Brilliant sunshine illumined the memorable scene at Glenfinnan, at the head of Loch Shiel, on Saturday afternoon when the two-hundredth anniversary of the raising of the standard in presence of Prince Charles Edward was celebrated at a simple but stirring ceremony.
The pages of history were turned back to the beginning of the 'Forty-five, and for a brief, emotional hour Highland hearts beat fast in affectionate remembrance of the young Prince whose gallant but vain attempt to win back a lost throne evoked an abiding demonstration of loyalty from the ancestors of many of those in Saturday's company, and forms an imperishable chapter in the story of Scotland's past, blending romance, sacrifice, bravery, and fidelity to the Stuart cause.
High on the lofty but severely plain memorial which dominates the head of the loch was the figure of the Prince, a St Andrew's Cross flag fluttering by his side. The crowds, the speeches, the singing of Gaelic songs, the cinema cameras, the blare of loudspeakers, the shrilling of the bagpipes, and the dazzling sun all seemed to conspire against the thought that the shade of the slim, bonnie young Chevalier in his Stuart tartan could be haunting the hallowed spot at this commemorative moment.
But for those who came early to Glenfinnan it was easier to conjure up the events of 200 years ago and to feel the presence of the immortal actors in the historic drama. Silence lay over the glens and Loch Shiel. Mist shrouded the brooding mountains, and when the stillness was broken by the rattle of oars in the rowlocks of a boat on the loch imagination readily raced ahead to disembark a ghostly little group on the shore where the Prince arrived and waited eagerly to see what was to be the response of the clans.
Soon the "narrow vale between high and craggy mountains" was to be cleared of mist as the sun broke through, giving a royal touch to the weather and shedding a glowing radiance over everything, which contributed towards an unforgettable picture but may have given strangers to these parts, drawn by the ceremony, a somewhat deceptive impression of the countryside. Ruggedness was softened. Gloomy skies seemed to have no place in this majestic Highland setting, and the bustle of the assembling crowd, arriving by buses, and a special train from Fort William to the small wayside station at Glenfinnan, motor cars, and all manner of conveyance, dispelled for the time being the sense of remoteness and solitude. Dignity marked the proceedings, but the suggestion of a gala afternoon was inseparable from such an occasion.
Within the circular wail enclosing the memorial the invited guests were accommodated, and before the start of the ceremony Service men and women in uniform were asked to join the company. Outside, standing and sitting around, there must have been two to three thousand spectators basking in the sunshine.
The wide, level grassy space nestling among the mountains, where Glenfinnan opens out to merge with the shores of the loch, made a perfect ground for the rally, and no one present is ever likely to forget the animation of the spectacle, the feelings stirred by the speeches of the descendants of the clan leaders who threw in their lot with the Prince, the kilts and the tartans, the music and the sentiment, or the arresting background the speakers had to their platform, decorated with heather and spruce fir.
As the sun came round to the west, it burnished the "waters of dark Loch Shiel" in silver and gold hues, and though there seemed to be scarcely a breath of wind the surface of the loch was gently ruffled, and the lapping waves on the shore added a harmonious note to the pipe music of Lochiel's March before Lochiel himself, the embodiment of Highland chieftainship, mounted the platform to address the gathering.
His opening words were sufficient to banish the suggestion of participation in a seditious movement or any idea that loyalty to the man whom the Highlanders in 1745 regarded as their lawful sovereign is incompatible with loyalty to our present King.
His word picture of the scone on August 19, 200 years ago, thrilled the listeners. No stretch of imagination was required to see the re-enactment of the drama as Lochiel described how, where they were now standing, was the Prince with the Marquess of Tullibardine and a small party by his side, and surrounded by Macdonalds who had rallied to him. All were anxiously gazing up Glenfinnan wondering if their small numbers were going to be reinforced by the Camerons.
As Lochiel paused and raised his eyes towards the glen, involuntarily one seemed to listen for the sound of the pipes in the distance which heralded their arrival, and to have a share in the sense of relief felt by the Prince and his supporters as the strains of the bagpipes increased in volume and the Camerons appeared in sight, with their claymores and targes, marching down the glen headed by their Chief. It was the dramatic passage in the recital of events by the present head of the clan.
THE WHITE COCKADE
The gathering then heard how the standard was brought out, to be hoisted and unfurled by the Marquess of Tullibardine, whose kinsman and representative, Lord James Murray (present Duke of Atholl and Marquess of Tullibardine) followed Lochiel on the platform. His Lordship held his bonnet in his hand during the early part of his speech.
He told how Tullibardine, a veteran of Jacobite risings, left the active part of the campaign to his more robust and talented younger brother, Lord George Murray - his Lordship's direct ancestor - and then, with a quiet but moving flourish, he fitted on to his head the bonnet with the white cockade which was actually worn by Lord George Murray during the '45.
