In the Footsteps of William Wallace


Recently-joined members Cha Halliday & Sean Donnelly gave members a talk on their research into the story of the tree to which Wallace is said to have been chained, in Port Glasgow, after his capture at Robroyston in 1305.  They have spent many weeks interviewing people to find out as much as they could on the subject. Their interest was sparked by the late Davie’s Ross’s book, “On the Trail of William Wallace”, which mentions the legend and provides a fascinating link between William Wallace and Inverclyde.

Friends Cha Halliday, 50, from Greenock, and Sean Donnelly, 45, from Inverkip, have visited over 100 sites the length and breadth of Scotland researching the famous Scottish patriot. But they were stunned when, after travelling hundreds of miles to see historical sites relating to Wallace, they found a link right on their doorstep in Port Glasgow. Local legend has it that after Wallace was captured by the English and taken to Dumbarton Castle in August 1305 to await transfer to London to stand trial for treason, he was taken to the Port and chained to a tree. That tree is believed to have been where Holy Family Church now stands and it was there until 1995, when it blew down during heavy storms.

The original tree at Port Glasgow
Joe Delaney's carving of Saint Padre Pio

A chain, thought to be the one used to restrain Wallace, remained at the scene for many years and each time it rotted away it was replaced, with the latest one understood to have dated back to Victorian times. It was also painted red each year by local children to symbolise the blood shed by Wallace and the area was a popular spot for wedding photos of couples getting hitched at Holy Family. But the chain is no longer there and friends Cha and Sean, who are now on the hunt for the relic, have appealed to local newspaper the Greenock Telegraph readers for their help. Sean said: “We have been to many sites so far but the local story has captured our attention. Even more interesting is that a priest from 1995, a Father Tosh, removed the chain and we believe he still has this. Father Tosh we understand has left the priesthood and is believed now to be married and in nursing, and we are trying to track him down. If only we could source this chain it would be a great find.”

The duo are also on the hunt for another vital piece of their puzzle. Sean said: “Sadly the tree blew down in 1995. But legend has it that after it blew down one of the priests — Father Quinn — who tried to save the tree, had a local carpenter make a statue of Padre Pio from the oak. We understand he has passed away but if we could find that statue it would be a fantastic find.”

An arty Port Glasgow OAP has helped solve a mystery surrounding a statue made from an historic local tree which was linked to William Wallace. Joe Delaney, 72, carved the figure of the revered Italian saint Padre Pio from a branch of a tree which once stood in the grounds of Holy Family church in the Port. The retired plumber, who took up carpentry as a hobby many years ago, came forward after two local history buffs made a plea for information in the Tele about the ‘Wallace Tree’ and the whereabouts of the Padre Pio statue made from it. Joe read our article and is now in contact with friends Cha Halliday and Sean Donnelly, who travelled the length and breadth of Scotland researching Wallace before stumbling on a connection to the famous Scottish icon right on their own doorstep. Mr Delaney made the statues after the Wallace Tree finally buckled in 1995 and he still has the original one in his home.
He said: “I thought I would make something for the parish priests.

“One wanted a statue, then another and another. About eight in total were made. I had a devotion to Padre Pio at the time and decided to carve him.” Local folklore says that Wallace was chained to the tree after being captured by the English in August 1305 while awaiting transfer to London to stand trial for treason. Remarkably, Joe’s intricate carving from it was his first go at carpentry. He said: “It’s not bad for my first attempt. There’s nothing left of the tree but I took some branches for a souvenir because the story goes that Wlliam Wallace was taken there from Dumbarton Castle before being taken to London. I don’t know if it’s authentic but we were brought up with the story and we used to play on the tree. The Wallace Bar on Parkhill Avenue was named after it. It’s a good story and everybody around my age and older all know about the Wallace Tree.”

Cha and Sean after much research believe they have found the remains of the tree, we look forward to finding out more on the guys' findings and will keep you all posted on all the latest news.
We'd like to thank Cha, Sean, Joe and the Greenock Telegraph for this article.

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