Was Tartan Really Banned?

Following the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden and the eventual end of the ’45 Jacobite Rising came the Dress Act of 1746 which essentially banned the wearing of ‘Highland Clothes’ by anyone, as of 1st August 1747. From this stems the belief, by some, that this meant the banning of tartan, but, is this fact or fiction?

To be able to answer this question we need to look back to the full history of this Act which starts a good while earlier than 1746. To understand the Dress Act you have to consider it not as a singular entity but part of a much larger history.

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Culloden Tartan

 

First, it is wise to look at the Disarming Act of 1716. After King George I took the throne in 1714, as the first Hanoverian king, there followed the 1715 Jacobite rising. This Rising saw over 12,000 Jacobites take up arms against the King but were eventually defeated. The aftermath saw harsh penalties against the Jacobites in an attempt to prevent them regrouping and challenging the throne again. The Disarming Act was an attempt by the Government to limit the strength of the Jacobite men. Unfortunately, for the Government, the Act was very ineffective. While those loyal to the King may indeed have handed over their weapons, for those not loyal the Act pushed them further away and many hid their weapons and handed over old rusted blades that were of no use anyway.

In 1719 the Jacobites tried again with a short lived Rising and this led to the Disarming Act of 1725 which was ‘An act for the more effectual disarming the highlands in that part of Great Britain called Scotland; and for the better securing the peace and quiet of that part of the kingdom‘ This time General Wade led the movement and was more successful in seizing weapons with some suggesting he managed to gather roughly 2,500 weapons, but still many families hid their swords and guns away from the Governments eyes.

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A couple of our volunteers in typically 18th Century outfits

 

So, in 1745 there were still Jacobites ready to come and support Prince Charles Edward Stuart. Following their eventual defeat the Government took clear steps to ensure that there would be no hope of any further risings. In 1746 they brought out the Act of Proscription. This was similar to the Disarming Act but the penalties for not conforming were more severe and it is under the Act of Proscription that we find the clause that became known as The Dress Act.

The Dress Act stated that ‘That from and after the first day of August, one thousand seven hundred and forty seven, no man or boy, within that part of Great Briton called Scotland, other than shall be employed as officers and soldiers in his Majesty’s forces, shall on any pretence whatsoever, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland Clothes (that is to say) the plaid, philibeg, or little kilt, trowse, shoulder belts, or any part whatsoever of what peculiarly belongs to the highland garb; and that no tartan, or partly-coloured plaid or stuff shall be used for great coats, or for upper coats’  Anyone found breaking these rules could be imprisoned for six months, and, if they were caught again, they could be sent to a plantation overseas for seven years.

So, here we can see that the Dress Act does not completely ban tartan as many people believe, it only banned it for certain parts of clothing. Also, it is worth remembering the ban did not apply to men serving in Highland Regiments or to the Gentry, sons of Gentry or women and according to the Act it only affected Scotland. The Act did however affect men who had fought for the Government army as well as the Jacobite army. So, even if you fought for the Government they could still arrest you for breaking the Dress Act making it much more than just an action against Jacobites.

It wasn’t until 1782 that the act was repealed on 1st July. However, it would take many further years before the Highland dress returned to the mainstream and even then it was worn by many more for occasions and not as everyday wear.

We hoped you enjoyed this little insight into the Dress Act and as always please like, share, comment, tweet and keep joining us for more titbits.

All the best, K & D

 

 

Inverness and the Jacobites

Inverness, now the capital of the Highlands, changed hands a few times over the course of the Jacobite Rebellions. Here we look at some of the key moments in its Jacobite history.

During the 1715 Jacobite Rising the town and castle was held by Clan MacKenzie who were led by Sir John Mackenzie of Coul. Locals clans loyal to the Government made their move in November of 1715 to take the town into Government hands. Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat along with John Forbes of Culloden and Hugh Rose, Chief of Clan Rose all joined forces against the Jacobites and began to plan a course of action.

