The Struggle for the Throne

After Bruce's coronation at Scone, on Friday 25th of March 1306, Edward of England at first refused to believe the reports coming south. Upon realization that the reports were correct Edward appointed Aymer de Valence his lieutenant for Scotland on 5th April 1306. De Valence was given the power to 'raise dragon'. This meant unfurling the dragon banner which showed that no quarter would be given. De Valence was a cousin of Edward as well as brother in law to the murdered Comyn, giving him the personal desire to destroy Bruce.

Aymer de Valence was not slow to make a start, he captured Bishop Lamberton at Kinross and then moved on to Cupar where he took Bishop Wishart of Glasgow, both were sent south in irons. De Valence then moved on to camp inside the walls of Perth, at that time a strongly walled town. On the 18th of June Bruce moved against the English forces by approaching Perth and challenging de Valence to come out and do battle or surrender the town. De Valence replied that the day being a Sunday, he would be happy to comply the next day. The Scots force withdrew a few miles west to Methven to camp for the night. As they were settling down and preparing an evening meal English cavalry burst through the trees in a surprise attack scattering the Scots forces. Methven turned into a complete rout for Bruce's forces, Bruce himself barely escaping. Many of the Scot's knights were captured and executed.

The survivors including Douglas made their way west, passing the Abbey of Inchaffray where the Abbot Maurice gave his assistance to the fugitives, guiding them west along Loch Earnside, then north into Glen Ogle dropping down into Glen Dochart. Here near the shrine of St Fillan the small band gained a brief respite from the pursuing English.

It did not take long for news of the defeat at Methven and the location of the small band of survivors to reach the ears of Bruce's enemies. John McDougall of Lorne attacked the band at Dail Righ (Dalry) and the defenders had to fight a rearguard action in order to escape. After this Bruce split his group, the women being given the horses and sent under the Earl of Atholl's protection to Kildrummy castle, held by Bruces brother Nigel. The rest took to foot making their way to Loch Lomond then to the west coast.

It was at this time that Douglas began to make his presence felt. He became the main provider of food for the group and established a close bond with the King. Reaching Loch Lomond it was Douglas who found the half sunken boat that enabled the men to cross the loch, two at a time. Douglas and the Bruce being the first two to cross. Once across the Loch, Bruce split the party in two giving command of one half to the twenty year old Douglas. Nothing much is known of Douglas's movements until early 1307 when according to Barbour James Douglas 'wes angry that thai so lang suld ydill ly' and went to the Isle of Arran along with Robert Boyd. There they ambushed a squadron sent to reinforce the English held castle at Brodick and gained many supplies of arms and armour. Whether by chance or design Bruce also landed on Arran at this time, upon blowing his horn it was recognised by Douglas and they were reunited.

From this point Bruce instead of fleeing went on the attack. By the spring of 1307 he had gathered sufficient strength to consider an attack on the Ayreshire coast along with a diversionary attack in Galloway. The Galloway force was led by Sir Reginald de Crawford along with Bruce's two younger brothers Thomas and Alexander. Unfortunately this force was ambushed by local forces under the command of Dungall Macdouall and all three leaders taken captive and later hung drawn and quartered at Carlisle. Meanwhile Bruce had sent a man named Cuthbert to the mainland to spy out the Turnberry area and was waiting for a signal fire to be lit signaling that conditions were favourable. One night on spotting the signal the assault was launched. Cuthbert met Bruce in an agitated state, what had been seen was an accidental fire not his signal. The local populace were cowed and Turnberry castle was garrisoned by Henry Percy, one of Englands greatest commanders. A decision had to be made, retreat or carry on. With nothing left to lose it was decided to attack. With a large garrison there was not room in the castle for all the soldiers, many were billetted in houses in the village. These were set upon and all slaughtered except one who roused the castle, however not knowing the size of the force opposing him Percy sat tight in the safety of the castle. Bruce captured many supplies including war horses and made off into the depths of the Carrick hills