A Bloody Battle in the Heart of Strathearn


Some of you older bloggers may recall a quite dreadful movie called Brigadoon which even the talented Gene Kelly and the legs of Cyd Charisse failed to save from ignominy! . Brigadoon was a mythical Scottish village which only appeared once every 100 years .One only hoped that perhaps it never would reappear ! Brigadoon never fails to remind me of that ancient battle referred to by historians as Mons Graupius . Varying accounts as to “when and where” abound as does the actual existence of its Pictish hero and leader aptly named Calgacus - the swordsman . Calgacus appears as an important character in the biography of the Roman Governor of Britain, Julius Agricola , De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae, written by his son-in-law, Tacitus, in AD98. Nothing else is known about him from any other source, and there has to be some question about whether he actually existed at all. But if he didn't then someone like him probably did. Julius Agricola began his campaign to conquer the land we now call Scotland in AD80. By the beginning of AD84, they controlled everything up to Southern Perthashire and in that year pressed still further into northern Scotland, trying to draw the main forces of the Caledonian leader Calgacus into open battle. The Caledonians, however, were intent on maintaining their hit-and-run tactics. But when Agricola's troops captured many of the storehouses holding the Caledonians' recently gathered harvest, Calgacus had to choose between fighting, or letting his people starve in the forthcoming winter. The final showdown occurred at the Battle of Mons Graupius, apparently in Autumn AD84. Fought at Dunning in Strathearn Curiosity reigns over where exactly the battle was fought Until recently it was more or less assumed that the battle in fact took place in Aberdeenshire on the slopes of Bennachie . “ Authoritative “ opinion have come up with alternative locations including Glen Devon , Comrie , Fendoch in the Sma Glen, the Knock of Crieff , Edzell ,Monifieth , Peterculter and Dunning . The historian Richard Feacham proposed the site of Dun Knock on the fringes of the village of Dunning in 1970 . The extent of the marching camp at Dunning was at that time improperly understood and Feacham suggested that it was a small marching camp that faced the small hillock of Dun Knock near the Duncrub Burn . Aerial photography later indicated that the marching camp was much larger Further findings on the site potted of continuing interest . Aerial photography again demonstrated that the small hillock was in fact the site of a multi walled iron age hill fort proving therefore that the Duncrub Burn took its name from the fort . Dun Knock was a later Gaelic naming simply meaning Fort Hill . The web site Roman Scotland http://www.romanscotland.org.uk/is analytical and balanced and here is its conclusion : “Considerable attraction devolves to sites around the River Earn and in Perthshire, and here at Dunning, on a site located on the Clevage Hills the remarkable and exemplary probability of 100% is achieved across a thoroughly wide ranging and tough set of criteria, the likes of which these contenders have never been put against to date. When we set out to explore the contenders and started writing this work we hoped to be able to conclude “on the balance of probability” that one site perhaps best merited the accolade of being identified the site of Mons Graupius. There is now no need for such caution, the Clevage Hills superbly fit the description of events by Tacitus, they are located in a proven area of Flavian campaigning and the camp at Dunning – the correct size for the likely Roman forces involved - sits in a coherent series of the largest known and irrefutably proven Flavian camps north of the Forth. A Caledonian mustering there makes perfect sense with the Romans likely to pass near but not directly through this location in any march north through Strathallan, and cannily away from the direction Rome saw of concern following the preceding season; the area fronting the Trossachs. Located to the south of Venicone territory – one of the major stakeholders in the Caledonian tribal confederacy - the position on the Clevage Hills is perfect for a formidable defensive encampment and its location enables the tribes to take whatever action was deemed necessary before the Roman columns started harrying their lands to the north of this position again. It is singularly well located to either address any Roman expansionist moves north in the campaign season of 83 AD or to take the fight further south perhaps with the aim of encouraging the tribes in southern Scotland to throw off the Imperial yoke. The rare survival of the original sites name Croup or Croupii to this day at Dunning and Carey would suggest that the Ochil`s Northern Hills, seen even to this day as a distinct component of the Ochil Hills was the region known as the Croup or Croupi. The later medieval battle of Dorsum Crup proves this, the battle at Dunning on the “Ridge of Cr(o)up” while the association with the hill ranges name survives at nearby Carey with the Croupie Craigs. “


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