The 27th of March 2010 will be remembered for a long time as the Strathleven Artizans took a huge step forward in realizing their dream and ambitions as a heritage centre. The official opening of the Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre became a reality as Benedict Bruce…the Grandson of Lord Elgin cut the tape and ushered in a new age for Bowmen/Bow-women alike. Witnessing the young mans skills was his Grandmother, Countess of Elgin and Kincardine, and his father Charles…Lord Bruce and of-course Lord Elgin, his presence stamping the occasion with official approval.
The arrival of the Bruce family to the Centre ushered in the beginning of the organised march from Tontine to Station Street. Leading the procession was King Robert the Bruce and his Queen (Rachel Alden) followed by generals, soldiers and dignitaries clad in chain mail, surcoats and arms. Behind them were the Dumbarton District pipe band, families and well wishers and escorted by numerous photographers and film makers, local cine clubs and local newspapers. Following up on the rear was the marvellous and awesome site of Big Jake the Clydesdale dressed for the occasion in blue covering decorated with the Artizans Bruce Saltire with gold trimmings…and every now and then he joined in the celebration with shouts of excitement of his own. A million thanks to Drew and Laura for their hard work.
During the short walk traffic began to build up and amazed drivers and passengers ogled at the unique and rare site, waving and shouting encouragement on the way. As the weather smiled upon us we entered Station Street where we were joined by young Benedict taking his rightly position at the front holding high the banner of the Bruce Family, waving it with pride.
Outside the Heritage Centre stood Lord Elgin, the Countess of Elgin and Lord Bruce awaiting the arrival of the procession surrounded by family members and friends of the Artizans and flag waving children. Once everyone was welcomed, Artizan Paul Hunter and Lord Elgin made speeches. The living relative of King Robert the Bruce declared the Centre open by the cutting of the ribbon by Benedict Bruce. The Centre was then blessed and prayers said by a representative of the knights Templars dressed in their full white capes. The dream of the Strathleven Artizans had now become a reality.
The Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre was now a wash with activity and inside was a hive of activity receiving its first official visitors. Outside was decorated with flowers, bedding plants, flags and banners of all kinds and gift bags were presented to the children who ran around with toy swords. In the crowd and visitors to the Centre were SNP MSP Christine McKelvie, Artist and writer Duncan Brown, Historian and author Professor Fiona Watson and Scottish magazine writer Jean Britain and Scot Rail official John Yellowlees who has worked closely with the station.
One of Lord Elgin’s first duties was the ordaining of fellow Artizans to the titles of ‘Bowmen/Bowwomen', hanging around the necks of the initiated, hearts made from the ‘Bruce Oak tree.’ In close examination Lord Elgin wore his Bruce heart gifted to him some years ago by our own Jim Tannock.
As part of the opening ceremony Ted Christopher sang 'Scots Wha Hae' and 'Scottish Dawn'. He was followed by the tribal drums of Clann an Drumma who came down to partake at the grand opening and had the station jumping to their beat.
It was then a musical march onto the Back Street of Renton up to the Carman Centre where the Bruce family were to be received by staff and invited to a specially organised buffet. A huge thank you goes out to the Carman Centre (Archie Thomson OBE, Drew, and Jackie Neeson and all the other members) for organising the welcome for the Bruce family. The buffet was excellent and the musical entertainment was the icing on the cake. The musical entertainment came from Ted Christopher and the Bannockburn Band, White Wolf fronted by Glen Lyndsay and sister Dawn and also an excellent a rendition of Matt McGinn songs from Duncan Brown and his backing band. Well done guys and girls.
The evening was then finished off by a night at the Renton Masonic Hall where another buffet and music were arranged in celebration of a successful day. A raffle was then held followed by plenty of alcohol and dancing assisted by Ted Christopher and his Bannockburn Band and of-course pipe music to get the blood going by our very own Philip Barlow, making it a very enjoyable day indeed, one not to be forgotten.
We would like to give a special mention to fellow Artizan David Murdoch who fought through the pain barrier to be in attendance after his operation.
A big gratitude goes out to the people of Station Street for their patience and occupation of their street for this memorable occasion. Thank you to all for all your patience and putting up with all the fuss and for backing us up with your flag waving and bunting. We are in your debt.
The Artizans are not known for resting on their laurels as Duncan Thomson proved by leaving the very next morning for a visit across the Atlantic to the Apache people far away in the Blackhills, Dakota.
Congratulations everyone for a fantastic team effort.
The Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre is now open.