RobertthebruceIf you wander around Aberdeen city centre you’ll see several impressive statutes. The largest is that of William Wallace, overlooking Union Terrace Gardens and dating from 1888. The most recent is of Robert the Bruce, in front of the Marischal College building that now houses the City Council. These two figures from the Scottish Wars of Independence might, on the face of it, have little connection with the city. There is apparently no record of Wallace having visited Aberdeen, but he did seize Dunnottar Castle, some 15 or so miles to the south, from the English. However, Robert the Bruce did indeed have a major connection with the city and is one of the most important figures in our history, with influences that, believe it or not, persist to this day.

As described in an earlier blog, Bruce was probably involved in commissioning the original Brig o’Balgownie and it’s certainly the case that one of the most decisive battles he fought in his attempt to secure the Scottish throne was at Inverurie (the Battle of Barra) in May 1308, against the followers of the Red Comyn. A month later he took Aberdeen Castle from the English, with, as was often the case in those days, no quarter given to those inside.

However, of much more importance were the seven charters which Bruce granted the city and in particular that of 1313, the 700th anniversary of which was celebrated only a few years ago. This charter gave custody of the Stocket forest (in the area now called Midstocket) to the “Burgh and Community of Aberdeen” and, crucially, contained specific clauses that made it virtually impossible for anyone (apart from the King) to contest the charter’s provisions. This “custody” persists to this day and is the source of the Aberdeen Common Good Fund, which is used for the benefit of the city and its population.

And just to show that history often goes full circle, the statue of Bruce that I referred to in my opening paragraph was paid for by the same Common Good Fund that he helped bring into being. So although most people tend to associate Robert the Bruce with the central belt of Scotland (and obviously Bannockburn in Stirlingshire), Aberdeen has very strong connections with one of the most iconic figures in Scottish history. There are plans for the Aberdeen Burgesses to commemorate this association in 2019, thus further cementing the link between the Bruce and Aberdeen. These ought to be well worth waiting for and will help demonstrate yet again just how important a place Aberdeen holds within both the historic and contemporary worlds of Scotland.

Julie Skinner, Resourcing & Benefit Specialist