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Chapter X. The Benedictine Monastery


Fort Augustus - At the Monastery Door - The Bearded Monk - In the Catacomb Chapel - I Meet the Father Abbot - Dinner with the Monks - The Corridor of Silence - Poverty, Chastity, Obedience - A Talk with Father Cyril - The Peace of the Cloister - I Sleep in a Monk's Cell - The Man from Cambridge - In the Sacristy with the Father Prior - On the Monastery Tower.

WITH an early start next morning I had hoped to cross the Corrieyairack Pass and be down at the hamlet of Laggan Bridge in Badenoch by nightfall. But by a pleasant series of events, I became the guest at the monastery in Fort Augustus, and I remained there for several days, living in a monk's cell above the Cloister.

It was one of the most fortunate things in all my journey ; and it came about thus. Under the control of the Father Abbot there is a College with several lay masters. As I entered the village, I remembered I had met one of them in the South, and I thought how greatly I would like to renew our acquaintance. Douglas was his name ; he was a young man, with a fine gift of quiet and entertaining talk ; and he was both a Marian and a Janeite. But his admiration for Jane Austen was a mere whimsey compared with his enthusiasm for Mary Queen of Scots, and when he spoke of John Knox his eye scattered battles. We had talked far into the night about Mary, and I decided to remind him of our meeting in the South, and to ask if he could get me permission to see something of the monastery.

As I have already said, I was brought up from my earliest days as a Protestant: a rampant Protestant. In my youth I had a vague idea that the Jesuits were a secret society with a Black Pope at their head, that they worked in strange channels, and gained their ends by machinations not unlike those of international crooks in detective stories. Naturally, this gave the very name Jesuit a glamour for me, and it cast upon the Catholic faith and everything connected with it an air of romance and mystery. In my young days I had always thought of a monastery as a place like those gloomy castles described so shudderingly by Mrs. Radcliffe in The Mysteries of Udolpho - a place with secret passages, and shadowy figures in black cowls, and strange religious rites being performed in a darkened chapel at midnight. Thus when I entered the monastery grounds, all my early impressions rose up within me, as early impressions will do until a man's dying day ; and as I made for the doorway under the arches, I felt as if I were approaching the grim portals of Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto. It was with some trepidation that I rang the bell.

There was a long pause. At last the door opened, and there stood before me a monk with a magnificent grey beard. He wore a black habit, with a tiny black skull-cap upon his head, and he had large clear grey eyes and the smooth complexion of a child. This was certainly not the gaunt and pallid figure I had expected to greet me; and when I asked how I could get in touch with my friend in the College, I was relieved by his amiable reply. He led me round by the gravel path outside to another part of that intricate mass of buildings, and asked me to wait in the big vestibule. A few minutes later, the young man I had met in the South came hurrying downstairs. He said he remembered me quite well, and he took me up to his room, where we talked for nearly an hour about my journey, and then he asked if I would care to see over the monastery. Presently, to my great satisfaction, he returned with permission to show me round. "The monks are going to Vespers now," he said, "so we won't be interfering with any of their duties."

The first place he led me to was the Catacomb Chapel, with its low vaulted roof and red-brick floor. The Abbey had been built upon the foundations of the old military Fort, and this chapel was one of the guard-rooms. In an alcove stands a stone lamp found in the catacombs at Rome; and in caskets there are relics of various saints, some of them the gift of Pope Leo XIII, and they include a piece of bone from the body of St. Clemens, who was a companion of St. Paul. Like Paul, he wrote an Epistle to the Corinthians, although it is not included in the Holy Writ, and the only manuscript of it is now in the British Museum. The paintings on the walls of this chapel, I learned, were done by one of the present monks who had been an artist before he took vows; and this led my friend to describe something of the life of the community in the Abbey.

