Andrew de Wyntoun

St. Andrews, Fife in Scotland

Robin Hood’s activities were never recorded by a contemporary chronicler. There is no surviving evidence that suggests that anybody knew him, his family or why he was outlawed. But some chroniclers seem to have believed he existed and the earliest of these was Andrew de Wyntoun (c.1350-c.1423). Andrew was an Augustinian prior of St. Serf’s (Kinross, Scotland), a religious house set on an island in Loch Leven on Serf's Inch, and later a canon-regular of St. Andrews Augustinian priory in Fife Scotland.

Very little is known of de Wyntoun’s education or early career, but he wrote ‘The Orgynale Cronykil of Scotland' at the request of his patron Sir John of Wemyss. The subject of the 'Chronicle,' is the history of Scotland from the mythical period (including the history of angels) to the accession of James I in 1406. In his manuscript he also tells the most famous of all his stories—Macbeth and the weird sisters, and the interview between Malcolm and Macduff.

Although very few critics, down the centuries have found any poetic merit in Wyntoun’s work, it does shed very important light on material about Scotland’s history that is not found anywhere else.

Written at the age of seventy, his chronicle is a long (preserved in nine manuscripts) and prosaic vernacular compendium in octosyllabic couplets, that traces the history from a very pro-Scottish viewpoint. He is especially severe on the malpractices and war crimes of Edward I who is described as a ‘tyrand’ and the ‘curseyd’ one, in his war against the Scots. Wyntoun particularly points to the massacre at Berwick and his treatment of the national hero William Wallace.

                                   St. Serf's Inch, Loch Leven

Wyntoun’s chronicle was probably completed before 1420. He puts briefly between the years 1283 and 1285:

Litil Iohun and Robert Hude
Waythmen war commendit gud;
In Ingilwode and Bernnysdaile
Thai oyssit al this tyme thar trawale

This translates from the medieval Scots as ‘little John and Robert Hood were well praised (as) forest outlaws (waythmen, i.e., men who lie in wait/ ambushers); in this period they did their deeds in Ingilwood and Barnsdale”

The ‘tyme’ in which Wyntoun places Robin’s activities in the ‘Chronicle’ was 1283. There are two striking points in this entry. The mention of Little John at the beginning of the first line might indicate that Robin may not have been the automatic choice as leader. Or it could be that his name placed first in the line simply provided a convenient rhyme of ‘Hude’ and ‘gude.’

Also surprising is the fact that there is no mention of Nottingham or Sherwood. This may show the Scottish viewpoint, with Inglewood (English wood) a forest just south of the Scottish border in Cumberland and Barnsdale in Yorkshire on the old Roman road between London and Edinburgh. The famous hunting ground of Inglewood, stretching from Penrith to Carlisle was the location of another medieval ballad hero and outlaw, Adam Bell. It was also used as the scene for several of King Arthur’s legendary adventures, which may have influenced Wyntoun.

But Wyntoun does not seem to question that Robin Hood and Little John existed, he indicates that they were real historical outlaws, living in the decade before Wallace’s rebellion, who were widely praised. Unfortunately he supplies no indication as to what evidence he based his date on.

To read more about historical evidence behind the legend of Robin Hood, please click on the label 'Robin Hood History.'

Picture Strip 22 : Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood

Part 22 of Laurence's fabulous picture strip of Walt Disney's original movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). To see previous pages of the picture strip, please click on the label below.

If you want to learn more about the making of this wonderful film or the legend that inspired it, please click on the relevant subjects in the sidebar.

Spanish Poster

A big thank you to Mike for sending in this fantastic Spanish poster, (The Archers of the King) from what appears to be the original release of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood in the 1950’s. This is one of my favourites; I particularly like the warm rich colours, design and elaborate detail.

At Home with James Hayter

This fascinating interview with James Hayter and his young family was kindly sent to me a while ago by Geoff Waite. It was published in the October 3rd 1953/4? edition of TV Mirror Magazine and gives an interesting insight into his family life at that time. As Geoff said, it seems that the argument over how much television children should be allowed to view was prevalent even back then! And they only had the one BBC channel in those days!

"The Twentieth- Century Mr Pickwick is a TV fan-both as an Actor and as a Viewer.

By Ian Purvis

“I wonder, old boy, if you’d mind bringing down with you a gin bottle full of petrol? With what we’ve got, that should see us through the evening fairly happy.”

The voice at the end of the telephone was that of actor James Hayter. He had invited me to tea and dinner at ‘Tall Trees,’ the house he has recently purchased just outside Hemel Hempstead, in Hertfordshire.

What could be the meaning of his extraordinary request? Was it his intention to serve Molotov Cocktails before dinner? Anyhow, on my arrival, Jimmy greeted me warmly and thanked me for remembering the petrol-which he proceeded to pour into the bowels of a small light generator housed in a shed at the bottom of his garden.

Only way to see father!

“You see,” explained this twentieth century Pickwick, “if you hadn’t brought the petrol we just might have run short in the middle of the TV play this evening-which would have been a pity, as it promises to be a good one.”

