Thank Yous and Shout Outs

Molly and I would not be able to deliver the tours without a great deal of support from family and friends across the years. First thank you goes to our best friend Kim Hughes or as Molly calls her Mum Thank you for supporting our passion and all the detours to historical sites on days out. 
Leaving the Edinburgh Marathon to return to Youthwork

Freedom Tour Today was first discussed on ’Mad Friday’. For those who don’t know, Mad Friday is the last Friday before Christmas. Traditionally, workers finish up and go for a pint with their friends. I am no different, I have over the years enjoyed a gallon of Guinness on Mad Friday. These days I give a day back to my favourite pub in Stirling, Molly Malones and collect glasses to help out friends behind the bar.

This particular Mad Friday in 2018 kicked off with a 6.30 am game of tennis with my friend Neil, a friend of 30 years and Director at the Edinburgh Marathon. Neil asked what my thoughts were about going back to Youth Work and asked: “What could you do until you find your ideal job?” I thought of half a dozen random things. Only one of the ideas did I have any real passion for and expected laughter as a response.

I explained that at Bannockburn, many visitors only spend around 10 minutes at the Battlefield before jumping in their car and heading out of the village. Where was the warm welcome, the hug and the thank you?  I said, surely our visitors from around the World and those that died here deserved more than 10 minutes?

Neil replied: “Genius! Where else can you do a tour?” Stirling Bridge I replied. Freedom Tour Today was born that day. I now combine my walking tours with working with care experienced young people. I have found my two dream jobs.

So the first thank you is to Neil, and to all my friends and colleagues at GSi Events who taught me the importance of never accepting the status quo and of having Welcome Teams at Events. Thank you for your support to take this first brave step and to Sandra, Freya and Simon for signing up under fake names for my first tour on 24th February 2019. Shout out to Annette for assisting with Instagram, Tripadvisor, Website … all the stuff that I had no idea about! Other friends who have helped out inkind and with practical support include:

Scott McGill – photo shoot and guinea pig for script development at Bannockburn.
Joe Smith – guinea pig for script development and a few stories from back in the day.
Ted Christopher – without Ted’s friendship, music and commitement to the Commemorations on Bannockburn Day & Stirling Bridge, we would never have dreamt of setting up Freedom Tour Today.
James Bayne – for his local knowledge and willingness to share stories and locations of key spots where he finds buried treasures from the Battlefield. 
All of you who have passed on their good wishes, shared posts on Facebook (thanks Mum), liked posts on Instagram and those who have been on the tours who have posted a review on Tripadvisor. Thank you

MacDuff of Fife

I grew in East Wemyss in Fife. The Wemyss is an Ex-Mining & Weaving Community and is famous for the Wemyss Caves, Jimmy Shand and is home to MacDuff Castle. As a child, I played in the castle ruins, ate from the plum trees and slid down a made up ’helter skelter’ through the trees down to the caves below. 

The MacDuff Clan were the foremost Clan in Fife. The Earl of Fife the foremost Earl in Scotland. Clan MacDuff had the hereditary right to crown the King of Scot’s. MacDuff of Fife fought and died at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 along side fellow leaders William Wallace, Sir John De Graeme and John Stewart of Bonkyll.

A sept of the Clan MacDuff, the Scrymgeours were confirmed banner bearers by William Wallace and Parliament on 29 March 1298. Scrymgeour was named as Alexander, son of Colyn, son of Cairn and he was the first person to declare for Robert the Bruce. Scrymgeour obtained a charter from Bruce confirming the rights that had previously been granted to him by Wallace.

This is the only surviving contemporary document where Bruce and Wallace are named together. However Sir Alexander Scrymgeour was later captured by the English and hanged at Newcastle upon the direct orders of Edward I of England in 1306. He was succeeded by another Alexander Scrymgeour who in 1314 rode as the royal banner bearer at the Battle of Bannockburn.

None of this was taught in School. Imagine all this history on our doorstep and learning about the vikings, the romans, King Harold and Waterloo? I turned 50 before I discovered that a young woman who would have lived part of her life in my home village, changed the course of Scottish history. The courageous Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan, crowned our greatest King Robert the Bruce and paid a heavy price for her patriotism.

I was fortunate to grow up in a loving family. My parents, family, friends and a youth club called the SSC instilled a sense of community that I hold dear. The youth club motto is Teneo et Teneor / I Hold and I am Held. The motto could have easily been born at Bannockburn 700 years ago. The Club aim has changed over the years. One section that was deleted over 30 years ago … “for themselves and for the World” is something I hold dear.

It will come of no surprise, given the name Freedom Tour Today, that I want Scotland to become an Independent country not just for ourselves, but for the World ♥ Scotland has done so much for the World. We will achieve so much more as an Independent Nation.

On leaving Scone Chapel, Robert the Bruce said: “Leave this place and make friends, for we shall need them”.

If you are reading this, hello my friend and thank you for visiting.

Annette of Meigle
MacDuff Castle, Fife
MacDuff Castle, East Wemyss, Fife.
Strathleven Artizans and the King of Scot’s Heritage Centre in the Renton

Strathleven Artizans formed in 2005 to promote the historical links between Robert Bruce who was King of Scots from 1306 to 1329 and the village of Renton. Other than Bannockburn (June 1314) the place most associated with the warrior king was the area around the present Renton village.

