What makes a good man?

If you were to ask me two questions, the first of which is, “Are you a good man?” And the second “Are you a brave man?” My response’s would be as follows, “probably not, no”, and, “Your Goddamn right I ‘am”

Pretty straight forward, relatively easy to answer, after all, it’s not too difficult to know whether or not you’re a good person, your actions speak for themselves do they not?, Your very nature is your own to know, and bravery is something that can be estimated in many mundane ways, I mean it’s not like you have to fight a dragon to prove it. But, the real question’s that should be asked of a man is, “Would you risk everything you hold dear for your country?” and “Would you die for your country?”

These are questions that have been asked of countless brave men and women throughout history, often unspoken by fate and circumstance. Do you stand where you are? Or turn and flee? Again, pretty straight forward. But, it is how you answer such questions, that for me, proves then and there, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether or not you are a good man, a brave man. Yet such questions are only as easy to answer as your life is worth, and how much you have to lose. And what life is worth living more than that of a wealthy and noble one.

And all this and more, was asked of one such man. The son of Walter Moray of Petty, Justiciar of Lothian, whose mother was the fourth daughter of John Comyn of Badenoch, Andrew Moray was evidently born into a wealthy and affluent baronial family with a considerable amount of political clout, which was no mean feat in a country such as Scotland, where a king rarely died peacefully.

Moray, was of course, an accomplished warrior like so many during this turbulent period in Scottish history, and so in that we can summarize that he was indeed a “brave” man, but again, there is a difference between being able to beat someone in a fight, and going out in a blaze of glory for your native land.

In 1296, Moray and his father were captured at the battle of Dunbar and taken prisoner by the English. Unfortunately, Moray’s father died in the tower of London, fortunately, Moray escaped from his own imprisonment in Chester castle. Swearing revenge, and forsaking all safety by means of disappearing to France or Ireland as he could have done, he chooses instead, to cross the border back into Scotland. In 1297, at Avoch Castle, he defiantly raised his father’s standard, and in doing so set himself upon a path of danger and violence, wherein only victory or death awaited him. This alone is the mark of a good man, one who commits to a perilous path, for better or worse, to stand up to the aggressor and make a stand.

Now, this is when the question grows that wee bit harder to answer honestly, for Moray could have still fled, had he the mind to do so, after all, who could blame him considering the wrath and might of which he faced in the form of the entire English army. Now, we Scots have been world renowned warriors since the dawn of recorded history, and right up into modern times as well, and as true as that is, it is one thing to be fearless, and another when you have the power to force the pope to excommunicate an entire country. Moray was only around 17-18 at this point, was he a brave man?

Now, whilst saint Wallace was fighting all across Lanark and the Lowlands, Moray was leading a rising against king Edward’s rule in the Highlands, where he was joined by a burgess from Inverness named, Alexander Pilchie who went on to become his lieutenant. Soon enough, Moray’s name began to carry, with news quickly reaching the authorities that a ‘large body of rogues’ were waging a guerrilla war in the north, and of this, news eventually reached king Edward himself.

Capturing Inverness, Banff, Elgin and Duffus castles his support among the north continued to grow, as did the ire of Edward. In time, even Urquhart Castle fell to Moray as he drove the English soldiers from Scotland. It was at this point that Moray met William Wallace in Dundee, whereupon, they forged an alliance that would go down in history, yet one that would seal the fates of both men. Moray was now in his 20’s.

In September, 1297, Moray and Wallace led their combined forces to Stirling. And there, both men set about preparing their soldiers for the fight of a lifetime. It is widely believed that Moray made the battle plan, picking the right ground, and deciding the tactics. Now, picture if you will, being considerably outnumbered, out manned, and under equipped, imagine that you are naked, in a cage, with a rabid bear. Would you curl up into a ball? Or would you spit in the bear’s eye before it mauled you to death. This was the question that was no doubt on Moray’s mind that fateful day. Yet there he was, a good man, a brave man.

The Battle of Stirling Bridge was a resounding victory for the Scots, but it cost Andrew Moray dearly. Surviving the initial crush of men, for Moray was among those who could be considered “knights”, and therefor would have been centre stage in the mayhem. A high value target, with a considerable price upon his head, the young warrior fought tooth and nail against English horse and knight. Sometime during the battle, he was struck by an arrow. He lived, and continued to fight on until the day was won. Bravery?

Imagine the feeling, all that uncertainty, all those doubts and fears, banished now by the overwhelming jubilance of victory against impossible odds. Wallace still lived, the English were soundly and utterly defeated, life must never have taken on a more optimistic air than in that very bloody and sore moment of utter relief. The young nobleman had risked it all, his fortune, his estates, his very life, and yet it had all been worth it, he still had a life yet to reclaim. A young man had taken on the world, neither for riches nor fame, but for the idea of freedom, of liberty, so that a separate ethnic group of people could live lives unmolested by the advances of a greedy and ruthless foreign neighbor. Good?

Moray later died of his wounds. His close friend, William Wallace, continued to sign Moray’s name before his own on every official letter he sent out, a small token of respect.

Moray to me was a good and brave man, who is somewhat over shadowed by his more famous buddy, and although both were nobles of some degree, Andrew Moray had the most to lose, and the least to win.

R.I.P, ya brave, brave, brave bastard!

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Author: dioghaltas

Alba An Aigh, Soar Alba, Alba gu Brath. Wha sae base, as be a slave; let him turn an flee.