Visitors to Fanshawe Pioneer Village were in for a treat during Victoria Day weekend as local historical groups performed a two-day re-enactment of the Battle of Culloden. The battle, which pitted Scottish Highlanders loyal to Charles Edward Stuart against the British government, was the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. For many Scots, this battle was a turning point for modern Scotland.
Doug Robinson, a historian and story-teller at the event, recounts the Act of Proscription, a British Parliamentary ruling after Culloden which stripped Highlanders of their heritage. “For almost forty years after the battle, we couldn't wear the plaid, speak Gaelic, sing our old traditional songs or teach children our own history,” he said. “We could be put to death.”
Robinson believes re-enacting battles like Culloden helps children understand and remember historical events. “By doing historical events like these, we've got kids in Grade 2 and 3 who probably know more about their history than their grandparents did because they're exposed to it so much.”
The event not only saw an authentic re-enactment of the battle, but of life at the Jacobite camps. Many volunteers chose to camp out at the Pioneer Village's Tecumseh Field and experience being an 18th century Highlander. “We research what people wear, equipment they're carrying, the weapons they're firing, even the food that they're eating at camp,” said Leigh Hodgins, a Barrie school teacher. “It's porridge for breakfast, beans for lunch and meat over the fire. If you haven't brought a plate, you're eating off your hands.”
Hodgins added that many items at the campsite, including the wooden furniture, were
made for the event. “The majority of what we have in our camp we've made ourselves. We have people who do the wood, we have some who sew, we have people who work with
leather. So we pretty much are self-sufficient within this group.”
For many like Robinson and Hodgins, historical re-enactments aren't just a past-time – its a way of life. “You have people who start for some reason, but then fall in love with it,” said Robinson. “They start discovering their history and their place in it even if their family didn't emigrate until a generation ago. It becomes much more than a hobby.”