William Wallace and the Wallace Monument
Erected in honour of Scotland's national hero, Sir William Wallace, the Monument is among the most famous buildings in Scotland. It is also the most conspicuous. In favourable light, it is visable with the naked eye from points over twenty miles distant, and the view from its top extends east to the Forth Bridge, Arthur's Seat, and the Pentlands, and west to the mountains beyond Loch Long.
The Monument is at the precipitous west end and highest point (over 300ft) of the Abbey Craig, a basaltic "crag-and-tail" on the north side of the forth, against the background of the Ochils. In height and geology the Craig matches Stirling Rock, 1 1/2 miles W.S.W., on the south side of the Forth; but the "crag" section is longer, and the Craig is wooded. It is the property of Cowane's Hospital in Stirling whose patrons are Stirling Town Council, to whom the Monument belongs. On its site were a "Caledonian" fort and later military works.
The erection of the monument was a follow on from a patriotic movement begun years before by James Grant, the novelist. Some 80,000 people were present at the laying of the laying of the foundation stone on the Bannockburn anniversary in 1861, when precious Scottish relics were carried in the procession from Stirling, headed by Lieut.-General Sir James Maxwell Wallace, representing the family of the hero. A crises came in 1863. Enthusiasm was subsiding, funds were coming in slowly, and there were difficulties about constuction costs. The Monument might have become one of Scotand's "follies," but for the spirit displayed by the promoters. They took the matter firmly in hand and carried on, and on 11th December, 1869, the completed building was handed over by the Committee to the Custodiers, on behalf of whom it was accepted by Provost Rankin of Stirling. The short and simple ceremony was followed by the illumination of the Monument in the evening. The total cost of the building was £15,000.
The Road to the Monument is an easy elbow gradient from the car-parking place on Tillicoultry Road.
The Building, of freestone quarried on and around the Craig, is a massive piece of masonry. The architect was John T. Rochead of Glasgow, and the style is Scottish Baronial. The tower is crowned with an elaborate stone "lantern," and the total height from ground is 220 feet. The two-story building adjoining is the keeper's house; the space between is roofed over with glass and is used as the Entrance Hall.
The architecture of the Monument has been criticised. But Rochead's creation has made friends with the landscape, and taken on the aspect of a pinnacle springing from the Craig.
The Tower is 36 feet square, with walls graduating from 15 feet thick at the base to five feet at the top. The octagonal staircase, projecting from the morth-west angle, leads by a flight of 246 steps to the platform beneath the crown. In a corbelled niche in the south-west corner, is a bronze statue of Wallace in chain mail and tabard, holding aloft a Two handed sword.
The massive portal of the Entrance Hall joins the base of the tower with the lower building. Over the finely moulded archway are the arms and motto (esperance) of the Wallace family, surmounted by a great stone thistle.
In the Entrance Hall are a visitors' book, show cases, and busts of the Rev. Dr Charles Rogers, the leading promoter of the Monument, and of William Burns, a secretary of the Monument Fund. Dr Rogers, who was chaplain to the garrison at Stirling from 1855 to 1862, became a well-known writer of historical and literary subjects, mainly Scottish. Among his works are " A Week at the Bridge of Allen" and " The Book of Wallace." He did much to revive the soul of Scotland.
The Reception Hall, in the base of the tower, is loftily arched, and its dim religious light is supplied by three stained glass windows representing the Scottish Crown and Regalia and Scottish Arms. On the wall is a painting of the battle of Bannockburn, by Sir William Allan, R.A. The acoustic properties of the Hall are remarkable.
The Upper Chambers
Up a flight of stairs is the Hallof Arms, On the Walls is a collection of medieval and later weapons. The stained glass windows portray the Royal Arms, the Scottish Lion, the Scottish Arms, and the Arms of the Town of Stirling.
A second flight of steps leads up to the Hall of Heros, repesented by fine busts, most of them (as well as the bronze statue on the exterior of the tower) the work of D.W. Stevenson, R.S.A. The heros are Robert the Bruce, George Buchanan, John Knox, Allan Smith, James Watt, Sir Walter Scott, William Murdoch, Sir David Brewster, Thomas Carlyle, Hugh Miller, 7Cr Chalmers, David Livingstone, and W.E. Gladstone. The Livingstone bust, a specially fine one, was executed from "the life" by Mrs D.V. Hill. The list of donors and unveilers is of historic interest.
In cases on the walls are replicas of documents associated with Wallace, and a case containing the originals of autograph letters written in 1868 by European patriots- Garibaldi, Mazzini, Kossuth, Louis Blanc, and Karl Blind- in eulogy of Wallace. The subjects of the fine stained glass windows are a medieval Scottish archer, a spearman of the same period, Robert the Bruce in Full Armour, and Wallace in like Guise, leaning on his sword.
On a ledge, in an inscribed shrine given by Hugh Robert Wallace, of Cloncaird Castle, Ayrshire, a lineal descedant of the hero, is the Wallace Sword, a two-handed weapon 5ft.4in. long. It is said to have been taken from his side when he was captured, and to have been carried to Dumbarton Castle, where it was until its removal here in 1888. The sword is a precious relic, and its temporary disappearance some years ago was an event of national concern.
The view from the tower is much the same as that from Stirling Castle, with the added advantages of greater height and the inclusion of Stirling itself. From the foot of the Craig a road leads to what remains of the ancient Abbey of Cambuskenneth, from which the Craig takes its name. A little to the west is the road to Stirling Bridge. Between are the most astonishing of the links of Forth. In the loop east of the Bridge, the English troops who had crossed on the old wooden bridge were slaughtered by Wallace's army, racing down from Airthrey.
