The Wallace Monument is a tower on a hill in the middle of Scotland. It was built in 1869 to commemorate the victory of William Wallace (Mel Gibson) and his rag-tag army over the forces of English king Edward I at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. It was funded by public subscription, including a donation from Giuseppe Garibaldi (the guy who masterminded Italian Unification). Overall, it’s all about Scottish nationalism, which I find moderately uncomfortable.
I am British, and also English because I am from London, even though my heritage is mostly Scottish – of my eight great-grandparents, 3 are Scottish, 1 is Welsh, 2 are English and 2 are Irish. Walking up to the Wallace Monument, and seeing the Scottish flag outside, reminds me of a very strange conversation I had in India.
It was Indian Independence Day, which is 15 August, and the whole country was celebrating. There were parades and parties and themed club nights, which I was going to. An Indian guy asked me, ‘Why would you want to come?’ It seemed strange to him that I wouldn’t care, since Indian Independence Day is about independence from the British. However, I felt so detached from that element of history, of my history, that it wasn’t even a slight issue for me to celebrate Indian independence with my new friends.
The Battle of Stirling Bridge was a very long time ago. It was a time when Britain didn’t exist, and when every country that exists now was grappling with its neighbours for power and dominance. It’s not unusual, and it shouldn’t be a problem, for countries that are now united to have been separate and violent towards each other, all that time ago.
I want to see William Wallace, Andrew Moray, and their army of farmers as British heroes, who stood up against the tyranny of an uncaring and unworthy ruler. I want to see them in the same way that I see Wat Tyler, who led the Peasant’s Revolt against Richard II in 1381, or Robin Hood.
But then I walk up the hill, and I see the Saltire flying outside the Wallace Monument, and I feel really angry.
Life is weird.
On a tourism note, it’s a great day out! We didn’t go into the monument because it was £10 each which seemed too much, but apparently there’s lot of museum stuff and artefacts. The views from the bottom of the tower are nice enough, and the detail on the tower itself is really unusual. I wouldn’t recommend using the talking telescope though – I couldn’t see a damn thing.
Shout out to one of my favourite singers/composers, who caused most of my childish political opinions: Frank, this one’s for you.