FolkWorld #55 11/2014
© Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For Freedom Alone

Statue of Robert the Bruce (by Pilkington Jackson, 1960)

Songs That Made History: While the world was commemorating the onset of the Great War of 1914-18, Scottish people were more concerned with the independence referendum and the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, where a Scottish army under Robert the Bruce sent Edward II and the English back home.

Battle of Bannockburn

The Battle of Bannockburn (Blàr Allt a' Bhonnaich in Scottish Gaelic) (24 June 1314) was a significant Scottish victory in the First War of Scottish Independence, and a landmark in Scottish history.

Stirling Castle, a Scots royal fortress, occupied by the English, was under siege by the Scottish army. Edward II of England assembled a formidable force to relieve it. This attempt failed, and his army was defeated in a pitched battle by a smaller army commanded by Robert I of Scotland.


The Wars of Scottish Independence between England and Scotland began in 1296 and initially the English were successful, having won victories at the Battle of Dunbar (1296) and at the Capture of Berwick (1296). The removal of John Balliol from the Scottish throne also contributed to the English success. The Scots had been victorious in defeating the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, however this was countered by Edward I of England's victory at the Battle of Falkirk (1298). By 1304 Scotland had been conquered, but in 1306 Robert the Bruce seized the Scottish throne and the war was reopened.

Edward II of England came to the throne in 1307 but was incapable of providing the determined leadership that had been shown by his father, Edward I, and the English position soon became more difficult. Stirling Castle was one of the most important castles that was held by the English as it commanded the route north into the Scottish Highlands. It was besieged in 1314 by Robert the Bruce's brother, Edward Bruce, and an agreement was made that if the castle was not relieved by mid-summer then it would be surrendered to the Scots. English could not ignore this challenge and military preparations were made for a substantial campaign in which the English army probably numbered 2,000 cavalry and 15,000 infantry, many of whom would have been longbowmen. The Scottish army probably numbered between 7,000 and 10,000 men, of whom no more than 500 would have been mounted. Unlike the heavily armoured English cavalry, the Scottish cavalry would have been light horsemen who were good for skirmishing and reconnaissance but were not suitable for charging the enemy lines. The Scottish infantry would have had axes, swords and pikes, with few bowmen among them.

The precise size of the English force relative to the Scottish forces is unclear but estimates range from as much as at least two or three times the size of the army Bruce had been able to gather, to as little as only 50% larger.


For Freedom Alone - The Wars Of Independence In the Wars & Battles series from the Scottish Greentrax label [46], the 2008 "Far, Far From Ypres" album commemorated the Great War of 1914-18. For the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, Greentrax has been re-launching this critically acclaimed CD. 2014 is also the year of the Scottish Referendum and the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Thus the 5th release in this series after tributes to the battles of Flodden [52] and Prestonpans [43] and the Spanish Civil War [49] is a collection of 16 songs related to this important historical event, the period of the Scottish Wars of Independence and the exploits of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce: traditional fare, Burns [38] and Tannahill [42] sung by the likes of The McCalmans [41], Sylvia Barnes [34] and Ian Bruce [54]; of course Roy Williamson's (Corries) "Flower of Scotland", and new songs from Robin Laing [45] and Alex Hodgson [55]. Hugh McMillan's witty poem based on the legend of Robert the Bruce and the spider is read by radio presenter Iain Anderson; the title For Freedom Alone is taken from the Declaration of Arbroath, Scotlands Declaration of Independance of 1320, part of which is also read by Anderson. Two bonus tracks lead into the present, Alasdair Fraser's [53] "Referendum" and Dick Gaughan's [40] Let friendship and honour unite, and flourish on both sides the Tweed to redress any perceived imbalance. [Walkin' Tom]

Various Artists, For Freedom Alone - The Wars Of Independence. Greentrax Recordings, 2014.

Edward II and his advisors were aware of the places that the Scots were likely to challenge them and sent out orders for their troops to prepare for an enemy established in boggy ground near to the River Forth, near Stirling. The English appear to have advanced in four divisions whereas the Scots were in three divisions, known as 'schiltrons' which were strong defensive circles of men bristling with pikes. Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, commanded the Scottish vanguard, which was stationed about a mile to the south of Stirling, near the church of St. Ninian, while the king commanded the rearguard at the entrance to the New Park. His brother Edward led the third division. According to Barbour, there was a fourth division nominally under the youthful Walter the Steward, but actually under the command of Sir James Douglas. The Scottish archers used yew-stave longbows and though these were not weaker or inferior to English longbows, there were fewer Scottish archers than English archers, possibly numbering only 500. These archers played little part in the battle. There is first hand evidence from the captured Carmelite friar, Robert Baston in his poem, written just after the battle, that one or both sides employed slingers and crossbowmen.

Location of the battlefield

There is some confusion over the exact site of the Battle of Bannockburn, although most modern historians agree that the traditional site, where a visitor centre and statue have been erected, is not the correct one. Although a large number of possible alternatives have been proposed, most can be dismissed leaving two serious contenders:

First day of battle

Most medieval battles were short-lived, lasting only a few hours, therefore the Battle of Bannockburn is unusual in that it lasted for two days. On 23 June 1314 two of the English cavalry formations advanced, the first commanded by the Earl of Gloucester and the Earl of Hereford. They encountered a body of Scots, among them Robert the Bruce himself. A celebrated single combat then took place between Bruce and Henry de Bohun who was the nephew of the Earl of Hereford. Bohun charged at Bruce and when the two passed side by side, Bruce split Bohun's head with his axe. The Scots then rushed upon the English under Gloucester and Hereford who struggled back over the Bannockburn. The second English cavalry force was commanded by Robert Clifford. They advanced on the flank of the Scots, coming up against the schiltrom that was commanded by Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray but the English withdrew in confusion, unable to break the Scottish formation.

Second day of battle

Under nightfall the English forces crossed the stream that is known as the Bannock Burn, establishing their position on the plain beyond it. A Scottish knight, Alexander Seton, who was fighting in the service of Edward II of England, deserted the English camp and told Bruce of the low English morale, encouraging Bruce to attack them. In the morning the Scots then advanced from New Park. The English archers should have been able to counter this advance but they were neutralized by a Scottish cavalry charge led by Sir Robert Keith. The English responded to the Scots advance with a charge of their own, led by the Earl of Gloucester. Gloucester had argued with the Earl of Hereford over who should lead the vanguard into battle, and argued with the king that the battle should be postponed. This led the king to accuse him of cowardice, which perhaps goaded Gloucester into the charge. Few accompanied Gloucester in his charge and when he reached the Scottish lines he was quickly surrounded and killed. Gradually the English were pushed back and ground down by the Scots' schiltrons. An attempt to employ the English and Welsh longbowmen to shoot at the advancing Scots from their flank failed when they were dispersed by the Scottish 500-horse light cavalry under the Marischal Sir Robert Keith The English cavalry was hemmed in making it difficult for them to maneuver. As a result the English were unable to hold their formations and broke ranks. It soon became clear that the English had lost and Edward II needed to be led to safety. However one of Edward's knights, Giles de Argentine, declared that he was not accustomed to flee and made one final charge on the Scots, only to die on their spears.

English retreat

Edward fled with his personal bodyguard, ending the remaining order in the army; panic spread and defeat turned into a rout. He arrived eventually at Dunbar Castle, from which he took ship to England. From the carnage of Bannockburn, the rest of the army tried to escape to the safety of the English border, ninety miles to the south. Many were killed by the pursuing Scottish army or by the inhabitants of the countryside that they passed through. Historian Peter Reese says that, "only one sizeable group of men—all footsoldiers—made good their escape to England." These were a force of Welsh spearmen who were kept together by their commander, Sir Maurice de Berkeley, and the majority of them reached Carlisle. Weighing up the available evidence, Reese concludes that "it seems doubtful if even a third of the footsoldiers returned to England." Out of 16,000 infantrymen, this would give a total of about 11,000 killed. The English chronicler Thomas Walsingham gave the number of English men-at-arms who were killed as 700, while 500 more men-at-arms were spared for ransom. The Scottish losses appear to have been comparatively light, with only two knights among those killed.


