Jacobite Past, Loyalist Present
Michael Newton, University of Richmond
This article is the first analysis of Gaelic sources relating to the involvement of Scottish Highlanders in warfare in North America from the opening of the French and Indian War to the end of the American Revolution. A careful reading of these primary sources - almost totally unknown to historians - can provide a unique window on the sentiments and reasoning of Highlanders regarding these conflicts. This analysis of contemporary Gaelic poetry demonstrates that there is a high degree of continuity and consistency in the ideological framework of the lines of political argumentation from the Jacobite era through the end of the American Revolution.
Scottish Highlanders, Scottish Soldiers, Highland Loyalists, American Revolution, Scottish Gaelic Poetry, Jacobitism
Some historians have been baffled by the choices made by Scottish Highlanders fighting on behalf of the British Crown during the American Revolution. Why, they ask incredulously, would a people first of all fight for an exiled prince with little hope of winning in Scotland, be severely punished by Hanoverian King George for their actions, and then fight a hopeless battle as British Loyalists in America a generation later? Some have gone so far as to assume that the Highlanders were too simplistic, irrational, or docile to abandon their allegiance to the British Crown rather than throw their weight behind the American revolutionaries.
American historians have been at a loss to explain the loyalty of the Highlanders to the royal cause during the American Revolution. Since many had fought and suffered for the Pretender, and almost all were victims of the recent changes in Scotland for which the government was responsible, one might suppose they would have welcomed an opportunity for revenge.1
A recent best-selling account of Scots in America, made for a popular market, again touches on this theme of irony:
Recent immigrants, particularly those from the Highlands, tended to choose the Crown. Remarkably, even some of those who had fled in the wake of the Forty-Five remained loyal to the government that had done so much to drive them from their homes.2
The difficulty in understanding the reasons why Highlanders made the choices they did goes back to the American Revolution itself. A correspondent who identified himself only as "Scotius Americanus" wrote a lengthy appeal in the Virginia Gazette to Highland immigrants, urging them not to take the side of Britain in the conflict and warning that they were already seen as complicit supporters of tyranny. "Your enemies have said you are friends to absolute monarchy and despotism, and that you have offered yourselves as tools in the hands of administration, to rivet the chains forging for your brethren in America."3 A letter written in Philadelphia to a gentleman in London attests the near universal support for the Revolution: "Believe me, Sir, these are the sentiments of all degrees of men in British America, a few tattered Scotch Highlanders excepted, who have lately emigrated, and whose ignorance, feudal notions, and attachment to names, keeps them servile and wholly at the beck of their Chiefs."4 Loyalist General Donald MacDonald wrote a letter to American Revolutionary General James Moore shortly before the Battle of Moore's Creek in 1776, stating that his Highlanders were "not that deluded and ungrateful people which you would represent them to be."5
Duane Meyer seems to have been the first to try to reconstruct the experience from the Highland point of view.6 Most of his primary source materials were official statements from either the representatives of the British Crown or the American Patriots stating or seeking the support of the Highland immigrants in the conflict. Such texts may or may not reflect the sentiments of the ordinary, Gaelic-speaking Highlanders at that time. While Meyers often attempts to fill out his description of the experiences of the Highlanders in both Scotland and America by quoting poetry, almost all of this poetry was in fact composed by Edinburgh literati in English well after the fact, and cannot be said to reflect contemporary Gaelic attitudes accurately. Even the conclusion of this chapter leaves the reader thinking that the Highlanders were incapable of making sound judgments:
Although the eighteenth century Highlanders were not always consistent in their attitude toward the House of Hanover, they were remarkably consistent in choosing the losing side in civil wars. In three separate conflicts they took up arms. In each war they were defeated. After each defeat they suffered from retributive legislation.7
Perhaps it is not surprising that to date little has been done to trace the development of the framework of political argumentation in Gaelic poetry into the era of the wars of British North America, as this corpus is small and scattered. While what accidentally survives of the poetry composed in and about America is fragmentary and perhaps not representative of all that was once in circulation, it does contain a great deal of useful information about contemporary perceptions and attitudes.8
These were, of course, complex historical events to which people responded in various ways and it can be dangerous to make too many assumptions or generalizations. What is surprising is that so few historians have been willing to take Gaelic texts seriously and try to determine the sentiments and reasoning of Highlanders from such primary sources. While these texts, especially poetry, need to be used with caution, they are nonetheless a vital and under-exploited resource for historical research.
The Jacobite Panegyric Code
The Fernaig Manuscript was compiled in the late seventeenth century by Donnchadh MacRath of Inverinate of Kintail and contains fifty-nine poems in Scottish Gaelic. It has recently been shown that the poetry in the Fernaig Manuscript was composed by men familiar with the mainstream political and theological arguments in the second-half of the seventeenth century.9 This confirms that Gaelic poetry has a legitimate role in analyzing perceptions and responses to politics.
The most important systematic analysis to date of the Gaelic songs of the 'Forty-Five and what they tell us about the perceptions and political worldview of their authors and audience is an article by Professor William Gillies. This article, which appeared in the journal Scottish Studies in 1991, delineates the political rhetoric in the surviving Jacobite poetry. This material covers the geographical span of the Gàidhealtachd - from Braemar to Sutherland to Argyll - and both "high" and "low" literary registers, and thus is an essential resource for understanding these events from the perspective of those involved. Gillies emphasizes the utility of the Jacobite poetry as a window into the beliefs, hopes, fears, and loyalties of Gaeldom during this important era: "the Gaelic songs of the time can tell us a great deal about the psychology and the motivation of Highland Jacobitism."10
While this poetry deals with national affairs, and indeed international affairs, and touches upon the relationship between church and state, the rhetoric to a large degree reflects the experience of a strongly patriarchal kin-based society whose small, local units were frequently engaged in various forms of conflict against one another. These literary conventions have been coined the "Gaelic Panegyric Code" by John MacInnes and have been delineated and cataloged by him in detail.
For the purposes of this article I assume that the thematic analysis of Jacobite poetry has been sufficiently covered in the aforementioned articles. I have devised the following schema based on the aforementioned analysis of Gaelic Jacobite poetry in order to delineate the rhetorical conventions relevant for the discussion in this paper. The alphanumeric codes of this schema will be used to gloss lines of poetry (on the lines corresponding to the English translation) that employ these themes.
In summary, the schema consists of six major themes, labeled A through F.
- The Social Contract
- Moral Imperatives
- What is còir ('proper')
- What is ceart ('right, just')
- What is dligheach ('necessary, obligatory')
- To be dìleas ('faithful, loyal')
- Familial Metaphors
- Parent - child relationship
- Be honorable to fellow family members
- Military contract between patron and soldier
- Moral Imperatives
- Precedent and Tradition
- Follow heredity and tradition
- Follow legendary Gaelic heroes
- Follow Biblical examples
- Win cliù ('renown') and be the talk of poets
- Signs of divine kingship
- The Wheel of Fortune fated to turn in favor of Gaels
- Denouncement of Enemies
The role of the leader as the protector, provider, and law-giver for his dependents is particularly salient in Gaelic poetry. The rhetorical framework abounds in terminology and metaphors drawn from clan society reinforcing the social contract (label A), speaking of the duties inherited from the past and prescribed by honor and shame, of what is còir ('proper'), ceart ('right, just'), and dligheach ('necessary, obligatory').14 It also explicitly applies the analogy of familial bonds to those between king and British citizens (label A.2) and rejuvenates the soldier-client relationship by demonstrating the rewards (especially in terms of land-holding) given for faithful military service (label A.3).
The general principle that Gaels follow their hereditary precedents is also articulated, sometimes implicitly by drawing upon figures from the past (label B), whether they originate in Gaelic legend or Biblical texts.
In a self-referential way, the poets promise the soldiers that their actions will provide the subjects for song, winning them cliù ('fame') and the praise of poets (label C).
