Address by Gaelic Society Chieftain Jo MacDonald to the Culloden Anniversary Service 2017
Seirbheis Cuimhneachaidh Chùil Lodair 15.04.2017
A chàirdean, tha sinn air cruinneachadh an seo an-diugh airson cuimhneachadh orrasan a chaill am beatha mar thoradh air a’ bhlàr a bh’ air an làrach seo air an t-siathamh latha deug den Ghiblein, seachd ceud deug, dà fhichead ’s a sia. Tha sinn a’ cuimhneachadh air gach neach a dh’fhuiling mar thoradh air na thachair air raon Chùil Lodair agus tha sinn cuideachd a’ cuimhneachadh air a’ bhuaidh a thug am blàr, agus na thachair as a dhèidh, air ar dòigh-beatha mar Ghàidheil agus air ar cànan.
’S e urram a th’ann a bhith aig an t-seirbheis shònraichte seo agus bu mhath leam taing dhùrachdach a thoirt do Chomann Gàidhlig Inbhir Nis airson an cothrom a thoirt dhomh. Tha Blàr Chùil Lodair cho fuaighte ri eachdraidh nan Gàidheal ‘s na Gàidhlig ‘s le sin, ’s dòcha gu bheil e buileach iomchaidh a bhith a’ beachdachadh air Cùil Lodair air a’ bhliadhna shònraichte seo, dà mhìle ’sa seachd-deug - bliadhna a tha ga comharrachadh ann an Alba mar Bliadhna Eachdraidh, Dualchas agus Arc-eòlas.
As I’m sure most of you will know 2017 has been designated in Scotland as the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. As Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, wrote: “Our heritage and archaeology capture the imagination of millions, many of whom travel thousands of miles to experience our rich heritage and trace their ancestral roots”.
There are few places that capture the imagination more than Culloden and much has been written about the battle, the reasons for it, the key players, the bloody aftermath and it’s long-term effects on the Highlands and Islands and on Gaelic language and culture. Professor Hugh Cheape, my predecessor as Ceannard of Comann Gàidhlig Inbhir Nis wrote the following in the year 2000 in an article entitled “Doubts and Delusions of Charlie’s Year” -
…Although historical truth is ever elusive, we can at least try to look behind the curtain of legend and myth and look into the eyes and minds of those who witnessed these events at first hand and whose reactions and attitudes have been elided by the writing and re-writing of Scottish history since the 18th century. (Hugh Cheape, ‘Doubts and Delusions of Charlie’s Year’, in Cencrastus, The Curly Snake Issue 65 (2000).41-42).
The Gaelic songs and poems written at the time of the ‘45 enable us to look into the eyes and minds of those who witnessed these events at first hand – or indeed suffered as a result of them. As John Lorne Campbell wrote in the preface to his Highland Songs of the ’45 “This anthology is an attempt to show what their thoughts and feelings, as revealed in their vernacular poetry, really were.”
The major Gaelic poets of the eighteenth century are represented in Highland Songs of the ’45 …Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair - principal propagandist for the Jacobite cause; his friend John MacCodrum from North Uist; Iain Ruadh Stiùbhart – one of the Jacobites’ best military strategists; Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir who fought on the Hanoverian side at Falkirk as a substitute for Archibald Fletcher of Cranach who lent him his sword and promised him the sum of three hundred marks; Rob Donn MacAoidh from Sutherland whose chief supported the Hanoverians but who wrote at least two pro-Jacobite poems. A dozen poets are represented in Highland Songs of the ’45 and perhaps unsurprisingly only one is a woman. But songs and poems composed by women who were affected by Culloden have survived, and, briefly, I’d like to share some of their views with you.
Òran air Teachd Phrionnsa Teàrlach - A Song on the coming of Prince Charles - is ascribed to Nighean Aonghais Òig- the Daughter of Young Angus, described in Clan Donald as Nighean Mhic Aonghais Òig , the only daughter of Angus MacDonald of Achadh nan Coichean, on the south bank of the Spean in Brae Lochaber, a grandson of the tenth chief of Keppoch. Nothing more is really known about her, not even her first name, and although she is referred to in Clan Donald as a well-known poetess this seems to be the only surviving poem of Nighean Mhic Aonghais Òig. In it she welcomes Prince Charles Edward Stewart with what John Lorne Campbell described as “a refreshing enthusiasm for the Prince’s cause.”
An ulaidh phrìseil bha uainne
'S ann a fhuair sinn an dràst' i,
Gum b' i siud an leug bhuadhach
Ga ceangal suas leis na gràsan;
Ged leig Dia greis air adhart
Don mhuic bhith cladhach ad àite,
Nis on thionndaidh a' chuibhle
Thèid gach traoitear fo 'r sàiltean.
Our priceless lost treasure is now restored to us, the jewel of virtues, set around by the graces. And though God for a while let the swine go rooting, now that the wheel has turned we’ll trample every traitor under our feet.
She goes on:
Slàn don t-saor rinn am bàta
A thug sàbhailt' gu tìr thu;
Slàn don iùl-fhear neo-chearbach
Thug thar fairge gun dìth thu;
Gum b' e siud am preas toraidh
Thug an sonas don rìoghachd,
'S lìonmhor laoch thig fo d' chaismeachd
Bheir air Sasannaich strìochdadh.
Here’s health to the shipwright whose boat brought you safely and one to the helmsman who unerringly steered you across the sea. You are the fruitful tree who brought joy to the kingdom and many a hero will follow you to conquer the English.
