GILLIES HILL 24-06-2007

I turned up with several other members of Crann Tara to take part in the march and rally for the campaign to save Gillies Hill near Bannockburn from the ravages of the planned quarry. Gillies Hill is famed for being the base for the "Sma' Folk" who were to play such a pivotal part on that fateful day in 1314.

I suppose many assume that the Sma' Folk were the camp followers and cooks and farriers and the like that followed any medieval army, but King Robert the Bruce had been training his army to move in formation carrying their long spears for many weeks, and any good fighting men who had arrived too late for that vital training would have been sent to the vantage point of Gillies Hill too. ( Gillies Hill actually takes its name from it being the site of the gathering of these people, as "gillies" is a corruption of the Gaelic word for young men)  It seems astonishing that a place with such a close connection with what is probably the most important event in Scottish history should be under threat.

Turning up at the gathering place at the village of Cambusbarron, i was surprised at the amount of people milling about.

The march set off uphill, to go over a shoulder of Gillies Hill en route to the Bannockburn Heritage Centre. There were several hundred people on this walk, and with flags flying it was an impressive sight.

We cut across fields and woodland, following the footsteps of the Sma' Folk as they came down from Gillies Hill to join their comrades in battle.

On the day they had watched the masses of spearmen holding the English at bay from their hilltop position, and unable to just stand and idly watch they had formed banners from sheets and blankets and had come down to join the fray.

To the English it must have looked like a fresh force of trained Scots were coming to join the fight, and this helped them to make up their minds that the day was lost and their front line began to waver and break.

We came up to the position of the Scots divisions before battle commenced, at the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, where a re-enactment of medieval warfare was taking place. It seems that the campaign to save the hill was more important to local people, as it looked as if there was twice as many on the march as there were spectators at what was billed as a huge event. The march terminated at the King Robert Hotel, where speeches were made by the MSP Bruce Crawford, who gave a stirring speech where he vowed to try and help overturn the decision to allow quarrying, and he was followed by David R. Ross, the Scots author and historian, who spoke passionately about Gillies Hill and its historical significance.

All in all a good day, and an interesting walk where one could view the battlefield from a different perspective.

We can only hope that there will be a knock on effect from the hard work put in on the day. Certainly there were TV cameras present, and the campaign should be brought to a wider audience. One that will realise that a vital part of Scotland's heritage is under threat.

By David R Ross



A Hope Not Abandoned

Way back in the very early stages of the Save Gillies Hill Campaign, when shock and dismay tempered every deed, I wrote a letter to the Observer admitting that I had little hope to offer my six year old son against the destruction of our special wee place.

How utterly wrong I was.

Hope was, and never has been, abandoned by the folk of Cambusbarron when it comes to saving Gillies Hill.

It was strongly tangible in the air as the 400 strong crowd gathered in the King Edward V park on Sunday to begin our March of Protest and our own tribute to the gillies who charged the battlefield at Bannockburn in 1314, and gave our hill it's name. It was visible on every face, in every swing of a kilt, wave of a saltire and skirl of the pipes. It literally burst along the street in a blaze of colour and pride. A whole community with one determined purpose at heart � to Save Gillies Hill.

No torrential downpour or prospect of knee deep mud dampened the enthusiasm as the March progressed along its route. Through wood and field, across road and bridge we trooped, and when Bannockburn eventually came into view a stirring of excitement rippled down the ranks. This was it. This was where we made our voices heard and a 700 year old echo seemed to urge us on. There was a sense of brotherhood and the reckless abandon that comes when faced with a seemingly insurmountable foe. In fact it was most likely akin to the very same emotions that the original gillies felt on the day in 1314. I glanced up at the battle re-enactment taking place high atop the hill and could swear I saw Robert the Bruce pause, look down from his horse, and salute us all. I defy anyone who would say that they didn't want to hurl themselves towards the battlefield, a roar of protest escaping their throats.

Instead we were piped down the last few yards amidst friendly waves and shouts of support and encouragement from those that had been drawn closer by the sight and the sounds. In the sheltered gardens of the King Robert Hotel we amassed, damp but jubilant. David Ross, Historian and Convenor of The Wallace Society, who had marched with us in welcome support, summed up the atmosphere, reminding everyone of the importance of our shared history and the need to preserve it. He recounted that, � the blood that was spilled on this field ( Bannockburn ) is here today in each in everyone of us. In 1314 they fought for the freedom of Scotlands generations yet unborn. Today we fight for their memory.�

It was a stirring reminder that our history isn't sat on a bookshelf somewhere all dusty, dull and dry, but rather it is about us, �the sma folk', and the steady rhythm of memory that beats unbroken down a hundred generations. That is why this fight is so important and why hope never shall be abandoned.

By the Organisers


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