Loch Etive and The Sons of Uisnach
Chapter IV - Loch
"Few here the smooth and
These made by nature in her dreams,
Still bear the marks of sudden shocks,
And deeply cutting ice-bound streams."
are at Connel, but there are no falls.
the tide is high and the water is smooth. Connel falls are strange:
sometimes the water falls this way, and sometimes that; sometimes
the water here is smooth as at present, sometimes it is a roaring
fall of several feet, with a swirling rapid of several hundred
yards, and people half a mile off are wakened in the night by the
noise. At the south side there is a deep place where vessels can
pass at high water.
the reason; there is a bank of rocks nearly across the narrow part
of the loch, and the tide makes the fall as it flows out and in.
often pass smoothly. Many a time have I crossed the loch both above
and below with anxiety. The rocks at this gorge narrow the loch so
much that here it is only about 150 yards broad, although it is too,
or nearly a mile, up at Kilmaronaig, and as it is 22 miles long,
there is a great deal of water to pass so frequently. The passage
bet«een these rounded rocks has probably been made when the
sea-beach was lower. The heights correspond.
a fine rock cod have I caught beside these shores, and they made
many a good breakfast in Lochanabeich. Let us go up the bank. This
old sea-beach has been made into rabbit warrens where it is steep,
and into cornfields where the slope is gradual. The whole of the
plain here is composed of debris, chiefly rolled boulders, not very
large, and it seems to have been flattened like a sea-bottom. It is
now nearly all covered with moss, and it lies almost a waste, with a
few cottages at its skirts. These cottages have only lately been
built along the road; they were put up by General Campbell of
Lochnell some forty years ago or so, that he might always have
people to help him with his carriage across the ferry at Connel
below the falls. Now so many people come with cattle and carts that
men are always kept ready; but the cottages are pleasant companions
of the district, and contain cheerful faces to meet us on the road.
This heath is wild. Professor Daniel Wilson in his Prehistoric
Annals of Scotland calls it "The Black Moss." It is no blacker than
others, but uncomely places have often more abundant honour, and
some have called this the heath of Lora, and Connel the falls of
Lora. I who agree to this may explain to you that Lora means a noisy
stream, and I may remind you of that beautiful beginning of Cath
Lodin (or Loda), generally put the first of Ossian's poems-
"Oh! thou traveller
unseen, thou bender of the thistle of Lora."
That is the
travelling breeze, the light wind that shows itself to exist only by
the result of its efforts. The very breeze is made into a mysterious
agent, and takes its place among the spirits of the hill. And there
before you is the thistle of Lora, gracefully bending before the
all, the moving air, or wind, gave the original idea of spirit, gas,
and even ghost.
be sure, it is only one of the unseen things, and the grossest are
most frequently alluded to, and are assumed to be the fundamental.
that may be, there has been an unseen agency here at work, putting
that strange little lake in this beach of boulders. By what power
was it made so steep? I have tried to find a cause, but have heard
of only one efficient. Some suppose it to have been the lower part
of a whirlpool, where a great motion whirled out the boulders, but
the water would require to be deeper than it seems to have been here
at the time when the former beach was used. Others have supposed a
glacier to have lain here, and prevented the water from filling the
space with boulders or gravel as you see it.
is a hollow at Achnaba quite round, and one of the shape of a cow,
i.e. such as it makes in lying down. I can give you the notion among
the people, i.e. the fairy tale. It is that the cow belonged to
Cailleach Bheir, and the round form was the cheese mould which she
used. A great cow that was, certainly, more than an acre in size,
and the cheese mould is very deep, with trees at the bottom scarcely
reaching the top.
cow were so large, how large was the person who kept it?
Bheir means simply, old woman called Bera, or Here. The Gaelic
aspirates its words, as Heir into Bheir, and has an inconvenient way
of making cases.
Cailleach may mean
also witch. You must learn a few Gaelic words. They say that Bera
could walk over the loch in two or three steps; it is a very narrow
part which is only a quarter of a mile wide, and you know it is very
You need not dispute
about the size, you may go and measure her head, which is turned
into stone on the top of the rugged rocks that form the
south-westerly side of the Awe. There she is, looking quite like an
old woman, some think. Great ideas come down for children to play
with. Beither or Heir is put down as lightning or as thunder with
which great rains come, a spirit of lightning or storms residing on
the hills. The old lady had charge of a fountain on Ben Cruachan, on
which at the going down of the sun she was obliged to put the lid;
but she was tired one day feeding the flocks and fell asleep, so
that when she wakened, the fountain had overflowed and covered the
plain, drowning man and beast. The place is now covered by Loch Awe,
and the old woman was turned to stone. The name haunts the tops of
hills, the region of storms. The ancient works of nature have been
made into toys: in this case we have the personification Bera, the
daughter of Griannan, which may be a sunny hill from which streams
come and on which lightning often plays. I do not know that she was
always old, but Cailleach means also a woman of olden times; she
must have been active, feeding her sheep on such a mighty scale.
