Did Fife host forgotten battle?

The Battle of St Monans is written by Leonard Low. (Pic: Andrew Elder)
The Battle of St Monans is written by Leonard Low. (Pic: Andrew Elder)

Did an East Neuk village once host a major battle between the armies of England and Scotland?

Largo author Leonard Low has found information that reveals a forgotten battle that took place on the shores of St Monans in 1548 and saw over 900 Englishmen killed – and has written a book about it.

Despite the size of the clash and importance of the figures involved, the battle had been forgotten to history, until Leonard came across a mention of it in a book about witch trials.

“I was reading about a witch trial in the St Monans area and I came across a brief paragraph which said ‘the man of St Monans fought the English on the beach here and sent them back to sea’ – that was it,” he explained.

“So I researched and researched and found a book in my library by a man called Robert Lyndsay who lived in the middle of the 1500s. He seems to have witnessed the battle and wrote about it in a history of Scotland.”

Leonard used information from the book and from another history of Scotland, written by the Earl of Dun, to write his own book about the battle.

The battle was part of the Rough Wooing – a war between England and Scotland which Henry VIII hoped he would use to force the marriage of his son and Mary, Queen of Scots – and followed the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.

“The English had a fleet and they thought to land in Fife and cause mischief,” Leonard said.

“James Stewart, Mary’s half brother, watched the English land at St Monans and attacked them in the morning.

“There were 900 dead English on the beach – and we don’t have it in Scottish records.

“This wasn’t just a skirmish – this was the brother-in-law of Henry VIII fighting the half brother of Mary.

“This should be taught in schools and the site developed as a tourist attraction.

“I couldn’t believe something as rich as this could be forgotten.”

Following the battle the English tried to land at Montrose but that also ended in failure.

Leonard explained there were two main reasons the battle had been forgotten.

“All the leaders on both sides would be dead in the next few years,” he said.

“Then 100 years later Cromwell took all the Scottish records to England. When Charles II came to the throne he ordered all of them to be sent back home.

“One of the ships sank. It had 38 barrels of records, which were lost, including the year of the battle.”

The Battle of St Monans will be released on June 15 and there are a number of signings around Fife. Leonard will stop at the Crusoe Hotel in Lower Largo on June 24 and the Simpson Institute in Upper Largo on June 30.