September 1297 was an awful long time ago, but now as Scotland is disentangling itself from another set of Ragman Rolls the events of our historic struggle for independence from the Kingdom of England are taking on new meaning. No doubt Edward I saw the demolition of his army at Stirling Bridge as an act of terrorism perpetrated by a conquered people, but Andrew de Moray and William Wallace’s victory that day was nothing more than the assertion of a free people that they would never be slaves. Those with power in today’s world still have difficulty understanding this simple concept. People do not much enjoy being abused by those in power, and they enjoy it even less when those in power are from another country. Until today I had always thought of the thirteenth century Scottish Wars of Independence as part of our history without giving much consideration to the importance of these events for the present shaping of Scotland’s identity, but why shouldn’t they? We will never be allowed to forget the sacrifice millions of young men made fighting in the mud and gore for the glory of the British Empire a century ago. Why then should we ever forget the time when Scots stood against Edward’s army saying we will not support England’s imperial ambitions?

This afternoon I walked over the auld stane bridge at Stirling, the site of Scotland’s victory over the English cavalry and infantry, expecting nothing more than to take in history. On the far side of the bridge there is a flagpole on which flies now the saltire. All that I thought was that this was a nice touch. To my shame I did not at first see this glorious symbol as a war memorial but it is as much a memorial to a real war and our nationhood as the one at Whitehall in London serves for the English. At the foot of the flagpole were two pretty little flowers – two withered white roses; the emblem of the Jacobite Rebellion and Scotland’s continuing fight for independence. Some unknown patriot had come here to this bridge not as a simple tourist to see a site of interest, but as a Scot coming to pay perfect homage to the fallen of our nation. We have no future as a nation if we are willing to forget our past, and there have always been efforts to help us forget what we were once so willing to fight and die for. Today I went to see the scene of an ancient battle. I left that place having paid my respects to the brave young men who fought for our freedom.

Jason Michael
Blog Author


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