Guardian Of Scotland
That was on September 11, 1297. Wallace was then about thirty. His career had suddenly widened from guerilla fighting to command of a devoted army that routed the best armed and equipped army in Europe. The victory gave Scotland a brief peace during which Wallace, as Guardian of the realm, re-established Scottish trade with the Continent.
His Subsequent defeat at Falkirk through lack of archers and cavalry; his desertion by the barons, his mission to France, his wanderings in the Forest of Selkirk, his betrayal by " the fause Menteith," his trial and cruel execution in London, are well recountedin James Fergusson's "William Wallace." His death inspired the long struggles of Robert the Bruce that culminated in the decisive victory of Bannockburn.
From the Monument one can see seven battlefields momentous in Scottish history; Cambuskenneth (9th century). where Kenneth MacAlpin "made" Scotland; Wallace's Stirling Bridge and Falkirk; Banockburn, Sauchieburn, Sheriffmuir, and Falkirk (1746).
The Wallace Sword
The gigantic two-handed sword with which Wallace "made great room about him" in the fight always excites wonderment and veneration.
From the top of the pommel to the point of the blade this great weapon measures 5-ft. 4 ins., and it must be remembered that the blade (which is still 4-ft. 4ins. long) has been reduced by fracture and re-welding.
The leather binding of the hilt is not original. It was added in the Tower of London in 1825, when the sword was sent for repair.
In London, at the request of the Duke of Wellington, the sword was examined by the celebrated authority, Sir Samuel Meyrick, who pronounced it late 15th century.
This opinion, which at first seemed to doubt the authenticity of the weapon, rather seems to confirm it.
In the accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, dated 8th December, 1505, is an entry of a sum paid, at the command of James IV., for " the binding of Wallas sword with cords of silk" and providing it with "ane new hilt and plommet," and also a new scabbard and a new belt.
So that the trappings really did belong to this period fixed by the expert, while the lade itself is shown to be of much more ancient date.
The sword reposes in the Hall of Heroes in a shrine bearing on one end the inscription-"Battle of Stirling Bridge, fought 11th September, 1297," and on the other- "Sir William Wallace died for his country, 23rd August, 1305." Along the front of the casket runs the well-known quotation "The sword that seemed fit for archangel to wield was light in his terrible hand."
The sword was stolen by extremists who raided the Monument in November, 1936. Police recovered the weapon a few months later at Bothwell Bridge in Lanarkshire. The sword was restored to the Hall of Heroes in 1950.
A Brief Biography
...How Wallace fought for Scotland, left the name of Wallace to be found, like a wild flower, all over his dear Country.... - Wordsworth.
Sir William Wallace was the second son of Sir Malcolm Wallace, Laird of Elderslie in Renfrewshire. The exact date of his birth is unknown, but 1270 is considered a close estimate.
An uncle who was parson of Dunipace, about eight miles from Stirling, superintended his early education. This worthy man shared the family patriotism, and doubtless instilled the love of freedom in the breast of his nephew. Williams father refused to swear fealty to Edward in 1291 and in consequence had to flee from Elderslie and seek shelter. He was later killed in an encounter with the English.
William and his mother found refuge with a relative at Kilspindie in the Carse of Gowrie. The killing of young Selby, son of the governor of the castle of Dundee, was the immediate cause of his outlawry and fight. Whether or not he had as legend relates, a murdered wife to avenge, Wallace by early 1297 was the leader of an eager, disiplined force , trained by him throughout the preceding winter following the defeat at Dunbar, a battle in which his elder brother was killed.
Battle of the Bridge
With this re-formed army Wallace directed an unceasingand implacable guerilla warfare against the English troops that garrisoned the Scottish castles and towns. The climax to many thrilling exploits came on 11th September, 1297, when Wallace by superior strategy trapped and smashed an English army under Cressingham and Surrey at Stirling Bridge.
This "bryg of tre" (wooden bridge) as Harry the Minstrel calls it in his poem, was long supposed to have spanned the Forth at Kildean, about a mile upstream from the present Old Bridge, but more recent researches place the site within a few yards of the Old Bridge itself. Traces of ancient wooden piles are said to be visible at this spot at low water. There seems to be little doubt that Wallace's troops were posted on or about Abbey Craig, on which the Monument now stands,before making their swoop on the English forces.
Wallace now became ruler of Scotland, and for a year he goverend in the name John Balliol. In retaliation for his defeat at Stirling and for Scots invasion in the winter of 1297, Edwardin 1298 launched a determined attack with an army of 1000,000 men met the Scots under Wallace at Falkirk, and gained an important victory.
Tradition asserts that Wallace's cavalry, mostly Anglo-Norman Nobility of doubtful loyalty, broke and fled at the first approach of the English.
Disgusted with this treachery Wallace soon afterwards resigned the Guardianship, and became once again a freelance, fighting for his country at the head of his own friends.
In 1305 Edward learned with satisfaction that his great enemy had been captured as he lay asleep in a barn at Robroyston, near Glasgow- betrayed by a servant into the hands of Sir Jon Menteith, Governor of Dumbarton Castle- once Wallace's friend but now in allegiance with the English King.
Bound and Fettered, the Scottish hero was conveyed south to await Edward's vengeance. The trial was short. Wallace was found guilty of treason, murder, robbery, and sacilege. His execution was carried out with all the barbarity of the times.
So died this greatest, most selfless of patriots. Wallace sought nothing for himself; only the happiness and independence of his country. When other around him wavered, Wallace stood firm as the rock of Stirling.
"Without him," said Lord Roseberry" the Scots might never have rallied for defence at all. Brucemight never have stood forth, and Bannockburn might not have been fought.....It is for this that we honour him when his foes are our nearest and dearestfriends."