Misty Whispers

Memories of Culloden

The artist of the morning sky
Had smudged the greying clouds westward
Over the horizon
Bending and twisting them in a contorted manner

Heavy rain had already fallen
But seemed loath to leave me alone with the day
This day of little solace
As I made my way toward the field

Trudging across boggy Drumossie
I could hear the thoughts of long dead Highlanders
Seeping in like mist
Into my ears, into my head, into my thoughts

Having passed Leanach Cottage
I now happen upon Macgillivray's Well of the Dead
Its water black as ink
Under a leaden sky that threatened sleet

Much too much, I think
Like the day that birthed the history I now wade through
A neck bristling quagmire
Its terrain sodden with snow and blood

My own grim reflection in the well
It is as if my ancestors memories lived again in me
For me to feel for them
The anger, the defiance, the anguish and the pain

The government line behind me
I follow the undeviating line of that treacherous wall
The Campbell's wall
The one Charlie should have levelled

Feeling now like I too was here
Not in any disrespect but helpless against the emotion
Swelling, surging outwards
All the while hearing misty whispers

Their clan line cuts across my path
Marked by a weather beaten flag whipping in the wind
I can smell the powder
Hear the screams and catch glimpses of the horror

Drowning in the waves of sorrow
I head back to the stacked cairn to pay my respects
The burial mounds lie
Tugging my conscience like there is something I should do

I let my feet lead my wandering
And by the mixed clan mound I come to rest
Some torture, some relief
It flows like lazy smoke rising from a tobacco pipe

My eyes close against the weather
And my mind relaxes against the insistent voices calling
A flood, a torrent of voices
But one stands clear, speaking to himself ...

     My guts are empty and cramped,
     Our feet are weary and heads are low,
     My fathers broadsword no match for cannon,
     I don't want to fight - not this way,

     Look at them there now,
     They're well fed and rested,
     They have numbers twice or count,
     I don't want to fight - not this many,

     Even the sky tells us to not fight,
     How can we charge through this bog,
     But the chief says so, so we do,
     I don't want to fight - not here,

     But what is this battle about,
     Scots against Scots now,
     I make no sense of it,
     I don't want to fight - not you,

     Although the Prince is here,
     A man amongst men,
     I see not what we will achieve,
     I don't want to fight - not today.

Numbed and frozen to my core
I stumble back quickly to the shelter of the buildings
So easy for me now
To turn to comfort and sanctuary

But not so easy for me
To forget and let lie the misty whispers that echo still
In my heart and head
When Culloden comes to mind.

It was the 16th of April in the year of Our Lord 1746 when on a cold, drizzly, dreary day, two armies faced each other across a bleak moor near the town of Inverness in the north of Scotland.

One army was made up of what were in effect tribal levies who, ostensibly fighting to restore the Stuart dynasty to the throne of Britain, were actually making a last stand for their ancient way of life. Mainly consisting of the Highlanders this army did include a few Lowlanders and also a regiment of Irish.

The other army, better equipped, better trained, well fed and rested was British army. Although fighting for the British King these men were mainly Irish conscripts, Lowland Scots and the Argyll Militia raised from the clan Campbell who had sided with King George. All in all the government army was almost twice the size of the so called rebel's.

The battle lasted for less than an hour and the outnumbered Highland clansmen were crushed by a storm of grapeshot and musketry fired by the red coated government troops. It was the last battle ever fought on the soil of mainland Britain.

The moor was called Drumossie, the clansmen Jacobites and their leader Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender. The battle was called Culloden.

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