Ontelly

The Great Michael: The Vanished Ship of Scotland - Episode 2


The Great Michael the pride of James IV's fleet, launched in 1511, was the biggest warship in the western world. For the first time Scotland led the world in shipbuilding. It's a feat that fascinates comedian Susan Morrison who grew up in a ship-building town in the shadow of the QE2 ( being built personally by her dad, of course, 'cos that's how it seems to a wean!) Great Michael belongs in that same superleague with the great liners and warships. She sparked an international arms race with the jealous monarchs of Europe. She was a revolutionary ship, a step-change in naval warfare and building her was a massive international project. The amazing thing was that it wasn't one of the European superpowers doing it - it was Scotland. A thousand ton ship, she required an immense amount of premium oak wood, something in very short supply in Scotland at the end of the middle ages, maybe even as much as 72 acres. Huge amounts of her wood was sourced abroad, but in Scotland this meant scraping the barrel as far as great oaks in our native woodland went. However it was her drain on Scottish finances and the King's cunning plan to keep her running which was both his and her downfall. James IV loved his ship. She cost as much as an entire year of the King's income to build, let alone run. He could only afford her by striking a deal with the King of France, that King Louis could hire her out to use against the English. Her mission? To sink Henry Tudor! But that drew James into the war which would end tragically for him at Flodden, and Scotland could no longer afford to keep his monster flagship after his death. The pride of Scotland was sold at a knock down price to the French, but not before she had shown that we were capable of leading the world.