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In the Hebrides
Chapter 9


THE OUTER HEBRIDES

The Long lsland—Start for Harris—St. Clement's Csthedral—Tarbert—Handmills—TheThamis—Fincastle-Stornoway—Loch Maddy Market—North Uist—Machara—Shell-fish and Lobsters—Fords—Driftwood--Qornish Blessings—Benbecula---South Uist—Disrnal Homes—Wild Fowl—Barra —Kisinnil Castle—Eriskay—Wreckers---South Bernera Lighthouse - Mingalay.

HAVING as yet had but a distant view of the Outer Hebrides, we determined that the next cruise of the Gannet should be in their direction. The principal islands included under this head are Lewis and Harris, which are in fact one island, being connected by a narrow neck of land, bearing the significant name of Tarbert. Lewis and Harris are generally known in the group as "The Long Island," and claim the dignity of being the third in size of the British Isles. Its population in 1881 was 28,339 persons, of whom upwards of 26,000 speak their Gaelic mother tongue, and comparatively few "have the English."

South of "The Lews," which is another name commonly applied to the Long Island, and separated from it by the deep Sound of Harris, stretches a long line of low, dull islands, which also are practically one, being all so connected by fords, that at low tide you might walk dry-footed from the northernmost to the southernmost point, whereas at high tide they are divided by deep arms of the sea, several miles in width. These are the Isles of :North Uist, Baleshare, Grimsay, Rona, Benbecula, and South Uist, together with various intermediate islets. Sometimes the term Long Island is applied collectively to all these, as well as to the Lews.

Still further south lie the group known as "The Barra Isles,"— grand isolated masses of granitic rock, rising precipitously from the wild open ocean.

If you glance at a map of the Isles, you cannot fail to notice how very peculiar is the appearance of this great chain of islands, which, from Barra Head on the extreme south, to the Butt of Lewis in the far north, form a continuous line for about 120 miles. On the map they bear an extraordinary resemblance to a skeleton fish or reptile, of which Lewis forms the great head, while the other isles—.gradually diminishing in size, and all intersected by fresh-water lochs and salt sea fiords—form the spine and bones.

Taking advantage of' a favouring gale, we started from the green shores of Kilmuir, and had a glorious sail to Harris, a picturesque isle, whose mountains rise to about 3000 feet. We anchored at Rodel (or, as it used to be spelt, 'Rowadill), where once flourished a noted monastery, one of twenty-eight which were established in Scotland by the Canons Regular of St. Augustine, who, in later years, supplanted the more ancient and simple establishment of the Culdees.

This monastery of Rowadil seems to have been the ecclesiastical superior of the various religious houses and convents which once were scattered over these isles—the sites of certain nunneries being still pointed out as the "Teagh nan cailichan dhu," i. e. "the houses of the black old women," in allusion to the black dress of their order.

The fine square tower of the old church—St. Clement's Cathedral—at once drew us thither. It is a cruciform building—Early English on Norman, foundations, with a fine east window and some quaint bits of carving. The tower is said to be the oldest building in Scotland, except part of St. Mungo's Cathedral at Glasgow, and those who doubt the antiquity of the kilt as now worn, may here see a most unmistakable sculpture of the garb of old Gaul. I suppose the use of tartan in remote ages was well proven, even before the appearance of that quaint old metrical version-of the Scriptures, still preserved at Glasgow, which told how

"Jacob made for his son Josey,
A tartan coat to keep him cosy"!

We had heard much of the beautiful stones in the old churchyard, but sought for them in vain amid such a crop of nettles as I never saw elsewhere. It is a picturesque spot notwithstanding; and when, among the golden brackens and brambly tangles, we found a rich harvest of ripe, delicious blackberries, we were content to feast like children, and were comforted for the disappearance of the old gravestones beneath so pleasant a wilderness.

This was the burial-place of certain old MacLeods of Harris, whose monuments are inside the church. One, a knight in armour with two-handed broadsword. Another sleeps in his shirt of mail and high-peaked helmet, his feet resting on his dogs. We could not get the key of the church, so failed to see the tombs of the isle and ocean lords. The tombs of the Vikings are distinguished from those of the mighty hunters, by their having a galley engraven near the hilt of the sword, whereas the latter almost invariably have deer and hounds in full cry, careering round them. One old gravestone here tells of a Sir Donald MacLeod of Berneray, who married his fourth wife when he was past eighty, and left a numerous family by her!

We had also wished to see certain old Picts' forts, or duns, which we knew existed on various hill-tops in the neighbourhood. They are simply circles of large stones piled up without cement, and always placed within sight of one another, to act as alarm-posts. The people say that a curious building of this form lies under deep water, within a few yards of the shore—and on a clear day they can see it distinctly near the village of Rodel. However, as the wind was favourable, we went on to Tarbert, a name which applies to a strip of land between two waters.

It was nearly dark when we anchored, but at daybreak we went ashore. Five minutes' walk took us across the narrow neck of land to the other side of the coast, and we were duly edified by the primitive modes of agriculture. Here and there, in the middle of morass or peat-moss, some small scraps of amble land are carefully cultivated; wretched little patches of potatoes, oats, or barley, struggling for existence wherever a possible corner has been found, in the midst of rock and heather. It seems like fighting against nature to try and force her to grow corn on land which she has so distinctly set apart for pasture. In point of fact, Harris is almost entirely resigned to deer.

Such morsels of ground as are under cultivation can only yield their miserable crop if freely manured every year with sea-ware, and even this supply is so scanty, that many of the poor crofters have to face the danger of stormy seas, and go all the way to Skye to obtain a boat-load.

In some of the humble turf huts hereabouts you may still chance to see a specimen of the old quorn or handmill, consisting of two hard gritty grindstones, laid horizontally one above the other; the grain is poured between them, through a hole in the centre of the upper stone, which is made to revolve rapidly by a wooden handle. I suppose this was somewhat akin to the old English handmill or Tharnis, the wood of which was wont to ignite in the hand of a swift worker, thus giving rise to the saying, concerning an idler, that "he would never set the Thamis on fire," a proverb often quoted with small thoughts of its origin.

It is strange to think that these poor little handmills should ever have been an object of jealousy to our legislators. Yet in old days various laws were passed advising the lairds to compel their tenants to bring their grain to the water-mills; and also empowering the miller to search out and break any querns he could find, as being machines that defraud him of his toll. So far back as the thirteenth century, the laws of Alexander IlI. provide that no man shall presume to grind quheit, maishlock, or rye with handmill, except he be compelled by storm; and even in this case he is bound to pay a certain tax to the miller!

The modern miller who cares to behold his ancient rivals may see good specimens in our antiquarian museums, without a voyage to those remote corners of the earth, but it is only here that he may still see them in active work, and hear the wild plaintive songs with which "the two women grinding at the mill" wile away the monotonous hours.

Wilder still are the songs sung by a whole troop of lassies when waulking cloth; that is, when a dozen women sit on the ground, in two rows, feet to feet, with a ribbed woollen board between them, whereon is laid the newly-woven woollen web; then, with their bare feet, the women work the cloth to and fro, till they have rolled it to a right consistency, their song growing louder and louder as they warm to their work, so that a casual observer is extremely apt to imagine that he has suddenly stumbled on the inmates of some private lunatic asylum.

The excellence of "Harris tweed" and "Harris stockings" is well known on the mainland, as, thanks to the fostering care of Lady Dunmore and Mrs. Thomas, these manufactures have become an organized industry, whereby most of the women of Harris earn their living. It is the means of circulating several thousand pounds a year on the isle, and forms a very important item in the support of the people, whose farming is by no means sufficient for their needs;—no wonder when we learn that in one district of Harris 620 families are now living on the tiny crofts held by 280 tenants! Here, as elsewhere, most of the men are chiefly dependent on their precarious earnings at the cod, ling, or lobster fisheries, or the herring fishery on the east coast; a considerable number also serve in the Naval Reserve, or the Inverness Militia, and their pay, in many cases, is invested in the purchase of wool, which the women spin and weave in their own homes.

To this industry, therefore, is due much of such comfort as we may see by a peep into some of their little homes. Finding that the inn owned a dog-cart (a wonderful old trap, mended at all points, but still capable of carrying us without undue danger, we hired it, and started on a long drive to the interior of the island.

We drove twelve miles through wild and most beautiful scenery; past the dark waters of Bonaveneta Loch, and halting in Glen Mevig, to secure a rapid sketch of a grand dark hill which stands up almost precipitously from the valley. The road lay between wild moorland and mountain on the one hand, and the sea on the other; all glorified by floods of sunshine which gleamed on the yellow sands of Laskantyra, transforming them to fields of gold. Scarcely a ripple disturbed the broad surface of the calm ocean, which broke lazily in tiny wavelets, while the dark peat-moss revealed tracts of golden brown, and green, and purple, such as no one could deem possible who only saw such scenes on the dull monotonously grey days so common to our northern skies.

In the wildest spot of all stands Fincastle, a grand new building, placed in such a valley of rocks that a level spot had to be blasted before the foundations could be laid. A rocky mountain rises immediately behind the house—a rocky salmon river on one side, and a rocky burn on the other, always rushing and tumbling with ceaseless noise; while the terrace in front of the windows is a great sea wall, against which the waves dash; and the "snorting sea-horses" and the river-kelpies together make such a turmoil as would become wearisome to any ear but that of a keen fisher.

To the ear that rejoices in the stillness of a great calm, as the very ideal of bliss, such ceaseless sounds of tumultuous waters must, I think, be sorely trying. But it may be that what wearies the ear and brain of one man is music to his neighbour, especially if that neighbour is a whole-hearted fisherman, to whom the tumbling and tossing waters suggest the silvery fish that play beneath their depths.

We thought it a graceful compliment to Morayshire that the yellow freestone with which the house is faced had all been brought from our own dear Covesea quarries. Not that there is any lack of good building material in Harris. The grey whinstone is what masons describe as "a good binding rock ;" and there is fine granite in abundance.

Attracted by the green beauty of the rich pasturage on every side among these green hills, we made sure of a delicious bowl of new milk, but not one drop was to be obtained, for love or money. So entirely were the wild deer lords of the situation, that there was no grass to spare for cows, and the people had just to do without milk. Even at Tarbert we found a most insufficient allowance—a very sore privation to men, women, and children, whose breakfast, dinner, and supper consist of porridge and oat-cake. Sometimes they have potatoes instead of porridge, but rarely both at the same meal, even in our cottages on the mainland.

Let any one who is inclined to think lightly of cutting off milk from this meagre bill of fare, just try himself to live for even one week on nothing but oatmeal, without milk, and see how much he enjoys his "daily bread!"

But here we touch on the fringe of one of the burning questions of the day—the right or wrong of the very existence of deer forests —in other words, the maintenance on our northern isles of vast tracts of land wholly devoted to the preservation of "wild beasts."

