Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands in Olden Times and Other Papers
Chapter I. Sketch of Cluny's Life


“But thou hast a shrine, Kingussie,
Dearer to my heart than all
Rocky strength and grassy beauty
In Glen Feshie’s mountain-hall;

E’en thy granite Castle Cluny,
Where the stout old Celtic man
Lived the father of his people,
Died the noblest of his clan.

Many eyes were red with weeping,
Many heads were bowed with grief,
When, to sleep beside his fathers,
Low they laid their honoured chief.”

—Blackie.

THE LAST OF THE OLD JACOBITE CHIEFS.
CLUNY MACPHERSON, C.B., Chief of Clan Chattan
BORN 24th APRIL 1804; DIED 11th JANUARY 1885.

AT Cluny Castle, in Badenoch, on the second Sunday of the year, there “fell asleep,” full of years and full of honours, the venerable Cluny Macpherson, “the living embodiment,” as he had been justly termed, “of all the virtues of the old patriarchal Highland chief.” His unexpected death has not only awakened feelings of the deepest sorrow among his clansmen and natives of Badenoch all over the world, but has left a blank in the public and social life of the Highlands which will probably never be filled up.

His removal is indeed that of an ancient landmark. In days when so much is said and done tending to set class against class, and leading certain sections of the public to regard the interests of landlord and tenant as hostile, a state of society in which their interests were recognised as identical deserves to be studied. In their best form the mutual relations existing between a chief and his clansmen produced this unity in a manner to which, in the present day, we shall vainly seek a parallel. “ I would rather,” said MacLeod of MacLeod of the time to Johnson, on the occasion of the great lexicographer’s tour in the Hebrides in 1781, —“I would rather drink punch in the houses of my people than be enabled by their hardships to have claret in my own.” A more striking example of this patriarchal feeling could not be found than in the affection which bound Cluny Macpherson to his clan and his clan to him. In their relations with their people, the old race of Highland chiefs, of whom Cluny Macpherson was such a noteworthy representative, really held in effect the words of the well-known and patriotic Highlander, Sheriff Nicolson, as part, so to speak, of their creed:—

“See that thou kindly use them, O man!
To whom God giveth
Stewardship over them, in thy short span,
Not for thy pleasure.
Woe be to them who choose for a clan
Four-footed people.”

Born on the 24th of April 1804, Cluny, as he was popularly known all over the Highlands, had at the time of his death entered his eighty-first year. He was the representative of the ancient chiefs of Clan Chattan, embracing, in that general appellation, the Macphersons, Mackintoshes, Macgillivrays, Shaws, Farquharsons, Macbeans, Macphails, Clan Terril, Gows (said to be descended from Henry the Smith of North Inch fame), Clarks, Macqueens, Davidsons, Cattanachs, Clan Ay, Nobles, Gillespies; and was the twentieth Chief in direct succession from Gillicattan Mor, the head or Chief of the clan who lived in the reign of Malcolm Canmore. He succeeded to the chiefship of the clan, and to the Cluny estates, on the death of his father in 1817, and thus possessed the estates for the long period of nearly seventy years. A very interesting fact in connection with his boyhood, carrying us back to the third decade of the present century, is that Sir Walter Scott, in a letter to Miss Edgeworth, describes him as “a fine spirited boy, fond of his people and kind to them, and the best dancer of a Highland reel now living.” In 1832 Cluny married Sarah Justina, a daughter of the late well-known Henry Davidson, Esq. of Tulloch, who now cluny’s early manhood survives him with an unbroken family circle of four sons and three daughters.

The son of a gallant officer who fought in the American War of Independence; grandson of the devoted “Ewen of Cluny,” who died in exile after the ’45; great-grandson of Simon Lord Lovat, who suffered in the same cause, and great-great-grandson of the heroic Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, Cluny always maintained with true dignity the fame of his ancestry, and inherited all their military ardour. To a quaint old engraving of Sir Ewen at Cluny Castle, the following just and appropriate lines are appended : —

“The Honest Man, whom Virtue sways,
His God adores, his King obeys;
Does factious men’s rebellious pride
And threat’ning Tyrants’ rage deride;
Honour’s his Wealth, his Rule, his Aime,
Unshaken, fixt, and still the same.”

