Barbara Dickson joins Abbey’s homage to Scotland’s hero-king
Robert the Bruce and Dunfermline Abbey.
February 21, 2018 – It is exactly 200 years since the “tumultuous event” which Dunfermline Abbey still shouts from its rooftops … the discovery amid the ruins of the Old Abbey of the remains of Scotland’s hero-king, Robert the Bruce.
Bruce is said to have died in Cardross, Dunbartonshire, and to have had extensive lands in Dumbarton, Renton and Mains of Cardross at Kipperoch, near Dalmoak, where he often went fishing in the River Leven.
Now – aided by a cameo appearance by Dunfermline’s own diva Barbara Dickson – the wave of patriotic fervour provoked by the chance discovery during the excavations for a new church is set to be recalled in a new play to be premiered on 10th March as part of the Abbey Church’s bicentennial celebrations.
Written by local playwright Diane M. Stewart and directed by Catherine Exposito, “Bones, Bogles and Coronets” is a theatrical reconstruction of the “tumultuous time” between the re-discovery of the grave of the victor of Bannockburn who “restored the ancient liberty and glory of his country” and the laying of the foundation stone for the new Abbey Church just three weeks later.
The first in a series of events to mark significant milestones in the history of the church was held on Sunday, 18th February, with a service led by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning. The service was followed by a bicentennial congregational lunch in the Glen Pavilion to launch a fund-raising appeal in aid of direct refugee relief and the Abbey restoration fund.
In the words of the organisers, the celebrations will mark the “historic importance of this discovery and its profound effect on the Abbey, on the building of the current Abbey Church and on the people of Dunfermline.”
As part of its bicentennial outreach to the wider community, the church is staging the play as a “historic event, open to all” at 7pm on Saturday, 10th March.
Dramatist Diane describes her new work as a “theatrical reconstruction, with much poetic licence”.
She explains, “Complete with a variety of songs and musical interludes and based on the historic accounts of the time, the play tries to imagine the banter, gossip and excitement of those days – giving voice to the ordinary workers, women and children who witnessed the historic discovery and the aftermath in Dunfermline.
“The play will also include some haunting appearances by a number of royal personages. Some may be familiar, some less so, but they will all have been somewhat disturbed by the turn of events and the eagerness of some to take a closer look!”
The production will be prefaced by significant musical input from the pupils of Pittencrieff Primary School, the Abbey Choir of Dunfermline and local musicians from Dunfermline Folk Club.
The Annals of Dunfermline record how news of the discovery of the royal grave, after a lapse of 489 years, swept the whole country: “Newspapers, magazines and fly-sheets gave full notices of the immortal hero-king and for months it was the all-absorbing talk.”
The play sweeps to its finale with a re-enactment of the 1818 ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone for the new Abbey Church, an event witnessed by an estimated 10,000 of Dunfermline’s citizens and punctuated by rousing expressions of “patriotic enthusiasm” and “peals of loud and reiterated huzzas!”
The organisers announced this week, “World-famous singer/songwriter and local celebrity, Barbara Dickson, has agreed to make a guest appearance at the end of the show by leading what is sure to be an historic and truly atmospheric reprise of the community singing that took place on 10th March, 1818, of the famous Robert Burns’ song, Scots Wha Hae.”
As she prepares to join the musical homage to The Bruce, Barbara said, “How exciting to be commemorating the discovery of the original tomb of King Robert at Dunfermline Abbey in 1818. Two hundred years!
“I remember growing up and knowing that ‘a man had put a spade in the ground and hit a lead coffin with cloth of gold and chain mail inside’. Now, I am not sure if any of that is fact, but we all had that legend in our collective memory.
“I have always loved Dunfermline Abbey and as a keen amateur historian, I am fascinated with the story of my ancient home town.
“Nowadays, Dunfermline is much ignored and since the emphasis in Fife shifted to the east of our beloved city, people pass us by, but they should stop and breathe in the same air as the kings and saints we, as natives, love so much.”
Tickets are now available, priced £15 for adults and £10 for children/concessions, from ‘Sew, Yarn, Crafty’ in the High Street; from Dunfermline Abbey before and after Sunday services, or via the Dunfermline Abbey website.