Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Old Highland Industries
From the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness


In these days of great factories and concentration of labour in the production of articles required for the daily use of man, it may be interesting and profitable to recall some of the old and peculiar modes employed by our countrymen for providing food, clothing, ami implements, but which modes have now almost disappeared.

Machinery, driven by steam, has done away with much hand labour, and, under the guiding hand of man, does nearly all the work, where mechanical power is required, and thus gets rid, in a large degree, of the great waste involved in manual labour. This centralised production has tended to enlarge and extend our towns and seats of industry, and to produce articles for the million at a relatively much less cost than could be done by hand labour, and, by means of transport and commerce, to send machine-made articles into the furthest corners of the earth, civilised and uncivilised; hence we find ranged alongside stone and flint implements, the latest gay and fancy fabric of Manchester and Birmingham. Even the Hindoo and Chinaman’s gods and idols are manufactured in our British workshops, and many other articles which are considered peculiar to certain nations. I had occasion to remark this particularly in a Liverpool counting-house, for on asking what were the goods they exported from this country, a drawer was pulled out and samples displayed. These consisted of Spanish hedalgos, spurs, and brilliant saddles, and saddle cloths, Spanish mantillas, <fec., of gorgeous and rich colours, such as that noble animal the “British Crocker,” always declares the British manufacturers can neither rival nor approach.

It is extremely interesting to study the progress from primitive machinery to the most advanced and intricate results of modern times, and perhaps the Highlands of Scotland afforded till recently a very good field for such study.

The Lowlands of Scotland long retained their ancient practices as regards homemades, and I can myself recall the time before the modern lucifer match and vesta were introduced, fire was produced by various simple methods, and when the old gaberlunzie man wandered round the country, and the chapman paid his accustomed visit to supply jewellery, and such literature as was then read, the old cruize lamp with fish oil and rush which supplied the poor flicker of light to permit the maids to spin and the hinds to read.

In the Highland Glens the primitive native arts were continued to even a later date than in the Lowlands. This would naturally arise from the difficulty of intercommunication in consequence of the want of roads and sparseness of population. Accordingly we find the old manners and customs remaining, and the old modes of cultivation being practised long after they had disappeared from amongst their more advanced countrymen. It is to these practices I would now draw your attention to-night, and perhaps it may be the simplest way and most instructive if I take a glance at a few of the more useful and common arts and discuss each in detail.

Beginning with 1st, dwellings and utensils ; 2nd, agriculture; 3rd, food; 4th, clothing; 5th luxuries; and 6th, articles of commerce.

I cannot expect to exhaust any one of these subjects, but I may touch on a few of each.

The dwelling or shelter naturally conies amongst the first requirements of a race, and the implements necessary to procure food and clothing.

I need not go into the very early forms of lake, dwellings, traces of such being found in almost all the islands, natural and artificial, in our lochs under the name of crannogs. Nor shall I touch on the beehive and eird houses so common in Aberdeenshire and Caithness, and into which the early Pict could barely crawl. By the way, Pennant says the origin of the name Pict, is from Picteich a Thief—an origin, I daresay, some of you may be inclined to dispute. Their houses were simply little domes of stone 8 or 10 feet diameter, into which the native crept and lived in the rudest and most primitive fashion. At this stage only the simplest instruments were available, such as stone hatchets and hammers, Hint arrow heads, bone needles, &c., yet by means of these and the action of tire the ancient savage was able to cut down trees, scoop out and form them for canoes, dress stones to form the quern, and rubbing stones to bruise and grind the grain and roots for food. He was also able to form a mortar pestal of stone, and by fish bones form needles to sew the fibre of various plants and hooks wherewith to catch a further supply of fish.

A little further on and metals came to his aid, and we find bronze and iron taking the place of stone implements, and gold and silver ornaments coming into use, many of them exhibiting very high culture and taste.

"When our forefathers took to roofing their dwellings with timber instead of stone, the form seems to have been generally circular, and we have, this type in the hut circles, which, as a rule, are just of sufficient diameter to permit the space to be covered in by cabers placed on the ground or low turf dyke, and to converge at the top into a point, and so far a tent, or like a conical house. This would seem to have been the usual form of dwelling of the native Briton at the time of the Roman Invasion, for we find the “Candida Casa” at Whithorn of St Ninian in the sixth century much thought of as the first stone and lime built whitehouse.

In England the progress in castle building and also of church work was progressive, and culminated in the grand cathedrals and castles of the thirteenth century.

In Scotland the progress was not so marked and steady, and we have no church work to show older than the eleventh century, nor of domestic work anything so early. I would, however, remark, that from the beginning of the eleventh century till the sixteenth century, Scotland can hold her own with any country both in ecclesiastical and baronial architecture. Still alongside the great advances made in baronial and ecclesiastical architecture the peasantry lived in rude huts and retained many of their old modes of working, and continued to supply themselves with homemade stuffs, both of food and clothing to an extent, and in a manner which it would perhaps be well if our modern natives could still to some extent imitate and adhere to. The farm house of the last century, and also the cottage of the crofter, was supplied with a rude plenty, and a variety both of food and clothing, which, if not so elegant as that of the present day, was in many respects more healthy and serviceable for family wants, while the mode by which everything was turned to account and rendered available for food and clothing, forms an entertaining and useful line of study.

The old farm house kitchen on a winter night of itself gives a very perfect picture of what I would like to bring before you, and let us for a moment describe it, as I myself can remember one nearly half-a-century ago in Forfarshire. The kitchen was a stone floored apartment, with a large fireplace, sufficiently capacious for a fire of wooden logs, which burnt on the hearth, and to permit of one or two sitting alongside it in the recess. Possibly, when the farm servants gathered in at night, light would be desirable, but there were no candles allowed, except for the ben end (that was the portion occupied by the family of a farmer when he was of sufficient standing to live apart from the farm servants), and how to produce light became the question. In the poorer districts the old bog fir was made to do duty, and the Peer man had to hold it. Those of ynn who had the pleasure of hearing Mr James Linn, of Keith, lecture on Peer men, will recollect his very interesting paper and beautiful specimens of stands of iron which were made to supersede the Peer man or boy who used to hold and replenish the bog fir, or “white candle,” when it came into use, for it was the good old practice in Aberdeenshire to make the beggar, or gaberlunzie man pay for his night’s quarters by keeping the bog fir or candle alight, while others worked or amused themselves, and hence the saying of an unsociable person, “He’ll neither dance nor hand the candle.”

To return to house building, as you no doubt are aware, the crofter to this day builds all his own house—it varies in different localities. In the Lowlands, the farm labourer’s cottage was generally built of boulders, or round water-worn stones, and held together with clay and straw and plastered inside and out with a smooth coating of clay, or in some districts with lime mortar. It was roofed with wood rafters more or less manufactured, and the rafters again covered with slabs from the nearest saw mill, these in their turn overlaid with divots or sods and finished with thatch of straw. The interior was iloored with beaten clay and divided into two or more rooms by a partition of slabs or cabers, the interstices being filled in with clay and straw, or in more ambitious cases, wattled with hazel and smoothened with clay. The windows were half glazed with course glass and the lower half of timber, with doors hinged to open for ventilation. This was the Lowlander’s cottage, but amongst the hills and on the West Coast the house was still more primitive, in these cases the materials had to be used of a simpler kind. The walls are drvstane, facing outside and infilled with turf in the heart, the roof formed of trees and cabers undressed, and roughly fitted as the}’ came to hand. The construction was also different. When a Highlander began tobuild his house he commenced bv fixing the main couples at certain intervals, and the lower portion was let into the ground like a post. To the top of these the rafters were secured 4iy a wooden pin and tied across by a tie beam. At the apex whore the rafters met and crossed each other was laid longitudinally a long tree or beam, oil which the smaller cabers or rafters and thatch depended and rested, and hence was called the roof-tree, and on it the main security of the fabric depended, and displacing the roof-tree was certain to bring the whole fabric to the ground, and hence, in the importance of the roof tree, and the common and genial toast, “To the roof-tree,” no doubt had reference to this important feature in the structure. The effect of those old Highland roofs was extremely good and picturesque, and but few of them now remain; they are fast disappearing before the manufactured timber and slate. The important feature of these house's and roofs is that they were entirely the work of the natives, and required no foreign or skilled labour iu their production ; they were entirely the work of the founder, who was his own architect and contractor. The cost was in those days trifling, the labour not being taken into account; but, so scarce was, and still is, timber on the West Coast, that a crofter removing claims and often carries, the roof with him. The fire was placed on a stone slab or hearth in the centre of the floor, and the smoke allowed to find its exit through sundry holes in the roof. The result is that a large portion condenses on the rafters of the house and forms a rich dark brown varnish, which is utilised by the crofter as manure, and I have seen a good picture painted with this varnish, the effect much resembling sepia. The custom of unroofing annually is still practised, and 1 have often seen the roof lying on the hillside getting washed with the rain. The neighbours, on the occasion of a roofing, lend a helping hand, and I have often seen the roof being removed in the morning and replaced by the evening.

In the Islands, from the greater scarcity of timber, the roof and woodwork are still further economised, and stone takes the place of timber to a greater extent. In Harris the walls are often 6 to 8 feet thick, being formed of stone ou the outer anti inner face, the centre being tilled up with moss and sods, while the roof is placed on the inner side of the walls, and the great breadth forms a rampart on which cattle and children may disport themselves. Travelling in Lochaber on one occasion, I asked what a cottage would cost them. The reply was, “Well, it depends on the number of couples, but a house could be put up for 50s., but it would take £5 to make a right one.”

At the same time as the house was constructed by home labour, it was natural that all the furnishings should partake of the same primitive character, and accordingly we fin<j the materials at hand were made to serve the ends required by simple home manufacture. After the house building, one of the first essentials would be cooking utensils, and we find that a simple gridiron and pot were indispensable. These were formed of hammered metal, and these cauldrons occasionally turn up, mostly of bronze, and this may be accounted for by the greater durability and value of copper and bronze, and these are always found in ancient examples to be of sheets of metal made up in pieces and riveted. Many specimens of this still exist, but the cast iron pot has entirely superseded them in every-day life. The native pottery seems to have held its own to a much later date, and the Lewis pottery is well known, and in Ivilmuir, Skye, the Rev. Mr Macgregor told me he had often watched the natives making the craggan for family use. Sixty years ago there were in the parish of Kilmuir only three teapots, and a single pot represented the entire cooking apparatus of a family, in which case the potatoes were boiled in the pot and the herrings were placed in the pot over the cooked potatoes, and so prepared.

Dishes of all kinds were scarcely known, and instead thereof a square board above 17 inches across with a rim 3 inches high all round, called “Clar,” served for the dish to hold potatoes and fish, and the family seated round a rude table eat their meal from it. Mr Macgregor also mentions, that “In many of the poorer dwellings there was but one horn spoon, which was handed from member to member to help themselves in turn.” There were but few bowls, cups, or dishes of earthenware in these humble dwellings, but many of them had wooden cups of various sizes which they got from crews of vessels from the Baltic. They met these vessels in calm weather, anti got planks of wood and dishes of the kind mentioned in lieu of fresh vegetables which they took on board.

The people of this district were in the habit of making large pots or jars of the native clay. These craggans were of various sizes, and some of them would contain from three to four imperial gallons, but generally they were of smaller size, and made to contain eight or nine great bottles.

The clay of which these craggans were made was not found in every district, but when found large numbers of these pots or craggans were made.

Mr Macgregor describes the process thus:—“The clay was smooth and plastic, and when required for use it was wrought up by the hands for hours together until it was brought to the consistency of the putty used by glaziers. When in this state the most skilful and tasteful of the family group commenced to form the craggan, which they finished in less than two hours’ time. The first part of it made was the circular bottom, which, like a circular cake, they placed upon a broad or fiat stone, always supplying themselves from the lump of prepared clay beside them. When the bottom was thus formed, they rapidly built upon it all around the outer edge to the thickness of about an inch, but careful all the time to shape it into the form required. When finished the article was coarse, rough, and indented with finger marks, but in order to smooth it they scraped it round and round very gently with a knife to give it a more seemly appearance. The inside was of course left as it was, as there was no access to it. When the dish was finished it was put on to a safe place to dry by the heat of the sun, and was left in that state for perhaps some weeks, until it got properly hard. The next process was to set it in the midst of a powerful peat fire in order to burn it, and this step of the manufacture frequently ruined the whole concern, in consequence of the unequal heat breaking or cracking the vessel. The burning made the craggan harder and lighter, and quite ready as a receptacle for the family oil. This oil formed an important item in the family economy; it was procured from the livers of different kinds offish, it was dark in colour, like port wine, but thin and good. The fish on arrival were gutted, and the livers were taken out and thrown into the pot or craggan, and left there till they melted down into a comparatively liquid state. They then set the decayed livers on a slow fire to dissolve them completely. In this state they poured oft' the fine oil, put it into a cragoran, and threw the refuse on a dunghill”

These craggans are still made in the Lewis, and I show a specimen, and some cups and saucers.

The oil was mainly used for lighting the “cruiscan,” or lamp, and I show you a specimen of the lamp. These lamps superseded the fir root and in their turn have been superseded by the paraffin and modern oil lamps. As you will observe, they are constructed with two bowls or spoons, one to hold the oil and wick, the other to catch the drip, and by a clever arrangement the upper bowl or spoon was made by hooking on to a series of pegs to tilt up as the oil was consumed, and so afford a continuous supply of oil to the wick.

The mode of producing light was by striking a spark from a piece of flint or quartz, which spark falling on a piece of charred linen or cotton, set it on fire, and this again was made use of to light a rude match made of fir and tipped with brimstone.

The making of these matches, or “spunks” as they were called, gave occupation in the long evenings to the male part of the family, who split up fine pieces of fir, and dipped the ends into melted brimstone or sulphur, and thus produced a rude lucifer match. Since these were superseded by the paraffin and other lamps, they have been generally reduced to the mean use of melting brimstone or sulphur for smoking of bees, and those I have recovered were being used for this purpose by the old ladies who kept bees.