When that great flood came it broke through the rocks and made the
pass of Awe, and it is believed that at one time the Awe emptied
itself to the south, so that it would escape at Crinan. It is
something of a geological myth, a broken-down theory, perhaps, of
name is found also on the hills between Strathlachlan and Glendaruel,
[Colonel Forbes Leslie's Early Races of Scotland, p. 142.] and Bera
is said also to have made Loch Eck in Cowal above Holy Loch. Colonel
Leslie draws attention to the connection of the word Bera (or, as
aspirated, Vera) with the Hindu Vrita. "Indra strikes the earth,
shaking Vrita with his rain-causing hundred-spiked Vagra
thunderbolt." Certainly both Vrita and Vagra could run into a Gaelic
Beir or Veir easily, and the resemblance of the qualities of the
Hindu and the old Celtic goddess is interesting. Beir also appears
You can scarcely
wonder at the people here attending to mountains, and I wonder
rather that we have not more stories. Look now at Cruachan Ben; five
minutes ago its summit was clear, now there is a streamer from it
and it is actually stretching out before our eyes. It moves onwards;
I should think, judging from the land over which it lies, that it
must at least be a mile long: it has been formed in ten minutes, and
It has ceased. This
is interesting ; I have never seen one form so rapidly. Now it is
actually diminishing, and now after ten minutes more the hill is
clear again. No wonder with these sudden changes, Bheir, Vear or
Bera, was taken unawares, and the terrible rush of waters followed,
and prevented her ever after using her shepherd's crook on the sides
of the Cruachan. However, the petrifying is only one part of the
tale. She lived as a power long after, and of course such a power
why did that cloud form?
is explainable by a little change of wind bringing a current of very
moist air from the sea and cooling it on the peak. We also bring in
invisible agents for our theories, but ours are impersonal. I have
seen a streamer from a rock floating for ten miles, so far as I
could judge, and growing into a mighty cloud, looking at a distance
like a great roof supported by pillars of the height of 1,200 feet.
But cold is not the
only cause of rain ; the vapour comes from the sea chiefly to this
place, and the reason of its deposit is not always clear. However,
it deposits most where there are mountains. You see that strikingly
if you look at a rain-map. Forests also do their part.
we must really move. I should like to have a boat, and fish on this
little loch—Lochanabeick, the loch of birches.
would not like it long; the fish are coarse. O'Keefe.—But I would
fish it out, and finer would perhaps grow; they live too long here
shall walk onwards, and I will introduce you to your first specimen
here of prehistoric antiquity. I do not use the word exactly,
because, after all, Dunstaffnage may be older than that which we are
going to ; but Dunstaffnage belongs to a historic age, and this
cairn belongs to a class that is chiefly prehistoric, although I
dare say it may have been formed in later times.
very difficult to walk over the heather.
but we don't go far. You see that gray pile of stones standing
solitary in the moss: it is the carzz a' Blearan (the cairn of the
Baron). It is a melancholy object and takes away from the bright
natural scenery, but it is a powerful proof to us that men who
revered others have lived here. You will observe that it is built on
the solid ground, and the peat has grown above the foundation and
nearly to the summit of the cairn.
you not think that the stones have caused good drainage here, and
destroyed the life of the mosses, so that they decayed and have been
is a certain distance, however, between the cairn and the peat all
around, and it looks much as if a place had been dug out of the peat
in order to make the cairn. They would never put such a heavy mass
on a soft peat.
if they had dug, they must have heaped the matter up somewhere, and
I do not see it.
Cameron.—This loose matter might have been levelled down in time by
the abundance of rain, as the quantity is not very great, and the
peat is not above three feet deep here.
