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Stovies the Story

Their guerilla tactics had been winning the Wars of Independence as the English army became hungrier and hungrier the further it advanced into Scotland. But forced into a premature battle, the courageous and highly trained schiltroms of spearmen which earlier had destroyed the impetuous advance of the English cavalry, now were broken by the arrows of the Lancastrian longbowmen. In a matter of minutes the carnage was completed by the ranks of starving Welsh archers. William and those of his followers who'd been able to stay close made their way back dispiritedly towards the north and Stirling.

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In a sudden mood of cantankerous contrariness so characteristic of these common folk of the Lowlands, their hearts lifted and they quickly dispatched the pursuing English cavalry. Though they had made an early start to the day with the customary break fast, they decided to make a late lunch of it in the clear July sunshine. Gathering together some handily discarded tables and chairs in a clearing in the Forest, they set about making their meal, and in changing our history beyond all believable recognition.

The regular cooks had been scattered far and wide, and the loyal owner of a Drover's Inn prepared the meal according to a secret family recipe. Picking through the bowls and platters from their last meal on Tuesday, they collected leftover meat and vegetables. They put these into Angus Og's own huge field cauldron with some fresh potatoes, and made up a crackling fire beneath it. Soon the delicious smell of Stovies was wafting over the clearing and into the surrounding woods, and they were joined by more and more of William's routed followers. Even more surprisingly Welsh archers started appearing from amongst the gladed trees, not having eaten since their last hasty cheese on toast before leaving home, and after the customary scrimmage over a peculiar oblong leather-covered object, sat down to a feast.

Highlanders from along the banks of the River Spey had brought along an oaken cask of whisky, hidden away years before from the greedy eyes of Edward's Sheriffs, and William caused every man to be issued with a dram. This raised the spirits of all, and even the sun came out more strongly to take its view. The speed of the breakfast battle had routed the Scots with fewer casualties than first thought, and indeed as William surveyed the scene it seemed to him he now had more men than ever, including the Welshmen attracted by the hot tasty food and warmed by the whisky. Despite the early defeat they were all in fine fettle, and had been pleased to welcome the Bruce. He had dropped by for his tea from his castle in Ayr, after sinking more English supplies sailing up the Clyde past Largs to Greenock. Quietly William sent his adjutants around the glade to rouse the men from their post-lunch slumbers.

The English had eaten no lunch at all, food having been denied them by the usual suspects including the penny-pinching Westminster politicians. But nevertheless they had celebrated their easy victory over the Scots with a few barrels of wine on an empty stomach. There were scenes of dancing in the camp, and sounds of singing and revelry but mostly all that could be heard was heavy snores. The newly revived Scots army approached steadily from the North with the late sun glinting redly on their spears. William Wallace started the run forward and with a great shout his men followed onto the Falkirk Plain.

22nd July 1298, rewritten with a little poetic licence



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