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Parish Life in the North of Scotland
Chapter VI - The Topography of Kildonan


1800.

MY father was not a land improver, and consequently the actual surface of the place did not undergo any very material change from the day of his settlement to the close of his incumbency. The glebe consisted of nearly fifty English acres. The manse and its adjuncts were Situated at its eastern boundary. The body of the house was built after the unalterable model for manses in those days, which had "the usual number of chimneys, namely two, rising like asses' ears at either end, and answering the purpose for which they were designed as ill as usual"—they drew the smoke down instead of conveying it upwards. It contained also the usual number of windows, namely, in front three in the upper flat, and two below or one on each side of the principal door. On the east gable there was, on the upper flat, a solitary window which looked out from the drawing-room, or rather dining-room, for drawing-rooms in manses were almost unknown, and then a small window at the summit of each gable to light the garrets, very nearly approximating in size and appearance to the loophole of the ancient fortalice. They served in the apartments for which they were intended to make "darkness visible." The whole was built of lime and stone, and the roof covered with blue slate--a matter not worth noticing at the present time, but of no ordinary consequence then in a Highland parish twenty-four miles long by seventeen broad, where it was the only residence so constructed. The arrangement within exhibited the infancy of architecture. The partitions were all "cat and clay," plastered over with lime, and finished with a coat of "white-wash," which was so made up as to be communicative to every one coming in contact with it. The rooms, including the garrets, were eight in number, namely, a parlour, bed-room, and an intervening closet, with a small window to the north, in the lower flat. On the second flat were a dining-room, bed-room, and an intervening back-closet of similar dimensions with its neighbour below, but accommodated with a larger window; and on the attic storey were two garrets, the one fitted up as a bed-room, the other a long, dreary apartment without plaster, used as a place for lumber. Two low buildings stretched out in front from each end of the manse. That to the west contained the nursery, the kitchen, and the byre, divided from each other by "cat and clay" partitions which very soon gave way, and brought the human and bestial inmates of each apartment within eye-shot of each other. The east wing contained the barn and stable, divided by similar partitions. From the barn-door to the east extended a small rude enclosure which served as a rick-yard, and, from the stable-door in the same direction, was another, used as a cattle-fold. A few yards to the north-east of the rick-yard stood a, flimsy clay and stone building fitted np as a kiln. The whole of the office-houses were roofed with divot or turf, finished off with clay and straw, which, in process of time, by the action of the weather, in so far as the winds permitted, got an additional coating of green fog or moss. The heavy rains, however, penetrated these miserable roofs, from the first moment of their construction to the last stage of their decay.

When my father was settled at Kildonan, the church used was a small popish building, thatched with heather. At its west end was the burial place of the chiefs of the clan Gunn, "MicSheumais Chattaich," as they were styled, and who, under the Earls of Sutherland, ever since the middle of the thirteenth century, had held lands in the parish, where they also had their principal residence. Their mortuary chapel was a small building with a Gothic window, attached to the church, and entered by a low arched door. About a year after my father came to Kildonan, this venerable fabric was taken down, and a new church erected on the same site according to a plan by James Boag, a church architect of repute. The building may be described thus. The front wall contained two large windows, reaching from half a foot from the eaves to within three feet of the foundation. On each side of these windows were doors leading into the floor of the church, and, within two feet of each of these southern doors, were two small windows. In the gables half-way up the walls were the gallery doors, each surmounted with a window nearly its own size, and separated from it only by a lintel common to both. In the back wall was another door entering on the gallery, merely to obviate inner passages. These gallery doors were furnished with flights of outside stone stairs, which had no parapet, and, instead of being built close to the side of the wall, projected at right angles from it, in the manner of a ladder. As to the inner furnishing of the building, it was regularly seated, and the pulpit stood against the south wall, between the two large windows. It was in the form of a pentagon, and panelled. [This pulpit is still preserved in the old, but now disused, church of Kildonan. worn deeply into the wood of its floor are two distinctly marked hollows formed by the motions of the feet of the minister, Mr. Alexander Sage, who, as described, was a man of great bodily weight and stature.—ED.] Below it, one on each side, were the only two square seats, the rest, both in the area and in the galleries, were pews. The fronts of the galleries were also panelled; the front gallery was three, and the east and west galleries six or seven seats deep. Directly in front of the pulpit below stood the elders' seat, or "lateron," an area of considerable breadth, which ran nearly from one end of the church to the other, and was accommodated with a seat all along its north side, intended for the poor. The elders sat at the south side of it, and when the communion was dispensed, it was fitted up for the table services. The walls of the church within, as well as the roof, were unplastered, and there was neither bell nor belfry.