The Islanders and Highlanders look back to idyllic days, when these wild mountain regions, wherein they dare not now set foot, for fear of disturbing the deer, were the pastures where in the sweet summer days they fed their flocks and herds—the little black cattle, and the small Highland sheep, which were regarded almost as individual friends.

Here and there were the shielings—summer homes of the very- simplest construction (mere huts of turf and stone, with beds of fragrant heather), which, during those summer months, gave shelter to maids and matrons, whose pleasant task it was to milk the kye and the little ewes, and to prepare cheese and butter for the market, filling up idle moments by spinning with distaff and spindle. Those were the days which gave rise to such sweet old ballads as we still love, though the scenes which gave them birth belong to a lamented.

Such songs as those wherein the blithe shepherd tells the et of his bliss:

"Tis to woo a bonnie lassie, when the kye come hame."

What pretty pastoral pictures are suggested by

"Sae sweet the lassie sung i' the bucht, milking the ewes";

or by such invitations as,

"Ca' the ewes to the faulds, Jamie, wi' me";

or,

"Will ye come to the ewe buchts, Marion?"

or, most melodious of all,

"Ca' the ewes to the knowes,
Ca' them where the heather grows,
Ca' them where the burnie rows,
My winsome deane o."

Now, only a shapeless pile of grey stones, scattered here and there on the high pastures, marks where stood those once joyous shielings, and in the sweet valleys, whence once rose the blue smoke from many a happy home, no aound is now heard save the bleating of the hateful big Southern sheep, or the bark of the Lowland dog which tends them.

It is to the connection of the hated Lowland sheep with the unhappy clearances, that allusion is made in the old sad song:

The flocks of a stranger the long glens are roaming,
Where a thousand fair homesteads smoked bonnie at gloaming;
Our wee crofts run wild wi' the bracken and heather,
And our gables stand ruinous, bare to the weather!"

For there came a time, not in the Isles alone, but throughout the Highlands, when proprietors began to realize that big farms were more lucrative than small ones, and that the new system of sheep- farming would assuredly bring in far larger returns than any hitherto dreamt of. So broad tracts of pasture-land were converted into sheep-runs, and the small farmers were displaced to make room for fewer but wealthier men. Then came the sad stories of evictions which drew tears of blood from many an honest heart, and chiefly from those weak and aged ones, condemned to end their lonely years in poor huts on the bleak sea-coast, or crowded together in hated towns, while their able-bodied bread-winners went off to far countries, there to establish new colonies, where, to this day, the memory of the old home is cherished; and no tongue save Gaelic is spoken.'

So intimately were these sad compulsory clearances associated in the minds of the people with the introduction of the strange sheep, that on one occasion a minister in Skye, having exhausted rhetoric in describing the joys of Heaven, crowned all by touching a deeply sympathetic chord, when he declared that "as no evil thing could enter the Blessed Kingdom, THERE WOULD ASSUREDLY BE NO BIG SHEEP THERE!"

The" tooth of the big sheep" was proverbial for all evil. Nevertheless, throughout the Isles and Highlands, flocks and herds such as were never dreamt of in the days of our ancestors, now fatten peacefully on mountain pastures, covering millions of acres which heretofore were of small account, but which now represent large sources of revenue to their proprietors.

There are, however, certain districts on the mainland, notably in Kintail, in which it is affirmed that (whereas the cattle which had heretofore pastured on the hills had helped to keep the land fertile) the incessant close nibbling of the sheep has so utterly exhausted it, that it is now deemed advisable to let the ground lie fallow for a term of years. it is said that where sheep alone occupy the land, the grarings deteriorate to such an extent (notwithstanding heather-burning and drainage) that farms which in former years have supported, say, five thousand sheep, will now barely yield pasture for four thousand.

To allow the land to recover from this exhaustion, is the reason now assigned by one proprietor for a considerable extension of his deer forest in part of Ross-shire, though it might well be thought that these already occupied their full share of the land, inasmuch as the twenty-five deer-forests of Ross-shire cover one third of the whole county.

(It is stated that deer-forests and sheep-runs together occupy two-thirds of the Highlands. Of the former it has been recently said: "They extend in an almost unbroken line from the southern borders of Perthshire to the shores of the Pentland Firth, and embrace an area of over two million acres of some of the best pasturage in the Highlands. Within this vast space absolute silence reigns. Sheep and cattle are of course rigidly excluded, and the only human occupants are a few glues." The writer might have added that the artist, the poet, and he who would seek new bodily and mental strength in those beautiful and health-giving mountain regions, are all alike jealously excluded, lest their human presence should disturb the wild deer, and spoil the sport of the few.)

But in listening to the tale of woe and of want which has been poured into the ears of the Royal Commissioners, appointed to inquire into the condition of the poor islanders in May 1883 (when we have heard the pitiful stories of how, about thirty years ago, the inhabitants of innumerable townships were evicted from the lands which they had brought under cultivation, and which yielded fair returns—and of the people being compelled to settle on worthless peat1-mo88, or to subdivide the small crofts already in possession of other men, and to eke out a wretched living by twice a day following the receding tide, in search of limpets and other shell-fish), we cannot but sympathize with the speaker who, alluding to the old blithe days in' the summer shielings, days of comparative abundance, says: "it is unseemly that the big sheep should be dying of fatness alongside of us, and we, the people, be driven from the land of our fathers to seek to provide our living on the face of the sea," —a living which they can scarcely contrive to procure, and which most men would deem well-nigh starvation.

Truly it is pitiful to hear the accusation of "extravagance" which, in the course of this inquiry, some witnesses have brought against their poorer neighbours, and then to learn that this refers to their indulging in a little weak tea—possibly, if they can afford it, with the addition of a little sugar as their only substitute for the milk of which they and their children have been entirely deprived by the loss of the pastures. This extravagant beverage—a little weak tea without milk—is all they have to wash down their hardly-earned porridge; and so deleterious to the little ones is this found to be, that the doctor-of one district strongly recommends the adoption of cheap beer instead of tea—a lamentable, sole alternative, while the tempting pasture-lands lie outspread on every side.

A hard struggle, in truth, have all these poor folk to obtain their daily bread, and the evidence of one and all goes to prove that their poor little crofts (with Boil exhausted by eighty or a hundred years of incessant tillage) will no longer yield them sufficient food to keep their families for more than perhaps a couple of months in the year; so it is a matter of perpetual anxiety how to provide the oatmeal necessary for the remaining months, either by precarious toil at the fisheries, or at any other work that can be obtained.

Yet while all corners of the Isles are overshadowed by this ever- deepening cloud of poverty, the actual market value of the land has increased at a rate altogether astounding. This very district of Harris (a tract of about twenty-four miles in length, by seven in breadth) was, in the last century, sold by Macleod of Macleod for the sum of £15,000 to a son of Sir Norman Macleod of Bernera. In the beginning of the present century it was purchased by lord Dunmore for £60,000, and only a few years ago, half the estate was bought by Sir Edward Scott of Ardvourlie as a deer-forcst, for about £155,000, an investment which, while it shows a nominal rental of £2200, in point of fact yields small pecuniary return, and, on the contrary, calls for an annual outlay of large sums, amounting in one year to £6000! No wonder that Sir Edward was described to the Royal Commissioners as "a generous Englishman of the highest type 1" Few Highland proprietors could emulate such an example, and yet, with all the assistance they have received, the people of Harris are now in a state of as great distress as any of their neighbours.

We deemed ourselves fortunate in having seen the country in sunshine.

Ere we started to retrace our way to Tarbert, the scene had utterly changed. Leaden-hued clouds rested on the summits of the dark bills, and soon rolled down their sides, shutting out the last gleam of sunlight. Then came the rain—no gentle summer showers, but pitiless sheets of drenching rain, falling in torrents, and hiding from us every trace of the beautiful scenery around. It poured without intermission till after midnight, and we were all drenched.

A genuine Highlander will tell you that a thoroughly wet plaid is the warmest thing in the world, as the swollen wool can keep out the cold, and keep in the heat, twice as well as when dry; and if be has the luck of an extra wrap to throw on outside of all, he asks no warmer bedding! Happily for us, a good store of dry clothing awaited us in the yacht, and the weeping of night was forgotten when, at dawn, we awoke to the consciousness of another day of unclouded glory such as seems to me never to shine so brightly as in these Isles.

We were much tempted to make our next expedition northward to the Isle of Lewis, calling at Stornoway, there to see how art and wealth combined have triumphed over bleak nature in producing such wonderful gardens round the modern castle—gardens where every bit of rock is turned to picturesque account; where roses are made to blossom in long glass passages, and where figs and bananas and grapes ripen in profusion in stoves and hot-houses.

In the year 1844 Sir James Matheson purchased this naturally unattractive isle, which has been well compared to "a wet peat on a stone," so wholly is it composed of peat-bogs and rock. Vast sums of money have been devoted to the improvement of this very unpromising soil; 890 sores of peat-moss having been reclaimed and converted into amble land, and on this one item (together with the building of farm-houses and offices) no less than £100,000 have been expended.

And this is but one detail of the many schemes whereby a wealthy proprietor sought to benefit his land and his people. He established free schools in all parts of his property; and iii the first twenty-six years he found that he had spent no less than £11,680 on school-buildings and teachers' salaries. Twenty-five thousand pounds more were expended on the construction of two hundred miles of roads and bridges; and enormous sums on all manner of works for the improvement of Stornoway—building curing-houses for their fisheries, introducing gas and water. Thirty-three thousanÁl pounds went to starting great chemical works, £6000 to a patent slip, £2225 to constructing a quay for the steamers, which Sir James first chartered at his own expense, as, before his day, the Lews had been dependent for all communication with the mainland on a sailing mail-packet. Sir James's actual personal losses on these various steamboat transactions are represented by sums of £15,000 and £167,000!

It has been so gravely asserted that all this vast outlay has proved wholly unremunerative, that it is satisfactory to learn that the total rental of the estate has increased from under £11,000 in A.D. 1844 to upwards of £18,000 in 1883. Of this sum, £12,700 is paid as land-rent, and £3700 for shootings.

The special interest of these details lies in the fact that this Isle of Lewis is the very centre of some of the most perplexing problems of social economy in the present day. For while wealth has thus been poured out like water on the thirsty land, the actual condition of the people has gone on steadily deteriorating. Within the last century their numbers have about trebled, and their poverty seems to have increased in the same ratio, so that at the present time the people of Lewis are plunged in deepest depths of destitution, and the rates of Stornoway are said to have reached the astounding figure of 9s. 4d. in the pound!!

One of the most painful features in the recent inquiry into the condition of these really poor people, was the loud assertion, by those purporting to plead their cause, that "nothing has been done for them" by the proprietors. It was then mentioned incidentally, that in addition to the enormous sums which in the last forty years have been expended on the isle by Sir James, Lady Matheson annually bestows £50 on private charity in each of the many parishes, besides an annual gift of £100 worth of potatoes, while this year she has contributed £1500 to the destitution fund and £1500 to the construction of Ness Harbour, for the express purpose of providing work for the people. But these trifles are of small account in the eyes of such popular orators as have recently busied themselves in stirring up discontent and dissension throughout the North-Western Isles and Highlands.

