White Cockade, Lines In The Sand, Jacobites, StirlingTo Wear The White Cockade

 

GUIDE: Here’s a rare thing indeed. They say that sometimes great force o’ feelin’ can bind a spirit tae one place…re-livin’ their last moments time an’ time again. Listen close, an’ stay well back…

 

Wait! Who’s there? Speak, I say. Dae ye wear the White Cockade?

Nothin’.

Ach...calm yersel’, Jamie-boy. It wilna’t be long now. No’ long afore the first chill light o’ dawn’ll cut across this rock, crisp an clear as ice. No’ long now ‘til ye’ll be relieved an’ some other poor sot’ll tak your watch

Nothin’. No change. “Nothin’ tae report….sur!”

Ach...I cou’d hae tell’t the Captain that mysel’: no’ e’en the maist black-hearted Redcoat dog’d venture oot on a night like this.

It won't be long now, though.

I’m glad tae have Jamie’s auld coat, tonight, though. I’ll tell ye that for nothin’. Mine, now….since that ither Castle Rock. I can still smell him on it, ye know that? Whiskey. Tobacco. Powder, too.

Three months, now, since we saw Edinburgh

Wide eyed in wonder, I was, as we marched behind the Prince through the Old Town. Row on row, there were of great wooden giants - houses six storeys high...chimney's everywhere! We’d never seen the like. And the crowds – twenty thousand souls crammed together within the city walls - cheerin’, roarin’ oot a hero’s welcome.

A place fit for a King, it was.

Our King. Nae ither.

The crowd were fickle. That’s what Faither had said. “Watch the tooth behind the smile, my sons. It’ll bite harder and cut deeper than any Redcoat blade.”

Jamie laughed in the auld man's face. Faither had grown feart in his dotage, he said. He’d followed auld James, the Prince’s father, thirty years past – but where his goodsire stumbled, Charles Edward Stuart would stride through this land. His land. His, by right of birth an’ blood. King George’s men might think themselves the finest soldiers in the world – aye, an’ they never tired o’ tellin’ us as much - but they fought for coin. They fought because the King – their King, not ours – bid them tae.

We fought for Honour.

Sure, Bonnie Charlie might no’ match them - at first - in arms or numbers, he said, but if it was God’s Will that He should prevail, then ten thousand men could’na stand in his way!

But Faither was right.

What a welcome it was we received…marchin; through the Netherbow Port. Heroes, one an’ a’! But no’ a tenth o’ them that cheered us on chose tae join us...tae tak up arms for the Prince. Their smiles turned too quick tae scowls. Thousands seemed tae scurry past us as we climbed the Castle Rock, fleein’ their flea-ridden hovels as battle drew near… cowards, retreatin’ tae a safe distance from the range of the Castle guns.

Jamie wanted tae stop each and every one, and shout in their stupid faces “It’s for you! It’s a’ for you! We’re heroes, don’t you see?”

At Noon the Redcoat guns thundered from the Castle walls, bringin’ the timbers o’ our tenement hideaways down upon our heads.

‘Twas done within the hour.

For half a day I sat wae Jamie, huddled in the dust - hid beneath the blasted howffs… watchin’ his life leak slowly away. I promised him that a’ would be well: that our cause was just, that it was God’s Will that the Prince should prevail.

“It won’t be long now!” I told him.

As darkness fell I took up his musket, an’ put on his auld rag o’ a greatcoat – still damp wae his noble blood. Too big for me by far.

No matter.

I’ve seen but thirteen summers on this earth. Wae God’s Will there’ll be time enough for me tae grow intae it.

I left my brother, then, in the rubble of the past. The townsfolk were returnin’, tearfully inspectin’ the shattered timbers of their homes. How they glowered at me as I passed amongst them. We had outstayed our welcome in the Capital. Selfish fools…whit a parcel o’ rogues tae prize their homes higher than their Honour.

Three months had come and gone since then, an’ Charlie has set his sights on another favoured seat of his forefathers. Stirling Castle.

Another prize tae be won for Honour and for Faith.

And for blood.

For blood most of a’.

In Stirling we were not welcomed with smiles and open arms - but entered anyway. And here we’ll stay until our Prince reclaims his birthright…or his cause is lost forever upon the blood of the battlefield.

Either way – God’s Will or not - it won’t be long now.

Wait! Who’s there? Speak, I say. Dae ye wear the White Co...?

[A GUNSHOT]

Taken from Stirling GhostWalk 2004

 

Note: This story has a peculiar evolution. The story was suggested – as is often the case with GhostWalk tales – by a local resident’s account of a ghostly Jacobite drummer-boy, killed during Charles Edward Stuart’s catastrophic siege of Stirling in January 1746. Though I could find no mention of the tale in any of the written records, I thought it was a good story which complemented 2004’s theme of religious conflict – and which was ideally suited to actress Claire Philip, filling in for GhostWalk regular Patricia Brannigan, that year. Some months later I was contacted by the editors of ‘Lines In The Sand: New Writing on War and Peace’ – raising funds for UNICEF – and asked if I might develop the monologue as a short story. This, as ‘It Won’t Be Long Now’, I was happy to do. [Lines In The Sand - ISBN-10: 0972952918].

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