Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Unsung Hero

There are many people in the Jacobite Uprising of '45 that do not get the credit they should. Far too many brave men and women go unremembered in history, and it's usually the normal people who bring their stories down through the ages.

Today, I am going to talk about a man named Roderick MacKenzie

Near Inverness, by the River Moriston there is a cairn with the inscription:

At this spot in 1746 died Roderick MacKenzie an officer in the army of Charles Edward Stuart. Of the same size and of similar resemblance to his Royal Prince when surrounded and overpowered by the troops of the Duke of Cumberland gallantly died in attempting to save his fugitive leader from further pursuit.

Roderick MacKenzie was a Jacobite and, as the plaque said, he resembled Bonnie Prince Charlie. One day when he was going down the road, he met up with an English patrol. Seeing his likeness to the Bonnie Prince, they overpowered him and killed him. As Roderick lay dying, he was reported to have said, "You have slain your prince," making them think they really had killed Charlie, and thus keeping the redcoats from their chase a little bit longer.

The redcoats cut off poor Roderick's head and brought it back to London for identification, hoping to collect the 30,000 pound reward for the head of Prince Charlie. It is a well known fact that, though there was a huge reward for Prince Charlie, no one ever betrayed him. Too many times before in history had Scotland betrayed it's heroes (like in the cases of Wallace and Montrose) and the people responsible for it had gone down in history as quislings and traitors and were not mentioned without being spat at. No one wanted to be the one to go down in history for being the person who betrayed the Bonnie Prince, so they helped Charlie hide and escape instead of betraying him for the huge reward offered by the crown. Roderick MacKenzie felt this way, and he gave his life for his prince.

Roderick's friends found his body and buried him close to where he fell by the Stream of the Merchant. (This was possibly named for Roderick, him being a merchant.) The grave oridinally had no headstone, but the Clan MacKenzie Society, who have a commemoration there every year to honor the hero, donated a plaque to tell about what happened to Roderick.

It reads:

"Here in consecrated ground rest the mortal remains of Roderick MacKenzie, merchant of Fisherow and son of an Edinburgh Jeweller, slain by Cumberland's Redcoat troops late in July 1746, three months after the Battle of Culloden, because he selflessly encouraged them to mistake him for Prince Charles Edward Stuart, whom he closely resembled in age, stature and colouring and whom he served faithfully to the end."

Roderick's story is a wonderful example of true Scottish loyalty, and though not much is known about him, this little bit of a story, is, I think, a wonderful addition to the Jacobites' history.

Slainte, Hazel


  1. I recall a visit to Scotland in the late 1970s when I passed nearby a monument to young MacKenzie without actually knowing it. In fact at that stage I was not familiar with the History/Legend.
    Some historians doubt the authenticity but "historians" sometimes miss the point that in The Gaelic World....Legend/Myth is as important as History itself.
    I recall a mentor once telling me that "History is only facts.....anyone can make History...not evryone can make a Legend".
    Its a peculiar Irish & Scottish way of looking at things to which I subscribe.
    Whether young Mackenzie did make History....who knows? Whats certain is that he made a Legend. And ultimately thats more powerful.
    Thank you for your kind words about my Toy Soldier site. I have given a back story to each of the 18 riders in FitzjamesHorse. One is called Roderick Mackenzie (a kind of tribute). In London last weekend I picked up some new "Highlanders" to paint (eventually). In the meantime I have posted a pic of some Toy Soldier Highlanders charging at Culloden (well ok its my overgrown front garden).

  2. You're quote reminded me of one by Napoleon that I have pinned up on the board above my desk "What is history but a fable agreed upon?" It's not really on the same subject, but I liked it anyway.

    I've always been fascinated by the men and women who made legends and not just history. That may be one of the things that attracted me to William Wallace. He's probably hands down my favorite historic hero ever. I never cease to be amazed when I read about him.

    Since you enjoy Scottish history so much, I will have to recommend David R. Ross' books to you if you have not already discovered them. He's kinda travel writer/historian and he tells about places that people might not know exists and where to find them. I know I recommend him to everyone, but he's one of my favorite historic authors and I try to get his books out there.

    I'll check out your site again as well. There really is something about toy soldiers that I really like!