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Parish Life in the North of Scotland
Chapter VIII - Boyhood


1789-1800.

The particular incidents of our return from this juvenile expedition I do not now recollect, but between this event and the time we went to the school of Dornoch there are several characters and incidents which pass in review before me like objects in a mist. My father's serving men and women, first of all, present themselves. He employed as his principal farm-servant, during my boyish days, an elderly man called James MacThomais. He lived at the west end of the globe in a cottage built by himself. He kept a cow, for which a stall was fitted rip close by his fireside; and as he had wrested from the moor on the glebe-land a few patches of ground on which he raised black oats, here, and potatoes, he had also a barn attached to his cottage, the walls of which were built, from foundation almost to the top, with huge boulders of granite. James himself was a wrathful little body. His greed and selfishness and sharp temper have left a disagreeable impression upon my mind. He was married, and had a family of two sons and a daughter. His wife was a weak, silly woman, who, in the profoundest ignorance of the power, made strenuous exertions in her own way to keep up the form of godliness. These exertions consisted in a punctual attendance on the ordinances of religion, during which she watched the countenances and motions of those men who were reputed for their piety. If the preacher pleased or displeased them, Marsal, as she was called, shaped her course accordingly. If he displeased them, she knit her brows, shook her head, and appeared to be restless as a bird ready for flight. If, however, "the men" (na daoine) listened attentively, Marsal listened too; if they exhibited any outward emotion, or token of admiration, or approval of his doctrine, Marsal was instantly thrown into a devout ecstasy; she twisted her countenance into an absolute contortion, she groaned aloud, she threw up her eyes like a duck in a storm, and kept swinging back and fore like the pendulum of a clock. James eldest son Thomas was considerably older than myself. He succeeded his father, and married, many years afterwards, a Janet Gordon, one of our servants, by whom he had a family. When minister of Achness, I baptised a child for him at his dying-bed side. He lived then at Kinbrace, and for some years before his death had given every evidence of having experienced a saving change. James' second son John was my more intimate acquaintance. He was about my own age, and all my recollections of my boyish amusements and pursuits are associated with him. My brother and I were, as boys, of a mechanical turn. We were always building houses and mills, in imitation of those at Kildonan. We built a clay house at the back of the manse, and below the bank of the mill-lade (or "Eileach"), we had mills as closely resembling their larger and far more useful prototype as our limited capacities could approach. We were also great fishers, or rather, I might say, trout butchers. We proceeded in two ways, first by a contrivance called a "weel," or "athabh." wide at the mouth, and tapering to a point, made of willow twigs. This sort of basket was placed in the middle of the stream, and on each side of it, a kind of warren was constructed across the burn to prevent the fish from getting down the stream. We roused the trout from their hiding, and drove them before us, hemming them in on every side, until we forced them into the mouth of the weel, which was then raised, carried out to the bank, and emptied of its contents. When the burn was in good order, we would have nine or ten at each haul. Another and still more barbarous method of killing trout was with a stick. We traversed the shallow pools, causing the fish to fly from us in all directions, and to rush under stones. We then, when an opportunity offered, struck our sticks under the stones where the trout had taken shelter with all our force; the wretched victims of our pursuit often came up in fragments! We fished with bait and with the fly, but that was at a later period. In all these youthful amusements, John MacTh6mais was our constant companion, counsellor, and associate. He was a pleasing and talkative companion, and was furnished with an abundant store of old traditions, which he had rather a knack of telling, and which made many a day, like those of Thalaba, "merrily to go by." One of his many stories has puzzled me ever since by its similarity to the account of the fearful meeting between Ulysses and the one-eyed giant Polyphemus, described in the ninth book of the Odyssey. Can it be that the tradition has been handed down from the pagap ages of our Celtic ancestors? My father's other domestics, as they in succession, like Angus's vision of his royal progeny, pass before my memory's eye, were two young men of the name of Gunn from Costally, Robert and Adam. They were the grandsons of "John Happay," the frequent subject of Robb Donn's withering and merciless satire. Their mother's name was Annabel, who, the daughter of Ian Thapaidh, is mentioned by the bard in the celebrated song of "Tha mi 'n mu chadal, 's na ddisgibh mi." I do not know what became of Adam afterwards, but Robert, after leaving my father's service, enlisted as a soldier, and was killed, many years subsequent to this period, during the Spanish campaigns under Wellington.

