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Scenes and Legends of The North of Scotland
Chapter IV


"All hail, Macbeth! thou shalt be king hereafter.”—Shakspere.

It is, perhaps, not quite unworthy of remark, that not only is Cromarty the sole district of the kingdom whose annals ascend into the obscure ages of fable, but that the first passage of even its real history derives its chief interest, not from its importance as a fact, but from what may be termed its chance union with a sublime fiction of poetry. Few, I daresay, have so much a3 dreamed of connecting either its name or scenery with the genius of Shakspere, and yet they are linked to one of the most powerful of his achievements as a poet, by the bonds of a natural association. The very first incident of its true history would have constituted, had the details been minutely preserved, the early biography of the celebrated Macbeth; who, according to our black-letter historians, makes his first appearance in public life as Thane of Cromarty, and Maormor, or great man of Ross. But I am aware I do not derive from the circumstance any right to become his biographer. For though his character was probably formed at a time when he may be regarded as the legitimate property of the provincial annalist, no sooner is it exhibited in action than he is consigned over to the chroniclers of the kingdom.

For the earlier facts of our history the evidence is rather circumstantial than direct. We see it stamped on the face of the country, or inscribed on our older obelisks, or sometimes disinterred from out of hillocks of sand, or accumulations of moss ; but very rarely do we find it deposited in our archives. Let us examine it, however, wherever it presents itself, and strive, should it seem at all intelligible, to determine regarding its purport and amount. Not more than sixty years ago a bank of blown sand, directly under the northern Sutor, which had been heaped over the soil ages before^ was laid open by the winds of a stormy winter, when it was discovered that the nucleus on which the hillock had originally formed, was composed of the bones of various animals of the chase, and the horns of deer. It is not much more than twelve years since there were dug up in the same sandy tract two earthen urns, the one filled with ashes and fragments of half-burned bones, the other with bits of a black bituminous-looking stone, somewhat resembling jet, which had been fashioned into beads, and little flat parallelograms, perforated edgewise, with four holes apiece. Nothing could be ruder than the workmanship : the urns were clumsily modelled by the hand, unassisted by a lathe; the ornaments, rough and unpolished, and still bearing the marks of the tool, resembled nothing of modem production, except, perhaps, the toys which herd-boys sometimes amuse their leisure in forming with the knife. "VVe find remains such as these fraught with a more faithful evidence regarding the early state of our country than the black-letter pages of our chroniclers. They testify of a period when the chase formed, perhaps, the sole employment of the few scattered inhabitants; and of the practice, so prevalent among savages, of burying with their dead friends whatever they most loved when alive. It may be further remarked as a curious fact, and one from which we may infer that trinkets wrought in so uncouth a style could have belonged to only the first stage of society, that man’s inventive powers receive their earliest impulses rather from his admiration of the beautiful, than his sense of the useful. He displays a taste in ornament, and has learned to dye his skin, and to tatoo it with rude figures of the sun and moon, before he has become ingenious enough to discover that he stands in need of a covering.

There is a tradition of this part of the country which seems not a great deal more modem than the urns or their ornaments, and which bears the character of the savage nearly as distinctly impressed on it. On the summit of Knock-Ferril, a steep hill which rises a few miles to the west of Dingwall, there are the remains of one of those vitrified forts which so puzzle and interest the antiquary; and which was originally constructed, says tradition, by a gigantic tribe of Fions, for the protection of their wives and children, when they themselves were engaged in hunting. It chanced in one of their excursions that a mean-spirited little fellow of the party, not much more than fifteen feet in height, was so distanced by his more active brethren, that, leaving them to follow out the chase, he returned home, and throwing himself down, much fatigued, on the side of the eminence, fell fast asleep. Garry, for so the unlucky hunter was called, was no favourite with the women of the tribe;—he was spiritless and diminutive, and ill-tempered; and as they could make little else of him that they cared for, they converted him into the butt of many a teasing little joke, and the sport of many a capricious humour. On seeing that he had fallen asleep, they stole out to where he lay, and after fastening his long hair with pegs to the grass, awakened him with their shouts and laughter. He strove to extricate himself, but in vain; until at length, infuriated by their gibes and the pain of his own exertions, he wrenched up his head, leaving half his locks behind him, and, hurrying after them, set fire to the stronghold into which they had rushed for shelter. The flames rose till they mounted over the roof, and broke out at every slit and opening; but Garry, unmoved by the shrieks and groans of the sufferers within, held fast the door until all was silent; when he fled into the remote Highlands, towards the west. The males of the tribe, who had, meanwhile, been engaged in hunting on that part of the northern Sutor which bears the name of the hill of Nigg, alarmed by the vast column of smoke which they saw ascending from their dwelling, came pressing on to the Firth of Cromarty, and leaping across on their hunting-spears, they hurried home. But they arrived to find only a huge pile of embers, fanned by the breeze, and amid which the very stones of the building were sputtering and bubbling with the intense heat, like the contents of a boiling caldron. Wild with rage and astonishment, and yet collected enough to conclude that none but Garry could be the author of a deed so barbarous, they tracked him into a nameless Highland glen, which has ever since been known as Glen-Garry> and there tore him to pieces. And as all the women of the tribe perished in the flames, there was an end, when this forlorn and widowed generation had passed away, to the whole race of the Fions. The next incident of our history bears no other connexion to this story, than that it belongs to a very early age, that of the Vikingr and Sea-King, and that we owe our data regarding it, not to written records, but to an interesting class of ancient remains, and to a doubtful and imperfect tradition.

