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Braveheart TV Premiere Letters

Braveheart was shown for the first time on UK terrestrial TV at 9:30 pm on Thursday 7th January, 1999.

Before it was broadcast the first letter below appeared in the Herald newspaper in Scotland on 4th January, sparking off a series of letters to the paper (including contributions from ourselves), All of the letters (the good, the bad, and the ugly) are reproduced on this page. Needless to say, we do not  agree with all of the opinions expressed ....

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This page updated
21 Feb, 1999
The Herald website (which does not reproduce all the letters printed in the newspaper) is at:

The Herald - January 4, 1999 - The letter which started it off ...

John Scott's letter: Not the time for 'Braveheart'

Few would doubt the enormous emotional impact of Braveheart when it was released in 1995. The strong anti-English message, the powerful nationalist message, and indeed the violence left me feeling physically sick for 24 hours (and, no, it wasn't the curry afterwards).
SNP ratings in opinion polls rose by 8% in the autumn of 1995 after the film's release, even though few of the most powerful elements of the film have any basis in fact. So Braveheart's credentials as an instrument of nationalist propaganda are acknowledged.
Is it therefore appropriate, or indeed responsible, of the BBC to screen Braveheart on January 7, less than four months before the Scottish Parliamentary elections?
Or is this just BBC insensitivity to the debate that will take place in the coming four months regarding Scotland's future? The real questions that we must address in Scotland are about social and economic progress and about developing a positive vision for the next millenium, based on a level-headed analysis of our prospects.
Sadly, screening Braveheart, with its highly charged emotional message, may actually stifle and inhibit positive, rational, and clear-headed debate on the shape and future of Scotland at the very time it is most needed.
Show the film in the summer. Now is not the time.

John Scott
Ballantrae, Ayrshire
January 2

The Herald - January 5, 1999 - Three responses John Scott's letter:

Donald Anderson's first letter: Unionist fear and hysteria

BRAVEHEART-phobic reader John Scott (January 4) is voicing the continual Unionist fear and hysteria of any Scottish mention of resistance to English invasions and oppressions. In his efforts to have the film censored perhaps he, and his concerted cronies, would at last define the parts of the film which they continually claim to be inaccurate - apart from the allegorical make-up of the actors.
The "Wild Men of Galloway" did paint themselves blue and charge the enemy naked and were recorded, to the horror of their English adversaries, as doing so as late as the "Battle of the Standard", on August 2, 1138. One English chronicler described them as being dressed like "Merry Andrews" and being naked and over seven feet in height. And we ken English chroniclers never lie.
It may help their anti-Scottish cause to actually define in some detail which parts of the film "had no basis in fact". Was it the minor bits where Edward invaded, looted, pillaged, raped, and murdered his way through Scotland? Or was it where Wallace was grassed up by Scottish cringers, handed over to their English bosses, and faced a mock trial in Westminster, where he was dragged through the town on a hurdle, mutilated, had his entrails burnt in front of him, before being hanged? Or was it the bits where Wallace and the common people managed to beat superior forces that was most unpalatable and embarrassing to the Scottish Rajs?
Odd that we did not hear one of these anti-Braveheart critics complain once of the endless films, plays, books, etc, on the totally inaccurate versions of English history, which author Randall Wallace precipitated by properly detailing his sources. Perhaps the anglicisation of our North British Universities and colleges has done more than its bit to keep the Scots in ignorance of their own past, leading them to believe they have no present and no future. I look forward to the reader and his chums complaining to the EBC of the inaccuracies of most of their British films and presentations.

Donald Anderson
January 4


William Douglas's letter: WHAT are we to make of John Scott's ludicrous letter today on the TV showing of Braveheart? Are we to censor the showing of any portrayal of Scottish history lest it offend the sensibilities of people like Mr Scott?
The video of Braveheart has been available for some months, and can be viewed at home, at any time. Is Mr Scott suggesting we should all lock up our copies of the Braveheart video until after May 6?

William Douglas
January 4


Bob Hamilton's letter: I WAS one of the "few" who was not impressed by the film Braveheart (John Scott's letter today) and I am surprised he thinks that on this issue the BBC will cloud "a clear-headed debate" on Scotland's future.
To any rational Scot their decision to refuse a "Scottish Six" news programme is more likely to influence voters than any film.

