Seeing the above in the Scotsman, I was reminded that nearly four years ago, I wrote this and got a ‘mixed’ response. How about we apply my thinking then about Fort George, to all the National Trust’s castles, palaces, prisons, dungeons, stately homes?
Oh, yeh, and, sack Neil Oliver!
Images: caernarfon.com, undiscoveredscotland.co.uk, fortapachearizona.org
Here’s what the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal thinks:
‘Fort George closure would cost Highland economy millions of pounds. Plans to close the historic Fort George barracks could cost the Highland economy £14million a year and lead to the loss of more than 100 jobs, it has emerged.’
Further down, the PJ reports:
‘Built after the Battle of Culloden, the garrison has been the home of the famous 500-strong Black Watch battalion for almost a decade, and also houses the regimental museum for The Highlanders.’
The campaign to save the fort has full cross-party support including that of newly-appointed Depute-Leader of the SNP, Angus Robertson. Is he biased? Like some of my Robertson ancestors, some of his, probably got jobs with the Black Watch helping to keep the other tribes down, on behalf of the German, House of Hanover, UK monarchy at the time…..and still today? And, his mother is German and he speaks German fluently. He needs to declare any interests on this one.
I’m going out on a limb here, I know, but why don’t we think differently about this and similar historical sites? You could see them as places best forgotten rather than preserved. I began to think this way during a visit to North Wales with it’s impossible-to-ignore string of massive Norman castles. They are big, ugly and physically dominating things just at face value but if you think of what they were for, it’s much worse. These 12th Century monstrosities were built to dominate the Welsh, to remind them of their inferior status and were places of torture and imprisonment. It’s important to remember too that they were part of a wider domination of the Anglo-Saxons/English by a brutal French-speaking warrior elite just at the beginning of their imperial expansion.
More than four hundred years later, that imperial project had just finished-off the last element of resistance in mainland Britain, the tribes of the Scottish Highlands. After victory by an imperial army at Culloden in 1746, the clans were ‘pacified’. This brutal process of punishment, humiliation and killing is today well-known. As with the Welsh, centuries before, Celtic cultural expression was banned and a chain of great forts was built to maintain control of the ‘tribes’. They are still with us today as Fort William, Fort Augustus and Fort George. Going further in the humiliation for the local population than was the case in Wales, they take the names of British aristocrats and have become the place-names of the settlements they stand in.
Less than two centuries later, a more fully genocidal project but with its roots still in Anglo-Norman imperialism was to put down many more forts across the lands of the aboriginal tribes of North America. Fort Apache is the best known but there are many more.
Is Fort George just our Fort Apache? Would the descendants of the Apache like to pay taxes for its preservation, I wonder?