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Scotsman of Holland                                                             

 

BY Wijke Ruiter

Medemblik

A picturesque Old Dutch town at the west coast of the IJsselmeer; the former Zuiderzee.
Reminder of the glorious 17th century; Holland’s golden age; a few lovely canals; flanked by those typical Dutch facades. Small Amsterdam.

There are several harbors, filled with real shipping-beauties, but you’ll also find awful floating plastics, supposed to be a yacht but hardly deserve the title.

The citizens of Medemblik do not really care: as long as they can make their living out of it.

In a way Medemblik doesn’t differ much from the other towns around the IJsselmeer.

When Easter comes the little town is, as usual, invaded by Germans, either proud owners of a part of the Medemblik fleet, or tourists visiting all the Zuiderzee-towns. This invasion starts the season; during spring- and summertime the town is quite busy and lively.

But when listening carefully there’s another language, English in that unmistakable sweet tune, and looking around you’ll meet Scottish people. Not two or three, but hundreds during the season. What are they doing here? 
When coming the whole way down from Scotland to Holland you’re supposed to visit Amsterdam or The Hague, but Medemblik…

The answer lies in a grave.

Lord George Murray, who commanded his troops as a great general in the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart during the Jacobite Rise, is buried at Medemblik.
That little town harbors with the name of Lord Murray the memory of a period, with its horrible climax at Culloden, a turning point in history that changed Scotland forever.

Lord Murray and the Jacobite Rise (1745)

The letters Lord Murray wrote to his family and the descriptions by his men, give the impression that this Lord was warm-hearted and caring, with the natural gifts of a prosaic and practical Scotsman, a brilliant commander of his troops.

He was certainly not a fool, running after an unreachable ideal or a bored-to-death nobleman seeking the doubtful sensation of terrifying battlefields.

The Jacobites
What made him take up his sword for Scotland’s ancient kings?

At that time many Scottish Jacobites cared little for whoever wore the crown. They cared for the restoration of Scottish Parliament (abolished in 1707), based on the clan-constitution of the Highlands.

In history they are often described as a primitive people striving to preserve an 'out-of-date’ clan-society. In contrast with the feudal system of the English Kings, which was supposed to be civilized and modern.

The Highlands society maybe was primitive, in the sense that their society was ancient, but certainly not ‘uncivilized’.  And what about  ‘civilization’?

You can hardly find some of that in the brutal suppression and terror the feudal system embodied in the “civilised” Hanoverian-English Kings brought to the Highlands before, during and after the final slaughter of Culloden.

 For the Highlanders civilisation was a state of mind, producing ideals and philosophies, which tended to treat politics as a science and built up the effective control of the leaders by those who were led.  The Kings were chosen leaders and they could be expelled.

No King of Scots was King of Scotland. He may have been a landowner, but he had no possess ional right as King in the land.

Other than the feudal system in which the power and the greatness of the leader could be measured in the amounts of land, cities, money, soldiers and people he had conquered.  The feudal system was based on conquering in order to subject the conquered.

 So the uprising of the Jacobites was a final attempt to restore the old Highland clan constitution in Scotland –and only there -, which was totally alien to the feudal society.
 

Well, the clan-constitution may have been cut down; the philosophies of this ancient society are certainly not.
In today’s economic climate the theories of Adam Smith, born and raised in Kirkcaldy, are still relevant. He is famous as the founder of classical economy.

In his “Wealth of the Nations” (written from 1766 to 1776; still required reading for students in Economics) he explained that allowed to follow their natural urges, men would create a better world: a richer, more educated and freer society. In the new world, he imagined, the government was no longer needed: it was simply an irrelevance. The invisible hand of the market would do the job.

His message to the feudal King: “ Georgy, take your system and go home, Scotland

-and even the rest of the world- doesn’t need you”.

 Lord Murray

What about Lord Murray then?  George Murray was born in 1694, the fifth son of John Murray, the first Duke of Atholl, he belonged to a Scottish aristocracy who was created on merit, and fully aware of that.

His background and what’s written above – were the issues that made clear to Lord George Murray that the Standard, which was planted in Glenfinnann in 1745, was his to follow. He said himself: “My life, my fortune, my expectations, the happiness of my wife and children, are all at stake (and the changes are against me), and yet my duty to Scotland in which my Honor is too deeply to withdraw ----- this matter of principles outweighs everything”.

 And so he became Prince Charlie’s most effective commander in chief, who was given the rank of Lieutenant – General in an army of so called ‘primitive people’. A fearless attempt to place the Scots Crown on the head of the last scion of the ancient kings. Writing about him, the chevalier Johnstone said: “ From the moment he arrived in the Jacobite camp, Lord George Murray was playing a leading part in the rushing drama of the Rising. He was a man of great ability, and though he lacked full training in the military art, had a natural genius for strategy. He was tall and robust, and brave in the highest degree”. 