Bob Hamilton
January 4

The Herald - January 6, 1999 - Two more responses John Scott's letter:

Our own first letter: The Message of 'Braveheart'

JOHN Scott suggests ( 4th January) that the television showing of Braveheart this week should have been put off until after the May elections to the Scottish Parliament, for fear that exposing the electorate to the movie’s "highly charged emotional message" will inhibit proper debate about the future of Scotland.
Mr Scott’s fears are groundless. The message of Braveheart, at work among us for some years now, is an overwhelmingly positive one. It is about love, loyalty, and courage, and about being prepared to risk everything in defence of what you hold dear. The people of Scotland flocked in their thousands to cinemas, from the premiere in August, 1995, through to the last showing in the summer of 1996, and took this message to their hearts. They went home to think again, and to question and debate. On 11th September, 1997, called to take up the pen to secure the future of democracy in Scotland, they were not found wanting. They were even prepared to risk higher taxes.
Decisions will always be made on a mixture of both emotion and reasoning. Braveheart, in the way it has brought Blind Harry’s ‘Wallace’ to life, has caused many to look back in order to see forward all the more clearly.
Roll on Thursday evening!

John Anderson
January 5


Jimmy Johnston's letter: THE first cuckoo of spring! Perhaps not, but your correspondent today who advocates the banning of a proposed television showing of the film Braveheart until after the Scottish Parliamentary elections demonstrates all the attributes.
This reminds me of the large brewery chain which, amid substantial ridicule, pulled the light-hearted and musically inspired advert about a young Scot who abandons a career and girlfriend in London for the allure of an Edinburgh pub. "Let me tell that I love you." This was prior to the 1997 General Election.
At a time when your columns are full of complaints regarding the poor fare served up by TV companies over the festive season, a listing of Braveheart, warts and all should surely be welcomed.
Such sensitivity regarding the MSP elections! Is an upset on the cards?

Jimmy Johnston
January 4

The Herald - January 11, 1999 - Three more letters:

Derek Parker's letter:
(in reponse to our letter printed on January 6)
Film that glorifies war and cruelty

JOHN Anderson's claim today that Braveheart is about love, loyalty, courage. and risking everything in defence of what you hold dear is truly astonishing.
In my opinion, this film is a glorification and glamorisation of war, violence, cruelty, slaughter, the taking of human life, and man's inhumanity to man. It is a debasement and antithesis on noble human virtues such as love, kindness, mercy, care, compassion, and empathy for our fellow voyagers on the pilgrimage of life.
Its appalling message is the blasphemous doctrine that you are quite entitled to obliterate the divine spark of human life in anyone against whom you have a personal grudge or who gets in the way of your ambitions. This is the ethos of barbarism, savagery, and the repudiation of the recognised standards of civilised behaviour which differentiate man, the apex of creation, from animals.
Sadly, the film's popularity reflects the Scottish veneration and deification of the warrior cult and promotes the myth that there is something romantic and patriotic about brutalising and dehumanising our brother men and sister women whom political and religious propagandists demonise as impersonal foes, devoid of feelings or personal identities for their own nefarious purposes.
No wonder Scotland has one of the worst records in Western Europe for street and domestic violence. It will continue to remain so as long as its inhabitants, male and female, aotheosise and falsely ennoble the fantasy of the strong man.
Presumably most of those who think Braveheart is such a great film and that killing is entertainment have never experienced the brutality, the shame, the family devastation, and the indignity of war at first hand for themselves.
May I respectfully suggest that they read the poetry of Wilfrid Owen, MC, a heroic Army officer who portrayed the horrors, futility, and stark reality of blood-shedding combat before perishing himself during the First World War just one tantalising week before Armistice Day. 1918?
In particular they should impress upon their conciousness the eerie scene in Strange Meeting where the ghost of the slaughtered British soldier is confronted with the ghost of his dead German counterpart who greets him with the spine-chilling words: "I am the enemy you killed, my friend". This is a haunting evocation of how men, in the devine plan born to be brothers, were manipulated by their political masters into seeing each other as adversaries.
As we approach the millenium, it is time now for the people of Scotland to abandon their legacy of carnage and start to build a brave new world of peace, harmony, tolerance, understanding, and respect for our fellow men and women, irrespective of race, creed, nationality, or colour.
Braveheart, and the pitiless, ruthless virtues which it enshrines, should be consigned to history. It does not embody the motives and aspirations of the Higher Man.

