Edinburgh Book Festival: Alistair Moffat - A Fresh Look at Bannockburn

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Alistair Moffat, Roland Gulliver (chair)
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Alistair Moffat’s Bannockburn: The Battle for a Nation appears in the event’s 700th anniversary year.

It’s a compact volume, including his own account of the lead-up to the battle and some reflections on its aftermath, together with appropriate extracts from near-contemporary accounts.

Unfortunately, none of these match with the topography of the area as it is today, with the result that although Bannockburn is an iconic event in the Scottish consciousness, no-one can provide an accurate indication of where many of the events described in Moffat’s book or the accounts he draws upon actually took place.

A recent televised archaeological excavation of the presumed site of the main battle area produced a single dateable find that might have been contemporary with events – a small item of horse harness.

Bannockburn has yet to give up much evidence of what took place there seven hundred years ago, never mind any remains of the resultant dead.

This hasn’t stopped Moffat from producing an excellent, if sometimes hyperbolic and presumptive account of the lead-up to the battle and a full account of the two days fighting that ensued.

When not meandering in the wonderful world of supposition, Moffat’s account is a seemingly faithful interpretation of the existing sources, genuinely accessible without patronising the reader.

After a brief if somewhat confused and confusing introduction by Roland Gulliver, Associate Director of the Festival, Moffat read four short extracts from his book, although time constraints meant that there was insufficient time for all the hands raised afterward to have their questions responded to.

Alistair Moffat, Bannockburn: The Battle for a Nation, Birlinn 2014 £12.99