The archaistic symbolism of divine kingship (label D) makes a frequent appearance: the land flourishes under the proper king and deteriorates under an unjust king. It is interesting in this regard to note that in 1745, the year of Charles' return, harvests really were unusually good.15
As long as they are honorable and upright Christians (and duty to king was a vital aspect of these qualities), the poets stated confidently that Wheel of Fortune would eventually turn in favor of the Highlanders (label E); it was merely a matter of making an earnest effort.16
The vituperation of enemies is an important aspect of asserting self-righteousness, dehumanizing enemies, and establishing moral boundaries (label F). Terence McCaughey has remarked on the way in which the term "rebel," used to denounce the Jacobites, was turned around by them to denounce the enemies of Prince Charles, as well as used as a proud title of distinction.17 Later poets were to decry the leaders of the American insurrection as "rebels" and to cast on them the same invectives that were previously used against Hanoverian enemies. Further motifs will be added to the schema in the course of discussion, as they do not appear in Gaelic poetry of the Jacobite era.
It is often repeated that the "Gaelic Muses were all Jacobite" and we do indeed have an impressive legacy of Gaelic poetry supporting the aspirations of the exiled Stewart line from all over the Gàidhealtachd, including areas nominally protestant and under chieftains loyal to the Hanoverian kings. It must be remembered, however, that although little pro-Hanoverian Gaelic poetry has survived, it did once exist. We must not allow the fervor of Jacobite poetry to convince us that Gaelic rhetoric was specific to one dynasty rather than generally developed to legitimize a hereditary ruling élite, especially the monarch. This is underscored by the pro-Hanoverian poetry discussed in this article that was composed by those who had been engaged in Jacobite activities (including poetry) during the '45.
The conventions employed by Gaels when discussing choices for political and military action do not, in the main, change to any great degree from the Jacobite period to the end of the American Revolutionary War. It is, rather, a matter of determining how their relationship to King George changes so that he becomes their new object of affection, pride, and loyalty. I hope to demonstrate these processes at work by quoting from this corpus, highlighting the motifs articulated in the poetry, and suggesting how these experiences affected the Gaelic political worldview.
It must be noted that no poetry has survived that can be said with certainty to originate in the Highland communities of North Carolina or New York from this period.20 Most of the poetry used as evidence in this article was composed in Scotland or by men fighting in British regiments in America. Nonetheless, Highland communities remained relatively intact despite emigration to North America, which reached its peak in the decade before the commencement of the American Revolution.21 Links between Gaels in America and Scotland remained strong, and it is not too much to assume that this poetry might provide evidence for why Highland immigrants in America chose to remain faithful to the British Crown, like their relations still in Scotland.
As a short aside, let me also note that some poets continued to fan the flames of resistance against the Hanoverian line up to the time of the American Revolution, holding out hope for a Jacobite comeback and even taking side with the American rebels, at least in their rhetoric. What survives of such poetry is small and I wish for the time being to set it aside.22
Gaels in the French and Indian War
One of the key figures in the social transformation of this period was Simon Fraser (1726-1782). His father, the 11th Lord Lovat, was beheaded for his part in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The Lovat estate was forfeited to the government but his son went out of his way to recover the family heritage. He was granted a full pardon from the government in 1750, was made a burgess of Inverary in the same year, and was recognized by the Scottish Bar as a lawyer in 1752, joining the prosecution against Seumas a' Ghlinne that year. The government initially refused the offer of his military services, but in 1757 the young heir won the argument that he would be able to raise a regiment among his clansmen. In less than two months Fraser was able to raise some 582 men.23
A song ostensibly in praise of Fraser was composed before the Fraser Highlanders left for Nova Scotia in 1757 to participate in Lord Loudon's expedition to take Louisbourg. The song contains regret for Fraser's departure with the young men of the area and conveys concern that their deeds are well-chosen and successful. One stanza24 refers to the attempts by Charles Edward Stewart to take advantage of Britain's vulnerability during this conflict and summon Jacobite holdouts for another rising. Neither Fraser nor what remained of the clan chiefs, however, had any intention of ruining their chances at peaceful co-existence within the United Kingdom. The verse refers to a belief that those who wait at home for the return of the warriors are held "hostage" to their honorable action.
|B'e ur dualchas fo armadh mòr chliù;||Your inheritance is great fame in arms;||B.1, C|
|Fhuair sibh urram nach trèig||You have won glory which will not||C|
|Neach a thig as bhur dèidh||Fail anyone who succeeds you,|
|Eadar madainn is an-moch trì cuairt!||Thrice from morning to night!26|
|Ach sibh-s' tha 'n iomall na h-Eòrp'||But you who are on the edges of Europe|
|Dol a thionndadh bhur còt'||Who go to turn your coat,||F|
|Thug ur luaineis gu lot ur Dùthch' sibh;||Your inconsistency wounds your country!|
|Bithidh bhur talla fo mhùir'||Your halls will suffer with leprosy,|
|Gus an till sibh le cliù'||And many a maiden afflicted and grieved|
|S ioma maighdean fo àmhghar brùite25||Until you return honorably.||C|
The Fraser Highlanders were engaged in combat at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Battle of Sillery in Quebec and we are lucky enough to have a song that appears to be an eyewitness account of the action. In contrast to the anxiety of the previous song, this piece swaggers with self-confidence:
|O ghillean bithibh ullamh, le armaibh guineach,||O lads, make ready, with death-dealing weapons,|
|Gu làidir, urranta, an onair an Rìgh;||Strong, intrepid, in honor of the King,||A.2.b|
|Mun tig oirnne fada, bidh an Rìoghachd seo againn,||This country will be ours before too long,|
|Is thèid sinn dhachaidh do Bhreatann a-rìs.
||And we will return to Britain again.|
|A Dheagh Mhic Shimi na h-Àirde||O excellent Fraser of Lovat,|
|Leat a dh'èireadh buaidh-làrach;||You are capable of victory in battle,|
|Tha thu fuileachdach, dàna-||You are ravenous and bold-|
|Cha b'e d' àbhaist bhith crìon;||It was never your custom to be stingy;||B.1|
|Gum faiceam thu 'd àite,||May I see you in your proper place,|
|Le piseach, 's mòr-ghràsan,||With prosperity, and great Divine favor,|
|Aig Manachainn na h-Àirde||In Beauly of the Aird,
|Ann an àite Mhormhair Sìm,27||Occupying Lord Simon's place.||B.1|
|O ghillean bithibh...||O lads...|
While the substance of the song is not significantly different from that of earlier clan poetry, apart from the enemy being French and the marked appearance of heavy siege artillery, the soldiers now call "Britain" home, rather than their more specific locale. None of this verse from the experience of the Fraser Highlanders attempts to explain the rationale of fighting on behalf of the British Army, but rather implies that they are making a concerted effort to regain pride and status in the eyes of the authorities.
Andrew MacKillop has recently argued against the hypothesis that Highland troops were exploited as a means of winning over erstwhile Jacobites, stating the fact that the "majority of Highland units actually went to families with little or no need to rehabilitate themselves" and pointing out additional reasons why other possible sources of fighting men were passed over.28 While this may be an accurate analysis of the view of the élite, Gaelic vernacular verse from all around the Gàidhealtachd states time and again that the Highland soldiers will atone for their association with Jacobitism by British military service. This motif of atonement for previous sins will be added to the thematic schema of this paper as label G.
