IT is a piece of history that tradition says was the base in which Robert the Bruce raised his standard prior to the Battle of Bannockburn.

The Borestone was a flat stone with a circular hole, four inches in diameter and four inches deep; an opening in which the King of Scots set his flag on June 23, 1314.

Now a call has gone out to any history buffs with information about the stone to shed some light on its past, after an online blog called into question the validity of what remains.

Fragments of what is believed to be the Borestone are in situ at Bannockburn.

But Tom Welsh, a retired geography lecturer who runs the online site History Regained - which says it aims to "identify novel sources from which to rediscover the past” - has posed questions about these pieces.

Mr Welsh, who hails from Glasgow and now lives in Chester, researches history as a hobby.
He said research reveals different descriptions of the stone and he is keen to spark debate on the matter.

Mr Welsh, 70, said: “It has always puzzled me that 19th century observers described the Borestone as if it was igneous rock, but modern descriptions suggest sedimentary, indeed as bits of an old millstone.

“Although it is only symbolic, it is one of many facets of the Bannockburn story where the new concept doesn’t fit the evidence.”

For centuries following the battle, the Borestone became a tourist attraction, venerated by visitors who chipped chunks off to take home as souvenirs.

By the mid-19th century, there was so little of the original stone left that the remaining pieces were protected by an iron grille and a custodian appointed to guard them.

Through the 19th century and into the 20th, statues and memorials were added to the battle site - in 1870, a flagpole was erected and in 1957, a cairn. In 1964, to mark the 650th anniversary of the battle, Charles D'orville Pilkington Jackson's statue of Bruce was put in place and the same year saw the construction of the Rotunda. By this point, there were only two Borestone fragments remaining and they were removed and placed inside the new visitor centre for safe-keeping.

In his online article, Mr Welsh highlights an account by a Robert White who saw the stone in 1830 when he said it had been chipped around on every side by souvenir hunters and described its colour as blue, while an account in John Parker’s 1849 book “Historic Tales of the Wars of Scotland, Volume Two” described it as a large piece of granite.

Mr Parker wrote: “The stone bears the marks of many a ruthless pilgrimage, and in many parts it has been chipped off by thousands of persons who wanted to possess a piece of the relic”.

Meanwhile, in an account in 1880, documented in a letter published in various Scottish newspapers, a William Ireland wrote that he had visited the stone and many pieces were still being taken.

He wrote that it was “greenstone, or some similar igneous rock capable of taking a high polish”. Ireland wrote of the souvenir hunters in the hope it would alert Scots to do something about it and protect the stone from trophy hunters.

Mr Welsh said that letters were then sent in response to Mr Ireland’s words, explaining: “One correspondent didn’t think bits were being taken away as much as implied. All the communications demanded something be done about it and they blamed the landowner and the locals for the state of neglect. The enclosure subsequently rested on a concrete base. The fragments were put in a new location on a pedestal in 1960, but they subsequently disappeared.”

The keen historian, who said he put his online post up “to get some discussion going”, added: “It has since been suggested that the Borestone was merely an old millstone put there early in the 18th century to give credence to tradition. The stone pieces appear slab like and cream-coloured.

“So who is right? In the mid-19th century it was an igneous rock either blue or with a greenish glossy appearance, whereas today it is just two bits of an old millstone.”

Derek Alexander, Head of Archaeology at the National Trust for Scotland said he welcomes “debates like this” as they inspire us to “stay curious” and keep digging into the past.

Mr Alexander said: “The Trust also has questions about the fragments of the Borestone that are currently held onsite at Bannockburn.

“While detailed research was carried out as part of the project to revamp the visitor centre in 2014, record-keeping in the 1960s was not at the standard it is now, so it is very difficult to trace the story with certainty.

“We would be interested in any information anyone could share about the stone, especially around an alleged theft in the 1960s.”

He added: “The fact that debates like this and new questions pop up all the time is one of the best things about Scotland’s heritage.

“It encourages us to stay curious, keep digging and discovering more about our history.”