She praises some of the clans supporting the Prince but is not afraid to criticise Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat who had not fulfilled his promise of support and she finishes with a rallying call and a prayer:
Sgrios le claidheamh gun dearmad
Air gach cealgadair brèige,
Tha o dhuine gu duine
A' cur bun anns an eucoir;
Nis on thàinig an Rionnag,
Teannaibh uile ra chèile,
'S leibh clach-mhullaich a' chabhsair
Anns gach àite don tèid sibh.
With your swords wholly destroy every double-faced liar who from one man to another puts his trust in injustice. Now the Star has arrived gather closely together. The crown of the causeway will be yours wherever you walk.
Dèanaibh cruadal le misneach,
'S ann a-nis tha an t-àm ann,
On a thàinig an solas
Thogas onair na-h Alba;
Fhir a sgaoil a' Mhuir Ruadh
'S a thug do shluagh troimpe sàbhailt',
Bi mar gheàrd air a' Phrionnsa,
Air a chùirt, 's air a phàirtidh.
Be bravely valiant for now the time has come. Since the light who will raise Scotland’s honour has arrived. O thou who divided the Red Sea and brought your people safely through it - protect the Prince, his court and his party.
Nighean Mhic Aonghais Òig was composing in the early, no doubt heady for some, days of Bliadhna Theàrlaich, the Year of the Prince.
It’s in stark contrast to an anonymous song usually called Achadh nan Comhaichean – the Field of the Covenant – which describes the aftermath of Culloden as experienced by one traumatised young woman. She and her family have suffered dreadfully yet she implies that had Charles been victorious her grief would not be so great. But she also wishes that she had never set eyes on him.
A Theàrlaich òig, a mhic Rìgh Seumas,
’S mise bha brònach gad fhògradh aig bèistibh -
Iadsan gu subhach 's mise gu deurach,
Uisge mo chinn tighinn tinn o m' lèirsinn.
Mharbh iad m' athair, mharbh iad mo bhràithrean,
Mhill iad mo chinneadh is chreach iad mo chàirdean,
Loisg iad mo dhùthaich is rùisg iad mo mhàthair
'S cha chluinnte mo mhulad nam buinnigeadh Teàrlach.
A Theàrlaich òig a' chuailein chiataich,
Thug mi gaol dhuit, 's cha ghaol bliadhna,
Gaol nach tug aon do mhac diùic no iarla
B' fheàrr leam fhìn nach faicinn riamh thu.
Young Charles, son of King James, I was so sad that you were banished by beasts. They are so cheerful and I am so tearful, crying incessantly.
They've killed my father, they've killed my brothers; They've destroyed my clan and plundered my kinsfolk; They've burned my country and stripped naked my mother but if Charles won my grief would not be heard.
Young Charles of the beautiful hair, I gave you love, not the love of a year (but) a love that’s never been given to duke's son or earl's son - I’d much prefer that I'd never seen you.
The effect of the ’45 is also evident in a lament composed by Mairearad Nighean Lachlainn, Margaret MacLean from Mull,- a lament for Sir Eachann MacLean of Duart, chief of the MacLeans. Sir Eachann came from France to Edinburgh at the beginning of June 1745 intending to join the Prince but on the 5th of June he was betrayed by a man named Blair with whom he was lodging, and he was arrested. He was then taken to London and remained in prison there till May 1747 when he was released as a French prisoner. He died in Rome in 1751.
Despite the existence of at least 11 poems composed by Mairearad nighean Lachainn, all songs of praise for MacLean leaders, very little is known about her. But as a poet of the Duart family she had to be a Jacobite. In Cumha Shir Eachainn Mhic Gilleathain (Lament for Sir Hector MacLean) she describes Sir Eachann as having been “sgiath air uilinn Phrionns’ Teàrlaich” – a shield on the elbow of Prince Charles. The poem must have been composed after the battle of Culloden.
Dh' aithnich latha Chùil Lodair,
Gu 'm bu dosgach na Gàidheil;
'S gu 'n robh thus ann an Sasann
'N dèigh do ghlacadh led nàmhaid;
Ach nam bitheadh tu aca,
Mun do chaisgeadh an àrach
Cha rachadh fir Shasann
Slàn dhachaidh gu 'n àite.
The day of Culloden was calamitous for the Gaels, and you were in England having been captured by your enemy. But had you got at them before the battle was lost, the men of England would not have gone home safe and well.
She laments the terrible losses of the MacLeans:
Chan e cumha na caoireachd,
Tha mi caoineadh san earrach,
Ach ri iargain nan daoine,
Ris am faodainn mo ghearan;
It is no lament or dirge that I bewail in the spring but I weep for the men to whom I could bring my complaint.
The poet Sorley MacLean said of Mairead that she was “weighed down and wearied all the time with the great distresses that Clan Illeathainn suffered because of their loyalty to the Stewart Family.
Chaill thu t-oighreachd is t’ fhearann
‘S thug thu thairis gu lèir e;
Airson seasadh gu rìoghail -
‘S rinn do shinnsearachd fhèin sin.
You lost your inheritance and your lands and you gave it all up to take a royal stand; and your ancestors always did the same.
I’m sure Mairearad regarded herself as a clan poet, obliged to support her clan chief. In contrast tah author of Mo rùn geal òg – my fair young love had no such obligation when she created the song that Dr Anne Lorne Gillies described as “the abiding Gaelic memory of the battle of Culloden; a woman left behind, weeping for the husband she has lost and for the life she will now have to lead.”
The song is usually attributed to Christina Ferguson from Contin in Ross-shire who composed it for her husband William Chisholm. William Chisholm fought at Culloden and according to tradition after the battle he led the remains of his clansmen to the refuge of a nearby barn. He stood bravely at the entrance warding off Cumberland’s soldiers with his sword until he could fight no longer.
