Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Emmy's showcase Terry Dresbach's utility gown!

Ready For Anything

The riding suit Terry Dresbach designed for Claire’s long journey on Outlander set a new bar for practicality.

Whitney Friedlander for Emmy Magazine

(This article explains the essence of the gown Terry Dresbach designed for Claire. It is especially pleasing for Outlander fans that the Emmy voters understood the complexity of Voyager costuming and Terry's vision for the utility gown Claire wears throughout season 3)

From Emmy Magazine and for more of the article

Fashionistas were left salivating after season two of Outlander — Starz’s period drama-within-a-period drama — in which Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) dons vibrant, cleavage-baring gowns in 1740s French society as she attempts to thwart the Jacobite rebellion back home in Scotland.

Cut to season three, in which Claire spends weeks (half the television season) sailing to the West Indies, leaving series costume designer Terry Dresbach to create a forbearer to the now-ubiquitous fashion-magazine staple, “How Many Ways Can You Wear This Outfit?”

As the action unfolds, the dress — which Claire designs in the 1960s before returning to the 18th century — is sometimes shown in its multipieced, pristine glory (skirt, blouse, vest, jacket, cape), sometimes stripped down and ragged or even with parts used as a headscarf.

By the end of season three, our heroine is — sartorially speaking — right back where she was when she first traveled back in time in season one: “drenched, lost and alone in a strange place,” Dresbach says.

The costume was a continuity nightmare, as each tear, stain or missing button had to be tracked. But it also raised questions about the character herself: Can Claire even sew? And does she have the proper materials to make an outfit that won’t land her in an 18th-century Scottish jail or worse?

Dresbach took inspiration from her own mother, who was not exactly aces at making her daughter’s Halloween costumes. There’s definitely a wrong hemline and uneven sleeves on this outfit, which Claire is supposed to have concocted out of raincoats.

“The idea is that she’s making a suit of armor,” Dresbach says. “It’s my least favorite visual costume on the show, but it tells the best story.”

An outfit like this deserves a name. While Dresbach is prone to calling it Claire’s riding suit, some — like, ahem, her husband, Outlander creator–executive producer Ronald D. Moore — are fond of another term: the batsuit. He went so far as to have Neal Hefti’s “Batman Theme” play as characters constructed it on screen.

Well, Claire does have a tendency to swoop in and try to save things. Fans only have to wait until November to see what she attempts in season four.

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2018

Monday, August 6, 2018

Outlander - 'The Fans Who Make It' - Series by Roma Sars

Hello everyone! (From Roma Sars on "My Outlander Friends" on Facebook)

As a member of the Outlander fandom, I have visited many websites and blogs by fans who interview the actors, production staff and others involved with the making of the Outlander series.
I have also seen fans collect tens of thousands of dollars for the charities of their favourite actors, as well as fans making the most beautiful art and videos, all dedicated to the Outlander story.

What motivates the fans do this? Why have some of them devoted the best part of their days to the Outlander story?
So far, no-one has interviewed these fans who are behind these websites, blogs and twitter handles, some of them with thousands of followers.

So, I thought that I should be the one to do that, and I have approached some of them and found them conducive to do interviews.
In doing so, I hope to understand this obsession which has taken a hold of me ever since I discovered the Outlander story in 2015.

This will be the start of my “Outlander- the fans who make it” series of interviews.
I hope you will like what I will post, as I am sure I am going to enjoy doing it.

(This interview has been conducted by Roma Sars of, My Outlander Friends!)

My next interview in the “Outlander- the fans who make it’ series, is with Christine Gordon, Outlander fan extraordinaire and one of the admins of the Facebook group “Sassenach Society of South Jersey”. Christine and her group have collected thousands of Dollars for the various charities of the actors.

Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Christine Camiolo Gordon. I am 51 years old, and my amazing husband and I live on the East Coast of the US in South Jersey, right outside Philly. I work three jobs (Corporate Finance Manager full-time, and then teach college part-time, and run my own home-based travel agency on the side). I LOVE to travel. My parents had me at a young age, and took me everywhere with them, so I think this helped developed my love of travel. Outlander has truly helped in that area as well, as I have traveled quite a bit for events and have made some of the best new friends. My husband and I are also huge Philly sports fans and love all things Disney!

American History is my hobby. I like travel to all the historical sites in the Outlander books Diana has incorporated. This combines my love of travel and history..

How long have you been doing charity events for Outlander? Is this the only show you do this for, or do you also do this for other shows?

My friends and I got involved with supporting the charities of the Outlander cast in early 2016. Five of us from our group actually became the first US Ambassadors for World Child Cancer US. Since then, our group has decided to switch which charities we support every couple of years. Last year, we supported Steven Cree’s charity, International Animal Rescue, and this year we are joining forces with Cahonas Scotland and their efforts to educate about Testicular Male Cancer Awareness.

How much time do you spend every day on Outlander?

LOL!!! Probably way too much, but Outlander is my stress-relief and way of having fun, so I LOVE every minute of it!!

What do you like most about the Outlander books and show? What do you like the least?