But in any case I
will show you a new proof that peat was here during the baron's
lifetime, if there was a baron, which we may first consider. I
cannot tell whether he is a true tradition or a fancy. The name is
not common, and I am disposed to look upon it as correct. I see no
use in decrying what is probable enough, so I will suppose that the
baron died about here—perhaps was killed and buried in an unusual
place, or we may suppose that this is a simple cenotaph—a small
memorial of a respected man or memorable event. Barons are not
ancient Celtic chiefs, and I suppose him to have been the bailie of
some baron of northern origin; and here he lived or held his court,
or tried to do so. Let us look at the court. We need not go far. It
is a circular enclosure made by a peat mound or wall, and a ditch
outside. It was the custom to dispense law if not justice in
circular places among the Norsemen, and Tynwalds are in abundance in
that people's land. We have no proof that there was a dwelling here,
but there may have been. In Dr. Wilson's Prehistoric Scotland we are
told of an ancient hearth where food was cooked on the ground, and
over which six feet of peat have now grown on this very heath. Such
may have been old Celtic or pre-Celtic for all I know, but could
have no reference to our baron, who lived, judging from the size of
the mound and the ditch, at the time when the peat existed, if not
so deep as at present. I do not know of many such rings as these in
the country, but there is another, a little one, over at the farm of
Ledaig, and not far to the north of the house ; we shall see it when
going to Keills from Connel ferry, about half-way onwards.
circle here is large, and it reminds me of a "rath," of which there
are thousands in Ireland. They call them the residences of chiefs,
but I think they often corresponded to good farm-houses, having room
enough for a garden and yard for cattle. This spot is said never to
have changed in the memory of man, but we see that the road from the
loch, or at least the ground to the loch, is rather bare of peat,
and may have in part been good pasture land not many generations
ago. Indeed I am told of a family having lived on it not forty years
ago in a small cottage, and I see clearly that the moss differs very
much in thickness. I am used to bogs, and think this not an
important or great one, and it need not be very old.
may be so, but I am glad you have seen this circle, as I have not
seen this or any of the kind mentioned in the Statistical Account or
elsewhere; and as to the Norse having been here, they were not in
great force. Somerled was more Norse than Celtic in birth, but
scarcely in acts.
Now let us lunch. Sit
on the grass in the court of the baron, and refresh yourselves. The
men have brought good food from Oban; and see there is milk from
Lochanabeich. Milk! I ought to say cream. In your great towns you
have water in the milk; here we have the other extreme—it is cream
to begin with.
what is a cairn?
cairn, or Gaelic carat, is a heap of stones; it is applied even to a
stony hill, but it is chiefly used for a burial-place, upon which
stones were thrown in great numbers. The honour intended to the
deceased did not show itself by fine art but by magnitude.
it is interesting to see how art grew. We find some cairns with a
row of standing stones about them, others with two rows, some with a
deep trench besides. Then we find some with the bones unprotected,
others with a stone box made of small boulders; a better art rises
to use long stones forming the sides, bottom, and top. Gradually we
rise until these become of gigantic dimensions, and the internal
space is not merely the size of a body but a chamber; then two or
more chambers are united. All these conditions you will see more or
less developed on this heath, and I hope you will enjoy this
introduction to the times of old.
have given a very short history of cairns. You might have told us
more, and spoken of such chambers being luxuriously decorated, of
the dead laid on splendid sofas, with costly clothing and golden
decorations, and of their attendants around them scarcely less
magnificently attired. But for these you must go to Tuscany and
here, and especially in Ireland, gold in abundance is found, or has
been found, in the ancient Celtic tombs.
and we read of Charlemagne's tomb being opened at Aachen, and the
old king found sitting on his throne as if preserving all his glory.
That was a true burial of prehistoric ages, urging itself into
Christian times. It is not easy to decide on dates from style alone,
but it is a powerful aid, because in old times people knew less of
foreign habits, and styles were not so mixed as now.
this is really a land of myths and cairns and spirits, and this wild
heath produces only the results of their movements, there must be
many ghost stories here. Tell us some.
think we have had very little else, or at least stories with little
reality in them.
I can tell you one. You have often heard of people who have lived
with the fairies. Look over at that white house under the hill ; in
that house lives a woman whose uncle or grand-uncle, I cannot say
which, was for a time among the green people. You see the rocks so
precipitous on the side towards Ledaig and behind the house. It was
a pleasant day when the man .vent out to his work, which was near
the rock, and he perhaps went beyond it farther than needful,
looking for nuts, when he saw an opening in the rock quite near to
him. Ike went in and was welcomed by the little folks, who amused
him exceedingly. He had a few dances, stayed a few hours, but when
he came out the people were all twenty years older and scarcely knew
him ; he was very much inclined to go back, and did try, but neither
he nor any one else has found the door again. I daresay you never
before saw the spot where such a thin- happened, although you may
have heard such a story. Walk over the moor to the rocks straight
opposite Lochanabeich, and you will come to the place of the
occurrence, as the tale was told.
that is a kind of enchanted hill. The heath is enchanted, and the
only visible remains of the greatness that went before us are wild
and mysterious. But who knew the man? Did you?
did not know him; but I knew some one who knew the one who knew him;
at least she said so.
