Tree used to chain William Wallace ‘found behind supermarket’

Tree expert Coralie Mills, Sean Donnelly, Stuart Duncan, Mags Halliday and Cha Halliday with the William Wallace tree. Picture: Centre Press
Tree expert Coralie Mills, Sean Donnelly, Stuart Duncan, Mags Halliday and Cha Halliday with the William Wallace tree. Picture: Centre Press
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Legend dictates Scots freedom fighter William Wallace was chained to a tree when first captured by the English more seven centuries ago. Now experts claim to have found its remains.

Two chunks of oak have been examined to find out if they really came from the same tree named in a local legend.

The pieces of wood were found at the site of the former Gourock ropeworks in Inverclyde and are thought to have formerly stood in the grounds of the Holy Family Church.

According to local legend, Wallace was chained to a tree in 1305 after his capture by the English, before being marched to London for trial.

The segments of tree were examined in March last year by tree specialist Dr Coralie Mills - one of just three dendrochronologists in Scotland and only a dozen in Britain.

Both pieces will now be preserved to let them dry out amid plans to put them on public display after being moved from their spot near Lidl in Port Glasgow.

They have been dated back to the 1700s but further evidence, including pictures of the original tree, suggests that the oak is almost certainly from the days of Wallace.

In her report, Dr Mills said: “If we go back 500 years from 1768, when the tree was said to have been bored and pitch poured in, then we get to the mid 13th century, and the tree could have been a decent size at the time of William Wallace’s capture in 1305.

“In other words, despite the dendrochronological age of the sampled part of the tree being late 18th century, the organism as a whole could have been much older.

“We cannot refute the Wallace tradition on the basis of the dendro results.”

History fans Cha Halliday, 53, from Greenock, along with friend Sean Donnelly, 48, from Inverkip, tracked down the last remnants of the tree three years ago after stumbling on a local link to Wallace and conducting their own research.

Cha said the new findings were a breakthrough.

He said: “The legend of the Wallace Tree lives on.

“The sections are dated to the 1700s but those are off-shoots from the original tree and who’s to say that wasn’t four or five hundred years old as well?

“Dr Mills is one of only three in her field in Scotland and she can’t disprove that it’s the Wallace Tree.

“It keeps the dream alive and it’s good to keep the local legend going.”

The tree was carefully removed on Sunday by Wallace Civil Engineering and taken to a safe storage site in Gourock.

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