Each day is divided by a rigid time-table of duties. At half-past four in the morning the monks rise from sleep, and between five and six hours of the day are spent in prayer and religious devotions. This is an essential part of the Benedictine Rule, a rule that has lasted for fourteen hundred years. In addition to his religious exercises, each monk has certain tasks to perform, and the nature of his work depends upon his talents. Some are musicians, some teach in the College, some are historians and work in the Library or Scriptorium, and one of the Fathers attends to the financial affairs of the community. As far as it is possible, the monastery is self-supporting : lay brethren in the bakery and kitchen prepare the food ; some are stone-masons and carpenters, and keep the buildings in good repair ; some are printers, and produce books and pamphlets, as well as the Corbie, an excellent magazine issued by the College. Some of the lay brethren are gardeners, some electricians. Indeed, the village of Fort Augustus is lit by the monastery powerhouse, the current for which is carried down half a mile from a little mountain stream, and this plant was the first of its kind in the Highlands. From half-past four in the morning until the day's end, the monastery bells ring out an old tune from an invocation to St. Benedict and mark the hours for devotion and labour. All this my friend told me as we stood in the tiny Catacomb Chapel where the feet of Cumberland's soldiers had tramped during the dark days after Culloden.

"Perhaps you would care to meet Father Placid," said my companion. "He's in charge of the Library, and is interested in the 'Forty-five. I've been given permission to take you into the Cloister."

He led me down a passage, opened a door through which no woman visitor may go, and I stepped into the monks' quarters. Below one of the arches I could see the grassy courtyard that is enclosed on its four sides by the monastery buildings, and we walked slowly round to the Library, a noble chamber with archways leading to three other rooms beyond. I suppose there are thirty or forty thousand volumes stored around those walls, besides many precious manuscripts, Lives of the Fathers, books of theology, philosophy, science, archaeology; and the historical section at the far end I found to be a treasure-house of good and rare things. Many of the books had been bound in the monastery; it was obvious that they were attended to with loving care; and even the floor of the Library shone like old and well-kept pewter. My friend from the College had left me to browse alone for a little while, and when he returned he was accompanied by Father Placid himself; who told me that I might (if I so desired) pay my respects to the Father Abbot.

In the monastery the Father Abbot is in supreme control. No bishop or archbishop may command him : only to the President of the Benedictine Congregation is he responsible. So I was told when I was taken upstairs, and I entered his quarters with awe. The room into which I was ushered was small and rather bare, with no carpet on the floor. Beside the narrow white bed was the desk at which the Father Abbot himself sat working. There was a quality in his handclasp, and in the expression of his dark hazel eyes behind the double-lenses of his spectacles, which I' am sure would have made a Hottentot, far less a heretic, feel that he was welcome. We talked at a window which looked down across the graveyard to which each monk at the end of his days is carried by his chanting brethren, and beyond that green place with its yew trees are the waters of the largest inland loch in Britain. We talked about all kinds of things, but mostly history and religion-these all too briefly-and about the journey I was making on foot across Scotland. I entered the room as a stranger: I left it, to my surprise and delight, a guest of the community, with permission to take up my quarters in the monastery and rest there for a few days.

Another fortunate thing happened to me that evening. Guests as a rule live in the Hospice, which is apart from the monks' quarters, but it was being used as an isolation-ward for someone in the College who was engaged in a boyish tussle with measles. I was brutal enough to bless the infection, for thus the Hospice was closed to me, and I was allotted the cell of a monk who was away on some special duty. I suppose the Catholic Church is the most highly organised unit in the world : its efficiency has certainly penetrated as far as Fort Augustus, for when I returned to the vestibule for my pack I found that it had been removed. A lay brother had already carried it upstairs to my room above the Cloister: within less than five minutes the machinery for my comfort had been set in motion ! How this little miracle had been worked I did not understand until I learned that a house-telephone system brings the most distant corner of that great labyrinth of buildings into immediate touch with a central switchboard. Though the Rule of St. Benedict is fourteen hundred years old, his followers in Fort Augustus have kept abreast of the times, and my next discovery was that my little room had central-heating and a wash-hand basin with running water. A monk's cell with central-heating ! I blinked. The twentieth century had indeed arrived in the Highlands.

