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Scotland's Book of Romance
Chapter IX. Good-bye to Lochaber


Neptune's Staircase - On Board a Trawler from Lowestoft - The Keppoch Bard - I Sail up Loch Lochy - Sir Ewen Cameron - A Hot-tempered Chief - Tinkers de Luxe at Invergarry - The Man who Saw a Water-Bull - Forward to Aberchalder.

HOW powerfully a good square meal can affect a man's outlook! My feet were comfortable for the first time in days, for I had bought a new pair of shoes at a little shop in the main street, and made a gift to the hotel porter of the wretched instruments of torture I had been wearing. I felt ready for anything, and I decided to get a lift back towards Fassifern and make for Moy by the hill-path which I had funked at half-past four the previous afternoon. I had heard that a tradesman's van was due to go in the Fassifern direction in about three-quarters of an hour, and I decided to beg a lift,, so I went down to Banavie to have a look at the Caledonian Canal until the van turned up.

I wonder if it is realised how close the connection is between the Caledonian Canal and the Rising of 'Forty-five. It was the trustees of the Forfeited Estates who, in an effort to improve the Highlands and give employment to the crofters, first put forward the idea of building the Canal. They asked James Watt, the steam-engine man, to have a look at the Great Glen and make a report. Watt said that a canal could certainly be made, but the idea was dropped, and thirty years passed before anything more was done. Nowadays the Canal may be thought no great shakes as an engineering triumph, but a century ago it was one of the wonders of the world.

Thomas Telford was the man who built it, and if ever anyone deserved his tomb in Westminster Abbey, it was the civil engineer who was born in a shepherd's hut on a Dumfries-shire hillside. Apprenticed to a stone-mason, he became so deft with the chisel that his gravestones gained him as much fame in the parish of Westerkirk as the Scots verses he wrote under the name of Eskdale Tam. He taught himself French, German, and Latin; and when he had saved a little money he studied architecture in Edinburgh, and then went to London to hunt for a job. According to the song, you can't keep a good man down : in a short time Thomas Telford had found his feet ; and there is hardly a county in Britain that does not to-day carry his work upon its landscape. He was called abroad to plan the inland navigation system of Sweden, and the Scot who began life in a shepherd's hut in Eskdale found himself with a Swedish order of knighthood. Some say that his greatest work, greater even than the Menai Suspension Bridge or the St. Katherine Docks at London, is the road that runs from Inverness into Sutherland and the North; but he will always be remembered by his countrymen as the maker of the Caledonian Canal. If he had cared much for money, he could have built up a vast fortune and lived like a Ruritanian prince. But for years his only home was a room in the Old Ship Inn at London. It was there he entertained his many friends, and in his old age they persuaded him to move into a house of his own. He used to relate with a quiet chuckle what happened when he informed the landlord of this decision. The inn had just changed hands, and the new innkeeper was struck dumb with horror. "But you can't leave, sir!" he gasped out. "Why, sir, I have just paid 750 for you!" He explained that he had been charged this additional sum for the inn because of the custom Telford brought to it. And I am told that in the Great Glen some of the people still repeat the tales their grandparents told of him how he used to sew on his own buttons, and patch his clothes, and how he liked to walk about in the evenings among his Highland workmen, and have a dram with them beside the fire after each day's work on the Canal was done.

The task that faced Telford, as he cut that long channel between the North Sea and the Atlantic, was a pretty grim one. He had to blast and dredge his way up from Fort William at one end, and from Inverness at the other, to a meeting-point in the Great Glen that is one hundred feet above sea-level. He had estimated the cost at 350,000; but the war with France sent prices soaring. When he began work, his labourers were paid eighteen pence a day, but ten years later their wage was half-a-crown, and timber rose from ten-pence a cubic foot to three shillings and sixpence. At one time it looked as if the sea-lock at Inverness would beat him completely, for he had to run it out into the open Firth for over half a mile and build an artificial mound on a bed of mud sixty feet deep. Before the Canal was opened it had cost nearly one million sterling more than he had anticipated. He had hoped to finish it in seven years, but it took nearly twenty-and another twenty after that before the final improvements were made. It was planned to accommodate the biggest British and American trader afloat, but times have changed, and to-day most cargo vessels must take another route. Even the sturdy old Leith salvage-ship, Bullger, when hurrying to a wreck on the west coast, had to go round by the Pentland Firth, for she would have scraped her bottom plates on the sills of some of the locks. There is, however, one class of vessel that passes through the Canal every year-the trawlers from the east coast - and when I got round to "Neptune's Staircase," Telford's name for the eight locks at Banavie, I found a score of these trawlers jammed as tight as a shoal of the herring they had been seeking in the western waters. They were returning home to the North Sea, and I wondered how the fishing had gone. Having twenty minutes to spare, I strolled along the lock-side and spoke to a cherub-faced young man who was smoking his pipe beside the tiny wheel-house of a trawler.

"Fishing?" he said. "No fish to be got. It's been a poor year. These damned foreigners are killing the trade. Still," he added, " we shouldn't grouse at the foreigners. They eat about three-quarters of the fish we catch."

"It beats me why we don't eat more herring in Britain," I remarked.

The young man smiled, eased the red handkerchief that was round his neck, and shrugged his shoulders. "I haven't got much use for a herring myself," he admitted.

