Friday, December 31, 2010

Guid Hogmanay!

So it's actually New Year's Eve if you can believe it! I can't. This year has seemed to fly by. But I'm not sad to part with it either. I hope that this year is better than the last, and that it bodes well for Scotland.

By the way, the Christmas Pudding turned out really good! It was very delicious and we served it with caramel sauce and whipped cream. (My Americanized version of custard ;-) Over all, I think it is a tradition I will keep going.
Today, I am going to try out a new shortbread recipe my grandma gave me and I will tell you how that works out as well.

Today is also the birthday of Bonnie Prince Charlie, so be sure to drink a toast to the King over the Water tonight.

That's all I have time to write about for now, but have a good Hogmanay and here's a little bit of Burns sung by Dougie MacLean to end the year 2010

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Scottish Traditions and Christmas Pudding

Since it's almost Christmas, I thought I should write something about Scottish holiday traditions. But guess what. Like so many other things in Scotland, the celebrating of Christmas was banned. And stayed banned, for almost four hundred years. It started with Oliver Cromwell in the Reformation. In 1647, parliament put a ban on celebrating Christmas and it lasted fifteen years. When Cromwell lost his power, the ban was lifted from most of Britain, but not Scotland. The ban was actually not lifted until the 1950s!

Because of this, the Scots celebrate New Years or Hogmanay. However, most of the Scottish Christmas traditions started to be celebrated on Hogmanay instead so they do still exist today. First Footing is one of those traditions. The first visitor to a home on Christmas day was a First Footer and he had to bring gifts and money. They also lit a candle in the window to welcome strangers into their houses. Yule Bread was another tradition (the eating of it was banned as well). Each person would get a Yule Bread and the person who found the hidden trinket in their loaf would have good luck the next year. There were several other traditions like that, and also burning the twig of a Rowan tree to bring peace between family members. ;-)

The Scots also upheld the old Viking tradition of keeping a fire going to keep away evil spirits. I also remember reading somewhere too, that they had to keep a fire going all night on Christmas Eve so elves would not come and steel the gifts!

Traditional foods, included Black Bun which is like a fruit cake and also Called Twelfth Night Cake along with Turkey, lot's of shortbread and, my favorite, venison stew!

This year, however, I decided to embrace the English part of my heritage and make a traditional Christmas pudding! My mom and I put it together this morning and everyone stirred it and made a wish! It's cooking right now, and I will be sure to tell everyone how it turns out, even if it turns out bad! I love trying traditional recipes. I like to think of all the people who have made the things over the years. How many of my ancestors might have eaten the same things. And if it's really good, I may have started a new tradition! I used this recipe in case anyone is interested, though I did not used either candied peel, or raisons and sultanas. I used apricots and dried cranberries instead.

So I hope everyone has a very good holiday, and I will be back next week to wish ye all a Guid Hogmanay!

Happy Hollidays, and Merry Christamas!

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

St. Andrew's Day

Happy St. Andrew's Day everyone! Fly your Saltires! I don't have much time to write anything today, but here's a poem I wrote a while ago about the Saltire:

To the Saltire

To our ancestors you showed yourself
On the bright blue Summer's sky
As a sign that they would win the day
As their enemies drew ever nigh.

The white cross of St. Andrew
Is your foreground fair,
And your background of the brightest blue
Is the sky of the Summer's air.

You've flown above the bloody field
Of many a battle won.
Since the days of brave Calgacus
'Till all our fighting will be done.

You were the standard of the normal Scots;
The crofters and the Highland men.
The Lion Rampant is fine for kings,
But you were good enough for them.

You are Scotland as it was and is
And you'll be here is years to come.
For something that has been here so long
Your legacy will forever go on.

You flew in the field with Wallace
And won Bannockburn with our Hero King.
You flew with Bonnie Charlie
And still fly more freely than bird on wing.

Happy will be the day wen you fly
Over a Scotland once more free;
To rid your land of the usurper
And fill the people's hearts with glee.

So keep on flying
For Scotland needs you still.
And one day we all hope to see
The White and Blue on every hill.

Slainte, Hazel

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Draw at Sheriffmuir

Today commemorates the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. It was considered the last battle in the 1715 Jacobite Uprising and was also a draw.

The Jacobite forces were led by the Earl of Mar also called "Bobbing John". His nickname came from his ability to duck and weave in battle and also because he was known to change sides when it suited him. On November 13th the two forces, Mar's Jacobites and the Hanoverians under the Duke of Argyle met at Sheriffmuir. Mar had more men than Argyle, but he was not a very good military leader. He was more of a politician than a fighting man and it showed in the way he directed the battle. Neither side took advantage of its artillery and both armies attacked on only one flank. Argyle, as was usual with English forces, had superior cavalry and used it to attack Mar's right wing. They fought relentlessly for three hours, the Macrae clan in the Jacobite army were nearly wiped out and the Jacobite's left wing was overcome. Meanwhile Mar's right wing took up a ferocious Highland charge and attached Argyle's left which immediately broke and fled to Dunblane.

Argyle regrouped his right and then joined up with his center battalions who had not yet seen action. He had only about a thousand men left and he saw that Mar was regrouping as well, raising his standard on the Gather Stone (more about that in a minute). Before the fighting could continue though, the sun when down on that cold wet day and both armies retired back to where they had come from. The next morning, Argyle sent out scouts and found the field deserted. Mar had retreated to Perth where he awaited King James who was missing in action due to his detainment in France. The French were doing their best to keep him where he was, not wanting him to join the Uprising in person. It was said that the English ambassador had tried to have James assassinated, but eventually, he made it back to Scotland and landed in Peterhead.

After that the Uprising seemed to peter out until it flared again in 1719 at the Battle of Glenshiel. The Earl of Mar dithered around doing nothing and King James had caught a fever and was said to have spent his time huddled in a chair, shivering. There had been an attempt to coronate him at Scone, but it seems never to have gone over. The Jacobite ladies even donated their jewels to make a crown for him, but it never seemed to have happened.

There is now a monument at the site of the Battle of Sheriffmuir and commemorations are held every year, usually after dark. There is also a stone called the Gathering Stone which it where they clans gathered before the fight and sharpened their blades. (There are a lot of stones in Scotland that the clansmen have sharpened their swords on.) It is still there for people to see today.

Another interesting fact about the Battle was that Rob Roy MacGregor was there, though he was never said to have actually taken part in the battle, but seemed to have been just an observer. He was a Jacobite born and bred, but the Duke of Argyle was known to be his protector and thus he was not allowed or at least his honor would not allow him to fight against him. A jeering Scottish ballad says:

Rob Roy he stood watch
On a hill for to catch
The booty, for aught that I saw, man;
For he ne'er advanc'd
From the place where he stanc'd
Till nae mair was to do there at a' man.

However, he did act as a guide for Mar as the land they were traversing was practically on his home turf.

So the battle was a draw and as an old Scotch ballad says (I actually think it's from the same one as above):

There's some say that we won,
And some say that they won,
And some say that none won at a', man,
But of one thing I'm sure,
That at Sheriffmuir,
A battle there was, that I saw, man.
And we ran and they ran,
And they ran and we ran,
And we ran, and they ran awa' man.

Robert Burns also wrote a song about the Battle and here's a link to The Corries singing it. And also this other one I just found while I was looking for the other! :-P

Also, today we should all say happy birthday to one of Scotland's greatest novelists: Robert Louis Stevenson!

Slainte, Hazel

Friday, November 5, 2010

Remember, Remember...

Remember, Remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Anyone who lives in or around England probably knows that today is Gunpowder Plot Day. This commemorates the day in 1606 when Guy Fawkes was foiled in his plan to blow up Parliament and King James I (and VI of Scots.) I have always found this a somewhat fantastic story. Guy Fawkes and his conspirators were Catholics while James was a Protestant and so there was that age old rivalry. It was just enough to make Guy Fawkes and his friends to decide they were going to blow up Parliament and King James with it. (I always feel sorry for poor James. He seemed to have no end of bad luck!) They plotted and conspired and Fawkes assumed the pseudonym "John Johnson". They rented a house in London that had a cellar that went under the houses of Parliament and piled barrels and barrels of gunpowder into it, waiting for the time when they would get to use it.

However, Guy Fawkes, who was to light the fuse while all the others got out of there, was caught in the act and was foiled in his plan. He was drug to the Tower of London where he was tortured for information. What ever he might have done, you cannot deny the fact that Guy Fawkes was a very brave man. He withstood the torture and refused to give any names but his own. His friends were captured as well, but it was not because of him.

As soon as Guy Fawkes confessed to what he had done they took him and his friends to Westminster where they were tried for treason and hung, drawn and quartered. The story goes that Guy Fawkes leapt from the scaffold while he was being hung, thus breaking his neck and disappointing the executioners.

Here's some more information of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot if you wish to know more.

So happy Guy Fawkes Day to any of you English out there!

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, October 25, 2010

Another Birthday!

Today is the birthday of another of Scotland's greatest heros: James Graham, the 1st Marquis of Montrose. Montrose--as he is commonly called--fought for Charles I (the king who got his head cut off) in the time of Oliver Cromwell. Sadly, Montrose is quite forgotten and almost never mentioned outside of Scottish history books. I have never seen him in a history text book even when Charles I was mentioned. It is truly a shame that he seems to not be recognized outside of Scotland, for he was a truly wonderful man. He was brave and a very good military leader. He was the only one to be able to tame the Highland clans and they followed him out of respect. He was sadly, like Wallace, betrayed by his own countrymen and taken for execution. There is a beautiful poem detailing his last moments that you'll find at this link.

Montrose himself wrote a bit of poetry. One of his poems he wrote in his cell on the eve of his execution.

Here's a link to the 1st Marquis of Montrose society where you can find out some more information on him and also the poems he wrote.

The great Scottish novelist, Nigel Tranter wrote two books about Montrose--ones that I have not as yet been lucky enough to get my hands on!-- and I'm sure they would be a wonderful read for anyone who was interested.

Here's also a link to The Corries singing one of Montrose's songs, My Dear and Only Love

I will try to be back sometime, probably by next month to write some more posts. I have a couple things I was thinking of writing about, I just need to start pulling my books out again and looking through them to find what I need! Again, if anyone has anything they wish to know more about, please let me know.

Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Info Regarding the Safe Conduct Letter!

For any of you who read my post several months ago about the Wallace Safe Conduct Letter you'll find this information as exciting as I! It seems that they have found that the letter is actually the original French document and not an English copy as the English historians said before. So it is looking up for us getting it up to Scotland! Here's a link to the information. Or you can go to The Society of William Wallace.

I'll be keeping you posted about any new installments as soon as I find out about them! We can only hope that by next year, the Safe Conduct Letter will be back in Scotland where it belongs. It would be a very nice start to a next year. If enough people get involved, I think we can all make it happen, so please do all you can to help! Just caring is enough sometimes.

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yes, I'm slacking

I apologize for the lack of posts recently, but I have been busy with everything, and have been researching for a book I'm writing, so I have not really had time to pick up my Scottish history books and peruse them to see what would be a good post idea. Unfortunately, all the things that have happened on days lately, have been things that I have not studied in depth before and, thus, without the time to study them, I have not been able to write about them. However, I do wish to have at least a couple posts this month when I get the time for them. I promise, I have not forgotten you! I have just been doing other things! So it will be a slow month, but as always, if you have any questions, comments or various other things, please let me know. I always like to hear what you have to say.

Slainte, Hazel

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stirling Bridge

The Battle of Stirling Bridge was the highest point in the career of William Wallace. It is the one that has gone down in history and has been immortalized in song and story ever since. It was an amazing victory, one of the best the Scots ever saw and, like Flodden, it is still remembered today, though in celebration of the joyous victory where Wallace and his men got to stand there on the banks of the River Fourth and shout out their defiance to the English army running away into the distance.

William Wallace had been raiding all the English held towns in Scotland, driving the men of Edward Longshanks like poison from the land. Edward himself was in Flanders at the time, waging war against the French and when he heard word of Wallace's exploits, he commanded his army commander, John de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey to take his men and march north to meet the Scots and stop their inexperienced force.

Little did he know, though, that Wallace was not in the least inexperienced.

Wallace had a plan. He had joined up with another young man named Andrew Murray (also sometimes spelled as de Moray) Andrew had been campaigning up north while Wallace had been in the Lowlands and had freed some of the Highland towns from English occupation. The two young patriots got on very well it seemed and were able to work together to come up with a plan to send the English packing. They heard about the English army coming north, and they immediately thought of Stirling Bridge. It was a very well traveled rout back then and would have been crossed by many people traveling into Scotland. It was constructed over the River Fourth, a wide and heavy flowing river that was nearly impossible to cross on foot.

Surrey went along with Hugh de Cressingham, the treasurer of England who was really only there to make sure Longshanks' money was being well spent. He was unpopular in both Scotland and England because he was fat and brutish and people had been known to call him the "Treacherer" instead of the treasurer. He fancied himself a knight though, for he was to make one of many charges that day.

When the English army joined up on the southern side of the River Fourth, they sent two friers over to Wallace's side to ask if he would surrender. When Wallace got the message, he was reported to have said, "Tell your commander that we are not here to make peace but to do battle to liberate ourselves and our kingdom. Let them come on and we shall prove this to their very beards."

With that, you can almost hear Surrey's sigh of resignation as he told his men to form up and begin to cross the bridge. This would have been the main force of mounted knights. The infantrymen, mostly Welsh archers, would have formed up on the banks of the river on the English side and shot across to the Scots side. The English knights began to cross the bridge and form up in front of the Scots army who were formed at the base of the Abbey Craig, a rocky cliff over looking the River Fourth where the National Wallace Monument now stands. Wallace waited just long enough for about half of the knights to cross and then he blew a signal on his horn and the bridge collapsed.

The story of the collapse Stirling Bridge, is a little bit far fetched, but might very well be true. It was said there was a man hanging under the bridge, a carpenter, who had fixed it so that when the signal came, he could pull a pin out and collapse the bridge. There is evidence of this really happening, for the family that the carpenter belonged to have ever since named their first born son "Pin" in honor of his deed for Wallace.