tell us something quite new, and something seen by people whom you
course I can tell you about the Brunie of Dunstaffnage, or of a farm
near it which struck a man in the face in the dark, one evening, for
speaking evil of it. And, indeed, I think it did right, because
Brunies hurt no one, but do all the work of the house in the night,
and happy is the house that has one. They require, too, but small
wages, little food, and no accommodation. What do you think of the
origin of such a tale?
think it is clear. It is in the soul of man, who seeks to be
relieved of his great troubles, and paints to himself days without
sorrow and creatures that can labour without pain. There are many
who require Brunies to work for them, and who would then be
comparatively happy, although unfortunately there are others who
earn wages too readily, and are degraded by want of absorbing
you have not told us enough. Do you know any one here who ever saw
any of these sights?
yes; I know a farmer, whose house I can show you some day; it is not
far off. He was coming home very late; it was dark, and he had far
to go; and some one came by his side and walked all the way with him
from Connel ferry. It was not a human being, and would not speak,
but whatever it was it left him at his own gate very sore afraid.
Now, you want to know what this was; I cannot tell you, but I may
tell you that the man had been at the market.
this is not ghostly enough; you do not tell us what the follower
I can tell you another. It was told me by a very great man, and the
house was over the loch there. A man had gone into a barn, and in it
he saw an immense number of deadly serpents. He was quite persuaded
that if he let any out, the whole population would be destroyed, and
he made a great noise. His friends outside wanted him to open the
door, but he would not, because he said they would all be killed;
better for him alone to be killed. He, you see, was a brave and
unselfish man; and he was saved, but I could not tell how.
is also an unsatisfactory story, and I do not like it.
of the stories are, but I cannot explain them so easily as that. I
believe that last man had also been at the fair.
the people very drunken then?
do not think so. Most of the people keep no spirits in their house,
and taste none except when they go to the market, and then sometimes
they rejoice too much with their friends. They do not drink above a
very small portion of the amount drunk by many sober men in our
towns, i.e., men who never were drunk, and would be horrified at the
imputation. They do not even drink so much alcohol as some ladies do
who will tell you that they only take a little at dinner, but do so
daily. Would you like to see some of the people?
we may walk to the cottages.
is often called Connel moss; it is also called Ledaig moss, because
that farm is Ledaig; but many names for one spot are confusing. The
people here are uncertain on that point, but not so uncertain as in
a town, where I have known people call the stream passing through
the centre, the river and the old river, and knew no other name, as
if one should call his father the man.
And now, here is the
first cottage quite near ; it is higher than the others. The builder
has evidently made an advance, and he has put slates on it, leaving
the old ways. I can tell you something interesting about that.
The owner of that
house built it himself, not only with his own money, but his own
hands. I saw him one summer after his usual daily work bringing
these big stones, and putting them on in the way you see them. He
was no mason, but he had sense. I saw him next summer, and lie was
doing the same. I think on the third summer he had got beams from
the landlord for a roof, and now he has a pleasant house and a
garden, and a field of oats with one of potatoes; and I daresay he
looks on it with pride, and looks out on the loch with pleasure, and
over the loch to the moorland, where he sees Dee Choimhead, which
will always remind hire to ask a blessing on his labours while it
stands there, as it is continually saying "God bless according to
are appearing, and here is the telegraphic cable emerging from the
loch. We may ask one of the owners of the croft a few questions.
I will introduce you. But this house is too dirty for any one to
enter; let us call the owner out. How are you, Mr. B.?
Mr. B.—And how
are you, yourself? It is long since I did not see you. I am afraid
you would scarcely like my house, so I need not ask you to come in.
believe you are getting a new one.
this is old, but I do not object to our style of house—the old
Highland one; it is very suitable to us, and we are only glad when
we are allowed to stay.
no one wishes to turn you out.
Mr. B.—No; but
many a good man has been turned from home to my knowing, and now
good men are wanted back. Who cares for the land like him who has
grown out of it?
you old Highlanders never made much of it.
Mr. B.—We kept
more people on it than your system does, and the men loved their
country more, and had more character in old times. But I am not
complaining. I have been favoured, and my house is perhaps better
than my father's was. I think after all we were too idle in old
times, but now we have too little vitality—at least, there is no
excess, we spend it all in work, and I doubt if in old times we did
not live better when we spent more in pure rejoicing as the fools
are hard questions.
