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Title: Literary Tours in The Highlands and Islands of Scotland
Author: Holmes, Daniel Turner
Language: English
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              Literary Tours in
              The Highlands and
              Islands of Scotland

              By D. T. Holmes, B.A.

    "Gaudia, discursus, nostri est farrago libelli"
            --_Juvenal_, i. 74

 Publisher by Appointment to the late Queen Victoria

       *       *       *       *       *

       _James Coats, Junr., Esq.,_
       _Ferguslie House, Paisley._

    _You, but for whom I'd never been
    Much further north than Aberdeen;
    Whose mandate sent my willing feet
    To realms of heather, broom, and peat:
    Accept this record of my tours
    As something less my own than yours._

                            _D. T. HOLMES._


    _White stands the long Kilpatrick row
    Of hills with deep and dazzling snow,
    And eastward, in a glimmering haze,
    Stretch to the Forth the Campsie Braes._

    _But see! beyond the Clyde, a stain
    Of smoke that runs across the plain,
    And flecks for miles the vivid gleam:
    It is the tireless steed of steam._

    _An old acquaintance! Ben and Strath
    Daily behold his thunderous path,
    That ceases not, until he feels
    The breeze of Mallaig cool his wheels._

    _And Memory, fondly gazing back
    On many a journey by that track
    Of splendour, would, at home, retrace
    The charms and lore of every place;_

    _Yea, pass, in thought, to storied Skye,
    Where all the glens in glamour lie;
    And, lightly scorning gust and spray,
    Leap o'er the Minch to Stornoway._

    _And many a northern beach besides,
    Splashed by the foam of racing tides,
    Rises in thought: from here to there,
    Let Fancy's coinage pay the fare,--_

    _Fancy, that wafts us o'er the main
    To utmost Thule and home again,
    Through mingled din of sea and sky,
    Even in the twinkling of an eye._

                              _D. T. H._

  _Ingleholm, Bridge of Weir,
      16th January, 1909._



CHAPTER I.--INTRODUCTORY,                                              9

    Village libraries--Difficulties of travel--Literary Societies in
    the Highlands--Gaelic books--Happiness and geniality of
    natives--Oban to Gairloch--Winter sailing--A crofting
    village--Horrors of the Minch--Notes on Lewis--Highland
    doctors--Hotels and anglers--Recent books--Military--Moray
    Firth--Among the miners--Handloom weaving--Professor Blackie and
    the Highlands.

CHAPTER II.--MUSIC, SPEECHES, AND LITERATURE,                         60

    Scotch a reading nation--Hardships of students in old
    days--Homer in Scalloway--When education ends--Objects of
    chapter--Music--M.P.'s--Rural depopulation--Its
    causes--Emigration--Village halls--The moon--A lecture in
    Islay--Mental and material wealth--Real greatness--A Highland
    laird on literature--Varieties of chairmen--"Coming to the
    point"--Moral obligation--Compliment to Paisley--Oratory at
    Salen--Lecture in a dungeon--Surprises--A visit to the
    Borders--Tarbolton--Scotch language--Choice books--The
    essayists--A Banff theory--Goldsmith in Gaelic--_Biblia
    abiblia_--Favourites for the road--Horace--Shakespeare's
    Sonnets--Xenophon--French literature and journalism--Romance and
    Augustanism--Victorian writers--Celt and Saxon.

CHAPTER III.--ECCLESIASTICAL,                                        134

    Sectarian feeling--Typical anecdotes--Music and
    religion--Ethical teaching in schools--The Moderates--A savoury
    book--The Sabbath--"The Men of Skye"--The auldest kirk--The
    Episcopal Church--An interlude of metre--The Christian
    Brethren--Drimnin in Morven--Craignish--A model
    minister--Ministerial trials in olden times--An artful
    dodger--Some anecdotes from Gigha--Growing popularity of Ruskin.

CHAPTER IV.--EDUCATIONAL,                                            180

    Some Insular Dominies--Education Act of 1872--Education in the
    Highlands--Feeding the hungry--Parish Council
    boarders--Dwindling attendances--Arnisdale--Golspie Technical
    School--On the Sidlaws--Some surprises--Arran schools--Science
    and literature--Study of Scott--The old classical dominie--Vogue
    of Latin in former times--Teachers and
    examinations--Howlers--Competing subjects.

CHAPTER V.--A TRIP TO SHETLAND,                                      217

    Aberdeen--En route--Lerwick--Past and present saints--Some notes
    on the islands--A Shetland poet--A visit to Bressay--From
    Lerwick to Sandwick--Quarff--"That holy man,
    Noah"--Fladibister--Cunningsburgh--"Keeping off"--The indignant
    elder--Torquil Halcrow--Philology--A Sandwick gentleman--Local
    tales--Foulah and Fair Isle--The fishing season.


    Trials of commercials--The two-est-faced knave--Mary, the maid
    of the inn--Anecdotes of the smoking-room: Sonnet to
    Raleigh--Peelin's below the tree--"She's away!"--A mean
    house--One of the director's wives--Temperance hotels--A
    memorial window--The blasted heath--The day for it--The
    converted drummer--A circular ticket--A compound
    possessive--Sixteen medals--"She's auld, and she's thin, and
    she'll keep"--The will o' the dead--Sorry for London--"Raither
    unceevil"--An unwelcome recitation--A word in season--A Nairn
    critic--A grand day for it--A pro-Boer--"Falls of Bruar, only,
    please!"--A bad case of nerves.


    Gairloch folk-lore: Prince Olaf and his bride--A laird who had
    seen a fairy--Tales from Loch Broom: The dance of death--The
    Kildonan midwife--The magic herring--Taisch--Antiquities of
    Dunvegan--Miscellaneous terrors--St. Kilda--Lady
    Grange--Pierless Tiree--Lochbuie in Mull--Inveraray Castle--The
    sacred isle--Appin--Macdonald's gratitude--Notes on the
    Trossachs--Lochfyneside: Macivors, Macvicars, and
    Macallisters--Red Hector--Macphail of Colonsay--Tales from
    Speyside: Tom Eunan!--Shaws and Grants--The wishing well--Ossian
    and Macpherson--At the foot o' Bennachie--Harlaw--Lochaber
    reivers--Reay and Twickenham--Rob Donn--Rev. Mr. Mill of

CHAPTER VIII.--METRICAL AND SUPPLEMENTARY,                           340

    Arrival of the Mail-train at a Highland Station--Defoe, the
    Father of Journalism--A Village Toper--A Reverend
    Hellenist--Antigone--Shadows of the Manse--"My Heart's in the
    Highlands"--Saddell, Kintyre--Springtime in Perthshire--Dr.
    George Macdonald's Creed--Abbotsford--Carlyle--Shelley--Picture
    in an Inn--Rain-storm at Loch Awe--Kinlochewe--General
    Wade--Sound of Raasay in December--Les Neiges d' Antan--The
    Islands of the Ness--American Tourist Loquitur--The Miners--In a
    Country Graveyard--No Place like Home.

INDEX,                                                               369




    Village libraries--Difficulties of travel--Literary Societies in
    the Highlands--Gaelic books--Happiness and geniality of
    natives--Oban to Gairloch--Winter sailing--A crofting
    village--Horrors of the Minch--Notes on Lewis--Highland
    doctors--Hotels and anglers--Recent books--Military--Moray
    Firth--Among the miners--Handloom weaving--Professor Blackie and
    the Highlands.


At pretty frequent intervals, during the last four years, I have sallied
forth from my home in Renfrewshire, north, south, east, and west, to
some of the most remote and isolated nooks of insular and provincial
Scotland, on a mission so uncommon as to justify the writing of a book
of impressions and experiences. The Highlands and Islands of Scotland
are, of course, visited every summer by a great host of excursionists,
who go thither to fish, play golf, lounge, climb hills, and otherwise
picturesquely disport themselves. A few earnest devotees of science
spend their holidays botanising in the glens, scanning the geological
strata, looking for fossils, measuring the outlines of brochs and
prehistoric forts, or collecting relics of Culdee churches. My journeys
were undertaken for none of the objects named: they were entirely
connected with _libraries_ and _lecturing_, and, being undertaken mainly
in the months of winter and spring, they have given me the opportunity
of noting a great many interesting particulars that the summer
traveller, bent on recreation or science, cannot be expected to notice.

_I do not think any finer gift could be given to a village community
than a collection of useful and entertaining books._ The libraries with
which my work was connected were sent, free of charge, to strath and
glen, and nothing was asked in return, except that the volumes should be
well housed and delivered to the people to read by some local librarian.
You will find these libraries in all the townships of the Hebrides, from
Ness in Lewis, down the long chain of islands, to Islay and Jura. About
thirty of them are established in the Shetlands, and as many in the
Orkneys. Scores of little villages in Aberdeen, Ross, Sutherland,
Argyle, Bute, and Perth, have been gratuitously supplied with them. The
same is true of many a weather-beaten, quaint, red-tiled little
fishing-village along the shores of the Moray Firth. In the barracks of
Fort-George, Inverness, and Dingwall, the soldiers can solace their
leisure hours by delightful, patriotic, and instructive reading,
furnished to them without money and without price. Even in quiet,
pastoral Roxburghshire, at a spot near the birthplace of Dandie
Dinmont, you will find one of these serviceable collections of books.

It is a pleasure to me to be able to say that I have visited a great
number of the districts mentioned, for the purpose of speaking to the
people in a familiar and non-academic way on some of the books which
have been presented to them. In this way I have spoken to about 40,000
people, the majority of whom had never previously been present at a
discourse on a literary topic. Most of them had, of course, been in the
habit of attending religious services and election meetings: but neither
of these is the very best preparation for a literary evening. Some of my
experiences have been intensely amusing, and I do not think any lecturer
has ever, as regards rough roads, inclement weather, and amazing votes
of thanks, had quite the same joys and sorrows as I have come through. I
have often laughed (good-naturedly, I hope) at what came under my
notice, but I am not so conceited as to suppose that the hilarity was
always on one side.


It can very easily be seen that he who proposed to visit all the above
districts would have some hard and continuous work in prospect. Even on
the mainland of Scotland there are many villages of difficult access.
The nearest railway station to Durness on Loch Eriboll is Lairg, sixty
miles away. Gairloch in Ross-shire is thirty miles distant from the
railway station of Achnasheen. In the great county of Aberdeen there are
a good many villages that can only be reached by long and tiresome
driving in a mail coach. At different parts of the Moray Firth little
townships lie huddled at the foot of precipitous cliffs, and, at first
sight, seem inaccessible except by sea. To one accustomed to the
sumptuous equipment of the Clyde steamers, even the journey to the
shrine of Hugh Miller at Cromarty is pleasant only in good weather: a
wee, puffing, hard-wrought steam-launch takes a slant course of five
miles from Invergordon to Cromarty pier, accomplishing the journey in
forty-five minutes. The fare between the two piers is one shilling, and
there is no extra charge for the use of the cabin, which is reached by a
perpendicular and very slippery ladder, and would be better suited for
philosophical reflection in a gale if the crew did not use it as a
store-room for engine-grease and old oilskins. In the Outer Islands,
Watt's machine is, of course, unknown, and many of the roads which
imaginative cartographers have inserted in their maps, will perhaps be
finished when the last trump is about to sound.

Railway travelling, too, is attended with some inconveniences in winter.
The Glasgow-Inverness train, for example, may, on the coldest night of
the year, break down at Dalnaspidal; and in such a case the passengers
will have to sit, entertained by howling blasts, till a fresh engine
comes up from Blair Atholl. Such an experience was once mine, and I
always think of it when I read the ninth ode of Horace's first book.
Outside were the great snow-sheeted mountains, and the moon was gazing
in blear-eyed compassion through a screen of haze. From end to end of
the train resounded the rhythmic beat of cold-footed passengers striving
to bring some warmth of blood to the toes.

In Grantown-on-Spey, I got an uncommon surprise one February. There had
been some snow in the Lowlands, but at Grantown the fall had been
excessive, and the roads were encumbered. On arriving at the station,
the travellers saw a sleigh waiting to convey them to the hotel. The
conveyance suited the weather admirably, and the horses seemed to be
enjoying the fun. No wheeled vehicles were to be seen: even the milkmen
sleighed their commodity from door to door. "_If we had a brace of
grand-dukes and a bomb or two, we could fancy ourselves in Russia_,"
said the facetious hotel-porter. He asserted that it was well for the
country when abundant snow came down early in the year. It seems that
Grantown is apt to suffer from drought in a hot summer following on a
rainless spring. A copious fall of snow early in the year is retained in
the mountains, and ensures plenty of moisture during the months of heat.
Moisture is needed in summer, for the population is trebled then, and
most tourists require a little water, sometimes, to qualify their

It is evident from what I have said, that the pedantic and vexatious
system adopted by Euclid in his Elements of Geometry could not be
employed in arranging the chapters of this book. The stern
consecutiveness of that immortal but unpopular author would be out of
place in describing journeys which might have been taken in the reverse
order without much difference in the results.


Winter with its long nights gives leisure to the remote glensmen and
crofters. The distractions of the town are not there to take their minds
away from study and meditation. Books may not be abundant, but what
literature is available is eagerly fastened on and thoroughly digested.
In the Lowlands we skip over our books and know nothing thoroughly. The
Highlander, with his limited means and choice, is forced to peruse and
re-peruse, even though he has nothing more lively than Boston's
_Fourfold State_, or Hervey's _Meditations among the Tombs_. But he
knows well what he has so often read, and is quite competent to discuss
and criticise his little row of volumes. A few of the Highland townships
have literary societies in which every variety of subject is debated:
the meetings are usually opened with prayer, but not always closed in
that way. There is a tiny clachan, some twenty miles distant from
Ullapool, on the side of a hill, in view of the grotesque peaks of
Suilven, which has a most flourishing literary society--with president,
vice-president, rules, minutes, and committees. Not once, but twice a
week does this society meet, and when the full moon is propitious for a
clear journey home through the morasses, the debates are often unduly
prolonged and the chairman's summing-up luxuriantly prolix. How many
politicians of note in London have been raked fore and aft in that
little schoolroom! What measures and enactments, plausible to the
unthinking metropolitans, have been cut and slashed there, while the
conscious moon, gleaming in at the window, strove vainly to disperse
the loquacious throng! Listen to the chairman's modest remarks: "_I do
not wish_," he says, "_to embarrass the Government, but_...." Unthinking
Asquith, here is a man who does not wish to embarrass you; he could do
it, but he is merciful! You may breathe freely, you and your Cabinet,
for spite of your slips and blunders, the Ross-shire crofters will not
turn round and rend you. They do not wish to embarrass the Government;
but have a care: their eyes are on you, and forbearance has its limits.
Think not because they live remote from train and telegraph, that you
are immune from their censure. Far from it! Round the hill-side at a
stated hour every day, in shine or shower, gust or calm, comes the
mail-coach of King Edward VII., bringing its pile of letters and
newspapers. I see the little throng of village politicians, eager-eyed,
peruse the latest parliamentary news. There they get all the needed
pabulum for the next political debate. If the answers to Mr. Galloway
Weir have been shifty and evasive, it will go hard with the Government
to-night in the little schoolroom, and the plaster will fall in showers
of dust from the ceiling as the iniquities of our rulers are ruthlessly
shown up. I should not like to feel the rough side of that chairman's

A library of representative English works, presented to a remote
provincial society like the one I speak of, is a centre of unspeakable
entertainment and instruction. The _entertainment_, during the long
nights of winter, when the natives gather round the ingle and someone
reads aloud, is a very palpable addition to the joys of life. The
_instruction_ is perhaps slower in coming, but is none the less sure.
Only by comparison of books can their relative value as literature be
determined. Bigotry and narrow-mindedness in literature and religion are
almost always the result of ignorance. In the Highlands it is oftenest
the local teacher who is the librarian, and the books are accommodated
in the school. The teacher is thus able to make his instruction in
literature vivid and interesting to his senior pupils; he can authorise
a pupil to take a particular volume home and require an essay to be
written on it within a given time; and he can, in school, read aloud
typical passages of good prose to supplement the limited extracts of the
class text-books. The books have been selected (i.) to form useful
reading for adults; (ii.) to supply suitable pabulum for literary
societies; (iii.) to aid the schemes of the Education Department in
connection with what is called the "Supplementary Course of Instruction
in English Literature." The selection of the books for the use of senior
scholars has been, as a rule, easy enough. Dictionaries of the French
and German languages, good atlases, and works of reference have, in most
cases been included.[1]

    [1] Let the southern reader remember that a boy born in a city
    like Glasgow has, as respects opportunities of getting on,
    infinitely better chances than a lad of equal ability born in a
    Highland village. The crofter's son has no reading-room with
    costly works of reference, scientific manuals, English
    translations of Latin authors, etc., to go to when he is in need
    of help. He begins the battle of life at a very serious
    disadvantage, and often gives up the fight altogether. Anything
    that tends to equalise the chances of town and country, from the
    point of view of mental equipment, would do more general good to
    Scotland, by bettering the available brain power, than any
    half-dozen Acts of Parliament taken at random.


In selecting the books specially intended for the perusal of the older
people, an attempt is made to meet the needs of the various localities.
In the bi-lingual districts there is always a shelf of Gaelic books,
such as the original texts of Norman Macleod's exquisite sermons,
M'Rury's religious compilations, Macleod's clever poetry _The Lyre of
the Grove_, Campbell's _Popular Tales of the West Highlands_, and Magnus
Maclean's manuals of Celtic Literature. There being a distinct dearth of
comely Celtic reading that the ordinary native can understand,
arrangements have been made for the translation into Gaelic in several
volumes by competent scholars, of extracts from Mr. Lang's _True Story
Book_, and from other sources.

The regrettable thing about Gaelic is its hopelessly bewildering
spelling. The sounds are pleasing and melodious in a high degree, but
they hide themselves behind most peculiar disguisements of print. Most
people will admit, I think, that a language which spells Avon,
_Amhuinn_, and Rory, _Ruaridh_, would benefit greatly by a visit from
Pitman. The utility of sane phonetics was brought home to me very
forcibly by a story I heard from a gentleman in the west of Skye. This
gentleman is an excellent English scholar, can speak Gaelic but is
unable to read it. He got a letter once from St. Kilda composed by an
islander who spelt Gaelic by ear and not according to the awe-inspiring
orthography of the dictionary. The gentleman, who could not have made
out the letter had it been spelt correctly, was able to read it as it
stood, without the slightest hesitation. If a more rational spelling
were generally adopted, an immense number of Lowlanders who are
interested in philology, would study the grand old tongue, were it only
to understand the numberless place names of Celtic origin that occur in
British geography.

What I have said about Gaelic spelling explains the inability of a large
percentage of the population to read a book printed in the native idiom.
What is the use then, it may be asked, of translating the _True Story
Book_? The answer is obvious to one who knows the Highlands. In the
Outer Isles there are many old people who know no English and whose only
literary solace comes from listening to others reading. At the evening
_ceilidh_ a competent reader of Gaelic can usually be found. Then,
again, we are likely to see, in the near future, a notable revival of
interest in the old language, consequent on the efforts of the _Mod_,
and on the recognition of Gaelic by the Department as a fit subject of
study in the Highland schools. Such a revival, to be lasting in its
effects, must be enforced and sustained by a constant supply of pure and
interesting Gaelic books, both native and translated. Religious books
there are in abundance, thanks to the zeal of the Protestant clergy.
Needless to say, the compilations of the Dean of Lismore are as
unintelligible to the modern Gael as Cynewulf is to a London cab-driver.
I should like to see a round dozen of good English novels put into
Gaelic by translators who knew the idiom thoroughly.

The fervour displayed at Highland gatherings, admirable as it is from a
sentimental point of view, is apt to grow cold at the prospect of
laborious work to be done. It is not creditable that the great majority
of Gaelic speakers are unable to read a page of Gaelic print. Nor is it
creditable that those who can both read and speak, do so little for the
interpretation of the literature. Blackie's books and translations are
still among the best, and Blackie was a Lowlander, was born, indeed, in
the Saltmarket of Glasgow. My frequent visits to the north and west have
convinced me that another difficulty in the way of a possible resurgence
of Gaelic is the lack of a recognised standard of colloquial speech. The
language is split up into many dialects, each possessing its own special
idioms and vocabulary. A Glasgow firm of printers not long ago conceived
the idea of printing post-cards with Gaelic greetings: they found that
every city Highlander they consulted had either in grammar or turn of
phrase some special way of framing the sentences. "Grand Gaelic to-day!"
is an exclamation sometimes heard at the door of a Highland church in
town, and indicates that the minister who has officiated comes from the
same strath as the person speaking.

A moderate amount of encouragement to Gaelic is all that can reasonably
be expected from the Government, seeing that the prime duty of the
schoolmaster everywhere is to impart a sound knowledge of English.[2]

    [2] In an editorial of June 6, 1908, the _Glasgow Herald_
    excellently says:--"The first requisite for a Highlander is such
    a knowledge of English as will open up to him the lucrative
    employment from which ignorance of English must shut him out,
    and it is no kindness to him to interfere with his acquisition
    of this indispensable accomplishment.... So good a Gael as
    Professor Magnus Maclean has observed that 'even more remarkable
    than the dearth of philosophical and dramatic poems, and, we
    might add, of narrative and pastoral poetry proper, is the
    scarcity of Gaelic prose.' By all means, however, let a literary
    knowledge of the Gaelic language be encouraged among
    Gaelic-speaking children. It is a very different matter to
    enforce such steps as would lead to the teaching of Gaelic to
    children that live indeed in Gaelic-speaking districts but yet
    speak only English."


What has struck me most in my travels by land and sea, is the
extraordinary amount of happiness, geniality, and good humour that still
exists in the world. There is a substantial amount of felicity in the
majority of men. Every one knows the sentence of Emerson: "Give me
health and a day, and I will make the pomp of empires ridiculous." I
like to give concrete examples of philosophic maxims, and I should
particularise Emerson's dictum thus: "Bard Macdonald of Trotternish,
Skye, whose only cow came near being impounded by the Congested
Districts Board in order to pay for the price of seed-potatoes furnished
to him by the said Board, having good health, makes the pomp of empires
ridiculous three hundred and sixty-five days every year." Bard Macdonald
is a very poor man, yet he has contrived to hitch his waggon on to a
fixed star. He lives in one of those low thatch-roofed bothies that,
with the accompanying croft, are rented at from £2 to £4 a year. He has
a wife and a large family. Yet, tormented as he is by present poverty
and past arrears, he eyes the future with serenity. I heard him sing a
Gaelic poem of his own composition, containing twenty-five verses of
intricate versification, and at the conclusion he was far less exhausted
than any of the company. Then, again, Torquil M'Gillivray, schoolmaster
of a rainy township on the sea-edge of one of the Skye _nishes_, has
tranquillity of mind as great as any of the Seven Sages ever enjoyed. He
is perfectly contented with his lot of rural dominie, and when I, in my
presumption, ventured to speak critically of certain social conditions
in his beloved island, he rebuked me by crooning tenderly the following

    "Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome,
      I would see them before I die,
    But I'd rather not see any one of the three,
      Than be exiled for ever from Skye!"

We all know what a unique poetical gem Wordsworth composed after he
heard a Highland girl singing at Inversnaid. I witnessed many fine
examples of concentrated joy which might have resulted in metre if I had
not had the presence of mind to pull myself up and refrain. One was at
Acharacle, where in front of a croft a young fellow was dancing the
Highland fling with such whole-souled and consuming zeal that I stood
transfixed with wonder and awe. He was alone, and I came suddenly upon
him at a sharp bend of the road. He threw his legs about him with such
regardless glee, that for a moment I was afraid one of them would get
unfixed and come spinning through the air to hit me. I watched him like
one fascinated for fully ten minutes. When at length he saw me, the
glory flowed suddenly off his legs; he subsided into a country bumpkin,
and beat a hasty retreat indoors. "If Greek dances were as artistic as
this one," said I, "and if the lines of each chorus had a reference to
the diversity of the steps, it is little wonder that God in His
providence should have sent us so many commentators to explain the
mysteries of ancient scansion."

Another instance of natural and spontaneous bliss came under my notice
about two miles along from Kinlochewe, on the banks of Loch Maree. It
was a glorious, sun-illumined spring morning, and every crevice in the
rough flanks of Ben Slioch was mirrored in the unwrinkled surface of the
noble loch. Ben Eay had a bright covering of Nature's whitest, softest
lawn. No sounds were heard except the low droning of a vagrant bee, the
whizzing of a sea-mew's pinions, or a bark from this croft answered by a
bark from that other a mile away. Suddenly the repose of the morning, in
which a pedestrian could hear the echo of his own feet, was startled by
the voice of a girl singing. For a moment I thought of the _Lorelei_;
but it was soon evident where the notes were coming from. A maiden of
ten or twelve was sitting in front of a cottage that faced the lake,
combing her long, black hair that glistened in the morning rays, and
pouring forth such exquisite trills as might have made Orpheus envious.
The whole beauty of ben, loch, and sky seemed to be gathered up in that
child's song. I had been wandering along in the sparkling air and
feeling that something ought to be done to intimate to Heaven that it
was a heavenly morning. The girl felt so happy in the gracious gift of
another blue day that her nature responded at once in a spontaneous
burst of melody. I was very grateful for her vicarious hymn of praise--

    "Now thanks to Heaven! that of its grace
    Hath led me to this lonely place.
    Joy have I had; and going hence
    I bear away my recompense."


It is impossible for anyone who has a fair supply of the uncurdled milk
of human kindness to sail from Oban to Gairloch and not be struck with
the heartiness and good humour of the native population. Such a trip is
rarely accomplished without some memorable incident or some outstanding
impression. The landscape is doubtless magnificent, but the people one
sees on the way are infinitely more interesting. No one, I am sure, can
fail to observe the well-groomed, fresh, and imperial aspect of the pier
policemen. The general polish of their boots and belts, the
self-satisfied, Parnassian smile that never comes off, the spotless
gloves, the muscular frame, combine to make up a splendid type of
impressive Law grounded on Strength. I am ashamed to employ the term
"policemen" to a body of officials who command such instantaneous
respect. These men are King Edward's Highland satraps, and they both
know it and feel it: law in the North is never undignified or unkempt.
Then, again, the captain of the steamer is a man whom it is impossible
to regard without veneration. All Macbrayne's men are fine fellows; they
look well as they stand in stately fashion on the bridge: yet many a
scowling sky of torrential rain they have to face, many a time have
their beards been shaken by the hurricanes of the Minch. If you speak to
a ship-captain, you are certain to get the utmost civility and
politeness. It is true that most of them have several sets of
vocabularies: to passengers they are urbane and choice of speech; but
they have, within easy reach, another set of phrases, which they find of
service in addressing delinquent mariners.

A student of Virgil in making the trip I have alluded to above, would
run the risk of recalling the passage in which the poet suggests that
the big island of Sicily was at one time connected with the mainland,
but that some huge convulsion of nature disjoined the twain and allowed
the Mediterranean to come roaring in a channel between. The scenery of
Western Scotland stirs the imagination to suppose that some similar
catastrophe permitted the sea to mangle the fair uniformity of a
prehistoric coast, submerge the low-lying lands, and leave a great
number of islands lying in lonely fashion out in the watery waste.
Heavy weather, truly, it must have been ere Coll, Tiree, Rum, and Eigg
were sundered from the mainland by the Atlantic flow.

All the islands I mention (save Tiree) can be seen from the deck of the
_Gael_ during the earlier part of the daily passage of that boat from
Oban in the summer season. Tiree is off the main tourist track, but a
few antiquarians are now finding it worth their while to go and dig
there for relics of byegone civilisation. A friend of mine, a zealous
and erudite F.S.A., has spent many a pleasant holiday in Tiree, and has
come back with loaded trunks of valuable prehistoric remains. Certain
artists go out to the island regularly in order to transfer to canvas
some of Nature's most impressive aspects of cloud, wave, and crag. Nor
let me forget the doughty members of the _Faith Mission_, who evangelise
this and others of the outer isles, and sing such sweet melodies to the
natives as would melt any "Wee Free" heart, let alone an ordinary heart
of stone. Tiree has long been famous for its schools and for its
intelligent inhabitants; as a consequence, the libraries have been
enthusiastically welcomed in its townships, and are regarded by the
teachers there as a new and valuable adjunct of education. I have often
heard it said that Tiree produces more ministers than any other
district, of like population, in the Celtic part of Scotland. The Duke
of Argyll does not allow any licensed house on the island, but he has
not as yet suppressed the _Fingal_ and the parcels post. Should His
Grace ever unbend so far as to permit the temperance hotels to obtain
the licence, learned men might flock in greater numbers to Tiree, and
dazzle themselves and the world with further antiquarian finds.[3]

Rum has not been dowered with a Paisley library, and I regret to say
that the natives have the reputation of not keeping the Sunday with
ostentatious strictness. Eigg, the little island contiguous, is a little
heaven below. The missionary there well deserves a word of commendation:
the island of Muck is under his spiritual supervision, and with a
sandwich and a sermon in his pocket, he often sets sail, scorning gust
and current, to preach to his parishioners in that tiny islet.

    [3] Coll is also a very interesting island for the antiquarian.
    It contains distinct traces of twenty-nine Hill-forts or Duns,
    so that there must have been lively times out there long ago.
    Some fine shells, beads, pins and pottery have been found in the
    prehistoric _kitchen-middens_. Before the Reformation the island
    was thickly peopled, and sites of old churches and deserted
    crofts are numerous. Coll has gone back in population; in 1901
    it had 432 inhabitants; in 1755 the number of natives was 1,193.


The summer tourist knows Skye very imperfectly, for he goes there in a
commodious steamer and traverses the island at a season when the days
are long and the weather benign. No one should vaunt of knowing Skye
unless he has seen it in winter also. It is the small _Lochiel_ that, in
the dark days of December, bears the passengers along the chilly Sound
of Sleat, and through the narrows of Raasay, into the haven of Portree.
At such a time there is something fearsome and weird in the aspect of
the coast, as seen from the cabin window of the brave little boat as
she battles and plunges along in the teeth of the north-eastern gale.
Her progress is slow, for when passengers are few Macbrayne wisely
economises his coal. The long-stretching hills of Raasay (on the highest
of which Boswell danced a jig) are white from head to foot, and gleam
through the darkness of the afternoon, vivid and ghostly. As Raasay
House, with its lamp-lit windows shining in a snowy recess, is
approached, the engines slow down, and through the howl of the wind can
be heard the plashing of oars. The broad waves swirl and seethe cruelly
around the ferry-boat and toss it about at all angles, up and down, on
crest and in trough, till you fear it will end its struggles keel
upwards, and send the mail-bags down among the mackerel. But the boatmen
know their trade, and so do the dripping, top-booted seamen of the
_Lochiel_. Amid much running and shuffling and casting of ropes and
animated bandying of (I fear) strong expressions in Gaelic sung out upon
the night, the ship's ladder is cast down and the boat tied thereto. In
a few minutes the transfer of mails is over, the ladder up, and the
small boat leaping back to land. (I speak of December 22, 1904). A new
passenger has come on board and is seen to descend the cabin stairs to
unfreeze his fingers over the tiny stove. Half-an-hour's heaving still
remains before Portree. A lady who has been on the border-line of
squeamishness for the last hour, hurriedly leaves the cabin, probably to
see if her luggage is all right. Good news at last for all! Portree is
visible, and its lights are twinkling on the height. The moon comes
graciously out, silvering the snowy shoulders of Essie Hill. What a
contrast is this moonlit haven, with its background of terraced lights,
to the rough surges outside. Glad indeed is everyone to set foot on the
pier and trudge through disregarded slush to the warmth of home or
hotel. We are told by our island friends that all Skye is under snow and
that the roads are impassable. No mail-coach has ventured to Dunvegan
for two days and in other directions, the postmen, turned cavaliers,
have gone off on horseback with their letters. (Let me say in passing,
that a red-bearded Highland postman, clad in post-office livery and
seated on a sheltie, is a sight which any artist would go a hundred
miles to see.)

Winter sailing may at times be as pleasant as a cruise in June. At 8
A.M. in the snug cabin, the breakfast-table, with its tea, ham, eggs,
and sausages, is a welcome piece of scenery, and the genial talk of the
captain and his colleagues is far better than pepsine as a digestive.
After breakfast, a pipe on deck is a necessity. Who that has once seen
Ben-na-ceallich all white to the feet and softly veiled with airy mists,
but wishes he were a Turner to paint, or a Shelley to sing? The sail
from Broadford to Kyle on a calm, cold, snow-dazzling morning is (if one
is wrapped and coated well) absolutely majestic. The sun pours, if not
warmth, at least light and heat on the hundred bens of the mainland and
the breeze aiding, wakens a multitudinous smile on the glittering face
of the cold waters.

I never take this trip without thinking of such books as _The Brave Sons
of Skye_, which gives a record of the brave men born in the misty island
who have come south and distinguished themselves in many a different
walk in life. It is a most inspiring thing to reflect on the dauntless
way in which genius treads the stony road that leads from poverty to
glory. There is not a district in Skye but has its great man, who forms
the subject of conversation round the peat fire when the winter winds
are blowing down the strath. "From Log Cabin to White House" is the
American way of putting it: in Scotland we might say "From Crofter's Cot
to Professor's Chair."


The sight of a crofting village is at first rather surprising to one
accustomed to large towns. The low roofs are not far from the ground.
Often, while driving, if you turn a corner swiftly, you run the risk of
being thrown out of the trap on to one of the chimneys. It does not take
much imagination, especially in the dim dusk, to transform a
low-thatched cot into some weird animal that might begin to walk along
the hill-side at any moment. So irregularly grouped are the townships,
dropped here and there, as it were, that you might fancy the houses had
begun at one time to run a race with each other, and in the middle of it
had suddenly stopped. Dr. Johnson complained that the windows were fixed
into the walls and could not, in consequence, be opened to let in the
air. That fault exists to some extent still: I have been told, however,
that peat reek is very purifying, and that its thick fumes make short
work of any noxious germs that might lodge about the nooks of the
interior. Great changes are gradually coming over many of the clachans,
changes not loved by an artist or a devotee of the picturesque. Instead
of thatch, held down by ropes weighted with heavy stones, there is often
to be seen a roofing of tarred cloth or corrugated iron. Romance might
attach itself to a roof of thatch, but corrugated iron, with its
distressing parallelism, could never awaken a genuine lyric note.
Further, it does not make a very comfortable seat, whereas thatch is
soft. Now, children in the Highlands are rather fond of sitting and even
playing on the roof: thatch is less cruel on bare feet than iron is.


I have alluded to the distresses of winter voyaging to Skye. But there
are other routes worse, notably that from Tarbert in Harris to
Lochmaddy, which is a perfect Tartar of a trip. When the wind is high
and contrary, the traveller (if he can stay on deck and maintain an
interest in the scenery), beholds a sight of extreme grandeur. The waves
are to be seen all along the Harris coast leaping up to a terrific
extent with an unbroken line of foam extending for miles. So much does
the boat romp and dance, however, that most passengers forsake the deck
and retire inelegantly below. When a man lies in a stuffy cabin wishing
himself wedged into it to prevent the perpetual rolling to this side and
to that, and hearing the desperate thud of the Minch flinging itself
against the port-hole, a series of vivid panoramic pictures pass before
his mental eye. Home appears so lovely and reposeful: faces of friends
on shore arise, transfigured by the glow of love: the squeamishness and
retching he endures seem to the sufferer a special and direct judgment
on him for impiously endeavouring to find pleasure otherwise than by the
practice of the domestic virtues. Disquieting memories of bursting
boilers surge up to the surface of the mind, and old catches like the
weird ballad of Sir Patrick Spens lilt themselves to the clank of the
staggering ship's machinery--

    "The anchor's brak and the tapmast lap,
      It was sic a deadly storm,
    And the waves dashed into the gude ship's side
      Till a' her planks were torn."

The romance of the sea is apt to vanish as you look out upon a
wilderness of foaming water, tossing the boat like an insignificant toy,
drenching the bulwarks and vehemently smiting everything in its riotous
anger. Neptune seems a mere blind force without reverence or mercy for
the works of man. It is good for a boy of romantic disposition to cross
to the Long Island in a gale: it will effectually cure him of all desire
to take up the profession of pirate. What a sad moment for such a youth
when he sees his breakfast where it shouldn't be, and reflects that he
has not the staying power of Sir Ralph the Rover!

I regret to say that I have no specific to give as a preventive for
sea-sickness. Even the Phœnicians who had time, during the intervals
of their hardy voyaging, to invent the alphabet, were unable to devise a
remedy for the _mal de mer_. Custom does not create immunity, for even
the mighty Nelson, who had a life-long acquaintance with the ocean, was
afflicted with sea-sickness to the end of his days. In France there
exists a _Ligue contre le mal de mer_, commenting upon which a French
journalist says: _Avec une ligue on est toujours assuré d'une chose: à
défaut de progrès, qu'elle nous fera peut-être attendre, elle fera des
congrès: et c'est du moins une consolation que de pouvoir discourir de
son mal._

He that will to Cupar maun through Fife, and he that has business in the
Lews must brave the billows of the Minch.


The great island of Lewis, formerly so distant from Edinburgh and
Glasgow, can now be reached in fourteen hours by one who leaves the
latter city at 5.40 A.M. The old route was very tiresome and circuitous:
the traveller had to proceed to Inverness, take the Dingwall and Skye
line to Strome Ferry, and then sail over the Minch to Stornoway. The
opening up of the West Highlands by the railway to Mallaig has changed
all that. At Mallaig pier, when you leave the train, you find the
connecting steamer ready to set off, at noon, for its journey to
Stornoway, where it arrives about eight in the evening.

I don't think anyone would want to stay more than a week at a time in
Stornoway. The town itself is just like the fishy part of
Boulogne-sur-Mer, only more so. There is a pervading odour of mussels,
bait, and herring, and the gulls go flapping overhead in crowds
everywhere. If the tourist remained a week in the place, he would go
every day to the Castle grounds. Here, if anywhere, is the paradise of
the Lews. There is a profusion of dells, burns, glades, ivy-grown
bridges, and far-extending vistas over sea, moorland, and town. As with
a knife (so precise is the division) the well-wooded policies are
separated from the barren and disheartening moor. When one gets to the
highest point of the grounds and gazes over the long, tiresome slopes of
the island, one's belief in _design in nature_ gets a sudden stab. A man
will think long and sore before he arrives at any _raison d'être_ for
including such a wilderness of bogs in the scheme of creation.

The men of the island are, in the main, shrewd, resourceful, and
intelligent--qualities fostered by their constant fighting with the sea.
"The young fellows here," said one of the hotel-keepers to me, "will
either make a spoon or spoil a horn. They come to a decision speedily
and put it into practice at once. It is hit or miss with them, usually
hit. At sea, in a gale, there is no time for parliamenting; and Lewismen
act on land with the swift decision that is needed in a tempest." All
round the coast are fishing-villages, thickly populated by these
intrepid children of the tempest.

Fishing is a precarious industry, and often fails. The harvest of the
land may fail at the same time as that of the sea: in such a case the
plight of the islanders is sad indeed. During the last five years, the
trade of weaving has been wisely fostered by the Government, so that in
future, when sea and soil are churlish, the loom will to some extent
supply the lack. The Duchess of Sutherland and the Congested Districts
Board have done excellent service in encouraging the tweed-weaving
industry all over the Long Island. Her Grace, some years ago, made a
progress through Lewis and addressed the people by means of an
interpreter, on the advantages of such industry in their homes. She also
instituted exhibition sales of work in the big cities of the south, with
the result that large quantities of cloth were sold and a precious
publicity given to the scheme. Depots for receiving the cloth from the
workers are now established in Stornoway and Harris. The Congested
Districts Board advance money without interest for the purchase of
looms, provide an experienced instructor to supply the people with new
patterns, and give an adequate supply of dye-pots free of charge. This
instructor goes over the whole of Lewis and Harris, spending month about
in each, erecting new looms and modernising old ones. There is a large
carding mill in Stornoway, where the natives can have the wool
expeditiously carded in the most approved modern style. An industry thus
fostered and supervised is bound to succeed.

Educationally, the Long Island is making great progress. Higher
education is almost entirely centred in the Nicolson Institute,
Stornoway, a school admirably conducted and finely equipped. The pupils
of marked ability in the elementary schools of Lewis come here to
continue their higher studies, and, in many cases, to prepare themselves
for the University. I have seen specimens of a magazine, annually put
forth by the senior pupils of this school, and containing many
interesting essays and poems, grave and gay. The English of the essays
was remarkably good, and contained here and there some piquant
suggestions of Gaelic idiom. The pupils read French well, probably
because their native Gaelic contains such a rich reservoir of nasal
sounds to draw upon.


I have a great respect for the medical gentlemen who have taken up their
position in remote districts of Scotland, and devote themselves to the
healing art under most disadvantageous circumstances. The distances are
incredibly long and dangerous in winter: I have in my mind an insular
doctor who has a deal of midnight boating to do in glacial weather, and
whose bills are often paid not in coin but _in fleece newly off the
sheep's back_. As the population gets smaller, the doctor's work becomes
more laborious and less remunerative. The institution of district nurses
has been a great success, and I wish there were more of them. A
sympathetic and competent _nurse_ is a valuable asset in a crofting or
seafaring community. In one district of Mull, recently visited, I found
that the nurse was also the village librarian. She was quite at home
both with lotions and literature, and could recommend a poet or prepare
a poultice with equal skill. The ante-room to the village hall was her
dispensary: it seemed to me remarkably complete, and to have as
scientific an odour as any city pharmacy. I was glad to see that the
Clan Maclean was so well supplied with the resources of modern

In every one of the village libraries there is a copy of Black's
_Medical Dictionary_, a most useful compilation, written in clear and
simple language, and detailing all the commonest remedies. Many rural
teachers and clergymen have considerable skill in coping with illness.
Every country minister should have at least a smattering of medical

    [4] At Spean Bridge there is a worthy old farmer, Mr. Chalmers,
    who has a widespread fame for dexterous bone-setting, a talent
    which is said to have descended to him from a long line of
    forbears. A young gentleman from Glasgow was in the hotel there
    during my stay, and from personal experience spoke of Mr.
    Chalmers's remarkable powers. He told me that patients come from
    far and near (after eminent surgeons have failed to give
    benefit), in order to be treated at Spean Bridge.


Wherever the angler goes, you find a good hotel. Uist is low-lying and
barren, with nothing to attract the eye--no tourist would go near the
place for anything it has to show in the way of scenery. But as it has
hundreds of small lochs, full of fish, ardent anglers go thither from
all parts of the British Isles; and so at Lochmaddy and Lochboisdale the
hotels are not merely good, they are excellent. The recording angel is
kept busy, during the season, in taking a note of all the myths told
there by the fishers in the evening over the whisky and soda.

There may be heard, at night, in most hotels in the Western Isles, the
riotous scampering of rats overhead and along the walls. In Lochmaddy
hotel there used to be an old frisker (perhaps he is living still) that
gave great entertainment, though no one ever saw him. He lifted a stone,
evidently with his mouth, ran a yard or two with it, and then dropped it
with a great clatter. The game was a pleasure to him, for he would
practice it for half an hour at a time. The anglers who frequented the
hotel called him _the mason_.

I have got into conversation with innumerable knights of the rod, and
can sympathise to a slight extent with their enthusiasm. Nothing seems
to take hold of a man so irrevocably as Walton's mania. Travelling by
night in the north lately, I looked out into the dusk from the carriage
window and beheld a bright flash of lightning, and by the gleam thereof
saw a midnight maniac with his rod silhouetted against the vast inane.
How few fishers nowadays, except perhaps Mr. Andrew Lang, can write
their experiences in good marrowy English--

    The quaint loquacious wits of long ago,
    Whose ease was never broken by the shrill
    Whistle of engine panting round the hill,
    Could by the brook where fishful waters flow,
    Spend the long hours in angling to and fro,
    And hooking lusty trout and salmon, till
    The low-descending sun and evening chill
    Would send them to the merry ingle-glow;
    Then, after fit refection, pen and ink
    Would consecrate on paper all their feats
    In rippling phrases flashing with the blink
    Of forest glades and living water-sheets;
    The race is poorer now than it was then:
    We have no anglers that can wield the pen.

I believe the best region in all Scotland for trout is the wild and
picturesque county of Sutherland. In the district of Assynt alone there
are 150 lochs, fine sheets of water most of them, lying about among the
hills. Half-way between the two seas and just on the borders of
Sutherland and Ross, is the cosy wee hotel of Altnacealgach, with a
well-stocked loch at the door, from which hundredweights of trout are
taken every year. The air that blows about the house is to that of
London as champagne is to dish-water.

There is a close connection, as I said, between the frequentation of a
district by anglers and the excellence of its hotels. Where there is no
great influx of tourists, the hotel accommodation is decidedly poor. I
remember one inn, at a cold windy clachan on the west coast, which only
stress of weather and dire necessity would make a man enter. Dirty stone
steps, worn and crumbled in the centre, led to an upper room which had
apparently not been swept out for a year or two. Not even the city of
Cologne in Coleridge's time could have produced from among its imposing
catalogue of stenches anything to match the complex ensemble of that
malodorous inn. There was stale fish intil't, and bad beer intil't, and
peat reek intil't, and mice intil't, and candle grease intil't, and the
devil and all intil't. Though I was the only visitor, I feared I should
not have the bed to myself: so I e'en wrapped myself in my Highland
plaidie (after the minimum of disinvestiture), and stretched my limbs on
an arthritic settee, with intent to sleep. No sleep came till the
quaffing roysterers of the clachan had ceased fighting under the moon
outside, about 2 A.M. namely. Rather than stay two nights in such a
place, I boated out early next day into the mid-channel of the Sound of
Mull, and clambered up the sides of Macbrayne's _Lapwing_, which took me
to Oban.


The most charming of recent works on the Outer Islands is that one of
which the preface was written in Jerusalem. I refer to the volume of
Miss Goodrich Frere, a lady whose vivacity, fervour, and picturesque
style are deserving of unqualified praise. All the libraries in the
bilingual districts contain the book, and few are so often asked for. In
conversation and publicly I have often given myself the pleasure of
recommending it, alike to Highlander and Lowlander. My admiration for
Miss Frere's talents makes me wish that one or two of her prejudices had
been less glaringly displayed. She speaks, for example, with something
like scornful reproach of Lochmaddy, because the habit of taking
afternoon tea is common in that township. It would have been more to the
purpose if Miss Frere had issued a general warning to the people of the
Hebrides not to drink tea as black as porter, and, above all, not to
boil it. The pale anæmic faces one so often sees in the north and west,
the mental prostration and actual insanity so alarmingly on the increase
in the Long Island, are unquestionably due, in great measure, to the
abominably strong tea that is swilled in such quantities there. A
Tarbert doctor told me that the medical profession now talk quite
familiarly of the Harris stomach just as drapers talk of Harris tweed:
the former is, he averred, as weak and devoid of tone as the latter is
strong and of good texture. This doctor was called up at two one morning
to attend a patient in one of the moorland townships. At that hour, away
over there on the gusty rim of the Atlantic, the natives were all afoot.
People were talking to each other at the doorsteps; lamps were lighted
inside, and tea that had been boiling for hours among the red peats, was
being imbibed with infinite gusto. This, the doctor assured me, was the
normal style of living.[5]

Talking of North Uist, Miss Frere shows indignation at the invasion of
southern ideas, and thinks that everything is being vitiated by the
taint of Lochmaddy. Lochmaddy, characterised in so droll a way, is a
tiny township with a Sheriff Court, a church, a few well-built modern
houses, a school, and an excellent hotel. Cleanliness is a welcome
feature of the place, and I am sorry to say that the same can not be
said of certain crofting villages not far distant. I expect that the
visits of the Government Sanitary Officer, whom I met at Lochmaddy, and
who knows his business well, will ultimately work an enormous amount of
good. That gentleman gave me such unsavoury details regarding the
conditions of life in certain of the townships as made me hope that the
"taint of Lochmaddy," that is to say, the cleanliness and civilised
life of that village, may more and more become evident throughout both
the Uists. Improved sanitation would allow heaven's breath to circulate
through the low-lying cots and prevent them from being hot-beds of
malignant disease.

One feature of Miss Frere's book which does honour to her fine sympathy,
but which is not ethnologically justifiable, is the persistent attempt
to draw a sharp racial distinction between Highlander and Lowlander. The
truth is, that no part of the Highlands is purely Celtic: the population
is a welter of Picts, Gaels, Norsemen, Danes, and Saxons. The Lowland
blood is, in like manner, a bewildering blend, there being no
uncontaminated Anglo-Saxon district in any single county of Scotland.
Mr. J. M. Robertson's clever book, _The Saxon and the Celt_, seems to me
to dispose finally of certain fallacies that Hill Burton and others have
light-heartedly written on the subject of racial characteristics. The
conditions of life, the ungeniality of sea and soil, the wild and grand
aspect of nature, influence thought, feeling, and character at least as
much as blood and heredity.[6]

Another delightful book on the Outer Hebrides is that written by Mr. W.
C. Mackenzie. Proceeding in the order of chronology, the author gives a
vivid series of historic summaries (enlivened by many a piquant episode
and humorous touch) of the Long Island from the earliest times. The
wanderings of Prince Charlie, and the condition of the country after
Culloden, have never been better told than in Mr. Mackenzie's narrative.

    [5] The student of eugenics will note that among the tea-bibbing
    islanders of the west the teeth of the natives are poor. My
    experience tends to show that the best teeth in Scotland are to
    be found in Aberdeenshire. When a Buchan audience laughs, there
    is a gleam of polished ivory that is very impressive; but rural
    Aberdeen has deviated less into slops than any other part of

    [6] "There are probably now more persons of Highland descent in
    the Lowlands than in the Highlands themselves."--_Scotland of
    To-Day_, by Henderson and Watt, p. 300. See also note at end of
    chapter on Inverness surnames, etc.


I hinted at the beginning of this chapter that the barracks of the
Highland regiments had been supplied with extensive libraries for the
use of the soldiers during their leisure hours. Fort-George, the
erection of which was directly due to the Highland rebellions, has been
presented with two fine libraries, and I am happy to say that the men
greatly appreciate the gift. I happened to be in the vicinity of
Fort-George when the Duke of Connaught was conducting an official
inspection. The little town of Ardersier, which is some two miles from
the Fort, was gay with bunting for the ducal visit. The books at the
Fort are under the charge of Sergeant-Major Markham, an able
elocutionist and one who, in his own sphere, does an immense amount of
good. He gets the young recruits to band themselves together in social
clubs, organises games and entertainments for them, and encourages them
to read and study. The philanthropic Sergeant-Major was engaged in
typing a catalogue of the books when the genial Duke came upon the
scene. His Royal Highness was astonished to see such a magnificent
selection of reading matter at the disposal of the soldiers, and eagerly
asked for information as to the origin of the boon. His curiosity was
satisfied, and when he heard that the same donor had given appropriate
libraries to the garrisons at Inverness, Dingwall, and Kinbrace, he
exclaimed, "Such a gentleman is indeed the Soldier's Friend."

Since the Duke's visit, a small library of books has been sent to the
children's school at the Fort. The population of this military
community, containing as it does a great many married men with their
wives and families, is fully equal to that of Ardersier, and
necessitates a separate school. I was struck with the pronunciation of
the children in this part of the country. Many of the Fort children,
having mothers from the other side of the Border, speak with an
unmistakable English accent and are rather unscrupulous with respect to
the aspirate. The town of Inverness, which is at no great distance from
Fort-George, has long been famous for its clear and unprovincial English
speech, a fact which Johnson (oddly enough) thought due to some of
Cromwell's soldiers having settled there.

Dr. Johnson devotes two pleasant little paragraphs to describe his visit
to Fort-George and his entertainment there by Sir Eyre Coote. I have
always admired the Doctor's sly way of avoiding a description of the
Fort: "I cannot," he says, "delineate it scientifically, and a loose and
popular description is of use only when the imagination is to be

In spite of the menace of Fort-George, the Highlanders fondly cherished
the memory of Charlie for many a year. To no subject even now do their
descendants listen with such rapt attention as to his tragic story. I
have heard indeed of a Highland minister who was so displeased at the
homage paid to the Prince's memory by some of his flock, that he threw
at them the unanswerable question, "What will Prince Charlie do for you
at the day of judgment?"

I have had the curiosity to ask some of the Session Clerks of country
parishes that were in the line of the insurgents' advance or retreat, if
any references to the rebellion appear in the minutes of the year 1745.
No references appear, as a rule, for that year; but, under 1746, there
are brief accounts of church discipline being exercised in the case of a
few illegitimate births,--the paternity being ascribed usually to _ane

At Inverness and Dingwall there exist similar libraries of great range
and excellence. The men show an interest in Miss Marie Corelli's works
that is rather astonishing. Their hard and strenuous drill does not
deprive them of a curiosity to know something about _Barabbas_ and _The
Sorrows of Satan_. Sir Conan Doyle and Dr. Neil Munro are also great
favourites, and deserve to be.

A large number of the Inverness recruits come from the Long Island. They
almost invariably require to be taken to the hospital a week or two
after their arrival. Change of diet and new modes of life seem to upset
them at first. For those who have a mind to improve themselves, there
are abundant opportunities. The reading and recreation rooms are well
appointed and comfortable. Altogether, the regular life, physical drill,
and healthy tone of the barracks must have a most beneficial effect on
the men.

I am bound to say that I do not greatly admire the English style of the
gentleman who composes the War Office placards that one sees at railway
stations in the north. These are meant to allure country labourers to
join the army, but the following piece of fatuous rhetoric must surely
act rather as a deterrent than otherwise:--"Are you, the descendants of
those who conquered India and carried the colours of the Gordon
Highlanders through the Peninsula and at Waterloo, _content to sit at
home, or be satisfied with dull labours in the fields or at the mills_,
whilst the ranks of your own regiment are filled by strangers from the
South?" I heard two freckled rustics, with difficulty and labour hard,
spelling out the phrases of the foregoing sentence at the little station
of Fyvie. They did not seem at all impressed by the fervent
interrogation nor by this picture of prospective delights: "_Many of
your countrymen have seen the wonders of the Indian Empire and enjoyed
the soft calm of Malta, and of Ceylon, the Paradise of the Ancients._"
It does not evince much knowledge of a ploughman's mind to seek to
awaken his martial ardour by old myths about the Garden of Eden; nor is
it specially alluring to him to mention, as the acme of glory, that he
may distinguish himself so much as to gain "_thanks from both Houses of
Parliament_." Such weak and watery declamation won't do for a country
that has had thirty-eight years of compulsory education. If our War
Office wishes to rouse patriotic feeling, it should cease to contrast
"the dull labour of the fields" with "the soft calm of Malta": the
veriest clown would not be caught by such chaff. It would be more to the
point to send gratuitous copies of _The Barrack Room Ballads_ to all the
village libraries.

    [7] I have heard it maintained by some zealots, whom I greatly
    esteem, that Gaelic is a highly _moral_ language, that the use of
    it conduces to purity of life and thought, and that everyone
    would be improved in tone by contact with its roots. Those
    ministers who have charge of Session Records, chronicling events
    that happened before English was known in the West, cannot
    unreservedly corroborate these views.


My various visits to the shores of the Moray Firth have convinced me
that a man may enjoy the majesty and terror of the sea without embarking
on a boat at all. All he need do is to take a ticket to Portsoy in the
month of March, when the wind is snell and the clouds low. I have never
seen a more grim or cruel-looking coast than that which stretches for
miles east and west of Portsoy. One shudders even at the thought of
those detestable, razor-edged rocks, tilted up at all angles, with the
tide for ever boiling and hissing about them. Neither by land nor sea,
at many parts of the coast, can you get to what might be reasonably
called a beach. The so-called shore-road is high up on the hills, and
gives a good view far out over the billows, but does not take the
traveller's feet near the water at all. Ill-advised would he be who
should strive to guide his skiff from the outer firth to any chance cove
on the shore, for the uncouth crags, huge and sombre, would have no
mercy on any timber jointed by the hand of man. Perhaps the summer sun
would give a gentler appearance to the rocky and wave-beaten shore, but
I am certain Mr. Swinburne would prefer to see it in March.

The town of Portsoy in itself cannot be said to have much comeliness;
the streets are irregular, the houses dismal, and the shops few. God
has, as is meet, the best of the architecture, most of the churches
being graceful and well-spired.

About twenty minutes by rail from Portsoy is the trim and typical
fishing village of Portknockie, high-raised on a hill, and with little
protection from any wind that Aeolus may send out of his cavern. The
population comes near 1,600 souls, and it is rare to find a native who
is not called by one of the following surnames: _Mair_, _Wood_, _Munro_,
_Pirrie_. I believe such a dearth of appellatives is the invariable rule
in the fishing villages of the North Sea. To counteract the confusion
that would inevitably arise, an agnomen or "tee-name" is usually
appended. The Portknockie tee-names are _Mash_, _Deer_, _Doodoo_,
_Bobbin_, and _Shavie_. Examples of postal addresses are--

    John Wood (Bobbin),    Portknockie.
    Duncan Munro (Doodoo),      "
    Samuel Pirrie (Shavie),     "
    Daniel Mair (Mash),         "

I don't envy the young minister who, fresh from Lucian, has to read with
solemnity a roll of such communicants.

