300th anniversary of Battle of Glenshiel marked

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Today tourists and local residents alike drive along the A87 to Kyle of Lochalsh and Skye, little knowing they are passing the site of an historically important confrontation.

It is a battle site too few in Scotland know about today, but 300 years ago this week, the Battle of Glenshiel raged along this now quiet glen.

And the remarkable military engagement between Jacobites who wanted to restore the Stuart monarchy, and the government troops loyal to King George I, was commemorated with a special event at the weekend.

Twelve wreaths were laid, including those by the Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Janet Bowen; Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs; Neil Oliver, president of the National Trust for Scotland; Lt Col Geraint Davies on behalf of the army in Scotland, as well as six clan chiefs.

Anne Maclean of Dochgarroch, secretary of the Association of Highland Clans and Societies, told us the event had been very successful, despite heavy rain.

‘The heavens opened just as the commemoration started and stopped just as we were finishing. But there was still a very good turn out,’ she told us.

‘It was very important to mark the 300th anniversary and having two local school children also laying wreaths was particularly nice.’

Among those who fought that day was Rob Roy MacGregor fighting for the Jacobite cause. So, too, were hundreds of Spanish marines who had been briefly based at Eilean Donan castle.

Despite their superior numbers, however, the Jacobites lost at Glenshiel. Whatever the reason it was the end of that rising.

Another more famous one was to follow before the Jacobite cause was to finally die on Culloden field in 1746.

Former Plockton High School rector and keen researcher of West Highland history, Duncan Ferguson, has compiled a special account to mark the tercentennial.

Mr Ferguson writes that while the battle, fought six miles east of Shielbridge, may be classed by some historians as only a minor skirmish among Highland battles, it had the potential to change the course of Scottish history.

And he states: ‘The expedition went ahead sponsored by the Spanish king and included various Jacobite nobles on the continent in exile, such as Cameron of Lochiel, the Earl of Seaforth and the Marquis of Tullibardine, and the large fleet -possibly 29 ships and 5,000 men -set sail from Cadiz.

‘On account of storms and inclement sailing conditions, as had hindered both the Spanish armada in 1588 and other Jacobite invasions, only a small part of the fleet ever reached British shores.

‘The smaller fleet, with the Jacobite leaders and some 300 Spanish soldiers, seem to have sailed via the north of Scotland stopping in Lewis before eventually coming to Eilean Donan Castle which was to be their base for the campaign.

‘The force gathered in Eilean Donan, having come under fire from three government warships in early May, and headed eastwards in two cohorts striking camps near Loch Long and the high ground north of Loch Duich respectively.

‘They were joined by reinforcements of soldiers of Lochiel and Seaforth. News was soon received that General Wightman and the royalist army had passed through Fort Augustus and were marching down Glen Moriston.

‘Lord George Murray who was to be the main Jacobite commander with Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden took a leading role as the armies clashed in Glenshiel and the renowned outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor brought some 40 of his men on the Jacobite side.

‘The battle proper began around 5pm on June 10, 1719, as it happened the 30th birthday of James the Old Pretender, and by nightfall the Jacobite army was in disarray.

‘Figures for numbers taking part and losses are unclear. The information notice provided by the National Trust states that 100 Jacobites and 20 government soldiers lost their lives in the battle.’

The battle is remembered in many ways, including the naming of the mountain Sgùrr nan Spàinteach (the Peak of the Spaniards) – a permanent reminder to the Hispanic soldiers who fought in vain in the Scottish West Highlands on behalf of the Stuart Dynasty.

 

Caption: Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Fiona Hyslop attended the event as did television presenter and historian, Neil Oliver, who was there in his capacity as president of the National trust for Scotland. Picture: Kris Camp Photography.

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