Derek Parker
January 6


Janet Cameron's letter: HOW infernally ironic was the juxtaposition of Braveheart on TV on January 7 with the inglorious return of Our Brave Boys from Iraq; one gleefully described how he overflew a city and the people were still driving around with their headlights on - this moral imbecile could not understand why they were not showing fear; after all, there he was, a safe 20,000ft above the range of the anti-aircraft batteries, with a payload to fry up half a suburb - and still they would not acknowledge the business community of the USA as Lords Paramount!
Wallace would have understood that situation only too well! The courage and desperate endurance of those years made Scotland a nation again - what are the people of Iraq being hammered into?
But woe to the witless brutes paid to wield the overwhelming military superiority! Those expensive missiles are but petrol-bombs on the grand scaleand our vaunted democracy has become a populist dictatorship, where fear of a foreign enemy can easily panic the credulous into condoning extremes of cruelty, such as torching residential suburbs. What did the sack of Berwick profit Edward I?
We bid fair to wreck our own hard-won democratic institutions trying to smash up Iraq. Which is as it should be, for right is on their side.
Why was no vote taken in the House of Commons? Because our rulers ensured there would be no opportunity to oppose the war-frenzy. Despite the principled objections of Benn, Galloway, and Dalyell, and the pragmatic reservations of the SNP, the people here were presented with a fait accompli: now, like it or not, we have innocent blood on our hands. We had best call up the spirit of Wallace, and refuse to to be bought as mercenaries to fight the overlord's battles.
Last March in Baghdad, I was discussing how my interpreter would spend the July holiday celebrating the fall of the British puppet King Faisal, and the establishing of the republic. "I shall go home," he said, "to my family, and we shall watch Braveheart; we always watch it on that day. And you know, no-one supports the English."
Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled - if he returned to earth, would he choose birth in defiant Iraq, rather than subservient Scotland?

Janet Cameron
January, 8


Rob Jamieson's letter: I AGREE with many of the sentiments expressed in Donald Anderson's letter today. He asked for Unionists to point out historical inaccuracies in Braveheart, other than the "allegorical make-up". Perhaps he would not take offence from the observations of a non-Unionist.
I was mortified at the scene where the body of Lochlan fell from the ceiling on to the dining table. As his body landed on the table, the kilt flew up and exposed what appeared to be a pair of dark Marks and Spencer's Y-fronts. If you have the video, hit the pause button at this point. In view of Lochlan being a turncoat, bribed by English gold, perhaps he was not a true Scotsman after all.

Rob Jamieson
January 6

The Herald - January 14, 1999 - Another three letters:

Our second letter:
(in response to Derek Parker)
DEREK Parker, in his letter in response to my comments on the positive message of Braveheart, is of the opinion that the film is a "glorification and glamorisation of war, violence, cruelty, slaughter, the taking of human life, and man's inhumanity to man". While Mr Parker is entitled to his opinion, and while his overall intentions are most praiseworthy, he seems to have seriously missed the point.
Braveheart was primarily Randall Wallace's project. He is a deeply religious man and his screenplay was a labour of love. It was, in his own words, "written from the heart". This is a fundamental reason for the ultimate popular appeal and success of the film. It is unimaginable that the hundreds of thousands of people who went to cinemas all over the world (sometimes again and again) during 1995 and 1996 to see the film, and who often remained silent in their seats until the last of the credits had rolled up the screen, were experiencing base feelings as Mr Parker would have us fear. Rather they were deeply affected by a wonderful and moving story, superbly dramatised.
 Turning to another of Mr Parker's points, the Wallace character as portrayed in Braveheart has, I am sure, done good service in helping to further marginalise the Scottish 'hard man' stereotype - no fully paid-up member of that particular club would ever risk instant expulsion by letting the words "I will love you my whole life ..." escape his lips!
The use of the term 'brave hearts' to describe those engaged in defending the people of Scotland from tyranny during the Wars of Independence long pre-dates Randall and Mel's film. We owe a debt to the filmmakers for helping to remind us, as we build the new Scotland of the 21st century, of the need to be brave and true to our hearts at this important time.

John Anderson
January 12


Ian O'Baynes's letter:
(in response to Derek Parker's letter)
I MUST be among the minority of your readers who took advantage of the recent TV screening of Braveheart to view the film for the first time. It struck me as a typical Hollywood blockbuster. Derek Parker is inaccurate and displays an immense lack of critical perspective in his absurd claim today that the film's "appalling message ... is that you are quite entitled to obliterate the divine spark of life in anyone against whom you have a personal grudge ..."
Although it contains some historically inaccurate flights of fancy, the film is grounded on three undoubted historical facts. First, at the end of the thirteenth century Scotland was invaded and occupied by the armies of Edward I, the Anglo-Norman and Plantagenet king of England; second, the standard of resistance was raised by William Wallace, the son of a minor rural laird, while the country's "natural leaders" squabbled among themselves about the still disputed succession to the throne; and thirdly, Wallace was eventually captured and done to death with exemplary brutality by the authority of the aforesaid English monarch.
In the light of this reality, it seems absurd for Derek Parker to call on the Scots at the end of the twentieth century to abandon their "legacy of carnage". Most of the thirteenth and fourteenth- century "carnage" was caused by the invaders. Has he never heard of the sacking of Berwick in 1296?