When the bridge collapsed, all the English knights who were on the bridge, which, considering the length of it, was a considerable amount, fell into the River Fourth. I'm sure most of them drowned, being swept down the river in their heavy armor. The English knights who had already crossed now saw that there was no way they could get back to their reinforcements and that they were going to be forced to meet the Scots in hand-to-hand combat.

Wallace wasted no time. As soon as the bridge collapsed, he led him men forward and they fell on the Englishmen killing many. The terrain around the river was marshy, and a lot of the knights, had formed up on the marshy ground, their horses sinking in so their movement was hindered. Wallace and his men however, had formed up on the causeway from the Abbey Craig to the River Fourth and thus had stable ground to fight on.

It was over in only a little bit. Sometime during the fray, Cressingham had tried to prove himself and had gotten slain for his troubles. It is said that the Scots skinned him after the battle and some accounts even say that they made Wallace a baldric (a sword belt) out of his hide. Barbaric, you might say? Well, the English stuck their enemy's heads and limbs up for people to view.

James the Steward and the Earl of Lennox, two Scottish earls who had come to Wallace's aid, had forded the river further along and taken off after the English baggage trains, thus winning valuable spoils.

Wallace had won the day. But it had come with a price as usual. Andrew Murray had been wounded in the battle and as the winter came on, he died of his injuries which turned out to be worse then first thought. Wallace mourned the loss of his friend and fellow commander.

It was after this battle that Wallace was knighted and bestowed the honor of being Guardian of Scotland.

You can still see the wooden posts from the original Stirling Bridge in the River Fourth on a clear day. The new one stands a bit to one side of it and that one too has seen a lot of history over the years.

Here is a song about the Battle of Stirling Bridge sung by, as usual, The Corries!

I'll be taking requests this month, so if there is anything you want me to talk about, please tell me!

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, September 9, 2010


It all started with a ring. And that one ring was to wipe out almost a whole generation of Scottish menfolk from the borderlands and one of their most loved kings to boot.

Flodden is considered one of the bloodiest battles Scotland ever saw, if not the worst. The death toll and loss even outweighed that at Culloden a couple hundred years later. It washed a history of blood and sorrow over the Lowlands and Borderlands of Scotland.

But, in truth, it did start with a ring. Henry VIII of England had invaded France and the French, remembering the Auld Alliance they had between themselves and Scotland, wished to call on their comrades in their time of need. James IV who was king of Scots at the time was reluctant to fight someone else's war, but the French queen sent him a letter asking him to "take but three paces into English ground and brake a lance for my sake." Attached to this letter was a gold and turquoise ring. James IV was a man who had a sense of honor and chivalry and he would not leave this fight undone since a woman pleaded him to do something about it, so he gathered his knights and men from the Boarders and even some Highlanders and went off to meet the English commander, Earl Surrey.

The Scots army actually outnumbered the English and they had the best ground up on Flodden Hill. For some reason or other, once the English gathered there to fight, the Scots moved to Branxton Hill while the English crossed the River Till. If they had attacked Surrey's men as they were moving they could have won the day. It was their untimely hesitation that cost them dear.

The two armies exchanged cannon fire first and then the Scots made another untimely and pointless move and started down the hill toward the English. The ground was wet and they took off their shoes to keep from sliding. They were armed with tall Swiss spears and found they were a terrible hinderance on the slope, unbalancing them on their way down. Once they got to the bottom, the English were ready for them, armed with bill hooks or halberds, a type of spear that had an almost axe like head on the front side and a hook on the back. With these they could hook the Scots' spears to one side, thus making them harmless or break the heads off of them altogether. The English began to close in and the Scots army was getting smaller and smaller by the minute.

The Scottish foot soldiers died by the thousands protecting their king while Surrey and his commanders waited it out on a small rise. James had been wounded several times now, fighting in the thick of it with his men. He had been pierced with arrows with one hand nearly cut off, but he still fought on. He had a last desperate hope that if he could cut Surrey down then the English would surrender. James hacked his way through the fray to the place Surrey stood, several of his men standing around him, covering him as he made him move. It is recorded that he got to "one spear-length" of Surrey when an archer standing at Surrey's shoulder shot right into James's open mouth as he was yelling out his war cry. James died there on the field with all his men. and Surrey became the victor for the day. For all else we might say about James, and though he might not have been the best tactician; he was brave. And he fought in the thick of it with his men unlike most leaders of those days.

Surrey was said to have taken the turquoise ring from James's body, along with his matching sword and dagger as spoils of war. Historian David R. Ross says in his book Passion for Scotland that these artifacts are still kept in the College of Arms in London. Just another Scottish artifact that ended up down there. It was also said that Surrey changed his coat of arms after this battle to a top-halved lion rampant like that on the Scottish flag with an arrow through its mouth. I call that bad sportsmanship on any level.

The Battle of Flodden or just Flodden as it has been dismally called over the centuries since September 9th 1513 cut a deep wound into the heart of Scotland's history. Many songs and poems have been written about it. It is still commemorated today in honor of the men who died on the field, all for the love of their king. One who really deserved their love to the full. One who died with them on the field.

Here are a couple songs about Flodden:

Flowers of the Forest This is actually an old poem, but was made into a song. This is my favorite version of Ronnie Brown singing it.

And this is another one by a Scottish folk group called Celticburn. This is their own song about the battle called Flodden's Green Loanin

I'll be back Saturday to talk about the Battle of Stirling.

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, September 6, 2010


I am thinking this is going to be another slower month. There is not much to talk about and frankly, I will not have that much time to write about a lot of anything this month due to my novel writing conquests. Historic novels need research, and I will probably not have time to research for blog posts on the side.

However, there are two more important battles to pretty much conclude our Summer Battle Season, both coming up this week and I will try to have posts for them. I am also hoping to get a book of my poetry up on a self publishing site, which may happen this month, or it may not, but it's a goal I am setting to happen within the next couple months at least!

I may even have some smaller posts later this month as well, if I come up with any little thoughts on historical Scotland and if you have any requests on things you may want to know more about, please make sure you tell me. I am also still taking stories and/or comments on William Wallace, so if you think of anything you would like to share, please write it!

I'll go for now, but I will be back later this week to talk about the battles of Flodden and Stirling; two completely contrasting battles, but yet two that were so important to Scotland's history. One for the worst, one for the best.

Until then,
Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Legacy

For anyone who has watched Braveheart (a wonderful tribute to Wallace via Randall Wallace) you know that the legacy of Wallace is still very real even in today's world. There were several times during the centuries since Wallace's death that he has surfaced in Scotland as a byword of freedom and a hero to the people. David R. Ross has said in his books that the Scotland of today is very much like the Scotland of Wallace's day. The same people are still evident. The people who wish more for Scotland and the people who couldn't care less. I think this is why Wallace is very much prominent in today's society, now not only in Scotland, but pretty much world wide. The nineteenth century was another time that Wallace surfaced as a national hero. Sir Walter Scott saw the just of it in his day. He himself was part of it, but he stood up for Wallace as the man he was and did not go so far as to almost worship him as some people were doing back then. Scott understood Wallace and the man himself would have probably been incredibly embarrassed to find how some of the people in nineteenth century Scotland thought about him.