The provision of wicks for these lamps was of some importance, and was made of the pith of rushes from the ditches; and I have often as a boy earned a luncheon by gathering and peeling these. They were prepared by stripping off the outer skin, and raising by a gentle pressure, the pith in a long piece, very like Macaroni; these were tied in bundles and dried for use.

Food.— Following up these notes on the Domestic Economy and Occupation, we naturally come next to the preparation of food. Thus we have, say, the meal—Oat and bere meal was until recently the staple food of the people in Scotland, and the preparation of their meal formed an important industry. Mr Macgregor mentioned, in the paper before referred to, that he recollected a time when loaf or wheaten bread was unknown in Kilmuir. “I remember,” he says, “when loaves of bread were made at the manse for a Communion or Sacramental occasion, when crowds of females resorted to the minister’s house to see the ‘aran caneach' that is, the foggy or spongy bread, and on tasting it they did not at all relish it, as they did not consider it to be at all so substantial as their own oaten cakes.

“The mode of preparing the grain for meal varied considerably, the most primitive being wort was called grad dan meal. This was prepared as follows:—The standing oats or barley having been cut down and brought to a convenient spot, the grain is taken in handfuls from the sheaf and held over a pot or flat stone and set fire to, and the grain being thus parched and dried, the slight tendril is burnt through, and the grain drops on the stone or into the pot. This handful is kept constantly beat by a stick to separate the grain more readily from the straw. When sufficient grain has been collected, it is stirred about in the pot or on the stone till quite dry, it is then fanned, and the grain so prepared for the mill.”

I need not describe to you the quern or hand mill; it is well known as being composed of two flat stones, the upper one revolving on a centre pin and driven by hand. The quern has not altered in its construction for thousands of years, and I found the Bedouin Arabs in Jericho preparing their grain in exactly the same way with the quern as I found the girls in Benbecula and Harris. It is often referred to in Scripture as the Jews’ handmill, and no doubt it was a quern which Samson ground on in his prison house.

The manufacture cf these mill-stones was of great importance, and suitable stones were carried great distances. I have found in the outer Islands many stones, of which the only account which could be given was, that they were Lochaber stones, and no doubt the Margarodite schist of Glenroy is admirably suited to the purpose, being composed of garnets embedded in a soft matrix of a white silvery Talcose schist which wears down, leaving the garnets projecting out like teeth to cut the grain. One of the Lochaber quarries was situated at Bruniachan, Glenroy, where stones are still to be seen lying about half made. At the same place are traces of iron furnaces. And another famous quarry was in an island called Soa, to the west of Skye, and was a sandstone grit.

The querns are still used amongst the Islands, and I have several times come on them in full operation, notably at Lochboisdale, where a few years ago I had the pleasure of witnessing the whole operation. It was on a Michaelmas day, and the barley crop was ripe. I happened to mention to the innkeeper my desire to see the operation of preparing the “Graddan Meal,” and said that I had heard it was the custom in Uist to prepare and eat Michaelmas cake on that day. He said “True, and if you care you can see the process close by.” I immediately declared myself ready for the expedition. The darkness had set in, and I had made myself comfortable for the night, but I resumed my boots and started over the hill, and after stumbling over rocks and bogs for a mile or so, we came to the cottage where the operation was being carried on. We were just in time. The grain was being separated from the straw very much as described by Mr Macgregor, and the husks were being taken off the grain by stirring the parched corn in a pot, the fire still kept burning the grain, and the husking and kiln drying were one and the same operation. After the grain had been thoroughly husked and dried, it was winnowed and ready for grinding. The woman who did this took the grains and dropped them gently into the centre hole of the upper stone, while she turned it with the other hand, and the meal was thrown out round the outer rim of the stones. After preparing about a peck of it she gathered it up, and with a sieve separated the meal from any seeds and impurities. She then proceeded to bake the cake in the ordinary way, and when shaped she spread over the upper surface some melted sugar and carroway seeds. The baking and firing was done in the ordinary way on a flat disc of metal, and when sufficiently fired it was cut up and handed round to the members of the family and visitors. When warm and fresh, it was very palatable, and I enjoyed a portion. Being much interested in the custom and operation, I begged a bit of the cake to take home. I was presented with a goodly portion, which I brought home on trial, and a day or two after my arrival I was describing to some friends the operation, and offered to allow them taste of my fare. But I reckoned without my host, for on ordering in the bread I was informed by the serving maid that my wife had ordered the precious cake to be thrown out to the pigs, it smelt the house so, and I must confess that however pleasing and attractive the cake was partaken of in a Highland bothy, fresh, and with all the romance of the situation, yet in our refined condition it had lost its sweetness, and became absolutely offensive. So much for our early tastes and romantic ideas of Highland life.

Jamieson, in his work on popular songs and ballads, gives the following graphic picture of Highland life in the beginning of the present century, and though a little coloured it fairly enough describes the amount of home resources of old country life, which, alas ! is a thing of the past, and the Highlander now depends too much on foreign produce and the regular visits of the Glasgow steamers for his comforts. He says—“ On a very Hot day in the beginning of autumn, the author, when a stripling, was travelling afoot over the mountains of Lochaber, from Fort-Augustus to Inverness, and when lie came to the place where he was to have breakfasted there was no person at home, nor was there any place where refreshment was to be had nearer than Dores, which is eighteen miles from Fort-Augustus. With this disagreeable prospect he proceeded about three miles further, and turned aside to the first cottage he saw, where he found a hale looking, lively, tidy, little, middle-aged woman spinning wool, with a pot on the fire and some greens ready to bo put into it. She understood no English, and his Gaelic was then by no means good, though he spoke it well enough to be intelligible. She informed him that she had nothing in the house that could be eaten except cheese, a little sour cream, and some whisky. On being asked rather sharply how she could dress the greens without meal, she good-humouredly told him that there was plenty of meal in the croft, pointing to some unreaped barley that stood dead ripe and dry before the door, and if he could wait half-an-hour he should have brose and butter, bread and cheese, bread and milk, or anything else that he chose. To this he most readily assented, as well on account of the singularity of the proposal, as of the necessity of the time; and the good dame set with all possible expedition about her arduous undertaking. She first of all brought him some cream in a bottle, telling him, ‘ He that will not work neither will he eat; if he wished for butter, he must shake that bottle with all his might, and sing to it like a mavis all the time; for unless he sung to it no butter would come.’ She then went to the croft, cut down some barley, burnt the straw to dry the grain, rubbed the grain between her hands, and threw it up before the wind to separate it from the husks; ground it upon a quern, sifted it, made a bannock of the meal, set it up to bake before the fire, and lastly went to milk her cow, that was reposing during the heat of the day, and eating some outside cabbage leaves ayont the hallau. She sung like a lark the whole time, varying the strain according to the employment to which it was adapted. In the meanwhile a hen cackled under the eaves of the cottage, two new laid eggs were immediately plunged into the boiling pot, and in less than half-an-hour the poor, starving, faint and wayworn minstrel, with wonder and delight, sat down to a repast that, under such circumstances, would have been a feast for a prince.”

The simple mode of preparing meal is still continued, and the burning of the grain to remove the ears of corn and get rid of the husk was practised in Skye till very recently.