Though no special beauty of scenery attracted us northward, we would fain have sailed round the stormy Butt of Lewis, to visit the primitive people of Barvas, whose rude home-made pottery we had seen treasured in museums, and might very naturally have attributed to the Ancient Britons I And from Barvas we would have passed on to Loch Bernera, to see the Druidic remains at Callernish, where several concentric circles, and also a semi-circular group of monoliths, with various tumuli and other rude stone monuments, remain to puzzle antiquaries with suggestions of the secrets of by-gone ages.

The solemn silent witnesses
Of ancient days—altars or graves.

But whatever temptations were offered by Lewis, a scene of more animated interest invited us southward, to North Ijist, where a great cattle-market was to be held on the low flat shores of Loch Maddy, a strange sea-loch, to which the entrance is by a narrow opening, guarded, as it were, by two great masses of basalt, which jut up from the sea, and are remarkable as being the only basalt within many hours' sail. These are called Maddies, or watch-dogs. Hence the name of the sea-loch, which extends inland in every direction, its endless ramifications forming innumerable fords, which intersect the land with the strangest network of channels.

In such a labyrinth of land and water, locomotion is indeed a difficult matter, for he who starts on foot finds that at every hundred yards he is stopped by a salt-water stream, while travelling by boat is even more slow and wearisome. Here and there, however, the creeks narrow so strangely that they are no wider than streams, and have accordingly been spanned by roughly-constructed bridges.

It was no easy matter to find a piece of sufficiently connected land to form a suitable site for the great cattle-market, and even that selected was a strangely-blended bit of land and sea. I doubt if any other spot could show so picturesque a cattle-fair. In the first place, all the cattle had to be brought from neighbouring isles to this common centre, and, as each boat arrived, with its rich brown sails and living cargo of wild rough Highland cattle of all possible colours, the unloading was summarily accomplished by just throwing them overboard and leaving them to swim ashore.

These island beasties take kindly to the salt water, and seemed to rejoice in finding cool bathing-places on every side. All day long there were groups of them standing in the water or on the shore that made me long for the brush of a Rosa Bonheur—such attractive combinations of rich warm colour—silvery-greys and reds, browns and blacks, rich sienna and pale sand-colour, all reflected in the pale aquamarine water. In the whole market there was not a beast that was not individually a study for an artist, with its widespreading horns, and rough shaggy coat, and its large, soft, heavily- fringed eyes, that seemed to look so wonderingly on the unwonted assemblage round them.

Besides the fishers' brown-sailed boats, several tiny white-winged yachts bad brought customers to the market and added to the general stir—a stir which' must have so amazed the lone sea-birds, which are wont to claim these waters as their own, for, as a general rule, a more utterly lonely spot than this dull flat shore could scarcely be found.

Now, however, an incredible number of islanders had assembled. It seemed a fair matter for wonder where they could all have come from, but a tidier, more respectable lot of people I have never seen. These people of North Uist—now, alas! like their neighbours, so sorely oppressed by downright want—generally rank among the most prosperous of the Outer Islesmen, their patient industry being proverbial.

Frugal as Chinamen, these careful folk deem no work too trivial if they can by any means thereby turn an honest penny.

Thus while many of their neighbours are hopelessly in arrears of rent (the majority of the crofters on Barra being five years, and those on Mingalay ten years in arrears), the men of North Uist have kept well up to the mark. It is also worthy of note, that notwithstanding great hardships, consequent on evictions in bygone years, their houses, built by themselves, are of an unusually good type, most of them having separate outhouses for their cattle.

Most of the four thousand inhabitants of North Uist live on the further side of the isle, and had come across in the rudest of little carts, drawn by shaggy ponies, whose harness was the most primitive combination of bits of old rope, connected by twists of the strong wiry grass of the sand-hills (bent, we call it on the east coast). Now the carts were tilted up, and watched over by wise collie-dogs, while the ponies were turned loose to graze on the heather. Indeed, the number of these was a noteworthy feature in the scene, for these rough little creatures find their own living on the moor, whence their owners must cut, and the ponies must carry, the peals which are the sole fuel of the isles. Hitherto they have also helped the kelp-burners, in carrying the heavy wet sea-weed to a safe drying ground, but that harvest of the sea is no longer to be garnered.

Most fortunately for us all, the weather was glorious; indeed, the blazing sun, reflected by the still waters, made us long for shelter, but not a rock or a bush was there to break the monotony of the fiat shore. The only morsels of shade lay beneath the few white booths set up by itinerant merchants, that lads and lasses might buy their fairings, and that the drovers might get their dram —the latter being a very important item in the day's pleasure, for the Blue Ribbon Army has not yet weaned the islesmen from their love of mountain-dew; and of the only two manufactories established in the Isles, one is a good woollen factory at Portree, but the other is a distillery at Tallisker, in the Isle of Skye, which turns out forty-five thousand gallons of whisky per annum, of which about twenty thousand are consumed on the Isle of Skye itself.

Naturally, there was a liberal consumption of "the barley bree" at the market, but, the consumers being all hardened vessels, no one appeared any the worse, nor even any the livelier—and liveliness is by no means a characteristic of these gentle quiet folk, most of whom seem to be naturally of a somewhat melancholy temperament. Men and women alike have a grave expression— not exactly careworn, for in truths they are generally ready to accept their hardships with amazing philosophy, but a far-away look, as those whose life-long teachers have been the winds and waves,—solemn spiritual influences which have sunk deep into their souls. As are the physical surroundings, so is the reflex, on the character of a race strangely sensitive to all that can suggest dreamy visions of the unseen,—a people whose cradle-songs have been the wild lays of Ossian, sung to eerie Gaelic airs, pathetic and mournful as the mingled sounds in nature which they so faithfully reproduce—the moaning of the winds, the wild cry of seabirds, the deep booming of the waves, the thunder echoing amid the mountains.

Faithfully do these nature-taught islanders live in harmony with her lessons. As the influences of nature in calm are ever soothing, and those of storm are solemnizing, so the tendency of the people is to quiet thoughtfulness, as though life were altogether grave and sad. Yet at a pleasant word the whole face brightens with a beaming smile, just as does the face of their native moorland, when glorified by a gleam of radiant sunlight. But anything of the nature of boisterous mirth would seem utterly out of keeping with the character of place or people—well-nigh as jarring as a sound of laughter in a cathedral.

A whole-hearted son of the Isles has just told me that I have misinterpreted his countrymen, and that the gravity is a quality of modern growth, carefully fostered by "Free Kirk "influences. He maintains that the true .nature is that which only peeps out occasionally, when the barley-bree has shaken off the acquired gravity, and encouraged the singing of rollicking songs and dancing in the energetic fashion of olden days, compared with which our most inspiriting "Reels of Tulloch" are tame indeed.

I am bound to believe these words of a true Gael, but I speak of the people as they seemed to me, and this great cattle-market afforded a very fair opportunity for judging.

The only sensible folk who had made provision against sun or rain were some wise old women, possessed of large bright blue umbrellas, beneath the shadow of which they sat on the parched grass. They were comfortably dressed in dark-blue homespun, with scarlet plaids and white mutches, and near them grazed several sand-coloured ponies, forming a pretty bit of colour.

Behind them groups of bright, healthy-looking lads and lasses were assembled round the white booths, and all along the yellow shore faint wreaths of white smoke from the kelp-fires seemed to blend the blues of sea and sky; for the blessed boon of sunshine was too precious to be wasted even in a holiday to Loch Maddy Fair, and the kelp-burners dared not risk the loss of one sunny day, for here, in North Uist, the industry of kelp-burning was continued till quite recently—that toiling harvest, whose returns are now so small, and always so uncertain, that the men of Skye have, for a good many years, altogether abandoned it. This is partly due to the fact that the sea-weed of Skye contains a much smaller proportion of the precious salts which give it value, than does the weed on some other isles, consequently it fetched a lower price. Now even these industrious kelp-burners of Uist have given up the work, though the loss of the pittance they thus earned is most seriously felt.

Loch Maddy itself is a most extraordinary place—quite unique, I should say—with the endless ramifications of its dreary salt,-water belie, winding in and out in every direction in countless little fiords, some of which run inland for nine miles, so that although the loch only covers about ten square miles, its coast line actually exceeds three hundred miles. It has been compared to the pattern of fairy frost on a window-pane, or to an outspread branch of sea-weed, whose countless leaves and stems represent the number of creeks and fords that spread in every direction. On this occasion it looked its very best, bathed in a flood of hot sunshine; but, on a dull misty day, or after prolonged rains, it must be dreary beyond description, when the sad-coloured land, and the almost motionless sea, seem so blended as to have no clear boundaries, but are simply a sort of amphibious creation; where the monotonous creeks are all discoloured by the mud washed down from the low dull shores— very desolate and depressing. There are indeed ranges of moorland which attain to a height of seven hundred feet, but they are so shapeless as to lend no feature of beauty to the scene.

It is a strangely wild, eerie place, the haunt of all manner of man-hating creatures. Even the shy seal ventures up these silent creeks, and lies basking on the rocks which the tide has left bare; and as to the sea-birds, they know every turn of the winding waters, and the quiet nooks where they may rear their downy broods in perfect safety.

We lingered for several hours amid the mingled throng of islanders and their cattle. Then we rowed away in a small boat to explore some of the winding fords, never knowing how far inland we might penetrate. Sometimes floating dreamily along, passing one moment through a channel as narrow as it was shallow, then opening into a deep, wide, brackish lagoon; an eerie place in rainy weather, but to-day all glorified by the light that gilds each weed and broken bank! Overhead hovered a cloud of restless birds, breaking the dreamy silence with the wild clamour of their querulous cries; and along the reedy shore a mother eider duck was teaching her fluffy young ones the art of swimming. But the seals had been driven far away by the stir of the market, though no sound could reach these quiet havens, where no tempestuous waves breathe exhilarating life and action, but all is still and well-nigh pulseless.

We paddled idly along, drinking in the perfect stillness of the glad sunshine; watching its glancing rays reflected from the water on the shadowy rock face, in rippling trickles of light. Here and there long tendrils of honeysuckle trailed almost to the water's edge, and ever and anon the quick motion of large white wings stirred the breathless air, and honeyed fragrance of the woodbine came wafted towards us, like some whisper of Heaven—some "sweet thought in a dream."

Then once more turning towards the more open sea, we watched the sunlight playing on the opal waters, which, defying all vulgar theories of colour, vary their tints according to some law of their own, changing from deepest blue to clearest green, or richest purple, according as the white sand or the golden sea-weed are the hidden treasures that lie beneath their depths. The yellower the tangle, the deeper the purple; and lest you should be tempted to doubt the secret of that strange rich colouring, here and there some tall giant of that marine forest raises its head to the upper world, and its glossy fronds float on the surface in lines of quivering light.