Mr. B.—I know
they are hard, but if you had seen the glen I came from in early
days, with a score or more houses and good strong men and fine
hearty honest women in them, you would be sad enough if you went up
that glen now, and, excepting the big farmhouse and one or two
shepherds' houses belonging to it, saw only one cottage and an old
woman in it nearly ninety years old—the only one of all that grand
company. The houses are small and there is not much in them; but, do
you think that the men in great houses are really better? I think
they see more and know more, but they don't enjoy what they have. My
son's children came to see me from Glasgow, and they are very sharp
lads, but they think a great deal of themselves, and they are always
wanting something. Still, they know more and can do more—that is
true—than we who have always stayed in our glens, and if the world
needs such people it must educate them so. It may be good for the
country, but these poor lads are not happier than I was, although as
poor as a bee among the heather.
not easy to contradict you, and you have given us all something to
consider. Good bye!
Now you have seen a
cottar. He is not learned, he is not read, but he is a gentleman in
the sense of refinement of feeling and manner, and if he behaved
thus in any society in the kingdom he would be accepted, supposing
he had wealth or anything external to give him a position. There you
have the true Gael.
true that you have here the character of the Gael? Have we not
accounts of the Highlander as very savage in old times, and even
from late times as told of by Sir Walter Scott, do we not see traits
of their ferocity?
about the character of the Gael found in history can be contradicted
by history. The "wild Irish" is a common expression, the ferocity of
Highlanders is not unknown, and it has been an opinion that the
courtliness which we now see must have come from the Norse—but this
is not clear. We have the same courtliness brought out with richer
surroundings, and with careful development, in France, it is true,
where there is (in the North especially), both Celt and Norman; but
we have it not in Germany, scarcely in Scandinavia, so far as I
know. Old poems certainly give it to the Gael of Ireland and
Scotland in great fullness. Nothing can prove this more than the
account of Finn, in the book of the Dean of Lismore, but you may say
that the MS. is only three hundred and fifty years old, when the
songs were caught dying out. Still we must consider that the poem
was old then.
"Poet and chief,
Braver than kings,—
Despised a lie,
Of vigorous deeds,
First in song,
A righteous judge,
Polished his mien,
Who knew but victory,
All men's trust,
Of noble mind,
Of ready deeds,
To women mild,—
Good man was Finn,
Good man was he;
No gifts ever given
Like his so free."
There is more worth
reading. I do not know that any man so refined lived in the days of
Finn, but this is at least a very early Celtic idea agreeing with
others still earlier.
the other hand, are not the Celtic annals dreadful records of blood.
I do not say that the two cannot be reconciled. War and killing were
the enjoyment of the most refined knights of romance, and I suppose
this was the idea of those who lived in reality.
we shall walk to the boat, and row up the loch. There we come to
another smaller set of rapids and rocks. Some people call that
have tried hard to make the glaciers move which made both this and
the chief Connel, but cannot without gigantic sizes ; down there we
may see the rooks smoothed as the ice crushed its way through, and
the whole plain is probably covered by the remnants of a moraine
smoothed down by the sea. I think we must alter the levels, this we
present is better than that age of ice. Here the water swells into
an inland sea, and the trees cover the banks and crown that hill
above AchnacIoich, on the south side opposite to us.
heard some one call that Stonefield.
in favour of Achnacloich. It is unsafe to translate proper names. I
remember a German asking me about Neuschloss. I had no idea where
such a place in England was, but he said we called it Newcastle.
Suppose we were to call Greenock the Sunny place, who would know it?
And who would be at the trouble of thinking where Little Bay or
White Bay was, if we used these terms instead of Oban? Achnacloich
means the field of stones.
a little church, but it is very ugly for such a beautiful place.
as ugly as they could make it; but at a little distance you see a
house among the trees farther up the loch; there the minister lives
at a beautiful spot, and near it are the ruins of the old priory;
the visible outside parts are very small, and ruthless hands have
made a private residence on the site, with a few old walls and the
buttery built into it.
a ruthless hand that has made a peaceful home out of such a spot,
and converted to abundant use and happiness those blessings prepared
by the ancient saints of the place? Holy walls, fine trees, lovely
views, a fine old garden—nothing but fine taste can have admired and
loved such things. Still, could they not have built their house
except out of the walls of the old priory?
be too severe on the moderns; have they not built that simple church
which you notice there at Achnaba, much nearer to the centre of the
population than the old priory was? Besides, they have built others
at Nuckairn and Taynuilt opposite, and modern people like to save
is very well to say so, but there is no church now at Keills or
Ledaig, and there was one formerly, so that both ends of the plain
there is one now at Barcaldine over the hill, and there used not to
be one ; and, besides this, there is one quite recently built at the
these are of the Free Kirk. It shows that some kirk was needed, and
the reason for removing the Ardchattan one is shown to be a desire
to be more central. It was not seen that the day for such long walks
was disappearing, and that one church would not be found sufficient.
