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The Scottish Life Archive on Scran

25th April 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

The Scottish Life Archive, based at the National Museum of Scotland, offers a unique insight into many aspects of Scottish history and heritage. It aims to collect, record and preserve documentary and illustrative evidence of Scotland’s material culture & social history.

8,685 records from this fascinating collection are also available via scran.ac.uk – for example, here you see Adam Cramond & Son’s cab office at Charles Street, Edinburgh, 1912.

This cab office just off George Square was quite a large business at around that time. Broughams were often hired by doctors. They were small closed carriages drawn by one horse. Miss I. M Cramond, who was a child at the beginning of the 20th century and a member of Adam Cramond’s family, remembered that in 1904 doctors used them when they went on their rounds. At the beginning of the 20th century each firm of cab owners had a ‘stance’ where their cabs stood. Cramond’s was at Waterloo Place. The four-in-hand coaches also waited at Waterloo Place, and they would go as far afield as Roslin and the Forth Bridge.

The archive collection dates from the 1880s to the present day, but there is some material dating from 1700. You can discover old manuscripts, letters, trace your family history – the archive offers a unique insight into all aspects of Scottish life. If this interests you, archivist and curator Dorothy Kidd at the National Museum of Scotland is giving a talk all about the Scottish Life Archive and how it can be used for personal research. The event is part of Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and further details can be found here. Of course, if you are unable to make it along to the live talk, you can continue your browsing or research online with Scran.

Images © National Museum of Scotland Licensor Scran 

Stained Glass at the Scottish National War Memorial

5th March 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Following on from the story of the creation of the Scottish National War Memorial in our previous post, Forthview Primary School P7s are going to be examining it’s interior when they visit.

The Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle houses a rich variety of artwork to honour & remember those who died in World War One.  When it was built, between 1923 & 1927, over 200 professional artists worked with the architect, Robert Lorimer, to create a suitable tribute.

Air Force window design 1924 by Douglas Strachan

The interior of the memorial expresses the tragic sense of loss felt by Scotland after WW1. Inside the building, there is a feeling of dignity, pride and a sense of peace. The artists and makers used different materials, including bronze, iron, wood, stone, paint as well as stained glassThe result is impressive.

The artworks are designed to pay respect to the individual Scots who died, both men and women in all their different roles. Animals are acknowledged too, in the much loved stone sculpture ‘Remember also those Humble Beasts‘ by Phyllis Bone.

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Certainly the most colourful element of the SNWM is the is the stained glass with light flooding in from outside. In the main Hall of Honour the windows provide a lot of information, if you look carefully. For example, there is imagery illustrating what life was like on the Home Front, such as the mobilising of troops at Waverley Station (pictured top).

At either end of the hall, there are windows dedicated to different military services; that is the army, the navy and the air force – land, sea & air. Other windows show the four seasons. Some of the windows have roundels illustrating the different jobs people did or technology used in the machinery of war.

The windows in the Shrine are different to those in the Hall of Honour. These seven windows tell a another story, they use Bible and Christian messages to describe the experience of the War. Therefore they look more familiar to many, perhaps like traditional church windows at first glance.

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The artist who made all of these stunning windows was Douglas Strachan (1875-1950). Strachan was born in Aberdeen and educated at Robert Gordon’s College. He took evening classes at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. He worked as an apprentice lithographer, a muralist, a portrait painter and then found a passion for working with stained glass. In 1909 he moved to Edinburgh to set up the crafts department of Edinburgh College of Art. He lived in Midlothian where he died in 1950. He worked on many other memorial windows, including a designs for the Peace Palace in The Hague installed in 1929.

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* To see more of the SNWM stained glass windows on Scran click here

Images © Canmore Historic Environment Scotland Licensor Scran 

 

Massacre of Glencoe

12th February 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Among the many tortuous events in the Highlands, the Glencoe Massacre stands out. It is notorious for the political skullduggery surrounding it and for its breach of the code of highland hospitality. The soldiers who massacred the MacDonalds had stayed with their victims for many days prior to the killings.

