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“Wisely If Sincerely” (traditional)
“With Sincerity Comes Wisdom” (Modern)

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Battles of Invernhaven And Perth – 1300s

On the History of Clan Davidson: The Battles of Invernahavon and the North Inch of Perth

by Matt Dawson (Region 16) with the editorial assistance of Stacey Chambliss

Greetings my fellow Dhaibhidich! It is a privilege to write for you all, and an honor to be included in this issue of The Sporran. Thanks very much, Dave, for the opportunity to present some of my own detritus and ramblings to the family at large.

As you may have surmised from the title, I’m writing on the often touchy and somewhat controversial topic of Davidson involvement at the Battle of the North Inch at Perth. Several scholars and other interested parties have given the topic a lot of attention, and there are many, many opinions as to the particulars surrounding it. If you were to piece together all of the previously published “facts” on the matter, you would have a substantial pile in front of you. More to the point, you would find yourself as confused by the pile of data as when you began to gather them. At first, what follows may seem to add to that pile, but what I report herein is a new (and supported) take on an old theme.

Stacey and I are archaeologists and so have our noses in books (and dirt) more often than not. In seeking support for a specific theory of mine (on a theme unrelated to the babblings contained herein), I happened across a text containing some accounts of Davidson “history” I had never read or, at least, had never before seen the “auld” accounts so framed. Delving further into these data set me on a happy tangent to my studies (which I look for routinely), and it is the outcome of these mental wanderings that I impart to you. However, as a sort of disclaimer, I will say that I don’t offer every aspect of this “news” as rock-solid fact myself – real data from the period in question is often as elusive as the Highland mist at the best of times – so feel free to dive into it yourself and see what you come up with. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

To Begin at the Beginning…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn order to kick things off, many of us may need to begin with a confession. How many of you, when asked about the history of the Clan, as proud as you may be of it, hesitate slightly before relating a fully disclosed account? Well, the particular blemish that generally causes said hesitation is the topic of our early battles: chiefly among them the Battle of the North Inch, right? This all stems, of course, from what we know and believe about the battle and its outcome – or more to the point, from what we have all been led to believe. No matter which Highland Games or festivals you attend or which importers you frequent, it is not hard to find the wee Davidson books or even the little inserts on Clan Davidson “history” that accompany your new tartan tie, scarf, kilt pins, cap badge, and so forth. Wherever you happen upon it, the Davidson tale typically consists of a series of defeats and overall annihilation, which, in the end, “led the Clan into hiding and relative obscurity for centuries.”

Some of you will already be familiar with many of the details that follow. For those new to the Clan and/or its history, however, the North Inch is the site of an infamous and bloody clash, staged before King Robert III in September1, 1396 in order to forever resolve a long-lived dispute, and one wherein we are said to have met a tragic end. But, that story has become an object of scrutiny over the past few years. It seems that, when investigated, it proves never to be the same from record to record and historian to historian, so it is interesting that the free market literature should be filled with only a single version or two. The large amount of ambiguity and variation in the overall accountings of the tale should give pause to anyone interested in history, particularly Clan history. The outcome of the battle and the actions leading up to it are reported so differently in places through time, in fact, that we might wonder if the event ever really occurred!