Between Portknockie and the sea-town of Cullen is a charming stretch of
links and sea-sands. Over the broad Firth, as one looks north-west, may
be faintly seen the hills of Sutherland and Caithness.

It is pleasant to read books amid the scenery in which they were
conceived, and among the people they portray. Those who spend their
holidays at Cullen would act wisely in reading George Macdonald's novels
there. No one has drawn the character of the Moray Firth fisherman so
lovingly, beautifully, and sympathetically as he. After reading such a
tale as the _Marquis of Lossie_ one looks upon places like Portknockie
and the sea-town of Cullen with different eyes. The toilers of the deep
that go forth on the waters from these seaboard shires are serious and
moral men. Contact with the sea and the presence of danger at all hours,
have made them alert, keen, and dexterous. Most of the crews carry a box
of choice books with them for their odd hours of leisure when they go to
the Yarmouth fishing. Let a stranger get into conversation with one or
two of these hardy heroes, and he will be surprised at their
intelligence and wide interests. He will certainly conclude that the
young fisherman, Malcolm Macphail, whom Macdonald introduces in the
novel mentioned, is no exaggeration, but true to the life.

The sea-town of Cullen consists of some hundreds of houses closely
huddled together just at the edge of the sea. The rank odour of wreck,
tar, fishing-gear, and bait, pervades the air, and is effectually kept
from corruption by the searching sea-breezes that are ever blowing. When
not engaged on the water, the men are busy mending their nets, stitching
their sails, making fast the seams of their craft and tarring the big
inflated floaters that support the lines. They are quite ready to chat
with a stranger and discuss their methods of working, their gains,
mishaps, and partnerships.

When the fishing season is over and the crews are known to be on the way
home, the excitement among the women is intense. No Bourse ever tingled
more feverishly with rumours and sinister fears than Sandhaven or
Rosehearty or Seatown at such a crucial time. Costly nets may be riven,
boats may be stove in by untoward accidents, or worse than all, fathers,
husbands and brothers may be drowned on the road home to their loved
ones. Rarely does a season pass without bringing sorrow to the heart of
some waiting wife or sister.

The joys, hopes, and fears of these maritime townships have been
worthily made vocal by Dr. George Macdonald. He has done this with a
grace and an artistic conception that raise his stories to a very high
rank in pure literature. I am afraid Macdonald is not much read by the
present generation: his stories are too long, too philosophical, perhaps
too poetical, for the taste of to-day. Every book of his is saturated
from beginning to end with the religion of the Gospels--a religion of
love, beauty, tolerance, and sympathy.

I am happy to say that I saw Dr. Macdonald once and heard him speak. His
venerable aspect and chaste elocution made a powerful impression on all
who heard him. His discourse could not be reported in cold print, for
the flash of the mystic's eye, the human kindness that emanated from his
whole being, and the felt emotion of his every tone could not be
reproduced by any artifice known to the printer.

The Forfarshire fishwives have quite a Dutch mania for cleanliness. On
Saturdays they give their homes a complete overhaul, and the men are
driven out of doors during the ceremony. What man could stay at home
when his wife, supplied with a mop and a big pail of soapy water, is
sousing the floor and the walls? Furniture is scrubbed and dusted, glass
ornaments, porcelain hens, and shell-boxes have to be carefully wiped,
grates and fire-irons must be rubbed to a glittering polish. These
industrious women, panting with the enthusiasm of work, enjoy Saturday
more than any other day of the week. The enjoyment springs from various
causes. There is first the delight that comes from a vigorous exercise
of the muscles. This pleasure is heightened by the knowledge that the
work is for a good end, and that on Sunday the house will be
resplendent, immaculate, and peaceful. It is not to be denied that the
feeling of satisfaction at having evicted the husband is also an
important item. When he comes home from discussing politics with his
co-mates and brothers in exile, she will not fail to jibe him on the
general worthlessness of his existence, and accuse him of intemperance.


A fishing village has a picturesqueness and a kinship with Nature and
the hills, utterly lacking in a mining locality. The squalid rows of the
latter, arranged in wretched, heart-breaking symmetry, are an offence to
the landscape. Mud and filth cumber the door-steps, runnels of
malodorous water ooze along the rows, ragged and ill-kempt bairns tumble
about like little savages. A pitiful sight it is to see the black squads
of colliers returning to their homes after a day in the damp bowels of
the earth: greasy caps with little oil-lamps attached, wet, miry
clothing and grimy faces, all make up a most saddening spectacle. The
wages given to these poor fellows are miserably meagre, considering that
after the age of forty-five, their limbs are stiffened with rheumatism
and their lungs the seat of chronic asthma. It is not surprising that
miners should be intemperate, and that their recreations should rise no
higher than dog-racing and cock-fighting.

It is very unpleasant to think that so much good bone and muscle is
being ground and destroyed by work so brutalising and unnatural. Coal
must be brought to the surface for the wants of civilisation, and in the
process the collier is destroyed, body and soul. Society needs
constantly to be reminded of its duties towards those who, in Helot
fashion, clean the drains and work the mines. Those duties involve more
than the distribution of tracts.

I had the opportunity of speaking to a crowded meeting of miners in the
county of Stirling quite recently, and was immensely pleased with the
behaviour and close attention of the audience. Before the speaking
began, the proceedings resembled a University Graduation Ceremony, that
is, there was a great deal of whistling, cat-calling, and rowdy
merriment. The audience kept on their caps, and many of them, disdaining
the use of chairs and benches, squatted against the walls in the
position so dear to subterranean workers. Once the lecture began, the
resemblance to a University gathering ceased, for the colliers behaved
like gentlemen. What subject, it may be asked, could possibly interest
an assembly of illiterate miners? It so happens that, in Scotland, we
have a great number of working-men poets, who have, in a homely but very
graphic way, voiced the feelings of the labouring classes, and given fit
expression to every joy and sorrow that men experience in this mortal
round. These hodden-gray bards furnish abundance of material for giving
even the humblest and most untrained mind a few glimpses of what is
meant by literature. Burns has a broad and brawny humanity that appeals
to all men, and, besides Burns, there are scores of major and minor
warblers that are interesting, quotable, and full of grace.

The wild and unruly manners of some mining districts, even at the
present day, may partly be explained by remembering that up to the end
of the eighteenth century, colliers were serfs and, as such, were not
allowed to leave the mines and seek work elsewhere. When a pit was sold,
the workers passed as a matter of course into the hands of the new
proprietor. The son of a miner was compelled to follow the father's
occupation.[8] Slavery fixed a brutalising mark on generation after
generation that is not yet entirely erased. In the first half of the
nineteenth century the knights of the shuttle--intellectual,
disputatious, and lyrical--looked down with infinite contempt on the
ignorant and boorish slaves of the pick. Poetry has, in consequence,
little to say about the digger for coal. The song of "The Collier
Laddie," attributed to Burns, is one of the very few pleasant pieces of
verse associated with the miner.

The Scotch mining villages of to-day contain a queer juxtaposition of
nationalities, and the proportion of native colliers is becoming less
and less. Thousands of Irish families from Ulster and Connaught are now
settled permanently in the counties of Lanark, Stirling, and Ayr. The
alien Pole, too, is to be found in the same regions uttering melodious
oaths learned on the banks of the Vistula. To complete the welter,
huckstering Orientals may be seen gliding about among the rows of
houses, fulfilling prophecy and selling highly-coloured pictures of the
Virgin Mary.

    [8] In his book, _Edinburgh and its Neighbourhood_, Hugh Miller
    tells the following story, on the authority of Robert
    Chambers:--"Though legally only transferable with the works and
    the minerals to which they were attached, cases occasionally
    occurred in which miners were actually transferred _by sale_ from
    one part of the country to another. During the early part of the
    XIXth century, the son of an extensive coal-proprietor was
    examining with a friend the pits of another proprietor, and
    finding a collier whose speech resembled that of the colliers of
    his own district, he inquired where he came from. 'Oh!' exclaimed
    the man with surprise, 'd'ye no' ken me? _Do ye no' ken that your
    faither sell't me for a powny?_'"


The miner is still with us, but the weaver is almost obsolete in the
Lowlands. You must search diligently for him. In Laurencekirk (a quaint
village of one long street, in the shire of Forfar), and in similar
out-of-the-way nooks, can still be faintly heard the music of the
hand-loom. I went recently into a weaver's shop in Laurencekirk, and
found three old men and one aged woman plying their shuttles. The oldest
of the men was born four years after the battle of Waterloo, and there
he sat, like a vision of the vanished years, striving to weave a few
more yards of drugget before going to rejoin his contemporaries of the
reign of George III. He told me there were once seven hundred hand-loom
weavers in the place, and "_that young fellow_" said he, pointing to a
wrinkled carle of eighty on the loom behind, "remembers it as well as I

The industry of hand-loom weaving, which, a century ago, made every town
in Scotland resonant with the din of shuttles, is thus almost a thing of
the past, and the men who engaged in it have gone the way of their
shoe-buckles, knee-breeches, and seventeen-hundred linen. Yet weavers
were typical of all that was intellectual in Scottish life: every shop
was in its way a miniature university, and every weaver a man who
believed himself capable of giving Pitt a lesson or two on the
management of the war, and Dundas a few hints on political economy. They
had, indeed, far clearer views on politics than most of their
legislators; from their ranks at a subsequent period the Chartist
agitators--regrettably extreme as they were--were largely recruited; and
it is not too much to say that the minds of many of our leading
accredited reformers took the ply from these politicians of the loom.
These men who, in a way so characteristic of Scotland, managed to make
high-thinking subsist on homely fare, can never quite fade from memory
while their tuneful poetical exponent, Tannahill, is read and enjoyed.
In his works we have a page out of the past; and as we read his life and
poems, we behold the Scotch village as it was a century ago; we see the
old houses with their outside stairs, the antique boulder-paved cross,
and the assemblies of aproned craftsmen discussing news much older than
their ale.

In Broadford, Skye, there is an old crofter who, in his early years,
worked at the loom with Alexander Bain, late Professor in the University
of Aberdeen. Half a century ago, John Stuart Mill said that Bain's
erudition was encyclopædic. From long residence in France, I know that
few British philosophers are better known than Bain (whose name the
French amusingly pronounce to rhyme with _vin_). This old crofter tells
how he used to chaff the future professor for invariably having a book
in front of him as the shuttle was plied. Bain, by slow and careful
work, overcame prejudice, and secured a high position among the leaders
of thought. Long ago, those who had to sit for the London degrees used
to regard him as the greatest thinker in Europe. When he retired from
the examinership at London, students lost some of their old veneration
for him, and when he married a second time, a Miss Barbara Something,
they even ventured to make a logical joke on him, and say that he had
been fascinated by _Barbara's perfect figure_. I know that many pupils
of our public schools, in love with football more than syntax, often
regretted that Bain ever composed his _English Grammar_. No book (unless
perhaps Morell's _Analysis_) has ever been more cordially execrated, and
no book ever more richly deserved it, for though, like Aberdeen granite,
it is stately and impressive, it is also ruthless, cold, and implacable.
The draught may be wholesome and medicinal, but there is no honey on the
rim of the cup.


One hears a great deal of Professor Blackie in the North and West, and
no wonder. He was a laughing, jocular, impressionable man, who hobnobbed
with landlords and amiably slapped drivers and policemen on the back,
throwing a Gaelic greeting at them as he did so. His faculty for writing
poetry is seen in many a guidebook; Oban, Inverness, Pitlochry, and
numberless other places, have had their beauties celebrated by this
animated writer. He was a good friend to the Highlands--studied Gaelic
most arduously, translated some of the finest of the Celtic bards,
worked assiduously for the establishment of a Celtic Chair in Edinburgh,
spoke many a good word for the crofters--in fact, did everything well
except what he was paid to do, viz., teach Greek to his students. Grave
D.D.'s could not understand or condone his cantrips. I have been assured
that on one occasion, when Professor in the College of Aberdeen, he
actually _stood on his head_ before a class of students. Mr. Barrie has
given a very amusing and quite unexaggerated account of the Professor's
normal demeanour in Edinburgh. Blackie's text books of _Greek Dialogues_
are full of the most waggish remarks.

The landlady of Kinlochewe Hotel gave some lessons in Gaelic to this
convulsive old scholar. He would come in with a Celtic Bible below his
arm, and, opening the sacred volume, read a chapter or two at a terrific
rate of speed, and whistle triumphantly when he had finished. Highland
folk did not care to converse with Blackie for three reasons: (1) he
spoke too quickly for the leisurely and composed conversation of the
Gael; (2) his pronunciation was bad, and people did not like to tell him
so or correct him--(no one ever pronounced Gaelic to perfection who did
not get the language with his mother's milk); (3) he was fond of using
literary words, taken from the older bards, in his ordinary
conversation; now, such words are obsolete in every-day talk and quite
unfamiliar to crofters and cottars. In the Highlands, Blackie's English
was better understood than his Gaelic.

Blackie was undoubtedly a very able scholar--not, indeed, of that minute
burrowing kind famous in Germany, but rather of the class that delights
in the literature and vivid force of a language. He _spoke_ Latin and
Greek, and held views on the teaching of these tongues that seemed more
eccentric in his time than they do now. He declared that the linguistic
achievement of which he was proudest was his mastery, such as it was, of
the language of the Gael.

It affords me pleasure in the retrospect to think of old Blackie at a
distribution of prizes to school-children in a town of the West some
years before his death. During the chairman's opening remarks the merry
old man continued to whistle like a mavis. When the chairman sat down,
Blackie embraced him and called him fellow-sinner. Some recitations
followed from the children, one of which was Burns's "Address to a
Haggis." When the young elocutionist came to the lines--

    "Till a' their weel-swall'd kites belyve
              Are bent like drums."

Blackie rolled in his chair, held his sides and uproariously expressed
his approbation. Then came the distribution of prizes, during which the
Grand Old Boy made some pun or quaint remark on each of the children's
names, as he presented the books: _"Miss Minnie Morrow_: never put off
till to-morrow what you can do to-day; _James Glen_: be a real genuine
_Glen_ all through life, not a _valet_ or flunkey; _William Lindsay_:
Willie, my lad, imitate your ancestors at Otterburn: 'The Lindsays flew
like fire about till a' the fray was done'; _Mary Black_: black but
comely like the daughters of Jerusalem," and so on, in a bird-witted,
half-daft way that the audience contemplated with benevolent wonder.


Let me mention here a very useful and interesting piece of philology
that was done by Dr. Macbain in 1895. That eminent scholar, working on
the _Inverness Directory_, analysed the names occurring there, explained
them on sound principles of etymology, and gave percentages of Celtic
and Saxon surnames in the Highland capital.

Roughly speaking, the _Directory_ of 1894-1895 had 5,000 single entries,
and _750 distinct surnames_. Of these surnames, only 110 are pure
Gaelic. About 70 per cent. of the natives are, however, supposed to be
of Highland descent.

Dr. Macbain points out that certain Highland clans have names that are
not Celtic: _Grant_ is from the French "grand"; _Fraser_ from the French
"fraise," a strawberry (the Frasers have a strawberry in their
coat-of-arms); _Chisholm_ is English and means "gravel-holm,"--the
Anglo-Saxon _ceosol_ (pebble) is preserved in _Chesil Beach_ and
_Chiselhurst_; _MacLeod_ signifies "son of Ljot"; and _ljotr_ is the
Norse word for "ugly." _Campbell_ is probably Norman-French, though Dr.
Macbain suggests _cam-beul_, Gaelic for "crooked mouth." In olden times
an external conqueror would sometimes subdue a district, and call the
natives after his noble self.

The commonest names in the town are Fraser, Macdonald, Mackenzie,
Macintosh, Ross, Cameron, and Munro. About 1,200 of the population have
one or other of the first three names. The Frasers are an easy first,
and form more than 9 per cent. of the population.

_John_, _Alexander_, and _William_, are the commonest Christian names in
Inverness. "It is remarkable and indeed regrettable," says Dr. Macbain,
"that the Gaelic Christian names (Donald, Duncan, Kenneth, Murdoch, and
Angus), are not higher in the list."

The name of the first recorded inhabitant of Inverness (A.D. 1200) is
Geoffrey Blount, a feudal warrior no doubt (French _blond_). In the
thirteenth century we have the names _Noreys_, _Grant_, and _Hay_. In
the fourteenth century the leading name is Pilch, derived from
_peluche_, the French for "plush." In the fifteenth century, _Reid_,
_Vaus_, and _Cuthbert_ are prominent citizens. _Vaus_ is said to mean
"of the vales," _i.e._, _de Vallibus_; _Reid_ is Scotch for "red"; and
_Cuthbert_ is pure Lowland. Evidently the leading men were aliens and



    Scotch a reading nation--Hardships of students in old
    days--Homer in Scalloway--When education ends--Objects of
    chapter--Music--M.P.'s--Rural depopulation--Its
    causes--Emigration--Village halls--The moon--A lecture in
    Islay--Mental and material wealth--Real greatness--A Highland
    laird on literature--Varieties of chairmen--"Coming to the
    point"--Moral obligation--Compliment to Paisley--Oratory at
    Salen--Lecture in a dungeon--Surprises--A visit to the
    Borders--Tarbolton--Scotch language--Choice books--The
    essayists--A Banff theory--Goldsmith in Gaelic--_Biblia
    abiblia_--Favourites for the road--Horace--Shakespeare's
    Sonnets--Xenophon--French literature and journalism--Romance and
    Augustanism--Victorian writers--Celt and Saxon.


I think it was Mr. Holyoake, the veteran lecturer, who, in a volume of
reminiscences, declared he found the audiences in Scotland more
intelligent than elsewhere. I cannot draw such comparisons, for I have
not spoken often south of the Tweed; this I can say with assurance,
however, that no one need hesitate to address an audience of Scotch
peasants on a topic of literary interest. Predestination and such
religious trifles may stir them to disrespectful heat, but pure
literature invariably draws forth their cool and critical attention.
Probably no nation has ever devoted so much attention to books, and, as
the result of this characteristic, Scotland, considering its size and
population, has produced far more than its proportion of eminent men. At
the Reformation epoch, when the comforts of a Lowland cottage would be
little in advance of those in a present-day Uist croft, writers like
George Buchanan and his fellows of the _Deliciæ Poetarum Scotorum_ made
the excellence of Scotch scholarship known in every university of
Europe. Buchanan was really a typical Caledonian man of
genius--open-eyed, sagacious, patriotic, and cosmopolitan--and I can
strongly recommend the occasional perusal of his Latin Psalms to all
modern readers who wish to keep their feelings of reverence fresh and
prevent their Latin quantities from getting amorphous.


Those who think highly of the Scotch intellect, point with pride to the
fact that for many a year the Prime Minister, the leader of the
Opposition, and the Archbishop of Canterbury all hailed from the North.
For my own part, I am chiefly interested in cases where eminence has
resulted from the cultivation of literature on a little oatmeal. A few
months ago, I had the pleasure of chatting, over a cup of tea, with the
suave old gentleman who combines the postmastership of Dunvegan with the
office of factor to the Macleod of Macleod. He held me spell-bound for
an afternoon as he narrated in graphic language the hardships of the
Skye students in former times. Many a Skye youth, I was told, bent on
studying the humanities at Aberdeen, would mount his sheltie, traverse
thereon the rough roads of his misty island as far as Kyleakin, cross
the ferry there, ride on east through the ben-shadowed track of Glen
Moriston, and finally bear down on the streets of the Granite City.
There the o'erlaboured sheltie would be sold to pay the matriculation


Many little out-of-the-way townships in insular Scotland contain
scholars who would find themselves quite at home among a set of college
dons. In the course of my travels in Shetland I came to the tiny village
of Scalloway, and while standing on the pier gazing alternately at the
confusion of sea and island, and at the grim old ruined castle where
Earl Patrick, the wicked viceroy, once resided, I heard a conversation
on geology being carried on between a tall and brawny shopman and some
sailors. The latter, who were on board a ship, shouted their replies
over a few yards of water to the shopman, who was on the pier near me. I
was interested in the men's talk, which had to do with the subsidence of
the land at this part of the coast. One of the sailors alleged that his
grandmother's cabbage-patch was now covered by the water on which his
boat was floating. The big shopman, turning to me, quoted the well-known
passage of Tennyson (everyone can repeat it) of the sea flowing where
the tree used to grow. "O Earth, what changes thou hast seen." This
quotation led to a literary talk in which he remarked that of all poets
he preferred Homer. "What translator do you like best?" I enquired.
"Blackie's," he replied, "as being the most faithful to the original.
But I rarely read a translation, '_I prefer Homer in his own Greek._'"
This remark made by one whose fingers were glistening with
herring-scales, came to me as a pleasant surprise. Later on in the day,
I visited his house and saw his fine library and his splendid selection
of classical books. Not many teachers of my acquaintance have a better
array of the editions of Homer. He was not one of your ignorant
collectors who know only the outside of what they buy. He had read over
the whole forty-eight books of the text again and again, and could
discuss knotty passages in most interesting and original fashion. His
memory was evidently an excellent one. He informed me that most of his
reading was done in the early morning, and that he found five hours'
sleep quite adequate. I have a most agreeable recollection of my
interview with this self-taught scholar. I believe there are many like
him in not a few outlandish nooks of Scotland,--men who read books not
for any material advantages that result from their studies, but simply
and solely for the intense pleasure that comes from communion with the
masterminds of bygone generations.

Travel in remote districts of Britain reveals the fact that our
provincials, whenever they have the chance, are a studious and
thoughtful race. The isolation and monotony of life in many parts are
bound to drive men to study and reflection if the means for these are at
hand. Sisyphus himself had hardly less variety of occupation than some
of our shepherds whose work on the hills involves long absences from
social intercourse. To such men (whose life is suggestive of a repeating
decimal) the access to an ell or two of good books often means mental
salvation. Nothing is so melancholy as to find a countryman of brains
who has never had the opportunity of cultivating his mind in such a way
as to eliminate prejudice and widen the range of interest.


I am sometimes inclined to think that many of our rural clergymen,
intent on shielding their congregations from pestilent doctrine and
latitudinarism, are actuated by much the same spirit as the Sultan Omar
when he set fire to the great Library at Alexandria. The Bible is no
doubt the best of books, and it may be that the Confession of Faith
comes next: but when these have got their share, there still remains the
religious duty of educating the intellect by a wide perusal of the
inspired apostles of secular literature. A Highland teacher, who
presided at one of the lectures in the north, expressed himself very
appositely thus on the subject of education: "The supposition that
education is over when a boy leaves school, is far too prevalent," he
said. "Education properly considered comes to an end when the last
breath of life is drawn. Edward Young in his _Night Thoughts_ says:
'Were man to live coeval with the sun, the patriarch-pupil would be
learning still.' Young was undoubtedly right: some of the most forceful
and penetrating lessons of life are given to us long after we have cast
our text-books into some dusty corner, never to be opened more. In our
early days, we cannot choose our own teachers, and there is often a good
deal of force and constraint. The delightful thing about our education
in mature life is that we have the selection of our own masters. There
is no compulsion whatever. I am convinced that for everyone of us there
is some one author whose works will act as medicine for the mind and be
an unfailing tonic in all conditions of the soul."


I intend to devote this chapter to a description of a few of the
speeches delivered by some of the speakers at such literary evenings in
various parts of the country. After I had said my say, I sometimes
invited an expression of opinion. Almost invariably someone responded to
the invitation, with the object of asking a question, expressing
dissent, or intimating concurrence. I do not recollect a single meeting
out of hundreds that could be called monotonous. It did not in the
slightest detract from the interest of a meeting that many of the
remarks erred on the score of irrelevancy. The attention never flagged
from first to last, and it was no uncommon thing for the proceedings to
last for over three hours. In giving typical speeches delivered by
crofters, lairds, tradesmen, and clergymen, I mean to indicate to the
reader _the subjects that are of interest to our provincial population,
their attitude to questions of literature and social life, and
incidentally the great amount of humour that still exists in the world_.


The free and unconventional character of these meetings was perhaps seen
best of all in the musical part of the proceedings, which was always
arranged locally. Usually the songs were well-known Highland or Lowland
airs, in many cases so exquisitely rendered that it was quite evident
there had been much previous preparation. When my opinion was asked
beforehand, I invariably recommended national melodies. It was always a
treat to get a Gaelic song or two well rendered. At Acharacle (a little
place at the far end of Lochshiel) Mr. Rudd's piper gave some fine
Highland tunes, which evoked great enthusiasm. Personally I prefer the
pipes to every other instrument, for this reason, that even if I don't
understand all the music, I can appreciate the scenic effects. The
Acharacle piper was a fine specimen of the Celt, and his get-up was

    "He screwed his pipes and gart them skirl
    Till roof and rafters a' did dirl."

Sometimes the phonograph formed part of the musical programme. I do not
approve of this demoralising instrument except to a very limited extent.
The cylinders usually gyrate with records of fatuous music-hall songs,
unedifying coster-airs and farcical speeches. The _vox humana_
interpreting national melodies is infinitely better. What vigour and
illustrative expression the islanders can throw into their songs! I have
but to shut my eyes to see the policeman of Staffin interpreting "The
Bonnie House o' Airlie." When his big, manly voice threw out the
terrible threat, "_I'll no' leave a staunin' stane in Airlie_," his eyes
shot fire, his teeth gleamed, and his ponderous fist came thundering
down on the table in front of him.

I still remember with infinite pleasure the strains of Mr. Cameron's
Poolewe Choir, heard in Gairloch school-house. That energetic and
complaisant conductor brought his clear-throated minstrels over to the
meeting in a brake. It was a luxury to see them with their white robes
and tartan sashes, while in front of them stood their genial leader clad
in kilts. The Gaelic _Mod_, which is now a regular institution in the
land, is bound to do splendid service towards keeping alive the fine old
music of the North. The Poolewe Choir, I am happy to say, won much
distinction at the _Mods_ of both Inverness and Greenock. _There is
great need for choirs, and great need, also, for innocent songs of a
secular character._ Before I spoke to the people of Eigg, I requested
the teacher to arrange, if possible, for a musical programme. The reply
staggered me: "No man, woman, or child in this island would for a moment
even dream of singing a worldly song. We are all converted here, except
a few benighted Catholics. The vain, fleeting joys of this world are as
dross to us. The missionary has a modulator, and he trains the young men
and women in the sol-fa so that they may sing Sankey's hymns in all the
parts." I was dreadfully floored by this answer, and could only mutter
mechanically, "_Dross_," "_Missionary_,'" "_Modulator_," in a vain
effort to seize the situation. Conversion I understood and approved of,
but where, in the wee island of Eigg, were the vain, fleeting joys?
There is no public-house in the place, and little temptation of any
kind. The most disquieting item of all was the modulator: I have not
seen one for a long time, and am not sorry, for there is nothing which
so spoils the appearance of a wall nor anything so dismal as practising
scales. A compromise was come to, and it was arranged that some Gaelic
readings, containing a dash of religion, should take the place of songs,
and give some variety to the evening's proceedings.

At some of the meetings there was perhaps an _excess of realism_.
Bottom, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," wishing to avoid excitement and
fear among the ladies when he is acting the part of Pyramus, says:
"Write me a prologue; and let the prologue seem to say, we will do no
harm with our swords, and that Pyramus is not killed indeed; and for the
more better assurance tell them that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but
Bottom the weaver: this will put them out of fear." I thought of
Bottom's extreme delicacy when I was present at a meeting in Tomatin not
long ago. An outstanding feature of the evening's proceedings was the
vividly dramatic rendering of the song, "Macpherson swore a feud," by
the local postman. The latter, a big, burly man, was extremely
formidable in his Highland attire. When he came to the verse dealing
with the untimely decease of Macpherson, he whipped the dagger out of
its sheath, flourished it as in act to kill, and terrified some of the
lady visitors by his vivid suiting of the action to the word. They were
as much astonished at the flash of the _skian dhu_ as the Commons were
when Burke threw a dagger on the floor of the House.

A musical treat is sometimes got in the most unexpected places. I was
particularly struck with a children's glee-party in Jura (a rough island
known chiefly for its sterile Paps). The bairns admirably rendered Ben
Jonson's delightful ditty, "Drink to me only with thine eyes," and the
Shakespearian song, "Where the bee sucks, there suck I." In such islands
a musical teacher is a valuable asset. Let me add that all the libraries
have been gratuitously supplied with fine collections of Scottish music.

At Acha, in the island of Coll, four sturdy farm-maidens, ruddy with
health and robed in white, gave various English and Gaelic airs in
admirable style. A divinity student sang a _coster song_ (think of this
in an island of craggy shores, gulls, wild-swans, and curlews!), and on
being encored, he gave a "Cradle Lullaby," and by gently swaying a chair
backwards and forwards on the platform, he strove to illustrate the
movements of childhood's earliest receptacle.

A military gentleman--an ex-major--in proposing a vote of thanks, one
evening, to the singers, said he had sung a song but once in his life,
the occasion being his admission to the Royal Engineers, thirty years
before. It was a standing law in that body that every novice should sing
a song or drink a mixture consisting of whisky, ink, and cayenne pepper.
He chose the former alternative, and at the end of the first verse the
Royal Engineers had all left the room in a demoralised condition!


At one of the meetings in Argyleshire, I had the joy of speaking under
the chairmanship of the glib and able Mr. Ainsworth, M.P. for that
county. Among the votes of thanks was one for the chairman: it made a
profound impression upon me, as much by its form as by its substance: "I
hope, Mr. Ainsworth, that you will take better care of your health in
future (hear, hear). No, no, you are not taking care of your health at
all (laughter). We all expect you to be Prime Minister, and that is the
reason we would like you not to roam about so much and undermine your
constitution (cheers). You are always travelling. You are like the
Wandering Jew. No! you are like a little bird on a bough. To-day, we see
you on a tree near the door; to-morrow, we see you on a tree a hundred
miles away" (great cheering). Mr. Ainsworth kindly promised that, in
view of his destiny, he would cease to range around the country so

Unfortunately, I have never met Mr. Galloway Weir, but I have heard much
of the zeal of himself and his agents. The following story hinges on the
fact that _Weir_ and _wire_ have the same pronunciation in Lewis. An old
illiterate crofter came to record his vote by word of mouth, and told
the polling sheriff: "I will vote for the right man, yes, yes, it's the
right man I will be voting for this time." "That may be," said the
sheriff, "but unless you will tell me his name, you can't vote." "Well,
if you must know," said the old man, handing the sheriff a
stocking-wire, "_I will be voting for the man that has the same name as


The mention of that eminent politician brings to my mind the frequent
references made at these meetings to the painful subject of rural
depopulation. Everyone regrets the exodus of young men from the country
to the town, a practice which depletes the rural villages and deprives
the land of the strong arms that should find employment in working it.
The ministers are not without hope that the rush city-wards may be
checked by improving the conditions of country life, rendering it more
attractive to the young, and enlisting the aid of Government in the
scheme of small-holdings. Motives of health, morality, and patriotism,
are all concerned in the fostering of a hardy peasantry. Everything that
makes country life attractive to young men must operate to make them
regret to quit it. I wish I could reproduce textually all the strong and
astounding speeches I have heard in the Highlands on this subject of

"We often hear," said a farmer, "that it's healthy men and women that
make up the true wealth of a country, and if that is true, Scotland, for
all its increase of riches, is every year growing poorer. How can the
people left in the glens continue to propagate a hardy race, if all the
young healthy bloods leave for the cities and settle there? I am afraid
that both brain and brawn will continue to get feebler among us, unless
the Government give some kind of inducement for the peopling of the land
with bien, self-respecting men _that have a bit land of their own_. It's
impossible to get farm-hands round Tayside nowadays, and it's not to be
wondered at. Suppose a young man stays here, what prospect has he, what
incentive has he to work? At the age of seventeen he has earned the
highest wage he will ever earn. Thereafter his life is a slow,
monotonous serfdom; he has no hope whatever of rising, he is doomed to
live from hand to mouth all the years of his existence. But put before
that young man the hope that he can _become the owner_ of a morsel of
land, however small, and you put life and pride into him. He will work
in that case with intelligent purpose, knowing that every penny he saves
is to be employed in making him a landed proprietor, and every detail of
experience he gains will tell in the future for his direct benefit. Our
young fellows don't really want to leave the land and go to die
prematurely (as a great many of them do) in the slums of Glasgow and
Edinburgh. They go to the cities because there is at least _a chance_ of
bettering their lot there, a chance which is entirely lacking at home.
Some of them go away to the colonies and thrive as farmers there. I
rejoice to hear of such success; but I rejoice with trembling when I
think how much of Britain's best manhood has to leave her shores to till
Transatlantic fields, while so much land at home remains unoccupied. By
and by, if you want to see a good specimen of the Highlander, you will
have to go to Canada. Sooner or later, and the sooner the better, the
vigorous action of Government will be demanded to remedy the present
iniquities of land-tenure, and to put a stop to the compulsory
degradation of those who till the soil."


The present seems to be an opportune time for directing public attention
to some remarkable changes that are taking place in the population of
the rural districts of Scotland. A great deal of speaking and writing
has been expended of late years in lamenting the depopulation of the
country. Young fellows do not like the monotony of village and farm
life: they prefer the stir and excitement of the cities. Such things are
not to be wondered at. Town life has always had an attraction for those
whose energy requires a wide scene of action. Energy and ambition go
together, and it is the possessor of such qualities that makes the
successful city man. The country does not give scope enough for their
adequate display.

The railway train and the inventions of modern times are both answerable
for a certain amount of depopulation. I believe the condition of
farm-hands has been markedly improved of late years. They have now a
shorter day, higher wages, better food, and superior house
accommodation. Mechanical appliances have made farm-work lighter and
more agreeable. The drudgery of the threshing flail is now unknown; the
hook and the scythe have given way to the reaping-machine: in every way
hand labour has been lightened. But it is precisely this machinery that
lessens the need for large numbers of agricultural labourers. It is also
notorious that shoemakers, tailors, and blacksmiths, are not so much
required in the country as they used to be. Ready-made shoes and clothes
are brought by rail from the city, and local tradesmen are reduced in


There seems to be in our day a competition among the Governments of the
New World, which of them can lure away the greatest number of our
peasantry. The latest candidate for our rural youth is the State of
Virginia, the legislature of which has voted a large sum of money to
pay the expenses of two delegates, who are at work in the East of
Scotland, hunting for likely emigrants. These Virginian delegates--Mr.
Koiner and Col. Talliafer--paid the passage-money of over a hundred
stalwart lads from Lochtayside in the autumn of 1906.

No one who has the opportunity of travelling through Scotland can fail
to be struck by the absolute frenzy for emigration that exists
everywhere. There is a constant stream of emigrants from all our
agricultural counties to the wide plains of Canada. That great colony is
being "boomed" in a most energetic way. In Sutherlandshire, I saw a
large van, with placards and specimens of Canadian produce, being driven
through Strath Halladale, to tempt the crofters over the deep. I have
also, at the railway stations in the North, beheld heart-rending scenes
of parting as the young fellows said good-bye to their parents and

                          "Who could guess
    If ever more should meet these mutual eyes."[9]

    [9] Such emigration has, of course, nothing to do with the
    systematic work instituted by Mr. William Quarrier of Bridge of
    Weir. That devout philanthropist occupied himself with the waifs
    and strays of Glasgow, taught them trades, and sent large numbers
    of them to the colonies to learn farming. One Saturday, in 1907,
    I saw a hundred and twenty of these lads, who were on Bridge of
    Weir platform waiting for the train. The scene was pathetic in
    the extreme--enough to melt a heart of nether millstone. Many of
    the lads were in tears as they answered the roll-call for the
    last time. In the afternoon they (and over two thousand
    emigrants) left the Clyde, amid sobs, cheers, and the waving of
    multitudinous handkerchiefs. These boys go, in the first
    instance, to Brockville, in the province of Ontario, whence they
    are distributed out among the Canadian farmers.


In most of the places I have visited, the school-house is the only
available hall for public meetings. Now, a school-room, with its small,
cramped seats, its lack of platform, and its defective ventilation, is
not well adapted for large gatherings. No man likes to speak _up to the
waist in audience_, under a low roof, and in stifling air. If less money
were spent on needless church-building, every district in the Highlands
might have its hall for purposes of recreation, reading, and lecturing.
As it is, the churches should everywhere be used far more than they are
for secular gatherings of an elevating kind. Religion suffers greatly
from the closing of churches to concerts and lectures.

The kindness of local lairds is nowhere more pleasantly shown than in
the giving of funds towards the creation of village halls and recreation
rooms. The little village of Alness has a splendid Working Men's Club,
furnished with everything requisite for pleasure and
profit--smoking-room, billiard-room, and reading-room. This Club owes
its existence to the generosity of Mr. Perrins--known everywhere for the
excellence of his famous condiment--who has an estate in the vicinity.
Kiltarlity and Beauly have, for similar instances of discreet bounty,
permanent reason for blessing the name of Mr. Phipps. Other instances
that occur to me are the spacious Dunbar Hall in Auldearn, due to the
kindness of the family of which the genial Sir Frederick Dunbar, Bart.,
is the present representative, and the Astley Hall in Arisaig, named
after the family so long associated with that charming West Highland

It must not be supposed that the natives do not thankfully welcome such
work on their behalf. Many of the townships, it is true, have had
libraries and halls for many a year, and have established these entirely
on their own initiative; but outside help and enterprise stimulate local
effort in a way often impossible otherwise, as the natives themselves
admit. At Nethy Bridge, a fine hall, with club-room, has been recently
erected, largely owing to the enthusiasm of a London lady resident in
the vicinity. She was distressed to see the young fellows of the place
loafing aimlessly about at night, and proceeded to organise some
rational amusement for them. Her philanthropy has been greatly
appreciated. At Kilmartin, the jubilee of Queen Victoria was signalized
by the erection of the Poltalloch Victoria Hall--an enterprise in which
laird and crofter alike willingly co-operated. It is in this hall that
the Library is established. Mr. Dixon, the erudite historian of
Gairloch, set aside the profits of his book to help in furnishing the
reading-room at Poolewe, in Wester Ross.

When a rural community has a library and a place to meet in, a literary
society is, as a rule, soon formed. Such a society, founded for an
elevating and educational purpose, forms a common meeting-ground for all
sects, schisms, and parties. I am aware that in most towns of any size
there are such societies in connection with the special churches. In the
Highlands it is better to eliminate the denominational element, for the
very good reason that, the population being small, no one of the too
numerous churches would furnish a representative enough roll of
members. I was charmed to find that the little town of Portree, of which
the population is not much more than eight hundred, has a fine literary
society, established on the broad and rational lines I have indicated.
As might be expected from the intellectual advancement and strong
literary bent of the inhabitants, the lectures given and the subjects
discussed at the meetings of the Portree society are of a more erudite
nature than anywhere else in the West Highlands. Most of the Portree
clergymen and professional men are on the list of members.


Very few city people pay much attention to the moon: in the country that
luminary has to be constantly deferred to when arrangements are being
made for social meetings, dances, or lectures. When many of the audience
have to come six, or even ten miles by land or water, light is needed,
and light from above is best. It increases a lecturer's pride to be told
that the plashing of oars over there on the argent face of the waters is
an indication that some of his audience are coming from the other side
of the loch. At the conclusion of many of the lectures, I have seen half
a dozen traps, boats, and bicycles speeding away merrily in different
directions. But for the bright moon, the audience would have been
limited to the immediate neighbourhood of the place of meeting.

It has often happened that my hotel was as much as seven miles from the
lecture hall. As closed carriages are rare in certain districts, and as
it frequently rains--when it is not snowing--in the West and North of
Scotland, I had many good opportunities for gauging my powers of
endurance. The road from Killin to Ardeonaig is a fair example of a
Highland highway:--

    "Rough, hilly roads, that stain the spokes with mire;
    Thick folds of ebon night on loch and law;
    The moan of breezes wailing through the shaw
    Like the weird plaints of an Æolian lyre:
    And intermittently through the clouds, the fire
    Of lightning streaks the night with glitter and awe,
    And lapses swiftly in the dismal maw
    Of darkness, 'mid the din of thunder dire.
    But to relieve the sad night's sullenness,
    And clear the heavens for the timid moon,
    The straight-descending rain riots like hail
    For a fierce hour, in prodigal excess;
    Anon the clouds unmuffle, and the pale,
    Thin crescent of Diana gilds night's noon."

The place of meeting at Ardeonaig was on the shores of Loch Tay, and the
main road from Killin is high up and does not go near the water at this
point. After alighting from the machine, I had to descend to the
loch-side by a steep, miry, and circuitous road through a wood. As the
"thin crescent of Diana," alluded to above, was not adequate to light my
footsteps here, I struck some futile vestas, which the dripping leaves
at once extinguished. Two elders, swinging lanterns and calling me by
name, by and by divided the night in my vicinity. Their appearance was
welcome, for the torrential rain had made the track one continuous
slippery quagmire. The hospitality of the Ardeonaig minister speedily
banished all recollection of the "sad night's sullenness."[10]

A more trying, because a longer, drive is that from Kilmun to Strachur,
by way of Loch Eck. In the leafy month of June, nothing could be finer;
but in a winter blizzard, one's appreciation of the glory of nature is
somewhat less than rapturous. I mention the Strachur meeting because it
was graced by the presence of a large contingent of local volunteers in
civilian attire. The War Office ought to know that the inclement weather
prevented these warriors appearing in their uniform.

    [10] It is not often possible, in the _islands_, to get anything
    but a trap or open coach. In Lochranza, on a day of dreary,
    disheartening rain, I found on enquiry that there was no covered
    vehicle to be had except the _hearse_.


The westerly leg of Islay contains one or two places that have public
libraries sent from Paisley: Portnahaven and Port Charlotte on the sea,
and Gruinart inland and more to the north. It is a weird experience to
drive along the shore road from Bridgend on a night of pitiless rain,
and see the heavy mists broken every now and then by the far-reaching
flash of the Portnahaven lighthouse. Equally weird is it to lecture in a
school with no lamps (as happened at Port Charlotte). At eight o'clock I
could see the faces of the audience well enough, but by and by the room
became quite dark, and I seemed to be addressing an audience of silent
and attentive ghosts. After I had finished, a Phantom arose in the far
corner of the room and proposed a vote of thanks; and thereafter a Voice
somewhere pronounced the benediction. Then there was a movement of feet,
and the shadowy spectres trooped out into the night. The foolish virgins
had no oil in their lamps; in Port Charlotte, there was neither oil
_nor_ lamps.[11]

    [11] Islay is yearly becoming better known. It is an undulating
    island, covered with rich meadow-land, the home of horses, sheep,
    and cattle. There should not be a hungry man within its
    circumference. Under the old lairds--the Campbells--there were
    14,000 inhabitants, now there are 6000.



I never heard the difference between mental and material wealth more
forcibly expressed than by an old Perthshire shoemaker. "Supposing,"
said he, "that I had fifty pounds in my pocket at the present moment.
What a wild supposition, but good enough for an illustration! What
inference would you draw from me having that sum of money? This, namely,
that no other person in the universe has the same fifty pounds. The same
pair of boots cannot be worn by two persons at the same time. The same
guinea cannot be twice spent by the same man. It is different with
spiritual things, and with works of art. Scores of people can
simultaneously enjoy a great painting or a fine piece of music: _my_
enjoyment does not interfere with _yours_, indeed, it is more than
likely that my enjoyment will be greatly increased from knowing that
other people are enjoying it as I am. Then again, you can't eat the same
loaf of bread twice: but you can return a hundred times to the same
song, poem, or picture, and like them better the hundredth time than the
first. A pathetic old tune does not lose anything in being sung by
generation after generation. It is always as good as new. Like the
widow's cruise of oil, it can be used without being consumed. These
facts show that works of art--good books, good poems, good music--are,
in a certain sense, immortal and divine. A hundred years ago, our
ancestors sang 'Bonnie Doon'; we, to-day, sing it with undiminished
fervour; a hundred years after this, the song will be fresh. Aye, and a
humorous American writer thinks some of us will hanker for it in heaven:

    'Perhaps in that refulgent sphere
      That knows not sun or moon,
    An earth-born saint would long to hear
      One verse of Bonnie Doon.'"


The Rev. Chairman of this meeting emphasised the shoemaker's remarks in
the following admirable words: "I often wonder what is really the
greatest thing ever done by a citizen of this country of ours, by a man
of English speech. If we agree with our worthy shoemaker and his way of
thinking, we shall not look at the big accumulation of guineas as an
indication of greatness. Certain commercial men (who ought to know
better) seem to think God has sent us into this lovely world for the
sole purpose of piling up as much money as possible, and then, by death,
leaving it to others to spend. _That_ can hardly be considered our
reasonable service. Life is not so low-pitched as that. The best work of
man does not admit of being put into an equation with cash. The greatest
feat, to my mind, an Englishman ever performed was the writing of
_Paradise Lost_. How much did John Milton get in money for his
incomparable epic during his lifetime? _Five Pounds_: and if he had got
five million pounds, the recompense would have been absolutely
inadequate. History, however, has indemnified Milton for the neglect and
poverty he endured. He has shot up into stature while those of his
contemporaries who bulked largest in the eyes of the world have dwindled
and shrunk into insignificance in comparison with him. The witty,
dissolute king, Charles II., is now seen to be a wretched pigmy: Milton,
who died in blindness and political disgrace, is the real king of that
era, overtopping all the rulers, cabals, and intriguers. So, too, in
Scotland, Burns is the giant of _his_ period. During Burns's life, the
Earl of Dundas was to all intents and purposes king of the country. He
could say to whomsoever he pleased, '_Friend, come up higher; be you a
Sheriff, or Lord-Lieutenant, or Justice of the Peace_.' Dundas is pretty
well forgotten by this time: probably he will by and by be remembered
solely by Burns's description of him: _That slee, auld-farrant chiel
Dundas._ Kings and men of temporary renown do well to keep on good terms
with the men of letters."

It is always a great treat to hear a working-man who has the power of
utterance deliver a speech in a straightforward and unrhetorical way.
There is _always_ a pith and vigour about such deliverances quite
unattainable in a formal harangue. The magnates of the little Fife
villages are specially notorious for their gift of the gab: when Bailie
M'Scales or Provost Cleaver gets up to speak, no one has any inclination
to fall asleep.


Max O'Rell has told us that his chairmen sometimes took advantage of
their position to push their claims for the Town Council. I have not had
the time at my disposal curtailed by any such municipal oratory, though,
occasionally, my remarks on literature have seemed to the chairmen to
stand in need of supplementing. One gentleman, in proposing a vote of
thanks, pulled a copy of Bacon out of his pocket and read the whole of
the famous essay on _Studies_. Another managed to bring in a lengthy
dissertation on radium! The following speech, delivered by a Highland
laird of a poetical turn, is noteworthy: "I am very fond of poetry," he
said, "and yet I turn with a very languid interest to the writings of
modern poets like Watson and Davidson. The verses of these gifted
singers are for others, not for me. The truth is, I don't want any more
lyrics and such like sugar pellets. My brain is already stocked with a
plenteous supply on which I browse in weal and woe, which I almost think
I personally composed, and to which I have attached a great many
emotions and extraneous incidents known to nobody but myself. My old
poetic favourites have been lying in various corners of my brain for
forty or fifty years; I know every turn, rhyme and rhythm of them; and
as they have served my need and alleviated my sorrow so long, I do not
intend to give them many fellow-lodgers more. I do not know at what
particular time literary nausea sets in, but Solomon had it when he said
that of the making of books there was no end. No doubt his father David
had primed him well in boyhood in the Psalms, and Solomon, feeling (like
many others since) that the paternal psaltery met all his need of
literary stimulus, would turn wearily from the heaps of presentation
copies of new verse sent by the rising poets of Judæa for their
sovereign's inspection. When a new book came out, Charles Lamb re-read
an old one,--an excellent practice and one which has the additional
recommendation of economy. It is not an unpleasant thing to find
yourself falling back on old favourites and losing interest in the
current hour. I knew a happy old gentleman whose reading was confined to
Walter Scott. Every evening the lamp was lighted in the trim snuggery,
and the appropriate _Waverley_ taken down from the shelf. For such a man
to begin a new novel would have been as irksome as travelling in a
foreign land."

I am bound to say that I have great sympathy with the sentiments I have
quoted from the speech of this kilted critic. If it were possible to
retain the elasticity and adjustableness of the mind till the end of
life, new authors would perhaps fix our attention as much as the old.
But only a limited number of articulate-speaking men, such as the
omnivorous Professor Saintsbury of Edinburgh, preserve their appetite
tireless and intact. The Professor, like a literary Livingstone, can
grapple with the most arid and dusty libraries, and is the envy of all
scholars; but, alas! the majority of us have to take something less than
the whole of knowledge for our province.

It must not be supposed that all the remarks made at these meetings were
like those I have quoted. An airy irrelevancy was quite as common as the
serious note.


I have had experience of hundreds of chairmen, and admired most of them.
It is rather a painful thing to have one who is utterly unversed in
speaking. I remember being introduced in the ante-room to the chairman
of the evening, and, big bucolic giant as he was, he seemed fearfully
perturbed. His hand trembled, his lips were ashy-gray, and his laugh was
a nervous grin. "I am not much used to this sort of thing," said he,
with a poor attempt at mirth and a furtive movement of his hand to his
waistcoat pocket, where he had his introductory speech. "All you have to
do is to introduce me," I hinted; "you needn't say much." On the
platform he shook so much that the whole structure quivered. He rose,
and was received with loud applause. Happily he did not read his speech,
but simply pointed to me and said, "G-g-go on." He sank in his chair,
while runnels of sweat coursed down his cheeks. I admired that chairman
more than one in Caithness, who, after angling for the honour of taking
the chair, grew so terrified towards the hour of meeting, that he went
to bed and sent word he couldn't be present owing to flying pains in his
leg! In country districts, reluctance to take the chair arises from a
man's fear of making himself ridiculous; once he cuts a poor figure in
public, discredit is for ever attached to his name.

Highlanders as a rule make excellent chairmen. The superior gifts of the
Celtic mind, in imagination and wealth of florid expression, nowhere
show themselves to better purpose than when compliments have to be paid.
Then again, the kilt is very impressive on a brawny chairman's legs: it
commands attention and respect at once. I have little knowledge of
colloquial Gaelic, though I have studied the grammar, and have some
skill in reading. A little Gaelic goes a long way in stirring the soul
of a Highland audience. Often I have heard a kilted chairman quitting
his English for a little and giving the audience a mellifluous Ossianic
sentence or two. The effect was electric: eyes gleamed, breath came
quick and fast, the souls of the hearers seemed to have tasted a tonic.
Spoken Gaelic is akin to the elements: it has a mystic affinity with the
winds that sough around the flanks of the mountains and along the
surface of the lonely lochs. There is perhaps not much business
precision about it, but for preaching, praying, and poetry, it is a
splendid medium.

In Arran, a jovial chairman thus introduced me: "Before I left home, I
thought of a great many nice things to say as a preface to the remarks
of our friend from Paisley. (Here he coughed violently.) Unfortunately,
I am unable to bestow these tit-bits on the audience owing to a
_kittlin'_ in my throat. Instead of saying what I meant to say, I think
I had better tell you a story. A minister one Sunday had occasion to be
highly displeased with the precentor, who broke down twice in quite a
simple psalm-tune. 'Excuse me, minister,' said the precentor, 'but I've
got a kittlin' in my throat this morning.' '_Kittlin'!_' hissed the holy
man in scornful wrath: '_it's mair like a big tom-cat_.' Ladies and
gentlemen, after these few and decidedly imperfect remarks, I resume my
seat, merely expressing the hope that our friend will feel himself as
much at home here as the deil did in the Court of Session."

Another chairman in an adjoining island, while engaged in tremulously
reading his introductory speech, came to a sudden stop. An irreverent
youth shouted, "_Is that a blot?_" After the laughter provoked by this
query had subsided, the chairman said: "I feel to-night like a square
pin in a round hole, or rather, like the Irishman who, when asked if he
was dead, replied, '_No, I'm not dead, I'm only spacheless._'" Having
said these words with a weird attempt at mirth, the chairman sat down
too hurriedly, and struck his head so violently against the back of his
chair, that the noise of the impact was heard in every part of the hall.

I may hint to anyone who lectures or preaches in the Highlands, not to
adopt a patronising attitude or make it appear that he is talking down
to the audience. Such a feature would be at once detected and deeply
resented. A well-known Professor lectured to a Bute audience on
Electricity, and out of ignorance, spoke in a very elementary way to the
audience, defining the simplest terms, and interspersing a great many
"_you know's_" and "_you see's_." The chairman, in proposing a vote of
thanks, slyly remarked: "We have listened to-night to a very good
discourse, and I'm only sorry there are so few young people here. Next
time the Professor comes to speak to us, I hope to see all the
school-children in the hall, for the lecture to-night was admirably
adapted to their capacity."


A very loquacious lawyer proposed a vote of thanks to the chairman in
the following fashion: "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "it is often a
very difficult thing to come to the point. When I was at College, I
consented once to write an essay on 'The Progress of America,' the
subject being one of my own choosing. I wrote twenty-five pages of
preliminary matter, and at the end of my writing, I found that Columbus
was not landed. As my essay was to bring my hearers up-to-date on
American progress, I became nettled at my failure to _get Columbus
ashore_ and went round canvassing among my friends to secure a
substitute. No one would relieve me, so I was forced to slaughter an
aunt. I was wired for, by arrangement, on the day before the meeting,
and responded with great alacrity, knowing that there would be no
funeral. Without wasting more words let me on _this_ occasion come to
the point, and ask you to accord to our worthy chairman a very hearty
vote of thanks for the brilliant way in which he has kept us all in
order this evening."


A minister of a western parish thought it his duty, in the course of his
introductory speech, to make some jovial remarks on the subject of
conscience and moral obligation. "A student of my acquaintance," said
he, "went to Arrochar on Loch Long by excursion steamer. At mid-day,
being thirsty, he _drifted thoughtlessly_ into the hotel and asked for a
cup of tea. With this beverage he washed over some dry biscuits he had
brought with him from home. Imagine his surprise on being told that the
cup of tea would cost him two shillings. Bang went not one sixpence but
four! He looked at the maid and his breath came quick and fast; but he
counted out the money nevertheless. Having occasion to visit the
bathroom to cool his throbbing brow, he perceived a razor on a little
shelf near the mirror there. At once he pocketed this razor and made
off, whistling _Scots Wha Hae_. He had recouped himself for the
overcharge on the cup of tea. Strange to say, every time he shaved with
the stolen razor he feared some impending calamity. He knew enough Greek
to be aware that Ajax committed suicide with the very sword that hero
got from the enemy. Whenever the student disfigured his chin and
reddened the lather with a new-made gash, he felt in his inmost soul
that a Nemesis was being wrought out. _By this simple tale, my friends,
one may see the sovereign power of conscience, which, though dormant for
a time, invariably asserts itself and flogs the culprit._"


The following remarks made by a speaker at one of the meetings are worth
citing: "I do not wish our Paisley friend," he said, "to go back to the
banks of the Cart under the impression that we are not a very literary
people up here in Ross-shire. On the contrary, we are clean gone on
literature. Just look at our syllabus! One night we have a discussion on
Shakespeare. Eh? What do you think of that? Shakespeare no less! Next
night we deal with _an equally great poet--Tannahill_." (No doubt the
speaker meant to compliment Paisley in thus comparing the author of
_Lear_ and _Hamlet_ with the poet-laureate of the loom.) I have heard
Milton's _Paradise Lost_ and Pollok's _Course of Time_ clashed together
in the same ludicrous way. I was dreadfully nonplussed on one occasion
by hearing a speaker strongly recommend the audience to give their days
and nights to the study of Bunyan and M'Cheyne. "Bunyan by all means,"
said I to myself, "but who is M'Cheyne that one should be mindful of him
and put him for importance alongside of the immortal tinker?"


