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Scotland's Book of Romance
Chapter II - Into Moidart


The Scot from London - The Adventure of a Stag - Evening in the Inn-Highland Evictions - I Sail down Loch Ailort - The Silent Mansion - A Lonely Village - The Chapel by the Shore - "The Eight Men of Moidart" - The Pass of the Rough Rock.

MY new acquaintance talked without ceasing, and I was afraid I might grow a little weary of Gillespie before we said good-night. An exchange of snowballs in youth may be a powerful link between two young men; but I felt physically tired, and people with the salient energy of an oil-gusher take some coping with. And yet it was impossible to dislike him. I found myself passively disagreeing with a good half of his opinions about life and death and literature, all of which he touched upon at tea with a bustling bravado; and he cheerfully warned me that my politics were radically unsound as well as being too damnably eighteenth-century for words. But when he began to speak about his friends, I found myself listening with interest. The man was a mass of warm loyalties, and even in his remarks about his enemies - he seemed to have several - you could detect not the slightest trace of venom. Then I began actively to like him. His honesty was as transparent as a bit of clean plate-glass; but when you know exactly where you stand with a man, you may disagree but it is difficult to quarrel with him. Later on in the evening, however, I found out one piece of deception. The bedroom allotted to me had been the one Gillespie himself was to have used. For some domestic reason, no other was available that night, and without a word to me he had given up his bed and arranged to sleep on the couch in the sitting-room next door.

After tea, he suggested that we might stroll down to the loch and-if we could find a good place-bathe. but bathing seemed to be impossible, and I said so for the tide was low, and the beach was covered with a deep mat of saffron-coloured seaweed that shone like pale gold in the evening sun. Gillespie's enthusiasm swept aside my objections, however, and before darkness fell that evening I was glad that I had given in to him, for if we had kept to the higher ground I would not have seen what I did. We descended the hill to the uttermost tip of the loch, into which a river flowed from a wooded glen and curled like a long shining eel in and out among the hillocks of seaweed. We sauntered up this river and came upon a pool that evoked a sudden whoop of joy from my companion. In a trice, his clothes were on the grass, and he flopped into the pool and bobbed about like a sportive seal. As the water was icy, I was out again and clothed long before Gillespie crawled up beside me and lay on the grass with heaving sides and wet hair over his forehead. It was good to get your back against a warm rock and close your eyes against the brightness of the setting sun. For the first time since we had met, his cheerful tongue was still, and I am not sure whether it was the smell of his tobacco or a slight nip in the evening air that awakened me from a delicious dose. We must have lain there for nearly an hour. I noticed that my companion was casting glances upwards at the crags across the river; then he spoke.

"Thought I saw something moving! It's a man-look, he's got a gun with him. Wonder what he's doing up there ."

I followed the direction of his pointing arm. The hillside rose steeply above the crags, and whins and heather grew thick among the outcrop of rocks.

Though the distance must have been four or five hundred yards, the air was so clear that I could make out the man distinctly. He had settled down beside a clump of whins, stretched out at full length, his gun between his hands.

We continued our talk for a little, but the presence of the man on the hillside seemed to worry Gillespie. He got to his feet and took a survey over the flat top of the boulder beside which we lay. Except for the gentle rush of the little waterfall a dozen yards from us, there was no sound to be heard ; in the bay, the tide was ebbing sluggishly ; a few sheep brooded on the slope behind us ; and on the skyline, the smoke from the chimneys of the inn wavered gently to westward against the reddening sky.

"Good lord-look, man, look! "

I jumped to my feet. Gillespie was pointing eagerly across the river into a corn-field. At first, I could not make out the reason for his excitement. And then my eye lit upon a moving thing.

It was a stag. The animal was wading through the corn, which came up past his brown haunches. He was breasting it as if he were crossing a pool, his head high, his horns thrown back, and was moving very slowly as though he hated the stiff stalks of the grain swishing around his flanks.

He halted for an instant, the sun glinting in his big brown eye, then went on again. Though the shoulder of the hillside shut him off from the man among the rocks above, it was plain that every moment he was coming nearer to the point when he would be in full view.

Presently, we caught sight of another figure-a short kilted young man with a faded blue bonnet on his head. He was on the low ground across the river, crouching behind a dry stone dyke, obviously afraid he might startle the oncoming stag. The pair of them must have been waiting for the beast for some time; and Gillespie told me he had heard at the inn in the afternoon that for the last few days a stag had been coming down from the hills and working havoc among the corn.

The young man behind the dyke was making gestures towards the hillside above, and a hand was raised in acknowledgement. The stag must now have been within twenty yards of the edge of the field ; and at any moment he would be within the keeper's area of vision. I tried to watch both man and animal at the same time. The keeper was motionless beside his rifle, his face making a pale blotch against the darker surface of the rocks. The wind was blowing gently in our direction, and the stag had not scented any danger, for he came on through the corn with his slow gliding motion. And then on the hillside, the man's head jerked up, and went down again. He had seen the beast. I found myself holding my breath, and though I wanted to watch the stag in the cornfield, I could not take my eyes from the clump of whins on the hill. After what seemed a long interval, there was a tiny flash and a puff of smoke. I could hear the scream of a bullet, then the bark of the rifle, and the explosion was caught up in the valley in long deep echoes.

For the fraction of a second the stag stood rigid. Then he leaped. I could see daylight below his belly. And across the pale gold of the grain there was a streak of brown as he covered the last few yards to the edge of the field. Over the wire fence he went, his horns back, his bent knees high on his breast, alighting as nimbly as a cat, and you could hear the patter of his hoofs as he skimmed across the road to take the ditch and dry-stone dyke at a jump. With his buttocks oddly like a scurrying rabbit's, he dived into a grove of birch trees and hazels, and had disappeared before the echoes of the shot had quite faded in the glen.

I drew in a long breath. Only a stop-watch could have told how few were the seconds that had ticked away, from my first sight of the animal to the final flicker of his hindquarters among the hazel-bushes ; but that brief span of time had been as heady as any man could have wished for. Gillespie and I stared at each other in silence.

"Were you hoping he'd get the beast?" he enquired at length. "Or are you one of those damned sentimentalists - like me?"

"Yes, damned sentimentalist," I said.

"Good," grunted Gillespie. "Well, he's half a mile into Morar by this time. Here's hoping he stops there . . ."

As the sun went down over Arisaig, leaving a sky that was splashed with all the colours of one of Turner's wildest visions, we slowly climbed the hill. There were lights in the windows by the time we reached the inn.

The pleasant smell of oil lamps was through the house as we sat down to supper. The landlord had modestly warned us that it would be a simple meal - a few trout and a bit of mutton. But I had little expected on setting out that morning to sit down to such a meal, and I accepted the happy gift of the gods with suitable gratitude. The trout were small but delicious. The bottle of claret that accompanied the roast mutton was passably good, and I find it difficult not to be happy in the company of passably good claret. Gillespie drank whiskey, maintaining that a mere French wine was no tipple for a man at all, and I had the satisfaction of reminding him that claret was drunk in Scotland long before whiskey became the popular tipple. "Exactly," he retorted. "They drank the claret stuff until they discovered something better."

In defence of my beverage, I ventured to protest that claret drinking was killed in Scotland when the English forced a tax upon it after the Union, and that whiskey was used as the next best thing. Which sent Gillespie off on the subject of Heather Ale: "They say the secret of it died with the Picts. But that's nonsense. Sir Walter Scott said he was given it among the hills in his younger days." And from drink, I remember, we passed by some obscure sequence to the topic of Scottish Nationalism. That fur did not fly must be accepted as evidence that we were both in the most genial of moods, for Gillespie's brand of Nationalism was not mine, and the presence of two other people in the little dining-room did not check our babble. I was a little ashamed to find that my tongue was keeping pace with Gillespie's, and that I was painting nightmare pictures of what Scotland would soon be like if he had his way, pictures of revolution and pestilence and death which the inspiration of the claret did not tend to subdue in colouring or detail. I glanced at the two strangers, wondering what they thought of us.

They sat apart. One of them, a tall dark heavily-built man of over fifty, with high cheek bones, read a book while he ate. The other-ruddy-faced, ginger-haired, with small bright blue eyes-gazed stolidly at the food on his plate, no doubt chuckling to himself at the yeasty extravagance of our argument.

Among the fumes of tobacco, the four of us gathered afterwards round the sitting-room fire. The dark man did not seem to be in the mood for talking, and, after a few words of conventional politeness, relapsed into the pages of his book. I liked his pale square face and quiet dark eyes, and could not help wondering what his profession was. His well-worn tweeds had been decently cut, and his firm hands with their square-tipped fingers were cared for. At the other side of the fire, the ruddy-faced man in the brown plus-fours began to speak to Gillespie. I gathered from one of his remarks that he was a Government official of some kind, and was on one of his periodical tours around the countryside. He seemed to come into pretty close contact with the West Highland folk, and he was not diffident in talking about them.

"They're a dawmed lazy lot," he declared. "They'll do nothing to help themselves. They need to be led -ay, and they're that dawmed slow to take a telling ! Tuberculosis has played the devil with them, and they'll do little to check it. That-and the tea-pot ! The tea-pot's one of the curses of the Highlands. It would be telling the ministers if they'd preach a sermon twice a year about it. What's the trouble ? Well, it simply stews on the hob all day, and the folk wonder why they've got raddled stomachs ! But will they take a telling ? Not them. Besides, they haven't the guts of the Borderers. They're a quarrelsome lot, too-always bickering among themselves . . ."

Gillespie was about to put in a word when the man across the hearth smiled and laid down his book.

"I hope you'll forgive the interruption? . . . If I may say so, I think you've seen the worst side of the Highlander." He spoke with a careful formality that somehow did not sound in the least pompous, and his voice was pleasant. "There's been so much sentimental nonsense talked about the Gael that the worst side of him is apt to strike you. But surely if there's one thing that stands out in a Gael it's this. He's instinctively a gentleman. Yes, instinctively. Take the Gaelic servant. As a rule, he's never servile -servility simply isn't in their blood. You've only to look at the little maid who waited table to-night to see what I mean."

The ruddy-faced Government official crossed his legs and lay back in his chair, as if to set himself comfortably for an argument. "Servility isn't in their blood? I don't follow. I thought some of the old Highland chiefs were supposed to keep up an establishment like a prince. How can you run a show like that without servants-and servility?"

The question seemed to interest Gillespie. "I read just the other day that there's no word for servant in the Gaelic language. I'd like to put the point to a Gaelic-speaker."

The dark man hesitated. Something was on the tip of his tongue, and Gillespie looked at him expectantly.

"You don't have the Gaelic, sir, do you?"

"As it happens," he said, "I do, and I think I can explain." He told us that the Gaelic word maol was once used for servant, and it meant crop-haired, as distinct from the long hair that the nobles wore. "But there was no odium in the word," he went on. "Why, many a noble in Scotland had it as part of his name, linked up with some Celtic saint or other. You see what I'm driving at? But there's one thing that's apt to be forgotten nowadays. Parts of Scotland and Ireland were once the most cultured places in Europe. Learning, and music, and so forth were flourishing in these islands when there was darkness over most of the Continent. And that's the Gael's inheritance ! Nothing has been able to kill it. The spirit is still there. Forgive my preaching like this, but the subject happens to touch me rather on the raw."

