The Last House Beseiged in Britain | Culloden Battlefield

300 years ago on 17th March 1746 an assault began on Blair Castle that would make it the last house to be besieged in Great Britain.

Blair Castle has been around, in one form or another, since 1269 and is the ancestral home of Clan Murray and historically the seat of their chief, the Duke of Atholl. It began as a medieval tower that was continually extended over the years. In the 1740s it was transformed into a stylish home losing its…

Source: The Last House Beseiged in Britain | Culloden Battlefield

Skeleton found under school playground could have belonged to a 16th-century pirate | Home News | News | The Independent

A reconstructed image of what the man could have looked like (left) and a digital image of the skull

A human skeleton found under the playground of an Edinburgh school could have once belonged to a 16th-century pirate, archaeologists have said.

The skeleton was found by council workmen at Victoria Primary School in the Newhaven area of Edinburgh, and later carbon dated by experts to the 16th or 17th century.

The school is near Newhaven Harbour, the closest port to Scotland’s capital, which was once the site of a gibbet in which the bodies of executed…

Source: Skeleton found under school playground could have belonged to a 16th-century pirate | Home News | News | The Independent

A Victorian Halloween Party

Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise, 1833.

Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise, 1833.

Despite their reputation for straight-laced sobriety, the Victorians celebrated Halloween with great enthusiasm – and often with outright abandon.  Victorian Halloween parties were filled with fun, games, and spooky rituals, some of which still feature at Halloween parties today.  Many of the games had origins in pagan religion or medieval superstition.  Others were merely a means of making merry with one’s friends.  Regardless, Halloween parties of the 19th century were an occasion for indulging in what author Hugh Miller describes in his 1876 book Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland as:

“….a multitude of wild mischievous games which were tolerated at no other season.”

For an example of a Victorian Halloween party, we need look no further than Queen Victoria herself.  In 1876, the queen, along with Princess Beatrice and the Marchioness of Ely, celebrated Halloween at…

Source: A Victorian Halloween Party

Two Little Gems of History

Culloden Battlefield

The great thing about working at Culloden Battlefield is discovering all the different connections people and places have to the site as it’s influence and story reaches across many different and unexpected places.

Today we’ve picked two little gems from a couple of properties nearby that show different aspects of the Culloden story. Firstly to Hugh Millers Birthplace just across the water on the Black Isle.

An exterior view of Hugh Miller's Cottage, Cromarty. Hugh Miller’s Cottage

Hugh Miller was a well known geologist in the 19th Century but it is his grandfather who provides the connection to Culloden having witnessed the Battle of Culloden from the Hill of Cromarty when he was a boy of fourteen. His grandfather told of the day being drizzly and thick and when he climbed the hill he found many townsfolk already assembled. A little after noon a round white cloud rose from Culloden Moor and then a second beside it. He  talks…

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What Happened on August 25th – The Pinkertons


Allan Pinkerton (1819-84), founder of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 25, 1819.

Allan Pinkerton Allan Pinkerton

  • Pinkerton emigrated to the United States in 1842 and eventually established a barrel-making shop in a small town outside of Chicago.
  • He was an ardent abolitionist, and his shop functioned as a “station” for escaped slaves traveling the Underground Railroad to freedom in the North.
  • Pinkerton’s career as a detective began by chance when he discovered a gang of counterfeiters operating in an area where he was gathering wood. His assistance—first in arresting these men and then another counterfeiter, led to his appointment as deputy sheriff of Kane County, Illinois, and, later, as Chicago’s first full-time detective.
  • Pinkerton left his job with the Chicago police force to start his own detective agency.


  • One of the first of its kind, this predecessor to Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, provided an array…

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Hiroshima lies and nuclear deaths

Edinburgh Eye

Hiroshima, 6th August 1945Seventy years ago today, on 6th August 1945 at 8:15am JST, the US bomber Enola Gay dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. Three days later, another bomber from the same squadron, Bockscar, dropped “Fat Man” on Nagasaki.

