Printed hand-coloured fan depicting the Siege of Stirling, 1746, acquired by the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum in 2006 with an NFA grant of £925.
This fan, dating from 1746, is an eloquent witness to the events of 1 February-16 April that year when the Jacobite army, in retreat from Stirling, was finally defeated at Culloden. These events are depicted in a linear, almost cinematographic fashion with three months freeze-framed on one arc of paper supported by 19 delicate wooden sticks. The image is printed but beautifully hand-coloured. The scene is economical with the truth but in some aspects deadly accurate.
In fact the two armies did not meet until 16 April on Drummossie Moor, 140 miles further north. The Jacobites left Stirling in haste on 1 February; the Hanoverians entered Stirling the following day. In the rush to leave, the kirk of St Ninians, used by the Jacobites as a gunpowder store, was accidentally blown up. The solitary tower of St Ninian’s kirk remains to this day as a permanent reminder of the Jacobite invasion. The nave of the church was totally destroyed and never rebuilt. The bodies in the explosion depicted in the centre of the fan represent the ‘collateral damage’ of the ten who died on 1 February.
The looting of Stirling by the fleeing Jacobites was thorough. As the bridge was partially demolished, they crossed the Forth at Fords of Frew. The Cowane’s Hospital Charter Chest, dating from 1636, was carried off as a meal container and was not recovered by the town until 1882.
Stirling had the reputation of being a disloyal, pro-Jacobite town, and this siege of Stirling fan was part of propaganda to convince the government otherwise. Two days before his victory at Culloden, William Duke of Cumberland was made a free man of Stirling. Every lady in town would have been required to display this fan in his presence.
Dr Elspeth King
Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum