For Scots, this day reeks of blood, sweat and tears.
Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746, when the Jacobite uprising of the Scottish Highlanders was smashed by the English.
Culloden was the beginning of the end for the distinct Scottish way of life. The Clearances followed it. In today’s language, they would be called the ethnic clearing of Scotland’s aboriginal peoples.
I’m a nomadic mutt – a first-generation Canadian who is mostly Scots, with a muddled mix of Scandinavian, Welsh, and English connections, plus a few strands of DNA from other Western European sources. My perspective on Scottish sovereignty is as muddled as my bloodlines, especially the Scottish parts which consist of Lowlanders and Highlanders, and ancestors among both Jacobite and English fighters.
But there’s nothing at all muddled about the enduring horror of the slaughter of Culloden. The battlefield, like history’s many other blood-soaked fields, symbolizes loss.
Culloden left vast swaths of scorched land. The Highlands were enclosed. The lands were infested by monarchy, from the idiotic and foppish Prince Charles Stuart to the venal arrogant English lords. Scottish culture was divided by the banal, evil, misplaced loyalties of fighters who blindly followed leaders into disaster or atrocity.
Culloden raged long ago, but it’s not done with us. In one short generation we’ll hit the 300 year anniversary of Culloden – and Scottish people continue to fight over independence from the English. Another referendum is the key issue in Scotland’s Parliamentary election in May. This time there’s a strong likelihood the independence party will win a majority and demand a referendum of the recalcitrant government of the disUnited Kingdom.
Since Culloden, hordes of Scotland’s peoples have left, by force or willingly, to join diasporas all over the world. Our genes and identities have merged with others, our languages and linkages are now fragile threads.
Our memories, however, survive. Their red stain that continues to spread.
Top, Painting by David Morier (1705?–1770) – Royal Collection Trust, Public Domain
Bottom: My visit in 2007 to Falkland Hill in Fife, the hill where my mother played as a child and where, at her request, we scattered her ashes more than 20 years ago.