I shall never forget a vote of thanks proposed in my hearing by the
excellent doctor of Salen, a pleasant little place situated on a
V-shaped creek of Loch Sunart. I never expect to meet a more genial or
more humorous man than the doctor, on this side of eternity. He knows
the roads of gusty Ardnamurchan better than any other living man, and,
night and day, by sun and by moon, in weather of clear blue, and under
the eddying blinding flakes, he is ever on the move. He found time to
come to the meeting and propose a vote of thanks to the donor of the
library. Everyone listened intently to him as he stood there in his
professional frock-coat,--a thin, wiry, twinkling-eyed gentleman. "If
the donor by any chance," said he, looking at me, "should ever sail up
Loch Sunart in his yacht, and land among the people of Salen, to whom
his books have given such pleasure, I should advise him not to stand too
near the edge of the pier, for fear some of the grateful natives might
push him over into the loch, _in order to have the pleasure of saving
his life!_" This unexpected sally convulsed the audience, and gave a gay
and rollicking touch to the speeches that came after. Mr. M'Gregor, a
farmer from Resipol, broad and brawny, rose to make a few remarks. The
schoolhouse was very hot and close, but he disdained to throw off the
thick and ample Highland cloak which he had on, and which he had worn
all day at the Oban Cattle Show, and on the deck of the boat that had
brought him thence. Mr. M'Gregor had been much struck by my remarks on
the knights of King Arthur, and their custom of sitting at the Round
Table, to avoid questions of precedence. He spoke to this effect: "I do
not wish the lecturer to go back to Paisley under the impression that
Salen is not a very bye-ordinary and consequential place. We have a
fleet of yachts out there, the like of which is not to be seen _between
this and Manch-oo-ria_. We have a blacksmith that can preach and quote
Scripture as well as any D.D. in the land; my friend the grocer over
there, will give you such bargains as you could never get in
Sauchie-_hall_ Street; and we have a choir here that might give the
angels singing-lessons. I am a very modest man, but I would like to say
just a word about this Round Table business. The lecturer says the Table
was round so that every knight might be at the head of it. That's the
theory, but what's the fact? I'll tell you. _One of King Arthur's
knights was an ancestor of mine, and his name was M'Greegor._[12] Now,
wherever M'Greegor sat, that was always considered the head of the
table." This contribution to Arthurian criticism was delivered with such
force, faith, and genial glee, that no one, considering the powerful
muscles of the speaker, was disposed to question it. (Mr. M'Gregor's
eulogy of Salen did not comprise a reference to the local hotel, which
is conducted on the Gothenburg system. It is comfortable and snug, but
not whole-heartedly patronised by some of the natives, as they consider
the system is an un-Celtic innovation, and believe further that every
drink they take is written down in a big book with an alphabet on the
edge of the leaves to facilitate reference).

    [12] Judging from the number of clans that make a similar claim,
    we might fancy that all King Arthur's knights

              "Gartened low their leg,
      And rowed their hurdies in a philabeg."


I have an agreeable recollection of my stay in Saddell, on the coast of
Kintyre, as the guest of Colonel Macleod, son of the never-to-be-forgotten
Dr. Norman Macleod. The Colonel was born in 1820, was present at the
Eglinton Tournament, and is, to-day, in spite of his eighty-eight
years, hale in body, sound of wind, and perfectly clear in the
intellect. He is a walking encyclopædia of all the social and political
changes that have come about since the accession of Victoria. He is also
an authority on live stock, and it is intensely amusing to see his
horses scampering from the far-end of the field when they see him, in
the hope of getting some of the bits of sugar he always carries in his
pocket for their benefit.

The school-house being badly situated for the convenience of the people,
the meeting was held in the _dungeon of the old castle_, a spacious and
airy place quite near the beach. Altogether, I reckon this meeting as
the drollest in all my experience. There were no windows in the
overhanging vaulted roof, and the long stone stair leading to the ground
above, was filled with the audience that could not get accommodation
below. The aged Colonel presided over about one hundred prisoners, and
humorously remarked that the table at which he was standing, was really
a _patent incubating apparatus_, under which four dozen of Mrs.
Macleod's chickens were coming to maturity. He hoped these embryo fowls
would not interrupt the lecture by any unseemly remarks. At the risk of
wearying the chickens, I spoke for an hour and a half, dealing in the
course of my remarks (to be as apposite as possible) with the dungeon
scene in "The Legend of Montrose," where Dugald Dalgetty squeezes the
windpipe of the Duke of Argyll.

In one little village hall in Kintyre, I was much perturbed by some of
the placards that had been placed on the walls. The hall had been used
for evangelical purposes, and there, facing me, in yard-long type, was
the dreadful command, _Get right with God_. To speak on Hood and his
puns with those colossal letters burning their message into your soul,
would need nerves of steel. I have not nerves of steel, and I felt
dreadfully incommoded by the bill. For the space of five minutes I might
occasionally forget it, and then, in the midst of some light and
skittish quotation, my eye would light upon it, and the verses would
come feebly and falteringly off the tongue. _Vox faucibus haesit._


My narrative would be lacking in completeness if I did not frankly
confess that I have sometimes met with humiliations of a kind to wring
the heart and call forth a sigh. In one nook of the north I stayed in
the manse of an excellent clergyman, an eloquent preacher, but austere
and extremely devout. He took the chair at the lecture, which was very
well attended. Before the meeting began I was told that a local
gentleman wished to ask me _an important question_. This was good news
for me, as I thought the inquirer might have some literary difficulty
which it would be profitable to handle in the course of my remarks. The
anxious enquirer proved to be the local hotel-keeper, who, in a deadly
earnest whisper made the following request: "You have a big meeting," he
said, "and it's not likely there will be such a number of people so near
my hotel for many a long day. _Would it be asking too much of you to
finish up about half-past nine and give the audience time to sample
some of my commodities before departing homewards?_ It's chiefly the
minister I have to fear; for if he suspects I wish to do business, he'll
prolong the vote of thanks till after the stroke of ten."

One of my compensations in wandering Scotland thorough has been the
heartfelt but rather naïve way in which some of the provincials have
expressed their gratitude. "_I've paid half-a-crown for worse_," said an
old man of Ross to me, shaking me warmly by the hand and believing he
was uttering a most delicate and hyperbolical compliment. (Now, during
my remarks, I had noticed this man taking copious pinches of snuff to
enable him, as I suspected, to sit out the meeting.) Another rustic,
this time an Aberdonian, was impressed by the number of authors
mentioned and the copious citations from their works. "Heavens!" he
cried, "what a memory that man has! That's the kind of partner I should
like to have at whist: he would never forget the cards that were out."

I know not whether to laugh or weep when I think of the occasion on
which the following charmingly irrelevant remarks were made to me: "We
are all proud of our village library and _even prouder of the feeling
that prompted such a gift_. I am reminded," the speaker went on to say,
"of a cousin of mine who got a present of exquisite fruit (preserved in
wine) from a friend in a distant part of the country. He wrote to the
donor saying, 'Your fruit is delicious: I like it very much; but I like
even more _the spirit in which it has been sent_.'"


In order that these pages may fitly represent all the districts of
Caledonia that I have traversed as an uncommercial traveller, I should
like to give a short sketch of how I reached Tweedside by way of Lanark,
at a season when the Glasgow people were beginning their Fair holidays.
Winter, as I remarked, is the time I prefer for travelling, but untoward
circumstances have now and again compelled me to be on the move when
"mid-summer, like an army with banners, was marching through the

I may say at once that it is a great trial to leave Glasgow at that
particular date. The city pours forth its myriads at such a time. The
stations are surging and heaving with throngs of men, women, and
children, all in a hurry and all impatient. Families by tens and dozens
are swarming about. How pathetic it is to see the father with one child
in his arms and two clinging to his coat-tails, while the mother (poor
bedraggled soul) is vainly striving to quieten a squalling fourth! Some
children have lost their parents, and grope about underneath, nipping
the legs of tourists to attract attention and get hold of the right
father; others fall among bales of strawberries that were pulled
yesterday in the fresh country air, but are now being trampled into gory
pulp. Even in the fetid and dust-laden air, rendered almost unbearable
by the hot sunlight that blazes through the overarching glass of the
station roof, Cupid twangs his arrows, and soft eyes speak love to eyes
that speak again. Suddenly the train arrives, and on the already
crowded platform lands the human freight of twenty carriages--a fresh
addition to the welter and confusion worse confounded. What a wealth of
language one hears! Cyclists tinkle with bell and horn to secure the
needed lane of passage. Porters, in desperate madness, throw wooden
boxes down and rope-tied trunks of tin with little sympathy for injured
knees and fiery corns. The train just in will shortly leave with a new
load of passengers. A rush is made for the vacated seats: in tumbles the
surging crowd without regard for the class of ticket they have
purchased. A score of occupants per carriage is about the average; many
swarm into the guard's van, where they are regaled with pandemoniac
odours of ancient fish and decaying vegetables. The heavy train at
length steams out into the open, and in an hour's time Lanark is
reached. "_God made the country and man made the town_" is the
involuntary reflection of the city man as he steps out of the train and
breathes the fresh air of the hills.

From Lanark to Peebles, by road, is thirty miles. The track is
excellent, and if the wind is not adversely strong the joy of cycling
the distance is difficult to parallel.

On this route, no lumbering vehicles, laden with heavy merchandise, tear
up the soil into ruts. No cab-drivers cast sarcastic remarks at you from
their high perch. The only annoyance comes from the cast-off nail of a
horse-shoe or the sharp splinter of a macadamised stone. The air is as
fresh as on Creation's morn. Up hill and down again one can hurry on
without ever touching the brake. For the first ten miles, the stately
bulk of Tinto dominates the landscape. What a splendid range of scenery
the eye could grasp from the high vantage-ground of its summit in clear
weather! As one approaches the base of the big hill, the road turns
sharply to the east, and you feel about your ears innumerable breezes
that blow along from the little glens leading down from Tinto's breast.
By and by, the clean, trim, little town of Biggar appears. (The
inhabitants are proud of the fact that John Brown, author of the
beautiful story, _Rab and his Frien's_, was a native of the town.) One
notices the name of Gladstone prominent above the shops, and it is a
fact that the ancestors of the Grand Old Man were, in the days of yore,
denizens of those quiet hamlets. After a short rest here, we (for you
are with me, _ami lecteur_) shoot on and pass the sleepy street of
Broughton, lying clear and radiant in the slanting rays of the sun. Here
is the ideal spot for a country clergyman in love with Hebrew roots and
gardening and quiet contemplation. Soon we strike the tiny waters of the
infant Tweed, prattling and gushing up and bubbling clear over its
snow-white pebbles. Now the breeze of gloaming blows more snell. Away
low in the west the sun begins to gather golden clouds in pomp around
his setting. A gorgeous glimmer, gold and red, is thrown over the whole
sky. Keeping close beside the ever-widening stream, we dash through
little clachans on the bank, beneath long, over-arching avenues of
trees, and past the gates of ivy-mantled homes of blessed outlook. Here
a croquet party stops playing, for the grass is getting wet with
evening dew, and there, in the river, and up to the knees in it, are
half a dozen anglers sweeping the wave with their spurious fly. Peebles
is not far off, and the quiet nooks of the high road are filled with
pedestrians. The entrance to Peebles is exquisite. The long rows of
trees, the situation of the road high above the river in the dell,
combine to make an eerie blend of sound from sighing leaves and gurgling
waters. An old Border peel, Needpath Castle, stands near the straggling
outskirts of the town, and proves, by its choice situation on the knoll,
that our cattle-reiving ancestors were quite alive to the advantages of
a good view. It was a stirring quarter here in the days of the old
Scotch kings. The deadly thrust of lance has reddened every burn in the
wide Borderland. Every brae has had its gory bicker.

On this _tournée_ I had the pleasure of giving a lecture on "Scotch
Ballads," at a little village not more than half a mile from the
birthplace of Dandie Dinmont. The place was full of sturdy, firm-knit
Borderers, descendants of the dare-devil troopers who wrought such
devastation along the Marches when the Stuarts reigned in Holyrood.
Fresh, ruddy faces, coloured by breeze and sun; hard, keen, inquisitive
looks; intelligence such as comes from knowledge of nature, hereditary
quickness and good circulation of blood: all these could be instantly
seen by glancing round the audience. (How insignificant a mere bookworm
or scholar feels among a company of brawny Liddesdale farmers!) During
the lecture, it was easy to note by the grim smile on their faces, their
flashing eyes and the way they gripped their big sticks, that the old
stirring rhymes of fight struck a sympathetic chord in their hearts. Now
and again, during the address, one could see the lips of the listeners
moving in soft repetition of the lines, as some typical quotations were
being made.

It is not likely that there has been much change or influx of population
in these districts for centuries. The alertness and intelligence of the
natives must be to some extent an inheritance from the generations of
strenuous clansmen whose blood flows in their veins. Life in a
historical district is bound to have an ennobling effect on a man,
especially if he feels knit to the past by lineal descent from the
historical actors. A glamour of romance clings to hill and glen. The
dalesman you meet on the highway can tell you all the lore of his
parish, giving dates and citing illustrative lays. It is pleasant to
find that the stories of the Borderland are still known where they first
took birth, and that the local names, which to students instantly
suggest delightful bits of rhyme, have also to those who dwell near
them, a romance that is borrowed from the olden time.[13]

Anyone who has travelled in the shires that run along the Cheviots and
the Tweed, will conclude that poetry and romance may ever find a home
there. The hills, with their green pastoral slopes and abundant leafage,
are a delight to the eye in fresh spring and tinted fall. The sound of
the streams, as Ruskin has pointed out, is sweet and rhythmic to an
extraordinary degree, combining with the sough of the winds to form an
undersong of Nature's own melody. As the traveller drives or cycles
along the roads, he now and again gets such impressive vistas of
long-stretching waterways, wooded to the brink with graceful trees, as
grave themselves on the memory for evermore. For rock, crag, and dashing
linn, the northern Highlands are supreme; but in the green Borderland,
there is a more sedate and proportioned beauty. Nature is none the less
attractive for losing somewhat of her wildness and austerity.

    [13] A favourite and appropriate book in this part of Scotland is
    Wilson's _Tales of the Borders_. There are not many farm-houses
    in the Lowlands of Scotland in which one does not find old
    copies, bound and unbound, of Wilson's _Tales_. Usually they show
    unmistakable evidence of having been frequently perused. One is
    bound to admit that the modern reader, if he spends an evening
    turning over these old pages, will find little reason to pride
    himself on the superiority of the popular reading of to-day. The
    short story, now in vogue, may be finely illustrated, and highly
    sensational, but its matter is certainly inferior, as a rule, to
    the general run of Wilson's stories. Wilson, in his humble way,
    was a gleaner in the field so richly harvested by Sir Walter
    Scott. _The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border_ had called
    attention to the great stores of poetry and romance lingering
    among the peasantry of the Debateable Land. Wilson's _Tales_
    showed how much of the old spirit remained more than two
    centuries after the Union, and, in spite of all Christianity and
    an orderly Government had done for the softening of manners.
    Hogg, in speaking of his own countryside, said: "The poor people
    of these glens know no other entertainment in the long winter
    nights than repeating and listening to the feats of their
    ancestors recorded in songs which I believe to have been handed
    down from father to son for many generations." Wilson and his
    successors gathered up as much of the romantic material as they
    found available, and printed it for the delight of their


In the agricultural lowlands of Scotland it is not rare to come upon
little villages that seem entirely left behind by modern progress. Not
long ago my work took me to Tarbolton, a quiet, uneven village in the
heart of the queenly shire of Ayr. The railway company has treated the
place very badly: a full fifteen minutes' drive is needed to reach the
town from the station. It is as if the company said: "Make what you can
of our line, ye insignificant Tarboltonians; our trains are in a hurry
to get from Ayr to Muirkirk; be thankful if we set you down only three
miles from your home." If it is not wet, the drive is a grand one. Five
miles to the right, Mauchline shows its red complexion on the green
hillside, and awakens lyric memories of Burns's imperishable mouse and
share-torn gowan. Over the pasture lands on the right come freshening
winds that hint of the heaving Firth not far away. The road pursued by
the coach meanders among all that is best of rural and pastoral scenery,
for coaly Annbank, defaced by the exhumed entrails of the earth, is
happily on the rear. At a turn of the road, a majestic spire, that of
Tarbolton Parish Church, suddenly stands before the view of the
traveller, and suggests Eternity even when tolling the hours of Time.
Soon the village is reached, and one is in a position to form an idea of
eighteenth century Scotland. The main street is built with that
irregularity so charmingly illustrative of the evolution of the
builder's art. Old cots roofed with thatch take the mind back to the
time when George I. was defending the faith and maltreating his wife.
Side by side with such are trim two-storey houses with all modern

I have a pleasant recollection of this interesting village, not merely
from its associations with Burns (which Mr. T.F. Henderson in a dainty
little book has recently recounted anew), but also from the fact that
the natives keep alive the literary traditions of the place in quite a
worthy way. The local baker has written a fluent volume of Essays
dealing with village incidents and worthies, which proves, as Mr. Barrie
says, that life in every stage, if truthfully portrayed, is intensely
interesting, and that every window-blind is the curtain for some tragedy
or comedy.


Very fine Scotch is still spoken in the rural districts of Ayrshire, and
most of Burns's dialect words are in daily use, at least by the older
generation. The Education Department has most wisely given encouragement
to the study of Lowland Scotch, and I do not see why a special grant
should not be given for special excellence in that department. Some
national movement for a complete Dictionary of Modern Scotch with
explanations in up-to-date philology ought to be organised.

During the lifetime of Sir Walter Scott, Dr. Jamieson published the
famous _Scottish Dictionary_, which still holds the field as the most
elaborate compendium of the Lowland dialects. Looked at in the light of
modern science, the derivations are often absurd and fanciful.
Jamieson's love for Gothic parallels led him constantly astray.
Nevertheless, his dictionary, as amended by various revisers, remains a
stately monument of industry and a necessary adjunct in the study of the
Scotch language.

In our own day, Dr. Murray of Oxford has compiled an illuminating
grammar of the language, indicating the various dialects of the Lowlands
and their geographical areas. Local antiquarians have also written out
lists of words special to particular counties. Dialect books, such as
the entertaining _Johnnie Gibb of Gushetneuk_, as well as Mr. Barrie's
delightful sketches, have put excellent specimens of provincial speech
within the hands of a wide circle of readers. A good dictionary of
modern Scotch, dealing with what has been written during the last two
centuries, would be a very useful and a very interesting compendium. It
would show that a great many expressive words employed by thirteenth
century English writers are still in use on the Scotch side of the

There is no denying the fact that book-English will soon push out the
relics of the old Scotch tongue. Burns will soon be read by lexicon,
even in the shire of Ayr. Men now write poetry in Scotch as boys at Eton
and Harrow write Latin verses, the result in both cases being, as a
rule, hideous and artificial doggrel. The little book, _Wee Macgregor_,
written in what may be called the Scotch Cockney dialect, was a brave
and amusing attempt to phonograph the talk of a Glasgow boy of the lower
middle class. The unlovely speech employed by the author is, happily,
quite unlike the careful and deliberate speech of the educated citizen
of Glasgow or Paisley. The main differences between the educated Scot
and the educated Englishman are that the vowel sounds of the former are
pure and that _r_ and _h_ have a real value in most words where these
letters occur.

It seems to me a _very undesirable_ thing that a uniform system of
pronunciation should be aimed at in every country of the British Isles.
So long as clear and expressive enunciation of English is attained,
intelligible differences of vocalisation, pitch, and even of vocabulary,
are allowable, and at times positively charming. Monotony is the bane of


    "Whether the books are borrowed books or no
    That show their varied stature row on row
    Along your walls, there will I truly find
    The image of your character and mind.
    Light, flimsy novels suit the flying train
    Or _Western Isle_ excursions of Macbrayne,
    Where, dazed by gleaming firths of visible heat,
    The torpid soul disdains substantial meat;
    But oft-read volumes, to which men recur
    The whole year round, bespeak the character."

The above lines, written by some unknown poetaster, indicate that it is
the book we read over and over again that has the greatest potency in
our education. I quite agree with the author, and I love to behold the
well-thumbed pocket-edition that speaks to the eye of much handling and
frequent perusal. There are very few books _worth_ reading once that are
not worth reading oftener. Hobbes used to say that if he had read as
much literature as the majority of men, he would have been as ignorant
as they. In that remark what depths of meaning lie! The sage of
Malmesbury attributed his success in philosophy to his habit of
judicious selection--to the fact that he concentrated his attention on
those authors who were likely to help the development of his powers.
Selection is more required now than in Hobbes's time. Few men would care
to read more than a hundred books through in a year, and yet there are
twenty thousand volumes added annually to the shelves of the British


It has been my privilege, during the last three or four years, to
examine with more or less care something like four hundred bookcases,
containing works on all departments of literature. _I am inclined to
turn away in disgust if the Essayists are not patronised._

Those delightful Essayists! Happy is the man who has his shelves full of
them--writers who talk sense with wanton heed and giddy cunning, who
spread their souls out on paper, who disarm hostility by taking you
completely into their confidence. Addison, with the roguish gleam in his
eye as he is calculating the number of sponges in the cost of a lady's
finery; Goldsmith, in his London garret, talking of the ludicrous
escapades of the Man in Black; Lamb luxuriating in reminiscences of Old
Benchers. All these splendid, unsystematic delights, mingled with the
breezes of byegone summers and the sunsets of long ago! Old ghosts
whisper you their secrets; you hear the brush of sweeping garments that
have been moth-eaten these hundred years. Crowded streets of people
appear before the eye of fancy--London in the days of Anne and the
Georges. In the company of such wits, there are no slow-moving hours:
you have in them friends who never need tire you, for should the
slightest tedium intervene, you may, without offence, stop their flow of
conversation. Our living intimates are prone to drynesses and huffs; but
these old prattling wits ever welcome us with a smile of affability.


While speaking of Essayists, I ought to mention a peculiar Banffshire
theorist who addressed me in the following words: "Give me an old set of
_Blackwood_ in the Kit North days, and I can easily forego your
pinchbeck stories and propagandist novels of to-day. I put the most
interesting period for reading at _sixty years ago_, and I think Scott
must have known the charm of that number when he gave the alternative
title to _Waverley_. It is pleasant to know how the world wagged when
your grandfather was a ruddy egg-purloining rogue of five. When I read
farther back than a century, I feel imagination flagging--the Merry
Monarch is not much more to me than John the Baptist. But the men of the
forties stand out clear and distinct. If I have never seen an
out-and-out fiery Chartist, I have at least seen some smouldering
specimens--men with much of the eloquence and a little of the enterprise
of the original five-pointers. It may be that as I grow older, my most
interesting historical period will move with me, keeping always at a
distance of sixty years from the present, until, when I get within hail
of the Psalmist's stint, I shall be most interested in childish things."
These words rather staggered me, and set me thinking of geometrical
_loci_. A man holding such views would find it difficult to obtain a
bird's-eye view of history.


If I had an adequate knowledge of Gaelic, combined with plenty of money
and leisure, I should set myself the task of translating the whole of
Goldsmith's Essays and Tales into that language, for the benefit of
those who had no English. It would be a great feat if one could impress
on the modern Celtic mind the conviction that piety and diversion are by
no means incompatible. Goldsmith's _Auburn_ introduces us to the most
delightful prospect on earth: a simple village community, unacquainted
with luxury and uncorrupted by vice. The inhabitants are full of health
and joy--they till the soil and gain ample satisfaction for their
unambitious wants. Life passes along bringing a pleasant succession of
happy hours. After the labours of the day, the young people dance
merrily on the green, and the old folk look on and regret that their own
legs are too stiff to keep time to the fiddles. Certain Highland
landlords might also read with advantage the exquisitely pathetic lines
in which the poet pictures the desolation and ruin of the rural
paradise, and perhaps conclude therefrom that, when glen and strath are
depleted of their inhabitants, and these latter driven over the seas to
seek a foothold in strange lands, it is the very heart's blood of
Britain that is being drained away.

On the whole, probably no English writer has given such genuine delight
as Goldsmith, and such genuine instruction too. Ineradicably frivolous,
culpably negligent of the morrow, whimsically vain and living all his
days from hand to mouth, he had the faculty of drawing upon himself the
pity, and even the contempt, of his associates. But in the eyes of
posterity, his happy-go-lucky life is amply redeemed by the work he has
left behind him, for _it_ is pure and good. His river of speech flows
ever on shining like molten gold. No man of his time possessed the
adroit knack of bright writing in a more eminent degree. The pawky
humour of his side-hits, the blending of light and shade in the process
of the narrative, the beauty and melody that can be noted even in the
sound of the sentences, combine to delight the judgment, the ear, and
the fancy. Though the _Vicar of Wakefield_ is a prose production, it
produces all the effect of a poem on the affections of the heart. Of
wit, properly speaking, it is as full as any volume of _The Spectator_;
with humour it is flooded from beginning to end; and in those pathetic
delineations of life which no one can read without being profoundly
touched, there are few poems so rich.


In many (indeed most) houses I have visited, I see in the bookcase large
publications in six or seven well-bound parts and as good as new,
dealing with subjects of little interest to anyone who breathes the
vital air of heaven. Such titles as _Science for All_, _The Thames from
its Source to the Sea_, _The Queens of England_ are among the commonest
on the boards of the books I allude to. The presence of these editions
indicates that the possessor at a certain period of his life was shy and
could not say _no_ to that limb of the Evil One--the book-canvasser. The
latter individual is the forerunner of the colporteur, who will bring
you, if you wish poetry, an edition of the works of Shakespeare which is
peculiarly ill-adapted for holding in the hand and reading. The print is
large, the page is in size like a miniature wall-map, and the
illustrations are got up with an easy defiance of archeology. The
annotations, though stolen, are distinguished for extreme futility.
After you have begun the purchase of such a book, shame and chagrin
drive you to attempt the study of it; but it is of no use, and on each
occasion of the very regular advent of the colporteur, you are inclined
to swear horribly, after which a period of extreme dejection supervenes
when you recollect the many fine things you could purchase for the
half-guinea periodically expended. The knowledge of human nature
displayed by the man who books the order surpasses anything in the works
of the analytical philosophers. Every artifice of attack is his, and he
knows how to play on all the emotions so ably and exhaustively
catalogued in the manuals of Professor Bain. I believe a gay and
chaffing rejoinder is what he can least overcome. Suggest to him that
you are far gone in poverty and offer to _sell_ him a few of your own
books. Frequent exercise will confirm your principles, until finally,
when you see one of the book-canvassing tribe, you will foresee half an
hour's innocent amusement.

Certain of the points he so feelingly brings before you may no doubt
awaken a responsive echo in your own bosom. You are well aware, for
example, that your knowledge of the Queens of England is culpably
imperfect. You know you are never likely to go in steadily for the study
of constitutional developments, and so are led to admit the
reasonableness of tackling history from a lighter and more entertaining
point of view. Again, as to the River Thames, one must really grant that
a considerable amount of self-complacency and internal sunniness would
result from the ability to contradict your friends as to the length in
miles of some of its minor tributaries. In science, too, you are no
Kepler or Linnaeus, and there is something satisfactory when pedants
talk of orbits, planes, bulbs, or beetles, in being able to say that
_you have a big book at home that tells all about those things_.

Many people buy books, not because they have a present need for them,
but on the chance that at some time in the future such volumes as they
see for sale will solve a doubt or answer a need. The precise doubt or
the pressing need rarely arises. I met a Celt who had bought a copy of
Josephus in most irritating type, in the hope that it would help him to
confute a Roman Catholic on the Power of the Keys. Then again, people of
a wavering and bird-witted type of mind are constantly changing the
subject of their interest: this month they are attacked by the _furor
poeticus_, next month it will be a _furor botanicus_ or _politicus_.
Each separate frenzy means expenditure. When Browning is the temporary
subject of the mania, a host of expository books on that poet have to be
purchased, all of which are duly consigned to the topmost shelves when
the soreness of the fit is past. There is also a tendency to purchase,
because on the chance opening of a book you light on something that
pleases the whim of the moment. It is a thousand to one that when you
have bought the book you will not find another item worth perusing in
the entire contents. This tendency to buy a book in a panic may be
neutralised by remembering the story (whether true or not) of Defoe, who
is said to have boomed the languid sale of the dreary _Drelincourt on
Death_ by means of a spicy little ghost story as introduction! Buy in
haste, repent at leisure.


It is a much pleasanter sight to my eyes to see a bookcase with
second-hand books in it, for these are almost always bought to be read.
In a teacher's house near Elgin, I recently saw a most remarkable
collection--a veritable ragged regiment of books: single volumes of
Plutarch, unexpurgated plays by Farquhar and Mrs. Behn, Civil War
pamphlets, and rows of oddities. Mr. Forbes (the owner) was at one
period of his life assistant in Falkirk, and every Saturday morning,
rain or shine, he proceeded to the city of Glasgow, for no purpose but
to roam through the dusty byeways and side streets in quest of
bookstalls. He knew all the dealers by name, and they welcomed him, for
he never left them without a purchase, however slight. It was a saying
of his that while it took half-a-crown to purchase you two hours'
amusement at a theatre, for a couple of shillings, or even less, you
might divide out a whole Saturday most enjoyably in the old book-shops.
He simply rioted in haggling over a threepenny piece. Even old Henderson
feared him. This Henderson was a thirsty old bookseller who kept a shop
at the corner of Cowcaddens and Ingram Street, and whose leading
speciality was second-hand family Bibles, with the former genealogical
leaf riven out and replaced by a clean sheet pasted in for the family of
the next purchaser. To him, sitting enthroned on a pile of Bibles,
Forbes, entering, spake: "Have you a copy of the _Lives of the Twelve
Cæsars_?" "Aye, aye," said old Henderson, with a gracious smile;
"_thirteen_ if you like." The copy of Suetonius was produced, and "How
much do you want for Suet.?" queried Forbes. "Half-a-crown," said old
Henderson. "I'll give you ninepence," said Forbes. "Make it
one-and-six," said the bookseller, rising from his Biblical throne, "and
the book's yours." "I'll give you a shilling and a half of whisky,"
retorted Forbes. "Say a whole glass and the shilling, and we'll do
business," quoth the vendor of volumes. This was agreed upon, and the
two retired into the nearest dram-shop to conclude the bargain. Every
Saturday evening, Forbes came home by the last train, carrying his
bundle of volumes. He was careful to fumigate them for the purpose of
destroying any microbes, and finally would sprinkle them with _eau de
Cologne_ to make them tolerable to the nose. On Sunday, he enjoyed the
luxury of desultory reading.

Like Mr. Forbes, I enjoy a ramble among these old shops, and can say, as
he said to me at parting:--

                    "I love the trundling stall
    Where ragged authors wait the buyer's call,
    Where, for the tariff of a modest supper,
    You'll buy a twelvemonth's moral feast in Tupper;
    Where Virgil's tome is labelled at a groat,
    And twopence buys what tittering Flaccus wrote;
    Where lie the quips of Addison and Steele,
    And the thrice-blessed songs of Rob Mossgiel;
    And some that resurrection seek in vain
    From the swart dust that chokes the lumbering wain."


I have often been asked: "You who are so much on the move, who have had
so much train-travelling to do, what books would you recommend for a
long railway journey?" I do not know that one man's likes and dislikes
in reading are of value save as showing his own limitations, yet there
are certain books of which I never tire. I never leave home without the
following books handy for perusal: (i.) The _Odes of Horace_, (ii.) The
_Sonnets of Shakespeare_, (iii.) A French novel and a few copies of the
Paris _Matin_, (iv.) A Greek book of some kind, (v.) Pope or Addison,
(vi.) Some Victorian classic. The list is varied enough, and has
furnished me with much of the material for my speaking.


The pleasant thing about Horace is that his odes are so short: you can
read one in a few minutes--shut your eyes and enjoy the mental taste of
it--try to repeat it, and, if you fail, consult the original--then,
finally (as Pope and many others have done), endeavour to find modern
parallels. Suppose, _e.g._, you are reading, as is likely, the first Ode
of the first Book, you might find present-day resemblances like the

_Curriculo pulverem._

    What mad attractions sway the world!
    Some are unhappy save when whirled
    In motor cars that madly race,
    To leave a stench in every place,
    And maim those foolish folk that stray
    Abroad upon the king's highway.

_Tergeminis honoribus._

    Yon babbling wight, of sense forlorn,
    Who thinks himself a Gladstone born,
    Although a bailie, still must strain
    To gain himself a Provost's chain.
    And, after that, the worthy prater
    Aspires to be a legislator;
    Dreams of St. Stephen's, where he sees
    Himself hobnobbing with M.P.'s.

_Patrios agros._

    But Farmer Bob is somewhat saner--
    He minds his stock and is the gainer;
    Content to pass his life amid
    The scenes that his old father did.
    With hose in hand he cleans the byre,
    And saves himself a menial's hire;
    But gives his girls an education
    That may unfit them for their station.
    But don't ask Bob to tempt the tide,
    Even on a turbine down the Clyde;
    Neptune and Ceres don't agree,
    And farmers hate the name of sea.

_Mox reficit rates._

    When Skipper Smith (whose usual goal
    Is Campbeltown with Ayrshire coal)
    Is labouring thro' Kilbrannan Sound,
    He sighs for Troon and solid ground,
    And swears, if he were safe on shore,
    He'd never be a sailor more.
    But once on shore--he thinks it dull,
    And soon begins to tar the hull
    And caulk the timbers of his ship:
    "I'll try," he says, "another trip."

_Lene Caput._

    Some love to mangle turf: I see
    Them drive their balls from sandy tee,
    And think their day's delight begins
    When they are up among the whins.
    Some elders, full of godly zeal,
    Turn crazy about rod and reel;
    And ministers, reputed wise,
    Take service with the Lord of Flies
    (Beelzebub), and like the work
    Better than prosing in a kirk.

_Conjugis immemor._

    Sir Samuel Crœsus (noble wight!
    Who paid so dear to be a knight)
    Forsakes his lady for the hills,
    And aims at birds he never kills.
    Too late in life he shouldered gun,
    Breathless he toils beneath the sun,
    Sips whisky every other minute,
    Until his flask has nothing in it;
    Then, at the end of strength and tether,
    Falls tipsy in the blooming heather.

_Praemia frontium._

    But as for me, my wants are few:
    £3,000 a year would do;
    A villa built upon a height,
    With ample view to left and right;
    A garden with a sunny seat,
    A grassy lawn with borders neat.
    Inside, a study furnished well
    (Like a true scholar's citadel)
    With books and pipes and easy chairs;
    Here, in despite of worldly cares,
    If I should write a verse or two--
    A lyric that a _judge_ like you
    Could read, without once yawning, through--
    I'd be as proud as any man
    That scribbled since the world began.

Horace is thus fit for all times and conjunctures, and is the most
modern of all the Latin writers--

    "Horace still charms with pleasing negligence,
    And without method talks us into sense."

The translation of Horace's Odes into modern speech is generally
admitted to be one of the most difficult tasks to which a versifier can
apply himself. And yet there is no task so often essayed. It is a common
saying in France that, when a lawyer quits the bar and retires, he is
certain to publish a new translation of Horace after a year or two's
studious ease. M. Loubet, we know, is a zealous devotee of the Sabine
bard. Not the least droll of Mr. Gladstone's many feats was the
publication, shortly before his death, of a translation of Horace's
Odes, a translation wholly worthless indeed, in spite of the writer's
immense scholarship, but valuable as showing the fascination exercised
by Horace over the most austere and ecclesiastical of minds. It seemed
strange indeed to see the great statesman turn aside from his study of
Butler and the Fathers of the Church, in order to put into English verse
the gay, and often scandalous odes, of an old Pagan epicure. Mr. Morley,
who revised the translation, must have smiled as he read the old man's
rendering of--

    "_Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa._"

It is a fact, I suppose, that poetic translations of Horace are rarely
read, save by scholars, and the verdict is almost always unkind. Yet an
excellent anthology could be compiled by selecting the happiest
renderings of the most talented translators. Dryden's paraphrase of
III., 29, has been uniformly praised, and was a great favourite of
Thackeray's. Cowper's nimble wit and classic taste are seen in his
translation of II., 10, an ode beautifully rendered also by Mr. William
Watson. Sir Theodore Martin and Connington are always readable, Francis
is uniformly insipid, and Professor Newman, with his metrical capers,
absolutely absurd. Pope's "Imitations of Horace" are so brilliant, that
no student of English literature can afford to neglect them. Pope's
method of replacing ancient allusions by modern ones, was employed by
Johnson in some magnificent renderings of Juvenal, and no doubt
suggested to our Scotch vernacular poets a mode (still popular) of
translating Horace into Doric speech. Our Scotch bards preferred, as a
rule, to work on the Odes, and they succeeded best when they departed
most widely from the Latin text.


The same blessed quality of brevity that attracts one in Horace is to me
one of the recommendations of Shakespeare's Sonnets. I am glad the
mystery of them is never likely to be discovered. From frequent perusal
of them in the train, I know the majority by heart, but despair of
finding any cryptogram in them.

The cord on which these exquisite beads of poetry are strung is of the
most flimsy and frayed character. In other words, the characters are all
bad, and the verses that laud them are of the utmost brilliancy and
fascination. The poet himself supplies material that would justify us in
stigmatising his friend as a heartless and dissipated rogue. He also
lets us know that the pale-faced lady was an unwholesome and treacherous
minx. Yet he addresses the one in language that would be too laudatory
for Sir Galahad, and the other he idolises and insults by turns.

How strange it is that the poet, while lingering fondly over the doings
of these two un-moral persons, should give utterance to some of the most
impressive lines in English literature! Certain of the sonnets pierce
the heart as with an arrow: such are those that deal, in broad and
pathetic fashion, with the ceaseless flux of all things human, the grim
realities of the grave, the ruthless sequence of earthly events, and the
measureless melancholy of the reflecting mind. The effect produced is
often like what we experience in reading Ecclesiastes or Omar Khayyam.
"Golden lads and lasses must, like chimney-sweepers, turn to dust."

Though Shakespeare is dolefully impressed by the decay and destruction
of all material things and by the evanescent nature of beauty, he has no
doubt whatever of the immortality of the verses he is writing. He vaunts
as boldly as ever Horace did--indeed, in words that suggest the _Exegi
monumentum_ ode--that his verses will outlast the proudest works of man.
It is a sorry anti-climax to such a boast that the poet harps on the
immortality of the dissolute youth as a consequence of the sonnets
having an eternity of renown. Was there ever such a puzzling and
unworthy association of ideas? The puzzle is rendered more perplexing
still by the fact that Shakespeare took no pains to enlighten posterity
as to the identity of the youth he praises, or even to supervise the
publication of the sonnets. Thorpe's piratical edition was full of
misprints, but Shakespeare, so far as we know, took no notice of it, and
made no attempt, by giving the world a correct and authentic version, to
secure what his verses declare him to be anxious to bring about, viz.,
the renown of his friend among generations to come. For us the youth
still exists, no doubt, but not as an historical character. _He takes
his place among the creatures of the poets imagination, and is far more
of a shadow or phantom than any one of them._[14]

_If we suppose_ the sonnets to be connected with real life, it is not
easy to understand why the radiant youth, "the world's fresh ornament,"
"only herald to the gaudy spring," etc., should need such an amount of
persuasion to marry. Seventeen sonnets of great poetical beauty and
felicitous language are devoted to this object. It is an exquisite treat
to read them as works of art, but taken literally they are unspeakably
absurd. No sane man would draw out such lengths of linked sweetness for
the purpose named; nor would any youth, however credulous, _take the
sonnets at their face value_. Shakespeare is merely practising his art,
and we may be perfectly sure that these "sugared" sonnets (as Meres
calls them), if they did circulate among the poet's private friends,
were regarded as rhetorical exercises. They are intensely interesting,
as showing the overpoweringly dramatic nature of Shakespeare's genius.
Being impressed with the desirability of perpetuating beauty, he is
driven to express the idea in the conventional form of a
sonnet-sequence. The result is an exhaustiveness of treatment, a wealth
of imaginative ornament, and a dramatic vividness of presentation that
makes the reader marvel how so much could be made out of so little.

    [14] Mr. Lee has collected an amount of evidence which seems to
    prove that T. T., _i.e._, Thomas Thorpe, who wrote the
    dedication, was not only a piratical publisher, but also a
    humourist. The dedication, read in the light of these
    observations, acquires a character of jocularity, and _begetter_
    means _procurer_ or _getter_. Thorpe thus becomes what we know
    Curll to have been a century later, a printer of stolen copy,
    with a turn for cynical waggery. Mr. W. H., the begetter,
    accordingly, is not a glittering aristocrat, but an unscrupulous
    go-between, who has made free with somebody's escritoire, and
    handed the sonnets over to the gay T. T.!


There is one Greek book, of which I have gone through three or four
copies by carrying it about in the pocket for my _moments perdus_. I
refer to the _Economist_ of Xenophon, a gem of a book, and one on which
I have often lectured. The title is not an attractive one, but the body
of the work is charming in the highest degree, and gives a better notion
of ancient Greek life than any other book in existence. Ruskin, who had
an unerring instinct for good literature, got two of his disciples to
put the book into English, himself furnishing a preface of
characteristic insight and brilliancy. He might well do such homage to
the old Greek soldier, for the _Economist_ contains teaching remarkably
like what is to be found in certain of the chapters of _Unto This Last_.
A reader cannot fail to be struck by the wonderful modernness of
Xenophon's writing, his love for the country, his simple and genuine
piety, his soldierly directness, and his practical common sense. Here is
a delightful sidelight on Greek family life, written twenty-three
centuries ago, but which might have been spoken yesterday: "_My wife_,"
says one of the characters, "_often puts me on trial and takes me to
task--When I am candid and tell her everything, I get on well enough,
but if I hide or disguise anything, it goes hard with me, for I cannot
make black seem white to her._"

The _Economist_ is an ideal volume for the country calm: it will not
deliver up its best to you in the city; but if it is leisurely perused
while hayrick fragrances are in the air, while butterflies are
fluttering round the lawns, and while the flow of a clear-gushing brook
chimes with your fancy and the quiet tone of the old Greek's musings,
then (be sure) the mellow sweetness of the "Attic Bee" will be
adequately enjoyed.

It is a great pity that life is so short, that there are only
twenty-four hours in the day, and that, owing to the general scarcity of
money among the intellectual portion of the community, the possession of
free-will is a pathetic fallacy. Nobody, in these bonds of time and
space, can do precisely what he would like to do. Mr. T. P. O'Connor
once said that, if he were master of his fate, and his feet in every way
clear, he would at once proceed to Athens and learn Greek. I can
conceive no keener or greater joy than that: it is the wish of a genuine
lover of letters. At the age of ten, I came upon an old copy of Pope's
_Homer_, and have been in love with Greek literature ever since. The
cares of this world, including rates and taxes, prevent me likewise from
proceeding to the City of the Violet Crown, but there are plenty of
cheap copies of Homer to be had in Scotland, and it is no disadvantage
that some of them have the translation printed on the opposite page.

So many things have to be learned at school now, that Greek is being
pushed out. In future, it will be a University subject solely. That is a
great pity, for although there are fine translations of the Greek
authors in English, these are not so much read as they ought to be.
Greek itself would be much easier to learn if editors would write fewer
and shorter notes.[15]

    [15] Penalties of a really deterrent kind might at least be laid
    upon those gentlemen who write _more than three_ pages of notes
    to one of the author's text:

        O that the Kaiser showing sense for once
        Would loose his fury on each learned dunce,
        And visit with his summary proceedings
        The rogues who tease us with their _variant readings_.


I am always delighted to see French books on the shelves of a rural
library. I notice Dowden's _French Literature_ in many a Highland
bookcase; and I am sure it will please that erudite and most excellent
professor to know he has hundreds of students who never saw his face.
Everybody should learn the French language: I don't know a better
intellectual investment. French is rich in precisely those qualities
that English lacks. It is not necessary, for proof of that statement, to
read Gautier, Bourget, or Hugo. A daily paper from Paris supplies all
the proof required.

I freely admit that the French newspaper seems, on first acquaintance,
to be a wonderful and puzzling affair. It is never dull or tiresome, or
glum. You may have your dearest susceptibilities wounded by it, but you
won't fall asleep as you read its columns. Humour trickles from
paragraph to paragraph; wit coruscates in the accounts of the most
ordinary police cases; and abundant of dexterous literary workmanship is
to be found in the leading articles. In spite of such admirable
qualities, there is an element of frivolity, a lack of seriousness (I
speak of the typical Boulevard sheet) that is at first rather shocking
to a British reader. He finds grave subjects treated with a fineness of
touch and a lucidity of reasoning at once charming and full of
edification: but, lo! a pun trails accidentally off the journalist's
pen, or an odd collocation of ideas jostle each other in his brain: the
writer at once stops his instructive reasoning; he goes off the main
line and careers bounding down some devious side-path of entertaining
nonsense. Our home papers are almost uniformly staid; they are written
conscientiously, laboriously, commendably. But, after all, the French
are right in trying to inject as much entertainment as possible into the
daily record of mundane things.

I regret to say that the majority of French newspapers do not give their
readers a quite fair or accurate account of events happening outside of
France. French topics, as is right, have the bulk of the space, and
foreign events are usually treated in a very prejudiced and perfunctory
way. The Frenchman's enthusiasm for home politics does not leave him
much emotion to spare for the rest of the world. Political life with him
is always more or less in a state of turmoil. There is usually some
scandalous _affaire_ afoot or impending, to which political import can
easily be given. Many of the most talented editors, being members of the
Chamber, import into their articles much of the heat and unreasoning
vehemence engendered by the violence of direct debate. There has always
been a feeling since the _great_ Revolution that _others_ might follow,
and that one or other of the royal gentlemen of this or that
disestablished race might, by some cyclone of popular or military
sympathy, be blown back to power in Paris. Unluckily, there are far too
many parties in France, far too many nicknames, badges, and shibboleths.
The language of political discussion is bitter, and heated beyond
anything the cooler Anglo-Saxon would tolerate. And yet, amid all such
electric discharges of wordy rancour, the French nation goes on its way
rejoicing, not a penny the worse, making wines, silks, and fashions, for
an ungrateful world.

There is now, and always has been, a strange sympathy between France and
Scotland. A Scot learns French, as a rule, easily. One of the striking
differences between dialect Scotch and book English is precisely the
peculiar French ingredients in the former. For three hundred years the
two countries were allies, and the advantages to England may be gathered
from the remark of King Henry V. in Shakespeare's play--

    "For you shall read that my great-grandfather
    Never went with his forces into France,
    But that the Scot on his unfurnished kingdom,
    Came rolling like the tide into the breach."


One French book that has solaced my leisure (in train, steamer, and
trap), is that altogether delectable volume _Gil Blas_. It would be
worth learning French to be able to read the book in the original. The
characters are non-moral reprobates who lie, rob, and drink with the
most unaffected sincerity. Vice loses all its grossness, and becomes
intensely entertaining. The tone of the confessions is at once subtle
and naïve, tragic and trivial, comic and pathetic. The humour is
absolutely colossal: many English books, alleged to be humorous, do not
contain, in their entire bulk, as much humour as a single chapter of
this great work. For brilliancy of style it stands very high, and few
authors, either in France or elsewhere, have attained such admirable
clearness, precision, and pith. Read _Gil Bias_, say I, if you wish to
appreciate the possibilities of the French tongue, and taste all the
delicate flavour of its racy idiom.


There is a well-known text of Scripture, "In my father's house are many
mansions" which, with a slight turn, might be applied to the House of
Literature. There is room there for every pure and beautiful expression
of human thought and emotion. Romance and Augustanism have both the
right of entry.

I am glad to see that Alexander Pope, the cleverest of our English
bards, is still a popular favourite wherever I go. It would be a pity if
this were not so, for he is head of the guild of Queen Anne wits, and
no one of them can rival his instinctive delicacy, careful workmanship,
and crystalline lucidity. His skill in the coining of impressive
aphoristic couplets is unrivalled: it is almost as good as a novel
addition to truth to find an old maxim supplied with the winged words of
such a consummate verbal artist. Pope is a writer who appeals directly
to all readers, for he never hides poverty of thought in a cloud of
vague words.

In Pope and his fellows we miss the lavish magnificence and unchartered
freedom of the spacious times of great Elizabeth. Instead of Spenser's
amazing luxuriance of matter and metre, we have a neat uniformity and
trim array of couplets, which suggest the constant supervision of the
pruning craftsman. Compared with the Elizabethans, Pope's time has less
wealth but more careful mintage, less power but more husbanding of
strength, fewer flights of imagination but finer flutterings of fancy,
little humour but abundance of clear and sparkling wit. _It is not a
difficult task, by means of suitable selections, to bring home to an
audience of crofters the salient differences between the poetry of Pope
and of Spenser._

It is also easy to show to any audience that the quality which pleases
to such a high degree in poems like the _Highland Lass_ and _Yarrow
Revisited_, there is a romantic charm and thrilling magic which Pope
never could produce. A line or two from one of the poems cited has a far
more potent effect over the affections of the heart than the gorgeous
declamatory rhetoric of _Eloisa and Abelard_. But it would be foolish
to suppose that because Pope has not the passion for nature nor the glow
of self-oblivious benevolence, he has not highly educative and estimable
features. He should not be censured for what he never meant to supply:
we should rather strive to cultivate catholicity of taste by extracting
from his poems the information and enjoyment they are so well able to

The Prologue of Pope's _Satires_ is, of course, the best introduction to
a systematic study of the works of this writer. That poem is the
masterpiece of Pope's volume, and exemplifies better than any other
piece the striking and brilliant qualities for which he is so famous. In
perusing it, the reader soon discovers that he is in presence of a work
which is the result of incessant and prolonged labour, and which,
consequently, deserves patient study. The works of a great technical
artist require such elaborate treatment if the force of their genius is
to be adequately felt.


If any man proposes to stay a month among scenery of hill, mountain, and
lake, I should advise him to slip a copy of Wordsworth into his pocket,
and read therefrom an hour daily; not hurrying over the pages, but
turning aside, now and again, to take in the glory of pinewood, heather,
and linn. In no volume, ancient or modern, can a tired man find such
soft and genial balm for his weariness as in the calm pages of the Rydal
singer. The poet is at his best in the broad region of natural religion.
He looks round on the beauties of the world with that solemn awe a man
feels in the hallowed precincts of a mediæval temple. The grandeur and
mystery of the world throw him into a kind of enchantment: his own soul
and that of the universe touch and commune with each other. In his rapt
verses we feel some of that mystic thrill felt by a devotee in the open
sanctuary of the Almighty. No man ever interpreted Nature in such
inspired strains as William Wordsworth. What supremely delights the
lover of scenery is that this poet's muse can overwrap the exact and
detailed knowledge of Nature with a superb mantle of idealistic glory.
He saw and understood the harmony of Nature's forms and colours through
all the seasons: at the quiet ingleside he meditated on what he had seen
and heard, enshrined these in verse, and added to them the warmth of his
own devout and sensitive soul. There is no exaggeration in Arnold's

    "He laid us, as we lay at birth,
    On the cool, flowery lap of earth,
    Smiles broke from us, and we had ease;
    The hills were round us, and the breeze
    Went o'er the sunlit fields again.
    Our foreheads felt the wind and rain,
    Our youth returned; for there was shed
    On spirits that had long been dead--
    Spirits dried up and closely furled--
    The freshness of the early world."

Of Wordsworth and his successor, Tennyson, it is impossible to speak
save in terms of affectionate gratitude. God looked kindly on Britain
when he sent two such men to minister to us. Tennyson did more than all
the bishops of the Church of England to stifle crude infidelity and
equally crude religious bigotry. There is not a single line he ever
wrote of which in his last days he had need, from the point of view of
truth and morality, to be ashamed. He increased the world's stock of
happiness by poems which have been the solace of men and women in the
hours of darkness and doubt, which have led men to rise to nobler things
on the stepping-stones of their dead selves, and which, I am certain,
his grateful fellow-countrymen will not willingly let die.

It is not the least of Tennyson's claims to our gratitude that his
genius was sensitive alike to the beauties of Celtic and of Anglo-Saxon
verse. It would be difficult to overpraise his masterly rendering of the
"Battle of Brunanburh," a vigorous old poem he found in the _Saxon
Chronicle_. Equally fine is his "Voyage of Maeldune," founded on a
Celtic legend of the seventh century. Those who wish to know what is
meant by Celtic glamour should read the last-named poem without delay.


Between the literatures of the Celt and the Saxon there are, indeed,
well-marked differences. The Anglo-Saxons were a set of enterprising
pirates, who drove their keels over the misty ocean, came to Britain and
took forcible possession of it, dispersing or enslaving the original
possessors. They left a literature which is, in many respects, highly
interesting, but is in the main devoid of sunshine, humour, and
sprightliness. The old poem of "Beowulf," with its rough and sturdy
verses, all splashed with brine, contains very few figures of speech: it
is a poem, but not markedly poetical; it is solid and impressive, but
not beautiful. Now, no one can read Celtic poetry, even in translation,
without being powerfully struck by its refined beauty and mystic
romance. The metaphors and similes are somewhat too abundant. The
typical Anglo-Saxon has a firm grip of the world, but is not poetical
enough; the Celt, on the other hand, is probably too much of a dreamer
and a poet--he sits on the hill-side (forgetting sometimes to till it)
and muses on fairies, second-sight, and enchantments. St. Paul used the
right word in speaking to the old world Gaels, _i.e._, Galatians: "O
foolish Galatians, who hath _bewitched_ you?" (τίς ὑμᾱς ἐβάσκανε;)

Combine these two races in the right proportion, and you get an
admirable blend. It is not for me to say where the just man made perfect
is to be found, the man in whom the elements--practical and
poetical--are mixed in such exquisite proportion, that Nature might
stand up and say, "_There is a man_." What is certain, is that there is
a very pronounced strain of Celtic blood coursing through the veins of
the average Scotch Lowlander. Few Scots have to rummage far among their
ancestry before they find a piece of tartan: such mixture of genealogy
probably accounts for much that is best in their composition.

The supposition that the Scotch race-combination is Celt and Saxon, and
only that, is of course erroneous. There is a very marked Scandinavian
element both in the east and the west of the country. In the year 1600
A.D., the Norse tongue was spoken all over the Long Island from the Butt
of Lewis to Barra. Certainly, in Lewis and Skye, an enormous number of
the place-names are Scandinavian, and date from a time when the
sea-kings had dominion over the islands of the West. Many fascinating
problems of ethnology continue to occupy the attention of investigators,
and are not likely to be settled for a long time to come. One thing is
abundantly clear, viz., that purity of race and speech does not exist in
any county of Scotland: everywhere there is a mixture of blood and

    [16] Mr. Tocher, a Peterhead gentleman, has adopted a special
    line of investigation. He has sent out schedules to every school
    in Scotland asking for detailed information as to the colour of
    the eyes and hair of the boys and girls. His desire is to
    connect _pigmentation_ and race-origin. He believes it is still
    possible to get definite information, by such means, of the
    settlement and blending of Picts, Celts, Norsemen, and



    Sectarian feeling--Typical anecdotes--Music and
    religion--Ethical teaching in schools--The Moderates--A savoury
    book--The Sabbath--"The Men of Skye"--The auldest kirk--The
    Episcopal Church--An interlude of metre--The Christian
    Brethren--Drimnin in Morven--Craignish--A model
    minister--Ministerial trials in olden times--An artful
    dodger--Some anecdotes from Gigha--Growing popularity of Ruskin.


In a small country township, all the influences that operate to divide
men into sects and parties are keenly and continuously felt. To a
dweller there, it is well-nigh impossible to keep out of the arena of
strife. Now that there is so much confusion and division in religious
matters, strong feeling is more easily stirred on any secular subject
that may happen to arise for discussion. If the Wee Frees, for example,
desire a new road in a certain direction, the United Frees will probably
deride the scheme and unanimously petition against it. Their antipathy
to each other becomes envenomed by their persistent proximity: if you
are a villager, you cannot get away from your adversary--in the morning,
when looking out of the window, you see him tilling his croft, mending
his nets, or washing his face in a tub at his front door. The fact that
he is there is an obstacle to your peace of mind. If you did not see
him so often, you would more readily come to believe that he possessed a
conscience and some shred of principle and decent doctrine.

In a distant seaside town a library had been procured, and (though
doctrine was not at stake at all) a most virulent debate at once arose
as to where it should be housed. The United Frees voted for the school;
the Wee Frees called aloud for the post-office. It would require the pen
of Dean Swift (who did such justice to the strife between the
Big-Endians and Little-Endians) to recount in appropriate style the
intrigues and stratagems of the rival religionists. The local teacher
did not wish the books in school _because_ the proposal came from the
enemy. He was powerfully supported by all the young fellows of the
place, whose reverence for him, born of recent severe whackings, was
limitless. This teacher had an eloquent and vitriolic tongue, and
delivered himself thus: "What have I not done for the island? What have
these reprobates ever done? Who was it that got the frequent Macbrayne
connection with the mainland? _I did._ Who got up the concert to buy
seats for visitors coming north from Glasgow? And yet for every blessing
I give them, I get ten curses. _But I'll choke them yet._" It was
needless for the United Frees to demand a plebiscite--or, as they called
it, a _ple-biscuit_--the dominie was too forceful, persistent, and
phraseful for them, and at the public meeting he laughed down a teetotal
opponent by singing out: "Sit down on your seat, man; _it's the drink
that's speaking, no' you!_"

No matter what the subject may be, there is usually a smack of
ecclesiasticism in the ordinary give-and-take of conversation. I cannot
illustrate this better than by giving the Lewis man's reply to an
enquiry as to _how his wooden leg was behaving_. The enquirer was a
newly-elected United Free elder, while he of the timber toes was a
staunch Disruptionist. "Well," said the latter, "my wooden leg is not
unlike a U. F. elder; it's not exactly perfection, but, considering
everything, we must just be putting up with what we can get." This was
said at a time when the Wee Frees were in a big majority in certain
parts of the Highlands, and when, as a consequence, United Free elders
had to be selected out of diminished congregations.


