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Friday, 3 August 2012

72) Inspirations from Scottish History: Robert the Bruce (11.07.1274 – 07.06.1329) (The legend of King Robert the Bruce and the Spider):

72) Inspirations from Scottish History:
       Robert the Bruce (11.07.1274 – 07.06.1329)
       (The legend of King Robert the Bruce and the Spider):

Robert the Bruce (or Roibert a Briuis in Medieval Gaelic or Robert de Bruys/Brus in Norman French or the “Good King Robert” as he was known all over Scotland), was the Earl of Carrick (from his mother’s side) and came from a family of Normans, in particular, Robert de Bruce, who was a Norman Knight in the Army of William the Conqueror when William had come to England. From his father’s Royal lineage (Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale, he also succeeded his father as the 7th Earl of Annandale), he, also,  had a claim to the Scottish throne.

During the reign of Edward I (known as Edward Longshanks because of his long legs) in England, in 1291, the Scottish throne was claimed by several claimants. Subsequently, a vassal of Edward I, John de Balliol, was appointed to the Scottish throne by Edward.  Later, John declared his Independence from England but was defeated by the English at Dunbar and Edward established his Sovereignty over Scotland a fact which forced some Scots to swear allegiance/fealty to the English throne while others took up armed rebellion against Edward I. 

The Scots fought the English valiantly on several occasions, but were defeated and their leader William Wallace was captured and executed by the English.

The banner of Independence was taken over by Robert the Bruce, who harassed and captured many English positions/fortifications.  Eight years of continuous warfare had led Bruce to become the most famous guerilla warfare leader of his age.  Nevertheless, his army was comprehensively defeated by the English at the Battle of Methven.  Robert the Bruce was driven from his lands, his brother was captured by the English and executed and his wife was taken captive by the enemy.

Having met with reverses at Methven and fleeing from capture from his enemies and, also, driven to despair, he once took shelter in a small cave.

King Bruce watches the Spider at work spinning a cobweb:

Bruce was in a melancholy mood as he pondered over how many brave men had died fighting for the cause of Independence and their lands pillaged and whether their sacrifice had gone in vain. It had always been his heart’s desire to go to the Holy Land to fight in the crusades, but the fight for Scotland’s Independence was holding him back. 

As he lay on a straw bed, troubled by his thoughts and pondering his options, he noticed a spider hanging by a long thread and saw that the spider was trying to make a cobweb. Every time the spider would fail in its efforts and fall down, it would relentlessly climb slowly back up to try again. Six times the spider failed yet it tried again.

 Robert thought to himself that six times he had been defeated by the English just like the spider, which was making its seventh attempt. He watched intently and resolved to give up the fight against the English, if the spider failed on its seventh attempt too but, he also resolved to carry on the fight,  if the spider succeeded in its seventh attempt. The Spider managed to stick a strand onto the walls of the cave and managed to weave its web on the seventh attempt. (Some traditions mention a small non-descript hut in place of a Cave and a wooden beam from which the spider was hanging). There is a saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try again” which is exactly what the spider was doing and gave Bruce hope.

Putting into practice the learning received from this incident:

King Bruce learnt that, no matter what the odds, the spider always strives to succeed in achieving its goal on account of its determined efforts and undying optimism. In other words it does not take ‘NO’ for an answer.

Bruce, inspired by the spider’s tenacity and its success, shook off his despair and carried on the struggle against England with the help of Scottish clans and, in 1314, the English King Edward II was defeated comprehensively by Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn where an army of about 5000 soldiers under Bruce routed an army of about 20000 English soldiers. He led several Scottish armies in more campaigns and succeeded in liberating  his country from English domination.

Later, Robert created an ideological vision of a “Pan-Gaelic Greater Scotia” with both Scotland and Ireland forming a joint-front against England. This was accomplished through marriage and by some of the Irish crowning his brother Edward Bruce as the High King of Ireland in 1316. However, the Bruces did not meet with much success against the English and did not find much support with the locals who viewed both the Scots and the English as aggressors, and this campaign was abandoned.