The meal thus produced was called “graddan” meal, and was highly esteemed and sold for several shillings more per boll than the ordinary mill-made meal, and the Rev. Mr Macgregor told me that, in his early days in Skye, the winter mornings were enlightened and enlivened by the appearance of the fires of each family being alight preparing the morning food in this manner. When the lairds established regular water mills on their estates a few centuries ago, the millers were empowered by Acts of Parliament to search out and break all the quern stones to be found ; and families were only allowed to use querns and other means of grinding their corn during stormy weather, or such causes as prevented their access to the regular mill to which they were thirled. The gauger was also a great enemy to the quern, for it was a source of trouble to him, by enabling the native to prepare his malt for smuggling, an art not altogether unknown in the present day, but rendered easier from the removal of the malt duty.

The Government, kings, lairds, and miller seem to have been all combined against the quern from very early times, for not only in the following Act passed by King Alexander III. of Scotland, viz.:—“That no man shall presume to grinde quheit, maisloch or rye with hand mills except he be compellit by storm, and be in lack of mylnes quhilk should grinde the samen, and in this case if a man griiules at hand mylnes, he shall give the thretien measure as multer! and if any man contra veins this, our prohibition, he shall tyne his hand mills perpetually.” Of course this was to protect the lairds who had erected water mills, and to enable the millers to pay their rents.

From the quern up to the laird’s mill there were various qualities of mills, and I have seen both in Shetland and in Lewis the upright wheel at work, and I show you drawings of it. It is called a “clappan,” from the peculiar noise it makes as the stone revolves. The peculiarity, as you will observe, is that the wheel is horizontal, and the axle upright, and that the upper stone of the mill is fixed to the same axle as the wheel, exactly as if cart wheels and axle had been set on one side, one wheel at the water, the other at the grindstone. The house must be built over the burn of course, so that the motion passes directly to the grinding stones. The principle of the mill is exactly the same as any other. It is the peculiar horizontal water wheel which marks it out from the ordinary.

At the same cottage referred to at Lochboisdale, I was amused watching an old lady of nearly four score preparing her snuff. She took some leaves of ordinary tobacco, and having unrolled them and dried them till they were quite crisp, she put them in a bowl, and with the round knob of the tongs she ground them to a fine powder, and proceeded to regale herself with a pinch. I was told that this was not an uncommon way of preparing their snuff, and that they preferred it to the shop snuif from Glasgow, which they said contained glass, which cut their nostrils and lips.

In the olden times want of communication and means of transport imposed on all our ancestors the necessity of laying up winter stores and preparing and preserving food, and at Martinmas the meal girnal was filled, and the mart or cow and other animals killed for winter use.

The preparation and utilisation of all parts of these animals for winter use formed no small item in the home industry, and the ingenious uses to which all parts of the animal was put and the ingenuity it developed, must have been beneficial to the operators. Within my own recollection I have seen the animal killed and the hams and flesh salted ; the fat prepared and made into candles ; the white and black puddings prepared; the horns converted into spoons by the travelling tinkers; the skin tanned and converted into shoes, brogues, sieves for corn, and other articles. All these operations required a certain amount of skill and experience, and the education of the peasantry in such arts must have prepared them, in a singularly suitable manner, to form the best emigrants and colonists.

If I follow up this line a little further, we shall find that the making of clothes formed also an important factor in house work. Throughout the Highlands and in many of the Lowland houses in Scotland, till the beginning of the century, almost all the ordinary worsteds were prepared for the weaver, as well as the linens, and even yet I know of some goodly stock of home-made sheeting and linens.

In the better class the dame had her maids to spin in the evening round the fire, and in the Highland cottage I have seen often the old wife and her daughters busy spinning the wool, but this is now exceptional and spasmodic. A few years ago the Harris cloth, under the encouragement of the late Countess of Dunmore, and other ladies, became fashionable, and considerable quantities were forced on the market, but after the novelty had passed away, the demand subsided. The manufacturers took tip the trade, and with their superior appliances they produced imitations at a cheaper rate, and a more finished article for the cockney consumer.

The preparation of these cloths formed an important and picturesque feature in Highland life, and almost every traveller during the last century described the process more or less. I need not therefore go into details. After the wool was cleared, carded, and dressed, it was the duty of the females to spin it into worsted or threads, and the doing so gave occupation to the old and infirm as well as the young, and grannie at the spinning wheel has always been a favourite subject for Scottish painters and poets. The distaff was a more ancient form of spinning, and had the advantage of being done on the hillside, and I have met the girls herding on the hillside and busily spinning with the distaff. The working of the distaff is very simple and picturesque, viz.—A bundle of wool is held under the arm and also a staff about 4 feet long, which is allowed to project in front, and over the projecting end passes the thread of worsted. The end hangs down a foot or two, and on a spindle is hung the whorl or ring of stone, which is the fly-wheel, and which is spun round from time to time and twists the wool; gradually the thread is fed out from the store under the arm, and as spun it is rolled into a ball above the whorl. In almost all cairns and prehistoric dwellings, these whorls are to be found, often made of steatite, but any soft stone will suit.

The preparation of the wool for weaving, and also the dyeing of it, was a matter which gave scope for much ingenuity, and I have made a list of the different dyes used, which may be interesting. Now the mineral dyes have superseded the native, which were as a rule vegetable, but alum, copperas, and urine were used to clean the wool and fix the colours.

Many of the colours were extremely bright and pretty, though it was at all times difficult to produce the bright scarlets of the regular dyester, and amongst the home-made cloths we find certain quantities of the brightest dyes creeping in from the regular manufacturers. The following is, however, a list of such dyes and their results as I have been able to procure, viz.:—



The crottle (2), which yielded a brown dye, is the stone and heath parmelia—Parmelia saxatilis and omphalodes. .Another lichen which was in great favour once, and produced a bright crimson dye, is No. 3—the corcar lichen—Lecanora tartarea. More than a hundred years ago indigo had entirely superseded woad to produce blue. It was with woad, or ylastum—Isalis tinctoria—that the aucient Britons used to stain their bodies when going to battle. The Bog Myrtle, or Myrica (25), has several Gaelic names, but on the mainland the prevalent one is Roid. It is the badge of the Campbell clan, and before the days of Peruvian bark, it supplied febrifuge and worm-killing medicine not to be despised. Koid leaves are yet put in beds and among packed-up clothes to keep away fleas and moths. It is a highly aromatic plant. The cairmeal (28) is the orobus luberosus. A fermented liquor was in olden times made from its tuberous roots, after being ground down into meal.

Logwood and Redwood are much in demand now; but these are foreign dyes, though long known and used. I saw a dye being made in one case in Jura. The large pot was filled with alder leaves and twigs, from which a black dye is prepared by a simple infusion (like tea), and the colour is made fast by the addition of logwood and copperas.

The process of dyeing with vegetable home dyes was—To wash the thread thoroughly in urine (long kept, and called in Gaelic “fual,”) rinsed and washed in pure water, then put into the boiling pot of dye, which is kept hard a-boil on the fire. The thread is now and again lifted out of the pot on the point of a stick, and plunged back again till thoroughly dyed. If blue the thread is washed in salt water, any other colour in fresh. The yarn is then hung out to dry, and when dry is gathered into balls or clews, and it is then ready for the weaver’s loom.

