At the meeting held on
this date the following were elected ordinary members of the Society,
viz., Mr D. Cargill, accountant, Royal Bank, Inverness ; Mr John
Campbell, jr., Inspector of Poor, Kingussie; Miss Helen Mackenzie, 7
Palace Road, Surbiton, Surrey; Mr George Macpherson Grant, Ballindalloch;
and Mr Ronald Macdonald, teacher, Central School, Inverness. Thereafter
Mr Roderick Maclean, Ardross, read a paper entitled Notes on the Parish
of Alness. Mr Macleans paper was as follows:
NOTES ON THE PARISH OF
Two years ago I had the
honour of reading before this Society a paper on the topography of the
Parish of Rosskeen, in which some friends in the Parish of Alness were
so much interested that they wished me to prepare a similar paper on
their Parish, which I have done, and now take the liberty of reading. I
hope those friends and others will find a few things in it which will
The Parish of Alness lies
to the north of the Cromarty Firth, extends in a north-westerly
direction a distance of 16 milesits greatest length ; and its greatest
breadth is 7 miles. It comprises an area of 72 square miles. Except
comparatively small portions south and east of Fyrish, at Boath and at
Glenglass, the whole is pastoral and mountainous. Several ot the hills
reach elevations of from 2000 to 2700 feet. By the Ordnance Survey of
1881, the extent of arable land is 3050 acres, and of moor, wood, &c.
The Rev. Mr Angus
Bethune, Minister of Alness, in his statistical account of the Parish
published in 1797, gives the origin of the name thus:Alness signifies
the Promontory, a headland of the river or brook, being composed of the
words Auilt, brook, or Amhain, river; and Ness, a headland, which is the
termination of many places where there is a headland or promontory. I
cannot agree with Mr Bethune in this derivation. There is a headland
where the river enters the sea, but the Norse have not left their mark
at all in place names in that district. The promontory immediately West
of the mouth of Alness river is called a rudha, and the promontory
immediately East thereof, at Invergordon, is also called a rudha
(Celtic); and all the old place names, both along the shore and inland,
from Dingwall to Nigg, are Celtic, so that I conclude we must take
Alness to be derived from Celtic words. When I was a boy, old people
pronounced the word Anesthe e being silent, so that I feel I must
adhere to the same derivation as I gave in my former paper on Rosskeen,
Ath an Innis, the ford at the island or flat land at the river side.
The river Alness is a rapid one, and its banks, along the greater part
of its course, are precipitous till it reaches to within half-a-mile of
the sea, where it leaves the conspicuous terrace (from 70 to 80 feet
high) along the northern shore of the firth. At the foot of this terrace
there is a pool called "Poll-a-charachaidh,the turning pool"where,
before the present through channel was cut in 1846-7, the river
frequently changed its course to the west, to the cast, and in different
directions between. Several traces of the channel are to be seen below
Teaninich House on the west side, and towards Dalmore on the east side.
A small stream flowing by the church of Alness, half-a-mile west of the
river, is, at its lower end, called wrest ford, indicating that it
entered a branch of the river there, that there existed an east ford,
and that there was an island or islands between. Here, then, was the
easiest place to ford the river, and the old road that passed that way
can still be traced. From recent archeological discoveries, this place
was centuries ago more populous than the surrounding places. The first
Christian place of worship was built near the ford, and, before the
County was divided into parishes, it is quite natural to suppose the
name given to the church would have been Eatjlais Ath-an-Innisthe
church at the island ford latterly the parish named after the church,
shortened to Anes, and corrupted to Alness.
Commencing with the names
of the places next the seashore, I take them successively inland.
The house of the market-place, or of the assembly of people. The flat at
the ford here was a very suitable place for a market-stance. The markets
are now held at the east side of the river in the Parish of Rosskeen.
The present bridge crossing the Alness from Teaninich to Obsdale was
erected in the beginning of the present century.