"I dare say you've got me whacked on history." The Government official lit another cigarette. "Anyhow, I do know this. The Highlanders have changed in the last twenty-five years-deteriorated. They're softer-less independent. Come in contact with them in the way I have to do, and you'll find their heads are too mighty full of how much they can get out of the Government."

"Can you blame them, poor devils ?" asked the other. "Do you expect them to refuse Government benefits? They're hard pressed. In the old days they may have been poor, but they were looked after by their chiefs. At least, they were-until times changed, and some of the chiefs changed too. But we won't go into that ..."

"You mean the evictions?" said Gillespie.

The man nodded, and stared into the fire. For some reason, he seemed to dislike the subject, and I wondered why. In the silence that fell, I was hoping that the subject had not been dropped for good.

"I've read a little about the Clearances," I ventured to remark. "The apologists say there's been a lot of wild exaggeration."

The man moved uneasily in his chair. "There's little doubt about exaggeration," he said slowly. "Some of the landlords spent thousands to help their people. But in places I'm afraid there was a good deal of brutality-devilish brutality. I'm sorry to say it. I happen to know one case . . ." He hesitated again, and it crossed my mind that perhaps he was thinking of some forebear of his own whose hands had not been altogether clean. "It was a painful business, and I'd rather not mention names, but I happen to know it's true." And he told us a story that made the blood tingle with pity and anger. I shall not try to reproduce his words, because my memory may be at fault in some of the details, and the subdued tones of his voice-subdued with shame, one might almost have believed-had an impressive quality that cannot be put down on paper. The gist of the incident is in this. There had been ill-feeling between a Laird and some of his people, for times were bad, and their rents were in arrear. The Laird himself was impoverished, and a sheep-farmer offered him a good rent for the land. But the people refused to move-their fathers had lived there for generations-so the Laird gave orders to his factor to get rid of them, by force if necessary. When he returned home, after attending to some business in Edinburgh, he found the people gone. Although it was the beginning of winter, young and old had been turned out of their homes to fend for themselves in the open air. Their belongings had been torn from their cottages, piled up in a heap, and the thatched roofs set on fire. One family-a father; mother, and three children-ventured to return to the blackened ruins of their home, huddling together below a sail they had stretched over some wooden poles in a corner. A week later, they were ejected again, with the warning that, if they went back, their belongings would be made into a bonfire.

"They took refuge in a hollow under some crags," the man went on, "and there, ten days later, a child was born. In the end, help was forthcoming, and the family went overseas in an emigrant ship. The mother died on the voyage . . . Things like that," he added quietly, " make one ashamed of one's own countrymen."

The silence was broken by the Government official on the opposite side of the hearth. "Pretty low cads, some of those fine old Highland gentlemen must have been! "

"Worse," said the other quietly. "But don't forget this. After the Rising of 'Forty-five, the Government went out deliberately to smash up the old clan spirit. The chiefs were deprived of their privileges; the clansmen became mere tenants-or squatters. As time went on, some of the chiefs were nearly bankrupt, and thousands of the people were on the point of starvation. Thank heaven, the emigrants were soon much better off in the lands they went to. In Nova Scotia to-day there's more Gaelic spoken than in all Scotland-people there still talk of the Highlands as `home.' I happen to have travelled a bit, and it's amazing how a love for the old country is handed down to children and grandchildren who are never likely to set eyes on it. I've heard the bagpipes in some of the loneliest corners of the world. More than that, I've actually heard a sermon preached in Gaelic to negroes in Carolina-they had picked up the language from their masters. Which reminds me . . ."

It was midnight before we broke up, and I forget whether it was Gillespie or I who suggested a stroll in the fresh air before we turned in. The Government official thought he would go straight to bed, and the three of us smoked our last pipe out of doors. It was a perfect night, the air clean and still, sweetening our tobacco. We sauntered over the rough grass to the brow of the hill. The loch lay below us, and the moon cut a white furrow across the quiet water. Over the folds of the hills on either side, there was a haze that seemed to shimmer like a curtain of thin pale silk, hiding mysterious things. It was easy to be fanciful in that place on such a night, easy to imagine that the Little People themselves were dancing round their knolls ; and it was difficult to believe that on the same island there were cities with streets, and men hurrying through them at this midnight hour, and women with hard questioning eyes in the darkness of doorways : it was easy to let the mind stray down the moonlit loch and travel out to sea, out beyond the Hebrides to the Blessed Islands in the Atlantic mists where the Highlanders used to think their souls would find a resting-place; and it was difficult, desperately difficult, to believe that on my journey I would have another night so fortunate as this, or that I would find so perfect a haven or talk so good. Gillespie broke the silence by asking the older man a question.

"Do you live in the Highlands, by any chance?"

"In the Highlands?" the man repeated, his voice showing surprise, and then in the moonlight I could see the flicker of a smile on his face. He drew himself up. "No; I don't live in Scotland at all. I come from America. I told you about a crofter's child that was born in the open air beside a crag, over these hills. That child," he said quietly, "was my grandfather."