In this age, says the tradition, the Maormor of Ross was married to a daughter of the king of Denmark, and proved so barbarous a husband, that her father, to whom she at length found the means of escape, fitted out a fleet and army to avenge on him the cruelties inflicted on her. Three of her brothers accompanied the expedition; but, on nearing the Scottish coast, a terrible storm arose, in which almost all the vessels of the fleet either foundered or were driven ashore, and the three princes were drowned. The ledge of rock at which this latter disaster is said to have taken place, still bears the name of the King’s Sons; a magnificent cave which opens among the cliffs of the neighbouring shore is still known as the King’s Cave; and a path that winds to the summits of the precipices beside it, as the King’s Path. The bodies of the princes, says the tradition, were interred, one at Shandwick, one at Hilton, and one at Nigg; and the sculptured obelisks of these places, three very curious pieces of antiquity, are said to be monuments erected to their memory by their father. In no part of Scotland do stones of this class so abound as on the shores of the Moray Firth. And they have often attracted the notice and employed the ingenuity of the antiquary ; but it still appears somewhat doubtful whether we are to regard them as of Celtic or of Scandinavian origin. It may be remarked, however, that though their style of sculpture resembles, in its general features, that exhibited in the ancient crosses of Wales, which are unquestionably British, and though they are described in a tradition current on the southern shore of the Moray Firth, as monuments raised by the inhabitants on the expulsion of the Danes, the amount of evidence seems to preponderate in the opposite direction; when we consider that they are invariably found bordering on the sea ; that their design and workmanship display a degree of ta&te and mechanical ability which the Celtse of North Britain seem never to have possessed; that the eastern shores of the German Ocean abound in similar monuments, which, to a complexity of ornament not more decidedly Runic, add the Runic inscription; and that the tradition just related—which, wild as it may appear, can hardly be deemed less authentic than the one opposed to it, seeing that it belongs to a district still peopled by the old inhabitants of the country, whereas the other seems restricted to the lowlands of Moray—assigns their erection not to the natives, but to their rapacious and unwelcome visitors, the Danes themselves. The reader may perhaps indulge me in a few descriptive notices of the three stones connected with the tradition; they all lie within six miles of Cromarty, and their weathered and mossy planes, roughened with complicated tracery and doubtful hieroglyphics, may be regarded as pages of provincial history—as pages, however, which we must copy rather than translate. May I not urge, besides, that men who have visited Egypt to examine monuments not much more curious, have written folios on their return?

The obelisk at Hilton, though perhaps the most elegant of its class in Scotland, is less known than any of the other two, and it has fared more hardly. For, about two centuries ago, it was taken down by some barbarous mason of Ross, who converted it into a tombstone, and, erasing the neat mysterious hieroglyphics of one of the sides, engraved on the place which they had occupied a rude shield and label, and the following laughable inscription; no bad specimen, by the bye, of the taste and judgment which could destroy so interesting a monument, and of that fortuitous species of wit which lies within the reach of accident, and of accident alone.

HE • THAT ' LIVES ' WEIL * DYES ' WEIL ' SAYS * SOLOMON * THE * WISE.
HEIR ' LYES • ALEXANDER ' DVFF * AND * HIS * THRIE * WIVES.

