“Our blood is still our fathers, And ours the valour of their hearts….”
‘S i’n fhuil bha ‘n cuisl’ ar sinnsreadh, ‘S an innsgin a bha ‘nan aigne…”
By Fiona Grahame
This November in Orkney and across Europe people will remember the ending of The Great War (1914 – 1918). One hundred years have passed since Peace was declared leaving in its wake millions dead or with horrific injuries. There was a refugee crisis across many parts of Europe as communities were left devastated. Many succumbed to disease and starvation.
As we know the ‘Peace’ that was negotiated eventually led to another world conflict even more horrific. One of the positive results of that second world war was the founding of what would eventually become the European Union.
“You have to know the past to understand the present.” Carl Sagan
The Battle of Culloden took place on 16th of April 1746.
It was the last pitched battle to take place on British soil and it is estimated that around 1600 – 2000 died on the battlefield – most of those on the Jacobite side.
The battle was short but the repercussions were not as survivors and wounded were hunted down. The repression was brutal – today they would be referred to as war crimes.
It was a pivotal moment not just in what happened to the Scottish nation in its aftermath but also as to how the British Empire was to develop.
An area of the battlefield is maintained by the National Trust for Scotland who also have a visitor centre there. But of course, the battle field was much larger than that and today 16 luxury homes are being built on that wider site.
The National Trust of Scotland opposed the building of the homes as did many people. They formed a campaign group and set up a petition as more applications are put in for further developments on the site. The group want the Scottish Government to step in and protect the wider area.
You can read about their campaign here: STOP! NO HOUSING DEVELOPMENT AT CULLODEN BATTLEFIELD!
The construction by Kirkwood Homes was granted planning permission by Highland Council. The development includes all the usual infrastructure you would expect – roads, lighting, drainage and fibre broadband.
Now maybe you think, so what, 16 luxury homes where a battle took place over 273 years ago, what does that matter?
It matters to those who have ancestors who were slaughtered on that field (on both sides). People still visit the site who are descendants of those who died – just as anyone would visit a memorial garden or cemetery to the two world wars. To be remembered and to remember – it’s an essential part of the human condition as encapsulated so well in Bernie Bell’s Forgetting
It also matters because of the significance of that battle in what was to happen to Scotland after it. It is a site a national importance.
In the immediate years after the battle ‘God Save the King’ was adopted as the ‘national’ anthem which must be one of the few national anthems which praise a monarch rather than a people or a country. Lands were appropriated, supporters were executed, many went into exile,The Disarming Act of 1746 was passed and the wearing of Highland dress was banned.
” the seeds of rebellion will be plucked for ever”.
From then on Scotland was a changed nation. Clearances took place first in the fertile Lowlands and then the Highlands. People cleared off the land with thousands forced to emigrate or move to the large industrial towns and cities.
Those who fell on that fateful day on Drummossie Moor could not have foreseen the future implications of losing that one battle. But they believed not only in their cause of a Stuart Dynasty but of the right of Scotland to choose who should be their king and not to have one imposed upon them from England. It was a Scotland which in their eyes was still proud, defiant and independent of mind.
When we build on a place as important as Culloden so a few can make money we cheapen the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for a cause which believed in the nationhood of Scotland and the rights of Scots to choose their monarch.
To continue to build on this site would be a national disgrace.
In 1787, a mere 42 years after the battle , Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns visited Culloden Moor. What he saw and felt there stayed with him, just like it affects visitors to this day, for in later years he was to write The Lovely Lass O’ Inverness and The Highland Widows Lament.
The lovely lass o’ Inverness,
Nae joy nor pleasure can she see;
For, e’en to morn she cries, alas!
And aye the saut tear blin’s her e’e.
Drumossie moor, Drumossie day-
A waefu’ day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear,
My father dear, and brethren three.
Their winding-sheet the bluidy clay,
Their graves are growin’ green to see;
And by them lies the dearest lad
That ever blest a woman’s e’e!
Now wae to thee, thou cruel lord,
A bluidy man I trow thou be;
For mony a heart thou has made sair,
That ne’er did wrang to thine or thee!