You know your side lost the battle when no one even remembers who exactly “you” were.
Two Scottish clans had been violently feuding for centuries, and it came to a head in 1396. In September of that year, Clan Chattan and Clan Kay faced off in what is now Perth’s North Inch Park.
At least, it was probably Clan Chattan and Clan Kay. History hasn’t accurately recorded the names of those. And because Scottish clans were kin groups, they were amalgamations of smaller units.
Regardless of who they were, these two groups had been killing each other for generations. King Robert III had enlisted the Earl of Crawford to settle the dispute between the clans, but to no avail, so it had been decided that the groups would battle at North Inch to settle the fight for good. The victors would be awarded with royal honors while the losers would be pardoned.
On the day of the battle, the opposing clans paraded through the city with bagpipes and drums before meeting at North Inch Park. Spectator grandstands had been arranged for the event, with the king himself watching from a nearby friary.
The battle was about to begin when it was discovered Clan Chattan was short a man. They recruited local armorer, Henry Smith or “Hal O’ the Wynd” (a very cool nickname), by promising him half a French crown should he survive. With both sides at 30 men each, the battle commenced.
This story is remembered largely because of Sir Walter Scott’s description of the battle in his novel The Fair Maid of Perth. Scott’s description follows as such:
“Blood flowed fast, and the groans of those who fell began to mingle with the cries of those who fought. The wild notes of the pipes were still heard above the tumult and stimulated to further exertion the fury of the combatants… About twenty of both sides lay on the field, dead or dying; arms and legs lopped off, heads cleft to the chin, slashes deep through the shoulder to the breast, showed at once the fury of the combat, the ghastly character of the weapons used, and the fatal strength of the arms which wielded them.”
However, because The Fair Maid of Perth was written nearly 400 years after the Battle at North Inch, the validity of its description is dubious.
We do know that the battle was undoubtedly bloody, leaving the king and all the other spectators in “inexpressible horror”. The battle ended when only a handful of Chattans only one lone Kay remained. He survived by jumping into the River Tay and swimming across to safety. Clan Chattan were the victors. The fighting between the two clans ceased for a little while, but started up as soon as their numbers had recuperated. This was one of the only clan battles to have a royal audience though.
There is little to indicate there was ever a bloody battle at North Inch today, but the park carries on another piece of Scottish legacy: There is a massive golf course on the property.