Lanark's statue of William Wallace

Sir William Wallace
of
Ellerslie

(AD1272 - AD1305)

Wallace coat of arms

"from Outlaw to Guardian of Scotland"


Rebel Commander

              After massacring the English in Lanark William Wallace and his men travelled westwards into the familiar territory of Ayrshire. A scene from the film - Braveheart The news of William Wallace's latest attack on the English would have rippled through out Scotland, and it had the effect of rallying like-minded men from all over Scotland flocking to join him. Before long William Wallace found himself in command of three thousand well armed men, all rallying under the banner of freedom. From Kyle and Cunningham alone a thousand men on horseback were raised, old friends like Adam Wallace and Robert Boyd, and new ones like Sir John Tinto, also joined, together with their vassals. One notable recruit to join the rebel forces was Gilbert de Grimsby, a Scot who enlisted in the English army and served under King Edward I in Flanders, Picardy and distinguished himself in the Battle of Dunbar in 1296. Gilbert de Grimsby deflection from the English army would have brought valuable intelligence about their numbers and tactics to the rebel forces.

              The build up of a rebel army in Ayrshire certainly didn't go unnoticed by the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart, especially that the commander was William Wallace, as he would have no doubt heard about his exploits against the English. Since Robert Wishart required men like William Wallace to transform his plan into a reality, he therefore actively sought out Wallace and recruited him to fight for the cause of freedom, but in the name of John Balliol. The blessing of Robert Wishart gave William Wallace and his rebel army a veil of respectability, as previously the nobles considered Wallace as nothing more than a mere outlaw. Another advantage in allying with the church was that it was well versed to conduct underground activities, as it already had in place the logistical and communicational infrastructure that is requires to sustain and co-ordinate a rebel force. The rebellious nature of Robert Wishart stems from the fact that King Edward I planned to anglicanize the Scottish church by replacing its clergy with English priests, this included his position which was decreed to be subordinate to Antony Bek, the Bishop of Durham.

              Shortly after his release from captivity in the latter months of 1296, Sir William Douglas (the former governor of Berwick) joined the rebel ranks of William Wallace. On the strength of this information, that his brother-in-law, Sir William Douglas had joined the rebels, Robert Wishart finally convinced the ever cautious James the Steward (one of the 1286 Guardians of the Peace) to support his cause.

              One of the first acts that Sir William Douglas undertook as a rebel was to lead the assault and subsequent capture of Sanquhar Castle, but it was later besieged by the Captain of Durisdeer. William Wallace immediately headed south after he heard of the situation, and defeated the English at Dalswinton, having killed five hundred of them in the progress.

              Since April 1297 the north of Scotland was also in revolt, with Andrew de Moray and his right hand man, Alexander Pilche, raising the banner for freedom in the name of John Balliol. This minor gentry led a small rebel army of common men across the country attacking and devastating every English garrisoned castle from Banff to Inverness. Possibly under the guidance of Robert Wishart they employed the same hit and run guerrilla tactics that worked so well for William Wallace, as they harassed and killed the English at will. By now practically the entire Moray region was in revolt, as the remaining burgesses hastily abandoned their sworn allegiance to King Edward I and united with Andrew de Moray, under the banner of freedom.

              It was not until early June 1297 that King Edward I received intelligence reports about a northern revolt in the province of Moray. Determined to stamp it out immediately, he released some of the Scottish nobles captured in the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, under the condition that they curb the northern revolt. They included John Comyn (Earl of Buchan), Comyn of Badenoch (Alexander de Balliol) and the Earl of Menteith. How effective they were at dealing with the rebellion is open for question. Since it wasn't until some time after 28 August 1297 that King Edward I knew that the rebel leader of the north was Andrew de Moray, a Comyn Kinsman.

              Also in early June 1297 William Wallace, at the Bishop of Glasgow's (Robert Wishart) request, planned a symbolic strike to liberate Scone, the seat of the English appointed Justiciar of Scotland, William Ormesby. It was from Scone, a site held sacred by the Scots, that William Ormesby would dispense heavy handedly his form of English justice. Since William Ormesby's primary mandate was to force all Scots that haven't done so already to swear allegiance to King Edward I by whatever means at his disposal.