A lot of poetry about Wallace surfaced then as well as one of the most popular translations of Blind Harry's 14th century epic on Wallace The Wallace. There were many other things as well, including Jane Porter's historical novel The Scottish Chiefs. This is a good book and I would recommend it to anyone who is a Wallace fanatic like I am. It definitely reflects the time period by how she portrays Wallace in the story. My one problem with the book: Wallace is blond. More a "Prince Charming" than the warrior hero (I have described this book to friends as "Braveheart meets Jane Austin" which it pretty much the best way I can think to describe it) But I do not mean to deter you from the book, over all I really did enjoy it and thought it was very wonderfully written, though probably more appealing to the female Wallace fanatics!

If you want a more accurate account of Wallace's life in novel form, I cannot recommend The Wallace by Nigel Tranter highly enough. It might be more of a hard read for anyone who is not a punished reader, it's mainly a history book in novel form, but it is really a wonderful account and anyone who has read any of Nigel Tranter's books will know that he is an amazing writer. If you haven't: he's am amazing writer! And I dare you not to cry in the end!

One last book to recommend (and I think it's actually on my book list) but it's William Wallace: Man and Myth by Morton Graeme. I thought it was a very intriguing book and goes into a lot more detail on what I was talking about in this post. Not really a history book, but one for any Wallace fanatic.

As a close to my Wallace month, I thought it fitting to post a link to probably one of the most popular songs in Scotland: Flower of Scotland sung by, who else but The Corries?

I hope you have enjoyed reading about Wallace. Come back in September so we can celebrate his greatest victory together!

Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Ballad of Heroes

I apologize for not posting anything this week, but for some reason I just ran out of time and when I realized it was already Sunday, I was surprised to find I had forgotten to post anything else! As it is, here is another poem I thought I would post for you to read. It's not necessarily about Wallace, but I always liked it in reference to him. I found this one in an old poem anthology from the 1920s and it's one of my favorites. It's Called "A Ballad of Heroes" by Austin Dobson.

Because you passes, and now are not,--
Because, in some remoter day,
Your sacred dust from doubtful spot
Was blown of ancient airs away,--
Because you perished,--must men say
Your deeds were naught, and so profane
Your lives with that cold burden? Nay,
The deeds you wrought are not in vain!

Though, is may be, above the plot
That hid your once imperial clay,
No greener than o'er men forgot
The unregarding grasses sway;--
Though there no sweeter is the lay
From careless bird,--though you remain
Without distinction of decay,--
The deeds you wrought are not in vain!

No. For while yet in tower or cot
Your story stirs the pulses' play;
And men forget the sordid lot--
The sordid care, of cities gray;--
While yet, beset in homelier fray,
They learn from you the lesson plain
That Life may go, so Honor stay,--
The deeds you wrought are not in wain!


Heroes of old! I humbly lay
The laurel on your graves again;
Whatever men have done, men may,--
The deeds you wrought are not in vain!

This poem could easily go to any hero through history, and I think it is particularly beautiful. So many people now days think on heroes from history as simply that: History. They say 'it happened so many years ago. Why think about them?' But I'll give you the answer to that. We think on our heroes of old so we have someone to look up to and follow by seeing their accomplishments and defeats and learning from them. Wallace is a talisman for freedom in Scotland. We remember him today as Scots have remembered him centuries ago as the hero who gave Scotland the right of freedom. And without him, Scotland would be in a very poor shape right now with no one to look up to and admire. That's why we need to remember our heroes. And we need to teach kids about them as well. Kinds need to find heroes like Wallace or George Washington to look up to, not the days leading actors and actresses!

As I have said in earlier posts, I am open for any questions, comments or stories concerning William Wallace and would love to hear your insight and feelings about the man. Even if you read these posts late and the month is over, please comment or email me from my profile with anything you wish to say. I would appreciate it very much!

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wallace Day

So it's August 23rd, the day we commemorate the life of Scotland's greatest son, William Wallace.

On this day in 1305, (oddly enough, it was a Monday as well) Wallace was taken from the cellar of the house of William de Leyre and conducted to Westminster Hall for his trial. After He was sentenced to a horrible fate, he was taken outside and tied to a board at the tails of two horses, who were to drag him through London. Wallace's captors made sure that the rout through the city went to every possible place, so the people gathered in the streets would have the chance to jeer at their enemy. (If you want a detailed account of Wallace's rout through London, see David R. Ross's book For Freedom. The rout is still walkable today.)

His destination was Smithfield. It was a well known meat market and was also a common place for London executions. Here, as well as in Tyburn (another favorite place) was where many Jacobites met their deaths after the 1745 Uprising. New historic information, discovered by David Ross, claims that August 23rd coincides with St. Bartholomew's Fair, a huge fair that was celebrated in medieval England and well up into even modern times. David Ross thinks that the reason Longshanks was so eager to have Wallace brought down, tried and condemned so quick was so that his execution would make a "good show" for the people who had come from miles around to attend the Fair. This clearly shows how sick that man's mind was.

But from accounts, Wallace still did not back down, even in those last horrible moments. He was said to have asked the priest present to hold his personal book of psalms in front of him as he was being hung. (As an off subject, I have always wondered if his book of psalms is still somewhere in London??? That would certainly be a find!) Then after they had read out the sentence for all to hear, Wallace told them "to do all that they would".

Hanging, drawing and quartering was probably one of the worst execution methods in the medieval days, and England held onto it well into the seventeen hundreds. It was supposedly the death of traitors, though most of the people it was used on were no more traitors than Wallace was. He was hung until unconscious, cut down, disemboweled alive, and, depending on the account you read, he was either beheaded, or had his heart cut out. Once he was dead, his body was cut into quarters and distributed to the four corners of Scotland as a warning to others not to defy England's might. His head was put atop London bridge, and before to long, it was joined by those of several of his comrades.

There is no account as to weather Longshanks attended the execution. I'm not sure what I want to think on that matter, though it would have been almost poetic justice for Longshanks to see Wallace defiant to the last, as he would have been.

Longshanks had hoped that by killing Wallace in such a way would make the Scots forget him. This was obviously not the case. Wallace's death grew a vengeance in the Scots. He was their leader, the only one who dared stand up against England's might and defy them to their face. It was because of his death that Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scots just six months later and carried on the fight to the ultimatum at Bannockburn. Wallace's death was not in vain, and I hope he realized that before he died. So, Longshanks, you did a really bad job at making us forget him, because it's seven hundred years on now and we're still celebrating his legacy!

They now hold a Wallace Day annually up in Elderslie, put on by The Society of William Wallace If anyone has ever gone, I'm sure it was a great experience. I know that's one thing I wish to do when I go to Scotland!

