One of the visitors to our site told us about this great Clan Johnstone legend:
The Battle of Dryfe Sands on the 6th of December, 1593 saw the Johnstones and the Maxwells fight it out near the town of Lockerbie.
On the day of the battle Lady Johnstone went out with her maidservant to see how it was all going. She locked up the castle and took the castle key with her (which was a huge iron number). During her walk she came across a ‘regal looking man’, badly wounded and propped up against a tree. He stretched out a hand and begged for her help. He was Lord Maxwell.
Upon recognising her husband’s enemy Lady Johnstone promptly stoved the man’s head in with the castle key.
There is another version of how Lord Maxwell died that day.
The Maxwells were desperate to rid the land of their sworn enemy the Johnstones, and so decided to launch a surprise attack. However, fortunately for Sir James Johnstone, he was somehow warned of the approaching Maxwells. He knew that this was going to be a desperate fight for their existence and so hurriedly called for some assistance from the Grahams, Scotts, Carrutherses, Irvings, Elliots and others, and managed to raise an army of, perhaps, around 800 men.
It said that Lord Maxwell offered a reward to whichever man could bring either the hand or the head of Sir James. Upon hearing this Johnstone made a similar pledge.
On the 6th of December Lord Maxwell and his army approached the Johnstone town of Lockerbie, near a place called Dryfe Sands. Johnstone came up with a plan, and, as the Maxwells marched on, he kept most of his men hidden, only sending out a small number of horsemen to attract the attention of the Maxwell vanguard, and then rout.
The plan worked and the vanguard broke its ranks chasing after the Johnstone horsemen, allowing the main body of Johnstone men to make a surprise attack on the disorganised and surprised Maxwells.
The Johnstones went on to slaughter around 700 Maxwells, and those they didn’t kill were slashed in the face with a sword, recieving horrible wounds which were to become known as ‘Lockerbie Licks’.
During the carnage, it is said that Lord Maxwell begged for his life, offering to surrender. He stretched out his hand, and instead of accepting it, Sir James Johnstone cut off the arm and then killed him.
Legend has it that Johnstone kept the arm and head of Lord Maxwell as trophies, reminding everyone of their decisive victory against the Maxwells.
Whichever way Lord Maxwell did die, whether he was bludgeoned by Lady Maxwell and her castle key, or if he was slain by the sword of Sir James Johnstone, one thing that is for sure, it probably wasn’t a pleasant death.