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During the late 13th and early 14th centuries Scotland was struggling for independence from Anglo-Norman England. The defeat of William Wallace in the Battle of Falkirk in April 1298 and his capture and execution in August 1305 seemed to put an end to Scottish hopes for independence. It was during this uncertain time that Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, stepped forward to fight for independence. He was named Guardian of Scotland, along with John Comyn, by Wallace in 1298 and initially attempted to negotiate for independence with England’s King Edward I. When this failed, he rose in open rebellion.
After the death of Comyn in 1305, many sources say at Robert’s hand, Bruce was crowned Robert I, King of Scotland on 25 March. Bruce won several battles against the English in the early years of his reign and after the death of King Edward I in July 1307, initially made peace with King Edward II. The peace did not last long and Bruce rose again in rebellion.
To expand the war against the English and in response to calls from Irish lords for liberation, Bruce decided to send an army, under his brother Edward, to Ireland. The Bruce Campaign in Ireland initially saw success, with Edward landing in between Larne and Glendrum in Ulster in May 1315. While Edward met some resistance, most of the Gaelic lords in Ulster supported him, proclaiming him King of Ireland in Early June. Edward invaded as far south as Dundalk, meeting very little English or Irish resistance. King Edward II, finally convinced of the importance of resistance against Edward Bruce in Ireland, sent reinforcements under the command of the Justiciar of Ireland, Sir Edmund Butler, and John Hotham, English envoy to Ireland.
The Battle of Skerries (also called the Battle of Ardscull), which took place on this date in 1316, Edward faced a much larger force (10,000 for the English against 6,000 for Edward). Though they suffered many casualties, Edward’s army prevailed. Official English accounts blamed bad terrain and bad luck for their defeat. The Scottish dead are buried in the graveyard attached to the Dominican Priory on the east bank of the River Barrow in nearby Athy. Among those buried are two Scottish chiefs, Lord Fergus Andressan and Lord Walter de Morrey. Edward continued to have success in Ireland, but the failure of the crops in 1317 and the pillaging tactics of his army began to turn against him. By the Battle of Faughart in October 1318, Edward’s army had shrunk considerably. He was defeated and killed during the battle, thus ending the Bruce campaign in Ireland.
The remnants of the battlements at Ardscull can still be seen today.