Let us row on; we
cannot land, because if we go up the little Sruth Mona or mountain
stream at Achnaba we shall see cromlechs that will take too much
time, and if we go into the woods we shall see stone circles that
may enchant you too long; and if we go up the hill at Ardchattan we
may be too long detained by the old church of St. Modan, where once
perhaps there was a town, and so we shall move on and try no more
than to have a blink up the inner part of Loch Etive. People think
they have seen the loch when they have come here. I never yet nit
one who had seen the cromlechs and circles, and I have only met two
tourists who had seen the loch. Loch Etive is not seen from the top
of a coach, or the deck of a boat, or even from the top of a hill.
can you see it then?
can you see Scotland? It is a study, and not a photographic flash,
that can show it. One vision cannot fill the soul. We seek sight
after sight, and prefer to know that there is still more than we can
see. That view always seems small in which the known is not bounded
by the unknown. We might give one hard pull to Ardchattan and see
the priory, and the rowers can have a rest for a little.
There is not much
remaining, as you see, but it is picturesque, and the monumental
effigies give it a dignified character. One has an inscription
showing that the figure represents the abbot Somerled Macdougal,
year 1500 (Funallus Somherle MacDougallus prior de Ardchattan,
MCCCCC), to quote the Statistical Account. Another inscription shows
that it was the family burying place, and that two sons were
HIC JACENT NATI
SOMERLEDI MACDOUGALL DUNCANUS ET DUGALLUS, IIUJUS MONASTERII
SUCCESSIVE PRIORES UNACUM EORUNDEM PATRE, AIATRE, ET FRATRE ALANO,
QUODAM DUGALLUS HUJUS MONUMENTI FABRICATOR OBIIT ANNO MCCCCCII.
probably the one called Runic, has not been decisively read. It
seems to be imperfect Roman writing, the letters badly formed
originally, but rendered still more difficult to read by the effect
course you know that the Macdougalls descend from Somerled, and that
this priory was built in the twelfth century.
that the reason that this family always opposed Bruce, and never
could be reconciled to the idea of the western sovereignty being
lost ? Well, people suffer much when they cannot see the signs of
yet it is said that Bruce held a parliament here, and that Gaelic
was spoken in it.
a parliament the idea is too large. He met here and had some of his
friends with him, and I do not doubt that there was a careful
consultation. Most people in his day spoke Gaelic in Scotland, and I
dare say Bruce could speak it. It was spoken in Galloway, which is
near to Bruce's place, Carrick, and it was spoken in the west and
isles, where he wandered, and certainly it was spoken at Roseneath,
and I suppose also at Cardross, opposite Greenock, where he kept his
yachts! and where he died. I do not know in how many places he
lived, but he was for a time in all these. I think he may have taken
the shelter of Ardmore for sailing experiments. The ground would not
do for our modern yachts, but I dare say his boats would more
resemble our fishing craft, and would be Norwegian in shape. The old
Norway shape is still in use, and can be seen preserved in the
Orkneys, and even in the Hebrides, till this day. The water at
Cardross would probably be a little deeper then, but not much.
must keep to Loch Etive. In mustering the chiefs, Sir Walter Scott
gives many names of men who cannot be supposed to have spoken
English. One is Barcaldine, who lived just over the hill. Of course,
Barcaldine means the chief who lived at Barcaldine Castle. Farther
up there are other reminders of Bruce; but, first, we must look at
the manse, a good house. The garden would rejoice you. These monks
could choose fine spots, but choice was not all, they made them fine
as the moderns made this. Consider BarcaIdine, just spoken of, not
built by monks. The garden is a wonder where you expect only a
wilderness, and all has been done but lately. That looks to the
north too, and this to the south. Both point to good hard work.
These monks seem to have left the flavour of their wisdom and
learning, as we hear of the Rev. Colin Campbell thinking in a most
original and powerful manner, whilst minister in Ardchattan from
1667 to 1726, [See Good Words, May, 1877; an article by Professor
Fraser.] and only the other day the same manse gave a professor to
the Edinburgh University.
may now have a good pull up to Bunawe. It is a very wide part of the
loch which we now cross, and we can look at the pleasant sides, well
wooded, till we come to a romantic, broken-up little island, called
Durinnish. One can scarcely tell where it begins and ends, since it
has been united to the land. The rock above is also called Durinnish,
although, as the word means hard island, and refers originally to
the low small spot, it is scarcely correct to apply it to such a
connected mass of the mainland.
road seems quite stopt up by that great block, on which there is
scarcely a blade of grass. It is frightful, and surely it is ugly.
it be ugly, you in Glasgow are so fond of it as to cut it down, and
break it into small squares, laying all the streets with it. If it
stops our way it makes your way clearer, and don't call it ugly. I
remember a lady from the south-east of England coming up here one
day, and wishing she were away from these "dreadful hills." She was
an artist too, but she had lived too long in plains to learn the
glories of a mountain scene. It produced awe and fear, showing at
any rate power over her mind. Another artist told me that although
he dc-lighted in these mountains he could scarcely help crying at
the sight. Another name given to this is Macniven's island. They say
that after one of the struggles of Robert Bruce, when he was
wandering rather helplessly about the west, he ran down to the
Bunawe shore and called for a boat. A Macniven came and rowed him
over. A Macniven is there still, and will row you if you like, as he
has rowed me. We shall go to the south shore at Bunawe; the landing
is not very fine, and the walk is long, but we shall see the
country, which, after coming down from these wild hills, looks quite
plain. I dare say you will call it hilly; it is at least lumpy; but
a farmer's wife up the loch was asked if she ever lived in a fiat
country, and replied, "Oh yes, I lived a while at Bunawe." We do not
find it very flat for walking, and this wooden bridge is almost like
that in the Vision of Mirza.
fear people do not read that nowadays, and may not know the
allusion. I know it by chance.
certainly is something ancient; it is surely a Druidical stone set
on a rising ground, probably a cairn broken down. The pillar must be
i6 feet high.
Druidical that is a point to which Mr. Loudoun may object, but it is
really an ancient standing stone set up to mark some great event. I
believe it stood on an old cairn near and now almost forgotten, but
it was knocked down many years ago, no one knows when, and it has
now the honour of being the first monument raised in remembrance of
the battle of Trafalgar. The people had expected a great battle, and
no doubt some of the Campbells here were personally interested, so
they got a stone ready and raised it as soon as they heard the news,
which was above two days after it reached London. The stone was set
up in the evening, in the old way; no writing, no sign, but that
inanimate and illegible one. Curious that the people did not
consider that no man knew for what purpose it was first set up, and
so infer that their purpose would soon also be forgotten; but the
stone is of great value as showing the old spirit and habit
remaining to this century.
now five o'clock; we have loitered about, and we may as well loiter
a little more; we cannot pass Connel till about nine; as the days
are long it will not matter, meantime we shall eat a little at the
inn seems a busy one. This spot naturally must have long been a
convenient stopping place. It seems trifling to remain here after
looking at nature and the past, and I am glad to leave.
us walk back to the shore, and for a while wonder why there should
be iron works in this secluded place. They actually make iron here,
and have done so for 140 years nearly, some people from Lancashire
having found this a good place for charcoal, to which they brought
Ulverstone ore. That great wood through which the road passes to
Oban, great in extent but of small birches chiefly, is cut every
twenty-four years, and is soon burnt down by that greedy furnace.
But the district cannot supply all that is wanted, although the
amount of iron made is very small. Still, it pays, and the reason
for this is that it brings fourteen pounds per ton when the coal
iron near Glasgow is worth about three or four. That is the wood of
Naisi, the Coille Ndois, and it ought not to be passed over as
merely a coal cellar of some English Company, but I will tell you
more of it some day. Naisi was the eldest of the sons of Uisnach.
now let us row home; we are tired with all we have seen and heard;
it has been a long day. Yes, let us be rowed, and rest from
! are we to sit stock still for hours till we get home? If nobody
listens I will speak to myself, not being tired. Look at that large
stone down at the shore.
and what of that? it is a boulder, and there are many boulders.
stone has a remarkable name, it is Clach Alanessa. I am not sure of
the meaning; but it is very remarkable that Nessa as a name should
be found here. Concobhar or Conor MacNessa was the King of Ulster,
who caused the death of the sons of Uisnach who lived here, and of
whom we are to hear more; it is cne of the traditions of the place
did they call it after him?
suppose we may as well ask, why did they call that large stone in
the public road going out of Taynuilt to Loch Ave after Rob Roy? We
like to connect remarkable facts in nature with that which is clear
to us. It is sometimes a play of the fancy, sometimes a joke, but
often an affectionate reminiscence or a mental connecting link, with
that in which we have been interested. And thus the outside nature
and man are mixed up inextricably; people call these myths, and
imagine something mysterious in a myth. This want of clear
observation mixing up ideas of eternal nature with those about poor
short-lived man, who is so beloved that we are unwilling to let him
pass away unremembered, assists in the rise of a silly story, and
such the original of the myth often is; but history has given it
dignity, because the confused state in which it is produced is one
to which the human mind is subject, and all that is human is
interesting. Besides, it often happens that the thoughts of man rise
high above the original fact, which then becomes a mere kernel for
fine fruit, and sometimes a mere symbol of great achievements. If we
call the stone higher up Rob Roy's putting stone, we begin a myth at
once, and we make Rob Roy a giant, and he must do gigantic actions
such as nature only outside of man can perform. In an uneducated
people, after some years, this story grows longer and wilder; among
the older Celtic heroes we hear of Finn and his friends going
through the seas as monsters a mile long would be supposed to go;
this is an inferior class of the Finn stories. I am for a real human
origin to myths connected with man, remembering the pleasure we take
in giving glory to our saints and heroes, until they cease to be
recognised as mortals by the stories, even when we know their
was Nessa a myth?
