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The Flight of the Heron by D K Broster

William Heinemann, 1956, 286 p. First published 1925.

 The Flight of the Heron cover

Broster wasn’t Scottish but the background to her story most certainly is, probably the most worked-over seam in Scottish history, the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-6, from Scott kicking off the whole historical novel malarkey with Waverley to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.

The focus here is very much not on the battles of that rebellion but on the relationship between Jacobite Ewen Cameron (of Ardroy) and a Government Army Officer, the Englishman Captain (later Major) Keith Windham of the Royal Scots.

Just after Bonnie Prince Charlie has landed in Scotland, Windham is captured by Cameron (due to no fault of his own – his horse shying at a heron rising in front of it, which only slightly injures him but breaks the horse’s leg – leaving him all but defenceless.) Windham is surprised to find Cameron not the barbarian of his expectations but a gentleman with fine and chivalrous manners. Having given his parole, Windham is indebted to Cameron for intervening when on a stroll round the Ardroy estate he comes across locals retrieving their arms cache from the thatched roofs of their houses and is thereby thought to be a spy. In the meantime, we find that Cameron’s foster-father – who is a seer – has predicted that Cameron and Windham will meet a total of five times, leaving the reader totting up their encounters. Sure enough the pairs’ paths cross again in Edinburgh after the Battle of Prestonpans when Windham has sallied from the castle in an attempt to capture the Prince – to whom Cameron is now aide-de-camp – who is visiting a house nearby, and once again Windham finds himself indebted to Cameron for allowing him to escape the clutches of Highlander reinforcements.

Windham’s opportunity to repay these favours occurs in the aftermath of Culloden when he arrives just in time to prevent the execution of an almost dying Cameron – wounded and exhausted, barely able to stand – at the hands of a detachment of Government soldiers sweeping the countryside for rebels. Windham’s speiring of Cameron as to the whereabouts of Clan Chief Lochiel then becomes a source of distrust between them before two final meetings in prison resolve their situation.

The book is dedicated to Violet Jacob, whose Flemington – which covers much the same ground as this – and Tales from Angus I read in 2015. Broster is not as good a stylist as Jacob was, though. Indeed, her prose tends to the utilitarian, but she does have an eye for landscape.

It is, however, impossible to read this book nowadays without wondering about its undercurrent, Windham’s several times expressed “strong attraction” for Cameron. His striving to ensure Cameron does not suffer unduly in the Government soldiers’ hands – even to the point of encurring the direct displeasure of the Duke of Cumberland – speaks of something more than mere obligation or friendship. A something that perhaps could not be addressed in so many words on the book’s first printing in 1925.

Pedant’s corner:- the very first word! Prolouge (Prologue,) h (he,) “‘the Elector’s’” (the meaning was ‘of the ‘Elector’ hence, the ‘Elector’’s,) a missing full stop, “a file of soldiers were advancing” (a file … was advancing,) Glangarry (Glengarry, I think,) “more then stupefaction” (more than,) ‘Hangman Hawley (‘Hangman Hawley’,) Mullins’ (Mullins’s,) an unnecessary end quotation mark, “which was, be believed” (which was, he believed,) Babenoch (Badenoch,) “‘for you solicitude’” (your,) “aide-de-camps” (aides-de-camp, as was used elsewhere, except for one “aides-de-camps”) a few missing commas before pieces of direct speech, lous d’or (louis d’or,) will-o-the-wisps (wills-o-the-wisp,) “were else” (where else,) staunch (stanch.)

Balgonie Castle

Apart from a henge (or two) it’s a toss-up whether the nearest ancient monument to Son of the Rock Acres is Falkland Palace or Balgonie Castle.

We’ve been to the Palace many times but only visited Balgonie Castle for the first time in June last year. The local Heritage Group had its last meeting of the season there with the permission of the Laird.

Balgonie Castle tower and entrance:-

Balgonie Castle

The Castle has of course been used in the TV series made from the Outlander books (it seems almost no castle in Scotland hasn’t.) This door by the pathway from the small car park emphasises the fact.

Balgonie Castle

I believe the castle is not open to visitors at the moment though.

That door is to the right of this part of the castle wall:-

Balgonie Castle Bastion Wall

The castle has been partially restored by the present Laird. Still-ruined portion from courtyard:-

Balgonie Castle, Ruined Portion from Courtyard

Tower from courtyard:-

Balgonie Castle

Part of courtyard wall. The flags are of Scotland and Texas. The Laird’s wife is from that US state I believe.

Balgonie Castle

Courtyard wall with wooden cloister:-

Balgonie Castle Courtyard Wall

Courtyard wall and well:-

Balgonie Castle

External stair from courtyard to main building:-

Balgonie Castle External Stair From Courtyard

Part of castle:-

Balgonie Castle

Coat of arms:-

Balgonie Castle Coat of Arms

Falkland Then and Now

Falkland is a village a few miles away from where we now live. (Its name is connected in a roundabout way to a certain set of islands in the South Atlantic but it’s more famous for its Palace, the country residence of the Stuart monarchs.)

We go there quite often – usually to visit the Library but also to have a stroll as there’s an estate and burn you can walk beside. The Palace gardens are wortha look as well, especially if you area National trust for Scotland member.

In February we found its main street festooned with no parking cones and notices of restriction for four days.

Falkland  in Fife

Falkland in Fife

It turned out they were going to be filming scenes for the new series of Outlander and they’d mocked it up supposedly as if it were the 1950s.

The Community Hall had been daubed with a “Free Scotland” grafitti and a saltire which strikes me as being unlikely for the 50s but there you go:-

Falkland  in Fife

This is how it looks restored to more normal circumstances, in April this year:-

Community Hall, Falkland, Fife

This shop was made to look like a furniture and hardware store:-

Falkland  in Fife

And its “real” incarnation is a gift shop/café, Fayre Earth:-

Fayre Earth

This “fruit shop” took me back:-

Falkland  in Fife

In the 2010s it’s another eatery, Campbell’s:-

Café/Eatery Falkland, Fife

I’m not quite sure what this was supposed to be. A B&B I think. Unfortunately people were hanging around:-

Falkland in Fife

It’s actually The Covenanter’s Hotel:-

Covenanter's Hotel, Falkland

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