Strangers sometimes speak pityingly of the wearisome monotony of a life lived in these Isles. I cannot myself think that any life so encompassed by the ceaseless varieties of ocean can compare with the dull depressing sameness of existence in any agricultural or mining district on the mainland, where, from one year's end to another, all goes on in regular mechanical order, each day recalling the last, and the ugliness of all around, knowing no change.

Here, even the black peat-moss (which, when sodden by prolonged rains, is so unutterably dreary) changes as if by magic in the clear shining that comes after the rain, revealing a wealth of rich colour, of purple heather and golden lichens, silken-tufted grasses and delicate moorland flowers, dear to the busy, humming bees, but dearer still to the human children who, all unconsciously, drink in these sweet influences, which tend to mould their character for life. He who knows the delight of roaming alone in such wild regions, of watching the tremulous white mists float upward from the dark peat bog, to enfold and spiritualize the great sleepy hills, can perhaps realize why it is that these Children of the Mist are so dreamy and unpractical as compared with their Anglo-Saxon neighbours.

But of all influences which combine to produce the Hebridean as he is, none approaches the ever-present power of the ocean, which, as a living inspiration, is for ever and for ever whispering its messages to man, woman, and child, from their cradle till the hour when they are laid beneath the green turf within sound of its ceaseless dirges. It claims its right to keep watch over the islanders in death as in life, and steals quietly inland that it may leave none unsought.

As though the salt sea did not monopolize enough of the land, there are also numerous brackish lochs of so-called fresh water. Many, however, are really fresh, being in fact just chronic pools formed by the ever-renewed rains, which drain through the peat-moss, and so acquire that rich clear-brown hue, varying from the colour of treacle to that of London porter. Strange to say, these dark-brown pools abound in trout—hermit colonies. One marvels how they came there, inasmuch as few of these lochs have any inlet.

Some of them are studded with small islets, on which are the remains of Pictish duns. It is said there are about twenty of these in North Uist alone. They are circular, and of the rudest construction, being connected with the land by stone causeways, which are still visible above the water level.

These lochs have sedgy shores, and are covered with white and yellow water-lilies, amid whose fairy blossoms skim radiant dragonflies of every hue.

The lilies are very precious to the islanders, who use their roots for dyeing wool Another rich brown dye is obtained from some of the dark mosses and lichens that make such kindly coverings for the cold rocks. Heather yields a yellow colour, and a warm red is extracted from the common bramble.

But the most beautiful dye of all is procured from a kind of rue, with golden blossoms, which grows on the sandy shores. Its long tough roots when powdered and boiled, produce an excellent red dye, but they are also so valuable for binding the said sand, that it is illegal to uproot this plant. The people, however, tell of one vain woman who, in her longing to procure this rich red dye, went out by night to gather it, in defiance of her husband's prohibition. She was never seen again, but soon afterwards the northern sky was red with such flashing lights as had never been heard of, and all the islanders believe assuredly that the spirit of the woman had good cause to rue that red dye! The Hebrideans are by no means the only race who watch the fluttering of those eerie spirit-fires with something of awe. The Greenlanders believe the northern lights to be the spirits of their forefathers going forth to battle. And to all dwellers on the west coast the aurora brings a certain warning of much rain and storm approaching. So surely as "the sable skirts of night" are fringed with that celestial light, and the dark midnight wears her luminous crown of flashing rays, so surely is foul weather in store, and the wise among the people make provision accordingly.

The island of North Uist is now the property of Sir John Campbell Orde, having been purchased from Lord Macdonald's trustees about thirty years ago. it is about sixteen miles in length, by seven in breadth.

All the east coast of North Uist is the same sort of dreary, boggy, mossy, peaty soil, with weary, uninteresting, low creeks and inlets. The west coast, however, is far more smiling, and offers possibilities of cultivation on a small scale, so there all the inhabitants are to be found. All along the shore are wide white sands, beautiful on a calm day, but liable to drift over the cultivated lands. The aim of the people is, therefore, to cultivate the wiry bent grass, which spreads its long clinging roots, and makes such a mat as binds the sand and keeps it in its place. After awhile a thin crust of soil forms over these roots, and eventually finer grasses find a livelihood on these rnaekans, as this sandy soil is called. The tussac grass i.e one which is said to take kindly to the double task of feeding the flocks and binding the sands. Nevertheless the machans are dangerous neighbours, and there is always danger lest, in years of scarcity, the flocks may nibble these grasses too closely, and so break this protecting surface, forming a little rent, which the winds are certain to discover, and very quickly enlarge, and one stormy night may produce such wild drifts as will leave promising fields sown with more sand than the poor farmer need ever hope to get rid of.

This is said to have been the cause of that overwhelming sand- drift which converted the fertile lands of Culbyn, in Morayshire, into that vast chain of sand-hills which now extends along the coast. Seven disastrous years of famine had reduced the people to such extremity of poverty, that they were driven to collect fuel where and how they could. Thus the broom and bent grass which had hitherto bound the shore were all torn up, and the wind catching the sand, blew it in thick clouds upwards of twenty-five miles along the coast, burying thousands of acres beneath this deep, ever-shifting sand desert.

Happily for the islanders, the sand thus carried is not all destructive. The whitest sands are formed entirely of shells, ground to the finest powder by the pitiless action of the waves. These, of course, are pure lime, and act as a very useful manure, enriching all manner of crops. You can generally tell the little islands where the shell-sand is most abundant by the richness of the grass, and the fragrance of the sweet white clover which scents the air.

On some islands protected from the fury of the Atlantic, the shells lie unbroken in countless myriads. On one such we landed, near the coast of Roes-shire (the Saint's Island, protected by the Isles of Raasay and Skye), where, to the depth of many feet, the little shells lie heaped up, each quite perfect, a quarry of shell- gravel. There are no pebbles, no sand, nothing but shells closely packed together in inexhaustible store; little shells which were once silvery, or bright yellow and brown, but are now bleached by perhaps centuries of exposure to pitiless rains and blazing sun. Only a silvery sparkle remains to tell of the pearly things they once were. Above them is a light crust of earth, on which the greenest of verdant pasture shows how well the shell-lime acts.

The cultivation of the machar8 is not the sole means taken to prevent the encroachments of the sea. In some places, more especially in the Lews, tracts of land have actually been reclaimed, and the tide shut out by flood-gates, in Dutch fashion.

On the other hand, it is quite certain that the sea now covers various shores where villages and even forests have stood. For instance, on the green island of Vallay, lying north of Uist, there are traces of very fine timber and mossy ground lying below high- water mark. Now there is neither moor nor moss on the island, only rich green pasture lands, and shallow fresh-water lochs, on whose gleaming surface float myriad white and golden water-lilies; creamy blossoms, resting on their own glossy leaves, with young buds nestling around; buds that even in the depths of the "dim water world" have been all unconsciously seeking the glorious light above them; mysteriously drawn upward to do it homage, and never swerving to the right hand or the left till they have found it, and their pure hearth silently expand toward the great calm heaven, which broods on every side, and lies reflected in the clear surface of the waters. Truly an image of peace unutterable.

On one of these quiet lochs there is a tiny green island which is the favourite haunt of the deer; they swim across in the moonlight, to this, their chosen sanctuary, where they are rarely molested.

One solitary farm-house represents human life on this isolated shore, which is connected with North Uist by one of those strange fords that link together so many of these islands, affording a secure road on terra firma at certain hours of the day, while a little sooner or later, a strong tide rushes along in foaming currents, covering the ford to the depth of eight or ten feet with salt waves—and bringing with it a vast store of all manner of shell-fish, which forms a very important item in the harvest of the islanders. As soon as the tide recedes, a great number of people betake themselves to the shore, with their creels, and their rough little ponies—knowing that a good tide will bring them far more than they can carry, of cookies and mussels, periwinkles and limpets, razor-fish and clams, and all manner of odds and ends besides.

The abundance of cockles and periwinkles is almost inconceivable. Of the latter from twenty to thirty tons are despatched to London every week, by the steamers, via Glasgow; and go to replenish the stalls of the old wives at the street corners. Oysters from Scalpa and Loch Snizort also find their way there—and vast numbers of lobsters, dragged from their rocky homes on the wild coast of Harris, are likewise carried off alive. Poor prisoners, their claws are tied up to prevent their fighting by the way—and they are packed together in one great compact black and blue mass of twisting, struggling life, and thus they are transported to the boiling- houses near Billingsgate, where they meet with a vast army of their Norwegian brethren, and all share the same sad fate. Perhaps twenty thousand arrive from Norway in one night, while the Western Isles furnish an average of fifteen thousand per week, and in some instances, more than double that number.

Shades of lobster salads! what food for nightmares rises before us, at the thought of so terrible an array of vengeful, cold-blobded monsters, clad in panoply of blue-grey armour, standing over us with those awful claws uplifted, ready, at the bidding of Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, to plunge us into those horrible boilers, and avenge their luckless parents and kinsfolk.

The lobster fisheries are more profitable now than in the last century, when about seventy thousand were annually sent from the coast of Montrose to London, and there sold at prices varying from three halfpence to twopence halfpenny! Almost as cheap diet as salmon, which varied from three halfpence to twopence a pound! Those were the days when Scotch servants stipulated that they should not be obliged to dine on salmon more than three days in the week. Now the fishers receive from 9s. to 16s. a dozen, for lobsters, and the boats engaged in these fisheries can clear from £4 to £10 in a season.

Another large item in the contributions of the Isles to the mainland, is a vast supply of eggs—not for human food, but to be used in the Glasgow callandering works, to produce the glaze on chintz. It seems that freshness is no object, so every old wife lets her eggs accumulate till she has enough to be worth carrying to the "merchant." Her unpleasant store reminds me of our old Skye henwife, who said she always gave the nest-eggs to her own bairns. When we suggested that they must be slightly objectionable, she replied, "Wed, maybe they're just some snuffy!" I suppose that nest- eggs, like some other dainties, require an educated taste. So we also thought, when tasting the razor-fish or "spout-fish," which the fisher-folk consider so nutritious. Not all the art of a French cook could make those leathery lumps palatable!

The said razor-fish, so called from his inhabiting the long brown razor shells that strew our shores, but which is more correctly called "solen," is, however, a very valuable bait, and as such, is sought even more eagerly than for human consumption. He lies safely hidden beneath the sands, and so soon as he hears a step approaching, he digs a deeper hiding-place, and burrows his way lower and lower. But at the first alarm he spouts a jet of water in the air, like a tiny whale, and thus betrays his presence to the watchful bait-gatherer, who, from this custom, calls his hidden treasure the spout-fish. Plunging a barbed iron rod into the moist sand, he fishes up his victim; should be fail to strike him, he knows he need not try a second time, as the creature will have burrowed far beyond his reach; but, if bait is scarce, he will perhaps sprinkle salt on the bole, and then wait patiently till the solen rises to the surface, and is captured, to prove an irresistible dainty to all manner of fish.

The fords on all sides give a very curious character to this coast. It seems so strange to be for ever calculating tides—high-tide and low-tide—spring-tide and neap; with the knowledge that sometimes the safe ford 8hift.s, and that you may find yourself in trouble before you dream of it. Hence the state of the fords becomes the marked topic of conversation; and every person you meet, instead of making the usual comment on the weather, gives you the last news of the tide—or wishes you a dry ford—and a good ford—or hopes you may get a ford at all—a very serious matter, as to miss the ford, and have to stay all night on the wrong side of it, would involve an amount of "roughing it" scarcely desirable.

The fords differ much one from another. That which connects Vallay with North Uist is an unbroken beach of hard, white sand, extending the whole two miles from isle to isle, a lonely level shore on which generally no sign of life is visible, save a few white-winged sea-birds, that float on the breeze like flecks of spray from the white surges beyond.

The next ford lies between North Uist and Benbecula, and is known as the Big Ford, being about four miles across. Half of this lies over sand, by no means sound—and the rest of the way is so intricate, that a stranger must take a fisher-laddie for his guide, along a track twisting and turning in and out between low reefs of black rocks, skirting quicksands, and dangerous holes— splashing through water ankle-deep or sometimes deeper still, through beds of sea-weed and tangle; altogether a very labyrinth. The track is marked by black beacons, but many of these have been washed away, and altogether a more dismal road to have to travel on a stormy day, with a dubious ford perhaps, and dreary grey rain, could hardly be imagined; you cannot help picturing the horrors of sudden illness, or overpowering weariness, detaining some lonely woman or child in that melancholy channel, till the waters return in their might, whirling along in the strong swift current which here pours from the Atlantic to the Minch.

Having passed this dismal ford, you find yourself in bleak Benbecula, a dreary level of dark peat-moss and sodden morass, only diversified by more of the shallow lakes which are so numerous in these isles, all abounding in trout, which the oft-times hungry people would fain capture for their own use, but which here, as elsewhere, are strictly preserved.

Strangely enough, the ford marks a distinct ecclesiastical boundary, the inhabitants of North Uist being almost. all Protestants (there are only three or four Roman Catholic families on the isle), whereas the majority of the people of Benbecula, South IJist, and Barra have adhered to their hereditary faith, uninfluenced by the Reformation, a circumstance attributed to the fact that while Clan Ranald and the MacNeils (who ruled in the Southern Isles) continued faithful to the Church of Rome, the Macdonalds encouraged their people to embrace the Protetant faith.

About sixteen hundred human beings contrive to exist on Benbecula, and, with all its drawbacks, hold these five miles of dull peat-moss dearer than any "large land" that could be bestowed upon them in foreign parts. Like most of its neighbours, it has a belt of white sand and "machar land" on the western coast, and yields a tolerable supply of potatoes and barley.

But the casual visitor sees only one point of relief to the dreary monotony of the scene, namely, the ruins of Borve Castle,—a fine massive keep commanding the whole isle, but now most desolate,— the haunt of croaking "hoodie craus."

There is small temptation to linger here, so you hurry on to try and save the next ford, and so reach South Uist. This ford is only one mile across; it may, however, happen that you reach it only in time to see the waves pouring in, rapidly changing the ford to a sound, which no boat will cross, so there is nothing for it but to wait in Benbecula till the next day; and a very dreary wait it is, as two of my friends' proved to their cost, and thankful they were to get a night's rest in a house, which at that time was, and perhaps still is, the only apology for an inn. They noted with interest the wood-work of their room, which was all built of worm-eaten drift-wood, with here and there rusty nails still marking its descent from some good ship which had gone to pieces on the rocks. All the furniture in the room was of the same sort.

It is curious to think of these treeless islands, where every atom of wood for every household purpose must be imported from afar, where a good wreck must necessarily be looked upon as a god-send, and where day by day the tide line is eagerly scanned, to see what treasures may have drifted in from far countries.

For the wrecks are not the sole timber supply. Good logs of hardwood and felled trees, as well as chance branches and spars, are washed ashore from West Indian and Mexican forests, drifting along with the warm Gulf Stream. Bales of cotton, and bags of coffee, Molucca beans, or fairy eggs as the people call them, and all manner of quaint treasures, are among the spoil which rewards the patient seekers. Sometimes they find foreign shells; sometimes such bamboos and fragments of carved wood as encouraged Columbus to seek for an unknown world, far away to the west; and sometimes—most precious prize—some drowned lady's raiment, which will set the fashion, no matter of what country, for many a long day.

On one occasion my kinsman, Campbell of Islay, found a number of the graceful marine creatures known as "Portuguese men-of- war" stranded on a tidal rock in the sound of Barra. They were still alive, and he extemporized a tiny aquarium, in which these tropical guests survived for a little while. He described them as "blue transparent things like a leaf, about the size of a half-crown, with a membrane like a lateen sail raised out of water, and lots of coloured tentacles below."

I have sailed in many tropical seas, but have looked in vain for these elegant little creatures, which floated so peacefully along on the Gulf Stream, till they reached the rocky shores of Barra.

Live tortoises occasionally drift ashore, not much the worse for their long voyage; and once there came floating in, the mast of a man-o'-war, the Tilbury, which had been burnt off Jamaica.

Sometimes the wrecks yield stores, the use of which sorely puzzles the simple islanders, as when a vessel laden with tea met her doom off Dalebeg in Lewis, and the people could devise no better use for the precious cargo than to use it as manure, and to this day a field is there known as the tea-field. The large seeds of western forest trees, which are thus found, are esteemed great treasures, and are worn as charms, especially by women whose progeny is not so numerous as they might wish. One of these was recently presented to a friend of mine, with the assurance, given quite in earnest, that a similar one having been worn by another member of the family, had been the undoubted cause of the safe arrival of a son and heir! The commoner seeds are of two sorts, a large purplish-brown bean with a black band, and a round grey one, both of which I have found in great abundance on the shores of Ceylon, washed down by the great rivers which flow through the forests, collecting contributions on their seaward way.

But precious to the islanders as are these charms, no gift of the sea can compare in value with the timber, whether it comes in forin of logs or of wrecks. it is not many years since the factor of one of the largest proprietors wrote to acquaint his employer with the joyful fact that, thanks to Providence, there had been three wrecks in the early part of the winter, so that the island was well supplied with wood!

It does sound curious to the unaccustomed ear to hear the quaint phrases of piety with which these spoils of the deep are sometimes welcomed, and the ill-concealed regret of some of the old folk at the building of lighthouses, which have tended to warn vessels from these shores. They certainly have a practical belief in the proverb, "It's an ill-wind that blows no one good "—a creed which my great-grandfather 1 must assuredly have held when, in the middle of the last century, he wrote to an uncle in Morayshire, giving an account of his wife's estate of Penrose, near Helstone, in Cornwall.

He says: "In my last, I sent you enclosed a rent-roll of this estate, but I forgot to mention one thing, which is a very considerable appurtenance belonging to it, viz., a royalty on the sea-coast, which generally keeps my cellars well stock't with wine, brandy, and many other valuable comoditys. These things are called God's blessings in this country / I had one of them last year that brought me in eight hundred gallons of French brandy; another brought me ten hogsheads of good claret and frontiniack, which your friend Bruce seems to like very well; and this very winter I have had two of these blessings, one of which brought me a noble stock of flour, wine, and bale goods; the other brought me only a parcel of hides, log-wood, and some other trifles that may be converted into cash. These things are very convenient in a large family in these hard times, for corn of all kinds is very dear in this country at present, and I suppose not much cheaper in Moray. I would therefore advise you to come and partake of our Cornish blessings!"

The writer might have added that he himself was among the "blessings" thus drifted to the Cornish shores. For having sailed for India, his ship was compelled by stress of weather to run into Falmouth, where he arrived in time for a grand ball, at which the young heiress of Penrose was present She expressed her willingness to dance with any of the officers "except that ugly Scotch- man I" who, nevertheless, wooed and won her with amazing velocity; and we have good reason to believe that she was well content with her share of" Cornish blessings!"'

Old ocean pays tribute of all sorts. Sometimes, together with rich merchandise from the ships she has swallowed up, she brings the bodies of drowned sailors, and lays them gently down on the white sands; and the sea-faring folk give them such a decent burial as they themselves hope to receive, should they meet the like fate.

One of their oldest burial-grounds is in South Uist, on the grassy top of a sand-hill overlooking the sea. The centre is marked by a cross of worm-eaten drift-wood, round which are clustered the dead of many centuries. The people of the island are for the most part Roman Catholics, and for them the central ground is reserved. Protestants are buried in an outer circle; while in a third circle are laid all strangers, and all the unknown dead who are cast up by the sea. Some of these tombs are marked by memorial-stones ---one or two richly carved; but for the most part only a grassy mound, with a few wild flowers, marks where the sleepers lie waiting so quietly. And when the wind whispers and rustles among the bent, or rushes with swift swirl over sea and land, the islesmen listen reverently, for they have still a lingering belief that that swift rushing sound is caused by the great army of the dead passing hither and thither on their ghostly missions.

So eerie and awesome are the effects of mist, storm, and tempest, and of wild meteoric lights, flashing blood-red, as they often do on these northern skies, that it is small wonder if these people cling to their faith in the legends of olden days, and still think that sometimes the strange spirit-world which lies so near to them may mix itself with their daily life, and the wan grey ghosts of their fathers become visible to their mortal eyes.

Dreary and desolate as are the low shores of Benbecula, South Uist is more dreary and more desolate still. It is an island about twenty-five miles in length by five in width, rough and hilly on the east side, which is entirely given over to sheep (the isle supports 2612 sheep, 2292 head of cattle, and 916 horses). As on all these isles, such amble land as there is lies on the western shore, which is a dead flat, intersected by fresh-water lochs abounding in trout. Here of course live most of the 4000 inhabitants, and here too is Lochdar, the island-home of Lady Gordon Cathcart, who owns the whole isle, and several of those adjacent, including Benbecula. Good fields of fine rye-grass immediately around the house tell of successful reclamation from the moorland, but the general condition of the country is not suggestive of much satisfaction to the small struggling farmers.

As you cross the ford, from Benbecula, you find your path overshadowed by the dark inoantain mass of Heels. Then, as far as the eye can reach, stretches the endless brown morass, with more and more shallow lakes, only a few feet deep, dark and pitch-like. Of course, in sunshine, all the rich colours of mosses and lichens and skyey reflections lend beauty enough to any bit of uncultivated land and water, but when the whole is saturated with continuous rains, and reduced to one vast bog, the aspect of such a country must be depressing indeed.

