The second-half of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth were a sorry period in Scots history. In all the murky, corrupt and desperate politics and outright savagery one or two men stood out like beacons, both for good and ill - although inevitably at times the dividing lines tended to become blurred. Of these, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun and John Graham of Claverhouse, Bloody Clavers or Bonny Dundee according to the taste of one's memories, were probably the most notable in their differing ways, with Rob Roy MacGregor, the Earl of Stair of Glencoe notoriety, and the Duke of Lauderdale not far behind.
In England, the Duke of Monmouth, Judge Jeffreys and the great Marlborough were making similar impact. This was the period of the Killing Times, the Glorious Revolution, the Darien disaster, the massacre of Glencoe, the Jacobite attempts and the Union of the Parliaments. Fletcher of Saltoun played a prominent, often vital part in his country's story over a span of thirty years, although he is best known for his great fight to prevent the incorporating Union of 1707, the incorporation of Scotland and England which still rouses so many strong feelings today.
Each year Andrew Fletcher's memory is celebrated at a ceremony Saltoun Kirk where his body lies - which is more than can be said of any of the other actors in this story. A man of outstanding integrity, abilities, courage, passion and hot temper, he was of the stuff from which heroes are made, in an age when heroism was at a discount, a worthy successor of the Bruce, Wallace and Montrose.
Here is Scotland's leading storyteller describing the birth - pangs of modern history.