At the beginning of this book an account is given of the tradition of the Laird of Muirhead of That-ilk, de Muirhead (apparently referring to Willielmo de Muirhead dating to the time of the reign of King Robert II), killing and cutting off the head of Bartram de Shotts in the company of “a few of his company, to whose courage and valor he could well trust”. This account is one which can be believed without much effort.
There is another legend, though, which has come down to us from our ancestors concerning the killing of Bartram de Shotts, which is a little more fantastical.(7.1)
Bartram was a robber, and a large one at that. He was styled as a giant; though his height might have been no more than six and one-half feet, it must be remembered that the average man’s height in the Medieval Ages was five and one-half feet(7.2) and therefore even a six feet tall man would have towered over his fellow men.
Bartram was associated with the parish in Lanarkshire known by the name of Shotts. The parish, according to a tradition, acquired its name from the Anglo-Saxon word shot, which meant a plot of ground. The particular area in Lanarkshire which acquired the name of Shotts is claimed to have been a tract of land which Bartram, a pioneer in the wilderness began to cultivate. The tract, which by the Nineteenth Century had dwindled to the space occupied by the Church and cemetery of St. Catherine’s, therefore was known by the name of Bartramshotts, and the man became known as Bartram de Shotts.
Being tall, Bartram outmatched any rival and became the terror of the region. He took to robbing his neighbors and his exploits became so outrageous that the something had to be done to stop him. The local governmental officials placed a reward on his head, promising a hawk’s-flight of land in exchange for the actual head of the terror. The Laird of Muirhead, perhaps being one of those neighbors who had experienced the robber’s depredations, decided to make the attempt to gain the reward. The Laird of Muirhead knew that, to quench his thirst, Bartram frequented a well that sprang forth in a glen near the place known as Shottsburn. The Laird arranged a number of cart-loads of heather close by the well so as to provide a place of concealment. From behind the pile of heather, the Laird of Muirhead might watch the approach of Bartram, the giant. Bartram, coming upon the pile of heather by the well, considered it with a bit of suspicion, but eventually accepted it as non-dangerous, and resumed his use of the water of the well with ease. When the Laird of Muirhead saw that Bartram was not bothered by the heather pile, he hid himself behind it and waited for the next approach of the giant.
Bartram came to the well and stretched himself out flat on his belly upon the ground, as he was accustomed to do, so that he could place his lips on the surface of the water and drink. Stealthily, the Laird of Muirhead crept from his place of concealment, and with his broadsword gave the giant a blow across his hamstrings, rendering him unable to walk in a split second. Bartram immediately knew the misfortune that had befallen him, but gave an involuntary and spasmodic laugh as he twisted around to see who had crippled him.
“Will ye laugh-up yet?” Muirhead exclaimed. It was said that, when the prize was to be presented to the Laird of Muirhead, and the hawk was set loose to mark out the tract of land as the reward, the place where it alighted was given the name of Lauchope in reference to the phrase uttered by the Laird.
In 1922 Robert Dangster wrote a poem commemorating the end of the robber, Bartram de Shotts.(7.3) Mr. Dangster’s information adheres rather accurately to the legend, and therefore is presented here in its entirety.
Now her is a tale o’the bold Bartram Shotts