Nothing could exceed the simple beauty of the locality; art had done nothing, but nature had done everything to make Kildonan one of the sweetest spots in northern Scotland. To the north, and almost immediately behind the manse, a chain of round heath-covered knolls rose in close succession, and, having every possible variety of elevation and shape, each, under the slanting rays of the evening sun, cast its shadow most enchantingly on the other. They lacked nothing to make them like an Arcadia but a clothing of oak or weeping birch. Each, too, had its separate interest and particular tradition. The greater number were tumuli, or ancient sepulchres, wherein reposed the ashes of those mighty men of renown who fought and bustled in the world about seven or eight centuries ago. The most remarkable of them stands behind the manse, at a distance of about twenty yards from it. It was called, "Torr-an-riachaidh " (or the "scratching knowe"), but this was a modern appellative, given it from a few stunted whin bushes which grew on its south side; its ancient name is lost. In shape, it is a perfect cone, about sixty feet high, the circumference at the base being about ninety feet. That it is a work of art, and not a mere natural eminence, the eye at once perceives, notwithstanding that it is wholly overgrown with a thick sward of grass and stunted heather. A few years ago, the top was laid open, when it was found to consist of a huge pile of stones. The only key to its history is a standing stone, about a hundred yards to the west of it, on a small eminence, having a rude cross cut on one side of it. This is called "clack-an-eig" (or the "stone of death.") According to tradition, a bloody battle was here fought between the aborigines of the country and the Norwegians, in which the latter were defeated, and their leader killed. On the spot where he fell this rude slab was erected, and his remains were buried on the battle-field, and "Torr-an-riachaidh" reared over them. To the west of this mound, and elevated nearly a hundred feet above it, stands "Torr-na-croiche" (or the gallows' knowe), which has been so called from the fact that two noted thieves, or cattle-lifters who, after committing great depredations in the Strath of Kildonan, had been overtaken by a body of the Earl of Sutherland's men in a narrow dell about a mile to the north of it, were tried by his Lordship, as hereditary justiciary for the north, condemned, and executed upon the top of this knowe. The spot where the free-booters were seized is still called "Clais-nam-meirleach" (or the "dell of the thieves"), while their graves are visible at the foot of the gallows' knoll. The eminence then stretches to the west, where it abruptly terminates in the steep declivity called "Badaidh-na-h' achlaise" (or tuft of the armpit), close beside which are two other tumuli resembling that which has been described. They are called "Tullach-mor" and "Tnllach-beag," simply signifying the great and little hillocks." At the base of this ridge lie the low lands of the glebe, stretching southward to the river Helmisdale, which, by a bend in its course from N.W. to S.E., embraces the western part of the glebe, called Dalmore. About thirty yards from the base of the eminence just described stand the ruins of "Tigh-an-Abb"' (or the "Abbot's house" and a few yards below them, and to the south, is "Loch-an-Abb" (or the "Abbot's loch"), a pool of standing water formed by the rills which ran down from the heights, and which cannot escape to the river. The ruin and the lake have been so designated from a remote period. By Bishop Gilbert Murray's charter, between the years 1222 and 1245, the chapter of the bishopric of Caithness, including the whole of Sutherland, was reconstituted. The chapter of this extensive diocese consisted of nine canons, five of whom were dignitaries of the church. The abbot of Scone was one of these canons, and the church of Kildonan, or Keldurunach, as it was then called, was assigned to the abbot as the sphere of his pastoral labours, provided that, when absent, a vicar should officiate in his stead. The abbots of Scone had the charge of the parish of Kildonan until 1688, when the Reformation put an end to their rule. The mansion long survived its ancient owners. It was a long monastic building, low in the walls and steep in the roof, which was covered with gray flag, taken from the neighbouring mountain, Beinn Thuairidh. The river of Kildonan was, however, the finest feature in the landscape, and to describe it is to describe the whole parish, as this beautiful stream runs through its extreme length, extending to thirty miles: The ancient name of the river, and that which is still retained in the language of the natives, was the "Uilligh." The name Helmisdale it receives from a small village on the north coast of the Moray Firth, nine miles south-east of the manse of Kildonan, where the river enters the sea. The name Helmisdale—the "dale of the hemlet"—is of Icelandic origin. "Hialmasdal" is a term which occurs in one of the old Norse Sagas, and may be synonymous with Helmisdale, as the coast of Loth, about the year 1180, during the inroads of the Norsemen, was frequently visited by those bold adventurers, and they may have given the name to the village, as one of their temporary settlements, as well as to the river which ran through it. The other name of this stream is much more ancient. The Helmisdale rises in the western heights of the parish; a small rivulet, the overflow of several wells, or "suil-chuthaich," two or three miles within the parish of Farr to the north-west, is its chief source. This stream, after passing in its course through the defile separating Sutherlandshire from Mackay's country, called "Beallachn-an-creach " (the pass of the spoil), falls into "Loch-na-cuidhean" (or the "lake of the snow-wreaths." Another source of the Helmisdale flows through the "Lon-tarsuinn" (or, "cross meadow"), and, after passing through two lochs, empties their waters into Loeb Badenloch, the largest lake in the parish, and the great reservoir from which the Helmisdale first issues with the strength of a river. On each side of this beautiful expanse of water arise lofty mountains—Beinn Chlibrig, about twelve miles to the south-west, in the parish of Farr, and Beinn' Armuinn, in the south, are each between 2000 and 3000 feet high. To the north-west is seen, blue in the distance, the serrated top of Beinn Laoghal, in the parish of Tongue. To the north-east, Beinn Ghriammhor presents its extensive south front, nearly 2000 feet in height, exhibiting, on its shoulders, huge porphyritic blocks, from which all the mills in the parish were supplied with mill-stones. To the east, and precisely on the boundary line between the parishes of Kidonan and Reay, is Beiun Ghriam-bheag, which scarcely yields in height to its greater namesake, although much less in breadth and extent. On the low grounds in the immediate vicinity of this loch northwards, was the place of Badenloch, a farm or township in which dwelt a number of small tenants, who each possessed some five acres of arable land, and a countless number of acres of heath pasture for their sheep-and cattle; this they held in common. Their arable acres they held, according to the fashion of those times, in what was called "runrig," or, ridge about to each man. This place of Badenloch was a complete oasis, in the midst of a desert of heath. On the south side of the lake, situated on an eminence, was the farm of Breacachadh (or speckled meadow), which was for many generations in the possession of a family named Gordon. From the loch of Badenloch the river takes an easterly course, and after a short run of about five miles, enters Loch Achnambine (or peat-field), a small lake, on each side of which are the farms of Achnambine to the south, and Ach-na-h'uaidh (field of the graves), to the north. The latter was so called from a burying-ground which had been used from time immemorial- In the midst of this place of graves stood a rude and homely church, or meeting-house, as it was more appropriately called. The building was constructed of the simplest materials. The lower part of the walls, to the height of about two feet, was built of dry stone; the walls and gables were then brought to their full height by alternate rows of turf and stone. The roof was constructed of branches of birch laid on the couples, covered with divot, and thatched with a thin layer of straw which was secured with heather ropes. The windows were merely a few shapeless holes left in the roof and the walls for the admission of light, and were furnished with boards to prevent the ingress of sheep and cattle. The seating was originally a few planks of moss-fir, dug out of the bogs in the neighbourhood, and placed upon turf or stones. This was one of the preaching stations intended for the use of the itinerant minister of Achness. About three miles below, the river receives a considerable addition to its volume by the water of Strathbeag which, rising about eight miles to the N.E., there joins the Helmisdale. The place was called Duallach, and was the stance of a considerable cattle-market. This branch of the river, called the Amhuinn-bheag (or little river), has two principal sources. The first consists of two or three small streams uniting to form the loch Ach-anruathair. The river, after issuing from this lake receives, about a mile farther down, a large stream from the Cnoc Fhinn heights (1,416 feet high), on the Caithness boundary, and, a mile beyond it, the second, or western branch, at a place called Claggan. This stream also has its source in a lake called Loch Leum-a-chlamhain, which reposes its dark and mossy waters in a valley between the mountains Beinn Ghriammhor and Beinn Ghriam-bheag. The banks of this loch are noted in the history of the northern clans, as the scene of a bloody battle between the Mackays and the men of Sutherland. The Mackays, headed by their chief, had made an irruption into Kildonan, and forcibly carried off a number of cattle. As they were making all possible haste with their booty back to their own country, they were overtaken by a strong body of the clan Gunn, under the conduct of their redoubted chief Mac Sheurnais Chattaich. After a conflict on the banks of this lake, the Mackays, although very severely handled and losing many of their best men in the action, succeeded in making good their retreat, carrying their spoil along with them. They directed their course to " I3eallach nan creach," but were hotly pursued by the Gunns and Sutherlands, who at last came up with them in the pass. Here the action was about to be renewed, and the Mackays ran every risk of losing both their lives and their spoil; but, just as their opponents were rushing upon them in all the confidence of victory, the Mackays were suddenly reinforced by a party of the Clan Abrach, [The clan Abrach was that branch of the Mackays descended from John Aberigh, second and natural son of the great chief Angus Dow :Mackay, who flourished 138C1439. .John got his surname from the fact that his mother was a woman from I.ochaber, and that he lived there some years. He returned north, and took his elder brother Neil's place while be was detained on the Bass Rock 1429-1437. In return for hie honourable conduct and kindness to his father, Neil gave him the whole district of Strathnaver, where his branch of the family, the "Sliochd-nan-Abrach," became the most populous and powerful of the Mackays. He married fimt a daughter of the laird of Mackintosh, and second one of the Mackenzies of Gairloch. The Roys, MacPhails, Polsons, Morgans, Vasses, Bales, and MacNeils are other branches of the Mackays.—Ed.] and the Gunns were compelled to retreat. The cattle which the Mackays had carried off were, that evening, lodged in a pen-fold at Achness. Among them was a fierce bull who was very unmanageable, and who seemed to resent, at least as much as his owners, his being carried off from his native pastures. The pen-fold had no gate, and its place was occupied by the chieftain of the Abrachs, who stood there to protect the cattle. But the bull rushed suddenly upon him, gored him to death, and, with all the cattle following him, returned, ere morning, through the Beallach, to their favourite pasture land at Griamachdarry (or the shieling at the foot of Beinn Ghriam).

