Poetry completes monument almost 50 fifty years on

22 Aug 2013

Today, the last word of the Bannockburn commemorative poem by Kathleen Jamie was inscribed into the ring beam crowning the iconic 1960s Rotunda monument at the heritage site. The carving completes the designer’s original idea for the monument which was intended to include an inscription when it was installed in time for the 650th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.  

Jamie’s poem was selected through the combination of a public vote and deliberations of a judging panel to become a permanent feature of the iconic Rotunda monument which marks the spot where Robert Bruce is said to have planted his standard.

An overwhelming majority of almost 1000 members of the public voted for Jamie’s poem while an expert panel including Scots Makar Liz Lochhead and specialists on Bannockburn and the Rotunda monument made the final decision in December 2012. Inscription works by expert carver Richard Douglas from Andrew Miller Architectural Joinery based in Stirling commenced in June 2013 when a new timber ringbeam was installed at the monument. The works to the monuments are nearing completion and the Rotunda has been conserved for future generations to enjoy.

The new poetry was commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland in partnership with Creative Scotland and the Scottish Poetry Library. Ten acclaimed Scottish poets were set the challenge to write new works inspired by the site and its surrounding landscape, exploring the significance of the Bannockburn battlefield to people today.

The Battle of Bannockburn project team was so impressed by the high quality and diversity of poems commissioned that they will be published together for the first time in 2014. The other poets were: John Burnside, Robert Crawford, Douglas Dunn, Alec Finlay, Valerie Gillies, William Letford, Aonghas MacNeacail, Tom Pow and Robin Robertson.

Kathleen Jamie is one of a remarkable clutch of Scottish writers picked out in 1994 as the ‘new generation poets’. Also an essayist and travel writer, Jamie is well known for her ability to evoke a landscape in prose. She became Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Stirling in 2011 and recently won the 2012 Costa Poetry Award.

Kathleen Jamie said:

“From the start I wanted this piece of work to make a nod to the Scottish literary tradition and the Scottish landscape, to evoke the deep love of a country that makes one community out of many people. As Bannockburn is so important in Scottish history, it seemed proper to acknowledge our cultural traditions, especially poetry and song about landscape. Of course I'm pleased 'my' poem was chosen, but I don't think of this work as 'mine' any longer. It’s built from traditional materials, so to speak, and it’s spun into the future, and like the land it describes, it belongs to everyone that appreciates it."

David McAllister, Director of the Battle of Bannockburn Project said:

"The designer behind the original Rotunda monument, architect Sir Robert Matthew, planned for it to bear an inscription, and half a century later we have fulfilled this intention. The Rotunda is the central place for commemoration of the battle of Bannockburn and our intent is to continue that tradition of memorial and contemplation. Kathleen’s poem encapsulates the essence of the Battle of Bannockburn project – introducing a contemporary take on the battle and the landscape, while paying respect to the memory of this important moment in Scottish history."

Kathleen Jamie’s poem:

Here lies our land: every airt
Beneath swift clouds, glad glints of sun,
Belonging to none but itself.

We are mere transients, who sing
Its westlin winds and fernie braes,
Northern lights and siller tides,

Small folk playing our part.
Come all ye, the country says,
You win me, who take me most to heart.

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