Gie’s A Pint O’ Heavy 91

I have been reading Maggie Craig’s Bare Arsed Banditti, which is a highly revealling collection of personal stories from the ’45. I recommend it. Together with Fitzroy MacLean’s brilliant life of Charles III, it is now my favourite book on the Jacobites.

One thing which Craig brings out very well, with ample documentary evidence (though I deplore her lack of footnotes) is the extremely strong Scottish nationalist aspect of the rebellion and the strong nationalist sentiments expressed by many of the clan leaders and footsoldiers. This is an element which was not just ignored but deliberately falsified in history as it has been taught for generations – I still recall the scoffing at John Prebble. In fact an independent Scotland was almost certainly the desire of most of the Jacobite army, from the evidence available to us. Craig also demolishes the myth that there were as many Scots on the Hanoverian side as on the Stuart side at Culloden. I had known that was a myth, but just how overwhelmingly the Hanoverian army was English I had not fully taken on board.

The truly great Jacobite general, Lord George Murray, knew he was joining a disastrous enterprise, but felt he had to do it. His touching letter is often quoted:

My life, my fortune, my expectations, the happiness of my wife and children, are all at stake (and the chances are against me), and yet my duty to Scotland in which my Honor is too deeply to withdraw —– this matter of principles outweighs everything.

But historians have routinely overlooked the obvious – his duty was to Scotland, not to Britain. Maggie Craig does not quote this letter in her book, but the nationalist sentiment she records pervaded the army to the very top. It was of course true then as now that the ancestors of the New Labour numpties of Strathclyde gave not a fig for anything but cash, but the rebels were nationalist.

Scotland is not unusual. National independence is something which people have been prepared to give up their lives for around the world, for as long as the concept of a nation has existed (and the Declaration of Arbroath is arguably the first documentary assertion of a modern concept of nationality).

It is infinitely better to resove these matters without violence, but the desire for national freedom still ought to stir the blood. Which is why I am puzzled by Alex Salmond’s tactical decision to make independence as boring as possible, in the hope that nobody will be scared of it. It is of course true that independence should not necessitate physical border controls or economic barriers of any kind; it is quite extraordinary that unionists still talk as if independence would necessitate a return to mercantilism and a new effort to colonise Darien. But Salmond’s independence lite, where Scotland keeps the Queen, the pound, the British army to wage illegal wars, and doesn’t even have a proper diplomatic service, is just a further measure of devolution. Why should anybody work for a change on the grounds that nobody will notice it?

Forget independence lite, gie’s a pint of heavy. A republican Scotland where we can jail our own bankers.

Oh, and before anyone points out I was born in Norfolk, let me point out that Robert the Bruce was almost certainly born in Essex. I see no intellectual dilemma in myself being part English and part Scottish and wishing both to enjoy independent nationhood.

91 thoughts on “Gie’s A Pint O’ Heavy

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  • MJ

    “…but the desire for national freedom still ought to stir the blood”

    Which is wht I am puzzled by your support for the EU.

  • Craig


    My support for the EU has pretty dramatically reduced over the last couple of years. I always like the idea of international organisations, and of international law, to govern relations between nations and I support the principle of free trade. But the EU has developed into an institution it is increasingly difficult for a liberal to support, for myriad reasons.

  • dodoze

    Gie’s a pint of Carlsberg/Heineken heavy?

    Suggest Duechars, Innis & Gunn, or more appropriately Skullsplitter.

    Then there’s Heather Ale, for which the original recipe was reputedly lost for it is claimed that the holder of the recipe threw himself from the cliffs at the Mull of Galloway rather than reveal the secret to King Niall of Ulster.

    Gie’s a pint of Scottish-brewed and Scottish-owned strong beer, please. “Heavy” is corporate shite.

    Or do real Scotsmen now only drink C&C Group plc owned Tennants Lager?

  • Tom Welsh

    “The truly great Jacobite general, Lord George Murray, knew he was joining a disastrous enterprise, but felt he had to do it”.

    Very much like Robert E. Lee in similar circumstances, when he was invited to take command of the armies of the newly-formed Confederate States of America.

  • Tom Welsh

    The EU is great in principle, but a huge disappointment in practice.

    Anyone who recognises this feeling of disillusionment has grasped one of the essential ideas of conservatism, which is that grand visions are easy to construct but difficult or impossible to put into effect.

