The Heart of Scotland

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List of Illustrations
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Bonnie Scotland” pleased so many readers that it came to be supplemented by another volume dwelling mainly on the western “Highlands and Islands,” which was illustrated in a different style to match their wilder and mistier features. Such an addition gave the author’s likeness of Scotland a somewhat lop-sided effect; and to balance this list he has prepared a third volume dealing with the trimmer and richer, yet not less picturesque region oftenest visited by strangers—that is, Perthshire and its borders. This is shown to be the Heart of Scotland, not only as containing its most famous scenery, but as best blending Highland and Lowland charms, and as having made a focus of the national life and history. Pict and Scot, Celt and Sassenach, king and vassal, mailed baron and plaided chief, cateran and farmer, Jacobite and Hanoverian, gauger and smuggler, Kirk and Secession, here in turn carried on a series of struggles whose incidents should be well known through the Waverley Novels. But these famous romances seem too little known to hasty readers of to-day; and some glimpses of Perthshire’s past life may not prove over-familiar, at least to strangers in a county where the author is at home.


VI.The Macgregors134
VII.Rob Roy and his Sons160

List of Illustrations

1.The Pass of Killiecrankie Frontispiece
2.A Highland Moor8
3.A Highland Strath17
4.Perth from the Slopes of Kinnoull Hill24
5.Autumn in the Highlands33
6.Dunkeld and Birnam40
7.A Highland Cottage49
8.The Trossachs56
9.The Falls of Tummel65
10.The Moor of Rannoch72
11.The Head of Loch Tay81
12.The Dochart88
13.“The Lady of the Woods”97
14.A Highland River104
15.A Highland Lake113
17.Loch Lubnaig129
18.In the Macgregor Country136
19.Loch Achray145
20.The Head of Loch Lomond152
21.Silver Strand, Loch Katrine161
22.The River Teith168
23.The Crags of Ben Venue177
24.Stirling Castle192





My text is taken from a writer to whom every discourse on our country goes for authority and illustrations.

Among all the provinces in Scotland, if an intelligent stranger were asked to describe the most varied and the most beautiful, it is probable he would name the county of Perth. A native, also, of any other district of Caledonia, though his partialities might lead him to prefer his native county in the first instance, would certainly class that of Perth in the second, and thus give its inhabitants a fair right to plead, that—prejudice apart—Perthshire forms the fairest portion of the northern kingdom.

Scott was an alien in Perthshire, his judgment of which, then, should be “neither partial nor impartial,” as the Provost of Portobello desired; while it is so much my native heath that I give it no place but that of first in all the counties of Britain. There can be small doubt of the verdict pronounced by visitors, who take the Scottish Highlands as the cream of our island’s scenery, and in most cases know little of the Highlands beyond this central maze of mountains and valleys, falling to the rich plain of Strathmore, spread out between the{2} rugged Grampians and the green hills of Ochil and Sidlaw.

Here arose the ancient Alban, or realm of Alpin, the core of historic Scotland, a name that has been fondly identified with that of the Alps; but I am not going to entangle myself in the snares of philology. If the Perthshire Bens seem insignificant beside the Alps, for the former, at least, no boastful pretensions are made by their sons, who familiarly speak of them as the “hills” rather than the mountains. Hill, indeed, is used in the Highlands in a rougher sense, to denote the wild heathy land as distinct from the cultivated glen. I have heard an old-fashioned sportsman speak of going out on “the hill,” when he was actually descending to a lower level; and so R. L. Stevenson has it—

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Alban appears to have extended above Perthshire, taking in at least the headwaters of the Spey and other streams flowing north. It certainly included the basin of the Tay and the upper waters of the Forth. And as Lowland and Highland scenery are finely mingled on these rivers, so here met and blended the confluent torrents of blood and language swelling into a steady stream of national life. What may be called a Scottish kingdom first took shape on the banks of Tay, where long was fixed its chief seat. Something like a pattern spun by the shuttle of war comes at last to light on a torn web of blood-dyed, mist-dimmed checks and stripes, hitherto a puzzling blur for the most erudite spectacles.{3} The Muse of early history seems like that chameleon, whose fate was explained by a Highland soldier: “I put it on my bonnet and it went black; I put it on my coat and it turned red; but when I let it oot on my kilt, the tartan fairly bursted it.”

It is an old reproach against us that every Scot looks on himself as descended from “great and glorious but forgotten kings.” If, indeed, we calculate by geometrical progression how many millions of ancestors each of us can claim in the last thirty generations or so, the chances seem to be against any Briton not having some strain of quasi-royal blood in his veins. Scotland had, at least, many kings to be descended from, several apocryphal dozens of them, as named and numbered by George Buchanan, before he comes down to chronicles that can be verified. But to our critical age, the long row of early royal portraits exhibited at Holyrood, painted by a Dutchman at so much the square foot, seem worth still less as records than as works of art. The most ardent Scottish patriot no longer sets store by such fables as historians like Hector Boece wove into their volumes; nor is it necessary to examine so fond imaginations as that of descent from a Pharaoh’s daughter, Scota, or from a Ninus king of Nineveh. Finn and Fergus, Oscar and Ossian, we must leave in cloudland, looking downwards to pick our steps over slippery rock and boggy heather, among which there is no firm footing upon traces of an aboriginal pre-Celtic stratum of humanity.

When the Romans garrisoned rather than occupied southern Scotland, and made reconnoitring expeditions{4} into the north, its fastnesses were stoutly defended by fierce Caledonians, woodland savages, and Picti, painted warriors, who may or may not have been the same people. If the same, they may well have split into hostile tribes, warring against each other like the kindred Mohawks and Hurons, sometimes amalgamated by conquest, sometimes uniting to make raids on richer Lowland clearings. After the false dawn of Roman annals ceases to throw a glimmer on those hardy barbarians, darkness again falls over mountain and forest, lit only by the twinkling lamp of adventurous missionaries. Then the twilight of middle-age history shows a Pictish kingdom seated in Charlemagne’s age on the Tay and its tributaries, but there presently overthrown by pushful invaders.

These were the Dalriad Scots from Ireland, who began their independent career by getting precarious foothold on the nearest coastland promontory of North Britain. Baffled, as it seems, in an attempt thence to master the country of their origin, then driven, perhaps, from their coast settlements by a stronger swarm of Scandinavian hornets, this stirring race shoved their way across the western Highlands to take a firmer stand in the heart of Scotland, when Kenneth MacAlpine overthrew the Pictish kingdom at Scone, its capital. Buchanan reports two successive battles, the scene of the former a few miles off, at Forteviot, where he makes Kenneth act on the motto of the Celtic Society, Olim Marte, nunc arte. His chiefs, we are told, not being very keen for the encounter, while they lay snoring off their drink, the king worked upon them by means of a young cousin of his,{5} disguised as an angel in phosphorescent fish-skins, and equipped with a sort of primitive megaphone, through which he roused the sleepers by a promise of victory, then slipped off his celestial raiment to disappear in the darkness before these heavy-headed warriors were wide awake. It is not often we are taken so well behind the scenes of a miracle.

At Forteviot, a name whose prefix is held as one of the rare Pictish vocables left to build philological theories, Kenneth appears to have fixed his own seat. The capital of such a kingdom would be no more permanent than Abyssinia’s chief camp at Gondar or Abbis Abbeba. At all events it was hereabouts that currents of molten metal came together to mingle, cool and harden into the foundation of the Scottish nation. As yet it was the kingdom of Alban which spread around like a lava flood, to overrun a more or less imperfect amalgamation of Briton and Saxon to the south, of Norseman and Celt to the north and west, while, on all sides, it once and again had nearly been drowned by fresh waves of invasion from the Baltic. When, nearly two hundred years after Kenneth’s Perthshire victories, Malcolm II. had added Lothian and Strathclyde to his volcanic realm, the style of Scotia appears in history, by which the settlers now dominant in Caledonia seem to kick off their connection with Ireland, where their name dies out as it is born again in the growing Scotland, and Duns Scotus becomes no longer in danger of being confused with a Scotus Erigena.

There is early Scottish history boiled down to a page or two, on which one might work in other changes that had made less violent progress, while the tops of the{6} Grampians were being weather-worn into silt for the Tay. Those Picts had been in part conquered by the Cross before they fell under the sword. The disciplined faith of Rome overlaid the wild Christianity implanted from Iona. The ecclesiastical metropolis was removed from the West to Dunkeld, then for a time to Abernethy, another old Pictish centre, and finally to St. Andrews. Intercourse with the world, and especially with the Norman conquerors of England, imported the feudal system with its dovetailing of power and ambition between kings who were in turn sovereign and vassal on different estates of their territories. The English tongue began to absorb that of the Gael, as the Celtic leaven seemed to be lost in the Saxon dough. But when Malcolm Canmore and his Anglicising queen did so much to bring Scotland into touch with its more civilised neighbour, they moved their chief seat no nearer the new border than Dunfermline.

For long after Scotland had developed into a vertebrate organism, its heart beat in the geographical centre. Its kings were crowned at Scone, Charles II. the last of them, when indeed the immemorial sanctity of that Pictish palace had fallen into some disesteem. The adjacent city of Perth, with its Castle, its Cathedral, and its four monasteries, was the Winchester of Scotland, as Scone the Westminster. The early Parliaments met at Perth more often than at other towns that might suit the convenience of kings who had to be much on the move through their agitated dominion. During the English intrusion, Perth was garrisoned by the Edwards’ lieutenants, and suffered repeated attacks from Wallace and Bruce, who found concealment and rallying-place in the{7} wild woods within a few miles of the city walls. The honour of being the capital was not definitely taken from Perth till the murder of James I. showed it too near the stormy Highlands, while the Dunedin citadel seemed no longer in close peril from the English side.

Before the seat of government came to be fixed at Edinburgh, king and parliament are often found at Stirling, with Linlithgow for the Versailles of Scottish Royalty. Perth still held a high place, recognised by a decree of James VI. as second in the kingdom. Down to the end of his reign, its Provosts were as often as not the great lords of the neighbourhood. It had a leading voice in national opinion. Some of the earliest martyrs suffered here; then here broke out the first tumult of the Reformation. Later on, it became a hot focus of Presbyterian and Covenanting zeal; and after the popular worship had been firmly established, it was around Perth that sprang up several of its sectarian offshoots.

Accident of situation rather than its own choice again made Perth a centre of affairs, when Mar’s melting army lay here through the winter of 1715, watching King George’s force at Stirling; and the forlorn Old Pretender reached Scone in time to chill the spirits of his partisans, already too near freezing-point. Prince Charlie made a more dashing appearance at Perth for a few days; but when he had marched on, the douce burghers let it be seen that their hearts did not go with him. They more warmly received the Duke of Cumberland, as representing the orderly settlement that was good for trade. The wild Highlandman, with his uncanny weapons and his unbusiness-like sentiments, was here looked on as{8} suspiciously as the Red Indian warrior in a border city of America, who in New York or Philadelphia would draw more sympathy or staring curiosity. The Fair City, while willing to keep friends with the Tory lairds whose names have been familiar to her for centuries, cast her douce vote for prosperity and progress. In the Georgian age she gained some such reputation as Norwich in England, cultivating arts and letters as well as trade, and becoming known, in a modest way, by her printing presses, of which the Encyclopædia Perthensis was the most notable production.

Meanwhile, the blending of once hostile races had gone on faster in the centre of Scotland than at its extremities. Where first a national government had come into being, a higher organisation of tribal life was evolved. Here, as elsewhere, civilisation proceeded by steps over which civilised philanthropy shakes its head. The Perthshire Highlands, not to speak of Strathmore, contained fertile straths and valleys that offered themselves as cheap reward for the followers and favourites of Scottish kings. Norman, Saxon, and still farther-fetched adventurers got charters to make good by the sword against the sons of the soil. Its lords, native or fremd, lost and won at taking a hand in the general game of Scottish history, as when the abetters of Bruce turned out to have played on the right card, or again, when the murderers of James I. paid dearly for their crime, to the profit of those who hunted them down. But, in the main, plaids did not hold out against coats of mail, so that for centuries the great lords of Perthshire have been of Lowland origin. Like doughty Hal Smith of the{9}

Image unavailable: A HIGHLAND MOOR

Wynd, the sons of the plain in old times had claws as sharp as the mountain cats’; it was only when cultivators and craftsmen had ceased to handle arms, unless for holiday sport, that a spate of Highland war could burst through the passes, even then soon to scatter and spend itself in the face of disciplined resistance.

But while those strangers rose to power and wealth upon the heather, they fell captive to its spirit, taking on the manners, sentiments, and dress of the dispossessed clans. The Stewarts from England, the Campbells from Ireland, was it? the Drummonds from Hungary or where? among other names of chivalrous antecedents, bloomed out as clans, with new tartans, feuds, and legends, to complicate the native pattern of flesh and blood; and in no long time they became more Highland than the Highlanders themselves. Most remarkable is the adoption of what has come to be called the Scottish national dress, which, according to some modern critics, ought rather to be the mackintosh. There was a time when Stewart or Murray looked on the plaid as badge of a savage foeman; there would be a time when the imported Highlanders grew as proud of kilt and bagpipes as if these had come down to them straight from Adam. All over the world have gone those badges of a race that gave them to its conquerors in exchange for its proudest blood. The cult of the tartan, revived in our own age by romantic literature and royal patronage, is an old story. One of the early emigrants to the Southern States of America is said to have rigged out all his negroes in kilts and such-like, teaching them also to speak Gaelic and to pipe and reel among cotton fields and cane{10} swamps. But when one of those blackamoor retainers, liveried in a kilt, was sent to meet a practically-minded countryman landing from Scotland, the effect of so transmogrified a figure proved appalling. “Hae ye been long oot?” stammered the newcomer, and took his passage back by the next ship.

Away from Scotland, all true Scots carry over the world an outfit of which the colours, the trimmings, and the gewgaws come from the Highlands, while the hard-wearing qualities of the stuff are rather of Lowland manufacture. Both spinning and dyeing, I maintain, have best been done in Perthshire, a county of varied aspects, which set me the example of passing to a change of metaphor. It is in this central region that a right proportion of the Saxon dough and the Celtic yeast, baked for centuries by fires of love and war, have risen into the most crusty loaf of Scottish character. In the damp western Highlands and the cold north the baking may have been less effectual, producing a more spongy mass, not so full of nutriment, but more relished by some as a change from the stodginess of modern life. In some parts of the Lowlands, again, the dough turns out more dour and sour, not enough leavened by fermentations that leave it too leathery for all teeth. While all over Scotland there has been going on a more or less thorough interaction and coalescence of once repellent bodies, in Perthshire, I assert, the amalgamation has been most complete. “Hae ye been happy in yer jeels?” is a civil question I have heard one old wife ask of another. Here nature seems to have been happy in a due mixture of sweet and acid, shredded and stirred,{11} boiled and moulded, with the success of Dundee marmalade.

The same fusion as between Highlander and Lowlander, between Norman and Saxon, it has been the work of time to bring about between Northerner and Southerner, the process there hindered by a fixed border-line of hostile memories, of variant creeds, customs, and laws, going to keep up natural antipathies. But such fences are now so much fallen down that there is little to stop different breeds from straggling on to one another’s fields, the movement indeed being mostly one way, since the leaner flock is more tempted from hill-sides eaten bare to the green pastures of the south. What is as yet a mechanical mixture tends to become a chemical one, as these wandering atoms find affinities in a fresh environment; then the substance of national life should be enriched, as every generation goes on incorporating the coarse good-humour and practical temper of the plainsman, with the generous affections and mettlesome hardihood of the mountaineer. The result as yet may be best seen in London, that crucible of blood and manners, where there are Englishmen who would fain affect to be Scots, and Scots who have forgotten all but their pride in Scotland. I met one such the other day in a train, who had his boy arrayed in a kilt, but neither of them knew what tartan it was. Where a Campbell wears the colours of a Cameron with indifference, he unconsciously continues what was begun by a Graham or a Gordon inventing a tartan for himself, and may end in plaid and tweed taking their turn of fashion with serge and broadcloth, when Tros Tyriusque are indistinguishably mixed in one name and nature.{12}

Such is a consummation devoutly to be wished. But there are centrifugal as well as centripetal forces at work. When the fear of a foreign foe no longer hangs over us, we fall into wars of interests, of classes, of sexes; and piping times of peace breed likewise artificial injuries, useless martyrdoms, unpractical patriotisms, by which we would fain set our teeth on edge from the real sufferings of our fathers. Idly retrospective persons find nothing better to do than to rub up old sores into an imitation of plague spots, instead of leaving them to heal and vanish in the way of nature. Some discontented spirits among my countrymen have lately been agitating for the protection of Scottish rights and sentiments: it would appear more to the purpose if Englishmen got up a league to bar out northern aggrandisement. While the sovereign of the United Kingdom is bound to be of Scottish descent, and while custom fills the English archbishoprics with an apostolic succession of sons of the Covenant, there still, indeed, remains such a scandal as the Prime Ministership being occasionally open to mere Englishmen. This apart, however, most of our grievances may be comfortably digested by chewing the cud of the Union in John Bull’s own spirit of easy good-nature.

Laurel crowns cleave to deserts,
And power to him who power exerts:
Hast not thy share? On wingèd feet,
Lo! it rushes thee to meet.
And all that Nature made thine own,
Floating in air, or pent in stone,
Shall rend the hills and cleave the sea,
And like thy shadow follow thee.


The sorest gall of Scotland seems to be that her name has been like to merge in England’s greater one, to which smart a plaster must be applied in the revived title of Britain. No school-book would sell north of the Tweed in this generation that let an English army serve a king of England. Yet we cannot play the censor on the speech of our Continental neighbours, who denounce as England the power that has ruled the waves to their loss; and it is England which so many sons and dependents, in so wide regions of the world, speak of as “home.” In the London Library some vague hint of dirks and claymores has availed to keep Scottish History a separate department; but one notes with concern how works on the Topography of Scotland are scattered under the head of England, while London is set up with a heading to itself. But what is this slight to the carelessness of foreign authors quoting Scott and Burns among the English poets!

It is perhaps inevitable that a firm with a long title should come to be best known by the name of the prominent partner. One never could be expected to style Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap in full, unless by way of formal address; had it been no more than Dodson and Fogg, one might make shift at an Austria-Hungary bracketing. Lord Bute is accused of prompting George III. to pride in being born a Briton; but the grievance seems more philosophically handled in a story of two Sandy tars at Trafalgar, one of whom found fault with Nelson’s famous signal: “England expects’—aye, but nothing about poor old Scotland!” was his grumble. “Hoots!” answered his comrade, “don’t they know that every Scotsman is sure to do his duty?”{14}

I confess to having lukewarm sympathy with the perfervid patriotism that is too ready to find quarrel in straws. Scotland has got quite her share of practical benefit from the “sad and sorrowful Union,” and need not grudge to England the nominal advantages of size and wealth, which the latter sometimes appears to occupy as caretaker for her neighbour. So long as Scottish enterprise, thrift, and industry are allowed fair play on both sides of the Border, it seems childish to lament over lost titles and ensigns, toys of history, that only in a museum may escape being broken, and sooner or later will be swept into time’s dustbin. When one sees how we have peacefully imbued our fellow subjects with our best blood, I for one am not too sorry that our dark record of feuds and slaughter and bigotry falls into its place in the background of a grander scene, and that instead of cherishing thistly independence as a romantic Norway or an austere Portugal, we merge our national life into the greater kingdom’s, which, by good luck or good guidance, has come to stand so high in the world for freedom, enlightenment, and solidity. In this kingdom we take much the same place as the Manchus in China. All over the world we go forth to prosper like that Chosen People of the old dispensation, with this difference, that we have our Sion in our own hands, to which come pilgrims from all nations. The comparison would fit better if it allowed me to call Perthshire the Scottish land of Judah.

True Scots should have more philosophy than to imitate unenlightened patriotisms that would interrupt a natural process defined by Herbert Spencer as change{15} from an incoherent homogeneity to a coherent heterogeneity accompanied by the dissipation of motion and the integration of matter. So Penelope peoples, in their darkness, undo the work of civilising daylight. Let Bohemia rage and the states of the Balkans imagine vain things. But why should Scotland waste time and electric light on looking back too fondly to the things that are behind, while she cannot help pressing forward to the inevitable destiny before her? With the warning of Ireland at hand, some of us cry out for Home Rule and such-like retrogressions that might go to giving back, at one end of the United Kingdom, the shadow of its cloudy dignity along with the substance of its old discords.

Where is this reactionary Particularismus to stop? There are parts of Caledonia which, in its stern and wild times, were independent of each other, some that still are as different from one another in blood and speech, as most of Scotland is from England. Shall Badenoch or Buchan awake its overlaid individuality? May not Galloway and Strathclyde set up for recognition of their ex-independence? Then why not encourage Strathbogie, the Cumbraes, the Braes of Bonny Doon, or the parish of Gandercleugh, to lament upon the fate that has made them members of one greater body? Nay, now that the clans are broken up, could they not contrive to respin their warp of local loyalty, crossing the woof of national patriotism? Such reductio ad absurdum is worth thinking about, when at this moment there are signs of relapse in the long convalescence from that Jacobite fever that “carried” hard heads as well as soft hearts, and set{16} old grudges against the Union flaunting in plaid and philibeg.

I am informed of a movement for putting the kingdom of Fife in its right place before a world too apt to jest at its pretensions. These are many and serious. Of old, Fibh had kings of its own, of such immemorial antiquity that their very names, much more their portraits, are not forthcoming. Enclosed between two firths, this region makes almost an island, with the Ochils as border-line cutting it off from the rest of Scotland. Thus the Roman legions thundered by it; and its maiden independence was never violated, if we reject a scandalous suggestion as to Cupar being the Mount Graupius of Tacitus. The kings of Scotland were much at home here, notably Malcolm Canmore, that effectual founder of the modern kingdom. If Bruce were born who knows where, he came to be buried at Dunfermline. History tells how Queen Mary was lodged at Lochleven, and how more than one King James had to be snatched away, by force or fraud, from his chosen residence in Fife. The dialect of Fife, mixed with that of Lothian, made the standard Court language, while Gaelic was ebbing out of the Perthshire straths. The see of the old Scottish Church was at St. Andrews, where arose the first northern university, the local Saint Regulus being supplanted by that apostle who, according to scoffers, was chosen as Scotland’s patron because of the keen eye he showed on earth for loaves and fishes. In Protestant days, several of the religious leaders—Knox, the Melvilles, the Erskines, John Glas, Edward Irving, Thomas Chalmers—were all either natives of or sojourners in Fife. This{17}

Image unavailable: A HIGHLAND STRATH

many-havened coast was the nursery of the Scottish navy and commerce. The most famous national product, next to flesh and blood and whisky, is golf, whose headquarters are in the East Neuk of this choice shire. When we consider the many towns of Fife, its wealth in horn and corn, and coal and fish, its output of textile fabrics, and remember its past history, should we not allow that this and not Perthshire is truly the heart of Scotland? It has even a Wales in Kinross, whose craving for separate status might one day raise a troublesome question. Nor does it want a classic bard to invoke for it the trumpet of fame:

Nymphae, quae colitis highissima monta Fifaea,
Seu vos Pittenwema tenent, seu Cralia crofta,
Sive Anstraea domus, ubi nat haddocus in undis,
Codlineusque ingens, et fleucca et sketta pererrant
Per costam, et scopulis lobster monifootus in udis
Creepat, et in mediis ludit whitenius undis, etc.

Gentle reader, can you guess what standard poet I quote? Je vous le donne en cent. The most hackneyed citation, it seems, ought nowadays to be labelled, for when in Bonnie Scotland I aired a verse beginning, “Fairshon had a son who married Noah’s daughter,” a certain Caledonian newspaper critic was moved to applaud by calling for the author. Such be the proficient patriots who scunner at King Edward’s title as Seventh across the Tweed, and at other bawbeeworths of offence to Scottish nationality!

After this fling by the way, I fall back into my jogtrot. It seems claimable for Fife, then, that its county council be glorified as a parliament sitting by turns at{18} Cupar, Dunfermline, and Kirkcaldy; or, at least, that in a revived Scottish parliament its representatives shall assert their old privilege of voting first, before that presumptuous Perthshire. The sovereign’s title raises some difficulty. Edward VII., of course, is out of the question. But it has to be admitted that Edward I. of England received the homage of Fife at Dunfermline, so his present Majesty might justly be styled Edward II. qua King of Fife. There being, indeed, a doubt as to how far Edward Baliol made his reign a fait accompli in Fife, some precisians propose to meet the case by treating our king locally as the second and a half Edward. In the army, of course, it is not to be borne that the Fife contingent shall be lumped together with English forces. In future, one or more British regiments must be equipped and distinguished as Fifers. The epithet Fifeish should come into more constant use; but as misconception might arise from vulgar misuse, Fifeian may be coined as an untarnished adjective, the old one to be applied to the less admirable or more commonplace features of the county, its distilleries, railway junctions, colliery villages, east winds, and so forth, while a discrimination is to be made in quoting those qualities and achievements that have made Fife the noblest member of the greatest empire in the world, whose style shall forthwith run, at least in local acts, The Kingdom of Fife, with the adjacent kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, and the rest of the British dominions, etc., etc.

For Perthshire, I make no such pretensions to isolated dignity, only for having set a pattern to all Scotland, and thus exhibiting some title to be taken as hub of the{19} universe. But in rambling over its hills and glens, I hope to let it show for itself the truth of Scott’s estimate, justified by his reference to other writers, such as might be quoted by the hundred, all in the same tale of due admiration.

It is long since Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, with that excellent taste which characterises her writings, expressed her opinion that the most interesting district of every country, and that which exhibits the varied beauties of natural scenery in greatest perfection, is that where the mountains sink down upon the champaign, or more level land. The most picturesque, if not the highest hills, are also to be found in the county of Perth. The rivers find their way out of the mountainous region by the wildest leaps, and through the most romantic passes connecting the Highlands with the Lowlands. Above, the vegetation of a happier climate and soil is mingled with the magnificent characteristics of mountain-scenery; and woods, groves, and thickets in profusion, clothe the base of the hills, ascend up the ravines, and mingle with the precipices. It is in such favoured regions that the traveller finds what the poet Gray, or some one else, has termed, Beauty lying in the lap of Terror.




I see that certain critics accuse me of being flippant, discursive, garrulous, gossiping, everything that your gravely plodding writers are not, and they no doubt find readers to their mind. It must be confessed that as a model of style I have an eye rather on the upper waters of the Tay, with its swirls and eddies and ripples, than on its broad and placid flow by the fat Carse of Gowrie. All I can say for myself is that I keep my course amid windings and tumblings, and that my foaming shallows may sweep along the same silt as loads drumlier currents lower down. Yet one loves to please all tastes, within reason, so for once let me try to be as steady and slow as the mill-lead at Perth, which, if all traditions be true, began as a Roman aqueduct, and so may give itself airs of classical authority.

The Tay, then, is the principal river of Scotland, which discharges into the North Sea a larger volume of water than any other in Britain. Its head-streams rise upon the borders of Argyll, but only after issuing from Loch Tay does it assume a name apparently derived{21} from a Celtic word for quiet-flowing water, in other parts of the kingdom taking such forms as Taw and Tavy. The Tay has its course of 120 miles almost entirely in Perthshire, receiving many tributaries from the mountains on either side, and thus draining a basin of some 2400 square miles. At Perth it becomes navigable for small vessels, and debouches at the thriving port of Dundee, where its estuary separates the shires of Forfar and Fife. For further details, see any geographical work.

There now! no Aristarchus can find fault with that paragraph, in which I have not broken into a single anecdote or metaphor, though tempted to say en passant that the basin of the Tay only needs flattening out to over-measure that of the Thames. But this formal style sits on me as uneasily as Saul’s armour upon David, so I leave it to rust in the works of reference; and as a stone for my scrip, snatch up a well-worn quotation already slung by a mightier hand:

“Behold the Tiber!” the vain Roman cried,
Viewing the ample Tay from Baiglie’s side;
But where’s the Scot that would the vaunt repay
And hail the puny Tiber for the Tay?

Scots are not in the way of belittling their own advantages; but a certain Italian writer gravely comments on this statement by giving an estimate as to the depth of the Tiber at Rome, whereas he himself has seen a bare-legged boy wading the Tay above Perth bridge to pick up pebbles. Being unable to refute his main contention, I would have him know that this laddie was probably risking wet breeks at low tide, not in search of pebbles, but of pearls, sometimes picked up here; that a{22} bridge would naturally be built near a ford; and that a mile higher up, beyond the tide-flow, the Tay is deep enough to drown boys in its treacherous pools, and might make Julius Caesar himself call for help if he tried swimming across it in spate. If classic poets are to be trusted, yellow is the best epithet of the Tiber, while Ruskin admiringly tells us how the pools of the Tay glint brown and blue among black swirls and rippling shallows. In the matter of climate, at all events, we are not going to let any foreigner over-brag us, for as the local poet, Alexander Glas, exclaims beside the Tay:

In scorching sun, the Italian cries in vain:
O, happy, happy Caledonian swain!
Whose groves are ever cool, and mild the skies,
Where breezes from the ocean ever rise.

This bard, perhaps, was not aware that the snow lies longer on Soracte than on Kinnoull Hill; nor does he confess that for two or three months in the year the happy Caledonian swain may now and then welcome Italian ice-cream merchants; and in fair prose he ought to own his ocean breezes for east winds on this side of the country. The city of Perth, indeed, stands hardly a score of miles back from the sea, and made a thriving port in days when it was an advantage to unload goods up-country, well out of the way of attack. Its mariners carried on not only a coasting trade, but sailed to the Hanse ports, and took a turn at fighting with their English rivals when competition would sometimes be pushed to the point of piracy. It appears that trading craft plied as far up as Scone, below which a row-boat is now apt to stick in shallow rapids.{23}

Through the international war-time flourished at Perth a notable line of Mercers, who appear as wealthy traders, magistrates, and benefactors of their native city, sometimes rising to higher posts in the state, coming to make noble alliances through which their head branch is now engrafted in the Lansdowne title. The old staple trade of the Fair City was glove-making; its skinners became an important corporation, and tanning held out to our day, but has been overlaid by dyeing, trades that might all merge into each other. Perhaps as a branch of dyeing sprang Todd’s Perth Office Ink, which I note to be now glorified as Moncrieff’s Ink, and long may it flow under that auspicious name! Another industry of Perth used to be shipbuilding, where, up to the end of the eighteenth century, vessels came and went by the hundred, and a smack sailed for London every few days. Perth was in the way of improving her port and deepening its approaches, when railways brought about a permanent low tide in the Tay traffic.

While ships were growing larger, the Tay estuary had been silting up and narrowing as its flat shores were reclaimed into the fertile Carse of Gowrie. This dry ground was won by inches, a name often met along Tayside, where what were once islands have become welded on to the shore. The Inches, par excellence, are the public parks above and below Perth; the Inch being its North Inch, in which the Romans are fondly believed to have hailed their Campus Martius—Parvam Trojam, simulataque magnis Pergama.

Higher up the river, in its great bend to the south, another flat bears the suggestive name of “Bloody{24} Inches”; and the Perth Inches too have been arena for many a fray. The chief martial memory of the South Inch is as site of Cromwell’s citadel, in the construction of which were used the walls of the Greyfriars, with hundreds of its tombstones, besides other monuments of the city. The North Inch is best known to fame for the battle of the Clans in 1396, when threescore Highlandmen let out most of their quarrelsome blood before an excited multitude, the king and court looking on from what served as a grand stand, the Gilten Arbour in the Dominican Gardens, a structure that probably stood near the present site of the Perth Academy in Rose Terrace.

There can be no doubt about the authenticity of this battle; a record is extant of making the lists for it, the number of combatants being expressly stated as sixty. But, among the pregnant confusion of Highland names, it is not easy to be sure who those champions were. We used to be taught from Tales of a Grandfather that they represented hostile confederacies called the Clan Kay and the Clan Chattan, the latter perhaps wild cats of the mountains, the former by no means to be identified with the Mackays of the north. But the Kay and the Chattan names appear to cover one another, while the other party seems better distinguished as the Clan Quhele, in whom some see the Camerons and a hint of Lochiel, others the Macdougals, their name thus transformed by a tour de force of etymology, while also it has been conjectured that this mysterious clan did not survive its defeat, scattered and absorbed into luckier kindreds.

A writer, wearing both the names of Shaw and Macintosh, who has given piously profound study to{25}


the subject, concludes that those adversaries were the sons of an Adam and a Dougal, clans known to have fought against each other in the wars of Bruce, which as likely as not means an old tribal feud. Adam, it seems, in this wet climate, is quite capable of being weathered down into Ay, Hay, or Kay. The name Dougal sounds in Gaelic something like Gooil, or Hooil, which Lowland writers might make a shot at as Quhele, Quhevil, Queill, Chewill, and other forms in which it appears. Their rivals in certain books are called Clachinyha, which Dr. R. C. Maclagan claims as the origin of his own name, and to illustrate the contention, presents some forty spellings of Maclagan varied through four centuries, also nearly a dozen used by the same family in the records of one generation. Not only at home, indeed, are Scottish names apt to be transmogrified. Belize, in Honduras, is said to be a corruption of Wallace, the pirate, not the patriot; and there is a story that a Macdougal, shipwrecked of old on the Barbary coast, so much impressed himself on the natives as a santon that his tomb stood mumbling godfather to the port of Mogador.

In Wyntoun’s Chronicle, the leaders’ names are anglicised as “Christy Johnson” (Gilchrist MacIan) and “Sir Farquhar’s son,” the latter elsewhere called Little Schea or Shaw. The Shaws hold themselves a branch of the Mackintoshes, who claim the headship of Clan Chattan, also claimed by the MacPhersons, “sons of a parson,” or at least of some one boasted by a certain bard as a “superior person.” The matter seems to have begun with an encounter in which the Sheriff of Angus was{26} killed—a long way from the Cameron country—in quelling such a disturbance as often vexed the Highland line. The king sent the Earls of Dunbar and Crawford to do what justice could be done upon this outrage; and they have the credit of suggesting the settlement of an obstinate feud by picked bloodshed in the royal presence. Some writers have wasted ink on the feebleness of Robert III. as to blame for what strikes them as a revolting scene; but such a show of gladiatorship was as much in keeping with the manners of the age as a football match with ours; and to the king’s advisers it no doubt seemed excellent policy to let those wild cats cripple or punish each other in a holiday spectacle. As a matter of fact it is recorded that the border had peace from the caterans for long after this signal blood-letting. “The forwardest of both parties being slain,” says George Buchanan, “the promiscuous multitude, left without leaders, gave over their trade of sedition for many years after, and betook themselves to their husbandry again.”

