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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - February/March 2004
Did the Wallace vs the MacDougalls and MacFadyens Battle at the Pass of Awe really take place?

Noel Fojut,
Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Historic Scotland

Did the Wallace versus the MacDougalls and MacFadyens Battle at the Pass of Awe really take place?
I think the answer has to be 'no'.

Wallace's movements post-Falkirk are shadowy, but 1300 seems impossible. So far as we know, Wallace left Scotland in, or shortly after, August 1299. He travelled, possibly via Orkney or somewhere within the territories of King Haakon of Norway to France. He was in France in the autumn of 1299, when a letter from Edward asks Philip IV to retain Wallace there. On November 7, 1300, Philip wrote to his representatives at the court of Pope Boniface, instructing them to assist 'our beloved William le Walois of Scotland knight' on the visit he was about to make to Rome. It seems unlikely that Wallace had returned to Scotland then gone back to France, so this calls into question whether he was in Scotland at any time during the year 1300.

Was the Pass of Awe battle in some year other than 1300? There is no historical context for Wallace engaging in significant military action before May 1297. From that date until he resigned the Guardianship of Scotland after Falkirk, at an unknown date between July and December 1298, he was fully engaged in the campaigns leading to the set-piece battles at Stirling Bridge and Falkirk. After Falkirk, he engaged in guerrilla action, including possibly the burning of Stirling and Perth. After his resignation of the Guardianship, he would not have had the authority implied by the account of the Lock Awe battle.

Wallace appears to have returned to Scotland in late 1302 or early 1303. His subsequent guerilla actions, with limited forces based in the Forest of Selkirk, are recorded only in the Borders, with a single larger raid in 1303 (jointly with Comyn and Fraser) into Cumberland. There is no record of his involvement in the falsely cheering victory at Roslin in February 1303. Wallace was not with Comyn's party when they surrendered to Edward near Perth in February 1304, and with Edward in full control of Perth from July 1303 or earlier, the idea of Wallace moving north to fight an action at Loch Awe seems unlikely in the extreme. In August 1305, he was betrayed and captured.

So the 'window' for any Wallace action at Pass of Awe is impossibly tight, with late 1298 as the only possible date, but even that seems unlikely in the extreme.

With all due deference to oral tradition, I would suggest that the 1300 account is spurious. It seems as if the battle of the Pass of Brander between Bruce and the MacDougalls, in late summer 1308, which all are reasonably sure did indeed take place, has been poetically but erroneously transformed into an exploit in Wallace's 'wilderness years'.

Our appreciation to West Highland Notes & Queries, November 2003, published by The Society of West Highland and Island Historical Research, Breacachadh Castle, Isle of Coll, Argyll, PA78 6TB, Scotland.

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