Like "the Gentle Lochiel," he observed, his disinterested loyalty was undoubted, and his Lordship mentioned that he possessed the letter which his ancestor wrote to his brother James informing him that he had decided to join in the cause "he always in his heart thought just and right," though realising that "his life, his fortune, his expectations, and the happiness of his wife and children were at stake."
Between these two speeches, Piper Norman MacRae had played "My King has landed in Moidart," and Mr Neil MacLean and the Lochaber Gaelic Choir sang "Hi ri ri, tha e tighinn" ("He Comes.") "He 'n clò dubh" ("Down with the Black Cloth") and "Hug o laithill o ho ro" ("Hurrah for the day of days") were also rendered by the choir. The Rev. Malcolm MacLeod, president of An Comunn Gaidhealach, addressed the gathering in Gaelic.
Sir Iain Colquhoun, Bt., of Luss, chairman of the National Trust for Scotland, presided, and thanked those who had taken part in the ceremony. The Trust was responsible for the organisation of the commemoration; the Prince Charlie monument being within the administration of the Trust.
Just as the Prince could understand little of the Gaelic he heard that day two hundred years ago, so many of the listeners on Saturday were in a similar position, and doubtless it was for their special benefit that the choir added, at the finish, to the arranged programme a song in English, "Sound the Pibroch," with its tribute to those who fought for "Royal Charlie."
To the tune of "Highland Laddie" the pipers led the official party to Glenfinnan Hall after the ceremony, but there were unofficial celebrations to follow. Beside a Scottish standard stuck in the ground outside the monument enclosure a woman Scottish Nationalist resident in the district introduced a short period of Highland dancing. A while passed before quietness was restored to the head of the loch. There were buses and motor cars to sort out for the journey back along the narrow road to Fort William, unaccustomed to such a stream of traffic. The Railway travellers had to be shepherded back to the station, and a party who arrived by boat down Loch Shier had to be reembarked.
The afternoon had provided a piece of historical pageantry and a glorious opportunity to some for a Highland picnic, and both had been manifestly enjoyed. Some American and Dominion soldiers on leave were among those who came by bus from Fort William, and if one did not find among them any with direct Jacobite connections, nearly everyone proudly claimed descent from Scottish forebears.
When the last of the visitors had departed and the sun had gone down behind the mountain peaks, Glenfinnan resumed its usual aspect as the traveller on the train sees it from the viaduct which crosses the line on the Fort William - Mallaig route - lonely and sometimes desolate, haunt of birds whose isolation had been disturbed and inspiring natural frame for the monument standing there in memory of the Prince.
"We shall not have an opportunity like this to give three cheers for another hundred years," said Sir Iain Colquhoun at the close of the proceedings, and the hillsides rang with the hearty response of the crowd.
"An Epic in Our History"
Lochiel, in the course of his address, made it clear in the first place that this was no seditious movement as had been suggested in some quarters, because nowhere in the British Empire could they find more loyal subjects of his present Majesty, King George VI, than in the Highlands of Scotland. But in the history of the '45 they would find exactly the same loyalty and devotion on the part of their ancestors to him whom they regarded as their lawful Sovereign.
"All the most romantic events of the crowded year Prince Charles Edward spent in Scotland from July 1745 to September 1746 are connected with our own county of Inverness. In this county he landed in the first excitement of his great adventure - here his first friends and followers gathered round him; here he overcame the doubts and hesitancies of some of the more prudent of his well-wishers - all by personal charm and enthusiasm.
PRINCE'S LITTLE ARMY
"On this very spot he raised his standard and gathered together his little army. To Lochaber he came again a homeless fugitive after his nine months campaign, ending with his disastrous defeat at Culloden, and from this district, after wandering for five months through our mainland and Islands, he took his final departure from the Kingdom that would not have him, and his career and his life, as we in Scotland know it, practically came to an end.
"You all know, I am sure, that my ancestor - 'the Gentle Lochiel' who was really Younger of Lochiel at the time, was a wise as well as a patriotic and loyal Highland Chief and he realised fully the risk, not only to the Prince, but to the whole of Scotland of a small and unsupported rising, and he sent his brother, Dr Archibald, to try and persuade him to give up the enterprise and go back to France, though, of course, without success. A second message brought Lochiel himself to the Prince's side in spite of the endeavours of his brother John of Fassfern to stop him. And against his better judgment he and all his men joined the cause and fought in every battle.
"Macdonalds and Camerons, therefore, made up the bulk of the Prince 's first force who were with him on the historic day of the raising of the standard. The total strength of his army that day was about 1200 - about the strength of a battalion and a half of modern days."
