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Mary MacLeod of Marrig
Or. How the Campbells went to Harris


MARRIG HOUSE stands on a gentle declivity near the upper end of Loch Seaforth, a bay of some miles in length, in the Outer Hebrides. It was in olden times a structure of the most primitive description. Its walls, which were some six feet in thickness, and about four feet in height, were built of sods, earth, and mountain boulders; and its roof of pieces of wreckage found on the shore, covered over with sods, ferns, and rushes. It had neither window nor chimney, save a rude opening at the top of the wall, and an old creel stuck into the ridge, which served the double purpose of admitting light and emitting the dense volumes of smoke which invariably darkened the interior. The fire was in the centre of the clay made floor. The cooking utensils were suspended from the rafters by a heather rope. The partitions, made of boards, pieces of wreckage, and old sails, did not extend higher than the level of the walls.

Being on a portion of the estate of Harris which was from time immemorial possessed by the branch of the Macleods known as Siol Thormaid Marrig House was occupied by a Macleod; and not unfrequently did it afford temporary shelter and entertainment to the Chief of Siol Thormaid himself, when following the chase in the adjoining forests. It was from this house that Sir Rory Mor Macleod of Dunvegan and Harris, while laid up with a sore leg, wrote, on the 2d September 1596, a letter to King James, acknowledging receipt of the King's charge on the 18th of the same month commanding him to be at Islay with all his forces on the second day thereafter, under pain of treason, and explaining that it was impossible to comply with His Majesty's orders, even "althocht my hail force haid beine togidder, and wund and widder serued one at eiverir airt." But the house which was then at Marrig has long since disappeared, and a more substantial and modern one now stands in its place. The tenant of Marrig was always locally called "Fear Mharig," or the man of Marrig, a term which was and still is applied in the Highlands to largo tenants.

Marrig at the time of which we write was tenanted by a near relation of the Chief of Siol Thormaid, a brave, prudent, and upright man. He had an only daughter, his heiress, upon whom Nature had bestowed no small share of her favours; she was as modest and tender-hearted as she was beautiful. She was courted and sought after by all the young gentlemen of the Island; but being devotedly attached to her father, whom she idolized, and on whose advice and counsel she invariably acted, their proffered suits were always rejected ; until circumstances which took place in the neighbourhood of Glasgow at that time brought a new and more successful suitor on the scene.

It happened, while a son of the then Earl of Argyll was prosecuting his studies in the University of Glasgow, that a dispute arose between him and one of his fellow-students regarding the superiority of their respective clans. The quarrel ultimately assumed such proportions, that it was resolved to decide it by an appeal to arms. The weapons chosen were the broadsword and target, these being the common weapons of war in those days. At the proper time the combatants, with their seconds, appeared at the appointed place. A fearful attack immediately began, and continued with unabated fury for some time; and so well were the warriors matched that it became doubtful latterly which of them would carry the day. Campbell, however, ultimately made a clever and skilful thrust, which secured him the victory he having split his adversary's head almost in two. Campbell was thus, according to law, guilty of manslaughter, and being "wanted" for that offence, he and his second, who was a son of Macleod of Dunvegan and Harris, fled to the latter island for refuge.

Campbell was not long in the Island when he became acquainted with Mary Macleod, the fair heiress of Marrig, and became deeply enamoured of her; and being a handsome man of prepossessing appearance, refined address, winning manners, and, withal, of an illustrious family, his love was soon warmly returned, and with the full concurrence of the young lady's father, the day of their marriage was fixed for an early date. But it happened soon afterwards that the old gentleman casually received a full account of the cause for which his daughter's affianced came to Harris, and, his whole nature revolting at the idea of marrying his daughter to a man guilty of manslaughter, he at once resolved to break off the alliance.

He well knew this could not be accomplished without encountering some serious difficulty possibly a bitter and deadly feud. Not that he apprehended any serious opposition on the part of his daughter, who, he was sure, would sacrifice almost anything to please her father; but her suitor was a very different person. He was proud, and easily irritated, and that he was of a violent disposition was sufficiently demonstrated in the fact that he had already fought a duel and had slain his opponent for the honour of his name. He belonged to a powerful family, whose chief might feign offence at his son's proffered suit and engagement being thus summarily rejected and violated, and might come to make reprisals, or, peradventure, declare open war with the Siol Thormaid, the result of which might be disastrous. Carefully considering all these questions, which operated strongly on his feelings, the good man of Marrig called his daughter to his presence, and told her in an affectionate and feeling manner what he had discovered of the history of her lover; and then, in a tone sufficiently firm to manifest that he meant what he said, he made known his resolution. "You must not," he said, "have any further communication with Campbell. Sorry indeed am I to be under the necessity of thwarting my dear Mary's affections, but ten times more would it pain me to see her wedded to a man whom my soul loathes. My darling Mary is still very young. Let her trust in Providence, and she will yet get a husband, in whom she may safely repose her trust, and whom her aged father can love as he loves his daughter."

"Never have I attempted to go against my father's commands," answered she, weeping bitterly, "nor shall I do so now; but as my heart bleeds for my beloved, I trust you have authentic information before you can act so harshly. Shall I, Oh ! shall I be permitted to see him once more?"

"I have no reason to doubt the correctness of my information," replied he, "for I received it from young Macleod, who witnessed the duel You may see Campbell once more, but once for all."

A meeting had previously been arranged between the lovers for the very evening of the day on which the above conversation took place between Mary Macleod and her father; and with buoyant spirits, and a step so light that it scarcely bent the purple heather, Campbell walked from Rodel to Marrig a distance of between twenty-rive and thirty miles that day, to meet his affianced Mary. Little, alas ! did he think, while performing his journey, that she would greet him with such heartrending words to both as "My dear, I must see you no more." The lovers embraced each other when they met. "How happy am I to meet you and see you, my darling Mary, once more," said Campbell, who was the first to speak; "but, thank God, we shall soon meet to part no more while we live."

"Happy, thrice happy would I be," sobbed the maiden, "if that were so; but, alas! it cannot be." And in broken accents she recapitulated all that her father said to her, adding with a groan, "I must never see you again."

"What!" exclaimed Campbell in great excitement, "must I never see my dear, my own Mary again? It cannot be. The very thought would kill me. I will not part with my own, my darling Mary."

They both burst into tears, and continued to weep and sob for a long time; but the young lady, who, on the whole, considering the trying nature of it, bore the ordeal with remarkable fortitude, and remarked that as her father's word was inexorable as the laws of the Medes and Persians which altered not, they must be reconciled to their fate.

"If it must be so, then," Campbell replied, "I shall try to submit to it. But the Island of Harris will henceforth have no attraction for me. I shall depart from it at once, and go to the seas, where I can muse in melancholy silence on the maid who first stole my heart and afterwards rejected me."

"Eestrain thy plaint, my dear Archy," rejoined the maiden, as she proceeded to assure him that the step she had taken was entirely in obedience to the wishes of her father, without whose consent she would never marry while he lived; but she would faithfully promise that if he would wait for her until her father had paid the debt of nature she would be only too happy to fulfil her engagement and become his wife." And," she continued, "I shall never marry another while you live."

Campbell replied that since he found that her love to him was still unaltered, he would become more reconciled to his hard fate; that her kind and loving words had infused him with fresh hopes; that her father, in the natural course of things, must, before many years had passed away, go to his fathers, and that till that event took place he would patiently wait for his loving Mary. He then handed her the ring which he intended placing on her finger on the day of their nuptials, saying, *Take this, and keep it till we meet again."

She took the ring with mingled feelings of joy and sorrow of joy, because she could look at it as a memento of their engagement; of sorrow, because it would remind her of an absent lover. After looking intensely at it for some time she carefully placed it in her bosom, saying, "I too will give you a pledge of our betrothal, it was intended to be worn on your breast at our wedding," and she then handed him a knot of blue ribbon, made by herself, and having both their initials wrought in it with golden silk thread. Taking a parting embrace of each other, they wept long and bitterly, and with heavy hearts separated, it might be, for ever.

During this conversation they sat on the south side of an elevated spot overlooking Loch Seaforth, and afterwards she went direct to Marrig House, while he immediately left in the direction of Stornoway, where he went with the view of procuring employment as a seaman on board some vessel. Many a look did he give towards Marrig, between Athline, at the head of Loch Seaforth, and Araidh Bhruthaich, the shealing of the Ascent, in Lochs, where the Irish plunderers lifted Donald Cam Macaulay's cattle in his absence, while he was away on business at the Flannel Isles, and for which act they paid with their lives; for Donald overtook them at Loch Seaforth, and slew every one of them.

Stornoway is twenty-six miles north of Marrig; and although the evening was far advanced ere Campbell left, he arrived at the Capital of the Lews before many of the good citizens had retired for the night. One would have thought that Campbell, after travelling upwards of fifty miles that day, would have slept pretty soundly; but such was not the case. The thoughts of what had occurred at Marrig disquieted his mind so much, that it almost became unhinged. Sleep, usually the sweet and refreshing balm to the weary traveller, left him to writhe on a sleepless pillow all night. No wonder, then, that the first peep of daylight found him in the neighbourhood of the old castle of Stornoway then the seat and stronghold of the once famous Chief of Siol Thorcuil sauntering on the sandy beach, and peering out into the placid blue water of the bay, in the hope of descrying some ship to take him away from the scene of his present sorrow. He did not long look in vain, for he soon noticed a vessel lying some distance off; and presently a small boat for a supply of water left her for the shore. The ship, which had shortened her cable before the boat put off, he found was bound for Holland.

"Short of men?" exclaimed Campbell, as the boat touched the beach. "Would ship one good hand," one of the sailors replied. "All right; here he is," responded Campbell, who, as soon as the casks were full, accompanied the sailors to the vessel. He was engaged as soon as he went on board; the ship weighed anchor, and proceeded to sea. Campbell having now left the Hebrides, we shall return to Harris and note affairs at Marrig.

It was several years before Mary Maclood thoroughly recovered from the effects of the shock produced by her disappointment. She mourned long and sorrowfully for her absent lover, and feared she would never see him again. Her lamentations were so pitiful, she grew so terribly thin and wan, that her father was sorely grieved that he could not undo what he had done. "Woe to me," he often exclaimed, "for killing my daughter. She is rapidly sinking to an untimely grave." Although some of Mary's former admirers returned with the full ardour of their love as soon as Campbell had left the Island, and pressed their suits with renewed zeal, she politely but firmly rejected their proposals, with the saying, "I am not yet a widow."

Five years had now nearly passed away since Mary Macleod and Archy Campbell parted, and still no tidings reached her of his whereabouts. She knew not whethei he was dead or alive. At that time some of the sailors belonging to a large ship which came into Loch Seaforth for shelter called one evening at Marrig House for milk; and in conversation with them it transpired that their vessel, then in Loch Seaforth, was the identical ship in which Campbell sailed from Stornoway five years previously; that he never left her until he was accidentally drowned in the Bay of Biscay four years afterwards; that, by his kind and obliging manner, he became a general favourite with all his comrades, who deeply lamented his loss. This unexpected intelligence acted upon the forlorn and broken-hearted maiden as if struck by a thunderbolt. She uttered a wild and piercing scream, and fell fainting on the floor. During the excitement that followed the sailors made their exit, and proceeded to their ship, which weighed anchor next morning and disappeared; so that the fair maiden had now lost any further opportunity of obtaining any additional information she might desire about her lover. Sad and melancholy as she had been hitherto, she was now depressed and cheerless in the extreme. Refusing to be comforted, she moaned and sighed day and night for weeks and months together. Nothing apparently could rouse her spirits from the deep melancholy which had taken possession of her. She continued thus for nearly two years, during which time she was all but a hermit. She was often visited, it is true, during those solitary years by many admirers, who used all the fair words at their command to press their suit upon her, but she invariably answered that she did not yet tire of her widow's weeds. Eventually, however, she became gradually more cheerful, and took some pleasure in society; and she ultimately sang and danced at balls and other fashionable gatherings as in days long gone by.

Of all Mary Macleod's admirers Macleod of Hushinish was her greater favourite; and some three years after she obtained intelligence of Campbell's death, she consented to become his wife, with the full consent of her father and other relations, and the day of their espousal was fixed. The preparations for the Aveddiug, which was to be on a grand scale, were necessarily extensive. The liquors consisted of whisky, rum, gin, and brandy. The marriage ceremony was, according to the usual custom, to be performed in her father's house, whither the officiating clergyman had been invited several days previously. For some days prior to the marriage a strong gale of wind blew from the south and the barometer gave every indication of its continuance. This proved a fortunate circumstance for the bride's father, whose stock of gin and brandy had become somewhat limited at the time when it was most required; for, two days previous to that of the marriage, a foreign vessel had put into Loch Seaforth for shelter from the storm, and from this ship he procured a supply of the necessary supply of spirits. On account of the liberal terms on which the captain supplied him, Fear Mharig invited him and the first mate to the wedding. The captain a middle-aged burly man, with a well tanned face was, as became his position, dressed in a suit of clothes corresponding to his rank; but the mate, who seemed about thirty years of age, with brown, but well-fared face, of ordinary height, and handsome figure, was dressed in the garb of an ordinary seaman.

The number of people which collected at Marrig was so large that the marriage ceremony had to be performed in the barn, where as manyas it could contain were requested to go to witness the proceedings. In the general rush the captain and his mate were left outside. But being the greatest strangers, and anxious that they should see the ritual, some of the leading Harris men gave up their own seats in favour of the sailors, who thus received front positions. They had scarcely occupied them when the bride and her maids entered, followed almost immediately by the bridegroom and his party. The bride, attired in her magnificent marriage robes, looking beautiful and spotless as an angel, was greeted with vociferous cheering. This enthusiastic welcome over, and just when the minister was about to commence the service, the mate, who chanced to be exactly opposite to the bride, interrupted the proceedings by saying in the blunt but pointed manner peculiar to sailors,

"I presume that all the ladies and gentlemen present have already presented the bride with their presents. I haven't yet had a proper opportunity of giving mine; and although it is but small, and apparently trifling, I trust the young lady will, nevertheless, accept and appreciate it as a token of my constant love and devoted affection." He then handed the bride a neatly folded paper parcel, about the size of a small-sized envelope. She nervously tore it open, and on examining the contents, she, to the great astonishment of the assembly, exclaimed, "Archy, Archy, my dear! my long absent Archy," and springing forward she embraced him again and again. It is needless to say that the sailor's present was the identical knot of blue ribbon given by Mary Macleod to Archibald Campbell some eight years before. Mary and her betrothed, Archibald Campbell (for it was he) were for several minutes locked fast in each other's embrace, and she, after the commotion produced by this unexpected meeting had somewhat subsided, said, in an audible tone, that she was now ready to fulfil her original engagement to her first love, Archibald Campbell, and that her father, she was quite sure, would now offer no objections to their marriage. Fear Mharrig at once replied that he had already suffered quite enough of harrowing remorse for the part he had previously taken in their separation to offer any further objections. He would therefore give his full consent, for the whole thing seemed to him to have been arranged by Providence. Young Macleod of Harris, Campbell's University companion, now stepped forward, and shook the sailor warmly by the hand, giving him a thousand welcomes to Harris, and congratulating him on coming so opportunely to claim the hand of Mary Macleod; and Fear Mharig suggested that, as all the arrangements were ready, and the clergyman standing there, the marriage ceremony had better be proceeded with, which proposal was acted upon, and Archibald Campbell and Mary Macleod were there and then made man and wife. During the proceedings, young Hushinish, the disappointed bridegroom, stood a silent spectator, and quite dumfoundered.

The marriage ceremony over, Campbell entertained the company, relating his travels and all the peculiar incidents which occurred during the eight years that elapsed since he left Harris, one of which was how his ship came to Loch Seaforth three years before, as already noticed, how that he himself formed one of the party of sailors who then called at Marrig House for milk, and personally reported that he had been drowned in the Bay of Biscay. His object in making this false statement was to test his love's affection; for finding that her father was still alive, he deemed it prudent not to make himself known. He then solemnly assured them, corroborated by his Captain, that his coming to Loch Seaforth two days ago, driven by the storm, was by the merest chance. It need hardly be told that the vessel left Loch Seaforth minus the first mate, who was from his marriage-day henceforth called Fear Mharig. From Mary Macleod and Archibald Campbell, the sailor, descended all the Campbells in Harris, Lews, TJist, and Skye, many of whom became famous in their day and generation.

MAC IAIN


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