School of the Moon: The Highland Cattle-Raiding Tradition

School of the Moon: The Highland Cattle-Raiding Tradition

School of the Moon: The Highland Cattle-Raiding Tradition

School of the Moon: The Highland Cattle-Raiding Tradition

Synopsis

Behind the tales of cateran raiding in the Scottish Highlands was an age-old practice beloved of the clan warriors. Trained in the ways of the School of the Moon, they liked little better than raiding other clans to lift their cattle and disappear into the wild mountains under the cover of darkness. This traditional practice of the Scottish Highland warriors, originating at least as far back as the Iron Age, has left us many grand stories, apocryphal and historical. In this informative and entertaining book, acclaimed storyteller Stuart McHardy presents some of the best stories, many of which appear in print for the first time, and offers a startling new interpretation of what was going on in the Scottish Highlands in the years after Culloden. The British government called it cattle thieving, but the men who returned to the ways of the School of the Moon were in fact the last Jacobites, fighting on in a doomed guerrilla campaign against an army that had a garrison in every glen and town in Scotland. Combining exciting traditional tales that illustrate the background of the practice of Highland cattle-raiding with extensive historical research, School of the Moon shows that there is much yet to be understood about Scotland's history, even of the last few hundred years.

Excerpt

This book presents both stories derived from traditional sources and historical information regarding one of the central activities of the warriors of the Scottish Highland clans – cattle raiding. Which collecting traditional tales about this ancient activity I began to realise that quite a few of the stories that told of events in the 18th century concerned identifiable historical characters. The contemporary records, some of which, like the Cantonment Registers of the British army – the records of the locations and activities of the army – are still unpublished, and tell a remarkable story. In the years after the last Jacobite battle on Drumossie Moor that we now call Culloden, the British Army was involved in what we would now consider ethnic cleansing. The widespread brutality – much of it perpetrated by Scotsmen of both Highland and Lowland origin – is well documented in a remarkable and heart-rending book called The Lyon in Mourning. The evidence from the period confirms that the Jacobite rebellions are best understood as Civil Wars, driven by a complex set of ideas.

What has not been documented is the extent of the Army occupation of Scotland throughout the 1740s and 1750s. There was hardly a town or glen that did not have its own garrison, and the ostensible reason for this was the fact that some of these historical characters, like Iain Dubh Cameron, the Serjeant Mor, took to cattle raiding as a means of survival. The records clearly suggest that what was going on was a form of guerrilla warfare in which scattered bands of Jacobite Highlanders continued to ‘stay . . .

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