The Electricity Board have not yet braved the steep ascent to the hilltop upon which the Hayters’ house is built; and gas operated TV being still a development of the future, a special generator has been installed to provide the current for the sets.

They have two: one in the living room and the other in the nursery. Wisecracks Jimmy: “Actually, it was to keep the kids happy that we bought our first model. I was doing so much television acting at that time that my wife assured me that if I didn’t give our children the opportunity of seeing me on the screen occasionally; they would soon forget what their old dad looked like!”

Here, indeed, is a family who are unanimous in their approval of TV entertainment-particularly the children. I noticed that five year old Timothy was proudly sporting a new pullover on which were prominently displayed woven images of “Hank.” Plucking at my sleeve he urged me into the playroom, explaining, bright-eyed, that Children’s Hour was just about to begin.

With all the withering scorn at the command of a twelve-year -old, brother Michael countered this suggestion with the words: “You don’t want to see that kids’ stuff, I’m sure. I like grown-up programmes such as What’s My Line?” Later, he confided to me that his own favourite TV personality is Cafe Continental’s Helene Cordet : “She’s smashing, isn’t she ?”

Sister Elizabeth, rising six-and-a-half, tells me that Muffin, formerly number one on her hit parade, has of late lost much of his former appeal because “he’s a bit too young for me now”- something of a Peter Pan that Mule! Principal heart throb of Caroline, aged four, is Humpty-Dumpty”- “’Cos he tells us stories.”

Paid for not looking

Despite the provision of an extra TV set for the benefit of their children, it would be wrong to suppose that the Hayter’s believe in allowing them to indulge in indiscriminate viewing. They argue that many programmes are quite unsuitable for youngsters, and that in every home where there is television, parents have a moral duty to act as ‘Lord Chamberlains’ to their children.

Naturally, Children’s Hour is un-censored at “Tall Trees,” but in order to teach the youngsters to be selective in their viewing, even of this highly suitable programme, Jimmy has devised an ingenious system whereby each may claim from him a penny for every day on which he or she does not watch television.

As a busy mother, Mary Hayter is fulsome in her praises of TV. “It keeps the children happy and off my hands for at least part of the day and it is especially helpful in winter when they can’t go outside to play.” As a housewife, too, she finds the hints given on her screen to be of constant value, and admits that she would be a very disappointed woman if Philip Harben’s programmes were ever to be discontinued.

Sincerity wins

The TV Chef has extensively increased her repertoire of dishes – and incidentally influenced her to purchase a gas cooker of the type used for his demonstrations.

Just how much credit should be allowed Philip Harben-or his cooker, and how much to Mary herself for the dinner served that evening at her table, I cannot judge. For even as I was about to enquire the recipe of the delectable sweet, Jimmy insisted that we carry our coffee into the drawing room so that we should not miss the beginning of the play.

When it was over we naturally talked about it as a production, and I was anxious to hear an actor’s views.

Hayter thought that the best moments had been those in close-up when the players had been able to convey real sincerity. He thought that long-shots in TV drama should be kept down to a minimum.

Hayter maintains that it is well-nigh impossible for the artiste, when shot at long-range; to make the character portrayed convincing to the audience because subtleties of expression became lost on the tiny screen.

In common with most others of his profession, he feels that whilst embodying all the difficulties experienced in both stage and screen acting, the new medium offers but little in compensation.

“One feels,” he says, “None of the encouragement known to the stage actor resulting from the tangible response of his audience, nor the reassurance that filming provides when he is aware that if at any given ‘take’ anything goes wrong, that scene may be shot again and again until it is perfect.”

Nevertheless he admits that he finds TV acting fascinating for the very reason that it does present a bigger challenge to the actor. He claims that the years spent workings in repertory before he became established are now standing him in good stead.

How the “Reps” help

“In rep,” he says, “You have to learn that despite limited rehearsals-more limited by far than those given to a TV production-you must somehow be able to give of your best at the first performance. That experience is of great assistance when first you face the television cameras.”

At that point Michael, whose seniority to the other children allowed him still to be up, wearied of our theorising and requested that the set be switched on for the last half hour of Music Hall. Jimmy agreed. But alas, after only five minutes the screen flickered and went blank. It was evident that my host had under estimated the thirst of his petrol engine and should have insisted that I bring with me an extra half-bottle!"

Ian Purvis (TV Mirror)

(Special thanks to Geoff Waite)

                       James Hayter as Friar Tuck in the 'Story of Robin Hood'

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope you all get hit by Cupid’s (or Robin’s) romantic arrow today!

Here is a nice smoochie still from Columbia’s ‘Rogues of Sherwood Forest’ (1950). Directed by Gordon Douglas, this low budget offering featured John Derek as Robin, Earl of Huntington, son of old Robin. The movie is set during the reign of King John (George Macready), whose oppressive taxes incite the young Hood’s rebellion, resulting in the monarch signing the Magna Carta. In his final film role, Alan Hale played Little John for the third time, supported by Billy House as Friar Tuck, Lester Matthews as Allen-a-Dale, Billy Bevan as Will Scarlet and Diana Lynn as Lady Marianne de Beaudray.

