Monkton Kirk: The Spiritual Birthplace of Scottish Nationalism

Old Monkton Kirk, where Wallace had his inspiring dream.
Photo by Roger Griffith.
I have made this point before that the evidence of William Wallace being a son of Ayrshire is overwhelming. Almost all the important stories connected with his legend point firmly in that direction, while our earliest source, the epic poem of Blind Harry, is also unrelentingly Ayrshire-centric.

In that great but often difficult-to-read work, a key moment is William Wallace's Dream at Monkton Kirk. Monkton is a small village – or remnant of a village – on the edge of Prestwick Airport. But back in the 13th century, it had a well-built church, the ruins of which can still be seen.

According to Blind Harry, it was here that Wallace had the defining mystical experience of his career as Scotland's Ur-nationalist, in the form of an elaborate and highly symbolic dream. For this reason, Monkton Kirk can be regarded as the spiritual birthplace of Scottish nationalism.

Rather than excerpting Blind Harry's original version, which modern audiences can seldom understand, here is the relevant passage from Book VII of a modernized version of the poem published in 1722 by William Hamilton of Gilbertfield, under the title "The Life and Heroick Actions of the Renoun'd Sir William Wallace, General and Governour of Scotland":
The Justice aire on June the Eighteen Day
Was set, proclaim'd, no Barron was away.
The Scots they wondr'd, in a peaceful Land
Why English-men should rule with such high Hand.
Sir Rannald did appoint before this aire,
At Monkton-Kirk his Friends to meet him there.
Wallace was present 'mongst those Gentlemen,
He Warden was of Scotland chosen then.
Good Mr. John, who sirnamed was Blair,
Discharg'd his Friends from going to that Aire,
And did suspect since Piercy left that Land,
He was no Friend to Scots, did then Command.
Wallace from them went to the Church with speed,
There said a PATER-NOSTER, and a CREED.
He lean'd him down upon a Place hard by,
Then in a deep Sleep fell immediately:
Into that Slumber Wallace thought he saw,
A Stalwart Man that towards him did draw.
Who hastily did catch him by the Hand,
"I am," he said "sent to thee by Command."
A Sword he gave him of the finest Steel,
"This Sword," said he, "Son, may thou manage well."
A Topas fine the Plummet he did guess,
The Hilt and all, did glitter o'er like Glass.
"Dear Son," he said, "we tarry here too long,
Shortly thou must revenge thy Countrie's Wrongs."
Then led he him unto a Mountain high,
Where he at once might all the World see.
There left he Wallace, contrair his Desire,
To whom appear'd, a very dreadfull Fire,
Which fiercely burnt, and wasted thro' the Land,
Scotland all o'er, from Ross to Sulway Sand.
Quickly to him descended there a Queen,
All shining Bright, and with majestick Mein,
Her Countenance did dazle so his Sight,
It quite extinguish't all the Fire Light.
Of Red, and Green, gave him with modest Grace
A Wand, and with a Sapphire cross'd his Face.
"Welcome," she said, "I choose thee for my Love,
Thou granted art by the great God above,
To help and aid poor People that get Wrong,
But with thee now I must not tarry long;
To thine own Host thou shalt return again,
Thy dearest Kin in Torment are and Pain.
This Kingdom thou redeem it surely shall,
Tho' thy Reward on Earth shall be but small.
Go on and prosper, sure thou shalt not miss,
For thy Reward the Heavens eternal Bless."
With her right Hand she reached him a Book,
Then hastily her Leave of him she took.
Unto the Clouds ascended out of sight,
Wallace the Book embrac'd with all his Might.
The Book was writ in three Parts and no less,
The first big Letters were, and all of Brass:
The second Gold, Silver the third most fine,
At which he greatly wondred in his Mind:
To read the Book he made great haste, but as
He did awake, behold a Dream it was.
Quickly he rose, and there a Man he found,
Who did his Dream, and Vision all expound.
"The stalwart Man, who gave thee that fine Sword
Was Fergus King of Scots, upon my Word.
The Mountain does prognosticate no less,
Than Knowledge how our Wrongs thou must redress.
The Fire hasty Tidings doth presage,
The like of which was not heard in our Age.
The bright and shining Queen, whom thou didst see,
Was Fortune, which portends great Good to thee.
The pretty Wand which she unto thee sent,
Betokens Pow'r, Command, and Chastisement.
The colour Red, if I right understand,
Means bloody Battles shortly in our Land:
The Green, great Courage to thee does portend,
And Trouble great, before the Wars shall end.
The Saphire Stone she blessed thee withall,
Is happy Chance, pray God it thee befall."
"The threefold Book, is this poor broken Land
Thou must redeem, by thy most valiant Hand.
The great big Letters which thou saw of Brass,
Prognostick Wars that shall this Land oppress.
Yet every Thing to its true Right again
Thou shalt restore; But thou must suffer Pain.
The Gold betokens Honour, Worthiness,
Victorious Arms, Manhood, and Nobleness.
The Silver shows clean Life, and Heavenly bless,
Which thou for thy Reward shalt never miss.
Then do not fear, or in the least despair,
He shall protect thee who of all takes care."
He thank'd him, then, committing all to God,
Home unto Crosbie with his Uncle rode.
Both blyth and glad, all Night they lodged there,
And on the Morn, made ready all for Ayr.
Another view of the Kirk.
Photo by Roger Griffith.

1 comment:

  1. All shining Bright, and with majestick Mein,
    Her Countenance did dazle so his Sight,
    It quite extinguish't all the Fire Light.
    Of Red, and Green, gave him with modest Grace
    A Wand, and with a Sapphire cross'd his Face.
    "Welcome," she said, "I choose thee for my Love,
    Thou granted art by the great God above.........................

    see Grace translation in French


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