The Japanese government were struggling to surrender and end the war: the US government wanted to try out the effect of their two kinds of nuclear weapons on two cities that had not yet been firebombed. After the two nuclear weapons had been dropped, negotiations could be allowed to begin: Japan’s surrender was announced on 15th August.

By 15th August, the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had already killed between 84,000 and 123,000 civilians: by the time Japan formally surrendered to the Allied forces on 2nd September, over 246,000 civilians had been killed by the US bombing on those two cities.

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Women of the ’45 | Culloden Battlefield

Originally posted on Culloden Battlefield.

Portrait of Anne MacKintosh

Most of what you read and hear of the ’45 Rising was about the men of the time so here we’ve decided to do a quick tribute to the some of the women who played an important role in the Jacobite Uprising.

Today, we focus on two Annes; Anne MacKintosh and Anne Mackay.

Anne MacKintosh was the wife of the Clan Chief of Clan Chattan who fought on the government side. However, Lady Anne was an ardent Jacobite. When Prince Charles landed in Scotland at the age of 22, Anne took a pistol and money to threaten and bribe the men of Clan Chattan to join her and fight for the Prince whilst her husband was away. In total she managed to raise some 300 men who affectionately christened her Colonel Anne.

As Prince Charles retreated back up towards Inverness in early 1746 Lady Anne put him and some of his men up at her home of Moy Hall. Unfortunately, Lord Loudon of the government army heard of this and sent 1,500 of his men to attack…

via Women of the ’45 | Culloden Battlefield.

18th and 19th Century: Madame Maria Teresa, the Amazing Corsican Fairy

Originally posted on 18th and 19th Century.

One of the smallest woman in the world was Madame Maria Teresa (sometimes spelled Teresia), who became known as the Corsican Fairy and usually billed as the “Amazing Corsican Fairy.” She was born in 1743 in Corsica at Stata Ota, and, by the time she was in her twenties she had attained a height of a mere 34 inches and weighed just 26 pounds.

The Corsican Fairy was claimed to be an ideal miniature person. One newspaper described her as “being a beauty, her exact proportion and symmetry, may without the least falsehood, allow her to be called one of the most perfect and admirable productions of human nature in miniature.” The newspaper also noted that she spoke French and Italian with the “greatest vivacity” and she was also described as vivacious, spirited, and intelligent.

She appeared in England several times. Her first appearance seem to have occurred in 1770. In 1771 she appeared at several fairs, including the Bury Fair, Bartholomew, and Colchester Fair. She reappeared in England in 1773, 1774, and, in 1775, when she exhibited herself in London.

People were impressed by the Corsican Fairy and this included London’s…

via 18th and 19th Century: Madame Maria Teresa, the Amazing Corsican Fairy.

The History Girls: Eugene Bullard, Black Swallow of Death Catherine Johnson

Originally posted on The History Girls.

Eugene Bullard

Another WW1 story you might not have heard, that of  Eugene Bullard,  a young black man who found freedom and respect far from his homeland. I’d never heard of him until recently and  found there are heaps of parallels between his life and that of Mathew Henson,  a hero abroad but ignored in his native land. Bullard became the first ever black military pilot in 1916 and won the Croix de Guerre, but ended his life working as a lift operator in the Rockefeller Center.

Eugene Bullard stowed away on a ship and ended up in Aberdeen. He said he witnessed his father’s narrow escape from a lynching. He made his way to Glasgow and worked there for a while. Life outside segregated America held a whole load more opportunities for a young black man and he settled in Paris in 1913 and worked as a prize-fighter and sometimes…

via The History Girls: Eugene Bullard, Black Swallow of Death Catherine Johnson.

Munitions 2:  Vickers, Rothschilds and the Death of Patriotism

First World War Hidden History

Vickers, the world renowned armaments giant, began life in 1828 as  steel foundry. It grew through a number of acquisitions into a vast concern with ordnance works in Glasgow, factories at Sheffield and Erith, and naval dockyards at Walney Island. It typified how the Secret Elite classically invested in armaments and munitions and, though their names never appeared on the register at Company House or on the factory gates, their domination represented a mosaic of amalgamations, take-overs, and buy-outs which concealed their influence and ownership.

