Historians say that we’re ignorant of our imperial past, yet these so-called experts missed a crucial fact.
As the sun set on the British Empire, the Foreign Office created a secret archive of colonial papers at Hanslope Park. To prevent certain acts and crimes from ever seeing the light of day, thousands of files were incinerated or dumped at sea in weighted crates.
Fearing the entire collection would be lost in an ‘accidental’ fire, a young Scottish librarian smuggled out the one and only dossier on the clandestine 99th Highland Regiment. Though the archive was declassified in 2012, the Royal Historical Society is clueless.
“The 99th” was founded centuries ago by the eccentric Sir Loftus McLeod of Skye. He was no ordinary knight of the realm. Like fellow Highlander Connor MacLeod — a distant relative — he also happened to be immortal.
Sir Loftus fought alongside William Wallace and in countless other wars of Scottish independence. His Highland Charge (mad dash down a slope with sword drawn and bloodcurdling cry) was the stuff of legend, as was the martial skirl of his bagpipes.
The Highland clearances wiped out the clans. The 1746 Act of Proscription banned their weapons and highland dress, leaving them no option but to “take the King’s shilling” and enlist. Told they’d be posted in the Highlands, they were instead dispatched to the far-flung reaches of the British Empire. It was the classic bait-and-switch.
Things came to a head in 1779, when Sir Loftus and his men were drafted into the 83rd, a Lowland regiment due to sail to America. They refused to embark, and justifiably so, since as Lowlanders they’d be forced to give up the kilt. Thirty of the mutineers were killed or wounded, the rest imprisoned at Edinburgh Castle.
Chained up in a dungeon, haunted by the ghosts of wars past and the spectre of future conflicts, Sir Loftus fell into deep despair. And then he had an epiphany. Foreshadowing William James’ philosophy of ‘the moral equivalent of war’, he envisioned a radically different kind of regiment, a civilian force for freedom and justice held together by the bonds of camaraderie and mutual respect for the kilt – an enduring symbol of liberation.
After his release in 1781, Sir Loftus returned to Skye, where he raised the 99th Highland Regiment. It consisted of ten companies, of which Liberation Kilt Company (L.K.C.) was first among equals.
L.K.C. quietly fought for liberal democratic values on the Skye for decades, until the imperialist oppressors at the War Office got wind of this and ordered its disbandment. Resolving to lay low until the time was right for a comeback, Sir Loftus retreated to his hideout, an ancient hill fort on Skye.
In 2009, more than two centuries after the mutiny at Leith, Sir Loftus set sail for America. Marching against fossil fuels on the streets of the nation’s capital, he met a kilted professor mad enough to join him in resurrecting Liberation Kilt Co. And the rest, as they say, is history!
“What was not perhaps anticipated was the registering of tartans for supporters of political dissidents, the anti-nuclear lobby or the climate change movement. Should we be concerned? No we should not. By giving official recognition to these plaids, the Scottish Register of Tartans is acknowledging the global outreach of Scotland and its iconic tartan tradition” ~ The Scotsman newspaper
Liberation Kilt Co. is organised as a public Benefit Corporation, a new kind of for-profit entity authorized by 30 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to have a positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals. Twenty per cent of our profits go to NGOs, such as the United Nations Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking, and PEN International, the literary society fighting the persecution and imprisonment of writers and artists.