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Memoir of Norman MacLeod, D.D
Appendix A.


In a series of autobiographical reminiscences which he dictated in old age to one of his daughters, Dr. Macleod's father gives, among others, the following amusing and characteristic pictures of his youth:—

"I received the rudiments of my education in the Manse of Fiunary from tutors who were hired by my father from time to time; but we were often for months without any instruction, except the little we could receive from himself when his time, which was very much occupied with parish matters, could permit. He generally spent three or four days of the week on horseback, and always came home much fatigued; but he usually contrived to give my elder brother and me a lesson. He seldom shaved above twice in the week, except something extraordinary came in the way, and it was during the process of shaving, which generally exceeded an hour, that we were drilled in our Latin lessons. He was an admirable Latin scholar, and had a great portion of the Latin classics—Horace, Virgil, and Ovid—committed to memory. He was very partial to Buchanan's Latin Psalms, a portion of which we generally read on Sabbbath morning. My father was unfortunate in most of his tutors; one of them, a monster in temper, came to us from Aberdeen. I shudder at the recollection of his cruelty. My brother Donald, one of the most amiable and interesting fellows that ever lived, was an excellent scholar and superior to his tutor, who, I suppose on that account, formed a fearful prejudice against him, and chastised him unmercifully, and often without cause, and that in remote places where there was no one to witness his conduct. His savage treatment of this dear lad brought on a spitting of blood, from which he never recovered. I was not a good scholar, and was much more given to play than to study, yet I received my full share of flogging! This cruel man had a wonderful power over us, and took solemn promises from us that we should not tell our parents of his conduct. A singular circumstance, which deeply impressed me at the time and which I cannot forget, brought his conduct to light, and caused his dismissal from my father's family. He asked us to accompany him upon a Saturday to the house of Killundine, where one of his pupils then lived, and who is almost the only one of my early companions still alive. We went to Killundine, by the shore, on the line where the new public road now runs. I was dressed in a kilt, but had no hose or stockings on. We came to the cave below Lag-gan, known by the name of 'The Dripping Cave,' which could not be entered but through a wild jungle of briars, thorns, and nettles. It was said that this cave was the abode of some wild man of the wood, and that he had lately been seen at the entrance of it. I admitted to my tutor that I believed this story; on which he ordered me to pass through this thicket and enter the cave, in order, as he said, to disabuse my mind of such a belief in the superstitions of the country. I remonstrated as to my inability to do so in the dress which I then wore ; but he cut a rod in the wood, with which he compelled me to proceed. I did so, while all my feet and legs were torn and bleeding from the effects of the thorns. On reaching the entrance of the cave, what was my horror on observing the figure of a tall, old, grey-headed man rising from his bed of straw with a scarlet night-cap on! But he, hearing my cries and sobs, addressed me in the kindest manner— naming me, for he recognised me at once. This dispelled my fear, and I resolved to abide with him in the cave rather than return to my companion. I told him all that had happened to me. He roared after the tutor, and vowed vengeance against him. He informed me that the tutor had taken to his heels in the direction of the Manse. The good old man carried mo in his arms out of the brushwood, and insisted that I should go on to Killundine, accompanying me himself a great part of the way. This venerable man had been unfortunate in his money transactions as a cattle dealer, and was concealing himself for some time, till an arrangement should be made with his creditors. I reached the house of Killundine in a sorrowful plight, where the thorns were extracted from my limbs, and where I remained for the night. Thus were the cruelties of our tutor brought to light, his conduct to my brother became known, and he was dismissed. The only apology that can be found for him was, that he was labouring under mental disease; he died soon after in the lunatic asylum. My father continued to give me lessons when his time admitted of it (especially during shaving times). He followed a practice, which I at the time abhorred, of making me translate the classics into Gaelic. He himself had an exquisite taste in the selection of vocables, and thus I became a good Gaelic scholar.

"In the summer of 1799 the late General Norman Macleod (grandfather to the present chief) came to the Manse of Morven, on his way to the Isle of Skye. My father had been for some time tutor to this brave and talented man, who was a distinguished soldier in the American War, and obtained great renown afterwards in India during the conflicts with Tippoo Sahib and other chiefs. He was frequently and severely wounded. Macleod insisted that my father should allow me to go along with him to Dunvegan; and I was delighted at the prospect of visiting the place of which I had heard so many traditionary legends. There were no steamers at that time, and we took our passage in a small wherry from Oban.

"Macleod was accompanied by Mr. Hector Macdonald Buchanan, his man of business, and Mr. Campbell of Combie, his commissioner. We arrived at Loch Bracadale next day after leaving Morven, where we found horses and carts, with crowds of people waiting our arrival; we reached the old Castle of Dunvegan, where many of the gentlemen tacksmen of the Macleod estates were waiting to receive us. Macleod was welcomed to the castle of his fathers by Captain Donald MacCrimmon, the representative of the celebrated 'MacCrimmon pipers,' who had for ages been connected with the family. This Captain MacCrimmon had acquired his commission, and no small share of renown, with his chief, during the American War.

"I can never forget the impression which the whole scene made upon my youthful mind as MacCrimmon struck up 'Failte Ruairi Mhoir,' the favourite tune of the clan. Dinner was laid in the great dining-room; the keys of the cellar were procured, and a pipe of claret was broached, and also a cask of Madeira wine of choice quality, brought from India by Macleod; the wine was carried up in flagons to the dining-room, and certainly they were very amply used in the course of the evening. A bed was provided for me in a small closet off Macleod's room, and I can never forget the affectionate kindness which my greatly beloved chief showed me while for three months I remained in his castle. The number of visitors who came there was great—Maclean of Coll, Grant of Corrymony, Mr. Grant, the father of Lord Glenelg, Principal Macleod, of Aberdeen, Colonel Donald Macleod, father to the present St. Kilda, were, with many others, among the guests. I formed a special regard for Major Macleod of Ballymeanach, who had been a distinguished officer in the Dutch wars, and who kindly entertained me with many interesting anecdotes regarding the warfare in which he had been engaged.

"One circumstance took place at the castle on this occasion which I think worth recording, especially as I am the, only person now living who can attest the truth of it. There had been a traditionary prophecy, couched in Gaelic verse, regarding the family of Macleod. which, on this occasion, received a most extraordinary fulfilment. This prophecy I have heard repeated by several persons, and most deeply do I regret that I did not take a copy of it when I could have got it. The worthy Mr. Campbell of Knock, in Mull, had a very beautiful version of it, as also had my father, and so, I think, had likewise Dr. Campbell of Killninver. Such prophecies were current regarding almost all old families in the Highlands; the Argyll family were of the number; and there is a prophecy regarding the Breadalbane family as yet unfulfilled, which I hope my remain so. The present Marquis of Breadalbane is fully aware of it, as are many of the connections of the family. Of the Macleod family it was prophesied at least a hundred years prior to the circumstance which I am about to relate.

"In the prophecy to which I allude it was foretold, that when Norman, the third Norman (' Tormaid nan' tri Tormaid '), the son of the hard-boned English lady ('Mac na mnatha Caoile cruaidh Shassanaich'), would perish by an accidental death; that when the 'Maidens' of Macleod (certain well-known rocks on the coast of Macleod's country) became the property of a Campbell ; when a fox had young ones in one of the turrets of the Castle, and, particularly, when the Fairy-enchanted banner should be for the last time exhibited, then the glory of the Macleod family should depart—a great part of the estate should be sold to others, so that a small 'curragh,' or boat, would carry all gentlemen of the name of Macleod across Loch Dunvegan; but that in times far distant another John Breac should arise, who should redeem those estates, and raise the powers and honour of the house to a higher pitch than ever. Such in general terms was the prophecy. And now as to the curious coincidence of its fulfilment. There was, at that time at Dunvegan, an English smith, with whom I became a favourite, and who told me, in solemn secrecy, that the iron chest which contained the 'fairy flag' was to be forced open next morning; that he had arranged with Mr. Hector Macdonald Buchanan to be there with his tools for that purpose.

"I was most anxious to be present, and I asked permission to that effect of Mr. Buchanan, who granted me leave on condition that I should not inform any one of the name of Macleod that such was intended, and should keep it a profound secret from the chief. This I promised, and most faithfully acted on. Next morning we proceeded to the chamber to the East Turret, where was the iron chest that contained the famous flag, about which there is an interesting tradition.

"With great violence the smith tore open the lid of this iron chest; but in doing so a key was found, under part of the covering, which would have opened the chest, had it been found in time. There was an inner case, in which was found the flag, enclosed in a wooden box of strongly scented wood. The flag consisted of a square piece of very rich silk, with crosses wrought with gold thread, and several elf-spots stitched with great care on different parts of it.