What I like most about the books, is Diana’s wonderful development of the characters and the stories. The books are so soul-searching, and take the main characters of Jamie and Claire on such a journey through life and love, that I absolutely love them.

What I like least about the books is the long wait in between the next one. LOL!! I can’t wait for #Bees!!!

The show is the bridge that brings the characters from the book to life for me.

What I like least about the show is the overall change in what I see them portray as Jamie and Claire’s essence. I feel like the show has changed their characters into something not as deep and meaningful.

Which character in Outlander is your favourite? Please explain why.

This is a hard one… I actually have three favorite characters: Jamie, Young Ian and William. I think all three of them show what it takes to be strong and have that inner strength to survive. All of them also have this genuine kindness about them - willing to do for others before themselves.

How has Outlander affected your life and/or lifestyle?

How hasn’t it? Outlander has definitely changed what I do for vacations. If there is an event in the UK, I try to plan to visit my family in Scotland around the same time. I’m co-admin of a local Outlander group, and my Outlander BFF and I are always looking for any event we can attend where we can relate it back to Outlander - because you know there is always six degrees of separation back to Outlander somehow.

A great new museum opened in Philly, called “Museum of the American Revolution”, and they always have great events for us to attend, such as Printing Press Night or Women from the Revolution.

In the past five months, we have gone to a Colonial Ballroom Dancing event in Trenton during Patriot’s Week, attended a cookie decorating class based on Drums of Autumn, had a weekend in New York for Tartan Week, done a paper making class at a NJ battlefield… So, basically, you could say Outlander has TOTALLY changed my social life.

Is this the first fandom you are a member of? What made you decide to join this fandom, rather than any other one? What do you like and dislike about this fandom?

My dad is a radio executive, so I have been a “groupie” of a couple of big name musicians and, back in my teenage years, I was a HUGE Rick Springfield fan. But it was so different back then, compared to being a fan in the social media era now. Social Media has changed how people are fans (both in a good AND bad way). I didn’t know about Outlander, until my husband introduced me to it after the first 8 episodes had aired. I didn’t know about the “homegrown” book fandom until I read the first seven books in about 8 weeks. It was then that I got involved and started to see all the groups that were out there.

Which personality (Diana and the actors of Outlander) did you enjoy meeting the most? 

One of my favorite encounters was when I met Diana and the some of the Outlander actors at RingCon in Germany in 2015. I had never been to a fan event before, and had met some new friends online who were doing a fan book for Sam and Caitriona, and they described what it was all about. So I talked my husband into a vacation in Germany, with a weekend thrown in for the fan event. Well, my husband had to cancel the day before we were leaving due to a big work issue, but told me that I should go for at least for the weekend of the fan event. It was the BEST decision ever!! Sam, Graham, Duncan, Gary and Diana were incredible to meet and interact with that entire weekend. It truly gave me an incredible perspective about being an Outlander fan, and more insight into Outlander itself. I also met so many friends on that trip, and that has made going to events and catching up with all of them so much fun.

What keeps you connected to the Outlander fandom?

I am on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. I am co-admin of an Outlander group called “Sassenach Society of South Jersey” - My Outlander BFF Celeste and I started our group to connect with other fans locally, but our little group has grown to include ladies from around the world we have met who share our love of Outlander. Our group does lots of interesting monthly contests with little Outlander goodie prizes. We would love to have others join us.

 Personal Social Media:

• Twitter: @SassenachSJ


• Facebook: Christine Camiolo Gordon

• SSoSJ Group Social Media:

• Twitter: @SassenachJersey

• Facebook: Sassenach Society of South Jersey


What do you have coming up next?

There are a lot of good Outlander-related events coming up this summer, with fan events in Chicago and New Jersey. We also have a Movie and Drinks Night planned in August, to see Sam’s new movie “The Spy Who Dumped Me”. Our groups’ anniversary is also on August, so we always do a lot of entertaining things each week, during that month, to celebrate.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Outlander - 'The Fans Who Make It' - Series by Roma Sars

Hello everyone! (From Roma Sars on "My Outlander Friends" on Facebook)

As a member of the Outlander fandom, I have visited many websites and blogs by fans who interview the actors, production staff and others involved with the making of the Outlander series.
I have also seen fans collect tens of thousands of dollars for the charities of their favourite actors, as well as fans making the most beautiful art and videos, all dedicated to the Outlander story.

What motivates the fans do this? Why have some of them devoted the best part of their days to the Outlander story?
So far, no-one has interviewed these fans who are behind these websites, blogs and twitter handles, some of them with thousands of followers.

So, I thought that I should be the one to do that, and I have approached some of them and found them conducive to do interviews.
In doing so, I hope to understand this obsession which has taken a hold of me ever since I discovered the Outlander story in 2015.

This will be the start of my “Outlander- the fans who make it” series of interviews.
I hope you will like what I will post, as I am sure I am going to enjoy doing it.

(This interview has been conducted by Roma Sars of, My Outlander Friends!)

My next interview in the “Outlander- the fans who make it” series is with Bouton the Dog (@Bouton_Barks on Twitter).