After leaving the lake, the Amhuinn-bheag passes through the Places of Corrish and Bad-an-t 'sheobhaig (hawk's tuft), flows through the loch of Airidh-Chlinie, and issuing from thence, joins the other Amhuinn-bheag at the place of Claggan. The united streams pursue their course through a pretty rural strath, having the farms of Ellie on the west and Torghordstan and Achaneccan on the east, till they join the main river at Duallach. The Helmisdale now passes by the places of Seannachadh (old field), and Kinbrace, which lie close on its eastern bank. Here it receives a considerable stream, which rises in the hills to the north-east, and separates these two farms. A little above Kin-brace, the Helmisdale makes a beautiful bend, and moves so slowly as to assume the appearance, and almost the motionless stillness, of a lake; it is here at least six fathoms deep. The place of Kinbrace is of a rugged, stony appearance, but is venerable from its traditionary history, As you enter it from the north-west, a number of cairns of various sizes meet the eye. Of these, the largest is the remains of a castle, once the principal residence, in Sutherlandshire, of the chief of the clan Gunn, known in 1489, under the title of the "Crun-f'hear," or the "crown-laird." This potent baron, the lineal descendant of Olaf of Dungesby in Caithness, a native of Orkney, had his principal castle at Halbury on the Caithness coast, but at the period mentioned, had obtained lands from the Earl of Sutherland. Those lands extended from the middle of the Strath of Kildonan, on the east side of the river, to the extreme limits of the present parish to the N.W. and N.E., where it marches with Lord Reay's country and the county of Caithness. As a sign of his rank under the Government, the chief wore on his breast a large gold brooch, the badge of his office; and in reference both to his office and to his dignity, the Highlanders styled him "Am Braisteach Nor," literally, "the dignitary of the brooch." His residence therefore in Kildonan came to be named after him, "Cinn-a'-bhraiste" (Kinbrace), or the "seat of the dignitary of the brooch." His castle, now a heap of stones, stood to the N.W. of Kinbrace. Seanachadh, a part of the township of Kinbrace, being near the castle, was consequently first brought into cultivation; it was therefore called the "old or first land." According to tradition, the Crowner "Guin," when residing here, received a great blow to his importance as an independent baron. The account is given in many different ways, so that not only the locality in which the disaster took place, but also the causes and the events, are so differently stated as to land us in much uncertainty. I content myself with the tradition current among the people of Kildonan. It is as follows:—The Brkisteach Mr," while quietly residing at Kinbrace one summer (for he lived in winter at Halbury), heard one evening, immediately before dinner, a bugle sounding at his gate. The intimation was perfectly well understood both by himself and his attendants. It was a demand for hospitality, by a stranger, which was immediate)y complied with. The castle gate was opened, the stranger and his followers admitted, and, in a very few minutes thereafter, a tall elderly man, habited in a half-military attire, presented himself before the chief. The "Braisteach Mor " received the august stranger with much courtesy, and after some general conversation, the evening meal was served up. When the Baron's retinue took their places at the table, the guest being accommodated with a seat at the host's right hand, twelve young men, each six feet in height, and exquisitely formed, sat next to them, and their appearance and gallant hearing at once attracted the notice of the stranger. "Are these your sons?" said he to the chief. "They are," was the reply, "and I have no need to be ashamed to own them." "You may well be proud of them;" said his guest; "I don't know a man in Caithness but may envy you such a goodly race—except one." "And who is that one?" said the Crowner. "That one is myself," replied the stranger, and removing his visor, he added, "You may know me now—I fear not your vengeance for our ancient feud as your hospitality protects me—I am the Keith of Ackergill. I will brag my twelve sons to your twelve sons, Crowner, gallant though they be, on any day you fix, in a fair field." The challenge was no sooner given than it was accepted. It was settled between them that the thirteen challengers should meet an equal number of the challenged, fully armed and on horseback, while the place of meeting was fixed within the limits of Caithness, in a spot so lonely as to preclude all interference. It was agreed that the Keiths would move forward on the appointed day to meet the Gunns, who would pass the limits of Sutherland, enter Strathmore in Caithness, and halt at any burn running into the river of Strathmore where they might see calves browsing on the banks. The Crowner and his gallant sons, at the appointed time, directed their course to a hollow through which flowed a burn with a few calves straying on its banks, a little below the Glutt of Strathmore, which has ever since preserved the name of "Alt-nan-gamhna," or "the brook of stirks." As they drew near, they descried in the distance their antagonists. The Crowner and the Keith, at the head of their respective followers, approached each other in full armour. But no sooner did both parties come upon the ground, than the treachery of the Keiths became apparent. Instead of twelve, the Keith had twenty-four followers, two men riding on each horse in his train. The chief of the Gunns saw that the destruction of himself and his gallant band was determined by their perfidious foes; but, scorning to retreat even before such fearful odds, he and his party dismounted, and the fray began. The great two-handed sword was wielded with pitiless ferocity by the enraged champions, each against the other. The combat was long, and for a time doubtful; for the superiority of numbers on the side of the Keiths was counter-balanced by the indomitable courage of their fearless antagonists. Henry, one of the Crowner's sons, greatly distinguished himself; under the fell sweep of his sword the bravest of the Keiths were laid prostrate. But numbers at length prevailed. The stout "Braisteach Mor," and seven of his sons lay dead on the field, and the remaining five were constrained, from loss of blood, slowly to retreat. Keith with his train, scarcely less wounded or weary, was merely able to leave the scene of action with his banner displayed, and to carry off the slain and wounded of his followers. The Crowner's five surviving sons spent the night at "Allt Thorcuill," another stream flowing into the river Thurso further up Strathmore, where their wounds were dressed by Torquil, one of their number, from which circumstance the stream has obtained its name. The Keiths proceeded in the opposite direction on their way homewards, and arrived that evening at the castle of Dirlot, where they were received and hospitably entertained by the laird of Dildred, a vassal and relative of the Earl of Sutherland. There, after the bloody work of the day, they "kept wassail" far into the night. Not so, however, the surviving sons of the Crowner. Night closed around them, on the heathy banks of Allt Thorcuill, with a darkness in accord with the deep gloom which the death of their kindred, and their own disastrous defeat had cast upon their minds. Henry, theoungest, burned to avenge his fathers death, and to recover his father's sword and golden brooch which the Keiths had carried off as their spoil. To his brothers, therefore, he submitted the proposal to follow the Keiths, and take them at a disadvantage when off their guard, and thus to repay them for their treachery. James, the eldest brother, refused his assent, and endeavoured to convince Henry that the attempt could only terminate in their own destruction, and not in that of their enemies. Henry, however, persisted; and leaving James and another of his brothers at Allt Thorcuill, he, along with the other two, arming themselves with bows and arrows and their formidable swords, set out in the silence of the night in pursuit of the Keiths. Having ascertained that they had gone in the direction of the castle of Dirlot, he concluded that they must be there; so Henry with his brothers silently clambered up the rock on which it was built; and placing them at the door, lie himself took post at a window, the shutter of which chanced to be open. There he observed the Keiths seated around a large fire, quaffing flaggons of ale and talking boisterously. The Keith was seated at the right hand of the lord of the castle, wearing his helmet, but with the vizor unclosed. He loudly commended Henry, who had signalized himself above all his kin by his prowess, and remarked that, had all the Gunns fought as manfully as he, his own four-and-twenty followers would have been overmatched, "I propose a full cup to his health," said the Keith. But his last hour had struck. For just as he raised the cup to his lips, and threw back his head to swallow the contents, Henry bent his bow, deliberately took aim, and, whilst the arrow sped fast and drank deep of the old chief's blood, exclaimed, "fomacharag Gunaich gu Khigh, (literally, "With Goon's compliments to Keith"). Keith reeled, mortally wounded, and his enraged followers rushed headlong to the windows and to the door to avenge his fall. However, as one by one, they leapt out, they placed themselves under the swords of Henry and his brothers who wielded their arms with terrible precision and irresistible force. The shouts of the assailants and the groans of the dying, added to gloom of night, produced such a scene of horror and confusion as enabled Henry to secure his father's armour and badge of office; with these, he and his gallant kinsmen contrived unscathed to escape. His brother James, however, but ill requited Henry's prowess. As the Crowner's eldest son, and therefore chief of the clan, James claimed his father's sword and badge of office. Henry scorned to dispute the matter, but, despising the despotism and cowardice which had entered so much into his brother's conduct on this occasion, he removed from Sutherland to Caithness, and vowed that none of his descendants should bear the name of Gunn. He is therefore the reputed ancestor of the Caithness Ilendersons, or "Cheamiraigich," as they are called in Gaelic. His brother James resided at Kinbrace, and to his descendants, from his name and residence, he gave the patronymic title by which, ever since, the chiefs of the Clan Gunn have been designated—"Mac Sheumais Chattaich, or "Son of James of Sutherland." This feud, so fatal to the political importance of this ancient race, took place in 1511, during the reign of James IV., and while the earldom of Caithness was in the hands of the Crown. Such is the tradition which now renders so deeply interesting to the antiquary the otherwise obscure village of Kinbrace.