In his early manhood Cluny served his country as an officer in the 42d Royal Highlanders, the famous Black Watch. From the institution of the Volunteer Force in 1859 down to within two or three years of his death he acted as Lieutenant-Colonel of the Inverness-shire Highland Rifle Volunteers. In that capacity he attended the Royal Review in Edinburgh in 1881, and although then in his seventy-seventh year, he kept the head of his regiment in spite of the fearful weather, discarding even the use of a plaid as a protection. Riding along Princes Street with the Inverness Volunteers, the brave old Chief, with his courtly and soldierly bearing, was a conspicuous figure in the procession, and was singled out for repeated rounds of enthusiastic cheering. On his retirement his regiment presented him with a sword of honour with an appropriate inscription.

As indicating the interest taken by Cluny in everything affecting the prosperity of the wide district over which his influence extended, and the recognition of his character and position, it may be sufficient to mention that he was president or was otherwise closely associated with almost every public and local association or institution in the Central Highlands. In his delightful book, ‘Altavona,’ Professor Blackie makes his Alter Ego say of Cluny, “He is the genuine type of the old Scottish chief, the chief who loves his people, and speaks the language of the people, and lives on his property, and delights in old traditions, in old servants, in old services, and old kindly usages of all kinds.” It has been justly said that into all his duties Cluny carried with him a flavour of the olden times, a mingled homeliness, courtesy, and simple dignity that conveyed a remarkable impression impossible to describe, but characteristic and memorable. In the Highland dress, surmounted by the bonnet and eagle’s feather of the chief, with his firm, erect, athletic figure, no more graceful specimen of Highland physique could be anywhere seen.

While a conspicuous figure at all public gatherings in the Highlands, nowhere was Cluny seen to more advantage than at his own castle, surrounded by his genial and happy family, dispensing, with a genuine kindness and courtesy that never failed, true Highland hospitality to the many friends and clansmen who flocked to it from all parts of the kingdom. Substitute the one castle for the other, and the touching words of Dean Stanley apply almost as appropriately to Cluny Castle as to the Castle of Fingask :—

“Who that had ever seen the delightful Castle of Cluny, explored its inexhaustible collection of Jacobite relics, known its Jacobite inmates, and heard its Jacobite songs, did not feel himself transported to an older world with the fond remembrance of a past age, of a lost love, of a dear though vanquished cause? What Scotsman—Presbyterian though he be—is not moved by the outburst of Jacobite-Episcopalian enthusiasm which enkindled the last flicker of expiring genius when Walter Scott murmured the lay of Prince Charlie by the Lake Avernus, and stood wrapt in silent devotion before the tomb of the Stuarts in St Peter’s?”

It was worth going a long day’s journey to hear Cluny with his simple grace and dignity narrating incidents of the Jacobite days of other years, the hair-breadth escapes of his grandfather, and describing the many interesting and historical relics the castle contains. Among these relics, carefully treasured, is the Black Chanter or Feadan Dubh of the clan, on the possession of which the prosperity of the house of Cluny is supposed to depend. Of the many singular traditions regarding it, one is that its original fell from heaven during the memorable clan-battle fought between the Macphersons and the Davidsons in presence of King Robert III., his queen, and nobles, on the North Inch of Perth in 1396, and that being made of crystal it was broken by the fall, and the existing one made in fac-simile. Another tradition is to the effect that this is the genuine original, and that the cracks were occasioned by its violent contact with the ground. Be the origin of the Feadan Dubh what it may, it is a notable fact that whether in consequence of its possession, or of their own bravery, no battle at which the Macphersons were present with the great standard or “green banner” of the clan, and the chief at their head, was ever lost. One of the Clan Chattan battles was fought at Invernahaven in the neighbourhood of Kingussie in 1386, on which occasion the Macphersons, coming to the rescue of their kinsmen the Mackintoshes, saved the honour of the Clan Chattan and the Mackintosh section from almost utter annihilation at the hands of their opponents, the hitherto victorious Camerons. The battle of the Inch at Perth, fought ten years subsequently, has been rendered familiar to general readers through the pages of Scott’s ‘ Fair Maid of Perth.’ The Clan Chattan took part in the great national battles of Bannockburn and Harlaw, the Macphersons in the latter, under their chief, Donald Mor, fighting “with my Lord Marr against M'Donald.” “Duncan persoun,” one of Cluny’s ancestors, was one of the chiefs seized and imprisoned by James I. at a Parliament which he had summoned to meet him at Inverness in 1427. The Macphersons were out in great force under Montrose and Dundee. They were also present at the battle fought at Mulroy, in Lochaber, in the year 1688—the last clan-battle in the Highlands—where, as narrated by Sir Walter Scott, they rescued the Laird of Mackintosh (who had been defeated and made prisoner) from the hands of his ferocious captors, the Macdonalds of Keppoch, and afterwards escorted him in safety to his own proper territory.