When I started this series, I wanted to interview all the Outlander animals, as I find their Twitter handles and their antics creative and entertaining. So far, I have been able to post interviews with Donas the horse and the White Sow. I am still waiting on Clarence the Mule.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Please tell us about yourself.

I’m known as Bouton, or Bouts, on Social Media. I work in health care as an Advanced Practice Nurse. That’s the reason I adopted Bouton as my persona. My hospital is more restrictive about Social Media than Mother Hildegard. Because of my position, whatever I publicly post on Social Media is viewed as an extension of my professional position. I needed my Outlander fangirling to be separate from my professional role. Bouton is exactly who I am, within the Fandom. As time has gone on, my nickname has become Bouts. Yes, if you call out my nickname, I will answer. Quite ironically, my grandmother’s nickname had been Boots, so I’m thrilled to carry on a version of the family nickname.

I live in the United States. Kentucky, birthplace of Kentucky fried Chicken, Bourbon and home of the Kentucky Derby—the fastest 2 minutes in sports, every first Saturday in May since 1875. Yes, I met the Colonel, yes, I can tell you the difference between Bourbon, Whiskey and Whisky and yes, I’ve been to the Kentucky Derby and bet on the winner. The Colonel was nice and I have a friend who turned down the opportunity to help him get started in the restaurant business, when he began to expand from his initial restaurant. “It’s chicken…everyone does chicken in Kentucky” said my friend, and passed on the opportunity. I can say no one does chicken like KFC. He laughs at himself for missing his big chance. So, about Bourbon. It is legally unique to the United States and 95% is produced in Kentucky. It is a specific type of Whiskey. It’s origins date to the 1780’s, when distilling was brought to Kentucky by the Scots, Scot-Irish and other settlers. It’s a mash mixture made of at least 51% corn, distilled to no more than 160 proof, and entered in to new charred oak barrels at 125 proof, to be aged. It is also said to have an improved flavor over other whiskey because of the iron free, naturally limestone filtered local water that is used. Whereas, whiskey or whisky can be made from any combination of wheat, corn, rye or barley, distilled to no more than 190 proof, and can be aged in barrels new or old, and charred or not. Scots Whisky is typically malted barley, distilled twice and aged longer. There you go. Now you know.

So my biggest hobbies have been photography, collecting antique cookbooks (I feel it’s my way of making sure that heritage isn’t lost) and antique books, because you never know when you will find something interesting. It’s one of the reasons I love Diana Gabaldon’s writing, because of all the tidbits of real historical accuracy incorporated into the daily life of the storyline. My other love comes from nursing and educating patients, and teaching people new skills, and loving their proud moments when they leave with a new ability.

How long have you been doing your edits for Outlander? Is this the only show you do edits for, or do you also do this for other shows? How much time do you spend every day on Outlander?

Although I have been a film and digital photographer for years, I had not ventured into the realm of photoshopping or memes. But I was in a creative funk about the time the Outlander television show came out. Like so many Outlander twitter fans I’ve encountered since, I shifted from FB to Twitter, when Outlander Starz posted that Sam Heughan was going to do a Q&A on Twitter. After that, I got to know Outlandish memes, Brig-a-Doon, and Jenny Jeffries, because they were posting and creating the things that I found funny. I had never done this sort of thing, but I jumped in with some goofy black and white vintage photos, that I photoshopped our heads into. It was silly, and the silliness of it cracked me up. They weren’t perfectly photoshopped and that was half the fun. It was the juxtaposition of seeing these silly heads on these other people’s bodies that was just visually funny. It was a great creative release, brought humor to my life and, it turned out that some other people found it funny too. 

In those early days, we had fun doing silly stuff to make people laugh—life’s too short, we all need laughter. I often incorporated the twitter Avi/photo of my friends into whatever theme we were discussing, or what ever topics the Outlander cast/crew had posted. We had a fun time trying our darnedest to make the cast/crew laugh too.

As time went on, I tried learning new skills, like making gifs, doing start stop animation with still photo cut outs, and eventually making videos once twitter progressed to that capability. It’s been amazing to gain a whole new set of skills just because I wanted to play on twitter, Outlander fangirl, and make people laugh.

I’ve also met so many new people with the same interests because of this. Some people only briefly crossed my path, but I have one group of wonderful Outlander fans who are near and dear to my heart. We keep up with each other’s lives, through our ups and downs etc. We are Outlander sisters. Most of this group came into my life because of our obvious passion for Outlander, but also because of our interest in making memes.

Rather ironically, most of this whole group is comprised of people who are either nurses, teachers, or musically/art inclined. This wasn’t something we initially knew about each other until much later in our friendships. But early on, it was like I finally found my clan of people who understood me. It didn’t matter that we didn’t see each other in person or were continents away, we clicked immediately and have been good friends ever since. Many of these friends were like me, and had never photoshopped. My love for teaching came out, and I was very happy to try to teach my self-taught skills to others. This was a great way to pass periods of Droughtlander.