After recounting some features of the Rising from the unfurling of the standard to the tragic end of the Jacobite campaign at Culloden, Lochiel said: - "It is not for me to dwell on the political issue of the campaign but there is no doubt that this gallant effort or Prince Charlie to win back the throne of Great Britain for his father has created an epic in our history that will ever be remembered. It is recalled everywhere in verse and prose, in music and in song. We shall never forget our Bonnie Prince Charlie."
"With all his faults, which we overlook, and in spite of the subsequent havoc and ruin which the Rising brought upon the Highlands, we still cherish and love him to this day. He has cast a glamour upon us all which will never fade away, and to-day - 200 years after the event - and with all our loyalty to our present King and Queen, we still sing 'Better lo'ed ye canna be, will ye nae come back again?'"
STRUGGLES OF SMALL
Lord James Murray said that, by virtue of one of his titles, that of Marquess of Tullibardine, he stood before a gathering of Jacobite sympathisers, including many Camerons and Macdonalds, just as two hundred years ago his forebear, William Marquess of Tullibardine, stood on the very spot before the assembled Clan Donald and Clan Cameron, when he unfurled the standard of James Stuart, the legitimate King of Jacobite Scotland, in the presence of his son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
"Those of us who have followed the recent struggles of the smaller nations of Central Europe to preserve their traditions and their freedom and in some cases their very existence, will understand how it was that so many of the Highlands clans flocked to the Jacobite standard, in 1745. Our Highland ancestors resembled in many ways the Poles, the Serbs, and the Greeks of modern times.
"They had the same qualities of personal courage, honour, and liberty, so often frustrated by local prejudices and jealousies common to many communities of free countrybred peoples. They, too, were fighting in defence of their traditions and their freedom which had recently been menaced by the arrogant and short-sighted policy of the new German dynasty. The subsequent brutalities of ' Butcher Cumberland' were typically German."
But in less than a hundred years the new Royal family became completely British, and Queen Victoria, who loved the Highlands and their people, restored many forfeited titles and laid the foundation of that affection and loyalty which we feel for her great-grandson, our present sovereign and his Scottish Queen."
PRINCE'S POLISH MOTHER
From his Polish mother the Prince had inherited many of his attractive qualities. His courage never failed him, and he was ever ready to attempt the impossible, for had not his grandfather, Jan Sobieski, achieved the seemingly impossible when he saved Europe from Turkish domination?
Though only this young Prince could have launched so daring an adventure, historians generally agreed that the astonishing initial successes of this partisan army against the disciplined troops of the Government was due to the outstanding fighting qualities of the Highlanders themselves and to the able generalship of Lord George Murray.
A POLITICAL MISTAKE
No doubt the Jacobite rising of 1745 was a political mistake, but it resulted in the Scottish Highlanders being appreciated at their true value, for William Pitt at a later period took advantage of their fine reputation and enrolled them into those regiments which fought so gallantly against Napoleon during the Peninsular War.
During the recent war Scotsmen had again come out in their thousands in the cause of freedom. Once again a Donald Cameron, heir to Lochiel, and a George Murray, who should have been heir to Atholl, had served with distinction in the same campaign, commanding their respective regiments - Lovat's Scouts and The Scottish.Horse.
They eagerly awaited the return of Colonel Donald Cameron to his native Lochaber. Colonel George Anthony Murray would never return to Atholl - like his ancestor George Murray of the '45, he died in a foreign country, for he was killed only nine days before capitulation of the Germans in Italy, fighting for "a cause he always in his heart thought just and right."
The Rev. Malcolm MacLeod, president of An Comunn Gaidhealach, speaking in Gaelic, said there was no other people in this kingdom or in the widespread British Empire more loyal and more devoted to our King and Queen than the Highlanders. Why, then, were they there that day? They were there commemorating certain characteristics and blessings which Highlanders showed they possessed then - characteristics and blessings which they still possessed.
They commemorated the noble qualities inherited by Highlanders as revealed at the '45; and it gave him peculiar pleasure that they were recalled to them in the language spoken by all the Highland chiefs and people on the day of raising the Standard at the '45.
Among those who accepted invitations to be present were the Marquess of Graham, the Marchioness of Bute, the Earl of Wemyss, whose ancestor, Lord Elcho led Prince Charlie's Life Guards; Lord Sempill; Mr Thomas Cameron, president of the Clan Cameron Society; Col..E.D. Stevenson, secretary of the National Trust for .Scotland; Major and Mrs Ian C. Stewart Of Fasnacloich, Mr A.G. Macdonald of Sleat, Sir Colin W. MacRae, of Feoirlinn, Archbishop Campbell, Glasgow; Sir Walter Blount, Sir Stewart Macpherson, and Sir James R. Wilson of Invertrossachs.