Did William Wallace make his first kill in Dundee?

Dundee was certainly a pivotal city in the life of William Wallace, he was certainly educated here and did reclaim the city from the English during the wars of independence. But did he in fact, strike his first blow in the war that was to shape his life, here in Dundee? The story starts in 1288, when Wallace was finishing his education in Dundee. It was in this year that Edward I, and English King, seized control of Scotland and took over many of the cities castles, including the Castle of Dundee.

These events must have affected the young Wallace, as we know he fought against the English and that he had a temper. Unfortunately much of what we know about Wallace’s deed come from poems and folklore, written many decades or centuries after. Blind Harry, also known as Henry the Minstrel, is renowned as the author of The Wallace. This was a lengthy poem recounting the life of William Wallace, written around 1477, or 172 years after Wallace’s death. Here’s the section on Wallace’s first kill.

And with disdain, said, “Scot, I pray thee stay; what devil clad thee in a suit so gay? A horse’s mantle was thy king to wear, And a Scots whittle at thy belt to bear, Rough roullion shoes, or any common trash, Did serve such whore’s sons through the dubs to plash; Give me that knife under thy girdle hings.” “Nay, pardon me, sir, I know better things; Therefore forbear, I earnestly entreat; It both defends me, and it cuts my meat.” Selby assaults him, and would take it by force, And so the plea went on from bad to worse. Fast by the collar Wallace did him take, Made the young squire tremble there and shake, His dagger with the other hand drew out, In spite of all his men so throng about, And boldly without fear or dread Upon the spot he stick’d young Selby dead

Fleeing the scene, Wallace set off from the Hawkhill, where the incident supposedly took place, and followed the Perth Road and eventually arrived in Longforgan where he rested upon a stone outside a cottage. The stone was preserved by the farmer’s descendants for nearly six hundred years, and is how housed in the McManus Galleries.

So clearly there are many believers in the story, since the stone has been kept, and a plaque bears the site of Wallace’s first blow for independence at the former location of Dundee castle. But did it really happen? As with so many stories from so long ago, we’ll never know the full truth. Do you believe?

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7 thoughts on “Did William Wallace make his first kill in Dundee?

  • February 27, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    I believe it is true I’m a true jock and I love Scotlandset us free to live our oown lives away from eu countries we would be better left alone free Scotland the brave

  • May 19, 2015 at 11:36 am

    It is such a shame that Dundee plays down it’s connections with our National Hero. No official recognition of him in Dundee, or our great Hero King, Robert Bruce. Yet we can manage statues to D.C,Thomson fictional characters !

    Even Wallace Street has been cut in half and the sign is gone. For long enough the plaque in the Seagate was hidden by a bus shelter.
    His name survives in Wallacetown, his deeds in our memories.

  • June 30, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Time for a statue of Wallace duffing up Selby.

    Can we give Wallace Salmond’s face and Selby Cameron’s? 🙂

  • June 30, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    I worked on the Hawkhill and don’t remember seeing Wallace, though his pies were decent enough.

    As for the notion that Wallace began his alleged activities in Dundee – perhaps he did but it had little to do with Scottish Independence as it is now described and debated.

    Instead of waving the flag and blaming others for the state of the ‘nation’ the people there need to get off their behinds, get out of the pubs, the snooker halls and the betting shops and do some actual work if they want independence.

    Which, based on the recent referendum, they don’t preferring instead to accept what England provides.

    • June 30, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      As you are preaching at Dundonins may be you should be working from the referendum result in Dundee 60% yes. Just a thought.

    • April 29, 2016 at 7:09 pm

      I worked all my life full time .never got a penny off the state .and I voted yes in the referendum .

  • May 18, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    I have always believed that William Wallace did stab Selby in Dundee because I first heard this in the 1950’s and it seems to fit with what we know about him being educated in the town.

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