A Spider and a Shellycoat – more Scottish Folk Tales

One thing that has always been a big part of Scottish culture, and that continues to intrigue both visitors and natives alike, is the myriad of utterly unique legends and stories that Scotland has to offer. Some of these legends, such as the Loch Ness Monster, are famous all around the world, whereas others remain known to just a few; some were originally told as moral lessons, to warn, frighten or, as with the case of Robert the Bruce and the perseverant spider, to serve as inspiration, whereas others were told solely to entertain. Below is a small selection of the various tales and legends born and bred on Scottish soil:

King Robert the Bruce and the Spider

Mentioned above, this tale in particular tends to strike a chord with many of those who hear it, due to it serving as a metaphor for carrying on through the struggles of life, which is something with which everybody can identify. It is also of note because there is absolutely nothing to stop it from being true; parts of it, such as the number of attempts made by the spider and the precise location of Bruce vary from source to source, conjectured to fill in the gaps that being passed down through the centuries can sometimes bring, but the gist of the tale being historical rather than mythological remains a strong possibility.

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The most famous version of the story goes that in the early 14th century King Robert the Bruce, who was fighting the English for Scottish independence, was on the run, and found himself seeking shelter in a cave. As he sat in the cave he despaired over what was the best thing to do for his people and for the future of Scotland. Should he give up? Should he continue to fight King Edward I? He was there, dejected, when a spider suddenly caught his attention. It was attempting to climb up its web, and Bruce watched as it repeatedly tried and failed to get to the top. Six times it tried, and six times it failed, but it persevered, and on the seventh attempt it finally succeeded. This gave Bruce a much-needed morale boost; he carried on with his mission, and the Scottish went on to defeat Edward I’s son Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Robert the Bruce’s image, along with a little spider, is on many Scottish bank notes today, serving as a reminder to everyone that, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’.

 

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The Shellycoat

A mischievous rather than evil figure in Scottish folklore, albeit with quite a cruel sense of humour, the Shellycoat can be found in creeks, lochs and streams, looking for innocent people to trick. It is an ugly monster with a coat of large rattling shells, which it shakes in an effort to distract passing strangers. It gets a great deal of amusement out of confusing people, wasting their time and seeing their faces as they fail to find out what is making the noise. This is harmless enough, but it is claimed that the Shellycoat also creates the sound of someone drowning and laughs at the commotion it causes. Despite this unpleasant side to the Shellycoat, it never physically harms anyone, and so it is not warned against in the same way that other monsters, such as the Blue Men of Minch, are.

 

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The Redcaps

Redcaps (also known as Dunters or Powries) are some of the most evil creatures in Scottish folklore. According to legend, they dwell in ruined castles near the border, particularly those with an especially dark history, and murder strangers who happen to stumble into their home. Redcaps are grotesque-looking stooped little monsters, with red eyes, pointed teeth and long sharp claws. In spite of their heavy iron boots and large pikes, they are remarkably quick, and it is thought to be impossible to outrun a Redcap once it has set its sight on someone! Sometimes they roll boulders on top of unsuspecting strangers’ heads from high up in a tower; other times they bite and scratch their victims to death. It is then that they drink some of the blood, before dipping their caps into it, an important step, for if the cap dries up, the Redcap immediately dies.

We hope you enjoyed these tales, this week brought to you by Jodie, who is currently gaining experience with the Learning Team here at Culloden. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and keep on coming back for more.

All the best, K & D

Peter Grant – The Last Surviving Jacobite

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In 1824 the last known survivor of the ’45 Jacobite rising died aged one hundred and ten. This man was Peter Grant, also known as Auld Dubrach, and today we’re taking a little look at the life of this interesting man.

Born in 1714, Peter Grant was the son of a crofter and grew up in his families croft at Dubrach near Braemar. When he was old enough, and had received a basic education, he became an apprentice to a weaver and tailor in the small village of Acuhindryne. From this he would later become a tailor in his own right.

Peter would only have been a baby during the 1715 Jacobite Rising but at the age of thirty one he was certainly ready for the start of the ’45 Rising when Prince Charles Edward Stuart raised the Jacobites again. Peter soon enlisted with the Jacobite army joining Monaltries regiment. As part of the Jacobite army he most certainly saw various action but it was at Prestonpans that Peter was recognised for his bravery and he was raised to the rank of Sergeant-Major.

At Culloden Peter survived the battle but was captured by the Government and was taken prisoner. Initially he was held in Inverness before being transported south to Carlisle. Here he awaited sentencing. It would not have looked good for Peter; many Jacobites were being sentenced to death, deported or dying from the poor conditions of the prison. It seems that Peter though had other ideas and he found a way to escape the prison. It is possible he managed to find a route over the walls but it is not certain. However he did it though he made his escape and seemingly made his way north back into Scotland, where he was forced to remain hidden as a known Jacobite.

During his years in hiding Peter was never recaptured, despite there being a price on his head. Finally, after many years he was able to return to a relatively normal life and he was able to come out of hiding. He returned home and took up his trade as a tailor once again. Eventually he married a local woman, Mary Cummings, who was seemingly much younger than himself, some say it was Peter himself who had made her christening gown. He returned to Dubrach and had six children, three boys and three girls.

Later Peter and his wife moved into a small cottage on his sons farm in Angus and it is here he sadly lost his wife in 1811 when she was 65. Little is known about Peter for many years and it is not until a decade later that his story reemerges with an intriguing turn. Already well past a hundred years old two walkers met Peter and were fascinated by his tales of the Jacobites. The walkers began a petition which was given to King George IV when he visited Edinburgh in 1822.

There is a story that says Peter was then presented to the King. When they met the King supposedly said ‘Ah, Grant, you are my oldest friend’ to which Peter replied ‘Na,na, your majesty, I’m your auldest enemy’. The story is certainly a great tale but whether it is true or not is under debate. There are no clear records of Peter having met King George IV and it seems more likely that just the petition was delivered. Regardless of whether Peter met King George IV or not what is true is that King George IV awarded Peter with a generous pension.

Two years later on 11th February 1824 Peter passed away, aged 110, at his sons home. His funeral was one of the largest the village had ever seen and was attended by some 300 people. It is said that roughly four gallons of whisky was consumed before the coffin was laid down to rest in the cemetery at Invercauld beside Braemar Castle. A stone tablet was erected at his grave site which was inscribed with the words ‘The old, loyal Jacobite was at peace. he had kept faith with those whom he thought were his rightful Monarchs all of his life, a hero and a man of honour to the last.’

We hope you enjoyed this insight into the ‘last Jacobite’ and as always please like, share, tweet, comment and we will do our best to keep finding more interesting stories for you to enjoy.

All the best, K & D

The MacGillivrays at Culloden

As you walk the battlefield here at Culloden you pass the memorial cairn and many clan graves, but you  also pass the ‘Well of the Dead’. This small spot on the battlefield stands at the point where the Chief of the MacGillivray clan supposedly fell during the battle and, as we are often asked about this spot, we thought we’d take this chance to look a little at the MacGillivray’s during the time of Culloden.

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Stone at the Well of the Dead

 

The MacGillivray’s were strong followers of the Jacobites and came out to support the cause in both the 1715 and the 1745 Risings. They are a part of Clan Chattan, which was essential an alliance between several clans including MacGillivray, Mackintosh and Macpherson. In 1745 Clan Chattan the majority of Clan Chattan followed Prince Charles Edward Stuart in his cause.

However, an interesting exception to this was the chief of Clan Mackintosh who was serving with the Black Watch in 1745 and thus was unable to raise his men for the Jacobites. Thus it was left to his wife, Lady Anne Mackintosh to raise Mackintosh’s for Prince Charles. She herself could not lead the men in battle and so she appointed Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass, the chief of Clan MacGillivray to help lead the men of Clan Chattan at Culloden. MacGillivray was a strong choice as he was a respected leader and fearsome warrior, standing some 6ft 5in tall.

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Clach an Airm

 

Before the battle the stories say that Clan Chattan gathered to sharpen their swords at the Clach an Airm, an ancient stone which rested near the battlefield. Here the men queued in line to sharpen their blades on the four foot high stone, ensuring that their weapons were sharp and ready for the battle to come.

In battle it was MacGillivray who began the Highland Charge with Clan Chattan, making the first moves towards the Government men. The charge, lead by MacGillivray, was a ferocious effort to try and claim a Jacobite victory. MacGillivray led the clan against the Government cannons, grapeshot and musket fire and the Chattan clans were remarkably able to break through the first line of the Government army. They breached Barrells regiment but unfortunately could not make any further progress. The Government ranks from behind moved forward and surrounded the Jacobite soldiers with heavy musket fire and ultimately forced them to withdraw.

