Books on William Wallace, a short guide.
By David R. Ross, Convenor, The Society of William Wallace.

There are many books available with Wallace as their theme, and as convenor of The Society of William Wallace I am often asked what title I would recommend. The best reply I can give is to read several titles, and form a picture from the whole, but below is a list of some of the better works, and a personal viewpoint of their contents. I have to start with my own work on Wallace.


“On the Trail of William Wallace” by David R. Ross.
I tried to write the book on Wallace that I always wanted to read myself! I approached it in a different way by telling the story of Wallace, but also pinpointing the places associated with the man. I have spent much of my life exploring Scotland, and had stood on the spots where Wallace had carried out many of his feats, so I wanted to give people the opportunity to do the same. I hope that I have also given an insight into the way that Wallace is perceived. Very much a populist book, with line drawings and pictures. Almost a travelogue as well as a book on history.


“The Deeds of Wallace of Elderslie” by Blind Harry.
The original Wallace book, written in the 1400s, by Blind Harry, a wandering minstrel, who told stories of Wallace for his supper. This is the second biggest seller in Scotland - of all time! Braveheart was scripted from it too. It is in the form of an epic poem, but it will seem dated and perhaps archaic to modern sensibilities. One for real aficionados though. There is much in Harry’s work that is fantasy, coupled with actual events, so it should not be taken as a true account of Wallace’s life, but it gives us a window back in time to see how the people of Scotland perceived Wallace in medieval times.


“William Wallace - Brave Heart” by James Mackay
A travesty is the only way I can describe this book. It contains so much misinformation that I started to doubt my own senses and memory. It pushes the Wallace Ayrshire birthplace, giving blatant untruths printed as facts. For example, there are lines in the book like “Corsbie, which is of course now known as Crosshouse” whereas Corsbie still exists and is a different entity to Crosshouse! He sites the Leglen Wood monument to Wallace in Irvine - 20 miles away from its correct site near Ayr! The whole chapter on Wallace’s birthplace contains errors in nearly every line. On the plus side, the description of Wallace’s murder is well written. Errors only need to be written down once though, for them to be repeated for future generations, so it is a shame that this book was not better researched, as it has caused much blurring of the truth in the few years since its release.


“William Wallace” by Andrew Fisher
An academic book on Wallace, careful to quote sources for all its detail, and probably the best historical work on Wallace available. The author though, does make one or two suggestions regarding Wallace that I personally disagree with. One such is that Wallace may have honed his craft fighting in English campaigns - for the English! This aside, this is one book that I would suggest that people read, and although it may be a little dry for some tastes, it covers most of the data available on Wallace.


“Robert Bruce” by GWS Barrow.
Although a book about Bruce, the hero King of Scots, it is the bible of this era in Scotland's history, and those who wish to understand the political climate and events of Wallace’s time should not leave this off their reading lists. It gives all the factual detail known on Wallace, and lets us see where he stands in the scheme of things. Perhaps a bit “heavy duty” for the casual reader who just wants to learn a little more about Wallace, but a well-researched and invaluable guide.


“For Freedom, the last days of William Wallace” by David R. Ross
Again, a populist book, the first 6 chapters describing the last month of Wallace’s life in August 1305, and the second 6 following the events which took place to commemorate Wallace on the 700th anniversary of 2005. It gives the detail of the route that Wallace was “dragged” through London, and as much detail as possible of his gory execution.


“Under the Hammer” by Fiona Watson.
A book for purists, and a serious academic study of the difficulties of the English regime in Scotland at the time of Wallace. I learned much from the book that was previously unknown to me, of the day-to-day running of the administration of occupation. A pertinent book, but as said, one more for the academically inclined.


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The Society of William Wallace is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation Registration number SC045959