The venerable Lord Halsbury, so well known for his judgment in the great
Church case, resided, shortly after the decision, in the neighbourhood
of Forres. Men plucked each other by the sleeve as he passed along the
street, and pointed with awe to the keen-witted lawyer who had caused
such a kick-up in the realm. His most innocent doings were watched. One
day he went into a book-shop and made a purchase. When he came out, in
rushed a brace of theologians to enquire what he had bought. It turned
out that he had purchased a copy of _Comic Cuts_. The news was all round
Forres in an hour's time, and caused much consternation. "What great men
do, the less will prattle of," and it is so difficult for the former to
act up to their heroic rôle.

How thoroughly our dear native land has enjoyed its theological battles!
Will there ever be a truce to the long wars of faith? One cannot see
much ground for a too sanguine hope. After a library had been given to a
little village in the West, I paid the usual visit to the place, and
requested a free expression of views as to the suitability of the books
that had been given. One venerable old native, with eyes of fire, called
out: "_This Paisley Library has one fatal lack: it contains no works on
controversial divinity._" I ventured to hint that perhaps the omission
was intentional, but that he absolutely refused to believe.

Coming through the Sound of Mull one blustery November day, I heard a
most animated discussion on the question "Has the Deity unlimited Free
Will?" The disputants had all the appearance of sensible crofters--they
certainly talked more intelligibly than most commentators on Kant. Some
of the ship's crew joined in the talk in such a way as to show that they
understood perfectly well the question at issue. Every member of the
ring was wet (the rain was coming down in torrents during the whole
argument), but neither "Ayes" nor "Noes" would admit defeat. When the
boat touched the terminus of Tobermory, much still remained to be said,
and the amateur theologians retired to sum up in a local bar-room. The
incident is characteristic, and could have happened in no other country
but Scotland. Presbyterianism has made the Scot somewhat too
disputatious, but it is surely better to see a man interested in
religion than in nothing at all.

Talking of the union of the Free and U.P. Churches, I am reminded of a
laughable tale told of a Hebridean minister. "Themselves and their
Union, I say, themselves and their Union," he remarked; "I will have
nothing to do with it. I was born Free, ordained Free; I have lived
Free, and I will die Free." "But what about the stipend, Angus?" said
his wife, douce and cautious woman. "Ah, the stipend! Well, if I lose my
stipend, you will have to put on a short petticoat, strap a creel on
your back, and sell _fush_." "And what will you do, Angus, when I'm away
selling _fush_?" "Oh, I will stay at home and pray for a blessing on
your efforts."

The use of Scriptural expressions undoubtedly gives great force to the
language of every-day life. As is well known, certain classes in cookery
have recently been established in a few northern villages. A Highland
minister, in publicly commending these classes, remarked, with a rueful
grimace: "I _do_ wish such classes as these had been in existence when
my wife was young; for, as it is, every dinner she serves up to me is
either a _burnt offering or a bloody sacrifice_!"

The following story comes from a minister in the neighbourhood of Loch
Awe. "A clergyman of my acquaintance was stationed in a poor parish near
my own, and he called on the local laird for financial aid to help on
some of the church schemes. This laird was a well-known philanthropist,
but the call was made at the wrong psychological moment, for he chanced
on this particular day to be in a very bad humour. He listened to the
minister with great impatience, and at last, bounding to his feet and
pointing to the door, he shouted: 'Silver and gold have I none, but such
as I have, give I unto thee: in the name of Beelzebub, rise and

It was my unfortunate experience to witness a great amount of sectarian
strife in the north and west during my various visits. Sometimes my
prospective chairman was unable to preside, owing to his having taken
part in a doctrinal scuffle, and having his coat torn, and his church
captured. These fantastic doings are in no way edifying, and are
extremely shocking to our national pride.

Theologically, many districts of the Highlands have not advanced beyond
the stage occupied by Lowland Scotland in the time of Burns. In certain
parishes, the communion is dispensed in the open air, in the way
familiar to readers of the "Holy Fair." Sky overhead, grassy turf
beneath, solemnity, sobs, and sighs all around, certainly make up a most
impressive whole. The sermon is unmercifully long--two hours, at least:
probably, if translated into English, and shorn of repetitions, it could
be given in one-fourth of the time. If you or I, dear Lowlander, should
stand on the outside of the crowd, and appear more curious than devout,
we should certainly be alluded to in the sermon as _those wicked
people_. The discourses are no gilt-edged harangues dealing with the
"larger hope," and larded with quotations from Tennyson and Browning.
They are, on the contrary, full of Tartarean sulphur and strange fire,
and rich in grotesque illustrations, of which this is a sample: "My
friends, crowds of loathsome fiends are sent by the Prince of the Power
of the Air to tempt us to our destruction. They hang over us waiting for
their opportunity, just like a regiment of black crows hovering over a

I am afraid that crude Calvinism, as preached in certain parts of the
north, is nothing less than monstrous. The good God, beneficent Father
of us all, is unrecognizable when eternal reprobation is represented as
the inevitable fate of the vast majority of His children. In time, no
doubt (and the sooner the better), the results of modern theological
thought will penetrate into the uttermost nooks of the land.


It is not easy to see why religion should be associated with gloom and
disheartening ugliness. The long-drawn music of an Old Testament psalm
is not without a certain doleful impressiveness, but the human soul
needs occasional stimulus, even on Sundays, of something less
lugubrious. Certain congregations hate hymns: they consider them carnal
and uninspired. As for organ-music in a church, that would be _praising
God by machinery_, a preposterous and intolerable approximation to
Popery. Not long ago, a poor crofter in a Hebridean township, came to
his minister, requesting that good man's offices for the christening of
a child. The crofter in question was the possessor of an asthmatic old
concertina, and the clergyman, before the rite of admission to the
visible church could be performed, insisted on the annihilation of the
ungodly instrument of music. The minister, in person, visited the croft,
and disabled the concertina with a hammer. The child was then
christened, and the clerical zany strode off victorious, feeling he had
done a good day's work for Heaven. "Who ever heard of the Apostle Paul
playing on an organ?" was the question once propounded by Dr. Begg. The
argument was a splendid _reductio ad absurdum_, and resembles the old
reason for the reluctance of the peasantry to eat potatoes, because no
mention was made of them in Holy Writ. But songs and music are filtering
into the glens, in an official way, by the agency of the Scotch
Education Department. Musical drill is a feature of the school-room, and
it is a joy to think that such is the case. Some of the old folk,
however, look on astounded and shocked; they shake their heads, and
would, if they could, abolish such frivolity. "Why all this singing and
tramping?" said a Skyeman to me once. "What good will all the songs of
the world do to a man when he comes to his death-bed? I would rather,
this very moment, sit down in a public-house, and drink till I was
intoxicated, than screech and howl these worldly airs." Life was not so
absurd in the days of the Catholic ascendency. But human nature is
slowly asserting itself, and the days of the glum tyrannical zealot are
assuredly numbered.


In some districts of the North, the inspectors have considerable trouble
with certain teachers of the devout type who, from conscientious
scruples, refuse to read to the children anything in the nature of a
fairy tale. While examining a class in a remote Sutherland school, an
inspector requested the schoolmaster to narrate to the children, in
Gaelic, the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and get them thereafter to
put it into English. But the teacher most emphatically refused: "No, no,
I cannot do that: it is all a lie; wolves do not speak; _no animal
speaks_." The inspector, to refute him, unwisely alluded to the
Scripture account of Balaam's ass in the twenty-second chapter of
Numbers; whereupon, the dominie nearly swooned at the impiety of
comparing that inspired animal with a secular beast like Grimm's wolf.
For some time after, the inspector was bombarded with anonymous letters,
accusing him of habitually _sitting in the scorner's chair_. He was
terrified lest some Member of Parliament, eager for a grievance, should
be got to move the adjournment of the House of Commons, with the
righteous object of directing the attention of Government to Little Red
Riding Hood and the naughty inspector of schools.[17]

The question of religious teaching in schools is capable of an easy
solution, and we in the south have come pretty near solving it. The best
solution is to have no dogma at all in the school-room. The Catechism
and Prayer-book are excellent in their way, but the school is no place
for them. We have a very complete and extensive organisation of churches
in the land, and an army of officials ordained to teach doctrines and
tenets: let them take up the inculcation of creeds and rites, but don't
let us perplex the school children with catechisms and metaphysical
definitions. It is easy to make a distinction between morality and
doctrine--a distinction which is alike clear and reasonable. Morality is
an earthly and secular affair, and has to do with matters of elementary
honesty such as every responsible citizen of a free country ought to
practice. Religion is a higher affair, dealing with our relationship to
the unseen: it is outside the province of the teacher, and should not be
thrust into the school programme along with history and geography and
grammar. Morality is of this world: religion of the next. Let everything
be kept in its proper place. As to that division of duty which deals
with right conduct, there is no controversy whatever. _Thou shalt not
steal_; _thou shalt not bear false witness_--these, and the like
elementary rules of conduct, are universally admitted to be right, for
they are the groundwork of society. Take these away, and the world
lapses into chaos. The following virtues are capable of being taught in
schools:--(1) a strict adherence to the truth; (2) the application of
the golden rule; (3) cheerful obedience at the call of duty; (4)
reverence and respect for everything noble and great in the history of
the world. These can all be taught, and are actually taught, by every
conscientious teacher in the country. They constitute not the whole of
duty, indeed, but the most difficult part of it--certainly all that need
come into the realm of pedagogy.

    [17] How differently the items in the Sacred Canon are regarded
    in scholastic circles in the South! A Glasgow teacher, discussing
    the Origin of Evil with a Government official, expressed great
    resentment at the loss of paradise through Adam's sin, and added:
    "It comes specially hard on me, seeing that I don't care a
    _docken_ for apples."


_Ami lecteur_, have you ever heard of the _Moderates_? If, by chance,
you have dipped into the interminable controversies that gyrated round
the Disruption year, it is probable you may have heard more than enough
of them. One gets the impression that they were an unimpassioned,
easy-going, anti-brimstone, but highly estimable body of men. They were
blamed for preaching morality and not the penetrating mysteries of the
faith. In "The Holy Fair," Burns gives us an inimitable picture of the
moral philosopher in the pulpit:--

    "But hark! the tent has changed its voice,
      There's peace an' rest nae langer,
    For a' the real judges rise--
      They canna sit for anger.
    Smith opens out his cauld harangues
      On practice and on morals,
    An' aff the godly pour in thrangs
      To gie the jars an' barrels
                A lift that day.

    "What signifies his barren shine
      Of moral powers an' reason?
    His English style and gesture fine
      Are a' clean out o' season.
    Like Socrates or Antonine,
      Or some auld pagan heathen,
    The moral man he does define,
      But ne'er a word o' faith in
                That's richt that day."

I confess to a certain liking for Smith. He knew what was good for the
Holy Willies and the other "chosen samples" and "swatches o' grace" in
his auditory. Like a sensible man, and like the Apostle James, he laid
more stress on "practice and on morals" than on lip-worship and faith.
"Faith without works is dead" is a dictum that needs to be incessantly
emphasised, and nowhere more than in certain ultra-orthodox localities
of Scotland at the present day.

The Established Church is, with few exceptions, a negligible
denomination in the Hebrides. For some reason it is regarded as the
modern representative of the Moderate or Broad type of Calvinistic
Christianity, and, as such, an abomination to the zealots. To show what
a poor hold the Establishment has in Lewis, it is enough to remark that
there are in that island only 183 Auld Kirk communicants out of a
population of 32,947. Figures almost equally striking could be given for
the Presbyteries of Uist, Skye, and Glenelg. The chief occupation of
some parish ministers in insular Scotland must be that of killing time.
I once met one of these reverend gentlemen in one of the hotels in
Stornoway. He seemed to take a pleasure in running contrary to all the
darling prejudices of the islanders. Dancing he approved of; he did not
believe in prefacing his prayer or homily with a sanctimonious whine;
and he actually was willing to admit that a few Catholics might get to
heaven. An equally glaring fault--in the eyes of bigotry, I mean--was
that he _dropped into poetry_ at stated times, and sent his Gaelic
verses to one of the Highland newspapers. The Parish Church buildings,
in many localities of the West Highlands, are in a woeful state of
disrepair. They have a prevailing odour of must and damp; the seats are
hard deal, unkind to the human anatomy; doors and windows rattle and
shake during the service; creeping things move along the walls;
sometimes the floors are nothing but the uneven and unconcealed Scottish
earth. In such churches, there is some credit in being devout.


An outstanding member of the clan Macdonald, for some time minister at
Applecross, deserves a cordial vote of thanks for a savoury book he has
written on the social and religious condition of the Highlands. He is
not a bit scared by the Darwinian theory of evolution. "We have a good
deal in common," he says, "with the brute creation, and have no cause to
feel ourselves degraded on that account. The lower animals, not
excluding the much-despised monkey, are specimens of divine workmanship
which _reflect the highest honour on the skill and power of the Maker_."
Could any admission be more handsome or candid than that?

I have learned a great deal from Mr. Macdonald's cheery and broad-minded
volume. He is strong in history, and has had, it would seem, access to
information that is closed to the general eye. There is a glorious
simplicity in his views on Caledonian ethnology. A roguish prince,
Gathelus, son of the king of Greece, migrated to Egypt, and married
Scota, daughter of that Pharaoh who persecuted the Israelites. The
various plagues "that o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung," terrified
Gathelus, and he flitted in hot haste to Spain, and called his followers
Scots, to please his wife. Later in life, he sent his son Hiber to
Ireland, where the lad settled, and named the island after his noble
self, Hibernia. Scots continued to pour into Ireland, _viâ_ the Bay of
Biscay, and finally, under Simon Brek, subdued the entire extent of the
Green Island. In 360 A.D., they came over to Argyllshire, and aided the
indigenous Picts (who were also Celts) against the legions of Rome. This
is so compact and clear an account, that I wish it were true. The way in
which sacred and profane history are blended strikes me as singularly

Mr. Macdonald has an intimate knowledge of Celtic superstitions, and
always castigates the right thing. Certain diseases of the brain were,
till quite recently, believed to be curable if the afflicted man could
procure a suicide's skull and take a drink out of it. Mr. Macdonald
rightly dwells upon the absurdity of such a specific, but confesses that
one might as well try to "bale out the Atlantic" as eradicate the
foolish pagan notions that still linger in the glens.

Ministers have a great deal of captious criticism to stand, if we may
judge by Mr. Macdonald's anecdotes. They are blamed for terminating
their discourses _with a silver tail_ (_i.e._, intimating a special
collection). The sermon itself is not immune from cruel jests, as the
following report of a parishioner's criticism will show: "A minister is
like a joiner. The joiner takes a piece of wood and shapes it roughly
with the axe. Then he applies his rough plane, and smooths it down a
bit. After that, he takes his fine plane; and, lastly, he rubs it with
sandpaper, and finishes it with polish till he makes it appear like
glass. And so with the minister: he works his sermon, from sheet to
sheet, with pen and ink, till he makes it at last so smooth _that a
flea could not stand on it_."[18]

    [18] Ministers, being public men, are, of course, as Mr.
    Macdonald means to point out, exposed to the criticism,
    frequently so absurd, that eminence entails. I recently examined
    the bye-laws of a literary association in Ross-shire, of which
    the president is a sheep-farmer, and the secretary, a postman. It
    is a rule of this association that no minister is ever to be
    president, the reason assigned being that ministers would try to
    elevate the natives _too hurriedly_. The people do not object to
    be elevated, but they wish the process to be performed without
    unnecessary haste.


I was not a little surprised during my attendance at Highland churches
to hear the ministers devoting much strong rhetoric to the sin of
Sabbath-breaking. Taking the air on the first day of the week for quiet
meditation and the good of one's health, has always seemed to me a
laudable practice, but in many Highland parishes, a Sunday stroll
implies ungodliness, even although the stroller may have attended one or
more diets of worship earlier in the day. Such a state of matters is
preposterously absurd, and, to my thinking, quite irreligious--it at
least tends to make hypocrites. Some years ago, I spent a week in a
typical insular village, lodging in the local inn. It was noticeable
that on Sundays, the front blinds of the house were never drawn up. When
the church-bells tolled the hour for public worship, the solemn devotees
could be seen (through holes in the blind) pacing along, looking fixedly
at the toes of their boots. The landlord of the house thought it no sin
to observe the passers-by, so long as he could do so in a clandestine
way. He had no desire to mend the blind.

The restfulness and peace of a British Sunday is a blessed thing, as
every Briton who has been long resident abroad, will readily admit.
There is, however, a reasonable medium to be found between the unnatural
Calvinistic Sabbath (with its limited view of the world through a torn
blind) and the Continental Sunday, gay with skipping and junketing.
Within recent years, to some extent owing to the bicycle and motor-car,
the Sabbath has become rather too animated and bustling. The change is
perhaps not entirely regrettable. The terrible Sunday dulness of some of
our large towns has been, of late years, rendered less oppressive by the
opening of museums and art galleries. I heard a man of fifty confess
that in his boyhood he prayed fervently once, and only once, a week: the
prayer in question was said on Sunday evening, and consisted of a
heartfelt ejaculation of thanks to Heaven that the holy day was over for
another week.

Church-going is a splendid and salutary practice, and every man who does
not base his life on some religious sanction, is leading a mutilated
life. There is such a thing, however, as ecclesiastical dyspepsia, a
disease engendered by forced attendance at too many religious services
when one is young. The disease is unfortunately apt to develop in mature
years, into complete indifference to doctrine of all kinds.

After all, doctrine is largely useful as a mental exercise, and may
easily become divorced from practical honesty. Not once but fifty times
have I been told that the village experts in theology were precisely the
men who needed most watching in mundane matters. "So-and-so is a
specialist on the millennium: _beware of him_." "Old Duncan is the
strictest Sabbatarian in the island, but on Monday he's worth keeping an
eye on." "Many a man that keeps the fourth commandment is not so
particular about the others." Such are the phrases one is perpetually
hearing, and they go far to prove how inoperative are ritual,
profession, and form, in the life of some Christians.

To keep the ten commandments, or rather, I should say, the eleven, is no
easy matter for either Celt or Saxon. It is far easier to be
ostentatiously religious than scrupulously moral, to say prayers than to
pay debts, to split hairs of doctrine than to love your enemies. I never
read a more markedly scriptural book than _The Men of Skye_, nor one
that displays such intolerance to the school of Laodiceans. I am not
insensible to the intense enthusiasm of the author for the memory of the
illiterate catechists who went round the island preaching to the people
in a homely and graphic way. The unlovely feature of the book is the
antagonism displayed towards those who wish to bring about a union of
the Presbyterian bodies. "Not all the cement outside of heaven," one man
says, "could bring about a union of the Free and U.P. Churches." The
Declaratory Act, secular teaching in schools, instrumental music, and
such like, all come in for severe treatment or ironical reference.


The book to which I have referred (_The Men of Skye_) gives a wonderful
insight into the religious psychology of the Celtic zealot. It was in
Portree that I first got a look at the little work, which consists of a
series of biographies of outstanding lay preachers. I enjoyed the
perusal of it immensely, and I am afraid the pious author will regard me
as little better than one of the wicked when I say that I had many a
hearty laugh at its contents. I am very unwilling to seek gaiety in
pious books, very averse to laugh at honest, heart-felt beliefs, but the
author of _The Men of Skye_ was too many for me. His quaint metaphors,
droll tenses and unlicensed syntax, were a perpetual feast of nectared

The language in which the book is written is not Gaelic, though it has
not quite reached the stage of English. The following extract is a
typical one: "John Mackenzie lived at Galtrigil, was a God-fearing man,
and professed religion, and his conduct was worthy of his profession,
consistent in all its parts. He was employed as fishcurer to Dr. Martin.
When he would be busy in the store, on the shore, his wife would go down
with his food. He had a large heap of salt beside him, but he was so
scrupulously conscientious that when she took down an egg, she would
need also to bring from his own house the grain of salt he would put in
it. He would not take so much as a grain of salt that was not his own.
He was careful about what belonged to the cause of Christ, and would
like to know that those who took up a profession of religion had
undergone what he termed a _clean conversion_."

Some of the stories told of Angus Macleod, are altogether unique: "He
was one day entrusted with the herding of the minister's cattle, but
while he prayed, the cattle made their way into the corn. The minister
came out and began to advise and rebuke him, but Angus said, 'Let the
righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it
shall be an excellent oil which shall not break my head.'" (Psalm cxli.
5.) I consider that story and the two which follow quite equal, in their
diverting pointlessness, to any of those told by Cicero in _De Oratore_,
Book ii. At one time it was thought advisable to teach Angus how to
read, but he never could be got to master the alphabet. He would utter
aloud the following reflections: "_A_ _b_, _ab_: Ah! that is but dry.
There is no food there for my soul. There is no word about Christ or God
there, no word about forgiveness of sin. I would rather be at the back
of a dyke where I would get a moment of the presence of the Lord." As
Angus usually replied to his associates by a text of Scripture, he must
have had a good ear for Holy Writ. "His father was one day repairing a
dyke. Angus tried to assist him and broke the spade. His father's temper
was roused, and he ran after his son to punish him. Angus ran away
calling out, 'Oh, Lord, avenge me of mine adversary.'" On one occasion,
when asked why he had refused to pray in public, he replied that it was
out of his power to do so at the time. "Why," said his interlocutor,
"Jonah was able to pray even in the whale's belly." "Yes, yes," said
Angus, "but I was in a worse state than Jonah: for the whale was in my

It may not be unnecessary to state that the word Men in the title of the
book is to be understood as meaning "men of exceptional piety." The word
is a technical one in that sense. All the _men_ I have read about were
fervid Frees, many of them being elders and catechists in that body.
After the Disruption, there was a wonderful crop of these men produced
in the Highlands, and through their means, _religion became a very real
and forcible affair_. Their attitude to life and general outlook on the
world are quite unlike anything to be found among the luke-warm
believers of the Laodicean South. We read of one zealot devoting a whole
winter to the task of combating shinty and tobacco. It is impossible to
withhold some measure of admiration from Christians so staunch, logical,
and uncompromising. _Logical?_ Well, here at least is a gem of
ratiocination. What, for example, was the cause that forced so many
Skyemen to emigrate to the Canadian plains and the Australian bush? The
fathers of Skye believed that the crofters, having insufficiently
appreciated the unique opportunities of divine worship at home, were
driven by a wrathful deity over the water to a land where there were
_few or no Presbyterian Churches_.


There are some parts of Scotland that the Reformation seems never to
have reached. I have been told that up till this day no Protestant
minister ever preached in Morar (the delightful spot, with lake of same
name, near Mallaig), and that in consequence Catholics call it "Blessed
Morar" (_Morar Bheanaichte_). There is a Catholic strip of country,
extending right through the heart of Scotland, along the Caledonian
Canal; aristocrats, chiefs, and crofters there boast that their
ecclesiastical history goes back, uncontaminated by schisms and private
judgment, right to the time of Ninian and Columba.

It appears evident that the iconoclastic Parliament of 1560, which made
it unlawful to obey the Pope or say mass, pretty effectually paralysed
the Catholic Church in the land. Only in secluded districts, such as
Uist, Barra, Morar, Arisaig, and Glengarry, were the faithful safe from
prosecution. The organisation of the Church was maimed and broken, and
hundreds of priests took to flight. To use the cruel words of Milton--

                          "Then might ye see
    Cowls, hoods, and habits, with their wearers, tossed
    And fluttered into rags; then relics, beads,
    Indulgences, dispenses, pardons, bulls--
    The sport of winds."

Having visited a fair number of Catholic districts in the West of
Scotland, I have given myself the pleasure of reading, as far as is
available, the historical records of the Pope's faithful adherents
there. _These are most interesting as showing the pertinacity of
religious faith among the most hostile surroundings._ The Scots College
at Rome, founded by Clement VIII., supplied a large number of priests,
who spread themselves abroad in the glens, and kept the old faith from
completely perishing. The Roman Catholic College at Scanlan, on the
Braes of Glenlivet, was a turf-built erection, dating from 1712. It was
often compulsorily closed and the students dispersed. The most important
school for priests in the West was at Buorblach, near Morar. Here the
aspirants for priesthood studied for a year or two, after which they
proceeded to some one of the Scots colleges abroad--such as Paris,
Ratisbon, Valladolid, or Rome. Those students who received the whole of
their instruction at home, and got ordained without going abroad, were
styled _heather priests_.

The best-known Catholic township of the West Highlands at the present
time is undoubtedly Arisaig, a charming spot, where the mild air allows
the wild flowers to spring in profusion and where the fuchsia thrives
better than anywhere else in Scotland. There is a strikingly elegant
Catholic Church here, built on a commanding site that dominates the bay.
In September, 1904, I addressed a meeting in the Astley Hall of Arisaig,
under the genial chairmanship of the Clerk of the House of Commons. The
audience was overwhelmingly Catholic, and it was quite evident that all
were keenly appreciative of the library that had recently been sent to
the district. It gave me no ordinary pleasure to note that the literary
society of the place was made up of both Catholics and Protestants, and
that all the inhabitants, forgetting their religious differences, could
assemble together as friends on the common meeting-ground of literature.
Such an amalgamation is bound to mitigate the sectarian rancour that
too often works like a pestilence in small villages and rural
communities. It is an excellent feature, too, in such places as Arisaig,
that the local priest gives every encouragement to his people to read
and study secular books of an elevating character. It would be strange
indeed if the representative of a Church which in mediæval times gave
such splendid encouragement to art and letters, should deem it a duty to
prohibit his people from availing themselves of the means of culture.

It undoubtedly comes as a surprise to a Lowlander, who is prone to think
that every born Scot is necessarily a born Protestant, to find in remote
nooks of his native country, home-grown specimens of the faith that was
once prevalent everywhere. He has to sit down and muse on the hillside
over the matter, and, if he is imaginative, he will see by fancy's eye
the skiff of St. Columba breasting the breakers on its way from Ireland
to Iona.


Of all the Churches or sects in Scotland, probably the most remarkable
is the Episcopalian. Many Englishmen settle in the Lowlands for purposes
of trade, and, in most cases, bring their religion with them. Such
immigration explains the numerous Episcopal chapels in the towns of
southern Scotland. But no such cause can explain the presence of scores
of small Episcopal congregations in the rural districts of Aberdeen and
Banff. These have not been imported from over the Border, but in reality
have a long history behind them. Many of them date from the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries. The Stuart kings never liked Presbyterianism,
and James I. tried to make the Scotch Church as like the English one as
possible: in 1610, indeed, he managed to bring about the consecration of
a certain number of Scotch bishops. The Episcopalians in the North
showed a warm affection for the Stuarts during the distresses of that
royal house, and such Jacobitism did the scattered congregations a deal
of harm. The number of Episcopal chapels throughout the land is fairly
high, but the total of the communicants is relatively small. The clergy
are a most estimable and cultured body of men, and perform their duties,
which are often very laborious, in an eminently exemplary fashion. Their
stipends are ridiculously poor, and the scene of their labours is
frequently the reverse of lively. Very often, in the bleak moors and
glens of north-east Scotland, I have spent pleasant and memorable
evenings in the village rectory. The modes of speech and general
atmosphere of a Scotch rectory differ piquantly from those of the manse.
It is certain that a clergyman who is in constant touch with the
Anglican ritual, develops a special turn of talk and a characteristic
set of mannerisms.

I am convinced that, in learning and culture, the Episcopal clergy
compare very favourably with those of the other Churches. Some of them
have written, both in the departments of theology and general
literature, works of outstanding and permanent value. In spite of all
that, however, it does not seem probable that they will make many
converts to their creed. Presbyterianism has a firm grip on the
country: symbol and ritual do not thrive well in the cold air of the
North. Once upon a time, in the Black Isle, as the records of the
Arpafeelie Episcopal Church show, there was a strong feeling of
antagonism to Presbyterianism; but that was in 1711, and was probably
more political than religious.

It is a well-known fact that a large proportion of the aristocracy and
landed-gentry of Scotland are Episcopalians. This is due, not so much to
the leisure they have for studying theological problems, as to the fact
that most of them have been educated in English public schools.

How pleasant it is to contemplate the broad-mindedness of the greatest
of our Scotch Episcopalians, Sir Walter Scott, as seen in the
thirty-seventh chapter of _Guy Mannering_! Speaking of religious
differences, he makes Pleydell say: "_A plain man may go to heaven
without thinking about them at all_." Even at the present day, there is
a most regrettable lack of such urbanity in the disputes of educated
theologians. I picked up a book not long since, which amused as well as
shocked me greatly. It purported to be a history of _the_ Church in
Scotland. The author was a facetious Episcopalian, for his history made
no mention of either the Free, the Established, or the United
Presbyterian denominations. The Episcopal sect alone had the honour of
being dubbed a Church. Now, if a writer ever took it on him to write a
history of the Church in England, he ought to devote space to _all_ the
bodies, and be careful not to omit mention even of the Plymouth
Brethren. I rather think that the Plymouth Brethren should have the
lengthiest treatment of all, seeing that no shred of the Church
resembles so closely the original type of Christianity.


I have often endeavoured to fix discourses from the Highland pulpits by
embodying in metre (I do not say poetry) the leading thought or most
striking illustration that I carried away. For the sake of variety and
to prevent this chapter from appearing too frivolous, I, at this point,
give one or two "moderate" sermons in little.


    When heavy-laden Christian, panting sore,
    Had gained the home of the Interpreter,
    He saw a sorry fellow with great stir
    Ply a vile muck-rake on a filthy floor;
    And the more mire the churl raked, the more
    He smiled, although a winged messenger
    Floating aloft was eager to confer
    On him the crown that in her hands she bore.
    So is it with those fools that waste their days
    In raking stores of dross and minted gear,
    Oblivious of the crown of deathless rays
    That God is offering freely to them here.
    Miser! your stay on earth is short indeed,
    Renounce the dross and choose the heavenly meed.


    He that is wise will not in haste decide,
    But look and think before believing aught;
    Then, having long reflected, will confide
    To no breast but his own his finished thought,
    Until experience warrants every jot.
    Man! Suffer not thy soul to yield to pride
    Of intellect. Small is thy mortal lot
    Of wisdom. Others seek the truth beside
    Thyself. Behold aloft in air there fly
    Fowls diverse all in nature, strength of wing
    And keenness: even so the men who hie
    On the soul's quests. In genius differing,
    They all some twinkling sparks of truth may see,
    But the whole flaming round is hid from them and thee.


    Thou who in folly thinkest Heaven's King
    Has sent thee into this fair world to gain
    As many guineas as, with toil and pain,
    In threescore years thine avarice can wring
    From poorer men, be warned! With tiger-spring
    Fell death will leap upon your life amain
    And rive you from your opulence, though fain
    To tarry. Then the jovial heir will fling
    To the four winds of heaven thy gathered hoard
    In flaunting joys and unrestricted glee,
    While costly dishes glitter on the board
    And the wine flows in ruddy runnels free.
    Thou, meanwhile, in the shady realms below
    A bloodless ghost, wilt wander to and fro.



    Though lilies on their graceful stalk
        Droop, fade, and die,
    Earth's still renewing forces mock
        Death's cruelty.


    For roots and seeds within the mould
        Will thrust again
    Their sheathed beauties manifold
        Up to the plain.


    Though flowery hopes of dazzling gleam
        Wither and die,
    New hopes in the soul's garden teem


    O Lord of light, disperse my baffling fears,
    Give me a look but for a moment's space
    Upon the tranquil glory of Thy face,
    To serve as force to fight the chilling years.
    Clouds hide Thee from me, and the bitter tears
    Run down my cheek in floods. Out of Thy grace
    Let my heart's chamber be a dwelling-place
    For Thee. Come for a little space. Mine ears
    Strain for the hearing of a word divine
    Straight from Thy holy lips. No single task
    Can I at all accomplish or design
    Without the full assurance that I ask
    This, namely, that my soul is one with Thee,
    And Thou dost work Thy purposes by me.


It would be well-spent labour if some sympathetic historian could find
time to write a short account of the Plymouth Brethren, giving details
of the origin, tenets, divisions, and influence of the sect. I am
surprised that Mr. Barrie in his notable excursions into Scotch life and
religion, has never portrayed such a fine specimen of the working-man
turned theologian.

It must not be supposed that only the rich and the leisurely have what
is called religious experiences and shadowed souls. The finest
developments, doubtless, of the religious sense require time and money.
That leisurely groping after tendencies, that introspective analysis of
the sins of omission and commission, that delightful perception of the
falling away from righteousness of your brethren and sisters--all these
choice sweets are, if they are to be adequately enjoyed, compatible only
with a minimum of £300 a year. The religious sense and the musical are
in many points alike. If you wish to develop an initially melodious
soul, it means expense: you must go to professors, study counterpoint,
practice many hours daily, and attend concerts of the most exclusive and
expensive kind. Similarly with religion in its finest flower. You need
slaves to cook and wash for you if you mean to ecstaticise and see
beatific visions: you must get the most fashionable and picturesque
specialists to come and feel your religious pulse, and you must on no
account neglect the subscription lists. But only those rich enough to be
hypochondriac can afford such luxuries. Now, in the toiling classes
there are often good ears for music, and exquisite responsiveness to
religious sensations. What satisfies such natures and such wants must be
cheap. The Plymouth Brethren (I ought rather to say _Christian_
Brethren), have no General Assembly, little or no pedantry of a costly
kind, and yet, I believe, they supply all the exhilaration of schisms,
splits, counter-splits, and heresy-hunts. Every man his own General
Assembly! There may be a lack of the finer touches in such a system, but
what is lacking in elegance is fully made up in clearness of view and
rombustious vigour.

In many of the fishing villages on the east coast of Scotland, there are
large congregations of these worthy men raising their Ebenezers, and
making a joyful noise on the first day of the week. I have a good deal
of sympathy with their democratic and direct style of worship. In
Scotland, when a man gets converted, he feels constrained to _do
something_, but very often there is little outlet for his energy in the
calm routine of the fashionable churches--hence the necessity for
bethels and mission-houses. At their revivals, let me add, one is in
presence of that mysterious awakening to which every religion owes its

In the autumn of 1906, I had an interesting talk with the minister of a
seaside village on the shore of the Moray Firth, and was distressed to
find that he was sorely harassed by the lively sect I have mentioned.
Every now and again a wandering evangelist comes along the coast,
pitches a tent, and begins a series of gospel services. Those who are
converted, neglect the church and all its ordinances, and begin
preaching on their own account; nay, they even buttonhole the minister
and preach to _him_, accusing him of being an unjust steward, a
hireling, and no shepherd, and so on. Such conduct creates a very
painful situation. With a good deal of detail, the long-suffering
clergyman gave me an account of a visit he had paid to an old woman
recently converted. The narrative of her conversion as told by herself
was quaint and touching: "They were a' gettin' it," she said, "and I
wasna gettin' it. So I jist went to the door and steekit my e'en, and
raised them to the lift, and _I got it_. Isn't that the way o't, auld
man?" "Aye, aye, that's the way o't, auld wife," chimed in the husband.
The latter then took up the wondrous tale: "When she came in and tell't
me she had got it, I went doon on my knees to thank the Lord jist at the
fireside, and lo and behold, when I opened my e'en, I was at the street
door. The Spirit had taken me there, unbeknown to me. So I lifted up my
voice and called on God's people. And in five minutes the room and
kitchen were filled wi' saved folk, a' singing hymns, because my auld
wife had got it at last."

I also remember meeting an old thatcher of eminent talents who seemed to
me to be on the straight road for Zion, for he fulfilled the Scriptural
injunction to be fervent in spirit as well as not slothful in business.
James had at one time been precentor in one of the regular churches, but
owing to some cantankerous criticism of his melody, he seceded to the
Brethren, who fearlessly accepted his services gratis. James was
specially lyrical on the roof, and it was a treat to hear him sing
"_There is rest for the weary_," as he pushed the thatch into its long

    "There is rest for the weary,
    There is rest for the weary,
    There is rest for _you_" (with a forceful thrust).

I must not omit to mention (and with reverence be it spoken) that James
had a reputation far and wide in the country-side, for the vigour and
extreme unction of his grace before meat. Though giving a humble tenor
to the initial phrases and using the tar-brush on himself, and the
hungry company as putrid sinners unworthy even of the least of the
mercies, he always contrived to reassure everyone by sunnily rounding
off the matter with some rich and racy allusions to the gracious and
ample promises of Holy Writ. One could have felt quite comfortable even
in a slight excess of gluttony after such introductory words of
blessing. You felt that the occasion had been met, that something like
perfection had been attained. James was willing to admit shortcomings in
thatching, or in any department of human activity, so long as his
superiority in pre-prandial supplication was admitted. But it so
happened that Fate, whose delight it is to imperil even the stablest
reputations, sent his way a South-country Brother with a gift in prayer
truly appalling. At a gathering at which James was present, this
stranger was honoured by being asked to say grace. In the process, he
soared to such heights of oratory and supplicatory fervour, that the
uniform opinion of the guests, as evinced by looks, demeanour, and even
congratulation, was that James had at last been beaten on his own
ground. Supreme dejection settled on the thatcher, and neither bite nor
sup could dislodge the settled melancholy of his soul. After long
pondering with chin on chest in a corner of that pious throng, he had an
idea. Sidling up to the matron of the house, he, with a terrible whisper
of earnestness, addressed her in these words: "Mistress, before we gang
hame, doon wi' a whang o' cheese and a farl o' cake--it'll no' cost ye
much--and _I'll ha'e a tussle wi' him for't yet_." She gladly complied
with his request. His excitement gave him inspiration, and over that
cheese and oatcake, he delivered himself of such a grace as had never
before proceeded from his lips. A murmur of involuntary admiration
greeted the conclusion. James was comforted, and once more held his head

To talk of the Evolution of Religion to men like James would be a
complete waste of time. Such men regard themselves as the acme of the
process: whatever modifications may supervene after their day will be
deteriorations. It is quite impossible to persuade an enthusiast that he
is a mere phenomenon of development, and not, actually and now, the roof
and crown of things. Even if persuasion were possible, it would be a
cruelty to disillusionise these happy wights,--men who, with such
sublime confidence, can read their title clear to mansions in the sky.
They have a complete key to the universe, and are as happy as if they
had seen the whole vast circle of truth.


How many of my readers know where Drimnin is? If I should say, "In the
parish of Morven," it is possible the majority of them would not be
greatly edified, unless they had acquaintance with the saintly Macleod's
_Reminiscences of a Highland Parish_. Well, Drimnin is on the mainland,
nearly opposite the entrance to the haven of Tobermory. The _Chevalier_
nears into the coast when anyone wishes to land, and two boatmen,
obeying a signal, pull out from shore into the open, and the passenger
leaps, as gracefully as circumstances permit, into their arms--amid the
cheers of those left on the steamer.

The clergyman of Morven ministers to a parish that has over a hundred
miles of seaboard, and, strange to say, there have been only three
incumbents in it during the last hundred and thirty years, himself being
the third, with twenty-six years' ministry to his credit so far. These
facts procured him an extraordinary reception in America, where he spent
a holiday recently. The Americans, with whom change is the permanent
element, looked with amazement on a minister who came from a parish with
such a record. They thronged round his hotel to get shaking hands with
him, while he blushed to think that homage was being paid to the
longevity of his predecessors. It is no treat to be a lion in Maine.

The visitor to Drimnin should return to Oban by driving to Lochaline,
where there is a pier. A mere glance up that inlet of Lochaline is
sufficient to prove the unerring accuracy of Sir Walter's description:
"Fair Lochaline's woodland shore." Scott had a marvellous eye for
scenery, and having once seen a locality, could describe it better than
a native could do who had lived in the neighbourhood from youth

    [19] I may here refer to a pleasant three hours spent in rowing
    on Lochaline in the company of Mr. Hugh Macintyre, an old
    gentleman full of Scott and well versed in the lore of the
    locality. He was a policeman in Glasgow for thirty-five years
    (latterly as guardian of the Kelvingrove Picture Gallery), and
    now, in the enjoyment of good health and a pension, spends his
    time reading and doing good in his native district. Mr.
    Macintyre's earliest recollection is of his father being evicted
    from a small holding, at the head of the loch, in the "forties."

    Tennyson and Palgrave were visitors at Ardtornish, as Mr. Lang
    tells us, but made no special impression on the natives, who
    styled them respectively _Tinman_ and _Pancake_.


At Craignish (two miles _or so_ from Ardfern, next pier to Luing on the
way from Crinan to Oban) I was astonished to find what I think is unique
in Scotland, an old clergyman, born in 1824, still, without any aid
whatever, performing all the duties of a parish minister in one of the
wildest parts of Argyllshire. I refer to the Rev. Mr. M'Michael, who was
chairman at the lecture. The old gentleman, who is remarkably hale in
body and never melancholy at meal-time (as he slyly puts it), is prone
to speak by preference of the events of "auld lang syne." He gave me a
most vivid account of Professor John Wilson (whom, as I do not now live
in Paisley, I may safely venture to call Paisley's _greatest_ son), who
was one of his teachers, and who, as "Christopher North," wrote so many
witty and solid articles that undeservedly perished in _Blackwood's
Magazine_ at the beginning of last reign. I have rarely had such a treat
as my talk with this hale-hearted octogenarian. His charming daughters
keep house for him, and employ their leisure time weaving at a loom of
their own. The sheep that graze on the glebe supply the wool, and the
intermediate stages between the back of the sheep and the woollen
overcoat on the back of the needy are all supervised by these dexterous
daughters of the manse.

The coach to Craignish passes through a bit of Scotland that, in the
leafy month of June, must be glorious to behold. I passed along in a
fierce and chilling blizzard of sleet and snow. If a poet could keep
warm, thought I, this would be the spot for him to get impressive scenes
for his word-pictures. At one part, the road ziz-zags up a hill for
three miles, alongside a furious burn, to a height of six hundred feet;
from which eminence one sees, on the right, great bare crags and steep
heights, and, on the left, an inlet of the Atlantic foaming wildly
below. Ye gentlemen of the cloth, whose lot is cast in towns and who sit
at home in ease, think of the trials of your rural brethren in their
attempts to drive in winter through drifting snow to a presbytery
meeting fourteen miles away![20]

    [20] I could mention another rural parish, considerably further
    north, where, two winters ago, the roads were so badly blocked
    with snow that for five consecutive weeks no church services
    could be held! Both minister and congregation were overcome with


Not far from the city of Aberdeen is a little village of seafaring folk,
and the worthy minister, the Rev. Mr. Pollock, is guide, philosopher,
and friend to the entire community. Up to his manse, which is a mile
from the uneven and fishy streets, there is a constant _va-et-vient_ of
parishioners. One old widow wishes him to write to her son at the
Yarmouth fishing, herself being ignorant of English spelling; this old
man, painfully hobbling uphill on his stick, and muttering to himself as
he goes, desires the faithful pastor to come and cheer a bed-ridden wife
who is failing fast; that young fisher-lass will blush as she tells that
her young man is on the way home to claim her as his own, with the
Church's aid. Mr. Pollock is the confidential repository of all their
secrets: nothing in their lives is hidden from him; he knows all of
comic and tragic in their lowly careers. Along with his wife, he visits
every house in the place, and from intimate knowledge can tell you,
nodding his head to this or that house as he walks along, the worth or
worthlessness of every native of the village. His time is so fully taken
up with pure religion and undefiled, that he has no time to waste on the
Higher Criticism.

A tout for some wandering minstrels recently came over from Aberdeen,
meaning to leave one of his red-and-yellow bills (announcing a
performance) in each of the local shops. The minister saw him as he
distributed the bills, and closely followed up on his trail. Mr. Pollock
entered each shop and said to the shopkeeper: "Please let me see the
bill you have there in the window." On getting it, he would scan it, and
request to get keeping it. In no shop was he refused, so that by the
time he got to the end of the village, he was carrying two dozen large
concert placards, while the tout, merrily whistling, and all unconscious
of the nullity of his labours, was on his way back to Aberdeen. "Lead us
not into temptation," said the minister, as he thrust the garish
announcements into his study stove. None of Mr. Pollock's flock were at
the concert that night. Perhaps, if any had gone, little harm would have
been done. The minister, however, thought they were better at home, or
at the local prayer-meeting.

Mr. Pollock's predecessor was a thin, unemotional man--a geologist--who
spent an important percentage of his time chipping rocks and looking for
fossils. Owing to this mania, his flock were forgotten, and came to
forget _him_. No wonder if the church attendance dwindled! _Ab uno disce
omnes_, as Virgil says. One day this ordained geologist had agreed to
baptize a child in a hamlet some miles away, and set forth to walk to
the place in good time. Unhappily, by the roadside, there was a quarry,
into which, by instinct, the minister glided, keen and eager-eyed. He
stayed therein for four hours, and forgot all about the infant
(squalling, no doubt, in special robe, and impatient for the
christening), the waiting relatives, the inevitable decanter, and the
thick cuts of indigestible bun. The minister, I say, trudged home with
his treasure-trove of petrified ferns and foot-marked shale--a greater
fossil than any under his own cases of glass. His memory was stirred by
his wife's catechising, but it was too late to undo the mischief.


In modern times, ministers are badly paid, considering the expenses of
their training and long education, but they are better paid than they
used to be. In 1756, the minister of Ferintosh, a big, active man, with
the object of adding something to his stipend, leased the meal-mill of
Alcaig from the laird of Culloden. The combination of miller and
minister did not please his parishioners. It never occurred to these
clowns that the occupation of miller is singularly adapted for
reflection: spiritual and bodily nourishment (thought of together) might
well form a field of thought fertile in instructive metaphors; "the dark
round of the dripping wheel," the work of separating husks and flour,
the topics of dearth and abundance, might all come to have a homiletic
value to a serious-minded teacher of religion. But a cry of scandal,
directed not against themselves for underpaying their minister, but
against that worthy man for being an _ordained miller_, arose in the
parish. A member of the congregation was deputed to give a gentle hint
to the minister that the two occupations were incompatible. The
interview took place on the high road. "What news this morning, Thomas?"
said the minister. "Have you not heard of the fearful news?" said
Thomas. "No, what is it?" "Well, everybody's saying," said Thomas, with
a whisper of affected horror, "that _the minister's wife has taken up
with the big miller of Alcaig_." The delicacy of this hint was such that
the minister resigned his lease.

The trials of ministers long ago were truly great. Witches had to be
reckoned with, as the aforementioned Ferintosh minister, who was their
foe, knew to his cost. By their incantations they caused him to be
afflicted with somnolency. As this sleepy fit usually came on in church
between the first psalm and the prayer, it can be easily seen how awful
were the reprisals of these Satanic hags.


The Rev. Mr. Rogers, minister of a parish in Fife, was, like many
another worthy man, in sore financial straits at one period of his life.
He was a widower, and probably this fact accounts for his displenished
exchequer. With supreme audacity he touched the bell of a rich old
maiden lady, and on entering her boudoir he bluntly admitted his lack of
funds, and said, "Give me £200 and I'll marry you." She gave him the
money, and for months after never saw his face. Finally she wrote asking
an interview. He came, and she tartly said, "Did you not say, Mr.
Rogers, that if I gave you £200, you would marry me?" "Certainly I did,"
said the cunning minister, "and _I'm ready to marry you whenever you
produce your man: where is he_?" This anecdote shows the difficulty of
being unambiguous when speaking English, and furnishes an argument for
the adoption of French as the language of courtship as well as of

The same foxy ecclesiastic wished two things, both of which his heritors
flatly refused: (a) a new manse, and (b) a site with a wide
prospect. Finding them intractable, he professed humility, and craved
merely a species of scaffolding to buttress up one of the walls of the
old manse. The heritors marvelled a little at the strange request, but,
glad of being saved from the cost of a new building, authorised the
buying of some sturdy joists to prop up a wall that the minister averred
was off the plumb. No sooner was the buttressing timber in position than
Mr. Rogers appeared with a violent complaint in the Sheriff Court,
declaring that the manse was like to fall about his ears, and that the
heritors had palpably admitted the danger by erecting a scaffold. The
Sheriff expressed strong disapproval of the heritors' stinginess, and
ordered them to get a new manse built for the minister. Now as to the
site! To spite Mr. Rogers, the heritors determined to deprive him of a
good view, and directed the St. Andrews builder to erect the new manse
down in the valley on a broad bank by a burnside. The master-builder
placed pegs and marks in the ground at the prescribed place and returned
to St. Andrews, telling his workmen to proceed next day to begin the
work, and mentioning that they would know the site by marks he had
placed there. At cockcrow the minister was afoot, busy transferring the
pegs to the summit of a lovely knoll. The tradesmen came out to the
country, and looking for the site found it on the hill-top and began
their work. After they had been a week or more on the walls, out from
St. Andrews came the master to see how his men were progressing. He came
near a complete collapse when he saw his men on the hill instead of in
the valley. He spoke winged words to them, but it was too late. In such
fashion did Mr. Rogers outwit his heritors. I regret that no literary
relics of this acute divine are to be had. He seems to have been in his
way a kind of Higher Critic judging from a remark he made on the Ark:
"How did you manage," he said, as if addressing Noah in person, "how did
you manage to keep the first plank of your boat from getting rotten
before the last was nailed on, if you actually took 120 years to put the
whole thing together?"


The late minister of Gigha, a small island community of 360 souls off
the coast of Kintyre was a cleric of great humour and full of stories.
His church was the only one in the island, a fact of which he was proud.
At a communion service, a minister from the mainland, struck off a
monumental phrase in one of his prayers. He said "Thou hast shown, O
Lord, Thy confidence in Thy servant, the devout minister of Gigha, for
lo! out of the plentitude of Thy great mercy Thou has seen fit _to give
him an island all to himself_." I have heard and do in part believe it,
that the effect of such a supplication in Gaelic is overpoweringly

This same minister "of the island," whose digestion I may say, was so
perfect that he could triumphantly absorb strong tea and poached eggs as
a regular midnight meal, told me one night over this collation, the
story of a fisherman in one of the Western Islands, whose prayer before
going to sea was of a singular character. He invariably addressed the
Deity as _Sibshe_ (You) instead of the ordinary _Thusa_ (Thou). On one
occasion, when the weather was squally and danger was anticipated, he
prayed thus: "O Lord God, my Beloved, if You would be so good as to take
the care of Mary and Jessie, my daughters; but that She-Devil, my wife,
the daughter of Peter Macpherson, I am indifferent about her: she will
have another husband before I am eaten by the crabs!"

Here follows another well-known story from the same authority. A
Lowlander, taking a week's sail on one of Macbrayne's cargo-boats
stepped ashore, on Sunday morning, at a remote insular port, to attend
church, as was fit and proper. The text was the well-known verse "Can
the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?" The minister,
strange to say, preached a long and painfully vivid sermon on _leprosy_.
The tourist waited, after sermon, in order to talk with the minister and
quietly remonstrate with him. He said: "You gave us an excellent
discourse to-day, but do you think it followed quite appropriately from
the text: surely you are aware that a _leopard_ and a _leper_ are two
different things." The minister, eying the tourist with a look of
indignant scorn for a second, lifted up his voice and denounced him
thus: "Out of my sight with you: I know what you are; you are one of
these pestilent fellows called Higher Critics. Begone!"

In the Long Island, it is an article of fixed belief among the stricter
Presbyterians that Catholics are outside any scheme of salvation.
Episcopalians, too, are regarded as being in an extremely dubious
position. Any stick, however, is good enough to beat the partisans of
the Pope. "Brethren," said a minister near Stornoway, "I have forgotten
my sermon to-day: but _I'll just say a word or two against the
Catholics_." Such a philippic, he seemed to think, could never be out of

Denunciation has always been a favourite method of the religious bigot.
If the various sects of the Christian Church, could go on their way,
ameliorating the world, and leaving each other in peace, the millennium
would be within reasonable distance. I heard a U.F. say to a Wee Free:
"Donald, you'll no' gang to Heaven, _because I'm bad_." The sentence is
good enough for an epigram. Unfortunately, too many of our sectaries
think it the prime virtue of their faith to run down their neighbours.


One of the most cheerful features in the present-day thought of
Scotland, and one from which we may anticipate excellent results in
every department of social and religious life, is the growing popularity
of the great apostle of the nineteenth century, John Ruskin. Though
dead, he continues to speak; and from close inspection of the registers
that show in detail the nature of the books asked for, at the various
village libraries, I have noted, with no small pleasure, that Ruskin's
works are eagerly read all over the Highlands and islands of Scotland.
This is something quite new, and will, I am certain, work immense good.

For Ruskin's work in the department of religion, no words can be too
commendatory. His genius was in thorough accord with the spirit of the
Biblical writers, and his modes of speech and illustration perpetually
reminiscent of Scripture. He loses no opportunity of dwelling on the
culturing influence of the Bible. There is also a fine tolerance in his
religious teaching, which is alike helpful and suggestive. His is that
variety of teaching which we find most effectively outside of the ranks
of professional commentators, and which comes through the keen flashes
of genius that accompany the insight of the literary artist. He has
pointed out to us with great eloquence that, while specific doctrines
take at various epochs very different degrees of importance, and aspects
of rite, ceremony, and all that, appeal with changing force to different
generations, the essence of religious feeling, without which dogma
becomes harsh and rite insipid, hardly varies at all; seeing that in the
musings of the great minds of all ages, we have oftenest the pure gold
of devotion, mingled, though it may sometimes be, with the adhesive
dross of superstition. He also warns us of the danger of mistaking
pugnacity for piety, and earnestly urges that, at every moment of our
lives, we should be trying to find out, not in what we differ from other
men, but in what we agree. Ruskin considers this to be the correct
spirit in which to approach ancient as well as modern religion,
believing that if a reader cannot understand a spiritual agency, or
thinks that the best of ancient men were not dominated by any such, the
understanding of the very alphabet of history will be endangered. It
would tend greatly to salvation from arid formalism, if ministers would
teach that Plato, Sophocles, Browning, Carlyle, are all apostles of
religion. A living word from an intuitionist like the last-named not
unfrequently vivifies with new force the dark sayings of a Hebrew seer,
in much more direct fashion than half-a-score of mutilated Pentateuchs
made in the delirium of the Higher Criticism.

In spite of his unsystematic procedure, Ruskin deserves to be numbered
among the men who have earned the gratitude of their fellows, by
translating some of the ever-vital aspects of religion into the
vocabulary of the hour. The language of religious discourse is liable to
a subtle kind of pedantry, requiring a vigorous intellect adequately to
dissolve. New illustrations, novel forms of definition, are often
helpful in expelling the dreariness of outworn and meaningless phrases.
Ruskin's task is facilitated by the nice balance of his intellectual and
imaginative endowments, by the fact that his words are not mere symbols
of definite connotation, but marvellous centres of emotional force.
Happily he did not seek to elaborate any system of religion: but now
here, now there, in his books, one comes upon the pure gold of religion,
enshrined in exquisite jewelries of diction, which glimmer on (if I may
say so) to the utmost verge of emotion, and more successfully than any
formal harangue, work out their intended function. Such works as _Unto
this Last_ and _Munera Pulveris_, however keen the mental antagonism
they may initially provoke, mark a period in the spiritual life of the
reader: no matter what the prepossessions of a man may be, these books
will modify them. He is reverent, but, like Plato, he is dynamic. You
can't sit at ease as you read his pages, for they are charged as much
with defiance as with guidance.



    Some Insular Dominies--Education Act of 1872--Education in the
    Highlands--Feeding the hungry--Parish Council
    boarders--Dwindling attendances--Arnisdale--Golspie Technical
    School--On the Sidlaws--Some surprises--Arran schools--Science
    and literature--Study of Scott--The old classical dominie--Vogue
    of Latin in former times--Teachers and
    examinations--Howlers--Competing subjects.


It is by no means an easy matter for a teacher to get south again once
he is installed in a remote Highland school. He accepts a distant rural
or insular post, marries the girl of his heart, gets settled in the
schoolhouse of the glen or township, and rarely moves thence all the
succeeding years of his life. He becomes identified with local affairs;
plays whist maybe with the doctor, the factor, and the banker; and is
apt to magnify the cackle of his bourg into the great Voice that echoes
round the world. The monotony of his life is varied by such happenings
as a birth or a death in his own household, a visit from the emissary of
My Lords, an epidemic of measles, a general election, and the like. I
don't say these men are unhappy, but unless they develop a hobby,
torpidity is bound to settle like a mist upon their brains. Such studies
as geology, botany, and gardening, are sovereign for driving off the
vapours of ennui. Nor are golf, angling, and the composition of verse,
specifics that the rural dominie can afford to despise.

I have in my mind at this moment the portraits of many notable gentlemen
(for true gentlemen they are, though their purses are thin) who have
given up their lives to educating the progeny of the inclement North.
Lamont, for example, whom I remember as a first-class mathematician, is
living in the marshy navel of an Outer Isle, amid wild-fowl and spirals
of peat-reek. If you want to visit him you have (1) to cross the billowy
western deep; (2) drive fifteen miles in a trap; (3) traverse a
four-mile arm of the sea in a ferry that needs baling; (4) proceed seven
miles to another ferry two miles in breadth; (5) hop, step, and jump
three miles along a narrow and tortuous track, enough to give vertigo to
a goat. Lamont is not unhappy: he keeps his mind active by solving stiff
quadratic equations and fiddling with Cartesian co-ordinates. I hope he
will get credit for all these studies, when the last trump sounds, for
he gets little enough at present.

