Monday, July 17, 2006

Day five -- Nessie, the Tartan Mills, and Culloden

Another beautiful Scottish day started out as heavy clouds, blustery wind and a hint of rain threatening. But the rain never came, and the day cleared up to be very nice. Sunny and cool throughout the day.

We made an early start off to Loch Ness with Bill and Steph from Highland Discovery Tours. The short one hour trip brought us first to the Jacobite cruise line, from which we embarked on a one hour boatride through the loch. The views from the loch were spectacular, but the highlight of the boat tour was seeing Castle Urquhart, and we even caught a glimpse of something very Nessie-like poking up through the water. You be the judge. Eddie says it's the tip of her tail.

After Loch Ness, it was over to Inverness, where we visited Holm Woollen Mills and spoke with Jim, their head tartan expert and indeed one of Scotland's national treasures on tartan history. This man is not just here for the tourists. He lives the real Scottish life. I doubt he wears trousers more than four days a year. He looked very dashing in his kilt and full tartan regalia, and had he not been approaching 80, I think my wife might have gone for the fellow.

Bill rushed me into the Mill ahead of the crowd so I could ask him about my family tartan before the rush of people came in. I was so excited, and Bill assured me that if anybody knew, Jim would know.

Well, indeed, Jim did know my family history, but the story was not what I expected. Let me start with some history to explain further:

As we were driving up, Bill explained how Bonnie Prince Charlie, son of James (in Latin, Jacobus), henceforth known as the leader of the Jacobites, led a desperate charge against the throne, represented by England and the lowland Scots. After an amazing advance against all odds, Bonnie Prince Charlie had taken towns in England as far as Manchester and Derby, and was within striking distance of London itself. But then winter intervened, and he was forced to retreat back all the way to Inverness. A large battle was fought at Culloden, and many thousands of Scots died on both sides, but the Jacobites (aka the Highland Scots of Prince Charlie) suffered a fatal blow and the bonnie Prince was forced into exile in Rome.

What ensued could be describe in no other way than as ethnic cleansing. The English armies, led by the Duke of Cumberland, and the lowland Scots had orders to execute every man, woman and child alive. It was a brutal massacre known as the Black Watch, and the lowland Scots, who aided the English, were considered traitors and bastards by the Highlanders. From that point on, tartans, bagpipes and the Highland way would be banned by England until hundreds of years later with Queen Victoria.

Back to the present time, I'm standing in the Woollen Mills asking about my tartan. Jim, the head tartanologist, as you recall, is a dyed in the wool Scot and has no love for the English or, even more so, the traitorous lowland Scots. So I tell him I'm Harris, and he looks up in one of his many volumes against the wall. Harris, of Clan Campbell of Argyll, just as I had found on the Internet. But he tells me the story behind it.

Clan Campell's chief allied himself with the King of England, and side-by-side slew highlander Scots. The chief coveted the noble system over the egalitarian system of the clans, and wished for himself a noble's castle as his reward for his allegiance to the King. So, as Jim informed me, I am descended from a villainous line of traitors in the history of Scotland.

My face must have obviously fell, because Jim immediately said, "Well, if there's one positive thing I may say about you, it's that you're not responsible for the acts of your ancestors. And many of the Campbell common folk probably didn't align with the views of the chief."

Great, I thought, Just great. Cold comfort that is.

