BEFORE taking leave of
Fort-Augustus, it may be of assistance to the visitor if we point out a few
places of interest in the neighbourhood.
We have already drawn
attention to the ancient fortalice that crowns the summit of the little hill
on which the Railway Station stands.
Travelling from here
westwards along the high-road, we pass a neat little house which is now the
parish doctor's residence. This building was erected only a few years since;
and on the site which it now occupies, there used to stand a house kept by
an old woman known as "Bean a Phriosan" or the "Prisoners' Landlady." This
worthy dame had a large empty cellar under the kitchen floor, into which she
used to pop all the monied drovers who chanced to pass the way. Here she
plied them with the best of whiskey, but none might leave the cellar till he
had spent the last penny he had possessed. The charms of this fair Circe
must have proved very seductive to the droving fraternity, as she carried on
her practices with impunity till a comparatively recent date.
A few paces further on we
come to two stones set up one on each side of the road, and engraven with a
broad arrow and W.D. These marked the boundaries of the old fort grounds
which belonged to the War Department. In 1866 a mason of the district was
offered the old prison-house with the whole of this field stretching away to
the canal for £50. By a strange perversity he deemed the ground too
expensive, but bought the building materials at a price, and his chance of
becoming a wealthy man passed away for ever.
About half-a-mile from here a
branch road leads to Kilcumein Cemetery lying in a sheltered corner by the
borders of the River Tarff. Though this graveyard was not enclosed till
1796, there is no doubt that it is the site of the original foundation of
St. Cumein, and of the ancient parish chapel. The low-lying flats in which
it stands formed the "toft and croft " of the incumbent, even after the
glebe had been taken away under Malcolm IV. in the twelfth century, and to
this day the fields bear the name of the "Minister's Croft."
Scarcely any effect perhaps
of the Reformation in the sixteenth century is so lamentable, none so
noticeable, as the change of character produced in the Highlands by the
introduction of a stern, cold, harsh Calvinism, in the place of the old
religion. Nothing could have been more alien from the natural vivacity and
light-hearted gaiety of the Celt. All the innocent games, recreations and
pastimes were rigorously forbidden; dancing and music were condemned as
"inventions of the devil," and those who indulged in them as "limbs of
Satan"; even singing and whistling were considered almost as crimes, whilst
the fanatical observance of the Sabbath was carried to a pitch that rendered
Mr Carmichael gives a typical
example of the methods of the ministers: "A famous violin player," he tells
us, "died some years ago in a Highland parish. He was known for his
old-style playing and his old-world airs which have died with him. A
preacher denounced him: 'Thou art down there behind the door, thou miserable
man with thy grey hairs, playing thy old fiddle with the cold fire without
and the devil's fire within.' His family urged the old man to burn his
violin and never play again. A pedlar came round and offered ten shillings
for the instrument. It had been made by a pupil of Stradivarius,. and was
famed for its tone. 'It was not the pittance that was obtained for it,'
groaned the old man, 'that grieved my heart so sore, but the parting with
it. The parting with it for which I myself gave the best cow in my father's
fold for it when I was young.' The voice faltered, and the tears trickled
down his cheeks, the poor old man never recovered : for some little time he
lingered on in misery, then pined away and died."
Nothing can be more unlovely
than the frantic endeavours of honest, narrow-minded ministers to produce
that character humorously described by Lord Neaves, and now mercifully
"We zealots made
up of stiff' clay,
The sour-looking children of sorrow,
While not over jolly to-day,
Resolve to he wretched to-morrow.
We can't of a
'What mirth may molest us on 'Monday,
But at least, to begin the week well,
Let us all be unhappy on Sunday.
What though a
precept we strain,
Till hateful and hurtful we make it;
What though in pulling the rein,
We may draw it so tight as to break it!
Abroad we forbid
folks to roam,
For fear they get social and frisky,
But of course they can sit still at home
And get dolefully drunk upon whiskey."
Of the wealth of literature
that has perished through misguided theology—who can tell? Songs at the
quern; songs when wauking cloth; boat songs; milking songs, with a host of
others. The relics which the genius and unflagging efforts of Mr Carmichael
have saved from the wreck, are merely an index to what might have been.
The village of Kilcumein was
ever a thorn in the side of the Presbytery. It was at the extreme border of
the parish of Abertarff; the district was poor and money scarce. The first
few ministers were not a success, and the people were keenly jealous of
their liberties. In consequence the ancient Highland customs long survived,
and a century ago we find the wife of a minister writing that in the Great
Glen "there is a musician in every house, and a poet in every hamlet"; forty
years later, "there were few houses in which there was not a violin."