Ramsay, too, is a dweller among these treeless bogs, and is engaged,
during his leisure, on a translation of Anacreon which will never be
finished, or, if finished, will never be published. I called on him and
immolated myself on the altar of his Anacreon in order to give him a
little pleasure. He, later on, enlarged on his school, scholars, and
daily life. The horizon of the boys and girls is extremely limited: most
of them have never seen either a pig or a policeman. Cabbages have only
been recently introduced into the district, but are already thriving
wonderfully well considering the thin soil. There are of course no
trees: for what trees could stand against the buffeting of the fierce
wintry gales of the Atlantic? Ramsay's only chum is a missionary, who is
of an antiquarian turn, and goes fumbling about for arrow-heads and
prehistoric bracelets, especially after a storm, when the hill-sides are
laid bare.

Neither Lamont nor Ramsay know a word of Gaelic, and there they are in
districts where English is a foreign language. Needless to say, the lack
of Gaelic is a terrible drawback to these two men. They should never
have been where they are, for they are aliens. The scholars, unbreeched
little rogues, have an advantage over their teacher, and in the
playground talk the tongue of the Celt invariably, and may be maligning
him for all he knows. I am afraid, too, that teacher and minister do not
always consider themselves as auxiliaries in these outer isles. The
younger generation of teachers have, as might be expected, a more
extensive knowledge of books than the old school of Presbyterian
ministers. The latter, feeling their literary inferiority, are inclined
to regard the teacher as an intruder whose work in the school-room will
cause the rising generation to look slightingly on the "essentials." I
have in my possession numerous letters from Highland teachers dealing
with this fear on the part of the clergy, that novels and secular
literature generally will pervert the minds of the people. The addition
of Mrs. Humphrey Ward's books to a library was recently likened to the
arrival of the Serpent in Eden.


In one of the best-known chapters of _Rob Roy_, Bailie Nicol Jarvie, the
utilitarian Glasgow merchant, says to his cattle-reiving kinsman: "Your
boys, Rob, dinna ken the very multiplication table, which is the root o'
a useful knowledge, and it's my belief they can neither read, write, nor
cipher, if sic a thing could be believed o' ane's ain connections in a
Christian land." Rob replies in a sentence that is worthy of being put
alongside the remark of old Earl Douglas in the poem of _Marmion_:
"Hamish can bring down a blackcock on the wing with a single bullet, and
Rob can drive a dirk through a twa-inch board." These quotations
adequately explain the almost complete absence of prose remains in the
literature of the Gael. Bards there were in plenty, but they could
neither read nor write.

In the year 1872, education was made the concern of the nation. It was
rightly considered to be a standing menace to the security of the realm
that ignorance, which is the parent of disorder and lawlessness, should
be the doom of a large proportion of the nation. Rather than hazard the
dangers of an illiterate population, education was undertaken by the
State, and paid for out of the national purse. The analogy between
disease and ignorance is, in truth, sufficiently close to justify both
sanitation and education coming into the wide domain of imperial duties.

Looking back on the changes that resulted in the Lowlands from the
Education Act of 1872, we see grounds for criticism. The measure, like
all earthly things, was imperfect. There was something hard and
inelastic about the system fostered by the old Code. The psychology of
Child Nature was almost totally ignored. A system of examination was
established that assumed an equal and mechanical progress on the part of
every child every year. Yet, in spite of grave defects, the Act of 1872
brought inestimable blessings with it. For one thing, the health
conditions of education were vastly improved. Many of the old schools
were absolute hovels. After 1872, large, airy, and spacious buildings,
were erected in every district of the land. It was no longer a case of
one old dominie facing singly a whole regiment of unruly youngsters:
every school was organised and disciplined into regular and seemly
order. We had the advantage in Scotland of a complete system of School
Boards, and that awakened an intense and universal interest in
educational affairs. The old parochial schools of Scotland had many
admirable features, but in 1872 they were quite unfit to cope with the
nation's needs. On the whole, the School Board system was a decided boon
to the land.


It is only since the Act of 1872 that any education of a serious or
systematic kind has been attempted in the Celtic parts of Scotland.
Nevertheless, a word of praise is due to the Society for Promoting
Christian Knowledge and other civilising agencies of the Churches
(Established and Free), for their work during the educational night that
preceded the Act. These agencies were, of course, utterly inadequate to
meet the needs of the Highlands, as may be easily seen from the fact
that in 1862, over 47 per cent. of the men who married, could not sign
their own names. But, indeed, what resources, save those of the Imperial
Treasury, could ever be adequate to meet the expense of educating the
children spread over such wide and sparsely-peopled tracts? Sheriff
Nicolson, one of the most fervid Gaels that ever lived, made a report to
Government in 1865, characterising the education given in the Highland
schools as lamentably insufficient.

The effects of the Act of 1872 were slow but sure, and in the course of
fifteen years a change, analogous to that effected by General Wade in
the state of the roads, was brought about in the realm of education. Yet
the expenses involved in the working of the measure were of an unduly
burdensome kind, in spite of the generous bounty of the Education
Department. In some of the large parishes of the Long Island, the heavy
school rate was such a cause of complaint that My Lords were forced to
take very drastic measures to relieve the financial strain. In summing
up the results of the Education Act, Professor Magnus Maclean says:
"Among the good things that education has brought the Highlanders, are a
knowledge of English, wider social and political interests, a brighter
intelligence and brighter outlook, freedom from mental vacuity and
traditional superstitions."


Probably, as I have hinted, one of the chief benefits of the Education
Act, was that teaching had to be carried on in conditions of space and
air. Given such conditions and an enthusiastic master, some good
progress will certainly be made.

Connected with the physical side of education we have had, of late,
signs of a new departure. There is a talk of _feeding the hungry_.

Every parent worthy of the name is proud to provide food and clothing
for his children. That's what he's there for. But it does not require
much keenness of vision to see that there are many parents unworthy of
the name, and that, by the dark and inscrutable degrees of Heaven, such
worthless individuals are often allowed to be parents of a numerous
progeny. We must (i) inject into these wastrels the feeling of
responsibility and (ii) prevent the children from dying of starvation.
The first problem requires lengthy treatment and is perhaps hopeless of
accomplishment; the second can be done at once by philanthropy, either
individual or national.

However much it may wound the pride of our gilded youth, it can hardly
be asserted that birth and rank are matters that involve the slightest
personal merit. It seems to be an affair of the purest accident into
what class of society a child is born. We have overcome the difficulties
and dangers of youth--most of us--but it might well have been otherwise.
Soften your hearts, ye political economists, and cease to regard the
poor, the weak, and the wretched as criminals. If there is no wealth
but life, our country must soon be poor indeed should the rising
generation be sickly and underfed. Bairns must not be allowed to study
on an empty stomach.


Let me here mention a point alluded to by more than one friend of the
Highlands. It has reference to one aspect of the new science called
Eugenics, which deals with the means for producing the maximum of vigour
in our nation. It is not well enough known that for years the
authorities have been pouring into a few of the islands and straths of
the North and West a great number of maimed, consumptive, and mentally
defective children. Some houses in the Hebrides have three or four of
these children, who, but for the action of the authorities, would be
living under the most deplorable conditions of life in the towns. The
results, as regarding improvement in health and physique, are of the
most encouraging kind.[21]

After a certain age the official subsidy ceases, and the children as a
rule go to work on the farms and crofts. It is evident that such
extensive planting out of city boys and girls is bound by and by to work
a great change in the composition of our rural districts. It is believed
that some of the islands would soon be without children but for these
incomers: it is a well-known fact that the indigenous youthful
population of certain of them is very meagre indeed. We are thus in
modern times witnessing some most instructive operations of Nature: for
generations the country has been depleted to swell the bloated
population of the towns; and now the wastage of the cities is being sent
back to the country to get a renewal of vigour at the primeval fountain
of health.

There is one further point of great moment. As a proportion, relatively
large, of these children come of morally dubious parentage, it is of
supreme interest to know their subsequent career and conduct. I have
seen reports and statistics which seem to prove that questionable
heredity can be overborne by healthy surroundings and good training; in
other words, that the offspring of criminals may, if rescued early from
a vicious environment, become respectable citizens. Such facts ought to
rejoice the hearts of all moral reformers.

    [21] In that part of South Arran which lies between Dippen and
    Shannochie, there is high up on the hillside, a row of cottages
    and crofts collectively nicknamed "Mount Misery." The reason for
    this sinister name is that in most of the houses there is some
    maimed, consumptive, or imbecile child boarded out by the Parish
    Council. The children are better there than selling matches at
    St. Enoch's Station: they are well looked after and almost
    invariably improve in health.


It is in the country school that the need for new blood is most apparent
to the eye. In schools capable of holding 120 children, you will often
find a shrunken roll of less than a dozen. A gentleman of mature years
usually does all the teaching and keeps himself from getting insane by
breeding hens and cultivating roses in his spare time. He has also, in
all likelihood, the little pickings of officialdom in the district, and
is registrar, session-clerk, and precentor. One facetious teacher, who
dwelt on a wide moor, headed his letter to me _Parish Council Chambers_,
thereby suggesting marble staircases and sumptuous furniture. It was
this same teacher who, on being asked to bring forward Standard V. for
inspection, had to admit that Standard V. was laid up with a broken leg.
For such small schools there is an increasing difficulty in finding male
teachers.[22] Widows, who in their ante-nuptial days, had been engaged
in teaching are often preferred to men, for reasons of salary. The lot
of such women, who have usually families to support out of their meagre
earnings, is hard indeed: if they keep their health, they manage
tolerably well, but when illness comes into the house, there must be a
deal of suffering and distress. The young pupils who attend the remote
schools of the uplands, also deserve much sympathy. During the heavy
snows and extreme cold of winter, these children--often ill-shod and
scantily fed--have to trudge along miles of country cross-roads or
hill-paths to their little school. Our country is a glory to the eye
when mid-summer and autumn are there, but think of the harsh winter
months with their torrents of driving rain, their whirlwinds of hail
and sleet and the icy nip of the blasts that blow down the snow-sheeted

    [22] A country teacher in Kintyre, with a roll of eight, said to
    me: "We have had only one marriage in the district during the
    last year, and the bridegroom was aged _three score and fifteen_.
    I wonder what education is coming to: there is little or no
    patriotism about Kintyre or my roll would be higher. I wish I
    could get the people to think more imperially than they do at


It will be perhaps interesting to the general reader if I strive, by
drawing on my reminiscences, to give him an idea of how education is
carried on in certain remote corners of Scotland at the present time. He
will, perhaps, be led to admire as much as I do the noble work that is
being done by teachers and inspectors for the rising generation of the

Arnisdale, on the mainland facing Skye, is a very destitute district,
and has suffered much from the failure of the once-flourishing
herring-fishery of Loch Hourn. One can see by the attire of the children
that the poverty must be exceptional, even for the Highlands. The
teacher says that in winter she has to think as much how to feed the
children as to teach them. By the charity of some benevolent visitors,
she was, last winter, able to give the pupils a mid-day meal of cocoa
and biscuits. It is a sad contrast to the extraordinary beauty of this
picturesque spot that such dire misery should overtake a proportion of
the natives during the winter season.

Arnisdale is not very accessible, even in the height of the summer
traffic, and when one gets there, it is a problem how to get away. I
asked the captain of the _Glencoe_ to set me down near what is called
the _dry island_, in Loch Hourn, and thence I was rowed ashore by two
very wild-looking, unkempt boatmen. The school-house, where I lodged, is
right on the beach, and just at the base of the gigantic Ben Screel.
Twelve miles along the coast, by a road of the most awe-inspiring kind,
one comes to the interesting nook of Glenelg, with its Pictish towers
and ruined barracks.

It was a mild and hazy morning when I traversed the road between
Arnisdale and Glenelg. On coming to the summit, a great breeze arose and
drove away the heavy white mists from the Sound of Sleat, and showed the
white, sentinel-like lighthouse of Isle Ornsay and great fertile
stretches of the near portion of Skye. Reluctantly the clouds finally
curled and rolled away before the wind and the glitter of the sun, until
the Cuchullins were visible beyond the water and the green peninsula of

In a cosy recess near the highest part of the road, beside a bubbling
spring, a _gipsy family_ had pitched its tent. I admired the taste shown
in the selection of a place commanding such a view. The family was still
under canvas, but hanging on the branch of a tree was a worn and
mud-stained skirt. Do not ladies in hotels, in similar fashion, hang out
their dusty and travel-soiled attire at the doors of their chambers? And
perhaps the dark-skinned owner had hung up her dank and dripping weeds
in the hope that some silvan faun or Robin Goodfellow would, without a
tip, perform the dusting process, in this case so palpably necessary. We
do wrong in supposing that imagination is not the portion of these
woodland rovers.

One of the most difficult problems of the Education Department is to see
that gipsy children get a suitable amount of schooling. "Here awa',
there awa', wandering Willie," is applicable to all their tribe. How
can progressive instruction be carried on where there is no fixity of
habitation? One day the camp is pitched on an eminence overlooking Loch
Hourn; but before twelve hours have passed, the nomads may have crossed
the ferry at Kyleakin and be warming their hands round a blaze of stolen
peats in the wild moorland between Portree and Dunvegan. Only in winter,
when frost and snow drive the gipsies into the city slums, do the
children get some smattering of the three R's.


There are now in the Highlands a number of excellent higher class public
schools, in which the elements of secondary education are taught. The
pupils in these schools are drawn from wide areas, and, by means of
bursaries, can board away from their own homes. The Golspie Technical
School is an altogether unique higher-grade institution. At a library
lecture delivered in Golspie, the boys belonging to the school
(forty-eight in number, divided into four clans, each with a chief) were
present, accompanied by the Principal and his staff. My attention was at
once drawn to them by their fine physique, their gentlemanly bearing,
and their earnest attention. Next day, I had the pleasure of visiting
the school and seeing the working of the scheme initiated by the Duchess
of Sutherland.

The institution is really a boarding-school for poor lads of talent
belonging to the northern counties. They are under the eye of some
teacher at every hour of the day, and are kept incessantly busy, not at
books alone. They are taught to do their own washing, dusting,
scrubbing, cooking, and darning. The training is excellent: one is
impressed by its practical character and educational thoroughness. Latin
and Greek are not attempted at all, the literary instruction being
entirely based on English and the modern tongues. The science part of
the curriculum is remarkably complete, and art is by no means neglected.

Before a pupil has the good fortune to be admitted, the Principal visits
the parents. It is almost incredible (so he told me) the squalor of some
of the cots he had seen. Too often, in the Highlands, the one bedroom of
the family (frequently identical with the kitchen) has free
communication with a malodorous byre or stye. What a contrast with the
dormitory of the Technical School, where there is no lullaby of lowing
kine, but a tranquil, high-roofed hall that would do for the siesta of
the Duke of Sutherland himself!


High up on a spur of the Sidlaw Hills in the county of Forfar, there is
a wee school that supplies education for a wide and sparsely-peopled
countryside. The teacher is Mr. Brown, who was once a dominie in the
island of Whalsay. He is a jovial and courteous man, and leads you on
very astutely to ask him how long he taught there. Such a question gives
him the opportunity of replying with a laugh: "_I was there exactly the
length of time Napoleon was in St. Helena, five years and seven
months_." When in Whalsay, Mr. Brown took the service on Sunday, if the
minister happened to be ill. In this capacity he achieved great
popularity by the meritorious device of shortening the sermon to fifteen
minutes. He was so much in love with the first sermon he wrote, that he
never wrote another, contenting himself with giving it again and again,
and merely varying the text. If he could only hit upon a suitable title,
and a suitable publisher for this sermon, Mr. Brown would get it
printed, and scattered broadcast over the Shetland Islands. I believe it
would furnish unique food for thought even to sinners on the mainland.

Mr. Brown received me with extreme kindness, and invited me inside to
see his school. I heard his senior class read, and thought the
pronunciation extremely good. About 12.55 the attention of the pupils
became visibly impaired; glances were furtively cast towards the door;
there was a feeling of expectancy all along the benches. Suddenly the
door sprang open, as if by some violent external impact, and a
middle-aged dame entered, carrying in each hand a large pail of steaming
potato-soup. Accompanying her was a young woman with dozens of small
pewter basins, and large spoons. I never saw such expeditious ladling,
such quick distribution, such speed of consumption, and such manifest
enjoyment all round. The steam of the soup obscured the wall-maps, and
the parsing exercise on the blackboard. The children could get as many
helpings as nature would permit, _for one farthing_. When the mist
cleared away, teacher and taught once more proceeded to tackle simple
proportion and analysis of sentences. I personally examined the soup,
and found it to be "nae skinking ware that jaups in luggies."


Some surprises are in store for one who calls in casually at some of the
remoter schools. I have more than once found the teacher _giving
instruction in his shirt sleeves_. In one school, I saw the master with
_a large melodeon_ (the Board being too stingy to supply a piano),
giving an inharmonious accompaniment to the musical drill. I got a
dreadful surprise on meeting the schoolmaster of a district in Jura: the
unfortunate gentleman was _stone-deaf_, his auditory nerves being
completely destroyed. Yet he managed, unaided, a school of forty-seven
pupils, and got excellent reports. The case is unparalleled in my
experience, and I should not have believed it possible had I not
personally seen the man at his work. He heard with his eyes, and could
most nimbly interpret what his pupils said by watching their lips. The
scholars liked him, and did not attempt to take advantage of his defect.
In another insular school, I was introduced to a lady-teacher who had
_lost both her arms in youth_, and who, in consequence, has been forced
to bring up her pupils entirely on the principles of moral suasion. By
holding the pen with her teeth, she can write a fine running _hand_ (if
I may say so without violence to language). She is an extremely clever
lady: it was a treat to see how well she could control the children with
a word or a glance.

Some teachers in the Lowlands complain of children playing truant. That
vice is not common in the Highlands, but it exists to a slight extent.

In my presence the teacher of a school in Skye made the absentees of
the previous day, write out their reasons for non-attendance. I give
some of the typical answers:

    (i.) Dear Sir,--I had to work all day at the peats.

    (ii.) I was kept at home for harrowing with the horses.

    (iii.) I was herding the lambs and keeping them from the sheep.

    (iv.) _I was on the shore all day, but I will not do it again._


The Arran schools that I had the pleasure of visiting struck me as being
very well managed. It is wonderful how much excellent work some of these
country children get through. The schools are almost all supplied with
Paisley libraries, and thus the pupils, under the guidance of their
masters, can overtake an extensive course of reading in British authors.
At Loch Ranza the higher pupils study Shakespeare, Shelley, and

There is no desire whatever on the part of the young people to be taught
the language of their forefathers. As a consequence, Gaelic is rapidly
dying out in the island. Twenty years ago it was the language of the
playground at Whiting Bay: now the pupils speak English only. At my
request the teacher there addressed a few Gaelic phrases to the
assembled children, but only two knew what he was saying. In the
neighbourhood of Lagg, there is a more general knowledge of the
venerable tongue.

In spite of the decay of Gaelic, Arran has produced some Celtic scholars
of great brilliancy, the most eminent being the late Dr. Cameron of
Brodick. Mr. Kennedy of Caticol has made a great reputation for himself
in philology: he is in touch with Celtic scholarship on the Continent
and is also an adept in Irish Gaelic. In his manse, I saw a famous
Celtic manuscript, the _Fernaig MS._, a brown-leaved passbook, full of
old poems written carefully in a very small neat hand. It is said to be
worth £2,000, but not having that amount of loose cash about me, I could
not gratify myself by offering to purchase it.

    [23] A striking object-lesson on the instability of mortal life
    is permanently given to the Loch Ranza pupils by the proximity of
    the churchyard, which is just over the wall from the school. The
    thoughtful visitor should not fail to read the tombstones. If a
    lover of books, he will be interested in learning that the
    founder of the famous publishing firm of Messrs. Macmillan
    belonged to the North Cock farm near Loch Ranza. The pensive
    moralist will perhaps be most affected by an old stone, A.D.
    1813, declaring that Elspa Macmillan left this _inhospitable
    world_, aged 86. _That_ was no rash inference.


Those rural teachers cannot be too strongly commended who combine
literary studies with work in the open air. I know some masters who
encourage their pupils to collect, say, all the flowers mentioned in
Wordsworth and Burns. That is idealising the study of botany in a most
delicious way. Wordsworth's descriptions of flowers are nothing less
than divine: to take a single example out of hundreds, his lines on the
daffodils beginning--

    "I wandered lonely as a cloud."

Even the gayest of our lyrists, Herrick, has something to say about that
flower that is as powerful as a sermon. Birds, trees, and flowers
should, as far as possible, be known by all the young people, and some
poetic word associated with each. It is astonishing how accurately our
best poets describe the objects of nature, and how their imaginative
touches show insight and give a pleasure above mere science. Spenser's
catalogue of the trees is worth knowing by heart. All the vicissitudes
of the changing months have their apt poetical descriptions if we only
look for them. Cowper, Thomson, and Wordsworth might be especially
recommended to pupils for their brilliant word-painting of landscape. I
cannot think of a finer adjunct to the teaching of open-air science than
the auxiliary descriptions of such great masters of verse.

As Mendelssohn composed _songs_ without words, so may the schoolmaster
give _lessons_ of the most powerful import without a word being spoken.
A beautiful interior in a schoolroom is a silent lesson in order and
good taste. Beauty and order have a most valuable influence on the
emotions and the character. It is a pleasure to see the attention that
is now given to the cultivation of taste. Clean, bright class-rooms;
pictures of artistic merit on the walls; busts; collections of fossils,
sea-shells, and the like--these are to be found even in remote country
schools. Such spontaneous education of the eye is something that cannot
be overestimated for importance and fruitfulness.

Lord Avebury puts the case for artistic environment very well indeed.
"Our great danger in education," he says, "is the worship of
book-learning--the confusion of instruction and education. We strain the
memory instead of cultivating the mind. The children are wearied by the
mechanical act of writing and the interminable intricacies of spelling;
they are oppressed by columns of dates, by lists of kings and places,
which convey no definite idea to their minds, and have no near relation
to their daily wants and occupations. We ought to follow exactly the
opposite course, and endeavour to cultivate their taste rather than fill
their minds with dry facts."

There is one precious faculty that runs the risk of being stifled by too
much memory work. I mean the faculty of imagination. Youth is the time
when fancy is busy; it is the period when the brain can furnish
unlimited scaffolding for castles in the air. Wordsworth was so
impressed, indeed, by the opulence of the youthful fancy, that he could
only account for it by supposing recent contact with heaven.


I sometimes think that in the training of the youthful intellect and
imagination we have not made sufficient use of the novels and romances
of Scott. Of late years a great improvement is noticeable in this
respect, and Scott is coming to be regarded as (for school purposes) our
greatest historian. In some schools, as Lord Avebury has hinted, it was
formerly thought that pupils knew history adequately when they could
rattle off a list of dates and tell something of the deeds and misdeeds
of a set of unhappy persons who masqueraded as statesmen and courtiers.
Such unedifying farce has nothing to do with history, which is a
serious, instructive, and all-embracing study. The social life of the
great mass of a nation is far more important and interesting than the
eccentric deeds of a few high-placed rogues or saints. The old
school-history was, unfortunately, too often a glum compendium of
insignificant detail, told without breadth of view or fire of
restorative imagination.

In the history of Scotland, most of what is worth knowing may be most
enjoyably learned from the pages of Sir Walter. Hardly any epoch of
Caledonian annals, hardly any county in the land has escaped the
treatment of his masterly hand. From the Borders to the rain-lashed
Shetlands (the _Pirate_ deals with gusty Thule), from Perth to Morven,
the great wizard has made his country known to all lands. In his stories
the past faithfully reproduces itself, and we are impressed, instructed,
and amused.


It is a pleasure to think that a few of the old school of Scotch
dominies, who date from before the 1872 Act, are still to the fore, and
still engaged in teaching. They have all fixity of tenure, and so enjoy
the privilege of criticising, as adversely as they like, the degeneracy
of modern educational developments. These "_old parochials_," as they
are called, are men of good scholarship, well versed in Horace and
Virgil, and generally fond of snuff and Latin quotations.

The Act of 1872 did a great deal for elementary education, but very
little indeed to encourage that type of higher instruction, which was
the glory of the old parish school. Ian Maclaren and other writers have
given pleasant sketches of country schoolmasters who were strong in the
ancient tongues, and who sent their pupils straight to the benches of
the University. I believe such men as "Domsey" were quite common in this
country. Porteous, whom I knew, was one of these. Porteous was a
philologist second to none in these realms, and was on intimate terms of
acquaintanceship with the famous Veitch, who gave such a _redding up_ to
the Greek verbs. It was very amusing to hear the complete way in which
Porteous could silence some imperial young examining professor on the
weighty subject of classical derivation. The latter would appeal to some
such authority as Curtius, whereupon Porteous would unlock the desk in
which lay the tawse, and taking therefrom a copy of the invoked Curtius,
open it at the root in question, and display the page all marked with
pencil corrections and emendations. In support of his views, would come
such a torrent of erudition from half a score of Classical, Sanscrit,
Gothic, and Anglo-Saxon rills, that the young professor would feel "like
one of sense forlorn," and be fain to put palm to forehead in dazed
amazement. A pupil learning the rudiments under such a teacher, was
dazzled rather than instructed by the ruthless surgery of words that
constantly went on. No word was too small for Porteous to operate upon:
he settled _hoti's_ business, and could so inflate Greek vocables by
supplying digammas and dropped consonants, that Plato would have
disowned them. Give him chalk, a blackboard, and a class of six, and he
would in ten minutes fill the board with hieroglyphics, curves,
arrow-headed diagonals, etc., all meant to illustrate the relationships,
divergencies, and contrarieties of the Aryan roots. His life was spent
in the company of these radicals, and he could call them forth out of
their trickiest hiding-places. In the midst of his chalky toil, he would
turn round with radiant glee as if to say, "This is a merry and exciting
trade: it is my fun and is as good as poaching or golf." But woe betide
the youth who showed levity. Soon would there be weeping and wailing and
tingling of palms. His reputation for strap-wielding made roots

Another teacher of the school of Porteous was Thomas Taylor, whose death
I saw announced a few weeks ago. Where has all _his_ Greek lore gone to,
so assiduously cultivated, so continuously added to? If Taylor's soul is
ever re-incarnated in a mortal body, it is absurd to suppose that he
must begin to learn the Greek alphabet just like a novice. His clay is
indeed mixed with the clay of common men, but I love to think of him
dwelling on the other side of the River in the meads of asphodel,
discussing with kindred shades, the topics he delighted to handle when
he was here. With tearful eye I pen these doleful decasyllabics to his

    What chums Tom Taylor and Charles Lamb had been
    O'er bottled porter and the _Fairy Queen_!
    In youth, one day, seeking forbidden fruit
    Tom tumbled from the branches with his loot,
    And broken bones compelled the lad to go
    On straddling crutches, warily and slow,
    Counting the pebbles on his path below.
    The noisy pleasures of the open air,
    The football kicked exuberant here and there.
    Cricket, beloved of sinewy juvenals,
    And golf with all its hazards, clubs and balls,
    Were not in Taylor's province: so he turned
    To calmer pastimes where the ingle burned,
    And when the whole world turned to _goals_ and _tees_
    He took to _Iliads_ and to _Odysseys_.
    He'd croon like one possessed the magic strain
    Of heroes tossed along the unvintaged main,
    And, crutch aloft in air, would fondly beat
    Time to the rushing of the poet's feet.
    Poetry was all his solace: those bright dames
    That old Dan Chaucer in his rapture names,
    And those in Villon's pages that appear
    As dazzling-white as snows of yester-year,
    Trooped past his eye in long procession fair.
    O, Sovereign Virgin, what a crowd was there!
    Helen, alas! with Paris by her side,
    On the high deck crossing the sunny tide,
    Circé, bright-moving in her godlike bloom
    Before the throbbing music of the loom.
    The love-lorn heroines of Shakespeare's plays,
    The red-cheeked country girls of Burns's lays,
    Would to his raptured eye the tear-drop bring,
    And set his crazy quill a-sonnetting.


The old-world schoolmaster believed Latin was a universal specific. He
loved the language and knew all the flock of frisky little exceptions of
gender and conjugation, even as a shepherd knows his sheep. He gave his
pupils gentle doses of the _Delectus_, and watched with eager, almost
menacing, eye, for the working of the charm. It is quite possible that
no pupil ever went over that _Delectus_, with its world-weary fragments
of trite morality, without a feeling of pleasure at the _Decline and
Fall of the Roman Empire_. Yet it was educative, and moreover a boy was
equipped for life with quotations suiting every juncture. Fate was
powerless against one who had mastered the _Delectus_. The faculty of
Latin quotation was to some extent also a badge of respectability.
Fancy, too, the glory of being the exclusive possessor in a mixed
company of the knowledge that Castor and Pollux came out of the one egg!
It was a sore drawback to a boy once upon a time if he were shaky on the
compounds of _fero_.

"_The pest of the present day is the prevalence of examinations_:"
these, it is alleged, have destroyed the grand old freedom of learning
which gave full scope for the individuality alike of teacher and pupil.
Oh! those were days of the gods, when five hours were spent daily
burrowing in Virgil and Horace! Arcadia was realised--a sunny clime of
Nymphs, Fauns, and Graces. The supreme luxury of abundant time--the
leisurely chewing of sweet-phrased morsels--is gone: it is gone, that
chastity of phrase and perfection of idiom, which felt a bad quantity
like a wound. The examination craze has destroyed the classical dominie,
and the intrusion of science, falsely so-called, has well-nigh
asphyxiated the Napææ of the dells. It was formerly possible for the
teacher to develop to the full his literary taste and declaim the
sonorous tit-bits of Virgil till the tears started from his eyes. Now
the instructors of youth seem to regard the works of the tuneful Mantuan
as composed for the purpose of illustrating the use of the Latin
subjunctive. Youths cannot get at the Aeneid, the spirit and majesty of
it, I mean, owing to the pestilential numbers of grammatical
reminiscences recalled by almost every line. When once you begin to set
examination papers on a subject, the romance seems to evaporate. There
is something withering about test-questions. This modern disease of
grammatical annotation, engendered largely by prosaic examiners, who
have published grammars, is spreading to the English Classics, and we
may soon expect Burns to furnish a text for exceptional scansion,
bob-wheel metrics and general philological catechising. Items which
glide effortless into the brain in desultory reading are not so easily
remembered if the examination is in store. Certain gentlemen have
recently been reading Milton with a pair of compasses in order to
discover the exact point of the cæsural pause in every line: they give
figures, strike percentages, and set questions which even the leading
character in "Paradise Lost" couldn't answer. Literary microscopy is
likely to ruin Shakespeare's reputation in school and would have done so
long ago but for Lamb's _Tales_--a darling compilation and by far the
best introduction to the poet. "_Shakespeare is a horrid man_" is the
deliberate verdict of the schoolgirl who has been teased to death by the
notes within the tawny covers of the Clarendon Press Edition. And fancy
what Chaucer's Prologue must seem like, taught by a man bent only on
philological hunts, variant readings, and a complete explanation of all
the final e's.


It has always seemed to me a matter for surprise that those who had for
years studied the elements of Latin and Greek at school (and that with
no small difficulty), should entirely neglect these tongues afterwards
and read nothing composed in them. Most elaborate preparations are made
to reach the Promised Land, but the weary passenger never gets there.
Can it be that the preparations are too elaborate?[24] They are
certainly not very interesting, and are, indeed, well fitted to disgust
pupils with the classical tongues. Sir William Ramsay of Aberdeen, in a
letter to the _Herald_ some time ago, spoke strongly on this subject.

Sir William says, with justice, that a teacher should teach his subject
without any thought of examination. Every teacher would like to do that
if he could. As a matter of fact, the secondary schoolmaster is forced
to become a crammer. He codifies the catch questions of previous
university preliminaries, excogitates similar weird lists of anomalies
and exceptions, and doses the pupils on such stuff instead of really
teaching the important parts of his subject. Experience seems to prove
that the most effective way of rendering a subject dry, uneducational,
and generally useless is to set examination papers on it. What can be
more outrageous and grotesque than the practice of setting
out-of-the-way questions because of the ease thus afforded to the
examiners in correcting the answers of the helpless and puzzled
candidates! Even though the questions set were plain and
straightforward, it would be absurd to suppose that an hour or two in an
examination hall could furnish sufficient data to pass or fail a

It used to be the glory of our universities that an average college
class contained representatives of every grade of society in the land.
Professor Ramsay says it is not so now: the professors have become
pedagogic coaches, and the students grind rather than study. Sir William
assures us that many who would make good students are frightened away by
the preliminary examination. It would be interesting to know where these
latter go when they leave school. Do they rush off to business at once,
or do they proceed with their education in some extra-mural way? If they
can afford the time, the university is certainly the place for them. Let
the university gates be opened as wide as possible to all serious-minded
youths, and let it be remembered that it is not necessarily those who
sweat most over their books or take the highest honours that get most
good from attendance at the lectures.

It does not appear that, at present, our universities are adequately in
touch with the nation. The great commercial community of Glasgow does
not benefit nearly enough from having a famous seat of learning in its
midst. We might learn a lesson from the Sorbonne how best to nationalise
our universities. In Paris, the lecture halls are open to all, and it is
possible for either native or foreigner to listen for hours daily, if he
be so minded, to some of the finest and most erudite orators and
scholars of Europe. There are, it is true, special students' courses,
from which the general public is excluded, but the most important
lectures are open to all. Hence the Sorbonne is a national institution
in every sense of the word. I do not say that Glasgow does not benefit a
little from the corps of professors at Gilmorehill. But the benefit is
spasmodic, discontinuous, and extremely limited. Some of the professors
do at times come down into the open and speak words of wisdom. But more
is wanted than that if the universities are to be saved from
denationalisation. We hear of Dugald Stewart's class-room being, in the
old days, crowded with the keenest intellects of the Capital. But a
university was not then a kind of higher-grade secondary school.

    [24] It is a notorious fact that very few graduates, when they
    leave college, are able to read Latin from an author they have
    not specially studied, with ease or pleasure. For this melancholy
    fact there are several reasons. The range of reading is miserably
    meagre. Only a few authors are read, and almost every sentence of
    these is cumbered with such an amount of annotation as to render
    progress and literary appreciation alike painful. Composition in
    Latin absorbs far too much time: the first duty of the teacher
    ought to be to turn out pupils who can read Latin with fluency.
    No amount of grammatical detail or laborious composition, as at
    present practised, will ever make up for the lack of wide
    reading. Professor Phillimore's recent suggestion that the
    less-known authors should be read more than they are, is wise and
    opportune. The authors he mentions would furnish a welcome relief
    from the unspeakable dreariness of over-annotated texts.


Almost every schoolmaster I have met, either in the Highlands or
Lowlands, has his budget of anecdotes, usually dealing with children's
answers or the droll eccentricities of the local School Board. The
answers of children are invariably entertaining; and I wish the
Educational Institute of Scotland would appoint a committee to codify
the howlers that come under the notice of its members. A collection of
genuine howlers would be no unimportant service to the science of
juvenile psychology. Let it be remembered that the eminent Professor
Sully considered it in no way derogatory to his philosophical status to
write on the subject of _dolls_. In bi-lingual districts children's
answers would have a special value. Children are everywhere, of course,
more or less bird-witted and inattentive. Here is a story which
illustrates what Latin scholars call _contaminatio_. A teacher had given
a lesson on the geography of Kent, laying special stress on Canterbury,
as giving a title to the Anglican primate, and on Greenwich as the place
through which, on the map, the first meridian is made to pass. At the
close of the lesson, he wished to test the scholars, and asked one of
them what Canterbury was famous for. At once came the glib reply:
"Canterbury is the seat of an _archbishop through whom the first
meridian passes_." The difficulty young pupils have in concentrating
their ideas, is largely accountable for many of the diverting essays we
have all heard and seen. On a recent visit to the romantic shores of
Skye, I was shown the following essay on Water: "Water is a liquid, but
in winter you can slide on it. In all kinds of water, little beasts
occur to a greater or to a less extent. Even a great amount of heat
cannot kill these curious little animals. _Hence some people prefer
spirits._" From the same quarter I procured this nugget on patriotism.
"Patriotism is love of country such as we see in Burns or Sir Walter
Scott. Burns and Sir Walter wrote beautiful lines about their native
land, and thousands of tourists came and circulated their money there.
_It would be telling us_ if writers would imitate these great patriots
in our day." Many of the young scribes on the mainland can also indulge
in a deal of brilliant irrelevancy. One of them being asked to write an
essay on "Rivers," began thus: "_In ancient times, the chief use of
rivers was for the baptizing of converts_." Another, in the course of a
short life of King Alfred, made a strong point of that monarch's
humility, adding, "In order to discover the plans of the Danes, he
demeaned himself so far as to go to their camp _disguised as a poet_."
The annual blue book of the Scotch Education Department used to include
a recreative series of howlers that had been sent up in the various
reports of the Government Inspectors. These tit-bits were well
calculated to keep up the gaiety of nations. Of late years these howlers
have been excised, but if Scotland had Home Rule they might re-appear.

The finer attenuations of speech are unknown to the soaring human boy.
I was shown an essay on Ireland the other day in which the young writer
compendiously remarked, "_The Irish are a bloodthirsty, lazy, and
resentful race_." On Wordsworth, another juvenile critic thus expressed
himself: "_Wordsworth's compositions are utter bosh_." The following
extract is from an "Essay on the '15": "_The Rising of '15 was a failure
because the Old Pretender was an unmitigated ass. Fancy an ass trying to
take charge of a Rebellion!_"

A genial gentleman, Mr. Sneyd-Kynnersley, who retired from the
Inspectorate some years ago, published in 1908 a book of choice
reminiscences, containing some good specimens of schoolboy answers. Some
of his howlers have long been known in the North: but a howler (like
history) is wont to repeat itself. I saw in a Paisley boy's essay on
Lambert Simnel the following sentence: "Lambert Simnel was a claimant
for the English crown, and went about the country boasting that he was
one of the princes who had been murdered in the Tower." Mr. Kynnersley's
examinee wrote thus: "Prince Charles Edward claimed to be one of the
little princes murdered in the Tower. He was found to be a deceiver, and
was put into the king's kitchen to work."

A boy once told Mr. Kynnersley that _a quorum is a question asked at a
meeting which the chairman is unable to answer_. I saw a definition of
paradox, equally absurd: "_A paradox is something which is apparently
not what it seems to be_."

It is a favourite geographical test to require a pupil to describe a
coast journey between two seaports, and mention capes, rivers, and towns
seen on the way. "Describe a trip from Greenock to the Isle of Man,"
said a teacher to his class; "I give you an hour to write it out." Very
few were past Lochryan at the hour's end. One daring youth took his
boat, which he christened "_The Comet_," right round the Mull of
Kintyre, with intent to reach Douglas by way of Cape Wrath, the North
Sea, Dover, Land's End, and St. George's Channel. When time was up, the
_Comet_, all torn and tattered by the strumpet wind, was beating round
the north end of Skye. That boy will, in all probability, turn out a
deep-sea captain.

"How many days are there in a year?" asked an inspector of a class of
Highland youngsters. No answer was given. "Tut, tut," said the inspector
testily, "this is ridiculous. Is there _no one_ who knows how many days
there are in the year?" "Oh, yes, sir," said a boy reproachfully, "_God

"What kind of king was William III.?" inquired another examiner. "He had
an aquiline nose, sir," said a boy. "What does that mean?" said the
examiner. "_It means_," answered the boy, "_that William III.'s nose was
turned up at the point like the beak of an eagle!_" "What right had
William to the English throne?" continued the examiner, changing his
ground. "_No right under heaven_," was the forceful Jacobite rejoinder.

Here is a tale, from the eastern seaboard of Scotland.

_Inspector_, M.A., Ph.D., LL.D., etc. (examining a class of ten-year
olds): "Now, boys, what is the shape of the earth?"

_Boy:_ "Roon, like an orange."

_Inspector:_ "But how do I _know_, how can I be _sure_ that the earth is
round like an orange?"

_Boy:_ "_Because I tell't ye._"

Pupils show great affection for the phrases of their text-books. Not
long ago, at a written examination, a lad wrote in reply to a historical
question which was puzzling him: "_The answer to this question is known
only to the Great Searcher of Hearts_." What could the boy mean? Was it
"cheek," ignorance, or piety? It was none of these. _It was Collier!_
About thirty years ago, Dr. Collier, a modern Euphuist, composed a
_History of England_, which deserves to be reckoned among the glories of
the reign. Carlyle may be great, but Collier is greater: Collier is a
theologian, philosopher, and _a' that_. The style of his history is a
wondrous blend of _Ossian_ and Hervey's _Meditations among the Tombs_;
and its special peculiarity is that the words, owing to some feature,
never really analysed, linger in the mind long after the sentences of
the Shorter Catechism have become blurred. Collier is strong in
tropes--a highly-dangerous feature. It is no doubt true, as he says,
that William the Conqueror ruled with a rod of iron, but when a boy,
after reading this metaphor, asserts that that sovereign ruled his
subjects _with a long iron pole_, you begin to question the utility of
historical study. "Joy-bells pealed and bonfires blazed," is a phrase of
the Doctor's which sets all the caverns of the mind ringing, even though
its historical setting is long forgotten. But unction is the chief
feature of the history: there is a rotund finality about the author's
spacious utterances, and a dodging of investigation by means of pious
generalisations. The book has all the effect of a benediction. When it
is really too tiresome to inquire into all the authorities on some
affair of magnitude, it is so respectable to sum up in the phrase
imitated by the youth alluded to above.

It is in the Secondary Schools of the country that the confusion of
thought is apt to be most painfully seen. Far too much is attempted, and
the pupils are overworked. A teacher in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, a
_laudator temporis acti_, has a manuscript collection of howlers, drawn
from elementary, secondary, and university sources, with the following
fearful lines as a preface:--

    "Ye statesmen all, of high or humble station,
    Collective conscience of the British nation,
    Whether the frothing vat has made your name
    Or tropes in carpet-bags begot your fame,
    Behold the _product_ of the education
    Wherewith is dosed the rising generation.
    And see the modern devotee of cram
    At midnight hour hard-grinding for the exam.,
    A moistened towel garlanding his brow,
    And coffee simmering on the hob below.
    High on a three-legged stool uncushioned, he
    Sits glowering through his goggles painfully,
    Nagging his brain with all a grinder's might
    Till _one_ sounds on the drowsy ear of night.
    Like Sibyl's leaves the papers strew his floor
    Wrought-out examples, 'wrinkles' by the score,
    Conundrums algebraic, 'tips' on Conics
    And thorny 'props' remembered by mnemonics.
    Betweenwhiles as the slow time lagging goes,
    He takes the spectacles from off his nose,
    Removes the damper from his aching head,
    Pours out the coffee, cuts a slice of bread,
    Sips wistfully the liquid from his cup:
    The zeal to pass the exam. has eaten _him_ up.
    Thrice happy ye! born 'neath the ancient reign
    When _Tityre tu_ alone possessed the brain
    (Ere Tyndall's tubes made sweating students numb)
    And the whole aim of life was _di, do, dum_."


So numerous indeed are the subjects of the school curriculum in our day
that howlers and confusion are bound to result. Formerly there was but
one scheme (containing classics, mathematics, and a little English), and
everybody took it. Now there is a kind of competition among the
departments of a school as to which is the most culturing. When a fond
mother asks the opinion of the masters as to what course of study her
boy (whom she is entitled to think a genius of the first order) ought to
pursue, she is often puzzled by the variety of answers. Mr. Test-tube,
the Science Master, invariably prescribes an extensive course of
chemistry. If a boy is to be a lawyer, he ought to know the principles
of atomic combination and the doctrine of gases; if he thinks of the
ministry, why then, having a thorough acquaintance with science, he will
be competent to close the mouths of heretics, infidels, and such vermin.
Dr. Aorist, on the other hand, believes that a sound knowledge of "_qui_
with the subjunctive" is a splendid sheet-anchor for every squall in
life's rude sea. "I wish my boy to be a civil engineer; what advice
would you give me as to his studies?" "I have no hesitation in
affirming," the Doctor replies, "that the boy will build bridges all
the better if he has his mind expanded and (so to speak) broadened by
the study of subjects outside his special trade, such, _e.g._, as the
interesting fact that in ancient times 'All Gaul was divided into three

The average boy has an impartial mind. As a rule, he has no prejudice in
favour of either science or letters, his maxim being never to do to-day
what he can put off till to-morrow.

              His favourite books for home
    Are buccaneering combats on the foam,
    Or grim detective tales of Scotland Yard,
    Where gleams the bull's-eye lamp and drips the poniard.

Parents may be reminded that the wide spaces of the colonies remain to
be peopled and that many a _stickit minister_ might have made a
first-class empire-builder.



    Aberdeen--En route--Lerwick--Past and present saints--Some notes
    on the islands--A Shetland poet--A visit to Bressay--From
    Lerwick to Sandwick--Quarff--"That holy man,
    Noah"--Fladibister--Cunningsburgh--"Keeping off"--The indignant
    elder--Torquil Halcrow--Philology--A Sandwick gentleman--Local
    tales--Foulah and Fair Isle--The fishing season.


The most expeditious and comfortable way of getting to Shetland is by
way of Aberdeen.

I have passed through the city of _Bon Accord_ about six times during
the last twelvemonth, and like it better the more I see of it. It is one
of the stateliest towns in Britain, and its main street, spacious, airy,
and symmetrical, is hard to match. The architectural taste of the new
University Buildings is perfect, and will be more striking still to the
casual visitor, when the unsightly buildings all round have been torn
down. It would be worth while going to Aberdeen if for nothing but to
see the superb stretch of sandy beach between the mouths of the Don and
the Dee: one could sit and dream away a whole forenoon there and be
entirely oblivious to the proximity of a large town.

The finest tribute paid to Aberdeen was written nearly four hundred
years ago by the great Scotch poet, William Dunbar. Three years before
Flodden, Queen Margaret passed through the town, and Dunbar, who
accompanied her, was so delighted with the hospitality, loyalty, and
lavish expenditure of the magistrates, that he wrote a eulogistic poem
to commemorate the occasion. Dunbar carried away the impression that
Aberdeen was a _blythe_ place:

    "_Blythe_ Aberdeen thou beryl of all tounis,
    Thou lamp of beauty, bounty and _blitheness_."

I do not find that the town has produced many poets, but it has been the
cause of poetry in others.[25] A few years ago Mr. William Watson, out
of gratitude for the LL.D. bestowed on him by the University, wrote a
pleasant sonnet in which Aberdeen is represented as

    "Beaming benignant o'er the northern main."

As I sat on the seashore, repeating to myself the lines of Mr. Watson's
poem, and breathing the fresh air, which an official of the bath-house
told me was _made in Germany_ (meaning thereby that the wind was blowing
from the east), the thought struck me that it would be a pardonable
pastime to employ the spare time I had before the boat started for
Lerwick, in writing a _Sonnet to Mr. William Watson_. In such
exercitations it is necessary to employ the second person singular:

    Watson! I would thy pen were fluenter,
    And yet, perchance, thou usest stores of ink,
    Ampler than any of thy readers think,
    In blotting that wherein the first quick stir
    Of thought and genius made the language err.
    If Heaven had lent thy polished Muse a blink
    Of saving humour for her crambo-clink,
    Then never-dying fame had fallen to her.
    Yet Heaven be thanked for what it has bestowed
    On thee of what is tunefullest and best:
    The trim epistle, the heart-stirring ode,
    The witching freshness of a _Prince's Quest_,
    The soft romance that dreams of years gone by,
    Bright noons and dewy glades of Arcady.

    [25] A recent publication shows that Greek verse is well written
    at the University. Paisley folk should know that an Aberdonian
    Hellenist has put some of Tannahill's verses into Greek.


The little steamer that plies between Aberdeen and Lerwick is timed to
leave the former port at 11.30 a.m., _or as soon afterwards as the tide
will permit_. Often the boat does not leave for some hours after 11.30
a.m., the tide not being always to blame. What a capacity the boat has
for empty barrels! I counted six heaped lorry-loads of them that were
rolled on board, destined, later on, to be filled with herring up north
among the islands.

It is extremely interesting (see Virgil III., 690) to stand in calm
weather on the deck of a moving vessel and talk about the notable places
on the coast with one who knows them well. Much information of a varied
and piquant kind may thus be acquired. The Aberdeenshire coast is rather
unpicturesque, but many historical legends linger airily on the stern
old ruins that are passed from time to time. I omit mention of these,
preferring to tell an anecdote of recent years that is associated with
the immense rocky sea-caverns, of world-wide fame, not far from Cruden
Bay. During the Boer War, some Scotch journalists, strong in the science
of genealogy, undertook to prove that all the generals at the front had
Scotch blood in their veins. It seems that these patriotic penmen
succeeded quite easily in making their contention good with respect to
all the generals _save one_. No Scotch lineage could be found for
General Buller. The difficulty was at last surmounted by the felicitous
conjecture that he was one of the famous _Bullers of Buchan_!

About eight miles past Cruden Bay is Peterhead, the most easterly town
in Britain. Great efforts are being made at present to boom this place
as a health resort. I have heard it said that "printers who die at 30 of
consumption elsewhere, weigh 21 stone at over threescore in Peterhead,"
also that "centenarians there have been known to get up at 5.30 a.m., to
chop wood, no chill or bacillus daring to make them afraid." The Home
Office has long thought highly of Peterhead as a place of permanent
retreat for those afflicted with ethical infirmities.

After Peterhead is left behind, the steamer soon gets entirely away from
land. All night long she battles through the surges, passes about 2 a.m.
the lonely Fair Isle, encompassed by the rushing roost, and two hours
later Sumburgh Head is visible. The approach to Bressay, especially if
the rocks and precipices are half seen through driving haze, is
suggestive, to a student, of the landscape of "Beowulf," with its _windy
walls_, _shadow-helms_, _broad nesses_, and _glimmering sea-cliffs_.

As seen from the sea, Lerwick looks trim and picturesque, but when the
visitor lands, he is apt to lose his bearings among its tortuous lanes.
I followed a porter who was tottering under the weight of trunks, and
asked him, as we treaded a flag-paved vennel: "Is it far to the main
street?" He grimly replied: "This _is_ the main street, sir." The
response unnerved me, shaky as I was with seventeen hours' tossing on
the North Sea. Once in the hotel, my spirits rose. A most welcome and
savoury breakfast--consumed near an open window commanding a view over a
sun-lit sound--is well able to hearten the most downcast.


The town of Lerwick is indeed one of the finest of our island capitals,
and is constantly becoming finer. No visitor can fail to be impressed by
its unique natural harbour, gloriously screened by the God-given shelter
of the island of Bressay. Commercial Street, which runs along the
water's edge, is at the foot of a hill, and is so narrow in parts that
two vehicles can hardly get past each other. If I stayed in Lerwick, I
should not like to have any resident enemies, for it would be difficult
to keep from brushing clothes with them in the main street. Up from this
main street to the newer town, on a plateau at the top, run numerous
quaint wynds, sinuous, and not always well-scavenged. This new and
well-built part contains the far-seen and notable Town Hall, the
architecture of which would have pleased Ruskin, especially as its fine
windows are all appositely illustrative of Shetlandic annals. By
climbing the dusty clock-tower, one has a splendid view of all
surrounding slopes and seas.

Here is a hint to prospective tourists. Take to the left when you quit
the hall, get down the lane leading to the sea-crags, and walk for two
miles in the direction of the rifle-range. It is a glorious and solitary
walk--not altogether solitary, for the sea is invariably good company.
Don't be so foolish as to keep on your hat: off with it, and let the
air-borne sea-spume wet your brow. It is also a good thing to recite
Byron's vigorous "Address to the Ocean,"--the odd cows you may pass will
not stop their grazing for that. There is no finer air in King Edward's
dominions than that which blows in this region, for the hill air meets
the sea air that has come all the way from Norway, and the two coalesce
to give the rapt pedestrian a mouthful of exhilarating ether. One who is
really a poet and not merely a casual sonneteer, should try to get a
site for his tent on this particular shore, and retire to compose an
epoch-making epic. The mediæval saints knew what they were doing when
they retired to little nooks and isles along this coast to pray and
meditate undisturbed: it is much easier to feel devout in a fresh
atmosphere, than in the squalor of a town.


What indeed astonishes the visitor to these northern isles is the
immense number of ecclesiastical ruins. The Christian missionaries seem
speedily to have translated their enthusiasm into stone and lime. What
hymns were chanted and what sermons preached up there in bygone times,
passes the wit of man to reckon! It is a far cry from Palestine to the
Shetland creeks and voes, but the voice of the lowly Nazarene
effectually reached the Celts and Norsemen of these treeless
storm-lashed isles.

Many of the smaller islands have the appellation _papa_, which
indicates, as I hinted above, that some monk or hermit, withdrawing from
the world to pray and meditate, has bequeathed a whiff of sanctity to
headland and skerry.

"The hermit good lives in the wood," says Coleridge, but for the
Shetland _papa_ there was no _nemorum murmur_:--

    No sun-illumined leafage met his eye
    Raised from perusal of the Holy Word,
    No murmur of the woodland zephyr-stirred
    Blended with his devotions sped on high,
    Only the chiding of the billows nigh.
    The clangour of the wheeling ocean-bird,
    Or soul-astounding shriek of storm-fiend heard
    From the dun cloud-battalions hurrying by,
    Greeted his ear: yet piously through all
    His life the austere anchorite remained,
    On his lone island, buffeted by squall
    And sea, and faithful unto death obtained
    The promised guerdon that the Lord bestows
    Upon the pure in heart, and only those.

It has been asserted by those who have means of knowing, that the days
of theological rigidity are past and gone in the Shetlands. Thing
unheard of in the Hebrides--the shops are open on Sunday mornings for
the sale of Saturday's _Scotsman_ and _Herald_. In some parts of
Scotland you could not hire a trap for a Sunday drive; in others, you
_might_ manage, by salving the driver's conscience with a double fare.
In Shetland the tariff is the same for the first and the last days of
the week. To explain the ecclesiastical differences between the islands
of the North and the West would require a philosopher with all Buckle's
shrewdness and ingenuity. Buckle accounted for the sombre nature of
Scotch theology by dwelling on the awe-inspiring reverberations of
thunder among the Highland peaks. The easy-going creed of the Shetlands
might perhaps be accounted for by a reference to the happy-go-lucky way
in which the sea wanders at will among the confusion of peninsulas,
islets, and skerries. Any theory is better than none at all, and
geopsychical explanations are fashionable at present.

The pulpit stars twinkle with great lustre in these boreal regions. A
country minister, with no preparatory groans, but sharp and trippingly
thus began his homily some Sundays ago: "It is now thirty-five years
since the Lord sent me to labour in this part of his vineyard, if
vineyard I may call it, where no grape was ever seen. On a bright summer
morning thirty-five years ago, I turned the corner of the road and came
among you. Young women, your mothers were in the fields, busy with the
work of the crofts. Your mothers were exceedingly fair to look upon, and
I am happy to say, my dear young sisters, that, by the providence of
God, the beauty of your mothers has lost nothing by being transmitted to
your comely selves. And now for my text, which you will find in Ezekiel,
chapter _x_ and verse _y_."


A century ago Shetland was almost an unknown land to the Lowlanders of
Scotland. When a Shetland minister was deputed to attend the General
Assembly, it might take him a year to get there and back. His journey
was a very circuitous one: he had to go in a trading vessel to Hamburg,
take boat from Hamburg to London, and from London proceed to Leith. To
return from Edinburgh, the journey was performed the reverse way. Now
that there is a regular service between Aberdeen and Lerwick, and
between Leith and several of the Shetland ports, the journey can be
performed with comfort and expedition. Tourists flock North in the
summer season to admire the scenery, catch the trout, and inhale the
health-giving breezes.

The natives, being mainly of Norse descent, look with a kindly eye over
the water in the direction of Bergen. They do not love Scotland, and
they have their reasons. When the Shetlands were handed over to the
Scotch kings, numbers of needy adventurers, armed with cheaply-got
charters, swooped down on the islands and dispossessed the native
proprietors. This has neither been forgotten nor forgiven. Mr. Russell,
who lived for three years among them, says:--"They believe that the
present lairds are interlopers, and that they themselves have been
defrauded and despoiled. They speak of these things only among
themselves, and not openly; but those who have been in the country, and
have gained their confidence, know that there is a strong undercurrent
of feeling against Scotland and Scotsmen.... They conceive that they
have a claim even as things are, to dwell on the land, and that a
proprietor has no right to remove them from his estate." I was
dreadfully shocked to notice that in a volume of tales published by a
Lerwick author only four years ago, the leading villain was from the
mainland. "Scotland is nothing to us," said a Shetlander to an inspector
of schools. "What has Scotland ever done for us except send us _greedy
ministers and dear meal_?"

