Bid to save hill key to Bannockburn victory

Gillies Hill. Picture: Jane Barlow

Gillies Hill. Picture: Jane Barlow

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AN ONLINE campaign has been launched in a bid to prevent a hill that played a crucial role in the Battle of Bannockburn from being destroyed by quarrying.

An application for planning permission was submitted to Stirling Council last month by Paterson Quarries, of Coatbridge, which wants to resume mineral extraction at Gillies’ Hill’s Murrayshall Quarry, which was worked from the 1920s until 1996.

Rock will be extracted by blasting and drilling before being crushed and trucked from the site. The applicants say extraction could generate 132 heavy goods vehicle journeys a day.

Now a petition objecting to the plans has been launched, gaining more than 1,250 signatures in less than a week.

The Descent of the Gillies on to the field of Bannockburn is seen as a turning point in the 1314 battle, in which Robert the Bruce defeated the English King Edward II.

According to legend, as the tide of battle swung in the Bruce’s favour, the Sma’ Folk – servants, cart drivers and camp followers who had been concealed behind a hill – swarmed down to finish the fight.

The English, thinking the mob to be another regiment of Scots infantry, were further demoralised and fled in panic.

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The mound which concealed these supposed reinforcements was named the Gillies’ Hill in honour of the event.

In recent years, it has been claimed the “secret reserve” so feared by the English soldiers was actually a body of Knights Templar.

There have been several previous attempts to quarry the hill, and the campaign group Save Gillies Hill has battled for many years to prevent it.

In 2007, locals staged a battle re-enactment of the fight in an attempt to save the landmark.

Peter Beatty, from nearby Dollar, Clackmannanshire, said: “I’m one of many who enjoy the area in question for leisure purposes and would hate to see it shrunk/destroyed.”

Others have supported the cause to save the wildlife in the area.

Kenneth Cameron, from Dunblane, said: “It is difficult to believe that any temporary material gain from quarrying would offset the permanent loss of historical heritage and its potential for exploitation tourism.

“It seems frankly hard to believe that there is not suitable rock available in other local hills, without incurring the historical, environmental and recreational costs.”

Applicant Paterson’s Quarries Ltd hopes to extract 300,000 tonnes of rock a year from the site if given planning consent.

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