Tuesday, November 30, 2010

St. Andrew's Day

Happy St. Andrew's Day everyone! Fly your Saltires! I don't have much time to write anything today, but here's a poem I wrote a while ago about the Saltire:

To the Saltire

To our ancestors you showed yourself
On the bright blue Summer's sky
As a sign that they would win the day
As their enemies drew ever nigh.

The white cross of St. Andrew
Is your foreground fair,
And your background of the brightest blue
Is the sky of the Summer's air.

You've flown above the bloody field
Of many a battle won.
Since the days of brave Calgacus
'Till all our fighting will be done.

You were the standard of the normal Scots;
The crofters and the Highland men.
The Lion Rampant is fine for kings,
But you were good enough for them.

You are Scotland as it was and is
And you'll be here is years to come.
For something that has been here so long
Your legacy will forever go on.

You flew in the field with Wallace
And won Bannockburn with our Hero King.
You flew with Bonnie Charlie
And still fly more freely than bird on wing.

Happy will be the day wen you fly
Over a Scotland once more free;
To rid your land of the usurper
And fill the people's hearts with glee.

So keep on flying
For Scotland needs you still.
And one day we all hope to see
The White and Blue on every hill.

Slainte, Hazel

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Draw at Sheriffmuir

Today commemorates the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. It was considered the last battle in the 1715 Jacobite Uprising and was also a draw.

The Jacobite forces were led by the Earl of Mar also called "Bobbing John". His nickname came from his ability to duck and weave in battle and also because he was known to change sides when it suited him. On November 13th the two forces, Mar's Jacobites and the Hanoverians under the Duke of Argyle met at Sheriffmuir. Mar had more men than Argyle, but he was not a very good military leader. He was more of a politician than a fighting man and it showed in the way he directed the battle. Neither side took advantage of its artillery and both armies attacked on only one flank. Argyle, as was usual with English forces, had superior cavalry and used it to attack Mar's right wing. They fought relentlessly for three hours, the Macrae clan in the Jacobite army were nearly wiped out and the Jacobite's left wing was overcome. Meanwhile Mar's right wing took up a ferocious Highland charge and attached Argyle's left which immediately broke and fled to Dunblane.

Argyle regrouped his right and then joined up with his center battalions who had not yet seen action. He had only about a thousand men left and he saw that Mar was regrouping as well, raising his standard on the Gather Stone (more about that in a minute). Before the fighting could continue though, the sun when down on that cold wet day and both armies retired back to where they had come from. The next morning, Argyle sent out scouts and found the field deserted. Mar had retreated to Perth where he awaited King James who was missing in action due to his detainment in France. The French were doing their best to keep him where he was, not wanting him to join the Uprising in person. It was said that the English ambassador had tried to have James assassinated, but eventually, he made it back to Scotland and landed in Peterhead.

After that the Uprising seemed to peter out until it flared again in 1719 at the Battle of Glenshiel. The Earl of Mar dithered around doing nothing and King James had caught a fever and was said to have spent his time huddled in a chair, shivering. There had been an attempt to coronate him at Scone, but it seems never to have gone over. The Jacobite ladies even donated their jewels to make a crown for him, but it never seemed to have happened.

There is now a monument at the site of the Battle of Sheriffmuir and commemorations are held every year, usually after dark. There is also a stone called the Gathering Stone which it where they clans gathered before the fight and sharpened their blades. (There are a lot of stones in Scotland that the clansmen have sharpened their swords on.) It is still there for people to see today.

Another interesting fact about the Battle was that Rob Roy MacGregor was there, though he was never said to have actually taken part in the battle, but seemed to have been just an observer. He was a Jacobite born and bred, but the Duke of Argyle was known to be his protector and thus he was not allowed or at least his honor would not allow him to fight against him. A jeering Scottish ballad says:

Rob Roy he stood watch
On a hill for to catch
The booty, for aught that I saw, man;
For he ne'er advanc'd
From the place where he stanc'd
Till nae mair was to do there at a' man.

However, he did act as a guide for Mar as the land they were traversing was practically on his home turf.

So the battle was a draw and as an old Scotch ballad says (I actually think it's from the same one as above):

There's some say that we won,
And some say that they won,
And some say that none won at a', man,
But of one thing I'm sure,
That at Sheriffmuir,
A battle there was, that I saw, man.
And we ran and they ran,
And they ran and we ran,
And we ran, and they ran awa' man.

Robert Burns also wrote a song about the Battle and here's a link to The Corries singing it. And also this other one I just found while I was looking for the other! :-P

Also, today we should all say happy birthday to one of Scotland's greatest novelists: Robert Louis Stevenson!

Slainte, Hazel

Friday, November 5, 2010

Remember, Remember...

Remember, Remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Anyone who lives in or around England probably knows that today is Gunpowder Plot Day. This commemorates the day in 1606 when Guy Fawkes was foiled in his plan to blow up Parliament and King James I (and VI of Scots.) I have always found this a somewhat fantastic story. Guy Fawkes and his conspirators were Catholics while James was a Protestant and so there was that age old rivalry. It was just enough to make Guy Fawkes and his friends to decide they were going to blow up Parliament and King James with it. (I always feel sorry for poor James. He seemed to have no end of bad luck!) They plotted and conspired and Fawkes assumed the pseudonym "John Johnson". They rented a house in London that had a cellar that went under the houses of Parliament and piled barrels and barrels of gunpowder into it, waiting for the time when they would get to use it.

However, Guy Fawkes, who was to light the fuse while all the others got out of there, was caught in the act and was foiled in his plan. He was drug to the Tower of London where he was tortured for information. What ever he might have done, you cannot deny the fact that Guy Fawkes was a very brave man. He withstood the torture and refused to give any names but his own. His friends were captured as well, but it was not because of him.

As soon as Guy Fawkes confessed to what he had done they took him and his friends to Westminster where they were tried for treason and hung, drawn and quartered. The story goes that Guy Fawkes leapt from the scaffold while he was being hung, thus breaking his neck and disappointing the executioners.

Here's some more information of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot if you wish to know more.

So happy Guy Fawkes Day to any of you English out there!

Slainte, Hazel