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comlongon_history

The date of construction of the earlier fortress of Cockpool also remains conjecture but references have been found from 1297 and from the time of David 2nd (1324 to 1371) This very early castle guarded the approaches to Scotland from the Solway Firth, which at the time sat in the middle of a vast and desolate salt marsh allowing clear vistas across to Cumbria; and an early warning system of potential threat over the most popular route into the region. However this salt marsh provided much of the family’s wealth from huge salt pans which generated vast amount of income from a very precious resource at the time. Whatever the precise early history it is clear that Comlongon, or Cockpool; or both were significant structures in the region and were regarded as prime fortifications in the Western Marches. The Nithsdale Campaign Little direct reference survives from the period but one account details William Wallace’s campaign in 1297 to routing an English force at Cockpool. Although written some 100 years after the event it does indicate that the siting of both castles was covering an important and often used route from England to Scotland. In 1297 some 300 English armoured mounted knights led by Lord Clifford raided deep into the debatable lands advancing as far as Drumlanrig Castle 40 miles north of Comlongon. This military incursion became known as the Nithsdale Campaign. News of their attack reached William Wallace encamped in Ayeshire, who hastily dispatched a small force of loyal fighters who gathered support as they travelled south. This English raiding party caused havoc over a period of 5 days and eventually emboldened by their exploits exhausted their mounts; their solution was to steal fresh mounts from local ill defended settlements, but in a desperate act of madness they cut off the tails of these captured horses in a sign of contempt and dominance which made their newly acquired mounts uncontrollable and allowed Wallace to follow a fresh blood trail and so they were hounded for 3 frantic days on their retreat back into England. Doggedly following this shrieking blood trail Wallace managed to stalk the party and cut down many of the stragglers who were not only hampered by their mutilated horses but laden down with booty. The few survivors thought they were safe once they passed the last fortress in the region, Cockpool Castle, and the flood plains of the Solway came into view, but as it happened the Solway was at high tide at the moment of escape and impassable; many drowned in their hasty retreat within sight of the safety of the Cumbrian hills. Rumour has it only 8 raiders of the original 300 survived this foray. It is clear that Cockpool was a significant structure in the late 13th century. There has been recent speculation that both Cockpool and Comlongon could be the same castle or certainly using the same site, as there would have been few sites suitable in the area for such a building. It is possible that both castles have been referred to at the same time by both names. Comlongon has been referred to variously as Comblangan, Comlongan and several other 6


comlongon_history
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