The Fields of Bannockburn, Scotland

Statue of Robert the Bruce, Bannockburn, Scotland

Statue of Robert the Bruce, Bannockburn, Scotland

Bannockburn, near Stirling, Scotland

Before meeting Clive and traveling to Stirling with him, I didn’t realise Scotland’s greatest battles for independence were fought in this area. In 1297, William Wallace regained Scotland’s independence from England at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Victory was short-lived, however, and in 1314, at the Battle of Bannockburn, a small Scottish army again fought and won against the English.

In everything we’ve read about both of these battles, they are described as turning points in Scottish history. Words around the Battle of Bannockburn include phrases like “great military skill,” “immense courage on the part of the soldiers,” “the most spectacular victory in Scotland’s struggle for independence,” and “the glory of Bannockburn.”

 

Local History at the Archives

We drove through Bannockburn on the way from our hotel to the Stirling Archives, where we spent half a day researching Clive’s ancestry. Following up on initial leads he found on Internet family history websites, we were able to access details of multiple generations through local parish records and some original documents.

We’re novices at this sort of thing, and had fun discovering how interesting, laborious, rewarding, and time-consuming family history research can be. So far, counting his two adorable grandsons in Australia, Clive has traced his Stirling ancestors back nine generations. And we learned that most of them were born, married, died, and buried in Bannockburn. The ones not from Bannockburn were from Stirling, St. Ninian’s, and Whins of Milton, all within a mile or two of each other.

When we visited the Bannockburn National Trust site, all was peaceful for miles around. Standing under the statue of Robert the Bruce and looking out over quiet, green fields in October 2008, I found it hard to imagine this was the site of so much blood and death over 700 years ago. I told Clive I think it’s exciting his young grandsons have a direct ancestry line to this exact place, where one of Scotland’s greatest victories occurred and where his own relatives lived their lives.

 

If …

Clive’s grandfather from Stirling went to Suffolk, England during World War I, as part of his military service. There he met Clive’s grandmother, and they were married in England in 1916. After the war, they went to Scotland, but by all accounts the English bride hated living there (these are Clive’s mother’s exact words, as told to her by her mother), so Clive’s grandparents returned to Suffolk.  They settled in Ipswich, where Clive’s mother was born a few years later, and where she met Clive’s father when she was a teenager.

It gave us a strange feeling when we were looking at family names, dates, and locations, and thought, “if Clive’s grandmother hadn’t hated Scotland, they never would have moved back to England, and Clive’s mother wouldn’t have been born there and met Clive’s father …” and Clive wouldn’t be here, nor would his children or those two little boys in Australia whom we are missing so much on this trip.

I’m sure it was difficult for Clive’s grandmother to be in a new country which she couldn’t seem to like, and Clive’s grandfather must have been disappointed by his wife’s reaction to Scotland. But I’m glad they moved back to England; Clive’s mother met his father in Suffolk, and two generations after his grandmother expressed her unhappiness in Stirling, I met Clive in Sydney.

Maybe it’s my imagination, or because we visited on a wet, misty morning, but history not only seems to permeate the air here, it also seems tinged with sadness, a legacy of war and death mixed with courage and victory. Looking across the fields of Bannockburn, I feel my small place in the Universe. I marvel at how many “ifs” there are that determine the course of a family through the generations. Some of the ifs are about sadness and pain, others about family globalisation . If Clive’s grandmother hadn’t been unhappy in Scotland; if his mother and her second husband hadn’t moved to Australia; if my international assignment hadn’t been to Sydney; and if my husband hadn’t had to fight his own heroic battle against cancer, Clive and I wouldn’t have met as we did. But as often happens with the gift of time, sadness eased and new life and new happiness were found.

How else would a boy from Ipswich, Suffolk and a girl from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey ever meet? 

 

Ninth Generation Oct. 2008 - from Bannockburn to Sydney

Ninth Generation Oct. 2008 - from Bannockburn to Sydney

 

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5 Responses

  1. Wow. Thanks to a Google Alert on “Ho-Ho-Kus” I got to read your amazing post. I grew up in HHK on Carlton Ave. and now live in Minnesota and I love to keep up with the little bit of web activity “Ho-Ho-Kus” gets!

  2. I love all of the amazing bits of history you include. It is a beautiful place.

    Haunting and sad sometimes…but so lovely.

  3. Amanda, that’s so cool re Carlton Ave – I was just around the corner. Will write more from Ho-Ho-Kus soon.

    Thank you both for your comments.

  4. the site of the battle is not the official site that got it wrong

  5. Hi Maria — yes, we read in several places that the memorial / site is not at the exact battle location. I think it’s relatively close by, though. We hope to return there sometime and see more of the area.

    Cheers.

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