Over the years the Jacobites have been romanticised and the stories of the times told and retold leading to some interesting legends that seem to be part fact, part fiction. So, we thought it only fair to share a couple legends and let you decide how much to truly believe.
Firstly ‘The Princes Flower’.
Before he reached Glenfinnan to raise the Jacobite standard in 1745 the ‘young pretender’, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, first arrived at the island of Eriskay. He had travelled on the French Frigate the Du Teillay. The weather was typical for the area and time of year and the small frigate was buffeted by harsh weather. Charles made the decision to land on the island and a small party rowed ashore.
The tiny boat made landfall at a small inlet which has come to be known as ‘Coilleag d’Phrionnso’ (The Prince’s Strand). As the Prince stepped ashore he reached into his pocket for a handkerchief and a handful of flower seeds fell out. The seeds grew by the beach and rare pink flowers grew at the spot not found anywhere else on the Hebrides. They have come to be known as the prince’s flower for this reason though are actually Sea Bindweed. It has been observed that when anyone tries to move the plants from the island to another location they never flourish.
The Prince also brought something else with him which was more than welcome. When he met the MacKinnon’s of Skye he gave them a recipe for a whisky liqueur. This liqueur was Drambuie which has become famous all over the world.
This first legend is a nice one but the next I’m afraid is slightly gruesome and is known as ‘The Appin Dirk’.
It was June 1746, only a few months after Culloden, Government troops were still engaged in a frenzy of looting and burning as they carried out Cumberland’s orders. One such detachment was passing through Lochaber and Appin on their way to the barracks at Inveraray.
On one particular evening, as the troops moved through the Strath of Appin they encountered a young woman milking her cow in a nearby field. The sergeant who commanded the detachment leapt over the small wall into the field and with no warning shot the cow dead. With the cow dead he then advanced on the young woman – his intentions almost certainly dishonourable.
The young woman fought off the sergeant and ran off towards the Appin shore as he pursued her. In a last desperate attempt to make good her escape she picked up a good sized stone from the shore and hurled it at the sergeant with all her might. Whether by great accuracy or sheer luck the stone struck the sergeant square on the forehead, stunning him and knocking him to the ground. Her good shot gave her the few precious seconds she needed to make it to the shore where she knew a small boat lay moored. As the other soldiers tried to pursue her she managed to quickly row out of range and off to a small island where she sheltered for some time.
The sergeant was less fortunate, the blow had been more serious than the soldiers had at first realised. He was taken to a nearby place where they could stop for the night but as the evening wore on his condition became worse (some even said the stone itself had been cursed) and he eventually died from his wounds. The other soldiers decided to bury him in the nearby churchyard; the old churchyard of Airds and move on.
The local men were appalled that the man should seemingly contaminate their churchyard. As soon as the detachment had gone they stole into the churchyard and dug up his body. They carried him down to the sea but were stopped on the way by the brother of the young woman who had been attacked. He pulled out a knife and tore the skin from the arm of the wicked sergeant. This he took away with him. The corpse was then, with no ceremony cast into the sea.
The milkmaid’s brother dried and cured the skin and used it to make a sheath for his dirk and thus the Appin Dirk was born.
Legends of the ‘Appin Dirk’ spread around the area, becoming a symbol of the highlanders continued resistance to occupation. In 1870 the Rev. Alexander Stewart who was in the area was shown a dirk by a local man which he claimed was ‘The Appin Dirk’ He described the sheath as having a dark-brown colour, limp and soft in appearance, with no ornament except a small piece of brass at the point, and a thin edging of the same metal round the opening. Around the brass rim there was a small inscription. The initials D.M.C. and a date; 1747.
Hopefully you enjoyed these Jacobite tales and as always please like, share, comment, tweet and if you get the chance take a trip to see the Princes Flower yourself.
All the best, K & D