- Written by Peter Burnett Peter Burnett
I have always been drawn to this description of the Black Plague in Scotland from Andrew of Wyntoun. Wyntoun was a Scottish poet, a canon and prior of Loch Leven on St Serf's Inch and later, a canon of St. Andrews.
Andrew Wyntoun is most famous for his Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland, which contains an early mention of Robin Hood. A striking feature in this description of the plague is the reiteration of the fact that every historian and chronicler repeats about the Black Death, that when it raged, a third of the population died from it. Actually, chroniclers in other countries have stated that anywhere between fifty and ninety percent of the population died.
Though the plague definitely hit Scotland in 1349, it seems to have been less damaging here than elsewhere, perhaps due to the harshness of the winter. Although this changed in 1350, the plague does also seem to have had an effect on English and Scottish relations.
I think I am most drawn in this to the cute word 'barnys' - 'bairns' to you and me. The Book of Pluscarden (Liber Pluscardensis) also talks of a third of the population being wiped out, so the figure must be fair.
In Scotland, the fyrst Pestilens
Begouth, off sa gret wyolens,
That it was sayd, off lywandf men
The thyrd part it destroyid then
Efftyr that in till Scotland
A yhere or more it was wedand
Before that tyme was never sene
A pestilens in our land sda kene:
Bathe men and barnys and women
It sparred noucht for to kille them.