This week in 1745: Rebellion is in the air…

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On this day in August, 275 years ago, Bonnie Prince Charlie was just a week away from the start of the 1745 Jacobite rising.

At Borrodale House, near Arisaig, final preparations were being made. Lochiel and MacDonald of Keppoch both left to gather their men. They would have around 900 and 500 men respectively to fight for the Prince.

As the Jacobite force was mustering, the date was set. As the memorials of Murray of Broughton say: ‘Lochiel with McDonald [sic] of Keppoch, Clanronald [sic], Stewart of Ardsheil [sic] principal gentleman [sic] of Glengarys [sic] familly [sic]… agree to have their people in arms in two weeks after, and the Rendezvous was appointed att [sic] Glenphinnen [sic], a small place at the head of Locheil [sic], upon the 19th day of August’.

When Clanranald had gathered about 100 men, the Prince joined the others at Kinlochmoidart House. It is said when he crossed to Glenuig, the delighted locals appeared and danced a reel to welcome him. He stayed at Kinlochmoidart from August 11-18 when he would leave and make his way to stay over night at Glenaladale House, by Glenfinnan.

The 1745 portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart by the artist Allan Ramsay. Photograph courtesy of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. NO-F08-Charles Edward Stuart
The 1745 portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart by the artist Allan Ramsay. Photograph courtesy of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

The lower Clanranald numbers were explained by Alastair Cameron in his book about St Finnann’s Isle on Loch Shiel: ‘Though such places as Gaskan, Annat and Druminlaoigh on the Moidart side had suffered considerable depopulation, there were still about a hundred MacDonald males above 25 years of age in the district besides MacEacherns, MacIssacs and MacVarishes, while the Jacobite clans Cameron and MacPherson were well-represented on the Argyll side, the sheep run craze having not yet become so effective as to create many clearances in the Ardnamurchan and Morvern areas.’

The Lockhart Papers reveal that: ‘The Highlanders did not await the raising of the Standard to commence hostilities. On August 14, Captain Swetenham… was captured by Keppoch’s Clan as he was proceeding from Ruthven to Fort William’. Rebellion was in the air.

The Seven Men of Moidart

The Seven Men of Moidart – the Prince’s companions – were commemorated in the mid-1800s by Robertson MacDonald, the owner of the Moidart Estate at the time. He planted a row of seven beech trees in a field on the shore of Loch Moidart.

They are clearly seen from the road – a lay-by contains a more modern cairn and plaque telling the mens’ story, erected by The 1745 Association.

Replacements were planted in 1988 after the original trees were storm damaged, but these failed to flourish, so seven more saplings were planted in 2002. These later trees were planted at right angles to the original trees.

It is unclear today exactly which they are, and to the casual observer it appears there are only two-and-two-half men of Moidart still standing.

The Prince’s Walk

Another arboricultural commemoration of the ’45 is the so-called Prince’s Walk at Kinlochmoidart House. An avenue of oak and horse chestnut were planted after the Prince’s stay at Kinlochmoidart, and it is part of a circular walk.

Starting at St Finan’s Church, also built by Robertson MacDonald, the walk takes in views of the house itself. Like Borrodale, Kinlochmoidart House was burned down after Culloden, on the Duke of Cumberland’s orders. It was rebuilt in 1884.