that rise in distant watersheds, and Plunge and hurry, or wind their
ways more slowly, to the sea, have often been taken as pictures and
parables of life, the life of a man, or the composite life of families
or clans or races of men. All the rivers run to the sea, yet the sea is
were given to us to choose from all rivers the one that should picture
and typify life, much could he said for the Scottish Dee, vivacious,
sparkling, temperamental, even headstrong, but strongly individual, and
without a dull mile or an ugly prospect from sources to sea. Born in
romance in the trickling streamlets of snowy mountains and the slopes of
a thousand heathered hills.
"In many a place
Its rivulets dance their wayward round.
With beauty born of murmuring sound."
With hide-and-seek and charming escapades,
in splash and dash of rapids and cascades, they lass an impetuous youth.
In passionate spate, they make even the great grey rocks scour out
channels for their waters. Artists haunt their delightsome banks and
anglers their laughing shallows. Gladly the turn the useful wheels that
grind the miillers' corn. Still with the youthful sparkle of its
tributary streamlets, the full river threads, it way by hill and croft,
least farmstead and hamlet, to the great grey city where ships from far
ports, harbour in its waters, then on, "Below the kirk, below the mill,
below the lighthouse top,'' until its heather-browned waters interweave
with the welcoming waves of the eternal sea.
Midway in the course of this river Dee lies
the valley of Cromar, and here, in the earlier part of the nineteenth
century, four family streams met that have more or less flowed together
since that time. The Farquharsons, Fletchers, Stewarts and Maitlands
neighboured, intermarried, suffered together the upsets of the repeal of
the Corn Laws passed through the "Ten Years' conflict" and the
Disruption, and in the second half of that remarkable century founded
homes near together in far Canada, chiefly in the townships of Tilbury
Eaat and Raleigh, in the County of Kent, Ontario.
What were the sources of their four family
streams? From what bubbling springlets on what distant hills did they
flow? Whence came these positive personalities, their outlook on life,
their humour, their wisdom, their principles, their faith? What can be
learned and told of these strearnlets that met at Cromar, flowed
together for a time and are now inevitably diverging?
To recall, and search out and write these
histories, none is so well fitted as "Uncle Donald" Farquharson, who
brings to them the exactness of one versed in the law, the keen scent of
an antiquarian, and the kindly sympathies of one who loves his fellow
men. Up to fourscore and beyond, all that he has met and lived through
has interested him deeply. From boyhood he has carried the stories, and
the atmosphere, of those who were then fourscore. As eldest son, and
from longest and closest contact, he inherits most from "Grandfather"
Charles Farquharson, in whom, more than in any other known to present
generation, lived the history and traditions, the poetry and song, the
humour and proverbial wisdom of our people. And to these recollections
and inheritances he has diligently added the gatherings from wide
reading. Moreover, in his own household, all four family streams are
The book promises some record of four families of Cromar, but gives much
more. To one who would search out his ancestors and know them, even a
bare genealogical list of names, such as the chapter in early Bible
history about who begat whom, is of some interest. But how much better
to be shown the very manner of men and women they were, the very deeds
of their doing, the very words of their lips. What is even more
difficult, and of still greater value, is his reconstruction for us of
the little worlds they lived in, their glimmering early lights growing
brighter, their crude scratchings of the soil becoming scientific
agriculture, their hovels in time changing to houses, their feuds and
savagery giving place to ordered life, their schools and schoolmasters,
their churches and ministers, their laws and their landlords, their
customs and beliefs, even the witches and warlocks of their earlier day.
Quite apart from the four families, there is
a general and Permanent value in such reminiscences about the
Aberdeenshire of two past centuries, and, more vaguely, of three. In
these days of the King at Balmoral, American tourists on every loch,
London anglers in every stream, and auld Scotia furnishing "heids o'
depairtments," and jokes, for the Anglo-Saxon world, it is difficult to
realize that the Highlands were discovered some centuries after America,
that some of the ancestors here portrayed for us, were as remote from
the England of their day as we are from Afghanistan, and that Lowland
Scots of even the later eighteenth century, if they were forced to
travel in the Highlands, prepared by making their wills.
And of almost equal general value are the
stories of the emigrations that filled the wildernesses of Ontario, of
the self dependent lives of the pioneers, the conquest of the forests
and marshes, the ashes and black salts, and the first seedlings raked in
between the tree stumps.
So much the author has tried to give, and
admirably succeeded in giving. Something he did not try to give, all who
know him will delight to find also in his book, his own ways of
thinking, his interpretation of events, his philosophy of life, his
standard of morals, his own faith, his own much-beloved self. For this
as much as for anything he set out to tell will the book be valued by
all of kindred blood, and many of other life streams as well.
To any in the four families who have a sense
of history, who delight to look both back and forward, and to keep the
romance and philosophy of the past alive within the present, this record
will be a source of perpetual interest. At times we may have caught
ourselves wondering how the newer generations could quite get a grasp of
life aright without the traditions that came down to its, the fairy
lore, the pawky humour, the ripe wisdom, the broad doric. Here they are,
and no longer dependent upon our hazy recollections. Here by the
wondrous magic of a printed book our children and children's children
for generations to come may have a living picture of some of the sources
of their race and blood.
There are, it is true, some people,
otherwise excellent, kind parents, and upright citizens, who have little
interest in such backward going thoughs. Frederick Locker-Lampson, much
as he liked and respected the generation that followed him, scarcely
knew which was more trying, "their languid endurance of a family story,
or their inaccurate repetition of it." So he "buried his treasure,'' his
family ''confidence," in print, not trusting, to use another figure,
"his frail cargo, of memories to oral tradition." "At all events," he
continues, "I have now done all I have strength to do--more than most
men would think worth doing at all But if in some far-off day, any
honest man or quick witted women of my stock.... should chance upon this
book of mine . . . and be pleased to read it indulgently and with the
faintest tincture of gratitude, my cold shade will be satisfied and seek
no farther reward for his labour".
That, of course, Was among the more prosaic
Sassenach. In the far flung members of the four families of Cromar we
may be sure "the blood is strong, the heart is Highland" enough to
ensure, both now and in years to come, a much warmer welcome and a
better cherishing of this family record.
Here, then, from the author and his
generation, and from those who \vent before, to us and our generation,
and to those who will follow after, comes this unique gift, this record
of all that can he recalled out of the deepening shadows of a past that
is especially ours.
"O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme!
Though deep, yet clear: though gentle yet not dull:
Strong without rage: without o'erflowing, full."
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