A verse from a song from Badenoch celebrating the return of those soldiers who survived and did not choose to settle in Quebec confirms this desire to win the favor of the King:
|'S gun iarr sinn saoghal maireann do'n Rìgh tha 's a' chathair'||We will wish the King who is on the Throne a long life,|
|Shliochd rìoghail mhic Ailpein bha 'n Albainn o chian.||He is of the royal stock of MacAlpine who was in Scotland of old.||B.2|
|Gur mòr thug e 'fhàbhar do laochraidh nan Garbh-chrìoch||He has shown great favor to the Highland warriors||A.3|
|Air sgàth na buaidh-làrach air àrfhaich Quebec.29||As a result of the victory on the slaughter-field of Quebec.|
Gaelic scholar James McLagan composed an ode for the Black Watch when they prepared to fight in the French and Indian War, c. 1756. His father had been chaplain to the regiment, and he was later to become their chaplain as well. The poem is a long exhortation to the Highland troops, appealing to their sense of tradition as warriors, decrying French aggression, uniting the soldiers with British interests, and assuring them that they could redeem themselves by exploiting their ancient martial virtues. It also contains a surprisingly archaic cosmological motif, that of the Tree of Life:
|"Mas òg-laoich sibh a thug gaol,"||"If you are devoted young soldiers,"|
|Their òighean nan aodann gràdhach,||The maidens of loving countenance will say,|
|"Bithibh treubhach 's buidhnibh saors'||"Be valiant and win freedom|
|Do mhnathaibh 's chloinn bhur càirdean [...]"||For the women and children of your relations. [...]"
|'N sin gabhaidh Craobh na Sìth' le freumh||Then the roots of the Tree of Peace will||D|
|Teann-ghreim de'n doimhne-thalmhainn||Take a firm hold of the earth's depths|
|Is sìnidh geugan gu ruig nèamh,||And its branches will stretch to Heaven,|
|Gach àird le sèimh-mheas 's geal-bhlàth.||Delicate fruits and white blossoms in every direction.|
|Bidh ceilear èibhinn eun 'na meanglain||The merry music of birds in its branches,|
|'S daoine le'n cloinn a' sealbhachadh,||Families taking residence,|
|Toradh 's saothair an làmh gun mhaoim||The produce of their labor unfailing|
|Fo dhubhar caomh a dearbh sgàil. [...]
||Under its soft shadow. [...]|
|Bidh cumh' o'n Rìgh is buidh'cheas tìr'||The King's reward and the gratitude of the land,|
|'S cliù gach linn gu bràth dhuibh||And fame will be yours forever,||C|
|'Dhìon còir bhur tìr' o shannt a' mhilltir||For protecting your land from the despoiler's greed|
|'S a dhearbh mòr-bhrìgh nan Gàidheal; [...]||And proving the Gael's great worthiness; [...]
|Nì 'r deagh ghiùlan Deòrsa 'lùbadh 'S bheir e dhuinn ar n-èideadh,||Your excellent conduct will convince King George to return our uniform,||G|
|An t-èideadh sùrdail bha o thùs ann||The cheerful ancient uniform|
|O linn Adhaimh 's Eubha;||Since the age of Adam and Eve;|
|S ma bheir e 'n tràth-s dhuinn mar a b' àbhaist Ar n-inbh', ar n-airm, ar n-èideadh,||And if he gives to us our prestige, weapons, and clothing now, as was our custom,|
|'S sinn saighdean 's fearr a bhios 'na bhalg||We will be the best arrows in his quiver,|
|'S e 'n t-ioc nì Alba dha fhèin dhinn.30||We will be Scotland's payment to him.||G|
From the perspective of the poetry, at least, it was in the process of forging the age-old bond between social leader and dependents with military obligations that the Gaels generally stopped waiting for Charles and learned to love George. The central government had distrusted the Gaels so much as to attempt to keep them continually beyond the pale and to burden them with various regulations and punishments. Progressive clans such as the Campbells and the MacKenzies had acted as agents of the central government in the Highlands, but poets belonging to such clans had made no attempt to hide their suspicions and resentment of the authorities. Now, however, as soldiers, Gaels enjoyed a sense of participation in the Empire.
Hunter-soldier-poet Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir, for example, fought on the Hanoverian side in the Battle of Falkirk, yet he composed a bitter protest about the Act of Proscription and lamented that Charles was not able to take George's place on the throne. His poem from c. 1767, when he joined the Edinburgh City Guard, contains a note of resignation:
|Bidh sinn uil' aig Rìgh Deòrsa||We will all belong to George|
|'S cha ghòraiche dhuinn||And we are not foolish for it,|
|O's ann aige tha 'n stòras||For he is the one with the provisions|
|Is còir air a' Chrùn;||And right to the Crown;||A.1.a|
|Bheir e 'm pàigheadh 'nar dòrn duinn||He will give payment to us||A.3|
|'S chan iarr oirnn dad d'a chionn [...]||And won't ask anything for it [...]
|Chan eil trioblaid r'a chunntadh||There are no troubles to recount
|Air muinntir an Rìgh||Regarding the King's people|
|Ach mireag is sùgradh||But only joy and merry-making|
|'S bhith gun chùram do nì;||And a lack of care about wealth;||A.3|
|Ged a dh'òlainn na galain||Even if I were to drink a gallon|
|A h-uile car a thèid dìom||Every time I moved onwards|
|Cha troideadh mo bhean rium||My wife would not argue with me|
|'S cha leig i an t-aran am dhìth.31||Or make me go without bread.|
This poem contains the echo of the warrior who fights for the chief who provides him with sustenance and the drink of the communion of war, as well as the implication that it is much easier to live in the service of George than to face the poverty and oppression of Jacobite holdouts. These themes are much expanded in his song to King George III composed sometime after 1760.32 The song emphasizes George's còir ("right, title") to the Crown, his just dealing with nobility and common orders, his affection for the Gaels in return for their faithful service, the prosperity of the land in his reign, and the victories of his Empire throughout the world.
In 1772 Simon Fraser petitioned the government for the return of his family estates and was rewarded with them in 1774, ten years before other forfeited estates were restored. A poem attributed to Lachlann MacShuine celebrates the return of the Lovat Estates, delighting in the newfound friendship of King George won through loyal military service. It ends by denouncing the jealous politicians in London who did not wish him well by casting animal epithets at them and by ridiculing their ineptness in the manly art of warfare.
|Bha gach car dhe do ghiùlan||Every aspect of your behavior|
|A' toiltinn cliù bho d' aois òige||Earned praise since you were young||C|
|Ged bha Cuibhle an Fhortain||Although the Wheel of Fortune
|Tacan crosta nas leòir dhuit||Was for a while quite cross with you|
|An uair a dh'èirich an Rìoghachd||When the country rose|
|Anns an ainsreamaid ghòrach,||In the foolish intrigue,|
|Bu neo-lapach am planntas||The youth were agile|
|Ri sgapadh campachadh Dheòrsa [...]||In dispersing George's encampment [...]
