Monday, June 29, 2009

Queen visit is Culloden 'first'

The Queen will meet schoolchildren during her visit

The Queen has visited Culloden Battlefield and the £140m Glendoe hydro power scheme in the Highlands.

She became the first British monarch to set foot on the battlefield - the site of the Jacobite defeat of 1746.

Archaeologist and Culloden expert Dr Tony Pollard said her visit was a "landmark" event in the history of the site.

Glendoe, above Loch Ness near Fort Augustus, is generating electricity following a major construction project.

Last year it generated to its maximum level for a full 24 hours for the first time during a rehearsal ahead of coming on stream. The Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) scheme can create up to 100 megawatts - enough electricity for about 250,000 homes.

A 220-metre long tunnel boring machine was used to gouge out a five mile tunnel for the plant.

It took 15 months to complete the digging operation.

Local schoolchildren were invited to give the machine a nickname and decided on Eliza Jane after first considering Tin Lizzie - a character in the Beano - and then changing their minds because it was not "posh enough".

Another quirk of the construction project was that the main tunnel was blessed.

Superstitious workers placed an icon of Saint Barbara - the patron saint of miners as well as artillery gunners and mathematicians - inside it.

Glendoe is the first large-scale hydro-electric project since 1957.

It turns rainfall into hydro energy through a nine-mile network of tunnels linking a dam above Loch Ness to a generating station 2,000 feet below.

SSE expect the project would pay for itself over the next 10 years.

Culloden was the last battle fought on British soil. IT brought an end to a major military campaign by Charles Edward Stuart - Bonnie Prince Charlie - to claim the British throne.

June 1746 was a key time in the hunt for the prince and saw him aided by Flora Macdonald.

She famously took him to Portree on Skye while he was disguised in women's clothing and pretending to be an Irish maiden by the name of Betty Burke.

MacDonald was later arrested and sent to the Tower of London.

Eventually, at Loch nan Uamh near Arisaig, two French vessels L'Heureux and Le Prince Conti and their crews reached Prince Charlie and he was taken to France.

The Queen will be given a tour of Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre, which opened in December 2007.

Its owners the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) spent £9.5m constructing and fitting out the building and restoring the battlefield.

"Bonnie Prince Charlie, grandson of James VII and II who was deposed in 1688, and the Duke of Cumberland, second son of George II, were both present during the battle, leading the opposing armies.

"The visit should be regarded as an honour to all of those who died in the battle and its aftermath and represents a welcome contribution to long healing process which has followed the events of 16 April 1746."

He added: "The visit is also a recognition of the first class status of the National Trust Visitor Centre and battlefield site which is an international flagship for the public presentation of historic battlefields."

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