The side of the obelisk which the chisel has spared is surrounded by a broad border, embossed in a style of ornament that would hardly disgrace the frieze of an Athenian portico ; —the centre is thickly occupied by the figures of men, some on horseback, some afoot—of wild and tame animals, musical instruments, and weapons of war and of the chase. The stone of Shandwick is still standing,1 and bears on the side which corresponds to the obliterated surface of the other, the figure of a large cross, composed of circular knobs wrought into an involved and intricate species of fretwork, which seems formed by the twisting of myriads of snakes. In the spaces on the sides of the shaft there are two huge, clumsy-looking animals, the one resembling an elephant, and the other a lion; over each of these a St. Andrew seems leaning forward from his cross; and on the reverse of the obelisk the sculpture represents processions, hunting-scenes, and combats. These, however, are but meagre notices ; the obelisk at Nigg I shall describe more minutely as an average specimen of the class to which it belongs.

It stands in the parish burying-ground, beside the eastern gable of the church; and bears on one of its sides, like the stone at Shandwick, a large cross, which, it may be remarked, rather resembles that of the Greek than of the Romish Church, and on the other a richly embossed frame, enclosing, like the border of the obelisk at Hilton, the figures of a crowded assemblage of men and animals. Beneath the arms of the cross the surface is divided into four oblong compartments, and there are three above—one on each side, which form complete squares, and one a-top, which, like the pediment of a portico, is of a triangular shape. In the lower angle of this upper compartment, two priest-like figures, attired in long garments, and furnished each with a book, incline forwards in the attitude of prayer; and in the centre between them there is a circular cake or wafer, which a dove, descending from above, holds in its bill. Two dogs seem starting towards the wafer from either side; and directly under it there is a figure so much weathered, that it may be deemed to represent, as fancy may determine, either a little circular table, or the sacramental cup. A pictorial record cannot be other than a doubtful one ; and it is difficult to decide whether the hieroglyphic of this department denotes the ghostly influence of the priest in delivering the soul from the evils of an intermediate state; for, at a slight expense of conjectural analogy, we may premise that the mysterious dove descends in answer to the prayer of the two kneeling figures, to deliver the little emblematical cake from the “ power of the dog—or, whether it may not represent a treaty of peace between rival chiefs whose previous hostility may be symbolized by the two fierce animals below, and their pacific intentions by the bird above, and who ratify the contract by an oath, solemnized over the book, the cup, and the wafer. A very few such explanations might tempt one to quote the well-known story of the Professor of signs and the Aberdeen butcher; the weight of the evidence, however, rests apparently with those who adopt the last. We see the locks of the kneeling figures curling upon their shoulders in unclerical profusion, unbroken by the tonsure; while the presence of the two books, with the absence of any written inscription, seems characteristic of the mutual memorial of tribes, who, though not wholly illiterate, possess no common language save the very doubtful language of symbol. If we hold further that the stone is of Scandinavian origin—and it seems a rather difficult matter to arrive at a different conclusion—we can hardly suppose that the natives should have left unmutilated the monument of a people so little beloved had they had no part in what it records, or no interest in its preservation.

We pass to the other compartments ;—some of these and the plane of the cross are occupied by a species of fretwork exceedingly involved and complicated, but formed, notwithstanding, on regular mathematical figures. There are others which contain squares of elegantly arrayed tracery, designed in a style which we can almost identify with that of the border illuminations of our older manuscripts, or of the ornaments, imitative of these, which occur in works printed during the reigns of Elizabeth and James. But what seem the more curious compartments of the stone are embossed into rows of circular knobs, covered over, as if by basket-work, with the intricate foldings of myriads of snakes; and which may be either deemed to allude to the serpent and apple of the Fall—thus placed in no inapt neighbourhood to the cross ; or to symbolize (for even the knobs may be supposed to consist wholly of serpents) that of which the serpent has ever been held emblematic, and which we cannot regard as less appositely introduced—a complex wisdom, or an incomprehensible eternity.