Right across the island the road is built upon a narrow stone causeway, which is carried in a straight line over moor and moss, bog and loch, and which grows worse and worse year by year. Such miserable human beings as have been compelled to settle in this dreary district, having been evicted from comparatively good crofts, are probably poorer and more wretched—their hovels more squalid, their filth more unavoidable, than any others in the isles— the huts clustering together in the middle of the sodden morass, from which are dug the damp turfs which form both walls, and roof, and through these the rain oozes, falling with dull drip upon the earthen floor, where the half-naked children crawl about among the puddles, which form even around the hearth—if such a word may be used to describe a mere hollow in the centre of the floor, where the sodden peats smoulder as though they had not energy to burn. Outside of each threshold lie black quagmires, crossed by stepping-stones—drainage being apparently deemed impossible. Yet with all this abundance of misplaced muddy water, some of the townships have to complain of the difficulty of procuring a supply of pure water, that which has drained through the peat-moss being altogether unfit for drinking or cooking.

\Small wonder that the children born and reared in such surroundings should be puny and sickly, and their elders listless and dispirited, with no heart left to battle against such circumstances. Existence in such hovels must be almost unendurable to the strong and healthy, but what must it be in times of sickness  The medical officer of this district states officially that much fever prevails here, distinctly due to under-feeding. He says two families often live in the same house, and that he has attended eight persons in one room, all ill with fever, and seven or eight other persons were obliged to sleep in the same room!

The misery of those homes suggests a parallel with some in Ireland, which reminds me that it was to this isle of South Uist that the Emerald Isle first gave the precious boon of potatoes. They were imported by Clan Ranald in the year 1743. At first the people strongly objected to them, and nine years elapsed era they found their way to Barra. Ten years later we hear that they were the main food of the people for at least three months in the year. Thence they soon spread all over the Highlands.

However unattractive to the poor cottars may be their dwellings in South Uist, to a sportsman the island must indeed be a paradise —by reason of the vast tribes of wild duck, snipe, teal, woodcocks, and all manner of aquatic birds which haunt the fresh-water lochs The grey geese breed here, and the poor farmers have trouble enough to defend their little crops from these marauders, who assemble in flocks of five or six hundred, and attack the fields. The barnacle-geese winter here in almost incredible numbers. Tribes of wild swans pay an annual visit to the coast. In short, all manner of feathered fowl here find a favourite refuge.

Six miles of sea separate South Uist from Barra, which is the southernmost of the larger isles in the Outer Hebrides. it is about twelve miles in length--a wild and rugged 1isle, girt with dark rocks and caves, but with deep bays gleaming with the finest white shell-sand—well-nigh as white as the sea-foam which breaks upon the shore. Yet though its granite ribs crop out in all directions, it is emphatically a green isle, and its pasturage and that of the Isle of Vatersay, which lies immediately to the south, is said to be richer than that of any other isles in the group. On Vatersay 1200 sheep and 400 head of cattle find luxuriant grazing. One might fancy that whatever other hardships these islanders had to endure, they might at least be secure of good dairy produce, but the great want of milk for themselves and their children is one of their sorest grievances.

In days of old, Barra belonged to the Macdonalds of Clanranald, and McNeill Barra. But about the year 1838, it was purchased by Colonel Gordon of Cluny, together with South Uist, Benbecula, Vatersay, and the small adjacent isles, at a cost of upwards of £1,731,000. It may certainly be described as "a fancy property," quite unique, and affording its proprietor an abundant field for unremunerative outlay. Fortunately for the inhabitants, these isles are now the property of Lady Gordon Cathcart, who not only takes the keenest interest in their welfare, but is blessed with such abutdant means as have already enabled her to carry out many wise and philanthropic measures, with a view to teaching her people how best to help themselves. Her position, as proprietrix of most flourishing fishing villages on the east coast of Scotland (whence, year after year, scores of energetic fishers sail to these Hebridean waters and reap rich harvests from the herring shoals—often ere the Islesmen have realized that the herring have come, and perhaps gone again), gives her exceptional knowledge of fisher folk, and how best to enable them to help themselves, and to this most difficult problem she has applied both heart and mind.

Here, as elsewhere in the isles, the problem is rendered doubly difficult by the necessity which compels all the people to combine the professions of fishing and farming, instead of doing either thoroughly, so the valuable cod, ling, lobster, and even herring fisheries, remain only partially developed, because the fishers must needs bestow half their time and energy on tilling rocky and exhausted land which can no longer yield them her increase.

Nature has endowed Barra with one priceless boon, in the excellent harbour of Kisimul, or Castle Bay, which affords secure anchorage in deep water, in all conditions of the tide. It is landlocked by the green Isle of Vatersay, and being accessible from either the Atlantic on the one side, or the Minch on the other, affords a secure harbour of refuge for ships of heavy tonnage, when overtaken by sudden storms.
Here in the spring the herring fleets congregate from all quarters, east and west coast, and from three to four hundred boats (averaging from fifteen to twenty-five tons burden) bring a temporary stir to its quiet waters. At this season perhaps a couple of thousand people connected with the fisheries assemble on the shores of Castle Bay and Vatersay, all in the employment of a small regiment of fish-curers, who run up temporary huts and bothies, surrounded by piles of barrels, destined to convey the captured herring shoals to the continental markets of St. Petersburg, Konigsberg, Dantzic, Hamburg, and Stettin.

On a rocky islet in a corner of the bay, stand the massive ruins of Kisimul Castle, to which the harbour owes its name—the old dwelling of the McNeills of Barra—and perhaps the most picturesque thing in the Hebrides, having a strong likeness to Chillon, as it rises from the waters with its fine hilly background. Drawing near to the stately old keep, it seems to be thickly covered with the greenest ivy, which, on closer inspection, proves to be a clinging drapery of the Asplenium marinum.

For those who love wild flowers, these islands offer various treasures. For instance, in the rocky Isle of Eriskay, in Barra Sound, a lovely blue flower, something like a convolvulus, with waxy leaf, blooms in July and August. As it is unknown elsewhere, the people account for its presence by saying that Prince Charlie brought some seeds from Normandy, and sowed them here in some idle moment, in those summer days which he spent here, when, in July 1745, he arrived with one small frigate of sixteen guns, with a little handful of faithful adherents, to reclaim the crown of Britain.

The castle of Kisimul is about seven hundred years old. When Martin visited it two hundred years ago, he found guards and sentries still posted, on the watch for possible surprise. Over the gate, a "goekman" spent the night thus pleasantly watching for the foe who never came, repeating warlike rhymes to keep himself awake, and hurling stones at possible invaders. In the rocks below, a dock was cut, wherein McNeil's galley might lie in perfect safety, with the additional defence of a strong sea-wail. Thence he was wont to sally forth, and carry terror through the isles, as his Danish predecessors had done before him; for old as is this wave-washed, weather-beaten fortress, it was built on the site of one very much older, called by the Danes Tur Leoid, under the walls of which lay a fleet of Danish galleys always ready for action.

McNeill kept up the warlike character of his ancestry, and in the hour of need could count on two hundred fighting men ready to fly to arms at the summons of their chief, his estates extending as far as Lochboisdale.

The ancient burial-place of the McNeills was at Kilbar, now ruinous, and overgrown with nettles and rank weeds. Two small chapels remain, dedicated to St. Barr—one of those dubious early Christians not recognized by the Romish calendar, whose memory, however, is still honoured by the people who come here annually to perform the Dei.sid, and go thrice round the ruins, following the course of the sun.

The population of Barra, numbering nearly 2000 persons, are nearly all Roman Catholics, not more than about twenty children of Protestant parents being in attendance at the four parish schools. The people are generally a cheerful race—very different from the saddened dwellers in the bogs of South 'Uist, though their homes are much the same, with only one hole in the thatch to admit light, and emit smoke. The fire burns in a hollow in the middle of the floor, and round it gather all the picturesque details of such an interior—the cattle on one aide, the human beings on the other; the big black pot, the heaps of fishing-nets, or tarry wool, and the blue peat smoke veiling all.

Barra, like the neighbouring isles, is rich in ruined forts and duns. It has sundry little lochs swarming with trout, and on several of these, now quiet tars, a fortified island reminds this peaceful generation of their turbulent ancestors.

There were, however, certain curious statistics published not many years ago, which tend to show that however kindly these good folk may be among themselves, some of them recently retained curious laws of morality as regards the strangers whom ocean casts on their hospitality; like the Ishmaelites of old, their hand is said to be against every man; but unlike them, these Sea-Arabs have small regard for the rights of their guests, in the matter of wrecked property. The stories of grasping and dishonesty connected with the securing of such heaven-sent cargoes sound rather like legends of the days when the men of Barra were notorious pirates, than like true narratives of the nineteenth century. We hear how the survivors of such wrecks have been pitilessly plundered of what little they had contrived to save; while heavy bills for service rendered, were sent in to the authorities.

Such was the case of the Bermuda, which was driven ashore some years ago in a wild wintry gale. The captain related how after long tossing in a fierce tempest his ship was cast upon the sands of Barra. All lives were saved—but the scene of lawlessness at the wreck was something indescribable. Everybody began to rifle, rob, and plunder—and such was the effect on the crew of the vessel, that, notwithstanding their recent escapes from peril, they joined in and plundered too. Meanwhile the captain's wife and little daughter were left to shiver on the beach, while the driving snow fell fast. Benumbed, bewildered, half dead with fright and cold, they were surely fit objects for mercy; but the tender mercies of the wreckers were cruel indeed, for taking the boots and plaids of the helpless woman and child, they departed leaving them half dead. The captain, who had been a powerless spectator of the scene, had no redress, save the recounting of his woes to the nominal authorities. Yet these harpies of the shore consider themselves most zealous Christians, and will on no account put to sea without the blessing of the priest and the safeguard of holy water.

Sixteen miles to the south of Barra lies South Bernera, about a mile long by half a mile broad; the uttermost isle, a bold mass of dark gneiss sloping down gradually towards the east, but presenting to the western waves a grand rocky rampart crowned with such a lighthouse of iron and granite, as may defy the wildest tempest, and warn all mariners to keep well away from this deadly coast. In clear weather this light is visible at a distance of thirty-three miles, but it 18 said that the height of the tower itself (fifty feet), and the fact of its being perched on a cliff nearly seven hundred feet above the sea, actually diminishes its value, as its light is often shrouded in mist, when all is clear below. It is a strange life of exile, which falls to the lot of the lighthouse men, living on so remote an isle, with only one possible landing-place; a shelving ledge of rock, on to which, if you are expert, you may jump, as your boat rises on the crest of a wave, and thence scramble up a slippery shelving rock, and then up a steep ravine, to the summit of the isle. it is only in the summer months that even this is possible. During the long winter, with its nights of sixteen dark hours, no vessel ventures within miles of the island, and a distant glimpse of a sail on the horizon is a noteworthy event.

For two hours in April, and two hours in June, a steamboat devotes its attention to the lighthouse stores; and once a year, a priest from Barra visits his little flock; otherwise the forty islanders are happily independent of all outer influences, and a fine, hardy, self-reliant race they seem to be. This sad year, alas! the wail of want and suffering rises from each one of these far isles, where the pressure of dire poverty is making itself felt as sorely as on the larger isles; only, as inhabitants are fewer, the task of relief seems less hopeless.

