Archaeological society marks 375th anniversary of Battle of Inverlochy

Lochaber historian Robert Cairns, right, with a group of metal detectorists. From left, Jan Wreford, Tommy McGee, Neil McNeil and Alan Kinnaird who marked the 375th anniversary of the Battle of Inverlochy. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F06 BATTLE OF INVERLOCHY 02

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Early on the morning of February 2 1645, Lord Montrose led his Royalist troops in an attack on the Covenanter forces of the Marquess of Argyll which were encamped under the walls of old Inverlochy Castle.

Three hundred and seventy five years later, on the morning of February 2 2020, a group representing Lochaber Archaeological Society gathered on the hill above the battlefield to remember the action and the men who were killed.

Over the past few months, society members, together with those of West Highland Metal Detectors, with permission of landowners Jahama Highland Estates, have been working around the area thought to be part of the battlefield, where work is currently under way on a new soap factory and visitor centre.

Metal detecting around the battlefield site. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F06 BATTLE OF INVERLOCHY 03
Metal detecting around the battlefield site. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

This follows on from work carried out beside the nearby Alvance British Aluminum Smelter where artefacts, perhaps relating to the combat, were said to have been found during its construction 90 years ago.

First action in the battle took place south-west of the castle with Argyll’ s forces and Montrose’s men facing each other on a ridge on the site of the present aluminium factory. The ceremony to mark the anniversary of the battle was held on a ridge which now overlooks a retail park and the smelter.

Standing beside a plinth erected to mark the scene of the conflict, Lochaber historian Robert Cairns gave a speech outlining what is believed to happened on that day 375 years before.

He said: ‘Argyll’s men were pressed back and the battle swung round to the west of the castle which was held by Argyll and where a party of about 200 Campbells retreating from the main battle made a desperate attempt to find safety within the walls.

‘However, their retreat was cut off and the castle fell to Montrose’s men. It is said the battle was so fierce that the moat and river ran red with blood for days after the fighting.

‘Other fleeing Campbells were pursued and slaughtered on the banks of Loch Eil and the slopes of the Cow Hill a few miles away. The Covenanters losses were estimated at around 1,500 men, while the Royalist losses were recorded as few.’

Mr Cairns first started researching the battle as a teenager volunteering in Fort William’s West Highland Museum and over the years has been active in seeking more information through archaeological digs and, more recently, metal detecting.

This has led to discoveries of musket balls, coins and perhaps horse tack, but he believes there are still some major finds to be made, especially if he can gain permission to examine the moat area around the castle where he believes could be the resting place of weapons discarded at the time.

CAPTION:

Lochaber historian Robert Cairns, right, with a group of metal detectorists,  from left, Jan Wreford, Tommy McGee, Neil McNeil and Alan Kinnaird who marked the 375th anniversary of the Battle of Inverlochy. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos