Damn’ Rebel Bitches 20th Anniversary

This year I’m celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45.



Writing this book was a labour of love for me. With no Internet to speak of back in 1997, I did the research in the old-fashioned way, travelling to libraries, archives, museums and locations up and down the country, from the Public Record Office in Kew in London through York, Carlisle and Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness.

DRB, as we call it in our house, has had some wonderful plaudits over the years.

‘glitters with eye-catching gems that shed light on everyday 18th century Scottish life.’ Roddy Philipps, Aberdeen Press and Journal.

‘a racily written, well-researched and heart-warming account.’ Elizabeth Sutherland, Scots Magazine.

‘a modern classic.’ The Herald.

‘bold and argumentative … resounds with authority.’ Scotland on Sunday.

‘This book changed my life.’ Young woman at Linlithgow Literary Festival. 

Originally published by Mainstream of Edinburgh, Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45 is now published by Penguin Random House.  It is available from High Street and online booksellers, including Amazon UK and Amazon US, as is its companion volume, Bare-Arsed Banditti: The Men of the ’45.  



Readers furth of Scotland and the UK might like to know that The Book Depository send books worldwide at no extra cost for postage and packing. All my books are also available worldwide as ebooks from Amazon, Kobo and other online retailers.


Remembering The Jacobites of 1715

The Jacobite Rising of 1715 had its formal start on 6th September 1715 when the Earl of Mar raised the standard at Braemar. Prior to the rising of 1745, this was the most significant attempt to win the British throne back from the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart.

Three hundred years later, on 6th September 2015, some of us foregathered at the NTS Visitor Centre at Culloden to remember the Jacobites of 1715. It was a bright, breezy and gloriously sunny day.

A temporary exhibition was unveiled by Katey Boal, Learning Manager with the National Trust for Scotland at Culloden.

This is a joint project between NTS Culloden and The Fifteen (The Northumbrian Jacobite Society), initiated with great enthusiasm by NTS Property Manager Andrew McKenzie and John Nicholls, MBE, Chairman of The Fifteen (The Northumbrian Jacobite Society). John is glimpsed here to the left of the handsome display boards.


The Jacobites of 1715 don’t have nearly as high a profile as their counterparts in 1745 but they’re just as interesting and many of their stories are equally poignant.

Take James Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, executed for treason on Tower Hill in London early in 1716 at the age of 26. From his point of view there was no treason. He was loyal both to his Catholic faith and to the man he saw as his rightful king, James VIII and III, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s father.


A beautiful old lament remembers Derwentwater and his commitment to the cause of the House of Stuart. Listen here to The Corries’ version, with the late and sorely missed Roy Williamson accompanying himself on the hauntingly-beautiful Northumbrian smallpipes.


John Nicholls (seen here more clearly with his wife Elizabeth), is passionate about remembering the Jacobites of 1715, especially those who came from the North of England. At Culloden in September 2015, he read out the names of many of the men who took part and the places they came from. It was a very moving moment. One of those men was George Collingwood, who is mentioned in Derwentwater’s Farewell.


John also laid a beautiful wreath and, preceded by a piper, led a group out to the entrance to the visitor centre, where a replica of the Jacobite standard of 1715 was raised.


As John says: “Apart from its being a once-in-a-lifetime anniversary that should not go unnoticed, we felt also that it would add to the visitor experience at Culloden by giving them some indication that there wasn’t only just the ’45 and that this was the culmination of several previous plots and risings, of which the ’15 had the best chance of success.”


Find out more about the Jacobite Rising of 1715 and The Northumbrian Jacobite Society, who also have a Facebook page.




Lord Pitsligo of the 1745 Jacobite Rising

Lord Pitsligo 001

I have to confess that I’m a wee bit in love with Alexander Forbes, 4th Lord Pitsligo. He was a scholar, a gentleman and man of honour. He fought in the ’15 and went out again in 1745, despite being 67 years old and a chronic asthmatic. He was a great asset to Bonnie Prince Charlie and did everything he could to mitigate the suffering of those on the other side. When Charles and the Jacobites occupied a hostile Glasgow over Christmas 1745, it was Cameron of Lochiel who stayed the Prince’s hand when he threatened to sack the city. I suspect Pitsligo backed him up.

He was certainly a tactful guest in the house of the Glasgow University professor on whom he was billeted. A few weeks later, the professor asked Pitsligo to intervene to secure the release of two young ministers and two divinity students who had set out to fight against the Jacobites at the Battle of Falkirk in January 1746. This ended in victory for Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites.

One of those young ministers was John Witherspoon. The Jacobites had imprisoned him in Doune Castle, near Stirling. Whether Pitsligo intervened is not recorded. In any case, the young reverend, just 23 years old at the time, managed to escape from Doune, which was quite a feat. He went on to become a founder of Princeton University and one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence.

Doune Castle near Stirling

After Culloden, Lord Pitsligo became a fugitive with a price on his head. For years he had to hide in and around his home of Pitsligo Castle, near Fraserburgh, in Scotland’s north-east corner. Pursued by the Redcoats, he had many close shaves but his family, friends and tenants protected him. He died a free man in bed at his son’s house at the age of 84.

If you’d like to read more about Lord Pitsligo and other unsung Jacobite heroes of the ’45, you’ll find them here:

Bare-Arsed Banditti: The Men of the ’45

Bare-Arsed Banditti: The Men of the ’45

See some great photos of Pitsligo Castle here.