Today in Celtic History
May 4, 1645

Marquis of Montrose.

May 4, 1645


Marquis of Montrose victorious at Battle of Auldearn


The Battle of Auldearn, an engagement of the Scottish Civil War, took place on May 9, 1645, near the village of Auldearn in Nairnshire.

After plundering Dundee on 4 April, the Royalist forces under the Marquis of Montrose retreated into the Highlands to escape Major-General Baillie's pursuing Covenanters. Baillie divided his forces. During May, his second-in-command, Colonel John Hurry, drew Montrose into country unfriendly to him near Nairn.

Hurry, with 3,500 Covenanter infantry and 400 horse, attempted to double back on himself, at night in thick mist, in an attempt to catch Montrose in a surprise attack. But Hurry's soldiers, discharging their muskets to clear damp powder, allegedly alerted Montrose's sentries to the impending attack.

The village of Auldearn ran linearly along a roughly north-south road. Montrose deployed 500 of MacColla's Irishmen and Gordon clansmen on a low hill to the north-east of the village. They had the royal standard with them in the hope that Hurry would mistake MacColla's position for the main body, which Montrose actually concealed behind a ridge to the south. This included a troop of 250 horse commanded by Lord Gordon. The Covenanters began marching up the slope towards MacColla. Unwilling to remain on the defensive, the Irishmen attacked prematurely, charging down the slope into the Covenanters.

Hurry's regiments held their ground and drove the Irish back. Realising the danger that Hurry could overwhelm MacColla, Montrose ordered Gordon to lead his cavalry in a charge against the Covenanter right flank. Captain Drummond, of the Moray horse regiment, in his haste to get his men to face about, ordered them to wheel in the wrong direction, pushing them into their own infantry. Gordon's cavalry hit the disordered Covenanter lines and routed their cavalry. Montrose's main force attacked the right flank while MacColla's men rallied and pushed forward in the center. Estimates suggest 1,500 Covenanters died in the battle and rout.

Back at Inverness Colonel Hurry court-martialled and shot Captain Drummond, the officer who had given the faulty order, then retreated with the remnants of his army to join Baillie at Cromar.

What else happened today on May 4

May 4, 1471
Wars of the Roses: The Battle of Tewkesbury, Edward IV defeats a Lancastrian Army and kills Edward, Prince of Wales.
May 4, 1658
General George Monk proclaimed the Protectorate at Mercat Cross.
May 4, 1699
According to Jonathan Swift's book, Gulliver's Travels, it was on this day that Lemuel Gulliver sets sail on board the Antelope from Bristol
May 4, 1715
Joseph Deane, Justice of Assize for Munster and MP for Co. Dublin, dies of a fever resulting from a cold he caught (allegedly caused by a total eclipse of the sun) while returning from circuit on horseback
May 4, 1773
Art Laoghaire, the subject of Eileen O'Leary's lament 'Caoineadh Airt U Laoghaire', is killed by soldiers near Millstreet, Co. Cork
May 4, 1773
The Dublin Journal of 4-6 May reports that Thomas Burton (former MP for Ennis) 'met with the melancholy accident of being overturned in his chaise, by which he was killed on the spot, in his return home, in company with a gentleman who was to have been ma
May 4, 1782
Second and third Catholic Relief Acts (4 May, 27 July) allow Catholics to own land outside parliamentary boroughs, to be teachers, and to act as guardians
May 4, 1782
Acts establish the Bank of Ireland, and validates marriages by Presbyterian ministers
May 4, 1836
The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America is founded in New York City
May 4, 1838
Charles Williams, war correspondent, is born in Coleraine, Co. Derry/Londonderry
May 4, 1916
Edward Daly, Michael O'Hanrahan, William Pearse (brother of Padraic Pearse) and Joseph Mary Plunkett are executed by firing squad in Kilmainham jail