Cleanse the Causeway

The skirmish known as Cleanse the Causeway, or Clear the Causeway, took place in the High Street of Edinburgh, Scotland, on 30 April 1520, between rivals James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran, chief of Clan Hamilton, and Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, chief of Clan Douglas.

The skirmish was the result of enmity between the House of Hamilton and the "Red" Angus line of the House of Douglas, both powerful noble families jealous of each other's influence over King James V. The Hamiltons, led by Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavil, half-brother of the Earl of Arran, and Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, the earl's bastard son, attempted to apprehend the Earl of Angus, and prompted a street fight.

The Earl of Arran had become Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1517. In a dispute over the sale of a cargo of timber from a Dutch ship, he had sided with Leith merchants over the Edinburgh burgesses. The Leithers, supported by Robert Barton, had ignored any of the rights of the burgesses, but Arran still gave them his support, enraging the Edinburgh traders. During the skirmish, the burgesses of Edinburgh saw the opportunity for revenge, and took the side of Angus.

The fight went badly for the Hamiltons, and Sir Patrick Hamilton and about 70 others were killed in the incident.[1] The Earl of Arran and Sir James fought their way out, and escaped along a narrow close. Stealing a nearby pack-horse they fled through the shallows of the Nor Loch marshes.


  1. McKean, Charles (January 1993). "Hamilton of Finnart". History Today. 43 (1): 42–47.

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