Where Eagles Dare.

We take advantage of clear skies in this city as much as we take them for granted back home. The final weeks of my initial research were nicely broken up yesterday with a pleasant ride up Arthur’s Seat, weaving through counter-intuitive traffic streams…if I didn’t have my guide, I would surely be dead.

I’ve never been to the vestigial volcanic behemoth that shadows Edinburgh before today. The brief excursion reminded me of the openness and beauty that lies just on the outskirts of the city–not often seen by the busy student, but easily rectified with whiny, pleading missives to my dear friends and Keepers of the Cannondale.

We paused for a moment from our rocky aerie, looking out to the east toward the rolling hills of East Lothian. The Firth was still and calm, and patchy, evil clouds threatened to hinder short bursts of the sun’s futile expressions. Ten miles east jutted the twin stacks of the Cockenzie power station, a modern mnemonic of the battle of Prestonpans, which heralded the hidden strengths of the Jacobite army and showed Westminster that the rising would not be simply a flash in the pan. From our lofty position, I wondered if scouts from Charles’s army could see the government troops under Cope massing in the distance. Directly below us, I thought we could slide right into the quaint village of Duddingston, where the Jacobite army was encamped during their brief occupation of Edinburgh in the autumn of 1745. Once again, being here sheds a whole different light on my studies. It makes it real, and I can really grasp certain historical variables that the benefit of proximity bestows. I could never have done this from California.

Next time, there shall be pictures. Please forgive the lack of foresight.

On another, deadly serious, note, I listened carefully for the first time today to a song by Styrofoam, which I highly recommend. “Forever, You Said Forever” is the only song I’ve ever heard that has sampled in it an all-too-real breakup conversation and ensuing row. It is so effective–such a human moment juxtaposed with the clicking and whirring machanics of the soundtrack–that it took me all morning to stop shuddering.

9 Responses to “Where Eagles Dare.”

  1. dangerine Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 10:38 am

    thanks for the music recommendation
    sounds grand
    email me with an address where i can send you a mixed cd at some point in the near future

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 2:17 pm

    Re: !!
    Comin' right up.

  3. dougygyro Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 12:15 pm

    I sooo wish I could be there with you right now…
    It's really quite ironic that for someone who has done more than a smattering of historical reading and studies, I've never hopped the pond. I need to fix this, most likely after I graduate from SFSU I'll get over there and actually see these places I've read about. But, by then you probably will be back here and I won't have the benefit of a like-minded tour guide, eh?
    I can only imagine what standing at Prestonpans would be like. Is the boggy marsh still there? Is it true that the line from that ubiquitous song is about there being a coal mine nearby?

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 2:44 pm

    YesYes, you do. And soon!
    I don't know what the future holds right now for myself, but you might consider coming out for a brief spell early this summer before the Festival. You can book cheap student tickets through STA Travel, and of course you'd have a place to stay. Can't think of a better person to geek out with at all the sites.
    Regarding Prestonpans, most the battlefield area lies the crux of a conglomeration of towns (Cockenzie, Preston, Prestonpans, Seaton, and Tranent) but the field itself is kind of inaccessible (though viewable from a earthen mound) and rather grown-over and industrialized. Certain landmarks are still there, but you can't pick out the bog or railroad leading to the old coal mine anymore.
    See Bruce Lenman's The Jacobite Risings in Britain 1689-1745, pg. 255 for detail of the bog crossing, and Stuart Reid's Culloden Moor, pgs. 9-14 for a brief retelling of the battle.
    This picture shows the field in its current state, from my trip there in 2000. The little tree right underneath the middle tower is the site of Gardiner's mortal wound.
    Another shows another shot of the modern industrialization of the area, a little to the west of the first picture. That's still the field, below.

  5. shawree Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 4:27 pm

    Have you been to Culloden yet? I went three years ago, in February, so roughly at the same time of the year the battle happened. The weather was really dreary, and most of the area is covered in gorse that's at least hip-high. Imagine having to charge across that – only "protected" by a plaid, no less… *wince*
    The "No dogs on the battlefield" signs are a serious anachronism though. :/

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 5:02 pm

    Yes, I have been to Culloden, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. We spent about four hours in the rain on the moor and then went back again at midnight to soak in the solitude and reverence.
    Here I am at the Cameron stone., around 12:30 am.
    The battle actually happened in the middle of April, but I'm sure the weather was similar to what you described when you went in February. According to historical archaeologists, the field in 1746 was much different than it is now. The foliage is much more overgrown at present and there were no trees in the eighteenth century. As well, as Stuart Reid has been claiming for some time, the actual position of the hostilities may now be in doubt.

  7. shawree Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 5:51 pm

    Nice pic!
    Yeah, I know the battle happened in April, but there really isn't that much difference in between February and April in Scottish weather. I did wonder how anyone could get through those bushes at any speed worth mentioning as the site claims they've tried to regrow the vegetation as close to the state it was in at the time of the battle as possible; that explains it. I'm not surprised the assumed site is a Victorian invention though, it's not the only myth the Victorians created.
    – And now back to a more appropriate occupation for a Friday night. Where's that booze gone?!

  8. Anonymous Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 10:19 pm

    Where Eagles Dare
    Hi there,
    Wow! Thanks for posting the link about the Culloden research. I was all set to add, "But…*burned alive*??" when I remembered that I own a copy of John Prebble's "Culloden" — never mind that I haven't been able to bear to reread it in 20 years — so I leafed through the chapter on Drummossie Muir, and almost the first thing I saw was the story of Mrs. Robertson of Inshes, returning to her home to find bodies in the back garden. Thanks for reminding me that the Western world really has made some progress in 250 years. I've taken a virtual tour of the East Brothers Light Station (the B&B on an island near the San Rafael Bridge), but navigating Culloden will be something else…

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 22nd, 2003 at 4:27 am

    Re: Where Eagles Dare
    Glad you like. It's also quite accepted now – as I'm sure you know – archeological and historical evidence suggests that Leanach was nothing more than a British field hospital, rather than the fanciful oven used to burn wounded and hiding Jacobites alive. This would make sense as it was well behind British lines at the time of the battle.
    Of course, Prebble's book is a good introduction, but not a satisfying scholarly work by any means. Peter Watkins's Culloden documentary is based solely upon Prebble's book, and while an *amazing* bit of film, illustrates some glaring opinionations from research in the 1960s and before.

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