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John H. Dixon, F.S.A. Scot

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Title: Gairloch In North-West Ross-Shire
       Its Records, Traditions, Inhabitants, and Natural History
              With A Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree And a Map and

Author: John H. Dixon, F.S.A. Scot

Contributor: William  Jolly, F.G.S., F.R.S.E.
             Rev. John  M'Murtrie, M.A.
             Professor W. Ivison  Macadam, F.C.S., F.I.C., M.M.S.

Release Date: October 29, 2012 [EBook #41227]

Language: English

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Flowerdale House, Gairloch,
West Coast Residence Of The Baronets Of Gairloch




Guide to
Gairloch and Loch Maree


By JOHN H. DIXON, F.S.A. Scot.

including chapters by


[Entered at Stationers' Hall.]







Is Dedicated





The preparation of the following account of Gairloch has been prompted by regard—almost affection—for this beautiful and interesting Highland parish. It is published in the hope that it may not only assist the tourist, but also be found to constitute a volume worthy of a nook in the great library of local history. Here and there some few general remarks on the subjects dealt with have necessarily been introduced by way of explanation or illustration, but in the main this book relates solely to Gairloch. I have tried to make short chapters, and to dispense with footnotes.

Without much assistance the work could not have been satisfactorily completed. The necessary help has been given with the greatest freedom and kindness. Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch, has himself furnished much valuable and accurate information, and Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch has kindly assisted. From Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie of Inverewe, youngest son of the late Sir Francis Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch, I have received a large amount of personal aid. Much of the information about the Mackenzies has been culled from the works of Mr Alexander Mackenzie (a native of Gairloch) with his consent. He is the able author of a copious history of the Mackenzies and other important books, and the editor of the Celtic Magazine, from which last the memoir of John Mackenzie of the "Beauties" and several of the traditions have been mainly taken. From the MS. "Odd and End Stories" of Dr Mackenzie, Eileanach, only surviving son of Sir Hector Mackenzie, Bart., eleventh laird of Gairloch, numerous quotations will be found. These extracts are published with the consent of Dr Mackenzie, as well as of Mr O. H. Mackenzie to whom he has given his MS. volumes. With one exception, wherever Dr Mackenzie is quoted the extract is taken from his "Odd [viii]and End Stories." The Dowager Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch has been so good as to prepare a short statement, from which extracts are made. Dr Arthur Mitchell, C.B., Senior Commissioner in Lunacy for Scotland, has permitted the use of his paper on the Isle Maree superstitions. Mr Jolly has contributed three valuable chapters, and the Rev. J. M'Murtrie and Professor W. Ivison Macadam have each given a chapter. To Mr William Mackay of Craigmonie, Inverness, I am indebted for full notes on ecclesiastical matters, and for extracts from the old records of the Presbytery of Dingwall. The Rev. Alexander Matheson, minister of Glenshiel, has supplied extracts from the records of the Presbytery of Lochcarron. I have to thank Messrs Maclachlan & Stewart, of Edinburgh, who in 1882 brought out a sumptuous edition of the "Beauties of Gaelic Poetry," by the late John Mackenzie, a Gairloch man, for permission to use the accounts of John Mackay (the blind piper), William Ross, William Mackenzie, and Malcolm Maclean, contained in the "Beauties." James Mackenzie, of Kirkton (brother of John Mackenzie of the "Beauties"), has furnished a large chapter of Gairloch stories, besides a number of facts, traditions, and anecdotes; wherever the name of James Mackenzie occurs in these pages, it is this worthy Highlander who is referred to. Other Gairloch traditions, stories, and information have been furnished by Kenneth Fraser, Leac nan Saighead (through the medium of the Celtic Magazine); Alexander Maclennan, Mossbank; Roderick Mackenzie (Ruaridh an Torra), Lonmor; George and Kenneth Maclennan, Tollie Croft; John Maclean (Iain Buidhe Taillear), Strath; Simon Chisholm, Flowerdale; Roderick Campbell, Tollie; Donald Ross, Kenlochewe; Alexander Mackenzie (Ali' Iain Ghlass), piper, Poolewe; George Maclennan, Londubh; and Alexander Maclennan (Alie Uistean), Inveran, who especially has given me considerable assistance. The legend of Ewan Mac Gabhar is mainly in the form given in the works of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, supported to some extent by several of the old people now living in Gairloch. That enthusiastic friend of the Highlander, Professor Blackie, has kindly contributed two English versions of Gaelic songs; and Mr William Clements Good, of Aberdeen, has given similar aid. Professor W. Ivison Macadam has communicated the results of his [ix]analyses of ores and slags, and has assisted in examining the remains of the old ironworks. Mr D. William Kemp, of Trinity, Edinburgh, has generously done a very great deal to unravel the history of the ironworks, and in other ways. Lieutenant Lamont, of Achtercairn, has procured the traditions given on the authority of Ruaridh an Torra. Mr Mackintosh, postmaster, Poolewe, has supplied some anecdotes and facts. The Glossary has been prepared with the aid of Mr O. H. Mackenzie; the Rev. Ronald Dingwall, Free Church minister, Aultbea; Mr Alexander Cameron, the Tournaig bard; and Mr Alexander Maclennan, Inveran. The names of some others who have rendered valuable help are stated where their information is utilised. To all these ungrudging helpers, and to many others not mentioned by name, I beg to offer my sincere thanks.

To render the natural history of Gairloch complete, lists are still needed of the insects, sea-anemones, grasses, mosses, lichens, fungi, sea-weeds, and fresh-water weeds. Any information on these and other branches of natural history will be heartily welcomed, with a view to insertion in a possible future edition.

The process of zincography, by which nearly all the illustrations have been reproduced, has not in many cases realised my expectations, but it has been thought best to issue the book at once rather than wait until the illustrations could be rendered in a superior manner.

The profits, if any, from the sale of this book will be applied in aid of the Poolewe Public Hall.


Inveran, Gairloch, 1st September 1886.




Flowerdale House, West Coast Residence of the Baronets of Gairloch Frontispiece
Loch Maree, from Inveran9
Crosses on the Graves of the Prince and Princess on Isle Maree10
At Ardlair15
On Craig Tollie22
Island or Crannog on Loch Tollie25
Gairloch, from Strath35
Glen Grudidh, from Loch Maree42
Beinn Lair, from Fionn Loch54
Chapel of Sand of Udrigil70
Sir George Hay, of Megginish, Knight, the Ironfounder of Loch MareeFacing 75
The Minister's Stone, Ardlair81
Sir George Hay, First Earl of Kinnoull, High Chancellor of Scotland, the Ironfounder of Loch MareeFacing 82
On the Ewe96
A Mutch130
Cabar Lar, or Turf Parer131
Tor-sgian, or Peat Knife133
Cliabh Moine, or Peat Creel134
Highland Hand-Plough called Cas-Chrom, or "crooked foot"135
A Gairloch Man216
Umbrella Fir, Glas Leitire305
Above Grudidh Bridge306
Leth Chreag, Tollie314
Dunan, on Loch Tournaig319
Near Grudidh322
Slioch, from Rudha Aird an Anail326
Natural Arch, Cove334
Curious Rocks, Sand of Udrigil338
Loch Maree, from Ardlair340
Clach a Mhail, Ardlair342
Uamh a Mhail, Ardlair343



From Drawings by Finlay Mackinnon. The numbers correspond with those
given on pp. 103, 104.

1.Bronze Ring, found at Londubh103
2.Hollow Bronze Ring, found at Londubh104
3.Bronze Spear Head, found, along with a Stag's Horn, near Inverewe House104
4.Bronze Spear Head, found at Londubh110
5.Bronze Celt, found at Slatadale110
6.Stone Celt, found at Cove 113
7.Bronze Spear, found at Croft117
8.Bronze Celt, found at Londubh121
9.Stone Implement, found in Peat-Cutting between Inveran and Kernsary124
10.Quern or Trough, found in a Broch or Pictish Round House at Tournaig142
11.Fragment of Trough, found in a Broch or Pictish Round House at Tournaig146
12.Bronze Penannular Ring, found at Londubh150
13.Cast Iron Appliance, probably part of Machinery, from the Fasagh Ironworks158
14.Tuyere, from the Fasagh Ironworks163

Notes.—The portraits of Sir George Hay, the Ironfounder of Loch Maree, are lithographed reproductions from photographs of pictures in Dupplin Castle, taken by permission of the present Earl of Kinnoull.

All the illustrations are original, except No. 12 of the Antiquities, which is reduced from that in Mr Jolly's paper on "Bronze Weapons and other Remains found near Poolewe."

The sketches for the illustrations of Flowerdale House and the Natural Arch at Cove are after photographs by Mr Fraser of Reilig. In no case have published photographs been used in the preparation of illustrations.

MapAt the end



List of Illustrationsxi
Glossary of Gaelic Names and Wordsxxvii
Extent of Gairloch parish—Name—Curious muddle about "the Gairloch"—Name used in four senses—Attractions of Gairloch—Loch Maree—Superficial observation of tourists—A party declare they have "seen Loch Maree"—Inducements to longer visits—Credibility of old traditions—Gaelic names—Pronunciation—Interference with sportsmen and deer forests deprecated—Mountain ascents—Drawbacks to them—Shorter climbs recommended—Mania for exterminating plants—Instancesxliii

Part I.—Records and Traditions of Gairloch.

Chapter I.—Early History.
Absence of ancient records—Giants in those days—Fingalian legends—Condition of Pictish aborigines—Their houses and implements—Druids—Roman invasion—Pictish monarchy—Introduction of Christianity—St Maelrubha—Hermits of Isle Maree—Norse vikings—Norwegians and Danes—End of Norwegian rule in 1263—The earls of Ross—Donald of the Isles—The Mackenzies3
Chapter II.—The Tragedy of Isle Maree.
Scene laid in Isle Maree—The hermit saint—Prince Olaf—His fiery temper—Falls in love—Brings his bride to Isle Maree—Is compelled to leave her on an expedition—The white and black flags—Return of the prince—Jealousy of the princess—Her scheme to test Olaf's affection—His madness on seeing the black flag—Thinking her dead he kills himself—The princess stabs herself and dies—Their graves on Isle Maree7
Chapter III.—The Mackenzies of Kintail.
Two origins of the family of Mackenzie—The Cabar Feidh—Angus Mac Mhathain—Kenneth, first lord of Kintail—John, second lord, shelters Robert Bruce—Kenneth of the Nose—Kenlochewe ravaged—Leod Mac Gilleandreis—Black Murdo of the Cave—Joined by Gille Riabhach—Comes to Kenlochewe—Slays Leod Mac Gilleandreis and his followers—Ath nan CeannFe Leoid—Black Murdo of the Cave recovers Kintail—Murdo of the Bridge, fifth lord of Kintail—Alexander the Upright, father of Hector Roy, first laird of Gairloch—Skirmish of Beallach nam Brog—Residences of lords of Kintail11
Chapter IV.—Ewan Mac Gabhar, the Son of the Goat.
Ardlair—The cave of the king's son—Old Oighrig and her son Kenneth—The goat Earba nourishes Ewan in the cave—Flora and Ewan come to Letterewe—Ewan's sword and mantle of state—The lord of Kintail comes to hunt—Flora [xiv]and Ewan suspected—Kenneth and Flora carried off to EileandonainOighrig and Ewan conveyed to Colin Mor Gillespie—Colin Mor brings up Ewan—Great war against the queen widow of Olamh Mor—Ewan gets a command—His slender page—Mull plundered—The invaders surprised at night and captured—The queen condemns the chiefs to death—Ewan led forth to die—The execution arrested—Ewan identified and proclaimed king—Prophecy fulfilled14
Chapter V.—The Macraes of Kintail and Gairloch.
The Macraes settle in Kintail—Become Mackenzie's "shirt of mail"—The sons of Fortune—Assist in conquest of Gairloch—List of Macraes who fought for Gairloch—Effigy of Donald Odhair—Macraes renowned archers—Compared with Turkish archers—The Macraes bore the dead bodies of their chiefs to burial—The last occasion of this—Curious statement19
Chapter VI.—The MacBeaths.
MacBeaths from Assynt—Some still in Gairloch—Had several strongholds—Lochan nan Airm—Kintail men come to Loch Tollie—Shoot MacBeath's servant on the island—MacBeath flies—Is struck by an arrow—Kintail men stay a night on the island—Come through Gairloch—Report to their chief21
Chapter VII.—The M'Leods of Gairloch.
The Siol Torquil—Claim to Gairloch—Legal title commenced 1430—MacBeaths expelled—The Tigh Dige—Strongholds of the M'Leods—Eilean Ruaridh—Allan M'Leod, laird of Gairloch—Murdered by his brothers at the "Hill of evil counsel"—They also murder his two boys—The widow takes their bloody shirts to her father—Hector Roy takes the shirts to the king—Who gives Hector commission of fire and sword against the M'Leods—The M'Leods confined to one-third of Gairloch24
Chapter VIII.—The Macdonalds in Gairloch.
Macdonalds, clansmen of Donald of the Isles—Probably some settled in Gairloch—Still in Gairloch and Alligin—Mac Gille Riabhaich—His cave—Story of his oak cudgel—The soubriquet Darach—His descendant, Darroch of Torridon—Donald Dubh Mac Gillechriosd Mhic Gille Riabhaich—Threatens Hector Roy—Slays Buchanan after Flodden Field27
Chapter IX.—Hector Roy Mackenzie, first Laird of Gairloch.
Vision of the great chief and his bodyguard—His appearance and valour—Obtains charter to Gairloch—Slays three M'Leods at "the Gairloch"—The battle of Park—Hector Roy and Big Duncan of the Axe—Hector Roy at Sauchieburn—He claims Kintail—Battle of Drum a Chait—Big Duncan again assists—Hector Roy outlawed—Assists Mac Cailean—Kneels before the king—Grasps his hand—Is pardoned—Abandons his claim to Kintail—Fight with M'Leods at Beallach Glasleathaid—Big Duncan and his son Dugal—Hector Roy conquers part of Gairloch—Battle of Flodden—Clan Eachainn29
Chapter X.—John Glassich Mackenzie and his Sons.
John Glassich brought up in Strathglass—Claims Kintail—Refuses to join the royal standard—Apprehended by Kenneth of Kintail—Iain Gearr's pluck—Death of John Glassich—Donald Gorme invades Kenlochewe—Hector and Alexander, sons of John Glassich, both slain36
Chapter XI.—John Roy Mackenzie.
John Roy resembled his grandfather Hector—His youth—Visits his mother, wife of Mackay—Goes with a bodyguard to Iain Liath at Glas Leitire—Lord Kintail abandons his hunt on the Glas Leitire hills—John Roy and Iain Liath go to Gairloch—Iain Dubh Mac Ruaridh M'Leod abandons the Gairloch dun—Struggles with the M'Leods—John Roy's family—His bodyguard composed [xv]of his twelve sons—Dealings with the tithes of Gairloch—The Talladale ironworks—John Roy's residence—Visits Mackay—Mackay's piper becomes John Roy's piper—Lord Mackenzie summons John Roy to Torridon—He stays the night with his lordship—Proposed assassination deferred—John Roy's sons arrive and take him away—Allies of Glengarry Macdonalds make an incursion to Kenlochewe—Lord Mackenzie visits John Roy—John Roy granted a remission by the crown38
Chapter XII.—Expulsion of the M'Leods from Gairloch.
Murchadh Riabhach na Cuirce—Slays Mac Iain Dhuibh M'LeodRuaridh Mac Allan M'Leod assassinates Iain Mac Ghille Challum M'Leod and his sons by Janet Mackenzie—John Roy revenges the murder—Expels the M'Leods from Gairloch—The Cnoc a Chrochadair—The affair at Leac nan Saighead—Mor Ban persuades the M'Leods to invade Gairloch—They come to Fraoch Eilean—Donald Odhar and his brother shoot them from Leac nan Saighead—Only two M'Leods escape in the birlinn—Donald Odhar's long shot from Craig a Chait—Young M'Leod of Assynt asks John Roy's daughter for his wife—Is refused—Fionnla Dubh na Saighead insults him—The M'Leods return to take vengeance on Finlay—He and Chisholm shoot many of them—Finlay pursues Neil M'Leod to the Bac an Leth-choin and shoots him at the Druim Carn Neill—Fight at Lochan an Fheidh—Affair at Raasay—Murdo Mackenzie in his ship driven into Kirkton—Young M'Leod of Raasay and his companions visit him—All the party get drunk except four Gairloch men—A fight ensues—Murdo drowned—All on board slain except three of the abstainers—They escape43
Chapter XIII.—Alastair Breac, and his Son and Grandson.
Alastair Breac, a renowned warrior—Raids of cattle lifters—Iain Geal Donn proposes a raid on Gairloch—Alastair Buidhe Mackay intercepts him at Scardroy—Slays him and all his men except one—Alastair Breac sends the news to Lord Mackenzie—Cameron of Lochiel plans a raid on Gairloch in revenge—Alastair Breac sends eighty men to oppose him, but he has retired—Song composed to the Guard of the Black Corrie—Colla Ban—In default of blackmail threatens raid on Gairloch—His spies are frightened by four Gairloch men at Luibmhor—Kenneth, sixth laird of Gairloch, fined as a "malignant"—Alexander, seventh laird of Gairloch49
Chapter XIV.—The Baronets of Gairloch and some other Gairloch Mackenzies.
Sir Kenneth, eighth laird of Gairloch—M.P. for Ross-shire—Sir Alexander, ninth laird of Gairloch—Builds Flowerdale—The "Forty-five"—Murder of the Gille Buidhe, valet to Prince Charlie—Duncan Macrae conveys a keg of gold for Prince Charlie's use—The "sian"—English man-of-war fires at Flowerdale—Sir Alexander, tenth laird of Gairloch—Builds Conan House—His son called "Fighting Jack," the father of the British army—Sir Hector Mackenzie—Lives at home—Lord-Lieutenant of Ross-shire—His beloved lady—Sir Francis Mackenzie—Publishes his "Hints" in 1838—Sir Kenneth, present baronet—Mackenzies of Letterewe—Mackenzies of Lochend—Mackenzies of Gruinard—Large family—Mackenzies of Kernsary—Summary of Mackenzie History—Crest, Badge, Slogan, and Pipe tunes53
Chapter XV.—Gairloch Estates, and Old Names of Places.
Kenlochewe—Gairloch—Description in protocol of 1494—Description in retour of 1566—Description in 1638—Names in Dutch map of 1662—Second half of the water of Ewe bought in 1671—Strip on north of River Ewe acquired in 1844—Letterewe originally Kintail property—Acquired by Charles Mackenzie in 1696—Sold to Mr Bankes in 1835—Northern parts of Gairloch belonging to Gruinard Mackenzies before 1655—Sold to Davidson of Tulloch in 1795—Afterwards acquired by Mr Bankes—Mr O. H. Mackenzie's estate of Inverewe60
[xvi] Chapter XVI.—Ecclesiastical History of Gairloch.
First church in Gairloch—Other early ecclesiastical buildings—Rector of Gairloch at date of Reformation—Presbyterianism—Tulchan bishops—Changes from Episcopalianism to Presbyterianism—Rev. Alexander Mackenzie—Rev. Farquhar Macrae—Rev. Roderick Mackenzie—Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie of Kernsary—Rev. John Morrison—Persecuted by Episcopalians—Anecdotes—His turf-built church in Tollie Bay—Christmas story—Rev. James Smith—First school in Gairloch—Anecdote of Rev. Mr Sage—Rev. Æneas McAulay—Rev. John Dounie—Rev. James Russell—His imperfect Gaelic—Poolewe made a separate parish—The Disruption—Presbyteries of Dingwall, Kenlochewe, Chanonry, Gairloch, and Loch Carron—Churches in Gairloch—Manse and glebe at Achdistall, Cliff and Strath—Free churches and their ministers63
Chapter XVII.—Ancient Gairloch Ironworks.
Two classes of remains of ironworks—Rev. Donald M'Nicol's statement—Coin found near old Yorkshire ironworks—Iron implements used by ancient inhabitants—Disappearance of them accounted for—Other ancient remains in Sutherlandshire, Ross-shire, and Inverness-shire—Bog iron was the ore used of old in Gairloch—Processes of the ancient ironworkers—Wasteful richness of their slags accounted for—Charcoal was their fuel—The ancient forests of timber—Their disappearance—Water power anciently employed for working hammers72
Chapter XVIII.—The Historic Ironworks of Loch Maree.
The present series of Scottish ironworks commenced on Loch Maree—The licence to Archibald Primrose for making iron ratified in 1612—Spread of the iron industry in the eighteenth century—Iron furnaces in Glengarry—Abernethy furnaces of the York Buildings Company—The Bonawe furnace—The Argyle Furnace Company—The Lorn Company—The Carron ironworks—The Wilsonton works—Furnace at Goatfield—Pennant's notice of the furnace near Poolewe—The Fife Adventurers and the Lews—The Rev. Farquhar Macrae, vicar of Gairloch—The Letterewe furnace established in 1607 by Sir George Hay—Previous history of Sir George—His residence at Letterewe—His ironworks—The timber consumed—The goods produced—The improvements he effected—Act prohibiting the making of iron with wood—Monopoly of iron manufacture granted to Sir George—Ratified by Parliament—Proclamation restraining the export of iron ore—Licence to Sir George to sell iron in royal burghs—Sir George's probable acquaintance with John Roy Mackenzie, laird of Gairloch—Sir George's friendship with the Rev. Farquhar Macrae—The minister's stone—Sir George leaves Letterewe—His distinguished after-career—Created first Earl of Kinnoull—Continuance of the ironworks—Tombstone of John Hay—His probable relationship to Sir George—Discontinuance of the ironworks—The artisans employed—Whence they came—The Kemps—The Cladh nan Sasunnach—Condition of the ironworkers in the then state of the Highlands—The Big Englishman75
Chapter XIX.—The Iron Ores used in Gairloch.
References to local iron ore—Local bog iron used at ancient bloomeries—Ferruginous rocks and shales—Traditional quarries—Richness of bog iron—Places where it is still found in Gairloch—Bog iron originally used by Sir George Hay—He afterwards imported red hematite and clayband ironstone—Mr Marr's description of these ores—They were landed at Poolewe—Remains of them there—Mr Macadam's analyses—Mixture with local ore—Classification of the ores86
Chapter XX.—Remains of Ironworks in the Parish of Gairloch.
Mr Macadam's description of two classes of slag—List of six localities of ironworks—Glen Dochartie—Fasagh—Analyses—Lochan Cul na Cathrach—Furnace, Letterewe—Talladale—Garavaig, on Slatadale farm—Red Smiddy, near Poolewe—Iron articles found—The borings at Cuil an Scardain—Chronological order of the ironworks—Other supposed furnaces—Notices of ironworks or mines in old Dutch map, and in "Present State of Great Britain and Ireland"—Conclusion90
[xvii] Chapter XXI.—Antiquities.
Want of interesting remains of ancient buildings—Supposed Druidical remains in Tollie wood—Druidical enclosure on Isle Maree—The Island of Justice—Pictish round houses—Vitrified fort—Ancient duns, strongholds, or crannogs—Remains of churches—Gairloch church—Culinellan church—Turf-built church in Tollie Bay—Church at Tollie Croft, or Cruive End—Chapel of Inverewe—Chapel of Sand of Udrigil—Old burial-grounds—Remains of other old buildings—Remains on Isle Maree—On Eilean Ruaridh Beag—On Eilean Suainne—The Tigh Dige—The Sabhal-Geal—The Temple house—Old houses—Ancient weapons and implements—The Feill Iudha—Caves97

Part II.—Inhabitants of Gairloch.

Chapter I.—Ancestry and Names.
Highlanders different to Scotch—Gairloch people originally Celtic—Admixture of blood—Mackenzies predominant—Surnames little used—Mode of constructing Gaelic names—Examples—Bynames—Curious names of girls109
Chapter II.—Warfare and Weapons.
Gairloch a bone of contention—Broadsword and targe—Bows and arrows—Battle-axe—Dirk—Guns—Clan fights no more—Seaforth Highlanders—A Gairloch company—The press-gang—Donald M'Lean returns "from hell"—Volunteer corps—Story of Finlay Fraser and his guns112
Chapter III.—Polity and Customs.
Improvement after the "Forty-five"—Increase of schools—Report on educational position of the people by Rev. James Russell—Education under the School Boards—Relief of the poor—Beggars almost unknown—Tramps—Tinkers—Old man seeking America—Her Majesty's note about him—Old marriage customs—Funeral customs—Whisky at funerals—Heaps of stones at halting-places—New Year's day, old style—Administration of justice at the Island of Justice—Mode of procedure—The Cnoc a Chroich, or Gallows Hill—Some old Gairloch men acquainted with folk-lore114
Chapter IV.—Religion and Religious Observances.
No records of Episcopal times—Sunday services—Baptism—The Lord's supper dispensed in the Leabaidh na Ba Bàine—Dr Mackenzie's account of churchgoing and the communions—Johnnie at church for the first time—Five days' services—Large crowd; few communicants—Preparation for Gairloch communion—The scene in the Leabaidh—Aunt Sally—Characteristics of Free Church services and religion117
Chapter V.—Character and Characteristics.
Criticism invidious—Gairloch people have a good character—Fidelity, courtesy, and hospitality—Sir G. S. Mackenzie's opinion—Sir Francis Mackenzie's tribute to his Gairloch people—Attachment to home—Caution and keenness in money matters—Anecdote—Captain Burt's charge of want of cleanliness not generally applicable now—Morality—Indolence—Always behind time—Clinging to old ways—Old Highland esprit dying out—Annual competition recommended121
Chapter VI.—Language and Dress.
Gaelic called Irish—Gairloch dialect—Not dying out—Knowledge of English increasing—Old people still unable to speak English—Gaelic phrases in English—Gaelic literature in Gairloch—Should Gaelic be discouraged?—Ancient dress in Gairloch—Belted plaid or truis—Separate form of the kilt—Antiquity of the kilt—Highland dress proscribed—Subterfuges—Discouraged homespun fabrics—[xviii]Kilt common in Gairloch in early part of nineteenth century—Sir Francis Mackenzie on the kilt—Now fallen into disuse—Present dress of men—Gairloch hose—Dress of women—The mutch—Maiden's headdress—Dr Mackenzie on maiden's hair and on mutches125
Chapter VII.—Ways and Means.
Sources of livelihood—Industry of women—Dwellings—Byres adjoining—No chimneys—Gradual improvement—Gardens rare—Fevers and consumption—Food—Absence of pigs—Whisky—Illicit distillation—Fuel—TorasgianCabar lar—Peat creel—Carts—Sledges before roads were made132
Chapter VIII.—Agriculture and Stock.
Little agriculture in ancient days—Black cattle—Blood taken from living cattle—The bowmen—Hill shielings miserable places—Introduction of sheep farming—Sheep farms forested—Sheep deteriorate pasture—Ancient breed of sheep—Present farms—Run-rig—Crofts established in Gairloch—Crofters' crops—The cas-chrom—Sir G. S. Mackenzie on imperfect agriculture—On indolence—The Highland husbandman—His negligence—Sir Francis Mackenzie on imperfect cultivation—On manures—On the cas-chrom—On lack of industry—On absence of gardens—Introduction of the potato136
Chapter IX.—Fisheries.
Gairloch fishermen and fish—Herring fisheries—Lobsters and crabs—Oysters—Gairloch cod fishery—Under Sir Alexander Mackenzie, 1721 to 1766—In 1792—Sir G. S. Mackenzie's account of it under Sir Hector—Lines and hooks formerly home-made—First foreign hooks in 1823—Cod fishery in 1884 and 1885—Salmon fishery—Bag-nets—Diminution in stock of salmon143
Chapter X.—Posts and Roadmaking.
Post-runners to Gairloch—Dr Mackenzie's account—Donald Charles—Roderick M'Lennan—William Cross—M'Leay—Iain Mor am Post—General Wade's road—Bridges in Gairloch—Road from Gairloch to Poolewe—The Dowager Lady Mackenzie's account of road-making—Destitution Committee contribute to road-making—Road to Fionn loch147
Chapter XI.—Superstitions of Isle Maree.
Isle Maree conspicuous—The wishing-tree—Her Majesty's offering—St Maelrubha permitted sacrifices of bulls—Continued to 1678—Latterly associated with cure of insanity—Treatment of lunatics—Still continued—Dr Mitchell's description—Circular enclosure supposed to be Druidical—Graves of the prince and princess—The well—Description of the wishing-tree—Trees of Isle Maree—Probability of the legend of Isle Maree—Name of island derived from St Maelrubha—St Maelrubha worshipped150
Chapter XII.—Superstitions of Isle Mareecontinued.
Druidical sacrifices engrafted on Christianity—Resort to Isle Maree for cure of lunacy probably ancient—Parallel superstitions—Bull sacrifice at Kirkcudbright—Sacrifices of bulls not confined to the saint's day—Descriptions of proceedings for cure of lunatics—MacCulloch's description—No form of words—Recent cases—St Maelrubha and St Ruffus identical—Mad dog dipped in the well—Sad consequences—Quotations as to Pagan practices engrafted on Christianity153
Chapter XIII.—Superstitions generally.
Highlanders' surroundings suggest superstition—Gradual diminution of it—Older superstitions—Loch Maree water cure—The Fox Point—Coins found—The Cathair mor and Sitheanan Dubha—Gairloch fairy tale—The Shiant Isles' fairy—Eilean Suainne—Fairies seen on Isle Ewe in 1883—Lights and music of fairies noticed at Mellon Charles—William M'Lean gets a bagpipe chanter from the fairies—The Gille Dubh of Loch a Druing—Superstitious fancies—The Loch of the Beast—Evidence of the appearance of the beast—Proceedings for its suppression—Rorie and the mermaid158
[xix]Chapter XIV.—Witchcraft and Magic.
Rudha Chailleach—Witchcraft and magic still believed in—Jessie the cripple, a witch—Depriving milk of its fruit—Kenlochewe case in presbytery records—Kenneth Mackenzie, the maighstair sgoil, punishes the witch at Strath—His cows recover—Recent cases—The sian—Description of it—Duncan M'Rae—His song—Entrusted with a keg of gold for Prince Charlie—Hides the keg in the Fedan Mor—Renders it invisible by the sian—The wife of the Cibear Mor sees the keg—The cave at Meallan a Ghamhna—The cave and weapons concealed by the sian—Seen by several women recently—Another similar case on Loch Maree—Alastair Mor an t' Sealgair—Runs the blockade by means of the sian—His variations of the sian—Other examples of Alastair's and his father's powers—The wind made favourable by magic163
Chapter XV.—Visions and Second-sight.
Distinction between visions and second-sight—Old Alastair's vision of Hector Roy and his bodyguard—A young man sees a ghost—Two men see a woman in a house—Spectre seen before a shoot—Two kinds of second-sight—Jessie the cripple—Ducked as a witch—Her vision of a shepherd, his dog and sheep, fulfilled—The smith's son sees a crowd on Poolewe bridge—His vision fulfilled—The great storm on Loch Ewe—Great sight at Mellon Udrigil—Fleet of ships and boats filled with red coats—Visions of soldiers in red uniforms near Inveran—These visions compared with similar sights elsewhere169
Chapter XVI.—Bards and Pipers.
Ancient bards an illustrious class—Ossian's poems—Office of bard or seannachie—Bards of recent date—Ceilidh—Antiquity of bagpipes—Office of piper in old days—In the present day—Love of pipe music in Gairloch—Some old Gairloch bards—Ruaridh Breac—The English bard—Duncan M'Rae—Roderick Campbell, piper and fiddler—The Piobaire Ban—List of living Gairloch pipers173
Chapter XVII.—Hereditary Pipers of the Gairloch Family.
The Mackays—Rorie Mackay, piper to John Roy Mackenzie—Alastair Breac, and his son and grandson—His brother Donald—John Mackay, the blind piper—Taught by the M'Crimmons—Piper to the two first baronets of Gairloch—His compositions—Anecdotes of his life with the M'Crimmons—His songs and poems—Angus Mackay—Piper to Sir Alexander, third baronet—Moladh Mairi—John Mackay, piper to Sir Hector—Emigrates to America—A splendid piper—His offspring177
Chapter XVIII.—William Mackenzie and Malcolm Maclean.
William Mackenzie a catechist—His song to Balone's sister—His song lampooning a wedding party—His consequent dismissal—Malcolm Maclean a notorious bacchanalian—His beautiful daughter—His wife's resignation illustrated by an anecdote—Translation by Professor Blackie of his song to his daughter180
Chapter XIX.—William Ross, the Gairloch Bard.
William Ross, a grandson of the "Blind piper"—His youth—His travels—Appointed schoolmaster of Gairloch—Dies young—Monument over his grave—Estimate of his poetry183
Chapter XX.—Alexander Campbell, Bard To Sir Hector.
Alastair Buidhe's ancestry and youth—Appointed ground-officer and bard to Sir Hector—Instructed to remove the roof from a defaulting tenant's house—His prudent artifice approved by Sir Hector—Dr Mackenzie's recollections of Alastair as bard—His bad health, and death—His character—His friendship with William Ross—His descendants—His poetry highly appreciated185
[xx]Chapter XXI.—Alexander Grant, the Great Bard of Slaggan.
Sandy Grant's ancestry—His enormous stature and strength—His appearance, portrait, and poetry—Reputed to have second-sight—Anecdote—Sandy Grant discovers cheeses stolen in Loch Carron—His descendants187
Chapter XXII.—John Mackenzie of the "Beauties."
John's ancestry and youth—His mechanical skill—An accident disables him—Collects Gaelic poems—Devotes himself to literary work—List of books he translated—Known as a poet and piper—Anecdote of his humour—Buys a ship and her cargo—Gives up the bargain—Monument to his memory189
Chapter XXIII.—Living Gairloch Bards.
Alexander Mackenzie, of Oban—Duncan Mackenzie, the Kenlochewe bard—Short memoir—His poetry—His epithalamium on the marriage of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie—Translation of it by Professor Blackie—Alexander Cameron, the Tournaig bard—His song in praise of Tournaig—English translation by Mr W. C. Good—Alexander Bain—His elegy on the late Dr Kennedy—English translation192
Chapter XXIV.—The Poolewe Artist.
Paucity of art in Gairloch—Finlay Mackinnon—His characteristics—His yearning for art as a young boy—Assisted by Mr Davis, R.A., and others—His watercolour sketches200
Chapter XXV.—James Mackenzie's Gairloch Stories.
Short Account of James Mackenzie—William Roy Mackenzie and the exciseman—Kenneth and John Mackenzie of Rona and the press-gang—John M'Gregor of Londubh escapes from the press-gang, but is killed by a fall over a rock—Murdo Mackenzie, or Murdo's son, marries Lord Breadalbane's daughter and takes possession of a lugger full of smuggled spirit—Anecdote of Sir Hector Mackenzie and M'Leod of Raasay's boat—Mackenzie of Kernsary and James Mackenzie's grandfather—The whale in Loch Ewe drowns three men—A story of Rob Donn—The Loch Broom herring fishery—The other Rob Roy Macgregor and the Dundonnell estates—Cases of drowning in Loch Maree—Hector Mackenzie, William Urquhart and his son, and Kenneth Mackenzie—A Kenlochewe man rolls overboard—Kenneth Mackenzie and Gregor Macgregor carried down by the Talladale river—John M'Ryrie—Kenneth Urquhart—Sandy Mackenzie—The Stornoway packet and the whale—Wreck of M'Callum's schooner at Melvaig—A sea captain buried in Isle Ewe—The loss of the "Glenelg"—Wreck of the "Helen Marianne" of Campbeltown—Wreck of the "Lord Molyneux" of Liverpool—John Macdonald, the drover of Loch Maree—The murder of Grant, the peddler, by M'Leod, who is at length hung—Death of the Shieldaig shoemaker and his companions at Lochinver201

Part III.—Natural History of Gairloch.

Chapter I.—Physical Features.
Area and boundaries of Gairloch—Sea-board—Long valley bisecting the parish—Ranges and groups of mountains—Islands in the sea—Fresh-water lochs—Rivers—Woods—Caves—Waterfalls—The Steall a Mhuinidh—Victoria Falls—Letterewe waterfall—Kerry falls—Flowerdale waterfalls—Scenic beauties219
Chapter II.—Climate and Weather.
Healthy climate of north-west Highlands—Changeable weather—Sir G. S. Mackenzie on the climate—Dr Mackenzie on the old-fashioned summers—Former abundance of nuts—Strawberries on 4th June, also cherries—Short summer [xxi]nights—Aurora borealis—Rarity of intense frosts—Spring mist presages snow—A hard winter—Sunsets from the Gairloch Hotel—Cloudscapes—Colouring of landscapes222
Chapter III.—Anecdotes and Notes.
Birds, formerly rare in Gairloch, now plentiful, and vice versâ—Dr Mackenzie's remarks on this point—Eagles in Gairloch—Anecdote of Craig-Tollie eagle and roe deer—Confirmation from Martin's book—Also from story of Kirghiz eagles, &c.—Anecdote of Kenlochewe eagle and the cat—Subject of a well-known Gaelic riddle—Eagle at Talladale—Two-and-a-half brace of eagles killed in Gairloch before breakfast—Sea-gulls—How they were driven from Eilean Ruaridh—Sounds of various birds at Inveran—Insects—Midges and wasps—Her Majesty's remarks on them—Rhyme on midges—Preventive measures—Other insects—Animals in general—Vermin—Marten's fur—Wild cats—Wild cat in Loch Tollie island—Highland cattle—Goats—Ponies227
Chapter IV.—Lower Forms of Life.
Diffusion of life—Luminosity of footprints on boggy ground—Reptiles—Fresh-water fish—Shells—Molluscs—The spout fish—How to take it—Sea anemones—Love of flowers—Localities recommended to botanists—Grasses—Mosses—Lichens—List of a few—Seaweeds—Fungi—Conclusion233
Chapter V.—Mammals of Gairloch.
List of Gairloch mammals, with notes—Notes on Arctic fox in Gairloch and elsewhere236
Chapter VI.—Birds of Gairloch.
List of Gairloch birds, with notes241
Chapter VII.—Flowering Plants of Gairloch.
List imperfect—A word to visitors—Destruction of plants by sheep—Bouquets of wildflowers—Seasons for them—Rarer plants—List of flowering plants256
Chapter VIII.—Shells of Gairloch, by Rev. John M'Murtrie, M.A.
Paper by Rev. John M'Murtrie, M.A., on "Springtide at Gairloch, a Study of small Shells"—Appendix, with list of shells265
Chapter IX.—The Geology of Loch Maree and Neighbourhood, by William Jolly, F.G.S., F.R.S.E.
Long controversy—Attack by eminent geologists—Others enter the lists—Prospect of early peace—Conditions of the problem well exhibited round Loch Maree—Succession of rocks—Hebridean gneiss—Torridon red sandstone—Quartzite—Its annelid borings—Its fucoid remains—Limestone—The "Logan" rock—The eastern gneiss—The controversy—Other noteworthy geological phenomena—Faults—Glaciation—Denudation—Rock junctions—The valley of the hundred hills—Curious impressions on Torridon sandstone near Talladale—The Fionn and Dubh loch—The Trias at Loch Gruinard271
Chapter X.—Minerals of Gairloch, by Professor W. Ivison Macadam, F.C.S., F.I.C., M.M.S., &c., Edinburgh.
List of minerals and localities289


Part IV.—Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree.

Chapter I.—Gairloch of the Present Day.
No town in Gairloch—List of townships or hamlets—Ministers and services—Free churches and ministers—Schools—School Board—Table of Schools, with average attendance—List of school teachers—Side schools—School rate—Obstacles to regular attendance—Annual inspections—Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages—Pauperism—Poor-rates—Pauper lunatics—Medical officer—The county road—Private roads—Policemen—Justices of the Peace—Licensed houses—Postal arrangements—Telegraph—Carrier—Bank—Markets—Preventive service—Steamers—Rifle corps—Its three sections—Principal houses in Gairloch—Poolewe Public Hall293
Chapter II.—Approaches and Roads.
Approach from Achnasheen—From Loch Carron—From Loch Torridon—From Gruinard—By steamer—By boat from Ullapool—On foot—Main road maintained by the county—Private roads—Loch Maree a highway299
Chapter III.—Achnasheen to Kenlochewe.
Dingwall and Skye railway—The Gairloch mail-car—Natural terraces like railway embankments—Loch Rosque—Remains of ancient ironworks—The Clach an t' Shagart at Bad a MhanaichLuibmhor in Gairloch—View of Scuir Mhullin—Persistent inquirer—Hill resembling a profile—Glen Dochartie—View of Loch Maree—Trysting-place—More old ironworks—View of Beinn Eay—Kenlochewe—Hugh Miller on this name—Kenlochewe village and hotel—Culinellan churchyard—The Cnoc a ChrochadairAth nan ceann—Two routes to Gairloch301
Chapter IV.—Kenlochewe to Talladale.
Tagan farm—Glas Leitire woods—Ru Nohar—Umbrella-like firs—Her Majesty's description of the road—Glen Grudidh—Old fir trees—Eilean Grudidh—Wild stretch of road described by Her Majesty—Hamlet of Talladale—The Loch Maree Hotel—Accommodation—Angling—Visit of Her Majesty—Commemorative Gaelic inscription on a boulder—English translation305
Chapter V.—Talladale to the Gairloch Hotel.
Road through woods—The Victoria Falls—Garavaig ironworks—Slatadale farm—Old road to west of Craig Tollie—View of the islands of Loch Maree—Feur loch—Loch Bad na Sgalaig—Kerry falls—Kerry bridge—Her Majesty's interview with Lews' people here—Kerrysdale House—Resort of fairies—Charleston—Flowerdale House—Port na heile—The Gairloch—Established church—The Leabaidh na Ba Bàine—Gairloch churchyard—Old ironworks—Monument to John Mackenzie of the "Beauties"—The Crasg—The Cnoc a Croiche—The Gairloch Hotel—Accommodation and arrangement—Sea-bathing—Boating—Angling—Fine view308
Chapter VI.—The Gairloch Hotel to Poolewe.
Achtercairn—Views of Strath and the hills of Skye—Deep gorge—Geikie on geology of a curious hill—The Shoe-stone—Funeral heaps—Lochan nan Airm—The Glen—Craig Bhadain an AiscBlar na Fala—Loch Tollie—Its crannog—Surrounding hills—Distant views—Old road—View of Loch Maree—Beinn Aridh CharrSpidean Moirich—Croft Brae—Hamlet of Croft—Ceann a Chro, or Cruive End—The Still—The Hill of evil counsel—The Trossachs of Loch Maree—Poolewe village—The church—The inn—Pool House—Other houses—Londubh—The Inverewe burial-ground312
[xxiii]Chapter VII.—Poolewe to Aultbea.
The pool—Srondubh—Inverewe House and gardens—Description from the TimesLoch nan Dailthean—Tournaig—The Dowager Lady Mackenzie's residence—Description of the garden from the TimesCoile AigeascaigMac Gille Riabhaich's cave—Bleeding living cattle—Tournaig farm—Loch Tournaig—Dunan—The road ascends—Views—Drumchork—Aultbea—Townships—Houses—Anchorage—Aultbea inn318
Chapter VIII.—Excursions from Kenlochewe.
Drives—Expedition to Loch Torridon—CromasaigFe Leoid—Loch Clair—Maelrubha's seat—Carn Anthony—Coire Cheud Cnoc—Precipices of Liathgach—Her Majesty's remarks—Sguir DubhLochan an Fheidh—Loch Torridon—Village—Mr Darroch and Torridon House—Ploc of Torridon—The heights of Kenlochewe—Glen Cruaidh Choillie—Glen na Muic—Excursions on foot by the path on the east side of Loch Maree—Excursions on Loch Maree321
Chapter IX.—Excursions from Talladale.
Drives and walks—Expeditions on Loch Maree—The steamer—Boats326
Chapter X.—Excursions from Gairloch.
The south side of Gairloch—Shieldaig—Leac nan Saighead—Badachro—Loch Bad na h' Achlais—Port Henderson—Opinan—Cave—South Erradale—Ancient ironworks—Point—Views—North side of Gairloch—Achtercairn—Strath—Carn Dearg—Little Sand farm—Big Sand—Iron furnace—North Erradale—Wonderful cave—Peterburn—Altgreshan—Melvaig—The LeacRudha ReidhStac Buidhe—Other drives—Tour of Loch Maree—Boating expeditions—Walks—Geikie on geological features327
Chapter XI.—Excursions from Poolewe.
West side of Loch Ewe—Cliff House—Cuil an Scardain—Boor—Views—Naast—Inverasdale—Brae—Midtown—Coast—Board school—Firemore—Telegraph to Stornoway—Meallan na Ghamhna—Caves—Loch a Druing woods—Cove—The village—The cave—Natural arch—Fionn Loch excursion—Craig an Fhithich—Inveran wood and farm—Inveran river—Loch Kernsary—Innis a Bhaird—Kernsary farm—Fionn Loch—Fine view—Other excursions by road—Walks—Craig Bhan332
Chapter XII.—Excursions from Aultbea.
To Mellon Charles—CuilchonichBual na luib—Mellon Charles—Mellon Udrigil—Laide—The Loch of the Beast—Second Coast—Old church of Sand—Sandy beach—Curious rocks—First Coast and Second Coast—Mill Bay—Cadha Beag—Little Gruinard—Fisherfield—Meikle Gruinard river—Excursions by water337
Chapter XIII.—Excursion by Steamer on Loch Maree.
Road to north end of Loch Maree—Opinions of the scenery—Leading characteristics—Tollie pier—Fox Point—Clearness of water—Sweetheart's stepping-stones—Fhridh Dhorch—Ardlair—Cave of the king's son—The minister's stone—Clach a MhailUamh a MhailRudha Chailleach—The white horse—The Bull rock—The cave of gold—Gold mining in Scotland—Mountains—Letterewe—Limestone quarry—Waterfall—Furnace—Innis Ghlas—Coppachy—Regoilachy—SliochCladh nan SasunnachFasaghTaganRu Nohar—Undercliffs of Meall a Ghiubhais—Woods of Glas Leitire—View of Glen GrudidhAid na h' Eigheamh—Isle Maree—Whittier's verses—Eilean SuainneEilean Dubh na SroineGarbh EileanEilean Ruaridh—The planted island—Wild fowl—Talladale—Slatadale—Doire—Craig Tollie—Bay of Corree—Rudha Aird an Anail—Cave—Heather burning340
[xxiv]Chapter XIV.—The Fionn Loch and its Dubh Loch, by William Jolly.
Name—Approaches—Loch Kernsary—View of Fionn Loch—Mountains described—Visits to the loch—Lochanan BeannochBeinn Aridh Charr—Black-throated divers—Beinn Lair—Narrow glen—Old hill fort—Craig an Dubh Loch—Pegmatite—Dubh Loch—Thunder shower—Islands—Birds—Marten cats349
Chapter XV.—Loch Gruinard, by William Jolly.
Loch Ewe—Mountain view—Aultbea—Moraines—Summer Isles—Distant views—Old Chapel—Caves—Modern Cave-dweller—Gruinard House—Gruinard river—Mountains of Loch na Sheallag355
Chapter XVI.—Angling in Sea Lochs.
Several classes of anglers—Outfit recommended—Two usual modes of sea fishing—Trolling for lythe—Artificial sand-eels—Handline fishing—Scalps—Fishes captured—Conger eels—Large halibut—Large skate359
Chapter XVII.—Angling in Loch Maree.
Excessive fishing—Reserved water—Species of fish—Char—Salmon—Sea-trout—Bull-trout—Finnocks—Property in salmon and sea-trout—Large brown trout—Ferox not a separate species—Variations in trout—So-called ferox not worth eating—Gizzard trout361
Chapter XVIII.—Angling in Fresh-water Lochs.
Permission required—Trout scarcer than formerly—Dr Mackenzie accounts for this—The tarry sheep—Fionn Loch—Angling deteriorated—Good day's angling—The Dubh loch—Three trout at a cast—Bait fishing for trout—Loch Kernsary—Char—Char and trout, and pink and white-fleshed trout, indistinguishable to the taste—Burn fishing—Best time for trout fishing—Eels—Pike—Their introduction described by Dr Mackenzie—Re-introduced in Sir Kenneth's time363
Chapter XIX.—Salmon Angling.
Salmon rivers—The Ewe—Cruives—The old cruive used for crossing the river—Roderick Campbell and an American merchant drowned—The new cruive—Gradual diminution of stock of salmon—Length of the Ewe—Pools on the east side—Pools on the other side—Runs of salmon and grilse—Kelts—Bull-trout—Sea-trout—Large salmon—Best flies—Dr Mackenzie's anecdote of Sir Humphrey Davy—John Bright—Odd incidents—Damaged fly—Successful fishing after a friend—Hooking a fish after losing another—Was it a rise?—Fish taking when line slack—Kelt caught twice—Holding on for five hours—Angler compared to the evil one—Water-bailiffs—John Glas—Sandy Urquhart—His loquacity—Fishing on the Ewe—Tailing salmon—Spiked gloves—Bags of salmon now and formerly—Singular mode of fishing by Sir Hector—Charms of the Ewe—Other salmon rivers in Gairloch366
Chapter XX.—Deer Forests and Grouse Shooting.
The red deer—Free to roam—Antiquity of—Formerly scarce—Meaning of "forested"—List of deer forests—Estimated yield and stock—Stag season—A "royal"—Best heads—Hinds—Deer-stalking—Great caution required—Staghounds not much used now—Quotation from John Taylor, the "Water-Poet"—Present system of letting deer forests—Colonel Inge in Gairloch—Misconceptions with regard to deer forests—Opinions of the Crofters Commission—Depopulation not due to deer forests—Deer forests not suitable for occupation by crofters—Loss of mutton and wool insignificant—Depredations by deer on crofters' crops easily remedied—Deterioration of pasture by deer not proved—Demoralization of gillies not due to forests—Summary of opinions—Substantial benefits conferred by deer forests—Afford employment to a greater extent than sheep farms—Recommendation by Commissioners—Grouse shooting—Grouse not abundant—Disease infrequent—Late birds—Mixed bags—Separate grouse shootings372
[xxv]List of Books and MSS. Quoted or Referred to381
Statement of Authorities for Traditions, &c., embodied in this Book383


I.Mountains of Gairloch387
III.Population of Gairloch390
IV.Ministers of the parish of Gairloch390
V.Lairds of Gairloch391


A.Genealogical Account of the MacRas, by Rev. John Macrae, who died 1704395
B.Tour in Scotland by Thomas Pennant in 1772396
C.Old Statistical Account of Scotland, 1792399
D.Dr MacCulloch's Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, 1811 to 1821400
E.New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1836403
F.Records of the Presbytery of Dingwall408
G.Records and Extracts relating to Sir George Hay and the Manufacture of Iron412
H.Addenda on St Maelrubha, and Ecclesiastical History415



Glossary of Gaelic Names and Words

The pronunciation is given approximately in parentheses. In many cases no combination of letters pronounced in English fashion can accurately represent the Gaelic pronunciation.

The pronunciation of ch is almost the same in Gaelic as in German. Sometimes the ch is best rendered as an aspirate only, the c being treated as if silent.

The letter c, unless followed by h, is always pronounced in Gaelic like the English k, a letter not found in Gaelic.

The Gaelic pronunciation of the letters b, d, and g is soft, and they are often sounded more as if they were p, t, and k.

In Ross-shire Gaelic sr is pronounced as if it were str, and rt as if it were rst.

The consonant d before the vowels e and i, whether followed by another vowel or not, is pronounced as if it were j.

The consonant s before the vowels i or e is sounded as sh.

The consonant l has a liquid double sound, unlike anything in English; it may be approximated by lisping the vowel u before and the letter y after the ordinary sound of the letter l.

The letter h after the consonants d, f, g, t, and s, in Ross-shire Gaelic, renders those consonants silent; bh and mh are usually pronounced like v, a letter not found in the Gaelic alphabet. Sometimes adh seems to be pronounced very like ag.

The possessive case is frequently formed in Gaelic by the insertion of the letter h after the initial consonant, and of the letter i after the vowel in the first or second syllable.

The aspirate h is often inserted between the definite article and a noun beginning with a vowel. Sometimes the letter t is similarly inserted before a noun commencing with a consonant. These, and some other changes, are made for the sake of euphony.

The vowel sounds can only be defined with difficulty. The attempts made in this glossary are but imperfect. It may be stated that ach is generally pronounced och; ao and u, as oo; ea, as a in "bake"; a, e, and i, usually as in French; ei, sometimes as a in "bake," and sometimes as i in "bin"; and ai is sometimes almost like u in "dull," and sometimes like a in "tan."

Anyone desiring to pronounce a Gaelic name or word correctly, should ask a native to render it, and try to imitate him; even then, in some cases, it will be impossible to be exactly right.

A cheardach ruadh (ar charstock rooer), The red smithy. Ceardach, a smithy; ruadh, red.

A Mhaighdean (ar veytchen), The maiden. See Maighdean.

Achagarbh, properly spelt Achadhgarbh (ach a garrav), Rough field. Ach, a field; garbh, rough.

Achagarve. See Achagarbh.

Achdistall, or Achdiestal (achjestel), Field of Diestal. Ach, a field; Diestal, a Norse word, probably the name of a rock.

Achnasheen (achnasheen), Field of storms. Ach, or achadh, a field; sian (shee-on), means wind and rain combined, i.e., a rainstorm. Sian dubh (black storm) is so-called in contradistinction to a snowstorm, which is designated cur is cathadh. An old Kintail priest long ago prophesied that this country would be brought to nought by Sian dubh, and that the people would have to go away to islands at the other side of the world.

Achtercairn, properly Achadhacharn (achterkairn), Field of the cairn. Ach, or achadh, a field; carn, a heap of stones.

Aigeascaig (aigaskaik). Name of place, meaning unknown. Colonel Robertson says Aigeas is a corruption of aiguisg, by reason of the water. The termination aig signifies a small bay; it was originally Danish.

Aird (aird), a height, a promontory or headland.


Aird na h'eigheamh (art na heyhugh), eight of calling. Aird, a height; eigh, to call.

Airdheslaig (artishlak). Supposed to be a Norse name. Aird, a height; heslaig may be for h'aslaich, aslaich, to entreat; aslachadh, entreaty.

Alastair Breac (allaster brake), Alexander the spotted. Alastair, Alexander; breac, spotted, or more correctly pock-marked. See Breac.

Alastair Buidhe Mackay, properly MacAoidh (allaster boo-ie mackai), Yellow Alexander Mackay. MacAoidh is pronounced Macooie.

Alastair Buidhe MacIamhair (allaster boo-ie makeemver), Yellow-haired Alexander MacIver; pronounced MakEever.

Alastair Liath (allaster leear), Grey-headed Alexander. Liath, grey, grey-headed. It means light blue when not applied to a human being.

Alastair MacIain Mhic Earchair (allaster makeeanvic erraquhar), Alexander, son of John, son of Farquhar. Earchair is incorrectly written for Fhearchair, the possessive of Farquhar; Fhearchair is pronounced Erraquhar or Earchair.

Alastair Mor an t' Sealgair (allaster more ant shollager), Big Alexander the hunter. Sealgair, a hunter, a stalker, literally a sneaker.

Ali' Iain Ghlais (alian loss), Alexander [son] of Pale John. From Alie (short for Alastair), Alexander; Iain, John; and glas, pale or sallow. Glas means grey when not applied to human beings.

Alie Uistean (ally ooshtan), Alick Hugh. Alie, short for Alexander. See Uistean.

Allt a Choire Dhuibh Mhoir (arlta corrie oo-ie vore), The burn of the great black corrie. Allt, a burn; choire, possessive of coire, a corry; dhuibh, possessive of dubh, black; mhoir, possessive of mor, great.

Altgreshan, properly Alltgrisean (alt-grishan), Roan or grizzly burn. Allt, a burn; grisfhionn (grishan), grizzly.

Am port Leathach (am porsht layoch), The port at half [tide]. Leath is half.

An Amilt, or An Amhuilt (ann amvilt). Name of a place; means the stratagem.

An Fhridh dhorch (an ree dorroch), the dark forest. Fridh, forest; dorch, dark.

An Groban. See Groban.

An t' Eirthire Donn. See Eirthire Donn.

Angus. See Aonghas.

Aonghas (unnus), Angus, or Æneas, which last is nearer in sound to the Gaelic.

Applecross. English name as now used. Colonel Robertson says it is for the Gaelic Abercroisean, or Abhircroisean, from aber, mouth, or confluence of; croisean, of troubles; or perhaps croisean was the name of the little river.

Ardlair (ardlair), The mare's height or headland. Aird, a height; lair, a mare.

Ath nan ceann (arnankown), Ford of the heads. Ath, a ford; ceann, heads. Often written Anagown.

Aultbea, should be spelt Alltbeithe (arltbay), Burn of birches. Allt, a burn; beath, or beith, a birch.

Bac an Leth-choin (bark an lechun), Shelf of the crossbred dog. Leth-choin, a crossbred dog, a lurcher. Bac is a shelf or flat on the side or top of a hill; in this case the name is popularly applied to the whole hill.

Bac Dubh (bark dhoo), Black shelf. Bac, a shelf or flat place among rocks or on a hill; dubh, black.

Bad (bat), a clump, a grove.

Bad a Chrotha (badachro). Full Gaelic spelling of Badachro, which see.

Bad a mhanaich (bat er vannich), Grove of the monk. See Bad. Mhanaich, possessive of manach, a monk.

Bad an t' Sluig (bat ant slook), Grove of the miry puddle. Bad, a grove; sluig, possessive of slug, a miry puddle.

Badachro (badachro), Grove of the cruive. Bad, a grove; chro, possessive of cro, a cruive, a fank.

Badfearn, should be Badfearna (batfern), Alder grove. Fearn, the alder tree. See Bad. The place has still a clump of alders.

Badluachrach (bat loocharar), Rushy clump. Luachair, rushes.

Baile na h'eaglais (bally-na-herkless), Town of the church, or Kirkton. Baile, a town; eaglais, a church. Compare Ecclesia.

Ballymeon (bally-mey-on), properly spelt Baile-meadhon, pronounced exactly the same. Baile, a town; meadhon, middle. Anglicè, Middleton.

Bard Mor an t' Slaggan (bart more ant slaggan), The great or big bard of Slaggan, which see.

Bard Sasunnach (bart Sassenach), English bard. Sasunnach, English, i.e. not a Gaelic speaker.


Bathais Bheinn (boorsh ven), Forehead mountain (very descriptive). From Beinn, mountain, and bathais, forehead; or perhaps it should be called Baoisg Bheinn (boiskivin), the mountain of gleaming, because it catches the first rays of the rising sun. This is also true of this mountain.

Beag (bek), little. It seems to appear as bach in some English names.

Beallach Glasleathaid (baaloch glass laid), Pass of the gray slope. Beallach, a pass; glas, pale; leathaid, possessive of leathad, a slope.

Beallach nan Brog (baaloch nam progue), Pass of the shoes. Brog, a shoe.

Beallach a Chomhla (baaloch a korvla), Pass of the door. Comhladh, a door.

Beinn Alligin (bin allikin), Jewel mountain. Properly Ailleagan, a jewel, or darling, anything precious.

Beinn a Chaisgean (bin a harshkin), Mountain of casgean; which may be a corruption of caisg, Easter.

Beinn Aridh Charr (bin arry har), The mountain of the rough shieling. Beinn, a mountain; aridh, a shieling; charr, a corruption of garbh, rough.

Beinn a Chearcaill (bin a herkill). Mountain of the hoop. Cearcall, a hoop. Descriptive of bands or lines of stratification encircling this hill.

Beinn a Mhuinidh (bin ar voonie), Mountain of the "Pisvache."

Beinn an Eoin (bin-in-eeōn), The mountain of the bird. Beinn, a mountain; eoin, possessive of eun, a bird. The bird in this case is the ptarmigan.

Beinn Bheag (bin vek), Little mountain. Beag, little.

Beinn Bhreac (bin y vraick), Spotted mountain. Breac, spotted.

Beinn Damph, properly Beinn Damh (bin damff), Mountain of the stag. Damh, a stag.

Beinn Dearg (bin jarrak), Red mountain. Beinn; and Dearg, red.

Beinn Eighe (bin ay), File mountain. Eighe, a file. The topmost ridge is jagged or serrated like a file.

Beinn Lair (bin lar), Mountain of the mare. Lair, a mare.

Beinn Liathgach (bin learoch). This mountain should not be called Beinn Liathgach, but Liathgach, which see.

Beinn na h' Eaglais (binnaherkless), Mountain of the church. Beinn, mountain; eaglais, church.

Beinn nan Ramh (bin an rahv), Mountain of the oar. Ramh, an oar.

Beinn Slioch or Sleugach (bin sleoch). Should be Slioch without Beinn. See Slioch.

Beinn Tarsuinn (bin tarsing), Mountain across.

Beinn Tarsuinn Chaol (bin tarsing chool), Narrow Beinn Tarsuinn. Caol, narrow or slender.

Bhantighearna Ruadh (vancherna rooar), Red lady. Bhantighearna, literally she-lord.

Bho Iutharn, or Bho Iuthrna (vo ewern), From hell. Bho, from; Iuthrna, hell.

Bidean clann Raonaild (peetyan clan ruynuld), Clan Ranald's peak. Bidean, a peak.

Blar na Fala (blar ner falla), Plain of the blood. Blar, a plain or bog, or flat place; fala, possessive of fuil, blood.

Blar na Pairc (blar ner park), Battle of the park. Pairc, possessive of parc, a park or field.

Bonaid donn (boanat down), Brown bonnet. Bonaid, a bonnet, a cap; donn, brown.

Boor (bore). Either from buradh, a bursting forth of blood; or from a word containing the root boor, meaning "roaring," because stags used to roar here.

Bothie (bothy, othie pronounced as in frothy), a little hut or hovel. Both, a hut. Compare English booth. The ie is an old Gaelic diminutive, often written idh.

Braemore, properly Braighmor (bray more), Great summit or hill. Mor, great; braigh, summit.

Breac (brake), spotted, marked with smallpox (when applied to human beings), a trout.

Breacan an Fheilidh (brayken an aylie), the belted or kilted plaid. Breacan, a tartan plaid; fheilidh, possessive of feileadh, a kilt.

Bruachaig (brooachak). Perhaps from Bruach, and achadh, a field; bruach, a bank, border, edge, steep; aig, means a small bay in old Danish.

Buaile na luib (pool na loop), Fold of the bend. From buaile, a fold; and luib, a bend or loop.

Buidhe (boo-ie), yellow-haired, yellow.

Cabar Feidh (kapper fay), deer's antler. Cabar, antler, or a stick; feiah, possessive of fiagh, deer.

Cabar Lar (kapper law), Turf parer. Cabar, a stick; lar, a floor, the ground.


Cadha Beag (kaar pek), Little pass in the rock. Beag, little; cadha, a pass in a rock.

Cailleach a Mhuillear (kaillyoch a vuillyear), The miller's wife. Cailleach, an old woman; muillear, miller.

Cailleach Liath Rasaidh (kaillyoch leear raasa), Grey old woman of Raasay. Cailleach, an old woman; liath, grey (light blue when not applied to a human being).

Callum a Ghlinne (kallum a glinnie), Malcolm of the glen. Callum, Malcolm.

Carn a Ghlinne (karn a glinnie), Cairn of the glen. Carn, a cairn or heap of stones; ghlinne, possessive of gleann, a glen.

Carn Anthony (karn anthony), Cairn of Anthony. Carn, a heap of stones.

Carn Dearg (karn jarrak). Red cairn. Carn, a heap of stones. See Dearg.

Carn Liath (karn leear), Light blue cairn. Carn, a heap of stones; liath, light blue.

Cas chrom (kas-rhoum), foot plough; literally crooked foot, from cas, a foot; and crom, crooked.

Cathair mhor (kaar more). Big seat, i.e. Fairies' seat. See Kerrysdale.

Ceann a Chro (kayoun-a-chroe), End or head of the cruive. Ceann, end or head; cro, a cruive, or fank.

Ceann a chruinn (kayoun a chreinie), mast head, or tree head or end. Ceann, a head, end; cruinn, possessive of crann, a tree or mast.

Ceann an t' sail (kayoun an tarl), end or head of the salt water. Ceann, end or head; sail, salt water. Corrupted further south into Kintail.

Ceann loch iu (kayoun loch ew), head of Loch Ewe. Ceann, a head.

Ceardach ruadh (karstoch roo-er), Red smiddy. See A cheardach ruadh.

Ceilidh (kayley), social meetings. From ceilidh, to visit.

Ceistear crubach (kaister crupboch), lame catechist. Ceistear, a catechist; crubach, lame.

Cibear Mor (keeipber more), big shepherd. Cibear, a shepherd; mor, great or big.

Clach (klarch), a stone. Possessive, Cloiche. Compare clough, found in some English names.

Clach a Mhail (klarch ar varl), Stone of rent. Clach, a stone; Mal, rent, tribute.

Clach an t' Shagart (klarch an taggart), Stone of the priest. Clach, a stone; shagart, possessive of sagart, a priest.

Clach nam Brog (klarch nam progue), Shoe stone. Clach, a stone; brog, a shoe.

Clachan garbh (klachan garrav), Rough village. Clachan, a village; literally stones; supposed to have originally been a Druidical term. See Garbh.

Cladh nan Sasunnach (klug nan sarsenach), Burial-place of the English. Cladh, a burial-place; Sasunnach, English, Saxon, not a Gaelic speaker.

Claidheamh mor (klymore), a broadsword, a claymore. Claidheamh, a sword; mor, great, here broad.

Clais na leac (klarsh na lyck), Hollow of the flat stones or flags. Clais, a furrow, a hollow between ridges or hills; leac, a flag.

Claonadh (kluanar), slopes. Compare inclining.

Clann Eachainn (klan erchen), offspring of Hector. Clann, offspring or descendants. See Eachainn.

Claymore. See Claidheamh mor.

Cleireach (klearoch), literally clerk. Priests often called so from their scholarship. The Priest island off the Greenstone Point is called Cleireach in Gaelic. Compare Clericus.

Cliabh moine (kleea moanyer), peat creel. Cliabh, creel; moine, peats.

Cliff, or Clive (Gaelic Clu). See Meall na Cluibha.

Clu (kloo), a local name; now treated as synonymous with English cliff. See Meall na Cluibha.

Cnoc a chrochadair (kroka chrochater), Hangman's hill. Cnoc, a hill, a hillock; chrochadair, possessive of crochadair, a hangman.

Cnoc a croiche (krok a chroich), Gallows hill. Croich, a gallows.

Cnoc na mi-chomhairle (krok na mee ho-airlie), Hillock of evil counsel. Cnoc, a hillock; mi (like mis-), evil, comhairle, counsel. Mi is also a negative prefix like un-.

Coigeach (ko-yoch), probably the "fifth portion" [of a davach]. Coig, five.

Coille Aigeascaig (kul yaikaskaik); Wood of Aigeascaig. Coille, a wood; see Aigeascaig.

Coinneach (kuinyoch), Kenneth. The progenitor of the Mackenzies.

Coinneach Mac Sheumais (kuinyoch mak eearmis), Kenneth the son of James. Coinneach, Kenneth; Seumas, James.

Coinneachadh Beag (koonyochor bek), [xxxi]Little meeting-place. Coinneachadh, meeting-place; beag, little.

Coire an Easain (corrie an easan), Corrie of the little waterfall. Easan, a little waterfall.

Coire Cheud Cnoc (corrie hehud crok), Corrie of a hundred hillocks. Coire, a corrie; ceud, hundred; cnoc, a hillock.

Coire Cheud Creagh (corrie hehud krayar), Corrie of a hundred spoils. Coire, corrie; ceud, a hundred; creagh, spoils. Name erroneously given by some to the Corrie of a hundred hillocks. See last name.

Coire Dubh Mor (corrie dhoo more), Great black corrie (or dell).

Coire Mhic Cromail (corrie vic krommle), The corrie of the son of Cromail. Mhic, of the son of; Cromail, an old name, meaning unknown.

Coire nan Cuilean (corrie nan coollin), Corrie of the cubs. Cuilean, a cub, a pup.

Coppachy, properly Copachaidh (koppachie), Foam field. Cop, foam; achadh, a field.

Corcur (korker), red, crimson.

Cota gearr (koita gaerr), short coat. Cota, a coat; gearr, short.

Co-thional (ko-yearnal), gathering together. Comh, or co, fellowship (compare company); tional, gathering.

Cove. English name altered from cave. The Gaelic name of the place is really An Uamhaidh (nouahvie), or the place of caves, from uamh, a cave. But it is more properly called An Uamh Mhor, or the great cave, a name descriptive of the cave still used as a place of worship.

Cradh Gheadh (crargeear), Shieldrake. Geag, a goose.

Craig (kraik), a crag or rock; properly spelt creig, or creag.

Craig a Chait (kraig a hart), Rock of the cat. Chait, possessive of cat, which is the same in Gaelic as in English, but was originally applied only to the wild cat.

Craig an Dubh Loch (kraigan dhoo-loch), Rock of the black loch.

Craig an Fhithich (kraig an eech), Crag of the raven. Fhithich, possessive of fitheach, a raven.

Craig an Fhithich Mhor (kraig an eech vore), Big crag of the raven.

Craig an t' Shabhail (kraig an towl), Rock of the barn. Sabhal, a barn.

Craig Bhadain an Aisc (kraik vatn an ashk), Rock of the clumps or groves of burial. Badan, clumps or groves; aisc, obsolete word, meaning burial or interment, or preparation for burial.

Craig Bhan (kraig varn), White crag. Ban, white; and see Craig.

Craig Roy. Properly Craig Ruadh, which see.

Craig Ruadh (kraik roo-er), Red crag. See Craig and Ruadh.

Craig Thairbh (kraik-harve), Bull rock. Tarbh, a bull.

Craig Tollie (kraig tollie), properly Creag Thollie (kraig holly), Rock of Tollie. See Tollie.

Crannag (crannog). A crannog, or insulated fortress, usually constructed on piles in a loch; the same word as crannag, a pulpit.

Crasg (krask). Meaning uncertain, possibly something that lies across. Crasg is the top of a spade, or cross piece of a crutch. Crasgach is something that goes contrary.

Creagan an Inver (kraigan an innyr), Little rock of the mouth of the river. Inver, mouth of a river.

Cromasaig, properly spelt Crom Fhasadh (krommasak), Crooked hollow. Crom, crooked; fhasadh, possessive of fasadh, a hollow.

Crubach (kruboch), lame of a leg. Compare cripple.

Cruitear, or Cruitire (kroo-iter), a musician, a harper.

Cuairtear nan Gleann (kooairter nan gleyoun), Pilgrim of the glens. Cuairtear, a pilgrim; gleann, glens.

Cu-dubh (koo dhoo), black dog. Cu, a dog.

Cuil an Scardain (kool an scarten), Corner of the screes. Cuil, a corner, a nook; sgardan, screes. The name is very descriptive.

Cuilchonich (kulhoanie), Mossy corner. Coinneach, green moss; cuil, a corner.

Culinellan, properly Cul an eilean (koolineylen), Back of the island. Cul, back of; eilean, an island.

Cumha Thighearna Ghearrloch (koovtcheerna yairloch), Lament of or for the laird of Gairloch. Cumha, lament. See Tighearna.

Dal Cruaidh (dal crewie), hard field or flat. Dal, a flat field; cruaidh, hard.

Darach (darroch), an oak.

Dearg (jarrak), red, like a rose.

Diabaig (teapik). Norse name, meaning unknown; possibly connected with Dia, God; aig, a small bay, so [xxxii]that it may mean the small bay of God. Perhaps this has reference to religious rites imported from the neighbouring monastery of Applecross. Diabaig is spelt Typack on the map of 1662.

Doire (derry), a grove.

Domhnull Dubh (donnullul dhoo), Black Donald. Domhnull, Donald; dubh, black.

Domhnull Gorm (donnullul gorrum), Blue Donald. Gorm, blue.

Domhnull Greannach (donnullul gruonnoch), Sour or savage-looking Donald. Greannach also means irascible.

Domhnull M'Eaine Roy Vic Choinnich, should be Domhnull Mac Iain Ruadh Mhic Choinnich (donald mak eean ruar vick kuinyoch), Donald son of John Roy (red John) son of Kenneth. Mac, son of; Mhic (or Vic), possessive of Mac.

Domhnull Mor (donnullul more), Big Donald. Domhnull, Donald; mor, big.

Domhnull Odhar MacIain Leith (donnullul our mak yan lay), Sallow or dun Donald son of Iain Liath or grey-haired John. Odhar also means drab. Leith, possessive of Liath, grey.

Donald. See Domhnull Dubh, &c. Donald is often written in these pages instead of its Gaelic spelling.

Donn (down), brown, bay, or sable. Compare dun.

Donnachadh Mor na Tuaighe (donnochar mor na tew-ay), Big Duncan of the axe. Donnachadh, Duncan; mor, big; tuagh, an axe.

Donnachadh na Fadach (dunochar na fardoch), Duncan Fadach. Donnachadh, Duncan; Fadach, name of the farm he had in Kintail before he came to Inveran.

Druim a Chait (dream a-hart), Ridge of the cat. Druim, a ridge; chait, possessive of cat.

Druim Carn Neill (dream karneyal), Ridge of the cairn of Neil. Druim, or droim, a ridge or keel.

Drumchork, properly Druim a choirc (drum-a-hawk), Ridge of corn, or oats. Druim, a ridge; coirce, oats, corn.

Dubh (dhoo), black.

Dubh Loch (dhoo-loch), Black loch.

Dun (doon), a castle; Dunan (doonan), a small castle.

Dun Naast (doonarst), Castle of Naast. See Naast.

Eachainn (erchen), Hector. Hector is considered the English equivalent, though it is not a translation of this Gaelic name.

Eachainn Geal (erchen gayal), White Hector. See Eachainn and Geal.

Eachainn Ruadh (erchen roo-er), Hector Roy. Hector is considered the English equivalent for Eachainn; and see Ruadh.

Eilean (eylan), an island, isle.

Eileanach (eylanoch), Island of the field. Eilean, isle; ach, or achadh, or achaidh, a field. Perhaps it would be more accurately translated The place of islands.

Eileandonain (eylan donnan), Island Donain. Donain, name of a saint, probably short for Donnachadh, or Duncan.

Eilean a Mhor Righ (eylan a vor ree), Island of the great king. An erroneous suggestion of the origin of the name Maree.

Eilean Dubh na Sroine (eylan dhoo na stronyer), Black island of the nose or promontory. Dubh, black; sron (stron), a nose or promontory.

Eilean Grudidh (eylan gruydgie), Island Grudie. See Eilean and Grudidh.

Eilean Horisdale (eylan horrisdel), properly Eilean Thorisdal, the island of Thorsdale, a Norse name, which see.

Eilean Maree (eylan maree), Isle Maree. See St Maelrubha.

Eilean na h' Iolaire (eylan nar hewlar-yer), Island of the eagle. Iolaire, an eagle.

Eilean Ruaridh Beag (eylan rooarie vek), Little island of Rorie or Roderick. Beag, little.

Eilean Ruaridh Mor (eylan ruorie mor), Big island of Rorie. Mor, big.

Eilean Suainne (eylan soo-in), Everlasting isle. Suainne, everlasting.

Eirthire Donn (erriyer down), Brown shore. Eirthira, shore; donn, brown.

Erradale (erradale). Norse; probably from earr, a boundary, the edge of.

Ewan McGabhar, properly Eoghan Mac Gabhar (ewen mak gower), Ewan son of the goat. Gabhar, a she-goat.

Ewe (ew). May be a corruption from uisge (usque), water. Compare similar Welsh root gwy, water, as in Wye.


Faidhir Mor (fire more), Great market. Faidhir, a fair or market; mor, great or big.

Failte Uilleam Dhuibh (falt yllyam oo-ey), Black William's salute. Failte, a salute; Uilleam, William; dhuibh, possessive of dubh, black.

Fannich, properly Fanaich (fannich). Meaning unknown.

Faoileag (fewlak), a sea-gull, name for a dog.

Farquhar (properly Fearchar) Buidhe (farkar boo-ie), Yellow-haired Farquhar. See Buidhe.

Fasagh (fassoch). From Fasadh (pronounced fassoch), meaning a hollow.

Fe Leoid, properly Feith Leoid (fay lee-oade), The bog of Leod (Loud). Feith, a bog; Leoid, possessive of Leod, a Norse Christian name.

Feachaisgean, properly Feith Chaisgean (fay harshkin), Bog of Casgean. See Beinn a Chaisgean.

Feadag-chuirn (fettak hee-oorn), Cairn plover. Gaelic name of the dotteril. Feadag, a plover; chuirn, possessive of carn, a cairn.

Fear, Feur, Feir, or Fiar loch (fear loch), sedgy loch. Feur, possessive feoir (feyoar), sedge, reedy grass.

Fear Shieldaig (fear shieldak), The goodman of Shieldaig. Fear means a man, a goodman.

Fedan Mor (fettan more), Big gullie. Fead (fet), a whistle; feadan, a little whistle or whistling thing (applied to a gully because the wind whistles through it). Feadag, the feminine diminutive of fead, is the name given to the golden plover on account of its piping.

Feileadh-beag (faylabek), philabeg, or kilt; literally little kilt, i.e. the kilt made up separately as distinguished from the Breacan an Fheilidh, the belted or kilted plaid.

Feill Iudha (fail you-her), Ewe market. Feill, a market; Iudha, possessive of Iu, Ewe.

Feir loch. See Fear loch.

Feith an Leothaid. Same as Fe-Leoid, which see. This is the more correct spelling.

Feith Mhic Iain Dhuibh (fay vik an ooie), The bog of Black John's son. Feith, a bog. See Mac Iain Dhuibh.

Feithean Mor, properly Na feithean mor (fain more), The great morasses. Feith (pl. feithean), a morass, a bog.

Feur loch. See Fear loch.

Fiaclachan (feearclochon), little toothed things. Diminutive of fiaclach, toothed or jagged, i.e. the little jagged rock; very descriptive.

Fiar loch. See Fear loch.

Fionn Loch (fee-un-loch), Fingal's loch, or The white loch. It is called Loch Finn on the map of 1662. Fionn means white, pale, or wan. It is said the Fingalians were called the white men in contradistinction to the Dugals or black men.

Fionnla Dubh MacGillechriosd (feeounla dhoo mak gillie chree-est), Black Finlay, son of the servant of Christ. See MacGillechriosd.

Fionnla Dubh na Saighead (feeounla dhoo na side), Black Finlay of the arrow. Saighead, an arrow.

Fionnla Liath (feeounla leear), Grey Finlay. Liath, grey.

Firemore. See Faidhir mor.

Foura (foora), an island at the mouth of Loch Ewe. The name includes the Norwegian suffix "a," meaning an island. Fuar (four) is Gaelic for cold.

Fraoch-eilean (frooch-eylan), Heather isle. Fraoch, heather.

Fuirneis (furniss), Furnace. This name was most likely originated here by iron-workers from Furness in Lancashire. Furness, according to Rev. Isaac Taylor, may be Fireness, the "fire isle," or "Fore-ness." Ness is Norse for a nose or headland.

Gael (gale), properly Gaidheal (gai-al), a Highlander, a Gael.

Gaelic (gallik), properly Gaidhealach (gai-alloch), Highland.

Gairloch (garloch), Short loch. Originally, and more correctly, spelt Gearrloch or Gerloch. Gearr, short. It is always spelt Gearrloch in Gaelic.

Garadh Iaruinn (gaarogh eerun), Iron dyke. Garradh, a dyke, a fence wall; iaruinn, iron.

Garavaig, properly Garbhaig (garavaik), name of a small river or burn. The termination "aig" is said to be old Danish, and means a small bay, but the prefix is probably from garbh, rough.

Garbh (garav, or garve), rough.

Garbh Choire (garav chorrie), Rough corrie.

Garbh eilean (garaveylan), Rough island. Garbh, rough.

Geal (gayal), white, bright.


Gille (gillie), a lad, a young man, a gillie, a servant.

Gille Buidhe (gillie boo-ie), Yellow, or yellow-haired gillie. See Gille.

Gille Cailean Mor (gilly callain more), The lad big Colin. See separate words.

Gille Dubh (gillie dhoo), Black, or black-haired lad.

Gille Riabhach (gillie ree-oach), Brindled lad. Riabhach, brindled.

Gillean (gillyon), lads. Plural of Gille, which see.

Gillean an t' Sealgair (gillyon ant shallager), the hunter's lads. Gillean, lads, or young men; sealgair, a hunter.

Gillespic (gill-yespik), servant of the bishop. Gille, servant; easbuig (espik), bishop. Compare Episcopus.

Glac Mhic Iain Dhuibh (glark vik an oo-ie), Hollow or dell of the son of Black John. Glac, a hollow or dell; Mhic, possessive of Mac, the son of; dhuibh, possessive of dubh, black.

Glac na Sguithar (glark nar skither), Hollow of Sguithar. An old name; meaning now lost.

Glas (glosh), grey. When applied to a man it means that he is pale or sallow, never grey-haired.

Glas eilean (glosh-eylan), Grey island. Glas, grey; eilean, an island.

Glas Leitire (glosh laytcher), Grey slope. See Glas and Leitir.

Glen, properly Gleann (glen or gloun), a valley, a dale.

Glen a Bianasdail (gloun ar beeanarstle), Glen of skin field or dale, or thal. Bian, a wild animal's skin.

Glen Cruaidh Choillie (glen or gloun cruchollie). May perhaps be the hardwood glen. Cruid, hard; coille, wood.

Glen Dochartie, properly Gleann Dochartidh (gloun dochartie). Dochart, or Dochartie, is believed to have been the name of a man.

Glen na Muic (gloun na mook). Muic, possessive of muc, a pig.

Gobha dubh an uisge (gow dhoo an uisk), Blacksmith of the water. Gobha, a smith; dubh, black; uisge, water.

Gorm (gorrum), blue.

Groban (groben). Probably a grooved rock, from grobadh, to groove.

Grudidh, more correctly Gruididh (gruydyie). Possibly from gruid, dregs; because the dregs and sediment of several burns drain into the Grudidh river.

Gruinard, in Gaelic Gruinaird (grinyard). Meaning unknown; may be from grian, the sun, and aird, a height. It used to be sometimes spelt Greinord; may be Norse.

Hector Roy. English rendering of Eachainn Ruadh, which see. No Gaelic word begins with H.

Heglis Gherloch, for Eaglais Ghearrloch (erkless yairloch), Church of Gairloch. Eaglais, a church.

Heglis Loch Ew, for Eaglais Loch Iu (erkless loch ew), Church of Loch Ewe.

Horisdale. See Eilean Horisdale.

Iain Buidhe (eean boo-ie), Yellow, or yellow-haired John. Iain, John. See Buidhe.

Iain Buidhe Taillear (eean boo-ie tyler), Yellow-haired John the tailor. Taillear, a tailor.

Iain Caol (eean cool), Slender John. Caol, slender.

Iain Dall (eean toul), Blind John. Dall, blind.

Iain Dubh Mac Ruaridh (eean dhoo mak rooarie), Black John, son of Rorie or Roderick. See separate words.

Iain Geal Donn (eean gel town), Whitey-brown John. Geal, white; Donn, brown.

Iain Gearr (eean garr), Short John. Gearr, short.

Iain Gearr Mac Mhurchaidh Mhic Iain (eean garr mak muroochie vic yan), Short John, son of Murdo, son of John.

Iain Glassich (eean glassoch), John of [Strath] Glass.

Iain Liath (eean leear), Grey John. Liath, grey.

Iain MacAllan Mhic Ruaridh (eean mak allan vik rooarie), John, son of Allan, son of Rorie. See separate words.

Iain Mac Coinnich Mhic Eachainn (eean mak kunyich vik erchen), John, son of Kenneth, son of Hector.

Iain Mac Eachainn Chaoil (eean mak erchen chooil), John, son of slender Hector. Chaoil, possessive of caol, slender.

Iain Mac Ghille Challum (eean mak illie challum), John, son of the lad Malcolm. See Mac Ghille Challum.

Iain Mac Iain Uidhir (eean mak an eer), John, the son of dun John. Uidhir is the possessive of odhar, dun.


Iain Mor am Post (eean more am post, pronounced like cost), Big John the post.

Iain Odhar Mac Iain Leith (eean our mak an lay), Dun John, son of Grey John. Odhar, dun; liath, grey.

Iain Ruadh (eean ruor, or ruag), John Roy, or Red John.

Innis a Bhaird (ish y vard), Oasis (or "clearing") of the bard. Innis, an island, or green oasis in a brown heathery region; bhaird, possessive of bard.

Innis Ghlas (inch gloss), The grey oasis. See Innis a Bhaird. Glas, grey.

Inveran, in Gaelic Inbhiran (in youren). Inbhiran is the diminutive of Inbhir (inver), an estuary, or mouth of. Inveran therefore means the little estuary. It takes this name from the small estuary formed where the little river from Kernsary enters Loch Maree.

Inverasdale, should be spelt Inbhirasdal (in-ur-astle), Mouth of the river Asdaile. Called Ashfidill, Aspedell, or Absdill in old documents.

Inverewe, Anglicé for Inbhiriu (in yer ew), The mouth of the Ewe. Inver (Gallice Inbhir), mouth of a river.

Judha. See Feill Iudha. There is no word beginning with J in Gaelic.

Kenlochewe (kinloch ew). See Ceann loch iu. The letter k does not occur in true Gaelic.

Kenneth. English form of Coinneach, which see.

Kernsary, spelt in Gaelic Cearnsair. A corruption, probably from carn, a cairn; aridh, a shieling.

Kerry, properly spelt Cearridh. Meaning unknown; may be connected with cearr, left, or wrong.

Kerrysdale. A modern English name; in Gaelic it is called Cathair Bheag, or the little seat or green knoll on which the fairies used to sit. Compare similar word in Welsh, as in Cader Idris. Bheag is possessive of beag, little.

Kintail. See Ceann an t' sail.

Laide (laide), a slope. From leathad (pronounced laid), a slope. The place is called in Gaelic Leathad Udrigil, or The slope of Udrigil.

Lasan (larsan), a slight passion, wrath, anger.

Leabaidh na Ba Bàine (lyeppy na papann), Bed of the white cow. Leabaidh, a bed; ba, possessive of bo, a cow; bàine, possessive of ban, white.

Leabhar na Feinne (leeoar na fainyie), Book of the Fingalians.

Leac nan Saighead (lake nen side), Flag or flat rock of the arrow. Leac, a flat rock, a flag; saighead, an arrow.

Leacaidh (lyechy), Place of flags, or flat rocks.

Leitir (laychter, letter), slope on a hill side, declivity.

Leth chreag (laychrig), Half rock. Leth, half; chreag, possessive of creag, a rock. This name is applied to several rocky hills in Gairloch; it seems to imply that one-half of the rock has fallen away.

Letterewe (letter ew), Slope of Ewe. See Leitir. This name is properly Leitir Iu.

Leum an Doill (layum an toul), Blind man's leap.

Lews (looze). From Leogheas (leoas), i.e., the lands of Leod, the progenitor of the MacLeods of the Lews.

Liathgach (leeroch), The light-blue mountain. Liath, light blue. This name should not have Beinn before it.

Loch (loch), a lake, an arm of the sea. Lochan, a small lake, a tarn.

Loch a Bhaid Luachraich (loch a vat loocharar), Loch of the clump of rushes. Bad, a clump; luachair, rushes.

Loch a Bheallaich (loch a veealoch), Loch of the pass. Beallach, a pass.

