Rob Roy MacGregor has gone down in history as a kind of Scottish Robin Hood, a ginger outsider who would take from the rich to give to the poor - like Geri Halliwell stealing from Victoria to give to Mel B.
MacGregor was a famous Scottish outlaw recognisable by his thick red hair, his remarkable strength, his ability with a broadsword and his capacity to down a litre of MD2020 – all traits Rob Roy shares with Mhairi Black. Rob Roy was a dedicated Jacobite, he had been a part of the fearsome ‘Highland Charge’ at Killiecrankie and acted as a guide for the Jacobite army at Sheriffmuir. Such Jacobean involvement meant he spent most of his life wanted by the British Hanoverian government, a man with a price on his head - except for one Friday in the middle of November when he was 50% off.
Rob Roys’s clan, clan MacGregor, were infamous in Scotland for cattle rustling in the Trossachs a kind of Scottish frontier land between the ‘civilised’ Lowlands and the wild 'Mexilands'. Rob Roy would herd cattle from the Highlands through the Trossachs to the Lowland cattle markets making a sizeable fortune in the process. A lack of physical borders, checks, and freedom of movement along with shared trade arrangements with other cattle rustlers made cattle rustling easier, more profitable, and provided security from rival Russian cattle rustlers who had already annexed Cowmea in the Bovaine and were prone to taking out livestock using novichok.
Business was booming, MacGregor was able to purchase enough land to become the Laird of Inversnaid – a ‘laird’ is a Scot’s word for someone who owns lots of land, Jacob Rees-Mogg for example owns hundreds of hectares of land in Somerset and several English Country manors, in Scotland he would have been given the title ‘c*nt’.
Rob Roy was renowned for his trustworthiness, it was a trait that would cost him dearly in 1712 when he sent one of his most trusted drovers to the lowlands to buy cattle with funds raised by the Duke of Montrose. Inevitably Rob Roy’s most trusted drover run off with the money and, years later, that cattle drover went on to become manager of the Bay City Rollers. Overnight Rob Roy’s business was ruined. Undeterred, Rob Roy liquidated his old Cattle Rustling company and all its assets re branding first as ‘Sevcow’ and then as ‘The Rob Roy’ and continued to claim to be the world’s most successful cattle rustler.
The Duke of Montrose called bullshit on Rob Roy’s story about the drover making off with his money and what followed was a long-standing personal feud between the two. When Montrose put a warrant out for his arrest Rob Roy responded by carrying out raids and rustling cattle on Montrose’s lands. He even kidnapped one of Montrose’s debt collectors who was released unharmed after it became apparent Montrose had no intention of paying his ransom - presumably because he had no one to collect it. MacGregor’s ambushes made him feared throughout the Trossachs allowing him to set-up a profitable protection racket, in exchange for money Rob Roy would guarantee herds protection from horny Aberdonians.
MacGregor placed himself under the protection of the Duke of Argyll. Despite being a Unionist supporter of the Hanoverian Government who had provided men from Clan Campbell for the Government forces at Sheriffmuir Argyll was more than happy for Rob Roy to carry out raids against the Duke of Montrose whom he considered to be a total prick. So, Argyll gave Rob Roy refuge on Campbell land at Glen Shira near Inveraray and from there he would carry out ambushes then retreat into the wilderness of the Trossachs. Rob Roy is in fact responsible for the now well-established practice of stealing government money in the West of Scotland. As well as drawing unemployment benefit while doing cash-in-hand jobs on the side, Rob Roy would also ambush passing government troops, free their prisoners, steal their loot, then distribute it amongst the poor, and every time he was captured Rob Roy always managed an audacious escape.
A violent, ginger haired outlaw who sabotaged government troops, freed prisoners, gave to the poor, always bought the first round, and had a knack for escaping prison, it really is hard to see exactly what it was about Rob Roy that made him such a popular figure in Scotland – he’s also rumoured to be the man who came up with the recipe for original irn-bru.
Rob Roy was eventually caught and jailed in the infamous Newgate prison in London in 1727. Much worse than mere imprisonment Rob Roy was facing deportation to Barbados, which for a ginger basically amounted to a death sentence. MacGregor was spared prison and deportation at the last moment by the unlikeliest person of all, King George I. In 1723 Daniel Defoe published the bestselling book ‘Highland Rouge’ a fictionalised account of Rob Roy’s life. The book caused a stir across the length and breadth of the country and made Rob Roy a Scottish folk hero cementing his reputation as the ‘Scottish Robin Hood’. George I loved the story so much that he granted Rob Roy an acquittal even more unlikely that that of Steven Avery. Rob Roy MacGregor was given an official Royal Pardon and allowed to live out the rest of his life in peace at his home at the head of Glen Balquhidder.
Rob Roy MacGregor’s extraordinary life and reputation as a man always true to his word makes him a great Scottish hero both real and fictitious. The story of Rob Roy is one that continues to live on. In 1834 Sir Walter Scott wrote another novel about Rob Roy entitled ‘Rob Roy’ and the story of his life is one that has been dramatised time and again for film and television - most notably the 1995 film starring Liam Neeson which was kind of like the ‘2-stripe’ version of Braveheart.
Rob Roy may not have won Scotland’s independence at Bannockburn or died a martyr for the cause of Scottish independence, he was basically just a mad ginger prick pissing off Unionists and causing bother around central Scotland – again, more traits Rob Roy shares with Mhairi Black. Rob Roy MacGregor is unlikely to be on the back of any Scottish banknotes anytime soon and in terms of Scotsmen handy with a broadsword Rob Roy will probably always be ‘Jamie Murray’ to William Wallace. But Rob Roy is the hero ginger people deserve. He would never have settled for playing second fiddle to some wee middle-class gluten free Hogwarts prick, he would have been front-right-and-centre taking out dementors with his broadsword. His legend should be resurrected for people in the 21st century to enjoy, in these tough times we need a strong ginger hero with a massive broadsword – although if the rumours about Prince Harry are to be believed...........