Ian O'Bayne
January 11


Alan Steel's letter:
(this is not the first letter of this type Mr Steel has written to The Herald)
'Braveheart' is a very bad buy

IF, after the success of Costner's movie, The Adventures of Robin Hood, hundreds of English had adopted it as a true picture of their past and a revelation of their heritage, I think that many of us would have lined up at the border to jeer at their jibbering idiocy. Unfortunately it happened the other way round. We bought Braveheart.
The inaccuracy of Braveheart as a representation of the Scottish experience goes far beyond the flashing of a pair of St Michael knickers at the wrong moment. Apart from half-a-dozen names and dates filtched from the history books the movie bears no resemblance to what we know of the Scotland of the Wars of Independence. Like the Tibet of Shangri-la and the Mexico of The Magnificent Seven the Scotland of Braveheart is merely the exotic window-dressing of American concerns for an American audience. A community of mountain men led by a libertarian struggles against the corrupt Eastern plutocracy and an English army of occupation.
For almost 200 years Blind Harry's version of the Wallace myth has been used repeatedly by Americans as an expression of resistance to distant government. This is just another incarnation. It is no accident that the Wallace of mythology is an icon of the American right, whose political ideas run throughout the film.
Obviously, Braveheart hit the spot for many Scots, but what spot did it hit? Well, it exposed the fact that we are still suckers for the sado-masochistic, "we wuz robbed," view of Scotland that helped many people live with their national inferiority complex. As we approach independence this pathological branch of nationalism should have died the same death as tartanry, Brigadoonism, and haggis-bashing.
Unfortunately it has been given a new lease of life and its only function now will to be to provide the basis for a Scottish fascist movement. Until I met some of the representatives of Braveheartism I never thought of using the words "Scottish" and "fascist" in the same phrase.
Of course, very few braveheartists are aware of the weakness of their case. Why should they be? In addition to Randall Wallace's pulp novel, all of the popular "Wallace" books of the 1990's - those by James Mackay, Elspeth King, Glenn Telfer, and Peter Reese, for example - have reversed several generations of scholarship to make Blind Harry's propaganda poem of the 1470's a major source for the life of Wallace. In most countries the capacity to distinguish between fiction and evidence is considered to be essential to an understanding of how society works. According to some of your correspondents it just makes you a "Unionist".
The sad fact is that the life of Wallace is much more surprising and challenging, more informative about our past, than Braveheartism will allow. If (as I hope) we form a Scottish republic, one of the more interesting tasks will be the struggle with the populist right and the libertarian mythological Wallace whom they espouse. If anyone wants to start that debate - in public - I am open to offers.

Alan Steel
January 12

The Herald - January 16, 1999 - Four responses to Alan Steel's letter:

Max Dunbar's letter:
(in response to Alan Steel's letter)
WHAT a breath of fresh air to read Alan Steel's sane and intelligent letter concerning the myth of Braveheart. I have seen the film and regard it as yet another plate of thin gruel served up by Hollywood. Unfortunately, many gullible and silly people seem to take this sort of nonsense seriously and have swallowed the lot.

Max Dunbar
January 14


Roy Beers's letter:
(in response to Alan Steel's letter)
The hero has broken loose

IT's amazing to see that people are still debating the "accuracy" or otherwise of the film Braveheart which, broadly speaking, is to Scottish history what Asterix the Gaul is to the story of Gallic resistance against Rome: in Braveheart there's even a bit where our hero demonstrates the advantage of brains over brawn in a jovial sort of "parable of the stanes" with a Scottish Tunabrix.
MacTunabrix hurls an enormous boulder at Wallace, who easily ducks it, before replying with an ordinary stone which hits the giant straight between the eyes. Everybody laughs, especially MacTunabrix. The film charges rapidly downhill from this point on, culminating in possibly the most unconvincing death scene in screen history.
But, for all that, why the fuss? Your Scottish republican correspondent, Alan Steel, appears to fear the growth of a right-wing movement based on Wallace the Leader (which strikes me as a bit odd, given this century's mushrooming of personality cults centred on socialist dictators) and suggests the film is the inspiration for a sinister brand of emerging American-style neo-fascism, in kilts.
The eerily similar plot of the Eisenstein medieval epic Alexander Nevsky (in effect Braveheart on ice) was also concerned with the string-willed individual who harnesses the power of free men to resist evil, only it really was developed as a cult - but by Stalinist Soviet Russia against the invading Nazis.
Others found Mel's masterpiece moving, or disliked its violence, or pointed out that Wallace didn't really sack York then behead its governor; or indeed canoodle with pouting French starlets.
Mel Gibson, meanwhile reckoned that Braveheart was purveying a truly international message which could have been about any freedom-fighter in any country (but ours hadn't been done before and tartan warriors were "in").
When you consider the perverted lies peddled by that long-winded eejit Shakespeare - whose lurid quasi-historical fantasies make Braveheart look like particularly convincing social-realism - our Australian-Irish epic suddenly seems less obviously risible.
Critics north and south can cavil til they're, well, blue in the face, but the hero they didn't want to tell you about at school, and who you'll struggle to find in the allegedly national museum of Scotland, is now - thanks to Mr Gibson and friends - on the loose all over the world. That's a good thing, isn't it?

