Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Shipwrecked Captains of the Armada
By James Melville (15561614)
THAT1 winter the King was occupied in commenting of the Apocalypse, and in setting out of sermons thereupon against the Papists and Spaniards. And yet, by a piece of great oversight, the Papists practised never mair busily in this land, and made greater preparation for receiving of the Spaniards, nor that year. For a long time the news of a Spanish navy and army had been blasit abroad; and about the Lammas tide of the 1588, this Island had found a fearful effect thereof, to the utter subversion both of Kirk and Policy, if God had not wonderfully watched over the same, and mightily foughten and defeat that army by his soldiers, the elements, quhilk he made all four maist fiercely to afflict them till almost utter consumption. Terrible was the fear, piercing were the preachings, earnest, zealous, and fervent were the prayers, sounding were the sighs and sobs, and abounding were the tears at that Fast and General Assembly keipit at Edinburgh, when the news was credibly tauld, sometimes of their landing at Dunbar, sometimes at St. Andrews, and in Tay, and now and then at Aberdeen and Cromarty Firth. And in very deed, as we knew certainly soon after, the Lord of Armies, who rides upon the wings of the winds, the Keeper of his awin Israel, was in the mean time convoying that monstrous navy about our coasts, and directing their hulks and galiates to the islands, rocks, and sands, whereupon he had destined their wreck and destruction. For within twa or three month thereafter, early in the morning, by break of day, ane of our bailyies cam to my bedside, saying (but not with fear), I have to tell you news, Sir. There is arrived within our harbour this morning a ship full of Spaniards, but not to give mercy but to ask! And shows me that the Commanders had landit, and he had commandit them to their ship again till the Magistrates of the town had advised, and the Spaniards had humbly obeyit: therefor desired me to rise and hear their petition with them. Up I got with diligence, and assembling the honest men of the town, came to the Tolbuthe; and after consultation taken to hear them, and what answer to make, there presents us a very reverend man of big stature, and grave and stout countenance, grey-haired, and very humble like, wha, after mickle and very low courtesy, bowing down with his face near the ground, and touching my shoe with his hand, began his harangue in the Spanish tongue, whereof I understood the substance; and being about to answer in Latin, he, having only a young man with him to be his interpreter, began and tauld over again to us in good English. The sum was, that King Philip, his master, had rigged out a navy and army to land in England, for just causes to be avengit of many intolerable wrongs quhilk he had receivit of that nation; but God for their sins had been against them, and by storm of weather had driven the navy by the coast of England, and him with a certain of Captains, being the General of twenty hulks, upon an isle of Scotland, called the Fair Isle, where they made shipwreck, and where sae many as had escapit the merciless seas and rocks, had mair nor sax or seven weeks suffered great hunger and cauld, till conducing that bark out of Orkney, they were come hither as to their special friends and confederates to kiss the Kings Majestics hands of Scotland (and therewith bekkit2 even to the earth), and to find relief and comfort thereby to him self, these gentlemen Captains, and the poor soldiers, whose condition was for the present most miserable and pitifull.
I answered this mickle, in sum: That howbeit neither our friendship, quhilk could not be great, seeing their King and they were friends to the greatest enemy of Christ, the Pope of Rome, and our King and we defied him, nor yet their cause against our neighbours and special friends of England could procure any benefit at our hands for their relief and comfort; nevertheless, they should know by experience that we were men, and sa moved by human compassion, and Christians of better religion nor they, quhilk should kythe,3 in the fruits and effect, plain contrary to theirs. For whereas our people resorting among them in peaceable and lawful affairs of merchandise, were violently taken and cast in prison, their guids and gear confiscat, and their bodies committed to the cruel flaming fire for the cause of Religion, they should find na things among us but Christian pity and works of mercy and alms, leaving to God to work in their hearts concerning religion, as it pleased Him. This being truly reported again to him by his trunshman,4 with great reverence he gave thanks, and said he could not make answer for their Kirk and the laws and order thereof, only for himself, that there were divers Scotsmen who knew him, and to whom he had shown courtesy and favour at Cales,5 and as he supposit, some of this same town of Anstruther. Sa showed him that the Bailies granted him licence with the Captains to go to their lodging for their refreshment, but to none of their men to land, till the overlord of the town were advertised, and understand the Kings Majesties mind anent them. Thus with great courtesy he departed. That night, the Laird being advertised, came, and on the morn, accompanied with a guid number of the gentlemen of the country round about, gave the said General and the Captains presence, and after the same speeches, in effect, as before, receivit them in his house, and entertained them humanely, and sufferit the soldiers to come-a-land, and lie all together, to the number of thirteen score, for the maist part young beardless men, silly, trauchled,6 and hungered, to the quhilk a day or twa, kail, pottage, and fish was given; for my advice was conform to the Prophet Elizeus his to the King of Israel, in Samaria, Give them bread and water, etc. The names of the commanders were Jan Gomes de Medina, General of twenty hulks; Capitan Patricio, Capitan de Legoretto, Capitan de Luffera, Capitan Mauritio, and Seingour Serrano.
But verily all the while my heart melted within me for desire of thankfulness to God, when I rememberit the pridefull and cruel natural of they people, and how they would have used us in case they had landit with their forces among us; and saw the wonderfull work of Gods mercy and justice in making us see them, the chief commanders of them to make sic dewgard7 and courtesy to poor seamen, and their soldiers so abjectly to beg alms at our doors and in our streets.
In the meantime, they knew naught of the wreck of the rest, but supposed that the rest of the army was safely returned, till a day I got in St. Androis in print the wreck of the galliates in particular, with the names of the principal men, and how they were used in Ireland and our Highlands, in Wales, and other parts of England; the quhilk when I recorded to Jan Gomes, by particular and special names, O then he cried out for grief, bursted and grat. This Jan Gomes showed great kindness to a ship of our town, quhilk he found arrested at Cales at his home-coming, rode to court for her, and made great rus8 of Scotland to his King, took the honest men to his house, and inquirit for the Laird of Anstruther, for the Minister, and his host, and sent home many commendations. But we thanked God with our hearts, that we had seen them among us in that form.
Note 1. Juan Gomez de Medina sailed in the Gran Grifon, Capitana de las urcas. He had 23 urcas or hulks when the Armada left Lisbon, and 19 after the first storm, when the fleet was reviewed at Corunna, July 13th. Patricio Antolinez and Esteban de Legorreta, captains of the tercio of Nicolas de Isla, sailed along with him in the Captain of the Hulks. There is an anonymous narrative MS., Madrid, describing the voyage of the Armada, and the loss of the narrators ship, a large urca, on the Faril, September 27th. Of 300 men disembarked there, 50 had died by November 14th. At this date the writer was waiting for the return of messengers sent to another island (Orkney?) to procure help.Duro, La Armada Invencible, i. 279. [back]