The Freedom Tartan, above, was designed and woven in Islay, in the oldest woollen mill of Scotland, to celebrate the Declaration of Arbroath and everything it stands for. It's beautiful, old colours well evoke the eternal Scottish sentiment and aspiration. The pride of heritage, of identity and Clan, and the æonian love of freedom.

The well worded declaration of Arbroath, written in Latin and dated the 6th April,1320, was a formal declaration of independence bearing the signatures and seals of 38 Scottish lords. It was presented to Pope John XXII who fully ratified it.

The most famous, immortal lines of the declaration read as follows-

'For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any condition be brought under English rule.
It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom, for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

The Scottish are always generous enough to pardon, but they never forget. They'll never forget their heroes such as Robert the Bruce, (an instigator of the Declaration of Arbroath) Rob Roy MacGregor and William Wallace who live on in every Scottish heart. For Wallace-
'So long as grass grows green or waters run, or whilst the mist curls through the corries of the hills, the name of Wallace will live'.

The last, major Scottish victory against Redcoat government troops was the Battle of Killicrankie. Some Highlanders (Jacobites) were still loyal to James VII of Scotland (James II of England). This despite him being a generally unpopular autocrat, as well as his having fled the country to the protection of Louis XIV of France. In fact in March, 1689, one month after William and Mary were offered the crown as joint sovereigns, a Parliament Convention held in Edinburgh voted that the Stuart Catholic, James VII had forfeited his right to the throne of Scotland thus ceding it to the joint rulers, Protestant William of Orange and Mary (James's daughter and son-in-law).

Under such circumstances Scottish loyalties and sentiments were divided, causing clansmen to fight clansmen. Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel and John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount of Dundee, both loyal to James, had mustered about 2000 Highlanders of which 240 were Camerons. They were to engage against General Hugh Mackay whose force numbered more than 4000. Many of his troops however were raw recruits, and as the government forces made laborious progress through the Pass of Killiecrankie, the sudden attack of the Highlanders wielding their broad swords (claymores), their plaids removed and shirt tails tied between their legs, was so ferocious that those of Mackay's men who were still able to, fled.

Here's an account of one soldier, proudly remembered in Scotland despite the fact that he was engaged by Mackay. The Scottish soldier's name was Donald MacBean, renowned for his famous 'Leap', also to freedom. He recalled the event in his memoirs of 1728:

'The sun going down caused the Highlanders to advance on us like madmen, without shoe or stocking, covering themselves from our fire with their targes; at last they cast away their musquets, drew their broadswords, and advanced furiously upon us, and were in the middle of us before we could fire three shots apiece, broke us, and obliged us to retreat.

Some fled to the water, and some another way (we were for the most part new men). I fled to the baggage, and took a horse in order to ride the water; there follows me a Highlander with sword and targe, in order to take the horse and kill myself. You'd laught to see how he and I scampered about. I kept always the horse betwixt him and me: at length he drew his pistol, and I fled; he fired after me.

I went above the Pass, where I met with another water very deep; it was about 18 foot (almost 5.5 metres) over betwixt two rocks. I resolved to jump it, so I laid down my gun and hat and jumped, and lost one of my shoes in the jump. Many of our men were lost in that water.'

One can still see the exact spot of the famous 'Soldier's Leap' over the river Garry that wends its way through the Pass of Killiecrankie.
As well as a third of the Highlander force, the irreplaceable Viscount of Dundee was also killed in the battle. He was hit by a musket shot as he turned to urge on his small cavalry during the initial attack. He too was given a hero's burial, and his tomb can still be seen in the ruins of St. Bride's Chapel.
Without his brilliant leadership however, the Jacobite's cause seemed doomed, at least for a quarter of a century.

The Battle of Killicrankie is only one of many conflicts that represent the Scottish fight for independence and freedom. There are many other unforgettable, historic episodes, many of which have left much deeper wounds.

Each time one passes through Glencoe, for example, the noble hills often shrouded in mist, like eternal Highland memories of noblesse, tragedy and unpardonable treachery, one can feel this. It's easy to imagine a muffled, distant lament of the bagpipes. An eternal, soulful reminder of duplicity, injustice, and the henous betrayal of noble, Scottish hospitality, woven together like the restless, curling mists. A timeless tribute to Scottish freedom.

With thanks to The National Trust for Scotland. Text and images © Mirino (PW) June, 2010 


Anonymous said...

What is the black and whiteish thing in the tartan?

Mirino said...

It's a dirk, or as the Scottish call it, a Sgian Dubh. A short dagger that is tucked into the right hose (sock) as part of the traditional Highland dress. The handle is usually made from deer bone.
If you click on the photograph you will see it more clearly.