Who needs men…

A lot of Jacobite history can focus on the men involved and the actions they took, which is why it is always nice to find a good story about a woman taking a role in history. Granted we may be a little biased because we are both women, but nevertheless here are a few of our favourite tales of women in Jacobite history.

Firstly, Dame Alice Lisle. Alice is widely believed to have been the first victim of the Bloody Assizes and was the last woman to be publicly beheaded in England. She was placed on trial for harbouring fugitives after the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion and, despite the fact that none of the men she harboured were convicted of treason, she was sentenced to be burned. As she was a lady this sentence was eventually substituted for beheading, apparently this was deemed more appropriate for her social rank. On 2nd September 1685 Alice, aged 71, was thus executed by axe in Winchester market place and today a plaque marks the spot of her execution.

The plaque marking the place of execution of Alice Lisle


During the 1715 Rebellion there were a number of women of note; including Lady Lude who played her part in drumming up recruits for the Jacobites by apparently threatening to remove the tenants from their ‘means and effects’ if they refused to join. Our pick though is Lady Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale, who helped her husband escape execution.  After being captured at Preston Winifred’s husband was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. A personal appeal by Winifred to King George I was unsuccessful so she took more drastic action. The night before the execution Winifred met with her husband and dressed him in ladies clothing to be led out by one of her maids. Meanwhile Winifred carried on her ‘conversation’ with him in his cell, so no one would be suspicious, before she finally fled herself. Both Winifred and her husband eventually made their way to the continent and later joined the Stuarts exiled court in Rome.

Lady Winifred Maxwell


Lady Lude returned in the ’45 Rebellion where she entertained Prince Charles at Blair Castle and defended it against Government forces. Once again though she was not the only one to stand up for a cause they believed in. Lady Jane Nimmo was at her home when a group of Jacobites came to raid her property collecting taxes. The party found 91 firearms on the premises but they were deemed old and useless so eventually left with nothing. They later found out that Jane had been deceitful and deliberately hidden weapons and horses from the Jacobite party. The Lieutenant in charge of the group demanded the weapons be sent on for the Jacobite cause but Jane refused and her perseverance won out; the Jacobites never received any weapons from her.

Finally, we look at Lady Margaret Ogilvy who escaped from Edinburgh Castle. Margaret was the wife of Lord Ogilvy who went to fight with Prince Charles. Refusing to leave him Margaret rode with him but was captured and held in Inverness Castle before being transported south to Edinburgh. In November 1746 she was visited by her friend Miss Katherine Hepburn of Keith, and her brother and sister Mr and Miss Johnstone of Westerhall. With the help of her friends Margaret escaped dressed as a laundress whilst Miss Johnstone told guards she was ill and in bed. The guards left, being too gentlemanly to disturb her, thereby allowing the escape to take place. Eventually Margaret managed to make it to the continent where she was reunited with her husband.

Lady Margaret Ogilvy


Hopefully you enjoyed these tales; as always please like, comment, tweet and share with us any stories you know of the women of the Jacobites.

All the best, K & D

Francis Townley – An English Jacobite

For St Davids day we explored the Welsh Jacobites, for St Patricks day we looked at the Irishman General Wade, so now, for St Georges day, we turn to the English impact on the Jacobites and Colonel Francis Townley or Towneley.

As we have mentioned before in this blog the Battle of Culloden, and indeed the Jacobite Risings, was not English vs Scottish. There were men from both countries on both sides. When looking to the English Jacobites many were involved with the Manchester Regiment and the man in charge of them was Francis Townley.

Townley was born in Lancashire to a Roman Catholic family and many of his family joined the Jacobite cause. His father and grandfather both fought to return the throne to King James II when he was exiled and his brother Richard was part of the Jacobite Rising in 1715. However, most of Francis Townleys involvement was in the ’45 Rising.

townley hall
Towneley Hall in Burnley

In 1728 Townley went to France and received a commission in the royal service. He would stay in France for over a decade before he returned to England where he was sent a colonels commission from King Louis XV of France. This enabled him to raise a force of Jacobites to aid Prince Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobite cause. Townley headed to Manchester where he spent several months as a guest of the Jacobites in the town.

A few days before Prince Charles entered Manchester himself Townley rode out to join him and was told that all those in England who joined the Prince would be commanded by Townley as part of the Manchester Regiment. A few men of the town volunteered, and were made officers, but most of the rest, about three hundred in total, received payment for joining the Princes army.