As my own Wallace Day tribute, here is a poem I wrote last night in honor of the Flower of Scotland who fought a died for his wee bit hill and glen:

Flower of Scotia

There was a time now years ago
That Scotland's soil ran red
With the blood of her countrymen;
Dear Scotia did mourn her dead.
But there came a day in that dark time
That a single thistle grew,
And little did dear Scotia know
That that thistle would make England their deeds to rue.

The thistle grew both tall and strong,
More than all the others around.
Taller than the purple heather,
Stronger than any weapon found.
Braw and fair the thistle grew
In Scotland's soil so red,
As time went on and things got worse,
It was then that thistle raised it's head.

The thistle defied England's mighty power,
The rose of the south, so bloody and cruel,
The thistle pricked anyone's fingers who dared it touch
And would not give England a chance to rule.
The king of England sent all his men
For to cut this bold thistle down,
But when they came in all their numbers
A prick to each finger was all they found.

The bloody rose of England was bleeding itself,
The king was loosing face.
He knew that something had to be done
To save his frightened race.
So he sent to the far corners
Of Scotland and England both,
Looking for traitors and quislings
And unto them he quoth:

"Bring me that defiant thistle
That has stopped me conquering too long.
Bring it down at all costs!
On your lives, do not do me wrong!"
One man stepped forward from the crowd,
The name of John Menteith,
Who said, "I will do your job, my king,
Anything to give Scotland grief!"

So off he set with many hard men
That thistle to bring down.
England's bloody rose at his back,
That thistle to confound.
When he reached the spot that thistle stood,
It was still as tall and strait.
He sneered and jeered at that bold flower,
His face to full of hate.

"What right have you to defy England's might?!"
Menteith sneered at the bold plant.
"You are but one small thistle in a land of blood,
And defy your liege lord, you can't!"
But the thistle still stood there in it's native ground,
The quisling's words it did not heed.
For, because it had not grown in English soil,
It just sat awaiting Menteith's cruel deed.

It was he who cut that thistle down,
Just as the king had bid;
But the thistle did not give up without a fight,
And prick his fingers it did.
The bloody rose of England rejoiced that day
For the loss of it's enemy bold
While Scotia wept for her lost son;
Such tears that land never did behold.

But for all those years and up to this day,
That thistle is remembered still,
Known as the Flower of Scotland
Who stood up against cruel England's will.
So many centuries on and so many more,
We will remember that thistle brave
Who defied English Edward to his very beard,
And ultimately sent him to his grave.

So think on that thistle for seven centuries more.
Lift a glass and think on all he did.
Because of him, Scotland, generations on
Will never do what England shall bid.

Slainte, and have a good Wallace day!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Great Scotch Victory

On this day back in 1388, a great victory, if not an odd one, was won on the Scottish side. It was the Battle of Otterburn, and was one of the many battles fought amongst the border clans and the Wardens of the Marches of the Scottish and English borderlands. (Someday, I hope to go into more detail about the border clans and their relation to the borderers on the English side but that will be far more extensive than what I have time for today.)

It was fought between two of the higher class gentlemen of the borders, Lord of Douglas on the Scottish side and Lord Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland (commonly known by the nickname of "Hotspur"). The two were rivals to begin with, being the two richest men on the borders, but when the English made a raid into Scotland (as they were always doing) they burnt both Dryburgh and Melrose Abby. These were two loved places in Scotland and they could not let the English go unscathed for it. So Lord Douglas gathered his men and went to retaliate.

Outside Newcastle's walls, the Scots were able to capture Percy's banner. In war, the capture of someone's banner was considered a loss of face, so Douglas decided that the Scots would not cross the border for three days, thus giving Percy a chance to re-capture his banner. An interesting tidbit, I should probably mention is that Lord Douglas was grand-nephew to The Good Sir James, the famous Black Douglas who fought at the side of Robert the Bruce through his long campaign for Scotland's freedom.

On the way back to their homeland, the Scottish army camped at Otterburn where they urged Douglas to forget about Hotspur, an old enemy. But he was firm in his first thought to let Percy have a chance to claim back his lost standard. That night, as the sun was setting, Lord Percy was sighted and fell into an attack almost instantly, eager to gain back his dignity.

In the melee before the battle, while Douglas was getting his armor on, he was reportedly stabbed, weather by an assassin or his own armorer, no one knows for sure. He realized the wound was fatal and as his men were already engaged with the enemy, he asked his paged to carry him to the bushes and hide him there so his men would not see him fallen and loose courage. His plan worked, as it turned out, to perfection. Douglas's men soon gained the upper hand over Percy's troops and Hotspur himself was captured by a knight under Douglas's command, Sir Hugh Montgomery. They had men in battle and Sir Hugh had overpowered Percy and forced him to yield. Percy reportedly refused to surrender to anyone but Douglas himself and he was taken to the bushes where the brave commander's body lay. I'm sure you can only imagine the surprise and probably indignation Percy felt when he realized he had been beaten by a dead man. I'm sure he was not happy in the least.

Sir Hugh, however, prospered greatly from Lord Percy's ransom money, called a poind. He bought land in Renfrewshire and built himself a fortress called Polnoon. Some think this might be a corruption of "poind" but that is probably unlikely.

Douglas was buried in Melrose Abby under what is called the "Douglas Window". Besides the loss of their leader, the Scots only lost 100 men in the fight, compared to the English's loss of over 1,800. The English liked to call it, the "Battle of Chevy Chase", the only high point of the battle of them being when they chased the Scots to the Cheviot Hills. The English were never able to take defeat easily!

There's a song about the battle that the Corries sing called Lammas Tide. It is taken from an old ballad about the battle. Enjoy that!

I'll be back next monday for my special Wallace Day post and I hope you will join me then!

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Poem

Here's another poem from The Wallace Muse. These is some excerpts by Andrew Munro from his spic poem on Wallace.

"'Twas he, whose aspiration high
His country's banner had unfurle'd-
A banner brave that kiss'd the sky
In pure unsullied liberty,
When Roman conqu'rors of the world
Invaded Caledonia's strand
But fiercely from her bonds were hurl'd
A foil'd and disappointed band!

'Twas Wallace Wight! Immortal name!
The brightest on the page of fame!
'Twas Wallace! the brave patriot
Who to his country did devote
Hid godlike energies, and who
Nor toils nor dangers could subdue;
Nor Southern promises, nor gold
Could shake the firm and stedfast hold
His love on Scotland had, and, as
His through his life had been, so was
He when 'neath death he fell,
Brave, noble, incorruptible!
And while a noble gratitude
Shall swell the breast and throb the heart
Of man for those who, unsubdued,
By threats of death or tyrant's art,
Have nobly acted patriot's part:
The name of Wallace shall rank high
Among the names that ne'er shall die!
And through the ages it shall be
A talisman for victory!


Then Wallace sheathes his sword in peace
'My hope is that as freeman I
Shall live, and as a freeman die,
Feeling, when death shall sound my knell,
That I have done my duty well.
Go, publish wide what I have spoken,
And never shall my word be broken.'
And thus he lived, until at last,
When eight more glorious years had pass'd-
Years which he to his country gave
In wisdom great and actions brave-
A Scottish traitor basely sold
The Wallace wight for English gold.