The Macphersons were again out in the Rising of 1715, and with a loyalty that “no gold could buy nor time could wither,” took a distinguished part thirty years later in the gallant but ill-fated attempt of Prince Charlie to regain the crown of his ancestors:—

“Whom interest ne’er moved their true king to betray,
Whom threat’ning ne’er daunted, nor power could dismay ;
They stood to the last, and, when standing was o’er,
All sullen and silent they dropped the claymore,
And yielded, indignant, their necks to the blow,
Their homes to the flame, and their lands to the foe.”

It is related that before the battle of Culloden an old witch or second seer told the Duke of Cdmberland that if he waited until the Bratach Uaine, or green banner, came up he would be defeated. Ewen of Cluny was present at the battle of Prestonpans with six hundred of his clan, and accompanied the Prince during his march into England. On the Prince’s retreat into Scotland, Cluny with his men put two regiments of Cumberland’s dragoons to flight at Clifton, fought afterwards at the battle of Falkirk, and was on his way to Inverness with his clan to join the Prince when flying fugitives from Culloden met him with the intelligence of that sad day’s disaster.

Another relic at Cluny Castle no less carefully treasured is the autograph letter, of date 18th September 1746 (which is given here in facsimile), addressed by Prince Charlie to Cluny of the ’45 just on the eve of their parting before the Prince escaped to France.

To Cluny of the ’45 might, mutatis mutandis, be appropriately applied Sir David Brewster’s touching epitaph on a Scottish Jacobite:—

“To Scotland’s king I knelt in homage true,
My heart—my all I gave—my sword I drew;
Chased from my hearth, I reached a foreign shore,
My native mountains to behold no more—
No more to listen to Spey’s silver stream—
No more among its glades to love and dream,
Save when in sleep the restless spirit roams
Where Ruthven crumbles, and where Pattach foams.

From home and kindred on Albano’s shore,
I roamed an exile till life’s dream was o’er—
Till God, whose trials blessed my wayward lot,
Gave me the rest—the early grave—I sought;
Showed me, o’er death’s dark vale, the strifeless shore,
With wife, and child, and king, to part no more.
O patriot wanderer, mark this ivied stone,
Learn from its story what may be thine own:

Should tyrants chase thee from thy hills of blue,
And sever all the ties to nature true,
The broken heart may heal in life’s last hour,
When hope shall still its throbs, and faith exert her power.”

In view of the very prominent part the clan took in the Risings of the ’15 and the ’45, and the sufferings of his grandfather and greatgrandfather in the cause, it is not surprising that Jacobite leanings should have developed themselves in Cluny at an early period of his life. The bloodthirsty vindictiveness displayed towards a defenceless people after the battle of Culloden, by the Duke of Cumberland and the Government of the day, is almost unexampled in history.

