Saturday, December 12, 2015

Memories of Killiecrankie Pass

“It is said that once a location has witnessed so much death it never forgets . . .”
                                                                --Cavan Scott, Countryfile

Killiecrankie Pass and River Garry
Located in Perthshire County in Scotland Killiecrankie Pass lies in a beautiful glen along the River Garry a few miles north of Pitlochry. The River Garry flows through a steep-sided gorge fringed by dark green woods.

It was here in 1689 where a fierce battle was fought.

By 1688, James ll of England—James Vll of Scotland—had been replaced by William of Orange. James was an unpopular ‘Catholic” king, so the English Parliament officially invited William to invade. James fled to the continent without a fight and the Protestant William took his throne.

King James Vll/ll

William, Prince of Orange
In Scotland, people’s loyalties were bitterly divided between William and James. This division was so deep that fathers often fought against their sons.

At the Killecrankie battle---

Mackay of Scourie led William’s forces—he was a Highlander when ironically most Highlanders supported the opposing Jacobite cause.

General Huge Mackay

James Graham of Claverhouse
"Bonnie Dundee"
At the head of the Jacobite rebels was James Graham, Viscount Dundee who was known as Bonnie Dundee. He ironically was a Lowlander but the troops he led where Highlanders.

In July of 1689, Blair Castle in Perthshire was seized by the Jacobites, Mackay knew he must re-capture the castle at all cost—but a large contingency of Jacobite Highlanders were moving to block his path.

Mackay had 3,500-foot soldiers and two cavalry groups.

Despite being outnumbered by at least a thousand men, the Jacobites had two advantages. They knew the gorge like the back of their hands, and they were experienced fighters when it came to steep and rocky terrain.

Amazingly, most of the Jacobites fought barefoot.

On July 27th the two opposing armies met at Killiecrankie Pass. Dundee’s Jacobites had a good vantage point on a hilltop looking down at Mackay’s English Government troops.

Highland Charge

It was a July day, and the sun was in their eyes, so they waited until 7:00 p.m. to attack. When Dundee gave the signal, two thousand men poured down this hillside in a deafening onslaught.

Battle at Killiecrankie
Mackey’s men briefly fought but they then turned and fled. This would have been the end of the battle but for a turn of bad luck-- their retreat was stopped by the steep-sided gorge. This battle then turned into a massacre. *

*  One government soldier, Donald McBane leaped 16 feet across the river to get away. This incredible feat is commemorated with a plaque at the spot it took place—known as Soldier’s Leap.

During this battle, ten thousand Government soldiers were either killed or captured. A third of the Jacobite men were killed, including their leader Bonnie Dundee.

Modern day visitors to Killiecrankie Pass state they have experienced this brutal battle first hand.

Several witnesses have seen soldiers marching as if to battle, while others have seen an eerie red glow engulf the gorge.

A female witness picnicking with her family said she saw a replay of the battle and another female witness states she saw the bodies of dead English officers at her feet while walking through the gorge.

This haunting appears to be an “anniversary haunting” for most of the strange encounters people have experienced happened on the date—July 27th—when the battle took place.
Depiction of Pass from the 1800s.
A fanciful story connected to this haunting was told on the BBC program, Countryfile.

This legend states witnesses have also seen an apparition of a young woman who wanders among the bodies robbing them of their valuables. Along with this is a warning—if she knows she is being watched, she will chase after the witness. If she catches up and touches or taps them on the shoulder—they will die within the year.

Killiecrankie is managed by the National Trust for Scotland today. It is open year-round to the public.

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