View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Culloden: apologies sought

I could not believe my eyes when this article appeared on the BBC News website. It says that members of a secret society, called A Circle of Gentlemen, aims to march from Derby to London to petition 10 Downing Street for a state apology for alleged war crimes, committed following the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
It is a matter of historical record that atrocities were committed by Hanoverian forces after Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s defeat at this battle, fought near Inverness, in April 1746.

In my personal opinion, I do not feel that it serves any useful purpose to hark back to an awful event, which occurred 265 years ago. Nothing that happened since will be changed by a state apology, and neither will any state policy towards the Highlands and Islands be altered as a result.

I think it is rather more pertinent that an apology be sought over the Battle of the Boyne, of 1689, the repercussions of which include the euphemistically called Troubles in Northern Ireland. Is anyone going to go to The Hague, Netherlands, to demand an apology from Queen Beatrix for the misdeeds resulting from the actions of one of her predecessors, 322 years ago? And is anyone going to go to Ankara to seek contrition from the Turkish government over the battle of Kosovo in 1389, as a result of which a bloody civil war was fought in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s?

In recent years, the government of Australia has apologised to the Aborigine population of that nation, for the way they had been treated until very recently. From now on, this should result in the Aborigines being treated in the same way as everybody else in Australia. That is a positive, constructive result from that apology. I see no constructive outcome of any apology for Culloden. It’s too long ago, and I have pointed out the two other historical examples to highlight the dangers of living in the past.

Furthermore, to really put the cat amongst the pigeons, I think that Bonnie Prince Charlie was ill advised to commence this campaign to claim the English throne. He did not have the full backing of all Highland clans, his military strategy were seriously flawed. Charles is responsible for the consequences of his actions. He gave Cumberland et al the pretext to commit the atrocities they had been itching to perpetrate.