United Kingdom
Strath Nairn

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  • Day23

    Day 23: Culloden and Fort George

    April 27, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    Woke up this morning to my alarm at 730 and dozed until near 8 thinking that would be when everyone would gather. That wasn't quite the case, with everyone off on their own directions, but we eventually gathered around 930 to set of for the Culloden Battlefield and to learn about the battle, the Jacobites, and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

    The visitors centre, which didn't exist when mumba come through 40 years ago, was set up in a really interesting way. As you followed the corridor around, the story for the side of the Jacobites was on the right hand wall, and the story for the government, as they called it, was on he left hand side. So you could read both, or you could read a very one sided tale. But the fact that, that was possible was a very interesting and complete way of setting up a visitors centre.

    At one point a person dressed up in a kilt (a plaid), and a calico shirt, camethrough p let people know f a presentation about to start. Everyone ended up joining in addition was a tale of the highlanders and how the common people got involved, what their weaponry was, and a little on how they would have dressed.

    The chieftain alone made the decision to follow the Jacobites or the government. He put a trusted friend, possibly a cousin as all in a clan were likely related, in charge of the 'army'. This person then recruited the common folk who, if they said no, would have had their house taken off them, their land taken off them, theirselves beaten and then made to join the army and march war anyway.

    One man mentioned that their had been a lot of battles before Culloden, and all had been won by BPC. So likely, even the men had more than just their dirk as weaponry,

    The dirk is a long bladed, mostly single blade except for 10cm at the tip that was double edged. Every single man woman and hold would have owned one of these. The dirk was meat knife, slicing knife, tree branch removal device, scrub clearer etc. It was used everyday by everyone older than about three years.

    If a man had a (shield-i can't recall the Scottish word), he would hole his dirk in is shield hand, where the tip would stick out and still be able to stab and slice and blood drain a man. If we was lucky, he also had a sword in his right hand. This sword had a cover around the hand area, which could also be used to bash someone. The sword also contained a pommel at the end with the hand grip. This could be used to donk someone, as well as make a hell of a racket bashing it against your shield as you take off across the battlefield and emerge through a cloud of muscat smoke. The musket smoke came from the first line of guys who ran quite close to the opposing side, fired one shot and dropped their weapon in order for the noise and attack to surprise their target.

    The plaid, or kilt to us foreigners, was very long and reasonably wide. It reminded me very much of a saree. Having just come from India, and having to wear one, it is a long process if you don't know what you are doing! Having said that, I don't think it is done quite the same way these days. I believe it is more skirt like.
    I think plaid would have been about 1.5m wide and maybe 8-10m long, and it was Heavy! It would have been laid out on the floor or pegged on the wall, the pleats put in, then wrapped around yourself and over your sholder. I think the last part is correct, which is very very similar to how the saree's are done.

    After the presentation I headed into the video room. It was quite intense. There were four walls, all showing a different picture. You, standing in the middle, where in the middle of the battlefield. So to the front were the Jacobites and to the back, were the government troops. He two side panels alternated depending on the point of view. At times the Jacobites were closer (as in zoomed in to an important part), and at other times it was the government troops turn. It was difficult because you could watch the whole thing and you were constantly turning around, but I guess that would have been watching a small part of battle would have felt like.

    Then it was time to brave the moor and it was far more grave and solemn than I had, even remotely, expected. I had expected more factual markers, and not really any grave sites. The first sign you came to on the walk out, was one that said, this is a war graves area, please show the site the respect it deserves, or something to that effect. And that was most of the moor. There were some signs that told you a little, such as here was were the Jacobites fired their muskets for the first time. And it did depict where each platoon was stationed at the beginning of that battle. I think this was the case for both sides, but I only noticed it for the Jacobites. A cycle of interesting things:
    1. There were standing stones for each mass grave of the Jacobites to tell you where they were buried; Clan Cameron, Clan MacDonald etc, and then there were a few standing stones that simply said 'Mixed Clans'.
    2. There were a number of flags set out across the moor. The red ones to indicate the position of the government troops, and the blue ones to indicate the starting position of the Jacobites. If you are looking from he Jacobites side, the far left was a very deep, very wet bog. Apparently up close to knee depth, and therefore slowed down that side of the attacking force of Jacobites. The right hand side was on more slid ground and advanced quickly. They killed practically all of two 'platoons'(?) but then the second line, behind the first, we pushed into position and the Jacobites were not ready. The guys in the bog basically got slaughtered. There were ~1500 Jacobites killed, and ~50 government troops.

    It took on a whole new feel when you realise those slain were buried there, and though there is nothing left of them, people do treck to Culloden to follow up on family links and some pay their respects to their clan stones, their standing stones.

    In the gift shop there was an entire library's worth of books I could have bought. So instead, I decided to takephotos and just get them when I get home!!

    We headed then to Inverness to try and get a go at curling. He man had not replied since his very helpful, I'm sure we can help you email of a year ago. They were decidedly unhelpful and basically said no. And there was skating practice later so no one could use the ice.

    We took stock and headed for Nairn in the open of finding a butcher, which we did. The woman in there was the nicest person we had met since stopping in Inverness/this see of Scotland. She was chatty and asking us about our trip and it was just wonderful to sort of know that the lovely people of the West did exist in the east. Alison keeps saying that's the east or something, and honestly not really allowing us to form our own opinions, I haven't particularly spoken to many people on his side so can't really say much. But she was lovely.

    Then e went back to Cawdor, dropped our food and tried to get into Cawdor Castle. It appears unlikely but Alison was going to call them anyway. It is now 7pm and I don't think she did it, so we will see what happens there.

    We hen headed out to Fort George. I had hoped to try and find the Highland Museum, but we only found the Fort George barracks, which are still an operating barracks. We got to use or Explorer Pass with the Historic Scotland, and since it was 430pm, the lady in there was lovely and said she wouldn't stamp it, as we didn't have much time remaining to have a look. They started closing things at 5, and closed he front gates at 530pm. Faj and I made it out at 20 past!

    The ins that stood out for me where:
    1. The dolphins I saw in the harbour which were bottlenose dolphins. I saw a lot of arching of backs, and one rose up and kicked it's tail out behind it!
    2. The fact that it was a working barracks and the guys were still living in he buildings we were wandering around and staring at! I saw a few guys walking around, or standing around. It was everyday unnerving. Not that Thu are police and I thought I would go in trouble, but in general he armed forces of most countries are rather secretive, and it felt like I was either being let in on something amazing, or I shouldn't be there.
    3. There was a set up in changing living quarters through the ages. In he earlier days, 1700s, there were 8 men to a room, 4 double beds. They had to get thee rations from stores and cook their own meals. One in a hundred men were allowed get married and they got to share a bed and they got he added bonus of a privacy curtain, but of course, children were then living in the barracks. The women got half rations for helping out. Then in the 1800s, there were separate married quarters, and then men were sharing 5 to a room, all in single beds. They also had the added bonus of having a common mess area, and therefore didn't have to cook their own food. This apparently gave them double there 100 year previous counterparts enjoyed. It weirdly looked sparser and less homely and comforting. I wonder if they found he same thing? There was also an officers room who fitted years wise inbetween the other two rooms. It was very sparse ut had two windows instead of one, a full double bed with drawable curtains, a couple of chairs in which to sites and have a whisky as well as a table. He was on the same tenterhooks as his men, and barely got paid enough to keep him as was expected of his station.
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Strath Nairn

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