The defeat of the English opened up the north of England to Scottish raids and allowed the Scottish invasion in Ireland. These finally led, after the failure of the Declaration of Arbroath to reach this end by diplomatic means, to the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton. It was not until 1332 that the Second War of Scottish Independence began with the Battle of Dupplin Moor, followed by the Battle of Halidon Hill (1333) which were won by the English.

Bannockburn Heritage Centre

External links

In 1932 the Bannockburn Preservation Committee, under Edward Bruce, 10th Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, presented lands to the National Trust for Scotland. Further lands were purchased in 1960 and 1965 to facilitate visitor access. A modern monument stands in a field above the battle site, where the warring parties are believed to have camped on the night before the battle. The monument consists of two hemicircular walls depicting the opposing parties. Nearby stands the 1960s statue of Bruce by Pilkington Jackson. The monument, and the associated visitor centre, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. The battlefield has been included in the Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Scotland and protected by Historic Scotland under the Historic Environment (Amendment) Act 2011.

The National Trust for Scotland operates the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, which is open daily from March through October. On 31 October 2012 the building was closed for demolition and replacement by a new design, inspired by traditional Scottish buildings, by Reiach and Hall Architects. The project is a partnership between the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund.


"Scots Wha Hae" is the title of a patriotic poem by Robert Burns. The chorus of Scotland's unofficial national anthem Flower of Scotland refers to Scotland's victory over Edward and the English at Bannockburn.


    Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,
    Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
    Welcome tae yer gory bed,
    Or tae victorie.

    Now's the day, an now's the hour:
    See the front o battle lour,
    See approach proud Edward's power -    
    Chains and Slaverie.

    Wha will be a traitor knave?
    Wha will fill a coward's grave?
    Wha sae base as be a slave?
    Let him turn an flee.

    Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
    Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
    Freeman stand, or Freeman fa,
    Let him on wi me.

    By Oppression's woes and pains,
    By your sons in servile chains!
    We will drain our dearest veins,
    But they shall be free.

    Lay the proud usurpers low,
    Tyrants fall in every foe,
    Liberty's in every blow! -
    Let us do or dee. 

 Watch Scots Wha Hae from:
    The Corries, Kirsten Easdale,
    Dick Gaughan, Scocha

Scots Wha Hae

Scots Wha Hae (English: Scots, Who Have; Scottish Gaelic: Brosnachadh Bhruis) is a patriotic song of Scotland written in the Scots language which served for centuries as an unofficial national anthem of the country, but has lately been largely supplanted by Scotland the Brave and Flower of Scotland.

Robert Burns

Robert Burns @ FW:
FW#36, #38, #39, #39, #40

The lyrics were written by Robert Burns in 1793, in the form of a speech given by Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Scotland maintained its sovereignty from the Kingdom of England. Although the lyrics are by Burns, he wrote them to the traditional Scottish tune 'Hey Tuttie Tatie' which, according to tradition, was played by Bruce's army at the Battle of Bannockburn, and by the Franco-Scots army at the Siege of Orleans.

The tune tends to be played as a slow air, but certain arrangements put it at a faster tempo, as in the Scottish Fantasy by Max Bruch, the concert overture Rob Roy by Hector Berlioz, and the Real McKenzies' punk rock rendition on their 1998 album Clash of the Tartans.

The song was sent by Burns to his publisher George Thomson, at the end of August 1793, with the title Robert Bruce's March To Bannockburn, and a postscript saying that he had been inspired by Bruce's 'glorious struggle for Freedom, associated with the glowing ideas of some other struggles of the same nature, not quite so ancient.' This is seen as a covert reference to the Radical movement, and particularly to the trial of the Glasgow lawyer Thomas Muir of Huntershill, whose trial began on 30 August 1793 as part of a British government crackdown, after the French Revolutionary Wars led to France declaring war on the Kingdom of Great Britain on 1 February 1793.