However, before they had a firm plan in place , on 10th November, Arthur Rose, younger son of Hugh Rose, and a handful of his men seized boats in Inverness harbour and river to ensure the Jacobites could not use them to supply the town or escape. During this they managed to capture one of the Jacobite guards and forced him to take them to the towns tollbooth which was used as a Jacobite guard house. The men inside opened the door but as Rose pushed his way in the alarm was sounded and Rose was shot and mortally wounded.

Angered by his sons death Hugh Rose immediately sought revenge. Mackenzie of Coul  sent a letter of condolence to Rose and allowed him to come and bury his son but Rose was apparently too incensed with grief and threatened to put the whole town of Inverness to sword and flame.

On 12th November the Government, led by Simon Fraser, took position along the side of the River Ness. Here they were able to prevent support, from the MacDonalds of Keppoch and the Mackintoshes at Moy Hall, from coming to the Jacobites aid. Realising the weakness of their position the Jacobites asked to march south, and join Mar and the main Jacobite army at Sherriffmuir, but Rose denied this and instead offered them the chance to hand over their weapons and return home. Later that day Government forces occupied Inverness, the only fatality of the short siege being Arthur Rose two days before.

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Inverness Castle from roughly 1745

 

In the 1719 Jacobite Rising there were plans for the Jacobites to head to Inverness and take the town but the men never made it that far east and Government men marched out of the town heading the Jacobites off at Glen Shiel. Thus, Inverness escaped any serious action in 1719.

Finally, in 1745, Inverness was held mainly by the Government, with an initial force of roughly 750 men based there to defend the site. After the Battle of Prestonpans John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudon, arrived at Inverness with arms and funds and took over command of the men that Lord President Duncan Forbes had been raising in the area but it wasn’t until early 1746 that the Jacobites actually came to Inverness.

On 16th February 1746 Lady Anne MacKintosh entertained Prince Charles at Moy Hall, her family home just south of the city. News of the Prince’s whereabouts reached Lord Loudon, and fearing an attack Charles left the Hall and took sanctuary in the nearby woods. When Loudon’s men approached the house Lady Anne’s blacksmith and a handful of men created the impression that the house was defended by a substantial force calling out to ‘regiments’. The tactic worked and Lord Loudon retreated back to Inverness in what is known as ‘The Rout of Moy.’

The next day a Government Council of War decided it would be impossible for Loudoun’s forces to defend Inverness and they retreated into Sutherland and Prince Charles was free to enter Inverness without contest. Only one barrier remained. There was still a small garrison holding Inverness Castle for the Government, led by Major Grant. The Jacobites quickly went to work surveying the building for any weaknesses. The walls were too thick to penetrate but they managed to find a weak point in the foundations and set about exploiting this point.

On 20th February Major Grant conceded defeat. They could not stop the strong Jacobite force and feared the rampart would be blown up beneath them. The Jacobites quickly plundered the stores and weapons held in the castle and then proceeded to blow the fortifications apart so that it would be no use if it were to fall back into Government hands.

This was the last action Inverness with the Battle of Culloden resulting in the defeat of the Jacobites in April. Hopefully you enjoyed this short history on Inverness and as always please like, share, tweet, comment and come along to Inverness where you can still see one of the walls of the old Castle burnt from the demolition.

All the best, K & D

The Mystery of Cluny’s Cage

There is a well known Jacobite legend of Cluny’s Cage where Ewen MacPherson of Cluny, Chief of Clan MacPherson, hid from the Government army for nine years after Culloden. But, how true is this marvellous story?

Ewen MacPherson of Cluny, Chief of Clan MacPherson, joined the Stewart army with about six hundred men but missed the fateful battle at Culloden as he had been sent to guard the passes in the Badenoch. After the defeat at Culloden Government men searched the highland for members of the Jacobite army and, as a high ranking man, Cluny was well known. Cluny’s house was burnt to the ground and all his possessions looted forcing him to scatter his men and seek shelter somewhere safe.

