Siol nan Gaidheal
David R Ross
David R Ross
1958 - 2010
No doubt you’ve heard heard the phrase from Braveheart “and they fought like warrior poets”; unlike Wallace, who fought his country’s corner with the sword, Davie was that mystical warrior poet mounted on a Harley motorcycle (when it hadn’t been stolen) rather than a trusty steed, in fact so much so that he was popularly known as the ”Biker Historian”. Davie fought his fight for Scotland with pen and paper. Is the pen mightier than the sword? In modern times it would seem most definitely so, and Davie was a man who brought a swathe of Scotland’s history to people who had never before been much interested in it.
After leaving school, Davie had a wide range of jobs and one of them was as an aspiring guitar hero with his band M74. Fame beckoned when they became the first band to play the SECC in Glasgow, but alas it was not to be and Davie hung up his guitar and picked up his pen, though he continued to play at various book events later on, generally driving people to the bar!
Davie was a very accomplished author and historian with many books and TV credits to his name, but he didn’t put pen to paper until after attending a lecture by Dr Elspeth King, who suggested that someone should write a book listing where Scotland’s Wallace-related sites were. Never one to shirk a challenge, Davie said: ”I was sitting in the audience thinking, ‘I could do that!’” He began work on ‘On the Trail Of William Wallace’ the very next day, and when it was published it went straight into the top ten best sellers in its first week, establishing him as an author. He went on to release a further seven books; “On the Trail of Robert the Bruce”, “On the Trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie”, “A Passion for Scotland”, “Desire Lines”, “For Freedom”, “On the Trail of Scotland’s History”, and “Sir James the Good”. A further book about the role of women in Scottish history had been delivered to his publishers just prior to his death.
Davie will probably be best remembered for his "Walk for Wallace” in 2005 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Wallace’s capture and judicial murder. He recreated that shameful journey, walking four hundred and fifty miles from Robroyston in Glasgow down to London between the 3rd and 22nd of August 2005 to bring Wallace’s spirit back home to Scotland. Anyone who was lucky enough to attend the commemorative service inside St. Bartholomew's will never forget it, and for those who didn’t, the DVD gives a very intimate record of events. In a letter read out at Davie’s funeral by Duncan Fenton, Secretary of the Society of William Wallace, First Minister Alex Salmond said: "David Ross was a tremendous enthusiast for all things Scottish, and in particular for the memory of William Wallace. Among David's outstanding contributions to the wider understanding of Scotland's history was his leadership of the commemorative march to London in 2005. Those of us who attended and contributed to the service at St Bartholomew's at Smithfield in London experienced an occasion as memorable as a state funeral and as moving as a personal testament."
One of his greatest strengths was public speaking and even if you didn’t have a particular interest in history, Davie had a naturally easy way of talking to an audience and would bring his subject matter to life as he painted pictures inside your head with his words. School children all over Scotland experienced his passion for his country as he made many school visits – often the first time many Scots children were taught some of their own country’s history. But it wasn’t only Scotland that listened; Davie had a huge audience, especially in Canada and America, who couldn’t get enough of his story telling. During the last couple of years of his life he toured the USA several times with the band ‘Albannach’, introducing them on stage and later giving talks on Scottish history. Whether it was the annual commemoration at Bannockburn, the midnight service at Culloden, a school visit, the local historical group or a University in America, Davie spread the word with so much enthusiasm and passion for his subject that you couldn’t fail to be taken along for the ride as he waxed lyrical about Scotland’s past, and its future!
Davie was, up till his death, Convenor of the Society of William Wallace based in Elderslie, and membership of this Society increased greatly under his leadership. As well as being a prominent member of Siol nan Gaidheal, he was an honorary member of Crann Tara and of countless other societies and organisations around the world. He fought for a number of causes dear to his heart, not least Scotland’s Independence, and was pre-eminent in the campaign for the return of Wallace’s letter of safe conduct which was taken at Robroyston. The St Andrews Day Rally in Edinburgh was dear to his heart, and the upkeep of several monuments dedicated to Wallace’s memory were among other projects he was deeply involved in.
Davie wasn’t just big in stature, although at 6’ 5” he did have a certain ‘presence’ which was fairly unmistakable! He was a true inspiration to many, and although he may have had his detractors, it is highly significant that those who decried him had accomplished little or nothing on the scale of his achievements, and most of their criticism must be put down to simple jealousy of the man and his works. His passion for Scotland was undoubted, and shone through in everything he did.
In his own words:
“I stand before this flag. The white Saltire of St Andrew in the blue summer’s sky.
It represents the soil from which I sprang, and to which, one day, I must return.
It represents Scotland.
As it was;
As it is;
As it always will be.”
Sleep well, big warmer.
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