The early historians differ as to details. Eachin MacIan, the young chief who loses heart, owes a good deal to Scott’s dramatic instinct; but Goethe was not well posted in the facts, when to Eckermann he extolled the novelist’s “art” in “contriving” to make one man fail on the day of combat that his place may be taken by the hero, Smith: “there is finish! there is a hand!” One story makes the fugitive escape by swimming before the fight. Several mention a man as missing from the Clan Quhele ranks, to fill whose place a sturdy Perth craftsman volunteered on promise of reward. More than one Perthshire family has been proud to claim{27} descent from this bandy-legged champion. If it be true, as somewhere stated, that his posterity, the Gows, were recognised as a shoot of Clan Chattan, it may be that Harry Smith was the real Conachar, apprenticed at Perth to a trade which Highland chiefs might well see cause to patronise. Scott, however, seems romancing in putting the combatants into shirts of mail. All the accounts agree as to two bands of next to naked Highlandmen hacking and hewing each other with swords, axes, and dirks, till of one side only ten or eleven were left sorely wounded, and of the other, one escaped or was taken prisoner, his fate being variously stated as pardon and hanging. No doubt the show furnished as much satisfaction to its public as when, sixty years ago, the German traveller, J. G. Kohl, found the Inch again covered with people eager to see a circus clown give bold advertisement to his company by crossing the Tay in a washing-tub drawn by four geese. It has been supposed, by the way, that the combat of Highlanders may have been arranged partly for the amusement of a body of French knights then visiting the Scottish court, and no doubt finding it dull as well as rude.

Since that slaughterous day, some real fights and many sham ones have been enacted on the Inch of Perth. Of one I may say, pars magna fui, and though my militation was without glory it did not want an accursed bard who, in the columns of the Perthshire Constitutional, sang, a long way after Tennyson, how “some one had blundered.” These were the early days of the Volunteer movement, inspired by more zeal than knowledge, when, in my teens, I served as sole officer to a company of the{28} Perthshire Volunteers, after some slight apprenticeship in a school cadet corps, equipped with discarded carbines. One of my first appearances in efficient arms was at the head of a column that marched on to the lower end of the Inch before more spectators than would be gathered about the arena of that clan-combat. The foe here coming into view, it behoved my company to extend in skirmishing order, covering the deployment of our column into line. So much I could do; and we found ourselves exposed in the van facing a hostile line of Dundee Highlanders who held the centre of the Inch. But the report of what then befell is so little to our credit that I throw it into shamefaced small print.

We advanced boldly, blazing away our blank cartridges as fast as we could load and fire; while the enemy’s skirmishers, as arranged in the programme, fell back before us. My men were delighted with this movement, which gave the effect of our winning the battle by our special prowess; and not knowing better, we went on fighting for our own hand, till we had nearly run out of ammunition. Meanwhile from our side rang out imperious bugle-calls, which made me none the wiser. At last, when the enemy’s thin red line could no longer be seen for the cloud of smoke, I bethought myself to look round, and observe how my devoted band was spread out half-way between the two armies, exposed on either side to an exterminating fire of cannon and rifles. There seemed something wrong here; but before I could consider what to do about it, an aide-de-camp galloped up, shepherding us with objurgations: “What on earth are you about, sir! Get out of the way! Close and retire!” There was stronger language that did not help to enlighten me. In my confusion, I closed to the left, whereas our place was by this time on the right of the line, the result being that we had to run the gauntlet of our own army’s fire, then to turn and double up{29} behind it to gain our vacant post. That was not the worst of it. The drill of those days made an important point of a company being pivoted on its right or left flank; I forget the principle, but this I remember too well that, whereas we ought to have come up “right in front” or “left in front,” we had got the wrong way on, and reached our place in the line with our rear turned to the enemy. My military science was at a loss how to remedy this mistake; but I modestly ventured on the order “right counter-march,” the effect of which was marred by the right-hand man—who indeed as a haunter of the Barracks knew more about soldiering than myself—sotto voce giving the word and example, “left counter-march.” How at last we got ourselves straight and in face of the foe, I can hardly tell, but I, for one, was ready to imitate poor Conachar by plunging into the Tay, covered not with wounds but with blushes.

Another disgrace had nearly stained my company’s name, when we served as guard of honour for Queen Victoria, on the inauguration of Prince Albert’s statue at the foot of the North Inch. For once Her Majesty came late—I forget through what delay—and we had to stand expectant for hours under a hot sun, kept on the alert by a constant passing of dignitaries, and pressed upon by a crowd that tried to break through our ranks as often as a stately equipage drove up to excite the cry, “That’s her, that’s her!” In vain I demanded the experienced help of police; on us raw warriors fell the whole work of keeping the way clear, a very fidgety task for a short-sighted young officer, who had not seen his sovereign since he was young enough to be disappointed that she wore a straw bonnet instead of a golden crown. When at last she came, it was without observation, the crowd having given her up; then I{30} shall always be thankful that my lucky star showed me a carriage filled with ladies in black, to which I was able to present arms just in the nick of time—a moment more and the Queen would have been let go by in silence without any salutation even from her heedless guard!

And already I had made a blunder of etiquette. A considerable force of regulars were present, while we, as a local body, held the place of honour. During the hours of uncertainty officers of rank kept galloping to and fro, to whom I was uncertain whether or no I should pay military compliments. I asked my colonel, who was as much at a loss as myself. Then I consulted the staff-sergeant on whom I depended as my coach, and his advice struck me as full of wisdom: “I don’t know what the practice is, sir, but it would be safer to do it too much than too little.” So I began presenting arms to every cocked hat that came by, and as I could never be quite sure whether this or that one had been already saluted, our rifles were going up and down all morning like the keys of a piano. Afterwards I learned that the Sovereign’s guard should ignore any other personage.

I could tell other tales of the Perthshire Volunteers in their early days, but all I will say here is that if the Territorials who have taken our place are more smart and efficient, they cannot surpass us in good-will to serve our country. Some of us can remember an older and perhaps less serviceable force, the tottering Pensioners who turned out at least once a year upon the Inch to fire a feu de joie for the Queen’s birthday. I rather think I knew that Peninsular lieutenant of whom Sir Evelyn Wood tells a touching tale—though here I am a little confused between{31} two bearded veterans that gave kindly words to a boy—how he had lived obscurely at Perth, unnoted by two generations, till Major Wood took a public occasion of pointing him out to his fellow-citizens as one of the heroes of Albuera; then the old man in a back seat bowed his head in tears of pride and joy—“Let me greet!”—overcome to hear that fiery day not forgotten by soldiers of another age. To a veteran of a former generation quartered at Perth was born a son, afterwards well-known as Charles Mackay, editor and poet, and as stepfather of one of the most popular novelists of our day, whose modestly retiring disposition is so notorious that I do not mention her name.

In my youth the neighbourhood of Perth was strongly garrisoned by retired officers, some of whom belonged to the Sandemanian congregation here, an exclusive body that, like the Plymouth Brethren in England, had a curious attraction for old Indian soldiers. The sons usually went with their fathers, while in some cases the mothers and daughters attended the Episcopal “Chapel,” where my Wenigkeit, as son of an Englishwoman, escaped the long sermons and Shorter Catechism of Presbyterian boyhood. The Anglican form of worship has in the last generation made great way among townsmen, but it then was apt to mark either English associations or hereditary Toryism. Perth had a Cathedral, looked on askance in those days as “Puseyite,” so that even the bishop for a time held aloof from it; at all events he preached regularly in our smaller church, his lawn sleeves attracting youthful reverence beside the black-gowned pastor of those{32} Protestant days. Now, so strongly has turned the tide of ecclesiastical fashion, it is the Cathedral at whose door a string of equipages may be seen standing of a Sunday morning, and three or four English prelates officiating at the altar in the shooting season. But half a century ago, and later, the “Chapel,” as we called it, as yet ignorant that we were “the Church in Scotland,” made the more genteel place of worship, with peers, baronets, and lairds as thick as blackberries in the congregation, their carriages breaking the Sabbath quiet of the street. The English soldiers were marched to it from the other end of the town, though that empty Cathedral stood neighbour to their barracks; and thereby hangs a tale to be caught at in my reminiscent mood.

One warm summer forenoon, some of the congregation may have been finding the sermon too long, when it was broken on by a stirring incident. A whispered message came to the officer of the military party. The men abruptly rose to clatter out, heedless of the pulpit. Presently the captain sent back for his sword, and his wife turned pale before the surmising eyes of the congregation. What could be the matter? Had the French landed? Neither preacher nor people could give all their minds to the conclusion of the service. As we streamed forth, all agog with curiosity, the street showed the unusual Sabbath sight of cabs full of policemen dashing up towards what was then the General Prison for Scotland, beyond the South Inch. Report soon spread that the inmates of this Penitentiary, hundreds strong, had broken out and might be expected to scatter over the country like ravening wolves, after an alarming{33}

Image unavailable: AUTUMN IN THE HIGHLANDS

example familiar to me from the pages of—was it not?—Midshipman Easy.

The excitement that followed seemed a godsend to youngsters, and perhaps to older captives of the dull Sabbath. But, as usual, rumour exaggerated. There had been a conspiracy to break prison, which, in the case of the men, proved a fiasco; while the women, after throwing their Bibles at the chaplain as signal of revolt, got loose into a yard, but failed either to make their escape from the walls or to release the men, as had been plotted. These incidents I state with reserve, after the example of the Father of History in dealing with facts beyond his own observation. The story that passed current was that our gallant centurion reached the scene of action in hot haste, but on beholding the enemy he marched off in high dudgeon, flatly refusing to lead his company against a mob of women. In the end, we understood, those Bacchanals were quelled by the artillery of the Fire Brigade.

If all tales be true, this is not the most ignominious retreat forced upon our gallant soldiers at the hands of Scotswomen. In Penny’s Traditions of Perth it is told how, in the old martinet days, half a dozen soldiers were flogged in public on the North Inch. Mobs of that century seem rather to have enjoyed such spectacles, as a rule; but pressed enlistments had made military discipline a sore point in Scotland; and now the poor fellows’ cries excited angry pity among the lookers-on. When it came to the turn of a married man, sentenced to five hundred lashes for stealing a few potatoes to feed his family, their feelings boiled over. His own wife was{34} present, who, as he screamed under the lash, rushed in to hold the drummer’s arm; then other women began to pelt the executioners with stones. Led by these pitying Amazons, the crowd broke through the ranks to rescue the sufferer, and his fellow-soldiers apparently made no stout resistance. The officers were set to flight, the unfortunate adjutant being captured, whom the women are said to have stripped and whipped on the spot as a lesson in humanity. That made the last flogging on the North Inch.

Perth has had the soldiers of many armies quartered upon it, including Cromwell’s troopers, and the Hessians encamped for long on the Inch after the Rebellion of ’45. At that time barracks were so deficient that Cumberland’s men had to be lodged in the parish church and meetinghouses, turned into dormitories by deal boards laid across the pews. Later on, soldiers would be billeted upon the townsfolk, as the militiamen were in my recollection; and their pay was so poor that, like that culprit already mentioned, they did not always prove honest guests. Gowrie House, presented by the loyal townsfolk to the victor of Culloden, was made into an Artillery Barrack, but afterwards given back to the town to serve as its jail and county buildings in exchange for ground above the South Inch, where the General Prison came to be built. This was originally a depôt for French prisoners of war, the first batch of whom, confined in a church on their way from Dundee, stole all the brass nails, green baize, and other fittings they could lay hands on. The prisoners became increased to thousands, who on the whole must have behaved better, for they are said to have been missed{35} at the peace, having, indeed, spent in the city a good deal of money which they earned in part by ingenious industries. These foreigners appear as the unexpected means of importing cricket into Scotland, first played on the Inches of Perth by the English regiments sent to guard the depôt.

English soldiers, one supposes, are not now needed to guard Perth, its ordinary garrison a small body of the Black Watch or other local regiment. Gone, too, are the militia whom I once came upon drawn up at the top of the “Whins” without a stitch of uniform on, stripped to bathe by word of command. Military displays on the Inch will be less common than games of golf, cricket, and football, the last in its more unsophisticated forms, since this public space does not lend itself to the collection of gate-money; but the barefoot laddies who here kick about the “leather” for their own divert, are the buds of those professionals that bloom out to such applause in English enclosures. And the rules of football have changed even since my youth, when a band of youngsters from various public schools, gathered on the Inch for a Christmas game, found themselves all at loggerheads in an anarchy not yet divided into the kingdoms of “Rugger” and “Soccer.” Still more has the game been refined since a day when country folk coming down to market, about two miles out of Perth, met a man charging along the Crieff road, chased by a party of the Forty-Second with their kilts streaming in the wind; at first sight the fugitive was taken for a deserter, and the farmers drew aside to give him a fair chance, but it was only a Methven lad carrying off the ball from a{36} match on the North Inch, nor could he be tackled till it was goaled in his house, half a dozen miles from the field. Scone had once a name for rough matches, at which limbs were often broken, but, as the proverb went, “A’s fair at the ba’ of Scone.”

The example of that hero warns me not to linger on the Perth Inch, but to be off up the Tay, keeping as near it as one can for parks, and for the jealously guarded banks of valuable salmon fisheries. For the first two miles there is a public walk up the right bank to the Almond mouth. On the opposite side, hidden in lordly foliage, lies Scone Palace and the site of the old Pictish capital. The Scot is so notoriously modest that English example has often led him to mishandle his own names: before Scone gets corrupted, then, let me insist that it is pronounced Scoon, as the eatable scone, so mumbled in Cockney mouths, should rhyme with on, and not be treated as their own.

To modern Scone we could come on that side by a tramway which is turning this goodly village into a suburb of Perth. Even when we get into the Highlands we shall find how the squalid “Tullyveolans” and “Glenburnies” have been improved away generations ago. At the gates of great proprietors, at all events, a Scottish village usually compares well with an English one in point of comfort if not of picturesqueness. The former commonly wears an air of stiff neatness and coldness toned by its grey stone walls and slated roofs; the hand of the laird and factor is seen over it all, and only here and there are left such wigwam makeshifts as might still move Waverley’s disgust in the poverty-stricken Hebrides.{37} The Southern village, even if a model one, is apt to be more taking to the eye, with its show of warm brick scattered among the green, its unstudied variety of thatched and lichened roofs, of gabled, plastered, and half-timbered walls, where paddocks and gardens divide an age-mellowed block of farm buildings from a row of picturesquely decayed hovels; and over all rises the tower or spire of some much-patched church, neighboured by a smug chapel that throws the ancient fane into striking relief. The churches of Scotland make no such points of dignity, as a rule; but their old austerity now often becomes relaxed by more ambitious architecture of Anglican-aping days; and here and there has been spared some stout hull that weathered the Reformation storms.

One feature of a northern parish seems past praying for. The churchyard, if not miserably neglected, is apt to look grim, dismal, forbidding, in contrast with those flowery God’s acres of a less stern faith, that sometimes tempt poor human nature to be half in love with death. As a child I remember my nurse, and she was an Englishwoman, pointing out to me for reprobation what seemed the Popish sacrilege of a wreath laid upon a grave. Such Protestant superstition has been broken down in the last half-century. Large towns, even so long ago, had more or less ornamentally laid-out cemeteries, which were allowed to be the goal of a Sabbath walk. But still, in out-of-the-way parts, the disposition is not to mantle the king of terrors in any sentimental disguise; and weeds may be more common than flowers about tombstones that give lessons of warning rather than of consolation. The{38} memorials of the dead are oftenest plain and practical, like the homes of the living, whose very gardens run rather to kail and berries than to flowers. Yet where a Scotsman’s time is less taken up by wringing a bare subsistence from his poor soil, he can treat himself to the luxury of bloom; his grey walls are more and more lit by hardy creepers; and on heathery slopes you may see cottages covered with gay tropæolum, which I cannot coax to flourish on a London balcony.

But Scone, in its semi-urbanity, is no fair specimen of a Scottish village, nor are we yet in the Highlands, though hints of them peep to view as we pass up towards the blue Grampian barrier. We soon come, indeed, to a manufacturing nook, a “white country” of Perthshire, where the river, swollen by several streams uniting as the Luncarty Burn, washes the bleach-fields of that ilk and the cotton mills of Stanley. But these meads of Luncarty were once dyed red rather than white, when the Danes had almost overcome a Scottish king, till a peasant named Hay, with his two sons, held a narrow pass so well with his ploughshare that the Vikings in turn were put to flight by those rustic champions, claimed as ancestors for the House of Errol. Be this a fable or no, when the bleach-field came to be laid out, several tumuli were opened containing skeletons and weapons.

The whole country on both sides of the river is studded with Druidical stones, with camps and gravemounds, and with sites of old tradition, such as that ascribed to Macbeth’s castle, where the Sidlaw Hills swell up behind the left bank of the Tay, winding round them under the wooded cliffs of Kinnoull, making such a bend{39} that a house I have reason to know stands equidistant between two reaches, which are nearly a score of miles apart by the bank. Should I be spared another score of years or so, I could tell some queer tales about more than one late laird in this nook, whose memory at present must rest in the truce de mortuis. As for Macbeth’s memory, I have already shown some hint of materials for whitewashing it. Why was not Shakespeare told of this Thane being an elder in the Wee Free Church, when King Duncan must needs send his loons south, one to Oxford and one to Cambridge, who came back dropping their h’s, whustling on the Sabbath, and such-like; then what for no should an outraged patriot but yoke with the sword of Gideon on the whole Erastian hypothec? As for Lady Macbeth, does not Shakespeare himself admit evidence to justify a soft-hearted verdict of temporary insanity?

Above the mills of Stanley we come to Campsie Linn, the first romantic scene of the Tay, on which is set the last tableau in The Fair Maid of Perth. Such a picturesque nook tempted the monks of Cupar to build a retreat on the precipitous rock above its cataract; and here was the country seat of the Mercers, that mediæval trading family of Perth, already mentioned as growing into nobility. But the great name hereabouts in the old days was the Drummonds, lords of Stobhall on the Tay, their principal residence till they built a more lordly one in Strathearn.

This family, long so powerful in Perthshire, claim to be descended from an Hungarian chief, settled in Scotland under the civilising patronage of Malcolm{40} Canmore. So well did his line thrive here that a daughter of the house of Drummond sat to watch that North Inch combat as Robert III.’s queen, Anabella, mother of the unfortunate Duke of Rothesay, who comes to such a tragic end in Scott’s romance. A century later, when the family had moved their main seat to Drummond Castle, another connection with royalty again brought about a mysterious crime. James IV., all his life much misled by Cupid, took for his mistress or left-handed wife Bonnie Margaret Drummond; it is said that he proposed to marry her openly as soon as a dispensation from the Pope unloosed their bonds of kindred. Be that as it may, other Scottish nobles looked askance on the growth of the Drummonds, while politic statesmen may well have sought to clear the way to peace with England by the King’s marriage to Margaret Tudor; there is also a suspicion of jealousy on the part of another royal lady love. By unknown hands, Margaret Drummond and her two sisters were poisoned at Drummond Castle, and they lie beneath three slabs of blue marble in Dunblane Cathedral. A daughter of this doubtful union was married successively to the Earl of Huntly, the Duke of Albany, and to a kinsman of her own; then her infusion of Stuart blood has passed into at least a score of Scottish noble families.

The strain of royal descent was reinforced when the head of the Drummond house married a daughter of this lady by the Stuart Duke of Albany. By James VI. Lord Drummond was made Earl of Perth, a title augmented by the French dukedom of Melfort. The Perth earldom was blown out into an empty dukedom by the Pretender,{41}

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whose fortunes its holder followed into France, leaving his possessions to be confiscated, and his honours attainted. The peerage was restored to a Drummond under George III., but died out for want of heirs male; then through marriage of a daughter the property passed to Lord Gwydir of Wales, and through the Willoughby d’Eresbys to the English Earl of Ancaster. I fear to make the reader’s head ache in the labyrinth of Drummond genealogy. Enough to say that the earldom of Perth and Melfort was restored in Victoria’s reign to a Drummond who held a French title. Supported by a pension from a more fortunate kinsman, he lived latterly in seclusion at Kew, and was buried there a few years ago, his life shadowed by a painful tragedy that left his house without a direct heir to its pride and its poverty. His home was literally a cottage, a striking contrast to the glories of Drummond Castle; but to friendly neighbours, who respected his misfortunes, he could humorously boast of being by rights a duke in two countries.

A tragedy in humbler life has been commemorated in a Tayside ballad, The Weary Coble of Cargill. The hero, Davie Drummond, is described as a “brave page,” also as the “butler of Stobhall,” who, with the keys of the mansion hanging at his belt, undertook to cross the swollen Tay one night in a coble or ferry-boat: this local Leander seems to have had a Hero on each bank, and to have played the perilous part of not being off with one love before being on with another. The heroine, “the lass of Ballathie,” took strong measures in a fit of jealousy, when Davie would not stay the night on her side the river—{42}

His bed was made in Ballathie town,
Of the clean sheets and of the strae;
But I wat it was far better made
Into the bottom o’ bonnie Tay.
She bored the coble in seven pairts,
I wat her heart might hae been sair,
For there she got the bonnie lad lost,
Wi’ the curly locks and the yellow hair.
He put his foot into the boat,
He little thocht o’ ony ill,
But before that he was mid-waters,
The weary coble began to fill....
I wat they had mair love than this
When they were young and at the schule;
But for his sake she wauked late
And bored the coble o’ bonny Cargill.

The poor youth was taken out a corpse; then too late came lifelong repentance to his resentful sweetheart—

There’s ne’er a clean sark gae on my back,
Nor yet a kame gae in my hair,
There’s neither coal nor candle light
Shall shine in my bower for ever mair.
At kirk or market I’se ne’er be at,
Nor yet a blythe blink in my e’e,
There’s ne’er a ane shall say to anither,
That’s the lassie garr’d the young man dee.

Above Cargill, the river is spanned by the Caledonian railway; then on the left bank comes in the Isla leading up to Blairgowrie, behind which opens one of the great passes into the Highlands. Between Meikleour and Kinclaven Castle, taken and burned by Wallace, the Tay makes an extravagant circumvention of inches and haughs, flowing north for one reach, then turning south, as it{43} comes round from its eastward course by Murthly. The Highland line cuts across this elbow bend to pass opposite Caputh, reached by a floating bridge that looks safer than that coble of Cargill. In Bonnie Scotland I could not but speak of the grounds of Murthly, with their show of ambitious structures; but I am not sure if I did justice to the gardens and miles of magnificent avenues, that, like those of Meikleour and Ballathie lower down, and of Dunkeld above, might call a blush to the cheek of Dr. Johnson’s ghost, if it could visit this edge of the Highlands. From near Murthly station one may walk for two and a half straight miles on a grass ride bordered by coniferous trees, bringing us down to the Dunkeld road, beyond Bankfoot, a highway which has taken care not to follow the vagaries of the river.

It is only fourteen miles to Dunkeld from Perth, whence houses on the Grampian slope may be made out on a clear day. Strangers here who would take the very shortest way for a peep at the Highlands may now from Strathord station reach Bankfoot on a light railway up the Ordie Burn, and over the native heath of Robert Nicoll, who, but for an early death and his consuming zeal for reforming politics, might have been better known as a Perthshire Burns.

Sae weel I lo’ed a’ things of earth—
The trees, the buds, the flowers,
The sun, the moon, the lochs and glens,
The Spring’s and Summer’s hours,—
A wither’d woodland twig would bring
The tears into my eye,
Laugh on! but there are souls of love
In laddies herding kye.


Beyond Bankfoot and its annexe Waterloo, the road comes to close quarters with the mountains, where it winds up to a rugged face of woods and grouse moors, then under Rohallion joins the river and the railway in the pass of Birnam, guarded by the village city of Dunkeld. Here we leave the valley of Strathmore to enter one of the famous Highland gates, at the mouth of which a watery hollow called the Stare-dam was long a place of dread to wild mountaineers, for whom its “Hanged Men’s Trees” made such a warning as did the “kind gallows” of Crieff.

Of Dunkeld, the Highland border town, I gave account in Bonnie Scotland, so that here I will rather repeat what has been said about it by others. The Rev. Prebendary Gilpin, that original of Dr. Syntax in search of the Picturesque, who had found Arthur’s Seat “odd, misshapen and uncouth,” unpleasing from every point of view, except that the streets of London had been paved out of its quarries, this severe critic is more gracious to Dunkeld, where “the wild unshapely desert begins to separate into parts, and form itself into hills, hung with wood and broken with rock.” He can find no fault with the Tay, here “broad, deep and silent,” nor with “the grand screen of mountains” encircling it; and our generation is not much concerned with his criticism that it will take a century for the woods to grow up so as “to give a proper degree of sylvan richness to the scene.” Since then the woods have had time to clothe this fine amphitheatre, some inaccessible crag faces having been planted by the device of firing canisters filled with seeds against them from a cannon. Mr. Gilpin{45} goes so far as to applaud Nature’s efforts in the side ravine of the Braan, though he shakes his head over the duke’s “improvements,” such as often caused so much division of opinion among those pundits of the picturesque. He agrees with our taste in condemning the “Claud Lorraine glasses” and other optical devices with which the Hermitage at the Falls of Braan was furnished, being “apt to believe that Nature has given us a better apparatus for viewing objects in a picturesque light than any the optician can furnish.” Also he shows very proper disgust on coming, among the sights of this demesne, upon a hollow in the rock with an inscription recording the names of a set of gentlemen who, on such and such a date, had drunk it full of punch.

But when from Dunkeld he takes his way on up Strath Tay, this Aristarchus almost forgets to be critical of scenes that “call aloud for the pencil.” The poet Gray, one of the earliest appreciative visitors to the Highlands, was not less admiring, though he gives a more matter-of-fact account of a “road winding through beautiful woods, with the Tay almost always in full view to the right, being here from three to four hundred feet over. The Strath-Tay, from a mile to three miles or more wide, covered with corn and spotted with groups of people then in the midst of their harvest. On either hand a vast chain of rocky mountains, that changed their face and opened something new every hundred yards, as the way turned or the cloud passed: in short, altogether it was one of the most pleasing days I have passed these many years.” Then, before leaving Atholl, he would exclaim, “Since I saw the Alps, I have seen nothing{46} sublime till now!” And of the Highlands in general this precursor of the next century exclaims: “A fig for your poets, painters, gardeners and clergymen that have not been among them; their imagination can be made up of nothing but bowling-greens, flowering shrubs, horse-ponds, Fleet ditches, shell-grottoes and Chinese rails!”

Many a visitor of our day, weather permitting, gets here from coach or rail a general impression of “nothing but sunshine and fresh breezes, and bleating lambs, and clean tartans.” To go behind this fair scenery, set as if for the joy of poets and painters, we might turn up some burn into the rough background, and look through Ruskin’s eyes at nooks easily coloured by his “pathetic fallacy”; he knew the Highlands as not all filled by tourists, sportsmen, and prosperous sheep-farmers.

A Highland scene is, beyond dispute, pleasant enough in its own way; but, looked close at, has its shadows. Here, for instance, is the very fact of one, as pretty as I can remember—having seen many. It is a little valley of soft turf, enclosed in its narrow oval by jutting rocks and broad flakes of nodding fern. From one side of it to the other winds, serpentine, a clear brown stream, dropping into quicker ripple as it reaches the end of the oval field, and then, first islanding a purple and white rock with an amber pool, it dashes away into a narrow fall of foam under a thicket of mountain-ash and alder. The autumn sun, low, but clear, shines on the scarlet ash-berries and on the golden birch-leaves, which, fallen here and there, when the breeze has not caught them, rest quiet in the crannies of the purple rock. Beside the rock, in the hollow under the thicket, the carcass of a ewe, drowned in the last flood, lies nearly bare to the bone, its white ribs protruding through the skin, raven-torn; and the rags{47} of its wool still flickering from the branches that first stayed it as the stream swept it down. A little lower, the current plunges, roaring, into a circular chasm like a well, surrounded on three sides by a chimney-like hollowness of polished rock, down which the foam slips in detached snowflakes. Round the edges of the pool beneath, the water circles slowly, like black oil; a little butterfly lies on its back, its wings glued to one of the eddies, its limbs feebly quivering; a fish rises and it is gone. Lower down the stream, I can just see, over a knoll, the green and damp turf roofs of four or five hovels, built at the edge of a morass, which is trodden by the cattle into a black Slough of Despond at their doors, and traversed by a few ill-set stepping-stones, with here and there a flat slab on the tops, where they have sunk out of sight; and at the turn of the brook I see a man fishing, with a boy and a dog—a picturesque and pretty group enough certainly, if they had not been there all day starving.

From Dunkeld up to Logierait, the river runs south, when its eastward course has been joined by the full swollen Tummel, that, coming down straight from Pitlochrie, seems here to be the parent stream. At Logierait Wordsworth could still see the remains of the Duke of Atholl’s court-house and the prison—said to be now represented by an inn-stable—from which Rob Roy made one of his daring escapes. He did well to escape, when his ducal captor had not yet lost the power of pit and gallows, who about the same time wrote to the Provost of Perth for the loan of an executioner. There was no lack of gallows in those days, yet apparently a short supply of hangmen, for we find the Fair City, in turn, borrowing the Drummonds’ executioner, to be returned when required; then again Lord Breadalbane’s, on an undertaking by the magistrates “to give the Earl{48} the use of him at all times.” Perth had then three gallows of its own, while each of the great noblemen about it could hang or imprison his vassals; and even the Baron of Bradwardine is recorded as having once exercised his hereditary privilege by putting “two poachers in the dungeon of the old tower of Tully Veolan, where they were sorely frightened by ghosts, and almost eaten by rats.”

On the other side of the confluence, Ballinluig railway junction marks the forking of two routes of travel. The main line leads up into Atholl by Pitlochrie and Killiecrankie, “the Caledonian Thermopylae.” From this, we turn for the present to follow Strath Tay, adorned with a succession of mansions and policies, chief of them the restored Castle of Grandtully, for which is claimed that it was the Tully Veolan of Waverley. Other candidates for the honour are Craig Hall, above Blairgowrie, and Traquair House, near Innerleithen. The contention between these mansions makes for the Scottish newspapers what the great gooseberry and the sea serpent used to be in the South; but of course the truth is, as Scott says, who ought to know, that he took a composite picture from several models, getting some features from old mansions about Edinburgh—Ravelston, Dean House, and Warrender House beside Bruntsfield Links—while he seems to point out Grandtully as the best prototype of the Baron’s seat. As for the geography of the tale, that baffles all inquiry, the only thing clear being that Waverley, at the farthest point of his wanderings, had got well behind the Pass of “Ballybrough,” which must be Killiecrankie.{49}

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The branch line up the Tay soon ends at Aberfeldy, famous for the Falls of Moness in a wooded glen, where arises a question as to whether its “Birks of Aberfeldy” were not a mere poetic ornament of a poet’s fancy, copied from older songs such as the “Birks of Endermay.” At all events, birches are not now prominent among the rich foliage; and, of course, Burns, no more than Scott, would “swear to the truth of a song.” Aberfeldy, thriving on a small manufacture of Highland tweed, has an historic note as the place where the Black Watch regiment was embodied out of its looser organisation as independent companies; this is recorded by a monument set up on a cairn where nature and art join hands for striking effect. It is also notable for the first bridge, above Perth, over the Tay, built by the road-making General Wade. Another name that has been connected with Aberfeldy is Andrea Ferrara’s, a foreigner of infuscated habitat, who made so many blades for Scotland that tradition has represented him as working a forge here. A rival legend places his workshop in Menteith, where Doune was a more authentic arsenal of firearms for the Highlanders, specially notable for the making of steel pistols.

Aberfeldy Bridge leads us across to Weem, said to be so called from Picts’ houses burrowed in the womb of earth; to Castle Menzies in its park of ancient trees; to Dull, with its memories of a monastery and a hermitage of St. Cuthbert. The whole district is full of moving traditions and traces of forgotten faith and history older than the saints who have left misty relics here, as, for instance, the stone circle at Croft Moraig, “field of{50} Mary,” and the Cave of Weem that has a legend recalling that of Hamelin, as to a child being saved by slipping off a malignant water-horse when it carried away her companions to be drowned in the loch above, with which this cave was believed to communicate. And hereabouts, as elsewhere, there is a legend of hunted Macgregors taking refuge in a tree that was cut down to hurl them to destruction. As to the beauties of the valley, let the Rev. Hugh Macmillan speak, as a son of its soil:—

Westward of the old glacial barricade, to the neighbourhood of Aberfeldy, the Strath, with its numerous farms and small crofts, is a patch-work, a “quilted landscape,” with corn and potato fields and meadows stitched in squares, or rather, to use an image more appropriate to the locality, a continuous web of large-checked tartan laid along the bottom and slopes of the valley. Eastward, beyond Cluny, the Strath is a vast green cup filled to the brim with beauty. There the warm sun, in sheltered nooks, woos the primroses and violets out of the soil earlier than anywhere else. The hillsides are musical with freckled burns, alive with trout; and the copses that line their course are filled with hazel nuts and wild rasps and brambles, which would make a feast for Pan himself, while patriarchal trees linger on many an ancestral farm, and link the generations together, each of them a towering mass of verdant leafage, under whose cool shadow you can sit in the fervid noon with a sigh of relief, and gaze upwards as into the heights of an emerald heaven. On the wide uplands hangs nature’s own tapestry of bell-heather and broom, the purple of the one and the glowing gold of the other mixed in harmonious splendour; and here and there a little tarn—the largest, Loch Derculich, a lonely heron-haunted loch, held close to the heart of the moorland—lifts its blue eye to catch the smile of heaven.

