Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 11


THE peaceful times for the Highlands, succeeding the massacre of Glencoe, may allow me now to turn aside a little from the Lairds, and devote this chapter to miscellaneous thoughts and incidents, suggested by these inquiries, or connected with them.

I beg pardon for quoting Latin; but not having Sir John Skene's translation at hand, I am too diffident as to my knowledge of mediaeval law phraseology, to give my own as a true version, without affording others an opportunity of correcting me; moreover, to classical scholars not acquainted with the writings of the middle ages, such samples may perchance be interesting. The first specimen is from the laws ascribed to Malcolm M'Kenneth, who commenced his reign 1003:—

Leges Malcolmi Mackenneth, Cap. 10.—"Item: ordinaverunt, quod nullus Baro, vel Comes, vel aliquis alius receptabit malefactorem aliquem, infra dominationem suam sub poena amissionis curiae suae in perpetuum"—That is "They" (the King and Barons) "have ordained, that no Baron nor Count, nor any other, shall receive any malefactor within his lordship, under the penalty of losing his jurisdiction forever."

The statute of William the Lion regarding the same subject is far more particular, and requires active as well as passive obedience; not only malefactors must not be harboured, they must be pursued :—

Statuta sive Assisae Wilhelmi Regis, Cap. 7.—Assisa Regis W helmi, facta apud Perth, quam Episcopi, Abbates, Comites, Barones, Thani, & tota communitas regni, tenere firmiter juraverunt; quod nee latrones nee interfectores hominum, nee raptores, nee murdratores, nee alios malefactores, manu-tenebunt nee receptabunt.

2. Quod tarn de propriis hominibus, quam de alienis, ubicunque eos poterunt reperire, pro posse suo, eos ad justitiam adducent; et pro posse suo Justiciaries terrae manu-tenebunt.

3. Et quod propter factum judicium aquae, vel ferri, vel duelli, aut cujuscunque modi judicii nullam sument aut capient pecuniam, aut aliud beneficium, pro quo effectus justitiae maneat imperfectus.

4. Et quod pro posse suo, auxiliantes erunt Domino Regi; ad inquirendum malefactores ; ad vindictam de illis capiendam.

5. Et cum a Domino Rege requisiti fuerint unusquisque de curia alterius, secundum quod sciverit, verum testimonium perhibebit.

6. Et Dominus Rex, curias ipsorum in vadio cepit ; Itaque qui convictus fuerit super hoc, et assisam hanc infregerit, curiam suam amittet in perpetuum.

"The assize of King William made at Perth, which the Bishops, Abbots, Earls, Barons, Thanes, and the whole community of the Kingdom swore firmly to hold and observe : That they shall not receive nor maintain robbers, manslayers, persons guilty of rapine, murderers, nor other malefactors."

2. "That whether these be of their own men, or of those of others, they shall bring them to justice according to their power, wherever they can find them ; and that, as far as they can, they shall uphold the justiciaries of the land.

3. "And that for holding the trial by water, by iron, by duel, or any other mode of justice, they shall receive or take no money or other gift, where through the effect of justice may remain imperfect.

4. "And that according to their power they shall be assisting their Sovereign Lord the King, in seeking out malefactors for being punished.

5. "And when required by their Lord the King that each, as far as he knows, shall give true testimony in regard to the court of the other.

6. "And their Lord the King has taken their courts in pledge ; therefore whosoever shall be convicted on this account, and shall infringe this assize* shall lose his rights of jurisdiction for ever."

Passing over very many intervening Acts of a similar nature, let us contrast William the Lion's statute with the following bond :—

"Be it kend till all men be thir presents, me, Angus M'Donald of Kenknock, fforasmuchas by the Laws and Acts of Parliament made for suppressing depredations, thift reift, poinding, * * and conniving with thift and other crymes, which wer ordinarily committed by the indwellers in the Highlands, it is statut and ordained, that all heritors, landlords, wadsetters, lyfrenters, and the heads and chieftains of clans, should find cautione for yr haill vassels, men-tenents, and servants. Lykeas, by severall Acts of Council, it is statut and ordained, that all branches of clans and heads of families should lykeways find cautione for the men-tenents, servants, and ye persons of their names descending of their families. Therefore, I, as principall, and dame Lady Helen Lindsay, Lady Glenlyon, lyfrentrix of the lands mentioned in her * * *, as caur for me, bind and oblidge us commonllie and seallie, our airs, excrs and successors, That I, the said Angus M'Donald, and my haill tenents, servants, and the persons of my name, descending of my familie, wherever they dwell, shall commit no murder, manslaughter, deforcement, reifts, thifts, depredationes, oppen or avowed fyr-raising upon deadly feuds, nor any other facts or deids contrarrie to the Acts of Parliament, under the pains of fyve hundred merks, Scots money, besydes the redressing and repairing of all paines and skaithes : And farther, that I shall produce before the Comyssioners of Justiciarie, appoynted for secureing the peace of the Highlands, or any other his Matie's Justiciarie haveing power for the tyme, all or any of my men-tenents, servants, and the persons of my name descending of my familie, whenever I shall be called or lawfullie cited to yt effect, under the penaltie forsaid, attour implement of the premyss ; and lykeways to give in yearly lists to the Comyssioners of Justiciarie, or . any haveing power as sd is, of the haill persons' names residing within my bounds, above the age of twelve years, under the penaltie foresaid, &c. &c. Subscribed with our hands at Fortingall, the twelve day of November, 1701, befor thir witnesses—Master Alexander Robertson, minister at Fortingall, and Duncan Campbell of Duneaves. Dun. Campbell, Witness. A. M'Donald

A. Robertson, Witness. Helen Lindsay.

Strange, in six hundred years so little change had happened! This bond does not differ much, except in form, from the assize of William the Lion ; it takes security against the same evils, and, with a little more minuteness, provides by similar means for the maintenance of public safety. The exaction of oaths and promises of fidelity, and obedience to the law, is invariably a confession of weakness, and affords occasion for the very things it is intended to prevent. For the strong government, it is sufficient to publish the law embodying its will, affixing the punishment due for transgression; and then it can wait without anxious caution in perfect reliance on its own strength, to be able, on a breach of the law being committed, to chastise the offender immediately with the punishment menaced. The certainty of punishment enables a strong government to dispense with cruel or capricious rigour; for a small evil, which is sure to happen, is more dreaded than a great one, from which there is a strong probability of escape. The Scottish monarchy was always limited in its power, constitutionally, and the fierce disposition of the people, the power and lawlessness of the nobles, rendered practically that power much less than what it was constitutionally acknowledged to be; yet one is astonished at the fact, so little political progress had been made in the course of six long centuries, that William of Orange could not dispense with the barbarous and clumsy fencing of authority employed by William the Lion. The causes thickly sewn over the surface of events during that period are numerous and complicated ; but abstracting the adventitious, and sinking the secondary ones, the principal causes are not difficult to be understood. Artificial systems, either in science or politics, unless recommended by comprehensive simplicity, or hallowed by the sacred association of years, easily succumb to unanticipated difficulties, and changes of character and circumstances.

