Is that a date that brings up any images in your mind? For fans of Outlander it should, as well as for the Scots and those (like me) of Scottish decent.
Well over two and a half centuries after the event, the Battle of Culloden, fought on 16 April 1746, still means many things to many people. To Scottish expatriates, no matter how many times removed, it is an emotional touchstone to their Scottish identity and commonly regarded as the opening act of the epic tragedy of the Highland Clearances; to those with nationalist inclinations it is held up as an example of England’s terrible maltreatment of its northern neighbour; to Unionists it is seen as the final gasp of a divisive movement hell-bent on returning Britain to monarchical despotism; to romantics it marks the end of one of those great lost causes, pitching the Highland underdog against the might of the Hanoverian war machine.
Culloden; The History and Archealogy of the Last Clan Battle – Tony Pollard 2009
Wifey and I were able to visit the battlefield in May of 2019. Here are a few pictures we took while there. For a battle of only 40 minutes or so, the effects were devastating on the Scots way of life. I will not even attempt to write about the whys and wherefores of this event. Many folks have studied and written about this battle with more knowledge than I; they can carry the day.
Some sources for you;
Wikipedia (I use this resource simply because it is available in so many languages. Not for its accuracy.)
I have to admit that I have never attended a Burns night celebration. Just what is Burns night? Why it’s just the celebration of the birthday of Scotland’s poet laureate, Robert Burns.
Rabbie, as he is known, is probably best known for Auld Lang Syne, which is traditionally sung on Hogmanay, or New Year’s Eve as we Americans know it.
Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the NationalBard, Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.
He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish diaspora around the world. Celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature. In 2009 he was chosen as the greatest Scot by the Scottish public in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.
Of course, the traditional meal served at a Burns night dinner is haggis, neeps and tatties. So what are these foods?
If you don’t know what haggis is, that may be a good thing. True haggis is illegal in the USA due to some of the organs used in the traditional recipe. The joke is that a haggis is a small furry creature found in the highlands of Scotland. The legs on one side of it’s body is longer than the other side so it can run around the mountain side. Funny, but not true. Click the link above to see what it really is. I don’t know if the haggis we had in Scotland was traditional or not, but I really enjoyed it. Wifey, not so much. Neeps are mashed turnips and tatties nothing more than mashed potatoes. The neeps and tatties are not to be cooked together. And don’t forget the dram of Scotch whisky!
Rabbie so enjoyed haggis he wrote a poem about it. It’s in the old Scot’s language so don’t expect it to understand it. This Wikisource page has the English translation.
“Address to a Haggis” (1787)Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,Painch, tripe, or thairm:Weel are ye worthy o’ a graceAs lang’s my arm.The groaning trencher there ye fill,Your hurdies like a distant hill,Your pin wad help to mend a millIn time o need,While thro your pores the dews distilLike amber bead.His knife see rustic Labour dight,An cut you up wi ready slight,Trenching your gushing entrails bright,Like onie ditch;And then, O what a glorious sight,Warm-reekin, rich!Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyveAre bent like drums;The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,‘Bethankit’ hums.Is there that owre his French ragout,Or olio that wad staw a sow,Or fricassee wad mak her spewWi perfect scunner,Looks down wi sneering, scornfu viewOn sic a dinner?Poor devil! see him owre his trash,As feckless as a wither’d rash,His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,His nieve a nit;Thro bloody flood or field to dash,O how unfit!But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,The trembling earth resounds his tread,Clap in his walie nieve a blade,He’ll make it whissle;An legs an arms, an heads will sned,Like taps o thrissle.Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,And dish them out their bill o fare,Auld Scotland wants nae skinking wareThat jaups in luggies:But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,Gie her a Haggis
Pipers welcome guests to the dinner, and then after dinner a ceilidh (dance) begins.
The piping in of the haggis and the Address to a Haggis. (I would turn the volume down if anyone is sleeping or you’re in a public place). The pipes are not appreciated by everyone, sadly.
This was another short coach trip day. I’m really happy about that as the cramped seats are starting to get to me.
Stop number one was Glamis Castle. Ian, our braw tour director says this castle always wins the unofficial voice poll of favorite stops. Not for me, I prefer Blair Castle (day 5) simply because of the extensive grounds. But I will say, Glamis does look more like the storybook castle. I blame Disney. Photography was not allowed inside the castle, so this is it.
Next up was St. Andrew’s. The home of golf. My dad and older brother would have enjoyed the old course and other sites in that area. I’m not a duffer so while it was interesting,and i do watch enough golf to recognize the important places, I had other plans.
We were dropped off about the center of town for a free afternoon. After a good meal of fish and chips (I can’t believe that it took me until day 6 to get fish and chips), we headed to the ruins of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
Legend has it that St. Rule brought some of the bones of Andrew, one of the twelve apostles, to the “end of the earth” from the Constantinople. And in the 8th century or so, Scotland was on the western edge of the know world. The cathedral was built around 1158, but there has been a church at this location at least as back as 748 CE. It was abandoned after the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century.
We ended the night with some (cheesy) planned entertainment The Spirit of Scotland. The best I can say is the piper was excellent.
Edinburgh castle and a free afternoon to explore the city awaits!
Only two stops today, and a much shorter coach ride.
The reference map.
I will admit that as of tonight, last night’s hotel was the worst. The room was hot. It may been 50°F outside, but the windows would barely open, there was no fan available, and the down filled duvet was so damn thick and heavy that sleeping was next to impossible.
But we are Scots so we put it behind us. Our first stop of the day would be the Culloden Battlefield. I will admit that I had some major trepidations visiting this battlefield. I had the same feelings when I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC some years ago.
I have always read that the Argyll Campbell’s were loyalists to the British crown. According to my sources the Argyleshire men were stationed on the left flank of the army. They’re mission was to pull down a wall and stop the Jacobite cavalry from entering the fray. And history tells us, they were successful. So I expected to find a marker of some sort that backed this up.
To the left of this point stood Cobham Fir Earra Ghaidheal – the Argyleshire Men.
So Campbell of Argyll was here. But what about the other Campbell houses? Argyll may have become the big house, but there are others. Loudon, Cawdor and Breadelbane. We’re they there? And if so, we’re they Jacobite or loyalists?
There were Campbell Jacobites as well. I am strong enough to admit that I was overcome with emotion when I found this memorial. I knelt down and poured a dram of single malt out over the ground to honor the men of the Clan on both sides of this conflict.
I also saw a restoration of part of the wall as well.
It’s a bit hard to see, but what’s left of the wall is just in front of the trees
Culloden has a very nice cairn commerating the battle.
There is also a now restored cottage on the field that was there in 1746.
But the day was not all doom and gloom. Our other stop for the day was at a working sheep farm for a demonstration of border collies. Wifey had been looking forward to this. We have seen sheepdog demonstrations before, but not of this size. This farm has about 3000 sheep on about 11000 acres. The shepard has 18 border collies working with him, and several puppies from 8 months or so, to a new litter only one week old!
Dog momma (wifey) and one of the bigger puppies.
Then it was a quick trip to the Atholl Palace Hotel. A Victorian Era “spa” hotel. We can only hope that tonight is more comfortable.
We are here for two days. Tomorrow is a visit to Blair Castle and the Blair Atholl Distillery. That will be interesting.