If we are to visit every part of Perthshire, we must tear ourselves away from this characteristic antechamber{51} of Highland scenery, to the sides of which open Atholl and Breadalbane. So let us take leave of the Tay, under its own name, by passing up the last reach of avenue-like road from Aberfeldy to the policies of Taymouth, where it breaks full-born from its lake reservoir. Should we have come from Logierait by road or rail on the south side, we may well be tempted to turn back by the north bank of the noble river, a way which leads us on the rough edges of Atholl.{52}



The Atholl monument at the confluence of the Tay and the Tummel reminds us how we are fairly in Atholl, which indeed comes down to Dunkeld. One can hardly fix the precise bounds of this old province, at one time of such importance that it became an estate of the Crown; its name, too, is said to come from a Pictish king. It may be roughly defined as the northern part of Highland Perthshire, the glen basins on the Tay’s left bank, lying below a stretch of the Grampians by which it is shut off from Braemar and Deeside. Its central valley is Glengarry, up which runs the Highland Railway, till, at the height of nearly 1500 feet, passing from Perth into Inverness, this main stream of traffic dips by the Boar of Badenoch and the Sow of Atholl down the basin of the Spey, where Badenoch was once as signalised a name as Atholl.

This maze of mountains, glens and waters, studded with spots of delight and scenes of fame, may be called the heart of the show Highlands, or at least one lobe of its heart, for tourist circulation, the other being the{53} Trossachs and Loch Lomond neighbourhood, where also hotels and hydropathics are now more common than castles and clachans. Dunkeld is its city of old renown; Blair Atholl is the Versailles of its duke; but the present-day capital of the tourist domain seems to be Pitlochrie, a smart young town that was an offshoot of Moulin, whose Black Castle stands in ruin, haunted by dim memories as the Wolf of Badenoch’s lair, and by a more gloomy tradition that it once served as a plague-house, so that its infected stones escaped the fate of being used as a quarry. All the lions about Pitlochrie are so familiar to guide-books and their patrons, that I need hardly even name them: the pyramid of Ben Vrackie, with its grand and easily won prospects; the Pass of Killiecrankie, where in a few minutes of fierce onset the Protestant succession in Scotland had nearly been throttled; the wooded and parked sides of Glen Garry; the ducal demesne of Blair; the Falls of Bruar, glorified by Burns; the dark ravines of Glen Tilt leading up to the guarded wilds of the Great Atholl Deer Forest; with many a fall and spout and foaming chasm, more or less renowned, unless for the want of public access and of a sacred bard less discreet than he who kept the secrets of “picture-like beauty, seclusion sublime.”

There is a stream,—(I name not its name, lest inquisitive tourist
Hunt it, and make it a lion, and get it at last into guide-books,)
Springing far off from a loch unexplored in the folds of great mountains,
Falling two miles through rowan and stunted alder, enveloped
Then for four more in a forest of pine ... attaining a basin
Ten feet wide and eighteen long, with whiteness and fury{54}
Occupied partly, but mostly pellucid, pure, a mirror;
Beautiful there for the colour derived from green rocks under;
Beautiful, most of all, where beads of foam uprising
Mingle their clouds of white with the delicate hue of the stillness.
Cliff over cliff for its sides, with rowan and pendent birch-boughs,
Here it lies, unthought of above at the bridge and pathway,
Still more concealed from below by wood and rocky projection,
You are shut in, left alone with yourself and perfection of water,
Hid on all sides, left alone with yourself and the goddess of bathing.

Clough, who sets his heroes to “verify Black,” leaves his own principal scene not clearly identified, which one guesses at as somewhere on the western edge of Atholl. The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich itself lay far in the Western Highlands; but was it not in Rannoch that Philip met his first charmer? Towards this region we turn on the other side of Pitlochrie, where open the softer scenes of the Tummel, its Falls that pour over almost the central boss of Scotland, its lovely swelling into a lake, the thinning and roughening of its valley below the head of Schiehallion, as it rises to Loch Rannoch, a long sheet of water darkening under fragments of the Black Wood, and reaching up to the barren moor of Rannoch, most desolate region in Britain. This was once shaded by that great Caledonian Forest, of gloomy renown in mediæval romance, where Ariosto brings one of his heroes, following tracks of Arthur, Lancelot and Gawaine—

In those woods he might be sure
Many and strange adventures would be found,
But deeds, there wrought, were, like the place, obscure,
And, for the greater part, not bruited round.

Here meet the borders of Perth, Argyll, and Inverness; and this wilderness must often have been wet by{55} the blood of plaided warriors if not of mailed knight-errants. In our time, I am told, a lad fishing in one of the Rannoch lochs brought up a rusty sword to confirm the local legend of a meeting between Atholl and Lochiel to discuss a boundary dispute. Each chief was to come unattended; but each, like Roderick Dhu, had a force of clansmen hidden close at hand. When they got to hot words, Atholl first gave the signal, at which—

Instant from copse and heath, arose,
Bonnets and spears and bended bows.

“These are Atholl wethers!” was their proud chief’s explanation, to which Lochiel replied by whistling up a troop of Camerons, whom he introduced as “Lochaber dogs.” But before it went beyond showing teeth the rivals drew upon that Caledonian prudence often found mingled with hot Highland blood. They agreed to settle their difference peacefully, in token whereof their claymores were hurled together, like Excalibur, into the dark waters of the mere.

In my own youth, this region still seemed a hunting-ground for adventurous experience. It is nearly half a century ago that I started out to walk through Atholl with some vague idea of roaming farther. From morn to eve I tramped on from Stanley, and got the length of Blair, some ten leagues. But a boy’s will, one knows, is the wind’s will: I found a train due at Blair, and took it home, I no longer remember why, unless that the day was hot and dusty, as it may well be on this sunny side of the Grampians, where, as a local guide-book puts it, the rain-clouds are apt to “have the bottom{56} knocked out of them by the mountain peaks” fencing Atholl towards the Atlantic. But that fiasco of a walking tour I turned to account by writing a description, which I had the temerity to send to a London magazine. Strange to say, it found favour with the editor, perhaps because—heaven forgive me!—it was spiced by an affectation of Cockney jocularity as the point of view; and so appeared my first magazine article, which now, after many years, strikes me with shame and confusion. How many sympathetic authors might tell the same tale of callow efforts that filled them with pride to appear in print, but the day came when they would gladly have repaid tenfold that once welcome cheque, could they but cancel those pages, which at least may have the luck to blush unseen in some cobwebbed volume!

Coming back to Atholl after many days, my pen hopes to be guided in writing its name consistently. In my spelling days, it would be rather Athole and Argyle; but the ducal lords of these regions seem to have set a fashion for the double ll. Also, by the light of nature, I pronounce the first syllable long and broad, as Awtholl, whereas those of more picked speech say Ahtholl, which is easier to say than to sing. As to the spelling, Wordsworth appears to follow an older form—

Among the hills of Athol was he born.

Was he, though? The poet makes no doubt of it. “The Boy of whom I speak,” came from a “native glen” among “Garry’s hills,” where his parents, though “exceeding poor,” had a “small hereditary farm.” This son of an Atholl bonnet-laird had duly gone “equipped{57}

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with satchel to a school,” and so well improved his opportunities of elementary education that in old age he was able “with an eye of scorn” to turn over the leaves of Voltaire in the original. He had a thorough Caledonian respect for the Sabbath, and for

Those godly men
Who swept from Scotland, in a flame of zeal,
Shrine, altar, image.

He even refused “wine and stouter cheer,” when offered by a fellow Atholman, who must have unlearned the native teetotalism while serving abroad—

Chaplain to a military troop
Cheered by the Highland bagpipe, as they marched
In plaided vest.

It may be more by good luck than good guidance that the poet does not try for a stroke of local colour in letting his abstinent hero sit down to a supper of “Atholl Brose.” The above hints of character, which will be recognised by patient Excursionists, go to show how Daddy Wordsworth, though he had the advantage of a visit to the Atholl Highlands, made the common English mistake about their inhabitants. John Bull will not understand how Scotland is inhabited by two different stocks, whose differences were much less blended in that Wanderer’s youth. It could then be said that the Sabbath had not yet got above the Pass of Killiecrankie; and it will be remembered how the Captain of Knockdunder proposed to deal with any “sincere professor” who scrupled to join in a unanimous call to whatever pastor pleased the duke and his deputy. Even in the{58} poet’s day nobody seems to have rebuked him when he drove his poor beast along Highland roads on Sunday. An Atholl man’s clearest memory of Covenanters would be the check given to the victors of Killiecrankie when Cleland’s Cameronians held Dunkeld against those ex-oppressors of “godly” Whigs. The most “moderate” Presbyterian ministers had sometimes to be inducted by force in the Highlands, where still many of the people cling to the old faith. The Sandemanians sent missionaries into Atholl, who were received with indifference or ridicule; it was only two generations later that such evangelical gospellers as J. A. Haldane and Rowland Hill succeeded in blowing up, through the far North, a new flame of Calvinist enthusiasm, which in our time has turned this end of Scotland into a sanctuary for strict Sabbatarianism, much relaxed among city folk and even among the descendants of westland Whigs.

The Highlanders of the old dispensation had virtues of their own, but the poet was much left to himself when he conceived Glengarry as cradle for his idealised Scot, brought up among such a good Presbyterian family as would be more at home in the Cottar’s Saturday Night upon the Carrick border—a picture quoted in full by Gilpin as an illustration of Highland manners!

Pure livers were they all, austere and grave,
And fearing God, the very children taught
Stern self-respect, a reverence for God’s word,
And an habitual piety, maintained
With strictness scarcely known on English ground.

The plain truth is that Wordsworth here was for confusing oil and vinegar. He had heard at school of a{59} Drummond Jacobite exile who took asylum among the Lakes; and there he must often have met Scottish pedlars; then he indiscriminately “combined his information,” perhaps led astray by Walter Scott’s glorification of the Highlands. Behind the Highland line, where a tourist with a knapsack has in our time been hailed as a pedlar, there went about of old such itinerant dealers, who seem to have borne a quasi-sacred character when some such safe-conduct was much needed; but they, like Bryce Snailsfoot, were more apt to be canny Lowlanders, and so little of teetotallers that, as Scott tells us, “the chapman’s drouth” was a sly proverb in Scotland, where a colporteur of tracts could praise the “continual mercy” of a dram at every farm. In England the pedlar’s trade was so much in the hands of Scots—at one time counted by thousands across the Border—that these two titles to somewhat qualified respect appear to have become almost synonymous at the time when Wordsworth’s pedlar was laying up his little fortune. Instances of this may be found in that curious novel, The Spiritual Quixote, showing how a young gentleman who took to Methodist preaching passed among Derbyshire countryfolk as a “Scotch pedlar,” or simply as “a travelling Scotchman”; while in chapbooks of the period a “rider” is the term for that more exalted emissary of commerce who came to be a “traveller” par excellence, or a “drummer” in the figurative language of America. “Traveller” would hardly suit such an one in Scotland, where to “travel” implies specially the use of Shanks’ Naigie. Both in England and Scotland those packmen were sometimes looked on with suspicion by the authorities, accused of being political{60} agitators as well as newsmongers, and, later on, of diffusing irreligious publications. On the Continent, also, Scots sought their fortune as pedlars, when no longer in such demand as soldiers.

Every one does not know how the Scottish pedlar has left heirs of direct succession in our day of stores and bargain sales. Quiet houses in certain streets of London that look down on open shops, would be found to have their back rooms full of drapery goods for hawking about at area doors or to working-men’s wives, cajolable into making purchases on credit which may ruin domestic peace. These tempters of humble Eves are likely to be Scots of the baser sort, and I venture to guess them as Lowlanders; they are said to be chiefly recruited in Galloway. Their dubious business is popularly known as the Scotch trade; and this seems to be responsible for keeping asmoulder among the lower classes such prejudices against the Scot as were fanned by Wilkes and Johnson, unequally yoked together in one antipathy. In Scotland, where the law is less hard-hearted and customers are more hard-headed, the “Scotch trade” does not now flourish; it is one thing Scottish which we need not be proud of bringing into England. Of course, there was a time when the northern pedlar played a useful and grateful part, as he tramped about out-of-the-way countrysides with his burden of wares and gossip—

A lone pedestrian with a scanty freight,
Wished-for, or welcome, wheresoe’er he came
Among the tenantry of thorpe and vill.

But I would bet all Whiteley’s stock against the poet{61} laureate’s butt of sherry, that Wordsworth’s Wanderer spake not with the accent of Atholl but of Paisley or Kirkcudbright.

Having thus criticised an English poet, I venture to raise some doubt as to whether a native school of minstrels had gone deep into the matter, when they made lads with the philibeg come down from Atholl, chanting such ditties as—

The crown was half on Charlie’s head,
Ae gladsome day, ae gladsome day;
The lads that shouted joy to him,
Are in the clay, are in the clay.

The Atholl men had been notably full of fight in older days: when Mackay’s bayonets were swept away at Killiecrankie, they no doubt took keen part in the chase; and in the ’15 they gave their quota of slippery recruits to Mar’s army at Perth. Not that even then all tartans, nor all fellow-clansmen, were under the same standard. At Killiecrankie a chasm bears the name of the Soldier’s Leap, the tradition about it being that a Highlander of Mackay’s army, flying before his own brother’s claymore, sprang nearly a dozen feet from rock to rock, and, when thus put in safety, jeeringly flung back his snuff-mull to the pursuer as a fraternal farewell. In the upper ranks of clandom such oppositions were more marked. When Dundee marched to Killiecrankie, Blair Castle was defended against the Revolution by a Jacobite factor, while the shifty Marquis of Atholl took the Bath waters as excuse for being out of the way. The first duke intrigued with the Jacobites, but proclaimed King George; then his heir having been attainted for{62} loyalty to the Old Pretender, a younger son, James, held the dukedom, who in the ’45 could not but stand by the House of Hanover, or at least kept himself snug in London, while three of his brothers were out for Prince Charlie. There were notable instances at that time of father and son, husband and wife, taking opposite sides; sometimes, it is understood, by politic arrangement through which, in any case, the estate might be kept in the family. There would also be the case of rival claimants to chieftainship, like that one who provoked Fergus MacIvor’s ambition.

What with the puzzling division of opinion among their chiefs, and with a growing civilisation beside the Lowland border, the Atholl men might well halt between two opinions; and many of them had no more mind to die for Prince Charlie than for the “German lairdie.” The exiled Duke William, on the retreat to Culloden, turned out some couple of hundred men only by the strong measure of burning their houses over their heads. Lord George Murray, making a raid into his own country, gathered another force by sending round the Fiery Cross, for the last time on record, according to Mr. Walter Blaikie; but the heather thus set on fire soon smouldered out. The tenant of a snug farm in Strath Tay or Strath Tummel, within reach of market towns, had been somewhat fattened out of the ancestral taste for bloodshed, and was more inclined to look on at a game now played by professionals. But in such a time of transition, would-be spectators could not yet look on at ease, like the newspaper audiences of our distant wars. A good deal of plundering and burning came about,{63} requisitioning of horses and vivers on both sides, both alike in a want of pay, when men were pressed into the service of one or the other, sometimes of both in turn, then naturally took the first excuse to desert.

Here is one specimen of the seamy side in that last romantic episode of our history. Its prosaic hero was a Glenalmond farmer, one Gregor Macgregor, who, his own clan being proscribed, had taken the name of Murray on coming under the patronage of Atholl. Arrested as a rebel after Culloden, from the Dunkeld tolbooth he pitifully makes affidavit, that may or may not be the whole truth, but represents the straits to which many Atholl men would be put in times to try men’s souls, and also their speculating judgment. He declares that, as a peaceable subject and a faithful tenant, he raised a force of his neighbours to join Cope’s army, with which he marched north for several days, “each living on his own pocket,” till the deponent for one was reduced to a sixpence, and no more pay being forthcoming, “the men withdrew and dispersed themselves.” He then lived quietly at home “till attacked” by Duke William, “who, as the elder brother assuming a right to us, made several insinuations and we as many refusals; at length threatened with military executions and devastation, I, to eschew these impendent threatenings, took up arms and witnessed the raising of the men, and with reluctancy marched, and all the journey was to Crieff, about two miles from our own country, where we gradually dispersed.” When “orders upon orders came to raise and rally again ... so often did we at times make a show and at other times wink at.” Duke William, coming by once more after{64} Falkirk, “set us again on foot, and in a march for Perth; where I gave it as advice every man to make way for himself, upon which we again dispersed and ever since continue peaceably at home. And when His Gr/s orders were issued to bring in all our arms in or before 24 Feb. current, my resolution was and can be made appear, I intended to obey that day. But was intercepted by a party on the 22,”—and so unworthily lie in prison, who deserve rather reward from the winning side.

Other Perthshire lairds had the same complaint to make of their tenants as wanting in chivalry at this time; and several legal depositions might be quoted to show what force was put upon such reluctant warriors. The ladies of Jacobite families seem to have been especially active in sticking white cockades “into the bonnets of such as would allow them.” It was easy for the minstrel of Gask to make Charlie a darling in retrospect; but he may well have seemed a nuisance to tenants whom the Lady Nairne of the ’45 is described as ordering to turn out on pain of eviction and seizure of their cattle; and the Duchess of Perth abused the Whiggish Crieff folk as “d—d Judases to their master, the Duke.” At farm towns, as well as kirk towns, men were now beginning to question hereditary masterships. Of course unwillingness to take arms on the beaten side would be made the most of immediately after the Rebellion; but it seems to have been quite as genuine a sentiment as that of the ladies and gentlemen who in our day sing so sweetly of dying for the young Chevalier, not to speak of stronger enthusiasts who have devised a postage-stamp bearing the{65}

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effigy of the Bavarian princess they recognise as their legitimate sovereign—with which, indeed, “for the sake of practical convenience,” they are advised to use also the head of “the Lord Edward,” turned upside down.

Civil war brought sufferings in high as well as in low life, when Lord George Murray besieged his own ancestral seat of Blair, garrisoned by English soldiers, and tried to set it on fire with red-hot balls, but had to make off towards Culloden. He, who had taken part in all the Jacobite movements of the century, escaped to die in France; and his son eventually succeeded to the dukedom. Less fortunate was poor Duke William, the eldest brother, who bore the second title of the family, while the Pretender decked him with a vain dukedom of Rannoch. He died in the Tower, betrayed for a reward of a thousand pounds by a Scot who earned also the scorn of the English officers concerned. Lord George, the best soldier of the Prince’s army, got little enough gratitude from the master who frowned on him in their common adversity. All along he seems to have been much distrusted by his own party; and his fame has not always fared better with posterity, though now well-armed champions come forward to clear his memory from such charges as the “no quarter” order at Culloden.

Duke James, who throve at the expense of his brothers, did not play a very heroic part at this time, appearing on the scene only in the Duke of Cumberland’s tail, to find his castle half ruined by that siege; then, perhaps at a hint from Government, he dismantled its fortifications, turning it into a château. But that second duke cuts a misty figure as possible hero of romance, the{66} heroine, in real life, being a rich Hammersmith widow whom he married. To this couple’s wooing is attributed the well-known song of “Huntingtower,” a Scottish variant of the “Nut Brown Maid” and of Prior’s “Henry and Emma,” in which, after representing himself as poor, a married man with three children, and a gay deceiver, the lover declares that he has been only trying the lady’s heart—“And all that’s mine is thine, lassie.”

Except “St. Johnston’s Bower,” thrown in for rhyme, the properties enumerated in the song did belong to the Duke of Atholl; this Duke seems the only “Jamie” of the race; and his first bride was a Jean. But this must in any case be a much idealised account of a courtship, probably carried on more by means of lawyers’ settlements than of sentimental duets. A more clear case of romance, turned the other way out, seems to be that the Duke’s second wife, Jean Drummond, had jilted a less eligible lover, Dr. Austin, who revenged himself by the song, “For lack of gold she left me O!” but eventually, in marrying another lady of rank, found consolation for the heart-breaking of what is also an old story:

She me forsook for a great Duke,
And to endless woe she has left me O!
A star and garter have more art
Than youth, a true and faithful heart;
For empty titles we must part—
For glittering show she has left me O!

Murray, the Atholl duke’s family name, on to which have been grafted two of Perthshire’s proudest titles, is an exotic here, like the larches that, the earliest on British{67} soil, were transplanted from Tirol to Dunkeld; and, indeed, the same thing may be said of several great Highland families, no more autochthonous in their present habitat than a brick suburb on a chalky soil. The presumed Murray ancestor is said to have been a Flemish knight, who, like other foreign adventurers, set up a Scottish house in the service of feudalising kings. If he took his name from Moray, it was not in this region that his family struck deep root. The historical earls of Moray bore other names, while in the upsetting time of Bruce and Baliol, the Murrays are seen gaining charters on the Forth and the Clyde; then presently they have crept northwards into Strathearn, and under the James reigns came to be firmly seated in the Perthshire Highlands, overlaying there the royal name of Stewart, that also had spread from the south. The Atholl earldom they got by marriage with a Stewart. Their dukedom dates from the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the Government sought to bind in strawberry leaves several of those Highland Samsons.

At that time the Duke of Atholl seemed the most powerful of them all. In 1715 he was reckoned as having 6000 claymores at his call, as many as the two great Campbell families put together; but the call behoved to be against the Government, for most of the clan followed his sons in intermittent service of the Pretender. Through their chief taking the prosaic side, or through the growth of new conditions of life, by 1745 his influence had shrunk so that his following was estimated as having fallen by a half; then, as we have seen, it did not rise heartily either at his bidding, or at his Jacobite{68} brother’s. There seems hint of a reason for this in the fact that Lord George Murray’s own regiment was counted not among the Highland but the Lowland contingent of Prince Charlie’s army; then a recently published official report, written 1750, on the state of the clans, hardly mentions Atholl, treating it rather as brought to Lowland law and order. Leases, as once charters, came to be a solvent for the old adhesiveness of clan life.

Not only in Scotland was Atholl’s Duke a great man. By the spindle side, he inherited the Derby Earl’s kingship of the Isle of Man, a too pretentious title abridged to that of Lord, and finally sold to the Crown for nearly half a million in all, which went to tame and adorn Atholl. When claymores could be beaten into ploughshares, the dukes were not behind other great Highland proprietors in improving their estate, turning robbers’ lairs into snug farms, the camps of turbulent chieftains into trim parks, and covering the bare glens with lordly plantations, among which tens of thousands of trees came to be blown down by that storm that wrecked the Tay Bridge. One of those dukes is said to have planted trees by the million. At the same time they cultivated what may be called an ornamental Highland feeling; and if nowadays they are not so wealthy as British nobles enriched from City moneybags or American pork butcheries, they have a considerable holding in sentimental loyalty not wholly uprooted by sheriff courts and railways. An hereditary taste for sport helped to win the hearts of a people cherishing so much of their ancestral instincts, while efforts to keep the northern wilds of Atholl as a deer forest rather than a tourist ground did not go to gild this coronet in the eyes{69} of Southerners. The most outstanding of the race in our times was that Duke of the Victoria and Albert days, of whom hard things were said in newspapers when he tried to shut up Glen Tilt. In Bonnie Scotland I echoed those revilings, so now, per contra, let me quote Dr. John Brown’s appreciation of this last of the Highland chiefs.

He was a living, a strenuous protest in perpetual kilt against the civilisation, the taming, the softening of mankind. He was essentially wild. His virtues were those of human nature in the rough and unreclaimed, open and unsubdued as the Moor of Rannoch. He was a true autochthon, terrigena,—a son of the soil,—as rich in local colour, as rough in the legs, and as hot at the heart, as prompt and hardy, as heathery as a gorcock. Courage, endurance, staunchness, fidelity and warmth of heart, simplicity, and downrightness were his staples; and with them he attained to a power in his own region and among his own people quite singular. The secret of this was his truth and his pluck, his kindliness and his constancy. Other noblemen put on the kilt at the season, and do their best to embrown their smooth knees for six weeks, returning them to trousers and to town; he lived in his kilt all the year long, and often slept soundly in it and his plaid among the brackens; and not sparing himself, he spared none of his men or friends—it was the rigour of the game—it was Devil take the hindmost. Up at all hours, out all day and all night, often without food—with nothing but the unfailing pipe—there he was, stalking the deer in Glen Tilt or across the Gaick moors, or rousing before daybreak the undaunted otter among the alders of the Earn, the Isla, or the Almond; and if in his pursuit, which was fell as any hound’s, he got his hand into the otter’s grip, and had its keen teeth meeting in his palm, he let it have its will till the pack came up,—no flinching, almost as if without the sense of pain. It was this gameness and thoroughness in whatever he was about that charmed his people—charmed his very dogs; and so it should.... But he was not only a{70} great hunter, and an organiser and vitaliser of hunting, he was a great breeder. He lived at home, was himself a farmer, and knew all his farmers and all their men; had lain out at nights on the Badenoch heights with them, and sat in their bothies and smoked with them the familiar pipe. But he also was, as we have said, a thorough breeder, especially of Ayrshire cattle. It was quite touching to see this fierce, restless, intense man—impiger, acer, iracundus—at the great Battersea show doating upon and doing everything for his meek-eyed, fine-limbed, sweet-breathed kine.

Besides doing much to stock his domain with the best cattle honestly come by, this duke fell in with the fashion set by his royal mistress in keeping up its Highland character and sentiment. A German visitor, Herr Brand, took a note how tartans had faded out of Scotland, except in the case of soldiers; but he modified that statement when he got the length of Blair and came in for the Atholl Gathering, to see a whole regiment of the duke’s dependents, gamekeepers, gardeners, herds and the like, paraded for this holiday occasion as kilted Highlanders. The Atholl men can even claim to have added a new feature to the Highland dress, by the Glengarry cap worn in the army, which has almost entirely replaced the old broad bonnet and the “Balmorals” of my youth. But if Fergus McIvor could have risen from his grave to behold an Atholl Gathering, what would have most amazed him would be the fact of the duke’s honorary bodyguard being captained by a Robertson of Struan.

The Robertsons, for all their Lowland-sounding name, were the oldest and once the proudest clan known to history as seated in those glens, their chiefs holding princedom over Atholl before Murrays had pushed themselves{71} across the Highland line. They own to being sprung out of the MacDonalds, but from the chieftain of a vigorous offshoot they called themselves Clan Donnachie, sons of Duncan. This hero was a comrade and favourite of Robert Bruce, who no doubt stood godfather to his son, then the name came to be anglicised as Robertson. To King James’s wit is ascribed a saying that while all the other sons—Wilsons, Watsons, Thomsons and so on—were carles’ sons, the Struan Robertsons were gentlemen. They were ignorant Parisians who, at a later date, mistook the chef of Clan Donnachie for a cook.

Along with other clans, this one came into fresh favour with the Crown by lending a hand to apprehend the murderers of James I. Then by obscure defeats, mistakes, and turns of fortune, Clan Donnachie in turn lost its pre-eminence in Perthshire. In 1745 it still counted some hundreds of claymores; and perhaps Scott had it in his eye as a prototype of the MacIvors, divided by a frequent contention as to headship. Now, while their name is as widely scattered over the world as that of any other Highland stock, most of them have half forgotten their Highland descent, and a melancholy burial-place at Dunalaister, near Loch Rannoch, is the monument of their old glory, in a country where Struan has become best known as a link of tourist travel, and another seat of their chief, at the farther end of the lake, is or was styled The Barracks, as having been built for the soldiers of King George.

The most notable member of this stock in modern times was that Alexander Robertson, whose memory gave Scott one model for his Baron of Bradwardine, a no{72} doubt composite picture for which Lord Pitsligo is also said to have sat. This Robertson seems to have been an “original,” bearing among his neighbours the nickname “Elector of Struan,” and not quite such an honourable reputation as did Waverley’s father-in-law. He was “out” in all the Jacobite risings, from Killiecrankie to Prestonpans, yet, with intervals of exile, he managed to live jovially for the most part in his own country; and his great age in 1745 perhaps induced the Government to let him die peacefully at home a few years later, when his funeral was attended by two thousand mourners on a march of a dozen long miles. His heir, indeed, had some of the woeful experiences of lurking out of the way of capture, as described in Waverley. The old laird was in more danger from bailiffs, against whose invasions he had the passes guarded, and once got into trouble with the law through his “tail” having stripped one of these venturesome enemies and ducked him almost to death. He was a poet and a scholar as well as a warrior, who in his youth had run away from St. Andrews University to join Dundee. His verses are hardly remembered now, unless for those specimens of classical translation put by Scott into the Baron’s mouth.

Cruel love has garter’d low my leg,
And clad my hurdies in a philabeg.

Also his vernacular rendering of Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer

A fiery etter-cap, a fractious chiel,
As het as ginger, and as stieve as steel.

—which may have been a fair description of the poet’s{73}

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own personality, when sober. Much of his verse was not fit for publication, his Muse being evidently nursed more on brandy and claret than on the midnight oil. A little volume published in his name a few years after his death, contains a good deal of Strephon, Damon, and such-like, with other hints of classical inspiration, but also religious pieces that read as if written in headachy morning hours. He appears a mixture of pedant, soldier, and sot, whose life, prolonged over fourscore years, makes no edifying example for teetotallers.

That worthy would certainly not have stooped to serve under the Duke of Atholl, as did his descendant, of whom also Dr. John Brown speaks in warmly reminiscent terms which this “Captain of the Atholl Guard” seems to have well deserved. In my youth a rival chieftain gave himself bold advertisement, a fuliginous personage—I think he was a coal merchant by trade—who under the style of Dundonnachie, stalked about Perth in fiery tartans, and carried on raids upon the duke as to freeing the bridge of Dunkeld from toll, by which he got himself into duress vile, but was not otherwise taken very seriously.

Several old clans, beside the Robertsons, have been submerged here beneath the flood of Murraydom. The nucleus of Blair Castle is called Comyn’s Tower, and appears to have been a stronghold of the Red Comyns of Badenoch. The earldom of Atholl was long held by royal offshoots like that truculent Wolf of Badenoch, whose skeleton has lately been turned up in Dunkeld Cathedral; and their following went to dot the region with Stewart graves. Another name to be read on its{74} tombstones is Ferguson, that might claim descent from more or less mythical kings; but sons of Fergus are famed rather in the victories of peace. Their most illustrious scion is perhaps the philosophic historian Adam Ferguson, born at Logierait, though, as being a son of the manse, his root in the soil may be questionable. The Menzies appear as intruders from the South, like the Murrays; but very old inhabitants were the Mackintoshes of Glen Tilt, who exalt themselves against the Macphersons as heads of the Clan Chattan. The Macbeths are said, not by themselves, to have fallen to become helots under later lords of Atholl. Then, all over this district and far around, twinkle traditions of the Macgregors, that famous broken clan, of whom I have much to say farther on. Murray itself is a name not so common as distinguished in Perthshire; and we saw above how a farmer who had taken it along with allegiance to Atholl, was by blood a Macgregor.

In more than one foreign book one comes across a statement, the origin of which I cannot trace, that early in last century a census was made of Highland names, which brought out Macgregor at the head of the list with a numeration of 36,000. One knows not how such a count could be effectually made; and it would be surprising if this name, so long cut down by law, should have sprung up again with such dominant vitality. Signor Piovanelli, an Italian writer who quotes that estimate, tells us how he whiled away one probably wet evening of Highland travel by counting names in an Inverness Directory. The sum of his calculation was that out of a little over 4000 names, 1320 had the prefix{75} Mac, 240 being Macdonalds, but they were surpassed by 415 Frasers, a name strong in that belt of the country; and forty Alexander Frasers made the most solid phalanx of nomenclature among the Inverness citizens. Some years later Mr. A. Macbain undertook the same task more seriously, analysing the Inverness Directory in a little book which confirms the Italian tourist’s rough calculation, except as showing the Macdonalds to have gained on the Frasers; he finds the Macgregors coming in with the ruck, only 44 of them, and John beating Alexander as the commonest Christian name.

Half a century ago, “for want of other idleness,” I had counted the names in an Edinburgh Directory, and my recollection is that Robertson came out highest. I have now had a census taken in the current Edinburgh Directory, the result being that Robertson still stands top with, roughly, 500 entries. Smith, with 450, runs second, and might not be far behind if the Gows were counted in, who have kept the Gaelic form of their name. The next on the list is Thomson, including no doubt many Celtic MacTavishes; then come Lowland stocks, Browns, Andersons, and Wilsons. Stewarts or Stuarts (300) stand highest among names that nowadays seem to fit tartans, then Campbells and Macdonalds are equal (240), both a little above Murrays and Frasers, so far from the Fraser country. Most Macs make a poorer show, the Macgregors here amounting to only some 100, and other plaided names hardly deserving a place; while one is surprised to find Jamiesons not so numerous as might be expected from a long succession of royal godfathers.

In a Glasgow Directory, as might be guessed, the{76} figures come out differently. Here Brown heads the list (530), Smith a good second (500), and Stewart third (450), while Robertson has fallen to 330. Campbell (380) takes a rather higher place than in Edinburgh; Macdonalds (260) and Macgregors (130), slightly increased here, bulk less in what is, of course, a much larger population, of more miscellaneous antecedents. All those estimates are made somewhat roughly, and serve only for comparison between the prevalence of different names. On turning to a London Directory, one finds the Smiths in full pre-eminence, with a tale of nearly 1300 names, to which may be added a reinforcement of Smyths and Smythes. Brown and Jones are each about half as strong. Robertsons here have shrunk to under a hundred, who indeed might call cousins with more than 500 Robinsons and Roberts and smaller bodies of Robsons, Robins, and so forth. A slightly larger force of Stewarts and Campbells have sought fortune in the capital, where Macgregors stand at a bare two dozen. So much for the Commercial section; to more patient statisticians I leave the task of searching the Court, Professional, and Suburban Directories, and drawing a moral that may or may not appear from the number of Scottish names they find there.

