Natural History of Culloden

Culloden Moor is a very special location. Not only is it the site of the last pitched land battle fought in the British Isles; but it and the surrounding area act as an important refuge for countless species of plants and animals. Culloden benefits from featuring a multitude of habitats – each with their own unique flora and fauna. Today we shall take a look at these habitats, learn about some of the creatures that inhabit them, and the conservation work undertaken on the moor to ensure that the battlefield remains not just a place for memory, but an important ecological refuge for many rare species.

The first main habitat to look at is grassland. On the day of the battle the moor was primarily used for grazing – our Shetland cows are a call back to this previous land use. Today the grassland habitat at Culloden is home to a variety of different plants: Thistle, gorse, willowherb and foxglove (some previously mentioned in our posts about medicinal plants).  In terms of animals the grassland is populated by vast numbers of insects and arachnids; when walking the battlefield particularly in spring and summer you may catch sight of a garden tiger moth caterpillar. These hairy caterpillars sometimes walk across the paths looking for more plants to munch so take care not to step on them! Garden Tiger moths have been on the decline since the 1970s so having them at Culloden is important.

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Shetland Cows at Culloden

Conservation wise perhaps the most important species in Culloden’s grassland environment is the Skylark. Chances are you will hear them before seeing them; these small birds fly as high as possible and sing as loud as they can to mark their territories. If you hear a loud bird on the moor look up and see if you can spot it. Skylark numbers have plummeted with numbers dropping 75% between the 1970s and 1990s – with threats including fewer places to nest – making them a red list species. The fact skylarks not only live but also nest on the moor makes Culloden a very important place for these rare birds.

Another important habitat on the battlefield is the quintessential bog/moorland habitat. Moorland is home to many damp-loving animals and plants like frogs and newts which frequent the ponds and pools. A personal favourite plant of mine can be found here – the horsetail. A living fossil that has been around since before the dinosaurs it gets its name from its appearance resembling the tail of a horse. 3000 million years ago Scotland was covered in huge forests of horsetail with some reaching heights of over 100 metres!

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Horsetail

This fragile habitat is at risk of a process of “succession” – where it runs the risk of turning into woodland if trees are allowed to grow unchecked. If a forest grows it will dry up the moor and the special animals and plants that live there are lost. At Culloden we help preserve this habitat and halt succession through manual work and grazing via livestock to keep the moorland healthy.

Technically we’re cheating here since this is not on Trust land but the third main habitat found on Culloden Moor is woodland. Until the Trust purchased our part of the battlefield Culloden Moor was almost completely engulfed with woodland. The Forestry Commission today manages the woodland around the battlefield, and is home to animals such as jays, roe deer and, perhaps most importantly of all, red squirrels – whose populations have plummeted following the introduction of the invasive grey squirrel from America.

Next time you visit the battlefield be sure to look out for any of our special flora and fauna that live here, and if you find anything interesting be sure to report it! Who knows what else rare, strange and special may be living here at Culloden Battlefield.

We hope you enjoyed this post. As always please like, share, comment and tweet.

All the best,

The Culloden Team

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Dundee and the Jacobites

In the past six months, we have written blog posts on Jacobite connections to the cities of Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen and Glasgow; today, here is one about Dundee.

After the deposition of James VII and II in 1688, his loyal supporters felt the need to do something to get him reinstated as King, and the Jacobite cause was born. In April 1689, the Parliament of Scotland, located in Edinburgh, declared for William and Mary. John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee, angered at the decision, marched with fifty men to the top of Dundee Law, a volcanic sill, and raised the Stuart Royal Standard. This signalled the beginning of the first Jacobite Rising.

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Dundee Law

The immediate response to Viscount Dundee raising the standard was rather unenthusiastic in the surrounding area. Dundee Law was outwith the burgh walls, and when Viscount Dundee attempted to enter Dundee, he found that the gates were locked and the walls were guarded with Government men. Despite the fact that he had just declared himself a ‘rebel’, curiously the garrison at Dundee made no attempt to capture or fight him, and so he travelled north in an effort to rally support for James.