The social union based upon a general law of nature, such as the ties of consanguinity, and the reverence and obedience due to parental authority, sustains without yielding many rude shocks, and in spite of changes of external form the internal fabric is the same, and the relative position of parties remains unaltered as long as the principle on which the junction is founded has not been abjured by one of the parties themselves. From the days of Malcolm Ceanmore to the Revolution, the feudal system prevailed in the charters of land, the phraseology of law, and regulated, or appeared to regulate generally, the relation of the Chief to the King ; but the private connection of the Chief and his followers rested entirely on the antagonistic principle of clanship. The Chief was feudally the judge; but be the law what it might, and be the Chief ever so inclined to carry it into effect, that could only be done to the extent the clan wished. The want of a standing army forced the King to make himself content with the sort of obedience his vassals thought convenient to give, and see his excellent laws come still-born into the world, or, after an active effort or two, become dead. The very men, who, according to . their feudal tenure, for the time surrounded his banner, might shortly be rebels themselves, and were materially interested in not bringing the disobedient to severe account. It was only when the selfish passions of his followers were enlisted on the side of justice by mortal feuds, or grants of escheated goods, the King's letters of fire and sword were put really in force. The character given by Fordun of the Highlanders of the fourteenth century is not far from being applicable through the whole period of clanship. " The island or mountain race is wild and untamed, rude and without morals (obedience to the Church he means) capable of rapine, loving idleness, of a teachable and astute nature, of comely appearance, but rendered deformed by dress (the kilted-plaid forsooth); equally hostile and cruel to the people and tongue of England, as well as to (the lowland division of) their own nation, on account of the diversity of language ; but faithful to their King and country, and easily subjected to the law, if brought under control? In the concluding sentence the venerable chronicler seems to lay the blame of the lawlessness of the Highlands upon the chiefs. King and statesmen wished the chiefs to adopt the feudal system in its rigour, and the whole scope of their efforts tended in that direction ; perhaps the latter at times were willing enough if they could; but how were they to deny the brotherhood of blood, to refuse the grasp of friendship to faithful clansmen, while these had arms in their hands, and tradition and practice sanctioned the deposition and death of a degenerate chief? One virtue Fordun cheerfully concedes, "fidelity to the King and kingdom." It is historically true, as well as in accordance with the leading principles of the Celtic race. Within, the claim of equality of blood rendered nugatory every plan of improvement, and scouted restrictions not in accordance with clan sentiments and immemorial practice; without, it presented the boldest front of military aggression, and rushed on the foe with the watchword, "Sons of the Gael, shoulder to shoulder!" The King, to them, was the chief of the great clan, comprising the nation, the successor of the Gallic Vergobretus or British Pendragon; the head captain in time of war; in peace, little or nothing above others. When danger and dishonour menaced the King and kingdom, the wild chivalry of the mountains was ever conspicuously in front. Eighteen of the existing clans fought at Bannockburn; when James IV. fell at Flodden, "beside him lay Argyle and Athole," and many other chiefs of main and isle. An affront to the kingdom was an affront to every clansman personally, and the King could rely on their swords to wipe away the disgrace ; but as for the laws of his domestic government, they just commanded assent as far as they were backed by force, or accorded with clan interests and predilections.

But for all the tenacity with which Highlanders clung to ancient institutions and modes of thought, they could not have held out against surrounding influences and persevering efforts so long, had it not been for the inaccessible nature of their mountains. Till incorporated under the protection of the general laws, till it was no longer necessary for each man to guard his head, of necessity clanship maintained its vigour. Judicious Acts of Parliament, and transient exhibitions of vigour on the part of the central government, had no permanent effect. The Highlands had to be treated as the barbarous neighbour of a civilised country, until General Wade laid their recesses bare, united them to the rest of the kingdom by the bands of commerce and acquaintance, enabled Government to concentrate at a short notice any amount of force where danger was threatened, and, by a prudent disposition of military posts, made it easy to foresee and anticipate each hostile outburst. The measures for which the rebellions of '15 and '45 formed the apology, such as the disarming and diskilting Acts, were the supplement to the General's labours; the executive was now strong enough to dispense with vicarious factorships, to protect and punish every individual in the Highlands; and the resumption of heritable jurisdictions was the earnest of its power and determination to do so. Wade, notwithstanding the escapade of Ossian's grave, and two or three similar exploits, knew well how to humour the Highlanders, and respect sentiments so different from his own. In a letter to Mr. Forbes of Culloden, then Lord-Advocate, the General describes an entertainment given him by Cearnaich or "cattle lifters" in the following terms:—

"The knight and I travelled in my carriage with great ease and pleasure to the feast of the oxen which the highwaymen had prepared for us opposite Lochgarry, where we found four oxen roasting at the same time, in great order and solemnity. We dined in a tent pitched for that purpose. The beef was excellent; and we had plenty of bumpers, not forgetting your Lordship's and Culloden's health; and, after three hours' stay, took leave of our benefactors the highwaymen, and arrived at the hut at Dalnacardoch before it was dark."

Here was easy conduct with a vengeance for the Commander-in-Chief of the forces in North Britain; but it was chiefly thus he obtained the love and respect of the Highlanders. Except in the prosecution of his engineering plans, which he allowed no obstacle to oppose or turn aside, Wade was indeed so just and accommodating as to win the goodwill of all parties. M'Donald the Bard, a stiff Jacobite, thus "salutes" Wade—the translation is Struan's :—

"Hail! fav'rite of Great Britain's throne,
Prime executor of her law;
Whose skill and forward zeal alone
Could fierceness to submission draw.

