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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Battle lines drawn against pylons
Fraser McRae
Fraser McRae is fighting against plans to upgrade power lines
Fraser McRae, 61, of Montrose, Angus, wrote to the BBC News website about concerns that plans for new electricity pylons would desecrate an ancient battle ground.

Many members of the Clan MacRae were slaughtered in the battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715, at the end of the Jacobite uprising.

Mr McRae fears many of the dead which still lie on the battlefield could be disturbed if plans to build a major power line cut through the site.

We sent our reporter Andrew Black to investigate.


The battle of Sheriffmuir, fought on 13 November 1715, is seen as the most significant and last battle of the rebellion.

Clan MacRae Sheriffmuir monument
The Clan MacRae has a memorial to those who died in battle

On one side were the Jacobite forces, 10,000 troops led by the Earl of Mar, and on the other, the government forces under the Duke of Argyll, with about half that number.

The battle was sparked when the Duke mobilised his forces from Stirling to block the road south to England, where Mar had decided to move his forces.

Despite their greater numbers, the rebels were eventually forced to retreat to Perth and the MacRaes, sited on the left flank of the Jacobite army, were left exposed and, with no cavalry support, were effectively slaughtered.

Many of the men who died here still lie here after almost 300 years

Now the Clan MacRae Society claims the site of the battle, which has been marked with a memorial, is under threat from plans by Scottish and Southern Energy to build a 137-mile power transmission line of pylons from Beauly, near Inverness, to Denny, near Falkirk.

The company has promised to make a fully informed decision on the route of the line and Mr McRae has echoed calls for a public inquiry into the proposals.

"We're not concerned with the pylon line itself, but its going to run directly through Sheriffmuir," he said.

"The pylons will require foundations and that will mean digging huge holes right across the battlefield.

Fraser McRae
Mr McRae does not want any of the site dug up

"Many of the men who died here still lie here after almost 300 years and we don't think it's acceptable that they should be disturbed at this time for this reason."

Mr McRae said battlefields in Scotland were not given the same level of protection as in England, a policy he hopes will also change.

About 100 MacRaes died in the battle, a considerable number for the small clan, which had its homeland in Kintail, Perthshire.

Inquiry call

The losses caused a shortage of men within the clan which lasted for several generations.

Mr McRae said: "It has been suggested that a metal detector survey could be carried out to identify artefacts and human remains and any that are found be dug up under the supervision of an archaeologist.

"We don't think it should be dug up at all."

Inscription on the monument
Protests have been organised by the Clan MacRae

The clan society, and others concerned by what may happen to the battlefield, have staged a number of protest marches in the area to raise awareness of the issue.

"We would like to see the pylons routed right round the battlefield with no disturbance to the ground and no disturbance to the remains of the men who have lain here for all that time," he said.

"A lot of people don't know there was a battle here and a lot don't know what is planned here. A public inquiry will bring this to people's attention."

In a statement, Scottish and Southern Energy said: "We continue to believe we have submitted a robust application and SSE will make a fully informed decision about the route of the proposed overhead transmission line and its potential impact on the landscape and archaeology related to this area of historical interest."


We asked for your views on this article. The following represents the balance of opinion we received.

It would appear that SSE didn't do their homework in enough depth in the first place and are now attempting damage limitation with their condescending offer to make a "fully informed decision on the route of the line". Let's hope their information comes from a better source than the initial one. However, one must ask how they managed to get as far as they have without some official body realising the magnitude of offending so many people. Sensitivity - one of the so-called buzz words of the "caring" society but, in reality, a credo only given lip-service when profit margins are concerned - should be the key factor here and SSE should now admit their blunder and do all they can to appease the living relatives, the souls of the dead they plan to defile and the people of Scotland in general.
S McQueen, Dundee, Tayside

Energy security trumps sentimentality. I wonder why people are so surprised their utility bills keep rising, when the companies are unable to do anything? Let's face it, there are compelling aesthetic reasons to switch off all the power stations and demolish all the power lines, railways and roads in this country. That does not mean it is a good idea!
Sy, Midlands, UK

If we stopped building ever time we found a few bones there would be no development in the UK. This battle was 300 years ago, not last week. I doubt that there are any survivors or close relatives who visit the area, merely 'clansmen' trying to find a lost identity. and Greenies jumping on the bandwagon
Barry P, Havant England

