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future travellers, and were ferried over to the isle of Sky. We landed at Armidel, where we were met on the sands by Sir Alexander Macdonald, who was at that time there with his lady, preparing to leave the island and reside at Edinburgh.
Armidel is a neat house, built where the Macdonalds had once a seat, which was burnt in the commotions that followed the Revolution. The walled orchard, which belonged to the former house, still remains. It is well shaded by tall ash-trees, of a species, as Mr. James the fossilist informed me, uncommonly valuable. This plantation is very properly mentioned by Dr. Campbell, in his new account of the state of Bitain, and deserves attention; because it proves that the present nakedness of the Hebrides is not wholly the fault of nature.
As we sat at Sir Alexander's table, we were entertained, according to the ancient usage of the north, with the melody of the bagpipe. Every thing in those countries has its history. As the bagpiper was playing, an elderly gentleman informed us, that in some remote time, the Macdonalds of Glengary having been injured, or offended, by the inhabitants of Culloden, and resolving to have justice or vengeance, came to Culloden on a Sunday, where, finding their enemies at worship, they shut them up in the church, which they set on fire: and this, said he, is the tune which the piper played while they were burning.
true, and that, in some places, men may buy them, and in others make them for themselves; but I had both the accounts in the same house within two days.
Many of my subsequent inquiries upon more interesting topics ended in the like uncertainty. He that travels in the Highlands may easily saturate his soul with intelligence, if he will ac quiesce in the first account. The Highlander gives to every question an answer so prompt and peremptory, that skepticism itself is dared into silence, and the mind sinks before the bold reporter in unresisting credulity; but if a second question be ventured, it breaks the enchantment; for it is immediately discovered, that what was told so confidently was told at hazard, and that such fearlessness of assertion was either the sport of negligence, or the refuge of igno
If individuals are thus at variance with themselves, it can be no wonder that the accounts of different men are contradictory. The traditions of an ignorant and savage people have been for ages negligently heard, and unskilfully related. Distant events must have been mingled together, and the actions of one man given to another. These, however, are deficiencies in story, for which no man is now to be censured. It were enough, if what there is yet opportunity of examining were accurately inspected and justly represented; but such is the laxity of Highland conversation, that the inquirer is kept in conti Narrations like this, however uncertain, de-nual suspense, and, by a kind of intellectual reserve the notice of a traveller, because they are trogradation, knows less as he hears more. the only records of a nation that has no histo- In the islands the plaid is rarely worn. The rians, and afford the most genuine representa- law by which the Highlanders have been obliged tion of the life and character of the ancient to change the form of their dress, has, in all the Highlanders. places that we have visited, been universally obeyed. I have seen only one gentleman completely clothed in the ancient habit, and by him
Under the denomination of Highlander, are comprehended in Scotland all that now speak the Erse language, or retain the primitive man-it was worn only occasionally and wantonly. ners, whether they live among the mountains or in the islands; and in that sense I use the name, when there is not some apparent reason for making a distinction.
The common people do not think themselves under any legal necessity of having coats; for they say that the law against plaids was made by Lord Hardwicke, and was in force only for his life: but the same poverty that made it then difficult for them to change their clothing, hinders them now from changing it again.
In Sky I first observed the use of brogues, a kind of artless shes, stitched with thongs so loosely, that though they defend the foot from stones, they do not exclude water. Brogues The fillibeg, or lower garment, is still very were formerly made of raw hides, with the hair common, and the bonnet almost universal; but inwards, and such are perhaps still used in rude their attire is such as produces, in a sufficient and remote parts: but they are said not to last degree, the effect intended by the law, of abolish above two days. Where life is somewhat im-ing the dissimilitude of appearance between the proved, they are now made of leather tanned with oak-bark, as in other places, or with the bark of birch, or roots of tormentil, a substance recommen led in defect of bark, about forty years ago, to the Irish tanners, by one to whom the parliament of that kingdom voted a reward. The lathe of Sky is not completely penetrated by vegetable matter, and therefore cannot be very durable.
My inquiries about brogues gave me an early specimen of Highland information. One day was told, that to make brogues was a domestic art, which every man practised for himself, and that a pair of brogues was the work of an hour. I supposed that the husband made brogues as the wife mude an apron, till next day it was told me, that a brogue-miker was a trade, and that a pair would cost half-a-crown. It will easily occur that these representations may both be
Highlanders and the other inhabitants of Britain; and, if dress be supposed to have much influence, facilitates their coalition with their fel low-subjects.