The reason was that the
inhabitants were on the best terms with their neighbours of Glengarry and
Lochaber, of whom we read in 1746 that they "profess themselves Papists,
frequently practise auricular confession, but cannot be persuaded that
cattle-lifting is a sin"; and again we read that "Popery lives in the North
and Highlands and possesses in the West Highlands the countries of Keppoch,
Glengarry, Abertarff (Kilcumein), etc., etc." This accounts for the piteous
entries in the Presbytery Records. One minister of Abertarff reports "that
he was so troubled by the Lochaber robbers, that are so numerous and broken
out, that scarce had he so much time as to provide a discourse on the
Sabbath day," for which mercy his congregation must have been profoundly
grateful. Occasionally they broke into the church, turned the worship into
ridicule and rendered preaching impossible. One misguided minister obtained
an order for a legal glebe. He might have known his people better; at the
instigation of his own parishioners "the Irishes broke in and slew him."
Now that these days of bitter
strife have passed away, apart altogether from any question of religious
controversy, one cannot regret that the numbing influence of Calvinism
failed to establish itself in all its gloomy rigour throughout the Glen.
Just outside Kilcumein
Cemetery wall there is a rude enclosure of fence stobs now almost fallen to
decay. Here lies buried the only son and heir of Archibald Thomas Frederick
Fraser of Abertarff the great-grandson of Lord Lovat of the '45. The boy
died before his parents, and his father, to "spite the Almighty" at having
deprived him of his heir and his family of the estate, had the boy buried
outside the hallowed precincts of "God's acre."
About a mile from here we
reach Loch Uanagan and see stretching in front of us a long flat moss with a
winding stream. It is known as "Leitir na Lub," or the "Hillside of the
Meandering Brook." Here it was that in January, 1645, Montrose had pitched
his camp, when he received tidings that Argyle had reached Fort-William.
Will any historian or
psychologist explain what exactly were the qualities of head and heart that
enabled Montrose and Claverhouse to mould the Highlanders into an almost
invincible fighting force. Had Prince Charlie had a Graham to command his
army in place of Lord George Murray, how different would have been the
result of his campaign. But the Fates willed otherwise. None ever accused
the Highlanders of cowardice, but their valour was like the impetuous rush
of the mountain stream sweeping down their own hillside which spreads out
powerless at the foot and sinks noiselessly into the level plain. The two
Grahams alone have been able not merely to take advantage of the dash,
endurance and unexampled rapidity of marching power, but also to prevent the
clans from slipping off to their homes in the hour of victory or reverse, or
at any rate of collecting them as rapidly as they might melt away.
When camped upon the moss in
the depths of winter, Montrose's position was almost desperate. Aberdeen and
Inverness were strongly held by the Covenanters; Grants and others guarded
the Spey ; Colonel Baillie with Hurry lay at Perth ; whilst at one end of
the Great Glen stood the Seaforth army, and at the other Argyle with the
Campbells and the Lowland troops. A council of war was called. Montrose, his
young son Lord Graham, with Airlie and others signed a band Then, led by Ian
Lom, the Keppoch Bard, they marched across the Monadh Liath range to
Inverlochy, where they scattered the Campbells and Covenanters to the winds.
Given a fine day in summer, a
good walker may still cover the route followed by Montrose; it is something
under forty miles, but we must remember that the Highland army accomplished
the journey in the winter solstice with deep snow upon the ground, and "dramach"
(meal and water) for their best cheer.
Much confusion has been
caused regarding Montrose's march, by writers being but imperfectly
acquainted with the ground.
Following the road which
leads southwards from Loch Uanagan up the hill towards Corrie. Arrick, we
pass a little knoll, called in Gaelic song, "The Knee of Cullachy," and in
about a mile a little burn is reached. Here, instead of pursuing General
Wade's road, we follow the stream through the tiny glen upon our right, and
traversing the heathery flats, we enter the great pass known as the "Larig
Mhor" which leads into Glen Turrit and Glen Roy. For good walkers this is a
most interesting excursion, and affords opportunity of seeing the
world-famed parallel roads of Glen Roy. It is possible now to drive most of
the way, and a pony may be ridden almost the entire distance.
If, instead of taking
Montrose's route, we keep along General Wade's road to Corrie Arrick a
little further, we come to Prince Charlie's dining-table. It consists of a
rough trench cut round a small green hillock.
Here, whilst their army
halted on the flats, Prince Charlie and his officers had their meal when
hastening across the Corrie to meet the English force under command of Sir
Some way further on, just
where the road slopes up to the last ascent towards the summit of the range,
we come to a rich green strath sweeping down to the River Tarff. Here it was
that the people of Kilcumein used to pitch their summer shielings. These
shielings were small huts made of sods with a rude covering of boughs and
turf. For some four months or so during the summer and early autumn the
entire population would migrate from the lower valley to these abodes, and
while the cattle cropped the lush summer grass on the mountain side, the
inhabitants would lay in a store of cheese and dairy produce against the
long cold winter months. The green strath is still known as "Laggan a
Bhainne," or the "Dairy Glade."
On the opposite bank of the
river Tar£f we see a large black •rock jutting out into the middle of the
stream. On the top of this boulder, as the water swirled away in foam
beneath his feet, the piper took his stand and played throughout the
live-long summer night, when the sun scarce sets at all, whilst the youths
and maidens merrily footed it on the springy turf and the older folk looked
on and encouraged them with their applause.
At the head of this glade,
hard by the spot at which Wade's old bridge used to span the stream, stand
the ruins of a house. Here it was that Trappaud, Governor of Fort Augustus,
established a "mechanical man versant in the raising of garden crops," and
who had been particularly successful in growing cabbage, to provide a supply
for the hungry wayfarer coming across the pass of Corrie Arrick. The
distinguished gardener of to-day would scarcely appreciate such a
recognition of his merit.
A picturesque road leads back
from here to Fort-Augustus along the bottom of the glen, but there is no
right of way, and the path may not be used without permission.
Another walk, not without
interest, may be taken by passing through the little village on the further
bank of the River Oich. Following the road that leads from the station down
the hill, we may note that the first block of buildings after what is the
present "Douglas Hotel," is known as the "Old King's Inn." Although repaired
and renovated, the walls are substantially the same as when it was first
built as an hotel in the early days of General Wade's roads. Many and
strange are the deeds of blood and lawlessness that this house has
witnessed. Lady Grange with her weird escort passed close by its walls on
her way to her long imprisonment in the Outer Isles. Here it was that, for
an imaginary insult offered at table to his master, Glengarry's henchman
tried to blow out the brains of an English officer. Here also Dunachadh Mor
a Bhochain, the famous Glengarry seer, whose prophecies are still well-known
in the district, met an antagonist and continued a combat, interrupted some
thirty years before at the sack of San Sebastian. Exactly one hundred years
ago, too, this humble hostelry saw a notable incident that throws a curious
side-light on the manners and customs of the time. The last chief of
Glengarry, mentioned in a previous chapter, had a grudge against a member of
the Clan who was acting as doctor in the. Fort, and on a market day came
with his "tail" of five or six stout clansmen to seek for vengeance. After
generous treatment at the hands of their chief, these f devoted followers
set upon the doctor with clubs and bludgeons as he passed the Inn. But the
medico, besides being a bit of a pugilist, was an extraordinarily powerful
man, and placing his back against the low wall opposite, defied the united
efforts of the band till at last one of them climbed, up the bank behind and
showered down upon his head a savage hail of blows with the loaded handle of
a heavy riding crop. The doctor was stunned, but in falling, caught the
"queue" of one of the leaders of the troop, and held it with so firm a grasp
that the man was only freed by his brother severing the pig-tail with his
knife. Luckily the alarm had been raised, and the guard of the Fort turned
out in. time to save the doctor's life.
Alas! for. Glengarry, the arm
of the law, though impotent enough, was longer than fifty years before, and
the Chief had to pay £2000 as compensation for this escapade—truly an
enormous sum in those days. for a case of mere assault and battery.
The victim of this outrage
was popularly known as the "Doctor Cranachan," from his connection with a
noteworthy family of athletes in Lochaber, whose farm bears this name. These
six famous giants will long be remembered in the country as the embodiment
of all that is best in a sportsman and a Highlander. The hospitality of
their roof-tree was proverbial even for a Highland home, while the tale of
their feats of strength is endless. In the Highland games at the Crystal
Palace Exhibition, they carried all before them, and an old man in Glen Roy
used to relate how, when crippled with rheumatism and attacked by a bull, he
owed his life to one of the redoubtable brothers who bravely grappled the
bull by the horns and flung it on its back. Even while these pages are being
run through the press, the last of this magnificent band of brothers has
passed away, and they all sleep side by side under the green sod of the lone
hill-side, and the wind sighs its last lament through the sombre pines that
surround their graves in the little church-yard of St. Kerrell.
