We all gathered at the Smithton Hotel for our annual pilgrimage to Culloden. After the customary hugs and handshakes of welcome we enjoyed an evening of tall tales and frivolity. The manager of the hotel laid on a superb buffet for our hungry hordes before we set of for our midnight service on the battlefield.
Culloden takes on a whole different perspective in the wee small hours of morning. Standing there with so many Scottish Patriots but alone with my own thoughts of the awful events that happened there two hundred and sixty years before.
Jim Singer started the flame lit proceedings by thanking everyone for attending and reminding us of some of the events that happened at Culloden before introducing our guest speakers.
First up was Big B (Brian Jonston) who read out the words of an old song that really suited the emotion of the evening, maybe next year he’ll sing it to us all.
Next up was Rab Cairney (The Targe Maker) Who read out a letter that he found on the internet (Which you can find here) It basically asked what had happened to all the wounded who fell at Culloden because no-one seems to know or want to tell!! The answer to the original question will astound you, so vitriolic and written by someone whose opinions were echoed by many.
We then had a few words from accomplished writer and Scottish historian David R. Ross who spoke of a disappearing Scottish culture and how we are being told that Scotland is one nation of many cultures and while he totally agreed with this, we shouldn’t forget about our own culture which was so obviously very important to everyone gathered in front of him.
Ted Christopher then sang a song that he wrote called Freedoms Flame which captures everything you can ever want to say about Culloden, a truly wonderful heartfelt song that has a great story of its own!
The Crann Tara wreath was laid this year by John McCallum who felt highly honoured to do this at the torchlit commemoration.
We then had an open session where some brave Scottish souls expressed their thoughts and feelings on Culloden which were echoed by all on the battlefield this night.
Next up was Alan MacDonald who sang The Lords My Shepherd wonderfully well and full of emotion on a cold, dark windswept night.
Following Alan, we had his father, David come up and say a few words and also to express his dismay at the new layout of the paths around the field of battle which means that the MacDonald grave marker can only be reached by walking over muddy ground to pay respect to his ancestors, a situation that is not ideal but one we hope gets sorted sooner rather than later!!
The service traditionally ends with Jim Singer giving us a tune on the pipes but they weren’t to be coaxed into playing on an evening as cold as this so Ted Christopher finished the evening off with a fine rendition of Scotland.
Off we went to the sanctuary of our hotel and a toast to our forefathers who fell on that fateful day 16th of April 1746 gone but most certainly not forgotten, Alba Gu Brath.
By George Boyle
CLICK HERE for the 1746 Broadsides from the National Library of Scotland mentioned in Rab Cairneys speech