Battle for Killiecrankie scheduled

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Campaigners James Rattray and John Neilson take local MSP John Swinney around the battlefield last summer.
Campaigners James Rattray and John Neilson take local MSP John Swinney around the battlefield last summer.

A Scottish public inquiry begins in Pitlochry on Monday after campaigners in a small Perthshire community complained that the proposed dualling of a trunk road would further encroach the site of a 17th century battle of huge historical importance.

The A9 trunk road between Perth and Inverness is currently being dualled in its entirety. However, at Killiecrankie, two miles south of Blair Castle Transport Scotland, the agency tasked with completing the work, proposes to run the new carriageway right through the stretch where the famous battle took place on July 27, 1689. Dualling at this short section essentially involves simply widening the existing single carriageway into two lanes

Around 2,000 men were killed within 20 minutes during the battle, which historians say was of major importance. Local campaigner, James Rattray, whose six times great grandfather fought at Killiecrankie on the Jacobite side, said: “The battle was a transitional battle in terms of warfare. It was the last time bows and arrows were used (possibly in any battle in Europe), it was the last time the two-handed swords of Wallace and Bruce fame were used, and it was the last time pikes used (being replaced by bayonets. It was also the first time hand grenades were used on the mainland of the UK and it was where Jacobite forces perfected the ‘Highland Charge’, a tactic that was used so successfully throughout the next 77 years.”

In the early 1970s, the A9 was built through the battlefield. No detailed archeological study had been undertaken at that time. Mr Rattray said: “We know so much more now. We now know, for example, that all the Scottish Government troops stood yards below the A9, where the fiercest fighting took place, and this is precisely where the new carriageway and laybys are currently planned to go. All we are asking is for them to go on the other side.”

“We believe that this route chosen was from a purely engineering and cost perspective, with little or no regard for battlefield preservation.”

Alan Yourston, Director of B2B Events Ltd, who paid for walkways around the memorial marking the burial site for officers, said: “The misconceived notion that the Culloden battlefield is the be all and end all of the Jacobites has overshadowed what is the most important battlefield in the Jacobite history and one that must never be lost.”

The Battle of Killiecrankie made a big impact on Gaelic culture at the time and inspired many poems from bards such as Iain Lom. There are also several pieces of ceòl mòr associated with it, such as The Daughter’s Lament and Lament for Viscount Dundee.

Members of the local community mark the anniversary of the Battle of Killiecrankie in July 2017 at the memorial erected to mark where the ground where the government officers were buried in the aftermath of the battle.

Historian, Keith Sanger wrote in the Piping Times of October 2014 : “From what we know of the government forces involved they were not likely to have had any pipers with them. It was the Jacobite side who had the pipers. We know that Clan MacLean made up a large part of the Jacobite force and it is likely that their three well-known pipers – Patrick MacNeill Roy, John MacWilliam and Condullie Rankin – would have been on the field. Likewise, Allan Cameron, Lochiel’s piper, would also have been among the Camerons.”

Transport Scotland said it was aware of the sensitivities around the battlefield.

Scottish Ministers decided last summer that the inquiry be held. Reporter, Scott Ferrie, has been appointed to hold it and to report his findings and recommendations to Scottish Ministers.

The inquiry will be heard at Pitlochry Festival Theatre on Monday and is open to the public to attend. A live video link is planned. The inquiry will take two weeks.