The Travels of a Journalist—7-ON TOURING SCOTLAND WITH A 10-YEAR-OLD:Learning about battles, massacres, firths, lochs and monsters
Posted on January 17th, 2010

By Shelton A. Gunaratne ƒÆ’†'”…”2010

The most memorable of our five-day tour of Scotland (16-20 June 1990), from the point of view of a 10-year-old, was our breathtaking scenic tour through the rugged highlands and lochs west and southwest of Aviemore [a small town of fewer than 70,000 people in 1990, but more than108,000 now].  From Aviemore, we fanned out southwest to see the site of the Massacre of Glencoe (1692) and northwest to see the site of the Battle of Culloden Moor ((1746) at Inverness. and to get a glimpse of the legendary Loch [lake] Ness monster at Drumnadrochit.

I, as a student of British history during my Peradeniya years in the late “ƒ”¹…”50s, had yearned to visit Glencoe and Inverness. My son, Junius, was at the time more interested in a chance meeting with “Nessie,” the monster inhabiting Loch Ness.

Massacre of Glencoe

The chorus of “The Battle of Glencoe,” the ballad that Jim McLean wrote in 1963, captures the essence of the Glencoe tragedy:

O, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o’ Donald
O, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald

Poet T. S. Eliot also makes implicit reference s to this sad incident in his poem “Rannoch, by Glencoe,” which describes the scenic splendor of the glen lying along Loch Linnhe, and its tributary Loch Leven, with Loch Rannoch further to the east.

While observing this famous site, I imagined how this quiet glen would have turned into a killing field the early morning of Friday, 13 February 1692.

It is now known that the massacre of clan McDonald was a royal plot hatched by William of Orange and his cohorts to prevent the Stuart pretenders from capturing the English crown. Scotland was divided between the supporters of William and the Jacobites””‚the backers of the Stuarts.

In August 1691, William III issued a proclamation requiring the chiefs of all Scottish clans to take an oath of allegiance by year’s end. His intention was to crush the deposed Stuart pretenders.  Alasdair MacIan, chief of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe, swore his fealty to William only a week into the new year of 1692 because officials had   deliberately delayed his efforts to meet the deadline. This trifling delay allowed Lord Advocate John Dalrymple, who was one of the plotters, to make an example of clan MacDonald by ordering that all “under seventy” die by the sword, and “these miscreants be cutt off root and branch.”

Some 120 men, under the command of Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, had made their way to Glencoe on 1 February, under the pretence of collecting tax in arrears. They persuaded clan MacDonald to give them shelter, producing military documents as proof.  Campbell’s niece was also married to Alexander MacDonald, the youngest son of MacIan. This kinship gave further vindication to the nature of their visit.

Campbell’s conduct was a mere ruse to gain the “trust” of clan McDonald while awaiting orders from his superior officer, Major Duncanson. Campbell and Duncanson spent the evening of 12 February dining and playing cards with their unsuspecting hosts, even making plans for a festive meal the following evening. But at 5 a.m. on 13 February the killing began.

The hospitable MacIan was stabbed to death before he could arise from his bed and alert his family to Campbell’s treachery. In all, 38 members of clan MacDonald were slain as they tried to escape from their former guests. Another 40 family members, mostly women and children, died from exposure to the cold as they fled the dwellings they had generously shared with those who now set them ablaze. An additional 40 women and children died of exposure after their homes were burned.

Imagine how contemporary human rights activists would have reacted if the ruling elite used the strategy and tactics that the perpetrators of the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe used to consolidate the power of the ruler.

Battle of Culloden Moor

Poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) opened his “Lament for Culloden” thus:

THE lovely lass o’ Inverness,
Nae joy nor pleasure can she see;
For e’en and morn she cries, ‘Alas!’

And aye the saut tear blin’s her e’e:
‘Drumossie moor, Drumossie day,
A waefu’ day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear,
My father dear and brethren three.

We visited the site of the Battle of Culloden Moor (a.k.a Drumossie) five km east of Inverness and 46 km to the northwest of Aviemore, where we lodged at the elegant Highlands Hotel for two nights.  Inverness is located on Moray Firth (fjord).

The Battle of Culloden, which took place on 16 April 1746, marked the decisive victory of the British Army commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, against the Jacobite and the French forces under the command of Charles Edward Stuart, better known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie” or the “Young Pretender.”

The Jacobites were mainly Scottish Highlanders (comprising clans of Catholic and Episcopalian faiths) who sided with James Stuart, the “Old Pretender” to the British Throne. The 1688 Revolution had ousted James, a Roman Catholic, from the British Throne, and installed William of Orange (William III), the Protestant nephew of James, as the successor.

The first Jacobite Uprising to restore James to the Throne resulted in the 1690 Battle of the Boyne (the site of which also I visited in Drogheda on my Ireland tour). James lost that battle, which took place two years before the Massacre of Glencoe, against William III. The second and final Jacobite Uprising culminated in the Battle of Culloden Moor, which pitted the Army of George II of the House of Hanover against the ill-prepared Jacobites under the command of Charlie, the grandson of James.

