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Parish Life in the North of Scotland
Chapter II - The Minister of Lochcarron - continued


1733-1774.

THE vexatious opposition which my grandfather met with from his parishioners, and which at first so heavily pressed upon him, gradually gave way. He had, it is true, to fight every inch of his way. The whole course of his ministry was one continued contest with ignorance, prejudice, and irreligion. In this contest, however, he was always the victor, and it was a comfort, daily on the increase, when he saw his parishioners more and more united in reverence for the gospel and in personal regard for himself.

He was a man of great personal strength, and, on more than one occasion, he was compelled to use it against that opposition winch a barbarous people presented to his ministerial efforts. There was a small proprietor in the parish who was known to be a libertine. Very much to the astonishment of his hearers, on one particular Sabbath, Mr. Sage, after divine service, intimated his intention to hold a diet of catechising at this man's house. His friends remonstrated with him. The man was, they said, such a desperate character that it would neither be decent nor safe to hold any intercourse with him, and they evinced surprise that lie should propose, even for the discharge of pastoral duties, to enter his house. The minister would go, however. When he arrived at the house on the day appointed, the owner met him at the door, and with a menacing scowl asked, what brought him there? "I come to discharge my duty to God, to your conscience, and to my own," was the answer. "I care nothing for any of the three," said the man; "out of my house or—I'll turn you out." "Easier said than done," said my grandfather, "but you may turn me out if you can." This pithy colloquy brought matters to an issue. They were both powerful men, and neither of them hesitated to put forth upon the other his ponderous strength. After a short, but fierce, struggle the minister became the vietor, and the landlord, prostrated upon his own floor, was, with a rope coiled around his arms and feet, bound over to keep the peace. The people of the district were then called in, and the minister proceeded seriously to discharge the duty of catechising them. Vi When that was finished he set himself to deal with the delinquents present. The man was solemnly rebuked, and the minister so moved his conscience that an arrangement was entered into that he and the woman with whom he cohabited should be duly and regularly married. The man afterwards became a decided Christian.

It was about this period that the secession from the Church of Scotland, headed by the celebrated Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine, took place; that is, in 1733, seven years after my grandfather's settlement at Lochearron. This movement, which agitated the southern part of the country with the violence of a tempest, was almost unknown in the more remote parts of the Highlands. The truth is that, while the church in the south was long established, it was, in the mountainous districts of the northern counties, as yet in its infancy, while the livings were so small, the distance to Edinburgh so great, and the journey so expensive that few ministers attended the General Assembly. I am not aware that my grandfather was ever present at a General Assembly. Secession principles were not introduced into Ross-shire for nearly fifty years afterwards. During this period the moderate party in the church was rising into prominence, under the leadership of the celebrated Robertson, and developing a regularly organised system. The rise of this party was the real cause of the secession, and afterwards led to errors in doctrine as well as to laxity in the exercise of discipline within the church itself. In the north these influences were unfelt, and the very existence of the party was unknown. My grandfather received his appointment to the parish of Lochcarron, not through the presentation of a patron, but by the call and ordination of the Presbytery, which itself had been formed in the previous year.

On the 22nd of August, 1736, his third daughter, Flora, was born; she died in the following March. His daughter Anne was born on the 29th September, 1738, and was equally short lived; she died in March, 1739. John, the eldest son, was born on the 19th August, 1740, and died in his thirteenth year. Margaret, fifth daughter, was born on the 20th September, 1742, and died in her second year, and the second son, Murdo, born on the 10th of June, 1744, died in October following.

The year 1745 forms a striking and memorable epoch in Scottish history; a year of excitement, intrigue, battle, and bloodshed. The house of Stewart was deeply rooted in the national heart. That illustrious family grew with the growth, and identified itself with the progress of the people in every step of their advancement from incipiency to maturity, from barbarism to civilization, from absolute heathenism to pure Christianity. They fell into one great error, however; an error common to human nature in general, but common especially to kings; they forgot the existence of any authority superior to their own. It is true, they held the doctrine of the "divine right" of kings, but the source from which they drew this divine right was a divinity of their own device. The result of such a doctrine was obvious. The house of Stewart came to believe that Scotland was their own, her soil their personal property, to he disposed of as they saw fit. The lever which came at last to be applied, and which succeeded in overturning their throne, was forged by their own hands when they assumed arbitrary lordship over the conscience of their subjects. The blood of the Covenanters, which flowed so copiously under the sabres of Claverhouse and his ruffianly dragoons, cried aloud unto heaven, and drew down, at last, upon the house of Stewart that measure of Divine displeasure under which it finally sank; while those royal oppressors and persecutors of God's people, who had wielded at one time the whole power of the State against God's cause and His witnesses, became themselves in their turn, in the course of His wise and inscrutable providence, the persecuted and oppressed. Charles Edward, the last of the Stewart princes, and the Hero of the '45, was the elder son of the Chevalier St. George whom my grandfather had seen thirty years previously at Stonehaven. On the 20th of June, 1745, Charles, accompanied by the Marquis of Tullibardine, Sir Thomas Sheridan, Sir John Macdonald, Mr. Francis Strickland, the Rev. George Kelly, Eneas Macdonald, brother of Kinloch-Moidart, and O'Sullivan, an Irishman, embarked at St. Nazaire on board the Doutelle, went to Belleisle on the following day, and on the fourth of July was joined by the Elizabeth, having on board 100 marines and 2000 soldiers. On the fifth of July the whole expedition sailed from Belleisle, with a fair wind, and, after encountering many hair-breadth escapes from English ships of war, the Doutelle alone, with the Prince and his attendants on board, landed at Eriska in South Uist on the 23rd of July. Between that date and the month of August the Prince held interviews with many Highland chiefs, including Lochiel, Keppoch, Kinloch-Moidart and others, and gained them over to his cause. The arming went on rapidly; hostilities commenced; a skirmish, successful to the arms of Charles, took place on the 16th of August at Highbridge, near Fort-William, between a party of Lochiel's and Keppoch's men and a battalion of the Scots' Royals, under Captain, afterwards General, Scott. On the 19th of August, 1745, the Prince set up his standard at Glenfinuan in the parish of Ardnamurchan. From that day his progress was as that of a meteor, bursting at once upon the eye, brightening more and more as it rose into the sky, and, after attaining a certain height, disappearing suddenly.

On the 20th of August, at the head of an army of 2000 Highlanders, the Prince began his march to Edinburgh by the mountain pass of Corriarrock, and prepared to encounter the royal forces sent against him under command of Sir John Cope. From the head of Loch Lochy he, on the 23rd, advanced to Fassiefearn; on the 25th, arrived at Moy in Lochaber; on the 26th, encamped at Corriarrock, and there learned that the royalist general had avoided him and was in full march for Inverness. Continuing his march to the capital, he entered Athole on the 29th of August, supped at Blair Castle on the 30th, and on the 4th of September, at the head of his forces, entered Perth. After remaining there for several days, making preparation for the impending contest, and receiving considerable addition to his force by the adherence of the Duke of Perth and others, he left Perth on the 11th of September; passed the Forth at the Ford of Prow on the 13th, in the face of a strong body of dragoons, who were there posted to oppose him; advanced to Falkirk; next to Linlithgow; and on the 17th, entered Edinburgh. On the 19th he left Holyrood Palace to join his army posted at Duddin);ston. On Saturday the 21st he fought the battle of Prestonpans, by which Scotland was laid prostrate at his feet. After remaining some time in the capital, he, on the evening of Thursday the 31st of October, proceeded on his daring expedition to England. On the 3rd of November, at the head of the second division of his troops, he loft Dalkeith for  Kelso, and arriving at Lauder, took up his quarters at Thirlstane Castle. On the morning of the 6th he crossed the Tweed; entered England on the 8th; marched to Rowclif, near Carlisle, on the 9th; was joined, on the same evening, by the first division of his troops, who had entered England by another route; and on the 10th proceeded to invest Carlisle. This city surrendered on the 15th of November, and on the 20th and 21st of the month, his army, in two divisions, left Carlisle for Penrith ; marched to Kendal on the 23rd, and to Lancaster on the 25th; while, with his whole army, he arrived at Preston on the '26th of November. Still pressing forward, on the 4th of December he arrived at Derby, within one hundred and twenty-seven miles of London; but this was the limit of his progress. From Derby, on the 6th, he commenced his retreat into Scotland, and after a rencontre between his troops and those of the King, under the Duke of Comber- land at Clifton Moor, in which the Highlanders were victorious, he re-entered Scotland on the 20th of December, and arrived at Glasgow on the 26th.

On the fourth day of January, 1746, Charles left Glasgow with the view of capturing the Castles of Edinburgh and Stirling, and, on the evening of that day, surrounded the town of Stirling with his troops; captured the town on the 8th; besieged the Castle of Stirling on the 12th of January; and obtained a complete victory over the royal forces at Falkirk, under General Hawley, on the 17th. the siege of the Castle was again resumed on the 20th, but, after a considerable loss of his men, he was compelled to abandon it and retreat to the north.