Roy Beers
January 14


Michael Donnelly's letter:
(in response to Alan Steel's letter)
After a taboo's destruction

AS a republican who has never knowingly bashed a haggis or indulged in tartanry, and who is well enough balanced to be able to enjoy the music and choreography of Brigadoon without losing my grip upon reality, I'd like to take up the gauntlet cast down by Alan Steel.
With his obvious penchant for book and film burning I choose to disbelieve him when he states that using the words Scottish and fascist in the same phrase is for him a novel experience.
On the contrary, I think he is rather fond of such bellicose labelling, which fails to conceal the fact that he has nothing new to contribute to the debate and is merely acting in the role of a surrogate for the well-known establishment historians who regard the whole subject of Wallace's role in past and present Scottish history as taboo.
As Mr Steel with evident displeasure concedes, that taboo was effectively destroyed by the publication and subsequent filming of Randall Wallace's Braveheart. Initially the strategy pursued by its critics was to impute the "obvious and glaring inaccuracies" in the script to Randall Wallace, thereby avoiding any discussion of his main source, Blind Harry's medieval epic poem of 1477.
With the publication by Elspeth King of a new edition of Hamilton of Gilbertfield's 1722 edition of Blind Harry's Wallace this strategy became redundant, especially after Professor Tom Devine had publicly admitted his brief role as historical adviser to Braveheart. The attack has now moved on to the Makar himself and an "authoritative" demolition of Harry and his "Wallace myth" is confidently awaited.
While Mr Steel makes completely unsubstantiated claims regarding Wallace's alleged 200-year old inspiration of the fundamentalist right in American politics, he has nothing whatever to say on the subject of his impact on Scottish and European politics during the same period. Robert Burns, Wordsworth, Muir of Huntershill, George Mealmaker, and the radicals of 1820 were all profoundly influenced by his example. Likewise the great liberators of European politics, Garibaldi, Mazzini, Blind, and Kossuth, none of whom can be described as fascist ideologues.
By erasing the "great gests and songs" about Wallace referred to by Andrew of Wytoun and lovingly recorded and embroidered by Blind Harry, Mr Steel and his academic co-conspirators hope to achieve a "final solution" to the problem of Wallace.
It was precisely in the furtherance of this strategy that Professors Smout, Devine, and Lynch approved the burying of the Lubek letter of Andrew de Moray and Wallace under the "appropriate context" of "trade and the burghs" in the new displays of the Museum of Scotland.
That is why it is currently displayed in its original medieval Latin without an accompanying translation, otherwise tourists and Scots alike could read the taboo words which still provide the relevant context of all discussion of Wallace.
"Thanks be to God, the kingdom of Scotland has now, by battle been recovered from the power of the English."

Michael Donnelly
January 14


Donald Anderson's second letter:
(in response to Alan Steel's letter)
Omissions from Glasgow's history

