Falkirk heritage group backs ‘Sir William Wallace Day’ campaign

Sir William Wallace, as imagined by the late 17th century artist who painted this evocative portrait, now in the collection of the Smith Art Gallery in Stirling
Sir William Wallace, as imagined by the late 17th century artist who painted this evocative portrait, now in the collection of the Smith Art Gallery in Stirling

Falkirk-based heritage group the Society of John de Graeme has “wholeheartedly” backed a plan to remember patriot Sir William Wallace with a national holiday.

The Society is currently helping to organise next month’s commemoration of the 1298 Battle of Falkirk - the devastating defeat which led inexorably to Wallace’s betrayal and ritual murder by Edward I.

The man who would be king - this compelling reconstruction of the features of King Robert I was based on his skull.

The man who would be king - this compelling reconstruction of the features of King Robert I was based on his skull.

But the campaign to have a new national holiday in the freedom fighter’s honour has been launched by tourist attraction the Edinburgh Dungeon, which commissioned a survey of 500 Scots in a bid to gauge support for the idea.

The survey disclosed strong backing, with 72 per cent in favour and 42 per cent agreeing Wallace was “the bravest Scot ever”.

More than a third said they had more of an affinity with Wallace than St Andrew - who in the past has also been a candidate for a national holiday.

However the Scottish Government has said it has no plans to have a Wallace Day, and campaigners may have a battle on their hands trying to make the idea a reality.

The Society of John de Graeme honours a knight who was one of Wallace’s right hand men when he was killed at the Battle of Falkirk - he is buried in the churchyard of what is now Falkirk’s Trinity Church.

This week a spokesman said the Wallace Day campaign has its full support, and that it looks forward to official recognition.

Meanwhile, despite the film’s manifest historical inaccuracies, the “Braveheart” image of Mel Gibson as Wallace has appeared in numerous newspaper accounts of the story.

Historians uniformly agree that the movie image of a straggly-haired, kilt-wearing warrior - his face daubed in blue paint - can bear no earthly resemblance to the historical Wallace or, perhaps, anyone else in medieval Scotland.

But while there are many portraits of the patriot they are all - just like Mel Gibson’s creation - works of imagination.

Historical reconstruction is on safer ground with King Robert I (“the Bruce”), after his actual skull was used as the basis for a dramatic reconstuction of his features using state of the art technology.

The commemoration of his great 1314 victory will be causing traffic jams in Stirling on Saturday coming.