Annual Gathering 2009

Thursday Sept 3rd - Sunday 6th Sept

A full report on the Annual Gathering will appear in the winter edition of 

The Jacobite


This year's Annual Gathering was held in Edinburgh where Prince Charles Edward Stuart's campaign to restore his family to the throne was arguably at its peak. The Prince's army had marched south from Glenfinnan gathering support as it advanced and outwitting Sir John Cope by reaching the Corrieairack pass first causing the Hanoverian General to withdraw to Inverness. The way south was open and the Highland army entered Edinburgh finding no opposition on the way. On 21 September (which is the very day on which I write this) the Jacobites won a conclusive victory at the battle of Prestonpans and the future looked very bright as Prince Charles consolidated his position at the Palace of Holyrood House.

Our accommodation was not quite as luxurious as that at the Palace but nonetheless we were comfortably housed at the Pollock Halls of Residence, Edinburgh University where we arrived on the evening of 3 Sept. The weather was terrible with unremitting rain and we were doubtful that our planned visit to the battlefield site at Prestonpans could go ahead as planned.


Reception Centre Pollock Halls   Our Accommodation


As predicted the rain was still falling as we boarded our coach for the next day's events. We are fortunate to have the noted historian Christopher Duffy (The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising) as a member of the association and he provided us with a running commentary of the build up to the Battle of Prestonpans as we proceeded towards the battlefield. You may read Christopher's article "Prestonpans, 21 September 1745" here (p. 1, p2, and map. (These are scans of the documents as they were not available in electronic form. I hope you can read them.)

At Prestonpans we were joined by  Peter Mackenzie who as well as being a local Councillor is also a supporter of the Prestonpans Heritage Trust and conducts guided tours of the battlefield. The decision  was taken not to walk the waterlogged battlefield and so we commenced a bus tour of the site. Mr Mackenzie was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic as he pointed out the positions of both armies on the evening of 20 Sept. The Jacobite position on the summit of Birsley Brae (find the Jet petrol station on the A199 and you will be in the right spot) was elevated above that of the Hanoverians who were just to the right of Bankton House. The ground between the two armies was boggy and dotted with stone walls and old coal workings and quite unsuitable for the headlong charge favoured by Highlanders.

Lord George Murray concluded that the sensible course was to move the army east, to the other side of Tranent, and then around the boggy ground in an attempt to find a sound position from which to attack. As the army rested for the night a local man, Robert Anderson, came forward with the information that he knew of a way through the swamp, so enabling the Jacobites to attack with the advantage of surprise. Anderson was brought to Lord George who adopted the idea immediately. In the early hours of 21 September the Highlanders moved quietly over the marsh. The MacDonalds were at the front led by Clanranald’s men. Next came Glengarry and Keppoch together with the MacDonalds of Glencoe. The Duke of Perth followed and then the MacGregors with the Appin Stewarts and Lochiel’s Camerons in the rear. The second line was made up of a number of clans including Menzies, Athollmen, Robertsons and Maclaclans. The cavalry remained at the back as a silent approach was essential. The men were not quite all safely through the morass when their enemy at last noticed them and an alarm gun was fired.  Despite failing to take their enemy completely unawares the Jacobite army ‘advanced with such rapidity that General Cope had hardly time to form his troops in order of battle, before the Highlanders rushed on them sword in hand.’

Facing the Jacobites were Murray’s, Guise’s, Lascelles’ and Lee’s regiments. Squadrons of both Hamilton’s and Gardiner’s dragoons were deployed and in total General Cope had some 2,400 men under his command, a similar number to that mustered by Prince Charles. The Hanoverian forces possessed six 1½ pound guns and a few mortars manned by gunners borrowed from the Navy. Highland battle plans, if such they can be called, did not accord with the usual military thinking of the time and the fearsome charge at dawn succeeded more by causing panic in the enemy lines than by any military superiority.

"They advanced with the utmost rapidity towards the enemy, gave fire when within a musket-length of the object, and then throwing down their pieces, drew their swords, and holding a dirk in their left hand along with the target, darted with fury on the enemy through the smoke and fire. When within reach of the enemy’s bayonets, bending their left knee, they contrived to receive the thrust of that weapon on their targets; then raising their arm, and with it the enemy’s point, they rushed in upon the soldier, now defenceless, killed him at one blow."

One tactic was to strike at the noses of government horses causing them to rear and wheel in terror and pain, throwing the enemy front line into confusion. Lacking sufficient muskets the MacGregors had found scythes and tied them to long poles and with these crude but efficient weapons ‘cut the legs of the horses in two, and their riders through the middle of their bodies.

Memorial Cairn - Prestonpans Bankton House At the top of the "Battle Bing"

Unfortunately for General Cope, his gunners deserted before the action began and, in the face of the Highland charge, so had their replacements. The guns had to be manned by a Marine Lieutenant-Colonel and the elderly Master-Gunner of Edinburgh Castle. They managed to fire the weapons and this gave the Jacobites a bit of a shock but produced few casualties. The Highland charge was unstoppable, causing Cope’s badly disciplined men to turn and flee, despite desperate attempts to rally them. Perhaps the mood of the battle can best be illustrated by Cope’s statement at the government inquiry that his men were seized by ‘a sudden Pannick’ and by Prince Charles’ comment in a letter to his father where he noted that the redcoats ‘eskaped like rabets.’