What we have long used, we naturally like; and therefore the Highlanders were unwilling to lay aside their plaid, which yet to an unpreju diced spectator must appear an incommodious and cumbersome dress; for hanging loose upon the body, it must flutter in a quick motion, or require one of the hands to keep it close. The Romans always laid aside the gown when they had any thing to do. It was a dress so unsuit able to war, that the same word which signified a gown, signified peace. The chief use of a plaid seems to be this, that they could commodiously wrap themselves in it when they were obliged to sleep without a better cover.
In our passage from Scotland to Sky, we were
This is not the description of a cruel climate, yet the dark months are here a time of great distress; because the summer can do little more than feed itself, and winter comes with its cold and its scarcity upon families very slenderly provided.
The third or fourth day after our arrival at Armidel, brought us an invitation to the isle of Raasay, which lies east of Sky. It is incredible how soon the account of any event is propagated in these narrow countries by the love of talk, which much leisure produces, and the relief given to the mind in the penury of insular conversation by a new topic. The arrival of strangers at a place so rarely visited, excites rumour, and quickens curiosity. I know not whether we touched at any corner, where fame had not already prepared us a reception.
To gain a commodious passage to Raasay, it was necessary to pass over a large part of Sky. We were furnished therefore with horses and a guide. In the islands there are no roads, nor any marks by which a stranger may find his way. The horseman has always at his side a native of the place, who, by pursuing game, or tending cattle, or being often employed in messages or conduct, has learned where the ridge of the hill has breadth sufficient to allow a horse and his rider a passage, and where the moss or bog is hard enough to bear them. The bogs are avoided as toilsome at least, if not unsafe, and therefore the journey is made generally from precipice to precipice; from which if the eye ventures to look down, it sees below a gloomy cavity,
whence the rush of water is sometimes heard.
But there seems to be in all this more alarm But as here is nothing to be bought, every than danger. The Highlander walks carefully family must kill its own meat, and roast part of before, and the horse accustomed to the ground, it somewhat sooner than Apicius would prefollows him with little deviation. Sometimes scribe. Every kind of flesh is undoubtedly exthe hill is too steep for the horseman to keep his celled by the variety and emulation of English seat, and sometimes the moss is too tremulous markets; but that which is not best may be yet to bear the double weight of horse and man. The very far from bad, and he that shall complain of rider then dismounts, and all shift as they can. his fare in the Hebrides, has improved his deliJourneys made in this manner are rather tedi-cacy more than his manhood.
ous than long. A very few miles require several Their fowls are not like those plumped for sale
The hill behind the house we did not climb. The weather was rough, and the height and steepness discouraged us. We were told that
casily reconciled. The barley cakes are thicker | foreigners, but foreign cookery never satisfies s and softer; I began to eat them without unwil- Frenchman. lingness; the blackness of their colour raises some dislike, but the taste is not disagreeable. In most houses there is wheat flour, with which we were sure to be treated if we staid long enough to have it kneaded and baked. As neither yeast nor leaven are used among them, their bread of every kind is unfermented. They make only cakes, and never mould a loaf.
A man of the Hebrides, for of the women's diet I can give no account, as soon as he appears in the morning, swallows a glass of whiskey; yet they are not a drunken race, at least I never was present at much intemperance; but no man is so abstemious as to refuse the morning dram, which they call a shalk.
Their suppers are like their dinners, varions and plentiful. The table is always covered with elegant linen. Their plates for common use are often of that kind of manufacture which is called cream-coloured, or queen's ware. They use silver on all occasions where it is common in England, nor did I ever find a spoon of horn but in one house.
The knives are not often either very bright or very sharp. They are indeed instruments of which the Highlanders have not been long acquainted with the general use. They were not regularly laid on the table, before the prohibition of arms, and the change of dress. Thirty years ago the Highlander wore his knife as a comThe word whiskey signifies water, and is ap- panion to his dirk or dagger, and when the complied by way of eminence to strong water, or dis-pany sat down to meat, the men who had knives tilled liquor. The spirit drunk in the North is cut the flesh into small pieces for the women, drawn from barley. I never tasted it, except who with their fingers conveyed it to their once for experiment at the inn in Inverary, when mouths. I thought it preferable to any English malt brandy. It was strong, but not pungent, and was free from the empyreumatic taste or smell. What was the process I had no opportunity of inquiring, nor do I wish to improve the art of making poison pleasant.
