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Scholars and Warriors: John Roy Stewart

Classical Literature

Scholars and Warriors: John Roy Stewart

“Jacobites, 1745” by John Pettie


By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB and John Priest, B.A Cert. Min


This series, which we are calling “Scholars and Warriors”, hopes to challenge a modern-day stereotype: the idea that a man must either like poetry and literature or be interested in sports or fighting, never both. Men who like poetry are too often seen as effeminate or weak, and the ones who like sports or martial arts are seen as brainless hooligans. People today often don’t realize that it’s possible to like both, even though in earlier periods these things often went hand in hand.

According to the ancients, a real human being should have a keen interest in all these aspects of life. Julius Caesar, for instance, apart from being a general, also wrote poetry, history, grammar etc.

Today we are going to talk about the life and achievements of the Scottish Gaelic poet Iain Ruadh Stiubhart.

Iain was a man with many talents: poet, warrior, and piper. John Roy Stuart (one version of his name in English) is one of the most important historical and cultural figures to have originated in Strathspey, in the Highlands of Scotland. He was a man committed to the Jacobites, the “rebels” who wanted to restore the Stuart Dynasty to the throne of Great Britain. John Roy operated as a Jacobite agent, making dangerous trips between France and Scotland, and hoping the people of Scotland would rise again against Hanoverian rule. His songs are occasionally sung today in the Scottish Highlands. Among his best-known poems are “The Day of Culloden” and “The Lament of Lady Mackintosh”.

It’s worth mentioning that some people believe that John Roy Stuart was the inspiration for the character of Alan Breck Stewart in the novel Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Day of Culloden: a Poem after a Bloody Battle

John Roy Stewart took part in the battle that spelled the end of the Jacobite movement: the Battle of Culloden. After the battle, he fled the country in order to escape execution. It was during this moment of distress that he composed his best work, “The Day of Culloden”, whose beginning lines, with a translation, are transcribed below:

Gur mór mo chùis mhulaid,
S mì ri caoineadh na guin atà m’ thìr;
A Rìgh! bi làidir, s tù s urrainn
Ar nàimhdean a chumail fo chìs;
Oirnne is làidir Diùc Uilleam,
An rag-mheirleach, tha guin aige dhuinn;
B’è sud salachar nan sgeallag
Tighinn an uachdar air chruithneachd an

Great is the cause of my sorrow,
As I lament the wounds of my land;
O God! be strong, you’re able
To keep in subjection our enemies;
Over us Duke William is tyrant,
That extortioner, who destoys us;
It’s like foul weeds of charlock
Overcoming the wheat of the land.
(available at www.tartanplace.com/tartanhistory/culoden.html)


I hope you enjoyed this short essay about a great Scottish Gaelic poet. If you like poetry (and a good battle), then John Roy Stuart is for you!


André Bastos Gurgel
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.

Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.

John Priest
Prof. John Priest graduated from University College London with a B.A. Hons. in Classical Greek and Latin, with Comparative Philology. He also earned a Cert. Min. (HMCO) from Harris Manchester College at Oxford. In his spare time, he studies the history and literature of the Celtic languages and their dialects. Prof. Priest currently tutors Latin, Ancient Greek, French, Italian, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Welsh for Carmenta Online PhD Tutors.

Click here to see Magister Priest’s full profile on the Carmenta Faculty Page.



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