The Statue on the Wallace Monument
The Wallace Monument near Stirling has this statue of the hero. This
is another 19th Century image. He is clearly depicted as a handsome man -
according to the taste of the 19th Century.
The memorial is on top of a steep little hill overlooking the beautiful
countryside near Stirling. There is a quaint wee shuttle bus to carry
tourists to the top and back down again. But most people prefer to walk down
through the woods. Today, Wallace does a great public-relations job for Stirling. Tourist
figures at the National Wallace Monument went up by 156 per cent in the year
since Braveheart hit the screen,
with nearly 40 per cent of visitors saying they were there because of the
film. Christine Brownlee, the manager of the monument, told me of two elderly
American ladies who saw Braveheart on a Tuesday night in Boston, caught a
Wednesday afternoon flight to Glasgow and by opening time on Thursday
morning were on the doorstep, all set to toil up its 246 steps, in spite of
The following extracts come from the article "Stirling effort for Scotland's liberator"
by Juliet Clough that appeared in the Electronic
Telegraph in 1997
"For as many centuries as it mattered, the castle (Stirling), on its
great boss of volcanic rock, sat at the highest navigable point of the River
Forth, guarding the marshy routes to the Highlands, whose ramparts stretch
across the northern horizon.
This was key strategic territory; from the castle battlements, you can see
the fields where half-a-dozen battles were fought over 400 years in the
cause of Scottish identity. Stirling is where Wallace bled, where the Hammer
of the Scots did most of his hammering; where Bruce battled at Bannockburn;
and where successive Stuart kings set up their capital.
Now the town has a chance to muse, not too solemnly, on its position as a
cradle of nationhood. September 11 is the 700th anniversary of the Battle of
Stirling Bridge, a date that saw the arrival of the cult hero William
Wallace. It provides Stirling with the opportunity for a 23-week programme
of Caledonian shindigs, culminating in a Cecil B De Mille-scale re-enactment
on the castle esplanade on September 12 and 13.
His (William Wallace's) story has always been not so much a tissue of lies as the stuff of
dreams. The victor of Stirling Bridge is one of those folk heroes about whom
so little is known that he provides ideal myth-making material. It is
durable stuff. The minstrel Blind Harry's biography, written 150 years after
Wallace's gruesome execution at Smithfield, is, says Dr Fiona Watson, a
lecturer in medieval history at the University of Stirling, a nakedly
political tract. It was also, after the Bible, the most common book to be
found in Scottish homes after it was republished in 1722.
Wallace has long been the province of the romantics, press-ganged into
service as an icon by unionists and nationalists alike. Burns, a fanatical
fan, wrote "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled" to the old martial tune to which
a Scots bodyguard was said to have escorted Joan of Arc, another martyred
freedom fighter, to victory at Orleans. Hanging in the exhibition hall,
handsome early 19th-century trade union and reformist banners date from a
period that claimed Wallace as a radical. But by the time the foundation
stone of his monument was laid in Stirling in 1861, he had become a kingly
figure, a preserver of the status quo.
Since 1993, £65 million has been invested by the Stirling Initiative
partnership across a wide range of projects, from roads to ruins. Stirling
Castle alone is benefiting to the tune of £20 million. In February,
Argyll's Lodging, the finest and most complete 17th-century townhouse in
Scotland, opened its doors to the public after Historic Scotland's £2
million restoration had ended the mansion's inglorious latter-day career as
a military hospital and youth hostel. Flamboyant strap-work clusters of
fruit and flowers, scrolls and coronets on the ornate exterior; fine
fireplaces and painted trompe l'žil pilasters inside - all are confident
local interpretations of the poshest Renaissance models.
The reproduction furniture, although beautifully crafted, takes a bit of
getting used to. But it faithfully echoes the house's 1680 inventory.
Computer imaging, in its turn, offers an impressive short cut to
understanding the successive stages of the building's development."
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