NS3974 : Dumbarton Rock: Carved face on Guard House

taken 16 years ago, near to Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

Dumbarton Rock: Carved face on Guard House
Dumbarton Rock: Carved face on Guard House
[This is one of a linked series of articles about Dumbarton Rock.]

The previous article in this series showed the Guard House, and mentioned a carved stone face that is visible on that building. That face is shown here in close-up.

Dr I.M.M.MacPhail, in his book "Dumbarton Castle" (1979), mentions a Wallace Tower (now gone, it guarded the old north entry of Dumbarton Castle), and the Guard House between the two peaks, to which the name "Wallace's Prison" used to be applied; that name apparently arose from a tradition that, after his capture in 1305, and before being taken to London, William Wallace was brought to Dumbarton Castle (which was then governed by Sir John Menteith). Note, though, that the Guard House itself dates from a much later period. He then adds:

"Dumbarton children for centuries have been pointed out a leering stone face on a skewput as that of the 'fause Menteith', as if in confirmation of that tradition. Although there is no record of Wallace's confinement in the castle after his capture, this was most likely to have happened as Sir John Menteith, who was sheriff of Dumbarton and keeper of the castle, was responsible for having him transported to London; but it could only have been for a day or so, as Wallace was brought to trial in Westminster Hall a little over three weeks from the date of his capture."

While it cannot be said for certain that Wallace was ever confined at Dumbarton Castle (or that this carved face was originally intended to represent Menteith), what is in no doubt is that "the fause [false] Menteith", then governor of Dumbarton Castle, was instrumental in Wallace's capture (this fact is also recorded in contemporary and near-contemporary English chronicles).

MacPhail provides a great deal of information about Menteith; he concludes that section of his work by quoting from the Menteith family's own historian, Sir William Fraser: "Whether he was a prime mover or only an abettor in the execution of his duty, Sir John Menteith has not escaped the execration of posterity for his alleged share in the death of Scotland's best patriot."

There is another carved face, seemingly less well known, on the opposite side of the same building (that is, the side facing up the stairs): NS3974 : Dumbarton Rock: Carved face on Guard House.

Previous: NS3974 : Dumbarton Rock: The Guard House.
Next: NS3974 : Dumbarton Rock: the Portcullis Arch.
Dumbarton Rock and Castle :: NS4074

The Rock is a volcanic plug, and it has a long history as a fortified site. For further information, see the Geograph article "Dumbarton Rock and Castle": Link

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NS3974, 250 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Monday, 8 August, 2005   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 1 July, 2009
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts 
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Period (from Tags)
16th Century 
Place (from Tags)
Dumbarton Rock 
Person (from Tags)
William Wallace 
Stone carvings   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3999 7444 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.1783N 4:33.7916W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3999 7444
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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Carved Stone 

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