Scotland is nation of drinkers, so-much-so the Scottish government has recently felt the need to implement a National minimum price per unit of alcohol to try and price us out of getting pished – targeting Scottish people's alcoholism with of our other National trait of remarkable tightness is quite inspired. The law aims to target ‘problematic’ drinks such as super strength lager and cider, the sorts of alcoholic drinks where the minimum price was always your soul to begin with. It isn’t overly drastic, 50 pence per unit is unlikely to affect ankle flashing yuppies paying £8 a pint in Edinburgh’s New Town and is nowhere near as shocking as the drastic upturn in price of Freddos. Still, the Scottish government needs to be careful, history tells us that tampering too much with the Nation’s drinking habits can lead to rebellion.
Often after an ‘Act of Union’ one party is left feeling underwhelmed and regretful. The morning after the 1707 Union Scotland expected tea, pancakes, and economic upturn; in reality it would be another thirty years before Scotland enjoyed it’s post coitus economic cuddle. In the immediate aftermath of Union with England Scottish companies were swamped by larger businesses, there was an over-exportation of Scottish grain which led to severe food shortages and there were substantial taxes imposed on Scottish goods, the most significant being the ‘malt-taxes’ which taxed whisky exports.
There are a number of sure-fire ways the English can antagonise the Scots; when English football commentators constantly mention ‘1966’ and the absolute insistence English people have that Andy Murray is ‘British’ and not ‘Scottish’. They seem to regard him as some kind of ‘ultra-Brit’, like the love child of Tim Henman and Mary Berry - the only person Tim could feasibly pump on and off the court – despite the fact Andy has always been more 'square-sausage' than Battenberg. Then there is English people's dismissal of Scottish banknotes. When a London shop keeper surveys a Scottish five-pound note like it’s an improvised explosive jobby-device about to go off in their hand, it takes every sinew in your body to not reach over the counter and scream ‘Freeeeeeeeeedom’ right in their stupid non-leagal-tender-accepting face – Froddo had less bother trying to get the ring to Mordor than spending Scottish money in England. None of these however compare to the fallout you would expect to receive from interfering with our whisky.
Whisky has been Scotland’s biggest export for over 300 years and is incredibly important both economically and culturally. Over a billion bottles of whisky are exported every single year which averages around 34 bottles per second – this also happens to be the rate at which Charlie Sheen consumes them.
The malt-taxes, poverty and hunger that immediately followed the Union, was set against the backdrop of an ascension crisis that saw the discontinuation of the ancient Scottish Stewart line and the impeding implementation of the German Hanoverian line. It meant Jacobinism was at its absolute strongest in the immediate aftermath of the Act of Union.
France was monitoring the situation in Scotland closely. Louis XIV was locked in battle against the Duke of Marlborough in the War of Spanish Succession and French agents in Scotland – presumable here looking at Kieran Tierney – believed the Jacobites could raise an army of 25,000. A Jacobite rebellion would be advantageous for the French as it would ease pressure on the French military fighting the British on the continent.
So, in March 1708 Louis XIV provided James Francis Edward Stuart with an expeditionary force of 5,000 men. They left France planning to land at Burntisland in Fife and march on Stirling Castle to begin a rebellion that would see James recover the thrones lost by his father. The French fleet never made land however. They were shadowed by the Royal Navy as soon as they left port and were forced north into the Moray Firth where bad weather and aggressive bottlenose dolphins forced them to turn back. Just a month after departing James was back in France having not set foot on Scottish soil – the fact James had never set foot in Scotland, was born in England and spent the majority of his life in France, did not stop selectors from the Scottish rugby team from picking him.
On the surface a trip to Scotland ruined by shite weather and aggressive Unionists doesn’t sound all that out of the ordinary, but in 1708 it was a massive setback for James who desperately needed to capitalise on the surge of Jacobinism in Scotland. In 1713 the War of Spanish Succession ended and one of the conditions of the Treaty of Utrecht that followed was that James should be forced to leave France. He was now exiled even further from the thrones he considered his birth right and was isolated further still when Louis XIV died in 1715 and the French crown passed to his 5-year-old grandson Louis XV.
Power in France was assumed by the Regent Phillippe II Duke of Orleans who ruled in name of the infant King. Unlike his predecessor Phillippe was unsympathetic to the Jacobite cause and offered little support to the Jacobites – you can’t really blame the guy, given the Stuart family’s track record giving more money to the Jacobite cause was akin to investing in ‘Trump Vodka’, or ‘Trump steak’, or ‘Trump airlines’, or ‘Trump mortgages’, or ‘Trump casinos’, or ‘Trump Water’, or ‘Trump University’, the likeliness or the venture being a success or getting your money back was as small as ‘Trump hands’.
On the 1st of August 1714 Queen Anne died, her death marked the end of the Stuart Royal dynasty and the beginning of the Hanoverian line with George I ascending to the British throne. Just over a year later on the 6th of September 1715 John Erskine the Earl of Mar raised James’s standard at Braemar in Aberdeenshire marking the beginning of the 1715 Jacobite Rising against the Hanoverian regime.
Mar was a skilled politician and dedicated Jacobite but was in no way suited to leading a military campaign. When he became the unwilling Jacobite leader in 1715 he was inexperienced, overly-cautious, and was up against a far more experienced and battle-hardened opponent John Campbell the Duke of Argyll, leader of the Government forces in Scotland.
