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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XXI. Stories of Culloden


PROFESSOR CREASY has a notable book on "The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World," from Marathon to Waterloo. None of those named by him were fought in Scotland, but we have had our decisive battles also, though they have been limited in their sphere and influence. Three may be mentioned. Bannockburn established the independence of the nation; Harlaw settled the unity of the people; and Culloden fixed the succession to the Crown. There are some mistakes made as to Culloden, which may be noticed. It is often called a battle between the English and the Highlanders, but this is not correct. There were Highlanders in both camps. The Campbells were as enthusiastic on the side of King George as the Camerons were on that of Prince Charlie. Besides, even clans were divided, some members being Royal and some Jacobite. The question at issue was really dynastic—Whether the Stewarts or the House of Hanover should hold the throne. Another mistake often made has regard to the condition of the contending forces. There was, in truth, nothing like equality. The Royalists had the advantage, not only in numbers, but in position and preparedness. They were well organised, well equipped, and well fed, whereas Prince Charlie’s men were in all these respects woefully deficient. There is a tradition in the North that a council of the Highland Chiefs was held some time before the battle, when much dissatisfaction shewed itself. Suspicion of Lord George Murray was expressed, and strong words were spoken against him. Keppoch swore that if he got leave he would have the head off the traitor, while others cried that he should be deposed, and Colonel Roy Stewart, the most capable and trusted officer in the army, appointed commander in his place. But nothing was done. It is known that Colonel Roy Stewart strongly urged that the passage of the Spey should be defended, and that he advised that the army should be withdrawn from Culloden to a stronger and more strategic position, where they might rest till the absent men had returned and they were reinforced by the Frasers and Macphersons, who were hastening to their support. Had this wise counsel been taken, the result might have been different. As it was, the Prince’s army fought at great disadvantage, and from first to last they were ill-commanded on the fatal field. The fiery onslaught at the beginning was grand; but, like the charge of the Lancers in the Valley of Death, though magnificent, it was not war. The Duke’s first line was swept away, but the second stood firm, and, before their steady fire and the storm of grape shot, the clansmen fell in hundreds. Courage and devotion were in vain against such odds. In a few minutes all was lost. The battle became a rout and a massacre, followed by butcheries and brutalities, which have covered the name of Cumberland with infamy.

"There was no lack of bravery there,
No spare of blood or breath,
For, one to two, our foes we dared,
For freedom or for death.
The bitterness of grief is past,
Of tenor and dismay;
The die was risked, and foully cast
Upon Culloden Day."

It is well known that many of the Highlanders took part reluctantly in the rising of 1745. This held true of the Frasers. Old Lovat, though liked, was not trusted. He was thought to have more cunning than truth, and more ambition than principle. This view proved correct. Lovat died a traitor’s death, and the light which has been since thrown upon his character shews that it is not without just cause that he has been classed in a recent book as one of the "Twelve Bad Men" of Britain. It is told of one of the Frasers, from the Aird, that he was going to Culloden with a heavy heart. When the fight drew on, he prayed earnestly, "Good Lord, don’t let me kill anyone this day, and don’t let anyone kill me." What he may have done when his blood was up is not known, but he himself escaped scatheless. His simple prayer was heard. Many high hopes were dashed at Drummossie, and many a brave young Donald who had followed his Prince with unselfish devotion met his doom on that fatal field. After the battle, one Highlander was found lying dead with his Gaelic Psalm-Book open in his hand, and a bloody mark at the 9th verse of the 44th Psalm. The words in the English version are, "But Thou hast cast off, and put us to shame, and goest not forth with our armies." The Gaelic expresses still more pathetically the wail of the dying Highlander :—

"Ach rinn Thu nis ar tilgeadh dhiot,
‘S naraich Thusa sinn,
‘S mach le’r n’armailtibh, ‘s ar feachd
Chan eil Thu fein dol leinn."

The late John Maclean, Inverness, called the "Centenarian," had seen this Psalm-Book. Mr Maclean was a member of the West Church, and much respected. He used to attend Church and take part in prayer meetings when he was over a hundred.

Colonel John Roy Stewart, of Kincardine, had two nephews at Culloden—Donald and James. Donald, from being pock-pitted, called "Donull breac," was a major in the French service. At Culloden he was severely wounded by a sabre-cut in the head, and fainted from loss of blood. While he was lying helpless one of Cumberland’s troopers came past and made a grab at his powder-horn, which was very handsome, and hung by a massive silver chain. The chain got into the wound, but the trooper cared not. He was bent on plunder, not mercy, so he tugged away till he had secured the coveted spoil. But though he knew it not, he had saved Stewart’s life. The shock roused him from his swoon. By and by help came, and he was borne off the field. Being in the French service, he was treated with some consideration, and visitors were permitted to see him in prison. After a little, a plaid of the Campbell tartan was smuggled into his cell—it is said in a jar of butter—and by the connivance of friends he effected his escape. He made straight for Kincardine, where he was warmly welcomed. But he was still in danger. The red coats were scouring the country, and Kincardine, as the home of his uncle, John Roy, was being watched with special care. Major Donald therefore crossed the Spey, and took counsel with the good minister of Alvie, Mr Gordon. The minister was quick-witted and benevolent. He was about to start for Edinburgh to attend the General Assembly, and he took Stewart along with him, ostensibly as his Ruling Elder. From Edinburgh he made his way to Leith, and from there he escaped to France. With other Jacobites, he passed many years of sorrowful exile at St Omers. The following extract from a letter written by Wm. Robertson, of Lude, to his father, dated "31st January, 1784," gives a touching glimpse of life at St Omers, and of the latter days of the old Jacobite :—" Since my last I have got acquainted with several people, particularly a Mr Howard, cousin to Lord Carlisle, Mr Meadows, eldest brother of the General, my old Commander, and several others whose connections you may not have heard of. But here, talking of acquaintances, I must not so slightly pass over two of my grandmother’s friends—that is, gentlemen who were ‘out,’ as they say here. They are both Stewarts, but Marquis Stewart, by his grave deportment and formal address, besides his greet alliances in Strathspey (which has the honour of his nativity), claims the precedency. The Marquis is a half-pay Captain in the French service, and has lived here for about thirty years in exactly the same routine. His hair in the morning being dressed in a methodical curl with a huge hag behind. The hat, as it were by instinct, finds its place on top. Then, slipping both hands into an antiquated muff, forth issues the great Marquis—on one side hangs the ‘Croise de St Louis,’ from the opposite button dangles the necessary cane. It is well known the Marquis would rather be crucified than eat flesh of a Friday, and it is confidently reported that he shaves himself with thirteen different razors upon the same occasion, regularly paraded for that purpose. Had the Prince been King of Great Britain, the Marquis was undoubtedly to have been Lord Chamberlain." Major Donald used to correspond with Mr John Stewart, Pytoulish (Kincardine), and in one of his last letters he made kindly inquiries after old friends, such as George Smith, James M’Intyre, who had been "out," like himself, in the ‘45. Of both these there are stories to tell. Colonel John Roy Stewart joined the Prince at Blair of Atholl. At Perth he found a detachment of the Scots Greys, in which he had served as Lieutenant and Quartermaster, and he induced some five or six of his old comrades to join the Prince’s standard. One of these was George Smith, Croftmore, a farm in the Barony of Kincardine, the ancient heritage of John Roy’s ancestors. Smith was noted for his strength and courage. After Culloden he remained for a time in hiding, and then enlisted again in the Royal service. His regiment (the 89th Highland, Colonel Morris), was sent to India, and shortly after (1761) an inspection was held at Bombay. Smith stood in the front rank at the left hand. The Inspecting Officer came slowly along, and to Smith’s horror he proved to be his old Captain of the Scots Greys. He said to himself, "I am done for; he will recognise me, challenge me as a deserter, and I shall be shot" Nearer and nearer came the officer, carefully scanning one after another of the men. At last he stood face to face with Smith. It was a terrible moment. The officer, as he dreaded, recognised him. Fire flashed from his eye, and he seemed about to denounce him; but kinder feelings prevailed, and with a stern aside, "I know you, but you’re in the right place again," he passed on. It was like life from the dead. Smith retired from the army with a pension. He lived at Kincardine to a great age. When he died he was said to be the oldest pensioner in the British Army. The late John Stewart, catechist, Abernethy, remembered him well, and it was from him the above story was obtained. John Stewart told another story of Culloden which is worth recording. Lord Balmerino, after the battle, made his way to the Doune of Rothiemurchus. Here he had communings with the Laird, who advised him to give himself up. This he resolved to do, and forthwith set out for Castle Grant. When a little beyond the Church of Kincardine, he was overtaken by a messenger carrying his sword, which he had left behind. Balinerino thanked the man, and said, "Take it back to the Doune, I have no further use for it." The words were ominous. Balmerino surrendered to the Laird of Grant, and was by him handed over to the authorities at Inverness. Everyone knows the story of his trial and conviction, and the heroic fortitude with which he bore his cruel fate. "Fourteen Colours taken at Culloden were brought to Edinburgh. On Wednesday, the 14th June, at noon, they were brought down to the Cross, Prince Charles’ own standard carried by the hangman, and the rest by chimney-sweepers, escorted by a detachment of Lees’ regiment. There, in the presence of the Sheriffs, and with great pomp of heralds and trumpeters, they were, by the command of the Duke, burned by the hands of the common hangman." The Colours of John Roy (Colonel of the Edinburgh regiment), the green flag of Kincardine, was saved from this foul indignity. It was brought from Culloden by its brave bearer, James M’Intyre, commonly called "Fear ban Bheaglan," and cherished by him for long as a precious relic. Once every year, on the anniversary of the raising of the Prince’s standard at Glenfillan, he used to take it to the top of Cairngorm, and there unfurl it with much pride. He wished, he said, to give it fresh air. When on his death-bed he sent for his friend, John Stewart, of Pytoulish, and gave it to him saying, "John, I have sent for you thinking you are the fittest to take charge of what I myself got charge of 40 years ago. It is my dear John Roy’s banner. That bravest of men gave it to me on the fatal field of Culloden, with his command that nothing but death should separate us. I have kept it ever since, hoping long that its true owner might have use for it, and for me; but I am now going the way of all flesh. I can do no more. I entreat you, as I have no children of my own, to come when I am gone and to take delivery of the dear flag from my wife, and I earnestly beg that you will treat it with all reverence and care as is due to the gallant soldier to whom it belonged." The old Colours, holed with balls and hacked by swords, dim and faded with age, was long preserved by Pytoulish. and before his death was presented by him, with other Jacobite relics, to the Duke of Gordon.


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