The Manchester Regiment followed the Prince down to Derby and on their retreat back up to Carlisle. Here Townley was given orders to remain at Carlisle and defend the town, while the prince and his army continued their retreat into Scotland. Townley was determined to fight for the town and it was against his wishes that the governor of the town, a man called Hamilton, surrendered.

With the surrender Townley was thus taken prisoner and put to trial. In his defense Townley said that as a French officer he should be treated as a prisoner of war. He was a commissioned officer of France, not the Stuarts, and therefore was not a traitor. This defence however was not allowed and Townley was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. On 30th July 1746 Townley was executed at just 37 years old. His body was buried in an unmarked grave the next day and his head was dipped in pitch and placed on a spike at Temple Bar. The head was later secretly removed and the skull is now preserved in the chapel at Townley Hall.


We hope you enjoyed this brief history of Francis Townley. As always please like, tweet, share, comment and keep discovering more history with us.

All the best, K & D

270 years ago…

On the 16th April 1746 the Battle of Culloden took place on Drumossie Muir, near Inverness. The battle lasted less than an hour and saw Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Jacobite army defeated by a Government army led by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.

The battle is considered as a key point in Scottish, European and indeed World history and every year hundreds of people come to Culloden Battlefield to commemorate the battle and all those who fell.

Wreaths laid at the Culloden Memorial Cairn

This year we reach the 270th anniversary of the battle and to mark this we thought we’d have a little look back at how the battlefield has changed over the years.

At the time of the battle, in 1746, Culloden was moorland and by all accounts was rather boggy, indeed the name ‘Cuil Lodair’ can be interpreted in Gaelic to mean ‘marshy nook’. Over the years though the landscape has changed. By the 1840’s trees were planted on the moor as part of a larger forested area and a road was built that passed through the site.

We know that at the conclusion of the battle some 1,500 Jacobite men were killed and buried on the battlefield in mass graves; but it wasn’t until 1881 that the gravestones we see now on the field were put up. The stones were put in place by the landowner of the time, Duncan Forbes, who also built the memorial cairn. Before the stones it was possible that there had been other, less permanent, markers but there are no records of these, so we cannot be certain. The stones from 1881 remain in place to this day and can by seen by anyone who comes to the site.

With the development of Victorian tourism and new railways making travel affordable and accessible, Culloden began to gain more interest from visitors across the country, who wanted to learn more about the battle. The first attempts to officially maintain Culloden Battlefield were taken by the Gaelic Society of Inverness. They enclosed the memorial cairn and repaired the roofs on the two stone cottage on the site; Leanach and Kings Stables.

In the 1930’s the newly formed National Trust for Scotland took the lead and began lobbying to protect the battlefield due to its historical and cultural significance. In 1937 the NTS received its first gift of two small areas of the battlefield from Alexander Munro of Leanach Farm and in 1944 Hector Forbes gifted the graves of the clans, the memorial cairn and Kings Stables Cottage as well as selling the field containing the Cumberland Stone to the NTS.

National Trust for Scotland
Leanach Cottage


The first visitor centre, if you will, began in the 1960’s as more and more people began to travel to the site. The NTS created an exhibition inside Leanach Cottage, allowing people to discover the history of the site, before opening a brand new visitor centre in 1970. Work began to remove the trees on the battlefield in negotiation with the Forestry Commission and the NTS began the idea of returning the site to its original state at the time of the battle. The Highland Council also moved the road, from between the clan graves, further away from the memorial cairn to protect the site and they also designated the land a Conservation Area.

Memorial Cairn

During the 1980’s the removal of the trees left rough ground which was susceptible to invasive birch, gorse, conifers etc. Felling and grazing by sheep failed to contain the situation and more intensive shrub control was introduced to conserve the battlefield. Today the team outside continually monitor the field and try to tackle the invasive species in the best way possible.

Moving into the 1990’s more land was acquired by the NTS including the Field of the English and land to the south to prevent development beside the battlefield. They also recreated the Leanach and Culwhinniac enclosures using traditional drystone dyking and developed the interpretation of the site.

Culloden Visitor Centre


This all finally led to the new visitor centre being built in 2007. The new centre incorporates new archaeological research and interactive interpretation to showcase the history of the site and allows the growing visitor numbers to see the site and remember the battle.

We hope you enjoyed this brief run down of Cullodens history. As always please like, comment, share, tweet and come along and visit our centre any time.

All the best, K & D

Anaesthetic and Amputation

7th April is World Health Day, so it seemed right to do a blog looking at medicine during the 18th Century.