              Riding northwards with an elite contingent of his rebel army, William Wallace rendezvous with Sir William Douglas, the former governor of Berwick castle, at Perth, and together they headed for Scone. The Justiciar of Scotland, William Ormesby, was forewarned of William Wallace imminent assault on Scone, with the massacre of the English in Lanark fresh in Ormesby's mind it immediately struck a cord. As William Wallace rode into Scone he came across little resistance as his fearsome reputation had surpassed him, since the English soldiers, including William Ormesby, had already hastily fled, abandoning a very large cache of booty.

2nd Earl of Carrick, Robert Bruce               12 June 1297, King Edward I received intelligence reports that Sir William Douglas had deflected to the rebels. He immediately ordered the seizure of Sir William Douglas's estates in Essex and Northumberland and entrusted the 2nd Earl of Carrick, to deal with Douglas. Henceforth the 2nd Earl of Carrick, Robert Bruce, together with his father's vassals of Annandale were dispatched to attack Sir William Douglas stronghold in Douglasdale. But the Bishop of Carlisle, Walter Hemingburgh was suspicious of the Earl's loyalty and therefore made him swear on both the bible and the sword of St. Thomas a Becket to reaffirm his allegiance to King John Balliol, before he could leave Carlisle.

              Capturing Sir William Douglas's stronghold of Douglas Castle was a relatively easy affair. But the 2nd Earl of Carrick found that Eleanor Ferrers held the castle, Sir William Douglas's second wife, as Douglas himself had gone to Ayr to be with William Wallace.

              Then for no apparent reason the 2nd Earl of Carrick done an abrupt U-turn and changed sides. Using the walls of the castle as a platform, the 2nd Earl of Carrick rallied his father's vassals to join him, but his appeal had fallen on deaf ears. He was dishearten but not surprised by their answer, the 2nd Earl of Carrick together with Lady Douglas and her family then travelled westward into Ayrshire. With his wife and family in the custody of the 2nd Earl of Carrick, Sir William Douglas was forced to align himself with the 2nd Earl of Carrick, probably as a means to secure their release. At Carrick the Earl had better luck at mobilising his own vassals, from there on they went on an orgy of wanton destruction and ethnic cleansing of the English from southern Ayrshire.

              By the 14 June 1297, King Edward I couldn't tolerate the deteriorating situation any further, therefore he ordered the Governor of Scotland, John de Warenne to henceforth return back to Scotland and restore feudalism. As John de Warenne had retreated to his estates in Surrey on the onset of winter in 1296 and left Hugh Cressingham in control of Scotland.

              King Edward I lost his patience as John de Warenne dithered about, and it wouldn't be until the end of July 1297 that Warenne eventually reached Berwick. Therefore King Edward I assigned Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford 'to arrest, imprison and justify all disturbers of the peace in Scotland and their resetters'.

A scene from the film - Braveheart               Alarmed about the mounting crisis sweeping Scotland the English authorities in Ayrshire were determined to nip it in the bud. In the name of King Edward I, the English Judge, Arnulf of Southampton, summoned all the leading Scots to attend an eyre-court in Ayr, on the 18 June 1297. The eyre-court was held in a large lofty building, known locally as the Barns, situated on the outskirts of Ayr. A scene from the film - Braveheart The only entrance into the Barns was guarded by English soldiers who herded the Scots into the building in a single file. As the Scots entered the building they were immediately restrained; gagged and a noose placed around their necks before they were finally strung up from the rafters. In total three hundred and sixty Scotsmen were lured to their deaths, in an incident called 'the Barns of Ayr'.

A scene from the film - Braveheart               But on the 18 June 1297, William Wallace travelled to Kingace rather than to attend the eyre-court and listen to the rantings from one of King Edward I's representative. Returning back to Ayr in the afternoon, he was informed that the eyre-court had been an elaborate trap, but what incensed him the most was the underhanded nature by which the English authorities had massacred his fellow countrymen. William Wallace wanted to return the favour and therefore sent word to his rebel army to rendezvous with him at Leglen Wood.