In May 1328, King Edward III of England formally signed the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, whereby England recognized Scotland as an independent kingdom and Bruce as its King.

The legend of Robert the Bruce and the Spider  remembered:

The legend of King Bruce and the Spider although known to the Scots through oral tradition, was first published by Sir Walter Scott in “Tales of a Grandfather" in 1828, about five centuries after the Battle of Bannockburn.

Caves across Scotland and Ireland are said to be legendary and reminders of the legend of Bruce and the Spider. The King’s Cave at Drumadoon on Arran; King Robert the Bruce’s Cave in Kirkpatrick Fleming near Lockerbie and his caves at Uamh-an-Righ, Balquhidder Glen and on Rathlin Island are some such examples.

It is a story that we were brought up on during our early schooling years.

Robert the Bruce’s legacy:

-      Robert the Bruce was King of the Scots from 25th March 1306 until he passed away in 1329.

-      His tomb is in Dunfermline Abbey. His trusted friend Sir James Douglas took Robert’s embalmed heart in a silver casket on a crusade to the Holy Land, but died fighting the Moors in the battle of Teba. Robert’s heart was recovered and was interred in Melrose Abbey.

-      He was one of Scotland’s greatest Kings and one of the most well-known and beloved Guerilla warriors of his time, leading Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence against England. Scotland remembers Bruce with a sense of admiration and pride.
FFact File after Robert the Bruce:
The following interesting facts in this paragraph have been  posted on 16.10.12:

·         Since 1603, Scotland and England have shared a monarch and have been ruled by a single Parliament in London since 1707.

·         In 1999, for the first time since then, a devolved Scottish Parliament was opened following a Scottish Referendum.

·         On 15.10.2012, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister and Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister signed a paper in Edinburgh, in terms of which a Scottish Referendum for Scotland’s Independence from the United Kingdom, is scheduled to be held in 2014 (700 years after the battle of Bannockburn in which Robert the Bruce defeated the English in a decisive battle).

·         Cameron is going to canvass for no split while the pro-Independence Salmond is going to go all-out for the split.

·         If the Scots vote for the split (and Independence from the United Kingdom), Salmond proposes to retain the Sterling currency and the British monarch as the Head of State. Even now, the British monarch flies different colours with a heavy Scottish bias whenever she is visiting or attends official work in Scotland.
   On 18.09.14, out of 32 major districts in Scotland, only four districts (City of Dundee, West Dunbartonshire, City of Glasgow and north Lanarkshire)  voted "Yes" for the Independence campaign while 26 district voted "No", preferring to stay with the Union, while one district had a neutral 50-50 vote. The Scots have voted to stay with the United Kingdom with 2.00 million votes (about 56% of the valid votes cast) favouring the Union and 1.60 million (about 46% of the valid votes cast) voting for Independence.

Clydesdale Bank plc (“Banca Dhail Chluaidh”, in Scottish Gaelic)

Clydesdale Bank is a Commercial Bank in Scotland and is a subsidiary of the National Australian Bank (NAB Group). Clydesdale Bank is one of the three Scottish commercial Banks, the others being “Royal Bank of Scotland” and “Bank of Scotland”, which have been authorized to issue their own Banknotes, which are legal tender. This arrangement is interestingly a legacy dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, when privately owned Banks/Banking Companies were issuing their own Bank Notes all over England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. As time went by, the Bank of England garnered the right to issue Bank Notes in England and Wales while the Banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland maintained their right to issue their own Bank Notes.

Clydesdale Bank has issued a 20 pound Note honouring Robert the Bruce under its “Famous Scots series”. The Bank has also included his portrait on another 20 Pound Note issued under its “World Heritage Series”.   

