The Man-at-Arms




Short story


Young adult

Historical era

16th century


Margaret Lyford-Pike


BBC Scotland – ?


We Lived in Drumfyvie


The Pest Comes to Drumfyvie


A House with Glass Windows

"The Man-at-Arms" is the seventh story in the 1975 collection We Lived in Drumfyvie, originally co-written with producer Margaret Lyford-Pike as episodes of an unidentified children's radioplay series.


Eckie Brock, a man-at-arms of Drumfyvie Castle, narrates the disaster at Flodden Field on the day after his return from the battle. On New Year's Eve of 1511, Eckie stumbles into a fight with a crowd of burghers and is rescued by Donal Dhu, a local layabout attracted by the noise who decides to support the underdog. They then get drunk with Eckie's comrades in The Fighting Cocks tavern and swear eternal brotherhood, and Donal announces his intention to join the garrison. He accompanies them back to the castle, where he accosts the Sheriff Sir David Maitland, who places him in Eckie's charge. The next day, Donal sends Eckie to break the news to his Aunt Leezy, his disapproving guardian, whose life he has made a trial. Eckie makes Donal's excuses and makes his escape.

That summer James IV renews Scotland's alliances with France against Henry VIII of England. The next summer, the King summons Sir David's men to join an army of invasion into England. Sir David is injured and must send his young sons to lead his men-at-arms on the campaign.

The King advances slowly south, taking the Northumbrian castles and inadvertently allowing the Earl of Sussex time to assemble his levies and artillery. While encamped at Flodden Edge on the river Till, the Scots are outflanked at Branxton Hill and cut to pieces by the English guns and bills. King James, Sir David's younger son, and Donal Dhu are killed.

Eckie and the remnant of the Drumfyvie garrison return to Drumfyvie, where Aunt Leezy tells him how the town received the news of the loss of King and army. He tells her how Donal received a chest wound while defending him and died as they retreated from the field. Aunt Leezy observes that without Donal she is alone in the world, and Eckie promises to return.


  • 1512
    • New Year's Eve: Eckie Brock meets Donal Dhu
    • Summer: Scotland renews treaties with France
  • 1513
    • Summer: England at war in France. Scotland invades England.
    • 2 weeks later: the Battle of Flodden Field
    • Day after return to Drumfyvie: Eckie Brock narrates


  • Eckie Brock, a man-at-arms of Drumfyvie Castle
  • Donal Dhu, his shworn brother, a ne'er-do-well
  • Sir David Maitland, the Sheriff of Drumfyvie
  • Rolf, an attendant
  • Aunt Leezy, Donal's maternal aunt and guardian
  • Mistress Anderson, a neighbour and sympathetic ear
  • Henry VII of England, dead
  • Princess Margaret, VII's wife and VIII's mother [sic]. [Error for Margaret Tudor, wife of James IV and mother of James V?]
  • Henry VIII, King of England, a hothead
  • King James IV of Scotland, ditto
  • Willie Anstruther, a fellow man-at-arms
  • Sir Alan Maitland, Sir David's younger son, recently knighted
  • The Earl of Surrey, the English commander
  • Sandy, a young man-at-arms
  • Sir Rolf Maitland, Sir David's elder son
  • Davey Donaldson, a burgess


  • Scotland
    • Drumfyvie
      • Drumfyvie Castle
      • Watergate Lane
      • The Unicorn
      • Mill Lane
      • The High Street
      • The Fighting Cocks
      • Threadneedle Wynd, Aunt Leezy's house
      • Market Cross
      • Castle Wynd
    • Holyrood Palace
    • The Borders
    • Linlithgow, site of an omen
    • Edinburgh, ditto
    • Lammermuirs, where the King's Army musters
  • Europe, across the Narrow Seas, at war
    • France, ally of Scotland
  • England
    • The Till
      • Flodden Edge
      • Branxton Hill

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