Next morning I was awakened before seven o'clock by noises in the next room. Gillespie was stirring early. I expected that at breakfast he would give me an account of a hill-walk taken in the cool of the morning, and would charge me with indolence ; but I decided to save my energy for the long day's tramp across Moidart, and so dozed off again into that region of pellucid bliss that lies between sleep and wakefulness, when the mind moves with the ease of bird-flight. I can remember how in that hour my thoughts went ahead of me into Moidart with an absurd and careless rapture. But it was a Moidart of my own creating, not the country I had been warned about, the heart of the "Rough Bounds," where there was not even a decent cart-track to follow, where the postman was compelled to make his daily journey on horseback, where no inn existed, and where in consequence a shelter for the night might be hard to find.

Gillespie and I had nearly finished breakfast before the Government official appeared. The older man had breakfasted early, and, after saying good-bye to us, had gone off to the hills. I went out into the sunshine to smoke the best pipe of the day ; and when I had settled my bill, I went in to the little dining-room to make my farewells.

Gillespie rose with a smile in his quick eyes.

"We've been arranging things for you," he said. "I've just discovered that our friend here is going in your direction. A motor-boat's coming from Glenuig to take him down the loch. He'll give you a lift. It'll knock a good ten miles off your walk. What about it ?"

I jumped at the suggestion. If I had known that a rnotor-boat was to be had, I might have been tempted to hire it myself, though the only way of getting in touch with the owner would have been to send a message by the postman who came daily from Glenuig on horseback, which would have meant the delay of a day. As the official was going on duty, he declined my offer to share expenses, adding that if I did not care to sail down the loch as a guest of His Majesty's Government, I must foot-slog into Moidart by the shore.

"But that's not all," said Gillespie. "I'm coming with you, if you'll have me. I'm making for Loch Shiel, and so are you. I meant to go round by Glenfinnan, and take the steamer. But the chance of walking across Moidart is too good to miss. Mind, if you'd rather go alone, say the word."

I told him I'd be delighted to have his company. But at the same time I warned him that the walk would be a tough one, that only heaven knew where we would get shelter for the night, and if my feet hurt as they had done the previous day I would be in a vile temper before we had covered many miles-that in short, the journey across Moidart might turn out to be anything but a spree. At my recital of all the ills in store for us, Gillespie's face lit up with pleasure. "It sounds just about right," he declared, and so the thing was clinched. He had with him an old haversack, which he filled, and he gave a boy a shilling to carry his suitcase down the road to the little railway station. Three quarters of an hour later we were at the lochside stepping into the dinghy that took us out to the clumsy old motorboat, which lay like a fat sleepy aquatic animal sprawling on the water. But she was staunch, and though at times the engine snorted and roared like an angry bull, we made a good steady six knots. It was, however, the crew of two that caught my interest. One was a boy of about fifteen, the other eighteen or so.

They were hatless, collarless, and their clothes were faded and patched. But their faces were a revelation, with eyes as clear as dew and skin that glowed pinkly with cleanness and health. I detest these fables about the dirt and lousiness of the Highlander: I have seen more dirt and lousiness among the Saxon peasantry in a couple of English parishes than among all the Gaels with whom I have come in contact in Scotland. And as I looked at the young men standing in the cockpit, I remembered the remark the American had made the previous evening about the Highlander being instinctively a gentleman. In these boys there was nothing loutish, nothing of the slouch or even the covert glances that one so often notices in the country folk of some districts in the South. Their spines were straight, their heads well set on their shoulders, and their eyes politely ignored us. Some of my best friends are crofters in the glens of Perthshire ; but I knew nothing of the West Highlander or the Islesman and here, I thought, are people one can surely trust. The Government official's remarks at the fireside had stuck unpleasantly in my mind, but I wondered whether on analysis they might reduce to this-that these Gaels are a stubborn people with a hearty concern for their own rights, a concern which has perhaps been intensified by repression in the not very distant past. I went aft and lowered myself into the cockpit beside the two boys.

They were not anxious to talk, but presently I gathered that they worked on crofts at Glenuig, and one had spent the summer on the fishing-boat of a relative who lived on the Long Island. The English they spoke was slow and careful ; it was the lovely musical speech of a people whose tongue-muscles are flexed and made sensitive by one of the richest languages on earth. They seemed a little surprised when I asked whether they found Moidart a lonely place to live in, and whether they wanted to get away from it and take their chance of earning more money elsewhere. "Ah, we'll be better in Moidart," said the older of the two; and once more they seemed a little surprised when I agreed with them. For they were better off in Moidart. It was obvious. Their living might be poor, but a glance at their healthy skin was enough to tell that it was adequate. They were living in a countryside that is between the mountains and the sea, with a climate that is unsurpassed in Britain and a winter temperature as high as that on the south coast of Cornwall. Given land to till, sheep or cattle to tend, a boat to sail, fish to catch when the larder is bare, it is difficult to see why a man of a placid temperament should not be happy. Ambition is a fine thing; but fortunately it is not the glittering prizes that most folk are struggling for. To imagine you are a temporary millionaire makes quite a jolly day-dream, but the truth is that few people have the palate to enjoy either wealth or power; and some of the most miserable men of my acquaintance have a nagging ambition to get out of the very rut for which they lack the wit to realise they are admirably fitted. Cool, hard-headed, successful men of the world often snort with scorn at platitudes about ambition and say that you hear them only on the lips of those who have failed in life. But do these hard-headed, successful men gloat over the glittering prizes they have won? I have not noticed it. When they talk about themselves-which they often do - It is their battles they like to dwell upon, not their spoils of war.

I leaned over the gunwale of the boat and looked down into the water. The surface around us was as blue as the sky; but when you stared into the depths, the water was a wonderful green colour, clean and
transparent, and you could see the rock and sand and waving myrtle-tinted seaweed on the bottom. To the south, mist was rising from the hills of Ardnish, and to the east a thicker mist was drifting from the crown of Ben Rois nearly three thousand feet above. Ahead of us, the rim of the Atlantic glittered like a taut piece of silver wire. On the rocks of an islet I could see many black seals lying quiescent in the morning sun ; as we drew near, they slid smoothly into the water, like the launching of tiny skiffs ; and presently their dark snouts broke the surface, and their big eyes watched us with the stupid inquisitive stare of weekold calves. Soon we were out in the Sound of Arisaig, passing close to Eilean nan Gobhar, which the older boy told me meant the Goats' Island, because goats were kept there in the old days; but indeed the island itself, with its pale grey rock rising steeply, was for all the world like a gigantic goat standing up to the belly in water.

As we were slipping away from the island, Gillespie waved me forward, and for my benefit the Government official repeated the yarn he had just been spinning. "It's a story they tell in Moidart," he said. "A battle was fought here in Loch Ailort soon after Culloden, between English and French warships. It lasted for a whole day, so it is said, until the English ammunition ran short and they had to make a bolt for it. The country folk gathered up on the hills and watched them. One old man got down on his knees and began to pray as if his own life depended on it. Some of the others went over to him and asked whom he was praying for-the English or the French. The old man opened his eyes, and pointed -across to the Goats' Island. Some of the shots of the guns were falling on it. Then the man spat on the ground. `What do I care for the English or the French?' he cried. `I am asking the Lord to preserve my goats on the island! ' "

I suddenly remembered it was here that the Du Teillay had anchored in the 'Forty-five, for the ship with Prince Charles on board had made a tour of the Sound of Arisaig, and the Goats' Island is mentioned in a letter the Prince wrote to his father. In the Log of the ship for Tuesday, the 10th August 1745, it is recorded: "At ten o'clock at night we had been sending arms and ammunition ashore, till three o'clock in the morning." By Sunday the Du Teillay was still anchored in this place, for the Log says: "We carried our dinner on shore and fished for oysters." The weather must have been good, for on Monday "the Prince embarked in our little boat with four gentlemen" and was rowed back to Angus Macdonald's in Borrodale.

To complete the story of the Du Teillay: She avoided the British men-of-war by sailing round the north coast of Scotland, and Monsieur Walsh ["Along with Walsh there returned to the Continent a man called Butler, who had played a considerable part in making the arrangements for the expedition to Scotland. As soon as Walsh and Butler reached Paris, Butler set out for Rome to give personally to James full details about the landing, and he carried with him the Prince's despatches. Butler again was prominent in making arrangements for the Heureux to bring Charles back to France after the failure of the Rising. It would be interesting to know more about this mysterious figure who accompanied the Prince to Scotland. He is referred to by Walsh as the Abbe Butler. He had been an equerry of Louis XV, who had sent him across the Channel in 1744 to make a detailed report about the strength of the Jacobites in England, and he had travelled through the country on the pretext of buying horses. Copies of these reports in French are in the Stuart MSS. at Windsor Castle; and thanks to Major L. Eardley-Simpson, whose admirable book Derby and the Forty-five has filled a gap in Jacobite history, they have now been published in English.] did a little quiet privateering on the way. From the Margaret of Aberdour, he demanded and received a ransom of "100 sterling and 10 for the cabin." From the Unity he extracted a ransom of 200 and 10 for the Captain's cabin. From the Princess Mary of Renfrew, 100 sterling and 10 for the cabin. From the Lirwindiwin laden with planks and iron from the Baltic, he took 650 sterling and 10 for the cabin. I like that delightfully frugal addition of 10 for the Captain's cabin! And over a thousand pounds before he was out of sight of the Island of Skye strikes me as pretty good going, especially as he did not need to fire a shot. On Saturday, 4th September, the ship arrived safely in Holland, where she was sold to a Dutchman. The Log, thirty-five quarto pages, yellow and stained by the vinegar of quarantine ports, now lies in the archives of Serrant.

We were glad of the lift down the loch; and after thanking His Majesty's Government, represented by its official in plus-fours, Gillespie and I were taken ashore :n the dinghy, and we landed on a slippery rock in the corner of a secluded bay.

I was a little startled to see a magnificent mansion-house on the hillside above us. What enthusiast for solitude had selected this site miles from the nearest road, and with the mountains of Moidart piled round it like a rampart? And whence had come the thousands of grey stone blocks that had gone to the making of his house? Perhaps they had been quarried out of the bills behind; and I could not help wondering what the builders thought of their task--that regiment of stone-masons, and carpenters, and plasterers, and slaters - that had worked there with only the mewing of sea-gulls to accompany the clink of their chisels and the reedy discord of their saws, and a deer from the mountains taking a peep at their labours from the edge of a gully. How the proprietor transported his household furniture passes my comprehension, unless it was brought by sea from Glasgow and taken ashore in small boats, just as Prince Charles more than a hundred years before had landed a few miles further along this coast his shipload of swords and muskets and fieldguns from France.

To reach Glenuig, we found that our shortest way was to go through the private grounds of the house, and presently we found that we were compelled to pass quite close to it. In case there was a chance of going off our way a little further on, I decided to stop and enquire. The door was open, and I stepped into the panelled vestibule to find the inner door open also. Since I could not see a bell, I knocked. But there was no response, no sound of movement. I waited patiently, and as I listened to the loud ticking of a clock within, my eye was attracted to a great collection of shepherd's crooks in the hall-stand-crooks of all shapes and sizes. It had never before occurred to me that a man could take a connoisseur's pleasure in the elegantly curved tops of these tall staves, but here lived someone who evidently did. I knocked again, this time so loudly that I was sure the sound must have penetrated to the uttermost corner of the house ; and I retreated from the vestibule and waited for several minutes. What was the explanation of the silence ? The doors and some of the windows were open, so I knew the house was occupied ; but except for ourselves, there did not seem to be a living soul within or without. In the end I joined Gillespie, and we went on our way, the mystery unsolved. Soon the trees shut the place off from our sight ; and had it not been for a tingling in the knuckles that had smitten the panelling of the vestibule it would have been easy to believe that the silent house had been part of a vivid illusion, a trick of sunshine and shadow. . . .

We struck a path that ran down close to the shore; and after two or three miles we came round the shoulder of a low crag and saw before us a green corrie in the hills with a few cottages scattered on its slopes. My map told me this was Glenuig.

We pulled up and stared at that solitary place. Gillespie, who had been talking cheerfully, became suddenly quiet. It may have been that the empty house with the open doors had put us in a receptive mood, but when we afterwards compared our first impressions of Glenuig we were in a curious agreement -we both felt that here we were on the fringes of an older world. The empty house was like a lodge at the gates through which one had to pass to reach this magical corrie. In front of the little schoolhouse, a handful of children with wise faces paused in their play to look at us, and in their odd and courteous shyness they reminded me of the children I had seen at Arisaig. With clasped hands the girls had been dancing in a circle, singing with soft treble voices, but presently they moved timidly away to continue their game out of sight. The boys, however, bravely held their ground ; and it was pleasant to hear the friendly ripple of their Gaelic tongues as they talked together. Remembering what I had been told about the postman and his pony, I asked where the post office was. One of the boys, a little bolder than the rest, stepped forward from the group and pointed to a white-washed cottage that lay snugly below some pine trees across the burn.

We walked in single file over the narrow planks of the bridge, and a puppy raced out to welcome us. The woman who answered my knock was short and dark-skinned, with black eyes and jet black hair, and was very neat in her dress. She could not have seen us coming, and seemed startled at the appearance of strangers. I asked her the way to Kinlochmoidart, and she pointed to a path among the hills. It seemed a little unfriendly to turn away at once, and I found myself asking her whether she found Glenuig dull : an absurd question, because it showed how shallow was my appreciation of the essential life of these people, a life that is quiet and deep, drawing its strength from these very hills and shores that I was misinterpreting.

Without a gesture of her placid brown hands, or a shake of her head, or even a hint of feeling in her dark eyes, she said:

"No."

I was disconcerted by her calmness, and asked another question equally stupid. "I don't suppose you see many strangers in these parts?"

"No," she said again.

Her tone was perfectly polite, but distant: there was no vital link between us. I waited, but she did not enlarge upon her reply. I thought of how a woman of the South country would have explained what was so obvious-that she saw no strangers because there were no roads or railways within a good many miles; but this Highland woman waited patiently at her doormat, I thought, wishing us to be gone, but just waiting. Once more I recalled the American's remarks at the inn-fire about the Gael being at heart a gentleman, and I perceived that this woman possessed an old and serene dignity that she herself was probably unaware of. I spoke of Moidart, and called it the Prince Charlie country, wondering if this would evoke a response. "They say the Prince sailed across from Arisaig and landed at Kinlochmoidart," I added.

"No, the Prince landed here," she said, her placid eyes glancing towards the beach, then looking past us to the hillside.

"He's supposed to have sailed round to Loch Moidart," I insisted. "So some writers say."

"The Prince landed at Glenuig," she repeated with quiet confidence. "But it was a long time ago. We are not paying much attention to it now."

"It was a long time ago," I agreed. "You don't talk about the Prince here nowadays ?"

"No."

"But the old people?"

"Yes, the old people used to talk about him when I was young. There is an old woman who lives there on the hill, she is very old and bed-ridden, her great-grandfather went with the Prince when he came here. These were the terrible days, she would be saying." Her dark eyes turned from their slow contemplation of the rocks and heather and gave me a glance that seemed to mean: "Why trouble now? The men are dead. It is an old story."

She was silent for nearly a minute, and then in a tone which gave no suggestion that she was offering a favour, she asked us if we would care for a cup of tea since we had such a long journey ahead of us to Kinlochmoidart.

We thanked her, and she led us into the room on the right and drew in two chairs to the fire. A little iron grate had been built into the old open fireplace where logs had once crackled on a bed of wood-ashes. The paper on the walls was of the wild floral pattern of Queen Victoria's days, and hanging round were old calendars and almanacs and some dim yellow photographs of bearded men with big shoulders. There was a bed in the corner, and the white coverlet was as fresh as though it had come that day from bleaching on the grass. Dishes were set on a table-cloth that was as spotless as the bed, and on them were thick oat cakes, and cheese, and a tall pile of girdle scones. The woman said she was expecting somebody for a meal a little later on. Perhaps it was a visiting priest from over the hills, I thought, but I did not venture to enquire, and she did not explain.

Neither of us was hungry, but the tea was very welcome. The water tasted of peat, which gave it an attractive pungency ; and while we drank it, the woman told us she remembered a man at Samalaman, a little way round the coast, who sometimes talked about the Prince. "But Samalaman is not on the way to Kinlochmoidart," she said; "it is in the other direction."