In 1799 the former bridge
was swept away during a great flood in the river. It stood immediately
north of the present bridge, and its foundations can still be traced. In
the eastern abutment there was a cell for criminals. About 1750, the
last prisoner who occupied it managed, with the assistance of a friend,
to make his escape by wrenching off the iron grated door during night, a
few hours after he was incarcerated. On the terrace immediately west of
the bridge can still be traced the remains of the entrenchment occupied
by Sir Robert Munro of Fowlis and a strong body of men to guard the
passage of the bridge during the rebellion of 1745-46. Sir Robert Munro,
and his brother Duncan, who was the surgeon accompanying Sir Roberts
regiment, were both killed at the battle of Falkirk, on 16th January,
1746, and are buried there.
Baile chreagainThe town
of the little rock. The last of this little rock was removed by the
present tenant three years ago. It was situated to the west of the
The original village of
Alness, composed of a number of scattered houses, stood on this farm,
south and east of the Parish Church. The Alehouse was at the east side
of the Church-yard, its back wall forming part of the enclosure of the
Church-yard. In it parties watching newly-buried bodies lest they should
be lifted by doctors spent more of their time over the ale stoup than
watching their charge.
The present village was
laid off about the beginning of this century, on leases of 999 years. It
is told of one man who, on receiving his lease from Captain Munro, the
proprietor, about 70 years ago, asked would he get a renewal of his
lease on the expiry of the present one. The Captain said to him, When
your present term expires come you to me and I will renew it. The man,
quite satisfied, said, Well, Captain, you were always a gentleman of
your word, and I will take you at your word. In the middle of the 17th
century the farm of Balachraggan was part of the estate which belonged
to the famous Rev. Mr Mackilligan, Minister of the Parish of Fodderty,
who was ousted for nonconformity to Prelacy. The estate came into his
possession by his wife, who was a lady of the Fowlis family. I am
indebted to the Rev. Dr Aird, Creich, for several interesting
reminiscences relating to this eminent man which are worthy of being
recorded, and I here give them.
Mr Mackilligan was
admitted to Fodderty 26th February, 1656; deprived by Act of Parliament
and Privy Council, June and October, 1662 ; deposed May, 1663. He
removed to his wifes property, below the church of Alness. I heard my
father say that the wood to the south-east of the old toll-bar used to
be called "Coille Mhic Caolagan.
Mr Mackilligan was the
leader at the conventicle which was held at Obsdale, near the sea-shore,
and about a mile east of the river Alness, in the month of September,
1675. Bishop Paterson was then Bishop of Ross. His feelings towards
Mackilligan were bitter, and he was constantly on the watch to find
cause for Mr Mackilligans apprehension. At last he was informed of the
pn> posal to hold this meeting, and to dispense the sacramentthe only
Communion said to have been held in the Presbyterian Church north of
Nairn from 1662 to 1689. Wodrow (Vol. II., page 285, edition 1829)
saysThe design of this solemnity (Communion at Obsdale) having taken
air, the Sheriff-depute, Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Findon, a moderate
gentleman if left to himself, by the instigation of the Bishop sent a
party to apprehend Mr Mackilligan. Expecting the solemnity would have
been dispensed at Alness, the soldiers came there, and, not finding him,
they fell a-pillaging his orchard, which kept them so long that the
forenoons work at Obsdale was over before they reached.
Records do not apparently
agree as to the very spot on which the Communion was held. Wodrow
saysThe holy ordinance was administered in the house of the Dowager of
Fowlis. Another author, whose name has escaped my memory, says that it
was held in a sheltered place among bushes, and it is traditional among
the people of Rosskeen and Alness that it was held at an old fir tree,
now in the last stages of decay, in a garden immediately above the
farm-house of Dalmore.
