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1984 speech given by
Colonel Sir Donald Hamish Cameron of Lochiel, K.T. XXVI Chief of Clan Cameron
at the opening of the new Visitor Centre at Culloden Battlefield

The Battle of Culloden which was fought on 16th April 1746 was all over in under an hour, but its repercussions and the savage reprisal that followed altered the Highlands beyond recognition and shaped the future pattern of Highland history into a way of life quite different from the traditional clan system that had existed before this battle. Historians say that the Highlands were already changing and would have gone on changing had Culloden never been fought. This is probably true but the battle has also been recognized as an event which undoubtedly hastened these changes.

The battlefield attracts more and more people each year (almost 150,000 in all last year), often descendants of those who fought on one side or the other and I am glad to see many of them here today. To mention just a few, we have The Duke of Atholl, Mackintosh of Mackintosh, Lord Lovat, Macdonnel of Glengarry, Clanranald, The Earl of Perth (whose ancestor Viscount Strathallan was slain at Culloden), The Chisholm, Sir Dugald Stewart of Appin, and representatives of the Grants and Macleans of Drimmin, together with many other clans. I am also delighted to welcome representatives of at least seven regiments who fought with the Government Troops, and I mention in particular the Munro's Regiment which is now the Royal Hampshire Regiment who suffered severe casualties in the battle. It was the last battle between an old way of life and the new - between the feudal Highland army and a well trained modern force.

Because of the historic importance of this battle, its romantic associations and its undoubted attraction to visitors from overseas and from other parts of Britain, it is surely very important that visitors to Culloden should be told something of the history of the ill fated '45 and be able to see for themselves what the battlefield looked like on that sad bleak and stormy April day in 1746. Thanks to the National Trust for Scotland and to many people at home and overseas who have supported their Culloden Appeal, this is now possible. The trees, which fortunately were mature and ready for cutting, have gone, and the road driven ruthlessly through the graveyard is to be re-aligned, and so the graves of the clans will then be left undisturbed by road traffic. The line of battle on both sides is now well marked, and the Trust has eagerly seized the opportunity of telling the Culloden story to visitors in a most imaginative and vivid manner.

I think it might be appropriate for me now to say a few brief words about this battle. Nearly all accounts of campaigns and battles written by historians afterwards are strewn with stories of missed opportunities. If only this or that had happened or other decisions taken by those in command, how different would have been the course of events. Culloden is certainly no exception to this general rule. The night mach to Nairn on the night before the battle could have wreaked havoc on the Government army if the troops had been fitter and the march better planned and executed. As things turn out it was disastrous for the morale and the physical well being of the Highland troops who were very ill fed and in poor fighting condition even without this tiring and abortive night expedition. Perhaps the worst mistake was the choice of ground. Lord George Murray, one of the few leaders on the Prince's side who had experience of soldiering, was in favour of the Prince's army taking up a position on the other side of the River Nairn where the Highlanders would have been well placed to profit from their historic mode of fighting and the Government troops with their preponderance of horse and artillery would have been at a severe disadvantage. As Lord George Murray wrote later "Mr. O'Sullivan chose that field of battle and there never could be more improper ground for Highlanders." Also, if they had waited for a day or two their army might have been almost 2,000 stronger. Lord Elcho and most of the Clan Chiefs agreed with Lord George that they should have crossed the water of the Nairn, and climbed up the steep banks into the hilly country which had been previously reconnoitered, but Prince Charles and his Irish advisers would not listen to this sound advice, and they were overruled.

The Government troops were far superior in numbers, about 9000 men including 2400 horsemen, against the Prince's army of 5000, but their most telling superiority was in their artillery. With an experienced and well-trained commander, with ten three pounder guns in pairs in the front line and powerful mortars in the rear, the effect of their fire on the Jacobite army was devastating, and the Jacobite guns were of little effect when they replied.

A disunited command structure, clever tactics on the part of Cumberland, and the usual battlefield confusion completed the rout. Highland gallantry and defiance were not enough to stem the tide of defeat. If one stands where the Highland army was drawn up and looks across the moor to where the Hanoverian army stood, less than five hundred yards away, one can only marvel at the gallantry shown by the clans when the order at last came to charge, and they unhesitatingly obeyed, sometimes over the fallen bodies of their comrades, charging with only their claymores into that cauldron of fire. All was over in a very short time, with Prince Charles and his brave followers streaming back to their homes to face a systematic process of murder and destruction which even English historians have described as a disgrace to a British army. The captured Jacobite standards were afterwards publicly burned in Edinburgh, but one or two were bravely rescued from the field of battle by the standard bearers, and the Cameron banner hangs today at Achnacarry, the Stewart banner in Edinburgh Castle. However that all happened long ago, and today we are united in friendship and loyalty to our Sovereign and out country.

After the battle, the Government were determined to be revenged on the Highlanders for all the trouble they had caused over the previous fifty years and to stamp out the support for Jacobitism once and for all. Cumberland's own final solution to the Highland problem was the transportation of whole clans "such as the Camerons and almost all the tribes of the Macdonalds and several other lesser clans" - so he wrote in a letter to London - but fortunately this was not put into effect and many descendants of these clans still live peacefully in their Clan Lands. Indeed, many of these Highlanders and their sons fought courageously in the Government service soon after the '45 as their descendants have done so magnificently ever since.

The National Trust for Scotland have recently produced an excellent leaflet on Culloden which I commend warmly to all who may be interested in the details of this battle, and indeed to all students of Scottish history.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the National Trust for Scotland for the great work they have done to restore this battlefield and to present its story. The National Trust is doing a marvelous job throughout Scotland in preserving the priceless heritage of our country and this includes castles, houses with historical association, gardens and important tracts of land, historical sites such as Glencoe and Glenfinnan, and battlefield like this one.

The Trust deserves all the support we can give it to enable it to continue with this invaluable work. As Lord Lieutenant of Inverness and a direct descendant of the Gentle Lochiel who was carried off this battlefield wounded in both legs, and like so many others suffered exile and forfeiture of his lands because of his loyalty to his Prince, I welcome most warmly this development and restoration at Drumossie Moor.