  • Craig


    Heavy is the traditional term for 80/- beer. Belhaven make a great pint of heavy, for example. So do many other breweries.

  • writerman


    I’m highly sceptical about the concept of nationalism, in all its various guises.

    I think in many ways it’s a dangerous conceit that one should be very wary of indeed, especially, of all places, in Europe.

    I think the very bedrock of nationalism itself, is suspect, and questionable. I shiver to think of people whose blood is stirred by nationalist symbols. I’m also highly critical of the construct we call the nation.

    When, for example does the tribe become a ‘folk’ and then a nation? The word ‘folk’ or ‘volk’ also gives me the creeps. Is the nation, the peice of land where the folk live, those of the same blood, language, culture, or is it larger than that? Can one choose the folk one wishes to be part of, like you have apparently done, and this is normal and acceptable behaviour; one can, I suppose call oneself what one wants, within reason.

    I, on the other hand, have absolutely no idea what I am, or what my national identity is. Perhaps I’ve travelled too much, lived in too many countries, to care. It’s also connected to the extraordinarily chequered history of my family which makes a mockery of the core concepts of nationalism, in my opinion.

    I used to have a fairly liberal attitude to the idea that a people should be ‘free’ and have their own country, or nation, if they so wish, now I’m not so sure, having studied how many of my family have suffered, been ruined, died in battle, and murdered, when nationalism gets out of control, which I think it has a strong tendancy to do.

    This is probably boring you to tears, sorry. But I think modern nationalism is form of tribalism on steroids. The history of the nation state, and the creation of national identity, go hand in hand, and both of those hands are soaked in blood. I wonder, if it was really worth it?

  • Traquir

    Excellent post Craig, and you are spot on the SNP has often played things too safe, not rocking the boat. We should be shouting from the rafter the virtues of having our own people run our own nation like any other normal country.

    The books that you mentioned sound very interesting also, and one can only hope that they find their way into the largely British brainwashed historical revisionism of the Scottish school system. Truth appears to be what the Unionists fear most, and as the Scottish people learn the truth, a challenge though it is through the reams of British distortion, then the close Scotland will get to reemerging as an independent nation state.

  • Roderick Russell

    Craig, We do seem to have something in common. Though born and brought up in Scotland with a Scots father, my mother was an English woman from Norfolk.

    The ’45 is indeed a great remembrance in song, story and romance. But they didn’t fight for any positive idea from the new enlightenment (liberty, democracy, republicanism, etc.) except to turn the clock back. Had the Jacobites won, they would have established themselves in London and forgotten about Scotland (as their predecessors did).

    The Jacobites stood for absolute monarchy and had no interest in democracy, or in Scotland, or in the people ?” except when they needed to use them to fight. The truth is that the Stuart Monarchs and Jacobite Pretenders were largely a useless and selfish lot, though the Hanoverians were nothing much to write home about either, then or now.

  • Jon

    The Today programme on R4 recently carried a piece on Scots not demonstrating any enthusiasm for proper devolution at all. One would have thought that a vast majority of Scots would have to be firmly for the project for it to get off the ground at all, given Westminster’s opposition.

    The programme had gathered a number of ordinary folks to discuss devolution, especially in light of the bleak economic prospects for the area in the wake of the closure of a major distillery. All the people they interviewed were quite firmly against.

    As an Englishman I am fully for proper devolution, mainly because I see the centre of Scottish politics sitting to the left of Westminster, and so cutting the ties completely would in theory free Holyrood and the Scots to forge their own political path. The abomination of the Iraq invasion and occupation would not have tarnished Scotland, in my view, if its Parliament had been in a position to decide on it.

    It is conceivable that the report was an expression of Westminster Establishment opinion, and was designed to pour cold water on the project. But I don’t think they made these people up, and those Scots were unanimously against devolution. I wonder how many Scots, then, really support it?

  • Traquir

    Perhaps it would be pertinent to send a copy of Bare Arsed Banditti to the’s Culloden project co-ordinator, Alexander Bennett – who appears to still buy into British revisionism –

    “The myth that the battle was a conflict between England and Scotland is still alive today”

    The only think that is a myth is British Revisionism and I look forward to the day that the Scottish people and particularly our children have the opportunity to learn about our true history.

  • Dougie

    Essex. I have always believed Bruce was born at Turnberry Castle. His well and cave are most certainly in South Ayrshire

  • Traquir

    Frazer, good points.

