Historian asks '˜are we going to lose Culloden?'

A historian is due in the Highlands this week to discuss whether the future of Culloden battlefield is at risk.

Dr Christopher Duffy will deliver his talk - Are we going to lose Culloden? - at the battlefield centre near Inverness on Thursday.

Dr Duffy has been invited to speak by National Trust for Scotland following recent controversy over a new housing development due to be built at Viewhill Farm on the north east fringe of the battlefield.

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The memorial cairn at Culloden Battlefield. PIC: Herbert Frank/Creative Commons/Flickr.

Sixteen houses will be built on the land which sits around half-a-mile from the core battlefield across the B9006.

The area around Viewhill Farm witnessed heavy casualties in the latter stages of the battle on April 16, 1746 and is likely to have become a war grave, Dr Duffy said.

Dr Duffy said he would be speaking “without inhibition” at Culloden.

The memorial cairn at Culloden Battlefield. PIC: Herbert Frank/Creative Commons/Flickr.

He believes the original decision to approve the plans, taken by the Scottish Government planning reporter in 2014, was based on incorrect information about the geography of the battle.

Historic Scotland, now known as Historic Environment Scotland, did not object to the plans.

Dr Duffy said that historians had no way to contribute to the planning process regarding historic sites.

He said: “As the sole Statutory Consultee, HES is the only voice to be heard when planning issues touch on historical sites.

“As things stand, there is no mechanism by which the body of informed historical opinion can be brought to bear when development touches on historical sites.’

“All historians make mistakes, but they can be put right in the court of academic debate. Mistakes on the part of Historic Environment Scotland are irreparable.

“Legal protection for battlefields is in any case extremely weak, and advisory conservation zones seem to count for less and less in the face of development.’

The core Culloden battlefield, including The Graves of the Clans, the Memorial Cairn and the Well of the Dead, are all designated scheduled monuments and protected by law.

The full battlefield was split by the building of the B9006 with Viewhill Farm later included in an expanded Culloden Muir Conservation Area given its significance during the battle.

Dr Duffy earlier told The Scotsman there had been an “obsession” with the core battlefield area with the remainder of site left vulnerable as a result.

He earlier said: “We don’t want to be enemies of developers - we live in the 21st Century after all.

“Also, to have a moratorium on development on all sites were battles were fought is not realistic.

“It’s about a sense of proportion and recognising the unique importance of Culloden. What took place there has a national and international impact.

“Culloden also has a unique sense of place and offers a sense of what happened there.

“The maddening thing is that the battlefield is about 90 per cent intact. There are few battlefields where this is the case, including those of World War Two.

“To have a battlefield in Scotland that is essentially intact is absolutely remarkable.”

Dr Duffy was formerly a senior lecturer in the Department of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and is now Research Professor in War in History at the Institute for the Study of War and Society at De Montfort University.

He has written several books about the 1745 Jacobite Uprising and British and European military history.

Dr Duffy will speak at the Culloden Battlefield on Thursday, April 12, at 1pm.

For more information and tickets, visit www.nts.org