Plans to commemorate
the activities of the Duke
Cumberland's troops in
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1746 are in the worst
taste. Alistair Campsie
Some of the blimpish White
Settlers would love to get
togged up like redcoats, but
whether decent Highlanders
would dream of doing so is
another bag of bannocks
THE cover-up tale was devised almost certainly at the Duke of
Cumberland's headquarters in the townhouse of Rose of Kilravock at
Nairn, which earned the royal prince for all time the epithet of
It was his 25th birthday, which his fresh and well-fed troops
celebrated with extra rations of brandy and cheese as they lay in tented
ranks to the west of the town, provisioned by the fleet of ships which
sailed along the coast as the Hanoverian army marched from Aberdeen.
''Billy,'' his troops shouted in adoration as he passed. ''Billy, Billy,
The tale spun down from headquarters, where the foul-mouthed and
guttural Dutchman, the Earl of Albemarle, consorted with the duke,
himself a German who could only speak broken English. Through brigade
the tale spun, down to battalion and company level, when the incensed
brute soldiery licked their lips with hate and swore they would teach
these bare-arsed Highland swine the lesson of their ill-begotten and
And so they did, shaming the British Army for ever more. No British
regiment later carried the battle-honour of ''Culloden'' on their
colours, not after their first atrocities were exposed to an incredulous
world, but that came much later.
The tale was simple, deadly, and most calculated to cause fury and the
need for revenge. The clan army of the Jacobites, now forced to stand
and fight at Culloden, intended to murder their prisoners -- and even
No such order was ever found in the captured Jacobites' ''orderly
books'', but what instead had been captured were the written orders,
issued on February 20, 1746, at Perth to a Campbell company commander:
''It is the Duke of Cumberland's orders that . . . such of the rebels as
may be found in arms, you are to take Prisoner and if any of them make
resistance, you are to attack them providing their numbers do not exceed
yours. And it is his Royal Highness's orders that you give them no
quarter'' (i.e. murder them in cold blood).
There it is, then. Stand military truth on its head when you are in
danger of being caught out and blame your own atrocities on the actions
of your enemies. The Nazi Germans were adept at the propaganda device.
The historical situation worsens. The day after the battle, April 17,
1746, Hanoverian troops sent out to Drumossie to bury their dead
comrades, reported that rebels still survived in the stacks of bodies.
The same evening, the Butcher's General Orders stated: ''A Captain and
50 foot to march directly and visit all cottages in the neighbourhood of
the field of battle, and to search for rebels.
''The officers and men will take notice that the Public orders of the
rebels yesterday were to give us no quarter.''
As Fitzroy MacLean stated in his book, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the
allegation ''was in fact untrue''. If the orderly books did exist, the
contents have never been published to my knowledge, yet the gleeful
Hanoverians would have been delighted in making them public, had they
found them, to justify their genocidal actions.
The first murder squads, to their eternal military shame, were from
the Royal Scots, allegedly shouting ''Billy'' as they marched out for
revenge on the near-dead. Other regiments were ordered to join in.
Jacobite officers were propped against walls and shot from six feet.
Others were tricked into coming out of their hiding places by the
Redcoats on the pretext of having their wounds dressed. They too were
shot at close range.
The cottages where others were concealed were torched and the wounded
burned alive. Their screams were mimicked by the soldiery outside,
pretending to screech in agony.
Indeed, the duke bragged in his official account of the ''battle''
that he had ''made a great slaughter and gave quarter to none but about
50 French officers and soldiers''. It could only have meant his troops
had earlier been ordered to spare the French, but murder the Scots
Jacobites under the command of his upstart Papist cousin, Prince Charles
Edward Stuart, who was trying to wrench the crown of Britain from the
head of Cumberland's own father. The motivation was revoltingly obvious.
Now the good people of Nairn, through its district council, are to
re-create the Butcher's pre-battle headquarters in the town, fittingly
in a disused stable-block -- although some might think an abandoned
slaughter-house would be more appropriate -- as some sort of grotesque
and necrophilic tourist attraction.
The concept is the brainchild, if that is not too insulting a
description, of a Lt.-Col. Philip Halford-MacLeod, who runs a business
calling itself Living History in Scotland, which was commissioned by the
Inverness and Nairn Local Enterprise Companies to devise a #2.75 million
plan to do the tourist business for the 250th anniversary of Culloden.
Among his other suggestions to the local LECs are a company of
Redcoats recruited from students at Inverness College to tour the
streets of Inverness, providing ''tourist management and historical
interpretation''. These students, hopefully trilingual in German, Dutch,
and the Queen's English, are also to man the facsimile of Billy the
Butcher's HQ at Nairn. A so-called ''time capsule'' of the guardroom at
Inverness Castle is promised, while a ''five-man touring group depicting
Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald'' is to hit the road.
When Mr Halford-MacLeod recently went to Moray Firth Radio to explain
his plans, a Highland woman phoned in to say his plummy English voice
gave her ''the heebie-jeebies'', especially when a person who spoke with
such an accent was planning to commemorate Prince Charles Edward
His reply was that he was a diplomat's son ''sent to boarding school
in England where they taught me the Queen's English . . . and I will not
apologise for that, because everyone listening should understand me.''
He insisted he was a Scot from Harris.