After the raising of the Stuart standard at Braemar Inverness and Aberdeen immediately declared for the exiled King. A smaller force in the North West Highlands rose simultaneously and there were smaller uprisings in Northern England and the West Country, these however were poorly coordinated and quickly fizzled out.
Meanwhile in Lowland Scotland, just two days after the raising of the standard at Braemar, a daring raid of Edinburgh Castle was planned by Jacobite plotters. The audacious plot involved scaling the castle’s rock face - thought to be unclimbable - and using specially made ladders to climb over the castle’s defensive walls – this incidentally is now the only way I can conceivably visit Edinburgh Castle without re-mortgaging to afford the entrance fee. Once over the walls the besiegers would quickly take some selfies, then over-run the Garrison and take the unsuspecting troops by surprise. The plan ran into problems however when the conspirators realised the ladders were too short to reach over the castle walls. They begged the engineer who had made the ladders to make the necessary adjustments as quickly as possible, they were on a timescale as the guards on duty at the castle who were in on the coup were due to be relieved. The engineer flat refused to leave the pub and the raid on the castle had to be abandoned – convincing a scaffolder to leave the pub before last orders, even if it is to potentially change the course of Scottish history, remains a nigh on impossible task.
A month later, Jacobite sympathisers succeeded in taking control of the ports on the Fife side of the Firth of Forth, and managed to take the port of Leith just outside of Edinburgh. From there their leader William Mackintosh of Borlum rode south to meet with other Jacobite sympathisers who could offer reinforcements to help him take the city. Unfortunately for Mackintosh while he was away his men raided a ship docked in Leith with a cargo full of brandy. When he returned most of the men were too drunk or hungover to march or fight – although most still drove home.
While Lowland Jacobites were getting pished, Mar’s men in the North had stayed off the Frosty Jack long enough to amass a formidable force. In October 1715 at Perth the Jacobite army numbered over 10,000 and was the largest and most united Scottish army in a generation. The army’s size was particularly impressive considering the lack of French support and the fact James was not even in the country; he was having Brexit-level difficulties trying to get to Britain as his arrival was being blocked by Nigel Farage and the French Regent Phillippe II.
As time continued to drag on any initiative the Jacobite army had gained was slowly being lost. As Mar waited endlessly in Perth, Argyll dug into strong defensive positions at Sherrifmuir between Stirling and Perth. When the battle of Sherrifmuir did eventually commence on the 13th of November 1715 it should have been an easy victory for the far larger Jacobite army. Mar however did not press home his numerical advantage and allowed the government forces to retreat and strengthen.
In the aftermath of the battle Mar once again failed to take the initiative. Instead of pursuing the government forces he allowed time for them to amass reinforcements while he returned to Perth and continued to wait on James. The wait endured by the Jacobite army would not be seen in Scotland again for another 300 years, in Accident and Emergency departments and Lidl supermarkets across the country. Fed-up, most returned to their Highland homes for the winter.
James, travelling under several different disguises, eventually made it to Scotland in December 1715. He met up with the Jacobite forces in Perth on the 9th of January 1716 by which time the cause was all but lost. He set up an entirely pointless court in Perth where he dossed about for three weeks while his army diminished in front of his eyes and his enemies continued to strengthen. He eventually gave up the ghost, and on the 4th of February boarded a ship from Montrose bound for France, he would never set foot on Scottish soil again.
1715 was the Jacobite Rising that should have succeeded. A Scottish side that massively underachieved and returned home embarrassed and deflated, the 1715 Rising was a lot like Scotland’s performance at the 1978 World Cup. An inept leader hampered by players’ substance abuse and a French side that thought they were much better than they actually were; the similarities are uncanny. In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie would eventually give the Jacobite cause their brief Archie Gemmill moment of sheer brilliance, but if there’s one thing Jacobite Rebellions and Scottish World Cup performances have in common it’s that they’re both destined to never make it out of the group stages.
As I get older I find myself pondering how I am likely to meet my maker. The obvious culprit at the moment is an angry looking mole on my left shoulder I call ‘Rapunzel’ - if the deadliness of a mole is measured solely on the length of the hair growing out of the middle of it then I really am well and truly fucked, my left bollock is due to start climbing any day now.
Dangerous moles are likely the only thing King William and I have in common. In early March 1702 the King died after he was thrown from his horse when it stumbled on a molehill while he was riding near Hampton Court. The king suffered a broken collar bone in the fall and died a few weeks later after bronchitis set in - centuries later, Orange Order aficionados in Scotland continue to loyally emulate their favoured king’s death by heroically smoking 40 fags a day.
That deadly mole became revered amongst Jacobites. A toast, ‘to the wee gentlemen in the velvet jacket’ became common place amongst Jacobite supporters, a nod to their underground assassin. It’s a toast I myself enjoy making at family occasions, not so much in recognition of the mole that felled the King, but more a nod to my granda who may be wee and blind but can rock a velvet jacket like nae body’s business.
William died with no direct heir to the throne. His wife Queen Mary - the eldest daughter of the deposed James VII of Scotland and II of England - died childless in 1692 and William never re-married. On his death the crown passed to Mary’s sister - James’s second daughter - Princess Anne. Despite giving birth eighteen times only one of Anne’s children, William Duke of Gloucester, survived into infancy. When he died aged 11 in July 1700 it created a succession crisis. Anne inherited the throne in 1702 aged 36 years old, this coupled with the fact she had been through childbirth more times than Maw Broon meant her chances of giving birth to an heir were minimal.
Not wanting to miss out on all this coordinated dying, the exiled King James died in France in September 1701. Immediately the French King Louis XIV proclaimed James’s son, James Francis Edward Stuart, King of Scotland, England and Ireland. As a Catholic, James’s only chance at winning back the crowns his father had lost would be through Jacobite rebellion, French invasion, or a penalty shoot-out.
