Photo: the Battle of Stirling Bridge, fought in 1297, is one of William Wallace's most famous victories. Courtesy of the Smith Art Gallery & Museum, Stirling.
William Wallace is back in Stirling, the site of one of his most famous victories, following the acquisition of a 17th century portrait of the Scottish hero by the town’s Smith Art Gallery.
The story of Wallace's courageous rebellion against the English before his arrest and execution in 1305 was brought to a global audience by Mel Gibson’s 1995 film Braveheart.
His exploits are particularly remembered in Stirling where in 1297 his army fought and won the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The event is commemorated at the site by the National Wallace Monument.
Thanks to donations from the National Art Collections Fund, the Friends of the Smith, private businesses and 208 individuals, the gallery was able to raise the £20,000 needed to buy one of the few paintings of him in existence.
"It is one of a handful of historical representations of William Wallace," said the Provost of Stirling, Colin O’Brien.
"Most have remained in private hands, but we are delighted to have secured this one for Stirling’s Smith Art Gallery and Museum."
Fund raising began in August last year and the tremendous effort is due to be celebrated by the institution at an event on February 25, to which all 208 contributors have been invited.
"It is amazing that so many fundraising initiatives were pursued," explained Cllr Gerry Power, Chairman of the Smith Trustees.
Photo: Courtesy of the Smith Art Gallery & Museum, Stirling.
"Adam MacNaughtan, who wrote a poem for the campaign, will be here to perform it in person," he added. "Our guests will include the children of Armadale Primary School’s class 7A, who between them raised £304, and delivered a complete fundraising report with their contribution."
Despite there being no contemporary pictures of William Wallace, the portrait was painted as part of an interior decoration scheme in 1661. It was created for the house of Sir John Wauchope, which was called Niddrie Marshall and located near Portobello in Edinburgh.
Sir John was directly involved in the restoration of Charles II to the throne of the United Kingdom and the house interior was designed to commemorate the part he played.
When the house was re-modelled in the 1720s, the portrait was enlarged with a martial trophy of flags and weapons and placed above the fireplace in the dining room.
Although Niddrie Marshall was burnt and demolished in 1957, the painting was removed and eventually put up for a recent auction by Sotheby’s.
Fortunately for the Smith it failed to find a buyer and the institution was able to negotiate with the seller and, with a £5,000 contribution from the National Art Collections Fund, was able to complete the purchase.
"I am delighted by the response of people not only in Stirling but worldwide," added Provost O’Brien. "The success of the campaign shows how much people appreciate the importance of Wallace to Stirling and Stirling to Wallace."
The portrait will be on public display from February 25.