I believe that the three
accounts are parts of a true whole, for I have a map of Obsdale, dated
1791, which shews the dowagers house, waste land covered with bushes,
and the tree, all on a small area of ground. My impression is that
during the service the minister stood at the tree, the congregation sat,
sheltered by the bushes, close to the tree, and that when they were
warned of the approach of the soldiers they dispersed. Mr Mackilligan,
being the only one wanted, took refuge in the dowager ladys house, and
there dispensed the sacrament to the lady and friends who were in the
house with her. In his search for Mr Mackilligan, the officer in command
of the party of soldiers entered the dowager ladys house while Mr
Mackilligan was there, and I here give, in Dr Airds words, how he
escaped:There was in the house when the officer entered the famous Sir
John Munro of Fowlis, son of Sir Robert. Sir John was a famous soldier,
and an eminently godly man. He married Ann, daughter of Sir Kenneth
Mackenzie, first Baronet of Coul. He was very portly; if he lay flat on
the ground it would take four men to help him up. When the officer
appeared near the house, Sir John covered himself with his military
cloak, and having taken Mackilligan under the cloak, hid him behind his
Wodrow states that after
the soldiers left the ministers and people met again in the afternoon
and had no more disturbance, but he does not state where they met. The
tradition is that they met in a hollow north of Fyrish hill, not on the
same afternoon, but on the following day. After 1687, says Dr Aird,
Mr Mackilligan was allowed to preach on his own estate. He summoned Sir
Roderick Mackenzie of Findon to law for the damage his orchard sustained
from the raid his soldiers perpetrated, and got large damages. With
these damages he built a meeting-house on his estate, where the people
assembled peaceably under his preaching until the Revolution. Owing to
an ailment under which he laboured he required to be near a surgeon, and
could not return to Fodderty, his old Parish, which he was entitled to
do, but went to Inverness, preached there to such as would come to hear
him, but not in the High Church, as the Magistrates and many of the
people were so prelatic that they would suffer none to enter the pulpit
but an Episcopalian, for about ten years after the Revolution. He died
in Inverness 8th June, 1689, and his dust lies buried there.
The present Parish Church
was built in 1782, and the Manse in 1795. The Church was repaired in
1875, and the Manse having been accidentally destroyed by fire, except
the walls, in 1869, was renewed the following year.
the little rock. The farm lying immediately north of Balachraggan, and
probably formed part of Mr Mackilligans estate.
Coulhill (Cnoc-na Cuil)The
hill of the nook, from one of the nooks at the base of the hill near the
hollow of the yellow flowers. In the time of the Rev. James Fraser, who
died in 1770, this place was noted for pious women, and it has been said
that the minister, though a man of great learning and ability, often
feared to preside at meetings held by the old women for discussion, lest
they should bring forward points too weighty for him to grapple with. Dr
Aird has in his possession an ivory snuff-box which belonged to this
end of the hillocks. A small castle stood here, which was replaced by
the present farmhouse about the end of the last century. In the
beginning of the last century the eastle was occupied by a wild
character known by the name of Eachiann Odhar na mortDun Hector of the
murders. Ilis proper name was Hector Munro. He had a brother at New
Tarbat, in Easter Ross, who was almost as ferocious as himself. Hector
was appropriately named the murderer, for any man from the heights of
the parish passing along the road, a little to the east of his castle,
who would not take off his bonnet, and place it under his arm, would be
shot. He killed many. One man from Kildermorry, who, in passing by,
unfortunately omitted to take of! his bonnet, immediately met his fate ;
and on the report reaching Kildermorrie, a cousin of the murdered man,
Ross by name, but better known as An Liosac'* (iille-Iosa), vowed
he would put an end to Hectors career. The following day he carefully
loaded a sure Spanish musket, and proceeded to Contullich. As he
approached the castle he concealed his musket, by keeping it
peipendicular at his off side. Ho observed Hector landing at an open
window, and took off his bonnet, but soon replaced it, which roused the
ire of Hector, who rushed for his gun, came to the window, and aimed,
but, before he could fire, the Kildermorrie man shot him dead, thus
ending his murderous career. He had a vault into which he placed the
bodies of his victims, and only opened for each fresh victim. It is but
natural to suppose that after Hectors death the ghosts of the murdered
would be disturbing the peace and quietness of Hectors successors in
the castle. Almost every night footsteps were heard ascending to, and
descending from, one of the rooms, known as "Macleod s room, in which
was placed the window from which he shot most of his victims. On one
occasion a ghost was so daring as to thrust its hand through the jamb of
the kitchen fire-place and take away a bannock of barley bread from a
girdle on the fire.