The English addressed the succession crisis in the summer of 1701 by passing the ‘Act of Settlement’ which decreed that on Anne’s death, should she not produce a suitable heir, the crown would pass to Sophia Electress of the German province of Hanover. Sophia was the granddaughter of James VI and at the time of the Act of Settlement was 70 years old. In Scotland there was disbelief at the Act – they had never heard of anyone living to more than double their nation’s life expectancy.
It was decided the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland would pass to Sophia’s 40-year-old son George – Sophia was on old woman, there was no point holding onto power in a desperately unbecoming manor, better to let her son Charles, sorry George, take the throne. George was destined to become King after Anne despite the fact there were 57 closer claims - only the board of directors at the Scottish Football Association would consider 58th choice good enough to get the job. The Act of Settlement was aptly named, it did exactly what it said on the tin, the English were literally willing to settle for any old prick as long as they were Protestant - this was also Rangers FC’s signing policy for a long time.
You might expect the arrival of a 40-year-old, non-English-speaking, unemployed, German guy would have 18th century Jacob Reece Mogg types up in arms singing ‘God deport the King’ encouraging George I to sling his European - probably over-regulated to the point of being straight – hook. But the Act passed, and the German Hanoverian line was embedded meaning Queen Anne would be the last of the Stuart monarchs.
Scotland had not been consulted on the Hanoverian succession, England had once again effectively chosen Scotland’s monarch for them. Since the Union of the Crowns in 1603 the Scottish Parliament had been notoriously easy to manipulate and control – thankfully those days are long behind us, the people of 21st century Scotland would never be naive enough to fall for bullshit vows from pig-copulating Prime Ministers, no Siree David – but the Act of Settlement presented the Scottish Parliament with an opportunity to finally take a stand. In return for Scotland’s support for the Hanoverian succession, several concessions would have to be met and Scotland’s independence and religious liberty respected.
A series of patriotic Acts were passed by the Scottish Parliament. These Acts ensured England could no longer go to war without the approval of the Scottish Parliament, and lifted the English embargo that had blocked vital trade between Scotland and France – Scottish people could finally enjoy red-wine with their haggis and heroin. Most significant of all was the 1703 ‘Act of Security’ which stated that Scotland was under no obligation to accept the Hanoverian line and could if it so pleased choose a separate monarch. The Act of Security raised the prospect of separate monarch in Scotland for the first time in 100 years – plans were put in place to make ‘Sir Andy Murray’ King of Scotland, the English however questioned the legitimacy of this choice insisting Sir Andy was British and not Scottish.
This Act of Security was problematic for England who were engaged in the ‘War of Spanish Succession’ against the French. It meant Scotland could quite conceivably reject the Hanoverian succession and offer the Scottish crown to the ancient Scottish Stuart family and the ousted James Edward Stuart ‘the Old Pretender’. England would then be faced with a Catholic monarch backed by French aggressors on its Northern border. Steps were immediately taken to ensure a full incorporating Union where the Scottish Parliament would become the Toad in the Westminster hole and a new ‘British Parliament’ created.
The English Parliament demanded the Scots send a delegation to negotiate an Incorporating Union by Christmas 1705. If they refused Scots living in England would be declared illegal aliens, Scottish estates in England would be seized, Scottish exports banned, and Scottish carriages turned into pumpkins. With the country on its knees economically after the Darien disaster and only 50 years after the country had been annexed by Oliver Cromwell, Scotland was left with little choice but to send a delegation.
An outline for the Treaty of Union was tabled in Whitehall in April 1706, it contained 25 Articles that had to be debated on and agreed by both Parliaments before the Act could be passed. The Treaty and its Articles were debated in the Scottish Parliament between October 1706 and January 1707.
There were four main parties debating the Treaty in the Scottish Parliament. The ‘Court Party’ were pro-Union and headed by the Duke of Argyll, the ‘Country Party’ headed by the Duke of Hamilton formed the main opposition and favoured a federal Union, the ‘Jacobites’ or ‘Cavaliers’ favoured full Independence and a separate monarch, while the final and smallest group the ‘New Party’ were made up of Presbyterians concerned that a Union would mean English Anglicanism being imposed upon them. Representing the Queen in proceedings was the Queen’s Commissioner, the Duke of Queensberry, a man more unpopular than cricket north of the border. To attend meetings of the Parliament Queensberry required a military escort to stop the baying Edinburgh mob from attacking him.
Anti-Union rallies were held everyday in Edinburgh and riots broke out across the country as one by one the 25 Articles of the Treaty of Union were ratified. Argyll was placed in charge of the numerous bribes required to ensure all the Articles made their way through the Scottish Parliament. Money, promises of high ranking positions of state, and peerages, were all exchanged for votes that would guarantee the Treaty of Union was passed.
In one final attempt to stop the Treaty from passing the opposing parties came together to table a National Protestation in early January 1707. They argued that no body of legislators had the right to bargain away the nation they represent or make it cease to exist. If the protestation was dismissed by the Parliament then all those who signed it would stage a mass-walkout. The Duke of Hamilton agreed to head up the protestation.
Inexplicably however on the day the Protestation was due to be tabled Hamilton refused to leave the house claiming he had toothache. Considering he was addressing the Scottish Parliament a house in which two thirds would have been enduring blistering hangovers and the other third likely still drunk, this was hardly an excuse, Hamilton was obviously stalling. He was eventually summoned and claimed that although he supported the protestation he would refuse to table it. The Duke of Hamilton had turned out to be about as trustworthy as a Russian Olympic delegate. Argyll had gotten to him, the final bribe needed to ensure the Treaty made its way successfully through the Scottish Parliament, there was no opposition left to overcome.
