Bonnie Prince Charlie medicine chest used at Battle of Culloden to go on display

The medicine chest of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s personal physician, used at the Battle of Culloden, will go on display for the first time.

The historic item, which includes medicines made from beetles, beaver anal glands and turpentine, will be part of a new exhibition touring the Highlands called “Remote and Rural Remedies”.

Organised by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE), the display explores the changes which have taken place in Highland medicine in the past 600 years, and uncovers stories behind Jacobite medicines, local healers and famed Celtic physicians such as The Beatons.

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The medicine chest that will go on display. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane/Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

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Dr Daisy Cunynghame, curator of the display, confirmed the medicine box belonged to Stuart Threipland.

It was used during the Battle of Culloden, the climax of the Jacobite Rising, which ran from 1745-46.

While Threipland is known for his role medically assisting the Young Pretender, Dr Cunynghame said he was also a “stand-out” previous president of the RCPE.

The Threipland family were loyal supporters of the Jacobite cause, with Stuart appointed physician-in-chief to the Prince. The chest contains 147 products, the majority of which are in glass bottles.

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The blister beetles. Picture: Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

Also on display will be the original handwritten survey responses from ministers and doctors across the Highlands and Islands from the 1850s detailing the poverty, sickness and deprivation caused by the potato famine and Highland Clearances.

Highland historians have said the geographical isolation meant that many medical recipes needed to be adapted to include locally available ingredients, including seaweed and fish oil.

They said the regions was also viewed as a potential source of income for charlatans and an influx of travelling quacks – unqualified people who claimed medical knowledge – from the Lowlands who streamed across the Highlands in the 1700s and 1800s.

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The electric flesh brush. Picture: Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

Dr Cunynghame said: “Medicine in the Highlands and Islands is often treated one-dimensionally – as simply a story about folk remedies and strange rituals.

“We made sure when we were developing this exhibition that we looked beyond that, and we’re excited to have uncovered stories about some really important people, and discoveries, in the history of Highland medicine.”

She added: “The Highlands and Islands influenced, and in turn was influenced by, developments elsewhere in Europe.

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“This medicine chest, and the rest of the exhibition, celebrates the uniqueness and the interconnectedness of the history of medicine in the Highlands and Islands.”

A portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Picture: PA

An electric flesh brush from the 1880s and ‘blister beetles’, which excrete a toxic body fluid that was once used to treat patients – are among other items that will go on display. Englishman George Scott developed the flesh brush, which contained magnetised iron rods which were supposedly the key to treating all kinds of ailments.

The touring exhibition beings on September 16 and will initially run at the Gairloch Museum before moving to Castletown Heritage Centre in Caithness.

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The display is available for loan to any museums, galleries, libraries and other public bodies who are interested in borrowing it.

Fought near Inverness in Scotland on April 16, 1746, the Battle of Culloden saw Prince Charles Edward Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, and his forces, while attempting to reclaim the throne for his family, meet a British army led by the Duke of Cumberland.

The battle finally settled a contest for the monarchy that had lasted almost 60 years.

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