Subscribe to Scotiana's blog RSS feed in your preferred reader!

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter
    June 2020
    S M T W T F S
    « May    


    Follow Me on Pinterest

    Prestonpans Tapestry: the Prince who loved flowers…


    Brownsbank MacDiarmid cottage near Biggar © 2013 Scotiana

    Brownsbank MacDiarmid cottage near Biggar © 2013 Scotiana

    The rose of all the world is not for me
    I want for my part
    Only the little white rose of Scotland
    That smells sharp and sweet
    And breaks the heart

    (Hugh McDiarmid)

    MacDiarmid The little white rose poem at Brownsbank © 2013 Scotiana

    MacDiarmid The little white rose poem at Brownsbank © 2013 Scotiana

    Hi everybody,

    The name of Bonnie Prince Charlie is often associated with the little white rose which became the emblem of the Jacobites at the time of the 1745 rebellion but also with the morning glory calystegia soldanella, a kind of bindweed also known as ‘the Prince’s Flower’.


    Bonnie Prince Charlie statue Glenfinnan monument © 2007 Scotiana

    Bonnie Prince Charlie statue Glenfinnan monument © 2007 Scotiana

    My title sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale but, though it has been much romanticized, the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie is far from being a fairy tale, ending in the blood bath of Culloden with tragic and long-lasting consequences for the Scottish nation.  The rising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie aka the ‘Young Pretender’was the last Jacobite attempt to regain the British thrown lost by James VII, his grandfather, during the 1888 Glorious Revolution which overthrew the catholic Stuart dynasty.  Bonnie Prince Charlie’s father James VIII aka the ‘Old Pretender’ had himself led a rebellion in 1715 but he had failed.  The  Young Pretender’s rising appears to have been a risky adventure after the fleet of his French allies had been definitely neutralized during a naval battle but the Prince’s courage and tenacity led him to hold on and to rally many people to his cause. His fight had its justifications and it could have been won…

    The Scottish Prestonpans Tapestry focuses on the glorious side of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s story.  Along its 104 panels we follow the Prince’s journey from Italy to France and from France to Scotland up to the great victory of Prestonpans. To an observant eye each panel reveals its little secrets and we can find there a great number of very interesting details about Scotland. The result is fascinating and very lively, like in the Bayeux Tapestry which has influenced the Scottish artists in their creation of the three Scottish tapestries: The Prestonpans Tapestry (2010), The Great Tapestry of Scotland (2013) and the Diaspora Tapestry which should be completed in 2014.

    Today I will focus on panels 8 and 28 which illustrate Bonnie Prince Charlie’s love of flowers.

    The Prince first landed on a lovely little beach in Eriskay, a small island situated in the Outer Hebrides, south of Barra and North of South Uist.

    Prestonpans Tapestry Panel 8 The Prince comes ashore at Eriskay © 2013 Scotiana

    Panel 8: ‘Du Teillay anchors and the Prince as a priest comes ashore’.

    The Prince first came ashore, still in his disguise, on the small island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on July 23rd1745. As he walked on the strand some seeds which the Prince had earlier collected in France fell from his pocket onto the beach. Over the centureies they gave that strand a flower that is to this day known locally as Prince Charlie’s Rose – a pink sea-bindweed flower with a white stripe whose botanical name is calystegia soldanella. The beach is always called The Prince’s ‘cockleshell’ Strand in commemoration of his first landfall in Scotland.

    This panel was quite properly stitched in the Hall on Eriskay by Sue MacDonald and Neilina MacInnes with the indispensable support of Helen MacLean, Christine Mitchell and Lena MacLellan who travelled over the Causeway from Uist each winter Thursday regardless of the weather – not for Whisky Galore but Earl Grey tea. ‘We five got together after the BattleBus came to Eriskay in July 2009. In return for the embroidery tuition provided by the Uist Girls, we entertained them with the Eriskay news and our social calendar!!’ [Just as it should be – Moran Taing Eriskay.]

    (The Prestonpans Tapestry 1745 – Burke’s Peerage & Gentry 2010)

    In the background of the panel we can see the Du Teillay, the  Prince’s French frigate (a 18-gunner)  at anchor off the island of Eriskay and in the foreground the longboat which carried the Prince, ‘The Seven Men of Moidart’ and a few crewmen from the ship to the little beach,  with its rocks and vegetation. The Prince,  in his priest disguise, is throwing seeds on the beach which will become nice pink sea-bindweed flowers,  like those which are nicely embroidered on the tapestry:  ‘calystegia soldanella’ aka ‘Prince’s flowers’.


    The edges of this panel are finely embroidered with motifs symbolizing the  island of Eriskay:  ponies, the ‘Whisky Galore’barrels, blackhouses and also the colourful little logos of the embroiderers.



    Calystegia soldanella - The Prince's Flower Wikipedia

    The morning glory Calystegia soldanella (syn. Convolvulus soldanella) is a species of bindweed known by various common names such as seashore false bindweed, shore bindweed, shore convolvulus and beach morning glory. It is a perennial vine which grows in beach sand and other coastal habitats in temperate regions across the world. It is also known as ‘The Prince’s Flower’ after Prince Charles Edward Stuart who sowed it on the Island of Eriskay,Scotland, when he landed there in 1745 to lead the Jacobite rising.[E. Dwelly Gaelic Dictionary (1911) (Wikipedia)


    Eriskay ponies in South Uist Outer Hebrides © 2004 Scotiana

    Eriskay ponies in South Uist Outer Hebrides © 2004 Scotiana

    The Eriskay Pony is a breed of pony from Scotland. It is generally grey in colour, and has a dense, waterproof coat that protects it in harsh weather. The breed developed in ancient times in the Hebrides islands in Scotland, and a small population remained pure and protected from crossbreeding by the remoteness of the islands. It is used for light draught work, as a mount for children, in many equestrian disciplines, and for driving. The breed is rare today, with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust considering their status critical. There are two breed registries for the Eriskay, the first formed in 1971 and the second in 1986.  Source: Wikipedia


    The little white rose of Scotland © 2007 Scotiana

    The little white rose of Scotland Thirlestane Castle © 2007 Scotiana


    The rose has often been used as an emblem and the little white rose became a Jacobite and later a nationalist emblem as  expressed in  MacDiarmid’s poem. Hugh MacDiarmid was one of the founders of the SNP  (Scottish Nationalist Party).


    The Prestonpans Tapestry panel 28 The Prince's white rose © 2013 Scotiana

    The Prestonpans Tapestry panel 28 The Prince’s white rose © 2013 Scotiana



    28. The Prince Stays overnight at Fassfern and picks a white rose – August 23-24th

    The Prince’s stay overnight at Fassfern saw John Cameron, Lochiel’s brother and Fassfern’s owner, deliberately absent. When the Prince arose next morning outside his bedroom window he saw the most beautiful white roses, one of which he picked and placed in his bonnet. Seeing him do this, the clansmen with him found many more white roses in the gardens and did likewise. Henceforth throughout the campaign the white rose, or white cockade, was to be the emblem of support for the Prince. Continuing their march, the Highlanders moved across the High Bridge and on to Laggan, where Donald MacDonnel of Lochgarry joined with another 400 clansmen.

    ‘I resolved to join in this embroidery project as I had been very interested in watching the annual re-enactments of the Battle. I have thoroughly enjoyed stitching my panel and feel that it is a great honour to be part of history.’ (Simone Cunningham, the Scottish lady who embroidered panel 28)

    (The Prestonpans Tapestry 1745 – Burke’s Peerage & Gentry 2010)


    Welcome to Eriskay road sign © 2004 Scotiana

    Welcome to Eriskay road sign © 2004 Scotiana

    We went to the Outer Hebrides  in 2004 and keep wonderful memories of the wild and rugged beauty of the place. After visiting Vatersay and Barra we took a little ferry to reach Eriskay.  A causeway now links Eriskay to South Uist.

    Among the personalities who left their marks in these islands I’ve chosen Compton Mackenzie, a very popular Scottish writer whose most famous book Whisky Galore (Whisky à gogo in French) tells the story of a wreckage.


    Compton Mackenzie's grave Isle of Barra Outer Hebrides © 2004 Scotiana

    Compton Mackenzie’s grave Isle of Barra Outer Hebrides © 2004 Scotiana

    Compton Mackenzie is buried on the Isle of Barra,  in an ancient graveyard not far from the house he had built.


    WhiskyGalore Compton Mackenzie 1st edition 1947

    WhiskyGalore Compton Mackenzie 1st edition 1947

    Whisky Galore is a novel written by Compton Mackenzie, published in 1947. It was adapted for the cinema under the title Whisky Galore!, released in the United States as Tight Little Island.

    During World War II, a cargo vessel (S.S. Cabinet Minister) is wrecked off a remote fictional Scottish island group — Great Todday and Little Todday — with fifty thousand cases of whisky aboard. Due to wartime rationing, the thirsty islanders had nearly run out of the “water of life” and see this as an unexpected godsend. They manage to salvage several hundred cases before the ship sinks. But it is not all clear sailing. They must thwart the efforts of the authorities to confiscate the liquor, particularly in the shape of misguided, pompous English Home Guard Captain Paul Waggett. A cat-and-mouse battle of wits ensues.

    Although the wreck and the escapades over the whisky are at the centre of the story, there is also a lot of background detail about life in the Outer Hebrides, including e.g. culture clashes between the Protestant island of Great Todday and the Roman Catholic island of Little Todday. (Mackenzie based the geography of these islands on Barra and Eriskay respectively, but in real life they are both Catholic islands). There are various sub-plots, e.g. two couples who are planning to get married. Source: Wikipedia


    A rocky beach near the place of landing of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Eriskay, Outer Hebrides,  1745 © 2004 Scotiana

    A rocky beach in Eriskay © 2004 Scotiana

    A lovely little beach, with pink sand and rocks, not far from the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie first landed in Scotland.

    Eriskay Caution otters crossing road sign © 2004 Scotiana

    Eriskay Caution otters crossing road sign © 2004 Scotiana

    Not only princes cross the place 😉

    St Michael's Church in Eriskay © 2004 Scotiana

    St Michael’s Church in Eriskay © 2004 Scotiana

    The Roman Catholic church of St. Michael’s sits on a hill overlooking the main village on Eriskay. It celebrated its centenary in 2003, having been built by Father Allan MacDonald in 1903. The site of the old church is marked by a memorial garden with a statue of the Virgin Mary, overlooking the Sound of Barra. (Wikipedia)


    The altar in St Michael's church in Eriskay © 2004 Scotiana.

    The altar in St Michael’s church in Eriskay © 2004 Scotiana.

    On entering this picturesque little church we immediately feel the peaceful, catholic atmosphere,  not so austere as in a protestant church…

    The altar, with its boat shape, celebrates the island’s traditional fishing activity. It was designed by Father Calum MacNeill,  a former parish priest .

    Eriskay causeway Outer Hebrides Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    Eriskay causeway © 2004 Scotiana

    A causeway now linkd Eriksay to South Uist.

    Cat on the thatched roof of a black house in South Uist © 2004 Scotiana

    Cat on the thatched roof of a black house in South Uist © 2004 Scotiana

    ‘Roderick MacDonald took shelter from the wind in the granite-strewn hollows near the sea, hoping to catch sight of the ferry boat that would carry him back to his father’s croft on South Uist. In his heart, he knew that the severe weather would force him to spend another night in Angus MacDonald’s dwelling, a smoke-filled ‘black house’ formed of granite boulders so well fitted that there was no need of mortar to keep out the elements. With its sod roof battened down by ropes weighted with stones it was a snug, if crude, dwelling house.’

    (The White Rose and the Thorn Tree – Roy Pugh Cuthill Press 2008)

    The White Rose and the Thorn Tree Roy Pugh Cuthill Press 2008

    The White Rose and the Thorn Tree Roy Pugh Cuthill Press 2008

    I’ve just bought a book about a very popular and beloved figure of Eriskay.

    Father Allan Roger Hutchinson Birlinn Ltd

    Father Allan Roger Hutchinson Birlinn Ltd

    Father Allan A compelling tale of a remarkable life this story is also one that is implicitly tied in with the history of the north-west Highlands in the late nineteenth century and the Catholic Hebrides in their transcendent prime, where culture overflows with myth and adventure, colour, character and extraordinary unspoilt beauty.

    MacDonald was born in Fort William, Scotland, the son of a tavern keeper, and was descended from the MacDonalds of Keppoch. Prior to entering seminary, this future Gaelic scholar spoke only English. He was educated at the Scottish College of San Ambrosio in Valladolid, Spain. He was ordained to the priesthood at Glasgow by Bishop Eyre on 9 July 1884. He served as a priest in Oban before being assigned to Daliburgh, South Uist. The island of Eriskay, located across the bay, was also in his care. When sick calls on Eriskay were required, MacDonald would trudge down to the beach and light a bonfire as a signal to the Eriskay fisherman to come and ferry him across.


    Folklore collector

    MacDonald began collecting folklore when he was assigned to Oban shortly after his ordination. With the assistance of a parishioner from the Isle of Lewis, MacDonald collected several Pre-Reformation liturgical hymns in Scottish Gaelic. He supplemented these with several of his own compositions and translations, which were subsequently used in South Uist and Eriskay until the aftermath of Vatican II. MacDonald, a lifelong admirer of the Jacobite movement, was an expert in the history of the uprising in 1745.  His manuscripts are still preserved and, although unpublished, remain a rich source of Highland folklore and history. MacDonald supplied much material that was published by Ada Goodrich Freer who was commissioned to investigate second sight in the Scottish Highlands and Islands by the Society for Psychical Research in 1894-5.[1]


    MacDonald’s poetry is mainly religious in nature, as would be expected from one of his calling. He composed hymns and verse in honour of the Blessed Virgin, the Christ Child, and the Eucharist. However, several secular poems and songs were also composed by him. In some of these, MacDonald praises the beauty of Eriskay and its people. In his verse drama, The Old Wives’ Parliament, he lampoons the gossiping of his female parishioners and local marriage customs. In The Campbell Wedding, a poem composed for the marriage of his housekeeper, Father Allan irately skewers the Campbells over the Massacre of Glencoe and for siding against the House of Stuart during the Jacobite wars. MacDonald’s secular verse, however, was written for his own amusement and, likely, was never meant to see publication. A bilingual anthology of the priest’s Gaelic verse, both religious and secular, was edited by Ronald Black. It was published in 2002 by Mungo Books, the Scottish imprint of Saint Austin Press.

    And now time to go to the cinema 😉 I’ve found two great videos to share with you !

    The first one is an extract of the black and white film based on the novel Whisky Galore.


    Whisky Galore! (released in the US as Tight Little Island) is a 1949 Ealing comedy film based on the novel Whisky Galore by Compton MacKenzie. Both the movie and the novel are based on the real-life 1941 shipwreck of the S.S. Politician near the island of Eriskay  and the unauthorized taking of its cargo of whisky. The plot deals with the attempts of Scottish islanders to take advantage of an unexpected windfall, despite opposition from British authorities. It starred Basil Radford, Bruce Seton, Joan Greenwood and Gordon Jackson. This was Alexander Mackendrick’s directorial debut. Mackenzie also wrote a sequel, Rockets Galore!, which was filmed by the Rank Organisation in 1957. An attempt was made to produce a remake of the film between 2004 and 2006.!_%28film%29


    The second one is entitled ‘Eriskay, a poem of remote lives’…



    A bientôt. Mairiuna




    Share this:
    Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

    Leave a Reply

    You can use these HTML tags

    <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.