In the battle, some 1,500″”…”2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded.  Another 154 Jacobites and 222 “French” were taken prisoner.  In striking contrast, the Government forces suffered 50 dead and 259 wounded, although a high proportion of those recorded as wounded are likely to have died of their wounds.

Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness is the second largest inland lake in Scotland next to Loch Lomond. Drumnadrochit, where the visitor center is located, is just about 23 km south of Inverness. Gordon Nicol takes poetic license to describe “Nessie,” the monster haunting Loch Ness in a manner appealing to children:

The very first person to see [“Nessie”] was back in 565AD,
Saint Columba wrote about seeing a serpent in his ancient diary.

He looked out into the loch one day and what do you think he did see?
A monster with humps rising up and down. Count them one, two three.

But she was very shy, so she mostly stayed beneath the lake
Only coming up every so often, when she needed to have a break.
And that’s when the trouble started. People got very scared.
To see a monster rising from the loch, they just weren’t prepared.

Wee Angus McDonald was out walking with his mum
On the shores of Loch Ness, and he was acting kind of glum.
He had been told of a monster and he wanted to see it,
But so far there, was nothing …except seagulls going “Kee ye. Kee ye.”

Just when he was about ready to quit and go home.
There was a big splash and a churning of water with foam.
Angus McDonald tugged at his mother’s sleeve,
Because he could see something in the loch that he just didnae believe.

It was huge. It was ugly. It had a long bumpy tail.
My gosh, my goodness it was bigger than a whale.
Both mother and wee laddie, stood rooted to the spot.
They didn’t dare to move an inch, in case Nessie would eat the lot.

Nessie’s eyes looked and saw them. She knew they were afraid.
So she gave out a mighty roar and mither and son… they prayed.
But then the great big monster had a great big change of heart.
She decided to leave them alone and with a friendly roar, she did depart.

Junius, my 10-year-old son, was fairly confident just like Angus MacDonald in the preceding story that he could get a glimpse of ugly monster if he kept both of his eyes open while at Drumnadrochit, where visitors can examine the controversy on the putative monster through the natural history of Loch Ness. Some believe that the monster comes from a line of long-surviving plesiosaurs. However, although we searched for him on a boat, the wily monster failed to respond to Junius’s exhortations to show up and prove his existence.

Overall Scotland Tour

Our tour of Scotland comprised five major excursions involving more than 1,300 km of travel.

The first was our 180 km trip from Gretna Green, the southern entry point to Scotland, to Edinburgh, the capital, which lies 75 km east of Glasgow, the largest city. We stayed two nights in Musselburgh in east Edinburgh to explore the vicinity. Among other things, we visited the Holyroodhouse Palace and Edinburgh Palace on the Royal Mile and attended a fascinating “Scottish Night” out at Prestonfield House (I skipped the details for space reasons.)

The second was our 282 km excursion from Edinburgh to Aviemore in the Highlands via St. Andrews, Dundee and Perth. In St. Andrews, we saw the home of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which exercises legislative authority on golf worldwide (except United States and Mexico).  On this trip, a bunch of Aussies, who relished their newly acquired fame as “Crocodile Dundees” (following the success of the 1986 Paul Hogan movie) insisted on stopovers in Dundee on the Firth of Tay, Perth and Dunkeld.

Crossing the Pass of Drumochter on the Grampians to reach Aviemore was an awesome experience. . A close-up satellite map of the area between the Pass of Drumochter and Dalwhinnie at the head of Loch Enoht could instill fear in feeble travelers.

The third was our 409 km roundtrip excursion from Aviemore to Luib in the Isle of Skye via Inverness, Achnasheen, Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin. This trip took us to Culloden and Loch Ness, which we reached from its southern end.

The fourth was our 317 km journey from Aviemore to Glasgow via Fort William, Glencoe and Loch Lomond. On this trip, we saw Ben Nevis at close range, lamented the Massacre of Glencoe on the spot, and took a boat ride on Loch Lomond in rainy weather.

The fifth was our 160km exit journey from Glasgow to Etna Green, the exit point to Hadrian’s Wall.  I explored Glasgow when I returned to the city to attend a conference in 1998 because this trip virtually skipped it except for an overnight stay at a hotel near the airport in Paisley.

Our Scotland tour was an educational treat and an outdoor delight for 10-year-old Junius. He was no longer puzzled by the difference between firths (fjords) and lochs (lakes). He could proudly claim that he ate haggis with Scottish Highlanders and that he had a close view of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, and that he got as close as possible to look for the infamous Loch Ness monster. He also learnt some British history

Next: On Touring Northern England

(The writer is professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead.)

Figure 1

Google Map of Our Tour of Scotland

First Leg: Etna Green (F) to Edinburgh (G)

Second Leg: Edinburgh (G) to Aviemore (A)

Third Leg: Aviemore (A) to Luib (M) (roundtrip)

Fourth Leg: Aviemore (A) to Glasgow (F)

Final Leg: Glasgow F) to Etna Green (G)

Estimated distance traveled=1,200km+)

pic11

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