Newark Castle, Port Glasgow, Scotland
The castle consisted of a tower begun in the early 1400s by the Maxwells of Calderwood and a splendid mansion house added in the 1590s by Sir Patrick Maxwell, a murderer of great charm and learning. After killing the laird of Skelmorlie and his eldest son, Maxwell
calmed the furious younger son who had come for his revenge by reminding the angry youth that he, Maxwell, had made him 'laird o' Skelmorlie in ae day'.
Newark Castle was bypassed and decommissioned in the 1600s when a deep channel was dredged along the Clyde and ships could sail closer to Glasgow.
Newark's great moment in history came in the 1490s when James IV decided to move against the Lordship of the Isles. By 1400 the Macdonald Lordship was an almost independent princedom of sea, loch and mountain that ranged across the Hebrides and the Western Highlands. Lord Macdonald could call upon an army of mercenaries and a fleet of birlinns or war-galleys. His court at the palace of Finlaggan on Islay was a rich centre of Gaelic culture where bards and scholars gathered. Although a vassal of the King of Scots, Lord Macdonald entered into a secret treaty with Edward IV of England in 1462, agreeing to a joint attack upon the Scottish kingdom which was to be dismembered by the two princes. On learning about these plans in 1475, James III confiscated some Macdonald lands and
extracted a promise of good behaviour from the Gaelic lord. However further restlessness in the Macdonald lands with the Battle of Bloody Bay on Mull in 1481 and a rebellion by the warlord Angus Og in 1493, convinced James IV that he had to impose tighter royal control, James had inherited a full war-chest from his avaricious father and had the advantage of being the first King of Scots since Robert
the Bruce to speak Gaelic and to know the Highlands and Islands. He called on his lords to meet him at Newark Castle on the Clyde.
The shipyards nearby and the store rooms within Newark Castle were to be busy places over the following months. James made several expeditions to the west between 1493 and 1495 until the Macdonald Lordship was crushed. Newark served as a useful base for these
crusades, being close to Glasgow yet only a short sea journey away from the Gaeltachd, the Celtic world of the west.
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