It is somewhat ironic that in their search to find a culture……Unionists discovered the Ulster-Scots Culture and decided to honour Robert “Rabbie” Burns……..Burns Night being 25th January……..it seems almost churlish to point out that Robert Burns was born in 1759……..just thirteen years after the Jacobite cause was defeated at Culloden……..and many of his works show his Jacobite sympathies and distaste for the Hannoverian dynasty. Still, if I pointed this out to unionists they would only go off on another daft search to finda culture and heritage. Personally I preferred it when they thought they were the lost (very very very very lost) tribe of Israel.
Some of Burns’ poetry is surprisingly open “John Highlandman” (1785?) for example. Others are perhaps coded………..it was standard practice for Jacobite sympathisers to keep their politics secret and perhaps the greatest skill of the poets and bards was to write in code.
Much is made of Jacobite heroism. Rightly so. The bravery of the Highlanders and their Irish allies is a historic fact. As is the butchery inflicted on the Highlands after Culloden. Yet “modern” Jacobites………who exist in an unreal tweediness of spineless toasts to the “King Over The Watter (sic)” rarely point out that “Prince” Charles Edward……….the Bonnie Prince Charlie was a drunken, woman-beating, cowardly monster. It doesn’t say that on the shortbread tin.
The biggest contribution Bonnie Prince Charlie ever made to his devoted subjects was to desert them and leave them at the mercy of the victorious enemy. Too cowardly to rally his decimated army at the rendevous point at Ruthven Barracks……..his last order was that his followers should look to their own safety. Nobody looked to his own safety more than Bonnie Prince Charlie.
While men, women and children died to aid his escape……..Charles settled back to the drunken life of excess in the palaces of Europe. This means that Charlie deserted his own cause and by his own order…….his followers were free to look to their own best interests. Some did so by adopting to the new regime (as per his instruction) and some did so by deserting “monarchy” and adopting the freedom of Republicanism (as per his instruction). Yet “A Young Highland Rover” (1787) is claeraly a reference to Charles and romanticises the escape myth/desertion reality.
While Robert Burns grew into manhood and was writing his Jacobite poems, he would already have been aware that the so called hero was in fact a drunken self-pitying fraud who blamed the Scots for his defeat. Burns’ best known Jacobite song “Ye Jacobites By Name” (1791) is written three years after the death of Charlie in a Roman palace. Burns blames Jacobite “doctrines” Why? Well by this stage there was a new philosophy to replace the discredited Stuarts…..the French Revolution had taken place in 1789.
Yet Burns continues to write of Jacobite heroism. “Frae the Friends and Land I Love” (1792) is about brotherhood and nationalism. The beautiful “Highland Widows Lament” (1794) ,her destitution and poverty roaming Europe is a sharp contrast to Charlies fate.Indeed there is a suggestion that she blames Charlie Stewart (sic). In 1794 Burns also writes “A Fiddler in the North” which bemoans the “foreign squeals” that have replaced Highland pipes. It is a metaphor.
There is irony that within a single week every January, two rival groups celebrate rival myths. On 25th January Norn Iron unionists will celebrate Rabbie Burns as “their” poet but will not dwell overly on the fact that he was the poet who commemorated and celebrated Jacobitism.
And on 31st January, the plastic pretend “legitimist monarchists” will cry crocodile tears for a cowardly, drunken, serial abuser of women “Bonnie” Prince Charlie. They will quote Burns but will not dwell much on the fact that Burns gave up on Jacobitism and adopted the Republican philosophy of France. Even by 1794 (??) Burns was going further than Tom Paine……..Rabbie Burns was writing a poem celebrating “The Rights of Woman”. Now that is…….revolutionary.
Why should psuedo-modern Jacobites…..yes I know its an oxymoron find fault. Burns is only obeying the instruction of “their” Prince. Look to Ouselves. Our Families. Our Rights. Our Nations.
There was a time when Jacobitism served Irish and Scottish nationalism. No true Irishman would accept that our nation should serve a king………ANY King. I wont presume to speak for Scots..