Oh, Edward! England's ruthless lord,
By me and each true Scot abhorr'd;
Debaser of thy country's coin;-
Thou tyrant o'er thy land and mine,-
Thou robber of that ancient stone
On which our kings were crown'd at Scone,-
Thou murd'rer of the Minstrel band
That cheered and nerv'd the Cambrian land,-
Thou who hast made poor Ireland feel
Upon her neck thine iron heel,-
Thief of the Templars' treasure thou,-
The brand of Cain is on thine brow,-
Was e'er thy face grac'd by a smile,
Thou Nero of the British Isle?
Thou liv'd'st a heartless homicide,
And a defeated dotard died.
The man, who had thy vengeance dar'd,
Thou could'st not bribe, yet his thou fear'd;
Yes him, who's patriotic zeal
So nobly for his country wrought,
Thou, ignominious stoop'd to steal
Because he never could be bought.
And as he liv'd , the patriot died,
His country's boast, his country's pride,
A martyr to earth's noblest cause-
His country's liberty and laws;
And while a Scotsman lives on earth,
And while the land that gives him birth
Exists, his memory shall go down
To endless ages and renown.

But thou, Menteith, accursed name,
Damn'd to eternal scorn and shame,
Thy trusting friend for English gold
Thou, fiendish, heartless traitor, sold;
Thy name's on hist'ry's page a blot,
Thou soulless Scotch Iscariot!

I'll be back later this week with another post as long as I can get time to do it.

Slainte, Hazel

Saturday, August 14, 2010

To a True Scott

Today is the birthday of one of Scotland's greatest writers: Sir Walter Scott! While Robert Burns is considered the national poet of Scotland, Sir Walter Scott was also a fantastic poet and he was really the one of the first to create the historical novel (My hero!) And his novels are wonderful! Some of my favorite books and poems are written by Sir Walter Scott. If you have not already read Ivanhoe or Rob Roy go pick up a copy! They are jewels of 19th century literature. Scott was a great lover of history, and his house, Abbotsford still holds his collections for everyone to see. He really loved Scotland, and it shows in his beautiful poetry.

To celebrate his birthday, here are some of my favorite songs taken from his poems for you to listen to:

I am once against setting off on a trip, this time up the coast to Tennessee, but I will continue with my posts. More of Wallace, and another for the Summer Battle Season this week that will be fun.

Say a nice 'happy birthday' to Sir Walter Scott and celebrate by reading some of his poetry.

Slainte, Hazel

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Trial

When Wallace got to England, it seemed that the whole city had turned out to see him. Reports say that the streets were so packed that the guards set in charge of Wallace were not even able to get him to the Tower of London where he was supposed to pass the night. They ended up having to keep him chained in the cellar of the house of a man named William de Leyre who was an alderman of London. I cannot imagine what Wallace was thinking that night as he sat there, probably awake, perhaps getting a little bit of sleep, but surely nothing restful. I don't know if he knew he was to die the next day.

The next morning, he was taken from the cellar, and taken through the streets again where everyone had turned out once more, taking every opportunity to abuse and sneer at their enemy. Wallace most likely took it silently. He was not the kind of man to complain, being accustomed to the hardships of living out in the hills.

His trial took place at Westminster Hall which still stands today. The whole place was packed, all the nobility of London had come to see the trial of William Wallace. This was medieval entertainment. Peter Mallory was the justicular of England and he was the one of passed sentence on Wallace. The other men of import were Ralph de Sandwych, the judge and constable of the Tower of London, the mayor of London, John le Blunt, and John de Bacwell. Along with them were John de Seagrave and his brother, Geoffrey who escorted Wallace through the town.

Wallace was placed on a dais at the south end of the hall and surrounded by guards while Peter Mallory read out his sentence. It was said that they put a circlet of laurel leaves on Wallace's head which they refused to let him take off. It was thought that this was because he had said he was going to be king of England, but that is just plain stupid because, from what we know of Wallace, that was not the kind of man he was. He didn't even want to be king of Scotland, for goodness sake. The English were famous for making up stories about people they did not like.

Wallace's sentence was also full of foolishness. He was charged for robbery, sacrilege, rebellion, sedition, homicide, and arson. One of the main things mentioned was his killing of Sheriff Heselrig, in Lanark. (Heselrig had Wallace's wife, Marion, killed for hiding him and William took retribution, ending Heselrig's life.) This was a main crime for the English, though they slew many of the Scottish nobles in the Barns of Ayr incident, where they gathered them all together for a "meeting" and hung them one at a time as they came in the door. Wallace's uncle was among them. He was also charged for his foray into England after the Battle of Stirling on the winter of 1297. The English had been occupying Scotland and doing far worse atrocities there than Wallace even thought of when he was in England. At least he left the women and children be. Another foolish thing Wallace was accused of was flying banners in the field against England. I don't exactly know what the point of that was, seeing as you usually fly your countries banners when you are at war. (??) Then they charged his for treason. Wallace was then reporter to have spoke up, saying something "How can I be a traitor? England is foreign to me!" He never served England, he never pledged his allegiance to Longshanks, and thus he was not a traitor. He served his country and he defended it truthfully. This was a high point in Wallace's life for me. I can just see him standing there, surrounded by guards, but still defiant enough to tell them that he was a Scot and he was not going to be made anything different by them no matter what they did to him.

No one seemed amused by his defense though. This was not a real trial and he was not allowed to defend himself. Peter Mallory simply read his sentence:

" And that for the robberies, homicides and felonies he comitted in the realm of England and in the land of Scotland to be there hanged and afterwords cut down from the gallows. And in as much as he was an outlaw, and was not afterwords restored to the peace of the Lord King, he be decollated while he yet lives before being decapitated, and that thereafter, for the neasureless turpitude of his deeds towards God's Holy Church, in burning down churches, the heart, the liver, the lungs and all the internal organs of William's body, whence such perverted thoughts proceeded, be removed out of his person and cast into the fire and burnt. Furthermore and finally, that in as much as it was not only against the Lord King himself, but against the whole community of England and of Scotland, the body of the said William be cut up and devided into four parts, the the head, so cut off, be set up on London Bridge, in the sight of such as pass by whether by land or by water, and that one quarter be hung on a gibbet at Newcastle upon Tyne, another quarter at Berwick, and third quarter at Stirling and the fourth at St Johnstone (Now Perth) as a warning and deterrent to all that pass by and behold them."

That was the sentence passed on William Wallace, Scotland's brave hero and it was to be enacted immediately. The guards hustled Wallace out quickly before the press of the crowd made it impossible and prepared to take him to Smithfield where the execution would take place.

I'll be back next week with more on Wallace (And Sunday is another special birthday!) so please check back!

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A poem about Wallace

As I said before, I am going to try to share some of my favorite poems about Wallace with you this month. This one comes from a book I have called The Wallace Muse, published through Luath Press. It is a compiolation of Poems and some artwork on William Wallace and a lot of the poems are really heart felt and beautiful. The one I am going to share with you today is called "A Summary History of Sir William Wallace" by William McGonagall in the 18 hundreds.

