Tribute in Falkirk to a fallen Jacobite paladin

Ranald MacDonnell, current chief of the MacDonnells of Glengarry, with Lady Glengarry, studies the newly-unveiled plaque outside the Old Church commemorating the tragic death of his ancestor.''In the background piper Sandy MacDonnell plays a lament.
Ranald MacDonnell, current chief of the MacDonnells of Glengarry, with Lady Glengarry, studies the newly-unveiled plaque outside the Old Church commemorating the tragic death of his ancestor.''In the background piper Sandy MacDonnell plays a lament.

Falkirk shoppers were met yesterday with the sound of a pibroch lament and the sight of a dignified gathering at the Old Church - many wearing the Jacobite white cockade.

The ceremony on High Street was to mark a 1746 Jacobite tragedy which until now has never been publicly marked in the High Street, where it happened.

Now, outside the Old Church, there is a plaque commemorating the death of the 20-year-old chieftain Young MacDonnell of Glengarry - killed the day after the Battle of Falkirk by an accidental shot from a clansman on his own side who was cleaning his musket.

On the previous day MacDonnell had led the 800-strong Glengarry regiment to victory against the Hanoverian army, in the largest battle of the Jacobite wars - also the Jacobites’ last victory.

Yesterday’s ceremony saw Ranald MacDonnell, 23rd Chief of the MacDonnells of Glengarry, lay a wreath at his grave, which is within the tomb of medieval freedom fighter John de Graeme (who died in the 1298 Battle of Falkirk).

A short commemorative service was conducted by Rev. Canon Dr Robert Harley, Honorary Chaplain to The 1745 Association.

In a short but moving speech, Ranald MacDonnell told the gathering of the tragic effects the death had spelled both for the family and the wider Jacobite cause.

This was because the man responsible for the fatal accident was from Clanranald, and the Glengarry men had demanded his execution in reprisal - duly carried out by his own clan.

The incident and its aftermath cast a pall of gloom over the Jacobite army, and some argue it began the disintegration of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s now faltering cause.

Ranald MacDonnell, accompanied by Lady MacDonnell, unveiled a plaque outside Falkirk Trinity Church to commemorate this incident from the town’s stormy past that few will have heard of until now.

Earlier Glen MacDonald of The 1745 Association had told the gathering in the church hall how the fatal shot had come to be fired - and how the mortally wounded Aeneas MacDonnell had vainly urged his men not to take any retribution against the culprit.

The Association provided the newly-installed plaque outside the church, and later staged a tour of an under-construction Battlefield Walk on the original site above the town which - set for completion in early summer - will explain the Battle of Falkirk “on the ground” for the first time.

During yesterday’s tour Geoff Bailey, author of “Falkirk or Paradise” - said to be the best account of the battle yet written - spelled out the horror and confusion of the freezing January day when Falkirk Muir became a brutal scene of carnage.