|Is fàth sòlais da-rìreabh||It is truly a reason for joy|
|Is òrdugh Rìgh mu'n chainnt ud||With the King's command to confirm it|
|Gum bheil do chòraichibh sgrìobhte||That your entitlements are written down|
|Dh'aindeoin mì-rùn do nàimhdibh;||Despite the ill-will of your enemies;|
|A dheagh Fhriseilich ghasta||O excellent, handsome Fraser|
|Bhuail thu speach anns an aimhreit||You struck blows in the combat,|
|Thug thu còir as an eucoir||You brought justice out of the injustice||A.1.a|
|Is dh'fhàg thu èibhinn do chàirdean. [...]||And you have left your relations joyous. [...]|
|Rinn sibh onair d'ar Rìoghachd||You have done honor to our Kingdom||A.1|
|Ann am fìrinn gun teagamh||And that is true, without doubt,|
|'S rinn thusa caraide dìleas||And you have made a true friend||A.2|
|De'n cheart Rìgh air 'm bu bheag thu [...]||Of the very King who once disliked you [...]||G|
|C' àite nis 'n tèid bòrum||Now where will the filth of the|
|Eòin chloimheach nan clamhan?||Hairy vultures go?||F|
|A shuidh an àite na seochdamh||Who sat in the place of the Jocks [?]|
|Leis a' chòir a dhol mearachd;||By perverting justice;||-A.1.a|
|Na fir nach seasadh ro fhudar||Those men who could not withstand gunshot||F|
|'S cha mhò a rùisgeadh iad lannaibh,||And who could hardly bare a blade,|
|Ge do ghlèidh iad le cùl-chainnt||Although they used rumors to keep|
|Am faileas cùirt ud car tamall.||Their favors at court for a while.|
|Ach thig an fhìrinn an uachdar||But the truth will appear|
|'S biodh gach duais a-rèir gnìomha;||And let awards be according to deeds;||A.3|
|'S tric le fochann an òtraich,||Often it will wither, like the rank grass,|
|Mar am fòlach, gun crìon e;||From the weeds of the dunghill;|
|Ach bidh an cruithneachd ag èirigh||But the wheat will rise up|
|Dh'aindeoin sèididh nan siantaibh||Despite the wild weather's winds|
|'S chaidh siud a chomhdach 's an uair seo||And that was proved in this case|
|Leis na chuala mi chianabh.33||By all that I have heard.|
Gaels in the American Revolutionary War
A number of the soldiers who fought during the French and Indian War were given land grants in America for their services and formed a bridge for a massive influx of Highlanders from 1768 to the beginning of hostilities. Besides these, there were early settlements predating Culloden in North Carolina, New York, and Georgia, the first two of these drawn primarily from protestant Argyllshire. Due to the historical experience of these settlers in Scotland and North America, it is little wonder that they were predisposed to continue in their course of allegiance to the Crown rather than risk losing what they had just managed to gain by loyal military service. The poetic evidence confirms that most Gaels were eager to prove their loyalty and worth to the Crown in combat and that they expected to be rewarded accordingly.
A poem by Maighriread NicGriogair of Struan (Atholl, Perthshire) gives us information about her brothers who settled in America shortly before the Revolution:
|Dèidh dhut gabhail gu socair||After you had settled down|
|Ann am probhans New York||In the province of New York|
|An taobh òrdugh is fòrtain,||On the side of order and good fortune,|
|Nì 's daoine mu d' dhorsan||People and wealth about your home|
|Fearann saor air a chosnadh||Good land being worked,|
|B' fheudar èirigh am brosnach' Rìgh Alba.||You had to go out to fight for the King of Scotland.
|'S fhad 'n ùine, còig bliadhna||Five years is a long time|
|'S tha e 'nis le riadh ann||And it is now longer than that|
|On a thòisich mìothlachd;||Since trouble began;|
|On a thòisich Rìgh Deòrsa cho dìoltach||Since King George so forcibly began|
|Tagradh còir air na crìochan||Claiming sovereignty over the territory|
|Mar chaidh òrdach' riamh dha||As he was ever ordered to do;|
|'S fhada beò e mas dìolar dha an t-eanach34||He will live long before fame will be won for him.|
Her brothers appear to have resettled in Nova Scotia after the Revolution. At the same time that Highland soldiers were being recruited into British military forces, economic conditions in the Highlands had become quite oppressive. The fact that the Empire needed the soldiers who now had little choice but emigration was a frequent complaint in songs of this period.
Duncan Lothian, another Perthshire poet, prematurely celebrated the victory of the British forces over the American revolutionaries (c. 1777) and implied that the Gaels could make a significant contribution to the conflict on account of their ancient pedigree as conquering heroes:
|Tha an t-Eilean Fad a chean againn||Long Island is already in our possession|
|'S New York am baile mòr sin||And that great city of New York,|
|'S chaidh 'n teicheadh air na Reubaltaich||The Rebels were driven out||F|
|'S na ceudan air an leònadh [...]
||And hundreds have been wounded. [...]|
|Nach fad' on tha na Gàidheil||The Gaels have long been||B.2|
|Ag àiteach na Roinn' Eòrpa;||Inhabiting the continent of Europe;|
|Nuair choisinn iad le'n claidheamh||When their swords bought them victory|
|Bha naidheachdan gu leòr ann. [...]||They were the topic of much conversation. [...]||C|
|'S e Gathulas dàna||It was bold Gathulas||B.2|
|Chaidh 'n Spàinnt 'ghabhail comhnaidh,||Who went to live in Spain,|
|Is thog e bruthach-àirigh ann||And he built a hill-side cottage|
|Mar bhaile-tàmh do 'sheòrsa [...]35||As a dwelling place for his people [...]|
The victory of Gathulas is understood to provide an exemplar to the Gaelic soldiers then in America. Later in the song the poet warns that the valuable Gaelic warriors might not be available for the Empire to draw upon if circumstances at home did not change for the better.
The pre-Culloden Gaelic settlements in North Carolina were reinforced by recent emigrants who hardly had time to settle down before they were drawn into the conflict. The name of only one of the Loyalist poets, Iain mac Mhurchaidh,36 is left to us. While still in Kintail, Scotland, he composed bitter and angry protests against the money-grubbing landlords, encouraging his neighbors to emigrate with him. While he railed against such harsh treatment there is nothing to suggest that he objected to the hierarchical structure inherent in the society that created him or that he was willing to renounce the authority of the British Crown. Like many other Highlanders in North Carolina he joined Loyalist forces and his compositions were said to inspire his fellow countrymen so much that American "rebels" treated him with great severity.37
The rallying-cry of the Highlanders at the Battle of Moore's Creek in North Carolina in February 1776 was said to be "King George and broadswords!"38 The defeated Loyalists were captured and imprisoned in Philadelphia. In a song apparently composed in prison,39 Iain mac Mhurchaidh complained that he had done nothing criminal or wrong:
|Ach mi sheasamh gu dìleas||Except that I stood loyally||A.1.d|
|Leis an Rìgh bhon bha 'chòir aige.40||For the King, because he is in the right.||A.1.a|
There is a tradition that a number of renegade Highlanders had joined the Scotch-Irish rebels and that before the two armies gathered for the Battle of King's Mountain in 1780, Iain mac Mhurchaidh composed a song to try to convince his misguided countrymen of their error. His description of the punishment of traitors calls to mind the treatment of Highlanders after Culloden and produces the sense of anxiety that similar punishment could be meted out again:
|Siud an rud a dh'èireas:||The following is what will happen|
|Mur dèan sibh uile gèilleadh||If you do not all surrender|
|Nuair thig a' chuid as tréine||When the strongest forces arrive|
|Dhe'n treud a tha thall;||Of those men who are now yonder;|
|Bidh crochadh agus reubadh||There will be hanging and injury|
|Is creach air bhur cuid sprèidhe,||And your wealth will be plundered,||-A.3|
|Chan fhaighear lagh no reusan||No law or reason will be available|
|Do Reubalaich ann.||To any Rebels at all.||F|
|Air fhad 's dhan gabh sibh fògar||For as long as you have parted ways|
|Bidh ceartas aig Rìgh Deòrsa...41||King George will be in the right||A.1.b|
Several regiments were gathered in the Highlands to fight for the Crown in America, including MacDonald's Highlanders, the old 76th regiment, who surrendered at Yorktown in 1781 while under the command of Lord Cornwallis. We have a song composed for one of these regiments, most likely the Argyll Highlanders, when they departed for America.
|On choisinn iad buaidh dhuinn||As those of you we sent out previously|
|Na chuir sinn thar chuan uainn||Have won victory for us|
|'S gun d' lean iad ri'n dualchas gu calma||And as you have stuck bravely to your heritage||B.1|
|'S beag mo chùram gun dìobair sibh||I have little reason to worry you will desert|
|An cogadh no srì||Whether in war or in strife|
|No gun coisinn sibh mì-chliù do Albainn [...].||Or that you will bring ill-repute upon Scotland. [...]
