Stones and Bones.

My former professor is kind enough to occasionally forward me stray enquiries to the Scottish History department at Edina. I’ll look forward to seeing him again in the fall, if even for a brief chat and a cup of tea. In answering this latest query about the memorial cairn at Culloden, I reflected upon permanent tributes to significant events and significant people, and how few of these are erected in our modern age. When I see them, they take me out of myself for a moment. They make me think about why they are there, and about what came before.


It has been a couple of years since my work on the field now, and in the most recent push for money that the National Trust has lodged, it’s come up with a scheme to memorialize kind patrons with engraved paving stones leading up to the new Visitors’ Centre that is currently being built there. I thought I’d continue my support of that very hallowed of places by purchasing a stone for hermiston and me, who have so much reverence for the location and what happened there. But there’s a catch. I don’t really care to be memorialized for patronizing such a cause, as this is the most inappropriate place for an ego thing. Strangely, it’s also wise for aspiring scholars to stay removed from what might wrongly be perceived as public displays of politicking.

Instead, we’ve arranged to have our stone engraved with the aliases of two Jacobite exiles, Laurence Oliphant of Gask the Younger and his father the Elder, names they took on during the six months they hid in Aberdeenshire just after the Culloden debacle. Attainted peerage who eventually had to escape to Sweden at the forfeit of their estate, their story turns hopeful as they returned to Scotland and were allowed to live in peace once again in 1763. They were both present at Culloden in 1746, and now they’ve come full circle in memorialization. We’re hoping some well-read scholars of the period will pick up on this little obscure gem of commemoration, and perhaps get a chuckle out of it if they’re sharp and remember their peerage.

Mr White – DSL
Mr Brown – KRG

We don’t do enough tributes in this day and age. And I don’t mean a Justin Timberlake cover of The Door’s “Come On Baby Light My Fire” as a nod to Morrisson’s arguable brilliance. There are few monolithic records left to important people or places anymore, few statues or cenotaphs erected in the modern world, urban or rural, and seemingly a near dearth of memorials commemorating important turning points as our rapidly passing now becomes history. If they’re there, I don’t see them. Unless they’re in a graveyard, where we all get our markers eventually.



31 Responses to “Stones and Bones.”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    August 12th, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    If it's memorials you want, you should take a trip out to Washington DC. You wan barely walk 5 blocks without stumbling over one. 😉
    How long do you think it takes before something can be recognized as important enough to merit a memorial? There are Civil War, and older American monuments scattered all over the East Coast. I can think of a number that commemorate events from the 1960s and 1970s – the Vietnam Memorial in DC, MLK monuments all over the place, and I'd say JFK's grave is as much a monument as a grave – but other than the in-progress 9/11 memorial/park/new WTC buildings in NY I'm hard pressed to think of any more recent events that have national memorials. There are a number of highways, airports, etc named for more recent figures, notably Reagan National Airport in DC. Maybe it just takes us a while to realize that something was historically important? Someday will we have a Gloria Steinum memorial coin? Or a monument to those judges who first legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts? Will memorials be added near the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials to commemorate the Gulf War and… whatever this current war is called?

  2. marasca Says:
    August 12th, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    Er, sorry, that last comment was me. I somehow got logged out.

  3. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    I'm glad to know that our nation's capital is filled with national monuments and memorials, but I'd hope there are also reminders of more plebeian characters and events, as well. To me, those are the glimpses into history that suck me in, that I can identify with, and which make me a part of the living timeline.
    You raise some good questions here: how long will it take to consider something worthy of memorialization, and how will we do it from this point forward? Is it now a matter of course to attach Presidential names to institutions and objects, even if the namesakes don't deserve the station they commandeered?

  4. darkstones Says:
    August 13th, 2006 at 3:21 am

    The debate on memorials in the Highlands raises some interesting points.
    I wonder if anyone would get plannng permission to build something like the Wallace monument nowadays?

  5. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    A great link, thanks. I had been keeping up with the debate on the BBC, but this is a far more complete resource. This, my favorite excerpt:
    The MCofS has produced this statement on mountain memorials to stimulate further thought and debate on the issue, and to encourage more people into taking proactive action to ensure they do not become the reason for a future memorial.
    The Wallace Monument: never. Instead, they'll just inundate us with terrible statues of Mel Gibson. 😉

  6. darkstones Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Glad you found the link useful. I pray for the day that transparent aluminium is discovered and virtually invisible electricity pylons, chairlifts and wind turbines can be constructed wherever necessary 😉

  7. handworn Says:
    August 13th, 2006 at 6:33 am

    I agree about memorials. Do they put bones in this cairn, though? I imagine some turn up from time to time on the battlefield.

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 10:50 pm

    It’s a memorial cairn, not a sepulcher, so there won’t be anything inside but stone and earth. The post-battle clean-up was pretty thorough; I don’t think there have been any stray remains unearthed, but for those in the clan graves and in the Field of the English. Exhumations have been illegal there since it was declared a protected site. I’m waiting for a contact from Tony Pollard, who is currently leading an excavation there, so we’ll find out a bit more quite soon.

  9. handworn Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 8:19 pm

    What, if anything, does he expect to, or hope to, learn?
    What with this and this, my interest in the place and time and cause has been re-piqued. Is there one good really readable book about the battle and its aftermath? I really like the bit about the aliases you mention, if that's any clue to my taste.

  10. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 10:33 pm

    As we touched upon some months back, Pollard is in charge of the archaeological facet of the National Trust's reinterpretation of Culloden, currently being undertaken near Inverness. From what I understand to be true, he's reassessing the Government lines and expanding the search for artifacts in the Field of the English. I don't know if this includes exhumations, but it would be the first time human remains have been concerned in decades, were that the case. He's set to give a free lecture in Edinburgh next month on his findings, which I'll be missing by mere weeks, but I hope to obtain a transcript of his report, to be compared with current knowledge about the field and the antiquated Trust signage. Reluctantly, I'll say that I'm disappointed with how the media has portrayed the project thusfar, but you already know this.
    For books, I'll recommend the following on the battle, specifically:
    • Black, Jeremy. Culloden and the ’45 (London, Grange Books, 1990).
    • Duffy, Christopher. The ’45 – Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising (London, Castell, 2003).
    • Prebble, John. Culloden (Middlesex, Penguin Books, 1967).
    • Reid, Stuart. 1745 – A Military History of the Last Jacobite Rising (Kent, Spellmount, 1996).
    • Reid, Stuart. Like Hungry Wolves – Culloden Moor, 16 April, 1746 (London, Windrow & Green, 1994).
    This should get you started well on the military history, at least, though I'll be happy to point you to other aspects of the rising if you like. Of these, Black's is perhaps the most scholarly, while Duffy's is exhaustive and aligns more with Reid's view of things, minus the latter's obvious bias against the Jacobites. Prebble is a popular historian who writes in a narrative, novelized style.
    The dirk on eBay is splendid. I wish you luck on bidding if you decide to take the plunge. A fine artifact, indeed!

  11. handworn Says:
    August 16th, 2006 at 6:43 am

    Thanks so much for the recs; I'm going to try some. Probably the Prebble book to start; small children don't leave me the energy for much scholarly reading, right about now.
    Though this now piques my interest; do you agree with the seller about the age & origin of the dirk? Is there a well-illustrated book on weapons of the '45 somewhere?

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 16th, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    Well, the seller doesn't really offer much except 'early to mid-eighteenth-century'. I'm certainly no expert on weapons of the period, but it's entirely possible it's from that era. The pommel would be the best indicator, I'd think, and it looks in line with what I've seen thusfar. Appraisal would be an easy matter, once obtained.
    As for books on period weapons, I'd check out the now out-of-print Culloden – The Swords and the Sorrows (National Trust for Scotland, 1996), which has full-color reproductions of a plenitude of arms and more that were actually found on the field. Can't beat it.

  13. handworn Says:
    August 17th, 2006 at 6:09 am

    That sounds great. I've put in a standing eBay search for it, as the only two used copies available were about $70 apiece. Pricy book, but it sounds like exactly what I'm after.

  14. dirtbaby Says:
    August 13th, 2006 at 8:27 am

    How about a simple "Elroy was here"

  15. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 13th, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    <img src="; alt="Kilroy"><img src="; alt="Elroy">
    Surely you mean Kilroy? Then again, the implications of the first are absolutely immense.

  16. dirtbaby Says:
    August 13th, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    That's right. Kilroy. That is what I get for spending the entire weekend drunk.

  17. hermiston Says:
    August 14th, 2006 at 3:53 am

    We don't get statues very much any more, do we? Auld Lady Di got a park, with a man-made stream in it.
    I think our stone is great. It's playful and it hints towards the larger picture. The aspiring scholar does have to retain professional distance. We'll enjoy hunting for Murray's tribute – it's bound to be there somewhere(!) What will the other stones be like? Who else will go in for this? Will people end up going to Culloden and taking time reading through twenty-first century tributes without getting anywhere near the Leanach enclosure. In time these stones will become part of the history of that place too, in some way. Cullodne's more than a battlefield. It sits in the concious of Scotland, rightly or wrongly. It's also where people go to walk there dogs; where people work; where tourists visit. It's a commodity – Scotland sells it.

  18. catness Says:
    August 14th, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    near dearth experience
    your solution is very apt
    like 🙂

  19. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    I was also thinking Murry will surely have a stone somewhere. Precious!
    The ol' man himself is coming to Berkeley next month for a conference on Scottish Romanticism in modern literature. I've mailed him in hopes he has a moment to sit down and chat about the Jacobite Trust, which appears to now be disbursing…

  20. hermiston Says:
    August 16th, 2006 at 3:45 am

    That's fantastic news and Murray would be the best person to align with if you're thinking of pitching (which I hope you are, but fear you cannot). Surely you would be able to take it to Edinburgh or Aberdeen [ 😉 ] and not England just because that's where Murray and Eveline are. Who else is involved?

  21. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 18th, 2006 at 10:01 am

    Just got a mail back; looks like the first Jacobite Studies Trust symposium will be at the British Academy in July of next year. Shall we plan an outing, then? I'll get the skinny on the rest of the board members and let you know after the conference here in early September.
    Murry says that Szechi is abandoning Auburn to join him at Manchester, and that he's working on a much-expanded new edition of Myth. Are we ready to pull out our highlighter pens again? (As if you ever had put yours away…)

  22. hermiston Says:
    August 19th, 2006 at 3:49 am

    Hmm, do I find this pleasing? I was hoping that either or both would find their way North. Looks like the Northern England rising has *finally* got under way!

  23. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 19th, 2006 at 8:38 am

    Ha! You're a clever man!

  24. Anonymous Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 9:58 am

    Great idea
    I think that's a great idea, clearly they are going to make some moeny but not a lot and a stone seems to me to be very Scottish. I like it and the names of the exiles. Well done.
    Yellow Book Holder

  25. dichroicynosure Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    Who would be on your top 10 list for commemoration? This post got me thinking about who is and isn't commemorated these days…
    I always liked that photo

  26. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 15th, 2006 at 7:01 pm

    Top 10 remain to be seen. But certainly not any of our recent fucking presidents, I'll tell you that.
    I'll give you five statues that I'd be ecstatic to see, with room for history to make the other half.
    1) Onnie Lea Bernstein
    2) Howard Zinn
    3) Tom Waits
    4) My therapist
    5) <lj user="hermiston">

  27. hermiston Says:
    August 16th, 2006 at 3:54 am

    Aww shucks you're a suckup! Where would one's statue go? I can't see it happening but if I become Lord Provost of this grey city I'll at least have my portrait in the Town House (for better or for worse).

  28. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 16th, 2006 at 10:15 am

    Well, with your birthday coming up and all…
    Suckup, nothing! I only want to see you in stone so I can surreptitiously place traffic cones on yer heid, man.

  29. hermiston Says:
    August 19th, 2006 at 3:50 am

    wha's like us?

  30. scothen_krau Says:
    August 16th, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    I feel much the same. Part of it I attribute to the mediocre and transitory attitude of our times. Another part is that the cost of public edifaces has risen in the wake of ever higher property values and tighter public budgeting. Lastly, I think that modern memorials are somewhat trapped in the "Post-Wall" (meaning the Vietnam War Memorial) mentality, which while sometimes powerful, often muddles the message (example: one could walk through Yerba Buena Gardens a hundred times and not be aware of the MLK memorial at its heart.)

  31. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 16th, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    I think you've really explained this well, and I agree with all of your reasons. It's just not our way anymore: one more cultural anachronism that we've replaced with more pressing things – mainly, the need to live fast and get as much stuff as you can, and then wink out and become little more than a memory. Keeps the cash flowing and the economy upright, you know.
    Mediocre, indeed.

Leave a Reply