. In the north, on the slopes of the Lammermuirs, are sheep farms, and in the south, in the Merse plain of Tweed, there is good agricultural land. All about are dotted pleasant little villages, but there is not a large town in the whole county.

When Oliver sent a message to the governor of Hume Castle, ordering him to yield, he replied, "I know not Cromwell, and as for my castle, it is built upon a rock."

So the thunder of Cromwell's great guns began. Four days passed and still the governor would not yield. Instead he sent a scornful letter to Cromwell.

"I William of the Wastle,

Am now in my castle;

And aw the dogs in the town,

Shanna gar me gang down."

Still the bombardment went on, and at last a breach was made in the walls, strong though they were.

Then it was resolved to storm the castle, and Oliver's officers cast lots as to who should lead the attack. But now, seeing that it was useless to hold out any longer, the governor gave way. So Hume Castle was taken, and all its furniture and treasure was divided among the soldiers as spoil. Only the governor's wife was allowed to take away her bed and a few things belonging to herself.

But perhaps the most important castles taken were Tantallon, not far from North Berwick in Haddingtonshire, and Blackness on the shores of Forth. Blackness is one of the fortresses which by the articles of the Union we are obliged to keep garrisoned. It is now used as a powder magazine. North Berwick lies upon the Firth of Forth, just where it opens into the North Sea. Besides being a fishing-place with a good fishing harbour, it has fine sands, and a famous golf course, so many people go there every summer. The ruins of Tantallon Castle are still to be seen. The walls were so strong that "ding down Tantallon, and build a brig to the Bass," used to be a proverb, meaning that both were impossible.

But Tantallon is a ruin, and although there is no bridge to the Bass, quite as wonderful things as that have been done.

When these castles were taken nearly all the south of Scotland, from the Tweed to the Forth, was in the power of Cromwell. Only Stirling and the north held out.