THE latest Braveheart phobic, Alan Steel, seems most confused. His comparison between Wallace and Robin Hood is a non-sequitur. Wallace is a historical fact, even in English records, such as his trial in Westminster Ha'. Robin Hood is subject to various theories. Hollywood has him a Saxon resisting the Norman conquest. Other English sources have him a Celt, hence the green, in what is now Yorkshire, a former Danish colony, resisting the Saxon invaders.
Like most Scots I grew up on a diet of Robin Hood films and books but did not engage in anti-English, racist attacks because of it. Quite the contrary. Robin Hood was a hero to us all because he was portrayed as fighting injustice, invasion, and oppression.
A visit to the important Wallace exhibition at the Smith Museum in Stirling, and the impeccable sourcing of the Scottish Wars of Independence, would be the best way to redress the slur on the the much-maligned Curator, Elspeth King, whose political departure from the People's Palace was accompanied by the sanitation of Glasgow's radical past and the disappearance of all history prior to 1707.
What happened to the model of the Bishop's Palace and reference to Bishop Wishart, the sponsor of Wallace, who accepted from the "Hammer of the Scots" roofing timber to be used against him as siege engines?
What happened to the Pilkington Jackson equestrian statue of the Bruce? Pilkington Jackson designed the Bruce statue at the Bannockburn site. It was Elspeth King and Michael Donnelly who were responsible for it being there in the first place, along with many other artefacts of national and radical history - an unforgivable act, seemingly.
Why is there no monument to Wallace in the City of Glasgow? Why no plaque to commemorate the Battle of the Bell of the Braes, outside the Cathedral, where Wallace chased the English occupation forces back to Bothwell Castle? Why no mention of Bishop Wishart's part in the Wars of Independence inside the cathedral itself, or the Museum of Religion? Why no plaque in Stockwell Street where Wallace stocked the well with English bodies, before retreating?
Why no promised statue of of the anti-imperialist, republican socialist, John MacLean, in George Square? Why statues to Queen Victoria and other imperialist "heroes"? Why is there a Wallace statue in Ballarat, Australia? And why was he internationally renowned? Garibaldi, Napoleon, and Washington are among many who regarded him as a hero, just as the common people of Scotland do, while our rulers still hate and fear him.
Why are Scots so ignorant of their past and taught that we were always good little imperialist Brits, so therefore it would be "alien" to perceive our present and future politics any differently?
It is surprising that Mr Steel uses the language of the Unionist and British nationalist and also student "socialists", who grow up to be Blairites, to attack the Bravehearts who dared resist early imperialism and oppression.
Mr Steel then claims to be for a Scottish Republic and to be open to offers of debate in public. As one who has been working, for more years than I care to remember for a Scottish socialist republic, I would be only too happy to take him up on that.
He will find that the only real basis for attacking the film was that it was made at all. If Errol Flynn, who also played Sir Walter Raleigh, a real-life mass-murderer and thief, had portrayed Wallace instead of a mythical English hero in tights, then Scottish republican socialists would still not disdain themselves so basely as the British nationalist left and right, in such ill-informed campaigns of hatred.

Donald Anderson
January, 14

The Herald - January 19, 1999 - One letter:

Patricia Baillie's letter: The true story of Wallace

I HEARTILY agree with Alan Steel's letter today on Braveheart. The first five minutes, depicting Wallace as a ragged child in a remote Highland hut surrounded by kilted fuzzy-wuzzies, instead of as the younger son of a prosperous Paisley knight, was enough to convince me that the rest would be awful too.
With difficulty I managed to identify a killing in the wild mountains as the murder of the Sherriff of Lanark - Lanark itself being nowhere to be seen, and it seemed odd that Sir Andrew de Moray, Wallace's faithful friend and helper, who died, it is thought, as a result of wounds he received at Stirling Bridge, was not mentioned at all.
After Stirling Bridge I gave up, being unable to see a bridge, or indeed the River Forth at all: a true account of what really happened , of Wallace's brillian strategy in allowing only so many English over the narrow bridge and then attacking, and cutting of the rest, would have been really worth doing, and I agree with Alan Steel that what we know of the true story of Wallace, faithfully followed, would make a film worthy of the independence we hope to celebrate.
The film, as I am told, goes on to accuse Bruce of the betrayal of Wallace, when it is well known that Menteith, the Sherriff of Dumbarton, was responsible, and maintains that, unbelievably, Wallace actually had an affair with EdwardI's Queen!
I appreciate the fact that the film is American but nonsence of this kind does Scotland no good whatever.

Patricia Baillie
January 14

The Herald - January 20, 1999 - One letter:

Jennifer A Dick's letter:
(Agreeing with Donald Anderson's letter printed on January16)

Wallace's Well
Wallace's Well


Wallace Monuments

I THOROUGHLY agree with Mr Donald Anderson's comments about the lack of monuments to Wallace in Glasgow (January 16).
By coincidence I had just driven past Wallace's Well in the Robroyston/Auchinleck area of Glasgow prior to reading his letter. I recall being thrilled at visiting the well when I was a child and my father never failed to point it out anytime we were in the area, as to my knowledge it has never been signposted.
As this is Glasgow's year as City of Architecture, with the interest in Wallace aroused by Braveheart, surely it is time for Glasgow (a) to rid the surrounding area of rubbish, (b) to erect signposts indicating the existence of the well, and (c) to create a safe parking area near the well.
After all, this is part of Scotland's history. I am sure the children of today would be equally thrilled to stand where Wallace stood. What better way to bring history alive?