The currency Note whose scan appears below is from the collection of Jayant Biswas, who happened to collect it during one of his foreign travels and knowing about my interest in the History of the World, has contributed this Scan for this post:

This twenty Pound Sterling Note issued by Clydesdale Bank in 2009, is from the World Heritage Series and shows King Robert the Bruce in his battle armour. On the extreme right is a spider spinning its web watched intently by King Robert . A third image shows King Robert riding into battle on his steed.

The reverse of the Note shows an artistic representation of the “New Lanark” Mills which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.

New Lanark: 

New Lanark, is one of Scotland’s five World Heritage sites, recognized by UNESCO, the others being Edinburgh Old and New Towns, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, St. Kilda,  and the Antonine Wall. 

New Lanark is a village on the River Clyde, very close to Lanark in South Lanarkshire and situated about 40 km south-East of Glasgow, in Scotland. The village was founded by David Dale in 1786, who set up cotton mills and housing for mill workers in this area by harnessing the water power/energy of the waterfalls on the Clyde. 

New Lanark, which now has a population of about 200 or so inhabitants became an area bustling with activity and grew into a milestone in the historical development of urban planning of its time. 

New Lanark was celebrated all over Europe for the unique way in which the water power was harnessed, the owner’s housing and education and welfare programmes for the mill workers and for spearheading the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th century Britain. The Cotton Mills operated till about 1968 when they passed into history. 

The old buildings which gave the village much of its status in its heyday were prevented from destruction, largely due to the efforts of a Conservation Group called the “New Lanark Trust” and has now become a major tourist attraction and later declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the village is now also placed on the “European Route of Industrial Heritage”. It is estimated that over 500000 visitors come to New Lanark annually.

 Present Series of Banknotes issued by Clydesdale Bank:

Presently, there are two series on Banknotes in circulation issued by the Clydesdale Bank, one is the UNESCO World Heritage Series (commenced in 2009) while the other one is the Famous Scots Series. There are plans to phase out the famous Scots Series which will be replaced completely by the World Heritage Series. Meanwhile both Series continue to be legal tender.

The Famous Scots Series includes:

-      5 Pound Note – with Robert Burns on the Front and a depiction of a Field Mouse on the Back.

-      10 Pound Note – with Mary Slessor on the Front and a map of Calabar and African Missionary scenes on the Back.

-      20 Pound Note – with Robert the Bruce on the front and Bruce on horseback with the Monymusk Reliquary and a background of Stirling Castle on the back.

-      50 Pound Note – with Adam Smith on the Front and a set of industry tools against a background of sailing ships on the back.

-      100 Pound Note – with Lord Kelvin on the Front and a picture of the University of Glasgow on the back.

(Interestingly, Adam Smith also features on a 20 Pound Note issued by the Bank of England in 2007, being the first and only Scot to appear on a Bank of England Currency Note).

The World Heritage Series, apart from the 20 Pound Note on King Robert the Bruce and New Lanark (shown elsewhere above) includes:

-      5 Pound Note – with Sir Alexander Fleming on the Front and St. Kilda on the Back.

-      10 Pound Note – with Robert Burns on the front and Edinburgh Old and New Towns depicted on the Back.

-      20 Pound Note – (shown/mentioned above)

-      50 Pound Note – with Elsie Inglis on the Front and the Antonine Wall on the Back.

-      100 Pound Note – with Charles Rennie Mackintosh on the front and Neolithic Orkney on the Back.

Some other interesting facts about Spiders:
(Spiders belong to Phylum: Arthropoda Order Araneae Class: Arachnida)

1)  The story of the Prophet’s travels:

It is said that when the Prophet was traveling to Al-Madinah with his followers, he took shelter in the Cave of Thawr when they heard that some men from Medina were coming to do them harm. When they were in the cave, spiders spun webs across the entrance. When these men came to the cave, they were fooled into thinking that the prophet and his followers were not in the cave because they would have broken/disturbed the cobwebs while entering the cave and the pursuers continued on their trail. The spiders through their natural instincts had helped save several lives and that effort is still remembered.