Loch a Chroisg (loch ach roshk). Anglicé Loch Rosque. Chroisg, possessive of Crosg, name of a place. Meaning unknown; possibly connected with Crasg, which see. Another suggestion is that Crosg may mean the Cross, and that the name was given by ecclesiastics who unquestionably lived here.

Loch a Druing (loch a tring), Loch of Druing. Druing is probably a Norse word. It occurs as Druingag in Tobar Druingag, The well of Druingag, which is at the south end of Loch a Druing.

Loch an Iasgair (loch an ee-esker), Loch of the fisherman. Iasgair, a fisherman; but in this case it refers to the nesting here of the osprey or fishing eagle.

Loch Bad na Sgalaig (loch bat na skallak), Loch of the servant's grove. [xxxvi][Bad, a grove (or clump); sgalag, a servant.

Loch Bad na h' Achlais (loch pat 'n achlass), Loch of the grove of the hollow. Achlais, a hollow, the armpit.

Loch Bharanaichd (loch varranocht), Loch of the barony. Baranachd, a barony.

Loch Broom (loch broom). An English imitation of the Gaelic name, which is Loch Bhraoin (loch vruin). Braon means a light shower, drops of rain, drizzle.

Loch Clair, properly Clar (loch clar). Means anything flat, as the head of a barrel, leaf of a table, the front or plain piece of a kilt. The stone tables of the law are called clar in the Gaelic bible.

Loch Coulin (loch koalin). Coulin (or Connlin) is from Connlach, a Fingalian hero, who was buried on a promontory in the loch. The site of his grave is still pointed out.

Loch Fada (loch fatter), Long loch. Fada, long.

Loch Fear, Feur, Feir, or Fiar. See Fear loch.

Loch Gharbhaig (loch garravaik), Loch of the Garavaig, which see.

Loch Maree. See St Maelrubha.

Loch Mhic 'ille Rhiabhaich (loch vik illie reeoach), Loch of MacGille Riabhach, whom see.

Loch na Beiste (loch na peyest), Loch of the beast. Beist, a beast, a brute.

Loch na h' Oidhche (loch na hayich), Loch of night. Oidhche, night.

Loch nan Dailthean (loch nan dullann), Loch of the meadows. Dail, a field, a meadow.

Loch Rosque. See Loch a Chroisg.

Loch Torr na h' Eiginn (loch torr na haykin), Loch of the mound of violence. Torr, a mound; eiginn, violence.

Lochan a' Neigh. Should be Lochan an Fheidh, which see.

Lochan an Fheidh (lochan a neay), Loch of the deer. Fheidh, possessive of fiadh, deer.

Lochan Cul na Cathrach (lochan cool na karroch), Tarn of [or at] the back of the fairies' seat. Cul, back of; cathrach, possessive of cathair, a seat, a word usually applied to the fairies' seats.

Lochan nan Airm (lochan nan arram), Loch of the arms. Airm, possessive of aram (or armachd), arms.

Lochan nan Breac, or Lochan nan Breac Adhair (lochanan brake aar), Lochan of the trout from the sky. Adhar, the sky. When trout are found in a loch without inlet or outlet, they are supposed to have fallen from the sky.

Lochend (Dog Gaelic), End of the loch.

Londubh (lonedhoo), Black bog. Lon, a bog; dubh, black.

Longa (longer). Norse name; the termination a is an old Norse suffix meaning an isle. Long may be Norse equivalent to the English long, or it may possibly be the Gaelic long, a ship. In old maps it is called Lunga.

Lonmor (lone more), Big bog. Lon (lone), a bog; mor, big.

Luibmhor (loopmore), Great bend [or loop]. Luib, a bend.

Lungard (lungard). An old name; meaning unknown.

Mac (mak), Son of. Possessive mhic (vik), of the son of.

Mac a Ghille Riabhaich (mak illie ree-oach), Son of Gille Riabhach. See Gille Riabhach.

Mac Callum (makallum), Son of Malcolm.

Mac Coinnich (mak kunnich), Son of Kenneth. Mac, son of; Coinnich, possessive of Coinneach, which see.

Mac Ghille Challum (mak illie Challum), The son of the lad Malcolm. Ghille, possessive of Gille; Challum, possessive of Callum, Malcolm.

Mac Gilleandreis (mak gilloundris), Son of the servant of [St] Andrew. Gille, a servant; Aindrea, or Andreis, Andrew.

Mac Gillechriosd (mak gillie chree-est), Son of the servant of Christ. Chriosd, Christ. See Gille.

Mac Iain Dhuibh (mak an ooie), Son of Black John. Mac, son of; dhuibh, possessive of dubh, black.

MacLean (mak laine). In Gaelic this name is Mac'ill'ean, possibly for Mac Ghille Iain, meaning the son of the servant of John, or St John.

MacLennan (maklennan). In Gaelic the name is Mac a Leinnan, from leine, a shirt, referring to the first MacLennan having been the armour bearer who carried his "shirt" of mail for Mackenzie, lord of Kintail.

Mac Leod (makloud), the Son of Leod, progenitor of all the MacLeods.

Mac Mhic Cordaigh (mak vik orday), Son of the son of Cordaigh.

Mac Olamh Mhor (mak olar vor), Son of Olaf the Great. Olaf, a Norse name.

Macdonald, The son of Donald. It is not used in this form in Gaelic. The [xxxvii]proper Gaelic equivalent is Domhnullach (donnulloch); it also means, the son of Donald. Mac Dhomhnuill is, however, frequently used.

MacRae (mak ray), Son of fortune. Mac, son of; rath, fortune.

Maighdean (maidchen), Maiden.

Maighstir Sgoil (maishter skol), Schoolmaster. Maighstir, a master; sgoil, a school.

Mali chruinn donn (mallie cruntown), Round brown Molly. Mali, Molly; cruinn, round; donn, brown.

Maolmuire (melmur), Tonsured one of Mary. Maol, a cropped head; muire, the virgin [Mary].

Marbhrann (marvran), an elegy. Marbh, dead; rann, verse.

McKenzie or Mackenzie. Corrupted from Mac Coinnich, which see.

Meall (meoul), a hill; literally a lump, usually applied to a lump of a hill. Meallan, a little hill.

Meall a Deas, (mella teyess), Hill of the south. Deas, south.

Meall a Ghuibhais (meyoul a huish), Hill of the fir. Guibhas, a fir.

Meall an Doire (meyoul an derry), Hill of the grove.

Meall Aridh Mhic Craidh (meyoul arry vik creear), Hill of the shieling of Criadh. Aridh, a shieling; Criadh, name of a man, meaning unknown.

Meall Aundrairidh (meyoul aurndrarey). Possibly meant for hill of Andrew, or of Andrew's shieling; if the latter, the termination would be from aridh, a shieling.

Meall Lochan a Chleirich (meyoul lochan a chlearich), Hill of the loch of the priest. Cleireach, a clerk. The priests were sometimes called cleireach, from their scholarship.

Meall na Cluibha (meyoul na clua), Hill of Clu (Anglicè Cliff hill). Clu may be connected with cluain, good pastures.

Meall na Glaice Daraich (meyoul na glarker darroch), Hill of the oak dell. Glac, a dell; darach, oak.

Meall nam Meallan (meyoul namellan), Hill of the hills. Meallan, plural of Meall, hills.

Meall Mheannidh, or Meadhonach, more correctly the latter (meyoul vahanny, or meyharnoch), The middle hill. Meall, hill; meadhonach, intermediate.

Meallan Chuaich (mellan chuaich), Little hill of the cup, or quaich. Compare quaff.

Meallan na Ghamhna (mellan a gowna), Stirk hill. Meallan, a little hill, gamhainn, a stirk.

Meallan Thearlaich (mellan harelich), Little hill of Charles. Tearlach, Charles; meallan, diminutive of meall. Anglicè, Mellon Charles.

Mellon Charles. See Meallan Thearlaich.

Mellon Udrigil (mellon oodrigil), Hill of Udrigil, which see.

Melvaig (melvik). Probably Norse; or may be from meal and beag, making Mealbheag (meyoul vek), the little hill. In Gaelic it is spelt Mealabhaig, which favours the Norse origin. Aig, old Danish for a little bay. Melvaig used to be spelt Malefage, Mailfog, Melvag.

Midton, for Middletown. An English word. See Ballymeon.

Mioll. Corruption of Meall.

Moladh Mairi (molloch marrie), Praise of Mary. Moladh, praise; Mairi, Mary.

Mor (more, or mohr), great, or big.

Mor Ban (moore barn), Fair Sarah. Mor, Sarah; ban, white, fair.

Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (mulloch corrie vik erraquhar), Summit of the corrie of Farquhar's son. Mulloch, summit; coire, corrie; Mhic, of the son of; Fhearchair, possessive of Farquhar.

Murchadh Mac Mhurchaidh (muroochuch mak muroochie), Murdo, son of Murdo. Murchadh, Murdo; possessive Murchaidh.

Murchadh Riabhach na cuirce (muroochuch reeoach na kurke), Brindled Murdo of the bowieknife. Murchadh, Murdo; riabhach, brindled; cuirce, possessive of corc, a knife like a bowieknife (a knife that does not shut).

Murdo Mc Conill varchue vic Conill vic Allister. Old (almost phonetic) way of writing the Gaelic for "Murdo the son of Donald Murdo, the son of Donald, the son of Alastair." Conill seems to represent Dhomhnuill (the initial "c" belongs to the preceding word), and varchue is for Mhurchaidh, the possessive cases respectively of Domhnuill and Murchadh. Vic, of course, is for Mhic, of the son of.

Naast, or Naust (narst). A Norse word. Fäste is Norse for a fortress; its Gaelic form with the article would be Näste. There is here a knowe by the sea called Dun Naast, apparently including the Gaelic Dun, a castle.


Ob Choir' I (ope corree), Bay of the island of the corrie, or Island Corrie Bay. Ob, a bay; choire, possessive of coire, a corrie; i, old Gaelic for an island. Iona is still called "I" in Gaelic.

Oban (open, or oben), a little bay.

Og (ogue, pronounced as in rogue), young.

Oighrig (eyrig). Woman's name; Euphemia is considered to be the English equivalent.

Openham. Corrupted from Opinan, which see.

Opinan (opinen), Little bays. Corrupted from Obanan, plural of Oban, which see.

Oran na Feannaige (oran na feounak), Song of the hoodie crow. Oran, song; feannag, a hoodie crow, i.e. the Royston or grey crow.

Ormiscaig (ormscaik). A Norse name; its termination means a small bay. The word may include Ormr, Norse for a serpent. (See Rev. Isaac Taylor on Orme's Head.)

Padruig Caogach (partrik kuogoch), Skew-eyed Peter. Caogach, skew-eyed; Padruig, Peter, or Patrick.

Philabeg. See Feileadh Beag. Philabeg is a lowland form of the name of the kilt.

Piobaire Ban (peepier ban), The fair piper. Piobaire, a piper; ban, fair, white.

Piobaire Dall (peepi-er toul), Blind piper. Piobaire, a piper; dall, blind.

Piobaireachd (peebyrocht), Pipe music. Usually applied to a set piece in the form now commonly called a pibroch.

Ploc (plok), a round mass.

Ploc (plok) of Torridon. See Ploc.

Ploc-ard (plokart), Height of the round mass. See Ploc and Aird.

Poll a Chuillin (poll a choolin), Pool of the hollies. Poll, a pool; cuilionn, hollies.

Poolewe (pool-ew). This name means the pool of the Ewe; in Gaelic it is Poll-iu. Poll, a pool; iu, ewe.

Port Henderson. A modern name. The colloquial Gaelic name of the place is Portigill (porstigil). May be from Port a geal, the white port.

Port na h' Eille (port na hail), Port of the thong. Iall, a thong, a leather strap; possessive eille.

Port na Heile (port na hail). See Port na h' Eille.

Pronadh na Mial (prone-a na meoul), Crushing the louse. Pronadh, crushing; mial, louse.

Raasay, properly Rasaidh (raaser). Norse name. May perhaps include rath, an obsolete word for a round fort.

Rathad Mor (rart more), High (great) road. Rathad, road; mor, great.

Regoilachy (regoalachie). From fhrith (ree), a forest, and gobhlach, forked. The termination is probably for euphony, but may represent achadh, a field.

Rob Donn (rob doun), Brown or dun Robert; the soubriquet of the great Reay bard. Rob, Robert; donn, brown, or dun.

Rob Roy, for Rob Ruadh (rob rooer), Red Robert.

Rona (rowna). Norse; probably seal island. Ron is Gaelic for a seal; a is a Norse suffix meaning an island.

Roy. See Ruadh.

Ru, or Rudha (roo, or rooah), a point, a promontory.

Ru Nohar. Should be Rudha 'n Fhomhair, which see.

Ruadh (ru-er, or rooag), red, or auburn. Anglicé, roy.

Ruadh Stac (rooer stak), Red stack, or steep rock. Stac, a steep rock.

Ruaridh an Torra (roo-arie-an-tor), Rorie of the tor, or round smooth hill.

Ruaridh Breac (roo-arie brake), Spotted (or pock-pitted) Rorie, or Roderick. See Breac.

Ruaridh Ceard (roo-arie kard), Rorie the tinker. Ceard, a tinker.

Ruaridh Donn (roo-arie doun), Brown or dun Rorie.

Ruaridh Mac Allan M'Leod (roo-arie mak allan mak loud), Rorie, son of Allan M'Leod.

Rudha aird an anail (roo-arten annall), High point of breathing. Anail, breathing; aird, high.

Rudha Chailleach (roo chyleoch), Point of the old woman. Rudha, a point; cailleach, an old woman.

Rudha Mac Gille Aindreas (roo mak ill andres), Point of the servant of [St] Andrew. See Mac Gilleandreis.

Rudha mhadaidh ruaidh (roo vatter roo-ie), Fox point, or point of the red dog. Rudha, a point; madadh, a dog; ruadh, red.

Rudha 'n Fhomhair, or Fhamhair (roo noher), The point of the giant. Fomhair, a giant.

Rudha na Cloiche uaine (roo na clor-choo-ownyer), Greenstone point. Cloiche, possessive of clach, a stone; uaine, green.


Rudha Reidh (roo ray), Smooth point or headland. Rudha, a point; reidh, level. The name is very descriptive of the appearance of the headland as seen from the sea.

Runrig. A south Scotch or English word. In Gaelic it is called Mag maseach (mark mer sharch). Mag, a rig; maseach, alternate.

Ruymakilvandrich. See Rudha Mac Ghille Aindreas.

Sabhal Geal (sowl gayal), White barn. See separate words.

Sail Mor (sal more, or sowl more), The great heel. Sail, a heel. Descriptive of the shape of this spur of Beinn Eighe.

Saint Maelrubha (saint malruie). Maree is a corruption from this saint's name.

Sand (sand, or saunda). Name of a place by a sandy beach; evidently Norse. The full name of the place called Big Sand is Sanda a chorran, meaning "the sand of the shingly spit."

Sasunnach (sarsenach), Saxon, English, not a Gaelic speaker. Sasunnach mor, the big Englishman.

Scardroy. See Sgaird ruadh.

Scuir, or Sgorr (skoor), a peak or cliff.

Scuir a Laocainn (scoor a lyooakin), Peak of the calf's skin. Laodh, a calf; gin, abbreviation for craiceann (crakin), a skin.

Scuir a Mhuilin (skoor a voollin), Peak of the mill. Mhuilin, possessive of muileann, a mill.

Scuir na Feart (scoor na hairsht). Name of a peak; meaning unknown.

Seann Rudha (shoun roo), Old promontory. Seann, old; rudha, promontory.

Seann Seoc (shoun shok), Old Jock. Seann, old; seoc, Jock or Jack.

Seann Tighearna (shoun tcheerna), Old laird. Seann, old; tighearna, laird, proprietor.

Seannachaidh (shennachie), Reciter of old tales, recorder, remembrancer.

Seonaid Chrubach (shounat chruboch), Lame Jessie. Seonaid, Jessie; crubach, lame.

Sgaird ruadh (scart rooer), Red scree. Sgaird, a scree, shingly slope.

Sgalag (skallak), a servant, farm servant.

Sgeir, or Skeir (skeer), a rock surrounded by the sea.

Sgeir a Bhuic (skeir a vook), Island rock of the buck. From sgeir, a rock surrounded by the sea, and bhuic, possessive of boc, a buck.

Sgeir an Fharaig (skeir an harrik), Island rock of the surf. From fairge, surf, sea.

Sgeir Bhoora (skeir voora), Island rock of Boor. From sgeir, a rock surrounded by the sea, and Bhoora, possessive of Boor.

Sgorr, or Sgurr (skor, or skoor), a peak. It is often written here as elsewhere Scuir, but the former words are more correct.

Sgorr Dubh (scorr dhoo), Black peak.

Sgurr Ban (skoor barn), White peak. Sgurr, a peak; ban, white.

Shieldaig (shieldak). Probably a Norse name; meaning unknown. Aig is an old Danish suffix meaning a small bay. Shieldaig was formerly spelt Syldage, Sildag, and Shilkag.

Sian, or Seun (shee-un), a spell, charm, incantation.

Siol Mhic Ghille Challum (sheeol vik illie challum), Seed of Mac Gille Challum, whom see.

Siol Tormod (sheeol tormot), Seed of Tormod.

Siol Torquil (sheeol torquil), Seed of Torquil.

Sitheanan Dubha (sheean-an dhooar), Black knowes, fairies' hills. Sithean, a knowe; dubh, black.

Skar (scar), a screen. Obsolete.

Slaggan, properly Slagan (slagan). Diminutive of slag, or lag, a hollow. This place is for identification called in Gaelic An slagan odhar (an slagan our), or The little dun hollow.

Slatadale (slay ter dle). Norse; or it might possibly be connected with slaitan, fishing rods. In the old map of 1662 it is spelt Slotadull.

Slioch, or Sleugach (slee-och), resembling a spear. Sleagh, a spear. The mountain from some points of view is like a broad spear head. The name should not have Beinn before it.

Slogan (sloggan), a war cry. Obsolete now.

Smiorsair (smearesar). Name of a hamlet; probably from smior, the marrow, the best; aridh, a shieling.

Spidean Moirich (speetan moi-or-ich), Peak of Martha. Spidean, a peak; Moirich, possessive of Moireach, Martha.

Sporan (sporran), a purse.

Srondubh (strondhoo), Black nose or promontory. Sron (stron), a nose or promontory.

Sron a Choite (strunyer hote), Nose (or promontory) of the coble. Sron [xl](stron), a nose or promontory; choite, possessive of coite, a coble.

Stac Buidhe (stack boo-ie), Yellow stack, i.e. steep rock. Stac, a stack, buidhe, yellow.

Stank house. An English name; but stank is from the Gaelic staing, a ditch.

Steall a Mhunidh (shteyole a vonie), Splash of the Pisvache. A fine waterfall, resembling the Pisvache of European celebrity.

Strath, properly Srath (strah), a broad valley.

Strath Chromple (strath roumpil), Valley of the curved opening. Crom, curved; beul, mouth or opening.

Suarachan (shore-achen). Soubriquet of Big Duncan of the Axe, being the diminutive of Suarach, insignificant; referring to his not having been thought worthy of being armed for the battle of Park.

Suidheachan Fhinn (seeachan een), Fingal's seat. Suidheachan, a turf seat; Fhinn, possessive of Fionn, Fingal.

Tagan (tahkan). Possibly Norse; may be from tathaich, a resort.

Talladale (tallardle). Probably Norse; may be from talla, a hall, and the Norse dahl or dal. In old documents it is spelt Alydyll, Allawdill, and Telledill. The two former spellings suggest that the name was formerly spelt with "th," pronounced as a soft aspirate.

Thorisdal, Dale of the Norse god Thor. See Eilean Horisdale.

Tigh Dige (ty dgeegie), House of the ditch. Tigh, a house; dig, a ditch.

Tigh mo Sheanair (ty mer henner), House of my grandfather. Tigh, a house; mo, my; sheanair, possessive of seanair, grandfather.

Tighearna Crubach (tcheerna krupboch), Lame laird.

Tighearna Ruadh (tcheerna roer), Red or auburn-haired laird or proprietor. Tighearna, laird; ruadh, red.

Tighearna Storach (tcheerna storroch), Buck-toothed laird.

Tighnafaolinn (ty na fualin). The sea-mews' home. Tigh, a house, home; faoileann, a sea-gull.

Tobar Mhoire (toppervorie) Well of the Virgin Mary, or of Mourie. Tobar, a well; Mhoire, possessive of Moire, Mary.

Tobar nan ceann (topper nan keyoun), Fountain or well of the heads. Tobar, a fountain, a well; ceann, a head.

Tollie, properly Tollidh (tolly), diminutive of Toll, a hole. All the Tollies are in hollows. Idh is a rare diminutive, but is sometimes used even in the present day.

Torasgian. See Tor-sgian.

Torr (torr), a mound or lump; generally applied to a round hill. The name is common in Gairloch and the neighbourhood, and seems specially applicable to the hummocks or domes of gneiss, noted as so frequent in this locality by Professor Geikie. The name Cnoc (krock), a knoll, has a somewhat similar meaning.

Torran nan Eun (torranan eeon), Mounds of the birds. Torran, mounds; eun, a bird.

Torran nan tighearnan (torran nan tchee-ernan), Mounds of the chieftains. Torr, a mound; tighearn, a chief, literally superior of land.

Torridon (torriden). Old name; perhaps Norse. Can it possibly be connected with torran, mounds, or lumps, which would be very descriptive? It is spelt Torvedene in the Sheriff's protocol of 1494.

Tor-sgian (toroshkin), peat cutter. Tor, a lump; sgian, a knife.

Tournaig, Gallice Turnaig (toornak). A Norse name. The suffix aig means a small bay in old Danish.

Truibhais (trewish), trews, a sort of trousers.

Tulachan (toolachen), a sham calf. Compare Gaelic tulg, to rock, or toss. The sham calf was moved to and fro to make the cow think it was sucking.

Tulchan. See Tulachan.

Tulloch Ard (tullochart), High knoll. Tulloch from tulach, a knoll; ard, high.

Uamh (oo-av), a cave.

Uamh a' Mhail (oo-av a varl), Cave of rent or tribute. Mhail, possessive of Mal, rent or tribute.

Uamh nam Freiceadain (ooie nam rekatan), Cave of the guard. Freiceadan, a guard, watching.

Uamh an Oir (ooav an or), Cave of gold. Oir, possessive of or, gold.

Uamh gu do roghiann (ooie gat der ooun), Cave for your choice. Gu, to, or for; do, your; roghiann, choice.


Uamh Mhic 'ille Rhiabhaich (ooie vick illie reeoach), The cave of the son of the brindled gillie or lad. Mhic (vik), possessive of Mac, son of; 'ille, for ghille, possessive of gille. See Mac Gille Riabhaich.

Udrigil (oodrigil). Probably a Norse name; meaning unknown.

Ullapool (oo-la-pull). An old name; probably from uile, all, and poll, a pool; signifying that it is a pool large enough for all.

Uistean (ooshtan). A Gaelic Christian name; Hugh is considered the English equivalent.

Vic. Popular spelling of Mhic, the possessive of Mac, son of. There is no v or w in Gaelic.


Rathad mor a Ceann-loch-iu,
Rathad ur a Ghearloch;
Gabhaidh sinn an rathad mor
Olc na math le cach e.—Gaelic Song.
The high road to Kenlochewe,
The new road to Gairloch;
Storm or sunshine, take with me
The high road to Gairloch.—Free rendering.

Gairloch is a typical Highland parish on the west coast of Ross-shire. Its length, from Loch Rosque to Rudha Reidh, is thirty miles, and its width is fifteen miles, so that it is one of the most extensive parishes in Great Britain.

The name "Gairloch" is composed of two Gaelic words, gearr and loch. Gearr means "short"; and the sea-loch which gives its name to the parish is appropriately called short, as compared with Loch Broom, Loch Ewe, and other more deeply indented arms of the sea. The native spelling and pronunciation of the name prove the derivation beyond all question.

There is a curious muddle in the old and new Statistical Accounts about the origin of the name Gairloch. In the former (Appendix C) it is said to have been taken from "a very small loch near the church and the house of Flowerdale, and so close by the shore that the sea at high tides covers it." In the New Statistical Account (Appendix E) "a hollow spot of ground" is spoken of as "the Gairloch," and the writer states that the natives allege that the parish takes its name from it. The explanation is supplied by the story of Hector Roy and the three M'Leods given in Part I., chap. ix. The place referred to as "a very small loch" and "a [xliv]hollow spot of ground," is now represented by a well, still called "the Gairloch" from the reason given in that story, but it did not originate the name of the parish.

The name Gairloch is used in four different senses both in the following pages and among the inhabitants. It means,—

1. The sea-loch or bay of Gairloch.

2. The whole parish.

3. The place at the head of the sea-loch where the hotel, &c., stand, more properly called Achdistall.

4. The original estate of the Mackenzie lairds of Gairloch.

These various meanings are a little confusing, but the context generally makes clear what is intended.

Considerations of health, followed by growing appreciation of the charms of Gairloch, have caused me to make my Highland home in this out-of-the-world parish. Its romantic scenery and health-giving climate are its most obvious attractions; but add to these its wonderful legends and traditions, the eventful history of its dominant family, the story of its old ironworks, the interesting peculiarities of its Highland inhabitants, the distinction conferred upon it by the visit of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, the great geological controversy about its rocks, the sport its waters afford to the angler, the varied subjects it displays to the artist, and the pregnant fields of research it yields to the scientist, and you have a list of allurements it would be difficult to beat elsewhere. Though its boundary line extends to within five miles of the railway, Gairloch still preserves many of the characteristics of old days, and these not only possess a peculiar fascination for most people, but are also well fitted to arouse and nourish a spirit of investigation.

The famous Loch Maree (with the small but romantic islet known as Isle Maree) is surrounded by the finest scenery in the parish. Their attractions bring annually some three thousand visitors to Gairloch. One might have fancied that such an influx of people would have led to the accumulation of a large and increasing stock of knowledge of this Highland parish, but as a rule the visitors are here [xlv]to-day and gone to-morrow, and take no thorough interest in the country or its inhabitants.

Some years ago I happened to travel by the railway from Inverness to Achnasheen in the company of a pleasant party, comprising a gentleman and three ladies, who were making a tour in the Highlands. They boasted that, though their time had been limited to a very few days, they would have seen the greater part of the Highlands before they returned home. On the day I fell in with them their object was to see Loch Maree. To accomplish this they had arranged by telegraph for a carriage and pair to await the arrival of the train at Achnasheen. The day proved wet and misty, and I saw them leave the railway station in a close carriage. I followed soon after on the mail-car. A short delay took place at Kenlochewe whilst the horses were changed. There I found my fellow-travellers enjoying their lunch in the hotel. They told me that although the day was too wet for them to drive down to the shore of the loch, and too misty to admit of its being fully seen from a distance, yet they were quite able to say that they had seen Loch Maree, for at one point they had put their heads out of the windows of their carriage during a brief cessation of the rain and had distinctly seen the water of the loch! They were returning to Achnasheen as soon as they had swallowed their lunch, to catch the train back to Inverness the same afternoon.

These tourists, who thus professed to have "seen Loch Maree," were a fair type of too many of those who rush through Gairloch, as if their sole object were to cover the most ground in the shortest possible time, and who thus fail to obtain any true perception of the belongings of the country, even of the scenery.

There are first-rate hotels within the parish, and lodgings may frequently be hired, or a furnished house taken. The hotels offer the inducement of lower terms to those whose visits exceed the usually brief period.

Impressions of scenery are fixed by repetition; insight into nature is deepened by observation; and knowledge of a country is vastly more valuable if it include some acquaintance with the population, their characters, condition, and means of livelihood. Too many visitors overlook their opportunities in these directions.


Some remarks are necessary with regard to the traditions of Gairloch, contained mostly in Part I. In recent times there has been a tendency to discredit all such traditions, and to treat them as symbolic or didactic legends, or as localisations (with extra colouring) of myths common to the heroic period of every country. The principal features of one or two of the Gairloch traditions are certainly to be found in stories of other parts of the Highlands, and occasionally, but rarely, a resemblance may even be traced to the plot of some ancient European myth. On the other hand, it is to be noted that the Highland bards, down to the present time, have regularly transmitted their stories in precisely the same language from one trained memory to another, so that even the very words put into the mouths of the dramatis personæ have been insisted upon in every transmission. Another point to be noticed is, that except in two instances the Gairloch traditions do not date further back than four centuries. In the older legends referred to, visible evidences, such as the tombstones in Isle Maree and the cave at Ardlair, may perhaps be considered confirmatory. For my own part, I am disposed to accept all the traditions as generally worthy of credence. Much interest in the locality is gained by doing this, and certainly nothing is lost!

A difficulty the visitor to Gairloch always experiences is due to the Gaelic names. The Glossary should help to overcome this obstacle. Not only does it include the meanings of the Gaelic words, but it attempts to indicate their pronunciations. I am bound to warn the reader that the pronunciations stated are only approximate. There are sounds in the Gaelic language which cannot be expressed by English tongues or to English ears by any combinations of letters. Yet most of the pronunciations stated are sufficiently near the truth to answer ordinary purposes. I recommend the reader to refer to the Glossary at the occurrence of each Gaelic name in the book, and those names and their import will soon become familiar. The Gaelic sound of ch is about the same as that of the German ch; it does not occur in the English language, but unless you can master it there is no use in your trying to speak even the two leading names in this parish,—viz., Gairloch, and Loch Maree. Whatever you do, pray avoid pronouncing loch as if it were lock. This is the most egregious error made by many southerners in trying to speak the commonest Highland names.


In communicating to the public the information about Gairloch contained in the following pages, I claim the right to offer a word or two of counsel and entreaty.

I would submit that it is unfair, as well as discourteous, to interfere with the rights of those who take deer forests or rent sheep farms. Rambles on upland moors and mountain ascents are almost certain to injure the sport or privileges of others. I am aware there is a strong feeling that every one ought to have access to mountains. Whether this be legalised by Parliament or not, I would appeal to the visitor here to refrain from the illiberality and discourtesy of spoiling other people's hardly-earned and well-paid-for privileges. There is plenty of room for all. Why should unpleasant feelings be stirred up, and tourists as a class be blamed for the intolerance of a few? All the mountains and hills of Gairloch are haunts of the red deer or feeding-grounds of sheep, and no ascents ought to be undertaken unless by due arrangement, which cannot be expected in the deer-stalking season, and which, when obtainable, should be made with the head-keeper of the ground.

There are some drawbacks to mountain ascents that may help the visitor more willingly to forego them. How often the view from a summit is entirely blotted out by clouds or mist, or marred by the distance being lost in haze! How often the fine morning that induced the expedition is followed by a stormy afternoon! To these must be added the frequent injury to health caused by the unusual strain on the systems of persons unaccustomed to mountaineering, and the possible risk of being lost in mist. It is hoped that tourists will be content with the shorter climbs recommended in Part IV. Artists tell us that landscapes seen from lower elevations are more thoroughly picturesque than the bird's-eye views from mountain tops.

Again, I entreat botanists and others looking for wild flowers and plants to abstain from rooting up the rare or beautiful things they may find, and from trespassing in places where their presence is obviously not required. The mania for removing every fragment of an uncommon plant has grown much of late years,—witness the extermination of the edelweiss from some of its best known habitats on the Swiss Alps. Who does not remember places whence our [xlviii]own rare holly-fern has within the past few years been eradicated? A few years ago that comparatively scarce fern the sea-spleenwort (asplenium marinum) was abundant within three hundred yards of the Gairloch Hotel; now it is unknown there. A gentleman fond of botany planted some uncommon ferns not natives of Ross-shire in a wood in Gairloch parish; they were soon discovered by tourists staying at a neighbouring hotel, who ruthlessly removed the whole. Instances of this kind have brought the British tourist into disrepute in many parts of the world.

It is in the spirit of these remarks that I beg to introduce the reader to the charms of Gairloch and Loch Maree.



Records and Traditions of Gairloch.

I.Early History3
II.The Tragedy of Isle Maree7
III.The Mackenzies of Kintail11
IV.Ewan Mac Gabhar, the Son of the Goat14
V.The MacRaes of Kintail and Gairloch19
VI.The MacBeaths21
VII.The M'Leods of Gairloch24
VIII.The Macdonalds in Gairloch27
IX.Hector Roy Mackenzie, First Laird of Gairloch29
X.John Glassich Mackenzie and his Sons36
XI.John Roy Mackenzie38
XII.Expulsion of the M'Leods from Gairloch43
XIII.Alastair Breac, and his Son and Grandson49
XIV.The Baronets of Gairloch, and some other Gairloch Mackenzies53
XV.Gairloch Estates, and Old Names of Places60
XVI.Ecclesiastical History of Gairloch63
XVII.Ancient Gairloch Ironworks72
XVIII.The Historic Ironworks of Loch Maree75
XIX.The Iron Ores used in Gairloch86
XX.Remains of Ironworks in the Parish of Gairloch90




Chapter I.

Early History.

The blessedness attributed to the nation without a history cannot be assigned to the parish of Gairloch. Although her ancient history has never been written, it is to be feared her inhabitants were far from wholly blessed in the far off days of yore. The earlier annals of Gairloch are indeed veiled in mists, almost as impenetrable as those that often shroud her mountains. Amid the gloom there are faint glimpses to be had of the wild natives of the district, of fierce warriors from other lands, and of saintly Christian pioneers; but complete pictures of the doings of those old times can be found only in the galleries of the imagination. The same everlasting hills still tower over the same straths, glens, and lochs; but the actors are changed, the play has another plot, with incidents of a very different kind. In a region so innocent of letters, so inaccessible to the scholar, it is easy to account for the total absence of ancient records. The narratives of the seannachies, or bards, handed down by oral tradition from generation to generation, might have been expected to fill in the blank, yet it is only in the stories of some few salient adventures that these traditions have been preserved beyond the past four centuries.

Even imagination fails to carry us further back than the Picts or Celts or Gaels, who are supposed to have been the aborigines of all the British Isles. They were a wild warlike race,—wild from their rough struggling state of existence, warlike in their constant attitude of self-defence. Some have supposed that there were giants among them in those days, and that these were the originals of the colossal heroes of the Fingalian legends. The name of the Giant's Point (Ru Nohar) on Loch Maree, and the discoveries in the neighbourhood of what are alleged to be enormous graves, give some colour to the supposition. There are slight traces of Fingalian legends still current in the parish. Thus the hollow near the Gairloch Established Church, in which the Free Church communion services are held, is said to have been scooped out by Fingal for a bed where his white cow might calve. It is still called Leabaidh na Ba Bàine, or the bed of the white cow. Then the large stones in Loch Maree, in a line between the base of the Fox Point and the nearest part of the opposite shore, are said to have been placed there by Fingal for stepping-stones, to keep his feet dry when going this way to court Malvina, who lived in the direction of [4]Torridon. Only an enormous giant could have stepped from stone to stone; they are to this day called the sweetheart's stepping-stones. Again, there is a mound in a depression near the summit of Beinn Tarsuinn, called Suidheachan Fhinn, or Fingal's seat, where they say he used to sit and spy when hunting on the mountains. These fragments are all we are told of Fingal's doings in Gairloch.

Though we know nothing of their history, we can infer much regarding the condition of the original Pictish inhabitants of Gairloch. That they were numerous, we may judge from the several remains of Pictish brochs or round houses to be seen in the parish. These are doubtless but samples of numbers of others, still buried beneath moss and heather, or long since obliterated by agricultural operations. Each broch was the abode of several families, huddled together beneath its roof of skins. Most of the primitive weapons or implements to be enumerated in the chapter on the antiquities of Gairloch belonged to the Pictish natives of the parish. Our eyes may see, our hands may grasp, the very implements these Gairloch men formed and used possibly before the Christian era; and as we look upon them we may readily conceive how straitened were their owners' circumstances. Amongst the antiquities some alleged Druidical remains will be mentioned. Whether these were really Druidical or no, it is certain that the religion of this district before Christianity took root was that of the Druids. The sacrifices of bulls on Isle Maree, practised, as we shall see, so lately as 1678, were unquestionably relics of the rites celebrated by the Druidical priests, though they themselves had vanished a thousand years before.

When Agricola invaded Scotland in a.d. 81, the tribe of Picts who inhabited Ross-shire was called the Cantæ. A punster might be excused for remarking (and that truly), that in Gairloch at least the race is still "canty," i.e. knowing. It is not probable that the Romans ever reached this part of Ross-shire; the nearest evidence of their invasion is some trace of their roads in Strathspey, a hundred miles from Gairloch. It is very likely that Gairloch men helped their fellow Celts in the battles with the Romans. Tacitus relates how the Highlanders at that period made sacrifices before going to battle, and fought with broadsword and targe. The country was then almost destitute of agriculture, being mostly vast forests and morasses, teeming with wolves and other wild beasts; the possessions of the people were herds of cattle.

When the Romans abandoned Britain, about a.d. 446, the Picts were under the sway of a king called Drust, the son of Erp, who is said to have lived a hundred years, and to have fought a hundred battles. The Pictish monarchy continued until a.d. 843, when Kenneth II. took Camelon, the capital of the Picts; on this the kings of Scotland, and subsequently of Great Britain, became at least the nominal rulers of the Highlands.

The introduction of Christianity brought a refining and civilising element to the rough people of the North, but it was many centuries before its influence became general. St Columba began his mission in a.d. 563, and the ecclesiastical establishment at Iona was the [5]result. Local tradition says the little chapel at Sand of Udrigil, in Gairloch parish, was built by St Columba, or one of his immediate followers. But it was St Maelrubha who was the apostle of Gairloch and of the adjoining parish of Applecross; he founded the church of Applecross a.d. 673, and died there on 21st April a.d. 722. He appears to have made his Gairloch home on Isle Maree, a site that suggests the necessity, at least at first, of the Christian missionary having recourse to the protection afforded by an insular position. The new teaching soon displaced the Paganism of the Druids, though, in accordance with the policy of the early Christian church, the sacrifices of bulls were permitted, as we have seen, for a thousand years afterwards. The first church of Gairloch was dedicated to St Maelrubha; it was probably not erected until many years after his death. Tradition says that his cell on Isle Maree was occupied for some generations by the successors of this holy man; one of them is mentioned in the legend of the island given in the next chapter.

During the rule of the Pictish kings the Norwegian Vikings made continual raids upon the Highlands, at first as independent pirates, but later on as vassals of Harold Harfager, the first king of all Norway. About the end of the ninth century the Norwegians became so powerful as to be able to establish a separate and independent kingdom in Orkney and the Western Isles. Parts of Ross-shire were frequently ravaged, and often held, by them. In Gairloch they have left a number of footprints in the names of places. Thus the Islands Longa and Foura exhibit the Norwegian suffix a, meaning an island. The Vikings used to retire during the winter months to small islands off the coast, where they laid up their vessels. The names of these two Gairloch islands, according to the Rev. Isaac Taylor, bear curious evidence to their having been the winter quarters of Vikings. The tragic legend of Isle Maree, given in the next chapter, is an episode in the career of one of these piratical princes. A large Gairloch island is named Thorisdale, after the Norse god Thor. Among other Norwegian names in Gairloch is "Sgeir," i.e. a detached rock; it occurs in Sgeir Bhoora, Sgeir an Fharaig, &c. So also the suffix dale or dal is Norwegian; it occurs in Thorisdale, Talladale, Slatadale, Erradale, Inverasdale, &c. Naast is believed to be a Norwegian name. Other Norse names are given in the Glossary.

It has been supposed that the Danes did not invade the west coast, but an examination of Gairloch names shews that they were most likely here. Some of the Vikings were Danes. Mr Taylor says that the termination aig signifies a small bay, and is Danish; it occurs in a number of Gairloch names (see the Glossary). The Danes were driven out of Scotland in 1040.

There can be no doubt that both Norwegians and Danes intermarried with the people of Gairloch, and thus the native Pictish breed became a mixed race. One can almost identify Norwegian and Danish types of face in Gairloch to this day.

The dominion of the Norwegian monarchs over the Hebrides and some parts of the mainland was broken by the defeat of Haco the [6]aged king of Norway, at the battle of Largs, on 3d October 1263. His successor Magnus, in 1266, ceded the whole of the Scottish territory held by Norway (except Orkney and Shetland) to the king of Scotland. An Icelandic saga states that Ross-shire was part of the dominion of the earls of Orkney under Norway, whilst another authority regards it as part of Scotland. In all probability the wild Highlanders of Ross had never entirely submitted to either king. Though the king of Norway at this time abandoned all claim to Ross-shire, yet some tribes of Norwegian descent long afterwards held Gairloch; they were the MacBeaths and M'Leods, of whom more shortly.

The earls of Ross followed the Norwegians in the rule of the Northern Highlands. They were of the ancient Celtic family of the O'Beolans, and had been the Pictish maormors of Ross before the title of earl (comes) took the place of the older Pictish designation. Gairloch, as a part of North Argyle, was included by name in the Sheriffdom of Skye, erected in 1292 by King John Balliol. This is believed to be the first mention of Gairloch in existing records. King Robert Bruce confirmed the possession of Gairloch to the earls of Ross between 1306 and 1329. In 1366 Earl William granted "to Paul M'Tyre and to his heirs by Mary of Grahame, with remainder to the lawful heirs of Paul, the lands of Gerloch within the parts of Argyle, for yearly payment of a penny of silver in name of blench ferme in lieu of every other service except the forinse service of the king when required." In 1372 King Robert II. confirmed the grant. Paul M'Tyre is stated to have been a cousin of Earl William; we hear no more of him.

Earl William left only a daughter, who married Walter Leslie. They had a son, Alexander, who became Earl of Ross, and also a daughter, who married Donald, Lord of the Isles. Earl Alexander married a daughter of the Regent, Robert Duke of Albany. Their only child Euphemia died young in 1406, after she had resigned her title to the son of the regent. Donald, Lord of the Isles, by virtue of his marriage with the daughter of Walter Leslie, laid claim to the earldom of Ross, in opposition to the regent's son. After a prolonged strife the earldom of Ross was forfeited, and annexed to the crown in 1476. During the unsettled period which began with Donald's ambitious claim, Gairloch seems to have been in a state of anarchy. Not only the MacBeaths and M'Leods struggled for its possession, but the Macdonalds, as clansmen of the Lord of the Isles, appear to have overrun the district.

Meanwhile the Mackenzies of Kintail had grown to be a great power in Ross-shire, and being of the same original stock as the O'Beolan earls of Ross, they had a better right to Gairloch than the other claimants, all of whom in turn gave way to the victorious Mackenzies.

The legends and narratives which follow are placed as nearly as may be in chronological order. They all belong to the period of the Mackenzies, except that of the tragedy of Isle Maree, which forms our next chapter; it occurred long before.


Chapter II.

The Tragedy of Isle Maree.

Isle Maree was as sweet a spot at the end of the ninth century as it is now. A thick grove of tall trees crowded round its circular Druidical enclosure. There were noble specimens of the indigenous oak, so mysteriously connected with the Druidical worship; there was a dense thicket of the smooth-leaved holly, the sacred tree brought here by St Maelrubha himself, who, it would seem, intended it to become (as it did) a Christian rival to the Pagan oak. Then, as now, the undergrowth of ferns and flowers, and a large kind of grass, attained almost tropical proportions beneath the benign influence of the warm shade.

The scene of our story is laid in this beautiful and hallowed island. St Maelrubha had been long gathered to his fathers, and the sacred college of Iona had appointed a successor to his hermitage on Isle Maree, who in turn had made room for another. The occupant of the cell at the date of our story is an aged saint of peculiar sagacity and piety. Long known to the wild people of Gairloch for his bold denunciations and shrewd penetration, he had acquired by his stern eloquence and ascetic life an extraordinary influence over them. The Christian festivals brought successive offerings to the sainted hermit, and the island oft resounded with the psalms of David chaunted by the throng of faithful pilgrims.

But not only the common people resorted to the cell of the holy man; the Norse Vikings, who held the district in partial subjugation, frequently came to him for the ministrations of religion and for the benefit of his sage counsel. To one and all, to young and old, to Celt and Norwegian, he was alike accessible.

A young Norwegian prince was chief among the Vikings who then dominated this part of the west coast. Prince Olaf was of the blood royal of Norway, and on this account alone would have been willingly adopted by his fellows as their leader, had not his personal bravery and reckless daring secured to him the post of honour. He had a grievous failing,—a restless and ungovernable temper. Naturally high-spirited, he had been as a boy the spoilt darling of his fellows, and had grown up a creature of impulse, subject to paroxysms of fearful passion. Whenever he was thwarted in his plans, or roused to anger by foe or friend, the evil spirit came upon him, and he lost all command of himself.

The prince lived with his fighting men in his great war galley, except during the winter, when they encamped on one or other of the islands of Loch Ewe. Often would Olaf repair to the hermitage of Isle Maree, and receive from the saint kindly advice and priestly absolution.

It was natural that one so impulsive should early fall under the influence of the tender passion. We need not try to imagine the story of Olaf's love; it was no common attachment; the flame burned in his breast with an intensity becoming his fiery spirit.


But a difficulty arose. He was unwilling, at least at first, to ask his bride to exchange the comparative quietude of her father's home for the restless life of a ship of war. In dire perplexity he sought the advice of his friend the saint of Isle Maree. The wise old man proposed that another and a larger dwelling should be erected in the form of a tower to the west of the enclosure in the centre of which stood his own humble cell. To this tower Olaf might bring his bride and there they might take up their abode, within easy reach of the prince's galley on Loch Ewe.

To hasten on. The prince eagerly adopted this plan, and in a short time the tower was built, and Olaf brought his bonny bride to the island. Here they were married by the aged hermit, amid the rejoicings of their followers. The princess and her maidens were delighted with the romantic and secure retreat. Olaf's attendants pitched their tents around, and the leafy grove grew gay with joyful laughter and with genial song.

For a while all went smoothly. The life of the young lovers was a continual delight; their passion for one another only increased as months rolled on. In vain his comrades sent message after message entreating the presence of the prince on board his ship. He could not tear himself away from his darling, and she in turn was more than unwilling that he should leave her. At length there came word that a long-planned expedition, in which other leaders were to take part, was ready to start, and Olaf was expected to assume the command. He dared no longer remain in retirement. With aching heart he told the princess of his approaching departure. Her tears were unavailing; on the morrow he must leave. Meanwhile strange forebodings of evil filled the minds of both. What if he should be slain in battle! What if some unknown danger should cause her death in his absence! A scheme was concocted for shortening the final moments of suspense. It was agreed that when the prince should return, a white flag would be displayed from his barge on Loch Maree if all were well; if otherwise, a black flag would be shewn. The maidens prepared these flags, and the prince took them with him. The princess was to leave the island in her barge whenever her lord's boat should come in sight, and she in like manner was to display a white or black flag to denote her safety or the reverse.

The morning came, and they parted. The prince arrived at Poolewe, was received by his men with wild enthusiasm, and set sail at once. It is not necessary that we should follow him through the perilous campaign. Enough that all ended well, and the victorious prince returned safely to Poolewe. In hot haste, and half crazy with excitement, he sought his boat on Loch Maree, raised with his own hand the snow-white banner of success, and mustered the faithful attendants who were to row him to Isle Maree.

During his absence the princess had passed through several phases of anxiety. At first despair took possession of her heart, and it was long ere the good old saint and her own maidens were able to soothe her with words of hope. As she became calmer, a new misgiving occurred to her. Did Olaf prefer the excitement of warfare [9]to the peaceful society of his bride? Had she lost the devotion of his heart? Did he really love her? Then horrible jealousy became her absorbing feeling. Was the faithless prince to treat her as an insignificant plaything, to be caressed one day and deserted the next? It was all in vain that her companions strove to check this new folly; she declared continually that her husband had never truly loved her. Under the influence of this crushing doubt, she devised a scheme whereby she resolved to test the reality of his vaunted affection, if indeed he should ever return.


At last the lookout announced that he saw the prince's barge, bearing the white flag, emerge from the river Ewe into the open loch. And now what emotions filled the breast of the lovely princess! What conflicting sentiments, love and doubt, joy and fear! All had been arranged to carry out her strange scheme. The large barge was ready; from its stern the black flag was raised aloft; a bier was placed in the centre of the barge on which the princess herself—now pallid with anxiety—reclined as if sleeping the sleep of death; a white shroud covered her recumbent form; around were grouped her maidens, gloomy with well-simulated grief; and the sad and silent rowers moved the barge slowly onwards toward the lower end of Loch Maree.

Meanwhile Olaf gazed earnestly in the direction of the island (which was kept in sight all the way), urging anon his willing crew to put forth their utmost speed. Soon, in the distance, he discovered the barge of the princess. Could he be mistaken? Was that the black flag of death which waved above it? He made all his men in turn scrutinize the approaching barge, and each reluctantly confirmed what Olaf's own eyes had testified. Gradually the prince grew frantic with awful despair. Was he to be thus foiled by evil fate in the very hour of his triumph? Had death snatched his darling from his fond embrace? Were they never to meet again? Yes, he would follow her to that heavenly home the holy father had often told them of! His agony increased each moment; he cursed; he raved; his manly face became like a maniac's; his words and [10]gestures were those of a man possessed. The crew were horror-struck; none dared speak; they pulled the oars with what seemed superhuman strength, but the wind was against them, and some time elapsed before the barges were alongside. The dreadful interval served only to increase the prince's frenzy; his wild ravings became unintelligible.

Before the vessels touched, the madman leapt into the other barge. He saw the shroud; he raised it; he gazed a moment on the still, pale face of his bride; he gave one agonized cry; then he plunged his dirk in his own breast, and in a moment that storm-tossed heart ceased to beat!

And now the miserable princess sprang from the bier, convinced too late of her husband's passionate love; there he lay dead, she alone the cause; with a wild shriek of remorse, she drew the dirk from Olaf's heart and plunged it in her own. Her death was not so instantaneous as his, and life had not quite fled when the barge, with its terrible freight, arrived at Isle Maree. The holy father raised the crucifix before the lady's closing eyes, and uttered words of earnest prayer; then her spirit passed away, and all was over.

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

Such, with some little filling-in of detail, is the story as commonly told in Gairloch of the sad tragedy which casts a halo of romance around the beautiful Isle Maree. There are, as might be expected, some slightly different versions of the legend, but this is the most usual one. Its variations in form only go to prove its general truthfulness, and there is no reason to doubt that the tragedy really occurred substantially as here related; the tombstones, with their ancient crosses, are still to be seen, and there is no other account of them proposed.



Chapter III.

The Mackenzies of Kintail.

Two origins of the great house of Mackenzie, lords of Kintail, and afterwards earls of Seaforth, of whom the Gairloch family are a branch, have been propounded, and have given rise to considerable discussion.

By one pedigree they have been made to spring from Colin Fitzgerald, descendant of Otho who came to England with William the Conqueror, fought with him at the battle of Hastings in 1066, and was created Castellan and Baron of Windsor. Otho married a Welsh princess; their grandson Maurice distinguished himself in the subjugation of Ireland, was appointed to the joint government of that country, and was created Baron of Wicklow and Naas Offelim in 1172. Others say this Maurice was of the ancient Tuscan family of Gherardini, who date as far back as a.d. 800. Gerald, a son of Maurice, was created Lord Offally. A grandson of Gerald married the grand-daughter and representative of the last of the ancient line of the kings of Desmond. Colin Fitzgerald was their eldest son. He came to Scotland, and assisted Alexander III. at the battle of Largs. It is said that Colin was afterwards settled by Alexander III. in Eileandonain Castle, in Kintail; that he received a grant of the lands of Kintail from that king; that he married the daughter of MacMhathain, heritor of the half of Kintail; and that their only son Kenneth became the progenitor of the clan MacKenneth, or Mackenzie.

The use of the Cabar Feidh, or deers' horns, as the crest of the Mackenzies, is supposed to have originated in a brave deed done by Colin Fitzgerald. He was hunting with Alexander III. in the forest of Mar in 1265 when an infuriated stag, closely pursued by the hounds, charged the king. Colin interposed, and shot the stag in the head with an arrow. The grateful monarch granted to Colin a stag's head puissant as his armorial bearing.

The other genealogy of the Mackenzies asserts that the first Kenneth from whom the family sprang was of a native Gaelic stock, almost as ancient as the ancestry of Fitzgerald. This descent is argued by Mr Alexander Mackenzie, in his History of the Mackenzies. Relying on an old MS. dated 1450, he shows that Kenneth was of the seed of Gilleon Og, or Colin the younger, son of Gilleon na h'Airde, who lived in the tenth century, and was also the ancestor of the O'Beolan earls of Ross. It seems that Angus MacMhathain, constable of Eileandonain, was descended from Gilleon Og, and was a near relative of the O'Beolan earls of Ross, who were the superior lords of Kintail. Kenneth, the only son of Angus, was a nephew of William, third Earl of Ross, and succeeded his father in the government of Kintail. This Kenneth, we may assume, was the founder of the Mackenzie family.

The question really seems to be whether Kenneth was a MacMhathain on his father's side or on his mother's side. In either case he had the blood of the earls of Ross flowing in his veins.

[12] Kenneth, who died about 1304, set his relative, the Earl of Ross, at defiance, and established himself in an independent position as lord of Kintail, but his descendants were harassed by the earls of Ross, who endeavoured to regain their power in the district.

John Mackenzie, the second lord of Kintail, and only son of Kenneth, sheltered Robert Bruce when he was in hiding, and afterwards assisted him to gain the throne of Scotland. John Mackenzie led five hundred of his clansmen—some of them possibly Gairloch men—to the victorious field of Bannockburn on 24th June 1314, and by his loyalty and valour rendered more secure his possessions in Kintail.

Kenneth Mackenzie, called Kenneth of the Nose, only son of John, became third chief of Kintail; he was a weak man, and in his time the Earl of Ross regained a considerable hold over the district.

Kenlochewe, which is part of Gairloch in the present day, was attached to the lordship of Kintail and shared its troubles. It was about 1350 that some of the followers of the Earl of Ross made a raid into Kenlochewe, and carried off a great spoil. Kenneth Mackenzie, third lord of Kintail, pursued them, slew many of the invaders, and recovered much of the spoil. The Earl of Ross after this succeeded in apprehending Mackenzie, and had him executed at Inverness. The Earl then granted the lands of Kenlochewe to his follower Leod Mac Gilleandreis.

The fourth lord of Kintail was Black Murdo of the Cave, only lawful son of Kenneth of the Nose. Murdo received this soubriquet because, being a wild youth, he preferred, rather than attend the ward school where the heirs of those who held their lands from the king were sent, to take up his abode in some one or other of the caves about Torridon and Kenlochewe, hoping to get a chance of slaying Leod Mac Gilleandreis. The latter hearing of Murdo's resort, and fearing mischief, endeavoured to apprehend him, so that Murdo had to flee the country. He went to his uncle, M'Leod of the Lews, and there met one Gille Riabhach, who had come to Stornoway with twelve men about the same time as himself. After so long a time had elapsed that Mac Gilleandreis supposed Murdo was dead, his uncle gave to Murdo one of his great galleys or birlinns, with as many men as he desired. Murdo embarked at Stornoway, accompanied also by Gille Riabhach and his twelve men, and with a favourable wind they soon arrived at Sanachan in Kishorn. Thence they marched straight to Kenlochewe, and concealed themselves in a thick wood near the house of Mac Gilleandreis. Mackenzie left his followers there, whilst he went to look for his old nurse, who lived thereabouts. He found her engaged in making up a bundle of sticks to carry to Leod's house. Murdo inquired her name, for he did not remember her face at first. She gave her name, and inquired in return who he was. He told her, on which she replied, "Let me see your back, and I will know if you are that man." She remembered that he had a black spot on his back. He took off his clothes, and she saw the black spot, and so she knew him. She was overjoyed at his return, having long grieved for his supposed death. He asked her to procure him information of Leod's doings, and to let [13]him know that night. He made up the bundle of sticks for her, and she went to Leod's house, and duly returned with the news that Leod had fixed a hunt for the next day, and was to meet the people at Kenlochewe in the morning. She said Leod might be known by the red jacket he wore. Murdo determined to take advantage of this occasion, and was early on the ground, accompanied by his followers. As the people arrived he slew all he did not recognise; the natives he knew were dismissed to their homes. When Leod, in his red jacket, came on the ground with his sons and attendants, Murdo and his band attacked them with their swords, and after a slight resistance Mac Gilleandreis and his followers fled, but were soon overtaken at a place ever since called Fe Leoid, where they were all slain except one of Leod's sons, named Paul, who was taken prisoner, but afterwards released on his promising never again to molest Mackenzie. Murdo gave the widow of Leod Mac Gilleandreis to Gille Riabhach to wife, and their posterity were long known at Kenlochewe. The heads of the people who were slain in Kenlochewe were cut off and thrown into the river there; the stream carried the heads down to a ford, where they massed together, and this place has ever since been called Ath-nan-ceann, or the "ford of the heads." The name is now corrupted into Athnagown or Anagown. It is shewn on the maps. The place where Leod Mac Gilleandreis and his followers were slain is about three miles from Kenlochewe, on the hill to the east of the Torridon road. The name Fe Leoid, more correctly written Feith Leoid, means the bog of Leod; it is also shewn on all the maps.

Black Murdo of the Cave, after dispossessing Leod Mac Gilleandreis, went to Kintail, where he was received with open arms by all the people of the country. He married the only daughter of his friend Macaulay, who had defended Eileandonain Castle during his long absence, and through her Mackenzie succeeded to the lands of Loch Broom (including probably the parts of Gairloch lying to the north of Loch Maree and Loch Ewe), granted to Macaulay's predecessor by Alexander II. In 1357, when David II., king of Scotland, returned from England, Murdo laid before his majesty a complaint against the Earl of Ross for the murder of his father, but could obtain no redress; however the king confirmed him in his possession of Kintail by charter dated 1362. Murdo died in 1375.

Murdo of the Bridge, only son of Black Murdo of the Cave, became the fifth lord of Kintail. He was one of the Highland chiefs who accompanied the Earl of Douglas to England and defeated the renowned Hotspur at the battle of Otterburn, or Chevy Chase, on 10th August 1388. Murdo refused to join Donald, the great Lord of the Isles, in his insurrection which culminated in the battle of Harlaw. The history of the Highlands shows that this was a period of extreme disorder and violence, and Gairloch itself was not exempt from the terrors of anarchy. Murdo does not appear to have troubled his head about his rights in Gairloch, and, as other parts of our history will shew, it was overrun by several tribes. Possibly neither this Murdo nor his father pressed their claim to Gairloch, being sufficiently occupied in keeping possession of Kintail. [14]Ten years after King Robert II. had confirmed Kintail to Black Murdo of the Cave, the same king confirmed the grant of Gairloch made by the Earl of Ross to Paul M'Tyre (Part I., chap. i.). But we hear no more of Paul M'Tyre; and, as an old writer has well said of this time, "during this turbulent age securities and writs, as well as laws, were little regarded; each man's protection lay in his own strength."

Murdo of the Bridge, who died about 1416, married Finguala, daughter of Malcolm M'Leod of Harris by his wife Martha, daughter of Donald Earl of Mar, a nephew of King Robert Bruce. Their only son, Alexander the Upright, so called "for his righteousness," became the sixth laird of Kintail. He died in 1488, about ninety years of age. By his first wife, Anna Macdougall of Dunolly, he had two sons, Kenneth and Duncan. By his second marriage he had one son, known among Highlanders as Eachainn Ruadh, or Hector Roy, destined to become the famous founder of the Gairloch family. There was also a daughter by the second marriage, who became the wife of Allan M'Leod, laird of Gairloch.

In the year 1452, during the rule of Alexander the Upright, the desperate skirmish of Beallach nan Brog occurred, in which the Earl of Ross, to punish the western tribes for seizing his son, attacked and slaughtered his foes, including Mackenzie's Kenlochewe men, who are said to have been almost exterminated.

It is not within the scope of this narrative to pursue further the history of the great house of Kintail. The next chapter will relate a Gairloch legend treating of events which occurred during the time of one of the earlier Kintail Mackenzies.

It may be convenient to explain, that long before 1609, when Kenneth, twelfth laird of Kintail, was created Lord Mackenzie of Kintail, these great lairds were commonly called Lords of Kintail. Colin, son of this Kenneth, was created Earl of Seaforth and Viscount Fortrose in 1623. Some time prior to this date the possessions of the Kintail family had increased to the dimensions of a province, and Eileandonain Castle had ceased to be their headquarters, the castle of Chanonry in the Black Isle, formerly the bishop's palace, being preferred. The first Lord Seaforth added to Chanonry Castle, and built Brahan Castle, which continued the residence of the Seaforth family to a recent date. The family became extinct in the male line on the death of the last Lord Seaforth in 1815. Long before the erection of Brahan Castle the lairds of Kintail frequently resided at a mains or farm they possessed at Brahan.

Chapter IV.

Ewan Mac Gabhar, the Son of the Goat.

On the north-eastern shore of Loch Maree, about three miles above the place where the river Ewe leaves the loch, is situated Ardlair, than which no lovelier spot can be found in all the range of Highland scenery. There are groves of different kinds of [15]trees, and a belt of them skirts the shingly shore of the loch; smooth grassy glades are interspersed among the woods, behind which rise a series of marvellous precipices, unclimbable, except in two or three places, save by sure-footed deer or goats. Below the steep background lie here and there great masses of rock, which ages ago have fallen from the cliffs above. About a quarter of a mile to the south-east of the present Ardlair House, and rather nearer to the house than a small tarn nestling there beneath the cliffs, is a large cairn or assemblage of enormous rocks, heaped and piled upon each other in fantastic confusion. Ash trees and wild roses, heather and ferns, grow in tangled medley among the débris, and, concealing the interstices, render access extremely difficult. But the persevering searcher will discover a roomy cave, formed by a mighty block of rock lying slantways over other fallen blocks. The entrance to the cave is well concealed, and can only be got at by climbing on to a ledge that forms a narrow platform in front of it. After groping two or three yards along a low narrow passage a dark chamber is reached in which one can stand upright. The floor is level, and perfectly dry. The cairn is about a hundred and fifty yards from the shore of Loch Maree. This cave is called by old Gairloch people now living "The cave of the king's son," a name that it owes to the following story, the opening scene of which is laid here. No date can be assigned to the events narrated, but they cannot have occurred later than in the thirteenth or fourteenth century.


A worthy old woman named Oighrig (Euphemia) lived near Letterewe with her only son Kenneth. They had a pet goat called Earba (i.e. a roe). The goat failing to yield the usual supply of milk was watched by Kenneth, who with much trouble and difficulty [16]traced her at length to "the cave of the king's son," about three miles distant from their home. Here the goat held possession of the small platform in front of the entrance, and would not allow Kenneth to climb to it. He went for a rope, and throwing it over the goat's horns secured the animal. A beautiful little boy now appeared on the scene, and uttering sympathetic cries hugged the struggling goat. At first Kenneth thought that the child was a fairy, but he soon discovered his mistake. A young lady of great beauty came forth from the cave on hearing the cries of the little boy. It now appeared that the couple had taken refuge in this cave, where they would have perished from hunger had they not enticed the friendly Earba to supply them with her milk. Kenneth reported all the circumstances to his mother, who seeing that the helpless couple in the cave must ultimately die of want and cold if they remained there, went and persuaded them to come and live at the humble cottage near Letterewe. The young lady's name was Flora, and she told them that the boy's Christian name was Eoghan, or Ewan, but she would not reveal either of their surnames, so the boy was called Eoghan Mac Gabhar, i.e. Ewan the son of the goat, to his dying day. They all lived happily together. Earba brought them kids of her own, which the little Ewan herded and fed. Flora grew more lovely than ever, and Kenneth astonished even his own mother by his success in hunting and fishing for the maintenance of the increased family. Kenneth naturally fell in love with the beautiful Flora, though his mother strongly dissuaded him from his suit, pointing out that Flora was doubtless of royal lineage, being probably, though much older, the sister of Ewan, who from the sword and mantle that Flora with much care preserved for him, was probably the son of a king. The mantle was a robe of state of scarlet velvet bound and fringed with pure gold, and the sword had a hilt of gold and ivory, and some mystic characters engraved upon it. As young Ewan grew, his lordly disposition and commanding presence confirmed the belief that he was of royal birth.

Matters continued thus until one day the great lord of Kintail came from Eileandonain Castle to hunt the mountains of Letterewe. He came unexpectedly to Oighrig's cottage, and entering without ceremony jocosely blamed Kenneth, who was one of his foresters, for not being at the hunt. Then seeing Flora and Ewan he began to inquire who they were. Evasive answers were returned, and Kenneth and Flora pretended they were man and wife. The lord of Kintail on hearing the name Ewan Mac Gabhar exhibited surprise and even alarm, for he recalled a well-known prophecy about "the son of the goat," which had been erroneously interpreted as unfavourable to the destinies of the house of Kintail. Failing in persuading Flora to go away with him, his lordship left his kinsman Hector Dubh to watch the family. Flora and Ewan growing anxious under such circumstances soon afterwards resumed their concealment in the cave. On this Hector, suspecting that he was duped, hastened home with the news to Kintail. Fearing Lord Mackenzie's sleuth-hounds, the whole family decamped and went down to Poolewe, and [17]Earba followed with her two kids. Next evening a vessel came to Poolewe and sent a boat ashore. Kenneth and Flora went down hand in hand to ask for a passage to the islands. As the boat approached they saw by their tartan that the crew were from Eileandonain Castle. They fled like deer, but the ground was rough for Flora, and they were soon overtaken, captured, and carried off in the vessel.

Oighrig and Ewan remained disconsolate, protected by friends near Poolewe; their store comprised the three goats, three baskets, and a small locked chest containing Ewan's sword and mantle and a few jewels. The captain of a vessel, which shortly came in to Poolewe, promised to take them to Eileandonain, where Oighrig wished to go in search of her son; but, whether by chance or design, the hapless pair were conveyed instead to the country of a great chief named Colin Mor Gillespie.

Oighrig and Ewan were there taken ashore. The captain searched their baggage, and found the mantle of state and the royal sword. Oighrig told him all the tale, and he repeated it to Colin Mor, who placed Oighrig in a hut beside his castle, provided well for her goats, and gave her a cow. He took Ewan to his castle, and brought him up with his own sons as a warrior and a gentleman. Meanwhile Kenneth, after gaining the favour of the lord of Kintail by his prowess in warfare, had found means to escape from Eileandonain with Flora; they married, and ultimately discovered Oighrig, who lived with them to a good old age.

As for Ewan Mac Gabhar, he grew up a strong brave man, and none could match him in warlike exercises. Orders came from the Scottish king for the prosecution of a great war against a realm which included the island of Mull, and was then under the rule of the queen widow of Olamh Mor, who had been the renowned monarch of that land. Colin Mor was joined by the lord of Kintail in this great enterprise, and with their allies they mustered an army of twenty thousand men. Ewan Mac Gabhar was all fire and eagerness for the glorious war, and was entrusted with the command of a thousand men. During the bustle of preparation a Highlander came and proffered his services to Ewan as page. Ewan at first rejected the offer, on the ground of the slender form and small stature of the man; but every day the page was in waiting, and proved so handy, that Ewan at last engaged him and entrusted him with his baggage.

The invading army succeeded in taking possession of the whole of the large island of Mull, which they plundered and burned. They then proceeded to the mainland in a vast fleet of vessels, and anchored in a long arm of the sea that extended twenty miles into the country, apparently Loch Sunart. Here they anchored, and the soldiery immediately began to burn and plunder without opposition.

At night the chiefs and some of their followers returned to the fleet as a safe and comfortable retreat. The main body of the army encamped at a considerable distance, having seen no appearance of a foe. But before daybreak the forces of the queen, who had quietly [18]entered the loch in the night, surrounded the fleet of the invaders, and boarding the vessels, made prisoners of all the chiefs and of such of their followers as were with them, except a small number who were slain in a fruitless attempt at resistance. Colin Mor was taken, with two of his sons and Ewan Mac Gabhar. The lord of Kintail and three of his brothers, with sixty other gentlemen, were also made prisoners. The army on shore was surprised at the same time, and routed with great slaughter.

The nobles and chiefs were taken before the gallant and ruthless queen, who made a vehement speech charging them with being the slaves of a tyrant and with having persecuted and destroyed her royal race. She declared for vengeance, and in accordance with the savage usages of the times, ordered that next morning at nine o'clock the whole of the prisoners should be brought into her presence and hanged by sevens at a time, beginning with the youngest, so that the fathers might behold the dying throes of their sons.

The hour arrived, and the seven youngest prisoners were led forth to make their obeisance to the queen before their execution. When the queen saw them she began to shew signs of emotion, her colour went and came, her lips quivered, and she shrieked out, "O God! what do I see? Stop the execution! stop!" and then she fell down in a swoon. Her maids came to her assistance, and now a hundred shouts rent the air, "Mac Olamh Mhor! Mac Olamh Mhor!" (the son of Olaf the Great); and instantly all the queen's chiefs and kinsmen were kneeling round one of the condemned prisoners. He was a tall and goodly youth, clothed in his father's royal robe and with his father's ancient sword of state girded by his side. The reader will have guessed the name of the young king; he was none other than Ewan Mac Gabhar! Soon the enthusiastic shouts of the people seemed to rend the rocks, and Ewan was borne aloft on the shoulders of his kinsmen and seated on his father's throne. When the queen recovered, she began to doubt the sentiments of her own heart, and required proof that Ewan was indeed her beloved child who had long ago, as she believed, been foully murdered in his bed, along with her own sister, by the conspirators who had planned the destruction of her royal seed. The evidence was soon forthcoming. Ewan's page was none other than Flora, who was herself the youngest sister of the queen. She had, unrecognised, accompanied Ewan to the war, and, having charge of the mantle and the sword, had that morning arrayed him as his father was wont to be, certain of the effect. She explained how at the time of the conspiracy she had given up her bed to the wife and child of one of the conspirators who had intended to slay her and the infant Ewan, but who in the darkness had murdered the others instead; and how she had then escaped with her precious charge to "the cave of the king's son" at Ardlair on Loch Maree.

Thus Ewan Mac Gabhar was established in his kingdom. His first act of authority was to release all his condemned associates, whose joy and astonishment may well be conceived. He entertained them gallantly at his castle for many days, and a friendly [19]league was formed that long preserved the peace and tranquillity of those realms. Ewan was greatly assisted in his kingdom by Kenneth, who had become a renowned warrior, and who with his beloved Flora came and resided at Ewan's castle. Ewan married Mary, youngest daughter of Mackenzie lord of Kintail, and by his friendship helped to increase the dominions of that great house, so that the old prophecy about the son of the goat (already referred to) was literally fulfilled:—

"The son of the goat shall triumphantly bear
The mountain on flame and the horns of the deer,—
From forest of Loyne to the hill of Ben Croshen,
From mountain to vale, and from ocean to ocean."

Chapter V.

The MacRaes of Kintail and Gairloch.

It is a singular fact that the first six lairds of Kintail (counting with them Angus Mac Mhathain) had each but one lawful son, so that the family of Mackenzie, now so numerous, increased at first but slowly. Murdo of the Bridge, fifth laird of Kintail, being thus without kindred of his own blood, invited one MacRae to join him in Kintail. This MacRae was from the same original stock as the Mackenzies. His father had come from Clunes, and settled at Brahan. MacRae, the son, accepted the invitation of Murdo, and went with him to Kintail, where his descendants became a numerous tribe, always owning the Mackenzies as their chiefs. Murdo hoped for faithful service from MacRae, and it was willingly given from generation to generation. The MacRaes were ever foremost in battle for their lairds, and became known as "Mackenzie's shirt of mail." This term "shirt of mail" was generally applied to the chosen bodyguard who attended a chief in war and fought around him. Hence it would appear that the bodyguard of the Mackenzie chiefs was composed of MacRaes.

The name MacRae was originally MacRath, signifying "the son of fortune." If it be true that "fortune favours the brave," these valiant warriors were rightly named, for bravery was ever their bright distinction, as our narrative will sufficiently shew. Not only were the MacRaes devoted to the Kintail family, but after Hector Roy Mackenzie went to Gairloch they assisted him and his descendants in conquering their possessions. Some of them settled in Gairloch, where their offspring are to this day.

In the following pages Iain MacIain Uidhir, Donald Mor, and Alastair Liath, who took part in the attack on MacBeath in the island of Loch Tollie; Donnachadh Mor na Tuaighe, or Big Duncan of the Axe, commonly called Suarachan, and Dugal his son; Iain Liath, who accompanied John Roy Mackenzie to Gairloch; and Donald Odhar, Iain Odhar, and Fionnla dubh na Saighead, who all three took [20]leading parts in ousting the M'Leods from Gairloch,—were MacRaes from Kintail, and were all warriors of renown.

The Rev. Farquhar MacRae (Appendix A), ordained vicar of Gairloch in 1608 and afterwards constable of Eileandonain, was of the same tribe, but his fighting was confined to the church militant.

The effigy of the renowned Donald Odhar is one of the supporters in the coat-of-arms of the Gairloch Mackenzies sculptured on the old barn of Flowerdale, called the Sabhal Geal, erected by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch, in 1730.

Several of these MacRaes were wonderful archers. The arrow fired at the serving-man on the Loch Tollie island by Alastair Liath, must have killed its victim at a distance of fully five hundred yards. Donald Odhar and Iain Odhar, the heroes of Leac na Saighead, slew many M'Leods with their arrows nearly four hundred yards away. Fionnladh dubh na Saighead is said to have shot Neil M'Leod at a still greater distance. Lest any reader should doubt the authenticity of these performances, on account of the marvellous ranges attained, some instances of wonderful shots made by Turks may here be mentioned. In 1794 Mahmood Effendi, the Turkish Ambassador's secretary, in a field adjoining Bedford House, shot an arrow with a Turkish bow four hundred and fifteen yards against the wind, and four hundred and eighty-two yards with the wind. The secretary said the then Sultan of Turkey had shot five hundred yards, which was the greatest performance of the modern Turks up to that time; but he said that pillars stood on a plain near Constantinople marking distances anciently attained by bow-shot up to eight hundred yards. In 1798 the Sultan of Turkey surpassed all these achievements, by shooting an arrow nine hundred and seventy-two yards, in the presence of Sir Robert Ainslie, British Ambassador to the Sublime Porte.

It was always the privilege of the MacRaes of Kintail to bear the dead bodies of their chiefs to burial. At the funeral in 1862 of the Hon. Mrs Stewart Mackenzie, daughter and representative of the last Lord Seaforth, the coffin was borne by MacRaes of Kintail only. It was the last time! At the funeral of her son Colonel Keith Stewart Mackenzie, on 25th June 1881, there was not a sufficient number of MacRaes to bear the coffin from Brahan Castle. The few who were present claimed their privilege, and essayed to carry the dead. Some slight disputation occurred, but the vacant places had to be supplied from the Brahan tenantry. The following curious statement, referring to this incident, appeared in an Inverness newspaper soon afterwards:—"This seems to have had a most depressing effect upon the few handsome MacRaes, who hitherto were the most picturesque frequenters of the Inverness wool market, for on the last occasion not a single MacRae was seen dressed in the garb of the race. They have now nearly all been driven from the lands of their ancestors, and they have apparently thrown aside the kilt and donned the lowlanders' garb in disgust."


Chapter VI.

The MacBeaths.

Before the M'Leods got possession of Gairloch a tribe of MacBeaths were the most powerful sept in the district. They originally came (presumably in the thirteenth century) from Assynt, in the country of the Mackays in Sutherlandshire, and were of Norwegian descent. There are still some families of MacBeaths in Melvaig in Gairloch who are of the old breed. The chiefs of the MacBeaths had at least three strongholds in Gairloch, viz., Eilean Grudidh on Loch Maree, the island on Loch Tollie, and the Dun or Castle of Gairloch, all to be described in our chapter on the antiquities. Seven generations of MacBeaths occupied Eilean Grudidh, which seems to have been the last they held of these fortalices. The M'Leods, after a long struggle, subdued the MacBeaths, and expelled most of them from Gairloch. Those who were driven out fled to Applecross, where their descendants are to this day.

The earls of Ross must have had many a conflict with the MacBeaths, but no traditions on the subject are extant, nor have any accounts been preserved telling how the M'Leods ousted the MacBeaths. It is possible, however, that a fight which is said to have taken place near a very small loch or pond called Lochan nan Airm, to the right of the road as you go from Gairloch to Poolewe, may have been an engagement in which the MacBeaths were concerned. Lochan nan Airm, or "the tarn of the arms," is about two hundred yards from the road, and half a mile beyond the top of Achtercairn Brae. Those who were vanquished in this fight threw their arms into the loch (whence its name), partly to lighten themselves for flight, and partly to prevent the weapons from falling into the hands of the victors. It is said that the formation of a drain, intended to empty the loch so as to discover the arms, was once commenced, but was stopped by the then laird of Gairloch, whose permission had not been asked. The beginning of the drain is still apparent; it would be interesting to complete it.

The following story relates an attempt on the part of some of the lord of Kintail's men to slay one of the leaders of the MacBeaths, possibly the chief of the tribe. It evidently took place in the latter part of the career of the MacBeaths in Gairloch.

Once upon a time there lived a powerful man—Iain Mac Iain Uidhir—in the Carr of Kintail, and when he heard such aliens (the MacBeaths) resided in the island of Loch Tollie, he thought within himself, on New Years' night, that it was a pity that such mischievous strangers should be in the place, raising rents on the land which did not of right belong to them, while some of the offspring of gentlemen of the clan Mackenzie, although a few of them possessed lands, were without possessions.

Some little time after this, when the snow was melting off the mountains, he lifted his arrow bladder on his back, sent word for Big [22]Donald, son of the son of Ranald MacRae from Inverinate, and they walked as one together across Kilaolainn. Old Alastair Liath of Carr accompanied them. They walked through the mountains of Loch-carron. They came in by the mountains of Kenlochewe. They came at a late hour in sight of Loch Tollie, and they took notice of MacBeath's castle in the island, and of a place whence it would be easy for them to send their arrows to the castle. There was a rowan-tree alongside the castle, which was in their way, but when the darkening of night came they moved down to the shore in such a way that the heroes got near the bank of the loch, so that they might in the breaking of the sky be opposite MacBeath when he came out.


When MacBeath came out in the morning, the other man said to Donald Mor, "Try how true your hand is now, if it is not tremulous after the night; try if you can hit the seed of the beast, the hare, so that you make a carcase of him where he is, inasmuch as he has no right to be there." Donald shot his arrow by chance, [23]but it only became flattened against one of the kind of windows in the kind of castle that was in it.

When the man from Carr saw what happened to the arrow of the man from Inverinate, he thought that his companion's arrow was only a useless one. The man from Carr got a glimpse of one of the servants of MacBeath, carrying with him a stoup of water to boil a goat buck, which he had taken from Craig Tollie the night before; but, poor fellow! it was not he who consumed the goat buck. Old Alastair Liath of Carr threw the arrow, and it went through the kidneys of him of the water-stoup.

MacBeath suspected that a kind of something was behind him which he did not know about. He thought within himself not to wait to eat the goat buck; that it would be as well for him to go ashore—life or death to him—as long as he had the chance to cross. He lifted every arrangement he had, and he made the shore of it. Those who would not follow him he left behind him; he walked as fast as was in his joints, but fast as MacBeath was, the arrow of the son of Big Donald fixed in him in the thickest of his flesh. He ran with the arrow fixed, and his left hand fixed in the arrow, hoping always that he would pull it out. He ran down the brae to a place which is called Boora to this day; and the reason of that name is, that when MacBeath pulled the arrow out, a buradh, or bursting forth of blood, came after it.

When the Kintail men saw that the superior of the kind of fortress had flown, they walked round the head of Loch Tollie sprawling, tired as they were; and the very ferry-boat which took MacBeath ashore took the MacRaes to the island. They used part of the goat buck which MacBeath was to have had to his meal. They looked at the man of whom they had made a corpse, while the cook went to the preparation for the morning meal. Difficulty nor distress were not apparent on the Kintail men. The fearless heroes put past the night in the castle. They feared not MacBeath; but MacBeath was frightened enough that what he did not get he would soon get.

Although the pursuit of the aliens from Mackay's country was in the minds of the Kintail men, they thought they would go and see how the lands of Gairloch lay. They went away in the morning of the next day, after making cuaranan (untanned shoes) of the skin of the goat buck by putting thongs through it, as they had worn out their own on the way coming from Kintail. They came through Gairloch; they took notice of everything as they desired. They walked step by step, as they could do, without fear or bodily dismay. They reached Brahan; they saluted Mackenzie. They said boldly, if he had more sons that they would find more land for him. Mackenzie invited them in, and took their news. They told him about the land of Gairloch, the way in which they saw MacBeath, and the way in which they made him flee, and the time which they lived on the flesh of the goat buck. "And Kenneth," says Donald (addressing the chief), "I shall remember the day of the foot of the goat buck as long as Donald is [my name] on me."


Chapter VII.

The M'Leods of Gairloch.

It is difficult to tell how the M'Leods came to Gairloch. It is not impossible that their claim to it may have dated back to the times of the Norse Vikings, from one of whom, tradition says, the M'Leods were descended. There were two clans of M'Leod,—the Siol Torquil, and the Siol Tormod,—perfectly distinct and independent of each other, though said to have sprung from one common progenitor named Leod. It was a branch of the Siol Torquil who took possession of Gairloch.

Donald, Lord of the Isles, who about 1410 laid claim to the earldom of Ross in right of his wife (Part I., chap. i.), was the son of John Macdonald of Islay, first lord of the Isles. John claimed the islands of Skye and the Lews under a grant by Edward Balliol. When John made his peace with King David in 1344 he retained the Lews. From this time the Siol Torquil held the Lews as vassals of the house of Islay. It seems highly probable that Gairloch, Loch Broom, Coigeach, and Assynt, being the adjacent parts of the mainland, were at first similarly held by the Siol Torquil, a branch of whom called the Siol Mhic Ghille Challum also acquired the island of Raasay. In this case their original claim to Gairloch would be derived either from the first lord of the Isles, or his son Donald, Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross. On no other theory can the sway of the M'Leods in Gairloch be accounted for consistently with the history of the times, unless indeed it was purely the result of "vaulting ambition."

However this may have been, a branch of the Siol Mhic Ghille Challum soon made good an independent claim to Gairloch. Oddly enough a family feud was the commencement, as another was the ending fifty years later, of their legal title to Gairloch. In 1430 King James I. granted "to Nele Nelesoun, for his homage and service in the capture of his deceased brother Thomas Nelesoun, a rebel, the lands of Gerloch and others in the earldoms of Ross and Sutherland and sheriffdom of Innernys."

On this grant Neil, the son of Neil M'Leod, no doubt took steps to enforce his claim to Gairloch, and to subdue the MacBeaths, most of whom he drove from the country. He is said to have captured their three strongholds,—Eilean Grudidh, the Loch Tollie island, and the Gairloch Dun. It is in the time of the M'Leods that we first hear of the Tigh Dige (ditch house), situated in a field below where Flowerdale House now stands. It was a "black house," built of turf, roofed with divots (large thin turfs), and surrounded by a moat or ditch.

The M'Leods also had another stronghold in Gairloch, between Port Henderson and Opinan, the site of which is still called Uamh nam Freiceadain, and which was the last fortress they held in Gairloch.


Eilean Ruaridh Beag, in Loch Maree, was held by one Roderick (Ruaridh) M'Leod, after whom it was named. A fierce struggle, the details of which are now lost, took place before the M'Leods were ejected from this island, which afterwards became the residence of John Roy Mackenzie, the fourth laird of Gairloch.

About 1480 Allan M'Leod, son of Roderick M'Leod, was laird of Gairloch. His wife was daughter of Alexander the Upright, sixth laird of Kintail, and sister of Hector Roy Mackenzie. They had two sons, who were then little boys. The family lived on the island in Loch Tollie,—the same fortalice formerly occupied by the MacBeaths. It was considered a safe retreat in those unsettled times. Allan M'Leod was a peaceful man, and occupied himself to a great extent with the sport the country afforded. But an evil day was coming. His two brothers, who resided with their people in the Lews, were unwilling that Mackenzie blood should run in the veins of the heir of Gairloch. They determined to slay their brother and his two boys, so that the inheritance might fall to themselves. With this evil purpose they came over to Gairloch, and took up their abode at the Tigh Dige, where they made every preparation for the carrying out of their wicked scheme.


On the morning of the fatal day Allan M'Leod left the Loch Tollie Island in his boat, and having landed at the east end of the loch, went down Croftbrae to fish the river Ewe. At midday, as it was hot, and the fish were not taking, he lay down on the green hill at [26]Croft, where the house of Kenneth Urquhart (called Kennie Rob) now stands. The hill is named to this day Cnoc na mi-Chomhairle, or the "Hill of evil counsel." There Allan fell fast asleep. His two brothers came over from Gairloch to carry out their murderous intention. When they came to Loch Tollie they saw the boat ashore at the east end of the loch, and therefore rightly concluded that their brother had gone down to fish the river. They followed, and finding him asleep, killed him where he lay. They cut off his head, and threw it into the mill-lead or race, between the green hill and the spot where the Widows' house, originally built for a distillery, and therefore known as "The still," now stands, and the head was washed down into the river. The brothers then returned to Loch Tollie, and taking the boat reached the island. There they told their brother's widow how they had slain him, and then they tore her little boys from her trembling grasp. They carried them away with them, and when they came to a spot above and to the north of the place now called "The glen" the ruffians killed the boys, and buried them there at a rock still called Craig Bhadan an Aisc, or the "rock of the place of interment." It is shewn on the six-inch ordnance map. They stripped the blood-stained shirts from the bodies as proofs that the boys were dead, and took them with them to the Tigh Dige. At that time the dress of a boy consisted only of a stout shirt or tunic, with a belt round the waist, until such time as he was old enough for the belted plaid. The bereaved mother came ashore as soon as she could, and followed the murderers. She came in the evening to a place called Clachan garbh, on the little burn half way between Achtercairn and the present Gairloch Hotel. There were houses there at that time. She went to an old man there, who had been a faithful retainer of her husband; she told him her terrible story. He bade her wait until he went to the Tigh Dige to see if her brothers-in-law had really killed the two boys. When it became dark he went to the Tigh Dige, and through an opening he saw by the firelight the boys' little shirts hanging up. He managed unperceived to get possession of the shirts, and brought them to the mother; they were covered with blood. The mother took the shirts, and went off straight with them to Brahan to her father, Alexander the Upright, who did not credit his daughter's terrible tale until she shewed him the blood-stained shirts. Alexander, who was then an infirm old man, sent his son Hector Roy Mackenzie to Edinburgh to the king, and he produced the shirts to satisfy the king that the triple murder had really been committed. The king gave Hector Roy a commission of fire and sword for the destruction of the M'Leods, and in 1494 he received a grant of Gairloch by charter from the crown.

The proceedings which ensued, and the circumstances attending the expulsion of the M'Leods long afterwards from Gairloch, will be narrated later on. Meanwhile the reader will be glad to learn that the two murderers were afterwards routed in a skirmish on the south side of Gairloch by one of the MacRae heroes, who pursued them to a spot between South Erradale and Point, where he slew them both, and they were buried in a hollow there, which is pointed out to this day.

Although the crown charter of 1494 granted the whole of Gairloch [27]to Hector Roy Mackenzie, the M'Leods, as we shall see, retained for another century one-third part of Gairloch. The terrible murder committed about 1569 by Ruaridh Mac Allan M'Leod of Gairloch (Part I., chap. xii.) is curiously analogous to that recorded above. The murder of 1569 was the immediate cause of the warfare which resulted in the final expulsion of the M'Leods from Gairloch, just as that of 1480 had led to their being ousted from a great part of their territory there.

Family feuds and jealousies were the causes of the ultimate dismemberment of the Siol Torquil, and of the alienation of the whole of their vast possessions. Anyone who cares to trace their history, as given in Donald Gregory's and other works, will learn how all this happened; it does not concern us further here.

Chapter VIII.

The Macdonalds in Gairloch.

It will be remembered that Donald, Lord of the Isles, laid claim to and took possession of the earldom of Ross. This was about the beginning of the fifteenth century. It was probably from him, or from his father John Macdonald of Islay, first lord of the Isles, that the MacLeods of the Lews (the Siol Torquil) first obtained a title to Gairloch, as pointed out in the last chapter. To some extent Donald succeeded in subjugating Ross-shire, though several chiefs, including Mackenzie of Kintail, maintained their independence. It is easy to understand that Gairloch and other places adjacent to Skye would be overrun by the Macdonalds of Skye, the clansmen of the lord of the Isles. Some of them settled in Gairloch, and their offspring are still there. A charter of 1584 shews that Torridon, on the southern border of Gairloch, then belonged to Macdonald of Glengarry, a descendant of the lord of the Isles, and nineteen families of Macdonalds still dwell in Alligin on Loch Torridon.

One of the Macdonalds who came to Gairloch was named Mac Gille Riabhaich. Possibly he was a descendant of Gille Riabhach, who assisted Murdo Mackenzie, fourth lord of Kintail, to overcome Leod Mac Gilleandreis (Part I., chap. iii.). He took up his abode in a cave called Uamh Mhic 'ille Rhiabhaich, or the "cave of Mac Gille Riabhaich." It is close to a picturesque loch bearing the same name, on which are two small islands, one of which seems to have been a crannog or island fortalice, probably a refuge of Mac Gille Riabhaich in times of danger. The cave and loch are among the hills, two miles due east from Tournaig, in the parish of Gairloch.

Mac Gille Riabhaich was a notorious freebooter, as well as a warrior of renown. He was at the battle of Flodden Field in 1513. He became a well-known "lifter" of other people's cattle, and is said to have been outlawed. A story is related of him, which is given [28]here not only because it illustrates the reckless lawlessness of the old Highlanders, but because its hero was an inhabitant of Gairloch.

A party of Macdonalds invaded one of the Outer Hebrides, and Mac Gille Riabhaich accompanied them. At that time he was a powerful youth, and always carried a stout oak cudgel. The invaders having exhausted their provisions, landed on an island in a state of hunger. Proceeding to reconnoitre, they soon came unperceived upon a party of the natives gathered round a fire in the open air, over which hung, from three sticks joined at the top, a large pot, in which meat was being stewed. Mac Gille Riabhaich, longing for something to allay the appetites of himself and his hungry comrades, suddenly rushed on the natives, and plied his oak staff with such effect that they fled in all directions. He then seized the pot, and by placing the oak stick through the suspender, swung it over his shoulder, and carried it away with its reeking contents to his companions, regardless of the risk of its burning him. For this daring exploit Mac Gille Riabhaich received the soubriquet of Darach or Darroch, which is Gaelic for an oak.

From him are descended the numerous families of the Darrochs in Jura and Kintyre, of whom is Mr Duncan Darroch, the present proprietor of Torridon. They still wear the Macdonald tartan. An ancestor of the laird of Torridon, also named Duncan Darroch, was the son of a tacksman whose grandfather had come from the north and settled in Jura. The story of Mac Gille Riabhaich is confirmed by the fact, that when this last-named Duncan Darroch, having made a fortune in Jamaica, went to the Heralds Office to matriculate family arms and to prove his right to assume those of Macdonald, the Lyon King at Arms remarked, "We must not lose the memory of the old oak stick and its exploit;" whereupon the arms, still borne by the family, in which the oak is prominent, were granted to "Duncan Darroch, Esquire of Gourock, chief of that ancient name, the patronymic of which is M'Iliriach."

Donald Dubh Mac Gillechriosd Mhic Gille Riabhaich is said to have been a relative of our hero of the oak stick, if indeed he were not the same individual. He lived at Kenlochewe about the same period. When Hector Roy Mackenzie was attacked and brought to terms by his nephew John of Killin, ninth lord of Kintail, the latter surrounded and set fire to Hector Roy's house at Fairburn. John of Killin called on his uncle to surrender and come forth, assuring him of his life. Hector was about to comply, when Donald Dubh, who was one of John of Killin's followers, made for the door with his two-edged sword drawn. Hector Roy, seeing Donald Dubh, called out to his nephew that he would rather be burned in the house than slaughtered by Donald Dubh. John called Donald away and Hector rushed out of the burning pile, whereupon he and his nephew became reconciled. It was agreed that Hector Roy should manage the Kintail estates as tutor to his nephew until the latter came of age. Next day Hector set about arranging the lands of Kenlochewe, which, it will be remembered, had long been part of the Kintail estates. Donald Dubh applied for a set of land. Hector [29]Roy said, "I wonder, Donald, how you can ask land this day that was so forward to kill me yesterday." Donald, in reply, justified his hostility by a reference to the murder of Kenneth Og, eighth laird of Kintail (elder brother of John of Killin), to which Donald Dubh incorrectly supposed Hector Roy had been accessory. Donald had been foster brother of Kenneth Og, and bitterly resented the murder, for which in reality the laird of Buchanan was solely to blame. Hector Roy answered, "Well, Donald, I doubt not, if you had such fosterage to me as you had to that man, you would act the like for me, so you shall have your choice of all the land;" and Donald got it. From this time he was at peace with Hector Roy, and was among the clansmen who accompanied him and John of Killin to the fatal field of Flodden in 1513. Here it was that Donald Dubh at length avenged the death of his foster brother Kenneth Og, the late chief of Kintail. In the retreat of the Scottish army he heard some one near him exclaiming, "Alas, laird! thou hast fallen!" On inquiry he was told it was the laird of Buchanan, who had sunk from loss of blood. The faithful Highlander drew his sword, and saying, "If he has not fallen, he shall fall," made straight to Buchanan, whom he killed on the spot.

Chapter IX.

Hector Roy Mackenzie, First Laird of Gairloch.

Many years ago there lived at Craig of Gairloch an old man named Alastair Mac Iain Mhic Earchair. He was a man of great piety and respectability, and was one of those who devote much of their time to religious exercises, and are called "the men." He is remembered by old people now living. It was in the first quarter of the nineteenth century that early one morning Alastair went out for a load of bog fir for firewood. When he came to the peat moss where the wood was to be found, there suddenly appeared before him a tall fair-haired man attired in the Breacan an fheilidh, or belted plaid; with him were twelve other men similarly dressed; their plaids were all of Mackenzie tartan, and their kilts were formed of part of the plaid pleated and belted round the waist as was the manner in the old days. The fair-haired one, who from his noble bearing was manifestly a chief, inquired, "How fare the Gairloch family?" Alastair replied, "They are well." Then they departed. When they were leaving him, Alastair heard not the sound of their tread nor saw them make a step, but they passed away as if a gust of wind were bending down the tall grass on the hillside. Alastair, to his dying day, declared and believed that he had had a vision of the great chief Hector Roy with his bodyguard of twelve chosen heroes.

This account not only illustrates the reverential pride and affection with which the memory of the famous Hector Roy is [30]regarded by the elder natives of Gairloch, but it also supplies a slight yet graphic sketch of the traditional appearance of the great chief.

We have already learnt (Part I., chap. iii.) that Hector was the son of Alexander Mackenzie (known as "the Upright"), sixth lord of Kintail by his second wife. She was the daughter of Macdonald of Clanranald, and Hector Roy himself married a daughter of Ronald MacRanald, the laird of Moidart. Hector was born about 1440, but the date cannot be positively fixed. He was called Ruadh or Roy, from the auburn colour of his hair; he was a tall powerful man, of marvellous physique, a fearless hero, and a redoubtable warrior,—in a word, a typical Highland chieftain.

Many of the old traditions of the Gairloch seannachies have centred in Hector Roy and the deeds of his followers, but in the present generation they are passing out of mind, so that our account of the famous warrior cannot be so complete as it might have been made fifty years ago.

In Part I., chap. vii., we have seen the circumstances under which the king gave Hector Roy a commission of fire and sword for the destruction of the M'Leods who were in Gairloch. Hector Roy soon set about the work of extermination, but he was so much occupied in other warfare that it was long before he made much way in Gairloch. Ultimately he received a charter from the crown in 1494, and later a new charter under the great seal dated 8th April 1513, of Gairloch, together with Glasleitire and Coire nan Cuilean in Kintail, in feu and heritage for ever. Notwithstanding these charters, he never himself succeeded in completely ousting the M'Leods from Gairloch.

Hector Roy resided with his father at Kinnellan or Brahan, and afterwards at Fairburn. When in Gairloch he seems to have fortified himself in the Tigh Dige mentioned in Part I., chap. vii., but the M'Leods still held the Dun or Castle of Gairloch not far away.

At that time a rock stood at the edge of the shore near the head of the bay of Ceann an t' Sail, or bay of Charlestown as it is now often called; it is the bay where Flowerdale House and the present Gairloch post-office and pier are situated. This rock then projected so far on the shore that the road round it was covered by the sea at high water. When the present road was made, a great part of the rock was removed and the road banked up above the reach of the tide. Before this the projecting rock contained several large recesses. Hector Roy went out one day unattended to reconnoitre the Dun, still occupied by his enemies the M'Leods, possibly thinking to devise a scheme for its capture. The M'Leods observed him, and three of them slipped out of the castle hoping to seize him. Hector, unwilling alone to face three of his foes, ran quickly towards the Tigh Dige. When he came to the rock with its recesses, he threw himself into one of them, with his dirk drawn. As the first pursuer rushed round the rock, Hector slew him with one slash of his dirk, and in an instant threw him into another recess just before the second pursuer came round the rock to meet the same fate, as [31]did the third also, leaving Hector free from a rather awkward position. There is now at this place a small well by the roadside; it was formerly within one of the recesses. This recess was always called "the Gairloch," because it was the means of saving the life of the great chief of Gairloch, and since it has been removed the little well has borne the same title. Many persons in the neighbourhood can point out "the Gairloch," but few are now-a-days acquainted with the story. It was a favourite pastime of the sons of the late Sir Hector Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch, when they were boys, about 1815, to re-enact this episode, an iris or "flag" being used to represent the destroying dirk of their renowned ancestor.

During the later years of Alexander the Upright, his eldest son Kenneth Mackenzie, who was known as "Kenneth of the Battle," led the clan in the many contests in which it was engaged. Hector Roy usually assisted his brother Kenneth in warfare. He took a leading part in the celebrated battle of Park, which gave Kenneth his appellation.

It seems that Kenneth of the Battle had married Margaret, daughter of John Macdonald of Islay, who laid claim not only to the lordship of the Isles, but also to the earldom of Ross. One Christmas eve Kenneth imagined himself, with some reason, to have been insulted by Alexander Macdonald, nephew and heir of John of Islay. In revenge for the insult Kenneth sent his wife (whom he did not love) back to Alexander, who was her cousin. The lady was blind of an eye, and she was sent away mounted on a one-eyed pony, accompanied by a one-eyed servant and followed by a one-eyed dog. The result was that John Macdonald of Islay determined on a great expedition to punish the Mackenzies. He mustered his followers in the Isles, and his relatives of Moidart and Ardnamurchan, to the number of three thousand warriors. Kenneth called out the clan Mackenzie, and strongly garrisoned Eileandonain Castle. Macdonald and his nephew Alexander marched to Inverness, reduced the castle there, left a garrison in it, and then plundered the lands of the sheriff of Cromarty. They next marched to Strathconan, ravaged the lands of the Mackenzies, put some of the inhabitants to the sword, and burned Contin church one Sunday morning, together with the aged people, women and children, and the old priest, who were worshipping in the church at the time. Kenneth Mackenzie sent his aged father, Alexander the Upright, from Kinellan, where he was residing, to the Raven's Rock above Strathpeffer, and himself led his men, numbering only six hundred, to the moor still known as Blar na Pairc. The Macdonalds came to the moor to meet him. Between the two forces lay a peat moss, full of deep pits and deceitful bogs. Kenneth had his own brother Duncan, and his half-brother Hector Roy, with him. By the nature of the ground Kenneth perceived that Macdonald could not bring all his forces to the attack at once. He directed his brother Duncan with a body of archers to lie in ambush, whilst he himself advanced across the moss, being able from his knowledge of the place to avoid its dangers. The van of the enemy's army charged furiously, and Kenneth, according to his [32]pre-arranged plan, at once retreated, so that the assailants following him became entangled in the moss. Duncan Mackenzie then opened fire from his ambush on the foe both in flank and rear, slaughtering most of those who had entered the bog. Kenneth now charged with his main body, and Macdonald's forces, thrown into confusion by the stratagem, were after a desperate battle completely routed. Kenneth was attacked by Gillespie, one of Macdonald's lieutenants, and slew him in single combat. Hector Roy, who commanded a division, fought like a lion, and most of the Macdonalds were slain. Those who fled before the victorious Mackenzies rallied on the following morning, to the number of three hundred, but Kenneth pursued them, and they were all killed or taken prisoners. Both Macdonald himself and his heir Alexander were taken prisoners, but Mackenzie released them within six months, on their promising that they would not molest him again, and that they would abandon all claim to the earldom of Ross.

During the battle a great raw ploughboy from Kintail was noticed by Hector Roy going about in an aimless stupid manner. The youth was Donnachadh Mor na Tuaighe, or Big Duncan of the Axe, commonly called Suarachan. He was one of the MacRaes of Kintail; you would have called him in English Duncan MacRae. He received the name of Big Duncan of the Axe because, not having been thought worthy—much to his annoyance—of being properly armed that morning for the battle, his only weapon was a rusty old battleaxe he had picked up. Hector Roy called upon Duncan to take part in the fight. In his chagrin at the contempt with which he had been treated, he replied, "Unless I get a man's esteem, I shall not do a man's work." Hector answered, "Do a man's work, and you will get a man's share." Big Duncan rushed into the battle, quickly killed a man, drew the body aside, and coolly sat upon it. Hector Roy noticed this extraordinary proceeding, and asked him why he was not engaged with his comrades. Big Duncan answered, "If I only get one man's due, I shall only do one man's work; I have killed my man." Hector told him to do two men's work and he would get two men's reward. Big Duncan went again into the fight, killed another man, pulled the body away, placed it on the top of the first, and sat upon the two. Hector Roy saw him again, and said, "Duncan, how is this; you idle, and I in sore distress?" Big Duncan replied, "You promised me two men's share, and I killed two men." Hector quickly answered, "I would not be reckoning with you." On this Big Duncan instantly arose with his great battleaxe, and shouted, "The man that would not be reckoning with me, I would not be reckoning with him." He rushed into the thickest of the battle, where he mowed down the enemy like grass, so that that mighty chief Maclean of Lochbuy determined to check his murderous career. The heroes met in deadly strife; for some time Maclean, being a very powerful man clad in mail, escaped the terrible axe, but at last Duncan, with one fell swoop, severed his enemy's head from his body. Big Duncan accompanied his chief in the pursuit of the fugitives next day. That night when the triumphant chief, [33]Kenneth of the Battle, sat at supper he missed Big Duncan, and said to the company, "I am more vexed for want of my great sgalag (ploughman) this night than any satisfaction I had of the day." One of the others said, "I thought I saw him following some men [of the enemy] that ran up a burn." He had scarcely finished speaking when Big Duncan entered, with four heads bound in a woodie (a sort of rope made of twisted twigs and bark of birch trees), and threw them before the chief; "Tell me now," says he, "if I have not earned my supper."

In 1488, as his father Alexander the Upright lay on his deathbed, Hector Roy led five hundred of his clan in the battle of Sauchieburn, near Stirling, in support of King James III. Later on Hector submitted to King James IV., who is said to have granted Gairloch to him, and to have given him Glasleitire in Kintail and other estates. This may have been prior to the crown charter of Gairloch already mentioned as dated 1494.

Alexander the Upright died in 1488, and Kenneth of the Battle only survived his father three years. On his death Kenneth Og, his eldest and only son by his first wife, became entitled to the lordship of Kintail, but was murdered in 1497 through the treachery of the laird of Buchanan, avenged long after by Donald Dubh, as related in the last chapter. The next heir was John Mackenzie, commonly called John of Killin, who was the eldest son of Kenneth of the Battle, by his second wife, a daughter of Lord Lovat. It was a question whether this marriage was regular; but in 1491 the pope legitimised the marriage. On the death of Kenneth Og, Hector Roy, notwithstanding the pope's decree, declared his nephew John of Killin to be illegitimate, and took possession of the Kintail estates for himself, the whole clan, with whom he was a great favourite, willingly submitting to his rule. During this period occurred the battle of Druim a chait, in which Hector Roy, with only one hundred and forty men, completely routed seven hundred of the Munros, Dingwalls, and Maccullochs, under Sir William Munro of Fowlis, at a place on the south side of the hill called Knock-farrel, between Dingwall and Strathpeffer. Sir William was lieutenant of James Stewart, second son of King James III., who had been created Duke of Ross. Munro, instigated by Lord Lovat, grandfather of John of Killin, determined to punish Hector Roy for his contumacy in holding Kintail. Hector having only time to gather seven score men, resolved to make up for his numerical inferiority by a stratagem. He lay in ambush on Knock-farrel, and as Munro returned in the gloaming from plundering Hector's house at Kinellan, Hector Roy and his men suddenly attacked the triumphant foe. Munro's seven hundred men were not expecting any danger, as they believed Hector Roy had fled the country, hence they were marching carelessly and out of order. Hector's sudden onslaught in the dusk threw them into confusion, and the rout became so general that the Mackenzies slew all the Dingwalls and Maccullochs, and most of the Munros. Hector Roy's men were armed with axes and two edged-swords. The [34]slaughter, on the first charge, was terrific; no fewer than nineteen heads rolled into the well, still called Tobar nan Ceann, or "the fountain of the heads." Our old friend Big Duncan of the Axe was there, and, by the side of his fierce chief Hector Roy, performed prodigies of valour. Duncan pursued one of the enemy to the church of Dingwall; as he was entering the door Big Duncan caught him by the arm, when the man exclaimed, "My sanctuary saves me!" "Aye," replied Duncan, "but what a man puts in the sanctuary against his will he can take out again." So he pushed him back from the door and slew him. It would seem as if Big Duncan had joined Hector Roy that day unexpectedly, for tradition says that when, after the fight, Hector and his men sat down to take food, they only had one bannock for each man, and there was none for Big Duncan; but every man gave him a mouthful, and in that way he got the largest share,—seven score mouthfuls, from which circumstance we gather that Hector Roy lost not a single man in this sanguinary affray, though hundreds of the foe were slain.

In 1499 a royal warrant was issued to the Mackintosh to put down and punish Hector Roy, who had become obnoxious to the government, as a disturber of the public peace. He was outlawed; a reward was offered for his capture, and MacCailean, Earl of Argyle, was appointed to receive his rents and account for them to the crown. A period of anarchy and disorder ensued. Hector, with his faithful bodyguard, took refuge in the hills, and MacCailean came down to gather the rents. The Caithness men, who at that time made frequent raids on Ross-shire, determined to destroy MacCailean and his force. When MacCailean looked out one morning the Caithness men were gathering above him, but he said to his followers, "I am seeing a big man above the Caithness men, and twelve men with him, and he makes me more afraid than the Caithness men all together." MacCailean and his men determined to cut through the Caithness men. When the combat began, Hector Roy and his twelve warriors came down and also attacked the Caithness men; few of them escaped. After the battle, Hector Roy and MacCailean went to speak to each other. MacCailean asked what he could do for Hector, who replied, "It's yourself that knows best." On this MacCailean bade him go to Edinburgh at such a time, and said he would meet him there. Hector Roy went to Edinburgh and saw MacCailean, who told him to be in a certain place on such a day, and, when he should see MacCailean and the king walking together, to approach them and kneel before the king. MacCailean said the king would then lay hold of him by the hand to take him up, and Hector was to make the king remember that he had laid hold of him. Before this MacCailean and the king were talking together about Hector Roy; the king said Hector was a wild brave man, and it was impossible to lay hold of him. MacCailean replied, "If you will grant my request, I will give you hold of his hand." To this the king agreed. On the day fixed Hector Roy came to where the king and MacCailean were walking together, and kneeled before the king. The king took his hand to raise him up, when Hector Roy [35]gave him such a grasp that the blood came out at the points of the king's fingers. "Why did you not keep him?" said MacCailean, as Hector Roy turned away. "There is no man in the kingdom would hold that man," replied the king. Said MacCailean, "That is Hector Roy, and I must now get my request." "What is it?" asked the king. "That Hector Roy should be pardoned." The king granted the pardon, and took a great liking to Hector Roy for his strength and bravery.

In our last chapter is a reference to the attack made on Hector Roy by his nephew John of Killin, ninth lord of Kintail, and to Hector's surrender to the latter. John of Killin, who had now grown up a fine strong young man, had determined to compel his uncle to recognise his rights as the legitimate heir of Kintail. By a stratagem he put Hector Roy off his guard, and then surrounded and set fire to the house at Fairburn where he was stopping. Hector was compelled to capitulate. He was allowed to continue the management of the Kintail possessions during the remainder of his nephew's minority, and he himself retained Gairloch and Glasleitire in Kintail, besides other estates, as his own property. This was about 1507.


Hector Roy now again set about the work of driving the M'Leods from Gairloch, and a long struggle ensued. He was greatly assisted by Big Duncan of the Axe, who had become the father of a son of like valour named Dugal. They, with ten other MacRaes of Kintail, were ready to attend upon Hector whenever he desired their aid; these twelve MacRaes seem to have acted as Hector Roy's bodyguard; most likely they all settled in Gairloch. The greatest defeat Hector ever gave to the M'Leods was at Beallach Glasleathaid, near Kintail, where most of them were taken or killed. Big Duncan of course took part in this victory, and on [36]being told that four men were at once attacking his son Dugal, he answered, "If he be my son, there is no risk in that." Dugal MacRae killed those four M'Leods, and came off himself without serious wounds.

After the fight at Beallach Glasleathaid, and several other skirmishes, the M'Leods were content to allow Hector Roy two-thirds of Gairloch, retaining the other third, which included the parts to the east and south-east of the Crasg, a hill to the west of the old churchyard of Gairloch, and between the present Free and Established churches. Thus the only strongholds left to the M'Leods in Gairloch were the Dun or Castle of Gairloch, and the Uamh nam Freiceadain, mentioned in Part I., chap. vii.

In 1513 Hector Roy, in response to a summons from King James IV., gathered his Gairloch warriors, and with them joined his nephew John of Killin, and the main body of the clan Mackenzie, in the war with England. They fought on the disastrous field of Flodden, and many of the clan perished with their king. The two chiefs of the Mackenzies were not among the slain; John of Killin was made prisoner, but escaped; Hector also made his way home in safety.

In 1517 John Duke of Albany, Regent, appointed "Colin, Earl of Ergile," lieutenant of the Isles and other lands, including Gairloch, for three years or more at the Regent's pleasure, for the purpose of establishing peace among the inhabitants. From this commission it may be inferred how troublous the Highlands then were.

Hector Roy had four sons and three daughters by his marriage with Anne Macdonald. He had also a son called Iain Beg, who, according to some authorities, was illegitimate.

The great warrior chief of Gairloch died in 1528, and some say was buried in the churchyard of Gairloch. If he was born as seems likely about 1440, he must have attained nearly ninety years of age. A large number of families trace their ancestry to him; they are known as Clan Eachainn, a name that signifies that they are the seed of Hector Roy.

Chapter X.

John Glassich Mackenzie and his Sons.

There is little but trouble and misfortune to be recorded as regards the immediate successors of the great Hector Roy. His eldest son, Iain Glassich, was a minor at the time of his father's death, having been born about 1513. As a boy he was brought up in the house of Chisholm of Strathglass, whence his name of Glassich. On coming of age, he was served heir to his father of the lands of Gairloch, and the grazings of Glasleitire and Coire nan Cuilean in Kintail. We know nothing of his personal appearance.

Soon after John Glassich Mackenzie came of age, he endeavoured [37]to upset the arrangement his father Hector Roy had made with John of Killin, ninth lord of Kintail, and a desperate feud ensued. In 1544 he was compelled to enter into a bond undertaking to keep the peace, and promising obedience to his cousin Kenneth, the tenth lord of Kintail. Notwithstanding this bond, he seems to have still persevered in his claims, which, as some say, extended to the whole of the Kintail estates.

In 1547 John Glassich refused to join the royal standard, and upon this his estates were forfeited to the crown; but though this forfeiture was never reversed, it does not appear to have affected the succession. The escheat was granted to the earl of Sutherland, but it is not likely that he was able to act upon the grant in such a wild inaccessible country as Gairloch then was.

In 1550 Kenneth, lord of Kintail, still suspicious of the intentions of John Glassich, sent for him to Brahan, where he came with only one attendant, Iain Gearr, probably one of the MacRaes who had settled in Gairloch. Kenneth, after charging John Glassich with designs against him, caused him to be apprehended. Seeing this, Iain Gearr drew his two-handed sword and made a fierce stroke at the lord of Kintail, who sat at the head of the table, and whose skull would have been cloven asunder had he not ducked his head under the table. Iain Gearr was instantly seized by Mackenzie's men, who threatened to slay him on the spot, but the chief, admiring his fidelity, strictly charged them not to touch him. When Iain Gearr was asked why he had struck at the lord himself, instead of at those who had seized his master, he boldly replied, "I see no one else whose life is worth that of my own chief." The sword made a deep gash in the table, and the mark remained until Colin, first earl of Seaforth, had the piece cut out, saying that he "loved no such remembrance of the quarrels of his relations."

John Glassich was removed to Eileandonain Castle, where they say his death was occasioned by poison administered to him in a mess of milk soup, prepared by the wife of MacCalman, a clergyman, and deputy-constable of the fort. His body was sent to the people of Strathglass, who buried him in Beauly priory, where the Gairloch baronets are interred in the present day.

It was in the days of John Glassich that Donald Gorm of Sleat, in Skye, made an expedition against Kintail, taking advantage of the absence of Mackenzie of Kintail. The latter had opposed the pretensions of Donald Gorm to the earldom of Ross. In the month of May 1539 Donald Gorm crossed over to the mainland. He first came to Kenlochewe, which, though part of Gairloch in the present day, still belonged at that time to the lord of Kintail. Here the Macdonalds destroyed all before them, and killed Miles, or Maolmuire, son of Fionnla Dubh MacGillechriosd MacRae, at that time governor of Eileandonain Castle. The remains of a monument erected on the spot where Maolmuire MacRae was killed were to be seen in 1704. Donald Gorm was himself killed soon afterwards, when attacking Eileandonain Castle, by a barbed arrow fired at him by a nephew of Maolmuire MacRae.


During the feeble rule of John Glassich the M'Leods strove to regain Gairloch, but were kept in check by the clansmen, including some of the valiant MacRaes.

John Glassich married Agnes, daughter of James Fraser of Foyness, and had three sons, viz., Hector, Alexander, and John, known as John Roy Mackenzie.

Hector, the eldest son of John Glassich, succeeded his father. During his minority the estates were given in ward to John, fourth of the Stewart earls of Athole. Hector came of age in 1563. His death occurred, probably by violence, in September 1566.

His brother Alexander, called Alastair Roy, second son of John Glassich, then succeeded to Gairloch, but as he did not make up his title he is not reckoned as one of the lairds of Gairloch. He and his brother Hector are said to have lived in Eilean Suainne, on Loch Maree. His death (without issue) took place within a few weeks of his brother's decease, and probably from the same cause. Some say that these two young men were slain at the instigation of their relatives of Kintail; but it seems quite as probable that their deaths were due to the M'Leods, who still held one-third of Gairloch. Alastair Roy married a daughter of John MacGillechallum M'Leod, laird of Raasay, by his marriage with Janet, daughter of Mackenzie of Kintail.

The Gairloch family have thus been under a cloud since the death of the great Hector Roy; but John Roy, the youngest son of John Glassich, saw brighter days. The story of his long and prosperous life will form the subject of our next chapter.

Chapter XI.

John Roy Mackenzie.

Iain Ruadh Macchoinnich, or John Roy Mackenzie, third son of John Glassich, and grandson of the great Hector Roy, was a minor when his brothers died in 1566, and his lands were in 1567 given in ward by Queen Mary to John Banerman of Cardenye.

John Roy became one of the most renowned of the old chiefs of Gairloch; he was in fact second only in fame to his celebrated grandfather, whom he closely resembled in appearance and physique. He is one of the most prominent figures in the old traditions of Gairloch, though there are no stories extant of his personal prowess in warfare.

He was born in 1548, but two years before his father was poisoned at Eileandonain. On this event his mother, Agnes Fraser, fled with John Roy to her own relatives, and she concealed him as best she could, putting him, it is said, every night under a brewing kettle. His mother afterwards became the wife of the laird of Mackay in Sutherlandshire, and John Roy then spent some time in hiding on his patrimonial estate of Glasleitire in Kintail, under the [39]faithful guardianship of Iain Liath, one of the MacRae heroes. It is said he was afterwards concealed by the lairds of Moidart and of Farr.

John Roy grew up a tall, brave, and handsome young Highlander. When he could carry arms and wear the belted plaid, he went to the Mackay country to visit his mother. None but his mother knew him, and neither she nor he made known who he was. In those days any stranger who came to a house was not asked who he was until he had been there a year and a day. John Roy lived in the servants' end of the house, and slept and fed with them. Mackay had two rare dogs, called Cu-dubh and Faoileag, and they became greatly attached to John Roy, so that they would follow no one else. Near the end of the year Mackay told his wife that he suspected the stranger was a gentleman's son. Her tears revealed the truth. John Roy was then kindly received at the table of the laird, who asked him what he could do for him. John Roy begged that Mackay would give him a bodyguard consisting of the twelve of his men whom he might choose, and the two dogs Cu-dubh and Faoileag. He got these, and they went away to Glas Leitire in Kintail, taking with them an anker of whisky. Arriving there John Roy placed his twelve men in concealment, and went himself to the house of Iain Liath Macrae. It was the early morning, and the old wife was spinning on the distaff. She looked out, and saw a man there. She called to Iain Liath, who was still lying down, "There is a man out yonder sitting on a creel, and I never saw two knees in my life more like John Roy's two knees." Iain Liath got up, went to the door, and called out "Is that you John?" John Roy answered that it was. "Have you any with you?" "Yes, I have twelve men." "Fetch them," said Iain Liath. He killed the second bull, and feasted them all. Then he told John Roy that Mackenzie of Kintail was coming that very day to hunt on the Glas Leitire hills of his (John Roy's) fathers. John Roy, with his twelve men and Iain Liath, went to the hill, taking the whisky with them. Mackenzie arrived to hunt the deer, and when he saw John Roy and his men, he sent a fair-haired lad to inquire who they were. John Roy bade the boy sit down, and gave him whisky. Whenever he rose to go, more whisky was offered, and he was nothing loath to take it. Mackenzie, thinking the lad was long in returning, sent another boy, who was treated in the same way. Mackenzie then saw that John Roy had returned, so he went back with his followers to Brahan, and John Roy was not further molested by the lords of Kintail.

John Roy came back with Iain Liath to his house, when the latter told him that he had Hector Roy's chest with the title-deeds of Gairloch, and that John Roy must claim the estate. Iain Liath took all his belongings, and accompanied John Roy and his twelve men to Gairloch. They came to Beallach a Chomhla, at the side of Bathais [Bus] Bheinn. Coming down the mountain they found a good well, and there they rested and left the women and the cattle. The well is called to this day "Iain Liath's well." They met people who informed them that Iain Dubh Mac Ruaridh M'Leod, or Black [40]John the son of Rorie M'Leod, who was governor of the old castle of the Dun, was accustomed to walk every day across the big sand and to lie on the top of the Crasg to spy the country. The party went to the Crasg, and Iain Liath told Iain Dubh Mac Ruaridh M'Leod, whom they met there, that unless he left the castle before that night he would lose his head. M'Leod took the hint, and sailed away in his birlinn with all his valuables, except one chest containing old title-deeds, which came into John Roy's possession along with the castle.

It is said that after this John Roy had the resolution to wait on Colin Cam Mackenzie, lord of Kintail, who established him in all his lands. John Roy came of age about 1569, but it was not until 1606 that he received a charter erecting Gairloch into a free barony.

How John Roy came to revenge the assassination at the hands of Ruaridh MacAllan M'Leod of Gairloch, of the sons of Mac Ghille Challum of Raasay, and how this led to John Roy obtaining possession of the third part of Gairloch, which had been retained by the M'Leods since Hector Roy's time, will be related in our next chapter. John Roy had a long feud with the M'Leods, and it seems to have been nearly the end of the sixteenth century before they were finally expelled from Gairloch. In the latter part of this struggle John Roy was much assisted by his twelve valiant sons, several of whom, as will be seen, also figured in struggles with the M'Leods after they had abandoned Gairloch.

John Roy was twice married. By his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Angus Macdonald of Glengarry, he had eleven children. By his second wife, Isabel, daughter of Murdo Mackenzie of Fairburn, he had five children. Besides these he had several illegitimate children. The recorded pedigrees give the names of only eleven sons; but tradition says that, as John Roy's family grew up, his bodyguard of twelve chosen warriors was composed solely of his own sons.

The northern lairds, like the nobility further south, profited by the alienation of church property which followed the Reformation. The rectory and vicarage of Gairloch was vacant for some years, and in 1584 we find John Roy dealing with the tiends or tithes. Disputes ensued, and ultimately John Roy seems to have abandoned his claim.

The ironworks at Letterewe were commenced about 1607 by Sir George Hay; they were on the property of Lord Mackenzie of Kintail. The iron-smelting furnace at Talladale was most likely established by Sir George Hay about the same time. No doubt woods on John Roy's Gairloch estate were cut down to provide charcoal for smelting, and if so John Roy must have derived pecuniary benefit from the Talladale ironworks, but there is no record to confirm this conjecture.

John Roy resided in Eilean Ruaridh, on Loch Maree. There are two islands of the name, distinguished as big and little; they almost adjoin. It was in the little island that John Roy dwelt, in the house where formerly Ruaridh M'Leod had lived. John Roy enlarged and improved the house, and made it his Gairloch home. [41]Some remains of the house and adjoining garden are still to be seen.

It was early in 1609 that John Roy paid a visit to the laird of Mackay in Sutherlandshire. On his return journey the laird of Mackay escorted him as far as the Meikle Ferry, on the Kyle of Sutherland. When the party arrived at the ferry, the groom of a gentleman, who was also about to cross, endeavoured to keep possession of the boat. Amongst the attendants of the laird of Mackay was his youthful piper, named Roderick Mackay, a fine lad of seventeen summers. The groom placed his hand on the boat to hold it until his master should come up. The hot-headed young piper drew his dirk and cut off the groom's hand. The laird of Mackay said, "Rorie, I cannot keep you longer; you must leave the country." John Roy Mackenzie said to the piper, "Will you come with me, Rorie?" The piper lad was only too glad to accept this invitation, and his master, who had a great liking for the handsome and talented boy, was quite willing that he should go with John Roy, who sent Hugh Mackenzie of Gairloch, his gamekeeper, to the laird of Mackay in exchange for the piper. The descendants of Hugh Mackenzie still dwell in Sutherlandshire, where it is remembered how their ancestor came from Gairloch. Donald Mor Mackay, an elder brother of Rorie the piper, spent a number of years in Gairloch, and assisted his brother in the office of piper.

In the following winter—probably early in 1610—Kenneth, Lord Mackenzie of Kintail (son of Colin Cam), who had lately obtained a charter to the Lews, and had been raised to the peerage, returning from his new possessions, landed at Torridon on his way home to Brahan. His lordship sent a messenger to John Roy Mackenzie, desiring him to meet him at Torridon. John Roy's growing power had revived the old jealousy of the Kintail family, and Lord Mackenzie had determined to slay him. John Roy's sons strongly dissuaded their father from going to Torridon, fearing that he might share the fate of his father, but he determined to go, and to go alone. He requested his sons to follow him, and to keep watch, but to do nothing until the morning of the following day. Towards evening John Roy arrived at Torridon, and was hospitably received by Lord Mackenzie. He and his men were drinking and making merry far into the long winter night. At last they resolved to retire to sleep. It was in a barn where their couches of heather were prepared. John Roy would not lie down except on the same bed as Lord Mackenzie. He lay quite still as if asleep. After a while a man came in, with his dirk drawn, and asked Lord Mackenzie if he should stab John Roy. Lord Mackenzie replied, "No, you shall not befoul my bed; let be until daylight." At daybreak a man came hurriedly into the barn, and told his lordship that there were twelve big men and a piper on the Ploc of Torridon, putting the stone and playing other Highland games, and that one who seemed to be the chief of them was so tall that he had the head above the whole of them. Lord Mackenzie got up and went out in some alarm. No one knew who the men were, until Lord Mackenzie asked John Roy. [42]John Roy said, "They are only my boys come to see if I got safe over the hill." It was a hard winter, and the snow was deep on the mountains. Lord Mackenzie then told John Roy that he had been thinking to do him harm. John Roy said, "If you had had the supper you intended, you would have had a dirty breakfast." When the young men saw their father they told the piper to play; they came up to where their father was and took him away with them. They went over the shoulder of Liathgach, and the piper played all the way to the top of the hill without a halt. Then they made their way homewards, and reached their house in Eilean Ruaridh without mishap. The man who was a head taller than any of the others was Alastair Breac, second son of John Roy, and his successor in Gairloch. The piper was Donald Mor Mackay, brother of John Roy's piper Rorie.


The terrible feud between the Glengarry Macdonalds and the Mackenzies of Kintail came to a head during John Roy's life. He was not involved in the warfare, and it is unnecessary to give any account of it in these pages. During its blood-stained progress Alexander MacGorrie and Ranald MacRory, allies of Glengarry, made an incursion to the district of Kenlochewe, and there meeting some women and children who had fled from Lochcarron with their cattle, attacked them unexpectedly, killed many of the defenceless women and all the male children, and killed and took away many of the cattle, houghing all they were unable to carry along with them. At this time Kenlochewe seems to have still formed part of the Kintail possessions.

Later on we find that the lord of Kintail was staying on a visit with John Roy at his house in Eilean Ruaridh in Loch Maree. There is some confusion or obscurity in the dates, but it seems certain that this visit was after the incident at Torridon; it shows that the enmity [43]between the Kintail and Gairloch Mackenzies was now at an end, and we hear no more of it.

When the M'Leods were finally expelled from Gairloch, and all the fights to be recorded in our next chapter were over, John Roy applied to the crown for a "remission" for himself and his sons for their lawless conduct during the struggle, and this was granted by King James VI. on 2d April 1614, in a document now in the Gairloch charter-chest, which gives John Roy and his sons credit for "much and good benefit to His Majesty's distressed subjects."

John Roy acquired some properties in the part of Ross-shire, towards the east coast, partly in right of his mother and partly by purchase. He built the first three storeys of the tower of Kinkell, and no doubt himself resided there at times. He was a shrewd and prudent chief, frank and hospitable, and (notwithstanding his necessarily imperfect education) a good man of business. He greatly furthered the interests of his people and of his own large family.

He died at Talladale in 1628, in his eightieth year, and was buried in the chapel his son Alastair Breac had erected in the old churchyard of Gairloch.

Chapter XII.

Expulsion of the M'Leods from Gairloch.

The stories of the various contests, extending over more than a century, during which the M'Leods were gradually expelled from Gairloch, fill a large page in the traditional history of the parish.

We have seen how Allan M'Leod, laird of Gairloch, was assassinated (along with his two little boys) by his jealous brothers, and how this led to the commission of fire and sword being granted by the king about the year 1480, directing Hector Roy Mackenzie to exterminate the Gairloch M'Leods. It must have been in Hector Roy's time that Ruaridh M'Leod was driven from the island in Loch Maree which bears his name, for we find that before Hector Roy's death, and after the fight at Beallach Glasleathaid and other skirmishes, the M'Leods were restricted to one-third of Gairloch, being the parts to the east and south-east of the hill called the Crasg, so that they must from that time have only retained the two strongholds known as the Dun of Gairloch and the Uamh nam Freiceadain (Part I., chaps. vii. and ix.).

The following incident seems to have occurred during the struggles in which Hector Roy took part, and before the M'Leods had been ousted from the islands of Loch Maree.

At this time a Mackenzie, known as Murchadh Riabhach na Chuirce, or Brindled Murdo of the Bowie-knife, lived at Letterewe. The M'Leods still held the fortalice or crannog called Eilean Grudidh, in Loch Maree, about a mile distant from Letterewe. One of these M'Leods, named MacIain Dhuibh, or Black John's son, crossed over one day in his boat to the house of Brindled Murdo at Letterewe, [44]when the latter was away on an expedition among the hills. Only the women had stayed at home, and M'Leod is charged with a foul deed. He remained at Letterewe over night. Next day Brindled Murdo returned home, and finding what had happened, attacked M'Leod, who, becoming disabled, fled up the hills behind Letterewe. Seeing that Murdo was outrunning him, and knowing that his end had come, M'Leod stopped, and, as his pursuer approached, entreated that he might die in sight of his beloved Loch Maree. Brindled Murdo of the Bowie-knife refused his petition, and slew him where he stood, and there they buried him. The place is called to this day Feith Mhic Iain Dhuibh, i.e. "the bog of Black John's son." On the six-inch ordnance map it is called Glac Mhic Iain Dhuibh, or "the dell of Black John's son."

During the time of John Glassich Mackenzie and his two elder sons, there are no records of the warfare with the M'Leods. It seems possible that both Hector and Alastair Roy, sons of John Glassich, were slain by M'Leods of Gairloch, though some suppose that their deaths were the result of the continued hostility of their relatives of Kintail.

About the time that John Roy Mackenzie, youngest son of John Glassich, came to Gairloch, Ruaridh MacAllan M'Leod, head of the M'Leods of Gairloch, who had the soubriquet of Nimhneach, or "venomous," committed a fearful crime. It will be remembered that John Roy's deceased brother, Alastair Roy, had married the daughter of Iain MacGhille Challum M'Leod, laird of Raasay (called Iain na Tuaighe, or John of the Axe), by his marriage with Janet, daughter of John Mackenzie, lord of Kintail. Iain MacGhille Challum had given great offence to his clan, the Siol Mhic Ghille Challum, by marrying his daughter to a Gairloch Mackenzie. After the death of Janet Mackenzie, his first wife, Iain MacGhille Challum had married a sister of his relative, the before-named Ruaridh MacAllan M'Leod. There were sons by both marriages. Ruaridh MacAllan, taking advantage of the discontent of the Siol Mhic Ghille Challum, plotted the destruction of MacGhille Challum and his sons by his first marriage, hoping that his own nephew, the eldest son of MacGhille Challum's second marriage, would then inherit Raasay. Ruaridh MacAllan induced MacGhille Challum, and his sons by the first marriage, to meet him at the island of Isay, in Waternish, on the pretence that he desired to consult them on matters of importance. After entertaining them at a feast he retired to another room, and then caused them to be summoned singly to his presence. As each came forward he was assassinated. The eldest son of the second marriage, then a young boy, who was in an inner apartment, hearing the dying screams of one of his half-brothers, called out in an agony, "That's my brother's cry!" "Never mind," said the ruthless Ruaridh MacAllan, "his screams will make you laird of Raasay." Donald Gregory, in his history, says that the Mackenzies of Gairloch pursued Ruaridh Mac Allan, in revenge for the murder of Iain Mac Ghille Challum's sons, whose mother had been Janet Mackenzie, and whose sister had been the wife of John Roy's brother. At this time there [45]was a great feud between Ruaridh M'Leod of the Lews, assisted by Neil Angusson M'Leod of Assynt and by the blood-stained Ruaridh Mac Allan of Gairloch on the one hand, and Colin Mackenzie, lord of Kintail (assisted by other chiefs), fighting on behalf of his cousin Torquil Connanach M'Leod, on the other hand. It is unnecessary in these pages to state the origin and course of this dispute. Donald Gregory tells us that John Roy Mackenzie, impelled no doubt by the motive of revenge already mentioned, was most active on the side of his relative of Kintail. In June 1569 the Regent Murray and his council sat at Inverness, and put a stop for the time being to the feud so far as the leaders were concerned, but their intervention did not make an end of John Roy's vengeful proceedings against Ruaridh Mac Allan M'Leod of Gairloch. The warfare between these chieftains is said to have been long and fierce. Ultimately Ruaridh Mac Allan was slain—probably shot—by the great MacRae archer, Domhnull Odhar Mac Iain Leith, of whom more anon. It seems to have been nearly the end of the sixteenth century before John Roy finally expelled the M'Leods from Gairloch. They had long since abandoned the Dun of Gairloch, and were now driven from the Uamh nam Freiceadain, their last stronghold in the parish.

The savage nature of this prolonged struggle is illustrated by the tradition, that a number of M'Leods were hung on gallows erected on a hillock a little to the north of the Free Church at Kenlochewe. The hillock is called to this day Cnoc a Chrochadair, or "the hangman's hillock." They say that Domhnull Odhar took part in the capture of the M'Leods who were executed here.

It was after the expulsion of the M'Leods that the affair of Leac nan Saighead occurred. Many of the M'Leods who had been driven from Gairloch had settled in Skye. A number of young men of the clan were invited by their chief to pass Hogmanay night in his castle at Dunvegan. There was a large gathering. In the kitchen there was an old woman, who was always occupied in carding wool. She was known as Mor Ban, or Fair Sarah, and was supposed to be a witch. After dinner was over at night the men began to drink, and when they had passed some time thus they sent into the kitchen for the Mor Ban. She came, and sat down in the hall with the men. She drank one or two glasses, and then she said it was a poor thing for the M'Leods to be deprived of their own lands in Gairloch and to live in comparative poverty in Skye. "But," says she, addressing the whole party, "prepare yourselves and start to-morrow for Gairloch, sail in the black birlinn, and you shall regain Gairloch. I shall be a witness of your success when you return." The men being young, and not over-burdened with wisdom, believed her, because they thought she had the power of divination. They set sail in the morning for Gairloch, and the black galley was full of the M'Leods. It was evening when they came into the loch, and they dare not risk landing on the mainland, for they remembered that the descendants of Domhnull Greannach (a great Macrae) were still there, and they knew their prowess only too well. They therefore turned to the south side of the loch, and fastened their birlinn to Fraoch Eilean, in [46]the shelter opposite Leac-nan-Saighead, between Shieldaig and Badachro. They decided to wait there till morning, then disembark and walk round the head of the loch. But all the movements of the M'Leods had been well watched. Domhnull Odhar MacIain Leith and his brother Iain Odhar MacIain Leith, the celebrated Macrae archers (sons of Iain Liath, mentioned in Part I., chap. xi.) knew the birlinn of the M'Leods, and they determined to oppose their landing. They walked round by Shieldaig and posted themselves before daylight at the back of the Leac, a protecting rock overlooking Fraoch Eilean. The steps on which they stood at the back of the rock are still pointed out. Donald Odhar, being a short man, took the higher of the two steps, and Iain the other. Standing on these steps they crouched down in the shelter of the rock, whence they commanded a full view of the island on which the M'Leods were lying here and there, while the Macrae heroes were invisible from the island. They were both celebrated shots, and had their bows and arrows with them. As soon as the day dawned they opened fire on the M'Leods; a number of them were killed before their comrades were even aware of the direction whence the fatal arrows came. The M'Leods endeavoured to answer the fire, but not being able to see their foes, their arrows took no effect. In the heat of the fight one of the M'Leods climbed the mast of the birlinn, for a better sight of the position of the foe. Iain Odhar took his deadly aim at him when near the top of the mast. The shaft pierced his body and pinned him to the mast. "Oh," says Donald, "you have sent a pin through his broth." So the slaughter continued, and the remnant of the M'Leods hurried into the birlinn. They cut the rope and turned her head seawards, and by this time only two of them were left alive. So great was their hurry to escape that they left all the bodies of their slain companions on the island. The rumour of the arrival of the M'Leods had spread during the night, and other warriors, such as Fionnla Dubh na Saighead and Fear Shieldaig, were soon at the scene of action, but all they had to do was to assist in the burial of the dead M'Leods. Pits were dug, into each of which a number of the dead bodies were thrown, and mounds were raised over them, which remain to this day as any one may see. The name Leac-nan-Saighead means "the flat stone of the arrows."

Donald Odhar is credited with a similar feat to that performed by his brother Iain at Leac-nan-Saighead. It was probably before the affair at that place that a birlinn, manned by M'Leods, came in to the bay, now called the Bay of Charlestown, to reconnoitre Gairloch. Donald Odhar was on the hill behind Flowerdale, called Craig a Chait, and as usual carried his bow and arrows. He saw the Macleods enter the bay; one of them climbed the mast of the vessel for a better view, when Donald Odhar, taking advantage of the comparatively distinct mark thus presented, let fly an arrow with unerring aim, and pinned the unfortunate M'Leod to the mast. The distance traversed by the arrow cannot have been less than half a mile.

Fionnla Dubh na Saighead was a relative of Donald Odhar [47]and Iain Odhar, and was also of the Macraes of Kintail. Finlay usually lived at Melvaig. As a marksman he was on a par with Donald Odhar. In his day young M'Leod, laird of Assynt, came to Gairloch in his birlinn to ask for a daughter of John Roy in marriage. He was refused, and set off northwards on his return voyage in his birlinn, which was manned with sixteen oars. They rowed quite close to the land round Rudha Reidh, the furthest out headland of the North point; Rudha Reidh was then known as Seann Rudha, a name which is still sometimes given to it. Fionnla Dubh na Saighead sat on a rock as the birlinn passed. He called out, "Whence came the heroes?" They replied, "We came from Gairloch." "What were you doing there?" said Finlay. "We were asking in marriage the daughter of Mackenzie of Gairloch for this young gentleman." "Did you get her?" said Finlay. They replied, "Oh, no." Finlay dismissed them with a contemptuous gesture and an insulting expression. They passed on their way without molesting him, because they had no arms with them. Young M'Leod brooded over the insult he had received from Finlay Macrae, who was well known to him by repute. He soon returned with his sixteen-oared birlinn, manned by the choicest warriors of Assynt, to take vengeance on Finlay, who noticed the galley and guessed who were its occupants. He called for one Chisholm, his brother-in-arms, and the two of them proceeded to a leac, or flat stone, close to the edge of the low cliff about a mile north of Melvaig; the leac is still pointed out. They reached this place before the Macleods could effect a landing. On the way the Chisholm said to Finlay, "You must leave all the speaking to me." As the birlinn drew near Chisholm called out, "What do you want?" "We want Fionnla Dubh na Saighead." "You won't get him, or thanks," said Chisholm; "go away in peace." The M'Leods began to threaten them. "If that is the way," said Chisholm, "let every man look out for himself." The contest (cath) began. Finlay and Chisholm were well sheltered at the back of the leac. A number of the M'Leods were killed by the arrows of the two heroes on shore, whilst they themselves remained uninjured. The M'Leods, finding their losses so severe, soon thought that discretion was the better part of valour, and, turning their birlinn northwards, departed for their own country. They never again molested Finlay.

There is an elevated place on the north point of Gairloch, called Bac an Leth-choin, or "the hillock of the cross-bred dog." About mile to the east, and much lower, is a ridge called Druim Carn Neill, or the "ridge of the cairn of Neil." Fionnla Dubh na Saighead one day spied a man named Neil M'Leod near his own house at Melvaig, at the south-west corner of the North Point. Finlay fired an arrow at the man and wounded him. Neil, who was a swift runner, fled eastwards over the high ground. Finlay gave chase, accompanied by a cross-bred dog, a sort of lurcher, which followed on the track of Neil. When Finlay reached the Bac an Leth-choin he caught sight of Neil, and shot him dead at the Druim Carn Neill. Neil was buried where he fell, and a cairn was raised [48]over his grave. Both the Bac an Leth-choin and the Druim Carn Neill are shown to the north of Inverasdale on the six-inch ordnance map. Some remains of Neil's cairn are still pointed out.

It would seem that the Gairloch M'Leods did not soon give up all hope of regaining their former territory, for we find that in 1610 a severe engagement took place between Mackenzies and M'Leods at Lochan an Fheidh (sometimes wrongly spelt Lochan a' Neigh), on the west side of Scoor Dubh, above Glen Torridon, just past the southern corner of Gairloch. The Mackenzies, under the leadership of Alastair Breac, John Roy's second son, and assisted by Donald Odhar and other MacRaes, completely routed the M'Leods, who were commanded by Iain MacAllan Mhic Ruaridh (now the representative of Allan M'Leod, formerly laird of Gairloch), accompanied by his uncle John Tolmach M'Leod. Iain MacAllan was taken prisoner; many of his followers were killed, seventeen or eighteen taken prisoners, and the few who escaped with John Tolmach were pursued out of the district. The slain M'Leods were buried on the field of battle, where their graves are still pointed out; nettles are growing about them to-day.

In August 1611 Murdo Mackenzie, third son of John Roy, with a party of Gairloch men, set sail for the Isle of Skye in a vessel well stocked with wine and provisions, with the object of carrying off the daughter of Donald Dubh MacRuaridh, a cousin of Iain MacAllan. A marriage between John Roy's son and Donald Dubh's daughter would have vested the ancient rights of the Gairloch M'Leods in the Mackenzies. Some say that Murdo's intention was also to seize John Tolmach M'Leod, who had escaped from Lochan an Fheidh. The ship was driven by a storm into a sheltered bay off Kirkton of Raasay, where young M'Leod, the laird of Raasay, at that time resided. Here Murdo Mackenzie cast anchor. Young Raasay hearing that Murdo was on board, resolved to attempt to secure him by stratagem, in order to get him exchanged for his relative Iain MacAllan Mhic Ruaridh, still a prisoner in Gairloch. Raasay, with Gille-challum Mor and twelve men, started for the ship, leaving orders for all the men in Raasay to be in readiness to go out to their assistance in small boats as soon as the alarm should be given. Murdo Mackenzie received his visitors in the most unsuspecting manner, and hospitably entertained them with as much wine and other viands as they could consume, sitting down with them himself. All his men joined in the revelry, except four heroes, who, feeling a little suspicious, abstained from drinking. Ultimately most of the party became so drunk that they retired to sleep below deck. Murdo Mackenzie remained sitting between Raasay and Gillie-challum Mor, when Raasay suddenly started up and told him he must become his prisoner. Murdo in a violent passion threw Raasay down, exclaiming, "I would scorn to be your prisoner." In the struggle which ensued one of Raasay's men drew his dirk and stabbed Murdo Mackenzie through the body, and he fell overboard. Being a good swimmer, he was making for Sconser on the opposite shore of Skye, when the Raasay men, who had heard the row, coming out in their small [49]boats, pelted Murdo with stones and drowned him. The four heroes who had abstained from drink now fought nobly for their lives. The other members of Mackenzie's party were all slain, but not a soul of the Raasay men ultimately escaped alive from the dirks of the four abstaining Mackenzies. The small boats surrounded the vessel, and the Raasay men attempted to board her, but were thrown back, and slain without mercy by her four gallant defenders, one of whom, Hector MacKenneth, was however killed by a chance shot or arrow from one of the boats. The other three managed to cut their anchor cable, hoist their canvas, and sail away before a fresh breeze, with their horrible cargo of dead bodies lying about the deck. As soon as they were out of danger they threw the bodies of Raasay and his men overboard. It is said that none of the bodies were ever found except that of Gille-challum Mor, which came ashore on Raasay. The bodies of the dead Mackenzies, and of Bayne of Tulloch who had accompanied them, were taken to Lochcarron and buried there. The three heroes who survived were Iain MacEachainn Chaoil, Iain MacCoinnich Mhic Eachainn, and Coinneach MacSheumais; the first named lived for thirty years after, dying in 1641, the second died in 1662, and the third in 1663—all very old men. This seems to have been the last conflict between Mackenzies and M'Leods, and the Mackenzies have ever since held undisputed possession of Gairloch.

Chapter XIII.

Alastair Breac, and his Son and Grandson.

Alexander, second son of John Roy Mackenzie, succeeded his father in 1628 as chief of Gairloch, his elder brother having died without male issue during the father's lifetime. Alexander was known as Alastair Breac; the soubriquet "breac" means "pock-pitted," and had reference to traces of smallpox, then a terrible scourge in the Highlands. He was fifty years of age when he succeeded his father. He was a very tall man, being as we saw in Part I., chap. xi., a head above all his brothers, who were themselves fine men. Not only was he mighty in stature, but he was also a renowned warrior. It was he who led the Mackenzies in the battle at Lochan an Fheidh in Glen Torridon, described in our last chapter, when the M'Leods were completely routed; and he is said to have been his father's principal assistant and agent in finally expelling the M'Leods from Gairloch. He is described as having been "a valiant worthy gentleman."

He was twice married, and had twelve children. He added by purchase or arrangement to the family estates. He seems to have mostly resided on Eilean Suainne in Loch Maree, where he died; his father's house and garden on Eilean Ruaridh were still in existence in his days, and he certainly used at times the old Temple house at Flowerdale.


In the days of Alastair Breac, Gairloch was still subject to raids, especially by cattle-lifters from Lochaber. The Loch Broom men used often to assist the people of Gairloch in repelling invaders. The trysting-place of the Gairloch and Lochaber men was at the spring or well just below the present road at the head of Glen Dochartie. The present road has buried the well, but the water is still there.

There lived a man in Lochaber in those days called Donald, the son of Black Donald. He was a cross man, and a choice thief. He had a brother known as Iain Geal Donn, or White-brown John, and there was only one other man in all Scotland who was a better "lifter" of cattle than these two. Donald sent word to Alastair Breac, laird of Gairloch, that he would "take spoil of him, and no thanks to him." On a previous occasion Donald had been foiled in an attempt to rob Gairloch. Alastair Breac sent for Alastair Buidhe Mackay, from Strath Oykell in Sutherlandshire, who was the strongest and most valiant man he could hear of in the three counties, and him he appointed captain of his guard. Iain Geal Donn came with his men to An Amilt, in Easter Ross, and there they "lifted" eleven cows and a bull. They came with their spoil through Strath Vaich and Strath Conan to a place called Sgaird-ruadh, or Scardroy, where they stayed the night. It was they who gave this name to the place, because they had pushed the beasts so hard that blood came from them there in the night. Alastair Buidhe Mackay had a Lochaber lad for his servant, and it was this lad who told him for certain that the thieves were stopping that night at a shieling bothie at Scardroy. Mackay and his servant hurried away to Scardroy. There he put the muzzle of his gun to the lad's body, and made him swear to be faithful to him. They moved on to the bothie, and there Mackay again made the lad swear to be true to him, and not to let any of the thieves come out alive. The Lochaber thieves were in the bothie quite unsuspicious, roasting a portion of the bull. Mackay posted his servant at the door, whilst he himself climbed on the other end of the bothie. He quietly lifted the lower edge of a divot on the roof, and peeped in to see what was going on. He saw Iain Geal Donn looking very jolly, and warming the backs of the calves of his legs at the fire. Iain suddenly turned round, and said to his men who were about the fire roasting the meat, "Look out! I am getting the smell of powder." Before he could say another word, the charge from Mackay's gun was lodged in the small of his back. The instant he had fired the shot, Mackay rushed to the door to assist his servant, and the two of them slew all the Lochaber men as they came to the door, except one who got off by a fluke, and he had the heel cut off one foot! They followed him a little way, but were too tired to catch him. They returned to the dead bodies at the bothie, and ate their fill of the meat that was roasting. They sewed up the body of Iain Geal Donn in the bull's hide, and put the roasting spit across his mouth. Then they went away, leaving the dead in the bothie. Alastair Buidhe Mackay returned west to Gairloch, and told the laird what he had done. Alastair Breac was so pleased with the account, [51]that he sent a running gillie at once to Brahan with a letter to tell Lord Mackenzie of Kintail what had occurred. Who should happen to be dining with Lord Mackenzie but Cameron of Lochiel! When his lordship had read the letter, he threw it over to Lochiel, saying, "There is blood on you over there, you thieves." Lochiel was so stung that he left the dinner untouched, and went straight home to Lochaber. He sent gillies to Scardroy, and they brought away the body of Iain Geal Donn. They buried him in Corpach in Lochaber, where his memorial cairn stands to this day. Soon after this, Lochiel meditated a raid on Gairloch; he thought he would make it hard for Alastair Breac, in revenge for the slaughter of the Lochaber men. When Alastair Breac heard of this, he collected four score men to keep back the Lochaber invaders. They were with the laird all night in the old house called the Temple, now the head-gardener's house at Flowerdale. They were a ragged crew, but they were strong and they were brave. In the morning they went away, and soon reached the Great Black Corrie of Liathgach. There were shieling bothies at the foot of the glen, and the Gairloch men thought their Lochaber foes might be lying in ambush in the bothies. Alastair Ross from Lonmor volunteered to go and see if the Lochaber men were in the bothies, which were not in use at that time of the year; he was not much in his clothing, but he did not lack pluck. He went to the bothies, and in a loud voice challenged the Lochaber men to come out. But he got no answer. The Lochaber men, fortunately for themselves, had not come forward, having heard of Alastair Breac's preparations to resist them. The Gairloch men got the news of the retreat of the Lochaber men from the people of Coire Mhic Cromail in Torridon, who at the same time assured them they would have assisted them against the invader had they come. Our ragged rabble, without pride or fear, returned to Gairloch, and spent the night with Alastair Breac in the Temple house, with music, drinking, and revelry. It was on their tramp homewards that they met at Kenlochewe Ruaridh Breac, son of Fair Duncan, the old bard who lived at Cromasaig, and he composed the celebrated song to the "Guard of the Black Corrie."

The story of the watch at Glac na Sguithar belongs to the same period. The dell bearing that name is to the east of the head of Glen Dochartie. Then almost all the proprietors in the Highlands paid blackmail to Colla Ban; consequently he made no raids upon their territories; and if others made raids upon them, Colla made good the loss. The laird of Gairloch refused to pay blackmail to Colla, and he sent him word that he had many brave men in Gairloch, therefore he would give blackmail to no one. Colla replied, "He would soon make a raid upon Gairloch, and before driving away the spoil he would sleep a night in the laird of Gairloch's bed." Upon hearing this Mackenzie called out the bravest and strongest of the Gairloch men, and he sent them to keep guard in the passes through which the Lochaber men were most likely to advance northward. There were thirty picked men in the Coire Dubh, and an equal member in Glac na Sguithar. In each guard Mackenzie had [52]his own near relations and kinsmen. At this time there was an inn at Luib, at the Gairloch end of Loch Rosque; it was on the green at the head of the loch, below where the present Luibmhor inn stands; the innkeeper was called Iain Caol. While the guard of Glac na Sguithar were on duty, late on a Saturday night, four of the Lochaber men, who had been sent on in advance to spy the land, took up their quarters in Iain Caol's hostelry. On Sabbath morning they sat round the fire in the one public room in the house, and Iain himself went out for a walk. He was not long away, but soon returned to the Cameron spies from Lochaber. Addressing them he said, "I see four of the Gairloch men from the watch at Glac na Sguithar coming this way. I am sure they will call in for their 'morning.' Go to the other end, where you slept last night, and remain there quietly for a little. They will soon be off again." This request displeased the Camerons, for they answered rather tartly, "Where did we ever see four from whose face we would turn away?" "Be that as it may," said Iain, "take my advice just now. You can see and hear all that may go on; and, when you do so, if you think it prudent to go among them, you can join them before they leave the house." They took his advice and retired. The four came in, each of them a scion of the Gairloch family, except one who was a Chisholm. Big Murdo, son of the good man of Shieldaig, sat at the far end of the bench next the partition; beside him Iain Gearr Mac Mhurchaidh Mhic Iain took up his position. The third was Murdo Roy; and Chisholm occupied the other end of the bench. Big Murdo of Shieldaig called for a bottle of whisky; they drank it. Iain Gearr called for another bottle, and they drank it. Murdo Roy called for a third bottle; they got it also, and drank it. Then Chisholm called for a bottle. "You have enough," said Iain Caol. "Is it because I am not one of the gentry that you refuse me?" said Chisholm, with rising ire: "Give me my bottle of your own good will, or I will have it against your will." They got the fourth bottle, and while they were discussing it Murdo of Shieldaig said to Iain Caol, "Do you ever see any of those braggarts from Lochaber who are troubling us, keeping us on guard away from home? I wish a few of them came, till we would have some sport with them." "Not a man of them ventures this way," said Iain Caol. The Gairloch men went away, and Iain accompanied them over the hill. Here they sat and drank Iain's bottle, which he had concealed under his arm. Then Iain returned, and found the Lochaber men sitting again at the fire. "Have I here the heroes who never saw men from whom they would retreat?" said Iain Caol to them. One of them replied, "We saw only two of them, but we never saw such men before. If one of them caught any of us, he could easily crush every bone of the body in his hand." So the Lochaber spies quietly returned home. The Camerons never again attempted to make a raid upon Gairloch, and Alastair Breac heard no more of their menaces.

Alastair Breac died 4th January 1638, aged sixty, and was buried in the chapel he had erected in the Gairloch churchyard.

He was succeeded by his eldest son Kenneth, sixth laird of Gairloch, [53]who was a strong royalist during the wars of Montrose and the Covenanters, and commanded a body of Highlanders at Balvenny, under Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine, and his own brother-in-law the Earl of Huntly, but when the royalist army was surprised and disarmed he managed to escape. As a malignant he was fined by the Committee of Estates for his adherence to the king (see Appendix F).

Kenneth added to the family property. He was three times married, and had eleven children. He built the Stankhouse, or "moat-house," on the site of the old Tigh Dige, and made his Gairloch home there. He died in 1669, and was buried in Beauly Priory, where his great-grandfather, John Glassich Mackenzie, had been interred.

Alexander, eldest son of Kenneth, became the seventh laird of Gairloch. He also added to the family estates. He was thrice married, and had six children. He seems to have lived a quiet life; he died in 1694, aged forty-two, and was buried in the burial-place in the Gairloch churchyard.

Chapter XIV.

The Baronets of Gairloch, and some other Gairloch Mackenzies.

Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, eldest son of Alexander, seventh laird of Gairloch, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia by Queen Anne on 2d February 1703. These baronetcies were frequently conferred upon proprietors who assisted in peopling Nova Scotia, then an object of great solicitude with the crown, so that it is possible the first baronet of Gairloch, or his father, may have promoted emigration among the Gairloch people. He was educated at Oxford, and represented Ross-shire in the Scottish Parliament, where he strongly opposed the Union. When in Gairloch he lived at the Stankhouse. He had six children. He died in December 1703, aged only thirty-two, and was buried in Gairloch in the old chapel within the churchyard, which was the burial-place of the family. This old chapel was roofed in 1704. The sum of thirty merks was then expended in "harling, pinning, and thatching Gairloch's burial place." At his death Sir Kenneth was deeply involved in debt.

Sir Alexander, eldest son of the first baronet, became the ninth laird of Gairloch when only three years of age. For want of means he and his sister Anne had to be brought up in tenants' houses. During his long minority some of the debts were paid off. In 1712 he was sent to the school at Chanonry, and after six years there he went to Edinburgh to complete his education. He afterwards made a foreign tour, and on his return in 1730 married his cousin Janet of Scatwell, by whom he had nine children. He was called by his people Seann Tighearna, and seems to have resided mostly in Gairloch, [54]for latterly his lady lived alone at Kinkell. In 1738 he pulled down the Stankhouse, which stood in a low marshy situation on the site of the old Tigh Dige, and built the present Flowerdale House on a raised plateau surrounded by charming woods and rugged hills, and with a southern aspect. The glen here was a perfect jungle of wild flowers before the introduction, long after this time, of sheep farming, and so Sir Alexander appropriately gave the name of Flowerdale to his new chateau.

The attempt of the unfortunate Prince Charlie to regain the throne of his ancestors occurred in the time of Sir Alexander. This prudent cautious baronet kept out of the "Forty-five," though some of his people fought with their fellow Highlanders at the fatal battle of Culloden.

It was shortly after that battle, when Prince Charlie was hiding on the west coast, that two vessels came to Sgeir Bhoora, the small island rock near Poolewe at the head of Loch Ewe, and remained there a short time waiting for a messenger, who was expected to bring gold sent by the court of France for Prince Charlie's use. Whether afraid of being caught in a corner by an English man-of-war, or impatient of the delay in the arrival of the messenger, the two vessels sailed away a few days before the occurrence of the incident about to be related.


There were at this time three brothers of the name of Cross, who were sons of one of the last of the Loch Maree ironworkers. One of them was a bard, who built a house at Kernsary, still called Innis a bhaird, or "the oasis of the bard." One of the bard's brothers, named Hector, who had become a crofter at Letterewe, was at a shieling at the Claonadh (or Slopes), at the back of Beinn Lair, above Letterewe, where he and other crofters grazed their cattle in summer. One day after the battle of Culloden a stranger, a young [55]Highlander, with yellow hair and clad in tartan, came to Hector's bothie and asked for shelter and refreshment. When the girl gave him a bowl of cream, he drank it off, and returned it to her with a gold piece in it. The news quickly spread among the shieling bothies that the stranger had gold about him. Soon after his departure from Hector's hospitable roof next morning, a shot was heard, and on a search being made the dead body of the young man was found, robbed of all valuables. The murder and robbery were ascribed to a crofter, whose name is well remembered, and whose descendants are still at Letterewe, for from that time the family had money. It is almost superfluous to add that no steps were taken to bring the murderer to justice; the unsettled state of the Highlands at the time would alone account for the immunity of the offender. It afterwards transpired that the murdered stranger had been a valet or personal servant to Prince Charlie, and that he had gone by the name of the "Gille Buidhe," or "yellow-haired lad." He was conveying the gold to his master, which had been sent from France, and it was to meet him that the two vessels had come to Sgeir Bhoora, near Poolewe. It seems he carried the gold in one end of his plaid, which had been formed into a temporary bag, an expedient still often resorted to in the Highlands. A portion of the Gille Buidhe's plaid formed the lining of a coat belonging to an old man at Letterewe in the nineteenth century. Kenneth Mackenzie, an old man living at Cliff (now dead), told me he had seen it.

The Gille Buidhe was not the only one to whom gold sent from France was entrusted in order that it might be taken to Prince Charlie. Duncan M'Rae, of Isle Ewe, who had been with the prince in his victorious days in Edinburgh, and had there composed a song entitled "Oran na Feannaige," received a small keg or cask of gold pieces for the use of the prince. It was soon after the date of the murder of the Gille Buidhe, that Duncan M'Rae and two other men brought the keg of gold across Loch Ewe from Mellon Charles to Cove, and then hid it in the Fedan Mor above Loch a Druing, where Duncan M'Rae, by means of the "sian," caused the cask to become invisible. In Part II., chap, xiv., the superstition illustrated by this incident will be described. They say the cask of gold still remains hidden in the Fedan Mor. Duncan M'Rae was one of the faithful Highlanders who did all that could be done to secure the prince's safety and serve his interests. It seems the incident must have occurred after the prince had fled to Skye.

About the same time as the murder of the Gille Buidhe, one of the men-of-war cruising in search of the prince came into the bay at Flowerdale, and the captain sent word to Sir Alexander Mackenzie to come on board. The latter thought he was quite as well ashore among his people, so he sent his compliments to the captain, regretting he could not accept his invitation, as he had friends to dine with him on the top of Craig a chait (the high rocky hill behind Flowerdale House), where he hoped the captain would join them. The reply was a broadside against the house as the ship sailed off. One of the cannon balls, "apparently about an 18 lb. shot," was [56]sticking half out of the house gable next to the sea in the youth of Dr Mackenzie (a great-grandson, still living, of Sir Alexander's), who adds, that "had the cannon ball hit but a few feet lower, it might have broken into a recess in the thickness of the gable, the admittance to which was by raising the floor at a wall press in the room above, although this had been forgotten, till masons, cutting an opening for a gable door to the kitchen, broke into the recess, where were many swords and guns. Then it was recollected that Fraser of Foyers was long concealed by our ancestor, and, of course, in this black hole."

Sir Alexander consolidated the family estates, and was a shrewd man of business. He was a kind landlord, and very popular with his people, though the conditions in the leases he granted would probably be considered oppressive in the present day. John Mackay, the celebrated "blind piper" (son of Rorie, who had been piper to John Roy Mackenzie and to his successors to the third generation), was piper and bard to Sir Alexander, who seems to have loved a quiet home life. He died in 1766, aged sixty-five, and was buried with his ancestors in the little chapel in the Gairloch churchyard.

He was succeeded by his eldest son Sir Alexander, tenth laird, who was called in Gairloch "An Tighearna Ruadh," or Alastair Roy, from the colour of his hair. He had also another soubriquet, viz., "An Tighearna Crubach," which had reference to a physical defect. Like his father, he travelled on the continent as a young man. Angus Mackay (son of the "blind piper") was his piper, and Sir Alexander left Angus in Edinburgh for tuition whilst he himself went abroad. This Sir Alexander built Conan House, about 1758, during his father's lifetime, and it still continues the principal residence of the baronets of Gairloch. He was twice married, and had six children.

His second son John raised a company, almost entirely in Gairloch, of the 78th regiment of Ross-shire Highlanders, when first embodied. He obtained the captaincy, and was rapidly promoted, becoming colonel of the regiment in 1795. He attained the rank of major-general in the army in 1813, and full general in 1837. He served with distinction, and without cessation, for thirty-five years, viz., from 1779 to 1814. From his personal daring and valour he became known as "Fighting Jack," and was adored by his men. He often said that it gave him greater pleasure to see a dog from Gairloch than a gentleman from anywhere else. He died, the father of the British army, on 14th June 1860, at the advanced age of ninety-six.

Sir Alexander (tenth laird) left his estates burdened with debt. He died on 15th April 1770 from the effects of a fall from his horse, and was buried with his forefathers at Gairloch.

Sir Hector Mackenzie, eldest son of the tenth laird, became the fourth baronet and eleventh laird of Gairloch. He was known among his people as "An Tighearna Storach," or the buck-toothed laird. He succeeded to the estates when a minor only twelve years of age. During the minority some of the debts were paid off, and in 1789 Sir Hector sold several properties (not in Gairloch) to pay off the balance of the debts. He lived at home, and managed his estates himself; [57]and though he kept open house throughout the year at Conan and Gairloch, he was able to leave or pay a considerable fortune to each of his sons. In 1815 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ross-shire. He only visited London once in his life, and appears to have divided his time nearly equally between Flowerdale House and Conan, which he enlarged. He was adored by his people, to whom he acted as father and friend. His character was distinguished by kindness, urbanity, and frankness, and he was considered the most sagacious and intelligent man in the county.

Though not tall, he was very strong, almost rivalling in this respect his famous ancestor Hector Roy. (See the reference to his powerful grasp in the account of Alexander Grant, the big bard of Slaggan.) Sir Hector was a great angler. (See Appendix E.) A curious anecdote, shewing how Sir Hector befriended his hereditary foe, Macleod of Raasay, will be given in Part II., chap. xxv.

John Mackay (son of Angus), the last of the hereditary pipers of the Gairloch family, was piper to Sir Hector, and Alexander Campbell was his bard, in whose life (Part II., chap xx.) will be found an anecdote illustrating Sir Hector's kindly disposition.

Sir Hector gave a great impetus to the Gairloch cod-fishing, which he continued to encourage as long as he lived. Christian Lady Mackenzie (Sir Hector's wife), who was called in Gairloch "A Bhantighearna Ruadh," seems to have been as much beloved as her husband. Sir Hector's fourth son, Dr John Mackenzie of Eileanach, still survives, and is well known as a thorough Highlander. A number of extracts from his MS. "Odd and End Stories" are included in these pages. Sir Hector died on 26th April 1826, aged sixty-nine, and was buried in Beauly Priory.

Sir Francis Alexander was the fifth baronet and twelfth laird of Gairloch. He followed the example of his father Sir Hector in his kindly treatment of his tenantry, for whose benefit he published in 1838 the book quoted further on, entitled "Hints for the Use of Highland Tenants and Cottagers, by a Proprietor." Sir Alexander was a great sportsman and practical farmer, and spent a considerable part of each year at Flowerdale House.

By his first wife Sir Francis had two sons, viz., Kenneth Smith, the present baronet; and Mr Francis Harford Mackenzie. By his second wife he had one son, Mr Osgood Hanbury Mackenzie of Inverewe, who has largely assisted in the preparation of this book. Sir Francis died on 2d June 1843, aged forty-four. His widow, the Dowager Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch, now resides at Tournaig, in the parish of Gairloch.

Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie, the sixth baronet and thirteenth laird of Gairloch, succeeded to the estates when a minor. Following the example of his immediate ancestors, he takes the lead in all local and county matters. Like his grandfather he is lord-lieutenant of his native county. He deals personally with his tenantry. His principal residence is Conan House, but he spends a portion of every year at Flowerdale in Gairloch. He was a member of the Royal Commission appointed 22d March 1883 to inquire into the condition of the [58]crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. This is not the place to offer any encomium on the present baronet of Gairloch, but it may be mentioned that the historian of the Mackenzies, himself a native of the parish, states that Sir Kenneth is "universally admitted to be one of the best landlords in the Highlands." Sir Kenneth married, in 1860, Eila Frederica, daughter of the late Walter Frederick Campbell of Islay.

There have been several collateral families of Mackenzies in Gairloch, to whom some reference must be made.

The Mackenzies of Letterewe were descended from Charles, the eldest son of Kenneth Mackenzie, sixth laird of Gairloch, by his third wife. By his father's marriage-contract Charles Mackenzie got Logie Wester, which in 1696 he exchanged with his half-brother Alexander, the seventh laird of Gairloch, for the lands of Letterewe. Letterewe continued in this family until Hector Mackenzie, in 1835, sold the estate to the late Mr Meyrick Bankes of Winstanley Hall, Lancashire. The present representative of the Letterewe family is Mr Charles Mackenzie, a lawyer in the United States of America; their representative in this country is Mr John Munro Mackenzie, of Morinish and Calgary. The present Letterewe House is an enlargement of the older residence of this family.

The Mackenzies of Lochend, or Kinloch (now Inverewe), sprang from John Mackenzie of Lochend, third son of Alexander, the seventh laird of Gairloch, by his second wife. They were tacksmen of Lochend, which belonged to the Coul Mackenzies, by whom it was ultimately sold to Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie in 1863. The old Lochend House stood where the walled garden of the present Inverewe House is.

The Mackenzies of Gruinard sprang from John Mackenzie, a natural son of George, second earl of Seaforth and fourteenth laird of Kintail, who, with Captain Hector Mackenzie, conveyed the news of the defeat of the Royalists by Oliver Cromwell at the battle of Worcester, in 1651, to his father in Holland, where the latter was at that time living in exile. This family produced several distinguished soldiers, especially Alexander, a colonel in the army, who served with the 36th Regiment throughout the Peninsular War. John Mackenzie, the fifth laird of Gruinard, who was a captain in the 73d Regiment, sold the property, which included Little Gruinard, Udrigil, and Sand, all in the parish of Gairloch, to the late Henry Davidson of Tulloch, who resold it to Mr Meyrick Bankes. William Mackenzie, the sixth head of this family, was a captain in the 72d Regiment, and is said to have been the handsomest man in his day in the Highlands. The Gruinard family increased rapidly. The first laird had eight sons and eight daughters, who all married. George, the second laird of Gruinard, was twice married; by his first wife he had fourteen sons and nine daughters, and by his second wife four sons and six daughters,—making the extraordinary total of thirty-three children, nineteen of whom at least are known to have married, and most of them into the best families of the north. The Gruinard family resided at Udrigil House, and subsequently at Aird House, both of which they built.


There was a family of Mackenzies settled at Kernsary who were descended from Murdo Mackenzie, fifth son of Colin Cam, the eleventh lord of Kintail. Murdo had a son and daughter. The son was killed in 1645 at the battle of Auldearn, where he commanded the Lews Mackenzie regiment.

In the seventeenth century the Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie, from Bute, purchased the Kernsary estate from the Mackenzies of Coul, to whom it then belonged. He was an Episcopalian clergyman, and held services in the little Inverewe church at the place now called Londubh, on the Kernsary estate, close to which he lived in the house now occupied by James Mackenzie. He married a daughter of Mackenzie of Letterewe. They had a son Roderick, who succeeded to the Kernsary property; so did his son Roderick. This second Roderick married Mary, sister of Mackenzie of Ballone; she was a beauty, and was known as Mali Chruinn Donn. Their son Alexander sold Kernsary to the Seaforth family some fifty years ago; his son, the Rev. Hector Mackenzie, was minister of Moy, and died a few years back.

In bringing to a close this account of the Mackenzies of Gairloch, their history and present position may be summarised thus:—A strong offshoot of the family of the earls of Ross separated from the parent stock, and having taken root in Kintail, developed into the illustrious family of the Kintail or Seaforth Mackenzies. Again, a vigorous branch of the Kintail Mackenzies took root in Gairloch, and culminated in the present series of the baronets of Gairloch. The earls of Ross disappeared centuries ago, and the family of Seaforth has become extinct in the direct male line, whilst their estates have melted away. The Gairloch family remain, and their fine property has increased in value. Although the present baronet does not claim the chieftainship of the whole clan, which is believed to belong to a more remote offshoot of the Kintail family, that dignity is now but a name, and Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Gairloch is to-day the most influential and distinguished of the great Mackenzie race.

The crest of the Gairloch Mackenzies is the figure of Donald Odhar, though some lairds of Gairloch have used the general crest of the Mackenzies, viz., the Cabar Feidh, or stag's head and horns. The badge of the Mackenzies is the deer grass, or stag's horn moss. Their war-cry or slogan is "Tulloch-ard," the name of a mountain in Kintail. This mountain has sometimes been used as a crest with the "warning flame" on its summit, representing the beacon whence the clan was apprised of danger.

Of pipe music the following tunes have been stated to be specially appropriated to the Mackenzies:—

Marches: Cabar Feidh and Gabhaidh sinn an rathad mor, usually called, "The high road to Gairloch."

Salute: Failte Uilleam Dhuibh (Black William's salute).

Gathering: Co-thional (Mackenzie's gathering).

Lament: Cumha Thighearna Ghearrloch (Laird of Gairloch's lament).

A list of the Mackenzie lairds of Gairloch is given in Table V.


Chapter XV.

Gairloch Estates, and Old Names of Places.

An account must be given here of the ways in which the different parts of the parish of Gairloch came into the hands of the present proprietors. It shall be brief. Some notes on old names of places are included.

Hector Roy Mackenzie is said, in an old MS., to have possessed, among other properties, "Kenlochewe, a district adjoining to Gairloch on the east." But after his time it belonged to the lords of Kintail, and subsequently to the Mackenzies of Coul, from whom Sir Alexander Mackenzie, ninth laird of Gairloch, purchased it in 1743, with the proceeds of the sale of Glas Leitire, in Kintail. Kenlochewe has belonged to the Gairloch baronets since that date. It extends from the west end of Loch Rosque to the water flowing from Glen Torridon past the village of Kenlochewe into the head of Loch Maree, and to a burn running down Slioch on the north-east side of that loch; it also extends six miles on the road from Kenlochewe village to Torridon.

Gairloch itself became the property of Hector Roy under charters from the crown, and has ever since remained the possession of the Gairloch Mackenzies. In the earliest document of title extant, a protocol from John de Vaux, sheriff of Inverness, dated 10th December 1494, "the landis of Gerloch," granted to Hector, and of which the sheriff gave him possession by that protocol, are described as "lyande betwix the watteris callyde Innerew and Torvedene, within the Shireffdome of Innerness." The boundaries thus stated for Gairloch are the waters of Ewe, i.e. Loch Maree, the river Ewe, and Loch Ewe on the north, and Torridon on the south. The sheriff's protocol was sealed at "Alydyll"—no doubt Talladale—"in Garloch," and that place has always formed part of Gairloch, as have also the islands of Loch Maree.

The retour, in 1566, of Alexander, second son of John Glassich Mackenzie, specifies "the lands of Garloch" as including "Garloch, Kirktoun, Syldage, Hamgildail, Malefage, Innerasfidill, Sandecorran, Cryf, Baddichro, Bein-Sanderis, Meall, Allawdill." Kirktoun seems to have been the designation of the place now called Charlestown, near Flowerdale, being near the old Gairloch church; Syldage represents Shieldaig; Malefage, Melvaig; Innerasfidill, Inverasdale; Sandecorran, Big Sand (of Gairloch); Cryf, Cliff (Poolewe); Baddichro, Badachro; Meall, Miole or Strath; and Allawdill must be Talladale. Hamgildail no longer exists.

In 1638 "Kenneth McKeinzie of Garloch was served heir male to his father, Alexander McKeinzie of Garloche, in the lands and barony of Garloche, including Kirktoun, with the manor place and gardens of the same, Sildag [Shieldaig], the two Oyngadellis [same as Hamgildail, in the retour of 1566], Mailfog [Melvaig], Debak [Diabaig], Inneraspedell [Inverasdale], Sandacarrane [Sandacarran, or Big [61]Sand], Badichro [Badachro], the two Sandis [north side of Loch Gairloch], Erredell [Erradale], Telledill [Talladale], Clive [Cliff, Poolewe], Tollie [same as now], and the two Nastis [Naast]; the lands of Ellenow [Isle of Ewe], Auldgressan [Altgreshan], with the waters and salmon fishings of Kerrie and Badechro, the half of the water of Ew, and the salmon fishings of the same, Achetcairne [Achtercairn], Meoll [Miole, or Strath], with the mill, Udroll, the loch of Loch Maroy [Loch Maree], with the islands of the same, and the manor place and gardens in the island of Ilinroy [Eilean Ruaridh], the loch of Garloch with the fishings of the same, with other lands in Ross, all united into the barony of Garloche and the town of Clive [Poolewe], with the harbour and shore of the same being part of the same barony of Garloch erected into a burgh of barony." This must have been a list of the inhabited places on the Gairloch estate two hundred and fifty years ago.

In a Dutch map of Ross-shire, by the famous geographer Blaeu, engraved by Pont, and dated 1662, kindly lent me by Mr D. William Kemp, some of the old Gairloch names are given with curious spellings. This map of Ross-shire purports to have been made by "R. Gordonius a Strath-loch." The map shows Telladull, Slotadull, Tawy, Yl Ew, Ruymakilvandrich, Dunast, Inner-Absdill, Melvag, Sanda, Erdull, Viroill, Meall, Achagacharn, Heglis Gherloch, Knokintoull, Ingadill, Shilkag, Padechry, Erradill, Typack (Diabaig), Ardetisag. Rudha Reidh is called Rowna Ra; the island of Longa is called Yl Lunga; the sea-loch of Gairloch is called Gher Loch; Loch Maree is called Loch Ew, which name is also given to the present Loch Ew, and the Garavaig river is called Alt Finnag. This last name seems to be for Allt Feannaige, or "the burn of the hoodie crow," a bird which still frequents the locality. These are all the names given on what was the original Gairloch estate. Of other names within the parish of Gairloch there are Inner Ew, Turnag, Drumnachoirk, Badfern, Oudergill, Sanda, Inoran, Ardlarich, Achabuy, Letyr Ew, Fowlis, Smirsary, Pinesdale, Achanaloisk, Glenmuik, Lecachy, Glen-dochart, Glas-Letyr, Heglis-loch-ew (apparently where Culinellan now is), and Groudy. The only mountain named is Bin Cherkyr. A large island on Loch Maree has the name Sow, probably intended for Suainne, which island had then previously been a residence of Alastair Breac, laird of Gairloch. Lochs Finn [Fionn loch], Dow [Dubh loch], Garavad [east of Letterewe], Fadd, and Clair, are the only lochs with names. It is curious that such places as Kenlochewe and Clive [Poolewe] are not named on this old map. The names that are given are very instructive when compared with the names in the old records just quoted. Ruymakilvandrich is not found elsewhere; it seems to be intended for Rudha Mac Gille Aindreas, or "the point of the son of Gillanders," i.e. of the servant of Andrew, and is applied to a small headland near Boor; it doubtless had reference to some incident long ago forgotten. Dunast [Dun Naast] is still the name of a rock close to Naast; from this name being given instead of Naast, it may be inferred that in the seventeenth century there was some part of the dun that stood there still remaining [62]The names Heglis Gherloch, Heglis-loch-ew, Knokintoull, and Achanaloisk, do not occur elsewhere, either in old descriptions or modern nomenclature. Viroill seems to be the same as Udroll in the description of 1638. The map shows it where Lonmor now is. The other names are easily identified. The place called Ingadill on this old map, Hamgildail in the retour of 1566, and Oyngadellis in 1638, has now entirely disappeared; it seems to have been at the mouth of the river Kerry. The map gives only two churches in Gairloch parish, viz., Heglis Gherloch, near where the present Gairloch church now stands, and Heglis-loch-ew, at the head of Loch Maree. The names of places given on the map most likely indicate the most populous localities at that date. Some of the names are spelt phonetically; thus Bin is the Gaelic pronunciation of Beinn, and Finn is still the pronunciation by the natives of the name of Fionn loch.