“The cruelties,” says Chambers, “were such that, if not perfectly well authenticated, we could scarcely believe to have been practised only a century ago in our comparatively civilised land. Not only were the mansions of the Chiefs Lochiel, Glengarry, Cluny, Keppoch, Kinlochmoidart, Glengyle, Ardshiel, and many others, plundered and burned, but those of many inferior gentlemen, and even the huts of the common people, were in like manner destroyed. The cattle, sheep, and provisions of all kinds were carried off to Fort Augustus. In many instances the women and children were stripped naked, and left exposed; in some, the females were subjected to even more horrible treatment. A great number of men, unarmed and inoffensive, including some aged beggars, were shot in the fields and on the mountain-side, rather in the spirit of wantonness than for any definite object. Many hapless people perished of cold and hunger amongst the hills. Others followed, in abject herds, their departing cattle, and at Fort Augustus begged, for the support of a wretched existence, to get the offal, or even to be allowed to lick up the blood of those which were killed for the use of the army. Before the 10th of June the task of desolation was complete throughout all the western parts of Inverness-shire; and the curse which had been denounced upon Scotland by the religious enthusiasts of the preceding century was at length so entirely fulfilled in this remote region that it would have been literally possible to travel for days through the depopulated glens without seeing a chimney smoke or hearing a cock crow"

Of a corps under the command of Lord George Sackville, Browne relates :—

“Not contented with destroying the country, these bloodhounds either shot the men upon the mountains, or murdered them in cold blood. The women, after witnessing their husbands, fathers, and brothers murdered before their eyes, were subjected to brutal violence, and then turned out naked with their children to starve on the barren heaths. A whole family was enclosed in a barn, and consumed to ashes. So alert were these ministers of vengeance, that in a few days, according to the testimony of a volunteer who served in the expedition, neither house, cottage, man, nor beast was to be seen within the compass of fifty miles: all was ruin, silence, and desolation. Deprived of their cattle and their small stock of provisions by the rapacious soldiery, the hoary-headed matron and sire, the widowed mother and her helpless offspring, were to be seen dying of hunger, stretched upon the bare ground, and within view of the smoking ruins of their dwellings.”

It is instructive to contrast that inhuman vindictiveness with the spirit in which the descendants of Highlanders, so cruelly and mercilessly persecuted, have since so nobly fought and died for their country on many a battle-field. To quote the famous eulogy on the Highland regiments uttered in Parliament in 1776 by William Pitt, afterwards Lord Chatham :—

“I sought for merit wherever it could be found. It is my boast that I was the first Minister who looked for it, and found it, in the mountains of the north. I called it forth, and drew into your service a hardy and intrepid race of men ; men who, when left by your jealousy, became a prey to the artifices of your enemies, and had gone nigh to have overturned the State, in the war before last. These men, in the last war, were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity, as they fought with valour, and conquered for you in every quarter of the world.”

At the advanced age of nearly eighty years Cluny’s great-grandfather was beheaded in the Tower of London. After being hunted in the mountain fastnesses of Badenoch for the long period of nine years, his grandfather escaped from his relentless pursuers only to die in exile. It was very natural, therefore, that Cluny’s Jacobite sympathies should have remained with him to the end. An instance of his leanings in this direction may be appropriately told. At a school inspection in Kingussie a few years ago, in the course of one of his usually happy and encouraging little speeches to the children, he mentioned that, in listening to the examination in history, some of the words used had jarred upon his ear. “In Badenoch,” he said, “it is not common to call Prince Charlie ‘the Pretender.’ I should advise you henceforth to call him by his name, Prince Charles Edward, the King over the water!”

With all his hereditary Jacobite sympathies, the Queen had no more loyal and devoted subject than Cluny in her wide domains; of his four sons he devoted three to her service. On the occasion of the first Royal visit to the Highlands in August 1847, her Majesty and Prince Albert, with the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal, occupied for a time Cluny’s beautiful residence of Ardverikie, overlooking Loch Laggan, on an island in the middle of which Fergus, “the first of our kings,” had his hunting - lodge. Accompanied by Prince Albert and the Royal children, her Majesty paid a visit to Cluny Castle and examined the shield and other relics of Prince Charlie with the greatest interest. Meeting Cluny frequently at the time, the Queen was most favourably impressed with his polished manners and chivalrous courtesy, and he subsequently received many gracious and flattering marks of her regard. After the lapse of nearly forty years since her first meeting with him, her Majesty showed her long-continued regard for the venerable Chief by conferring upon him the distinction of the Order of the Bath, which, as coming from her own gracious hands, he very highly prized. It was a source of special gratification to him that he lived to see two of his sons commanding two of the most distinguished regiments in her Majesty’s service— the eldest, Colonel Duncan, commanding the famous Black Watch ; and the second, Colonel Ewen, commanding the 93d Highlanders. They have both seen a great deal of active service; and worthily and honourably have they maintained the ancient fame and prowess of their forefathers. Colonel Duncan, who now succeeds to the chief-ship and to the Cluny estates, has had an eminent military career, and has had a pension for “distinguished service” conferred upon him, besides the distinction of the Order of the Bath. Leading the Black Watch, he was wounded at Coomassie, in the Ashantee war; and at the head of that famous regiment in the Egyptian war, two or three years ago, was “the only man who rode over Arabi’s intrenchments at Tel-el-Kebir.”

