Decision time for Falkirk’s own Jacobite era heritage centre

Ranald MacDonnell, current chieftain of the MacDonnells of Glengarry, prepares to lay a wreath at the Trinity Church tomb of his ancestor.  The ceremony took place in January last year, and a plaque was installed to inform visitors of the terrible historic events which once happened in and around Falkirk.
Ranald MacDonnell, current chieftain of the MacDonnells of Glengarry, prepares to lay a wreath at the Trinity Church tomb of his ancestor. The ceremony took place in January last year, and a plaque was installed to inform visitors of the terrible historic events which once happened in and around Falkirk.
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A bold plan to create what might become Scotland’s foremost centre for the study of the Jacobite wars is just days away from a crucial Falkirk Council decision.

As reported by Kirsty Paterson in Falkirk Herald online on Friday members of the executive will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to back a remarkable £8million plan put forward by a trust named after the 1746 Battle of Falkirk Muir.

To be sited at a key location in Bantaskine Park the centre would see the development of conference, cafe and other resources on the moor where in January 1746 Bonnie Prince Charlie’s 8,000 men defeated a government army.

It was the very last substantial Jacobite victory in a war which reached its bloody finale at Culloden.

More than just a commemoration of the battle itself, the plan appears to build on an ambition by the long-established 1745 Association to develop not only a visitor attracton but also a resource that could potentially attract worldwide interest.

The centre would be established on the very moor where the battle was fought - and which since spring last year has boasted an interpretive battlefield walk route.

It would attract scholars, lecturers and exhibitors to a variety of fascinating themed events.

The idea has been “live” for at least two years, but after a great deal of behind the scenes work is now a solid plan that can be fully considered by the council.

Meanwhile the organisers of a successful two-day pageant created around the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans (known as Gladsmuir to the Jacobites) are also planning to some day create just such a centre to commemorate the first major battle of the 1745 Rising.

However the trust behind the Falkirk plan will in due course explain the true importance of the Falkirk battle and subsequent Jacobite occupation of the town.

Although the terrible day of slaughter on the moor made no difference to the war’s outcome it was the biggest battle of the ‘45, and the last significant blow struck by Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s supporters in the largely (but not exclusively) anti-Jacobite Lowlands.

Far from being one isolated site outside town visitors would also have the option of touring Callendar House, which played an important role in the run-up to the battle.

The House already plays host to the unique library of the 1745 Association, making it one of Scotland’s top go-to destinations for academics with a serious interest in the period.

Falkirk High Street also saw plenty of action in 1746, and key reminders there include the tomb of the Young Glengarry, a Jacobite chieftain killed the day after the battle; and the magnificent stained glass triptych of the Jacobite commanders which is on permanent display in the Howgate.

Falkirk Herald readers have largely welcomed news of the plan, with reader John Michael Gentleman commenting: “Something like this is well overdue tbh. With more shops going under because of online shopping it might be better to look to tourism to generate interest in the district.

“Just take a look at the Bannockburn visitors centre with what goes on there during the year”.

David Wilkinson added: “If someone wants to spend £8m building a world class visitor attraction in Falkirk then that is fantastic news.”

Some social media observations that a heritage centre would be “a waste of money” brought responses from readers who had gleaned from Kirsty’s article that the venture is not council-derived - and in fact the council stands to gain cash from the part of the site the Trust wants to purchase.”

Interest in Scottish history is soaring, as witness figures supplied by Historic Environment Scotland, particularly to sites associated with the Scottish Wars of Independence and the Jacobite wars (which ran sporadically from 1688 to 1746) - and the potential for a new seam of tourism is reckoned to be high.

That’s even before the legions of still-devoted Outlander fans - and the mini tourism industry which now caters for them - are considered.