Although the pages of history that inspired our Battle of Bannockburn and Robert Burns Chess Sets were written over four centuries apart, they come together this very month (June 23/June 24) each year, with the anniversary of the Battle that changed forever the face of Scotland. For here, in our Robert Burns Chess Set you will find the two protagonist kings who led their armies to battle on that epic day, only one of whom would take the ultimate crown.
And so it is, we have Robert the Bruce as a Knight in the light side and Edward II as a Knight in the dark side (where else?). The rest, as they say, is history…
Robert Burns visited Stirling in the summer of 1787, and meanderings took him to the field of Bannockburn. Anyone who knows the mind of Robert Burns will know the passion of the man, and it will come as no surprise that he was greatly moved as he reflected on what happened there over four centuries before. As with so many things that inspired him, his journal note held just a hint of what was to come:
"Came on to Bannockburn: the hole in the stone where glorious Bruce set his standard. Here no Scot can pass uninterested. I fancy to myself that I see my gallant heroic countrymen, coming o'er the hill and down upon the plunderers of their country, the murderers of their fathers; noble revenge and just hate glowing in every vein, striding more and more eagerly as they approach the oppressive, insulting, and bloodthirsty foe! I see them in gloriously-triumphant congratulation on the victorious field, exulting in their heroic royal leader, and rescued liberty and independence!"
What then flowed from these thoughts is surely one of the most spoken, most sung, most impassioned set of verses, repeated anywhere in the world where Scots gather: the first two verses alone embracing the chess pieces that face each other across a crowded board,
"Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae yer gory bed,
Or tae victorie.
"Now's the day, an now's the hour:
See the front o battle lour,
See approach proud Edward's power –
Chains and Slaverie."
Of course, it was never enough for Burns to state the obvious: one verse stands out and represents the depth of feeling which was the mark of a man who saw his place in life as to communicate more than just report. In four simple lines he stepped beyond the battlefield and planted his own banner to mark the determination, sacrifice and indomitable spirit that has carried Scots before and since, and will do so for centuries to come:
"By Oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free."
With 32 different chess pieces representing a wide spectrum of his life and works The Robert Burns Chess Set is a cacophony of love, passion, joy, despair, good and evil, and much more.
Within all of that spread of human experience, these Knights, of two similar but diametrically opposing realms, bear the greatest weight of history, something that touched the Bard as he stood on the field where Bruce once made the speech of his life.
And who is to say how close the words of Bruce might have been to those of Robert Burns?