On the 31st of January, the whole Highland army, under the command of Lord George Murray, began its retreat to Inverness. On the 4th of February, Charles arrived at Blair Castle. lie came to Moy Castle, a seat of the laird of Mackintosh, on the 16th, and, on the 20th, entered Inverness, laid siege to the Castle, and took it. On the 8th of April, the Duke of Cumberland left Aberdeen for Inverness in pursuit of the insurgents, and arrived at Nairn on the 14th. On the same day Charles marched his troops out from Inverness as far as Culloden, and, on the 15th, arranged them in the order of battle on Drummossic muir. He marched his army to Nairn on the 16th of April, with the view of nocturnally surprising the Duke's army, but he utterly failed. The battle of Culleden was fought on the 17th of April, 1746, when his army was totally defeated by the Duke of Cumberland, and all his future prospects of sovereignty were buried in the graves of his devoted followers. From that period Charles's fortunes experienced a complete reverse. He was forcibly carried off from the last and bloodiest of his battles, and, escorted by a large body of horse, he crossed the river Nairn at a ford four miles from the battle-field. Dismissing his attendants, with the exception of three or four, he arrived about sunset at Gortuleg, and, after some refreshment, left it for Invergarry about ten o'clock. There his miseries began. The castle was inhabited but by a single domestic; and the Prince was under the necessity of sleeping in his clothes on a stone floor. The story of his wanderings afterwards, and of his hairbreadth escapes, of his miseries, heightened by tattered garments and food as coarse as it was scanty, and, at last, of his escape from Borrodale to France on board the L'Heureux, on the 19th of September, 1746, resembles romance more than reality.

This eventful year was the nineteenth of my grandfather's ministry. His parishioners were, when he first came among them, the genuine subjects of the House of Stewart. His near relatives, too, by his mother's side, such as Glengarry, Lochgarry, Barisdale, were all " out in the '45; " but I do not learn that he received any annoyance from either his relatives or parishioners on account of his anti-Jacobite principles. The Earl of Seaforth was peculiarly circumstanced. His father, who had acted so vacillating a part during the rebellion of 1715, under the Earl of Mar, had died in exile. The estate had been restored to his son, and this circumstance was a sufficiently strong and practical argument with that nobleman effectually to convince him of the folly of joining in the new rebellion. Whatever his private leanings were, lie kept quiet; and his clan, the majority of my grandfather's parishioners, as a matter of course, kept quiet too. The only consequence to my grandfather, resulting from the disturbed state of the public mind, was an attempt which was made to murder him. The intending assassin lived in Strathconon, through which the road then passed from Lochcarron to the Low country. He had seen my grandfather several times pass the road, and he formed the resolution, soon after the rebellion was suppressed, to take his life. Of any provocation, received or imagined, I am not aware. It was (luring the year 1746, when the Duke of Cumberland, under colour of quelling the rebellion, had been guilty of the most cold-blooded and revolting acts of cruelty towards the fugitives. It is probable that this man wished to make reprisals, having himself narrowly escaped the sabres of Cumberland's dragoons. He watched his opportunity, and it came. His house stood in one of the wildest and most secluded spots in the glen. My grandfather had occasion to travel to Dingwall and Cromarty; and of the day of his departure from the manse the intended slayer was promptly informed. Arming himself with a dirk, and posting himself in the hollow of a rock near the high road, he awaited his victim. i\ly grandfather, on horseback, approached the spot, utterly unconscious of danger. As he drew near, the road being very rugged, and his horse tired, he dismounted, when, leaving the animal to graze, he, after his manner, retired to pray. The spot he chose for this purpose placed him directly in the view of the intending assassin, and the effect upon the ruffian's mind was irresistible. He had unsheathed his dirk, and advanced a step or two, with the full intention of perpetrating the bloody deed, by stabbing him on the left side, which happened to be next him. But when he beheld the powerful man prostrated in prayer, his arm was arrested, the dirk dropped to the ground, and he stood motionless. After finishing his devotions, my grandfather rose to pursue his journey, but as he turned round to look for his horse, his eye fell upon the man who stood before him. Ignorant of the man's recent purpose, my grandfather accosted him with familiarity and kindness. His face, betokening what passed within, was deadly pale, and my grandfather questioned him about his health; but to every question he returned an evasive answer. Disarmed, however, of all deadly intentions, the man accompanied my grandfather down the glen; and the conversation, fluctuating from the man's health to the weather, and from the weather to the news of the day, lighted at last on the momentous concerns of eternity, on which my grandfather spoke earnestly and to such purpose that the murderer in intention became the Christian in sincerity. He survived my grandfather, and on his death-bed, related the narrative of his dread intention towards him to whom he, under God, owed his conversion.

