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THE BUTCHER'S TANGLED HOOK

Plans to commemorate

the activities of the Duke

Cumberland's troops in

1746 are in the worst

taste.

Loading article content

Alistair Campsie

explains why

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 ''Butcher''.

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, 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 treacherous lives.

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 worse.

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 Stuart's destruction.

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 investment.

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 Cumberland''.

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 starve.

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 Highlanders.

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 tourism.

[CPYR] The Piper's Press, 1994.

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