This willingness to help, and generally being helpful, had a pleasant side effect. I became friends with lots more people, and involved in many more Outlander-related projects than I ever imagined. We used our artistic abilities to fan promote the show publicly, help with fan voting contests, and raise money for charities. But the biggest portion of what I’ve ended up doing has been behind the scenes, helping people connect with those who could help them with projects they were doing. I’ve helped a couple of actors, or related persons connected with Outlander, to increase their social media presence, websites, etc. These weren’t things I set out to do, but because I had the knowledge and skills, I became a go-to person for questions, advice and help. I was fortunate to make a connection and suggestion that I like to think had influence. I’ll never know for sure, but I did receive a thank you note & unexpected present.

I became involved in many Outlander projects and groups, and am still active behind the scenes in several of those. I’m the only remaining active founder of @OutlanderRTweet, a kind of distribution hub for people to send their Outlander promoting, Voting and laughing memes, so that interested Outlander fans can get them Direct messaged to them or find them in ONE place, so they can see them or RT them. Several of us wanted a nice, easy, organized way to share Outlander related memes and promote things. This was our result for twitter. We also created the Outlander Funny Pages group on Facebook, so that people could share the funny Outlander related memes. In the beginning, I spent much of my time playing on Social Media, creating memes, usually in response to something we found to be funny. But, as time went on, real life required more time, and I ended up working on my biggest unplanned project: Cooklander: To the stove cookbook, a fan created collection of 550 recipes from all over the world, from over 300 contributing Outlander friends, fans, cast crew and celebrities with all proceeds to World Child Cancer, NPH USA and Bloodwise in honor of Caitriona Balfe, Diana Gabaldon and Sam Heughan, respectively.

This cookbook was the brain child of Debra Key Newhouse. She sent out the word for people to contribute their best, favorite family recipe. The result was an amazing cookbook, full of nothing but the best family recipes from around the world. Even my non-Outlander (GASP) cooking friends still tell me that this is the BEST cookbook, and their GO TO cookbook, because every recipe is a keeper. I came into the project because of my cookbook love, artistic skills, and ultimately because of my website management experience. Between Debra and her husband Tony in Pennsylvania, and me in Kentucky, we have managed to work together to mail the nearly 2000 cookbooks ordered to date. We still haven’t reached our goal of selling all the books, so if you want to help a great cause and get a great cookbook go to Cooklander.com. We offer free shipping, multi pack discounts and worldwide shipping. You’ve got to read Gary Lewis’s Leek and Potato soup recipe—it’s soooooo him and the soup is amazing too.

I never set out to become involved in these projects, they kind of found me, but I don’t regret a single one. I’ve gotten to meet some amazing people, gain connections I never intended, and have had a whole lot of fun.

What do you like most about the Outlander books and show? What do you like the least?

The books had been recommended to me long before I got around to reading them, because a co-worker’s sister was an Outlander fan, and she knew I’d been to Scotland several times and obviously loved the place, history, and people. When the show came out, I immediately pulled out the paperback I had ordered years before and devoured it in one week, followed by the 5 books read over less than five weeks. I stalled with the remaining two books only because I discovered my new meme making obsession on Twitter.
As a nurse, historical medical fan, and reader of old books, healthcare, herbs etc., and fan of the Scottish country side (I always felt like I was coming home when I visited Scotland), the book series had all the extra little details that I loved discovering, plus an amazing story and characters, and was one of the most well written books I’ve encountered. Diana’s writing style allows us to immediately be there, present, in the moment of the story. Not all fiction has the ability to do that.

The show has been produced at a top-notch level. I thank all those at the production and management for not compromising and settling for this to be a cheesy romance production. They’ve held their guns and worked to make sure this an amazing visual experience. I’ve been amazed at the casting and how each actor has seemed suited for their role. I’ve been really pleased because I know that this isn’t an easy book series to adapt to screen, especially a series that has such a knowledgeable book fan base.

Which character in Outlander is your favourite? Please explain why.

BOUTON, of Course. I love dogs. Even though Bouton has very little page time in the entire series, compared to others, I just love him. He shows the abilities that dogs have to be loyal, loving, observant and fiercely protective when needed.

How has Outlander affected your life and/or lifestyle?

All of the above. Honestly it has been wonderful. Besides meeting like-minded people, getting to learn things I never anticipated learning (I love that I can create a silly animated video from still cut out pics), and gaining unexpected experiences (travel to NY for an Outlander premier), I’ve also been able to use the skills I’ve learned in my non-Outlander world. I’ve consulted, helped manage websites, created promotional material, helped with a local politician’s campaign, organized fundraisers and events. All things that have been a direct result of what I’ve learned while Outlander Fangirling.

Is this the first fandom you are a member of? What made you decide to join this fandom, rather than any other one? What do you like and dislike about this fandom?

This is my one and only fandom. I didn’t set out to join it. It’s just that, when I got involved and met people, I realized I’d found my people. I love that the fans are friendly, passionate and genuine. I know there can be negative people in any fandom or crazies, but I have to say my perimeter of Outlander fans have been a joy to know.