Massacre

Captain Robert Campbell

Two companies of soldiers, from the Earl of Argyle’s Regiment,
had arrived at Glencoe on 1st February. They claimed that the Fort William garrison was full and asked for hospitality. They were under the command of Major Robert Duncanson and Captain Robert Campbell. The MacDonalds of Glencoe, since they had not paid their taxes, were compelled to billet troops. They housed and fed the soldiers for twelve days. On 12th February, Duncanson received orders to attack the clan the following morning and was to ensure that ‘”the old fox nor non of his Cubs gett away. The orders are that non be spared nor the government troubled with prisoners.” Two further companies bottle up the head of the glen and more troops would progress from Ballachulish at the other end. The soldiers attacked the clan in their beds at 5.00 am on 13th February. Thirty-eight people were killed immediately. including MacIain – the clan leader – as he tried to dress. But most of the clan managed to escape, including MacIain’s two sons and his grandson.

Escape into Blizzard

Duncanson’s Orders “Non be spared nor the government troubled with prisoners”

Nearly three hundred escaped aided by the fierce winter blizzard – some later to die from the cold and starvation. This fact severely annoyed the senior officers who arrived after the initial massacre. In military terms, the attack was botched, perhaps deliberately. It was rumoured that two officers resigned their commission rather than take part.

The Stewarts Deposed

The events of the “Revolution of 1688” – sometimes known as the “Glorious Revolution” had led to the succession of William of Orange in the United Kingdom. King James II of England and VII of Scotland, grandson of King James VI of Scotland, had been deposed. He went into exile in France. The Revolution was planned by a union of Parliamentarians – mostly the Whigs – and the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau (William of Orange). Although often labelled “bloodless”, there was fighting and loss of life in Ireland and Scotland. The Revolution was linked to the War of the Grand Alliance on mainland Europe against France, and, since William arrived with troops, purportedly with an invitation, it can be viewed as the last successful invasion of the United Kingdom. Inevitably, for this time, much of this concerned Protestantism and Catholicism.

A New Oath

King William III of Orange

After many skirmishes and battles over the years in Scotland, King William offered a pardon to all Highland clans who had fought against him or raided their neighbours; on the condition clan chiefs took an oath of allegiance before a recognised magistrate before 1 January 1692. Anyone failing to swear allegiance would suffer the full penalty of the law. Clan Chiefs had already sworn an Oath to James VII and were reluctant to swear a new vow without permission. So, Major Duncan Menzies was sent to France to obtain permission but James, preoccupied with his latest mistress, took an age to reply to the Major’s request. Menzies returned to Edinburgh with James’ permission on the 21st of December, leaving only 10 days for the oath to be taken.

MacIain Complies

MacIain’s Oath of Allegiance

Then, MacIain of Glencoe set out to take the Oath with Colonel Hill at Inverlochy, Fort William. He reached there on the 31st of December, but he had gone to the wrong place. He needed to take the oath with the Sheriff at Inveraray. Sheriff Campbell of Ardkinglass was still on New Year’s holiday when he got there. He finally signed the Oath on the 6th of January and returned to Glencoe. However, the Privy Council of the Scottish Parliament struck off his oath on the grounds that it was received 6 days too late. The MacDonalds of Glencoe were an ideal target: troublesome to their neighbours – known as the ‘Gallow’s Herd’ because of their thieving abilities – and Glencoe could be sealed geographically. So the late oath gave the government all the excuse they needed to punish the Macdonald clan and set an example.

Political Skullduggery

The Privy Council issued a warrant, signed by the Earl of Stair, Secretary of State for Scotland, and countersigned by King William. This was delivered to Thomas Livingstone, Commander in Chief of the Army in Scotland on the 11th of January, 1693 to punish those rebels who had failed to take an Oath of Allegiance to King William. Livingstone then issued these orders to Colonel Hill to pursue the rebels, burn their homes and to take no prisoners. Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton – Hill’s assistant – and Major Robert Duncanson were chosen to plan the attack.

Parliamentary Commission

When news of the massacre reached London two weeks later, the work of the Irish journalist Charles Leslie turned the massacre into a political scandal. His pamphlet suggested a high level cover-up, which excited the interest of those opposed to the King and the Secretary of State. However, it was a further three years before there was any official reprimand. A Parliamentary Commission into the massacre was set up due to the strength of public opinion. Colonel Hill testified that he had delayed executing his orders as he thought it a nasty, dirty business. The commission’s report put the blame on the Earl of Stair for overstepping his orders and he was removed from government, though he was later reinstated. No-one was punished for the massacre.

The Campbell Myth

The presence of Captain Campbell and the involvement of Sheriff Campbell of Ardkinglass led to a belief that the Campbells had exacted revenge on the MacDonalds, but the two clans fought side by side in the subsequent Jacobite rebellions. The Earl of Argyle’s Regiment was a regular, red-coat unit of the British army and acted under clear orders. So the massacre being the result of a Campbell v MacDonald’s feud is likely to be a popular myth.

Curse of Scotland

Gravestones, Eilean Munde – Cemetery reputed to hold the remains of MacIain of Glencoe

In public terms, the attack was an own goal. It incited opinion against troops, officials and the King and provided a propaganda opportunity to those who opposed the state. The planned and deliberate attempt at genocide by the government makes Glencoe a byword for infamy and treachery to this day. Ever since then, the nine of diamonds has been called the “Curse of Scotland” That is because the card matches the nine lozenges on the coat of arms of the Earls of Stair – John Dalrymple – who was the Secretary of State for Scotland at the time.

Of course, the deposition of James and the fractious relationship between Clans, Crown and Government added fuel to much of what was to follow historically in the Jacobite cause.

Images © National Trust for Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland, National Records of Scotland Licensor Scran 

 

 

Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

8th February 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

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“Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots” by Robert Herdman, 1867

Mary, Queen of Scots is one of Scotland’s best known monarchs. She is also renowned for her involvement in plots and murder. Elizabeth I had Mary beheaded for treason on Wednesday, 8th February 1587.

Born on 2nd December 1542 at Linlithgow, she came to the throne as an infant, ruled France when only 16, lost her husband at 18, married two men who helped murder their rivals and came close to ruling all of Britain 35 years before her son, James VI of Scotland, was also crowned King James I of England on Elizabeth I’s death.

Turbulent Times

During the 16th century, Scotland witnessed great religious, political, social and economic change in the form of the religious Reformation and frequent power struggles between rival political factions. Mary had ascended to the Scottish throne when she was six days old but in 1548 was sent to France as the prospective bride of the French Dauphin, Francis, whom she married in 1558. She returned to Scotland to resume control in 1561, after Francis’s death. Mary’s reign was beset by plots and religious struggles. Although Mary had stated she had no particular wish to rule how her subjects should worship, she came under considerable attack from John Knox – the religious reformer.

Murderous Intent

The Catholic nobleman Lord Darnley, Mary’s cousin and second husband, was involved in the murder of her private secretary David Rizzio and was then strangled at Kirk o’ Field in 1567 by the Queen’s favourite James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. They also blew up the house he was staying in.

Open Rebellion

Bothwell and Mary were married in a Protestant ceremony in 1567, an act which turned Scottish noblemen against her and led to open rebellion. Mary’s troops were defeated at Carberry Hill in June 1567 and she was forced to surrender, abdicating in favour of her son, James VI, who was crowned at Stirling. She escaped from her prison at Lochleven in May 1568 and gathered an army of 6,000 but was defeated again at Langside.

To England

Fleeing, Mary crossed the Solway Firth seeking refuge at the court of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. She hoped for asylum and assistance from her cousin, but she was mistaken. In 1568, in York and Westminster, Mary’s representatives and opponents, debating her alleged complicity in Darnley’s murder, failed to reach a formal decision as to whether she should be restored to the Scottish throne. Elizabeth did not find in Mary’s favour. Mary was detained in England for 19 years before her execution on 8 February 1587. She feared that Mary would be a focus for catholic rebellion, especially after the Pope declared that if a catholic murdered Elizabeth, they would not be guilty of any sin.

049446More Plots

At first her imprisonment was relatively easy, but the continued plotting of catholic sympathisers forced Elizabeth to act. The more frequent the plots against Elizabeth, the greater the pressure on her to act against Mary. She was arrested for being involved in her page Babbington’s plot to murder Elizabeth I, which would have led to her becoming Queen of England, being next in line to that throne. Mary was tried and found guilty of treason by conspiring against the English queen in 1586. But Elizabeth still hesitated to sign Mary’s death warrant.

Final Days

Elizabeth was persuaded by Parliament and her councillors to do so on 1 February 1587.

Mary had been told of her execution on the afternoon of 7 February. Her last letter was completed at two o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, 8 February 1587, six hours before her execution at Fotheringhay Castle. It was to Henri III, her former brother-in-law, then King of France. In it Mary states that she is being put to death for her Catholic religion and her right to the English crown. She also asks him to take care of her servants.

Beheading

Mary was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle at 8.00am on Wednesday 8 February 1587, aged 44. At the Execution, Mary was heard to intone ‘Into thy Hands O Lord, do I commit my Spirit’. In the presence of the Commissioners and Ministers of Queen Elizabeth the executioner struck Mary with his axe, and after a first and second blow by which she was barbarously wounded, he cut off her head with the third stroke. She was first interred in Peterborough Cathedral, but later, in 1612, James VI had her remains removed and entombed in Westminster Abbey.

Lots more for teachers via this attachment Investigating Mary Queen of Scots.

 

Sir Walter Scott

20th September 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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Sir Walter Scott by Sir Henry Raeburn 1822

Regarded as one of Scotland’s most popular writers, Sir Walter Scott produced an exemplary body of work, notably his famous Waverley novels.

Childhood

Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh on the 15th of August 1771. He was born in a house on College Wynd where the Old College building of Edinburgh University now stands. He was the 9th child of Walter Scott, writer to the Signet, and Anne Rutherford. At the age of two he contracted polio which rendered him lame for the rest of his life, often walking with a limp. To attempt to cure his illness, he was sent to live with his grandfather, Robert Scott, at Sandyknowe, near Smailholm, in the Scottish Borders. It was his time spent at Smailholm where he developed his love of the Borders. In 1778 he returned to Edinburgh. By now the Scott family were living in grander accommodation at 25 George Square.

Early career

Scott began his education in October 1779 at the High School of Edinburgh. His education was interrupted by a period of ill health and he was again sent to Sandyknowe. One year later he returned to the city and to his studies. In 1786, he was apprenticed to his father’s law firm; however he soon decided he wanted to become a lawyer and returned to Edinburgh University where he qualified as an advocate in 1792. He practiced as an Advocate in Edinburgh where he dealt with more provincial matters, his first Edinburgh case not presented until 1795.

When Scott met Burns

The only known meeting between Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns took place during the winter of 1786/87. At a house on Sciennes House Place they both attended the literary salon of Scott’s university friend Adam Ferguson. This meeting had a lasting impression on the young Walter Scott.

Family life

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Abbotsford House

Scott married French-born Charlotte Carpenter in Carlisle on the 24th of December 1797. Following the wedding, they moved into rented accommodation at 50 George Square, Edinburgh. Their first child, Sophia, was born in 1799 prompting Scott to seek more stable means of employment. He successfully petitioned Henry Dundas, controller of Crown patronage in Scotland, for the position of Sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire. Between 1801 and 1806, Charlotte gave birth to three more children; Walter, Anne and Charles. The growing in size of the family meant Scott had to find more sizable accommodation and so built 39 Castle Street in Edinburgh’s New Town. It was this house that was to become Scott’s winter residence. Scott was to also have properties in Lasswade on the banks of the River Esk and also Ashestiel near Selkirk but he eventually found a prized home in Cartley Hole Farm near Melrose, which he was to rename Abbotsford.

Scott the Writer

Since childhood, Scott had maintained a strong interest in the literary world. He wrote his own poetry as well as collecting celebrated works by Shakespeare and Fielding. At university he formed the Poetry Society and was an avid member of the Literary Society. His position as the Sheriff-depute allowed him considerable time to work on his poems and novels and also gave him ample time to collect various ballads pertaining to the Borders. Regarded as his first major piece of work, ‘The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’ was published in 1800 though it wasn’t until the release of ‘The Lady of the Last Minstrel’ in 1805 that he was to find popular acclaim. Scott’s status as a writer was rising and demand grew for his works. ‘Marmion’ was published in 1807 selling 28,000 copies over three years. It was followed three years later by ‘The Lady of the Lake’ which broke all previous sales records and proved his popularity in Britain as well as the United States of America.