Unsurprisingly medicine was slightly simpler in the 18th Century and yet many of the base practices are still done today. One of the big differences though was the lack of anaesthetic, which wasn’t developed until the 19th Century. In the 18th Century you would have been given alcohol or, if you could pay for it, sometimes opium. One invention that did help in 1746 though was the screw tourniquet. This was said to be one of the biggest advances in medical science at the time and was designed to stop the flow of blood ready for amputation. Before this invention getting enough pressure to stop the patient bleeding out was a significant problem and led to many unnecessary deaths.

Screw Tourniquet

Amputation, rather unsurprisingly, required a saw for the bone but to cut through the skin and muscle first you would use a curved amputation knife. The curved nature of the blade would allow all the skin and muscle to be cut through in one clean action. These curved knives were used until the 1800’s when new techniques made the straight knife more useful. Following amputation you would then pull out the viens and arteries to be tied off. For this you used a tenaculum. Tying off the arteries was common practice since roughly the 17th Century and is still done today, though not with catgut for string.

Curved Amputation Knife

Amputation is a little extreme for most illnesses but a common technique used for a variety of ailments was bloodletting. If a doctor was unsure what was wrong it was common for them to let some blood. By doing so the thought was that they would get rid of the bad blood and solve the problem.  To do this they used a fleam or bleeding knife. It is said it was not unheard of for doctors to bleed up to a quart of blood over a 24 hour period. The fleam was actually used on farms until about the 1950s for the same reason; bleed animals to improve their general health.

Fleam or Bleeding Knife

Another tool used in the 18th Century which might look familiar was cupping glasses. These were either heated around the rim or burning lint was inserted to create a vacuum and then they would be placed on the skin to raise a blister. In the 1700’s they were used to relieve bile problems and were widely used in cases of insanity; even King George III was treated with cupping glasses. Nowadays cupping is a popular alternative therapy and is believed to help the flow of blood and relax the body and mind.

18th Century Cupping Glass

We hope this has given you a little insight into 18th Century medicine. As always please, like, share, comment, tweet and be thankful we have anaesthetic.

All the best, K & D



Blue Men, the Bean-Nighe and a Brownie….

We had a look at some of Scotlands mythical creatures earlier this year with our post on Kelpies & Selkies and it proved quite popular so, we thought we’d have a look at some more of this countries folk and fairy tales for you to enjoy.

Firstly, the Blue Men of Minch.

Also known as Storm Kelpies these mythological creatures inhabit the stretch of water between the northern Outer Hebrides and mainland Scotland. Apart from their blue colour they look much the same as humans but have the power to create storms. It is said they search for stricken boats they can sink and drown the sailors. When they spot a ship they approach and shout two lines of poetry to the captain and challenge him to complete the verse. If the captain fails then the blue men will capsize the ship and drown all those onboard.

Little Minch where the Blue Men of Minch are found


The Blue Men appear to be very localised and are largely unknown in other parts of Scotland. Some believe the men may have been part of a tribe of fallen angels that split into three. The first part became the ground dwelling fairies, the second became the blue men in the sea and the rest became the dancers in the sky creating the Northern Lights.

From the Blue Men of Minch to the Bean-Nighe.

The Bean-Nighe


Bean nighe is Gaelic for ‘washer woman’ and the Bean-Nighe is a woman who wanders deserted streams where she washes the blood from the grave clothes of those who are about to die. She is often small in stature, typically dressed in green and has webbed feet. She is seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the ‘Otherworld’. Those who see her are destined to die shortly after meeting her. Similar stories of a washerwoman at a ford appear in Wales and Ireland though not so much in England. Some believe the Bean-Nighe is the spirit of a woman who died giving birth and who is doomed to do this work until the day her life would have normally ended.

Finally, something slightly more cheery; the Brownie.


Brownies are considered to be good-natured, invisible brown elves who live in farmhouses and other country dwellings in Scotland. They are said to have rather flat faces with pinhole nostrils and are not very attractive overall but their happy smiles and cheerful character make up for this. They are known to be protective creatures and often become attached to a certain family. While the family sleeps the Brownie will perform tasks and help the family in their work. However, if they are offered payment for their services or if they are treated badly, they disappear and are never seen again. Children, with their innocent nature, are believed to be able to see brownies whereas disbelieveing adults will never even catch a glimpse. Interestingly, in the UK, the younger version of the Girl Guides are called Brownies after this creature due to their friendly, helpful ways.

Hopefully you enjoyed this foray into the mythical creatures again. As always please share, tweet, like, follow and if you have any special mythical creatures from your country please share them with us.

All the best, K & D