Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Bruce

Fantasy Bob and Mrs FB return from their visit to Australia and New Zealand to find a heightened state of excitement and celebration throughout their native land.

Not in response to their return.  Far less because of the early elimination of England from the World Cup. Significant though each of these events is.  But there is something else that is stirring the Scottish pulse.

For this week marks the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, which took place on 23 and 24 June 1314.  A new Visitor Centre is is operation at the battle site with all manner of technological wizardry to entertain, divert and bring the event to life.  A re-enactment is on the menu with re-enactors from all parts of the world promised.

The earliest known image of the battle 

Battle reenactment is never a thing that FB has quite got to grips with. It seems largely to involve camping and dressing up while at some time running from one end of a damp field to the other waving some weapon like thing or other.  It is a strange way altogether to spend a weekend.  Although, as Mrs FB points out with characteristic acuity, this is rich coming from someone who dresses up in pads, spends half the weekend wondering how he missed another straight one and the other half in the solitude of deep fine leg.  Chacun à son goût, you might say if you were so inclined.

Like most Scottish people FB absorbed the wonders of Bannockburn at his parents' and grandparents' knee.  It is a fine tale of the underdog beating the bully; of a fight for freedom and identity.   The celebrated single combat between Robert the Bruce and Henry de Bohun, who charged at Scotland's King and when the two passed side by side, had his head split by Bruce's axe, lived long in FB's childhood memory - even though his childish ears first heard the name of Scotland's great commander as Robert the Bruised.  What bruised him, he wondered.  Was this a risk of playing with battleaxes?  
Victorian image of R the B -
note absence of cricket gear
To anyone called Robert, Scotland's great leader, be he Bruce or Bruised, would be an inspiration.  So it was with FB.  Or should have been.  However it became clear from FB's youthful researches that Robert the Bruce was not a cricketer.  A bitter disappointment for FB and his first encounter with the often repeated finding that heroes can have feet of clay and the Bruce receded in FB's echelon of role models. Just as well, since acts of individual bravado with axes were not encouraged in the playground of his school.

The site of the Bannockburn visitor centre, and the well known statue of the Bruce, is probably not the true site of the battle itself.  One of the candidates as the true site is about a mile away - roughly in the area where FB played cricket against St Modan's High School FP on many occasions when that club took their place in the East of Scotland leagues.  Although still active, the club no longer take part in those leagues.  

St Modan's most famous former pupil was Billy Bremner, another Scottish hero although he did not turn out for the cricket team.  Nevertheless, surely the Bremner and the Bruce would put something in the air and inspire FB to great acts of leadership or heroism.  FB's long suffering readers will know better than to raise the question.

Just as Robert the Bruised was not a cricketer so Bruce is not a common cricketing name.  Only one member of the Bruce clan has played test cricket -William Bruce  played in 14 Tests for Australia between 1885 and 1895 scoring 702 runs at an average of 29.  His relationship to Robert is not known. Sadly he took his own life in 1925 as drink and business difficulties overwhelmed him.  

Bruce French
More players with the Christian name Bruce have played, though not that many. Kiwis predominate; there is only one Bruce who has turned out for England. Wicket keeper Bruce French played 16 Tests between 1986 and 1988 - his opportunities limited by the arrival on the scene of Jack Russell.

And even in Scotland Bruce are few and far between.  Ayr batsman Bruce Patterson played 3 ODIs and 12 First Class matches for Scotland between 1988 and 2004.  And that's about it.

So all in all the excitement about Bannockburn this week may pass cricketers by. They will therefor be grateful to FB for reminding them of its happening.


  1. FB may or may not be aware that during his long sojourn in the Southern hemisphere, momentous events occurred on his home patch. I refer to the relocation of Cricket Scotland's headquarters to the Stirling County ground at New Williamfield. Few cricket grounds can have such a scenic and historic setting.

    1. Many thanks for that useful information.