Formalities Observed

A romantic depiction of Highland chiefs, in Stewart and Gordon tartans; J. Logan, The Scottish Gaël, 1831.
A romantic depiction of Highland chiefs, in Stewart and Gordon tartans; J. Logan, The Scottish Gaël, 1831.

Every Heir or young Chieftain of a Tribe was oblig’d in Honour to give a publick Specimen of his Valour before he was own’d and declar’d Governor or Leader of his People, who obey’d and follow’d him upon all Occasions.

This Chieftain was usually attended with a Retinue of young Men of Quality, who had not beforehand given any Proof of their Valour, and were ambitious of such an Opportunity to signalize themselves.

It was usual for the Captain to lead them, to make a desperate Incursion upon some Neighbour or other that they were in Feud with; and they were oblig’d to bring by open force the Cattel they found in the Lands they attack’d, or to die in the Attempt.

After the Performance of this Achievement, the young Chieftain was ever after reputed valiant and worthy of Government, and such as were of his Retinue acquir’d the like Reputation. This Custom being reciprocally us’d among them, was not reputed Robbery; for the Damage which one Tribe sustain’d by this Essay of the Chieftain of another, was repair’d when their Chieftain came in his turn to make his Specimen: but I have not heard an Instance of this Practice for these sixty Years past.

The Formalities observ’d at the Entrance of these Chieftains upon the Government of their Clans, were as follow:

A Heap of Stones was erected in form of a Pyramid, on the top of which the young Chieftain was plac’d, his Friends and Followers standing in a Circle round about him, his Elevation signifying his Authority over them, and their standing below their Subjection to him. One of his principal Friends deliver’d into his Hands the Sword worn by his Father, and there was a white Rod deliver’d to him likewise at the same time.

Immediately after, the Chief Druid (or Orator) stood close to the Pyramid, and pronounc’d a Rhetorical Panegyric, setting forth the antient Pedigree, Valour, and Liberality of the Family as Incentives to the young Chieftain, and fit for his imitation.

—  A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, Martin Martin, 1703.

Tae Win Oor Liberty

Crucifixion of St. Andrew; Carlo Braccesco, 1495; Galleria Franchetti, Ca’ d’Oro, Venice, Italy.
Crucifixion of St. Andrew; Carlo Braccesco, 1495; Galleria Franchetti, Ca’ d’Oro, Venice, Italy.

By the cross oor Andrew bore
By the sword oor William wore
By the crown our Robert swore
Tae win oor Liberty
Ca’ the falcon frae the glen,
Ca’ the eagle frae the ben
Ca’ the lion frae his den
Tae win oor Liberty

By the man wha’s faith was old
By the man they sold for gold
By the man they’ll never hold
Tae win oor Liberty
Ca’ the thieves o’ Liddesdale
Ca’ the spears o’ Annandale
Ca’ the brave o’ Yarrowvale
Tae win oor Liberty

By the arm that bends the bow
By the arm that plies the blow
By the arm that lays them low
Tae win oor Liberty
Ca’ the banners frae the West
Ca’ the raven frae his nest
Ca’ the clans that dance the best
Tae win oor Liberty

By the field that once was green
By the shield of silver sheen
By the sword in battle keen
Tae win oor Liberty
Bless the man wha’s faith we hold
Bless the man in chains they sold
Bless the man in cloth o’ gold
Wha’ won oor Liberty
Bless the man in cloth o’ gold
Wha’ won oor Liberty

Liberty, The Corries.

