Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Historic Scotland
Did the Wallace versus the
MacDougalls and MacFadyens Battle at the Pass of Awe really take
I think the answer has to be 'no'.
Wallace's movements post-Falkirk
are shadowy, but 1300 seems impossible. So far as we know, Wallace
left Scotland in, or shortly after, August 1299. He travelled,
possibly via Orkney or somewhere within the territories of King
Haakon of Norway to France. He was in France in the autumn of 1299,
when a letter from Edward asks Philip IV to retain Wallace there. On
November 7, 1300, Philip wrote to his representatives at the court
of Pope Boniface, instructing them to assist 'our beloved William le
Walois of Scotland knight' on the visit he was about to make to
Rome. It seems unlikely that Wallace had returned to Scotland then
gone back to France, so this calls into question whether he was in
Scotland at any time during the year 1300.
Was the Pass of Awe battle in some
year other than 1300? There is no historical context for Wallace
engaging in significant military action before May 1297. From that
date until he resigned the Guardianship of Scotland after Falkirk,
at an unknown date between July and December 1298, he was fully
engaged in the campaigns leading to the set-piece battles at
Stirling Bridge and Falkirk. After Falkirk, he engaged in guerrilla
action, including possibly the burning of Stirling and Perth. After
his resignation of the Guardianship, he would not have had the
authority implied by the account of the Lock Awe battle.
Wallace appears to have returned
to Scotland in late 1302 or early 1303. His subsequent guerilla
actions, with limited forces based in the Forest of Selkirk, are
recorded only in the Borders, with a single larger raid in 1303
(jointly with Comyn and Fraser) into Cumberland. There is no record
of his involvement in the falsely cheering victory at Roslin in
February 1303. Wallace was not with Comyn's party when they
surrendered to Edward near Perth in February 1304, and with Edward
in full control of Perth from July 1303 or earlier, the idea of
Wallace moving north to fight an action at Loch Awe seems unlikely
in the extreme. In August 1305, he was betrayed and captured.
So the 'window' for any Wallace
action at Pass of Awe is impossibly tight, with late 1298 as the
only possible date, but even that seems unlikely in the extreme.
With all due deference to oral
tradition, I would suggest that the 1300 account is spurious. It
seems as if the battle of the Pass of Brander between Bruce and the
MacDougalls, in late summer 1308, which all are reasonably sure did
indeed take place, has been poetically but erroneously transformed
into an exploit in Wallace's 'wilderness years'.
Our appreciation to West Highland
Notes & Queries, November 2003, published by The Society of West
Highland and Island Historical Research, Breacachadh Castle, Isle of
Coll, Argyll, PA78 6TB, Scotland.