In 1325 King Robert broke with all tradition and chose to bring his royal court to the rural Parish of Cardross where he extended a large hunting lodge, turning it into a royal manor house. He did this because in 1324 his son and heir, David II (King of Scots 1329-1371), was born at Dunfermline Abbey whilst the family were resident at the palace in Perth. This place was very damp and an unsuitable place to bring up a young family and King Robert decided to relocate his court to Pailleanflath , Gaelic for “Tent of the King” or “Pavillion of the Great Hero” thought to be at the east end of the village of Renton in the area now known as Dalquhurn. The King remained at the Manor House until his death on the 7th June 1329.

Duncan Thomson and the Strathleven Artizans have been amazing in helping and supporting Molly and me with friendship, knowledge and encouragement over the past year has been invaluable. Their invite to Teba in 2019 introduced me to the Douglas Days Festival and a new group of friends from Scotland and Spain who celebrate the life and honour the death of the Good Sir James Douglas.

Massive thanks to Duncan and all the Artizans and friends for their warm welcome. A link to the Strathleven Aritizans can be found here.
The Wallace Oak Project

Sir William Wallace, after his capture at Robroyston on 3rd August 1305, was taken to Dumbarton Castle and held overnight. The next morning he was taken across the River Clyde to an area now known as Port Glasgow where according to local legend, he was chained to an oak tree by his captors before being handed over to English Troops for his transfer to London and his judicial murder. This oak tree survived until 1995 when, in what is now the grounds of the Holy Family Church, it fell during a winter storm.

The Society of William Wallace supported by leading dendrochronologist Dr Coralie Mills, verifies that the piece of wood in this package, is from the legendary Wallace Oak Port Glasgow.

On the 23rd of October 2021 after two years of fundraising the Wallace Oak Monument was unvailed at the Holy Family Church in Port Glasgow. Two hundred people attended the Ceremony with music from Alastair MacDonald and Ted Christopher and Poetry Competition winner Chei Gallacher.

Please Click Here to be directed to the SOWW Wallace Oak page for more information and links to buy a peice of the Wallace Oak. Fifty Framed Prints were also sold to help pay for the monument which included a Freedom Tour at Stirling Bridge. Steven and Molly produced and sold Wallace Oak T-Shirts and Hoodies which helped to pay for around 5% of the £13,000 costs. 

Many thanks to Cha Halliday and Sean Donnelly (RIP) for all their hard work and perseverance in their attempts to find a suitable home for the Wallace Oak and to Cha and everyone involved in the fundraising to get the Wallace Oak Monument in place.

Strathleven Artizans
Strathleven Artizans
Wallace Oak Project
Wallace Oak Project
Ted Christopher

Ted Christopher is one of Scotland’s finest performers. He is a well travelled and extremely versatile singer songwriter. He is equally at home whether singing heart felt originals to a concert audience, belting out Scottish favourites to the Tartan Army or playing some of his huge pop/rock repertoire to a packed dance floor.

Unphased by any size of audience, he played to 750,000 people on The Mall in Washinton DC. A week later there were 12 in Cowie Miners Welfare. How’s that for a quick reality check? and they were both great gigs.

Ted has been involved in the Scottish live music scene since he was fifteen. He is proud to be a native of The Royal and Ancient Burgh of Stirling (Stirling is now a city but he much prefers the previous description of his hometown) and was born and raised a mere claymores length from Stirling Castle and The National Wallace Monument.

Ted performs many solo gigs, sometimes uses a couple of musicians as “The Ted Christopher Band” and of course fronts “Bannockburn”. As if he is not busy enough, Ted organises the commemorations at Bannockburn in June and Stirling Bridge in September.

Ted is also a Trustee of the Guardians of Scotland Trust. The Trust was granted charitable status in 2013 to advance the education of the public by promoting the roles of William Wallace and his lesser celebrated counterpart Andrew de Moray in the Scottish Wars of Independence; to create a public art work with educational / community opportunities attached, in their honour, and to raise awareness of the place the De Moray family had in the Scottish Wars of Independence working closely with Wallace.

One of the best bits of feedback received so far has been from Ted: “You’re doing a great Job. Proud of you” 

For more about Ted’s amazing life and links to his book and music click here.
Brothers in Arms

One of the UK’s most experienced public artists has been chosen to develop a major artwork at the site of the historic Battle of Stirling Bridge. This decision marks a watershed moment for The Guardians of Scotland Trust in a unique on-going fundraising campaign to enhance the site as a major visitor attraction in Scotland.

Malcolm Robertson, whose statue of comic icon Oor Wullie was recently unveiled in Dundee, has been awarded the commission to design a work commemorating the historic battle’s two heroes, William Wallace and Andrew de Moray. The proposed design, a four metre high installation called Brothers In Arms, shows the two men shoulder-to-shoulder, with their arms aloft raising an eight metre high Scottish flag.

A key aim of the Trust is to educate the public about the significance of Wallace’s co-commander, Andrew de Moray, who died not long after the bloody battle of wounds suffered during the conflict. The site lies directly beside Old Stirling Bridge, built in the early 16th century. This bridge replaced the old wooden bridge which gave the battle its name.

It currently has very little to mark the importance of the battle, described by eminent Scottish historian, Sir Tom Devine, as being ‘second in importance only to Bannockburn in the Wars of Independence.’

The Battle of Stirling Bridge ended in victory for the Scots after Wallace and de Moray, who became known as The Guardians of Scotland, led outnumbered Scottish forces to victory against the much larger army of Edward I of England.

GOST chairperson, Councillor Fergus Wood believes Robertson’s proposed artwork could be taken quickly to the nation’s heart, in the same way the giant Kelpies in nearby Falkirk have been.

Further information and ways to donate towards the cost of the Sculpture can be found here.

Ted Christopher
Ted Christopher
Brothers in Arms
Brothers in Arms