Viscount Dundee would die at the Battle of Killiecrankie a few months later. Though the outnumbered Jacobites won against the Government troops, his absence as leader would be felt deeply. The Jacobites’ loss at the Battle of Dunkeld a month later ended the first Jacobite Rising.

In 1715, there was another rising, with the Jacobites aiming to get James’s son, James Francis Edward Stuart on the throne. The Earl of Mar proclaimed for James VIII and III at Braemar, and at first the Rising was successful, with the Jacobites holding several places, including Dundee. Their success was not to last, and by the time James Francis arrived in Scotland in December, the momentum had been lost. He visited a few places, including Dundee, in an attempt to spur people on, but soon, acknowledging that things had not worked out, he returned to France.

Following the 1715 Rising a number of Jacobite supporters lost their positions including Mr Wedderburn, the Clerk of Dundee. However, this did not stop his son John Wedderburn, revealing himself to be just as loyal to the Jacobite cause as his father had been when the 1745 Rising began. He fought with the Jacobites at Falkirk Muir and Culloden, and at the end of the latter he was arrested and moved to London for a trial.

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John Wedderburn

His signature recorded on tax receipts he collected for the Jacobites condemned him and he was sentenced to death. His young son rode to London to ask their contacts there for help in pleading for his fathers life, but tensions were high, and he was refused by them. His son also tried to convince John to dress up as a woman and attempt to escape from prison but John refused to do so. Afters months in capture John was hanged, drawn and quartered at the end of 1746.

These are just a couple of stories about the Jacobites and Dundee but we are sure there are plenty more to be found.

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All the best, The Culloden Team

 

Battlefield Plants and their Uses

In 2015 we wrote a blog post describing the uses for certain plants found on Culloden Battlefield, with particular focus on their medicinal properties; here are four more plants that can be seen at Culloden, along with information detailing what they were used for in the 18th century:

Foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea)

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Foxglove

In Gaelic the flowers are called lus nam ban-sith. This translates to ‘fairy woman’s plant’, and is a reference to the legend that the mottled markings on the inner petals are fairies’ fingerprints. Flowering between June and September, foxglove can be found on rough heath-like ground on the battlefield, towards the Jacobite line.

The leaves of foxglove were used to treat dropsy (painful swelling of the body and limbs). These leaves, usually mixed with other herbs, were chopped and taken as a drink. Foxglove contains digoxin, which slows and strengthens the muscles of the heart. It was also used to help treat arthritis and diphtheria; the leaves, mixed with butter and onion, were applied to the joints and the neck respectively.

Willow (Salix)

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Willow Tree By Jdforrester

At Culloden the willow tree grows on areas of wet ground and resembles a large bush. The Gaelic word for willow is Seileach.

The flowering willow’s sap was taken to improve vision. Willow bark contains a derivative of salicylic acid, which once powdered, was mixed with water and taken to relieve pain and reduce fever.

In addition to its medical benefits, willow was also used to tan leather, make baskets, make ropes (out of its saplings) and dye wool; the bark produces a reddish-brown colour, and the leaves produce a yellow colour.

Tormentil (Potentilla Erecta)

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Tormentil by Anne Burgess

These are small yellow flowering plants that grow on damp heathery ground. Their Gaelic name is Braonan Bachlay, which means ‘earth nut’. Tormentil flowers from June to September.

Tormentil was used for a variety of medical problems: to treat sunburn, the entire plant was boiled in water and acted as a cooling lotion; to treat a sore throat, the flowers and shoots were mixed in a drink form and gargled; to treat sore lips and gums, chewing on the root of tormentil was recommended; and the root was also used, dried or fresh, to help with stomach issues, piles and ulcers, as well as other sores.

Tormentil was also used for dying wool (its roots producing a reddish colour) and for tanning leather and making fishing nets. The roots of tormentil took a while to dig up, and so they were only used if there was no tree bark available.

