S C O T L A N D : D A Y 9
AUGUST 27 (Sunday) -- Inverness
After seeing Jon off on his way back south and home, we piled into our cars once more to tour a couple of places I'd hoped would be open on a Sunday, beginning with a place of history: Culloden Moor.Culloden Moor
It was another overcast morning when we arrived at the very well-designed and comprehensive Visitor's Centre (with an excellent book store). As we set out to walk the grounds, a cold, stinging drizzle began. This pleased me. I was happy about it because it was as close as we could come in August to conditions as they existed on the day that Culloden Moor became a legend, the day that Bonnie Prince Charlie met the end of his dreams of regaining the throne of England and Scotland for the Stuarts.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart had landed in the northwest of Scotland in 1745 to reclaim the throne for his father, who styled himself James III of England and VIII of Scotland. ("James" in Latin, the language of the priests of the Catholic Stuarts, was "Jacobus," thus the name given to the three major uprisings of the "Jacobite" rebellions.) On 19 August 1745--250 years to the day before I first stepped onto Scottish soil--Prince Charlie raised the blue-and-gold standard of the Stuarts at Glenfinnan, signaling to the clans that his father, the "King over the Water," was ready to return to claim his throne. (This is the source of the old song, "My Bonnie lies over the ocean," which my mother--a daughter of the Robertson clan--used to sing to me when I was a child.) As the months went by, some clans joined the rebellion--the gallant Cameron of Lochiel brought his clansmen, the Stewarts of Appin and the Stewarts and Robertsons of Atholl and Struan made a strong showing, and other brave men as well joined--there were even small French and Irish cavalry units. All cast their lots with a Prince who had no real military training, no promised French forces in support, and little money with which to pay soldiers whose crops and cattle still needed tending.
Other clan chiefs remained loyal to the king whose German line of Hanover had been chosen to supplant that of the Stuarts. The Campbells in particular allied their considerable forces with the government's troops at the command of the Duke of Argyll, who then as today was also Chief of Clan Campbell. Even the elder Murray, the Duke of Atholl, elected to support the House of Hanover. (In a strange twist, Lord George Murray, the Duke of Atholl's younger brother and perhaps the wisest of Prince Charlie's commanders, was forced to fire on his own estate, Blair Atholl, in an attempt to retake it for the Jacobites.)
Following the Scottish victory at Prestonpans near Edinburgh, the Stuart banner pressed southward into England itself. The Hanoverian King, finally deciding that this insurrection was more than a mere nuisance, recalled from the Continental wars his second son, the well-fed young Duke of Cumberland. The King's instructions were simple: Attack the wild Scots, force them back north, and capture this rebellious "Prince."
Charles, finally persuaded by his generals at Derby (so close to London!) that he could not win, grudgingly retreated northward. After a minor defeat of the English at Falkirk, Scots began to disappear into the mist, tired, hungry, and anxious to return to their families and homes. By the time the Prince positioned himself just east of the city of Inverness on 15 April 1746, only some 5000 troops remained to him. A scant few miles to his east rested the superior Redcoat forces whose commander, the implacable Duke of Cumberland, was celebrating his twenty-fifth birthday.
Resolving to take advantage of the unsuspecting British soldiers, the Prince persuaded his commanders to lead a surprise attack. During the night, Scottish infantry, who were weary with travel and suffering from lack of food, crept eastward through the woods. Some of them got lost in the night and turned back, and the rest were separated by the dense trees. When the sun rose on what was to have been the morning of the attack, the Scottish forces still had not reached their goal near the city of Nairn. Surprise was lost, and the Scots were ordered to turn back--but not before being spotted by the Redcoats, who quickly formed ranks and set out in orderly pursuit. At last, the remnants of the Prince's troops reformed their own lines by the heather-choked Drummossie Moor near Culloden House, the home of the loyalist Duncan Forbes. An ice storm soon arose, with the wind driving stinging pellets of sleet westward into the eyes of the ragged Scottish militiamen. No one moved. But finally, their patience exhausted, the Prince's few cannons opened up (narrowly missing the Duke), and the battle was joined as the English cannons replied. The Duke's cannonneers soon found the range of the Scottish artillery pieces, and after dispatching them began to decimate the Prince's troops.
Through the carnage the Scots held, and held, and held, and still the Prince did not give the order to charge. For some twenty minutes the British artillery cut great swaths of destruction through the Scottish ranks. Finally, the Mackintoshes of Clan Chattan in the center of the Scottish front ranks could stand no more; they surged forward to meet their tormentors, then the rest of the line followed... straight into the broken and boggy heart of the moor through which the fearsome Highland charge was impossible.
As the Scots struggled forward, the veteran British musketeers shot them to pieces. The Atholl Brigade in the position of honor on the right kept order and held the longest, but soon they were forced to join the hasty advance or be lost themselves. Within moments they were subjected to withering enfilade fire by English infantrymen prepositioned on the Scottish right flank. It was a rout. Most of the clansmen died as they charged, torn apart by Redcoat bullets. Those who survived faced the second and third line of fire by the disciplined British soldiers or, surrounded, were impaled on British bayonets. When the British cut through several small stone walls on the Scottish right, and their cavalry on both the left and right ripped into the Scottish flanks, the Scots still alive finally began to retreat.
Some escaped through the dense smoke into the woods. The Scottish wounded were slain where they lay. Thirty Scots were herded into a small hut where they were burned to death. These dark deeds and the other harsh reprisals exacted over the following days and weeks against even non- combatant Scots earned for the Duke the name by which he is still known in Scotland: "Butcher Cumberland."
