My uncle, Dr. John
Mackenzie, having left behind him ten manuscript volumes of Highland
Memories, covering the period 1803 to 1860, and I, who inherited these
manuscripts, having reached the age of seventy-nine, it has occurred to
me that I might make a book of reminiscences which would give pleasure
to those who reverence ancient customs and love the West Coast
I make no pretence to the
art of the writing man. The reader must be kind enough to imagine that
he is sitting on the opposite side of a peat fire listening to the
leisurely memories of one who has lived a great number of years,
observant of the customs of his neighbours, attentive to things of the
passing moment, and who finds an increasing pleasure, after a life of
the open air, in dwelling on the times that are gone.
If my book should give
pleasure to its readers, I shall be glad; if it should do anything to
deepen affection and give them reverence for the noblest memories of our
Scottish past, I shall be humbly grateful.
OSGOOD HANBURY MACKENZIE.
Chapter I - Parentage
Birth in Brittany—Curious coincidences—My father’s death and burial—An
eventful voyage—Highland stage-coach in winter—The Gairloch
property—Annual migrations— Incidents on the journey—The old inn—Milkers
and their cows—Pandemonium—Tigh Dige, the old home.
Chapter II - Family History
Our Gairloch ancestor—Threat by Lews Macleods—Murder of kinsman’s two
boys—Retribution—Slaughter of the Macleods—Treachery to the Mackenzies—Fight
on the ship—An unpopular clan—Personal beauty of the Macleods—The
forty-five—The family bard—Search for Prince Charlie—The secret chamber.
Chapter III - Childhood
Potato blight—Relief work at Gairloch—The Loch Maree road —I cut the
first sod—The first wheeled vehicle—Transport before the days of
roads—My mother’s love for Gaelic— . Schools in the parish—My mother as
parish doctor—Early recollections—My grandmother as housekeeper—
Old-time customs and habits—Climatic changes—Strawberries in
June—Disappearance of wild bee.
Chapter IV - Boyhood
Amusements—Nesting on Loch Maree—Pine marten and the
gulls—Trout-fishing—My uncle’s adventure on the hill— Fox-hunter’s eerie
experience—Eagles’ nests—The shepherd’s ruse—Stormy petrels in
Longa—Otter-hunting— Polecats — My education — Successful young man —
Highland lairds and the Gaelic—Family affection—My
grand-uncles—Kidnapping recruits for the Army—Kerrys-dale garden.
Chapter V - Youth
My first gun—Game iu the old days—Introduction of rabbits into the
Highlands—Abundance of vermin—Martens as robbers of gardens—The
sheep-killer: a unique experience —Stories of the wild-cat—Simple
shooting—Expeditions to the Shiant Islands—Sea-fishing—Boatloads of
puffins— Netting rock-pigeons—Tour in Normandy—Visit to 1851 Exhibition.
Chapter VI - Voyage to St. Kilda
We set out—Our vessel—At Lochmaddy—The Sound of Harris —Countess of
Dunmore’s school—At Rodal—Tossing on the ocean—Arrival at St.
Kilda—Difficulties of landing —Description of the island—Primitive
houses—The church—A healthy people—The fulmar and the puffin— Solan-geese—Return
voyage—Typical South Harris house —What I saw in the “black house”.
Chapter VII - The Lews
My oldest story—A Stornoway whale-hunt—My first visit to Lews
Castle—Plentiful sport—Salmon-fishing on the Ewe —Netting in my uncle’s
time—Kate Archy and her chickens—More expeditions—Lawsuit with Seaforth—
Foolish and expensive litigation.
Chapter VIII - Early Sporting Days
Trip to Germany—A quick return—Shooting over Inverewe—My first dog—On
the hill—The pointers—Dogs versus badger—Breeding setters—My friend “
Fan ”—A wonderful hunter—Shooting experiences—Increased sporting
area—Big bags—A wandering quail—A ptarmigan at sea-level—Late Dr.
Warre’s best day’s sport^-Flock of strange grouse—Some curious
Chapter IX - Deer Stalking
Our guns—Deer asleep—A monster royal stag—In a corrie—A ten-pointer—A
difficult journey—Wounded deer—Gill the lurcher—A “ grand beast ”—Fox
versus roebuck —The poachers—Cave robber—Modern stalkers—Donald the
gillie—Drowning the deer.
Chapter X - Deer Stalking continued.
A cheap licence—Start for the forest—The shepherd’s bothy— Almost
unbearable—The two stags—Present to the laird—Ceremony at the big
house—An eccentric laird—His ideas about a kilt—My biggest stag—Cornish
tenant’s disgust—Watson and the eagles—Two and a half brace before
breakfast—Vermin-killing—Mystery of the heronry —A handy drug.
Chapter XI - The Fionn Loch
Description of Loch—A snake story—Eyrie of white-tailed
eagles—Expedition for eggs—The Osprey’s Loch—Goose-ander’s nest—Extinct
birds—A hare drive—Ptarmigan and grouse—Wild cats and otters—My tame
otter— Amazing fishing records.
Chapter XII - Reminiscences
My grandfather—His dress and habits—Highland hospitality —Shooting with
flint-locks—Dinner at Tigh Dige— Training of landlords—Loyalty of the
people—Stories of hard times.
Chapter XIII - Agriculture
The runrig system—Caschrom and croman—The modern crofter —Modes of
cultivation—Sea-ware for the land—Cultivating enclosures—Cattle, sheep,
and goats—A hardworking people.
Chapter XIV - Church and State
The disruption—Old-time Communion—People gather from all quarters—“ The
Bed of the White Cow ”—Congregation of three thousand—Preachers’
warnings—Sabbath observance—The Parish Manse—Minister and his glebe—
Minister’s wig in the cream—Funerals—Copious supplies of whisky—Coffin
left behind—A jovial outing—A great funeral—Parliamentary elections—How
votes were secured.
Chapter XV - Smuggling and Sheep Stealing
Drinking habits—The Rover’s Bride—Justice of the Peace’s qualms of
conscience—Attitude of the clergy—The gaugers and the people—Smuggling
Chapter XVI - Local Superstitions
Lunatics—The Holy Island cure—Heuk Donald at Tain— Inverness judge and “
the calf ”—Dingwall’s doctor’s encounter with Jock—Witches—Curing the
cows—The cure for epilepsy—Apparitions—Fairies and kelpies— Draining the
Beiste Loch—The laird’s revenge.
Chapter XVII - The Famous Gairloch Pipers
Chapter XVIII - The Inverewe Policies
Chapter XIX - Vanishing Birds
Chapter XX - Peat