In the old days, when communication with the mainland was uncertain and
fitful, the luxuries of civilised life were quite unknown. In one
outlying district a box of oranges was washed ashore from a wreck: these
the natives boiled, under the impression that the orange was a novel
kind of potato. A cask of treacle, come by in a similar way, was used
like tar to daub the bottom of a smack. By and by a cow was seen to lick
the boat with evident relish, and this opened the eyes of the natives to
the real nature of the substance. Nowadays the natives are well in line
with modern civilisation, one of the most convincing proofs being that
they buy drugs and patent medicines of every kind. One has only to scan
the advertisement pages of the Shetland newspapers to note the
persistent way in which quacks of all shades bring their nostrums before
the notice of the islanders. Dyspepsia and rheumatism are the commonest
ailments; and to combat these, myriads of pills and numberless elixirs
are annually swallowed. Faith does a lot even when the drugs of a
legitimate practitioner are concerned: the fact that you have swallowed
something with a bitter taste is often a distinct aid to recovery. Mr.
Russell, whom I referred to above, says: "To my surprise, I learned that
some who were in extreme poverty, and had hardly enough food to eat,
were in the habit of sending South for pills and patent medicines."


Long before I ever thought of visiting Shetland, I was acquainted with
the dialect spoken there, through having studied a most interesting
little book of poems called _Rasmie's Büdie_, published in Paisley. The
author of this book is Mr. Haldane Burgess, a very prolific and able
writer, but unfortunately afflicted with blindness. During my short stay
in Lerwick, I gave myself the pleasure of calling upon him, and I was
intensely delighted with my reception. When the sense of sight is lost,
that of touch becomes inordinately keen: Mr. Burgess has accordingly
excellent control over his type-writer, and can compose as nimbly as in
the days when his eyesight was unimpaired. He spoke of his most recent
novel, _The Treasure of Don Andreas_, and expressed himself as highly
pleased at the criticism passed upon it by a reviewer in the _Athenæum_.
Mr. Burgess begins composition every morning at seven, and regulates his
life with military precision. On all departments of Shetlandic history,
folk-lore, and dialect, he discourses with great knowledge, fluency, and
animation. But his interests in the general field of modern literature
are extremely wide. He speaks the Norse language almost as easily as
English, has studied Icelandic, and knows a good deal about the writers
of modern France. Some friend had been reading Arnold's _Literature and
Dogma_ to him shortly before my visit. He was loud in praise of that
book, the ironical insolence and pawky humour of which he had greatly

On parting from Mr. Burgess, I received from him a copy of his pleasant
Shetlandic story _Tang_, a careful and illuminating study of island life
and manners. The English style struck me as full, robust, and strongly
tinged with poetical figures, and the character sketches drawn with the
precision of intimate knowledge. All his prose works display great
wealth of material, and much psychological insight. His most
characteristic production, however, is his little book of poems
mentioned above, _Rasmie's Büdie_. Rasmie is a Shetland crofter who is
typical of the race: shrewd, kindly, thoughtful, and gifted with a touch
of quaint sarcasm. He has perfectly clear views of life, this old
peasant, and is quite free from cant, or superstition, or mystery. Some
of his metaphors are droll: after long pondering on the scheme of
creation, he comes to the conclusion that earth is the field, heaven the
house, and hell the "midden." Pope, speaking of _Paradise Lost_,
complains that--

    "In quibbles angels and archangels join,
    And God the Father turns a school-divine."

What would the great Augustan have thought of verse in which God the
Father is likened to a cosmic Crofter?

    "Dis Universe is Güd's grit croft,
    It's His by richt, wis never koft
                Frae gritter laird
    And ne'er sall be, laek laand o Toft
                Wi' idder shared."

For those who have the patience to pierce through the husk of Rasmie's
dialect, much amusement and delight is in store.


If Charles Lamb and Herbert Spencer had been sent to Lerwick and Bressay
to write a report on what they saw, I daresay the difference of their
accounts would have astonished every reader. Lamb would probably have
swilled porter in the _Ultima Thule_ Refreshment Bar and written a most
interesting account of Bressay without ever crossing the Sound. The ribs
of a big uncouth Dutch boat, square, cumbrous, shell-fretted, and tilted
up on the beach, would probably have bulked more in Lamb's narrative
than the modern steam-trawlers that abound in these waters. His
politico-economical reflections on the rise in price of peppermint
lozenges, consequent on the annual arrival of the Dutch fishing crews
would, I am sure, have furnished excellent reading. Spencer's report
would have dealt, I fancy, with the rotation of crops, the cause of the
different currents, the varieties of pigmentation (with percentages)
among the islanders, and the evolution of fishing gear from its
rudimentary forms--in sum with the definite combination of heterogeneous
changes both simultaneous and successive, in correspondence with
external coexistences and sequences. No two out of a hundred visitors
see the same things, a fact which may help to prove Bishop Berkeley's
theory that the universe is subjective entirely.

I went over to Bressay with a genial and erudite clergyman to visit the
schoolhouse and inspect the ruins of an eighth century church. Three
Shetland women rowed us over the Sound and handled the oars splendidly.
The minister, a plump, jolly be-spectacled gentleman, who has not
"perpetrated matrimony," declared with a sigh that he was an unprotected
male, and on our arrival at the Bressay beach, he called aloud to the
oarswomen to lift him out of the boat. These muscular dames shrieked
with laughter and proceeded to unship their oars as if to buffet him:
he, thereupon, leaped lightly enough on the strand and, turning round,
would have improved the occasion by a word in season had not the
tittering Nereids begun to splash him as he stood on the shingle.

Innumerable sheep pasture on the Bressay slopes, and on the sky-line of
some of the hills one can discern companies of rollicking Shetland
ponies. My friend, the minister, who is writing a book on Darwin, got
into conversation with Mr. Manson, the Bressay pony-breeder. The latter
spoke thus about his tiny steeds: "Pony-breeding is a more puzzling
business than anything else in God's universe. The parents,
grandparents, and great grandparents of a given pony have all been
perfect in every point. Good! You naturally expect that a pony with such
exceptionable ancestry will itself be without a flaw. But is it? No,
often it is not. Too frequently you get bitter water from sweet, and
thistles instead of grapes. Just look at that tricky, mischievous,
ill-tempered, wall-eyed little rascal. Where did he get his evil
cantrips and his wall-eye? I have known his ancestors for four
generations back and they were all without a blemish." The minister made
a note of this fact within the book and volume of his brain: it may be
useful in the pulpit, and I expect to see it in print when he publishes
his book on Darwin.

The eighth century church was at last reached. It is about three miles
from the landing-place and quite near the water. Every point was most
lucidly explained by my ecclesiastical guide. To the outer eye the place
consisted of some low, ruined walls enclosing various species of rank,
wet grass. Such remains of olden piety are provocative of gloomy
reverie, which the rushing of the inconstant tide close by only serves
to deepen. Immediately after the Crucifixion and long before this church
was reared by saintly hands, the little Christian communities thought
the kingdom of God would shortly be established and all sin and
suffering be banished from the world. But the apostles died, and so
successively have

    "Priest, doctor, hermit, monk grown white
      With prayer, the broken-hearted nun,
    The martyr, the wan acolyte,
      The incense-swinging child"--

the bishop, the church-builder, and the patriot in all those
generations, and the kingdom of God is not with us yet, seems, indeed,
to be as far off as ever. When the world has been at peace for a while
and the millennium seems imminent, all of a sudden a perverse,
stiff-necked, _wall-eyed_ generation supervenes, and evolution gives way
to deterioration!

Lightly bounding down the ages, my companion turned my thoughts from
unrealised dreams of religion to those of politics. Along these waters
that cast their spray on the ancient ruin, James Hepburn, Earl of
Bothwell, third husband of Queen Mary, fled in hot haste, with a
pursuing squadron at his heels, in the year 1567. Kirkaldy of Grange
entered the Sound of Bressay as Bothwell was leaving by the northern

Our walk lasted about four hours, and ended up in the school-house,
where the teacher's hospitable dame regaled us to a welcome and
excellent cup of tea. It did us good after the strain of so many
reminiscences. The teacher is a hearty and sociable gentleman, who loves
his books and his fireside. On the fine Saturdays, friends ferry across
from Lerwick for a round of golf with him over the Bressay links. The
fine library, recently sent from Paisley, furnishes a pleasant variety
of reading both for himself and his pupils. On my remarking that, as
chairman at the lecture next evening, he need not speak more than thirty
minutes, he replied, with visible emotion, that he would concentrate his
remarks into a space of thirty seconds.

We got back to Lerwick in a lugsail that was full of passengers,
potatoes, and milk-cans. There was a good deal of loud, elementary chaff
during the twenty minutes' crossing. An old, wrinked, peat-smoked dame
gave us much good advice and (better still) a sprig of white heather
apiece. I found by subsequent experience that the trip is not always so
amusing. Next evening a boatman pulled us over, and it was stiff work
for him, as the Sound was lumpy and the wind contrary. Coming back, he
hoisted his sail, and we careered over in rollicking style. I was a
little scared at the swift-rushing currents and the switchback motion of
the boat. Overhead were moon, stars, and flying clouds; the hulls of big
steamers loomed like phantoms on the surface of the Sound; on the hill
opposite twinkled the ever-nearing light of Lerwick.

Bressay, I may add, has a nice little hall, with all items of modern
convenience, including ventilation. The building is used for every
legitimate purpose, from worship to _weel-timed daffin'_.


I have a vivid recollection of a day's drive from Lerwick to Sandwick,
down the long, narrow peninsula that terminates in Sumburgh head. I was
accompanied by the reverend gentleman already alluded to in connection
with Bressay.

It is a common saying in the isles that Shakespeare had his eye on the
soil of Shetland when he pronounced the famous line:

    "'Tis true, 'tis _peaty_, 'tis _peaty_ 'tis, 'tis true."

On all sides in the country you see acre after acre of bog, dripping
with moisture and exuding black runnels whenever the spade of the
peat-cutter begins to slice its fibrous bulk. Should a wayfarer leave
the road by mishap after nightfall, he would soon be plunging in the
treacherous morasses. It is well for him to have a lantern swinging at
his girdle when the sun has gone down.

Such are the reflections suggested by a view of the country between
Lerwick and the little clachan of Quarff.


Quarff is the headquarters of a minister who is said to be the only
extempore preacher in Shetland, if the word can be appropriately applied
to one who, being blind, has to prepare his sermons in "the quick forge
and working-house of thought" without the succour of books. This
gentleman spent long years in the little islets called _Skerries_, and,
like a miniature Augustine or Columba, claims to have been the first to
preach the sublime truths of Christianity on these limestone formations.

Though blind, he enjoys his pipe, and I had a smoke with him at the
fireside. Between the puffs, he indulged in a furious onslaught on the
Lord Chancellor and the Wee Frees. Lord Halsbury he considered a poor,
benighted creature, who didn't know the difference between a Trades
Union and a body of Christians. "_If he ever comes to Shetland_," said
the minister, "_he had better bring his woolsack with him, for I won't
let him down soft!_" After Lord Halsbury had been adequately trounced,
the talk turned on notable things that had happened in the district
within the last decade or two. One of the tales (which was very
divertingly told) had to do with the trite subject of intemperance, but
as it contains one or two novel touches, I here briefly rehearse it.

An elder of the place, who, with his trap, had come to grief one market
night on the way back from Lerwick, told his session a strange tale to
account for the catastrophe. "When I got to Lerwick in the forenoon, I
said to the driver: 'Young man, if I mistake not, you have had no tip
from me for a long time.' 'That's very true, sir,' said he. 'Well,' said
I, 'there's half-a-crown; go and spend it judiciously.' During the day I
transacted business with various friends, omitting none of the usual
rites. About five o'clock my driver returned, and harnessed the horse
for the return journey. At first I thought he had brought his brother
with him, but, on rubbing my eyes, I found it was an optical delusion.
As I watched him narrowly, I saw the outlines of a bottle bulging out
from his buttoned coat, and distinctly heard, as he moved to and fro,
the gurgling sound of liquid in agitation. He was smiling in
self-approval, and when I reproved him for his slowness, he quoted
Habakkuk v. 5, 'Hurry no man's cattle,' adding that his authority was
the Revised Version. As we went rattling along the road, his tricks
were fantastic in the extreme. At a point about two miles from Lerwick,
I saw, a little in front of us, a tall individual enveloped in a long
waterproof, of which the collar was turned up to cover his ears. The
eyes of this person glowed like live coal as he peremptorily demanded a
lift. Not waiting for permission, he, with a sudden spring, vaulted on
the trap and squeezed himself between the driver and myself. The air
grew hot and close. The driver became ten times friskier than before. I
determined to unmask the unceremonious stranger, and, putting down my
hand, grasped him by the foot. He had no boots on, and what I seized was
a cloven hoof. I asked him there and then if he was Beelzebub. 'I am,'
said he, 'and clever and all as you are, it will take all your talents
to slip out of my clutches this night.' At this point there is a blank
in my souvenirs. I only remember sparks flying and the sensation of
falling down from my seat on to a steep embankment. On recovering
consciousness, I found myself lying on a crofter's bed, with aching
limbs. I told him the story of my escape, and he said, after hearing it:
'We live in troublous times, John, and the Arch-deceiver seems to be off
the chain. Watch and pray, or you may fall further next time.'"


Particular stories are suggested by the place where one first heard
them. This profound remark is worked out in detail by Sir William
Hamilton and Professor Sully. As I look at the map of the road I
traversed that day, I am reminded of certain anecdotes retailed by my
genial and reverend guide.

"After leaving college," said he, "I was appointed assistant to a worthy
D.D. who regarded the higher critics as a species of vermin. Hell with
him was not a mere unpleasant state passed in _this_ world, but an
actual raging bonfire specially prepared for everyone who could not
repeat the Shorter Catechism. The parishioners of this worthy man were,
in consequence, devoutly orthodox, and had, one and all, a keen nose for
bad doctrine. They did not like to be fobbed off with a sermon of the
spineless order; they liked bones, blood, and fire--not a mosaic of
cheery quotations from Tennyson about the larger hope and about worms
not being cloven in vain. They had also a great liking for the
patriarchs, especially Noah. By ill luck, I spoke one Sunday on the
patriarchs, and handled them pretty roughly. I felt that sacred
enthusiasm which every man feels in denouncing the sins of others. I
gave the Captain of the Ark a special lick of tar. This sermon caused a
mighty commotion in the district. I might as well have asserted that the
paraphrases were inspired, or that Sankey's hymns were canonical. I
could see that the elders began to look coldly upon me. In barn and byre
little groups discussed my preaching, and there was much wagging of the
head and shooting out of the lip. A deputation came out of a
potato-field to me one day as I was walking along the road, and the
leader, an old theological crofter, said bluntly: 'Your sermons are not
pleasing us, if you please, sir.' 'Is the doctrine bad?' I asked. 'Not
exactly that, but the folk say it's very unseemly.' 'What special sermon
do they object to?' 'They think you're not sound on that holy man,
Noah.' 'Do they go the length of saying Noah was perfect?' 'They don't
just go that length; but, while admitting Noah was human, they desire'
(here the old man raised his head, shut his eyes, and shouted) 'to hear
no more from a young inexperienced lad like you, a single word about the
patriarch's shortcomings. The man was a patriarch, and therefore a
saint. Talk about his virtues as much as you like, but don't fash about
his trespasses, there's a good boy, I speak as your friend.'"


When my friend had delivered himself of this story, he pointed with his
pipe to a little confused collection of low, thatched cottages which we
were rapidly approaching on the left, and, oblivious of Noah, went thus
musing on: "You are now in the charmed domain of Fladibisteria, of which
the core or citadel, as it were, is this village of Fladibister. This is
no settlement of Norsemen: no, this is a Celtic nook where second sight
and such witchcraft flourished not so many years ago. Did not the
minister once rebuke them for their spells and mystic whims by aptly
applying to them the words of St. Paul to the Galatians: '_Oh, foolish
Fladibisterians, who hath bewitched you?_' There is an atmosphere of
tranquillity and Arcadian peace swimming over Fladibister such as is
nowhere else to be found in Shetland. The young men of the place roam
far over the sea, as mariners and fishers; but like the exiled

    'Who sighed at Arno for his lovelier Tees,'

they never feel happy till they are back home here under the roofs of
thatch. And what a work their women folks make with them when they
return! What feasting and merrymaking! What screwing of fiddle-pegs,
nimble motion of elbows and long-sustained dancing and skipping. I don't
deny that there is clink of glasses, too, at times, to aid the passage
of the hours far past the noon of night."


Cunningsburgh, the journey to which was shortened by these tales, is one
of those places you might pass through without being aware of it; that
is to say, there is no feature about it so startling or abrupt as to
impress itself at once on the attention. The district all round is well
tilled, and the houses bien and comfortable.

The minister of the place arrests the attention instantly. His genial
face and hearty handshake have a more Christianising effect on the soul
than a ton of sermons. I have never heard a more kindly voice or seen a
face in which tenderness, merriment, and intellectual keenness, were all
so harmoniously blended. He does not smoke himself, but has that wise
and wide perception of things which leads him to press those who are
anxious to smoke, but say they are not, to take out their pipes in his
drawing-room. It was easy to see the man he was, by a hasty look at his
book-shelves. All the philosophers were represented there, from Plato
to the present-day mystical Germans. Lang's _Odyssey_ was side by side
with the Icelandic sagas and the Song of the Niebelungs. I did not see
many books of Systematic Theology; but the Greek tragedians, the Sacred
Books of the East, German and French novels, had all a place in the
bookcase of this cosmopolitan clergyman of a remote Shetlandic parish.


In secluded townships like Cunningsburgh where life's round has much of
the monotony of fashionable society, and involves a still recurring
succession of similar duties, the minister is indeed a power. If he is a
man of broad and enlightened mind, his influence for good is
incalculable. The Kirk-Session is a permanent Court of Justice, taking
cognisance of minor matters of morality, and enforcing its decisions by
religious sanctions. To be barred from participating in the communion
rites might not seem a very alarming punishment to the easy-going
Lowlander; but to a Shetland peasant, being _keepit off_, as it is
technically called, is a terrible and humiliating penalty. A crofter
came to the manse to complain about his wife's unruly and satirical
tongue. "But what can I do to her?" said the minister, "she's your wife,
and you must assert your authority." "I've tried everything," said the
man, "but she still continues to be a troubler in Israel." The minister
professed his inability to interfere. "I can do nothing at all," he
said. "Yes you can," said the crofter, with a wink and a fearful
whisper, "_You can keep her off!_"


Since the Reformation the people have lived and thriven under the
jurisdiction of the Session. In the records of the Session one finds a
chronicle of the sins, eccentricities, and merriments of the people for
the last two or three centuries. Several incidents based on these
minutes will make what I say abundantly clear. The Quarrel of the Elder
and the Minister's Housekeeper, for example, convulsed a still remoter
parish in much the same overmastering way as the Dreyfus Trial agitated
Paris. Herodotus is the only author I can think of who could have done
justice to this northern _affaire_. Let me briefly summarise it. Between
the minister's garden and that of one of his elders ran what was termed
a hedge. The shrubs which formed the base of this hedge were so
ill-grown that the minister's fowls could easily go, clucking and
scraping, from one garden into the other. Evidence was given to prove
that the cabbages and pot-herbs in the elder's plot were torn and
spoiled in parts. Every morning he stood at a gap in the hedge and sang
aloud like a skipper in a storm or Achilles at the trench of the Greeks:
"I am being ruined and brought to poverty by the minister's hens." This
cry grated upon the ears of the manse housekeeper, who by and by thought
it her duty to go out and reason with the elder. "It's no' the
minister's hens ava that's to blame, it's the craws o' the firmament."
"It's the hens." "No, the craws." "Hens I declare!" "You're a _deceitful
impostor_!" said the housekeeper. Now, no self-respecting elder could
stand that. Boiling with wrath as he was, he remembered his
ecclesiastical status, merely remarking that there was work for the
Session at last. By nightfall he had been in every croft within the
Session's jurisdiction, laying off his tale in each, and as he got
practice and more vehemence with constant repetition, he attained
extreme fluency and impressiveness before the day was done. An
unspeakable joy came over the community at the prospect of a delicious
scandal. To avoid the breach being healed by an apology, many of the
crofters sought to envenom the quarrel by refusing to believe that the
elder was altogether right. "Crows," they said, "had been known to play
havoc with cabbage. Elders were but human, and so, hasty in laying
charges on insufficient evidence. The case was certainly one for the
Church courts. The housekeeper must have a good defence to make, and
would no doubt make it at the proper time and in the proper place. We
must hear both sides." One may see by this that the spirit which
animates a great nation (the desire, namely, to divert itself with the
contentions of those who come before the public eye), animates also the
smallest communities in the realm. The great passion-stirring process,
_Hens versus Crows_, lasted for some seven months. Over and over again
the hedge was examined. Now the elder thought he had the best of it,
only to be damped by a revulsion of feeling in favour of the
housekeeper. The finding of the Session was adverse to the lady. The
fact that she had practically called the elder a son of Belial could not
be got over. The minister, holding the scales of justice, was forced, in
spite of himself, to declare against her. Considering her position,
some mildness was shown in pronouncing her condemnation and the penalty.
Having regard to the dignity of the offended man, nothing less than the
sentence of _keeping off_ could meet the ends of ecclesiastical law. But
one "keeping off" was deemed adequate. The elder was avenged. At the
ensuing communion, he was seen to smile and rub his hands diabolically,
as he glanced towards the back of the church, where sat, outside the
pale of the privileged elect, the unhappy and vanquished housekeeper,
who had called him an impostor.


Torquil Halcrow's case presents features of a different order. For some
reason a _fama_ spread abroad respecting him to the effect that his
language and demeanour left much to be desired, and that not even the
presence, or at least proximity, of women operated to mellow the
strength of his vocabulary. Nothing definite was openly formulated
against him, but Torquil became aware that in certain quarters his
reputation was being slowly undermined. It is precisely this vague kind
of aggression on a man's character that is the most difficult to combat.
He took the bull by the horns in a most heroic way. _He got up a public
testimonial to himself, and went round canvassing for signatures._ The
testimonial ran thus:--"We, the undersigned women of the parish, have
pleasure in bearing witness that we have known Torquil Halcrow for
twenty years, and never have we known him do an unseemly act or utter an
unworthy expression." Thereafter followed a list of forty names.
Furnished with this document, he strode up to the manse, fluttered it in
the minister's face with a gesture of triumph, laid it down on the study
table, then turned on his heel and walked away. The minister, when he
examined the paper minutely, found that Torquil, in the belief that the
heading of the testimonial was not sufficiently strong, had added this
further clause in his own handwriting: "_but many a precious word of
truth and gracious spiritual comfort have we heard proceeding from his

I have already referred to the beautiful and pathetic saying of Mr.
Barrie that every window-blind is the curtain of a tragedy. I thought of
that dictum as the minister of Cunningsburgh pointed to one cot after
another in the neighbourhood, and narrated the calamities that had
fallen upon them within recent years. Here, an old widow was mourning
the loss of a son who had gone to the deep-sea fishing and would never
return: his bright young life had been swallowed up in the insatiable
ocean, and she was left lamenting in her indigence. There, it was a
father who had been engulfed in the roost; or again, the illness of a
mother had cast a blight for years upon this other household. Sometimes
I have seen two old people, all their sons dead, living a kind of
stupefied half-life, automatically moving about, poor and wretchedly
clad, unable to understand anything except the welcome heat of the sun
and the animal comfort of a little food. There are many sad things in
this world: none is more sad than the sight of two old people outliving
their progeny and wandering about in decrepit second childhood with no
more substance than a dream. The sea is mainly answerable for the great
and deep tragedies of the Shetlands: it is like a pitiless monster,
howling in anger at their doors and claiming its yearly prey. No native
writer has as yet attempted to make vocal for us the immense dumb
sorrows of these fisher folks in the way Loti has done for the seafarers
of Brittany.


Jakobsen, the Danish philologist, spent some years recently in
collecting the remains of the old Norwegian speech that still linger in
the conversation and the place-names of the islanders. Perhaps the most
interesting point brought out by Jakobsen is the prevalence in
comparatively recent times of lucky words, which the fishermen used when
at the deep-sea fishing, and only then. This practice is undoubtedly a
relic of pagan ages when the sea-depths were regarded as the dominion of
dread water spirits, who keenly watched those who intruded in their
realms. The strange feature about this deep-sea speech is that its
expressions were purely Norse, whereas the home idiom of the fishers was
overwhelmingly English. The pagan beliefs respecting the hostile powers
of the sea found expression in old words handed down from a
pre-Christian epoch. These old words may have been originally liturgical
or worship words, for the sea was an object of veneration and awe to the
Norsemen who, in the conquering days, made their home on its angry
waters. It was believed that the jealous powers of the ocean were
vehemently hostile to Christianity, and hence the Shetland fishers, up
till quite recently, carefully avoided any direct mention of _church_
or _minister_ when on the water: the _haaf_ or lucky words being
respectively _benihoose_ (prayer-house) and _upstander_. Even the
domestic animals had special _haaf_ appellations. This conception of the
sea as filled with weird mysterious beings of unspeakable malignity,
ever ready to whelm the boat of an unwary intruder, carries the mind
back to the old alliterative lay of _Beowulf_, the contest of that hero
with the wallowing ocean-monsters, and the grim subterranean glow in the
sea-home of Grendel's mother. The Shetlanders have only too much reason
to brood over the cruelty of the sea. On July 20, 1881, during a
terrific squall, sixty-three breadwinners were engulfed in the thwarting
currents of the Sound of Yell.


During all the foregoing discussion in the Cunningsburgh manse and
garden, our driver had been wondering what subjects of talk could
possibly be keeping us from continuing our journey to Sandwick. The two
ministers--the original one and the Cunningsburgh man also--at length
mounted the trap with me, and we all went joyfully on the final lap. The
object of the journey was to visit Mr. Sinclair of Sandwick, a gentleman
well worth going fifty miles to see. Mr. Sinclair has many qualities
that make a man notorious. He went to Australia in an emigrant ship many
years ago, and wrote a book upon it, in which he playfully remarks that
he got the full value of his passage money, inasmuch as there was a
birth, a death, and a suicide, between Plymouth and Melbourne. Another
of his distinctions is great dexterity in playing the violin, his
favourite pieces being "The Scalloway Lasses" and "The Auld Wife ayont
the Fire." The title of the last-named piece rather staggered me, until
I was informed by one of the ministers, who is a scholar and an
antiquarian, that it relates to a time when the fire was in the middle
of the room and when the smoke escaped by a hole in the roof, or in
default of that, by the door. Mr. Sinclair rendered these pieces with
infinite gusto, and, like all true artists, got as much pleasure as he
gave. He had also the most diverting way of ejaculating the word _hooch_
I have ever heard in my journey through life. It gives me pleasure to
add that he wrote a poem on fifty whales that were driven from the sea
by the local fishermen into Sandwick Bay. These whales were all
beautifully cooped in the narrow inlet and stranded on the beach, when
lo! the local landowners, citing some old statute, claimed from the
fishermen a share of the spoil. Mr. Sinclair, indignant and astute at
once, took upon himself the championship of the fishermen, and managed
matters so admirably that the lords of the soil were completely worsted
in the Edinburgh law-courts. Flushed with such signal success, he put
the whole story into metre. A printed and framed copy of the poem hangs
in a conspicuous place in his sitting-room. At our special request, he
favoured us by singing the impassioned stanzas. It was a unique treat to
hear him do so. There he was in the centre of the room holding the
framed verses in his hand, gazing fondly thereat even as a mother
regards her child. When the chorus came on, he laid down the poem, and
lifted up his voice with glorious enthusiastic force. Inspiration was in
his eye, his grey locks became dishevelled, his arms swung rhythmically
to the beat of the melody. The entire interview was intense: it was one
crowded hour, of which time is unable to cancel the memory.


The evening was a glorious one, and we _walked_ back some miles of the
way. The Cunningsburgh minister was full of stories. He alluded
laughingly to one of his flock who, when under the influence of drink,
was powerful in prayer. "_When he gets a dram he goes to his knees at
once._" The anecdote seemed to me to run counter to the views of the
hymnologist who says "Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint
upon his knees." Another of his stories had reference to two old
crofters, both over eighty, who began one evening to talk of the follies
of the young fisher-lads when they took to dram-drinking. One of the two
remarked: "I wonder now what folly we two old men would commit if we
chanced to get intoxicated, say at a funeral." "Well," said the other
hoary-headed and infirm octogenarian, "I have no idea what you would do,
but I am certain of this, that if I ever got the least bit touched, I
would go and make love to the lasses at once." Thereupon the two feeble
old fellows skirled a wicked laugh, and nearly gasped out their slim
residue of life in unseemly merriment.

Both ministers assured me that the belief in fairies still lingers on
among the Shetland peasantry. Up on the hill-side the trow is supposed
to wander about, and the little fellow can be seen skipping on the
moon-light sward, by all who have eyes and the necessary faith. It is
believed that he haunts the road-side even when the moon is not shining:
consequently, when the crofters have to go out of doors at night, they
protect themselves from his spells by carrying with them a blazing peat
gripped with tongs. This smokes and sparkles in the darkness and the
trow does not like it. It is easy for the electric-lighted citizens of
Glasgow and Edinburgh to laugh at the simple folk-lore of fisher and
crofter; but no one, however learned and sceptical, can quite escape
from the mystic influence of fairy-lore if he lives through a winter
among believing dalesmen. Let him look on the long silvery glimmer of a
sea-voe, and hear the natives tell of trows chasing the ebbing Neptune
down there on the dim sea-strand in a night of haze, before he says
(with Theseus, in the _Midsummer Night's Dream_):

                          "I never may believe
    These antick fables, nor those fairy toys."

To the ear and eye of the philological Jakobsen, the Shetlanders both in
speech and looks are remarkably like the Norwegians of the Saettersdal.
In that part of Norway the trow is also a very popular terror. Children
of a disobedient and obstreperous turn are afraid to venture near a wood
at nightfall for fear of a little bogie with a red cap, who may suddenly
slide down a pine-tree and snatch them off.


I do not altogether envy the candidate for parliamentary honours who has
to _nurse_ a remote insular constituency like Orkney and Shetland. I met
Mr. Cathcart Wason in Lerwick, and learned that he had been going the
round of the islands and had even paid a visit to the isolated and
mountainous rock of Foulah. Now this was a very daring feat indeed, for
I have heard of a young man who went once to visit his friends there and
was kept a prisoner for five months owing to the squalls. The papers
complimented Mr. Wason on his intrepidity: he went over from Walls in a
smack, and did not make his address too lengthy, for fear the weather
might change and Westminster be deprived of his eloquence for a space.
Mr. Wason is a very tall gentleman, but in Foulah he met his peers in
point of stature. The islanders are a fine set of men, hardy and godly.
They are adroit fowlers and nimble cragsmen. It gives one a queer
sensation to hear that the face of their sheer precipices used to be
(like level land elsewhere) apportioned equitably among the various
families. If A did not wish to catch birds on his aerial lot, he could
let it to B and claim a certain percentage of the spoil. The population
of the island is about 250: owing probably to intermarriage, there are
many childless homes.

I do not know if Mr. Wason has ever been to the Fair Isle, but I
understand an Ex-Moderator of the Church of Scotland visited the little
community there in 1903. There are two ways of getting to this islet:
(1) by means of a sailing boat which leaves Grutness for Fair Isle once
a fortnight with the mails; if the weather is bad, this mode of
communication is suspended, as in winter no sane man would venture
through the roost in such a boat; (2) by taking a passage on board the
S.S. _Pole Star_, which calls on the first of every month with stores
for the lighthouse. She is a strong, swift boat, and makes the journey
from Stromness, seventy miles away. I may remark that a lecturer wishing
to speak in the Fair Isle need not trouble himself about placards or
handbills: the whole population will be on the shore to welcome him when
he lands, and he could conveniently intimate his subject then, if he has
any breath left in his body. The Fair Isle possesses a church organ and
a non-surpliced choir. The islanders have a great appetite for sermons,
as the following story, told by Mr. Russell, amply proves. "The minister
of Dunrossness went one summer to dispense the communion in the Fair
Isle, and a storm came on which detained him there for about eight days.
The weather also prevented the boats from going to the fishing. As the
people had no pressing work to do at the time, and as it was only on
rare occasions that they enjoyed the presence of the parish minister,
they were anxious to avail themselves of his services while he was among
them. _Accordingly, at their desire, he preached every day during his
stay. In all, he preached thirteen times._ He had taken the precaution
of bringing a good stock of sermons with him. Before this was exhausted,
the weather providentially improved, so that he was able to get

The cherished legends of one's youth get sorely demolished in the course
of travel and investigation. The school-books used to say that the
Shetlanders were taught to knit by Spanish women saved from the wreck of
the Armada. The islanders stoutly deny any indebtedness, and declare
that there never was the slightest friendship between their ancestors
and the crews of King Philip's galleons.

    [26] The prayers of as many righteous men as possible are
    requested for the inspectors of schools who have to examine and
    report on the state of education in the Orkneys and Shetlands. I
    had the pleasure of conversing with one of these hard-worked
    officials in November, 1906. He spoke very warmly of the improved
    educational benefit of the libraries that have been sent from
    Paisley to the isles and skerries. This gentleman inspects the
    Fair Isle school once every two years. On the occasion of his
    last visit, he was rowed from Lerwick in a "sixern," and had a
    most tempestuous time going through the _roost_. Two of his
    oarsmen sickened, and were helpless. On getting ashore at last,
    he forgot all his sorrows and soaking, when he heard heartsome
    strains of welcome being played on the _insular pianola_.


To Lerwick, during the fishing season, thousands of women come from the
island of Lewis to gut the myriad herring that are daily brought into
the bay. There is an extemporised town for the strangers on the
outskirts, over which float many odours, weird, pungent, and unsavoury.
All the processes of gutting, curing, and kippering go on in grand
style. The women, clad in a kind of oilskin, handle their dangerous
implements in most dexterous fashion. It is a horrid business, but well
paid. Prolific Nature is never tired supplying these women with work,
for as many as 68,000 eggs have been found in the roe of one female
herring. My friend, Mr. M'Kenzie of Ullapool, who is in the service of
the Fishery Board, took me to see the official examination of several
hundred barrels of fish, preparatory to the branding thereon of the
official stamp. The owners pay for this examination, but the additional
value given to each barrel by the Government mark far surpasses the fee
exacted by the Board. The branding-officer selects at random a barrel
here and there, extracts some dozen fish from each, and satisfies
himself as to the size and quality. If the herring are puny or of
inferior sort, the officer refuses to brand, and the examination fee is
refunded. Mr. M'Kenzie remarked that this was the only case in which he
had ever seen men reluctant to receive money. I followed that gentleman
as he walked over the long lines of slippery herring barrels, lying in
horizontal juxtaposition, and I cannot recommend the exercise to those
who have had no training in gymnastics.

The great success of the Shetland fisheries during the last year or two
has brought to Lerwick a palpable increase of business and droves of
business men. In the Grand Hotel there were, in August last, thirty
gentlemen resident who were in some way brought thither by the traffic
in herring--among the number a young Russian, who, with his wife, sat at
a little table apart, and kept jabbering their language with glib
expressiveness. His name was Walk-off, and his object was the
annexation of fish for Muscovite consumption. He had a flabby face and
long, dark hair, which he publicly combed. _She_ was small and
pretty--doll-like, indeed--with jewels in her ears, which glittered and
flashed in the gas-light. She was a very loquacious wee creature, and
her intonation reminded me of the caressing way the Swedes articulate
English. I heard him read the Russian newspapers to her with evident
emotion, but the only word I could make out was _Kouropatkin_. The
herring-agents at the hotel table were full of drollery. One of them,
hailing from Wick, addressed a neighbour abruptly to this effect: "I am
a rather expensive man to sit beside, and to one like you especially so,
for you seem to be a water-drinker. When I tell you who I am, however,
you will insist on standing me a bottle of champagne." He was frigidly
asked to state his grounds for such a preposterous expectation. "Prepare
to gasp," he replied; "you see before you one who is a model and a
beacon to all the men of Caithness. I am the sire of nine sturdy sons,
and _they have only three birth-days among them_, seeing that they came
into this vale of tears three at a time."



    Trials of commercials--The two-est-faced knave--Mary, the maid
    of the inn--Anecdotes of the smoking-room: Sonnet to
    Raleigh--Peelin's below the tree--"She's away!"--A mean
    house--One of the director's wives--Temperance hotels--A
    memorial window--The blasted heath--The day for it--The
    converted drummer--A circular ticket--A compound
    possessive--Sixteen medals--"She's auld, and she's thin, and
    she'll keep"--The will o' the dead--Sorry for London--"Raither
    unceevil"--An unwelcome recitation--A word in season--A Nairn
    critic--A grand day for it--A pro-Boer--"Falls of Bruar, only,
    please!"--A bad case of nerves.


The commercial traveller (that bustling and indispensable middleman)
leads a life of mingled joy and pain. He is constantly on the move, and
from meeting innumerable types of men, becomes very shrewd in judging
character. Resource, readiness, abundance of glib phrases must in time
become his. He must not, for fear of offence, show any marked bias in
politics or religion. His temper must be well under control; he must
have the patience of an angel; he must smile with those that are merry,
be lugubrious with those that are in the dumps, and listen, with
apparent interest, to the stock stories of hoary-headed prosers. It is
not enough that he should book orders. Some shaky customers are only too
ready to give these. It is his business to book orders only from those
that are likely to pay. A big order delivered to a scoundrel who means
to fail next week, is a horrible calamity, which, if it does not result
in pains and penalties, means a sharp reprimand and a loss of prestige
at headquarters, that may take years to redeem.

He has to sleep in many a different bed. It is lucky for him if a damp
couch has not rheumatised his limbs. No one knows better than he that
what seems a bell-pull has often, owing to former violence and broken
wires, no connection with the bell. Here a chimney smokes, there the
flue is blocked with birds' nests. In certain country inns, the flimsy
gossamer of spiders makes an undesirable fretwork over the greenish
knobs of the ill-puttied panes. Mice, rats, and "such small deer"
scamper uncannily the live-long night along the worn waxcloths and
unspeakable carpets. As he undresses by the light of a three-inch
candle, he has his soul horrified by early Victorian prints, of Paul
tumbling from his horse on the way to Damascus, of the gory relief of
Lucknow, or of some towsy-headed clansman smiling out of perspective. He
is by no means a tourist on pleasure bent. He must face gust and surge,
for he cannot choose his time and weather. His duty is to cover as much
ground as he can in a given week, fill his order-book with
irreproachable orders, and get home to report, preparatory to another
sally in another direction. Competition stings him into feverish
activity. If he sells tea, he well knows that an army of rivals is
scouring the whole country with samples as good, or perhaps a great deal
better, than his own.


Nevertheless, the jovial facetiousness of these commercial gentlemen
knows no limits, and hotel-waiters are, at all times, fair game for
their stings and arrows. In one of the northern hotels, there used to be
a portly and rubicund waiter who might have passed for the High Priest
of the Goddess of Health. His face shone, if I may say so, with the
radiance of perfect digestion. A pert commercial, one day, approached
him with an affected look of deep concern and said, "_Well, I hope
you're keeping better_," accompanying the remark with a dig in the
waiter's stomach. The waiter, who had never known a minute's ill-health
in his life, swore vividly for fifteen minutes without repeating
himself, and among many references to the commercial's ancestry, called
him the _two-est-faced_ knave that had ever set foot on the Shetland
Islands. Such a superlative was felt by all to be a masterpiece of
language, and turned the laugh against the bagman.[27]

    [27] As to language, one hears, especially in the Hebrides,
    phrases of amusing quaintness, due no doubt to the speaker
    handling a foreign tongue. The school in one of the Mull villages
    is very small, and I made a remark to that effect in the hearing
    of the hotel-porter. "Oh, no," said he, "_it is a good deal
    bigger than you would wonder_." The same waiter, who had a talent
    for confusing his language, said in reply to an irate visitor who
    had questioned his intelligence: "You need not talk like that; I
    am as good as you; _I am as good as any other man put together_."


I have a great deal of sympathy with hotel-porters and waiters, and
think them unduly longsuffering at times. As to Mary, the exemplary maid
of the hotel alluded to, she can hold her own in repartee with any of
the visitors. She is a distinct character, and Molière could have made a
"type" of her. She has no sinecure of a situation, and, after eleven at
night, when the last supper is over, she has to polish the knives for
the morrow's breakfast. She is young, slim, and active, and wears a
string of red corals round her neck. The place is not frequented by
plutocratic tourists, and so her tips are meagre. In spite of her long
days and her slim perquisites, the girl is affable, smiling, and gay.
She trips out and in, sylph-like, can carve fowls most dexterously by
the light of nature, never spills the soup, and has a laughing and
appropriate word for all. Mary, I hope, will get some decent fellow for
husband, and be a stay and comfort to him all the days of his life.
Meanwhile, however (to use the historic present), a nice old gentleman
in the soft goods line, who hails from the flourishing village of
Dundee, is paying her marked attentions. She will have none of him, for
all his apostolic looks. He repeats to her, with a comically sentimental
air, the lines of Omar:

    "Here with a book of verse beneath the bough,
    A loaf of bread, a cup of wine, and thou
    Beside me singing in the wilderness,
    The wilderness were Paradise enow."

Mary looks in amazement at the old gentleman with the insinuating voice,
anon bursts into a merry peal, and trips off with the remark, "_There's
nae fules like auld anes_," which a listening Londoner takes to mean,
"There's nothing fills like onions!"



The conversation of an intelligent commercial traveller is, as I said,
of a facetious and entertaining turn. He speaks to so many people in the
course of a day and hears so many anecdotes as he rushes about, that his
sense of humour becomes very keen. Old Burton, author of the _Anatomy of
Melancholy_, used to dissipate his sombre thoughts by listening to the
coarse badinage of bargemen: a modern, afflicted with Burton's
complaint, might well find a cure in the smoking-room of a hotel among a
company of commercial travellers. One Saturday night, in a Shetland
hotel, I listened to a crowd of these merry gentlemen communicating to
each other their several collections of stories. Before doing so, they
all sang with great fervour the well-known hymn _The Sands of Time are
Sinking_, a whisky-traveller officiating at the harmonium. One of the
number ostentatiously beat time with his pipe. It was a very affecting
scene, and certain of the singers were moved to tears at their own

The company then settled down, in a pleased frame of mind, to tell
stories. I noted some of these, and as they were new to me, I cherish
the hope that they may not be stale to others. The following
preliminary sonnet to Sir Walter Raleigh seems to be apposite and new;
it is needed to give atmosphere to the tales:

    Raleigh! the benefactor of thy kind,
    May azure undulations ever roll
    As incense to thee from the glowing bowl,
    Thy rapt disciples fume with placid mind
    In easy chair, by ingle-nook reclined!
    Next to the mage, Prometheus, who stole
    From Heaven's court with philanthropic soul,
    The wonder-working fire, thou art enshrined
    In mortal bosoms as a friend, for thou
    Did'st bring from sunset isles the magic leaf
    That weaves enchantment's halo round the brow,
    Alleviates the pang of every grief
    And stirs the bard, exempt from fretting cares,
    To wail the weird of pipeless millionaires.

And now for the stories.


A Sunday School teacher in the island of Luing was giving a lesson on
the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and the fruit of that forbidden tree
whose mortal taste brought death into this world, and other ills. At the
close of his harangue, which was rather above the heads of the children,
he said, "Can any of you tell me _how the Creator knew_ that Adam had
eaten the apple?" There was silence for a time. At last one boy, with a
glimmer of light in his eyes, shouted: "Please, sir, because He _saw the
peelin's below the tree_."


An Englishman staying in Oban, wished to visit the island of Coll, and
discovered, on enquiry at Macbrayne's office, that the S.S. _Fingal_
left for that outer isle at five in the morning. He accordingly gave
serious instructions to the "boots" of his hotel to rap him up at 4.30
A.M., and to show him no mercy. At _six_ o'clock, the tourist was
awakened by a noise like that of a battering-ram at his door, and a
stentorian voice sternly enquiring: "Are you the gentleman that's going
with the early boat?" "Yes, yes, I am," said the tourist, leaping to his
feet. "_Well, she's away_," said the boots. (This is a story that grows
on one.)


Another hotel story: Feeling somewhat thirsty in the middle of his
dinner and not judging that water was sufficiently slockening, a visitor
rang the bell and asked the waiter to bring him a bottle of lager. This
was done. "How much do you charge for this?" enquired the traveller.
"Ninepence," replied the waiter. Anger, consternation, and incredulity
were all depicted, by turns, on the visitor's cheek. "What!" he shouted,
"_ninepence_. Why, I could buy a dozen bottles for half-a-crown. It's
downright robbery to ask ninepence for one bottle. You've made a
mistake." "I've made no mistake," said the waiter; "I was told to ask
ninepence. _But_," (at this point he sidled up to the traveller and
whispered, with terrible accents, in his ear) "_it's a damp mean house
this you're in, and I'm leaving mysel' the morn!_"


A gentleman who loved tobacco exceedingly well, went into a first-class
smoking compartment, filled his pipe, and settled down, with a newspaper
in front of him, to enjoy the luxury of a long and undisturbed worship
of the weed. He had a journey of fifty miles before him. Just as the
train was moving off, a lady, who was panting and flustered, was pushed
up into the compartment by a porter. It was soon evident that pipes and
tobacco were not congenial to this dame. She began to sniff in a very
haughty fashion, but the smoker, utterly indifferent to her presence,
continued to roll out with deliberate relish his dense tobacco fumes.
Soon she lost all patience, and said with extreme bitterness: "You
there, behind that paper, you have no manners. You have no right to
smoke before a lady. Do you know who I am? _I am one of the directors'
wives, sir._" Down went the journal, and "Oh, indeed," said he, "you are
one of the director's wives, are you? Well, let me tell you this, that
even if you were the director's _only_ wife, I do not intend to
encourage you, by any compliance of mine, in the bad habit of rushing
for trains and getting into the wrong compartment!"


An English clergyman--a pronounced teetotaler and temperance worker--was
being driven through the streets of a Scotch town in an open machine.
Looking round, with expansive benevolence, on the streets and people, he
was overjoyed to see such a large number of temperance hotels. "Driver,"
he exclaimed, "I am delighted to see, by the hotels, that total
abstinence has got such a firm hold in this place." "Indeed, sir," said
the driver, "don't be too sure of that. We have two kinds of temperance
hotels here: the first kind would like the licence, but can't get it;
the second kind have had the licence, and lost it through bad behaviour
and disorderly conduct."


An inn-keeper in Ross-shire, with great enthusiasm, said to a visitor:
"There's nobody I work for with more satisfaction than an English
gentleman. Now, there's Sir Samuel Oatts, the wealthy Liverpool merchant
that has the shootings near here. He is a fine gentleman, and so
considerate. He is not very good at shooting, I must admit: he often
misses the birds, and he goes through a good number of dogs. One day he
shot the keeper in the right eye, and blinded it. But he gave the keeper
a handsome present and a fine new glass eye. We call that eye '_Oatts'
Memorial Window_,' and the keeper can sleep during the sermon now
without anybody knowing, provided he does not snore."


Two English tourists--big, hearty fellows--were travelling in the same
compartment with a communicative Scot, when the train stopped at Forres.
"Gentlemen," said the Scot, "this is Forres, and I'm sure you've read
about it; quite near Forres is the _blasted heath_ where Macbeth was
accosted by the witches." "How shocking," said one of the Englishmen;
"how really shocking! Well, you see, we haven't read about that yet:
we've been up North for some time, and _we have'nt seen the pypers for
ten dyes!_"


The driver of the bus which goes through the delightful part of
Argyllshire known as Hell's Glen, is often chaffed by the summer
tourists rather unmercifully. One day, a nervous southern was
criticising him on his furious and careless driving: "You shouldn't be
on the box at all; I never saw such a wild driver." "Drive!" said Jehu,
in a voice of thunder. "Why, man, once every year, I drive the
mail-coach _down that steep hill-side_ among the bracken. _And this is
the day for it!_" So saying, the humorous fellow made as if to whip the
horses down the cliff, and the terrified tourist shrieked aloud. "Seeing
I've such a nervous passenger," said the driver, with a guffaw, "I had
better break my own rules, and keep to the main road."


A dilapidated Scot, with a strong odour of the accursed, staggered into
a Salvation Army meeting one night, and was deeply impressed by the
service. He became a changed man, professed conversion, and got a
thorough moral overhaul. Like many others, he had great difficulty in
keeping his good resolutions, but persevered, nobly and successfully.
Latterly, he was admitted into the orchestra, and got command of the big
drum. He was so anxious to show his zeal, that he beat far too
vehemently, and drowned all the other instruments in his ecstatic
rataplan. The captain mildly remonstrated with him, and requested him to
beat a little more gently. "_Gently!_" shouted the reformed drummer,
"that's impossible. Since I've got salvation, I feel so happy, that I
could ding the whole slammed thing to bits!" (or rather "slim the whole
danged thing to bits").


Three commercials, travelling from Cork to Dublin, had a discussion on
the illiteracy of the Irish railway employés. "Look here," said one of
them, "the majority of the ticket collectors can't even _read_ the
tickets they are supposed to check." The other two refused to believe
him, but he stoutly maintained his assertion. Taking out of his pocket
the round ticket given him at the office of the Cork hotel, and
containing the number of his bedroom, he said, "I intend to offer this,
instead of my railway ticket, at the first station where tickets are
punched." Shortly thereafter, the train stopped, and a porter came round
the carriages to look at the tickets. There was silence deep as death
when the commercial handed his bedroom ticket to the official. The
latter looked long and carefully at the thing and muttered, "Bejabbers,
I never saw one like that before!" "Don't keep the train waiting," said
the commercial, in a pretended fury, "don't you see it's a _circular
ticket_." "Oh, and in faith it's you that's right: it _is_ a circular
ticket," said the porter. So saying, he punched the hotel check and
withdrew, leaving the three travellers to weep for joy all the way to


The following grammatical story will doubtless be new to most readers. A
Sunday School jaunt had been arranged in an Ayrshire town, and the
children were all ready to go in carts to a field, some miles away, for
games and open-air junketing. Everyone was impatient to set out, but the
piper was late, and the procession of carts could not start without
music. The minister became impatient, and sent a youth to tell the piper
to hurry up. The boy, on coming to the piper's house, saw a woman
standing at the door, and addressed her in these words: "_Are you the
man-that-plays-the-pipes's wife?_"


Those who doubt the efficacy of self-lauding advertisement are refuted
by this story. A commercial traveller, representing a whisky firm,
craved an order from a small Highland innkeeper. "Come, Donald," he
said, "you must give me an order this time." "You will be getting no
order from me, for your whisky is no good whatever. Dewar of Perth has
got sixteen medals for his whisky; it is so good to drink, and makes
people drunk so nice and quiet. But _your firm never got a single medal
for filling folk fou_." The granting of medals for quiet and comely
intoxication is a brilliant, although droll, idea.


In a lone isle of the West, funerals are functions that cannot be
celebrated (at least in the way consecrated tradition prescribes)
without ample dispensing of whisky among the mourners. As there is no
pier on the island, the steamer very frequently may not be able to call
for days, during the terrific gales of winter. The legitimate stores of
insular whisky thus occasionally become exhausted, and should a death
occur during the period of dearth, a very regrettable situation arises.
In the epigrammatic style of King James I., who used to say "_No bishop,
no king_," we might express the difficulty by saying _No whisky, no
funeral_. While a gale of exceptional ferocity was raging some winters
ago, an old woman passed away, and there was not enough whisky on the
island to bury her with credit. Her son scanned the angry sky and sea
daily, in the hope that the weather would show signs of clearing up.
After a week's blighted hopes, he still refused to sanction interment,
remarking, "_She's auld, and she's thin, and she'll keep_." Next day the
sea was calm, the _Dunara_ called, and the old lady got her _munera


The foregoing story suggested to one of the auditors the tale told in
connection with the death of Lord Forglen, one of the Judges of the
Court of Session, in 1727. After a long illness, in which he had endured
the expert advice of several eminent physicians, Forglen, one morning,
departed into the land of shadows. Not knowing of the fatal termination,
one of the medical men, Dr. Clark, called as usual and asked David Reid,
clerk to Forglen, how his master was. David's answer was: "I houp he's
well,"--a gentle euphuism, indicating that all was over, and also a
timid hope that Heaven had received a new inhabitant. The doctor was
shown into a room where he saw two dozen of wine under the table. Other
doctors arriving, David made them all take seats, while he detailed,
with much pathos, the affecting incidents of his master's dying hours.
As an antidote to their grief, the company took a glass or two, and
thereafter the doctors rose to depart, but David detained them. "No, no,
gentlemen; not so. It was the express will o' the dead that I should
fill ye a' fou, and I maun fulfil the will o' the dead." All the time
the tears were streaming down his cheeks. "And indeed," said Dr. Clark
afterwards, when telling the story, "he did fulfil the will o' the dead,
for before the end o't there was na ane of us able to bite his ain


The following story is a good example of insular patriotism. Certain
shooting tourists in the island of Mull, who hailed from London, and who
were expecting important news from the capital, were greatly exasperated
to find, on calling at the local post-office, that telegraphic
communication with the mainland had broken down. Some very uncanonical
language was indulged in, which the local postmaster deeply resented.
One tourist after another, exclaimed with blank despair: "Alas, poor
Mull will get no news from London to-day." "What will Mull do without
the London news?" "No news from London, what a misfortune for Mull!"
This harping on the forlornness of the island caused the blood of the
postmaster to boil with indignation, and he shouted in ire: "It is not
Mull I will be sorry for, at all, at all. Mull can do without the
London news. But what will poor London do, when she finds she will not
be able to get any news from Tobermory, or from Salen, or from Dervaig,
or from Craignure, or from Lochdon, or from Lochbuie, or from Bunessan,
the whole of this blessed day!"


A well-known boat, _The Stormy Petrel_, had been to Ardrossan for coal,
and was conveying the precious cargo to the romantic terminus of
Cairndow at the head of Loch Fyne. At St. Catherine's a great thirst
took possession of the crew, and they put in there for refreshments. The
conversation was most animated, and extended itself over a wide tract of
political and theological topics. On setting out for Cairndow early next
morning, all the crew had wistful, lustreless eyes, confused thoughts,
and bad consciences. He to whom the coal was being conveyed, was
awaiting them. He rowed out to _The Stormy Petrel_ in a small boat, and
on coming near assailed them, in English and Gaelic, with all the most
vituperative expressions he could remember. But the crew, each and all
of them, knew they had been guilty of culpable delay, and uttered not a
word, good or bad, as their assailant rowed round their boat and
withered them with his invective. They had no fight left in them, and
sat, with bowed heads, till the storm would subside. After enduring the
agony for half an hour, one of the crew looked up and said, "Do you no'
think, Mr. Sanderson, that you're _raither unceevil so early in the
morning_?" This remark, uttered in a quiet, sad, reproachful way,
staggered Mr. Sanderson far more than the most thunderous abuse would
have done, and brought home to him the undoubted fact that he had been
defective on the score of good taste.


One of the travellers, on being asked to contribute his item to the fund
of anecdotes, said that instead of telling a tale, he would give a
recitation. Before doing so, he sneezed artificially six times, and then
recited a poem on


    Influenza has come like the wolf on the fold,
    And the duke and the ditcher are down with the cold.
    The doctor is smiling, for business is here,
    And the chink of the guinea resounds in his ear.
    No household is spared: both the villa and cot
    Their quota of swollen-nosed patients have got.
    The clerk of the weather is gloating on high
    At the lords of creation that bed-ridden lie.
    Each chamber resounds with the echo of sneezing,
    With deep-laboured coughing and bronchial wheezing.
    While, loading the table, the victim can spy
    Lotions, tonics, and ointments confusedly lie.
    The druggist (douce man) is thanking his stars
    For this nice epidemic of paying catarrhs,
    He's making his hay, though no sunshine is seen,
    And his till gleams with silver where copper has been.


This dismal piece of verse effectually cleared the smoking-room, and
filled me with a great sorrow, since I had just recollected three or
four stories of my own. I now take the liberty of laying these before
the ingenuous reader. If he says they are dull, let me tell him (i.)
that he has no perception of humour, and (ii.) that occasional dulness
is the inalienable privilege of every free-born Briton. Many a spry
wight thinks it his duty to be _continuously funny and monotonously
merry_. Let a quiet and demure dulness be the foil of your
side-splitting sallies. Learn to keep the peace, yea for hours at a
time. If you are in a mixed company, cultivate the dictum of "give and
take." Be not for ever doling out your scraps of mirth to the dyspeptic
stomachs of your associates. A wise reciprocity and interplay of
merriment is the best rule--a fair share among the entire party. Burns
himself, sparkling talker as he was, is recorded to have been at times
sunk in gloom and shadow. But anon emerging from his moodiness, he would
utter such words as set the table in a roar. And now for these
masterpieces of humour.


Why is it that publishers, aye, and even booksellers, are so often out
of sympathy with the poets? I spoke once to a bookseller in Nairn about
a local poet's volume that was lying on the counter. "Do you personally
know this bard?" I asked. "Ay, that I do," was the reply; "he's an
eccentric wee chap. I've many a laugh at him as he goes along the
street, muttering to himself and picking his teeth with a fountain-pen.
Eccentric! bless my soul, how could a poet be anything but eccentric?
Besides, he's bound to be a liar: for if he can't get the end of a line
to come right with truth for a rhyme, he has got to make it _clink with
a whopper_. Why, man, it's a great worry for an honest man like me to
speak the truth in plain prose. If I were to send out my bills in metre
to my customers, there would be a rise of temperature soon in the town
of Nairn. No, no: the only thing that can be done with a poet's
manuscript is to take it to the head of the garden, sprinkle it with
paraffin, and apply a vesta."


