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By Jared Savoy
Sir William Wallace would visit the city of Lanark often "for sport". He would roam about the city murdering Englishmen on sight, most usually in hidden places like alleyways and such. In the town of Lanark, the sheriff there was Sir William Heselrig, the English sheriff of Clydesdale, who was feared by a great number in the city for his cruelty and deceitfulness. Heselrig increased the number of guards in the city as the murdering continued and Wallace could no longer go about murdering the English. He soon saw that the patrols far exceeded him in number. When a patrol would pass by him he would courteously step aside and salute them, something I think is a bit humorous because he hated the British so, and they were marching right past the killer they so desperately wanted to catch.
During the time all this was going on, Sir Hugh Braidfute of Lamington died leaving his daughter Marion Braidfute the surviving heiress of Lamington. Marion stayed in the Braidfute home in Lanark rather than return to her home in Lamington. It is said that her older brother was put to death by Heselrig and for this she disliked the sheriff and made it known in an indirect sort of way. Wallace spotted Marion in the Church of St. Kentigern and from then on it was a "love at first sight" type of thing.
From that time forward, whenever Wallace was in town, he would secretly visit with her. Marion would encourage him and helped him to get into her house through a back entrance in an alley behind the house. The sheriff Heselrig had made plans for Marion to be wed to his son. This made their affair a very difficult one. Soon after William and Marion promised to each other that as soon as he had freed his country he would return and claim her as his wife. It is noted elsewhere though, that William and Marion did in fact get married and Marion bore unto him a daughter. However, according to the Reverend Dr. Charles Rogers, a historian studying Wallace's history, Wallace died unmarried and he does not seem to have had any illegitimate offspring.
Wallace soon started attending St. Kentigern's Church on Sundays to celebrate mass (the place where he first saw Marion). After mass, Wallace would go and visit Marion, but after a while Wallace got a bit careless or, if you prefer, overconfident and began to move about through the town on his way to visit Marion more openly. He was fairly sure that the British would not bother him (keep in mind that to the British in this town he was not known as William Wallace or as the one who had done all the previous killing. To the English he was just another Scotsman).
On one of his visits to Marion, a soldier in Heselrig's garrison confronted him. The soldier greeted him in a mixture of English and French. "Dieu garde bon Seigneur" (Good day and good morn). Wallace responded in a mixture of Scottish and Gaelic: "Gud deyn, dauch lard, bach lowch banyoch a de" (good evening lazy lord if you please, God bless you). As this was going on, several other soldiers had gathered round to watch. All of the soldiers around were now taunting him. One grabbed at his blade and said, "What should a Scot do with so fair a knife-as the priest said who last @#$!&* your wife (this implying that he was not the true father of Marion's baby but that a priest of Saint Nicholas had fathered her child). The crowd continued to get larger until it reached about 200. Heselrig and Thorn were also among the crowd. Robert Thorn was an Englishman who was a friend of Heselrig who was partly involved in the murdering of Marion later talked about in the article. William's anger was rising as the taunts continued but the one about his wife really angered him. He tried to remain calm and cool but lost his temper. The fight was quick and viscous. He quickly drew his sword and lobbed off the head of one English man. The blood gushing forth from the decapitated soldier's neck was said to have blinded William temporarily, but in the small street the English could not win just by outnumbering the Scots. The men with Wallace were used to these sorts of fights and fought very skillfully. They fought a rearguard action and withdrew through the gates taking refuge in Marion's house. The Scots killed around fifty Englishmen in their escape, but the rest of them, led by Heselrig and Thorn, regrouped and went up to the door of Marion's home demanding the "ruffians" surrender immediately. Marion stalled them at the door arguing with the sheriff to give her husband time to escape. Soon after the English realized that the Scots had fled and they broke down the door and put Marion to death right there on the spot.
Wallace was angered beyond belief upon hearing the news of what had happened to his wife. That same night Wallace and his men, who were joined by a few others, prepared to go into the town and take the sheriff's life. Heselrig never thought that they would try an attack that same night so security was at a minimum. Wallace and his men went into the town in small groups of two or three for this way the guards would not pay much attention to them. Once inside, the band regrouped. They split into two main groups; one group would head for Thorn's house and the other, with Wallace as leader, headed for Sheriff Heselrig's house. Upon reaching the Sheriff's house, he smashed in his door with a single foot and rushed up his stairs. He found Heselrig in his bedroom where he murdered the sheriff. With one single downward stroke of his blade Wallace lobbed off the sheriff's head, clear to the collarbone. Robert Thorn's house was set on fire and he burned to death. Wallace and his men fought with the British, who were now aware of their presence, and slew many Englishmen. The dead was said to be at about 240. Wallace did, however spare the priests and women but he expelled them from the city with no provisions. There is also an old Scottish legend that says that Wallace used the skin of the dead Heselrig to make the scabbard for his huge "claymore" broadsword. Thus ends the account given by Blind Harry*.
*Blind Harry was a minstrel who wrote an epic poem about Sir William Wallace and his whole history. Most of all the information known about William Wallace comes from that poem.
William Wallace: Braveheart
Copyright James Mackay, 1995, All rights reserved
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