At the bottom of the brae,
the delapidated building overgrown with ivy, has recently figured in the
Royal Academy as the subject of a picture by a well-known artist, and both
this and the unpretentious half-timbered cottage opposite were for long the
residence of close relations of Sir Robert Peel.
On the extreme end of the
little tongue of land running out between the River Oich and the canal
stands a group of houses. The one next the loch is probably the oldest
building in Fort-Augustus, and was erected for the Commandant of the
Government galley which used to ply up and down the loch. The lot of the
Commandant—Mark Gwynn—and his family was cast in singularly adverse times.
After serving in the navy for seventy years he was finally drowned in a
storm on Loch Ness, and almost in the same year his two sons, also serving
in the navy, lost their lives by the sinking of their vessels, and the
family was reduced to great straits. Mrs Grant of Laggan, the well-known
authoress, who had herself received a pension through the good offices of
Sir Walter Scott, was instrumental in obtaining assistance from the
Government for this deserving family.
It is interesting to note
that a vessel was first launched on Loch Ness under the Commonwealth by
Cromwell's soldiers, and was known as the -Highland Galley." A most amusing
account of this vessel may be read in Mackay's "Urquhart and Glenmoriston."
This ship and its successors continued to ply up and down the loch till the
opening of the canal. The guns of the last Fort galley now adorn the mansion
of the Laird of Grant at Invermoriston.
The long low building next
the Commandant's residence used to form the brewery of the Fort, and in the
adjoining shed, which now serves as a coach-house, stood the oven wherein
was baked the bread for the soldiers' use. Needless to say, this was in the
days before the canal was cut, and there were no dividing waters between the
Fort and this patch of land.
By the corner of the bridge
across the Oich stands another stone marking the northern limit of the
Government possessions. The bridge itself, originally a fine 'stone
structure, was swept away by the floods of 1849, which was so destructive of
property in the North, and which carried away, amongst other land-marks, the
historic stone bridge of Inverness.
The village on the northern
river-bank, now known as Bun Oich, was founded about 1779 by Fraser of
Culduthel, and was, in consequence, known at first as Baile Friseil or
Frasertown. This Fraser envied the prosperity of the cottars settled under
the shadow of the Fort, and was anxious to secure similar advantages for the
members of his own clan, and the preponderance of the name in this township
to this day still bears witness to its origin. Till quite a recent date the
keenest rivalry existed between the two communities. It is said that shortly
after the opening of the railway, an English lady who had lost her
waterproof, asked a porter at the pier if he had seen a black mackintosh
about. "Na, Na," was the
brusque response, "there's na Black Mackintoshes here; we're a' Red Frasers
on this side of the water."
The hill upon our right,
after crossing the Oich, is known as Battery Rock. Here it was that
Brigadier Stapleton, with his Irish Picquets and a detachment of Lord
Drummond's regiment, opened a trench and placed their artillery on :?rd
March, 1746. In a very short while they were successful in blowing up the
powder magazine, and after two days the garrison surrendered to Prince
On the little eminence
directly above the present board school the trenches opened by the
Highlanders can still be seen, and the emplacements of the cannon are marked
by the iron pins driven into the rock, now overgrown with moss and heather.
Immediately in front of this
hill there was another, of similar height, but it was quarried away and the
stone used for the construction of the canal.
From the summit of Battery
Rock we get a fine view of the Abbey and the remnants of the ancient
Government buildings. Mrs Grant whose early years were spent in America, and
whose father—MacVicar --was barrack-master for many years, notes a striking
resemblance in the situation of the place to that of Manhattan. A glance at
the maps preserved in the British Museum proves the truth of the remark,
though to the eye of the casual observer the unprecedented growth of the
greatest city and shipping harbour of the New World has obliterated all
trace of the likeness.
After the Battle of Culloden
the English Army had very summary methods of dealing with the Highlanders
who might fall into their hands, numbers of prisoners and others being shot
with little or no pretence of justice. A few years ago a large number of
bodies were found where we now see a large statue standing in a clump of
shrubs in front of the Abbey windows. Evidently the men had been platooned
and their bodies flung hastily into a shallow trench. Buttons of their kilt
doublets are still preserved. Whilst the Abbey was being built and the
grounds laid out, remains of bodies were found in .other places round about
the Fort, but in this we have no shadow of proof, as some would have us
think, that there was ever any recognised burying-ground, other than the
little cemetery of St. Cumein, in the loop of the River Tarff.
