MORVERN lines

The Oban Times - - News - Iain Thorn­ber iain.thorn­ber@bt­in­ter­net.com

Sav­ing the ban­ner

DUR­ING the Gulf War, a head­line caught my at­ten­tion. It was about a young Kuwaiti sol­dier who took his life in his hands to re­cap­ture a reg­i­men­tal tank flag taken by the en­emy dur­ing a skir­mish on the Iraq border. As the de­tails emerged, it re­minded me of a stone in Kiel grave­yard, Morvern, and a story con­nected with it that used to be told in the parish many years ago of an 18-year- old man called Don­ald Liv­ing­stone who res­cued his clan ban­ner at Cul­lo­den in 1746.

Don­ald Liv­ing­stone, bet­ter known lo­cally as Domh­nall Mol­lach (Gaelic for ‘hairy Don­ald’) was born in 1728 at Savary near Fi­u­nary, on the shores of the Sound of Mull. The Liv­ing­stones first ar­rived in Morvern from Ap­pin through Mull many cen­turies ago. Al­though they were ten­ants of the Duke of Ar­gyll, who owned most of the parish at the time of the ’45, Don­ald and his four broth­ers, one of whom was the great-great-grand­fa­ther of Dr David Liv­ing­stone, the fa­mous mis­sion­ary and ex­plorer, were Ja­co­bites and fought un­der the Stewarts of Ap­pin.

At Cul­lo­den, the Ste­wart Reg­i­ment, num­ber­ing about 300, were in the front line along with the Camerons and the Athol men. As soon as the bat­tle be­gan, they charged, break­ing through Bar­rell’s (4th) and Munro’s (37th) at the front of Cum­ber­land’s army. Pass­ing through them, they con­tin­ued to surge for­ward but, com­ing un­der heavy fire from three other ar­tillery reg­i­ments, were forced back. The charge stopped, the High­land line was shat­tered and the bat­tle was over in less than an hour. The Ap­pin Reg­i­ment lost 92 men and 65 were se­ri­ously wounded.

Some clan his­to­ri­ans say the Carmichaels were the hered­i­tary stan­dard-bear­ers of the Stewarts of Ap­pin, while oth­ers main­tain it was the Liv­ing­stones, 17 of whom were killed de­fend­ing the colours. Be that as it may, nei­ther recorded fact nor tra­di­tion is di­vided as to what hap­pened next.

Don­ald Mol­lach from Morvern saw the blue and yel­low ban­ner ly­ing on the ground and, rush­ing for­ward un­der fire, ripped it from its staff, wrapped it round his body and took to his heels. On the way off the bat­tle­field, he was struck on the chest by a mus­ket ball which knocked him off his feet but only be­cause of the im­pact as the folds of the ban­ner acted as body ar­mour. A lit­tle while later, a rid­er­less horse trot­ted by and Don­ald man­aged to get into the sad­dle. Two English dra­goons saw him rid­ing away and went af­ter him. He dealt with one and fright­ened the other off.

Don­ald even­tu­ally found his way home to Savary still with the ban­ner, but soon he had to hide it and take to the hills him­self when 200 of the Ar­gyll Mili­tia ar­rived in the parish look­ing for Prince Charles Ed­ward Ste­wart and known Ja­co­bite sym­pa­this­ers. For months, he was con­stantly on the move, rest­ing in caves dur­ing the day and be­ing sup­plied with food by friends at night. When the sol­diers left and life re­turned to some form of nor­mal­ity, Don­ald re­trieved the ban­ner and re­turned it to his grate­ful chief in Ap­pin.

The ban­ner re­mained in the Ste­wart fam­ily who, by some odd freak of fate, also ac­quired two colours of the Hanove­rian Bar­rell’s 4th Reg­i­ment whom, it will be re­called, fought against the Ap­pin men at Cul­lo­den. In 1930, all three ban­ners were given to the Ste­wart So­ci­ety on con­di­tion they were to be kept to­gether and that in any ac­count of them recog­ni­tion was to be given to Don­ald Mol­lach. The fol­low­ing year they were pre­sented to the Scot­tish Na­tional Mil­i­tary Mu­seum in Ed­in­burgh Castle and laid up with full mil­i­tary hon­ours. There they stayed un­til 1998 when the di­rec­tor of the new Na­tional Mu­se­ums of Scot­land, who was cast­ing round for ex­hi­bi­tion ma­te­rial, wrongly re­moved them be­cause he con­sid­ered them to be ‘ap­pro­pri­ate’ for a pub­lic dis­play on the Ja­co­bites.

Don­ald Mol­lach died at Savary in 1816 and was buried be­side his par­ents in Kiel, Morvern. The spot is marked by a mag­nif­i­cent sculp­tured mon­u­ment and a metal plaque placed there in 1983 dur­ing a spe­cial ser­vice of com­mem­o­ra­tion at­tended by clan chief Sir Du­gald Ste­wart of Ap­pin and Baron Alas­tair Liv­ing­stone of Bachuil, Lis­more, one of Don­ald Mol­lach’s de­scen­dants.

The news­pa­per re­port of the Kuwaiti sol­dier who res­cued the reg­i­men­tal flag in Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm made no men­tion of whether he re­ceived the thanks of his com­man­der or what be­came of the flag. Per­haps one day his story, too, may be writ­ten up and recorded for pos­ter­ity among his peo­ple, just as Don­ald’s was all th­ese years ago.

Don­ald Liv­ing­stone re­veal­ing the Ste­wart ban­ner to his mother at Savary. From a paint­ing by Skeoch Cum­ming.

Don­ald Liv­ing­stone’s grave­stone, Kiel, Morvern.

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