A metal detecting survey on the site of the Battle of Killiecrankie – part of the Scottish Government’s work to dual the A9 – has unearthed dozens of items linked to the famous 1689 skirmish.
The artefacts include a copper alloy pendant, a harness boss, two buckles, part of the support for a sword belt, horse shoes, buttons, and musket munitions.
While the survey is providing information for developing plans to dual the A9 between Killiecrankie and Pitagowan, it is also improving knowledge of Scotland’s military history of the 1689 battle between the Jacobite army and Government forces.
Transport Minister Derek Mackay, who unveiled some of the finds to pupils at Pitlochry High School today, said:
“Our work to dual the A9 will bring undoubted improvements for road users and will allow us to refine our road designs for the future, but has also opened a window into Scotland’s past.
“Thanks to the survey work, experts are shedding more light on the Battle of Killiecrankie which took place over three hundred years ago, bringing “Bonnie Dundee’s” Jacobite victory to life. They are able to offer more information on the battle including the possible route soldiers took during the battle, potential cavalry positions, where the key skirmishes and close quarters fighting took place, and the likely retreating route taken by the fleeing Government forces.
“I’m delighted pupils here at Pitlochry High School, one of our Academy9 schools, have been given the chance to see the artefacts up close. While the finds are providing more evidence for experts to refine this chapter in Scottish military history, as well as help develop our essential work to dual the A9 – it is also proving invaluable in bringing some of Scotland’s rich history to new younger audiences.
Mr Mackay added:
“In addition, the design work across the dualling programme is progressing well and next week locals and road users will get the chance to view the preferred routes for three of the sections to be dualled – Killiecrankie to Pitagowan, Pitagowan to Glen Garry and Dalwhinnie to Crubenmore.
“With construction of the section between Kincraig and Dalraddy well underway, this Government remains committed to delivering the improvements to this vital route linking central Scotland with the Highlands and Islands.”
Warren Bailie, Project Manager at GUARD Archaeology Limited who carried out the metal detecting survey said:
”The recent metal detecting survey on the Killiecrankie Battlefield, one of the best preserved battlefields in Scotland, has revealed exciting new evidence to back up the earlier findings of archaeological work carried out in 2003 as part of the well-known TV programme ‘Two men in a Trench’.
“We and our partners involved in the survey have enjoyed working on such an iconic, nationally significant battlefield site and playing a part in helping improve our understanding of this important event in Scotland’s past.”
To augment previous studies undertaken on the battlefield site, Guard Archaeology have undertaken a metal detecting survey at Killiecrankie Battlefield over summer 2015. Guard were assisted in the work by the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology Glasgow University and metal detectorists from Detecting Scotland and the Scottish Artefact Recovery Group.
The battle of Killiecrankie took place on the 27 July 1689 between a Jacobite army under the command of John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount of Dundee ‘Bonnie Dundee’ – and a Government army commanded by General Hugh Mackay. The armies came face to face at Killiecrankie as both were attempting to reach Blair Atholl to use it as a base for future operations.
The Jacobites had taken up position on the higher ground on the southern slopes of Creag Eallaich and the government forces deployed beneath them at the base of the hill. The armies sniped on and skirmished with each other for most of the afternoon and into the evening until around 8pm when the Jacobites charged downhill and broke the government lines. It was during this charge that Dundee was killed and during the ensuing rout of the Government forces that Donald MacBane claims to have made his “Soldier’s Leap” across the River Garry. The Jacobites are thought to have lost 800 men, with around 2,000 casualties amongst the Government troops.
The battle is important for a number of reasons, including the first use of grenades in the UK (a fragment of a grenade was recovered during metal detecting undertaken for the television programme Two Men in a Trench in 2003) and the first use of platoon firing in Britain. The importance of the battlefield is reflected in its inclusion on Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Scotland which is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.