Have you met Diana or any of the actors of Outlander? If so, which personality did you enjoy meeting the most? If not, who would you like to meet the most?

I’ve loved getting to meet the other Outlander fans at the two New York events that I’ve been able to attend (An Outlander premier and one of the Outlander in the City events). It’s always nice to finally meet the people you kind of know, in person. Last year’s Outlander in the City event where many of the Outlander cast attended, I was able to meet and talk with several of the cast. All were wonderful. Gary Lewis is the most genuine man I’ve ever met, I loved getting to meet him and give him a hug from my Cooklander pal, Debra. Gary has been extremely supportive of the Cooklander cookbook. He knew Debra couldn’t attend the event, so he called her that day. How sweet is that?! Nell Hudson was one of the nicest people, and even gave me a compliment on my dress—a very kind thing to say. But the one person who was the unexpected pleasure, was Wil Johnson. This was his first Outlander fan event, and his episodes had not aired yet. He talked about how much he’d enjoyed working with Cait, how he’d love to get to come to New York and do a Broadway play (I hope he eventually gets to) and how amazing the fans had been to him. I hadn’t expected him to be so engaging, and that just made me love him even more.

What keeps you connected to the Outlander fandom?

Everything. My Outlander Sister from another mother @Pellicott1, my twitter friends the Lafies, Debra. I’ve tried to step away to take care of real-life things, but its still always there, under the surface, keeping me afloat with friendship and a great fanmily.

What do you have coming up next?

I promised myself I wouldn’t get involved in anything else until every last Cooklander Cookbook has been sold, and Debra’s husband Tony can get his garage back. So, go to Cooklander.com and help Tony out. They make great gifts to have on hand as hostess and last minute gifts, plus all proceeds go to three great charities.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"A man of many hats" - an interview with Graham McTavish

Outlander Homepage Originals, by Susie Brown your Aussie Blogging Lass!

As far as Outlander fans are concerned, the name Graham McTavish is synonymous with that of Dougal MacKenzie, war chief of the clan MacKenzie. Yet fans of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies know him as the dwarf Dwalin; while devotees of the TV series, Preacher recognise Graham as the Saint of Killers. It has recently been revealed that he will also appear in the film Aquaman when it premieres later this year, although his character is being kept tightly under wraps. With roles such as these serving as some of the highlights of a distinguished career, you could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Graham McTavish deserves some time off to relax! Instead, he is preparing to try on yet another hat. The independent film, This Guest of Summer will have Graham at the helm, not only in front of the camera, but also behind it as the film’s director. 

So what is it like to wear so many performing hats? Fortunately for us here at Outlander Homepage, Graham graciously agreed to share some insights. It is not the first time Graham has given his time to us, previously appearing as the guest of honour at An Evening with Graham McTavish in 2016, a charity event hosted by Outlander Homepage for the benefit of the “Action for Children” Organisation. We were keen to discover what he has been up to since then! 

We began by asking Graham about his current project, This Guest of Summer, wondering how he became involved.

“My good friend Paul Kavanagh wrote the film with he and I in mind to perform in it,” Graham said. “But the more I read it, the more I felt I needed to direct it. It’s a very dark horror-comedy. It will be a challenge, but that’s one of the main reasons I wish to do it.”

Graham will be joined in front of the camera by fellow Outlander alumni Duncan Lacroix and Stephen Walters and fans are welcome to contribute to the film’s creation, by donating to its IndieGoGo campaign at 


The thought of Dougal, Murtagh and Angus reuniting should be reason enough to donate some dollars, but as an added incentive, perks are on offer for anyone who does!

Turning from a dark horror-comedy to another dark character, we asked Graham how he approached the creation of the misunderstood, yet ruthless, Saint of Killers. 

I approach SOK as I do all characters,” Graham explained, “from a position of wishing to be truthful to his story. Good and evil doesn’t come into it. He is not evil in his own mind. He is righteous. So I access my own feelings when it comes to defending my own family and go from there.”

With the announcement that Graham will appear in Aquaman, we were keen to ask about his character and his experiences on set. But sadly for us, Graham refused to divulge any information.

“I can’t say who I play in Aquaman, I’m afraid,” he teased. “I’ve been sworn to secrecy.”

Of course all projects need publicity, so we asked if Graham would be in attendance at a popular event: the NYC Comic Con. Between Outlander, Preacher, Aquaman and This Guest of Summer, he could certainly sit on plenty of panels! While his answer will be disappointing for any fans planning on attending, Graham did give us a glimmer of hope for the future.

I won’t be at New York Comic Con this year,” Graham said, “but I did thoroughly enjoy our dinner evening in 2016. I’d love to do THAT again. It was the ideal fan encounter. Such fun!” 

So watch this space! You never know - hopefully there will be a future Outlander Homepage event with Graham as the MC!  

Finally, we returned to the world of Outlander, to ask Graham where he would like to go if he were able to travel through the standing stones. 

