So is Doncaster REALLY part of Scotland?
APART from impending nuclear armageddon, the other massive development this week is the news that Doncaster City FC has applied to the Scottish Football Association to take part in next year’s Scottish Cup. For anybody with a fleeting knowledge of the geography of the United Kingdom, this may come as slight surprise, as the town in South Yorkshire is 130 miles from the Scottish border, which is the same distance as it is from the M25.
You might think that April Fool’s Day has come late in Doncaster, but it seems that the club is quite serious. According to a spokesman, the club could qualify for the Scottish Cup ‘on the technicality that Doncaster could be part of Scotland’.
The spokesman explains: “In 1136 King Stephen was King of England, and Doncaster was ceded to King David of Scotland in the first Treaty of Durham, and it was never officially given back.”
The spokesman then told The Times that the application by the club, which plays in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior Football League Division Two, was quite serious.
“We are at the bottom tier of football, but what is the point of not having ambition with these big projects?” the spokesman asked.
(Incidentally, The Times only reported the story on its Scottish pages, which may raise the eyebrows of those who think that a sizeable English town perhaps belonging to Scotland may actually be of nationwide interest.)
So does the club have a point? Can Doncaster really belong to Scotland?
Let us go back nearly 900 years to when David I, King of Scotland, was on the rampage in northern England from December 1135 to January 1136, seizing – among others – the castles of Newcastle, Carlisle and Alnwick.
There are two interpretations as to why David was so bellicose towards the English. The most simple reason was that he was attempting to grab some more territory, while the complicated reason is that he had no truck for Stephen, King of England, who had succeeded his uncle, Henry I, to the throne. David is often regarded as the protégé of Henry, and he saw Stephen as a usurper and a threat to his own security and dynasty.
Whatever the reason, by the beginning of February 1136, the armies of both kings met at Durham, and it looked as if there was going to be an almighty battle. However, the two men decided that to jaw-jaw was better than to war-war, and they agreed to the Treaty of Durham on 5 February, in which David gave back some of the strongholds he had taken, but retained much of Lancashire and Cumberland – as well as Doncaster. In short, the town was now a de facto part of Scotland, and it is often said that David’s heir, Prince Henry of Scotland, made Doncaster a Scottish borough.
If the story ended here, then Doncaster City’s claim might hold water, and a place in the Scottish Cup would be assured.
However, quite a lot happened in the aftermath of the Treaty of Durham, and indeed over the next 886 years. For starters, it didn’t take long for David to go on the warpath again, and in 1138 he invaded England twice, thereby breaking the treaty.
Besides, according to Professor Richard Oram of the University of Stirling in an email sent to the BBC, “all of the lands given to David and Henry by King Stephen by the Treaty of Durham were held as fiefs of the English Crown, not as annexed territories of Scotland, and were lost when David and Henry broke the treaty”.
Furthermore, by 1157, all the territory that had been lost to the Scots was handed back by Malcolm IV, King of Scotland, to Stephen’s successor, Henry II, King of England.
There is more bad news for Doncaster City FC, as there are no surviving records that show that Doncaster was in the hands of the Scottish crown for those two decades. In fact, the town’s earliest record is the Royal Borough Charter of Richard I, King – crucially – of England, which is dated 22 May 1194.
Although City’s spokesman may have a point that Doncaster ‘was never officially given back’ to the English, the point is that the Treaty of Durham was voided by David I when he invaded England in 1138, and that by the end of the 12th century, Doncaster was a Royal Borough paying taxes to the English – and not the Scottish – exchequer.
Even though history may not be on Doncaster City’s side, you’ve got to admire the club’s chutzpah. Go on, the Scottish FA, if events like the Tour de France can be held in Yorkshire, why not allow Doncaster a one-off entry into the Scottish Cup?
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