Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Battle of Falkirk 1746

January 17th 1746 witnessed the Battle of Falkirk or Falkirk Muir to distinguish it from the battle of 1298. Falkirk was to be the last battle won by the Jacobite army in their campaign, but it was no insignificant victory. For various reasons it can be seen as a turning point in the conflict.

The National had an article which describes the battle and which can be read at Back in the Day: The story of the Battle of Falkirk II, 275 years on

Through my membership of the 1745 Association  I received a link to a livestream conference organised by the Bannockburn House Trust on the actual anniversary last Sunday afternoon. Bannockburn House was where Prince Charles Edward was based at the time of the battle whilst he was besieging Stirling.

The conference comprised six presentations.

The first was a reading from the Memoirs of James Johnstone, better known as the Chevalier de Johnstone, in which he recounts his memories of the battle and its aftermath. There is a Wikipedia account of his life and career at Chevalier de Johnstone

Flags of the Jacobite army contingents which were captured at Culloden were burned in June 1746 by the common hangman at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh having been processed there by chimney sweeps. Apart from these fourteen some others still survive in the National Museum and in private collections. There are illustrated online features about the various Jacobite banners at Jacobite Banners (Scotland) and at Jacobite Banners at Culloden

There was then a presentation about the Royal Oak Society of Scotland, a Jacobite heritage group.  This has revived the name of a late eighteenth century group which met in Edinburgh. The Scotsman has an article about them in which the reporter emerges as amused but by no means unsympathetic to the group. It can be read at More than an Outlander tribute act: meet the modern day Jacobites

The Council Archaeologist for Stirling spoke about the Jacobite siege, the surrender to them of the town and the continued resistance of the castle in 1746, and about what can be seen today and deduced from records.

The plans to establish a Battle of Falkirk memorial centre were outlined. This will include displays of  contemporary weaponry and enable views of the battlefield which is still open ground to the west of the town.

The final talk was by the Chairman of the 1745 Association and was about the battle of Falkirk and the tactics employed on the day in driving wind and rain, as well as the surprise of the Jacobites in discovering in the evening murk that they had won so considerable a victory.

This tied in with a talk on New Year’s Eve given to the 1745 Association online about the apparently accidental shooting in Falkirk on the day after the battle of Young Glengarry by a fellow Jacobite soldier.  The victim was the younger brother of the man identified by Andrew Lang as Pickle the Spy, who was a significant player in betraying the Elibank Plot in 1752. There is something about that in this piece from The Independent at Historical Notes: Secrets of the pillow and `Pickle the Spy' The Falkirk shooting appears to have been a tragic accident but again one with wider consequences. The talk can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-c7wh0h1b6I 

The online conference was a varied and interesting couple of hours which definitely made one wish to visit the places discussed as well as adding to one’s knowledge of the battle. In the current situation it made one once again grateful for the technology of Zoom and the commitment of those who organise these events.

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