It certainly wasn't a Scots tongue he had in his head; and when I asked him where he came from, he named to my surprise an inland Essex village a few miles from where I live. Presently I learned, again with surprise, that this young man with the cherubic countenance was the skipper of the boat, and most of his crew were on sharing terms with him. "Care to come below ?" he asked, knocking out the ashes of his pipe on the low bulwarks.

I stepped aboard and picked my way among the piles of fishing-gear. The lifeboat was warped down aft; and above the engine-room, some washing had been hung out to dry. Ducking my head, I entered the deck-house, in the corner of which was an open trap. Down through this the skipper went, and I followed him on the iron ladder, to find myself in a tiny dug-out, with a table in the middle and bunks all around. The atmosphere was fetid with human breath and sweat.

"Tea?" said the skipper. "We're always ready for tea on this boat."

He shouted up the ladder, and in a few minutes two huge enamel mugs of black tea were put on the table by an earnest-faced young man who looked more like a City clerk enjoying a rough holiday than a cook on a trawler. Where, I wondered, were the old salts of yesteryear-the grim old teak-faced shellbacks of square-rig days? Do all herring fishermen look like amateur yachtsmen out for a spree ? The skipper was intelligent, a reader of books, and we talked about Prince Charlie. He was interested to hear about my walking-tour; and when I told him my journey would take me up the Great Glen as far as Loch Oich, he offered me a lift in the tone of one who invites you to share a taxi-cab. A lift on a trawler. It sounded attractive, but I explained that it was out of the question. I was going back towards Fassifern to walk over the hills to Moy. There is, however, an adage about the affairs of mice and men; and we climbed up on deck in time to see the tail end of the tradesman's van disappearing westward.

Here was a blow. I stared after the van until it had rounded the distant corner. I had solemnly vowed to return and walk to Moy by the hill-path; and now it seemed that I must either trudge back over these miles of hard highway or hang about in the hope of finding another conveyance.

With a sudden impulse, I turned to the skipper and told him I would sail with him up the Great Glen. As for the hill-path to Moy, all thought of it went whistling down the wind, and the poor fragments of my broken oath splashed overboard into sixteen feet of water. I smothered my conscience with the thought that from Moy onwards I would be following the Prince's tracks-not indeed upon the road, but on the sea-road that runs beside it. The lock-gates swung slowly open, propellers thrashed the water, and the covey of trawlers began to move.

An hour later we had climbed up fifty feet above sea level and were steaming slowly up the Canal towards Loch Lochy. The leading boats left an enormous wash, which we picked up and sent splashing high on the artificial banks. I noticed that several mountain streams flowed into the Canal by sluices, while others ducked under it through culverts and fell into the river Lochy below. I will admit that, from the deck of the trawler, Ben Nevis was a more imposing sight than from the road near Fort William. Perched high on the mountainside like a raven's nest there is a little house which marks the entrance of the tunnel through the Ben, and you can trace the pipe-lines that carry the water from Loch Treig down to drive a team of turbines, each of which develops nine thousand horsepower. I am told that the tunnel through Ben Nevis is fifteen miles long, one of the largest of its kind in the world, and before it was finished a million and a half tons of rock had been excavated. The completion of the new Laggan scheme will mean that so much water will be artificially carried down to the powerhouse at Fort William that it would be enough to supply the domestic demands of half the population of Great Britain. This will flow from the turbines into Loch Linnhe, and one wonders what Loch Linnhe will think about it. It will certainly provide the pleasant folk of Fort William with an alternative topic of conversation when they are tired of telling visitors about the prodigious height of their Ben Nevis.

Behind, we had left the ruins of Inverlochy Castle, where lain Lom the Keppoch bard looked down upon the battle that was fought on the plain below and made that impassioned poem, "The Battle of Inverlochy." Although Montrose lost but one officer and three men, Argyll's army was so smashed up that the Campbells as a fighting force never recovered, and lain Lom revelled in the soil being fattened by the best of the Campbell blood. But there was a much older fortress than the present ruins at Inverlochy, and folk say that there the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France had its beginning over a thousand years ago, when one of the northern kings entered into a bond with Charlemagne. Historians may scoff, but some fables take a long time to die.

We sailed on between mountains that were piled up to the sky on either hand. To the north-east, Auchnacarry - the seat of Cameron of Locheil - nestled somewhere among the trees ; and since the skipper showed an eager interest in old stories about the glen, I tried to tell him about one of the greatest Camerons of that great clan, Ewen Dubh - the Sir Ewen of the seventeenth century. I described how little patience he had with anyone who was less of a Spartan than himself. One night he was storm-bound among the hills, and he ordered his followers to lie down beside him and sleep in the snow. As he was wrapping himself in his plaid, he saw that one of his young relatives had rolled a snow-ball to rest his head on. Leaping to his feet, Sir Ewen kicked the snow-ball aside. "What !" he cried, roused to fury at such degrading effeminacy. " Can't a Cameron sleep without a pillow?"

But the yarns about Sir Ewen are innumerable. Perhaps the best-known of all is the story of his encounter with an English officer from Cromwell's garrison in Inverlochy Castle. The Camerons were a thorn in the flesh of the Government troops, and in one of the many skirmishes Sir Ewen and this officer met in a hand-to-hand combat. The officer must have been a doughty fighter, for he managed to parry the chief's whirling broadsword, and the pair of them finished up on the ground locked fiercely in each other's arms. At last the Englishman got hold of his dagger, and a moment later the fight would have ended, but his throat was exposed, and the Cameron's teeth went into it like a terrier snapping at a rat. Scrambling to his feet, Ewen Cameron looked down at the crimson throat of the expiring Englishman. "God put it into my mouth," he said; "the sweetest bite I ever had in my life!" But the story ends far from Lochaber. After Charles II came to the throne Sir Ewen was received at Court, and London rang with his exploits. One day he was in a barber's shop; and the barber, noticing that his customer was from the North, began to talk about the Highlands of Scotland. "There are savages there, sir!" he cried, his eyes glinting with rage as he peered down into the swarthy countenance of the man lying back in the chair. "One of them tore out the throat of my own father with his teeth. I wish to heaven I had that fellow's throat as near my razor as I have yours!" The Cameron chief did not blink an eye, but he never entered that barber's shop again.

He lived until he was over ninety, and the skipper was interested to hear of Sir Ewen's gift of second-sight. He had it right to the end; and I told how, in the Rising of 'Fifteen, he called out from his bed to his attendants. When they hurried in to him he declared that his king had landed in Scotland. "Summon the household," he ordered, "so that they may drink the health of His Majesty!" At that very hour the exiled James was disembarking from a ship at Peterhead to join the Earl of Mar.

It was a happy voyage I made on the Lowestoft trawler. With the help of my map I had been able to locate Moy, a little white-washed farmhouse up on the roadside, where the Prince stayed during the nights of Saturday and Sunday. As we passed a tiny head land on the south shore of the loch, I picked out Letterfinlay, once a coaching inn. It was here that Charles, after marching from Moy, decided to spend Monday night, for the weather was vile. But a messenger arrived to say that Sir John Cope's army
was within sight of the Corrieyairack, and was about to march over the mountain pass and come down to Fort Augustus. This news, which was not accurate, inflamed the Highlanders; and in spite of the torrents of rain, Charles decided to hurry on. By eight o'clock in the evening he had reached the head of Loch Lochy, and there he found awaiting him four hundred Glengarry men led by Donald Macdonell of Lochgarry. At the head of the loch, the Prince was also joined by men from Appin under Stewart of Ardshiel. Sending a party of scouts to keep watch on the Corrieyairack Pass, the Prince marched on, and arrived after dark that same night at Invergarry Castle.

It was at the head of Loch Lochy that I disembarked from the trawler. The skipper invited me to look him up one day in the South, and to come fishing with him in the North Sea if I felt like roughing it for a week, but that is another story. I continued on my way, warmed by my unexpected meeting with a man whose home was not many parishes distant from my own, and headed for Invergarry. I was now tramping within half a mile of Ben Tee, called Glengarry's Bowling Green, and it overlooks the flat green strath where one of the most desperate of all clan battles was fought four hundred years ago. John of Moidart took part in it, though Laggan-an-droma is a far cry from the Atlantic tides that creep up round Castle Tirrim. John was Captain of Clanranald; and Lord Lovat, who had fostered the son of a previous chief, was determined that young Ranald Galda would become chief in Moidart. But John was too clever to give battle, because Lovat had Huntly's men to help him. The Frasers went home, and John followed at a safe distance. Huntly had branched off by Glen Spean, and John of Moidart saw his chance. On a hot July day, he swooped down on the Frasers and their allies the Grants. After discharging their arrows, the clansmen stripped off their plaids and rushed together clad only in their linen shirts. And so the Battle of the Shirts was fought to an end. Lovat himself and nearly all the Frasers were dead by nightfall, and the old people who still talk of Blar nan Leine will tell you that only four Frasers and ten Clanranald men survived the battle. But Providence must have been on the side of the Beauly men, for the wives of no less than eighty of the fallen Frasers gave birth to a man-child, each to become a warrior in the place of his dead father.

As I looked at the streams that came splashing down the mountainsides and flowed into the Canal, I remembered the story about a woman who lived here in the days before the Canal was built. One of these hillburns formed the boundary between Glengarry's land and Locheil's, and at a point above her cottage it could easily be deflected from its course and made to flow either into Loch Lochy or Loch Oich. When the factor came from Glengarry to collect her rent, he found the stream flowing down to the east, which put her outside his boundary; and when the Cameron factor arrived, the water was tumbling down westward towards Loch Lochy. An hour's work with a shovel now and again enabled this adroit old body to live rent-free for years.

When I came to the shore of Loch Oich the smoke of the trawlers hung like a tiny cloud in the distance. Loch Oich is small, about four miles long, and it is one of the loveliest inland lochs I have ever seen. The wind had fallen, and the water was like a glittering sheet of mica between the mountains.

I found it a little difficult to adjust myself to the scenery in the Great Glen. In the west country, among the grey jagged mountains, I had felt almost all the time that I was alone-indescribably alone -in the heart of a desolate and fairy-haunted land. But in the Great Glen, the high hills are softly rounded, and there are many young plantations of trees that keep reminding you of the handiwork of man. Compared with Moidart and Arisaig, the Great Glen has a well-manicured look. In the West, the sight of a cottage in a corrie had made me blink, as though it were a miraculous thing to see there a wisp of smoke and signs of life. But here, although few houses can be picked out on the hillsides, I did not gaze upon any of them with surprise : it seemed natural that folk should live in this more homely place. The oceangoing ships on the Canal, and the motor-buses that daily race up and down the glen, remind you that you are in touch with the world of cinemas and sixpenny-stores. As I trudged eastward, I wondered if many people spoke Gaelic in this place. And then I was brought up short at the sight of a long Gaelic inscription on a .damnably ugly monument by the roadside.