"On this occasion, the melancholy news of the death of the young and promising heir of Macleod, reached the castle. 'Norman, the third Norman,' was a lieutenant of H.M.S. the Queen Charlotte, which was blown up at sea, and he and the rest perished. At the same time the rocks called 'Macleod's Maidens' were sold, in the course of that very week, to Angus Campbell of Ensay, and they are still in possession of his grandson. A fox in possession of a lieutenant Maclean, residing in the West Turret of the Castle, had young ones, which I handled, and thus all that was said in the prophecy alluded to was so far fulfilled, although I am glad the family of my chief still enjoy their ancestral possessions, and the worst part of the prophecy accordingly remains unverified. I merely state the facts of the ease as they occurred, without expressing any opinion whatever as to the nature of these traditionary legends with which they were connected."

He also gives an account in these reminiscences of some of his experiences while endeavouring to establish schools in destitute places in the Hebrides :—

"In the spring of 1824 a contention, carried on with great party warmth, took place among the leading men in Edinburgh, about the election of Moderator to the ensuing General Assembly. When Principal Baird, Dr. Inglis, and others (the leaders of the Moderate party in the Church) applied to me for my support and influence, I replied that I could on no account support them as a party, for they had never given me any support in matters connected with the Highlands, which I had repeatedly brought under their notice, and they had declined in an especial manner to assist the efforts which were then being made to obtain a quarto edition of the Gaelic Scriptures, although it had been repeatedly brought under their notice ; and that, after explaining to them the grievance of having only a Bible of so small a text as a 12mo edition, which no one advanced in life could read, I received for answer from the leader of that party (on whom I thought I had made some impression as he walked in his drawing-room before breakfast): 'That is the breakfast bell; just advise your Highland friends to get spectacles.'

"The subject came under discussion again that day, and it ended by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge most generously coming forward and offering to give us the long wished for Quarto Volume, to our great joy, and somewhat the annoyance of our opponents.

"Dr. Stewart of Luss was appointed Convener of the Committee chosen to carry out the resolution, and no better man for the purpose could be found in the Church. I and several others were associated with him in the work, and I did my best to aid him ; but to him belongs the praise for the perfect manner with which it was executed.

"It was during the sittings of this .Assembly that I resisted all the applications made to me by Principal Baird to throw in whatever little influence I possessed in support of the Moderate interests, unless he and his party would aid us in promoting the education of the people in the Highlands and Islands, where a melancholy destitution of the means of education prevailed.

"We got up a public supper, at which all the members, lay and clerical, from the Highlands, were present. We drew up an address to the Principal and his friends, in which they were requested to institute a scheme for the promotion of education in the Highlands and Isles.

"As several overtures to that effect had been forwarded to the Assembly, and would be discussed in the course of the following week, when Dr. Inglis was to bring forward his motion in reference to the India Scheme, the worthy Principal instantly consented to be chairman in an Educational Scheme for the Highlands and Islands, but with this condition, that he should not be asked to speak in the General Assembly. As I was in possession of all the facts connected with educational destitution in the Highlands, he put into my hands the "Educational Statistics" by Lord Brougham, which were voluminous
and valuable.

"I at once agreed to the request made me by the Principal and several of my Highland friends, that I should bring this matter under the notice of the General Assembly. I locked myself up for several days, and with great care prepared the speech I was about to deliver before the General Assembly on this important subject. When the day fixed for the discussion arrived, the overtures relating to the Indian Scheme and to the Highland Scheme were read, when a controversy arose as to the priority to be given to either. Dr. Cook, of St. Andrew's (the disappointed candidate for the Moderatorship, but a most deservedly popular leader in the General Assembly), insisted that the Highland Scheme should be discussed first, while on the other hand Dr. Inglis and his friends insisted that preference should be given the Indian Scheme.

"After a lengthened discussion, it was agreed that I should be first heard. I was accordingly called upon to speak, when I stated that out of personal respect for Dr. Inglis, who was my senior and a father of the Church, I should give precedence at once to him, provided that the Assembly came to no resolution about the Hindoos till it had heard what we had to say about the Highlanders.

"After the worthy Doctor had concluded his able speech, I brought forward our case at great length, which was heard with the most marked attention, and our statements enthusiastically cheered. Never did any one enter upon the duties he had undertaken with more enthusiastic ardour and devotion than did our venerable chairman, nor did his efforts for one moment cease till the hour of his death. I had great cause for thankfulness that I had been enabled to bring this most important subject under the notice of the Church.