              A couple of days later, during the middle of the night, William Wallace and his rebels stealthy entered the town. As they encroached on the town dwelling they secured all the doors that had been marked, trapping its English occupants. Fifty men, including Robert Boyd made for Ayr Castle and kept it under surveillance, whilst the rest followed William Wallace to the Barns. Their information proved to be accurate, as they found the English judge together with a large contingent of English soldiers sleeping off the effects of a heavy night of drinking. They immediately barricaded the door and strategically placed brushwood around the building; then it was doused with oil; finally the signal was given to torch the place and instantly the building was set ablaze. By now alarm bells were ringing at the castle, as the burning building lit up the night sky. The English soldiers hastily stumbled out of the castle to aid their colleagues, but were ambushed; then slaughtered by Robert Boyd and his party.

              Prior Drumlay and his monk also carried their revenge for 'the Barns of Ayr' incident and executed one hundred and forty English soldiers as they slept in the priory, in an incident known as Prior of Ayr's Blessing.

              By dawn the estimated English death toll had reached five thousand men, while the rebels suffered minimal casualties.

              By the end of June 1297 the whole of Scotland was practically up in rebellion. Its English occupiers were virtually in a state of siege, as the English soldiers had retreated to their castles and they were confined to the towns, which can be supplied by the sea, since the rebels had severed all other means of communication. Two English chroniclers of the time clearly named Andrew de Moray, James the Steward, Robert Wishart (the Bishop of Glasgow) and William Wallace as the principal instigators of the rebellion. With the Lanercost Chronicle going into further detail about the trenchantly of Robert Wishart:

'Ever foremost in treason, conspired with the Steward of the Kingdom, named James, for a new piece of insolence, yea, for a new chapter of ruin. Not daring openly to break their pledge to the King, they caused a certain bloody man, William Wallace, who had formerly been a chief of brigands in Scotland, to revolt against the King, and assemble the people in his support.'

              It was not until early July 1297 that Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford crossed the Anglo-Scottish border and marched into Annanadale with an English army consisting of three hundred cavalry and forty thousand foot soldiers.

              Inspired by the success of William Wallace in the south, Andrew de Moray in the north, the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart, urged the Scottish nobles for solidarity. The Scottish nobles answered Robert Wishart's call, and hastily gathered at Irvine with their vassals, united by a kindred spirit of nationhood and determined to rid Scotland of the English.

              Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford continued their march north through Nithsdale, Sanquhar, Cumnock and finally into Kyle where they came across the "Scottish army" encamped at Irvine.

              By now the solidarity that had united the Scottish nobles was nothing more than a distant memory, as a bitter internal power struggle ravaged through the Scottish ranks. Incensed by the bickering of the Scottish nobles, who were more concern about the structure of command rather than concentrating on battle tactics, that it forced Sir Richard Lundie to leave in disgust and deflected to the side of Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford.

              On the 7 July 1297, the Scottish nobles surrendered ignominiously, without even striking a single blow in anger, as the nobles were more interested in their own self-preservation rather than in any conflict. Sir Henry de Percy promised the nobles that he would honour the conditions of their surrender by firstly sparing their lives, then with no infringement of their personal liberties and then finally there will be no forfeiture of their estates, but only if they provided hostage(s) or enlist for the expedition into Flanders.

              In the case of the 2nd Earl of Carrick, he agreed to hand over his infant daughter, Marjorie as a hostage, but later he reneged on the deal and suffered no reprisals. The fate of Sir William Douglas was less fortunate as he neither provided any hostage(s) or enlisted and as a result he was incarcerate in Berwick Castle, then from 12 October 1297 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London till his death on 20 January 1299. Then finally for the part that he played in the uprising, the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart was forced to surrender himself into English custody and then was incarcerated in Roxburgh Castle.