"Thro' rugged rocks you forced a way,
Where trade and commerce now are found;
The indigent look brisk and gay,
Since plenty does thro' you abound.

"The steepest mountain ope's her womb,
To let her sons and hero meet:
Who could have dreamed it was her doom
E'er to have vy'd with London street."

Struan himself is no less emphatic. In the lines, "Tay Bridge to her Founder," he makes the bridge see and foretell the important consequences of the Marshal's labours. Tay Bridge was built 1733 :—

"Long hath old Scotia dissolution feared, Till you, her kind auspicious star appeared; But soon as the celestial Power came down To smile on labour and on sloth to frown, Scotia, reviving, raised her drooping crown, Discord and barrenness confessed their doom— One closed her feuds, the other ope'd her womb; Rocks inaccessible a passage know, And men innured to arms address the plough.

No less surprising was the daring scheme That fixed my station on this rapid stream. The north and south rejoice to see me stand, Uniting in my function, hand to hand, Commerce and concord—life of every land.

But who could force rough nature thus to ply, Becalm the torrents, and make rocks to fly? What art, what temper, and what manly toil Could smooth the rudest sons of Britain's isle?

Methinks the reader's anxious till he is told That Wade was skilful and that Wade was bold. Thus shall his name for Britain's glory rise Till sun and moon shall tumble from the skies."

It must be confessed there is more than mouthing here; the eccentric chief of Clan Donnochie (Robertsons) had a great deal of common sense, and rejoiced, though a zealous Jacobite, at the prospect opened up to his loved and distracted fatherland. The opening up of a market for the fir-wood of Rannoch was also an arrangement touching him personally. From this source he drew considerable sums during the remainder of his life.

The following extract of "Lybell of Mod. and Locality— Mr. Fergus Ferguson Agt. the Heritors of Fortingall and Killiechonan, 1727," affords an authentic glimpse of the social condition of the people and state of the country at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The parish of Fortingall was just like its neighbours, so that it may be taken as a fair description of most Highland parishes at that time:—

"George, &c.—Forasmuchas it is humbly meant and shown to us by our lovitt, Mr. Fergus Ferguson, minr. of the Gospell at the united paroches of ftortingall and Killiechonen, Moderator of the Presbitry of Dunkeld, and Mr. John Dundas of Philypston, advocate, procurator for the Church of Scotland, that the forsaid united Parishes are of a very Large Extent, the one Extreme part thereof, from the Church of ffortingall where the minr's manse is, to the outmost parts of the lands of Balfracks, is five miles due east; the oyr Extreme is the head of Glenlyon, which from the said Kirk is Distant ten miles west: The united Parish of Killiechonen is Distant from that of ffortingall seventeen miles North-west; and it being customary for people there to goe to the Shealls both in summar and winter, at that time the people of Glenlyon are about twenty miles from the Church of ffortingall, and those of Ranoch twelve miles from the Kirk of Killiechonen. In the forsaid united parishes there are four places for publick worship—viz., at Breano in Glenlyon, Eight miles west from the Church of ffortingall, and Kinloch-Ranoch, Eight miles and ane half from the parish Church, and Killiechonen thirteen miles and ane half from the parish Church—which places the minr. supplys by preaching Services both summar and winter. Then betwixt the Kirk of ffortingall and Killiechonen there is a long tract of hills, and through the parish diverse impetuous Rivers—viz., Tay, Lyon, and the River that Flows out of Loch Rannoch, besides several oyrs Burns ; which hills, Burns, and waters are often impassable, and mostly it is so in the winter. In the forsaid parishes there are about three thousand Examinable persons, all which occasion great trouble, ffatigue, and Charges to the minister in travelling through that vast bounds, preaching, visiting, Baptising, and Catechising : And though there be a sufficiencie of fund in the forsaid parishes for stipends to two minrs, the rentall thereof being Ten Thousand nine hundred fifty one pound Eight shillings, and fourty bolls of victual, according to a rentall thereof, which is as ffolows —viz., The Lands of Struan and oyrs, which pertained to the Deceast Alexander Robertson of Struan, fifteen hundred sixty-six pounds ; The Lands of Slismin and oyrs, which pertained to Sir Robert Menzies of Weems, sixteen hundred and sixteen pounds; The lands of Innerhadden and oyrs, pertaining to his Grace James, Duke of Athole, wadsett to Mr. Duncan Stewart, Two hundred pounds Scots; The two-merk land of Dalichosine in Bunrannoch, pertaining to the forsaid Duke, one hundred merks; The lands of Lassentulloch, Temper, and Tullochcrosk, wadsett by the lorsaid Duke to James Stewart in Donnaphuil, Three hundred six pound thirteen shillings four pennies ; The lands in Glenlyon and oyrs, pertaining to James Menzies of Culdairs, Two thousand two hundred twenty-five pound one shilling four pennies; Easter More and Kenknock, belonging to Angus M'Donalds, Elder and younger of Kenknock, four hundred merks; The west end of ffortingall and oyrs, pertaining to John Campbell of Glenlyon, nine hundred sixty pound and six bolls bear, and for his lands of Glenlyon one thousand merks ; The lands of------and oyrs, pertaining to William Stewart of Drumchary, ffive hundred pound ; The lands of Easter end of ffortingall, belonging to Lord George Murray of Garth, seven hundred seventy seven pound . thirteen shillings four pennies; Duneaves, Moncrieff, and oyrs, pertaining to John Campbell of Duneaves, one Thousand pound; The lands of Baelfrack and oyrs, pertaining to James Menzies of Bale-fracks, one Thousand pound; and the lands of Lagancailtie and oyrs, belonging to Captain James Menzies of Cernenie, Twenty-eight bolls victual: And that by diverse Acts of Parliament it is ordained that minrs. of the Gospell be provided in competent Stipends, with a fund for furnishing communion Elements, yet nevertheless the minr. of the forsaid parishes hath no Decreet for the same, and the use & wont is only about five hundred merks yearly and the payment thereof very uncertain, it being collected from house to house in small quantities : And therefore," &c. &c.