On the 16th of January 1707 the Act of Union was ratified, the Scottish Parliament had voted itself out of existence. Edinburgh’s Parliament was dissolved into Westminster and the last meeting of the Scottish Parliament was held on the 25th of March 1707. The Earl of Seaforth, High Commissioner of Scotland, famously touched the Treaty of Union with the sceptre of Scotland and uttered the famous words ‘now there’s the end of an auld song’.
Robert Burn’s summed up the Act of Union in his melancholy poem ‘Fareweel to a’ our Scottish Fame’ where he penned the now famous lines,
We're bought and sold for English gold--
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!
A parcel of rogues indeed, after the completion of the Union Queensberry was given a seat in the Lords, a handsome pension and made Duke of Dover. Argyll became the Duke of Greenwich, and Hamilton was made British Ambassador in France.
The Union had been completed in a matter of months all thanks to exceptional corruption and bribery. Which lends me to believe that if we really want a quick and favourable post-Brexit deal it’s time to start greasing the pockets of some Belgians. The moment when Theresa May finally hands over a fist full of Forth Bridges to that Jaude-Claude-Van-Junker lad I for one will wipe away a tear and whisper sweetly to myself, ‘Rule Britannia’.
Of course all of this is fake news - or at least I’m prepared to say it is if anyone is wiling to pay me enough to do so, it’s what my ancestors would have wanted.
In July 1698 three Scottish ships set sail from the Port of Leith destined for the Darien Isthmus, a narrow stretch of land in Panama, Central America. The ships that set out on the arduous three month crossing were the 'St Andrew', the 'Caledonia' and the 'Unicorn'. The first two of these ships are obviously patriotically named but the latter, the ‘Unicorn’, you might well be thinking was named by a piss-taking Scottish public, a 17th century version of ‘Boaty McBoat Face’.
The ship was named the 'Unicorn' after Scotland’s national animal, the Unicorn. Scotland's national animal genuinely is the Unicorn, a mythical creature that's not even the most obvious choice for our national mythical creature -surely the Haggis makes more sense as Scotland's ‘make believe animal?' Any moon-faced, Donald-Trump-Junior-looking American types planning to travel to Scotland to shoot a Unicorn or a Haggis you can go ahead and leave ‘Cecil the Haggis’ the fuck alone.
The Unicorn was the only animal Noah could not get onto the arc which proves beyond doubt its Scottish credentials. Noah was never going to have much success trying to convince a bunch of Scottish Unicorns they faced impending doom because of forty days and nights of constant rain, that’s not a flood, that’s a Scottish summer.
During the reign of William and Mary at the end of the 17th century the ‘East India Company’ was making fortunes for its English investors from its colonies in America and the West Indies. Scotland however was languishing in this period of mercantilism thanks to years of failed harvests, William’s wars on the continent, and Scotland’s inability to trade with the English colonies. The East India Company had adopted a ‘it’s ma baw’ policy when it came to their colonies and only English merchants were permitted to trade with the English colonies - a system Brexitiers are now urging a return to.
To pull Scotland out of its economic slumber and rival the East India Company the ‘Company of Scotland’ was floated in London in 1695 and the decision taken to establish a Scottish colony on the Darien Isthmus in Panama. Panama was chosen because of its strategically important location. In a remarkable example of foresight three hundred years before its time, the Scottish merchants planned to create a canal that would link the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean saving merchant ships from the treacherous voyage around Cape Horn and months in journey times. Incredibly insightful though it may have been we shouldn’t forget that, like the dualing of the A9, it would take another 300 years before the Panama canal was eventually completed.
In response to the creation of the ‘Company of Scotland’ the English Parliament decreed that anyone investing in the company would be prosecuted. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of investment from English merchants was lost as a result. What followed was a great patriotic rush to invest in the Darien scheme. Scottish people, rich and poor, came hand over fist to invest in the company, ‘Darien’ fever had struck. Scottish people were enticed by stories of inexpensive fags they could sell down their local boozer, duty free as far as the eye could see, and free flowing all-inclusive bevy that could be mercilessly exploited.
The complete and utter bullshit Scottish people were being fed was being supplied by a high-ranking banker. William Paterson the Scottish co-founder of the Bank of England in 1691 and the Bank of Scotland in 1695 was the driving force behind the Darien scheme. He promised sheltered bays, temperate climates, friendly natives and fertile land. Paterson was insistent that Darien would not be a colony of conquest, nor one that relied on plantations or slavery, it would be a colony where all were welcome to come and trade, a patriotic free-for-all - like a giant Central American ‘empty’ where everyone was invited.
The colonists arrived at Darien in November 1698 and named the settlement ‘New Caledonia’, they built a town ‘New Edinburgh’ and a fort ‘Fort St Andrew’. Conditions were far from the idyllic paradise they were promised in the brochure, they were faced with torrential rains and impenetrable jungle. On top of their disappointment at the destination their ordeal became even more ‘cruise like’ with the inevitable outbreak of disease. The settlers of New Caledonia were dying at a rate of ten people per day, levels of mortality not experienced since the plague and not seen again until the introduction of the ‘deep-fried mars’ bar to the Scottish diet.
Worse still, the natives were uninterested in trading for the utter tat and shite the settlers had taken with them. Funnily enough there wasn’t a huge market for tartan, wool, wigs, trinkets and mirrors in central America - those on the first Darien expedition were trying to trade with the New World using the contents of the gift shop at the National Museum of Scotland. The settlers also faced the prospect of attack by the Spanish, who had claimed the Darien Isthmus for themselves.