"It was agreed that the convener of the Committee for Highland Education, the secretary, and I should visit the Highlands and Isles early in the course of the following summer. An application was made to the Treasury for the services of a revenue-cutter, to convey us. This was very readily granted. Captain Henry Beatson, of the Swift, was directed to hold himself in readiness to convey us, and to take in stores for our use; with this latter part of his orders, Captain Beatson most amply complied, as he took on board at Greenock provisions that would have served for a voyage to Australia.

"We first visited the Island of Islay, where we experienced princely hospitality from Walter Campbell, to whom the island at that time belonged. From Islay we proceeded to Jura ; from thence to Oban, Lorne, Appin, and Lismore; there we waited upon the Roman Catholic Bishop McDonald, who received us with great cordiality, and gave us letters to all his priests in the north, recommending us to their special attention. We explained to him at great length the nature of our Education Scheme, assuring him. that the inspection of our schools should always be open to the Roman Catholic Priests, and that no books should be given to the children who were members of his Church except such as he should approve of. Wherever we stopped on our delightful voyage, fowls, vegetables, milk, cream, and butter and cheese were sent on board, and, where they were not so sent, Captain Beatson was not shy in asking them.

"We visited Coll and Tyree, and from thence to the Western Isles, visiting all the parishes as we went along, and, after consulting with the proprietors and clergy, and ascertaining all the statistics connected with the various places, we did not meet with one heritor who did not grant ground for a school-house and garden in the locality fixed upon. In Skye I went from Portree to the parish of Duuvegan to attend the Communion, which was administered in a field close to the burial-ground of Kilmuir, where some of my ancestors and many of my relatives are interred. The scene on this day was most impressive and solemn. The place chosen was singularly fitted for such an occasion, being a natural amphitheatre, around which the people sat. It was calculated there were upwards of three thousand people present ; and a more attentive and apparently devout congregation I have seldom witnessed assembled together. There was a large tent, formed of spars and oars covered with sails, erected for the minister and his assistant, while some of the better class erected other tents for their own use. The church-bell rang for a quarter of an hour, during which time not one word was spoken by any one in this great congregation.

"The day was most beautiful, a lovely summer day; the place of meeting was admirably chosen, there being a kind of ascent on the field, which made a raised gallery. Several small, romantic glens led to it, by which the people came to the place of worship. The sun shone brightly, the winds were asleep, and nothing broke the solemn silence save the voice of the preacher echoing amidst the rocks, or the subdued sighs of the people. The preacher, on such an occasion, has great power over his audience. The Gaelic language is peculiarly favourable for solemn effect. The people seem enfolded by the pastoral and craggy scenery around them—the heavens over their heads seem emblematic of the residence of the God whom they worship and of the final home they are taught to hope for. They delight to hear the voice of prayer ascending from the place where they stand to that throne above from which nothing but the blue sky seems to divide them ; and when all the voices of such a vast congregation are united in religious adoration, the whole creation round seems to he praising God. I have indeed witnessed the effect of Gaelic preaching and of the singing of the Psalms in that language, such as would now appear almost incredible.

"Standing among the thousands on that day assembled round the old churchyard of Kilmuir—a place hallowed by many tender associations—I never did feel more overpowered.

"In singing the last verse of the seventy-second Psalm in our own beautiful Gaelic version, the vast crowd stood up, and repeated the last stanza and re-sung it with rapt enthusiasm. On this occasion the first sermon was preached by the minister of a neighbouring parish.

"There were but two Table Services, at which a vast number of communicants sat. The tables, and places for sitting, were constructed of green sods, decently covered. I had the privilege of addressing one of these tables, and of preaching at the conclusion a thanksgiving sermon from the words, 'Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.' When the whole service was over, many old people, who had known my father and grandfather, came to offer me their affectionate blessing.

"The appearance of Loch Dunvegan that evening, covered with small boats conveying the hearers to their homes, and the crowds of people winding their way among the dark mountains, was singularly striking.

"I feel assured that such a scene as the Communion Service that day at Dunvegan has never since been witnessed in Skye, and I greatly fear never will be again. A gloomy fanaticism followed the breaking up of the Established Church, and perhaps in no part of the country did this bitterness exist more strongly than in. the Western Islands. In Skye especially it led to dividing families and separating man from man, and altogether engendered strife which, I fear, it will take years to calm down.

"I returned to Portree to join the venerable Principal and my other friends."


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