LONG, long before anyone had the notion to make a film about William Wallace and call it Braveheart, Wallace was actively commemorated by Scots in simpler ways. As Andrew Marr notes in his 1992 book, The Battle for Scotland, Labour supporters in the 1920s would gather for rallies at Elderslie, Wallace’s birthplace; and in the following decade, Scottish Communists carried placards of Bruce and Wallace alongside Marx as they marched against unemployment.

A particularly long-standing commemoration has been the Wallace Day Demonstration. The march that took place on Saturday, August 21, 1954, was attended by several hundred people.

Sam Shields, the Renfrewshire organiser of the SNP, had earlier written to the press to publicise the march – “on Saturday, 21st August,” he urged, “all roads should lead to Elderslie.” He went on to say that the speakers would be Ninian Gibson, DR Rollo, Mairi Cameron and Robert Curran – four “of the younger generation in the movement to-day, and this is done deliberately, for the hero in whose honour the meeting is being held took his stand for his country when quite a young man.”

In the event, wreaths were laid at the war memorial in Johnstone and at the Wallace Monument in Elderslie.

Among those present on the march was William A Christianson, vice-chairman of the appeal committee for a Wallace memorial in London, who had travelled from Yorkshire to take part.