Renfrewshire News welcomes a guest post from Stephanie Reilly from The Society of William Wallace. She writes about what the organisation does and what they do locally in Renfrewshire.
The Society of William Wallace is a non-political organisation dedicated to upholding the memory of Scotland’s great patriotic hero, Sir William Wallace. Established in 1912, the Society is dedicated to educating and collecting data, both historical and contemporary, regarding the life or legacy of Wallace.
One of the Society’s biggest accomplishments was back in 2005, the Walk for Wallace. This year saw, then convenor, David R. Ross walk from Robroyston near Glasgow, to London, roughly 450 miles, to give Wallace the funeral he had been denied 700 years prior. David undertook the long journey, as his own personal way to pay homage to our national hero.
The Battle of Falkirk, 1298, was one of Wallace’s greatest defeats. However, until 2007 there wasn’t much in place to remember the bloody battle. The Society, along with the Falkirk Council, worked together to gather over £5,000 to put a stunning cairn in place, at Calendar Park. Taking 8 days of building, the cairn now stands proudly to remind the residents of Falkirk what happened on that fateful day.
Drawing closer to today, in January 2012, the Society brought the Wallace Letter home to Scotland. The 700-year-old letter is said to have been in Wallace’s possession, and lived most of its life since then in England after its discovery in the Tower of London in the 1830’s. The Society of William Wallace campaigned tooth and nail to see this fragile document back in Scotland, where it belongs. After years of fighting, Duncan Fenton, was able to gain the victory he had been desperately seeking. The National Records of Scotland finally agreed to borrow the letter from 2012 to 2014, allowing the Scottish people to view the document, building a deeper connection with their own roots. However, the latest news shows that the letter will in fact remain in Scotland until 2022, due to an agreement made to extend the loan period.
“It was a good day for Scotland, but a great day for the Society & for the memory of Davie Ross.” – Duncan Fenton, Convenor of the Society of William Wallace, said in 2010-2013
2016 proved to be yet another eventful year for the Society. In February, two plaques were unveiled at the Rutherglen Old Parish Church. These plaques commemorate the betrayal of Wallace, by Sir John Monteith in 1305. Just another one of many reminders for locals to get in touch with their history.
The Society’s most recent triumph comes in the shape of the Battle of the Bell O’ the Brae monument. Designed by architectural technician, Andrew Hillhouse, and costing almost £4,000, the beautiful sandstone monument now stands pride-of-place just below the Glasgow Necropolis, and has done since 2016. This statue, the first and only one to Wallace, commemorates Wallace’s clash with English troops who occupied Glasgow Castle in 1297.
I am just so pleased I kept my promise to my friend (Duncan Fenton), – Gary Stewart, Convenor of the Society of William Wallace, 2014-present
Over the course of a year, the Society aid and support other groups’ annual commemorations, as well as organise and hold their own. Throughout the year, groups such as the Andrew de Moray Project, the Society of John de Graeme and the Guardians of Scotland Trust join together to host a variety of events, commemorating the important battles and events of Wallace’s time.
Photo text: “Phillip (IV), King of France to his lieges at the Roman Court. Commands them to request the Pope’s favour for his beloved William le Wallace of Scotland, Knight, in the matters which he wishes to forward with His Holiness, Monday after All Saints, Pierrefonds”.
William Wallace to me is the symbol of freedom, of what can be achieved by any person who loves their country and will sacrifice everything to achieve justice and independence. That and my love of Scottish history is what first attracted me to the Society. Being able to share those ideals with like-minded people and attempt to protect and promote the legacy of William Wallace, while sharing it with others is why I enjoy and cherish my membership of this group of dedicated people world-wide – Sherry Fowler Byrd, 63, Society of William Wallace member. – Sherry Fowler Byrd, 63, Society of William Wallace member
Each year, the Society host and support a variety of events to commemorate the life of Wallace, and to educate the public about his life. The first Society-led event takes place in May at Loudon Hill, Darvel, to commemorate the two victories at Loudon Hill by Wallace and Robert the Bruce. The second event takes place a week later, on The Black Isle. Ran by the Andrew de Moray Project, the Society support the Annual Flag Raising Ceremony in Avoch, celebrating the raising of the standard by Sir Andrew de Moray in 1297.
Photo: Society of William Wallace at Lilias Day, 2018
June proves to be another busy month for the Society. Starting off by supporting Kilbarchan’s Lilias Day in Renfrewshire. The Society use this time to insight locals on the story of Wallace, aid in encouraging young minds to get in touch with their history, and sport some weapons of the times, all in the name of education. From here, we journey to Stirling, where along-side the Guardians of Scotland Trust, the Society commemorate the Battle of Bannockburn, and take some time to reflect on the horrors the men faced across the two days.
They [Society of William Wallace] make me feel part of a bigger community, that takes great pride in being Scottish and connects fully to our heritage and the core values of what it is to be Scottish – Paul Egan, 16, event attendee.
Kick-starting July, the Society have the privilege to host their own event in Glasgow, for the Battle of the Bell O’ the Brae. While this event has only arisen over the last two years, it has proven its worth more than a few times over. The residents and visitors of Glasgow now have the chance to gain more knowledge about their city and their history. Looking towards the end of the month, the Society, along with the help of the Society of John de Graeme, host the annual Falkirk commemoration. Held in Calendar Park, this event allows members and the local public to join together to remember Wallace’s greatest defeats.
Video: Battle of the Bell O’ the Brae Commemoration 2018 Credit: M.A.L Reductions
I attend the Society of William Wallace events to commemorate the men who fell for our nation and to share my passion for Scotland with like-minded people. It also worked as a support network and very much feels like a family – Amiee Ogilvie, 27, Society of William Wallace member
Photo: Ted Christopher pays homage to Wallace and de Moray at the Battle of Stirling Bridge commemoration, 2015
August is a very busy and very insightful month for the Society. Starting off with the annual Robroyston commemoration, the Society and many others take this time to reflect on the betrayal and capture of Wallace. While smaller in numbers, this event is held dear to the hearts of all followers. Each there to remember their national hero, but also to remember what happened in that fateful place between Wallace and John Monteith. Moving back towards Stirling, the Society host a small, but powerful event at Cambuskenneth Abbey. Said to be one of the burial sites of Wallace, those who attend take their time to remember Wallace in their own ways. From here, we move on to one of the Society’s largest events of the year, Wallace Day. Taking place in Elderslie, near Paisley, the Society pay homage to Wallace in the place said to have been his birthplace. Although this has never been certified, it is the closest link we have. Each year, many turn out from across the world to remember the man who gave his all for Scotland.
Photo: Stone inscribed “WW” said to be a burial place of Wallace at Cambuskenneth Abbey
The historical aspect, combined with the like-minded people, sparks my interest. It’s good to remember the past and know your country – Kyle Christopher, 21, event musician/entertainment
The final event of the year is hosted in September at Stirling, by the Guardians of Scotland Trust. Taking place at the site of Wallace’s greatest victory Stirling Bridge, many turn out to pay their respects, not only to Wallace, but to his right-hand-man Sir Andrew de Moray. The two men put everything on the line in the hope for a victory. It would seem only right to repay the favour by remembering what they gave that day.
So, the next time you’re looking for something for the family to do, or you want to expand your knowledge of Scottish history, why not follow the Society. While getting to know a little bit more of your past, you can also join others who love to learn, and make new friends. With events across the country, there’s bound to be something on your doorstep you were unaware of, another little treasure of the country waiting to be found.