“I would travel back to three places,” Graham said. “Firstly, I’d love to go back to Elizabethan London to meet Shakespeare. I’d also like to see Ancient Rome. But finally, and most importantly, I’d love to travel back and see my father again. I’d  spend a day asking him all the things that I wish I had asked him before he passed away.”

We’d like to thank Graham for being so generous with his time and will look forward to seeing him on our screens again soon!

This interview was compiled by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. Personally, she’d love to see Graham appear in a Dougal flashback in a future season of Outlander! 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Battle for Killiecrankie 2018

Outlander Homepage originals by Nancy McGehee Fontenot 

"Where is the coward that would not dare to fight for such a land as Scotland?" 
Sir Walter Scott.

An interview with, Loretta McLaughlan 

Several weeks ago, Outlander Homepage brought attention to the current plight of the tiny Scottish community, Killiecrankie, as a group of local residents protest Transport Scotland's highway expansion through a centuries old battlefield. Killiecrankie battlefield is not only the site of the first Jacobite battle of the first rebellion, but very recently, local spots were the scenes for filming season four of OUTLANDER.  When the issue of expanding Scotland's A9 highway within the border of this historically inventoried battle site was first brought to our attention, I interviewed local resident, Loretta McLaughlan on the subject.  Loretta helped start the grassroots movement to protect the battlefield, KilliecrAnkie1689, and knows a great deal about the area, and it's amazing history.

OH: What impact does the historical value of Killiecrankie have on the local tourism, commerce?

LM: Killiecrankie village only comprises a cluster of houses, a village hall, and a first-rate country house hotel.  But the district of Killiecrankie encompasses a wider rural area that includes a few farms, a handful of holiday cottages, the nationally important battlefield, and a magnificent, steeply wooded, gorge, bisected by the fast-flowing River Garry. 
People visit here primarily because they know of the battle, an exceptionally bloody episode in Scottish history that inspired Robert Burns, William Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott.  It also has equally dramatic scenery that played a key part in the choreography of the battle.  Thus the historic environment, and the natural heritage are inextricably entwined. 
The National Trust of Scotland (NTS), a conservation charity, operates a small visitor centre at the Pass of Killiecrankie, to champion both the natural and cultural heritage.  Besides the Killiecrankie Hotel, there are only two other commercial operations in the area.  One is a modest NTS shop in the visitor center, and the other is the jumping off point for Scotland’s first fixed-point bungee, called Highland Fling. 
There are fewer than 200 residents in Killiecrankie. The county of Perthshire is on the tourism map but there is plenty of scope for growth as it ranks about the middle or a little lower (coming well behind big names such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Highlands & Islands) when measuring visitors by region whether on holiday, on business or visiting friends and family.  However, within the county of Perthshire. Killiecrankie is the 5th most visited site.

OH: Has OUTLANDER's popularity helped increase tourism to the battlefield?

LM: Visit Scotland, the national tourism agency, is aware of the potential as it develops all things Jacobite, in response to the Outlander effect on visitor numbers.  It is, after all, inspiring more visitors to Scotland (particularly from the US) than any other TV show or film, surpassing Braveheart, Harry Potter and Highlander. See https://www.jacobitetrail.co.ukAccording to the map called “On the Trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites” Killiecrankie features, as you would expect, right at the start of the story. 

OH:  Transport Scotland is currently conducting archaeological studies on the proposed area for A9 expansion.  What has been discovered so far?

LM: The studies to upgrade the road over the battlefield (from one lane in each direction to two lanes in each direction) have been done in 3 stages, starting in 2012.  It was not until the final stage that geophysical studies were done in a field adjacent to the existing road.  Under the current proposal, the entire field will be used to build a slip road for an exit junction, to create 2 more carriageways on the main highway and to build an access road plus a huge drainage basin for the new infrastructure. 
In the course of these studies, surveyors identified “pit-like anomalies”.  No one knows what kind of pits these are but archaeologists say that “burial pits should not be considered unexpected in areas surrounding battlefield sites and these features could be related to the battle or its aftermath”.  In other words, there is a possibility that these are graves.  Nobody knows what they are. 
What we do know is that further investigations are required, and additional assessments are being done now.  Local historian, Rulzion Rattray, estimates the number of fatalities at the Battle of Killiecrankie at 2,100.  Jacobites lost possibly 600 and Williamites perhaps 1,500, making this one of the bloodiest of all Jacobite engagements.  More died at Killiecrankie during the first of the Jacobite uprisings than at Culloden which concluded the rebellion.

OH: So these pits could be mass graves, like those marked by clan stones at Culloden. Are there any known graves from the battle in the area? 
LM: The only known burial place is that of John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee, the charismatic Jacobite leader who was fatally wounded in the opening minutes of the battle and died the following day.  He was buried nearby in consecrated ground at St Bride’s Kirk beside Blair Castle.  His tomb can be visited today. 
Where thousands were buried is still not known.  Military historian, Neil Ritchie, says that in battles of the period the fallen would usually be buried on the site of the battle or close to it.   Historians agree that the fighting was concentrated along the existing line of the road and along its northbound shadow where the new lanes and all related infrastructure are proposed.  Neil Ritchie explains that it is likely that a small number expansion large pits or several smaller ones are in the very area threatened by the proposed design and route.

