In Mid May, the Battle of Bannockburn Chess Set paid a visit to the Elderslie Village Hall, Renfrewshire, the birth town of Scottish hero, Sir William Wallace and the home of the Society of William Wallace.
This was no ordinary visit, as everyone present got the opportunity not only to see the magnificent set close-up but to enjoy handling the impressive hand cast chess pieces.
John Morgan of Stirling 1314, makers of the set, presented the story to an enthusiastic audience and revealed the reason Sir William Wallace graces the set as one of the knights. John explained that, although Wallace died eleven years before Bannockburn, had it not been for his example and final influence on the much younger Robert the Bruce, the history of Scotland would have been written quite differently.
Bruce and his brothers were frequent guests in the Court of Edward Longshanks and Bruce was reticent to see the bad in the English monarch and slow to react to his increasing tyranny. Even when he finally decided Edward had gone too far, his concern about Scotland making an enemy of such a powerful neighbour, initially made him cautious and slow to action.
Wallace, on the other hand, had no truck with the abusers of his nation and considered fighting to be a more effective response than talking. As history shows, they were both right and Bruce it was who finally managed to weld together a hugely disparate collection of clans and lords and lead the Scots onto the field at Bannockburn – and to victory.
The first edition of the Bannockburn Chess Set was named for Scottish Historic novelist, Nigel Tranter, with whom John worked for almost 18 months in deciding the players, designing the figures and creating the castings that make the set totally unique. Between them they agreed that, without William Wallace, there may never have been a ‘Bannockburn’ and Scotland’s future would have been deeply uncertain. It was, therefore, wholly appropriate the Sir William Wallace was one of two Scottish Knights on that playing board particularly as the Scottish king used his name as a battle cry – as recorded in the words of another Scottish icon, Robert Burns:
‘Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled, Scots, wham Bruce has aften led, Welcome tae yer gory bed, Or tae victorie.”
At the end of the presentation there were plenty of questions for John from Society members.
And that very chess set – number 15 of a 500 limited edition – is now the star prize in the Society raffle.
Treasurer, Lesly Mathews said,” I thoroughly enjoyed the story of how the chess set came about and the set itself is a thing of beauty – truly breath-taking.”
Gary Stewart, Convenor of the Society of William Wallace, added, “the Chess set is outstanding – a total work of art”