Barbara Dickson to sing in Dunfermline Abbey

Scottish singer songwriter Barbara Dickson is performing a special homecoming rendition of “Scots Wha Hae” at Dunfermline Abbey.

Dunfermline Abbey roofs

She is leading a reprise of the famous Robert Burns’ song on March 10 to mark the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the remains of King Robert the Bruce.

Ms Dickson, who grew up in the Fife town, said she was very “excited" to be performing at the end of a new play, titled “Bones, Bogles and Coronets”.

Written by local playwright Diane M. Stewart and directed by Catherine Exposito, it is a theatrical reconstruction of the “tumultuous time” between the re-discovery of the grave of the victor of Bannockburn and the laying of the foundation stone for the new Abbey Church just three weeks later.

A legendary discovery

The play sweeps to its finale with a re-enactment of the March 10, 1818 ceremony, which featured a community singsong of “Scots Wha hae”, which was written by Scotland’s national Bard in 1793.

The event was 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.”

Ms Dickson said: “How exciting to be commemorating the discovery of the original tomb of King Robert at Dunfermline Abbey in 1818.

“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.”

Dunfermline Abbey sanctuary

Play voices excitement of grave discovery

Ms Stewart described her new work as a “theatrical reconstruction, with much poetic licence”

“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,” she explained.

“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.

News swept the country

The Annals of Dunfermline record how news of the discovery of the royal grave, after a lapse of 489 years, swept the whole country:

It is said that “newspapers, magazines and fly-sheets gave full notices of the immortal hero-king and for months it was the all-absorbing talk.”

The first in a series of events to mark significant milestones in the history of the church was held on February 18 with a service led by Right Rev Dr Derek Browning, the Moderator of the General Assembly.

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.”

The play starts at 7pm and 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.