Jennifer A Dick
January 17

The Herald - January 21, 1999 - Four more letters:

John Walker's letter:
(in response to those from Patricia Baillie and Max Dunbar)





Stirling 700 poster

YOUR correspondents who are upsetting themselves over the historical veracity of Braveheart should take solace from  the knowledge that this one film has probably done more to stimulate public interest in Scottish history then any other factor in the last 30 years.
So what if it's full of historical inaccuracies? It's a work of fiction, not a documentary. What the film did was show that our history is actually interesting and inspiring, and for the first time highlighted to a mass audience there is a tremendous story there to be told. It is to the lasting shame of all our educators and broadcasters that it took an Irish-American-Australian film to achieve that.
In his recent letter Max Dunbar dismissed the film as "thin gruel served up by Hollywood". Maybe he could point us in the direction of more wholesome fare served up by those responsible for educating us, or our broadcasters who have a responsibility to "inform" as well as "entertain".
Can he point to any effort made by either BBC Scotland or the ITV companies to produce a definitive series on Wallace, Bruce, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Montrose, Knox, or any of the other remarkable characters who have shaped the Scotland we know today? At least Braveheart acknowledged that this history exists, however flawed it was in its interpretation.
Thanks to Braveheart Wallace, Bruce, and the whole episode of the Wars of Independence are now firmly fixed in the public consciousness. It's going to be interesting to see how we mark the 700th anniversary of Wallace's trial and execution in a few years. Maybe it will be trivialised, as was done in the Stirling Bridge "celebration" in 1997, or ignored completely, as in the Battle of Falkirk anniversary last year.

John Walker
January 19


Brian D Finch's letter: WHATEVER Laura Cumming's little man in the Museum of Scotland may say (January 18), the virtual invisibility of William Wallace in said museum does require explanation, as without William Wallace there would be no Scotland for there to be a museum of.
This simple fact is all too often lost to sight in the work of our academic historians. Fortunately, however, we have Michael Donnelly to keep reminding them, so all is not lost.

Brian D Finch
January 20


Jim Brunton's letter: WHY no monument of William Wallace? Why no memorial to John MacLean? Your correspondent Donald Anderson (Omissions from Glasgow's history, January 16) bemoans these lacks in his city square.
Outside of the Castle (Wallace that is) there are similar missing links in Edinburgh. But we in the east know why and do not grouse.
Wallace was more a mythical than an actual freedom fighter. An establishment man (like Bruce) through and through, he fought for his king, not his country.
Maclean was, as Mr Anderson claims himself to be, a "Scottish socialist republican". His socialism, however, was of the Marxist kind. The road he took was a cul-de-sac. While Maclean had momentary mob appeal, he had none at all at the polls.
Folk (such as my grannie who led a choir to entertain the man during one of his terms in Calton Jail) came quickly to realise that power to reform came from the ballot-box, not the strike or the riot. Maclean played little or no part in Scotland's progress.
Let folksingers, dreamers, and hacks do their worst. Wallace and Maclean are footnotes in our nation's story. Let us save our statuary for achievers - Willie Graham, Keir Hardie, Tom Johnston, Patrick Dollan, John Wheatley, Tam Dayell, Jennie Lee, Geoffrey Shaw - democratic socialists all, who deserve recognition in the public squares of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Jim Brunton
January 18


David B Sutherland's letter: WHAT a breath of stale air to read Max Dunbar's arrogant and pretentious little letter (January 16). Who are the silly and gullible people he refers to? The people who take Braveheart seriously and have swallowed the lot.
Why would anyone take Braveheart seriously? No film should be taken seriously. No film is 100% historically accurate. Braveheart was a very well-produced piece of Hollywood action film. Such are made for their audience, and to entertain, not to educate. It is the education factor which concerns me.
The majority of Mr Dunbar's "silly and gullible" people are not in a position to argue with the content of Mel Gibson's film. I for one was taught history at school from a British viewpoint, with the emphasis on English history. I was not taught, in detail, the history of the country in which I was born, Scotland. I know more about Henry VIII and Quuen Elizabeth of England than I know about King David I or the true story of King Macbeth (not the Shakespeare version).
It is alarming that it took so long for the first film to be made about William Wallace, that it had to made by Hollywood, and directed by an Australian! It is thanks to Mel Gibson that I for one have had an interest in the history of my own country rekindled. Max Dunbar should should regret that anyone's interest in the history of his own country should remain dormant until such a "plate of thin gruel" is produced.
Maybe our history only started from 1707, and anything that happened in Scotland before that year should be forgotten. By the way, are the Government planning a UK-wide celebration in the year 2007?

David B Sutherland
January 17

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As we said at the top of this page, we would welcome comment on these letter and the topics covered therein.
Email comments to MacBraveHeart below from ...

