Commemorating the Day After.
Today, the 23rd of July, was a day of national reckoning for our ancestors in 1298. For this was the day after Wallace’s Scottish Commons Army* suffered a defeat by their national enemy at the Battle of Falkirk on the 22nd July. The English, led by their great king, Edward 1, the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ himself, utilised for the first time the irresistible tactical combination of massed archers (the arrow storm*) followed by an armoured cavalry charge, then infantry to finish off survivors; it was a set-piece battle we had little chance of winning anyway. The scale of this defeat is hard to know, for then, as now, both sides had an interest in spinning the result for advantage, but regardless it was still a solid defeat. Any Scots who did not escape were not offered the option of surrender; no POWs in the 13th century! After the triumph at the Battle of Stirling Bridge the year before, this defeat could have been psychologically crushing and politically breaking.
But it wasn’t. Our ancestors picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and started all over again. And this is why I am writing commemorating this, rather than the battle, which I am happy for our English cousins to celebrate if they wish.
Although the examination of this episode makes fascinating history, it is not my intention to do this here, but just to salute the fortitude of our ancestors on this date in holding fast to their identity and independence, as Scots – for this is how they referred to themselves. Without this belief, which they proved to be true in the profoundest sense, I would not have written this, nor you read it.
And I do this too as a reference to the political and cultural chaos that is encroaching ever nearer to our wee corner, with a reminder that we have in our heritage that stuff which will enable us to ride it out and see it off. We need to remind ourselves of this, as no-one else does.
Dae richt. Fear nocht.
* The commons army, so named because its command and structure was not dependent on the compromised Scotch nobility and their retinues. In other words, it was the common us!
* This was no hyperbole. Just doing the simple maths for a comfortable rate of longbow shooting with the probable number of archers easily yields over 100,000 arrows, and it could have been double that! Add the slingshot and crossbow bolts to this banquet of aerial death, and note that most Scotch soldiers were, at best, lightly armoured. The effect of this arrow storm on the packed ranks of Scotch infantry would hardly be less than that of machine guns.
[My Wallace bio covers this topic should you be interested in exploring it further. ]
This is a repost from last year, given the date and the nature of the topic this seems an apt thing to do.