I have three copies of this translation. Why? The error pointed out repeatedly: in the year 2000, in 'Bannockburn Revealed', again in 'Bannockburn Proved' in 2005, again in 'The Genius of Bannockburn', 2012, and in 'The Genius Summary,' is still present in the revised edition of this translation in 2005. It is in BK XII lines 391-395:
'Tharfor thai herberyd thaim that nycht
Doune in the Kers, and gert all dycht
And made ready thar aparaill
Agayne the morne for the bataill,
And for in the Kers pulis war'
This, Duncan renders as: 'So they lodged there that night down in the Carse, and had everyone clean and make ready their equipment before morning, for the battle. And because there were STREAMS in the Carse.' p466.
It should be instead: 'And because there were POOLS in the Carse.'
It is not that its author does not understand the mistake. He is simply unwilling to admit it. Why? Because it is inexcusable: any able Scottish child can see the error; and because it matters! It has led to the loss of our Scottish heritage, the battle area, which has been built over, covered in housing schemes, because of it.
For centuries there has been a dispute about the site of the Battle of Bannockburn. So long as historians could not agree, the local Council felt free to build everywhere that suited them. Correct that single error and the site is obvious and immediate. For there is another ms, The Brut y Tywysogyon, Peniarth MS 20 version, translated by Prof Thomas Jones of the University of Wales in 1952, which tells us the battle was fought among pools of water. It is on page 123 of that book. (See it on p159 GB). The quotation dates from 1314. It is therefore as good a source as any: written a few weeks after the battle.*
That is, the site of the battle is the Carse.
Added to which is the objective fact that this Carse regularly has many pools of water and no other does. It is unique and why it is unique has been explained in The Genius of Bannockburn in 2012. See p146. All the books cited show numerous photos of these pools of water. Nor are they a recent phenomenon: the road across the Carse, Millhall Road, has been built to zigzag across it to avoid them. That is, the pools are an invariant for the period: 1314 to the present day. Every proper map of the area, the OS maps of 1865, 1896, 1913, 1923, 1931 etc, including Roy's, c 1750, shows the zigzags to avoid the pools.
WORSE, the word 'pulis' was correctly translated by Prof WW Skeat, Prof of Anglo Saxon at Cambridge in 1888. So Duncan has, without a shred of justification, altered the translation. And lost us our battle area because of it. There never should have been any building anywhere in that area: it is a sacred place. A few years ago, a huge building was erected within yards of where Bruce slew de Bohun.
Why did Duncan make the mistake? Eccentricity. He wanted to leave his mark on the subject and, believing it was and would always be a matter of opinion, he made the change. He was wrong. The entire subject has been turned, by the application of several disciplines: mathematics, physics, philosophy, psychology, cartography, hydrology, geography as well as history, into a science, into, indeed, something far more secure than science, for this new work cannot be falsified by a newly discovered source. After 8 centuries another is so improbable it can be discounted as a possibility. But if there were such a one, it would simply confirm everything already confirmed by the dozen very useful sources we already have.
The failure to admit this error is an academic scandal. The Dictionary of the Old Scottish Tongue does not possess these lines quoted above, as its editor has admitted, it should. Every high class dictionary gives examples of the use of words. Barbour's text was regarded as a sacred text, said she. How could these lines be left out when they provide the meaning of 'pulis'? Could it have something to do with the fact that Duncan was on the committee? The dictionary was first published c2000 a few years after Duncan's translation of Barbour (1997). Had he noticed the error and acted to conceal it? Why has he not corrected the error in the revised edition of 2005? It had been pointed out by then and he knew it in Bannockburn Revealed p241. Why was it not corrected in the corrected edition of 1999? Duncan made other errors, some very embarrassing: failing to translate a letter of Edward II on 17th November 1313, relying on a summary in Bain's documents and thereby missing the vital fact that Edward II knew about the need to be in Scotland by midsummer 1314 ie he knew about the battle 8 months before which means that the length of the truce was not 3 months, as Duncan argued, but a full year, as three sources [Barbour, Scalacronica and Bridlington] tell us. Lanercost and Vita made a simple mistake which confused Duncan: they were not interested in the sequence of taking castles. Why should they have known the sequence? See BR Ch 10.
Barbour's work is marvellous for its length and detail. But, written as it was, 63 years after the event of course there are mistakes. These are easy to see and they have been exposed and explained in the above mentioned books. But when Barbour is confirmed by other sources, he is correct. When none of a dozen Englishmen present at the battle saw Scottish Cavalry or Small Folk, you know there weren't any: inventions to explain what Barbour did not understand because he could not, so long after the event. He is correct about the pools because there always have been pools in this Carse and nowhere else. Anyone can go and count them after prolonged heavy rain. I have counted 34 pools, some 100 yards long and a yard deep. How interesting that generations of historians have gone past the Carse and never noticed this elementary feature. The problem of the site should have been solved many years ago. Has the solution been accepted? Of course not. Pride and prejudice are difficult to dislodge. And mistakes are embarrassing to admit.
* That Prof Jones's translation in 1952 is correct is proved in 'The Genius of Bannockburn' Ch VI esp p158 et seq