Singer joins Dunfermline Abbey tribute to Robert the Bruce

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A new play with a cameo appearance by a Scottish singing star will be premiered to mark the discovery of the remains of Robert the Bruce at Dunfermline Abbey 200 years ago.

Written by local playwright Diane M Stewart and directed by Catherine Exposito, Bones, Bogles and Coronets is a reconstruction of the time of the discovery of the grave on 17 February, 1818 and the laying of the foundation stone for the new Abbey Church three weeks later.

Dunfermline Abbey

Dunfermline Abbey

Dunfermline-born singer Barbara Dickson OBE, whose hits include I Know Him So Well, will lead a community rendition of Robert Burns’ song Scots Wha’ Hae at the end of the production – which was sung at the stone-laying on 10 March, 1818.

Ms Stewart said the play, to be performed at the Abbey Church on 10 March, was a “Fife-specific” piece and a high turnout was expected.

She said: “Complete with a variety of songs and musical interludes and based on the historic accounts of the time, the play tries to imagine the banter, gossip and excitement of those days – giving voice to the ordinary workers, women and children who witnessed the historic discovery and the aftermath in Dunfermline.

“The play will also include some haunting appearances by a number of royal personages. Some may be familiar, some less so, but they will all have been somewhat disturbed by the turn of events and the eagerness of some to take a closer look.”

Ms Dickson said: “How exciting to be commemorating the discovery of the original tomb of King Robert.

“I remember growing up and knowing that ‘a man had put a spade in the ground and hit a lead coffin with cloth of gold and chain mail inside’. Now, I am not sure if any of that is fact, but we all had that legend in our collective memory.

“I have always loved Dunfermline Abbey and as a keen amateur historian, I am fascinated with the story of my ancient home town.”

The Annals of Dunfermline record how news of the discovery of the royal grave after 489 years swept the country. They state: “Newspapers, magazines and fly-sheets gave full notices of the immortal hero-king and for months it was the all-absorbing talk.”

The play’s finale is a re-enactment of the 1818 ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone for the new Abbey Church, witnessed by an estimated 10,000 of Dunfermline’s citizens and punctuated by rousing expressions of “patriotic enthusiasm” and “peals of loud and reiterated huzzas!”