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 a distinct way of life. The Clearances followed – in today’s language, they might be called the ethnic clearing of Scotland’s aboriginal peoples.
As a nomadic mutt – a first-generation Canadian who is half-Scots, half muddled-up Welsh/English – my perspective on Scottish sovereignty is muddled. Even the Scottish half of me is muddled: a mix of Lowlanders and Highlanders, with the boldest line in my own heritage running through Clan Buchan of Loch Lomand – whose members included both Jacobite and English fighters.
There’s nothing muddled about the enduring horror of the slaughter of Culloden. The battlefield, and history’s many other blood-soaked fields, symbolizes our lost ways.
Placing blame for Culloden leaves a wide swath of scorched land: change in the Highlands life including enclosures; monarchy by its very nature; the idiotic foppish Prince Charles Stuart; the venal arrogant English; the banally evil, misplaced, loyalty of fighters anywhere who blindly follow leaders into disaster or atrocity.
But while Culloden raged long ago, it’s not over. In one short generation we’ll hit the 300 year anniversary of Culloden – and yet Scottish people continue to fight for 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 countless of Scotland’s peoples have left, by forced or willingly, to join diasporas all over the world. Our genes and identities have merged with others, our languages and linkages are fragile threads.
Our memory, however, survives, a red stain that continues to grow.
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.
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