I am able to show you a small bit of tartan, dyed in the Highlands 130 years ago, and used ever since; the green being purely from the heather, the red possibly from Crottle, No. 3.

After the wool is spun and dyed, and the weaver has made the cloth, comes the waul king or felting of the cloth, which in manufactories is done by the waulking mill, formerly formed of ponderous wooden hammers which beat the cloth in a damp state till the open wove cloth is closely felted together and made a suitable protection against wind and rain. In the Highland districts women make use of their feet to produce the same result, and a picturesque sight it is to see a dozen or more Highland lassies set round in two rows facing each other. The web of cloth is passed round in a damp state, each one pressing and pitching it with a dash to her next neighbour, and so the cloth is handled, pushed, crushed, and welded as to become close and even in texture. The process is slow and tedious, but the ladies know how to beguile the time, and the song is passed round, each one taking up the verse in turn, and all joining in the chorus. The effect is very peculiar and often very pleasing, and the waulking songs are very popular in all the collections.

I have on various occasions watched the waulking process, but seldom in recent years. It i3 often the occasion of a little boisterous merriment and practical joking, for, should a member of the male sex be found prowling near by, he is, if caught, uncoremoniously thrust into the centre of the circle and tossed with the web till, bruised with the rough usage and blackened with the dye, he is glad to make his escape from the hands of the furies.

Linen.—The growing of lint, which had formed a valuable and extensive feature amongst the peasantry, came to an end some 30 or 40 years ago, and, except as an experiment, it is never grown now.

It was introduced some 400 or 500 years ago, and was universally cultivated throughout Scotland. The first I have an account of in this quarter is at Portsoy, where lint was first grown in 1490. In 1686, to promote the use of linen, an Act was passed ordaining that no corpse of any person whatsoever be buried in any shirt, sheet, or anything else, except in plain linen, the cost not exceeding 20 shillings Scots per ell. The nearest deacon or elder of the parish, with one or two neighbours, were required to see that this was complied with.

The cultivation of lint or flax became a national industry, and lint was grown on almost every farm in Scotland, and it was to promote the linen trade that the British Linen Company was commenced in 1746—it is now, as you are aware, entirely a banking company. Factories were established in every district. We had an extensive trade in Inverness, and mills were built at Cromarty, Spinningdale, and as far north as Kirkwall and Stornoway. Pennant gives a statement of the various quantities manufactured in each county and town, and accordingly we find that Inverness, when at the height of its prosperity in 1770-71, produced 223,798 yards, at an average price of 6d. per yard, or a total value of £6425. 5s. 2d. I can remember the Citadel buildings and Factory, now Albert Place,* filled with handlooms; but Forfarshire seems to have been the great seat of this trade in Scotland. In my early days, in Forfarshire I used to see the lint grown and steeped in pools, or “ lint pots” as they were called, and every village and clachan had its handloom weaver, and from whom as boys we used to beg a bunch of threads, or “thrums,” as they were called, to make cords and strings, and every old wife span the lint to supply the household linen. Much of this old linen still remains in old families, and my grandmother’s entire family linen was home-made.

The quality of this linen was very superior, and the beauty of the patterns and artistic character of the designs is surprising. I have been favoured with some very fine specimens from Mr Roderick Maclean, of Ardross. These I show you were grown at Bedcastle and Conan in the years 1810-20, and woven by hand* These latter buildings, I am informed, were used for cotton thread spinning—not linen weaving loom weavers in Inverness—that from Conan woven by one Mac-phail, hand-loom weaver, in 1855, he being then about seventy years old, and was his last weavings.

Perhaps the most interesting is a tablecloth lent me by Mrs Aitken, which bears the name of Marion Elliot, 1722, and a specimen, 1754, of very fine quality. I might multiply specimens, but time will not permit.

Potatoes.—A debate arose after Mr Maclean’s paper on “Rosskeen,” the other evening, on the cultivation of potatoes, and as this is an important article of food in the Highlands, I shall make a few notes as to the introduction of this valuable and universal industry, as it has had a very important effect on the habits and mode of life in the Highlands. The potato was at first viewed with jealousy and dislike, and began to be cultivated with hesitation, about its moral character, for it was believed “that some of the more uncontrollable passions of human nature were favoured by its use.”

It is said potatoes were first introduced into Ireland about 1585, by Sir Walter Raleigh, and so extensively cultivated there that they were a succour to the poor when their cereal crops were destroyed by the soldiers during the civil war. The exact date of the introduction of potatoes seems uncertain, for Martin in his “Western Isles” says that in 1689 potatoes were the common food of the people in Skye. From Ireland they were introduced into England about the end of the 17th century, and sold in 1694 at 6d. and 8d. per pound. They were first heard of in Scotland in 1701, and the Duchess of Buccleuch’s household book mentions the esculent as brought from Edinburgh, and costing 2s. 6d. a peck. In 1733 it began to be cultivated in gardens. According to Chambers’s “Domestic Annals,” the field culture of the potatoes was first practised in the county of Edinburgh by a man Henry Prentice in 1746. Parker says:—“Potatoes were introduced into Uist in 1743. In the spring of that year Clan Ranald was in Ireland, and saw with surprise and approbation the practice of the country, and brought home a cargo of potatoes. On his arrival the servants were convened, and directions given how to plant them, but they all refused, and were immediately committed to prison. After a time they gave way, and agreed to plant these roots. When ripe, many of the tenants laid these potatoes at the laird’s door, saying, ‘The laird might order them to plant these foolish roots, but he could not make them eat them.’ ” It was ten years later before they reached Barra. Some doubt on this story is raised by the fact that Martin in his description of the "Western Isles says that in 1G89 they were the ordinary food of the common people in Skye at that date.

Kelp. - One of the most important industries was Kelp. From the eighteenth century, kelp was the great staple of Highland export, and during the war in the beginning of the century, the kelp stores yielded over 5000 tons of kelp, at the average price in the market of £16 per ton, yielding not less than .£80,000, exceeding five times tho rent of the thirty thousand acres of Hebridean arable land.

Since the introduction of Spanish barilla and other substitutes, kelp fell in price from two-thirds to one-third of the former average, but as it is manufactured at a cost only of from £3 to £4 per ton, it is still produced in the Hebrides, and along the West Coast of Scotland.

Mr Macleod, the late proprietor of Harris, in a letter to Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State, dated April 10th, 1829, says:— “The production of and manufacture of kelp, which has existed more than 200 years, had for a great length of time received a vigilant and special protection against the ai tides of foreign or British growth or manufacture, which compete with it in the market, namely, barilla, pot and pearl ash, and black ash, the last of which is formed by the decomposition of salt, effected chiefly by the use of foreign sulphur, which sulphur forms three-fourths of the value of the manufactured alkali.”

