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Artyness columnist and writer Barbara Henderson is out in the heather as she helps speed her new book out into the world ...


By Barbara Henderson

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I am spending the morning literally crawling through heather, in the middle of nowhere.

The Reluctant Rebel, Barbara's new book.
The Reluctant Rebel, Barbara's new book.

Clutched in my scrub-scratched hand is my phone, pointing forward in video recording mode. The aim of this admittedly ridiculous exercise is to generate footage for a book trailer – yes, you’ve guessed it. I have a new book out in a couple of weeks.

My go-to family-friend-filmmaker Ross has moved to Germany! I think that was most inconsiderate of him, don’t you? I paid him mate’s rates for my previous book trailers, but as I wipe the 50th insect from my sweaty brow, there can be no doubt: I’m on my own with this one.

What I am trying to do, in the absence of a huge budget for extras and costumes, is to recreate some of the flight of Bonnie Prince Charlie in a point-of-view shot – crawling through heather as he did to escape capture in the aftermath of Culloden. On the run from government Redcoats for months. he finally escaped to France in September 1746.

My new children’s adventure The Reluctant Rebel follows a disillusioned young stable boy from Lochaber who becomes integral to the Prince’s flight.

Barbara Henderson.
Barbara Henderson.

The first chapter of the book describes the Battle of Culloden which my hero is unfortunate enough to witness. I can’t wait to launch the book at Culloden Battlefield on May 18 – the live event will be available as a livestream to schools who want to tune in. Free teaching resources are being formatted as we speak – take it from me: there is so much more to sending a book into the world than just writing the story!

Back to the undergrowth. One of the witness accounts of the Prince and his companions hiding comes in the admittedly biased The Lyon In Mourning. It describes the prince lying concealed in moss and heather, cursing the midges feasting on his skin. The sources describe many narrow escapes. In July of 1746, the government had set up a cordon of camps all along the Moidart peninsula in Lochaber with the explicit aim of trapping the fugitive Jacobite royal. Sentries continually passed between the camps, meeting in the middle at regular intervals of just a few minutes. The prince and his companions had no choice but to crawl through a gully crossing the sentry line, under cover of darkness, literally between the sentries’ feet. Despite the staggering reward of £30,000, hundreds of loyal Jacobites helped the prince during these tense months, often risking their own lives. That’s where the story was, I decided. Let’s throw some kids into that world!

My life is a strange mix right now – offering moral support to an exam-wound teen, consulting ceaselessly about launch events, teaching in my day job, and yes: crawling through heather. Once I’ve filmed the sunrise at Culloden Battlefield, all the footage will be in the bag.

Now excuse me, an itchy bit of bracken is waiting for me.

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