I found that there was not only Gaelic carved on this thing, but French and Latin and English as well. I hadn't read many lines of the English before I knew that this must be the notorious "Well of the Heads." The incident of the Seven Heads is usually referred to as a barbarous piece of Highland cruelty which would be better forgotten. I disagree. The episode was less barbarous than the monument, and the chief who erected it was so ill-informed about it that he had the wrong date carved upon the wretched obelisk. In the seventeenth century, the killing of the seven Keppoch murderers was no more than a reasonable act of justice which the Glengarry chief himself had refused to carry out. It was Iain Lom the poet who had the courage to exterminate the seven rogues that had murdered the young Keppoch chief, and the fact that the murderers were his own nephews did not hold him back. There is at least one thundering lie in the Gaelic inscription, which is quite different from the English, for Lord Macdonell and Aros certainly did not order this act of vengeance ; and the severed heads of the murderers, which were washed in the water of this well, were in all likelihood flung at the feet of Lord Macdonell as a gesture of contempt, since he himself had refused to make any move in the affair. It was in fact Sir James Macdonald of Sleat who backed lain Lom, and moreover they had the full approval of the Privy Council. But why a monument should have been put up for what was no more than a sound bit of police work it is hard to understand ; and we have the word of Lord Cockburn that Thomas Telford, when he was building the Caledonian Canal, saw it soon after it was erected and could scarcely keep his hands off it. Alexander Ranaldson Glengarry was the man who had it built, and it is little more than a monument to his own arrogance. Lord Cockburn, a pretty sound judge of men, called him a paltry and odious fellow, selfish, cruel, base, dishonest, with all the vices of the bad chieftain and none of the virtues of the good one. Cockburn declared that Glengarry's only act of physical courage was one which he and Telford watched by the side of the loch, and the chief was driven to it by his own insolent fury. He wanted to cross the loch in a boat which had already put out from the shore. He shouted angrily to the men at the oars, but their only reply was a laugh. With a howl of rage, Glengarry spurred his pony into the water to swim after the boat. Telford remarked to the group beside him that he hoped Glengarry would drown, and the place would be well rid of him. But the sturdy pony carried him more than half-way across the loch, and at last the dripping figure clambered into the boat.

The truth probably is that Glengarry had shown his truculent side to Lord Cockburn and Telford, as he did to all strangers who failed to kow-tow to him. The poet Southey went with Telford when he paid his duty-call on the chief, and they were received with great civility, but Thomas Telford was too blunt a man for Glengarry's liking. And Sir Walter Scott, an even better judge of men than Lord Cockburn, said that Glengarry was warm-hearted, 'generous, friendly, full of information about his own clan and the customs of the Highlanders. So we can take our choice.

Glengarry may have been a popinjay, but he was no poltroon. Charmed with the bright eyes of Miss Forbes of Culloden at a dance in Inverness, he pressed his attentions upon her, and a young Black Watch officer protested. Afterwards in the mess, Glengarry slashed him across the face with his cane. The officer, a grandson of Flora Macdonald, challenged him to a duel. On a sunny afternoon they met with loaded pistols on the links near Fort George, and Glengarry wounded his man, who died a month later. When he was charged with murder, his first impulse was to show a clean pair of heels ; but Henry Erskine who had been briefed for the defence urged him to stand his trial. Never did anyone have a closer shave, and it was Erskine's eloquence that got him acquitted. But this did not tame him. He was seldom out of the Law Courts over petty rows with his tenants, and he almost always lost his case. It was his custom to strut about with an entourage like the "tail" of a Highland chief of an earlier age, and he claimed to be the hereditary chief of all the Clan Donald. Some years before his death he had a public row with Clanranald; and I have in front of me as I write, a pamphlet of over a hundred pages of vitriolic argument entitled Vindication of the Clanronald of Glengarry which he published in 1821. In this he said he found it incumbent upon him to make a "public disclosure of the bastardy of John MacAlister of Castel-Tirrim." This was the famous John of Moidart, and Glengarry declared that John and all the succeeding captains of Clanranald were usurpers. The feud, if it can be called a feud, lasted until 1911, when a treaty was drawn up between the present descendants of Glengarry, Clanranald, and Macdonald of Sleat. It is an astonishing document. It mentions the great jealousy and dissension among the different branches of Clan Donald in the past and the consequent " great injury and prejudice suffered by our whole race and kin." In this treaty, none of them abandons his claim to the supreme chiefship of Clan Donald, but each agrees that when more than one of them are present on any occasion when the question of precedency arises, they will draw lots to decide who will have the preeminence for the time being. One might be pardoned for wishing to be present when these modern descendants of dead chiefs spin a coin to decide which will walk in first to dinner ! And, finally, they agree that Macdonald of Sleat shall be permitted by custom to use the designation "of the Isles." And so ends an old and trumpery family squabble. When this document was signed and sealed in 1911 by the three Macdonalds, at Bridlington, at Bordeaux, and at Tuapse in South Russia, Alexander Ranaldson Macdonell of Glengarry must have turned in his grave with a groan of despair.

In the pine-woods I stopped a cyclist to ask him where Invergarry Castle was to be found, and he pointed to lodge gates along the road. At the lodge I was given permission to enter the private grounds of the present Invergarry House, and made my way down to the ruined castle at the lochside.

