19 September 2009


We now have internet in the apartment, which means we're back in touch with the world!

17 September 2009

Running ragged

Our last few days have been absolutely insane, as we finish the registering and inductions and meetings and all the university goodies required to matriculate at Edinburgh. Plus, we've been forcing ourselves to go to at least one big social event per evening, so forgive us if our posts are sparse and belated.

Here is your random fact of the day to make this post more valuable, courtesy of a guy I met at the History department social yesterday: Northern Ireland, like Scotland and Wales, has its own soccer team for the World Cup, as does the country of Ireland. In international rugby, however, the entire island of Ireland plays as one team, in spite of the fact that that includes two countries. It has to do with the fact that the Rugby World Cup predates the division of Ireland in 1921, whereas the FIFA World Cup postdates it.

16 September 2009

Sightseeing in the Highlands: Culloden Field

(This is the latest post in a multi-part series on our recent trip to Inverness, Skye, and the Black Isle in the Highlands. You can find the first two posts here and here.)

Yesterday, we treated our loyal readers to the world-record briefest-ever history of Jacobitism in Scotland. Today, we visit the sight of the last chapter of the Jacobite story, Culloden Field, a soggy moor a few miles east of Inverness.

Bonnie Prince Charlie's defeat in the Battle of Culloden marked the end of the 1745 Rising. It was also the last land battle ever fought in Great Britain.  
As I mentioned yesterday, there were Scots on both sides of Culloden--more, in fact, on the government side than on the Young Pretender's--and partly for that fact alone, the battle and its aftermath represent one of the bloodiest episodes of Scottish history (which is saying something).
Historically, though, Culloden is most important as the final major blow to the Highland way of life, and those clans who supported the Jacobite cause were, through imprisonment, destruction of property, deportation, and outright execution, nearly erased from the Highlands.
I won't go into much detail about the battle itself: you can learn a lot more through the excellent National Trust Scotland website--or, if you happen to be in the Inverness area, at the battlefield itself. Access to the battlefield is free, and there are plenty of interpretive signs to help you make sense of the place. The visitor's centre is pricey, but excellently done, and well worth the cost for history buffs.
Today, the moor still looks much like it did in 1746, and provides an appropriately moody backdrop for the day's lessons.
One portion of the field includes a large cairn in memory of the fallen Highlanders, surrounded by headstones marking the various mass graves belonging to each clan.
A few of the order of battle markers had had flowers lain on them, presumably by the descendants of the soldiers in that unit.
Interestingly enough, there is little offered in memory of the government troops, in part because of the tendency of later Scottish nationalists to romanticize the Jacobite cause--though there were far fewer government casualties on the day.
Nana may have her own comments on Culloden later, but to me, Culloden was just deeply sad. It's so easy to see, in retrospect, the strong reasons that drove soldiers to fight for each side (in fact, many Scots would have had relatives on both sides), and thus all the more tragic, I think, that so many had to die for what they believed in.
As I said yesterday, Culloden and its aftermath started a 100-year flood of immigration from the Highlands to North America. As far as I've been able to learn, I didn't have any family at Culloden: though a batch of MacKinnons were involved in the campaign, they were captured the day before at Littleferry.

15 September 2009

More about Jacobites than you ever wanted to know

In Scotland, as soon as you hear the word "Jacobite," you can kiss the next twenty minutes goodbye. (Don't worry, I'll try to have you out in under ten.)

I was thinking yesterday about how to parcel out the remaining posts on our recent trip to the Highlands, but I couldn't find an easy way around the Jacobite problem--that is, the fact that you can't spit in Scotland without hitting some part of Jacobite history, and no single episode in that history makes a lick of sense if you don't know the whole (very complicated) tale. So in the interests of our American readers, here's a brief introduction to the history of the Jacobite cause.

It all started with the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 (Shakespeare's time--I told you this was a long story). Her successor was James I of England and Ireland, who was also King James VI of Scotland, and who ruled as the joint monarch of both nations. This was the beginning of the Stuart dynasty.

James's son Charles I made the regrettable mistake of crossing both Parliament and the Protestants--the latter with his Catholic-style reorganizations of the nominally Protestant Anglican church, the former with his dictatorial style of government. Thus the English Civil War, which ends with Chuck getting his head lopped off by Oliver Cromwell and company, who established a Protestant dictatorship under the guise of a republican "Commonwealth."

(Still with me?)

