Braveheart TV Premiere Letters
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 ....
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).
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.
|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?
|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.
The Herald - January 6, 1999 - Two more responses John Scott's letter:
|Our own first letter:||The Message of 'Braveheart'
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 movies "highly charged emotional
message" will inhibit proper debate about the future of Scotland.
|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
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?
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.
|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?
|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.
The Herald - January 14, 1999 - Another three letters:
(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.
(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?
|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 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.
(in response to Alan Steel's letter)
|The hero has broken loose
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.
|Michael Donnelly's letter:
(in response to Alan Steel's letter)
|After a taboo's destruction
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.
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.
The Herald - January 19, 1999 - One letter:
|Patricia Baillie's letter:||The true story of Wallace
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.
The Herald - January 20, 1999 - One letter:
(Agreeing with Donald Anderson's letter printed on January16)
THOROUGHLY agree with Mr Donald Anderson's comments about the lack
of monuments to Wallace in Glasgow (January 16).
Jennifer A Dick
The Herald - January 21, 1999 - Four more letters:
(in response to those from Patricia Baillie and Max Dunbar)
|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.
|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
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.
|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.
|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
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?
||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.
Newport News, VA, USA
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.
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 you...you've got a world watching now.
John Christopher Soff
Meadville, PA, USA
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.