MacGillivray himself was gravely hurt in the attack but managed to stumble back a little way before he began to succumb to his wounds. There is a story that tells of MacGillivray as he lay dying. A young drummer boy was moaning for water and MacGillivray, in his last act, was able to lead him to a spring in the moor. The spring is now known as the ‘Well of the Dead’ and is said to mark the point where MacGillivray died.

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Well of the Dead at Culloden

 

After the battle MacGillivray was apparently buried in a mass grave with many other men who had fallen in combat. The graves were supposedly guarded by Government men for six weeks before the MacGillivray’s men were able to go and exhume his body. They then took him to the nearby kirk of Petty where he was given a proper burial.

As a consequence of joining the Jacobite cause the MacGillivray’s forfeited their lands for several years before they were able to regain them. Unfortunately bit by bit the lands had to be sold of to pay various debts. With life in Scotland proving tough many clansmen emigrated overseas to America and Canada. Included in these men was a Lachlan MacGillivray whose son, Alexander, would go on to become High Chief of the Creek Indians in Alabame and William MacGillivray who would become the superintendent of the North West Trading Company of Montreal and after whom Fort William in Ontario is named.

So, there you go, a bit more information about just some of the many men who fought here at Culloden. We hope you enjoyed it, as always please like, share, tweet, comment and next time you walk past the Well of Dead you’ll know the story behind it’s importance.

All the best, K & D

 

Ready for a new adventure?

The National Trust for Scotland is lucky enough to have thousands of people volunteering with us to help conserve properties, artefacts and landscapes in our care and help provide fantastic experiences to all our visitors.

However, you may not be aware just how many ways you can volunteer with the Trust. So, if you’re looking for something new to try this year why not take a look at how you can support the National Trust for Scotland.

Firstly, check out the Thistle Camps. These are essentially working holidays. The National Trust for Scotland recently launched its new list of Thistle Camps for 2017 and they are a great opportunity to volunteer, gain skills and have a bit of a fun whilst discovering somewhere new at the same time. There are lots to choose from and you can help with archaeology projects, discover drystane dyking techniques, spend some time kayaking or help create and maintain footpaths on some of Scotland’s most beautiful mountains. (The evenings off aren’t too bad either!) The camps are fantastic fun and very popular so be sure to get in quick to grab your top choice as they fill up fast. Thistle Camps

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Drystane Dyking in Threave

 

If you love the outdoors then definitely consider becoming a Conservation Volunteer. Here you can help the Trust by joining various projects across the country. This could be helping in the garden of a castle, building footpaths on a gorgeous mountain, or contributing to woodland management. You get to experience the wonderful countryside we help protect across the country, meet new people and fit in some exercise. Not only that but there are also training opportunities and lectures which you can attend to learn more skills and build on your knowledge of our wild and beautiful landscapes. The only thing we can’t guarantee is the weather, it is Scotland after all. Conservation Volunteers

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Footpaths Repaired by Conservation Volunteers

 

Probably our best known volunteers are our property volunteers. If you want to help a property then we are always happy to hear from you. Here at Culloden you can join our learning team sharing the knowledge of the battle to people from across the globe and running object handling sessions. If castles tempt you you can become a room or tour guide at many of our properties and our gardens are always looking for those with green fingers to come along. Many of us starting life as a volunteer, including myself as a tour guide at Brodie Castle. It’s easy to fall in love with a property as you discover all its secrets and it is incredible to be able to then share these stories with visitors and make their visit to Scotland even more special. Volunteering

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Volunteer Demonstrations at Culloden

 

With over 3,000 amazing and supportive volunteers we have a brilliant volunteering community throughout Scotland. If you want to join us and help support the National Trust for Scotland, what are you waiting for? Check out the links above, stop by your nearest property and get started on a new adventure. Volunteer with us

All the best, K & D

Culloden – a global war

The Battle of Culloden is largely seen as a British, and Scottish affair, with the fall of the Jacobites accelerating the demise of the Highlands, but Culloden can be viewed on a much larger scale and it is fascinating to see how the ’45 Rising and the Battle of Culloden affected events across the world.