Despite their desperation the letters the colonists sent home were full of optimism. Like backpackers picking fruit in Australia the settlers tried to convince themselves that it wasn’t all completely shite, they described a tropical paradise and even claimed to have struck gold. They were keen to talk up the Scottish colony as they did not want to dissuade those on a second voyage who would bring with them much needed provisions and goods they could actually trade - like sticks of rock, and snow globes of Edinburgh Castle.
The second Darien expedition sailed from Leith in September 1699. The ‘Rising Sun’ the ‘Duke of Hamilton’ and the ‘Hope of Bo’ness’ carried another 1300 hopeful Scot’s spurred on by the letters coming back from the colony. The voyage was long and arduous, there were sea burials every day and conditions on board were horrific – except of course for those from Bo’ness for whom the conditions were a marked improvement on where they had come from.
Unbeknownst to those on the second Darien voyage the colony had been abandoned three months earlier. The desperate colonists abandoned New Caledonia after hearing no word of a second expedition. The news of the abandonment reached the Company of Scotland twelve days after the second expedition had set sail. You can’t help but be impressed by the incredible disorganisation on display from the Company, it would take over three hundred years before the SFA would emulate such impressive levels of fuck-witery.
The second expedition landed at the abandoned colony in November 1699 and were immediately plagued by the same problems suffered on the first expedition. They carried out a dashing victory against a Spanish fort in February 1700, but the success was short lived. Spain won the return leg weeks later and Fort St Andrew was surrendered to the Spanish in March 1700. Just a month later the decision was taken to abandon New Caledonia once and for all. The Scottish settlers were permitted to return to Scotland however none made it back to their homeland, all three of the ships that had taken them to Panama were shipwrecked on the voyage home with no survivors.
The story of Scotland’s attempt at colonialism inevitably turned out to be a classically Scottish tale, a glorious failure that started with patriotism and optimism but ultimately ended with a last-minute Harry Kane equaliser at the back post. The man most held responsible for the failure of the Darien scheme was the king all Jacobites love to hate, King William.
After the scandal of Glencoe William’s reputation in Scotland was in tatters, the only way the King could make himself more unpopular amongst his Scottish subjects would have been to introduce a tax on square sausage and irn-bru. William achieved the impossible however and made himself even more unpopular in Scotland by almost single-handily destroying the Darien scheme.
The creation of the Company of Scotland coincided with William’s war against Louis XIV of France, and to defeat the French William required the support of Spain. As such he did not want to anger the Spanish by formally recognising the Darien colony. William ensured Darien was destined to fail by banning all English colonies from Boston to Barbados from trading with them. The King had actively suppressed the Company of Scotland and undermined the Darien colony against the best interests of the country he was supposed to represent. Scotland had been betrayed by its own king. The Darien scheme had been deliberately sabotaged to appease the Spanish and to weaken Scotland economically, thus making the country more reliant on England.
Despite its disastrous end Darien was a rare example of Scottish dash and daring fuelled by uncharacteristic optimism. The spirit of Darien, whether consciously or unconsciously, still forms a key part of the Scottish psyche and was evident on both sides of the 2014 Independence Referendum. Those on the yes side pushed a hopeful vision of a land of milk, honey, and no nuclear weapons. Those on the no side simply said ‘aye, but you’ll inevitably fuck it all up’. The debate on whether an independent Scotland would turn out as disastrously as Darien will rumble on, I’m just disappointed we never got to know how pasty-white, ginger people got on trying to live in central America - perhaps Gordon Strachan will bag himself the Panama job and finally settle my curiosity.
Donald Trump’s wee chipolata-like fingers are apparently constantly hovering over a giant button that if pressed brings either nuclear apocalypse or a diet coke, I’m not sure even he knows - Melania in the meantime is hoping that one day his clumsy little fingers will find and press a far smaller button. Just like Trump’s supporters many in ‘Great’ Britain are also regressing to times-gone-by when the country was apparently brilliant. When Britannia ruled the waves, and everyone had blue passports and the plague.
In Scotland we could never pull off such a self-assured slogan. In the 2014 Independence Referendum if the yes campaign had opted for ‘Make Scotland Great Again’ it would have elicited more ‘fuck off’s’ than Malcolm Tucker sending back a starter at Gordan Ramsay’s restaurant.
Scottish history is often viewed through ‘Gibson tinted’ glasses, people picture Highland, Celtic, kilted, warriors outnumbered and gloriously battling against aggressive English invaders - with the Jews apparently being responsible for the whole confrontation. The truth is that Clansmen fought each other far more than any foreign invader and were much more concerned with their own self-interests than that of ‘Scotland’ which for the most part looked down upon the clansmen as uncivilised, backwards, even subhuman. The last King of Scotland who could speak fluent Gaelic, the language of the clans, was James IV who died in 1513.
In the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745 many clans, and many Scotsmen, actually fought for the government against the Jacobites. Even today there are Scottish people who will actively support England at the 2018 World Cup, some Scottish people even voted in 13 Scottish Conservative MP’s in the 2017 General Election - what both these types of Scottish people have in common is an over-indulgence of their free subscriptions.
The support of the clans was very unreliable and difficult to muster in one place at any one time, they were kind of like Celtic fans in that regard. ‘Champions League’ nights like Bannockburn when a charismatic leader such as Robert the Bruce united the country and the clans to fight for it’s very existence were very rare. After the death of ‘Bonnie Dundee’ in 1689 the Jacobites were lacking in such a leader, the ousted King James was himself an uninspiring leader who probably had a diet coke button of his own.
