Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Take a Jaunt to the Jacobites

I have a new book out this week. Yes, right now. It is an exciting and terrifying time for any author – exciting for all the obvious reasons: (excited voice) The book is out there! But terrifying too. All that scrutiny: (squeaky, quivering voice) The book is out there!
The Reluctant Rebel

This time, my time travel takes me to the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 – a topic often taught in Scottish schools. Who hasn’t heard of Flora MacDonald and her daring rescue of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stuart figurehead of the campaign who spent more than five months on the run across the Scottish Highlands and Islands in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. Information leading to his capture was to be rewarded with 30,000 – an absolutely insane amount of money at that time. And yet, in all that time, he was not betrayed. Despite the comprehensive defeat at Culloden and the disbanding of the Jacobite army, and despite the terrible reprisals which washed over the North of Scotland in particular, the supporters of the Prince remained loyal. Hundreds of them must have known where he was at one time or another – and many risked their lives all over again for the Stuart Prince.
The Battle of Culloden

I wanted to write about that – the aftermath of the campaign. It really was a deadly game of hide-and-seek in which the stakes could not have been higher – most prominent Jacobites were executed. The Prince’s companions changed frequently, but he did pass through one house on several occasions. That’s where I would base my child protagonists, I decided – Borrodale in Lochaber, home of Angus MacDonald and his three sons, all involved in the Jacobite campaign. It was where it all started at the beginning of the campaign in July 1745, and it would be where the Prince would turn for shelter at his hour of greatest need. In addition, the last sea battle in British waters took place in the loch beside the house – and the government forces burnt Borrodale down in revenge too. What a story.
Borrodale House in Moidart, rebuilt after the original house was burned down in retribution

Here are three jaunts which inspired this tale. 1. National Trust for Scotland, Culloden Battlefield.

The bothy on Culloden Battlefield

We have lived in Inverness for most of the last two decades. Every time we have visitors, we take them to the nearest tourist attraction of note. The battlefield is beautiful in summer, but it is atmospheric and full of tragic history. The battle which was fought between government forces representing the Hanoverian King George’s protestant government and the Jacobites who favoured the catholic Stuart royal family was the last land battle on British soil. The terrain was unsuitable, the Jacobite army was heavily outnumbered and outgunned – and to add insult to injury, they had spent the night on a misguided failed attempt to surprise the enemy. They never stood a chance. I have visited countless times. 2. Finlay, an elderly friend from my church invited us to spend a day driving to the West Coast with him, the area of his birth. Halfway, somewhere in Glen Moriston, he made us stop the car. Walk with me a minute,’ he said and led us to the hidden memorial to a little known Jacobite called Roderick Mackenzie.

Roderick Mackenzie’s memorial at Glenmoriston

While the Prince was on the run, Roderick, bearing a strong resemblance to the famous Bonnie Prince Charlie, acted as a decoy. It is said that even as the government forces shot him, he exclaimed ‘You’ve killed your Prince!’, buying the real Charles Edward Stuart precious time to escape. A short drive later, he made us pull in again, this time to the house of an acquaintance. ‘Show her your collection, Donald,’ he urged his friend. The man produced several jam jars of Jacobite musket balls, all found in the stream behind his croft. I will never forget it. History was here, right beneath our feet. 3. The third trip was intentional – I had stumbled across the story, but by now I was determined to research my tale. My other half has long been used to my ulterior motives when I suggest family trips. Our romantic weekend in Lochaber was no more than a list of places I needed to check out – the lie of the land, yes – but also the research riches in local museums. The weather was dubious – but who cares – my head I was firmly located in 1746, and the here and now was practically irrelevant. We tiptoed around Borrodale, played tourist at Glenfinnan, explored the beaches along Loch nan Uamh and speculated which of the many caves had played host to the Prince all those years ago.

Glenfinnan where the ’45 rebellion began

My hope is my readers of The Reluctant Rebel may not have to visit the area – perhaps I have evoked enough of that world in the pages that they can picture Archie’s and Meg’s life: Gaelic, beremeal bannocks, horses, and yes, secrets. But perhaps the story will whet their appetite to visit too. Then they can tread the ground where the fugitive Prince Charles Edward Stuart ran for his life.

The statue of Flora MacDonald overlooking the River Ness in Inverness

Barbara on the day she first received copies of the Reluctant Rebel

More about the book: There it is again, hope. The defeat and the despair I can stand, but it’s the hope that kills me, as if the Cause wasn’t lost, as if Father hadn’t died in vain. As if any one of us could possibly come out of this alive… Following the death of his father, 13-year-old Archie MacDonald has lost faith in the Jacobite Cause. Having witnessed their clan’s terrible defeat at the Battle of Culloden, Archie and his feisty cousin Meg flee back to Lochaber to lie low. Or so they think. Until the fugitive Prince’s life depends on them. When Prince Charles Edward Stuart looks to the people of Borrodale for help, will the young stable boy support the rebellion that has cost him so dearly? With enemies closing in, the Prince’s fate now rests in the hands of a stable boy and a maid with a white cockade. Who will survive this deadly game of hide-and-seek? Praise for The Reluctant Rebel 'I loved it! It's a rip-roaring adventure. Meg and Archie are great characters.' – Maggie Craig Order: https://www.luath.co.uk/new-releases/the-reluctant-rebel

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