Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year folks!

A guid New Year to yin and a' from Alistair, The Lovely G and wee Jess..

We hope the New Year brings you all you could wish for.

All the very best for 2014.

The photo is of the Vikings from the New Year procession in Edinburgh. To see some more great photos from Edinburgh Spotlight please go here

Sunday, 29 December 2013

the Sunday Posts 2013/ The Neighbours Cat

Night is in the garden.
In both the black cat
is a small black sculpture
in the long grass.

I watch for ten minutes.
She never moves.

A plane flies high
over the city. She looks up.
her eyes steal the moon.

I'm tired. I go to bed
and stretch out in it.

Sculpturesque, I think,
as my eyes
steal the darkness.

Norman MacCaig
Photo by Alistair.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas one and all.


On window panes, the icy frost
Leaves feathered patterns, crissed & crossed,
But in our house the Christmas tree
Is decorated festively
With tiny dots of colored light
That cozy up this winter night.
Christmas songs, familiar, slow,
Play softly on the radio.
Pops and hisses from the fire
Whistle with the bells and choir.
My tiger is now fast asleep
On his back and dreaming deep.
When the fire makes him hot,
He turns to warm whatever’s not.
Propped against him on the rug,
I give my friend a gentle hug.
Tomorrow’s what I’m waiting for,
But I can wait a little more.

Bill Watterson

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

W.B. Yeats
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/ Traveller

Oh, who would choose to be a traveller?-
That anxious railway-guide unraveller
Who spends his nights in berths and bunks,
His days in chaperoning trunks;
Who stands in line at gates and wickets
To spend his means on costly tickets
To Irkutsk, Liverpool and Yap
And other dots upon the map.
He never rests, but always hurries
From place to place, beset with worries
About hotels and future trips
And just how much to give in tips.
He plods through galleries, museums,
Cathedrals, castles, coliseums,
And villages reputed quaint
With patience worthy of a saint
To give his friends the chance of hooting,
'You didn't visit Little Tooting?!!'   

Arthur Guitarman
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/ This is she

On order that must be obeyed
I sing of a dear little maid.
A mirthfully serious,
Sober, delirious,
Gently imperious

And first we'll consider her eyes
{Alike as to colour and size}
Her winkable, blinkable,
Merrily twinkable,
Simply unthinkable,

Then having a moment to spare,
We turn our attention to hair;
Her tendrilly-curlative,
Tumbly and wearlative,
Super superlative

Forbear to dismiss with a shrug,
Her nose, undeniably pug; -
Her strictly permissible,
Urgently kissable,

Now, moving a point to the South,
We come to an actual mouth,
Coral, pearlierous,
Mainly melliferous,

Observe, underneath it, a chin,
Connoting the dimple within,
A steady, reliable,
Hardly defiable,
True, undeniable,

By all that is fair it appears,
We'd almost forgotten her ears,
Those never neglectable,
Tinted, delectable,
Highly respectable,

And last let us speak of herself,
That blithe little gypsy and elf,
Her quite unignorable,
Absence deplorable,
Wholly adorable,

Arthur Guitarman.
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/ Stars and Planets

Trees are cages for them: water holds its breath
To balance them without smudging on its delicate meniscus.
Children watch them playing in their heavenly playground;
Men use them to lug ships across oceans, through firths.

They seem so twinkle-still, but they never cease
Inventing new spaces and huge explosions
And migrating in mathematical tribes over
The steppes of space at their outrageous ease.

It's hard to think that the earth is one –
This poor sad bearer of wars and disasters
Rolls-Roycing round the sun with its load of gangsters,
Attended only by the loveless moon.

Norman MacCaig
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/ Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love

Leonard Cohen.
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/ High Flight

Remembrance Sunday.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings,
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun split clouds - and done a hundred things you
Have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung,
High in the sunlit silence, hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air,
Up, up the long delirious blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark nor even eagle flew,
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod,
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

written in September 1941
by John Gillespie Magee Jr
Royal Canadian Air Force
died 11 December 1941.
Aged 19.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/ On the turning away

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won't understand
Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others' suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away

It's a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting it's shroud
Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we're all alone
In the dream of the proud

On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord
Using words you will find are strange
And mesmerized as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night

No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
It's not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there'll be
No more turning away?

