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A History of Rannoch

We have to go back far enough to see now William Wallace entered the pages of History.  In those pages we see that the early Scottish kings had their problems, problems that they inherited from their Celtic ancestors; they loved fighting and they lacked organisation.

They would fight either with external enemies or with themselves and so they were unable to achieve political cohesion either in peace or war.

It was the wars of Malcolm III, rightly called ‘Big Head’, who reigned 1057-1093, probably more than any other of his fellow rulers that caused the greatest disaster.  He, more than any other, caused the greatest rivalry in Scottish History, the rivalry with the ‘Auld Enemy’.  He, like his Celtic ancestors, loved war, and his nearest enemy was the English.  Five times he led armies to the North of that country.  However, in 1066 William the Norman was not to be trifled with.  When he had subdued Harold’s English at Hastings he marched north to do the same to Scotland.

This was the beginning of the wars between the Kings of England and Scotland which were to go on for many hundreds of years.  Eventually there arose a situation after the death of the Scottish King, Alexander III, when there was no ruler.  Edward I of England was asked to arbitrate and he chose a puppet king, Baliol, who proved so unsuccessful that Edward decided to rule Scotland directly.  This resulted in the occupation of Scotland by the English.  They were soon to be seen everywhere, so much so that their presence was felt to be an insult by many a Scotsman.  Rebellious muttering grew into rebellious actions.  In 1297 a mighty champion arose…William Wallace.  According to Blind Harry, the poet, he was brave, tall and strong with piercing eyes and fair head.

He gained some support but he was not known well enough to attract men immediately.  After he had killed the English Sheriff of Lanark his numbers grew. With his band of determined men he aged a guerilla campaign, swooping down from the hills and then retiring before resistance could be organised.

His first success was in Lorn where he came to the aid of the MacDougalls and MacDonalds who were being attacked by an Irish force organised by Edward I. His action there enabled him to find a welcome in Rannoch among the many MacDougalls here, and in Rannoch he spent some time.  His house, built of earth and turf, was close to the river and the place where it was is now called Sheomar na Stainge--the Ditch Hall.

In Rannoch he recruited more men and after they had been trained he renewed his guerilla skirmishes.  He had successes at Dunkeld and at Perth, both places being occupied by the enemy.  Finally, with quite a large army he marched on Dundee which was one of the largest towns in Scotland at that time.  It was so big that he had to employ siege tactics.  It was while he was preparing for this that he received news that a large English army was approaching northwards towards Stirling.  So without delay he marched his men to meet the English.

His great success at that battle is well-known, and he had many further successes.  However, he had not had to face Edward I in any of his previous battles, but on 22nd July, 1298 at Falkirk he was not match for the English king and his superior numbers and he was beaten but not disgraced.

After the battle the Rannoch men found their way back safely.  It is a pity Wallace did not come with them for then he would have been safe.  Instead he trusted himself to others and he was eventually betrayed.

Unlucky Wallace…a brave freedom fighter…an heroic figure and never a traitor.  But he suffered the fate of one, and the people of Rannoch, if ever they ventured to go to Perth in those troubled times, could see a fourth part of his body hanging in a gibbet there, for he was hanged, drawn and quartered, his head reserved for London Bridge, and his body divided between Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Perth.

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