Inverness, Scotland is a land of rainbows. We’ve seen at least half a dozen during our short stay here. Despite the breathtaking beauty, the weather–forty degrees, wind gusts and intermittent, torrential rain–drove us inside. (Conversation in the Ladies WC:
She: “Having a good day?”
Me: “Excellent, regardless of the downpour.”
She: “You mean, downpours! It’s usually so much nicer in May and June. It’s just been so cold this year.”)
For shelter, I sought out the Highland Archive Centre, housed in a sleek building right beside the Ness River Islands. This is great. Apparently, enough family history types have come calling to warrant an investment in this state-of-the-art facility. No appointment necessary. I was helped by really knowledgeable, and patient, assistants.
My favorite hour was the last, spent browsing through the church session minutes of Croy Parish (1730-1775). Lest you roll your eyes at the dryness of it all, these were steamy pages, accusations and confessions of fornication and adultery, or attempted same, quite detailed accounts in session after session. Gives one a whole different perspective on the Presbyterian Kirk of old.
We’ve made it up to Inverness, where our first stop yesterday was the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre. In April of 1746, a loose coalition of Highland clans mustered to the call to restore the Catholic Stuart dynasty to the Protestant Hanoverian English throne. The ill-fated political and military manuevres of Prince Charles Edward Stuart failed at this very place called Culloden. Not always a student of history, I had no idea how large this event loomed in Highland memory.
Until recently, I mainly knew about this battle from family lore, which goes that my ancestor Daniel Mackintosh was a newborn infant in a croft (a thatched peasant hut) on that very Culloden field where the battle flared up that day. When it was clear the Highlanders were in retreat, his mother (my 4x great grandmother) was forced to gather up her babe and run for it.
Now Culloden is an uninhabited field, but this artwork of the battle depicts a manor and homes on the grounds. (Double-click on the image for a large view). It was a chilling day for the 13,000 Highland and British men who engaged in the rout, which ruined Jacobite hopes and started the final demise of the Gaelic Highland clans.
It was a productive visit, especially since this Scotsman helped me arm for battle as a Highlander. I tried on a shield and sharp dirk (dagger) with my left arm and hand, and clumsily practiced wielding a heavy, basket-hilted sword with my right. The Scotsman only flinched once.
Later, we visited the Inverness Museum, where they had an excellent display of the round, leather and metal Highland shield and array of dirks and swords.