It were, indeed, a labour of Hercules truly to measure Celtic nomenclature, which takes as many shapes as Proteus. My friend, Mr. D. MacRitchie, who has given much attention to such matters, tells me of his connection with the Mackintoshes, sons of a Tosh or chief, who in time came to be scattered under more aliases than a mere Sassenach can trace. One scion of it, being a Richard,{77} perpetuated his Christian name in a branch of MacRitchies who in the Lowlands might have become Dicksons. A Davidson branch is also recognised in the Highlands, who claim for their McDhai forbears the honour of having brought on that quarrel fought out on the Inch of Perth. Another got to be McTavish, from the Gaelic form of Thomas; but not to mention those who anglicised themselves outright as Thompson or Thoms, there are also MacThomases, and MacCombies, the latter from Hombie, which, it appears, is a corruption of Thomas. In fact, so liquid are Gaelic consonants that the Clan Chattan, which the Mackintoshes claim to head, is held by some philologists to bear the alias of Kay as a variant of Adam’s name, whose ancestry we could all boast without question till higher criticism came to disturb this pride. But in all questions of Highland descent we do well to “ca’canny,” as Eve was bidden by that first chief of Clan Chattan, when she seemed to be taking too large a bite at the apple. It is not alone slippery syllables we have to deal with, but the custom of whole clans being adopted or absorbed, and the frequent case of others shooting out new names to grow up about the memory of some distinguished hero, who may indeed have branded his descendants with a mark of no more dignity than the sobriquet “wry mouth,” or “crooked nose.”

Let me show by an imaginary case how hard it may be to catch the chameleon tints of Highland blood. There is a youth much at home in Perthshire, as carrying on there, and elsewhere, the highest form of sport, at which he seldom misses his aim, yet often puts his victims to a great deal of needless pain. He was well{78} known to Robertson of Struan, and quite as familiar in the Georges’ Court. He appears not to have worn the kilt, nor yet breeches, but he has as much right to a tartan and a pibroch as many Highland clans once strangers here. Now if he had settled down and founded a family in Atholl, it might have come to be known as MacEros, or Vich Venus, or FitzZeus, if he chose to hark back to the fame of his grandfather. His own birth, in strict Scottish law, should have been registered under the presumed name of MacVulcan; but Struan Robertson could tell us how there were family scandals tending to fix on him that of MacMars or MacMercury, which could be translated as FitzAres or FitzHermes; then one episode in his career might have obfuscated his descendants as MacPsyches, which, on coming to try their fortune in London, they would be well advised to translate into Cupidson; or as the Earl of Bute’s butler transposed MacCall into Almack, they might find it convenient to be known as Lovemakers, unless they took a fancy for Lovell as a name found in Perthshire, and said to be of gipsy origin. But then they never could be sure that one or other of their forbears had not found good reason for altogether changing his name, perhaps having been out in the ’45, where Cupid intrigued on both sides, if we may trust Captain Waverley’s experiences.

Should the reader sniff at this flight of mine, let him know how it is all taken on a single feather stolen from Sir Walter’s wing, who in the famous romance that has Atholl for one of its scenes, makes the prejudiced English colonel own that he “could not have endured Venus{79} herself if she had been announced in a drawing-room by the name of Miss MacJupiter.” The history of Olympus, as of Atholl, is a little obscure; but its celestial tartan, too, seems to have been a chequer of jealousies and kisses, feuds and favours, with revolution as the most outstanding stripe in the pattern. And those who suffer under the thunderbolts and vulture beaks of the present, have always looked fondly back to a golden age, when everything went well under the chieftainship of some Saturn whose origin is lost in distance along with any unlovely traits of conduct, such as dethroning his father or swallowing his own children.{80}



By Loch Tay we pass into Breadalbane, that Broad Albin of hill and vale where many names have struggled for a mastery falling to the clan whose Highland mettle was best tempered by Lowland canniness. While the senior branch of the house of Campbell spread its tartans to the west and along the Clyde, cadets of the same stock pushed north-eastward from Kilchurn Castle into Perthshire, there to take firm root like the foreign trees it planted on the Tay. Among the names overshadowed or displaced was that of forbears of mine, on whose behalf, however, I have no blood feud against the Campbells, the dealings between them seeming to have been fair sale and purchase, as was not always the way in old Breadalbane.

It was pointed out, in The Highlands and Islands, how this politic clan throve in love as in war, by prudent marriages as well as by noting which way the wind of the time blew. Sir Colin Campbell, the founder of the Perthshire house, had four wives, the first of royal blood, the second a Stewart of Lorne, the third a Robertson of Struan, the fourth a Stirling of Keir; and to their{81}

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tochers was added a royal grant of land on Loch Tay, in reward for his helping to arrest the murderers of James I. A century after his death, another Sir Colin built himself a castle at the foot of Loch Tay, then called Balloch, the easternmost border of his property, with the view, it is said, of making this a new centre of extension. Legend has it that the site was fixed where first the chief heard a mavis sing. His son, “Black Duncan,” built or rebuilt several other houses at a time when house property was becoming a safe investment. He was a man of some culture, even suspected of authorship; and in his long lairdship was written, apparently by his grandson’s tutor, that family chronicle, the Black Book of Taymouth, that has been copied by the Red Books and White Books compiled at a later time for other families.

“Black Duncan,” for all his dark repute, seems to have been a missionary of civilisation, who both built and planted, as shown by old chestnut and walnut trees now adorning his domain. He was made one of James’s baronets of Nova Scotia. His son Colin appears in the novel character of a Highland patron of art, employing George Jameson to execute family portraits still preserved. Twenty marks for a half-length was the charge of this artist, the first famous portrait-painter, not only of Scotland, but of Britain, who is believed to have studied under Rubens at Antwerp, with Vandyck as fellow-pupil.

The alliances of the Perthshire Campbells went on with noble and lairdly houses; and their wealth paved the way to peerage, while they came to look on themselves as an independent stock; yet in 1633, the head of the Breadalbane branch is found addressing Lorne as his{82} “lord and chief,” and getting back the style of “cousin.” Under Charles II. Sir John Campbell secured a reversion to the title and lands of the Caithness Earl, whose widow he married to “mak’ siccar.” But on the Earl’s death a right Sinclair arose to dispute this settlement; and the Breadalbane men marched all the way to Caithness on that private invasion already mentioned in Bonnie Scotland. The Sinclairs got the worst of it in the field; but the law pronounced against the Campbell baronet’s claim, who was consoled by the new titles, Earl of Breadalbane and Holland, Viscount Tay, Lord Ormelie and Glenorchy, with other lordships thrown into the lump of dignity.

This was the politician, “as sly as a fox, wise as a serpent, and slippery as an eel,” who earned an evil name for himself through his part in the Glencoe massacre, carried out by his vassal, Campbell of Glenlyon. King William’s Government had placed in his hands the large sum—when there was not a million of money in all Scotland—of £20,000, to be spent in pacifying the Highlands, which he accounted for in this offhand manner: “The Highlands are quiet; the money is spent; and that is the best way of accounting among friends.” Yet William’s agent lived to turn out his clan for the Pretender, in 1715, when they came to blows with their kinsmen of Argyll. In the ’45, however, the next Lord Breadalbane threw his influence on the Hanoverian side, though some of the Perthshire Campbells joined Prince Charlie. This earl, like the contemporary Duke of Atholl, was the second son; the elder, Lord Ormelie, having been set aside from the succession, apparently as weak-minded.{83}

The direct line of Breadalbane died out in George III.’s reign with the third earl, whose son, Lord Glenorchy, had predeceased him, leaving a widow, known, like the Countess of Huntingdon, as a patroness of evangelical preachers, who came to end her life at Matlock. For an heir, the family had to cast back more than a century to one of the collateral branches. Campbell of Carwhin, who succeeded to the earldom in 1782, at the age of twenty, had a long and prosperous tenure, swelling the family wealth by his marriage with a great Scottish heiress. She was daughter of David Gavin, whose father, a poor Angus weaver, had lamented over the son as not taking to his own trade, consorting rather with smugglers, Dutchmen, and such-like; but the family ne’er-do-weel, drifting abroad, made a princely fortune at Hamburg, and came back to set up as a Berwickshire laird.

This accession of wealth the earl used in carrying out improvements on his large property, adding to it, and building the modern Taymouth Castle. At William IV.’s coronation he was raised to the marquisate. His son, the second marquis, could boast of being able to ride a hundred miles on his own land westward, for, after all, it was towards their native seas that the Campbells stretched out, getting no farther inland than Aberfeldy, beyond the St. Petersburg of their possessions. He it was who in 1842 sumptuously entertained Queen Victoria at Taymouth, when she seems to have caught that love of the Highlands that went so far to set a fashion, delighted with the display of kilts, reels, and pipers, in a blaze of torchlight and a din of loyal salvos. Lord Breadalbane then kept a prince of pipers, John Mackenzie,{84} to whom he communicated the Queen’s wish to find for her own service such an one as himself. “Impossible, my lord!” was the proud musician’s answer.

The second marquis, who, while Lord Ormelie, had sat in the Reformed Parliament as a Whig, lived in esteem and prosperity till 1862, but would perhaps have given up half his possessions for a son. At his death, the new marquisate became extinct; and once more the clan had to look back some generations for an heir to the estate and the earldom, this time with appeal to law in a trial not yet forgotten. There were popularly said to be some fourscore competitors for the prize. One of them was a schoolfellow of mine, who invited me to Taymouth, when he should come into his kingdom, but that hospitality fell through. The real contest lay between Campbell of Glenfalloch and Campbell of Boreland, both descended from the nearest collateral, a Glenfalloch who died 1791. The question arose in the liberal view of Scots law as to proof of marriage. The elder son, while a subaltern in an English regiment, had eloped with the wife of one Christopher Ludlow, grocer and apothecary at Chipping Sodbury. This husband died three years later, both before and after which date the lady had marched with Campbell’s regiment as his wife. Her son, through whom the claim descended, was born after she became legally free to marry again; and the dispute mainly turned upon this delicate point: whether a union begun in adultery could be confirmed by the usual evidence of habit and repute marriage. It was shown that the lady had been received at Glenfalloch as the heir’s wife, that she had drawn a pension as his widow when he died Quartermaster{85} of the Breadalbane Fencibles, and, what seemed much to the purpose, that the younger branch had not contested her son’s legitimacy as heir of Glenfalloch, nor till the tempting prize of the Breadalbane succession came in view. On these grounds, the Courts presumed that eloping couple to have taken themselves as husband and wife, so taken by the world in their lifetime: then their descendant must be recognised head of the family.

The successful claimant gained the old earldom, the marquisate becoming extinct, but it was revived in the person of his son, who married a daughter of the house of Montrose, hereditary enemy of his race. He now has reigned for a generation at Taymouth Castle, one of the noblest Scottish seats, among finely planted grounds and gardens, where, but for the mountain background, one would hardly believe oneself in the Highlands. The neat model village of Kenmore also suggests anything but a Highland clachan. Some critics, indeed, have found fault with the glories of Taymouth as out of keeping—“an artificial and drilled scene that seems to have been modelled in a toyshop and transplanted hither by a chain and a theodolite”; and the celebration of them in Burns’s verse shows his Muse for the nonce in her Sunday clothes, cut after the prevalent fashion. At least, most of the “Temples” and such-like have disappeared, with which this oasis of grandeur was once adorned, after a model shown in Kew Gardens and elsewhere by the “Capability” Browns, Chamberses, Reptons, and other “improvers” of nature in the Georgian period. More at home seem the ruins of a Priory hidden among old sycamore trees, on a small island in the lake, where the{86} Campbells had a castle of refuge, bombarded from the shore by Montrose as he swept through the Highlands. General Monk’s soldiery were quartered on this island, and have the traditional credit of teaching the natives to smoke tobacco; but snuffing, at least, was older in the Highlands.

It is whispered that the lord of this lake does not trust himself on the water that, according to old prophecy, is to be fatal to a Breadalbane. But for undoomed strangers a tourist steamer plies on Loch Tay, “an immense plate of polished silver, its dark heathy mountains and thickets of oak serving as arabesque frame to a magnificent mirror.” Like the other Perthshire lakes, this is a deep trough set in slopes furrowed by affluents of what appears a broad river fifteen miles long. Loch Tay’s banks are well wooded and cultivated on the south side, while the north shows more truly Highland features, “a clan of Titans,” as Scott calls them, commanded by “the frowning mountains of Ben Lawers, and the still more lofty eminence of Ben Mhor, arising high above the rest, whose peaks retain a dazzling helmet of snow far into the summer season, and sometimes during the whole year.” Ben Lawers is now recognised as the chieftain of Perthshire summits, only a few hundred feet short of Ben Nevis. From the lake this is easily ascended for what Macculloch extols as the most varied and far-reaching Highland prospect.

To the south, we look down on the lake, with all its miniature ornament of woods and fields, terminating westward in the rich vale of Killin, and uniting eastward with the splendour of Strath Tay, stretching away till its ornaments almost vanish{87} among the hills and in the fading tints of the atmosphere. Beyond the lake the successive ridges of hills lead the eye over Strathearn, which is, however, invisible, to the Ochills and the Campsie, and hence, even to Edinburgh; the details of this quarter, from Perth, being unexpectedly perfect and minute, and at the same time well indicated by the marked characters of the Lowmont hills. The place of Dunkeld and the peculiar style of its scenery are also distinctly visible; and it is equally easy to make out the bright estuary of the Tay, the long ridge of the Sidlaw, and the plain of Strathmore. Westward, we trace, without difficulty, the hills of Loch Lomond and Loch Cateran; and, in the same manner, every marked mountain, even to Oban, Cruachan and Buachaille Etive being particularly conspicuous. To the north, Glen Lyon is entirely excluded; the first objects, in this direction, being Schihallien and its accompanying mountains, leading us to the vale of the Tumel and Loch Rannoch, and even to Loch Laggan, seen as a bright narrow line: and thus, on one hand, to Glenco and Ben Nevis, and, on the other, to Ben-y-Gloe, lifting its complicated summit above the head of Ferrogon; beyond which the mountains at the head of Dee, of Marr and Cairngorm, marked with perpetual snow, were the last objects which I could satisfactorily determine. So great a range of view, with so many and such marked objects, is unexampled in any other spot in Scotland.

At the head of the lake, between the streams of the Dochart and the Lochay that unite to fill it, stands the pretty village of Killin, whose sojourners soon come upon names and relics of other clans overlaid by the intruding Campbells. Near the pier are the ruins of Finlarig Castle, for a time their chief seat, built by Black Duncan on the site of a ruder stronghold he had acquired from the Drummonds, whose name is preserved by Drummond Hill at the other end. When the Breadalbanes had moved{88} on to Taymouth, Finlarig became their last home, in the modern mausoleum that has not yet gathered such gloomy note as the old Doom-tree on which hung many a plaided offender, while a heading-stone was provided for the shedding of gentle blood.

Black Duncan and his line did much stern work as “justiciars,” especially on their neighbours, the Macgregors, then under James VI. going down in a changed world, as the Campbells came up. Fetters and shackles made an important part of the furniture at Finlarig, which has comic as well as grim traditions of its rough-and-ready executions, like that of the reluctant Highlander urged by his wife to more alacrity in stepping up to be hanged “to pleasure the laird.” The axe is still shown at Taymouth with which a Macgregor chief was executed; more than one, indeed, coming to such an end, if all tales be true.

In one case the legend is that a Macgregor, invited to a friendly conference, was ambushed by armed men, who dragged him to the block at Kenmore, having killed his aged father on the way. But the stories make some confusion of father and son; and it seems doubtful whether this were the same victim as the “Red Macgregor” beheaded before the eyes of his wife, herself a Campbell by birth, who cursed her kindred in a celebrated Gaelic lament, with its burden of—

Ochain, ochain—sad my heart, my child!
Ochain, ochain—thy father hears not our moan!

On Lammas morn I rejoiced with my love; ere noon my heart was pressed with sorrow.


Image unavailable: THE DOCHART

Under ban be the nobles and friends who pained me so: who unawares came on my love, and overmastered him by guile.

Had there been twelve of his race and my Gregor at their head, my eyes would not be dim with tears, nor my child without its father.

They laid his head upon an oaken block: they poured his blood on the ground: oh had I there a cup I would drink of it my fill!

Oh that my father had been sick, and Colin in the plague, and all the Campbells in Balloch wearing manacles!

I would have put Gray Colin under lock and Black Duncan in a dungeon, though Ruthven’s daughter would be wringing her hands.

I went to the plains of Balloch, but rest found not there: I tore the hair from my head, the skin from my hands.

Had I the wings of the lark, the strength of Gregor in my arms, the highest stone in the castle would have been the one next the ground.

Oh that Finlarig were wrapped in flames, proud Taymouth lying in ashes, and fair-haired Gregor of the white hands in my embrace!

All others have apples: I have none, my sweet, lovely apple has the back of his head to the ground.

Other men’s wives sleep soft in their homes: I stand by the bedside wringing my hands.

Another tale of Loch Tay is told almost identically of more than one pair of hostile Highland families, but here with a picturesque opening and a rather lame conclusion. A Macgregor had been at feud with the head of the Breadalbane Campbells, who held out a deceitful olive branch by proposing a treaty of peace in his new-built castle at Taymouth. Macgregor trustfully kept the rendezvous with an appointed number of friends. On the hill above Balloch they found an old man kneeling before a large grey stone, uttering prayers for the dead, in which he mixed this sentence, “To thee, grey stone, I tell it; but when the black bull’s head appears,{90} Macgregor’s sword can hardly save the wearer’s fated head. Deep the dungeon—sharp the axe—and short the shrift!” Macgregor recognised this as a warning from one who had perhaps been bound to secrecy and thus salved his conscience; but he was not the man to turn back. The lord of the castle received him and his men with feigned kindness, and they sat down to meat, each Campbell having a Macgregor on his right hand. When a black bull’s head was borne in, a clatter of arms being heard outside, the guest took the initiative by holding his dagger to Campbell’s breast and clutching him by the throat. The other Macgregors were quick to follow this example so effectively that their false host allowed himself to be dragged out of his castle, across the loch, and to the top of Drummond Hill, where he was fain to subscribe an amnesty and promise of future friendship, that did not long hold good. One would like to compare the Campbell version of such legends.

A story of the next century may have suggested to Scott the Strathyre wedding interrupted by a messenger of the Fiery Cross, though in this case the incidents seem less romantic. To a party gathered at Finlarig for the marriage of the chief’s daughter to a Menzies laird, came news of the approach of Macdonald raiders driving home their booty. Even at such a time Campbells were not to be kept from the throats of Macdonalds, whose offence, according to one account, was refusing to pay toll for passage through Breadalbane, such as explorers of our age have found exacted by African chiefs across whose territory lay their way. The wedding guests seized their arms, and sallied forth, bridegroom and all,{91} to attack the Macdonalds, who were defeated in a hot encounter, with heavy loss on both sides, including the Macdonald chief and MacIan of Glencoe, while nearly a score of the wedding party had to be carried home with the coronach. Such were the scenes amid which the Breadalbane lairds sowed the seeds of more peaceful manners.

On a wooded islet of the Dochart are the tombs of the Macnabs, older lairds of this district. They appear to have been a branch of the Macgregors, their name being taken to mean “Sons of the Abbot,” who in more orthodox climes might have rather been styled “nephews.” They showed themselves right Celts, shutting their eyes to the signs of change, trusting to claymores rather than to charters, and apt to turn out on the losing side, so that they went under the waves of time on the top of which the Campbells rode triumphantly.

The last laird of Macnab figured as a well-known “character” in Scott’s day, his outer man still familiar in Raeburn’s portrait of him. He was huge of stature, imperious in manner, irascible, proud and impracticable to an ultra-Highland degree. To him is attributed that vaunt of the Macnabs having a boat of their own at the Flood, also the declaration that there were many Mr. Macnabs but only one Macnab, naturally the crown and chieftain of the human race. When an arrogant scholar boasted in the same spirit that England had only one Master of Trinity, a stuttering don broke the awed silence with too audible comment, “Thank God for that!” With not less irreverence a bold pretender is said to have answered the chieftain’s pride by signing{92} himself The other Macnab. Ill would it have fared with the Sassenach body who should thus have bearded the Macnab to his face. In Mr. P. R. Drummond’s Perthshire, there is reported this instance of his wrath being provoked by an audacious stranger:—

It occurred after dinner, the laird being a little mellow, for as to being drunk, oceans of liquor would have failed to produce that effect, at least to the length of prostration. The unhappy querist began: “Macnab, are you acquainted with Macloran of Dronascandlich, who has lately purchased so many thousand acres in Inverness-shire?” This was more than enough to set the laird off in a furious tilt on his genealogical steed. “Ken wha? the paddock-stool o’ a cratur they ca’ Dronascandlich, wha no far bygane dawred (curse him) to offer siller, sir, for an auld ancient estate, sir. An estate as auld as the flude, sir; an infernal deal aulder, sir. Siller, sir, scrappit thegither by the meeserable deevil in India, sir, not in an officer or gentlemanlike way, sir; but (Satan burst him) makin’ cart wheels and trams, sir, and harrows, and the like o’ that wretched handiwork. Ken him, sir? I ken the cratur weel, and whae he comes frae, sir; and so I ken that dumb tyke, sir, a better brute by half than a score o’ him!” The querist interjected, “Mercy on us, Macnab, you surprise me. I thought from the sublime sound of his name and title, he had been, like yourself, a chief of fifteen centuries’ standing at least.” The instant this comparison was drawn, the laird’s visage grew ghastly with rage. His eyes caught fire and he snorted like a mountain whirlwind.

But for the climax of this storm, worthy of Meg Dods or of Meg Merrilies, the reader may be referred to my authority, with the hint that it will be wasted on who cannot interpret the vernacular eloquence then familiar at lordly dinner-tables as in kailyard “cracks.”{93}

Many are the stories told, in print or tradition, of the Macnab’s sayings and doings. Mr. Drummond states that the library at Taymouth Castle contained two scrapbooks filled with them, cut out of publications like the Gentleman’s Magazine and the Literary Gazette. The most often told of these stories relates to a time when the spendthrift laird was at last falling into the toils of law, whose minions he looked on as very sons of the devil. The Perth men of business, it is said, showed indulgence to his shortcomings; but a bill of his having come into the hands of some less considerate creditor at Stirling, a clerk, accompanied by two messengers-at-arms, ventured to his house in Breadalbane on the perilous errand of taking the Macnab into custody. Getting wind of their design, he kept out of the way, and left his housekeeper schooled to play a cunning part. She welcomed the visitors, let them understand that the laird was expected home next morning, and after hospitable entertainment, sent them to bed, the clerk at one end of the house and the legal myrmidons at the other. When they awoke next morning, they were horrified to see dangling from a tree outside what seemed the body of their companion. They quickly took to flight on hearing from the housekeeper, as matter of course, that “a bit clerk body had been hanged, who came here to deave the laird for siller.” The clerk, whose greatcoat and boots had been borrowed to rig out a stuffed figure, was not less terrified by the explanation of their absence: “The laird’s gillies have taken them awa’ to be drooned in the pool of Crianlarich, and they’ll be back for you the noo.” That set the clerk to flight in turn; and never again,{94} goes the story, would anyone venture to serve a legal process on the Macnab in his own country.

Naturally such a personage did not thrive in his quarrel with the age; and when he died in 1816, what was left of the Macnab property passed into the hands of his kinsman and creditor, Lord Breadalbane, to whom the laird had stooped his pride to become a sort of humoured hanger-on. His nephew, heir to a load of debt, was fain to emigrate to Canada with a following of the broken clan. But all over Britain a sprinkling of Macnabs are found more or less flourishing, who have formed an association, two or three hundred strong, that takes on itself the pious duty of tending those ancestral graves at Killin, the chieftains buried in a central square, their humbler clansmen and connections lying round about them under the shade of funereal pine-trees. Killin has also to show a lonely stone, taken to mark the tomb of Fingal, which is said to have given the original name, Kilfin.

Kinnell House, the Macnabs’ chief seat, is now a favourite residence of Lord Breadalbane, in which are preserved some odd relics of that last laird, his frying-pan, his kail-pot, and so on. But the glory of the place—Auchmore, as it is also called—is its famous vine that, to the reproach of your Dr. Johnsons, can boast itself the largest in Britain, and still goes on growing exuberantly, though it has been decided that no more glass room can be provided for it.

Killin well deserves its renown in the tourist world, presenting a lovely mixture of Highland and Lowland aspects. Its two rivers make the same contrast, the leafy{95} pools of the Lochay to be compared to the tranquillising influences that have prevailed in Loch Tay, while the untamed rapids of the Dochart suggest the wild mountain spirit dashed to foam against rocks of hard fact. But the Lochay, too, up its beautiful glen, has cascades and other features of romance such as we look for a little farther back in Lowland life; and if the people forget their Gaelic and their legends, Nature still wears her garb of bracken and heather.

A plain sign of new times is the branch railway, link in a tourist round that a few miles from Killin falls in with the line from Callander to Oban. Here, turning back Lowlandwards, the rocky wilds of Glen Ogle lead us towards the softer beauties of Loch Earn, which we shall approach from the other end. Up Glen Dochart the railway runs into the higher yet opener reach of Strath Fillan; and here for a little it has the close companionship of its rival, the West Highland line, struggling on to Ben Nevis over lofty wastes of heather. At Crianlarich the two lines cross, then they draw apart at Tyndrum, under the ridge of Ben Lui, that cradles the infant Tay, as yet unchristened, unless by its nursery name of Fillan Water, where it gambols down to swell Loch Dochart, at the foot of Ben More. By its course, along the line of the Oban railway, the Campbells must have flowed into Breadalbane from their spring at Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe. But beyond the head of Strath Fillan the streams flow to the Atlantic; and here we turn back from the Argyllshire gates of the Western Highlands.

Strath Fillan gets its name from the Irish missionary,{96} Fillan, who became the patron saint of central Scotland, his memory preserved by a monastery that had much reverence in Breadalbane. He is, indeed, such a shadowy personage that there are said to have been two saints of the name, the other belonging to Loch Earn. St. Fillan’s pool, near Crianlarich, was a famous Highland rendezvous, used occasionally, as we have seen, for ducking objectionable persons; but its chief repute was in the cure of lunacy. The unhappy sufferer, brought here by his friends, was three times marched round a cairn from east to west—a rite of unconscious paganism—then after being immersed in the pool, he was tied up for the night in an adjacent chapel. If he managed to break loose that was a hopeful sign of his wits; but the result of this rough treatment must often have been an effectual cure for all the ills flesh is heir to. The reputation of St. Fillan’s well held out till quite recently; even now, perhaps, offerings may be secretly cast into it, or hung upon the bushes around, as pins or crossed rushes are found in the sacred wells of Cornwall. The superstition is, of course, world-wide; and deeper in the Highlands are wells still sought for pious hydropathy. To St. Fillan’s bell were also attributed supernatural properties: this and his crosier, long preserved in a family of hereditary custodians named Dewar, after wanderings as far as Canada, have come to be treasured at the Antiquarian Museum of Edinburgh.

In history, also, this fair strath has a name. Dalry, near Tyndrum, was the scene of one of Robert Bruce’s traditional exploits. Defeated at Methven, after his coronation at Scone, he had to take to the Highlands,{97}

Image unavailable: “THE LADY OF THE WOODS”

roving in perils and hardships like those of his unhappy descendant, Prince Charlie. At Dalry he had gathered force enough to make a stand against Macdougal, Lord of Lorn, eager to avenge on him the kindred blood of the Red Comyn. Overborne by numbers, the king retreated through a narrow pass, the mouth of which he held in person till all his men should be out of danger. Three doughty Macdougal champions, a father and two sons, having vowed to slay or take him alive, fell upon Bruce at once. The sons he cut down as they tried to drag him from his horse, then the father grasping him by the cloak so close that he could not use his sword, Bruce dashed out this man’s brains with the hilt, or with a hammer hanging at his saddle-bow. But the dying Macdougal kept such a grasp on the cloak that, to make good his escape, the king had to let it go, undoing the brooch which fastened it. Thus is said to have come into the hands of the Macdougals that Brooch of Lorn, treasured by the family to our time—an idle trophy, indeed, that was to cost them dear. In Bruce’s day of triumph he did not forget those bitter foes; then on their fall rose the Argyllshire Campbells, who have so long been Lords of Lorne.

These scenes are well known, as made accessible by the railway, that has ploughed up the memories of old feuds, and the patterns of native tartans. Less visited by rapid wheels are the wilds of Glenlyon, “crooked glen of the stones,” running westward behind Ben Lawers on the north of Loch Tay. This is notable as the longest narrow pass in Scotland, and in its lower part one of the most beautiful. Its village capital,{98} Fortingall, lies shut in among the mountains not far from Kenmore, across Drummond Hill. The high road comes round the other side of the Taymouth meadows, entering the glen by Garth, where one of our modern princes of commerce has a seat near the ruined castle, once lair of that Stuart who earned the byname of Wolf from the bloodthirsty fierceness with which he hunted the MacIvors out of their old lairs in Glenlyon; then this house won a milder fame from General Stuart of Garth, the enthusiastic historian of Highland regiments.

Near Fortingall was at home that Campbell of Glenlyon who carried out the massacre of Glencoe, for which his descendants held themselves to be accursed. According to Robert Chambers, one of them was Rob Roy’s mother. A name of wider ill-fame is connected with Fortingall, if we believe a thin legend that makes it birthplace of Pontius Pilate, son of a Roman official quartered in the camp laid out under older strongholds ascribed to chiefs of the Fingal age. So far into the Highlands seem to have been pushed the eyries

Where Rome, the Empress of the world,
Of yore her eagle wings unfurled.

Another lion is the Fortingall yew, given out as three thousand years old and perhaps the oldest tree in Europe, which, declares a Perthshire historian, “must have been a goodly sapling when Nebuchadnezzar had his dwelling with the beasts of the fields”; but Dr. John Lowe shakes his head over such reputations. In his iconoclastic book on Yew-trees, he blasts the very existence of a{99} supposed old yew at Fotheringay, the place of Queen Mary’s execution; but he might have guessed how that pretender crept into print, had he known that the ancient name of Fortingall was Fothergill, which is also found spelt Fortirgall.

The most authentic renown of Fortingall is as vicarage of James Macgregor, Dean of Lismore, who, in the first half of the sixteenth century, along with his brother Duncan, compiled the earliest collection of Gaelic poetry, which bears the title Book of Lismore, though it was made in the centre of Perthshire. Naturally the Macgregor Dean gives a good place to legends and achievements of his own race, whose proud genealogy has thus been embalmed; but he admits praises of the Clan Donachie, the Clan Dougal, and other neighbours; also preserving memories of such misty heroes as Finn and Oscar, and many poems attributed to Ossian, similar to those upon which Macpherson afterwards founded his remaniement. The name of the supposed author is usually prefixed to each contribution. Among the rest is the romantic legend of Fraoch and the dragon, outlined in Highlands and Islands. A passage from this, as translated by the Rev. T. Maclauglan, may be quoted to show how poets have always drawn on the same similes and hyperboles.

The hero lived, of matchless strength,
The bravest heart in battle’s day.
Lovely those lips with welcomes rich,
Which women like so well to kiss;
Lovely the chief whom men obeyed,
Lovely those cheeks like roses red,{100}
Than raven’s hue more dark his hair,
Redder than hero’s blood his cheeks;
Softer than froth of streams his skin,
Whiter it was than whitest snow,
His hair in curling locks fell down,
His eye more blue than bluest ice;
Than rowans red more red his lips,
Whiter than blossoms were his teeth;
Tall was his spear like any mast,
Sweeter his voice than sounding chord.
None could better swim than Fraoch
Who ever breasted running stream.
Broader than any gate his shield;
Joyous he swung it o’er his back;
His arm and sword of equal length,
In size he like a ship did look.
Would it had been in warrior’s fight
That Fraoch, who spared not gold, had died;
’Twas sad to perish by a Beast,
’Tis just as sad he lives not now.

Another characteristic feature of the collection is strings of homely proverbial saws such as this, going to show Scottish Sabbatarianism older than communications with Geneva—

’Tis not good to travel on Sunday,
Whoever the Sabbath would keep;
Not good to be of ill-famed race;
Not good is a dirty woman;
Not good to write without learning;
Not good are grapes when sour;
Not good is an earl without English;
Not good is a sailor, if old;
Not good is a bishop without warrant;
Not good is a blemish on an elder;
Not good a priest with but one eye;{101}
Not good a parson, if a beggar;
Not good is a palace without play;
Not good is a handmaid if she’s slow;
Not good is a lord without a dwelling; ...
Not good is a crown without supremacy;
Not good is ploughing by night;
Not good is learning without courtesy;
Not good is religion without knowledge.

Among matters handled in this anthology, one which suggests the priest rather than the poet, is an unchivalrous estimate of the fair sex, here, indeed, most emphatically expressed by a rhymer taken to be the Irish Earl Gerald Fitzgerald of Desmond—

May my curse ’mongst woman rest,
Although for a time I mixed with them;
As for men who still are single,
’Tis best to have nought to do with women.

Another bard whose sentiments would shock suffragettes, is suspected for no other than Black Duncan himself, who would thus appear as taking a cynical view of the world he did so much to change. Some verses again are of ecclesiastically edifying tone; yet there are sly hits at monastic life, a sign of the times in which Henry VIII. took a strong view of the same subject, that, to be sure, supplies a favourite topic for mediæval poetry, and is all along very freely handled by the Muse of Lowland Scotland. The Dean himself could have been no model Churchman, for he left two sons to be legitimatised, one of whom succeeded to his clerical dignity, while the other is, in 1552, found formally renouncing his allegiance to the Macgregor{102} chief and taking as his lord Campbell of Glenorchy, who, two generations back, had supplanted the Macgregors at the foot of Loch Tay.

Stories of the Macgregors’ doings are not wanting hereabouts, one of which looks as if it may have given a hint to Sir Walter. A Macnaughton was on ill terms with a John Macgregor, who had robbed him of his daughter and made not less bold with certain fields of his in Glenlyon, seized by way of dowry. With a band of sixty men he set out to evict the unwelcome son-in-law from land and life. Macgregor raised a similar force, which he ambushed in the glen, himself going forward to meet its invaders. His person being unknown to them, they enlisted him to serve as guide on the errand of which they made no secret. Macnaughton walking on with them in advance, they came to a deep ditch in a swamp over which the guide leaped nimbly, and showed the chief a way round; but when his men came up, their attempts to imitate that mighty leap only landed them up to the armpits in mire. To Macnaughton, for the moment left alone with the stranger, Macgregor revealed himself by taking his hand and telling him, “I am the man you seek.” Then at a signal from this Roderick Dhu of real life, up started his plaided warriors from their ambush. But the end of the encounter was peaceful. Pleased to find Macgregor so fine a fellow, with such a band of henchmen, Macnaughton opened his arms to his son-in-law, and the two parties feasted together in sign of friendly alliance. Critical reporters, by the way, would like to know how the heroes of such adventures got rid of the distinguishing tartans or other badges of clanship, which came to be made so{103} much of in later song and story. To a mere Sassenach like Fitzjames the Macgregor devices may not have been very kenspeckle; but surely a Mohawk’s eye would have been sharper to read the totem of a Huron.

Above Fortingall, the glen contracts to a romantic pass, three miles long, which would be as famous as Killiecrankie had it made such a figure in history. But nearly all Glenlyon deserves better than to be put in guide-book small print as a backwater of travel. For a dozen miles its road runs up to Meggernie Castle, beyond which a stretch of rougher ways, on to Loch Lyon at the foot of Ben Cruachan, leads one into the very heart of the Highlands and the border of Perthshire.

Here a wall of unfamed Bens shuts off another basin of lakes that is the northward course of the West Highland railway. Across this rise the high tops of the Blackmount deer forest, still within the bounds of Lord Breadalbane’s domain, a wilderness of heather, only here and there broken by patches of forest in our use of the word, but homes of living men appear rarer than cairns of the forgotten dead. Westwards opens the way to ill-famed Glencoe. Southwards runs the Orchy to Loch Awe and Ben Cruachan, by a knot of green glens that seem to have been the original seat of the Macgregors, whose inveterate feuds with Macnabs and other neighbours paved a way for the conquering Campbells. But before speaking of the Macgregor country, let us turn back to the Lowlands to approach it up another Perthshire strath.{104}



One of the most beautiful of Scottish rivers is the Earn, half Highland and half Lowland, winding through all the varieties of Perthshire scenery, past hoary monuments of Scotland’s struggles for birth as a nation, and among misty traditions of her saints and heroes. Yet guide-books, one observes, pass over the greater part of this strath as hurriedly as the express trains dashing across its lower end; and strangers seldom visit any but the upper reach, which enters into a regular tourist round. How such neglect is undeserved, I would fain show on an arm-chair saunter from the river’s unalluring mouth to its source in mountains of romantic fame, a distance of some forty miles as the crow flies; but a salmon has to make a much longer trip of it. Well is the Earn apostrophised by an admiring stranger, Blackwood’s first editor, Thomas Pringle, best known by his South African pictures, or by the figure he cuts in the wicked waggery of the Chaldee Manuscript.

Thou, mountain stream, whose early torrent course
Hath many a drear and distant region seen,


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Windest thy downward way with slackened force,
As with the journey thou hadst wearied been;
And, all enamoured of these margins green,
Delight’st to wander with a sportive tide,
Seeming with refluent current still to glide
Around the hazel banks that o’er thee lean.
Like thee, wild stream, my wearied soul would roam
(Forgetful of life’s dark and troublous hour)
Through scenes where fancy frames her fairy bower,
And, Love enchanted, builds his cottage home:
But time and tide wait not, and I, like thee
Must go where tempests rage and wrecks bestrew the sea.

The “drear and distant regions” are now more admired than the “margins green,” through which the Earn creeps into the Tay a few miles below Perth, where the great river broadens as an estuary about its reclaimed islands. The steamer trip from Perth to Dundee makes a local ploy rather than a tourist link, so few Southrons set eyes on those fat banks backed by richly wooded hills and crags. A little above the confluence stand the ruins of Elcho Castle, which Baddeley dismisses as “commonplace,” and Black finds unworthy of any epithet; but the race it nursed still stands high among Scotland’s nobles; and in or about it was a lair of Wallace’s most daring adventures. A little below, over the Fife border, lies the old seaport of Newburgh, surrounded by outlying spurs of the Ochils that give fine prospects across the Carse of Gowrie upon the opposite amphitheatre of the Sidlaws. Tourists seldom stop at Newburgh to see the adjacent Lindores Abbey and Lindores Loch, and the site of one of Wallace’s battlefields: so much the worse for the tourist. Two or three{106} generations ago, he could not so easily have avoided Newburgh, when it was a noted station of posting and coach traffic from Perth.

To me, the flat Rhynds about the mouth of the Earn are of special interest, since they were long the home of my forbears, edged off the Hill of Moncrieff by a junior branch of the same stock, then again taking refuge across the Tay, when their dwindled possessions here had been sold to the house of Elcho. And time was when the eyes of all Scotland turned to this now obscure corner. A mile south of the Earn’s boldest crook, about the Western Rhynd peninsula, Abernethy is still visited by antiquaries for its mysterious round tower, standing over seventy feet high beside the church that has given Dr. Butler, its incumbent, material for a goodly volume. He makes no doubt that this tower was built upon their native models by Irish ecclesiastics, refugees from rude Danish invasion of their own saintly island. The only other such structure in Scotland, left unruined, is at Brechin, both of them better built than the Irish round towers on which ’prentice hands may have been tried. Sculptured stones of still greater antiquity have here escaped iconoclastic zeal, to be broken relics of Abernethy’s former state, poor and out of the way as it stands now.

The guide-books are content to dismiss Abernethy as an “ancient Pictish capital,” but it was also a famed sanctuary till the Reformation, and even later, a place of pilgrimage to the oak-tree shading the grave of nine holy maidens. For a generation this became the metropolis of the Church of Alban, while its primacy was passing from Dunkeld to St. Andrews. Later on, it made a hotbed{107} of Protestant zeal and of the fissiparous energy that rent Scottish Presbyterianism with fresh secessions. This is a matter on which I am tempted to be garrulous, as several progenitors of mine were leaders here, both of Kirk and Dissent, among them Archibald Moncrieff, minister of Abernethy for more than half a century, through the trying times of the Covenant. The parish church contains two communion cups given by those pious ancestors, in whose memory its font was presented by the late Sir Alexander Moncrieff, his own name better known to warriors than to priests.

In Bonnie Scotland, I made bold to bring up my generations-back grandparent, Alexander Moncrieff, one of the four Original Seceders; and now I would still further trespass on the reader’s patience by borrowings from the Travels of the Rev. James Hall of Walthamstow, who more than a century ago, halting at Abernethy, noted some amusing memories of those early Seceders. Ebenezer Erskine, ex-minister of Stirling, was the leader of the body; but Hall calls Abernethy their metropolis, and Moncrieff their patron, as being not only dissenting minister but chief laird of the parish—no very exalted rank when, according to this author, the title was given to any rent-free yeoman of the Ochils, such as one he mentions who supplemented an income of ten pounds a year by the trade of a carpenter, while the family “mansion” made a small public-house.

The dissenting minister of Abernethy was at least wealthy enough to build a new church for his adherents, which for a time served also as college of the new sect. Some score of students boarded with the farmers—at the{108} modest rate of two shillings or so a week—attending divinity lectures of the laird, who is said, in case of need, to have ministered to their carnal as well as their spiritual wants. For further instruction they would walk into Perth to sit at the feet of Mr. Wilson, another father of Secession. In his old age Moncrieff was fain to hold classes at his own house of Culfargie. After his death in 1761, this Stoic school became peripatetic, moved first to Alloa with his younger son, William Moncrieff, then straggling about in the wake of its best qualified teachers, till the Seceders stooped their spiritual pride to share the national provision of university training, supplemented by a regular divinity college at Edinburgh. But it seems that their teaching in philosophy, apart from divinity, with Locke’s Essay on the Human Understanding as text book, went on for a time longer at Abernethy, under Matthew Moncrieff, heir to Alexander’s estate and ministry. Mr. Hall tells a sly story of a callow student in those later days, who from the Established minister borrowed a Euclid, which he got through in a week: “I have read all the enunciations, which seem to be true enough and very good reading; I did not trouble myself about the A’s and B’s.”

The poverty of the Seceders was not helped by their split into Burghers and Anti-burghers, the latter the more strict sect, who flourished rather in the north half of Scotland; then these sects again became cross-divided as “New Lichts” and “Auld Lichts,” burning dimly still in Mr. Barrie’s kailyard. Hall, himself a benighted Erastian, describes the Secession theory in general as “a mixture of Popish tenets with those of English dissenters.”{109} He was so far right that the Seceders held, as strongly as any Hildebrand, that the State should be the servant of the Church, also that their body was the only true Church of Scotland, which clung faithfully to the Covenant, consecrated for a century as quasi-sacramental. Alexander Moncrieff, who stood doughtily by the Cæsarship of the house of Hanover, is said to have been hardly restrained from setting off for London to present the Covenant, on full cock, at the wigged head of George II.

Later on, the Covenant was quietly allowed to drop, and the Seceders relaxed their strict aloofness. Matthew Moncrieff, it seems, was of a cheerfully social disposition counteracting his hereditary fanaticism. There is a tradition that he had worn a red coat for a short time, fighting, as his father preached, for King George. He had a worldly turn for sport, and though he did not dare to shoot, he kept a couple of greyhounds, to the scandal of his congregation. The English parson reports a tale of him as well known. One Sunday, as he was riding across the Ochils to preach, a hare started up, at which he flicked with his whip, and even forgot himself so far as to gallop a little way after poor puss. For this offence he was delated by his own servant before the Presbytery, that rebuked him to contrition; then it would long be cast up against him how he had broken the Sabbath. When his name came up among the more severe, heads were gravely shaken: “He is a man that would gar anybody like him—but oh! that beast”—to which less strait-laced admirers would respond, “Hoot! he’s no’ a wrang man, for a’ the beast.” This phrase, “for a’ the beast,” Mr. Hall declares to have become proverbial in{110} that part of the country as denoting a fly in the amber of character.

Matthew’s wife had a disintegrating effect on the body, a Miss Scott from Fife, who, if we may believe Hall’s informants, was only a Seceder skin-deep, and turned a natural bent for wit and raillery to making fun of her husband’s congregation. She did not scruple to be close friends with the parish minister, Dr. Gray, and his wife; then, while the dissenting laird still thumped his pulpit every Sabbath against the errors of Erastianism, the rival spiritual authorities lived on the best of terms through the week, as could not but go to temper sectarian bitterness, though for a time the more zealous Seceders frowned on this compromising intimacy, as Mr. Pickwick at Sergeant Buzfuz exchanging salutations with his own advocate. So, by and by, acrimonious zeal cooled down all round, dying out altogether in my own family, as “Sandemanianism” did among their neighbours the Sandemans. Some members of our line seem, indeed, to have backslidden far from ancestral austerity. A descendant of the Abernethy ministers became a London tradesman—landlord of the “Rainbow” in Fleet Street by some accounts—whose son, William Thomas Moncrieff, put on the stage Tom and Jerry, with other once popular plays that did not keep him from dying at the Charterhouse, a fellow-pensioner of Colonel Newcome. About the same time as John Home scandalised even the lukewarm Establishment by coming out as a playwriter, a tragedy less famous than Douglas had been published by John Moncrieff, who seems not to have long survived it; and nothing else is known of him but that he was a{111} dominie of sorts at Eton, apparently private tutor to some sprig of nobility.

Of what came to be called United Presbyterianism and is now grafted on to the United Free Church, a sturdier root first flowered in this parish, ripening through generations into the gracious and kindly nature of the author of Rab and his Friends. The first of a notable succession of John Browns was a herd laddie here, who, like other barefooted Scottish loons, contrived to pick up Latin and Greek almost without schooling. There is a well-known story of his leaving his sheep for a night walk of twenty-four miles into St. Andrews to buy a Greek Testament, which was given him for nothing, on his proving that he could read it. He is said to have tried the packman’s trade, but to have carried it on in too unworldly spirit for success. When he applied for ordination among the Seceders, I am sorry to say that my forefather would have barred him out on suspicion that his learning came from the devil; but this firm believer in witchcraft was overruled, and the self-taught scholar grew to be famed as Dr. John Brown of Haddington.

These are hints of what spirit was fermenting about Abernethy under the cold Georgian star, when in Scottish straths and glens plain living nourished much high or hot thinking. A coarser spirit was not wanting when, as Mr. Hall notes, the public-houses of the neighbourhood did their chief trade on Sundays, with people tramping into Abernethy to attend the Seceder meetings, and those of the Relief Church that soon set up another standard of dissent. He gives at some length an anonymous report of the “occasion” here in 1776, that is, the{112} annual administration of the Sacrament, spread out over a week, when preaching flowed all day in a great tent, surrounded with booths and stands to supply refreshment to a crowd estimated by thousands, the whole encampment stretching out the best part of a mile. If the preacher failed in fire or unction, his hearers, as in the House of Commons, would drop off to the beer-barrels, flocking back to the tent when some popular Boanerges broached hotter eloquence. Such scenes, a survival of Covenanting conventicles, often degenerated into the scandals of Burns’s “Holy Fair”; and it is only in our time that they cease to be recalled by the “Preachings,” now abolished among the leading churches as having become too much of a worldly holiday.

Travellers of Mr. Hall’s period had no admiration for the “dreary glen of Abernethy,” nor much for the more richly planted Glenfarg into which it leads, the latter now the main pass from Fife into Perthshire. But this tourist parson duly admired the view from the Wicks of Baiglie, extolled by Scott as unmatched in Britain, yet commonly missed by railroad tourists since the leisurely day when the charms of Glenfarg inspired Ruskin, at the precocious age of seven, to verse which may be left unquoted. The Ruskin carriage, indeed, came by the new turnpike that shirks that higher ground where Scott gained life-long memories of the delight with which, as a boy of fifteen, making his first independent excursion, from the back of his pony he looked down on such an “inimitable landscape.”

This reminiscence of his touches a chord in my own heart, for it was on a boy’s pony that I, too, made wide{113}

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acquaintance with Strathearn and Strath Tay. But in my case there were hindrances that may not have presented themselves to the begetter of Waverley. To him this choice country might not be so much shut up by high park walls, or by enclosures of the rich strath lands. And in my day there were toll bars on the roads, when a schoolboy’s pocket-money was scrimper than seems to be the lot of this generation. One could not ride a dozen miles in any direction without counting the cost. The cheapest roads were twopenny ones, which thus became the most familiar. On one or two, the charge for my small steed was threepence, which required more consideration. One forbidding highway proudly demanded fourpence, though on it you could trot a couple of miles before reaching the expensive barrier. And when one had treated oneself to a fourpenny scamper along it, there came a second lion on that path. For more than a mile a railway ran beside the road, on the same level, separated only by a hedge, as alarming to inexperienced Highland shelties as the broad bridge on which another railway crossed another road askew, so as to form a miniature Grotto of Prosilippo, where overhead might come rumbling an invisible thunderstorm as one sped through its gloomy pass. Once, having paid my fourpence, I had pushed on almost to the end of the perilous stretch, when a train puffed and rattled up to meet me, which my horsemanship failed to make the pony face in a philosophic spirit. For all I could do, it swerved round and took to racing the engine along the flat road, for a time keeping company with its bogy. On that highway race, John Gilpin would not have been in it.{114} If I had no wig to fly away, and no stone bottles swinging by my side, what bothered me was having an open knife in my hand, with which I had been cutting a switch from the hedgerow, as the monster came upon us from round a corner. Our headlong course was at last stopped by a gipsy or such-like wayfarer, as shamefaced guerdon for whom I had only twopence in my pocket, nearly drained by that unconscionable toll. Such trivial reminiscences I set down partly to please myself, partly to explain how my familiarity with this region is oddly incomplete, as in the case of a student who knew all about Africa, America, and Asia, but had stopped subscribing to the Encyclopædia before it touched on Europe. Yet the reader must take fair notice that there are few roads hereabouts upon which I may not be tempted to trot out my own early memories; and if, belike, he likes not this mood of anecdotage, let him turn to the article on Strathearn in some ponderous cyclopædia or plodding guide-book.

Mr. Hall, for his part, did not despise the trout-fishing for which the Farg was notable in my youth; and he had a good day’s sport, when so few strangers sought its shady course that he found some difficulty in getting his host to make out a bill, that for two days’ entertainment of man and beast, including a bottle of wine and other beverages, came to less than ten shillings. By Culfargie, the little Farg runs into the Earn, here a goodly river of smooth channels and deep pools, meandering through a rich valley between the wooded bluffs of Moncrieff Hill and the green slopes of the Ochils. Except for its craggy walls, there is nothing{115} Highland about this part of the strath, as thickly set with mansions, farms, and woods as any snug scene of England. Of it, I have already spoken in Bonnie Scotland; and will only add that Mr. Hall was scandalised at the numbers of old bachelors he found resorting to the Spa of Pitkeathly, then as frequented as “St. Ronan’s Well,” where it appears that bachelors, young and old, were very apt to get into mischief.

Above the Bridge of Earn, over which goes the high road to Perth, the river is crossed by the two converging railway lines that tunnel through Moncrieff Hill to burst into daylight on the Tay. It is the next reaches of the winding Earn that are hardly known to strangers, unless in glimpses from the train; yet here it flows by scenes of as much historic interest as beauty. Forgandenny is a picturesque village, beside which an old mansion, destroyed by fire, has been replaced by a new one, notable for its fine gardens, like so many other seats in the neighbourhood. Forteviot, a little higher up, has come down from the rank of an ancient royal seat. Here died Kenneth McAlpine, 860, after hammering the Picts into a new kingdom; and for three centuries later shadowy Scottish kings are seen flitting through a royal stronghold that stood on the tongue of land between the Earn and its tributary the May.

The May, one of the merriest and sweetest of Ochil streams, trips down by the park of Invermay and the “birks” sung before Burns. As “Endermay,” this spot inspired the Earn-born poet, David Mallet or Malloch, whom Dr. Johnson belittled, but he filled a considerable place in London literary life of his generation. Opposite{116} Invermay, on the northern slope of the Earn, stands Dupplin Castle, seat of Lord Kinnoull, whose richly wooded grounds are now renowned, and the gardens nursing exotics such as an araucaria thought to be the largest in the kingdom.—“Oh, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Johnson, oh!” But these noble avenues stand on what was once Dupplin Moor, where in 1332 Edward Balliol and his English allies made such a slaughter among the Scots “that the dead stood as high from the ground as the full length of a spear,” and the work of Bannockburn was for a time undone; indeed the boy king David’s crown might have been wholly lost, had not Edward of England’s hands been then too full, grasping at the lilies of France as well as the Scottish thistle that so often proved a sore handful.

Above Dupplin comes Gask, home of the Oliphants, one of whom was to win victories of sentiment for the lost Jacobite cause dear to this family. Carolina, Lady Nairne, the “Flower of Strathearn,” had as warm a heart for her native stream as for memories of Prince Charlie.

Fair shone the rising sky,
The dewdrops clad wi’ many a dye,
Larks lilting pibrochs high
To welcome day’s returning.
The spreading hills, the shading trees,
High waving in the morning breeze,
The wee Scots rose that sweetly blows
Earn’s vale adorning!

The ruins of Gascon Hall beside the river claim to have made a refuge for William Wallace, when, hunted by a sleuth-hound through Gask wood, he struck off the{117} head of his flagging comrade Fawdon, then could not so easily lay that traitor’s or hinderer’s ghost. The present mansion is the third or fourth worn out here by the Nairne family. It stands on the site of a Roman camp, with a Roman road beside it, one of many bits of way still locally known as “street roads.” At Gask we look over to the mouth of Strathallan, the pass between the Ochils and the foothills of the Grampians, that must often have echoed the clank of Roman arms. Across the moor of Orchill, with Wade’s military road running beside it, the Ardoch Camp is best preserved of such Roman fortresses in Britain, and one of the largest, laid out to contain an army of 25,000 men. And hereabouts, in Celtic stones and place-names, there are thick traces of still older history, overgrown by the plantations and steadings of a race enriched from regions where the Cæsars’ eagles never flew.

Ardoch stands out of the Earn basin, and the Allan flows to the Forth. From the end of the Ochils, the Ruthven Water is their last tributary to the Earn, whose next affluent comes off Highland moors. Strathallan Castle seems to belie its name in being on the north side of the pass by which the Caledonian railway debouches on a plain studded with notable names. Here is Tullibardine, cradle of the Atholl Murrays; Kincardine Castle shows how Montrose’s ancestral home was ruined by Argyll in their tit-for-tat warfare; and the gallant Grahames had Aberuthven for their burial-ground.

The chief place on this side is Auchterarder, where the first shot was fired in the Disruption of 1843. Nor is this the sole note of the neighbourhood in Scottish Church{118} history. Behind Auchterarder, the upper waters of the Ruthven come down from Gleneagles, a beautiful gorge in the Ochils, leading over to Glendevon. Gleneagles was the old home of the Haldanes, now replaced here by their kinsman Lord Camperdown; but Mr. Haldane, whose name is familiar as author of our “Territorials,” has still a seat on the Ochil slopes at Cloanden. This war-minister—who rose to political note at an early age, for as a schoolboy I can remember being taken into his nursery to see him invested with his first dignity as “the new baby”—bears a name that has been better known to Scotland in connection with its religious life, when, a century ago, his grandfather and granduncle became the Wesleys of the Kirk then sunk to its zero of cold morality.

Robert and James Haldane, nephews of Admiral Duncan, began life as high-spirited lads with fair prospects of worldly fortune. The elder had dispositions towards the ministry, repressed at a time when the Scottish Church seemed no career for gentle blood; the younger declined the chance of a partnership in Coutts’ Bank. The one spent some early years in the Navy, while the other, entering the East India Company’s service, under family influence rose to be a captain at twenty-five, a post he could sell for a small fortune. Leaving the sea young, both brothers conceived an evangelical enthusiasm, at first somewhat tinged with the early hopes of the French Revolution, which so many nobler spirits of their day hailed as a new dispensation—

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!


For the Haldanes, as well as for Wordsworth, the democratic heaven soon clouded over; and the brothers turned their zeal to the spread of the gospel, after the model of such Southron preachers as Charles Simeon and Rowland Hill, both of whom carried their awakening into Scotland. Robert sold his estate of Airthrey, beautifully situated on the Ochils, and proposed devoting his life and means to a mission in India, a scheme nipped in the bud by the authorities there. James took to field-preaching, to the scandal of parish ministers and magistrates, itinerating all over Scotland, through the Highlands, and as far as the Orkneys and Shetlands. Robert’s gifts were less in the way of eloquence; he rather gave himself to organisation of the effort, training lay preachers, buying circuses both in Edinburgh and Glasgow as chapels, and issuing the tracts which by his school were held as special means of grace.

Such proceedings on the part of laymen did not commend themselves to the clergy; the stern Seceders also looked askance on this new revival. The Haldanes, for their part, had soon drifted away from Presbyterianism; and when the circus-like Tabernacle, still to be seen on the side of the Calton Hill, was built at Robert Haldane’s expense, it opened as a Congregational Chapel, with James Haldane as pastor, who continued his evangelical tours. By and by differences of opinion arose in the new congregation; and both brothers went over to Baptist views. Robert, especially, in his zeal for soundness, was all along much given to controversy—with Zachary Macaulay over a plan for bringing young Africans to be educated in Britain, as later with his{120} famous son anent the ballot; with the Bible Society for its backsliding in publishing the Apocrypha; with the degenerate Socinian Calvinism of Geneva; with the divers errors of Irvingites and Sandemanians; and with the Presbyterian “Voluntaries” as to their refusal to pay the “Annuity Tax,” which was the church rate of Edinburgh. In their old age the Haldanes found more fellowship in the Presbyterian Church, especially when it had been warmed by Free Church enthusiasm. They seem both to have been earnest and sincere in struggling after what they held for purity of saving truth; and when they died in the middle of last century, they could congratulate themselves on having stirred the life of their country in a way that might be better remembered had they not been concerned to leave “their work and not their name.”

Gleneagles has taken us too far from the Earn, to which we come back at Kinkell Bridge, below the castle and collegiate church of Innerpeffray, burial-place of the Drummonds. On the north side lies Madderty, where, near the railway line from Perth to Crieff, may be visited the remains of Inchaffray Abbey, whose Abbot so effectually asked a blessing on the Scottish arms at Bannockburn. On the south side of the river runs the older branch line from Crieff Junction, with a station for Muthill, a goodly village that a century ago was as large as Crieff, and a century before had been burned, with Auchterarder and other neighbours, by the old Pretender’s forces, the harmless inhabitants being hustled out into a January night by soldiers whom they had sometimes received as guests—a needless cruelty to be set against that Whiggish harrying of Glencoe.{121}

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Muthill has kept some notable ecclesiastical antiquities; and in my youth it had, what was a rarity for a Scottish village, an English “chapel,” if I remember right, not in communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church, but one of several scattered over Scotland that counted themselves as belonging to the Church of England, and looked to Carlisle as their diocesan see. I am not sure how far this body still holds out, its sap having been cut off by the refusal of later Carlisle bishops to exercise their functions across the Border; then for a time its congregations had to depend for a precarious supply of sacramental grace upon colonial and other stray bishops who could be engaged by the job. This small Church, in fact, represented the old evangelical party that for the last generation has been waning on both sides of the Border, while the Scottish Episcopalians of that day lay under a dark imputation of being “Puseyites.” Through one of its Episcopal ministers, Muthill had a chance of standing high in song and story, for his daughter, Mary Erskine, is said to have been loved in vain by Walter Scott. It was for her consolation, in the loss of a beloved child, that Carolina Oliphant wrote The Land o’ the Leal.

Muthill has another connection, now almost forgotten, with the religious life of Scotland. About the time of the Original Secession, to an Earnside farmer in this parish was born a son named John Barclay, who became a probationer in the Kirk, but soon fell out with its fathers upon his interpretation of saving doctrine. He founded a sect which took the name of the Bereans, as searching the Scriptures with peculiar zeal, where they seem to have found assurance of salvation as a leading{122} tenet, on the strength of which they cultivated a grace of cheerfulness not too common among Calvinist believers. “Rejoice evermore” is the suggestive title of one of their founder’s books. Their communion spread over several parts of Scotland, even into England and across the Atlantic. When Mr. Hall was at Abernethy he heard of theirs as one of the most flourishing congregations at Newburgh, having for its head Alexander Pirie, who for a time had been professor of divinity at the Seceders’ rustic college, then from an Anti-burgher softened down into a Burgher, from which he passed on to the Relief Church, and finally found rest among the Bereans. The English parson, who goes out of his way for a sneer at Robert Haldane’s missionary devotion, is rather satirical on those dissenters, whom he inclines to lump with the Sandemanians, and hints at accusations of sinning that grace may abound. They are, he says, “drunk or sober, as merry as grigs.” What struck him most about their ceremonies was the social love feast in which they copied the Sandemanians; and he repeats a scandalous story of the Crieff congregation sending to a public-house to get wine on trust for this function. At Crieff, which may be called its native soil, the body held together till the middle of last century, when its property was divided by lot among the members; and, so far as I know, the Bereans are now everywhere extinct, unless, perhaps, in America, where so many sects have taken fresh root on virgin soil.

Muthill lies between the grounds of Culdees Castle and of Drummond Castle, the latter famous for its {123}gardens, avenues, and nobly wooded demesne. In passing up Tayside, I have told how it came into Southron hands, when the power of its old lords split on the rock that wrecked so many another Jacobite family; while the neighbour house of Murray tacked and trimmed its fortunes into calm waters. Strathearn has dark memories of the feuds between those names. When the old church of Monzievaird was being turned into a mausoleum for the Ochtertyre family, a quantity of charred wood and calcined bones came to light to bear out the tradition how a band of Murrays, fleeing before Drummonds, took refuge in this church with their wives and children, and were there burned to death by the savage pursuers. For this atrocity, indeed, several Drummonds came to be executed at Stirling. Only one Murray had escaped the holocaust, by the help, it is said, of a Drummond who loved his sister; later, this Drummond having fled for refuge to Ireland, he in turn was helped to pardon by the man he had saved, and came back with the agname Drummond-Ernoch, handed down to the victim of another revolting tragedy told in the introduction to A Legend of Montrose.

Drummond Castle is the Versailles of Crieff, itself the capital of Strathearn, where it stands among lovely surroundings and notable mansions—Monzie, Abercairney, Cultoquhey, Inchaffray, Ochtertyre, names that “fill the mouth as the mountains the eyes.” Such sounding names are, of course, wreckage of the once familiar speech that has ebbed far back into the Highlands. I never met any one in Perthshire who did not speak English; and even a knowledge of Gaelic, I fancy, is exceptional in this southern half of the country, certainly so in the lower{124} half of Strathearn. But I forget what writer of a century or so back can record that at Monzie Castle—recently burned—only a mile separated the English-speaking lodge-keeper from neighbours who could not understand his tongue. A German traveller, in the early years of Queen Victoria, noted the east-enders of Loch Tay as speaking English, while Gaelic was still common about the other end. In our own generation, old inhabitants of Crieff could remember how troops of shock-headed lads and lasses came tramping down from the glens—like the Schwabenkinder of Tirol—to learn English by working a summer on Lowland farms, turning an honest penny out of this course of education.

Not that Scotland was without schooling long before the days of School Boards. In out-of-the-way parts of the Highlands, as well as in Lowland Gandercleughs, Dr. Johnson could hear of day-schools, even boarding-schools, kept here and there under difficulties, perhaps in summer by a bookish youth who for his winter studies walked all the way to Aberdeen or Glasgow. When a society seemed necessary for the diffusion of Christian knowledge in the Highlands, thanks to John Knox every English-speaking and Shorter Catechism-conning parish, at least, had its dominie, who, thanks to those land-grabbing Lords of the Congregation, was often such a “downtrodden, underfoot martyr” as Carlyle deplores, eking out his exiguous dues by a medley of occupations, and by unworthy perquisites that fell to him at the annual cock-fighting holiday. He was fain not only to perform all the duties of his school, down to mending pens and sharpening the points of his tawse, but to act as precentor, session-clerk,{125} and general man of business for the parish; “even the story ran that he could gauge.” He has been known to play the cobbler in his hours of ease. Not seldom he was a “stickit minister,” qualified to wag his head in a pulpit, if he could get one, hindered perhaps from that eminence by some infirmity, such as a tied tongue or a too red nose. Often he was a “character,” who has figured in many a tale told by graceless Roderick Randoms when they grew out of dread of his skelpings and palmies. The most famous of such presentments ought to be Jedediah Cleishbotham, who presents himself as quite superfluously editing the Tales of My Landlord; but few impatient readers of our day spend much time over the mystifying patter with which that Wizard of the North thought necessary to introduce his feats of imagination. I should like, by the way, to point out how the self-important schoolmaster of Gandercleugh seems to have sent a thriving progeny across the Atlantic. Surely it is one of his family who, as the Rev. Homer Wilbur, A.M., so long occupied a pulpit at Jaalam, Mass., where one “talented parishioner,” Hosea Biglow, might call cousins with the Peter Pattieson who penned a story when he should have been engrossing rudimentary instruction on the skins of the lower classes.

Let us drop a tear over the dominie, who in the last generation or two has been vanishing from the world of fact. His place is now taken by Normal-school teachers of both sexes, well-trained, well-inspected, and less ill-paid than their predecessors. Every young Scot gets such mouthful of learning as can be crammed into him; but, to copy Johnson’s coarse metaphor, I am not sure that{126} there were not better bellyfuls going under the old dispensation of scholarship. With all his faults, of which whisky was apt to be the worst, the snuffy dominie had sometimes the knack of turning out silk purses among sows’ ears, and with the most imperfect tools. The general run of his pupils perhaps profited most by being kept out of mischief, wholesomely hardened to chastisement, and awed by the mysteries of Effectual Calling, while the choicer natures had their chance to be brought into touch with an inspiring example that showed them the way to learning, a more important course of education than the cleverness of teaching which goes to load the minds of a whole class with not always fruitful instruction.

And those rude schools of old days had this educational advantage, that the minister’s bairn, and even the laird’s, might tumble and quarrel with the cottar’s, picking up the local vernacular and accent, but little more harm at an age when all sons of Adam are in the savage state of development, not easily inoculated with the curse of snobbery that sets classes apart, barred from the kindly intercourse of the older generations, among whom gentle and simple knew their place too well for troublesome presumption or uneasy stand-offishness. The parish school at least was a little republic, tempered sometimes, indeed, by grudges of favouritism on the part of its president. While English squires and parsons still looked suspiciously on the three R’s for peasants, barefooted Scottish laddies, sometimes lassies, would tackle Latin, even Greek, under the village dominie, who sent forth some of his pupils into the world equipped at least{127} with a turn of mind and a stirred ambition that put them at advantage wherever they went. But now they go out into a new world, in which man may not be so much master of his own fate. What self-help could do for him is, it seems, to be done rather by the State, conceived of as a national Trades Union, which need not consider the chance of national bankruptcy in providing for the general welfare. The very virtues that winged a prosperous career—thrift, industry, enterprise, force of character—become suspected for vices in the interest of the common herd. It is a bad lookout for Scotsmen in that golden age of mediocrity so glibly promised by certain social reformers, who might begin by doing away with prizes and punishments in schools, if they cannot altogether level down Nature’s distinctions.

My own first experience of school life was near Crieff, where I spent a year in the family of an English clergyman, whom I dimly remember as a model for the head of the Fairchild family. For all his austerity, my recollections are of cheerful days spent under his charge, and especially of a keen relish for meals, which may be connected with the fact that this was the only period in my life when I might not eat as much as I pleased. But also I have two painful memories of this place. The first is breaking my arm on the rocks of the Turret one Saturday afternoon, and not getting a doctor for it till Monday evening: my tutor, who had been a soldier before he took orders, and ought to have known better, judged the hurt no more than a sprain; then on Sunday I had to walk three miles to church, and back, with my arm hanging helpless, the torment relieved only by my brother holding it up.{128} The other woeful experience was my own fault, and such as many sons of Adam have to confess. Some years later, I was sent on a holiday task, a ride of seventeen miles with a pointer pup to be handed over at Crieff to a keeper, whose lodge made a sort of canine academy. I was to dine at the “Drummond Arms,” after making sure to see my pony fed first—a sound instruction to heedless youth. Somewhat elated by this independent charge, as I strolled about the town it occurred to me that my own meal ought to be crowned by a cigar. It was my first; it cost twopence. “Left to myself” as I was in that rash undertaking, I had sense enough to seek out for it a secluded spot on the banks and braes of the Earn, where ere long my song would be—“How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair!”

At Crieff, with its two railways and everything handsome about it, we get upon a regular caravan route of tourists, too few of whom stop to discover the lochs, falls, and shaggy glens that around it are strung upon the Highland line, among hills making with the Earn valley a choice epitome of Perth scenery. I have already extolled this neighbourhood in Bonnie Scotland, so now I must pass quickly over the most picturesque part of Strathearn. Nothing could be prettier in its way than the walk up the Earn, foaming and rippling through its leafy banks, past wooded eminences, like Torleum, whose top makes a weather-glass for the countryside, and Tomachastle, crowned by a monument to Sir David Baird, the hero of Seringapatam. This local worthy’s widow cherished his renown regardless of expense, the model village of St. David’s, below Crieff, being also a memorial of him; but{129}

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the too towering obelisk on Tomachastle challenged a thunderbolt to rebuke the vanity of mortal fame.

Soon appear on either side mantled crags and bristling ridges, and the mountain moors begin to close in upon fields and parks. Half-way between Crieff and Loch Earn, Comrie stands at the head of the rich strath which now begins to take on the features of a Highland glen, still tamed by mansions and plantations. On one side the Ruchill Water comes in from Glenartney, where the stag was startled from his midnight lair by Fitzjames’s hounds; on the other, by Dunira, the Lednock rushes down a wilder ravine over which stands out a monument to Dundas, Lord Melville, head of the Tory oligarchy that to its own satisfaction ruled Scotland in the days of Pitt. This satrap is not so much admired by later leaders of Scottish politics. He has another tall column at Edinburgh in a line with statues of George IV. and Pitt, a trio of monuments denounced as “Vice standing between Tyranny and Corruption” by the Radical orator, Bailie Jamieson, who went to prison for such speeches, as his more widely famous son did for certain doings in South Africa.

As I write, newspapers record the death of a Dundas of Dunira, whose name takes me back half a century to the morning when two of his brothers breakfasted at our house on their way from school, wearing scarlet flannel, then known as “Crimean,” shirts, which, to us unsophisticated provincials, not yet “in the movement,” seemed below the dignity of Harrow boys. Dr. Keate would have agreed with us, who, in the former generation, gave an Eton culprit two extra cuts for the vulgarity of{130} having a “checked shirt” to turn up in disclosing circumstances. Times are changed; but it is not so clear about nos et mutamur: one can fancy the schoolmasters and schoolboys of to-day still cocking a critical eye at changes of custom and costume, which in a few years will seem matters of course.

The stranger who, to a panorama of celebrated scenes flitting before his strained eyes, prefers settling down and photographing on memory characteristically charming landscapes, could not do better than set up his tent at Comrie, where he may come in for the excitement of one of its slight earthquakes. Among the many excursions radiating hence, he must not neglect to follow up the Earn to its parent lake. The last time I took this lovely walk, it was in company with the late Dr. Andrew Melville, Clerk of the Free Church, a name well-known in Scotland as reviving that of his forbears, the Reformation champions. He made his summer home at Comrie, which, through another sojourner, the widow of Lord Chancellor Cairns, had come to be a resort of the English sect called Plymouth Brethren; and I recall his telling me on our walk how a party of sisters of that ilk, invited together to a house at Comrie, proved to be hardly on speaking terms after a rent in this exclusive communion. It is not only in Scotland that Seceders split up into Auld Lichts and New. And in Scotland, by the way, the Wee Free Church that lately made such a profitable contention for the faith as once delivered to Calvinistic saints, begins to generate a fissiparous ferment, having already mutinied against the lay champion who led it to victory and booty. At least sects are fewer in Scotland, which seldom{131} welcomes exotic divinity, its taste being for home-made dissensions. A local writer has an amusing account of a Plymouth Brother, at Crieff, roaring down a Mormon missionary who promised mounts and marvels across the Atlantic; but the contest did not tend to conversion or edification.

Our way up the Earn has led us by several eddies and backwaters of Scottish Protestantism; but now we pass into the shadow of the hills where the cross itself was dipped in fire and blood. When I walked up to Loch Earn with that kindly kinsman of mine, the railway did not go beyond Comrie, as it does now, under outlying masses of Ben Voirlich, where wooded knolls huddle below slopes of turf and rock and fern dappled by patches of brown or purple heather. We are here fairly in the Highlands; and from St. Fillan’s Hill, shooting up over the river, we look down upon a true central Perthshire prospect of a long lake stretching below high mountains; but else, as a disappointed Cockney complained, one can’t see the view for the hills.

The smart village of St. Fillans, spreading out along the loch foot in villakins of rusticating townsfolk, is a modern settlement, but it may have had ancient memories to forget, for here, or hereabouts, stood Dundurn, capital of the Pictish land called Fortrenn, which seems to have taken in Angus, along with Strathearn and the lower basin of the Tay. The island in the foreground was in later times lair of a gang of robbers named Neish, who in an ill turn for themselves undertook to rob a servant of the Macnabs, bringing their Christmas fare from Crieff. The Macnab of that day had a round dozen of Samsonlike{132} sons, to whom, at their bare board, he significantly spoke—“The night is the night, were the lads but the lads!” On this hint the twelve set out, dragged a boat across from Loch Tay to Loch Earn, surprised the revelling Neishes at dead of night, and slew all but one youth who managed to slip off. Next morning they greeted their father with the outlaws’ gory heads and the boast, “The lads were the lads!” Another account makes them exclaim on this occasion, “Dread nought!” which has remained the Macnabs’ motto.

It is nearly sixty years ago that I spent a summer at St. Fillans, as yet hardly known to the outside world. At times that sojourn comes back to me as a dream of childish delight; but I was too young to gather a faggot of impressions that would serve when—

As less the olden glow abides,
And less the chillier heart aspires,
With drift-wood beached in past spring tides
We light our sullen fires.

Perhaps the most prosaic English urchin stores up as warm memories of “days in the distance enchanted,” spent on the fattest claylands or the smoothest fen. Anyhow, one’s heart goes out to the bare-headed and bare-kneed youngsters, “hardy, bold, and wild,” who from the train are seen taking all chances of weather with frolic and glee on the banks of Loch Earn, heedless of the cloud of “Rudiments” and “Delectus” that will loom back upon them with the shortening autumn days.

Even less to be envied passengers have a good glimpse of this lake, as upon a shelf above the northern side they are whisked along a fine panorama, with Ben{133} Voirlich’s rugged head for its background. Farther on, the shores grow tamer, where fields come down to the water edge; then, as by the scattering of houses at Lochearnhead the railway winds round its upper end, it overlooks a fine retrospect of the loch’s whole reach from St. Fillans. A few minutes more among bare green slopes, and we are at the Balquhidder Junction of the railway to Oban, standing lonely as if lost in the heart of the Highlands. The name seems misleading, for it is rather at the next halting-place southward, Kingshouse, that one turns off a couple of miles to Loch Voil and the Braes of Balquhidder, where Rob Roy rests at peace beneath a circle of chieftainly Bens, through which Glenfinlas would lead us to the Trossachs region.

Thus, whichever way we take through the heart of Scotland—by Atholl, by Breadalbane, by Strathearn—we come upon memories of the Macgregors. It is at Balquhidder that this famous stock was most at home in historic times; so here seems the place for some account of it, a story that will carry us back over all those regions, and bring most of the Perthshire clans on to its stage.{134}



What perils do environ
The man that meddles with cold iron

—in the shape of a pen! And surely the rash adventurer lays himself open to special risks when he undertakes to touch such a thistly subject as Scottish history, not to mention theology. It seems that I have given offence to certain partisans, who find their sympathies ruffled by what had to be said in my former volumes. I am accused of want of reverence for the Sabbath—an idol that, even in the cold North, is wearing away to a stump like snow wreaths in thaw. By an organ of that persuasion I am rebuked, more in sorrow than in anger, for enmity to the Free Church, my only expression of such enmity being a statement that the said worshipful body has set its face against dancing and piping in the Highlands, and a hint that it must be heartily ashamed of the way it treated one of its worthiest sons in our generation. But the hottest of my ecclesiastical assailants is a “Priest of the Church of England,” who writes to me from a Midland county, characterising my book on the Highlands as “nauseating,”{135} “ungenerous,” “brutal,” and so forth. I will not give his name, for I guess this priest not so far out of deaconship as to be beyond a chance of learning better language in a less perfervid country. He appears to be a Highlander of Catholic loyalty, since he takes alike ill any aspersion on the fair fame of Glengarry or of Argyll; but amid much abusing at large, he waxes specially indignant that I have not been silent on the “later failings” of the poor young Pretender. Did I not say in advance that there are three subjects on which the hardest-headed Scot listens willingly to sentiment rather than reason? One of them, of course, is gallant Prince Charlie; then I may be thankful to have passed over all scandal about Queen Mary, as to have touched lightly on the later, and earlier, “failings” of Robert Burns.

If there were as many revilers in the Midlands as there are slates on Auld Reekie, I can do no other. I was apprenticed to fiction, which is a school of truth in dealing with human nature. Let my critics write books of their own, setting forth the facts as they would have them. Let them declare that Charles Edward ended his days as a worthy citizen of Rome, a model husband, a diligent student of Anglican divinity, and an office-bearer of its Diocesan Temperance Society. Let them assert that Free Church pastors have exhorted youths and maidens to skip upon the Highland hills like young rams. Let them maintain that the Jewish Sabbath has semper et ubique been a characteristic observance of the Christian Church, and that this doctrine flourishes as much as ever in its last sanctuary. I, for one, do not love Scotland, or its idols, better than the truth; and in{136} such a cause can play the advocate without suppressing or glossing over the evidence. There is a quotation with which a Priest of the Church of England must be familiar, as much aired at clerical Congresses—Haud tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis!

Of all the charges made against me, the one by which I am most concerned is a reproach that I have spoken lightly of serious matters concerning the Clan Macgregor. Miss Murray Macgregor, the historian of her race, writes courteously but firmly to remonstrate with me on apparent libels against it in The Highlands and Islands. My most crying offence here, it seems, is one that would offend only a Highlander. In my haste I spoke of the modern Macgregors as “new-made,” when the law finally allowed them to wear their own patronymic, and I called their chief “Murray,” whereas I ought to have precisely defined him as for certain reasons bearing the name of Murray. Miss Murray Macgregor must accept my apologies for having heedlessly omitted to style her grandfather Sir John Macgregor Murray. In this contention, she seems to be unwittingly reviving old Nominalist and Realist controversies, for her part holding Macgregorism to be a principle with a real existence apart from its phenomena, whereas I use the name merely as a notion that casually labels certain sons of Adam. But hereby I recant, disavow, and seek absolution for any words of mine seeming to imply that a Murray and a Macgregor be not distinct entities in rerum natura, and in saecula saeculorum.

Another offence against the Macgregors laid to my charge is one in which I have many fellow-sinners. In{137}

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a slight account of the Glenfruin battle, I have repeated the tale—there expressly qualified as “tradition”—of the scholars of Dumbarton slaughtered by a bloodthirsty Macgregor—as to whom I mentioned another tradition that this crime made him an outlaw from the clan. Its historian would have me understand how no Macgregor was ever capable of such villainy, and more particularly points out that the evidence for it is in this case by no means convincing. I can only reply that if in any account of the Highlands, one were to give no stories but those that go without contradiction, and none that touch on deeds of violence, the result would make a volume that might well be advertised as suitable for the waistcoat pocket.

I had not the slightest intention of doing injustice to this once much abused clan, and in proof thereof am half-inclined to propitiate them with the dearest sacrifice a kindly Scot can offer. In those bad old times, forbears of my own were living in the Macgregor country, as to whose intromissions there perhaps the less said the better. It is unlikely that those sons of Eve did not mix their blood with the MacHeths and other clans among which they would be in the way of exchanging vows both soft and stern. I myself feel at times stirred to a right Macgregor scowl, when I see Sassenach knaves advertising their bad whisky, tea, or what not as the “best.” When in future any black deed be associated with their name, let the sons of Alpin blame it on a taint of Moncrieff blood, and hold every true Macgregor incapable of murdering a mouse; then I shall not be at pains to {138}contradict this view. The plain truth is that most Highlanders of those misty legends—not to speak of Lowlanders—appear to have been a fierce and bloody-minded brood—always excepting members of the U.F. Church—and none of us can uphold our kin as any better than their fellows. Having thus, I hope, made peace with the sons of Gregor, I am free to turn dirk and claymore against the Menzies historian who, before heaven and earth, has not scrupled to guess at the Moncrieffs as originally vassals or dependents of his clan, as to which I will only call back how a curse has been laid upon it, that no Sassenach can pronounce its uncouth name aright.

Honestly, I don’t think I have been unfair to the Macgregors, who managed to earn among their neighbours an ill-fame, which they have redeemed by indomitable loyalty to their name. But for any slip of respect towards this clan, one can best make amends by telling its story at more length, with the help of Miss Murray Macgregor’s goodly quartos and other mémoires pour servir that are not much in the way of the general reader. Such a story may need a good deal of boiling down to make porridge for that hasty reader’s taste. At the best, it must be a story too much coloured by the vivid red and black chequers of the clan tartan; and if any Macgregor look dark at what I have to tell, let me repeat what I said in the former sketch, that this name seems to have been more unlucky but not more guilty than others that wear their stains and glories in a less striking pattern. The great author, to whose sympathy they owe most renown, goes a little farther in commentating on their history—“The tricks of a bear that is constantly{139} baited can neither be expected to be innocent nor entertaining.”

It has been already pointed out in Bonnie Scotland how this clan clearly stood as models for the Vich Alpines of Scott’s Lady of the Lake. They claim to be sons of Alpin, as descended from King Girig, Gregor, or Gregory, the heir of Kenneth MacAlpin, though his sonship seems a disputed point. At a very early period is found widely settled in the heart of Scotland a race claiming to be united by royal blood, their traditional descent not at first stereotyped in name. As yet, the Highlanders’ surnames sat as loosely as their garments: a man’s Christian name was supplemented rather by the name of his father, or by some agname taken from personal appearance or position. This clan shot out branches that might come to be known by other patronymics, the Macnabs, “sons of the Abbot”; the Grants, said to be descended from one Gregor graund, that is “the ill-favoured”; the Griersons, whose name suggests such descent; and the same origin is ascribed to the Mackays, the Mackinnons, and others, who may perhaps claim for themselves some still bluer blood of Adam. Of course there would be a good deal of miscegenation through the accidents of love and war; a small broken stock might be adopted into a more powerful one, with or without a change of name, and a Highland heiress might bring for her dowry not only cows but a tail of kinsmen to be adopted into her husband’s clan; then even mere Lowlanders have no doubt been absorbed as captives, runaways, or masters of useful arts. The Comanche Indians, it is said, have as much adulterated white as red blood in{140} them; the Creeks and Seminoles were recruited by negro slaves; and the Tuscaroras were admitted bodily into the Iroquois League. A Highland clan of old days was in much the same social state as a Red Indian tribe. Often also a family interlaced itself with congenial neighbours by the exchange of foster-children, to be brought up in bonds that were sometimes drawn as close as those of blood.

As the Hurons in Ontario and the Iroquois in New York, the main stock of this clan seem to have been originally most at home in what came to be known as the Macgregor country—Glenorchy, Glendochart and Glenlyon—on the western side of Perthshire. Early in the twelfth century, its chief was Malcolm of Glenorchy, renowned for such strength of body as then made the surest title to rank and fame. Of him it is told that when the king’s life was in danger from a boar, or other savage beast, the doughty chief plucked up an oak by the roots and with this gigantic club made mincemeat of the monster. As reward, the grateful king ennobled his preserver, giving him as cognisance an oak-tree eradicate, now displayed by the clan, whose older emblem appears to have been a pine-tree, “Clan Alpine’s pine in banner brave.” This chief married a lady of royal blood, and was known as “Lord of the Castles,” by reason of several strongholds said to have been built by him from Kilchurn to Taymouth; but here tradition may be confusing him with a supplanting Campbell who had the same renown.

In the next century another Macgregor figures among the partisans of Bruce, delivering him from his enemy, Lorn, harbouring him in a cave, fighting by his side at{141} Bannockburn, and elsewhere. But it seems that all the clan did not stand together, some siding with Baliol and thus exposing themselves to forfeiture, when his rival became settled on the throne. And even before this the sons of the mountain glens must have begun to feel the pressure of the feudal system, imposing duties and obligations, as well as conferring coats of arms and titles, along with charters of lordship that did not always take into account the rights of inheritance.

Swarms of Saxon and Norman adventurers hived themselves in Scotland, winning favour at court and grants of land from which the occupants had to be ousted by force, where they were not found willing to remain as vassals of the new lords. A proud and uncomplying race like the Macgregors was bound to come off ill in such a scramble; whose history, indeed, all through the Stuart period, is one of gradual intrusion into their country by strangers, notably the pushful Campbells, who at last drove them out of their fair glens to outlawed seclusion in fastnesses from which they looked with an angry eye on their old birthright.

Where dwell we now? See rudely swell
Crag over crag, and fell o’er fell.
Ask we this savage hill we tread
For fattened steer or household bread;
Ask we for flocks those shingles dry,
And well the mountain might reply—
“To you, as to your sires of yore,
Belong the target and claymore:
I give you shelter in my breast,
Your own good blades must win the rest!

Not all at once would this displacement take place,{142} but fitfully, by waves that sometimes flowed in a spate of aggression, then again ebbed before some outbreak of determined resistance. The process may have been somewhat like what went on in Australia when “selectors” were empowered to “pick the eyes” of a squatter’s holding, here and there putting him to ransom in the name of law. Like Hengist and Horsa, the intruders might make good their settlement by taking sides in the local feuds, or by handling the arrows of Cupid as well as the sword of Mars. The Campbells were noted for being as ready with kisses for their foemen’s daughters as with cold steel for their sons. The Macgregors made alliances as well as creaghs among the newcomers. Some of their hacked and stripped branches shot out to take root in distant quarters, perhaps repeating there the violence that had driven them from their own ancient seats. Under the James kings, such branches appear at Braemar and the Gordon country; and there are hints of a Macgregor leader playing Roderick Dhu as far south as the English border, in company with his supposed cousins, the Griersons of Lag. But the main stock remained scattered over their native heath, from which a remnant of them was never thoroughly extirpated. Their headquarters shifted to be about Balquhidder, a knot of wild glens to the north of Loch Katrine, where a stone called the puderach was a palladium of the clan, the lifting of which made a test of strength for young men, and it gave a byname to the Macgregors of that branch. As far south as the Nun’s Island, Inchcailliach, on Loch Lomond, they had a burying-place; and their strongholds reached as far north as Loch Rannoch,{143} where the chartered Menzies had more difficulty in ousting them than had the Campbells in Breadalbane, who there are well described as ploughing through the centre of the Macgregor country.

On this much-disputed ground, the sons of Alpin were in touch with many neighbours, more or less hostile, their relations with whom are darkly commemorated in such traditional tales of bloodshed, ravage, and treachery as too much stain the rags of Highland history. Some of these tales we have already come upon in passing through Breadalbane. For a time, the Macgregors seem to have shared Balquhidder with other clans, notably the Maclarens, an older stock of occupants, who claimed the right of being first to enter the parish church. This right of precedence is said to have been given up in return for the help of the Macgregors in a hot combat with a neighbour clan, that still darkens a pool of the Leny as “Linn of the dead”; but afterwards the pretension, again raised, led to a fray in the very church, when the priest, a Maclaren, was killed. In the end the Macgregors evicted their rivals, who mainly took refuge among the Appin Stewarts; yet so late as Rob Roy’s time, we shall see a Maclaren fall victim at Balquhidder to that ancient feud, to show how inveterately those clansmen clung to the soil beset by enemies, as well as to hereditary hatreds rooted among them for centuries.

Among so many memories of hate, one tradition stands in relief as illustrating the guest-right owned by Roderick Dhu. In a casual quarrel the Macgregor’s son had been slain by a young Lamont, who fled hotly chased through the night, and by dawn sought refuge at a house{144} he knew not as the home of his victim. To the chief he confessed that he had slain an unnamed man, and was taken into sanctuary. Quick on his heels came the pursuers, their news filling the house with cries of rage and woe. But the weeping father would not let the guest suffer harm: “He has Macgregor’s word.” With an armed band he even escorted the slayer of his son to Inveraray, and there took leave of him with the warning: “No longer can I, or will I, protect you: keep out of the way of my clan.” As edifying sequel it is stated that when Macgregor came to be proscribed and hunted for his life, he in turn found asylum with the man whose life he had saved. In Spain, the same tale is told of Moorish and Christian foemen, as no doubt similar stories came to be passed round Arab camp-fires.

This incident, indeed, belongs to a later period of clan history, which we take up at the time when the Macgregors are seen forced apart into two main bodies in the north and south of western Perthshire, while not entirely uprooted from the central glens. Under James III., a chief known as Gregor Mhor flourished so well as to recover part of the clan territory from its oppressors, and to raise its head in the world. A younger son of his, Duncan, surnamed the Hero, also gained renown and such social advantage as went with a Campbell bride; but he fatally fell out with the head of the Breadalbane family. More than one chief of this period might have answered to Roderick Dhu’s reputation. We read of James IV. making a hunting expedition to Balquhidder; and on another occasion it is said that this king rode alone from Stirling to Perth by the wild borders he{145}

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congratulated himself on having pacified for a time. James V. also, in historic record as well as in romance, trusted himself on hunting trips into the Perthshire Highlands, when the troubles that had gathered head during his minority made such visits more truly adventurous. At this time one Duncan Macgregor, surnamed Laideus, who seems a prototype of Rob Roy in a ruder time, became for half a century the bugbear of the central Highlands, sometimes driven into far Lochaber, but returning to work havoc and slaughter, till at last he was caught and executed by the Campbells.

By fits and starts, the later Jameses were able to bring a rough machinery of repression to bear upon the disorders of the Highlands. The Macgregors were not worse than a dozen other clans; but they were within shorter reach than those western and Hebridean stocks, who yet proved not beyond the arm of law as put in force on James V.’s voyage to what had long been the quasi-independent domains of the Lords of the Isles. Then the sons of Alpin had the misfortune to play the reiver too near the half-settled Highland line, where the noise of their exploits echoed in Perth and Stirling; and the king could not follow his sport through “lone Glenartney’s hazel shade” without a chance of perilous encounter. Their most powerful foes, moreover, were close at hand to carry out the rough justice of the border. Once and again we hear of the Macgregors being “put to the horn” and of “letters of fire and sword” granted against them, usually to the Campbells, who, adapting themselves better to new conditions, extended their possessions and influence at the expense of less prudent{146} neighbours. To be at odds with the law is in itself demoralising; and the harassed clan grew but more reckless and insolent in the persecutions brought on them by their repeated offences. All through the sixteenth century they appear drawing towards that doom that left them landless and nameless.

The troubles of the Reformation relaxed the process of turning a proud clan into broken men; and Queen Mary seems to have had a soft place in her heart for the much-abused Macgregors. But when James VI. got well settled upon his uneasy throne, his horror of violence dictated a policy of repression which was steadily carried out in the latter half of his reign. In 1586, “letters of horning” were recorded at Perth against over a hundred Macgregors and their abetters. Soon after this even the feelings of a callous generation were shocked by one deed charged upon the Macgregors, the barbarous slaughter of John Drummond-Ernoch, a descendant of that fugitive to Ireland who figured in the burning of Monzievaird kirk. This man, employed as the king’s forester in Glenartney, was procuring venison for the marriage festivities of James and his Danish bride, when a band of outlaws fell upon him, as related by Scott in the introduction to the Legend of Montrose. “They surprised and slew Drummond-Ernoch, cut off his head, and carried it with them, wrapt in the corner of one of their plaids. In the full exultation of vengeance, they stopped at the house of Ardvoirlich and demanded refreshment, which the lady, a sister of the murdered Drummond-Ernoch (her husband being absent), was afraid or unwilling to refuse. She caused bread and cheese to be placed before{147} them, and gave directions for more substantial refreshments to be prepared. While she was absent with this hospitable intention, the barbarians placed the head of her brother on the table, filling the mouth with bread and cheese, and bidding him eat, for many a merry meal he had eaten in that house. The poor woman returning, and beholding this dreadful sight, shrieked aloud, and fled into the woods, where, as described in the romance, she roamed a raving maniac.”

It is but natural that Miss Murray Macgregor would fain believe this crime “to have been perpetrated by men of another name.” She brings forward a tradition in the clan that it was really the work of MacIans of Glencoe, a name which has lived in the breath of historic sympathy. Two young lads of this race, we are told, had been caught poaching in Glenartney, as a punishment for which the forester clipped their ears. Insulted kinsmen vowed revenge for that injury; and the picturesque circumstance is added that their first step was the employment of a local witch, who threw such a spell over Drummond that the MacIans were invisible to him as they approached on their cruel errand. The Macgregor chief’s only part in the matter, we should believe, was harbouring those “Children of the Mist”; or, for some reason or other, it is admitted, he may be understood to have taken the responsibility of the crime upon himself. What came to be believed at the time was that the murderers carried Drummond’s head—his hand in another story—to the Macgregor chief, who, assembling his clan at the church of Balquhidder, made them lay their hands upon the gory trophy, and swear to defend the authors{148} of the deed, as done by their common determination. Sir Alexander Boswell, son of Johnson’s acolyte, has told the story in Clan Alpine’s Vow, a poem that reads like an attempt to catch the wind of the Lady of the Lake’s popularity.

The Privy Council made no doubt of the real culprits. Proclamation went forth against the “wicked Clan Gregor, continuing in blood, slaughters, hership, manifest reifts and storths committed upon His Highness’ peaceable and good subjects.” A Commission was issued to several noblemen and gentlemen, empowering them for three years to hunt down the Macgregor chief and a long list of his followers as specified by name. One account tells of thirty-seven Macgregors slain by a party which the murdered man’s brother had raised under this commission; another makes seventeen of the clan hanged upon one tree at Balquhidder, as a round dozen are said to have been at the end of Loch Earn. Against these statements their faithful historian can bring no more satisfactory disproof than depositions of old men in the early part of last century, who had the story in a form more favourable to the Macgregors, and thought it unlikely that such wholesale executions could have taken place without figuring in their traditions. Miss Murray Macgregor makes a stronger point by showing how, when little more than a year had passed, her ancestor the chief and his followers were formally pardoned for whatever share they may have had in Drummond’s murder. It was not always convenient, indeed, to hold on foot the volunteer police of the border line, where the King’s deputies often proved apter to look to the grinding{149} of their own axes than to keeping keen the sword of justice.

In 1596 Macgregor appeared at court, like Roderick Dhu at Holyrood, to give pledges and promises for the good behaviour of his hornet hive. But a few years later came an outbreak that seemed to fill the cup of their offences. There was an old smouldering feud between them and their neighbours, the Colquhouns of Loch Lomond, which flared up into open war just before James succeeded to the English crown. In The Highlands and Islands, I gave the traditional version of the Glenfruin fight. Miss Murray Macgregor points out that there were two fights at a few weeks’ interval, one in Glenfinlas, the other in Glenfruin. It was after the first affair, described as a “raid,” that the procession of widows carrying the bloody shirts of the slain stirred James into commissioning Colquhoun of Luss to repress the Macgregors.

Then followed the famous battle in that “Glen of Sorrow,” which the Macgregor historian shows to have been fairly fought and won by the courage and strategy of the Macgregors and their allies, who had taken the initiative against a hostile force advancing to attack them. As for the legend of the slaughtered scholars, she justly insists that this story does not enter into the legal charges formulated against her clan, from which such an atrocity would hardly fail to be omitted if it could be brought home to them. She quotes another tradition as to this crime being the work of a monster or madman of uncertain name; and she is able to show that a few years later a highlander of Glencoe was accused before the Privy{150} Council of having “with his own hand murdered without pity the number of forty poor persons who were naked and without armour,” probably those scholars or other sightseers who had come out from Dumbarton to see the battle, and whom the Macgregor annals represent the chief as placing in a church out of harm’s way; he is also said to have expressed the utmost horror at their unhappy fate. Furthermore, the Macgregors’ plea includes a charge, founded on the dying declaration of their resentful chief, that sly Argyll had a hand in the whole quarrel, who, while professing to keep the peace of the Highlands, was not above secretly setting two hostile clans by the ears that they might destroy one another like Kilkenny cats, at the same time, perhaps, throwing into relief the need for the services of a powerful lord-lieutenant on the Highland border. For myself, I will only say that in the whole affair there appears no evidence to call a blush to the cheek of modern Macgregors; and that I regret having hurt any clan feeling by my slight account of this battle long ago. The Colquhouns’ story has been set forth by Sir William Fraser; and that clan counts among its daughters a distinguished author who might draw the pen against the Macgregor historian, if so disposed. As for the Argyll family of to-day, they are all authors, so I leave it to them to controvert the many hard things that have been said against their forbears.

Glenfinlas and Glenfruin, in one or both of which fights Dumbarton citizens were involved, raised such a noise in the Lowlands that, for the moment, anything would be believed against the Macgregors. James’s parting legacy to them was a persecution that aimed at exterminating{151} the “viperous clan,” as a Campbell styles them in a letter to the king. Their very name was prohibited. They were forbidden to carry any arms but a pointless knife for eating their victuals. Not more than four of them might be suffered to show themselves together. Other offenders were offered pardon on condition of quelling Macgregors, whose heads, in one instance at least, were put to a price like wolves’. Within a year after Glenfruin, more than thirty of them had been executed at Stirling alone. The chief was hanged at Edinburgh; after one daring escape from treacherous arrest, he had fallen into the hands of Argyll, who is said to have promised to send him to England, a promise kept to the letter by taking the captive over the Border, but at once bringing him back to his doom. Hostile clans were set to hunt down the sons of Alpin, as Uncle Sam has employed Cheyenne scouts against the Sioux. As with runaway slaves, bloodhounds were employed in the chase of the proscribed rebels, some of whom took refuge on an island of Loch Katrine, no doubt the same as figures in the Lady of the Lake. Severe penalties were denounced against “resetters” of those outlaws, and all holding friendly intercourse with them. They did not want for sympathisers as well as persecutors. It had to be expressly forbidden to ferry any of the fugitives across the lochs to the south of their country, where they might else seek refuge in the wilds of Dumbarton and Argyll.

Under this proscription the Macgregors became broken men. Bands of them, “wolves and thieves,” wandered here and there on dark errands of violence and vengeance. But many let themselves be crushed into submission,{152} changed their names, found “caution” for quiet behaviour, or put themselves under protection of other lords and chiefs. The ruined state of the clan is shown, ten years after Glenfruin, by the Laird of Lawers having on his hands three or four score Macgregor “bairns,” their fathers slain or outlawed, as to whom he was urgent with the authorities that other landlords should at least contribute to the expense of such a troublesome charge, not ten of them above the age of five. What to do with this nursery was a question of some difficulty. It was proposed to apprentice them in the Lowlands, like that uncongenial pupil of Simon Glover; also to distribute them among families who should be answerable for their safe keeping. Any child venturing to run away was liable to be scourged and burned on the cheek, and to be hanged if he tried it again; but over the age of fourteen, a youth risked hanging for the first attempt. Even in face of such penalties, Macgregor bairns must have been hard to hold or to bind on their native heath; and it is likely that some of them gave their keepers the slip. A few years later, His Majesty’s Council in England were made aware of emboldened outlaws, who, after lurking quietly for a time, had again “broken loose, and have associated unto them a number of the young brood of that clan who are now risen up, and with them they go in troops and companies athwart the country, armed with bows, darlochs, hackbuts, pistols, and other armour, committing a number of insolencies upon His Majesty’s good subjects in all parts where they may be masters.” As the Sahara to-day is haunted by veiled Touareg caterans, even so we can imagine how civilescent Murrays and{153}

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Menzies would be fain to keep a sharp lookout in crossing the wild moor of Rannoch.

The moon’s on the lake, and the mist’s on the brae,
And the clan has a name that is nameless by day.

Like other dubious characters, the sons of Alpin are now found passing under aliases. Fresh outrages charged on them provoked an Act of Charles I., 1633, confirming the former proscription, and specially enjoining, on pain of deprivation, that ministers of the Highland or bordering counties should baptize no child by the name of Gregor, and that no clerk or notary should draw any deed in this forbidden patronymic. So late as 1745, when Prince Charlie’s army was at hand, the conscientious minister of Drymen refused to give it to a child offered for baptism as Gregor. It was the real name of that Gilderoy, “the red lad,” precursor of Rob Roy, who came to a more untimely end, as told in his sweetheart’s lament—

If Gilderoy had done amiss,
He might have banished been.
Ah! what fair cruelty is this,
To hang such handsome men!

This bandit was hanged at Edinburgh, 1636. Among the charges against him was one of taking part in a feud in the Grant country, where the Forbes and the Gordons were concerned; we hear of those Ishmaelites as having a hand in various quarrels as well as those of their own country. The fellest foes of the Macgregors could seldom accuse them of not being ready to fight, unless, as at Sheriffmuir, when distracted by plunder. James VI. had offered Elizabeth a levy of Highlandmen, including{154} fifty Macgregors, to put down her Irish rebels. Sundry members of the bellicose stock were let out of prison to make recruits for Gustavus Adolphus in Germany. The Earl of Moray enlisted three hundred Highlanders from Menteith and Balquhidder to overawe the Clan Chattan in the north: these auxiliaries are believed to have been Macgregors, and they are reported not to have taken kindly to this police service, so that their employer dismissed them; while another story makes some of them refuse to be dismissed, settling down on the Deeside lands, whither they had been rashly called in as bailiffs.