In the parish of Fortingall, during the space of 129 years, property has changed hands to a great extent as the following table will show :—

Estates. Proprietors, 1727, Proprietors, 1856.

Struan,.....................Robertson...Robertson.

Slismin,....................Menzies......Menzies.

Innerhadden,..............Athole........Stewart.

Dalchosnie,...............Athole........Sir J. W. M'Donald.

Lassentulloch,............Athole........Stewart.

Tullochcrosk,.............Athole........M'Donald of St. Martins.

Fortingall,.................Campbell.... Garden of Troup.

Drumcharry,..............Stewart.......M'Donald of St. Martins.

Meggernie,...............Menzies.......Menzies.

Chesthill,..................Campbell.....Menzies.

Garth,......................Murray........M'Donald of St. Martins.

Dun eaves,.................Campbell.....Breadalbane.

Moncrieff (or Culdares),Campbell.....Menzies.

Bolfracks,.................Menzies.......Breadalbane.

Lagan,.....................Menzies.......Breadalbane.

There is a considerable decrease in the population. If to the three thousand examinable persons—that is, persons above 14 years of age—we add one-fifth for children, the population in 1727 would be 3,600. The census population of 1851 was 2,485, showing a decrease of 1,115, and yet the parish of Fortingall has not been cleared like some of its neighbours. In 1727 the upland parts of the parish were reserved for sheilings. These are now large sheep farms. At the above date, as much as possible was made of the lower grounds in the way of cultivation. The arable ground was laid out in two divisions ; the more fertile, or infield, being under crop yearly, while the inferior division, or outfield, was only laid under crop occasionally—being in the interval under grass, and the folds placed on it for the purpose of manuring. Taking the whole under regular and occasional cultivation, the arable acreage at the beginning of the eighteenth century might be one-third more than it Is at present. Not many sheep were kept, and they were regularly housed in winter. The herds were the great source of wealth; and in hard summers, when meal was scarce, their milk and blood constituted the principal means of subsistence. If the winter was not very severe, the young cattle were kept on the grazings till February, and herds of small Highland ponies were not housed at all. In a good spring the cattle were driven to the sheilings for a few weeks, to give the grass on the lower ground time to grow, and then taken home. June was the time for the second and more universal flitting. The young women and children, and a few old men to keep all in order, accompanied the herds ; most of the matrons and grown-up males remained at home for the harvest work. It was a happy day of bustle and anticipation that for setting out to the sheilings. The old men and boys, driving the cattle, went first. The girls followed guiding or leading horses, laden with their household goods—churns, cheese-presses, crocks, dairy utensils of all shapes and sizes, but mostly all of one material, birchwood—pots, crooks, small bags of meal, and old hose metamorphosed into salt-cellars—in short, the whole household goods and gear of the mountain hut, and that was not bulky, for one horse carried it, and perhaps on the top of all the presiding deity, the laughing maid, with ribbon or snood round her long twining tresses, who proudly anticipates her temporary rule over beast and man, and the joyful greeting from friends in the neighbouring sheiling.

