Highland Rose, Jacobite Living History Group

By: Wade King

Would you like to see someone slain with a Lochaber axe? How about seeing someone slashed from shoulder to hip with a highland broadsword? If you have someone in mind who deserves either of those fates, you should take them along when Highland Rose is doing their thing. The Highland Rose Jacobite Living History Reenactment Group is located in New South Wales, Australia. It is a small group specialising in re-enacting the 17th and 18th century “Jacobite Era”, the period from the 1689 uprising of Bonnie Dundee to the 1745 Rising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie. They cover all protagonists of this period, Government and Jacobite, but most of its members focus on the Jacobite forces of the 1745 Rising, in particular, the brave Highlanders who fought for the Bonnie Prince and for Scotland at the Battle of Culloden in April, 1746.

The Jacobite army at Culloden included clan regiments, like the Frasers, Camerons, MacDonalds and MacPhersons, amongst others, and regiments raised in local areas of Scotland, like the Atholl Brigade recruited in Athol and the Forfarshire Regiment (Ogilvy’s) from the lands of Angus. There were also non-Scottish forces such as the Royal Ecossais (French), and the Irish Piquets. Most wore their own clothing, their tartan kilts, although some were issued tartan uniforms. Many wore blue bonnets with white Jacobite cockades.

Most carried a broadsword, a dirk and a spiked targe. Some carried Lochaber axes, sharp blades fixed to long poles. Some also carried muzzle-loading firelock muskets and pistols. Many carried their own weapons. Full stands of arms (musket and accoutrements, bayonet, sword, etc.) were brought from France and issued to Jacobite forces. Many weapons were captured from Government forces, particularly after the battle of Prestonpans. Men armed thus confronted British Government troops arrayed in drilled regiments armed with muskets and bayonets, and swords, and heavily supported by artillery firing grapeshot. The Jacobites used the tactic of the Highland Charge to close with Government troops so as to use their bladed weapons to advantage.

Centuries-old Highland culture

The men of Highland Rose carry and demonstrate Jacobite weapons. Some show the use of broadswords, dirks and spiked targes. Others display Lochaber axes, the sweep of which could cut an enemy in two. Some exhibit the use of muskets and pistols that were discharged at the enemy, then hurled into enemy ranks in the hope of knocking Government troops down. The women of Highland Rose preserve the old Highland culture by setting up a period-accurate camp, and practising historical crafts like spinning, weaving and embroidery, historical woodwork, metal- and leatherwork, sewing, cooking and more, and by giving talks and demonstrations.

Together, the men and women of Highland Rose give a faithful representation of the centuries-old Highland culture, which was swept away in the years after Culloden by the English in the Highland Clearances, an awful process of ethnic cleansing. The Clearances left much of the Highlands empty of people and fit only for sheep; they also brought many thousands of cleared Highlanders to places like Australia where their descendants celebrate their Scots heritage in annual events like the Bonnie Wingham Scottish Festival (where Highland Rose will perform on Saturday, 3rd June). Highland Rose members perform at Highland Gatherings and at schools or anywhere else they can share their knowledge and skills with interested members of the public. 

The Highland Rose Jacobite Reenactment Group is always looking for new members. It welcomes all with for a passion for this period of Scots history, those of any age, gender or experience level, as long as they have open minds and willingness to learn. Living history reenactment is rewarding but it requires commitment. Like most hobbies it is not cheap, but the group does its best to help new members get started. If this sounds like it interests you, please contact the group via Facebook Messenger or email, or come to an event and say hello.

If you are organizing a Highland Games or Gathering, a Medieval Fair or any other community event that you would like Highland Rose to attend, please get in contact to discuss details at: www.facebook.com/TheHighlandRoseJacobites or [email protected].

The 2023 Bonnie Wingham Scottish Festival will take place on Saturday 3rd June, 2023. For details see: www.bonniewingham.com

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