On the occasion of Captain Otter's surveying expedition here, so soon as the Shamrock anchored off South Bernera, one man dived like a South-sea Islander, and came on board, but the sight of the black cook was a very great shock to his nerves, as it subsequently was to those of his fellows; being almost entirely in accordance with their satanic theories. They made much of their rare guests, for whose entertainment they produced bowls of rich cream. The ladies' dresses were examined with great interest by the lassies, who had only once before seen a lady. They were themselves dressed in good striped wrnceys of their own spinning.

They had only two petitions to make to their visitors. The first and most earnest, was that a teacher might be sent them for their children; they would willingly do all in their power for his maintenance, if only he were sent. The other request was for any extra spars which they could use as bird poles. Bits of rope or sail would also have been precious. The abundance of ordinary driftwood was suggested by the amount of furniture in the houses.

Of course the people are dependent on the sea-fowl, whose flesh they salt and eat, and whose feathers not only supply their bedding, but, together with dried fish, enable them to buy tea and tobacco from the outer world. Their most successful times and seasons for capturing these wild beautiful birds, are the storms, when mad hurricanes are raging, and tossing the sea-spray over the land. Then the very birds are bewildered, and instead of flying straight to their nests in the cliff, are swept beyond their mark, and the islander (who is patiently lying on his back on the very verge of the cliff, with his head to the sea, armed with a long pole) strikes the bird with swift, dexterous hand, and rarely misses his aim. It is curious, in thinking how our luxuries come from other men's toils, to trace even our warm downy feather-beds to such battling with bitter cold and tempest as falls to the lot of these fowlers!

One trace of olden days remains on South Bernera, to puzzle antiquarians. it is a wall about thirty feet high and two feet in thickness, stretching right across the precipitous end of the island just beyond the lighthouse, for what purpose no one can imagine. The stones of which it is built, are described as being ten inches long, wedge-shaped at both ends, and fitting into each other with extreme regularity and nicety.

One mile from South Bernera lies the Isle of Mingalay (likewise a mighty mass of Laurentian gneiss). Its black crags and precipices are even grander than those of its neighbours, rising a thousand feet from the sea. These also are, in summer, literally white with the myriads of sea-fowl of every species, while the whole air seems to quiver with the soft fluttering cloud of white and grey wings- The account of their proceedings is very curious. The orderly manner in which each tribe keeps possession of its own allotted space; and the regularity with which in the first week of February all the birds arrive, devote some hours to house-cleaning, then vanish again, only returning at intervals till May, when they lay their eggs.

Then come the cares of their vast nursery and the education of the young birds, and when that is completed, the whole legion departs, no one knows whither, but the islanders sadly watch the last quivering cloud vanish on the horizon, while a melancholy silence reigns on the great cliffs, and for seven months the mad tossing waves have it all to themselves, and are the only signs of life and motion, as the snowy surges dash through every cleft and fissure of the dark rocks. And in truth here rocks reign supreme, for all round the isle there is not even the tiniest belt of soft sea-sand, where the little bairns may play in safety and gather treasures of the tide.

As a matter of course, a traveller sees only the picturesque side of life in these wild regions. It may perhaps be well to glance at some phases of real life in the nineteenth century as suggested by the evidence given before the Royal Commission in June 1883.

Here are a few extracts. At Loch Eport, in North Uist, the crofters told how "repeated evictions from other districts were the cause of so many townships being overcrowded." These commenced about sixty years ago, and continued till 1850, by which time all the inhabitants of a large district had been ruthlessly evicted. The lands which they had held were fertile, and there they had lived prosperously "in ease and plenty."

They were allowed no voice whatever in their future destination. "Many were compelled to emigrate to the colonies, and in one ship conveying them, fever broke out, to which many succumbed. Others who remained in the island got corners in other places, while the remainder were supplied with labour by the Highland Committee, until finally sent to Loch Eport where they still struggled to exist.

"The hardships to which these latter were exposed between their eviction and their settlement in Loch Eport were beyond description. The houses were knocked down about their ears, and they got no compensation for anything on the ground. They got no assistance in building their new houses. It was towards the end of the year, in winter, that they were building their temporary houses.

"The seventies of the winter, living in rude turf huts, and without fuel, except what they had to carry twelve mile., told on the health of many. The inferiority of the soil they now lived on, and its unsuitableness for human existence, was indescribable. Notwithstanding that, they had laboured to improve it for thirty years. The crofts would not yield them as much food on an average as would support their families for two months of the year. The ground was of such a nature that it could scarcely be improved, and the soil was so much reduced by continual cropping, that it was almost useless. The place, too, was over-crowded, there being thirty croft., on which forty families lived, where formerly there were only three.

"The common pasture, if it could be called by that name, was extremely bad, so much so, that in winter those of the people who had cattle, had to keep constant watch, else they would stick in the bogs. Human beings could not travel over portions of their crofts in winter. The people.were at present in poverty, and suffering privations and inconveniences of a nature to which the bulk of their countrymen were strangers. They earnestly prayed that the Commission would recommend their removal to some other place where they could live by the productions of their labours on the soil."

Very similar are the accounts given of the clearances of whole districts in various parts of the group. For example, a witness from Ferrinlea says.—" The clearances commenced about seventy years ago. M'Caskill had only Rhudunan in his possession at that time, and (lien. brittle was occupied by crofters in comfortable circumstance., ,and he cleared it and made a sheep run of it. There was then a church in Gleniner, and there is nobody there now to use it. The church 1s in ruins, and the manse is converted into a Bhepherd's house. About a dozen families, all in comfortable circumstances, were removed from Tusdale. Some went abroad, and others went to various parts of the country.

"There used to be sixteen families in Crickernish, and there is nobody there now but a shepherd from other townships. The big township of Ferrinlea, which was occupied by thirty families, was cleared. A township in Minginish, with twelve families, was removed, and a place called Locachierish was cleared, and the people scattered throughout the world. When the present tackaman of Talisker got the tack thirty-three years ago, he deprived the cottars of the grazings which they had, and for twenty years they could not get any. He also took from us our peat-moss, and gave us a bog which neither man nor beast had used uptothat time. He measured it out tousby the yard. The cottars who had been left by M'Caskill at Fiscavaig were also deprived of their peat-moss. They got for it a piece of bad land, which could not be called earth or moss. They had to cut it for fuel. Then he removed ten cottar families who had been left by M'Caskill at Tortenan, Fhirich, and ten or eleven from Fiscavaig, and put them in Ferrinlea, dividing the existing holdings to do so. We were obliged to work for the tacksman of Talisker whenever he required us. The strongest man, though he be as strong as Samson, only gets 11d day, and the women 6d. We have often to walk nine or ten miles to attend to his work"

The evidence of a representative fisherman and crofter of Coillemore, Sconser, in the Isle of Skye, suggests that the joy of the deer-stalker may mean grief to his poor brethren. He tells how they have some arable ground and pasture, and each crofter is allowed a cow and a cats but no dog. They are not allowed to graze any sheep on their pasture in case they should stray on the deer forest. Nevertheless, sheep from adjoining large farms come down upon their grazings, and their crops are eaten up by the deer. "There were four townships cleared thirteen years ago to make room for the deer, and a large number of those evicted were brought down to our village, in which there were thirteen bigger and fourteen smaller crofts. My great-grandfather and four others once occupied the whole of Coillemore. We cannot keep the strange sheep off our grazings, because our herd is not allowed to keep a dog."

Another witness says—"In our township we are very much troubled by the doer. I had a dog to protect my crops, but a gamekeeper, named Robert M'C}regor, came down to my lot and shot it in presence of my wife and myself I complained to the Fiscal about it.

"Did he prosecute the case?

"The answer I got from the Fiscal was that the factor was saying that we had no right to keep a dog. Nothing was done in the case. We have been making complaints for years about the deer. When we complained to the factor, he said that if we were not satisfied we could throw our place up.

"The deer forest marches with our hill pasture, and the deer come across it and trespass upon us. Neither we nor our sheep are allowed on our own pasture at the shooting season when the huntsman comes round, and our sheep then are not allowed on the hill.

"What do you do when the deer come on your amble ground?

"We have to watch them at night.

"Did anybody ever kill a deer that came on his arabic land?

"We dare not.

"What would happen to you if you did?

"I would be evicted from the place. The deer are eating our oats. We need to be protected from them. We have been promised compensation, but we never got any. We have to stand the loss ourselves, though the land is refusing to yield crop, and the seed of one year will not yield sufficient to sow the next. But we must pay rent to the uttermost penny. For the same land, less the grazings we had, the rent is now more than a hundred pounds higher than it was.

"The Sconsor houses are worse than any in Skye. The gamekeepers prevent the people taking thatch from the forest. There is nowhere else to get it. They also object to the people taking heather for ropes.
A neighbonr'of mine went out to out heather on our pasture for ropes, and the huntsmen came upon him, and threatened to shoot him if they found him there again. They were afraid we would disturb the muirfowl.

A crofter from Milovaig says—

"We have very miserable dwellings, and never get aid to build better houses. They are thatched with straw, and as our crofts do not produce the amount of straw necessary for fodder and thatch for our houses, and we are prohibited from cutting rashes or pulling heather, the condition of our dwelling-houses in rainy weather is most deplorable. Above our beds comes down pattering rain, rendered dirty and black by the soot in the ceiling above, and, in consequence, the inmates of the beds have to look for shelter from the rain in some dry place on the leeside of the house. Out of twenty crofters' houses there are only two in which the cattle are not under the same roof with the family."

Dr. Fraser of Edinbane in Skye is asked—

"Are you aware of any cases of disease which can be distinctly traced to the habits and food of the people?

"I have seen a good deal of scrofulous disease, a good deal of lung disease, and a large proportion of eye disease, due to the houses, feeding, and want of clothing. I think the diet of the people much too limited, even in a good year—potatoes, fish, and meal. I do not we any permanent remedy. There are too many people on the land, and I do not see how you are to get rid of them. I am quite satisfied that the crofts are too small. As a general rule, the people au wish to be crofters.

"Do you think the want of food is the cause of the people remaining comparatively idle during the winter months? The people in this country do not display great energy in cultivating their crofts in the winter months?

"They do not. I am sure they feel very much loss inclined to work when they are not well fed. I believe so from what I feel myself.

"Were their food better, do you consider they would display more energy?

"I am sure they would. There are no better navvies, as an average, than the Skye men; but then they are having beef three times a clay.

I may quote some passages from the evidence of men who, when evicted from their crofts on the mainland, were compelled to seek for quarters on the wretched Isle of Soa.

"Donald M'Queen, catechist, said--I do not know exactly how old I am, but toy age is more than ninety years at any rate. When I was young, I went as a teacher to the island of Soa—to the first English school there. I remember that when I was young, it was the custom for the people to have sheep, horses, and cattle upon the hill, and to live in shielings.