The Waverley Novels

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First edition of “Waverley”

In 1814, Walter Scott published his first novel Waverley. This was to become a series of novels, each depicting periods of Scotland’s history. Scott’s romantic view of Scottish history gave rise to the boom in tourism throughout the Victorian period as his books became popular with new audiences. The ‘Waverley’ novels, as they became known, spanned 28 books including well known titles such as ‘The Heart of Midlothian’, ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Rob Roy’. The last volume was published in 1831 shortly before his death. Scott published most of his works alongside his childhood friend James Ballantyne, whom he met at Sandyknowe. Scott became a silent partner in Ballatyne’s publishing company, successfully encouraging him to move his works from Kelso to Edinburgh. It was a business relationship that saw Ballantyne become his publisher and editor.

Financial Ruin

Due in part to Scott’s passion for his home at Abbotsford, which he frequently extended and renovated, he built up sizeable levels of debt. He would have lost Abbotsford had he not signed over ownership to his son. To raise vital funds he sought advancement in royalties for books not yet published. This was a risky strategy that paid off as his popularity as a writer continued into the late 1820s.

Visit of George IV

In 1822 King George IV made the first visit to Edinburgh by any monarch since the mid-17th century. As a baronet, awarded for the discovery of the ‘Honours of Scotland’ in 1818, Sir Walter Scott was instrumental in organising the royal visit, promoting the best of what Scotland had to offer. It was during this visit that the wearing of the kilt once again became popular.

Scott’s Death

In May 1826, Scott’s wife, Charlotte, died. He channelled his energies into his writing to pay off debts amounting to £140,000. This was to the detriment of his health. In the final years of his life he suffered a stroke and haemorrhaging as the strain of his personal life and his finances took hold. Sir Walter Scott died on the 21st of September 1832 and was buried next to his wife at Dryburgh Abbey. His debts were eventually paid off following posthumous sales of his novels and collections of poetry.

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Scott Monument, under construction 1844

Sir Walter Scott remembered

In the years following his death, a subscription was raised for the building of a national monument to honour Scott as one of Scotland’s greatest writers. Designed by George Meikle Kemp, the Scott Monument was opened in August 1844.

“And come he slow, or come he fast, It is but death who comes at last.” Sir Walter Scott, ‘Marmion’ (1808)

 

 

 

Image © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Historic Environment Scotland, The City of Edinburgh Council, Special Collections-Glasgow University Library | Licensor Scran

The Glorious Twelfth

11th August 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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The Glorious 12th refers to the date – 12 August – when the grouse shooting season begins in Scotland. There is usually substantial competition to get the first birds to the tables of expensive restaurants in London and other major cities in the United Kingdom

The grouse is perhaps the game bird most associated with rural Scotland. The red grouse – the one that is usually hunted – is medium-sized with a plump body and a short tail. There are four related grouse: the capercaillie, a rarely seen large black bird; the black grouse; the red grouse and the ptarmigan.

Environment

The red grouse thrives in heather moorlands and although populations fluctuate from year to year, there is some stability for hunting as much grouse shooting occurs on managed estates where grouse are reared for this purpose. The heather is usually burned in a rota to manage the grouse moors. Birds prefer to eat young heather shoots and burning the heather encourages new growth. A well managed grouse moor has, therefore, short heather, sufficient to provide both cover and food for the birds. Newly hatched grouse, on managed estates, may be reared in boxes.

Heyday

00440388 (1)The heyday of shooting parties at lodges was in Victorian times. Shooting grouse has been a popular sport among the upper class since the 1820s. Hunting, especially grouse shooting and deer stalking became very fashionable from 1852 influenced by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria’s trips north which caused a craze for all things Highland.

The Balmoral estate was bought in 1852 by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria at their own expense as a Highland retreat from the stresses of London life. Prince Albert initiated many improvements, including the building of a new holiday home, Balmoral Castle, in 1853-5. Prince Albert’s passion was deer stalking, and during his stay at Balmoral Castle, he hunted every morning.09140042

Many Highland landowners took advantage of the trend and used their vast tracts of land to attract the attention of wealthy English visitors. The Highlands were covered in large shooting lodges which were used for shooting parties. Many of them now lie unused and in ruins. However, grouse-shooting remains a popular sport in many areas of Scotland and is enjoyed by locals and visitors who can take part in organised shooting parties.