By the end of 1690 the Jacobite cause was ‘Corbynesque’ in that it was suffering from a complete lack of leadership and had fuck all support. But like Mr Corbyn the Jacobites were assisted by an inept and evil government. After the successes and failures of 1689 and 1690 it took another 25 years before the next meaningful Jacobite Rising. In the intervening years the Williamite Government in Scotland ordered the massacre of innocent people in their own homes, single handily undermined the Scottish economy running it to the brink of ruin, and forced the country into an incorporating Union against the will of the Scottish population – so, you know, two out of three isn’t bad Theresa.
In the aftermath of the 1689 Jacobite Rebellion King William demanded all clan chiefs take an official oath of allegiance in front of a magistrate or face the full severity of the law. The oath was required from all chiefs, regardless of their involvement in the rebellion, by the 1st of January 1692. One name that was missing from the list of those who took the oath was that of Alisdair MacIan clan chief of the MacDonald’s of Glencoe. Despite William’s threats there were still plenty of clan chiefs who refused to take the oath. They however were the head of large, powerful, near untouchable clans, the MacDonalds of Glencoe on the other hand were a small clan scattered throughout the Glen living in large mushrooms-shaped houses by the river Smurf.
Alisdair MacIan had actually taken William’s oath of allegiance however it wasn’t accepted by government lawyers in Edinburgh because it had been received six days after the January 1st deadline. Misdirection, misfortune, and bad weather had hampered MacIan’s attempt to take the oath on time.
The MacDonald chief was required to take the oath in Fort William this meant crossing Loch Linnhe which required permission from the King, such permission did not arrive until the 28th of December. On MacIan’s arrival at Fort William on the 31st of December he was informed by the commander of the Fort that he could not receive the oath and he would have to travel 70 miles to Inveraray to take the oath there. On route he was arrested and imprisoned by Government soldiers and was not released until the 3rd of January. Worse still, the Sherriff at Inveraray was not present when MacIan eventually made it to Inveraray. When Alisdair MacIan eventually took the oath on the 6th of January 1692 he had been sent 70 miles from his original destination, arrived a week later than planned, was given misinformation, harassed, imprisoned, and endured a horrendous, arduous journey - and all of this was 300 years before Ryan Air was even flying.
Three regiments of Government soldiers from Argyll and Fort William comprised mainly from men of Clan Campbell - who were loyal to King William - and led by Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon were sent into Glencoe in February 1692 carrying warrants demanding the MacDonald’s quarter them - this was standard practice at this time when soldiers were out on expeditions or collecting tax arrears. After staying with the MacDonald’s for twelve days orders came through on the 12th of February, signed by the King, instructing the troops to turn on their hosts in the early hours of the 13th of February. The troops were ordered to be ‘secretive and sudden’. At 5am on the 13th of February 1692 the soldiers murdered ‘the old fox’ clan chief Alisdair MacIan as he slept in his bed. The sounds of gunfire caused panic and many families escaped into a blizzard which had prevented the arrival of supporting regiments who were supposed to block the glen off to stop any MacDonald’s from escaping. In the end at least 38 people were either murdered or lost in snow storm.
The Massacre of Glencoe was every Airbnber’s worse nightmare, but far from making an example of an insubordinate clan who dared to disobey the King, Glencoe had the opposite effect William had desired, it created a scandal and greatly improved support for the Jacobites in Scotland.
The events of February 1692 have engrained themselves on the psyche of the Scottish people and not because murder, or even mass-murder, was uncommon in the violent history of the Highlands but because it was a betrayal of almost sacred Highland Hospitality. To betray the trust and hospitality of a Highland host within a Highland home is unchivalrous and undignified – it’s why when we were at my granny’s house my mum would always make me force down her horrible rice pudding/promise not to kill her in her sleep.
Thanks to Glencoe the name Campbell is still looked upon with disdain by a minority in modern Scotland. Some Highland pubs continue to display ‘no Campbells allowed’ signs, which would be fair enough if they were talking about that fucking disgusting condensed soup surpassed only - and quite ironically in this case - by ‘McDonald’s’ in the ‘disgusting food’ stakes. There are still people in this country who on meeting someone with the second name ‘Campbell’ will assume that person is an arsehole - but then again if you are the sort of person who is willing to judge someone on their name or the actions of their ancestors over 300 years ago then you are probably a bit of a ‘Campbell’ yourself.
In truth the evillest of all the Scottish clans are the MacLeod’s of Lewis. In 1946 Mary Anne MacLeod gave birth to ‘Donald of Orange’ - or Orange Donald - the insipid, sweaty, misogynistic, ignorant, arrogant, fake-tanned, small-handed fuckwit who is currently head of the most powerful country in the world, a country where the massacre of 38 people wouldn’t even be newsworthy let alone a culturally significant historical event.
The MacLeod's have a lot to answer for, but of course Donald Trump isn't really Scottish, if he was that button of his would fetch him an irn-bru instead of a diet coke.
From 1652 to 1660 Scotland was officially a part of ‘Northern England’ after it was incorporated into Oliver Cromwell’s ‘Commonwealth of England’ - it was a total fucking nightmare, you couldn’t get square sausage for shit, thousands went hungry after Scottish fivers weren’t even being accepted in Edinburgh. Cromwell run his Commonwealth like a kind of puritan Death Star, when he died in 1658 his son Richard took over the reins. Richard turned out to be more ‘Dr Evil’ than Darth Vader however, so the decision was taken to reinstate the monarchy.
In 1660 Charles II was reinstated as the monarch of Scotland, England and Ireland in a time known as the ‘Restoration’. Far from being a religious puritan Charles II was known as the ‘Jolly Monarch’ a nickname he earned not through any kind of generosity or joviality during the festive period although he certainly loved 'ho's' and was particularly adept at emptying his sack; Charles fathered 14 children making him responsible for more gene pools than currently exist in Fife. The Restoration saw a brief cultural renaissance after the bleak moralism of most of the 17th century and was was a precursor for the late 18th century ‘Scottish Enlightenment’, an important period of intellectual enlightenment that led us to the realisation that you could deep-fry mars bars.
