THE site where Sir William Wallace received his appointment as Guardian of Scotland in 1297 has been confirmed as the place where tradition always held it to be.

Selkirk’s ruined Auld Kirk was reputed by locals and historians alike to be the location where the Scottish nobles and clerics confirmed Wallace as Guardian of Scotland in 1297.

Now a geophysical examination of the Auld Kirk has shown that underneath the ruin lies the underground remains of a medieval church, strongly indicating that it is the Kirk o’ the Forest where the ceremony of Wallace’s appointment to the joint Guardianship with Sir Andrew Moray was known to have taken place.

Moray died shortly afterwards and Wallace was sole Guardian until he resigned after defeat at the Battle of Falkirk the following year.

The survey was actually looking for traces of the Auld Kirk’s 16th-century predecessor but instead it found the remains of a mediaeval chapel.

Dr Chris Bowles, Scottish Borders Council’s archaeologist, commissioned the survey by the University of Durham in conjunction with the Selkirk Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS).

He said: “Ruins of the Auld Kirk date from the 18th century, but we knew this had replaced earlier churches on the site from the 12th and 16th centuries.

“It has been widely acknowledged that this was the site of the Kirk of the Forest where Wallace was made Guardian of Scotland.

“We had been expecting the geophysics survey to uncover a 16th-century church that we know to have existed and which was a replacement to the medieval church, but the only evidence in the survey is in relation to the medieval church.

“While these geophysics results suggest a medieval, possibly Norman, chapel beneath the later church, we are very restricted by the burials in the area to allow any excavation. But in the future it may be possible to conduct limited investigations in areas where there is no evidence of burial.”

Colin Gilmour, Selkirk CARS project manager, said: “There is nothing in the town currently signposting people to the Auld Kirk site, but with this latest discovery it could become a major attraction and assist with the regeneration of the town centre.

“We hope to work with the community to make the most of this discovery and the tourism potential it has.”

Hamish MacPherson: Guardian tales highlight rich history

DUE mainly to that font of historical accuracy, the Hollywood movie Braveheart, many people think that there was only one Guardian of Scotland and that he was Sir William Wallace.

Though the number is disputed, there were actually 20 or 21 Guardians in that period, though only Wallace was ever appointed sole Guardian.

The first set of Guardians were nobles and bishops who became ‘guardians’ – effectively a group of regents – of the realm upon the sudden death of King Alexander III in 1286. Their number included Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, later the champion of Wallace and Bruce.

The Guardians governed until Alexander’s heir, his granddaughter Princess Margaret, could be brought to Scotland from Norway where her mother, who died in childbirth, had been the Queen Consort of King Eric II – hence Margaret’s nickname the Fair Maid of Norway. She was destined to marry the son of Longshanks, King Edward I of England, but seven-year-old Margaret died at Orkney during her journey to Scotland.

The Guardians asked Edward I to choose between the competing claimants for the throne, Longshanks selecting John Balliol in 1292. He reigned miserably for four years until the signing of the Auld Alliance was seen by Edward as a declaration of war and Balliol was dethroned and exiled.

After Wallace and Sir Andrew Moray defeated the English army at Stirling Bridge in 1297, both men were made Guardian, though Moray died within a short time.

Wallace was left to be sole Guardian but he resigned after the defeat by the English at Falkirk in 1298. Robert the Bruce and John Comyn then became Guardians, but in 1304, Edward had other ideas and imposed the Earl of Richmond as Guardian.

That provoked Bruce into outright rebellion.

Six more Guardians were appointed during the childhood of King David II, one of whom, Robert the High Steward, became King of Scots on David’s death in 1371.

This initiated the long reign of the House of Stewart.