OH: If expansion of the A9 could potentially desecrate undiscovered burial sites, are there any government agencies , or laws, that can protect these sites?  

LM: Transport Scotland received 183 objections to the plans.  Nearly all those objections relate to worries about the battlefield.  They were submitted by key authorities such as Historic Environment Scotland (HES) who, as the name suggests, is in charge of everything historical, as well as the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, whose remit covers everything archaeological. Cairngorms National Park Authority, which has a duty to protect cultural assets within Scotland’s largest national park, objected too, along with armies of societies, groups, and individuals, worried about protection of history, heritage, and archaeology.
Since the original road was built through the battlefield in the 1970s, Scotland has published screeds of policies, guidance notes and directives on how to protect not just our historic sites but our wider cultural environment.  The most important single document for protection of the Killiecrankie battlefield is something called the Inventory of Historic Battlefields.  This lists every historic and natural feature of the designated Killiecrankie site and accords them the highest level of protection possible. So much so, that when Transport Scotland came to planning a route and design through the battlefield, there should have been a paradigm shift in their thinking.  There is an imperative on developers to minimize the damage to an Inventory battlefield.  That means they have to explore all ways of avoiding damage and only when all options have been exhausted are they allowed to investigate the next least damaging option. They failed to do that.  Instead they decided at an early stage to import thousands of tons of earthworks and dump them where the new northbound lanes have to be built, thus damaging and destroying numerous key features of the battle site.  Given that this is also where the fighting was concentrated, where ‘pits’ have been discovered and where burial sites may lie, it is hard to imagine a worse design for the road and a worse route for it.

OH: How can Transport Scotland disregard so much opposition? Are there loopholes that will allow them to carry out their expansion in spite of the area being an inventoried historical site?

LM: The naïve bystander would think that all the planning rules concerning protection of Scotland’s most important historic assets would trump such a crude proposal.  Alas, there is a breath-taking paradox here.  The layers of protection would be taken into consideration if this proposal were within the planning system.  But, as the Minister for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs clarified in April, this project does not fall within the planning system.  
This road project is of such national importance that it will be decided, ultimately, by the Scottish Ministers.  They may choose to have a Public Local Inquiry which may investigate how Transport Scotland arrived at such a contentious proposal but – even if they did -  the Scottish Ministers are under no obligation to accept the outcome of any such inquiry. They are in danger of accepting the plan, knowing that it is extremely damaging, in order to keep to their proclaimed completion deadline.
Paradoxes abound.  As Outlander fans and Visit Scotland know, history and heritage drive tourism.  Transport Scotland’s proposed design and route will damage a battlefield whose importance is likely to increase with the popularity of the Jacobite trail.  Transport Scotland is already considering “legacy” benefits of the road with no sense of irony that the legacy will amount to a desecration of Scotland’s heritage. 
So-called protection rules do not apply, consultation with the community is derisory and Transport Scotland enjoys a cosy relationship with the Scottish Ministers.  The prospect of this plan being rubberstamped is real.  Only one thing can stop the rumbling juggernaut and that is a huge public outcry.

We have recently seen that it was impossible to prevent a plan to build new houses on Culloden, another Inventory battlefield.  The circumstances there were different in that permission had been given at earlier stage and the recent vote was no more than an epilogue.   At Killiecrankie there has not yet been a decision.  Therefore, there is a chance to make our voices heard.  Please sign our petition and encourage as many others as possible to do likewise.  http://www.chn.ge/2CLemMT

OH: Obviously, the local community has a personal connection to the battlefield. Do any of the local community members have a personal/ancestral tie to the history of Killiecrankie? What are some of the local folktales connected to the area?

LM: The roll call is long for this battle.  Among the most well known names on one side were Graham, Fraser, MacLean, MacGill, MacDonald, Cameron, MacNeil, Grant, MacGregor, Cannon and Buchan.  On the other were Mackay, Lauder, Balfour Ramsay, Kenmure, Leven and Hastings.  Many of these surnames belong to residents of this area.

Legend has it that a Redcoat, a private soldier who was part of the Government troops, managed a spectacular escape by jumping 18 ft over the raging River Garry to a rocky outcrop and safety.  The story of The Soldier’s Leap is a gift for the tourist business and is promoted vigorously by the National Trust for Scotland who manage a visitor centre at the spot of his supposed leap.  
The leaping soldier was Donald McBane. He was a shameless self-publicist and lived a colourful life after the Battle of Killiecrankie running a brothel and becoming a fencing master.
The right flank of the Government line was anchored beside the Girnaig burn. It’s a healthy watercourse that feeds into the River Garry just before it flows into the deep gorge.  The left flank of the Government line was anchored further along the flat area beside the Chluain burn which also flows into the River Garry. Even before the hand-to-hand fighting started, we know that some soldiers ran away.  McBane was one of them.  Some soldiers must have been chased over the Girnaig because the ground on the other side is now known as Skirmish Field, much of which will also be lost to the road project.
Written nearly 40 years later, McBane gives a vivid account of his escape from Killiecrankie: “The Highland men … advanced furiously upon us and were in the middle of us before we could fire three shots apiece, broke us and obliged us to retreat.  Some fled to the water and some another way …. I went above the pass where I met with another water very deep.  It was about 18 foot over betwixt two rocks.  I resolved to jump it. So I laid down my gun and hat and jumped and lost one of my shoes in the jump.  Many of our men was lost in that water and at the pass.”

