1746 the year after the Jacobite rebellion, saw a startlingly different Scotland emerge from a protracted period of complex politics, loyalties, religious beliefs, scrabbles for land, protection of territory and decisions of who would hold power through rule. There may have been no place in Scotland that highlighted this more than the Scottish Highlands and its people. Whilst it was the soldiers at the behest of the English king via his son Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, who would visit the worst of the atrocious outcomes of Culloden on the highlanders following the battle, it would be too simplistic to say that the rebellion was a battle between Scottish armies and English armies. Critically this was a time when religion and state were inseparable, tied entirely to who held the power. Catholics and non-Catholics remained bitterly divided.
The Scottish Clan system featured collections of people tied and intertwined by different family groups and led by their chieftains. Loyalties and history connected them rather than any ethnic difference. The clans had a long history of forming and breaking alliances with each other depending on their interests and what they had to gain or lose in the agreement. Weaker clans would align with stronger clans for protection or suffer the consequence. The previous ruling Stuart royal house of the Scots had endured a rocky relationship with Scotland for hundreds of years certainly since the time of Mary Queen of Scots. The death of the last unarguably legitimate Stuart ruler, Queen Anne sowed further seed for discontent when she died without issue. Anne’s half-brother James could not ascend the throne because he was Catholic. Instead, he continued to live his life in exile in France supported and protected by the French king. Instead, it was the Queens second cousin the Protestant Hanoverian prince George I, (who claimed Stuart descent via his grandmother) who ascended the thrones of Britain. It would not be until many years later that James grandson, Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) who through a lens of idealistic belief in his right to rule and with an astonishing lack of preparedness would permit himself to be talked into landing in Scotland with the promise from his supporters that he would overwhelmingly rally the Scottish clans to him, that they were waiting for him to establish rightful Catholic rule of Scotland, Ireland and England. Undoubtedly there were Scots (and in number) who would indeed support him however history tells us he did not have the overwhelming support that he had been promised. At the time that the bonnie prince arrived in Scotland, George II had a particularly firm grip on Britain, and this included Scotland. This is not to say that the clans were loyalist to the Hanoverians, more that they had much to lose, and the risk was startlingly high. Aside from this as the eventuality of Culloden became more imminent it is also worth considering that there were clans who had old scores to settle and for those Culloden provided an opportunity to do this. A respectable number of Irish joined the side of Charles which may seem strange but can be clearly understood when the Irish were looking for any opportunity to return a Catholic king with the hope that they could extricate themselves from British rule. It was this time of great upheaval that bore our ancestors Alexander Symers and his wife Elspeth Ross, who were indeed highlanders. The period between 1715 and 1750 saw endemic financial depression with crushing poverty. Factors that led unsurprisingly to desperate want among its poorer people. There was no agriculture to speak of. Ongoing disputes and wars within their own clans and with (the English) culminating in the tragedy of Culloden, had led to ruined commerce, no sustained manufacturing and two hundred thousand men without gainful employment. Begging and petty thievery was rampant for the want of food and somewhere safe to live and to provide for families. During the years following the Jacobite uprising their British occupiers took a peculiar veracity in deploying harsh and unusual cruelty on the Scottish people. This included quite literally chasing down any who were, or who were believed to have been associated with, or had connection to the uprisings. This included profound suffering for women and children. Loss of life via execution, imprisonment and forcible removal from traditional home and lands was common with little sympathy extended from the British government for the plight of the Scot highlanders. The much-reviled, Proscription Act of 1746, implemented by George II was a systemic plan to use these laws to take apart the clan systems and break down family group loyalties. These outlawed cultural features that identified the highland Scots. Common features of highlander life that were declared to be ‘tools of war’ included the owning or wearing of plaid, tartans, and any ‘tools of war’ that could rally or identify sub-groups by the Scots. Widely held belief which remains open to popular debate (not written in the Proscription Act) is that bagpipes were outlawed. Whilst this may not have been the case it would be reasonable to believe that- law-keepers may have taken a set against a Scot using or owning bagpipes and could have made their life extremely difficult. This act would not be repealed until July 1782 by the new king George III (grandson of King George 2nd).
Alexander Symers would be born 1710 in Aberdeen to William Symer and Margaret Smith. He was baptised 14 July 1710 at St Nicholas, Aberdeen the spelling recorded as William Simmer and Margaret Smith as his parents.
On the 9th of January 1738 he married his wife Elspeth Ross also at St Nicholas, Aberdeen. This time he
his name was recorded as Alexander Symers. Their known children were daughter, Christian Simmers born 1738. Isobell Simmers born 1748. Alexander Simmers born 1742. Charles Simmers born 1747. It was during these years of having and raising very small children that Culloden surrounded Elspeth and Alexander with both of them being very near to the troubles. It would have been almost impossible not to be forced into ‘picking a side’.
Elspeth Ross was born around 1718 also a native of Scotland