In their own fastnesses the Children of the Mist still held out stubbornly. When Montrose set the heather on fire he was followed by part of the proscribed clan, coming boldly forth from the islands and the wild nooks in which they had taken sanctuary; and we may be sure their tartans were made welcome for the nonce. That blaze extinguished, again they rallied to Charles II.’s standard set up by Glencairn at Killin, which soon went down before Cromwell’s soldiery; then when their Argyll enemies were out of favour, the King’s gratitude for fruitless loyalty availed them in the repeal of the act of proscription. Their forfeited lands, however, were not restored, as Montrose had promised in his master’s name; and for the most part they had to content themselves with becoming tenants or dependents of more thriving names.

Here and there, indeed, we find Macgregors, helped by other lawless bands, making bold to drive off the occupants of farms from which they had been themselves{155} evicted; now and then emerges a record of “the good old rule, the simple plan,” leading one of them to the gallows; but at this date their historian can also quote a number of marriage contracts, wadsetts, sasines, bonds, and such-like deeds of Scots law going to show how the clan, on its outskirts at least, began more or less willingly to adapt itself to the conditions of modern life. In 1691, that old enemy Colquhoun of Luss comes forward to testify to the Laird of Macgregor as “a law-abiding man, regularly paying mail and duty,” while other members of the clan are still denounced as lawless loons, “who have little property or inheritance to be a pledge for them.”

A stumbling-block to those hereditary warriors in their new course was the campaign of Killiecrankie. However much set against the law, the Macgregors had always been ready to stand for the king when bloodshed and plunder were in question; and now a body of them, though not the chief, followed Dundee to his fatal victory. This defiance of the Whig Government, and the general disturbed state of the Highlands, prompted a renewal of the clan’s proscription. Perhaps at the instigation of Breadalbane, the special penal act against it was re-enacted early in William’s reign; then the Macgregors’ conduct in 1715 and 1745 did not invite its repeal.

For nearly a century now it was illegal to use the name of Macgregor. That had been a matter of less importance when every Highlander was known as the son of his father and of his own deeds; but now that even Macgregors had occasion to put their hands to documents and to be specified in records, it behoved them{156} to answer to some convenient surname, while secretly cherishing their own proscribed patronymic. Some disguised it as Gregory, Gregorson, Grierson, and so forth. Some, since better might not be, took the names of neighbours or of the lords on whom they were now more or less dependent. Dr. Johnson understood that David Malloch, the poet, was a Macgregor by birth, that “beggarly Scotchman” who softened his assumed name to Mallet for London ears. Most of the clan seem to have submitted to adoption as Campbells, Drummonds, Grahams, and Murrays, names borrowed from the ducal houses, that, originally besetting the Macgregor country, had gradually squeezed themselves over it, where room was left by such encroachers as the Menzies and the Campbells of Breadalbane. Near the Trossachs country Rob Roy had to do with both Atholl and Montrose, as landlords and superiors; but, when on his good behaviour, he chose to call himself Campbell as recognising Argyll for his special patron. A good deal later, it was not uncommon to find Perthshire men who knew themselves as Macgregors, but passed before the world by other names. In the middle of last century, Professor Macdougall could tell how one of his Edinburgh students gave his name as Macgregor, then being asked to spell it, unconsciously did so as C-a-m-p-b-e-l-l.

Rob Roy’s life I propose to treat apart; and then something may be said of his clan’s part in the rising of 1715. In 1745 also, it can be taken as a matter of course that the Macgregors did not hold aloof from such a congenial chance of bestirring themselves, and in the débâcle after Culloden, their contingent was the last to{157} disband, after boldly marching through the Highlands to Balquhidder. Two separate bodies of them had joined Prince Charlie’s army, as Scott states; but they seem to have run together in the heat of Prestonpans; then there arose a certain jealousy as to which chief had the best right to be colonel. For the clan, as well as the country, was distracted by a pretender, and by more than one. A dispute as to headship seems almost essential to the dignity of a Highland stock; and the troubled life led by the sons of Alpin for two or three centuries had helped specially to tangle the line of succession into knots which Miss Murray Macgregor is at much pains to unravel, her history being twisted, not to say encumbered, by such contentions. She is naturally concerned to exalt her own family, the Macgregors of Glenstray, above rival branches that during a confused time had usurped precedence in a name legally extinct.

The law of proscription, indeed, had now become a dead letter, the Macgregors being practically free to bear their own name if they pleased, though for a time not to wear their own or any tartan, unless along with the king’s coat. If some sons of the race went into exile after Culloden, some to the gallows, and some are already found seeking fortune across the Atlantic, others gained scope for their warlike energy in the new Highland regiments that did such good service to the Georges. Half-way between the two Jacobite risings, negotiations had been set on foot by the kindred clans Gregor and Grant for taking either Grant or Macalpine as their common name. This proposal wrecked on the question of which clan should supply the chief; but some gentlemen of both appear to{158} have then dubbed themselves Macalpine. Half a century later, the name of Macgregor was no longer in disgrace, its loyalty so well proved that the Government could be called on to redress what made now a mere sentimental grievance.

“Gregor Macgregor, Cacique of Poyais,” whom I mentioned in Bonnie Scotland as no great credit to the clan, was grandson of Gregor, bynamed “Boyac” (the beautiful), who under the nom de guerre of Drummond enlisted in the Black Watch, was presented to George II., won a commission, and came to be adjutant of the West Middlesex Militia. He has the credit of drawing up a petition for the repeal of the laws against his clan, as was granted in 1774 by an act evoking warm professions of gratitude and loyalty from the now fully pardoned Macgregors. At the end of the century these sentiments were made good by the raising of a Clan Alpine regiment that, with a brother of its chief for colonel, fought abroad as bravely as at Glenfruin.

The dynastic question had then been settled in a deed signed by over 800 of the name, recognising as their true prince one long fain to lurk under the disguise of a Murray, as to whose essential Macgregorship I allowed myself to speak so lightly. The chief thus elected as representing the main line, was son of Evan Murray or Macgregor, who had been content to end his days as lieutenant of invalids at Jersey, far from the ancestral Glenstray; and the fortunes of the family seem to have been restored by that modern enterprise known as “shaking the pagoda tree.” His granddaughter duly informs me that “high appointments in India prevented{159} Sir John Macgregor Murray, the first baronet, from fully resuming his own patronymic, although he came under obligations to his clan that his only son should do so at his death.” So the last four generations of Red Macgregors have been free to look the whole world in the face without alias or alibi, and flaunt their tartans up to the banks of Jordan, no man daring to make them afraid, an undertaking that seems always to have been beyond the power of most men.{160}



The name of Macgregor now basks in all respectability and renown both at home and far from its native heath. A Buddhist monk, of British origin, who lately undertook to convert us Occidentals, dubbed himself Macgregor, a name that has little suggestion of Nirvana, but seems to accentuate apostasy from the Shorter Catechism. On the other hand Evangelical Christianity and philanthropy of no dreamy sort found a staunch upholder in a “Rob Roy” Macgregor of the last generation, who paddled that byname into fresh note. At South coast resorts, a few years ago, a portly personage attracted much attention by going decked in Macgregor kilt or hose; but scandal gave him out a mere Sassenach, of quite undistinguished name and prosaic occupation, who had the strange fad of posing as a belated chieftain in his holidays, and to intensify that effect donned the most flaring of all tartans, which Rob Roy must have been too canny to wear when his business brought him near excitable bulls. John Bull rather admires the Macgregor tartan, as the most easy to recognise. His sympathies can readily be called out for{161}


“Wee Magregors” and such-like, once looked on as wolf cubs to be caged or exterminated. And much of this favour and familiarity comes through the figure cut by Rob Roy, to make famous a name he himself durst not bear, unless by stealth, when his foot stood firm on his native heath.

As to the popular hero of her clan, Miss Murray Macgregor has not so much to say as might be expected; she seems even inclined to belittle his reputation, and to denounce his freebooting exploits as discreditable anachronism in a day of “changing moral sense.” She would have us know that he was by no means the chief of the clan, as has been lightly said, but only uncle and tutor to the young chieftain of Glengyle, a junior branch rooted at the head of Loch Katrine. But he is by far the most widely celebrated son of Gregor; and we need turn to no more recondite source than Scott for fact and fiction to illustrate a career that in its own day made copy for a London hack writer. Sir Walter, by the way, regrets that rare tract, The Highland Rogue, not having fallen to be written by Defoe; but there now seems reason to believe that this catchpenny piece was Defoe’s work. Better informed biographies of Rob Roy have been written in our time, one decked out in trappings of fiction by the novelist James Grant; but he is still best known from the novel that bears his name, or from Wordsworth’s humorously idealising verses. Not to swell out the following sketch of his life with vain repetitions of such qualifying phrases as “it is said,” “he is believed,” the reader will please understand that a writer has here to pick out what seems most likely to be the fact from a{162} mass of deficient and sometimes contradictory materials more easily handled by fiction than by history. Our critical generation has gleaned very little to round off the presentment of his hero by a romancer who in youth had opportunities to gather what passed for truth about the scenes of Rob’s exploits.

Scott had spoken to men who knew the renowned freebooter, and could describe him as hairy and strong like a Highland bull—not tall, but remarkable for the breadth of his shoulders and the length of his arms, so that he could untie his garters without stooping. It was his red hair or complexion, of course, that gave him the well-known byname. He is supposed to have been born early in Charles II.’s reign, a descendant of Ciar Mhor, the “great mouse-coloured man,” whom tradition accused of the murder of those scholars at Glenfruin. He would hardly have been out of his teens when the Revolution gave him an opportunity of apprenticeship to scenes of violence. He may have fought at Killiecrankie. His first recorded exploit was the Hership of Kippen in 1691, when he swooped down into the Lennox to carry off a herd of cows belonging to Lord Livingstone, and while he was about it plundered the village of Kippen, whose inhabitants had presumed to oppose him with such clumsy weapons as they had at hand.

The young leader of this raid was no homeless outlaw. He had a farm of his own at Inversnaid on Loch Lomond, the accommodation of which he may now and then have exchanged for what is shown on the lakeside as Rob Roy’s Cave, said to have given shelter to Robert Bruce also in his day. When the country had settled down{163} after the Revolution, Rob is heard of as taking grazing lands in Balquhidder, and as acquiring further property or holdings at Craig Royston, farther down Loch Lomond, where again an arched cavern is called “Rob Roy’s Prison,” and rival “Rob Roy’s Wells” are pointed out in this tourist-haunted vicinity. Now or afterwards he combined the apparently incongruous professions of cattle-robber and blackmailer or captain of a border “Watch.” In 1695 he appears to have fallen into the hands of the Philistines, for there is a record of his being ordered for exile to Flanders; but somehow he must have escaped this sentence, perhaps owing to the protection of the Duke of Montrose. It is of course possible that he may here be confused with some other member of the clan, in which the agname Roy was not uncommon.

To this nobleman, his neighbour on Loch Lomond, he for a time attached himself, receiving not only protection but loans of money with which to carry on business as a drover. Another way of telling it is that the duke became practically a partner with his enterprising client. For now, putting his pride into his pocket, Rob took to dealing in cattle at the Lowland markets, a trade, as Scott tells us, not altogether peaceful in its incidents.

The cattle, which were the staple commodity of the mountains, were escorted down to fairs, on the borders of the Lowlands, by a party of Highlanders, with their arms rattling around them; and who dealt, however, in all honour and good faith with their Southern customers. A fray, indeed, would sometimes arise, when the Lowland men, chiefly Borderers, who had to supply the English market, used to dip their bonnets in the next brook, and{164} wrapping them round their hands, oppose their cudgels to the naked broadswords, which had not always the superiority. I have heard from aged persons, who had been engaged in such affrays, that the Highlanders used remarkably fair play, never using the point of the sword, far less their pistols or daggers; so that—

With many a thwack, and many a bang,
Hard crabtree and cold iron rang.

A slash or two or a broken head was easily accommodated, and as the trade was of benefit to both parties, trifling skirmishes were not allowed to interrupt its harmony.

The area of such operations was extended by the Union allowing Highland cattle to be driven over the Border; and for a time our hero seems to have done a profitable business. By and by, however, it went ill with him in overstocked markets. His losses are also blamed on the rascality of a partner who absconded in 1712, when Rob himself had to keep out of the way of a charge that he had treacherously made off with money entrusted to him by several nobleman and gentlemen for buying cows. Such an embarrassed state of his affairs he faced by withdrawing himself deeper into the Highland wilds. The Duke of Montrose pressed for payment of his advances; then his agents are said to have insulted Rob’s wife, in distraining upon their home in the master’s absence. This outrage is charged against Graham of Killearn, the Duke’s chamberlain, upon whom Rob afterwards took stinted revenge by seizing him while collecting rents, laying hands on the money, and carrying off the man of business to an island on Loch Katrine, from which, however, he was released, robbed but unharmed, after a few days’ imprisonment.{165}

About this time Rob Roy’s refuge appears to have been in the Breadalbane country. Now, at all events, he made up a feud with the Campbells, that had been chronic or intermittent in earlier days, when he ducked one laird of that name in the pool of Strath Fillan. His quarrel with Montrose drove him into a new alliance, and he is presently found attaching himself to the Duke of Argyll, for the sake of a clandestine protection extended to clients of the rival magnates. With the Campbell country to fall back on, he made guerrilla raids against the Grahams, by way of settling accounts which this unsuccessful cattle-dealer maintained to be in his favour. His mother is said to have been a Campbell, as also his wife, though another account makes her a Macgregor by birth, who may have passed under the Campbell name.

That private war was interrupted by the rising of 1715. Rob would hardly have been a Macgregor had he not “gone out” at such a time; but most accounts of the campaign represent him as fighting or foraying too much for his own hand. He took the field as guardian of his young nephew, the chieftain of Glengyle, bynamed Ghlune Dhu, “Black Knee,” from a mole shown below his kilt; then to this scion of the house Rob seems to have set no chivalrous example. The battle of Sheriffmuir proved an indecisive one mainly through his refusing to lead the Macgregors to the charge; and his best part in the fight was plundering the baggage and the dead. He would not be the only Highlander in those wars who fought “not for King Shordy nor King Hamish, but for king Spulzie.” Balhaldie, head of{166} another branch of the Macgregors, distinguished himself more at this battle fought close to his home.

The attitude of “sitting on the fence” which Rob kept in this Jacobite rising, is thought to have been inspired by his connection with Argyll, the leader of the Hanoverian party in Scotland. But he was active enough on creaghs, pushed as far as Falkland Palace in Fife. His own country, at the outset, had been beaten up by the enemy. The Macgregors’ first act of war was to seize the boats on Loch Lomond. To recover them, a force of Dumbarton and Paisley volunteers with a band of Colquhoun Highlanders marched to Inversnaid, waked the mountain echoes with a great din of drumming and shooting, by which they boasted to have “cowed and frighted away” the Macgregors, whose captain, indeed, appears seldom forward to fight unless where something was to be got by it.

It was about this time that Rob paid a visit to Aberdeen, sent by Mar, it is supposed, to raise part of his clan settled in that region. Here he was guest of an imperfectly congenial kinsman, Dr. James Gregory, a Macgregor who had changed his name and his nature to become a professor of medicine at the University, one of a line of men of science and healers who by “Gregory’s powder” and other remedies did much to stanch their ancestors’ blood-letting. That alarming cousin from the hills, in return for the hospitality shown him, offered to take to the Highlands one of the professor’s sons with the view of making a man of him. It was difficult to explain to him how this course of education seemed no favour; he is said to have threatened to carry off the boy{167} by force from the unworthy fate of becoming a bookworm, and the father was fain to temporise with such pressing kindness by a promise to talk of the matter later on, when his son had grown stronger. In the end young Gregory was allowed to follow his destiny to medicine; but Rob did visit the family once more, when his stay was cut short by hearing the drums beat in the barracks. “If these lads are turning out, I must be off,” quoth the prudent outlaw, and took sudden leave of his host. The story of his leaping the water at Culter and shaking his fist in the face of his pursuers seems to be a mere fancy piece, like the statue that commemorates it. Rob Roy’s authentic exploits were far from Deeside.

After the dispersal of the Jacobite army, Rob could not prevent his own country being raided by the soldiers. Two houses of his were burned and plundered, one of them before the angry eyes of the outlaw, who could only fire a few shots at the Swiss mercenaries brought from their own Alps to do such work in Highland glens. It seems to have been at an earlier date that he seized the fort building at his Inversnaid home. About this time fell some of the incidents used in Scott’s Rob Roy. The lurking hero became a prisoner to Montrose, but escaped by cutting the girth of his horse, as told in this novel. Again he was captured by Atholl and sent to jail at Logierait, but before he could be handed over to the military, he had given his keepers the slip after making them drunk with aqua vitæ, which now begins to play a potent part in Highland frays.[1] For the moment these{168} noblemen were hunting him in company, united by jealousy of Argyll, all three made dukes about the same time. Wonderful stories are told of the pranks he played with soldiers, for whom he was as hard to catch as an eel or a hedgehog. At Tyndrum, for instance, he is said to have joined a detachment in the disguise of a jovial beggar, who undertook to betray himself as Menteith betrayed Wallace, but so managed the matter that on entering the house where they were to find Rob Roy, the redcoats found themselves seized in the dark, each file pinioned and gagged in turn, to be set free in the morning with a good breakfast, but without their arms.

[1] The first mention of usquebaugh which I know in English books, is Lord Hervey’s statement as to this strong Scotch spirit being tried as cordial for the dying Queen Caroline. In The Highlands and Islands were given reasons for taking whisky to be not of immemorial antiquity on the heather.

One slight glimpse of Rob we have as enjoying himself at home not very long after Sheriffmuir. In 1804 there died a great-nephew of his, Alexander Graham, who believed himself to have reached the age of a hundred and five. Before registration days, indeed, the years of those oldest inhabitants were apt to be loosely calculated; and perhaps this patriarch’s recollection should be dated a little later. He related to the minister of Aberfoyle how when about eighteen he tramped up to Balquhidder on a visit to his granduncle, whose house was near the church of that parish. On the way, oppressed by heat, the lad stopped to bathe in every lake and stream. Having reached Balquhidder, and no doubt having found warm hospitality, he was still so feverish that several times through the night he got up to cool himself in Loch Voil. Next day, as he remembered, he felt too unwell “to bear the merriment that was going on{169}

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in his uncle’s house,” so he set out homewards, still continuing his hydropathic treatment, till at Inversnaid he broke down with what turned out to be an attack of smallpox. Had he remained with his roistering relatives, he might have had the same experience as that other young man Scott tells of on the authority of the Macnab, who, carried off by caterans on his bridal day to a cave on Schiehallion, took the smallpox before his ransom was paid, and got through it so well in this good air that he always looked on the robbers as having saved his life.

After 1715, Rob submitted to the Government de facto; but in the feeble rising of 1719, that was quickly stamped out at Glenshiel, he again headed a band of Macgregors for King James; and again there is a hint of his not being very serviceable. More of an outlaw than ever, he then renewed his attacks upon Montrose, to whom he went the length of addressing a challenge, which Scott looks on as an impudent joke. But that embittered feud came to be made up. Argyll, now no longer trusted by the Government, was reconciled to his ducal neighbour, and got Rob Roy also to make peace with the Grahams. Then the chieftain sent in his celebrated letter of submission to General Wade, in which he makes unworthy excuses for his part in an “unnatural rebellion,” and accuses himself of having all along played the spy for Argyll, while taking care not to do much harm to the redcoats. In further proof of his character as a law-abiding citizen, he asserts that his debt to Montrose is paid “to the uttermost farthing.” Macgregors jealous of his fair fame must rule out this document, as the “Casket Letters” are barred by Queen{170} Mary’s champions. It is signed Robert Campbell, whereas his nephew used the name of Graham.

Rob would now be more free to settle down at Balquhidder under the ægis of those two dukes. Still, there was on hand a feud with Atholl, who once more laid snares for him, and again he gave captivity the slip. It has been supposed that he spent the rest of his life quietly, or without more adventure than went with his blackmailing enterprises. But Dr. Doran unearthed from an old newspaper a statement that in 1727 the redoubtable Rob Roy was brought prisoner to Newgate, and sent to Gravesend, handcuffed with Lord Ogilvie, in a convoy of prisoners for transportation to the West Indies; then they came to be pardoned at the last moment. Fancy poor Rob pining among the “redshanks” of Barbados, that had been sadly stocked with political exiles! His fame already reached as far as London, for the Highland Rogue came out in 1723. George II. is said at this time to have had the rebel brought to his notice as a fine specimen of a Highlander; but here may be a confusion with the story of Gregor Boyac which I have already mentioned.

Having made such a narrow escape from transportation, Rob went home to end his days in comparative peace. He turned Roman Catholic in his old age, not having been hitherto much exercised by religious considerations. When a notorious judge of our time astonished or amused the public by taking the same step, a kinsman of his remarked to me, “Old Harry” (his lordship’s nickname in the family) “likes that sort of thing done for him.” This may have been the case of{171} the Red Macgregor. Yet Scott has a story to show a deeper strain of feeling in him. When towards the end of his life he expressed contrition for some acts in it, and his wife would have laughed away those scruples, he rebuked her with, “You have put strife between me and the best men of the country; and now you would put enmity between me and my God.” The incident would at least fit Scott’s conception of the haughty virago whom he names Helen, while her real name is given as Mary, and her character has been represented in another light. As to Rob’s religious impressions in earlier days, an English traveller, two generations after his death, reports, on the authority of an unnamed witness, a story of his cheating a poor widow out of her only cow, then being moved by a sermon against dishonesty to give it back, promising the minister to amend his ways of business.

The Old Adam came out in Rob when in his last years he had a quarrel with the Appin Stewarts, a branch of whom were his neighbours in Glenfinlas. This was settled honourably by a little blood-letting in a broadsword duel between him and Stewart of Invernahyle, whose adventures in the ’45 were to give Scott more than one hint for Waverley. On his death-bed, a visit being announced from one of those hereditary enemies, the Maclarens, “Throw my plaid round me,” he desired, “and bring me my claymore, dirk, and pistols—it shall never be said that a foeman saw Rob Roy Macgregor defenceless and unarmed!” To this story is tacked on the somewhat hackneyed incident of a priest labouring to extract from the dying man some expression of forgiveness, to which he consented, with a plain hint for{172} his son standing by: “I forgive my enemies; but see you to them, Rob.” We shall see presently how young Robin carried out such an injunction. The Caledonian Mercury announces the “Highland partisan’s” death at the end of 1734.

The renown of this popular hero, even in his lifetime, loomed out through a misty halo of such exploits as were attributed to Robin Hood, and such tricks as were more in the style of Jack Sheppard. Estimates of his character range from Doran’s “contemptible rascal” to the picture of a noble champion cherished in Highland memories, and set forth most elaborately in Mr. A. H. Millar’s life of him. Even his personal courage has been doubted by cavilling Lowlanders, who find cause to see in him more of a bully than a fire-eater; and instances are related of his allowing himself to be crowed down for all his cock-of-the-walk airs. The belief that he spoiled the rich and was good to the poor goes far to account for his contemporary popularity. A certain humorous shiftiness went to carry off his very dubious political conduct. With more craft than becomes a hero, there seems to be a general consent that he was not given to wanton cruelty, nor over-thirsty for revenge. Perhaps it may be said of him as of Brutus, “nec bene fecit, nec male fecit, sed interfecit,” a judgment translated into Andrew Fairservice’s homely language, and delicately expressed by some Highlander who called this chequered hero “a man of incoherent transactions.” But for good or evil, he bears in song and story the name of having been

A hedge about his friends,
A heckle to his foes.


Rob Roy’s attitude of aloofness towards law would not make for the bringing-up of his family in “decency and order.” He left five sons, of whom the eldest was happy enough to have no history; but the others proved themselves chips of the old block to the point of making a noise in criminal records. The youngest, known as Robin Oig, was first to get into trouble. A Maclaren had ventured to settle on what the family held to be their land. At the instigation, it is said, of his mother, Robin Oig, a lad in his teens, shot this intruder at the plough, with a gun belonging to his father which came into Sir Walter Scott’s possession, while Rob Roy’s claymore has emigrated into the hands of an American historical society; and the Edinburgh Museum of Antiquities contains the curious sporan clasp, set with concealed pistols, which is spoken of in the novel. But, indeed, too many of Rob’s weapons have been put upon the market.

The precocious murderer absconded, after a herd of Maclaren cattle had been barbarously mutilated by the help of his friends or his brothers. Two of the latter were tried as his accomplices, along with a rustic pretender to surgery called in to the wounded man, who had refused to give him the benefit of his reputed skill on the plea of not knowing with what shot the gun was loaded. An alibi was set up for the brothers, and the charge of being art and part in the murder was found “not proven,” but the two Macgregors had to give “caution” for good behaviour as “habit and repute thieves.”

Robin Oig appears to have fled abroad; then later he enlisted in King George’s Black Watch, and served at{174} Fontenoy, where he was taken prisoner. After the ’45, he ventured home to Scotland, and in 1750 became concerned in another outrage, that seems as if thrown back into the Middle Ages, Being now a widower, he proposed a forcible marriage with a young widow named Jean Key, whose fortune of a few hundred pounds bulked large enough to balance the risk of abduction. In older days it had been not so uncommon for a Highlander, upon Sabine and savage precedent, to carry off a bride whose heart might not refuse to follow the violent possession of her hand, as in Red Indian story a white squaw has been found so strongly wedded to the wigwam that she would refuse to be rescued by her old kin. Only a generation earlier, the notorious Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, had played a prank of the same kind in high life with peculiar brutality that yet gained its end. But now the Macgregors committed themselves not only to a crime but to a blunder, in forgetting how times had changed.

The third brother, known from his stature as James Mhor, who seems to have been the most active spirit of the family, was the ringleader in this enterprise. Robin, who went to the gallows for it, reading a book, may have been acquainted with Allan Ramsay’s song—

The widow can bake, and the widow can brew,
The widow can shape and the widow can sew,
And mony braw things the widow can do;
Then have at the widow, my laddie!
Wi’ courage attack her baith early and late,
To kiss her and clap her ye mauna be blate:
Speak weel and do better; for that’s the best gate
To win a young widow, my laddie.


At the trial it came to be asserted rather than proved that Robin had begun with speaking and other approved forms of courtship, and that he had been encouraged to hope for success with this widow of a few weeks’ standing. In any case, he hastened to voies de fait.

She was living with her mother and other friends at her house in the Stirlingshire parish of Baldron, when, one December night of 1750, they found it beset by four of the brothers and other confederates, who broke in, terrified the inmates with a display of weapons, and by threats of murder and burning forced the mother to bring her daughter out of a closet where she had hidden herself. Poor Jean, wooed in such rough style, vainly besought at least a few hours for consideration of the proposal thus pressed upon her. Dragged from her mother’s arms, she was thrown over a horse, tied painfully with ropes, and carried off in spite of her screams and struggles. On their way to Loch Lomond, a distance of two or three hours’ walk, the abductors stopped at more than one house, and seem hardly to have cared to conceal their proceedings, but no one durst interfere with them. Professor William Richardson of Glasgow, then a seven-year-old boy at the manse of Aberfoyle, could afterwards “describe as a terrible dream their violent and noisy entry into the house. The Highlanders filled the little kitchen, brandishing their arms, demanding what they pleased, and receiving whatever they demanded. James Mhor, he said, was a tall, stern, and soldierlike man. Robin Oig looked more gentle; dark, but yet ruddy in complexion—a good-looking young savage. Their victim was so dishevelled in her dress, and forlorn in her{176} appearance and demeanour that he could hardly tell whether she was alive or dead.”

Scott’s story is that at Rowardennan a priest was called in to perform a marriage ceremony in face of the bride’s protests; and that she was afterwards brought to the church of Balquhidder, where the husband affirmed the marriage while the wife kept terrified silence. She seems now to have been cowed into some sort of submission; as it came out on the trial that she had seen the sheriff-substitute, and refused his offer of assistance in escaping from her strange plight. It is said that old women were employed to administer drugs to her by way of love philtres; and by threats and entreaties she was made to sign papers declaring herself to have been carried off by her own consent. For now the high-handed husband found how he lived in a new age. The wife’s relatives appealed to the law, undeterred by threats of vengeful feud in good old Highland fashion. Soldiers were sent to back up warrants; and what made a more effectual hitch in the brothers’ scheme, the Court of Session sequestrated the woman’s property, teterrima causa of the crime.

When she had been carried about the Macgregor country for some weeks, to evade the hue-and-cry that now could be pushed into the Highlands in place of the Fiery Cross, the Glengyle chieftain interfered in her favour. The brothers consented to let her go back to her friends, and under James Mhor’s care she was taken to Edinburgh, at first kept shut up there as a prisoner. But again the Court of Session stretched out its arm to place her in safety in the house of a{177}

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connection, guarded by sentinels against the Macgregors’ interference. The unfortunate woman appears to have been so broken down that her own mother hardly knew her; and her mind was shaken so that she could with difficulty be brought to relate the tale of her wrongs. The future Lord Kames, who had a professional interview with her, at first judged his client disposed to condone the violent marriage; then withdrew from the case because she gave it a different aspect at another time. Other accounts represent her as oppressed by an oath she had been forced to take when in the hands of the Macgregors. She did, however, make an affidavit as to what had happened, which formed a main piece of evidence after her death.

Within the year she died at Glasgow, from smallpox, by popular account; what she had gone through might well have made her an easy victim to any illness. She had refused to see her husband again; and when, on the way to Glasgow, one of her escort remarked that a lonely stretch on the road was just the place for the wild Macgregors to appear, “God forbid!” she exclaimed, “the very sight of them would kill me.” Her experience had clearly not been that of the bride as to whose case an old lady warmly assured Scott: “My mither never saw my father till the night that he carried her awa’ wi’ ten head o’ black cattle, and there wasna a happier couple in a’ the Highlands.”

For a year or two the brothers eluded justice. James was the first to be caught and brought to trial on a charge of abduction and of what in Scotland is the capital crime of hame-sucken, using violence to a person in his{178} own house. The evidence was contradictory, and the verdict turned out rather vague, the jury recognising the abduction but inclining to look on the subsequent proceedings as condoned by consent. While the Court still sat discussing the effect of this verdict, James Mhor made a bold escape from Edinburgh Castle, to which he had been transferred from the Tolbooth for greater security. Here his daughter visited him, smuggling in a disguise turned to account as told in the Scots’ Magazine of November 1752:—

He dressed himself in an old tattered big coat put over his own clothes, an old night-cap, an old leather apron, and old dirty shoes and stockings so as to personate a cobbler. When he was thus equipped, his daughter, a maid servant who assisted, and who was the only person in the room, except two of his young children, scolded the cobbler for having done his work carelessly, and this with such an audible voice as to be heard by the sentinels without the room door. About seven o’clock, while she was scolding, the pretended cobbler opened the room door, and went out with a pair of old shoes in his hand, muttering his discontent for the harsh usage he had received. He passed the guards unsuspected, but was soon missed and a strict search made in the Castle, and also in the City, the gates of which were shut, but all in vain.

The same authority tells us how two subalterns commanding the guard that night were cashiered, the sergeant who had the key of the prisoner’s room was reduced to the ranks, and the porter was whipped, to enforce greater vigilance for the future. The story is best known to our generation by its dubious hero’s luck to get a vates sacer in R. L. Stevenson.

James having made good his escape to France, his{179} brother Duncan was tried and acquitted of the same charge, finding a jury ready to believe it not proven that he had intended to take part in a crime. Another brother, Ronald, managed to keep out of the way. But in 1753 Robin Oig himself was at last brought to justice. For him it was pleaded that the kidnapped woman’s distress moved him to relenting, overborne by the harder-hearted masterfulness of his brother James. All that could be said, however, did not save Robin’s neck. He died with edifying firmness, confessing his offence, and attributing it to going astray from the Roman Church, to which he now adhered. The body, carried off by friends to Balquhidder, was met at Linlithgow by a band of Macgregors, who conveyed it onwards with the coronach and other signs of Highland mourning.

James Mhor was mixed in other ugly affairs that bring him into Stevenson’s Kidnapped and Catriona, in connection with Alan Breck Stewart, suspected of the murder of a Campbell factor for which James Stewart appears to have been unjustly condemned by a Campbell jury. It is more than suspected that Rob Roy’s shifty son sought to make his peace with the Government by betraying Alan Breck and by playing the spy on Jacobite exiles. In any case his character seems beyond whitewashing; and we may pass over those obscure intrigues as taking us too far from the heart of Scotland. He died at Paris, 1754, in miserable poverty, his death-bed redeemed from contempt by a touching message to the fellow-exile whom he owned as chief, begging the loan of bagpipes on which to comfort his last hours{180} by “some melancholy tunes,” that might wake memories of the loch and the heather.

James Mhor, who at least fought like a man at Prestonpans, died thus far from his kin. Rob Roy is understood to be buried at the Kirkton of Balquhidder, his grave marked by a timeworn stone, sculptured in some more hoary age. There are tombs in better case ascribed to his wife and to one of his sons. Another ancient slab is said to commemorate the first Christian missionary of these glens that were so slowly lit by the spirit of the new faith, where the most binding oath was on the dirk, yet a man feared to break vows made on the tomb of this shadowy St Angus. A more pretentious monument recalls the Maclarens, those older lords of Roderick Dhu’s country, where yet a Gaelic rhyme boasted that “the hills, the waters and the sons of Alpin were the three oldest things in Alban.”

The stage of such stirring lives has become a favourite tourist scene of Scotland, visited not only by bailies from the Saltmarket, but by stockbrokers from Capel Court, and by bosses from the United States, who have nothing to be afraid of but the chance of not finding room in the trains, coaches, and places of entertainment that now open up this land of lovely lakes and streams. If any of Rob Roy’s descendants be alive to-day, they are like to present hotel bills instead of sword points to the Osbaldistones and Captain Thorntons of our generation. Some of them may be thanking Sassenach sportsmen for tips; and some, with more fidelity than the Dougal cratur, may be tramping the streets of Glasgow as policemen. Times are indeed changed. We no longer carry off our neighbour’s{181} cattle, nor his wife, nor his widow, nor anything that can be protected by the police. We harry him only under forms of law; we get the best of him in the market; we cheat him by tricks of trade; we peacefully poison him with quack drugs and adulterated drink; then we can complacently give thanks that we are not as those bare-shanked publicans who made blood flow into Highland waters almost as freely as lying advertisements stain the columns of our newspapers.