It was here that the Prince arrived in the darkness of that stormy Monday night in August after a march of about fifteen miles from Moy. But it was not the chief who welcomed him ; for John Macdonell of Glengarry was a weak drunken fellow, and he was skulking in Perthshire. He had indeed visited Sir John Cope in his camp at Crieff on the previous Wednesday and assured him of his loyalty to the Government. He was playing a double game. If the Rising failed, he was ready to swear that the clan had come "out" against his wishes; if it were successful, he was prepared to skip nimbly forward and make his obeisance to Charles. His ruse was plain to everyone in the Prince's army, and they were all glad he was well out of the way. With such a chief, it is not surprising to learn that a good many of his clansmen hung back and had to be forced out by threats. Lochgarry issued the orders. Before the Rising he had been commissioned as an officer in King George's army; although he had his doubts about the wisdom of the Prince's enterprise, he tore up his commission and joined the Jacobite force ; and with Glengarry's second son Angus, who had been on a visit in Rannoch while the clan had gathered, he entertained the Prince on that tempestuous night at Invergarry Castle.

But long before the days of the 'Forty-five the old glory of this fortress had departed. Built upon the Rock of the Raven (the war-cry of the clan), it was gutted under General Monk when he made his victorious march against the loyal clans in June 1654. The Glengarry of that time rebuilt it-he was the great Alastair Dubh who had led the attack under Claverhouse at Killiecrankie - and he narrowly escaped the same fate as the Macdonalds of Glencoe. Indeed, the infamous Stair wrote to General Livingstone a month before the Glencoe massacre: "These troops posted at Inverness and Inverlochie will be ordered to take in the house of Invergarie and to destroy entirely the country of Lochaber, Locheil's lands, Keppoch's, Giengarie's, and Glencoe . . . and I hope the soldiers will not trouble the Government with prisoners." But Glengarry had signed the oath of allegiance within the allotted time, and his people were spared. His castle, however, was used for many years as barracks for a Government garrison: a bitter pill for Alastair Dubh. After the Rising of 'Fifteen, it was burned again ; and finally it was roofed over to become the lodging of the manager of some iron-works that the York Buildings Company had set up in the glen. Thomas Rawlinson was his name, and some say it was he who invented the philabeg or little kilt, because the long plaid impeded the Highlanders he employed, and he was shocked to find them at their work indecently naked. But whether or not it was this Rawlinson who was the only begetter of the modern kilt-and his claim to this fame is doubtful-the fact that he took up his lodging in the old castle was resented by the Glengarry men. He invited some of them to dinner one evening, and after the usual toasts had been drunk Rawlinson rose to his feet and said in a grandiloquent voice, "Be welcome to anything in my house." At this an old clansman jumped to his feet, and cried, "Damn you, sir; I thought it was Glengarry's house!" They knocked out the candles and made a rush for the man at the head of the table. It was fortunate for Rawlinson that he managed to escape in the darkness, and later on the old place came back into the hands of its rightful owners.

On that Monday night in August 1745, when the Prince arrived at Invergarry, the scene in the castle was perhaps the most romantic in all its history.

Until a late hour, Charles discussed with the chiefs his immediate plan of campaign. King George's army under Cope had arrived at Dalwhinnie, about a day's march south of the Corrieyairack, and the Prince had a pretty fair idea how weak that army was. Cope had marched north from Stirling, with a great rattle of drums, but what was his next move to be? If he tried to make a forced march over the Corrieyairack Pass, the Prince's scouts who lay up in the mountains would have the word down to Invergarry within a few hours, for they were local men and knew every corrie and sheep-path in the darkest night. The discussion in the castle was interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Thomas Fraser of Gortuleg. He said he had come with a message from Lord Lovat, and Locheil presented him to the Prince. He spoke of his own loyalty and Lovat's, but he was there to play Lovat's dangerous game of keeping a foot in both camps. He told the Prince how Duncan Forbes of Culloden, although a sick man, had posted north to keep some of the most powerful clans in the Highlands from joining in the enterprise; and he said that Lovat wanted the Prince's warrant to take Forbes alive or dead-a difficult task, because the Lord President had a hundred armed men in his house, with artillery mounted outside. But the suggestion of a raid on Culloden House was at that time mere bluff, for Lovat was almost daily sending fervent letters of friendship to Duncan Forbes.

Fraser of Gortuleg then asked for the commission of Lord Lieutenant and Lieutenant-General for Lord Lovat which James had signed two years before. These documents were in the baggage that had not yet come on from Moy, where the Prince had slept the previous night. Not that this mattered a whit ; the request for them was but another part of Lovat's bluff; for if the Rising succeeded, and James came to the throne, it was a dukedom that Lovat was after, and he knew that the patent was already signed and sealed.

Gortuleg went on to explain why Lord Lovat had not called out his clan: Forbes of Culloden had his eye upon him, and the garrison at Inverness and Fort Augustus were ready to come down on him if he made the slightest move-in fact, to the old man's sorrow, his loyal hands were tied.

The oily-tongued Fraser of Gortuleg then slipped away home to Loch More, a few miles east of Foyers, to sit down and write to Forbes of Culloden, giving all the information he could about the Highland army. He had not only lied to the Prince, but had been a spy in his camp.

But something else happened on that Monday night at Invergarry Castle. John Murray of Broughton came strongly into the limelight. Two days before at Moy, he had been appointed secretary to the Prince, but previous to his appointment he had drawn up a bond of loyalty for the chiefs to sign. This he now produced, and they all put their hands to it, each pledging himself that he would not make a separate peace without the consent of the others. If ever a document was unnecessary, it was surely the one which the over-shrewd Murray of Broughton folded away so carefully ; and there is a grim irony in the fact that the only man in the castle that night who turned traitor was the one who had written out the bond.


I stood within the broken walls of the castle. Some of the stones are still black from the gunpowder and flames that finally put an end to the place after Culloden. Ivy is climbing skyward, smothering the place in a green pall, and a rowan tree has taken root high in the walls where the Prince had so poor a shelter in the lodging of the departed Rawlinson.

The decay of a noble building damps the spirits, and I was glad to get away from Invergarry Castle. Set on its Rock of the Raven, this castle must have been a fine sight when Alastair Dubh gathered below the walls the flower of his clan and marched them off to join Claverhouse and play their gallant part at Killiecrankie. But I would rather have seen it - half-ruined as it then was-on the bleak dawn of Tuesday, 27th August 1745, when more than seventeen hundred Highlanders rose from the wet grass where they had slept, and unwrapped their plaids from about them, while the Prince looked down upon them from a high window, with eyes that were 'still heavy with sleep.


I climbed up the hill into the tiny hamlet of Invergarry. A hotel, a few cottages, and a church are strung out on the roadside above the burn that flows down from Loch Garry among the hills. It is a pleasant place, with a Macdonald here and there, but few of the old clan are now living on these hillsides. I found a lodging in one of the cottages, and after tea I sauntered down to the hotel to sample the whiskey. At the door, I fell into talk with a man in brown knickerbockers. We exchanged a pipeful of tobacco and sat in the porch. In the course of our talk he learned about my intention to walk to Edinburgh, and when I explained that I was on a Jacobite pilgrimage, we began to talk about the 'Forty-five. He refused to hear a good word about the Prince. A poor fish, he called him, and a damnable Papist. I tried to point out that, although Charles was a Catholic, the first church service he attended in Scotland was conducted by an Episcopalian clergyman, which at least showed his toleration in religious matters. Then the man in the knickerbockers went on to say that the Prince brought nothing but bloodshed and oppression to the Highlands. I admitted the bloodshed and the oppression, but suggested another point of view-that the 'Forty-five was a pouring out of the spirit of loyalty to one whom many Highlanders regarded as their king by divine right. I also suggested-or rather I flatly declared-that Prince Charles was a better man than George II, and would have made a better king, but the reply was an explosive "Bah!" The Prince came to Scotland with a few Irish scallywags, he retorted: since he was such a fine fellow, why did he not find better men than these to bring with him?

I pointed out that the story about his companions being mere Irish adventurers was picturesque but untrue. Granted, he would probably have been better without Sir John Macdonald, who was fond of the brandy bottle and had a vile temper, and granted also that the exiled James took a strong dislike to Colonel Strickland, who fell ill and died at Carlisle; but the worst of the lot was not a foreigner at all -he was a man born in Moidart. There to this day they will tell you that Aeneas Macdonald, the Paris banker, got cold feet after the landing, and skulked around the cottages persuading the Clanranald men to stay at home. He admitted as much, and a good deal more, after he gave himself up to the Government : indeed, he declared that he had been on the point of coming to Scotland on private business when the Prince offered him a free berth on board the Du Teillay, and he accepted out of curiosity. Perhaps it was his curiosity afterwards in the French Revolution that lost him his head in the guillotine, but it was no great loss, anyhow. . . . As for the other men who came on the Du Teillay, they were pretty good fellows, and there can be no doubt about their loyalty to the Prince.

"But what about the Prince's loyalty to the clansmen who followed him?" demanded my companion.

"Before he came to Scotland, it's said, he enrolled as an officer in the Spanish army. If he'd been captured, he could have claimed to be treated as a prisoner of war. But the men under him were bound to be treated as rebels, and sent to the gallows-as many of them were."

"Whig historians are fond of raking up that yarn," I replied. "If the Prince enrolled in the Spanish army, it was to try to put his father's mind at rest. The Pope certainly never believed it could save him. In coming to Scotland, he was risking his neck, and he knew it." In his later life, I admitted, he slid downhill from one disappointment to another. He sometimes lacked money to pay for his food and lodging, but in his wanderings on the Continent he carried a little purse of gold that even hunger did not force him to spend: this was to take him back to Scotland in case the call for his return should come.

But my arguments were lost upon the man in the brown knickerbockers, and I was rather thankful when by a happy accident the subject was changed. He jumped to his feet and pointed at a battered motor-car that was chugging up the hill from the bridge.

"Heavens, man, look at these tinkers!"

And tinkers they were. Tinkers, not straggling along the road behind a dirty tilt-cart, but packed into a Morris Cowley that had been shining with new green paint around about the year 1920: a Morris Cowley that had a regular haystack of gear piled up in the back, with a two-wheeled trailer bumping behind. And with the passing of it, a romantic picture went up in smoke, and I foresaw that the old-fashioned tinker who goes shuffling along with his shaggy pony and even more shaggy family may soon be gone from the roads of Scotland, and in his place we will see a brown-faced plutocrat in his motor-car.