Alexander Mackenzie, seventh laird of Gairloch, bought the second half of the water of Ewe and Mellon Charles in 1671. The precise extent of this purchase does not appear. Mellon Charles still belongs to the Gairloch Mackenzies, as well as Isle Ewe, and the whole right to the salmon fishings of Loch Ewe, the River Ewe, and Loch Maree. To finish with the Gairloch estate of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, the present baronet, it may be mentioned that the Kernsary estate was purchased from the Seaforth family in 1844, very early in Sir Kenneth's minority, and was resold by his trustees to his half-brother Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie, in 1862, with the exception of the strip of territory extending from Inveran to Londubh on the north-east bank of the river Ewe, which, with Gairloch proper, Kenlochewe, Mellon Charles, and the Isle of Ewe, completes Sir Kenneth's possessions in the parish of Gairloch. They form a noble estate, which comprises more than three-fourths of the whole parish.

Letterewe unquestionably belonged to the Kintail or Seaforth family up to and including the early part of the seventeenth century. It was either acquired by Kenneth, sixth laird of Gairloch, at the time (about 1648) when he became cautioner for the Earl of Seaforth in a bond for five thousand merks, or else later on (in 1671) by his son Alexander as part of his acquisition of the second half of the water of Ewe. In 1696 this Alexander gave up Letterewe to his brother Charles in exchange for Wester Logie. Charles became the progenitor of the family of Mackenzie of Letterewe, who possessed the property until 1835, when it was sold to the late Mr Meyrick Bankes, whose daughter Mrs Liot Bankes is the present liferenter of it. It extends from Slioch, along the shore of Loch Maree, to a burn between Ardlair and Inveran, and back to Fionn loch. With Letterewe is held the old Gruinard estate; it includes all the lands on the promontory called the Greenstone Point, except Mellon Charles. The older annals of this property are complex, and need not be fully narrated here. It came into the possession of the Gruinard Mackenzies before 1655, and continued in the same family until 1795, when it was sold to Henry Davidson of Tulloch, who again sold it to the late Mr Bankes, about 1835, along with the other [63]parts of the Gruinard estate to the south of the Meikle Gruinard river. Mrs Liot Bankes is also liferenter of this property: it forms, with Letterewe, a fine estate, which covers just one-sixth of the parish of Gairloch.

The remaining property in Gairloch parish is that of Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie. It includes Kernsary (except the strip on the north-east side of the Ewe, which, as before stated, is Sir Kenneth's), Lochend or Inverewe, and Tournaig. Kernsary, as we have seen, was, after belonging to more than one family, purchased by Sir Kenneth's trustees in 1844, and sold by them to Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie in 1862. It was bought from the Seaforth family, who had acquired it as providing a port at Londubh, from which the island of the Lews, then their estate, was accessible. The Lochend and Tournaig properties were in 1863 purchased by Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie from Sir William Mackenzie of Coul, to whom they had come after having had a succession of proprietors. These and Kernsary now constitute Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie's charming estate of Inverewe, about one-sixteenth of the whole parish of Gairloch.

Chapter XVI.

Ecclesiastical History of Gairloch.

The chronological order of events, otherwise pretty closely adhered to in Part I., will be necessarily broken in this and the following chapters.

When we first hear of a church in Gairloch it was dedicated, as we should naturally expect, to St Maelrubha. It was a common kirk of the canons of Ross, and stood in what is still called the churchyard of Gairloch. The priests probably lived in the Temple house, as it was long called, which is now the dwelling of the head-gardener at Flowerdale. Possibly the little churches of Inverewe (now Londubh) and of Sand of Udrigil existed in pre-Reformation times, but they are not named in the Dutch map of 1662. There is a church shewn on that map called "Heglis Loch Ew," i.e. the church of Lochewe; it is at the head of Loch Maree, and was probably at Culinellan, near Kenlochewe. The map does not of course prove that this church existed before the Reformation, but it adds to the probability that it did so. It would be convenient of access for the monastics of Applecross. Little is known of the church history of Gairloch before the Reformation, which was consummated in Scotland about 1560.

Sir John Broik was rector of Gairloch at the time of the Reformation, and continued so until his death in 1583.

In 1560 Presbyterianism was established in Scotland, but it does not appear to have materially differed from the Episcopalianism it displaced, or rather absorbed, for it had superintendents whose office closely resembled that of bishops.

In 1572 the titles of archbishop and bishop were introduced, and [64]a form of Episcopacy established. The bishops, however, enjoyed but a small portion of the benefices, and were known as "Tulchan bishops." The origin of this epithet "tulchan," is curious:—When a calf died and the cow thereupon refused to give her milk, the skin of the calf was stretched on a wickerwork frame and moved about to make the cow believe it was sucking, whilst the maid was really taking the milk; the sham calf was called "Tulachan."

In 1592 Presbyterianism was restored by Parliament; and in 1598 Episcopacy was reintroduced.

In 1641 King Charles I. sanctioned Presbyterianism; and in 1643 the Westminster Assembly met, and the Solemn League and Covenant was signed.

In 1649 King Charles I. was beheaded, and James Grahame, Lord Montrose, began his struggle in behalf of the king and the cause of Episcopacy.

In 1651 Charles II. was crowned at Scone, and signed the Covenant. On the Restoration in 1660 Episcopacy was re-established.

In 1689, immediately after the Revolution, Presbyterianism was finally established.

These changes from Episcopacy to Presbyterianism, and vice versâ, had very little effect in the Highlands, where the clergy and people long clung to Episcopacy; only one or two keen Covenanters on the east coast maintained Presbyterianism. The change in the government of the church was so slight, that in the days of Episcopacy the bishop, when present, presided as moderator over the Presbytery, which then consisted, as now, of the ministers and elders within the bounds. It was not until well into the eighteenth century that Presbyterianism became popular in Gairloch, and even then it does not appear to have introduced any great changes in the church, or in the form of worship. The principal Christian festivals were observed in Gairloch until the nineteenth century.

A list of all the ministers of Gairloch, with the dates of their presentation, will be found in Table IV. There are a few facts and anecdotes about several of them, which are worth recording here.

The Rev. Alexander Mackenzie was in 1583 presented to the parsonage and vicarage of Gairloch, vacant by the decease of Sir John Broik. Mr Mackenzie was vicar of Gairloch in 1590. He was the first vicar of Gairloch appointed after the Reformation.

In 1608 the Rev. Farquhar MacRae was appointed vicar of Gairloch by Bishop Leslie of Ross. He is referred to in our account of the old ironworks of Loch Maree, and some passages of his life are given in Appendix A. He was one of the Macraes of Kintail. In 1610 he was sent by Lord Mackenzie of Kintail on a mission to the Lews, with the most beneficial results. Though he continued his ministerial work in Gairloch until 1618, and though in his biography he is said to have been minister of Gairloch for ten years, yet his official position as such seems to have terminated sooner, for we find that some time before 1614 the Rev. Farquhar Mackenzie, who had "laureated" at the University of Edinburgh on 31st July 1606, was admitted minister of Gairloch. Probably Mr MacRae restricted his [65]ministrations to those parts of Gairloch to the north of Loch Maree and Loch Ewe, which were then generally considered as in Loch Broom parish.

In 1649 the Rev. Roderick Mackenzie, third son of Roderick Mackenzie of Knock-backster, was admitted minister of Gairloch, and continued so until his death in March 1710, after an incumbency of sixty-one years. He seems to have been a man of quiet easy-going temperament. When he came to Gairloch Presbyterianism ruled; when Episcopacy was established in 1660, he conformed; and when the Revolution put an end to Episcopacy, he became a Presbyterian again. "Whatsoever king may reign, still I'll be vicar of Bray, sir!" The extracts from the presbytery records of the period, given in the first section of Appendix F, shew how careless this worthy minister was to obey the mandates of the presbytery. He married a sister of the laird of Knockbain, and had a son, Kenneth, born about 1703.

Some time during the seventeenth century the Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie, an Episcopalian clergyman, came from Bute, and bought the Kernsary estate. He resided in the proprietor's house at Kirkton, still standing close to the present Inverewe churchyard in Londubh, and officiated in the old church there, some remains of which are still to be seen. His great-great-grandson, the late Rev. Hector Mackenzie, minister of Moy, stated, some few years ago, that he remembered his grandmother Mrs Mackenzie of Kernsary (called Mali Chruinn Donn) shewing him an old prayer-book in an oak chest at the house at Kirkton, and that she said the chest and prayer-book had belonged to his ancestor who bought Kernsary. A loose stone may be seen in the part of the ruined church which was used as the burial-place of the Kernsary family; it is inscribed "K M K 1678," and is believed to have recorded the date when the Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie built or restored the little church. Possibly this clergyman chose Gairloch as a comparatively safe refuge for an Episcopalian in the covenanting times, and his services were most likely purely voluntary, and not intended to compete with those of the minister of the parish; or he may have voluntarily taken the place of Mr Farquhar MacRae as minister for those parts of Gairloch which were considered to be in Loch Broom parish.

The Rev. John Morrison became minister of Gairloch 1st March 1711. Although Presbyterianism had now been established for more than twenty years, it appears that some of Mr Morrison's parishioners still clung to Episcopacy, and in consequence the poor man had a bad time of it.

At the first meeting of the presbytery after his admission, Mr Morrison presented a petition, stating "that after two days sojourn, in going to preach, he was interrupted at Kenlochewe by the tenants of Sir John Mackenzie of Coul, who had laid violent hands on him and his servant, rent his clothes, made prisoners of them, and kept them three days under guard in a cottage full of cattle and dung, without meat or bedding the first two days, the tenants relieving one another in turn by a fresh supply every day. On the third day a short supply [66]was allowed, but they were yet kept prisoners in the same place without other accommodation. When the fifth day came Mr John was carried to Sir John's house, who declared no Presbyterian should be settled in any place where his influence extended, unless Her Majesty's forces did it by the strong hand."

Another example of the persecution of Mr Morrison is traditional in Gairloch. He was travelling on the east side of Loch Maree, and when at Letterewe was attacked by the inhabitants, who seized him, and having stripped him naked, bound him to a tree, where they left him. This would be about September 1711, and the midges were in full force. The sufferings of poor Mr Morrison are said to have been dreadful. Towards evening a woman of the place took pity on him and released him from his miserable position. Thus set free he escaped, and it was some time before he again visited his parish. It is a saying in Gairloch, that there has never been a really pious holy man in Letterewe since this outrage on a minister of the gospel was committed there!

Having thus no access to his parish, Mr Morrison, and a neighbouring clergyman who was in a similar plight, fled to Sutherland on 7th November 1711. On the petition of George Mackenzie of Gruinard, who "had built a little church at Udrigil at his own expense," Mr Morrison agreed (8th April 1713) to preach there once a year at least.

On 23d October 1716 Mr Morrison represented his grievances to the presbytery, and solicited an "act of transportation," or, in other words, prayed to be transferred to some other parish. On 12th November 1716 he stated that, "having no glebe, manse, or legal maintenance, he was obliged to take a tack of land, and that for three or four years successively his crops were destroyed by cattle. In the time of the rebellion the best of his cattle were taken away by the rebels, and very lately his house plundered of all provision to the value of four hundred merks." His solicitation was granted 14th November 1716, and he was transferred to Urray. It is said that the "tack of land" Mr Morrison took was in Tollie bay, and that he built a humble dwelling for himself close to the shore of Loch Maree. This was in the latter days of his short incumbency, after his return from Sutherlandshire. He conducted services in a turf-built church which stood by the shingly beach in Tollie bay. Old people now living say that they remember seeing the remains of the turf walls of Mr Morrison's church. Here is a curious story of this period:—It was nearly Christmas, probably in 1715, and whisky was required for the hospitality of the season. No whisky was made in Gairloch until long after this, but in Ferintosh, on the other side of Ross-shire, there was plenty of whisky distilled. Mr Morrison had a brother Rorie, who was also a minister. Rorie is said to have been the minister of Urray. If so, he must either have died about 1716, or have resigned to make room for his brother on the sudden transfer of the latter from Gairloch to Urray in that year. Early one morning the Rev. John Morrison sent off a man from Tollie with a horse to his brother at Urray for two casks of whisky. The man reached the [67]brother's house the same night. Rorie determined to play a trick on his brother, so when his brother's man was out of the way he made his own servants fill the two casks with water-gruel instead of whisky. Next day the man returned to Tollie, believing the casks to be full of whisky. It was Christmas eve when he reached Tollie, and a party was assembled to celebrate the festivities of the season. But when the casks were opened there was no whisky,—only water-gruel!

The Rev. James Smith, after an interregnum of five years caused by the difficulty of finding a clergyman willing to undertake the charge of this wild parish, succeeded Mr Morrison in 1721. In his day the Presbytery of Gairloch was erected. A sum of £1000 was allowed him by the Assembly, and the heritors or proprietors of the parish provided a manse with garden and glebe, and erected churchyard dykes. Mr Smith was a man of energy, and effected much in the way of reforming the morals of his people and spreading religion among them. In 1725 he had a missionary catechist at work, and he established a presbyterial library. In 1724 a school was established in Gairloch by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, but was removed to Strathglass in 1728 for want of encouragement by the people. However, the first parochial school in Gairloch was in operation before Mr Smith's removal.

Though under Mr Smith Presbyterianism appears to have made way in Gairloch, it was otherwise in the contiguous parish of Lochcarron. The hero of the following incident is said to have been the Rev. Mr Sage, first Presbyterian minister of Lochcarron. He was settled in Lochcarron in 1727, and in 1731 prayed the presbytery for "an act of transportability." Mr Sage, who was a very powerful man, was travelling on foot to Gairloch viâ Glen Torridon, accompanied by his servant, a mere boy, who carried the "bonnet" which held the provisions for the way. Two of Mr Sage's parishioners had conspired to put an end to his life. They followed him, and after a time joined company, beguiling the way with conversation, until a fit place should be reached for the carrying out of the projected murder. When they came to the burn of the Black Corrie the minister announced that the luncheon hour had arrived, and asked his parishioners to join him. He took the "bonnet" from the boy, and began to dispense the viands. The would-be assassins seated themselves quite close to the minister, one on either side, and the leader now at last mustered pluck enough to inform Mr Sage that he had been condemned to die, and that his hour had come. The powerful minister instantly threw an arm round the neck of each of the villains, and squeezed their heads downwards against each other and upon his own thighs with paralysing force, holding them thus until they were on the verge of suffocation, when, in response to their abject screams for mercy and promises of safety for himself, he released them from his strong pressure, and they went away both better and wiser, let us hope, for this display of the good minister's muscular Christianity.

The Rev. Æneas M'Aulay was minister of Gairloch from 1732 to [68]1758. He had bad health, and was often absent from his parish. He employed a catechist.

The Rev. John Dounie was minister of Gairloch from 1758 to 1773. In his time Mr Thomas Pennant visited Poolewe (Appendix B). He heard Mr Dounie preach in the church at Tollie Croft, or Cruive End, and stayed the night with him in the manse at Cliff, Poolewe. Pennant, in the preface to his "Tour," speaks in high terms of Mr Dounie.

The Rev. Daniel Mackintosh, who succeeded Mr Dounie, seems to have been in smooth waters, and religion flourished in his time. His incumbency extended from 1773 to his death in 1802. He wrote the paper on Gairloch in the Old Statistical Account (Appendix C), from which we learn that there was no division or dissent in the parish. He was greatly assisted in his labours by the support of the generous and enlightened baronet of Gairloch, Sir Hector Mackenzie, and his wife the beloved lady of Gairloch.

The Rev. James Russell was minister of Gairloch from 1802 to 1844. Some objection was made to his appointment on account of his imperfect Gaelic; but he was found to be advancing in his knowledge of the language. Notwithstanding his progress, some amusing stories are still told in Gairloch of the ludicrous mistakes he used to make in his Gaelic sermons. For instance, intending to mention the two she-bears that came out of the wood and tare the children who mocked Elisha, he used Gaelic words which made the animals to be she roebucks! Up to and during Mr. Russell's time the education of children in Gairloch, and the correction of adults for offences against morals, were in the hands of the presbytery. In 1825 the presbytery, having instructed Mr. Russell to deal with one of his parishioners charged with immorality, found that he was too remiss in so dealing, and suspended him from the office of the ministry. He appealed to the General Assembly, who reinstated him, and warned the presbytery to act with greater caution in future towards its members in such cases. The separate ecclesiastical (or "quoad sacra") parish of Poolewe was formed during Mr Russell's incumbency. The Rev. Donald MacRae was presented to the new church of Poolewe in 1830, though the separate parish was not declared to be such until an Act of Assembly on 25th May 1833, and was not erected by the Court of Teinds until 3d December 1851.

The Rev. Donald MacRae wrote the paper on Gairloch in the New Statistical Account (Appendix E).

In 1843 the secession from the Established Church of Scotland, usually termed the "Disruption," occurred, and the Free Church was formed. Mr MacRae seceded to the Free Church.

Mr Russell died in 1844, having been forty-two years minister of Gairloch. On the departure of his successor from Gairloch, the Rev. D. S. Mackenzie, the present minister of Gairloch, was appointed in 1850.

On the establishment of Presbyterianism, Gairloch was in the Presbytery of Dingwall. Several minutes show the difficulties in the way of the ministers of Gairloch attending the meetings of presbytery, [69]and of members of presbytery visiting Gairloch. Minutes of the presbyteries relating to these and other matters in Gairloch are extracted in Appendix F.

Sometime between July 1668 and June 1672 there seems to have been nominally a Presbytery of Kenlochewe, but it does not appear that this presbytery ever met, and there are no records of it extant. In 1672 Gairloch was reannexed to the Presbytery of Dingwall by the bishop and synod.

On 4th September 1683 the "Highland churches," including Gairloch, were annexed to the Presbytery of Chanonry. This step appears to have been intended as a punishment to the ministers of the Highland parishes for their non-attendance at meetings of the Presbytery of Dingwall. Thus for a time Gairloch was no doubt in the Presbytery of Chanonry, but there is no other reference to the fact in the ecclesiastical history of the period. This was during the long incumbency of the Rev. Roderick Mackenzie, whose isolated position in Gairloch seems to have rendered him indifferent to the action of the presbytery.

On 19th May 1724 the Presbytery of Gairloch was erected by the General Assembly. This presbytery was composed of the same parishes as now constitute the Presbytery of Lochcarron. The meetings of presbytery were held at different places,—Kenlochewe, Gairloch, and Poolewe are mentioned.

In 1773 an Act of the General Assembly ordained that the Presbytery of Gairloch should be called in all time coming the Presbytery of Lochcarron, and Gairloch and Poolewe remain to this day in that presbytery.

The old parish church of Gairloch, dedicated to St Maelrubha, stood, as we have seen, in the churchyard of Gairloch, which is now used as the parish burial-ground. There was a church in existence here before 1628, for we find from an old document that Alastair Breac, fifth laird of Gairloch, had caused a chapel to be built "near the church" of Gairloch, during his father's lifetime, where he and his wife, and no doubt also his father John Roy Mackenzie, were buried. According to the Rev. Daniel Mackintosh, in the Old Statistical Account, the Gairloch church of his day had existed for "more than a century," so that it must have been erected in the middle or latter part of the seventeenth century,—possibly by John Roy or Alastair Breac; it stood most likely on the same site as the original church. In 1727 Mr Smith, minister of Gairloch, got the heritors of the parish to erect churchyard dykes. In 1751 the Rev. Æneas M'Aulay is said to have got a new church built. It must have been a frail structure, for in 1791 it had fallen into a ruinous condition; it was a thatched building. James Mackenzie says, that about 1788, when his mother was attending the parish school at Strath of Gairloch, under the tuition of William Ross, the Gairloch bard, she and other girls went one day during the dinner hour to the old church. The children opened the church door, when, from some cause or other—very likely only a puff of wind—the door closed in their faces with a bang, and they got a great fright!


The present Gairloch church was erected in 1791, and repaired in 1834.

The little church at Sand of Udrigil, which we may call the chapel of Sand, is commonly believed to have been originally erected by St Columba himself. In 1713 George Mackenzie of Gruinard, who is said to have built a little church at Udrigil, prayed Mr Morrison, the refugee minister of Gairloch, to preach there. Whether this was the same church we cannot be sure; tradition says George Mackenzie only thatched and repaired the ancient church. After this time the ministers of Gairloch periodically preached at this little church until at least the end of the eighteenth century.

There was an old church at Culinellan near Kenlochewe; the date of its erection is uncertain. The Rev. Daniel Mackintosh, in his paper in the Old Statistical Account, refers to this place of worship as existing in 1792.


The church at Tollie Croft, now called Cruive End, is not likely to have been of any antiquity. In 1733 the kirk-session of Gairloch petitioned the presbytery to enlarge the "chapel at Pollew," and the presbytery agreed to do so. This was probably the place of worship at Tollie Croft close to Poolewe. It was no doubt the church where Mr Thomas Pennant heard the Rev. John Dounie preach in 1772, for it was close to the place where he would land from his boat on Loch Maree (see Appendix B); the Rev. D. Mackintosh mentioned it in 1792. Old people now living remember the Rev. James Russell preaching in this little church as lately as 1826. At that time Duncan Mackenzie, the innkeeper at Poolewe, previously butler to Sir Hector Mackenzie at Flowerdale [71]House, used to read the Scriptures to the people in the Cruive End church pending Mr Russell's arrival from Gairloch. This church would be very convenient for the minister of Gairloch when he had his manse only a mile away at Cliff, Poolewe, as was the case between 1759 and 1803.

The turf-built church in Tollie bay, where the Rev. J. Morrison used to hold his humble services, was only a temporary expedient during his short and troublous incumbency.

The old chapel of Inverewe, on the east side of the river Ewe, close to the former mansion-house of the Kernsary estate, seems to belong to the seventeenth century, judging from the appearance its ruins now present, but there is no record whatever of its history. The Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie, proprietor of Kernsary, preached there, as we have seen, during some part of the seventeenth century.

The present church of Poolewe was completed in 1828.

If there was a rectory, parsonage, or manse in Gairloch before the Reformation, it must have then ceased to be church property. The Rev. Farquhar MacRae, who became vicar of Gairloch about 1608, lived at Ardlair, on the north-eastern shore of Loch Maree. Ardlair is near Letterewe, where dwelt the ironworkers for whose special behoof Mr MacRae was sent to Gairloch by Lord Mackenzie of Kintail; and it may have been part of the arrangement under which Sir George Hay acquired the woods of Letterewe from Lord Mackenzie for the ironworks, that his lordship should allow Mr MacRae the use of a house at Ardlair, which was also on his property.

Poor Mr Morrison, in 1711-16, had no glebe, manse, or legal maintenance, and his hut in Tollie bay was on land leased by himself.

In 1728 a manse and glebe were provided by the heritors for the minister of Gairloch at Achdistall, near where the Gairloch hotel now stands.

In 1759 the presbytery exchanged the glebe at Achdistall for other land at Clive, or Cliff, close to Poolewe, and a manse was shortly after erected on the new glebe.

In 1803 the old glebe of Clive was exchanged by the presbytery for a portion of the lands of Miole at Strath of Gairloch, and a new manse was erected at once. This is the present manse of Gairloch; it was added to in 1823, when Hugh Miller, then a mason, took part in the work. His experience in Gairloch at that time is recorded in "My Schools and Schoolmasters."

The present manse of Poolewe was built in 1828.

The old Free church at Gairloch, and the Free manse there, were erected shortly after the Disruption in 1843. The church having become unsafe was pulled down in 1880, and the present handsome building erected on the same site.

The Free church and manse at Aultbea were also erected soon after the Disruption. The Free Church has also mission churches or meeting-houses at Poolewe, Opinan, and Kenlochewe in Gairloch parish. The first minister of the Gairloch Free church was the Rev. Duncan Matheson, who was succeeded by the Rev. John Baillie, the [72]present minister. The first minister of the Aultbea Free church was the Rev. James Noble; to him succeeded the Rev. William Rose; after whose death the Rev. Ronald Dingwall, the present minister, was appointed.

Chapter XVII.

Ancient Gairloch Ironworks.

Many visitors to Gairloch, and not a few of the inhabitants, will learn with astonishment that the manufacture of iron was carried on in the parish from remote times, and that there are still abundant remains to testify to the magnitude and importance of the industry. There are many places in this wild and picturesque Highland district where are to be seen to this day large heaps of slag and dross, and remains of blast-furnaces or bloomeries; whilst many acres of arable ground, as well as of uncultivated moorland, are still thickly strewn with fragments of charcoal and of several kinds of iron ore.

The remains of ironworks examined in Gairloch may be roughly divided into two classes, viz:—(1) The ancient ironworks, of which there are no historical records extant; and (2) The historic ironworks of Loch Maree.

The ancient ironworks or bloomeries are the subject of our present chapter. Some of them appear, as we should expect, to belong to a later period than others, but nothing can be said with precision about the date of any of them. They will be described in Part I., chap. xx.

There are some interesting notes on the subject of ancient Highland ironworks in the curious book entitled "Remarks on Dr Samuel Johnson's Journey to the Hebrides, by the Rev. Donald M'Nicol, A.M.," published in 1779, and extracted in Appendix G. Mr M'Nicol does not give his authorities, but there is ample ocular demonstration of the truth of his statement, that "the smelting and working of iron was well understood and constantly practised over all the Highlands and Islands for time immemorial." Other writers have expressed the opinion, that iron was made throughout Great Britain long before the Roman invasion.

Perhaps a coin now in my possession, which was found some years ago in a field on the bank of the river Went in Yorkshire, near large quantities of ancient heavy iron slag, may be taken as giving some clue to the date of the older ironworks. It is an ancient British coin of the type of the quarter stater of Philip II. of Macedon. The British coinage is supposed to have been in existence at least as far back as 150 b.c., and this is one of the early types.

The querns frequently found in all parts of the Highlands shew that the ancient inhabitants grew some corn,—that they had some acquaintance with "the staff of life." It seems a reasonable inference, [73]that they used iron implements for tilling their lands and securing their crops. It is certain that some iron weapons, tools, and implements, besides those employed in agriculture, were in use in the Highlands in those old days. An iron axe-head, of the shape of the bronze celt figured among our illustrations, and with the aperture for the handle similarly in a line with its axis instead of at right angles to it, was found in 1885 in the garden at Inveran; its remains are much eaten by rust, but there is enough to shew that this iron axe is of an old type. It may be objected, that if iron implements for peace or war were extensively used in ancient days there would be more relics of them. The obvious reply to such an objection is, that iron is so liable to oxidation that most of the smaller iron articles of ancient times must have perished from that cause. Many of the small masses of rust-cemented gravel and earth, found everywhere, may have originally had for their nucleus an ancient iron implement, or a fragment of one. If it be allowed that the Picts or other early inhabitants of the north used iron tools and weapons, the question at once arises,—Where and how did they procure them? The remains of the ancient class of ironworks supply the answer. Those so-called savages well knew where to procure iron, and how to fabricate from it the articles they required,—another proof that the Picts were by no means the uncivilised barbarians that some people suppose.

The ancient ironworks of Gairloch were probably not more numerous than those of some other parts of the Highlands and Islands. There is little doubt but that many of the remains, both in Gairloch and elsewhere, have been obliterated by the husbandman, or concealed by overgrowth of heather and other plants. In many places throughout Sutherlandshire, Ross-shire, and Inverness-shire, as well as in other Scottish counties, there are large quantities of iron slag. The Inverness Scientific Society have examined remains of ancient iron-smelting near Alness in Easter Ross. The Rev. Dr Joass, of Golspie, and Mr D. William Kemp, of Trinity, have to a certain extent investigated some Sutherlandshire remains. There are also quantities of slag on the Braemore estate, on the shores of Loch Rosque between Achnasheen and the eastern boundary of Gairloch parish (Part IV., chap, iii.), and in many other parts of Wester Ross, as well as in the island of Soa off the west coast of Skye, and many other places.

At the iron-smelting works near Alness a native hematite iron ore was used, as well as what is termed bog iron. Bog iron is also believed to have been used at a bloomery near Golspie, Sutherlandshire. This bog iron appears to have been commonly employed by the ancient ironworkers; it was extracted by the action of water from ferruginous rocks and strata, and was accumulated at the bases of peat bogs. In process of time granular masses of oxides of iron were thus formed, sometimes covering a considerable area. Within the parish of Gairloch there are still quantities of bog iron to be seen, apparently formed exactly in the manner described. The localities will be stated in Part I., chap. xix. No bog iron has been found in proximity to any of the remains of ironworks; probably the iron-smelters [74]consumed all that was conveniently near the scenes of their operations. In the neighbourhood of all the remains of ironworks in Gairloch are found ferruginous rocks and shales, or rust-coloured earths. The best samples of these rocks have on analysis yielded but eight per cent. of metallic iron, and the rust-coloured earths are by no means rich in the metal. But there can be no doubt that bog iron was formerly present in the vicinity of these rocks, shales, and earths; and the analyses of the ancient iron slags prove to demonstration that such bog iron was the ore used at the ancient bloomeries.

Mr W. Ivison Macadam, analytical chemist of Edinburgh, is hopeful that the analyses he has undertaken may in course of time throw more light on the methods and productions of the ancient ironworkers. It is not probable that we shall ever know much of their history. According to the Rev. Donald M'Nicol they made iron "in the blomary way, that is by laying it under the hammers in order to make it malleable, with the same heat that melted it in the furnace." In the present day the processes of smelting iron and of producing malleable iron are separate and distinct; these ancient artisans probably combined the two. The slags produced at their furnaces contained a large proportion of metallic iron. Mr Macadam has found fully fifty per cent. of iron in most of the samples of ancient Gairloch slags he has analysed, and at some modern ironworks quantities of ancient slag have actually been found worth resmelting. The wasteful richness of the old slags can be easily accounted for; the ancient methods of smelting were comparatively imperfect, labour was cheap, the iron used cost nothing, and the forests whence was derived the charcoal for smelting it were apparently inexhaustible, whilst the business was no doubt carried on more for the supply of local and immediate wants than as a branch of commerce. If the ironworkers could obtain by their primitive processes enough iron to supply their own requirements, they would naturally be careless of the amount of metal wasted.

The fuel universally used for iron-smelting, until far into the eighteenth century, was wood-charcoal, and even to the middle of the nineteenth century it was still employed at two blast-furnaces in Scotland. Every part of the Highlands, not excepting the parish of Gairloch, was clothed with dense forests of fine timber. Far up the mountain slopes, and down to the rocky shores of the sea, the fir, oak, and birch flourished in wonderful and beautiful profusion. There is no poetic license, no picturesque exaggeration in this statement. Everywhere the relics of trees are to be seen to this day, and much of the timber used by Gairloch crofters in roofing their dwellings and for other purposes consists of branches found underground. The disappearance of the great Caledonian forest has been accounted for in several ways; some have conjectured that a vast conflagration or series of conflagrations destroyed it; others think that its destruction was more gradual, and resulted from the labours of the charcoal burners and similar doings. In Gairloch there are charred stumps still to be seen preserved in peat bogs, that support the conflagration theory; but there is also widespread evidence of extensive charcoal burnings, so that there must be some truth in both these modes of accounting for the destruction of the woods. Some localities of charcoal burnings will be mentioned in Part I., chap. xx.




All the ancient Gairloch ironworks are in the vicinity of burns. This fact raises a strong inference that the older ironworkers, like their historic successors, utilised the water-power afforded by adjoining streams for the purpose of working machinery. The Rev. D. M'Nicol's statement, already quoted, that hammers were used to produce malleable iron confirms the inference; and the remains of dams or weirs, and other expedients for augmenting the water-power, convert the conjecture into an established fact. It appears certain, then, that heavy hammers worked by machinery, with water for the motive power, were used in remote times,—another testimony to the ingenuity and mechanical skill of the ancient inhabitants of the Highlands. The tuyere for a furnace-blast found at Fasagh (see illustration) is another evidence of that skill.

The reader must please remember that the ancient ironworks referred to in this chapter are quite distinct from the historic series to which our next is devoted.

Chapter XVIII.

The Historic Ironworks of Loch Maree.

To the lonely and romantic shores of the queen of Highland lochs belongs the curiously incongruous distinction of having been the scene where the new departure in iron-smelting processes, which commenced the present series of Scottish ironworks, was inaugurated. How wonderful it seems, that the great iron industry of Scotland, which to this day enriches so many families and employs so many thousands of workmen, should have sprung from this sequestered region! The claim to the distinction is based on the facts, that up to the present time no records of any earlier manufacture of iron have been discovered, and that the iron industry established here early in the seventeenth century became, as we shall shew, of such national importance as to call for special legislation. It appears to have been in 1607 that Sir George Hay commenced ironworks at Letterewe, on Loch Maree, which were continued for at least sixty years. It is true that in 1612 a license previously granted by the king to "Archibald Prymroise, clerk of his maiesties mynis, his airis and assignais quhatsomeuir ffor making of yrne within the boundis of the schirefdome of perth," was ratified by Parliament, but the date of the license is not given, and we hear no more of these Perthshire ironworks.

It was not until the eighteenth century that the seed sown by Sir George germinated, and the iron industry began to spread in Scotland.


The iron furnaces in Glengarry, referred to by Captain Burt, are said to have been established by a Liverpool company, who bought the Glengarry woods about 1730.

The iron-smelting works at Abernethy, Strathspey, were commenced in 1732 by the York Buildings Company. This company was formed in 1675 to erect waterworks on the grounds of York House in the Strand, London, and was incorporated in 1691 as "The Governor and Company of Undertakers for raising the Thames water in York Buildings." The operations of the company have been described by Mr David Murray, M.A., F.S.A. Scot., in an able pamphlet entitled "The York Buildings Company: A Chapter in Scotch History." The company raised at the time of its incorporation the then immense capital of £1,259,575, and conducted not only the original waterworks, but also enormous speculations in forfeited estates in Scotland; the company also carried on coal, lead, and iron mines, the manufacture of iron and glass, and extensive dealings in timber from the Strathspey forests. Their agents and workmen in Strathspey are described in the Old Statistical Account as "the most profuse and profligate set that were ever heard of in this country. Their extravagances of every kind ruined themselves and corrupted others." Their ironworks were abandoned at the end of two years, i.e. in 1734, or, according to the Old Statistical Account, in 1737. They made "Glengarry" and "Strathdoun" pigs, and had four furnaces for making bar iron. The corporation of the York Buildings Company was dissolved in 1829.

The Loch Etive side, or Bonawe, ironworks, were commenced by an Irish company about 1730. They rented the woods of Glenkinglass, and made charcoal, with which they smelted imported iron ore. That company existed till about 1750. In 1753 an English company, consisting of three Lancashire men and one Westmoreland man, took leases, which ran for one hundred and ten years, and these were renewed in 1863 to the then manager of the company for twenty-one years, expiring as lately as 1884. By the courtesy of Mr Hosack, of Oban, I have seen duplicates of the leases under which the undertaking was carried on. The works comprised extensive charcoal burnings and the blast-furnace at Bonawe; they were discontinued before 1884.

Other important works of a similar character were afterwards established by the Argyle Furnace Company, and by the Lorn Company, at Inverary.

In a work on "The Manufacture of Iron in Great Britain," by Mr George Wilkie, Assoc. Inst. C.E., published in 1857, it is stated that the Carron works were established in 1760 by Dr Roebuck of Sheffield and other gentlemen; that in 1779 two brothers of the name of Wilson, merchants in London, established the Wilsonton ironworks in Lanarkshire; that in 1788 the Clyde ironworks were established in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, and that in that year there were only eight pig-iron furnaces in Scotland, of which four were at Carron, two at Wilsonton, one at "Bunawe in Lorn," and one at "Goatfield in Arran," the two latter being worked with wood [77]charcoal for fuel. The furnace at Bunawe is that already noticed as on Loch Etive side. Of the alleged furnace at "Goatfield in Arran" there are no records or remains to be found in Arran to-day. Probably Goatfield was in Argyleshire.

But we need not here further trace the wonderful growth of the still existing series of Scottish ironworks. To establish our claim to precedence, it will suffice to shew that the furnaces on Loch Maree were commenced by Sir George Hay more than a century earlier than any of those just named.

Pennant, in his tour of 1772 (Appendix B), mentions the time of the Queen Regent as the period when Sir George Hay was head of a company who carried on an iron furnace near Poolewe; this statement is given on the authority of the Rev. John Dounie, minister of Gairloch. The regency of Mary of Guise extended from 1542 to 1560; so that the historical commencement of the ironworks on Loch Maree might date as far back as the middle of the sixteenth century. But Sir George Hay lived at a later date, and Mr Dounie must have been inaccurate in this respect.

From Donald Gregory's history of the Western Highlands, Alexander Mackenzie's history of the Mackenzies, and several old MSS., including the genealogy of the MacRaes (Appendix A), we glean the following facts:—

In 1598 a party of gentlemen, known as the "Fife Adventurers," obtained a grant from the crown of the island of the Lews, and took steps to plant a colony there. Mackenzie of Kintail and the M'Leods of the Lews, ceasing for the time their own feuds, combined to oust the Fife Adventurers. In 1607 the king granted the Lews to Lord Balmerino (Secretary of Scotland and Lord-President of the Session), Sir George Hay, and Sir James Spens of Wormistoun (one of the original "Fife Adventurers"), who in 1608 renewed the attempt to colonize the Lews, but without success. In 1609 Lord Balmerino was convicted of high treason and executed, thus forfeiting his share. Sir George Hay and Sir James Spens about that time sent an expedition to the Lews, but Neil M'Leod, secretly backed by Mackenzie of Kintail, opposed the intending colonists, who were driven from the island. Mackenzie was raised to the peerage in the same year with the title of Lord Mackenzie of Kintail, after he had induced Sir George Hay and Sir James Spens to give up their scheme and transfer their rights in the Lews to himself. Lord Mackenzie, in part payment, gave them the woods of Letterewe for iron-smelting; the arrangement was concluded in 1610, and Lord Mackenzie then obtained a fresh grant to himself from the crown.

But we can carry back the history of the Letterewe ironworks to a slightly earlier date still.

The Rev. Farquhar MacRae was appointed vicar or minister of Gairloch by Bishop Leslie of Ross in 1608, in order that he might "serve the colony of English which Sir George Hay kept at Letterewe." Mr MacRae continued his work in Gairloch parish till 1618, and his son informs us, in the "Genealogical Account" (Appendix A), that on his death in 1662 Mr MacRae "had lived fifty-four [78]years in the ministry, ten of which at Gairloch." Thus it is evident that he was ordained vicar of Gairloch in 1608. This was two years before Sir George Hay acquired the woods of Letterewe from Lord Mackenzie, but the later date of his acquisition of those woods does not preclude the possibility of Sir George having already commenced the manufacture of iron there, perhaps in a tentative manner. It will be noticed that the Genealogical Account of the MacRaes speaks of Sir George Hay's undertaking at Letterewe as a going concern when Mr MacRae was sent in 1608 to minister to the ironworkers. It seems almost certain, therefore, that it had begun in 1607, for we cannot but assume that the appointment of Mr MacRae to Gairloch was made to supply a want that must have taken at least a year to develop. The conclusion that Sir George Hay began the Letterewe ironworks in 1607, receives some confirmation from the fact that the grant of the Lews to him and his colleagues took place in the same year. The two matters were very probably connected. Either Sir George was led to enter into the Lews adventure from his being located at Letterewe, so near to Poolewe, the port for the Lews, or—which is more probable—the advantages of Letterewe attracted his attention when at Poolewe planning the subjugation of the Lews. The date (27th January 1609) of the act forbidding the making of iron with wood (Appendix G) is not inconsistent with the commencement of the ironworks in 1607. Assuming that the prohibition was (as seems likely) aimed at the Letterewe ironworks, it is reasonable enough to suppose that they must have been begun in 1607, so as to have attained sufficient importance to excite the alarm of the legislature in January 1609. News from the Highlands took a long time to travel so far as Edinburgh in those days.

We hear nothing more of Sir James Spens in connection with the ironworks.

Sir George Hay's history is remarkable. He was the second son of Peter Hay of Melginche, and was born in 1572. He completed his education at the Scots College at Douay in France. He was introduced at court about 1596, and seems at once to have attracted the attention of James VI., who appointed him one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber, and in 1598 gave him the Carthusian priory or charter-house at Perth and the ecclesiastical lands of Errol, with a seat in Parliament as a peer. But he declined the peerage, was knighted instead, and subsequently adopted the profession of the law, in which he attained to great distinction. He seems to have been a favourite with the king, whom he defended when in 1600 the Earl of Gowrie was killed in his treasonable attempt on his majesty's life. Assisted by the favour of the crown, Sir George acquired large territories both in the Highlands and Lowlands. (See extract from "Douglas's Peerage," Appendix G.) But some think that at the time he settled at Letterewe he was under a cloud. Political troubles had arisen; one of his partners, Lord Balmerino, had been convicted of high treason and executed; so that the statement that Sir George had chosen the remote Letterewe "for the sake of quiet in those turbulent times" appears reasonable enough. The [79]fact that he occupied the leisure of his enforced retirement in establishing and improving iron-smelting, is a standing testimony to the energy of this remarkable man. He is said to have resided some years at Letterewe, or at least to have made his headquarters there. No doubt Lord Mackenzie would provide the best habitation he could for the learned and enterprising lessee of his woods. Probably Sir George lived in an old house on the site of the present Letterewe House.

The only Gairloch iron-furnaces which we can be sure were carried on by Sir George Hay were those at Letterewe, Talladale, and the Red Smiddy near Poolewe. (They will be described in Part I., chap. xx.). The vast woods of Letterewe were undoubtedly the prime motive that led Sir George to start the ironworks there. They must have been very extensive, for it is the opinion of those who should know, that each furnace would annually use as carbonised fuel the product of one hundred and twenty acres of wood. The works Sir George conducted seem to have combined two classes of industry,—(1) The manufacture of wrought-iron, the ore being smelted with charcoal into a mass of metal called a bloom, which was hammered whilst yet hot into bars of wrought iron, or into various articles used in the arts of peace or war; (2) The manufacture of pig-iron and articles of cast-iron, the metal being poured into moulds.

The Letterfearn MS. says, that at Letterewe "Sir George Hay kept a colony and manufactory of Englishmen making iron and casting great guns, untill the wood of it was spent and the lease of it expired."

The Genealogical Account of the MacRaes tells of "the colony of English which Sir George Hay of Airdry kept at Letterewe, making iron and casting cannon."

The Bennetsfield MS. mentions the grant of the "lease of the woods of Letterewe, where there was an iron mine, which they wrought by English miners, casting guns and other implements, till the fuel was exhausted and their lease expired."

Pennant notes in his Tour (Appendix B), that the Rev. John Dounie had seen the back of a grate marked "S. G. Hay," or Sir George Hay. Those acquainted with old inscriptions tell us that the initial S was a usual abbreviation for the title "Sir."

It appears, then, that Sir George not only produced articles used in warfare, but also such goods as we are accustomed to procure at the ironmonger's.

It is certain that improved processes of iron-smelting were introduced at Furnace, Letterewe, and perfected at the Red Smiddy, Poolewe, so that the results obtained at the latter place were almost on a par with those of the newest methods of the present day. The credit of these improvements must be given to Sir George Hay. In resuscitating the ancient manufacture of iron, he brought the intelligence of his cultivated mind to bear on the subject in a practical and successful way.

The "new industry" thus commenced on the shores of Loch [80]Maree soon attracted the attention of the government. Reference has already been made to the act of 27th January 1609, prohibiting the making of iron with the natural woods of the Highlands. The act is printed verbatim in Appendix G. There seems little doubt, as previously remarked, that it was intended to injure Sir George Hay. It was probably passed on the instigation of a political foe.

But Sir George must have still possessed considerable influence at court, and the importance of his new industry must have produced a strong impression, for on the 24th of December 1610, at Whitehall, the king gave him what appears to have been a monopoly of the manufacture of iron and glass throughout the whole of Scotland, for thirty-one years from that date, and this gift was ratified by Act of Parliament, dated 23d October 1612. The delay of two years in its ratification seems a little strange, and perhaps indicates that whilst Sir George continued such a favourite with his king as to receive from him so valuable a "Christmas box," he still had enemies in the Privy Council or the Parliament of Scotland. The ratification will be found in Appendix G; it recites the license. It would appear from a Scots Act passed 16th November 1641, that several noblemen and gentlemen had obtained monopolies of other manufactures,—probably about the same time. That act brought these monopolies to an end in the same year (1641) that Sir George Hay's monopoly of the manufacture of iron expired. Whether Sir George carried on ironworks elsewhere than on Loch Maree we know not, but it is most likely that they were his principal, if not his only, undertakings of the kind.

In 1613 a proclamation was made by the Privy Council restraining the export of iron ore out of the country, so that the enterprise of the new industry should not be hindered or disappointed (Appendix G). If the act of 1609 prohibiting the making of iron with wood had been obtained by an enemy of Sir George Hay's, the adverse influence of the foe was now at an end. Possibly Sir George had by this time returned from the Highlands, for we find that in 1616 he was appointed Clerk-Register. If so, his personal influence may have over-ridden that of his former political enemies. Under this proclamation Sir George became able to procure the clayband ironstone almost at his own price. He used it extensively both at Furnace (Letterewe) and at the Red Smiddy, as well as at Talladale.

There is another record relating to Sir George Hay's iron manufacture; it is the curious license anent selling of his iron, granted to him by a Scots Act, dated 4th August 1621, and printed in Appendix G. It purports to be a license to Sir George to carry his iron to any port or harbour of the free burghs royal, and to dispose of the same to any person notwithstanding the privileges and liberties of the burghs. This license, granted fourteen years after the commencement of the Letterewe ironworks, testifies to the vigour with which the enterprise had been pushed. It would seem that the quantity of iron produced now only required a free market. The monopoly granted to Sir George, the proclamation restraining the export of iron ore, and the special license he now obtained for selling his iron in royal burghs, were exceptional provisions, which [81]would now-a-days be considered antagonistic to cherished political principles. To what extent Sir George profited from the advantages granted to him we cannot tell. That he became a rich man there seems no doubt, and the ironworks on Loch Maree may have added to his wealth.


John Roy Mackenzie was the prudent, business-like, and hospitable laird of Gairloch during the residence at Letterewe of Sir George Hay, who appears to have had a furnace at Talladale on John Roy's Gairloch estate. Doubtless some intercourse took place between them, but as John Roy had been previously engaged in warfare, and could not, so far as we can judge from the story of his youth, have been a man of much culture, it is unlikely that he and Sir George became very intimate. But Sir George, the learned lawyer and man of science, had a thoroughly congenial friend in the great Latin scholar the Rev. Farquhar MacRae, vicar of Gairloch, whose house at Ardlair was but a three miles' walk or row from Letterewe House. The account given in Appendix A proves that the friendship of this accomplished and genial clergyman was much appreciated by Sir George, who endeavoured to induce Mr MacRae to accompany him when he himself returned to the south. A remarkable rock or stone at Ardlair, called "The minister's stone" (see illustration), is still pointed out as the place where Mr MacRae used to preach in English and Gaelic. No doubt he also preached at Letterewe; and we are told that he "did not only please the country people, but also the strangers, especially George Hay." The interesting memoir of Mr MacRae, in Appendix A, is well worth perusal; he married in 1611, and brought his bride to the parsonage at Ardlair, where several of his children were born. Unquestionably the [82]refined life of the vicar and his family at their beautiful and retired home, would be more enjoyable to Sir George than the rougher habits of the natives of the country, nay, even than the society of the fighting laird of Gairloch himself.

The date when Sir George left Letterewe is not certain; the reason of his departure is plain,—he had superior calls on his presence in the south. After he left his Highland retreat his career was one of unbroken success and distinction. In 1616 he was appointed Clerk-Register, and on 16th July 1622 he was constituted High Chancellor of Scotland. He was raised to the Peerage by the title of Viscount Duplin and Lord Hay of Kinfauns in 1627, and was created Earl of Kinnoull by patent dated at York 25th May 1633. As chancellor he won "the approbation of the whole kingdom, and the applause of all good men, for his justice, integrity, sound judgment, and eminent sufficiency." He died in London in 1634, aged sixty-two. Some account of the statue of his lordship, of the epitaph on his monument, and of the portraits of him still extant (see illustrations), will be found in Appendix G. If we may trust the expressions contained in the epitaph, it would almost appear that the iron-founder of Loch Maree became, under his king, the ruler of fair Scotland, for he is termed "the great and grave dictator of our clime."

But the departure of Sir George from Letterewe did not stop the progress of his ironworks on Loch Maree. The concession or monopoly granted by the crown had still many years to run, and the works were unquestionably continued for a long further period under a manager or factor. The last manager is said to have been called John Hay, a name which obviously suggests that he was a relative of Sir George.

In the Gairloch churchyard is a picturesque tombstone, evidently of considerable age. It has a well carved skull and cross bones, and underneath them a shield (originally faced with a brass), with a design below it resembling an inverted fleur-de-lis. At either side of the shield are the letters I and H, of large size. The inscription round the border of the stone is only partly legible. It runs as follows:—

* * R ‧ LYIS ‧ IOHNE ‧ HAY ‧ SON * * HAY ‧ OF ‧ KIRKLAND ‧ WHO ‧
DIED ‧ AT ‧ LOCH * * * * * *

It is said that this stone was sent to the port or wharf at Port na Heile, in Gairloch (the present Gairloch pier), some years after the death of John Hay, to be placed over his grave; that he was the last manager of the Letterewe ironworks; that he died, and was probably buried, at or near Letterewe; that the stone lay at the port for many years; and that, ultimately, when the situation of John Hay's grave had been forgotten, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the second baronet and ninth laird of Gairloch (who succeeded 1703, came of age 1721, and died 1766), authorised one William Fraser to place the stone in the burial-place of his (Fraser's) family, where it now lies. It is added that "Sir Alexander received a stone from William Fraser for it."



[83]These statements about the Hay tombstone are from the mouth of James Mackenzie, who says that William Fraser and his own grandfather were first cousins, and that the facts about the gravestone were told him on their authority when he was young. He is corroborated by other old Gairloch men.

Although this John Hay, whose father appears from the tombstone to have been Mr Hay of Kirkland, was probably a relation of Sir George Hay, it is impossible to fix the degree of relationship. Sir George Hay's father had three sons, Patrick, George, and Peter. This Peter was designated as of Kirkland of Megginch. He had a son called Francis, whose great-grandson Thomas succeeded to the earldom of Kinnoull, on the direct line of Sir George Hay, the first earl, becoming extinct in the person of William, the fifth earl, in 1709. Possibly Peter Hay had a son known as James Hay of Kirkland, or else some collateral relation of the family bore that designation, for we gather from a short account of the parish of St Martins, Perthshire, contained in a footnote to the account of that parish in the Old Statistical Account, that a James Hay acquired Kirkland by an exchange with Mr John Strachan, minister of St Martins. The son, Thomas, of this minister, "after his return from his travels, when he had waited on the earl of Kinnowel his son as his governour for the space of three years, became conjunct with his father, and died minister there in the year 1671." Kirkland was a "good manor house;" it was built of old by the abbot of Halyrood-house, and was afterwards the minister's manse. It is possible that this Kirkland may not have been the same as Kirkland of Megginch. In all probability, however, John Hay, the last manager of the Loch Maree ironworks, was a son of James Hay, and the latter was a relative of the great Sir George. It was indeed natural that Sir George should prefer to entrust his ironworks to a relative rather than to a stranger.

After the death of the Earl of Kinnoull, his ironworks appear to have fallen into a languishing condition, possibly from the timber being exhausted. In Knox's Tour it is stated that Mr Alexander Mackenzie of Lochend, in 1786, told the author (Mr Knox) that cannon were still made at Poolewe in 1668. Mr Mackenzie said his grandfather had "lent ten thousand marks to the person or persons who carried on the works, for which he got in return the back of an old grate and some hammers." It is curious that these relics are the only remains known to have existed (except the breech of a cannon and some small pigs of iron) of the productions of the Loch Maree ironworks. The "back of an old grate" was no doubt the same as that which Mr Dounie told Pennant of, and the hammers, or at least one of them, must have been the same as existed in living memory. (See Part I., chap. xx.)

So far as we can judge, the ironworks were discontinued soon after the date of the loan mentioned by Mr Mackenzie of Lochend. Thus the undertaking was carried on for a period of at least sixty years. Local tradition affirms that the industry was prolonged into the eighteenth century, but there is nothing to confirm the tradition except the story of the Gille Buidhe (Part I., chap. xiv.); it speaks [84]of men living in 1746 as being sons of one of the last of the Letterewe ironworkers.

The artisans employed by Sir George Hay are said by some to have been from Fife, by others to have been Welsh, and by all to have been "English." But this last term only means that the ironworkers spoke English, for as truly remarked by the Rev. Donald MacRae, minister of Poolewe (Appendix E), "Highlanders look upon all who do not speak the Gaelic language as Sasganaich [Sasunnach] or Englishmen."

The names Cross, Bethune or Beaton, and Kemp, are still known in Gairloch parish as belonging to descendants of the ironworkers. Cross is a common Lancashire name. Mr D. William Kemp, of Trinity, who has read a valuable paper on old ironworks in Sutherlandshire to the Scottish Society of Arts, says that the name Kemp is very uncommon in Wales, but is a north of England name, and was common in Cumberland after the fourteenth century, artisans of that surname having settled in that county in the reign of Edward III.

It is probable that Sir George Hay's artisans were mostly from Fife; they were very likely some of the men who had been taken by the "Fife Adventurers" to the Lews, with the object (frustrated as we have seen) of establishing a colony there. To these Fifeshire men were no doubt added a few (including a Cross and a Kemp) who had come with iron ore from Lancashire or Cumberland. Of course all of them were ignorant of Gaelic.

These ironworkers remained in Gairloch for several generations; some of them became permanently settled in the parish. It is said that at one time an epidemic of smallpox carried off a number of them. Narrators of Gairloch traditions differ as to where the ironworkers buried their dead. Some believe it was at the burial-place on flat ground near the head of Loch Maree, which is accordingly called to this day Cladh nan Sasunnach, or "the Englishman's churchyard," but others say, with more probability, that the beautiful burial-ground on Isle Maree was their place of sepulture. This last view is in accord with the information obtained by Dr Arthur Mitchell (Part II., chap. xi.), and appears to be the better opinion.

I do not think the Cladh nan Sasunnach was used for interment so recently as the time of Sir George Hay's undertaking. I examined this strange place on 12th May 1884. There are indications of twenty-four graves, all with the feet pointed towards the east, and all covered more or less with large unwrought stones. There are head and foot stones more or less distinct to all the graves, which, from their dimensions, might well be called the graves of giants. I opened two of the graves in different parts of the group to the depth of four or five feet, in fact as far as the ground was workable with ordinary pick and spade. In the first grave opened, a cavity, filled with water, eighteen inches deep and much wider than the grave, was reached at a depth of between two and three feet, and below that the stratum was nearly as hard as concrete. There were no indications whatever of organic remains. In the case of the second grave opened, which was the largest and most marked of the group, no [85]water was reached and no remains were found. To the depth of about four feet the gravel was comparatively loose, as if it had been wrought at some time. Below that it was so hard that evidently it had never been moved by man. Now, had there been interments here in the seventeenth century, there must surely have been some traces of them. My own opinion is, that these graves date back some centuries earlier than the ironworks, in fact to the period when tradition says it was usual to bury the dead in shallow graves scraped out of hard gravel, and then to cover the graves with large stones, the hardness of the gravel and the weight of the superincumbent stones being intended to hinder wolves from exhuming the bodies.

We should like to know more about the ironworks, and particularly about the men who were employed at the furnaces, and their families and circumstances. The struggles that had engaged the MacBeaths, Macdonalds, M'Leods, and Mackenzies for two centuries, and had rendered Gairloch a veritable battlefield, were at an end in Sir George Hay's time. With the exception of occasional raids on Gairloch by Lochaber and other cattle-lifters, there was now peace throughout the parish. The Scots Act of 27th January 1609 (Appendix G) speaks of the "present generall obedience" of the Highlands, as contrasted with the previous "savagness of the inhabitantis." Letterewe was then, as now, a peculiarly retired spot; there is still no access to it for wheeled vehicles; Sir George Hay's choice of it as a retreat from political troubles confirms the view that it was safe and secluded; the mountains behind Letterewe had long been a favourite hunting-ground of the lords of Kintail (Part I., chap. iv.); and we may well believe that Sir George and his men were able not only to carry on their business without interruption, but also to enjoy in peace the sport afforded by the district. At the same time, it must be remembered that the natives were still in a half savage condition, miserably fed, clothed, and housed, and entirely destitute of education. Very loose notions of morality were prevalent; and to a great extent the old principle that "might is right" still ruled the daily life of the people. They say that some of the ironworkers, severed from home ties, and finding themselves far away from the executive of the law, became reprobates. One of the latest of the ironworkers, or a son of one of them, was known as the Sasunnach Mor, or "Big Englishman"; he is said to have been a wild character. A crofter and carter now living at Londubh is a great-grandson of the Sasunnach Mor; the last Mackenzie of Kernsary testified, in the presence of persons now living, to the descent of this Londubh crofter from the Sasunnach Mor. But whatever were the idiosyncrasies, either of the early or of the latest ironworkers, there can be no doubt that they all led rough and almost lawless lives in their wild Highland homes.


Chapter XIX.

The Iron Ores used in Gairloch.

The first question that most people ask, when they hear of the ironworks in the parish of Gairloch, is,—Where did the iron that was smelted come from? The answer can only be supplied by an examination of the remains of the ironworks now to be met with, and of their neighbourhood. Of records bearing on the subject there are none. There are but two incidental notices that help to throw light on the question; both are comparatively modern.

The Bennetsfield MS. speaks of "the woods of Letterewe, where there was an iron mine which they wrought by English miners."

The New Statistical Account (Appendix E), in the account of Gairloch written by the Rev. Donald MacRae in 1836, says, "Sir James Kay [Sir George Hay] sent several people to work at veins of iron ore on the estate of Letterewe."

Let us discuss the questions of the ores used at the ancient bloomeries and at the historic ironworks under separate heads.

I.—At the Ancient Bloomeries.

It has been already stated (Part I., chap. xvii.) that bog iron was the source whence the ancient ironworkers of Gairloch obtained their metal, so that the terms "iron mine" and "veins of iron ore" quoted above must be considered as referring—unwittingly perhaps—to it. The ingredients of ancient Gairloch iron slags, as ascertained by Professor Ivison Macadam, shew that they have unquestionably resulted from the smelting of bog iron. His analyses and conclusions will in due time be made public; they will prove that the iron ore used at the ancient ironworks in the parish of Gairloch was undoubtedly bog iron.

Mention has been made of ferruginous rocks, shales, and earths existing in the vicinity of the old ironworks. Local tradition affirms that these were the sources of the iron used in the old days. It appears certain that bog iron was found in the vicinity of these ferruginous strata,—probably derived from them,—but they cannot have been the subjects of the ancient iron-smelting. Mr Macadam finds that the richest samples of them do not yield more than 8 per cent. of metallic iron, and that the sulphur they contain does not occur in the slags produced at the furnaces, as would have been the case had they been used.

The most abundant and apparent of these rocks is the large band of ferruginous stone that runs from Letterewe, in a south-easterly direction, along the shores of Loch Maree to the further end of the base of Slioch. It is so extensive, and so rusty in colour, that it can be easily discerned from the county road on the opposite side of the loch. Similar ferruginous rock appears in [87]several other places, as far at least as to the head of Glen Dochartie, but not so abundantly, and therefore not so conspicuously. It also occurs in other parts of Gairloch parish. Gairloch people point out several places where they say this ferruginous rock was quarried, viz.: (1) on the south side of the Furnace burn at Letterewe, nearly a quarter of a mile above the site of the iron furnace; (2) on the face of the ridge immediately behind and above the cultivated land at Innis Ghlas; (3) at Coppachy; and (4) in a gully, called Clais na Leac, at the north-west end of the cultivated land at Smiorsair. At each of these places there are exposed scaurs or escarpments of the ferruginous rock, which are said to have been the results of quarrying, but which are much more like natural fractures. We may therefore dismiss the tradition that iron ore was obtained directly from these supposed quarries as not only unreliable but impossible.

The absence of bog iron in the neighbourhoods of the Gairloch iron furnaces or bloomeries is quite intelligible; it was no doubt all consumed by the ironworkers. Considerable quantities of bog iron are still to be seen in other parts of Gairloch, and their frequent occurrence throughout the parish confirms the contention that this description of ore formerly existed near the bloomeries, and was used at them. Most bog iron is rich in the useful metal. Mr Macadam has analysed a sample from Golspie, submitted by Dr Joass, and has found it to contain 54½ per cent. of metallic iron. Some Gairloch samples are nearly as rich, as will be seen from the results of Mr Macadam's analyses stated below.

The deposits of bog iron are locally called by the descriptive name of "pans." The following is a list of places where these deposits occur within the parish of Gairloch, as so far noticed by Mr Macadam and myself:—

1. In the churchyard at Sand of Udrigil.

2. At the highest point on the road between Aultbea and Laide.

3. In the village of Cove; masses of bog iron are built into fence walls.

4. Near Meallan na Ghamhna.

5. Near the Inverasdale Board School, where there are three "pans."

6. In the township of Strath of Gairloch; the "pans" have been broken up; they say there were several of them.

7. At the north-west end of the township of Lonmor; here too the "pans" have been broken up, and lumps of bog iron are to be seen in walls or dykes. Mr Macadam has found 51¼ per cent. of metallic iron in a heavy sample from this place.

8. Among the sand hills at the easternmost corner of the farm of Little Sand; one "pan" is entire; another is partly broken up. Mr Macadam's analysis shews 51½ per cent. of metallic iron in a sample from this place.

9. At North Erradale; "pans" broken up. Mr Macadam states that a heavy sample of bog iron from this place yields 49 per cent., and a sandy portion 38¾ per cent. of metallic iron.

10. At South Erradale. There is a fence wall, locally called [88]Garadh Iaruinn, or the "iron dyke," entirely composed (for fifty yards of its length) of masses of bog iron, varying from 3 to 13 inches in thickness, and some of them nearly a yard in length. The dyke was erected in 1845, when the present system of crofts was being established in Gairloch. Quantities of bog iron are also to be seen in other dykes, and the soil of probably about two acres of the adjacent cultivated land mainly consists of comminuted bog iron. There must have been large deposits of it at this place; one or two unbroken masses still remain in situ. Mr Macadam finds that the heavier kind yields, on analysis, 50 per cent. of metallic iron, whilst a sandy portion contains 46½ per cent.

11. On the farm of Point, Gairloch, near the house of Mr MacClymont, farmer. The heavy bog iron analysed by Mr Macadam yields 50 per cent. of metallic iron, and some red sand from the same place contains 15 per cent.

II.—At the Historic Ironworks.

Mr Macadam is of opinion that bog iron was not only used at the ancient bloomeries, but also at some of the historic furnaces in Gairloch parish, particularly at Letterewe and Talladale. He gathers this from the general character and composition of some of the slags found at these places. It was in the early stage of Sir George Hay's career as a manufacturer of iron that he used the native bog iron ore; later on he began to import iron ores of a different kind from other parts of the kingdom,—at first in order to mix them with the local bog iron, and afterwards, perhaps, for separate use. The introduction of these imported ores may have been primarily due to the failure of the supply of the bog iron; it undoubtedly led to a vast improvement in the results obtained at Sir George Hay's furnaces.

The evidence that Sir George imported what we may term foreign ores is not far to seek.

At the Letterewe ironworks there are to be seen fragments of two kinds of imported iron ore, scattered in the soil of the field adjoining the furnace, or built into fence walls; they are red hematite ore, and clayband ironstone.

Mr J. E. Marr, F.G.S., has described these foreign ores as follows:—"Red hematite exactly the same as that in the Furness and Whitehaven districts in England. Large masses of a brown clay ironstone; one of these masses being a septarian nodule, with radiating crystals along the cracks; the other being bedded, and containing numerous plant and fish remains, but no shells; these fossils shew them to belong to the carboniferous system."

Some small fragments of similar clay ironstone have been found on the traditional site of the Talladale iron furnace.

On the bank above the ironworks on the river Ewe, called the Red Smiddy, are fragments of clayband ironstone, which Mr Marr has described as follows:—"Clay ironstone nodules, mostly blue inside, [89]and weathering red and yellow on the outside. Many of these were septarian; and when fossils occurred they were of shells, and there were no traces of plants or of fish remains. This ore, in fact, is entirely different from either of the two kinds found at the Letterewe furnace. At the same time, the fossils shew that it also belongs to the carboniferous system."

On the west bank of the pool at Poolewe, the landing-place both for Letterewe and the Red Smiddy, is a considerable heap of red hematite exactly similar to that found at Furnace, Letterewe. At the same place are many masses of clay ironstone, which include all the varieties found at Letterewe and the Red Smiddy. In the soil in the bank below Poolewe church, where a jetty and storehouse were erected in 1885, there are also large quantities of clayband ironstone, which were not seen by Mr Marr.

Mr Macadam has examined and analysed samples of all these foreign ores. He is unable to draw the same distinction as Mr Marr between the apparent varieties of clayband ironstone, and thinks that they were in all probability from the same place, and that most likely the south of Scotland. He finds that the samples of hematite ore contain metallic iron varying in quantity from 30 to 60 per cent. The samples of clayband ironstone he finds to yield from 6 to 38 per cent. of metallic iron; they also contain a considerable quantity of lime.

Mr Marr thinks that these foreign or imported ores were mixed with local ore. The lime in the clayband ironstone would render it a useful ingredient from its quality of acting as a flux. Mr Marr adds, "The theory of intermixture of local and imported ores receives support from a similar case in Wales which has come under my observation, where somewhat impure ore containing quantities of phosphorus, occurring among the old slaty rocks of North Wales, is carried to South Wales to mix with the carboniferous ores."

For convenience of reference in our next chapter, the several sources from whence iron was obtained for the smelting-furnaces on Loch Maree, and in other parts of Gairloch, may be classed as follows:—

1. Bog iron obtained locally.

2. Red hematite. Same as found in Lancashire and Cumberland, and unquestionably imported thence.

3. Clayband ironstone, possibly in two varieties. This was also imported either from the south of Scotland or elsewhere.


Chapter XX.

Remains of Ironworks in the Parish of Gairloch.

The following descriptions will include all the remains of ironworks so far noticed within the parish of Gairloch, whether belonging to what we have called the ancient class, or to the more modern historic set.

The slags found in and about the various remains are broadly divided by Mr Macadam into two classes, which he describes as follows:—

(1.) A dark black slag, compact and heavy, in some cases slightly porous; the percentage of iron in this slag is high; in many samples more than half is iron.

(2.) A gray light porous mass, resembling the slags formed in blast furnaces at the present day; this slag contains a large proportion of lime, and a comparatively small proportion of iron.

The descriptions of iron ores found at the different places are indicated by numbers referring to the list of ores at the end of the last chapter.

It appears certain that there were ironworks in the following different places in Gairloch parish,—

1. Glen Dochartie; three places.
2. Fasagh.
3. Furnace, Letterewe.
4. Talladale.
5. Garavaig, on Slatadale farm.
6. Red Smiddy, near Poolewe.

1. Glen Dochartie.

The traveller proceeding from Loch Maree to Achnasheen may notice, to the right of the road, about four hundred yards before the head of Glen Dochartie is gained, and on the seven hundred feet contour line of the ordnance survey, a scattered heap of small pieces of the slag No. 1. The burn runs past not many yards below. No site of a furnace can be identified. On the other side of the road, about three hundred yards up the hill, on the thousand feet contour, are more extensive similar remains, with the same kind of slag. Mr Macadam finds that this slag contains 66 per cent. of metallic iron, and no lime as silicate. There is red earth in the neighbourhood resembling what is found with "pans" of bog iron. The burn runs past, but is now in a deep gully. At the foot of the glen, more than a mile nearer Kenlochewe, and a little to the west of the bridge over the burn, are fragments of similar slag, and traces of charcoal [91]burnings. The place is on the ancient beach, about twenty feet above the level of the road. No doubt all these remains are of considerable antiquity; they may perhaps have been parts of the same undertaking.

2. Fasagh.

The most extensive remains of ironworks on Loch Maree are on the south side of the Fasagh burn, close to where it runs into the loch. This burn comes from Loch Fada, a considerable sheet of water to the north of Slioch. There are remains of a sluice or dam where the burn leaves Loch Fada, evidently used long ago to regulate the water supply. The burn flows into Loch Maree at its south-east corner, close to the head of the loch. There are indications of a large artificial bank, probably the remains of a dam, formed at right angles to the burn, near the site of the ironworks; but the burn has of late years been subject to great floods, that have to some extent varied its course, and altered the surrounding features.

There are two places which seem to have been the sites of furnaces or bloomeries; at each of these spots, which are near each other, and have a small watercourse (now dry) running alongside, there is a mass of slaggy material surrounding a root or stump of a tree. In the same part is a quantity of blackish material, weathering red and splitting on exposure like quicklime, and on all sides are heaps and scattered masses of dark heavy slag No. 1. The tuyere (see illustration) of a furnace was in 1882 removed from a cottage close by, where it had been for a long time; it is now in the possession of Mr Macadam, and is to be placed in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. I have obtained from an old man at Kenlochewe, an ancestor of whose brought it from the Fasagh ironworks, a curious article (see illustration); it is of cast-iron, and seems to have formed part of the apparatus for working a large forge-hammer. In examining the furnaces with Mr Macadam in April 1886, we found a portion of a thin bar, which appeared to be of iron. They say that a massive hammer head brought from Fasagh was long at Culinellan, and that an anvil at the Kenlochewe smithy was formed from part of it. Not far from the sites of the furnaces is a mound of rust-coloured earth like that found with bog iron (ore No. 1). There are evidences of extensive charcoal burnings on the other side of the burn, to the west of the ironworks.

Mr Macadam has supplied the following results of his analyses of samples of substances obtained at Fasagh:—The slaggy material from tree roots contains 66 per cent., the blackish material 73 per cent., and the dark slag 68 per cent. of metallic iron; the slag also contains 11 per cent. of silica; the bar of iron contains 63 per cent. of metallic iron, and a large quantity of carbon.

About half a mile to the east of the Fasagh works, at the foot of the crag called Bonaid Donn, is a small circular pond, or rather a large hole in the middle of a circular marsh. It is called Lochan Cul na Cathrach. There is a perpetual flow of spring water from this hole, and the surrounding marsh prevents close approach to it. It is [92]the common tradition, accepted with the fullest credence, that into this hole the last ironworkers at Fasagh threw all their implements when the furnaces were discontinued. Possibly a drag might bring something to light, or the hole might be drained. The tradition is so firmly believed, that it produces on one's mind a strong impulse to search the hole, and try to find something bearing on the nature and history of the Fasagh ironworks.

From the character of the slags, the comparatively complete state of the remains, and from the tuyere and other things having been discovered, it seems probable that the Fasagh works, whilst belonging to the ancient class of ironworks, were amongst the most recent of that class; and Mr Macadam thinks it possible that Sir George Hay may have commenced his operations at this place in continuation, no doubt, of older ironworks.

3. Furnace, Letterewe.

The remains of the ironworks at the hamlet of Furnace, a mile south-east of Letterewe, are perhaps the most generally interesting in Gairloch, as being especially identified with Sir George Hay. The furnace which gives its name to the hamlet is on the north-west bank of the "Furnace burn," about one hundred yards from its confluence with Loch Maree. The remains of the furnace are tolerably complete, and a hole in its lower part looks as if it had been the aperture for the blast. On the banks of the burn are masses of sandstone, which formed part of the furnace. Some fragments of vitrified bricks are also to be seen. In the soil of the adjoining field, and in its fence walls, are quantities of the ores 2 and 3. In places the soil is quite red with fragments of hematite. In other places it is stained black with charcoal burnings, and many fragments of charcoal are to be found. No doubt the water-power of the burn was utilised, and Loch Maree afforded an easy means of transport of imported ores from Poolewe, where they were landed.

The slags found about this furnace are of both classes. May we not conclude from this fact, that Sir George Hay commenced the manufacture of iron on the old methods anciently in vogue, and that it was at Letterewe that he began the improved processes which were afterwards carried to still greater perfection at the Red Smiddy? This furnace belongs of course to the historic class.

4. Talladale.

A strong local tradition places the Talladale furnace on the bank of a small burn about one hundred and fifty yards south-east of the Talladale river; it stood in the corner of the field nearest to, and to the west of, the road. They say that when this field was reclaimed and trenched, large quantities of slag were turned up, and were buried in the land and in drains. The few specimens of slag found on the [93]surface in 1883 are of both kinds. Some small fragments of ore discovered are No. 3. It seems pretty certain, therefore, that the Talladale furnace was carried on by Sir George Hay, and that it belongs to the historic class of ironworks.

5. Garavaig, on Slatadale Farm.

The Garavaig furnace stood in a slight hollow in the east corner of what is now the easternmost field of the Slatadale farm, close to where the Garavaig burn (on which are the Victoria Falls) runs into Loch Maree. They say the water-power of the burn was anciently increased by artificial means. When I first examined the field where the furnace stood it was newly ploughed, and part of it was stained black with fragments of charcoal, indicating extensive burnings. The farmer stated that he had buried immense quantities of slag in the drains and soil of this recently reclaimed field. There are still numerous fragments of No. 1 slag on the surface, so that the furnace belonged to the ancient class. The farmer said that he had noticed indications of there having been a furnace in the slight hollow already mentioned, and the fragments of slag are thickest there. The agricultural operations have reduced the place almost to a dead level. No kind of iron ore is found, but the locality is just the place where one would have expected "pans" of bog iron might have occurred.

6. Red Smiddy, Near Poolewe.

The remains of the iron furnace on the river Ewe are still called A Cheardach Ruadh, or "the Red Smiddy." They are more perfect, and therefore to some extent more attractive to one studying the subject, than any of the others. Unquestionably they are also more recent. That the Red Smiddy was part of Sir George Hay's undertaking appears certain; but it was very likely under his manager or factor that it was established, and probably a number of years later than the Letterewe furnace. The slags are exclusively of class No. 2, and closely resemble those formed in blast-furnaces at the present day, thus demonstrating the progress Sir George made in the art of the manufacture of iron after his commencement at Letterewe. Mr Macadam finds that this light slag is completely soluble in acids, and that it contains 16 per cent. of oxide of calcium, and only 23 per cent. of metallic iron. The ore found on the bank above the Red Smiddy and elsewhere near its remains are of the No. 3 class. Many of the fragments of ore have been roasted. This process does not seem to have been adopted at any of the other furnaces. It is another indication of the more recent date of the Red Smiddy, and of the improvements in the methods pursued there. The Letterewe and Talladale furnaces appear to have been originally established solely for the smelting of bog iron (No. 1). Gradually the paucity of that ore, the advantage of mixing imported ores with it, and their superior [94]quality, led to the introduction of the latter; and then the convenience of having a furnace near the place where these imported ores were landed, led to the establishment of the Red Smiddy. No doubt timber for charcoal burning was at first obtainable in every direction, and afterwards, if there were not a sufficient quantity standing near the Red Smiddy, it could easily be floated down to it from Letterewe or other places on Loch Maree.

The Red Smiddy is on the north-east bank of the river Ewe, immediately below the termination of its navigable part, which also bears the name of the "Narrows of Loch Maree," so that this furnace may properly be said to stand at the foot, as the Fasagh works stand at the head, of the loch. The furnace is about half a mile from Poolewe, and is said to have been approached from the other side of the river by means of a weir or dam, which was long afterwards converted into a cruive dyke. This weir served also to maintain the water-power used for working the hammers. It spanned the river in a transverse direction from east to west, and the line of the old road is still visible leading down to its west end. Leaving the navigable part of the Ewe at the east end of the weir was a race or cut, more or less artificial, the channel of which still runs past the furnace which it formerly insulated. It was not till some time prior to 1830 that the old weir was restored, and used for salmon cruives. They were removed about 1852 in order to lower the level of the water above, and so drain land at the head of Loch Maree.

The furnace is still tolerably complete. It is about six feet square, and stands on a mound red with its remains. It is built of sandstone. The chimney stalk was standing to the height of eight or ten feet at the time the cruives were removed. Several men in the neighbourhood speak to this fact, and identify numerous pieces of sandstone lying about as having formed portions of it. They are all vitrified along the cracks. Some bricks or pieces of brick are also found; they are formed of rough clay. Mr Marr thought they contained rushes, that had been mixed with the clay to bind it. There is a large heap of the slag No. 2 near the furnace. A flat space to the north of the furnace appears to have been artificially formed for the purpose of moulding the iron; here I have found two small masses or pigs of cast iron. Mr Macadam has found that one of these masses contains 98‧8 per cent. of metallic iron, very little carbon, and only ‧8 per cent. of silicon. A pig of iron which Dr Arthur Mitchell found here in 1859, and deposited in the museum of Scottish Antiquities at Edinburgh, is of cast iron. Besides these pigs of iron several other iron articles have at different times been taken from the Red Smiddy. Pennant was told by the Rev. Mr Dounie in 1772, that he (Mr Dounie) had seen the back of a grate marked S. G. Hay. Mr Alexander Mackenzie of Lochend informed Mr Knox in 1786, that his grandfather had got from these works "an old grate and some hammers." Sir G. S. Mackenzie of Coul mentions in his "General Survey," in 1810, "the breech of a cannon he had found among the rubbish, which appeared to have been spoiled in casting." Old men state that they remember to have seen, about 1840, in front of the inn [95]at Aultbea, a large iron hammer head which had been brought from the Red Smiddy; it required two men to lift it, and to raise it from the ground was a common test of strength; it was removed from Aultbea by Donald Macdonald, fishcurer at Lochinver. It may have been one of the hammers mentioned by Mackenzie of Lochend.

There are evidences of extensive charcoal burnings on several flat places along the east bank of the Narrows of Loch Maree for a space of nearly half a mile above the Red Smiddy, and much of the bank immediately above it is black with charcoal and the remains of fires where ore was roasted.

There is a tradition that Sir George Hay or his manager projected a canal, to connect the navigable part of the Ewe with the sea at a place called Cuil an Scardain, at the south-west corner of Loch Ewe. Two large circular holes at this place, now nearly filled up with stones cleared from the adjoining arable land, are said to have been borings made to test the feasibility of the project. They give some probability to the tradition.

In chronological order the Glen Dochartie and Garavaig bloomeries were probably the earliest of the Gairloch ironworks. The Fasagh works seem to have been intermediate between those and the historic series, which includes Furnace (Letterewe), Talladale, and the Red Smiddy. These last belong, as we have seen, to the seventeenth century.

Old inhabitants have a tradition that there was a bloomery in Tollie bay on Loch Maree. They say that after it was discontinued the business of tar boiling was carried on at the same place. If this were so, it must have been long ago, for no vestiges of old fir trees are now to be seen in the neighbourhood. Some small fragments of slag are found among the shingle in Tollie bay. Mr Macadam has analysed a sample of this slag, and is of opinion that it is lime-kiln slag; it contains 33 per cent. of carbonate of lime, and 64 per cent. of insoluble silicates, which include only 13 per cent. of metallic iron.

There are a few masses of slag near the entrance to the Gairloch churchyard. Owing to the crowded state of the graves within, some interments have recently taken place outside the churchyard, and this slag has been dug up. Mr Macadam finds that it contains 29½ per cent. of metallic iron, and 8¼ per cent. of insoluble silicates. He does not think this slag has been the result of iron-smelting.

Two notices not already quoted referring to iron mines or the manufacture of iron in the neighbourhood of Loch Maree or Loch Ewe ought to be mentioned before concluding this part of our subject.

The following is an extract from the letterpress (written in 1660) on the back of Blaeu's map of the north of Scotland—the old Dutch map previously referred to in these pages. It seems to speak of an outer and inner Loch Ewe, the latter (Loch Maree) surrounded by thick woods where in past years there had been iron mines (ysermijnen).


After describing Kintail, and then Lochcarron, it goes on to say (proceeding northwards):—"Dus voort-tredende komt men aen eenige onbekende zeeboesems, en den volght de zeeboesem Ew, en duysent schreden daer boven de binnenzee Ew, van alle zijden met dichte bosschen beslotten, daer in de voorgaende jaren ysermijnen gevonden zijn, en ick weet niet of men noch heden daer aen arbeyt."

The other notice occurs in the "Present State of Great Britain and Ireland," printed by J. Brotherton, London, 1742, where we read that "further on the same coast lies Loch Ewe with thick woods on all sides, where a great deal of iron was formerly made."

This brings to a close my remarks on the old ironworks of Gairloch. The dense forests of timber that yielded the charcoal used by the iron-smelters of old have disappeared, and coal, which is not found in Gairloch, is now the usual fuel for smelting. The local bog iron does not occur in such quantities as would be required for profitable working in the present day. It is therefore unlikely that the iron industry will again find a footing in Gairloch; but it must ever be interesting to recall what we know of the ironworks, both those commenced by the illustrious Earl of Kinnoull, and the others of more ancient date.


The existing remains almost go to prove that the parish of Gairloch has been in bygone days the "Black Country" of the west coast. Whilst admiring the energy and skill of the former ironworkers, may we not be allowed to express the hope that charcoal burnings and iron furnaces may never again—at least in our time—be set agoing to mar with their smoke and refuse the beautiful shores of Loch Maree and the river Ewe?


Chapter XXI.


In this chapter I shall attempt little more than to catalogue the objects of archæological interest in Gairloch parish, and to suggest some subjects for the investigation of archæologists.

Gairloch is very deficient in remains of old buildings. In ancient times the mason's art was unknown in the district, and the erections of those days were formed of uncemented and unchiselled stones, so that no architectural features are to be found among the slight remains of ancient buildings.

Of Druidical, or supposed Druidical, remains there are very few in Gairloch, and even these are of doubtful origin. The only place connected by local tradition with the Druids is a circular enclosure in Tollie wood. It is formed of a rough wall enclosing a regular circle. The stones composing the wall are of comparatively small size, and are much scattered. There are several heaps of stones and remains of detached pieces of wall near the circle. This part of Tollie wood consists mostly of indigenous oaks, which are said to be descended from the oaks of the Druids. By some the traditional Druidical origin of these remains is discredited, and the circle and other buildings are supposed to have been fanks or folds for cattle or sheep. The tradition is however generally current in Gairloch, and at least deserves consideration.

The circular enclosure on Isle Maree, which has for many centuries been used as a burial-ground, was supposed by Thomas Pennant (Appendix B) to be Druidical, and Dr Arthur Mitchell inclines to the same opinion. The sacrifices of bulls, and other pagan practices, connected with this island, render this view highly probable.

The circular island in the paddock below Flowerdale House, which was until recent times the place where justice was administered in Gairloch, is probably Druidical. It is to-day scarcely an island, the moat or ditch which formerly insulated it being now filled up, or nearly so. It formed no part of the Tigh Dige, or its garden or outbuildings, which were all in the field on the seaward side of the paddock. A full account of the manner in which the administration of justice was conducted at this island will be given in Part II., chap. iii. The curious way in which the laird and his assessors or jurymen were stationed at trees favours the Druidical origin; the criminal and his accusers were also stationed at ancient trees.

Of other prehistoric remains the Pictish brochs or round houses are perhaps the most notable. One occurs on Craig Bhan, on the north-east side of the river Ewe, half-way between Poolewe and Inveran, within two hundred yards of the road. Another round house, with unusually high and perfect walls, stands on a grassy eminence to the east of the road between Poolewe and Tournaig. Three others were exposed to view in trenching new land on the [98]shores of Loch nan Dailthean at Tournaig several years ago. Some steatite whorls, stone troughs (see illustrations), ashes, and other remains, were found in them. Other round houses occur near Kernsary, and in other places. No doubt the remains of many are now concealed by an overgrowth of heather and other plants, and many more have been destroyed by agricultural operations.

The only vitrified fort in Gairloch stood on the rocky eminence near the volunteer targets at the south-west end of the largest sandy beach at Gairloch. Slight traces of the vitrification are said to be still found.

There are remains of a number of ancient strongholds or fortalices in Gairloch. Some were duns or castles, others were crannags or crannogs, i.e. fortified islands, more or less artificial.

The one most frequently mentioned in the traditions of the country is the Dun or Castle of Gairloch. It occupied the same site as the vitrified fort just referred to. Probably it was more of a fortification than a castle. Some of the low banks or lines of stones on the rocky eminence are said to be the ruins of the castle walls. This dun is said to have been a stronghold of the MacBeaths, and subsequently of the M'Leods.

The remains on Eilean Grudidh are more perfect. The natural rocky bank of the island appears to have been completed and heightened into a fortification by rude masonry cemented with clay. This fortification surrounded the island; the interior formed a tolerably level plateau, now much overgrown; on this plateau are slight remains of buildings, which in the present day are little more than mounds. At one place there is a deep hole with a circular wall round it; tradition says this was a dungeon. The area of Eilean Grudidh is barely half an acre. Like the Dun of Gairloch, it is said to have been held by the MacBeaths and afterwards by the M'Leods.

Of the stronghold, or rather crannog, on Loch Tollie, there only remain the loose stones scattered on the little island (now overgrown by bushes) and in the water around it. This small island (see illustration) is to-day the nesting-place of two or three pairs of the common gull, and no one would suppose that it was once a fortalice of the MacBeaths, and subsequently of the M'Leods.

Another stronghold, or dun, said to have been the last held in Gairloch by the M'Leods, is now only known by a large mound, apparently natural, with traces of a long straight bank on its top, and by the name Uamh nam Freiceadain. It is situated on the headland between Port Henderson and Opinan; its position is marked on the six-inch ordnance map. The name Uamh is said to be derived from a recess on the face of the hill towards the sea.

There were also duns at Tournaig and Naast. The site of the former is still called Dunan, or the "little dun"; it is only evidenced to-day by the large stepping-stones that give dry access to it at the highest spring-tides. There are no remains of the castle of Naast, said to have been a fortalice of Vikings. The rock on which it was situated still bears the name of Dun Naast.

There are crannogs, or artificial islands, on Lochs Kernsary and [99]Mhic 'ille Rhiabhaich; nothing is known of their history. It is interesting to recall that, in the instructions given by the Privy Council of Scotland to the commissioners appointed in 1608 to treat with the Highland chiefs, "crannaks" were specially referred to. They must have caused much difficulty in dealing with the Highlanders, who found in them secure refuges against attacks by government agents.