Top-shagger though he was when Charles II died in 1685 all 14 of his children were illegitimate – he is remembered in Scotland as the ‘Leigh Griffith’s King’ – and as such he died without leaving a direct heir to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland. So, the crowns passed to Charles’s brother James who became James VII of Scotland and James II of England. During the Restoration James was the Lord High Commissioner of Scotland and had ruled as the Duke of Albany from 1682-85. James was a popular figure in Scotland, he installed a Royal Court at Holyrood Palace the likes of which had not been seen for over 100 years, and appointed the first Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh University. Regardless however of how able a ruler James may or may not have been, his biggest problem when he inherited the throne in 1685 was that he was Catholic, which in 17th century Britain made him about as popular as a Mexican Muslim breastfeeding in Trump Tower.
The writing was on the wall for James – and still is on many a gabled house in Belfast – when his wife Mary of Modena gave birth to a son James Edward Stuart, the ‘Old Pretender’, in 1688. With a male heir there was now the very real possibility of a succession of catholic monarchs. Thankfully, a helpful Dutch Prince by the name William of Orange offered to step in and stop this Catholic bogeyman like a kind of Protestant Thunder Cat.
William is a particularly popular King amongst a certain group of the Scottish population known as the ‘Orange Order’ who celebrate William’s victories and defence of the Protestant faith with a series of summertime marches known as ‘Orange Walks’. Orange walks are a curious thing. If it helps try and picture a man in a strange outfit blowing on a whistle, then imagine that when he blows on his whistle hundreds of identical wee orange people come out dressed in matching little suits and gloves, banging drums, and singing strange Oompa Loompa songs about how much they hate Catholics.
A real bunch of Willy Wonkers.
From a 21st Century perspective it probably seems quite implausible that a tiny - William was 5'6 - wig-wearing, orange, leader of a world power would would want to interfere in another nation's affairs and place unrealistic sanctions and restrictions on certain members of the population based purely on their religion, But William of Orange’s claim to the British thrones was semi-legitimate thanks to his wife Mary, who happened to James’s eldest daughter and presumably didn’t go to the old man’s for Sunday lunch all too frequently.
William’s army arrived in England in November 1688 and faced no resistance. James had such little support most of his men defected to the invading army and he was forced to flee. James was arrested and imprisoned leaving William with the ultimate married man’s fantasy, the opportunity to have his father-in-law beheaded. In the end he decided it probably wasn’t a good look for a future leader of the country to have his father-in-law and the rightful monarch executed. So, like Boris Johnson letting his old man go off and fuck about in the jungle eating possum cocks, he allowed James to escape to safety in France where they eat equally as weird and disgusting shit.
William didn’t have it all his own way however. James still had a lot of support in Scotland, most notably the powerful John Graham of Claverhouse the Viscount of Dundee, more commonly known as ‘Bonnie Dundee’. Bonnie Dundee is not to be mistaken for that mad Australian bam in the 80’s ‘Crocodile Dundee’, although there is one well known incident when Dundee confronted a knife wielding assailant by saying ‘that’s not a knife, this is a knife’ then proceeded to hold up a pint glass – his aggressor was unaware that for a man from Dundee a pint glass absolutely is a knife
In January 1689 an English Convention decreed that James, on fleeing the country, had abdicated his throne and as such they were free to proclaim William and Mary joint monarchs of England. When a Scottish Convention reached the same conclusion in April 1689 Claverhouse retreated into the Highlands to recruit an army of pint glass wielding maniacs to rebel against the reign of King William. It was the beginnings of the Jacobite movement to return James, and in later years his son James Edward Stuart the ‘Old Pretender’, to the thrones of Great Britain.
In July 1689 Bonnie Dundee launched a brilliant surprise attack on the Wiliamite army as they moved through the narrow pass of Killiecrankie in Perthshire. Dundee’s men rushed at the unexpecting troops and deployed for the first time the devastatingly effective Jacobean tactic the ‘Highland Charge’ which involved clansmen firing a single musket shot then charging at the enemy with their broadswords. Victory at Killiecrankie was the first great Jacobean victory, but like most of the Jacobite victories that would follow it came at a cost. Dundee the charismatic leader of the rebellion had been hit under the arm by a stray bullet and died from his wounds the day after the battle.
Colonel Alexander Cannon replaced him. Cannon was head of the Irish reinforcements at the Battle of Killiecrankie and his appointment angered the more powerful clan chiefs who felt they should have assumed control of the army. Men such as Sir Ewan Cameron of Lochiel who killed an English Officer by biting out his throat commenting, ‘it was the sweetest bite I ever took’ Nando’s having not been invented yet. Lacking the dashing and charismatic leadership of Dundee to unite the clans, and with an army full of manic Luis Suarez types, Cannon struggled to keep the Jacobite army together. With a depleted force the Jacobite army fought out a draw with the Government forces at the battle of Dunkeld in August 1689. The rebellion then slowly fizzled out and was dealt the final blow when James’s forces were soundly beaten at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in July 1690.
The Jacobite Rising of 1689 is one that never really got out of the group stages as far as rebellions go, which is I suppose fitting for a cause that was doomed for the most Scottish of all fates, that of glorious failure. It did however light the flame of Jacobite resistance and an obsession with tartan clad Jacobean culture that is now symbolic of Scotland, it put Killiecrankie on the map, and it gave us what has to surely be the finest oxymoron Scottish history has ever given us, ‘Bonnie Dundee’.