SINCE buying the Barony St. John church and hall buildings in Ardrossan back in 2014, our charity (The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety) have been toying with adding “William Wallace” into the final name for our project.

Originally, I thought of calling the finished project, “The William Wallace Community & Events

Centre” - but having polled local residents, many liked the name Barony St. John and indeed would no doubt still call the buildings by that name regardless of what we changed it to.

So, we are now more inclined to keep the name Barony St. John but will have a part of our project as “The William Wallace Visitor Centre”.

The idea of adding William Wallace was because I wanted to bring public awareness to the history of Ardrossan;

In 1292, Ardrossan Castle, just behind the Barony St John buildings, fell to the invading English army of Edward I.

In 1296, one legend has it that Wallace and his men set fire to some buildings near the Castle and a small party of English soldiers left the Castle to investigate.

They were immediately set upon by Wallace’s men who dressed in their uniforms and armour and went back to the Castle. Once there, they opened the Castle gates to let in the rest of Wallace’s men.

The entire English garrison were slaughtered and their bodies were thrown down into the castle’s keep which became known locally as “Wallace’s Larder” and it is said that Wallace was so proud of this triumph that his ghost can be seen occasionally wandering through the Castle ruins.

I had been explaining the Wallace connection to my two young children and, after watching the Braveheart movie, I promised to take them to The Wallace Monument in Stirling to see his sword (which is on display there) and the Braveheart statue of him at the base of the Monument.

Imagine their disappointment (and mine) when we discovered that the statue was no longer there.

A quick chat with the staff at the Monument and we discovered that the ‘Freedom’ statue had been taken away by it’s sculptor Tom Church in 2008.

Not one to keep my kids disappointed, I found Tom’s number and gave him a call. He informed me that the statue was in his work yard in Brechin and agreed for us to visit.

Now, it has to be said, some people felt inspired as the statue encompassed the true ‘spirit’ of Wallace as seen in the movie “Braveheart”, others felt it was too much of a Mel Gibson lookalike statue and only worthy of ridicule, and others felt it was simply a reflection of the many faces given to Wallace down through the ages.

Tom asked about my charity’s project and when I mentioned The William Wallace Visitor Centre he made me a wonderful offer - he would give me the statue to put on display there.

Although the press nicknamed the sculpture the ‘Freedom’ statue, it was actually named “Spirit of Wallace” by the sculptor because it was meant to represent the ghost of William Wallace coming out of Scotland through the iconic film Braveheart.

The current courtyard between the two Barony St. John buildings (the church and the hall) is 1,122 sq ft and extends outwards to almost level with the church building. We plan to convert this area into the main entrance to both buildings and incorporate The William Wallace Visitor Centre there.

As well as a cafe area (which we intend to name “Wallace’s Larder”), we will showcase the “Spirit of Wallace” statue in toughened glass near the entrance to our buildings. Not only will it be seen from the main road but it will also help highlight the as yet unseen rear of the statue and the map of Scotland which will be painted in gold.

We have also been in talks with ‘The Society of William Wallace’.

When Wallace was captured at Robroyston on August, 5 1305, he had on his person letters of provenance and safe conduct. One letter, is known as the ‘Safe Conduct’ or ‘Wallace Letter’ and was from the King of France, Philip IV (this letter included an introduction of Wallace to Pope Boniface VIII and his representatives in Rome).

Another letter is known as ‘The Lübeck Letter’ (named after the German museum where it was stored) and is the only surviving document believed to be written by Wallace himself. Attached to this is Wallace’s personal seal which shows a lion rampant on the front and a strung bow with arrow on the reverse, suggesting that Wallace may have been an archer. The seal also has the words “Filius Alani Walais Willelmus” which is Latin for “William, son of Alan Wallace” around it and as Alan Wallace was a Crown tenant in Ayrshire, this seal throws doubt on William’s traditional birthplace of Elderslie in Renfrewshire.

The Society of William Wallace are offering to give us the only two copies of these documents for

display in our Visitor Centre/reception area (permission has to be obtained from Fiona Hyslop, The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs however The Society of William Wallace will do this for us).

We also plan to get a replica of the sword which was said to be taken from him at the time of his capture (the original is displayed in The Wallace Monument).

Now if this doesn’t add yet another “Wow” factor to the whole project, I don’t know what will.

Next time, I’ll show you some of interesting finds we have made in the church.