Ike visits Stirling

Following Ike’s visit to Stirling Castle, he and his friends walked down the cobbled street to the Old Town Cemetery. Ike was interested in the story of the women who were executed by drowning in the Solway Firth.

The Martyrs Monument, installed in 1863, is fairly easy to find as the three figures are set in a glass-covered iron structure. One of the figures is that of an angel, the other two representing sisters, the elder of which was executed for her religious beliefs during a period of Scottish history known as the “Killing Time.” This was when Scottish Presbyterian Covenanters were persecuted by the government troops of King Charles II and King James VII, resulting in the deaths of around a hundred citizens between the years of 1679 and 1688.

Two of these religious martyrs were Margaret McLaughlin and Margaret Wilson. They had been ordered to recite the oath ‘God save the King’ in Wigtown in 1685, together with Margaret Wilson’s younger sister Agnes. All three refused, as the Presbyterian Declaration at Sanquhar (1680) had declared Charles II as anti-Christ, thereby negating any need to obey any law or oath in his name, in their view at least.

All three were sentenced to death by drowning, but the younger girl’s was spared. The two Margarets were tied to stakes at a point below high watermark on the treacherous Solway Firth, and left to drown in the incoming tide. You can read more about it here.

The monument has three figures carved in marble – an angel protecting Margaret Wilson who is reading the Bible to her younger sister Agnes. A lamb sits at the feet of the figures, representing Christ.

After hearing Jane tell the story of the Martyrs Monument and agreeing how awful the story was, Ike and his companions made their way down the hill to the Church of the Holy Rude. It is named after Holy Rood, a relic of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified. It has the same origin as Holyrood in Edinburgh.

The Church of the Holy Rude is the second oldest building in Stirling after the Castle. It was founded in 1129 during the reign of David I (1124 – 1153) as the parish church of Stirling. Robert II, during his reign (1371-1390), founded an altar to the Holy Rude and thereafter the Church of Stirling became known as the Parish Church of The Holy Rude of the Burgh of Stirling. David I’s church was destroyed with much of Stirling by a catastrophic fire in March 1405. Shortly afterwards a grant was made by the Lord Chamberlain of Scotland to have a new church built. The Nave, South Aisle with rounded Scots pillars, Gothic arches and original oak-timbered roof and the Tower were completed about 1414.

On 29th July, 1567 the infant King James VI was crowned King of Scotland following the forced abdication of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots. The coronation was a protestant ceremony and included a sermon by John Knox. James’ mother was not in attendance as she was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. Because of its close links with the castle, the church always had the support and patronage of the Stuart Monarchs, especially in the 15th, 16th and early 17th centuries. It is the only church in the United Kingdom, other than Westminster Abbey, to have held a coronation and still be a living church today.

The Apse Interior, or semi-circular recess, is surrounded by stained-glass windows but access to members of the public was restricted and so Ike did not manage to get a closer look at the windows.

The Nave and Choir below, with the massive cylindrical pillars, is the oldest part of the building and was started after the fire in 1405. It took years to complete. Ike was suitably impressed.

The pulpit, with its intricate carvings, had many sermons delivered from it including from John Knox. Ike imagined what it would be like listening to a sermon from this great orator.

St Andrew’s Chapel and Royal Coat of Arms is located at the north-east corner of the nave and became the private chapel and burying ground of the Forresters of Garden at Buchlyvie. The Royal Coat of Arms above the entrance is not in its original location which used to be above the King’s or Queen’s Loft in the west end of the choir. They remind visitors that Kings and Queens of Scotland worshipped in the church regularly.

The church is famous for its stained-glass windows, mainly from the 19th century. The window below depicts the life of Christ from his birth to his crucifixion.

Another window commemorated the part played by the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders in the First World War. It depicts a soldier, surrounded by poppies, standing in the cemetery at Beaumont Hamel and he is surrounded by gravestones carrying the names of the battles of that war, in which 6900 Argyle and Sutherland Highlands lost their lives.

The window was dedicated on 1st July, 2016 by Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The inscription on the memorial plaque:

The Guildry window was donated by the Guildry of Stirling and shows the coats of arms of the countries which Stirling dealt with.  It is also called the 1993 Window and was created by Crear McCartney and presented to the church on 18th November, 1993. With favourable light from outside, it makes a fabulous pattern on the floor.

There were some other windows in the church which caught Ike’s eye too, so they spent some time looking at the detail in them.

It was getting late and the church was closing, so Ike and his friends left, after leaving a small donation in the collection box. The last place they were intending to visit was the Old Town Jail, a short distance down the hill from the church.

For 400 years, Stirling’s prisoners were kept in the old Tollbooth Jail which was a filthy and overcrowded place. There came pressure for improvement and prison reform so the new purpose-built Stirling Old Town Jail was built. It was opened in 1847 and was designed by Thomas Brown and opened as a County Jail. The building was used as the only military prison in Scotland from 1888 until 1935. It re-opened in 1996 as a visitor attraction.

You can see more of Ike’s adventures in Scotland with Jane by clicking on this interactive map:

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