Pink Floyd
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/Rain

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane...
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one big thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a starlit gutter, running gold
with the neon of a drugstore sign
and I’d read into its blazing line:
forget the ink, the milk, the blood -
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters
and none of this, none of this matters.

Rain, by Don Patterson
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/ Assynt And Edinburgh

From the corner of Scotland I know so well
I see Edinburgh sprawling like seven cats
on its seven hills beside the Firth of Forth.

And when I'm in Edinburgh I walk
amongst the mountains and lochs of that corner
that looks across the Minch to the Hebrides.

Two places I belong to as though I was born
in both of them.

They make every day a birthday,
giving me gifts wrapped in the ribbons of memory.
I store them away, greedy as a miser.

Norman MacCaig
Photo by Alistair

Thursday, 17 October 2013

MacKenzies Coat Of Mail.

A rewrite of an earlier post.

Another one from my hobby of Scots history

The Mutiny Of the 78th Seaforth Highlanders.
Edinburgh, North Britain, September 1778.

Thirty five years after the mutiny of the Black Watch , a Highland regiment once again felt it necessary to take up arms to prevent itself being treated dishonourably. Since Samuel Macpherson, Malcom Macpherson and Farquhar Shaw were shot in front of  the 300 tearful men of The Black Watch who were made to witness the execution of their three comrades in the Tower Of London, much had changed in their distant glens.

The final Jacobite attempt to reinstate a Stewart to the throne of Britain had ended strewn across the field in front of redcoat lines on Culloden Moor on a sleet cold April morning, signalling the start of the final chapter for the old clan-based way of life. This age old system, which had been decaying for generations as the power and influence of the south had turned clan chiefs heads and purses to focus on things other than their people had its head chopped off on Culloden moor, although the body would not realise for many years. The rebelling clans, and they were the minority, were torn from their loyal disloyalty by way of musket, bayonet and rope, by transportation and execution, imprisonment and exile of their chiefs, the robbing of homes, burning of glens, the carrying off of cattle and by the harrying of their homeless men, women and children.

After Culloden even those clans loyal to the crown found that their chiefs too were relieved by law of that ancient authority of legal rule - the medieval right to control by pit and gallows - and the power to independently raise men in times of war or neighbourly conflict - and many chiefs now quickly considered themselves free of any inherent responsibility to their people in return for that feudal homage. Needs would force them even more to look to the south and the example of lowland gentlemen or English squire.

Vestiges of the past remained, in the loyalty of the people and their lack of recognition of changing times. The clan chiefs now regarded their tenants as commodities to be charged rents instead of feudal warriors, to be cajoled and coerced with threats of lost tenancy or appeals to ancient loyalty to provide manpower for regiments to be used in service of the crown. A visible and protective example if one was needed, of the loyalty of the clan chief and his potential importance and usefulness to the King in London.

The disarming act had forbidden the highlander to bear or own weapons and;

'from and after the 1st August 1747 no man or boy in Scotland shal on any pretence whatsoever wear or put on the cloaths commonly called highland cloaths other than shal be employed as officers or soldiers in the Kings army'

For a first offence there was a prison term of 6 months, a second meant transportation for 7 years.

The Act was meant to break the aggressive spirit of the clans but it also offered a way for those young men, those likely trouble makers and high risk subjects, to be channelled, separated from much of the rebellious influences of their society, and most importantly it allowed them to be controlled, reducing threat of further rebellion. It had a secondary facet in that it also in some ways held those men in ransom for the good behaviour of those left behind. This chance to wear the tartans of their heritage and to bear arms as their fathers and grandfathers had done, even if in the service of an English King had made it easy to recruit ten regular regiments from the highlands in the years following 1745. Once mustered these regiments were quickly sent away overseas. A lesson learned from Ladywood and the Black Watch in no small part perhaps.

The use that might be made of these sons of highlanders who had charged so successfully at Prestonpans or Falkirk and so disastrously at Culloden wasn't lost on the hierarchy of the British army. Where else would courage be so usefully used and losses be so little regretted. General Wolfe, one of the heroes of that army, who had faced the charge at Culloden and would later find immortality on the Heights of Abraham said of the highland soldiers who would help him become the English legend that he is,

'They are hardy, intrepid and accustomed to rough country and no great mischief if they fall. How can you better employ a secret enemy than by making his end conducive to the common good'

In fairness to general Wolfe, he is also known for his refusal in the killing time at the end of the battle on the moor of Culloden  , to pistol an injured highlander. {An act of humanity perhaps, but no biographer I know of has thought to record his reaction on the order then being given to another who had no such qualms. But perhaps I judge him harshly. I am partisan and not a fan.}

So started the illustrious history and enforced tradition of Scots service in the British army and the imperial blueprint for subjugating far off lands. It was a lesson well learned. Scotland since those days has consistently contributed higher levels of its population to the forces than any other part of the realm. By the time of the American Wars less than ten percent of the national population was supplying more than twenty percent of its standing forces..

While by the time of the American Wars, the highlands had given many sons to the army, those left behind were feeling the combined effects of a changing world and economy. When it became known that the government again proposed to raise regiments from among the clans, chiefs and tacksmen {absent chiefs representatives} were eager to curry favour by supplying this need, especially as each man supplied would provide a bounty from the government for his service.

Simon Fraser of Lovat {an ex Jacobite who's father had been executed at Tower Hill and who had himself fought for Charlie at Culloden}  raised 2300 men for two battalions of the new 71st regiment of foot and personally delivered them to the boats in Glasgow which would ship them on to Boston, neglecting of course to join them on board himself.  But available and willing manpower in the highlands was becoming scarce and this also meant that the fee paid by recruiters out of the recruitment bounty was raised to encourage every last drop of available manhood, and in many cases too this resulted in money over promised to recruits not being paid for their service as agreed, leaving recruits being owed significant sums of money for their enlistment. Agents recruiting would themselves also often try for the chance of preferment as an officer in the regiment and would also barter their recruits for a higher price or to a preferred regiment or for a higher seniority for themselves. All in all it was often an unsavoury and corrupt situation.

It was in this scenario that the Seaforth Highlanders were recruited.

                                                   Crest of the Seaforth Highlanders

The head of the Army in North Britain, as Scotland was now officially called, General James Oughton, advised the government that with so many men having gone from the region that it would be very difficult to recruit.

"No effectual service can arise from the Act { of recruitment} in this country"

Lord Seaforth had offered to raise 1000 men for a regiment from his lands of the MacKenzies and Macraes which stretched from the Great Glen and Easter Ross in the east to Lewis and the wilds of Kintail in the west. His family had come out for the rebellion of 1715 and paid heavily for it, and he himself had been successful in gaining reinstatement to his title from the resulting dispossession the year before. It was both a statement and a test of his loyalty to the crown.

The chief of the Macraes was promised a commission in the regiment for his son and he dutifully delivered his full quota of men for his overlord accordingly. The loyal Macraes were the hereditary bodyguards of the McKenzies senior chief and known since early times as 'McKenzies coat of mail' Both clans had been decimated at Sheriffmuir in 1715.

The London living Lord Seaforth found with some difficulty that he was able to provide 90% of his regiment from his own northern lands and the remainder was supplied from elsewhere - mainly the lowlands. As they mustered he would have been happy no doubt that McKenzies coat of mail still shone brightly. The only tarnish, and it would be a critical one, was that of the 38 officers required only 8 came from the Seaforth lands. Most officers joined from other regiments and these men, used to regular army and its harsh and - to our modern eyes - brutal discipline, also contained many with no understanding of, or indeed contempt for, highland people, old enemies and an ancient clan system which had delivered the raw material of the regiment which in their eyes needed to be licked into shape.

The thinking of the day dictated that a soldier should be in fear of his officers to ensure his obedience at all times. The main method of enforcing discipline was the lash. Strapped to an A frame, the subject would be whipped on the bare back by teams of muscular drummers, in front of the regiment, in numbers counted slowly in tens, scores, hundreds or thousands depending on the offence. It could literally be a deadly affair. While English soldiers were conditioned to this treatment and often either bore it stoically or in some cases with perverse pride, this was not the case with highlanders. The thought of it horrified them as an inhumanity and an overwhelming affront to their dignity. The lash flayed their self respect as much as the flesh on their backs. Highland regiments were therefore by nature of duty and honour and by fear of humiliation, normally very docile and compliant to command. There were other disciplinary methods of course, a man could be put in the pit for two days on limited rations for a first offence of being late for parade increasing to a week for a second offence, but even these were seen as humiliating and rarely required for highland regiments where men were conditioned from birth to respect and obey authority without compulsion.

