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Parish Life in the North of Scotland
Chapter XIV - Licensed and Ordained to Preach


1815-1816.

THE laird of Attadale, in whose family I was to reside, had arranged to send a horse as far as Dingwall for me to ride. I arrived there on Sabbath morning, and at the usual hour attended church. The late Dr. Stewart of the Canongate Church, Edinburgh, was then minister of Dingwall, to which he had been translated from the parish of Moulin. I was deeply impressed by his Gaelic discourse. His elegant and beautiful dialect of the Gaelic language, and what was worth all the languages on earth, his pure and vivid views of gospel truth and Christian experience, left upon my mind, I dare not say a saving, but certainly a lasting impression. I rode in the evening to Muirtown, then the property and residence of a Mr. Reid, an exceedingly plain, unsophisticated, downright sort of a man. His wife, a very pretty-looking woman, was a native of Gairloch, and sister of the present minister of Golspie, Mr Alexr. MacPherson. When I arrived at Muirtown it was rather late in the evening, and, on alighting at the door, a demure, serving-looking man met me, of whom I enquired if his master, Mr. Reid, were at home. He replied that he was, and, moreover, that lie himself was that identical master in his own proper person. I stammered out an apology, but he cut me short by saying that 1 was by no means the first who had, in his case, mistaken the master for the man, and at once ushered me into his parlour. We had tea, and, immediately thereafter, Attadale arrived from Inverness. I left Muirtown on the Monday, in company with him and Mr. Reid, and arrived that night at Luibgargan, the identical inn where my grandfather, nearly a century before, had his rencontre with Red Colin. Next day, Mr. Reid returned hone, and the laird and I, proceeding onwards, arrived at Attadale about two in the afternoon.

My cousin, Mrs. Matheson, received me very kindly. The family consisted of live sons, Alexander, [Afterwards Sir Alexander Matheson, Bart., MP, of Ardross.—ED.] Hugh, Farquhar, Donald and John, and two daughters, whose names I now forget. Attadale's mother and sister also resided in the family, but soon afterwards he built a cottage on his property for their accommodation. All the boys were my pupils. The place of Attadale is very romantic, but almost entirely inaccessible, except at low water by the sands to the east, and by a break-neck, scrambling road over the edge of a precipice to the west.

Mr. Lachlan Mackenzie was then minister of Lochcarron, a man of genius, but of great eccentricity, and distinguished as one of the most eminently pious ministers of his day. As such his praise was in all the churches. I was his stated hearer during my residence in his parish. We had to cross the bay of Lochcarron to reach the church. It was built towards the close of my grandfather's ministry, and was, every Sabbath, crowded to the doors. This worthy and eminent servant of God was by this time in the decline of life. He was much afflicted in body by one of those nervous disorders which, undermining his constitution, terminated in paralysis; lie died in 1819. His sermons exhibited the most profound views of divine truth. His expedients to re-establish his health were very peculiar. At one period of his life he bathed, often many times but always once a day, and that too both in summer and winter. He literally loaded himself with clothing. I have seen him on a hot summer day, in the church which was crowded with people, wrapped up in three vests, over which were two coats, a great-coat, and a cloak. His elders were weak and injudicious. They filled his ears with all the idle, gossipping complaints against this individual or that, which floated on the breath of the common people, and this both grieved and irritated him. These he introduced into the pulpit, so as often to excite his own mind, and very little to edify his audience. There was one individual, a stated hearer, against whom he frequently pointed some awful and crushing denunications. He was a sheep-farmer, who resided in the immediate vicinity of the manse. This man rose from a humble origin to be a prosperous and wealthy holder of stock. During the days of his obscurity, and when he lived in a humble hut, he made a profession of godliness, frequently communicated with Mr. Lachlan on the state of his mind under the hearing of the Word, attended the prayer and fellowship-meetings, kept family worship, and, in short, was apparently a decided Christian. But, as the world began to smile upon him, a change came over his spirit. He gave up family worship, absented himself from all meetings held for prayer and Christian conference, exchanged the society of the prayerful people for that of the profane, and finally crowned his apostacy by railing against the venerable pastor whom lie had formerly professed to love and revere. Mr. Mackenzie first endeavoured to regain him by private admonition, but this having only a hardening effect, he took up his apostacy and publicly denounced it. Those denunciations, some of which were truly predictive of what afterwards took place, were uttered frequently in my hearing and were singularly appalling.

Of all his nine co-presbyters Mr. Mackenzie was the only minister who preached the gospel with purity and effect. Mr. Morrison of Crow-Kintail adopted the evangelical strain, but he was more remarkable for his blundering than for any actual efficiency. Dr. Ross of Lochbroom was an able man, and a sound and talented preacher, but his love of controversy and of litigation destroyed his ministerial usefulness, and was withering to his soul. Dr. Downie of Lochalsh was a man of wealth and of gentlemanly manners, a princely landlord, an extensive sheep-farmer, a good shot, but a wretched preacher. Mr. Rnssel of Gairloch, Mr. Macrae of Glenshiel, Mr. Macqueen of Applecross, and Mr. Colin Macivor of Glenelg, were complete and respectable specimens of Moderatism in those days.

I was introduced to Mr. Mackenzie, and not a little recommended to him by my lineal descent from the first Presbyterian minister of that parish, of whom he often made honourable mention in his pulpit doctrines, repeating in the way of illustration certain anecdotes of him, or pithy sayings, which he was reported to have uttered. These references, because of my close relationship to the person referred to, drew upon me the eyes of the whole congregation, among whom my ancestor's memory was still fresh, and many of whom had both seen him and heard him preach. I was often a guest at Mr. Mackenzie's table, and although myself, at that time, very careless and ignorant of divine things I felt that my host was truly a man of God. There was a simplicity and heavenliness, in all that he said and did, that both impressed and overawed me. Mr. Mackenzie never married, but he was a great admirer of the fair sex. He was known to have had, for many years, a predilection for a young woman, a near neighbour of his; but there was nothing in her spirit or conduct to induce such a man as Mr. Mackenzie to marry her, as she and all her family were destitute of any sense of vital godliness, and he was not the man to put himself under an "unequal yoke." He died in the 66th year of his age and the 38th of his ministry.

Having as a candidate for licence, been transferred from the Presbytery of Dornoch to that of Lochcarron, I delivered before the latter my remaining trial discourses, and was accordingly, by their moderator, Mr. Morrison of Crow-Kintail, licensed to preach the gospel. This was in 1815. How ignorant of that gospel was I then, and how callously indifferent to the great charge with which I was then entrusted! The day on which I was licensed I left Attadale somewhat early, to cross the river Carron at its junction with the sea at low water. The day was dry, and the river very low, so that I had not the slightest difficulty in getting over, and I arrived at the church of Lochcarron in full time to witness the commencement of the Presbytery's proceedings. It was so late in the evening before they could take up and fully go through my trials, that I was under the necessity of remaining in the inn at Jeantown over night. Early next morning I set out for Attadale. It had rained heavily during the interval, but had cleared uh about daybreak. Being well mounted I directed my course to the ford on the Carron, which I had crossed on the previous day, when the water was not deep enough to reach much past the horse's fetlock. The river, however, on my return was greatly flooded. Unaware of this fact, and unconscious of my danger, I entered the ford. But I had not ridden ten yards into the stream when my horse suddenly lost his footing, and we were both at once swept down by the strength and rapidity of the current into the tide below, which was making at the time. I was about to give up all for lost, but had the presence of mind to wheel my horse round, when after swimming for the distance of ten or fifteen yards, he reached the beach with me in safety. My condition there was, however, by no means a secure one, as the tide was advancing around me. A man, accidentally passing, guided me out of my perilous position. He said that although no man nor horse could have crossed the river where I had attempted it, he would undertake to lead me over a little farther deem, where, he assured me, the water would scarcely be knee-deep. Accordingly, coming with me to the very point where the current of the stream entered the tide, and going before inc himself on foot, he led me in a diagonal direction across, following closely the bank of Rand which the force of the stream had thrown up before it on its entrance into the sea, and thus we reached the opposite hank in perfect safety. I thought so little of this incident at the time that I never even mentioned it, but on looking back on it from amidst the vicissitudes of after-life, and the many difficulties and subsequent deliverances which I have experienced in the course of my ministry, I have frequently had reason to acknowledge the goodness of God towards me on that occasion.

Mr. Dingwall of Farr had died in the previous year (1814). His successor was llr. David Mackenzie, missionary-minister of Achness, to whom the patron presented the living, on which he entered in May 1815. The vacancy in Achness was soon afterwards filled, the Assembly's committee appointing me to that place. In consequence of this I left Attadale, and once more came to reside under my father's roof.
Previous to my departure from Attadale, it might he about a week or two, I was, as a licentiate of the Presbytery of Lochcarron, asked to preach within their bounds. My first attempt to address a public audience was made at Lochalsh, and in the pulpit of Dr. Downie, the parish minister. qty exhibition was an almost complete failure. I was wretchedly deficient in the Gaelic language, and I entered upon the ministry with a conscious dependence upon myself. Both the Gaelic and the English sermons which I preached at Lochalsh were the result of a whole week's study, and I had closely committed every word to memory. Dr. Downie, for whom I officiated on this first occasion, was one of Iny early acquaintances after I came to reside in that part of the country. I had been frequently a guest at his house, and he treated me with uniform kindness. But careless and ignorant as I then was, I could not fail to notice the glaring deficiencies of his ministerial character. His sertnons were literal transcripts from Blair "et hoc genus omne." These he read in English, and translated into the purest and most elegant Gaelic. Dr. Downie's respectable neighbour, Coll MacDonnell of Barrisdale, a cadet of the family of Glengarry, claimed cousinship with inc as the great-great-grandson of MacDonell of Ardnafuaran. This gentleman was, in personal appear. ance, size, and manners, a genuine specimen of the Highland "dean' nasal;" he lived at Actertyre, a farm which he held from Hugh Innes of Lochalsh.

Dr. Downie had four daughters and three sons. His eldest son attended college; he afterwards went to the West Indies. Charles, the second son, is now minister of Contin, and Alexander, the third son, is a medical practitioner in a foreign country. His eldest two daughters, Flora and Margaret, about the time I resided in that country, 1813-15, were at a London boarding-school. During the visit of the allied sovereigns of Europe to the Prince Regent in 1814, after. Napoleon's banishment to Elba, these young ladies were spectators of a public demonstration made by the Regent in honour of his Imperial and Royal visitors. Poor Margaret, a very beautiful girl, caught cold on that occasion, which threw her into a. consumption. She and her sister came home, and her death took place a few months after her arrival. It was the second Sabbath thereafter that I preached at Lochalsh. Dr. Downie walked with me to church. When we entered the churchyard gate, one of the first objects which met our eyes was the new-made grave of his daughter. A convulsion passed over his face, the tears started over his eyes, but he quickly regained his composure. [Dr. Alexr. Downie died in May, 1S20, at the age of 55, having been minister of Lochalsh for 29 years.—ED.]

Leaving Attadale early in the morning, I breakfasted at Luibgargan, proceeded on foot down Strathconon, and rested during the night at Garve. Next mornhi t I met with a clansman, the only one outside my own family I had ever seen. He was a John Sage, am excise officer in that district. We breakfasted together, and setting off immediately thereafter, I arrived at Kildonan on Thursday. The communion was to be administered on the Sabbath following, and I found my father, with his assistants, Mr. John Munro, missionary-minister of Dirlot, and Mr. Duncan MacGillvray, minister of Assynt, busily engaged in the preparatory duties. The services were conducted in Gaelic, and in the open air. The spot selected for the meeting of the congregation was about a mile to the north of the manse, on the banks of the burn, and about two or three hundred yards below the waterfall of " Ess-na-caoraiche-duibhe." My father preached the action sermon in Gaelic, and I succeeded him in the evening. I selected for my text the same passage I preached from at Lochcarron. I uttered a few preliminary sentences with considerable boldness and facility. But all at once my memory failed me, and I made a dead parse. My father sat behind me in the tent, and groaned aloud for very anxiety. The congregation, too, among whom were a number of my future flock at Achness, all on the very tiptoe of curiosity and attention on my first appearance, were agitated like the surface of one of their own mountain lochs when suddenly visited with a hurricane. After a pause of some minutes, however, during which I felt myself pretty similarly circumstanced as when carried away by the river Carron, I pulled out my manuscript, and stammered out the rest of my sermon with much trepidation, and in the best way I could. I returned home totally disconcerted, and seriously meditated the renunciation of my licence, my mission, and all my ministerial prospects. Mr. Munro, however, came to comfort me in my distress. It would appear that he himself had had a personal experience of the very difficulty with which I had then to grapple. He had been requested by Mr. Bethune to preach at Dornoch, but although he got through the Gaelic service without much difficulty, when he attempted to preach an English sermon without his manuscript, lie had to stop short in the middle of a sentence, and was under the necessity of having recourse to his paper, much to his own confusion no less than to that of his audience. He could thus the more readily sympathise with my feelings, and I was not a little cheered and encouraged by his truly Christian and fatherly admonitions. I think, indeed, that upon the whole I was no loser by this very severe trial of my natural feelings. It read me a most humbling lesson respecting myself, and struck a telling blow also at the very root of my self-confidence, then my easily besetting sin.

I may here record some notices about my father's assistants at that communion. Mr. John Munro was a native of Ross- shire. [Mr. John Munro died 1st April, 1917, in the 41st year of his ministry. He was for 21 years minister of Halkirk, where his memory is much revered.--Ed.] His more immediate ancestors were tinkers—not of the gipsy race, however, but native Highlanders—who gained their livelihood by the manufacture of born-spoons and vessels of tin or white iron, and by mending broken stoneware, and who wandered about from place to place in pursuit of their vocation. They were therefore called, in their native tongue, "ceardaidheau," or craftsmen. Mr. -Munro, although sprung from so humble a race, was yet destined by the All-wise Ruler for far higher ends. At a very early age be felt the power of the truth upon his heart, through the instrumentality of his mother's instructions. He received the first rudiments of his education at Kiltearn parish school, and afterwards, during his attendance at the College and at the hall, became parochial schoolmaster, first of Resolis, and afterwards of Tarbat. While in this latter place he married Miss Forbes, sister of the minister of the parish. After finishing his course at the Hall he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Tain. Although a man of great moral weight, and of faith unfeigned, his natural capacity was limited, as were his literary attainments. He understood the first principles of Latin and Greek grammar, but abstract views of a subject, the logical arrangement of it, and the bringing out of his views in a regular and consecutive form, were qualifications of which he was destitute. When on his trials before the Presbytery he delivered a homily, on which all bestowed most unqualified approbation. It was clear and concise, and, in short, a masterly performance. But Mr. John Ross of Logie, one of their number, who well knew the extent of Mr. Mnnro's abilities, and the very much more than mere help which he received from his parish minister, added with much emphasis, after highly commending the performance, "But, young man, is not the hand of Joab with thee in all this?" Soon after being licensed, about the year 1812, be was appointed missionary-minister of Dirlot, and it was during his ministry there that he regularly assisted my father when he annually administered the sacrament at Kildonan. He was missionary at Dirlot when I was at Stempster, and I noticed that although he was universally respected by the pious among the lower classes, yet, by the higher and better-educated who knew not the truth, he was known in Caithness by the epithet of "Munro of the hills." He was elected minister of the Gaelic Chapel, Edinburgh, on Mr. Macdonald's translation to Urquhart, or Ferintosh, as successor to the eminent Charles Calder. On the death of Mr. Cameron at a very advanced age, he was, as the choice of the people, presented to the church and parish of Halkirk.

Mr. Duncan MacGillivray, now of Lairg, was a near relative of the venerated Dr. Angus Mackintosh of Tain. [Dr. Angus Mackintosh was translated from the Gaelic Chapel, Glasgow, and admitted minister of 'fain 11th May, 1797; he died 3rd Oct., 1831, in the 68th year of his age and 39th of his ministry. He was one of the originators and secretary of the Northern missionary Society. In 1800 he married Anne, youngest daughter of Mr. Ch. Calder, minister of Urguhart. She died 23rd Jan., 1857. He was succeeded by his son Dr. Charles Calder Mackintosh, who was ordained (assist. and sue.) 19th June, 1929; translated to Free Church, Dunoon, in 1854; and who died at Pau 24th Nov., 1868, in the 62nd year of his age and 41st of his ministry. (See his Memoir and Sermons, published and edited by the late Rev. William Taylor).—ED.] He was a native of the parish of Hoy, Inverness-shire, and an original member of the Northern Missionary Society, being present at its first meeting held at Tain in 1800. The first charge to which he was appointed on being licensed to preach was that of Achness. I have even now a distinct remembrance of seeing him at Kildonan on his way to enter upon his labours. My father and step-mother were from home, and he stepped in upon us on the evening of a raw, cold, misty day in spring. He was the immediate successor of the late Mr. Gordon of Loth, and like him was a frequent visitor at my father's when he preached at Ach-na-h'uaighe, and was always his assistant during sacramental occasions. During his visits to Kildonan he had often been my instructor in Latin. Both as a preacher and a well-educated man Mr. :McGillivray was highly respectable. His sermons were well-composed, and exhibited throughout clear, comprehensive and impressive views of divine truth. His delivery was peculiar. He had a sort of paralytic affection in his throat which, at frequent intervals, interrupted his elocution, not only during the utterance of a sentence, but even of a single word, and he had a rather awkward habit of holding up his left hand, folded almost double, close at the root of his ear. Soon after his settlement at Achness, which was then a most populous tract of country, he married a daughter of Mr. Robert (ordon, then tacksman of the farm of Achness, a very handsome, high-spirited woman, by whom lie had sons and daughters. On the death of the late Mr. Wm. Mackenzie, minister of Assynt, Mr. MacGillivray was, by the patron, appointed as his successor. His appointment to Assynt was a personal arrangement between himself and Lord and Lady Stafford. The people of Assynt were not consulted in the matter. They, however, took the liberty of thinking for themselves in the case. They had formed a strong attachment to the late venerable Mr. John Kennedy, minister of Killearnan, who was still officiating among them at that time in capacity of assistant to the late Mr. William .Mackenzie. The parishioners wished to have Mr. Kennedy settled among them as Mr. Mackenzie's successor. Their request, however, was peremptorily refused, and Mr. MacGillivray was appointed. The Presbytery of Dornoch, therefore, met on an appointed day to settle the presentee. They reckoned, however, without their host. As they were all assembled in the manse parlour, with the exception of my father and Mr. Keith, and were about to proceed with the settlement, their attention was directed to a strong body of Assynt Highlanders, each armed with a cudgel, who presented themselves before the manse windows. As if significantly to express the purpose of their assemblage, each pulled off his neckcloth with one hand, and wielded his cudgel with the other, and loudly demanded the compearance of the Presbytery. The members resolved to go out and remonstrate with the rioters, but it would not do. The mob which now assembled told them through their leaders that the only way by which they could escape broken bones was that each should get to his nag with all convenient speed, nor slack bridle till they had crossed the boundaries of the parish, for that they were determined that the presentee should not on that day, nor on any other day, be settled minister of Assynt. To this peremptory condition the Presbytery members were compelled to submit, and each and all of them, together with the presentee, his wife, family and furniture, were sent back the way they came, closely followed by the men of Assynt. This affray was productive of consequences obstructive to the subsequent usefulness of fir MacGillivray in the parish. The ringleaders were discovered, tried before the Justiciary Court at Inverness, and, in spite of the earnest entreaties of their pastor, sentenced to nine months' imprisonment. Shortly thereafter, the parish of Lairg becoming vacant by the translation of .air. Angus Kennedy to Dornoch on the death of Dr. Bethune, Mr. MacGillivray was settled minister of that parish, with the unanimous consent of the parishioners, and there, as I write, he still labours at a very advanced age. [Mr. Duncan MacGillivray, A.M., was ordained minister of Assynt at a meeting of Presbytery held at Dornoch on 24th Aug., 1813, and was translated to Lairg 12th Aug., 1817. He was a native of Inverness-shire. His two sons, Angus Mackintosh and Alexander, have been ministers of the Free Church of Scotland. He died 11th Feb., 1849, in the 48th year of his ministry.—ED.]

For the first half-year after my appointment to the Achness mission I remained at Kildonan, and went to both stations to preach almost every Sabbath. Indeed my commission from the Assembly's Committee of the Royal Bounty had not, from some unaccountable delay, been forwarded; and therefore, although I preached in the mission, I was not ordained by the Presbytery until they had received my written appointment, which was not till the month of November, 1816, nearly six months after my return from Lochearron. It came at last, and I went to Creicb, where the Presbytery held a meeting. I was then ordained by Dr. Bethune, the Moderator, to the pastoral charge of the mission at Achness. I went home that evening with my ecclesiastical father, and, if I remember well, preached for him at Dornoch on the following Sabbath.

I yet remember my first visit to Achness to preach my first sermon there. I lodged at Breacachadh, in the parish of Kildonan, on the Saturday evening. Thomas Gordon was then tacksman of that farm. He was the lineal descendant of a race of Cordons transplanted from Banffshire to Sutherland during the days of Adam, Lord of Aboyne, who, on his marriage with Elizabeth, heiress of Sutherland, became titular Earl of Sutherland. I was long and intimately acquainted with Thomas Gordon, and had also seen his father, old William Breacachadh. The Gordous of Breacachadh and of Ach-na-moine were of the same race. Their original ancestor, a Thomas Gordon, was a man of gigantic strength. His descendant, William Gordon, was a low-statured, broad-shouldered, square-built man, the model of a Highlander, with keen black eyes, and most respectable and consistent in point of character, but peculiar in temper, and of a somewhat sordid disposition. About eight or ten miles farther on, and in the same parish, resided a neighbour, George Mackay, Halmindary, already mentioned, a man of wit, humour, and piety, who not unfrequently indulged his native poignancy of wit and sarcasm at the expense of William of Breacachadh. Old William was a man of frugal habits, and George of Halmindary had all the thoughtless prodigality of the Sutherland Highlanders. Both strictly maintained the terms of good neighbourhood with each other; but although they often exchanged the rights of hospitality, they never met or parted without their "miffs." Halmindary could not possibly keep his caustic humour against Breacachadh within the bounds of civility when they met, and this Breacachadh both felt and resented.
With Thomas of Breacachadh I lodged on the Saturday evening before my first Sabbath at Achness. He provided me with a horse, and accompanied me the next morning, after an early breakfast, to the place where the congregation met. The rural church, or meeting-house as it was called, at Achess was at the time almost ruinous, and until it was repaired the people were obliged to meet in the open air. After addressing them both in Gaelic and English, I returned in the evening to Breacachadh. The terms of my commission enjoined upon me to preach two Sabbaths successively at Achness, and the third at Ach-nah'uaighe. My incumbency at Achness lasted for three years. My reminiscences of that period involve, first of all, a description of the nature and the locality of my ministerial labours.