Mr Halford-MacLeod and his family have close associations with the
MacLeods of Dunvegan, deeply engrossed in a multi-million pound tourist
His brother, Ruairidh, is president of a ''travel tour company'', was
editor of the Clan MacLeod magazine and is a vice-president of the Clan
MacLeod Society of Scotland. Their father, Aubrey, was for many years
vice-president of the clan society.
Now, while it is true that the MacLeods of Dunvegan and the Skye
MacDonalds wore the Butcher's red coats and Campbell tartan kilts during
the '45, it is equally true that they did not fight for him at Culloden
against the prince. Much to Cumberland's displeasure, they had run away
again, when their commander caustically asserted: ''I owe that I never
expected much assistance from them.''
It could well be that Mr Halford-MacLeod may want to dress his
volunteers in Hanoverian red coats out of family sentiment, but as an
Inverness observer put it: ''He might find some of the more blimpish
White Settlers would love to get togged up like that, but whether decent
young Highlanders would dream of doing so is another bag of bannocks.''
The first time the MacLeods ran away was on December 23, 1745, at
Inverurie, when the rank-and-file claimed they had fled because they had
been tricked by their chief into thinking they were to fight for the
prince. To get them off Skye, Norman MacLeod of MacLeod had issued them
with the prince's white cockades to wear on their bonnets, but they were
later forced to throw them down and stick the Hanoverians' red cross,
worn saltire-wise, in their hats.
They ran away at the Rout of Moy when 1500 men under Lord Loudon tried
to capture the prince on February 16, 1746, but were put to flight by
five men, including the local blacksmith, who ran about in the darkness
firing off shots and shouting different clan slogans. The MacLeods' and
MacDonalds' companies also took to their heels when they heard Prince
Charles's pipers play briskly at the gates of Inverness and, accompanied
by Lord Loudon and Lord President Forbes, to whom MacLeod and MacDonald
had already betrayed the prince in writing, landed back in Skye with 800
troops before Culloden was fought, after refusing Cumberland's orders to
embark for the Banffshire coast.
The main reason for the chiefs' treachery was that they had been
trapped in selling about 100 of their ''clans'' people into slavery in
the Americas in 1739 (now they bring them back in cruise ships) but were
never prosecuted, and were thereafter the Lord President's things.
To ingratiate themselves with the Butcher, the Skye MacLeods and
MacDonalds returned on Cumberland's orders to the mainland on April 23,
a week after Culloden, and burnt out and destroyed Glenmoriston, whose
folk had sheltered the prince. ''Our country,'' said an eyewitness,
''blame the laird of MacLeod more than any other for this piece of
military execution . . . (and) insisted upon it as a meritorious piece
of service, fit to recommend them to the good graces of the Duke of
The red-coated MacLeod militia fired on Flora MacDonald, Prince
Charles, who was dressed as a woman, and the old pilot, Donald MacLeod,
as they tried to land on Skye, and the same militia later destroyed the
Isle of Raasay in their barbarous hunt for the prince and the blood
money on his head. He had been hidden there one night, and in revenge
they flogged, tortured, raped (even a crippled girl on crutches was
raped), mutilated cattle, stove in all the boats, burned all the houses,
and stole the remaining livestock, leaving the shelterless islanders to
It was their senior captain, MacLeod of Tallisker, who betrayed Flora
MacDonald and she was then imprisoned on the torture ship, HMS
Furnace-Bomb, commanded by the odious Fergusson, while the MacLeod
chief, known as The Wicked Man, tried in writing to blackmail MacDonald
of Kingsburgh (Flora's future father-in-law) into betraying the prince
for ''the #30,000 of English gold'' and ''aggrandise your family beyond
many in Scotland''.
So much for the obnoxious fable spread by the chiefs, whose faces were
as scarlet as the red coats they wore for Butcher Cumberland, falsely
alleging that ''no-one of high or low birth would betray the prince''
for the #30,000 reward.
Now, how does the ''historical'' video of Dunvegan, from ''an idea''
by Ian Grimble, the BBC historian, and glowingly narrated by the chief
himself, treat these scandalous episodes? Why, it leaves them out.
The wounded Jacobite prisoners, who had surivived the post-battle
slaughter, were flung into the jails, halls, and kirks of Inverness,
denied all medical attention, and left to rot and die of gas gangrene,
while the Jacobite surgeons had their instruments taken off them and
were warned not to treat their wounded on pain of their own death. The
eventual survivors were forced, many naked, with broken limbs and open
wounds, and all starving, through the streets of Inverness in a
grotesque ''Victory Parade'', then thrown on to the ballast stones in
the holds of the prison ships anchored in the Firth, where their
treatment was unspeakable. The final survivors were shipped to the hulks
at Tilbury, and many were sold off as white slaves to the West Indies.
My father was organist and choirmaster at Croy Kirk, east of Culloden,
in the late 1920s, and when he cycled home past the clan graves he came
to believe the moor was still haunted by the spirits of the dead
He had been in action in France less than a decade earlier, and had
seen his share of death. For these reasons he brought me up to
understand, like older generations, that Culloden was not only a field
of battle, but a vast war grave, and should be treated with reverence.
How unpleasant that others seem not to, in pursuit of the fast buck of
[CPYR] The Piper's Press, 1994.