Organisation

06710064Organising grouse shooting requires a fair amount of people. During the year, the gamekeepers manage the estate and undertake the rearing of the grouse. In addition, there are ghillies, beaters, picker-ups and kennelmen.

The gamekeeper organises the shoot and looks after the guns. The beaters beat the grouse out of the heather towards the guns. Huntsmen are often arranged in groups at grouse butts which are made from timber or stones with turf camouflage. Such hides are used by the huntsmen who lie in wait to shoot wild grouse. Picker-ups have highly trained gun dogs that retrieve the birds when they plummet to the ground. The gun dogs are usually labradors or retrievers, but springer spaniels, cocker spaniels, German pointers and vizslas were also used. The dogs are trained to hold the birds in their mouths without damaging them and to release the birds to the handler or gamekeeper.

Hanging

09232051 (1)Traditionally wild birds are hung before plucking, drawing and cleaning ie innards still intact. They are suspended by the neck in a cool, airy place, to tenderise the meat and develop flavour as the deterioration process begins. Opinions vary on how long to hang a bird or whether to hang game at all but 3-5 days appears typical. Today, for hygiene reasons, game birds damaged by shot are often prepared quickly.

Competitive Delivery

08939966An example of the often outrageous methods employed to get the first grouse to restaurants is shown at right. Tom Dickson parachuted into the grounds of the Gleneagles Hotel in 1973 with the first brace of grouse, shot on the Glorious 12th.

 

 

 

 

Image © University of Dundee Archive Services, Hulton Getty, National Trust for Scotland,  National Museums of Scotland – Scottish Life Archive, The Scotsman  Licensor Scran

Beltane Festival & May Day

25th April 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

The term Beltane is thought to mean bright fire. The festival’s origins lie in Scotland’s distant past when people lived by herding animals. They marked the seasons with community celebrations. Beltane signified the transition from Spring to Summer.

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Before banks had holidays or even the advent of Christianity, there has been a festival held at the start of May to celebrate the first day of summer. Early agricultural peoples across Europe used seasonal indicators like the flowering hawthorn to mark the start of the summer in northern Europe. For the early farmers, summer was a time of warmth and plenty of food between the winter and before the hard harvest work, a great excuse for a party.

Paganism Plagiarism

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Minister conducting a May Day service, Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

When the first Christians arrived in Britain to spread their faith, they used many of the existing customs as a foundation. Major Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter fall near important dates on the solar calendar like winter solstice and spring equinox. By incorporating familiar holidays and symbols, Christian missionaries could encourage piety without asking their converts to stop their fun or completely change their society. Even today, services are held at the top of Arthur’s Seat as the sun comes up over Edinburgh on May 1st. Images of the pagan symbol of rebirth and renewal, like the Green Man who is particularly associated with Beltane, have been included in Christian gravestones for centuries.

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Green Man screaming in panic

Bring Back the Best Bits

This basic need for a holiday still holds true today. In our increasingly hectic world, people are becoming more curious about their ancient ancestors and customs. Revivals of pagan celebrations of the seasons are becoming popular, and sometimes spectacular events.

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Green Man in the Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle

In Edinburgh, a contemporary Beltane Fire Festival is held on Calton Hill on the evening before 1st May to mark the beginning of summer. This variant of the Beltane festival was started in 1988 by enthusiasts, with academic support from the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Since then it has become an immensely popular event in the city’s calendar, drawing on a variety of historical, mythological and literary influences including the Green Man and the May Queen.

Beltane celebrates fertility and the earth’s ripe abundance. Various rites were performed to ensure the fertility of nature and the fires were believed to purify and protect against plague and epidemics. Modern day Beltane festivals are mainly for public entertainment.

The Victorians

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Peebles First Beltane Queen – Friday 23rd June 1899

The Victorians also realised the value of a celebration for the whole community and began ‘reviving’ local customs in towns across Britain, like the Riding of Marches in Peebles to define the town’s boundaries. Here the Beltane originally celebrated the advent of the Summer Solstice in May and in folklore was a Celtic festival devoted to Baal, the God of Fire.