Picture Strip 21 : Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood

Part 21 of Laurence's fabulous picture strip of Walt Disney's original movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). To see previous pages of the picture strip, please click on the label below.

If you want to learn more about the making of this wonderful film or the legend that inspired it, please click on the relevant subjects in the sidebar.

The Major Oak

Hayman Rooke was born 20th Feb 1723 at Westminster, London, to Brudenell Rice Rooke and Anne Millington. His military ancestry encouraged him to join the army and after reaching the rank of Major he was involved in the capture of Belle Isle in 1761.

Soon after leaving the army, Major Rooke retired to a picturesque house in Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire and became an antiquary and historian. But he also was a pioneer archaeologist within the county of Nottinghamshire and despite having no formal training became well versed in a range of archaeological fields, and a frequent contributor to the journal ‘Archaeologia’ between 1776 and 1796. Later he was elected FSA (Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries).

Rooke produced for the Society of Antiquaries, an account of several Roman Camps which had been discovered in his locality. He also brought to light the remains of two extensive Roman villas, about half a mile from Mansfield-Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire and revealed evidence that this site had been selected for the enjoyment of the pleasures of the chase.

But as well as the Romans, he wrote about medieval churches and local great estates such as Welbeck, Bolsover, Haddon Hall and Thoresby.

In 1790, Major Rooke published his book about "Remarkable Oaks in the Park at Welbeck", where he describes nine oak trees and in 1799 his ‘Sketch of the Ancient and present State of Sherwood Forest’ was published. It was during his research that he identified the brand mark of King John, eighteen inches beneath the bark of one of the Sherwood oaks during some tree felling in Birklands. About a foot from the centre of the tree the letter ‘I’ with a crown was discovered.

It was his love and enthusiasm for Sherwood that in time his army rank was conferred on the formerly known Cockpen Tree and became known as the “Major’s Oak” or as we know it today, the Major Oak.

During the 1800’s it was also known as the Queen or Queen's Oak, although there is no known connection with any royal figure, the name probably arose to describe its large size and its status as ‘lady of the forest’, because it was such a majestic tree. Gradually down the years it also became called The ‘Cockpen Tree’ because its hollow trunk (caused by fungi) was used for breeding game cocks and storing them prior to a cockfight.

Finally, after the publication of Major Hayman Rooke’s book on ‘The Remarkable Oaks’ and particularly his picture (image number 9) and description of the ‘Queen’s Oak’ the famous tree affectionately became known by locals as ‘The Major’s Oak.’

There is a possibility that the ‘Major Oak’ is more than one tree! This could be due to the consequence of two or even three trees growing close to one another. Another theory put forward, to try and explain its massive size, is that the tree has been ‘pollarded’. This was a system of tree management that enabled the foresters to grow more than one crop of timber from a single tree. This was repeated over decades, causing the trunk to grow large and fat, the tops of which became swollen after several centuries of this cropping. ‘Pollarding’ allowed trees to grow longer than unmanaged trees. Could the ‘The Major Oak’ have been spared from the final forester's axe because of its hollow rotted trunk?

The exact age of this giant tree can only be estimated, and is open to wild speculation. It could be anywhere between 800 – 1000 years old. Its large canopy, the leaves and branches, with a spread of 92 ft seems to indicate that it has grown up with little or no competition from oaks nearby. Its height is 52 feet (19 meters) and the main trunk has a girth of 10 meters (33 feet), it weighs approximately 23 tons. The Major Oak still produces good crops of acorns every three or four years, sometimes over 150,000!

This tree had always been well known by local people, but during Victorian times, the Major Oak became a popular visiting place. Tourists started coming to Edwinstowe by train and then by carriage to see the magnificent tree. Today, it attracts over 900,000 people a year, who come from all over the World to see ‘Robin Hood’s tree’; one of the reasons why it has to be fenced off!

Some of the famous visitors who are known to have visited the legendary giant oak include the botanist David Bellamy, Cilla Black, Bernard Miles, Jack Palance and Maureen Lipman. The list also has a merry bunch of ‘Robin Hoods’, such as Richard Todd, Michael Praed and Jason Connery.

I have recently been invited to join a Facebook group dedicated to the Major Oak and its celebratory day on the 20th February (Major Hayman Rooke’s birthday). The page is administered by Adrian Wison and is at Please come and join this celebration of the world’s most famous tree!

Robin Hood kills Red Gill

This great still from Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) shows Richard Todd as Robin Hood looking at the dead body of Red Gill (Archie Duncan). In this dramatic scene Robin had just killed Red Gill, after witnessing the murder of his father, who was shot in the back by the Sheriff’s henchman, hiding in a tree. In the background the Sheriff’s foresters can be seen ready to pursue Robin through the forest.

The picture clearly shows the remarkable ancient pollarded tree that is typical of those found in Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire. This was the location chosen to be ‘Sherwood Forest,’ not only because of its close proximity to Denham Studios but also because of its amazing ancient woodland that was ideal as a backdrop to this classic tale.