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Byline: By JOHN MILLAR in San Antonio

A NEW film will reveal one of the most startling secrets of the Alamo the four brave Scots who lost their lives defending the Texas fortress. Many films have been inspired by the battle at the former Franciscan church mission in San Antonio on March 6, 1836.

The stand that a couple of hundred men made against the invading army of Mexican dictator Santa Anna has been immortalised on films going back to the silent movies.

The best known is undoubtedly John Wayne's epic 1960 version which ends with Davy Crockett swinging his legendary rifle Betsy after running out of bullets as Mexican troops finally over-run the Alamo.

Now comes the latest, and most authentic, which like Wayne's Oscar-winner is simply titled The Alamo.

Film-makers went to great lengths to ensure the film, which premiered in San Antonio last week starring Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Quaid, is the most historically accurate ever made. Eight historians were consulted in the making of the movie the first to reveal how four courageous young Scots played a part in the heroic siege.

John McGregor, David L. Wilson, Isaac Robinson and Robert W. Ballentine were recruited by Crockett, Jim Bowie and Alamo commander Colonel William Travis.

The four names are carved on the Alamo cenotaph.

McGregor, who was 28 years old, had settled in Nacogdoches, Texas, and was a second sergeant at the Alamo garrison. He served in the Artillery Company under the command of Captain William R. Carey.

It's claimed that during the siege, talented piper McGregor staged musical duels with Crockett.

This story is remembered in a painting at the Alamo Museum.

Described by curator Dr Bruce Winders as 'somewhat fanciful', it shows McGregor, dressed in buckskins and coonskin cap, playing the bagpipes beside Crockett and another member of the garrison. In the new film there is an unspoken reference to McGregor when one of the soldiers is seen playing the bagpipes.

Director John Lee Hancock had intended to give more screen time to McGregor's duetting with Crockett.

He said: 'When I came up with the idea of Crockett playing the fiddle in the movie I had McGregor there wandering in the courtyard with the sound of distant pipes. Unfortunately, I had to cut that out.'

Another of the Alamo Scots was David L. Wilson, the son of James and Susanna Wilson, and was born in Scotland in 1807. He also settled in Nacogdoches with wife Ophelia.

It's thought Wilson was one of the volunteers to accompany Captain Philip Dimmitt to an earlier siege at Bexar before heading to the Alamo.

Isaac Robinson, born in Scotland in 1808, came to Texas from Louisiana. He took part in the siege of Bexar and later served in the Alamo garrison as a fourth sergeant in Captain Carey's artillery company.

Robert W. Ballentine, who was born in Scotland in 1814, travelled to Texas from Alabama.

He came on the ship Santiago and along with other passengers signed a statement declaring: 'We have left every endearment at our respective places of abode in the United States of America, to maintain and defend our brethren, at the peril of our lives, liberties and fortunes.'

Which is precisely what Ballentine and the other Scots did when they laid down their lives at the Alamo.

And they likely weren't the only ones there with Scots roots.

Names on the stone slab including John J. Ballentine, Robert Campbell, Robert E. Cochran, Lemuel Crawford, Robert Cunningham, John Hubbard Forsyth, Edward McCafferty and William DePriest Sutherland, suggest a Scottish connection.

As he took the Sunday Mail on a tour of The Alamo, Dr Winders said: 'There had been an influx of Scots and Scots/Irish into Texas. They may indeed be second generation Scots.'

The Alamo will be released in the UK on September 3.


Stars: Quaid and Thornton in Alamo; Tribute: Dr Winders at Alamo Museum, painting of McGregor, centre and, right, John Wayne in movie
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 11, 2004
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