As yet “glad innocence” has never reigned among sons of Eve nursed upon the “Braes of Balquhidder,” any more than about the banks of Cheapside. But a time may come when our customary misdoings as well as Rob Roy’s will seem—

Monstrous, uncouth horrors of the past,
That blot the blue of heaven and shame the earth
As would the saurians of the age of slime.




There might now be looked for a chapter on the Trossachs district that makes the most famous corner of Perthshire; but indeed we have been in it for some time back. This was the chief arena of Rob Roy’s exploits. At Inversnaid, where the stones of the English fort, finished in spite of him, have gone to build farmhouses and bothies, he had his early home. Many a time he must have driven a herd, honestly or otherwise come by, over Ben Venue by the pass of Beal-nam-bo.

The dell upon the mountain’s crest
Yawned like a gash on warrior’s breast.

The Goblin Cave here seems to have been made too much of in Scott’s imagination, like John Ridd’s Doone houses and the Water-slide on Exmoor; but the whole region is dotted with hiding-holes that sometimes bear Rob’s name. Ellen’s Isle, that shrine of pilgrims, may often have served him as a refuge. Many a time must he have tramped by this chain of lovely lakes, in no more appreciative humour than a certain drover who, being{183} admonished on his way back from Stirling market that in London he could have sold his beasts for twelve pounds a head, sullenly replied that if he could take Loch Lomond to an unmentionable region it would fetch “a pound a tot.”

The gracious name of Loch Katrine is in some spellings degraded into Loch Cateran, as lair of robbers; but different derivations have been suggested, for one, a root found in other Highland names, Urrin, which denotes a Celtic hell. That was the native idea of a rough and bristly country through which cattle-driving made awkward work, with the owners of a stolen herd close at the heels of the spoilers. The Highlandmen were slow to understand what strangers could admire in this country, visited by occasional pilgrims of the picturesque, even before Scott gave it such fame that Dr. Graham can record how twenty-two carriages had stopped in one day at the chief inn of Callander, and how a London artist had “actually” spent a whole winter working among those wild mountains. This minister of Aberfoyle wrote an early guide-book, entitled Sketches of Perthshire; but he hardly gets farther into the Highlands than the southern edge, widely advertised by the Lady of the Lake’s popularity, when Waverley and Rob Roy were still in the womb of time.

Cold-hearted Southrons may look with curious or complimentary eyes upon this half-Highland region, which to its natives was peopled not only with carnal but with ghostly enemies, albeit of more romantic form and quickened by warmer fancy than in the case of those exhaled from flatter claylands. The most familiar spirits of the Highlands were the “Men of Peace” or “Good{184} People” who lived underground in green hillocks, which by spectacled archæologists have been connected with the conical huts of a race of pigmy aborigines, whose shy prowlings in flesh and blood came to pass for fairy tales. The abductions and other tricks ascribed to them in later days may well have been the doings of caterans, walking in the darkness of superstition. Like the Eumenides, the Highland fairies were to be spoken of by good names, in dread of their turn for impish mischief. They had a favourite trick of carrying off mortals to their underground dwellings, and held special power over unbaptised children, who must be guarded against them night and day. Traditions of their pranks are common all over Scotland, from the leading cases of True Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Lin, whose body and soul stood in sore jeopardy among them.

Once in every seven years
They pay the teind to hell,
And I’m so fair and fu’ o’ flesh,
I fear ’twill be mysel’.

In Menteith the “Men of Peace” seem to have been particularly active. One of Dr. Graham’s predecessors as minister of Aberfoyle, the Rev. Robert Kirke, not only wrote a book testifying his belief in them so late as the Reformation period, but was understood to have fallen under their power. His tombstone may be seen by the church, but the story went that he lived on in fairyland after an ineffectual appearance to a kinsman, who neglected to follow his instructions for disenchanting him. When the fairies could deal so masterfully with the very minister, it may be supposed what their power{185} was over thoughtless young folk, now and then drawn into unhallowed love affairs with this uncanny race. A rash mortal who sought their acquaintance had only on Hallow Eve to walk nine times widershins round one of the conical green hillocks so common in this district; then a door would open for the adventurer, henceforth lost to parents, harsh master, or cruel sweetheart. Dr. Graham relates one legend that had a homelier end.

A young man roaming one day through the forest observed a number of persons all dressed in green, issuing from one of those round eminences which are commonly accounted fairy hills. Each of them in succession called upon a person by name to fetch his horse. A caparisoned steed instantly appeared; they all mounted and sallied forth into the regions of air. The young man, like Ali Baba in the Arabian Nights, ventured to pronounce the same name, and called for his horse. The steed immediately appeared; he mounted, and was soon joined to the fairy choir. He remained with them for a year, going about with them to fairs and weddings, and feasting, though unseen by mortal eyes, on the victuals that were exhibited on those occasions. They had one day gone to a wedding where the cheer was abundant. During the feast, the bridegroom sneezed. The young man, according to the usual custom, said “God bless you!” The fairies were offended at the pronunciation of the sacred name, and assured him that if he dared to repeat it, he would be punished. The bridegroom sneezed a second time. He repeated his blessing; they threatened more tremendous vengeance. He sneezed a third time; he blessed him as before. The fairies were enraged; they tumbled him from a precipice; but he found himself unhurt, and was restored to the society of mortals.

Green was the favourite colour of the fairies, understood to be jealous of its being worn by men. In some{186} parts this colour was held unlucky, while its use in so many tartans may have led the wearers “to mourn fifteen renewed in forty-five.”

Who may dare on wold to wear
The fairies’ fatal green?

Among the Grahams, who yet have adopted a chequer of green and blue, the former colour was avoided, since Dundee had on a green coat at Killiecrankie, and thus, as the Highlanders whispered, made himself target for a silver bullet. At the other end of the Highlands, the Sinclairs have not forgotten how in a green uniform they set out for the carnage of Flodden. The suit of Lincoln green worn by the Knight of Snowdon might be supposed to blame for the ill-luck of his chase; but as matter of fact it is on record how King James got a suit of tartan made for his Highland excursions.

An uglier and more perilous brood of spirits were the Urisks who haunted the misty mountains, with Ben Venue for their Brocken. Then every lake had its malignant kelpie, that in the Highlands usually takes the form of a water-bull, or horse, to be avoided like any loathly dragon. I have mentioned such a monster on the Tay; and Loch Vennachar has its own legend of the same kind, how on its banks a horse appeared among a band of children, so pretty, and to all seeming so gentle, that one of them ventured to mount it, then another and another, the creature drawing out its back like a telescope till the whole laughing party were astride, when it plunged into the water, carrying down all but the one who, in such stories, is bound to escape for telling the tale.{187}

I fancy that kelpies, banshees, brownies, and the like uncanny creatures are not so well-known in Perthshire to-day as in the Western Highlands; but here, too, old folks, rather than young ones, may go warily by certain spots after dark. In the middle of last century a young lad whom a German tourist took as guide from Callander was able to cheer the way by eerie stories, one of a whisky smuggler accepting the invitation of an unearthly spirit to dance with her for an hour or so, as it seemed, then on reaching home he found his wife turned grey and his young children grown up. Even yet, upon the Highland line, you may find the Scottish character not all one grey shepherd’s plaid of stern theology and hard-headed shrewdness.

Ben Ledi, “the sacred mount,” was an ancient scene of pagan rites such as those which Roderick Dhu’s weird chaplain mingled with the ordinances of Christianity. I shall never forget a day I spent at its foot, that black Twelfth of August, through which a prolonged thunderstorm raged over Scotland, striking down members of more than one shooting party, on moors overcast by so awful darkness that Benjamin Franklin himself might have heard the voice of offended mountain spirits. Has the reader ever come in for a thunderstorm in the Highlands? Here is the late Mr. A. I. Shand’s account of such an experience as often gives a certain zest of danger to a sportsman’s beat.

You hear the muttering growl of distant thunder; you see the storm-clouds gathering ominously over the lowering head of the Boar of Badenoch or the Sow of Athol: the storm bursts, the rain comes down in torrents, and, before you have been well{188} soaked to the skin, each stream and tiny burn is in foaming spate. Many a torrent has to be breasted waist-deep, or maybe shoulder-high, before you get into dry garments at the shooting-lodge. Still more perilous it is if you are belated and without a knowledgeable guide in the mist that envelops you in its fleecy folds, either thickening insensibly into palpable darkness, or coming down in a rush with appalling suddenness. Coming with a rush, I say, and I speak by book. I remember one bright afternoon, below the Tap o’ Noth, on an Aberdeenshire moor, and when walking up to a point, we had little time to look up at the phenomenon of a sudden sun-eclipse. What we did see was a dense wall of vapour descending on the dogs, who were drawing on a point, some twenty yards ahead. It was a race against time. I got forward to score a right and left. One of the birds we did pick up, the other was lost beyond groping for in a darkness that might be felt. Of course experiences like these are comparatively rare and I do not pretend there is real danger on the moors; I only say there is an inspiring suspicion of it. There is undeniable romance, more enjoyable in the recollection than in the reality, when you feel you are abroad as to the points of the compass; when you are “turned round,” like the lost sportsman on the American prairies; when the whistle of the curlew, the crow of the grouse, the bellowing of the amorous harts in the rutting season, sound strangely uncanny out of the watery cloud. You can understand how the fervid imagination of the Celt, nursed on superstitions in a savage solitude, peopled the gloomy wilderness with brownies and spectres, and heard the wings and weird shrieks of witches in the air, when the skein of wild geese was flying inland.

When Ben Ledi’s top be not veiled in clouds, one has hence a noble prospect over “the varied realms of fair Menteith,” another of those domain provinces whose names in Scotland are older than its shires. Dr. Graham defines this as the country between the Forth and the{189} Teith, rising in the lakes of the Trossachs region, to unite a little above Stirling. Its old bounds appear to have been rather wider, taking in Perthshire up to Strathearn, and Stirlingshire down to the basin of the Clyde. It was, in fact, the upper part of Strathmore, enclosed between the Grampians to the north and the southern Campsie Fells or Lennox Hills, which, curving to the west beyond Stirling, continue the line of the Ochils and the Sidlaws. Through this finely broken valley of heights, meadows, and moors flow the streams of the Forth, that seem to have drained away the importance of the old heart of Scotland to Stirling and Edinburgh. In our day these abundant waters have been artificially led off to Glasgow, where Bailie Nicol Jarvie little thought how Loch Katrine would be laid on to make toddy in the Saltmarket. For centuries this half-Lowland strath has been a channel through which the civilisation of the South flowed up into the Highlands, long stemmed at the mountain gates of the Trossachs country.

The farmers who settled here under the shadow of the Grampians had to lay their account with being exposed to attacks from their mountain neighbours. On the west of Perthshire the clans were shut in by bens and glens as rugged as their own, defended by warriors of the same race; what feuds raged on that side have at all events left slighter marks in history. On the east, the walls of Perth and the castles of the Tay and Earn, each with its pit and gallows, would avail to keep raiders in check. On the north, it was a far cry to the rich plains of Moray, which yet suffered sorely from invasion through Badenoch. But, southwards, a day’s march{190} brought Roderick Dhus and Rob Roys down to a tempting prospect of “Lowland field and fold,” opened from their “savage hills.”

Time was when the Lowlanders could better guard their own against frequent foes; but a day came in which they would be more at home in markets than on battlefields, while the mountaineer still kept the use and the habit of arms. That was the flourishing period of a man like Rob Roy, who had a head for business as well as a hand for violence upon occasion. Both he and his son, Robin Oig—probably confused with each other—left a dubious name in Menteith, over which the father is said to have pushed his creaghs so far as to come to encounter with Macgregor of Balhaldie, the Sheriffmuir laird who by some was recognised as chief of the clan. For the like of them, such raids were honourable occupation: a Highland gentleman, who would scorn to be the thief of a single cow, might be proud of playing the robber on a drove of cattle, yet also with a good conscience he could act as policeman, for a consideration.

My sketch of Rob did not dwell on his dealings in the blackmail business, because I cannot clearly make out at what period or periods of his life it was that, when not harrying or spoiling the Grahams and other ill-wishers, he turned to this comparatively honest means of livelihood. The word blackmail, which has now taken on a darker shade, then answered to an institution marking a certain advance in peace and order. As Bailie Nicol Jarvie calculated, there were far more men in the Highlands than could find honest work, even had they wanted it. The loose fringe of unemployed, when no more{191} glorious warfare was stirred, sought an outlet for their energies in foraging upon their neighbours’ cattle; and such enterprises naturally found lines of least resistance in richer Lowland straths like Menteith and the Lennox. While civil authority was too weak to guard “herds and harvests reared in vain” within swoop of the Highland line, an urgent demand called forth a supply of redress by means of more calculating adventurers, who undertook for a fixed payment to guarantee their peaceful clients against serious loss. The line between caterans and blackmailers would not be very clearly drawn. As the Jonathan Wilds and Vidocqs of a more organised police played alternately the part of thief and thief-taker; and as

He who silence hoots
Is apt to make the hubbub he imputes—

so the professed guardians might also take a turn at robbery, if only by way of impressing the need of insurance on should-be clients. Even the commissioned Watch companies, who were the nucleus of our famous Highland regiments, had the repute of being somewhat discriminating in their protective service. But a “high-toned” blackmailer like Rob Roy made it a point of honour to carry out his contract with subscribers, if sometimes he turned aside to give non-subscribers a plain hint of what they might gain by employing him. They had nothing but his honour to depend upon, a contract of blackmail being strictly illegal—indeed, by an act of the sixteenth century, declared a capital crime in the case of both parties. The necessity of the time, however, let the law wink at the effect of its own shortcomings;{192} and prudent border landlords were fain to insure movable property with men who made it their business and pleasure to take hard knocks and rough excursions.

Later on, the authorities saw well to recognise what had become a regular practice. Rob Roy’s nephew, Glengyle, who appears to have borne a more respectable character than the uncle, entered into formal contracts to recover stolen cattle, or make good the loss, at the rate of five per cent on the rent of a holding; and in the end he was employed and subsidised by Government as Captain of a Watch, the makeshift police of the border line. More distinguished chiefs were not ashamed to carry on the same business. Scott asserts that one of the last to practise it was Macdonald of Barrisdale—a hero rubbed rather threadbare by Mr. A. Lang—who adorned his claymore with a Virgilian inscription—

Hae tibi erunt artes—pacisque imponere morem,
Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos.

Rob Roy’s blackmailing had to be carried on more or less sub rosa, but may have been quite as efficient for the protection of those who made terms with him. Such a Highland Robin Hood would have no difficulty in keeping about him a gang of followers like the Dougal cratur and his own sturdy brood. His proceedings in a case of robbery within his jurisdiction are described by Scott from the mouth of an old man in the Lennox, who, scores of years afterwards, told him the tale of this exciting experience. As a herd-lad of fifteen, he had been working with his father on an estate from which some dozen head of cattle were carried off one autumn{193}

Image unavailable: STIRLING CASTLE

night. Rob Roy was called in, and came with seven or eight men armed as instruments of his function. Having gravely inquired into the symptoms, he soon diagnosed the cause, and set about the remedy with professional promptness, only requiring that two herds should accompany him to identify the cattle and to drive them back when recovered, a duty not to be expected of gentlemen like those who figured in his tail. If Scott’s stories be skimmed nowadays, his notes and introductions are apt to be skipped; so I make bold to borrow freely from one who has so much to lend.

My informant and his father were dispatched on the expedition. They had no goodwill to the journey; nevertheless, provided with a little food, and with a dog to help them to manage the cattle, they set off with Macgregor. They travelled a long day’s journey in the direction of the mountain Benvoirlich, and slept for the night in a ruinous hut or bothy. The next morning they resumed their journey among the hills, Rob Roy directing their course by signs and marks on the heath, which my informant did not understand. About noon Rob commanded the armed party to halt and to lie crouched in the heather where it was thickest. “Do you and your son,” he said to the oldest Lowlander, “go boldly over the hill;—you will see beneath you, in a glen on the other side, your master’s cattle feeding, it may be, with others; gather your own together, taking care to disturb no one else, and drive them to this place. If anyone speak to, or threaten you, tell them that I am here, at the head of twenty men.” “But what if they abuse us, or kill us?” said the Lowland peasant, by no means delighted at finding the embassy imposed on him and his son. “If they do you any wrong,” said Rob, “I will never forgive them as long as I live.” The Lowlander was by no means content with this security, but did not think it safe to dispute Rob’s injunctions. He and his son climbed the hill,{194} therefore, found a deep valley, where there grazed, as Rob had predicted, a large herd of cattle. They cautiously selected those which their master had lost, and took measures to drive them over the hill. As soon as they began to remove them, they were surprised by hearing cries and screams, and looking around in fear and trembling, they saw a woman, seeming to have started out of the earth, who flyted at them, that is, scolded them, in Gaelic. When they contrived, however, in the best Gaelic they could muster, to deliver the message Rob Roy told them, she became silent, and disappeared without offering them any further annoyance. The chief heard their story on their return, and spoke with great complacency of the art which he possessed of putting such things to rights without any unpleasant bustle.

On the way back the herd-boy gained a recollection to last him for life, and to suggest an incident in Waverley. At nightfall they bivouacked on one of those bare moors that so much appalled Andrew Fairservice, swept by a frosty wind which did not much trouble the hardy escort.

The Highlanders, sheltered by their plaids, lay down in the heath comfortably enough, but the Lowlanders had no protection whatever. Rob Roy, observing this, directed one of his followers to afford the old man a portion of his plaid; “for the callant (boy), he may,” said the freebooter, “keep himself warm by walking about and watching the cattle.” My informant heard this sentence with no small distress; and as the frost wind grew more and more cutting, it seemed to freeze the very blood in his young veins. He had been exposed to weather all his life, he said, but never could forget the cold of that night; in so much that, in the bitterness of his heart, he cursed the bright moon for giving no heat with so much light. At length the sense of cold and weariness became so intolerable that he resolved to desert his watch to seek some repose and shelter. With that purpose he couched{195} himself down behind one of the most bulky of the Highlanders, who acted as Lieutenant to the party. Not satisfied with having secured the shelter of the man’s large person, he coveted a share of his plaid, and by imperceptible degrees drew a corner of it round him. He was now comparatively in paradise, and slept sound till daybreak, when he awoke and was terribly afraid on observing that his nocturnal operations had altogether uncovered the dhuiniewassell’s neck and shoulders, which, lacking the plaid which should have protected them, were covered with cranreuch (i.e. hoar frost). The lad rose in great dread of a beating, at least, when it should be found how luxuriously he had been accommodated at the expense of a principal person of the party. Good Mr. Lieutenant, however, got up and shook himself, rubbing off the hoar frost with his plaid, and muttering something of a cauld neight.

After Culloden, for a time, Menteith farmers might sit in a worse plight than before. While the blackmail insurance was no longer to be depended on, a banditti of broken rebels ensconced themselves above the lakeland passes in fastnesses like the crags of Ben Venue, from which they sallied forth on depredations now unchecked by any spirit of clan loyalty, or neighbourly alliances. Their reign of robbery was overthrown mainly through the exertions of Mr. Nicol Graham of Gartmore, whose descendant in our time has not always been hot on the side of law and order, while a forbear of theirs had shown the family spirit in refusing to pay tribute to Rob Roy. This gentleman stirred up the Government to military battues, which, guided by his experience and knowledge of the country, had more success than Captain Thornton’s expedition, till the robbers were rooted out of their lairs, scattered, banished,{196} or executed. Mr. Graham accumulated in his library a curious collection of documents which he called “thief-papers,” illustrating the condition of the border country in this troubled time. These papers are understood to have been put into the hands of the romancer who turned them to such famous use, hence, for instance, being taken Mr. Nicol Jarvie’s account of the population and resources of the clans behind the Highland line; and the “change-houses,” like that of Lucky Macalpine at Aberfoyle, are here pointed out as stills of demoralisation.

Even after peace had been won for the villages and farms of the strath, the law was long a little shy of trusting itself among the mountains. Lockhart tells us that Scott’s first acquaintance with the braes of Balquhidder was as a writer’s apprentice, when he accompanied a process server who had to be escorted to the scene of his duty by a party of soldiers, where now a policeman is a rare sight, and few crimes are known to justice but drunkenness with its sequelae. Till a good deal later there were parts on the Welsh borders in much the same state of home rule. An old gentleman not long deceased told me how in the Llanthony Valley, where the late Father Ignatius secluded himself, disputes were settled by a sort of rough lynch law; and in the next valley, within living memory, the only murder known had been that of a bailiff who attempted to serve a writ. In some parts of the United States, if all tales be true, life and property are less safe to-day than they were a century ago in the Highlands—where officers of the law were the last travellers to feel how they carried their lives in their hands.{197}

Scott compares the mountain clans to Afghan tribes, of whom he seems to have been reading some account. A more familiar resemblance is with the Red Indians of the backwoods, so well known to us through Catholic and Puritan adventurers on their borders. There was the same fierce pride, tempered by traits of generosity and scruples of honour; the same hardihood, along with impatience of regular work; in some cases the same veneer of Christian ritual; always the same restless turbulence of young warriors eager to prove their manhood, held more or less in check by the cooler heads of chiefs and counsellors. The moving narratives of the frontier settlers of New York and Pennsylvania give us some idea of what perils Menteith farmers had long to be familiar with, though indeed the wild Highlandmen seldom showed such cruel temper as was religiously cultivated in the Red Indian.

There appears this other difference in the Highlands and the backwoods border feuds, that in the former, the jarring elements were brought into much closer relations, so that love played its part as well as hatred. The inveterate enemies of the wide New World would be separated from each other by great stretches of forest and prairie, through which war parties travelled for days and weeks, by stealthy paths and silent waterways, to fall at advantage upon their unguarded foe. The pale-face settlers could not feel themselves safe from vengeful redskins whose camp-fires were a hundred miles away. It is said that the Indian summer, that serene truce of nature, got its name through the red warriors taking then a last chance of a raid in force upon the frontier, before{198} the snows held them back; yet even in the depth of winter bands of human wolves might come prowling about the lonely blockhouses, to drag away unwary or unlucky victims to a carnival of torture among their distant wigwams. No band of cultivators would care to fix themselves within a dozen miles of a tribe that was being slowly pushed out of its hunting-grounds. But in Menteith and behind its mountain walls, hereditary enemies were so closely packed together that it is hard to understand how they got on without mutual extermination.

We hear, indeed, of occasional raids into this district from so far off as Appin and Lochaber. But also the tale quoted above from Scott shows how near to their prey were caterans, who, in the Lady of the Lake’s time, could push their devastations as far as the Devon valley of the Ochils. We have seen how the Macgregors and the Maclarens ill-neighboured each other in Balquhidder, the latter clan gradually ousted and taking refuge among the Stewarts, who filled the adjacent wilds of Glenfinlas. To the south lay the Buchanans, the Colquhouns, and the “wild Macfarlanes.” To the north were the Macnabs and advanced parties of Murrays. The name of the Dreadnought Hotel at Callander tells us how it was first built by the Laird of Macnab, whose concerns straggled so far from their root on Loch Tay. And all those smaller bodies were pushed upon from opposite sides by the Grahams and the Campbells, powerful enemies whom the older inhabitants would sometimes be able to play off against each other, while sometimes the medley of quarrel seems to have tended to such an{199} awkward shape as that triangular duel in Midshipman Easy.

What the Campbells were in Argyll and Breadalbane, the Grahams were in Menteith, intruders and agents of civilisation, who had to hang their heads for long through a series of miscalculations and misfortunes. The house of Menteith was an unlucky one ever since one of its sons betrayed Wallace; nor did it prosper by the earldom of Strathearn, through which it claimed to inherit the purest strain of royal blood. It sank into misery and extinction, having passed from Menteiths and Stewarts to the Grahams, on whom also a curse seemed to come through the murder of James I. Other branches of this family gained futile distinction, in the meteoric career of Montrose and the dark fame of Claverhouse, who to an uncovenanting generation looks now not so black as he was once painted. The mysterious murder of Lord Menteith’s heir by an intimate friend has been told in The Legend of Montrose. In the next century the empty title was claimed by one who literally died a beggar on the roadside.

The jeune premier, though not the hero, in the Lady of the Lake, was a Graham who appears no further unfortunate than by having a double allowance of powerful rivals, to hinder his course of true love for the daughter of a once greater house that then lay under heavy clouds of royal disfavour. This heroine, we remember, was Ellen Douglas, conveniently exiled to a nook rather out of the way of Douglas power and pride. Did it ever occur to a careless reader to ask why here she had been brought up by an aunt, taking the place of a mother? Looking away from the Grahams a moment, I should{200} like to quote a piece of commentary which my friend Mr. H. R. Allport believes himself to have made for the first time, in a privately-printed volume.

The heroines of the Waverley Novels, with a single prominent exception, are all of them motherless. They had mothers presumably, but their mothers filled untimely graves. The one prominent exception, of course, is Lucy Ashton, whose mother, Lady Ashton, is an important personage in the story. In Waverley there are two heroines, Flora M’Ivor and Rose Bradwardine, who are both motherless. In Guy Mannering there are also two heroines, Julia Mannering and Lucy Bertram, who are both motherless. In Rob Roy the heroine is Die Vernon, who is motherless. In Old Mortality the heroine is Edith Bellenden, who is motherless. In The Heart of Midlothian the heroine is Jeanie Deans, who is motherless. In Ivanhoe there are again two heroines, Rebecca and Rowena, who are both motherless. In Kenilworth the heroine is Amy Robsart, who is motherless. In The Pirate the heroines are Minna and Brenda Troil, who are motherless. In The Fortunes of Nigel the heroine is Margaret Ramsay, who is motherless. In Quentin Durward the heroine is Isabelle, Countess of Croye, who is motherless. In Woodstock the heroine is Alice Lee, who is motherless. In The Fair Maid of Perth the heroine is Catherine Glover, who is motherless. I need not go through the entire list. I believe that Lucy Ashton is the only exception of note.

It would be interesting to know Scott’s reason for what can hardly be the result of accident. He may possibly have thought that a girl deprived of a mother’s care and control was likely to grow up a more unconventional, and therefore a more picturesque, personage than one more happily circumstanced. But this is a mere guess.

I can think of another guess. It is known how Scott was disappointed in early love, and how he married a lady{201} of French extraction, who makes a very shadowy appearance in biographies of him. Now that his children’s children are dead, there can be no harm in hinting that his wife was accused of a weakness which went to diminish the respect if not the affection of her family. An old friend of my father, still alive, heard the matter put very plainly by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, who told him how he himself had given up dining with the Scotts, because of the state in which he frequently found the lady of the house. That bit of hushed-up scandal would explain why the husband shrank from describing a mother’s influence, as touching a sore point in his own family life. His letters and diaries also dwell far more upon his children than upon their mother.

From this whispered aside, let us turn back to the Grahams of Menteith. At last the race began to flourish steadily in the new dukedom seated on Loch Lomond, forgetting its feuds with Argyll and overcoming its guerrilla neighbours, Macgregors and such-like. The Grahams may now look on themselves as a great clan that has absorbed the sentiment of the heather and the forest among which they made clearings. But they surely came from the south, one sept of them seen by Scott at home in the Debatable Land on the English border. The very name has a hint of darkly dubious origin. One ancient warrior of the race is said to have broken through the Roman wall, which, in memory of that exploit, became known as Graham’s Dyke. But the name Graham’s Dyke turns up in other distant parts of Britain—as, for instance, on Harrow Weald by the house of that dealer in modern “magic and spells,” Mr. W. S.{202} Gilbert, where it is more plausibly interpreted as Grim’s Dyke, a name given in awe by rude Saxons to what seemed the work of supernatural hands, such as near Brighton, with a flourish of legend, has been bluntly christened the Devil’s Dyke. The Grahams had best look out for another forefather. Quelle généalogie! as a Czar of Russia exclaimed in amazement, when he had interpreted to him at the Mansion House that an unknown uniform denoted un frère aîné de la Trinité.

We know how more than one “Dyke” was run across the country as a barrier against naked hosts of the North. But this part of the Highland line had a natural boundary in the Forth, of which the saying was that it “bridled the wild Highlandman.” Swimming is an accomplishment given by Scott to Malcolm Graeme and other of his heroes; but it was not common among Highlanders of the last generation; and I am doubtful how far a poet had authority for the statement—

We swam ower to fause English ground
And danced ourselves dry to the pibroch’s sound.

The young Forth, known in its cradle as the Avon Dhu, soon gathers strength as it drains the flats of Flanders Moss, which is taken to be the dregs of a forest cut down by Roman soldiery; and its only safe passage, even that impracticable in spate weather, was by the Fords of Frew, where Rob Roy made his bold escape from Montrose’s horsemen. This point proved so important as to be guarded by a fortalice, when there was no wale of bridges on the Highland line. Scott confesses to an anachronism in accommodating Aberfoyle with a bridge{203} in Rob Roy’s day. The first bridge was at Stirling, one of great antiquity, as shown by the part it played in Wallace’s victory over the English knights heedlessly divided on the crossing. A public-spirited tradesman of Stirling, Robert Spittall, “Tailor to King James IV.” built a bridge over the Teith at Doune, as an inscription upon it records. Once across this, an invading army from the North had still to pass the Forth, its bridge guarded by Stirling Castle.

The value of this double line of defence for the Lowlands was well shown in 1715. When Mar lay so long idle at Perth with the largest Jacobite army ever mustered could he have held it together, his inactivity was caused not only by want of skill and decision, but by the fact of the Forth fords being swollen by a wet winter, while Argyll had broken down the Teith Bridge at Doune. Mar found it easier to ship a detachment across the Firth of Forth than to get over the river near its source, an enterprise in which sly Rob Roy seems to have been in vain expected to guide him. When he did advance on Stirling it was by Allan Water, above which he met Argyll on Sheriffmuir, for that strange battle in which both sides were half-losers, half-winners.

Argyll’s moral victory appears to have been partly due to the Ochil boglands being frozen so as to bear the heavy regular dragoons. A little later and the frost would have been hard enough to make the unbridged rivers passable, as the Highland army could retreat from Perth across the ice-bound Tay. When Charles Edward advanced upon the Lowlands it was in a dry September that let him easily over the Forth, to march on in bravado within{204} cannon-shot of Stirling Castle. To hinder his retreat he found Stirling Bridge broken down, which was repaired in haste for Cumberland’s march to the north.

Sheriffmuir, if we may trust historians like Blind Harry, was arena of an older and a bloodier battle, when Wallace is said to have exterminated an English army ten thousand strong; and scattered standing stones here are taken by the country-folk as memorials of that victory. The little town of Dunblane, with its restored Cathedral and its monuments of nobility, was well known to armies marching north and south on the road up Strathallan into Strathearn. Prince Charlie and Butcher Cumberland were lodged here in turn; and local legend makes the latter narrowly escape an end worse than that of Pyrrhus. A servant lass whose heart had been won by the Prince’s graciousness when she cleaned his boots, undertook to souse the Duke with boiling oil thrown from a window as he rode out of Dunblane; but the scalding douche lighted on his horse’s haunch, so that he got off with being flung into the mud.

Doune Castle guarded another road into the Highlands by way of Callander. In the ’45, as Captain Waverley found, it was held by the Jacobites to secure their passage of the Teith, and seems to have been the only spot in which they heard the mouse squeak rather than the lark sing. For a time it had for commander that “Black Knee” nephew of Rob Roy, who earned golden opinions in the neighbourhood by the considerate way in which he exercised his authority, not allowing\[Pg (\d+)\]([a-z])([’|”])([a-z]) dubious auxiliaries like Donald Bean Lean to have their will of the poor country-folk’s cattle and chickens. Even{205} then it was in no case to stand a hot siege; and Scott found it “a noble ruin, dear to my recollections from associations which have been long and painfully broken.” It once made a stronghold for royal blood, the Dukes of Albany and the “bonnie Earls of Moray,” none of them so well remembered as the boy who came to dream among their memorials, and to retrace on pony-back the ways of audacious caterans and adventurous knights.

Well-known was all this country to young Walter Scott, when he spent long holidays at Cambusmore and other friendly mansions hereabout, his hosts as little thinking as himself how this idle callant was one day to increase the value of property in Menteith. Indeed, it is extraordinary how much at home he shows himself in most parts of Perthshire, so far from his native eyry. Through that heart of Scotland as we wandered together, the tales by which I have tried to cheer the reader’s way are mostly to be found transfused into his romances or tacked on them as illustrations in his lively introductions and notes. If I have forborne to repeat hackneyed epithets about the scenery of this region, it is because I take for granted that its features are familiar in Scott’s verse, which, let certain critics shut their ears as they will, still plays to general admiration the drum and trumpet part in the orchestra of British poets, not without interludes of sweeter strain that will be remembered long after more elaborate compositions have been whistled down the winds of fame.

We all know where to look for descriptions of Perthshire scenery; and I am the less bound to labour on word-painting, since in my case it may be hoped, after{206} the words of another poet, that “the pictures for the page atone.” The artist here has done his part for both of us. The author modestly presents himself, rather, as a gossiping companion to the guide-book, which, in its up-to-date form, dwells more on details of useful information, and has less room for giving strangers some notion what life was in this region before its flush of romance had died away like an Alpine glow.

But soon now we are out of Perthshire, crossing the Forth into Stirling, whose citadel, “the bulwark of the North,” has been our beacon as we gossiped our way down the green Menteith Mesopotamia. The “Sons of the Rock” may receive me with a frown, declaring their county and not mine to be the true heart of Scotland, which I admit to have been for a time its central ganglion, whence the nerves of civilisation thrilled out through Highlands and Lowlands. We can both agree that the fat Lothians and the smoky Clyde were mere excrescences, which made a narrow escape of becoming no better than English borderlands. Stirling cannot at least complain that I failed to do it due honour in Bonnie Scotland. Now once more let us mount its castled rock to look back on such a prospect of Perthshire that nowhere could one have a nobler standpoint for bidding—

Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow!
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below!
Farewell to the forest and wild-hanging woods!
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods!

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