CAMPAIGNERS are battling to save the historic site where William Wallace was appointed Guardian of Scotland.
The Auld Kirk in Selkirk, Scottish Borders, and its graveyard are crumbling and in ruins.
The B-listed site has been on the Buildings at Risk register for more than a year, with the church described as being “held up by the ivy”.
The site is critically important because it is one of the few known physical links to Wallace.
Locals say the condition of the site is “tragic”.
In the 13th Century, the Scottish hero was proclaimed Guardian of Scotland by gathered nobles after defeating the English at Stirling Bridge.
The scene was even depicted in the 1995 Mel Gibson film Braveheart, and Wallace also used the Selkirk area as a base to launch raids on Scone, Ancrum and Dundee.
The church where Wallace was proclaimed Guardian in 1298, known as the Kirk o’ the Forest, was since demolished, and the current building has fallen into ruin.
Inspectors found the graveyard was littered with fallen gravemarkers and vegetation was growing on the disused church.
A plaque marks the church as the spot where Wallace’s victory was recognised.
Duncan Fenton, convener of the society of William Wallace, said: “Places like the auld kirkyard in Selkirk are very important because of their association with Wallace – even the places which have a tenuous link with him.”
He said Blind Harry, a 15th Century poet who chronicled the warroir’s exploits, listed 83 places as having a connection with William Wallace.
He continued: “We keep saying such places are kind of a living history book, helping put the flesh on the bones of where events, such as Wallace’s appointment as Guardian of Scotland, actually happened.”
Selkirk Community council convener Dr Lindsay Neil said previous bids to repair the site, which would cost £80,000 in total, had failed due to a lack of funding.
The community council had applied to Historic Scotland for funding to carry out the work in 2006 but since they could not match the £40,000 offered the plan did not go ahead.
Volunteers have removed some of the ivy from the site but more work needs to be done to prevent the walls from crumbling.
He said: “For a national hero it’s tragic and scandalous it’s in the state it is.
“Its roof fell off in the 1800s and its deteriorated since then.
“We want to give it a bit of a boost – we’re planning on making it much more visit-able.
“It’s one of the things we desperately want to improve but we’re stuck.”
Local historian Walter Elliot agreed the ruined kirk was in poor condition.
He said: “The building’s only really being held up by the ivy these days.
“The problem is that old buildings use lime mortar, but once water starts to get in and wash that out, it all starts to crumble.”
A plaque commemorating the event was unveiled by Scottish nationalist firebrand Wendy Wood in 1970 at the church.
Mark Douglas, the council’s heritage officer, said the issue of the church’s ownership was a “grey area”.
But the church may have work done on it as part of a £750,000 grant from Historic Scotland to restore parts of Selkirk.
He said: “It’s a grey area who controls it.
“We accept it’s not in the best condition but once the final details are agreed there may be a route forward.”
In January last year a letter believed to be in the possession of Wallace, known as the Safe Conduct letter, returned to Scotland after being held in England for over 700 years.
The letter, written by Philip IV of France, requests he be given safe passage to visit the Pope.