By their deaths they have earned the right to lie undisturbed. It is after all the very place where they died, fighting for what they believed in. As a nation The United Kingdom should respect and preserve such sites. They are after all now part of our common heritage and must remain so.
Terence Phillips, Worcester, England

This is an absolute disgrace,Scottish & Southern Energy should think red burning shame of themselves for even contemplating desecrating Scottish war graves.We have a Scottish parliament a Scottish first minister,so for once MrMcConnel, stand up and be counted do something for the memory of Scotsmen who gave their life's blood for a Scotland they believed in, a Scotland they loved.This cannot be allowed to happen for financial or cosmetic reasons. Otherwise how can we look back on our history with pride.
John, peterhead

Where does it stop? Today your desecrating the memory of these 10,000 scots who died, tomorrow it could be them building upon the cenotaph. Perhaps this seems like a bad comparison but the principle is the same and people need to stand up for their heritrage and the people who died, at least they had the courage to die for something they believed in, be it wrong or right which needs to be respected, since it seems nowadays that everyone is so selfish and apathetic that they only care about lining their own pockets and what's on tv, sickening that this would even be a proposal.
Nick, wycombe, bucks

Considering the length of the power lines (which will bring energy from a new hydro scheme) I'd have thought it would be easy to re-route around the site, land owners permitting. I can only assume the developer didn't realise many graves would have been scattered and unrecorded. This happened a lot during that era.
Hamish B, Edinburgh

I thought burial grounds were sacred.So why are the Scottish and Southern Energy going to desecrate an ancient burial ground. This is an article for greenpeace. Let these poor souls sleep in peace. please Scottish and southern Energy go round it.
mrs d whitley, Leeds

They have built air strips on some of my family's graves once in Tenn. and again in Delaware, plus two expressway and a zoo over family members in Chicago. The USA has done a poor job of protecting graves here, don't let it happen there. Being one of the decendant's of those who were on the other side it is also a insult to desacrate the site of our victory. Brave men died in battle and their graves should remain undisturbed.
Thomas Murphy, Irvington Alabama, USA.

I find it pathetic that people would suggest that the dead be removed from this significant, historical site. It is clear that the memory of a nation, and a clan are not very important to those who would rather mind their profit margins and satisfy the stock holder and investor.
David McLean, Lincolnville, Maine USA

Whilst I am certainly not condoning putting high voltage power lines through the site of a historic battlefield, have the people objecting considered that part of the reason these power lines are required is because all of us are using ever more electricity in our day to day lives. If we want this (so called) progress, to have more electrical gadgets in our homes, then this is one of the factors we should be considering. Although I'm sure not many people do every time they switch on the kettle. I know for sure I don't.
Donald, Inverness

It is indeed a sad day when the history of Scotland should be ploughed over and treated in this manner. It is the historical monument that we would be destroying..... spend the money build around the battlefield. My ancestors are there as well..... I do not want their remains touched.
Janet Boyce, New Brunswick, Canada

I wonder if the planned disturbing of the graves would go ahead if the bosses in the Scottish and Southern Energy were part of the MacRae Clan? These people died for what they believe was worth fighting for, so listen to what some of their decendants are saying, and leave them alone!
Cameron MacRae, Ullapool

Amazed that in New Labour's vibrant, modern Scotland with our push to attract more tourism to our allegedly beautiful country we allow companies who make obscene amounts of money scar it!! Get the cables underground they are easier to maintain and less likely to be damaged and if due planning was taken during road building "there's a Scottish joke" especially heading North,ducts could be made at the same time and services laid, electricity does not require to fly like the proverbial crow, yes initially the costs will be higher but the end product will be worth it.
David Duncanson, Ardersier Highland.