Up to the year 1822, considerable duties were leviable on all the commodities just enumerated, but in that year the duty on salt was lowered from 15s. to 2s. a bushel. Shortly afterwards the impost on barilla was considerably reduced. This measure was quickly succeeded by a repeal of the remainder of the salt duties (duties which had lasted more than 130 years), and of the duty on alkali made from salt. Close upon this followed a considerable reduction in the duty on pot and pearl ash, and an entire removal of that on ashes from Canada, and this last step was accompanied by a diminution in the duty on foreign sulphur from £15 to 10s. a ton. Such is the succession of the measures which now threatens the total extinction of the kelp manufacture, and with it (in reference to Scotland alone) the ruin of the landed proprietors in the Hebrides and on the West Coast, the most serious injury to all descriptions of annuitants on kelp estates, and the destitution of a population of more than 50,000 souls. Mr Bowie, in his evidence before the Select Committee on Emigration in February 1871, says —“I know one estate where formerly 1100 tons of kelp were manufactured annually, another where 1200 tons were manufactured annually; and assuming that the price got at market was only £15 a ton, taking the expense of manufacturing and conveying to market at £3, we had there a profit of .£12 a ton; so in the one case we should have a profit to the proprietors of £13,200 a year, and in the other case a profit of £14,400, and this independent of the land rental. But the whole of that kelp rental has vanished, the proprietors are reduced to their nominal land rental, and while so reduced to their land rental they have thrown upon their hands a large surplus population, whom they cannot assist, and for whom they have not the means of employment.”

The mode of manufacturing kelp I shall describe, as it is, though often referred to, little known beyond the shores where it is collected and manufactured.

It is a very interesting sight on a fine summer day to see the little groups of busy men and women along the shores collecting and keeping alight the dried sea weed, and the smoke rising high in the air, or drifting in picturesque clouds across the hillocks, forms a sight to be long remembered, whilst the odour of iodine strongly taints the air, and the pungent flavour is not unpleasing.

About the year 1862 the British Sea Weed Company, Limited, built chemical works at Dalmuir, near Glasgow, and took a lease of the North Uist shores from Sir John Orde, paying as a Royalty £1000 a year, for the right of getting all the kelp made on the North Uist shores.

In 1865 over 1200 tons were made in North Uist and shipped to Glasgow; the price paid to crofters and cottars was from 35s. to 63s. per ton. For the following eight years the average amount of kelp made in North Uist was about 900 tons.

On the east side of North Uist there is a number of bays and islands, round which a great quantity of what they call cut or black sea weed grows on the inshore rocks and stones.

The weed is cut once in three years, that is to say, the part of shore cut this year will not be cut again for three years, so as to allow the weed to grow to a full ripe crop.

The crofters and cottars remove from their homes to the stores of these bays and islands and live in sheilings during kelp making, generally from 15th June till 10th August.

The first thing to be done is to roof the old sheiling and make it as comfortable as possible for from four to six people to live in for two months. When the tide is out, the weed is cut from the rocks and stones with a common corn hook; they take a heather rope and warp it all round with sea weed, and stretch it outside where they are cutting the sea weed. When the tide comes in, the rope and sea weed float, and at high water they drag at both ends of the rope and pull it ashore, with the sea weed enclosed, as salmon fishers do when dragging for salmon in the River Ness.

When the tide goes back from the weed that is thus taken ashore, the weed is put into creols on horses’ backs, and sometimes on men and women’s backs, and spread on the grass to dry, and treated as hay is treated, until it is dry enough to burn.

When ready for burning, say a quantity to make a ton of kelp, a trench is formed, which is called a kiln, 12 to 24 feet, by 2 feet 6 inches by 2 feet deep, the sides and ends formed with stones, the bottom having a layer of turf. The weed is set aburning by a little straw or heather ; the weed has to be kept on constantly to keep down the flame as much as possible, and exclude the air from the burning mass inside.

The heat is intense during the four to eight hours’ burning. Men and women do the burning; some women are better burners than men. When the kiln is full of burning sea weed, two or three strong men rake, mix and pound the whole mass together with iron clubs, having long handles. When this is done, the kiln is covered over with sea weed and stones to keep the kelp dry. In twenty-four hours, although still hot, it can be broken into large lumps and shipped, if a vessel is waiting. The kelp is weighed by the kelp officer on board the ship, 22½ cwt. to the ton. This extra 2| cwt. is put on for stones, sand, or gravel, which sometimes find their way into the kelp, and not always unknown to the helper, especially in Ireland; lately 20 cwt. per ton is the rule.

Drift or red weed comes ashore on the west or Atlantic side of the Islands, during the whole year. In winter the farmers and crofters use it for manuring their land, from June till October. It is made into kelp, when there is demand for it. During the last five years there has been little demand for kelp.

The red weed is 50 per cent, more valuable than the cut weed for producing Bromide of Potassium, Iodine, Iodide, Potash, Salts, &c., &c.

The best red weed kelp will produce 20 lbs. of Iodine per ton, cut or black weed from 3 to 8 lbs.

The principal places where kelp is now' got from is—Donegal, Sligo, Galway, and Clare, in Ireland ; Orkney, North and South Uist, Barra, and Tyree. There is no cut weed kelp made in Ireland, all being drift. The price in Ireland is from £4 to £2 per ton.

Ropes.—I shall now refer to a few specimens of native ingenuity—specimens of which, by the kindness of a few friends, I am able to show you. The first is a specimen of rope made from the long fibrous roots of the bog fir which grow in the bogs. The gentleman, Mr Robertson of Portree, who procured it for me, said his attention was attracted to it one day by observing that, when a boat from Rona, moored by it, at the Portree Pier, was blown away by the wind, the rope never sank, like a manilla rope, but floated by its own buoyancy. These ropes possess great strength, and are thoroughly serviceable. The root is split up into long thread-like fibres, and then spun like ordinary hemp, and might readily be mistaken at first sight for a manilla rope.

Locks.—By the kindness of Mr.. Ross, Portree, I am able to show you two specimens of old-fashioned locks, which are exceedingly ingenious, and possess tumblers and all the leading features of a patent tumbler lock. I tried to get an old lock, but they are not to be had, but I have been fortunate enough to find a mechanic who could make them. These locks are in common use in St Kilda, and I found them on all the barns and byres, though of less perfect construction than the specimen shown.

Clocks.—The next is a wooden clock made entirely of beech-wood; all the wheels and cogs are of wood, except where for axles and escapement a small amount of steel and brass are introduced, and these seem to be bits of ordinary stocking wire.

It has been kindly lent me by Mr William Sutherland, of Lochcarron, and he says it belonged to his great-grandmother, and was brought by her from Fairburn, in the parish of Urray. He says—“I remember the clock very well in my father’s house. It kept excellent time. It had a dial of wood, also hour and minute hands of carved wood. The clock must be at least 150 years old. If I had taken an interest in it when a boy, I might have found out the maker’s name.”

Brogues. —The making of brogues was a matter of some importance, and it was not unusual before starting on a journey to sit down and make the brogues. These were simply rough leather uppers sewed to the soles without welts, or strips of leather which in our modern shoes are considered necessary for attaching the soles to the upper leather, and which enables the shoemaker to produce the elegant and highly-finished articles now made.

