Schiltron, Chainmail and Cowpats


In the middle of the Scottish countryside is a muddy field, normally inhabited by a herd of cows. It is surrounded by golf courses and rolling hills whilst boasting a meandering burn and an impressive stone bridge. On entering through the field’s gate to the sight of horseboxes, portable loos, tents and trucks you could be forgiven for thinking that you had stumbled upon a local point-to-point. You could be forgiven only for so long as it took you to round the wall of vehicles and be greeted by the sight of horses in caparisons mounted by knights in chainmail, a giant green screen and, in the distance, a fierce Scottish schiltron bellowing at some cameramen. This is the BBC’s filming of Bannockburn, the documentary, and the men and women of the Clanranald Trust are right in the midst of it.

Having taken in the thrilling sight before you, you would notice a large, white marquee full of costumes to turn 21st Scottish soldiers. You would see men and women walk in wearing their Clanranald and Duncarron hoodies and walk out in chainmail, plate and helmets. Sometimes they were dressed to fight for the English, for King Edward II and Gloucester; sometimes they were dressed to fight for the Scots, for Robert the Bruce. Sometimes they were peasants, sometimes they were knights, sometimes they were kings. For four days they would work in the sun, the mud and the cowpats whilst a team of volunteers kitted them out, mended costume and prepared for the next change of battle dress.

If you could have the privilege of staying and being a part of the whole experience, you would be left with memories that you would not easily forget. Watching a battle line of tough soldiers jostling each other before ‘Action’ is called so that they will not have to be the one to fall in a cowpat when they ‘die’. The sight of the Scottish schiltron brought back to life. The clash of steel as English and Scots battle whilst knights on horseback fight amongst them. The daily salivating over the caterers’ menu. Our waterboys changing out of their wet kit on the side of the burn as their colleagues, formed up in ranks wearing full kit, sing the striptease song to them. The unfortunate soul who had to drink the rain water gathered from the top of a tent because it turned out that it wasn’t just for show. All the brilliant photo opportunities both serious and funny. The army at sunrise. These are just a few examples of the many experiences you would take away with you.

You will have got to know the people. Neil Oliver, Tony Pollard, the BBC crew, the stunt riders, the magical caterers, Scott McMaster, Charlie Allan, the Clanranald actors – Robert the Bruce, Edward II, Gloucester, the Abbot, the English knight and the Scottish soldier and all the other Clanranald volunteers who worked tirelessly and with good humour for the fun of it and for Duncarron. Volunteers who travelled from as far away as Ireland and Cornwall. When it is all finished on Monday afternoon, you will be exhausted from the long hours and high octane energy levels required to get the work done and your sides will be aching from all the laughter that you crammed in between the professional work. You will, without a doubt, wake up at 5am on Tuesday morning and want to come back to do it all over again.

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