The younger portion of the community did always, indeed, look forward to these annual migrations with the greatest pleasure. It was something to be thrown on their own resources, to be left to wander day by day through the lonely mountains, and with minds imbued with deep sentiments and poetic superstitions, to meet and contemplate the sublimity and loveliness of nature amidst her solitudes. Fishing and fowling afforded an unlimited field for exercise and amusement; for then, beyond the precincts of the forest, game laws were unknown ; grouse, hares, &c, had not yet come to be considered a part or accident of property. And when all gathered in the evening about the huts clustered on the side of the burn, when the calves were in the fold, and the cows turned back to the brae, the harper produced the Clarskack, and the gay-hearted tenants of the Ruidhe turned out to dance on the green, or mayhap the grey-headed Senachie, as the shadows of night deepened, and shrouded the cliff and corrie, recounted to them tragic stories of disappointed love and terrible revenge, or tales of the fairies and of perturbed spirits that walked the earth for their sins.

The extract already given shows one minister could scarcely labour very successfully in religious matters in such a wide district. Well, I am sorry to confess, religion, as now the word is understood, had then very little hold over some of the parishioners of Fortingall. An attendance at the parish church on the great festival days, and an observance in private of a few superstitious rites—some derived from Rome, some from Druidism—constituted almost the sum total of their religion. The memoirs of Dugald Buchanan tell how the Rannoch people met on the Sundays to play at football, &c, and the rest of the parish was not much better. Buchanan brought about in Rannoch a great social reform, in regard at least to the observance of the Sabbath, and outward duties of religion. M'Arthur, a man of similar character and profession, laboured contemporaneously for the same end in Glenlyon. Attaching himself to the young, as the more susceptible of improvement, he followed them to the sheilings, and carried on his Bible teaching there. On the sheep farm of Lochs, formerly the sheilings of the district of Roro, a conical hillock, rising from a level boggy plain, erects itself like a sentinel over the neighbouring land and water, at the east end of Loch Daimdhe. Here M'Arthur congregated his untutored hearers, and translated for them, each Sunday, a chapter of the Bible, and a piece of Matthew Henry's Commentary—for the Irish Bibles of 1690 were possessed and understood but by few, and Stewart of Killin had not yet finished his Gaelic translation. Let me ask, in parenthesis, how could the Highlanders have been so unmindful of the minister of Killin's claims on their gratitude ? No memorial of their love and reverence, not even the rudest, marks his final resting-place in the churchyard of Killin ; yet he was the first man who gave them the Word of God in their own language. It was through his unrequited labours that the Government and Church were, after many fruitless efforts, successful in civilising and Christianising the Highlands and isles. In honouring him, they would honour themselves, and the priceless legacy he bequeathed them and their children. James Stewart, as much as, perhaps more than, any bard warrior, or philosopher, was the benefactor of his race. Shall it always be said that he sleeps in the grave, into which he had sunk wearied and impoverished by his stupendous work, uncared for and unhonoured by the people whom his labours helped to enroll in the catalogue of fervent Christians ?