The old brogue maker began by sewing the sole on to the upper leather (which he had previously shaped) by means of along thong of leather, and when he had done so, lie turned the shoe, while still soft, outside in, thus concealing the sewing, and producing the finished article. These brogues were not meant to be water-tight, but simply as a protection, and their duration was not great.

They are now almost extinct, and I had great difficulty in getting a specimen. I am indebted to Mr Macphail, Glenmore, Skye, and Mr J. Macallum, Fort-William, for the specimen now shewn.

A still more primitive kind of shoe is still used in Shetland, namely, the “rivelan.” It is, as you will see, a piece of untanned leather, taken while still flexible, and tied round to the shape of the foot, and then allowed to harden. A laee of cord is then introduced round the upper edge, and so the shoe is held on. It is a curious contrast to see the women working in the peat bogs, one half of them clad in modern Indiarubber goloshes, the other half in native rivelans. The specimens shown were prepared, and worn into shape by a young lady at Scalloway, and cost me 2s 6d.

The people in the outlying districts had to provide themselves with most of their utensils, and necessity made them handy and expert in many trades, and the custom still obtains of assisting the village craftsman. I was struck with this in Jura, for on entering one of the cottages I saw the occupant dropping burning peat through a small hole 3 or 4 inches in diameter. On asking what was the object of this, I was informed he was making peat charcoal. I examined the process and found that below this hole was a small chamber about 2 feet in diameter, built of stones about 20 inches deep, and covered with a flat stone very much like the upper stone of a quern.

The peats are burned to a red heat in the open fire and then dropped in all aglow through the small hole inferred to, and when the chamber is quite full sods are placed over the hole to exclude the air, and so the charcoal is prepared. This charcoal is used by the clachan blacksmith, and is said to greatly improve the quality of iron. It is not so powerful as coal but answers the purpose otherwise very well. The arrangement with the smith is peculiar. There were twelve tenants in the clachan or club farm, and each pays the smith 15s. per annum for his work, the smith being bound on his part to do all jobbing for the tenants. The crofters must each provide and bring his own fuel, blow the bellows and work the forehammer.

In this same clachan, I saw a peculiar kind of pigsty, made by building a hollow peat stack against the gable of the house in the autumn. Into this hollow, which is capable of accommodating three pigs, the young porkers are thrust inside, where they stay over winter. Meanwhile the stack is being gradually reduced, and by the time the peat is consumed, the pigs are fit for the market.

Drinks.—Of the early beverages of the Highlanders little is known. Whey was their common drink, but tradition says that a kind of ale was made from the heather, a punch from the mountain ash, and mead from honey. Boethius says,— “Drinks were distilled from thyme, mint, and anise.” The heather ale was from the tops in bloom, which contained a large amount of honey, being cut, steeped and boiled, and fermented. Honey was also boiled with water, and fermented; and though it is often said the art is lost, “Nether-Lochaber” told me he had seen and drunk heather ale in Rannoch as late as 1840. While a liquor is got by tapping the silver birch—and this is practised at the present time— it is sometimes fortified by spirits, and when kept resembles cider.

The roots of the “Orobus Tuberosus,” the Cormeil or Carmel of the Highlanders, was used for chewing to remove the feeling of hunger, and a fermented liquor was also made from it.

Wine was also made from currant and elder flower. I have tasted some red currant wine over 60 years’ old, very good and strong, although I was assured, on the most reliable evidence, no spirit was ever put into it.

I had written an account of whisky as known to the ancients, but I find that Mr. Macdonald, of Dingwall, has so fully gone into the question in a former paper, that it would only be repeating what has already been thoroughly done by him. I shall, therefore, content myself with one or two remarks on this subject, as applicable to Scotland and the Highlands.

Until the close of last century whisky was less used than rum and brandy, which were landed on the West Coast, and thence conveyed over the interior; indeed, it was not till the beginning of the last century that spirits of any kind were so much drunk as ale, which was formerly the universal beverage.

French wines and brandy succeeded the general use of ales among the gentry.

It is said that in the seventeenth and the early part of the eighteenth century “Inverness enjoyed almost a monopoly in the art and practice of malting, and supplied all the Northern counties. One half of the aggregate architecture of the town was a huge and unsightly agglomeration of malting houses, kilns and granaries, but from the date of the Revolution onward, this trade suffered a gradual decline; and at one time it threatened to involve the whole interests of the community in its fall. So low had the times sunk even at the date of the Civil War of 1745-46, that it looked almost like a field of ruins the very centre of it containing many forsaken and dilapidated houses.”

Whisky house is a term, till recently, almost unknown in Gaelic. Public houses were called Tigh-leanna, that is ale houses, and had whisky been the common drink of two hundred years ago, there certainly would have been some notice taken of it in the laws affecting the Highlands, the accounts of society as it then evisted, and more particularly in their songs, tales, and accounts of convivial meetings which have come down to us; but there is no such thing, while the allusion to ale is very common. It is true among the gentry that the latter three-fourths of the last century saw a marked increase of the use of French wines, and ale became less used.

It is not difficult to seek and find the causes for the introduction of whisky into the Highlands, apart from Government encouragement. The gradual improvement of agriculture produced more grain, particularly barley, than was required for the consumption of the country, much of the crops were reaped in a damp and unripe state, and there being no roads it could not be conveyed to the Lowlands, where the manufacture of whisky was largely carried on, in a state such as to enable the farmer to pay to his landlord a gradually increasing rent.

By Act of Parliament the Highland district was marked out Ivy an arbitrary and imaginary line running at the base of the Grampians. Nortli of this area no distillation was allowed, except from stills containing 500 gallons, and this, as a matter of course, was a complete interdict against the use of barley legally within the area, as there was neither consumption for the grain nor disposal of the produce, as one still in a few months would have worked up the whole crop. However, distillation was the easiest way of disposing of it. The people thus were forced into illegal distillation in order that they might use their crops, keep credit with their landlords, and acquire the more expensive necessaries for their families, which an improving state of society demanded.

From the ill judged acts of the Government proceeded illegal distillation, and all its subordinate results to the people in the country.

We must distinguish between fermentation and distillation. Fermented liquors seem to have been known, common to all races, but the first distinct account of distillation, was spirit distilled from wine in the 13th century. At this time Raymond Lully of Majorca regarded it as an emanation from the divinity newly revealed to man, but hidden from antiquity because the human race was too young to use the beverage. The discovery was supposed to indicate the end of the world and the consumption of all things. The liquor was called aqua vita}. This spirit was imported into this country soon after, and its manufacture encouraged by Government, with a view to prevent the large export of money for French and Dutch spirits, and in 1695 the Scottish Parliament forbade the use of rum as interfering with the “Consumpt of strong waters made of malt,” and because “the article (rum) was rather a drug than a liquor, and prejudicial to the health of all who drank it.”

The common drink of the people till about 1725 was a light ale, which sold in pints (equal to two English quarts), for 2d., and hence the name “twopenny.” At this time 6d. per bushel of a malt tax was imposed, and the Edinburgh brewers struck, and a riot took place. The “twopenny” grew scarce, and several of the brewers were incarcerated in the Canongate Tolbooth, for not exerting themselves to continue the trade of brewing. Fortunately they thought better of it and resumed work.

