Ed Mooney’s History Challenge week 19- Culloden

Ed Mooney’s great history challenges are on Wednesdays of each week. All are welcome to join!

For the challenge I am  resurrecting a piece I had written as an added page to a previous post about  Dunvegan Castle on Skye with apologies to anyone who may have already  read it.  The image is the memorial cairn at the famous battle of Culloden, in the Scottish highlands.

culloden horses

This is a site well worth the visit  and I’m sure it has the same effect on the onlooker as on those who visit the monument of 9/11 or the Viet Nam War Memorial. It is another of history’s stories of honour and courage, power, greed and futility. Culloden is a bleakly beautiful moor lying at the gateway to the highlands just outside of Inverness.  In season, Scottish thistle, heather and wild flowers bloom in the peaceful fields.  The old thatched farmhouse that was a silent witness to the battle in 1746 still stands, with highland cattle and horses grazing nearby.

Culloden Battlefield at peace, Inverness-shire
Culloden Battlefield at peace, Inverness-shire

The Culloden Memorial Museum has a 360 degree theater inside the building that gives you the impression of being in the middle of the battle. Before entering the movie you walk down a darkened hallway as though you are trudging through the night rain, hungry, tired, poorly armed and thinking with dread of what the day ahead might bring. From the shadows, you can hear the voices of commanders and clansmen encouraging you onward in the glorious hope that,Bonny Prince Charlie will sit upon the stone of destiny as king, and your small croft of ancestral land with sheep, cows, and “hame”  will not be lost. Some of the men wrote poignant letters to wives and families they would never see again.

Many of them were armed only with swords or sticks and I tried to imagine what it must have felt like going against a fully equipped army of carbine and canon.  They had the pipers to spur them on but in the end 2000 highlanders lay dead or dying. Those who survived the battle and escaped were hunted down and executed. The Jacobite Rebellion was over and with it the old way of life of Scottish chiefs and clans.   The highland clearances continued ruthlessly and many Scots emigrated to the New World.


At any rate, it’s impossible to walk out dry eyed  after watching the film and I was deeply moved as I walked through fields that had been steeped in blood and were now strewn with the solemn marker stones bearing the names of those clans that fell so long ago. I thought perhaps I was walking on the ghosted bones of some of my own ancestors among those MacPhersons, Dhonnachaidhs, MacLeods and Murrays. Their names are echoes in the piper’s tune and their dust is fused with the earth of Culloden Moor.

culloden ghosts

Background:  The Irish and French supported the Jacobites against the British and fought alongside them. The French tried to warn the highland commanders that they were ill prepared to face the English but there was no turning back. The Irish Brigade shouted  “Cuimhnighidh ar Luimneach agus ar Feall na Sassanach”  or Remember Limerick and Saxon Perfidy!

The Highland clearances were also known as  Fuadach nan Gàidheal, the “expulsion of the Gaels”

over the sea to skye

“Bonny” Prince Charlie escaped with the help of a young girl,  Flora MacDonald to the Isle of Skye and then to France.  He had been an incompetent military leader and sadly died in exile, a drunken and broken man.

There were  Lairds and clans who did not support the Jacobite cause. The Jacobites were predominantly Roman Catholic Highlanders and adherents to James VII of Scotland.

The Chief of the Clan MacLeod on Skye supported the Hanoverians but the MacLeods of Raasay, Lewis fought with the Glengarry Regiment on the Jacobite side and were later punished by Norman Macleod.

The Robertson’s  (Gaelic- Donnachaidh) fought with the Athol Brigade for the Jacobite cause.

When  Samuel Johnson, a prominent English essayist, along with Boswell, also an author, visited Scotland in 1773,  Johnson wrote in his account “we came to late to see what we expected.” – A Journey to the Hebrides


The Ghosts of Culloden

(Robertsons / MacLeods are branches of my  family)

34 Comments Add yours

  1. Adrian Lewis says:

    Hi Cybele, thanks for your long reply about the English, Scots etc, and this link to your Culloden post – I’ve read John Prebble’s “Culloden” many times, and I visited the battlefield a long time ago, probably around 1975 or so. Adrian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh I will make note of that book! Thanks so much!

      Like

      1. Adrian Lewis says:

        The book is “Culloden”, written by John Prebble, and originally published 1961. Mine is a Penguin 1967 version. He also published the following: “Glencoe” re the massacre; “The Highland Clearances”; “The Lion in the North” (I assume re Scotland). A

        Liked by 1 person

      2. thanks so much Adrian!

        Like

  2. Inky Vampire says:

    Thank you for writing this. Being big chunks of both Scottish and British this battle is hard to research, so many mixed emotions. Makes you want to slip back in time and try to stop it. This is one of many places I want to visit myself.

    You’re a good writer, I look forward to enjoying your other posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. and thank you Inky!! I hope you will visit. It’s a very moving experience. Thanks for your encouraging comments!!

      Like

  3. DG MARYOGA says:

    Superb history and photos,dear Cybele!It’s quite an experience to watch the film and relive history 🙂 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was very moving to be there Doda! Thank you!

      Like

  4. Ali Isaac says:

    I hadn’t read this before, Cybele, it is an amazing post. Your writing conjures up the hardship and emotion of those poor men, the horror of their doomed battle, and your pictures provide the atmosphere… just wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks Ali and yes it was a very poignant experience!! I’m glad I could convey some of that!

      Like

  5. Mark Simms says:

    Great post Cyb. I’ve visited Culloden a couple of times in the past and as you say it is a very moving and somber experience. All the best for 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. same to you Mark! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Darlene says:

    A great picture with a moving story. I must visit this site at some time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. very moving! and yes I hope you do ! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, my mistake! I saw his name and my brain twitched. lol. Nice job, Cybele! Again, that farmhouse shot is my favorite. Needs some creepy music to go with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha!! I’ve done that too! no worries. Thanks so much Robert! Happy New Year! I love your posts as well!

      Like

  8. That farmhouse shot is nice! I look forward to your every post, Ed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. what a nice thing to say even if my name isn’t Ed lol!! Thanks Robert!

      Like

  9. disperser says:

    Well told, and great photo treatments. Haunting song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks Disperser!

      Like

  10. sheldonk2014 says:

    Sometimes you never think about wars in other lands
    Very interesting to hear about the history
    Great post
    As always Sheldon

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sheldon! War is such a sad statement of human history!

      Like

  11. Wow how interesting…another part of history I was unaware of. Thank you for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you read it- history is so sad sometimes!! Thank you Sue!! All the best for the New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. And the same to you. Good health and happiness I am wishing for you in 2016.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by Gavin!

      Like

  12. It must have been a horrific battle.

    I’ve read all of Diana Gabaldon’s books and one of her earlier books in the series covered this battle. She painted a bloody, and horrific scene with words. She’s a brilliant writer. Have you read the series? I re-read it annually while waiting for the next book to come out. 🙂

    The images and narrative you’ve written also paint an emotional picture. I have a pretty good idea of how you felt as I have had the same feelings walking on battle fields from WW2.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have not read her but will look into her books! Thanks Deborah!! Yes its so poignant and sad – human history!

      Like

  13. Moving tale. It is good to remember them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks so much Sherry!! I agree!

      Like

Leave a Reply to The Twilit Lens Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.