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Culloden Memorial Cairn

In the build up to the ’45, the Battle of Fontenoy can be considered a part of its history. Here an army of British, Dutch, Hanoverian and Austrian regiments were defeated by the French. The commander of the allied army was none other than the Duke of Cumberland and his failure at Fontenoy could well have contributed to Prince Charles’ timing with his decision to sail to Scotland in 1745. Not only that, but with an embarrassing defeat behind him, it has to be questioned whether this spurred the Duke of Cumberland on to defeat the Jacobites so he could then return to the Continent and stop the French after Fontenoy denied this.

In the month before Prince Charles Edward Stuart arrived in Scotland to begin the ’45 Rising, Royal Navy ships were across the Atlantic seizing the French fortress of Louisbourg which protected the Gulf of St Lawrence. This defeat left the French at a crucial decision. Should they send reinforcements to try and retake Louisbourg or should they support the Jacobites in their attempt to take Britain? Initially they supported Charles, but following his apparent failure to secure Scotland and his retreat at Derby, France soon turned their attention back west and by spring 1746 there were 11,000 troops being sent, not to Scotland, but across the Atlantic as they fought to hold the French empire together.

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After Culloden those that were fortunate to survive then faced uncertain prospects and Highland regiments were soon used in the French-Indian Seven Years War, as well as the American Revolution. In 1756 Simon Fraser of Lovat, the son of the executed Lord Lovat, raised a Highland regiment that served with distinction in Canada and slowly the men who had been brought up and fought with the Jacobites found new lives.

During the American Revolution Jacobites, including those raised by Simon Fraser, the Macphersons of Cluny and the Mackenzies of Cromartie fought with Britian in its unsuccessful attempt to keep hold of North America. After the British were defeated many soldiers fled north seeking refuge in Canada. One group of Scots formed the Glengarry settlement, in what is now Ontario, and this attracted immigrants from the Highlands for years. Indeed by 1832 it is said roughly 8,500 people were living in the settlement.

Finally, we cannot forget about the many prisoners who were transported overseas. Between 1718 and 1776 it is estimate that some 50,000 men and women were sent across to Virginia and Maryland in America. With the end of the American War of Independence Britain then turned to Australia and began sending its convicts there. Between 1787 and 1868 some 150,000 convicts were sent to Australia. Some of these prisoners/convicts could well have been Jacobites or at least affected by the events of the Jacobite Risings. These convicts were joined by many people seeking a new life away from the Highland Clearances and turmoil of Scotland. In fact three of the first six governors of New South Wales were Scots, including Lachlan Macquarie, sometimes called the ‘father of Australia’.

The Jacobite history and its aftermath has led to Scottish ancestry being taken across the world. Not all of the stories and events surrounding the Jacobites may be happy or pleasant but, what is wonderful now, is that we get to welcome visitors from across the globe to come to Culloden and discover more about their ancestors from Scotland, of the events that shaped Britain and of the men who took part in history across the world.

This is just a brief look at some of the ways Culloden acted as so much more than just one battle and there are many more stories that begin in Scotland and travel far and wide. We hope you enjoyed these and as always please like, tweet, share, comment and share your own stories with us.

All the best, K & D

Highbridge Skirmish

We all know the ’45 Rising saw it’s last battle at Culloden, but the first engagement was back in August 1745 in the Highbridge Skirmish.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart had landed in Scotland and the prospect of a Jacobite Rising was suddenly a reality. In response to Prince Charles attempting to gather support and draw people towards him at Glenfinnan the commander-in-chief of the Government forces in Scotland, Sir John Cope, sent orders to dispatch two companies of men to head to Fort William where they would reinforce the garrison that stood there.

The men sent out were from the Royal Scots regiment and were commanded by Captain Scott of Clan Scott. In total roughly 85 men began to make the journey south to Fort William marching along the roads built by General Wade after the 1715 Rising. Prince Charles was not idle though. He heard of the Governments plan and informed his Jacobite supporters so they would be prepared for the men.

The Government troops marched seemingly easily along the road, encountering no resistance, until they reached the River Spean on 16th August 1745 and headed across the High Bridge. Here they found Jacobite supporters waiting. Major Donald MacDonell of Tirnadris was ready to meet the Government troops with a dozen of fellow members of Clan MacDonald of Keppoch. As Captain Scott approached it is believed that the dozen Jacobites moved swiftly about by the now demolished High Bridge Inn. They held their plaids wide and created the illusion that there was a formidable number of Jacobites waiting.