              King Edward I may have cowed the Scottish nobles, but William Wallace was still at large and operating in the field. At the same time as the Scottish nobles were grovelling to Sir Henry de Percy, William Wallace continued the campaign by harassing Sir Henry de Percy's baggage train, cutting lines of communications and killing the stragglers. In total five hundred English soldiers perished in the ordeal and for his efforts William Wallace was rewarded with a vast quantity of booty.

              Reprisals for the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart's internment was swift in coming, as William Wallace launched an attack on Glasgow, Antony Bek's seat of administration. At 9.00am William Wallace led three hundred horsemen across Glasgow Bridge and rode into the High Street where they engaged Antony Bek's guards, the elite troops of the St. Cuthbert's Host. Whilst Adam Wallace and Patrick Auchinleck led one hundred and forty men along the North East Row to attack the rear flank of the English troops. By 12.00p.m., four hundred English troops were killed during the course of the battle, but William Wallace's primary target Antony Bek had eluded capture, and by 1.00p.m., Wallace and his rebel army were well north of Glasgow.

              William Wallace regrouped his forces at Dunduff, then they indulged in a five day period of R and R. Then an old friend called Duncan of Lorn together with his elderly guide, Gilmichael, finally tracked William Wallace down and brought him the bad news. That the Earls of Atholl, Buchan (John Comyn), Menteith and John of Lorn (Duncan's nephew) have aligned themselves with MacFadyen, the English appointed Lord of Argyll and Lorn. With their combined force of fifteen thousand men, MacFadyen engaged on a campaign of wanton destruction throughout Argyll and they had overwhelmed the local resistance organised by Sir Neil Campbell of Lochawe.

              William Wallace swiftly responded to Duncan's appeal for help, and set off with over two thousand men, with Gilmichael acting as the pathfinder. The trek proved to be an arduous affair and in forced William Wallace to leave the bulk of his men in Strathfillan, while he continued with an elite band of one hundred men on horseback. They were closely followed by Sir John Graham with a further one hundred men and finally by Adam Wallace with a reserve force of five hundred men.

              At Glendochart, William Wallace rendezvoused with Gilmichael and the local resistance leader, Sir Neil Campbell, they reported that MacFadyen's army was beyond Loch Dochart. William Wallace then attacked MacFadyen's army at dawn on the following day, utilising the advantage of surprise, even though Wallace had been briefed that he was outnumbered.

              The ensuing battle raged on for more than two hours, at one stage it could have gone either way, but gradually William Wallace gained the upper hand. The surviving members of the Irish contingent in MacFadyen's army were summarily executed, as they neither asked for nor any quarter was given. But William Wallace spared the lives of the Scottish contingent, as laid down their arms and begged for mercy.

              As for MacFadyen himself, he fled from the scene as soon as he knew that defeat was inevitable. But he was closely pursued by Duncan of Lorn and a large band of men, who found him hiding in a cave under Craigmore, shielded by fifteen bodyguards. Duncan returned triumphantly holding aloft MacFadyen's head as a trophy, 'which Lord Campbell placed high in Craigmore upon a stone, for the honour of Ireland'.

              At Ardchattan, a mountainous region in Lorn, on the shores of Loch Etive, near Oban, William Wallace held a council at which he formally handed back Duncan of Lorn and Sir Neil Campbell their ancestral lands. Some of the prominent figures attending council were Sir John Ramsay of 'Ouchterhouse' (Ochtertyre) and the Co-Adjutor of Dunkeld, William Sinclair.

              Possibly with the intention of reinstating William Sinclair to his cathedral, after he was evicted from his diocese in 1294, William Wallace marched his rebel army cross-country to Perth. From a reconnaissance mission Sir John Ramsay noticed that the walls of Perth were considered to be low, when compared to general lie of the land, as the height of the walls were exaggerated by a deep moat dug beneath them.

              Armed with this information, William Wallace spent four days at Dunkeld, employing the skills of the local craftsmen to build siege-engines (possibly a form of covered ladder), then they were floated down the river Tay to Perth.