The name Samalaman was unusual, and it sounded familiar. And then I remembered. I had read somewhere that about a hundred and fifty years ago a Catholic Bishop had taken up his residence there and had run a college for young priests. But I was doubly interested to go there because it seemed that we had hit upon an interesting local tradition about the route Prince Charlie had taken. Many scholars are apt to look askance on local traditions, for so often these have been embellished by some person with an eye for the picturesque. The Senate, in extolling to a chief the mighty deeds of his ancestors, was not likely to subtract from the stories handed down to him. Even the early historians themselves were not too scrupulous ; and Hector Boece, founding his famous history upon early chroniclers, added many fascinating and enthusiastic lies about the origins of the Scottish people. But I think modern research tends to treat tradition a little too lightly ; and if the man who lived at Samalaman had anything to say about Prince Charles Edward Stuart in Glenuig, I was eager to hear it.

My only difficulty was Gillespie. He was to meet a friend at Acharacle on Loch Shiel, and he had talked of arriving there that night. I thought this optimistic of him ; and if we wasted time by going along the shore to Samalaman, it was certain that he would not reach his destination until the following day.

When I put the point to him he brushed it aside with a jest. The reply struck me as apiece of generous camouflage, like his deception of the previous evening when he had given up his bed to me at the inn. It made me anxious to press on to Kinlochmoidart, which we had to pass to reach Loch Shiel. But Gillespie stubbornly turned down the idea: "We're going to Samalaman first," he said. I think he felt that he had thrust himself upon me, and that his own plans must therefore come second. I would have suggested to him that we separated, and that he should go on by himself to Acharacle, but I was afraid this might be taken as a hint that I would rather be alone, which was not the case. Because the woman was listening to our argument with a puzzled expression, I gave in to him. Thanking our hostess rather abruptly-she would accept no money-we set out on the cart-track along the coast. I had a notion that a row was brewing, a childish and unpleasant row, simply because each of us was over-anxious to do what he thought the other would have liked.

When we came to a tiny church on a knoll, with a grove of birches and pines surrounding it on three sides, I climbed up to it. With a grunt, Gillespie refused to follow. The double doors were secured by a hazel-twig, and when I got inside I saw that it was a Catholic chapel. It was dim and cool, and there was a simplicity about it that I had never associated with a Catholic place of worship. Shadows lay around the altar, shadows that gave it dignity and seemed to lift it into a little dim world of its own. I sat down on one of the benches. Moidart was entirely Catholic, I remembered, and there was something deeply reverential in this simple place. As I tip-toed out, a slip of paper pinned beside the door caught my eye, and-I read this: "In your charity please pray for the repose of the soul of . . . who departed this life on the ... strengthened with the rites of the Holy Church." The rites of the Holy Church-the phrase made me think of Rome, thirteen hundred miles away, and brought suddenly and profoundly home to me the spiritual link that existed between it and this tiny grey chapel on the seashore: a little corner of Rome itself, where the ancient faith of these people was kept alive. When I went out into the sunshine Gillespie sat on the edge of the knoll smoking his pipe. I think he had concluded that I was a Catholic, but he did not refer to the matter, and neither did I, and we went on our way to Samalaman in silence.

Set in a little hollow with trees was a large whitewashed house with many gables, and a burn trickled past it and fell into the sea. From the distance we had covered, I knew this was the college of Samalaman. No sweeter place for study and meditation could be imagined; the Bishop must have had an eye for atmosphere. I learned afterwards that the college had been transferred to Lismore, and the house had eventually passed into the hands of a Stewart from Lochaber. This Stewart as a boy had studied under the Bishop, and had finished his education in France, and strangers were a little startled to find a Moidart sheep-farmer carrying a copy of Virgil in his pocket. One night the house was struck by lightning and badly smashed; but one room stood quite intact, and nothing could shake Stewart's belief that God's special blessing had been upon this room because it had been the Bishop's own chamber in the college days. A boy in the steading behind the house directed us to the small white-washed cottage that we sought ; and when we drew near we heard somebody playing a melodeon.

The music stopped abruptly, and a girl of about eighteen came to the door. Her father, she said, was down at his boat, and she would take us to him. I had been a little surprised at the girl's appearance, and as we walked down to the shore I was still more surprised by her talk. She was slightly built, with dark hair and large dark blue eyes. Her dress was simple but in perfect taste, and her shoes looked both elegant and serviceable. It is easy to understand the flowering of rustic beauty : but here was a girl who, if she had slipped a modish hat on her head, could have mingled with the crowds on Princes Street at that very hour of half-past eleven and attracted not the slightest notice except an occasional glance of admiration. Though she was a crofter's daughter, it was plain from her dress and her speech that she lived in one of the larger towns, and I guessed that she was at home on holiday. I could not make up my mind whether she was an assistant in a big store or was studying to become a school-teacher : perhaps, I ventured to think, she was older than I had imagined and was a student at some University. It seemed a little impertinent to put the question bluntly, but my curiosity got the better of me: "I don't suppose you live here all the year round ?" The answer was accompanied by a twinkle of amusement in her eyes. Yes, she had lived here all her life : she hardly ever went away : she was educated at the little school at Glenuig: she had been in Glasgow once or twice, perhaps, and did not care for it much-she liked Glenuig better. Her placid acceptance of things, her quiet happiness in the slow turning of the wheel, was disconcerting after my attempt at trying to guess her environment. This was her environment: she had never wished for any other.

"Do you know," said Gillespie afterwards, "I'd like to take that girl out to tea at some swell place in London. I wonder what she'd think of it all-the skinny chattering jays with their damned awful painted faces . . ."

I wonder.

Her father turned out to be a tall strongly built man with hair and moustache that had been reddish and were now turning grey. He was standing in the stern of his rowing-boat, ten or a dozen yards away from the low rock where the three of us stood ; and without a word, he sculled in to the shore and tied the painter to a post. When I told him I had heard of a tradition that the Prince had landed at Glenuig, he nodded.