On the. east of Battery Rock
the ground slopes down gently to the borders of the loch. The soil is a
heavy clay, and we see here the remains of the old brick field, which
afforded material for the construction of the Fort. Experts tell us that the
brick-work of this Government fabric was magnificently executed, very
different from anything seen now in our day of cheap and rapid building.
Beyond the railway pier a
spit of grassy land known as "An Lios Mor" or "The Great Garden" runs out
into the loch. Part of the surrounding wall with the ruins of a large house
and some graves are still visible. Beyond this again, lying in the centre of
the bay, is a tiny island marked on the map as Cherry Island, but always
known in Gaelic as "Eilean Mhurich," "Maurice's Islet." There is a romantic
story in connection with the place which, in its main outline, is
historically true, though conflicting traditions render the details somewhat
obscure. The island in question is artificial, the wooden piles on which it
was constructed being easily discernible. It was built by the Frasers as a
fort, and used to be considerably larger, but during the formation of the
canal, Loch Ness was raised nine feet, so much of the fort is now beneath
According to the Fraser
tradition the tale runs as follows :—A chieftain of Glengarry fell madly in
love with Lovat's daughter, and his affections were reciprocated; but owing
to a deadly feud between the clans, the Fraser Chief would not hear of an
alliance. One day the lady came to Kilcumein and put up in the castle. •News
of her arrival having been noised abroad, Glengarry, with his "tail," which
of course included the inevitable piper, hastened to press his suit. When
they arrived at the garden opposite the island, the lady implored the keeper
of the castle to let them in, and after a brief parley, he consented to
admit Glengarry, but without his men. • The Chief hastily cast himself into
the water and swam out to the door. Here he found the steps covered with the
skin of a newly-killed sheep—the remains of the Fraser banquet—turned inside
out. Whilst he was endeavouring to scramble out of the water over the
slippery hide, one of the Frasers, thinking to curry favour with his master,
treacherously stabbed him in the back. This was the signal for the
neighbouring folk to fall upon the ill-fated chieftain's retainers, seven of
whom were slain. Glengarry's mutilated body was flung into the Inchnacardoch
burn, where it was subsequently found and taken to Auchterawe. The corpses
of his seven followers were buried in the green garden, where the outlines
of their graves may be traced.
evidence does not make for the truthfulness of this tale. Not merely was
Glengarry at this time married and blessed with a family, but the lady in
question was a close relative of his own.
The Macdonald version is more
probable, that Glengarry was invited down to discuss a disputed point with
regard to some lands and treacherously slain. This much is certain that the
Chief was done to death, and in punishment for the crime, the king condemned
Lovat to forfeit all the lands from "Alt na Criche," the burn on the east of
Cherry Island, to Auchterawe, whilst the descendants of Thomas Fraser who
struck the treacherous blow are still numerous in the district, and are
known to this day as "Sliochd Thomais nam Murt " or the "Off-spring of
Thomas the Murderer." The original pathway to the castle started from a
point due north of the island, two stones at the margin of the loch mark its
commencement, and on a clear day, in a boat, those interested in such things
may trace its course beneath the, waters of the lake.
On the hill above the bay,
some few hundred yards beyond the high-road, there is an ancient lead mine
or rather quarry. About seventy years ago this industry was vigorously
prosecuted, but an accident having occurred in which the manager lost his
life, and at the same time the value of deer forests coming to be realised,
the proprietors closed the works and all further lease was refused.
Everywhere along this green
hill-face we are met by the ruins of a departed civilisation, houses, a
mill, cattle-folds, gardens, fields, relics all of a once numerous
population who have been driven to seek their fortunes beyond the sea.
Returning to Fort-Augustus by
the high-road, directly opposite the first mile-stone, we pass a ruined
cottage. Here it was that the first rat known in the district was killed. It
was long before these chisel-toothed invaders of our larders made their way
into the heart of the Highlands. Probably there was little to attract them.
A century ago Sir Robert Gordon, writing of Badenoch, tells us that `,the
district is 'perfectly free from rats, and that if any are brought into the
country they presently die as soon as they smell the air of the district,
which is curious " (sic). Starvation had no doubt more to do with this than
any peculiarity of climate, and certain it is that we cannot in our day
claim a like immunity from the ravages of these domestic pests. Captain Burt
oddly enough tells us that the Highland ponies were largely responsible for
the spread of the ubiquitous rodent, the shelties' tails affording them a
warm and comfortable lodging. To those who have seen the shaggy matted tails
of the wild ungroomed pony this will not seem so impossible as at first
sight it might appear.
The neighbourhood of the new
golf course is also not without its points of interest.