|'S e mo ghuidhe le dùrachd||It is my sincere wish|
|Nuair bheir sibh ur cùl rinn||When you depart from us|
|Gun cluinnear ur cliù a bhith ainmeil||That your fame will be heard,||C|
|Gun seasamh sibh dìlis dhuinn||That you will defend loyally||A.1.d|
|Onair ar sinnsir...42||For us the honor of our ancestors...||B.1|
The most long-winded rhetoric about the Revolution was composed by Duncan Kennedy of Kilmelford, Argyll, a schoolmaster, publisher of hymns and collector of Ossianic verse. From internal evidence his song seems to have been written a couple of years before the Treaty of Paris brought a conclusion to the Revolution in 1783. It draws heavily upon the ideology of kinship and upon Biblical allegory to indict the American rebels:
|An cuala riamh comhrag nas brònaich' na th'ann||Has any battle sadder than this ever been heard of|
|'N tràth b' èiginn do Dheòrs' dol a stròiceadh a chlann?||When George had to go and injure his own children?||A.2.a|
|Rinn an dìon ann a chlèibh anns gach greadan o nàimh,||He who had protected them in his bosom from enemies' quarrels|
|'S a thug èideadh is lòn doibh 'n tràth b' òg is a b' fhann. [...]||And who clothed and fed them when they were young and frail? [...]
|'S ann a dh'fhaodar an donas a choimeas gu lèir||Their evil could well be compared to|
|Ris a' mhac strùidheach òlmhor bu ghòrach 'na bheus:||The heavy-drinking, prodigal son whose manners were unwise:||B.3|
|Ged bu mhùirneach dha athair le h-aighear is spèis||Although he was affectionate to his father with joy and love,|
|Chan fhoghnadh siud dhasan ach a phòrsan dha fhèin. [...]||Nothing would suffice for him but to have his father's entire fortune. [...]
|Nach lìonmhor an truaighe on ghluais iad a-mach?||How great their misfortune since they have rebelled:|
|Tha 'm fearann gun bharr is tha 'n tàin 'gan sgàth' as [...]||The land is barren and the cattle are dying off [...]
|Mar sin tha an slighe gu milleadh mòr Dheòrs'||They are thus on the way of grievous injury to King George|
|'S a shlugadh gu gionach na dhligheadh iad dhò. [...]||And of greedily devouring all that they owe to him. [...]
|Cò 'n sin leis an duilich dream fhuilteach nan creuchd||Who, then, would pity the violent, blood-stained people|
|A chlaoidh is a shàraich am pàrantan fhèin?||That ravaged and oppressed their own parents?||A.2|
|A leagadh am bràithrean 's an àraich gun bheud||They would slay their brothers in the battle-field without remorse|
|'S am peathraichean dubhach an tuilichibh dheur[...]||While their sisters are heartbroken in a flood of tears [...]|
|Ach chitear an là nach aighearach dòigh||But the day will yet be seen which will not be merry||E|
|Nan reubalach dubha nach cumadh a' chòir,||For the black(-hearted) rebels who would not keep justice,||F
|A' gal air an glùnaibh, toirt umhlachd do Dheòrs'.43||On their knees weeping, offering submission to King George.|
Repeals and Reconciliation
The Highlanders had proved their loyalty in the conflicts in America, and the London establishment began to acknowledge their debt to these efforts. The London Highland Society began actively promoting Gaelic poetry and the music of the bagpipe at annual gatherings from 1781 onwards; the Act of Proscription was repealed in 1782, allowing civilian men to wear kilts and the tartan again; the Disannexing Act of 1784 rewarded some of the old Jacobite families with their traditional estates. There are numerous Gaelic songs commemorating all of these events.
It is, I believe, instructive to see how the poets commemorated these legislative acts to see what they believed had been achieved, why the measures against them were relaxed, what they believed their new relationship with king and state had become, and how clear literary allusions to Jacobite songs give a sense of closure to historical events.
There are three basic responses in this poetry. The first is that the Jacobite Rising of 1745 should be forgotten and regarded as a regretful aberration, a foolish mistake now atoned for (forms of the word gòrach "foolish" appear frequently in this poetry, as we have already seen in the poetry of Lachlann MacShuine and Donnchadh Bàn above). The second theme states that since the Gaels have proven their loyalty as British soldiers and their hereditary leaders have been given their lands back, things can return to "normal" (as they were before the '45) in the Highlands. The third theme is, alternatively, a desire for the Highlands to become mainstreamed into British life, since the Highlanders have proven themselves as capable and deserving as any of the king's subjects of his affections and favor.
The following poem celebrates the repeal of the Act of Proscription and thus probably dates from 1782.44 It begins with a roll-call of the clans (the "allies" motif of the Gaelic panegyric code45), and continues by stressing the new mutual friendship of the king:
|Tha sinn uile deònach, falbh le Deòrsa||We are all willing to depart with George|
|On a chòrd sinn aon uair;||Since we have come to an accord||G|
|Ged a bha sinn greis ri gòraich||Although we were fleetingly foolish|
|An toiseach na h-àimhreit||At the outset of the troubles;|
|On a gheall sinn a bhith dìleas||Since we have promised to be faithful||A.1.d|
|Bidh sinn cinnteach dhàsan;||We will be steadfast to him;|
|'S chan eil neart anns an Roinn Eòrpa||Not all of the strength in Europe|
|A bheir comhraig là dhuinn [...]||Could stand a day against us [...]|
|Ma thig fòirneart air Rìgh Deòrsa||If violence comes to King George|
|Tha mi 'n dòchas làidir||I sincerely hope|
|Nuair a dh'èireas na Gàidheil comhla||That when the Gaels rise together|
|Gum bi còir an àirde [...]46||That justice will be at hand [...]||A.1.a|
Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir also has a poem celebrating the repeal, but it is more a personal salute to the Duke of Montrose (who was a crucial proponent of the legislation) than a statement about its wider cultural or political ramifications. William Ross, on the other hand, while he begins with a panegyric on Montrose, sings spiritedly about the possibility that the lifting of the ban will lift the ardor and self-confidence of the Highlanders themselves, even implying the possibility of revolting against the Hanoverian rulers.48
The material from the 1784 repeal is even more interesting. The first poem here examined was composed by Alasdair Cameron, who seems to be the very same poet who composed a Jacobite drinking song to Cameron of Lochiel after the victory at the Battle of Falkirk. He was later the first official poet of the Highland Society of Scotland.49 This later Hanoverian song is also written as a drinking song, in which each of the heroic chieftains is toasted (like an intoxicating variation on the "allies" motif), until at the end the poet imagines that the Gaelic community has been reintegrated by his invocation:
|Nis onfhuair sibh ar còir||Now that you have received what is proper,||A.1.a|
|Gach curaidh òg fearail fèil:||Each young, manly, generous hero:|
|Togaibh sibh àros as ùr||Rebuild your habitations|
|'S bithidh air' air mùirn 's air luchd theud.||And be mindful of celebration and minstrels.|
|Thèid gach seann chleachdain an gnìomh||Every old custom will come into use||B.1|
|Gu furanach fialaidh mòr||Strongly, generously, with a welcome,|
|A' chlàirsireachd le fearas dàn||Harping skills, with bardic craft,|
|Gu seinn air gach làraich chòir [...]50||To be sung on each dear location [...]|
Poet Margaret Cameron (originally from Lochaber, but latterly resident in Perthshire) also rejoiced at the return of the estates, hoping that Cameron of Lochiel could restore his land and tenants from the damage she perceived to have been done during the management of the Forfeited Estates, particularly by commissioner Henry Butter.51 Her book opens with this poem:
