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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter XXIII. - A Parish Vacancy


I SHOULD here refer to the losses suffered by Highland farmers in the hard years "Na Bliadhnachan Cruaidh" between 1836 and 1841, but as it would break the thread of discourse on the ecclesiastical subject, I will postpone my remarks till another time.

The war was at a roaring height of mutual exasperation the State bullying through the Courts of Law, and the dominant party in the Church bullying through the General Assembly, and from pulpits, platforms, and press when Mr Duncan Campbell left Glenlyon in 1842 for the parish of Kiltearn in Ross-shire. The Glen people had not fixed their minds on any particular person as the man they would like to get as his successor. They were not, however, left long to seek for a successor. The dominant party in the Assembly took good care that a follower of theirs should be recommended to every vacant Highland charge where there was the slightest chance of winning a victory, or failing that, of raising a loud cry against patrons, the Peel Government, and minatory Tory lairds. A Mr Hamilton, of whom the Glen people knew nothing at all, was provided for the Glenlyon vacancy. Presbytery of Weem ministers of his party gave him their turns for preaching in the Glen. He came, was welcomed hospitably, and preached on two Sundays, in English and in Gaelic, as the rule then was. He seemed to be of the sound, solid, and somewhat heavy class of preachers. The general verdict was that he could not stand favourable comparison with any of the three former ministers. But as he belonged to the popular side, and was recommended from headquarters, the Glen people were easily induced to sign a petition to the Government requesting that he should be presented. Sir Niel Menzies, chief of his clan, a kindly old fashioned resident landlord, and a ruling Church of Scotland elder, knew Glenlyon and its people very well; for besides old social intercourse between Castle Menzies and Meggernie Castle, he was one of the three trustees who managed the Culdares estate during the long minority and absenteeism of young Culdares. If Sir Niel, like the new Tories, thought the tenant voters should take their politics from their proprietors, he led his tenants in the shoulder to shoulder way, without a hint of coercion. Now when the Glen people finished the signing of their petition, they appointed a deputation of three to go over the hills to Rannoch Lodge to see Sir Niel to tell him what they wanted and to beg him to lend them his support I do not know exactly in what way and to assure him that why they petitioned in favour of Mr Hamilton was because they desired to keep out of the Veto Act trouble, which they could not do unless their petition was granted. I suppose what they asked was gi-anted, for they came back highly delighted with their reception, and not a little amused by Sir Niel's discovery that one of their number, Archibald Macdiarmid, in Glen parlance, "Gilleaspa Mor Scoileir," or "Big Gillespie the Scholar," was as like Dr Chalmers as if they had been twin-brothers. The likeness was striking, although not so twin-like as Sir Niel declared it to be.

The petition was sent to the proper quarter, and its receipt was duly acknowledged. The sanguine waited in hope that the prayer would be granted, and the whole congregation would have been very glad indeed to get a decent minister without being hauled into the turmoil connected with the operation of the Veto Act north, south, east, and west of them.


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