On the 15th of December, 1746, my grandfather's third son, William, was born. lie attended college two sessions, but died soon afterwards, George, the fourth son, was born on the 27th day of November, 1748, and died on the 27th of December, 1752; and Thomas, the fifth son, was born on the 12th February, 1750, and died on the 16th day of December, 1752.

My grandfather's intercourse with his parishioners latterly became very different from what it was at the first. The light of that gospel which he had faithfully preached had arisen in full strength, and the gloom of ignorance and prejudice had passed away. Converts to the faith of the gospel became conspicuous, alike by their numbers and by their character, and constituted, if not the majority, at least the most influential portion of the parishioners. In connection with the real progress of the truth, my grandfather was zealous to promote the arts of civilized life. He fought against indolence and on behalf of household economy. He also stood up as the uncompromising assertor of civil rights against all by whom those rights might be invaded. Tile parish of Lochcarron was almost wholly the property of the Earl of Seaforth. His lordship at the time had a factor named Mackenzie, known among the inhabitants as "Calan Dearg," or "Red Colin." This functionary was a not inconsiderable potentate. He had so much of bustling and ostentatious fidelity in the discharge of his duties as sufficiently to recommend him to his employer, and consequently had the Earl's entire confidence, and was the sole organ of communication between him and his tenants. Personally he acknowledged no higher power than the Earl's will, and no encouragement save his lordship's approval. Thus furnished he was the supreme authority in the parish of Lochcarron. With my grandfather, who was also a man in authority, this dignitary had many opportunities of measuring his strength. Red Colin had been collecting the rents for several weeks, and although he was fully aware that the minister's stipend was due, he took no steps to pay it; he treated with scorn a message from the manse on the subject, and, taking up his money, he secured it in his portmanteau, and posted off towards Brahan Castle. My grandfather, having got notice of the factor's departure, instantly followed him. The factor stopped for some time to refresh himself at Luibgargan, a place about fifteen miles distant. There, whilst regaling himself with a substantial breakfast, the room door was suddenly thrust open, and the tall muscular person of the minister stepped forward. "Colin," said my grandfather, "I come to get what you owe me; it would have been more civil and neighbourly if you had handed it to me at own fireside, instead of bringing me so far." Starting up, Colin drew his broad-sword, "Let the issue," said he, flourishing his weapon, "determine whether you'll finger one plack of what you say is due to you." At some risk, parrying with his arm the thrust aimed at him by his opponent, my grandfather succeeded in closing with him. Seizing him by the collar, he threw him on the floor, shivering his broadsword, and thrust his head up into the chimney. Red Colin was sufficiently humbled, and, for the first time in his life, was reduced to the position of a suppliant. He shouted for quarter, and in the most earnest, but most respectful terms, declared that the stipend, to the last penny, should be paid. But Colin never forgot the encounter, and took many ways afterwards of showing that his pride and dignity had been wounded. Some time afterward, the parties again came into contact. The minister considered it his duty to interpose, in consequence of some arbitrary treatment to which his parishioners were subjected. Red Colin sought revenge in a new mode. He punctually paid my grandfather's stipend, but he did so in farthings. Poor "Callan Dearg" had a sudden and violent death. Lord Seaforth, accompanied by Red Colin, a retinue of servants, and a long train of baggage horses, on their way to Lews, passed the church of Lochcarron on the Sabbath day, close upon the hour when divine service was to begin. Aware of their approach, my grandfather went to meet them. He accosted Lord Seaforth with the respect due to his rank and station. "My Lord," said he, "you are on a journey, and I find you and your attendants prosecuting that journey on the Sabbath. Permit me to propose that you dismount, discontinue your journey for this day, unite with us in worship, and, after that is over, partake of my ]rumble hospital ity. My barn will contain your luggage, and my stable your horses." Lord Seaforth was about to comply, when Red Colin, who stood near, cried out, "Never mind what the old Carle says, my Lord; let us continue our journey, we need all our time." As they moved forward, my grandfather said, "Colin, mark my words. You are now on a journey which you shall not repeat; you are going on a way by which you shall not return." And his words were fearfully true. A few months afterward, Red Colin, on his return-passage in an open boat from the island of Lews to the mainland of Ross-shire, was drowned. "Now, sir," said one of his parishioners to my grandfather, on hearing of the death of "Calan Dearg," "We knew you were a minister, but not until now that you were a prophet." "No," said my grandfather, "I am not a prophet, but judgment, I know, will follow upon sin."