|'S e naidheachd ùr fhuair mi 'n dràsta||The latest news I have just had|
|O làimh Rìgh Deòrsa anns na Gàsaidibh||From the hand of King George, appearing in the Gazettes,|
|Rinn mo chridhe ris mòr-ghàirdeachas||My heart welcomes it greatly,|
|Gach oighre dligheach bhith faighinn àite.||That every proper heir will have his place.||A.3|
|Chaill ar sinnsir sud le'n gòraich||Our ancestors lost all with their foolishness|
|'S cha chion aithne bh'orr' na foghlum||It was not due to a lack of learning or experience|
|Mhàin nach gèill e iad le 'm beò-shlàint||Just that it would not yield them alive|
|Ach le Teàrlach an aghaidh Dheòrsa.||Except to Charles against George.|
|Chaidh chuid do'n Fhraing 's cuid do'n Òlaint||Some went to France, some to Holland,|
|Chaidh cuid 's an fhairge sìos le dòilinn||Some went down in the sea in storm|
|Chaidh cuid eile reubadh beò dhiubh||Some others were torn apart|
|As leth a' Phrionnsa dh'fhalbh air fògradh||On behalf of the Prince who went into exile|
|Nis o fhuair sibh an Rìgh co dìleas||Now since you have found the King so faithful||A.1.d|
|'S gun d'thug o'n Bhòrd dhuibh litir sgrìobhta||That he has given you a letter from the office|
|Air an fhearran bh'aig ar sinnsir||For land once possessed by our ancestors||A.3|
|Chaoidh chan fhàg sibh e gu dìlinn [...]||You will never ever leave him [...]|
|Dh'fhalbh do ghiùsaich 'na duslach fhàsaich||Your pine-wood has become a dusty desert|
|'S tha do dhaoin' air sgaoil 's gach àite||And your people are scattered everywhere|
|Aig a' Bhutrach 'gan cuir o àiteach||By Butter, putting them out of steadings|
|Nuair thig thu dhachaidh gun cuir thu àird orr'.52||When you come home, you will set them in order.|
Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir's song about the Act follows much this same pattern, regretting the foolishness of the Jacobite Rising, claiming that the King and his Highland followers are now in accord with one another, he has made loyal followers (dìlsean) of his former exiles, and that "thàinig còir agus dh'fhalbh an eucoir [justice has come and injustice has gone]."53 The poem that he composed and entered in the Highland Society's Gaelic competition in the year 1785 also contains some comments about the Act, hoping that the Highlands will be revitalized (e.g., now no tenant need be in distress since the old social system has been restored).54
Poetess Maighriread NicGriogair (mentioned above) composed a song celebrating the return of hereditary estates to Colonel Alexander Robertson of Struan (the 15th chief) in 1784. She opens her poem by recounting the loss of Culloden, her verses clearly bearing the influence of Iain Ruadh Stiubhart's Culloden songs. The rejoicing at the return of clan lands, then, emphasizes that the whole regrettable Jacobite affair has come to a conclusion.
|'S e do lath-sa, Chùil-lodair,||It was your battle, Culloden,|
|Dh'fhàg dochainn aig na Gàidheil||That left the Gaels wounded,|
|'S liuthad fearann||Many lands|
|Chaill an earras 's an àiteach||Lost their wealth and their habitations|
|B' èiginn teicheadh air astar||It was necessary to flee into exile|
|Cian fada o'n càirdean||Far away from their relations|
|'S iad gun mhànas gun aitreabh||Without a manse, or dwelling|
|Mur dèant' an taic anns an Fhraing dhoibh [...]
||Had France not given them support [...]|
|'S iomad bean bha 'na bantraich||Many a wife who was a widow|
|Agus clann bha gun athair||And children without a father|
|Agus fear bha gun bhràthair||And men who were bereft of a brother|
|Bha 's an àraich 'na laighe;||Who were lying in the battlefield;|
|Ceann nam fineachan Gàidhealach:||The chieftains of the Highland clans|
|Bu mhòr an call ris an lath' ud||Suffered great losses from that battle,|
|'G an robh còir air, is doineach,||(They) who had right to the victory,|
|Nach d' fhaod tionndadh ris fhathast.||Sad that they could not counterattack.
|'S èibhinn naidheachd ri chluinntinn||The news is exciting to hear|
|Gun d' fhuair gach oighre am fearann||That each heir has been granted land||A.3|
|Nis o thionndaidh a' chuibhle||Now that the Wheel has turned||E|
|'S gun deach 'n t-aonta ud thairis||So that the Act has been approved;|
|Sàr-cheann fine bha cliùiteach||The excellent chieftain who was renowned|
|As fhiach a chuir siud an aithris||Is worthy of this account;|
|Tighearna Shruthain o'n ghiubhsaich||The Laird of Struan from the pinewood|
|Thighinn gu dùthchas a sheanar [...]55||Is to come into his ancestral heritage [...]|
A poet whose name appears as Ioin Donn, a resident of Glasgow, wrote and printed a poetic pamphlet in 1785 celebrating the repeal of the Proscription and Forfeited Estate Acts. I believe that this is the same poet whose two poems appear at the end of the Turner Collection, where he is named as Iain Brùn, seanchaidh do Phrionnsa nan Gàidheal "learned-man to the Prince of the Gaels."56 While it would be easy to assume that this title refers to being in the service of Prince Charles, it was claimed that he held the office (official or unofficial) of Royal Genealogist to King George IV.57
In any case, the poem in the pamphlet begins by celebrating the kilt and associating it with famous historical figures. He goes on to lament the fall of the Stewarts and their followers:
|B' iad oighreachan nan Stiubhartach||Let me state, it was the Stewart heirs|
|Deireamsa fhuair an droch ghnàthach'||That were treated roughly|
|Luchd chaitheamh an trusgain rìoghail-||The people who wore the royal clothing-|
|Bu tearc ar cìsean 'nan làithibh.||Our taxes were few in their day.
|Trì ceud bliadhna trì 's dà fhichead||For three hundred and forty-three years|
|Shuidh iad 's a' chathair a b'àirde||They sat in the most elevated throne|
|Dh'fhàg Seumas mìltidh 's an ionmhas||James left thousands in the treasury|
|Ged tha nis air feuch 'gar bàthadh.58||Although now it has tried to extinguish us.|
The poem continues by praising the heroic ancestor of the contemporary Duke of Montrose, whose political influence was understood to be instrumental in the repeal of the Act of Proscription:
|Fhiadhnais siud air luchd na Beurla||That is the news of the English speakers|
|Aig Allt Èireann 's Inbhir Lòchaidh||At Aldearn and Inverlochy|
|Tràth choinnich e dream an fhuar-chràbhaidh||When he (Montrose) met the people of the hypocritical religion|
|Thoill is fhuair am bàs le'n gòraich.[...]59||Who deserved and got death from their foolishness [...]|
It is now time, the poet implies, to leave the Jacobite past in the museum of history and to embrace the status quo of the British polity:
|Leigeamaid a-nis air dearmad||Let us now forget about|
|Gach fìrinn a ta searbh ri claistinn||Every fact that is bitter to hear|
|Canamaid aonachd rann-mholta||Let us recite a poem of praise in unity|
|Air son na culadh a b' àbhaist.||For the clothing that was our custom.
|Thugamaid taing do Dhia na Sìothaimh||Let us give thanks to God of Peace|
|Tha riaghladh gach nì mar as àill leis||Who governs everything as he pleases|
|A thug mun cuairt le Fhreasdal Prìseil||Who has brought back, through Providence||E|
|Oighreachda ar sinnsir d'ar càirdean. [...]||Our ancestor's estates to our relations [...]
|Gu ma maireann an Rìgh is Uaislean||Long live the King and the nobles|
|A nochd iochd is cluain is còir dhuinn||Who have shown us mercy, peace and justice||A.3|
|Rinn sinne mar Bhreatannaich eile||Who have made us as other Britons|
|Eadar eileannan is mòr-thìr [...]
||In both islands and mainland [...]|
|A bharr sòlais eile ta 'm fogasg||Another joy is close at hand:>|
|Bidh 'n Scriobtur againn 'nar cànain||We will have the Scriptures in our own tongue|
|'S bidh bailte mòra 'nar dùthaich||And we will have cities in our land|
|A bha dlùth gu bhith 'na fàslach.
