We took part in today’s Global March for Elephants & Rhinos. The route went from the Meadows down to Princes Street. There were similar marches in many cities of the world to draw attention to the plight of these wonderful animals. Every day around 100 elephants in Africa are killed for their tusks, and the rhino situation is getting critical.
There are lots of berries on the bushes, just now.
And no-one seems to be picking them. I took the above snap of berries near Musselburgh the other day, on the path past the River Esk floodplain below Inveresk. As you can see, if you look closely (click on the image), hardly a single berry has been picked. I like cycling that track because it takes me past the site of the Roman temple at Inveresk.
It is perfect weather for cycling, just now in Scotland. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to tempt Fat Mac on to his bike, so today I went searching for the Riggonhead Defile by myself.
The Battle of Prestonpans took place on 21st Sept 1745. 271 years later to the day, by amazing coincidence rather than planning, I went cycling looking for the Riggonhead Defile down which the Jacobite army walked from Tranent, very early in the morning of the 21st, to outflank the British government forces led by Sir John Cope. Riggonhead Defile was a path through swampy ground which took the Jacobites down towards Port Seton, to the east of Cope’s army.
I have an old map of the battle sites of Pinkie (1547), and Prestonpans (1745) on the wall in our front room, with a ‘line of march’ past Riggonhead faintly marked. There’s a clearer map here. Here is a print showing the Jacobites at the top of the Defile. This map seems to show the path. Here is a description of the battle which mentions a path through the marshland. Here is a nice interactive map. Last year there was a reenactment of Riggonhead March.
I’m not sure where the reenactment went, last year, and there wasn’t a reenactment this year, or at least if there was one they had finished by the time I got there, but I couldn’t find the exact site of the original defile.
The tracks have changed over the years, and there has been in the past a lot of shale mining in the area. The land is no longer boggy.
One thing which surprised me when reading about the battle was the relatively small size of the armies. The number varies according to different sources, but there may have been about 2,000 Jacobite Highlanders. Cope’s army may have been larger (up to 4,000), though many were untrained raw recruits. The battle didn’t last long. Cope’s light, inaccurate artillery got off a few rounds and then fled, whilst his main body of men fired one volley, which didn’t stop the Highland charge, and then fled. Cope’s baggage train at Cockenzie containing £5,000 was captured, along with muskets and ammunition.
Lessons from the defeat at Prestonpans were learnt by the government and when the two sides met in battle at Culloden seven months later, Cumberland had a much better trained force, able to reload and trained to withstand the Highland charge. At Culloden, the armies were larger but still relatively small. The Jacobites had been strengthened by French, Irish and Royal Écossais units, and sources reckon numbered about 7,000. The government troops were about 8,000.
When you consider that, according to Trevor Royle, only thirteen years later in 1759 the Duc de Choiseul gathered an army of 100,000 in Brittany with a view to invading England, it makes the armies at Prestonpans and Culloden seem very small.
Fac Mac has recently taken a turn for the worse.
Back in May, we managed to get him relatively fit enough to walk the Singalila Ridge, as I described here. During that trek, each morning we got him moving after breakfast with the suggestion that there was probably a bar at the next village (knowing ourselves that there wasn’t), and by the sixth day he was actually walking alongside the Little Boss at the front of the group.
Since returning to the UK he’s been spending his time doing nothing all day long, and then soaking for two hours in the new bathroom that his daughter organised for him. Then, early evening, he goes to the off license for a carry-out of six bottles of whatever beer is on offer that day. Apart from that, he’s not been getting out much at all.
When I suggested that he wasn’t getting enough exercise, he protested, and said that he’s been doing regular toe yoga whilst in the bath.
Toe yoga! Toe yoga won’t get you fit.
His six-pack has turned into a one-bag, and a large one at that. A stone-and-a-half of lard! When he goes down the three flights of stairs from his flat in Stockbridge to get to the offie next-door-but-one, just like marching soldiers crossing a bridge, if he doesn’t break step his stomach gets into an irreversible up-and-down motion which can carry him face-forwards into the tenement front door.
I do my best. I suggested a cycle ride, but he said he’s too embarrassed about his body to be seen in public, and can we not wait for the dull and go to a bar and drink beer instead.
This is not intended to be a detailed post, like Out of the Canyon was about Laurel Canyon, but instead will be quite brief, unless I get diverted.
I somehow happened upon the above remarkable YouTube video of Tiny Tim. The girl singing with him, who doesn’t always manage to keep a straight face, is Eleanor Barooshian. She was in a girl bang called The Cake, who released two albums. Jack Nitzsche, who was name-dropped in my post about Laurel Canyon, and who helped Phil Spector create the ‘Wall of Sound’, and Jackie De Shannon, who I also mentioned in the Canyon post, wrote Baby, That’s Me, sung by The Cake.
You can hear elements of Spector’s ‘Wall’ in Baby, That’s Me, above.
The Cake consisted of three girls, Jeanette Jacobs, Eleanor Barooshian and Barbara Morillo, and you can read more about them here. Jeanette Jacobs was the one who didn’t move. The other two danced pretty well, but in the above video Jacobs staggers after stepping off the revolving stage, and then stands still. Two of them move in the video below, but Jacobs doesn’t.
There are differences of opinion as to why two of them moved and one stood still, but it makes for interesting videos. Jeanette Jacobs went on to be a friend of Jimi Hendrix.
The long tail of the Internet is great for discovering what’s happened with obscure, and not so obscure bands of the past. My favourite girl group was the Shangri-Las, on Red Bird, who were produced by Shadow Morton, who had a similar wall of sound to Spector. The bass on Out in the Street made my Dad’s stereo shake. Later on, in the seventies, Fanny really rocked. Here they are performing on the OGWT. Here they are playing Badge with a lot of raw power. They could play!
They can still play!
Even though it’s 40 years since I last sat an exam, I still sometimes have anxiety dreams about them. Last night I dreamt that there was only a week to go until my finals, but for some reason I hadn’t even started to revise.
The dream may have been caused because I was reading a history book, Trevor Royle’s Culloden: Scotland’s Last Battle and the Forging of the British Empire, before going to sleep.
I didn’t manage to go to Royle’s talk at the recent Edinburgh Book Festival due to being ill that day. I did, however, make it to another talk about Culloden given by Murray Pittock, but decided to read Royle’s book first.
In fact, less than half of his book deals with the battle of Culloden. The rest concerns other wars, battles and conflicts on the continent, in North America and India. One thing which becomes obvious is how many of the people who fought at Culloden went on to fight elsewhere. Culloden seems to have been a training ground, as names of officers crop up in the years following who were present at Culloden and its aftermath, who subsequently featured in important battles elsewhere. Most of these battles were against the French or their Native American or Indian supporters. One peculiarity is that a fair number of those Highlanders who fought against the government at Culloden proceeded after a short while to join the army or navy and help expand the British Empire overseas in these same battles.