Rowan (Sorbus Aucuparia)

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Rowan Tree by Eeno11

Rowan has a couple of names in Gaelic: Craobh Chaoran, which means ‘berry tree’ and Caorunn, which means ‘wood enchantress’. Rowan trees were strongly believed to ward off evil, with many people carrying a sprig about with them for protection. At Culloden, there is a Rowan tree beside Leanach Cottage.

Rowan bark, applied as a poultice, was used to treat adder bites, and mixed with apples and honey, Rowan berries were used to soothe the throat in cases of wheezing cough.

Outside of medical use, the wood was used to make dwellings (summer sheilings), coffins, sticks for urging on cattle, wheels, barrels and churns, among other things. The berries, fermented, made a juice resembling cider, and, depending on the pot they were boiled in, produced a black or orange dye.

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All the best, The Culloden Team

 

More Jacobite Women

There is information available about a number of female Jacobites. Several of these women have been featured in previous blog posts. Here are a couple more, with details about what each of them did to support the Jacobite cause.

Isabella Lumsden

Isabella came from a family of staunch Jacobites, and she was just as devoted. When a talented young artist, Robert Strange, fell in love with her, she agreed to marry him on the condition that he focus his abilities on producing works in support of the Jacobites. Robert, who had not been political before, produced pro-Jacobite engravings and fans, with one design depicting Prince Charles among Ancient Greek heroes. Isabella herself would then sell these fans to other Jacobite women.

Robert fought with the Jacobites, before being forced into hiding where he stayed in the attic at Isabella’s family home. After a few months, Government troops turned up at the door, searching for Robert. He did not have enough time to get to the attic, so Isabella sat down at the spinning wheel, lifted up her huge hooped petticoat and got Robert to climb underneath, before covering him with her skirts. She sat singing to herself, while the troops searched the house, finding no one.

A year later the two got married, and when Robert was knighted Isabella became Lady Strange. She remained a Jacobite, long after Culloden, and whenever someone spoke of the ‘Pretender’ near her, she responded, ‘Pretender? Prince, and be damned to ye!’

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Charles Edward Stuart – By Robert Strange, Isabella’s husband

Lady Nairne

Though an old woman when Prince Charles arrived in Scotland, Lady Nairne had a lot of influence over those around her. Always a committed Jacobite, the Earl of Mar had stated during the 1715 Rising that he wished that all of his men had her spirit. In 1745, a number of her sons, grandsons, nephews and sons-in-law participated in the Rising; she was quick to send men whenever one of her sons-in-law in Perth experienced trouble with Government troops.

Her daughters were also passionate about the matter. One of them, Lady Lude, developed a reputation for cruelty. She tried to bully people to join the Jacobite force, threatening to burn their homes if they did not. There were several instances where the threat was carried out and it is believed Lady Nairne was complicit in her daughter’s methods. Eventually Lady Lude was arrested, and the Government council wanted to prosecute both her and her mother. Lady Nairne wrote a letter to her Hanoverian nephew, the Duke of Atholl, asking for help and in the end both women escaped prosecution.

A descendent of Lady Nairne’s, Carolina Oliphant (who also became Lady Nairne), became a romantic Jacobite songwriter, and her works were popular with the Victorians. Her songs include The Rowan Tree, Wha’ll be King but Charlie, The Hundered Pipers and Charlie is my darling.

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Lady Nairne (senior)

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All the best, The Culloden Team

Cromarties Regiment

George Mackenzie the 3rd Earl of Cromartie, born in 1702, became the Earl after his father John Mackenzie died in 1731. During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 George Mackenzie was doubtful about joining Charles Edward Stuart in his campaign to regain the British throne for a Stuart king.

Eventually George was persuaded by kinsmen and none other than the ‘old fox’, Simon Fraser the 11th Lord Lovat, to take up arms against the government for the ‘Bonnie Prince’. Lord Lovat handed George his great-great-grandfather’s sword, entitled ‘The Triumphing Sword of the Clan Mackenzie’ telling him to support his prince and be loyal to his country.

