Highlands & Islands

Fort George built to silence rebel yell

James Murray Grant and Hugh Grant
Image caption Actor Hugh Grant at Fort George with his father James

In the barracks of Fort George hung Saddam Hussein.

The large painting of the former dictator was a souvenir from a tour of Iraq by soldiers of the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment.

It dominated a wall on the stairs to the sergeants' mess at the fort.

The Royal Irish were based there until 2007, when they left to be replaced by the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots), taking the portrait with them.

There has been speculation that the Black Watch could be the last regiment to be based at the 18th Century artillery fortification.

Fort George was built near Ardersier on the southern shores of the Inner Moray Firth on the orders of King George II following the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

It was a symbol of the Crown and was given the resources to crackdown on fresh Jacobite rebellions, or risings.

The fort had capacity for a garrison of 1,600 infantrymen with access to numerous cannons, muskets, pikes and swords.

The magazine could hold 2,500 gunpowder barrels and there were also provision stores and a brew house.

Sheep riots

But the huge building project - costing £1bn to complete in today's money - brought financial benefits to some of those living in the very communities it was built to suppress.

Tradesmen, merchants and shopkeepers supplied the fort during its construction and then the troops following its completion in 1769.

While not used in anger against a Jacobite rising, Fort George did play a part in dealing with unrest during the Highland Clearances.

In the summer of 1792, the Ross-shire Sheep Riots flared up as families evicted from lands in Ross-shire and Sutherland to make way for large-scale sheep production took action against the new farmers, shepherds and their landlords.

Image caption Fort George is both a museum and working barracks

By early August, a band of protesters had rounded up 6,000 sheep and driven them south to Beauly, near Inverness.

Soldiers of the 42nd Regiment, better known as the Black Watch, were sent from Fort George to arrest the sheep drivers.

Two of those arrested were later banished from Scotland for the rest of their lives.

Fort George would go on to provide a base for armed forces personnel training for D-Day during World War II.

Today, the fort remains a working barracks.

It also houses the museum collections of the Seaforth Highlanders, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders and The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.

Earlier this year, actor Hugh Grant launched a public appeal to help raise £3m to redevelop the museum.

Grant's grandfather, Col James Murray Grant, from Inverness, was a Seaforth Highland and depot commander at the fort during World War II.

The actor's father, Capt James Murray Grant, also served with a Highlands regiment.

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