Leaving this interesting spot, the Helmisdale pursues its course, and about a mile farther on passes on the right the farm of Daichairn (or dale of the cairn), a pretty rural place, which derives its name from an immense cairn situated in the centre of it, and about sixty yards from the right bank of the river. This place was, at the time of my father's settlement, occupied in lease by Alexander Gordon, whom I have already named. Here the Helmisdale receives one of its principal tributary streams, the water of Dalchairn, or Fridh, which rises about eight miles due west, and on the boundary line between the parishes of Kildonan and Clyne. This rapid stream is formed by the union of two burns, the one, flowing in a north-westerly direction, and surrounding in its course an old ruin or tumulus, from which it derives its name of "Allt-an-d'uin" (or "the stream of the cairn or tower"); the other flowing from the N.W., and joining the former at the place of "Achan-drain," unites with it to form the river Fridh, which flows through the strath of the same name. These last are so called because they are within the limits of the great chartered Sutherland deer-forest, which in Gaelic is called "Fridh." This strath presents, through its whole extent, a dull unvaried flat, the ground on each side of the stream seldom rising above twelve or twenty feet. The farms or inhabited spots upon it then were Ach-an-duin, Reisg, and Tomich at the upper part; Ceann-na-bhaid, about the centre; and Feuranaich, about three miles above the junction of the river Fridh with the Helmisdale at Dalchairn. On the right bank of the Fridh, and opposite to Dalchairn, was the village or township of Borrobol, through which ran a burn of considerable size. This stream was the outlet of the waters of Loch Ascaig, about three miles to the S.W. of Borrobol. The loch of Ascaig lay to the south-east of the head of Strathfridh, and was so called from the township of Ascaig which, at the period of my father's settlement, was thickly peopled, and lay close on the S.E. shore of the lake. The burn of Borrobol drove a mill for the use of that township of a very peculiar construction. About. two miles further down the course of the Helmisdale, and on its eastern or left bank, was the place of Suisgill, where, in my father's time, a very considerable number of the people of the parish were congregated, although now it is a scene of desolation. Here the river receives an addition to its waters from the burn of Suisgill, which rises six miles to the N.E., in a deep morass, on the S.W. shoulder of a hill situated on the borders of Sutherland and Caithness, called " Cnoc-an-Eireannaich " (or " the Irishman's hill "), from the tradition that an Irishman had there perished in the snow. From Suisgill the river flows in a more southerly direction; its banks for several miles are beautifully fringed with birch and hazel, and about a mile below Suisgill, on its left bank, which becomes all at once steep and high, is the little farm of " Ach-an-t'shamhraidh "—(i,.e., "the summer or pleasant field "), embosomed in a thick wood. On this spot is still to be seen the foundation of a Highland cottage of the rudest simplicity, the abode of Domhuil direach, or Donald the just, —one of the most eminent Christians of whom the county of Sutherland can boast, who flourished between the years of 1740 and 1768. On the summit of this bank of the river stood the place of "Ach nan nighean" (maidens' field), where, for many years, was the only blacksmith's shop in the whole parish. Near the smithy is the entrance or opening of one of those singular subterraneous passages to be found in some parts of the north of Scotland. This passage is a most remarkable one. The entrance is built up on each side of solid and regular mason-work, and finished at the top by a huge lintel which not twenty men or more of modern times could raise a foot from the ground. The door-way is half-filled with rubbish, but a sufficient opening is still left to admit a person entering on his knees. A few yards within the interior is a sort of chamber, wider by about five feet than the entrance. Further progress is stopped by the falling in of the roof, a circumstance which is made apparent by a deep hollow on the surface of the ground outside. The passage is continued down the bank, in a north-westerly direction, and carried under the bed of the river, as was lately ascertained by the removal of a few flags at the foot of the eminence, close by the river's bank, where the passage is again discovered, about a a(uarter of a mile from the entrance.

On the opposite side of the river, and also on a wooded eminence, is the township of Learabail, and, according to a tradition, at this place the passage terminated. The story is said to be as follows:—Two calves, browsing on a field near the eastern entrance of the passage, began to skip about and chase each other, until at last the one after the other ran in at the opening, and there being then no obstruction, the animals pursued their course inside. Their entrance into the cave was noticed by two girls employed in looking after the cattle, and they both immediately ran after the calves for the purpose of bringing them back. The girls kept together until they had got to nearly the middle of the passage, when the foremost in pursuit, alone with the calves, suddenly disappeared and were never more heard of. The other girl, horrorstruck, went on groping her way in the darkness until she found her further progress prevented by the termination of the passage. Feeling about with her hands, she found that she was in a chamber of considerable size, but very low and roofed with flags. About the middle of the roof she found that one flag, was moveable by the pressure of her hand; she also heard the sound of voices above her. Exerting all her strength to raise the loose flag, she at the same time screamed for help. As the story goes, this subterraneous chamber was situated precisely under the hearth of one of the tenants of Learabail, who, at the time that the cry was uttered, and his hearth-stone thus disturbed, was, with his wife and family, quietly seated at the fireside. The cry from beneath, and the earthquake-like movement, came upon the tenant and his family like a thunder-clap. At once concluding that it was a domiciliary visit from the spirits of the deep, they all started up, and, in answer to the poor girl's cries for help, they only uttered a roar of terror and bolted from the house. The desperate girl at length succeeded in raising the hearth-stone and placing herself by the fireside. To the inmates of the dwelling, after their fears had subsided so far as to allow them to have speech with her, she gave an account of her appalling adventures. Her lost companion, it is said, was the daughter of a witch who, in a fatal hour, had promised her daughter to the devil. Under the semblance of the two calves the Evil One had come to claim his own. The place was, in memory of the event, called "the maidens' field."

Below the wooded bank on which it is situated, the bed of the river is one continued ledge of rocks, which extends for nearly three miles down its course. Surrounded with wood on the east side of the river, and just below the last-named spot, is a fairy -like plat called Achahemisgach, at the upper end of which is a rock with the form of a cross engraved upon it. This evidently must have been some place of sanctity in popish times, especially as the name of the adjoining wood is "Coille 'Chil Dyer," or, "the wood of the cell of Mary." Learabail, on the opposite bank, was a township of considerable extent. At its east end a large and rapid burn, rising some miles distant, and making its impetuous way over many rocks which cross its channel, runs into the Helmisdale. The banks of the burn at Learaboll are romantic. In some parts they are fifty feet in height, and are composed partly of shattered rocks, and partly of abrupt precipices of gravel, here and there interspersed with clumps of tall birch trees and quaking ash. One place, where the burn tumbles over a rock into a deep pool, is said to be haunted by the vindictive spirit of a young woman who was forsaken by her lover, and died of a broken heart. At set times of the year, at the waning of the moon, her moan has been heard mingling with the hoarse murmur of the stream, imprecating woes upon her faithless lover. From the left bank of this stream and parallel to its course, Craig Dalangail, a huge rocky hill, suddenly rears up its majestic form. It rises from base to summit almost perpendicular, and all over its ragged front displays the channels of the impetuous torrents which fill them during the floods of spring and winter. This mountain forms the western harrier of the vale of Kildonan. At its base is the small farm of Dalangail, from which it derives its name. For upwards of a century this place was in the possession of a family named Gunn. A little below Dalangail, the river after flowing over a rocky bottom for upwards of two miles, is hemmed closely in between two rocks, and thence the whole volume of the stream rushes down with a slight fall and great impetuosity. This rapid is called "Leum Hennrig" (or "Henry's Leap"), from the following circumstances. Henry Gunn, a younger son of the tenant of Dalaugail, a strong, athletic, and handsome young man, was in the habit, while the rest of his father's family went round by a wooden bridge to the church, of taking a short cut by leaping from rock to rock over the rapid. One fatal morning, when the family entered their seat, Henry to their surprise was not there; uneasy about him, they found on their return that their worst apprehensions were realized. Before leaping, he had as usual put off his shoes and hose, and thrown them to the rock opposite. There they were found by his sorrowing friends, while his dead body lay sixty yards below.

