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Posted on Oct 2, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Behind the Real Braveheart Battle

By Ben Herndon

De Moray circled around the melee to occupy the bridge, already packed with panicky English troops trying to escape. Wallace seized this chance and destroyed the enemy with a berserk ferocity.


When one visits modern day Scotland, you understand why Stirling Castle was called “a shining brooch on the waist of Scotland.” This ancient stronghold commands a magnificent view of the River Forth. The castle is also the home of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders — the legendary regiment that formed the immortal “thin red streak tipped with steel” at Balaklava. The Regimental Museum houses artist Robert Gibb’s original “Thin Red Line” painting as well as the battleworn Regimental Colours from some of Great Britain’s most illustrious campaigns – Lucknow, Peninsula, Alma, Sevastopol, Marne, and Ypres to name a few.


From the Stirling Castle battlements, you can see the William Wallace Monument high atop Abbey Craig across the valley. If you’re lucky, your visit to the monument may be on a day when actor Jock Ferguson is there. Dressed in the manner of the guardian of Scotland (with Wallace’s coat of arms on his tabard) Ferguson happily answers visitor‘s questions about Scottish history and local battle lore. And whatever Mel Gibson’s historical credentials, Ferguson credits “Braveheart” with kick-starting tourism to the Wallace Monument and Stirling area.

“Tourist numbers were around fifty per day, pre-Braveheart,” says Ferguson. “When the movie was released in the States, Australia, and Canada, around 500 a day came, all because of the movie. When it came out in Britain a year later, one thousand visitors a day arrived — most of them Scots!”

The attendance numbers are still healthy, nearly 10 years after “Braveheart’s” première. And whenever he appears at the Wallace Monument, Ferguson gladly recites appropriate battlefield monologues, befitting patriotism in the 13th century. In fact he’s appeared in his own film, “William Wallace: The True Story” (check out his website and was interviewed for a National Geographic TV special discussing the similarities between Wallace and another hero with legendary/mythic trappings, Aragorn, Son of Arathorn from “The Lord Of The Rings.”

Scottish actor and historian Jock Ferguson.

Scottish actor and historian Jock Ferguson.

Today, the marshy land of 700 years ago has been replaced by residences and paved streets. But from the walls of Stirling Castle you can see the meandering loops of the River Forth and see where the present day stone bridge crosses over onto the marshy land to the north. The original wooden bridge stood only a few yards upstream and it’s original footings and piers can still be seen. The harsh Scottish climate was not made to preserve battlefield armaments or remains of the slain. The 700 years had removed the physical traces of the battle, but the ghosts of the Scottish and English warriors still march their way into the imagination of the beholder.

But some times a filmmaker just can’t resist the temptation to embellish a page out of the history books. There’s no doubt that seeing Mel Gibson sprinting across that wide Irish plain in a wild Highland charge is exciting — and one soon forgets that no bridge appeared in “Braveheart’s“ battle of Stirling.

After all – a bridge would have just “got in the way.”

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1 Comment

  1. Edward I was the “Hammer of the Scots” – not the “Anvil” lol.