Wallace and Bruce are the two most famous names in the War for Scottish Independence in the 13/14th Centuries. Both these heroes were, by decent, from incomers to Scotland, the Wallace family tracing their origins from Wales and Bruce being from Norman ancestry, yet there are no other people so intimately identified with the liberation of Scotland from the English.
William Wallace was descended from a family that settled in Ayrshire in the 12th century. Richard de Waleys obtained the lands of Richartoun (now Riccarton) in about 1165. By a century later in 1260 Malcolm Wallace, younger, son of the Laird of Riccarton, inherited the lands of Elderslie, in Renfrewshire, and married Margaret Craufurd, daughter of a knight of Corsbie, and niece of the Sheriff of Ayr . Their son was the famous William Wallace. He was born about 1270 and initially he was destined for a life in the church. His education was begun by his uncle the priest of Dunnipace, his mother’s brother, who is said to have taught the boy the love of liberty and the hatred of oppression.
From Dunnipace the young William Wallace was sent to Dundee to complete his education at the school there, then under the charge of William Mydford, the Vicar of Dundee, who was also an ardent champion of civil and ecclesiastical liberty. While Wallace was a student, in his late teens, an event took place in Dundee which would shape his future life. This story is one of the legends of Dundee. “One day when Wallace was in the ‘place of sport’ – maybe the ‘playfield’ which was situated near the West Port - ‘Young Selby’, son of the English Governor, or Constable of the Castle and Town of Dundee – spoke rudely to him and insulted Wallace, declaring that his low rank in life did not entitle him to carry a dagger. Enraged by Selby’s insults Wallace drew his dagger and stabbed him to death.
Wallace fled through the West Port by Hawkhill, then by the main road to Perth intending to refuge with his uncle at Kilspindie in the Carse of Gowrie. The English soldiers pursued Wallace. Wallace when he reached Longforgan sat down on a stone grinding mill at the door of a cottar. The Cottar’s wife took him indoors, disguised him in one of her own robes and set him down to spin, when the English soldiers reached Longforgan they did not recognise him and went away. That night the crofter, smith, led Wallace to Kilspindie. The grinding stone was preserved by Smith’s descendents for nearly six hundred years. It was given to Colonel Paterson of Castle Huntly in 1862. This stone is now in the Albert Institute (McManus Galleries.)
After remaining some days at Kilspindie, Wallace went on a pilgrimage with his mother to Dunfermline , and thereafter to Dunnipace. He thought he could find safety with his uncle, Sir Reginald Craufurd, Sheriff of Ayrshire, at Corsbie, but Craufurd had sworn allegiance to the English King, Edward I., and did not dare protect his nephew. Wallace made his way to Riccarton, his father’s brother, Sir Richard Wallace, could not afford him asylum in his house and Wallace had to hide out in a bothy on the estate
Wallace was now a marked man, an outlaw, whose life was at the disposal of every one. About May, 1207, he began to gather around him at Laighlyne those patriots who had refused to take the oath of allegiance to Edward; and here he formed the little hand of warriors that afterwards became the Scottish army. He began a series of depredations against the English and the Scotsmen who had submitted to the foreign yoke. He attacked the garrison at Ayr, crossed the boundary into Lanarkshire, and in an encounter at Lanark he slew Hesilrig the English Governor, Thiswas the beginning of the War of Independence. Wallace was soon joined by prominent leaders like Sir John the Graham and Sir William Douglas, and though his army was small by rapid marches he struck terror into the hearts of the enemy. Within a short: time he fought skirmishes and battles at Biggar, Faslane, Gargunnock, and Scone, attacking and capturing Kinclaven Castle, The English army in Strathearn rallied under Butler, gave battle, and disperse Wallace’s followers who took refuge at Elcho Park
When Edward I, found that his triumphal march through Scotland in 1296 was so swift he planned another expedition against the Scots, Robert the Bruce, then a knight in the service of England was sent to oppose Sir William Douglas, and was successful in the task. The warrior-Bishop of Durham, Anthony Beck, was despatched to Glasgow to capture Bishop Wishart,
Wallace, who had gathered his troops at Ayr, hastened to Glasgow and defeated Beck, forcing him to retire to England. Edward organised a powerful force which he placed under the command of the Earl of Surrey, intending to devastate Scotland. Edward also began to doubt the fidelity of the Scottish nobles, who had sworn fealty to him, and he suddenly changed his purpose, and ordered the ‘loyal’ Scottish Army to go to the War in Flanders. Some of the Scots refused and joined with the forces of Wallace at Irvine. There was some dissention as to the leadership of the patriotic army, a few of the nobles refused to serve under the lowly born Wallace and some returned to the English side. The prospects for the independence cause was not looking good and it was only through the personality and abilities of Wallace that kept it going. Wallace was not at Irvine, he had gone northwards from Glasgow after defeating Beck. From Perth he went to Coupar angus and billeted his army in the abbey and thereafter went to Forfar and captured the castle there. With some impressive speed Wallace captured Brechin Castle and then Dunotter Castle and marched triumphantly into Aberdeen, then on to Buchan and Cromarty.
Wallace then turned south to besieged the Castle of Dundee, there he heard about the advance of Surrey’s great army into Scotland. Wallace left Dundee and his army faced Surrey at Stirling where, in September 1297, he won the glorious Battle of Stirling Bridge and sent the English back home, ‘tae think again’.
Wallace, who was still under 30 years of age, was chosen ‘Guardian of Scotland’
The siege of the Castle of Dundee, started by Wallace, was completed by Sir Alexander Scrymgeour and when Wallace was became Guardian of Scotland he conferred upon Scrymgeour “six marks of land in the district of Dundee, viz., the land called the upper field near the town of Dundee on the north thereof, with those acres in the West Field which formerly belonged to the King, on the west of the Burgh, and also the royal meadow in the foresaid territory; together with the Constabulary of Dundee.” The charter also confirmed Alexander Scrymgeour and his descendants the right to carry the Royal Standard (a title still held by the present Scrymgeour-Wedderburn family, the Earl of Dundee.)