Vickers pre- First World War War Sheffield works

In 1885, Vickers set up the largest forging press ever made to enable it to manufacture heavy marine work  in Sheffield, [1] and the first armour plate for warships soon followed. By 1888, the company stretched its tentacles north towards the Naval Construction and Armaments Co. of Barrow-in-Furness which had itself expanded into the construction of submarine torpedo boats under license from the Nordenfelt Guns…

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The Great Gretna Train Disaster. A Disaster Within the Gallipoli Disaster

First World War Hidden History

The engine from the London night train mounted the wooden carriages and crushed those inside Left to official reports, whitewashed investigations and government-influenced findings, the inconvenience of history has regularly been swept aside to be forgotten, ignored or reduced to a marginalised footnote. That might well have been the fate of the tragic events of 22 May 1915 when the greatest railway disaster in British history unfolded just north of Gretna Station at a signal box at Quintinshill. A troop train carrying around 500 officers and men of the 7th Royal Scots bound for Gallipoli, ran headlong into a stationary local train and moments later the entangled wreck was hit by the night express from London. 214 officers and men were subsequently killed and over 220 injured. It was a nightmare which could not be quashed by the Defence of the Real Act, no matter how convenient that might have been to Asquith’s failing government. Journalists from Dumfries and Galloway, and Carlisle [1] reported the awful events…

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The Momentous Discovery of Agnes and Margaret Smith | Saints, Sisters, and Sluts

Originally posted  on Saints, Sisters, and Sluts

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt by Berthold Werner (source)

In St. Catherine’s monastery at Mount Sinai, there is a special decorated box with an outer wooden cover and an inner glass cover. Inside the box, carefully wrapped in silk is a manuscript which is the oldest extant copy of the four canonical gospels in Syriac. This manuscript was first discovered and photographed by Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson, two middle-aged ladies who undertook the journey by camel to the monastery in the late 19th century.

This wasn’t the first journey they had taken. Agnes and Margaret Smith, identical twins, were raised by their father who had a love of travel. Their mother died soon after their birth on  January 11,1843, and he decided to raise them on his own. This included educating them “as though they were boys.” At some point he discovered that the girls had a talent for languages and told them that when they learned a language, he would take them to the country where it was spoken. With this incentive, they learned French, Spanish, German, and Italian and were rewarded with wonderful travels.

Irvin in the early 19th century, about 30 miles southwest of Glasgow where the sisters grew up (source)

John Smith was a self-made man, a solicitor with a client base that gave him a respectable income. All of this changed when one of his clients, John Ferguson, died leaving what was at the time, the largest estate to be settled in the courts of Scotland. Ferguson was the recipient of the fortunes of four unmarried uncles who died intestate. He was also a distant relative of John Smith. This event made two great changes of the lives of the sisters. First, on the death of their father, they would become very wealthy, and second their father had to go to America to settle much of the estate. The girls were put into a boarding school, Birkenhead, near Liverpool, having to leave…

via The Momentous Discovery of Agnes and Margaret Smith | Saints, Sisters, and Sluts.

Considerations Upon the Union… “from the will and humour of the people”

Echoes from the Vault

As we approach the fevered climax of the Scottish independence referendum, we thought it would be interesting to compare this situation with the debate surrounding the mirror-image of this referendum, when the Articles of Union were under discussion by the Scottish parliament in late 1706.


A particularly striking feature of the current debate, of course, is that it has been marked by an almost unheard-of engagement of the people in the street. There is realistic expectation of an extraordinarily high turn-out at the polls; for once, the debate seems almost to have been lifted out of the hands (or mouths) of the politicians, and is being conducted on the street corner, in the workplace, in pubs and coffee shops. People seem not to be following slavish adherence to party, but are individually informed, and are making personal decisions based on those issues which matter to them most. This is possible…

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