On their “golden wedding-day,” in December 1882—the fiftieth anniversary of Cluny’s marriage to the lady who had for the long period of half a century shared with him the affection and loyalty of his clan and tenantry—the venerable and happy pair received an ovation such as seldom, if ever previously, was witnessed in the Highlands. Congratulatory addresses, couched in the warmest terms, were presented by all the public bodies in the county with which Cluny was connected. In addition to deputations from these bodies, a large and distinguished party of clansmen and friends, headed by Sir George Macpherson-Grant and the veteran soldier, General Sir Herbert Macpherson, waited upon Cluny and his lady and presented them with a beautifully illuminated address, along with a magnificent work of art in the form of a massive silver candelabrum or centrepiece, costing in all between 600 and 700. A sturdy oak springing from the heather forms the stem of the centrepiece, from which radiate at the top nine branches. At its foot is placed a group representing one of the most striking and characteristic incidents in the history of the famous Cluny of the “Forty-five.” Sir Hector Munro—the officer in command of the party in search of the fugitive chief—mounted on his steed, is questioning Cluny, who, disguised as a servant, had been holding the bridle of Sir Hector’s horse during the search, as to the whereabouts of his supposed master. Sir Hector asks if he knows where Cluny is. The reply given is, “I do not know, and if I did I should not tell you.” Sir Hector rewards the supposed servant for his fidelity.

The address expressed on the part of the general body of subscribers their warm appreciation of the admirable way in which Cluny had for upwards of half a century, “with a grace and dignity peculiarly your own, discharged every public and private duty devolving on you as a constant resident in your native county, which has won for you the universal popularity you happily enjoy.” On the part of his own “faithful and attached clan,” allied to him “by closer ties and sympathies,” the address specially recorded “their love and veneration for their dear old patriarchal Chief, and their pride in him as representative of all that they and their forefathers have ever held most precious as children of one race.”

No better exponent of the feelings and sentiments of the general body of subscribers than Sir George Macpherson-Grant, himself a chieftain of the clan,1 could possibly have been selected :—

Cluny’s “golden wedding.”

“This address,” said Sir George, in making the presentation to Cluny, “speaks of your clansmen. I hardly know what to say on such a point as that which the use of the word on an occasion like the present calls up. I have deep feelings on the subject. In these days we don’t hear—and perhaps it is for our good—very much of the clan, of the clansmen, of the clanship, and of their varied mutual relationships, and all that at one time was connected with it. But I have the feeling in my breast that as long as the clan exists—I care not how it should be shown—the sense of the duty which clansmen owe to their chief can never be torn from our hearts. We cannot show our sense of that duty, that loyalty, that affection, in the same way as it has frequently been shown before; but although the outward manifestation is not the same, the spirit of it remains the same in the hearts of us all. Allow me one personal remark. As a neighbouring proprietor, and as an old friend of your family, it gives me the greatest possible pleasure to take part in the proceedings of to-day. I know that by you and the Lady of Cluny the proceedings of to-day must be viewed with mixed feelings. Your thoughts must turn to-day not only to many years of bygone times, but they must also be directed to what we hope may be many happy years in the future. And it is my wish, and it is the wish of all here present, that as the end approaches, you, surrounded by a happy and united family, honoured and respected by all who know you—honoured by your sovereign, as we know you are, and respected and beloved by your clansmen—I say, we fondly hope that you may regard the last days of your life as the brightest and the happiest of the days you have remembered. I have only now to ask you to accept this address, and I have to ask you also to accept the memorial, the sketch of which you see before you. It occurs to me that perhaps, as you look at that [pointing to the picture of Sir Hector Munro, who searched Badenoch for Cluny of the ’45], the feeling may come over you that there were leal hearts in Badenoch in the days when English gold could not tempt the Highland people to give up your distinguished ancestor or the Prince, to whose cause he was so faithfully attached. When that feeling comes over you, will you read this address which I now present to you, and \^hich is signed by over three hundred men throughout the empire and beyond it? And will you believe me, that although there is no king’s gold put forth to buy the Highlanders now, there are as leal hearts in Badenoch now as ever there were in the days of your forefathers?”

