Bannockburn

Dunblane Primary School 1977 : The Boy sat bored at the back of the class. It was too hot in the classhut, a prefab unit for the Primary 5s. He remembered when they once had class in the school field. They had sat on the grass in the shade of the trees. That was fun. He’d liked that teacher.

One day, she wore a yellow and red top and he had called her Mrs Partick Thistle. She had laughed at that. But that was Primary 2. Today, in Primary 5, his teacher was strict. She’d given all of the boys the belt for spitting (in ’77 the punk era had taken Dunblane by storm).

Today it was poetry. Boring he thought. Why couldn’t they just play rounders in the field ? (it was almost the summer holidays anyway). Last week they had a lesson on the wars of independence now that was cool. Not as cool as dinosaurs mind you. He pictured a T Rex running across the school field, his classmates running away screaming. He had decided long ago that in this situation the best place was the bike sheds. No way could a T Rex get you if you hid at the back of the bike sheds. They had these stupid wee arms you see.

The teacher was reading the poem to the classroom. He looked out the window at the blue skies and drifted away, 663 years away to be precise….

On a warm summers evening in 1314, The Boy was filling the pail above the ford when he first noticed them. Across the river he could see hundreds of men streaming down the Braeport and past the Dunblane Cathedral. There were horses too, and ponies pulling carts. He watched with astonishment as they gathered at the The Cross, then he turned and ran home, spilling water from his pail as he went.

His father was emerging from their stone house. He hushed The Boy and, staring at the scene, muttered almost to himself ‘chan ann a-rithist’ – not again !

17 years earlier the clans had come from the north to fight the English at Stirling Bridge and again the following year to fight at Falkirk. After Falkirk, not many had returned north to their homelands. Grimly nodding, his father ducked back into the house. In the half-light of the blackhouse, he found his sgian dhu and felt better. He would retrieve his sword from the thatched roof in the morning.

The English were sending a huge army to crush the Scots, he’d heard. They had already been in Dunblane ten years before: the soldiers had stolen the lead from the cathedral roof to provide ammunition for their siege engines. They had taken Stirling Castle shortly after.

That night The Boy watched as the Highlanders sat around camp fires, laughter and songs drifting across the river. The men had set camp on the drying green below the Bishops Palace. As he watched, a bearded man walked down to the river directly across from him and stood, urinating. The Boy turned and ran, the mans laughter in his ears.

On the morning of 23 June 1314, the Highlanders forded the river heading south to Stirling, a seemingly endless line of wild looking men, following carts loaded with long wooden spears and pulled by ponies. The mood was sombre. The Boy watched as they headed along the ancient drove road, he watched until he couldn’t see them anymore and he wondered if his Father would ever return.

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