Battle Trust Memory Lane : Medal Year on the Riggonhead Defile - & a skull
The Prince's Loyal Highlanders [and others!] followed in their ancestors footsteps of 1745 .. Saturday ...
... and as they walked the sun rose magnificently on a splendid day when the famous Victory at Prestonpans would be remembered and re-enacted.
It's an authentic re-enactment which the town's Alan Breck Regiment of Prestonpans Volunteers has proudly led for the past six years. The traditional 5AM start, criticised by a few faint hearts, is what makes it especially significant. It was at precisely that time of the morning that the Prince led his army from its overnight encampment at Tranent through a narrow defile close by Riggonhead Farm across the then ubiquitous marshland to reach the fields just west of Seton Collegiate. And from there the legendary charge took place, with the rising sun shining directly in the redcoat enemy's eyes. They fled and within 15 minutes the greatest Jacobite victory of the '45 had been won. Scotland was once more ruled by the Stuarts - a rule that lasted till they marched out for London on November 1st.
Jubilee Year March was extra special
Jubilee Year and Olympics/ Paralympics 2012 have seen many a medallion hard won. So too it was to be for those who rose at 4 AM to reach the head of the defile march in Tranent for 5AM. A fine bronze medal was to be won.
On arrival in Tranent they received the now customary Muster Welcome [seriously un-authentic] of hot soup, Scotch egg, an apple and a bottle of water - courtesy of The Prestoungrange Gothenburg and prepared from 3AM there each year by Andrew Laurie and Carol Black. Thus fortified the Prince, impersonated by Arran Johnston, and the Alan Breck Regiment's Colonel Adjutant Adam Watters, with their 50 strong 'army' made their way quietly downhill, down the Riggonhead Defile, to Seton Collegiate. Redcoats were sighted and warned their commanders of the impending battle - actually to be re-encted later in the day at 3PM on both Saturday and Sunday!
An extraordinary experience - as always
The march is damp under foot; and the Prince historically stumbles as he jumps across a brook. No other untoward incidents seemingly occur, and some two hours after departure from Tranent the Jacobite entire army is lined across the fields west of Seton Collegiate ready to charge and do battle, notwithstanding the cannons on Cope's southern flank. Behind these lay Colonel Gardiner's Dragoons and to the northern flank, Hamilton's Dragoons. How Gardiner fared is part of Pans and national folklore. Less well known until recently was the fate of a Captain James Clarke who rode with Hamilton's Dragoons. But over the past twelve months research by the Battle Trust has come up with fascinating evidence - and an amazing exhibition of that Captain's skull at Prestongrange Museum over the long weekend LINKED HERE
Breakfast time for the Prince and his Highlanders
History tells us that the Prince and his Officers took refreshments on the captured redcoat cannons after their Victory - late morning. The Highlanders at large were reported as having adjourned to local taverns. This Jubilee Year's re-enactors followed another now traditional sequence. They were bused back from Seton Collegiate to the Prestoungrange Gothenburg for a Full Scottish Breakfast - a worthy chaser to the soup and the Scotch egg just two hours earlier. And of course their Medal Ceremony in the James Park Bistro.
Perhaps the abiding memory of the Riggonhead Defile March for all who have made it these past six years is of the stamina, bravery and tenacity of the Highlanders who were there. And more than that, a nagging uncertainty as to what they would have been thinking as they made that journey to certain battle and possible death. A journey made not a million miles away but absolutely hereabouts, in our town, in our villages.
They of course got no medals at Prestonpans but they did strike fear in the hearts of the Hanoverian King in London whose followers hurridly composed the British National Anthem with its injunction to Crush Rebellious Scots! .... Some wish!
Published Date: June 10th 2020