My grandfather attained some celebrity by a marriage which he solemnized. A young and beautiful woman, named Matheson, had formed an attachment to a young man of her own age and rank. Her father forbade their union, as the young man was, though respectably descended, of limited means; and the father, moreover, had set his heart upon an aged, but more wealthy, aspirant to his daughter's hand. He insisted, therefore, that as be had set his heart upon this individual as a son-in-law, his daughter should set her heart upon him as a husband. With this injunction the young woman could not comply, and for two reasons—first, that her affections were engaged; and next, because the lover chosen for her by her father was not only not her choice, but, from his very ungainly person, the object of her aversion. Neither of these things, however, weighed with the father. He had made up his mind, and the marriage day was fixed. The lovers, in their distress, applied to my grandfather, who remonstrated with the father, but in vain. The young people now took the matter into their own hands. They eloped together, and in a boat landed on a small island in the bay of Lochcarron. Thither, by appointment, my grandfather went and married them. This conclusive measure made a considerable stir. The young woman's father was exasperated, and resolved to bring the celebrator of the marriage before his superiors. The case, however, was quashed by the interference of several influential individuals, and, among others, Macleod of Macleod, the renegade to the Stewart cause in 1745, who had been frequently a guest at the manse. A popular and highly-poetic song by a bard of the period, probably by William or Alexander Mackenzie, was composed on the occasion, "Floraidh Bhuidhe," or Flora the yellow-haired, as she is called from the colour of her auburn ringlets, is celebrated for her fidelity, and the elopement is minutely described. My grandfather, too, is honourably mentioned. His meeting with the father, his unsuccessful remonstrance, and, to the father's threats, his reply—all are graphically depicted :-

"Thubhairt an sin an Saigeach liath,
'Tha ml tri fichead bliadlin' 'us sia,
'S cha'n fhac mi an duine sin riamh
O'n gabhainn fiar is cainnt."

[From this verse it appears that "the grey-haired Sage replied, 'I am three score years and six, and I have never yet seen the man from whom I would take insolent language.'"—Ed.]

At the advanced age of eighty my grandfather's tall athletic form was as straight as when in the prime of manhood. Several years before his death a total eclipse of the sun took place, and he lost the sight of one of his eyes by imprudently looking through a telescope at the sun, in order to notice the phenomenon. My father has told me that my grandfather one evening saw a vision. He was walking to the east of the church, on the shore side of the loch, in the dusk of the evening. He noticed, at a considerable distance, what he first took to be a thick dark mist moving slowly on the road. As it approached him, it assumed the more definite form of a crowd of people following a bier, which, covered by a pall consisting of a tartan plaid, seemed to be borne by four men. The whole passed by him closely. He saw their forms and faces, and could even recognise some of his acquaintances. The tread of their feet was also audible. The circumstance he mentioned when he returned home, but without expressing any anxiety or alarm. My father was his bed-fellow, and this, towards the close of his life, became the more necessary as he had the practice of walking in his sleep. My father told me that, one night in winter very shortly before his death, soon after they had gone to bed, he had himself fallen fast asleep, but wakening some time later, he found that his aged parent was not, as usual, beside him. Raising himself on his elbow, he remained for a moment in that posture to listen, and soon heard a faint groan in the direction of the door. He went quickly towards the sound, and found the venerable old man stretched on the floor. With all the tenderness of a mother for a child, my father raised him up, and replaced him in bed. But though the earthly house, once so strong, was dissolving, his mind Iost none of its vitality. When his dissolution drew near, his strength was so much exhausted that he was unable to speak. The frequent moving of his lips, however, and the uplifting of his hands, intimated that his inward mental exercises were in accord with the solemnity of a dying hour. His wife, family, and friends surrounded him. There was a deep silence, interrupted only at intervals by the half-audible sobbings of his daughter Mary. This arrested his attention. Slightly raising himself up, he looked at her. "Mary," he said, "weep not as those who have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." He then said, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit." These were his last words. In the course of a very few minutes afterwards he expired. He died on the 15th day of July, 1774, in the eighty-eighth year of his age and forty-eighth of his ministry. His burial was attended by the parishioners—men, women, and children—who long and deeply felt their bereavement. For many of them had become true and vital Christians through his ministry, and were themselves the primitive fathers of the spiritual generations that followed them.


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