Sunday, 13 November 2011

Lest we forget

Remembrance Day fell on Sunday the 13th this year, which, by coincidence, is also the anniversary of the Battle of Sheriffmuir, one of the pivotal battles of the 1715 Jacobite Rising. Every year on November 13, members of the Clan MacRae gather to commemorate the occasion and remember the fifty clansmen who fell, holding the Jacobite left wing and dying to the last man.

Jimi the Piper

Sheriffmuir is on the hill behind Bridge of Allan and Dunblane and it's become something of an annual event for me, a chance to catch up with my friend Jimi the Piper, a proud MacRae who provides the music at the event every year and former colleague from my weekly newspaper days.

Sheriffmuir can be a bleak, forbidding place, all heather and peat bog, and dark evergreens, but as a piece of land where men fought and died for their principles, a perfect spot to remember the dead of conflicts before and since. The MacRae historian gave an overview of the battle. How the Jacobites, led by the Earl of Mar, a man who would have been out of his depth commanding a Sunday school picnic, were on their way south to link up with a second Jacobite force, but had been met by Hanoverian troops commanded by the experienced and battle-hardened Duke of Argyle. The Hanoverians were outnumbered, but were a cohesive fighting force, those fighting for the Stuart cause were clansmen; warriors who knew how to fight, but next to nothing about the art of war. When they met, it was a tale of two flanks. The Hanoverian right overlapped the Jacobite left and the MacRaes died where they stood. On the Hanoverian left, the exact opposite happened and the Government troops were forced back towards Dunblane. The next day, Argyle, thinking he was beaten, but determined to fight again, took the field only to find that Mar, with victory his for the taking, had withdrawn back towards Perth.

Two hundred men, Hanoverians and Jacobites, still hold the ground at Sheriffmuir, beneath three great mounds of peat.

Pupils from St Ninian's Primary, Stirling, laid the wreath
During the two minutes silence, I thought about those men lying forever on this windswept hill, and my grandfather, Johnny Gordon, who left part of his nose and most of his friends on another bleak hillside, on 12 July 1915, when three hundred men of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers from Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Galashiels, Selkirk and Melrose were killed on a single day at Achi Baba in Gallipoli. And I thought of the young men, courageous and professional, now fighting and dying among the poppy fields of Afghanistan, for, it seems to me, even less purpose.


Jake said...

Dear Doug,

Discovered your work on Amazon and wanted to express my gratitude for your work & for your remembrance of Veterans.

I am a disabled American Marine that had to re-learn how to read, speak and, after 4 years, write. I have marked this blog as I am starting my writing journey and am interested in how others, like yourself, are doing in this new era.

Warm regards,


Doug said...

Thanks for getting in touch and for your kind words Jake. It's always an honour for me to attend a Remembrance Day service and give thanks to those who served so that most people of my generation didn't have to.

You might find some of the stuff right at the start of the blog interesting, as I count down to my first book.

All the best