Gathering for the third successive year on the nearest Saturday to the day of battle 22nd July 1298, groups of loyal Patriots from all over Scotland met at the site of the An Eaglais Bhreac. There to march in procession through the town of the Fa’kirk to the memorial cairn in Callander Park raised by Patriots in 2007 to the memory of those Scots who stood at the side of Sir William Wallace in defiance of tyranny.
A grey overcast but warm afternoon greeted members of Crann Tara, Siol nan Gaidheal, The Society of William Wallace, The Strathleven Artisans, The Knights Templar, The Scottish National Party, Falkirk Historical Society, representatives of the Men of Bute and many other Scottish Patriots there to pay respects to the fallen. Ken Shira of the Knights Templar opened the day’s proceedings with prayers and dedications and wreaths were laid at the tomb of John de Graham by George Thom and at the memorial stone of John Stewart of Bonkyl by Karen Owens. A call to muster and the procession led off to the sound of the pipes and drums of the excellent Denny and Dunipace pipe band. Leading from the front was the two handed claymore in recognition of the Wallace sword carried once again by Gordon Aitken resplendent in the Wallace Arms and flanked by his standard bearers carrying the Royal Standard of Scotland and The Saltire. It was a stirring sight leaving the kirkyard and into the Fa’kirk High Street to be greeted by the thousands of shoppers, tourist and onlookers who lined both sides of the street. This was a fitting mark of respect from the townsfolk and hopefully as years go by many more will join the procession.
On leaving the High Street the marchers proceeded to the Callander Park and the site of the memorial cairn as a steady and worsening deluge of rain began to fall. The Cairn was dedicated in 2007 following a campaign led by local members of the Wallace Society and ably supported by fellow Patriots who assisted in many ways with the end result a fitting tribute to that fateful day. The spot chosen for the memorial though not on the field of battle allows easy access and supplements the already rich historical aspects of the Callander Park giving the town a fitting reminder of the events of the 22nd July 1298. Gathering at the cairn Ken Shira opened with a welcome speech and invited Audra McKee of the Wallace Society assisted by SNP Councillor David Alexander to raise the Saltire. Though dampened by the rain nothing diminishes from the raising of Scotland’s National Flag and to see it in that setting with the cairn and its ring of Patriots is a truly proud moment. This signalled the appearance from the top of the hill of Gordon Aitken and his Standard bearers led by a lone piper always a stirring sight, rain or shine. Gordon placed the claymore in front of the cairn as the sign of a cross with a rousing opening speech finished by the cry of Alba gu Brath!! An opening prayer by Ken Shira with the rain getting heavier the organisers decided to cut the memorial short by inviting the wreaths to be laid. One by one wreaths were placed by the Knights Templar, The Scottish National Party, The Wallace Society, The Men of Bute, The Falkirk Historical Society and fittingly by The Bairns of Falkirk. This ended the memorial at the cairn and all were invited back to the nearby Claddagh Hotel to hear the speeches.
Once at the hotel excellent speeches were heard from, George Boyle and Malcolm McNeil of the Society of William Wallace and Big Rab of Siol nan Gaidheal speaking from the heart as he did the year before. Gordon Aitken then led a stirring rendition of the anthem Scots Wha Hae to end the ceremony.
The organisers are to be congratulated for a tremendous day which should not have been spoiled by the weather. It was disappointing that these excellent speeches were not to be heard at the cairn and in front of the many who had attended as only some made it back to the Hotel. It was also very heartening to see both young and old and even wheel chair bound stand in very difficult conditions at the cairn. Scotland is in good hands with the example set by the youngest of these attendees, there were no complaints from them about being wet.
There is no need to cover the events of the 22nd of July 1298 here, all who read this report should know of it and those looking in hopefully will go away and learn more of it. To stand wet to the core to pay respects to those whose blood graced the earth they stood on is but a small 21st century sacrifice. That day in 1298 the sky turned black, but it was not rain that came down but the arrows of the english and welsh archers. There were no umbrellas or trees that day to shelter under and the slaughter and screams of the dying must have a been terrible experience to those who survived. But survive some did and fight on they most certainly did and Scotland’s Freedom was won. My heart pours with every emotion to the sacrifice made on this field of battle and to have been asked to be involved in this memorials inception has left me indebted to those brothers whose drive and commitment to see it through shone from their hearts in every way. This is the Scotland we want to live and die for. For a Free Scotland!!
Bas Agus Buaidh
By Stewart Connor