And the battles began, the first at Prestonpans (Edinburgh). It was a victory due to Lord Murray. It is said that after the battle, both Lord George and the Prince displayed particular care for the English wounded, erecting hospitals and providing surgeons. This is in such marked contrast to the massacre of wounded Highlanders, which followed Culloden.

Who are savages then?

 After this battle, Lord Murray (and most of the clan chiefs) tried to persuade the Prince to declare Scotland as an independent nation and thus make the Jacobite Rising a national issue.

But Charles had laid his eyes on London. They could have kept any army out of Scotland, because the prospect of a Scottish national war would have more than doubled their numbers: the vast mass of public opinion was still bitterly disappointed in the Union.

But the Prince wanted to have both crowns: “I am resolved to go for England”.

 Then the march began, the ‘invasion of England’, of which Prince Charles thought it would be his triumph march; getting support from the English friends and from a French army, promised by King Louis XV.

In rapid succession Carlisle, Lancaster, Preston and Manchester fell to the Prince’s army, without a shot being fired in their defense. Finally they reached Derby, in the beginning of December 1745.  Without resistance, but also without supporters: the English friends the Prince awaited didn’t come. People simply were not interested. And people were scared.

The Hanoverian propaganda machine did its work. The Scots passed through many villages where the woman folk were observed by making great efforts to hide and conceal their offspring from the tartan-clan hordes. The English common people had the most fantastic notions about the Highlanders, as a species of half-savage robbers, cannibals, particularly fond of the flesh of children. The sort of monsters Nessie would be ashamed off.


At Derby the same arguments that had divided Prince Charles from Lord Murray continued.
Charles said that London was about 130 miles off, “a handful of militiamen and Finchley stands between us and the glorious Restoration “.

But Lord Murray was not to be moved. All he could see was a pyrrhic victory: the Jacobite Army trapped in London and its rear cut off by Cumberland. It was time, he insisted, to make a stand in the heartland of their cause: Scotland.

“The Scots army have done their part, they came into England at the Prince’s request to join his English friends, but as this had not happened, that certainly five thousands Scots had never thought of putting a King upon the English throne by themselves”. 

So the Scots Army, with the Prince sulking on his horse, turned about and retreated north.
With New Year of 1746 the Scots Army returned to home (Glasgow). “An expedition was thus completed”.  At Falkirk another battle was fought and the victory was the Scots again.

When the last Hanoverian Army (commanded by the Duke of Cumberland) arrived in Edinburgh (January, 1746) Lord Murray and the other clan-chiefs wrote the prince a letter, in which they asked to give the Highlanders their rest, for “ a vast number of the soldiers of your Royal Highness Army are gone home since the battle of Falkirk – which was not unusual – we can foresee nothing but utter destruction to the few that will remain …….  there is no way to extricate your Royal Highness and those who remain with you, out of the most imminent danger, but retiring immediately to the Highlands… by taking and mastering the forts of the North”.

The plan of Lord George had been to retire into the mountains and conduct a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Hanoverian troops. The Highlanders had shown themselves very capable of such warfare. They would be among friends on their own ground, and there is no reason to suppose that they could not hold the North. But the Prince was to adopt the Irishman, O’Sullivan, as his counselor on all future occasions. This Irishman had no experience of guerrilla and didn’t understand it. He was also ignorant of the nature and resources of the country and the character of the Highlanders.

 The Army withdrew into the Highlands, capturing Ruthven Barracks and Fort Kilcumein (now Fort Augustus), while the Duke of Cumberland moved up north to Nairn.

And so we come to Culloden, which took place while many clans were still on leave – or off on various expeditions – and they had to be summoned back fast.

 It was the last fatal battle with a barbarian slaughter and mutilation of the wounded by the Cumberland’s soldiers afterwards, justified in England by orders. The Hanoverian propaganda did its job:  the bloodier Cumberland got, the better England liked it. Handel wrote, “See the Conquering Hero Comes”, first performed in 1746, to celebrate this triumph.

 After that horrible day Prince Charles received a letter from Lord Murray, in which he resigns his commission, but not before he wrote: “Sir, you will, I hope, upon this occasion, pardon me, if I mentioned a few truths, which all the gentleman of our army seem convinced off”.  He explains the Prince why the battle was lost and ended  “ What commands you have for me Lord Murray still saw a possibility of a guerrilla-war; specialty of The Highlanders (like whisky and haggis). But Charles threw in the towel and made for France.
 

Lord George Murray managed to escape for Scotland on December 16th 1746, and landed on Christmas Morning in Holland, not really a bad place of course, after all.