This much is fairly well known but from this point on it becomes trickier to separate fact from fiction. It is said that Cluny led a small party of men toward Loch Ericht in the Highlands and here he found refuge on the slopes of Ben Alder. Many believe this refuge was a small cave on Creag Dhubh, Ben Alder. Since this is such a widely held belief it seems fair to say that Cluny spent some time here, but is it Cluny’s Cage? Most, think not.

Loch Ericht

 

The Cage itself is more widely though to have been an artificial structure that Cluny built on the face of a rocky hill near Loch Ericht and was hidden by thickets of holly and moss to blend with the mountain. The structure was supposedly two stories high positioned far above the paths around the loch to watch for sentries below and, it is said, there was space to hide seven men if needed. It is also said Cluny was able to light a fire as the mountain above was the colour of smoke so any evidence dissipated over the hilltop and ensured his location remained a secret.

Prince Charles apparently stayed at the Cage for several nights whilst he was running from the Government before he made his escape over to the continent and this has led some to suggest that Cluny’s Cage is on the eastern side of Loch Ericht. Here there are huge slabs of rock, perfect for disguising the signs of smoke, and in a 1783 map by James Stobie there is a notation ”Place where C. S. hid himself 1746”, on the eastern side of Loch Ericht, near a spot called Creag na h-Iolaire, which is believed to refer to Cluny’s Cage.

Nowadays it is difficult to say precisely where the Cage was. Over the years any structure would surely have been lost to the elements so the exact position around Loch Ericht can still be argued over by some.

To remain hidden for so long Cluny was certainly both smart and lucky. One story tells of him hiding for a time at Dalchully House in a bolt hole in the East wing. Stepping outside one day he was caught by Colonel Munro, the very man charged with searching for him. However, since the two men had never met, Cluny calmly held the Colonel’s horse whilst the soldier went inside the house to search. It is claimed that he was given a penny for his trouble.

Eventually, after nine years in hiding, Cluny finally made his way over to France, apparently invited by Prince Charles himself. Here he managed to reunite with his wife and daughter before he died in Dunkirk in 1764.

We hope you enjoyed this foray into the history of Cluny and his mysterious Cage. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and let us know if you have any different theories as to the legend of Cluny’s Cage.

All the best, K & D

 

It’s Just a Field, isn’t it?

Here at Culloden Battlefield and Visitors Centre we get visitors from around the world; some will know the history inside out whilst others will be taking their first steps into Scottish history. It’s safe to say that we also get people who are more keen to explore the site than others and this was certainly pointed out when we had one gentleman ask the question ‘It’s just a field, isn’t it?’

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Culloden Moor

Now technically I suppose you could answer yes, it is called a battlefield. And if you don’t know the history that may be all you first see but we’d like to think Culloden Battlefield is much more than ‘just a field’.

First and foremost Culloden Battlefield is a war grave. It is important to remember that in 1746 some 1,500 Jacobites and 50 Government soldiers not only died here at Culloden but were also buried here. Today the site cares for the mass graves that can be found on the moor and the memorial cairn and clan graves that have been in place since the 1880’s. Having the graves on the site of battle is rare and in the past we have been asked why we have not done excavations and archaeology work on the battlefield. The simple answer is we do not want to do invasive work on the graves and as war graves we believe they should be left untouched for people to pay their respects.

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The Memorial Cairn at Culloden Battlefield

 

Secondly, we have to consider the history of the site which surely marks the place as more important than ‘just a field’. This was the site of the last battle in the last of the Jacobite Uprisings. It was at this site that Prince Charles Edward Stuart and William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, faced off for the last time and Prince Charles was finally defeated in his attempt to reclaim the throne. The battle of Culloden ended some 60 years of fighting over the Scottish, English and British thrones and is an iconic moment in British history. By conserving and protecting the land we can do our bit to help keep this important place in history alive.