A plutocrat the gentleman in the driving-seat certainly was. His filthy hands gripped the wheel in a manner that was regal, his elbows jutted out importantly, and his head was cocked back as he peered through the splintered windscreen. He had a yellow moustache which curled so hugely round, his jaws that it might have concealed mutton-chop whiskers below its tea-stained trusses. His bowler hat was dented and green with age, but the brim had the same august curl as his moustache, and perhaps one day it had adorned the head of some douce elder of the Presbyterian kirk. His bedraggled squaw, with gold ear-rings and spotted neckerchief, sat beside him clutching two children to her bosom. Packed among the luggage behind was a black-eyed young man with a loudly checked cap, the snout of which was almost adrift from its moorings, and on his chin was the dark incipient moss of a beard which was difficult to distinguish from the grime on the rest of his face. Beside him was a third youngster with the glittering eyes arid the wise brooding expression of an elderly chimpanzee: I could not make out whether it was a boy or a girl. The ragged cavalcade rumbled past, the burst silencer of the car sounding like a long roll of kettle-drums. Tinkers de luxe ! - bound for some favourite eyrie in the West. We watched them until they were out of sight, and then we ordered another whiskey-and-soda and drank to their fortune. They deserved it, these modernists, who believed in keeping pace with the times: and perhaps, as they asked for pots to mend and tried to sell clothes-pegs to reluctant housewives, their mendicant whine was already giving place to a blustering bravado which fitted their rise in the social scale.

After we had finished our drink, the man in the brown knickerbockers asked me to dine with him. I refused, and then compromised by saying that I would have dinner at the hotel, and we could feed together. I had made- no arrangements at my lodging for an evening meal, and I was glad of his company. But I was more pleased still when he rose at the end of an excellent dinner and invited me to join him on a visit to an acquaintance of his who lived in a cottage up the road.

"The Sennachie, I call him," he said. "The most interesting old boy in Invergarry."


We stumbled up a lane in the darkness. At the back of a row of houses, my companion knocked on a door. I could hear the whimper of dance-band music from a wireless loud-speaker inside. It was shut off, and presently the door opened.

Silhouetted against the light in the room beyond stood the man who had been described to me as the most interesting old boy in Invergarry. He blinked at us for' a moment, recognised my friend, and upraised his hands in welcome.

"Come away in with you."

He was a little old man, with dark brown eyes, and his black hair and pointed beard had a touch of white. He was very broad in the shoulder, and he walked across the flagged floor of his kitchen with an odd rolling dignity. He looked up at us in the lamplight, his head tilted back, his cheeks wrinkled in a smile. "And I am very pleased to see you," he said in his soft old deliberate voice, and pulled forward chairs for us beside the fire. "I was listening to the wireless, but it is not very good to-night. I would rather be listening to your stories."

"We've come to hear some of yours," said the man in the knickerbockers. "I was telling my friend here I call you the Sennachie."

"The Sennachie !" The old man put back his head, in the sudden way he had, and laughed again. "Ho-ho, that is good-the Sennachie ! Well, sit down, and I will get a little drop of something in a bottle, and we will drink a toast together." I was fascinated by his voice : it was so quiet and precise. He spread a white napkin on a chair and brought out three wine-glasses. And then he very carefully carried a black bottle from a cupboard. He evidently believed in taking whiskey neat, for he filled the glasses to the lip ; and then when we were served he raised his own and wished us good health. "Yes, it is a good dram," he admitted, when I complimented him on the quality of the liquor. "You will not get a bad dram in Invergarry."

I remarked that Invergarry struck me as a pretty good place to live in.

Our host nodded. "It is a good place for an old man to end his days. But it was a better place, I'm thinking, before all the Macdonells went across the sea . . . All of them ? Ah, yes, nearly all of them. There is more Gaelic spoken in Glengarry in Canada than you can hear in this glen to-night." He shook his head. " The old sentiment has passed away. Once a month we have our ceilidh here-it is good, very good, but it is not like the old ceilidh when friends are around the fire talking and singing together."

The man across the hearth asked whether it was for sheep or deer that the Macdonells were turned out of their homes.

"It was the sheep - the big sheep from the south country. The Highlandmen called them the 'small cattle.'" The old man paused to take another sip from his glass, and then lay back in his chair, the tips of his fingers together. "But there was a great man in Glengarry at that time, a fine man. He was a Catholic priest. Father Macdonell was his name. When the people were turned out of their crofts, it was Father Macdonell who got them work. The only work he could find was in the Glasgow factories. And he went there to live with them. But soon the work stopped, and the poor people from Glengarry had not a crust to eat. It was Father Macdonell who helped them again. He got a regiment raised-the Glengarry Fencibles - and himself joined as chaplain. But soon the Fencibles were done away with, and it was sad days once more for the Glengarry men. Father Macdonell saw there was only one thing to do now. If there was no living for them in this country, there was a living across the sea. He took the people to Canada, and he called the district Glengarry to keep them in mind of their old home, and it is full of Macdonells to this day."

He replenished our glasses, and flung some more logs on the fire. We talked of many things, and the old man's knowledge of the world was astonishing. He lived alone ; he fended for himself ; and when my friend with the brown knickerbockers called him the happiest man in the Highlands he chided him gently: "In all Scotland!" he said, with a laugh. "And why not? I have everything I need-even a friend who can talk the Gaelic."

I told him some of the old stories I had heard in Moidart, and he was able to correct me on more than one point of history ; then, as was almost inevitable, we strayed towards the subject of second-sight.

"Ah, there are more wonderful things in the Highlands than some folk are believing to-day," he said slowly. "They laugh at us for our superstition, as they are calling it. But I'm thinking they are beginning to take notice of us. They have written in the newspapers about great monsters in the Highland lochs. Monsters!" He chuckled and shook his head. "There may be great monsters in the lochs, I do not know, I have not seen one. But I know there are kelpies in some of them."