Just as it is hard to understand the brutality of the day, its also difficult to understand the effect this treatment would have on someone who - however reluctantly - had followed tradition and the instruction of the clan chief to put on the red coat. These people were bound by duty and by honour in a way that is almost incomprehensible to us today and yet also subject to a discipline that could be applied at whim by an officer without the need for sentence of a court martial.


The men of the 78th Seaforth Highlanders would complain bitterly about the treatment they received from their officers, the frequent use of the pit and the kind of verbal and physical abuse that was common to the English soldier accustomed to the hierarchy of social structures and class system of the south. This was foreign to highlanders who could not understand the need for abuse and the requirement to receive a blow from a member of your own race or clan without being able to return it. Forbidden to swear or curse, an ordinary soldier was faced by officers who thought that this was the normal way to command and subjected soldiers to constant harangue and pushing, prodding and petty beatings; anything from a slap in the face to a cane across the back.

By the time Lord Seaforth had joined his regiment on the long march south to Edinburgh and its castle he was aware of the growing discontent in the men at the harsh discipline, poor treatment and long overdue arrears of pay. However, he did nothing constructive to address these complaints. He did urge General Oughton that the regiment be sent on as soon as possible, but by the time the regiment was in place at the top of the Royal Mile the east coast was being targeted by that rebellious American brigand John Paul Jones and his crew and the seas needed to be made safe before the transports could arrive. The regiment therefore was billeted in the castle and subjected to drill parades morning and evening. The regiment had also now been told that it had been raised to go to America to deal with the ungrateful colonists who were rebelling against the proper rule of His Majesty. How they felt about going to fight against forces that would obviously contain members of their own race - and even clan - is unrecorded as far as I know, but in any case when the word came they were ordered to the Channel Isles to replace a regiment there. This appears to have been the final straw to the men who were fearful of being duped and sent to the Indies {the Caribbean, a destination incredibly feared because of its plagues} and may have seen this as both a broken promise made to encourage enlistment and a short stop on the way East instead of West. It came to a head on the morning of 22nd September when the men were assembled to march to the waiting transport that could be seen from the castle battlements at anchor off Leith.

At Edinburgh Castle, the great Lord Seaforth must have felt his duty done and his position safer that morning as he stood in all the finery of a gentleman soldier of the day, cocked hat, white breeches and cutaway coat of finest cloth, and watched his regiment be pushed and pummeled into lines by the sergeants, their halberds, red coats and polished weapons bright in the sun and plaid of their kilts moving gently in the breeze. But when the order was given to begin the march down the Royal Mile towards the Palace of Holyrood through the windowed glen of high tenements and closes of the Royal Mile there was a huge commotion in the ranks. A swarm of red coats and raised voices demanded that they should not be sold to the Indies, demanding overdue pay and redress for the brutal treatment by their officers. A large group of Macraes at the heart of the disturbance ignored the call of their chiefs son to obedience and order. They screamed in fear and frustration and shook their muskets at Lord Seaforth, these same people who had died for his family over the years, moved forward from the ranks in their fury and need to confront him. In the confusion of the moment swords were drawn, muskets charged and men fixed bayonets as officers and NCO's attempted to bring order and force the men back to line. Shots were fired and the officers withdrew. Some men tried to shoot one particularly vicious officer but missed. Muskets were hastily reloaded and the ranks of the dissenters were swelled with more angry men of the regiment who had initially been caught off guard.

Soon there were literally hundreds of men angrily shouting and waving weapons.

For Lord Seaforth, humiliation. For the army, perhaps another spectre raised its head. Once more there was a rebellious highland army in Edinburgh

The men moved down castle esplanade in good order, four abreast with muskets and bayonets at the ready and behind a piper and the regimental tartan held up, banner like, between two halberds that had been wrestled from the sergeants in the struggle. Out into the mouth of the Royal Mile itself Mackenzies Shirt of Mail marched away followed closely by their sergeants and the officers. Within a short distance, the commotion began to raise attention in the local community and soon people were pouring out of the closes and peering from the windows as hundreds of armed men marched past with arms at the ready. There were shouts of encouragement to the men and abuse at the officers chasing after them and the throng grew as the men marched away down the cobbles, past the tall spire of St Giles Cathedral and the old Parliament Halls.

