Bruce and the Spider

If at first, you don’t succeed: try, try, try again. 

By Rebecca Brown

The tale of Bruce and the Spider is a well known one, perhaps due to it being a strong message in perseverance.

In 1306, Robert the Bruce murdered his competitor for the Scottish throne, John Comyn, and crowned himself King. Later that year, he met defeat at The Battle of Methven at the hands of the English. With almost his entire army destroyed, Bruce and what survivors remained fled through the Perthshire hills until they were met by a force from Clan MacDougall, who were loyal to the Comyn family. This led to a bloody battle known as The Battle of Dalrigh where it is said that Bruce was cornered and only just managed to fight his way to freedom. 

Miraculously, the King survived but was driven into exile. Three of his brothers were executed, and his sister was captured by the English. He now found himself on the run, hiding in dark corners across his country to save his life. 

Legend has it that while he was hiding out in a cave, Bruce took to watching a spider that was struggling to build a web. Whenever the little spider appeared to make progress, it would fall, only to climb back up again and attempt to weave a web once more. Eventually, after trying, and trying, and trying again, the spider managed to weave one single line of silk, and from there, was able to build its web. 

Bruce took from this that ‘if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, try again’, and went on to defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, despite the Scottish army being outnumbered around 7,000 to 13,000.

Many caves claim to be the legendary location where Bruce found renewed determination in his cause, from King’s Cave at Drumadoon on Arran to Uamh-an-Righ in Craigruie, or perhaps, Bruce’s Cave in Kirkpatrick-Fleming, Dumfriesshire. 

Whether merely legend or a true tale of inspiration, it can be safe to say that we should all learn a lesson from Bruce’s spider. 

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