The ghost disturbances
came to an end by Thomas Macdonald, the tenant of the farm, about the
end of the last century, opening the vault and removing the bonessix
earn loban loads, some say sixteen loadsto Alness churchyard. I knew a
man who, when a boy, saw the bones removed.
Other wild stories are
told of Hector, among them that when he went out to dine he had a naked
footman with a foxs tail bound behind him, running before his horse. On
a cold wintry night, with snow and severe drift, his cattleman, who,
w'hile feeding the cattle, and Hector present, said, It is cold
to-night on Druim-na-gaoithe (the windy hill). You will experience
that, said Hector, and immediately ordered him to make up a burden of
straw, and carry it on his back, over the windy and other hills, to
Easter Fearn, on the southern shore of the Dornoch Firth, a distance of
thirteen miles ; and he did it.
At the time of the
Rebellion of 1745-46, there lived at Contullich a very strong man. On
the retreat of the rebels from the skirmish at the Little Ferry in
Sutherlandshire, a few of them passed through this district. One was so
severely w'ounded that when they came to the Dalneich ford of the river
Alness he could proceed no further. His comrades took possession of a
horse belonging to a crofter there to carry him. The remonstrances of
the owner of the horse w ere repelled, and his life threatened if he
persisted in trying to retain his property. Consequently, unknown to the
rebels, whose way led by Contullich, he crossed the river by another
ford, and reached Contullich before them. He found the strong man
turning over his dung heap with a croman, who, on having heard of his
friend's loss, coolly went to meet the rebels, cronian in hand, and
demanded the horse. On being firmly refused, he belaboured them with his
uncouth weapon, put them to flight, and restored the horse to its owner.
giants house. Tradition has failed to record who this giant was.
Cnoc Fyrish (Cnoc
Faire)The watching hill. One of the chain of beacon hills from Fairburn
(Faire braigh cimhuinn)the watching place above the riverto
Cnoc-na-h-aire, the watching hill in the parish of Tarbet, Easter Ross.
There is a curious monument 011 the top of Fyrish, which attracts the
attention of strangers. It consists of three arches, and two obelisks on
each side of the arches, gradually increasing in height towards the
ccntre. It, as well as two other monuments on the neighbouring hills,
was built by General Sir Hector Munro of Novar in the end of the last
century. I sawr in Boath one of the buckets used in carrying on
horseback prepared mortar to the top of the hill for the building.
Gleann GlaisThe glen of
the stream. Glais is obsolete Irish for a stream. Hence, anything of
the colour of water is called glas by Gaelic-speaking people.
Moultavie ( Maol-dubh)The
black, bare place. The heather here is black and stunted.
black turn, or bend, in the valley between Cnoc Fyrish and Cnoc Ducharie.
Caishlan-'The name given
to a hill once famous for its cheese-producing herbage.
of the stags.
of the wild boar.
Lealty (Leth A lit dubh)One
side of the black burn. This small estate was bought by the late Sir
Alexander Matheson of the Munros of Lealty in 1846. The extent of arable
was small at the time of purchase, but it is now all improved as far as
practicable. There is to be seen at Lealty House the lifting-stone of
the old Munros of Lealty. It is of granite, globular, 2 feet in
diameter, and weighs 7 cwt. It is said, 011 an occasion of the sons of
one of the lairds of Lealty and the heir of the laird of Tollie, on the
opposite side of the river, trying feats of strength, that the heir of
Tollie injured his spine in trying to lift the stone. His father
complained to the laird of Lealty, who, during the following night, got
the stone removed to Lealty burn and sunk it into a deep pool. His sons,
having missed the stone the following morning, made a quiet search for
it, restored it to its former place, and there it now rests, bidding all
observers defiance to lift it. There is a vein of iron ore on this
estate. A sample of it, which, in the end of the last century, was sent
to the Carron Company at their own request, produced 70 per cent, of
iron. In 1849, a Birmingham Company sampled it with the same result.
Hill. This hill is situated West of Lealty. On its south-west slope the
remains of seven ancient British houses are to be seen. They are
circular, about thirteen yards diameter, and the entrance facing the
south-east. I cut a section through one of them, and found in the centre
what I took to be decomposed charcoal. The fire-place was evidently
Boath (Both)A hut. The
name is said to be derived from the hut built by the first occupant of
the place. This must have been very long ago. On the farm of
Ach-a-cairnthe field of the cairnsare the remains of several tumuli.
These were entire a century ago, but, within the last 70 years, were
removed for building houses and enclosures. Two of the cairns were large
and vaulted. One had a rude stair descending to the floor, and it had
been the temporary abode of a noted cateran from Lochaber. In 1745 a
scene took place near these Cairns which I believe to be true. It is,
that big Donald Cameron from Laggan-na-Drama, Lochaberthe leafier of a
band of caterans who were pillaging the countryseized a horse which
belonged to Donald Fraser, one of the Boath Crofters. Fraser having
observed this, ran to his house for his musket, which was loaded, met
Cameron, who was armed with a loaded musket and pistol, and demanded the
restoration of his horse. Cameron, qualifying his language with a volley
oc oatlis, declared he would shoot Fraser if he persisted in his claim,
and, raising his musket, fired, but the powder flashed in the pan. He
thereupon drew his pistol, but before he could discharge it Fraser shot
him in the breast and he fell. The great-grandmother (then a little
girl) of one of my informants w*as present herding cattle, and she saw
Cameron rise and fall several times during the few minutes he lived
after having received the mortal wound. When dead he was stripped of his
clothing, and his shirt, which was of fine linen, was divided among a
few who were attracted to the spot by the reports of the musketsthe
girl getting her share. His shoes were of home-tanned leather, and so
large that he had a bannock of barley bread wrapped around his foot in
each shoe. Some of his upper clothing was again w rapped around his
body, and he was buried in a hole dug at the east side of one of the big
Cairns. The rest of the gang having heard of the murder, mustered to the
spot, and burnt Fraser^ house. They further threatened to bum every
house in Boath, but Murdo Mackenzie, laird of Ardross, who was in favour
of the rebellion, interceded, and saved the dwellings of the Boath
people. Shortly thereafter Fraser left the place and never returned. I
knew an ole woman who was said to have been his grand-daughter.
This same girl who was
present at the shooting of the Lochaber man, about the same time
observed a stranger for several days roaming through the district
immediately surrounding Boath, collecting peculiar looking stones, and
having collected a quantity of them, bought several loads of peats,
which he built into a compact stack, with the stones in the centre. He
set the peats on tire, and when they were consumed his trouble was
rewarded by the ashes producing a lump of gold the size of a small hens
egg. If this be true, there are more gold-producing stones in Boath, and
these inhabitants should search for them.
The LairgSloping ground,
south of the arable lands of Boath in the pass to Glenglass, is the
place to which the raiders brought the sheep in August, 1792, when they
were dispersed by soldiers, as reported in the paper on the year of the
sheep, in the Transactions of this Society, 1876-77.
Marys Chapel, a ruin at the west end of Loch Moire. This place of
worship gave the name to the loch and to the glenKildermorrie. There is
a holy well near the Chapel, which has now lost its former virtue for
curing diseases. Tradition gives another origin to the name of the glen
Glam Moire. Long ago a young man and his newly-married wife, natives of
the West Coast of Ross-shire, migrated to a place where success would
most attend them, and, according to the superstition of the time,
submitted their fate to the falling of a load from the back of a horse.
They therefore put the creels, loaded with household necessaries, in the
ordinary way on the back of their pony, which they drove before them.
The pony retained his load till they came to this glen, when it fell
off, and there the young couple settled, prospered, and were blessed
with five stalwart sons. It happened that on a snowy day the mother went
in search of the cattle, and she not having appeared at the expected
time, her husband and sons got alarmed about her safety, and went in
search. The youngest of them becoming fatigued, sat down upon a slight
elevation to rest. On rising some of the snow was removed from his seat,
whereby he noticed that the seat he occupied was the dead body of his
mother. Her name was Mary, and in consequence of this incident the glen
has been called Glenn Moire, or Marys glen. They w ere said to be the
first occupants of the glen.
Glen Morie could not have
been at any time populous, as the extent of old arable land is small and
the elevation high, the loch being 622 feet above the sea. In the end of
the last century there were only about half-a-dozen crofters. The
astonishment is that a place of worship should have been erected there.
It could not have been for the inhabitants of the glen only, as they
could not support a priest. The only conclusion that can be come to is
that this was a central station for all the glens in the neighbourhood.
The priests introduced char into the loch, and they are still numerous.
In the month of May,
1792, Capt. Alexander Cameron and his brother Allan Cameron, natives of
Lochaber, became tenants of the grazings of Kildermorrie, which they
stocked with sheep. The crofters who occupied the glen were
dispossessed, and they removed; but two men, who had part of the hill
grazings from year to year, marching with the lands of Mackenzie of
Ardross and Munro of Teaninich, and took in cattle at a price per head
for summering, were by mistake omitted to be legally warned out, in
consequence of which they retained possession, and, as on former
occasions, took in cattle to graze. These same lands having been let to
the Messrs Cameron, they quite naturally ordered the cattle to be
removed, which the graziers declined. The result was that the Camerons
poinded the cattle in a fank. The graziers wTent to the owners of the
cattle and told what the Camerons had done. The owners and their friends
mustered in strong force, and wfent to relieve the cattle. The Camerons
having seen them approach, mustered their shepherds to assist them in
defending the fank. Both the Camerons were armed, Alexander with a
single-barrelled gun, and Allan with a double-barrelled gun and dirk.
One of his shepherds was armed with a clip, made for taking foxes out of
their holes, and the rest with bludgeons. The people demanded their
cattle, but were refused, whereupon the most powerful man of the owners
of the cattle, Alexander Wallace by name, alias Big Wallace, an
Ardross man, rushed upon Allan Cameron, seized his gun, and having
overpowered him, took it, as well as the dirk, from him. James Munro,
commonly called Craggan, disarmed Alexander Cameron, and Finlay Munro
took the clip from the shepherd. The Camerons and their party were now
overpowered and submissive. An old woman, mother of one of the
shepherds, then attacked the party with stones, whereupon one of them
pushed her over a cairn, and broke her arm. The Camerons now got their
choice of two evils, either to quit the place at the following
Whitsunday, or to suffer themselves to be bound, laid on their backs in
the back door, and the cattle to be forced out over them. They chose the
firstto removewhich Allan did, but Alexander was allowed to finish his
lease in peace. Several of the party were tried, but only two, Alexander
Wallace and Finlay Bain, were considered sufficiently guilty to be tried
at the assize, eight weeks thereafter, during which time they were
lodged in jail. TheĽ evidence brought out that both the Camerons had
their guns loaded with buckshot and ball, and as the parties at the bar
did them no harm, but only disarmed them, they were not found guilty.
Not having been found guilty, they got 4id a day each as compensation
for the time they were in jail. In the following August took place the
famous sheep raid, already taken notice of before this Society. The glen
is now a deer forest, and has been so for the last 50 years.
There is not much of
traditional interest connected with the other place names in the parish,
but I may name a few of them, so as to give their meaning.
LoneroidThe wild myrtle
KnockleaThe grey hill.
Ba 1-a-vihu il innM illtown.
Balhne The marshy town.
Cnoc-na-SroineThe hill of the nose; above the junction of the Ainoss
and Rusdale rivers.
Lent had RiabhachThe greyish slope.
An ClaigionnThe skull.
MeaU-toil-a-chomThe hill of the dogs hole.
Meall-morThe large hill.
Cn achrv-nansgadanThe bare mountain summit of the herrings.
Mmll-nun-boThe hill of the cows.
Cam SonraichteThe notable cairn.
Coire-nan-SgulanThe cony of wicker baskets.
Loch-a-chaoruinnThe loch of the rowan trees.
Feur-fochanThe grassy loch.
Loch MagharachThe loch having much fishing bait or spawn (trout are
Bad-asgailichThe shading clump of trees.
Coirena gaoitheThe windy corry.
As may be expected, many
more superstitious tales than those I have already mentioned are still
told by old people, though, thanks to an enlightened age, they are not
believed in. I here give three, and a few others of local interest.
Corji-crcA form of human
body made of clay. About the close of the last century the powers of the
wizard were not extinct in the Parish, for they were exercised on the
heir-apparent to an estate in the upper reaches of the Parish. The young
gentleman showed symptoms of decline, and no medical aid could avail him
A man whose surname was
Mason lived in the neighbourhood, and it being whispered among the
natives that he had communion with the nether world, suspicion fell upon
him that he was exercising his cantrips on the young gentleman. No
counter-wizard of sufficient powTer could be found nearer than the
famous Willox of Strathspey. He was sent for, and, on examination,
perceived that the decline was owing to a Corp-ere. It was necessary to
find out the author, of whom Willox gave a description so like Mason
that there was no doubt of him being the mischief-maker. A member of the
family wTent to Masons house and bribed one of his children, a girl, to
give information about some things she saw her father do. Among others,
she told of the Corp-crfc, which she saw her father place in a
neighbouring burn. She pointed out the spot, the dicoverer went home,
informed Willox, who went to have it removed, but to the grief of the
family Wrillox said the clay body was too far gone to remove the charm,
and the young gentleman must die ; but Willox said that for a suitable
reward, if the family wished, he could transfer the decline from the
young man to his father, who would die instead of his son. This was
agreed to; the old man in a few days became insane, and shortly
thereafter his earthly career came to an end. The young man was quickly
restored to health, and he lived to a good old age.
At Clais-nam-buidheag a
man coming home late from a smuggling bothy observed a woman standing at
one of the windows of his house in the act of receiving something that
was being pushed out through the window. The woman having seen the man,
ran away, whereupon he rushed forward and caught hold of the object,
which, to his astonishment, was his own child about being carried away
by the fairies. He entered his house quietly and found his wife sound
asleep in bed with a babe beside her. The man lay down in another bed
close to where his wife lay, and took the rescued child in with him. In
a short time his wife awoke, and found the child she had lying on her
arm dead. My child is dead, she called to her husband, in a state of
alarm. But mine is living, said the man, and then told her what
happened. The report soon spread, and the following day many came to see
the dead child, but none could tell whose it was. They feared to bury
it, but, on the recommendation of the Solomon of the place, it was laid
on a gravestone in Alness Church-yard, where it was exposed for six
weeks, to give the fairies an opportunity of claiming it, and they
having not done so, the remains of the body were committed to the earth.
The girl mentioned above,
who saw the Lochaber cateran shot at Boath, was taken late on a Saturday
night by her master to assist him in spearing salmon on the river
Alness. He was very successful that night, more so than ever he was. The
fish came rushing towards the light of his torch, and none missed his
spear ; each fish as flung ashore was added by the girl to the heap.
Midnight passed, when, to his astonishment, a tremendous fish came
slowly on, its enormous eyes flashing brightly in the rays of the torch.
The mermaid! he called out, and moved backward, keeping the spear
advanced, till he reached the bank of the river, when he sprang ashore
and ran home, accompanied by the terrified girl. He, however, returned
to the fishing scene when daylight appeared, and took home the fish; but
he never thereafter went a-fishing late on a Saturday night.
Past generations were not
far advanced in religious knowledge in the upper parts of the Parish. I
will give two examples. During the incumbency of the Rev. James Fraser,
about 150 years ago, a Kildcrmorric crofter called upon him for baptism.
The minister found the man very ignorant. He asked him where he was
brought up. I was born, said he at Bad-a-sgailich, and I was brought
up at Thig-a-$tae (both in the glen). My education consisted not in a
knowledge of God and religion, but in the milking of cows, the curdling
of milk, the grazing of stots, and, ho! ho! on with them.' Man, do you
know there is a God! said the minister. Do you know' yourself there is
a God?" was the mans reply; if there were not a God how could a foal
come from a mare, a calf from a cow, or a child from a woman.
My next story shews a
degree of cleverness that is worthy of being recorded. Rev. Alexander
Flyter was translated to the parish of Alness in, I think, 1821. He was
a very gentle and earnest man in religious matters, and did all that lay
in his powder to instruct the people under his care. In one of his
earliest visits to the upper part of the parish, he held a diet of
catechising at Kinloch (Ceann-an-loch), the east end of Loch Morie, at
the house of Donald Ross (Mac Eachuinn). Donald was a famous smuggler,
and a prince of flatterers. He had no great desire for the minister's
visit, which was announced from the pulpit on the previous Sabbath, on
account of the break it would make in his smuggling operations that day,
but he resolved to be courteous and affable towards his minister. There
were no roads suitable for springed conveyances in Boath in those days,
so that the minister made the journey on horseback. When he came,
accompanied by the catechist of the district, in sight of the house,
Donald went forth in haste to meet him, with his bonnet under his arm,
and uttered as a salutation, Lord bless you, what a pretty man you
are! They shook hands, the minister dismounted, and Donald put the
horse in charge of one of his sons, with the instruction to put him into
the barn that he might get his bellyful of com from the heap. Do not
that, said the minister; the horse would injure himself. Just give him
water and a feed of com. Donald now conducted the minister and
catechist into his house, but immediately turned back to order his son
to give the horse a wisp of straw only. On his return the catechising
commenced. Donald, said the minister, I always begin with the head of
the family; what is effectual calling? And what is effectual calling]
said Donald. I want you to answer the question, said the minister.
Indeed, Mr Flyter, said he, it would be a great shame for me to open
my mouth on such a subject in your presence. There was never a blessing
on this parish till you came to it. You are so pretty and so peaceable;
you are not like wild Mr Carment, who is this day catechising on the
other side of the river, frightening all his people; you draw the
people, and they love you. Ill not open my mouth; you are the man to
put a question and to answer a question; repeat the answrer yourself.
Mr Flyter acquired his knowledge of Gaelic after he was licensed to
preach, and was not at the time referred to so fluent in the language as
afterwards, so that he took up the Gaelic catechism and read the answer.
Indeed, said Donald, you read it well. The minister was not
satisfied with the knowledge of Donalds children, and gently reproved
him. Donalds excuse was the great distance from a school and his
inability to pay for a tutor, which resulted in the minister, at his own
expense, sending a tutor for a year to instruct Donalds children.
Highland hospitality in those days would not be hospitality without the
whisky bottle. A bottle was produced, but the quality of the whisky did
not please Donald. Another and another was sampled till the right stuff
was got. When the minister tasted the whisky he suspected it was of
Donalds own distilling, and seriously counselled him, showing him the
great evils resulting from the practice of smuggling. Do you advise
me, said Donald, to stop it? Oh, yes I do, said the minister, who
was delighted to get the replyWell, Ill never put a black pot over a
fire again since you say I should not but no sooner was the minister out
of sight on his return journey than Donald sent one of his sons to turn
the malt and another to kindle the fire under the black pot.
There are many stories
told of Donald how he cheated the "gaugers, but I must dispense with
them at present, as I would occupy too much time.
One story more and I am
done. Mr Flyter was on another occasion catechising at Lealty, when John
Holme, who resided there, had put to him the question, What benefits do
believers receive from Christ at death?" He answered correctly. In
questioning him on the answer, the minister said, Now, John, do
believers rest in their graves? John replied naively, There was a day
when they would rest, but now the doctors will not allow them.
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