21st MAY 2023

Please note: this is a long page, with a large number of photographs, as this was a highly important day in the recent history of the Society of William Wallace. Since the opening was invitation only, it was not an enormously public event. We'll try to give you a good flavour of what went on.

Sunday, May 21st 2023 was a bit overcast at 10 a.m., though the rain had passed overnight. Members of the Society gathered over the next hour or so and started by setting up our wee marquees alongside the refreshment marquee provided by Clan Hunter.

A sell-out capacity of 150 people gathered throughout the course of the afternoon to honour and view the installation of the final remaining section of the legendary oak that Wallace is said to have been chained to on 4th August 1305, awaiting his transfer from the treacherous Earl of Menteith to Longshanks' occupying English army.

The afternoon began with the unannounced stirring sound of the bagpipes emanating from a wooded and shrubbed area, emerging from which was a score of medieval marchers led by the lone piper Stuart McMillan MSP. The marchers included SOWW members Gordon Aitken and Cha Halliday as Sir William Wallace and Andrew de Moray respectively. Clan Hunter's Chief, Madam Pauline of Hunterston, was also to the fore of the marchers augmented by medieval knights, ladies and soldiers.

In the shadow of the castle, wonderfully adorned with the SOWW flag on the ramparts above, Neil Lochiel of SOWW then opened up the formal ceremony part of the afternoon's event by thanking the marchers and Stuart McMillan MSP, welcoming all to the event, and thanking Clan Hunter for offering a home to the Port Glasgow Wallace Oak.

Clan Hunter's lead tour guide Janet Martin was next to speak, providing the essential 'housekeeping' information for the afternoon, before introducing Madam Pauline. Clan Hunter's Chief thanked SOWW and Clan Hunter's Martin Beer for sparking the idea of the Wallace Oak at Hunterston, and spoke of her pride in providing a final resting place for the chained section of oak that has such a remarkable legendary link to Sir William Wallace.

Next up was the SOWW Convenor, Gary Stewart, who focused on publicly paying tribute to the Wallace Oak Project team of Cha Halliday, the late Sean Donnelly, Stuart Duncan, and Neil Lochiel for being able to successfully conclude this incredible nine and a half years long project. Stuart Duncan then provided the ideal context of the project to the audience before recognising the two ladies who roles were crucial to the Wallace Oak Project story : Dr. Coralie Mills, Scotland's leading dendrochronogist, whose expert analyses and opinion gave the Wallace Oak Story legitimacy and traction; and Madam Pauline without whose support, commitment and enthusiasm for displaying the oak at Hunterston Castle this artefact would have been lost to the nation. Bouquets were then presented to each of these ladies by Margaret Halliday and Frances Lochiel, before Stuart invited Madam Pauline and Cha to perform a symbolic unveiling of the installation.

The ticket holders were then able to view the oak in its new home in the basement of the castle and also view the castle's Great Hall. Hosting the 150 people going through the castle in groups of 10 at appointed times throughout the afternoon was expertly handled by the knowledgable Clan Hunter tour guides, who were supported in the Wallace Oak room variously by Cha, Neil and Stuart. The tour was wonderfully received by the ticket holders - some in awe, some in wonder, some in tears at "meeting" the chained oak with its link to Scotland's greatest hero.

Outside the castle, there was plenty to keep people occupied. There were two excellently received set entertainment pieces by each of the Britannia XIV Medieval Re-enactment Group, and the Isle of Cumbrae Pipe Band. The kids in particular were enjoying the medieval stocks! Additionally, throughout the afternoon Clan Hunter had provided free refreshments and snacks.

Lesley Matthews expertly hosted the well patronised SOWW merchandise and membership tent. At the adjacent tent, Nick Brand's very popular detailed SOWW display boards and display and superb impromptu tutorials were a hit throughout the day. Meanwhile George Kempik was providing an invaluable support across all the SOWW activities. Ticket holders also enjoyed a walk in the walled gardens to add some relaxation to a fabulously historic day.

After nine and a half years of joy, sadness, frustration, ingenuity, downright hard work, thousands of hours of commitment, tragedy, despair, support, anger, pride, humility, generosity, bitterness, friendships old and new, respect, surprises, fundraising, creativity, setbacks, wins, elation, worry, stress, teamwork and ultimately... success, the day was over. Thanks to everyone who contributed positively throughout the nine and a half years - and that does not include Historic Environment Scotland.

Banners up, and information board in place
The information board, outside for the opening
SOWW tent up and ready
Weapons display and SOWW information panels
The new boards about the Walk for Wallace and other Society projects
Stuart McMillan pipes in the Clan Hunter Chief, the tour guides, SOWW members and re-enactment group
The Isle of Cumbrae Pipe Band
Entrance to the Oak area, SOWW and Clan Hunter tartans
Neil Lochiel welcomes everyone
Madam Pauline of Hunterston, 30th Chief of Clan Hunter, makes her speech
Gary's shortest speech in living memory...
Cha Halliday with Dr Coralie Mills, dendrochronologist
Madam Pauline and Coralie presented with bouquets
The assembled throng
Another crowd shot
Madam Pauline and Cha perform the official opening
Inside the Oak Room
Stuart with the Oak
Cha, Stuart, Stuart McMillan MSP and Neil

Upstairs in the castle
A medieval Great Helm on display
Brittania XIV get prepared
Schiltrom tactics
Side view of schiltrom formation
Gordon and Gary
Medieval arms and display area
Some of the visitors at the Society area
Gary and Gordon chat to David Turner whilst Nick drinks coffee
Cha with the Orrs
Jessica and family from "Stories of People and Trees" with Cha

Special thanks to John Orr, David Turner, Martin Beer and Nick Brand for all the photos

Link to the Hunterston Castle website with directions on how to get there, along with information about the Clan Hunter.



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