The modern celebration, marking midsummer, is primarily a children’s festival and incorporates the Riding of the Marches. In 1899, the first Beltane Queen was crowned with all due pomp and ceremony, moving the celebration to mid June. The Peebles Beltane Festival continues into the 21st century bringing tourism to the town.

Images © Scottish Media Group, National Museums Scotland,  Beltane Fire Society & Gerry McCann, Historic Environment Scotland, Collection of Bert Robb & Eric Stevenson  Licensor Scran

Battle of Culloden

12th April 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

10100018The battle at Culloden was fought on the 16th April 1746 and was the last major battle to be fought on British soil. It is commonly believed to have been a battle between the Scottish and the English, but in reality Scottish and English fought on both sides.

Background

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Portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1720-1788

King James the VII of Scotland and II of England, a Stuart King, fled Britain for France in 1648. The Scottish and English Parliaments asked William of Orange to rule Britain. He accepted, which led to the Hanover family ruling Britain. James VII’s son tried to win the throne back and failed and his son Charles Edward Stuart or Bonnie Prince Charlie was determined that he would succeed where his father had failed. Living in France he stirred up French support and headed back to Scotland to rally the Stuart supporters. These supporters gave themselves a collective name ‘Jacobites’ from Jacobus, the Latin for James.

While the Stuarts were in France, the Scottish and English parliaments had joined. They ruled Britain closely with the King, George II, and were opposed to the Stuarts regaining the throne. Bonnie Prince Charlie found many supporters both in the Highlands and among English Catholics. But their numbers did not amount to the scale of the army that the Jacobites needed. The Jacobites fought several battles. Culloden proved to be the last.

The Night Before

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Redcoats arrive on Culloden moor

The Duke of Northumberland commanded the Government troops. They arrived in Nairn on April 15th 1746, the Duke’s 25th Birthday. To celebrate the men were all given brandy. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army at Culloden decided to use an old trick and sneak up on the Government forces and attack at night. This would give them a huge advantage over the sleepy and hung-over Government men. This should have proved to be a winning move, but moving large amounts of men across dark, marshy moorland was problematic. Dawn was rising before the Jacobites had reached their enemies and, as the element of surprise would be lost in daylight, they turned back. On arrival back at Culloden the men were exhausted and hungry, but rest was not an option as enemy forces were already approaching.

The Battle

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Clan mass grave on Culloden Battlefield

The Jacobite army was around 7,000 strong. It was outnumbered by the Government troops whose numbers were around 8,000. The Jacobites were already disadvantaged: not only were they exhausted and hungry but they lacked training and their weaponry was far inferior to the Government’s artillery. The battleground was marshy and uneven with thick grasses growing underfoot.

The armies faced each other and the Jacobites slowly advanced, waiting to be given the order to break into the infamous Highland Charge. Some of the Government troops separated and headed for the Jacobites’ right flank. While a small part of the Jacobite army broke off to protect its right flank the rest continued their advance towards the enemy. This strategy relied on the Jacobites advancing in line formation, but the uneven ground meant the flanks to the far right moved faster than the rest and lines were broken up.

The order for the Highland Charge to begin was given far too late. The right flankers were almost on top of the Government troops. The Jacobites didn’t stand a chance. Government troops simply fired into the massed Jacobites. Many were dead before they even charged. Others fled the battlefield and those who stayed to fight were easily cut-down. Around 1,500 Jacobites were killed that day. The Jacobites themselves only killed 50 of the Government’s men. The entire battle lasted less than an hour.

After the Battle008736

The defeat of the Jacobites was a bitter blow for Bonnie Prince Charlie. His supporters were willing to fight for him again and gathered to plan their next move. But the Prince ordered them to disperse. He went into hiding and fled to France. The Government wanted to punish anyone who had supported the Stuart claim to the throne. Many of the Jacobites were from Highland Clans. The Government stripped clan chiefs of their power, weapons were taken from their owners and the kilt and tartan were banned.

Culloden Today

02750076Today there is a visitor centre at Culloden Moor. Visitors can learn about the Jacobite cause, the battle and the people and weapons involved. There is also an immersive, film projected onto four walls, which creates an illusion for visitors that they are actually on the battlefield during the action of the battle. The battlefield itself is maintained and protected and visitors can walk around it with an interactive guide.

 

Image © National Trust for Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland & Historic Environment Scotland | Licensor Scran