Jacobite poet dubbed “Bard of Culloden” to be remembered

Loch na Uamh where John Roy Stuart left Scotland after Culloden with Bonnie Prince Charlie. PIC: Creative Commons/Flickr/Richard Szwejkowski.
Loch na Uamh where John Roy Stuart left Scotland after Culloden with Bonnie Prince Charlie. PIC: Creative Commons/Flickr/Richard Szwejkowski.
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A celebration of a ‘largely forgotten’ Jacobite poet and fighter dubbed the ‘Bard of Culloden’ is to be held.

An appreciation of John Roy Stuart, a loyal Jacobite colonel, will be held in Edinburgh on July 25 to mark the anniversary of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s arrival on the Scottish mainland at Loch nan Uamh in 1745.

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A recital of a new English translation of John Roy Stuart’s most famous work, Latha Chuil-Lodair, or The Day of Culloden, will be given at the event, which has been organised by The 1745 Association.

Michael Nevin, chairman of The 1745 Association, said John Roy Stuart “merited a place in the pantheon of the great Scots poets” but that his work had been “largely forgotten and neglected”.

READ MORE: Memorial for men killed in major battle of Jacobite rising

The Jacobite fighter, who wrote all but one of his poems in Gaelic, was also reportedly the inspiration for Alan Breck in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Kidnapped.

Mr Nevin said: “John Roy Stuart is not very well known but he was a significant Jacobite figure, fighting at Prestonpans, Falkirk and then in the frontline at Culloden.

“He was an regimental colonel, an important officer and a true Bonnie Prince Charlie loyalist.

“The Day of Culloden is an important historical poem and a contemporary account of what happened.

“It’s not written in a university library, it is written in the direct aftermath of the battle by someone who was there. It is straight from the heart.”

Mr Nevin said he wanted to raise “awareness and appreciation” of John Roy Stuart and celebrate his “remarkable adventures”.

Mr Nevin believes Day of Culloden was written down shortly after John Roy Stuart left for France on board L’Heureux with Bonnie Prince Charlie.

While an important account, some of the accuracy of the staunch Jacobite’s take on Culloden could be called into question, Mr Nevin said.

“He was like a football fan who just watched his team lose. He really wasn’t accepting the result,” Mr Nevin said.

John Roy Stuart was born at Knock of Kincardine near Aviemore in 1700 and originally served in the British Army with the Scots Greys. Well educated, he spent time in both France and Portugal.

He applied for an officer’s post with the Black Watch but his bid was refused given his increasing Jacobite sympathies, Mr Nevin said.

Stuart was imprisoned in Inverness and spent several weeks in the company of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, then the High Sheriff of Invernesshire who was known for his double dealings between the Jacobites and the British Government.

It was suggested at Lord Lovat’s 1747 trial for treason that he helped with John Roy Stuart’s escape from prison with the two going on to write Jacobite verse together.

After the Jacobite defeat at Culloden, where John Roy Stuart led the Edinburgh Regiment from the frontline, he went on the run in his native Strathspey for four months, nursing a bad ankle, before joining Bonnie Prince Charlie at “The Cage” high up in the crevices of Ben Alder.

From there, they travelled to Loch Nan Uamh on the West Coast and fled to France on L’Heureux.

It is likely John Roy Stuart died i France in 1752, although his last resting place is not known. A memorial cairn was placed near his birthplace at Knock of Kincardine several years ago.

The celebration of John Roy Stuart will be at the Queens Arms, Frederick Street, Edinburgh on July 25 at 6pm.

For tickets, go to www.eventbrite.co.uk