    In terms of your question “I wonder how many Scots, then, really support it?”. Outright independence swings at this point between 25% up to 40% and more powers including independence 60% to 80%. Devo Max (aka full fiscal autonomy) may be the next stepping stone to Scotland’s independence, or perhaps we will go there directly, but either way there is no question that powers of the Scottish nation are being restored, it is just a question of timing.

    The recession no doubt has had an impact, but so to has the misinformation from the British State which deliberately contorts information so that many Scots don’t know the real truth in terms of the potential of our nation, and as Craig points out the SNP has not so far done a good enough job combatting this, albeit somewhat of a challenge given the obsessive British control over the media and politics. A few small examples of this manipulation are :

    . Diomhair a BBC Documentary highlights British attempts to make the SNP look like IRA style terrorists.

    . “Agents from MI5 and Special Branch infiltrated th party as part of a campaign to undermine support for Scottish independence”

    . Hiding potential of Scotland’s oil wealth from our people for over 30 years.

    “The country would tend to be in chronic surplus to a

    quite embarrassing degree and its currency would become the hardest in Europe, with the exception perhaps of the Norwegian kroner. Just as deposed

    monarchs and African leaders have in the past used the Swiss franc as a haven of security, so nowwould the Scottish pound be seen as a good hedge

    against inflation and devaluation and the Scottish banks could expect to find themselves inundated with a speculative inflow of foreign funds.”

    . Still hiding the potential of our Oil wealth from the Scottish people. Ask most Scots now what they thing and they will often believe the British lie the Oil is almost gone – a lie which has been going on since the 80’s.

    “North Sea oil will last for 100 years”

    see –

    . “Plan to hive off Orkney and Shetland”

    see –

    . Contingency plan to shift the Scottish Border to

    move one third of Scottish Oil fields to England.

    see –

    If the Scottish people have access fully and unhindered to the truth there will be no question of Scottish independence, but at this point we need to fight through webs of British lies and deceit.

  • Dougie

    Nobody knows for sure, but in the year before he was born his parents were at the Bruce estate in Thurrock near Dagenham.

    Fitzroy Maclean’s Bonnie Prince Charlie (I was just stirring with the Charles III) is ISBN 978-0862415686

  • Craig


    I am sorry but that is precisely the sort of unhistorical twaddle I am talking about. “Bonnie Prince Charlie” had no intention of overturning the 1689 constitutional settlement other than in restoring his family to the throne. He was, unlike his opponents, a genuine supporter of religious toleration – a key enlightenment value.

    He was a highly modern and educated man himself. The Jacobites included some of those who laid the foundations of the Scottish enlightenment, like Pitsligo, and Edinburgh was in fact (and again contrary to what you will have been taught) very largely Jacobite in sympathy.

    If you want to look for evidence of modern civilised values, you only have to compare the Jacobites’ treatment of their prisoners, including enemy wounded, with that of their “enlightened” opponents. The Jacobites’ behaviour to prisoners was almost 100% exemplary, while Cumberland and his ilk have deservedly gone down in infamy.

  • JimmyGiro

    “The divorce of nationalism and liberalism was the great horror of 20th century Europe.”

    I thought the whole point of nationalism was to divorce the individual from their own responsibilities, and to gather in strength prior to conflict with ‘others’.

    Is there anything but superficial differences between religions, football supporter firms, political parties, and national ‘identity’.

    If you want liberalism, then you have to be independently minded as the individual divorced from all groups.

    Being part of a greater entity, only makes sense if you are preparing for conflict.

  • Craig


    No, we need to live in social bodies to provide the rule of law, to stop large armed men from stealing our stuff and raping us. So society needs laws and institutions to enforce them, and the nation is for a whole variety of reasons the best level to agree those laws and found thise institutions.

  • writerman

    Mmm… ‘historical truth’ now that’s concept one can really get ones teeth into. I can hear the hearts and minds being stirred already, even at a distance.

    For me one of the great lies, or myths, at the centre of nationalist fervor, is the questionable idea that things will be so much better for us once we get the, (?) (fill in the space yourself guys), off of our backs!

    I’ve talked to many Americans about their ‘nationalist revolution’ and for the sake of balance I played the role of a royalist who wanted to stay loyal to his mother country and not join the rebels. After all we were in the majority, at least at the start of the uprising. This stance didn’t make me very popular to say the least.

