Sunday 1 January 2023

Top 10 Scottish Deaths: Part 2

Happy New Year! Last time, we looked at three notable deaths. Today let's continue the countdown of top ten Scottish deaths with these memorable moments from history:

7. James I.

James died for a game of tennis! Having annoyed and alarmed his nobles with persecutions and land grabs, aggrandising his own position at their expense, James probably should have preferred the stout walls of castles to poorly defended houses. For while relaxing in the undefended Blackfriars in Perth in 1437, a minor noble with a grudge burst in with a small band of assasins looking for the monarch. James fled for the sewer, but his way to safety was blocked - just days earlier he had the exit covered over as he kept losing tennis balls down the hole from the court next door. His assasin cornered the unfortunate monarch and stabbed him to death.

6. Percy Pilcher. 

Pilcher was an English naval engineer based at Glasgow University as the 19th century drew to a close. On the gently sloping land near Cardross on the Clyde, he perfected his designs for a hang glider. But Pilcher had grander ambitions: heavier-than-air powered flight. Having built a plane, he intended to demonstrate it on 30 September 1899 in front of sponsors at Stanford Hall, Leicestershire. The weather was too bad to fly: Pilcher went up in his glider instead, and crashed. Pilcher's death is a case of lost opportunity: had he lived a few more months who knows, he may have added heavier-than-air flight to the list of Scottish inventions.

5. William Wallace.

No list of historic Scottish deaths could be complete without the end of Sir William Wallace. Like Joan of Arc he died resisting English invasion, in a cause that would ultimately triumph: in part, thanks to the inspiration of his own example. Wallace was betrayed by a Scottish noble who had made peace with Edward I of England - as, to be fair, had the rest of the nobility. Wallace was taken to London and tried as a traitor, which he denied:

"I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I owe him no allegiance."

Wallace was hanged, taken down while still alive, had his genitals cut off, disembowelled and his organs thrown in a fire, and finally beheaded. His body was quartered and his limbs sent to be placed on spikes above the town gates of Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Perth as an example to the population.

Edward had found he could beat Wallace when he had been a fugitive and alive. It was another story once he became a dead legend. 

Read on for the last in the installment of top ten Scottish historical deaths!

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