The river in its course now approaches the glebe. About a quarter of a mile above it is another picturesque fall about twelve feet in height, just at the angle where the river makes a rapid bend from N.E. to S.W. During the winter floods, the immense volume of water compelled, by the bend in the river's course, to turn suddenly off from its natural direction, the height of the fall, the rugged and shelving rocks over which the stream flings itself with such rapidity and violence, the stunning roar of the waters, and the spray shooting up from them as from a boiling cauldron, all combine to present to the beholder a scene of imposing grandeur and even of terror. In the drought of summer, however, the scene is entirely changed. The river then nearly disappears in its deep central channel, and in its wider bed which, during that season, is almost dry, are seen a number of holes scooped out of the rocks as with a chisel. During the summer the salmon may be seen trying to leap the fall, and after two or three attempts they succeed. Poachers made this cascade their principal resort for killing salmon, which they effected with spears and principal as the fish leaped up the rocks. Below the "Slugaig," as this place of cup-like hollows is called, an immense block of whinstone, at least 12 or 14 feet high, rests in the middle of the river's bed. This was used as a river-gauge; if the water covered more than two-thirds of this boulder, the river was considered to be unfordable throughout its whole extent; but if, during a flood, the stone disappeared altogether, then it might be taken for granted that the river had overflowed its banks on the low grounds, and laid the lands of Strathuilligh under water. At the western extremity of the glebe a rocky islet stands in the centre of one of the deepest pools in the river, and from each side of it to the rocks on the opposite banks were thrown wooden bridges made of immense logs of fir found in the moss. This was the only part of the river crossed by a bridge; all the other crossings were fords. From the circumstance that two bridges were here necessary to effect the passage of the stream, the place was called " Poll-da-chraig," or "pool of the two rocks." Its depth is above 30 feet. From this pool the river, in its course, forms the western and southern boundaries of the glebe. On its right bank, and close by Poll-d~-chraig, was a small farm called Dalbheag, so named from a stream which descended from the hill behind, and which, when in flood, laid the greater part of its soil under water. To the west and south, and rising abruptly from the margin of the river, is a wooded hill, Coille-an-Loiste, directly in front of the manse, and forming its south prospect; it extends from the southern limb of Craig Dalangail about two miles to the eastward. Hight opposite the manse and church a waterfall is seen through the foliage, which produces an enchanting effect. Above the wooded bank, to the south-west, is the hill of Craggie, while over the ridge of Coillean-Loiste appears the conical hill of Craggan-mdr, 1581 feet high. Due east is a mountainous range, including Beinn-na-h' Lirrachd, `1046 feet high; Beinn MLheulaich, 1940 feet high; and Cnoc Earnain and Cnoc Tuaraidh, the first of which may be about 1043 and the latter 1163 feet high; while still farther east on the south side of the Strath, and terminating the range within the limits of the parish, is Cnoc Eildirebail, 1338 feet in height. The topographical appearance of the sweep of the river around the grassy flat of the Dalmore, with its wooded bank just beyond, and this beautiful mountain range towering above all to the south and east, is one of the most attractive prospects in the highlands.

A little below the manse the river receives another of its chief tributaries in the Tealnaidh, or water of Loist (now Craggie burn). This stream rises to the west, in the hills which form the boundary between the parishes of Kildonan and Clyne. One of its sources is in the hill Innis mhor, at the foot of which is the sequestrated spot of Tuaraidh. Another branch rises on the hill above Gordonbush in Strathbrora, and both streams uniting, flow through Strath Tealnaidh, in which are the townships of Halgarry, Achrintill, and Preaschoin. This strath is heathy and wild at its upper extremity, but, as the stream approaches its junction with the iielmisdale, it becomes romantic and beautiful. At the place of Craggie, the banks of the burn are thickly wooded; Achabhataich, a mile or two below, is a beautiful sylvan retreat. The stream afterwards enters a deep rocky dell, of which the precipitous banks nearly meet, whilst the stream far beneath, struggling and forcing its way over every rocky ledge that crosses its channel, is often rendered invisible by the shivering foilage of the aspens which grow luxuriantly from the face of the rocks. As it enters the farm of Loiste, almost a dead flat, the Craggie becomes a placid stream, a thick, close hedge-row of tall alder trees growing on each bank. During its course of nearly eight miles it receives about seven tributary streams, the last of which deserves to be named, not only from its size, but also from its source. It is a considerable body of water, and rises at the extreme west point of Beinn h'-Urrachd. It there issues from a well, situated at the bottom of an immense hollow or dell, called Coire-mor, which resembles a bowl or funnel, and which by an English sportsman many years ago, from its singlar appearance, was fancifully termed "the devil's punch-bowl." The Craggie enters the Helmisdale at a place called Torr-daraich (or the " oak knowe"), and here commences what is usually called Strath Uilligh, or the Strath of Helmisdale, through which that river flows for upwards of eight miles till it enters the sea. I may name the townships on its banks, and its tributary streams from Torrdaraich to its mouth. About a mile below is Bad-fluich (or wet tuft), so called from the marshy ground by which it is surrounded, and about half a mile below that is the place of Kilearnain (or the cell of St. Earnan), through which runs a burn rising at the base of Cnoc Earnain. The place of Kilearnain was a township of great extent, accommodating about nine tenants. Another tributary stream of the Helmisdale runs into it at Gaillebail (the township or farm of the stranger); it rises out of the east shoulder of Beinn Mheulaich. As it passes the place of Gaillebail, the river is of immense depth, and for some miles assumes the appearance of a lake; this part of it was, therefore, called by the inhabitants Am-Bagh-mbr (or the great bay), and for angling it was reckoned the best part of the stream. Below Gaillebail three miles is the place of Ulbster (or in Gaelic Ullabisdale), a name of unknown etymology, through which a foaming rapid burn, rising at the west shoulder of Cnoe Eildirebail, rushes into the river. At the eastern extremity of the hill is the place of Eildirebail, a most romantic spot, situated upon an eminence about 50 feet above the bed of the river, and thickly wooded. The burn of Eildirebail is almost one continued fall from its source to its junction with the river. On this part of the strath the sun is, in winter, never seen, owing to the height of this hill; it has therefore been called "an taobh dorch (or the dark side). Other two places on the south bank of the river, and within the limits of Kildonan parish, are Gradsary and Harill, but at neither of them does the river receive any addition to its waters. Such is the south side of the Strath of Helmisdale; the north side begins at Kildonan. There the river receives a large accession to its size in the burn of Kildonan, which has its first source on the south side of Cnoc-an-Eireannaich, and about two miles on its course passes through "Ach 'chroidhbhothan " (or the field of cattle booths), a hill grazing or shieling, so called because the minister and tenants of Kildonan sent thither in summer their milk cows and young cattle, attended by their cow-herds and dairymaids, who then lived in booths. In its course from this place to its junction with the river this stream receives many additions to its waters. The largest of its tributaries rises in a deep dell to the eastward named "Allt-uchdaraidh," formed by the junction at their lowest points of two high hills. Of these the one to the north, on the boundary line between Sutherland and Caithness, has on its summit a pyramidal rock with two tops, called "suidh an fhir bhig," (or the seat of the little man). The hill to the south is long and high, rising abruptly from its base to about 1600 feet above the level of the sea, and is called "Cnoc-leathaid-an-t' sholuis" (or the hill of the slope of light), from its southerly exposure. On its right bank the burn of Kildonan is joined by a small stream at the pasture above mentioned, by another further down called " Allt-blhr-clais-a-choire," by still another called " Caochan-ri-nam-braoinan," and about two miles below that, on the left bank, by "Alit-clais-nam-breac," which runs from a valley where the tenantry of Kildonan cut their peaty, called " Clais-nam-breac." As the burn approaches Kildonan, it considerably increases in size, and its banks become romantic and interesting. The whole of its course is through a dreary, heathy waste, but as it passes Clais-nam-breac, it flows far below the level of its banks, and then rolls at the base of the hill "Craig-an-ra"' (or the rock of defence). On the top of this hill the foundations may be seen of a number of enclosures running into each other, covering a surface of many acres, and exhibiting the appearance of an encampment. About the beginning of the 17th century many bloody conflicts took place between the Earls of Sutherland and Caithness, and it is probable that this spot was the entrenched camp of one of the hostile parties.

