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Braveheart: They’ll Never Take His Freedom… But They Can Ridicule His Statue

Steve Palace
(Photo Credit: Jill Everington, CC BY-SA 2.0)

A controversial statue of William Wallace, aka Braveheart, has been giving football fans something to shout about. Twitter users are also getting a kick out of it!

Carved by Tom Church back in 1996, “Freedom” – or the “Spirit of Wallace” – depicts the fiery historical figure as played by Mel Gibson in his award-winning film. Hollywood liberty-taking aside, this is the image people have when they think of Braveheart.

Braveheart’s coming home (or at least moving to a different part of Scotland)

(Photo Credit: Gary Todd from Xinzheng, China – William Wallace Monument, Stirling, with Braveheart Statue “Freedom” by Tom Church, CC0)

(Photo Credit: Gary Todd from Xinzheng, China – William Wallace Monument, Stirling, with Braveheart Statue “Freedom” by Tom Church, CC0)

A visitor’s center parking lot in Stirling was the statue’s original home. Here it stood for a decade, within range of the famous Wallace Monument, Abbey Craig.

If Gibson’s warrior inspired movie fans in the area, his stony version failed to have the same effect. Church’s creation was often targeted by vandals. According to The Scotsman, writing in 2017, they had “thrown paint on it and gauged on its face.”

Things became so bad that “Freedom” was put in a cage… talk about defeating the object. From 2008 onwards it was the property of the artist.

However, in a twist worthy of Hollywood, it nearly ended up in the hands of Donald Trump! Tom Church figured the future president might want it at his Scottish golf resort, but it looks like The Donald wasn’t interested.

Now Brechin City Football Club is channeling the Spirit of Wallace, installing the 12-ton piece at Glebe Park stadium. With his open mouth, the statue could almost be cheering on the team. But are supporters cheered by the move…?

Twitter warriors wield their swords

Judging by the response on social media, things aren’t going well. The National reports a tweet posted by Scottish star Iain Robertson. He calls it “an awful statue in so very many ways!”

 

Journalist Mark Sparrow states: “The statue of Cristiano Ronaldo at Madeira airport has been surpassed in its awfulness”…

 

Madeline Grant is also keen to draw comparisons with statue-based follies of the past.

 

Gibs it a chance?

Not all the feedback has been negative. Yet it’s safe to say the club’s decision is drawing all kinds of attention.

Political figure Blair McDougall points out that “it’s *not* a statue of Wallace. It’s a statue of Mel Gibson.”

 

Covering the unveiling, Brechin City wrote on their website that it was “brilliant to see the community of all ages turn out in numbers to support the event.” On another bright note, money was raised on the day for kidney dialysis.

William Wallace vs. the big screen

(Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB)

(Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB)

Mel Gibson’s Braveheart has divided viewers on its depiction of Wallace and the Scottish Wars of Independence (beginning 1296). Popular Mechanics explored the issue in a 2018 article about Outlaw King. Like Braveheart, it dramatizes the life of Robert The Bruce.

Wallace was “a lesser noble, not a humble farmer as the film portrays.” Plus, his relationship with Princess Isabella (Sophie Marceau) is an eye-opener, due to her being “only three when Wallace died.”

Marking Braveheart’s 25th-anniversary last year, Gibson told USA Today: “I’m not a ******* historian.”

He later added that he respected the legacy but: “I don’t know that history is always true. It’s written by the winners all the time.”

Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves inspired Gibson to take an epic approach. With regards to the Battle of Stirling Bridge sequence not having a bridge, he said it was “nixed” so the action could be opened out.

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As well as Outlaw King, Robert The Bruce received another film tribute in 2019. Angus Macfadyen reprised the role from Braveheart, making it a sequel of sorts.