||That had nearly become a desert.|
|Cha tèid na Gàidheil an sin thairis||The Gaels will not emigrate
|'S cha bhi nas faide mar thràillean||And will no longer be as thralls,|
|Bidh saibhreas is pailteas 'nar dùthaich||We will have wealth and plenty in our land||D|
|'S oighreachan mo rùin 'nan àros.||And the heirs I adore in their homes.
|Thugamaid taing do'n Rìgh ta againn-||Let us give thanks to our current King-|
|Guidheam fallain 's fada beè e -||I wish him health and long life -|
|A thoirt air ais na bhuin a sheanair||For giving back what his grandfather took away||A.3|
|O theaghlachd bu shine na Hanòver.60||From a family older than that of Hanover.|
A poem by an obscure Scottish poet, Domhnall MacCoinnich, on these events appears to have been composed as an entry in a competition for an organization he names as Luchd Ath-Bheòthachaidh na Bardachd Ghàidhealach ("Revivers of Gaelic Poetry").61 The poem, it must be said, is a conscious attempt to use archaistic words and antiquarian devices. It is interesting that he opens by referring to a meteor in the sky, read as a sign of the fulfillment of a prophecy. This is clearly an allusion to the star that signified the birth of Charles, but the motif has been co-opted by the Hanoverians:
|Ghluais fair chuan, o thuath, an-uiridh||Last year, across the ocean, there moved|
|An comh-uair air fuasgladh dhuinne||A speedy meteor, like a shot from a gun,|
|Riolunn luath mar luaidh a gunna||The hour has been revealed to us|
|Sgaoil i buaidh mu'r cruachaibh mullaich||It has spread its influence around our hills|
|Beachdaichibh an ceann na bliadhna||Take note at the end of the year|
|Gur teachdaire bh'ann o'n Trianaid||That it was a messenger from God|
|Dol seachad 'na deann 'san iarmailt||Going quickly by in the skies|
|Dheachdnadh gum bu teann ar miann oirnn.
||That would inspire us to hold to our hopes.|
|'N fhàisinneachdsa nis co-lìonta||The prophecy is now fulfilled|
|Tha Gàisidean tric 'gan sgrìobhadh||The gazettes frequently are being written|
|Gach àite bheil mic no sìolach||In every place where there are Gaels|
|Nan Gàidheal, thoirt fios nam fitheach dhoibh [...]
||To give them foreknowledge [...]|
|Tha na Dèe a-nis an sìth riunn||The Gods are now at peace with us||D|
|Cha bhi euradh mios no nì oirnn||We will not be denied respect or wealth|
|Seadh, no eugmhais meas no prìs oirnn||No, nor lack of harvest or money|
|Gheibh sinn spèis a-measg nan iodhol||We will be respected by ministers of state||A|
|Cha bhi streup no miosgainn mhì-rùin||There will be no strife or malice|
|Ann an crè no'n crios os n-ìosal||In anyone's breast, or kept in private|
|Breith-air-èiginn, misg, no brìobadh||Rapacity, drunkenness, or bribes|
|No dad feum air cìp no prìosan.||Or any need for stocks or prisons.
|Lath an Rìogh le sìth ar beudan!||The King pardoned our sins with peace!||G|
|Mathadh mìte mhì-mhoidh chèile||May each mutual offence be pardoned|
|Gabhadh dìochuimhn sìos na 'beul iad||Let forgetfulness swallow them all|
|'S laigheadh mì-chliù sìor gun èirigh||And let dispraise lie prone for all time||C|
|Cha bhi athais no beum tàireil||There will be no insults or accusations|
|Air son athar, treabh, no càirdeis||For father, home, or kinship|
|No thaobh chathan, trèas, no cràbhaidh||Or regarding war, treason, or religion|
|Ach gach latha mar fhèill bhràithreil [...]||But every day to be like a brotherly festival [...]|
|Mar ghluais an Rìolunn ar smaointi||As the star has turned our thoughts|
|A-suas gu ionad na Naomhachd||Upwards to the Heavens|
|Le snuadh ro iongantach 's aogasg||With a wondrous appearance|
|Bhios buan 'nar n-innigh gun chaochladh||That will stay unchanging in our minds|
|'S amhail an tràth-s tha sinn gluaiste||Like that time we are moved|
|Le mathas gràis ar Rìogh thruacant'||By the good graces of our merciful King|
|Gu latha bràth bidh sinn fuaighte||Forever we will be attached firmly||A.3|
|Ri chathair 's àros neo-fhuasgailt [...]62||To his throne and palace [...]|
This poem, then, brings closure to grievances by reclaiming the harbinger of the Gaels' salvation, the star anticipated by Gaelic prophetic tradition. The previous star that heralded Charles Edward Stewart, implies the poet, was not the true star; the new star pointing to George of Hanover should instead be heeded, heralding a new peace and a new relationship between the Highlands and the rest of the United Kingdom.
I have claimed, judging from what survives from the period between the last Jacobite Rising and the American Revolution, that there is a high degree of continuity in the ideological framework of Gaelic poetry. This is essentially the rhetoric of the Gaelic panegyric code created during the era of traditional clan society when endemic warfare reinforced the primacy of aristocrat-warrior relationships.
I should qualify this claim with the observation that the post-Culloden Hanoverian poets generally seem to have worked themselves into a rut of merely magnifying the old conventions on an Imperial scale; they tended to drone on about the relationship between ruler and soldier-client, the might of the Hanoverian dynasty, and George's right to the Crown. There is little effort to explain the ideology of Empire, the consequences of invasion and conquest, or the compromises necessarily made by the Gaels in the Imperial Order. This poetry is essentially an attempt to reconcile the loyal Gaelic soldier with the new scheme of things, to fuse him to the new embodiment of authority and to celebrate uncritically the military gains accomplished by Highlanders on behalf of the Empire.
One occasionally finds in the poetry celebrating soldiers and military participation overweening pride in the boldness and manliness of Gaelic troops in comparison with their fellow Britons, but generally gone from military poetry are the disparaging remarks about the Lowlanders and the English (generically luchd na Beurla). On the other hand, people throughout the Gàidhealtachd (including Presbyterian ministers!63) continued to sing Jacobite songs with great delight.
The only genre of Gaelic poetry in which resentment towards luchd na Beurla is expressed frequently and systematically is in protests against the Clearances. These poems, significantly, express a sense of betrayal regarding the fact that despite being loyal to the British order at home and on the battle field, the Gaels are being evicted from their lands. The implicit contract of military service in return for land-holding is made explicit in this context. If the King is the sovereign of the domain, and people are doing their duty to him in exchange for occupying the land which is ultimately in his sovereignty, then their being forced from it is a breach of an ancient social contract.
The continuity in the Scottish Gaelic political literature discussed here demonstrates the malleability of Jacobite rhetoric. Poets composing in changed political circumstances could use terms such as ceart and còòir, of course, just as easily in reference to Hanoverian leadership as previous generations had used them to support the Stewart cause. The overwhelming reorientation of the Scottish Gaelic literati toward the Hanoverians contrasts strongly with the productions of the Irish literati, who show no such change of heart. This represents a major cleavage in Jacobitism between the two sides of Sruth na Maoile, a divergence that could only widen as Scottish Highlanders committed themselves to the role of soldiers of the Empire, whether they fought to reinforce its authority in North America or Ireland.
Despite the force and conviction of a sizeable corpus of pro-Imperial material, there is also evidence of criticism of and protest against Empire and the military in Gaelic poetry, and grappling with these complexities was to spur on the innovation of Gaelic poetry in the nineteenth64 and twentieth centuries.
I would like to thank Dr. Breandán Ó Buachalla, Dr. John MacInnes, Dr. Wilson McLeod, Dr. Colm Ó Baoill, and Dr. Domhnall Uilleam Stiubhart for their comments on drafts of this paper. Lt Col. Ian Macpherson McCulloch kindly provided me with some useful information regarding Highland military history. I would also like to thank the Signet Library of Edinburgh for allowing me access to the pamphlet by Ioin Donn, and to the Special Collections of Edinburgh University Library for providing access to a number of the publications in this article.