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Plaque at the location of the skirmish in 1745

 

Captain Scott approached cautiously sending forward just two of his men to try and negotiate with the Jacobites. Unfortunately for him the men were swiftly taken prisoner and Captain Scott made the decision to retreat and regroup. They fled to Loch Lochy but were caught out when some 50 Glengarry Highlanders met them with volleys of gunshot whilst the MacDonalds continued their pursuit from behind. Captain Scott was hit in the shoulder and eventually found himself and his men surrounded. He had no choice but to surrender.

The Jacobites took the remaining Government men prisoner in the Achnacarry Inn as Donald Cameron of Lochiel arrived to take charge. Captain Scott was taken to Lochiels house where reports suggest he was treated more like a guest than an enemy. The men were later marched to Glenfinnan to meet Prince Charles himself and he made the decision to pardon the prisoners of their actions. Some say the Jacobites did not lose a single man in the skirmish whilst the Government lost at least two men with several more injured. It is believed that the Government recruits were new soldiers from Ireland who perhaps were not used to the Highland terrain and were unprepared to face the local Jacobites.

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Remaining pillars of the original Highbridge

 

The skirmish however, marked the first land-based action between Government and Jacobite forces and began to set the ’45 Rising into motion. The High Bridge itself, which cost £1,087 when it was built in 1736, was superseded by a newer bridge in 1819 and now only the pillars remain of the original bridge. In 1994 the 1745 Association erected a cairn near the south side of the bridge at Highbridge to commemorate the first action of the ’45 which can still be seen today.

We hope you enjoyed this little insight into the first action of the ’45 and as always please like, tweet, share, comment and keep discovering.

All the best, K & D

Prince Charles’ Daughter

Prince Charles Edward Stuart is a name we mention, a lot, but how many of us know about his daughter, Charlotte? The answer is usually, not many. Today we take a look at this child who was Prince Charles’s only child to survive infancy.

Firstly, the reason you may not have heard of Charlotte is she was an illegitimate child. She was born on 29th October 1753 at Liege to Charles and his mistress Clementina Wilkinshaw. We know she was baptised as Roman Catholic in the Church of Sainte Marie-des-Fonts.

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Charlotte, Duchess of Albany

 

By the time she was seven the relationship between her parents was a mess. Charles was said to be abusive and violent towards Clementina and so her mother turned to Charles’ father to help her and Charlotte leave Charles. James offered her a annuity of 10,000 livres and apparently helped her make her way to Paris. Here she entered the convent of the Nuns of the Visitation. Charles was said to be furious and refused to pay anything towards his daughter. For the next decade Charlotte lived with her mother in various convents with the support of James, her grandfather and later Charles’ brother, Henry.

Charlotte began to write to her father, even more so after his marriage to Princess Louis of Stolberg-Gedern. She wanted him to bring her to Rome and legitimise her. Eventually Charles accepted on the condition that she leave her mother behind. However, Charlotte refused and Charles broke of all contact, despite the continued letters and pleas from Charlotte. Without any legitimacy or permission Charlotte could not marry. In the end she became the mistress to a Ferdinand de Rohan who was in the same postion and could not marry himself. She had three children: two daughters, Marie Victoire and Charlotte, and finally a son, Charles Edward. Her children were kept secret, and remained largely unknown until the 20th century, certainly not by Prince Charles.

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Portrait of Clementina, Charlottes mother

 

It wasn’t until 1783 that Charles finally began to take an interest in his daughter. His marriage to Princess Louise was over and he had fallen seriously ill. Finally he signed an act of legitimisation and made Charlotte his heir. The following year he invited Charlotte to his home in Florence and Charlotte travelled over from France to see him, leaving her children in her mothers care. She enlisted the help of Henry to return Charles to Rome in 1785 and stayed with him as his companion and carer until he died in 1788.

Sadly Charlotte was not healthy herself and suffered from problems with her liver. She died on 17th November 1789 aged just 36 of liver cancer. Her children remained with her mother raised in anonymity and it was years before their esxistence was known. Once her story came to light though it certainly caught peoples imagination. Rumours of a Stuart heir (even if they were illegitimate) could not be ignored and Robert Burns even wrote a lament to Charlotte entitled ‘ The Bonnie Lass of Albanie’

We hope you enjoyed this insight into Charlotte. As always please share, like, tweet and join us as we explore more of the Stuart family.

All the best, K & D