William Wallace - The Man
Believed to have been born at Elderslie, Renfrewshire near Glasgow in 1272, Wallace died on 23 August 1305 when he would have been 33 years of age. As a second son his prospects would have been limited and without land of his own he faced an uncertain future. His father was Sir Malcolm Wallace, the laird of Elderslie which was a district of Paisley.
His first recorded act of resistance was the killing of Selby, the son of the English constable of Dundee castle in December 1291. After this he drifted into the life of an outlaw and attracted like-minded men to his side. His father, Sir Malcolm, was killed by an English knight named Fenwick. Revenge came at Loudon Hill when over 100 English soldiers, including Fenwick, were killed.
Wallace took refuge in Ettrick forest which was impenetratable to any army. The nearby towns of Selkirk, Moffat and Lanark began to see more of him and it was in Lanark that he met and married Marion Braidfute. However, when the Sheriff of Lanark, William Hazelrig, had Marion's brother put to death Wallace took revenge, killing over 50 English soldiers. Unable to capture his attacker Hazelrig then put Marion to death. Wallace's retribution was swift; with this the fires of independence were lit and the common people flocked to his side. When the English marched north to confront him, all the Scottish leaders, with the exception of Sir Andrew Murray (Moray of Bothwell), capitulated. Wallace and Murray then rampaged across Scotland employing guerilla warfare to confuse the English.
Notable events prior to the Battle of Stirling Bridge
There are many stories of these days but one which stands out is the Barns of Ayr. Three months before the Battle of Stirling Bridge we hear how 360 Scottish leaders were invited to the local barracks. As they entered each man was seized and hung from the rafters. In revenge Wallace trapped the English soldiers as they celebrated inside the barns and burnt them alive. The local castle was also captured and over 5,000 soldiers died as he took his revenge.
The English tried to bring Wallace to battle but he continued to evade them until 11 September 1297 when the English army was crossing the river Forth at Stirling bridge.