With All the Display Which the Parties Could Make

The Highlanders had no feasts nor rejoicings at a birth, but a funeral was conducted with all the display which the parties could make. All the clan, and numerous neighbors, were invited and entertained with a profusion of every thing. The male part of the procession was regularly arranged according to rank, and, instead of laying aside their weapons, they were all well armed and equipped on such an occasion. The statistical account of the parish of Tongue, in Sutherland, informs us that a funeral procession there was regulated with military exactness by an old soldier, a person easily found in these parts. If the coffin is borne on a bier, he, every five minutes, or at such time as may be thought convenient, draws up the company, rank and file, and gives the word “relief;” when four fresh bearers take place of the others. There are some particular observances in Highland families such as that of the Campbells of Melfort, Duntroon, and Dunstaffnage, who being descended from a Duke of Argyle, took the following method of cementing their friendship; when the head of either family died, the chief mourners were always to be the two other lairds. This was the case on occasion of the death of the late Archibald Campbell of Melfort. The coffin was usually borne in a sort of litter between two horses, called carbad, a term which is now often applied to the coffin itself. Carbad seems to have been originally applied to such vehicles, and, when restricted to those used for funeral purposes, became synonymous with the shell in which the body was deposited. The Gaëlic Cobhain, the origin of coffin in its primary sense, meant a box, or any hollow vessel of wood. The desire to be interred in the sacred Isle of Iona appears to be as old as the era of Druidism. The Druidical cemetery is still seen separate from the others, and has never been used as a Christian burial place. In the poem of Cuthon, as translated by Dr. Smith, it is said that Dargo, who is called Mac Drui Bheil, son of the Druid of Bel, was buried in the Green Isle, an epithet given to Iona, where his fathers rested. In this Isle forty eight kings of Scotland, four of Ireland, and eight of Norway are buried, besides numerous individuals of note. There were certain cairns on the lines of road along which funerals passed, both in Ireland and Scotland, on which the body was rested; and some villages, particularly one at the entrance of Locheil from the muir of Lochaber, are called corpach, from the circumstance of the coffin being laid down there on the halt of the company; corp, in Gaëlic, being a body. Durand says that the Gauls used black in mourning. The Highlanders have, I presume, ever done the same, but, except by the wearing of crape, I know not how they evinced the loss of their relatives.

James Logan, The Scottish Gaël; Or, Celtic Manners, as Preserved Among the Highlanders: Being an Historical and Descriptive Account of the Inhabitants, Antiquities, and National Peculiarities of Scotland: More Particularly of the Northern, Or Gaëlic Parts of the Country, where the Singular Habits of the Aboriginal Celts are Most Tenaciously Retained, London, 1831.

Unfurling the Standard

1000px-Jacobite_Standard_(1745).svg

The Marquis of Tullibardine accompanied Charles in his progress until the Prince landed at Glenfinnin [sic], which is situated about twenty miles from Fort William, and forms the outlet from Moidart to Lochaber; here the standard of Charles Edward was unfurled. The scene in which this ill-omened ceremonial took place is a deep and narrow valley, in which the river Finnin runs between high and craggy mountains, which are inaccessible to every species of carriage, and only to be surmounted by travellers on foot. At each end of the vale is a lake of about twelve miles in length, and behind the stern mountains which enclose the glen, are salt-water lakes, one of them an arm of the sea. The river Finnin empties itself into the Lake of Glenshiel, at the extremity of the glen. On the eighteenth of August Prince Charles crossed this lake, slept at Glensiarick, and on the nineteenth proceeded to Glenfinnin.

When Charles landed in the glen, he gazed around anxiously for Cameron of Lochiel, the younger, whom he expected to have joined him. He looked for some time in vain; that faithful adherent was not then in sight, nor was the glen, as the Prince had expected, peopled by any of the clansmen whose gathering he had expected. A few poor people from the little knot of hovels, which was called the village, alone greeted the ill-starred adventurer. Disconcerted, Prince Charles entered one of the hovels, which are still standing, and waited there for about two hours. At the end of that time, the notes of the pibroch were heard, and presently, descending from the summit of a hill, appeared the Camerons, advancing in two lines, each of them three men deep. Between the lines walked the prisoners of war, who had been taken some days previously near Loch Lochiel [sic].

The Prince, exhilarated by the sight of six or seven hundred brave Highlanders, immediately gave orders for the standard to be unfurled.

The office of honour was entrusted to the Marquis of Tullibardine, on account of his high rank and importance to the cause. The spot chosen for the ceremony was a knoll in the centre of the vale. Upon this little eminence the Marquis stood, supported on either side by men, for his health was infirm, and what we should now call a premature old age was fast approaching. The banner which it was his lot to unfurl displayed no motto, nor was there inscribed upon it the coffin and the crown which the vulgar notion in England assigned to it. It was simply a large banner of red silk, with a white space in the middle. The Marquis held the staff until the Manifesto of the Chevalier and the Commission of Regency had been read. In a few hours the glen in which this solemnity had been performed, was filled not only with Highlanders, but with ladies and gentlemen to admire the spectacle.

— Memoirs of the Jacobites of 1715 and 1745, Volume II.

Glenfinnan

We Return No More

It is all over now — put me to bed — call in the piper; let him play “Ha Til Mi Tulidh” (We Return No More) as long as I breathe.

— Final words of Raibeart Ruadh MacGriogair (Robert Roy MacGregor).

Macmillan’s Cross

Macmillan's Cross; Kilmory Knap Chapel, Kilmory, Knapdale, Argyll and Bute, on the west coast of Scotland.
Front face of Macmillan’s Cross; Kilmory Knap Chapel, Kilmory, Knapdale, Argyll and Bute, on the west coast of Scotland.

John Campbell of the Bank

John Campbell of the Bank, 1759 (or 1749). All “modern tartans” identified with the Clan Campbell are blue, green, and black. I am not aware of any red tartan which has been associated either historically or by the tartan mills with the Clan Campbell. This portrait just reinforces the truth that Highlanders simply wore what tartans were locally available or to their taste. John Campbell (c.1703-1777) was a Scottish banker and man of business. He worked for The Royal Bank of Scotland from its foundation in 1727, and was its cashier, 1745-77. He served as agent for his kinsmen the 2nd Earl of Breadalbane and Lord Glenorchy, keeping their estate accounts and acting as their representative for all types of business in Edinburgh. Campbell was a Gaelic-speaker with an interest in supporting the survival of the language. He read poetry and his diary suggests that he also wrote it, although no samples are known to survive. It is thought that he was one of the financial supporters of James Macpherson, in his search for the ‘lost’ Ossian cycle of poems.

John Campbell’s diary recounts how the Jacobite army took control of Edinburgh on 17 September 1745. On 1 October, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s secretary informed John Campbell that he had £857 of Royal Bank banknotes and wanted payment for them in gold. Upon failure to comply, the Jacobites would seize property from the Bank and its directors to the value of the notes.

It was not immediately easy for the Bank to comply, because all the Bank’s valuables, including its reserves of gold, had been moved to Edinburgh Castle for safekeeping during this time of turmoil. At first, it had been possible to get access to the Castle when necessary, but by this time the Castle – still in government hands – was locked down, while the rest of the city was under Jacobite control. Just a few days earlier, Campbell and some colleagues had been refused access to the castle, despite waiting at the gates for an hour.

Campbell sought and obtained a special pass from the Jacobite authorities permitting him to pass through the streets safely on his way to the castle. He also wrote ahead to the castle warning its commander that he would be asking for access. The commander implied he would be allowed in, but refused to put anything in writing.

Campbell, accompanied by colleagues and directors from the Bank, made his expedition to the castle on 3 October 1745. He successfully gained access, withdrew the gold to meet the Prince’s demands (which by now had risen to over £3,000), and more to meet any imminent further demands. He also destroyed a large quantity of unissued notes to remove the risk of them entering circulation and becoming an additional liability. While he worked, shooting went on between government forces in the Castle and Jacobites outside.

He paid the money to the Prince’s secretary at his office later that evening. The Jacobite army left Edinburgh on 1 November, marching on into England in a bid to claim the British throne. The army’s progress into England was funded in no small part by the gold it had received from The Royal Bank of Scotland.

Castle Sween

Castle Sween is located on the eastern shore of Loch Sween, in Knapdale, on the west coast of Argyll, Scotland. It is thought to be one of the earliest stone castles built in Scotland, having been built sometime in the late XII century. The castle’s towers were later additions to wooden structures which have now since vanished.

Castle Sween takes its name from Suibhne, who is thought to have built the castle. Suibhne is believed to have been a grandson of Hugh “the Splendid” O’Neill who died in 1047.

In the XIII century the Clan MacSween, or descendants of Suibhne, governed lands extending as far north as Loch Awe and as far south as Skipness Castle on Loch Fyne. In the later half of the XIII the MacSween lands of Knapdale passed into the hands of the Stewart Earls of Menteith.

By the time of the Wars of Scottish Independence the MacSweens took the wrong side, and when Robert the Bruce became King of Scots, he displaced the MacSweens from their lands. After Robert the Bruce had defeated MacDougall Lord of Lorne in 1308, he then laid siege to Alasdair Og MacDonald in Castle Sween. Alastair gave himself up and was disinherited by Robert Bruce who then granted Islay to Alasdair’s younger brother, Angus Og, the king’s loyal supporter, who also received the Castle Sween in Kintyre from the King.

In 1310, Edward II of England granted John MacSween and his brothers their family’s ancestral lands of Knapdale (though by then Castle Sween was held by Sir John Menteith). It is possible that this could be the “tryst of a fleet against Castle Sween,” recorded in the Book of the Dean of Lismore, which tells of the attack of John Mac Sween on Castle Sween.

In 1323, after the death of Sir John Menteith, the Lordship of Arran and Knapdale passed to his son and grandson. In 1376, half of Knapdale, which included Castle Sween, passed into possession of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, by grant of Robert II of Scotland to his son-in-law John I, Lord of the Isles.

During the MacDonald’s century and a half of holding the castle, the castellans were first MacNeils and later MacMillans.

Castle Sween from the loch.

In 1490 Castle Sween was granted to Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll, by James IV of Scotland.

In 1647, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Castle Sween was attacked and burnt by Alasdair MacColla and his Irish Confederate followers.

R. R. McIan’s Lord of the Isles

The Lord of the Isles portrayed in his ceremonial costume in a XIX century engraving by McIan, from James Logan’s “The Clans of the Scottish Highlands”, 1845.

Robert Ronald McIan (1803 – 13 Dec 1856), also Robert Ranald McIan, was an actor and painter of Scottish descent. He is best known for romanticised depictions of Scottish clansmen, their battles, and domestic life.

Clo Mhic Ille Mhicheil

Jacobite Standard during the 1745 rising.
Lyrics: English Translation:
Oganaich uir a’ chuil teudaich Oh noble youth with long black hair
‘S oil liom eudach a bhith dhith ort I hate it that you are wanting clothing
Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil
Chuir Roinn Eorpa clo am beart dhuit Europe has put cloth in the loom for you
‘S gu tig e as cha bhith sith ann And until it comes out, there will be no peace
Sèist: Chorus:
Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil
O hugaibh, hug a ri hug O hugaibh, hug a ri hug
Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil
Ach, bith bithidh i fighte, cumte, luaidhte But it will be woven, shaped and waulked
Mus tig buain na Feill Mhicheil Before the harvest of Michaelmas comes
Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil
Gun tig gruagaichean Chlann Raghnaill The maidens of Clanranald will come
Comhlain dhaicheil nach dean diobradh Handsome bands which will not desert you
(Sèist) (Chorus)
Gun tig nionagan o’n Cheapaich Girls will come from Keppoch
A bheir caithris air mun sgithich Who will keep a night-watch on it ‘ere they tire
Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil
Is gheibh sinn sgioba eile a Eirinn And you will get another crew from Ireland
O Iarl’Antram nan steud riomhach From the Earl of Antrim with his handsome horses
(Sèist) (Chorus)
Mar sin is Niallaich thar saile Likewise MacNeils from across the sea
Far shruthain laidir an lionaldh Over the strong currents of the flowing tide
Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil
Na b’ionann seo ‘s an luadhadh dosgach Let this not be like the disastrous waulking
Bha’n Cuil-lodair nuair a phill sinn There was at Culloden, when we retreated
(Sèist) (Chorus)
Cuireamaid ‘na eideadh Tearlach Let us dress Prince Charlie in his equipment
Stracamaid an aird ar dichioll Let us aim at the height of our endeavor
Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil Hug air clo Mhic’ille Mhicheil
Dh’fhaodadh e bhith’n drasda umad You could have been wearing the cloth now
‘N a thrusgan urramach rioghail As an honored royal vestment
(Sèist) (Chorus)

On Wi’ the Braid Claymore

Prince Charles Edward Stuart; portrait by Louis-Gabriel Blanchet.

Cam’ ye by Atholl, lad wi’ the philabeg,
Down by the Tummel, or banks of the Garry?
Saw ye the lads, wi’ their bonnets an’ white cockades,
Leaving their mountains to follow Prince Charlie.

Chorus
Follow thee, follow thee, wha wadna follow thee?
Long has thou lov’d an’ trusted us fairly!
Charlie, Charlie, wha wadna follow thee?
King o’ the Highland hearts, bonnie Charlie.

I hae but ae son, my gallant young Donald;
But if I had ten, they should follow Glengarry;
Health to MacDonald and gallant Clan Ronald,
For these are the men that will die for their Charlie.

Chorus

I’ll go to Lochiel, and Appin, and kneel to them;
Down by Lord Murray and Roy of Kildarlie;
Brave Mackintosh, he shall fly to the field wi’ them;
These are the lads I can trust wi’ my Charlie.

Chorus

Down by thro’ the Lowlands, down wi’ the whigamore,
Loyal true Highlanders, down wi’ them rarely;
Ronald and Donald drive on wi’ the braid claymore,
Over the necks o’ the foes o’ Prince Charlie.