Culloden had lasted just under an hour, yet by late afternoon of 16 April 1746, more than 1,200 Scottish soldiers and officers lay dead or dying. It was the end for the Rising of the `45, for Jacobite pretensions, and for many of the bravest men of Scotland's noblest clans. Bonnie Prince Charlie himself escaped in the confusion of the battle, spending months in the Western Islands evading the government forces determined to run him to ground. Charlie's Year, as they called it, was over... and yet, despite the staggering sum of 30,000 pounds offered as a reward for the capture of the renegade prince, no Scot turned him in. Again and again he was rescued from under the noses of British government agents. The tale is still told of how Flora McDonald of Skye costumed the Prince as her serving maid Betty Burke to spirit him out of the hands of those who would have arrested him. But after Culloden the Prince was a broken man. Still only twenty-five years old, he returned in despair to the Italy in which he had been raised. Here he watched from afar the vicious reprisals begun against not just those Scots who had worn the white cockade of a Jacobin in their bonnet but all Scots. Arms were prohibited. The tartan was proscribed. The bagpipes were banned. The very Gaelic language was suppressed.
Eventually these trappings of Scottish culture would return, only this time they would be in the service of Great Britain as the Scots formed loyal British regiments sporting their own plaid uniforms, their own pipers, and their own unique military spirit and history. But the days of Scottish independence were done.
And they ended on Culloden Moor.
These thoughts were on my mind as I walked through the wet green and purple heather of the moor with Bill, stopping now and then to read a sign posted showing where each unit had been positioned before the fighting had begun nearly 250 years ago. Looking out across the empty, windswept field, it was impossible not to look down and think, "There, that is where so many fell." The mood of the place was infectious; Bill and I spoke of combat, of campaigns won and lost, of generals and soldiers, and of what those who survive a battlefield learn there.
It was an entirely satisfactory visit.
Next, I had hoped that we would be able to visit the Clava Cairns, an ancient burial site located nearby, but instead Ann, Beth and I headed to Cawdor Castle.Cawdor Castle
I don't know which was more impressive--the castle itself, with all its rooms filled with uncountable artifacts, or the three different gardens outside the castle. I suspect that Ann would find this choice a simple one; she oohed and aahed over the wealth of vegetation with every new turn we took. One garden was virtually a hedge-maze, with tall green shrubs creating "rooms" in which you might find statuary or a baroque sundial set amid flowerbeds guarded by energetic bumblebees. Another garden featured flowers of all kinds, many of which Ann was able to name for us. We walked through (under?) a trellis that enclosed the main square, aromatic and cool now that the late August sun had decided to reveal itself. Lastly we came to the tree garden. This was a large, park-like square, in which I would guess at least forty different varieties of tree were growing, ranging from small saplings to mighty giants that must have been planted hundreds of years before our visit.
After skipping from garden to garden, anxious to see what would be revealed around the next corner, we went into the castle itself. In a pattern that would become familiar as we visited other castles which were (or had been until recently) private homes, the many rooms of the castle were each filled with objects collected by the inhabitants and their families over the centuries. Cawdor Castle, however, had a unique charm; the printed guides in each room describing the items to be found there had been written by the late Earl of Cawdor. I soon found myself wishing that I could have met this man, as each written guide was a minor masterpiece of wry, self-effacing humor. One display, for example, was a collection of daggers from cultures around the world, either collected by the Earl or presented to him by dignitaries of various countries from around the world. Typical of all the guides, this one began, "The visitor who has somehow remained awake will note that ..."
There are a couple of items worthy of special note at Cawdor Castle, one of which can be seen as you enter the castle itself. Perhaps the most infamous descendant of Robert II, King of Scots, was Alexander Stewart, the Earl of Buchan, better known as "The Wolf of Badenoch." Among his exploits was his celebrated feud with the Bishop of Elgin which resulted in the destruction of the beautiful Elgin Cathedral. A little bit of the Wolf's notorious history lives on in the great iron yett or gate taken from his stronghold at Lochindorb and installed at Cawdor Castle. The other special feature here has to do with the castle's origin. The Thane of Cawdor was looking for a place to build a keep, and in a dream he was told to load a donkey with gold and set it free. Wherever the donkey lay down to rest, the dream continued, was where the Thane was to build his castle. This was done, the donkey stopped under a hawthorn tree, and the Thane duly built his castle there. And to this day, one room at the base of the castle contains an ancient, gnarled thorn of a tree poking from the basement floor and vanishing through the ceiling.
With a history like this, I couldn't resist stopping into the castle book store. While Ann and Beth waited for me--again--I found a well-regarded trilogy of novels about Robert the Bruce. Even better, I discovered a novel of the `45 by James Irvine Robertson (a very, very distant relative?) telling the true story of Stewarts and Robertsons in Struan and what Prince Charlie's call to arms brought the typical Perthshire Scot.
Too soon, though, the day drew to an end, and we returned to our rooms in Inverness. That night we met in a restaurant, where we learned that America was behind the times in some applications of technology. When our waitress saw that we were ready to place our orders, she appeared at our table with an electronic gadget about the size and shape of a small hardback book. As each of us stated our order, she simply tapped a few keys.
Tricia managed a restaurant back in the U.S. and wanted to know more about this technology, so we began quizzing our waitress. She pointed to a small box, unobtrusively mounted high on a wall in the center of the dining room, and explained that it was an infrared data receiver. When taking an order, she would tap the appropriate keys on her handheld unit, make whatever special modifications were requested, and with a single keypress beam the order directly to the kitchen. In another place, such whiz-bang technology might be used to distract one's attention from food of poor quality, but happily that was not the case on this night; both the food and service were excellent (again), and we retired to our beds pleasantly full.
|Previous Day: August 26||Next Day: August 28|