1 Thomas Wertenbaker, "Early Scotch Contributions to the United States," Glasgow University Publications 64 (1945): 9-10.
2 Arthur Herman. How the Scots Invented the Modern World. (New York: Crown Publishers, 2001): 211.
3 Virginia Gazette 23 November 1775.
4 Margaret Willard (ed.). Letters on the American Revolution 1774-1776. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1925): 314.
5 The Celtic Monthly 8 (1900): 107.
6 Duane Meyer. The Highland Scots of North Carolina, 1732-1776. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1961): Chapter Seven.
7 Ibid., 161.
8 There is one potentially importance source which I have not been able to consult. The Scottish Gaelic Union Catalogue (item 1975) lists Pàraig MacGhilleain, Dann Gàidhealach (1784), as being housed in the General Record Office in Edinburgh. Neither the GRO nor the National Library of Scotland, however, know anything of its whereabouts.
9 Damhnait Ní Suaird, "Jacobite Rhetoric and Terminology in the Political Poems of the Fernaig MS (1688-1693)," Scottish Gaelic Studies 19 (1999): 93-4.
10 William Gillies. "Gaelic Songs of the Forty-Five," Scottish Studies 30 (1991): 21.
11 See John MacInnes, "The Panegyric Code in Gaelic Poetry and its Historical Background," Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 50 (1978): 435-498.
12 I have left out motifs that were only relevant to the Jacobite Risings and did not re-occur in the American context.
13 Damhnait Ní Suaird's taxonomy has appeared since the time that I devised my own schema. While hers is more complete and detailed for Jacobite poetry as a whole, mine is more specifically tailored to the corpus at hand.
14 Gillies, 21-2; Ní Suaird, 122-9.
15 Gillies, 23.
16 Ibid., 26; Ní Suaird, 104, 116.
17 T. P. McCaughey, "Bards, Beasts, and Men," Sages, Saints and Storytellers, eds. D. Ó Corráin, L. Breatnach and K. McCone (Maynooth: An Sagart, 1989): 104.
18 Gillies, 20-1.
19 For discussion about pro-Hanoverian material, see Ronald Black (ed.). An Lasair: Anthology of 18th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse. (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2001): 438-9, 459.
20 For evidence regarding North Carolina see Michael Newton, "In Their Own Words: Gaelic Literature in North Carolina," Scotia 25 (2001):1-28.
21 Meyer, 61-4; Bernard Bailyn. Voyagers to the West. (New York: Vintage Books, 1988): Chapter Four.
22 For some of this surviving material, see We're Indians Sure Enough: The Legacy of the Scottish Highlanders in the United States. (Richmond: Saorsa Media, 2001): 52-6, 114-118.
23 Hugh Barron, "Dàn na h-Iomairt," Scottish Gaelic Studies 11 (1966): 198; Andrew MacKillop. 'More Fruitful than the Soil': Army, Empire and the Scottish Highlands, 1715-1815. (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 2001): 84-5, 229.
24 The stanza seems to me to be slightly corrupt in terms of rhyme, especially in comparison with other stanzas, and I believe that a couple of minor shifts of words have fixed all but rhymes with trì and cuairt, and àmhghar. Given the political nature of statements made in it, it arouses my suspicion but not sufficiently to warrant excluding it entirely.
25 Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 86-7.
26 This seems to be an allusion to a legendary feat of one of his Fraser ancestors.
27 Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 131.
28 MacKillop, 61, 218. He also points out, however, that "Scottish elites during the Seven Years War attracted attention for the conspicuous nature of their commitment and loyalty" (103).
29 Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 140-1.
30 Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 123-4, 125, 126.
31 Angus MacLeod (ed.). The Songs of Duncan Bàn Macintyre. (Edinburgh: Scottish Gaelic Texts Society, 1978): lines 309-313, 317-324.
32 MacLeod, 26-33.
33 Anon. Co-Chruinneachadh Nuadh do dh'Òrannibh Gàidhealach. (Inverness: John Young, 1806): 194, 196.
34 Duncan Macintosh (ed.). Co-chruinneachadh dh'òrain thaghte Ghàelach. (Edinburgh: J. Elder, 1831): 6.
35 Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 57-8.
36 For biographical information about Iain mac Mhurchaidh see Margaret MacDonell (ed.). The Emigrant Experience. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982): 26-32. I have pointed out that there is a great deal of evidence that suggests that he is not the author of all of the poems attributed to him while in North Carolina in Michael Newton, "In Their Own Words," 14-23.
37 The Celtic Magazine 7 (1882): 273; MacTalla (December 30, 1893): 2.
38 The Celtic Monthly 8 (1900): 134.
39 This song seems to have been modeled on an earlier song, Is fhada mi 'm ònaran (see Michael Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 283, note 94; Michael Newton, "In Our Own Words," 20-1). The "standard" song text might reflect the conflation of two traditions, one holding that Iain mac Mhurchaidh was in prison, the other that he was an outlaw on the run (fo'n choille).
40 Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 143; MacDonell, 52.
41 Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 142; MacDonell, 50.
42 Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 147, 148.
43 Newton, We're Indians Sure Enough, 151, 152, 154, 157, 158.
44 This is my hypothesis because the song is entitled Òran mu Bhreacan an fhèilidh a bhith air a thoirt air ais do na Gàidheil ("A Song about the Kilt having been returned to the Gaels") and because there is no reference to the return of the heritable estates.
45 Defined in MacInnes.
46 Angus MacDonald and Archibald MacDonald (eds.). The MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry. (Inverness: The Northern Counties Newspaper and Printing and Pub. Co., 1911): 383.
47 MacLeod, lines 3484-3571.
48 John L. Campbell (ed.) Highland Songs of the Forty-Five. (Edinburgh: Scottish Gaelic Texts Society, 1933, new edition 1984): 284.
49 Ibid., 256. It is curious that Campbell did not mention the booklet of poetry composed by Alasdair Cameron, unless this is another active poet of the same name from the same area, which does not seem likely. See also Ronald Black, "The Gaelic Academy: The Cultural Commitment of the Highland Society of Scotland," Scottish Gaelic Studies 14 (1986): 7.
50 Alastair Camron. Òrain agus rannachd ann Gàidhlig. (Edinburgh: D. Macphàtric, 1785): 8.
51 See for example David Nairne, "Notes on Highland Woods," Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 17 (1891): 207-8.
52 Marairead Cham'ron. Òrain Nuadh Ghàidhealach. (1785): 1, 2.
53 MacLeod, lines 3572-3707.
54 Ibid., lines 4296-4300.
55 Macintosh, 53-5.
56 According to the information provided by "Fionn" (Henry White) in The Celtic Monthly 19 (1911): 105, he was born at Inverchaolain in 1739 and died in Edinburgh in 1821. His last poem is dated 1799.
58 Ioin Donn. Rannaibh nuadh do'n t'sean éididh eachdoil Gháelich, agus do na cinn-fheadhna Ghàidhealach.... (Perth: John Gillies, 1785): 14.
59 Ibid., 17.
60 Ibid., 18, 23, 25.
61 As their comments were printed in the booklet, Rev. Donald MacNicol of Lismore and Rev. Charles Stewart of Strachur would seem to be members of this society, which is likely to have been related in some way to the Highland Society of Scotland (see Black, "The Gaelic Academy," 16).
62 Domhnall MacCoinnich. Òran Gàirdeachais Dhòmhnuill Mhic Coinnich. (Glasgow: R. Chapman and A. Duncan, 1785): stanzas 1, 108, 109, 130.
63 Personal communication, John MacInnes.
64 John MacInnes 1989, esp. pp. 379-382, 386, 392.