Sir William Wallace of Ellerslie,
I', told he went to High School in Dundee,
For to learn to read and write,
And after that he learned to fight.
While at the High School in Dundee,
The Provost's son with him did disagree,
Because Wallace he did wear a dirk,
He despised him like an ignorant stirk,
Which with indignation he keenly felt,
And told him it would become him better in his belt.

Then Wallace's blood began to boil,
Just like the serpent in its coil,
Before it leaps upon its prey;
And unto him he thus did say:
'Proud, saucy cur, come cease your prate,
For no longer I shall wait,
For to hear you insult me,
At the High School in Dundee;
For such insolence makes my heart to smart,
And I'll plunge my dagger in your heart.'

Then his heart's blood did quickly flow, 
And poor Wallace did not know where to go;
And he stood by him until dead.
Then far from him he quickly fled,
Lamenting greatly the deed he had done, 
The murdering of the Provost's son.

The scene shifts to where he was fishing one day,
Where three English soldiers met him by the way,
And they asked him to give them some fish,
And from them they would make a delicious dish.
Then Wallace gave them share of his fish,
For to satisfy their wish;
But they seemed dissatisfied with the share they got,
So they were resolved to have all the lot.

Then Wallace he thought it was time to look out,
When they were resolved to have all his trout;
So he swung his fishing-rod with great force round his head,
And struck one of them a blow that killed him dead;
So he instantly seized the fallen man's sword,
And the other two fled without uttering a word.

Sir William Wallace of Ellerslie,
You were a warrior of great renown,
And might have worn Scotland's crown;
Had it not been for Monteith, the base traitor knave,
That brought you to a premature grave;
Yes! you were sold for English gold,
And brought like a sheep from the fold,
To die upon a shameful scaffold high,
Amidst the derisive shouts of your enemies standing by.

But you met your doom like a warrior bold,
Bidding defiance to them that had you sold,
And bared your neck for the headsman's stroke;
And cried, 'Marion, dear, my heart is broke;
My lovely dear, I come to thee,
Oh! I am longing thee to see!'
But the headsman was as stolid as a rock,
And the axe fell heavily on the block,
And the scaffold did shake with the terrible shock,
As the body of Wallace fell,
Who had fought for Scotland so well.

I'll be back Friday with a post about Wallace's trial. And please, as I said in the last post, I am open to any stories or thoughts you would like to share on Wallace. You can either comment or email me from my profile. I want to hear what you think about the man as well. Poems and stories are welcome.

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, August 9, 2010

Enter the Villian

For every good amazing hero, there needs to be a villain to match him. For Wallace, Edward Longshanks fit that bill.

He was Edward I, king of England and he was as ruthless as they came. He got his nickname because he was very tall, 6' 2" in height. We know this because historians opened his coffin and looked at him. However when they went t close it back up, they noticed one of his fingers was missing. They think one of the people stole it. He was also said to have had one drooping eyelid. No one knows weather it was from a stroke, or because he was poisoned when a young man on a crusade. (Unfortunately, he was saved in time and lived to torment Scotland and other places.)

He was a powerful man. You can't deny it. He loved to joust and was a frequenter of tournaments, where he sustained wounds. The people of England thought him brave and probably almost invincible. You did not want to cross him. He was not a man to let things go, and one slightly whispered word against him, and you could find yourself on the gallows or worse. 

That was why when William Wallace stared his campaign, Longshanks really didn't think much of it. When Wallace's peasant army won against England's might at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, that was another story. Longshanks knew then who he was dealing with and decided it best if he got rid of Wallace all together. He understood the Scots' attachment to him and knew that, without a leader the caliber of Wallace, they would not be able to stand.

A interesting thing I have always thought about Edward was that he, apparently really did love his first wife. He made her monuments all over London after she died and you can still see them today. A lot of people try to let him off easy and say that he was only the ruthless evil tyrant we see in history because of his wife's death, but it is historically proven that he was always nasty, even when he was a teenager. So there.

Unfortunately, Longshanks did not live long enough to see Scotland freed by Wallace's predecessor, Robert the Bruce, but he died a lonely man. Ill, old, and unloved, rotting will malice and disease. Yes, I am cruel, but Longshanks really deserves it! 

But for all his faults, I have to admit that anyone less would not have been worthy to fight against William Wallace, and though he got his way, I think he would be completely disgusted to see that Scotland is still very much a nation today after he tried so hard to destroy it and thought he very well would succeed. 

I will be back later this week with more Wallace's posts so please keep checking back! And any comments, questions or stories about William I would be happy to hear!

Slainte, Hazel

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Rout to London

So, I'm once again back home after my vacation out West and ready to continue our Wallace month in earnest now. I have been inspired by the mountains of New Mexico which are absolutely beautiful this year since they have gotten so much rain. There is nothing prettier than mountains after a rain. I went hiking and the trees were all a lush green and the wildflowers were popping out all over the place. The mountains were also covered by patches and fields of beautiful purple thistles that made it almost look like Scotland. I made sure to bring one home with me.

But back to our subject at hand. William wallace, Scotland's protector and freedom fighter has been captured through betrayal and is on his way to London for a trial and sure execution at the hands of the English king, Edward Longshanks. (Next week, I am going to write a whole post on the horrible enemy of Wallace.) After he was taken from Dumbarton Castle he was given to Seagrave who escorted him to London. It was a nineteen day march from Robroyston to London. Wallace was taken there sitting on a horse with his hands tied behind him and his feet tied under the horse to prevent him from dismounting and running off. It might seem an odd thing that none of Wallace's friends tried to release him, but, in truth, there was no one who knew he was captured, and by the time anyone who cared found out, is was too late and Wallace was already in London, or dead. I think that if his capture had been known at the right time, he would have been rescued by those still loyal to him and Scotland.

As it was though, Wallace was captured and taken to London. I can only imagine the journey south for him. It must have been painful. Once they crossed the border into England, I can see him looking back and saying goodbye to his homeland forever. I can't imagine him thinking he would live to see Scotland again. He knew the justice of Edward Longshanks. 

At every English town Seagrave brought Wallace through, the Scotsman was taken from his horse and led chained through the streets for the people to scoff and jeer at. Everyone flocked to see England's most hated enemy in chains and they took advantage of the opportunity, throwing all manner of filth at him as he passed through the streets. (though, in truth, most of what they threw ended up on the guards who were leading Wallace instead.)

I will not even venture to say what Wallace was thinking as he saw London's skyline on the horizon. Only that I'm sure he figured that his life would not last much longer. Though, I'm sure that whatever went through his head, Scotland was probably the foremost thought in his mind. He loved his country dear, and he fought and shed blood for her, ultimately dying so that the people of Scotland would be free. He would have been brave. 

I will be back next week to talk about Wallace's trial.

In the meantime, have a good weekend!

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Capture at Robroyston

Wallace’s capture took place on the third of August in the year 1305. It happened in Robroyston, a small town outside Glasgow. I think it a good idea to explain that Robroyston has nothing to do with Rob Roy MacGregor, seeing as this was for before his time, but it comes from the name “Ralph Raa’s town”. Who Ralph Raa was, I don’t know. but this became the place known for Wallace’s capture.

It happened at about midnight on August 3rd. William Wallace had been on his way down south, for what reasons we can only guess at. It is thought that he was drawn south after he got a letter from Robert the Bruce, saying that he wanted to meet with him. Weather or not this story is true, it is almost positive that Bruce did not have anything to do with Wallace’s betrayal. That was all from the side of a man named John Menteith.

Menteith was actually a Steward and earl of Menteith. The name comes from a corruption of the “mounth of Teith” mounth being the high ground that separates two rivers. The Menteith family was came from north of the lake of Menteith near Callander in Perthshire. It’s still called a lake to this day. No one knows weather it is because of John Mentieth’s horrible betrayal, or weather it was just a cartographer’s mistake. Menteith was one of the many earls who was captured by the English in the Battle of Dunbar in 1296 and was released when he agreed to fight got Longshanks in France. He eventually was set free and came back to Scotland sometime between 1297 and 1298 where he apparently joined up with Wallace. After Wallace went on his journey to France, it seems Menteith had, like most Scottish earls, swore fealty to Longshanks. He was recruited to capture Wallace by one, John Seagrave, who was asked by Longshanks to find someone who could bring him William Wallace. They arraigned to meet at the church of Rutherglen where Seagrave paid Menteith for the capture of England’s greatest enemy and he set off with a few chosen men to do the filthy deed.

It was said that Wallace was with his companion Kerlie when he was captured. Kerlie was killed in the process and Wallace was taken, though I doubt it was with ease. It is hard to believe that a man as strong and determined as William Wallace would be taken without a fight. I imagine him starting to fight them off as they came to accost him while he slept and I’m sure he gave them a run for their money. But Menteith, knowing Wallace personally and more then likely knowing his full capabilities, must have taken precautions because he was eventually brought down and chained to head off to Dumbarton Castle, where Menteith was sheriff. He was kept their the night and then Menteith had him escorted to a rendezvous with Seagrave who was to take Wallace to London for his trial and, untimely, his execution.

Even to this day, John Menteith is scorned and hated as the man who betrayed Scotland’s greatest hero. There is a monument at Robroyston now to commemorate Wallace’s capture is the barn there. The only problem with the plaque though, is that it says Wallace was captured on the 5th when he was really captured on the 3rd. There are several plaques around Scotland that have anachronisms on them. The barn that Wallace was captured in is long gone now, but Sir Walter Scott had a chair name out of the rafters and it is still at Abbotsford house along with all of his other artifacts.

The saddest part of this whole thing was that, not only was Menteith a good friend of Wallace, thus making the betrayal all the more painful, but it is thought that Wallace was also the godfather to two of Menteith's children. There’s no wonder Menteith has gone down in history as one of the most hated villains Scotland has ever known.

Here’s a website the Robryston monument

And here’s a link to a video David R. Ross showing us around the place and telling a little about the history of Wallace’s capture

I will be back later with another post talking a little bit about Wallace’s journey to London.

Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wallace Month

So we have finally come to the month that I have been waiting for all year. This is the month I get to tell you all about one of my favorite historical heroes of all time: William Wallace.

I don't really know what attracted me to Wallace. I think it is because he was just such a steadfast man and knew exactly where he stood and was willing to do anything for his country and her people, even though it meant a horrible death at the hands of the English. On the 23rd of this month, Wallace was executed in 1305, and now we use that day to commemorate that great man who has, over the seven hundred years since his death, become the National Hero of Scotland. 

So this month, I am going to tell you piece by piece the story, legend and legacy of this man throughout the seven hundred years he has been gone. It is certain that Scotland would not be the same country she is today without Wallace. Robert Bruce may have won Scotland's freedom ultimately on the fields of Bannockburn, but it was Wallace who started the fight and died for his troubles so that is why we remember him to this day.

It sometimes makes me wonder why some people are remembered and some just aren't. I think it's because some people just "have it". People like William Wallace and George Washington who represented their country in it's darkest hour and did what was needed. There is so much I could say about Wallace, but I think I will just settle for saying that he was one of a kind. And in the words of Roy Williamson's famous song "Oh Flower of Scotland, when will we see your likes again?"

So throughout this month, I will try my best to tell Wallace's story. And I will be sharing some of my favorite poems and books about him.

For today, I recommend what I think is the best tribute to Wallace. Do yourselves a favor this month and find a copy of David R. Ross' book For Freedom The Last Days of William Wallace. There is no other words to describe this book but fantastic. It really is a legacy of two great men. David Ross recounts his own feelings of Wallace and tells of his last days and then tells of his own tribute to the man when, on the 700th year after Wallace's execution in London, he walked from Robroyston to London and held a commemoration there in honor of Wallace. Please get this book and read it. There's no better tribute to Wallace out there.

So I will have another post of tuesday telling about Wallace's capture, so be back for that.

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ian Duh Nan Cath

As a small token to a great man, I wrote this poem in honor of John Graham of Claverhouse in the voice of one of Dundee’s men. The title comes from the name the Highlanders gave him in Gaelic, Ian Dhu Nan Cath meaning Black John of the Battles. (As usual in Scotland, he was not called black because of evil ways, but because he had black hair and a dark complexion)

Ian Dhu

Oh lads, come listen to my tale,
For I must tell it ye,
Of a hero of our hills and glens;
A brave gallant man was he.

The Highlanders called him Ian Dhu,
The English called him “Bloody Claver’se”.
But we always called him Bonnie Dundee
For he did his country and people favors.

How can a man be thought a butcher
When all he ever did was fight for his land?
Fighting and dying for Scotland’s cause;
Trying to deliver her from a tyrant’s hand,

Our Ian Dhu fought just as bravely
As all our great heroes before.
He won the heart of all his men
And became the man that we adore.

Oh, brave Dundee, you were the pride of the band
And taught us which cause was right
Just like your ancestor, the great Montrose
Who paid for his deeds on the gallows height.

The Grahams were ever a gallant clan
Ever ready to raise a sword
In defense of the country that they held dear;
We’d follow Dundee at a single word.

Like your ancestors before you
You never failed to be there
When Alba called out your name,
To fight you would always dare.

But for your country, you paid a price
It came as death, no less.
At the battle of Killiecrankie
You fought so the enemy would their wrongs confess.

And Dundee, you never died in vain,
For you fought through thick and thin.
Even through the darkest, bloodiest battles
That you knew you’d never win.

For what is it that makes a hero?
Is it all in bravery true?
Or is it also in perseverance
To win the good he knew.

Dundee, you’ve been written as a scoundrel,
A villain convicted of cold murder;
But we know the truth of your tale,
How you loved Scotland and would never hurt her.

For you did what you knew was right
For your country and your king.
Who could condemn ye for all of that?
We’ll write a new song to sing!

So though some know ye as Ian Dhu,
And some your character just do not see.
To us you will always and forever remain
Our John Graham: Bonnie Dundee.

Have a good weekend and I will be back in August to introduce my official Wallace Month.

Slainte, Hazel