While one of the great six-day battles of the Eastern war was going on,
a country doctor, by some mistake in delivery, did not get his _Herald_
to breakfast one morning. Anxious to get the news, he bolted his meal
and sallied forth to hear the latest from the seat of war. He saw a
wrinkled old churl trimming the roadside hedge with a bill-hook, and
humming a tune like the gravedigger in _Hamlet_, Act v. "Any news of the
war?" gasped the doctor. "Eh?" said the old man, without discontinuing
his work. "Are you not aware," said the doctor, "that there is a great
battle raging in Manchuria?" "No," said the man, "I know nothing about
it, and care less." "What!" shouted the doctor. "You care nothing about
it? Why, man, the Russians and Japanese are at this moment _fighting for
the hegemony of all Eastern Asia_." "Lord, do you say so?" replied the
old cock, lopping unconcernedly at his hedge; "well, all I can say is,
that _they're gettin' a grand day for it_."


On one occasion, in the West Highlands, I availed myself of a lugsail
ferry to cross an arm of the sea and so avoid a long détour by land. The
boat was old, the sail was thick with big-stitched patches, and the
ferryman was an elder. I had much edifying talk with him, and at last
gliding from the Declaratory Act, of which he did not approve, I asked
him if he had any family. "Yes," he replied, "I have two sons. One of
them is a polissman in Glasgow, a nice lad, a very nice lad: he sends me
ten shillings every month; oh! an excellent lad is he indeed. But my
other son is a disgrace to me; he is bad, very bad. He is a drunkard and
a card-player and a Sabbath-breaker, and what's a thousand times worse
than all that, he's a _Pro-Boer_." This instance of patriotism in a
remote Highland nook was very refreshing for me to hear, and I gave the
anti-Krugerite elder a substantial fare for his trouble in ferrying me
over the loch. He invoked the blessing of Heaven on me, and I hope his
prayer will be answered.


Some years ago, I had occasion to spend a day at Blair Athol, where I
was dosed with nothing but kindness by a genial son of the famous Clan
Macdonald. He put his trap and driver at my disposal, in order that I
might, with comfort and expedition, go and view the Falls of Bruar,
immortalised in one of Burns's cleverest poems. No sooner had we set off
than the driver began to calumniate Burns in unmeasured language, and to
throw withering scorn on the Falls, which, he declared, were utterly
unworthy of being visited by any sane man. "If you want to see real
falls," said he, "I'll take you to the Falls of Tummel, which could
knock those of Bruar into a cocked hat!" (such was the curious metaphor
he employed). I told him he could take me to both if there was time, but
Bruar I must see. He landed me at the Tummel, and drove on recklessly
himself a mile further to see his sweetheart. The desire to pay a visit
to his Bonnie Jean was the sole cause of his gibes at the poet. Back he
came in an hour, chanting merrily, and we drove to Bruar. I found the
varlet had lied most expansively: the Falls are gloriously fine, and
worth walking a good many miles to see. On the homeward road, I could
see he was ill at ease: he was dreadfully afraid that his amorous flight
would be discovered by his master. He said to me once every minute,
"_Falls of Bruar, only, please: keep your thumb on Tummel!_" Latterly he
set these words to a kind of rough music, and sang them continuously in
my ear, winking the while and smiling roguishly. I obeyed him.


While I was sitting alone in the smoking-room of the hotel, a tall,
thin, restless-eyed, aristocratic young fellow came quietly in. He went
up to the sideboard, poured out half a tumbler of water, and carefully
measured out about ten drops of phospherine therein. He swallowed the
mixture, smacked his lips, and sighed. He then remarked that it was a
nice evening and that he was very ill with a nervous complaint. "I
suppose, now," he said, "you would actually tell me not to worry, to
take everything easy, and, above all, to firmly believe there is nothing
whatever the matter with me?" "Most certainly," I said, "you ought to
consider yourself in perfectly good health; by and by you would come to
be so in reality. The Christian Scientists say you might even learn to
hold fire in your hand by thinking of the frosty Caucasus." "I suppose,
too, you would recommend me to have a hobby, such as golf, or gardening,
or amateur photography." "Yes, I believe a harmless hobby such as you
mention would relieve the mental strain and take you out of yourself."
"Well, I essayed golf, but, alas! I massacred a ram; I tried gardening,
and tired of it before the flowers began to show; and as to photography,
it only increased the number of my enemies." "What about cycling or
horse-riding?" "These won't do--I can _think_ at both of them. Now, I
_don't want to think: in fact, I mustn't_." "Fishing? wouldn't that be a
reposeful diversion?" "No, no," he said, "I could not stand the sight of
an animal enduring pain." "Well, you surely might try a little light
reading." "The strange thing about my reading is this," said he, "I look
at a sentence and understand it, but I am aware of something, either at
the back of my head or behind me, which says, 'All this is futile stuff
and nonsense: give it up, it's not for you; you are condemned to
everlasting emptiness, and your life will never know any more fulness or

    "Immense vacuity of intellect!
    I lift a volume, but a sentence tires;
    Even a flimsy magazine requires
    From me more concentration and direct
    Volition than my vagrant wits elect
    To give the pages. All my soul desires
    Is to gaze without purpose on the fire's
    Crackle of glowing cinders, and detect
    Weird shapes of beasts and palaces and men
    In the red mass of photographic coal;
    Perchance my lazy mind may, now and then,
    Without exertion, read as on a scroll
    (While the glede sinks to ashes in the grate)
    The dust and nothingness of mortal state."

"Well," I said, "your case is a queer one, and I am at a loss to suggest
anything further." At this, the young man burst into a loud peal of
laughter. He was supremely delighted at finding himself so unique, so
singular. He took me by the hand, shook it most heartily, saying, "I
haven't enjoyed myself so much for a long time. If I were oftener in the
company of men like you, I might regain hope."

The improvement was, unfortunately, of very short duration. He continued
his observations thus:

"And yet, and yet: _Sunt lacrimae rerum_. What is this world but a
succession of fleeting images chasing each other across a background of
joy or pain! Now we quaff the sour cup of misery, by and by we drink the
intoxicating vintage of hope. Heaven alone stands firm, gemmed with the
pitiless stars. The day breaks, rises to its glory in the shimmering
height of noon, and dies away in the west: so does the utmost pride of
man's career fade away to nothing, a harvest for Time's scythe. On all
this growth and decay the stars gaze with their unpitying and eternal
eyes. I think I'll have a little more phospherine."



    Gairloch folk-lore: Prince Olaf and his bride--A laird who had
    seen a fairy--Tales from Loch Broom: The dance of death--The
    Kildonan midwife--The magic herring--Taisch--Antiquities of
    Dunvegan--Miscellaneous terrors--St. Kilda--Lady
    Grange--Pierless Tiree--Lochbuie in Mull--Inveraray Castle--The
    sacred isle--Appin--Macdonald's gratitude--Notes on the
    Trossachs--Lochfyneside: Macivors, Macvicars, and
    Macallisters--Red Hector--Macphail of Colonsay--Tales from
    Speyside: Tom Eunan!--Shaws and Grants--The wishing well--Ossian
    and Macpherson--At the foot o' Bennachie--Harlaw--Lochaber
    reivers--Reay and Twickenham--Rob Donn--Rev. Mr. Mill of


I do not think anyone interested in local history and antiquities could
find a greater treat than that furnished by Mr. Dixon's _Account of the
Parish of Gairloch_. That romantic and lovely district is fortunate in
having found a historian of unlimited enthusiasm and untiring industry.
There is not a single dry page in his long and detailed narrative. Many
of the legends he tells are known to me from other sources, but I am
certain that no Scotch compiler (Mr. Dixon, let me say, is English) has
written of them with such enjoyable sympathy and poetical ardour. I have
been assured by local authorities that the facts adduced by Mr. Dixon
are invariably reliable. That I can well believe; but what is still more
rare, Mr. Dixon's facts are everywhere made to gleam and glitter in the
radiance of romance. Let me narrate, in concentrated form, one of the
legends which this clever writer has alluded to in more than one of his


In the ninth century of the Christian era, one of the islands that in
such picturesque fashion dot the surface of Loch Maree, was honoured by
being the abode of a pious hermit, despatched thither from the sacred
isle of Iona. His presence there, implying as it did austerity,
perpetual worship of Heaven, and the reading of devout treatises,
inspired veneration in the minds of the obstreperous tribes around. They
felt themselves better from having such a good man near them. Wherever
in these old times of war and gore, a saintly pioneer established
himself, the kingdom of chaos and night was pushed back for miles around
his cell.

The Picts of the ninth century revered this man, and his fame was known
also to the predatory seamen who came buccaneering among the islands of
the West. A Viking of royal blood, Prince Olaf, in the intervals of his
sea-roving, hied sometimes to the hermit's retreat, for instruction and
spiritual blessing. The young man, as tradition alleges, was not beyond
the need of guidance, for his temper was of the most fiery violence,
and, at the slightest provocation, his hand was on the hilt of his
sword. No doubt the saint of Isle Maree managed to moderate the Prince's
vehemence, and draw him somewhat away from wrath which (as Homer puts
it), waxeth like smoke in the breasts of warriors, and is far sweeter to
them than trickling honey.

By and by, this youth fell in love, and in characteristic fashion he
loved with a whole-souled and overwhelming passion. The hot-tempered
Viking became a new man, and he thus communed with himself: "How can I
ask this maid to share my life on the stormy sea? She is too tender and
gentle to go under the dark clouds in a war-galley with me and my rude
mates, when we sail to meet the enemy. Nor, were she my wife, could I
leave her behind and unprotected. Marry her I must, but I can neither
take her with me thereafter, nor defend her in my absence. Go to, I'll
e'en visit the monk of Isle Maree and get counsel from _him_."

It is pleasant to note that the holy father found a way out of the
difficulty. "Marry her, my son," said he, "and build a tower of strength
as her abode on this isle of mine. When you are away, she will be near
me. Old man as I am, the natives respect me for my devotion and my hoary
hairs." The prince's scruples, so honourable to his love, were overcome.
The marriage was celebrated with great pomp and rejoicing. The green
pathways of the isle were thronged with feasters; tents were erected
beside the thickets of oak and holly, and the Loch had little rest from
the plashing of oars. The hermit blessed the couple and blessed the
castle too in which the twain were for a time to reside.

Prince Olaf and his lady were perfectly happy, and the golden hours of
their wedlock sped merrily by. But the hours that were short to them,
were long and dreary to the Norse rovers, lying inactive in the ships
anchored hard by in the waters of Loch Ewe. Murmurs, growing at length
in volume, were muttered by the men as they reflected, day by day, on
the soft uxoriousness of their leader. They wished to be at sea on an
expedition that had been planned aforetime ere the marriage had taken
place. These murmurs reached the prince's ears, and, with many tears, he
tore himself away from the bridal tower to take his place at the head of
the squadron. It was a bitter severance, but tempered by the expectation
of a speedy reunion. The prince took with him two pennons, a black and a
white. "If I am successful in my expedition," he said, "I will display
the white pennon on my galley; if misfortune befalls me (which God
avert) the black will be flying on the prow. Do you come to meet my
returning fleet and let a similar indication be visible on your barge to
tell of your safety or your misfortune. A lover feels his excitement
growing, the nearer he comes to his home: let us abridge, by such a
device, the length of our anxiety."

Love did not make Olaf a worse fighter: rather, indeed, it improved his
prowess. The thought of the fair young wife in the lonely tower,
protected mainly by the sanctity of an old hermit, nerved his arm, and
he speedily got through the expedition with great applause. He swept
everything before him, and turned homeward in the expectation of a
cordial and meet welcome. During his absence, the lady had been
fretting. Finally, as the days passed, she became downright angry. "He
is neglecting me," she cried; "he goes away from my arms to the society
of rough seamen. I am a mere bauble, a plaything for his leisure. He is
tired of me, and perhaps on some distant coast he is dallying with a
newer sweetheart. But I will try his heart. When I hear of his
homecoming, I will go forth on my barge and have the black flag of
desolation flying from the prow. In this way I may obtain some hint of
his real feelings."

Olaf came homeward in great glee, and on entering Loch Ewe from the
outer sea, the white pennon of success flapped gaily in the wind. The
princess, on the other hand, let prepare her boat, and, clothed in the
weeds of death, lay down on the deck, while simulated sobs of woe and
lamentation were raised by all her attendants. Slowly the boat, with its
ill-omened signal, moved to meet the conquering hero. Olaf, the
impetuous, was chilled to the heart, when he saw what he thought the
sure indication of his lady's misfortune. What a sight met his eyes when
he leapt on board! The princess stretched out in apparent death, and
robed in the garments of the grave! He could not endure the torment and
disillusion. He drove a dirk into his bosom with such passionate might
that he fell down, bereft of life, mighty and mightily fallen, on the
deck beside her.

She had not expected such a tragic conclusion to her blamable artifice.
Remorse, of course, got hold of her, and drawing the gory weapon from
her dead lord's breast, she plunged it into her own. Too late was she
convinced of his true love for her: she had only one duty, and that was
to die with him. It is said in the legend that her life was not extinct
when the barge, with its weird freight, returned to the hermit's isle.
The old man, holding in his quaking hand the cross before her dying
eyes, strove to comfort her somewhat as her blood ebbed quickly away.

"The bodies of the unhappy pair," says Mr. Dixon, "were buried within
the inclosure on the island, beneath the shade of the sacred hollies;
they were laid with their feet towards each other, and smooth stones
with outlines of mediæval crosses were placed over the graves, and there
they remain to this day. A few stones still indicate the site of the
hermit's cell, and a considerable mound marks where the tower stood."

The last time I stood beside the little pier on Loch Maree, I noticed
many indications of the advent of southern tourists. Empty bottles were
floating on the waves, and the tiny steamer that plies on the loch was
getting ready for the summer traffic. Visitors from the Lowlands do not
suspect that such tales as I have narrated still live on the lips of the
Gairloch natives, and help to pass the hours at many an evening reunion.
How the centuries meet in such nooks of Ross! Steamers on Loch Maree,
and Olaf's cross still standing on the hermit's isle! The driver of the
mail-coach from Achnasheen to Gairloch will discuss creeds and schisms
with you, and tell you he does not believe in modern religious
developments at all; anon, as the coach passes the Gairloch Church, he
will point with extended whip to a grassy hollow on the left, and say:
"That is where the Free Church used to have its open-air Communion
Service: the place is called _Leabaidh na Ba Bhàine_, because Fingal
scooped it out as a bed where his white cow might calve." "But did
Fingal lodge in this neighbourhood?" you ask. "Oh yes, he did whatever,"
the driver will reply, "and the best proof of it is, that if you go to
the north end of Loch Maree, you will see the _sweetheart's
stepping-stones_, placed there by Fingal to keep his feet dry when he
went that way to court Malvina."


Bailie Nicol Jarvie, whom we all know so well, confessed that when he
heard the wild stories of the North, he felt his blood tingle and his
pulses leap. This fact, which as a sober man of business he felt bound
to apologize for, was probably due to heredity, his mother having been a
Macgregor. The Bailie lived at a time when rumours of witchcraft and
fairydom were more common than now, and when there was less
dissemination of Scripture truth. It is a saying in some parts of the
North that the profuse spread of the Shorter Catechism has been the
means of driving witches and fairies out of their old haunts. For my own
part, I know of nothing more likely to make them decamp.[28]

I was lucky enough to meet a gentleman who declared, not with an oath,
but with a _pretty strong_ asseveration, that he had once seen a fairy.
It was in a railway train that I knit conversation with him. He was a
kilted country squire, tall, thin, and soulful: on his head was a
glengarry with a pair of flying ribbons. He spoke in rapt sentences, as
if he were looking on a vision. This is the substance of his remarks:--

    One autumn morning, when the world lay fair
    Under the radiant blue, I musing lay
    By a green knoll, beside a rippling bay,
    When, suddenly, gliding through the silent air,
    A green-clad apparition, wrinkled, spare,
    Angry, and grieving, passed along the way
    Before me for a moment's space. The fay
    Was old and did not see me lying there.
    I grieved to see her sob in fretful mood,
    And often since I marvel in my mind
    What grievous heart-pang drove her from the wood
    To ease her heart away from her own kind.
    Strange, that these tiny, soulless beings should,
    Like us, be grieved and be with passion blind!

These are the words of a man who speaks with conviction. I ought to
mention that, ecclesiastically (and I hope in other ways, too,) he was a
Moderate. Two things annoyed him greatly: (1) that the fairy did not
deign to look at him; (2) that nobody but his little grand-daughter of
eight would believe he had seen a fairy at all. "Why," he said, "I could
draw that fairy now, if I had pencil and paper. I see her as plain as I
see you. _Her little bosom was heaving, and she wore a necklace of
twisted corn-stalks. I am sorry I did not offer her some refreshment._"

    [28] A very similar account is given, of the dearth of the little
    folk in England, by the poet Chaucer; only, that eminent writer
    declares that the phenomenon is due to the zeal and prayers of
    the monks and begging-friars, who paced about the country
    muttering blessings and exorcistic paragraphs.


The enquirer will find a specially abundant crop of old stories if he
stays long on Loch Broom side. The bard of Ullapool, Mr. Roderick
Mackenzie, has made an excellent collection of romantic incidents
associated with the neighbourhood, and has told them in a very quaint
and effective fashion. From his collection I now cite a specimen or two.
I by no means recommend them as reading for the small hours of the


Three young fellows belonging to Strathmore, in the parish of Loch
Broom, were returning from the Low Country, where they had been living
for some time. It was long before the days of Watt and Macadam; roads
were not good, progress was slow, and rain was frequent. When they, in
the final lap of their journey, arrived at the green hillside of
Lochdrom, the weather was extremely inclement. Seeing a commodious
shieling on the braeface, the young men entered, and one of them, with
the object of driving dull care away, struck up a lightsome tune on his
pipes. His two comrades at once began to fling their legs about and
caper merrily. Soon, having succeeded in dancing themselves dry, they
all agreed that female partners would be a great acquisition. The wish
was at once gratified. Three women mysteriously glided into the
shieling, and the dancing began in earnest. One of the women stood close
by the piper, while the other two skipped about, with their partners,
all round the building. Outside it thundered and lightened in terrific
fashion. Tired and sweating, the two couples were at length fain to
stop, and they sat down to rest on seats of turf and heather. The piper
stopped too: he felt some malign influence coming over him; he was
certain some devilish deed was a-doing. Stealing a glance at his two
friends, he perceived that they were both stark dead, and that the two
infernal huzzies were smiling a hideous smile of triumph. Action, he
felt, was immediately necessary: he flung the still groaning bagpipes
full in the face of the witch near him, stunned her thus for an instant,
and with one wild leap cleared the threshold. And now began a hot race
and hot pursuit. Like another Tam o' Shanter, but without the mare, the
piper sped over the moor and through the rain, plying a foot as good as
wings. Not till they came in sight of the clachan of Fasagrianach, did
the witches relinquish the chase. The exhausted piper had a sad tale to
tell to the mothers of his two hapless friends. Next day a company of
mourners went to the scene of the infernal dance, and, amid much
mourning, they sang a weird wail with the sad refrain, _Airidh mo
Dhubhaich_, which, being interpreted, means "Shieling of my Sorrow."

Let me give another tale, but of less sombre issue, culled from the
folk-lore of the same locality.


A woman living at Kildonan, on the north shore of Little Loch Broom, and
exercising the useful profession of howdie, or midwife, had been
summoned to attend a case at Keppoch. She did not arrive at her
destination, although she left home after telling her neighbours where
she was going. It was on Christmas eve that Fair Sarah, as she was
called, left Kildonan, and for the space of an entire year, not a word,
good or bad, was heard of her. Search parties were organized, but all to
no purpose. Exactly twelve months after her disappearance--the next
Christmas eve, namely--back came the errant midwife to her home, not a
hair the worse for her long absence. She was immensely astonished to
find she had been so long away, her own impression being that only an
hour or two had elapsed. It was evident to all the natives of Kildonan
that Fair Sarah had been among the fairies, in whose company, as every
one knows, months and years slip past as quickly as hours and days.
Sarah was asked to speak out and tell her experiences. "It seems to me,"
said the flustered howdie, "that it was but last night that I left for
Keppoch. Just as I passed the White Knoll, between Strathmore and
Strathbeg, I came upon a company of little folk, who would have me with
them, right reason or none. I accepted their hospitality, and what
drinking, skipping, revelry, and glee my eyes beheld! At last I grew
sick of their cantrips and capers. Remembering I was a Christian and a
communicant, _I blessed myself in the name of the Glorious Trinity_,
with the result that I was unceremoniously bundled out of the place."

The White Knoll had long had the repute of harbouring fairies; Sarah's
experiences put the matter beyond all doubt. That worthy female
continued to ply her vocation for many years after, with unvarying
dexterity and signal success. She was certainly a more prosperous woman
after her year's excursion into Fairy-land.


There is an interesting legend told of the device by which shoals of
herring were first induced to come into Loch Broom.

It seems that long ago (the precise date is unessential) the lochs round
the island of Lewis were invariably, at the herring season, visited by
magnificent shoals of fish, while not a tail was ever seen to twinkle in
the spacious waters of Loch Broom. Abundance on one side of the Minch,
destitution (for no earthly or apparent reason) on the other! After
mature consideration, the dwellers by Loch Broom came to the conclusion
that the anomaly could only be explained by the malignant operation of
the Lews witches. Query: How best neutralise the spells of these partial
harridans? A remedy, both unique and effective, was at length devised. A
silver herring was made and given into the hands of a sturdy crew, who
set sail with it over the water to Lewis. On arriving there, the men
partook of an adequate amount of refreshment, let down the silver fish
(attached to a cord) among the jostling shoals in one of the lochs, and
then, with the metallic animal trailing in the sea behind them, they
turned the prow of the boat in the direction of home. The ruse was
successful beyond all belief: glimmering clouds of phosphorence followed
through the seas below in the wake of the boat and its silver lure.
Under the stars of night, in all the rapture of excitement and success,
the Loch Broom fishers led the droves of herring right up to the
farthest reach of their loch. The metallic herring was then allowed to
sink to the bottom: there it remains, and so long as it is there, an
abundant harvest of the deep will be the portion of the resourceful
toilers of these shores. Perhaps I ought to mention that the famous boat
which did the feat was painted black on one side and red on the other. I
am not sufficiently versed in the niceties of _grammarye_ to be able to
render a reason for this piebald device.

Of late years, as I have been told, the prosperity of Ullapool is not as
high as it was. Can it be that the Lews witches are at their old tricks
again? Or has the silver herring been borne, by the wash of retreating
surges, out into the Hebridean deep. Every visitor who walks through the
sea-facing, white-washed little town, must be struck by the silence of
the streets and the utter lack of business animation.


The most interesting place in the island of Skye is, beyond question,
the neighbourhood of Dunvegan. It was of surly, superstitious,
loyal-hearted Samuel Johnson that I chiefly thought when I leapt out of
the trap that landed me at the Hotel of Dunvegan, for I had just been
reading his famous _Journey_, with its diverting remarks on
second-sight. It would not, I confess, have surprised me over much, in
my tired and wind-beaten condition, to see the Doctor and the Auchinleck
laird, walking arm in arm along the road. I should have put it down to a
kind of inverted _taisch_, certainly to nothing stronger.

It may surprise many southerners to know that the belief in _taisch_ is
not by any means extinct. I have met educated Skyemen who firmly
believed in the mysterious visual gifts of the seventh son of a seventh
son. In old days, the Highlanders were wont to attribute the gift to
none but those of an austere and devout cast, who, living a solitary
life in the eye of nature, were thought to be specially prepared for
receiving supernatural impressions. I am afraid the vast majority of
_taisch_ tales are dreadful nonsense. Mr. MacCulloch, in his recent work
on Skye, has usefully summarized the various types of second-sight as
expounded by the very credulous Macleod of Hamera: (1) The seer is aware
of a phantom winding-sheet enwrapping the doomed person; (2) he may see
the corpse of some one still in life; (3) he may behold a drowning or
accidental death; (4) he may hear noises as of a coffin being hammered;
(5) he may see a living person dwindle to the size of a child, and anon
expand to normal bulk. As Johnson remarks, many of the seers declared
themselves poignantly afflicted by what they saw. Aubrey tells of a
clairvoyant who asked the presbytery to pray that the gift (or curse)
might be taken away. Instant prayer removed the obsession.

The extraordinary futility and droll language of the sentences uttered
by some of the seers are very mirth-provoking. Here are one or two
prophecies of the Brahan Seer:--

    "The heir of the Mackenzies will take
    A white rook out of the wood,
    And will take a wife from a music-house
    With his people against him.
    And the heir will be great
    In deeds, and as an orator,
    When the Pope in Rome
    Will be cast off his throne,
    Over opposite Creagh-a'-chon
    Will dwell a little lean tailor," etc.

The following is excellent: "_When the big-thumbed sheriff-officer and
the blind man of the twenty-four fingers shall be together in Barra,
Macneill may be making ready for the flitting._" It is said that the
same seer prophesied thus of the Strathpeffer wells: "The day will come
when this disagreeable spring, with thick-crusted surface and unpleasant
smell, shall be put under lock and key, so great will be the crowd of
people pressing to drink the waters."

Belief in clairvoyance and prophecy was quite common among the Lowland
Covenanters; and I believe _Peden's Prophecies_ may still be found among
the lumber of the book-shops. An old lady, in Irvine, once repeated to
me the following couplet, as having been uttered by Peden:--

    "Between Segton and the sea
    A bloody battle there shall be."

Now, as Segton is the old name for Kilwinning, it would seem that the
locale of the battle (probably, as the lady, indeed, thought, the battle
of Armageddon) will be _in the immediate neighbourhood of the site at
present occupied by Nobell's Dynamite Factory_.


_Taisch_ has taken me a long way from Dunvegan, of which I meant to say
something. No souvenir is to me more delicious than that of some days
spent there, on one of which I visited the fine old castle of the
Macleods, stablished on its rocks, and filled with romance from base to
topmost turret. On the landward side are lawns, flowers, and abundance
of eye-gladdening leafage, while, seaward, there is the unspeakable
glory of isle-dotted loch and distant sea. By the kindness of Macleod of
Macleod (you must not call that grand and most genial gentleman by any
more garish title: he is _the_ Macleod; he typifies the clan--that is
his highest glory), I visited the delightful old castle and saw every
room, relic, and dirk of importance. What gave me the most pleasure was
the illuminating commentary of Macleod himself and of his charming
daughters. One cannot hear the history of some of the rooms without a
feeling of terror. In the drawing-room of the castle (the room now used
for prayers, and well it may be,) a horrible outrage was planned to take
place by Black Ian, a usurping chief. The atrocious deed happened in the
middle of the sixteenth century, and was due to Ian's fear that the
Campbells, who had landed with a large force in Skye, would expel him
from Dunvegan castle. Ian, pretending that he wished to discuss terms,
invited eleven of the leading Campbells to a banquet. At table, Macleods
and Campbells were seated side by side; and, at a given signal, which
consisted in placing a cup of blood in front of each guest, all the
Campbells were simultaneously stabbed to death, each Macleod
exterminating his man. I was glad to get out of that drawing-room.

The main relics in the castle are: (1) The Fairy Flag; (2) Rory Mor's
Drinking-horn; and (3) the Dunvegan Cup.

It is not as well known as it should be that one of the mediæval chiefs
of the Macleods married a fairy. This dainty little woman presented her
lord with a yellow silk flag, dotted here and there with red spots. The
virtue of the flag, she told him, resided in its efficacy to save the
chief of the Macleods on three different occasions. After the third
employment of the flag, it would flutter away to fairy-land. The flag
has twice saved a chief out of a particularly awkward predicament, and
it is still in Dunvegan, though sadly grimed and rent. The present
chief, who has served his country nobly, is quite fit, in soldierly
fashion, to grapple single-handed with any difficulty he may encounter;
but he is in hopes that the flag may yield its residual virtue to the
contentment of some one or other of his successors.

Rory Mor's drinking-horn, which could contain, I should think, between
two and three bottles of wine, is an interesting indication of
pre-Reformation thirst. Of old, each chief as he came of age, was
expected to drink off its contents at one draught as a proof that he had
arrived at years of discretion.

The cup is made of dark wood, and is finely adorned with silver work. It
is dated 1493, and contains a Latin inscription.

The Fairy Tower in Dunvegan Castle contains the room in which Dr.
Johnson and Sir Walter Scott slept during their respective visits to the
castle. The burly lexicographer would have little wind left for
argument after he had toiled up the steep and narrow spiral stairway
leading to the room. Formerly, so the smiling chief told me, the young
lady chosen by the Macleod to be his wife, had to pass a night alone in
this haunted chamber, in order that the fairies might have an
opportunity of seeing her, and formally approving the choice.


He who investigates Celtic demonology will hear a good deal about a
gruesome and insidious animal called the _Water Horse_. This fell beast,
though able at need to transform itself into the shape of a human being,
is normally like a horse, though much bulkier and fiercer. Its usual
abode is in the deep lochs, but it may occasionally be seen, with wreck
or sea-weed clinging to its hoof or mane, feeding on the hill-side among
earthly horses. The detestable feature about the brute is its fondness
for human beings. There is no hope for any man, woman, or child, who
gets upon its back: at a furious gallop, the animal bounds off by the
nearest road to the loch, and leaps under the waves to devour its prey.
Foals of a specially vicious turn are believed to have this brute for
their sire: in some such way the furious nature of the horse called
"Kelpy" in George Macdonald's story might be explained.

Certain lochs in Skye are believed to harbour a variant terror, the
water-bull. Loch Morar, on the mainland, contains a huge mystic bogie,
undefined in shape, but of terrible malignity. I have heard too, in
Uist, of a phantom dog, with eyes of glede and unearthly bark, that
frequents the entrance to the old wayside burying-ground. No driver,
unless fortified by several glasses, will drive you that way after dark.

"Duncan," said a commercial traveller to a driver, "I'll have to go to
Gruiginish farm to-night. Have everything ready at 8.30."

"I can't do that, Mr. Smith; it'll be dark."

"But you have lamps, Duncan."

"Yes, yes, but I can't go. You have to pass the old cemetery."

"I know that, but I must attend to my business. What ails you at the

"There's the dog at the gate, the dog with the eyes of burning coal.
What is he doing there? And the wee man inside, _What is he doing

"I don't know what he's doing, but to Gruiginish this night I must go.
Do you think a glass of _forked lightning_ would do you any good?"

"Well, it might help."

In spite of more than one glass of forked lightning, poor Duncan was in
a terrible state of excitement when the cemetery was approached. He kept
his head averted, and clutched the reins so nervously that the vehicle
was in imminent danger of being upset.

It is a beautiful saying of Goldsmith that innocently to amuse the
imagination in this dream of life is wisdom. Judged by this standard,
the imaginative operations taking place in Duncan's brain, considering
their effect on his happiness, cannot be pronounced either innocent or
wise. To add ideal terrors to the prosaic hardships of a place like Uist
is the very height of folly. And yet it is precisely in such bare and
rough regions where man has to fight with nature as with a constant
foe, that the unseen powers are believed to be most terrible. The
_lutin_ of the smiling land of France is a mere capering trickster, and
the "lubber fiend" of Milton's poem is pictured as an unpaid adjunct of
the dairy. Duncan's "wee man up on the hill-side" is a permanent and
unspeakable horror of the night. "_What is he doing there?_"[29]

    [29] Collins's long _Ode on Popular Superstitions in the
    Highlands of Scotland_, addressed to Home, author of _Douglas_,
    contains some excellent rhetorical passages. Speaking of the
    second-sighted seer, Collins represents him as one who

        "In the _depth of Uist's dark forest_ dwells."

    We may say of Uist what Lord Rosebery said of Caithness, that it
    is _entirely delivered from the contaminating influence of
    foliage_. The air one breathes there does not suffer
    deterioration by coming through any such _dark forest_ as Collins
    mentions: it blows from the Atlantic in an absolutely pure and
    strong condition.


St. Kilda, the lonely and precipitous island, forty miles west of Lewis,
which Boswell at one time thought of buying, has now, like so many other
islands of the West, a well-furnished library from Paisley. I hope the
minister of the place encourages the reading of the books, and does
everything in his power to broaden the religious views of the people by
healthy secular literature. A luckless inspector of schools crossed over
once to examine the school of this island. His boat arrived late on
Saturday, and was to leave again early on Monday. To suit his own
convenience, the greatly-daring official proposed to examine the
scholars on Sunday. Never was their such indignation among the
islanders. What! examine the school on the first day of the week! Did
the unhappy man wish the wrath of Heaven to fall in fire and brimstone
on the island? The inspector was angrily hooted and denounced. Still, as
he must needs return by his steamer, the islanders agreed to send their
children immediately after Sunday was over, _i.e._, _the bairns were
assembled at midnight_, and parts of speech were bandied about then in
the visible darkness of the tiny school.

St. Kilda belongs to the Macleod, and every spring the factor goes over
to collect the rents. All winter the island is isolated, and has no
outer news save, perhaps, from some stray Aberdeen trawler. For twenty
years the factor went over in a sailing-boat belonging to the chief, but
by some mishap, in which no lives were lost, this boat was
ill-manœuvred and, with sails full-set, was engulfed in a whirlpool.
He now goes over in the steamer.

The first question propounded to the factor is this: "_Has there been
war anywhere, my dear?_" If the answer is "Yes," a great joy is visible
on every face. "_That's good, that's good: tell us all about it._"
Having heard all about the war, the natives show an eagerness for
sweets, of which they are inordinately fond.

The natives are expert cragsmen, and much of their time is occupied in
collecting birds' feathers. The oil of the solan goose is also a source
of wealth. Rough tweeds are now woven in many of the houses. The factor
informed me that, for some unknown reason, everything that comes from
the island is impregnated with a heavy odour that is most disagreeable.
Means have been tried to neutralise this smell, but success is only for
a time: by and by the odour returns, as bad as ever, to fabric and
feather. Merchants, both at home and abroad, are loath to purchase such
unfragrant wares.

In Dunvegan Castle are to be seen several of the little letter-boats
employed by the St. Kildeans to convey news to Scotland in the winter
months. The tide is watched, and the letter-boat cast into the sea.
Usually the message is washed ashore on some part of the Long Island.
Natural superstition supplements, in a small degree, the lack of mails:
when the islanders, for example, hear _the notes of the cuckoo_, they
are convinced that the Macleod is dead. Happily the cuckoo is rarely
heard breaking the silence of the seas so far west.


To this day there are in the possession of the Macleod family certain
old accounts of the years 1744 and 1745, that recall one of the most
diabolical and continuous pieces of cruelty recorded in history. I refer
to the accounts paid in these years to the Laird of Macleod for the
board and burial of Lady Grange. No one who knows the history of that
ill-fated lady can look at these time-stained documents without a
knocking of the seated heart at the ribs.

Everyone who has enjoyed the light and graceful poetry of Ovid, has
sighed over the relegation of that city man to the barbarous horrors of
the Black Sea. As Gibbon exquisitely phrases it: "The tender Ovid,
after a youth spent in the enjoyment of wealth and luxury, was condemned
to a hopeless exile on the frozen banks of the Danube, where he was
exposed without remorse to those fierce denizens of the desert with
whose stern spirits he feared that his gentle shade might hereafter be
confounded." The banishment of Lady Grange to St. Kilda, in 1734, by her
rascally husband, is to me fully as pathetic as Ovid's expatriation to
Tomi. She, a refined and beautiful woman, the light of Edinburgh
drawing-rooms, was hustled off to a lonely rock and left remorselessly
to pine there amid the squalls. Let me briefly summarise this affecting

Lord Grange, a Scottish judge of strong Jacobite leanings, was known by
his Lady to be concerned in a plot, along with Lovat, Mar, and others,
to bring back the Pretender. This was in the year 1730. Stung in her
wifely pride by her husband's ill-treatment and licentiousness, she
openly threatened to expose his treason. To prevent such exposure,
Grange caused his wife to be kidnapped and clandestinely conveyed first
to a small island off North Uist, and subsequently to St. Kilda. In the
latter island, no one could speak any English except the catechist, and
here for seven years this polished society dame lived amid the blasts
and the screaming ocean-fowl, lacking even the privilege, which Ovid
enjoyed, of sending letters to child or friend. In 1741, when the
catechist left the island, she made him bearer of letters to her
law-agent, Hope of Rankeillor. Hope fitted out a sloop, with twenty-five
armed men on board, and set out for St. Kilda to rescue the lady.
Macleod, who was, of course, privy to her detention, at once removed her
to Skye, and Hope's expedition came to nothing. The poor woman, worn out
with sorrow and suffering, died in 1745, a helpless imbecile!

The story, which throws a lurid light on the savagery of the eighteenth
century, and which, to my thinking, surpasses in pathos anything
occurring in fiction, was long disbelieved. But it was only too true. It
is said that ill-luck pursued the lady even after death, and that her
funeral was a miserable parody. A coffin filled with stones and turf was
interred, before a large crowd, in the churchyard of Duirinish, the real
remains being, with maimed rites or none at all, secretly buried

It is noteworthy that Lady Grange died in 1745, the year when Prince
Charlie's hopes were shattered on Culloden Moor. Like her, he too had
the ill-luck to be a hopeless wanderer in the Misty Isle.


I regret to say that I did not stay long enough in the island of Tiree
to add to my store of legends, and yet, I went there with a capacious
note-book and excellent intentions. What is more, I read from beginning
to end, Dr. Erskine Beveridge's detailed book on the island, and could
have passed an examination on semi-brochs, rock-forts, marsh duns,
islet-forts, sandhill dwellings, and prehistoric burial-sites. I steeped
myself so thoroughly in the _minutiae_ of pre-Reformation churches, that
I almost forgot to go to the modern ones. Tiree took hold of me
completely, and so did the Norse invaders of the Hebrides--men like
Ketil Flatnose, Magnus Barelegs, Hako, and Somerled. I got a pocket map
arranged for my own use (copied from Dr. Beveridge's large one) with a
red cross at all the sites of ancient forts. It was my fond hope, for
pride attends us still, that I might find some inaccuracy in Dr.
Beveridge's book, and, from measurements on the spot, be able to
contradict some of his statements. But what are the hopes of man! I did
not know that predestination, in the form of dirty weather, was working
against me, and was about to quench all my interest in _duns_. On
September 5th, 1907, I determined to take Dr. Beveridge's measurements
for granted.

On that day, in fact, I was for some time under the impression that my
last lecture had been delivered. It was on the way between Coll and
Tiree. The gale was a furious one and, combined with the greasy odours
of the _Fingal_, was enough to sicken a practised seafarer. I did notice
that some of the crew were prostrated, so that there was some excuse for
a landsman not being proof against Neptune's dandling. So low, exposed,
and precarious is the shore at Scarinish, that, often for weeks, the
ferrymen dare not venture out to the steamer for passengers. I asked one
of the _Fingal_ men if there was any chance of being landed. He was a
cruel cynic, and said: "No, not to-day. The sea is too wild for the
ferry to come out. We'll go right across to Bunessan in Mull, so prepare
for three more hours' shaking. You won't forget the _Dutchman's Cap_
for the rest of your life." Then with a remark addressed to the
Creator, he added: "_There's the ferryboat after all; she's racing over
the water like a stag._"

He was right: the lugsail was careering out to us and came alongside at
length, and, after fearful trouble, got fastened to the _Fingal_.
Sometimes the ferryboat was even with our deck, sometimes far above it,
sometimes fifteen feet below. It looked like certain death to leap into
that lugsail.

I hesitated, and shouted to the captain: "Is it safe to jump?"

He replied, "I wish to Tophet I had the chance."

I watched for the next opportunity of the ferryboat and the _Fingal_
being approximately on the same plane, and leaped into the arms of a

Other passengers followed,--men, women, even babies. Then came the
mails; and finally, live stock. I remember being struck on the mouth by
a sheep heaved into the boat by the above-mentioned cynic. "Come, come,
that's enough, keep the rest; let us be off," shouted a boatman.
Everybody was wet to the skin: the wind was howling; the women weeping;
and the babies were mixed up with the sheep.

Once clear of the _Fingal_, the adroit ferrymen did their duty well, and
in less than ten minutes we were all landed. A crowd of islanders were
waiting to lift us out. All agreed that it had been a _close shave_.

Such was my introduction to _Pierless Tiree_.

I did not stay long enough in the island to measure brochs, but quite
long enough to experience the good-will and kindliness of the natives.
The houses are solid and substantial, the inhabitants strong and
muscular. Great gales from the Atlantic blow almost continually, sweep
up the sand in clouds, and prevent any trees from taking root. I did not
see much poverty with my own eyes, but the ministers all assured me
there was a great deal. Maize, more than oatmeal, is the cereal used for
porridge. For supplementary information, Dr. Beveridge's admirable and
accurate work may be consulted.


The great straggling island of Mull, so full of scenery, romance, and
song, still awaits its historian. Few, who have ever visited the noble
isle, will refuse to say with Macphail, the bard of Torosay:

    "O the island of Mull is an isle of delight
    With the wave on the shore and the sun on the height,
    And the breeze on the hills and the blast on the Bens,
    And the old green woods and the old grassy glens."

The gem of the island is undoubtedly the haven of Lochbuie, one of the
choicest nooks in insular Scotland. The modern mansion, which is but a
step or two from the well-preserved castle of olden times, is quite near
the shore, and looks straight south over the Atlantic to the island of
Colonsay. The entire surroundings are a delight to the eye: great
towering mountains behind, the sea in front, and in the space between,
green lawns, rocks, gorse, and many-tinted garden-plots.

The MacLaines of Lochbuie trace their descent from the great Gillean of
the Battle-axe, a redoubtable warrior who flourished his weapon to some
purpose in the reign of Alexander III. But the most notorious of all
the MacLaines is _Ewen of the Little Head_, who died in battle, and
thereafter assumed the rôle of family ghost. Before the death of any of
his race, this phantom-warrior gallops along the sea-beach near the
castle, announcing the event by cries and loud lamentations. The doctor,
who attended the present chief's mother, declares that, while sitting
beside her bed during the silent watches of the night, he heard the
noise of the spectral horse just before the old lady's decease. The
natives of Mull can describe the ghost and horse with accurate detail.
The horse is a small, hardy, sure-footed animal of brown colour, and
Ewen is known by the smallness of his head, and by a long floating
mantle of green. He performed a weird and long-continued gallop round
the bay in 1815, before the news of the valiant Sir Archibald MacLaine's
death became known by official despatch from the seat of war.

Lochbuie, like so many other places in Scotland, has its Piper's Cave.
There is a remarkable similarity in all such tales--diversified,
however, by quaint local additions. MacLaine's piper, a foolhardy man,
determined once to test the allegation that a certain cave on Lochbuie
was connected with another cave at Pennygown on the Sound of Mull.
Attired in his official costume and having his dog at his heels, he
entered the cave, blowing his pipes triumphantly. Those above, on the
hills, were able to make out his line of passage by the sound of the
music. At a certain point the pipes ceased, and nevermore did the piper
come up to the shores of light. The dog got to the cave of Pennygown--a
limp and hairless parody of its former self.

Browning, in his "Pied Piper of Hamelin," has but poetised one version
of a world-wide tale. Often, in the Highland tales, it is money the
piper is after. There is a deep cave near Melvaig, in Wester Ross, into
which a piper is said to have led a band of men in search of gold, and
never returned. In this case the pipe-music is said to have continued
for years--some natives even asserting that it may be heard still by
those who have ears to hear.

In spite of all the legendary lore connected with the family of the
MacLaines, the chief interest of Lochbuie for a lover of literature,
centres round the visit of Boswell and Johnson. In one of the rooms of
the castle there is a fine portrait of Johnson. On looking at it, my
mind reverted to the amusing question addressed to the sage by the
"bluff, comely, noisy old gentleman" who was the laird of Lochbuie in
1773: "Are you of the Johnstons of Glencro or of Ardnamurchan?" "Dr.
Johnson," says Boswell, "gave him a significant look, but made no
answer; and I told Lochbuie that he was not Johnston, but Johnson, and
that he was an Englishman."

I regret to say that the great war saddle, which was in Lochbuie's
possession in 1773, and which Boswell did not see because the young
laird had taken it to Falkirk with a drove of black cattle, is no longer
in the island: somebody took it to America, and forgot to bring it

The present laird is greatly beloved by his tenantry. At the lecture I
gave at Lochbuie, he was unable, owing to illness, to take the chair.
His absence was a terrible grief to the people, and the piper of the
family, in a brief speech, alluded in a most touching way to the sorrow
felt by all present.[30]


Three days after Johnson and his friend left Lochbuie, they were
entertained by the Duke of Argyll in Inveraray Castle. Boswell's
description of the incidents of this visit is one of his finest efforts.
He tells us that Johnson admired the "utter defiance of expense" shown
by the Duke in the building and appointments of the place. Records exist
which show that the masons were paid at the rate of 4½d. a day,
_plus_ a weekly bonus of meal!

It is interesting to note that the Rev. John Macaulay (grandfather of
Lord Macaulay) was one of the ministers of Inveraray in 1773. Boswell
gives him a very high character, but this had no emollient effect on the
great historian, when he came to review _Croker's Edition of Boswell's

Inveraray Castle is a superb object-lesson in Scotch history. All the
Campbells of note for centuries past are hanging on the walls, from the
old Duke who passed away last, to the squinting Marquis (_Gleed Argyll_
mentioned in the "Bonnie House o' Airlie"), who was beheaded on the
Castle Hill of Edinburgh in 1661. The Duke, who commanded at Sheriffmuir
("when we ran and they ran, and they ran and we ran," etc.) is standing
in his accoutrements of pride, painted by the son of Allan Ramsay:

    "Argyll the State's whole thunder, born to wield
    And shake alike the Senate and the Field."

Mediæval armour, firelocks from Culloden, flags from a score of
battlefields, mutely suggest the glory and gore of the olden times. It
is impossible to walk through the rooms of such a place without feeling
intimately in touch with the events of the past.

The present hotel is the one in which Johnson and his biographer lodged.
Burns came sixteen years later, and wrote on the pane of his bedroom
window the scandalous epigram on Inveraray so often quoted. The present
Duke (who has perpetrated a fair amount of poetry himself) would give
much of his odd cash to recover that pane, which was cut out some years
ago by a pilfering visitor.[31]

    [30] I am inclined to think that the relationship formerly
    existing between the Highland chief and the member of his clan
    was perfect in its way--a _model_ of class relationship. There
    was nothing menial about the clansman's attitude, though he gave
    unbounded homage to his lord. At the battle of Inverkeithing, a
    clansman and his seven sons gave up their lives to shield from
    death their chieftain, Sir Hector Maclean. As the old man saw his
    boys fall one after the other, he shouted with glee and pride,
    "_Another for Sir Hector!_" until he himself lay, like a true
    thane, beside his progeny. Nothing could be finer or more
    touching than such a scene.

    [31] Burns tells us that when in Inveraray Hotel, he was entirely
    neglected by the servants, who gave all their attention to some
    gentlemen from the Castle. In our day, the Campbells have shown
    contrition by their willingness to admit that Burns was one of
    their own clan. Burns's ancestors were, it is said, Campbells of
    Taynuilt. Taynuilt means in English, Burnhouse. When the poet's
    ancestors emigrated to Forfarshire, they were known as _Campbells
    from Burnhouse_. In course of time the appellation was shortened
    into Burnhouse simply, and latterly into Burness or


Wordsworth came to Iona (which also belongs to the Argyll family) in
1833, and wrote four poor sonnets on the sacred isle. This is what he

                      "To each voyager
    Some ragged child holds up for sale a store
    Of wave-worn pebbles, pleading on the shore
    Where once came monk and nun with gentle stir."

Owing to its ecclesiastical renown as the cradle of Christianity in
Britain, no island is so much visited as Iona. The audience I addressed
was the most miscellaneous I have ever seen: there were boatmen and
barristers, anglers and artists, curates and crofters, French and

The present-day natives seem desirous of keeping up the old reputation
for theology. The boatman who ferries visitors ashore, remarked to me
with pride that his favourite book was one entitled _The Great
Controversy between God and the Devil_, a book with which I was, and am
still, unacquainted.

Dr. Johnson's remarks on Iona remain the most eloquent tribute to the
island. He never wrote anything finer. All the children in the Iona
school should be made to learn the piece by heart.[32]

It is most gratifying to think that Christianity has been the great
purifying force in Europe. The introduction of Christianity into the
world must be reckoned as the most revolutionary event of history.
Nothing was ever more needed. To one who knows the morality of the most
brilliant society of the Greeks and Romans, there is no need to extol
the pure and lofty moral tone of Jesus of Nazareth. But those who have
not read the masterpieces of ancient art, with their mingled beauty and
foulness, may be assured that literature owes more to Christianity than
has ever yet been told. With Christianity a great healthy breeze swept
over the world. Men became ashamed of wallowing in the mire. An ideal
was raised up before them for their worship and imitation. The old Adam
and his deeds needed stern repression after the wild iniquities of the
effete society of imperial Rome. The spirit needed to curb the flesh,
literature needed to be cleansed. We, living to-day and nursed on the
accumulated tradition of so many anterior Christian centuries, are
sometimes disposed to minimise the debt we owe, in pure and simple
morality, to the teachings of the New Testament. I find it impossible to
imagine what the world would be without these teachings. They renewed
the world, they made it do penance for its sins, they made advance
practicable. An entirely retrograde movement is impossible when once man
is indoctrinated with a grand ideal.

    [32] Boswell's religious instincts come well out in his account
    of the visit to Iona. Two of his descendants, Messrs. Albert and
    James Boswell, devoted themselves entirely to religion, and were
    well known in Ayrshire, thirty years ago, as zealous evangelists.
    These two gentlemen went on a preaching campaign through the
    northern islands, and did much highly appreciated philanthropic
    and religious work there. They were members of the sect called
    Plymouth Brethren.


In this chapter (as, indeed, in all the others) I am rummaging among my
souvenirs for materials that are in some way noteworthy. It is utterly
impossible to exhaust the romance and glamour of the Highlands. Those
who go regularly North are certain to bring back, on each occasion, a
host of interesting memories. "Swift as a weaver's shuttle fly our
years": the chief difficulty is to jot down all that one sees and hears.

On the occasion of my second visit to Appin, I stayed in the fine new
hotel built on the eminence called Druim-an-t-Sealbhain. The landlord is
a man of great wit and reading, and with him I had some enjoyable hours
of miscellaneous conversation. Mr. Macdonald (for that is his name) has
an excellent knowledge of the Celtic dialects, has translated into
Gaelic verse some of the best-known poems of Burns, Tannahill, and
Byron, and is extremely clever at retailing the legendary tales that
still go rumouring along the Strath of Appin. He has also a good
knowledge of English literature, and told me certain details regarding
Scott and Wordsworth which I was pleased to know.

It seems that Sir Walter was at one time tutor in Appin House, and was
in the habit of visiting the cot of an old shepherd, a notorious
_seanachie_, full of romantic lore, for the purpose of hearing, and
writing down, the old man's tales. An oak tree is still pointed out,
under which, it is said, Scott composed part of _The Lord of the Isles_.
Appin is not very far from the castles of Dunollie and Dunstaffnage,
which Sir Walter wrought skilfully into the texture of his tales.

The most interesting item mentioned by Mr. Macdonald had reference to
the visit of William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, in the year
1803. Everyone who has read the life of the great poet of Nature knows
the charming description of the district contained in one of his
sister's letters. "We arrived," she says, "at Port-na-croish. It is a
small village--a few huts and an indifferent inn, by the side of the
loch; ordered a fowl for dinner, had a fire lighted, and went a few
steps from the door up the road, and turning aside into a field, stood
at the top of a low eminence, from which, looking down the loch to the
sea through a long vista of hills and mountains, _we beheld one of the
most delightful prospects that, even when we dream of fairer worlds than
this, it is possible to conceive in our hearts_." Here follows a
description so exquisite of the sea-scenery and the Morven Hills, that
it deserves to be classed with the finest examples of word-painting in
the English language.

The new hotel at Appin is built on the low eminence referred to in the
above-cited letter. The name Druim-an-t-Sealbhain is giving way to the
complimentary title of "Dorothy Wordsworth's View." From the front
windows of the hotel, the same calm inland seas, grassy hills, Morven
mists, grim old forts, and intricate communion of land and water, can be
seen precisely as they were seen by the Wordsworths more than a century
ago. The Port-na-croish inn has become a village store: it is well
worthy of note, not merely for the reference in the letter, but for a
fine legend, which I shall now narrate.


The first tenant of the inn was a Macdonald of Glencoe, a man between
sixty and seventy at the time of the story, the year 1755 namely. He had
around him a family of stalwart sons, all imbued with intense hatred of
the clan Campbell. The peculiar and fiendish malignity of the terrible
massacre of Glencoe precluded all possibility of forgiveness on the part
of the clan. Highland hospitality has always been a lavish and
magnificent thing, and Colonel Campbell and his assassins had been
treated with exceptional kindness in Glencoe. The bloody outrage, in a
midnight of winter snows, was too terrible a meed of hospitality to be
readily forgotten or forgiven by the Macdonalds. This old innkeeper of
Port-na-croish, then, hated the Campbells with the unquenchable hate
that deep wrongs, done not alone to an individual but to a tribe,
engender in the Celtic soul.

One day a white-bearded wayfarer begged food and shelter in the little
hostel, and in the course of conversation over the meal that was soon
spread on the board for his wants, he let slip an avowal that, in his
youth, as one of Campbell's men, he had taken part in the gruesome
massacre of the "valley of weeping." Without more ado, the landlord
slipped out and posted his sons at the door, with whispered orders to
them that the stranger should be dirked to death on crossing the
threshold of the inn. Returning indoors, old Macdonald, dissimulating
his fell intentions, proceeded to ply the visitor with question upon
question, so as to gain a detailed knowledge of all the incidents of the
weird carnage. Finally he said, "Tell me, Campbell, what part of that
devilish business made the strongest impression on your mind?" "I will
tell you," said the old soldier, "what to me was the outstanding
incident of that night. Towards the close of the massacre, a child's
voice was heard piercingly on the night air--a scream it was, and seemed
to come from no great distance. The captain sent me in the direction of
the sound, bidding me, if the child should be a male Macdonald, to kill
it forthwith; if a girl, to spare. I soon came up to the place whence
the sound proceeded, and saw through the whirling snow, under the
protection of a jutting cliff, a nurse with a boy of four years old,
both of them wailing and shivering with cold. The child was gnawing a
bone and, near by, a dog was crouching. Pity wrung my heart. I drove my
bayonet through the trembling cur, and, going back to the captain,
showed him the bloody steel as a proof that I had obeyed his commands."

The innkeeper, who had been all ears, said: "You, then, were that
soldier?" "I was, indeed," replied the old wanderer. "_And I was that
child!_" said the landlord, "and _your_ life is saved. My sons stand at
the threshold of the inn, ready to fall upon you when you leave. I
countermand the order for your destruction. Here you shall stay, an
honoured guest, till the end of your days, as a recompense for saving my
life on that awful night."

The story goes on to state that the foot-weary Campbell lived for some
years a pensioner in Port-na-croish inn, and was buried at the expense
of the grateful innkeeper. I do not know any story that comes nearer


The Rev. Mr. Wilson, the cultured and genial minister of the Trossachs,
has recently published a most readable little book on the district he
knows so well. Perhaps no district indeed on the world's surface is so
well known (even to those who have never seen it), as the Trossachs.
Little did Sir Walter suspect, when he penned the stirring iambics of
_The Lady of the Lake_, that he was furnishing materials to the
pedagogue which would be parsed, analysed, and dissected by myriads of
pupils in all the schools of the British Empire. We shall all carry with
us to the grave the leading passages of that romantic lay: the
stag-hunt, the duel at Coilantogle Ford, the whistle that garrisoned the
glen, and the episode of the Fiery Cross. Such lines, we may say, have
gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Happening to pass Strathyre station in July, 1907, I was requested by a
bright-eyed little Japanese gentleman in the compartment to tell him
where we were. On being informed, he (after casting an eye of pity on
the deplorable stork that is supposed to decorate the drinking-fountain
of the station), began to declaim, in capital English, the passage that

    "Benledi saw the Cross of Fire,
    It glanced like lightning up Strathyre,
    O'er dale and hill the summons flew,
    Nor rest nor pause young Angus knew;
    The tear that gathered in his eye
    He left the mountain breeze to dry."