An inscription painted in gilt letters above my door told me that my room was dedicated to St. Michael. There was no carpet on the floor, but the bare boards were virginally clean. A plain deal desk was in the middle, with a cardboard box as a waste-paper basket, and a narrow bed stood in the corner, a crucifix above it. Many pictures were on the walls, pictures of Christ and of the Mother of Christ, and of many Saints I had never heard of. In the wide bookcase was the personal library of the monk to whom this small room was the only home he would ever know. I hope I may be forgiven if I am so personal as to express my admiration of the rich catholicity of his taste. He was a classical scholar, I could see, and in particular a Latinist. He apparently knew the eighteenth century well ; he., was a Fielding man ; but he had tried Swift and found him little to his liking, for some of his Swift was unopened. He read the sonorous prose of Sir Thomas Browne with gusto, and some of Milton's too, though I could not believe he had much relish for some of Milton's opinions. From his well-thumbed Donne I gathered he had a palate for that older gloomy Dean of St. Paul's, high priest of the Metaphysicals ; and he appreciated Gerard Manley Hopkins, which I confess is more than I can do. As I made a voyage of discovery among his books-a liberty I felt sure their owner would not have resented-a picture of him began slowly to take shape. He was a man who dwelt much in the past, but kept a shrewd eye upon the movements of to-day. He was just a trifle scornful about what is called popular education ; he regretted the trend of things in India; he knew something about Minoan civilisation ; and when he was young he had read the stories of Mrs. Ewing with such pleasure that he brought them with him to be at his hand for the rest of his days. I sat down at his desk. He was not a fluent writer, for he has prodded much with his pen in the wood beside the ink-pot, but no doubt he comforted himself with the thought that hard writing makes for easy reading, and I felt sure his talk was discriminating and rich. I could almost imagine I already knew him, that unknown monk into the peace of whose chamber I had broken: I felt he was a ripe man with a deep and humorous mind, a man I would have loved to listen to and share a joke with. An imprint of his personality was in every corner of his bare but pleasant cell, and I unpacked my rucksack with a glow of friendliness towards him. While I was pulling on a clean pair of socks, there was a knock on the door. It was Douglas ; he had come to tell me that the evening meal would be ready in the Refectory in about twenty minutes ; and while I washed (with running water) he told me some of the rules of conduct I was expected to observe.

The monks' rooms were along this corridor; and in the corridor, talk was not permitted, not even a good-night in passing - the monks bow to each other and continue on their way in silence. There was also a rule off silence in the Refectory; during meals a monk mounts the pulpit and reads from the Fathers of the Church. It was not expected that I should rise at half-past four and attend the early morning offices, but I might do so if I wished, and should make my way to the place in the Church reserved for the public during the ordinary services. I was warned to be back in my room at night by half-past nine, after which there is complete silence in the monastery. If I wished to hold a conversation with any of the monks during certain hours, I must make the request beforehand, so that permission might be obtained from the Father Abbot. As for the Library, I could work there as much as I liked, provided I retired to my room at the hour for sleep. Douglas told me that he and another lay master from the College had their food in the Refectory, and sat at the guest-table; and as we went downstairs, it was a relief to me that I would not be alone at this my first meal within the Abbey.

The Refectory, with its panelled walls and high wooden roof, its stained-glass windows, and its pulpit perched beside a tall Gothic arch, was profoundly impressive to the mind of a stranger like myself. The guest-table was at right-angles to the high table of the Father Abbot and his attendants: these two tables were covered with white linen, but on all the others the dishes were laid upon bare polished wood. One by one the monks entered and took their places, standing in silence, until presently fifty or sixty motionless figures were in the Refectory. Heads were bowed as the Father Abbot entered and walked slowly to his place at the high table. He began the blessing in a soft musical voice, and the monks joined in the praise; the grace was sung in Latin, richly and fluently enunciated; and as soon as it was ended, the silent meal began. While the food was being served by monks and lay brothers, who were as skilful as any West End waiter, a voice from the pulpit began to read. It was an American voice, I noted with surprise, and then I remembered what Douglas had told me: within these walls were gathered men of many nationalities, including French, German, and Russian. On the left of the Father Abbot sat a man in a white robe which was a vivid contrast to the black habit of the other monks: I learned afterwards that he was a member of the Missionary Society of the "White Fathers" from Africa, and his garments were based upon the Arab costume.

I looked around me at the faces of the monks. I knew from a remark of Douglas that each had served a period of probation of four years before he had been permitted to make a final decision to join the community and take vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty ; and it was strange to think that not one of these men owned anything in this world, not even the habit he wore and in which he would one day be carried to his grave by the lochside. Some of the faces around me were bronzed with the sun; some were strong and square and keen-eyed, the faces of men of action; some were thoughtful, the faces of students. But in not one of them could I see any hint of gaunt and hungry asceticism. Yet there was one thing in common to them all; it escaped me at first; and then I knew. I saw it in their quiet eyes: it was tranquillity.

Water was served in metal flagons. The food was simple but plentiful, and I supped with an excellent appetite, while the American in the pulpit read to us of martyrdoms for the Faith and of monastic discipline from the Rule of St. Benedict. At the end of the meal the tinkle of a tiny silver bell on the high table was the signal for us to rise, and a chant of thanksgiving was begun. The singing monks drew their hoods over their heads and filed out two by two, the lay brothers leading the way, the Father Abbot himself going last.

I joined the end of the procession which was moving along the Cloisters where, after a mutual bow between the Abbot and the community, a short recreation was begun. After this the final offices for the day were sung in the Church. With Douglas I sat in the nave and listened to the service in the semi-darkness. The voices of the chanting monks, the candles on the rich altar, the shadows among the arches, the last of the twilight outlining the narrow windows-these made upon my mind an impression of unique beauty. I was already beginning to understand a little of the fascination of the monastic life, that strange mingling of fellowship and solitude.

Afterwards, in Douglas's room in the College building, we were joined by Father Cyril, who had received permission from the Father Abbot to converse with us for an hour. I found him to be a man of deep learning. He was a Russian; he had acquired English; then he had tackled Gaelic with such success that he was persuaded to give to the world the results of his study of that lovely but difficult tongue: odd to think that a Russian should be the author of a standard Gaelic-English dictionary ! His study of the early races of Britain has gained him a place of honour among modern ethnologists. At the first glance you would not have taken him to be a student at all; strip him of his black robe, and you might have judged him to be a City man, or perhaps the director of some big business, for the lines of his face showed power and decision of mind. His short figure was strongly built, his step was firm, he had a healthy skin and clear blue penetrating eyes, the eyes of one accustomed to command rather than to obey. But the moment he spoke, his face lit up with good-humour; and soon I discovered that his modesty was as profound as his erudition. Although he had come to talk about history, we strayed into religion and the monastic life. I told him I knew several Anglican clergymen who simply spluttered with rage at the very mention of a monastery : to them, monachism was the very negation of all that Christianity stood for.

Father Cyril laughed. "May a man not live according to his own choice?" he said. "And we believe it to be God's choice. Some may say it is a selfish life we lead, worshipping God in our own way. Selfish ? The word is difficult to define; it has many implications. Each of us in this community has his own work to do, but our first duty is to worship. Would your Anglican friends call the Carthusian monks selfish? There is only one Carthusian monastery in Britain, and those in the Faith look upon it as a spiritual power-house of the Catholic Church in these islands. The duty, and the only duty, of the Carthusian monk is to pray. Each one lives apart in his own house within the monastery wall. He knows that when he enters the door to take his final vows he will probably never look upon the outside world again. It is a complete dedication of the self to God ... A strict rule of silence is imposed," Father Cyril went on. "He takes his food alone; he meets his fellow monks only in the sanctuary, except once a week when the community dines in the Refectory and assembles for half an hour to converse together. That weekly half-hour is their only personal contact with each other. They live to pray. When the work of our church is going forward well we say, `Ah, the Carthusians are praying well !' But how few men are called to such a task!" His voice was hushed. "It is only the chosen ones who receive such a call."

I said I had often wondered whether monks felt a desire to break away and mix with the world.

Father Cyril laughed again. "No man who has tasted the happiness of the monastic life would wish for any other. I have lived in this monastery for over forty years. Until I came here I did not know the meaning of the fullness of the spiritual life. In the bustle of the world I did not get an opportunity of studying the deeper aspects of that life." He raised his hands with a slow gesture and smiled. "But each to his own vocation. Some are called into the world, some into the Cloister. My life here is as attractive to me as on the first day I came : I wish for no other. You, who so much enjoy the world, cannot comprehend the peace a man has inside these walls, a peace that passeth understanding. But make no mistake ! We aren't a gloomy lot-we have our jests. We meet for one hour and a half every day at Recreation. Besides this, a variety of duties provide their own type of recreation. I myself have had the good fortune now and then to assist an old parish priest in Moidart in his work among the Gaelicspeaking population. Ah, that is a lovely country, where the people are simple and courteous and unspoiled. I have many good friends in Moidart."

"But I have just come from there!" I exclaimed. "I walked through Moidart, and I went to the Catholic service at Mingarry beside Loch Shiel last Sunday."

"And my friend Father Patrick was preaching!" cried Father Cyril.

"He was."

"And were you at Glenuig-and did you see the chapel by the shore?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Then you have seen the country I know so well ! And did you meet Campbell-my good friend John Campbell? Oh, this is most excellent ! Why did you not speak of Moidart before? We would have had much to talk about. But now my hour is all but finished! I am sorry, I must go. But if we can meet again, we will talk of that lovely land . . ." As he rose to his feet, the chime of the bells outside marked the hour.

A handclasp, a smile, a quick bow, and Father Cyril was gone.

Douglas and I sat staring into the glowing embers of the fire. Father Cyril had left me much to think about.

"How utterly contented he seems," I said.

Douglas smiled. "They're all like that. Pax is the Benedictine motto, and there can be no doubt that 'peace comes dropping slow' in this corner of the Highlands. The spirituality of the monks and the beauty of the place affects us all, you know. My chief is an old naval man-he was Number One at Keyham in the War-and even he feels it. It steals over you a queer tranquility of mind. Why, the Abbey itself is a romance: we're only a few yards away from the ramparts of the old Fort, a citadel of war-and now a citadel of peace . . ."

It was an eerie journey back to my room. I had insisted that I knew my way, but when I reached the Cloister I found the lights had been extinguished, and I did not know where to look for the electric switch. I lit a match, a poor bead of yellow light amid the blackness of the arches. It was a long walk down two sides of the courtyard, until at last with the help of more matches I came to the foot of the stairs, and then I stole upwards to the corridor above. No glimmer of light was shining at any door, and quietly I reached my own room. I crawled into my narrow bed as ten chimed slowly in the high clock tower; the sound of it faded in the still air; and then a great silence settled down.

It was still dark when I awoke, and I could hear a quiet shuffle of many feet. For about two seconds I could not think where on earth I was, and then I remembered. I knew it must now be after half-past four, and the sound I heard was the choir monks down the corridor to begin the day with their chanted psalms. I thought of them in the sanctuary, singing Matins before the day had broken, with candles upon the altar, and the lighted chancel making the darkness of the nave more profound. I listened during several minutes for the sound of their voices, but the Church was too far away for the chant to reach me, and soon I had slipped back into sleep.

Like the other meals, breakfast was taken in silence, but silence was the only formality. By the time I entered the Refectory, most of the monks had finished their food and had departed to their duties. Afterwards in the Cloister I met Douglas, who had come to enquire for me, and it was then I met Father Martin, the oldest monk in the Abbey. He was over ninety; he had been born but ten years after the death of Sir Walter Scott, and he spoke of the fact with an amused equanimity. "I have been here for over half a century," he said, with a quiet chuckle. "It sounds a long time! But it does not feel it! I've had a very happy life-and why not? Here, I've had everything I wanted-everything. Twenty-five years ago, some of my old friends in the neighbourhood made me a gift of a watch. Look, here it is.... They said, `Ah, the poor old man, he will soon be gone, let us make him a gift while he is still alive.' And what has happened?" He put back the watch in his pocket with a laugh. " Now these friends are all dead, all of them-and I am still using the watch!"

