Following the defeat of the Jacobite Army at Culloden (1746) the victorious Hanoverian army began a long-term occupation of significant parts of the Highlands and Islands and a systematic dismantling of the social structures of the area in an attempt to both eliminate Jacobitism and permanently subdue the area. The creation of Fort George seven miles east of Culloden was an intimidating physical reminder of the harsh and unyielding power that the Hanoverian state was to impose on the Highlands and Islands.
In the ensuing decades many tens of thousands emigrated as a result of the increasing privation and hardships the new laws created. Many of these emigrants sailed to North America and the coastal areas, such as the Carolinas and Nova Scotia, are among several that still bear the place names and descendants of Highlanders who settled there. One such family was that of Flora MacDonald, who had come to public attention as the ‘Highland heroine’ who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape and was subsequently imprisoned, albeit briefly, in the Tower of London.
Flora and her family moved to North Carolina in 1774 where the following year her husband and two of her sons joined a militia loyal to the United Kingdom at the start of the American War of Independence. They were taken prisoner the following year by the American army and their ‘Loyalist’ home and possessions were confiscated. In 1780 she and her husband returned to Skye. It is indicative of the complex web of loyalties in the Highlands at the time that Flora had been both a heroine of the Jacobite anti-Royalists, and wife of an officer of the pro-Royal forces in America.
Look out for Flora MacDonald’s namesake, young Flora, on the designs as you walk around the Castle today – she’ll help you to explore the Castle’s history and tell you about its future too!
Throughout the period of history represented in these short summaries the people of the Highlands have always been connected to the outside world, from the Mediterranean imports that sustained Columba’s Iona, through to the Norse and Irish connections of the Lordship of the Isles, and, increasingly after that, in an international context of Culloden, Clearance, emigration, empire and the horrors of the slave trade, in which some Highlanders played a direct role. An extraordinary series of European and global ties, some celebrated and others mourned, for an area that, today, is often viewed as geographically remote and sparsely populated.
Nowadays the University of the Highlands and Islands makes international links as a matter of routine; Highland businesses import and export on a daily basis; and visitors from around the world converge on the area to enjoy the exceptional natural environment, cultural riches, and the family ties that continue to bind and connect the Highlands and Islands emotionally and genetically with individuals and communities across the world. If you have enjoyed this brief introduction to the Spirit of the Highlands then you can find more links at www.spiritofthehighlands.com. Or visit in person, again.