At the point where it emerges out of the deep dell, the burn tumbles over a rock, about fourteen feet high, forming a beautiful cascade, usually called Ath-struthadh. The place is also called "Eas-na-caoraich-duihhe " (the cascade of the black sheep), owing to the circumstance of a black sheep having been carried down the stream over the fall, and, after getting a hearty ducking at its foot, having yet escaped with her life. Nothing can exceed the beauty of this spot. To the north-west towers up, at least 800 feet, the shoulder of Craig-an-rh' rising like a huge wall from one side of the water-fall; on the other is a conical hill, much resembling an ancient tumulus, and exhibiting all its regularity. From the face of the rocky precipice on which this conical hill rests, a birch tree shoots out diagonally, throwing itself across the fall, so that in summer the foaming torrent is seen through its foliage. The base of the fall where it enters the pool below, is concealed by a ledge of rock, so that the water appears to be falling into a cavern in the earth. To the west of the cascade, and running at the base of Creag-an-ra' is the dell of "Clais-nam-meirleach." The burn of Kildonan then takes a south-easterly direction. On its cast side is a high hill, at least 1000 feet in height, which terminates in an abrupt precipice about a mile to the east of the manse. This hill is called Coire-mor, and the top of it, which, right above the place of Kildonan, rises into a conical point, is called "Cnoc-na-h' Iolair" (or the eagle's hill). The burn now enters another rocky dell, called " Creag-an-fhithich " (or the raven's rock), which is about a quarter of a mile in length from north to south. This craig forms the eastern bank of the burn, and presents throughout its whole extent a continued series of bold and rugged, but romantic precipices about thirty feet high above the margin of the burn, and exhibiting, by the tortuous course of the stream at its base, the appearance of the bastions of a garrison. About the middle of it, the rock rises to a point, on which are the remains of a castle. An affecting tale is connected with it. A huntsman started a fox from about the summit of Coire-mor, and his gallant hounds instantly gave chase. The hunted animal took the direction of the raven's rock, and, arriving at the ruins of the " dun," precipitated himself headlong into an aperture in the walls. One of the huntsman's favourite hounds immediately followed him into the opening. The fox, being short and slim, made his way into a vault below, from which he afterwards contrived to escape; but the hound stuck fast, and his master could neither reach him nor employ any means for his rescue, so that death, in a few days, put an end to the creature's sufferings.

