I revisit the battlefield and have a moving experience
Monday 16 April 2012 - Culloden Battlefield anniversary
Another nice day, bit cold, but still lovely and clear today.
I jumped on a local bus and headed out to the Culloden battlefield. Today is the actual anniversary of the battle and I wanted to come back and spend some time alone looking through the display centre and walking the moor. It was lovely and warm with no clouds in the sky. The wind was still chilly, but it was a lovely spring day.
I got to the battlefield at midday and made my way around the display centre. This battlefield is so very important. It is the site of the last battle ever fought on British soil. It was also the end of the Jacobite rising and brought about widesweeping and devastating changes for Scotland.
The actual battle resulted in the slaughter of the Jacobite army in less than an hour and a half. The British were given the order to hunt down and kill those that escaped.
What Charles Stuart had not known before he was persuadedd to turn his troops back to Inverness was that the King was preparing to flee London. Charles came within a hairs breath of regaining the throne.
After the defeat at Culloden, the King passed drastic measures to ensure no further uprising by the Jacobites. Acts were passed to strip
Scotland of the right to bear arms. No broadswords, dirks or targes. Tartan was no longer allowed to be worn as it was seen to be a form of calling for the highlanders. Many of the buildings and castles thought to be strongholds of the Jacobites were destroyed, including Eilean Donan castle.
The bagpipes were also among the things banned, with the crown seeking to strip away everything that was Scottish. The act was not repealed until over thirty years later.
The lands were also taken from the Scots and broken down into smaller holdings.
In the immediate aftermath of the battle, the British soldiers hunted down and killed many Scottish highlanders, even those not involved in the uprising. Many women and children starved to death because they had no-one to provide for them and no means of living.
The pressure from the English was so great that many Scottish people immigrated to other countries, including the Americas and Australia.
Charles Stuart survived the battle of Culloden, fleeing back to France. He was a charming person, but was also a drunk and a womaniser. There are some people who wonder what sort or king he may have been and whether Scotland would have been any better off than they were under the Hanovarian crown.
Jacobite supporters were a mixed lot. Some supported the cause through religious grounds, with the predominently catholic religion being overrun by the protestant king in England. Others didn't like a foreign king on the throne and wanted to see the return of James line back in England.
There were also those fighting for the Jacobites that did so because they were loyal to their clan, not because they believed in what they were doing.
This battle also pitted clan against clan, with some Scottish on both sides of the fight. The Jacobites were led by English and Scottish, which in part, added to the circumstances that may have caused their defeat.
Today, the Scottish traditions are still celebrated and even Scot's Gaelic is making a slow revival. With Scotland now having their own parliament, I think it's a good thing to see the country support a more autonomous existance, although it is a slow and arduous journey for them.
When you read about the Jacobite history you understand just how close, on more than one occasion, James and Charles Stewart came to regaining the English throne. It makes you wonder just how many things would be different had they succeeded. The French influence on our lives would be very prevalent as it was the French who supported the Jacobites, looking for instability in England and to possibly remove the threat the country posed to them. With a 'friendly bum' on the throne in England, France would have been able to establish a great deal of influence over the Stuarts.
The display at Cullloden is well set up, with the English story told on the left side of the walls and the Jacobite story on the right. It is told in audio, video, some short reading and through artifacts. There is a moving 360 degree video room which gives you a feel for the way the Jacobites would have felt, so outnumbered by the English troops.
Upon leaving the inside display, I donned an earpiece and handset, set with a GPS guide and wandered through the battlefield. As you get to a gps point, the audio kicks in and tells you where you are, what happened, and from what direction and then gives an audio re-enactment from the British and Jacobite point of view. Very informative.
As I wandered over the field I could almost hear the noises of battle, but more than that, I could see the bodies and the blood. It was a very powerful experience. I walked to the well of the dead where the mass graves started. It was here where local villages were forced to bury the dead by the English.
The path led down to the memorial cairn, flowers from Saturday's service laid around the bottom of the cairn.
I'm not sure how long I was out there. Time seemed to stand still a little as I was led back in time. I couldn't believe how nice the day was and decided to have lunch before I headed back into town.
I sat outside to have lunch, overlooking the mountains. An elderly lady asked to sit with me as the table was the only one in the shade. We got talking and I found her fascinating. Although she had a very 'proper' and distinguished English accent, she informed me that she was from the clan McDonald.
She, like me, had attended the memorial service, but wanted to return on the actual anniversary. She could remember the 200th anniversary, 66 years ago when she was 17 years old. She said that her and her friend (who was a direct descendent of Flora McDonald, a very famour female Jacobite) were staying in the country somewhere in Ireland. They left their house in the small hours of the morning and took some porridge with them. She said that they spent the day creeping through the forest, much as the Jacobites had done 200 years earlier. It was there way of celebrating the anniversary.
The lady also told me that 25 years ago there would only have been a handful of people at the memorial service but each year it becomes bigger and bigger. The service this year was attended by people from all over the world, ancestors of those who immigrated after the battle.
I had a lovely talk with her and it was great to hear her stories. We have so much to learn from the older generation, it's a shame we don't take the time to listen.
I jumped on the bus and returned to Inverness. I had contemplated not returning to the battlefield for the second visit. I'm extremely happy that I did. Anyone interested in historic events will find this site very informative and well worth a day's visit.
I went out for tea, deciding to try out another restaurant on the river bank. I ate at the restaurant next to the one I had visited the night before. This one was very posh. Crocodile look leather tables. Wonderful service by the waiters and very nice food.
I had the seared chicken with prawns on a bed of jasmine rice and shaved carrot, covered with Shrimp jus. Lovely. I washed this down with one glass of Malbec wine from Chile, then went for a second glass as it was so nice.
There was a glitch with my card payment and it was voided, which they gave me the receipt for, then the payment went through. When I check my bank statement, it has been paid twice. I'll fix that up with the bank when I get to Edinburgh.
I hit the pillow, very tired, but very happy, with thoughts of the courageous, if not somewhat misled, highlanders going around in my head. I felt that they had been led astray by men seeking different goals and if they had been more united and led by stronger men, history would be looking very different.