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George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie
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John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though a lot of Mackenzie clansmen joined the government side during the ‘45 there were some Mackenzies who had a strong sense of being a Highlander, and felt they owed it to themselves and to Scotland to join George and his son John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod, in the fight for the British throne.

George and his son led 500 Jacobite Mackenzies, known as Cromartie’s Regiment, at the battle of Falkirk on the 16th of January 1746 after the return from Derby. The Mackenzies helped the Jacobites defeat the government troops, this victory also marked the last noteworthy Jacobite success during the ‘45.

After Falkirk, before Cromartie’s Regiment joined the bonnie prince on the way towards Culloden they laid waste to the lands of the Clan Munro and Clan Sutherland. They  burned Foulis Castle which was the seat of Clan Munro and captured Dunrobin Castle which was the seat of Clan Sutherland. Both Clan Munro and Sutherland supported the government during the ’45, and that made them an enemy of the Jacobites.

On the 15th of April 1746, a day before the Battle of Culloden the Earl of Cromartie was making preparations to travel back south to meet Charles Edward Stuart. Before they left they were attacked by the Mackay and Sutherland Highlanders who were supporting the government, in what later became known as the Battle of Littleferry. Cromartie’s Regiment was defeated; George and his son John were captured at Dunrobin castle and were not able to Join Prince Charles and the other Jacobites, and they never saw the horrors of the Battle of Culloden.

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Cromarties’ Regiment at the Battle of Littleferry

Soon after George Mackenzie and his son were captured the Earl of Cromartie’s titles were forfeited, until the title was recreated in 1861. John, the son of George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie, kept a diary during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 which was taken from him during his capture. This Diary is now in the hands of Register House in Edinburgh. The Diary tells about how tough the Jacobite life could be, often being ill equipped and poorly paid and having a small amount of food.

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Earldom of Cromartie Crest

Ultimately George was tried and sentenced to death but was never executed. He received a conditional pardon, probably because his wife was heavily pregnant. Even though he was pardoned he was condemned to living in extreme poverty because all his lands and his family estates based at Castle Leod were confiscated. Many years later George died in London at the age of 63 in 1766.

His son John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod, was never brought to trial after his capture even though he confessed and pleaded guilty to high treason. John received a full pardon in 1748 on the condition “that within six months of his 21st birthday he would convey to the Crown all his rights in the Earldom”. John eventually died many years later on the 2nd April 1789 at the age of 62.

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All the best, The Culloden Team

 

 

Siege of Fort William

The siege of Fort William began on the 20th of March, 1746. The Jacobites, having just captured the more northerly Fort Augustus after a two-day siege, were eager to expand their territories. The Government leader, the Duke of Cumberland, declared Fort William to be “the only fort in the Highlands that is of any consequence”, and shortly before the siege the fort’s aging governor was replaced with a man Cumberland thought more equal to defending it. This preparation, combined with the superior strength of Fort William, meant that the siege ended up lasting for two weeks before the Jacobites abandoned it.

Fort William’s new governor, Captain Caroline Scott, belonged to Guise’s 6th. This regiment helped to make up a 400-strong garrison, which also included the Argyll Militia. Meanwhile the Jacobite side was made up of Lochiel, Appin and Keppoch’s clansmen, the French regulars and was headed by Lieutenant Colonel Stapleton. These were the same men who had laid siege to Fort Augustus not long ago.

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Donald Cameron of Lochiel

Fort William was better built than Fort Augustus to withstand a siege with its location along Loch Ness making it easier to combat attacks. The previous month, the Government troops had begun to demolish Maryburgh, a nearby town, in order to clear the line of fire towards approaching enemies. Within the fort the armament was made up of enough 12-pounder cannon, 6-pounders, coehorns, 13-inch mortars and smaller pieces that Captain Scott believed that, with a suitable amount of ammunition, withstanding a siege was achievable.