Back on the castle esplanade there was stunned silence and the five hundred men who remained looked on in fear and astonishment at the officers before them, their bloody faces, wigs torn off and coats torn from the struggle that had just taken place, before they were commanded to form up and under control of their officers to follow after their mutinous comrades. I don't know if Lord Seaforth and these troops actually intended to physically bring the mutineers to heel but he must have been in turmoil with open disloyalty before him and uncertain loyalty at his back as he marched after the rebels down the hill through the jeering crowds around him. He was soon to find himself faced with the men in front turned to face him in open challenge, lined across the street and with bayonet and swords to the fore in open defiance and in public before the Tron kirk.

He tried to speak to the men in front of him, approaching with open arms and a plea to return but he was shouted down, and in the thronging press was either forced to his knees or, as some said, fell to his knees to beg his men to obedience. He narrowly escaped with his life as two officers pulled him away and in the ensuing tussle several men were bayoneted or cut with swords before the mutineers turned and continued down the hill. Seaforth witnessed more defections from the ranks at his back, but initially marched his men after them but then turned his remaining troops across the North Bridge and away on down the road towards the sea, unsure of their loyalty but determined perhaps to get them to Leith and the isolating security of the waiting transport ships.

The mutineers continued down the Royal Mile, past the vanishing perimeter of the old Flodden wall and the inn still known as the 'Worlds End', followed by a mob eager to see what happened next. They halted at the Canongate Tollbooth which was the regimental guard house and demanded the release of comrades unfairly held, in their eyes, and forced their way in to release them at gun point. As they left some turned and fired a volley at that dour icon of institutional repression that can still be seen on its face today. By this time  sympathetic townsfolk - and not just the baying crowd - came forward and offered gifts of food and drink in support of those angry men wearing the red coat and green tartan.

                                                        Canongate Tolbooth, Edinburgh

By the time Lord Seaforth and his men had arrived at the links where the transports waited they found that the mutineers had outpaced them and were yet again arrayed in front between the remains of the regiment and the waiting ships, calling to their comrades not to board and become prisoners of the King. This time Seaforth did not hesitate and called his troops to attack. There was a charge and a brief and bitter struggle before again there was a bizarre breakdown of violence into groups of heated debate. Officers were seen to be arguing with the men once more, giving promises that the regiment was bound for Guernsey and nowhere else. Lord Seaforth called again on the men to have loyalty to the King, to clan Kenneth and to him, promising that outstanding money and grievances would be addressed as soon as the troops were boarded - but he was roundly denounced as a bare faced liar. An enormous crowd was now milling around with many more on the way across Constitution Street and over the links keen to see what would be the outcome. The mutineers fired volleys over their heads to keep them clear and by the time the musket smoke cleared the mutineers were on their way back to Edinburgh in the direction and defensibility of the rocky viewpoint of Arthurs Seat. With them went another two hundred of Seaforths men, having perhaps decided when faced with the reality of waiting transports that they should at last trust their fellow clansmen over anyone else.

By night-time on the 22nd of September General Oughton was faced by several hundred armed men well laid out across an easily defended position with commanding views across Edinburgh in all directions. From his official residence in the mansion of Caroline Park a couple of miles north by the edge of the river Forth he could probably see the watch fires of the mutineers studding the rocky outcrop. It must have occupied all his immediate attention although he also had a rowdy city with now no real military presence to keep the crowds under control,{ this was the duty of the army in those pre- police force days} as well as pleas from various towns for arms and ammunition to defend themselves from the threat of John Paul Jones.

Oughton is an interesting man. Apart from service in Flanders and a spell as Lieutenant Governor of Antigua, he had served all his military life in Scotland. He had fought and felt defeat at Falkirk and victory at Culloden with Wolfe but unlike him had a keen respect for the culture and the martial values of the Scottish soldier. Considered to be a soldiers soldier, he was well read, had learned to speak the Gaelic and unusually for the day - and to be understood in the harsh terms of his time - was regarded as a humanitarian. He had been Commander of His Majesties Forces in North Britain for only three or four months. He firmly believed it was right that an Englishman had authority and control over Scotland and regarded the population with a stern but compassionate eye. He may have genuinely wanted to end the affair without bloodshed - but he had also ominously once written of the rebelling Americans,

'Treating with rebels while they have a gun in their hand would demonstrate a weakness which no victory could compensate for'

He sent for troops from Glasgow and any unit within a days reach of Edinburgh to make haste as Seaforths officers made a last late night attempt at reconciling the men to their duty. Shortly the 11th dragoons, the Duke of Buccleuchs Fencibles and the Glasgow Volunteers were on their way to the capital. Oughton meanwhile was worried that the mutineers were receiving solid support from all elements of Edinburgh society and was no doubt alarmed when informed they had even been supplied with powder and ball. He could not stop it and with no force to hand could only fret on the situation for now. It would be 24 hours before help could arrive and at least 3 days before any reply from London.