I complimented him upon his age and his happy life, and he nodded.

"I do not feel very old," he said, "except for one thing. I can remember so little of what happened yesterday or last week. But it is strange how clearly I can picture what happened when I was young. I can remember how I rode the first bicycle that was made in England. I was up at Cambridge at the time-Emanuel. I knew the man who was making that strange contraption on two wheels, and I said I wanted to ride on it. I did so-and had a spill. But not so bad a tumble as another Emanuel man who rode it down the hill at Bridge Street ! You know that hill above Bridge Street in Cambridge?"

"Yes; there are traffic-lights now on the hill at Bridge Street."

"What are traffic-lights?" he asked.

"Extraordinary!" he said after I had explained how town traffic is now controlled by coloured robots. And he went on with his story:

"Well, the man who made the queer machine with two wheels asked me what to call it. I said, ' Why, of course-a Bicycle!' When I got back to my rooms I thought, ` What a hybrid name I've given it-part Latin, part Greek !' But it was too late. The man had told everybody it was a Bicycle, and a bicycle it has remained. But the sin is still upon my conscience. Queen Mary said the word Calais would be engraved on her heart-I need not tell you the dreadful word that will be written upon mine !" With a chuckle he moved off along the Cloister.

"And I know what he's been telling you," said a voice in my ear. I swung round, and Douglas introduced me to the Father Prior, a monk with quick, twinkling, humorous eyes. " I was wondering if you would like to see the Sacristy," he continued; " it's where the vestments and so forth are kept. Come along. There's just time for it before Conventual Mass. I don't know whether the Sacristan is there just nowif he isn't, I'll show you the vestments myself." And the Father Prior, in whose lively frame the spirit of good humour seemed to have found a permanent home, went bustling down the Cloister with a gesture for me to follow.

"He's the second in command here," whispered Douglas in my ear, "one of the best fellows in the world-and one of the merriest. A fine musician and an expert bookbinder. You'll like him."

We made a happy party in the Sacristy, where we were joined by Father Benedict, who was the Procurator of the monastery, which meant that he had charge of its financial affairs, a task which gave him full scope for the talents he had exercised as an Admiralty official in Whitehall before he became a monk. With the help of Father Flood, a historian and philosopher who had graduated as Doctor of Divinity at Rome, the cabinets in the Sacristy were opened and vestments of the most gorgeous colours were taken out and displayed. Each colour has a meaning in the ecclesiastical year : red signifies the blood of the Martyrs, the Love of God, and the fiery tongues of Pentecost ; green symbolises hope in the growing life of nature; purple is worn during penitential seasons and fast days; black is used at funeral services and on Good Friday; white signifies Christ, the Light of the World; and gold may be worn at any time except at a funeral service and during Lent. Most of these vestments have been the work of nuns-there was once a Convent at Fort Augustus-and they reveal in their own way as exquisite an art as the tapestries from Oudenarde, a name which can be placed beside the more famous Gobelins. These tapestries were shown to me by Father Benedict, who told me their history. They belonged to the Earl of Wintoun, who had joined in the Rising of 1715. But before going "out" with Mar he had deposited the tapestries with a kinsman of his, Seton of Touch. Wintoun was captured, sentenced to death, but he made a daring escape from the Tower and got away to France. Many years afterwards he was permitted to return, but with his title and estates forfeited. He went back to Seton of Touch and asked for his priceless tapestries. "Go to the devil," said Seton of Touch. "My dear fellow, you're supposed to be dead !" They remained with the Touch family, until they passed by bequest into the hands of the Setons of Abercorn, of which family Father Benedict is a member. The tapestries have been surrendered to the Abbey for safe keeping by Sir Alexander Hay Seton, tenth baronet of Abercorn; and one of them hangs behind the high altar.