Holland
Since the Dutch and Scots both are traders, it is not hard to imagine that there were lively merchant-lines – what about sheep, for example - between the two nations, at that time.

Although there is no written evidence, Lord Murray wasn’t unknown by Dutch merchandisers. Medemblik, like other Zuiderzee-towns, had a blooming sheep- and cheese market in the 18th century.
At first Lord George didn’t stay long in Holland, he visited Venice and Rome to pay his respects to his exiled King James. He bought a small farm at Kleve, next to the Dutch/German border. Kleve was an autonomous duchy in the 18th century.  Germany was divided in several sovereign states, which loved to fight each other.
Our Lord Murray had nothing to fear from the Hanoverians, he could rely on the Duke’s protection.                                                                                         

In a letter to his wife, he says: “My children are all equally to me, I pray God to bless them and make them virtuous. I shall say nothing about this place…. The house in town and garden had cost me about 500 pounds, a vast sum in my situation. I beg you pardon….. and I entreat my children to excuse me….. for bringing ruin to you all…. My intentions were upright, thought to have saved my country, I have acted an honest part…… my hart is melted when I think of you, my guardian angel, and it’s a pleasant reflection for me to think that, whatever will become of me, my children lose nothing as long as God spares you for them. My most excellent wife, my dear Amelia, farewell”.

 But January 1747, Lady Murray sold all the furniture at Tullibardine – where the family had Lord George settled down to a quite existence after all the excitements of battles. He received from his exiled King James 400 luires (that’s ₤ 200) a month. He lived a s an almost solitary figure in his dignity and aloofness. Too proud ever asking his King favours for himself, and only accepted anything that James bestowed as acknowledging the merit of his past services and testifying to the rectitude of his character.
He wandered around Holland, living in Utrecht – to see his youngest have military training for a regiment of Saxon grenadiers - Rotterdam, Amsterdam and finally at Medemblik.

The dragging years crawled by, with scarce an incident save a change of residence. The visit that some exiled Perthshire gentlemen brought him must have cheered him up.
 

At Medemblik, October 10th 1760, lady Murray wrote to her son James (the future Duke of Atholl): “Dear Son, …. My dearest friend was not at all well Thursday night last….  God pity me, I have small hopes”. Another letter, October 12th says: “ Your father turned worse and worse, and at four o’clock of the 11th in the morning it pleased God to take him….. God only knows my sad and afflicted heart, and disconsolate situation in the loss of so kind and affectionate and inestimable Friend and Husband, but I shall not insist upon this so deeply affecting subject…… my dearest and best life is to be interred in the Church here upon Tuesday, at which will be present some of his acquaintances of Amsterdam, and all the people of any fashion in this place, of whom he was much regarded while living by those who knew him, and now extremely regretted that he is no more”.

 

So here he died, at Medemblik, far from home and kin. A great man, true in his principles, a devoted husband, an affectionate father; deserving the description the Highlanders gave him:
”an duine firinneach”….. The righteous gentleman.

 


 

A bit of a sad story, leaving a mourning family and a mourning Scotland.
But surely not for long. The Scots after the defeat of Culloden, didn’t surrender to sentimental grief but turned itself instead into the most dynamically modernizing society in Europe the second half of the 18th century.  Adam Smith was right: they didn’t need the Hanoverians at all. Scotland made her own plans and her own commerce, creating her own markets. Industries grew – beginning with the opening of the sulphuric acid plant at Prestonpans 1749 - blackface and Cheviot sheep and Highland cattle, with kelp, slate, wool whisky and smoked fish, supplied the burgeoning markets of the Lowlands and English towns. Glasgow grew rich off the transatlantic tobacco trade, and great merchant capitalists like John Glassford and Alexander Speirs became some of the most economically powerful men in Britain. A growing and profitable trade with America, capitalized other sectors of economy: glassmaking, sugar refining, linen weaving.

The flowering cities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow – the hotbed of genius – brought a new generation of philosophers; brushing away the cobwebs of sentiment. Just at the time English tourists were beginning to come north and ruminate soulfully in the Scottish tragedy on windswept moors and misty-shrouded lochs.

The new Scottish culture was turned into an empire of hard facts, temple of gospel of modernity. 

The progress of Britain, material, moral and intellectual was to be found in Scotland.

“Its one of histories sweetest ironies that it fell to Scotland, bloodied, mutilated, Scotland to show Britannia the way ahead” (Simon Schama: history of Britain).

 Lord Murray can be proud of it.

Wijke Ruiter

 

 

With thanks to:       Mr. A.F. Cameron, Blairgowrie

Mr. J.  Beek, Medemblik

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