Once again we mustered at the Smithton Hotel, our base for the annual midnight service at Culloden. A warm welcome from the manager and staff ensured us we’d enjoy our stay once more.
We all gathered in the bar for a few refreshments and some banter before making our way to the battlefield in the dark whereupon arrival we found a serious lack of torches!!
As we made preparations for the commemoration we started to notice lights in the distance on the moor that told us this event was going to be well attended once more.
Jim Singer was our worthy host for this evening’s service and started of by welcoming us all to the service on this cold April night. First up to say a few words was a man of many talents Duncan Brown who read a poem that he’d found scribbled on a piece of paper many years ago on a previous visit to the battlefield. The poem was very moving and reminded us all why we were here this night.
POOR CHIELS, YE LIE BENEATH THE SOD,
YE ONCE WERE BRAW AND QUICK,
BUT CLAY AROOND YER BONES NOO GRIPS
SAE CLAMMY, CAULD AND THICK.
LANG SYNE YE FOLLOWED CHARLIE’S GRACE,
TAE QUESTION IT WISNAE WISE,
YER LAIRDS DID GLIBLY DRESS THE CAUSE
IN PATRIOTIC GUISE.
YON CHIEFS WERE GLOWERIN’, HAUGHTY MEN
WHO COULDNAE AGREE AT A’.
THEY HAD THREE KINGDOMS IN THEIR GRIP
AND BICKERED THEM AWA’.
ALIVE YE WERE, BUT MARTIAL GRIST
TAE FEED AMBITIONS MILL,
LIKE CHAFF THEY’VE LEFT YE LYING HERE,
BY GOD, THEY SERVED YE ILL.
TWA HUNDRED YEARS AND MAIR HAVE GONE,
BUT STILL IT’S AYE AS TRUE,
WHA LUSTS FOR POWER DISNAE HEED
THE LIKES O’ ME AND YOU.
Once again Jim Singer took the microphone and said a few words about what being there meant to him personally, he echoed the sentiments of many of as he did so. Jim then invited anyone to come up and say a few words. It’s always a nice part of the evening when folk get a chance to come up and say what they feel, not everyone is comfy speaking in public, but the ones that do speak from the heart. First up was writer and historian David R. Ross who despite ill health had managed to make it and we were all delighted that he did so, always great to hear David speak.
The midnight service had a lot of new faces and quite a few of them got up to say a few words who had obviously never done such a thing before, but they got a chance to say how they felt about their country and how much their visit to Culloden had affected them, Culloden has a way of doing that to a lot of people. We also had a wee bonus of a song sang in Gaelic by one of the congregation, young Àdhamh MacLeòid, not many of us understood the words but it suited the moment beautifully.
We then had the laying of the Crann Tara wreath performed this year by Crann Tara member Alec Mowatt, whereupon anyone with flowers was invited to do likewise.
Next up was the incomparable Ted Christopher!! Ted had come all the way from Stirling to sing a song for us and then immediately drive all the way home after the service! Sums Ted up perfectly, if there’s a better Patriot out there I’ve yet to meet him, thanks Ted.
There was only one song that Ted could sing at Culloden and that was the wonderful “Freedoms Flame” which Ted sang beautifully well despite the smoke from our burners wafting into his face, Ted you’re a legend Sir.
Jim Singer then invited us to take part in a minute’s silence which was observed with the upmost dignity and left everyone with their own thoughts on this most grim piece of land.
Duncan Browne brought proceedings to an end with a Piper’s Lament, (told you he was a man of many talents!!) Hearing the pipes on Culloden Battlefield at one in the morning is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lives, very atmospheric indeed. I hope the heroes lying beneath our feet may have heard them on this night and realise that they are not forgotten and will live on forever in our hearts and minds. Alba Gu Brath!!
By George Boyle