To return to M'Arthur: he and his hearers were on a certain Sabbath disturbed amidst their devotions by the yelling of the dogs, which, having accompanied their owners to the religious exercise, and not feeling so edified as the bipeds, had gone on a little excursion of their own, and had started a deer in a neighbouring den, and thereby caused the sudden clamour. The deer meeting the hillock congregation in front, and the dogs following behind, took the water near the spot where they were assembled. Notwithstanding M'Arthur's entreaties, his hearers in a moment changed into keen huntsmen, and dispersed at the top of their speed for the different places where the stag was thought likely to land. The issue of the sport was unsuccessful. One man threw his axe at the deer's head, when swimming to the shore, but missed, and the axe sank into the lake. On this, some of the more pious began to suggest it was the devil in deer's likeness, that came to interrupt their devotions ; but the hero of the axe protested, declaring, "devil or no devil, it was, notwithstanding, a fat stag of ten, and I would have killed him were he a devil ever so much, if I had another axe." Though things of this sort did happen at times, M'Arthur's efforts bore much fruit, and his memory was for a long time religiously revered. Here is another anecdote of the same description. A Glenlyon woman who died 40 or 50 years ago, when nearly a 100 years of age, in telling her sheiling experience, used to add, to the horror of her more pious descendants, "Fionn-aghleann mo chridhe thar nach bidhe Di-domhnuich"—i.e. "Finglen of my heart, where there would be no Sunday." Finglen, or the "Glen of the Feinne," was a shelling in the Braes of Glenlyon, adjoining the old royal forest of Ben-taskerly, or, as then called, Coirecheathaich. The foresters, sometime before the year 1740, built a hut on the march overlooking Finglen, and there watched the cattle and pounded them when trespassing. The sheiling maidens, after two or three exploits of this kind on the part of their neighbours, got exasperated, and formed the doughty resolution of pulling their hut about the foresters' ears, and making them decamp tnstanter. A Sunday, of all days in the week, was chosen, because most of the foresters were then absent. The furious maidens carried the fortress of turf by a coup-de-main, pelted the foresters present to perfection, and left not a stone or rather a turf standing on the other. The foresters were so ungallant as to make a formal complaint to the Earl of Breadalbane, and he put the machinery of legal punishment in motion. It was easily done at that time. Sir Duncan Cameron with Lochnell's company of the Black Watch was then guarding the peace of the district, and a detachment of it pounced upon the Amazons, hurried them to Perth, bare headed and bare footed as they stood, and * clapped them into jail. They were tried, but got off with flying colours. Their landlord, James Menzies of Culdares, like a true Highlander, attended court to see justice done; he became security for their future good behaviour; and when they were liberated he placed himself and his piper at their head and marched through Perth to the defiant strains of

"Gabhaidh mise'n rathad mor,
Olc, air mhath le each e." "
On the road I go; on the road I go;
Where'er I like I'll go,
Be others pleased or no."

This was the occasion of beginning a lawsuit about bounds which nearly ruined the heir of the Crowner.

But though the Highlanders were, as shown, careless about religion, the kirk-session at that date exercised an important jurisdiction over the whole field of morals, trenching much, indeed, upon what now exclusively belongs to the civil courts. Of all judicatories it was the most respected and best obeyed ; for the Highlanders, remiss and careless in other matter, set great store by the ordinances of baptism and communion; and the cutty-stool and sackcloth gown were much more dreaded in 1700 than the threats of the law and "tout" of the royal horn. Seeing there were few restrictions on the intercourse of the sexes, and considering the oblique idea they had of some other moral duties, it is astonishing to find how little the evil of illegitimacy prevailed; and it is mortifying to think that the snood and poetry of 1700 were far more efficient in guarding the stream of domestic affection pure and undefiled, than the boasted knowledge and gospel light of 1856. "Love strong as death, pure as the mountain spring," was the theme of poet and senachie. The loss of the snood, the emblem of maidenhood, carried in itself a sentence of social ostracism.

A frail one of the better class, who went astray with a man below her station, was the cause of a tragic catastrophe in the preceding century (1640 or thereabouts), which legend and song yet conspire to keep in memory. She was a daughter of Campbell of Lawers, and fell in love with her father's harper or fiddler. Her degradation became known to the family. Her brothers watched and caught her and her swain together in a sheiling on the side of Benlawers. The fiddler run for sweet life, with the infuriated youths at his heels. When making a desperate leap over a rock, he fell and broke his leg. The avengers of family honour were upon him, and barbarously maltreated him. The reel tune commemorating the circumstance is well known to the lovers of Highland music—"Nighean Tighearna Labhair," &c.


Return to Contents Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast