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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter LXXVIll. - "The Northern Chronicle"


THIS was the name which, after consideration and discussion, was given to the Conservative Inverness weekly paper, of which I was editor from its first issue in the beginning of January, 1881, until May Day, 1907. The capital for its establishment was raised by a company of over two hundred shareholders. Before and after its advent, the North had a plentiful supply of local newspapers, but none that represented the growing conservatism of what was not the least intelligent, section of the population. What Carlyle called the "shooting of Niagara," by household suffrage given to the boroughs in 1869, was now in a few years to be extended to the counties, and its coming was sure to sever old Whigs from the Radical wing of the Liberal party in fear of rash innovations. On the other hand, the representatives of Tory old families had come to see that readjustment, called for by the wholly altered relations between town and county, and between capital and labour, arid landlords and tenants, should have to be made cautiously arid progressively, but not rashly and indiscriminately, if danger to national character and to the stability of fundamental principles of justice, freedom, and equity could be escaped. I was allowed a perfectly free hand in dealing with home, foreign, and social questions. Except once, before the first issue appeared, I never was called upon to a meeting of the company's directors, and with Mr lnnes, the managing director, and his successor, Mr William Mackay, I had always pleasant relations. Mr Innes was an outside tower of strength to us during the early period of the Chronicle's career. His knowledge of the rocks, under the smooth sea surface, saved us from many mistakes in regard to local news and communications from districts beyond our ken. By energetic searching, careful selection, happily aided by good luck, Mr Innes mustered a "Chronicle crew" of competent workers in all departments. Of those of them who entered into the service of the company when young, a few are still to the fore, holding their former or higher places; and of those who went away to Canada or elsewhere to seek their fortune, good reports, as a rule, come back to their old office. Trade Unionists found so little favour in Mr Innes's eyes that he would not have any of them in the Chronicle office. Coming from a district in England where Trade Unionism was rampant, I thought he ran a risk in setting his face like steel against Unionists. But he carried out his purpose, and, having had experience of many offices, I have no hesitation in saying that he got together as competent, and, in all respects, as highly respectable a set of compositors and machine-room people as could be found anywhere. Their wages and their hours of work were fully better than if they had been Unionists, and they annually got 20 for a sail on Lochness, or a trip by railway with wives and children. As many of them aspired to be some day employers themselves, or to rise in their vocations by their good work, the spirit of individual freedom and self-reliance pervaded them all.

From what I afterwards was told by several of themselves, I have reason to believe that almost all the original shareholders looked upon the money they put into the concern as money dedicated to the purpose of giving the Highlands one organ of Conservative opinion in affairs of State and Church, and would be content if the Chronicle paid its own working expenses, and did not, in the course of a few years, collapse as several similar ventures on both sides of politics had already done, or were verging upon doing. As far as working expenses were concerned, the paper paid its way almost from the beginning, and after two or throe years it steadily paid a five per cent, dividend upon the capital invested in it from first to last. Mr Innes was the most sanguine prophet of commercial success when the paper was started, but the success it had attained long before his lamented death, and which since then has been sustained, far exceeded his most sanguine expectations, at the time he went to see me at Thwaites House.


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