              William Wallace then ordered the first wave of the attack on Perth, as earth and stones were tossed into the moat, so allowing the siege-engines to reach the town walls. The English put up a stout defence as they bombarded the rebels with large rocks from their arbalests and mangonels, and the archers showered the rebels with deadly hails of arrows. But finally the siege-engines were in place, and the rebels swarmed up the town walls, with William Wallace attacking the centre of the town, while Sir John Graham and Sir John Ramsay lead the assault on the turret bridge.

              In total two thousand Englishmen were slaughtered by the rebels at Perth. A rebel knight called Ruthven, who had brought thirty men to the rebels, distinguished himself in battle and was rewarded by being appointed the Captain and Sheriff of Perth, with the hereditary Lieutenancy of Strathearn.

              William Wallace now headed east with his rebel army, to Cupar, where he found that the English abbot had fled on hearing news of his approach. William Wallace then headed northeast, crossing the river Tay, and rendezvoused with the Bishop of Dunkeld at Glamis, then by the evening they had reached Brechin.

              By the next morning William Wallace led his rebel army through Mearns to Dunottar Castle. At the head of the rebel column there were the standard-bearers who proudly displaying the banner of St. Andrew, and as the rebels marched passed settlements they managed rekindled a sense of patriotism among the locals.

              Dunottar Castle, an enormous fortification, defended on three sides by cliffs, as it stands on a promontory. Some four thousand Englishmen and their supporters had sought refuge within the castle, as they fled from the surrounding areas, when they heard the news of William Wallace's approach. The Bishop of Dunkeld pleaded with William Wallace to spare the lives of the people that had sought sanctuary within the walls of Dunottar Castle and to also let them leave in peace. But with 'the Barns of Ayr' and other atrocities that the English had inflicted on the Scots still fresh in William Wallace's mind, he had no hesitation in stating that no quarter would be given.

              The castle's defences crumbled as it suffered the full onslaught of the rebels' attack. As the rebels stormed through the castle's gates, many of its inhabitants ran and sought refuge within its church, instead of pursuing them into the church, the rebels just set the church alight, roasting its occupants alive. A courageous few confronted the advancing rebels head on, but were swiftly slain, while some couldn't even bear to face the rebels and committed suicide by jumping off a cliff.

              Amazingly after the massacring the English at Dunottar Castle some of the rebels knelt before the Bishop of Dunkeld and asked for absolution. In response to his men's actions William Wallace replied sarcastically: 'I forgive you all. Are ye men of war, and repent for so small a matter? They rued not how they did to us in the town of Ayr, where they hanged our true barons.'

              Meanwhile Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford had travelled across the central belt from Irvine, and were at Roxburgh by the 15 July 1297. Where they rendezvoused with Hugh Cressingham, the Treasurer of Scotland, together with his contingent of three hundred heavy cavalry and ten thousand foot soldiers.

              23 July 1297, in a dispatch to King Edward I, Hugh Cressingham reported that Sir Henry de Percy reckons that the rebellion has been quashed, but Cressingham urged caution:

'even though peace had been made on this side of the Scots water, yet it would be well to make a chevauchée on the enemies on the other side'

- a clear reference about the continuing activities of William Wallace north of the Firth of Forth, in Dunbartonshire, Stirlingshire and Perthshire. Cressingham then suggests:

'An attack should be made upon William Wallace, who lay then with a large company - and does so still - in the Forest of Selkirk, like one that holds himself against your peace.'

As intelligence reports shows that William Wallace was within Selkirk Forest. But the three commanders (Hugh Cressingham, Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford) decided to wait at Roxburgh for the arrival of John de Warenne, the Governor of Scotland, and his army. As Selkirk Forest in those days was spread over much of southern Scotland and they knew that looking for a man like William Wallace who has perfected the art of guerrilla warfare, was liken to looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

              Then on the 24 July 1297 another dispatch from Hugh Cressingham to King Edward I read:

'Not a penny could be raised, until my lord the Earl of Warenne shall enter into your land and compel the people by force and sentence of law'.

