The 3rd Scottish Tattoo

at The Royal Albert Hall

Sunday 22 April 2001 "The Highland Spirit"


It is important to remember that between all the sound tracks and wee speeches there is much music, song and dance. The storyline, although important in conveying the history is secondary to a wonderful and festive evening's entertainment.            Ian McLennan

  Robert MacGregor was born a Highlander, but his family moved away when he was very young.  He does return to visit relatives occasionally but that is his only contact.  On a night out with friends, he was persuaded to wear his very old family plaid - handed down through the generations - to a fancy dress party.  As he is dressing - regretting his choice of fancy dress - he mocks the plaid and renounces his connection with the Highlands.  His mockery causes a "Highland Lady" spirit to appear and chastise him for his contempt.  She promises to re-awaken his own "Highland Spirit" with stories of the Highlands and the indomitable Highlanders.  Each speech and sound track, as usual, trigger the music, song and dance.  Will she be successful? Enjoy your read and the show if you catch it.

  MacGREGOR (looks into imaginary mirror at himself)

Now what do you look like Robert MacGregor? A right Charlie or what?  How did you let your friends talk you into going to a fancy dress party dressed as a Highlander when you haven't lived there since you were wee?  Never listen to your pals when you've had a drink or two! It was lucky, we had this old family plaid in the cupboard.  Anyway, this plaid is supposed to have been handed down through generations of the family, so deep down I must be a Highlander at heart - whatever that means. (strong emphasis on "whatever that means")

  Sound Track 1 Crack of thunder

  MacGregor looks shocked

Highland Lady

(sharply) "Whatever that means?"  You have MacGregor blood running through you and many other clans besides, through family marriage. Never forget you carry the spirit and memories of Highlanders long since dead, but who have made their mark for good or ill, not only on the Highlands of Scotland but on the world.  You have a passion Rob MacGregor but all too often you follow the easy path instead of standing up for your beliefs in true Highland spirit.


Who are you and how did you get into my room? And what's more what gives you the right to lecture me about the way I go about my business?

Highland Lady

Perhaps I am your conscience Rob MacGregor - pricked once too often and stirred by the plaid so bravely worn by many a MacGregor before you and now mocked by you. I will awaken the spirit in you - unleashing a passion you have never before felt - but will never again forget.    

MacGREGOR (Sarcastically)  

Oh aye and how are you proposing to do that then give me a few drams and sing "Roaming in the Gloaming?"

  Sound Track 2 Crack of thunder

MacGregor startled again

Highland Lady

Mock when you are blind to the truth MacGregor, but I will open your eyes to the world of the Highlands and Highlanders from the first people to your own time.  A people so proud, they have a fighting spirit tested since time began, yet who would share their last meal with a stranger and shelter him from the cold.  Their land is your land MacGregor and their history too.  Their spirit is born of the land but honed through generations of hardship and exploitation.  Always, they find a way to show their worth.  Often when pressed the hardest their spirit shines through.

So, Robert MacGregor, now I have your attention let our story commence.

  Sound Track 3 The first known…

The first known Highlander was named by the Romans as "Calgagus the swordsman" Tall, red haired and thick of limb. He belonged to one of numerous tribes all named collectively by the Romans as Picti - the painted ones. The greatest of these tribes - the Caledonii inhabited the central highlands and beyond.  Fierce warriors all and not vanquished by the Romans.   To you and me, these painted warriors are - "The Picts"  - the first "Cock's of the North"

Sound Track 4 After the Romans…

After the Romans others came to test the Picts in battle. They stopped fighting between their own tribes and fought as one people with one king. The first king of all Picts was Oengus.  Norse, Scots from Ireland, North Britons, Normans and Angles all sought to take the land for their own.  All were repelled at a price.  More than a century later a Norse invasion wiped out the royal family of Eoghan - last king of all Picts.  Norsemen occupied the very north and the northern and western isles.                           

Sound Track 5 Picts & Scots

The Scots from Ireland had settled in Galloway then part of Dalriada. Their king Kenneth MacAlpin - the Hardy - with Pict blood in his veins - occupied the remaining land and became "Ard-Righ Albainn - First King of all Picts & Scots. 

Highland Lady

These times were fierce but also times of feasting and musical celebration.

Highland Lady

As the people entertained themselves many stories were told of invincible swordsmen, loch monsters, giants, speaking stones, of singing trees and fairies.


Sings "Spirits of the Highlands" which acts as intro to fairies - Highland Dancers

Highland Lady                                                                                      

Pictish culture was extinguished by that of the Gaels and Scots.  Like the Pictish kings before them all Celtic kings were buried on the holy Isle of Iona.

