The Ravens and Cumloden, Newton Stewart

In the spring of 1307, the year after his coronation at Scone, Robert the Bruce found himself on the run in Galloway, heartland of the Murdochs, with a few score of faithful followers.

He had earlier been defeated by an English army in Carrick and the Earl of Pembroke and John of Lorne were in hot pursuit. As they closed in on the King Robert and his men, he ordered his band to split into three groups in order to confuse his pursuers and rendezvous the following day at the house on Loch Dee. John of Lorne caught up with the King's party and so he again ordered his men to scatter. In the chase, Robert the Bruce ended up on his own and made his way to Loch Dee.

There he found lodging in a widow's house at Craigencallie. In the morning she, observing some of his princely ornaments and suspected him to be a person of eminence, asked if he was her Leige Lord. He told her he was, and asked her if she had any sons to serve him in his distress. Her answer was, that she had three sons and that, if she was confirmed in the truth of his being their sovereign, they should be at his service.

Robert the BruceKing Robert then asked if she could give him anything to eat. She replied that there was little in the house, only oat meal and goat's milk, which would be prepared for him. While preparing this simple food her three sons appeared, all stout men. The King asked them if they would engage in his service, which they willingly agreed to. After finishing his meal, King Robert asked them what weapons they had and if they could use them. The brothers told him they were used to none but bow and arrow so he asked them if they could demonstrate their skills with their bows. MacKie, the eldest son, let fly an arrow at two ravens, perching upon the pinnacle of a rock above the house and shot them through both their heads. At which the King smiled saying, "I would not wish he aimed at him". Murdoch, the second son, let fly at one upon the wing and shot him through the body. But MacClurg, the youngest son, had not so good success.

In the meantime the English still in the pursuit of Robert the Bruce, were encamped in Moss Raploch, a great marsh on the other side of Dee. As the King observing them, the young men realised that his forces were much inferior and offered him a plan. They would gather all the horses, wild and tame, in the neighbourhood and along with all the goats that could also be found, so that the King and his small band could hide in their midst. However the noise of the horses and with the horns of the goats made the English, who were some distance away, believe they could see a much larger force. They decided to stay within the safety of their own camp for another day.

At break of day the King with his small army attacked the English with such fury that they panicked and scattered. Many were killed in the ensueing chaos in what became known as the Battle of Glentrool, 1307.

Situated in the centre of Moss Raploch lies a huge boulder, to this day this is known as the King's Stone. Bruce is said to have leaned his back against the stone while his men gathered up the spoils of war. It is said that years later, as people dug out peat to burn, they were still finding broken swords and heads of battle axes!

The three young men remained close to Robert the Bruce in all his wars with the English. Finally they were thrown out of Scotland and her borders secured. The soldiers and officers that followed King Robert, according to their merit, were put in possession of what lands had been in the English hands or with those Scots nobles who opposed him.

The three brothers, who had stuck by their King and had followed him through all dangers were asked by King Robert what reward they expected? They answered very modestly that they never had a prospect of great things but if his Majesty would bestow upon them the thirty-pound land of the Hassock and Cumloden they would be very thankful. The Cumloden lands measured some five miles by three and lie just north-east of Newton Stewart. The King agreed and they kept it long in possession.

Murdoch thenceforth became Murdoch of Cumloden.

The Murdochs of Cumloden did not live at present Cumloden House but at Old Risk Castle (NX 443695), to the east of Penkiln Burn surrounded by marshy ground. Little remains of the castle.

It appears that the Stewart Earls of Galloway tricked the Murdochs out of their lands after 1745.
The slaying of two ravens by his brother was remembered forever on the Coat of Arms.

These lands lie in the heart of 'Murdoch Country' and are the closest thing to an ancestral home. Exactly how many of those with the surname Murdoch descend from this family and lived on the lands of Cumloden is unclear, however Newton Stewart and area certainly has many Murdochs to this day!

       Murdoch Coat of Arms


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