"You believe in the water-kelpie?" asked the man in the knickerbockers, lighting his pipe with a pine- splinter.

"Why not? There are surely water-bulls and water-horses in, some of the lochs. Each uisge and tarbh uisge, we call them. When I was a young man a laird in Wester Ross tried to drain one of his lochs to kill a water-cow that lived in it. They worked for more than a year, but they could not empty the loch, so they put tons of lime into the water to poison the poor animal. But it did not die, for it was seen after that. Ah, yes, there are water-cows and water-bulls in some of the lochs and tams."

"But why are you so certain ?" I asked.

He sat upright in his chair, and looked me straight in the eye. "Because I have seen one myself."

"You have seen one?" I repeated, wondering if he was trying to pull my leg.

He gave a slow nod. "I have seen a water-bull. It was beside a tarn in Glen Barrisdale. It was, a beautiful summer day, and the bull had come out of the water, and was standing near some cows. No, they were not afraid of him. He was a gentle-looking creature. I went closer so that I could see him plainly. Ah, he was a lovely animal. His skin was dark and smooth and shining, and he had big soft eyes. He had two black horns, turned inward. Black and bright they were, and his hoofs were smooth and black too. He was the loveliest animal I have ever seen. So strange and gentle-looking, with his wet skin and big eyes, big as the palm of my hand . . . No, I made no mistake," he went on deliberately. "I was too close to him for that. He was like no other creature I have ever seen. I watched him for a long time, and then I had to go on my way, for I had to meet a friend. I went back to the same place in the evening, but by that time the animal had gone down into the tam where he lived."

The quiet tones of the old man's voice, and the gleam of his brown eyes, filled my last thoughts as I lay that night between cool sheets in my tiny bedroom. There are more wonderful things in the Highlands than some folk are believing to-day ! For a little while I listened to the hum of the Garry river in the glen below, and then blew out the candle. I was asleep before the smell of the extinguished wick had quite faded in the darkness.

I loafed next day. I loafed in the manner of one who has all eternity in front of him. The sun was blazing, and I passed the golden hours by the lochside staring lazily at the summit of Carn Dearg and at Craig nan Gobhar, from the top of which they say you can catch a glimpse of both the North Sea and the Atlantic.

It was after lunch before I buckled on my pack and set out down the hill for the Bridge of Oich. There are two bridges now, one over the river and another spanning the Canal; but the Prince's army forded the Oich at the shallows, and then crossed the road that Wade had built thirteen years previously. The clansmen were in high fettle. Within twenty-four hours they hoped to confront Cope's men and to show them the deadly force of a Highland charge. But the Prince decided to halt for the night at Aberchalder, on the hillside, so that two or three small parties, already on their way, would have time to join him. He slept in a farmhouse that no longer exists, and was moving about by the peep of day. He called for his Highland clothes, and as he fastened the latchets of his shoes he was heard to declare that he would be up with Mr. Cope before they were unloosed. Officers and men, to quote from the letter Fraser of Gortuleg wrote to the Lord President, were "in top spirits and make sure of Victory in case they meet." By nine o'clock in the morning they were up in the Corrieyairack.

There was one thing I was quite determined upon : I was not going to be caught in my predicament of the evening before. It would have been utter folly to try to cross the Corrieyairack starting so late in the day. To reach Laggan in the Spey valley before dark, it would be necessary to breakfast early and lose no time in setting out. So I decided to halt for the night on this side of the Corrieyairack Pass ; and if I failed to find a lodging in a house I saw above the bridge, I knew I could easily make tracks for Fort Augustus, which was less than five miles up the Great Glen.

The house was empty; at least, no one answered my repeated knocks; and I descended to the road and headed for the Fort-or Kilcumein, as the old village at the head of Loch Ness was once called. I was exhilarated by the thought that I was now tramping along "Montrose's mile," for it was here his little army had encamped on the night before it made one of the most astonishing marches in military history. Everybody was dog tired and in low spirits. Seaforth with five thousand men lay at Inverness, when lain Lom, the Keppoch bard, burst into Montrose's camp with the news that three thousand Campbells and Lowlanders had reached Inverlochy: thus both ends of the Great Glen were blocked. It was then Montrose made his great decision. He roused his followers and they plunged up into the snows among the hills. The men were cold and hungry, oatmeal and water was their only food and drink, but all day they struggled along behind their indomitable leader. Up Glen Tarff they went, crossed the river Turret which was choked with snow, and plunged down through the snowdrifts in Glen Roy, to reach the hillside above Inverlochy in the chilly dusk of a February evening. When Argyll was told that the enemy was approaching, he refused to believe it: Montrose was known to have been at Kilcumein the night before; only a magician could have wafted them to Inverlochy; these fellows on the hillside must surely be a few raiders from Keppoch! . . . All night Montrose's men lay up there on the hillside, they lit no fire, they had no food, and at dawn the tired and hungry little army joined battle with a force of twice their number and smashed the Campbells to pieces. Such was the Battle of Inverlochy. And it was at some spot in this green strath where I was now tramping that Montrose, caught as it were between the jaws of nut-crackers, decided to attempt the impossible. If a Montrose had been by the side of Prince Charles, a Stewart king would almost certainly have been upon the throne of Britain by December 1745.

I reached the outskirts of Fort Augustus as five o'clock chimed out from the tower of the Benedictine monastery.


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