Borderers honour warrior Wallace

Cast members in the Auld Kirk.
Cast members in the Auld Kirk.

Followers of William Wallace from all over the country came to the Borders on Saturday to see the great Scottish hero made Guardian of Scotland.

Re-enactors from Strathleven Artisans provided the drama to top off a day of Wallace-themed events held in Selkirk.

Interest in the Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence was piqued earlier this year, when a recent archaeological geophysics survey at the town’s Auld Kirk revealed the underground remains of a medieval chapel – The Kirk o’ the Forest – where Wallace was likely to have been made Guardian of Scotland in 1297.

Since then, Colin Gilmour, Selkirk Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) Project Officer has been in talks with the Society of William Wallace – an organisation which strives to preserve the memory of the great Scottish patriot – and came up with a series of events for the day, most of which took place at Haining House and grounds.

In the grounds, a medieval living history encampment was set up, so visitors could see how Wallace and his contemporaries lived. A longbow archery demonstration and come-and-try was held by local archery club Ettrick Forest Archers.

And in the house, talks on Wallace and his life proved incredibly popular.

SBC archaeologist, Dr Chris Bowles, gave some background to, and interpretation of, the recent archaeological survey findings, and their place in the context of the wider Borders history and heritage. And renowned Wallace expert, Dr Fiona Watson spoke about the historical research and links between Wallace and the Wars of Independence, with specific reference to Wallace’s connection to Selkirk and the wider Borders.

Mr Gilmour told us: “It was a really good day, and the events at the Haining, and especially the talks, went down a storm.

“The talks were actually over-subscribed, and it was standing-room only, with Wallace enthusiasts coming from all over the Borders and beyond.

“The re-enactment at the Auld Kirk by Strathleven Artisans was very good, and we were treated to characters such as Wallace, Robert the Bruce and a mad bishop.

“We managed to stay under the radar for the weather, and we only got a little bit of rain as the procession headed up to the kirk.”

The day was so popular, it is hoped that volunteers can be found to make the event an annual one, or at least every five or 10 years.

Mr Gilmour said: “Next year being 2017, marks 720 years since the original ceremony.

“The Auld Kirk is one of a very small handful of places where you can actually say Wallace actually was.

“It would be good if we could make a Borders-wide Wallace trail, perhaps as an online brochure, with a map, where followers can see all the Wallace-themed places.

“I would like to see a local group formed who can make this happen, such as a ‘Friends of the Auld Kirk’ type of group who would carry out the organisation for any future events.”