If you saw the 1995 movie Braveheart, you almost surely remember star Mel Gibson in his blue-painted face yelling the famous line “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”
If you didn’t, watch the clip on YouTube.
In fact, even if you’ve seen the movie multiple times (like I have), watch that clip again just for the pure goose-bump raising thrill of it. It’s one the greatest pre-battle scenes ever filmed.
Braveheart is based on the true story of the Scottish hero William Wallace, a key leader of the 13th century Scottish rebellion against domination by the English.
Gibson plays Wallace. The famous “freedom” speech is what he uses to convince an outnumbered group of Scots to fight a much larger English army at the historic Battle of Stirling Bridge – which took place on September 11, 1297.
When a Scottish soldier suggests to Gibson/Wallace that it would be better to retreat and live to fight another day, he responds by saying:
“Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live – at least a while. And, dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!?! Alba gu bra!” *
As things turned out, Wallace inspired his troops to win the Battle of Stirling Bridge. And, the legends that grew up around him inspired Scots to continue and ultimately achieve the goal of Scottish independence. (Unfortunately, Wallace was caught, tortured, disembowled and beheaded before that came to pass.)
There are those who have complained that Braveheart strays more than a wee bit from the factual record.
They note that the Lowland Scots Wallace led didn’t wear kilts, like they do in the movie.
And, the bridge that played a major role in the Battle of Stirling Bridge – by creating a bottleneck that prevented English troops from rolling over the Scots – was nowhere to be seen in the movie.
However, to use a phrase coined by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew exactly 39 years ago today, on September 11, 1970, I think complainers about the historical details of Braveheart are just “nattering nabobs of negativism.”
I’m making “they’ll never take our freedom” the quote of the day for this date.
* In Scottish Gaelic, “Alba gu bra” means “Scotland forever!”