Osbarn, the Smith (A Scottish Folk Tale)
by: Wheeler, Les
Roon aboot sivven hunner year ago there wis a smith caad Osbarn fa hid his smiddy at Greenstyle a wee placie near Ben Newe. Noo, Osbarn wisna a verra popular chiel but he wis a gweed haun at the anvil an sae he aye hid plenty o wark.
Nae far fae Osbarn’s smiddy wis the great castle o Kildrummy een o the maist formidable biggins in the hale o Scotland. There wis aye plenty o sodjers, horses an weapons at Kildrummy sae there wis plenty o wark for a smith. Noo, it cam aboot that Osbarn wis teen on as smith tae the castle far he’d plenty tae dee for besides shoein horses an repairin weapons he hid the muckle iron yetts, hinges an bolts, tae see till. There wis a lot o fowk wir jealous o Osbarn for he hid a gweed job an wis weel piyed for’t an hid a fine wee place tae bide.
But Osbarn wisna a happy chiel. Ye see, Osbarn hid ae big faut – he wis as mean an greedy as ye could be. He wis aye seekin siller an siller maittert mair tae him than onything else. He’d dee onything for siller an that’s the wye he’d nae freens for he widna think twice o lettin them doon if there wis something in it for him!
Weel, in the year 1306 King Robert the Bruce hid lost the Battle o Methven, near Perth, an he taen tae the hills. He made for Aiberdeen far the Queen, his dother, Marjorie an his brither Nigel wir wytin. But the English wir still chasin efter Bruce an chased him aa the wye tae Argyll far he’d tae retreat again for een o his bitterest enemies, John o Lorne wis in control there. The lassies o the coort couldna pit up wi aa the hassles o the campaign ony langer an Robert the Bruce decided tae send them tae Kildrummy Castle an his brither, Nigel, an the Earl o Athol accompanied the lassies on thir wye.
Fan the lassies o the coort, the King’s sister, Marie an the Countess o Buchan arrived at the castle aabody wis affa gled. Nigel an the Earl o Athol, wi mony ither knights wir pleased tae be safe. But they widna be safe for lang. Word got oot tae the Englsh far they wir an Edward, the Prince o Wales, took his airmy north tae see fit he could dee.
The lassies jist got oot o Kildrummy in time an sped north tae get sanctuary at St. Duthac’s Chapel at Tain. Nigel Bruce bade at Kildrummy an prepared tae defend it against the English airmy. Nigel prepared for the siege, takkin in as muckle maet as he could get an plenty o weapons o war wir collected an stored in the great ha. The muckle yetts o the castle were barred an bolted, padlocks pit on them an the draabrigs wir raised. Aathing wis ready for an attack.
Edward cam across the Mounth an surroondit Kildrummy. The English attacked at ivvery opportunity but Nigel Bruce an his chiels held oot against aa the odds. Days turnt tae wikks an still the Scots held siccar an the English got mair an mair annoyed. There wis gey thrawn men defendin Kildrummy.
But fit aboot Osbarn? Weel, fin they wir getting ready for the siege, he’d a gey bit o wark tae dee. He’d tae inspect aa the yetts an aa the iron-wark aboot the castle. If ony o the war-weapons needin fixin he hid tae dee it. He wis a busy man, but as time gaed by he began tae think aboot far he wid staun fan the siege cam tae an eyn an ae wye or anither come tae an eyn it must.
If the English wir tae tak the castle he didna gie muckle for the chunces o the Scottish sodjers, nor onybody else in the casle. He some thocht they’d aa be killt. He’d nae hope o survivin an nae hope o addin tae his hoard o siller. If Nigel Bruce an his men held oot he’d jist be in the same position as he wis afore. But could they haud oot? Nae for ivver they couldna! If that wis the wye o’t he’d need tae think o some wye tae protect himsel an his siller; maybe even mak a bittie mair siller oot o an Engish victory.
Wikks gaed by an still nae ootcome tae the battle. Osbarn got mair an mair worried an tried tae think o aa kines o wyes he micht mak some siller oot o the affair. In the hinner eyen he thocht that the only wye he could better himsel wis tae gyang tae the English camp an betray the fowk in the castle.
He waitit til nicht cam doon an it wis pit mirk an he creepit oot o the shaddas an made his wye tae the English camp. He wis taen by the gairds but fan he tellt them fit he wis up till they teen him richt tae Prince Edward far he tellt the English lairds fa he wis an fu he could help them capture the castle. The Engish likit the idea o haein a spy in the castle an made a plan that depended on Osbarn for it tae succeed. The English didna really trust Osbarn, naebody likes a turncoat, but if he played his pairt richt they wid tak the castle. Osbarn wis telt tae return tae the castle an wait for a signal fae the English airmy. Fan he got the signal he wis tae set fire tae the biggin!
Osbarn wisna aa that happy aboot gyan back. If he’d bin missed fin he’d bin awa, he’d hae hin a gey job explaining fit he’d bin up till. He hidna planned on gyan back. “Jist haud on a bittie,” said Osbarn, “That’s a gey dangerous thing ye’re askin me tae dee. Fit’s in it for me if I succeed an ye tak the castle?”
The Prince gaed Osbarn a lang look. “I’ll tell you what you will get,” said the Prince, “You will have as much gold as you can carry!”
The blacksmith could hardy believe it. As muckle gowd as he could cairry! He wis as strang a chiel as ye’d find in the North. He’d cairried muckle wechts aa his life. Dyod! He be een o the wealthiest chiels in the lands o Mar. It wid be weel worth the risk.
Osbarn creepit back intae the castle an wint stracht tae his smiddy. He wis a chiel wi nae freens sae he wisna misst by onybody. Eence in the smiddy he began tae plan a wye tae set the place ableeze. It wid be gey simple tae jist chuck a bittie o reed-het iron on tae the thatchin o the reef for the smiddy faced the great ha. Eence the thatch wis alowe the hale biggin widna be lang ahin it.
Sae the smith waited an waited. The siege wint on an on an Osbarn thocht the signal wid nivver come. Syne suddenly it did. Osbarn wis workin in the smiddy at the time sae he pullt the reed-het spear heid oot o the fire an threw it high on tae the thatchin o the reef. It landit an Osbarn waatcht. Sure eneuch the thatch stertit tae burn an afore lang the fire hid spread tae the timmers o the great ha. Seen, the hale buildin wis ableeze. The fire spread aa wye an fin the Scots sodjers wint tae try an pit it oot the English attacked. The great yetts catched fire an the iron twisted it wis that het. It lookit like the castle wid fa.
But Nigel Bruce an his men widna gie in. The fechtin gaed on an the English wir driven back. The siege wis on again, but nae for lang. Maist o the maet in the catle hid bin lost in the fire an it wisna lang afore hunger, nae the English airmy, forced the defenders o the castle tae gie in an surrender. Nigel Bruce wis taen prisoner, taen tae Berwick an hung. His men wir aa pit tae the sword. But nae Osbarn the smith.
Osbarn set aff for the English camp an claimt his rewaard for bein a traitor.
“What was it I promised you?” asked Edward.
“As muckle gowd as I could cairry!” said Osbarn proodly.
“Well, that you will have!” said Edward and nodded to his sodjers.
They grabbit Osbarn an tied baith his hauns an feet an made him kneel on the fleer. Syne they pullt back his heid an in cam a man wi a pan o molten gowd. Edward nodded again an the gowd wis poored doon Osbarn’s throat – as muckle as he could cairry. It wis a grim end tae the life o a man fas ain greed made him try tae sell his King an country for gowd.