Centuries of Scotland's history were colored by struggle, not only for political freedom
but for religious liberty as well. Often, the two were intertwined.
"We fight not for glory, nor
for wealth, nor honour but only and alone we
Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, planted his standard in the fields of Bannockburn on 23 June 1314. Eight thousand starving Scottish patriots rallied to his side, defying an English army of twenty thousand and vanquishing the oppressor, Edward II of England, in two days of fierce battle. Bruce, the warrior king, inspired an entire nation. Seven years after their great victory, faced with continuing threats of English invasion, Scots gathered at Arbroath on 6 April 1320 and declared, “... as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions 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.”
hae wi' Wallace bled, Scots wham Bruce has often led,
be a traitor knave, wha can fill a coward's grave,
oppression's woes an' pains, by your sons in servile chains,
The English victory at Culloden was hardly one of which to boast, and their behavior afterward appalling. The English used their muskets as clubs to dash out the brains of the wounded and sprinkled one another with Scottish blood. Then, they casually dined upon the field where the dead still lay.
In the 1820's, descendants of Highlanders who had died at Culloden placed rough memorial stones where various clans had fallen and were buried in mass graves. In one spot, numerous Highlanders of mixed clans fought, died, and were buried together. In 1881, Duncan Forbes of Culloden erected a large cairn at Culloden to memorialize all the Highlanders who had fallen. It includes a plaque which reads, "The Battle of Culloden was fought on this moor 16th April 1746. ----- The graves of the gallant Highlanders who fought for Scotland & Prince Charlie, are marked by the names of their clans." In addition to stones for the MacDonalds and others is a stone where many fallen highlanders whose families and clans were unknown lie buried.
After Culloden, everything about the Highland way of life was banned - the claymore, the bagpipe, and even the wearing of tartans. While one may lament the end of a way of life and abhor the brutality which which the Highlanders were treated, it was providential that they lost this, their last great battle for Scotland. Their would-be sovereign would have imposed on the entire nation a single religion. Fortunately, the ban on tartans was lifted in 1782, and in 1843 Queen Victoria appointed the first "personal piper to the Sovereign" of Great Britain. Today, Scotland again has her own Parliament to govern domestic affairs, and it is hoped that one day the political battle for full Scottish independence may be won.
to the fields of glory, where the green grass an' flowers grow,
In the great
glen, they lie a-sleeping, where the cool waters gently flow,
See the tall
grass is there a-waving as their flags were so long ago;
March no more, my soldier laddie, there is peace where there once was war.
In his too brief lifetime, the Bard of Scotland wrote hundreds of heroic, romantic, or humorous songs and poems about his native land and people. The best known, of course, is "Auld Lang Syne." The most stirring, however, must be "Scots Wha Hae," which celebrates the valor of the Bruce and his Scots at Bannockburn. Burns himself gives an account of the inspiration for the song :
I am delighted with many little melodies which the learned musician despises as silly and insipid. I do not know whether the old air Hey tutti taittie may rank among the number; but well I know that with Frazer's hautboy it has often filled my eyes with tears. There is a tradition that I have met with in many places in Scotland that it was Robert Bruce's march at the Battle of Bannockburn. This in my yesternight's evening walk ... warmed me to a pitch of enthusiasm on the theme of liberty and independence, which I threw into a sort of Scottish ode fitted to the air that one might suppose to be the gallant Royal Scot's Address to his heroic followers on that eventful morning.
Robert Burns dearly loved his Scotland, and was so loved in return that the village where he was born began planning its monument to him a mere seven years after his death. Within five years more, sufficient funds were raised that construction could begin on his birthday in 1820. Finally, the monument was opened to the public in 1823. It is now surrounded by the lovely Burns National Heritage Park, which spreads over several city blocks and includes gardens, a museum, a 16th century church, and the 1757 cottage where Burns was born.
For more about Burns's birthplace and its Brig O' Doon, visit Romantic Alloway.
Galloway is a land of both beauty and starkness. It is also, like most of Scotland, a land of both tragedy and triumph. Seeking a 300-year-old tomb, we drove the narrow, unpaved Southern Upland Way and hiked up the rocky, sometimes boggy moor of Craigmoddie Fell. The place was described in the 19th century by Rev. William Mackenzie as "a bleak, romantic spot." We looked for the stone wall enclosure that Ranger Mearns had told us surrounds the grave. Arriving at the first structure that caught our eye, we discovered it was an ancient, stone sheep pen. Had it belonged to the man whose grave we sought? We headed back down a bit and looked up in a slightly different direction. There was something else ... and we walked toward it, hoping it was the object of our quest.
As Drummond and his men advanced toward Wigtownshire in Galloway, a number of lapwings flying in the distance suggested that some danger threatened their nests. Suspecting the cause of their distress was human, Drummond led his men across the border. Approaching the fell, they saw Linn and circled around to take him by surprise. When they found him reading a pocket Bible, Drummond decided it was cause enough to condemn him since, at that point in history, people were discouraged from owning Bibles and told to obtain instruction in the scriptures directly from priests. A Scottish shepherd in possession of a pocket Bible surely must be a Presbyterian. Drummond had guessed correctly. And so, Alexander Linn was ambushed, shot, and killed for his faith. When his lifeless body was later found, he was buried on the spot where he had died, and the place was marked by a memorial stone. Over the succeeding 300 years, at least six memorial services were held at the tomb, the stone enclosure built, and two additional, commemorative gravestones added. The last service at Linn's tomb marking the 300th anniversary of his death.
On that spring day in 1685, what words of God were last on the heart and mind of Alexander Linn? What promises of the Lord ushered him into his heavenly home as he left his earthly abode? Inside his tomb's enclosure, a rose is growing. On the hills around, sheep still graze.
In the village of Durisdeer, on the western edge of the Lowther Hills in Dumfriesshire, is this fine stone kirk built by the first Duke of Queensberry in the late 17th century. The Duke and Duchess both are buried at the kirk, but the grave pictured here is that of a martyred Covenanter. His epitaph consists of two parts on a single stone, the first inscribed in one direction and the second perpendicular to the first. The first records the place, cause, and year of his death, along with a Bible reference. The second delivers a striking message :
Set behind the original flat stone is an upright commemorating a memorial service held 57 years after McMichael's death.