There were six churches, or places of worship, in old days in Gairloch, mentioned in the traditions still current among the people, and referred to in chapter xvi. of this Part:—

1. The church of Gairloch was originally dedicated to St Maelrubha, and perhaps erected by him in the seventh century; it stood near the centre of the burial-ground at Gairloch. There are no remains whatever of it. In the Dutch map of 1662 the place is called Heglis Ghearrloch, i.e. the church of Gairloch.

2. The church at Culinellan, near Kenlochewe, was mentioned in the Old Statistical Account (Appendix C) as a place of worship at Kenlochewe; no traces of it remain. It is probably the church referred to in the map of 1662 as Heglis Loch Ew.

3. The turf-built place of worship near the beach in Tollie bay was but a temporary expedient; some remains of it (since obliterated by farming operations) existed in the memory of old men now living.

4. A little church or meeting-house stood at Cruive End or Tollie Croft. Here Pennant heard the Rev. John Dounie preach in 1772, and here some old people still living attended public worship up to 1826, when it fell into disuse upon the erection of the present church at Poolewe. It was a thatched house, and agricultural works have destroyed all traces of it.

5. The church or chapel of Inverewe stood in what is still called the Inverewe churchyard. This place is perhaps more generally known as the Londubh burial-ground. The old name of Londubh is Baile na h' Eaglais, which means the town of the church. The burial-ground is a hundred yards to the east of the road leading from Poolewe towards Aultbea, a short distance beyond Pool House. The house where James Mackenzie lives is close to the churchyard; this house used to be the residence of the proprietors of Kernsary; the place is now called Kirkton, a literal translation of Baile na h' Eaglais. What is left of this old church of Inverewe is supposed by some to be the remains of the oldest church in Gairloch parish. It seems to have been forty feet long and eighteen feet wide; it was not placed due east and west. The original wall forming the north-east side of the church is still standing, overgrown with a large mass of ivy. The Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie, from Bute, founder of the Kernsary family (Part I., chap, xiv.), purchased the Kernsary estate, including this churchyard, some time during the seventeenth century. He was an Episcopalian clergyman, and held services in the church of Inverewe, probably with much acceptance among his neighbours, who clung to the old form of worship long after Presbyterianism had been established by law. It seems likely he built this little church; some say he only restored an older church; in either case this may [100]have been the site of an ancient pre-Reformation church, and even of a monastic institution, for there are many traces of buildings in the neighbourhood. On the death of Mr Mackenzie there was no one to conduct services here; and on the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1689, or within a few years thereafter, the church was partly pulled down, and the two present roofless apartments or chapels were constructed out of its remains for family burial-places; they have since been used as such. The Inverewe church does not seem to have possessed any architectural features; a moulding round the door of one of the burial-places is Jacobean. A loose stone in one of the burial-places is inscribed "K M K 1678," and very likely records the date when the Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie built or restored the church. On the lintel of the door of the principal burial-place are initials and a date, now nearly eradicated by decay; the date looks as if it had been the same as that on the loose stone. The stone basin of the font lies loose in the burial-ground near; a stone now placed over a grave is moulded along one edge, and may possibly have formed part of the altar.

6. The chapel of Sand of Udrigil (see illustration), situated in a churchyard crowded with graves, close to the village of Laide, is stated in Dr Scott's Fasti Ecclesiæ Scoticanæ, Part V., to have been built (about 1713) by George Mackenzie of Gruinard, at his own expense, as a Presbyterian place of worship; but the universal tradition in Gairloch is, that the little church was erected by St Columba, the apostle of Scotland, or one of his followers, in the seventh century, and that the chapel was only thatched by George Mackenzie of Gruinard, if indeed his place of worship were not an altogether different edifice. I incline to the opinion that the chapel dates further back than the eighteenth century. It seems to have been an Episcopal church, for (1) it is placed nearly east and west; and (2) when I first knew the little ruin, its single window showed what appeared to be the remains of a mullion and tracery, which I would not have expected in a Presbyterian church of the eighteenth century. If then the church be older than the time of George Mackenzie of Gruinard, who can say that the local tradition may not be authentic? The walls of the church are cemented with lime made by burning shells, or possibly shell sand from the island of Tanera, some twelve miles away. I am bound to say that several houses in the locality, known not to date further back than the eighteenth century, were cemented with similar lime, notably the old house of Ardlair, demolished about 1883. The strength of such lime was shown at Ardlair, where blasting-powder had to be resorted to for the destruction of the old house. The little church of Sand is very picturesquely placed near the seashore.

Of old burial-places worth examination there are several in Gairloch:—

1. The Cladh nan Sasunnach, or English burial-ground, near the head of Loch Maree. It contains twenty-four graves. Some have supposed that it was the cemetery of the ironworkers, but I incline to the opinion that the graves are far older than the period of the historic [101]ironworks (Part I., chap. xviii.). I recommend this burial-ground to the investigation of antiquaries.

2. The burial-place in Isle Maree so thoroughly described by Dr Arthur Mitchell (Part II., chap. xi.). Its most interesting gravestones are those beneath which the unfortunate Norwegian prince and his bride are sleeping.

3. The mounds to be seen on Fraoch Eilean, in Gairloch, mark the graves of the M'Leods slain by the heroes of Leac nan Saighead (Part I., chap. xii.).

4. The Gairloch churchyard is now overcrowded with graves. In it are the chapel or burial-place where lie some of the older lairds of Gairloch, and the tombstone of John Hay, described in Part I., chap. xviii. There are two unroofed chapels or burial-places. The northern one is that of the lairds of Gairloch; it contains two flat tombstones, one not inscribed, the other bearing an illegible inscription. Outside this chapel is a raised tomb covered with a flat bevelled stone, on which are the Cabar feidh, the initials K M K and I M K, and the date 1730. In the other burial-place are several graves, but no monuments or inscriptions; outside it, on the east wall, are monuments to the Chisholm family. Into the wall facing south is built a handsomely sculptured stone, with the text "Timor domini est initium sapientiæ" carved upon it in relief; below is what looks like a representation of the Cabar feidh, with the letter A on one side and M K on the other side. The date 1633 is cut into the stone, in a different character and evidently by a different hand to that of the original sculptor. If the date were 1638 the stone would unquestionably be a monument to Alexander (Alastair Breac), fifth laird of Gairloch; perhaps it may have been in memory of one of his family. Many of the leading celebrities among the natives of Gairloch in the days that are gone repose in the churchyard. None of the older gravestones bear inscriptions. Of modern ones, the monument to William Ross, the Gairloch bard, is most noticeable.

5. The Inverewe churchyard, where stands the ruined old chapel already described. A few shapeless stones are the only antiquities beyond those connected with the little church.

6. The churchyard or burial-place at Culinellan, near Kenlochewe, to which the same remark applies.

7. The churchyard at Sand of Udrigil already referred to. It contains nothing except the ruins of the old chapel which can interest the archæologist.

I am told an ancient burial-place was discovered some years ago at Bruachaig, near Kenlochewe, where the bodies had been buried in a doubled-up position, the well-known custom in remote times. I have visited another spot, in a glen among the mountains, traditionally described as a burial-place of giants; it may have been so, but the stones (which indeed are mostly flat) look more as if they had been deposited naturally than by human agency.

Of remains of old buildings, besides those already described, there are few of any antiquarian interest in Gairloch:—

1. Perhaps the oldest remains of these other buildings are the [102]few stones and the mound on Isle Maree, supposed to represent the cell of St Maelrubha and the tower to which the Norwegian prince brought his bride (Part I., chap. ii.).

2. On Eilean Ruaridh Beag are the remains of the residence of John Roy Mackenzie, fourth laird of Gairloch, who lived here in the latter part of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth. It is said that long before that time Ruaridh M'Leod, who gave his name to the island, resided here, possibly in the same house, or in one on the same site. This small island almost adjoins Eilean Ruaridh Mhor on its south side. The buildings present no architectural features, and only ruinous dry-stone walls remain; there are also some half-wild garden fruit-trees on the island. I remember about the year 1868 seeing a small cannon ball sticking in one of the walls, and I am told that bullets have often been found in the moss on this island. Perhaps the cannon ball and the bullets had been there since the fight when Ruaridh M'Leod was driven from the island. The remains of John Roy's house confirm Captain Burt's accounts of the "huts" in which the Highland lairds of his day (early in the eighteenth century) resided; the chiefs seem to have been generally little better lodged than their clansmen.

3. On Eilean Suainne were the houses or huts where the sons of John Glassich Mackenzie, the second laird of Gairloch, dwelt in the sixteenth century, and where Alastair Breac, the fifth laird of Gairloch, resided from about 1628 to 1638. There are very slight, if any, remains of these dwellings.

4. The old Tigh Dige and its gardens and outbuildings stood in the field below Flowerdale House. The Tigh Dige itself was, as its name implies, a house in a ditch or moat. Its remains still existed up to the time of the late Sir Francis Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch, in the centre of this field, but agricultural operations have now entirely obliterated them. Simon Chisholm, at Flowerdale, remembers them well. The lines of the garden walls can still be traced in the part of the field lying to the east. This was the Gairloch home of Hector Roy Mackenzie, the founder of the family in the latter part of the fifteenth century. The Tigh Dige is said to have been originally a turf hut, with a roof made of sticks and divots. Kenneth Mackenzie, the sixth laird of Gairloch, erected on the same site, within the same moat, about the middle of the seventeenth century, a more substantial building, which was called the Stank House or Moat House, and continued to be the west coast home of the Gairloch family until 1738, when Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Bart., the ninth laird of Gairloch, erected the present west coast residence of the family, which he named Flowerdale House. Sir Alexander also built there the old barn called Sabhal Geal (still in use) in 1730. On the south side of the barn the arms of the Gairloch Mackenzies are carved in stone, with the date 1730 below. The figure of Donald Odhar, in tartan trews, appears as one of the supporters of the shield. There are two Latin mottoes, viz., "Fidelitatis præmium" and "Non sine periculo;" the former (above the coat-of-arms) refers to the faithfulness of Donald Odhar; the latter is the usual motto of the Mackenzies. [103]The old Temple House at Flowerdale, where Alastair Breac seems to have sometimes lived, is now occupied by Simon Chisholm above named, who is Sir Kenneth's present forester and head-gardener. It is a modernised dwelling. No doubt a great part of the wall is ancient. Simon Chisholm says the style of the windows and entrance when he first remembers the house, gave probability to the tradition that it was originally, as its name implies, a church or temple of worship. It may have been the residence of the priest or priests of Gairloch church before the Reformation.


5. The old house of Kirkton, close to the Inverewe or Londubh churchyard, is probably the house erected as his residence by the Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie, in the seventeenth century. It is a good example of a laird's dwelling of that period. It is said that Mr. Mackenzie, who came from Bute, had a smack load of Bute earth brought to Kirkton. Part of it was put into the Inverewe church, so that when he was buried there he might lie beneath Bute soil; the overplus was deposited in the garden of Kirkton house, where the heap is still preserved.

6. The houses of Udrigil and Aird were old residences of the Mackenzies of Gruinard, but possess no architectural features, and are not of great antiquity. The same remark applies to Letterewe House, which was the residence of the Letterewe Mackenzies. Cliff House, Poolewe, was formerly the manse of Gairloch, and was erected about 1760. In the old house of Udrigil are curious large cupboards or closets in the very thick walls; they are said to have been used for the purpose of detaining recruits captured by the pressgangs.

Most of the bronze weapons and other remains found near Poolewe have been described by Mr William Jolly, F.G.S., F.R.S.E., in a paper he wrote on the subject. Representations of the most perfect of the bronze and stone weapons or implements so far discovered are included in our illustrations. The following is a list of them:—

 No. 1. Bronze ring, T-shaped section.
2. Hollow bronze ring.
3. Bronze spearhead, small.
4. Bronze spearhead.
5. Bronze celt.
6. Stone celt.
7. Bronze spear.
8. Bronze celt.
[104]9. Stone implement.
10. Quern or trough.
11. Fragment of trough.
12. Penanular ring.

All these except Nos. 3 and 9 to 12 are in the possession of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie; Nos. 3, 9, 10, and 11 are in the possession of Mr O. H. Mackenzie. Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 8 were found by Hector Maciver whilst cutting peats at Londubh. No. 3 was found near Inverewe House, about three feet below the surface in a peat cutting; a stag's horn was found at the same place in the following year. No. 5 was found at Slatadale; it is considerably worn. No. 6 was found at Cove; it is of some variety of trap well polished. No. 7 was found by two sons of Kenneth Urquhart (Kennie Rob) in a peat cutting near Croft, not far from the place where the Feill Iudha was formerly held. No. 9 was found in 1844 in a peat cutting between Inveran and Kernsary; it is of a sandstone uncommon in this country; it may have been used in flaying cattle and deer. Nos. 10 and 11 were found in brochs or Pictish round houses on the shores of Loch nan Dailthean, when land was newly trenched there in 1879. No. 12 is a penanular ring of bronze with expanded ends; being of a type rare in Scotland, Sir Kenneth Mackenzie deposited it in the museum of antiquities at Edinburgh. Hector Maciver found another bronze ring at Londubh, similar to Nos. 1 and 2, at the same spot where he discovered the above-named. There is a stone quern, resembling No. 10, lying near Drumchork House.


On the flat peat moss behind Poolewe, and to the west, a large market was held for generations, known as the Feill Iudha, or "ewe market." It was frequented by the Lews men, as well as by the people of the district. The last of these markets was held about 1720, when many of the Lews men who had attended the market were lost in a violent storm in the Minch, while returning home in their open boats. Traces of this old market have frequently turned up while cutting peats, in the form of bundles of cabars or sticks tied up with withes, as brought from the woods ready for exportation; [105]moulds of some fatty substance, either butter or tallow; and a rounded block of wood, fourteen inches in diameter, found ten or twelve years ago, probably prepared for being converted into the wooden bickers or plates formerly common in the Highlands.

The remains of the ironworks described in the last chapter are of considerable archæological interest. Two of the iron articles found near the Fasagh furnaces are represented among our illustrations; they are Nos. 13 and 14 in the list of antiquities illustrated; they are to be deposited in the museum at Edinburgh.

Among our illustrations are outlines of the crosses on the tombstones of the prince and princess who were buried on Isle Maree. The tragic story connected with them is told in Part I., chap. ii.

The caves at Cove and Sand of Udrigil are said to be meeting-places of great antiquity; they are still used for public worship. I have explored for some little distance the cave on the seashore at North Erradale, but have discovered nothing of interest beyond some apparently recent evidences of distillation of whisky.




Inhabitants of Gairloch.

I.Ancestry and Names109
II.Warfare and Weapons112
III.Polity and Customs114
IV.Religion and Religious Observances117
V.Character and Characteristics121
VI.Language and Dress125
VII.Ways and Means132
VIII.Agriculture and Stock136
X.Posts and Roadmaking147
XI.Superstitions of Isle Maree150
XII.Superstitions of Isle Maree—continued153
XIII.Superstitions generally158
XIV.Witchcraft and Magic163
XV.Visions and Second Sight169
XVI.Bards and Pipers173
XVII.Hereditary Pipers of the Gairloch Family177
XVIII.William Mackenzie and Malcolm Maclean180
XIX.William Ross, the Gairloch Bard183
XX.Alexander Campbell, Bard to Sir Hector185
XXI.Alexander Grant, the great Bard of Slaggan187
XXII.John Mackenzie of "The Beauties"189
XXIII.Living Gairloch Bards192
XXIV.The Poolewe Artist200
XXV.James Mackenzie's Gairloch Stories201



Chapter I.

Ancestry and Names.

No traveller can claim even a moderate acquaintance with the parish of Gairloch unless he has acquired some knowledge of her Highland population. This part of our book is designed to help the reader in obtaining that knowledge; nevertheless it is not intended to supersede personal inquiry and observation.

To the casual observer the people here differ very little from the inhabitants of other parts of Great Britain; a closer examination reveals peculiarities in their race, language, manners and customs, superstitions, religious observances, and other characteristics, well worthy the examination of all who resort to this romantic country.

There is a common misconception on the part of English tourists who pay flying visits to the Highlands. Many of them suppose that the natives are of the same blood, and speak the same dialect, as the lowland Scot. Nothing could be further from the fact. To speak of a Highlander "as a Scotsman only," is, as Captain Burt says, "as indefinite as barely to call a Frenchman an European." The Highlander, though inhabiting a part of Scotland, is essentially different from the typical Scotchman. The apprehension of this truth, which will be illustrated in the following pages, is the first step towards the knowledge of the Gairloch Highlanders.


In Part I., chap. i., we have seen how the original Pictish tribe of the Caledonians called the Cantæ, who inhabited Ross-shire, became intermixed with two foreign, yet probably cognate breeds, the Norwegians and the Danes. Further admixture of blood took place by the settlement in Gairloch of Highlanders of other septs, particularly the MacBeaths, M'Leods, MacRaes, and Macdonalds. The ironworkers left their mark on the breed, in such names as Cross, Kemp, and Bethune or Beaton. In more recent times sheep-farming brought lowland blood, identified by the names of Watson, Reid, Stewart, MacClymont, Lawrie, Boa, &c. Again, it is said, no doubt with truth, that some few English or even foreign sailors have at different times settled in Gairloch, owing to shipwrecks or other causes. A Spanish ship, possibly connected with the Armada, is said to have been wrecked on the Greenstone Point, and one or two persons used to be pointed out who, though bearing native names, were believed from their dark wavy hair to have Spanish blood in their veins. So the Taylors of Badachro are descended from a lowland sailor lad. Lastly, the minor admixtures of blood from the immigration of attendants who came with brides of the Gairloch lairds (of whom are the Campbells or M'Ivers, Grants, Chisholms, &c.), and of some other individuals mentioned in these pages, such as Rorie Mackay, [110]the piper, have, in a less degree, leavened the Gairloch breed. On the whole, however, it must be considered as mainly sprung from the original Pictish stock, herein differing ab initio from the lowland race.

The surname Mackenzie greatly predominates in Gairloch, and there are a number of distinct families of that name; many of them have an unbroken lineage from one or other of the lords of Kintail, or of the lairds of Gairloch, whose ancient origin has already been given. In the present day pedigrees are less thought of than in the time of the old seannachies, who were the genealogists of their clans, but many people now living in humble circumstances could, if they pleased, trace their ancestry a thousand years in an unbroken line through the original Kenneth, the progenitor of the family. The blood of kings and nobles flows in their veins, and accounts no doubt for the innate courtesy and gentle manner often noticeable among the humblest of the Gairloch Highlanders.


Surnames were little used in Gairloch in old times, and it is supposed that many persons of different races who settled in the Mackenzie country were after a time reckoned to be Mackenzies. Possibly the clan name was originally adopted only as a means of connecting the follower with his chief, whose tartan of course he wore for identification.


To the present day surnames are little used in Gairloch when Gaelic is being spoken, and even in English a number of men are often called by the equivalents of their Gaelic names. These Gaelic names are formed by the addition to the Christian name of a soubriquet or byname, often hereditary, or else of the father's, grandfather's, and even the great-grandfather's Christian names or some or one of them. Thus in the minutes of the Presbytery of Dingwall, referring to sacrifices of bulls (Appendix F), we find the names of Donald M'Eaine Roy vic Choinnich and Murdo M'Conill varchu vic Conill vic Allister, which in English are respectively "Donald the son of John Roy the son of Kenneth" and "Murdo the son of Donald Murdo the son of Donald the son of Alexander." "Roy," properly "Ruadh," happens to be the only soubriquet in these two compound names. Take some examples from names of men now living:—Alexander Mackenzie, the senior piper of the Gairloch volunteers, is the son of John Mackenzie of Moss Bank; the father is known as Iain Glas, i.e. Pale John; the son is always called in Gaelic Ali' Iain Ghlais, i.e. Alexander [son] of Pale John. This name also illustrates the custom of continuing a soubriquet, whether appropriate or not, from one generation to another; Iain Glas is so called, not because he has a pale face, but because the byname had belonged to an uncle of his. So we find John M'Lean, the industrious crofter on the east side of the Ewe, called Iain Buidhe, or Yellow-haired John, not because he has yellow hair, but because an ancestor of his was dubbed with that byname.

Among very numerous instances of the application of bynames to men now living, the following may be given:—Donald Og, Alie Ruadh, Uilleam Ruadh, Alie Beag, Iain Dubh, Eachainn Geal, Seann Seoc, and Alie Uistean, meaning respectively Young Donald, Red-haired Alexander, Red-haired William, Little Alexander, Black John, White Hector, Old Jock, and Alexander Hugh. Young Donald is an elderly man; Little Alexander a tall man; Old Jock acquired the name as a boy because he had then an old head on young shoulders; and Alexander Hugh is so called because he had an ancestor named Hugh, though he himself was baptized Alexander only. In each of these cases the individual is either a Mackenzie, Urquhart, or Maclennan, but is never so called by his neighbours. The same system of nomenclature is similarly applied to the other sex.

It is worth notice that several Gaelic names are not translatable into English; thus Eachainn is not really Gaelic for Hector, any more than Uistean is for Hugh, but these English names have long been adopted as reasonably good equivalents for the Gaelic.

Some female names in Gairloch sound strange to lowland ears, i.e. those formed by adding ina to a man's name not usually associated with that termination in the south,—for example, Simonina, Donaldina, Murdina, Seumasina (or Jamesina), Angusina, Hectorina, &c.


Chapter II.

Warfare and Weapons.

Up to the middle of the seventeenth century Gairloch seems to have been a continual battlefield. As to Kenlochewe, it was so often ravaged, and its population so frequently decimated, that one is surprised to find anything left of it!

Among the MacBeaths, M'Leods, Macdonalds, and Mackenzies (assisted by MacRaes), Gairloch was a veritable bone of contention; and for some time after the fierce struggles among the warriors of these clans or tribes had ceased it was still a prey to the raids of the Lochaber cattle-lifters.

What wonder that the Highlander had actually to sleep in his war-paint!

Several weapons of warfare have been mentioned incidentally in Part I., viz., the dirk of Hector Roy, the battle-axe of Big Duncan, the bows and arrows of several of the MacRae archers, and the shotgun of Alastair Buidhe Mackay. The broadsword and targe of the Highlanders were mentioned by Tacitus, and continued to be their arms when in battle array until the eighteenth century. The broadsword is often called the claymore or big sword; it was two-edged. The targe was a round shield of wood covered with leather. Bows and arrows were used against enemies at a distance, and the battle-axe was a favourite and deadly weapon at close quarters. The dirk was mostly used in personal encounters, or when heavier weapons were not at hand. All these weapons were common among Gairloch warriors, except the gun, which was rare here, and in most parts of the Highlands. Bows were made, it is said, of ash; and the present ash trees at Ardlair, and other places hereabouts, are supposed to have sprung from old trees grown long ago on purpose to supply bows.

After the "Forty-five" the clan system faded away, and it is not likely, indeed not possible, that we shall ever again see the able-bodied men of a clan gathered under their chief in battle array.

The immediate substitute for the old system was the raising by several Highland chiefs of regiments of their clansmen as part of the regular army of Great Britain. Lord Seaforth raised the regiment known as the 78th Highlanders in 1793; and, as we have seen, John, second son of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, tenth laird of Gairloch, gathered from Gairloch a company for that regiment, of which he became captain.

All the same, enlisting in the army was never popular in Gairloch; and, as a rule, recruits could be procured only by the detestable means of the pressgang, which was also used for obtaining sailors for the navy.

Dr Mackenzie, writing of the days of his father, Sir Hector Mackenzie, says:—"One of my father's amphibious crofters disappeared, leaving his wife and family to the care of Providence, without a clue to his being dead or alive, for some five years. One day my [113]father, superintending some job near the bay, noticed a man coming towards him with a true sailor-like roll. Intimate with the cut of every man on the estate, says he, 'Surely that is dead Donald M'Lean's walk;' and, on coming near, it certainly was Donald himself, in naval attire. 'Halloa, Donald!' says he, 'where on earth are you from?' speaking, as he always did to his people, in Gaelic. Donald pulled up, and saluting, replied in two words, also in Gaelic, 'Bho Iutharn,' the English of which is simply 'From hell.' The service on board a man-of-war was then really infernal, though Donald, who had been grabbed by a press-gang, had survived five years of it, and found his widow and children glad to see him again."


For other stories connected with the press-gang system see Part II., chap. xxv. Very few recruits are in the present day forthcoming from Gairloch for the army, navy, or militia.

The Volunteer corps, which is the "I" Company of the Ross Highland Rifle Volunteers, is well supported, and is generally over its authorised strength. It has three pipers, and the rank and file comprise a number of fine men.

Though perhaps not exactly within the subject of this chapter, the following account given by James Mackenzie of almost the first guns brought to Gairloch may be added:—

It was about 1823 that a large ship was destroyed by fire at Ullapool. Part of her cargo was saved. Besides some casks of fish-hooks, a number of guns were taken out of the burning ship. There was a man then living at Mellon Udrigil in Gairloch named Finlay Fraser; he had come as a foxhunter from Beauly; he got seven of the guns out of the ship. It is said that one of these guns of more than sixty years ago was recently to be seen preserved as a curiosity in the farmhouse of Tollie. Finlay carried on illicit distillation of whisky in a large cave on the Greenstone point. He used to steep barley in whisky, and spread it on the ground in front of a sort of screen, called in Gaelic "skar," behind which he lay in wait with one of his guns until wild geese and other birds came to eat the barley, which soon rendered them "drunk and incapable," when Finlay got easy pot-shots at them. Though the guns obtained from this ship were the first in general use in Gairloch, it is certain that guns had occasionally been brought into the parish long before.


Chapter III.

Polity and Customs.

Notwithstanding the introduction of Christianity in the seventh century, the revival of religion at the time of the Reformation, and later on the militant piety of the stern Covenanters, the people of Gairloch did not make much progress until their previously continuous state of warfare came to an end after the "Forty-five." The abandonment of the clan system, the disarming of the Highlanders, and the proscription of their distinctive dress, entirely changed the condition of the people, and nearly assimilated them to their lowland neighbours as regarded many of the outer circumstances of daily life. The lover of romance may pardonably raise sentimental objections to the change, but it unquestionably heralded a vast improvement in the general condition of the Highland population.

The report in the Old Statistical Account (Appendix C) on the state of Gairloch in 1792 contrasts very favourably with what is known of its condition prior to the "Forty-five." The first parochial school appears to have been established in Gairloch about 1730, and in 1792 there was still only the one school; it was well into the nineteenth century before the number of schools was increased. During the minority of the present baronet the number grew, mostly at his expense, to sixteen. As elsewhere education was formerly in the hands of the ecclesiastics, but it was as a rule only to the higher classes that they imparted instruction in the old days. Even the parochial school was up to the passing of the present Education Act (1872) visited and examined by the presbytery.

Few of the people could read or write until quite recently. On 6th March 1811 the Rev. James Russell, minister of Gairloch, reported "the number of persons capable of reading English in the parish to be three hundred and twenty-four; capable of reading Gaelic alone, seventy-two; and unable to read either English or Gaelic, two thousand five hundred and forty-nine." In the present day, under the School Board system, established in 1873, education has reached a high pitch. The teachers in the ten and a half schools of the parish pass at the annual examinations by Her Majesty's inspectors about eighty per cent. of their scholars, and it would surprise a stranger to witness the general intelligence and acquirements of the school children. There are still a number of elderly people in the parish who can neither read nor write, but the rising generation are well educated.

Under the old clan system there was no organized method of relieving the poor; indeed it is certain that the mass of the population was then in miserable plight. With the progress of the church a system of relieving paupers sprang up. Under the ministry of the Rev. D. Mackintosh, the poor, to the number of eighty-four, had the annual collections made in the church, with the interest of £20, distributed among them. The collections averaged £6, 7s. This [115]mode of assisting the poor continued until the introduction of the present poor-law system, which is very thoroughly applied to the parish. Only one remark need here be made about it. It is, that though begging is almost unknown, and though the people have a large measure of Highland pride, they are as a rule callous to the humiliation of receiving relief from the poor-rates; nay rather, some few even appear to think that they have a positive right to draw parish pay, irrespective of the state of their purses.

The very few beggars seen in Gairloch are generally lowland tramps of the drinking class. The travelling tinkers rarely beg; they pitch their rude tents in sheltered places, and repair the tin pans of the neighbourhood. Some few tinkers are well known, and are considered respectable; others are not to be trusted. Gipsies are scarcely ever seen so far north. There is a strange old man often to be noticed wandering about Gairloch. He is a native of the parish, but is now homeless and in his dotage. He goes about seeking, as he says, the road to America. It seems that many a year ago he emigrated with his wife and family to the United States. They all became more or less insane, and all died except the father, this poor old man. He returned to Scotland, and now divides his time among those who are kind to him,—and they are not a few. Barring his absorbing anxiety he does not appear to be unhappy. He always wears a tall hat, and is respectably dressed. Her Majesty Queen Victoria mentions this old man in "More leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands." Describing the excursion to Torridon, Her Majesty writes, "An old man, very tottery, passed where I was sketching, and I asked the Duchess of Roxburghe to speak to him; he seemed strange, said he had come from America, and was going to England, and thought Torridon very ugly."

Among old customs still remaining in Gairloch are those connected with marriages and funerals, and the New Year, which is the only festival observed in the parish.

The marriage customs are a relic of the remote past. They consist of the washing of the feet of the bride and bridegroom at their respective homes on the evening before the wedding, and the putting to bed of the married couple on the night of the ceremony. Captain Burt notices these customs in 1730. Some of the younger people shirk these proceedings, especially in the more accessible parts of the parish, but as a rule they are strictly observed to the present day.

Funerals are not now accompanied by such striking peculiarities. Until the last few years, when a death occurred all the people of the township ceased working until after the funeral, which was attended by every adult male. Of course drinking was much in vogue, and the well known Irish wakes were closely imitated. Now, only those invited to a funeral are expected to attend, and the whisky is confined to the serving of a dram all round (preceded by a prayer) before the funeral procession starts, with additional "nips" whenever a halt is made for rest on the way to the place of burial, and these halts are not infrequent. Until quite lately it was customary for each man accompanying the funeral to throw a stone on the spot where the [116]coffin was placed when a halt was made, thus forming a considerable heap; sometimes the number of stones thrown was the same as the years of age of the deceased. This custom has been generally discontinued in Gairloch since the roads were made, though it is still in vogue in the wilder parts of the adjoining parishes of Applecross and Lochbroom. The use of whisky at funerals is not now universal in the parish of Gairloch; some ministers wisely discourage it, partly on account of its generally evil tendency, and partly because the providing of it is a serious burden on the family of the deceased, already weighted by other expenses in connection with the death or previous sickness.

New Year's eve and New Year's day are kept according to the old style, on the 12th and 13th of January, and both days are general holidays. There is always a keen contest for the "first-footing" at midnight on New Year's eve; the one who succeeds in first entering a neighbour's house claims the inevitable dram. Occasionally a shinty or "clubbing" match takes place on New Year's day.

Some old weights and measures are still adhered to; milk is sold by the pint, which is half a gallon.

The administration of justice in Gairloch is in the present day conducted as in other parts of the country, by the sheriff and justices of the peace; but until the time of Sir Hector Mackenzie, the eleventh laird of Gairloch, they say justice was administered by the chief in a rough and ready fashion. In the paddock below Flowerdale House, immediately adjoining on the east the field in which the Tigh Dige formerly stood, is a small round plantation on a circular plot of land, which deserves its title—the island—as it is surrounded by a wet ditch; it is shown on the six-inch ordnance map. It was formerly quite an island, and was approached by a plank or small foot-bridge. Simon Chisholm, the present forester and head-gardener at Flowerdale, remembers when there were the large stumps of five forest trees on this little island, one in the centre and the other four around it. In the line of the hedge which divides this paddock from the field to the west were several other large trees, some of the stumps of which remain to this day. When a trial was to take place the laird of Gairloch stood at the large tree in the centre of the "Island of justice," and one of the principal clansmen at each of the other four trees. These four men acted as jurymen or assessors, whilst the laird himself performed the functions of judge. The accused person was placed at a large tree immediately facing the island, and within forty yards of it, whilst the accuser or pursuer and the witnesses stood at other trees. When the accused was found guilty of a capital crime, the sentence of death was executed at the place still called Cnoc a croiche, or "Gallows hill," about half a mile distant from the island of justice. The Gallows hill is a small knowe close below the high road, on the south side of the ridge called the Crasg, between the present Gairloch Free church and the old Gairloch churchyard, and it overlooks the latter. A few stones still shew that there used to be a wall which formed a small platform on which the gallows stood; they say this wall was [117]more complete within living memory than it now is. The ravine or fissure immediately below the platform provided an effectual "drop." When the body was cut down it would fall to the sea-shore below, and perhaps at high tide into the sea itself. The face of the sloping rock, immediately below the platform where the gallows stood, looks almost as if it had been worn smooth by the number of bodies of executed criminals dashed against it in their fall. This old manner of trial is said to have continued until the eighteenth century. But it must not be supposed that Sir Hector Mackenzie, who regularly dispensed justice among his Gairloch people from 1770 to 1826, adhered to the primitive form.

Folk-lore is little thought of now-a-days in Gairloch. Among the old men who still love it, and from whom many of the traditions and stories given in this book have been derived, are James Mackenzie of Kirkton, Kenneth Fraser of Leac-nan-Saighead, Roderick Mackenzie of Lonmor (Ruaridh-an-Torra), George Maclennan of Londubh, Alexander Maclennan of Poolewe, John M'Lean of Strath, Kenneth and George Maclennan of Tollie Croft, Donald Ross of Kenlochewe, and Simon Chisholm of Flowerdale. Some of them can speak English fluently.


Chapter IV.

Religion and Religious Observances.

The progress of religion among the people of Gairloch cannot readily be traced beyond the incumbency of the Rev. Daniel Mackintosh, minister of the parish from 1773 to 1802. Superstition of the grossest kind usurped the place of religion in ancient days. The Rev. James Smith, minister of Gairloch from 1721 to 1732, appears to have been the first Presbyterian clergyman who made a general impression on the people; in the time of Mr Mackintosh they had become, as he tells us in the Old Statistical Account (1792), sober, regular, industrious, and pious.


We have no records of the comparatively elaborate observances and ritual which undoubtedly attended the ministrations of the Church in Gairloch, with its fasts, festivals, and saints' days, before the Reformation. Some of the natives long clung to Episcopalianism, but the bald simplicity of Presbyterian worship was gradually adopted by the parish, and is the only form now known, except indeed an occasional Episcopal service for visitors at the Gairloch Hotel.

The present observances of the Presbyterian churches in the parish appear to have undergone little or no modification since the commencement of the nineteenth century, except by the secession of the Free Church in 1843, and that did not alter the articles of faith or the manner of worship.

As a rule the Sunday services are held at twelve o'clock, and are mostly in Gaelic. A short English service follows at two, and in some cases there is also a meeting at six.

Both the Established and Free churches hold to the doctrines laid down in the Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Divines.

The sacrament of baptism is generally administered at the close of a Sunday service; the father is required to declare his adherence to the doctrines of the Christian faith before the congregation; there are of course no other sponsors.

The sacrament of the Lord's supper is "dispensed" at the Gairloch and Aultbea Free churches twice a year, and these are great occasions in the parish. There are three days of preparation before the Sacrament Sunday, and one day of thanksgiving after it. The first day is called the "Fast-day," and is observed as a Sunday.

Dr Mackenzie, who is an earnest Free Churchman, gives the following graphic and interesting account of the church attendance and religious observances in Gairloch prior to the "Disruption," in fact about 1820. The mode he describes of holding the communion services in the Leabaidh na Ba Bàine, or "Bed of the white cow," is nearly the same now as it was in the days he writes of sixty or seventy years ago, with one exception of importance, viz., that the sort of "Aunt Sally" game he mentions is now quite unknown. He says:—

"Our people then thought nothing of a ten mile walk to and from church. Many came by boat from the coast townships, and in fine weather the well dressed and mutched people filling the boats scattered over the bay en route to the different townships gave things quite a regatta-like look, that we shall never see again owing to the roads now everywhere. One of our largest tenants took his son to church for the first time, a mite of a man, who on being asked in the hand-shaking crowd after church, 'Well, Johnnie, what saw you in church?' replied, 'I saw a man bawling bawling in a box, and no man would let him oot.' Mr Russell made up for want of matter in his sermons by needless vigour in his manner. The said Johnnie is now risen to be a large wise landed proprietor in his old age in the Western Islands.


"Between difficult access for helpers to our pastor at communion times, and other causes, that ordinance used when I was young to be celebrated only about every third year in our Elysium of the west. Perhaps consequently the whole western world seemed to us to congregate to the occasion, from all parts of the country, over roadless 'muirs and mosses many O.' I doubt if the reasons [why they came] of the vast majority would sound well at the confessional, or look well in religious print; and it seems singular that only in the Scotch Presbyterian Church are Christians ever invited to devote five days to the communion services, while in every other church the Sabbath day alone is considered sufficient for the ordinance. Many earnest Christians think, that while on some particular and unlooked for occasion it may be right to hold religious services on week days, as a rule Christians are expected to work six days weekly, which they cannot do if they belong to the Scotch Presbyterian Church. It would appear as if an idea prevailed, that it required many clergymen to assemble at communion seasons, or else that there could be no anxious inquirers about eternity, so many accept invitations to attend; and probably on this account, instead of there being only one communion table at which there can be no difficulty in all meeting and partaking together, there are always (except in one church where I helped to improve matters) many tables, each one generally having its own clergyman in charge; the services being thus greatly protracted, probably in hopes of this causing a 'revival,' as it is termed.

"So in our west parish (Gairloch), with the communion only every third year, the crowd that attended was probably nearer four than three thousand, of whom perhaps two hundred might be communicants. Of the rest who seemed so devoted to religion (though of course very many did not pretend to such anxiety), the reply, when asked why they were not communicants, would in almost every case be, 'They were not yet worthy.' So they generally remain—refusing to obey their Saviour's dying request—unworthy, till they die,—not yet sinless! I once received as a reason for an excellent man's shrinking from the communion table, that 'his father and mother also shrank from it;' and this given by a man of good education, the secretary to a bank! But till the Presbyterian clergy grow wiser, the same sad disobeying our Redeemer's dying command will remain.

"But anent our western communion, every hole and corner within reach of our church was cleared out where straw or heather or ferns could offer a night's quarters to the crowd of communion visitors, for about a week; and such a bad time as every living eatable animal had then preparing for the visitors, who took 'neither scrip nor purse' with them on such occasions, was wonderful; and such baking, boiling, roasting, and stores of cold food, as made our kitchen a mere meat manufactory for the sacrament week; and on the Sabbath there was such a spread of cold food in the house, to which the clergymen, at a lull in their duty, and all the upper crust of the parish, were invited to attend, as was quite a marvel, involving such [120]labour to every servant all day long as quite rendered their attending church at this holy fair absurd to be thought of!

"Close beside our parish church was a most wonderful hollow (the Leabaidh na Ba Bàine) in the sandy-soiled prairie. It was naturally formed, beyond memory of man, and, as we knew well, by Fingal, for a bed where his white cow was to calve. It had a complete coat of beautiful inch-long benty grass, and a thousand spades could not have formed a more perfectly egg-shaped cup, in the bottom of which was placed the wooden preaching box, and in front of it long narrow tables and benches for the communion. A few 'shuparior pershons' sent before them stools, &c., on which to sit, see, and listen, but ninety-nine of the hundred of us sat on the nicely sloping banks all around the 'bed,' till they overflowed on to the level of the equally grassed ground outside. The 'bed' was estimated to hold two thousand persons seated, and perhaps three thousand were often gathered in all to the services, packed tight to one another, as was the popular fashion at these times. A more orderly and seriously conducted congregation than that in Fingal's white cow's bed I am sure has never been seen anywhere, or more polite young men towards the women, who, often thirsty from the shadeless situation and the crush, &c., I have often seen kindly supplied with a shoefull of water from the well close to the burial ground! We often hear of grand public rooms of bad quality for hearing the speaker, but the faintest word from the bottom of Fingal's bed was heard as clearly as if in a closet. And I should be very much surprised if any one who once heard an old Gaelic psalm floating in the air, from the thousands of worshippers in the 'bed,' could forget it in a hundred years. The finest organ ever made was trash to that solemn sound.

"On the plea that so many people far from home might starve, a sort of commissariat regiment used to attend on the shore of the bay with booths for bread, cheese, and gingerbread, goodies, &c.; and I fear the report that the feeders, rather than carry away uneaten stock at nights, used to have, say, a loaf set on a stick for a shy at it with another from a set distance for a small sum, hit or lose, that same is owre true a tale, though of course it must have been the ungodly of the crowd who attended that holy fair!

"Ah! dear, dear! Who could approve of such wild arrangements at a communion season, compared with every clergyman having the communion in his own church for his own people, monthly or quarterly or so, quietly and solemnly, without a crowd of ministers and people from neighbouring parishes to injure and confuse every solemn thought with the fuss and bustle of a crowd. May God send us more wisdom than Scotland can at present shew on these occasions!"

Every visitor to Gairloch should see and hear one of the out-door communion services in the Leabaidh na Ba Bàine, if he have the opportunity.

The Gairloch people are still a church-going race, though not so regular to-day as even ten years ago. Nearly the whole population [121]adheres to the Free Church. Some characteristics of the Free Church services may be noted. Children are generally conspicuous by their absence. The people take no part whatever, except in the very primitive singing; and some few appear to compose themselves deliberately to sleep. The Christian festivals are entirely ignored; and the sermons, usually extempore, are on some occasions bare statements of doctrine. The Free Church organisation watches closely the religious conduct of the people. It is said there is not a crofter's house in the parish of Gairloch where family worship is not conducted every day; and the Sabbath is very strictly observed.

There is an air of settled gloom on the faces of many of the people,—intensified on the Sabbath day. It seems to partake of a religious character. The ministers, catechists, and elders nearly all oppose dancing, and every kind of music. Surely they are short-sighted! A sort of fatalism is the most apparent result of the religion of the natives of Gairloch. It has a depressing effect when illness comes.

If anything here stated is calculated to convey the idea that the religious thought and religious observances of the Gairloch Highlanders are unreal or perverted, let me correct it by adding, that as a rule their piety is genuine and practical.


Chapter V.

Character and Characteristics.

It is an invidious task to criticise the general characters of one's neighbours. "Charity thinketh no evil," but it cannot be blind to obvious faults. Sentimental predilections ought not to be allowed to warp the judgment, any more than prejudices based on first impressions or partial knowledge should be permitted to mature into dogged dislike. What a Scylla and Charybdis to steer through!

Highlanders have been over-praised by some, and unreasonably condemned by others: the truth is, they are like other races; there is of course an admixture of good and bad among them. But are the black sheep more numerous than the white ones? So far as the [122]parish of Gairloch is concerned, I am of opinion, speaking from personal experience, that the black sheep are in a decided minority. Taking the people as a whole, they are unquestionably more disposed to honesty and morality than are the bulk of our urban populations.

In the old clan days all Highlanders were remarkable for fidelity to their chief and to their fellow-clansmen. Circumstances have abolished these ties to a great extent, though some remnants of the clan feeling still linger among the older people.

Courtesy and hospitality continue to be leading good qualities among all ranks of Highlanders, and the Gairloch folk are no exception to the rule.

That shrewd writer Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, after pointing out the faults of indolence and carelessness, adds, "With all their defects the people have numerous good qualities, which, under proper management and judicious direction, might become the source of comfort and wealth to themselves and to their superiors. In honesty and sobriety the people of the west coast are far superior to their inland neighbours."

Sir Francis Mackenzie, in his "Hints," pays the following tribute to the character of his Gairloch Highlanders:—"I can produce, I rejoice to say, from my own people individuals, totally unlettered, who shall in every amiable quality of which humanity can boast far outshine some of the common specimens of our students, either at Oxford or at Edinburgh; and this arises more from early training, and the good example of attentive parents, than from the natural goodness or depravity of dispositions. Long then may you retain your native honesty, your spirit of generosity, and noble courtesy. Long may you remember that true politeness is not servility; and may you never forget that rudeness is not only degrading, but unchristian; and may you ever prove to surrounding countries, that a spirit of courtesy naturally springs from the freedom and independence which, as Highlanders, have ever been your inheritance."

Love of country, or perhaps more accurately attachment to home, is a salient feature in the character of the Highlander; it has always been so, and there is no sign of any diminution of the sentiment. I have received letters from absent Gairloch men speaking in the fondest terms of affection of their homes, and avowing constant and loving recollection of the wild surroundings amid which they were brought up. Is this to be wondered at? To the dweller in Gairloch the hill pasture, the rocky shore, the rough peat moss, the mountain path, the expanse of the sea loch, with the background of lordly summits, are all his own; others may have proprietary rights, the real enjoyment is his. Pining home-sickness is the immediate result of emigration, and it is often long before the practical business of life overcomes it. No blame attaches to this natural and irresistible passion for home; on the other hand, it is evidence of a valuable depth of character and an ennobling simplicity of heart; it is in fact the sentiment which is the basis of all true patriotism.


A less admirable characteristic of the Gairloch people is their cautious, "canny" disposition; it is, however, by no means confined to them. Modern curtailment of their privileges, the advent of tourists and other strangers, and a constant need for strict economy, have tended to the growth of this trait. It is evinced in a strong disinclination to reveal their views and intentions, and a grasping keenness in driving bargains. Here is an example from my personal experience:—A crofter had made known his desire to sell a heifer; a gentleman, wanting to purchase one, came some distance to see the animal; the crofter at first denied flatly that he had anything to sell; on the gentleman turning to leave, he said he would shew him a heifer; at length he named an exorbitant price; then finding the possible customer was a judge of cattle, he reduced the figure but still held out for too high a sum; no bargain was concluded that day.

Captain Burt, in his racy "Letters" (about 1730), charges Highlanders with a want of cleanliness. A similar charge, supported by evidence of the same nasty kind, is even in the present day made against some Highlanders. Here in Gairloch the charge is not generally applicable; nay, it may truly be said that the people are in their persons even more cleanly than their neighbours in our large centres of population. True the odour of stale peat "reek," and the stains it leaves on articles of dress, sometimes convey an impression of dirtiness, but there is no real filth in this, and the presence of parasites is now-a-days very rare. Let the visitor enter one of the public schools of the parish and see the clean neatly-dressed children, and the charge will at once be disposed of.

In former days, and even to the beginning of the nineteenth century, the morals of the people were far from perfect; this is shown by the minutes of the presbytery. Happily, whether from fear of the kirk-session, or from the general improvement of recent times, offences against morals are to-day less common in Gairloch than in some parts of the lowlands.

It is singular that among Highlanders, at least in Gairloch, there is a total absence of anything like jealousy between married people; this fact by itself speaks volumes.

The principal fault of the Gairloch and other Highlanders has been variously designated indolence, lethargy, carelessness, sloth, idleness, and laziness,—all meaning much the same thing. It is often said "time is no object on the west coast," and so it would appear; nearly all meetings (except Sunday services) are from half-an-hour to an hour later in commencing than the time named; an eternal current of talk, talk, talk, accompanies every transaction, and not seldom interrupts or delays the most pressing work. It is only the male sex who are chargeable with this indolence, and amongst them it is fast giving way to greater activity; sometimes it is due to a love of dram-drinking, for which it forms an excuse; indeed it is often rightly laid at the door of whisky. All writers on the Highlands have remarked upon it, and some quotations will be given in connection with agriculture which will illustrate it. More continuous [124]occupation is the remedy required. It is remarkable that the Highlander never displays indolence when he emigrates, and it is principally in his agricultural attempts that it is manifested. There is every reason to believe that it is gradually disappearing.

The Gairloch population cling with marvellous tenacity to old ways of doing things, and thus general improvement is slow. On the whole they are a worthy religious people. "Man made the town: God made the country," is a saying that means more than the literal meaning of the words conveys. In the pure air and unpolluted water of the Highlands, there is less that is akin to sin and moral impurity than in the filthy crowded manufacturing town. The general sobriety, honesty, and piety of these Gairloch people, seem to me to outweigh their shortcomings.

It is a pity that some of the younger people affect a certain contempt for the old Highland characteristics, and seem determined to resemble their lowland neighbours as closely as possible. The Highland dress has for several generations been laid aside, and other distinctive ways and peculiarities, some of them ennobling and good, have fallen into disuse. Surely the people would best support their demand for a national recognition of the peculiar position they claim, by maintaining the old Highland esprit, rather than by disowning the nobler characteristics that have so long distinguished the inhabitants of the "land of the hills and the glens and the heroes."

In concluding this chapter I beg leave to propose what must prove a beneficial stimulus to the people of Gairloch, if it were efficiently carried out. It is the establishment of an annual prize meeting for competitions in—

Home-spun cloth, plaids, and carpets produced within the parish; Gairloch hose; Vegetables, fruit, and flowers grown by Gairloch people; Highland games and athletic sports; Pipe music by local pipers; Gaelic songs by Gairloch bards.

Perhaps boat races might be added to the list. Substantial prizes for merit in these competitions would unquestionably tend to encourage industry and develop excellence. If sufficient funds were forthcoming, a competent committee could readily be got together to work out the details. I earnestly invite the assistance of all who visit this romantic country towards a proposal designed to promote the advancement of its Highland inhabitants.



Chapter VI.

Language and Dress.

Distinctions between different races, which depend on varieties of character, customs, or means of livelihood, require discriminating study for their apprehension. But a different language and an unusual dress are marks which present themselves to all observers—the one to the ear and the other to the eye—even on the briefest scrutiny. The inhabitants of Gairloch have still a language entirely different to that of the lowland Scotch, and they used not long ago to wear a dress only known in the Highlands.

To this day the Gaelic language is universal among the people of Gairloch, and they cling to it with the utmost affection. In it are embalmed all the traditions and stories of the days that are gone, and the songs and poems of the bards both past and present.

Gaelic, which in the old books is called "Erse" or "Irish," has many dialects. The language of the natives of the west coast of Ireland is not materially different from that of the Scottish Highlanders. The Gaelic of Gairloch is considered tolerably pure, though William Ross, the Gairloch bard, who studied the subject closely, thought the Gaelic of the Lews par excellence the purest form of the language.

In the Old Statistical Account the Rev. Daniel Mackintosh stated that Gaelic was in his time the prevailing language in Gairloch.

Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, in his "General Survey," expressed the opinion that Gaelic was dying out; but the Rev. Donald M'Rae, minister of Poolewe, in his paper on the parish of Gairloch in the New Statistical Account, stated that the language then (1836) generally spoken was the Gaelic, and added, "I am not aware that it has lost ground within the last forty years." Mr M'Rae's remarks on the admixture by young men of English or Scotch words with their Gaelic, and on the purity in other respects of the language as spoken in Gairloch, will be found in Appendix E.

The Gaelic language is as prevalent in Gairloch to-day as it was when Mr M'Rae wrote his paper nearly fifty years ago, notwithstanding the near approach of the railway (within five miles of the parish boundary), and the greatly increased communication by steamers, which has taken place during the interval. The religious services of the people are conducted in Gaelic (though short English services are often added); there are scarcely any houses where English is spoken round the table or by the fire-side, though comparatively few are able to read Gaelic. At the same time the knowledge of the English language is undoubtedly on the increase, and the schools are taught in that language. Nevertheless even children fresh from school seldom speak English when playing together.

Some ten years ago there was a great agitation for the restoration of Gaelic teaching in the Highland schools, and the movement has recently been revived, with the result that the Government are about [126]to sanction instruction in Gaelic as part of the curriculum, or at least as an "extra subject." It was stated during the early stage of this agitation that in many places Highland children learnt English only as a parrot would, and did not understand its meaning. I took the trouble to see how this was in Gairloch schools, and I can only say that the imputation did not apply to the children I examined, for not only did many of them read English remarkably well, but searching cross-examination proved that they thoroughly understood the meaning of what they read.

There are still many of the older people who are unable to speak English fluently, and some who do not understand it at all. The English spoken by the young people as well as by most of the older natives who speak it is a particularly pure form, untarnished by provincialism or Scottish brogue. The smattering of Scotch occasionally to be met with is confined to those who come in contact with persons from the Lowlands. Occasionally a curious phrase occurs, the result of a literal translation of some Gaelic expression. For instance, wondering whether a grouse which flew behind a hill was the worse of a shot that had been fired at it, I asked a stout young gillie, whose position enabled him to see further round the hill, whether the bird had come down. He replied, "When she went out of my sight she had no word of settling."

Gaelic literature has been well represented in Gairloch. John Mackenzie, the author of the "Beauties of Gaelic Poetry," and many other works in Gaelic (Part II., chap. xxii.), was a native of Gairloch; and Mr Alexander Mackenzie, the editor of the Celtic Magazine, and the author of many valuable works (some containing Gaelic pieces), is also a Gairloch man. The Gaelic books especially pertaining to Gairloch are the poems of William Ross, the Gairloch bard, edited by the late John Mackenzie, and the poems of Duncan Mackenzie, the Kenlochewe bard, edited by Mr Alexander Mackenzie.

There has been much diversity of opinion upon the question whether it would not be better that the Gaelic language should be discouraged and be assisted to die out. I believe some few of the Highlanders themselves have adopted this unpatriotic view, but the contrary opinion, so ably advocated by Professor Blackie, now appears to be gaining ground. It seems quite possible that the Highlander may not only have a thorough command of English, but may also retain his own expressive language with its ennobling traditions. No doubt a knowledge of the language which is the medium through which most of the business of the kingdom is conducted has its importance; but surely the retention of their own tongue by Highlanders must tend in great measure to foster a patriotic feeling, which should lead them to do credit in their lives and conduct to their native glens.

There is no separate record of the dress anciently worn by the natives of Gairloch, but it was unquestionably the same as that of all the other inhabitants of the Highlands of Scotland, viz., the Breacan an Fheilidh, or belted or kilted plaid. In the Celtic Magazine, Vol. VIII., is a treatise on the "Antiquity of the Kilt," by Mr J. G. [127]Mackay. One curious fact he mentions is, that the Norwegian king Magnus, in his expedition to the Western Isles of Scotland in 1093, adopted the costume then in use in the western lands, which no doubt included the parish of Gairloch; so that we may if we please picture our prince of the Isle Maree tragedy as wearing the Highland dress. From this notice of King Magnus, and more particularly from the account given by John Taylor (Part IV., chap. xx.) of the deer hunting at Braemar, we learn that the Highlanders in old days expected all who came among them to adopt their peculiar garb.

Sometimes the belted plaid was worn along with the "triubhais," or "truis," or trews, a prolongation upwards of the tartan hose, fitting tightly to the skin and fastened below the knees with buckles. These trews were very different in appearance and make from the tartan trousers worn by some Highland regiments in the present day. Oddly enough the only representation extant of a Gairloch man of the old days, viz., Donald Odhar, exhibits him in the tartan trews. This representation is in the Mackenzie coat-of-arms on the Sabhal Geal at Flowerdale. It was doubtless executed by a southern sculptor, long after Donald Odhar lived and fought. But unquestionably the most usual—almost universal—form of the Highland dress was the tartan plaid gathered into pleats round the waist, where a belt kept it in position (thus forming the kilt), the rest of the plaid being brought over the shoulder. The name of the dress thus formed (Breacan an Fheilidh) means the plaid of the kilt.

The present form of the Highland dress, in which the kilt—sometimes called "philabeg"—is made up as a separate garment, has given rise to much controversy. The strife is said to have originated in a letter in the Scots Magazine in 1798; it was stated that about 1728 one Parkinson, an Englishman, who was superintendent of works in Lochaber, finding his Highland labourers encumbered with their belted plaids, taught them to separate the plaid from the kilt and sew the kilt in its present form. Others say that the inventor of the kilt was Thomas Rawlinson, of the Glengarry ironworks, who about the same date and for the same reason introduced the supposed new dress.

Mr J. G. Mackay, in the treatise already referred to, proves incontestably that the separate form of the kilt is very ancient, and cannot have been the subject of a comparatively modern invention. The truth seems to be that, whilst the belted plaid was most generally worn, as requiring no tailoring, the separate kilt is of equal or greater antiquity, and was at all times occasionally used on account of its superior convenience, especially in those localities where the tailor's art was practised. An incidental corroboration of Mr Mackay's view is to be seen in a plan of Aberdeen, dated 1661, preserved in the municipal buildings of that city. In a corner of the plan three figures are represented, two of them in the lowland costume of the seventeenth century, and the third, a young man, dressed in a kilt and short coat without plaid, being exactly the form of the Highland dress as now generally worn. The Highland figure was probably introduced to record the then semi-Highland character of Aberdeen.


In order to repress the Highland esprit, an act (20th George II., cap. 51) was passed after the battle of Culloden, which rendered it illegal for any man or boy after 1st August 1747 to wear the Highland dress. The effect of this law was various. In some parts it was rigidly enforced, and the kilt was generally abandoned, whilst those few who persisted in wearing it were severely punished. In other places evasions of the act were winked at by the authorities; men who procured the legal breeches would hang them over their shoulders during journeys; others used the artifice of sewing up the centre of the kilt between the legs; whilst others again substituted for the tartan kilt a piece of blue, green, or red cloth wrapped round the waist, and hanging down to the knees, but not pleated.

In the Old Statistical Account (1792) there are many references to the Highland dress and to the effect of the passing of this act. In the account of the parish of Petty, Inverness-shire, we read, "The Highland dress is still retained in a great measure. The plaid is almost totally laid aside; but the small blue bonnet, the short coat, the tartan kilt and hose, and the Highland brogue, are still the ordinary dress of the men. The women in like manner retain the Highland dress of their sex, but have adopted more of that of their low country neighbours than the men."

The Old Statistical Account tells us nothing of the dress of the inhabitants of Gairloch; but in the notice given of the neighbouring parish of Kincardine, in the same county, is the following:—"The act 1746, discharging the Highland dress, had the worst of consequences. Prior to that period the Highland women were remarked for their skill and success in spinning and dying wool, and clothing themselves and their households, each according to her fancy, in tartans, fine, beautiful, and durable. Deprived of the pleasure of seeing their husbands, sons, and favourites in that elegant drapery, emulation died, and they became contented with manufacturing their wool in the coarsest and clumsiest manner, perhaps thinking that since they must appear like the neighbouring lowlanders, the less they shone in the ornaments of the lowland dress they would be the more in character. Their favourite employment thus failing them, rather than allow their girls to be idle they made them take to the spinning of linen yarn, in which few are yet so improved as to earn threepence per diem, and much, if not the most of the small earnings of these spinners, is laid out upon flimsy articles of dress; whilst that conscious pride, which formerly aspired at distinction from merit and industry, is converted into the most ridiculous and pernicious vanity."

The act forbidding the kilt was repealed in 1772. It had in many parts done its work, and though its repeal was in some places hailed with joy and celebrated by the bards, the Highland garb does not appear to have generally regained its former position as the ordinary dress of the people.

In the early part of the nineteenth century, as James Mackenzie and others inform me, the kilt was still the dress of many men in Gairloch, who never put on the trews until old age came, and in some cases not even then. As an instance, he says he remembers seeing Hugh [129]M'Phail, a Gairloch man then living at the head of Loch Broom, measuring out herrings from his boat on a cold day in a hard winter, with four inches of snow on the ground and thick ice. Hugh wore only his shirt and kilt; he had put off his jacket for the work. He and his two brothers always wore the kilt; they were all fine men, and two of them were elders of the church of Loch Broom, under the Rev. Dr Ross. Other incidental references to the Highland dress of Gairloch men will be found in James Mackenzie's stories in Part II., chap. xxv.

Up to the present generation the kilt was still occasionally worn in Gairloch, especially at festive gatherings. That it had become infrequent, yet was not altogether abandoned, may be inferred from the following advice given upon dress in his "Hints" by the late Sir Francis Mackenzie, Bart.:—"The nature of this must depend upon your local situation, since it is evident that what is fitted for our mountains would be ill suited to the wants of the fisherman. As an inland labourer or shepherd, the ancient costume of the country, the kilt, hose, plaid, and bonnet, with a warm stout cloth short jacket, will be found the most serviceable, since it admits of a pliancy in the limbs admirably adapted either for labour or climbing our bare and heathery hills. No danger can possibly arise from exposing the limbs to the wet and cold, whilst the loins and back are protected by the thick folds of a kilt and plaid from severity of weather. I may too, without being liable to the charge of national vanity, say, that however much the dress of our ancestors has been lately laid aside, it gives a manly and graceful appearance at all times to the wearer. I have witnessed its attractions amongst the sons and daughters of peace in every country of Europe, and it has marked our bravery in battle wherever a plaid has appeared. It has the sanction of antiquity in its favour; it is associated with the virtues and triumphs of Roman citizens; and I should regret its being laid aside, because I am decidedly of opinion that national dress is everywhere a strong incentive to the wearer not to disgrace the region which he proudly claims as the country of his birth."

The Highland dress is now only worn in Gairloch by a few gentlemen, pipers, keepers, and some of the better-to-do schoolboys. Its disappearance from among a people who cling so tenaciously to the Highland tongue is passing strange. By some it has been attributed to the inferior hardiness of the modern Highlander, a reason which is perhaps suggested by the following remark in the "General Survey" of Sir George Steuart Mackenzie (1810):—"The first indications of the introduction of luxury appeared not many years ago, in the young men relinquishing the philabeg and bonnet, which are now almost rarities."

The Gairloch company of rifle volunteers originally wore the kilt, but about the year 1878, in common with the majority of the battalion to which they are attached, they agreed to substitute Mackenzie tartan trousers. The change was made partly on the ground of economy. After the review of the Scottish volunteers at Edinburgh on 25th August 1881, which was attended by the Ross-shire [130]battalion, including the Gairloch company, a general wish was expressed that the example of the volunteer battalions of the adjoining counties should be followed, and the kilt resumed. The Gairloch company unanimously petitioned their gallant colonel to restore the kilt.

The ordinary dress of most Gairloch men is now the same as in the lowlands, except that some of those engaged as shepherds, keepers, and gillies wear knickerbockers, which display the hose; some men still carry plaids and don the blue bonnet.

Gairloch is justly celebrated for its hose, which are knitted in immense variety of pattern and colour, some being in imitation of old forms of tartan. In the old days the hose worn with the Highland costume were cut from the same web as the tartan of which other parts of the dress were made, but now all hose are knitted. The "diced" patterns are relics of the old tartans.


The Dowager Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch writes as follows regarding the Gairloch hose:—"At my first visit to Gairloch, in 1837, I employed a lady from Skye who was staying at Kerrysdale to instruct twelve young women in knitting nice stockings with dice and other fancy patterns. When I came to act as trustee, and to live constantly at Flowerdale, I started the manufacture of the Gairloch stockings in earnest, having spinners, dyers, and knitters, all taught and superintended during the ten years I resided there; on my leaving and going abroad, Sir Kenneth gave the concern into the hands of the head gamekeeper, Mr George Ross. Now, dozens of pairs are brought by the women to the hotels and steamers, and large quantities go to Inverness, Edinburgh, and London; £100 worth has been sold in one shop."

The dress of the women of Gairloch scarcely varies from that of the country women in any other part of the kingdom. The principal distinction is to be seen in the retention by some women of the mutch, or mob-cap (see illustration), which they still wear, and make up with considerable taste.


Maidens until the last few years never wore caps, bonnets, or other headgear, only a ribbon or snood to keep the hair in place. Any other headdress was considered a disgrace. Even yet a few girls go to church without bonnets; and within the last dozen years this was almost universal. Now, however, the majority of the young women try even to surpass their sisters in towns in following the fashions of the day; some girls appear on Sundays with almost a flower-garden on their heads. The Rev. Donald M'Rae truly remarked, in his statement in the New Statistical Account fifty years [131]ago (and it is still true), that "when a girl dresses in her best attire, her very habiliments, in some instances, would be sufficient to purchase a better dwelling-house than that from which she has just issued."

Dr Mackenzie writes on this point as follows:—"In my early days about six or eight bonnets would be the number on Sunday in our west coast (Gairloch) church in a five or six hundred congregation, and these only worn by the wives of the upper-crust tenantry. The other wives wore beautiful white 'mutches,' i.e. caps, the insides of which were made up with broad pretty ribbons, which shewed themselves through the outside muslin. Oh! what a descent from them to modern bonnets! The unmarried women always had their hair dressed as if going to court, and were quite a sight, charming to see, compared with their present abominable hats and gumflowers. But when a visitor at Tigh Dige (Flowerdale) expressed wonder how they contrived to have such beautiful glossy heads of hair, set up as by a hairdresser, every Sunday, my father would say, 'No thanks, the jades stealing the bark of my young elms!' It seems a decoction of elm bark cleans and polishes hair marvellously; which accounted for many a young elm of my father's planting having a strip of bark, a foot long by say six inches wide, removed from the least visible side of the tree, as an always welcome present from a 'jade's' sweetheart on a Saturday. I don't believe they ever used oil or grease on their shining heads. So universally were mutches worn by all in the north of the working classes who were married, that when we settled in Edinburgh in 1827, my widowed nurse was drawn there by a well-doing son to keep house for him, and my mother having given her a very quiet bonnet to prevent her being stared at in Princes Street when wearing her mutch and visiting us, on her first appearance in a bonnet the dear old soul declared she nearly dropped in the street, for everybody was just staring at her for her pride in wearing a bonnet as if she was a lady!"


Chapter VII.

Ways and Means.

The principal sources of livelihood of the Gairloch people are their crofts and stock and their fisheries, both treated of in separate chapters. Of course a number of men have regular engagements, as farm or other servants and gamekeepers; whilst a few carry on trades, as tailors, shoemakers, weavers, boatbuilders, thatchers, dykers, sawyers, carpenters, and masons.

Some young men of the parish go south, and obtain situations either for the winter season or all the year round, and they often contribute towards home expenses.

The women of Gairloch, like all other Highland women, are noticeable for their industry. It is they who carry home heavy creels of peats for the household fire,—peats in the treatment of which they had taken an active share the previous summer; they herd the cow, and manage the house. But, more than all, it is the women who are mainly instrumental in producing the only manufactures of the parish, and very excellent manufactures too they are. They card and dye and spin the wool, they knit the Gairloch hose, and they prepare the various coloured worsteds which the weaver converts into tweeds of different patterns. Large numbers of the stockings are sent to Inverness, Edinburgh, and London (see last chapter). Some of the tweeds are worn in the parish, and some are sold to strangers.

It will be remembered that the early Pictish inhabitants of Gairloch dwelt in the brochs or round houses of what may almost be called the pre-historic period. These were succeeded by turf-built huts, the roofs of which, rudely framed with boughs, were covered with divots or turfs. The last turf house in the parish is said to have been at Moss Bank, Poolewe, and was occupied by an uncle of John Mackenzie (Iain Glas), whose improved dwelling stands on the same site. There are, however, two modern turf-built dwellings still to be seen at South Erradale. The turf house was gradually replaced by the style of dwelling which now prevails in the parish. The present cottages have their walls of stone, the better ones cemented with lime; the roofs of timber, thatched with heather, rushes, or straw; divots are also still frequently used in roofing. Some few superior crofters' houses have slated roofs, and modern grates with flues and regular chimneys. But many of the crofters still have their byres under the same roof; still have no chimney in the living room, whence the smoke from the peat fire escapes only by a hole in the roof; and still have the heap of ashes, slops, manure, and refuse just outside the door. Sir Francis Mackenzie, in his "Hints" (1838), has some suggestive remarks on the subject of these dwellings. He writes:—"I must at once protest against human beings and cattle entering together in your present fashion at the same doorway.... I will not raise a laugh at your expense by describing your present smoky dens, and the hole in the roof with sometimes an old creel stuck on it in imitation of a chimney. The smoke you now [133]live in not only dirties and destroys your clothes and furniture, but soon reduces the prettiest rosy faces in the world to premature wrinkles and deformities.... Let there be no apology for want of time for carrying away ashes, sweepings, or dirty water, and adding them to your dunghill, instead of sweeping all into a corner till you have more time, and emptying the dirty water at your door because you are too lazy to go a few yards farther."

The houses of the crofters are certainly undergoing gradual improvement, but the majority cling tenaciously to the type of dwelling their fathers occupied before them. Perhaps the villages of Strath, Poolewe, and Port-Henderson contain the most improved houses in the parish. Very few of the crofters have gardens worthy of the name, so that, of course, they lose the advantage of green vegetables and fresh fruits. Still more rare is it to see trees planted about their dwellings, though pleasant shade and shelter might thus be had, and though, it is understood, saplings might be obtained for the asking from the proprietors.

As a natural consequence of the proximity of middens to dwelling-houses, and other unhealthy arrangements, cases of fever occasionally occur. In the Old Statistical Account, 1792 (Appendix C), the writer, speaking of Gairloch, says that fevers were frequent, and an infectious putrid fever early in the preceding winter had proved fatal to many. Pennant had previously noticed how spring fever used to decimate the west coast. Such outbreaks have happily become rare since the potato famine of 1847 led the people to depend more on imported meal for their sustenance in spring.

Few of the crofters' houses are floored, so that the inmates stand on the natural ground, or put their feet on a loose plank. In wet weather the ground often becomes damp. From this and other local causes pulmonary consumption is common among the crofter class. It is only right to add that this fatal disease often appears among some of the young people who go to work in southern towns, and come home to die.


Smallpox is said to have been fatal in Gairloch in the eighteenth century, at the time when it ravaged the adjoining parish of Applecross. The soubriquet "breac" (i.e. pock-pitted), so often met with in the history of Gairloch, is an evidence of the former frequency of this epidemic. Thanks to vaccination, it is now almost unknown.

The chief articles of diet of the crofter population are fish, either fresh or cured, oatmeal, potatoes, and milk, with a little butcher meat occasionally. Eggs are not much eaten, but are exported to Glasgow in considerable quantities. None of the crofters keep pigs, which they consider to be unclean beasts; it is singular they should entirely neglect a source of food and profit so universal among their Irish congeners. Captain Burt, in his [134]day, noticed the absence of swine among the mountains; he said, "those people have no offal wherewith to feed them; and were they to give them other food, one single sow would devour all the provisions of a family."

The principal intoxicating beverage in Gairloch is whisky. Very little beer is consumed by the natives. Whisky became known in the Highlands during the sixteenth century, and soon found its way to Gairloch; but it is said that the mania for illicit distillation did not reach the parish until the year 1800. The first whisky was distilled in Gairloch by the grandfather of Alexander Cameron, the Tournaig bard, in Bruachaig, on the way up to the heights of Kenlochewe. The mother of George Maclennan, of Londubh, was at that time servant at the Kenlochewe inn, and long afterwards told her son how the innkeeper bought the whisky and the plant as well.

James Mackenzie says that it was in his father's house at Mellon Charles, in the same year (1800), that the first Gairloch whisky was made by a stranger, who had craved and obtained his father's hospitality. Probably both accounts are correct, but it is impossible at this distance of time to determine to whom the questionable honour of having commenced the illicit distillation of whisky ought to be assigned. The mania for smuggled whisky spread very rapidly throughout the parish, and is not yet extinct. The larger islands of Loch Maree were the scenes of illicit distillation in the early part of the nineteenth century. They say a regular periodical market for the sale of whisky made on the islands, used to be held at the large square stone on the shore of Loch Maree between Ardlair and Rudha Cailleach, called Clach a Mhail (see illustration).


Peats are the only fuel used by the crofter population; they are cut from the peat-mosses by means of an instrument admirably adapted for the purpose, called the "torasgian," or peat knife (see illustration). Before the cutting is commenced, a spit of turf is removed from the surface of the ground by another implement called the "cabar lar," or turf-parer (see illustration). Each tenant has a portion of a convenient peat-moss allotted to him. The peats are cut when the spring work is over,—in April, May, or June,—if the weather permit. After being cut the peats are reared on end to dry, and when thoroughly dried are stacked for use. The stacks are ingeniously constructed, with the outside peats sloping downwards, so as to throw off rain-water. Some twenty years ago there was a season of such continuous wet weather that the peats never dried, and the people were put to great straits to keep themselves warm during the succeeding winter.


The peat creel (see illustration), called in Gaelic "cliabh moine," is used for bringing home supplies of peat as needed. Creels are made by the people of willow and birch twigs.

There are very few carts among the crofters, and they have no other vehicles.

Dr Mackenzie gives the following account of the curious sledges which were used in Gairloch instead of wheeled carts in the beginning of the nineteenth century:—"There being no need of wheels in a roadless country, although we had a six-mile road to the big loch [Loch Maree] and another six miles to its exit at the sea [at Poolewe], we had only sledges (in place of wheeled carts), all made by our farm-bailiff or grieve. He took two birch trees of the most suitable bends, and of them made the two shafts, with ironwork to suit the harness of back belts and collar-straps. The ends of the shafts were sliced away with an adze at the proper angle to slide easily and smoothly on the ground. Two planks, one behind the horse and the other about a foot from the shaft-ends, were securely nailed to the shaft, and bored with many augur-holes to receive many four-feet long hazel rungs to form front and back of the cart to keep in the goods, a similar plank atop of the rungs, making the front and rear of the cart surprisingly stiff and upright. The floor was made of planks, and these sledge-carts did all that was needed in moving crop of most kinds. I think moveable boxes, planted on the sledge-floor between the front and rear hazel rod palings, served to carry up fish from the shore, lime, and manure, &c. And it was long ere my father [Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch] paid a penny a year to a cartwright."



Chapter VIII.

Agriculture and Stock.

In the time of the Roman occupation of Great Britain the Highlands were almost destitute of agriculture. That some corn was grown is manifest, from the ancient querns or hand-mills found everywhere. The possessions of the Highlanders then principally consisted of herds of cattle. Tradition says that cheese and butter supplied the place of bread and butter, and that a sort of pudding was made of blood taken from living cattle and mixed with a little meal. These, with meat and milk, formed the diet of the people. When the Highlands became more settled, agriculture increased, more corn was grown, and oatmeal, in some form or other, became a leading article of food.

The cattle of the Highlanders were mostly of the small black kind. Now-a-days there is a mixture of other breeds amongst the crofters' stock, and since the introduction of the black-faced sheep the cattle have become less numerous. The practice of drawing blood from living cattle was universal in the Highlands, even in 1730, when Captain Burt wrote his "Letters," and Pennant noticed the same usage in 1772. In Gairloch the practice continued to the beginning of the nineteenth century, if we may trust the evidence of the old inhabitants. At the east end of "the glen" (the narrow pass about half way between Gairloch and Poolewe), there is a flat moss called to this day Blar na Fala, or "the bog of the blood," because this was a usual place for the inhabitants to assemble their cattle and take blood from them. At Tournaig also a place is still pointed out where the natives used to bleed the cattle landed here from the Lews. This barbarous mode of obtaining blood as an article of food, affords striking evidence of the miserable poverty of the old days.

There was a pernicious practice much in vogue amongst the small farmers here up to the beginning of the nineteenth century; they let their cows for the season to a person called a "bowman," who engaged to produce for every two cows, one calf, two stones of butter weighing 24 lbs. English, and four stones of cheese. The calf was generally starved, and during winter the cattle got food sufficient only to keep them alive.

Before the great sheep-farms were established, the Gairloch people always took their black cattle to the shielings on the hills to feed on the upland pastures. It was generally the younger people who accompanied the cattle; they went up to the shielings when the spring work of the crofts was finished, about the end of May, and remained to the end of August, when they brought the cattle home again. There is an air of romance about the life at the shielings. Miss Harriet Martineau, in her "Feats of the Fiord," draws a charming picture of the similar life in Norway. But in Gairloch it cannot have been very desirable; the shieling bothies, of which [137]many remains are left, were indeed miserable dwellings. Dr Mackenzie says:—"Well do I remember the dreadful shieling bothies, and I can hardly yet believe that heaps of strong healthy people actually lived and throve in them."

Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, writing in 1810, tells us that the present system of sheep-farming was introduced into Ross-shire by Sir John Lockhart Ross of Balnagown about 1775. Many evictions of smaller tenants took place, and much resistance was aroused. The first sheep-farm in Gairloch was started about 1810 at Letterewe, under the management of Mr John M'Intyre, who was much praised by Sir G. S. Mackenzie for his activity and good management, as well as his successful cultivation of the land about his place of residence,—"in every department of inclosing, draining, and management, he evinced judgment and knowledge of the best principles of agriculture."

The commencement of sheep-farming in Gairloch does not seem to have been accompanied by any noticeable friction. If one or two small townships were abolished to make way for the sheep-farmer, the inhabitants had other more desirable quarters provided for them. The population of Gairloch steadily increased from the date when sheep-farming began.

Recently several sheep-farms have been forested for deer, i.e. the sheep have been removed, and to-day the only large sheep-farm is that of Bruachaig above Kenlochewe; but there is a considerable extent of ground the pasturage of which is held by the crofters and by some smaller farmers, all of whom, both crofters and farmers, possess a number of sheep.

Sheep, unlike cattle, cause a rapid deterioration in the quality of the pasturage, so that the number of sheep any particular ground will maintain in health is said to diminish annually, i.e. if it be stocked to its full extent. In Gairloch it generally requires ten acres of hill pasture to support one sheep.

It is certain there were sheep in Gairloch centuries before the black-faced sheep were introduced. The original sheep were of small size, and had pink noses and brownish faces; their coat varied in colour; they were kept in houses at night for protection from wolves, and later on from foxes. This original native breed of sheep is now unknown in Gairloch; some of them are still to be seen in St Kilda. The late laird of Dundonell gave me a description of the St Kilda sheep, which exactly agreed with my own observations. He said they were "of every size, shape, and colour, from a hare to a jackass." In the present day the sheep in Gairloch are of the black-faced and cheviot breeds (with some crosses), probably in almost equal proportions.

There are twenty-seven farms entered in the County Valuation Roll as at present existing in Gairloch. There are sheep on all of them except one, viz., that attached to the Kenlochewe Hotel, which is a purely dairy farm; all of them have some arable land; several are club farms.

Most of the arable land, however, is cultivated by the crofters. [138]Strictly speaking the present system of crofts in Gairloch dates back only to 1845. Prior to that time the "run-rig" system of cultivation prevailed throughout Gairloch. The small tenants, instead of having crofts as now, held the arable land in common; in many cases an oversman was responsible to the proprietor for the whole rent. The arable land was divided into "rigs," and these were cultivated by the tenantry in rotation, sometimes decided by lot. In Appendix XCIX. to the Report (1885) of the Royal Commission on the Crofters and Cottars, is an interesting description of three varieties of "run-rig," communicated by Mr Alexander Carmichael.

The new system of crofts was established in Gairloch in 1845 and 1846. The Dowager Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch writes:—"Each tenant had a lot or croft of about four acres assigned to him; houses (of which there had before been usually five or six together) were now placed separately on the new lots; and fevers and epidemics, which formerly had spread so fast, ceased to do so. Money was borrowed from government, and a great deal of draining and trenching was done. The surveying, measuring, planning, and mapping near five hundred crofters' lots was very expensive to the proprietor, Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, and the trouble of having this change effected was very great; but it has proved of great benefit to the crofters themselves." There are still several small townships where the houses remain in close juxtaposition as under the old run-rig system. "First Coast" and "Second Coast," on the late Mr Bankes's estate, are examples.

The crops raised by the crofters are almost exclusively oats and potatoes; a little barley and some turnips are also grown. Besides their arable land the crofters have the right of grazing cattle and sheep on specified areas of moorland, or "hill" as it is called. The average stock of each crofter in Gairloch is two or three cows, one stirk, and five to ten sheep; a few horses or ponies are also kept. There are now four hundred and forty-two crofters on the Gairloch estate of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, who pay an average rent, including common pasture, of £3 15s 5d, and have on an average three and a quarter acres of arable land. On the estates of the late Mr Bankes there are one hundred and one crofters, paying an average rent of £5 2s 2d for four and a quarter acres of arable land and the hill pasture. Of course each crofter has a dwelling-house, besides byre and barn, mostly very humble structures. The average number of persons residing on each croft is five. The crofters live in communities called townships, and the "hill" is occupied in common by each township; a herd boy is usually employed by the township to herd the cattle and sheep.

Few of the crofters have ploughs; they work their crofts by means of the "cas-chrom" (see illustration). A southerner might well be pardoned for disbelieving that such a primitive and ancient instrument should still exist and be used in Great Britain; nevertheless hundreds of cas-chroms may be seen in use within the parish of Gairloch every April and May. The cas-chrom is generally, but not universally, condemned; no doubt it is a slow process to turn over a plot with this simple and ungainly-looking implement, [139]but some argue that if properly used it is effective in getting at the sub-soil.

The following extracts from Sir G. S. Mackenzie's "General Survey," and Sir Francis Mackenzie's "Hints," bear on our present subject:—

Sir G. S. Mackenzie says:—"There are no sources of information from which a precise knowledge of the state of agriculture in the northern counties, previous to the rebellion in 1745, can be derived; but from what it has been since that time, it may safely be concluded that agricultural knowledge was neither sought for nor desired. The mode of management which has been practised in this county (Ross-shire) and in other parts of the Highlands, and which has been handed down from father to son for many generations, is still to be found in the midst of the most improved districts. We still see the arable land divided into small crofts, and many of the hills occupied as commons. On the west coast particularly, the ground is seen covered with heaps of stones, and large quantities are collected on the divisions between the fields, so that a considerable portion of the land capable of cultivation is thus rendered useless by the indulgence of the most unpardonable sloth. The management of the native farmers is most destructive. The soil of one field is dug away to be laid upon another; and crop succeeds crop until the land refuses to yield anything. It is then allowed to rest for a season, and the weeds get time to multiply. Such, we must suppose, was the system of farming before the rebellion; we cannot imagine it to have been worse."

Coming to the nineteenth century, Sir G. S. Mackenzie writes as follows of the parish of Gairloch:—"The business of farming is but ill understood; and it certainly is surprising that proprietors, and the holders of long leases though of old date, should have their land in very bad order, and stock of a quality inferior to that which their ancestors possessed fifty years ago. There are a few exceptions no doubt; but the attachment to ancient customs is nowhere more strongly fixed than in this district. The time, however, has at length arrived when the people must shortly change their habits, or quit the country. The labour which is required for small farms occupies but a small portion of the time of the tenants; but they are so perversely indolent and careless that, while they see people from Inverness and Argyleshire, who in their own counties pay much higher rents, employed in fishing, making kelp, &c., and receiving high wages, none of them can be engaged for such labour. This is the case in general; and although, from my connection with this part of the country, I may have remarked the habits of the people more particularly than elsewhere, yet, from the various testimonies I have received, I can safely assert that the censure of indolence is not applicable to the inhabitants of this district only."

In another part of his "Survey" Sir George gives the following account of the Highland husbandman of his day:—"Though a singular one, it is a fact, that every one of the Highlanders, [140]except those who have some connection with the soil, is active and enterprising. If he cannot find employment at home, he travels hundreds of miles to seek it. There are not more handy labourers in the world than Highlanders at piece-work. They are not in general neat-handed, but they very soon acquire expertness in any kind of work they engage in. But look attentively to the proceedings of a Highland farmer, and a very different description will be found necessary for his habits. Until he gets his seed sown, he is as active as a man can be. When that business is over, he goes to sleep, until roused by the recollection that he must have some means of keeping himself warm during winter. He then spends a few days in the peat moss, where the women and children are the chief operators. He cuts the peats, and leaves them to be dried and piled up by his family. Whenever the peats have been brought home, another interval presents itself for repose until the corn is ripe. During the winter, unless a good opportunity for smuggling occurs, a Highland farmer has nothing to do but to keep himself warm. He never thinks of labouring his fields during mild weather, or of collecting manure during frost; nothing rouses him but the genial warmth of spring. I cannot reckon how often I have seen Highland farmers basking in the sun on a fine summer day, in all the comforts of idleness. I have asked them, when I found them in such a situation, why they were not busy hoeing their potatoes. "O! the women and bairns do that," was the answer. I would then ask why they did not remove the heaps of stones which I saw on their fields, or conduct away the water which rested on them. They would answer, that they did not know where to put them; or, that they did no harm; or, that they had been there so long that it was not worth while to stir them; and that water gave sap to the land; with many other answers equally absurd, and dictated by nothing but what must be considered constitutional sloth. During his leisure hours a Highland farmer will do nothing for himself; but hire him to work, and he will become as brisk as a bee. He will never go to seek work; it must be brought to him. There are many, however, who will absolutely refuse to work at all."

The ensuing quotations from the "Hints" of Sir Francis Mackenzie, published in 1838, shew that the Gairloch people had not progressed much in the quarter of a century which had elapsed since Sir G. S. Mackenzie had written. Sir Francis states, "that hardly one field in your parish has ever had a mattock applied to it for the purpose of giving a little greater depth of soil, although you are constantly grumbling about its poverty and thinness; nor, till within the last five years, has any tenant in Gairloch ever trenched a single rood of land properly; whilst even at this day there are not half-a-dozen who have performed this Herculean task, which just occupies a good labourer in any other country from eight to ten hours, even where this operation is most difficult."

Under the head of manures, Sir Francis writes:—"Though so much depends both on the quantity and quality of your manure, nothing can be worse than your present system. Your dung-hill is generally [141]placed immediately in front of your house door, raised like a mound, so that all the sap and moisture flows away; while filth of every kind may be seen wasted around, which, if thrown together, would materially enlarge and enrich the heap. Instead of little daily attentions to increase the manure by every means in your power, you delay everything till the spring, when all is hurry and confusion, contending for sea-ware, and waiting for low tides, at the very time when your dung should be ready on the spot and your seed committed to the ground."

Referring to the "cas-chrom," Sir Francis remarks:—"The present mode of scratching your soil with the cas-chrom ought totally to be abolished; for though you may shovel over a greater surface with it than with the spade, it does not go to such a depth in the soil as to loosen it sufficiently and allow the roots of the various crops to seek for nourishment. By turning the soil over to one side only, it raises the ridges unequally; and whilst one half has a greater depth than necessary, the other is robbed till it becomes almost unproductive. I repeat, that your antique instrument is totally inadequate for cultivating your lands properly; its very name, 'crooked foot,' implies deformity; and it should only be retained as an object of curiosity for posterity, since it is a relic of that barbarism which, I rejoice to think, is fast vanishing."

Sir Francis strongly urges the advantage of industry, which he seems to have considered to be the principal want of the people. Sir Francis says:—"I had an admirable opportunity of illustrating this lately when walking with a small tenant, who, with both hands in his pockets, vehemently complained of the limited extent of his arable land, the poverty of the unreclaimed part, the barrenness of his cattle; in short, he found fault with everything. We were at that moment passing some land which he himself and his forefathers once possessed, but which had lately been given to a clergyman, who was anxious to set a moral as well as a spiritual example to his flock, and who was rapidly and successfully reclaiming the waste and improving the hitherto ill cultivated lands. 'Donald,' I asked, 'look at the improvement your parson is making on that land. Why not imitate his exertions?' 'Ah,' was the reply, 'well may he do all that, since the fine subject is sure to repay him!' 'And why,' I said, 'did not you or your forefathers discover this, and do something during the last century it was in their possession,—all which time it remained a barren moor? Would it not have repaid your father fifty years ago, or yourself last year, as well as it promises to remunerate the minister this season?' Donald scratched his head, but could not reply; he was for once convinced of his indolence, though I fear it is hardly yet cured. I fear that Donald still prefers a lounge on the banks of the Ewe, or a saunter in the direction of the inn in hopes of the friendly offer of a dram, to taking up his spade and opening a passage between his lazy beds for the water to escape, or gathering only a few barrowfuls of gravel from his immediate neighbourhood to throw upon his moss, or doing any little thing to make his home neat, his house clean, and himself happy and comfortable. His new farm is [142]now what the glebe was under his reign and that of his forefathers. Thus it is with those who are naturally indolent."

