His talk was about "Robert Bruce - Scottish Hero/English Villain? - a Yorkshire perspective". He made references to his latest book mentioned above, with an emphasis on the Yorkshire viewpoint. Robert the Bruce's reputation as a Scottish hero is ingrained in Scottish tradition, but how is it viewed south of the border? Alan examines how Bruce was seen in Yorkshire (including Guisborough) after the Wars of Independence broke out in 1296 - only one year after Robert Bruce's grandfather was buried by his own choice in Gisborough Priory. Copies of his book were available on display/sale at the symposium..

Bryan's talk was on "The unpacking of a Flat Pack Cenotaph".

It  concentrated on the Cenotaph itself, its travels and especially on who made it - who ordered it, who paid for it and why? .

Bruce's Stone, Loch Trool..


The Chairman for the symposium was Stephen Whitehead JP. Until his retirement a few years ago Stephen was Principal of Prior Pursglove College and before that he taught Greek, Latin and Ancient History in 6th form colleges across the country. Now a resident of Guisborough, Stephen is a regular worshiper at St Nicholas Church, where he sings in the choir and is a member of the Church Council.

Ian and Margo are Chair and Secretary of the Robert the Bruce Commemoration Trust, based in SW Scotland. They and their small committee have worked wonders in the Dumfries area and beyond, bringing to life the history of their area with particular emphasis on King Robert the Bruce of Scotland. They had an aspirational tale to tell of how a small group of dedicated people can use history as a force for good. .

M's talk "An enduring legacy, an education in Guisborough from Priory to College" discussed the long history of Guisborough and established a line of continuity from the foundation of the Priory by Robert de Brus l to the current Prior Pursglove College..

Dr M Faye Prior is an architectural historian and heritage professional with a fascination for Yorkshire history. In 2011/2013 she had the pleasure of holding the post of Heritage Officer at Prior Pursglove College, whose archives tell the little known story of Guisborough Grammar School and almshouses. M now works for the York Museum Trust as Collections Facilitator in the History Curatorial team. She lives in York with her partner and two terrapins..

Dr M Prior.

Jean's talk "Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friend", described how, as friend and brother-in-law of Robert the Bruce, Christopher de Seton was present at the murder of Comyn in Greyfriars Church in Dumfries. This fatal act re-opened the war which made Scotland an independent country with Robert the Bruce it's king. In this cause, Christopher died a cruel and horrific death. It is with pity that his story is told..

Jean has lived in the village of Staithes on the coast of North York Moors for 33 years, meeting tourists from all over the world and answering their questions about the local medieval Lord of the Manor of Seton/Staithes who died fighting for Scottish independence..

Jean Eccleston LLB Leeds

Bryan has been associated with St Nicholas Parish Church in Guisborough since 1959 and has served in many capacities, including Church Warden. He is a former member of the General Synod of the Church of England (1976 -  2005). He has the Archbishop's permission to officiate as a Reader of the Diocese of York and was appointed a Lay Canon of York Minster in 2001..

Canon Bryan Sandford CBE

His talk "Why Skelton?" explored some possible reasons for the de Brus family's decision to relocate their base of operations from the Esk valley to Skelton in Cleveland - the site and situation of Skelton Castle..

Peter Appleton

Peter is an amateur historian who was born and bred in Skelton in Cleveland. He is secretary of the Skelton History Group and is a volunteer guide at Tocketts Mill and the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum. He leads walks in the local area based on his own research into the varied and fascinating heritage to be found within a few miles of his home. His first book "My Grandad was a Felon" is about the Skelton Association for the Prosecution of Felons..

Dr Alan Young

Dr Young studied under the renowned Robert Bruce biographer, Professor G W S Barrow  at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, gaining a PhD in Medieval History in 1974. He was a Principal Lecturer in History at York St John University before becoming a freelance writer in 2002. His widely published books include "Robert the Bruce's Rivals - the Comyns 1212 - 1315", "In the Footsteps of Robert Bruce" and also "In the Footsteps of William Wallace" - photography by Michael J Stead. Alan's latest book is "The real Patriots of Early Scottish Independence", (Birlinn 2014), written with George A Cumming. He has also contributed to BBC documentaries concerning the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and written for regional newspapers.


Dr Ruth Blakely MA PhD

Dr Blakely is an Honorary Research Fellow of the History Department of th University of Durham and author of "The de Brus Family in England and Scotland 1100-1295", published by Boydell in 2005..

    Her talk was about "The Origins and Influence of the de Brus Family in Yorkshire" and included the reasons for their settling in Yorkshire as well as a summary of how they acquired their lands. Brief highlights were given of the successive generations and reference made to their links to Scotland prior to the breakdown of harmonious relations. The foundation of the Priory and the continued connections with it by both English and Scottish branches of the family, including their use of it as a family mausoleum, were described.


The symposium was held at the Prior Pursglove College in Guisborough. The College is the former Guisborough Grammar school, founded in 1561, and has a long link to the history of the area. There were table-top displays and exhibitions, a list of those attending is at the bottom of this page.

Our grateful thanks go to the college for their support and expertise in organising this event, which is an excellent example of community cooperation. . .

​The symposium went off very well with many compliments from attendees and speakers alike. Thanks are due to the main organiser, Sheila Atherton, plus her committee of Margaret Aitken, Lorna Buckle, Elizabeth Hobkirk and Alwyn Jones. Special thanks must also go to Mike Mackin and all at Prior Pursglove 6th Form College who hosted the event and also Dennis Weller for his expertise in designing and producing the publicity, tickets and all things that required artistic talent.  ​​

The de Brus Symposium - Saturday March 5th 2016

Contributors to the event..

Ian and Margo McClumpha.

​List of Displays

​There were a number of table top displays and exhibitions by various people and organisations. These included:-

  • Alan Young Books.
  • Battlefield Trust.
  • Guisborough Museum.
  • Teesside Archives.
  • Cleveland Family History Society.
  • The de Brus Group.
  • ​Prior Pursglove College Archives..