History of the Carnethy 5 Hill Race
The idea of this race came from Jimmy Jardine of Peebles, an ex-member of the Octavians Athletic Club, the intention being to commemorate the battle of Roslin that was fought in this area in the year 1302, during the month of February.
The first race started and finished in the public park in Penicuik and climbed only Carnethy, a return distance of about 9 miles. From 1972 to 1980 the route was changed to climb Carnethy and Scald Law from the public park. But in 1980 due to thick fog, the road crossing onto the Pentlands was deemed too dangerous so the race was changed to a cross-country race round Penicuik. However many hill runners decided to ignore this and have an unofficial race up the hills anyway. Positions were recorded but no times taken. After that (from 1981) the course was changed to the current one starting in the field at Silverburn and covering 5 hills, which avoided any road and made a true hill race.
But, back to the battle of Roslin, which the race commemorates. Briefly, the story of this battle goes as follows (the text below is taken from the “Carnethy International Hill Race” program of 1976!)
“In February 1302, a messenger arrived at Neidpath Tower to ask Sir Simon Fraser to meet someone at Biggar. Sir Simon Fraser rode hard, for the person he was to meet was none other than Scotland’s hero — Sir William Wallace. The Wallace’s plan was for himself to be seen gathering together an army up north, while Sir Simon waited with the main army in the south. Sure enough the plan worked, for when the English heard that The Wallace was getting ready to attack from the north, they left their winter quarters in Edinburgh heading south — Sir Simon waited.
Randolf the English General was unprepared for a fight. His army was separated into three groups of 10,000 each, some miles apart. At Dryden they suddenly found themselves confronted by 8,500 Scots. Colmyn, Saintclair and Fraser, loyal friends of Wallace soon carried the day, and rushed on to Rosewell to meet the 2nd army. The weary Scots were again triumphant, but tired, and when yet another 10,000 men approached they were ready to flee. But Sir Simon was a crafty gent, he had been warned about the 3rd army, and had sent a few ot his men to carry two tree trunks up a neighbouring hill. Then Sir Simon shouted to his men… Well, part of the old ballad says it better:
“Look ower, look ower, on yonder hill,”
Quo’ Sir Simon lood and clear,
They blich’t and saw the lift gao ill,
Then saw a cross appear.
“Tis gude St. Andrew” cried ae man,
Then doon they gaed to pray,
“Gae to,” they heard the gude Sir Simon,
“Gae to,” we’ll win the day.”