The Scots, however, didn't recognize Cromwell as their ruler, and instead crowned Charles II King of Scotland, but Cromwell quickly drove the new Scottish king into exile. Charles II had the last laugh, though, as after Cromwell's death in 1658, the Commonwealth collapsed, and Charles II was invited back to the throne (albeit with many of the old royal powers now delegated to Parliament) in the Restoration of 1660.


Charles was a controversial ruler, though, who tried to take back the powers given to Parliament in 1660 and who converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed. This didn't sit well with most folks in Britian, who hadn't fought long and hard to establish Protestantism for nothing.

Oh, the Scottish Covenanters also rose up in rebellion against Chuckie II around this time.

Charles' successor, James II/VI, was a Catholic, and even worse, he was even more of a wannabe dictator than Charles. The last straw, though, was the fact that he produced a Catholic heir, whom the Jacobites (Latin: supporters of Jacobus, aka James) would refer to as James III/VII, and others would call the Old Pretender.

(Deep breath.)

So the English kicked James II/VI out in favor of her Protestant daughter, Anne II, and her Dutch husband William of Orange (the namesakes of William and Mary College in Virginia). This event, the Glorious Revolution of 1688, also established Parliament, not the monarch, as the main source of power in Britain.

And here's where all heck breaks loose. The Highland Scots, many of whom were still Catholic, plus various groups of Catholics and conservatives throughout the British Isles (most notably the Irish), didn't recognize William and Mary or any members of the succeeding Hannoverian dynasty. Instead, they thought Jimmy 2-6's son, James III/VII (the Old Pretender), was the rightful king, and spent several decades, with the help of England's enemies abroad, trying to restore him to the thone. (Rob Roy MacGregor, made famous in the US by a film starring Liam Neeson, was loosely associated with the cause.)

Luckily for the English, the Old Pretender was pretty comfortable living it up down in Italy with his wealthy Polish wife. But Jimmy 3-7's son Charles Edward Stuart (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, aka Charles III) was another matter. He brought his big ego and his inflated sense of honor to Scotland in 1745, where he orchestrated a massive uprising of Highlanders, which after a brilliant start fizzled out very quickly, finally ending with the brutal defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden (near Inverness) in 1746.

1745 is as big a date in Scottish history as 1776 is in US history. It was the last time any group of Scots rose up for independence, and it was the beginning of the end for the old Highland way of life. In the immediate aftermath of the battle, the government troops ransacked the Highlands, and things there were never quite the same. Many former Jacobites fled to the US and Canada (the McKinnons, for example, helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape the mainland, and paid dearly for it, hence their exodus to North America), as well as to Australia and New Zealand.

Lately, the Jacobite cause has been resurrected as part of the growing push for Scottish independence. The 1745 uprising, however, is not nearly so black-and-white as it seems--there were, for example, more Scots fighting for the government than there were for the Jacobites--a fact which I hope will become clear in our next several posts.

Anyway, there's the quick-and-dirty version of the Jacobite story. More than you probably ever wanted to know about it, and I doubt I brought it in under 10 minutes--but enough, I hope, to make sense of what's to come.

14 September 2009

What's up with the rainbows?

The Scottish are, by their own admission, obsessed with the weather. They say that it's because the weather changes every ten minutes, but there's a lot of truth behind the joke.

The upshot of all this is, of course, a profusion of rainbows. Almost any time there's sun where you are, it's bound to be raining somewhere nearby. I think we've seen more rainbows in the past three weeks than we've seen in the previous three years.

I already posted about an unexpected rainbow gracing nearby Arthur's Seat. On our recent trip to the Highlands, we averaged (with absolutely no exaggeration whatsoever) one rainbow per day.

Here's a rainbow welcoming us to our B&B in Inverness.

Another kicking off our Skye tour (this one's a little harder to see, but it's a complete arc--pretty cool).And a third, perhaps the most impressive, viewed across the Cromarty Firth on our little loop around the Black Isle.

13 September 2009

Getting Oriented

Coming to you live from a one-hour gap in International Day, the University of Edinburgh's orientation for international students. The funny thing is that after spending the past two years in Korea, Justin and I feel a bit like ringers. I mean, everybody here speaks our language. We both have partial Scottish ancestry. I'm here as a Canadian, which means I'm even allowed to vote, for crying out loud. I don't really feel like a foreigner.

But of course we are, a fact which we noticed during all the shenanigans of visa application this summer and continue to experience in our exclusion from certain types of work in the UK, most notably the lucrative "self-employed" category which includes private tutoring. Man, we'd be so good at that! But we persevere.

This afternoon we have a lecture on being postgraduates, which unfortunately overlaps with the extremely appealing "British English for Americans." I am totally planning to do a post on this topic later on.