Muir was accused of sedition for allegedly inciting the Scottish people to oppose the government during the December 1792 convention of the Scottish 'Friends of the People' society, and was eventually sentenced to fourteen years transportation to the convict settlement at Botany Bay, Australia.

Burns was aware that if he declared his Republican and Radical sympathies openly he could suffer the same fate. It is notable that when Burns agreed to let the Morning Chronicle, of 8 May 1794, publish the song, it was on the basis of 'let them insert it as a thing they have met with by accident, and unknown to me.'

The song was included in the 1799 edition of A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice, edited by George Thomson, but Thomson preferred the tune "Lewie Gordon" and had Burns add to the fourth line of each stanza, to suit. In the 1802 edition, the original words and tune were restored.

"Scots Wha Hae" is the party song of the Scottish National Party. It is sung at the close of their annual national conference each year.


    Oh Flower of Scotland
    When will we see
    Your like again,
    That fought and died for
    Your wee bit Hill and Glen
    And stood against him
    Proud Edward's Army,
    And sent him homeward
    Tae think again.

    The Hills are bare now
    And Autumn leaves lie thick and still
    O'er land that is lost now
    Which those so dearly held
    That stood against him
    Proud Edward's Army
    And sent him homeward
    Tae think again.

    Those days are past now
    And in the past they must remain
    But we can still rise now
    And be the nation again
    That stood against him
    Proud Edward's Army
    And sent him homeward,
    Tae think again.

 Watch Flower of Scotland from:
     The Corries, Julie Fowlis, Amy

Flower of Scotland

Flower of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Flùr na h-Alba, Scots: Flouer o Scotland) is a Scottish song, used frequently at special occasions and sporting events. Although there is no official national anthem of Scotland, Flower of Scotland is one of a number of songs which unofficially fulfil this role, along with the older Scots Wha Hae, Scotland the Brave and the more recent Highland Cathedral. It was written by Roy Williamson of the folk group The Corries, and presented in 1967, and refers to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, over England's Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The Corries
Artist Video

The song has been used as a National Anthem by the Scotland national rugby union team, ever since the winger, Billy Steele, encouraged his team-mates to sing it on the victorious Lions tour of South Africa in 1974. The song was adopted as the pre-game anthem during the deciding match of the 1990 Five Nations Championship between Scotland and England, which Scotland won 13–7 to win the Grand Slam. The Scottish Football Association adopted "Flower of Scotland" as its pre-game national anthem in 1997 although it was first used by them in 1993. Usually only the first and third verses are sung.

The song was used as the victory anthem of Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 replacing Scotland the Brave. This trend continued to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where it was again Team Scotland's anthem and was sung following a Scottish first place. (notably it was sung 4 times when Team Scotland won 4 gold medals in the opening day).

The tune was originally composed on the Northumbrian smallpipes, which play in D and have the benefit of keys on the chanter to achieve a greater range of notes.

Ewan McGregor performed the song in Magadan in 2004 for the filming of the TV show Long Way Round.

In July 2006, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted an online poll (publicised by Reporting Scotland) in which voters could choose a national anthem from one of five candidates. 10,000 people took part in the poll in which Flower of Scotland came out the winner. The results were as follows:

Charlie Allan (Saor Patrol)

Artist Video Saor Patrol @ FolkWorld:
FW#43, #49, #49,


Artist Video
BBC 2 - The Quest For Bannockburn (ft. Saor Patrol's Charlie Allan)

Artist Video
Discovery Knowledge - Great Battles - Bannockburn 1314

Artist Video
Bannockburn 2014 - The Battle Re-Enactment

Artist Video
Movie "The Bruce" (1996)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [,,]. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Date: September 2014.

Photo Credits: (1) Statue of Robert the Bruce near the Bannockburn Heritage Centre (Pilkington Jackson, 1964), (2) Battle of Bannockburn (Scotichronicon, c.1440), (3) Various Artists: For Freedom Alone - The Wars of Independence, (4) English depiction of a Biblical battle, early 1300s, (5) Robert Burns, (6) Scots Wha Hae, (7) The Corries, (8) Flower of Scotland, (9) Charlie Allan (Saor Patrol) (unknown/from websites).

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