IT is entirely typical of the teaching of history in our schools over the decades that the great conflicts that engulfed the British Isles from 1639 to 1651 tend to get lumped together under the name the English Civil War.

The more correct name applied by historians is the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, and as we saw last week, they started here in Scotland with the Bishops’ Wars between the Covenanters and the Royalists.

The first bloodless ‘war’ saw King Charles I humiliated, with his 1639 campaign ending in the Pacification of Berwick, officially a treaty between Scotland and England that recognised that disputes would be referred to the Kirk’s General Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.

Both sides knew it was only a truce and Charles determined that Scotland should be invaded the following year.

Yet the well-organised Scottish army under General Alexander Leslie, a veteran of many Continental wars, trounced the bedraggled Royalists at Newburn on August 28, 1640, ending the Second Bishops’ War with Charles again humiliated and Newcastle occupied by the Scots who were to be paid for their expenses in winning the conflict.

They only went home a year later when the Treaty of London was signed giving the Covenanters almost everything they wanted – no prosecution of signatories of the National Covenant, no bishops to be imposed, Edinburgh and Dumbarton’s royal castles not to be used for war, and the return of seized Scottish goods and vessels plus £300,000.

Charles promptly came to Scotland, handing out favours like confetti – he gave Glasgow church revenues for numerous projects, but he was even then falling out with the Parliament in Westminster,

especially after the Irish Catholic rebellion of 1641.

The Scottish and English armies at first refused to put down the Rebellion, though the Scots eventually went to Ulster to protect the Protestant Scottish settlers there, and the Westminster Parliament’s suspicions that the Irish Catholics were siding with Charles led to the furious rows between the King and MPs that led to the Civil War between the Royalist and Parliamentarian factions.

Even then it was not just an English affair, and Glasgow would play its part in the ensuing wars.

They were a huge distraction for the city which was thriving as never before.

The Hutcheson family had come to the fore as the city’s first bankers, financing a tremendous expansion in trade and building the eponymous hospital and school, with Hutchesons’ Grammar School, founded in 1641, surviving to this day.

George Hutcheson was the main figure of the family, and before his death in 1639 he left money for the founding of a hospital that stood on the site of the current Hutchesons’ Hall in Ingram Street which has statues of George and his brother Thomas.

Glasgow’s council was also taking the lead in several fields, including environmental health – the practise of dumping refuse including human waste into middens on the streets was banned, and the Molendinar Burn was cleaned of its pollution. The council also operated an early form of poor law, and street beggars were banned.

Which begs the question: if they could do this in the first half of the 17th century why are there still homeless people on Glasgow’s streets today?

The council, which was a self-perpetuating oligarchy, also encouraged the introduction of a printing press in the city, and better records were kept of council and corporate dealings in Glasgow.

With the Civil War under way in England, the Solemn League and Covenant bound the Scottish Covenanters to the Parliamentary cause, and in late 1643, General Alexander Leslie, now the Earl of Leven, raised an army of 20,000 to march south. Men from Glasgow joined his force, including surgeons from the city’s college and in July, 1644, Leslie’s army proved crucial in the defeat of the Royalist forces under Prince Rupert at the battle of Marston Moor.

Meanwhile in Scotland, the former Covenanter James Graham, the 1st Marquess of Montrose, had raised an army for Charles I. He had studied in Glasgow and one of his homes was at Mugdock Castle just outside Milngavie – its

remaining tower still stands and is a scheduled monument. Montrose’s exploits with his Highland clansmen and Irish troops are the stuff of legend, and in a swift campaign he defeated the Covenanter forces at Tippermuir, Aberdeen, Auldearn, Alford and Kilsyth.

This latter battle on August 15, 1645, was the largest fought in Scotland during the Wars, and was so great a victory that Montrose was now in charge of Scotland, the Covenanters’ leaders having fled to Carlisle. Montrose moved towards Glasgow and the citizens, having heard what he had done elsewhere in Scotland, were in such fear for their lives that they sent a deputation to welcome him and invite his forces to reside in Glasgow. Montrose wanted supplies for his army and despite his orders, some of his troops started to plunder the city.

Montrose duly marched away and spared Glasgow, not least because of reports of plague in the city.

He came back, however, having summoned the Scottish Parliament to Glasgow, but before it could meet, a much depleted Royalist force under Montrose was ambushed and routed at Philiphaugh near Selkirk by a Covenanter army under

General David Leslie.

Three of Montrose’s officers were taken to Glasgow and beheaded as an example to the populace. One of them, Alexander Ogilvy of Inverquharity, was just 18.

The city’s leaders were luckier, they were merely disqualified from office for the ‘sin’ of saving their city from Montrose, but Glasgow as a whole was fined £20,000.

General Leslie took up residence in the city and for weeks Glasgow’s people were in a frenzy of fear after reports that Montrose had raised a new army and was in the vicinity of the city.

King Charles intervened, however, ordering Montrose to sail to the Continent and raise forces for him there.

Glasgow was not finished with the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and soon would face up to life in a conquered Scotland under a ‘Lord Protector’ named Oliver Cromwell.