The hieroglyphics of the opposite side are in lower relief, and though the various fretwork of the border is executed in a style of much elegance, the whole seems to owe less to the care of the sculptor. The centre is occupied by what, from its size, we must deem the chief figure of the group—that of a man attired in long garments, caressing a fawn; and directly fronting him, there are the figures of a lamb and a harp. The whole is, perhaps, emblematical of peace, and may be supposed to tell the same story with the upper hieroglyphic of the reverse. In the space beneath there is the figure of a man furnished with cymbals, which he seems clashing with much glee, and that of a horse and its rider, surrounded by animals of the chase; while in the upper part of the stone there are dogs, deer, an armed huntsman, and, surmounting the whole, an eagle or raven. It may not be deemed unworthy of remark, that the style of the more complex ornaments of this stone very much resembles that which obtains in the sculptures and tatooings of the New-Zealander. We see exhibited in both the same intricate regularity of pattern, and almost similar combinations of the same waving lines. And we are led to infer, that though the rude Scandinavian of perhaps nine centuries ago had travelled a long stage in advance of the New-Zealander of our own times, he had yet his ideas of the beautiful cast in nearly the same mould. Is it not a curious fact, that man, in his advances towards the just and graceful in desgin, proceeds not from the simple to the complex, but from the complex to the simple.

The slope of the northern Sutor which fronts the town of Cromarty, terminates about a hundred and fifty feet above the level of the shore in a precipitous declivity surmounted by a little green knoll, which for the last six centuries has borne the name of Dunskaith (i.e. the fort of mischief). And in its immediate vicinity there is a high-lying farm, known all over the country as the farm of Castle-Craig. The prospect from the edge of the eminence is one of the finest in the kingdom. We may survey the entire Firth of Cromarty spread out before us as in a map; the town, though on the opposite shore, seems so completely under our view that we think of looking down into its streets; and yet the distance is sufficient to conceal all but what is pleasing in it. The eye, in travelling over the country beyond, ascends delighted through the various regions of com, and wood, and moor, and then expatiates unfatigued amid a wilderness of blue-peaked hills. And where the land terminates towards the east, we may see the dark abmpt cliffs of the southern Sutor flinging their shadows half-way across the opening, and distinguish among the lofty crags, which rise to oppose them, the jagged and serrated shelves of the Diamond-rock, a tall beetling precipice which once bore, if we may trust to tradition, a wondrous gem in its forehead. Often, says the legend, has the benighted boatman gazed from ainid the darkness, as he came rowing along the shore, on its clear beaconlike flame, which, streaming from the rock, threw a long fiery strip athwart the water; and the mariners of other countries have inquired whether the light which they saw shining so high among the cliffs, right over their mast, did not proceed from the shrine of some saint, or the cell of some hermit. But like the carbuncle of the Ward-hill of Hoy, of which the author of Waverley makes so poetical a use, “ though it gleamed ruddy as a furnace to them who viewed it from beneath, it ever became invisible to him whose daring foot had scaled the precipices from whence it darted its splendour.” I have been oftener than once interrogated on the western coast of Scotland regarding the “ Diamond-rock of Cromarty;” and an old campaigner who fought under Abercromby has told me that he has listened to the familiar stoiy of its diamond amid the sand wastes of Egypt. But the jewel has long since disappeared, and we see only the rock. It used never to be seen, it is said, by day, nor could the exact point which it occupied be ascertained; and on a certain luckless occasion an ingenious ship-captain, determined on marking its place, brought with him from England a few balls of chalk, and, charging with this novel species of shot, took aim at it in the night-time with one of his great guns. Ere he had fired, however, it vanished, as if suddenly withdrawn by some guardian hand} and its place on the rock has ever since remained as undistinguishable as the scaurs and cliffs around it. And now the eye, after completing its circuit, rests on the eminence of Dunskaith;—the site of a royal fortress erected by William the Lion, to repress, says Lord Hailes in his Annals of Scotland, the oft-recurring rebellions and disorders of Ross-shire. We can still trace the moat of the citadel, and part of an outwork which rises towards the hill; but the walls have sunk into low grassy mounds, and the line of the outer moat has long since been effaced by the plough. The disorders of Ross-shire seem to have outlived, by many ages, the fortress raised to suppress them. I need hardly advert to a story so well known as that of the robber of this province who nailed horse-shoes to the feet of the poor widow who had threatened him with the vengeance of James I., and who, with twelve of his followers, was brought to Edinburgh by that monarch, to be horse-shoed in turn. Even so late as the reign of James VI. the clans of Ross are classed among the peculiarly obnoxious, in an Act for the punishment of theft, grief, and oppression.

