The Govan Stones are a fantastic asset for the city
of David. He was just 12 and suffered a series of revolts against his rule throughout his teenaged years, mostly by Mormaers, the equivalent of earls, including some from his own family. Only Donnchad (Duncan) the Mormaer of Fife seems to have been a wholly loyal regent and he died in 1154, a year after young Malcolm was crowned at Scone.
Malcolm does seem to have had some competent regents and advisors including Walter fitz Alan. Malcolm comes down to us as Malcolm the Maiden, called so because he never married, but in reality he was a brave if sickly young man who personally led the expedition to pacify Galloway and bring it under his control.
In 1164 Glasgow and indeed the Kingdom of Scotland faced its greatest threat in the person of Somerled, the King of the Isles.
This legendary warrior of Norse-Gaelic descent had already raided Glasgow and may have burned its church, but in 1164 his ambitions were much greater as shown by the size of the army with which he arrived on the Clyde, all transported in birlinns, ships that gave him complete control of the west coast of Scotland.
Ancient sources such as the Chronicles of Holyrood and Melrose and the famous Latin poem the Song of the Death of Somerled tell us what happened next. The latter text says the King of the Isles “suddenly landed with an immense company of followers, and threatened to destroy the whole kingdom.”
He reckoned without Walter fitz Alan and the Bishop of Glasgow, Herbert of Selkirk, who rallied the local troops in preparation for the invasion.
There’s a great deal of myth and legend about the Battle of Renfrew, but there’s no doubt that in October, 1164, Somerled and his son Gilla Brigte or Gilla Colum were both killed and their forces scattered and pursued ruthlessly.
The Song of the Death of Somerled states: ‘Wounded by a spear, killed by a sword, Somerled died; His son was consumed by the raging sea, and with him many thousands of escaping wounded.’
Glasgow was saved, but Bishop Herbert died that year – intriguingly, he died around the time of the Battle so was he mortally wounded? – and after Bishop Enguerrand there came the era of Bishop Jocelin who was determined to make Glasgow a burgh and build it up as a diocesan centre. Hence the building of Glasgow Cathedral.
Jocelin enlarged the existing stone church dedicated to St Kentigern but sometime in 1195 the church was ravaged by a fire. Jocelin decided to go the whole hog and build a proper Cathedral which was dedicated in July 1197.
Jocelin did much more for Glasgow. From King William the Lion sometime between 1175 and 1178 he obtained burgh status for Glasgow, greatly advancing the standing of the town as he also created a weekly market – the first such burgh market in Scotland.
Of great import to the people of Glasgow, then and now, Jocelin sometime in the early 1190s persuaded King William to allow Glasgow an annual fair, and to this day the Glasgow Fair is still a holiday time.
Having made Glasgow a burgh and built its Cathedral, Jocelin died on March 17, 1199.
That Glasgow would eventually become a city is in no short measure due to him.