I bid Jim farewell. Before walking downstairs join my family for lunch, I strolled over to the kiosk to see what it had to say about Harris and Clan Campbell:
CAMPBELL: This name most probably came from the Gaelic "Cam Beul" (wry or crooked mouth). The founder of this Argyll family was Colin of Lochow who in 1292, was recognised as one of the principal Barons of Argyll, from whom came the patronymic "MacCailein Mor", borne by the Chief to this day. His son, Sir Neil, for services rendered received great grants of land from King Robert Bruce such increasing the family's possessions and sphere of influence. They were created Earls of Argyll by James II in 1457, and in 1474 they removed from Loch Awe to Inverary. Archibald, the 7th Earl, evoked a hatred of the name among many Highlanders after his brutal attacks on the MacGregors in 1603, and a similar expedition against Clan Donald in 1613, but it was not the Clan as such which perpetrated the infamous Glencoe massacre of 1692. The 8th Earl, created 1st Marquis, was an upholder of the Protestant faith and led the Covenanters against Charles I when he attempted to enforce episcopalian rule on the Scottish Church. Beheaded by Charles II in 1661, he and his son were forfeited and the latter executed in 1685 for his part in the Monmouth rebellion against the Catholic James VII. The family estates were restored to the 10th Earl, created 1st Duke of Argyll in 1701 by the Calvinist William of Orange. The House and Clan of Campbell in the main remained loyal to the Hanoverian cause in the 1715 and '45 Rebellions, and have maintained close links with the Black Watch and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The hereditary position of Lord Justice General enabled "Mac Cailean Mor" to 'rule' Argyll and much of the rest of Scotland second only to the King. Apart from the numerous cadet houses who still inhabit Argyll, the stem family were also the source of the great Houses of Breadalbane, Cawdor and Loudoun, whose fortunes are described elsewhere. The marriage of the 9th Duke to H.R.H. princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, is commemorated to this day in the 'Louise' and 'Lorne' tartans. The present Duke of Argyll, CHIEF of CLAN CAMPBELL, is also Hereditary Master of H.M. Household in Scotland, and Keeper of the Royal Castles of Dunoon, Carrick, Dunstaffnage and Tarbert.
After learning about my clan's tortuous past, I thought, Jeez. My hopes are ruined. I can't wear the Campbell tartan after all this! Everybody will know I'm a traitor!

During lunch, I had an epiphany. I can't be responsible for my ancestors. Perhaps it's up to me to restore the family Campbell name to its once glorious honor? But how? How?!

I can return, wearing my Campbell tartan proudly, join the Highland Games, toss the caber, throw the stane, the hammer and the put! I can work my way to the Highland World Cup in Aberdeen! Scotland is worried by its dwindling local interest in the games! What better way to show support than to come back to my homeland, proudly proclaiming my Scottish heritage, and with huge, bursting muscles! Yes, that's what I'll do.

After this little fantasy, it was off to shop in Inverness for a bit, and I was nudged--nay--shoved into Chisholms Highland Dress shoppe by Bill and my family. I looked around for a bit, and very foolishly decided that I would get a kilt. Yes, a real god-honest Campbell kilt. Nine yards of the finest wool, plus all the accessories: the sporran, the sgian dubh, the belt and chain. And, good God, it only set me back £500! My kilt will take eight weeks to make by hand, and it will be shipped directly to me at home. Eight weeks will give me just enough time to figure out when in the hell I will wear it!

After the woollen mills and the shopping, we visited the very somber Battlefield of Culloden, where all the great battle mentioned previously took place. There was a short video, which set the story into quick perspective, and then it was self-guided wandering of the battlefield, where I received direct confirmation (in the form of gravestones) that, indeed, Clan Campbell were a treacherous lot. But from the battlefield, I learned that they weren't so much in favor of the king, as against the Catholics, in the form of many of the Highlanders and their French allies at the time. So, being against Catholocism, that's something I can understand a little better.

All joking aside, the battlefield was a somber reminder of the evil men do upon each other. Both sides fought a battle that, beforehand, was arguably righteous in their own minds. On the one side, it was to preserve the highland way--clans and equality over the feudalistic noble system. On the other side, it was to establish the kingdom of England over the entire island. That's not were the evil lay, in my mind. The evil lay in what happened after the battle, when the battle was won, and yet every single man, woman, grandmother, grandfather, child and baby was slaughtered. A whole people were purposefully wiped out by the Duke of Cumberland. That was evil, and I'll hope my Clan Campbell eschewedd that job entirely.*

Our final stop on the tour were the Clava Cairns, ancient Pictish burial stones dating 2000 B.C. The Clava Cairns (cairn means stone or mound in gaelic) are surrounded by rich fields of barley and shaded by enormous ancient beech trees. The stones are shrouded in mystery, and no history remains to explain any of their existence except for bones found in the ruins and the astronomical alignment of the stones themselves. Scotland is apparently covered in these stones, and most tourists and Scots pay them no mind at all. It's a pity, because they are a rich, mysterious and introspective spot to gain a little peace from a hectic day.

Tomorrow, Becky and I set off on our own to hit a few local whisky distilleries and perhaps to do some nosing. (A detailed "tasting" of whisky is called nosing.) Grandpa, Grandma and the boys will be splitting off separately to do some trout fishing in Rothiemurchus. It should be a fun day for all.

*Sadly, I found confirmation later in the trip that Clan Campbell did indeed participate in the Black Watch. Let us forgive and rise above the history of our fore-fathers.

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