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FORTUNATE MISTAKES

 

Going away from the Memorial towards Stirling, the driver took the wrong turning at the main road and headed towards Bridge of Allan. The mistake was corrected fairly quickly but it turned out to be a fortunate one. Somebody had noticed the car make this turn and subsequently informed the police that the raiders had taken the road north. The heat of the pursuit was directed that way. The caretaker had little trouble in getting free of his bonds and he proceeded to walk down to the nearest police station. Unintelligent? Well, it gave the raiders a chance to get through Stirling and beyond. The police alerted the country for 60 miles each way. It was in the Perth direction they expected results but a police block was also established on the Glasgow road at the Forth-and-Clyde canal bridge, a perfect spot then for the purpose and the fleeing car was not yet through. But at Dennyloanhead the driver had made another mistake and taken the Kilsyth road. There was no police block on it, not at least in time to stop the car. The quartet reached Glasgow safely.

 

                                                                   HIDING THE SWORD

 

        

 

                                          (The Wallace Sword on a map of Scotland and Saltire)

 

A two-handed sword is not for concealing in a small car and the wounded leg was giving trouble-bleeding would not stop. They made their way to the house of a prominent Glasgow member of the SNP. He took in the Sword. The raiders were soon in trouble again. The hullabuloo in the newspapers broke the "host's" nerve and he demanded that the Sword be taken away. They went to an even more "respectable" and prominent SNP member, more in desperation than in hope. But he was trumps and took in the Sword.

 

The police were without a clue and many of them maybe not too anxious to find the culprits, though they were concerned about the safety of the Sword. The heat gradually went out of the chase and it was possible to move around freely, even with a 6-foot sword. The raiders did not quite know what to do with the Sword. They weren't going to give it up to go back into the same unseemly company but where could it be kept safely and yet secretly? The solution was quite ingenious. The Sword was most carefully wrapped, encased in concrete, and laid down as a doorstep to a house in Galloway. All of the raiders were not in the secret as to what had been done with it.

 

The matter then became something to which the "some" alluded slyly but very knowingly, which the newspapers revived now and then, which the police had not closed their files on. That was a time of another IRA campaign and some men were arrested in Stirlingshire as having sought to collect gelignite for the embattled Irish. On the fringe of this group was a Scots Nationalist who had also been on the fringe of the Wallace Sword incident. He (or someone else) let slip something and there was a raid on the house in Galloway but nothing was found. The police trod blithely back and forward over the Sword they were looking for but their informant had not had the full story.

 

                                                                        HOW IT WAS RETURNED

 

     

 

                                                         (APG Men with the Wallace Sword))

 

The storm clouds which had been gathering over Europe for years now daily added menace. The certain approach of war gave the raiders a special problem—more than 600 years before the custodians of the Stone of Destiny had had to find a safe hiding place for it while substituting a counterfeit hewn from a Scone quarry. They found their safe hiding place, no one ever betrayed it, but apparently all who had the secret perished without revealing it in the long subsequent years of invasion, resistance and slaughter. The police were also worrying about the future of the Sword. They went again to the man who had been in the IRA trouble and put it to him that he should get in touch with his former "accomplices" and suggest that the Sword should be returned. It was the way out. The police were informed that the Sword would be found at the base of the Battle of Bothwell Bridge Monument on a certain evening after dark. It was—and nobody saw it being placed there ! The 1938 reiving, however put an end to the demeaning of the Abbeycraig Memorial. No allegations of that kind can be made now against Stirling Town Council, the custodians. We do not know why the Sword has been taken on this occasion or by whom. Maybe we shall in time. We hope the reason is a good one.

 

(The above article was taken from The Scots Independent, June 1972)

 

On 2 May 1972, the Wallace sword was stolen from the National Wallace Monument by members of the Tartan Army or Army for the Provisional Government of Scotland. Shown here are two members of it, wearing balaclavas, holding the sword, and with a Saltire, the flag of Scotland in the background.

This is one of two polaroid photographic images which were sold at different gatherings from the time of the theft of the sword until its return some years afterwards. The immediate reason for the theft of the sword was the poor condition in which the National Wallace Monument was maintained, with restricted opening hours, poor access and winter closure, and a lack of promotion which kept the visitor figures low. Those who took the sword did so in an attempt to draw attention to these factors. The sword was removed from the Monument by forcing open the case, and dropping it through one of the narrow air slots which pierce the Monument's stair tower. The sword fell vertically and plunged into the earth beneath, reverberating from side to side with the impact. There was no damage.

Arrests were made in May 1976 for the theft of the sword, the use of explosive devices, and other illegal military activity, and after a trial in September one man received a five year sentence, others were given probation, and the majority of the accused were released.