3rd Scottish Tattoo
The Royal Albert Hall
22 April 2001 "The Highland Spirit"
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
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.
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.
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")
"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?
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
Oh aye and how are you
proposing to do that then give me a few drams and sing "Roaming in the
MacGregor startled again
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.
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.
These times were fierce but
also times of feasting and musical celebration.
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
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
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.
We will continue without
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!
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!
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.
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
HIGHLAND LADY + SMALL PIPES
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
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.
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
Yes! That's what I want to
hear. That makes me want to sing out for the people.
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
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
Let the Highlanders welcome you
Robert Louis Stevenson once
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.
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
Remember those who have done
kindness to our race, and pay their services with thy blood, should the hour
Haste ye back
McLennan - The Scottish TattooÔ