Grave markers at Culloden

When people visit Culloden Battlefield most will inevitably head out across the moor and stand in front of the large memorial cairn in the centre of the field. Surrounding the cairn are most, but not all, of the grave markers on the field so it seems fitting to turn our attention to the history of these markers.

Old photo of the Clan Mackintosh marker


The markers on the battlefield were put in place in 1881, some 130 years after the battle. One of the main question we are asked regards the names on the stones, as many carry the names of one or more clans who fought at Culloden. We have had geophysical tests of the area completed and they show that the area around the cairn does indeed hold many mass graves but how the names on the gravestones were chosen is something of a mystery.

Selection of gravestones at Culloden


Clansmen would not have been easy to distinguish from one another. There was no clan tartan back in 1746 so identifying a persons clan relied on smaller things that their cap badge or clan plant that men may have worn. After the battle it would have been incredibly difficult to accurately determine who was from which clan so it is believed that the markers on the field are symbolic of the major clans who fought at Culloden and who suffered significant losses.

As well as the marker by the cairn, there are a few others across the field. Further north are three stones that commemorate the MacDonald’s who fought on the far left of the Jacobite front line. Whilst they did not take part in the hand-to-hand combat that occurred further south they were instrumental in aiding the retreat of the Jacobite army. Each year at the anniversary of the battle the local MacDonald clan and supporters will march down to the stones after the main ceremony to lay a wreath for the men.

Clan Donald stone
Clan Donald Stone


Perhaps one of the most annoying and intriguing stones on the battlefield is that of the ‘Field of the English’. This stone lies behind the front line of the Government troops and supposedly marks the site of a grave of the Government men who died during the battle. However, there are two issues we have with the stone. Firstly, research has shown that there is no sign of a mass grave by the stone. The nearest lies some fifty yard to the West of the stone. Secondly, its inscription, ‘Field of the English’. As we know this is not accurate. The Government army was not an English Army, it was made of men from Scotland, Wales and England making it a British Army.


Despite some questions on the accuracy of the markers though there is no doubt to how special they are to the site. Many who visit take a moment as they walk past the stones to take in the incredible atmosphere of the battle and remember the history of the site.

We hope you enjoyed this short piece about the marker as always please like, share, comment and tweet.

All the best, The Culloden Team


17 thoughts on “Grave markers at Culloden

  1. I enjoyed reading your article in Facebook. Have you published a book or is there one you recommend. I cannot trace my family back to 1745 but to around 1850. My family name is Wilson from lanark part of the Gunn clan. I have a suspicion that if my family did have an involvement it may well have been with other lowland Scots in the government forces. I believe the Scots who caught at culloden did so in the red British army uniform and not in civilian clan dress. One other thing it is my understanding that a substantial proportion of the government forces were in fact Germans from Hanover


    • My family were the Wilsons from Larbert, Stirlingshire who were Farriers and Blacksmiths. I managed trace them back to 1790’s and often wonder what their situation was at the time of Culloden. Like you I believe they would not have been Jacobites.


  2. I do accept as true with all of the concepts you have presented on your post. They are very convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are too brief for starters. May just you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.


    • My Family are also descendant from clan Farquharson, if you have any pics or any other information about the clan from around the 1700 i would love to see what you know. (


  3. I disagree with your statement that there was no clan tartan before 1746. There was, otherwise why did the British ban wearing tartan?


    • There was tartan but it was not the clan tartan we know today. In 1746 there were not specific styles for each individual clan. The concept of individual clan tartans was a Victorian invention


  4. I would love to visit. My nan would always tell me, when I was young, “ remember ,your ggg grandfather fought on the right hand side of Bonnie Prince Charlie”
    Now…he would have been my 6 x great grandfather I think but I also now read the Macdonalds didn’t fight on the right as per usual- they got asked to take the left. I also wonder as well, if my ancestors were catholic as I’ve always seen them as protestants. Why would protestants back a catholic prince? I can get back to Robert MacDonald who would have been born about 1780 but not beyond. I’d love to track further!


    • By the time the 145 Jacobite Rising occurred there were many reasons joining the Jacobite side apart from religion. There was also a split amongst Protestants that saw many Episcopalians joining the Jacobites.


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