This is a series of bells that can be heard all over the town and every quarter hour a machine rings a short tune and has done so since 1547. Mr Jack Martel is the town Carillon player and to mark the day, the town made us the honour of playing on the bell tower ”the march of the Cameron men” followed by a piper’s rendition from the top of the tower. We met extraordinary people on that day and made a lot of friends. A small tour of the town was laid on and we marvelled at the architecture of the walled town, fortification engineered by Mr Vauban during the XVII century. Bergues is part of a string of walled towns in the region. We then gathered at the cemetery. The town maire and her town counsel were there. The town brass band had learned Scottish tunes in our honour. It was a warm, proud and touching ceremony, speeches were made in both French and “English”, switching from one to the other as a most natural thing, reinforcing that connection both people have had since Joan of Arc and probably before it. The son of the Clan Cameron’s Chief Donald Andrew Cameron attended to represent his Clan, apologising (as if any was needed) for the Chief not being able to make the trip due to ill health. Julian Hutchings from alliance France Ecosse spoke of the historical research made by John S.Gibson to discover the final resting place of the Gentle Locheil and without whom this commemoration wouldn’t have been possible. Brig. John M. Mc Farlane of the 1745 association thanked everyone for attending and the French people of Bergues for their most gracious welcome. A lament was played on the pipes, the different groups paid their respect with flowers and even a piece of the Clan Cameron’s house, burnt to the ground by government troops, now lays beside the plaque that will tell his name to every visitor.
The brass band now headed a ceremonial walk through the town, Bergues echoed to the sound of Scotland the Brave and Loch Lomond. We then stopped and paid our respect at the war memorial where complete silence is the loudest feeling that can be expressed. Remembering the fallen wherever they are, from wherever they’re from.
The ceremonies ended at Bergues Town Hall with a glass of champagne to thank everyone for their hospitality and friendship.
Some folks had to hurry away, but a small group went back to the cemetery the next morning Sunday 26th of October, 260 years to the day of Donald Cameron’s passing, and left more tribute. Brig. Mc Farlane did us the honour of offering a Gaelic prayer to The Gentle Locheil. We then said our goodbyes and thanked all the participants.
On behalf of everyone in Crann Tara we would like to commend the organisers of this event for making it such a memorable commemoration.
We would like to thank Topsy and Kenny for giving up the rest of their day to guide us through Flanders. We visited numerous World War I cemeteries. The Menin Gate in Ieper (Ypres), built in 1927, has recorded on its walls the names of near 55,000 men who fell in the Ypres Salient before Aug.1917; the remains of around 90,000 have never been found. The last post is still sounded every evening at 8pm. All along the roads one can see numerous cemeteries on land/farmland that was donated by the Belgian people. We visited Tyne Cot, the largest commonwealth cemetery in the world. Built like a fortress it is an impressive reminder of the battle of Passchendaele. On the rear wall alone are 35,000 names of the missing that fell in the area after Aug. 1917. This was a poignant afternoon with thoughts of so many lives cut short so brutally and no words can illustrate the folly of Mankind. A few words kept reoccurring on tombstones that bore solely a regiment badge “Only known to God”. We had an amazing couple of days full of laughter and sorrow, men gone but forever remembered and new acquaintances made.
By Juliette & Topsy