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Last Updated: Monday, 4 June 2007, 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK
Antrim arachnid prompts party
Johnny Caldwell
BBC News website

Spider web
It is believed a Rathlin spider inspired Robert the Bruce
An island off Northern Ireland is gearing up to celebrate its role - well, that of an eight-legged creature which once lived there - in one of the most important battles ever fought on Scottish soil.

Rathlin Island, adjacent to Ballycastle, Co Antrim, is believed to be where Robert the Bruce in 1307, after a major defeat at Perth, was inspired to return to his homeland and defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn, seven years later in 1314.

In what is still known as Bruce's Cave he is supposed, while watching a spider repeatedly trying to spin a web, to have famously concluded "if at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again".

Although the struggle against the English was to continue for 13 more years, a Scottish victory at Bannockburn was of enormous importance as it secured the future of the throne for Robert the Bruce, King of Scots.

Robert the Bruce statue
Bruce is supposed to have visited Rathlin 700 years ago

However, there are of course, as with most good yarns some dissenters, perhaps unsurprisingly of Scottish origin, who claim that Bruce was inspired by a Scottish spider in a Scottish cave on a Scottish island.

However, the Earl of Elgin, the 37th chief of the Bruce clan, supports Rathlin Island's claims with regards to where Robert the Bruce was inspired to return to Scotland and beat the English at Bannockburn.

Regardless of who's telling the truth or whether this is all 'a web of lies', Rathlin's residents are busying preparing for their three-day festival to mark what they believe is the 700th anniversary of Robert the Bruce's stay on the island.

Rathlin Island's location

"At the moment not that many people who visit Rathlin actually ask about Bruce," said Noel McCurdy, one of the island's 80 residents.

"But hopefully after this festival, which starts on Friday 22 June, that will start to change.

"We're in no doubt that Rathlin was the place where Bruce was inspired to go and win the Battle of Bannockburn no matter what anyone else says, and we'll be celebrating this later this month."


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