King George’s army was soundly beaten although it is difficult to be sure of casualty figures. The Chevalier de Johnstone’s figure of 1300 Hanoverian dead is certainly a huge exaggeration. Murray of Broughton reported no more than 300 government soldiers killed, with between 400 and 500 wounded. Jacobite casualties were at most thirty killed and eighty injured. Amongst the Hanoverian casualties was Colonel James Gardiner. He was a religious man who had predicted his death shortly before the ‘Canter of Coltbridge’. He fell not a mile from his house and lies buried in Tranent churchyard. The battle lasted for no more than fifteen minutes, after which Cope left his infantry to their fate and escaped south to Berwick with two regiments of dragoons.

Lunch was taken at the Prestoungrange Gothenburg and as you may think this is an unusual name I'll explain. The Scottish Gothenburg concept was imported from Sweden to Edwardian Scotland by Thomas Nelson and others and encouraged semi-temperance to limit alcohol abuse. Staff originally received bonuses for selling soft drinks and food rather than beer and spirits and part of the profits were given to the local community. The Prestoungrange ‘Goth’ in Prestonpans dates from 1908 and is one of only three surviving similar pubs in Scotland. The rebirth of The Prestoungrange Gothenburg has reinterpreted Nelson’s original charitable enterprise for the 21st century, with surplus profits being channeled into the local Prestoungrange Arts Festival and related arts initiatives to stimulate socioeconomic regeneration.

The afternoon saw us travel to Lennoxlove House, Haddington, the former residence of the Duke of Hamillton where we were fortunate enough to see several Jacobite portraits amongst which was one of Clementina Sobieska,

Lennoxlove Medal - Clementina Sobieska Tomb St Peter's Rome Clementina Sobieska

On Saturday we visited Holyrood Palace. where many Jacobite artefacts are on display. On the way we drove through Duddingston where in a house which is now No. 8 The Causeway Prince Charles held Council prior to the battle of Prestonpans. We also had a good view of the flat ground around Duddingston loch where the Jacobite army were stationed.

Prince Charles Edward was at Holyrood for several weeks and during that time he was undisputed ‘king’ of Scotland although he behaved quietly with no great shows of ostentation. His morale was boosted by the arrival from France of the Marquis d’Eguilles who was granted the title of French Ambassador. The Prince dressed elegantly at a number of balls in his honour but according to John William O’Sullivan he could not bring himself to dance saying, ‘I like danceing, & am very glad to the Lady’s and yu divert yr selfs, but I have now another Air to dance, until that be finished I’l dance no other.’  

John Home who joined the Hanoverian army in Edinburgh, describes the Prince in his ‘History of the Rebellion’:

 "He was in the prime of youth, tall and handsome, of a fair complexion; he had a light coloured periwig with his own hair combed over the front: he wore the Highland dress, that is a tartan short coat without the plaid, a blue bonnet on his head, and on his breast the star of St. Andrew. Charles stood some time in the park to shew himself to the people; and then, though he was very near the palace, mounted his horse, either to render himself more conspicuous, or because he rode well, and looked graceful on horseback. The Jacobites were charmed with his appearance: they compared him to Robert the Bruce, whom he resembled (they said) in his figure as in his fortune. The Whigs looked upon him with other eyes. They acknowledged that he was a goodly person; but they observed, that even in that triumphant hour, when he was about to enter the palace of his fathers, the air of his countenance was languid and melancholy: that he looked like a gentleman of fashion, but not like a hero or a conqueror."  

Palace of Holyrood House Clock- entrance Holyrood Palace Jacobites entered Edinburgh through  the Netherbow Port

After lunch in the Palace Restaurant we traveled to Dalmeny House as guests of the Earl and Countess of Roseberry. The house has Stuart and Jacobite connections and we were made very welcome. 

Dalmeny House Is that Norman? Old bridge Coltbridge

We returned to Pollock Halls via Coltbridge which is now a part of the Murrayfield district of Edinburgh which is the scene of the "Canter of Coltbridge" which is an event in the Jacobite capture of Edinburgh. The story of the capture  is one of incompetence on the part of those responsible for its defence. The town council had intended to strengthen the city walls and to raise additional men, but little had been done. The castle was impregnable, but its cannon were obsolete. Indeed nobody was sure whether the guns could be fired at all, or what the results might be if they were. The Governor of the castle was eighty-five years old, and the garrison quite inadequate for the protection of the city. In short, nothing was done to prevent the progress of the Jacobite army and hope was rested upon the anticipated imminent arrival of Cope’s men from Aberdeen. Such troops as were available to defend Edinburgh were camped at Coltbridge, just west of the town centre. They chose to fall back to Leith and join up with Cope’s army when it arrived. However when they heard that shots had been fired at their rearguard in Corstorphine and that the Jacobites were advancing they panicked and fled in disarray in what has become known as the ‘Canter of Coltbrigg’. Norman H. MacDonald provided us with a short talk on the "Canter" and you may also read all about it here

The Annual dinner was taken at Braid Hills Hotel where we were piped into the room by Donald Brown who played the piobaireachd "My King has landed in Moidart" by John Macintyre. A Gaelic Grace was said by Brigadier John M. MacFarlane and our after dinner speaker was Dr David Caldwell, Keeper of the collections at The National Museums of Scotland who spoke on a theme of  Jacobitism Past and Present.

Annual Dinner

Piper: Donald Brown


The Gang's all Here

 Well Almost!

Just a bit of fun! Who knows where this is? I include it because I think it's a good photograph.


Sunday morning saw us taking our leave once more after a successful and enjoyable Gathering.



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