South African Military History Society

January/February 1982 NEWSLETTER

Past meeting: Johannesburg - Thursday 14 January

Robin Hood and feudal times -- fact or fiction?

Dr Ian Copley's subject lured nearly fifty members and guests to the War Museum on a wet and windy summer's eve - and it proved well worth the effort.

He warned that the "Boy's Own Annual" image from childhood, which revered Robin Hood as a man who "robbed the rich to pay the poor", might well become tarnished during the course of the evening; and pointed out that another legendary figure from feudal times, King Arthur, was almost certainly a fabrication of Welsh nationalists - albeit based on a real person or actual deeds - for reasons of political gain. In this vein, he noted that Robin Hood was created Earl of Huntingdon approximately two hundred years after his death..., could it be that no "Robin Hood" as such ever existed, that it was all legend?

Dr Copley's search took him back to the court and parish records of the early fourteenth century and the tale he told was indicative of an immense research effort, which centred on Robin Hood and encompassed a great deal of general history to fill in the background. Briefly, it appears that one Adam Hood (1275-1314) of Wakefield had a son Robert or Robin first mentioned in his own right as having been fined 2d for stealing firewood. Later on, having married Matilda (alas, poor Maid Marion!) he hired ground on which a 5 roomed house was built, as mentioned in 1322,1357 and 1358 in property records; he also bought some land later.

In l3l6,when Edward 11 called for men to fight Robert the Bruce, Robin Hood was fined 3d for not attending the muster. (The Lord of the Manor would call up men to serve in his army or that of the monarch to which the Lord owed allegiance. A man could pay a fine or send another soldier in his stead.) Since a 5 roomed house was included in the list of property confiscated after they lost the battle it must be presumed that he was involved in the fighting and that he probably ran away to save his life.

The forests of Sherwood and Barsdale are quite close to Wakefield, where he was born, and to Kirklees, where he was murdered - and close to where the speaker was born, perhaps giving rise to Dr Copley's initial interest in his subject. As the Great North Road passes through this way it can be assumed that Robin Hood was one of many footpads attending to travellers. Whether he robbed the rich or took only half if his victim proved to be honest must remain conjecture but he may have been of a philanthropic persuasion.

A poem entitled "Edward and the shepherd" mentions Jolly Robin, and could be the story of his encounter with the King. The Court was seldom stationary and there is evidence that the King arrived in Nottingham on 9 November 1323. Since there are records of payment to Robin Hood and 28 others at 3d per day in the Royal journals from December 1323 to November 1324 it must be presumed that the claim that "he served the King for a year and a day" is not pure fiction. How he was able to enter the King's service when he had been living off deer in the Royal forests - the penalty for shooting Royal deer being the loss of an eye or a hand - is perhaps best left to legend.

What of his merry men? Friar Tuck would have been a Cistercian monk, worn a short tunic and carried a cudgel. Will Scarlet (or Scaithlock, a common name in the district) and Wm. Goldsborough were not traced, but the two large stones which mark the grave of Little John were mentioned, and a slide of Mutch's Mill, which was only destroyed as late as l930, was also shown.

An interesting point is that the longbow which they used was at that time comparatively new, having been imported from Wales, and in the hands of expert marksmen - which they probably were - would have been a formidable weapon. The very large specimen claimed to have been Little John's may however be a tourist trap.

In 1335 Robin Hode (Hood?) was again fined for resisting the Lord of the Manor. Thereafter it is presumed that he fell ill and went to the Priory of Kirklees where a kinswoman, Elizabeth de Stainton, could have been the Prioress. This would have been between 1328 and 1358. The nuns practiced most of the medicine of the day and the letting of blood was a common remedy. Roger of Doncaster leaped in and attacked Robin Hood as he lay weakened by bloodletting, but before he succumbed he split Roger's head! His tombstone was apparently broken up by Irishmen building a railway several centuries later, who placed chips of stone under their pillows to ward off tooth-aches. The headstone of Elizabeth de Stainton bears an odd inscription, begging for mercy. The talk was well illustrated with slides. Dr Craig thanked him on behalf of the Society, and those who were present must agree that, should he ever wish to forsake neurosurgery, a second career as a histor?an would be waiting for Dr Copley or a third as a calligrapher judging by the beautifully lettered scroll which served as lecture notes - about ten metres long,full of neo-Gothic characters and dispelling the myth that doctors cannot write legibly! (jm)


Future meetings: - Johannesburg.

Thursday 11 February 1982 - Cmdt J R McGregor - "Arabian Peninsular Contingencies" This lecture will deal with the Kuwaiti Problem (1961), the Aden Problem (1964) and the Oman Problem (1973). Cmdt MacGregor saw active service in South Arabia, Cyprus and Northern Ireland as an officer in the Royal Artillery, hence his first hand experiences should prove most interesting

Thursday 11 March 1982 - Mr W J P Carr - "1922 Strike"

Durban (Contact Tania van der Walt, Durban 74-2970)

Thursday 11 February 1982 - Ccl C F Hodgson - "From Hell to the Himalayas" a talk on his experiences during World War 11.

Thursday 11 March 1982 - Vic Conrad - "Masada - Symbol of Resistance."

All the lectures start at 20h00. - (mm)


>b>Heidelberg revisited: As a supporting event to the January lecture, Major Darrell Hall once again regaled us with his version of a Military History Society tour. We had no idea that Ian Uys, our host on the trip, had such a magnificent voice (!) or that our chairman, Nick Kinsey, was fighting such tremendous odds when lecturing at the cemetery in front of the experts on graves...
Lest he be forced to blow his own trumpet, we shall once more announce ANOTHER Metro-Goldwyn-Hall success. Thanks,Darrell.


That's almost all Mike Marsh(FTSU) Joan Marsh(AFTSU)



It is that time of year again - halfway between the Christmas rush and the coming of the Receiver of Revenue - when we must ask you all to pay your Society Subscriptions. For 1982 these are as follows:

Currently the Society consists of about 480 members, of which some 40 hold Life Membership. This might be an ideal time for some more members to consider taking out Life Membership, if only to avoid having to react to these reminders.

Please return the tear-off strip below with your remittance, or send a photocopy or a reasonable hand-drawn facsimile (!) to the Secretary. Queries to either Maurice Gough-Palmer at 616-4531 or Mike Marsh at 648-4657 (both Johannesburg numbers)

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