"The Chairman—From your recollection, do you think that the people in those days were better off and happier than they are now? A.—Is it not likely that they would be better off and more contented when they had cattle, sheep, and horses of their own in plenty, which they have not to-day?

"Alex. Mackaskill, cottar and boatman, Isle of Sea, said—My great- grandfather served with the army. My grandfather was forced to go to the army, and his bones are bleaching in a West India island. My father was in the militia; my brother was in Her Majesty's navy till the time of his death, and now the grandson of my grandfather is on a rocky island that is not fit to be inhabited. In Soa we pay £3 of rent. At first the agreement was that we were to have four milk goats, a cow, and ten sheep. The farmer by degrees reduced the number of our cows. He did not reduce the rent a farthing. There are twenty-three families on the island. The crofts are on bogs and rocks. When you put your foot on some parts the ground shifts so much that you would think you were standing at the foot of Mount Etna.

"John M'Rae, 35, cottar and fisherman, Boa, said— I heard the former delegate's statement regarding ,the condition of the people of Boa, and I agree with it. I could not put down potatoes or oats this year, because the ground was so soft It is nothing but pits or rocks. I have been getting bits of land from my neighbours to plant my potatoes, and my father was that way before me. I have no place on which to build a house. My present house is built on the sea-shore, and the tide rises to it every stormy night that comes. I have to watch and put out all my furniture, such as it is. A sister of mine was employed last winter putting out the furniture, and she was sickly, and died in consequence. rtief, by carrying some peat soil on my back, to make a bit of land, but it defied me. The ground is so soft about me that I had to pave a way with stones for my cow to get to thehill. I never saw a place in Scotland, Ireland, or Prance so bad for man to live in.

By the Chairman—I have been a yachtsman.

"I quite agree that the only remedy for us is to be removed from the island altogether. I have to pay 5s. a boll for meal, bring it to Loch Slapin, and, after that, I have to bring it eighteen miles further, to Boa, in a boat. It may happen that I have to spend 15s. to 20s in lodgings when the weather is stormy, and I cannot get to the island, and those at home starving. My brother also had a house near my place, and the tide destroyed it.

"By Sheriff Nicolson—We are all fishermen in Boa. There are at present upwards of 100 people in Boa.

"By the Chairman—I just manage to keep soul and body together. I was forty years roaming at sea, and my reason for staying on the island was just to keep my aged parents out of the poor-house.

"Sixty years ago, before the evictions took place, there was only a herd on Son. It was in consequence of the clearing out of the people on the mainland that they were glad to go therefor a home.

"Sheriff Nicolson—Is there not a good deal of arable land in Ullinish and Ebost, where fine crops were grown forty years ago, and where heather and ferns are growing now? A.—There is plenty of that.

"Donald M'Innes crofter, Duisdale, aged 75, said—I remember very well the removal of the people from Borreraig twenty-six years ago, and the hardships they had to endure when put out of their houses. It was in time of snow when they were evicted. One man perished. I was in a comfortable position before people were put in among US by the clearing of other townships.

"The man who perished belonged to Snisiinish. He was found dead at his own door, after he had been evicted. His name was Alexr. Matheson. There was great hardship connected with that eviction. The fires were extinguished, the houses knocked down, and the people forced out much against their will. The officers compelled them."

With regard to the evidence given at South Uist, one of the Royal Commissioners remarked—"There is a serious charge in the paper which requires a little explanation. It is said in reference to the emigration of the people that 'they were compelled to emigrate to America; some of them had been tied before our eyes; others hid themselves in caves and crevices for fear of being caught by authorized officers.' Did you we any of these operations?

"A.—Yes; he heard of them, and saw them. He saw a policeman chasing a lad named Donald Smith down the road towards Askernish with the view of catching him, in order to send him aboard the emigrant ship lying at Lochboisdale, and he saw a man who lay down on his face and knees on a little island to hide himself from the policeman, who had dogs searching for him in order to get him aboard the emigrant ship. The man's name was Lauchlan M'Donald. The dogs did not find this unfortunate youth, but he was discovered all the same in a trench, and was taken off.

"Q.—Do you rosily say that those people were caught and sent to America, just like an animal going to market?

"A. —Just the same way. There was another case of a man named Angus Johnston. He had a dead child in the house, and his wife gave birth to three children, all of whom died. Notwithstanding this, he was seized, and tied on the pier at Lochboisdale, and kicked on board. The old priest interfered, and said, 'What are you doing to this man? let him alone; it is against the law,' There were many hardships and cruelties endured in consequence of these evictions. He himself had charge of a squad of men on the road when Lachlan Chisholm and Malcolm M'Lean asked him to go to Loch Eynort to bring people out of their homes to emigrate. He refused, and constables were sent for them.

"The young man Smith he mentioned did not belong to any family going away. He was twenty years of age, and his father and mother were dead at the time.

"The wife of the man who was tied and put aboard afterwards went to the vessel. The four dead children would be buried by that time.

These things happened in the year 1850 or 1851. The people were hiding themselves in caves and dens for fear of being sent away from the island.

"He remembered seeing the people forced into the emigrant ships at Lochboisdale by policemen and others. He saw a man named William Macpherson forced by four men to the water-side and put into the ship. Every one of the family was sent away, including the blind father. There was another case of a man named Donald M'Lellan, who, with his wife and family, was taken from his house and put into a cart until they could be sent off. There were many such cases at the time. It was about forty years ago. Seventeen hundred persona were, he believed, sent off, all of them belonging to the Gordon estate. So many people were wanting the land which these persons occupied that they were soon filled up."

One of the witnesses at Tarbert in Harris gave a number of reminiscences of the estate in the olden time, and mentioned that when one of the Macleeds came home with his young wife the people were delighted to see him; twenty young women went out and danced a reel before him. "Before the year was out, these twenty women were weeping and wailing for their houses, which were unroofed, and their fires quenched. One hundred and fifty families were so treated at that time by order of the estate, and were scattered abroad."

Another instance I cannot refrain from quoting comes to us from near Dunvegan in Skye.

"John Macfie, 74, crofter, ifarlosh, said—I have been forty-six years in my present croft. The people began to fall into arrears when the kelp industry ceased. In 1840 there were seventeen families removed from Feorlick by Mr. Gibbon, the tackeman, who took the land and the people on. They were placed, some by the sea and some on peat land which had never been cultivated. Some of them did not get a place on earth on which to put a foot. I myself saw them living under a sail, spread on three poles, below high-water mark. One of the crofters—Donald Campbell—was warned by the ground officer for giving refuge to a poor man who had no house. The ground officer came and pulled down the house, and took a pail of water and threw it on the fire By the noise made by the extinguishing of the fire, and the denseness of the steam, the wife went out of her sensee. We were then told that if we took her out to sea, and pulled her after a boat, she would get better. We took her out to sea, but she would not sink deeper than her breast. I NEVES SAW ONE WHO WAS 80 MAD. When Campbell was put out of his house, not a tenant was allowed to give him shelter. He had nine of a family, and they had to remain on the hillside on a wet night. The tackaman took our hill pasture which we had for fifty or sixty years, and settled crofters upon it. We are still paying for that bill pasture. We have no road, and should any of our people die in the winter, they have to be buried in the sea or in the peat-moss."

Anyone interested in this aubjectwill find minute details ma pamphlet on 'The Highland Clearances,' by Alex. Mackenzie, Inverness, in which are recorded well-nigh incredible statistics of events in the Isles and Highlands within the last hundred years. It tells of the wholesale clearances of wide districts in Sutherland and in parts of Ross and Inverness; of how 6390 people were forcibly driven out from the glens of Knoydart and Strathglass. It gives details of the inconceivable cruelties incident on the Glengarry evictions in 1863, when the whole population were suddenly swept from the land, which was then converted into great sheep-runs.

It tells how in 1849 about seven hundred people were evicted from Solas, in North Uist; and how in 1862 the districts of Boreraig and Suisinish, in the Isle of Skye, were likewise cleared, no mercy being shown to age or sex. Every home was barbarously destroyed ;the poor possessions of the innocent inmates were thrown out and broken, the half-woven webs cut from the loom; helpless women on the eve of their confinement, wailing children, tottering grand-parents, all were alike thrust out from their loved homes, without food, fire, or shelter, or the means of procuring any. Many died of consumption, induced by sleeping shelterless for many nights on the cold ground (damp peat- moss).

A considerable number were evicted at Christmas, their fires extinguished, their houses pulled down, and they themselves forced out into the drifting snow, to find what shelter they could among the rocks. Happy those who could find a corner in some dilapidated barn, or even rig up a blanket-tent in some ruined church. Even from such shelters as these they were again and again ejected, without any substitute being provided or any provision whatever for their support.

When some particulars of this reckless cruelty became known, and called forth an expression of public opinion, the factor actually published a circular, declaring that these evictions were "prompted by motives of piety and benevolence, because the people were too far from Church!"

In 1849 and 1851 upwards of two thousand persons were forcibly shipped from South Ui8t and Barra, and conveyed to Quebec. Some were induced to embark voluntarily under promise that they were to be conveyed free of all expense to Upper Canada, where, on arrival, the Government agents would give them work and grant them land. These conditions were not fulfilled. They were turned adrift at Quebec, and thence compelled to beg their way to Upper Canada, and the Canadian papers teemed with accounts of the miseries endured by these unfortunate Highland emigrants, whose misery was aggravated by understanding only Gaelic, so that they were practically strangers in a foreign land. These, and thousands of emigrants from Lewis, arrived as paupers, dependent for daily bread on the charity of the Canadian settlers.

After these sad stories of how the bitter pill of compulsory emigration was sweetened thirty years ago, I must add a few words to show how differently such matters are now conducted in South Uist.

I am told that each poor family which has resolved to emigrate from the estates of the large-hearted proprietrix, have not only received all manner of compensations, but have also been presented with £100 to start them fair in their new colony. A correspondent of 'The Scotsman' (May 1883) thus announces the arrival in the Great North West of the first detachment.

"The first batch of emigrants sent out from Scotland under the auspices of Lady Gordon Cathcart, numbering forty-five souls, and of whom eighteen, being adults, are entitled to free homesteads, arrived in Manitoba last week, and proceeded to Brandon, where the majority of them remain under the protection of the Government immigration agent at that point, whilst two of the party are out prospecting with a land guide for a suitable section of country in which to locate their colony. The country in the Vicinity of Moosomin has been offered to them, and being well wooded, and possessing abundance of water, is probably about as good a selection as they can make.

"The system Lady Cathcart has adopted to assist these small tenant. farmers of hers is not in the ordinary way of paying their paseago out, and then leaving them to the care of strangers; but she places a sum of money to their credit in a Winnipeg bank, under the control of an accredited Government agent, to be distributed amongst them in the purchase of agricultural implements."


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