"It is so," he said.

"He didn't sail to Kinlochmoidart?"

"It was to Glenuig the Prince came from Arisaig," he said confidently, adding that with warships about it was not likely they would have ventured to sail round the point. "The stores and ammunition were landed from the Du Teillay near Glenuig, and were carried up over the pass to Loch Moidart by Clanranald men. Tearlach and his friends went the same way."

There was no shaking the man in his story. His great-great-grandfather, who lived within a mile from where we were talking, had followed the Prince in the 'Forty-five. Moidart was wild with enthusiasm when Charles came ashore at Glenuig, and there was much piping and dancing. One of the MacIntyres, the hereditary pipers of the Macdonalds of Kinlochmoidart, composed a reel in honour of the Prince's arrival called "The Eight Men of Moidart," and it is still played at Highland dances.

For our benefit, the tall Macdonald who stood beside us whistled or rather breathed the lively melody, beating time with his foot on the rock. "They danced to that at Glenuig when the Prince came here," he repeated. His story had the ring of truth, and every Moidart man to whom I spoke about it was firm in the same belief. Although Dr. W. B. Blaikie, [In his article in the Scottish Historical Review, April 1926, Dr. Blaikie took the opportunity to correct two dates in his Itinerary of Prince Charles Edward from information he had derived from the Log of the Du Teillay, which was published after his own work had been completed; and it is possible that he afterwards revised his opinion about the Prince's route between Borrodale and Kinlochmoidart.] who knew more Jacobite history than any man, stated in the Itinerary that the Prince made the journey from Borrodale to Kinlochmoidart by sea, I have no doubt in the face of so clear a tradition that he came by Glenuig and went on foot over the pass to Loch Moidart, where for a week he stayed at the house of Donald Macdonald.

It has been often said that the famous "Seven Men of Moidart" took part in the dance; and in histories of the Rising one reads that these were the seven companions who came with Charles from France. I myself have always believed that "The Seven Men of Moidart" were not the strangers but Moidart men the seven Macdonalds who were among the first to join the Prince. I am open to correction, but here I think are their names: Donald Macdonald of Kinlochmoidart and his brothers Ranald and Allan; Aeneas Macdonald of Dalilea and his brother Alexander; and Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale and his brother John.

I put the point to Angus Macdonald when he came to the end of his tune.

"The Seven Men of Moidart weren't the Prince's Irishmen at all," he agreed emphatically. "They were Moidart men."

"Why are you so certain ?" I asked.

"My grandfather told me," he replied; "and I have read it in a book besides."

"What book? " I enquired.

"A book by Sir Walter Scott," he said, with a nod which implied that anyone who dared to contradict Sir Walter was a brave man.

For myself, I am happy to leave it at that.

We did not get back to Glenuig until it was nearly noon. The directions the woman at the post office had given us had been quite clear, and we made for the steep path leading up to the Beallach-a-Charra (the Pass of the Rough Rock.) Neither of us made any reference to the long tramp ahead of us. I did not know what Gillespie was thinking, but I was satisfied in my own mind that we could not possibly reach Loch Shiel that day. When you are walking on an old drove road, with springy turf beneath your feet, you can keep up a steady pace for miles with little exertion ; but it is a different thing to pick your way along a steep and rocky track, where the descent is often more tiring than the climb; and when you are carrying a pack, each jolt seems to increase in force. More than that, it was not as if we had a long day before us; but I dismissed from my mind the problem of where we would sleep that night, and concentrated on the effort of keeping pace with Gillespie, who was going up the track ahead of me with the slow long stride of the hillwalker. Near the summit we halted for a backward glance at the sweet green corrie we had left behind. On our right the crags rose sheer, with many tumbled rocks at the bottom. Hazels and heather and bracken lined the track, and an occasional rowan clung sturdily in high crevices. Below us Glenuig lay under the hot noonday sun looking more than ever like a hamlet of the Middle Ages. The ruins of cottages showed how populous it once had been. In the little bay beyond, the sea was a clear blue-green, its surface broken a hundred yards from the shore by a long ridge of rock, on which oil-beacon lights burned night and day. Eight miles across the Sound, the brown mountains of Arisaig and Morar stood against the sky. I was reluctant to turn and follow Gillespie over the summit, for we were leaving the sea behind us, and I doubted whether in all the miles I had to tramp before I reached Edinburgh I would again look upon a view more entrancing.

We were soon to halt again, however, for among the grass and bracken beside the path was a large group of cairns. I counted between sixty and seventy of these little conical heaps of stone. Each marked the place where a corpse had been set down on its way to the burial-ground. It was here that the bearers and the rest of the cortege paused to refresh themselves. These resting-cairns are to be seen in many parts of the Highlands, reminding the passer-by of the solemnity of death, and reminding one at the same time of much deep and solemn drinking of whiskey-for in the old days no Highland funeral was counted decent if the bottle did not freely go round among the mourners. Some of the cairns had been raised for individuals, some belonging to a family; and to say, "I'll put a stone on your cairn," is a Gaelic way of expressing gratitude to a person who has done you a favour. I walked forward to one pile a little larger than most of the others, and on a flat slab beside it I read: "This cairn is erected in memory of James MacLean who died in Glenuig . . ." The rest of the inscription had been obliterated by the weather. Probably James was a descendant of the two Glenuig MacLeans, James and Donald his brother, who were recorded to have followed the Prince, the one armed only with a sword and the other carrying a gun. As we paused beside these grey monuments, the thought that we were walking on the funeral road was a little sobering to our spirits. When we turned our faces to the south, a new land was spread before us.


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