In Inverness, from 1730 till 1760, the price of wine was, for claret, sherry, and port 14s. to 20s. per dozen.

Smuggled brandy, claret, and tea were common, but in 1744 the Town Council entered strong protests against them, as, they said, “they threatened to destroy the health and morals of the people,” and the Councillors bound themselves to discontinue the use of these “extravagant and pernicious commodities in their own families.”

In 1761, a Dutch merchantman of 250 tons, loaded with wines, brandy, spices, iron, and salt was cast ashore on the coast of Strathnaver; all the country flocked round, and not knowing the strength ot brandy and such foreign liquor, drank to excess of it, and it is said that this very ship’s lading debauched Caithness and Strathnaver to that degree that very many lost their lives through their immoderation (see C.D.A. Annals, page 103).

In 1652 a representation to Queen Mary was made regarding the poverty of the Presbyterian Clergy. They nay “ Most of them led a beggar’s life and in the proceedings of the General Assembly 1576, they were compelled to eke out their stipends by selling ale, and the question formally put was, “Whether a minister or reader may tap ale, beer, or wine, and keep an open tavern?" to which it was answered, “Any minister or reader that taps ale, or beer, or wine, and keeps an open tavern, should be exhorted by the Commissioners to keep decorum.”

In the Glasgow Town Accounts whisky figures as early as 1573, under the name of aqua vitae, the quart being charged at 24s., as “The Magistrates and divers honest men” did occasionally treat themselves to a dijitne, but this was after the completion of some public business, tending to the honour and profit of the common weal.

In 1697 claret sold at 10d. the mutchkin.

In 1720 the Edinburgh prices were:—Neat claret, 10d.; strong claret, 1s. 3d.; and white wine, 1s. per bottle.

It has been said no record exists of a home manufacture of whisky till 1708, but this does not seem quite correct, and Inverness seems to have been well a-head of the times, for in the Town Council books of 1650, the Council ordered three gallons of the best aqua vita; to be distilled, and six pairs of the best white plaids to be made and sent South, to be bestowed, by the Town’s Commissioner in Parliament, on such as he may think proper.

An amusing conversation is recorded between Dr Johnson and Boswell, when in Skye, regarding the drink of the Scots. Johnson asserted “That they (the Scots) had hardly any trade, any money, or any elegance before the Union. We have taught you (said he) and will do the same, in time, to all barbarous nations.” Boswell said—“We had wine before the Union.” Johnson—“No, sir; you had some stuff, the refuse of France, which would not make you drunk.” Boswell—“I assure you, sir, there was a great deal of drunkenness.” Johnson—“No, sir; there were people who died of dropsies, which they contracted, trying to get drunk.”

In 1708 about 50,000 gallons of whisky were produced, and the production went up in 1756 to 433,000 gallons. Shortly after this a demand for Scotch whisky sprang up in England, and in 1776 an import duty of 2s. 6d. per gallon was imposed on all spirits sent into England. Here, I think, was another cause of smuggling, and it is stated by a recent writer that in that year 300,000 gallons crossed the Border. Of course, as the restrictions on licensed distillers were increased, the temptations were greater to the smuggler, and a bill was passed in 1823, sanctioning legal distillation at 2s. 6d. per gallon, the Highland proprietors agreeing to put down illegal manufactures. Since then the practice has gradually declined. Though we speak of Highland smuggling, it was by no means confined to the Highlands, though it has lingered there longest; for in Edinburgh in 1777 there were 8 licenced stills, and about 800 unlicenced.

Ferintosh smuggling was well known and long practised in the district, and much more whisky seemed to come from the district than could well be made. The privilege arose from the losses sustained by the Culloden family in 1689-90, estimated at £49,400. 6s. 8d. Scot. King William III. gave the family, instead of money, the perpetual privilege of distilling from grain raised on the estate for a small composition in lieu of excise. It was known much abroad, and one author says it produced as much whisky as all Scotland put together, and the licence was withdrawn in 1785, and a compensation of £21,500 paid. The greatest sufferers were the Dingwall lawyers, whose business and support mainly depended on defending smugglers and redding quarrels from that district.

Time will not permit me to refer at length to all the occupations of the Highlander, and his various devices for providing for his daily wants. The merchant and commercial traveller provides him with cheaper articles if not so good; but I think his life has lost much of its picturesqueness, and his ingenuity and ready-handedness seems in a large measure gone or in abeyance. In these olden times there was ever ready at hand light, agreeable tasks to fill up his time. His long evenings were taken up making his brogues, a lock, ropes, fishing tackle, and hunting gear. Now everything is purchased, and when not actually engaged in regular employment, the Highlander spends his time in idling about his doors, or the useless and delusive task of discussing politics, his rights and his wrongs, which, by the way, in my experience, he knows far better than his duties. The result of all this is that the Highlanders of the West Coast do little for their own comfort, and it is consistent with my own knowledge that the amount of food and luxuries brought into the Islands is far in excess of what they were 30 years ago, and that the natives seem to make less use of the articles ready to hand than they formerly did. For instance, a Highlander does not kill his pig and cure it for his family, using all the portions to the best advantage. He sells it cheap and imports cured hams at a high rate. He does not use. his poultry, but sells all his eggs by barter to little merchants, and purchases tea and sugar and coffee to use in his family instead. He does not make soup and cook the shellfish so plentiful on the coast, but exports them for, after all, a small return, and I cannot regard it as a good sign of the times, when everything is imported and little done at home. For instance, in the case of the rope made of the moss roots, it was a substantial article, and sufficiently good for its purpose, and when asked why he did not always make and use such, his reply was, “ Ach, it’s too much bother, we can buy a hemp one easier.” No doubt this is true, but is it wise1? During the long winter nights, the time wasted might be profitably occupied by these home-mades, I fear the inclination is gone, and the agitation which has been carried on for the last few years has tended much to put a stop to these useful and economical occupations.

At no time does the Highlander ever seem to have had great artistic instincts, one seldom sees a bit of ornamentation or carving, or any attempt at drawing.

Occasionally the handle of a dirk or a walking-stick with a big crook is manufactured, but such articles of artistic merit as the Swiss mountaineer makes in the long winter nights in his Alpine village, are foreign to the instincts of the Highlander; not that the skill and ingenuity are altogether wanting, but the mind has been turned from it. An active, roving life better suits the Celt, and the precarious life of a fisherman, in lieu of the hunter’s, pleases him better than the drudgery of agriculture and spade labour, and even the dangerous and risky occupation of smuggling has greater charms for some of them than any regular employment in the long winter nights.

I would not wish to be understood as saying that the Scottish Highlander wants the aptitude for adapting himself to his situation, nor the capacity of turning anything he requires to account.

I have shown the contrary in the foregoing notes; but I think the cessation of home work and home-made appliances has rendered him too dependent on foreign aid, and led him to look for outside support, when he ought to be able to help himself, and to turn to his use and comfort much that lies ready to hand, and which would save him actual outlay of money, and add much to his comfort and pleasure.


Return to Scottish Historical Articles



Popular Pages



More Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page