The raven's rock terminates to the east of Torr-an-riachaidh. The burn was there formed into a deep pool, called "Poll-na-h'ellich," by a strong stone barrier thrown across its channel, in order to convey the water to the mill of Kildonan, situated about 700 yards below. The burn, in its course to its junction with the river, forms the boundary between the glebe and the township of Kildonan. At the time of my father's settlement, this place was occupied by eight tenants, who, soon after his coming into the parish, became his sub-tenants. About 20 yards to the east of the church, the burn enters the Helmisdale, where, with a considerable declivity, its course turns from due east to southeast, forming a rapid called "Struthadh-an-fhuarain." On the banks of the river, from Struthadh-an-fhuarain, extending for a mile down its course, lay the lands, or "run-rigs" of the Kildonan tenants. The -eastern extremity of their land was occupied by the "Eilean," a swampy, wooded marsh, covered with bushes of the black willow; where also, during the rainy season, a considerable quantity of water lodged, dropping from the neighbouring heights. A large cairn, upon an eminence, stood near the centre of it. In the vicinity of the "Eilean" was the place of Halgary, under the precipice which terminates the hill of Coire-snhor. Below this place, and nearly opposite Loist, the river had, during the winter floods, cut out two channels, and formed an island. Here, by the division of the current, the river was fordable, and the ford was named "Athan-preas-nasnidheig" (or, ford of the raspberry bushes). Below Halgary was the place of Di-bail (want or robbery), lying close on the left bank of the river and opposite Badfluich. The road to Helmisdale from Kildonan lay along the left bank of the river, and passed through the several townships situated upon it. Close to Di-hail was a pool of water, formed by the rills which rush down from the braes above it, and which had an outlet into the river, fordable only at one point, called Stair-Di-bail (the steps of Di-bail). Immediately behind the townships on this side of the river, the ground is much elevated, presenting steep declivities fronting the south. Above Di-bail, rises Bein Dubhain, so called from its close resemblance to a book, and at its base is the place of Costly. Farther down the river are Leodan and the township of Dalhalmy. The river, as it passes this last place, is very deep, and not fordable. Immediately below, it forms another island about 60 yards long and 20 broad. Balbheallach is the next township, and immediately to the east of it, a rapid torrent descends from the hill to the river, which in summer is perfectly dry, but during the rainy season comes down in spate, and not only cuts up the road so much as to render it impassable, but covers the arable land around it, to the extent of many acres, with shingle and peat. A mile or two below Balbheallach a burn of considerable size enters the river, having its head waters between Cnoc-Salaslaid (1581 feet high), and Beinn Dubhain, called Allt-breac. To the west of the influx of this burn into the river, near a small lake situated on a high bank, are two or three huge blocks of stone, in the form of a chair or seat, called " Cathair-Dhonain " (or, the the chair of St. Donan), after whom the parish has been called "KilDhonian " (or, the cell of St. Donan). Donan was evidently the first Christian teacher who came to instruct the savage hordes inhabiting this district. Towards them he seems to have acted in the double capacity of a religious teacher and a civil magistrate. At his cell therefore he inculcated the truths of the Christian religion, and seated on his stone chair at this spot he administered the laws. In my younger days, there were many traditions of him afloat in the locality. One of these was that, after his death, none could he found to fill his place so as to exert the moral influence which he exercised over the minds of the people. His successor therefore caused a wooden image of him to be made, with features of countenance hideous and frightful. If any man proved refractory, he was immediately locked up in the church, or cell, at Kildonan, alone with this representation of St. Donan, during the silence of the night, and the consequences invariably were that, when brought forth from his confinement next day, the features of the saint, and the death-like stillness of the cell had reduced him to absolute obedience. The cell, as well as the whole parish, from this circumstance was called "Kil-duranach," (or "the sullen cell," as it means in ancient Celtic). A few miles below Cathair-Dhonain, still on the north side of the river is the farm of Torruis, where another stream enters the Helmisdale. This is a large burn rising between Cnoc-Salaslaid and Creag-an-Scalmasdale. This latter mountain rises up to the height of 1819 feet, in the form of a truncated cone, and is composed of what appears to be one solid mass of granite, without vegetation of any kind. At the foot of this mountain, was the farm of Scalmasdale, on the edge of the lake of the same name. The burn, avoiding the high ground to the south of it, takes a south-easterly direction through a valley, and then turning south, after a course of about six miles, precipitates itself over a rock, thus forming a very picturesque fall. Quarter of a mile further down, it enters the river at west end of Torruis, called Torr-na-gaibhre (or goat's knowe). A streamlet also entered the river at the east end of Torruis, where the houses or cottages of the tenantry were built closely together. Here the strath becomes beautifully wooded with the black willow, oak, aspen, alder, and wild gean, the mountain ash, or rowan, the black flowering-thorn, and the birch tree. This tract of woodland extends about a mile-and-a-half down the course of the Helmisdale to the place of Kilphedder, a lovely spot, past which a rushing torrent breaks through the copse-wood on its way to the river. The burn of Kilphedder, a little further down, turned a mill, built there for the accommodation of the inhabitants of the lower part of the strath. The place of Kilphedder is interesting, not only from its romantic scenery, but from its historical associations. As the river flows past, it again divides its channel, and, nearly in the centre of the stream, forms a beautifully wooded island rising from the level of the water to a ridge about 20 feet in height. The mill was situated at the foot of a cataract, rushing over shelving rocks and huge blocks of whinstone, and all were embosomed in wood.
At the east end of Kilphedder, the foundation of a house is discernible. The stones are remarkable for their immense size, so much so, that it is difficult to conceive how they could have been placed there except by the aid of mechanical appliances—then, of course, unknown. These almost obliterated remains are associated with the domestic as well as the traditionary history of the Strath Uillidh Sutherlands, a nobly-descended and gigantic race. Their first ancestor was Alexander, son of John, 8th Earl of Sutherland, by his second Countess, a daughter of Ross of Balnagown. His sister Elizabeth, by his father's first marriage, on the death of her brother John, 9th Earl, who died unmarried, succeeded to the titles and estates, to the prejudice of her half-brother Alexander, on the plea-in-law that his father and mother being cousins-germain, their marriage, by the canon law, was illegal, and that he was therefore, illegitimate. Elizabeth married Adam, Viscount of Aboyne, second son of the Earl of Huntly. With him and his wife, Alexander, by force of arms, disputed the right to the titles and estate of Sutherland. He was killed in a battle fought at Alltachuilain, below Kintradwell, in the parish of Loth. Kilphedder was the place of his residence, and his descendants, for many generations occupied the lands on payment of a merely nominal rent to the Earls of Sutherland. With the melancholy and affecting death of one of his descendants, the ruins at Kilphedder are more immediately connected. This individual, a William Sutherland of Kilphedder, was a man of gigantic strength and stature. He repaired and extended the residence of his ancestors. In those primitive times, he himself had to execute the work, both as architect and builder. The largest of the stones he drew from the channel of the river. One huge block, however, which lay in the middle of the stream, after several attempts to remove, he gave up as too much for his strength. His wife noticed his attempts to remove the stone, and, when the building was finished, said to him that it was a pity he had undertaken so difficult a work, as it had reduced him to the level of the insignificant persons around him. " That stone," she added, 'pointing to it, " will be a standing proof that William Mor, of Kilphedder, is not the strong man which every one until now took him to be." Colouring with indignation, the redoubled William seized a crowbar, strode down to the river, placed it under the huge mass, and, exerting all his strength, turned it from its bed, rolled it out of the stream, forced it up the hank, and left it at last within a yard of his door. In this exertion he gave a fatal strain to his back, and he felt that the hand of death was upon him. He entered the house, and pointing, in his turn, to the ponderous mass, he said to his wife, "There is the stone, as a proof of your husband's strength, but its removal is the last act of his life." He immediately took to bed, and in three hours afterwards expired. A lineal descendant of his, a Mr. William Sutherland, died at an advanced age, about five years ago, in Edinburgh. He enjoyed a pension bestowed upon him by his relative, the late Duchess of Sutherland.

Below Kilphedder, and in its immediate vicinity, is Soluschraggy (or the rock of light). This place is right opposite the Taobh-dorch, or dark side of the strath. Here a conical rock, about I00 feet high, rises in the middle of the farm, and on this the sun shines during the very few hours in which it is visible in winter. This was the only ocular demonstration to the inhabitants of the Taobh-dorch, that it had risen at all, and hence its name. A small rill washes the base of this rock, and runs into the water. Below Soluschraggy is the place of Dalial, and behind where the farm-house stood, is a small loch about ten yards long and three broad. This loch is but a pool of stagnant water, and might very easily have been drained, but that the inhabitants regarded it with a superstitious dread. There is a tradition that a pot of gold lies in a vault below, guarded by a large black dog with two heads. It is said that a tenant once had attempted to drain the loch, and had succeeded, so that the water was all carried off. The only remuneration the unfortunate agriculturist received was to be aroused from his midnight slumbers by a visit from the black dog, which set up such a hideous howl as made the hills reverberate, and the poor man almost die with fright. Furthermore, with this diabolical music he was regularly serenaded at the midnight hour till he had filled up the drain and the loch had resumed its former dimensions.

The last farm or township on the banks of the Helmisdale is Caen, a snug sheltered spot, surrounded with hills to the N.W. and E., and having a southerly exposure. During the earlier years of my father's ministry, this place contained nearly a hundred inhabitants. The river glides smoothly past it in an easterly direction, receiving from it a considerable stream; but when it attains to the precise boundary line between the parishes of Kildonan and Loth, marked by a small burn from the sides of a steel) hill called the "Gearrlag," the river suddenly makes a bend to the south, and after falling over the Craobadykes, about two miles below, it enters the sea at Helmisdale.

I have thus minutely delineated the local features of my native parish for two reasons: first, because with every one of those features is connected a crowd of associations of my early years, and then, because they are now, in so far as the hand of man could prevail, almost wholly obliterated. The townships in every strath and glen, and on every hill, which once teemed with life, are now desolate and silent; and the only traces visible of the vanished, happy population are, here and there, a half-buried hearthstone or a moss-grown grave-yard.


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