For many people in the world, grievances of past centuries can be as real as the events of last week and often more powerful. Animosities born of brutality and perceived injustice can distort relations even between countries with strong economic and cultural ties.
Which is what Colin, with his close-cropped hair and strong Scottish accent, recalled to me as we sat in the bar on the night of July 4, 2005, talking about the bloody wars waged against Scotland and Wales by Edward I, the ruthless and cunning English monarch of the late 13th Century.
My conversation with Colin and his spike-haired college friend David was the sort of serendipity that comes with foreign travel. Off-duty guides from the nearby Stirling Castle, both were mildly intrigued by my reason for being in their gritty, central Scottish city of Stirling:
A Grisly Execution
Our tour had started four days earlier in London, after we had arrived from Washington. We began our little quest at the end for the two historical figures.
Later, we toured the Tower of London, a castle best known as a prison for political enemies, many of whom met the grisly fate that Edward I and other English monarchs meted out to traitors. While victims of royal blood faced relatively quick death from beheading, lesser-born victims were dragged through the streets, partially hanged, castrated and disemboweled before their hearts were cut out. Then they were decapitated and their bodies chopped into quarters.
It was that fate that awaited Scottish hero William Wallace also known as "Braveheart " who led the Scottish resistance to Edward I 's military campaigns against Scotland in the 1290s. Wallace was captured in 1305 and taken to London for a show trial at Westminster before being condemned.
Edward I ordered Wallace 's torture to be especially deliberate with his entrails to be pulled out inch by inch as a warning to Scots to cease all rebellion. On Aug. 23, 1305, Wallace was dragged some four miles through London streets to a market area called Smithfield, where his public torture and execution were carried out.
Finding a Plaque
After completing our visit to the Tower of London, we took the Underground to the Barbican station and then walked to the Smithfield market area in search of a plaque that marks the location where Wallace was drawn and quartered.
A few days later, another part of our U.K. trip took us to northern Wales, which Edward I had subdued with his usual ferocity, before turning on Scotland.
In Wales, Edward I known as "Longshanks " because of his height had imposed his dominion over the Celtic population by constructing a network of mammoth castles in important towns, a strategy that strangled Welsh resistance but drained the English treasury. We visited two of Edward 's castles one at Conwy and another at Caernarfon (near where our Parry ancestors had lived).