OH:  Killiecrankie is highly rated for it's natural beauty, with plenty of forest trails along the River Garry that provide great outdoor enjoyment. How would the A9 road construction impact the scenic/natural value of the area? 

LM: The road passes high above the river and the Pass of Killiecrankie.  The battlefield is just to the north of the Pass where the terrain opens out.  Transport Scotland claims that the scenic impact would be the same on the battlefield no matter how the road were widened because damage was already done when the original road was built in the 1970s.

This argument is facile and misleading.  Firstly, attitudes and rules about our historic and cultural environment have changed enormously since the 1970s.  Indeed, one of today’s rules concerns sites that have already been damaged by development.  There is a requirement to take extra measures to avoid further damage in these cases.  Transport Scotland has ignored the requirement. Secondly, Transport Scotland used dubious methodology to evaluate the landscape impact.   The northbound carriageway is almost continuously lined by vegetation and trees, some from the Ancient Woodland Inventory, which results in birds’ nesting areas being concentrated on that side.  In contrast, the southbound carriageway is virtually treeless.  Nevertheless, Transport Scotland concluded that development on the northbound or southbound side would have a similar impact.  Thirdly, the loss of all the natural screening on the northbound side of the road will mean that the area where the memorial cairn stands will be exposed.  At the moment, the stone monument is where visitors come throughout the year to reflect quietly on the impact of battle and to see the exact area where thousands of men fought and lost their lives.  There is a remembrance service which takes place at the memorial cairn in a weekend-long commemorative event every July on the anniversary of the battle.  Such places are meant to retain an atmosphere of dignity.

OH:  What makes Killiecrankie stand out from other battlefields throughout Scotland?

LM: I cannot make a comparison of Killiecrankie with any other battlefield in Scotland. What makes Killiecrankie unique is the fact that it is the only battlefield that the A9 road traverses in its 110 miles route between Perth and Inverness.  Given the numbers killed in such a short, savage burst of fighting, the site demands to be treated sensitively and sensibly.  In historical terms, it holds the record for many firsts:  it was the first battle of the first Jacobite uprising in Scotland, of the Glorious Revolution; it is the first recorded use of the plug bayonet in battle in Britain; and it is thought to be the first time that the hand grenade was used in combat in Britain.
The scale of the brutality at Killiecrankie inspired Burns, Wordsworth and Scott whose literary works, in turn, seared the battle into the popular imagination. 

The association of the battle site with the exploits of an “ordinary” soldier whose unlikely leap over an 18 ft void is still celebrated throughout Scotland.  It is also unique in that the Jacobites’ charismatic leader, “Bonnie Dundee” was killed, granting him near mythic status in the Jacobite legend. Without him the rebellion lost impetus and failed. Had he survived there may have been a different outcome: one of the classic ‘what ifs’ of the historical narrative.
The battlefield at Killiecrankie happens to be one of the best preserved of its era. The choreography of the battle can be understood today by the undisturbed terrain, landscape and historical features.    Its exciting archaeological potential will be obliterated by Transport Scotland’s proposed design and route.   We cannot allow the mistakes that were made in the 1970s to be compounded.  

Places of historic interest:  Blair Castle, the fortress that controlled strategic routes, in Blair Atholl about 3 miles from the battlefield.  The castle was the reason why the battle took place in Killiecrankie.  St Bride’s Kirk, beside Blair Castle (which controlled strategic routes, thus the reason for the battle), where John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee, is buried.  Dunkeld, 16 miles south of Killiecrankie, where the first Jacobite uprising ended, less than 4 weeks after the Battle of Killiecrankie.

(St. Bride's Kirk)

OH: If Outlander fans want to visit the area, and see the battlefield, what time of year would you best recommend?

LM: Best time to visit:  May (for dry weather, wild flowers and return of migrating birds), July (for celebration of anniversary of the battle with re-enactors staging various scenes, tours of the battlefield and a commemorative service) and October (for magnificent autumn colours in the area, renowned for its arboreal splendour).  

There is much truth to the old Scottish proverb, "Twelve highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion" as it applies to Loretta, and the group KillieCrAnkie1689's perseverance in their mission to stop this government backed road expansion. It has been quite enlightening, and a joy communicating via email with Loretta.  I hope to one day meet her in person, and get a hopefully unsullied by traffic, tour of Killiecrankie Battlefield.  In the meantime, I plan on staying in touch with Loretta, and will post any dramatic changes to this somewhat fluid situation. If you care to show your support, please sign the petition to stop Transport Scotland's A9 highway expansion: