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Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's Trip to Scotland
Chapter XVI. Dunkeld


Lord Glenlyon was unfortunately very much indisposed at the time Her Majesty’s visit to Scotland was announced, having been rendered blind by inflammation in his eyes, from cold caught in deer-stalking. But the moment he was informed of the honour which the Sovereign intended to pay to Perthshire, he placed his ancient castle of Blair at Her Majesty’s disposal, and he proposed to get up a grand drive of the forest for the occasion. Owing to the shortness of the time that the Queen could spend in Scotland, these offers were graciously declined, but Her Majesty afterwards signified that it was her royal pleasure to accept of an entertainment at Dunkeld, on her way to Taymouth. Upon Friday the 26th of August, Lord Glenlyon sent an order to Mr. Gunter, the great London confectioner, to send down a tent, provisions, fruit, plate, wines, and every thing requisite for giving an entertainment; and accordingly his principal assistant, Mr. Rawlins, arrived at Dunkeld on Friday the 2d of September, with all these articles, together with a proper corps of cooks. His lordship also ordered Mr. Edgington to bring down instantly from London a marquee 100 feet long, and two dozen of tents of different kinds, and he came with them along with Gunter’s people. Lord Glenlyon then begged of the gentlemen of Athole to meet him on the morning of the fith, each with as great a following as he could muster, and with his men all clad in the full Highland dress, and ready to proceed to Dunkeld. The gentlemen and their followers turned out nobly, and joined his lordship at different points on his road from Blair, so that he marched into Dunkeld on Tuesday evening, at the head of eight hundred and seventy men, all well clothed, and followed by a commissariat of carts, filled with stores and provisions. When it is considered that many of the men had joined the parade at Blair Castle, at half-past three o’clock in the morning, after coming a distance of twenty miles— that they required to be fitted with clothing before marching at eleven—and that, after halting for two hours at Moulinearn, they did not reach Dunkeld till eight o’clock in the evening, it will be admitted that they must have been pretty well prepared for rest by the time they took possession of the encampment prepared for them.

The ground chosen as the theatre for this most exciting scene, was that singularly beautiful lawn, stretching from within the ducal park gate of Dunkeld, westward beyond the site where the late Duke of Athole commenced his princely palace, the walls of which are pretty well up. The particular spot selected for the encampment by Lord Glenlyon’s brother, the Hon. James Murray, Scots Fusilier Guards, to whose care all these military arrangements were confided, was that fine piece of lawn in front of the new house, with the right resting on Bishop hill. It consisted of the large tent already mentioned, fourteen marquees, and twenty-four bell tents, laid out in streets in regular military order, and the white canvass, rising from the bright green sward, and backed by and mingling with the noble trees, had a most splendid effect. The Queen’s tent was pitched in front of the brick buildings facing the cathedral, not far from the spot where stood the old Dunkeld House, so as to afford Her Majesty a fine prospect of the lawn, stretching westward, between the wooded eminences bounding it on the north, and those which lie between it and the river on the south, embracing the whole of the encampment and the huge and shaggy steeps of Craig-y-barns and Craig-Vinean, which, rising over all, imparted to the really wide open space below a character of most romantic confinement. The Queen’s pavilion was beautiful. The outside was striped blue and white, and the lining broad scarlet and white. It was floored with timber, covered with crimson cloth. By a new plan of mounting it upon shears, all tent poles were dispensed with, so that it thus formed one great, perfectly uninterrupted, and extremely handsome saloon, 64 feet long by 20 feet wide. The interior was dressed out with flowers and flags, and a magnificent mirror, ten feet by six, was placed at one end. As the weather was delightful, the. canvass forming the walls of the tent on the southern side and western end, was not put up, so as to leave it quite open in these directions to the views and the air. Around it were placed a number of orange, and other rare portable trees. There was a small retiring room added for the Queen. The old kitchen, in the buildings immediately behind, was cleared out for the use of Gunter’s corps de cuisine; and nothing could exceed the excellence of the arrangements in this department.

On the left hand side of the approach, after entering the gate, there is a beautiful conical green mount, called Stanley hill, artificial, in so far as it was anciently shaven, and perhaps partly heaped up into architectural formality by James Duke of Athole, in 1730, in the old style of gardening. It has tall trees and shrubs growing on parts of it, and broad walks rising successively above each other and around it to the top, where there is a battery of cannon, many of them bearing the arms of the Isle of Man, of which the Dukes of Athole were lords, having succeeded to it through the Stanleys Earls of Derby, whence the hill in question received its name. One of these has this inscription:—“Henrie, Earle of Derbye, lord of this Isle of Man, beinge here in May 1577, named me Dorothe. Henry Halsall, receyvour of the Peele, bought this pese, anno 1574.” On another gun, there is as follows:—“ Henricus Octavus, Thomas Seymour, knyghte, was master of the Kyng’s ordynans, when Jhon and Robert Owyn made this pese, anno Dni. 1544.” On the glorious occasion of the Queen’s expected visit, Lieut.-Col. Charles Hav, Coldstream Guards, who had the command of the battery entrusted to him, had all the guns properly prepared. A flag-staff was mounted on the top of the tower of the cathedral, for the Royal standard.

The morning of Wednesday the 7th looked extremely dark at Dunkeld, and the thousands of true hearts that were assembled there beat heavily with anxiety and doubt as to the weather, but towards the middle of the day it, and the countenances of all, brightened up, and by the time the Queen arrived at the farther end of the bridge of Dunkeld, the sun was shining gloriously forth. Lord Glenlyon had sent invitations to all the nobility and gentry in the country, and issued tickets of admission to the park, so that above 5000 people availed themselves of his indulgence. The noble families of Mansfield, Kinnoull, and Strathallan—the Mackenzies, Farqubarsons, See., arrived before noon. At half-past eleven o’clock, the great body of the Highlanders formed line, extending from the two magnificent old larches planted in 1743, all the way to the garden on the east. On the right was the Queen’s guard of honour of twenty men,

“For strength, and stature, from the clan
Each warrior was a chosen man,”

all armed with Lochaber axes, and commanded by Captain John Drummond of Megginch, their banner being carried by William Duff, commonly called “Beardy,” one of the grandest specimens of the Highlander that can possibly be conceived. George Stewart of Invervach acted as sergeant, and they had Lord Glenlyon’s head piper, John Macpherson. Next to these were the body guard, 3 sergeants, 4 pipers, and 100 rank and file, commanded by Mr. Keir, younger of Kindrogan, and having three banners, and a colour carried by Mr. David Alston Stewart, 21st Fusileers. Mr. M'lnroy of Lude, stood next to them with a piper, and 40 men. And then were placed in the following order, Mr. Ferguson of Middlehaugh, with 50 of Mr. Butter’s men of Fascally—Mr. Stewart of Balnakillv, with 30 men—Mr. Samuel Ferguson, with 15 men—Mr. Small Keir of Kindrogan, and Mr. Small of Dirnanean, with 60 men—Mr. Dick of Prestonfield, with 27 men from Urrard and Killiecrankie—Mr. Abercrombie Dick, with 26 of Sir Robert Dick’s men from Tullymet. After which stood a body of 350 of the Athole tenants, and men from Strabane, Bonskied, Strowan, and other places; then the Viscount Dunblane’s piper, with 10 men ; and, finally, 200 of the Highland Society of Dunkeld, with their piper. About 13 other pipers were distributed in different positions. This line of these hardy sons of the mountain was flanked on the right by 40 of the Strathord tenants, well dressed and mounted, and the baggage guard of a sergeant and 20 men in the Highland dress. On the left of the line were 400 of the Masonic Lodges, and the Carpenter’s Society.

The Hon. Captain James Murray commanded the whole, Captain MacDuff acting as adjutant, and Dr. MacDonald and Mr. Stocks as quarter-masters. The Queen’s guard of honour was marched off at noon to the south end of the bridge, to be ready to receive Her Majesty.

Precisely at one o’clock, a signal was made from Birnam hill, that the Queen was approaching, and immediately the four bells of the Cathedral struck up a merry peal, and Her Majesty soon afterwards arrived at the south end of the bridge, and passed under a very beautiful Gothic arch of heath and juniper, spanning its road-way, surmounted by a floral crown, and adorned with stuffed specimens of the black-cock and eagle. Above the centre were two deer, with the words, “Welcome to Athole,” in large letters. With her escort of tall and stalwart Highlanders around her carriage, and the piper playing before her the Athole Highlander’s March, the Queen proceeded slowly along the bridge. Her Majesty was charmed with the scenery on both sides, and stood up in her carriage that she might have a more perfect view, especially of the long reach of the noble river stretching above the bridge, and beyond the ferry of Inver, with its magnificent wooding and its bounding crags and mountains, all now under the warmest effect of sunshine, and the glorious spectacle which was then passing converted the whole into a scene of magical beauty and interest.

Entering the short main street of the town, the Queen found it full of people, who hailed her by the waving of flags and enthusiastic shouts, and having passed through it with her usual courteous acknowledgments for the loyalty of the reception she met with, Her Majesty turned into the ducal grounds at the great lodge gate, exactly at ten minutes after one o’clock. Passing slowly under the noble trees, and by the base of the green Stanley hill, the whole of the fairy scene prepared for her, burst at once upon her Royal eyes, as the carriage slowly turned on the lawn between the Cathedral on the left, and the brick buildings on the right,—the grand tent—the imposing and extended array of the Highlanders with their banners— the mounted yeomen—the Carabineers keeping the ground clear— and behind, the white tents of the encampment, its line here and there broken by intervening trees, and the whole surface of the beautiful park itself covered with figures, and with the magnificent background of rock, mountain, and forest. The carriage drew up near the tent—the Queen rose and bowed gracefully all round— and alighting from the carriage, just as her foot touched the ground, the Highlanders and military presented arms,—up went the Royal standard on the Cathedral tower—the Royal salute began from the battery—and the whole of the numerous echoes that haunt the romantic recesses in the rocky precipices of the surrounding mountains, roared with the terrific voice of thunder, producing the most tremendous grandeur of effect.

The Queen, filled with admiration, was received by Lord and Lady Glenlyon, and expressed her regret to observe the distressing state of his lordship’s health and eyes. With the assistance of his amiable lady, his lordship moved about in defiance of indisposition, to do all honour to his Royal guests. Taking the Prince’s arm, the Queen immediately proceeded to inspect the line of the Highlanders, passing down its whole front, and coming up between the ranks. The Royal Duke, her lamented father, could not have done this more particularly, or with a more observant eye, and she seemed struck with the careful manner in which all their costumes and arms had been arranged, especially admiring the warlike appearance of those armed with bucklers, and still more of those who bore the huge Lochaber axes, who were men of bone and sinew, showing that they could have played with them as if they had been reeds. Before leaving them, Lord Glenlyon called for a Highland cheer for the Queen. And then came a hurrah that burst from the whole ranks, and shook the craggy faces of the mountains,—and the Queen and the Prince most graciously acknowledged this tribute of loyalty from her brave Highlanders.

The Queen afterwards walked in different directions about the park, so that all present had the most perfect opportunity of beholding both Her Majesty and her illustrious consort. The Athole gentlemen who headed the respective bodies of Highlanders, were severally presented in the Royal tent, and kissed hands. Lord Glenlyon having been informed that Mr. Small of Dirnanean had been by some accident omitted, he mentioned the circumstance to the Queen; and although luncheon was then on the table, Her Majesty, with much condescension, desired that he might be brought up immediately. Mr. Small, who is of a fine portly figure, which was well set off by his full Highland garb, was most graciously received. An incident of a simple nature occurred, affording a strong instance of the cordial and loyal affection of all classes towards our beloved sovereign. An old woman, among the crowd, continued for some time with great eagerness and perseverance, to importune the soldiers to take her to the Queen. She said she wanted to speak to her. On being at length asked what she wished to say to Her Majesty, she replied, “O, I hae a basketfu’ o’ bonny apples, and I want her to tak’ them and gie them to her bairns.”

The Queen sat down to luncheon about two o’clock, covers being laid for thirty-four persons. It may be best described by saying that it was a most recherche London dejeuner, transported to the Highlands, and much improved in its effect by the necessity that occasioned its being spread in a tent. The dessert was particularly fine, and the fine apples, which were especially remarkable, were placed upon a splendid gold assiette monte, surrounded with grapes, and embellished with little silken banners, emblazoned with the national and Athole arms. The whole of the luncheon was served up in massive silver. There was a profusion of all manner of wines, and amongst other liquors, the well-known Highland beverage, Athole brose, made of whisky and honey, was partaken of both by the Queen and the Prince, out of a glass which had belonged to Neil Gow, the celebrated violin player and composer of Highland music. It holds nearly a quart. Its form is ancient, and it has the musician’s initials cut on the side of it. From this the Queen and Prince drank “to the chiefs and clans,” and thus delighted the Highlanders on the lawn, to whom their condescension was reported. Lord Glenlyon proposed the health of the Queen, and afterwards that of Prince Albert. The servants waited in the full Highland dress. Lord Glenlyon sat on the left hand of the Queen, who had Prince Albert on her right, and Lady Glenlyon was on the right of the Prince. The venerable Duchess of Athole was too infirm to appear upon this occasion, and her death soon afterwards spread a gloom over Dunkeld and its neighbourhood, the chief theatre where her charitable deeds were performed. Among those at table were the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, the Duke of Leeds, the Duchess of Norfolk, Lord Aberdeen, Lord Morton, Lord Liverpool, Lord and Lady Mansfield, Lord and Lady Kin-noull, Lord and Lady Kinnaird, Lord Strathallan, the Dowager Lady Glenlyon, Hon. Miss Murray, Hon. Miss Paget, Mr. Home Drummond of Blair-Drummond, M.P., Sir Robert Peel, Sir James Clark, the Hon. Captain James Murray, Hon. William Drummond of Strathallan, Sir Charles Rowley, and others.

After luncheon, the Queen expressed a wish to hear the pipers play, upon which Lord Glenlyon instantly ordered their attendance. They performed a variety of airs, and amongst others Gillum-Callum. After learning what it was, Her Majesty desired to sec it danced. On this, Charles Christie was called before the tent; but the ground being too heavy, the platform employed as an entrance to the Royal tent was removed in front of it, and upon it he performed the dance to admiration, displaying great alacrity and expertness in executing the steps, within the angles formed by the blades of two naked broad-swords, crossed upon the floor, so as to avoid suffering from their edges and points. This is erroneously called the sword-dance, but, as already noticed, it has no resemblance to that performed before Charles I. at Perth, now only to be met with in the island of Papa Stour in Zetland. The Reel of Hoolachan (Rill Thullachan,) was next danced by four men of the Body Guard, and it was afterwards admirably performed by the Hon. James Murray, M'Inroy of Lude, Mr. Abercromby Dick, and Mr. Andrew David Alston Stewart.

The Queen now expressed a wish to see the Cathedral, and a little more of the grounds; but the advance of time, which not even sovereigns can control, rendered it necessary for Her Majesty to depart. Even royalty itself is not exempted from its hardships; and it must be considered as one of no light character, that Queen Victoria was thus prevented from bestowing an hour or two in a ramble through some of the most romantic walks that are anywhere to be met with, and which, indeed, it would take more than one day to exhaust; and a few minutes in the investigation of the ancient and very interesting Cathedral, endeared to the humble writer of this Memorial, from the circumstance, that some of the more prominent parts of it were finished, and its fine old tower begun, by a Bishop of Dunkeld, of his own name and family. The sarcophagus of Alexander, Earl of Buchan and Lord of Badcnoch, third son of Robert IL, who, from his ferocious disposition, was called the “Wolfe of Badenoch,” is an extremely interesting relic of the olden time. His effigy, of the full size, and in armour, lies on the stone that covers the tomb, with this inscription round the edge :—“Hie jacct Dominus Alexander Senescallus Comes de Buchan et Dominus de Badenach bonai memorial, qui obiit 20 die mensis Februarii, anno Dom. 1394.” Notwithstanding his having burned the cathedral of Elgin, he fortunately lived to reconcile himself to the Church, and so to die in all the odour of sanctity, entitling him at last to the “bona' memorial” of the inscription. But they who would know more of this most extraordinary character, may be referred to his story, as written by the author of this present work.


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