Disturbing graves and running pylons through an historic battlefield is a scandalous plan. Only a society which knows the price of everything and the value of nothing would permit this.
J Campbell, Scottsville Virginia, USA

It is time to leave the dead heros alone. I was born in Edinburgh, but I have notice over the years that there is not respect for those born in 1700/1900, and yet they respect those who died in the first world war. Stop destroying our anicent history, and the site that could help children study the past. Put money into planting more trees, and not destroy to make money for the rich to get richer
Sandra Hawkins, swansea city wales

I applaud Clan Macrae for standing up & being counted.Why is it necessary to have 70m high pylons that emit electromagnetic fields scarring any landscape; let alone the site of the 1715 Sherrifmuir Battlefield.Has anyone worked out how many pylons will cover 137 miles? It has been suggested that Electromagnetic fields have a link to cancer but the Jury is still out on that one. Remember we've all been warned about our Cell phones.Any Energy Company wanting to desecrate our landscape will refute the Cancer link cos this is all about money.I wonder if any board member of Scottish & Southern Energy lives anywhere near the planned route of this line of Pylons? OK, I live 12000 miles away from this Battlefield but we in NZ are doing exactly the same as Fraser Macrae & I still call Scotland "Home".We have in my part of the world a Wind Farm. It is a sight to behold & far far nicer than Pylons. Why not bury the cables oopps that will cost too much money won't it. All the Best Clan Macrae.
Trish Carroll, Palmerston North,New Zealand

Pylons have been banned for many year in Russia - they have been proven to cause all sorts of illness - they look so out of place in Scotland anyway but the health problems are very real - in terms of the route across the battlefield - there is so much space in Scotland they could avoid it. Show some respect - most things metal would have been stripped after the battle - so that won't work with the metal detector thing.We should have our sites protected - in the meantime - respect.
Robert James Henry,

Moving the graves sounds like a good idea, it will be a huge waste of money to build around the site. Afterwards even more money can be made by moving the graves out of graveyards in London, London land is valuable so you may as well move the dead to a landfill. That is what's being proposed, grave robbery...unearthing a grave for monetary reasons.
Isaac, Kingston, Canada

I think this is disgraceful - putting power lines through this site is the worst kind of betrayal possible. Why can't the McRae graves be left alone indefinately? Historic Scotland should put their foot well and truly down with a sharp 'No'!! Leave these souls alone!
Lorna, Edinburgh

I stay just minutes from Sherrifmuir and was opposed to the pylons running through this area before this argument had been raised. I was previously aware that the battle had taken place, but I wasn't aware that the planned siting for the pylons would run through the battle area. I know it's unlikely that SSE will change their mind on the pylons but I think they should reconsider their proposed route as the surrounding land surely offers alternative routes. I hope the remains of those who lost their lives remain undisturbed
Iain Boyd, Dunblane

Disgusting is what it is. Why can the powerlines not go along the roads in the area, why do they have to disturb the souls? Perhaps the Clan McRae past can haunt those who dare! And yes, i am serious
sarah, northampton

I hope they decide to move the pylon to a different location. Look at what they done to the Bannockburn Battle Field they built houses on it and destroyed a major part of our heritage. This must not happen again and the whole of Scotland must voice thier concern.
Kenny, Inverkip

I sincerely hope that the pylon plans are cancelled because historical Scottish sites are of great importance to our country's history, and our ancestors. It is not right that such a site should be destroyed just because someone wants pylons. Pay the money and build them around the battlefield.
SW, Scotland

Mr McRae has the full support of my branch of the Clan Graham of Menteith. It is obscene to consider desecrating battle graves in the name of money or progress. We cannot progress at the expense of what has gone before us for without those sacrifices we would not have the world we know today.
Iain Graham, Airdrie

I think this is a terrible situation, but there seems to be less and less respect for the sites were a lot of people were slaughtered or perished. Titanic and Sherriffmuir are perfect examples.

I think it is a great pity that the power lines can't be move so that don't affect the site. But profit drives the decision makers these days. What a great shame those poor souls can't be left in peace...
Laura, Aberdeen

Move the graves when and if the bodies are found. Its what we have done successfully here in the USA and family members are still able to visit the loved ones in peace and quiet away from the hubbub of society.
C. Smallwood, Shawnee, Kansas USA

Money will triumph as is usual.
DD, USA




SEE ALSO
Pylon battlefield protest staged
01 Apr 06 |  Scotland
SNH 'not opposed' to pylons plan
01 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Power line 'key for green energy'
07 Dec 05 |  Scotland
Ramblers attack pylon expansion
01 Oct 05 |  Scotland
Pylon planning move sparks anger
29 Sep 05 |  Scotland
New power pylon route published
25 Jul 05 |  Scotland

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