The Battles of Bancroft Street and North Inch

Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning.

Erwin Rommel
Viking warriors
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When I began writing Beneath the Destined Stone I didn’t have much of a plan. I knew that I wanted it to be a time-travel novel. I knew my main character and my villain would be from the 21st century, and I knew my hero would be from the Middle Ages. But that was all I knew.

Until I read about the Battle of North Inch…

It was like that moment when Harry Potter holds his wand for the first time. I’m pretty sure sparks flew from my finger tips, and earthquakes shook across the globe. Inspiration hit me that hard. I had my story! And it was all thanks to some feuding Highlanders and a king who wasn’t afraid to think outside the box.

Scotland 1396.

Robert_III,_King_of_Scotland
Robert III King of Scotland This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art

Robert III, king of Scotland, finds himself in a sticky situation.The North is controlled by powerful clans that have a penchant for feuding. Think of these clans like small kingdoms, but with way cooler titles–chief, chieftains, tacksman, etc. Unfortunately for Robert III, he’s under a lot of pressure to put an end to all the fighting in the North.

So how do you get two highland clans to stop feuding?

You could say pretty pretty please with a cherry on top. But this would be about as effective as when Bill Cosby tried to get Eddie Murphy to clean up his comedy act. So you might think to flex your kingly muscle instead and sick your military on them. Problem is, the clans have armies that rival your own, and you might just lose. Talk about embarrassing. So what’s a king to do?

The solution:

This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art
This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art

You host a gladiator-style battle to the death and let the clans fight it out once and for all.The clans in question are a matter of debate. Most agree that on one side was Clan Chattan, a confederation of clans including Clans Mackintosh, Macpherson, MacBain and many others. The identity of their opponents is more controversial, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume Clan Cameron.

Clan Map
Map of Highland Clan Territories

So Clan Chattan and Clan Cameron sent 30 of their best men to Perth to fight it out for the title of Baddest Mother Effers of the North. The king set up a stadium at North Inch, a stretch of flat land that ran along the river Tay.

Spectators gathered, and everyone was ready to watch a bit of good old fashioned slaughter. But then it got dramatic. As they’re preparing for battle, Clan Chattan realizes they’re a man short. They throw a hissy fit and refuse to fight unless Clan Cameron agrees to get rid of a man to even things out. Clan Cameron wasn’t about to give up a man, and it seemed as if the battle wasn’t going to happen.

Finally, someone gets the bright idea to ask the audience for a volunteer. And as unlikely as it sounds, a blacksmith named Henry with the awesome nickname Hal o’ the Wynd agrees to fight for Clan Chattan in return for half a French gold crown and to be maintained for life.

River Tay at Perth The North Bank of the River Tay from the North Inch park in Perth, Scotland.
River Tay at Perth The North Bank of the River Tay from the North Inch park in Perth, Scotland.

Turns out, Hal o’ the Wynd is kind of a badass. He’s reportedly the first to draw blood and one of only eleven men to survive on Clan Chattan’s side. Clan Cameron had only one surviver, and the only reason he lived was because he jumped into the river Tay and swam away to safety.

As I already mentioned, the Battle of North Inch was the inspiration for my book. As soon as I read about it, I knew Henry a.k.a Hal o’ the Wynd would be my hero, the man who jumped into the river my villain, and the story would answer the question of how this battle came to pass.

The Experiment: 2801 W. Bancroft St.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my friends to join me in trial by combat. Go figure. Instead, I did the next best thing and found myself a group of warrior nerds.


Allow me to present : The University of Toledo’s Dagorhir club.

DSC_0094

 

DSC_0048
Dagorhir Member throwing foam spear

If you haven’t heard of Dagorhir, it’s a full-contact fighting game that has been around since the 70s. Men and women fight battles that fall somewhere between medieval and Tolkienesque fantasy using an array of foam weapons.

The club was kind enough to allow me to watch one of their practices and answer a few questions. You can listen to the full interview by clicking the audio below. It takes a second to load, so be patient.  I apologize in advance, I had no idea how to edit this, so there are a few moments where the sound quality isn’t great.

 

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Notice the man on the left has been struck in the arm and can’t use it. The man on the far right has been struck on the leg, so must kneel.

The rules for Dagorhir are pretty simple. They go by the honor system. A strike to the torso equals a kill. If a limb is struck, you aren’t allowed to use it, but can keep fighting. For instance, if you were hit in the leg, you would have to drop that knee and fight from a kneeling position because that leg would be out of use. Two limb strikes is considered a kill.

As I watched them fight, the first thing I noticed was the noise. Remember, their weapons are foam, and still the sound of clashing swords drowned out the sounds of passing cars. An image began to form in my mind of real battle. The sound of metal on metal must have been deafening. Throw in howls of pain and a bagpipe or some war drums, and the cacophony must have been overwhelming.

DSC_0240I also realized how quickly death must have come in battle. I grew up watching old kung fu movies and epic fantasies with choreographed heroes slashing down endless enemies without so much as a scratch. But the Dagorhir spars lasted only a minute or two and inevitably somebody had to take a knee half-way through. I realized then that life and death must have been decided within a few sword strokes, and luck must have counted nearly as much as skill. It gave me a greater appreciation for how brave these warriors really were.

If you live in the Toledo area and are interested in Dagohir, they meet at the University of Toledo every Friday at 5:30 in front of the bell tower. If you don’t live in the Toledo area never fear, there are chapters nationwide. Visit http://www.dagorhir.com . for more information.

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19 thoughts on “The Battles of Bancroft Street and North Inch

  1. wish my aunt still lived there (not that I ever went to see her); this might have given me an extra incentive, but saw some guys here that might have been a part of this; clicked through on the link trying to see but doesn’t appear to be too active – seems the whole world (except us?) has gone to FB – anyway, one thing to another and I found somebody who’s checking – anyhoo –

    ran across a book wondered if you’ve read – A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman, set in 14th cent. 1348-50 – not sure where – not sure realized yours was in Scotland till today – yay! as someone who hails from that heritage; this isn’t Robert Bruce, is it?

          1. the day book I sent the link to? and you made me dig out my copy of Outlaw King about Robert Bruce, very first page it was year 1304 so, yep, guess you’re right but in checking it out a little more, ran across something else in the back – again, just throwing this stuff out – “The Art of War in the Middle Ages” by Charles Oman

          2. Yeah I ordered the link you sent me. The Art of War… sounds good too. So many books so little time 🙂

  2. ” I knew my main character and my villain would be from the 21st century, and I knew my hero would be from the Middle Ages. But that was all I knew.”

    What is the difference between ‘main character’ and ‘hero?’

    Glad to know about Dagorhir.

    That river photographs with reflections is so beautiful 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Sarah.

    Love and light <3

    Anand 🙂

    1. Sometimes there is no difference at all 🙂 In this case I have a hero and a heroine and it is the heroine who is the main character of my book.

  3. Sarah, So glad I fell into your world! Never would I have ever sought out this blog, truly… I’m not that brainy…
    HOWEVER I read every post to the end and am always totally blown away with your fascinating stories and engaging style! Thank you for sharing!

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