THE year was 1745, a time made famous by the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie fighting for their freedom against the Red Coats. But now a new film about slavery in Scotland shows that one of the biggest - but now forgotten - fights for freedom that year came from two African sister, who were runaway slaves in the Highlands.
The film - called simply 1745 - challenges the romantic and "over-simplified" stories of oppressed Scots, and shines a light on slaves and their Scottish owners. It is already being described as a Scottish version of the Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave.
1745 is written by Scots Nigerian Morayo Akandé, who along with her sister Moyo will play the two slave girls. The film is based on newspaper adverts placed by merchants appealing for information about their "property" after the slaves they had brought back from the West Indies escaped their clutches.
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1745 tells the story of Emma and Rebecca Atkin, sisters taken as slaves from Nigeria to the West Indies as children in the early 18th century, who are brought back to Scotland by their "predatory" master. They later flee to the Highlands, pursued by their master.
The short film, commissioned by the Scottish Film Talent Network, will be shot near Glencoe. Producers expect to unveil it at international film festivals next spring, with hopes that the story could later be developed into a feature film or TV series.
According to emerging research nearly 30 per cent of slave owners in Jamaican estates were Scots. It is estimated that at least 70-100 slaves were brought back to Scotland, along with profits from sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations used to fund Scottish industries, schools, churches and residencies in areas such as Glasgow's Merchant City.
New research being carried out by Professor Simon Newman, along with Dr Stephen Mullen and Nelson Mundell at Glasgow University, reveals there were many hundreds of black runaway slaves in 18th century Great Britain, especially at the Atlantic ports of Bristol, Liverpool, London and Glasgow.
The academic team behind Runaway Slaves in Britain: Bondage, Race and Freedom in the Eighteenth-Century, who are advising on the film, have found dozens of Scottish examples in newspapers and legal records.
Morayo Akandé, writer and actress, was first inspired by the story of Joseph Knight, an African slave taken to Jamaica and brought back to Scotland by his master in 1769. He escaped three years later but won his battle for freedom in the Court of Session, a landmark case that questioned the legality of owning slaves in Scotland.
Akandé then discovered dozens of 18th century cases, including that of a young boy who fled to the Highlands, and two sisters who escaped in London, which shocked and intrigued her.
"It's certainly not something you learn at school," she said. "We deliberately picked the year 1745, which is associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion but we wanted to make the point that there were other people in Scotland who were also fighting for their freedom at that time.
"Scotland is now a lot better than it was when I was growing up as the only black family in Pollok in the nineties. Yet this story is still very hidden. I hope the film helps open up questions so that we can start understanding black history in Scotland. We are still pretending that we had no part in the slave trade."
Director Gordon Napier claimed the film would challenge people's historical understanding of the period. He added: "I think there’s a very simplified national narrative of that era which is all too widely accepted, one that has been censored or simply had its complexities forgotten, buried beneath the more obvious narrative of an oppressed Scotland fighting for freedom from the English.
"There are cases of Scots displaced through the Highland clearances who went abroad to America and founded some of the most ruthless tobacco and sugar plantations of the time. We thought the story of two African slaves fighting for their own freedom in a Scotland experiencing its own conflicts would be an interesting way to draw attention to the injustices of the period."
John McKay, film producer, added: "Scotland was knee deep in the slave trade. Most of Glasgow is built on the profits of sugar and tobacco. I think it's a very important and timely story for Scotland, as we're exploring the diversity of who we are now, to remember our part in the history of slavery."
Dr Stephen Mullan, a former researcher for the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights who also wrote 'It Wisnae Us: The truth about Glasgow and Slavery', said: "The film has the potential to increase knowledge and understanding of British slave ownership in the metropolis including Scottish ownership of and profiting from enslaved people as well as how many resisted bondage through escape."