From the Railway Station,
crossing the canal, we keep westwards along the bank to the path which leads
to the ferry across the river. At the back of the little club-house rises a
mound crowned by a knot of trees. The mound itself is manifestly a relic of
the glacial period, but when engaged upon the military road the soldiers
utilised it as a camp. From here the old military highway to Glenelg and the
West Coast wends its way across the hill. Now long disused, this track is
little better than a water course, but just where it rounds the shoulder on
the first ascent, we find three great boulders standing by the roadside.
Here, in olden times, marriages were celebrated, and the sacrament of
baptism administered. One stone was used for baptism, another for marriage,
while on the third the minister took his stand when addressing the happy
couple. In the three stones was contained a covert allusion to the Blessed
Trinity. The reason for this arrangement is explained by the Presbytery
records. As said before, the people of Kilcumein did not take kindly to the
reformed religion. The first minister and exhorter of sorts met with scant
courtesy from the natives. Later we find a Robert Munro solemnly invested
with "sacred Bible and the keys of the church doors, &c." The ceremony had
doubtless a deep esoteric meaning, but to the uninitiated it must appear a
work of supererogation, not to say "an empty form," since but a few months
earlier, Munro's predecessor defended himself to the Presbytery for not
celebrating the sacred sacrament, on the ground "that he had not a kirk to
celebrate it in, except he should celebrate it in the open fields, yet the
kirk was fallen." This Munro seems to have been a bit of a controversialist,
and was encouraged in his zeal by the Presbytery who exhorted him to study
the "Popish controversies that he may be able to convince gain-sayers and
reclaim the ignorant." His efforts do not seem to have met with success, as
we find him complaining bitterly of the "many defections from the reformed
religion in Abertarff, owing to the proximity of Catholic Glengarry." Next
year the insufficient nature of his installation ceremony seems to have
distressed him sorely, and he complains that he has no edifice since the
church fell "to put delinquents in for public repentance." The bridge, too,
is ruinous, and there is no ferry-boat on the water of Oriach (Oich). With
this genial controversialist holding such advanced views on public, penance,
it is small wonder that the Highlanders preferred to be married and baptized
on their own side of the water, with their foot upon the native heath of
their free hill-side, rather than within four bare walls, and under lock and
key and Bible of the Presbyterian incumbent.
Hard by the burn, at the
extreme end of the plain on which the golf course is laid out, there is a
little cemetery dedicated to Saint Molua, called Kilmalomaig. We may note in
passing that church-yards in the Highlands were almost invariably placed by
the side of the running water. This Luath or Moluath was another of the
early Irish missionaries who crossed over to this country in the wake of St.
Columba. He established his headquarters at Lismore, but has left plentiful
traces of his missionary labours up and down the Great Glen. In times gone
by, there was a church here beside the burying-ground, but now all trace of
it has disappeared. Even within the memory of man, this was the centre of a
densely-populated district; a number of little townships being scattered
over the plain, till on the east they came in contact with the Inchnacardoch
Perhaps the most interesting
spot in the enclosure is the grave in the north-west angle of the wall,
marked by a little mound, but without tombstone of any kind. Here lies
buried Allan Macranald of Lundy, a notorious never of the Glengarry sept,
and popularly known as "Allan of the Red Shirt." His misdeeds are almost
endless, both in number and variety. Towards the end of his life, in the
days of his failing strength, he is said to have paid a mason to construct a
mysterious hiding-place for him at Loch Lundy, the secret of which was to be
revealed to none. The mason successfully performed his task and presented
himself to Allan for payment. The Red-Shirt hero having satisfied himself
that the workman had faithfully performed his trust, struck off his head and
flung the body in the loch, quietly remarking that a secret can never be
safely kept if known to more than one.
But the blackest of all
Allan's crimes is one which —to be Irish—he never committed at all. For
years and years there has been a well-known tradition through the Highlands,
accepted without demur, and which historians have vied with one another in
describing with a wealth of graphic detail. This was Allan's famous
Kilchrist raid. We have heard how the godless outlaw, not merely swept into
the Mackenzie country, carrying off every head of cattle, but how, when his
enemies were attending church on Sunday, he impiously closed the doors and
fired the building, consuming the minister with his entire congregation, his
piper, the while, playing a pibroch round the blazing building. The very
tune invented for the occasion has come down to us in the present day.