2)  The intricate cobweb:

Have you ever noticed the intricate architectural designing and planning that goes into making of a cobweb? The spider first assesses the direction of the wind and tries and locates various points which define the limits of its initial efforts. Once these initial points are covered, it locates distant points and the end result is an intricate web of parallel lines, rectangles, quadrilaterals and what have you. But the point to note is that this web does not allow any insect, flies etc. to cross its boundaries and no matter what – the insect or fly, gets hopelessly entangled and there is no escape.

3)  The eight eyed and eight legged Arachnids:

Web-casting spiders have enormous compound lens like eyes that give a wide field of view and gather available data/light very efficiently. On several occasions, it is a vertical climb on its sure-footed eight legs to build a cobweb.

The tendency/instinct of the spider is to always reach its goal no matter even if the given conditions are adverse. There is an interesting example – In 1973, SKYLAB-3 took two spiders, Arabella and Anita, into space to test their web-spinning capabilities in zero-gravity. It was found that although both spiders took some time to adapt to their weightless experience- the “space webs” made by them were finer than normal Earth webs, although there were slight variations in thickness.

4)  The Sydney Funnel Web spider:

On our trip to the Phansad Bird Sanctuary (the biggest bird sanctuary in Maharashtra) near Murud, we saw something we had never seen before. Here is the web of the Funnel Web Spider (family Dipluridae) which we saw while checking out Birds and other wildlife in the thick forest area. These spiders are secretive and rarely seen. 

The Sydney funnel web spider “Atrax robustus” is the most deadly spider in the World. It burrows beneath logs and stones in cool places in Eastern Australia. It has long fangs and enormous venom sacs compared to other spiders. The sacs carry atraxotoxin, one of the most potent poisons in the animal kingdom. There have been quite a few recorded human fatalities which have been attributed to this spider. Fortunately an anti-dote to this toxin is now available.

The Perth Mint, Australia, has issued a silver coin on the Sydney Funnel Web Spider.

Posted on 09.02.2015:

Sumita Chaudhry has contributed the following pictures on our first sighting of a Funnel Web Spider "in action":
 "Today early morning went for ''Life of an insect: Nature Walk'' with Pune's very own ''Spiderman'' young Ashwin. Had the most amazing time learning about spiders which is still a nascent area. Ashwin put a cockroach on the Funnel web spider's web and out came spidey and scooted back in, with its free breakfast, in a blink of an eye. The thrill of seeing something like that has to be experienced".

This was a real treat to watch. We have seen at least 20 Funnel web spider webs, but this was the first time we got to see a real Funnel web spider 'in action". Its victim simply had no chance!!


1) The Ryder Cup 2014 : A Commemorative 5 Pound Sterling Banknote issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland


British Crown Dependencies:

1) Specimen Banknotes from the States of Jersey

2) Coinage and Currency from the States of Jersey

3) Currency & Coinage of the Bailiwick of Guernsey

4) Currency & Coinage of Gibraltar : An Overseas Territory of Great Britain

5) Coinage of Gibraltar: (A British Overseas Territory): An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by the Tower Mint, UK in 2010
6) The Isle of Man: An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by Pobjoy Mint, UK in 2015

7) The Centenary of the ill-fated Titanic (15.04.1912 - 15.04.2012): An Alderney Five Pound Coin Commemorating the Maritime Legend

8) "Man of Steel": A Superman Movie: A set of stamps brought out in 2013 by Jersey post, the States of Jersey, commemorating Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill who played Superman in the Movie

9) Coins & Currency of Bermuda

10) The Bailiwick of Jersey - Presently circulating coinage - Pounds and Pence 

11) St. Helena & Ascension Islands: An Uncirculated Coin Set from 2003 

12) The Legend of the "HMAV Bounty" is interwoven with the heritage of the Pitcairn Islands: An uncirculated coin set from Pitcairn Islands in 2009 depicting the icons/relics of the Bounty minted by the New Zealand Mint 

Famous Battles

1) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to St. Helena: (Part I): A One Crown Commemorative coin issued by the Ascension Island (minted by Pobjoy Mint UK) 

2) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to st. Helena: (Part II) 1) A 5 GBP Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK. 2) A"Drie Landen Zilverset" ( ot the "Three Lands Silver set") containing coins issued by the Royal Dutch Mint including coins of Netherlands, Belgium and UK

3) Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain by issuing a 50 Pence coin by the Royal Mint UK

Gold Coins:
1) Gold Sovereigns issued in 2013 & 2014 by MMTC-PAMP in India under licence from the Royal Mint, UK, carrying the "I" Mint Mark

2) Gold Half-Sovereigns minted by MMTC-PAMP in India in 2014 under licence from the Royal Mint UK bearing the "I" Mint Mark 

Silver Coins:

1) A 20 Pound Silver coin minted for the first timr by the royal Mint UK: reverse design carries the famous St. George slaying the dragon design found on Gold Sovereigns 

British India Coinage:

 1) East India Company Quarter Anna Copper Coin which is one of the first issues under the Coinage Act 1835

2) Victoria Coinage: When she was Queen and afterwards Empress

3) Edward VII: King & Emperor  Coinage

4) George V King Emperor Coinage

5) George VI: The last of the British India Emperors Coinage 

Other British Royalty: 

1) Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (1952-2012): A Five Pound Commemorative coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK

2) Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in 1953: A Five Pound Coin minted by the Royal Mint UK in 2013, depicting the Imperial State Crown

3) The Royal Coat of Arms of the UK: Great British 2012 Coin Set (Uncirculated) issued by the Royal Mint UK

4) Prince George's Christening Ceremony celebrated with coins issued by the Royal Mint UK in 2013

5) The British Empire:  A Case of Numismatic "segregation": (Guest Post by Rahul Kumar)

6) 1) The Portrait Collection: Various Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II on Coinage 2) The Fourth & Final Circulating coinage of the Portrait designed by Ian Rank-Broadley and the First Edition of the portrait of the Queen made by Jody Clark

 British Coinage:

1) The contribution of the Great British One-Pound coins in keeping alive the historical legends/emblems/heritage of the UK (1983 onwards)

2) Transformation of a Five shilling Coin (Crown) into the UK Twenty-five Pence & then the Five Pound Coin

3) Transformation of the Two Shilling Coin (Florin) Coin into the UK Ten Pence

4) The 350th Anniversary of the Guinea: A Two Pound Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK celebrating the milestone

 Commemorative British Coinage:

 1) Commemorating the Bicentenary of Charles Dickens: A Two pound coin celebrating his literary contributions during the Victorian Era

 2) Commemorating 50 Years of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - presently called the World Wide Fund for Nature by issue of a Fifty Pence coin by the Royal Mint, UK

3) Coins commemorating London Olympics & Paralympics (2012)

4) Commemorating 150 Years of the London Underground : Two pound Coins minted by the Royal Mint UK, showing the "Roundel" logo and a train emerging from a tunnel 

5) Commemorating the 100th Birth anniversary of Christopher Ironside with his" Royal Arms" design on a 50 Pence coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK 

6) 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta - the Universal Guidepost to Liberty and Freedom

Inspirations from Scottish History: 

1) The Legend of King Bruce & the Spider on Banknotes

Banknotes from Scotland:
1) Commemorating Sir William Arrol and his creation the Forth Rail Bridge by issues of Britain's first ever 5 Pound Polymer Banknote


  1. Raka Prasad has commented:
    "Nature is amazing but we need time for it"

    1. That is why we keep saying that one should try & retire early & not "die with one's boots on" !!

  2. Paromita Mukherjee has commented:
    "WOW!!! i can see the web funnel too.Great!!".

    1. Paromita Mukherjee has commented:
      "nice one.Is it the hard shelled cockroach?"

    2. Sumita Chaudhry has replied:
      "Yeah! roaches have developed the shell like back just to protect themselves. Alas! nothing saves them from the wily Spidey."