By the end of the next day the dragoons were close by and Oughton had begun to talk via intermediaries to the men on the hill. The reports back were that the men believed force would be used against them and that they had been sold to the Indies. Lord Seaforth, who had been present, had again been harangued for his betrayal, his lies and his poor leadership. The men on the hill insisted that before they would come down they must have a written promise that they would not be sold to the Indies and that the grievances against their officers would be investigated and that every man should have a pardon for the actions taken.

On day 3 while troops began to position at the foot of the crag another team of negotiators attempted to persuade the men from their stubborn refusal to obey orders. This time they included men of the cloth, perhaps to persuade them that God would not be served by the spilling of blood on that windy hill. They received the same message as those the day before.

That evening Oughtons representatives again climbed the steep hill. They told the men that Oughton would meet all their demands.

It would appear that Oughton had done some investigation into the claims of the men's grievances but what he thought of them in reality is unknown. He was aware of the honour code of the highlands and the often simplistic world view that gave, but I think it is more likely that he chose not to assault the hill for mainly purely military reasons. He probably thought that any arrears could and should be paid to the men immediately and that the claims of brutality should be investigated as they were focused on two or three officers in the main , but the over riding factor must have been that in effect the country was at war and could not afford to lose so many men. While he had proven time and again that he was a capable leader and unafraid to send men into danger he must have considered how much life would be lost in the fight between the well positioned highlanders on Arthurs Seat and the other Scots regiments below. That would also have had a huge impact across all other Scots, and especially highland, regiments.

The six hundred men marched down off the hill to meet Oughton on Friday morning, piper in the lead and in proper military order. As they appeared in the throat of the valley exit a huge cheer arose from the Edinburgh crowd that had gathered which must have been hugely embarrassing for Oughton and Seaforth who waited below. On flat ground, by the side of Holyrood palace the regiment formed three sides of an open square where Major General Robert Skene read them the terms of surrender. Slowly, line by line, it was translated into the Gaelic. They would be sent to the Channel islands. They would not be sold to the Indies. Arrears would be paid and there would be a court of enquiry into the grievances of ill treatment heard immediately. Bonnets were lifted high on muskets as the men cheered Skene and Oughton. Seaforth must have been squirming in humiliation in his saddle. It was a bloodless victory for common sense and the men from the hill.

What Oughton could not tell the men of course was that he had capitulated without approval from London and that he did not have the authority to promise that the regiment would never be sent to the East at some time in the future. They were also not told that Seaforth and the officers of the regiment would fight the enquiry tooth and claw, that many in the Army believed that Oughton had acted too leniently, too out of character for a senior officer and against the best interests of ongoing discipline. Or that in many ways Amherst, commander of all the Army would agree with them.

The court of enquiry was a farce. Few men from the regiment appeared before it and the evidence they gave was loudly condemned as lies by their officers and found to be hearsay by the court. Although argument would rumble on, the case was dismissed. Those men appearing were anxious not to be considered as ringleaders of the mutiny to be singled out for future punishment perhaps by the officers, and this may be why so few of the men would testify in the cold light of the court room. The court amazingly also found that no pay was in arrears and dismissed this claim too. By the time the men found out the detail they had been boarded on the transports and ready to depart for the Channel Islands.

As a precaution before they arrived in the Channel Islands, the regiment of highlanders who were already serving there were boarded for their return to the mainland to prevent them being infected with the disease of mutiny. They were after all largely from the same clans.

The 78th served in the Channel Islands for two and a half years during which they endured the same harsh treatment they had originally complained against. Lord Seaforth it seems preferred the society of London as he did not join his regiment until the next transfer. When Seaforth did return the men were again shipped on to transports and this time sent, not to the feared Indies but to the equally frightful India. The official terms of their surrender and probably their spirit had been finally been broken completely.

By the time they arrived in Madras eleven months later Seaforth and two hundred and fifty of his men had died of illness en route. Less than half who arrived were fit for service. Those who were fit were transferred into another regiment and went on to fight with red coat, bonnet and plaid in the heat of the Indian sun. At the end of the American Wars when they were legally entitled to discharge from the Army. Few chose to stay on. The men who refused the ten guinea bounty to remain were entitled to be repatriated back home but there is a record left in the form of a Gaelic poem called the lament of Sergeant Christopher Macrae:

'When we got the order
from the consul we were not pleased.
Our discharge put in our hands,
free to go where we wished but without a bounty
and there was no ship no boat and no sail.

They were left where they were, a final betrayal. The army able to say that the regiment had not been disbanded and therefore was not due to be repatriated home at that time. Many men never came home and the scarce few that did took several years to make the journey.

{Lieutenant General James Adolphus Oughton avoided most of the blame which was directed at him and continued to control the forces in North Britain. Perhaps his critics and his own comments on treating with rebellion were right. In the next year he would face three more highland regiments who mutinied in the face of harsh treatment, overdue pay and lies over postings. Shortly after he would be dead. But before then he would not again be so lenient in his reply to mutiny.}

See you later........

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/ The place where the sidewalk ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Shel Silverstein
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/Macavity

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air--
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square--
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!

He's outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's.
And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair--
Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!

And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair--
But it's useless of investigate--Macavity's not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
"It must have been Macavity!"--but he's a mile away.
You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibit, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place--MACAVITY WASN'T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

TS Elliot
Photo by Alistair.    

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/Romance

Romance, who loves to nod and sing
With drowsy head and folded wing
Among the green leaves as they shake
Far down within some shadowy lake,
To me a painted parakeet
Hath been—most familiar bird—
Taught me my alphabet to say,
To lisp my very earliest word
While in the wild wood I did lie,
A child—with a most knowing eye.

Of late, eternal condor years
So shake the very Heaven on high
With tumult as they thunder by,
I have no time for idle cares
Through gazing on the unquiet sky;
And when an hour with calmer wings
Its down upon my spirit flings,
That little time with lyre and rhyme
To while away—forbidden things—
My heart would feel to be a crime
Unless it trembled with the strings.     

Edgar Allan Poe.
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/Two Shepherds

Donald ran and roared and brandished
his stick and swore
in all the languages
he knew, which were some.

Pollochan sauntered. stood
six feet three silent: with a small
turn of the hand
He'd send a collie flowing
round the half-mile-long arc
of a towsy circle.

Two poets
and the sheep in a pen.

Norman MacCaig.
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/ Old Man Thinking.

Oars, held still, drop
on black water
tiny roulades
of waterdrops.
With their little sprinkling
they people
a big silence.

You who are long gone,
my thoughts of you are like that:
a delicate, clear population
in the big silence
where I rest on the oars and
my boat
hushes ashore.

Norman MacCaig.
May 1967.

photo of Carcassonne by Alistair.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


I step out into the garden, stretch and exhale slowly in morning air that holds quiet promise of coming Autumn. In the fields around the village farmers harvest their golden prize from summer near past. I walk barefoot to the apple trees and load the feeders for the birds and luxuriate in the feel of cool grass between my toes. It reminds me that I should be dealing with the garden before we head off for a short break at the weekend, back to France and that special place that's come to mean so much to me over these last few years.

I'd wanted to go to Languedoc for years and years before I ever got there. When I did I felt immediately at home, somehow completely relaxed and at peace. Oddly, I felt unexplainably relieved just to be there. I never said anything to My Lovely G, thinking it was probably just over reaction to that getting-away-from-it-all-on-holiday feeling, yet feeling like it was more than that too.

 A few days before the holiday ended we were sitting in the 'Bar A Vin', our favourite watering hole in the ancient walled city of Carcassonne, slaking thirst and letting the heat of the day drain from us as we recovered from a day trip somewhere that had included a hill climb beyond what the overweight middle aged me was comfortable with anymore. My mind wandered over the day: rivers we drove beside, tiny villages, narrow hill roads, treacherous paths and that withering climb to a Cathar castle ruined centuries ago perched high on its crag. And yet most of all my mind pondered on how familiar it all felt. How comforting it was to push the path down beneath my feet and walk higher and higher through an environment that should have felt completely alien yet instead was the absolute opposite.

I turned to G and said, "Y'know, I don't think I've ever been somewhere I've felt more at home than here - other than actually at home. I can't explain it. I know this is the first time we've been here but I love it. I really do. I feel such a sense of peace. I've been trying to dismiss it as some kind of daft holiday nonsense but I honestly can't. I absolutely love it here."

I glanced across the table into those mesmerising eyes and found I was being examined with one of those typically concerned looks I know so well.  I braced myself for a dose of reality.

"I know. I feel it too. I can't explain it either."

Back in the now I turn from the trees and the now full bird feeders tucked amongst the apples and head back across the grass to the house. At the patio door I turn and look back at the garden for a second, stretch and slowly inhale cool morning mixed with the scent of the garden. Autumn's in the air here for sure and the days will soon be growing short. I wonder how it will have changed by the time we get back. After breakfast I'll get out and mow the lawn, weed the borders and tidy down the drive for the last time this summer. Even though we'll be gone just a week summer will have gone by the time we get back. I'll be sad to see it go but glad to be back in France again.

My laptop isn't coming this time but G is taking hers so I may get a blog or two in, especially if I get the inspiration or some good photos. I have programmed in a couple of Sunday posts anyway to keep the blog ticking over.

See you later or maybe au revoir!

Listening to:

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Sunday posts 2013/ Blackberry Picking.

Seamus Heaney
1939 - 2013

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Photo - creative commons licence

It seems appropriate to mark this weeks passing of Seamus Heaney here.

Sorry for missing last week. Work is such an interference in life!    

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/Advice to a Son

Advice To A Son

Never trust a white man,
Never kill a Jew,
Never sign a contract,
Never rent a pew.
Don't enlist in armies;
Nor marry many wives;
Never write for magazines;
Never scratch your hives.
Always put paper on the seat,
Don't believe in wars,
Keep yourself both clean and neat,
Never marry whores.
Never pay a blackmailer,
Never go to law,
Never trust a publisher,
Or you'll sleep on straw.
All your friends will leave you
All your friends will die
So lead a clean and wholesome life
And join them in the sky.

Earnest Hemmingway
Photo by Alistair

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Sunday Posts 2013/Fetching Cows

The black one, last as usual, swings her head
And coils a black tongue round a grass tuft. I
Watch her soft weight come down, her split feet spread.

In front the others swing and slouch; they roll
Their great Greek eyes and breathe out milky gusts
From muzzles black and shiny as wet coal.

The collie trots, bored at my heels, then plops
Into the ditch. The sea makes a tired sound
That's always stopping though it never stops.

A haycart squats prickeared against the sky.
Hay breath and milk breath. Far out in the West
The wrecked sun flounders though its colours fly.

The collie's bored. There's nothing to control....
The black cow is two native carriers
Bringing its belly home, slung from a pole.

Norman MacCaig

Monday, 5 August 2013

When friends come to stay.

Edinburgh Tattoo 2013

Blogger Pal Indigo Roth is here with us again just now. He was here for a week in January and didn't seem put off by the weather so decided to come and have a look in some better temperatures. While it's nowhere near as warm as recent weeks and the wind has been more to the fore, we've had a few nice days.



It's nice to see familiar places through the eyes of someone seeing them for the first time. When we do have visitors we have a few places we always like to take them to see. At this time of the year it's Edinburgh in festival mode - we're leaving shortly to spend the rest of the day there - and this week we were lucky to get tickets for the preview night of The Edinburgh Tattoo. Our friend appeared to have a ball. At this rate he might be going home wearing a kilt!


Although I've had to work a couple of days I've also been able to spend time out and about with our friend. Luckily like me he enjoys photography and again, it's nice to see familiar places interpreted by someone else in their photos. Somehow it gives you a wider perspective when you realise they often see things you don't in your well known places.


It will be interesting to see how he views the crowds and places in Edinburgh today. I can hardly wait.

The photos here are some taken over the last few days. Some of Indigo's can be seen here.

Shed made from boat, Lindisfarne.
Lindisfarne Castle
Fireworks Finale Tattoo.
Tantallon Castle.

Take care folks. See you soon.

Listening to:

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...