Mr. Wilson's book to which I have alluded is a collection of the
impressions written down by eminent visitors to the locality, from
Dorothy Wordsworth to Queen Victoria. Carlyle, who was in Perthshire in
1818, wrote the following note, which, though short, is finely
characteristic of him: "The Trossachs I found really grand and
impressive, Loch Katrine exquisitely so, my first taste of the beautiful
in scenery. Not so, any of us, the dirty, smoky farm-hut at the
entrance, with no provision in it but bad oatcakes and unacceptable
whisky, or the Mrs. Stewart who somewhat royally presided over it, and
dispensed these dainties, expecting to be flattered like an
independency, as well as paid like an innkeeper." The foregoing note, by
itself, is good value for the cost of Mr. Wilson's book (two shillings,
namely), and raises regrets that the author of _Sartor_ did not travel
oftener through the Land of Cakes. (The only other place in the
Highlands where I have heard Carlyle spoken of, is Kyleakin in Skye,
where he was the guest of Lady Ashburton, and where (as the natives
say), the cocks and hens had to be removed out of ear-shot for his

One of Mr. Wilson's stories (contributed by a lady) is apposite at the
present time, when so much is being heard of women's rights. Glengyle, a
district of the Trossachs, was once _entirely ruled_ by a number of
women, who constituted a sort of High Court with women as Judge and
Jury. "The most notorious case which they dealt with, and which probably
led to their downfall through drawing the ridicule of the country upon
them, was a case of horse-stealing. The accused man had been seen riding
furiously away on someone else's horse, and all evidence pointed to his
guilt. To the astonishment of the outsiders, the jury returned a verdict
of 'not guilty,' and the Judge on summing up declared the horse was the
culprit, as it had run away with the man. _She condemned the unfortunate
animal to be hanged, and hanged it was, while the man got off scot


None of the mainland counties of Scotland can boast of such wonderful
ramifications of sea and loch as the county of Argyll. The present
amiable and cultured head of the Clan Campbell declaimed, with great
applause, at a social gathering not long ago, a fine poem, in which the
beauties of his ancestral shire were floridly--but not
unjustly--elaborated. It would be difficult to over-praise the county of
Argyll, with its splendid sea-board, its rugged and impressive peaks,
and its unrivalled fiords and lakes. Thanks to its proximity to large
centres of population, few counties are so much visited. Its fame, in
our day, is likely to be more widespread than ever, owing to the
graceful and entertaining writings of Mr. Neil Munro, who probably
knows the details of its local history better than any man living, and
who possesses the inimitable art of interesting others in his
delineations of the past. I confess that I feel, personally, as much
interest in the Wars of Lorn as I do in the Siege of Sphacteria, and
that "Glee'd Argyll" seems fully as attractive as Cleon or Brasidas.

Of course, long before Mr. Munro, Loch Fyne had a European reputation,
which it owed to its herring. The Popes of Rome used to eat these
herring in mediæval times, and sent for them _viâ_ Amsterdam or Antwerp.
Orthodox Catholics have always had good judgment in the matter of fish,
and especially the French, who belong to a country which proudly boasts
of being _the eldest daughter of the Church_. For many a generation the
French came annually to Lochgilphead, and bartered their kegs of claret
for barrels of salt herring. The French Revolution, among its many other
effects, put a stop to this trade. War lasted for so many years between
Britain and France, that, at the end of it all, the continental sailors
had forgotten the way to Loch Fyne.

Argyllshire is rich in legends, for many of which no date can be given
except the elastic one _long ago_ or _in byegone times_. Let me cite one
or two of these:--


On the road to Kilmartin is a place called the Robber's Den, the
locality of which may be firmly fixed in the tourist's memory by noting
that it is just behind a large distillery. Here, long ago, lived one
Macvicar, whose wife was a Macivor. These names are important, and so
also is that of the Macallisters of Tarbert, who one day stole cattle
belonging to the Macivors. Mrs. Macvicar noticed these Tarbert
scoundrels driving her father's cattle through the glen, and mentioned
the fact to her boy. Young Macvicar followed the robbers, and found them
in a forest feeding joyously on a slain bullock belonging to his
grandfather. As each Macallister finished picking a bone, he would throw
it violently against a big stone, remarking at the same time, with a
chuckle: "_If a Macivor were here, that's how I would treat him_." The
boy, from his hiding-place in the foliage, threw a stone and struck one
of the feasters. The injured man blamed one of his own clansmen, and,
after much recrimination, a free fight of Macallisters was the result.
During the mêlée, the boy slunk off and told his mother's family what
was happening. The Macivors, in a furious and determined band, soon fell
upon their disordered foes, and completely routed them and regained
their cattle, _minus_ the consumed bullock. The chief of the
Macallisters was slain by a woman, who took off her stocking, placed a
_large stone therein_, and heaved it at his head. That same night, Mrs.
Macallister, wife of the chieftain thus ignominiously laid low, gave
birth, perhaps prematurely, to a son, whom the care of a discriminate
midwife secreted from the vengeance of the Macivors, who were howling
all round the house. This child grew up to manhood with the picture of
the stone-laden stocking ever before his mind's eye. He prepared a most
effective retaliation: he sent to Ireland and got over a large band of
Antrim men, who were quite pleased to help him in his bloody projects.
The Macivors were completely overpowered, and even the Macvicars had a
taste of Irish steel. Macvicar, father of the boy who distinguished
himself in the wood, was attacked in his own house. He was an athlete of
great powers, and was _able to jump thirty feet either in a backward or
a forward direction_. The Irishmen set fire to his house, and
Macvicar--hoping, no doubt, to make a final leap for life--tried to
escape by the chimney. His foes struck him on the knee with a spear: he
fell into their hands, and was at once despatched.


We hear a good deal of the Irish in the traditions of Argyllshire. The
ruthless Colkitto, notorious for his own deeds and also for Milton's
mention of him, brought over a contingent of men from Ireland to help
Montrose in the Royalist wars. These auxiliaries swooped down on
Kintyre, murdered hundreds of Campbells, and devastated with fire and
sword the whole of Argyll's country. To this period belongs the story of
Red Hector and the Irish colossus, Phadrig Mor.

Hector was a little, red-haired kern of the Campbell clan, who was
caught by Colkitto's men skulking in the wood, and dragged with pinioned
arms before the son of that bandit. Hector was about to be hanged
without more ado, but as preparations were being made he cried out:
"_Give me a sword and I'll fight any one of you. If I am beaten, kill me
then._" The Irishmen, to whom an "illigant foight" has always been
welcome, agreed to the proposal of Red Hector. They chose Phadrig Mor, a
fierce giant of a man, to fight with the little fellow. The latter, to
neutralise the advantages of Phadrig's stature, leapt nimbly on the sawn
stump of a tree, and, in an attitude of defence, awaited the oncoming of
his foe. The wee man parried most dexteriously every blow that Phadrig
wished to deal, and there was much mirth and excitement among the
spectators. At length, seeing a terrific blow coming his way, Hector
speedily leapt off the trunk of the tree, and the Irishman's sword came
fiercely down and was embedded in the timber. Now was Hector's chance:
he laid about the defenceless giant to such purpose that Phadrig was
soon a corpse.


Leyden, the polyglott poet, has written a poem on an Argyllshire
tradition attaching to the whirlpool of Corryvreckan. Near that dreaded
tumult of waters, Macphail, a Colonsay man, was pulled out of his boat
by a mermaid, and taken down to her shell-strewn chamber at the bottom
of the sea. They stayed for years together, and five little, unbaptized
Macphails claimed him at length as their sire. By and by he grew tired
of the eternal swirling of the currents, the saltwater garden growths,
and the irritating deflection of the sunlight. His mind continued to
revert to Colonsay and the girl he had left behind him there. One day he
got the mermaid to take him near the strand of his native island,
whereupon he suddenly leapt ashore and escaped. In future years he
avoided the sea as much as possible, preferring to devote his time and
talents to cultivating the soil of Colonsay.


Part of my purpose in this chapter is to show to any of my readers who
may have poetical talents, that abundance of material for verse, and
that of the most pathetic, thrilling, and gruesome kind, is still to be
found in the North country. No one since Scott has thought fit to draw
much on traditions of the Highlands: and though Scott poetised a great
many of these, plenty of them still remain unsung. Many fine tales are
associated with the delightful district of Speyside.


Near the little village of Kincraig is a queer old church built on a
hill called Tom Eunan, just beside the Spey. This church is declared to
be the only one in Scotland in which services have been continuously
held since the seventh century. The outside is antique in the extreme;
inside, there have been renovations: there is a deal of varnished
wainscoating that would have scared the Culdees, and instead of the
uneven cobble stones of old, there is a modern floor of wood. On one of
the windows of the church, there is a fine old bronze bell that exists
as a relic of Culdee times. Some profane person once laid hands on this
bell and carried it off to Perth; but it _would not_ ring away from
Speyside. To speak figuratively, the bell was broken-hearted: from its
metallic tongue, night and day, came the mournful wail, "Tom Eunan, Tom
Eunan." I am happy to say that it was brought back to its beloved

Rural churches with earthen floors were not uncommon in Scotland even in
the nineteenth century: in such there would be no great trouble in
interring the dead. Two Speyside stories, dealing with kirks and
kirkyards, are told of the Grants of Rothiemurchus.


For several generations the possession of Rothiemurchus was a constant
subject of dispute between the Shaws and the Grants. The Shaws were the
original owners, but having waxed fat and kicked against the Government
on more than one occasion, word was sent from Edinburgh to one of the
Grants, who was Laird of Muckerach, that he should dispossess the Shaws
of the lands of Rothiemurchus, _gin he could_. Grant was by no means
"blate" in availing himself of the hint, but the Shaws were tough
fighters. In a final and decisive contest between the two clans, the
Grants were victorious and the chief of the Shaws slain. The victorious
Muckerach, now unequivocal Laird of Rothiemurchus, caused his dead rival
to be buried deep down within the kirk beneath his own seat. Every
Sunday _when he went to pray_ he stamped his feet triumphantly upon the
place under which lay the corpse of his enemy.

Patrick Grant, surnamed Macalpine, cuts a rather picturesque figure in
clan history. With a body of gaily-dressed retainers he paraded round
the countryside, dispensing justice and letting the minimum of time
elapse between the sentence and the execution. He was twice married,
and his second wife survived him. That forlorn lady had much to endure
from the first family, and notably from the wife of Macalpine's eldest
son and heir. The widow took a very dramatic way of publicly showing her
grievances. Once after the service in the kirk was over, she stepped up,
with her fan in her hand, to the corner of the kirkyard, and, taking off
her high-heeled slipper, she tapped with it on the stone laid over her
husband's grave, crying out through her tears, "_Macalpine! Macalpine!
rise up for ae half-hour and see me richted!_"

A diverting legend explains the _low-lying situation of Ballindalloch
Castle_, a beautiful specimen of baronial architecture, standing near
the junction of the Spey and the Avon. In planning the place, somewhere
about 1545, the laird fully intended to secure a wide prospect, and to
that end, chose a commanding site. But his views did not commend
themselves to the Powers of the Air, and the masons could make no
progress. Every night, when the workers had retired from building the
walls, a prodigious gale came roaring from the summit of Ben Rinnes and
swept stones and mortar into the bed of the Avon. The laird, sorely
puzzled at this strange phenomenon, lay in watch one night, with the
result that he was blown off his feet, and landed right up among the
branches of a holly-tree. Having taken the conceit out of the laird in
this abrupt way, the Mysterious Power, chuckling in fiendish fashion,
called out "_Build on the cow-haugh_." Frightened out of his wits, the
laird was only too glad to comply.


Round the old Castle of Rothes clings a legend of a more pathetic kind.
"Fierce wars and faithful loves shall moralise my song," says Spenser,
and it is with these well-worn but ever-fresh subjects that the story
deals. The heiress of one of the old lairds of Rothes, being allowed to
roam at will with her foster-mother, cast an eye of love on the son of
the laird of Arndilly. As in ballad lore, the love seems to have been
immediate, reciprocal, and unquenchable. The girl's father, hearing of
the attachment, summarily forbade it, and commanded his daughter to turn
her back on young Arndilly, and take a different road in future. But as
journeys end in lovers meeting, the two young people, by whatever way
they set out, invariably met at the _Wishing Well_. A sad severance
came, however, for young Arndilly, like so many mediæval knights of song
who had faithful mistresses, must needs go crusading to the Holy Land.
During his absence, the lady hied daily to the Wishing Well, and many a
tear she let fall therein as she thought of the lad that was so far
away. But after many a month, back from Palestine came young Arndilly,
and went, of course, straight to the old trysting-place, where he found
his lady-love praying for his safe return. The meeting was rapturous but
tragically short. A dark shape glided upon the scene, and drove a fatal
dirk in the young soldier's back. The lady shrieked aloud and swooned
away. For the rest of her life she was an imbecile: she never left the
castle, and spent her time crooning a plaintive song and rocking a
cradle. Her ghost still haunts the place, and those who have ears to
hear can, at nightfall, make out, above the sough of the wind, the
mournful notes of a weird lullaby, and mysterious cradle-rockings within
the ruined walls. Close by the Well, at the spot of the murder, a bush
sprang up, whereof the leaves resembled crosses; in autumn they turned
to a bright scarlet colour, as if typical of the blood that had flowed
there from its victim's wounds. Others will have it that the lady's
ghost may be seen flitting about, distractedly, in the woods, on a
particular night of the year--the anniversary, it is supposed, of
Arndilly's murder.


The beautiful little town of Kingussie is famous for its association
with "Ossian" Macpherson, who was born near by. No man, born on Scottish
earth, except perhaps, Sir Walter Scott, had ever such an influence on
European literature as this Highland dominie. "His Ossian," as Professor
Macmillan Brown says, "was translated into almost every European
language; and its influence is apparent in Goethe's Werther, in
Schiller's Robbers, and in all the Storm-and-Stress literature of
Germany, in the productions and speeches of the French Revolutionists,
in the romantic literary movement that preceded and followed the
Revolution, and in much of the Italian, Spanish, and Danish poetry of
the time. It generally affected the prose style of eighteenth century
romance, and was a direct antidote to Johnsonianism in the imaginative
literature. In our own century it bent the genius of Scott to the
Highlands, and moulded the dramas of Byron, and the often vague imagery
of Shelley; it appears in the style of Kingsley's Hereward, and directly
or indirectly it is responsible for the pioneering efforts of Walt
Whitman in prose poetry and for the rapid growth of poetic prose through
De Quincey, Bulwer Lytton, and Ruskin. During last century it stirred
Blake to misty prophecies, led writers of romance back into the less
known periods of the past, and gave the new audience a delight in
mysterious and almost formless legend and tale and idea."

The extraordinary vogue of Macpherson's Ossianic poems was due to
literary merit of a high order, and also to the parched and dry state
into which the poetry of Europe had sunk in the middle of the eighteenth
century. Boileau and his rules had crushed all sap and life out of
European verse, and the poet had become either a teacher of rimed ethics
or a framer of dexterous satire. How refreshing Ossian must have been to
the men of such a time:

    "The hills were round them, and the breeze
    Went o'er the sun-lit fields again;
    Their foreheads felt the wind and rain."

Let the modern reader go through the _Rape of the Lock_, and then take
up the song of the hunter Shilric from Macpherson's "Carric-thura."

Shilric, not knowing that his love Vinvela is dead, thus communes with

    "I sit by the mossy mountain; on the top of the hill of winds.
    One tree is rustling above me. Dark waves roll over the heath.
    The lake is troubled below. The deer descend from the hill. No
    hunter at a distance is seen. It is mid-day; but all is silent.
    Sad are my thoughts alone. Didst thou but appear, O my love! a
    wanderer on the heath! thy hair floating on the wind behind
    thee; thy bosom heaving on the sight; thine eyes full of tears
    for thy friends, whom the mist of the hill had concealed! Thee I
    would comfort, my love, and bring thee to thy father's house!"

To him mourning thus, the spirit of his dead love appears:

    "But is it she that there appears, like a beam of light on the
    heath? bright as the moon in autumn, as the sun in a
    summer-storm, comest thou, O maid, over rocks, over mountains to
    me? She speaks: but how weak her voice! like the breeze in the
    reeds of the lake.

    "'Alone I am, O Shilric! alone in the winter-house. With grief
    for thee I fell. Shilric, I am pale in the tomb.'

    "She fleets, she sails away; as mist before the wind! and wilt
    thou not stay, Vinvela? Stay and behold my tears! fair thou
    appearest, Vinvela! fair thou wast, when alive!

    "By the mossy mountain I will sit; on the top of the hill of
    winds. When mid-day is silent around, O talk with me, Vinvela!
    come on the light-winged gale! on the breeze of the desert,
    come! Let me hear thy voice, as thou passest, when mid-day is
    silent around.'"

The readers of the eighteenth century did not stay to consider whether
the foregoing was, or was not, a genuine antique: it suited their taste
admirably. Rousseau had brought sentimentalism into favour; the "return
to nature" was a kind of creed with the French philosophers: these
facts aided greatly in causing the epidemic of Ossianism that overran

I should not like to be condemned to read nothing but Ossian for a year.
The short staccato sentences, the difficulty of getting hold of anything
definite amid so many moonbeams, gliding ghosts, whistling reeds, and
feasts of shells, has a very debilitating effect on the mind. There is
too much weeping: one is constantly saying with Tennyson, "Tears, idle
tears, I know not what they mean." Yet, no one can dip into Macpherson
without being rewarded by some phrase of an impressive or refreshing
kind, _e.g._:--

    "Thou art with the years that are gone; thou fadest on my soul."

    "Why dost thou build the hall, son of the winged days?"

    "Her steps were like the music of songs; she saw the youth and
    loved him. He was the stolen sigh of her soul."

    "Why does Ossian sing? Soon shall he lie in the narrow house,
    and no bard shall raise his fame."

    "When shall it be morn in the grave to bid the slumberer wake?"

    "Mixed with the murmur of waters rose the voice of aged men, who
    called the forms of night to aid them in the war."

    "Autumn is dark on the mountains; grey mist rests on the hills."


I have on several occasions, during the last year or two, visited that
part of Aberdeenshire which is immediately under the glorious ridge of
Bennachie. Like all lovers of ballad lore, I know by heart the poem of
the little wee man who had such prowess, and who invited the poet to go
with him to his green bower. After seeing magnificent examples of
dancing, the poet found himself lying in the mist at the foot of

    "Out went the lichts, on cam' the mist,
      Leddies nor mannie mair could I see;
    I turned aboot, and gave a look,
      I was just at the foot o' Bennachie."

The exquisite little ballad from which I quote is calculated to raise
expectations of beauty which the picturesque surroundings of Bennachie
are well able to satisfy. Great tracts of Aberdeenshire are flat,
treeless, and painful in their monotony; in winter, great gusts sweep
the cold plains, and make driving or walking a trying ordeal; the
country is thinly peopled, and the impression of the visitor is that, in
some districts, railway stations are more numerous than villages. Round
Bennachie, however, the scenery is most pleasant and picturesque. The
villages of Oyne and Insch, in which hospitality to strangers is a
religion, are beautifully placed and well-foliaged all around. The
region is, indeed, one of romance, and the little brook of Gadie ripples
on in the radiance and glamour of pathetic song.


Those who consider, like Ruskin, that the stories of the past add no
inconsiderable item to the beauty of a landscape, as it appears to the
eye and intelligence of modern observers, will not fail to remember the
momentous issues decided at no great distance from the foot of
Bennachie, in 1411. Teutonic and Celtic Scotland came to grips at
Harlaw, near by:--

    "The Hielandmen, wi' their lang swords,
      They laid on us fu' sair;
    And they drave back our merry men
      Three acres' breadth and mair.

      . . . . . . . . . .

    Gin anybody speer at ye
      For them we took awa',
    Ye may tell them plain and very plain,
      They're sleeping at Harlaw."

Burton, in his _History of Scotland_, declares that the check given to
Donald of the Isles at Harlaw, was a greater relief to Scotland than
even Bannockburn was. If the Stuart kings, hard pressed as they were by
England on the south, had been threatened by a formidable Celtic
sovereignty on the north, Holyrood might have been in ruins a good many
centuries earlier. I am not going to shock my Highland friends by saying
it was a good thing for the country that Donald, with the remnant of his
plaids and claymores, had to retreat to the misty straths and islands of
the west. The coalition of Celt and Teuton has taken place in an
unostentatious way, to the advantage of both races: Macfadyen does not
now, as in the days of Dunbar, bide "_far norrart in a neuk_;" he has
come to the Lowlands long ago, and rarely goes North, except on holiday.
And the language, which to the finical ears of James Fourth's
poet-laureate, seemed too terrible even for the devil to tolerate, has
come south, too, and has a chair all to itself in the University of
Edinburgh. _Time_, says Sophocles, _is a god who performs difficult
things with ease_.

Mention of Harlaw suggests a comic tale told to the credit of the
Provost of Inverness. That gentleman, on being threatened with a
predatory visit from Donald in 1400, took the remarkable plan of sending
an ample supply of Inverness whisky into the Celtic camp. The men of
Lewis and Skye tackled the liquid bounty with great glee, and soon were
in a state of maudlin intoxication. The wily Provost meanwhile collected
a force and attacked Donald's men, who (as they magnified the attacking
host to _double its real numbers_) were easily scared and routed. At
Harlaw, eleven years later, the Provost of Aberdeen, evidently a man who
lacked the resource of the chief magistrate of Inverness, was killed,
and 500 men with him.


The predatory habits of the Highlanders gave great trouble to the
Aberdeenshire farmers _for fully three hundred years after Harlaw_. In
1689 a dozen wild Lochaber men came right down into the heart of
Aberdeenshire and lifted six score of black cattle. The fate of the
marauders is thus described by the author of _Johnny Gibb_:--

"They were pursued by a body of nearly 50 horsemen, well mounted and
armed, and each carrying bags of meal and other provisions, both for
their own support, and to offer in ransom for the cattle, if peaceful
negotiations could be carried through. On through the hills, over
marshes, rocks, and heather, the spirited horsemen followed, under
their leader; and guided by a herd-boy whom they encountered, they
traced the robbers by Loch Ericht side into the heart of their own
country. At nightfall, they came upon them at Dalunchart, encamped and
busily engaged roasting a portion of the flesh of one of the cattle they
had stolen. They offered, after some parley, to give each of the
freebooters a bag of meal and a pair of shoes in ransom for the cattle.
The Highlanders treated such an offer for cattle driven so far and with
so much trouble with contempt; the herd was gathered in, and the fight
began in deep earnest, the result being that the Lochaber men were all
shot down, killed or wounded, except three, who escaped unhurt to tell
the tale; and the cattle were, of course, recovered."


Perhaps the least attractive of the Scotch counties, in respect of
scenery, is Caithness. The North-going train enters it a little after
Helmsdale, and from thence to Thurso the journey is of a most dreary and
depressing character. He who wishes to see the romantic part of the
county should quit the train at Helmsdale, and go right to John o'
Groats by the shore road: thereafter he should proceed along the line of
the Pentland Firth to the dainty town of Thurso and to the village of
Reay, the citadel of the Mackays. The district round Reay is a
delightful one, and has great historical interest.

Some good examples of the power assumed of old by the country ministers
are furnished by a perusal of the life of an eighteenth century
minister, the Rev. Alexander Pope, who was stationed for many years in
Reay. He was a huge giant of a man, and invariably carried about with
him a nail-studded cudgel that was a terror to sinners. A lout of a
fellow in his parish refused to come to church and get rebuked for an
infringement of the usual commandment. Mr. Pope sent three elders with
ropes to pinion the adulterer, hale him to church, and fasten him to a
conspicuous pew right under the pulpit. The minister cannonaded the
culprit to his heart's content, beginning thus: "_Shame, shame, son of a
beggar, where art thou now?_"

Another parishioner who neglected family worship on the ground that he
could not make up a prayer, was severely taken to task by Mr. Pope, who
gave the man a year within which to manufacture one. At the end of the
twelvemonth, Mr. Pope called and requested to hear the prayer. The man
glibly rattled off a long succession of phrases that did not please the
minister at all. "That won't do," he said, "you must prepare over
again." "And is all my long labour to go for nothing," said the man,
"all my year's toil? No, no: rather than lose my labour, I'll _break the
prayer up and make two graces of it_." For the rest of his life, as the
story runs, he did actually employ the two parts of his mutilated prayer
as Grace before and Grace after meat respectively. Could there be a
finer example of natural thrift in the spiritual world?

An Inverness journalist, Mr. Carruthers, wrote a life of the great poet,
Alexander Pope, in which occurs the following curious note respecting
the minister of Reay, just mentioned: "The northern Alexander Pope
entertained a profound admiration for his illustrious namesake of
England; and it is a curious and well-ascertained fact that the simple
enthusiastic clergyman, in the summer of 1732, rode on his pony all the
way from Caithness to Twickenham, in order to pay the poet a visit. The
latter felt his dignity a little touched by the want of the necessary
pomp and circumstance with which the minister presumed to approach his
domicile; but after the ice of ceremony had in some degree been broken,
and their intellects had come in contact, the poet became interested,
and a friendly feeling was established between them. Several interviews
took place, and the poet presented his good friend and namesake, the
minister of Reay, with a copy of the subscription edition of the
'Odyssey' in five volumes quarto."

A grandson of the Reay minister, a Mr. James Campbell of Edinburgh, gave
a description to Mr. Carruthers of a snuff-box which the poet had
presented to the Rev. Mr. Pope. A series of letters to the _Northern
Ensign_, in April, 1883, brought out the information that a Wick
gentleman, Mr. Duncan, had in his possession two volumes of de Vertot's
_History of the Roman Republic_, bearing an inscription to the effect
that they had been presented by the poet of Twickenham to his northern

It has been suggested that the poet and the minister were distant
blood-relations. Mr. Campbell, alluded to above, said that "the two
Popes claimed kin." In any case, the friendship of the two men, one
living on the shores of the wild Pentland Firth, in sight of the
Orkneys, and the other not far "from streaming London's central roar,"
is pleasant to think of. In 1737, Pope wrote the lines--

    "Loud as the wolves on Orca's stormy steep
    Howl to the roarings of the northern deep,"

adding, in a note, that he refers to "the farthest northern promontory
of Scotland, opposite to the Orcades." Perhaps his mind reverted to the
burly incumbent of Reay as he penned the note.


The little township of Reay is less famous for the Rev. Mr. Pope's
incumbency than for the fact of Rob Donn, the satirical Gaelic bard,
being a native of the district. The author of the _Dunciad_ is the
greatest satirist in British Literature; Rob Donn is supreme among
Gaelic bards for the sharpness of his tongue and his clever way of
showing up his contemporaries to ridicule. He was in the habit of giving
praise to people in order to make his satire more biting. Praise on his
tongue was compared to oil on the edge of a razor: the cut was all the
deeper. Rob, although a master of language, was unable to read or write,
so that though he "lisped in numbers"--he began to compose at the age of
three--he could not say, like Pope:

    "Why did I _write_? What sin to me unknown
    _Dipt me in ink_, my parents' or my own?"

Blackie speaks thus of him: "Rob Donn, according to all accounts, though
outwardly of such fair respectability that he attained an honour,
unknown to Robert Burns, of acting as an elder of the kirk, was not
always so chaste in his words as he might seem to be in his deeds; he
took his plash as a poet, and not always in the clearest waters;
besides, he had a terrible lash at his command, which he could wield
with an effect at times that paid little respect to the bounds set in
such matters by Christian charity, or even by social politeness. The
consequence has been that much of the wit and humour of his pieces,
however telling for its immediate purpose, has lost half of its interest
by the disappearance of the persons to whom it referred. These personal
allusions also import an additional difficulty into the language which
he uses, and cause his productions, however belauded, to be less known
amongst Highlanders generally than those of Duncan Ban and Dugald
Buchanan. Severe moralists also very properly object to the undue
license and occasional coarseness of his verses."[33]

    [33] Rob was at one time in the army, for every Mackay has the
    fighting instinct in him. (Reay is one of the few townships in
    the North that possess a drill-hall and a military instructor. It
    is impossible adequately to describe the consternation in the
    Mackay country at the time of our South African reverses.
    Everyone was in a fury and it was felt there was urgent need for
    the Mackays to straighten out matters at the seat of war. It was
    at this time that the drill-hall was built in Reay. Many of the
    young men went to the front as volunteers, and if the war had
    lasted much longer, there would have been few Mackays left in


Before concluding the present chapter, I should like to refer briefly to
a valuable and amusing book (brought under my notice in Shetland) that
furnishes details of the life of Mr. Mill, minister of Dunrossness from
1742 till 1805. Mr. Mill's special talent was his unrivalled power of
exorcism: he was a strenuous foe to the devil in every shape and form,
and his life was one long battle with the Prince of Darkness. The latter
was constantly bringing into play all manner of gins, traps, and wiles
to confound the uncompromising clergyman; but, on a calm review of the
evidence, one cannot but admit that the devil was far inferior in
intelligence to his opponent.

On one occasion, Satan had the effrontery to come into Dunrossness
Church and take his seat at the Communion Table. Mr. Mill at once
recognised his life-long adversary, and began to speak in all the deep
languages, and, last of all, in Gaelic, and that beat him altogether.
Satan went off like a flock of "doos" over the heads of the people, many
of whom swooned. "As a permanent reminder of the hostility cherished
against him by the Arch-Enemy, it was said that Mr. Mill always had the
wind in his face. One day he came up to officiate at Sandwick, in the
teeth, as usual, of a pretty stiff breeze. An ordinary person would
naturally have expected the wind to be on his back on the return
journey. But during the service the wind veered round. Mr. Mill's only
comment, as he started for home, was, 'It's all he can do.' In one
respect, Mr. Mill benefited by the penalty of always having the wind in
his face, for on his very numerous sea-journeys he could always secure
a favourable breeze _by sitting with his back to the head of the boat_."

The following additional tale from Mr. Mill's biography only brings into
more striking relief the resource of the minister in all emergencies.
"One day a very respectable gentleman entered the house of a tailor in
Channerwick, and ordered a suit of clothes to be made out of cloth which
he brought with him. The tailor's delight at having such a fine
gentleman for a customer was, however, turned into perplexity and fear
as he opened up the cloth and found that the colour kept constantly
changing. He at once sent for the minister and laid the matter before
him. He was advised to spread a sheet on the floor and cut the cloth
upon it, so that none of the clippings should be scattered about the
room, and the minister said that he would be present to meet the
stranger when the latter called to get the clothes. The day came, and
when the stranger entered the house, Mr. Mill stepped forward to meet
him. A terrible controversy ensued, and the respectable-looking
gentleman was swept out of the house in a cloud of blue, sulphurous
flame. It is not recorded if he took the new suit with him. A clue to
his identification was furnished by his accidentally striking his foot
against the door-step as he departed. The result of the collision was
that a mark as of a cloven hoof was imprinted on the stone."



      I. Arrival of the Mail-train at a Highland Station.
     II. Defoe, the Father of Journalism.
    III. A Village Toper.
     IV. A Reverend Hellenist.
      V. Antigone.
     VI. Shadows of the Manse.
    VII. "My Heart's in the Highlands."
   VIII. Saddell, Kintyre.
     IX. Springtime in Perthshire.
      X. Dr. George Macdonald's Creed.
     XI. Abbotsford.
    XII. Carlyle.
   XIII. Shelley.
    XIV. Picture in an Inn.
     XV. Rain-storm at Loch Awe.
    XVI. Kinlochewe.
   XVII. General Wade.
  XVIII. Sound of Raasay in December.
    XIX. Les Neiges d' Antan.
     XX. The Islands of the Ness.
    XXI. American Tourist Loquitur.
   XXII. The Miners.
  XXIII. In a Country Graveyard.
   XXIV. No Place like Home.



    "_Hark! 'tis the twanging horn._" So Cowper sang
    Of the slow post-boy by the flooded Ouse;
    In different fashion now the great world's news
    Goes to each nook of Britain. The harangue
    Of politician; great events that hang
    In Fortune's hand, with magic speed diffuse
    From London's centre to the furthest Lews,
    Their tingling rumour and resounding clang.
    Daily along yon track of curving steels
    Comes to this Highland clachan, Watt's machine,
    Rolling in triumph on its iron wheels,
    And bringing letter, journal, magazine,
    To kilted Celts with collies at their heels
    And frivolous tourists from the putting-green.




    Father of journalists! illustrious liar!
    Untiring wielder of the nimblest quill
    That ever shed the stanchless inky rill
    Upon the virgin whiteness of the quire.
    What full and varied stores of gold and mire,
    Magnificence and squalor, good and ill,
    Prayers, curses, loyalty and treason fill
    Thy books! But that which children most admire
    Of all thy hundred volumes, is the one
    Fated for ever more to charm mankind
    From the far Orient to the Setting Sun.
    Prompt-witted Daniel! thou has left behind
    Upon the Sands of Time, distinctly traced,
    One footmark that can never be effaced.

    [34] Let me here pay a tribute to the marked excellence and
    literary skill of the newspapers of provincial Scotland. These
    are very numerous--even Ailsa Craig has a sheet of its own, _The
    Ailsa Craig Banner_.



    John loved strong waters and ne'er stirred his feet
    Abroad in leafy spring or summer's heat,
    Autumnal breeze or winter's rimy chill,
    Unsolaced by the nectar of the still.
    Spirits came always kindly to his lips,
    And time he measured not by hours but "nips."
    Teetotalers to him were curse and gall,
    Grim Banquos at the world's wide festival,
    Men, whom a weird and fate-ordainéd bale,
    Had smitten with the hate of cakes and ale,
    A soda-water, syphon-squirting crew,
    Guilty of treason to the revenue:
    Their lurid language and their unctuous warnings,
    Their moral-pointings and their tale-adornings,
    And, worst of all, their shameful _waste of ink_
    In signing pledges to abstain from drink,
    Proved them a witless and a churlish band,
    Unfit to dwell in any Christian land.



    In that old ivied manse exists
      A scholar, wrinkled, bent, and gray,
    His student lamp gleams through the mists
      And twinkles on till break of day.

    This sage is wedded to his books,
      And Sultan-like his harem's full,
    He dotes upon them in their nooks
      With love and joy that never cool.

    No wonder that his back is bent,
      Or that his eye has mystic glows,
    He pores on pages redolent
      Of love and love's undying rose.

    No earthly maiden, fresh and sweet,
      Could please his fancy half so well
    As a Greek nymph with twinkling feet
      Skipping in some Arcadian dell.




    A form of beauty blent with hardihood,
    Majestic as Olympus wreathed in snows,
    What modern pages of romance disclose
    A radiant maiden of such dauntless mood!
    Yet, when the tyrant strives with outrage rude
    The unyielding maid in darkness to enclose,
    Then, only then, her burning heart outflows
    In anguished cries of love, but unsubdued
    By baser throbbings. Ah! that nuptial hymn
    Unsung! that bond in death! All men agree
    To crown thee in that chamber dark and dim
    With love's immortal wreath, Antigoné.
    Since love and duty in thy death combine,
    An immortality of praise is thine.




    Lo! we have him of shaven face
      And curls of long and lustrous hair,
    Who breathes an atmosphere of grace
      And has a wondrous gift in prayer.
      You'd ne'er suspect to see him there,
    Shaking his head in solemn guise,
      _The college life of deil-may-care
    Diversion that behind him lies_.


    And then the little starveling pope
      Who strives to make his sermons new
    By stringing florid scraps of hope
      And faith and love to dazzle you:
      From Stopford Brooke a phrase or two,
    A gleaming line from Arnold's page,
      Whole screeds of Browning and a few
    Stolen thunders from the Chelsea sage.


    Perhaps the most diverting wight
      Is he who sees in Holy Writ
    Old Jewish fables gross and trite
      To semblance of a system knit--
      Fables for modern taste unfit,
    Until _he_ cleans the dross away
      And shows the tiny little bit
    Of gold that gleams amid the clay.


    But worst of all is he who jests,
      Or tries to jest, in pulpit gown,
    Lord, save us from such holy pests
      Who so unseemly act the clown
      And pull the tabernacle down
    To something worse than pantomime:
      On all such zanies let us frown
    And scourge them both in prose and rhyme.



    Puzzling over musty tomes,
      What a life to lead,
    While each gay companion roams
      Where his fancies lead!

    One beside a shady pool
      Sweeps the wave for hours,
    Comes home with his basket full,
      When the evening lowers.

    Some more energetic wights
      Leave the level land,
    Mountaineer on dizzy heights,
      Alpenstock in hand.

    Others boat in sunny bays
      Where bright sands are seen
    Glimmering amid a maze
      Of tangled flowers marine.

    Luck to all is what I wish
      With a meed of fun,
    I'll row, mountaineer, and fish,
      When _your_ sports are done.




    Fresh gusts of wind ripple the ocean's face,
    And the green slopes, after the night's soft rain,
    Glitter beneath the blue.

    Most glorious are the sea-descending glens,
    Vivid with countless ferns, and with the blaze
    Of sun-enamoured broom.

    The dark, tip-tilted rocks of cruel mood,
    Show a stern beauty through the creamy foam
    That flecks their rugged flanks.

    See, from this hill-top, how the blazing Sound
    Is marked by moving shadows of the clouds
    That skim aloft in air.

    Through the clear radiance of the freshened morn,
    The eye can see the far farm-windows gleam
    Up on the Arran hills.



    Returning Springtime fills the woods with song--
    The ring-dove, sick for love, is cooing sweet;
    The lark, scorning the daisies, soars to greet
    The sun, while the brown swarms of bees among
    The flowery meadows skim in haste along.
    Once more the young year glories in the feat
    Of driving winter off with vernal heat
    And tepid sap luxuriantly strong.
    Winter has drawn aloof his snowy powers
    To the high peaks that domineer the plain,
    And, like a vanquished leader, grimly lowers,
    From a safe distance, on the victor's reign.
    E'er many months have passed, his arrowy showers
    And gusty cohorts will descend again.




    God will not suffer that a single one
    Of His own creatures, in His image made,
    Should die, and in irrevocable shade
    Lie evermore--neglected and undone.
    It is not thus a father treats his son,
    And those whose folly credits it, degrade
    God's love and fatherhood, that never fade,
    By lies as base as devils ever spun.
    Man's love is but a pale reflex of God's,
    And God _is_ love, and never will condemn
    Beyond remission--though He school with rods--
    His children, but will one day comfort them.
    Dives will have his drink at last, and stand
    Among the faithful ones at God's right hand.

    [35] Reprinted (by kind permission) from the _Scotsman_.



    "Dryden and Scott, men of a giant seed!"
    So said I to myself, gazing upon
    The pictured countenance of Glorious John,
    In Abbotsford, hard by the storied Tweed.
    These twain were brothers, kin in mind and deed:
    Old England never had a brawnier son
    Than Dryden; and in fervid Scotland none
    Better than Scott exemplified the breed.
    After five centuries of blood and hate,
    Britain is one leal land from north to south,
    From gusty Thurso to St. Michael's Mount,
    I therefore, Scot and Briton, am elate
    To think that from Sir Walter's golden mouth
    Dryden's career received the fit account.




    The ploughman in the loamy furrow sings,
    The sailor whistles as he reefs the sail,
    Blithe is the smith as the blows fall like hail
    From his huge hammer, and the stithy rings.
    Work is the sole and sovereign balm that brings
    Peace to the torpid soul when doubts assail,
    And sickening pleasures are of no avail
    To lull the torture of affliction's stings.
    Give me the work I love, the work I feel
    God in His Heaven has willed that I should do,
    And you may offer the whole commonweal,
    Lands, mansions, jewels, gold, and temples too,
    Vainly to me. By strenuous work alone
    Man mounts on Jacob's ladder to God's throne.



    'Twas but a passing visit that he paid
    To the gross air of earth, this mystic seer,
    The tyrannies of sense were too severe
    For one of clay more fine than Adam's made.
    The inhumanity of man, the trade
    Of coining gold from the serf's groan and tear,
    The galling fetters of religious fear,
    And vain ecclesiastic masquerade
    Tortured his gentle soul, and made his life
    One bitter struggle with the powers that be:
    Yet not in vain he lived; his manful strife
    With all the deadening despotisms we see
    Will ring along the centuries, until
    Good has her final triumph over ill.

    [36] Suggested by a copy of his poems in a West Highland



    A wood of pines through which the setting sun
    Pours from the western sky a parting flame,
    Beside the shore, a church called by the name
    Of some old saint whose pious race was run
    Long ere schismatic Luther had begun
    To work the Pope and his disciples shame.
    In earnest-seeming talk, a knight and dame
    Sit in a painted galley, rowed by one
    Whose back is to the setting orb of day.
    The soldier and his mate, their faces lit
    With all love's animation and the ray
    Of the down-lapsing globe of crimson, sit
    Together in the gilded vessel's prow,
    And there will sit for evermore, as now.



    The topmost mountain-snows are melting fast,
    See, how the swollen waters hurry down
    In perpendicular runnels from the crown
    Of every wreathéd hill. The train has past
    Beside a dark stream into which are cast
    A hundred huddling rills whose foam is brown
    With pilfered soil. No dweller in a town
    Ever beheld such manifold and vast
    Torrents of roaring water. Each small isle
    Spaced on the loch, glooms through the hanging haze
    Like a dream-picture, and for many a mile
    Beneath those clouds that lean upon the braes
    Encompassing Loch Awe, the watery plain
    Is pricked with million lances of the rain.



    The mist, retreating, gems the leaves with dew,
    Soft blows the breeze along the fragrant meads,
    A little brawling burn runs through the reeds
    And ripples away under the cloudless blue.
    I never saw the world so fair to view,
    For Spring has riven old Winter's funeral weeds
    And given new sap and vigour to the seeds
    That lay inanimate the cold months through.
    Old man! with jaded limbs and wrinkled brow,
    That walkest feebly in this lenient sun
    Like a day-dream, thy life is winter now.
    But life and death in ceaseless cycles run,
    And tireless Time and Heaven have in store
    For thee a myriad resurrections more.



    Houses are fewer here than milestones are:
    We stand a thousand feet aloft in air
    Upon a bouldered hillside stern and bare,
    Down which the roadway serpentines afar.
    There are no clouds in the wide blue to mar
    The passage of the sun's imperial glare
    Over a dreary-stretching landscape, where
    Rough winds hold riot all the calendar.
    Who that has footed o'er these firm-knit paths
    But lauds the men whose strenuous axe and spade
    Drove roads through the wild glens and hilly straths
    Under the generalship of tireless Wade!
    On the safe tracks behind them, commerce came
    The unruly spirit of the Celt to tame.



    A snowy gust is whirling down the strait,
    Raasay is gleaming ghostly to the sight,
    And, robed in lawn, from sea to topmost height
    Skye and her lordly mountains stand in state.
    Ever from heaven falls the silent weight
    Of wavering flakes that dim the stars of night.
    Our gallant little boat with all the might
    Of the wild-hissing surges holds debate,
    Plunging and struggling, till at last we see
    A spacious haven, sudden and serene
    And, high aloft, the twinkle of Portree.
    At once the winds are hushed, the moon is seen
    To free her face from cloudy drift, and fill
    With silver light the clefts of Essie Hill.




    Where is Macfee, that valiant preacher,
      Gifted with voice, so harsh and loud,
    Aye, louder and harsher than any screecher
      Of birds that sail on the black storm-cloud?
      And his beadle John, with back so bowed,
    Where is _he_ that had never a peer?
      Is he too rolled in his mortal shroud?
    But where are the snows of yester-year?


    Donald the Gay, that steered his steamer
      Many a year through the Sound of Mull,
    He that was never a Celtic dreamer,
      But a captain of captains masterful:
      O Death, thou madest the world more dull
    When you nailed _him_ down in his narrow bier,
      And sent his ghost into Charon's hull;
    But where are the snows of yester-year?


    Duncan, the bard of rocky Staffin,
      Away in the north of rainy Skye:
    Has _he_ given over his rimes and daffin',
      In the mould of the bleak kirkyard to lie?
      His cot was built where the sea-gulls fly,
    And his misty isle to his soul was dear;
      Ere his song is finished, the bard must die;
    But where are the snows of yester-year?


    And Dougal, who carried King Edward's mails
      Every day o'er the moor and heather,
    Scorning the chill of the winter gales,
      And the ten-mile walk in the sultry weather:
      Has _he_ too come to the end of his tether
    And gone to the ghosts with all his gear,
      His whistle, his satchel and strap of leather?
    But where are the snows of yester-year?


    Prince, they have gone from the regions that knew them,
      Gone at the summons that none can resist,
    Praise and every honour be to them,
      They did their best and they will be missed.
      We, too, shall soon be erased from the list
    Of workers below in this mortal sphere,
      And be no more to those that exist
    Than the vanished snows of yester-year.



    A fairyland of trees and leafy bowers
    Where one may sit and dream the hours away,
    Or 'mid the devious walks and alleys stray,
    While perfume rises from a world of flowers,
    The girdling river, swollen with upland showers,
    Sends rippling round to every creek and bay
    The vagrant branches of his water-way;
    Then gathering up his current's parted powers,
    Swiftly-majestic in a broadening bed,
    He glistens on by many a chiming spire,
    And past the castle's pennoned turrets red,
    Till he attain the goal of his desire,
    And into the salt sea exulting throws
    His subsidy of rains and melted snows.




    If I had wealth like Vanderbilt
      Or some such millionaire,
    I'd live in Scotland, don a kilt,
    And _pay to prove_ my forbears spilt
      Their blood in forays there.

    I'd buy a picturesque estate
      Beside the ocean's flow,
    With knolls of heather at my gate,
    And pine-clad hills to dominate,
      The ferny dells below.

    I'd be a father to the folk
      That laboured on the soil,
    With old and young I'd crack my joke,
    Drink with them in their thirst, and smoke
      The pipe that lightens toil.

    For hens I'd have a special run,
      For ducks a special pool,
    My calves should frolic in the sun,
    My sheep should be surpassed by none
      Whose backs are clothed with wool.

    Although I'm not a Walton quite,
      Betweenwhiles I should try
    To lure the finny tribe to bite
    (At the right time, in the right light,)
      My simulated fly.

    When winter heaped his rattling hail
      High on the window sill,
    With pipe and wassail, rime and tale,
    I'd never miss the nightingale
      Or cuckoo on the hill.

    Nay, musing by the ingle-lowe
      With summer in my brain,
    I'd cloth with leaves the frozen bough
    And all the ice-bound brooks endow
      With tinkling life again.[37]

    [37] Berriedale, which moved the American to commemorative song,
    is on the Caithness shore, and there the Duke of Portland has
    one of his numerous residences. The Duke's seat is high up on
    the hills and behind it is a mountain of grim aspect which
    serves for a deer-forest. At Berriedale, the road traversed by
    the coach is simply appalling: boards marked _Dangerous_
    forewarn all wheel-men that risks cannot be taken with impunity.
    An honest descent can be easily coped with, but here the road to
    the glen is not merely steep, it is as lacking in
    straightforwardness as the links of Forth. Once down at the
    level of the village, the breeze no longer blows fresh and
    chilly, but subsides into a quiet air, grateful with the odour
    of flowers. Passengers are requested to walk up the
    corresponding hill to a level equal to the height of the road
    before the interruption of the terrible Berriedale chasm. When
    the ascent is reached, one has a view of unsurpassed splendour.
    The wooded Wye, which Wordsworth sang so rapturously and which
    he saw with his mind's eye in the dinsome town, has no landscape
    to compare in grandeur and beauty with the country round
    Berriedale, viewed from this eminence. Hills of richest green,
    diversified with purple heather; a back-ground of wild bog and
    mountain; blue sea; and great banks of cloud shepherded over the
    heights by the mighty winds.



    The afternoon is cool and calm,
    Near by flashes the mighty sea,
    Inland rise green, dewy hills,
    Crowned with eye-bewitching trees.

    Suddenly the eye is amazed and terrified,
    A hideous procession sordid and grimy
    Of men and boys, slaves of the coal-pit,
    Is seen on the road, shaming the daylight.

    All the day long they work in the darkness,
    Far from the songs of the birds and the sunshine,
    Now they return to their sordid villages,
    Ill-smelling rows of comfortless cottages.

    The rich and dainty ladies of fashion
    Stand aloof from these swart coal-hewers,
    Are ready to swoon as the air is poisoned
    With odours of subterranean foulness.

    Coarse of look, and of speech far coarser!
    Laughter loud with no merriment in it!
    No more soul than the beasts that perish!
    These are the men despised for their toiling.



    Man dreads the tomb, but dreads oblivion more;
    He fears, when death has loosed the load of years,
    His name shall cease to sound in mortal ears,
    And, in the dusty darkness, all be o'er.
    Some o'er the scrolls of ample science pore,
    Tome after tome the nimble authors write,
    And gain a meed of glory: soon the night
    Comes: the author with his laurel disappears,
    The painting fades, the marble busts decay,
    The kingly structures fall in ruin down,
    Devouring Time consumes the artist's prize,
    The centuries like lightning pass away,
    Or hurrying billows: emperor and clown
    Sink with the myriads in impartial clay.

    [38] Suggested by a French poem of Monsieur Desessarts, entitled
    _Se Survivre_.



    Where'er these wandering footsteps lead me to,
    Peak-dominated glen, hill where the sheep
    Graze in the sun, mountains that ever keep
    A solemn guard o'er lakes profound and blue,
    Or undulating tracts of treeless view;
    No matter if the rain and whirlwind sweep
    The landscape, or the gladdening sunshine peep
    Through muffled vapours that the winds undo;
    Let it be night speckled with myriad fires,
    Clear dawn, hot noon, or cool of dying day;
    Be it in cities with their chiming spires,
    Or country fields with fragrant ricks of hay;
    Ever the voices of my hearth I hear,
    And muse on those to me for ever dear.


(Chiefly of Proper Names).

Aberdeen, 217

Acharacle, 21, 66

Achnasheen, 11

Ainsworth, Mr., 69

Ajax, 89

Aliens, 53

Alness, 75

Altnacealgach, 38

Anacreon, 181

Anglers, 36

Anecdotes of Commercials, 255-277

Appin, 311

Ardeonaig, 78

Ardersier, 42

Argyll, Duke of, 25

Arnisdale, 190

Arnold, 130

Arpafeelie, 158

Asquith, Mr., 15

Auldearn, 75

Avebury, Lord, 198

Bagpipes, 66

Bain, Professor, 55

Ballads, 99

Banff theorist, 107

Barrie, Mr., 66

Battle of Brunanburh, 131

Beauly, 75

Ben Eay, 22

Ben-na-Ceallich, 28

Bennachie, 329

Ben Screel, 191

Ben Slioch, 22

Beowulf, 131, 246

Beveridge, Dr., 301

Biggar, 98

Biblia abiblia, 109

Blackie, Professor, 19, 56

Books, second-hand, 112

Borders, 96, 99

Boswell, 306, 313

Brahan Seer, 291

Bressay, 221, 229, 230, 233

Broadford, 28, 55

Browning, 306

Buchanan, 61

Bullers of Buchan, 220

Burgess, Mr., 227

Burke, 68

Burns, 82, 144, 308

Burton, 209

Caithness father, a, 254

Captains, 24

Catholics, 153-155

Chairmen, 85

Chartists, 54

Coll, 26, 69

Columbus, 88

Commercials (Chap. VI.), 255-277

Competing School-subjects, 215

Congested Districts Board, 34

Connaught, H.R.H. Duke of, 42

Connington, 119

Corelli, Miss Marie, 44

Cowper, 118

Craignish, 168-9

Crofters' cottages, 29-30

Cromarty, 12

Cullen, 47

Cunningsburgh, 239

Dancing, 21

Dandie Dinmont, 99

Defoe, 112

Depopulation, 71, 189

Dingwall, 44

Dixon, Mr., 76, 278

Doctors, 35

Dodger, an artful, 173

Dominies, insular, 180-1

Dowden, Professor, 124

Drimnin, 167

Dryden, 118

Dunbar, 218

Dungeon lecture, a, 92

Dunvegan, 28, 61, 292

Durness, 11

Educational (Chap. IV.), 180-216

Education Department, 16, 141, 185

Eigg, 26

Emigration, 73-4

Episcopalians, 156-8

Essayists, 106

Established Church, 145

Ethical teaching, 141-3

Fairies, 248, 285

Fair Isle, 220, 250

Faith Mission, 25

Feeding the Hungry, 186, 194

_Fernaig MS._, 197

Fishing season, 253

Fishwives, 249

Fladibister, 239

Fort George, 42

Foulah, 250

French Literature, 126

Frere, Miss, 39, 40

Gairloch, 278

Gaelic, 17, 86

Geologist, an ordained, 170

Germany, made in, 218

Gibbon, 300

Gigha, 175

Gipsies, 191

Glasgow Fair, 96

_Glasgow Herald_, quoted, 20, note

Glenelg, 191

Golspie, 192

Grange, 299

Grantown, 13

Greatness, real, 81

Greek, 124

Haaf-words, 246

Halsbury, Lord, 235

Harlaw, 330

Harris, 39

Hector, Red, 320

Hermits, 223

Hobbes, 106

Holyoake, Mr., 60

Homer, 62

Horace, 12, 115

Hotels, 36

Howlers, 209-214

Inspectors, 252

Inveraray, 307

Inverness, 48, 58

Iona, 309

Islay, 79

Isle Ornsay, 191

Jakobsen, Dr., 245

Jamieson, Dr., 103

Johnson, 29, 43, 294, 306

Josephus, 111

Jura, 195

Killin, 78

Kilmartin, 76

Kiltarlity, 75

Kingussie, 326

Kinlochewe, 22

Lanark, 97

Lang, Mr. Andrew, 17, 37

Latin, 204

Lerwick, 221-2

Letter-boats, 299

Lewis, 32, 33

Libraries in schools, 16

Liddesdale, 99

Literature, 83

Lochaber, 332

Lochaline, 168

Lochbuie, 304

Loch Broom, 286

Loch Eck, 79

Loch Fyne, 317

Loch Hourn, 190

Lochmaddy, 36, 40

Loch Maree, 283

Loch Ranza, 196

Loubet, M., 118

Mallaig, 32

Mary, the maid of the inn, 258

Martin, Sir Theodore, 119

_Men of Skye_, 150

Military, 42

Mill, Rev. Mr., 338-9

Miller, an ordained, 172

Milton, 154

Miners, 49, 51, 52

Mod, the, 18

Model minister, a, 170

Moderates, the, 144-5

Moon, the, 77

M.P.'s, 69

Moray Firth, 46

Morar, 154

Morley, Lord, 118

Muck, 267

Munro, Dr. Neil, 44, 318

Murray, Sir James, 103

Music, 65-67, 141

Macallisters, etc., 318

Macbain, Dr., 58

M'Cheyne, 90

Macdonald, Dr. George, 48

Macdonald's gratitude, 313

Macdonald, Rev. Mr., 146

M'Gregors, the, 91

Macivors, 318

Mackays, the, 337

Macleod, 61

Nicholson, Sheriff, 185

_Night Thoughts_, 64

Norse blood, 183, 225

"North, Christopher," 107, 167

Olaf and his bride, 279

Old Parochials, 200

Ossian, 326-339

Ovid, 300

Paisley, 89

Parish Councils, 187

Paul, St., 132

Peat-reek, 29

Peden, the prophet, 292

Peterhead, 220

Phillimore, Professor, 206, note

Pigmentation, 133

Plymouth Brethren, 162-5

Poetry (Chap. VIII.), 340-367

Policemen, 23

Poolewe, 67, 76

Pope, 115, 119, 123, 127-9

Pope, Rev. Alexander, 334-6

Portknockie, 47

Portree, 27, 76

Portsoy, 46, 47

Postmen, 28

Prince Charlie, 44

Quarff, 234

Raasay, 26

Ramsay, Sir William, 207

_Rasmie's Büdie_, 227

Rats, 37

Reay, 333-6

"Red-riding Hood," 142

Religious books, 18

Rob Don, 337

Robertson, Mr. J. M., 41

"Rob Roy," 183

Romance and Augustanism, 127

Rosebery, Lord, 297

Rosehearty, 49

Rothes, 325

Royal Engineers, 69

Ruskin, 177

Russian merchant, a, 254

Sabbath, the, 148

Saddell, 92

St. Kilda, 297

Salen, 90

Sandwick, 246

Saxon and Celt, 41, 131

Scalloway, 62

School Boards, 184

Science and Literature, 198

Scotch Dialect, 103

Scott, 84, 107, 183, 199, 312, 315

Sea-sickness, 31

Sermons in metre, 159-161

Session Records, 44

Shakespeare's Sonnets, 119

Shaws and Grants, 323

Shetlands (Chap. V.), 217-254

Sidlaws, 193

Skye, 28, 61

Sound of Sleat, 26

Spencer, 229

Spenser, 128

Staffin, 66

Stewart, Dugald, 208

Stornoway, 32-4

Strachur, 79

Suetonius, 113

Surprises, 195

Sutherland, Duchess of, 33

Taisch, 290

Tarbolton, 102

Tannahill, 54, 90

Tea-drinking, 39

Tee-names, 47

Teeth, 40

Tennyson, 130

Tiree, 301

"Tom Eunan," 322

Trossachs, 315

Truants, 196

Ullapool, 290

Village halls, 75

Virgil, 24, 219

Ward, Mrs. H., 182

War Office, 45

Wason, Mr. C., 250

Watson, Mr. William, 118, 218

Weaving, 53

Weir, Mr. Galloway, 15, 70

Whalsay, 193

Whiting Bay, 197

Wordsworth, 21, 128, 309

Xenophon, 122

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