    I keep thinking about that old song by The Who, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ all the time. ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’ Can’t get it out of my head somehow. I felt that my American friends only exchanged one ruling-class for another, and with only marginally better results to follow; at least for the ordinary workingman, the women, the slaves, oh, and the ‘Indians’. Then there was the fate of those, perhaps as many as thirty percent of the settlers who were ‘ethnically’ cleansed and forced to leave the wonderful new republic. Civil wars are wonderful things, aren’t they? Anyway at this point, as I could see their national pride was ready to burst out like an exploding volcano, I decided to shut my mouth.

  • Strategist

    Craig has beaten me to it in questioning Roderick’s “The Jacobites stood for absolute monarchy and had no interest in democracy, or in Scotland, or in the people.”

    My expertise on this is limited to watching Neil Oliver’s genuinely excellent History of Scotland series, but it was on telly only on Monday and Oliver clearly made the case that Bonnie Prince Charlie was promising everything supporters of the limited monarchy were asking for, more than they were already getting from the Hanovers. Whether that promise would have been kept, of course we will never know.

    However, Oliver’s take on the whole thing wasn’t entirely to Craig’s advantage either – on the question of “the truly great Jacobite general, Lord George Murray”, Oliver clearly blamed Murray for the loss of nerve/cancellation of the march on London at Derby. He clearly felt that Murray had cocked up the best shot B.P. Charlie was going to get, even if it as a long shot.

    To be fair to Murray, he didn’t know that the news put to the Council of War that a force of 9,000 regulars was waiting at Northampton to face them, was in fact a lie from an English spy who had infiltrated their number – the true number was actually 9! (Am I alone in feeling a twinge of English pride that we managed to hoodwink the Scots so splendidly? he says, risking a flaming…)

    Anyway, even if Craig can’t agree with Neil Oliver on this particular one, I hope he’ll agree that it has been a great series.

  • writerman

    Putting on one of my other hats, as I often feel like a real victim of ‘pure’ nationalist mythology. I often think of the beautiful estate in the south of Ukraine that would have been mine, all mine, and the title to go with it, but for the scourge of nationalism gone into overdrive. What a waste. I’ve been robbed I tell you! My blood tells me that the land is still really mine. I want to be buried in that soil, the soil my ancestors spilled blood to carve out of the wilderness and the hands of the slavic tribe that were sitting on it. In fact, I think, as I’ve got a few bob, that I might organize a small army to reclaim the land that’s rightfully mine.

  • selma

    I don’t think that independence for Scotland goes far enough, personally.

    I would like to see us organise along the lines of ‘localise everything (that can be)’ with regional, national and international decisions being taken only when appropriate.

    I should mention that I see this within a framework of economic as well as political democracy.

  • Craig


    The Jacobites were probably down to 4,000 men by the time they got to Derby. That is not a huge force to attack London with, even in 1745. But the key point is that, unlike Charlie, most of the army wanted an independent Scotland and really weren’t that bothered about taking London.

    We will never know what would have happened. But Murray’s plan not to fight Culloden, but take to the hills and fight a guerilla campaign with undefeated forces, was quite likely to have destroyed Cumberland’s army in time. Dundee had shown what could be done, with far fewer men.

  • Strategist

    “The Jacobites were probably down to 4,000 men by the time they got to Derby. That is not a huge force to attack London with, even in 1745. But the key point is that, unlike Charlie, most of the army wanted an independent Scotland and really weren’t that bothered about taking London.”

    I realise this must have been debating many millions of times, but it’s new to me, so I’m enjoying it.

    Yes, Neil Oliver strongly brought out the point that Charlie’s Scots army was really only bothered about Scotland, whilst Charlie, as the fair & square heir to the thrones of England, Scotland & Ireland wanted all or nothing. Also that Charlie wanted a quick resolution of the matter one way or another in 1745, presumably an understandable reaction against James’s inconclusive experience in 1715.

    Oliver’s point was, that as 99% of England was content to hedge and watch from the sidelines, it was worth a punt even with only a small force. The key new piece of information, that I had been less aware of, was as you origibally pointed out: that the Stuarts were offering the Anglicans, Scots Presbyterians and English non-conformists all they could have asked for – though whether they could believe it from a Rome-based Catholic exile was another matter.

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