In the course of a touching reply by Cluny—

“It has been”—said the venerable Chief, with deep emotion—“It has been my delight and that of my wife to dwell among our own people, and to endeavour so to act in every relation of life as to secure their affection and respect. Nothing could give us greater satisfaction in the evening of life than the consciousness of having so acted ; and nothing to us is more gratifying than the strong testimony we have now received that we have in some measure succeeded in doing our duty, and retaining the confidence and goodwill of so large a circle of friends. We cannot expect at our time of life long to take an active part in the duties of our station; but you may all rest assured that we shall continue through life to take the deepest interest in everything that relates to and that will promote the welfare of the district where our home is, and where we have passed so many happy years, and which, to us, no place on earth can compare. To my clansmen I will say this, that though the days are past when the gathering cries of clans resounded throughout the Highlands, and the clansmen hastened to the banners of their chiefs, there is no abatement in their old clannish feeling of devotion, nor of affection and pride on the chief’s part towards and in his clansmen. These feelings it has been my pride and pleasure to cherish ; and the sentiments you, my clansmen, have expressed towards your Chief will, I am sure, find an echo in the hearts of clansmen all the world over.”

The subscribers to the presentation numbered between three and four hundred, and embraced all the historic names in the Highlands. The existing chiefs of clans are nearly all represented in the list: Cameron of Lochiel, The Chisholm of Chisholm, Lord Lovat (Chief of the Clan Fraser), the Earl of Seafield (Chief of the Clan Grant), Lord Macdonald of the Isles, Mackintosh of Mackintosh, MacLeod of MacLeod, and Sir Robert Menzies, all old friends or neighbours linked with many memories of the days of other years. The Macphersons are represented by one hundred names. Had time permitted communication with clansmen in the Australian colonies, the names would have been still more numerous. The letters received by Cluny at the time from clansmen in all parts of the world, breathing the warmest spirit of devotion, were intensely gratifying to him. As evidencing the deep regard entertained for him, not only in this country, but beyond the limits of the United Kingdom— extending even to our American cousins—not the least interesting circumstance in connection with the presentation was the fact that spontaneous contributions were cabled by the Speaker of the Senate of Canada (Sir D. L. Macpherson) from Canadian clansmen, and that similar contributions were cabled by a barrister of high standing in Washington (Mr John D. Macpherson) from clansmen in the United States.

A consistent Conservative all his life, Cluny was ever courteous and tolerant to all who differed from him, whether in Church or in State— disarming contention, as he frequently, quietly, and happily did, with the remark, “We must agree to differ.” A loyal and devoted Presbyterian, he was no sectarian. Men of all Churches and of all ranks honoured him. In the management of his estates the maxim, “Live and let live,” which he often quoted, was his ruling principle. During his long possession, evictions or summonses of removal were never heard of, and cluny’s death and funeral.

