Hidden Heroes of Stirling
Every day visitors to Stirling Castle, the National Wallace Monument and Bannockburn Heritage Centre celebrate our historic association with the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Scotland’s Kings and the great heroes of the Wars of Independence. In such distinguished company it’s easy to overlook less celebrated ‘Sons o’ the Rock’.
The following are just a handful of our more remarkable residents…
Tutor to Henry, eldest son of James VI & I, William Alexander accompanied his Prince to England following the 1603 Union of Crowns, became Master of Requests and Keeper of the Signet, and was celebrated as King James’s ‘Philosophical Poet’. That he is almost completely forgotten today is explained by the crushing failure of his most ambitious enterprise: the creation a Scottish colony in the New World. Made Viscount Canada and 1st Earl of Stirling for his efforts, he lost everything when the New Scotland settlement was taken by the French, and became Nova Scotia. The peculiar coat-of-arms adorning the entrance to his former home, Argyll’s Lodging (later home to the 17th- Dukes of Argyll), shows a Native American, his hand raised in welcome, facing a Mermaid, a tiny beaver looking down upon them both, are the last reminder of a schoolmaster who became an aristocrat on two continents.
Gunner Charles Haimes
On 18th November 1855 a fire within the Governor’s House at Stirling Castle seemed sure to spread to the nearby Gunpowder Store, decimating the fortress. Gunner Charles Haimes ignored warnings to abandon the Armoury, bravely labouring through the night to hold back the blaze. He heroic efforts successful, the Staffordshire-born Squaddie fell into a fever from which he never recovered, and was buried in an unmarked plot within the old military burial ground west of the Pithy Mary..
Stirling’s Aviation Heroes
John Damian’s failed flight from Stirling Castle on chicken-feather wings, in 1507, has become the stuff of legend. Aviator Harold Barnwell’s should, then, be deserving of greater glory. Barnwell built his first glider with his brother Frank in 1905, opening the Grampian Engineering and Motor Company in Causwayhead the following year. There, on 28th July 1909 he achieved Scotland’s first successful powered flight – piloting a canard biplane for 80 yards at an altitude of four meters!
William Moyes was 6th Engineer on the SS Titanic. As panic swept through the doomed vessel in the early hours of 15 April 1912, the 23 year-old remained at his post, struggling desperately to maintain power to the lights and Marconi Wireless – without which the first rescue vessels would not have known of the ‘unsinkable’ liner’s plight, and many more lives would have been lost. A memorial was raised outside brave Billie’s St Ninians home on the hundredth anniversary of the tragedy.
Alice Julia Marshall
Last but by no means least is Alice Julia Marshall. Buried in the Valley Cemetery in 1987, at the grand old age of 96, Alice was a pioneering pathologist, passionate advocate of the Womens’ Medical Federation and created Glasgow’s first blood-transfusion service. A crusading, emancipated healer: a very modern Stirling.