There was, perhaps, never any change of national manners so quick, so great, and so general, as that which has operated in the Highlands by the last conquest, and the subsequent laws. We came thither too late to see what we expect cd, a people of peculiar appearance, and a system of antiquated life. The clans retain little now of their original character; their ferocity of temper is softened, their military ardour is extin
Not long after the dram, may be expected the breakfast, a meal in which the Scots, whether of the lowlands or mountains, must be confessed to excel us. The tea and coffee are accompa-guished, their dignity of independence is denied not only with butter, but with honey, conserves, and marmalades. If an epicure could remove by a wish, in quest of sensual gratifications, wherever he had supped he would breakfast in Scotland.
In the islands, however, they do what I found it not very easy to endure. They pollute the tea-table by plates piled with large slices of Cheshire cheese, which mingles its less,grateful odours with the fragrance of the tea.
pressed, their contempt of government is subdued, and their reverence for their chiefs abated. Of what they had before the late conquest of their country, there remain only their language and their poverty. Their language is attacked on every side. Schools are erected, in which English only is taught, and there were lately some who thought it reasonable to refuse them a version of the holy scriptures, that they might have no monument of their mother-tongue.
Where many questions are to be asked, some That their poverty is gradually abated, cannot will be omitted. I forgot to inquire how they be mentioned among the unpleasing consequen were supplied with so much exotic luxury. Per- ces of subjection. They are now acquainted haps the French may bring them wine for wool, with money, and the possibility of gain will by and the Dutch give them tea and coffee at the degrees make them industrious. Such is the fishing season, in exchange for fresh provision. effect of the late regulations, that a longer jourTheir trade is unconstrained; they pay no cus-ney than to the Highlands must be taken by him toms, for there is no officer to demand them; whose curiosity pants for savage virtues and bar. whatever, therefore, is made dear only by impost, barous grandeur. is obtained here at an easy rate.
A dinner in the Western Islands differs very little from a dinner in England, except that, in the place of tarts, there are always set different preparations of milk. This part of their diet will admit some improvement. Though they have milk, and eggs, and sugar, few of them know how to compound them in a custard. Their gardens afford them no great variety, but they have always some vegetables on the table. Potatoes at least are never wanting, which, though they have not known them long, are now one of the principal parts of their food. They are not of the mealy, but the viscous kind.
Their more elaborate cookery, or made dishes, an Englishman, at the first taste, is not likely to approve, but the culinary compositions of every county are often such as become grateful to other nations only by degrees; though I have read a French author, who, in the elation of his heart, says, that French cookery pleases all
At the first intermission of the stormy weather we were informed, that the boat, which was to convey us to Raasay, attended us on the coast. We had from this time our intelligence facilitated, and our conversation enlarged, by the com. pany of Mr. Macqueen, minister of a parish in Sky, whose knowledge, and politeness give him a title equally to kindness and respect, and who, from this time, never forsook us till we were pre paring to leave Sky, and the adjacent places.
The boat was under the direction of Mr. Mal colm Macleod, a gentleman of Raasay. The water was calm, and the rowers were vigorous; so that our passage was quick and pleasant.When we came near the island, we saw the laird's house, a neat modern fabric, and found Mr. Macloed, the proprietor of the island, with many gentlemen, expecting us on the beach.-
We had, as at all other places, some difficulty in landing. The crags were irregularly broken, and a false step would have been very mischievous.
It seemed that the rocks might, with no great labour, have been hewn almost into a regular flight of steps; and as there are no other landing places, I considered this rugged ascent as the Consequence of a form of life inured to hardships, and therefore not studious of nice accommodations. But I know not whether, for many ages, it was not considered as a part of military policy, to keep the country not easily accessible. The rocks are natural fortifications, and an enemy climbing with difficulty was easily destroyed by those who stood high above him.
sixty winter in Rona, under the superintendance of a solitary herdsman.
The length of Raasay is, by computation, fifteen miles, and the breadth two. These countries have never been measured, and the compu. tation by miles is negligent and arbitrary. We observed in travelling, that the nominal and real distance of places had very little relation to each other. Raasay probably contains near a hundred square miles. It affords not much ground, notwithstanding its extent, either for tillage or pasture; for it is rough, rocky, and barren. The cattle often perish by falling from the precipices. It is like the other islands, I think, generally naked of shade, but it is naked by neglect; for the laird has an orchard, and very large forest trees grow about his house. Like other hilly countries, it has many rivulets. One of the brooks turns a corn-mill, and at least one produces trouts.
Our reception exceeded our expectations. We found nothing but civility, elegance, and plenty. After the usual refreshments, and the usual conversation, the evening came upon us. The carpet was then rolled off the floor; the musician was called, and the whole company was invited to dance, nor did ever fairies trip with greater alacrity. The general air of festivity, which predominated in this place, so far remote from all those regions which the mind has been used to contemplate as the mansions of pleasure, struck the imagination with a delightful sur- It is not very easy to fix the principles upon prise, analogous to that which is felt at an unex-which mankind have agreed to eat some anipected emersion from darkness into light.
When it was time to sup, the dance ceased, and six and thirty persons sat down to two tables in the same room. After supper the ladies sung Erse songs, to which I listened as an English audience to an Italian opera, delighted with the sound of words which I did not understand.
In the streams or fresh lakes of the islands, I have never heard of any other fish than trouts and eels. The trouts which I have seen are not large; the colour of their flesh is tinged as in England. Of their eels I can give no account, having never tasted them; for I believe they are not considered as wholesome food.
mals, and reject others; and as the principle is not evident, it is not uniform. That which is selected as delicate in one country, is by its neighbours abhorred as loathsome. The Neapolitans lately refused to eat potatoes in a famine. An Englishman is not easily persuaded to dine on snails with an Italian, on I inquired the subjects of the songs, and was frogs with a Frenchman, or on horse-flesh wi h told of one, that it was a love-song, and of ano- a Tartar. The vulgar inhabitants of Sky, ther, that it was a farewell composed by one of I know not whether of the other islands, hold the islanders that was going, in this epidemical not only eels, but pork and bacon, in abhorfury of emigration, to seck his fortune in Ame-rence, and accordingly I never saw a hog in the rica. What sentiments would rise, on such an occasion, in the heart of one who had not been taught to lament by precedent, I should gladly have known; but the lady, by whom I sat, thought herself not equal to the work of translating.
Mr. Macleod is the proprietor of the islands of Raasay, Rona, and Fladda, and possesses an extensive district in Sky. The estate has not, during four hundred years, gained or lost a single acre.
One of the old Highland alliances has continued for two hundred years, and is still subsisting between Macleod of Raasay, and Macdonald of Sky, in consequence of which, the survivor always inherits the arms of the deceased; a natural memorial of military friendship. At the death of the late Sir James Macdonald, his sword was delivered to the present laird of Raasay.
The family of Raasay consists of the laird, the lady, three sons, and ten daughters. For the sons there is a tutor in the house, and the lady is said to be very skilful and diligent in the education of her girls. More gentleness of manners, or a more pleasing appearance of domestic society, is not found in the most polished
Raasay is the only inhabited island in Mr. Macleod's possession. Rona and Fladda afford only pasture for cattle, of which one hundred and
Hebrides, except one at Dunvegan.
Raasay has wild fowl in abundance, but neither deer, hares, nor rabbits. Why it has them not, might be asked, but that of such questions there is no end. Why does any nation want what it might have? Why are not spices transplanted to America? Why does tea continue to be brought from China? Life improves but by slow degrees, and much in every place is yet to do. Attempts have been made to raise roebucks in Raasay, but without effect. The young ones it is extremely difficult to rear, and the old can very seldom be taken alive.
Hares and rabbits might be more easily obtained. That they have few or none of either in Sky, they impute to the ravage of the foxes, and have therefore set, for some years past, a price upon their heads, which, as the number was diminished, has been gradually raised, from three shillings and sixpence to a guinea, a sum so great in this part of the world, that in a short time Sky may be as free from foxes, as England from wolves. The fund for these rewards is a tax of sixpence in the pound, imposed by the farmers on themselves, and said to be paid with great willingness.
The beasts of prey in the islands are foxes, otters, and weasels. The foxes are bigger than those of England; but the otters exceed ours in a far greater proportion. I saw one at Armidel, of a size much beyond that which I supposed
them ever to attain; and Mr. Maclean, the heir of Col, a man of middle stature, informed me that he once shot an otter, of which the tail reached the ground, when he held up the head to a level with his own. I expected the otter to have a foot particularly formed for the art of swimming; but upon examination, I did not find it differing much from that of a spaniel. As he preys in the sea, he does little visible mischief, and is killed only for his fur. White otters are sometimes scen.
In Raasay they might have hares and rabbits, for they have no foxes. Some depredations, such as were never made before, have caused a suspicion that a fox has been lately landed in the island by spite or wantonness. This imaginary stranger has never yet been seen, and therefore, perhaps, the mischief was done by some other animal. It is not likely that a creature so ungentle, whose head could have been sold in Sky for a guinea, should be kept alive only to gratify the malice of sending him to prey upon a neighbour: and the passage from Sky is wider than a fox would venture to swim, unless he were chased by dogs into the sea, and perhaps then his strength would enable him to cross. [How beasts of prey came into any islands, is not easy to guess. In cold countries they take advanta e of hard winters, and travel over the ice: but this is a very scanty solution; for they are found where they have no discoverable means of coming.
The corn of this island is but little. I saw the harvest of a small field. The women reaped the corn, and the men bound up the sheaves, The strokes of the sickle were timed by the modulation of the harvest-song, in which all their voices were united. They accompany in the Highlands every action which can be done in equal time, with an appropriated strain, which has, they say, not much meaning; but its effects are regularity and cheerfulness. The ancient proceleusmatic song, by which the rowers of galleys were animated, may be supposed to have been of this kind. There is now an oarsong used by the Hebridians.
The ground of Raasay seems fitter for cattle than for corn, and of black cattle I suppose the number is very great. The laird himself keeps a herd of four hundred, one hundred of which are annually sold. Of an extensive domain, which he holds in his own hands, he considers the sale of cattle as repaying him the rent, and supports the plenty of a very liberal table with the remaining product.
Raasay is supposed to have been very long inhabited. On one side of it they show caves into which the rude nations of the first ages retreated from the weather. These dreary vaults might have had other uses. There is still a cavity near the house called the oar-cave, in which the seamen, after one of those piratical expeditions which in rougher times were very frequent, used, as tradition tells, to hide their oars. This hollow was near the sea, that nothing so necessary might be far to be fetched; and it was secret, that enemies, if they landed, could find nothing. Yet it is not very evident of what use it was to hide their oars from those, who if they were masters of the coast, could take away their boats.
A proof much stronger of the distance at
which the first possessors of this island lived from the present time, is afforded by the stone heads of arrows, which are very frequently picked up. The people call them elf-bolts, and believe that the fairies shoot them at the cattle. They nearly resemble those which Mr. Banks has lately brought from the savage countries in the Pacific Ocean, and must have been made by a nation to which the use of metals was unknown.
The number of this little community has never been counted by its ruler, nor have I obtained any positive account, consistent with the result of political computation. Not many years ago, the late laird led out one hundred men upon a military expedition. The sixth part of a people is supposed capable of bearing arms: Raasay had therefore six hundred inhabitants. But because it is not likely that every man able to serve in the field would follow the summons, or that the chief would leave his lands totally defenceless, or take away all the bands qualified for labour, let it be supposed, that half as many might be permitted to stay at home. The whole number then will be nine hundred; or nine to a square mile; a degree of populousness greater than those tracts of desolation can often show. They are content with their country, and faithful to their chiefs, and yet uninfected with the fever of migration.
Near the house at Raasay is a chapel unroofed and ruinous, which has long been used only as a place of burial. About the churches in the islands are sma!! squares enclosed with stone, which belong to particular families, as reposito ries for the dead. At Raasay there is one, I think, for the proprietor, and one for some collateral house.
It is told by Martin, that at the death of the lady of the island, it has been here the custom to crect a cross. This we found not to be true. The stones that stand about the chapel at a small distance, some of which, perhaps, have crosses cut upon them, are believed to have been not funeral monuments, but the ancient boundaries of the sanctuary or consecrated ground.
Martin was a man not illiterate: he was an inhabitant of Sky, and therefore was within reach of intelligence, and with no great difficulty might have visited the places which he undertakes to describe; yet with all his opportunities, he has often suffered himself to be deceived. He lived in the last century, when the cliefs of the clans had lost little of their original influence. The mountains were yet unpenetrated, no inlet was opened to foreign novelties, and the feudal institutions operated upon life with their full force. He might therefore have displayed a series of subordination and a form of government, which in more luminous and improven regions have been long forgotten, and have delighted his readers with many uncouth customs that are now disused, and wild opinions that prevail no longer. But he probably had not knowledge of the world sufficient to qualify him for judging what would deserve or gain the attention of mankind. The mode of life which was familiar to himself, he did not suppose unknown to others, nor imagine that he could give pleasure by telling that, of which it was, in bis little country, impossible to be ignorant.
What he has neglected, cannot now be per