Missions, particularly in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, were of very long standing, for I was the seventh and last in succession of the missionaries appointed to officiate at Achness. My aboriginal predecessor in office was the revered and truly pious George Munro of Farr, married to my grand-aunt [Mr. George Munro was ordained successor to Mr. Skeldoch as minister of Farr 23rd May, 1754. On 16th December of the same year he married Barbara, daughter of Mr. John Mackay, minister of Lairg. She is said to have been a woman of masculine understanding, but of feminine amiability and Christian piety; while Mr. Munro was a guileless character, but an honoured sere ant of the Lord. He died 1st May, 1719, aged 74, and in the 25th year of his ministry.—Ed.] The object of the Church in establishing these missions was to supply the almost total lack of ministerial service in the extensive parishes of the north. Parishes of forty, fifty, and even sixty miles in length are there of frequent occurrence, and both the larger and smaller parishes are absurdly divided. The principle adopted in settling the bounds was not, evidently, to take into account the distance from, or proximity of, the population to any place of worship erected for them, but solely so as to include the landed property of the heritors of the district. This was called a parish, and in many cases it exceeded in extent many whole counties in the south. Missions were established for the accommodation of such of the parishioners for whom it was a physical impossibility to attend the parish church. For the support of the missionary-ministers there were two sources of funds, the Christian Knowledge Society and the Assembly's Committee for managing the Royal Bounty. The Christian Knowledge Society was established by Royal Charter in the year 1701, and gradually, I presume, it extended its efficiency over the sphere of its labours, establishing itself as it best could. To send forth ministers, catechists, and schoolmasters, each in their respective departments of moral and religious usefulness in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, was the peculiar province of this Society. It began its labours when moral and religious education, as a popular and efficient system, was but little understood. The management of the Society, therefore, was not progressive; and although its schools and missions were, at the first outset, productive of considerable benefit to the rude and benighted Highlanders, yet upon the whole it was very inefficient, and at the time I write it is almost defunct. [The S.P.C.K. was at first supported by persons of all Protestant denominations in the country. But in 18}S the Court of Session decided that all its agents must belong to the Church which was established by law. Since this decision, the funds of the Society have been diverted from education to the support of missionary teachers and catechists belonging to that particular denomination. The Commissioners on Educational Endowments have lately however, prepared a scheme by which it is to be restored to its original and catholic constitution. (Statement by the Rev. J. C. McPhail of Edinburgh.)--Ed.] The Assembly's Committee for managing the Royal Bounty was of more recent origin, but was evidently intended for a similar purpose to that of the Society. A grant of ^2000 annually from the last Sovereigns of the House of Hanover was presented in due form by their commissioner to the General Assembly, in order to be bestowed in sums of from 45 to 50 upon missionary or itinerant ministers in the five northern counties. Achness was one of the stations. The minister's right or authority to enter upon his duties, and to draw the salary, which was :50, was the Committee's letter, called his "commission," which contained instructions directing him how to proceed. He had to keep a journal of his preachings every Sabbath, whether within the bounds of his own charge or elsewhere, and to send it up to Edinburgh half-yearly, duly attested by the Presbyteries within whose bounds his charge lay.

The mission at Achness was, in regard to locality and surface, of very great extent. It lay within the hounds of the neighbouring presbyteries of Tongue and Dornoch, comprehending the extreme heights of the parish of Farr, from Moudale down to nearly the middle of Strathnaver, towards the north-west, and from Halmindary down to Kinbrace, in the parish of Kildonan, towards the south-east. A very considerable portion of the population had already been removed by the Stafford family, and their tenements given to sheep-farmers, so that the peopled part of that vast district was comparatively limited. The whole population in the Strathnaver district lay apart from the missionary's house, being divided from it by the Naver, a river of such volume and breadth in the winter months as completely to preclude the attendance of the people at their wonted place of worship during that season. That part of the mission which lay within the parish of Kildonan extended from the boundary line between the parishes to Kinbrace and Borrobol, on either side of Loch Badenloch and of the river Helmisdale which issued from it. The population here lived, like that of Strathnaver, in detached townships. Those in Strathuaver were Mondale, Tobeg, Grumore, Grumbeg, Ceaunachyle, Syre, Langdale, Skaill, and Carnachadh—all possessed by small tenants, and lying on the north and west banks of the loch and river of Naver. Those in Kildonan were Gairnsary, Breacachadh, Badenloch, Bad'chlamhain, Ach-na-moine, Ach-ua-h'uaighe, Dalcharn, Borrobol, and Kinbrace. All these townships were more or less densely peopled, and lay alternately either at the head of Loch Badenloch or on each side of the shores of the lake and of the river lelmisdale. The great majority of the population was to be found in the Strathnaver district; arid, consequently, it was incumbent on the missionary, for once that he preached at Ach-na-h'uaighe in Kildonan, to preach two Sabbaths successively at Achness in the parish of Farr. There were three more townships in the Kildonan district, viz., Griamachdary, Knockfin, and Strathbeg.