We have also heard how the
Mackenzies rallied to the pursuit, and not only slew Lundy's followers, but
would have killed Allan himself had it not been for his miraculous leap
across a burn at Invermoriston, where the fleetest of his pursuers tried to
follow, but failing to obtain a footing upon the further bank clung to a
branch over a yawning chasm, whilst Allan coolly turned and cut the bough,
hurling his adversary into the abyss beneath. Then we are told how he flung
himself into Loch Ness, swam to the further side, and entered the house of
one of his bitterest enemies. The woman, seeing his sad plight, said he
should have the best she could afford, even if he were Allan of the Red
Now, after all these years, a
town clerk of the capital of the Highlands has proved beyond all doubt that
the whole story is a colossal fabrication. The minister who is supposed to
have been roasted survived for many a year, to threaten the self same
congregation with a like fate, and to preach a vigorous crusade against
Macranald and his band of robbers.
It would seem that Donald
Gregory, in his History of the Western Highlands was the first to give a
colour of authority to the story.
A little to the south of St.
Molua's Churchyard, a steep bare rock rises abruptly from the level ground.
On its summit was built one of those famous vitrified forts whose origin -
has never yet been satisfactorily explained, and which have proved such a
fruitful source of unavailing discussion to the antiquarian. Even those who
have no ambition to settle the dispute will find the top well worth a visit
on account of the view, if for no other reason.
From here we may afford
ourselves a pleasant walk by returning along the river-bank.
Fort-Augustus, there is one more place of interest which may be reached
either by boat or road. This is a curious chasm in the hill-side on the
south of the loch just beyond Glendoe shooting lodge, and which is known as
Corrie, like many another
Highland worthy, whose memory has been handed on to us, was a famous
sheep-stealer, thief and cattle-lifter. Many exploits have no doubt been
fathered on him for which he was in no way responsible; but there is one
authentic act of his which has caused the association of this cave with his
name—the attempt upon the life of the Duke of Cumberland.
Following the road which
leads towards Strath Errick, before crossing the wooden bridge across the
Tarff, we see on our right the low-lying fields in which Cumberland encamped
after the Battle of Culloden, and which still bear the name of "The Camp
Farm." After a mile or so the road turns eastwards up the brae. This is
General Wade's military road, and like many other military highways, is
constructed with a disregard of gradient that makes the blood of the modern
engineer run cold. The climb is stiff, but is amply repaid in the
magnificent view that breaks upon our sight at the summit of the hill.
About half-a-mile further on,
after crossing the second bridge, a path runs down along the stream-side and
leads us to the cave. It was just beside the bridge that Corrie made his
attempt to assassinate the Duke.
Directly after the battle of
Culloden, Cumberland marched his army to Kilcumein, and took up his
headquarters at Fort Augustus. It occurred to some of the inhabitants that
if only the "Bloody Butcher" could be got rid of, there would be no
difficulty in dealing with the rest of the English Army. Corrie being a
well-known raider, and skilled in the use of arms, undertook to do the deed.
The road at that time took a
slightly different course, and a person placed near the corner of the bridge
commanded a long straight stretch before him. Here a little trench was dug
and Corrie took up his position. A mighty charge of powder was poured into
the blunderbuss, and then "she" was crammed almost to the muzzle with pieces
of lead, rusty nails and pieces of scrap-iron, such as the heart of a
poacher loves. Then the weapon was adjusted in the fork of a tree.
Unfortunately for the success of his enterprise, Corrie, in his predatory
expeditions, had never fallen in with regular troops. The steady tramp of
the soldiers, the rattle of their accoutrements and the prancing steeds,
took him by surprise, and when the Duke came clattering past on his charger
the unwonted sight completely destroyed the poacher's nerve. He missed his
aim and fled, hotly pursued by the soldiers to this cave.
Beyond the entrance none
dared to follow, as one man here might defy the efforts of an army. So a
guard was placed at the mouth of the cavern and the rest of the soldiers
passed on to Fort Augustus. In view, however, of possible contingencies,
Corrie had carefully provisioned the cavern, and all endeavours to capture
him proved fruitless. Henceforward the retreat became his home, and he abode
there till his last illness, when his friends smuggled him into the village
where he died. Two or three years ago his grand-daughter—a very old
woman—was still living in the district.
The cave would seem to be the
result of earthquakes, and Sir A. Geikie's theory of the geology of the Glen
bears this out. It is singular that when earthquakes occur in other parts of
Europe, tremors are more frequently felt in the Great Glen than in any other
part of Scotland. Thus we find that year by year there are changes in the
shape and form of Corrie's Cave, and its inmost recesses have never yet been
A pleasant return journey may
be made by scrambling down to the water and taking a boat across the lake.