Sing Gaelic song.


So Highlanders are a mix of Picts & Scots?

Sound Track 6 Then came the Norman English…        

Early in the last millennium MacBeth ruled Scotland.  He was last to claim the Pictish line of inheritance and a great Highland king.  He was slain by Malcolm Canmore who had married an English princess.  Land was not owned but was free to farm by the people.  Communities protected each other.  They supported their chief and in return their chief ensured their survival. The king now demanded allegiance from his countrymen, who answered the call to fight. The Norman influence in the Scottish Royal family led to land ownership and the taxation of the people. "Nobles" were now in charge of the Highlanders destiny.

Sound Track 7 The Clans                                                 

In the Highlands and Islands, the Norsemen and Gaels had become one people, with Ghaidhlic as their language. Strong leaders emerged who have left their mark on the history of the Clans. Somerled, the legendary first lord of the isles, and father of the Macdonalds of Sleat and his rival, Godred of Man, father of Macleods and Macauleys.  These men and their people were masters of the Sea.  They fished, farmed and fought, recounting stories and mysteries of their own and of their forefathers. Stories of their battles are still told today.


It's all well and good telling me old stories but when it comes down to it I don't have much in common with these guys. Although I love the Highlands, I haven't lived in the Highlands since I was a bairn. I only return to see my family. 

Highland Lady                                                                                      

We will continue without interruption MacGregor.

Sound Track 8 Wallace/Bruce                                          

Edward I - Longshanks - schemed to rule Scotland, having taken Wales by force.  His plan failed with the death of the Maid of Norway. So he sent his army instead.  All would have been lost but for two men William Wallace in the south and Andrew de Moray in the Highlands. Together they routed the English at Stirling Bridge. Their victories inspired Robert Bruce and after many fierce battles and the loss of many of his family, he became King of a free Scotland, at Bannockburn in 1314.  Time and again the Highland clans answered the call of these men. They fought valiantly for their freedom and to preserve their simple but harmonious life, at one with the elements.


I'm getting the feel for this now. A few good battles a fish supper and no doubt a whisky to wash it down!

HIGHLAND LADY                                                                                      

You don't know the half of it MacGregor as you sit there bearing a name that was all but exterminated.  But before you draw breath once more, take some minutes to think on what you have seen and heard then return to hear tales to awaken your spirit.


Oh Ok! See you back in 20 when I have done my hair!

Interval           20 mins

Sound Track 9 MacGregors                                              

Letters of fire and sword were issued against the Clan MacGregor by King James 6th - the first of England. He declared in 1603 that no man, under pain of death, might call himself MacGregor. Nor his children and his children's children unborn.  If he did so use that name he could be killed like a beast at the wayside, with all his lands and possessions forfeit to his killer.  Death was the sentence if more than four of the Clan Gregor met together or if they possessed any other weapon than a blunt knife to cut their meat - but only if they continued to use the name MacGregor.  Later the branding and transportation of MacGregor women was discussed but not enacted. These laws remained for 200 years. All MacGregor lands passed to Clan Campbell.

HIGHLAND LADY                                                                                      

This was just one incident of many where man was set against man and clan against clan.

Sound Track 10 MacLeod's of Lewis            

On the Isle of Lewis, Highlanders were evicted from their homes and replaced by lowlanders, IN  An experiment by King James to tame the Highlands. The Lewismen defended themselves and saw off the immigrants - the Fife Adventurers as they became known. The scheme failed but the MacLeod chief forfeited his lands for supporting his men. They had saved the Highlands - for a time.                                                           

Reads from text


The Highlands is a magical place and Highlanders are a spiritual people with knowledge and customs handed down through generations in "the oral tradition".  A growing Rowan tree close to home will protect the house from evil spirits. Still today nearly all Highland dwellings have their Rowan tree.  No boat should venture out without one small part being made of Rowan. Never drive cattle by anything other than a Rowan stick.  Every holy well, from times past, has a Rowan close by.  

Some Highlanders have the second sight. The greatest of the seers was the Brahan Seer  - Coinneach Odher.  Living about 300 years ago, his prophesies continue to come true . He predicted the creation of the Caledonian Canal and the carnage of Culloden.

Of the clearances he said; "The clans will become so effeminate as to allow themselves to be driven from their native land by an army of sheep."