The Jacobites, on the other hand, were disadvantaged in that, though they had some munitions, they lacked enough strong horses to carry heavy guns from Inverness. This, combined with bad weather and an interception on the road, meant that the Jacobites did not have as much good quality arms as they had originally hoped for when they planned their attack.

Nevertheless on the 20th March 1746 they opened fire against Fort William. Armed with cannon and 6-inch mortars, the Jacobites fired using old nails, grapeshot, cold roundshot and scalding lengths of notched iron as missiles. The notched iron was aimed to lodge in timbers. Over the course of the siege it was noted that the Jacobites made the roof of the fort “exceedingly damaged”, but failed to have that much of an effect on its walls. From the loch the Government side was assisted by sloops travelling along Loch Linnhe and with their stores of ammunition they kept the Jacobites at bay.

As March turned into April, the attacks began to lessen. The siege had been raging for two weeks and the Jacobites were no closer to achieving their goal. On the 3rd April the siege was officially abandoned. The Jacobites headed back to join the main army with Prince Charles who was keen to have as many men as possible united and ready to fight the Duke of Cumberland who was bust training his troops in Aberdeen.

We hope you enjoyed this post. As always please like, share, comment and tweet.

All the best, The Culloden Team

Jacobite Plots

In 1688, William of Orange invaded England and successfully overthrew James VII of Scotland and II of England and Ireland. The following year, William and his wife Mary were crowned joint sovereigns. The deposition of James lead to the formation of the Jacobite cause (Jacobus being Latin for James). In the 1690s, the Jacobites’ frustration presented itself in the form of several plots to get William off the throne and James, who to them had always been the rightful King, back on it. There were three main plots: the Ailesbury plot, the Fenwick plot and the Assassination plot of 1696.

The Ailesbury plot was planned over the winter of 1691-2. Those involved were mostly peers and gentlemen based in the south of England. The Earl of Ailesbury was an active participant, but the idea itself came from James’s Secretary of State: the Earl of Melfort. The plan was for a French fleet to deliver an army, led by James, to England; the conspirators would raise their tenants to join James and the French to fight to overthrow William and Mary.

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William and Mary

However, the Government soon got word of this plan and sent out people to round up the main plotters whilst arranging ships along the English coast in anticipation of the French. Bad weather kept the French from crossing the Channel, and in May the Anglo-Dutch fleet defeated the French in Normandy at the Battles of Barfleur and La Hogue. The plot was ended before it had truly begun but questions over who had been involved and how far they could have got aroused paranoia and panic on the British Isles.

In 1694 Mary, who had a better claim to the throne than her husband, died childless. The Jacobites still felt anger that William sat on the throne while James and his son lived in exile. The massacre at Glencoe had increased people’s distrust of William, for it was unclear how much involvement he had had in the brutal event.

The following year John Fenwick, the head of a number of Jacobites, led the Fenwick plot. He aimed to secure a port on the south coast of England so that a French army could arrive safely and march with him and his associates to London so they could capture William. It was a dangerous venture, and soon the plan was at a standstill; Fenwick did not want to risk seizing the port until the French had set sail, and the French did not want to set sail until they were sure had Fenwick had secured the port for them. They were stuck in a stalemate.

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James VII & II

All was not lost though as from the Fenwick plot sprang the Assassination plot of 1696.  This plan, organised by Sir George Barclay, was to attack William while he was out in his coach. Once again though word got out of Jacobites meeting and the plot was foiled when one of the men, Thomas Prendergast, revealed everything to the Government. The conspirators of both the Fenwick plot and the Assassination plot were searched for. Later, when questioned, the Jacobites caught insisted that they had only intended to kidnap William, but informers declared that murder had been central in their plan. They met varied ends, with some being executed or imprisoned, and some managing to escape. Of the two men conspirators Barclay managed to escape to France, while Fenwick was eventually executed.

These plots, rather than helping to achieve the ultimate goal actually hurt the Jacobite cause. Many who had before felt apathetic about the situation now felt sympathy towards William. Several of the most prominent Jacobites were now dead, in hiding or intimidated into inactivity.

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All the best, The Culloden Team