The rural church at Ach-na-h'uaighe I have described in a previous chapter; that at Achness was scarcely better. When I entered on the duties it was in a wofully dilapidated state, but it was soon afterwards repaired by the people, and made merely habitable. It consisted of a long low house, with a large wing stretching out from the north side of it. The walls were built of stone and clay, the roof covered with divot and straw, and the seats were forms set at random, without any regularity, on the damp floor. The house of the minister was erected at the foot of a steep brae, and in the middle of a fen. Its walls were of stone and lime; it was thatched with divot and straw, and contained four apartments, a kitchen in an outer wing, a parlour with a bed in the wall, a closet, and a bedroom. The minister also rented, for the sum of 1 annually, a small farm from the sheep-farmers, Messrs Marshall and Atkinson, which afforded corn, straw, and hay for a horse and two cows. The place of Achness itself, once densely peopled, was in my time entirely depopulated, and the only one left was a miller, who resided at its northern extremity.

The people of the districts in both parishes were much fewer during my ministry than under that of my predecessors. I mention this particularly in reference to what has been called one of the Sutherland clearances, which took place in 1815, nearly a year before I went to Achuess. A vast extent of moorland within the parishes of Farr and Kildonan was let to Mr. Sellar, factor for the Stafford family, by his superior, as a sheep or store farm; and the measure he employed to eject the poor, but original, possessors of the lands, was fire. At Rhimisdale, a township crowded with small tenants, a corn-mill was set on fire in order effectually to scare the people from the place before the term for eviction arrived. Firing or injuring a corn-mill, on which the sustenance of the lieges so much depends, is or was by our ancient Scottish statutes punishable by imprisonment, or civil banishment, and on this point of law fir. Sellar was ultimately tried. The Sheriff-Substitute, Mr. R. MacKid, hearing of the case, proceeded in his official capacity to the spot to make a precognition of the circumstances. The Sheriff's enquiry fully established the fact, and elicited many aggravating particulars, so that he considered himself called upon to issue a warrant for Sellar's apprehension and incarceration in Dornoch jail, and to prepare the case for the Inverness Circuit Court. That MacKid was at the time not on good terms with Mr. Sellar, was well known. But though his procedure may have seemed harsh, it did not alter the particulars of the case. The trial took place, but the final issue of it was only what might have been expected when a case came to be determined between the poor, as the party offended, and the rich as the lordly and heartless aggressor. Sellar was acquitted, while Sheriff MacKid was heavily censured. Indeed, the latter was threatened with an action for damages at the factor's instance. To ward off this blow, MacKid threw himself on the other's mercy—a submission which was readily accepted, as Sellar was only too happy to escape incurring any further public odium. The whole matter, however, left a stain on the memory of the perpetrators which will never be removed.

After residing for nearly seven months at my father's house, I went, about the beginning of the winter of 1816, to reside permanently at the manse of Achness. My furniture was scanty and my hooks were few. Some articles of furniture I got from the manse of Kildonan, and some, such as a bed and bedding, a carpet, and some chairs, I purchased at the roup of Kirktown in Golspie. For, consequent on the proceedings in Mr. Sellar's case, MacKid felt that he could no longer act as Sheriff, nor very comfortably dwell at his farm of Kirktown, which he held in lease from the Stafford family. He therefore resigned his office as Sheriff-Substitute, and his Iease as tacksman of the farm, selling off his farm stock and household furniture by auction. He went to reside at Thurso, and practised as he could in his legal profession, but, without much success. His wife died there, and he soon afterwards returned with his family to Fortrose, where, having lost all his money, he died at a very advanced age.


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