In 1513 one of the bloodiest battles between England and Scotland took place at Flodden close to the border. It was during the reign of a young King Henry VIII who was intent on marching on France. The French were allied to Scotland under The Auld Alliance, each sworn to come to the aid of the other. Henry knew this of course and sent an army northward under the Earl of Surrey to engage the Scots and ensure they had enough to deal with at home.
King James of Scotland decreed that all men between the ages of 16 and 60 should muster and march against the advancing foe. The armies met on Flodden Field.
More than 10,000 Scotsmen died in the space of two and a half hours. The Scottish King, most of his nobles and ordinary men from all over Scotland. It was the origin of the song “Floors O’ The Forest,” still played to this day on the pipes as a lament.
Growing up in Hawick, we are all acutely aware of the after effects of Flodden. The following year in 1514 a raiding party set forth over the border plundering, murdering, raping and burning as they went, leaving towns villages and crops in ashes. One such raiding party camped close to the town near a spot called Hornshole. The menfolk slain at Flodden, it fell upon the young lads (Callants) of the town to defend the town and its people. They went by stealth, engaged and slew the raiders, and rode triumphantly back into town with their captured flag, an act of defence that is commemorated annually to this day (The subject matter of the song Bonnie Banner Blue).
One Call of a King song was originally written to mark 500 years of the Battle of Flodden and was first performed at a special concert in Hawick Town Hall, with Hawick Pipe Band. It later became a key number in the stage musical 1514 The Musical – co-written with Ian Landles.
The singers on the recording were cast members. Our friend Ronnie Nichol was a key member of the cast and was recorded in the chorus of the song on the official CD soundtrack of the musical. Ronnie has since passed away prematurely.
When I recorded this version, I could not bring myself to remove Ronnie’s voice from the chorus and so contacted his brother Lyndsay, telling him that I wanted to keep him in the chorus of the new recording and asking if the family be ok with that. His reply brought tears and a smile. I won’t publish what he said but basically I would be in deep trouble if I didn’t keep him in!
Over the course of the recording of this track I managed to get most of my family to come into the studio to sing on the chorus. Four generations in fact, from my parents to my grandsons, one of whom, James is the bairn crying at the end, reflective of a grieving town after Flodden.
The song reflects the Battle of Flodden, all those who fell and all those who suffered at their loss. And it’s dedicated to Big Ronnie.
One Call of a King © Alan G Brydon
A king and his nobles prepared to advance
England’s king Henry was marching to France
In a shown of defiance
In their auld alliance
Scotsmen and Frenchmen
Stood firm in their stance
Neither afraid of the prospect of war
Common defence of our borders and shores
One call of a king
One cry of a nation
One thousand beats on a drum
Ten thousand men who will never march home
Surrey marched northward an army to raise
Mustered at Durham the beacons ablaze
With an eye on the foe
His forces to show
With orders from Henry an army obeys
Amassing the men and the means to comply
Arrows and muskets and canon forbye
Face off at flodden the threat to rescind
Five hundred banners would fly on the wind
With no truce to be found each stood their ground
Everyman poised for the fray to begin
Suddenly shadows of death in the sky, as
Each side let arrow and cannonball fly
Two hours of fighting and most men were dead
Everything silent the battlefield red, with the
Blood of a king, his
Nobles and soldiers, the
Brave and the bolder, like
Lambs had been led
Ten thousand brave men had answered the call
Ten thousand widows to wail of the fallen, of