Sir Francis strongly recommends gardens. He says:—"Half a century ago no more than two or three gardens, I believe, existed in your whole parish, one of the most extensive in Britain; and even now, when civilization has been making rapid strides elsewhere, the number of spots where fruits are raised and flowers cultivated has not increased to perhaps a dozen." There are still, as previously remarked, few gardens attached to the crofters' dwellings in Gairloch, and vegetables, other than potatoes, are but little grown. The potato is said not to have become common in Gairloch until the end of the eighteenth century; there is no account of its introduction into the parish. It is stated by the old folk, that when first grown the tubers were hung in nets from the rafters of the roofs to be kept dry, exactly as is often done with onions. The potato disease was unknown in Gairloch until 1846. Now it frequently appears, and causes great loss; but in some seasons there is little of it, and years have been known when potatoes were pretty largely exported.



Chapter IX.


The majority of the men of Gairloch are fishermen. The two sea-lochs of the parish, viz., the Gairloch and Loch Ewe, teem with the finny tribe, which are largely taken by the people, and are either exported or afford an important and healthful article of diet. The most considerable fishery of Gairloch is the cod, saythe, and ling fishery, which will be described further on. Besides the large number of cod, saythe, and ling taken during the regular annual fishery, under the auspices of the firms who have their depots at Badachro, a moderate quantity of these fish is taken in Gairloch and Loch Ewe by other inhabitants. Good takes of haddock are frequently obtained, but there is no organized haddock fishery. Whiting, flounders, and sea-bream are also taken in Gairloch waters. Haddock, whiting, flounders, &c., are captured by means of long lines as well as hand lines. The haddock are particularly good. I have known whiting taken up to two and a half pounds weight. Hand-line fishing is treated of in Part IV., chap. xiv.

Herrings are taken in Gairloch and Loch Ewe; in some years considerable numbers are cured at and exported from Badachro. Ordinary herring-nets are employed.

Many of the able-bodied men of Gairloch take part in the herring fisheries of the Long Island and of the east coast of Scotland. Some have boats of their own; these are the joint property of several fishermen, who divide the annual profits among them. Others hire themselves out to assist east coast fishermen. The Long Island fishing usually occupies the fishermen from 12th May to 20th June, and the east coast fishing keeps them from home between the end of June and the beginning of September. The produce of the fishings is uncertain, and varies greatly from year to year. I understand that the Gairloch men who go to the east coast herring fishings bring home on an average £18 to £20 each; the amount is affected not only by the success or non-success of the fishery, but by losses of nets and even of boats.

Lobsters and crabs are exported from Gairloch; but this fishery is not so successful as formerly, owing to the decline in the number of lobsters. It is prosecuted at several of the villages on the coasts of Gairloch and Loch Ewe, and the produce is sent in boxes to the English markets.

Oysters were formerly tolerably abundant on the scalps about the heads of Gairloch and Loch Ewe, and up to 1875 were exported. At that time a London firm leased some oyster-beds, which have however ceased to be remunerative.

The cod fishery of Gairloch may almost be said to be historical. We can at least find some account of it as far back as a century and a half ago.

The historian of the Mackenzies records, that the tenants of Sir [144]Alexander Mackenzie, ninth laird of Gairloch (who ruled Gairloch from his coming of age in 1721 to his death in 1766), "were bound to deliver to him at current prices all the cod and ling caught by them, and in some cases were bound to keep one or more boats, with a sufficient number of men as sub-tenants, for the prosecution of the cod and ling fishings. He kept his own curer, cured the fish, and sold it at 12s. 6d. per cwt., delivered in June at Gairloch with credit until the following Martinmas, to a Mr Dunbar, merchant, with whom he made a contract, binding himself for several years to deliver at the price named all the cod caught in Gairloch."

In Pennant's "Tour" (Appendix B) we have some interesting particulars about the Gairloch cod fishery. He states the average annual capture as varying from five to twenty-seven thousand; the price as 2¼d a piece, and the minimum size as eighteen inches. The fish in his day (1772) were sent to Bilboa, but he says the Spaniards rejected the ling.

The Rev. Daniel M'Intosh, in the Old Statistical Account, 1792 (Appendix C), says, "Gairloch has been for many years famous for the cod fishing. Sir Hector M'Kenzie of Gairloch, the present proprietor, sends to market annually, upon an average, betwixt thirty and forty thousand cod, exclusive of the number with which the country people serve themselves."

Sir George S. Mackenzie, in his "Survey," published in 1810, has the following interesting account of the Gairloch cod fishery as it was carried on in the time of Sir Hector M'Kenzie:—

"This fishery has, from time immemorial, been the most constant and regularly productive of any on the coasts of Scotland. This is probably owing to there being in this quarter the most considerable extent of clean sandy ground, in the neighbourhood of the numerous banks in the Minch, where the fish find the best bottom and shelter for spawning, and abundance of food, consisting of small crabs, sand eels, star fish, mussels, cockles, &c., which are always found in their stomachs.

"The fish are in full roe, and best condition, in January, when the fishing usually begins; and they regularly become poorer till fully spawned, which happens about the end of April, when the fishing ends. The size of the fish is small, but they are rich. They weigh on an average five pounds each, when cleaned for salting. They have usually been sent pickled, and also dried, to Ireland, Liverpool, and London, and were formerly sent dried to Spain. The natives of the neighbouring shores are in general exclusively occupied in this fishing; but from the difficulty of procuring bait, only about twenty boats, each having about four hundred hooks, are employed. The average annual produce of this fishing, for fifteen years, has exceeded twenty thousand cod; but were the fishermen to take but half the trouble some others do to procure bait, they might certainly double the produce.

"Messrs J. Nicol & Young are the fishcurers. They are obliged to receive the fish taken while they continue to be good. The fishermen are a class of people inhabiting the shores on the bay of [145]Gairloch, paying from £1 sterling to £2, 2s. of rent for land. They receive for each codfish, measuring eighteen inches from the shoulder fins to the tail, 3¼d.; and for every ling, measuring thirty inches as above, 5d. Sir Hector Mackenzie, the proprietor, gives the fishermen a bounty of twenty guineas, which is divided among the crews of the best-fished boats, pointed out by a jury of the fishermen themselves. He gives wood for boats and houses, and receives no other remuneration than ¼d. per fish. But more than this, Sir Hector takes upon himself to make good to the fishers the payment due to them from the fishcurers, and takes the risk of not recovering it upon himself. By this he has lost many hundreds of pounds. What an example this is. Here we see a proprietor, not only encouraging industry by every ordinary means, but absolutely risking, and losing, large sums of money, in the most laudable and noble exertions to maintain and support a trade most valuable for the country and the people engaged in it. Such conduct is beyond all praise."

The cod fishing was carried on until quite recently (about 1877) by means of long lines with baited hooks, the bait being mostly mussels. Since 1877 nets have to a great extent displaced the baited lines. The lines were entirely made by the people themselves, of horse-hair and hemp, until the early part of the present century. The hooks were also home-made, for Gairloch used to be self-contained. The hooks were made out of knitting needles, cut into proper lengths and then bent to the right shape, to effect which one end was fixed in a door key. The point was then sharpened on a stone, and the barb was raised by means of a knife. Ruaridh Ceard, the blacksmith at Second Coast (he was a tinker), used to make fish-hooks from backs of pocket-knives and odd bits of steel. At that time everybody in Gairloch grew a small plot of hemp. The women spun the flax with the distaff, and herring-nets and fishing-lines were made from it. Fish-hooks and lines, as well as herring-nets, were precious articles in those days.

It was about the year 1823 that a large ship put into Ullapool and was there destroyed by fire. Among her cargo, which was partially saved, were casks of hooks, and these were the first manufactured hooks known in this district.

The Gairloch cod fishery is now carried on by two firms, who have curing-houses or stations at Badachro, one on the Dry Island and the other on Eilean (or Isle) Horisdale. The fishery seems to be more productive now than even in the days of Sir Hector Mackenzie. It yields an average of about forty thousand cod per annum. The year 1884 was extraordinarily good. The number of cod cured and sent away fresh was about eighty thousand, besides about forty-four thousand saythe. These figures were about double the average. A few ling are also taken, but they are the same price as cod, and are counted among them. In 1884 about a third part of the fish were dried; the remainder were sent fresh to Glasgow and the English markets by steamer. The price paid to the fishermen in 1884 was 11d. for each cod and 4d. for each saythe. The number of boats employed was forty. Each boat had as a rule four men, so [146]that there were in all one hundred and sixty fishermen employed besides about thirty workmen and ten women who worked at the stations. The cod were larger than in Pennant's day.

The season of 1885 was not so productive, and the prices were lower, viz., 7d. for each cod and 3d. for each saythe; a few boats had 8d. for each cod. Some lines with baited hooks are still used instead of nets. Mr John Mackenzie, the manager of the Dry Island station, who has furnished much of this information about the fishery, is of opinion that the lines are far better than nets, and he says this was proved in 1885. Of course the use of the lines necessitates a certain loss of time in collecting bait.

The only remaining fishery of Gairloch is the salmon fishery, noticed by Pennant. This belongs to Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, Bart., under an old charter from the crown, and is leased by Mr A. P. Hogarth of Aberdeen, who sends a manager each spring to the principal station at Poolewe. The fishing is conducted principally by means of bag-nets, and all the fish are brought to Poolewe. In the early part of the season the salmon are boiled and packed in vinegar in kegs, each keg containing about thirty-two pounds weight of fish. In summer, when the salmon are most plentiful, Mr Hogarth employs fast sailing smacks or cutters, which come twice a week from Aberdeen to Poolewe and take away the fish packed in ice. From Aberdeen they are sent to the London market as fresh salmon. A few bull trout and sea trout are also taken. The station at Poolewe is usually termed the "Boiler-house," and its obliging manager, Mr Alexander Mutch, is always proud of displaying his beautiful salmon to callers. For obvious reasons the number of fish taken each year is kept secret. Mr Hogarth told me that the year 1883 was the best season he had ever known except one, and that not only in Gairloch but in other parts of Scotland, where he rents fishings. On the whole, however, the stock of salmon is believed to be gradually diminishing.



Chapter X.

Posts and Road-making.

It is impossible to fix the exact date when a post was established to Gairloch; it was probably some time in the latter half of the eighteenth century. In 1730 letters from Inverness to Edinburgh were carried by a foot-post, as we learn from Captain Burt, so that it is not to be wondered at that our remote parish of Gairloch did not have any post until even a later period. Originally one post-"runner" was employed on the service. He seems for a long time to have come regularly only when the laird of Gairloch was in residence at Flowerdale in summer and autumn. The post-runner came from Dingwall by Strath Braan and Glen Dochartie to the head of Loch Maree, then along the east side of the loch viâ Letterewe to Poolewe, and thence, if necessary, forward to Flowerdale. Sometimes, during the residence of the laird at Flowerdale, the post-runner seems to have gone by the west side of Loch Maree to Slatadale, and thence over the pass, by the falls of the Kerry, to Flowerdale. During the winter months the post was suspended; even in summer he originally came to Gairloch only once a week. When a second runner was employed the post bags were brought twice a week. After the construction of the present roads the mail came by horse and trap three times a week, and in 1883 the Post Office authorities granted a daily mail, i.e. every day except Sundays.

Dr Mackenzie, writing of the ten years commencing with 1808, describes the Gairloch post as follows:—"Then the mail north of the Highland metropolis (Inverness) went on horseback; and when we squatted on the west coast (Gairloch) our nearest post-office was sixty miles away in our county town (Dingwall), and our only letter-carrier was one of my father's (Sir Hector's) attachés, little Duncan, a bit of kilted india-rubber, who, with a sheepskin knapsack on his back to keep his despatches dry (for Mackintosh waterproof had not been dreamed of then), left the west on Monday, got the sixty miles done on Wednesday, and returning on Thursday delivered up his mail to my father on the Saturday, and was ready to trip off east next Monday; and so all the five months of our western stay, doing his one hundred and twenty miles every week! I never heard of his being a day off work in many a year. And what a lot of news was extracted from him ere he got away to his home on Saturday evening! When we retired to the east the natives left behind us got their postal delivery the best way they could."

James Mackenzie states, that before 1820 there were two Gairloch post-runners, viz., Donald Mackenzie, always called Donald Charles, grandfather of the present John Mackenzie (Iain Glas) of Mossbank, Poolewe, and Roderick M'Lennan of Kirkton, father of George M'Lennan of Londubh, who is at present foreman to Mr O. H. Mackenzie. James Mackenzie thinks that Dr Mackenzie is mistaken [148]in giving the name Duncan to the post-runner he mentions, and that it was Donald Charles (who was the last single post-runner) that Dr Mackenzie knew in his youth. This opinion agrees with the fact that Donald Charles always wore the kilt, then falling into disuse among the common people of Gairloch. The kilt seems, however, to have been generally in favour with the post-runners, who doubtless found it suitable for their long walks; both Rorie (Roderick M'Lennan) and William Cross (a subsequent post-runner, descended from one of the ironworkers) always wore the kilt. Donald Charles and Rorie alternately brought the post from Dingwall. They came to Poolewe on Wednesdays and Saturdays, walking "through the rock," i.e. viâ Letterewe, the Bull Rock, and the east side of Loch Maree. When the laird was staying at Flowerdale the post-runners went there first.

Another post-runner—one M'Leay, from Poolewe—was found dead about a mile from the inn at Achnasheen. In his hand were a piece of bread and a bit of mutton, which his sister, who was a servant at the inn, had given him just before he left. He was a young man. A brother of his was found dead at the back of the park at Tournaig. He had been sent by Mr Mackenzie of Lochend to Aultbea to fetch whisky. His face was "spoilt," and his mouth full of earth. His death was thought to be the work of a spirit! A memorial cairn was thrown up on the spot where the body was found, and is there to this day.

John Mackenzie, son of Donald Charles, was the last running post to Gairloch. He was called Iain Mor am Post, and was a remarkably strong and courageous Highlander. When the mail-car began to run he emigrated to Australia.

There were no roads in Gairloch until the military road was made, which took nearly the same course as the present county road; it can still be traced in most places. It was part of the system of military roads constructed under the supervision of General Wade in the first half of the eighteenth century. It is usually called General Wade's road, though it is possible he never saw it. In the beginning of the nineteenth century this old road had become impassable by wheeled vehicles.

There was a bridge at Grudidh on General Wade's road; when the new road was made there it was doubled in width. The bridge at Kenlochewe was built in 1843; that near Flowerdale (widened about 1880) long before. The bridge at Poolewe was built about 1844; that at Little Gruinard, on the northern boundary of the parish, a little later.

The road from Gairloch to Poolewe was made by Sir Hector Mackenzie in 1825. It was set out by Duncan Mackenzie, the innkeeper at Poolewe, who had been butler to Sir Hector.

The Dowager Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch, widow of the late Sir Francis Mackenzie, has communicated the following statement with regard to other roads in Gairloch:—"I came to reside permanently at Flowerdale in June 1844. For ten years from June 1843 I was trustee for the Gairloch property with Mr Mackenzie of Ord. There was no road then between Rudha 'n Fhomhair, at the upper end of [149]Loch Maree and Slatadale. The potato disease commenced in August 1846, and this road was begun the following spring. When the government steamers called in at Gairloch, inquiring as to the distress and poverty caused by the potato disease, I did not advocate the sending of supplies of meal, &c., but urged continually, in speaking and by letters, both to the Destitution Committee and to the Home Secretary (Sir George Grey), and to Lord John Russell, that money might be granted to make the road from Rudha 'n Fhomhair to Slatadale, and thus to open up the country, I, on my part, as trustee, guaranteeing to support the people who could not work on the road. The Edinburgh Destitution Committee was not willing to agree to my request without the sanction of the government; and the government said, however much they approved of my plan, and however desirous of assisting me they felt, they could not grant the request of one individual, without incurring the risk of many more applications; but after some delay and consideration, they said they would send me Captain Webb of the Engineers and a corporal and two privates (who had been employed in Shetland) to line out the road and map it, ready for a contractor's offer. This was done. Captain Webb was my guest at Flowerdale for six weeks during the winter; and early in the following spring, the maps and plans arrived from Woolwich, and the road was begun, my son (Mr O. H. Mackenzie) cutting the first turf. Though mentioning my own name throughout this transaction, I could not have done anything without the indefatigable assistance of Captain (now Admiral) Russell Elliott of Appleby Castle; he was at the head of the Destitution Committee, a sort of generalissimo of the whole concern; also I was much indebted to Sir Charles Trevelyan, at that time Secretary to the Home Secretary. By the aid of such good and able friends, the Destitution Committee was induced to advance in all two or three thousand pounds, the district road trustees undertaking to advance equal to what was advanced on the Loch Maree road; and money was afterwards received from the Destitution Fund to carry on the road to Badachro, now the large fishing station, where curers purchase the herring, cod, ling, &c., from the people. Lord John Russell sent me £100 out of a fund he had from the receipts of a ball or concert for the destitute Highlanders, and I had several large sums sent me by strangers, besides some from my own relations. Money also was granted from Edinburgh to assist in making the road from Poolewe to Inverasdale. After I received money from the Destitution Committee several other proprietors applied for assistance in the same way. Mr Bankes of Letterewe, and Mr Hugh Mackenzie of Dundonnell, both received grants on the same terms. The road from Poolewe to Aultbea was thus made, and also I think the road from Dundonnell, by Feithean, to the Ullapool road."

Mr Mackenzie, Dundonnell, took a leading part in obtaining Destitution money for road-making. Nearly £2000 from that and similar sources was spent on the Loch Maree road; it cost £3403, the balance being raised by the district road trustees, who also gave £1000 towards the Aultbea road, the Destitution Committee giving [150]£370. That Committee also assisted the making of the roads on the north and south sides of Gairloch, and on the west side of Loch Ewe.

There is no account to be had of the making of the road from Poolewe to Inveran, but it seems to have been formed some time before the road from Gairloch to Poolewe was made.

Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie completed the road from Kernsary to Fionn Loch in 1875. The road connecting Kernsary with Inveran was made about 1870.


Chapter XI.

Superstitions of Isle Maree.

Isle Maree, or Innis, or Inch, or Eilean Maree, is, as it were, the eye of Loch Maree. From either end of the loch it arrests the gaze of the spectator, and seems almost to look him in the face. Though one of the smallest of the islands, it is without doubt the most interesting. Not only does the story of the unfortunate prince and princess (Part I., chap, ii.) centre in it, but so also do the quaint superstitions connected with the wishing-tree, the little well resorted to for the cure of insanity, and the now discontinued sacrifices of bulls.

Her most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria visited Isle Maree on the 16th September 1877. It was the Sabbath day, and Her Majesty graciously read a short sermon to her Gairloch gillies. She then fixed her offering in the wishing-tree, a pleasantry which most visitors to the island repeat, it being common report that a wish silently formed when any metal article is attached to the tree will certainly be realized. It is said that if any one removes an offering that has been fixed in the tree, some misfortune, probably the taking fire of the house of the desecrator, is sure to follow. The tree is now nearly dead. This modern fancy of the wishing-tree is very different from its original superstition, as will appear shortly.

It seems certain that St Maelrubha, who brought Christianity into the district in the seventh century, permitted the Druidical sacrifices [151]of bulls to be continued, and endeavoured to give them a Christian aspect. These sacrifices continued to as late a date as 1678. Latterly the sacrifices appear to have been connected with the resort to the island for the cure of insanity. Originally neither the legend of the prince and princess (Part I., chap. ii.), nor the sacrifices of bulls, had any connection with the cure of insanity. Later on versions of the traditional legend were promulgated, in which either the prince or the princess were made out to have become lunatic, evidently with the idea of connecting the story in some way, however remote, with the cure of insanity. The sacrifice of a bull became in the seventeenth century a preliminary to the proceedings for the cure of a lunatic, although in older days such a sacrifice had been entirely independent of anything of the sort.

Probably the resort to the island for the miraculous cure of insanity, although, as has been remarked, unconnected with the legend or the sacrifices, dates back to the time of St Maelrubha. The practice was for the party to row several times round the island, the attendants jerking the lunatic thrice into the water; then they landed on the island, where the patient knelt before the altar, was brought to the little well, drank some of the holy water, and finally attached an offering to the tree. This process was repeated every day for some weeks. In modern times there is no altar, and the lunatic is brought only on one occasion to the island.

The resort to Isle Maree for the cure of lunacy was continued until a very recent date, though no longer prefaced by the sacrifice of a bull. There was an instance in 1856, when a young woman was brought to the island from Easter Ross; she was afterwards placed in the Inverness Asylum. A prior case was reported in the Inverness Courier of 4th November 1852. I am assured on good authority that lunatics are still taken to the island to be cured, but these expeditions are now kept strictly secret.

Our next chapter will be devoted to a discussion of these superstitions, mostly from the pen of Dr Arthur Mitchell, chairman of the Lunacy Commission of Scotland. His full description of Isle Maree will give the reader a good idea of the subject generally.

Her Majesty the Queen has herself written an excellent account of the island in "More leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands," to which the reader is referred.

The following is Dr Mitchell's description, extracted from his valuable paper "On various Superstitions in the north-west Highlands and Islands of Scotland, especially in relation to Lunacy," printed in Vol. IV. of the proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Dr Mitchell, it will be seen, clears up in a most satisfactory manner the question of the derivation of the name Maree:—

"Eilean Maree, or Innis Maree, is a small low island, with clean gravelly shores, half-way down the loch, not more than a quarter of a mile in its greatest diameter.

"On its highest part there is an enclosure, whose outline is an irregular oval (ninety by one hundred and twenty feet). The wall, which is not more than two feet high, is now covered with earth and [152]moss. Pennant, however, describes it as a 'stone dyke, with a regular narrow entrance.' In the centre of this enclosure there are the remains of a small chapel; but so complete is the ruin, that it is not possible to determine the style of architecture. Round about the chapel are fifty or sixty graves, generally covered by a flat undressed stone, with rude blocks at the head and feet. Many of these graves are recent. One, indeed, is quite fresh,—the burial having taken place but a week before my visit. Several of the older ones are said to contain the bodies of the Sasunnach artizans who, in the seventeenth century, worked at the iron furnaces of Poolewe. With two exceptions there are no cuttings, carvings, or inscriptions of any kind on any of the tombstones. These two have distinct and well-formed incised crosses on them (see illustration). The stones on which these occur have never been dressed or even squared. They are flat, and lie beside each other, nearly end to end, and about east and west.

"The celebrated well, whose waters are of such magic power, is near the shore. We found it dry, and full of last year's leaves. It is a built well, and the flat stone which serves for a cover we found lying on the bank.

"Near it stands an oak tree, which is studded with nails. To each of these was originally attached a piece of the clothing of some patient who had visited the spot. There are hundreds of nails, and one has still fastened to it a faded ribbon. Two bone buttons and two buckles we also found nailed to the tree. Countless pennies and halfpennies are driven edgeways into the wood,—over many the bark is closing, over many it has already closed. All the trees about the well are covered with initials. A rude M, with an anchor below it, tells of the seaman's noted credulity and superstitious character. Two sets of initials with a date between, and below a heart pierced by an arrow, probably record the visit of a love-sick couple, seeking here a cure of their folly. The solitary interview would probably counteract the working of the waters.

"The sacred holly grows everywhere on the island. We found it loaded with fruit. The oak, the larch, the alder, the beech, the mountain-ash, the sycamore, the willow, the prickly holly, the dog-rose, the juniper, the honeysuckle, and the heather all abound, and form a most charming grove."

After giving a version of the legend of the prince and princess, Dr Mitchell proceeds to remark:—

"Since the same tale is told with many variations, it is probable that something of this kind did really happen; but that the virtues of the well have any connection with the story is improbable, as I shall shortly show.

"Anderson, Fullarton, the new and old Statistical Accounts, as well as the people of the place, derive the name from a dedication to St Mary. This remarkable error is first clearly pointed out in the 'Origines Parochiales,' though Pennant evidently had the right view when he speaks of it as the favoured isle of the saint (St Maree), the patron of all the coast from Applecross to Lochbroom, and tells us [153]that he, the saint, is held in high esteem, and that the oath of the country is by his name.

"It appears that Maelrubha came from Ireland to Scotland, and founded the church of Aporcrossan in 673. After his death he became the patron saint of the district. His name is variously known as Malrubius, Malrube, Mulray, Murie, Mourie, and as the last corruption, Maree. That the island and loch bear the name of this saint there can be no doubt. Even the mode of pronouncing the word by the Gaelic-speaking population shews that it is not derived from Mary; while Pennant's remark proves that the mistake is not yet a century old. Names are monuments—pages of history—inscribed stones; yet thus do we find them broken, blotted, and defaced. Mourie died at Applecross, on the 21st April 722. There is some doubt as to where he was buried, and I have nothing to make it probable that it was in Inch Maree. It is certain, or all but certain, however, that this vir dei led a hermit's life, and wrought miracles there; and that, like St Goderick, St Fillan, and a host of others, he continued to do so after his death.

"Whether the saint, on his arrival in Scotland, found a pagan temple on this little island, or whether he himself first consecrated the spot, is a question of interest. Pennant says, 'I suspect the dike to have been originally Druidical, and that the ancient superstition of paganism was taken up by the saint as the readiest method of making a conquest over the minds of the inhabitants.' This opinion I am inclined to adopt. The people of the place speak often of the god Mourie, instead of St Mourie, which may have resulted from his having supplanted the old god. Tradition also points to it as a place of worship before the Christian epoch; and the curious record I have obtained of the sacrifice of bulls there, strongly confirms this belief, and furnishes fresh proof of the liberal engrafting upon Christianity of all forms of paganism in the early history of the Church."

Chapter XII.

Superstitions of Isle Maree—(continued).

The principal source of the knowledge we possess of the superstitious sacrifices of bulls and attempted cures of insanity at Isle Maree, are the minutes extracted from the records of the Presbytery of Dingwall, which will be found in Appendix F.

Dr Mitchell has the following instructive remarks on these subjects in his paper written in 1860:—

"Fuller wittily observes that, as careful mothers and nurses on condition they can get their children to part with knives are contented to let them play with rattles, so the early Christian teachers permitted ignorant people to retain some of their former foolish customs, that they might remove from them the most dangerous. Fuller is here writing of protesting times; but if we go back to the [154] first introduction of Christianity into our country, we shall find that many pagan ceremonies were connived at and engrafted on the new religion, which we now-a-days should feel inclined rather to class with edged tools than rattles. Instead of breaking the monuments of idolatry, our early teachers gave them a Christian baptism, by cutting on them the symbols of their own religion; and with the rites and ceremonies of paganism they dealt in like manner.

"The places of Druidical worship, which Maelrubha found on his arrival in Applecross, in all probability became afterwards places of Christian worship; and such of them as were believed to possess special virtues continued to enjoy their special reputation, with this difference, however, that what the god, or demon, or genius loci did before, the saint took upon himself, tolerating as much of the old ceremony as the elastic conscience of the age permitted. 'Une religion chargée de beaucoup de pratiques,' says Montesquieu, 'attache plus à elle qu'une autre, qui l'est moins;' and this principle was freely acted on,—the more freely, perhaps, that the early Christian teachers came among a people peculiarly given to ceremony, if we may trust the remark of Pliny, 'The Britons are so stupendly superstitious in their ceremonies, that they go even beyond the Persians.' I am inclined to think, with Pennant and the writer in the old Statistical Account, that Inch Maree was such a locality. The sacrifice of the bull, and the speaking of the saint as 'the god,' made this probable, while the belief expressed by some old writers that such was the fact, and existing oral traditions, render it still more so.

"I have no earlier allusion to the well on this island than 1656. It was then the resort of the lunatic, and, as I have said, it may possibly have been so from the date of Mourie's arrival, or even before that time. One shrine in Belgium is known to have had a special reputation of this kind for more than twelve hundred years. I refer to that of St Dympna in Gheel. Our own St Fillan's, too, has been resorted to for the 'blessed purpose of conferring health on the distressed' since the year 700. Further back still, Orpheus, who is said to have written the hymn to Mercury, speaks of Mercury's grot, where remedy was to be had for lunatics and lepers.

"The most interesting feature of these [presbytery] extracts, however, is the finding so complete and formal a sacrificial ceremony commonly practised in our country at so late a period as within two hundred years of our own day. The people point to Inverasdale as the last place where the sacrifice was offered. For the cure of the murrain in cattle, one of the herd is still sacrificed for the good of the whole. This is done by burying it alive. I am assured that within the last ten years such a barbarism occurred in the county of Moray. It is, however, happily, and beyond all doubt, very rare. The sacrifice of a cock, however, in the same fashion, for the cure of epilepsy, is still not unfrequently practised; but in neither of these cases is the sacrifice offered on the shrine of a saint, or to a named god, though, of course, in both there is the silent acknowledgment of some power thus to be propitiated.

"I only know one other recorded instance of the formal sacrifice [155]of a bull in Scotland, to a saint on his feast-day. A writer of the twelfth century, Reginald of Durham, sometimes also called Reginald of Coldingham, takes occasion, in his lively 'Book of the Miracles of St Cuthbert,' to relate certain incidents which befell the famous St Aelred of Rievaux in the year 1164, during a journey into Pictland,—that is Galloway it would seem, or perhaps, more generally, the provinces of Scotland lying to the south of the Forth and Clyde. The saintly abbot happened to be at 'Cuthbrichtis Kirche,' or Kirkcudbright, as it is now called, on the feast-day of its great patron. A bull, the marvel of the parish for its strength and ferocity, was dragged to the church, bound with cords, to be offered as an alms and oblation to St Cuthbert.

"It is curious to find, in the inaccessible districts both of the north and south of Scotland, traces of a similar Christianised paganism. Whether these ceremonies are remains of the vague Druidical, or of the Helioarkite, or of the Mithraic worship, I am not able to say. As regards the last, which was set up in opposition to Christianity, and which used many of its ceremonies, it is known that the sacrifice of a bull was one of its rites. The study of this form of worship has not yet received from Scottish antiquaries the attention which it probably deserves.

"It would seem that to some saints the sacrifice of a bull was not confined to the day of honour, but was a thing of frequent occurrence. This appears from a letter on the superstitions of Caernarvonshire of the sixteenth century, in which the writer tells us that he visited the locality where bullocks were said to be offered to St Beyno, and that he witnessed such an offering in 1589. This Beyno is described as 'the saint of the parish of Clynnog, and the chiefest of all saints;' but we are told that the people did not dare to cut down the trees that grew in the saint's ground, 'lest Beyno should kill them, or do them some one harm or another.' Though so saintly, therefore, as to be deemed the chiefest of all saints, he was evidently not worshipped solely as a beneficent being, and sacrifices were offered to avert his anger as well as to secure his favour; thus bringing out his successorship as saint of the place to the demon loci of pure paganism. 'They called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius,' and vice versâ.

"In our own day, belief in the healing virtues of the well on Inch Maree is general over all Ross-shire, but more especially over the western district. The lunatic is taken there without consideration of consent. As he nears the island, he is suddenly jerked out of the boat into the loch; a rope having been made fast to him, by this he is drawn into the boat again, to be a second, third, or fourth time unexpectedly thrown overboard during the boat's course round the island. He is then landed, made to drink of the waters, and an offering is attached to the tree. Sometimes a second and third circumnavigation of the island is thought necessary, with a repetition of the immersions, and of the visit to the well.

"The writer of the 'New Statistical Account,' in 1836, says that the poor victim of this superstitious cruelty was towed round the [156]island after the boat by his tender-hearted friends. Macculloch, writing in 1824, says: 'Here also there was a sacred well, in which, as in St Fillan's, lunatics were dipped, with the usual offerings of money; but the well remains, and the practice has passed away.' He makes two mistakes here. Lunatics are not, and cannot be, dipped into the well, which is not larger than a bucket, and both practice and well still exist. Pennant describes the ceremony in 1772, as having a greater show of religion in the rites, and less barbarity in the form of immersion. According to him, the patient was taken to the 'Sacred Island, made to kneel before the altar, where his attendants left an offering in money; he was then brought to the well, sipped some of the holy water, and a second offering was made; that done, he was thrice dipped in the lake, and the same operation was repeated every day for some weeks.'

"I could not learn that any form of words is at present in use, nor do any of the writers referred to make mention of such a thing; nor does it appear that the feast-day of the saint (25th August) is now regarded as more favourable than any other.

"There is an unwillingness to tell a stranger of the particular cases in which this superstitious practice had been tried, but several came to my knowledge. About seven years ago a furious madman was brought to the island from a neighbouring parish. A rope was passed round his waist, and, with a couple of men at one end in advance and a couple at the other behind, like a furious bull to the slaughter-house he was marched to the loch side, and placed in a boat, which was pulled once round the island, the patient being jerked into the water at intervals. He was then landed, drank of the water, attached his offering to the tree, and, as I was told, in a state of happy tranquillity went home. 'In matters of superstition among the ignorant, one shadow of success prevails against a hundred manifest contradictions.'

"The last case of which I heard came from a parish in the east of Ross, and was less happy in its issue. It was that of a young woman, who is now in one of our asylums. This happened about three years ago.

"Another case was reported in the Inverness Courier of 4th November 1852, and is quoted at length by Dr Reeves, in his paper on Saint Maelrubha, already referred to (see Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot., vol. iii., p. 288).

"'Every superstition,' says Archbishop Whately, 'in order to be rightly understood, should be read backward.' In this manner I have endeavoured to treat that which is attached to the little-known Inch Maree. We have seen it as it exists to-day, with its ceremonies of cruelty, barbarism, and ignorance; we have seen it, differing little from its present form, a century ago; we have seen it in 1656 and 1678, associated with an abominable and heathenish sacrifice; we have connected it with the saintly founder of the monastery of Applecross; and we have adduced some reasons for believing that its real paternity goes back to strictly pagan times."

In several notes to his paper Dr Mitchell, besides stating his [157]authorities, points out that St Ruffus and St Maelrubha appear to have been regarded as identical, and that Inch Maree itself was in 1678 spoken of as the "Island of St Ruffus." Also, that an old man in the district told him that the name of the island was originally Eilean-Mo-Righ (the island of my king), or Eilean-a-Mhor-Righ (the island of the great king), and that this king was long ago worshipped as a god in the district. Dr Mitchell also mentions that, some fifteen or twenty years before, a farmer from Letterewe is said to have brought a mad dog to the well on the island. It drank of the waters, and was cured; but the desecrating act is said to have driven virtue for a time from the well. I have a detailed account of this last incident from James Mackenzie of Kirkton, which differs from Dr Mitchell's information. James Mackenzie says he well remembers that it was about 1830 that John Macmillan, who was the first shepherd the late Mr Bankes had at Letterewe, and who was the son of Donald Macmillan who had been shepherd at Letterewe when Macintyre was manager there, had a sheep-dog that went mad. John took the dog to Isle Maree, and put him headlong in the well; the dog died next day, and John Macmillan died a week after that!

Dr Mitchell, in a foot-note referring to the account of the sacrifice of a bull in 1164 witnessed by St Aelred of Rievaux at Cuthbrichtis Kirche, remarks that, "it is interesting to find that the clerks of the church, the Scolofthes, who must have been the best informed and most learned, opposed the ceremony, and attempted to throw it into ridicule by proposing to bait the bull, probably an indication that opinion was then beginning to change."

Dr Mitchell also remarks, in another foot-note, that "it would appear probable, that as Romish paganism after a time began to acknowledge and worship covertly and openly the divinities of the Druids, so Christianity did not escape a similar pollution, but, after a time, tolerated and even adopted not a few of the ceremonies and sacrifices of that modified Druidism with which it had to deal. And since Druidism existed in force to a later period in the north of Scotland than elsewhere, it may be reasonably expected that we shall there find the strongest and most enduring evidence of the infusion of paganism into Christianity."

In connection with this interesting point, the following note respecting the Kirkcudbright bull, which occurs at page 9 to the preface to vol. ii. of "The Sculptured Stones of Scotland," published by the Spalding Club, is instructive:—

"The memorable advice given by Pope Gregory to the Abbot Melitus prescribes a course of action which we cannot doubt was adopted by the early missionaries in dealing with the superstitions of the heathens:—'Et quia boves solent in sacrificio dæmonum multos accidere, debet eis etiam hac de re aliqua sollemnitas immutari; ut die dedicationis vel natalitii sanctorum martyrum quorum illic reliquiæ ponuntur, tabernacula sibi circa easdem ecclesias quæ ex fanis commutatæ sunt de ramis arborum faciant, et religiosis conviviis sollemnitatem celebrent; nec diabolo jam animalia immolent, sed ad laudem Dei in esu suo animalia occidant, et donatori omnium de [158]satietate sua gratias referant; ut dum eis aliqua exterius gaudia reservantur, ad interiora gaudia consentire facilius valeant. Nam duris mentibus simul omnia abscidere impossibile esse non dubium est; quia et is qui summum locum ascendere nititur, gradibus vel passibus non autem saltibus elevatur' (Bede Hist. Ecc., 1, 30).

"It is probable that the permission to adopt for a time a heathen rite, with the view of giving it a new character, was taken advantage of, by acting on it after the cause of the concession was gone.

"Reginald, the monk of Durham, has preserved a notice of the offering of a bull to St Cuthbert, at his church on the Solway, on the festival kept on the day of the dedication of the church in the year 1164 (Libellus de Admir B. Cuthbert virtut, page 185, Surtees Soc.)."


Chapter XIII.

Superstitions Generally.

In the hill country of every land superstition and credulity are met with. Here in Gairloch the supernatural is suggested on all sides. Weird mountain forms often veiled in murky mists, frantic ocean waves thundering in gloomy caverns, hoarse rumblings of rushing waters, startling echoes from terrific precipices, curiously gnarled and twisted trees, tangled jungles in green islands, black peat mosses, wild moorlands, bubbling springs, dark caves, deep lochs, moaning winds, lonely paths, long winter nights,—such are the surroundings of man in this wild country. Can we wonder that the Gairloch Highlander has always been superstitious and credulous?

Superstition is still rife here, but with the march of education it is gradually decaying, and, partly from this cause, and partly from the disinclination of the superstitious to tell strangers about their doings and fancies, it is difficult to obtain descriptions of present instances, so that the notices which follow will often relate to circumstances of the past, though not indeed of the remote past. They are all local cases.


Amongst the older superstitions of Gairloch were the sacrifices of bulls at Isle Maree, the resort to the oracular stone with the hole, and the rites for the care of insanity mentioned in the presbytery records (Appendix F, section iv.), and more particularly described in the two last chapters.

Some other notions of a superstitious kind are hinted at in other parts of this book. In the old presbytery records there are notices of marches round "monuments," charmings, libations, and midsummer or Beltane fires in the neighbouring parishes, and no doubt there were similar practices in Gairloch but most of these are forgotten now.

There was a superstitious belief, scarcely yet dead, that a draught of the waters of Loch Maree was a certain cure for any disease,—a notion akin to that which prompted the friends of the insane to take them to Isle Maree. The modern advocates of hydropathy might have thought this belief in Loch Maree water was far from being superstitious, had it not been for the established fact that the water drinker used always to cast his offering of small money into the loch at the time he imbibed its waters. The Fox point was the usual—perhaps the only—place where the Loch Maree water-cure was practised. They say that when the loch was very low, coins used often to be found among the pebbles in the water surrounding this point. I have been told that a man found five coins here not many years ago, but I have been unable to get a sight of them. In connection with this superstition it may be mentioned, that within recent years invalids have had bottles of Loch Maree water sent to them, with a firm belief in its curative qualities.

Local names are often evidences of superstition. In Gairloch we have Cathair Mhor and Cathair Bheag,—names applied to several places,—and the Sitheanan Dubha on Isle Ewe and on the North Point. There is Cathair Mhor at the head of Loch Maree, and Cathair Beag (the Gaelic name of the place) at Kerrysdale. These names mean respectively the big and little seats of the fairies. There are no stories told now-a-days of these fairy seats, but their names testify to the belief in fairies which was universal not long ago.

The name Sitheanan Dubha signifies the black knowes or hillocks of the fairies. It is applied to two places in Gairloch, viz., to the highest hill tops at the north end of Isle Ewe, and to a low hill and small round loch a full mile due north of Carn Dearg house; both are shown on the six-inch ordnance map.

There is a tradition of a Gairloch woman having spent a year with the fairies; a tale founded on this story is given in the Celtic Magazine, vol. iv., page 15. About midsummer 1878 I went in an open boat from Poolewe to the Shiant Isles, to observe the birds which breed in such numbers there. It was after 11 p.m. when I landed on the largest island of the group. About a mile distant was a shepherd's house, the only human habitation in these islands. I thought of going to the shepherd's to beg shelter for the night, but my servant, a Gairloch lad, dissuaded me. On my pressing him for a reason, he told me there was a fairy in the house, as he had been [160]informed by a Gairloch fisherman, who had spent a night there not long before. This fairy was said to be a mischievous boy, "one of the family," who, when the rest were asleep, appeared in the rafters of the roof and disturbed the sleepers by bouncing on them. The night (it was but two hours' twilight) was so fine, and the way to the shepherd's house looked so rough, that I decided to sleep in a plaid on the beach, and so I missed the only opportunity that ever presented itself to me of observing the peculiarities of a fairy imp.

Hugh Miller, in "My Schools and Schoolmasters," mentions that, when he was voyaging down Loch Maree in 1823, the boatmen told his companion in Gaelic, "Yon other island (Eilean Suainne) is famous as the place in which the good people [fairies] meet every year to make submission to their queen. There is a little loch in the island, and another little island in the loch; and it is under a tree in that inner island that the queen sits and gathers kain [tribute] for the evil one." "They tell me," said Hugh Miller's companion, "that for certain the fairies have not left this part of the country yet."

It was as recently as 1883 that several boys got a great fright when they actually saw (as they narrated) the fairies at the Sitheanan Dubha, at the north end of Isle Ewe. The people at Mellon Charles, on the mainland opposite that end of the island, still assert, with all the earnestness of conviction, that they often see lights and hear music at the Sitheanan Dubha of Isle Ewe, which they believe can only be accounted for by the supposition that they proceed from the fairies. I give these statements on the authority of Mr William Reid, J.P., the lessee of Isle Ewe.

The township of Ormiscaig lies to the east of Mellon Charles, in the heart of this fairy-haunted district. It was at Ormiscaig that William Maclean, a celebrated performer on the bagpipes, was born and brought up. As a boy he was employed in herding cattle on the hill. One evening he returned home with a bagpipe chanter, on which (though he had not previously tried the bagpipes) he could play to perfection. He said he had received the chanter and the power to play it from the fairies. He emigrated some years ago to America, and is now living at Chicago. He has won many prizes for pipe music at competitions in America. His nephews, the three young Macleans, now at Ormiscaig, are all excellent pipers, and are included in the list of living pipers given further on. Similar incidents are related in other parts of the north-west Highlands, where pipers have attributed their talents to the powers conferred upon them by fairies, and in every case a chanter was given along with the faculty of performing on it.

The best known Gairloch fairy of modern times went by the name of the Gille Dubh of Loch a Druing. His haunts were in the extensive woods that still cluster round the southern end of that loch and extend far up the side of the high ridge to the west of it. There are grassy glades, dense thickets, and rocky fastnesses in these woods, that look just the places for fairies. Loch a Druing is on the North Point, about two miles from Rudha Reidh. The Gille Dubh was so [161]named from the black colour of his hair; his dress, if dress it can be called, was of leaves of trees and green moss. He was seen by many people on many occasions during a period of more than forty years in the latter half of the eighteenth century; he was, in fact, well-known to the people, and was generally regarded as a beneficent fairy. He never spoke to any one except to a little girl named Jessie MacRae, whose home was at Loch a Druing. She was lost in the woods one summer night; the Gille Dubh came to her, treated her with great kindness, and took her safely home again next morning. When Jessie grew up she became the wife of John Mackenzie, tenant of the Loch a Druing farm, and grandfather of James Mackenzie of Kirkton. It was after this that Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch invited Sir George S. Mackenzie of Coul, Mr Mackenzie of Dundonnell, Mr Mackenzie of Letterewe, and Mr Mackenzie of Kernsary, to join him in an expedition to repress the Gille Dubh. These five chieftains together repaired to Loch a Druing, armed with guns, with which they hoped to shoot the unoffending fairy. They wore of course their usual Highland dress, and each had his dirk at his side. They were hospitably entertained by John Mackenzie. An ample supper was served in the house; it included both beef and mutton, and each of the chieftains used the knife and fork from the sheath of his own dirk. Knives and forks were not common in Gairloch in those days. They spent the night at Loch a Druing, and slept in John Mackenzie's barn, where couches of heather were prepared for them. They went through all the woods, but they saw nothing of the Gille Dubh.

There are a large number of notions or fancies common in Gairloch that are plainly tinged with a superstitious character, such as that unaccountable noises and moving lights predict a death; that trees and shrubs planted when the moon is waning must die, whereas if the moon be "growing" at the time of the removal they will live and thrive; that there are several classes of undertakings that will succeed if commenced when the moon is growing, but will be failures if it be waning; that a walking-stick cut from the bird-cherry prevents the bearer of it being lost in the mist; that whales attack new boats or boats newly tarred; that the bite of a dog is rendered innocuous if the saliva (literally, "water from the teeth") of the dog be immediately applied; that a pledge to give something to a soft person or an idiot, will enable any one to discover a lost article, or will bring good luck; and that if a stocking be accidentally put on wrong side out it must not be altered, or bad luck will follow. And surely the idea illustrated in some of the stories in Part II., chap. xxv., and which is still current in Gairloch, that Sabbath-breaking brings immediate retribution smacks strongly of superstition.

The existence of water-kelpies in Gairloch, if perhaps not universally credited in the present generation, was accepted as undoubted in the last. The story of the celebrated water-kelpie of the Greenstone Point is very well known in Gairloch. The proceedings for the extermination of this wonderful creature formed a welcome topic for Punch of the period. The creature is spoken of by the natives as [162]the "Beast." He lives, or did live, in the depths of a loch called after him Loch na Beiste, or "the loch of the beast," which is about half way between Udrigil House and the village of Mellon Udrigil. About 1840 Mr Bankes, the then proprietor of the estate on which this loch is situated, was pressed by his tenants to take measures to put an end to the Beast. At first he was deaf to the entreaties of the people, but at length he was prevailed upon to take action. Sandy M'Leod, an elder of the Free Church, was returning to Mellon Udrigil from the Aultbea Church one Sunday in company with two other persons, one of whom was a sister (still living at Mellon Udrigil) of James Mackenzie, when they actually saw the Beast itself. It resembled in appearance a good-sized boat with the keel turned up. Kenneth Cameron, also an elder of the Free Church, saw the same sight another day. A niece of Kenneth Cameron's (some time housemaid at Inveran) told me she had often heard her mother speak of having seen the Beast. It was the positive testimony of the two elders that induced Mr Bankes to take measures for the destruction of the Beast. The proceedings have been much exaggerated; James Mackenzie states that the following is the correct version of them:—Mr Bankes had a yacht or vessel named the Iris; James Mackenzie was a sailor in the Iris, along with another sailor named Allan Mackenzie. For a long time they and others worked a large pump with two horses with the object of emptying the loch. The pump was placed on the burn which runs from the loch into the not far distant sea; a cut or drain was formed to enable the pump to be worked, and a number of pipes were provided for the purpose of conducting the water away. The pipes are now lying in a house or shed at Laide. James Mackenzie often attended the pump. He and others were employed parts of two years in the attempt to empty the loch, or as James Mackenzie puts it, "to ebb it up." It was after this that the Iris was sent to Broadford in Skye to procure lime. James Mackenzie went with her. They brought from Broadford fourteen barrels of "raw lime." They came with the lime to Udrigil, and it was taken up to the "loch of the beast," and the small boat or dingy of the Iris was also taken up. The ground-officers would not go in the boat on the loch for fear of the Beast, so Mr Bankes sent to the Iris for James and Allan Mackenzie, and they went in the boat over every part of the loch, which had been reduced only by six or seven inches after all the labour that had been spent on it. They plumbed the loch with the oars of the boat; in no part did it exceed a fathom in depth, except in one hole, which at the deepest was but two and a half fathoms. Into this hole they put the fourteen barrels of lime. It is needless to state that the Beast was not discovered, nor has he been further disturbed up to the present time. The loch contained a few good trout above the average size when I fished it in 1873. There are rumours that the Beast was seen in 1884 in or near another loch on the Greenstone Point.

Here is a story of a mermaid; they say it is quite true:—Roderick Mackenzie, the elderly and much respected boatbuilder at Port Henderson, when a young man, went one day to a rocky part of the [163]shore there. Whilst gathering bait he suddenly spied a mermaid asleep among the rocks. Rorie "went for" that mermaid, and succeeded in seizing her by the hair. The poor creature, in great embarrassment, cried out that if Rorie would let go she would grant him whatever boon he might ask. He requested a pledge that no one should ever be drowned from any boat he might build. On his releasing her, the mermaid promised that this should be so. The promise has been kept throughout Rorie's long business career; his boats still defy the stormy winds and waves. I am the happy possessor of an admirable example of Rorie's craft. The most ingenious framers of trade advertisements might well take a hint from this veracious anecdote.


Chapter XIV.

Witchcraft and Magic.

The name of Rudha Chailleach, the long blue point jutting into Loch Maree to the south of Ardlair, suggests the ancient belief in witchcraft, but there are no stories of witches connected with it now extant. Yet the belief in witchcraft is by no means dead in Gairloch, and to the stranger the very appearance of some withered old women almost proves them to be witches.

Jessie the cripple, an example of whose second-sight is given in the next chapter, was a reputed witch; the story of her being ducked will be found there.

Witchcraft and magic are still said to be exercised by a number of people in Gairloch. Cases actually occurred in 1885 where [164]persons were charged with the practice of these arts in connection with poultry. It seems better not to give details of them here, especially as it is said the poor folk are yet under suspicion.

The following are examples of the use of the arts of witchcraft and magic in Gairloch:—

There is a curious superstition that the substance, or staple or "fruit," of milk can be taken away by witchcraft, or by the employment of magical arts. In the records of the Presbytery of Lochcarron are minutes relating to a case which occurred at Kenlochewe. On 23d November 1791 the presbytery had examined a candidate for the appointment of catechist for the district of "Ceanlochew," and had been satisfied as to his knowledge, but "in consequence of stories rather detrimental to his private character," had arranged for an inquiry whether such stories had any foundation. On 3d April 1792 a petition on the subject was laid before the presbytery. One of the petitioners, Mr Murdo M'Kenzie, yr. of Letterewe, declared, "that he thought he had heard the candidate use such words as that he wished the devil had the soul of Mr Mackintosh, the parish minister; that he was in the habit of taking back the substance of milk by magical arts, for he himself (the declarant) and his brother were present when the candidate had recourse to certain herbs and an iron key, which were thrown into the declarant's milk in order to restore the fruit of it. Roderick M'Lennan, smith at Ceannlochew, stated that he knew the candidate from his infancy, * * * that he was much addicted to swearing in common conversation, and that he had heard him say that he had restored the substance of deponent's milk by means of certain arts. The candidate being present, and questioned, admitted that he did actually restore the substance of the milk as stated by Mr M'Kenzie, yr. of Letterewe; all which being considered by the presbytery, they deemed him totally disqualified for the office of catechist, and declined to recommend him for such office to the Committee of the Royal Bounty."

Our next example of this strange superstition belongs to a more recent date. In the time of the late Sir Francis Mackenzie the parish schoolmaster of Gairloch was one Kenneth Mackenzie, who was a notorious master of witchcraft. He was always called the "maighstair sgoil." In his youth he had been taught many magical arts, and people who had been bewitched resorted to him from far and wide to obtain relief and advice. He lived in the present schoolmaster's house at Achtercairn, and kept several cows. On one occasion he himself was a sufferer from witchcraft. The milk of his cows was destroyed; if they gave any at all it was fruitless and useless. By his own skill in magic he discovered the woman who had done him this mischief; she lived at or near Strath, and was reputed to have some knowledge of witchcraft. This is how he punished her. There is a little burn runs by the side of the road at Achtercairn, just in front of the present police-station. One Sunday morning as the people from Strath, including this woman, were going to church, she was obliged, by the occult power of the maighstair sgoil, to remain behind; and as soon as the others were out of sight [165]she tucked up her dress above her knees and fastened it so, then she commenced jumping violently backwards and forwards across this little burn, unwillingly enough, as we may well suppose, and she was compelled by the unseen maighstair sgoil to continue the severe exercise until the people came out of church. After the woman had suffered her well-merited punishment, the fruit returned to the milk of the maighstair sgoil's cows. Moral:—You should not meddle with one who possesses magical powers!

Here is a case of injury to milk which occurred within the last ten years. For obvious reasons I suppress the names of the persons concerned, who are all known to me and are now living. The erection of a house was undertaken, and the builders took up their abode in a temporary hut or barrack. Requiring milk to take with their porridge, they applied to a neighbouring farmer, but he was unable at the time to supply them. They fancied that the farmer withheld the milk from some spite he had to them, and they told him he would suffer for it; one of the builders is commonly believed to have some knowledge of witchcraft. What next occurred is kept secret, but the milk of the farmer's cows immediately afterwards lost its fruit; nothing but a viscous fluid, mingled with a little blood, came from the teats when the cows were milked. The farmer called to his aid the services of a woman living in the northern part of the parish known to be skilled in such matters, and she soon restored the substance to the milk. A still more recent case has come under my notice in the spring of 1886. A cow died at a farm with which I am well acquainted; its death was firmly believed to be the result of witchcraft, exercised by an adversary. Soon afterwards a cow at the same farm lost the substance of its milk; as in the case last described, only blood and water came from the cow; this also was believed to be the consequence of witchcraft. A man from Aultbea was sent for, and by his magical arts soon effected a cure. These latter cases are different from the old Kenlochewe case in one respect, viz., in the older case the substance of the milk was influenced after it had been taken from the cow, whilst in the subsequent cases the "fruit" of the milk was destroyed in the cows.

There are plenty of people in Gairloch in the present day who believe in the magical power of the charm or spell called the "sian" or "seun." By means of an incantation, sometimes coupled with the use of some visible medium, any object which it was desired to conceal could be rendered invisible, either for the time being only or for all time, subject in the latter case to brief periods of visibility recurring either at the end of each year, or more commonly at the end of each succeeding term of seven years. The medium, if any, employed along with the incantation, was usually a piece of vellum or stout skin of some sort, which in process of time became as hard and tough as wrought iron. James Mackenzie says he has seen a specimen preserved as a curiosity at Glamis Castle.

Duncan M'Rae lived in Isle Ewe and had the gift of the sian. We have seen, in Part I., chap. xiv., Duncan's fidelity to the unfortunate [166]Prince Charlie. He accompanied the prince to Edinburgh, and there composed a well-known Gaelic song called Oran na Feannaige, i.e. "the song of the hoodie-crow;" it related an imaginary dialogue between himself and the crow, suggested by his seeing one of those birds in the busy capital. After the fatal field of Culloden, Duncan M'Rae assisted in covering the prince's escape; he hovered around the prince, and used every means in his power to baffle the pursuers. Funds were sent from France to be conveyed by the faithful Highlanders to their beloved Prince Charlie, as circumstances might admit. A small cask or keg filled with gold pieces was entrusted to the charge of Duncan M'Rae, to be concealed until a chance should occur of delivering it to the prince. Duncan M'Rae and two other men brought the keg of gold in a boat across Loch Ewe from Mellon Charles to Cove. From Cove they carried the cask up to the Fedan Mor, the large deep corrie or hollow on the hill above Loch a Druing; there they put the cask of gold into the ground, and it is the universal belief in Gairloch that it remains there to this day. Duncan M'Rae made use of the sian to render the cask invisible; he laid his amulet upon the head of the cask while he pronounced the magic words he knew; upon this the cask became invisible for all time, with this exception, that at the end of each period of seven years the effect of the spell is suspended during a very brief interval on one day only, when for a few moments the cask of gold becomes again visible to mortal eyes.

It was about 1826, the year that Sir Hector Mackenzie died, that the wife of Rorie Mackenzie, shepherd at Loch a Druing, called the Cibear Mor, or "big shepherd," was herding the cows in the Fedan Mor. She was spinning worsted, when suddenly she saw the head of the cask of gold close to where she sat. She stuck the distaff into it to mark the spot, and then ran down to Loch a Druing for help to remove the long-lost treasure. When the people came to the Fedan Mor to fetch the cask of gold, neither it nor the distaff could after the most diligent search be discovered.

A sian of a similar nature, and with similar effect, is said to have been used many years ago by some persons who hid a large quantity of arms and weapons of all kinds in a cave at Meallan na Ghamhna. Both the cave and the weapons became invisible, but once in every seven years they may again be seen if any one be lucky enough to be on the spot at the right moment. It is not many years since the wife of Murdo Cameron of Inverasdale, and some other women, were gathering lichens from the rocks at Meallan na Ghamhna, when they suddenly saw the cave and weapons. They ran to tell others, and soon returned with several helpers, intending to remove the arms; but it was too late, no trace could be found of either weapons or cave. They say an exactly similar case of weapons being hid in a cave, or rather rocky fissure, by means of the sian, occurred on the shores of Loch Maree. The spot is at the edge of the loch below the county road on the south-west side of the loch just opposite to Letterewe. In this case also the weapons are visible once in every seven years.


There was a man living in Gairloch named Alastair Mor an 't Sealgair, or "big Alexander of [the race of] the hunter." He had the magic power of the sian. He died since 1850, and his grandsons were lately living at Charleston, and were called Gillean an t' Sealgair, or "the hunter's lads." One of them is still living at Charleston. Alastair was a dealer in illicit whisky, and was constantly employed in running cargoes of it from Gairloch to Skye and the Long Island. He is still remembered in those islands. At that time Captain Oliver was sent by the government to put down this smuggling. In his schooner he cruised up and down the Minch, keeping a sharp look-out; he had a tender, a smaller vessel, of which Robert Clark was master, and which was employed in the sea-lochs, so that Gairloch might well be said to be blockaded. Alastair continually ran the blockade by the use of the sian. Whenever a government vessel hove in sight, he pronounced the magic words and applied his unfailing amulet, and his boat became at once invisible under the mysterious spell. One day he had brought several casks of whisky in a boat down Loch Maree. When in the Narrows near the place where Tollie burn falls into the river Ewe, he landed and hid the casks in the wood on the Tollie side of the Narrows. He made some passes over them with his hands, and the casks became invisible; the next day he sent over from Gairloch the men who had seen him hide the casks, to bring them away, but they could not be found, and it was not until Alastair went himself that the casks became visible. This was a usual form of the sian, but Alastair had another spell or magical process which was a variation of its ordinary application. Sometimes when a revenue vessel appeared upon the scene he would take a thole-pin from the boat and whittle it with his knife, when each of the chips as it fell into the water would appear to the crew of the preventive vessel to be a fully-manned boat. This wonderful magician was well-known to many people now living, including Mr O. H. Mackenzie. There are many other stories current in Gairloch, showing that Alastair could render his boat, or indeed anything else, invisible, even without the use of any special formula. There were three fishermen, named respectively Macpherson, Watson, and Fraser, all living on the south side of Gairloch, who were partners in a large decked fishing-boat. At that time Glen Dubh, to the north of Stoir Head in Sutherlandshire, was an important herring fishing-station. The "south side" men were there fishing. Alastair was also at Glen Dubh, selling whisky amongst the fishermen. His boat was an open undecked craft, and the Gairloch south side men had him to spend the Sabbath in their larger vessel. On Sunday morning Alastair proposed to fill some bottles with whisky out of a small cask that he carried for offering drams to friends. As he and Macpherson were beginning to draw the whisky from the cask, Alastair asked his companion if he saw the revenue cutter. Macpherson said her boat was just coming round a headland near them. Alastair said, "They don't see us." He proceeded with the business on hand; they were on deck. As the cutter's boat approached, Macpherson wished to put the whisky cask out of sight. Alastair said, "Never fear; they cannot [168]see us." The revenue boat then passed close to them, and apparently did not see them. Had the preventive men seen Alastair before he saw them, he would have been unable to render the boat invisible. At another time, the same "south side" men had a good take of flounders in the sound between the Island of Longa and Big Sand. They had occasion to take their fish ashore at Big Sand, and having piled them in a heap left them for a short time; on returning they could not see their fish anywhere. Alastair was there, and they concluded he had played a trick upon them. After keeping up the joke some time, Alastair admitted that he had concealed the fish. He drew a ring on the sand with his stick, and said, "The fish are within this circle." The fishermen could not find them, until Alastair withdrew the spell and the fish became visible.

His father, Ruaridh an t' Sealgair, also had the magical power of the sian. Both Rorie and Alastair were—like their ancestor whose soubriquet they bore—great hunters and poachers. When they wanted venison they would go to the mountains. As soon as they saw a deer they would, by the exercise of magic, cause the animal to stand or to go where they pleased, so that they could easily get within range. If the deer saw the magician first, the spell failed; it was necessary that the hunter should spy his quarry before he was himself observed. Instances of Alastair's exercise of this power are said to have occurred during the time of the late Sir Francis Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch. They say too that Alastair, when sitting at the roadside, could by the sian render himself invisible to persons who passed close to him.

Our next and last example is of a different application of magic. Every detail of the case is firmly believed by many natives of Gairloch now living to be absolutely true. In the chapter of James Mackenzie's "Gairloch Stories," given further on, is an account of the death by drowning at the head of Loch Maree of John M'Ryrie. His grandfather was the hero of the following adventure. At the time of its occurrence he had a large open boat, in which he used to carry the mails between Poolewe and Stornoway. He lived at Poolewe. One Donald M'Lean helped to work the boat. It was before the smack was put on this service. On one occasion M'Ryrie was kept several days at Stornoway by a contrary wind. He was going about the place two or three days grumbling at the delay. He met a man in the street, who advised him to go to a certain woman and she would make the wind favourable for him. In the morning he went to her, and paid her some money. She gave him a piece of string with three knots on it. She told him to undo the first of the knots, and he would get the wind in his favour; if the wind were not strong enough for him, he was to undo the second knot, but not until he would be near the mainland; the third knot, she said, he must not untie for his life. The wind changed whilst he was talking to her; and he set sail that same morning. He undid the first knot on the voyage, and the breeze continued fair; the second knot he untied when he was near the mouth of Loch Ewe, and the breeze came fresh and strong. When he got to Ploc-ard, at the head of [169]Loch Ewe, he said to M'Lean that no great harm could happen to them if he were to untie the third knot, as they were so near the shore. So he untied the third knot. Instantly there was such a hurricane that most of the houses in Poolewe and Londubh were stripped of their thatch. The boat was cast high and dry on the beach at Dal Cruaidh, just below the house of Kirkton; her crew escaped uninjured. It is said that at that time there were several women about Stornoway who had power by their arts to make the wind favourable.

Chapter XV.

Visions and Second-Sight.

Perhaps the most common class of superstitions in Gairloch comprises those represented by or connected with "visions" or the gift of "second-sight." It is often difficult to discriminate between the two; but as a general rule "visions" maybe considered as recalling the past, whilst "second-sight" brings the immediate but unseen present or the near or sometimes the more remote future within the ken of its possessor. The following stories seem to be examples of one or other of these superstitions.

The appearance to Alastair Mac Iain Mhic Earchair, early in the nineteenth century, of the great chief of Gairloch, Hector Roy Mackenzie, with his bodyguard of twelve chosen heroes all wearing kilted plaids of Mackenzie tartan, and their noiseless departure, is narrated in Part I., chap. ix. In addition to the details there given, old Alastair told Ruaridh an Torra, the present repository of the tale, that before the spectral heroes disappeared he handed his snuff-mull to them, and they each in turn helped themselves to its contents. Alastair always expressed his astonishment that they should have been able to enjoy the snuff as they apparently did.

In 1884 I heard of a young man having seen a spirit. He was very reserved on the subject, but when closely questioned he said it was on a pretty dark night in the previous year that the form of a man passed him on the road. He spoke to the figure, but there was no reply; and this he considered proof positive of the ghostly nature of the appearance!

Two men, of the utmost credibility and respectability, declare that they saw on separate occasions, by daylight, the figure of a woman dressed in brown sitting or walking within a considerable house in Gairloch parish. On each occasion the woman mysteriously disappeared, and no trace of her could be discovered. The appearances were supposed to be prophetic of some incident that has since occurred, or will shortly occur, at the house in question.

Seers of visions and possessors of second-sight are always reticent, and every one has a delicacy in speaking of cases that have occurred among persons now living. Thus it is difficult to procure accounts of recent cases, and I have thought it best not to press [170]inquiry in this direction. Here, however, is an instance which came under my own notice within the parish of Gairloch. A shooting party was invited, and a number of beaters engaged for the occasion. Several of those who had been similarly employed before declined to attend, because it had been rumoured that the figure of a strange man dressed in dark blue clothes had been seen walking in the coverts the evening before, and it was thought that the appearance of the supposed spectre portended the death of some one at the shoot. Happily the day passed off without casualty.

Second-sight may be (1) a faculty frequently exercised by the individual possessing it, who becomes known as a seer; or (2) it may be manifested on one occasion only, under exceptional circumstances, by some one not otherwise credited with this supernatural power. Our next story tells of a woman whose second-sight was of the first of these descriptions.

Simon Chisholm, who has long been forester and gardener at Flowerdale to Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch, remembers a woman named Seonaid Chrubach, or Jessie the cripple, who was reputed to be a witch, and to have the faculty of second-sight. She lived near Flowerdale, and was a queer bad woman. She wore a short tight-fitting jacket like a man, and a short petticoat resembling a man's kilt. She used to afford much amusement to sailors, singing ribald songs to them, and would visit various ports as far north as Ullapool for the purpose. When Simon Chisholm was a young boy a number of lads one day caught Jessie, and, believing in her witchcraft, tied her to the middle of a long piece of rope. They took her to the moat or ditch then remaining below Flowerdale House, in the midst of which the old Tigh Dige had formerly stood, and dragged her many times backwards and forwards through the water of the moat. Jessie survived this ill-treatment many years. It would be about 1835 that Jessie came one day to the house of Simon Chisholm's father at Flowerdale. His family have been there for several generations; they say his ancestor came to Gairloch as attendant to a lady who became the wife of one of the lairds of Gairloch. Simon was still a boy, and was at home when Jessie came to the house. Jessie looked very pale and haggard; she said she felt faint and ill. After resting a while, she told them that on her way she had met a shepherd with his dog, driving a flock of sheep; she minutely described the shepherd and the dog and sheep, and even stated the colour of the dog. At that time there were no sheep at Flowerdale, only black cattle; Sir Francis Mackenzie, the then baronet of Gairloch, had a celebrated strain of them, and bred them in considerable numbers. The following year, at the same time of the year as that at which Jessie had seen the vision, Sir Francis substituted sheep for the black cattle, and the shepherd, the dog, and the sheep exactly corresponded with Jessie's description.

Our next narrative is an illustration of the other class of manifestations of second-sight. At the date of this story the blacksmith at Poolewe had his house and smithy where the Pool-house stable now stands. It was close by the east side of Poolewe bridge, [171]from which the spectator can look down into the deep gloomy pool in which the River Ewe joins the brackish waters of Loch Ewe. The smith had a son, a boy, almost a young man; he was in sickly health at the time, and died shortly afterwards. The late Rev. William Rose, Free Church minister of Aultbea and Poolewe, who died in April 1876, told me that one day the smith's son had walked over to Gairloch, and returning somewhat exhausted, came into his father's house (the door being open), and instantly sat down on the nearest chair. No sooner was he seated than he fell from the chair in a fainting fit. He presently came round, and on recovering consciousness the first thing he said to his family was, "What are all these people on the bridge for?" They pointed out to him that there was no one on the bridge. He then told them, that as he had approached the bridge he had seen it crowded with people, that he had had to push his way through them, and that he had felt very much frightened. Those members of the smith's household who were at home had seen no one on the bridge; the doors and windows of the house faced the bridge, and were not thirty yards from it, so that no individuals, much less a crowd, could have been on the bridge without the family having noticed them. The following day, the 3d October 1860, was a day that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed its terrible events. A number of open boats with their crews were at the head of Loch Ewe near Boor, Cliff House, and Poolewe, setting nets for herrings, when a storm suddenly came on, far exceeding in violence any other storm before or since, so far as those now living remember. A hurricane sprang up from the west-north-west, of such extraordinary force as actually to lift boats and their crews from the water, and in one or two cases to overturn the boats. Happily most of the men clung to their boats, and were soon washed ashore. One boat was carried rapidly past the point called Ploc-ard, by Inverewe House. As she was passing close to some big stones one of her crew jumped out on to a rock, but was washed off and drowned. In another boat, opposite Cliff House, there were four men; the boat was capsized and three of the men were drowned; the fourth had tied himself to the boat, which came ashore by Cliff House; he was taken to the house, and restoratives being applied soon recovered. About a score of the boats ran into the pool under Poolewe bridge. And thus the vision of the smith's son was fulfilled, for at the very hour at which he had crossed the bridge on the preceding day, a multitude of the fishermen's friends and relations, breathless with agonising anxiety, crowded the bridge and its approaches watching the arrival of the boats. The tide on this awful evening rose one hundred and fifty yards further up the shore and adjoining lands than on any other occasion remembered in the district. The bodies of the drowned men were recovered, and were buried in the Inverewe churchyard, where the date of this memorable storm is recorded on a gravestone over the remains of two of the men named William Urquhart and Donald Urquhart.

James Mackenzie narrates, that when he was fourteen years of [172]age (about 1822) he lived with his parents at Mellon Charles, but went to the school at Mellon Udrigil. This school was attended by about sixty scholars. He went home to Mellon Charles every Saturday night, and returned to Mellon Udrigil each Monday morning. At the time of the following extraordinary occurrence the Rev. Dr Ross was holding sacramental services at Loch Broom, and many of the people had gone from Mellon Udrigil to this sacrament; most of the women had remained at home. It must have been about midsummer; that was always the time of the Loch Broom sacrament. When James Mackenzie returned to Mellon Udrigil on the Monday morning he learned that all the people who were at home on the preceding day had seen a strange sight. The whole sea between the Black island and Priest island, and the mouth of Little Loch Broom had appeared to be filled with ships innumerable; to use James Mackenzie's precise words, "the sea was choke full of great ships, men-of-war. It was a great sight." Whilst the people were watching, vast numbers of boats were sent out from the ships filled with soldiers with scarlet coats. Many of the boats rowed direct for Mellon Udrigil, and the red-coats landed from them on the rocks on the shore. They seemed so near that the people could make out the individual soldiers. Mrs Morrison, the wife of Rorie Morrison of Tanera, who then lived at Mellon Udrigil House, buried the boxes containing her valuables in the sand lest the red-coats should carry them off to the ships. The girls at the shielings on the hills on the Greenstone Point retreated to the highest tops, so that they might have time to escape if the soldiers should appear to be coming near. But no soldiers came, and the whole thing was a vision.

More than fifty years ago Donnachadh na Fadach (Duncan Macrae) was living at Inveran. He employed Donald Maclean, who was stopping at Londubh at the time, to work in the garden at Inveran, and Donald walked to and from Inveran every day. He told James Mackenzie, Duncan Macrae, and other persons, that he often saw companies of soldiers in red uniforms marching to and fro along the tops of Craig Ruadh, Craig Bhan, and the hills behind and beyond Inveran. These visions of Donald Maclean's are said to have impressed his own mind very deeply at the time, and his earnest accounts of them are well remembered by the older people. It is an actual fact that the visions are now generally understood at Poolewe and Londubh to have been prophetic of the visits to me at Inveran of the Poolewe section of the Gairloch volunteers, who wear scarlet Highland doublets, and have several times come to Inveran in uniform.

The appearance of the great fleet seen from Mellon Udrigil with the boats filled with red-coats, and the visions of the red-coats near Inveran, are closely analogous to the strange appearances of troops seen by numbers of people on Saddleback in Cumberland on the midsummer eves of 1735, 1743, and 1745, and to the similar appearances elsewhere referred to in the account given of the Saddleback visions in Miss Harriet Martineau's "Guide to the [173]English Lakes," such as the spectral march of troops seen in Leicestershire in 1707, and the tradition of the tramp of armies over Helvellyn on the eve of the battle of Marston Moor. Hugh Miller, in his "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland" (page 485), refers to visions of troops near Inverness at the time of the commencement of the war with France. There were similar appearances in England reported in the newspapers when I was a young man, which were supposed to have been mirage-like reflections of the gatherings of troops going to take part in the Crimean war. One theory is, that all the visions of this character have been of the nature of mirages, or reflections on transparent vapour similar to the "Fata Morgana." This is certainly a suggestion that ought to be taken into account, but, as Miss Harriet Martineau says in her book, it "is not much in the way of explanation."

Whatever the visions or appearances at Mellon Udrigil and near Inveran may have been, the evidence is very strong that they really were seen as stated.

Chapter XVI.

Bards and Pipers.

The Celtic inhabitants of the north-west Highlands have always been enthusiastic votaries of poetry and music; indeed in time past they perhaps paid more attention to these than to the less sentimental arts of everyday life. Their bards and musicians, encouraged by the sympathy and appreciation of chiefs and clansmen alike, became an illustrious, as they ever were a privileged class.

The bards date back to the days of the Druids; among them was Ossian, the Homer of the Fingalian heroes. There is no specific connection between the Ossianic poems and the parish of Gairloch, but these poems are still reverenced in Gairloch, and some traces of poetic Fingalian legends are still to be met with (Part I., chap. i.).

The great contest which has so long raged over Macpherson's "Ossian" does not concern us here. The unwritten poems of Ossian have been handed down by the bards through many generations. Possibly Macpherson's were partly fictitious; they do not correspond to the actual traditional forms of the poems, as published by Mr John F. Campbell of Islay (brother of the present Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch), who has passed to his rest whilst I write; he took down the poems from the mouths of the old men who had become the receptacles of them, and collected them in a book entitled "Leabhar na Feinne," perhaps the most valuable contribution to the Ossianic controversy.

The bard of old was called the "seannachie," properly "seannachaidh,"—almost synonymous with "antiquarian" or "historian,"—a name appropriately signifying that he was the repository and remembrancer of the history, achievements, and genealogy of his clan or sept. It was the bard's office to sing or recite the valorous deeds of [174]the chiefs and heroes, and to cheer on his kinsmen in battle by inspiring songs or war cries, chaunted, shouted, or sung.

Later on, when clan contests became less frequent, some of the bards found congenial berths as family retainers of the great chiefs and proprietors, who generously rewarded their poetic talents. These family bards recited or sang in the halls of their patrons songs of their own or others' composition, and frequently repeated some of the poems of Ossian. They were also the poets-laureate of the great families, composing poems to celebrate their chief events and personages.

Captain Burt gives a list of the officers who in his day (1730) attended every chief when he went a journey or paid a formal visit. Among them are the bard, the piper, and the piper's gillie. The last bard of the Gairloch family was Alexander Campbell, who died in the first half of the present century. A short memoir of him is given further on.

Other bards and poets were found in the more private walks of life, and they are even now to be met with, still the receptacles of the treasured traditions and legends of their ancestors and country, still the composers of Gaelic songs and poems, and still the reciters or singers of their own compositions or of those of other bards, ancient or modern. Family traditions and genealogies possess more historical value in the Highlands than in other parts of Britain, from their having been preserved and handed down by means of the trained memories of the bards. In most cases, every word put in the mouths of the traditional heroes is accurately repeated on each occasion of the story being told.

Meetings, called "ceilidh," used to be frequently held during the long winter nights of this northern region, when the people gathered in each others' houses to be entertained by songs, poems, traditions, legends, and tales of all kinds. At the "ceilidh" the bards, in their character of "seannachaidhean," were in much request, and we can well imagine how the popular applause fostered the spirit of the bards and helped to preserve the old traditions of the Highlands. They say these "ceilidh" are not yet altogether given up in Gairloch parish.

Pipe music dates back at least as far as the fourteenth century, and probably much farther. Mr Robertson Macdonald of Kinloch-moidart wrote to the Scotsman a few years ago, stating that he had the chanter and blowpipe of bagpipes which he believed to be older than a bagpipe reported at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to bear the date of 1409. Mr Macdonald's relics were given in the end of last century to his maternal uncle, Donald Macdonald of Kinloch-moidart, by the Macintyres, who were the hereditary pipers to the Clanranald branch of the Macdonalds, as they were on the point of emigrating to America; they said the Macdonalds had followed the inspiring strains of these bagpipes into the battle of Bannockburn, 24th June 1314.

The vocation of the pipers, who had gradually displaced the more ancient harpers, corresponded very closely with that of the bards. [175]Like the bards, they accompanied their clansmen to battle. On all social occasions they played their stately pibrochs, or thrilling marches, or lively reels and jigs; weddings and funerals were always attended by pipers, who moved the assembled companies with their stirring strains. Most of the chiefs had their family pipers, and the office was often hereditary. The Mackays were the hereditary pipers of the lairds of Gairloch (see next chapter) during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and were well rewarded by their patrons. The MacCrimmons of Dunvegan, Skye, were the great teachers of pipe music in the north up to a recent period; they held their lands from Macleod of Macleod, in return for their attendance on his person and family.

In these modern days pipers are still numerous in Gairloch, and still enliven many a wedding party with their music. The Gairloch volunteers have their efficient pipers, who in tartan array play many a lively air as their comrades move in column, and who accompany the march-past on review days to the favourite tune of "Highland Laddie." Highlanders march with lighter tread, more spirited step, and more accurate time, to the music of the bagpipes than to any other.

The strains of the great Highland bagpipes, when played indoors, often sound harsh and shrill to the unaccustomed ear, but they never do to the Highlander, who to this day prefers the pipes to all other music. Their effect on the Highland soldier, in the presence of the foe, is too well known to need description here.

The love of pipe music, and of songs in their native tongue, is as powerful to-day with the Highlanders of Gairloch as it can ever have been. At a dinner of the Gairloch volunteers, on 8th May 1884, the thrilling music of the pipers, and the Gaelic songs exquisitely rendered by Mr Alexander Macpherson of Opinan, one of the volunteer sergeants, seemed to arouse the enthusiasm and stir the feelings of all present to an extent it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to effect by any other means.

Some of the bards and pipers of Gairloch attained great eminence. Amongst the memoirs of them which follow is a short account of John Mackenzie, the author of the "Beauties of Gaelic Poetry," who was himself somewhat of a poet, and an excellent piper.

There were many less eminent bards and pipers in Gairloch. Three of the old bards are mentioned in Part I. of this book, viz., Ruaridh Breac, "the English bard," and Duncan M'Rae.

Ruaridh Breac, son of fair Duncan, lived at Cromasaig, near Kenlochewe, in the first half of the seventeenth century. He composed a celebrated song to the "Guard of the Black Corrie."

The English bard called in Gaelic "Am Bard Sasunnach," was a Cross, son or descendant of one of the Letterewe ironworkers. He was living at the time of the "Forty-five" at a house he had built at Kernsary, called to this day Innis a Bhaird, or the "place of the bard."

Duncan M'Rae, of Isle Ewe, mentioned in Part II., chap. xiv., as the composer of "Oran na Feannaige," was also a bard.

Of past Gairloch pipers, other than the Mackays, I have no account, except of three who belong to recent times.


Roderick Campbell, a celebrated piper and fiddler, lived at Cuilchonich, above Aird House, near Aultbea, in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Ruaridh Mac Iamhair, as he was called in Gaelic, was descended from the Campbells of Leckmelm, on Lochbroom. His father was Norman Campbell; he had four sons, viz., Kenneth, Donald, Roderick (the piper), and John. Donald was also a great fiddler. John Mackenzie (Iain or John Glas) of Mossbank, Poolewe, is a grandson of Kenneth. John, the youngest brother of Roderick, emigrated to America. Roderick was a pupil of Angus Mackay (one of the Gairloch hereditary pipers), and it is said that Roderick made such progress, that when his term of apprenticeship to Angus had but half expired he had learned all that his accomplished master could impart. Roderick attained great fame as a piper, and was much respected through the country for his talents and agreeable manners. He lived in a day when the young men laid themselves out to amuse and interest others. While still young he was drowned in the Old Cruive Pool, on the River Ewe, when attempting to cross the river by means of the Cruive dyke, there being no bridge at Poolewe till long after. The musical reputation of the family is sustained by Alexander Mackenzie, the present senior piper of the Gairloch volunteers, who is the son of John Glas above-named.

Iain Mac Coinnich (John Mackenzie), known as Piobaire Bhan, or the "fair piper," was a first-rate performer during the present century. He lived at Leac nan Saighead, and was blind. He died about 1870, an old man.

William Maclean, formerly of Ormiscaig, must be reckoned as a past piper of Gairloch; the excellent music he discoursed is still remembered; the origin of his talents is related in Part II., chap. xii.

The following is an alphabetical list (probably imperfect) of Gairloch pipers now living:—

Murdo Bain,     Charleston.
William Boa,     Inveran; one of the pipers to the volunteer corps.
Duncan Fraser,     Talladale.
Kenneth Fraser,     Leac nan Saighead.
Alexander Gunn,     Isle Ewe.
Alexander Mackenzie,     Poolewe; senior Piper to the volunteer corps.
Angus Mackenzie,     Strath.
Malcolm Mackenzie,     Big Sand.
Murdo Mackenzie,     Peterburn.
Kenneth M'Leay,     Londubh.
Alexander Maclean,     Mellon Udrigil.
Donald Maclean,   Ormiscaig; brothers, young and excellent pipers;
nephews of William Maclean (Part II., chap. xxiii.).
Alexander Maclean,
Hector Maclean,
Alexander Maclennan,     Inveran.
Angus Maclennan,     Cove.
John Maclennan,     Mellon Charles.
William Maclennan,     Poolewe; one of the pipers to the volunteer corps.
John MacRae,     North Erradale.
John MacRae,     Altgrishan.
Murdo MacRae,     Melvaig.
William Morrison,     Ardlair.
James Watson,     Badachro.


Chapter XVII.

Hereditary Pipers of the Gairloch Family.

That Hector Roy Mackenzie, the great founder of the Gairloch family, and his son John Glassich Mackenzie, had pipers among their followers is certain; but nothing is recorded of them. The famous hereditary pipers of the Gairloch family were Mackays from Sutherlandshire. There were but four of them, viz., Rorie, John the blind piper, Angus, and John.

Rorie or Ruaridh Mackay was born in the Reay country about 1592. Having early manifested an extraordinary talent for pipe music, he was appointed whilst little more than a boy to be piper to the laird of Mackay. We have seen (Part I., chap. xi.) how Rorie cut off a groom's hand with his dirk at the Meikle Ferry on the Kyle of Sutherland, and then became piper to John Roy Mackenzie, fourth laird of Gairloch, about 1609. From this time Rorie was a Gairloch man, yet the connection with the Reay country was maintained, as we shall see, by his descendants. Little is remembered of Rorie beyond the story of how he came to Gairloch. It was his elder brother Donald Mor Mackay who was in attendance on the twelve sons of John Roy Mackenzie when the incident at Torridon, recorded in Part I., chap. xi., took place. Donald was a great piper, and assisted his brother Rorie during his youth. Donald spent a number of years in Gairloch, but returned to the Reay country before his death. Rorie was piper in succession to four of the chiefs of Gairloch, viz., John Roy, Alastair Breac, Kenneth the sixth laird, and his son Alexander. Rorie lived at Talladale during the lives of John Roy and Alastair Breac, who resided on Eilean Ruaridh and Eilean Suainne, islands in Loch Maree, not far from Talladale. The two last chiefs to whom he was piper resided at the Stank house at Flowerdale, and accordingly we find that Rorie lived in his later years near Flowerdale. Rorie was over sixty years of age when he married; he had but one child, who became the celebrated "blind piper." Rorie died at his home near Flowerdale about 1689, in extreme old age, being, like his son, almost a centenarian; he was buried in the Gairloch churchyard. Rorie is said to have been a remarkably handsome and powerful Highlander; he literally played an important part in the many fights which took place in Gairloch during the earlier part of his career.

John Mackay, the only son of Rorie, was born at Talladale in 1656. He was not born blind, as has been erroneously stated, but was deprived of his sight by smallpox when about seven years old. With the exception of a slight cloudiness on his eyes, it was difficult to the most acute observer to perceive that he had not his sight. He was known as "Iain Dall" (blind John), or "Piobaire Dall" (the blind piper). After mastering the first principles of pipe music under his father's tuition, he was sent to the celebrated MacCrimmon in Skye to finish his musical education. He remained seven years [178]with MacCrimmon, and then returned to his native parish, where he assisted his father in his office of piper to the laird of Gairloch. After his father's death he became piper to Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, the first baronet of Gairloch; and after Sir Kenneth's death to his son Sir Alexander, the second baronet and ninth laird of Gairloch. He combined the office of bard with that of piper. Iain Dall retired when in advanced years, and Sir Alexander allowed him a sufficient pension. Like his father he married late in life; he had but two children, Angus, who succeeded him, and a daughter. After he was superannuated he passed his remaining years in visiting gentlemen's houses, where he was always a welcome guest. Like his father he lived to a great age; he died in 1754, aged ninety-eight, and was buried in the same grave as his father in the Gairloch churchyard. He composed twenty-four pibrochs, besides numberless strathspeys, reels, and jigs, the most celebrated of which are called "Cailleach a Mhuillear," and "Cailleach Liath Rasaidh."

When he was with MacCrimmon there were no fewer than eleven other apprentices studying with the master piper, but Iain Dall outstripped them all, and thus gained for himself the envy and ill-will of the others. On one occasion as Iain and another apprentice were playing the same tune alternately, MacCrimmon asked the other lad why he did not play like Iain Dall. The lad replied, "By Mary, I'd do so if my fingers had not been after the skate," alluding to the sticky state of his fingers after having touched some of that fish at dinner; and this has become a proverbial taunt which northern pipers to this day hurl at their inferior brethren from the south.

Iain Dall's first pibroch, called "Pronadh na Mial," had reference to certain small insects that disturbed his slumbers during the earlier period of his apprenticeship.

One of the MacCrimmons, known by the byname of "Padruig Caogach," composed the first part of a tune called "Am port Leathach," but was unable to finish it. The imperfect tune became very popular, and being at the end of two years still unfinished Iain Dall set to work and completed it. He called it "Lasan Phadruig Chaogaich," or "the wrath of Padruig Caogach;" thus, whilst disowning any share in the merit of the composition, anticipating the result which would follow. Patrick was furiously incensed, and bribed the other apprentices, who were doubtless themselves also inflamed by jealousy, to put an end to Iain Dall's life. This they attempted while walking with him at Dun-Bhorraraig, where they threw the young blind piper over a precipice. Iain Dall fell eight yards, but alighted on the soles of his feet, and suffered no material injury. The place is still called "Leum an Doill." The completion of MacCrimmon's tune brought great fame to Iain Dall, and gave rise to a well-known Gaelic proverb, which being translated says, "the apprentice outwits the master."

Iain Dall made a number of celebrated Gaelic songs and poems. One of them, called "Coire an Easain," was composed on the death of Mackay Lord Reay. It is said not to be surpassed in the Gaelic [179]language. Another fine poem of his was in praise of Lady Janet Mackenzie of Scatwell, on her becoming the wife of Sir Alexander the ninth laird of Gairloch. His fame as a bard and poet seems to have almost equalled his reputation as a piper. A number of his songs and poems appear in the "Beauties of Gaelic Poetry."

Angus, the only son of "Iain Dall," succeeded his illustrious father as piper to the lairds of Gairloch. He was born about 1725. He was piper to Sir Alexander Mackenzie, tenth laird of Gairloch. When Sir Alexander visited France as a young man, he left Angus for tuition in Edinburgh. We know little of him beyond that he was a handsome man, and that he at least equalled his ancestors in musical attainments. He married Mary Fraser, daughter of William Fraser, of Gairloch. He attended a competition in pipe music whilst in Edinburgh. The other competing pipers, jealous of his superior talents, made a plot to destroy his chance. The day before the competition they got possession of his pipes, and pierced the bag in several places, so that when he began to practise he could not keep the wind in the pipes. But Angus had a fair friend named Mary, possibly his wife. To her he went in his trouble; she found for him a sheepskin from which, undressed as it was, he formed a new bag for his beloved pipes, and with this crude bag he succeeded next day in carrying off the coveted prize. He composed the well-known pibroch called "Moladh Mairi," or "the praise of Mary," in honour of his kind helper. This anecdote is sometimes connected with one of the other Mackay pipers. Angus lived to a good old age, and was succeeded by his son John.

John Mackay, grandson of the "blind piper," was born about 1753, and became on his father's death family piper to Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch. As a young man he went to the Reay country, the native land of his great-grandfather Rorie, and there received tuition on the little pipes, which are often used for dance music. He lived in the latter part of his career in Gairloch at Slatadale, where he married and had a numerous family, for whose advancement he emigrated to America with all his children except one daughter. She had previously married, but her father was so anxious that she should emigrate with the rest of the family, that she had to hide herself the night before the family left Gairloch in order to avoid being compelled to accompany them. John Mackay was a splendid piper; when he went to America, Sir Hector said he would never care to hear pipe music again. John prospered in America; he died at Picton about 1835, over eighty years of age. One of his sons, who was a stipendiary magistrate in Nova Scotia, died in the time of harvest 1884. The daughter who remained in Gairloch was married to a Maclean; their son, John Maclean of Strath, called in Gaelic "Iain Buidhe Taillear," has supplied much of the information here given regarding his ancestors, the hereditary pipers of the Gairloch family.

It is a singular fact that the four long-lived Mackays were pipers to the lairds of Gairloch during almost exactly two centuries, during which there were eight lairds of Gairloch in regular succession from father to son, but only the four pipers.


Chapter XVIII.

William Mackenzie and Malcolm Maclean.

Two of the older bards of Gairloch deserve a chapter to themselves.

William Mackenzie, the Gairloch and Loch Broom catechist, was commonly called "An Ceistear Crubach," or "the lame catechist," owing to his being lame of a leg. He was a native of the parish of Gairloch, and was born about 1670. He seems to have been a poet of no mean order. In his early years he had the reputation of being a serious young man; he committed to memory the Shorter Catechism in Gaelic, and was afterwards for seven years employed in the capacity of perambulatory catechist at a small salary. On one occasion in the dead of winter a tremendous storm overtook him, and he was driven to seek the shelter of a rock. He was fortunately discovered, and conveyed on horseback to the house of Mr Mackenzie of Balone, where he experienced the greatest kindness. Here he saw a beautiful young lady, his host's sister, who afterwards became Mrs Mackenzie of Kernsary, and, inspired by her charms, he composed a celebrated song of great poetic merit.

He happened to be in Strath, Gairloch, at the time of a wedding, to which however he was not invited. Being joined by some others who had suffered the same indignity, and who brought a bottle of whisky with them, he forgot the sacredness of his office, and as the glass went round composed a satirical song lampooning the newly-married couple and their relations and guests. The song eked out. The ministers shook their heads, and condemned the profanity of their catechist from their pulpits. He was dragged before the kirk-session and severely cross-examined. One or two of his judges espoused his cause, and insisted that he should recite the obnoxious song. "I can repeat no song," said the bard, "unless I accompany the words with an air, and to sing here would be altogether unbecoming." This obstacle was, however, got over, and Mackenzie sang the song with great glee, while his judges could not restrain their laughter. However he was dismissed from being catechist, and was never restored to the post. He died at a good old age, and was buried in Creagan an Inver of Meikle Gruinard, on the northern confines of the parish of Gairloch.

Malcolm M'Lean, called "Callum a Ghlinne," or "Callum of the glen," was a native of Kenlochewe. His reputation as a bard rests entirely on a celebrated song he composed in praise of his own daughter. It is the only example of his genius now extant. He was fond of singing the songs of other poets, and had an excellent voice. As a young man he enlisted in the army, and after serving a number of years was allowed a small pension on his discharge. He became a crofter in his native country, and married a woman of exemplary patience and resignation. He is described as a bacchanalian of the first magnitude, and by his intemperance reduced his [181]wife and daughter to miserable poverty. The daughter, his only child, was of uncommon beauty, but for want of dowry was for a long time unwooed and unmarried. In his later years his drinking habits became more notorious than ever, and when he was seen approaching an inn the local topers left their work and trooped about him. No wonder the resignation of his poor wife, under such circumstances, is proverbial in Gairloch. He died about the year 1764.

Professor Blackie has made a spirited translation of Malcolm Maclean's song, which with the Professor's kind consent is given below.

The forgiving gentleness of Malcolm's wife is recorded in the following story:—Malcolm had occasion to go to Dingwall on a summer day for a boll of oatmeal; he took a grey horse with him. On his way, with just enough cash in his pocket to pay for the meal, he entered an inn, where he met a Badenoch drover, who proved to be a boon companion. The two continued drinking together for some time; the bard at length spent the last sixpence of his meal money. Thinking, no doubt, of the awkwardness of returning without the meal, he remarked, "If I had more money, I would not go home for some time yet." "That's easily got; I'll buy the grey horse from you," replied the drover. The bargain was speedily concluded, and the money paid. The well-seasoned poet continued the "spree," until at length the price of the grey horse was gone too. "Now," said he, "I must go." "But how," said the drover, "can you face your wife?" "My wife!" said the poet, "she's the woman that never said, nor will say worse to me than 'God bless you, Malcolm.'" "I'll bet you the price of the horse and the meal," replied the drover, "that her greeting will be very different." "Done!" eagerly shouted Malcolm, grasping the other's hand. Away they went, with the landlord and two other men to witness the bard's reception by his wife. He staggered into his dwelling, where he would have fallen into the open fire, had not his wife caught him in her arms, exclaiming, "God bless you, Malcolm." "But I have neither brought meal nor money," said the bard. "We will soon get more money and meal too," replied the wife. "But I have also drunk the grey horse," said he. "What matter, my love," she said, "since you are alive and well." It was enough: the drover had to count down the money; and it was not long before the patient wife had the satisfaction of hailing her husband's return with both horse and meal.

Callum o' the Glen.
My bonnie dark maid,
My precious, my pretty,
I'll sing in your praise
A light-hearted ditty;
Fair daughter whom none
Had the sense yet to marry;
And I'll tell you the cause
Why their love did miscarry,
My bonnie dark maid!
[182] I.
For sure thou art beautiful,
Faultless to see;
No malice can fasten
A blot upon thee.
Thy bosom's soft whiteness
The seagull may shame,
And for thou art lordless
'Tis I am to blame.
And indeed I am sorry,
My fault I deplore,
Who won thee no tocher
By swelling my store;
With drinking and drinking
My tin slipped away,
And so there's small boast
Of my sporran to-day.
While I sit at the board,
Well seasoned with drinking,
And wish for the thing
That lies nearest my thinking,
'Tis the little brown jug
That my eye will detain,
And when once I have seen it
I'd see it again!
The men of the country
May jeer and may gibe,
That I rank with the penniless
Beggarly tribe;
But though few are my cattle,
I'll still find a way
For a drop in my bottle,
Till I'm under the clay.
There's a grumpy old fellow,
As proud as a king,
Whose lambs will be dying
By scores in the spring,
Drinks three bottles a year,
Most sober of men,
But dies a poor sinner
Like Callum o' Glen.
When I'm at the market,
With a dozen like me
Of proper good fellows
That love barley-bree,
I sit round the table,
And drink without fear,
For my good-wife says only,
"God bless you, my dear!"
Though I'm poor, what of that?
I can live and not steal,
Though pinched at a time
By the high price of meal.
There's good luck with God,
And He gives without measure;
And while He gives health,
I can pay for my pleasure.
Very true that my drink
Makes my money go quicker;
Yet I'll not take a vow
To dispense with good liquor:
In my own liquid way
I'd be great amongst men,—
Now you know what to think
Of good Callum o' Glen.

Chapter XIX.

William Ross, the Gairloch Bard.

William Ross, known as "the Gairloch bard," was born at Broadford, Skye, in 1762. His mother was a native of Gairloch, and daughter of the celebrated blind piper and poet Iain Dall, or John Mackay, already noticed. For want of a regular school in Skye he and a little sister were sent to the Grammar School at Forres to be educated. Here his aptness in learning attracted the notice of the master, who declared that of the many pupils he had had under his care he did not remember one who had excelled young Ross as a general scholar. After he had been some years at Forres he joined his parents, who had removed to the parish of Gairloch. His father became a pedlar, and travelled through the Lews and other western islands. The young bard, who was of a delicate constitution, accompanied his father in these travels, and endeavoured to become acquainted with the different dialects of the Gaelic language. He [184]afterwards travelled through parts of the Highlands of Perthshire, Breadalbane, and Argyllshire, and finally returned to Gairloch, where, at the age of twenty-four, he was appointed to the charge of the parish school, which he conducted until near the time of his death with much success. In a short time he acquired a great reputation as a teacher of the young, whom he endeared to himself by his tact and humour. His company was much sought after, not only for his excellent songs but also for his intelligence and sense of humour, and he maintained an intimacy with several respectable families with whom he had become acquainted during his travels. He played on the violin, flute, and several other instruments with considerable skill, and was a good singer; he acted as precentor in the parish church. Never strong he soon became a prey to asthma and consumption, and his short but brilliant poetic career was terminated by his death, in 1790, at the early age of twenty-seven. On the monument on his grave his age is stated to have been twenty-eight; but John Mackenzie, in the "Beauties," says William Ross died in his twenty-eighth year. He was residing at Badachro at the time of his death. He was buried in the churchyard of Gairloch, where a simple stone with an English inscription was all that for many years marked the spot. The funeral was attended by nearly the whole male population of the surrounding country.

A handsome freestone monument was in 1850 erected on the grave, mainly through the exertions of his clansman Mr George Ross, who was for many years head-keeper at Flowerdale, Gairloch, and is now (1886) living in well-earned retirement with a handsome pension from Sir Kenneth Mackenzie. The monument bears inscriptions in Gaelic and English. The English one is as follows:—

"In memory of William Ross, sometime schoolmaster of Gairloch, better known as the Gairloch bard, who died in 1790, aged 28 years, this monument is erected over his grave by a few of his countrymen and others, headed by the amiable and accomplished proprietor of Gairloch, in testimony of their respect and admiration of his extraordinary genius and great native talent. 1850.

His name to future ages shall extend,
While Gaelic poetry can claim a friend."

In personal appearance William Ross was tall and handsome, with open and regular features, and brown hair, and was nearly six feet high. As a student he excelled in Latin and Greek, and it was universally allowed that he was the best Gaelic scholar of his day. During his excursions to the Lews he paid his addresses to Marion Ross, of Stornoway, but was rejected, and he never married. He composed songs to his flame both before and after his rejection. Some of his best pieces were composed during his travels, but the majority of his songs were the product of his later years. John Mackenzie included twenty-one of William Ross's songs and poems in the "Beauties of Gaelic Poetry," and published a separate volume of them, comprising in all thirty-three productions. John Mackenzie says that William Ross's poetry deserves to be styled the poetry of the heart,—of a heart full to overflowing with noble sentiments and sublime and tender passions.


Chapter XX.

Alexander Campbell, Bard to Sir Hector.

This famous bard of Gairloch is remembered in his native parish as Alastair Buidhe Mac Iamhair, or the "yellow-haired Alexander M'Iver." The surname Campbell is called M'Iver in Gairloch. He was born in 1767, probably at Melvaig, in Gairloch. On his mother's side he was descended from the Mackenzies of Shieldaig. His father's ancestor is said to have come from the Lorne country as attendant to Anna, daughter of Macdougal of Dunolly, who, about 1440, became the wife of Alexander the Upright, sixth lord of Kintail, father of Hector Roy Mackenzie. It is said that from the days of Hector Roy the bard's ancestors had always been ground-officers under the lairds of Gairloch.

Alastair Buidhe spent his youthful days at Melvaig, and assisted his father in the usual avocations of a small farmer. One of his best songs was composed whilst he was herding his father's cattle on the hill at Melvaig.

When he came to man's estate Alastair was appointed by Sir Hector Mackenzie to be one of his ground-officers, as well as his family bard. He seems to have displayed considerable tact in performing his duties. Here is an anecdote of him which illustrates not only his own character but the footing he was on with Sir Hector. It appears that Sir Hector had been much annoyed with a tenant at Poolewe, who was in arrear with his rent, and would not pay up any part of it. So he called Alastair Buidhe and instructed him to go and demand the rent once more, and in default of payment to take the roof off the house. On the tenant still refusing to pay up, Alastair got on the roof and removed one divot from the ridge at the very top of the roof, and one other from the top of the wall at the lowest part of the roof. Sir Hector, whose kind heart had by this time repented of the order he had given, met Alastair on his return. Sir Hector inquired if he had done the job. Alastair replied that he had. Sir Hector said he hoped he had not done as bad as he had been told. Alastair then told him he had put the highest divot from the roof as far down as the lowest. On this Sir Hector expressed his vexation, and remarked that Alastair had done very badly. Then Alastair said it was not so bad but that it could yet be made better, for that he had only taken off the two divots altogether. Sir Hector said, "Sandy, you are a wiser man than I am."

As bard to Sir Hector, Alastair regularly attended two or three days a week at Flowerdale House, as well as at other times when his services were required. He was much appreciated by every member of the family. Dr Mackenzie, Sir Hector's only surviving son, writing of him under date of 30th August 1878, said:—"I see honest Alastair Buidhe, with his broad bonnet and blue greatcoat (summer and winter), clearly before me now, sitting in the dining-room at Flowerdale, quite 'raised' like, while reciting Ossian's poems, such [186]as 'The Brown Boar of Diarmid' and others (though he had never heard of Macpherson's collection), to very interested visitors, though as unacquainted with Gaelic as Alastair was with English. This must have been as early as 1812 or so, when I used to come into the room after dinner about nine years old." Dr Mackenzie says in his "Odd and End Stories" that it was Alastair who told them the story of Hector Roy and "The Gairloch" (see Part I., chap. ix.). The Doctor adds:—"One of our summer evening amusements was getting him (Alastair) to the dining-room after dinner, where, well dined below stairs and primed by a bumper of port wine, he would stand up and with really grand action and eloquence give us poem after poem of Ossian in Gaelic. Alastair could not read, and only understood Gaelic, and these poems came down to him through generations numberless, as repeated by his ancestors around their winter evening fires."

When Alastair became ground-officer and bard to Sir Hector, he took up his abode at Inverkerry near Flowerdale. In his later years he removed to Strath, and Sir Hector allowed him to hold his land there rent free for the rest of his days. He survived his beloved patron seventeen years; he died in 1843, at the age of seventy-six, and was buried in his family grave in the Gairloch churchyard.

Alastair was of middle height, and had, as his Gaelic soubriquet implies, yellow hair; he was a slender man, and never strong at his best. In his later years he suffered from bad health, and was very weakly long before his death.

His character is described as peculiarly attractive; he was of a gentle kindly disposition, highly esteemed by all who knew him of whatever rank, and children loved him as well as their seniors. He had a great fund of humour, combined with a deep sense of the pathetic, and was "splendid company."

William Ross, "the Gairloch bard," and he were intimate friends. As Alastair was wading the Achtercairn river one day, on his way to a sister's wedding, he met William Ross, and humorous verses were hurled from one to the other across the stream in reference to Alastair's coat, which was a "Cota gearr" of homespun cloth slightly dipped in indigo, the colour being between a pale blue and a dirty white. Alastair was also on good terms with Alexander Grant, the great bard of Slaggan.

Alastair was married, and left five sons, viz., Roderick (grandfather of Alexander Mackenzie the historian of the Mackenzies, and editor of the Celtic Magazine), Alastair Buidhe, Iain Buidhe, and Donald Buidhe (who was a cripple and became a tailor). Roderick, a son of Evander Buidhe, is now shepherd at Tollie, and has supplied much of the information here given about his grandfather. Another son of Evander Buidhe was in a shop at Inverness, where he died; he made a capital song to his grandfather's old house at Strath, entitled in Gaelic "Tigh mo Sheanair." So the poetic afflatus of the old bard has not altogether disappeared in his descendants.

It is remarkable that two such bright stars should have illuminated the poetic firmament at the same time in Gairloch as William [187]Ross and Alexander Campbell. It is difficult for a southerner to appreciate the fame of these two Gairloch poets, but it may be said almost to correspond with that of Southey and Wordsworth. The poetry of William Ross appeals most strongly to the cultured mind, whilst Alastair's is more in tune with the simpler instincts and impulsive heartiness of a rural life. As we should expect, the poems of Alastair Buidhe are in the present day preferred in Gairloch to the compositions of his friend. No complete collection has been published of the poems of Alastair Buidhe, though several pieces have appeared in the Celtic Magazine. It is feared that many of the poems, which only live in the memories of the people, may soon be lost.

Chapter XXI.

Alexander Grant, the Great Bard of Slaggan.

Alexander Grant, known as "Bard mor an t' Slaggan," or "the great bard of Slaggan," was born at Mellon Charles about 1742. His ancestor came to Gairloch from Strathspey, as attendant to Anne, daughter of Sir John Grant of Grant, who was married in 1640 to Kenneth Mackenzie, sixth laird of Gairloch. Most of the bard's life was passed at Slaggan, but shortly before his death he removed with his son to Tournaig, where he died in 1820 (or perhaps later), being about eighty years of age. The title bestowed on Sandy Grant of the "great bard" would perhaps be more correctly translated as the "big bard," for it was given him on account of his enormous stature and strength rather than for his merits as a poet. In height he was a giant, far exceeding in size any man then or now living in Gairloch; nor had he his equal in point of muscular strength. He did not fight; but on one occasion there was a row, to quell which the great bard caught Donald Morrison, of Drumchork, and held him fast by the hand. Donald, though himself a giant as compared with most men, was a pigmy by the side of Sandy Grant, and neither he nor all the bystanders could pull the bard's hand from his. Another proof of his great strength is remembered. In that day black periwinkles were plentiful, and were a favourite article of food; only two men in the country could break or crush a handful of them by the mere force of their grasp, viz., Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch and the "great bard." It is doubtful whether any man could be found in Gairloch to perform this feat in the present day.

Sandy Grant was not so eminent a bard as were his contemporaries William Ross and Alastair Buidhe. He composed comparatively few songs or poems. In manner he is described as having been a "blunt" man. In appearance he was most remarkable for his gigantic form, already alluded to. I can get no positive information what was his exact height in inches; he far exceeded the height [188]generally considered that of a tall man, and I am told he certainly stood more than seven feet in his stockings. The bard was a fine-looking man in face, features, and expression. A portrait of him, which they say was an excellent likeness, appeared in the first edition of John Mackenzie's "Beauties of Gaelic Poetry." John Mackenzie made a collection of Sandy Grant's poems, intending to publish them in a new edition of the "Beauties," but death frustrated this design, and the poems seem to have been lost.

The "bard mor" was a canny man, if we may judge from the following amusing anecdote, which is quite authentic, and illustrates the superstitions of the times. It was told me by James Mackenzie:— There was a man in Loch Carron who had his cheeses stolen from his barn by a neighbour. Now Sandy Grant, the "bard mor," was reputed to have the power of discovering things that had been lost, by the faculty of second-sight. The worthy but simple-minded man who had been robbed of his cheeses sent a message immediately he discovered his loss to the bard at Slaggan, and requested that he would find out who had stolen them. The bard, who thought he saw a chance of earning an "honest penny," at once started on foot for Loch Carron. The man who had stolen the cheeses heard that the bard had been sent for, and was terrified; every day he walked out three miles on the road towards the north, hoping to intercept Sandy Grant. At last he met Sandy. Says he, "Are you not a stranger coming to Loch Carron?" "Yes," said Sandy, "I come from Slaggan." "Well," he says, "I am the man that stole the cheeses, and I'll give you fifteen shillings if you will not tell that I am the man." The bard replied, "Of course I know it was you that stole the cheeses, but where did you put them?" "Oh, dear!" said the man, "I put them in a peat-stack at the back of the township." "Yes; I know that," said Sandy, "but which stack did you put them in?" He replied, "The one that's farthest from the township altogether." "Are you sure that you put all the cheeses there?" again asked the cautious bard. "Yes," the man said, "I put them all there, but one cheese is out of count." "Well," said the bard, "I will not tell your name; when once they get the cheeses they will be satisfied." The Loch Carron man gave him the fifteen shillings, and as they passed his house he pressed the bard to come in and have a dram. "Oh, no, no," said Sandy; "be off, that they may not suspect we have been together." Then they parted, and the bard went to the house of the man who had sent for him. After refreshing the inner man, Sandy was asked to state who had stolen the cheeses, and where they now were. "Well," he said, "I will not tell you who stole them, but I will tell you where they are." He then asked what he was to receive for coming all the way from Slaggan. The man inquired how much he asked. Sandy named twenty-five shillings, and that sum was paid to him. "When to-morrow comes," said he "I will tell you where the cheeses are; but I must warn you that there will be one cheese missing." The next day the cheeses were duly discovered and restored to their rightful owner, and the "bard mor" returned to Slaggan with both the fifteen shillings and the [189]twenty-five shillings in his pocket, making two pounds,—in those days a more considerable sum than it is now.

The Grants, who formerly lived at Mellon Udrigil but are now at Londubh, are descendants of the "Bard mor an t'Slaggan."

Chapter XXII.

John Mackenzie of the "Beauties."

John Mackenzie, piper, poet, and author, is best remembered as having been the collector and editor of the work entitled the "Beauties of the Gaelic Language." He was born 17th July 1806, at Mellon Charles. He was the eldest son of "Alastair Og," who, like his father before him, was tacksman of all the lands on the north side of Loch Ewe belonging to the lairds of Gairloch. John Mackenzie's mother was Margaret, daughter of Mr Mackenzie of Badachro. On the father's side he was fifth in direct male descent from Alastair Cam, youngest son of Alastair Breac, fifth laird of Gairloch. He was educated primarily at home, afterwards at a small school on Isle Ewe, and finally at the parish school of Gairloch. From childhood he evinced a peculiar delight in reading, and especially devoted himself to the study of the songs and music of his native district. While a mere child he made a fiddle for himself, and later on a set of bagpipes, using no other instrument or tool than his pocket-knife. He became an excellent piper, and could also play the piano, fiddle, flute, and several other instruments. His parents, seeing his skill with his knife, apprenticed him to a travelling joiner named William Ross. During his travels with his master, John Mackenzie found congenial employment in noting down the Gaelic songs and tales floating among his countrymen. While executing some work at the manse of Gairloch he received a severe blow on the head, which for a time incapacitated him. On partially recovering he went to a carpenter at Conan Bridge to complete his apprenticeship, but he soon found that the injury to his head was of such a permanent character as to unfit him to pursue his trade further. Nor was he sorry to give up what was by no means congenial to his taste. He returned to Gairloch, and employed himself in collecting the poems of William Ross, most of which he obtained from Alexander Campbell. He spent twenty-one nights taking down Ross's poems from the lips of Alastair Buidhe. He seems from this time to have given himself up to literary work, and strenuously he laboured at it, spending some twelve years in travelling through the Highlands collecting materials for his great work the "Beauties of Gaelic Poetry." While thus travelling he procured a large list of subscribers for this work and other publications. In 1833 he left his native parish, and in the same year appeared "The Poems of William Ross, the Gairloch bard," with "The History of Mac Cruislig; a Highland Tale," in one volume; and several other works of minor importance. Within the [190]year a second edition of Ross's poems was called for. In 1836 he obtained a situation as bookkeeper in the Glasgow University Printing-office. The "Beauties" appeared in 1841. He disposed of the copyright for a mere trifle to a publishing firm in Glasgow, he himself engaging to superintend the work while passing through the press, a labour which undermined his never very robust constitution. His next work of importance was the "History of Prince Charles," in Gaelic, which was published by an Edinburgh firm. This was a translation, but poor John Mackenzie received very small remuneration for his skill and labour. The publication of these works brought him considerable fame in literary circles, and he soon after obtained an engagement with Messrs Maclachlan & Stewart, Edinburgh, at one pound per week. He produced for them translations into Gaelic of Baxter's "Call to the Unconverted;" Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," "Come and Welcome," "World to Come," "Grace Abounding," "Water of Life," and "Sighs from Hell;" as also, Dyer's "Christ's Famous Titles," and Guthrie's "Christian's Great Interest." John Mackenzie was also the author of the English-Gaelic part of the dictionary known as MacAlpine's. He produced an enlarged edition of the poems of Duncan Ban Macintyre, and various other works. In all he composed, edited, or translated above thirty publications. His last completed work was "MacAlpine's Dictionary." In 1847 he issued a prospectus for an enlarged edition of the "Beauties." He was also the sub-editor of the Cuairtear nan Gleann; and he wrote some original Gaelic sermons, for Highland ministers who were too ignorant of the language to compose their own sermons in it. At the time of his death he was preparing a new edition of the Gaelic Bible, which he left in an incomplete state. Being in very weak health he returned in May 1848, after an absence of fourteen years, to his father's house at Kirkton, or Inverewe, where, after a lingering illness, he died on 19th August 1848, aged forty-two years. He was buried in the old chapel in the churchyard at Gairloch. Almost the whole population of the district attended the funeral.

John Mackenzie was slenderly built, fair-haired, and sharp-featured. He was from his youth upwards considered quite a character in his native district. He composed several pieces of his own, but not of the highest order. He made a song in 1830 to Mary Sudge (with whom he had fallen in love), and published it in his "Cruitear; or Gaelic Melodist." He also composed an excellent song to a weaver's loom. He became well known as a good piper; he and John Macrae of Raasay used to be judges of pipe music at the Edinburgh competitions.

Several anecdotes are related exhibiting his originality and humour. One is worth recording here. He was travelling through Skye and the Islands gathering materials for his own works, and collecting accounts for the Inverness Courier. He had collected a considerable sum and paid it into a bank at Portree, where he was invited by the banker to spend the night. Next morning he strolled down to the pier, and there saw a ship with the form of a woman as [191]figurehead. At this he stared so intently and earnestly, assuming at the same time his usual comic attitudes, that the captain's son noticing him asked, "Is she not really a very beautiful woman?" "Oh, yes," answered John, "I wish you would sell her to me." "You had better buy the ship," said he. "Oh, I cannot; it's not every man who could buy the ship, and it's her figurehead I want." The captain's son, still chaffing one whom he took to be a mere simpleton, and referring to John's long overcoat, answered, "I have seen many a man with a shorter coat than yours who could buy her." "Well, if she is cheap, I would like to buy her for the figurehead. Have you any cargo in her?" "Yes; I have five hundred bolls of meal in her; and you shall have the whole for three hundred pounds." John jumped on board, handed a five-pound note to the captain's son, who was part owner and was working the vessel, and said, "The ship is mine as she stands, cargo and all; come to the bank at twelve to-morrow, and you shall have the money." John went to the banker, related what had passed, informed the banker he had no money to pay for the ship, but that she was a good bargain, and that they must watch lest the captain's son should get away with her and the five pounds. Inquiries were made, and the banker agreed to pay for the ship, which was really worth more than three hundred pounds. They went at once to the captain's son, and offered him the money. He was in great distress, and begged to be relieved of the foolish bargain, finally offering John sixty pounds for himself if he would give up his right to the ship. This sum he magnanimously declined, and gave up the ship, strongly advising the captain's son to be more careful in future; not to chaff any one who had no intention of interfering with him or his; and, particularly, never to judge a man by his appearance, or by the length of his coat.

On 26th July 1878 a monument to the memory of John Mackenzie, which had been erected on a projecting rock outside the Gairloch churchyard, near the high road, was uncovered by Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Gairloch, in presence of a large number of spectators. The monument, which is a granite column thirteen feet six inches high, was raised by a public subscription, originated and carried through by Mr Alexander Mackenzie of the Celtic Magazine. There are suitable inscriptions in Gaelic and English, that in English being as follows:—"In memory of John Mackenzie (of the family of Alastair Cam of Gairloch), who compiled and edited the 'Beauties of Gaelic Poetry;' and also compiled, wrote, translated, or edited, under surpassing difficulties, about thirty other works. Born at Mellon Charles, 1806; Died at Inverewe, 1848. In grateful recognition of his valuable services to Celtic literature, this monument is erected by a number of his fellow-countrymen, 1878."


Chapter XXIII.

Living Gairloch Bards.

There are several Gairloch men now living who essay the poetic vein in their own language.

One of them is Alexander Mackenzie, of Oban, or Opinan, near Mellon Udrigil. He is called "the bard," and has composed, it is said, some good songs. He lives the ordinary life of a crofter.

Perhaps the best known of living Gairloch bards is Duncan Mackenzie, the Kenlochewe bard. He was born in 1831, on the Culinellan farm near Kenlochewe. His father Hector was a weaver at Kenlochewe, and composed some poems, but his muse was neither so prolific nor so notable as that of his son. Duncan's mother was of the Loch Carron Mackenzies, some of whom were also poets. Duncan Mackenzie was never at school, and only learned to read Gaelic after attaining manhood. He had a brother named Malcolm, who was a piper, and died some years ago. The bard displayed his talents at an early age, for he composed several pieces when only eleven years old. The first which attracted public attention to his talents as a bard was a dialogue in verse between himself and Fionnla Leith, which he composed at the age of fifteen. The bard is a crofter at Kenlochewe. Like his father he is a good weaver; at times he has also proved himself an efficient shoemaker, mason, and carpenter. He is not a great singer, but he sometimes, though rarely, renders his own songs in a low voice but with expression. He has composed a large number of songs. A dozen of them have been published by Mr Alexander Mackenzie, under the auspices of the Gaelic Society of Inverness. Many of his pieces are forgotten by himself, though remembered by his neighbours. He has over fifty in manuscript. He excels in satire, and a vein of sometimes rather strong humour pervades his poems. He is a tall slender man, with plenty of beard, and still frequently dons the kilt.

The following poem was composed by the Kenlochewe bard on the marriage of Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch. Appended is an English version of the song which Professor Blackie has kindly made for this book. It is a close translation:—

Oran da Shir Coinneach Ghearrloch an oidhche a phos e.
Chuala mi naigheachd ro thaitneach ri h-eis 'neachd,
Sgeula chaidh aithris am baile Dhun-eidin,
Sir Coinneach bhi seachnadh ard bhan-tighearnan Shasuinn,
Sa posadh ri ainnir, cho maiseach ri te dhiu'.
Nighean tighearn Ilè tha cinnteach ro uasal,
Cho fad sa theid firinn a sgriobhadh man cuairt dì',
Eireachdail, finealta, direach, ro-stuama,
Ailleagan priseil, bho shin i air gluasad.
[193]'S ciatach a charaid 's iad Gaidh'lach le cheile,
Tha uaisle nan nadur thug bar air na ceudan,
"Ban-tighearn og Ghearrloch" an trath sa dha h-eigheachd,
'S cupaichean lana dha 'n traghadh le eibhneas.
Tein-aighir 's gach aite, le gairdeachas inntinn,
Bho iosal Strath Ghearrloch gu Braighé na tirè
An tuath-cheatharn laidir dha'm b-abhaist bhi dileas,
A dearbhadh an cairdeas 's an daimh nach da dhiobair.
Tha i' slean 'us uaislean san uair so aig feasda,
Ag innse gach buaidh a bha dualach dha'n teaghlach,
Nan suidhè gu h-uallach an guaillean a cheile
Ag guidhe bhi buan doibh, le suaibhneas 'us eibhneas.
A bhan-tighearn og aluinn tha'n traths air an tir so,
A dh-fhior fhuil nan Armunn bha tamh ann an Ilè,
Na Caimbeulaich laidir, bho chrioch Ar-a-Ghaidheil,
Toir buaidh air an namhaid 's gach ait anns am bi iad.
Tha cliu air na gaisgich dha'm b-aitreabh an tigh Digè,
'S priseil an eachdraidh th'air cleachdadh na sinnsear,
Bu mhoralach, maiseach, an curaidh Sir Eachainn;
Bha eis'neachd aig fhacal am Bailè na rioghachd.
Sir Frank, an duin' uasal, bu shuaircè ro choir e,
Meas aig an t-sluagh air, 's bha 'n tuath air an seol leis,
Sealgair na'm fuar-bheann, ceum uallach air mointich:
'S minic a bhuail e, na luath's an damh croiceach.
Buaidh 'us cinneachdainn piseach, 'us ainm dhoibh,
Slaintè 'us toileachdainn, sonas 'us sealbh dhoibh,
Saoghal fada, gun ghainnè, gun chearb dhoibh,
Gearrloch 'us Lagaidh, bhi pailt ann an airgiod.

Epithalamium on the Marriage of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, Baronet of Gairloch, and Miss Eila Campbell of Islay.

I heard a piece of news last night, good news that brings no sorrow,
Good news that sped on lightsome wings from castled Edinboro',
That good Sir Kenneth wisely shuns an English maid to woo,
But he will marry a bonnie lass of Celtic blood and true.
A daughter of brave Islay's lord, a perfect lady she
From top to toe, this all who speak the truth will tell to thee;
Handsome she is, stately and tall, winsome and chaste and good:
In all she is, and all she does, a jewel of womanhood.
[194]A noble couple, and well matched; this thing I dare to tell,—
Among a thousand ladies she will bravely bear the bell.
The Lady of Gairloch! I hear them shout with loud acclaim,
While brimming cups are freely poured to her high honoured name.
And bonfires blaze on all the heights, and all hearts are ablaze,
From the green shelter of the strath up to the hoary braes;
And all the clansmen stout and true attend with loyal pride,
To prove their fealty to their chief, and greet his noble bride.
Both high and low are feasting now, and telling man to man
The virtues that from sire to son flowed on to bless the clan:
Proudly they sit in friendly groups, and pray that evermore
On them and theirs a gracious God full horn of joy may pour.
The lovely lady long the pride of Islay's faithful strand,
Of old heroic stock, shall now rule o'er this happy land;
In west Argyll her kinsmen dwell, the clan of mighty name,
Who never flinched and never failed to conquer where they came.
In Tigh mor's goodly hall they sit, where deeds of great renown
The blazoned story of the clan from sire to son come down:
Sir Hector was a noble man, and when debate was stirred
At Dingwall or at Inverness they owned his mighty word.
Sir Francis was a gentleman, right courteous and polite,
And all his tenants loved the lord who always loved the right;
A hunter bold was he, and keen to mount from crag to crag,
With wary foot, and bring to ground the fleet high-antlered stag.
Good luck and joy be with the pair, favour from God and man;
Health and goodwill and acres broad well planted with the clan;
And length of happy days be theirs, and blessings without measure,
And a fat purse to serve their need and entertain their leisure.

Alexander Cameron, who may be called "the Tournaig bard," is a native of Inverasdale, on the west side of Loch Ewe. He was born about 1848. He has been manager of Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie's farm at Tournaig for some sixteen years, and has been on the Inverewe estate since he was a boy of fifteen. He is the author of a number of songs and poems of considerable merit. Perhaps the best of them is a poem in twenty verses in praise of Tournaig. The song in its original Gaelic appeared in the Northern Chronicle in 1883. I have had the pleasure of hearing Alexander Cameron sing several of his own songs, and can testify to their graceful intonation. He is tall, and rather slenderly built, and has the courteous manner of a true Gairloch Highlander.


The following are twelve verses of the song in praise of Tournaig, with an English version by Mr W. Clements Good, of Aberdeen:—

On's e'n diugh an dara Maigh
Bho 'na ghabh mi 'n Turnaig tamh,
Air leam fein nach b'olc an cas
Air a sgath ged' dheilbhinn rann.
Hurabh o gun tog mi fonn,
'S toil leam fein an Coire donn,
Diridh mi 'mach ris a mhaoil;
'S fallain gaoth a thaobh na meall.
'S gloirmhor obair Nadair fein,
Grian a g'oradh neoil nan speur,
Cuan na chomhnard boidheach reidh,
'S torman seimh aig seis nan allt.
Hurabh o, &c.
Turnaig aoibhinn, Turnaig aigh,
Turnaig shaoibhir, Turnaig lan,
Turnaig bheartach, 's pailte barr,
Turnaig ghnaiseach, ghranach, throm.
Hurabh o, &c.
Tha gach tlachd na d' thaic'air fas,
Sliabh is srath is cladach sail;
D'uillt do neamhneidibh cho lan
Far an snamh an dobhran donn.
Hurabh o, &c.
Tha do chladach clachadh, ard,
Geodhach, stacach, fasgach, blath;
H-uile sloc is lag is bagh
Loma-lan do mhaorach trom.
Hurabh o, &c.
Bradain mheanmnach na d' loch sail,
Iteach ballabhreac's earragheal tarr,
Suibhlach luath, na chuaich mar bharc,
Tigh'n on 'chuan gu tamh 'm bun d'allt
Hurabh o, &c.
Loch-nan-dail le chladach 'seoin,
Loch-nan-lach is glaise geoidh,
Iasgach pailt air bhailc nan ob,
'S gasd 'an spors do sheoid dhol ann.
Hurabh o, &c.
[196]Air gach dail tha mart le laogh,
Anns gach glaic tha pailteas naoisg,
Air gach stacan, coileach fraoich
'Mach na d' aonach sgaoth chearc donn.
Hurabh o, &c.
Coill Aigeascaig gu ceutach cluth,
'S am beil legion coileach-dubh,
Sud an doire 'n goir iad moch,
Seinn am puirt le'm bus-ghuib chrom,
Hurabh o, &c.
Cuag chuldonn anns gach ait'
Seinn guggug an dluths 'nam barr,
Breacaidh-beith 'sa ghlas charn,
Snathadag is dreadhan donn,
Hurabh o, &c.
Smudan, smeorach, creothar, dnag,
Sud an ceol is boidhche sgread;
'S bru-dearg ruiteach gearradh fead,
Thuas air creagan os an cionn.
Hurabh o, &c.
Leam a b'ait bhi seal le'm ghaol,
G-eisdeachd cruitearan do chraobh;
Gabhail beachd air obair shaor
Nadair aonsgeulaich 's gach ball.
Hurabh o, &c.


Song on Tournaig.
Twice has the bright returning May
Inspired me to poetic lay,
Since Tournaig's hills first knew my tread
And cast their shadows o'er my head.
Hurrah, the chorus let me raise!
The Corrie be my theme of praise,
On whose brown ridge the heather grows,
And where the healthful north wind blows.
Here nature glories in her pride;
O'er heaven the clouds, all sunlit, glide;
Like polished shield the ocean glows,
The babbling burn sings as it flows.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
Tournaig! thou home beloved by me!
With rich green crop and sloping lea,
[197]With fruitful fields and white-fleeced sheep
Dotting afar each breezy steep.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
I ne'er can cease my praise of thee!
Here hill and strath and briny sea;
There streams which from the mountains glide,
Where pearls abound and otters hide.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
High is thy shore against the storm,
Yet lined with sheltered coves and warm;
Whilst shell-fish fill each rocky hole
Where never ocean's waves can roll.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
And he who gazes in the deep
May see the silvery salmon sweep,
With graceful curve and stately turn,
To seek his food below the burn.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
Or we can haste to Loch-nan-Dail,
Where the brown trout will never fail;
Whilst flocks of duck and grey goose soar
From marshy haunts upon its shore.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
The shaggy herd each meadow feeds,
The snipe lies close within the reeds;
Each step the heather-cock may rouse,
Loud warning his less wary spouse.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
Coille Aigeascaig,—shade from the heat!
Here is the blackcock's sure retreat;
Yonder they crow at early day,
With bent bills crooning forth their lay.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
Wood pigeon, mavis, and night jar,
Make music sweet both near and far;
Full joyously the redbreasts call,
Perched on the rock high o'er them all.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
"Coo, coo," the cuckoo cries aloft,
The chaffinch sings in tones more soft,
The fieldfare, titlark, and the wren
All swell the chorus of thy glen.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
[198]No symphony can rival thine;
Nor elsewhere do more clearly shine
The works of God in nature's face,
Harmonious in every place.
Hurrah, &c. &c.
Would that we two were wandering now
Where these wild woods could hear our vow!
Ne'er could we roam midst scenes more grand
Than in this rugged northern land!
Hurrah, &c. &c.

Alexander Bain, who is a crofter, thatcher, and dyker at Lonmor, was born about 1849. He has composed a number of excellent poems and songs in his native tongue. He is a much-respected and very worthy man, and is a sergeant in the Gairloch volunteers. He is of middle height and good physique.

Alexander Bain has composed the following elegy on the late well-known Dr Kennedy of Dingwall, who died in 1884, and who might be termed the bishop of the Free Church in the north-west Highlands. The doctor's fervid eloquence was often to be heard during sacramental services in the Leabaidh na Bàine at Gairloch. Appended is an English rendering of the elegy, mainly contributed by Mr Good:—

Thainig sgeul gu crich,
Tha na bhochdainn do'n tir muthuath;
Fad's a mhaireas an linn's,
Bithidh luchd-aidmheil fo sgios le gruaim.
Thainig smal air an or,
Ged tha'n Soisgeul air doigh mur bha,
Bho'n chuir iad fo'n fhoid,
Doctear Iain bu bhoidhche cail.
Thainig freasdail mu 'n cuairt,
'S thug e rionnag nam buadh gu lar;
Bithidh a Ghaidhealtachd truagh,
'S cha dean gearan dhoibh suas am bearn.
Sguir an sruthan bu bhoidhche,
Bha toir misneach do dhoige nan gras;
'S bithidh an cridheachan leoint',
Gus an ruig iad air gloir 's aird'.
'S ann tha lot anns a Chleir
As an-d-imich a reult a baild',
Bha na cobhair do 'n treud,
G'an tabhair thairis gu freumh na slaint'.
Bha do bhuaidhean gu leir,
Air an unga le seula graidh,
'S cha n-fhaic sinne as do dheigh,
Fear a sheasas cho treun na d-ait'.
[199]Thainig dubhar, 'us neul,
Air an Eaglais, nach clear dhi 'n drasd;
Thuit a geata fo priomh
Ged tha a bunnait cho fial 's a bha.
Am measg a cedair thu dluth,
'S thusa a meangan bu chubhraidh dhasan;
Bha thu taitneach fad d'uin'
Gu bhith labhairt air run fear daimh.
Bha do phearsa gun ghiomh
An's gach rathad an iarrte fas;
Ann an tuigse, 's an ciall,
Thug thu barrachd air ciad do chach.
Bha do sholus mur a ghriann
Cuir gach onair air Criosd amhain,
'S be sin toiseach do mhiann
Dol troimh ghleanneanaibh ciar a bhais.


Elegy on Dr Kennedy.
Sorrow overwhelms the Highlands;
Saintly Kennedy is dead!
Christian souls in woe bewail him
Sleeping in his narrow bed.
Though the truth shines 'midst the darkness,
Dimly burns the golden flame
Since beneath the sod they laid him,
Lovely in his life and aim.
Death's dark angel hovers o'er him;
Low our star of goodness falls;
Wild laments are unavailing,—
'Tis the Master gently calls!
Dried up is that fount of beauty,
Quenched that welling stream of grace;
Our sad hearts will bleed with anguish
Till in heaven we see his face.
All the elders, broken-hearted,
Mourn their guiding star; his flock
Mourn their pastor, him who helped them
To confide in Christ their Rock.
Bright above his many virtues
Shone the seal of love divine;
None can equal his brave spirit,—
None such noble powers combine.
Clouds and gloomy shadows gather
O'er the church for evermore;
Yet, though shaken are her bastions,
Her foundations still are sure.
[200]In the grove of stately cedars
Thou the sweetest branch hast stood;
Eloquent thou wast, when preaching
Life through Christ's most precious blood.
Blameless was thy life-long journey,
With the choicest goodness blest;
In thy wisdom, sense, and knowledge
Thou wast high above the rest.
Like the sun thy light was shining,
Praising Jesus day by day:
Truly thou wast ever ready
Through death's vale to take thy way.

Chapter XXIV.

The Poolewe Artist.

There are few, if any, traces of the existence of artistic knowledge or skill to be met with in the history of Gairloch or among her inhabitants. True some of the ancient weapons display a little artistic decoration, but these or their patterns may have come from other parts. One or two silver brooches of old Celtic designs are to be met with in the parish, and may perhaps be considered evidence of native taste. The arts of architecture, sculpture, and painting, however, have never been practised in Gairloch, at least there are no remains that shew it.

In these later years of the nineteenth century an instance has occurred of an intense love of, and feeling for, the art of drawing and painting in a native of Gairloch, so remarkable as to call for special mention here.

The instance referred to is in the person of a young man barely yet "of age," named Finlay Mackinnon, a crofter at Poolewe. Whilst doing his duty as a crofter he struggles to progress in art, and has in fact made painting his profession. Enthusiasm for art is his absorbing passion. He is a fine well-built and well conducted young man, above middle height. In manner he is modest and unassuming, and his native Highland courtesy is conspicuous. He has been educated at the Poolewe Public School, and lives with his mother at Mossbank, Poolewe.

In the autumn of 1877 I was going out for a sail on Loch Ewe; the boatmaster, requiring a boy to assist, engaged Finlay Mackinnon (then a little barelegged lad), who happened to be standing by, and with whom I was scarcely acquainted at the time. During our trip I got into conversation with Finlay, and asked him whether he was to become a fisherman or sailor. He answered, "No." "What have you a fancy for?" I inquired. The quaint reply in his then rather imperfect English was, "All my mind is with the drawing." [201]He afterwards shewed me his childish efforts with his pencil, and some very humble attempts in water-colour achieved by the aid of a shilling box of paints! I started him in a course of instruction, and Mrs Mackenzie of Inverewe gave him great assistance. He progressed rapidly. About 1881 it was his good fortune to come under the notice of Mr H. B. W. Davis, R.A. (who has so splendidly rendered some of the scenery and Highland cattle of Loch Maree), and Mr Davis kindly helped him forward, and in 1883 had him to London where he gave him a session's teaching at South Kensington. Other gentlemen, including Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch, the Marquis of Bristol, Mr O. H. Mackenzie of Inverewe, Mr John Bateson, lessee of Shieldaig, Mr A. Hamond, also lessee of Shieldaig, and Mr A. W. Weedon, the artist, gave Finlay Mackinnon material aid, and he was enabled to spend the winter session of 1884-5 at South Kensington.

Some of Finlay Mackinnon's sketches in water-colour already display considerable merit, and there is every prospect of his becoming an able delineator and interpreter of the beauties of Gairloch and Loch Maree.

Chapter XXV.

James Mackenzie's Gairloch Stories.

The following stories have been related to me by James Mackenzie of Kirkton, along with many traditions and facts embodied in other parts of this book. James Mackenzie is an enthusiastic lover of family history and local folk-lore, and whilst disowning superstitious fancies is quite alive to the charms of romance. I have endeavoured to preserve the words and phrases in which he communicated the stories, and where the pronoun of the first person is used in the following tales, it must be taken as coming from his lips.

James Mackenzie was born in 1808, and consequently remembers several of the bards and pipers already mentioned. His elder brother was John Mackenzie, so celebrated amongst Gaelic speakers as the compiler of the "Beauties of Gaelic Poetry," and James shared with his brother the fund of old stories which, in the days of their youth, they loved to listen to at the "ceilidh," or social meetings, then so generally held during the long winter nights.

James Mackenzie, who is a direct descendant in the sixth generation from Alastair Breac, fifth laird of Gairloch, has been a sailor during much of his life, and still affects the blue neckerchief and dark serge clothes of the sea-faring man, topped with a Highland bonnet of the Prince Charlie type. He is short in stature, and has very expressive features. He has the true Highland esprit, combined with refined courtesy and faithful attachment to his chief,—qualities which many think are destined soon to become extinct.

Nearly all the following stories are strictly Gairloch tales, relating incidents about Gairloch people. The anecdote of Rob Donn James Mackenzie wished to be included, lest it might otherwise be lost.

[202]William Roy Mackenzie.

"William Roy Mackenzie was stopping at Innis a bhaird. This was in the eighteenth century, before they commenced making whisky in Gairloch. William used to go to Ferintosh with his two horses with crook saddles, carrying a cask of whisky on each side. He always went there about Christmas. At that time Christmas was observed in Gairloch; now its observance is given up. William had two horses, a white and a black; one of them was fastened behind the tail of the other, the white horse foremost. On the other side of Achnasheen there was an exciseman waiting to catch William on his way home with four casks of whisky. The exciseman hid himself until William came past. Then he jumped out from his hiding-place, and caught the white horse by the halter, saying, 'This is mine.' Says William, 'I do not think you will say that to-morrow; let go my horse.' 'No,' says the exciseman. 'Will you let him go,' says William, 'if you get a permit with him?' 'Let me see your permit,' says the exciseman, still dragging at the white horse. 'Stop,' says William; 'let go the horse, the permit is in his tail.' He would not let go; so when William saw that, he loosed the black horse from behind the grey, that he might get at the permit. Then he lifted his stick and struck the old grey so that he plunged and jumped, and in the scrimmage one of the casks of whisky struck the exciseman and knocked him down on the ground. Says William, 'There's the permit for you.' The exciseman lay helpless on the ground; so William Roy got clean away with all the whisky, and came home with it to Innis a bhaird."

Kenneth and John Mackenzie of Rona.

"One of the Mackenzies of Letterewe had a daughter who was married to a man in Badfearn in Skye. A daughter of theirs became the wife of William Mackenzie of Rona, who was one of the Mackenzies of Shieldaig of Gairloch. He had a son named Kenneth; and Kenneth had two sons, called Kenneth and John. They were out fishing in a smack of their own, when they were attacked and taken by the press-gang. They were carried off, and placed in a hulk lying in the Thames below London. One night they were together in the same watch, and they then made a plan to escape. A yacht belonging to a gentleman in London was in the river; she was out and in every day, and always anchored alongside the hulk. The gentry from the yacht were going ashore every night, and leaving only a boy in her. The night the two brothers Kenneth and John were on the watch, the boy was alone in the yacht. What did they do but decide to carry out their plan of escape there and then! So they went through the gun-ports, one on each side of the hulk, and swam to the yacht. Then they got the yacht under weigh, the boy sleeping all the time. They got safe away with the yacht, and worked her as far as to Loch Craignish, on this side of Crinan. There they went ashore in the night, and left the yacht with the boy. They left the yacht's gig ashore in Loch Craignish, and set off on their way home. [203]When the laird of Craignish saw the gig, and the yacht lying in the loch, he went out in the gig to see what kind of yacht she was. The brothers had left the papers of the yacht on the cabin table, that it might be found out who she belonged to. So the laird of Craignish wrote to the owners in London, and advised them to send orders to him to sell the yacht and send the boy home with the money. The owners did so, and the yacht was sold. She became the mail-packet between Coll and Tobermory. I saw her long ago on that service.

"The two brothers, Kenneth and John Mackenzie, got safe back to Rona, and soon got another smack. They were going south with a cargo of fish, through the Crinan Canal; the smack was lying in the basin after you pass the first lock. There was a plank put to the shore from the gangway of the vessel; by this they went ashore to the inn at Crinan. A girl in the house went to the vessel and took the plank out; the two Mackenzies, on going back to the smack in the dark, for want of the plank fell into the basin, and were both drowned. They were relations of my mother. I saw them when I was a boy at Mellon Charles. They were fine men."

John Macgregor of Londubh.

"John Mackenzie, son of William Mackenzie, the fourth laird of Gruinard, by Lilias, daughter of Captain John Mackenzie of Kinloch (or Lochend), was a captain in the 73rd Regiment in the end of the eighteenth century. The Gruinard family had holes and presses in their houses at Udrigil and Aird, where they kept men whom they had caught until they agreed to enlist in the army. Gruinard got money for catching men for the army. There was a man in Londubh named Ruaridh Donn or Rorie Macgregor, of the Macgregors of Kenlochewe; he was an old man, and was still strong. He had a son, John, who was a very strong bold man. Gruinard gathered a gang of twelve men to catch John Macgregor. So Mackenzie Lochend sent him down with a letter to Mackenzie Gruinard. John went with the letter, and gave it to Mrs Mackenzie, Gruinard's wife. 'Come in, John,' she said, 'till you get some meat before you go away to Poolewe.' So John went in, and she made a piece for him; she gave him a slice of bread and butter, and put a sovereign between the bread and butter so that he might get it. When John was eating he found the gold in his mouth; he put it in his pocket. So when he had finished eating, he came out of the house to go away home, and there he saw the gang of twelve men ready to catch him. Mrs Mackenzie told him he had got the king's money. 'It's not much,' said he; 'I wish I would get more of it.' Says she, 'You'll get that by-and-by.' 'I'm not so sure of that,' says John. Then the gang took him. 'If you're going to keep me,' says John, 'send word to my old father, that I may see him as I pass by; he is old and weak, and I will never see him again.' So Mrs Mackenzie sent on word to his father to meet him. John was sent away with the gang, and as they passed the garden at Londubh, Ruaridh Donn came down to the road to meet his son, leaning on his staff as if he were weak. [204]'Good bye! are you going away, John?' says he. 'Oh yes! good-bye to you, I'll never see you again,' says John. Then the old man got a hold of John, and put him between himself and the wall. The old man was shaking on his stick. John lifted his two hands and put them over his father's shoulders, and began laughing and mocking the gang. So the twelve men dare not go near them, and they left John to go home with his money.

"Captain John Mackenzie, son of Captain John Mackenzie, Kinloch, and brother of Mrs Mackenzie, Gruinard, went to Skye to marry a daughter of the minister of Cambusmore. He went in a boat with a crew of six men, and Duncan Urquhart, his own valet. John Macgregor was one of the crew. They went ashore at Port Golaig, near Ru Hunish, the point of Skye furthest north. The captain and Duncan walked up to Cambusmore, but the crew stopped with the boat. The captain and Duncan were in the minister's house all the week. On the Saturday John Macgregor was sent up to the manse by the rest of the crew to see what was keeping them. It was late when John got to the manse. The captain came out and scolded John, asking what business he had there, and saying he might go away any time he pleased for all he cared. Then the minister came out, and said John must stop in the house until the Sabbath, for it would not be safe for him to return to the boat through the night. But John would go away back, and he fell over the high rock near Duntulm Castle and was killed. When the minister rose in the morning, he sent Duncan Urquhart to see if John had arrived at the boat. When Duncan was going he saw part of John's kilt caught on a point of rock, and found his dead body below. So Duncan turned to the house and told the bad news. The minister said to the captain, 'You may go home; you will not get my daughter this trip.' John Macgregor's body was taken home in a box, and buried in the churchyard at Inverewe. He left two daughters; one of them was married to Murdo Crubach Fraser in Inverkerry, and was the mother of Kenneth Fraser and John Fraser now living at Leac-nan-Saighead. A daughter of Murdo Crubach's is the wife of Christopher Mackenzie, Brahan, and a son of theirs is piper with the Mackintosh."

Murdo Mackenzie, or Murdo's Son.

"There was a Mackenzie of an old Gairloch stock living in Ullapool, Loch Broom. He was called in Gaelic 'Murchadh mac Mhurchaidh,' or, 'Murdo the son of Murdo;' I will call him 'Murdo's son.' He was a very fine, good-looking man, and very brave. He had a small smack, and he was always going with her round the Mull of Kintyre to Greenock with herrings from Loch Broom. Returning with the vessel empty, he put into a place called Duncan's Well, in the Island of Luing, on the other side of Oban. This island belongs to Lord Breadalbane to this day. Murdo's son went ashore at night. There was a ball going on in a house, and Lord Breadalbane's daughter was there. She fell in love at once with the [205]good-looking Murdo's son, and he fell in love with her. He took her away with him that very night, and before daybreak they set sail for Ullapool. When they got to Ullapool they were married, and he took her to his house at the place now called Moorfield, where the banker lives in the present day.

"There was no name on Murdo's son's smack at that time; there were no roads nor newspapers then; and no one knew where the smack had gone with Lord Breadalbane's daughter, only that she had left with Murdo's son. Lord Breadalbane could find out nothing more. He went to the king and got a law made that from that time every vessel should have a name on it; there were no names on vessels before then in Scotland. Lord Breadalbane offered a reward of three hundred pounds to any one who would find where his daughter had gone. When Murdo's son got the report of this reward he started off at once, dressed in his best kilt and plaid, with his dirk in his belt, and walked all the way to Lord Breadalbane's castle at Taymouth. He knocked at the door, and a man came and asked what he was wanting; he told him he wanted to see the lord. So the man went in, and soon the lord came in his slippers to the door. He asked Murdo's son what was he wanting there. He told him he came to tell him where his daughter was, that he might get the reward. Says the lord, 'You will get the money if you tell me where she is;' asked him, 'Where is she?' 'Well,' says Murdo's son, 'I'll tell that when I get the money.' 'There's your money for you then.' When he got the money, he said, 'She's at Ullapool, at Loch Broom, and if you will give me other three hundred pounds I will put the hand of the man that stole her into your hand.' The lord gave him other three hundred pounds. Says he, 'Keep out your hand.' 'There,' says he, putting his hand in the lord's hand, 'is the hand that took your daughter from the Island of Luing;' and Lord Breadalbane was so pleased with his pluck and appearance, that he accepted him as his son-in-law, and gave him the full tocher (or dowry) of his daughter. I remember seeing their son and daughter; the daughter married John Morrison, who was the farmer at Drumchork, about 1850.

"Murdo's son was going in the same smack with herrings from Loch Broom to sell them. After coming round the Mull of Kintyre he anchored at Crinan for the night. There was lying there a lugger full of gin and brandy; she had been captured near Cape Wrath by a government cutter; the crew had been put ashore at Cape Wrath. Six men of the cutter's crew were bringing the lugger to deliver her at Greenock. She came alongside Murdo's son at Crinan, as she was going south and he coming north. Murdo's son asked them, 'What craft is that?' They told him it was a smuggler they had caught at Cape Wrath. 'Surely you have plenty drink on board,' says he. 'Oh, yes,' they said, 'she is choke full.' Says he, 'You had better all of you come over and see if the stuff I have is better than what you have got.' So they came over, all hands, to his smack. He tried the jar he had, and made them all drunk. They could not leave his cabin. When they were in this state he and his [206]crew went to the lugger, took possession of her, and set sail, leaving her drunken crew in his own smack. Murdo's son came to Ullapool with the lugger, and when he had taken the cargo out of her he set fire to her and destroyed her. A son of Murdo's son was married to Mrs Mackenzie of Kernsary before Mr Mackenzie married her, and had two sons, both now dead, and buried in Cil-lean, in Strath Garve.

"Donald Morrison, of Drumchork, was a grandson of Murdo's son and Lord Breadalbane's daughter. He went to see the Lord Breadalbane of his day, a descendant of the lord whose daughter was married to Murdo's son. Lord Breadalbane gave Donald Morrison three hundred pounds when he went to the castle. Rorie Morrison also went to see Lord Breadalbane, but he did not get anything. Donald was a very fine, tall, handsome man, and looked grand in his kilt and plaid; there was no one like him in the country, so good-looking and so well shaped for the kilt!"

Anecdote of Sir Hector Mackenzie.

"The law that a name should be put on every vessel brings to my mind an anecdote of Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch. Macleod of Raasay had a boat that had no name on her when the law was made requiring names. So the boat was taken from him, and he was cited to a court at Inverness, that he might be fined for not putting a name on the boat. When Sir Hector heard of this he went to the court. Macleod was there; the judge told him he was fined so much for not having the boat named. Sir Hector said, 'Macleod's boat is the coach to his house, and he can never get home without it, and if you are going to fine him for not having his boat named, you must put a name on your own coach when you go out.' Said the judge, 'If that be the case he can go home.' Thus Macleod got clear."

Mackenzie Kernsary and my Grandfather.

"I can remember Mr and Mrs Mackenzie of Kernsary. They lived in the house where I now live. Rorie, as Mackenzie Kernsary was called, was a strange eccentric man; he died a good while before his wife, and was buried in the chapel in the Inverewe burial-ground close by. They had only one son, Sandy, and it was he who built the house at Inveran; he was married to a daughter of the Rev. Roderick Morison, minister of Kintail, the best-looking woman in the north of Scotland at that time; her nephew is the present minister of Kintail. Sandy had three sons and three daughters. One son became Established Church minister at Moy; one daughter married Mr Mactavish, a lawyer in Inverness; another daughter married one Cameron, a farmer; and another son was at sea. My grandfather, John Mackenzie, was a cattle drover; he was always going through the country buying cattle; an old Hielan'man, with his blue bonnet and old Hielan' coat. He bought cattle between Poolewe and Little Loch Broom. At times he bought a large number. One [207]time he went to the Isle of Gruinard and bought a fat grey cow from one Duncan Macgregor there. He sent a man on with the drove to Gairloch to go to the market, and stopped behind himself that day. When the cows were passing Londubh, Mackenzie Kernsary was out on the brae; he saw the cattle passing, and he asked the man with them to whom did they belong. The man replied, 'To John Mackenzie, the drover.' 'Oh!' says he, 'they could not belong to a better man. You'll turn that grey cow up here till I kill her for Mrs Mackenzie.' 'No,' says the herd, 'that'll no be the case; we'll know which is the best man first.' 'That tells you that the cow will be mine,' says Kernsary. And so it was; Mackenzie took the cow from him, drove her to the byre, got the axe, and killed her in a minute. He went in and told Mary his wife to send a man to bleed the cow before it would get cold. So Mary said, 'What cow is it?' 'Never mind,' says he, 'you'll know that before Saturday.' And so she did. The old drover himself came by next day. Mrs Mackenzie saw him passing, and called him up. She took him into the house and gave him a glass of mountain dew. Then she told him what her husband did yesterday on a grey cow of his, and that she was going to pay him. She asked him what was the value of the cow. He replied, 'Nothing but what I paid for it;' and she paid him."

The Whale in Loch Ewe.

"In the year 1809 Loch Ewe was the most famous loch known for haddock. Boats came even from the east coast, from Nairn and Avoch; indeed until the following occurrence Loch Ewe was unrivalled in the north of Scotland for its haddock fishing.

"It was a beautiful day, and all the boats were fishing on the south-west side of Isle Ewe opposite Inverasdale. A new boat was put off the stocks at Mellon Charles, and was taken out that day for the first time. Seven men went out in her, viz., Duncan Mackenzie, Ronald Mackenzie, Rorie Maclean, Murdo Mackenzie, Donald Maclennan, John Chisholm, and Hector Macrae, all Mellon men. They went to the back of Sgeir an Fharaig, much further out towards the open than the other boats. It was so calm the oars were laid across the boat. Suddenly they saw a whale coming in from the ocean making straight at them. One of the men suggested they had better put the oars straight and pull out of her way. And this they did; but as they worked to one side, the whale cut across straight after them, and soon came up with them. She struck the boat in the bow, and made a crack about a yard long in the second plank above the keel. Six oars were then manned, and, with one man keeping his coat to the crack, they rowed for their lives; but as the crack was in the bow, the water forced itself in notwithstanding the efforts of the man with his coat. They were making for the nearest land, when the boat filled. When Ronald, who had been a soldier, saw this, he stripped and jumped overboard to swim for it. He swam some distance when the whale struck him below; so then he turned back to the water-logged boat. When he reached the boat, three of the [208]men had been drowned, viz., Murdo Mackenzie, Donald Maclennan, and John Chisholm. After that the whale disappeared, or at least ceased to molest them. It was a small whale.

"A man at Mellon Charles had noticed the incident; he ran through the township to procure help; but no boat was to be found, and there were only women and children at home. He went as far as Drumchork; there an old boat was found, that had been turned keel up for two years. Seven men were found to attempt an expedition for the rescue of the wrecked fishermen. They had only one oar, and on the other side of the boat worked bits of board, whilst two of the men were employed baling. In this way they reached the water-logged boat, and rescued the four survivors of its crew. Ever since this fatal occurrence it has been the popular belief in the country that whales attack new boats or newly-tarred boats. When the boat was got ashore a large piece of the whale's skin was found in the crack in the bow."

A Story of Rob Donn.

"Rob Donn, the great Reay bard, was bard and ground-officer to Mackay Lord Reay, in the middle of the eighteenth century. He would always be going out with his gun, and secretly killing deer. Lord Reay found this out, and sent for Rob. He said, 'I'm hearing, Robert, you are killing my deer.' 'Oh, no,' says he, 'I am not killing them all, but I am killing some of them; I cannot deny that.' Lord Reay then said, 'Unless you give it up, I must put you away out of the place; you must get a security that you will not kill any more.' 'Oh,' says Rob to him, 'I must go and see if I can get a surety.' So he left the room. Outside the door he met Lord Reay's son. 'Will you,' said Rob to the boy, 'become security for me that I will not kill more deer on your father's property?' 'Yes,' replied the boy. Rob caught him by the hand and took him to Lord Reay. 'Is that your security, Robert?' said his lordship. 'Yes,' said Robert, 'will you not take him?' 'No, I will not,' answered his lordship. 'It is very strange,' replied Rob, 'that you will not take your own son as security for one man, when God took his own Son for all the world's security.' It need scarcely be added that Rob Donn remained bard and ground-officer to Lord Reay. This story I believe to be perfectly true."

The Lochbroom Herring Fishing.

"About ninety years ago the British Fishery Society built the pier at Ullapool, and the streets of unfinished and unoccupied houses there which to this day give it the appearance of a deserted town. There were great herring fisheries then in Lochbroom, and Woodhouse from Liverpool started a large curing establishment in Isle Martin; so did Rorie Morrison at Tanera, and Melville at Ullapool. The Big Pool of Loch Broom was the best place for herrings in Scotland at that time, and there would be a hundred and fifty ships from all parts to buy herrings there,—from Saltcoats, Bute, and [209]Helensburgh, Greenock and Port Bonachie, East Tarbert and West Tarbert. Melville built two ships in Guisach, which he named the 'Tweed' and the 'Riand.' That place was full of natural wood at the time; it was in a rocky spot at Aultnaharril, opposite to Ullapool, where the ferry is. Melville was bound to take the herrings from all the fishermen's boats. They were so plentiful that he could not cure them all, so he made middens of them, and he also boiled quantities for the oil from them. After that season Lochbroom was nineteen years without a hundred herrings in it, and the fishery has never recovered to this day."

The other Rob Roy Macgregor.

"Kenneth Mackenzie, the last laird of Dundonnell of the old family, was descended from the first Lord Mackenzie of Kintail, and was a connection of the Gairloch Mackenzies. He was a peculiar man; he had a large flock of hens, and used to make every tenant pay him so many hens at the Martinmas term along with their rent. My grandfather's brother, Sandy M'Rae, who was tenant of the Isle of Gruinard, had to pay four hens every year to the laird. Kenneth Mackenzie, in 1817, married Bella, daughter of one Donald Roy Macgregor, belonging to Easter Ross; they had no family. She had a brother called Rob Roy Macgregor, who was a lawyer in Edinburgh. When Kenneth was on his deathbed his wife and Rob Roy wanted him to leave the Dundonnell estate to the latter. The dying laird was willing to do so, because he did not care for his only brother Thomas Mackenzie; but he was so weak that he could not sign his name to the will, and it is said that Rob Roy Macgregor held the laird's hand with the pen, and that the wife was keeping up the hand while Rob Roy made the signature. The laird died soon after, and left nothing at all to his brother Thomas. When the will became known there was a great feeling of indignation among all the Mackenzies and the gentry of the low country, as well as among the tenantry on the Dundonnell estates, against Rob Roy Macgregor, who now took up his residence at the old house of Dundonnell. The whole of the tenantry were opposed to him, except one man at Badluachrach named Donald Maclean, commonly called Donald the son of Farquhar. He was the only man that was on Rob Roy's side. His neighbours made a fire in the bow of his boat in the night time and burnt a good part of it. He sent the boat to Malcolm Beaton, a cousin of his own at Poolewe, to repair it; the night after it was repaired (whilst still at Poolewe) there was a fire put in the stern, and the other end of her was burnt. The Dundonnell tenants rose against Rob Roy Macgregor, and procured firearms; they surrounded the house, and fired through the shutters by which the windows were defended, hoping to take his life; one ball or slug struck the post of his bed. The next night he escaped, and never returned again. His barn and his stacks of hay and corn were burnt, and the manes and tails of his horses were cut short. Thomas Mackenzie commenced law against Rob Roy Macgregor for the recovery of the estate. In [210]the end it was decided that it belonged to him, but it had become so burdened by the law expenses that it had to be sold."

Cases of Drowning in Loch Maree.

"It would be before 1810 that Hector Mackenzie of Sand was living in a house at Cliff, on the west side of the burn at Cliff House. Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch had given him lands at Inverasdale. He went up Loch Maree in a boat to fetch wood to build a house close to the shore at Inverasdale. He took for a crew his son Sandy, a young lad, and also William M'Rae from Cove, and William Urquhart, called William Og, and his son, who lived at Bac Dubh. They reached Kenlochewe and loaded the boat. Just before they started back, Kenneth Mackenzie, a married man, and Rorie Mackenzie, a young man, who were returning to Gairloch with hemp for nets, asked for a passage down the loch. Hector said there was too much in the boat already. He was not for them to go in the boat, so they went off; but William Og said to Hector, 'You had better call the men back; you don't know where they will meet you again.' William Og called for them to come back. Kenneth Mackenzie came back, but Rorie would not return; he had taken the refusal amiss, and it was good for him that he had done so. The boat with the six of them started from the head of Loch Maree. Opposite Letterewe she was swamped, from being so heavy. All hands were lost except William M'Rae and Sandy the son of Hector, they were picked up by a boat from Letterewe.

"Two sons of Lewis M'Iver, of Stornoway, came to Kenlochewe on their way back from college. It was before the road was made from Gairloch to Poolewe. They took a boat down Loch Maree. Four Kenlochewe men came with them; they were all ignorant of sailing. Between Ardlair and the islands there was a breeze, and they put the sail up. One of the Kenlochewe men stretched himself upon the middle thwart of the boat; a squall came, and he went overboard head foremost and was drowned.

"Kenneth Mackenzie from Eilean Horrisdale and Grigor M'Gregor from Achtercairn were employed sawing at Letterewe. They were put across to Aird na h'eighaimh, the promontory that runs out from the west shore of Loch Maree to near Isle Maree, by a boat from Letterewe. One of them had a whip saw on his shoulder. On landing they started to walk to Gairloch. There was then no bridge over the river at Talladale. The stream was swollen by rain; they tried to wade it, but were carried off their legs and taken down to the loch, where they were drowned. Their bodies were never recovered. This was more than eighty years ago.

"Donald Maclean from Poolewe and John M'Iver, called John M'Ryrie, and often known as Bonaparte, from his bravery, were in a sailing boat in Tagan bay at the head of Loch Maree, when a squall upset the boat. John M'Ryrie went down, and was drowned. Donald Maclean got on the keel of the boat. Rorie Mackenzie had a boat on the stocks at Athnanceann. She had only seven strokes [211]in her, but there was no other boat, so they took her down to the loch, and Donald Maclean was saved by means of her. John M'Ryrie's body was recovered, and buried in the Inverewe churchyard.

"It would be about 1840 that Duncan and Kenneth Urquhart, two brothers from Croft, sons of Kenneth Urquhart the miller, were coming down Loch Maree one Saturday evening after dark. There was smuggling going on in the islands at that time. It was a very dark night, and there was a stiff breeze blowing down the loch and helping to propel the boat. Duncan was rowing the bow oar, and Kenneth the other. Duncan called to his brother to go to the stern and steer the boat with his oar. Kenneth jumped on the seat in the stern, and from the way that was on the boat, and his own spring, he went over the stern. He called to Duncan, but he had only the one oar left, and with the wind so strong he could do nothing for his brother, so Kenneth was drowned. His body was found nine days afterwards in the middle of Loch Maree; the oar came ashore at a spot called An Fhridhdhorch, or 'the dark forest,' where the scrubby wood now is near a mile to the north of Ardlair. Duncan came ashore with the boat on the beach in Tollie bay.

"When Seaforth bought the Kernsary estate some forty years ago Mrs M'Intyre was living at Inveran. It was after Duncan Fadach had lived there. Two years after Seaforth made the purchase he sent two lads to repair the house at Inveran. One of them was Sandy Mackenzie from Stornoway. The two lads went to bathe at the rock called Craig an t' Shabhail, or 'the rock of the barn,' where the river Ewe begins; there was a barn long ago on the top of this rock. Immediately Sandy entered the water he went down, and was drowned. The other lad hastened to the house, and a sort of drag was made with a long stick and a crook at the end of it, and with this the body was lifted. Sandy was of the stock of George Mackenzie, second laird of Gruinard, who had thirty-three children. Sandy's brother is the present Free Church minister of Kilmorack."

The Stornoway Packet and the Whale.

"The smack 'North Britain,' Captain Leslie, was carrying the mails between Poolewe and Stornoway for eighteen years. Leslie had four of a crew besides himself. Murdo Macdonald was at the helm when the smack struck a whale. She was running with a two-reefed mainsail and slack sheet. She ran on the back of the whale and cut it through to the backbone; seven feet was put out of the cutwater of the packet; it was a severe stroke! When the smack ran up on to the back of the whale her stern went under to the companion. The whale sank down, and so the smack went over her, but made so much water in the hold that they were obliged to run her ashore. They got her to Bayhead, inside the pier at Stornoway. The whale went ashore in Assynt, and they found the cut on her. I had this account from Leslie and others of the crew."

The Wreck of M'Callum's Schooner at Melvaig.[212]

"About 1805 John M'Callum, a decent man from Bute, had a schooner and carried on a trade in herrings; he had been to Isle Martin. He had one pound in cash to purchase every barrel of herrings with. The herrings were so plenty he got them for five shillings a barrel. He had a smack called the 'Pomona' as well as the schooner, and he would be sending the smack to Greenock with cargoes of herrings whilst he stayed at Isle Martin curing herrings. At the end of the season, as there was a great demand for small vessels, he sold the 'Pomona' for three hundred pounds to Applecross men. Then he himself started home in the schooner, with a crew of seven sailors. He came to Portree from Isle Martin, and left Portree for home, intending to go through Kyleakin. When he got through the sound of Scalpay it came on a hurricane from the south. The vessel would not take the helm, and became unmanageable. She was running down the coast in that state, and at last the wind shifting to the west put her on the rocks at Melvaig. The mate went to M'Callum, who was in the cabin, and told him to come up, that they were going to be lost, and he should try and get ashore. M'Callum was old and weak, and replied that he was so frail that he would have no chance, and that his days were gone at any rate; so he remained below. One of the crew went out on the jib boom, and as she struck he let himself down by a rope from the jib boom to a shelf on a rock, and was quite safe. Another of the crew jumped out, but could not get ashore on account of the surf. The Melvaig people saw him swimming a mile off; then he turned back; he seemed to be a good swimmer; when he was in the surf and saw a big sea coming, he would dive through it; at last he disappeared. The ship went to pieces, and all hands were lost except the man who had got on the shelf of rock. All the bodies were washed ashore, and were buried in Melvaig, near the house of Murdo Mackenzie, called Murdo Melvaig. A Melvaig man, named John Smith, stripped the sea boots from one of the bodies and took them home with him. When the man who was saved heard this, he said it would have been enough for him to take them off when he was alive! The man who came ashore told the Melvaig people that the three hundred pounds realised for the sale of the 'Pomona,' as well as the balance of the money the captain had had to buy herrings, was in a box. The captain had had one pound to buy each barrel of herring, and as he had only to pay five shillings a barrel he must have had nearly four hundred pounds balance. The whole of the money was found in a box, as the man had said. The man went away home, but he did not get the money with him."

A Sea Captain Buried in Isle Ewe.

"About twelve years ago some gentlemen in a steam yacht came to Isle Martin, and inquired there whether any one knew of a place where the captain of a ship had been buried in one of the Summer Isles. They thought he had been buried in one of the small islands [213]off Loch Broom. They offered fifteen pounds to any one who could inform them, but no one could tell them anything of the place. Here is the true account of this captain and his death and burial. It was about 1822 that I was living with my father in Mellon Charles house. A schooner going to Newcastle with bars of brass put in for shelter to the sound of Isle Ewe. She lay opposite the dyke on the island; that is still the safest anchorage, the best holding ground in a storm. Two of the crew came ashore at Aultbea, and said the captain had got ill, and they were seeking a doctor; there was no doctor then in the country. My father used to go and see some who would be sick, and would bleed them if they would require it. So the two sailors were told to go to him, and they took him out to the schooner. He found the captain lying dead in his cabin, and there were cuts in different parts of his head as if he had been killed by his men. He was buried in the old churchyard in the Isle of Ewe, still enclosed by a dyke; there is a headstone yet standing at his grave. No other sea captain has been buried in this district for many years, except John M'Callum, John M'Taggart, and this captain buried in Isle Ewe."

The Loss of the "Glenelg."

"It was about 1825 that the mail-packet called the 'Glenelg of Glenelg' was lost. A year before that the Right Honourable Stewart Mackenzie, who had in 1817 married Lady Hood, the representative of the Seaforth family and proprietrix of the Lews, bought the 'Glenelg' to ply with the mails between Poolewe and Stornoway. Poolewe is the nearest port on the mainland to Stornoway. There had been packets on the same service generations before. The 'Glenelg' was a smack of about sixty tons. Her crew consisted of two brothers, Donald and John Forbes, and a son of Kenneth M'Eachainn, of Black Moss (Bac Dubh), now called Moss Bank, at Poolewe. Donald was the master, and John the mate. She was going to Stornoway about once every week, but she had not a fixed time. It was on a Saturday, either the end of November or beginning of December, that the Rev. Mr Fraser, who was minister of Stornoway, returned to Poolewe from the low country. He had come down Loch Maree in a boat. The master of the 'Glenelg' was ashore at the inn, which was then at Cliff House. Mr Fraser came to Donald Forbes, and told him he would require to be at Stornoway that evening to preach on the morrow. Donald said it was not weather to go. Mr Fraser said he would prosecute or punish him for not going; then Donald said he should take care before he would not punish himself, and that he knew his business as well as Mr Fraser knew his own. At last Mr Fraser persuaded him to go; and there were two other passengers, Murdo M'Iver from Tigh na faoilinn, who was going to be a Gaelic teacher in a parish near Stornoway, and Kirstie Mackenzie from Croft. They started about nine o'clock in the morning, with two reefs in the mainsail. Donald M'Rae from Cove was out on the hill for a creel of peats and saw the 'Glenelg' loosing some of her [214]canvas after going out of Loch Ewe. Nothing more was seen of her. M'Iver's box was washed ashore at Scoraig in Little Loch Broom, and two handspikes and the fo'scuttle. Another packet was afterwards put on the same service."

Wreck of the "Helen Marianne" of Campbelton.

"John M'Taggart from Campbelton had a smack called the 'Helen Marianne.' He used to come to Glen Dubh buying herrings, and he had two fishing boats of his own worked with the smack. I saw him in Glen Dubh when I was fishing there; it would be about 1850. One Sabbath night he left Loch Calava at the entrance to Glen Dubh, and set sail for home, thus breaking the Sabbath. A storm from the north-east came on, and in the night he struck on the Greenstone Point, at the other side of Oban, or Opinan, there, and all hands were lost. Donald Mackenzie and Kenneth Cameron, the elder of the church, both living in Sand, had the grazing of Priest Island. On the Tuesday they went out to that island to see the cattle, and there they found the dead body of John McTaggart, along with an empty barrel. They thought he must have been washed off the deck, as the vessel had been carried past Priest Island before she was wrecked. They brought the body to Sand, and buried it in the churchyard with the rest of the crew, whose bodies were all recovered. There would be six or seven of them in all, for the crews of the fishing boats were with the smack, the two boats being on deck, one on each side."

Wreck of the "Lord Molyneux" of Liverpool.

"Farquhar Buidhe, who was one of the Mathesons of Plockton, and brother of Sandy Matheson the blind fiddler there, was the owner and master of the trawler 'Lord Molyneux,' a smack he had bought at Liverpool. He used to come to Glen Dubh for the herring fishery. It was two or three years before the wreck of the 'Helen Marianne' of Campbelton that Farquhar set sail for home one Sabbath night. Before daylight he was lost upon a rock at the end of the island of Oldany. These two ships were both lost from Sabbath-breaking."

John Macdonald, the Drover of Loch Maree.

"It was about 1825 that John Macdonald lived at Talladale. He was a cattle drover, and was always known as 'The drover of Loch Maree.' He was a fine tall man; I remember seeing him. He wore a plaid and trousers of tartan, and a high hat. He used to go to the Muir of Ord market with the cattle he bought in Gairloch. At that time large quantities of smuggled whisky were made in Gairloch and Loch Torridon. John Macdonald got the loan of an open boat at Gairloch. She was a new boat, with a seventeen foot keel; I remember seeing her. He worked her round to Loch Torridon, and then he took a cargo of whisky for Skye. Two Torridon men accompanied him. A storm came on from the south or south-west, and [215]they could not make Skye. The boat was driven before the wind till she reached the shore of Assynt, on the south side of Stoir head. There they came ashore; the boat was found high and dry, and quite sound, above high-water mark. John Macdonald and his companions were never seen again, and some Assynt men said that they had been murdered for their whisky. Assynt was a wild country then, and long before."

The Murder of Grant, the Peddler.

"It was about 1829 there lived in a house some three hundred yards above the present parks at Tournaig a man named Grant. He had three sons, William and Sandy, and another, who was the youngest, whose Christian name I forget. He was a peddler, a good-looking lad, about twenty-three years of age at the time. He used to carry his pack on his back through the country. He often went to Assynt, and was acquainted with one M'Leod, who lived near Loch Nidd, to the north of Stoir head. M'Leod was a kind of teacher; he was a great favourite with the women. Grant, the peddler, was stopping in a house near M'Leod's, and M'Leod was seeing him. One morning, after breakfast, Grant left his lodgings to walk across to Lochinver with his pack on his back. M'Leod joined him, to convoy him out of the township. When they were out of sight of the houses M'Leod struck the peddler with a small mason's hammer, which he had concealed in his breast. He struck him at the back of the ear, and killed him clean. When M'Leod saw the peddler was dead, he would have given three worlds to have made him alive again, as he afterwards said; but it was too late. M'Leod put the body in a small loch, still called from this circumstance Loch Torr na h' Eiginn, or 'the loch of the mound of violence,' and he put stones on the body to keep it from floating. A man in the township had a dream that the peddler had been murdered and put in this loch, and he went with his neighbours and found the body there. The neighbours thought this man had killed Grant, because he knew where the body was. The poor man was apprehended, and taken to the gaol at Dornoch, where he was kept for a year, and his sufferings caused his hair to come from his head. He was not set free till M'Leod confessed the murder. The men of the place were all anxious to find out the murderer of the peddler, that they might clear their own families.

"M'Leod, soon after the murder, hid the peddler's pack in a stack of peats. He took part of the goods out of it to give to some of his sweethearts, of whom he had too many! The girl that was in the house where Grant had lodged had taken notice of the contents of the pack. She saw some of the things after the murder with a girl who was a neighbour, and whom M'Leod was courting. She said to this girl, 'It must have been you, or some one belonging to you, that killed Grant.' This girl was taken to Dornoch gaol, and another girl who was seen with a piece of cloth that had been in Grant's pack was also taken to gaol. The neighbours were all against each [216]other, trying to discover the murderer. At last these two girls gave evidence that they had received the things from M'Leod, and upon their testimony he was found guilty of the murder before the judge at Inverness. He would not confess to the murder, until the Rev. Mr Clark, minister of a church in King Street, in Inverness, who was attending on the condemned man, worked upon him so that he told the whole truth. It was not until this confession that the man who had had the dream was released from Dornoch gaol. Poor man, he never got over it. M'Leod was hung at Inverness, and on the gallows he sang the fifty-first Psalm in Gaelic. The two brothers of the murdered peddler, and their sister, who had married a MacPhail, got up a ball at Inverness on the night M'Leod was hung. It was a foolish thing."

Death of the Shieldaig Shoemaker and his Companions at Lochinver.

"It was long after the murder of Grant, the peddler, in Assynt, that three men from Shieldaig of Applecross went in their smack to fish with long lines for cod at Lochinver. One of them was a shoemaker. It is said that they came ashore to the inn there. After their return to the smack, three days passed without any smoke from the vessel, and the people on shore did not know what was the cause of it. So they went to see what was wrong, and they found the three men dead, two of them among the barrels in the hold, and one at the hearth in the fo'castle. They came ashore, and a letter was sent to M'Phee, the fishing-officer at Shieldaig of Applecross, reporting the case. Three Shieldaig men went first to Lochinver and brought the vessel home. I saw them as they passed Poolewe. Some thought that the three fishermen had had poison given them in the inn. After the disappearance of John Macdonald, the Loch Maree drover, and his two companions, and the murder of Grant the peddler, in Assynt, it was considered dangerous for men from Gairloch and the neighbourhood to visit that wild country."




Natural History of Gairloch.

I.Physical Features219
II. Climate and Weather222
III.Anecdotes and Notes227
IV.Lower Forms of Life233
V.Mammals of Gairloch236
VI.Birds of Gairloch241
VII.Flowering Plants of Gairloch256
VIII.Shells of Gairloch. By Rev. John M'Murtrie, M.A.265
IX.Geology of Loch Maree and Neighbourhood. By William Jolly, F.G.S., F.R.S.E., &c.271
X.Minerals of Gairloch. By W. Ivison Macadam, F.C.S. Edin.289



Chapter I.

Physical Features.

The accompanying map shews the shape and general features of the parish of Gairloch.

Its area is stated by the Director of the Ordnance Survey to be 217,849 acres, i.e. fully 340 square miles. The three proprietors state the acreages of their estates (so far as in Gairloch) to be as follows:—

Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch,162,680
Mrs Liot Bankes of Letterewe and Gruinard,35,000
Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie of Inverewe,12,800

These areas make a less total than the Ordnance Survey; the deficiency may arise from the proprietors having measured their estates on the flat without reckoning the differences for altitudes.

Fisherfield and Gruinard, in the parish of Loch Broom, adjoin Gairloch on the north, and Torridon, in the parish of Applecross, on the south.

Both sides of the sea lochs of Gairloch and Loch Ewe, and the south side of the Bay of Gruinard, often called Loch Gruinard, are in Gairloch. Between Gairloch and Loch Ewe is the promontory called the North Point, terminating in Rudha Reidh, or Ru Ré, and between Loch Ewe and Loch Gruinard the promontory known as the Greenstone Point. The sea-board of Gairloch parish, indented by these sea lochs and skirting these large promontories, measures about one hundred miles.

Gairloch is, roughly speaking, bisected by the glen which holds Loch Maree. This renowned loch has on its north-east side a grand range of mountains "all in a row," viz., Beinn a Mhuinidh, Slioch, Beinn Lair, Meall Mheannidh, and Beinn Aridh Charr; the line of these hills is parallel with Loch Maree.

Further to the north-east is another almost parallel range of mountains, along which the boundary of the parish of Gairloch runs, in some cases including the summits. They are Beinn nan Ramh, Meallan Chuaich, Groban, Beinn Bheag, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (a spur of Sgurr Ban), Beinn Tarsuinn, A' Mhaighdean, and Beinn Tarsuinn Chaol, or Craig an Dubh Loch. There is on the north side of Meallan Chuaich a little knoll called Torran nan tighearnan, or "the lairds' knoll." Here three properties—Gairloch, Dundonnell, and an estate of the Mathesons of Ardross—meet, and the several lairds could lunch together, each sitting on his own ground.


On the south-west side of the glen of Loch Maree is a cluster of still finer mountains, viz., Beinn Eighe (or Eay), with its spurs or shoulders, Sgurr Ban, Ruadh Stac and Sail Mhor, Meall a Ghuibhais, Beinn a Chearcaill, Beinn an Eoin, Bathais (or Bus) Bheinn, and Beinn Bhreac, a spur of Beinn Alligin in Torridon. One face of Beinn Dearg is also in Gairloch, the rest of it being in Torridon. These mountains are grouped in the form of a crescent, with its convex side facing towards the centre of Loch Maree. Beinn Eighe is one extremity of the crescent, and Beinn Bhreac the other, whilst Beinn Dearg lies in the hollow of it.

There are many lochs in Gairloch smaller than Loch Maree, and many lesser hills, than those I have enumerated. The visitor will best grasp the geography of Gairloch, by remembering that the long valley beginning with Glen Dochartie, continued by Loch Maree, and concluded in Loch Ewe, cuts the parish into two parts by an almost straight line; and that of the twenty mountains of Gairloch, eight are on its north-eastern boundary, five on the north-east side of Loch Maree, and seven to the south-west of the loch. For the heights of the mountains see the table, which shews Beinn Eighe (Eay) to be the monarch of the mountains of Gairloch.

There are two considerable sea islands pertaining to the parish of Gairloch, viz., Longa, in the sea loch of Gairloch, which is now uninhabited but affords pasturage for sheep, and Isle Ewe, in Loch Ewe, which is inhabited and contains a sheep and dairy farm. There are other small islands on the sea coast; the only considerable one is Foura, on the west side of the mouth of Loch Ewe. It is the largest of the smaller islands in the sea. Other islands are mentioned in their places.

There are eighty-one considerable fresh-water lochs in the parish of Gairloch, besides a vast number of smaller sheets of water which, though locally bearing the name of loch, or lochan, are but tarns.

The lochs measuring a mile and upwards in length are:—

Loch Maree,12½
Fionn Loch,
Loch Fada,
Loch a Chroisg (Loch Rosque; one end only),
Loch a Bheallaich,2  
Loch na h' Oidhche,
Loch a Bhaid Luachraich,
Loch Fada,
Loch Gharbhaig,
Loch Kernsary,1  
Loch Tollie,1  

The principal river is the Ewe, by which Loch Maree empties itself into the sea. It is barely two miles in length. There is but one bridge across it, viz., at Poolewe, where the river joins the sea. The stream which runs past Kenlochewe into Loch Maree is called the Kenlochewe river, and is the main feeder of Loch Maree, and [221]so of course also of the River Ewe. Above Kenlochewe it has three divisions, viz., the Garbh river, coming from Loch Clair, the small stream coming down Glen Dochartie, and the small river Bruachaig. The streams called the Grudidh Water and the Talladale Water, or Lungard burn, are also feeders of Loch Maree, and are sometimes termed rivers, but they are scarcely worthy of the name.

There are two small rivers that flow into Gairloch (the sea loch), viz., the Kerry and the Badachro river. The Little Gruinard river, flowing out of Fionn Loch, forms part of the boundary of the parish towards the east or north-east. The Kenlochewe and Garbh rivers, and the Ewe, the Kerry, the Badachro, and the Little Gruinard river, are all more or less salmon streams.

The most extensive wood in the parish is that of Glas Leitire, near the head of Loch Maree. Another considerable wood is at Talladale, and there are woods on most of the islands of Loch Maree. These are all natural woods, except those on one or two of the islands, one of which is called "the planted island." At Shieldaig, Kerrisdale, and Flowerdale there are woods more or less natural, but many of the fine trees about Flowerdale House have been planted. There are small natural woods about Tollie and Inveran, at the foot of Loch Maree, and at Kernsary, as well as at Loch a Druing. There is also a natural wood between Kernsary and Tournaig, called Coille Aigeascaig. The woods about Inverewe House are entirely planted. There are some natural woods on the north-east shore of Loch Maree, especially between Letterewe and Ardlair, at which latter place there are also plantations. The principal larch plantations are the one between Slatadale and Talladale, and that in Kerrisdale, both containing good poles. The old fir trees about Loch Clair and the bridge of Grudidh, as well as some particularly fine specimens of pine in the woods at Glas Leitire, are remarkable for their picturesque character, and testify to the superiority of nature's planting as compared with man's handiwork.

There are two caves in Gairloch parish, one at Cove and the other at Sand of Udrigil, used as places of meeting for public worship. There is a cave or cavern at North Erradale, described in Part IV., chap. x. There is also a fine cave at Opinan, described in the same chapter. Many other caves occur on the sea-shore and in other places. Of smaller caves, the Cave of the King's Son at Ardlair, and the Cave of Gold between Ardlair and Letterewe, are separately described in these pages.

There are several waterfalls in the parish, but they are not of the grandest type, and are only really good after a heavy downpour. There is a fine one on the crag called Bonaid Donn, overlooking the farm of Tagan, at the head of Loch Maree. This crag is a shoulder of Beinn a' Mhuinidh, and the fall is called Steall a' Mhuinidh, a name almost synonymous with that of the celebrated continental Piss-vache. In dry weather it is little more than a black stain on the face of the cliff, but in heavy rain it becomes an interesting feature in the landscape. If a strong wind be blowing, clouds of spray are driven from this fall, producing a curious effect.


There is a double cascade on the Garavaig burn, a little more than a mile west from Talladale. It received the name of the Victoria Falls on the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Talladale in 1877.

Another good fall is situated a short distance behind Letterewe House, and forms a beautiful object as seen from the deck of the steamer.

The finest falls in the parish are the falls of the Kerry, situated on the River Kerry, shortly after it leaves Loch Bad na Sgalaig. If there be any quantity of water in the little Kerry river, a series of magnificent cascades tumble down the narrow channel in a deep rocky gorge. When Sir Kenneth Mackenzie's young plantations on the hill sides here have grown, they will greatly add to the beauty of the place.

There are two small waterfalls about a mile up the private road leading east from Flowerdale House.

These are all the waterfalls in Gairloch parish worthy of separate mention, but it must be added that in heavy rain there are many fine cascades on steep hill sides, seen from the mail-car or the deck of the steamer.

The natural features thus enumerated go to make up the principal scenic beauties of this lovely country, unsurpassed, as I think, for its combinations of noble mountains, gleaming lochs, wide moorlands, rugged crags, rocky torrents, and smiling woods, all diversified from hour to hour according to the spectator's point of view, and the constant transmutations of sunshine and shade, of calm and storm. With these must be included distant peeps of the blue mountains of adjoining districts, and enchanting views from all parts of the coast over the sea, with its ever-changing hues and effects.

Chapter II.

Climate and Weather.

In the present day the subjects of climate and weather receive extraordinary attention from numbers who are in search of health.

One of our most eminent physicians has told me, that the North-West Highlands, especially those parts where mountain and sea air are combined, possess more restorative qualities for the jaded constitution than any other part of the United Kingdom, and that they surpass in this respect many favourite resorts on the continent of Europe. My own personal inquiry and experience tend to confirm this opinion. Not only is the atmosphere charged with ozone, but all nature is pure and refreshing. To the traveller who comes from busy towns where everything is defiled by smoke and filth, this region possesses a powerful charm in its absolute purity. Here thirst may be quenched at almost every burn or loch, and flowers and ferns may be plucked without the fingers of the gatherer being soiled.


But changeable weather is a frequent drawback to those who cannot wait for improvement. The rain-fall is believed to be over seventy inches in the year. The mountains are often covered with clouds. But there is some compensation; when the clouds break up and the rain is over, wonderful wreaths of mist roll about the hills and glens in mysterious beauty.

Sir George Steuart Mackenzie of Coul, in his "General Survey" (1810), has a chapter on the climate. His remarks are quite applicable to the climate of Gairloch in the present day. He says:—"Our winters are much milder than those of the continent, but our summers are colder." "In this country it cannot be said that we enjoy the season of spring until the portion of the year so denominated has passed. The heat of the months of July and August is often equal to, and sometimes more considerable than, the greatest heat experienced in England, but with more variation between day and night." "When our springs are late, we are pretty sure of our gardens containing abundance of fruit, and that the summer heat will be more uniform than usual." "During three-fourths of the year the wind blows from between the points south-west and north-west. The heaviest rains proceed from the southward of west. Snow storms most frequently come from the north-west, but the most severe ones are from the north-east. During summer the south and south-west winds are sometimes accompanied by thunder. On the whole the climate of Ross and Cromarty shires must be considered as moist, but particularly so in the western districts. The average annual temperature may be stated for the whole county at 46°. Snow falls in greatest quantity in the month of February; but severe storms are sometimes experienced at an earlier period of the winter. It has been remarked that the climate has been becoming worse for many years. I can answer for the truth of this since the year 1796; and I judge from the ripening of certain garden fruits. About that time I had ripe peaches sent to my shooting quarters from the open wall in the month of August. I have not had them well ripened since till the middle of September, sometimes later, and often not at all."

Dr Mackenzie tells us something in his delightful gossipy way of the old-fashioned summers. He says:—"What long hot summer days we used to have then compared with the present short lukewarm ones, that no sooner begin than they end disgracefully in comparison. Astronomers tell us their registers shew that the present seasons are just the same as in say 1812. What stuff and nonsense! In those happier times everybody had summer as well as winter clothing. Who dreams of such extravagance now in the north? Not a soul, at least of the male animals. Well do I remember one fine day before we migrated to the west, having gone down to the river to bathe with my brothers, and dawdling away our time, naked, making mill dams or dirt pies, on the sandy shore, when putting on my shirt finding as it were pins inside. On examination there were several water blisters on my back, needing a pin to empty them, and many days passed before they were healed up! And I imagine we [224]were all alike. Who ever hears now of such blistering sun, unless on an extra thin-skinned, toddy-filled, irritable nose? Then in our eastern garden the extensive walls were every year coated with apricot, peach, and nectarine trees, just crusted with loads of as fine and well ripened fruit as five most healthy stomach-always-empty urchins, who had the free run of the garden, could eat up as fast as they ripened, aye, afford often to pelt each other with a half-eaten peach or apricot, because a wasp had dug into it on its wall side. And where in that garden, or in my own still warmer one (Eileanach, Inverness), is a living, growing peach or nectarine wall tree now to be found? Every one dead for want of sun to ripen its wood ere winter killed it. In our garden (Conan House) was a standard filbert tree, perhaps twenty-four feet high, with a stem as thick as my body, every year bearing bushels of as fine full filberts as Mr Solomon ever exhibited in Covent Garden, till old John, ruined in mind by having a vinery put up for him about sixty feet north of the poor filbert, actually cut it down on the sly, when we were in the west, in the idea that it might possibly shade the vinery! I never saw my father (Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch) in a hurry, or passion, or heard him swear, but sure I am when he came on the site of the filbert, where it was not, a friend would have avoided listening to his even sotto-voce thoughts on that day. But old John perhaps only looked forward to the shocking seasons to come, when money could not discover a ripe common hazel nut, as has been the case for years now in our nut wood jungles, that used every year to flood the country with myriads of sacks of nuts, every one full to the bung, in cartloads at the Beauly markets, and in every town and village,—the nut crackers being a regular nuisance, paving every street and road and room with shells for months. The whole people in the country seemed to live with pockets full of nuts, their price being fabulously low. Nonsense talking of our temperature now being what it was seventy years ago! Moreover we used (I believe as a matter of duty) always to be settled in the west (Gairloch), for the summer, before the 'King's birthday,' June 4th. Is there an idea of loyalty in Britain now resembling the general adoration of King George the Third in those early times? I don't believe we really know now what was meant by the loyalty of those old days. Did the general feudal feeling of those times promote royal loyalty? Probably it did. Was it the cause of our never failing to have a huge china bowl after dinner with a pail of 'cream that wad mak a caunle o' my finger,' to wash down the first strawberries of the season on the 4th of June? Don't I remember their delicious smell in Flowerdale House, and their taste too? 'North Carolinas' the gardener called them. And now, in the same garden (but I deny the same climate utterly), no strawberry thinks it is called upon to ripen in less than a month later. 'The same temperature as seventy years ago!' What fools we must be supposed to be by the rascal astronomers! And we also always had a few Mayduke cherries to swear by on the 4th of June. Afterwards, was there ever such a mass of cherries offered, before or since, to five fruity boys, and as devoted a tutor, as in the Tigh Dige garden [225](Flowerdale), sheltered from every cold wind, and held up to the sun, by all that could be desired in woods and mountains. No, I'm sure; no one can tell me where it defied five such fruiterers and their equally busy tutor to make such an impression on the tall crowd of cherry trees in that garden. Our dear tutor told me, years after, of one thing that was a weight on his mind, viz., that having dropped one forenoon nine hundred cherry-stones from his mouth into his worm-fishing bag, he was called away, and prevented finishing his thousand in one day!"

From March to September the nights are much shorter than in more southern latitudes. In June and July night may be said to be of only two hours' duration, and in clear weather those two hours are but a subdued twilight. A description of a summer evening on Loch Maree is given by Dr MacCulloch (see Appendix D). Of course in winter the days are shorter and the nights longer than in England. In autumn and spring grand displays of the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, often relieve the darkness, frequently prognosticating tempestuous weather. Rainbows of intensest brilliance are frequently seen in Gairloch, and the weird lunar rainbow is occasionally to be observed. Strange to say fogs are almost unknown in this humid region; even with a hoar-frost there is no fog. With a south-east wind and a cloudless sky, the mountain ranges are often rendered marvellously imposing by a silvery haze, which apparently enhances their magnitude and adds mystery to their forms.

The winters are not usually severe. Whether from the action of the Gulf Stream, or owing to the presence of such large masses of water, the frosts have not, as a rule, the same intensity as in many parts further south; so that a variety of shrubs and other plants can be grown in the open air which elsewhere need protection, and many flowers and fruits are earlier than in less favoured places. Some winters have been so mild that even geraniums and calceolarias have survived unprotected in the open ground.

There is a Gaelic proverb which may be translated thus, "If spring mist should enter the meal-chest, snow will follow." The meaning is, that when mist is seen in spring, snow always falls soon after. From long observation I can vouch for the truth of this curious saying. Snow often falls during the spring months; but the heavy falls of snow are now-a-days usually in December, January, and February. They are, however, of comparatively rare occurrence.

When snow comes it gives wonderful glory to the mountains, and even frost has its peculiar charms. In the exceptionally severe winter of 1880-1, which had only once been surpassed in the experience of the oldest inhabitants, the ice displayed some of the peculiar forms described by those who have visited the Arctic circle. On the margin of Loch Maree (whose waters never wholly freeze), and especially where streams debouch into it, great hummocks of ice were formed. At the same time the brackish waters of Loch Ewe became covered with ice floes, of such extent as actually to prevent the passage of boats which had started to cross from the west side of the loch to convey persons who wished to attend sacramental services then being [226]held at Aultbea. It was the only time I ever saw the sea frozen, and this circumstance, coupled with the phenomena witnessed on the ice-bound shores of Loch Maree and the unnatural silence of nature,—whose murmuring streams were frozen dumb, and whose benumbed birds could give forth no note or song,—really seemed to transfer one to another world.

Perhaps the best spot in the parish to observe the sunsets is the Gairloch Hotel. Looking over the bay of Gairloch, no near mountains obstruct the view, and the aspect in summer and autumn is exactly right. Beyond the bay of Gairloch itself lies the Minch, and again beyond and above the Minch are the distant and seemingly transparent hills of Skye. The scene is as it were framed by the lines of hills on either side of Gairloch, and in the immediate foreground are strips of yellow sand and ridges of dark rock. None can tell, none can paint, the glories of the setting sun; words as well as pigments are powerless to adequately record the wondrous changes of the splendid colours that gleam in the sky and clouds, the subtle tints suffused over the sea and distant hills, and the marvellous glow pervading the whole of the beauteous scene!

In this mountain land too there are countless varieties of what may be called cloudscapes; the numerous summits attract and then break up the cloud masses into rough and fleecy shapes, some thick enough to obstruct the light, others edged by silvery gleams, and others again brilliant with the sun shining through them,—the whole exhibiting wonderful examples of aerial chaos. These broken clouds are most usually seen in mountain lands; they are quite different from the wreaths of mist previously spoken of.

Some reference ought to be made here to the colouring of the landscape. Towards the end of winter, when frosts and snows are done with, much of the heather assumes an indefinable grey tint, and the bent-grass becomes a sandy brown. The leafless trees make one thankful for the firs and hollies with their grateful greens. The larches are the first deciduous trees to give signs of the coming spring. About the "Day of Our Lady" they appear tinged with pale green, and in April the birches usually follow. By the latter part of May all nature has revived, and most of the trees are in full leaf. The grasses and ferns become brilliant in June, and the heather is then making a rapid new growth of lovely velvety shades of colour. From this time until August the hillsides and moorlands present exquisite phases of green and russet colouring, on which the eye rests with unwearying pleasure. The artist, who generally visits the Highlands in the autumn, seldom attempts to depict these summer effects. He more usually represents the splendid tints of August and September, when the heather is of every shade of lilac and purple; when the brackens, broken by winds, are gorgeous with reds, yellows, and rich browns; and when the bent-grass is magnificent with its radiant orange hues. The declining year brings fresh glories; all these colours are now modified and chastened; the rowan trees grow scarlet, the weeping birches become like fountains of gold, and the oaks a brilliant brown. Even in winter there are beautiful [227]effects of paler colours; indeed it is true that there is no season when the landscape does not delight the eye.

I have long known and loved this country. I have seen it and been charmed by it in every kind of weather and at every season of the year, and I have found an ever new delight in its grand yet lovely scenery. You, my reader, may not have the same opportunity of prolonged observation, and you may not become possessed of my intense affection for this region, yet if you linger here awhile, and go about with eyes and heart open to impressions of beauty and joy, you will soon freely admit that these descriptions are not mere rhapsody.

Chapter III.

Anecdotes and Notes.

The loneliness and wildness of most parts of Gairloch are of course highly favourable to the presence and observation of some of the rarer British birds and animals.

The list of Gairloch birds given further on reveals a curious fact, viz., that several kinds, such as the house-sparrow, bullfinch, blackbird, and red-shank, formerly unknown or rare in Gairloch, are now plentiful; whilst other birds, including the house-martin, skylark, and whimbrel, formerly abundant, are now scarce. No local causes for these changes can be suggested. There is no wholesale destruction of the smaller birds here as in France. What then can be the reason?

Dr Mackenzie has some interesting remarks on this point. Speaking of his young days (1815-1820) he writes as follows:—

"Now, gentle reader, please explain why, till we were men, no blackbird was ever heard of in Gairloch,—only heaps of ring-ouzels; not a sparrow nor a magpie (except one unfortunate who was shot, and report says cooked as game, at Kerrysdale, and pronounced excellent), no rooks nor wood-pigeons, tho' plenty blue-rocks, and for many years now these then strangers have found their way to the west. Indeed blackbirds are now in crowds there, and have so entirely superseded the ring-ouzel that one of these is quite a rarity. And please explain also why not only

'When I was young and was werry little,
The only steam came from the kettle,'

but why then no bird ever touched any fruit but cherries, while now no fruit, ripe or unripe, except black currants, is safe unless netted; the very pears, not full grown, being all pecked full of holes (or their mere skeletons hanging on the tree) by the blackbird pests, who, one might suppose, would die on the spot but for fruit that long ago not one of them would touch. Till three years ago I never dreamed of netting my morello cherry-trees. No blackbird till then would look at a morello, had I offered him £5. Now, [228]unless netted, I need to use them before they are really ripe, or the black villains will eat them all up.

"When I was young house-swallows were legion. Now they are easily counted in the north. In our western church (Gairloch) then broken window-panes were too plenty, and the swallows' operations (building, feeding, and other arrangements), to the discomfort of those in the pews below the nests, I suppose I should admit interested us a good deal more than the preacher. Night-jars also then were very plenty, and one could hardly take an evening walk without seeing them flit in the dusk and light on the footpath before us, with their singular cat-purring song. I have often come on their extra-simple exposed nest in the heather."

The golden or black eagle may frequently be seen in Gairloch, soaring aloft in the sky. There is a general inclination now to preserve this noble denizen of the air. The eagle does comparatively little injury to game, but is accused of killing lambs and even sheep. The golden or black eagle is a size smaller than the erne or white-tailed eagle, which latter is also sometimes seen in Gairloch.

There are several Gairloch anecdotes of eagles. On the edge of the wood at the base of Craig Tollie an eagle pounced upon a roe-deer, and deeply fixed its talons in the poor beast's side. The roe taking to the wood, was near crushing the eagle against the trees. The eagle clutched at a branch with the claws of one foot, still keeping its hold of the roe with the other foot, but the speed of the roe was so great that the bird was actually torn in two. One portion was found fixed to the deer, which died from loss of blood, and the other in the tree.

Doubts have been thrown on the credibility of this anecdote; the following extract from "Martin's Western Islands of Scotland" helps to confirm it. Writing about 1695, Martin says:—"The eagles are very destructive to the fawns and lambs, especially the black eagle, which is of a lesser size than the other. The natives observe that it fixes its talons between the deer's horns, and beats its wings constantly about its eyes, which puts the deer to run continually till it fall into a ditch, or over a precipice, where it dies, and so becomes a prey to the cunning hunter. There are at the same time several other eagles of this kind which fly on both sides of the deer, which fright it extremely, and contribute much to its more sudden destruction. The foresters, and several of the natives, assured me that they had seen both sorts of the eagles kill deer in this manner."

In further confirmation the following paragraph is quoted from "Natural History Notes from Russian Asia," by A. H. M., which appeared in the Field of 27th October 1883:—

"The Kirghiz train the grey hawks to catch larks and quails, and showed me an eagle I could not recognise, assuring me they could train it to fly at wolves. This bird was a long way off, but it looked to me like the golden eagle. I was told that, after being kept without sleep or food for nine days, this bird became quite tame, and would feed from the hand of the man who had trained it during this period. A strap of stout leather is fastened round each leg, allowing [229]some ten inches play. When the wolf is sighted the eagle is flown, and, as soon as it seizes him, it plants one foot firmly in the wolf's loins, and with the other drags along the ground, catching at anything that gives a little hold,—stones, weeds, &c. Should the wolf turn, the eagle drives at his eyes with its powerful beak, and, the heavy drag on his back causing him to go slowly, the falconer rides up and settles him with blows from a heavy whip, or with a knife. This is something like hawking. My driver swore, by all that was holy, that he himself had killed many wolves with these 'birghuts,' or small eagles."

The method employed by the eagle of the Kirghiz in dealing with wolves, appears to be exactly on all fours with that of the eagle attacking the roe on Craig Tollie.

Mr H. E. Dresser, F.L.S., F.Z.S., &c., author of "The Birds of Europe," informs me he is sure he has been told that trained eagles are sometimes breeched, to prevent their being torn asunder. The strap employed by the Kirghiz seems to be an example of this. Mr Dresser states that Atkinson ("Oriental and Western Siberia," pp. 492-494) gives an account of trained golden eagles being flown at deer; and M. V. Scully relates ("Stray Feathers," iv., p. 123) that he has seen many such trained eagles, and he adds that in a wild state they prey on stags, antelopes, wild-cats, foxes, and wolves. Surely the fate of the unbreeched eagle of Craig Tollie is not improbable!

The next anecdote is of an eagle near Kenlochewe. This injudicious bird carried off a cat to feed its two young at its eyrie,—probably on Meall a' Ghubhais. The cat was alive and well when deposited in the eagle's nest. Pussy made short work of the two young eagles, and returned home safe and sound.

The incident is traditional, not only in Gairloch, but also in the neighbouring districts. I understand that in Assynt and Kintail, as well as in Gairloch, the following Gaelic riddle is often asked, the answer being this very anecdote. The riddle is as follows:—"Chaidh biadh do dithis go ceann Loch Maridhe dhith am biadh dithis thainig am biadh dhachidh a rhithisd." Here is a literal English translation,—"Some food went to two at the head of Loch Maree, the food ate the two, and the food came home again."

Another eagle, not long ago, at Talladale, was seen soaring above a foal, with the manifest intention of attacking it. The mare watched her foal with evident anxiety, seemingly prepared to defend her young at all hazards. The eagle, foiled in his design, took up in his talons a part of a tree stump, and let it fall, apparently in the hope that it would strike and kill the foal.

Dr Mackenzie has the following note of a good bag of eagles made in Gairloch in the early part of the present century. He says:—"Our game-killer, Watson, had a good day once with eagles, producing three splendid birds from a day's shooting, besides two young birds also killed. A pair nested on the west side of Bus Bheinn, and another pair on its east side, both out of reach, even by rope, although the nests were visible from tops about eighty to one hundred yards away. Watson, by daybreak, was on the top of Bus [230]Bheinn, with swan shot in one barrel and a ball in the other. Peering over the rock, away sailed one of the eagles, but the swan shot dropped him in the heather below the rock. Another eagle at the nest at the other side of the hill came to the same end. Then hiding himself among the rocks, near where a wounded eagle flapped his wings, a third eagle, coming to see what this meant, was invited down by a shot, making a brace and a half of old eagles before breakfast! Then to shorten matters with the two chicken eagles, he climbed the hill again, and ere his bullets were all used up, both of them were dead, and their remains were visible on the nests for many a year after, having got more lead to breakfast than they could digest. I wait to hear of the gunner in Britain who could shew his two and a half brace of eagles killed in one day, before breakfast!"

The most numerous and noticeable birds about Loch Maree in the months of May, June, and July, are the black-backed gulls. They fly with great speed and apparently little effort. I have often endeavoured, watch in hand, to estimate the velocity of their flight, and I have come to the conclusion that in a calm atmosphere, or with a favourable breeze, they attain the speed of a quick train, viz., nearly fifty miles an hour. They breed on the islands of Loch Maree, and appear to have almost displaced the herring gulls, which used to be pretty numerous on the islands. Very few gulls now breed on Eilean Ruaridh Mor, though it seems from the following anecdote of Dr Mackenzie's that this island was a favourite gullery until the incident he relates occurred:—

"Some years ago it was observed that, without any visible reason, the gulls quite deserted Big Rorie's island for another at a little distance, till a shepherd, landing with his dog, found a pine-marten-cat in the island, mere skin and bone, and despatched him. How he had got to the island, half a mile from the mainland, and the water never frozen, no one could imagine; but though he may have lived well for a time on the gulls, there being nothing else to feed him on the island, unless a chance grouse or a roe, he soon made a desert of it, and would have died of hunger but for the collie who ended him."

Gairloch is not without examples of very rare birds, but those usually seen, though rare in many parts of the kingdom, are mostly the common birds of the Highlands. They are interesting enough to all,—to the lover of nature they are delightful; let the gunner spare them; let the bird-nester allow them to rear their young in peace. In the bright spring-time there is to my mind nothing sweeter than to listen on a calm evening to the sounds of the various birds that haunt the neighbourhood of Inveran. You may hear the whirring wings of the wild ducks, goosanders, and mergansers flitting up and down the Ewe; the sand-pipers, in great numbers, piping as they hurry along the river banks; the black-cocks crooning in the adjoining fields; the cock-grouse crowing on the moors close by; the rooks cawing all around; the wood-pigeon cooing in the neighbouring woods; the herons screaming on the margin of the water; the curlews whistling their weird call not far away; the night-jar humming his prolonged trill below Craig Tollie; the corncrake uttering its creaking [231]note in the meadows and growing corn; the owl hooting from his tree or rock; the familiar cuckoo calling on all sides, near and far; a host of the smaller birds singing, chirping, and twittering around; whilst above them all the ravens croak, the grey crows screech, the sea-mews cry, and (sometimes) the wild geese gabble, high in air.

Observation of this teeming bird life has a wonderful fascination for many, and I can imagine no purer pleasure. Mr Alexander Cameron in his song about Tournaig (Part II., chap. xxiii.) notices some of the birds of Coile Aigeascaig; he must have often enjoyed their exquisite symphonies.

The insects which frequent the air are not all delightful. Some of the moths and butterflies, as well as the large dragon-flies (supposed by many to be the originals of our artificial salmon-flies), are beautiful enough. These abound more especially on the north-east side of Loch Maree, where limestone occurs. The flies that sting or bite force themselves upon our notice, and the tiny midge is the most obnoxious of them all. Wasps are rather plentiful in some seasons, but the midges are always in swarms on warm calm evenings from July to October. Even royalty can claim no immunity from their attacks! Her Majesty the Queen notes in the diary of her visit to Loch Maree, "the midges are dreadful, and you cannot stand for a moment without being stung;" and again, "there is a perfect plague of wasps, and we are obliged to have gauze nailed down to keep these insects out when the windows are open, which, as the climate is so hot, they have to be constantly."

A visitor to one of the hotels recorded his opinion of the midges thus:—

"I love Maree's soft rippling waves;
I love her mountain ridges;
I love her silver birken trees,—
But I detest her midges!"

It is a curious fact that prolonged residence in the country seems to render one slightly less liable to the attacks of these minute pests; but when they swarm on a calm evening in September, every one must give in, and cease all stationary occupation out of doors. Many different washes for the skin, aromatic and otherwise, are recommended, and some persons wear veils; but preventive measures are never wholly successful, and it is best to retreat before the little aggravating foe. How dreadful must have been the sufferings of the Rev. John Morrison, minister of Gairloch, when stripped naked, tied to a tree, and exposed to the attacks of the midges, at Letterewe, as related in Part I., chap. xvi.! With some people each particular midge bite inflames, and produces a small lump like a pea under the skin. Total abstinence for the time from alcohol, or at least from whisky, will generally mitigate this unpleasant result. If it be a midgy evening, choose if possible an exposed breezy road for your stroll, and you will escape the creatures. Fishing is out of the question if it be so calm that the midges are bad.

The stone-flies, gad-flies, or horse-flies, are very troublesome at times, but can easily be dealt with.


The large caterpillar which is the larva of the fox-moth, is very abundant on the heather in the shooting season.

The beasts of the earth next claim our attention. Except deer, hares, rabbits, and (on calm evenings) a few bats near woods or houses, few of these beasts come under the observation of the ordinary visitor to Gairloch. Some indeed of the beasts which are considered vermin, such as badgers, otters, marten-cats, and polecats, are now nearly extinct; great raids were made upon the two former some years ago for the sake of their heads and skins, which were and still are much used for sporans to wear with the kilt.

With respect to martens, Dr Mackenzie says:—"Martens have so fine a fur, that I remember a lady friend going into a London furrier's shop with a boa made of martens' skins, trapped by our gamekeeper, and which the furrier would insist was sable fur! I once shot a marten entangled in a net spread over a magnum bonum tree on the Flowerdale garden wall, the gardener being provoked by finding many plumstones on the top of the wall, and blaming jackdaws for the theft, while the marten was evidently the thief, his caggie on dissection being well packed with magnums!"

There are plenty of wild-cats in Gairloch, but the majority of them are domestic cats gone wild, and their offspring. Occasionally specimens of the true wild-cat are trapped. Here is another anecdote of Dr Mackenzie's; it tells of a wild-cat having its young in a singular place:—

"One morning the fox-hunter's dogs picked up a scent behind the Tigh Dige (Flowerdale) garden, on charming jungly Craig a chait (rock of the cat), that carried them away over the hills for about five miles to the side of Loch Tollie, where they lost scent opposite to a mite of an island, all covered with bushes, about a hundred yards from the shore. No more scent being found, the dog-master made up his mind it must be an old cunning fox, whose bedroom the island was. So he stripped and swam to the island, followed by his dogs; to his and probably their amazement, they were faced by a monster wild-cat, hardly yet dry from her swim, who had brought home to her six kittens a nice grouse for breakfast. They needed no more grouse after that interview. What a deal of thought pussy must have had ere she could make up her mind to constant swimming in Loch Tollie till her kittens could leave the island, as her only chance of saving them from the detested fox-hunter! Did she reason out the question, or was it mere instinct? Who can tell?"

The lover of the picturesque must admire the shaggy cattle of the breed now called "Highland," especially those of Mr O. H. Mackenzie of Inverewe, and of Dr Robertson of Achtercairn. The black-faced lambs are particularly bonnie when young, but visitors seldom come to Gairloch early enough to see them. Goats, mostly in a semi-wild state, are kept on some of the rocky sheep-farms; the idea is that they, being good climbers and fond of cropping the herbage in steep places, may safely consume the tender grass in spots where, if left uneaten by goats, it might tempt the "silly sheep" to destruction.

Some small horses and ponies are bred in Gairloch. A shaggy [233] pony sometimes adds to the interest of the landscape, or diversifies the appearance of a shooting party.

Chapter IV.

Lower Forms of Life.

The scientist tells us that every drop of water, fresh or salt, and every portion of the air we breathe, teems with living organisms. The phosphorescence of the sea is due to infusoria; so also is the luminosity of footprints on boggy ground. I have often noticed this last phenomenon when walking behind another man across wet moorland on a dark night, his footprints being plainly defined by a lambent glow of light. There can be little doubt but that the notion of the "will o' the wisp" had its origin in something of this kind.

A few remarks seem to be required with regard to the forms of organic life in the wide region between the birds and beasts on the one hand, and those minute organisms on the other hand.

The reptiles of Gairloch are snakes, slow-worms, lizards, frogs, and toads; the two latter common, the others rarely seen. I have not met with or heard of any adders in Gairloch. It is said that frogs and toads were formerly unknown here, as they still are in the Lews.

The only fish that live in fresh water in Gairloch are trout, pike, eels, and char. Salmon and bull-trout, sea-trout, and finnocks divide their time between fresh water and salt water. Remarks on these fish will be found in Part IV., as also some notes on salt-water fish.

There are many shells to be found in both salt and fresh water, all inhabited or recently inhabited by creatures allied to the fishy creation. The fresh-water mussel is found in most of the burns and rivers, and yields a few small pearls to those who undergo the labour of gathering, opening, and examining a vast number of shells. The promiscuous gathering of these mussels in Gairloch has almost exterminated them. Oysters, clams, and cockles have also been nearly exterminated, and are now protected, though still much poached.

The spout-fish, whose long angular shell—sometimes nine inches in length—is popularly called the razor-shell, is abundant on all sandy beaches in Gairloch. It is commonly used for bait at the spring cod fishing. It is not easily captured. The following is Dr Mackenzie's account, slightly abridged, of the mode in which the fish can be taken:—"Go to the sands at the ebb of a spring tide,—always at Gairloch between twelve and two p.m.,—armed with a small spud and fishing-basket. Walking backwards close to the edge of the sea, up flies a spout of water from an inch-wide hole in the wet sand, which instantly fills it up. Experienced spout-fish catchers in a second have the spud slanted into the sand a few inches nearer [234]themselves than where the spout-hole was seen, pushing down till something stops it. Then they carefully remove the sand above the spud, and uncover the top of the spout-fish. Do not touch the top of the shell, or you may draw blood. Scoop the sand away at the side till finger and thumb are able to grip the shell, and basket it. Take care you do not pull violently, or the shell may come up without the fish. By repeating this process you may, if skilled and fortunate, secure a nice basket of spout-fish. The fish, when properly cleared from sand, make the best of stock for a rich soup which has peculiarly nutritive qualities."

Sea anemones are abundant on the Gairloch coast. I understand there are some rare varieties. Will any reader who is knowing about these beautiful things make us a catalogue of them?

The love of flowers and plants is older than the appreciation of fine scenery, if we may judge by the poetry of bygone days. Surely the man, woman, or child who takes no pleasure in the jewels of the vegetable world is greatly to be pitied. It is sad to find how the introduction of sheep has diminished the number and variety of Gairloch flowers. Rocky places, and flat ground near the sea-shore, are commended to the wandering botanist as localities where good plants may still be found. Any person who would add to the list given further on of Gairloch plants would deserve our gratitude. The true lover of flowers will surely abstain from rooting up anything rare that may be discovered.

Besides what are commonly known as flowering plants, there are numbers of other forms of vegetable life, including the grasses, mosses, lichens, seaweeds, fresh-water weeds, and fungi. Complete lists of all these are wanted.

Of the grasses, the most noticeable is that species of bent-grass which so abounds on all the moorlands and hill sides, mingling with the heather, ferns, and flowers. It is this grass which, with its orange tinge of colour in autumn, gives to hills and moors a rich deep colour like old gold.

Of the mosses, the deer-grass, or stag's-horn moss, which is the badge of the Mackenzie clan, is appropriately plentiful in some spots in this land of the Mackenzies. The club-moss, somewhat similar, is commoner. The sphagnum-moss is the most noticeable of all; it forms in some places enormous lumps. I have measured a few lumps four to five feet high, and with bases six to eight feet in diameter. The sphagnum-moss presents lovely colouring, varying from deep crimson and rosy red to pale primrose. The fern-moss is very abundant in and about the margins of all woods, and is easily distinguished by its beautiful little branches, so closely resembling the fronds of a fern. There must be hundreds of different species of moss in Gairloch. A Devonshire botanist told me he had identified nearly three hundred different mosses in a two days' ramble in that county. Gairloch cannot be far behind.

Lichens, though so diminutive and slow of growth, give the principal colouring to most of the rocky parts of Gairloch landscapes. Several species are still much used in Gairloch in producing red and [235]brown dyes, into which the wool is dipped before being spun and formed into hose or tweed. Lichens are a singular class of plant; sometimes they grow on rocks, sometimes on trees, sometimes on detached pieces of wood, sometimes on boggy moorland, sometimes on the bare ground, sometimes on old buildings, sometimes on loose stones, and sometimes on nothing but themselves. In Dr Lindsay's book on British lichens, it is recorded that "a curious erratic parmelia was discovered in Dorsetshire by Sir W. C. Trevelyan, lying loose on the ground, and rolling freely along before the wind." There may be similar eccentricities of nature in Gairloch.

The following are a few lichens common in Gairloch, mostly named for me by Dr C. F. Newcombe:—

Cladonia vermicularis.—The pale greenish grey, almost white, tubular lichen; growing abundantly on peaty grounds.

Cladonia pyxidata.—Also grows on the ground; has cups or stems half inch high, red inside.

Cladonia rangiferina.—Like vermicularis, but much finer; almost resembling lace.

Cladonia digitalis and extensa.—Both have stems like pyxidata; the former finer, the latter coarser, with scarlet tops.

Cladonia cervicornis.—Small antler-like pale greenish grey or white lichen; growing on the ground.

Lecidea geographica.—Bright green and black growth on rocks, scarcely perceptible to the touch; named from the resemblance to a map.

Lecidea ferruginea.—A bright rust-coloured stain on rocks.

Lecidea sulphurea.—A sulphur-coloured stain on rocks.

Stereocaulon paschale.—Pale greenish grey in colour; growing one and a half inch high on rocks.

Lecanora tartarea subfusca and parella.—Grows on rocks; one-eighth of an inch thick; pale green, with dark crimson or blackish spots; the "cudbear" lichen, gathered in the Highlands and largely exported in the early part of this century for producing purple and crimson dyes.

Parmelia saxatilis.—Grey and black with brown spots; much used in making a brown or brownish-red dye or crottle.

Parmelia parietina.—Bright orange; flat growth on old trees and on rocks, especially on the sea-shore; very noticeable and beautiful.

Sticta pulmonaria.—On trees, standing out an inch or two in scales; pale green on surface, brown underneath.

Parmelia herbacea.—Like the last, but greyer; it grows on the ground.

Peltidea canina.—Resembles the two last, but coarser.

Gyrophora erosa.—On rocks, like a soft black button; up to two inches in diameter.

Cornicularia prolixa and cana.—Pendent from trees; brownish.

Seaweeds grow profusely on Gairloch shores; they are largely used as manure, and were formerly the source whence kelp was obtained. Some of the kinds growing in deep water are of brilliant [236]colour; specimens of these, detached by storms, may often be collected on the beach, and when pressed are highly decorative. Fresh-water weeds are not so various, but both classes are well worthy of study.

The fungi of Gairloch include several edible species. Whether edible or poisonous many of them are very beautiful. There are brilliant scarlet fungi with orange or white spots; others are purple, yellow, chestnut-brown, green, pale lilac, cream-coloured, or white. The following are a few Gairloch species, mostly identified for me by Mr A. S. Bicknell, a skilled fungologist and daring fungus eater:—

Agaricus laccatus.—Purple.

Hydnum repandum.—Buff fungus, without gills; edible.

Cantharellus cibarius.—Yellow; edible; the "chantarelle."

Hygrophorus pumicens.—Red, with orange gills; poisonous.

Russula heterophylla.—White; top variable in colour; edible.

Amanita muscaria.—Red; poisonous.

Agaricus muscarius.—Crimson; spotted; poisonous.

Agaricus phalloides.—White, with pale yellow or green top; poisonous.

Boletus edulis.—Umber; white flesh; edible.

Agaricus campestris.—The common mushroom; edible; only abundant here at rare intervals.

Lycoperdon giganteum.—White; the "puff-ball"; edible.

Agaricus semiglobatus.—Yellowish; poisonous.

Russula fœtens.—Reddish brown; poisonous.

There are many other fungi and toadstools to be met with in Gairloch, even by the wayside; they need identification.

These are all my notes on these branches of nature. Of course many forms of life have been scarcely alluded to; it is even difficult, if not impossible, for the scientist to define where organised life ceases. The farther research is carried, the more marvels it reveals. Have we not here plain indications of the work and design of the Divine Being, either direct or through the medium of some law of evolution? It may be commonplace, but it is none the less rational, to believe that for our enjoyment of nature we are indebted to a benign Providence.

"Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy work."

Chapter V.

Mammals of Gairloch.

The mammals found in the parish of Gairloch are, or have been, as numerous as in any other part of the kingdom. The following list has been prepared with the assistance of Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie of Inverewe, and is believed to be complete. I have added an account of the Arctic fox trapped on the North Point in [237]January 1878, and of some other captures of the same animal in the Highlands, but of course this cannot be called a native species. Tradition says that the mountains of Gairloch were formerly the haunt of numerous wolves, bears, elk, and reindeer; and there is no doubt these animals were abundant in the Highlands in the old days.

Red-Deer (Cervus ellaphus).—The wild red-deer is abundant on the mountains of Gairloch, and is the subject of the sport of deer-stalking, treated of in Part IV., chap. xx., where some information is given regarding this animal. Its horns have been found deep in peat bogs, where they had probably lain many centuries, for in one case an antler was found close to the bronze spear head described in Part I., chap. xxi., in a peat bog half-way between Tournaig and Inverewe, and the spear head could not have been in use since remote times. There are few finer spectacles than a herd of red-deer. In severe weather, in winter or early spring, this sight may often fall to the lot of the traveller on the shores of Loch Maree, without leaving the high-road.

Roe-Deer (Capreolus capræa).—This pretty little deer is not so numerous as it used to be in Gairloch, but I have often seen individuals not far from the high-road near Slatadale, and there are always a few about Flowerdale and Shieldaig. They frequent woods and adjoining moorland. Very few are now shot by sportsmen. They are a delicate little creature, and sometimes die in a hard winter. I have seen specimens lying dead by the roadside, passing through the Glas Leitire woods. Possibly the increase of rabbits has tended to reduce the number of roe-deer, by diminishing their food supply.

Fox (Vulpes vulgaris).—The common fox is very abundant in Gairloch, but is kept down by the keepers on account of the destruction it wreaks on all kinds of ground and winged game. The fox also kills many lambs, and sometimes, though rarely, full-grown sheep. It has even been known to kill the calves of red-deer when very young. The foxes here have their earths or dens mostly in cairns of rocks and stones. The keepers will watch one of these dens all night in order to destroy or capture the old and young foxes. Any that are taken alive (and these are most usually the young ones) are sent to England to be turned out by masters of fox-hounds, who generally pay ten shillings a piece for them.

Badger (Meles taxus).—The badger is now nearly extinct in Gairloch, but is still occasionally met with. Mr John Munro, gamekeeper on the North Point, told me that one was trapped in Garbh Coire, near Loch Bad na Sgalaig, in 1874. The badger lives on worms, honey, eggs, and carrion, but its staple food is grass. It does little harm to game, unless it destroys a few eggs of grouse. It frequents cairns of stones like the fox.

Otter (Lutra vulgaris).—The otter was formerly very plentiful, and is still frequently met with in cairns on the sea-coast of Gairloch and Loch Ewe and of the island of Longa, but it is not so abundant as it used to be. When the people found how valuable the skins [238]were they captured all they could. The skins, like those of the badger, are much used in making sporans (purses), to be worn with the kilt. The head is usually mounted as the over-lap of the sporan. Two young otters were taken in Fionn Loch in 1881, and were sent to the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, London. The otter lives exclusively on fish.

Wild-Cat (Felis catus).—The wild-cat is frequently trapped by the gamekeepers in cairns of rock. It destroys great quantities of game. The wild-cat is shorter in the legs than the domestic cat. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has killed a true wild-cat measuring forty-three inches in length. The wild-cat is about twice the weight of the domestic cat. Many domestic cats become wild, and adopt the habits of the wild-cat, and some persons take them for wild-cats. There are also crosses between the two.

Marten-Cat (Martes abietum, or foina).—The marten is now scarce in Gairloch. One was trapped in Gairloch in 1877. An old one and several young ones were killed about the same date in Torridon, on the southern confines of Gairloch. One was trapped in 1884 at Kerrysdale. It is generally found in woods or long heather, and was formerly plentiful hereabouts. Mr O. H. Mackenzie tells me that he once came upon a dead sheep at the foot of a steep place, down which it had evidently rolled; beneath the carcass he found a dead marten-cat. He believed it had attacked and killed the sheep, and the latter in its struggles had rolled down the hill, and unwittingly been the cause of its destroyer's death.

Polecat (Putorius fœtidus).—There are a few polecats still occasionally to be met with in Gairloch, but the beast is scarce. It used to abound in the woods. In its habits it resembles the weasel.

Weasel (Mustela vulgaris).—This well known animal is very numerous in this parish. It destroys many rabbits. I have seen it more than once in the very act of killing a rabbit.

Stoat, or Ermine (Mustela erminea).—The stoat is very numerous and has the same habits as the weasel, which it closely resembles in appearance, except that it is rather larger. The stoat generally becomes snowy white in winter, except the tip of the tail, which remains black. Numbers of them are imported into Britain from Russia in their white state, and make the ermine fur used in the royal robes.

Alpine Hare (Lepus variablis).—The Alpine hare is quite distinct from the common brown hare and the Irish hare. It is commonly called the "blue hare," but the epithet grey would be more suitable, for in colour it resembles a common rabbit. It mostly frequents the higher moorlands and the mountain sides, but is sometimes found on quite low ground. Towards the end of November its coat becomes nearly or entirely white, the change being gradually effected, so that sometimes piebald hares may be seen. In February or March the coat again assumes the grey colour. Mr John Munro is of opinion that the change to white is the result of a loss of colour, and involves no actual change of the coat. But he believes the change from the white to the original grey colour is due to a complete change of the [239]coat itself,—that in fact the old white wool of winter comes off, and is replaced by a new grey coat. In support of this view he states that he has often found quantities of the white wool on the ground at the time of the spring change, but he never found grey wool in November. The grey hare has three or even four young in a litter, and has several litters in the year. Its average weight is from four to five pounds. I have seen several which weighed seven pounds, but this is a very uncommon weight. They feed on grass and heather, and even on lichens and mosses. Their white colour makes them an easy mark for the gunner when there is no snow on the ground. Some thirty years ago this hare was almost unknown in Gairloch. Now it is very abundant, though perhaps less so than a few years back.

Brown Hare (Lepus timidus).—The common brown hare was very numerous in Gairloch some years ago, but is now comparatively scarce. It is the same species as the English hare, and is larger and heavier than the Alpine hare. Sometimes a variety, or supposed variety, occurs, alleged to be the result of a cross between this species and the Alpine hare.

Rabbit (Lepus cuniculus).—The common rabbit was quite unknown in Gairloch parish until about the year 1850, when it was introduced at Letterewe. It did not become general for many years after, but is now common almost everywhere. Occasionally black or white individuals are met with, probably descended from tame rabbits let loose.

Brown Rat (Mus decumanus).—This obnoxious creature swarms everywhere. They arrived in this country about 1860. It is said they had been known before for a short time, but had disappeared.

Black Rat (Mus rattus).—The old black rat is very scarce. Mr John Munro tells me that he has seen it near a bothie on a mountain in Gairloch. It is not such an objectionable beast as the brown rat.

Mouse (Mus musculus).—The common mouse is very abundant everywhere.

Water Rat, or Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius).—Mr O. H. Mackenzie says this rat is not uncommon, though rarely seen.

Long-Tailed Field-Mouse (Mus sylvaticus).—This creature, which is not a vole but a veritable mouse, is found about gardens in Gairloch, where it eats the bulbs of the crocus, tulip, &c. Mr O. H. Mackenzie tells me that he has actually found this mouse (February 1885) inside the house at Tournaig eating fruit on the shelves.

Short-tailed Field-Mouse (Arvicola agrestis).—It is common enough, and is found in corn-fields.

Shrew (Corsira vulgaris).—The common shrew-mouse is quite common. Cats will not eat them. The shrew lives on worms.

Water-Shrew (Crossopus fodiens).—The pretty little black water-shrew is not often seen. Mr O. H. Mackenzie gave me a specimen on 13th October 1885.

Mole (Talpa Europæa).—The mole is now very abundant, but was quite unknown in Gairloch twenty years ago, and no one can tell how it came here. No doubt the mole does good, but it is very annoying [240]to see a newly-sown patch of vegetables or flower-seeds destroyed all along the top of the underground path of the mole.

Bat (Pleiotus communis).—The common bat is frequent. Only the common small kind is found in Gairloch. It is seen near woods and houses on calm evenings.

Seal (Phoca vitulina).—The common seal is often noticed in Gairloch and Loch Ewe, especially near the mouths of streams. They do not breed here.

Porpoise (Phocœna communis).—The porpoise is not uncommon in the sea lochs of Gairloch. I have known one approach close to Poolewe, at the head of Loch Ewe, no doubt attracted by shoals of herring which were then in the loch.

Whale, Shark, and Grampus.—Occasionally a whale, shark, or grampus is observed off the coast of Gairloch.

Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus).—On 30th January 1878 an Arctic fox was trapped by Mr John Munro, on the edge of a very small sheet of water at the back of the Bac an Leth-Choin, on the North Point, about two miles from Rudha Reidh. The remains of several hares had previously been found with the head and neck eaten off to the shoulders. This fox was a female, and quite white, and its shape was unmistakeably that of the true Arctic fox. It was set up by Mr W. A. M'Leay, of Inverness, and is now in the possession of Mr S. W. Clowes of Norbury, Derbyshire, who has for many years been a shooting tenant on the Gairloch estate. It is impossible to determine how this animal, which does not belong to the British isles, had found its way to the North Point. The following occurrences of the Arctic fox in the Highlands were narrated to me by Mr M'Leay, of Inverness:—

An old Gairloch shepherd, who had been a foxhunter in his younger days, shot an Arctic fox, about 1848, while on a pass before the hounds on the heights of Monar. There never was a fox known in that district which made such fearful havoc amongst lambs.

About 1871 an Arctic fox was sent to Mr M'Leay for preservation, for Lord Abinger. Mr M'Leay inserted a descriptive paragraph in the local newspapers. In the course of a few days he had a letter from a gentleman in Peterhead, asking particularly about it, and saying that an Arctic fox had been given him by the master of a Greenland whaler, which he had kept chained in his yard for upwards of a year; that six weeks before it had managed to escape, and though he had advertised offering a good reward for its recovery, no trace could be got of it. From Mr M'Leay's description he had no doubt it was his fox. How it had managed to elude all the keepers, guns, traps, and snares between Peterhead and Fort-William, a distance of about two hundred miles, was very strange.

Another Arctic fox was shot at Inverness on 14th February 1878, within three weeks of the capture of the Gairloch specimen. Mr Findlay, superintendent of Tomnahurich, observed the fox in the cemetery, and chase being given it was driven down towards the Infirmary. After an exciting run, the animal was shot in the field at the back of Tomnahurich Street.

[241]I cannot but suppose that the Arctic foxes of Gairloch and Inverness, killed so near the same date, had a common origin, but nothing positive is known of their previous history.

Chapter VI.

Birds of Gairloch.

In compiling the following list and notes I have had the valuable aid of Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie of Inverewe, who is a life-long ornithologist and observer of nature. He has spent more of his life in his native country than perhaps any other Highland gentleman now alive. He has very rarely been absent even in winter. He allows me to say that he is mainly responsible for this list. It includes more than one hundred and fifty species, or supposed species. Our effort has been to make the notes absolutely accurate, but nesting-places are generally not stated for obvious reasons. It is earnestly hoped that the information contained in this chapter will not be made use of by visitors to enable them to disturb, destroy, or rob any of the interesting birds of Gairloch.

Mr J. A. Harvie Brown, of Dunipace, has kindly placed at my service a list of birds observed by him in the spring and early summer of 1884 at Aultbea in Gairloch, at Priest Island off the north-east corner of Gairloch parish, and at Gruinard on its northern boundary; and this list is referred to in several cases.

The order and scientific nomenclature are the same as adopted in the revised edition of "Yarrell's British Birds," by Newton and Saunders.

Golden Eagle, or Black Eagle (Aquila chrysaetus).—This noble bird, which is slightly smaller than the erne, is not uncommon in Gairloch. I have seen a pair hovering near the head of Loch Maree, and I have frequently noticed single birds soaring high in air. One Sunday afternoon I saw an eagle mobbed by curlews within half-a-mile of Inveran. It nests in the parish, always on ledges of precipitous rocks. There is an eyrie on Meall a Ghuibhais. For anecdotes of the golden eagle see Part III., chap iii. One was trapped on the Inverewe ground, in February 1885, by Mr John Matheson, who has been gamekeeper at Inverewe nearly twenty years.

White-tailed, or Sea Eagle, or Erne (Haliæetus albicilla).—Occasionally occurs. A pair formerly nested annually in Eilean na h' Iolair (Eagle Isle), on Fionn Loch. In 1850 there was a nest on Beinn Aridh Charr. A fine specimen, trapped on Bathais [Bus] Bheinn, in 1879, is in the collection at Inveran.

Osprey, or Fishing Eagle (Pandion haliæetus).—This now rare and very interesting bird, called by the natives "Allan the fisherman," or "the fisherman," is occasionally seen. One was observed in Gairloch, about 1880, by Mr John Munro. It is not now known [242]to nest in the parish. There were formerly three nesting-places in Gairloch,—(1) in Eilean Suainne, in Loch Maree, on a point nearly opposite Isle Maree; (2) on a fir-tree on a small island in a loch on Eilean Suainne; and (3) on a stack or insulated rock in a small loch called Loch an Iasgair (the loch of "the fisherman"), near the Little Gruinard River. The last nest in any of these places was about 1852; an osprey was shot from the garden at Inveran in that year. I have been told of other nesting-places in Gairloch by old men, who say the osprey used to be abundant in the parish.

Peregrine-Falcon (Falco peregrinus).—The peregrine is abundant in Gairloch. During the spring of 1884 Mr John Munro, who has been gamekeeper on the North Point since 1865, and is a noted trapper of vermin, trapped no fewer than eight peregrines on the North Point, besides what were trapped during the same spring by other keepers in the parish. There are several nesting-places in Gairloch, all on ledges on the faces of rocky precipices. If one of a pair preparing to nest be killed, another bird takes its place within a few days, and even where both birds have been destroyed another pair has been known to occupy their nest in a very short time. Though mostly keeping out of gunshot, the peregrine is sometimes very bold. For instance, in 1883, one swooped at a hen close to a house in Londubh; it missed its mark, and, unintentionally no doubt, took a header into a wash-tub, whence it was taken alive. The peregrine destroys more grouse than any other winged vermin; it is believed that each bird kills at least one grouse for its own sustenance every day, and when they have their young, a pair of them have been known to kill five grouse in one day, so that it has been truly said that the bag made by each peregrine is at the least equal to that of one gun on a moor.

Merlin (Falco æsalon).—This pretty little hawk is very common, and its nests are often taken. It usually nests in long heather on a steep hillside.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).—This universal hawk is as common in Gairloch as elsewhere. It builds mostly on rocks. It occasionally kills young grouse, and takes them to its nest. Mr John Munro has actually shot kestrels whilst carrying young grouse in their claws to their young. Mr Harvie Brown has observed similar freaks on the part of the kestrel, but he does not think the defect is generically constitutional.

Sparrow-Hawk (Accipiter nisus).—The sparrow-hawk is common. It nests in trees. I have seen several nests. The female sparrow-hawk resembles the male peregrine both in size and plumage. In all birds of prey the female is larger than the male, whilst in other birds the reverse is usually the case. The sparrow-hawk kills young grouse, and has been seen by Mr John Munro pecking at an old grouse which was still warm, and had probably been killed by it.

Kite, or Glead (Milvus ictinus).—Was formerly common in Gairloch, but has not been observed for many years. Strychnine was on one occasion put into the dead body of a horse, and the result was that a large number of kites were (intentionally) poisoned. [243]This would be about 1825; kites were then very numerous here, and even destroyed poultry. The Gaelic name is Clabhan gobhlach nan cearc, or "fork [tailed] buzzard of the hens."

Buzzard (Buteo vulgaris).—This bird, which closely resembles the golden eagle, but is much smaller, is common, but seldom breeds in Gairloch. It used to nest in Craig Tollie. It is not so destructive to game as some of the lesser hawks.

Hen-Harrier (Circus cyaneus).—This hawk is tolerably common, but is not known to nest in Gairloch. When out grouse shooting one day I saw a hen-harrier strike and kill a grouse just beyond gunshot. I gathered the grouse, but the harrier escaped.

Tawny Owl, or Brown Owl (Strix aluco).—This owl is common, and breeds in Gairloch. They seem to frequent woods and rocks, and at night their loud wailing hoot or howl is often heard. I believe they are harmless as regards game.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus).—This bird occurs, but is not common. It is a migrant, and does not breed here.

Short-eared Owl (Asio accipitrinus).—This owl is not uncommon in Gairloch. It is a migrant, and comes with the woodcock. It is not known to breed in Gairloch. Mr O. H. Mackenzie once shot five over setters in the Isle of Ewe in the month of November.

White Owl, or Barn Owl (Aluco flammeus).—This owl is also common, and here generally nests in cracks in rocks.

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa grisola).—Common. It nests near houses. I have seen its nest at Inveran (1885). Both Mr O. H. Mackenzie and Mr Harvie Brown have noticed several pairs in Gairloch parish.

Golden Oriole (Oriolus galbula).—This splendid bird is very rare here. Mr O. H. Mackenzie, and a friend with him, saw one at Coile Aigeascaig on 25th May 1884. One was shot in the garden at Mungasdale (the farm of Gruinard) about 1870. This place is within three miles of the northern boundary of Gairloch.

Dipper, or Water Ouzel (Cinclus aquaticus).—Very common on all rivers and burns, and on the margins of lochs. It is called in Gaelic Gobha dubh an uisge, or "the water blacksmith." I have seen several of its remarkable nests behind small waterfalls, or on rocks overhanging running water. It is one of the first of the small birds to build its nest. On 31st January 1879, and on several days before and after that day, I saw an immense number of dippers on the river Ewe. I counted nearly a hundred within a length of a mile. They were of the ordinary brown-breasted kind. Two of them are in my collection, and other two (I believe) in the national collection. I can offer no explanation of this unusual gathering. It is interesting to watch this active little bird diving in running water. It is now acquitted of the charge formerly made against it of eating the ova of fish. It lives on water insects and their larvæ.

Mistletoe Thrush, or Storm-cock (Turdus viscivorus).—This bird occurs in Gairloch, though not commonly. Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw a nest in a rock at Inverewe recently. He unmistakably identified [244]the birds and the eggs. The storm-cock used to be abundant in Gairloch, and built generally in oak trees.

Song-Thrush, or Mavis (Turdus musicus).—Very common. It nests in trees, bushes, and tall heather. Mr Reid, of Isle Ewe, says that the mavis builds in walls there for lack of trees. Some years ago Mr O. H. Mackenzie killed one with a ring round its neck, such as the ring-ouzel has. This anomalous specimen may be seen at Inverewe.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus).—Common. It has been known to remain in Gairloch all summer, making it probable that it breeds here.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris).—Common. A migrant. Not known to nest here.

Blackbird (Turdus merula).—Common enough now, but it is said to have been formerly unknown in Gairloch.

Ring-Ouzel (Turdus torquatus).—Common, and, like the mavis and blackbird, very destructive to fruit. I often see a number about my cherrytrees in the garden at Inveran.

Dunnock, or Hedge-sparrow (Accentor modularis).—Common, especially near houses.

Redbreast, or Robin (Erithacus rubecula).—Common everywhere, and at all seasons.

Redstart (Ruticilla phœnicurus).—Rather common. Both Mr O. H. Mackenzie and I have often seen it, and Mr Harvie Brown noted it as seen at Gruinard in 1884.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola).—Fairly common. It nests early. Mr Harvie Brown saw it at Aultbea in 1884, more abundantly than the whinchat.

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra).—Abundant. Mr Harvie Brown noted it as "common" at Strath na Sealg in 1884, and Mr O. H. Mackenzie and I have often seen it in Gairloch.

Wheatear (Saxicola œnanthe).—Very common. It arrives about the end of March or the beginning of April, and nests mostly amongst stones.

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schœnobænus).—Occurs. Not common.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla).—This bird is not common, but occurs.

Willow Wren, or Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus).—Frequent. Mr Harvie Brown found it common at Gruinard in 1884.

Chiff Chaff (Phylloscopus collybita).—Common. Seldom seen, but often heard. It is a migrant.

Goldcrest, or Golden-crested Wren (Regulus cristatus).—Very common. I found one in the house at Inveran one evening, and have often seen flocks in the larches close by.

Wren (Troglodytes parvulus).—Common everywhere all the year round.

Creeper, or Tree-Creeper (Certhia familiaris).—The creeper is tolerably common. I have often seen it creeping or almost running up the side of the house at Inveran, pressing its tail against the wall after its manner.


Blue Titmouse, or Tom-Tit (Parus cæruleus).—Very common, but not so much seen as the coal-titmouse.

Coal-Titmouse (Parus ater).—This spry little bird is very common, and is seen at all seasons of the year; often in large flocks, frequently in company with the long-tailed titmouse.

Long-tailed Titmouse, or Bottle-Tit (Acredula caudata).—This tiny bird is abundant.

Pied Wagtail, or Water Wagtail (>Motacilla lugubris).—Very common. Like the other wagtails, it is a summer visitor; it arrives in the end of March.

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba).—This bird visits Gairloch. I have seen at least two pairs on the River Ewe in most years. An ornithological friend shot two specimens near Poolewe bridge some years ago, and identified them as being undoubtedly the white wagtail of Yarrell.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla sulphurea).—This beautiful bird is tolerably common here. On 30th July 1886 I obtained at Inveran a singular variety of this wagtail; it was a young bird in nestling feathers, but strong on the wing, of a white and fawn colour intermixed,—not an albino.

Meadow-Pipit, or Titlark (Anthus pratensis).—This is one of the commonest birds in Gairloch.

Rock-Pipit (Anthus obscurus).—The rock-pipit is frequent here. Mr Harvie Brown noted it as common at Gruinard in 1884.

Skylark, or Lavrock (Alauda arvensis).—The skylark is not common now. It used to be so, and no reason can be given for the falling off in its numbers. Mr Harvie Brown observed it at Aultbea in 1884.

Snow Bunting, or Snow Fleck (Plectrophanes nivalis).—This pretty bird is common, and is frequently seen in large flocks in winter. It is believed to breed on the higher hills, but there is no evidence that its nests have ever been found in Gairloch. Donald Fraser, the old forester at Fannich, who had been head tod-hunter to the old Duke of Sutherland, told Mr O. H. Mackenzie about thirty years ago that he had often seen the nests of the snow bunting under flags on the top of the Scuir Mor of Fannich. On the same mountain Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw (about 1858) several broods of snow buntings flitting about when deerstalking there. The young birds were in nestling plumage.

Bunting, or Common Bunting (Emberiza miliaria).—The common bunting, which is rare in some parts of Britain, is abundant in Gairloch, and is with us all the year round. I shot a cream-coloured bunting at Inverasdale some years ago; it is in my collection at Inveran.

Yellow Bunting, or Yellow-Hammer (Emberiza citrinella).—This bunting is very common; it is one of the tamest of wild birds.

Black-headed Bunting (Euspiza melanocephala).—This peculiar-looking bird is common here. I have seen their nests.

Chaffinch, or Spink (Fringilla cœlebs).—The chaffinch is perhaps the most commonly seen bird in Gairloch.


Mountain Finch, or Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla).—The brambling is rarely seen here. Mr O. H. Mackenzie once shot one out of a flock of chaffinches in Gairloch. He saw more at the time.

House-Sparrow (Passer domesticus).—The house-sparrow used to be unknown in Gairloch. It is said to have first come to the Free Manse at Aultbea or to Isle Ewe in the mail-packet from Stornoway. This was about 1852. Mr Harvie Brown noticed it at Aultbea in 1884. It is now pretty common where it can find nesting-places about houses. It often builds in trees close to houses, if it can get no better place.

Greenfinch, or Green Linnet (Coccothraustes chloris).—Common, but not known to breed.

Goldfinch (Carduelis elegans).—Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot several at Charleston many years ago. It has not been observed latterly.

Siskin, or Aberdevine (Carduelis spinus).—Not common, but sometimes seen in flocks in late autumn. It is a migrant.

Redpoll, or Lesser Redpoll (Linota rufescens).—Common. Seen in flocks.

Linnet, or Grey Lintie (Linota cannabina).—I am not positive that I have seen this bird in Gairloch parish, and Mr O. H. Mackenzie has never observed it. Mr Harvie Brown saw it in the adjoining parish of Loch Broom in 1884, and I think it only right to include it in the list of Gairloch birds.

Twite, or Heather Lintie (Linota flavirostris).—Common, especially near the sea-shore. Mr Harvie Brown noted it as seen at Aultbea in the summer of 1884.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula Europæa).—This handsome bird is quite common now, and destroys the young fruit of plum trees, and the fruit buds of gooseberry bushes, so that gardeners wage war against it. Mr O. H. Mackenzie says it was unknown in Gairloch about thirty years ago.

Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra).—Not common, but occurs. Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot three out of a large flock, in a larch tree close to the house at Inveran, about 1851.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris).—Very common in places. For want of old trees it builds in heaps of stones and old walls; and in the island of Foura, at the mouth of Loch Ewe, it uses holes in the ground for its nest, along with the stormy petrel.

Rose-coloured Starling, or Pastor (Pastor roseus).—This rare bird probably occurs here. One was shot at Torridon about 1880, so close to the southern confines of Gairloch parish as to justify my mentioning it in this list. It is in Mr Darroch's possession at Torridon; it is a beautiful specimen in mature plumage.

Chough, or Redlegged Crow (Pyrrhocorax graculus).—This bird is rare indeed. Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw one at Tournaig in the summer of 1883, the only instance he knows.

Raven (Corvus corax).—The raven is very common here, and has many favourite nesting-places, all in crags. It is the earliest bird [247]to build its nest. The raven is very voracious; it lives mostly on carrion, but destroys the eggs of grouse and other game birds.

Hooded Crow, or Grey Crow (Corvus cornix).—The hoodie is very common. It nests in trees and sometimes in rocks. It destroys many eggs of game birds. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has not observed the black or carrion crow (the kindred species) here.

Rook (Corvus frugilegus).—The rook is common, but is not so abundant as it used to be. After the breeding season all the rooks in the district gather each evening in one large flock, and roost every night from the end of October to the end of March in the fir wood on the River Ewe, a little below Inveran. During the rest of the year not one is to be seen at this place, for they are engaged elsewhere with their nests and young. There are now at least three rookeries in the parish, viz., at the burial-ground at Culinellan near Kenlochewe, at the Poolewe manse, and on the crannog or artificial island on Loch Kernsary. Formerly there was no rookery in Gairloch. The rook destroys eggs. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has caught rooks in the very act of demolishing hens' and partridges' eggs.

Daw, or Jackdaw (Corvus monedula).—The jackdaw is occasionally seen in winter, but it does not breed in Gairloch, at least not in the present day.

Pie, or Magpie (Pica rustica).—The magpie is now unknown in Gairloch, but Mr O. H. Mackenzie says that in the early part of the century, as old people tell him, numbers of magpies lived in the fir wood which then covered the knoll at the back of Srondubh house.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica).—Occurs, but is not common. I caught one in the house at Inveran on a summer evening in full plumage, with the brilliant red colour about the head.

Martin, or House-Martin (Chelidon urbica).—Is not common now, though it used to be. Within a few years I have seen several martins' nests in the windows of Poolewe church. Mr O. H. Mackenzie remembers when they nested in hundreds on the face of the "Black rock," at the east end of the range of Craig Tollie.

Sand-Martin (Cotile riparia).—Very common. Burrows its nest in almost every gravel or sand pit which has a high bank.

Swift (Cypselus apus).—Occurs occasionally, but is not numerous. It is not known to breed in Gairloch.

Night-jar (Caprimulgus Europæus).—Several pairs of the night-jar visit the parish of Gairloch annually to breed. I have many a time heard their singular note or jar, like the hum of a winnowing machine, resounding under the shade of Craig Tollie on a summer evening. Mr Harvie Brown heard and saw night-jars at Gruinard in 1884. This curious bird nests on the ground under heather. I have seen a night-jar in the garden at Inveran.

Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus).—The cuckoo arrives in great numbers near the end of April, and until the middle of June the whole country resounds with its calls. I first saw the cuckoo this year (1885) on 23rd April. I do not think it is more abundant in any other part of the kingdom. It lays its egg mostly in the nests of the meadow-pipit. In July the cuckoos take their departure, but I have [248]seen young ones as late as the middle of August. I have noticed three cuckoos at one time in my little garden at Inveran. They seem to be fond of gooseberries.

Kingfisher (Alcedo ispida).—This most brilliant of all native birds is almost unknown in Gairloch. I have never seen it here. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has seen one on the River Ewe, and one on the River Kerry; both these occurrences were some years ago.

Ring Dove, Wood-Pigeon, or Cushat (Columba palumbus).—A few wood-pigeons are here all the year round, and breed in the parish. I have seen their nests in tall trees.

Rock Dove (Columba livia).—The blue-rock is very abundant, and inhabits caves and fissures in the rocks all along the coast line of Gairloch. It is here seldom found far inland. Mr Harvie Brown, however, says that it is found inland above the head of Little Lochbroom. I have noticed several variations in its plumage, some birds being mottled, and others very pale in colour. It is the parent of, and closely resembles, the common domesticated blue pigeon. It is excellent eating.

Turtle Dove (Turtur communis).—Very rare. One was shot on the glebe at Gairloch in 1880 by Mr W. B. Mackenzie, a son of the minister of Gairloch, who brought it to me for identification. It was consorting with golden plover in a turnip field. It was a bird of the year.

Black Grouse, or Black Game (Tetrao tetrix).—Black game are fairly abundant about Gairloch, but they wander a good deal, and sometimes the sportsman is disappointed in his search for them. They are polygamous, and it is important to keep down the cocks, otherwise the black cocks may become numerous out of proportion to the grey hens. They say the best proportion is one black cock to three grey hens.

Red Grouse (Lagopus Scoticus).—The grouse is abundant on all the moorlands of Gairloch, but its numbers in any season are liable to be greatly affected by wet or cold weather at the time of hatching. Many early broods are lost, and consequently there is no lack of "cheepers" on the "Twelfth." Disease occasionally appears; it is certainly not due to over-stocking. The grouse is monogamous. The cocks generally exceed the hens in number. It is very beneficial to a moor to kill off the unmated cocks. The grouse in the Highlands are slightly smaller than those on English and Irish moors.

Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus).—Common on the mountain tops, where it breeds. It seldom visits lower regions, but one was shot on the North Point some years ago in tempestuous weather, at an elevation of not more than seven hundred feet above the sea-level; and another was shot on Isle Ewe by Mr O. H. Mackenzie, many years ago, on a top not more than a hundred feet above the sea.

Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus).—Introduced some years ago at Shieldaig, probably about 1860. It is now pretty common, and sometimes wanders away from the coverts where it has been bred.

Partridge (Perdix cinerea).—The partridge is fairly common in Gairloch, but is never very abundant, owing to wet breeding seasons and the number of rooks and domestic cats.


Red-Legged Partridge (Caccabis rufa).—Introduced some years ago, but now believed to be extinct.

Quail (Coturnix communis).—Very rare. Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot one in Isle Ewe about 1860. It may be seen at Inverewe.

Land-Rail, or Corn-Crake (Crex pratensis).—Now rather rare. It used to be very abundant in grass or corn.

Water-Rail (Rallus aquaticus).—This bird is occasionally found in Gairloch.

Moor-Hen, or Water-Hen (Gallinula chloropus).—Common. I have frequently seen it feeding with my ducks at the end of the garden at Inveran abutting on the River Ewe.

Dotterel (Eudromias morinellus).—Very rare. Donald Fraser, an old forester at Fannich, who was a keen and accurate observer of birds, told Mr O. H. Mackenzie that the dotterel formerly bred on Beinn Bheag, near Kenlochewe. It is called in Gaelic Feadag chuirn, or "cairn-plover."

Ringed Plover, or Ring Dotterel (Ægialitis hiaticula).—Abundant on all the sandy shores on the coast of Gairloch. I have seen it also on the shore of Loch Maree, at Slatadale, in the breeding season. It is called in Gaelic Tarmachan na tainne, or "the ptarmigan of the waves."

Golden Plover (Charadrius pluvialis).—Abundant, and breeds in considerable numbers on high moors.

Lapwing, Peewit, or Green Plover (Vanellus vulgaris).—Not abundant. Arrives early in February, and nests in the parish.

Turnstone (Strepsilas interpres).—A common shore bird in Gairloch. Seen in summer, but not known to build.

Oyster-Catcher, or Sea Pie (Hæmatopus ostralegus).—Very common, and breeds abundantly on island rocks in the sea, and sometimes on the mainland close to the shore. I have seen many of their nests.

Woodcock (Scolopax rusticula).—Abundant. Large flocks arrive in October and November, and a few pairs breed in the country. I have seen the little woodcocks running about in June, and have shot full-grown birds in August. I have often observed a woodcock carrying a young one in its claws. When standing in the garden at Inveran, late on a summer evening, the woodcock, with its young one borne in this manner, has frequently flown within six or eight yards of my head. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has actually seen the woodcock pick up its young one, when nearly full-grown, at his very feet, and fly off with it.

Snipe (Gallinago cælestis).—The "full snipe" is common throughout Gairloch. It breeds in the parish. I have seen nests. Numbers of snipe come in autumn from other countries.

Jack Snipe (Gallinago gallinula).—This bird is an immigrant, and arrives about the end of October. It was formerly more plentiful than it is now-a-days.

Dunlin (Tringa alpina).—This is a very abundant shore bird, and occurs in flocks on all the sandy sea-beaches. It is believed to breed on moors in Gairloch.


Purple Sandpiper (Tringa striata).—This also is common. It is seen mostly on rocks and shingle, at the very edge of the sea.

Knot (Tringa canutus).—Uncommon. Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot one on Loch nan Dailthean one autumn,—a solitary bird. It is to be seen at Inverewe.

Sanderling (Calidris arenaria).—Not common. Mr Henry A. Clowes sent me one he shot at Sand, Gairloch, 11th September 1886.

Common Sandpiper (Totanus hypoleucus).—This bird is very common in the breeding season, along the shores of all waters. Its shrill piping is almost a nuisance in the month of May. I have often found its nests, and seen its pretty chicks.

Redshank (Totanus calidris).—Fairly common, and as it is seen all the year round it is believed to breed in Gairloch. Mr O. H. Mackenzie says it was formerly very rare or unknown here.

Greenshank (Totanus canescens).—Fairly abundant. It arrives in February, and breeds on moors. I have seen one nest, and heard of others. It sits very close on the nest. It is a shore bird, except in the breeding season.

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica).—A rare winter visitant. I saw two specimens at Inverasdale in the winter of 1880-81, and a friend with me shot one. Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot a specimen near Inverewe several years before.

Curlew, or Whaup (Numenius arquata).—Common, and breeds in abundance. It nests on moorlands, and is found on or near the sea-shore all the rest of the year. Its peculiar whistle is well known, and sounds very weird, especially when heard inland on a summer evening.

Whimbrel (Numenius phæopus).—This bird, resembling a small curlew, used to be numerous in Gairloch, but, though still noticed, is becoming rarer every year. It is a migrant. Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw four or five whimbrels below the Inverewe garden in the first week of June 1886.

Arctic Tern (Sterna macrura).—This tern, which closely resembles the common tern, is abundant in Gairloch in summer. It nests on small islands in the sea, or in fresh-water lochs near the sea. The common tern has not been identified in Gairloch.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus).—This gull is not uncommon in Gairloch, and has several nesting-places on small islands in fresh-water lochs. Some specimens have the black on the head of so dull a colour, and extending so little beyond the forehead, as to closely resemble the gull figured in the books as the masked gull. The black-headed gull entirely loses the black colour on the head during winter. Sometimes the breast of the bird is of a lovely rosy pink colour, which fades after death.

Common, or Winter Gull (Larus canus).—The common gull is not nearly so common in Gairloch as the black-headed gull. It has several nesting-places on small islands in fresh-water lochs, and it sometimes lays its eggs on the neighbouring mainland.

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus).—A few pairs of herring gulls nest along with the lesser black-backed gulls on the islands of Loch Maree. It nests also on Foura, and I think in some other places in the parish of Gairloch. Numbers breed in the Shiant Isles, and a good many visit the Gairloch shores during autumn and winter.


Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus).—This voracious bird breeds in thousands on the islands of Loch Maree, and seems to be increasing in numbers. The nest is beautifully formed of moss. The eggs, which are generally three in number, but sometimes only two, and occasionally as many as four in number, are much sought after by the natives and others as articles of food; but Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, to whom the islands belong, has endeavoured to check the depredations. This bird, though called "lesser," is larger than any of the other gulls, except the herring gull and the great black-backed gull. The young are grey until they reach maturity, which is not until their second winter. Both the species of black-backed gulls destroy many eggs of game birds.

Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus).—This noble but predacious bird is frequently seen in Gairloch. It does not associate with other birds, or even with other pairs of its own species. A few pairs nest on islands on Loch Maree and other fresh-water lochs, and I believe it occasionally nests also on stacks in the sea close to the mainland. It is commonly charged, as is also its lesser congener, with being guilty, like the raven, of killing sheep and lambs, beginning the process of murder by blinding its victims.

Glaucous Gull (Larus glaucus).—Mr O. H. Mackenzie has occasionally observed this gull in the parish of Gairloch.

Iceland Gull (Larus leucopterus).—This pale-coloured gull is occasionally seen in the parish. I have identified a specimen shot by Mr John Matheson.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla).—This graceful gull is common on our coasts. It breeds in great numbers at the Shiant Isles, on ledges of high rocks above the sea. On my visit to these islands a shot was fired, when a vast crowd of birds filled the air, and there were innumerable cries of "kittiwake, kittiwake," pronounced as distinctly as if spoken by the human voice.

Great Skua (Stercorarius catarrhactes).—The great, or common skua is rarely seen in Gairloch, but may be occasionally observed attending on parties of gulls, whom it robs of the fish they catch.

Arctic, or Richardson's Skua (Stercorarius crepidatus).—This skua occasionally occurs in Gairloch, but is not abundant. One stormy day in late autumn I observed several about the head of Loch Ewe.

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus anglorum).—Mr O. H. Mackenzie has occasionally seen this bird on Gairloch waters.

Storm Petrel (Procellaria pelagica).—This tiny sea bird, which makes its home on the ocean waves, is seldom seen in Gairloch. I have observed a small party at the mouth of Loch Ewe. They used to breed on the islands of Longa and Foura, at the extremities of long burrows in grassy slopes, and probably do so still. A specimen was recently brought to me which had been found dead on the roadside between Gairloch and Poolewe. It was in stormy weather.

Razor-bill, or Auk (Alca torda).—This bird is seen in Gairloch and Loch Ewe often along with the guillemots and puffins, and I [252]think it is more abundant than either. It nests in the Shiant Isles, and, like the common guillemot, lays its single egg on ledges on the face of cliffs. Mr Harvie Brown saw a very few pairs in a crevice on the east shore of Priest Island, on 4th July 1884.

Guillemot (Uria troile).—This sea bird frequents the coast of Gairloch. It has no breeding station within the parish. The nearest is at the Shiant Isles, twenty miles away, where a large number of guillemots deposit their single eggs, all of exquisite colouring and marking, but no two the same, on ledges in the face of a high cliff.

Ringed Guillemot (Uria lachrymans).—It is now settled that this is a dimorphic form of the guillemot, and not a different species. I have obtained mature specimens with the ring or bridle only partially developed, and there is no doubt it is a marking which occasionally occurs in the common guillemot, and is not distinctive.

Black Guillemot (Uria grylle).—This beautiful bird is common, and has many nesting-places in Gairloch, on rocky islands in the sea, and sometimes on rocks on the mainland overhanging the sea. In winter the plumage of the black guillemot changes to a speckled grey colour. Mr Harvie Brown says that he has in his collection male specimens in speckled plumage taken off the eggs in the Badcall islands. Neither Mr O. H. Mackenzie nor I have noticed the speckled plumage in breeding birds. The young have the plumage yet more speckled than the mature winter dress.

Rotche, or Little Auk (Mergulus alle).—The little auk is rarely seen, but is occasionally driven to the shores of Gairloch by storms. One was brought to me which had been found dead near the shore of Loch Ewe.

Puffin, or Sea-Parrot (Fratercula arctica).—This curious bird is common on the Gairloch coast at some seasons of the year. Like the guillemot it breeds abundantly on the Shiant Islands. The puffin lays its single egg at the extremity of a burrow formed on grassy banks sloping towards the sea. The egg which, when laid, resembles an ordinary hen's egg, soon becomes more or less of a dirty brown colour.

Great Northern Diver (Colymbus glacialis).—This largest of our divers is common on these coasts. There are always some on the Gairloch and on Loch Ewe, except perhaps in July and August. I once saw one near the Fox Point on Loch Maree, but not in the breeding season. It remains in our waters until the beginning of June, and then goes north to breed. It has now no authenticated nesting-place in the British Isles. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has an egg which he had taken for him in one of the Shetland Isles many years ago,—probably the last British specimen. Dr Saxby, author of "Birds of Shetland," obtained the egg for Mr Mackenzie. It is very much larger than the egg of the black-throated diver. Mr Mackenzie had often heard of the nesting-place in Shetland from Dr Saxby's brother.

Black-throated Diver (Colymbus arcticus).—It breeds on a number of fresh-water lochs in Gairloch. The nests are usually on islands, but I have seen one on the mainland. This diver is seldom, if ever, observed in Gairloch, except during the breeding season.


Red-throated Diver (Colymbus septentrionalis).—This diver is not so common here as the black-throated diver. I know two nesting-places in Gairloch. Mr John Munro has known four pairs nesting in the same locality. The red-throated diver is more frequently seen on the wing than the other species, and when flying frequently utters a loud wailing cry, which is said to prognosticate rain. A specimen was brought to me which had been caught in a herring-net.

Sclavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus).—This grebe is often seen in winter. A pair of grebes has for many years nested annually on a fresh-water loch in Gairloch parish; in some years there have been two pairs on the same loch; and sometimes another pair has nested on a loch about two miles away. Mr E. T. Booth saw the grebes on the former loch in 1868; he was unable to decide the species at the time, but in a letter he wrote to me on 2nd March 1885, he said that "from the last description of the bird that he received he came to the conclusion that it was a Sclavonian." Mr H. E. Dresser saw one old and one young grebe on the same loch on 30th June 1886. He could not get a distinct view of the bird, but he was satisfied it was either the Sclavonian or the eared grebe. Mr John Munro, who has annually seen and scrutinised the birds during the past twenty-one years, and has compared his impressions of them with the pictures of the several species of grebe from Mr Dresser's "Birds of Europe" and other works, believes that these birds nesting in Gairloch are Sclavonian grebes; indeed there can be no reasonable doubt that they are so. Mr Booth has called the birds in question Sclavonians in his "Rough Notes." I believe this is the only recorded instance of the Sclavonian grebe nesting in the British Isles.

Dabchick, or Little Grebe (Podiceps fluviatilis).—It is common here as everywhere.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).—The great cormorant is not very common in Gairloch, but I have known one or two pairs nest in the parish, on rocks overhanging or surrounded by the sea. Mr Harvie Brown found it abundant on Priest Island on 4th July 1884. He saw there a colony of about a hundred pairs. It is commonly seen on fresh-water rivers and lochs, where it engages in fishing. I have often observed it fishing within a few yards of the garden at Inveran.

Green Cormorant, or Skart, or Shag (Phalacrocorax graculus).—The common shag is abundant on Gairloch and Loch Ewe. It nests on high rocks on islands in the sea. It is never seen on fresh-water.

Gannet, or Solan Goose (Sula bassana).—This singular bird is often observed fishing, after its peculiar manner, in Gairloch and Loch Ewe. It flies, or rather dashes, rapidly to and fro, and when it sees a fish in the sea, darts or falls so suddenly down upon it, that one almost fears the concussion with the water must injure the bird. Its nearest breeding station is at St Kilda.

Heron (Ardea cinerea).—The heron abounds in Gairloch. [254]There are three heronries, which are strictly preserved. A number of herons frequently roost in autumn and winter in the fir wood on the River Ewe, along with the rooks.

Grey-lag Goose (Anser cinereus).—This wild goose, which seems to have been the origin of the domestic goose, resembles it more closely than any other species of wild goose. It is common in Gairloch, but not so abundant as formerly. It does not attain maturity until its second winter. It nests on small islands in fresh-water lochs. Farmers destroy the eggs whenever they can get to the nests, on account of the injury the wild geese do to the crops. This is no doubt the cause of the diminution in their numbers. A smaller species of wild goose has been occasionally noticed by Mr John Munro consorting with the grey-lag goose, but it has not been identified. The grey-lag goose becomes very tame if brought up in captivity.

Brent Goose (Bernicla brenta).—Rarely seen here. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has shot two on a grass field at Tournaig, close to the edge of Loch Ewe.

Whooper, or Wild Swan (Cygnus musicus).—Occasionally visits Gairloch in winter. It is sometimes on the sea, but appears to be particularly fond of Loch Maree. On Sunday, 30th January 1881, I saw six of these splendid birds, all in mature white plumage, pluming themselves on the beach within a hundred yards of the house at Inveran. That was an exceptionally severe winter. Mr O. H. Mackenzie broke the tip of the wing of one on Loch Ewe with a bullet, and sent the bird to the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, where it still (1886) lives.

Bewick's Swan (Cygnus Bewicki).—This lesser wild swan also visits Gairloch occasionally in winter.

Sheld-Duck, or Shieldrake (Tadorna cornuta).—This magnificent duck, though very abundant in the Hebrides (and there called "Cradh gheadh"), is rarely seen in Gairloch. I obtained a specimen on the River Ewe, at the foot of the garden at Inveran, on 25th November 1880, in stormy weather. Although when first observed this bird had been seen to fly, it was found on examination to have had the quill feathers of both wings clipped. It was probably one of the semi-domesticated specimens so commonly kept along with poultry in North Uist. The bird was a drake in full plumage, and was in company with my tame ducks. It is in the collection at Inveran. Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw one for several days together on the shore at Inverewe some winters ago. It was very wild and unapproachable.

Mallard, or Wild-Duck (Anas boscas).—The wild-duck is abundant, and breeds on islands and on moors near water.

Pintail (Dafila acuta).—This bird is rare. Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot one at Inveran more than twenty years ago.

Teal (Querquedula crecca).—This beautiful little duck is plentiful, and breeds in Gairloch.