Clanranald’s journey to the battlefield at Bannockburn Live

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Charlie Allan of Clanranald

Charlie Allan of Clanranald

One of the most thrilling elements of Bannockburn Live, the two-day feast of Scottish food, culture and history, will undoubtedly be the battle performances. Medieval warfare will once again be played out on the historic site where the Battle of Bannockburn took place 700 years ago. With war cries and the clash of swords, the past will be brought to life before your very eyes.

Clanranald, led by the mighty Charlie Allan and his band of ‘living historians’, have choreographed the displays of ancient battle techniques, with hundreds of re-enactors from across Europe coming together for the biggest performance of its kind ever to take place in Scotland. Having worked on a range of projects, including epic battle scenes in the films Robin Hood, Gladiator and Thor II, Clanranald are more than qualified to demonstrate how this combat might have played out in 14th century Scotland.

With less than two months to go until the Bannockburn Live weekend, we caught up with Charlie to find out what the journey to the battlefield involves.

Physical training

‘In our line of work we have to be fit. All our teams train every week as well as doing personal fitness, and of course we get to use our skills regularly because of the amount of work we do. Building Duncarron, a full-scale replica of an early medieval fortified village, is another way to keep fit; it’s a workout like no other.

‘There are some similarities in our training with that of a soldier from medieval times – we train in all categories of weapons, and fitness training and hard graft is included. It’s not all playing with swords. The big difference today, of course, is that unlike a full-time soldier in Edward’s army we have other 21st century jobs. We wish we could be warriors all the time!’

Preparations of a soldier

‘Before the battle, we make sure we’ve eaten and drunk in plenty time. We do a full kit and weapon check to make sure everyone is fitted properly before warming up by running over whatever scenario we are due to perform. We then march at a quick pace to the performance area. Listening to the pulsating sound of Saor Patrol’s Scottish medieval rock also helps to psyche us up!

‘There are many re-enactment groups involved in Bannockburn Live and every group has researched the historic characters they are portraying in detail. Re-enactors are the real specialists in this area. Many of them are able to stay in character for days, which is amazing to see. They bring to life important parts of our history, lest we forget.’

On the field

‘There will be almost 400 of us spread across Edward II and Bruce’s camps that weekend. The arena at Bannockburn is enveloped by a grandstand meaning that the audience will get great views of the show. We are performing 48 hours of battle in 30 minutes; so make no mistake, this is a show! 

‘When it comes to wearing the armour and using the weapons and shields, we are used to it. Having done this kind of work for 18 years, we broke the pain barrier a long time ago! The weapons and armour are at the centre of this performance; 1314 saw the dawn of plate armour but chainmail and leather dominated the scene as larger pieces of metal had not yet come into play. My guys all want to portray poor Scottish farm boys drafted in with only a helmet and pair of gloves to their name – those items are not so heavy to wear, you see.

‘Undoubtedly, the best part of the live battle performances is being in the middle of the melee watching my men bring the battle to life for thousands of people. We want to take our audience back to Bannockburn as it was, at that moment, 700 years ago.

‘As they step onto our Royal’s field they will not only find a battle, but an encampment bustling with life. Preparations are in full swing; men needing fed, weapons being assembled, the sharpening of blades, servants running errands, kings arguing with their advisors, maps being studied, soldiers practicing, women mending kit, grooms fetching water for the cavalry, blacksmiths hammering metal, the last of the baggage trains being off loaded. And then the battle shall commence…’

See Clanranald and all the battle performance action at Bannockburn Live on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 June. And make sure you check out what else is on – there’s the Clan & Family Village, storytelling, delectable food and drink and brilliant Scottish music. You can read our blog post on the musical line up from last month.

If you’ve not already got your tickets, then what are you waiting for? Book online and join us at one the highlights of Homecoming 2014!

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Amy Robertson

Amy is media executive at VisitScotland. Hailing from the west coast of Scotland, she's rather fond of music festivals, coastal walks, whisky and coal fires.