A book on the little-known history of the Declaration of Arbroath has united writers and historians from across Tayside and beyond.
Stonehaven-based editor Neil McLennan, a senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, has brought together 50 authors including Angus Council provost Ronnie Proctor, former First Minister Alex Salmond and Scots language champion Alistair Heather.
‘Conquered By No One: A People’s History of the Scots who made the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320’ tells the story of the 39 Scots who wrote to the Pope to assert their independence from the kings of England.
Provost Ronnie Proctor salutes the “meaningful language” that has “reverberated around the world” while Mr Salmond writes the declaration “presses every button and speaks to all of its audiences, directly and beautifully.”
The 14th century document, signed by Scottish King Robert the Bruce and his nobles towards the end of the first Scottish wars of independence, is said to have influenced modern ideas of democracy, including the US Declaration of Independence.
But the book also includes tales of bitter rivalry and treachery as Scotland’s most powerful figures jostled for position and wealth
Neil suggested the collection throws up some interesting parallels with politics in modern Scotland.
“Seven hundred years on there is continued political infighting and there will be many who will draw conclusions between the current day’s events and what was happening 700 years ago,” he said.
“How do you keep people all within the same tent?”
“As Scotland faces being removed from Europe, the narrative of a hardy band of Scots engaging in a diplomatic mission to France to secure our nation’s place on the map and our place in the European network feels pertinent.”
The book is being published to mark the 700th anniversary of the declaration after a wide range of events in Arbroath and beyond had to be postponed earlier this year due to the pandemic.
Other writers in the collection include Dollar Academy history teacher Hannah Young, Arbroath High teacher Emmanuel Rio, Perth Academy’s Laura Hobson and the Courier business reporter Jim Millar, among many other local figures.
Angus-based BBC Scotland presenter and Scots language champion Alistair Heather said he took “great joy” writing and researching two lesser- known signatories Donald Campbell and Reginald Cheyne.
He said the book revealed more about Arbroath and Angus’ role in “European dynastic power struggles”
“As a bairn I spent loads of weekends running about the beach at Lunan Bay. I always gravitated towards the bright sunset sandstone of the Red Castle up on its wee hill guarding the bay.
“Researching the book, I learned how the old, familiar ruins of Red Castle were once a key chess-piece in the Scottish peace negotiations with the English after Bannockburn and after the Declaration of Arbroath.”
He said there was a “real edge to the main narrative of the declaration story at the moment.”
“As Scotland faces being removed from Europe, the narrative of a hardy band of Scots engaging in a diplomatic mission to France to secure our nation’s place on the map and our place in the European network feels pertinent,” he added.
“Similarly, the declaration states that Robert the Bruce is made king ‘by the assent of us all’, is a real democratic statement.
“In this age of referenda, that strikes a very modern resonance.”