As Treasurer, Hugh Cressingham had been ordered to raise money from the rent and taxes of Scotland to finance King Edward I's expedition into Flanders. Hugh Cressingham then goes on to explain the situation in greater detail:

'Sire, let it not displease you, by far the greater part of your counties of the realm of Scotland are still unprovided with keepers, as well by death, siege, or imprisonment; and some have given up their bailiwicks, and others neither will nor dare return; and in some counties the Scots have established and placed bailiffs and ministers, so that no county is in proper order, except Berwick and Roxburgh, and this only lately.'

Hugh Cressingham paints a stark picture about Scotland, in which its nobles may have been subdued by their greed and selfishness, but it was a totally different story with the general populace.

              Immediately after the assault on Dunottar Castle, William Wallace and his rebel army quickly marched up the east coast to Aberdeen (it was a strategically important supply route for King Edward I's northern garrisons and an administrative centre for the region). Where William Wallace found an armada of one hundred English ships, heavily laden with provisions and soldiers, still anchored within its harbour. It was obvious to William Wallace that the English were hastily leaving, and the speed of his arrival from Dunottar Castle had caught the English unawares.

              William Wallace waited until it was low tide, then the rebels charged at the stranded ships in the harbour, they slaughtered its crew and soldiers, liberated its cargo, and then finally they burned the ships. Amid the confusion of the rebel's attack, the English Sheriff of Aberdeen, Sir Henry de Lazom took the opportunity and seized control of Aberdeen Castle in the name of King John Balliol.

              Then William Wallace and his rebel army headed north to Crimond in Buchan and then westwards to rendezvous with Andrew de Moray on the Spey. By 1 August 1297, William Wallace was back at Aberdeen to oversee the set up of the region's administration, but shortly afterwards he was called away to supervise the siege at Dundee.

              Also in 1 August 1297, the Governor of Scotland, John de Warenne was at Berwick, and from there he sent a dispatch to King Edward I, in which it stated that Sir Henry de Lazom had seized Aberdeen castle. Then it goes on to say that he had not heard of Lazom's fate, but pledged that 'if caught, he shall be honoured according to his deserts'. As a result of John de Warenne report, Sir Henry de Lazom had his estate in Lancashire seized and was subsequently branded 'a rebel adherent of the Scots'.

              By August 1297, the lands north of the rivers Clyde and Forth were largely in the control of the rebels. With the notable exceptions of Dundee and Stirling Castle, as they were still staunchly defended by their English garrisons, unlike Aberdeen and Perth which fell with relative ease.

              John de Warenne proceeded to travel north, and rendezvoused with Hugh Cressingham at Roxburgh, and the merger of the two forces produced a formidable army, totalling one thousand heavy cavalry and fifty thousand foot soldiers. Also a further reserve division of three hundred heavy cavalry and eight thousand foot soldiers was marching north from Carlisle, commanded by Sir Henry de Percy.

              On the 14 August 1297, at his own bequest, John de Warenne was replaced by Sir Brian Fitz-Alan as the Guardian of Scotland, due to the fact that he was ill at the time and was anxious to return to his estate in Surrey. But he was ordered to remain at his post for the time being, therefore John de Warenne pressed on from Roxburgh, with the clear intentions of reinforcing the English garrison at Stirling and to raise the siege of Dundee. Confident that John de Warenne would crush the rebellion, King Edward I left for Flanders aboard his flagship, the Cog Edward, on the 22 August 1297, and he wouldn't return until 14 March 1298.

              Meanwhile William Wallace was still engaged in the siege of Dundee Castle, though the town itself had succumbed to his attack. He was briefed on the intelligence reports that John de Warenne was making his way north to Stirling with an army, intent on routing the rebellion. As the siege was proving to be a drawn out affair, William Wallace delegated one of his lieutenants, Alexander Scrymgeourand, and a token rebel force to continue with the siege. Then he regrouped the rebel army and together with Andrew de Moray, William Wallace marched down south for the show down at Stirling with John de Warenne.


Page 1-Background
Page 2-The Outlaw
Page 3-Toom Tabard
Page 4-Guerrilla Leader
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