Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/293

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1317 A.D.]

England and Ireland Invaded.


Twice during this campaign, in September, 1315, and March, 1316, the Earl of Moray had occasion to return to Scotland for reinforcements, and twice he returned to the bloody work of conquest. It is astonishing how so poor and small a country as Scotland could meet such a prolonged strain on its fighting power as had been involved already in the War of Independence, and yet find a surplus to sacrifice beyond its shores.

After his victory at Arscoll, the Earl of Carrick returned to Ulster. The whole of Ireland, during these years of misery, was afflicted by a direful famine, always the unfailing complement of mediæval warfare. So great was the scarcity that the Irish annalists declare that "men were wont to devour one another."[1] For that unhappy land was the theatre of war, not only between English and Scots, and the Irish allies on each side, but independently, between the MacDermotts and the O'Conors, the royal tribe of Connaught; so that the best that can be said for Edward de Brus's enterprise is that he did not inflict any greater suffering on the Irish people than they were in the habit of inflicting on each other. The war was conducted on the same barbarous lines by all the combatants, and the description given in the Annals of Clonmacnoise of the Earl of Ulster's operations, apply to each of them in proportion to his strength. The English are described in that chronicle as—

"holding on their course of spoyleing and destroying all places where they came, not spearing Church or Chapel, insomuch that they
  1. Annals of the Four Masters, vol. iii., p. 521.