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Bravehert: The truth anent William Wallace (pairt 1)

Whaur we cam fae: The Wallace, fae Lanark tae Fawkirk

Wallace cam fae nae place, gaithert thegither thoosands o common fowk in Scotland wi some orra glamour o personality or skeel, an wi the grumly, switherin support o the Scottish nobility, he gied the English ane o the great skelpins at Stirlin Brig.

But there’s sae mony haivers spake aroond Wallace that ye maun feel that MacDiarmid micht hae been scrievin as weel aboot Wallace as Burns wi the lines, ‘Mair nonsense has been uttered in his name / Than in ony’s barrin’ liberty and Christ.’

Efter Braveheart, the 1995 international sensation, there wis a deifenin amoont o girnin aboot whaur the tale deviatit fae history, an nou ye finnd that Wallace’s memory is clartit wi threaps anent a film raither nor discussions roond the man himsel. This seems a shame, as nae single figur haes been sae popular an influential as Wallace tae Scottish identity ower the centuries.

Ance ye’v taen awa aa the haar o myth that obscures Wallace, is there onything mair than a ghaist left ye? Weel, actually, ay. For a craitur wha lived an dee’d seiven hunner year syne we actually hae a relative fouth o soorces for him. In this twa-pairt airticle we’ll bile it richt doun tae whit we actually ken wi a decent amoont o certainty anent this kenspeckle chiel.

1. Whaur he cam fae

Oor soorces dinnae gie us ower muckle insicht intae the bairnheid o Wallace.

His faither, we ar fairly shuir, wisnae the knicht that mony hae claimed, but a body cried Alan Wallace. There is guid evidence that he wis pairt o the laich nobility, but he wisnae the first son. This backgrund pit him firmly ablo the real nobility, tae their een at least.

Houaniver, Wallace’s connections wi nobility wad hae mebbe helpit set him a wee bittie abuin the common fowk, offerin him a chance tae tak on skeels an tak opportunities nae offert tae yer uisual peasant.

We dae ken that Wallace wis an aircher, an therefore a great strang laddie. The forces needit tae pou back the bow string war huge, sae the image o Wallace as a braid-backit chiel is a richt ane.

2. Whit he did afore the wars

The English soorces, sae quate on the subject o Wallace’s origins, finnd their voice whan it comes tae his life afore the battle o Stirlin Brig. The English Chronicle o Lanercost claimit that Wallace wis ’chief o brigands in Scotland’. Anither Suddren chronicle also cries Wallace a ‘brigand’.

Nou, it wad be unco easy tae cowp sic opinions ontae the midden an lea them tae rot. English screivers claimit that Wallace wis a crook? Nae shock there. But haud on… there’s mair tae this than ye micht think.

Oor first record for Wallace may weel be a criminal act. ‘A thief namit William Le Waleys’ brakkit intae a hoose in Perth an cairit aff their beer. Nou, the timin is aboot richt for this tae be oor Wallace. This could weel be oor hero pauchlin pints for the lads. Beer is the sort o thing ye’d hae need o, gin ye haed an encampment o men waitin on ye. Truth be telt, we cannae be sure gin it wis him or no.

The first agreed time the Great Patriot breingit ontae the history pages wi his sword swingin an bluid in his een wis at Lanark. William de Hesilrig wis the English Sherrif in chairge o the toun, taxin an controllin in the nemm o Edward Langshanks. Wallace cam oot the derkness at the heid o a boorach o fechtin chiels an went at the English.

The Sherrif wis left deid, strippit tae the scuds, in the street. Wi this bluidy act, Wallace annooncit himsel tae the warld.

We ken fae this incident that at least by the time o Lanark, Wallace wis a military leader o ae type or anither, an wis committit tae takkin the war tae the occupier.

3. On tae Stirlin an Fawkirk

Wallace gaithert a huge airmy o common Scots fae mony different airts. He did this wi the at-best switherin support o the nobility, but wi the backin o the Kirk. The nobility ar aye gied sair rebuke in history for no gien Wallace the mense he wis due, an nae bein leal tae Scotland. Houaniver we’r telt bi the soorces that Wallace brocht the nobility tae heel through violence an intimidation, includin imprisonment. Sae mebbe they warnae sae keen on him for personal reasons.

There’s nae ower muckle that needs said aboot the battle o Stirlin Brig. Wallace led an airmy doun tae Stiling an met wi the English. In their arrogance, the English ettelt tae pit their entire airmy ower the auld Stirlin brig, twa by twa.

The Scots whummelt them.

The thing speirt anent the battle, tae ding doun Wallace’s reputation, wis whether or no it wis Wallace at the heid o the airmy, or his leal neebor Andra Murray. Murray wis a fechtin chiel fae the north. He haed led kenspeckle risins in that airt an owerthrew the English in his ain region. At Stirlin he focht alangside Wallace.

Baith Wallace an Murray, it seems, war in chairge o the operation. We ken this, nae fae the soorces o the battle, but fae the Letter o Lubeck, sent juist efter the battle. This letter, screivit bi Wallace and Murray wis addressit tae the tredin fowk at Lubeck, Germany. It let them ken that Scotland wis free fae English tyranny, an ance mair open for business. It is an international trade deal wi oor European neebors. The nemms ar them o Wallace an Murray baith, wi their titles gien as ‘leaders o the airmy o the country o Scotland, an the community o that same fowk’.

Shortly efter, Murray dee’d o the skaiths he teuk at Stirlin Brig. We assume this left Wallace alane at the heid o operations.

An Wallace haed a problem. He haed a muckle gaitherin o sodgers. Wi Scotland left unco puir bi war, they haed nae means o supportin theirsels ower the winter. But they couldnae gang their gates an disband, as they kent it wadnae be lang afore Edward an the English wad be back up the road.

In whit wis a fine martial move, Wallace brocht aa his troops sooth tae England, whaur they spent the yuil. There they ate the stores o the enemy nation, an the sodgers learnt firsthaund o the deith an destruction that wad be their lot. They cam hame wi gowd, siller, an ither treisurs tae their nemm. Wallace haed left Scotland ae year wi a strauchle force o orra luons, fermers an the like. He cam back ower the border wi a force trained in slauchter an rewairdit for their bluidshed wi gowd.

North they mairchit, tae ready theirsels for the advance o the English airmy. They mairchit forrit tae Fawkirk, an the battle there.

(Read pairt twa here.)