"An astonishing true story." ~ Martin Tierney, The Herald, 22.9.07
"A masterly piece of writing and a riveting story, based on meticulous research, by award winning author, William Scott. This tale captures the reader and transports him back three and a half centuries to dark and dangerous days, with a compelling solution to the mystery of the witches of Bute." ~ David Torrie, FSA Scot, an editor, DC Thomson Publications
"I must give you all praise for your imaginative interpretation and fleshing out of the account in the archives. I can't fault your logical explanation of the witches' "evidence" and the return of Jonet McNicoll. Your novel is enthralling and would stand alone as historical fiction." ~ Tom McCallum, MA hons Classics, St Andrews
Why was Robert Stewart of Scarrell the devil?? Because he was a devil! A university graduate, qualified minister, whose father had been minister in Bute. He mated with his housekeeper and when she fell pregnant he, as schoolmaster and session clerk, wrote the minutes. She put the blame onto other men, some of them very important. He bribed one to take the blame but the Session would not believe it. Scarrell was tried and convicted and nearly killed for the crime. He was ostracised by the whole community and forced into the company of the people on the periphery, the witch folk, the poorest of all. Asked why he did it by them at secret meetings in folds of the land out of sight where they collected to dance, eat drink and be merry, he began to examine himself publicly. He saw that the harsh rules of the Kirk Session were not what the promises of Jesus demanded. Where was the love of the Gospels? It was all sin and suffering. Before long, people came from all over the island to hear him and his more compassionate message and the Minister got to hear of it. Fearing he would lose his church to a better man, the Minister started the witch hunt. That was the way to kill off the opposition. Burn a few witches. After a meeting in the ruined St Bride's Chapel on Chapel Hill, one of the witches, Jonet Morison, p271, 272, reported seeing them all coming down the brae, said that the devil was present and they were going off to find prey. Asked who was the devil, she replied: 'Klarenough'. Instead, they were going off to pray. Another Isobel McNicoll, also reported the devil being present at a meeting at Bute Quay p263. Margaret McWilliam said she heard one of the witches say to the devil: 'We want one of our cummers yet.' i.e. The devil was present. Jonet McNicoll, p263, said she was at the meeting at Bute Quay with the devil. Jonet alone escaped after being sentenced to be burnt and returned 12 years later, recognised, and burnt then. Margaret McLevin said she met the devil and a great company at the time Jonet Morison mentioned (page 258). They were all held in the Tolbooth, starved, tortured in freezing, insanitary conditions. Some at least became psychotic, would say anything to please the minister and elders.
(To see a full page image of this book cover, click on the above image.)
(To see a full page image of this book cover, click on the above image.)
"This is a brilliantly written account of Bannockburn which makes a lot of sense. Very knowledgeable and very readable." ~ Richard Thomas Rogers, in Amazon
"This is a brilliantly argued book which clearly demonstrates that the current view of where and how the Battle of Bannockburn was fought is wrong. I have studied the battle for many years and I was convinced by his arguments. The book is lavishly illustrated with many excellent maps and photographs." ~ A.G.Morton, in Amazon
Another reconstruction is Bruce's Genius Battle (BGB) which is about the training of the Scots at Bannockburn before the battle and the battle itself. It has original insights: where Bruce could easily address most of his army at one time: the amphitheatres (3). But this reconstruction is based on three scholarly works of history
First, Bannockburn Revealed (BR), published in 2000, which contains all the sources, translated, plus the first justified map of the battle area in 1314, that took up 100 pages and has about 70 photos and maps of the battle area. Where and how the battle was fought are established there for the first time. This book is groundbreaking. There are a dozen photos of the pools of water in the Carse, so crucial to understanding the battle. Six sources, most written within days of the battle, prove that all the Scots fought on foot, on p254. The strategy is clear: the English camp in the Carse and, over confident, get drunk. The Scots move silently at dawn off the Dryfield and set their pikes close to them so that their cavalry have no room to get up speed when they charge. The idea that 6,000 Scots beat 20,000 English is demolished. Scottish numbers were at least three times as much, p157/8.
In fact, seven sources say this in the Genius of Bannockburn (GB) published 2012 (p31,32) and three of them say that Bruce, the King of Scots, led the entire army on foot. This is remarkable. A discovery that will inspire the country when appreciated. By then, the map had been improved by adding the elevations, ridges and depressions, which have turned out to be crucial. How the Scots marshalled their army and set their pikes is discovered. Two astonishing surprises are given: how Bruce got his men to believe they could win and that, seeing the English unprepared, he set his pikes twice in the battle to take them even closer. The best proofs are in this book. This Carse is shown to be unique in having many pools of water p147.
But there was, between, a third book Bannockburn Proved (BP) 2005, where half a dozen proofs of the site of battle (some short, the best about 8 pages of quotation) are given; the elevations, ridges and depressions were put on for the first time and the justification extended by another 27,000 words. All the elevations are shown in the map and the main pools of water. Ch VI (GB) about 30,000 words is also very important in demolishing the rubbish by well known historians from the last century who spent two days walking the ground and understood nothing. This researcher devoted a decent fraction of a thousand over twenty years and even ten before that, not just at the battle area but the entire Forth Valley and the Borders too, into England.
A further reconstruction is 'Bannockburn the Poem'. This is a half hour read in verse with rhyme and imagery which fully describes and conveys the strategy and tactics in the battle.
A lifetime spent teaching mathematical science, philosophy and psychology have made this success possible. Serving on the Scottish Mathematical Council making problems and proofs for the best students in Scotland and writing many papers on these matters was invaluable. What I have discovered is science. It is opinion no longer. For the first time we have proof and certainty. Of course many years of concentration on this single matter have been necessary. The number of invaluable insights achieved over the years is remarkable. Psychology here has been very necessary dating sources: when they should count from. The work of Prof Sir FC Bartlett, FRS into reporting a story reveal omissions, transpositions in time, conflations as well as inventions. Checking them against each other, especially for detail, is a powerful tool in understanding what sources are best. Scalacronica, by Sir Thomas Gray, for example, though believed to be written in Edinburgh Castle in 1355, counts from 1314, for his father was captured on day 1 of the battle, he would have discussed it endlessly with his son as soon as he reached home after ransom was arranged, done rapidly to preserve his life away from a prison where he might have died. The amount of detail in it is phenomenal, some of it direct quotes, you can tell are correct. Philosophy has been invaluable in presenting arguments which this life has been engaged with every day, most of the day, hundreds of papers written full of nothing but arguments. The ability to make maps was self taught. Since Roy's two maps of Stirlingshire overlapped, they had to be combined into one, difficult with untriangulated maps, a perfect join of which is mathematically impossible. This was done in 1999 when the National Library of Scotland still did not have coloured copies.These were available just before from the British Library, having been presented from the Queen's Library at Windsor.