practically there were no arrears of rent. He, winter and summer, ever loved to dwell “among his own people.” It is no exaggeration to say that every tenant and crofter on his estates were familiarly known to him by name. In him were the Scriptural precepts, “Be pitiful, be courteous,” beautifully exemplified. He never passed the humblest labourer on his estates without, when opportunity offered, some happy salutation in the old mother tongue, so dear to Highlanders. Less than a week before his death he expressed to the writer feelings of the warmest kind towards his clan and tenantry. Among other matters, he spoke about the meeting of Highland proprietors which had been arranged by his kinsman, Lochiel, to take place at Inverness the following week, in connection with the crofter question, observing that he was too old to attend. “You know,” he said, “that I am on the best of terms with my tenants and crofters, and I do not consider my presence necessary in any case.” Encouraging, as he ever did within reasonable and well-regulated bounds, all the innocent and manly pastimes of our forefathers, Cluny was in the habit of annually giving a “ball play,” or shinty match, to his people. On Christmas Day (old style), five days before his death, the “ball play” took place as in previous years. The day happened to be very stormy, with blinding showers of snow. The aged Chief would not be dissuaded by loving counsels from attending as usual, remarking that while strength was spared to him he considered it simply his “duty” to be present at all such happy gatherings of his people. Accompanied by the loving partner of his long and happy wedded life, he accordingly drove to the field, and they were both received with the genuine Highland enthusiasm ever evoked by the presence of the venerable pair at such gatherings. In response, Cluny made a happy little speech in Gaelic, expressive of the pleasure it always afforded him to be present with his people, participating, as he had always endeavoured to do, in their joys as well as in their sorrows. Although Cluny’s exposure to the piercing blasts on that occasion—dictated, as such exposure was, by a lifelong regard and consideration for his people—did not, it is believed, hasten the end, yet that end was very near. Within five days an attack of bronchitis had developed itself to such an extent that on Sunday, the nth of January, the venerable Chief passed calmly and peacefully to his rest.

Attended by a large gathering, representative of all classes, embracing many of the greatest historical names in the Highlands, the funeral took place on Saturday, the 17th of January, amid manifestations of the deepest sorrow. The scene was altogether peculiarly touching and impressive. In the spacious hall of the castle lay the coffin, bearing on a brass plate the following inscription :—

“EWEN MACPHERSON OF CLUNY MACPHERSON,
CHIEF OF CLAN CHATTAN, C.B.,
DIED 11TH JANUARY 1885, IN HIS EIGHTY-FIRST YEAR.”

On the top of the coffin were placed the sword and well-known bonnet of the Chief, embowered with wreaths, loving tributes of affection from relatives, friends, and clansmen. Prominent among such tributes was one from his old regiment, the Black Watch. Around the hall were the numberless historical relics of the past, in which the dead Chief took such an interest. Suspended above the coffin was the famous Bratach Uaine, or green banner of the clan, torn and dimmed with the stains of many a battle-field, but with no stain of dishonour. While descending the steps leading from the hall, the eyes of not a few present filled with tears as they recalled many a happy greeting or parting word, warm from the heart, uttered by the lips now closed for ever. As the funeral procession moved slowly along the avenue to the quiet and secluded burial-place of the family—the snow muffling the measured tread of the mourners—the solemn and impressive stillness was broken by the plaintive notes of the bagpipe, the pealing lament of the pibrochs awakening, as if in responsive sympathy, the wailing echoes of Craig Dhu—the Craig Dhu so closely identified with the Macphersons as their war-cry in turbulent days happily long gone by. Thus appropriately was the venerable Chief “gathered to his fathers” under the shadow of the “everlasting hills” he loved so well. Conscious that beneath the whitened sod that wintry day there had been laid one of the truest and most patriotic hearts that ever beat in the Highlands of Scotland, his friends and clansmen left all that was mortal of their dear old Chief in his last resting-place, the words of the old Gaelic Coronach—so inexpressibly touching to all Highlanders—as they sorrowfully wended their way homeward, still sounding in their ears:-


“Cha till, cha till, cha till mi tuilleadh,
An cogadh n’an sith, cha till mi tuilleadh;
Le h-airgiod no ni cha till mi tuilleadh
Cha till gu brhth gu la na cruinne.”

(I’ll return, I’ll return, I’ll return no more,
In war or in peace, I’ll return, no never;
Neither love nor aught shall bring me back never
Till dawns the glad day that shall jjoin us for ever.)


Return to Book Index 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