In her book Songs of Gaelic Scotland Dr Gillies describes Mo Rùn Geal Òg, my fair young love, as
“a deeply intimate and poignant picture of a loving relationship cruelly torn apart and of a woman who has lost her raison d-etre and status in the world…..she reflects not only the grief of any woman left to fend for herself and find a new role in society but also the feelings of the Gaelic speaking people as a whole, facing massive changes which were to culminate in hardship, famine and for thousands, exile. “
Och, a Theàrlaich òig Stiùbhairt,
'S e do chùis rinn mo lèireadh,
Thug thu bhuam gach nì bh' agam
Ann an cogadh nad adhbhar;
Cha chrodh, is cha chaoraich
Tha mi caoidh ach mo chèile,
Ged a dh' fhàgte mi 'm aonar
Gun sian san t-saoghal ach lèine,
Mo rùn geal òg.
Young Charles Stuart, it 's your cause that has grieved me; you took everything from me in this war in your interest: it's not sheep, it's not cattle that I miss, but my first-love, though I were left all alone with nothing but a shift.
She asks –
Cò nis thogas an claidheamh,
No nì chathair a lìonadh?
'S gann gur h-e tha air m' aire
O nach maireann mo chiad ghràdh.
Ach ciamar gheibhinn o m' nàdar
A bhith 'g àicheadh nas miann leam
Is mo thogradh cho làidir
Thoirt gu àite mo rìgh math,
Mo rùn geal òg?
Who now will lift up the sword or fill the throne? All that hardly concerns me since my first-love is no longer alive. Yet how can my nature go against what I long for, since my own strong desire is the king's restoration.
In a series of deeply poignant verses she describes her dead husband – good-looking, broad-shouldered, skilled at hunting and fishing, generous with drink but able to hold it and faithful to his now bereft wife.
Gura mise th' air mo sgaradh,
‘S ge do chanam, cha bhreug e,
Chaidh mo shùgradh gu sileadh
On nach pillear on eug thu.
Fear do chèille 's do thuigse
Cha robh furast’ ri fheutainn;
'S cha do sheas an Cùil Lodair
Fear do choltais bu trèine,
Mo rùn geal òg.
I am distraught and that’s not a lie. My joy has turned to weeping since you can never return from the graveA man of your sensitivity and understandingwas not easy to findand there stood at Culloden no man your equal nor any more valiant.
Bha mi greis ann am barail
Gum bu mhaireann mo chèile,
'S gun tigeadh tu dhachaigh
Le aighear is le h-èibhneas,
Ach tha an t-àm air dol thairis
Is chan fhaic mi fear d' eugais
Gus an tèid mi fon talamh
Cha dealaich do spèis rium,
Mo rùn geal òg.
For a while I believed that my husband was alive and that you would come home bringing joy and gladness; but time has gone by and I don’t see anyone who looks like you. Till I am buried beneath the ground your love will never leave me - my fair young love.
Mo rùn geal òg is one of the great masterpieces of Gaelic song and how terrible it would be if in the future no-one could fully understand Christina Ferguson’s great lament in the language in which it was written. Gaelic is part of our history and our heritage. It’s also an important part of life in Scotland today.
I was privileged to be part of the team that delivered the Gaelic content for the Culloden Visitor Centre - a collaboration between the National Trust for Scotland and BBC Radio nan Gaidheal ’s Gaelic Department who produced and recorded the voices and the songs you hear in the Visitor Centre today and on the CD Òrain is Guthan Bliadhna Theàrlaich – Songs and Voices of the ’45.
Much of the interpretation was funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig I’m sure in the expectation that Culloden might have served as a model and an inspiration for interpretation in other historic locations.
Bòrd na Gàidhlig is required by the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 to prepare and submit to the Scottish Ministers a national Gaelic Language Plan, including a strategy for promoting the use and understanding of the language, and Gaelic education and culture. The draft plan for the next five years is available for public consultation until the middle of May and I would urge you all to engage with it. Its clear aim is to increase the number of people speaking, using and learning Gaelic in Scotland and the number of situations in which Gaelic is used. That aim cannot be fulfilled by one organisation or community. Many groups, organisations and individuals such as yourselves can have a role in securing the future of the Gaelic language. I would ask you to make that commitment in this year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.
J. NicDhòmhnaill 13.04.2017
Culloden Anniversary 2016
Blàr Chùil Lodair, 16 an Giblean 2016.
Tha na faireachdainnean agam an-diugh a’ sìneadh eadar irioslachd agus pròis, irioslachd a thaobh an urraim a thug sibh dhomh cuimhne a ghleidheadh air na Gàidheil cliùiteach a thuit ann an Cogadh nan Seumasach, agus pròis a thaobh an dleastanais a bhuilich sibh orm a bhith a’ riochdachadh Comunn Gàidhlig Inbhir-Nis aig Seirbhis Cuimhneachaidh Blàr Chùil Lodair. Le carragh-cuimhne air ar beulaibh agus raon uaigneach tiamhaidh fo ar comhair, tha sinn uile mothachail air an tuiteamas seo a tha a’ sìoladh sìos thugainn thar nan linntean bhon dearbh latha sa’ Ghiblean 1746. Gu deimhinnte ’s e droch latha a bh’ ann, airson Gàidheal air gach taobh dhen t-strì agus mar sin, tha cothrom againn a-rithist an-diugh cuimhne ùrachadh air na daoine foghainteach a chaill am beatha aig Cùil Lodair agus an comharrachadh as ùr.
We are commemorating the event 270 years ago today, the last battle of the ’45, which was by any measure a cataclysmic and catastrophic turning-point in Scottish and Highland history. The Battle was an awful closure to the long-running episode of the Jacobite Wars in which the Gaels were sometimes willing, sometimes reluctant participants. Every generation, it is said, should re-write it’s nation’s history, and the Battle of Culloden gives huge scope for re-visiting the subject - the reasons for the battle, long and short term causes and effects, and the lesson of history about instigating a ‘civil war’ and about its victims, and how this can be resolved . Almost as we speak another book on the ’45 is being published. This isJacqueline Riding’s Jacobites. a New History of the ’45 Rebellion from Bloomsbury Publishing. Many of us may have a personal reason for exploring these matters and visiting the battlefield; my great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s brother, David Hunter, was here with the Jacobite army 270 years ago. He survived and escaped abroad.
We read about the hopelessness of the pitched battle on this open moorland, the chronicle of events leading up to it and the campaign that preceded it - the raising of the Standard at Glenfinnan and the strategy and tactics of the autumn campaign and the march south to Derby. Such events invite speculation over the ‘ifs’ of history - if the Jacobites had carried on the 125 miles to London? Now this curious exercise could be applied more realistically to exploring the ‘ifs’ of history in 1715 and the earlier attempt to place James Francis Edward Stewart on the throne of the United Kingdoms.
The motives of Gaels in 1745 were complex but the so-called ‘Stewart Cause’ is a historical complex, and our understanding may be distracted by the notion and attractions of a ‘Cause’. To begin to try to explain the events of April 1746 – whether to yourself or to others – we have a steepish hill to climb. Popular views have been formed under the influence of authors and playwrights and the literary wizards of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the afterglow of the Romantic movement, there was an obsession with the ’45 as ‘glorious episode’ or ‘heroic adventure’, and Bonnie Prince Charlie as the ‘rash adventurer’. Tourist literature brimmed with formulae such as, typically, ‘Prince Charlie’s Country’ applied to Lochaber, an area as it happened blighted by the events of ‘Charlie’s Year’. By contrast, the late Calum MacLean in his resounding work, The Highlands, published, by oral tradition very unwillingly, by Batsford in 1959, wrote: ‘One would expect that in this area there would still be stories and traditions about the Forty-Five and Prince Charlie. Strange to say, there is not so very much’. Since the last Jacobite War unleashed such devastation on the district, it is not surprising that local tradition is muted. Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdairdespaired for the ‘nochd is bochd ud Mhùideart’, and his cousin, Iain Frangach, commented laconically on the Prince’s final departure from Arasaig on 20 September 1746: ‘He left us all in a worse state than he found us’. Humour may thrive in adversity and one joke is still with us. As Calum MacLean wrote: ‘There are hundreds of Prince Charlie’s Caves that the royal fugitive never saw’. When the mapmakers of the Ordnance Survey Royal Engineers toured Inverness-shire in the 1870s, they dutifully marked up ‘Prince Charlie’s Caves’ in response to evidently fulsome information on the ubiquitous footfall of Prince Charles Edward Stewart.
In the nature of such an event as Culloden, we as a nation are too used to foreshortened and even flawed versions of the battle, its preludes and aftermath. For visitors to the site, huge strides have now been made for the better explanation and interpretation of the battle. The Culloden Visitor Centre opened officially eight years ago today; it is the brainchild of the National Trust for Scotland and included the ‘restoration’ of the battlefield to what we see now. The core narrative is first-rate and effective advantage is taken of today’s interpretive techniques. Above all, and taking the standpoint of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Scottish Gaelic is introduced competently and confidently in the displays, and used extensively to make it clear that this was a national language and more-or-less the lingua franca of the Jacobite army. This also makes clear that the language and literature of Gaelic Scotland furnishes history with real substance and it would be an interesting and challenging exercise to lay the ‘grand narrative’ of Scottish and British history to one side and compile a new history of the ’45 on the basis of Gaelic and Gaelic-derived sources. Given the course and consequences of the ’45, this would introduce a fresh emphasis in the narrative and give to the people of the Highlands and Islands a history which speaks for them rather than one composed at a distance and imposed on them.
Gaelic was spoken on both sides of the conflict. Incidents in the campaign hinged on mutual intelligibility, as in the so-called ‘Rout of Moy’ on the night of 16 February 1746. Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, Alexander MacDonald of Dalilea, Moidart, the most prolific of the poets, gave vivid voice to the ideals and high hopes of Gaels in the ’45, as did John Roy Stewart. Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir is perhaps the best example of a poet in the Hanoverian army who yet took a more traditional Jacobite line. His was one of the voices which cursed the Hanoverians for their indiscriminate penalising by the Disclothing Act of loyal and rebel clans alike.
The first move in an adjustment of Highland history towards an understanding of the Gaelic voice came in 1933 with the late Dr John Lorne Campbell’s Highland Songs of the Forty-Five. This work revealed a political awareness and acumen far in advance of local and clan-bound traditional allegiances. Powerful concepts were brought into play such as messianic hopes for the restoration of the Stewarts and of a pan-Gaelic kingdom. Though this was in effect the last battle, Jacobitism had also been the vehicle for a prophecy of a different ‘last battle’ as ultimate victory for the Gaels. This is the repeated element of Thomas the Rhymer traditions in Scottish Gaelic and formerly an important part of the cultural life of the Gael. Thomas the Rhymer lies sleeping in in Tom na h-Iùbhraich, with his men-at-arms and his white horses, awaiting the apocalyptic summons. He would become mortal again and lead the Gaels to victory and all the early poets such as Iain Lom refer to the prophecy as established tradition.
This sense of hope – even of redemption – should fire our curiosity to reconsider the history of the Highlands and Islands. If we were standing here on the threshold of the 18th, as opposed to the 21st century, we would be in the midst of a culture that had taken its place among the nations of Europe, a culture at its most confident, successful and assertive, to become, arguably, the most decisive factor in 17th and 18th century British history. If it was not this, a vengeful government might not have taken such steps to destroy it. The conventional approach of writers and historians to 17th century Scotland, for example, has for too long led with the sorry story of civil and religious wars, interruptions to trade and commerce , economic stagnation and famines and epidemics. In the same context, intellectual or artistic endeavours (including, say, music) are ignored before the ‘sunburst’ of the Enlightenment. Gaelic culture and society has tended to be omitted from the discourse, apart from the briefest of aperςu when the Highlander rudely invades the stage of British politics , and are too often viewed retrospectively through the defining lenses of economic determinism, ‘Clearance’ and Romanticism.
By remembering what has been on this battlefield, we can honour our forebears, but 270 years after the event we can build on this remembrance by looking forward with hope and optimism. Is ann le meas a tha sinn a’ cur clach eile air a’ chàrn ac’, a’ faicinn tionndadh eile ri Cuibhle an Fhortain agus ag èisteachd le cinnte air na tha ar sinnsirean a’ labhairt troimh na linntean.
[Hugh Cheape Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, UHI 15.04.16}
Mgr. Maoilios Caimbeul read the following poem at the 270th Anniversary of the Battle of Culloden. April 16, 2016.
Iain Ruadh Stiùbhart or John Roy Stewart was not only an accomplished soldier and officer in the Prince’s army, he was an accomplished poet as well. This poem he composed specifically about the battle of Culloden, in which he played a prominent part, and ‘in which he acquitted himself with the greatest bravery.’1 We’re fortunate to have poems about the battle by someone who took part in it. The poem gives a vivid picture of the terrible events of the day, and the aftermath, and there is even a description of what the weather was like, and how even the elements seemed to conspire against the Jacobite cause.
From ‘Latha Chùil-Lodair’ / ‘Culloden Day’ by Iain Ruadh Stiùbhart
Ò gur mòr mo chùis mhulaid,
’S mi ri caoineadh na guin atà ’m thìr;
À Rìgh! bi làidir, ’s tu ’s urrainn
Ar nàimhdean a chumail fo chìs;
Great is the cause of my sorrow,
As I mourn for the wounds of my land;
O God, be strong, thou art able,
To keep in subjection our foes;
Oirnne is làidir Diùc Uilleam,
An rag-mhèirleach, tha guin aige dhuinn;
B’ siud salchar nan sgeallag
Tighinn an uachdar air chruithneachd an fhuinn.
O’er us Duke William is tyrant,
That vile rogue, who has hate for us all;
’Tis as foul weeds of charlock
Overcoming the wheat of the land.
Mo chreach, armailt nam breacan
Bhith air sgaoileadh ’s air sgapadh ’s gach àit’,
Aig fìor-bhalgairean Shasainn
Nach do ghnàthaich bonn ceartais ’nan dàil;
Woe is me for the host of the tartan
Scattered and spread everywhere,
At the hands of England’s base rascals
Who met us unfairly in war;
Ged a bhuannaich iad batail,
Cha b’ ann d’ an cruadal no ’n tapachd a bhà,
Ach gaoth an iar agus frasan
Thighinn a-nìos oirnn bhàrr machair nan Gall.
Though they conquered us in battle,
’Twas due to no courage or merit of theirs,
But the wind and the rain blowing westwards
Coming on us up from the Lowlands.
Mo chreach mhòr! na cuirp ghlè-gheal
Tha ’nan laigh’ air na slèibhtean ud thall,
Gun chiste, gun lèintean,
Gun adhlacadh fhèin anns na tuill;
Woe is me! The white bodies
That lie out on yonder hillsides,
Not even buried in holes;
Chuid tha beò dhiubh an dèidh sgaoilidh
’S iad gam fògair le gaothan thar tuinn,
Fhuair na Chuigs an toil fhèin dinn,
’S cha chan iad ach ‘reubaltaich’ ruinn.
Those who survived the disaster
Are carried to exile o’erseas by the winds,
The Whigs have got their will of us,
And ‘rebels’ the name that we’re given.
The above extract taken from Highland Songs of the Forty-five, edited by John Lorne Campbell.
Culloden Anniversary 2015
18th April 2015
The anniversary address by this year’s chief
(Prof) Matthew M MacIver, CBE
Madainn mhath a chàirdean.
Tha e math a bhith còmhla ribh an-diugh aig an àite sònraichte tha seo a’ cuimhneachadh na thachair an seo. ‘S e urram mòr tha seo dhòmhsa agus na adhbhar smaoineachaidh dhomh.
“Oh, Drumossie, thy bleak moor shall, ere many generations have passed away, be stained with the best blood of the Highlands”. So, allegedly said the Brahan Seer , Coinneach Odhar (Kenneth Mackenzie), as he passed this place sometime in the first half of the 17th century.
As with so many of his prophesies he was correct. This place is indeed stained. And it is to honour those who did shed their blood on this field 269 years ago that we gather here today.
It is a great privilege for me to be here this morning representing the Gaelic Society of Inverness at this Culloden Commemoration Service. I became a member of the Society in 1979 having been introduced by a great stalwart of the Society, Domhnall Ailein Mac Ill Eathain from North Uist. Since that time I have presented papers to the Society both in English and Gaelic. I have attended meetings. But I never dreamed for one minute that I would become its Chief. It is a great personal honour; and doubly so, because I follow in the footsteps of Dr Margaret Bennett, my former classmate at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.
But I am very proud to be here for another reason. I was Chair of Bòrd na Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Language Board) when we agreed with the National Trust for Scotland in 2007 that Gaelic would be one of the languages used to guide visitors round the Centre at Culloden. Today I pay tribute to the National Trust for Scotland for its sensitivity throughout the process. I also pay tribute to Allan Campbell, an Honorary Chieftain of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, who was then Chief Executive of Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Like myself, Allan also felt strongly that there was something intrinsically right about having Gaelic at this place. It was just not symbolic that it should take its rightful place alongside other national languages on this important historical site. There is more than symbolism involved. There is an appreciation and an acceptance of where the language and the culture lie in terms of Culloden Field and what happened here at Drumossie.
Let’s be quite clear about this. Gaelic culture underpinned the clanship system. And it was clanship that gave cohesion to the social system in the Highlands and Islands for centuries. What happened on this very spot on the 16th April 1746 determined that the process of dismantling that social order, which arguably had already started, was accelerated. The Clansmen of the Highlands and Islands were forced to abandon their way of life and, as Professor James Hunter puts it, they had “to organise their communities in accordance with the social and other values prevailing in the Scottish kingdom’s Lowland core”. The United Kingdom’s parliament, in order to impose this new order, passed laws that were simply draconian. I will not labour the point. You will all know the details of the Act of Proscription as well as I do. Perhaps the most demeaning element was making it a crime for the men of the Highlands and Islands to wear their own dress. In the words of one contemporary politician they would be “undressing those savages”.
My forefathers and your forefathers are those people who are described as savages. And in among that process of reorganisation and opprobrium was my language, which had been under attack for some time. The Statutes of Iona of the 17th century made it clear that Gaelic was to be “extirpated”. It was to be done away with. After Culloden my language was regarded as part of the culture of the savages. It was deemed to be unworthy. It was regarded as uncivilised. Well, we are still here. We have not been extirpated. And we must not be extirpated. Why? Because with a language goes a culture, a history, a heritage and a way of life. A language, a culture, a history and a heritage lies at the heart of what we commemorate today.
John Lorne Campbell of Canna, writing in 1982, puts it much better than I could ever do. This is how he sees what happened. “The Rising of 1745 was the natural reaction of the Jacobite clans and their sympathisers in the Highlands against what had been since the coming of William of Orange in 1690 a calculated official genocidal campaign against the religion and the language of all Highlanders”. Interestingly he continues,“The subsequent history of the Highlands, with the Clearances still a vivid memory, has not been so happy that anyone can say that the men who rose with Prince Charles in 1745 did not have a cause that was worth fighting for”.
So, today we remember a social order that perished on this bleak field, never to return. Let no one doubt that what happened at Culloden was a defining moment in the history of Scotland and in the history of Great Britain.
In particular, it was critical in the history of the Highlands and Islands. Think of the years of oppression, poverty and emigration that followed Culloden right through the 19th century. Think of the effect on the culture and language of a proud people. Think of the effect on the self confidence of a huge geographical part of Scotland. The Clearances were to be followed by the Education Act of 1872. More than any other piece of Government legislation this Act was the direct descendant of the Act of Proscription of 1746. It was the final blow for a demoralised part of the country. This was the act that set up a national system of education in Scotland. Yet it did not mention the language in which the population of most of the Highlands and Islands were educated and led their lives. The word “Gaelic” is not mentioned once in the Act. Gaelic has never recovered from that blow.
That is why, as we reflect on the past, we must also reflect on the present and the new social order. For my part this is certainly a moment to reflect. This year, you see, marks another Anniversary. Ten years ago, on the 1 June 2005, the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act of the Scottish Parliament was given Royal Assent. It commenced on 13 February, 2006. It is the first piece of legislation to give formal recognition to the Scottish Gaelic language giving Gaelic equal respect to English in Scotland. No other language in Scotland has this status. It established Bòrd na Gàidhlig and introduced the Gaelic world to a new concept entitled Language Planning.
The new world, however, sets severe challenges. Gaelic is in a vulnerable state. Last year’s report from the Council of Europe was quite unequivocal in its assessment. “Scottish Gaelic”, it said, “remains an endangered language”. Despite the so called Renaissance of the last quarter of the 20th century, the Census of 2011 did not bring good news. According to the National Census there are only 57,000 speakers left in Scotland. That comprises only 1% of the population. The 10th anniversary of the passing of the Act must provide a time for reflection.
Ten years on, sharp questions have to be asked about the strategy that has emerged from the legislation. Does it need to be revisited? How confident is the Gaelic community in accepting that the National Plan can protect, sustain and develop a minority language? Why is Gaelic declining so obviously in its traditional heartland? Are the Gaels speaking with one voice? Are we speaking to each other at all? The voice of the Gaelic world seems to have been muted in the last few years. We are in danger of losing the cohesion that was the hall mark of the clan system that has made us what we are. We need to recover the voice of the Gael. With that voice will come the cohesion, the coherence and the unity of purpose that we desperately need at the moment.
But this is not a counsel of despair. As Sorley Maclean said in his poem to commemorate the Centenary of the Gaelic Society of Inverness:
“the smoke of the rout from Culloden
And from other routs before it
And from routs after it
Twisting perception and hope”
But hope remains. There is always hope. I believe that in the Highlands and Islands we can look ahead with hope and with confidence. My professional background was in education. I believe that education is the way to open doors, especially doors of the mind. What we have developed in the world of education in the Highlands and Islands in the last few years is a priceless asset. We now have a University in the Highlands and Islands, of the Highlands and Islands, for the Highlands and Islands. I am extremely proud of the fact that I was the first Chair of that University. It was one of the great privileges of my life to receive word from the Privy Council saying that they had accepted our arguments. In February 2011 I was able to announce to the world that Scotland had a new University – the University of the Highlands and Islands.
From the islands in the north to Perth in the south, from Argyll in the west to Moray in the east a partnership has been forged which, I hope, will bring new opportunities. The granting of University Title in 2011 could very well be the event that defines the history of the Highlands and Islands in the 21st century. It will need wise leadership both from the centre and from the individual Colleges. It will need to clothe itself in the garments of kinship and unity and understand that the family values of the clans are still as relevant today as they were in 1746.
As we stand here today let us be aware of the debt we owe to those who died here and immediately afterwards; let us be aware of the legacy we have inherited; let us be aware of the knowledge that we need to bequeath to our children and grand children. Today, the 18th April 2015, is World Heritage Day. How appropriate that we should be standing on this very spot. After all, this is the one place in Scotland where people like us can come face to face with our past and, because of what happened here, make us more determined than ever that this very special part of the world will have a proud future.
Culloden in the 21st century Poem
This poem was composed and read at the Culloden Anniversary Service on Saturday 18th April 2015 by Maoilios Caimbeul, the Society’s Honorary Bard.
Cùil Lodair anns an aona linn fichead
Gaoth an earraich
Leis na h-uaighean
Aig na suinn ud
Bh’ air an spuacadh
Iain Ruaidh na h-Apainn
Is Fir Athaill
’S Frisealaich thapaidh
Fir a’ bhreacain
Air an creachadh
Cruaidh dhan deach iad
An Suaithneas Bàn
Air a spadadh
Ach cumaibh suas i
Cumaibh cuimhn’ oirr
Aisling nan Gàidheal
Chan eil i seachad
Cumaidh cuimhn’ oirr’
Cumaibh còir oirr’
Tha i againn
Dlùth rir cridhe
Latha is latha
A’ Ghàidhlig àlainn
I beò fhathast
Ged a gheall iad
A’ cur san aigeann
Gaoth an earraich
Fuar ged ’s tha i
Nì sinn luaidh
Air na fir thapaidh
Nì sinn luaidh
Air fir na gaisge
Bheir sinn urram
Dhaibh sa mhadainn;
Gum biodh cuimhn’ orr’
Gum biodh sìth orr’
Gum biodh sìth orr’
Culloden in the 21st century
The spring wind
Passes over, over
Over the fields
Hard and cold
Holding the graves
Of those heroes
Who were mauled.
Of Iain Ruadh Appin
And the men of Atholl
And brave Frasers
The men of the plaid
They willingly joined;
The White Cockade
Torn to bits;
But keep it up
Remember it well
The Gael’s dream
It’s not past
Remember it well
Hold your right to it
We possess it
Close to our heart
Day by day
The beautiful Gaelic
Although they promised
To bury it in the deep.
The spring wind
We will praise
The stalwart men
We will praise
The men of valour
We will honour
Them in the morning;
May they be remembered
May the rest
May they rest
Culloden Anniversary 2014
19th April 2014
The anniversary address by this year’s chief
Tha mi a’ cur fàilt’ oirbh uile dhan chruinneachadh an seo – agus ’s e onair mhòr dhomhsa a bhith ga dhèanamh. Ged a tha còrr is dà cheud bliadhna air dol seachad bho Bhliadhna Theàrlaich, tha Latha Chùil Lodair fhathast gu math dlùth ris a h-uile cridhe an seo.
I am honoured to welcome you all, as friends who share the values of our forebears, as we gather together to remember all those who gave their lives 268 years ago – not only those who lie buried here but far beyond this battlefield. As we remember them, we also need to remember that this was not, and is not, a Scotland-England conflict, or Highland-Lowland, it is not a Protestant-Catholic issue, as some may think; there were Protestants and Catholics on both sides and many of Jacobites were Episcopalian. It is not even a cause that can be claimed by a list of clans—there were MacDonalds and MacLeods on both sides; families split down the middle, wives who secretly raised Jacobite supporters behind the backs of their Hanoverian husbands; there were brothers fighting against brothers. The Forty-Five is one of the most complex, and misunderstood, episodes in our history—an episode with far-reaching effects, not only on the Highlands, on Scotland, on Britain but on the world.
When we listen to the Gaelic poetry and songs from the actual time, from the hearts and minds of the men and women who were engaged in Bliadhna Theàrlaich, only then we can have a better understanding of their experiences. Unlike many wars which are fought over land and resources – gold in days gone by, or today’s oil – this was a cause that was rooted in their recognition that the rich culture of the Gael was under threat and could be lost forever if the people themselves did not take a stand. An unknown woman in Edinburgh sings to her husband:
Brown-haired Allan, wake up and riseGather your clan, remember your need of themGreat Scotland will be under sentence of doomUnless her own people defend her.
Ailein duinn, gabh sgoinn ’s bi ’g èirigh
Tionail do chlann, cuimhnich t’ fheum orr’
Bidh Alba mhòr fo bhinn nam bèistean
Mura dìon a muinntir fhèin i.
Hug o ro hi, hug oireannan
Hug o ro hi, ri ri hiu o
O hithill u hug oireannan.
There’s a timelessness in this trumpet-call – and 268 years on, if our culture is to flourish we ourselves must act.
Some of the bards knew the Prince personally, such as Col. John Roy Stewart of Badenoch who fought in the front line of battle:
Mo chreach, Teàrlach Ruadh bòidheachBhith ga dhìteadh aig Deòrsa nam biast;
B’ e siud dìteadh na còrach
An fhìrinn ’s a beòil foidhpe s ìos.
Ach, a Rìgh, ma’s a deòin leat
Cuir an rìoghachd air seòl a chaidh dhinn;
Cuir rìgh dligheach na còrach
Ri linn na tha beò os ar cinn.
Alas, the handsome, red-haired Charles/ should be condemned by that monstrous lord
This is condemnation of Justice, and the truth is brought low, mouth down.
Oh God, if it be your will, /Set this kingdom on a course
For it has been taken away from us,
Place the true and rightful king over us/ While this generation lives.
But, at the end of the day, after the battle, he saw for himself the reality:
Mo chreach mhòr! na cuirp ghlé-gheal
Tha nan laigh’ air na slèibhtean ud thall,
Gun chiste gun lèintean
Gun adhlacadh fhèin anns na tuill;
Chuid tha beò dhiubh an dèidh sgaoilidh
’S iad a’ bruthadh a chèile air na luing
Fhuair na Chuigs an toil fhèin dinn
’S cha chan iad ach “reubaltaich” rinn.
Alas the bright, white bodies / That are lying on the moorland over there
Without coffins, without shrouds, /Without even burial in holes in the earth
Those that survived have been scattered/ Or packed up against one another in ships.
Nobody could fail to be moved by what he tells.
Others, without names were widowed, orphaned and bereaved, men, women and children who lived through it were only the first of generations to be affected by the aftermath.
But this is not a cue for us to fall into the role of victim – instead it we can choose to turn it into a time to reflect on the impact of that on our language, our culture, our values.
It was not only those who followed the Prince who were affected by the government’s Acts of Proscription – no matter whether they fought as Jacobites or Hanoverian they would denounce all weaponry and instruments of war and their society would be altered by the end to the heritable jurisdiction of the clans. But least expected, was the total ban on Highland dress – the humiliation, indignity, the stripping not only of their tradition, their identity but also of the only clothes they knew how to wear. Yesterday was Good Friday, or, as the Gaels say,Latha na Ceusa – the day of the crucifixion, when Christ was stripped of His garments, of dignity recognisable to people the world over. It’s worth taking a moment to remember the actual wording of the Act: Abolition and Proscription of the Highland Dress 19 George II, Chap. 39, Sec. 17, 1746:
That from and after the first day of August, One thousand, seven hundred and forty-six, no man or boy within that part of Britain called Scotland, other than such as shall be employed as Officers and Soldiers in His Majesty’s Forces, shall, on any pretext whatever, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland clothes (that is to say) the plaid Philabeg, or little Kilt, Trowse, Shoulder-belts, or any part whatever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland Garb; and that no tartan or party-coloured plaid of stuff shall be used for Great Coats or upper coats, and if any such person shall presume after the said first day of August, to wear or put on the aforesaid garment or any part of them, every such person so offending … For the first offence, shall be liable to be imprisoned for 6 months, and on the second offence, to be transported to any of His Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years.
The ultimate indignity is to be stripped of your clothing – and those who had pledged loyalty to King George discovered it brought no rewards for the culture that had also sustained them for centuries was to be decimated, there would be no freedom in their own language.
Reflecting the spirit of the Gael, Duncan Bàn MacIntyre composed his “Oran don Bhriogais” (ode to trousers) at the loss of the Highland dress – the ONLY clothing Highlanders knew:
Soraidh leis a’ bhreacan ùr
Oir ‘s ann air a tha mo rùn
B’ ait leam e os cionn mo ghlùin
Ann am pleatadh dlùth mun cuairt.
Farewell to the new plaid/ I have a great affection for it / I enjoyed wearing it always above the knee/ and pleated around my waist.
Gaels were to wait a full generation before the act was repealed by George III in 1782
Meanwhile, it was the perfect lure to fill the ranks of the British army with kilted Highlanders highly trained and with an unquestionable loyalty that had been part of their culture from time immemorial.
Yet in Scotland today we don’t have to go far to sense a tartan cringe – even some eminent historians voice opinions that belittle our pride in wearing tartan, some citing – or blaming – Sir Walter Scott’s role in dressing George IV in tartan during the first royal visit after the Act was repealed. Surely this is a complete misunderstanding of both the facts and the motives: There seems much more to be gained in recognising that Scott took the very first opportunity possible to dress the monarch in the very fabric and dress that the ruling government had banned. I would consider that a tour de force, if ever there was one. This surely is our cue to reclaim that our confidence and not to cower behind the blame.
Culloden cast a huge shadow over all our people, right across the world. But, as I reminded myself earlier, where there is a shadow there must also be light. You cannot have a shadow without light. And we can walk in that light.
As this year we celebrate Homecoming Scotland 2014, we welcome thousands of returning Highlanders, Lowlanders, some Jacobites – many will wear tartan, despite the fact that generations have passed since their forebears left the Old Country, they tell us that ‘still, the heart is Highland’. As they speak of their Highland forebears, who were Gaelic speaking, they regret the loss of the language, yet today, there are apparently more Gaelic learners in North America than in Scotland.
As we share with them diverse ways of celebrating Highlandness it’s time for Scots the world over, and especially in Scotland, to pay more attention to what is behind their celebrations.
In attending this ceremony of remembrance for all who fought and died at Culloden 268 years ago, we remember not only the individuals who died, but with them demise of the traditional values of the society of the Gael. In gathering together here we re-affirm our commitment to those values: honesty, loyalty, integrity, trust, fairness, faithfulness, justice, devotion — values that are endangered in modern society, and in some areas totally lacking.
And if you go to any great gathering or Highland Games across the world, whether it’s Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina or Braemar in Scotland, before you start to comment on what you see, think on this: these people attend because they believe in those values, values that they struggle to attain or even to find in the hum-drum of everyday societies. But there, they can be surrounded by them. And it’s in that light that we can go forward, in the hope that the language and the culture that the Jacobites fought for, will be valued and flourish again as it did in the past.