Between the times of Macbeth and an age comparatively recent, there occurs a wide chasm in the history of Cromarty. The Thane, magnified by the atmosphere of poetry which surrounds him, towers like a giant over the remoter brink of the gap, while, in apparent opposition to every law of perspective, the people on its nearer edge seem diminished into pigmies. And yet the Urquharts of Cromarty—though Sir Thomas, in his zeal for their honour, has dealt by them as the poets of ancient Greece did by the early history of their country—were a race of ancient standing and of no little consideration. The editor of the second edition of Sir Thomas’s Jewel, which was not published until the first had been more than a hundred years out of print, states in his advertisement that he had compared the genealogy of his author with another genealogy of the family in possession of the Lord Lyon of Scotland, and that from the reign of Alexander II. to that of Charles I. he had found them perfectly to agree. The lands of the family extended from the furthest point of the southern Sutor to the hill of Kiribeakie (i.e. end of the living), a tract which includes the parishes of Cromarty, Kirkmichael, and Cullicuden; and, prior to the imprisonment and exile of Sir Thomas, he was vested with the patronage of the churches of these parishes, and the admiralty of the eastern coast of Scotland, from Caithness to Inverness.

The first of his ancestors, whose story receives some shadow of confirmation from tradition, was a contemporary of Wallace and the Bruce. When ejected from his castle, he is said to have regained it from the English by a stratagem, and to have held it out with only forty men for about seven years. “During that time,” says Sir Thomas, “his lands were wasted and his woods burnt; and having nothing he could properly call his own but the moat-hill of Cromarty, which he maintained in defiance of all the efforts of the enemy, he was agnamed Gulielmm de monte alto. At length,” continues the genealogist, “he was relieved by Sir William Wallace, who raised the siege after defeating the English in a little den or hollow about two miles from the town.” Tradition, though silent respecting the siege, is more explicit than Sir Thomas in her details of the battle.

Somewhat more than four miles to the south of Cromarty, and about the middle of the mountainous ridge which, stretching from the Sutors to the village of Rosemarkie, overhangs at the one edge the shores of the Moray Firth, and sinks on the other into a broken moor, there is a little wooded eminence. Like the ridge which it overtops, it sweeps gradually towards the east until it terminates in an abrupt precipice that overhangs the sea, and slopes upon the west into a marshy hollow, known to the elderly people of the last age and a very few of the present as Wallace-slack—i.e., ravine. The direct line of communication with the southern districts, to travellers who cross the Firth at the narrow strait of Ardersier, passes within a few yards of the hollow. And when, some time during the wars of Edward, a strong body of English troops were marching by this route to join another strong body encamped in the peninsula of Easter Ross, this circumstance is said to have pointed it out to Wallace as a fit place for forming an ambuscade. From the eminence which overtops it, the spectator can look down on a wide tract of country, while the ravine itself is concealed by a flat tubercle of the moor, which to the traveller approaching from the south or west, seems the base of the eminence. The stratagem succeeded; the English, surprised and panic-struck, were defeated with much slaughter, six hundred being left dead in the scene of the attack; and the survivors, closely pursued and wholly unacquainted with the country, fled towards the north along the ridge of hill which terminates at the bay of Cromarty. From the top of the ridge the two Sutors seem piled the one over the other, and so shut up the opening, that the bay within assumes the appearance of a lake; and the English deeming it such, pressed onward, in the hope that a continued tract of land stretched between them and their countrymen on the opposite shore. They were only undeceived when, on climbing the southern Sutor, where it rises behind the town, they saw an arm of the sea more than a mile in width, and skirted by abrupt and dizzy precipices, opening before them. The spot is still pointed out where they made their final stand; and a few shapeless hillocks, that may still be seen among the trees, are said to have been raised above the bodies of those who fell; while the fugitives, for they were soon beaten from this position, were either driven over the neighbouring precipices, or perished amid the waves of the Firth. Wallace, on another occasion, is said to have fled for refuge to a cave of the Sutors; and his metrical historian, Blind Harry, after narrating his exploits at St. Johnstone’s, Dunotter, and Aberdeen, describes him as

“Raiping throw the Northland into playne,
Till at Crummade feil Inglisuion he’d slayne."

Hamilton, in his modernized edition of the “Achievements,” renders the Crummade here Cromarty; and as shown by an ancient custom-house seal or cocket (supposed to belong to the reign of Robert II.), now in the Inverness Museum, the place was certainly designated of old by a word of resembling sound— Chrombhte.

Of all the humbler poets of Scotland—and where is there a country with more?—there is hardly one who has not sung in praise of Wallace. His exploit, as recorded in the Jewel, connected with the tradition of the cave, has been narrated by the muse of a provincial poet, who published a volume of poems at Inverness about five years ago; and, in the lack of less questionable materials for this part of my history, I avail myself of his poem.

Thus ran the tale :—proud England’s host
Lay ’trench’d on Croma’s winding coast,
And rose the Urquhart’s towers beneath
Fierce shouts of wars, deep groans of death.
The Wallace hoard;—from Moray’s shore
One little bark his warriors bore.
But died the breeze, and rose the day,
Ere gained that bark the destined bay;
When, lo! these rocks a quay supplied,
These yawning caves meet shades to hide.
Secure, where rank the nightshade grew,
And patter’d thick th’ unwholesome dew,
Patient of cold and gloom they lay,
Till eve’s last light had died away.
It died away ;—in Croma’s hall
No flame glanced on the trophied wall,
Nor sound of mirth nor revel free
Was heard where joy had wont to be.
With day had ceased the siege’s din,
But still gaunt famine raged within.
In chamber lone, on weary bed,
That castle’s wounded lord was laid;
His woe-worn lady watch'd beside.
To pain devote, and grief, and gloom,
No taper cheer’d the darksome room;
Yet to the wounded chieftain’s sight
Strange shapes were there, and sheets of light
And oft he spoke, in jargon vain,
Of ruthless deed and tyrant reign,
For maddening fever fired his brain
O hark! the warder’s rousing call—
“Rise, warriors, rise, and man the wall! ’
Starts up tho chief, but rack’d with pain,
And weak, he backward sinks again:
“O Heaven, they come! ” the lady cries,
“The Southrons come, and Urquhart dies!”
Nay, ’tis not fever mocks his sight;
His brolder’d couch is red with light;
In light his lady stands confest,
Her hand clasp’d on her heaving breast.
And hark; wild shouts assail the ear,
Loud and more loud, near and more near
They rise!—hark, frequent rings the blade,
On crested helm relentless laid;
Yells, groans, sharp sounds of smitten mail,
And war-cries load the midnight gale ;
0 hark ! like Heaven's own thunder high,
Swells o’er the rest one ceaseless cry,
Racking the dull cold ear of night,
“The Wallace wight!—the Wallace wight!"
Yes, gleams the sword of Wallace there,
Unused his country’s foes to spare;
Roars the red camp like funeral pyre,
One wild, wide, wasteful sea of fire;
Glow red the low-brow’d clouds of night,
The wooded hill is bathed in light,
Gleams wave, and field, and turret height
Death’s vassals dog the spoiler’s horde,
Burns in their front th’ unsparing sword;
The fired camp casts its volumes o’er;
Behind spreads wide a skiffless shore;
Fire, flood, and sword, conspire to slay.
How sad shall rest morn’s early ray
On blacken’d strand, and crimson’d main,
On floods of gore, and hills of slain;
But bright its cheering beams shall fall
Where mirth whoops in the Urquharts’ Hall.

* * *

There occurs in our narrative another wide chasm, which extends from the times of Wallace to the reign of James IV. Like the earlier gap, however, it might be filled up by a recital of events, which, though they belong properly to the history of the neighbouring districts, must have affected in no slight degree the interests and passions of the people of Cromarty. Among these we may reckon the descents on Ross by the Lords of the’ Isles, which terminated in the battles of Harlaw and Driemder-fat, and that contest between the Macintoshes and Munros, which took place in the same century at the village of Clachnaherry. I might avail myself, too, on a similar principle, of the pilgrimage of James IV. to the neighbouring chapel of St. Dothus, near Tain. But as all these events have, like the story of Macbeth, been appropriated by the historians of the kingdom, they are already familiar to the general reader. In an after age, Cromarty, like Tain, was honoured by a visit from royalty. I find it stated by Calderwood, that in the year 1589, on the discovery of Huntly’s conspiracy, and the discomfiture of his followers at the Bridge of Dee, James VI. rode to Aberdeen, ostensibly with the intention of holding justice-courts on the delinquents; but that, deputing the business of trial to certain judges whom he instructed to act with a lenity which the historian condemns, he set out on a hunting expedition to Cromarty, from which he returned after an absence of about twenty days.

