The Borders Connection in the Wars to retain Independence
In March 1296, Edward I of England,
crossed the Tweed, devastated Berwick and defeated a Scots army at
Dunbar. He marched unopposed as far as Elgin and deposed John Balliol on
the way. He made all important Scots swear allegiance to him on the
document known as The Ragmans Roll and thought that Scotland was
conquered at last.
He reckoned without the tenacity of the Scots to
retain their independence. In 1297, an uprising under the leadership of
William Wallace achieved a victory at Stirling Bridge despite the
previous capitulation of the Scots nobility. It was a fluke and the ever
superior English forces routed the Scots the following year at Falkirk.
However the spirit of freedom burned bright in Scots
hearts. Guerilla warfare was conducted by Wallace and his followers from
the comparative safety of Ettrick Forest and other wild places. Even the
capture and execution of Wallace in 1305, did not quench the desire to
retain their independence.
Robert the Bruce reaped the benefit of the seed of
freedom sown by Wallace and his followers.
Places with Wallace connections
The Auld Kirk in Selkirk
In early 1298, Wallace was proclaimed Guardian of
Scotland at the Forest Kyrk. Tradition and history places this as
Selkirk whose early spellings of Scheleschirche means the Kirk in the
Forest. Selkirk was the capital of Ettrick Forest and the one place of
importance in Scots hands at the time. At this time Wallace and his band
were using Ettrick Forest to harry the English garrisons holding
Roxburgh and Jedburgh Castles.
Selkirk had been a seat of the Kings of Scots and
Scots parliaments and had been held there for two hundred years.
In historical fairness, one or two historians reckon
that the Forest Kirk could have been at St Marys of the Lowes, the
foundations of which can be seen near St Marys Loch in the Yarrow
Wallaces Trench in the Yarrow Valley
In July 1297, Edwards Treasurer in Scotland records
that Wallace was in Ettrick Forest with a graunt compaigne. For
those with a stout heart and strong boots, a hike from Yarrowford (NT
408300) two miles up the ancient road called The Minchmoor, leads to the
entrenchments reputedly made by Wallaces gruant compaigne
before they went to defeat the English at Stirling Bridge on 11th
September 1297. NB - It is a steep two miles
but worth it for the view alone.
The Wallace Statue at Drygrange
Commissioned by, David Stuart Erskine, the Eleventh
Earl of Buchan and unveiled on 22nd September 1814, this was the first
monument to be erected in Scotland to the great Scottish patriot and,
fittingly, looks towards Ettrick Forest. It was the work of a local
sculptor, John Smith of Darnick.
The imposing 31-foot, red sandstone statue depicts
Wallace, Scotlands national hero, dressed in ancient Scottish armour,
resting on his sword and with his huge shield at his side.
The 10-foot pedestal of the statue is inscribed:
Wallace, great patriot hero
ill requited chief
The statue was restored in 1991 by the Saltire Society
with over £20,000 being raised by public subscription and The William
Wallace Trust, c/o Curle, Muir & Co. (Solicitors), Royal Bank
Chambers, Melrose, was formed to look after it.
Close by the statue is a sculpted urn bearing the
Peerless Knight of Elderslie
Who wavd on Ayrs romantic shore
The beamy torch of liberty,
And roaming round from sea to sea
From glade obscure of gloomy rock
His bold companion calld to free
The realm from Edwards iron yoke.
The statue is a 5 minute easy walk from a small car
park on the Bemersyde road. But by far the most pleasant way is to take
the footpath from Dryburgh and walk up the hill to the statue.
More information on the Village of Dryburgh and its
surroundings, including a description of the William Wallace Statue is
to be found in the book "A Visitors Guide to Dryburgh" and
available from Scottish Borders Tourist Board. Proceeds from the sales
will be used for maintenance of the statue and other monuments in
These are the main Wallace Connection places which are
open/available to the public.
Others like Wallaces putting stones on Gala Hill
and other tenuous stories like Wallace visiting Langlands of Langlands
and tethering his horse to a thorn bush near the Wilton Lodge Museum,
Hawick, are so dubious as to be unbelievable.
Likewise Wallaces Tower near Roxburgh was built 350
years after his death.
Produced by Scottish
Borders Tourist Board, Shepherds Mill, Whinfield Road, Selkirk TD7
Tel (01750) 20555. Fax (01750) 21886. E-mail: email@example.com
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