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Culloden Battlefield

 

Culloden is also closely connected with the Highland Clan system. Whilst Culloden was not the cause for its demise it certainly can be said to have accelerated the process. Following Culloden came the pacification of the Highlands and eventually the Highland Clearances. Whilst this was a terrible time for the Highlands and its culture it did mean that we had mass emigration leading to Scottish ancestry being spread throughout the world. Now we receive visitors from all corners of the globe who come to try and trace their roots and discover more about their Scottish heritage. Culloden is a place where they can come and learn more about their clan and even their relatives who may have been transported following the battle. Culloden opens up the door to world history in a very special way.

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Clan Graves at Sunset

So, is Culloden ‘just a field’, our answer is no. The site is an emotional place that captures a moment in history and brings together people from around the world as they learn more about their past, pay their respects to those who fell and discover the stories that brought us to where we are today. It is not just a field; it is a place of remembrance, education, connection, discovery, passion, history, rest, conservation and a place of a myriad of emotions.

We hope you enjoyed this post and as always please like, tweet, comment and share your experiences of Culloden Battlefield. If you would like to help support the work we do here at Culloden you can make a donation to the site here.

All the best, K & D

 

The Last House Besieged in Britain

270 years ago on 17th March 1746 an assault began on Blair Castle that would make it the last house to be besieged in Great Britain.

Blair Castle has been around, in one form or another, since 1269 and is the ancestral home of Clan Murray and historically the seat of their chief, the Duke of Atholl. It began as a medieval tower that was continually extended over the years. In the 1740’s it was transformed into a stylish home losing its turrets and castellations.

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Blair Castle as it looks today

During the first Jacobite Rising in 1689 the Duke of Atholl remained loyal to the government, despite two of his sons joining the Jacobites. However, the castle itself was taken by the Jacobites and it is said the Battle of Killiecrankie was fought because Viscount Dundee did not want to retreat and surrender the castle. Indeed, the Jacobites, led by  Dundee held a council of war in the castle on the eve of the battle. After the battle, Blair Castle remained in Jacobite hands for some time.

In the 1715 Rising, the house was again divided. The 1st Duke and his second son, James, supported the government, while his eldest and youngest sons, William and George, followed the Jacobites. When the Rising failed, William was stripped of his title and lands and exiled to France. In his absence, James became 2nd Duke on their father’s death in 1724.

During the 1745 Rising Prince Charles Edward Stuart stayed in the castle on two occasions. The first in September 1745 and then again in February 1746. It was after this though that the Jacobites abandoned the castle leaving it open for Government forces to occupy.

On 17th March 1746 Lord George Murray returned with the Atholl Brigade to begin the siege on his family home and put it back in Jacobite hands. George Murray was the brother of the current Duke of Atholl, James Murray so it was very much a family affair with one supporting Prince Charles and the other the government. It is said when Lord George arrived at Blair he had ‘pipes playing and colours flying’.

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Lord George Murray

The Jacobites managed to surprise the government outposts surrounding the castle and by the afternoon of the 17th terms of surrender were issued to Andrew Agnew, the commander of the government forces holding Blair Castle. Interestingly no one in the Jacobite army was found willing to deliver the summons so it was actually given to Molly of Blair Inn who gave it to a young officer of her acquaintance. He then passed it to Agnew. The Jacobites demanded the castle, garrison, military stores and provisions all be given over into the hands of Lord George Murray; the surrender was refused.

On 18th March the Jacobite opened fire with the first shot said to have been fired by Lady Lude whose nearby house had previously been plundered by the garrison. Unfortunately Lord George Murray was unable to make true headway in his attack on the castle. Equipped with only a couple of small field pieces he couldn’t dent the seven feet thick walls of the castle. After discussing various options Lord George Murray decided the best plan would be to starve the men out as they were low on provisions.

Finally after repeated demands from Prince Charles to return to Inverness in preparation of the approaching Government army Lord George Murray raised the siege on 31st March. The main body of Jacobites left to rejoin Prince Charles and Blair Castle remained in Government hands.

We hope you enjoyed the story of Blair Castle and as always please tweet, comment, like, share and why not visit Blair Castle yourself one day.

All the best, K & D.