We find not a great deal less of the savage in the records of these later times than in those of the darker periods which went before. Life and property seem to have been hardly more secure, especially in those hapless districts which, bordering on the Highlands, may be regarded as constituting the battle-fields on which needy barbarism, and the imperfectly-formed vanguard of a slowly advancing civilisation, contended for the mastery. Early in the reign of James IV. the lands of Cromarty were wasted by a combination of the neighbouring clans, headed by Hucheon Rose of Kilravock, Macintosh of Macintosh, and Fraser of Lovat; and so complete was the spoliation, that the entire property of the inhabitants, to their very household furniture, was carried away. Restitution was afterwards enforced by the Lords of Council. We find it decreed in the Acta Domi-norum Concilii for 1492, that Hucheon Rose of Kilravock do restore, content, and pay to Mr. Alexander Urquhart, sheriff of Cromarty, and his tenants, the various items carried off by him and his accomplices ; viz., six hundred cows, one hundred horses, one thousand sheep, four hundred goats, two hundred swine, and four hundred bolls of victual. Kilravock is said to have conciliated the justice-general on this occasion by resigning into his hands his grand-daughter, the heiress of Calder, then a child; and her lands the wily magistrate secured to his family by marrying her to one of his sons.

There lived in the succeeding reign a proprietor of Cromarty, who, from the number of his children, received, says the genealogist, the title, or agname, of Paterhemon. He had twenty-five sons who arrived at manhood, and eleven daughters who ripened into women, and were married. Seven of the sons lost their lives at the battle of Pinkie; and there were some of the survivors who, settling in England, became the founders of families which, in the days of the Commonwealth, were possessed of considerable property and influence in Devonshire and Cumberland. Tradition tells the story of Paterhemon somewhat differently. His children, whom it diminishes to twenty, are described as robust and very handsome men j and he is said to have lived in the reign of Mary. On the visit of that princess to Inverness, and when, according to Buchanan, the Frasers and Munros, two of the most warlike clans of the country, were raised by their respective chieftains to defend her against the designs of Huntly, the Urquhart is said also to have marched to her assistance with a strong body of his vassals, and accompanied by all his sons, mounted on white horses. At the moment of his arrival Mary was engaged in reviewing the clans, and surrounded by the chiefs and her officers. The venerable chieftain rode up to her, and, dismounting with all the ease of a galliard of five-and-twenty, presented to her, as his best gift, his little troup of children. There is yet a third edition of the story:—About the year 1652, one Richard Franck, a native of the sister kingdom, and as devoted an angler as Isaac Walton himself, made the tour of Scotland, and then published a book descriptive of what he had seen. His notice of Cromarty is mostly summed up in a curious little anecdote of the patriarch, which he probably derived from some tradition current at the time of his visit. Sir Thomas he describes as his eldest son ; and the number of his children who arrived at maturity he has increased to forty. “He had thirty sons and ten daughters,” says the tourist, “standing at once before him, and not one natural child amongst them.” Having attained the extreme verge of human life, he began to consider himself as already dead ; and in the exercise of an imagination, which the genealogist seems to have inherited with his lands, he derived comfort from the daily repetition of a kind of ceremony, ingenious enough to challenge comparison with any rite of the Romish Church. For every evening about sunset, being brought out in his couch to the base of a tower of the castle, he was raised by pulleys, slowly and gently, to the battlements; and the ascent he deemed emblematical of the resurrection. Or to employ the graphic language of the tourist—“ The declining age of this venerable laird of Urquhart, for he had now reached the utmost limit of life, invited him to contemplate mortality, and to cruciate himself by fancying his cradle his sepulchre; therein, therefore, was he lodged night after night, and hauled up by pulleys to the roof of his house, approaching, as near as the summits of its higher pinnacles would let him, to the beautiful battlements and suburbs of heaven.”

I find I must devote one other chapter to the consideration of the interesting remains which form almost the sole materials of this earlier portion of my history. But the class of these to which I am now about to turn, are to be found, not on the face of the country, but locked up in the minds of the inhabitants. And they are falling much more rapidly into decay—mouldering away in their hidden recesses, like bodies of the dead; while others, which more resemble the green mound and the monumental tablet, bid fair to abide the inquiry of coming generations. Those vestiges of ancient superstition, which are to be traced in the customs and manners of the common people, share in a polite age a very different fate from those impressions of it, if I may so express myself, which we find stamped upon matter. For when the just and liberal opinions which originate with philosophers and men of genius- are diffused over a whole people, a modification of the same good sense which leads the scholar to treasure up old beliefs and usages, serves to emancipate the peasant from their influence or observance.


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