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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Old Highland Cemeteries - Part 2 -Cill Chriosd in Isle of Skye & Clachan Duich in Kintail

Clan Map of Northwestern Scotland & Isle of Skye

I think what fascinates me about old Scottish cemeteries is that many are clan oriented. The clearances displaced thousands of highland crofters  from the 1750s through the 1840s so the lairds could use the land for sheep raising, which is why there are so many Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders of highland origin. Yet, many remained. In my last blog I showed photos of the Bolskine Burial Ground, which was on the eastern side of Loch Ness. It was full of Frasers and you can see above in lavender to the right Fraser country along the loch.

Cill Chriosd (Christ's Church or "Kilchrist") 
On the Isle of Skye lies Cill Chriosd burial ground dating back to around 700 A.D., but most graves are from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It was MacKinnon ground. The ruins of the church are post-Reformation, replacing earlier churches.

Scottish cemeteries have such beautiful views

Sheep are allowed in to keep the grass down, but they rub against the stones and many are damaged and turned over. The weather, too, plays a part in wearing down the stones. The day we visited the cemetery, sheep were waiting for the gate to open and went away disappointed when we wouldn't let them in.

It must be open range.
The Clan MacRae burial ground is at Clachan Duich in Kintail - it's in pink on the clan map above, a small area in Wester Ross (that's the mainland) between Orange MacLeod below and blue MacDonnell above. 


Memorial to Clan MacRae men who died in the Great War

View of Clachan Duich Burial Ground from Clan MacRae memorial
It is believed that the ships that destroyed Eileen Donan Castle, the seat of Clan MacRae, in 1719 during that Jacobite uprising, also shelled this church.
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Clan MacRae Motto "Fortitudine" - "With Fortitude"
Have I said that the Scots are a vey warm and friendly people. We felt so at home wandering about the highlands.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Old Highland Cemeteries - Part 1: Inverness & Boleskine

Old High Church Cemetery, Inverness, with a view across the Ness River

I have a fascination with old cemeteries. Fortunately, Jay shares it with me or I wouldn't be allowed to linger so long in them. The Old High Church Cemetery in Inverness has many old headstones, but most have been worn away by weather.

One of the oldest that can be deciphered

MacGregors are buried here


And Major Wm Donaldson (died 1881) who knew his duty


John Bain, Book seller Inverness. 
John Bain the book seller of Inverness is buried here, along with his wife, but there is no date on their stone. 


Rabbits inhabit the cemetery, too. Cemeteries are not necessarily magical places. But wandering about, I came upon a fairy circle of toadstools.

Fairy Circle in Inverness cemetery

A second cemetery we visited was south of Inverness along Loch Ness -- the Boleskine Cemetery.


It has a lovely view across the loch. Here are buried Camerons, MacBeans, Afflecks . . . 


And Frasers . . . 


Those of you who are familiar with the Fraser (Lovat) clan, will see its motto, Je Suis Prest, (I Am Ready), on this moss-covered stone surmounted by the stag's head. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Jacobite Scotland - (Part 2) - Culloden


Yellow gorse and memorial cairn erected 1881 by Duncan Forbes, owner of land

I had wanted to visit the Culloden battle site for a number of years, having read much about the Jacobites and their risings in 1709, 1715, and their final act in 1745-6, to put the Stuarts back on the throne of Great Britain. The morning Jay and I went, it had rained during the night and the day was misty, much as it had been on April  16, 1746.

At time of battle, this was grazing land with rock walls.


 If you have visited Gettysburg, or any Civil War battlefield such as Antietam or Bull Run, there is nothing joyous in the visit. You are filled with sadness. Over two thousand men fell here, mostly highlanders, but some lowlanders, too, who had borne arms, led by highland chiefs following Charles Edward Stuart - Bonnie Prince Charlie - to reinstate his father, the Old Pretender, son of King James II and VI of England and Scotland. If you're interested in the actual battle, you can read about it here.  Visitors, perhaps descendants of clansmen who fought still leave mementos out in the gorse and heather.









After the battle, the locals were ordered by Government forces to dig the mass graves for the highlanders. In 1881 Duncan Forbes, the owner of the land, had memorial stones for the clans set where these mass graves lay.

Clan Fraser


Mixed clans

Clan MacGillivray
Clan Cameron

Well of the Dead

Clan Stewart of Appin
Clans MacGillivray, MacLean, MacLaughlan, Athol Highlanders
Clan MacKintosh
French Jacobites (many of Irish and Scottish descent), who protected the rear of the Highlanders' retreat


The lay of a battlefield will often decide the victory. The marsh, still here as on the morning of the battle, caused the Jacobites on the left to swerve around it to the right, bunching up in the middle,  thus failing to assault the flank of the Government forces.



Note the fellow looking into the window of this small cottage rebuilt after the battle, which was thought to have housed wounded Government soldiers. There is still some doubt where from 50 to 300 British soldiers are thought to have been buried, but archaeologists are working on locating the exact site -- and may actually have by now.


But, for all of the solemnity we felt, there was time for levity in the large new (2007) visitor's center, where Jay was allowed to don a targe and raise a sword  just to see how they felt.


And we had lunch in the cafeteria, which included this bottle of lemonade flavored with rose water - very good. I drank most of it before remembering to photograph it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jay's Take on Scotland (Part 4) - Commando Memorial

My Own Private Idaho: "This Country Was Their Training Ground": When a country has fought as many wars as has Great Britain, one would expect war memorials in every town, and that's certainly true of ...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jacobite Scotland (Part 1) - Massacre at Glencoe 1692

Monument to the Chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe and his clan

Looking toward Glen Coe  from the  banks of Loch Leven

I have studied the Jacobite era of Scotland for many years and, lest you think it all occurred in 1745-6, terminating at the Battle of Culloden, it actually began in 1688 with the British Parliament inviting Mary, the Protestant daughter of Catholic King James II of England, who was also James the VII of Scotland (having  recently produced a Catholic male heir), and her husband William of Orange to come from Holland and assume the throne of Great Britain, which included Scotland. The Scots fought the English at Killiecrankie and Dunkeld in 1689 without a victory.  James personally tried once to regain his throne, but his forces were defeated in 1689 at Boyne in Ireland. Still, many highlanders remained loyal to James - thus Jacobites.

Modern Glencoe Village at entrance of Glen Coe
The facts leading to the massacre at Glencoe are fascinating and you may want to read them on Wikipedia.
McIan, chief of Clan MacDonald, was ordered to pledge allegiance to William and Mary. He did his best to meet the requirements.  Troops loyal to the crown were then housed among Clan MacDonald in three settlements (Invercoe, Inverrigan and Achnacon) with the claim that there wasn't enough room at Fort William. Hospitality was given, but two weeks later, orders came and the killing of the clan began. Thirty-eight MacDonalds were killed outright; 40 women and children died of exposure in the February cold and deep snow after their homes were burned down.

How the clans homes might have looked at the time, probably without whitewash

Through the modern village of Glencoe, then turning left on a one lane track, we came to the monument, erected by a direct descendant in 1883. A peaceful site on a small hill surrounded by woods.

"Cruel is the snow that sweeps Glencoe" begins the popular ballad of the massacre.


Not a forgotten place, as the cards and withered flowers attest
On our way out, we stopped at another memorial - to those Glencoe who died in the Great War. Eleven names, including MacDonald, Buchanan, MacMillan, Mathieson. Later, one was added from World War II.

Dileas Gu Bas - "Faithful unto Death"

On our drive back to Inverness, we stopped at the Commando Memorial



This large monument stands to more than 25,000 men who trained as Commandos during World War II, not only British, but U.S. Rangers, Frenchmen, Belgians, Danes, Dutch, Norwegians and Poles. It overlooks the area in which they trained with stunning views of Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor.

Dedicated in 1951 by the Queen Mother, who had an affinity for Scotland.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What we Found of Medieval Scotland

Remnant of Fortrose Cathedral
I will skip the Viking era of northeastern Scotland because there is little left but place names and Scots with red hair to show that the Vikings dominated the Hebrides and inland Scotland for many centuries. So, we will move on to medieval Scotland. I prefer less-traveled places, so we never got around to visiting intact castles. Above is what was probably the chapter house of a medieval cathedral at Fortrose on the Black Isle, about 6 miles northwest of Inverness, where we stayed our first week.




It was raining rather hard and we were the only people looking about.


The entire cathedral was very large, but Oliver Cromwell had most of it pulled down so he could build a fortress in Inverness. He had little use for either the Catholic Church or the Anglican Church.

Sarcophagus of a medieval bishop 
The chapter house is such a ruin that we are on the outside looking in through the side to take our photos.

It still has nice vaulting in the ceiling. Soaked and hungry, we raided the bakery across the way for hot tea and treats.

This next photo is of a ruin of a foot bridge. I assumed it had been built before 1600; but since posting this, discovered it was built in 1717. It is still the oldest stone bridge in the Highlands.

Packhorse bridge at Carrbidge

We spent our second week across from the Isle of Skye at Kyle of Lochalsh. And from our window, we could see the ruins of Castle Moil (also called Maol, Dun Akyn, etc) across on Skye above the village of Kyleakin. It was the ancient seat of the Clan Mackinnon.


This ruin dates from 15th century, but was built on earlier ruins
Having acquired a recumbent stationary bike to strengthen my legs a few months before our trip, even at 68, I really wanted to climb up to the ruins. And so we did, clambering up like old clumsy goats.
Beware the Tides - with no supervision, the sightseer is on his or her own.


Again, we were the only tourists about as I took a photo of Jay on the easy part of the climb.


There is a Norse connection, for the castle came into Mackinnon hands by marriage in the year 900 to  a Norse princess. And later, King Haakon IV is thought to have assembled his fleet of longships there before the Battle of Largs in 1263 (hence the name Kyleakin - Haakon's kyle). Haakon's defeat at Largs effectively ended Norse domination of the Scottish islands.


Looking over the Strait of Kyle Akin


View of Kyleakin from the castle ruin
Protected on the tidal side by water, but always aware of possible attack from behind.
 Weather has not been kind to this ruin - parts of it have continued to fall down because of great gales.
Here's an old photograph I discovered in a restaurant of how it looked some years ago.