Sound Track 11 Kelp/Whisky                                            

The fatal '15 and the '45 - Jacobite uprisings in support of their crown - left their mark on Highland society, as so many of their number were either killed or forced into exile.  Clan chiefs who had negotiated their terms prospered.  Their wealth coming from cattle which was in great demand - until famine struck.  For some chiefs, new wealth then came from kelp - the ash from burning woody seaweed washed up from the sea and used for soap, glass and linen. So poor were the Highlanders themselves that many emigrated in search of a better life.  For those that remained, crofting and kelping  barely kept them alive.  For the Highlander, Whisky was, as it is still described, truly the water of life. Illicit stills were to be found everywhere - with whisky an accepted currency!  The finest of whisky distillers began their trade in these times.

As the British Empire grew, Highland regiments were raised by their clan chiefs to build and defend that empire. The proud Highland men, as part of a unified Britain, still answered the call of duty. The pipes sounded once more to the tunes of their regiments and have continued through war and peace to the present time.


So the power of the Highlanders was harnessed for the good of Britain as a whole.  I expect they were treated better after that.

Sound Track 12 Clearances                                              

After the rebellions, Highlanders often found it impossible  to support their growing families.  Clan Chiefs squandered the income from their land, or sold it anyway. Then, new southern landlords forcibly removed the people from their lands and replaced them sheep - the black face and the cheviot.  Houses were burnt so that the people could not return. By 1846, 200,000 sheep inhabited these now dark, desolate, barren rocks and the once rich and fertile soil was brown wasteland.  These "clearances" resulted in many deaths, and the Highlanders were forced to emigrate to survive - never able to return to the mist covered mountains of home

MacGREGOR (Angry)

Lady, is there no justice? How can people give so much and be treated like this? This is my family story you are telling - I know.  I have relatives in Canada and America and no doubt in the south too.

HIGHLAND LADY                                                                                      

Listen on MacGregor.

Sound Track 13 Highlanders make their mark              

Highlanders descendants are to be found all over the world. Freed from their oppressors, they have flourished in the new world.  Leaders in their own society, these Highlanders have preserved their culture and customs.  Highlanders also moved to the lowlands and Highland communities grew up in Glasgow and Edinburgh. From ill beginnings, once more, their spirit shone through. 


Yes! That's what I want to hear. That makes me want to sing out for the people.

HIGHLAND LADY                                                                                      

Then do so MacGregor and I will join you in the song of Alba.

Sound Track 14 Highland visitors                                    

George IV and then Queen Victoria made Scotland and the Highlands a fashionable place to be. In their time the plaid of the Highlander, became the Tartan of fashion.  Clans, districts and the Highland regiments adopted their own distinctive pattern.  Tourists began to visit to marvel at the country and its people.  Highland hospitality was discovered by the English today, the visitor brings much needed wealth to the Highlands.  Today's Royal family keep up the tradition and have Highland blood in their veins.

Sound Track 15 Highland Products                       

As well as tartan and whisky, Harris tweed, luxury woollens, the finest cashmere together with Highland delicacies such as butter shortbread, fine soups and porridge oats are exported, and much prized, all over the world. 


I did not realise that Highland influence was so widespread.

Sound Track 16  Highland Societies                                

Wherever Highlanders, and all Scots, have gone they have left their mark. Highland and Caledonian Societies, dancing and Ghaidhlic clubs and centres are all over the world.  More speak the Ghaidhlic outside Scotland than in.  However, the resurgence in Celtic culture is rejuvenating Scotland and the Highlands too


I think you have succeeded Highland Lady in linking me, and my heart with my ancestors and my homelands.  My roots are those of a Highlander and I will never again forget them.

Sings "Back in the Homeland"


Let the Highlanders welcome you Rob MacGregor.


Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote….

For that is the mark of the Scots of all classes: that he stands in an attitude towards the past unthinkable to others, and remembers and cherishes the memory of his forebears, good or bad; and there burns alive in him a sense of identity with the dead even to the twentieth generation.

HIGHLAND LADY                                                                                      

Before your party begins MacGregor I will tell you of the Highland law as handed down through the generations.  It explains much of what you have heard and is perhaps - The root of the Highland Spirit.


…Keep thou unsoiled the freedom which I leave thee as a birthright. Be free as thy forefathers. 

Own no lord - receive no law - take no hire - give no stipend - build no hut - enclose no pasture - sow no grain.  Let the deer of the mountain be thy flocks and herds - if these fail ye, prey upon the goods of our oppressors - of the Saxons, and of such gael as are Saxons in their souls, valuing herds and flocks more than honour and freedom.  Well for us that they do so - it affords the broader scope for our revenge.  

Remember those who have done kindness to our race, and pay their services with thy blood, should the hour require it.

Haste ye back

ãIan McLennan - The Scottish TattooÔ 03/01/01            

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