Brenda Stephens, John Christopher Soff
Brenda Stephens As a Scot born and raised, I know the the history of Scotland and Wallace, and as much as I enjoyed the movie, reality will never be quite as interesting as
a Hollywood version. Having said that, reality is more far reaching and much more vivid than Hollywood will ever be. Would watching a movie make me vote one way or another? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Have I felt like a second class citizen? ABSOLUTELY. I was as a child (a child of the welfare state) always led to believe that we only survived from English generosity; what I saw as an
adult was 'keep them down and there won't be a problem'. I no longer live in Scotland because I felt I could not survive in that environment, I was born into a class and that was where I belonged. I am an intelligent human being,
but it took a long time for me to believe that. My point is, if Braveheart makes you love your country, but more especially yourself a little bit more, then go for it. Reverting back to my upbringing, if you don't like it, SCREW YOU.

From a Scot who loves Scotland, warts 'n all.

Brenda Stephens

Newport News, VA, USA
February 1999

John Christopher Soff

A shortened version of this email was printed in the Sunday Herald of 21st February, 1999, as follows:

The cinematic version of the life of William Wallace, and the history of Scotland it paints, has caused a feverish debate.
    I will not profess to understand what strains of nationalism are currently running through the hearts and minds of Scottish citizens as you prepare for elections of such historic magnitude. But for goodness sake, what sort of future will you have as a nation if you direct all you energies into the debate about the accuracies or inaccuracies of a motion picture?

Dear John and Linda:
    First of all, I want to thank you for sharing the information about the Herald survey and voting for Braveheart. At the time I cast my vote, in favor of course, the yes votes were over 85%. I also like the updates to your website.  I offer the following comments to you both, and please forward them on to the Herald for me.

    It is quite interesting to me that the cinematic version of the life of William Wallace, and the history of Scotland it paints, has caused such a feverish debate. For those of you who expected the film Braveheart to be a historically accurate representation, what were you thinking? When I watched a film about Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, I didn't say to myself, "Oh, now I know exactly how it happened!" And when I see paintings of George Washington, the "father" of my own country no less, crossing the Delaware on that cold December night, I have to believe that it probably didn't happen just like it looks. That doesn't make Washington any less of a great man in the history of America. I can't imagine then, that the film Braveheart has made William Wallace, or Robert the Bruce, any less important in the history of Scotland.
    I will not profess to understand what strains of nationalism are currently running through the hearts and minds of the Scottish citizens as you prepare for elections of such historic magnitude. But for goodness sake, what sort of future will you have as a nation if you direct all you energies into the debate about the accuracies or inaccuracies of a motion picture?
    You must admit, however, that the film Braveheart has awakened a world to the fact that Scotland has a story of her own to tell. This film has caused me to read three books so far on the history of Scotland, and one on the life of Robert The Bruce. I took my family of four across the ocean last September to visit the Fields of Bannockburn, Stirling Castle, and the Wallace Monument. I visited Trim Castle in Ireland, where much of the movie was filmed, and I bought a book about castles in Scotland and Ireland. I've searched extensive web sites on the Internet about the "true" William Wallace, and have learned much that we never see in the movie. I'll soon return to Scotland for a Scottish Whisky Tour. I subscribe to the Highlander Magazine. Like any good film, Braveheart left me wanting more. It gave me a starting point to find the story behind the story. I'm even learning how to play the bagpipes. And there are others just like me all over this planet.
    As for the anti-English sentiments in the film, what can I say? We Americans didn't (and don't) have to live next door to them. Besides, I have yet to hear a tale about how any rulers and their subjects live in perfect harmony.
    Just remember to keep you wits about've got a world watching now.

John Christopher Soff
Meadville, PA, USA
February 1999

Ange Parkin It was become very obvious to me that if you did not get out of Braveheart what John Christopher Soff [see email above] did, then you didn't really get it at all. The film was not made as a documentary and should not be taken as one. It simply has opened the eyes of many viewers to realize that Scotland has fought long and hard to gain the independence that the England has previously denied it. It has inspired me to do a little digging of my own into Wallace's, Bruce's, Charlie's and Scotland's history in general.
Although the film was wonderfully made, it still is, of course, a Hollywood-made flick. So all you people who are challenging the inaccuracies of Braveheart, you're absolutely right-- give yourselves a pat on the back for pointing that one out. You clearly haven't gotten the
point of the film which was to show that although war is not a pretty thing, it was however those who were willing to go into battle who have made Scotland what it is today. It is inspiring because it portrays that if you are willing to fight for what you believe in, then there is nothing you can't
do. It also showed that the clans, however much they tended to hate each other, pulled together at the most important time for a common goal--independence from the English.
This is truly an epic film that takes my breath away with ever single viewing.

Ange Parkin
February 1999


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