the Battle of Bannockburn
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do or die!”
~ Scots Wha Hae, Robert Burns (1759-1796)
The Battle of Bannockburn on the 23rd and 24th of June 1314 was a Scottish victory by King of Scots Robert the Bruce against the army of King Edward II of England in the First War of Scottish Independence. Though it did not bring overall victory in the war, which would go on for 14 more years, it was a landmark in Scottish history. The earliest known depiction of the Battle of Bannockburn comes from the Scotichronicon (c. 1440), showing King Robert wielding an axe and Edward II fleeing toward Stirling, conflating incidents from the two days of battle. The Scotichronicon is a 15th-century chronicle or legendary account, by the Scottish historian Walter Bower, a continuation of historian-priest John of Fordun's earlier work Chronica Gentis Scotorum which begins with the founding of the Scotland of medieval legend, by Scota or Scotia, the mythological daughters of two different Egyptian pharaohs in both Irish and Scottish mythologies. The legends identify Scota as the ancestor of the Gaels, who traced their ancestry to Irish invaders, called Scotti, who settled in Argyll and Caledonia! 🏴
The dance "1314" marks the date of the victory of the Battle of Bannockburn, taking place over two days ending in June 24, 1314.
Notes from the Scottish Country Dance Database:
This dance commemorates the Battle of Bannockburn, which took place at the end of June, 1314 – Scotland under its king, Robert the Bruce, fought an English army under king Edward II. and won. Bannockburn, being as it is one of the rare Scottish triumphs over their southerly neighbours, plays an important role in Scottish tradition and lore; the victory is not only celebrated in Burns' famous poem, Scots Wha Hae, but also in the modern (inofficial) rugby anthem Flower of Scotland.
The dance is a comparatively early work by John Drewry, and his selection of music mirrors the actual event: Bonnybridge is a bridge across Bannock Burn (»burn« meaning »small river«), where the battle took place. Stirling Castle is, so to speak, the starter of the whole affair: The castle was occupied by English troops and being besieged by Edward Bruce (Robert's brother). It was agreed that the English were to relinquish the castle during the summer of 1314, unless there had been reinforcements from England by that time (Edward – the English king – was busy with internal politics at the time). Robert the Bruce was not enthusiastic about this arrangement, since in his opinion it gave the castle's garrison too much time, and Edward – the English king – managed to take care of his domestic problems and to raise a comparatively huge (two or three times the number of Bruce's men) army in order to liberate Stirling Castle and put the rebellious Scots into their place at the same time. He reached Stirling immediately before the ultimatum for clearing the castle expired. – The first reel, The Old Bog Hole, alludes to the actual battle in the plains near Stirling; Bruce, having had the area along the Falkirk road riddled with deep pits, forced the English army to detour through the open country off the road, where they were crammed between various water courses and had little room to maneuver. The second reel, Soldier's Joy, naturally symbolises the elation of the Scottish troops after winning the day.
The only recording that actually uses all of these prescribed tunes is the one by Deirdre Adamson, which unfortunately uses a nearly undanceable speed for the reels. This is slightly strange since 1314 is a popular and fairly frequently recorded dance.
See below for a video of the dance performed by The Silver Thistle Dancers of Richmond, Virginia in 2014, click the battlefield memorial plaque.
And for more about the actual battle, click the depiction from the Scotichronicon (c.1440), the earliest known image of the battle, showing King Robert wielding an axe and Edward II fleeing toward Stirling feature prominently, conflating incidents from the two days of battle.