"What extraordinary people these Catholics are!" I thought as I looked round upon so much beauty and remembered some of the grim Presbyterian churches where I had been accustomed to worship. "And yet not so extraordinary either. How absurd to make so sharp a division between the secular and the sacred ! Does visual beauty detract from the solemnity of the worship of God?" And it seemed to me a fitting thing that one of those exquisite Seton tapestries should have a place of honour in the sanctuary.

We passed into the side chapel, and I looked upon the shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, with its magnificent pavilion of deer skin, dyed a rich crimson, hanging over the golden tabernacle.

It was a descent from the sublime to the material when we entered the power-house. A lay brother is the electrician in charge, and we went into his little den. He looked an ordinary work-a-day engineer, very keen and competent, with oily blue dungarees, although his large spectacles and square-cut beard gave him a slight resemblance to the late Lytton Strachey. Pictures were pinned round the wall, not the pictures of popular actresses and film stars which one usually sees in an engineering-shed, but of saints and martyrs. On the bench lay a periodical he had been reading: it was not a magazine of popular fiction, it was the Weekly Edition of The Times. Through the monastery kitchens we went; the breakfast dishes had already been washed by an electric apparatus with power supplied by the bearded man who read The Times; then down into the cellars I was taken, the cellars of the old military Fort that are now the monastery store-rooms. But there are more than storerooms in those cellars, as I found when we went into the printing-works where lay brethren were busy setting up in type a little book Father Cyril had written. I recalled the clatter of linotypes in London, and the roar of the big Goss machines as they turned out twentyfive thousand copies of a periodical each hour, and I thought that those three lay brethren working quietly at their frames were lucky fellows. From there Douglas led me into the College buildings, and the note of pride in his voice was justifiable. Here, in the shadow of the monastery is a boarding-school for Catholic boys from the ages of nine to nineteen. It would be difficult to conceive of a more romantic atmosphere to be educated in, and it was evident from my companion's talk that cricket and rugger and hockey were taken as seriously here as at Glenalmond and Loretto and Fettes. I would like to have heard the monks around the touch-line of the playing-field upraising their voices in a cheer as the school scored a try against a visiting team, and it must certainly seem odd to the visitors themselves to play before the eyes of those black-garbed spectators. From the school buildings, Douglas took me down and pointed out a low brick archway which is said to have been part of the dungeon where Lord Lovat was confined after Culloden. From here the old rogue was taken to London, tried, and executed. The jests of fate are strange jests. For it was the twelfth Lord Lovat who was thrown into this dungeon, and it was the fifteenth Lovat who gave these buildings to the Benedictine Order.

At the door of the Hospice, I saw a couple of tramps and an old woman departing with bread ; each morning, to any poor person who may come hungry to this door, the monks give food and a blessing. My exploration ended in the tower, one hundred and twenty feet above the level of the loch. Pointing towards the Monadhliath Mountains on the south, Douglas showed me where the Corrieyairack Pass led up to the high skyline. In a day or two I knew I would be struggling up that distant mountainside, my pack getting heavier at every step. I wondered how Badenoch would look, spread out before me, when I reached the top of the pass; I wondered where I would find myself at dusk ; and then I dismissed the journey from my mind, and descended to the more placid air of the Library.

On Saturday night after Compline, which is the last Divine Office of the day, I said good-bye to the Father Abbot, for I decided to make an early start next morning, and I knew that he would then be occupied. I went to bed thinking how strange a village Fort Augustus was, lying there in the centre of the Highlands, with a monastery bell sounding the hours; the sirens of steamships in the Canal reminding folk in their gardens of the distant sea; a tiny artificial island in the loch recalling the days when our ancestors lived for security in lake-dwellings built upon piles with a secret causeway below the surface of the water linking them with the shore; and a vitrified fort upon the hillside marking an age which no man has yet been able to determine. I thought, too, of how hospitably I had been received in this place. St. Benedict wrote in his Rule an instruction to his followers that a guest should be treated as though Christ himself had come among them. And I, a Protestant, had been so received. Something of the sweet tranquillity of the Cloister had crept into my mind and body, and I had learned many things I had not dreamed of before. It was with regret that I buckled on my pack next morning and set out on my long day's journey over the Corrieyairack.


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