Wallace Oak Placement Within Hunterston Castle.

It was an early start on Saturday for members of the Wallace Oak Project team. Earliest of all were Gordon Aitken from Biggar who met up with George Kempik at Whitburn and they headed westwards before heading down to Ayrshire to meet up with the Inverclyde trio of myself, Stuart Duncan & Neil Lochiel. On arrival at Hunterston Castle we were met by Martin Beer from Hunterston Castle staff and he proceeded to open up the castle tower where the Wallace Oak would be given its new home. It was now almost 10am and the heavens decided to open with a heavy downpour making everyone run for cover in a nearby outhouse till it passed about 20 minutes later, then it was game on.

As if by magic Rob Hunter arrived with a quad bike and trailer to help move the Wallace Oak from the lawn around to the Tower House door. It was unwrapped from its protective covering it had been in since having been treated with two coats of preservative last month. The tree was sitting on pallets and scaffolding poles were slipped below these to lift it onto the trailer and with Martin & Stuart acting as balance, we moved it slowly to the Tower House door. Now the fun really began looking at the size of the Wallace Oak and the size of the Tower door! It looked too large but this is where George Kempik came into his own. He laid down a large sheet of tarpaulin, tied straps to each corner and made a makeshift hammock. He reassured all that it would be a tight fit but with a bit of jiggery pokery it would go in, and of course he was correct. We all got around the oak and heaved it through the door followed by a sharp right turn into the hallway. Then it was down one step onto a small trolley George had brought along plus there was a makeshift ramp already set up. After manoeuvring it along the hallway, it was another sharp left turn and up one step into the room generously identified to us by Clan Hunter for the loan of the Oak from the Society to allow it to go on public display.

George & Gordon laid two wooden pallets on top of each other and cut a sheet of plywood to size and fixed these all together to make a sturdy base. They then cut a large piece of astroturf kindly donated by George’s brother and fitted it around the base. We all then once again got around the Oak before lifting it one last time onto its permanent base. George cut and painted a few wooden wedges to secure the Oak and make it stable. Stuart and Neil brought in the display stand George had made the week before and he attached the newly updated information board to it. After a quick brush up I carefully painted the Wallace Oak chain in its trademark red. George had brought along his replica Wallace Sword and the Society Wallace Shield so these were placed around the oak and everyone gathered around for some pictures.

It had been a very emotional day as on more than one occasion we all thought of Sean Donnelly who sadly died before seeing his dream come true, but we were sure he helped get the Oak through the door earlier after it seemed to be stuck fast. It was back in late 2013 when Sean gave me the David R Ross book “On the Trail of William Wallace” and we found the chapter that mentioned the Wallace Oak in Port Glasgow. That started our search in January 2014, and the rest, as they say, is history. There will be an official opening but that's for another day!​

Cha Halliday.

As an aside, we have added at the end a photograph taken in St Margaret's Chapel at Edinburgh Castle, showing a stained glass window made by the artist Douglas Strachan, and placed in the chapel in 1922. It quite clearly shows a red chain, proof that knowledge of the Oak and its reminder of Wallace was extant back at that time, and not purely a local legend.

The oak comes out of storage
Uncovered and ready for the move
Lining up with the trailer
Rob with the trailer, Martin and Stuart provide support
Now the fun begins - will it fit?
A tight squeeze...
...and through it goes!
George working on the plinth
Fitting the astroturf
The information board ready for mounting
The display board is ready
A quick check of all the details
Painting the chain
Ready for display
The Oak with display board, replica sword and shield
The stained glass window in St Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh Castle
Greenock Telegraph article 27th October 2022
Thanks to Cha Halliday for the photos

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The Society of William Wallace is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation Registration number SC045959