Remembering Culloden

Inscription on the memorial cairn at Culloden Battlefield 

Last Thursday, 16th April,  was the anniversary of a battle took which place on Drumossie Moor in 1746, the last pitched battle to be fought on British soil. It was here that the Jacobites lost their final stand against Government forces, and the quest to restore the Stuarts to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland was effectively ended.  This year, instead of pipes and flags, and people paying their respects the field was quiet.  But it was still remembered.

John Roy Stewart was a military commander In the army of Prince Charles Stuart, but he was also a poet. Often referred to now as "The Bard of Culloden".  His poem The Day of Culloden recounts the events of the fateful battle from a man who witnessed it first hand. 

The Day of Culloden (“Latha Chuil-Lodair”)

Great are the depths of my sorrow 
As I mourn for the wounds of my land;
My King, stay strong so you are able
All of our foes to withstand;
Over us Duke William is a tyrant,

A vile rogue with hate for us all;

As foul as foetid black straw

That strangles wheat in its thrall. 

I weep for handsome fair Charlie

At the mercy of George and his brutes,
While around us corrupted and sullied
Are justice and honour and truth;

But, Lord, should you but will it,
he kingdom will come back into our hands,
Through a leader royal and righteous
Who reigns fairly over our land. 

I weep for the Army of Tartan

Now scattered and spread everywhere,
Battered by England’s base villains
Beaten by methods unfair;

Though in battle they were victorious

It was through no courage or merit of theirs,
But westering winds and rains that swept on us
From the lowlands, to our despair. 

It’s a pity we were not in England
But close to our homes as we fought,
For we’d never have scattered so quickly,
Were it not for the homes that we sought;
Spells and witchcraft were cast upon us
As we marched into battle in gloom,
Across the bleak moor were we scattered
As ill fortune led to our doom. 

I weep for each of the white corpses
That lie on the side of the hill,
Abandoned, unhonoured, unshrouded,
Untouched and unburied still;
And those who survived the disaster
Are shackled in ships across seas,
For the Whigs now are the masters,
To do with us just as they please. 

Oppressed are we now by strangers,
Great the shame and disgrace that we feel
As our homes and our country are plundered
Crushed under a foreigner’s heel;
Castle Dounie’s a fire-blackened ruin,
Dishonoured its bare silent walls;

The wheel of fortune is changing

With no comfort found in her halls. 

I never thought that my own eyes
Would see things as they are now,
As if the tempests of Springtime 
Had laid all the wild flowers low; 
Fortune’s wheel has turned against us, 
Many brave men are now in distress, 
May God look with kindness and mercy, 
And save them from foreign duress. 

Our leaders that day betrayed us. 
And treacherously spilt of our blood; 
I curse Lord George seven times over, 
For leading us into the mud; 
Two choices were at his disposal, 
That flatterer of merciless guile, 
And he chose the road of deception, 
Concealed by a treacherous smile. 

As long as we live, till our days’ end

We will mourn the men we have lost, 
Valiant and brave-hearted heroes

Who fought fiercely with sword, shield and cross. 
Had the gale not been in our faces

We’d have charged with no fear at the foe, 
And scattered the English before us

And ended our poor country’s woe. 

I am plunged into grief and sadness 
As I weep bitter tears all alone, 
Watching the host of black roses 
Devour the wheat of the land; 
Savage Munros and wild Sutherlanders 
Crawl towards us like ravenous hounds, 
Scouring moors, clefts and hollows 
Their gluttony knowing no bounds. 

I weep for the land you’ve invaded, 
The scorched earth you’ve left in your wake, 
Crops stripped from our fields and hillsides, 
No seeds sown so the land may awake; 
You’ve taken the hens from the hen roosts, 
Stolen our last spoonful of soup away, 
May the curse of the fig tree be upon you, 
From root to top may you wither away. 

Now we are reduced to mere outlaws, 
And must take to the hills and the glens, 
Without sport, without mirth or diversion, 
With no songs, joy or pleasures of sense; 
With little to feed or to warm us

On the rocks where the cold mist lies, 
Hearing the haunting hoot of the barn owl 
As of death and disaster she cries. 

Popular Posts