think not ; my remarks came in connection with the names given to
seems to have been a very clever scheming woman as well as a beauty.
She was asked to marry Fergus, King of Ulster, and she did so on
condition that her son, who was fifteen years old, should be king
for a year so as to give him rank, and so that his children should
be able to call themselves king's sons. Fergus agreed, but meantime
she obtained very wily counsellors for her son, and he acted with
great wisdom, and with bribery also, so at the end of the year it
was decided by the people that Conor should continue. There seem
different accounts of the willingness of Fergus to resign. Dr.
Ferguson of Dublin, in his poem, the "Abdication of Fergus Mac Roy,"
[Song. of the Wester Gael.] makes Fergus admire an easy and partly
poetical life. lie admired the wisdom of the boy-king and judge,
when deciding a very tangled case, and the poem makes him speak
thus, in the court of justice, after the young king had delivered
"And I rose, and on
Standing by the judgment seat,
Took the circlet from my head,
Laid it on the bench, and said,
Men of Uladh, I resign
That which is not rightly mine
That a worthier than I
May your judge's place supply.
Conor is of royal blood;
Fair he is; I trust him good.
Wise he is we all may say,
Who have heard his words to-day.
Take him therefore in my room,
Letting me the place assume—
Office but with life to end—
Of his counsellor and friend.
So young Conor gained the crown;
So I laid the kingship down
Laying with it as I went
All I knew of discontent."
not Moen a stone in Welsh, and would not Moen Nessa be a stone set
up in honour of Nessa? Such a word was used in this sense in Gaelic.
a fair imagining. Clack and man would then show duplicates, such as
Glenburn Water. I suppose Conor lived, but there are such wonders
told of him that I can imagine people denying him life: they are
still more startled when told that he was king at the time of the
crucifixion. At any rate here you have a stone that connects us with
ancient Irish legend if not history, and it must be more than a
legend to leave so many traces as I, with Mr. Cameron's help, will
show you even on Loch Etive. With Conor begins the story of the
chief heroes, known in this district in the earliest days. I mean
the sons of Uisnach. Ile was their enemy, and Fergus was their
friend. I am not sorry, therefore, that you have come on some of the
traces to-day. Fergus Mac Roy is little known in this country; I may
say the same of Conor. We hear a little of Fergus, the son of Erc,
but few know of him, although he brought over the Scots; and we hear
of a Fergus in Galloway, the hero too of a mediaeval old French
romance; but our king in Ulster, and the poet of one of our greatest
battles, is not known much.
have only skimmed the ground to-day as a swallow does; we have seen
nothing well; we must do it all again. Still, we must wait a minute
at this boulder since it has such a remarkable name, and as it is
near Aird's house, where Dr. Norman Macleod lived—a name that we all
take pleasure in.
now that we have had a walk, we sit more patiently and enjoy that
wonderful sunset behind the hills of Morven. Did Ossian or
Macpherson fancy his heroes in that bright land? It was some one's
idea; and as the same land becomes at times densely black with
storms, so we must suppose did the mood and condition of the heroes.
loath to leave Abbot's Isle and the Eilean Ban, and all my pretty
corners; but the tide is up, and we can pass the falls in peace, and
now the run is with us, and we have a fair pull to Oban. It is not
easy to do it in an hour and a half, but the night is fine, and even
at half-past ten it will be light in Oban.
too tired to have a belief; the glory of the day sinks, if not into
gloom, at least into silence: I do the the same, and will half doze
on the way home.
people, when they return home, like to go to bed at once; I am more
friendly. I say, let us have a social cup of tea, and communicate
our rejoicings to each other over it again. It is a prolonged
good-night, and a pleasant way of ending the day; we need not get up
so soon to-morrow, but may sleep long, and take only an easy
excursion when the day is pretty far on, and when we are tired of
If you prefer supper
and wine, have it; I prefer not to have such a meal. It is true that
much tea prevents sleep, but a little tea gives a certain activity
to the system; and I am inclined to think that, in moderation, it
hastens the process of repair as much as that of waste.
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