Loch Ness, the largest body
of fresh water in the British Isles, appears from the very earliest times to
have been largely utilised as a water-way both for business and pleasure.
From the eighteenth century, when we find General Wade building the
"Highland Galley" at Fort-Augustus, to the days when Cromwell launched his
famous frigate on its waters, and still further back to the dim mists of the
times of the Celtic missionaries, when we hear of St. Columba sailing up
Loch Ness against the wind, there is constant mention of boating on the
lake. The visitor of to-day cannot do better than follow the example of the
Ancients, and, availing himself of the increased facilities which science,
more or less modern, has placed at his disposal, make a trip down the loch.
Invermoriston opens up a
beautiful glen, which, on account of its magnificent scenery and exquisite
colouring, is in high repute amongst artists, who of late years have
thronged the glen in great numbers. Besides its natural beauty the glen is
full of historic interest and teems with sites "connected with noteworthy or
romantic incidents of the past. It was the scene of the exploits of the
famous band known as the "Seven Men of Glenmoriston," who, after Culloden,
bound themselves by solemn compact never to lay down their arms or make
peace with the "Elector of Hanover" and his Government. Their homes had been
burned and their lands destroyed, so they took up their abode in a cave
still shown on the mountain side. Again and again they cut off convoys of
provisions or drove away parties of red-coats who were devastating the glen,
and when Prince Charlie passed through the cordon of soldiers who had
encircled him in the West, these brave mountaineers became his bodyguard—his
privy council he was pleased to call them—and whilst protecting him from the
search parties of the enemy, for three weeks they supplied him with the best
hospitality their simple cave afforded. Their loyalty to the unfortunate
fugitive manifested itself in many touching incidents. One of the band used
to go daily in disguise to the neighbourhood of Fort Augustus and try to
procure news and what cheer he might from the Saxon Camp, and though their
poverty was such that on one occasion we read of their bringing hack the
choicest dainty they had ever seen----a pennyworth of gingerbread—yet the
idea of obtaining the £30,000, offered
for the capture of him whom
they were guarding never for an instant crossed their mind. In return for
their hospitality Prince Charlie reproved them for the habit of swearing to
which they were very much addicted, and which at his exhortation they
immediately gave up. When the prince finally made his escape one of the band
grasped him by the hand, and then in token of his unbounded devotion and
affection never offered his right hand to man or woman after.
Glenmoriston, too, was the
scene of the tragic death of Roderick Mackenzie, a travelling merchant who
bore a striking resemblance to Prince Charlie. At the time when the pursuit
was hottest a troop of soldiers came up with Mackenzie, and, mistaking him
for the Royal Fugitive, riddled him with bullets. As he fell the brave lad
cried out: "Villains, you have murdered your Prince!" With great rejoicings
the soldiers cut off his head and carried it to Fort Augustus. A prisoner
who was asked to identify the features purposely gave colour to the report,
and Cumberland departed in triumph for London, carrying the head of his
supposed adversary with him. The respite thus afforded him, enabled Prince
Charlie to elude his pursuers and reach a haven of safety. A cairn by the
roadside marks the spot where the merchant fell, and quite recently a sword,
doubtless Mackenzie's; was dug up beside it.
Dr Johnson and Boswell have
also left marks of their footsteps in the glen, for it was when spending the
night at Aonach that the great lexicographer was surprised no less by the
culture and literary tastes of his host than by the good looks and lady-like
hearing of his daughter, to whom as a keepsake, not without a weird sense of
humour surely, he presented a copy of Cocker's Arithmetic."
Space does not permit us even
to touch upon the other manifold points of interest in this valley, but
those who take more than a passing interest in the subject will find most
valuable matter in W. Mackay's volume, Urquhart and Glenmoriston.
At Foyers the beauty of the
district has been sadly impaired by the erection of the Aluminium works, but
the immediate neighbourhood of the famous falls still remains unchanged, and
except in times of drought is well worthy of a visit.
At Temple Pier we come into
closer connection with the East Coast, and the ruined walls of Urquhart
Castle standing out gaunt and gray upon their promontory at the entrance to
the glen reminds us that this district was connected not only with the
Highlanders and their feuds, but with the great historic movements of the
As the steamer bears us away
from this central district of the Highlands it is impossible even for the
most prejudiced stranger not to feel some spark of admiration for the brave
clansmen who displayed such wholehearted loyalty and chivalrous devotion to
the Stuart cause, whilst every true Highlander, when considering these later
days and the times of his youth, with manners and customs all too rapidly
passing away, must profess himself.
LAUDATOR TEMPORIS ACTI, SE