The individuals who next present themselves to my recollection are my father's elders. The first, Rory Bain, I have already named as enjoying the festivities of my father's wedding: My father and he, as minister and elder, were much attached to each other. As his house at Killearnan was at a considerable distance from church, at which he was every Sabbath a most punctual attendant, my father very frequently asked him to dinner. On one occasion Rory was seated at table very much at his ease, and on a chair which, although it had seen much service, looked as if it could stand a little more. Rory had at the time finished his meal, and was earnestly engaged in some interesting conversation with my father, when, all at once, he began suddenly and rapidly to sink to the floor, until at last he rolled flat on his back. We were all alarmed, thinking that he had got ill. Rory, however, got up again all right, the cause of his fall being nothing else than the dissolution of the veteran chair, which was discovered lying in fragments on the floor. As an elder, he was a most rigid disciplinarian. A wretched woman, who had lapsed socially for the third time, had been appointed to appear before the pulpit in sackcloth. On that occasion Rory, on a cold frosty day, dipped the vestment in the burn, threw it over her head dripping wet, and caused her to wear it in this condition for three mortal hours! Rory considered himself the conservator of the congregation in respect of devotional decencies. An old, half-crazy man, named Donald Sutherland, or Donald Dalbhait, from the place of his residence, when he attended church usually sat in the poor's seat, on the north side of the area. Donald, sitting there one day, fell asleep, and the impropriety immediately came under Rory's notice. It was not a thing which, in Rory's estimation, was for an instant to be tolerated, and, accordingly, as only the breadth of the " lateran " area was between him and the delinquent, Rory pulled out his handkerchief, rose up from his seat, and stretching out his hand. smote Donald Dalbhait such a blow with the handkerchief across his bald pate as served suddenly to awaken him. Donald eyed his monitor with an angry look, and kept awake. Rory sat down in his seat, and as the day was hot, he himself, in his turn, fell fast asleep. This "weakness of the flesh" was eagerly noticed by old Donald, so pulling from his pocket a ragged napkin, he tied two or three knots upon it, rose rip, and advancing stealthily and cautiously towards the "sleeper," returned the blow with such goodwill that Rory started to his feet. On turning round, he at once discovered his old friend Donald looking at him with all the proud consciousness of having discharged a debt. The congregation who witnessed this scene were sorely tempted to laugh aloud, and my father, under whose eye the whole was enacted, was compelled to pass his hand over the whole of his face, in order to prevent him participating in the mirth of his hearers. The other elders were Donald Mackay, John Gordon, Ales. Bannerman or Macdonald, Hugh Fraser, James Buidh or Sutherland, and George Mackay. Donald Mackay was an old man and the parish catechist, father of George Mackay who lived at Liriboll, and who, after his father's death succeeded him in his office. He was the husband of Marion Poison, my brother's nurse, was one of my father's tenants, and lived detached from the rest on an elevated spot to the east of the township of Kildonan. Donald Mackay was twice married. His son George was by the first wife; his succession to his father's office I distinctly remember. He was a man of deep and fervent piety, as well as of great natural ability; and, as a public speaker, was an Apollos, eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures. At his first outset in his catechetical office he was harsh in manner, and a terror to the timid and ignorant; but as he advanced in years, and in the Christian life he mellowed exceedingly, and became a most attractive Christian character. His father, by Marion Poison his second wife, had three sons and a daughter, Peter, Angus, Isobel, and John. Peter was my brother's foster-brother. Alexander Bannerman lived at Ulbster in the Strath. He was a truly pious man, but very hot-tempered. When he spoke at fellowship meetings he showed much devotional feeling and soul-exercise in the truth, but his spirit was vexed by sin in any one, as was shown by the warmth of temper with which he launched forth his reproofs against it. His eldest son and daughter were also pious, but subject to fits of insanity. He survived my father and lived to be a very old man. James Buidh or Sutherland, another elder, lived also at Ulbster. He was a native of the parish of Loth, and one of the loudest protestors against Mr. MacCulloch's Arminianism. He long was a follower of John Grant, and was an absentee from public worship in church, but he afterwards became one of my father's most attached supporters. When Lord Selkirk came to Kildonan in 1813, for emigrants to cultivate his North American settlements, James Buidh became one of them, and went to Canada, where, after experiencing much hardship, he died. My earliest remembrance of Hugh Fraser was as an old man, just on the very limits of human life. He lived at Halgary, within a mile of the manse, and the almost obliterated ruins of the cottage where he lived and died i could yet recognise. He was a tall, gaunt figure, and I distinctly remember his personal appearance at breakfast one morning when he had come rather late, but was, notwithstanding, plentifully served with broiled salmon and a basin of strong tea, which he seemed much to relish. I was particularly struck with his conduct in church. With the other elders he sat in the lateran, and, during the time of sermon, Hugh kept up an almost unceasing conversation in low whispers with his next neighbour. It was a practice among elders in these primitive times. The conversation was directly the reverse of anything in the slightest degree bordering upon levity or profanation. Their low, whispering conversation was nothing else than the communication of the impression made upon their own minds by the truths they were hearing. It must be admitted, however, that they very probably had a particular motive in making themselves so conspicuous. lie principles upon which elders in a Highland parish in those days invariably were elected was, that they should be, not only the most advanced in years, but the most eminent Christians in the parish. To sustain the character of the office, and to act on the principle of their appointment to it by the tacit suffrages of the people, must be allowed, reasonably enough, to account for the rather ostentatious display which they made before their fellow-parishioners of their attention to the sermon.

Hugh Fraser was long confined to bed before his death. My brother and I attended his funeral, as our father was from home. It was in the dead of winter, a clear, hoar-frosty, short winter day. The people assembled on the sloping green before his cottage, and were served with oaten cakes and whisky. When the procession moved off with the body, his wife and a female friend preceded us to the grave, "weeping aloud as they went." The grave itself exhibited the hard work of a winter day in that hyperborean climate. The sod, hardened by a mid-winter frost, had been pierced through with a mattock wielded with all the force of the stout arms of John MacPherson, the kirk-officer, and his assistant, Donald Gunn. The earth, thrown out of the grave, bad become almost a solid mass when the burial arrived at its brink. The sound of the frozen earth falling in congealed fragments upon Hugh Fraser's coffin still rings in my ears—it was the first funeral I ever attended.

With the recollection of the elders of Kildonan I can connect the remembrance of incidents in which they along with my father were immediately concerned. The first of these are the sacramental occasions. The bustle of preparation, particularly in reference to "the things that are necessary for the body," has very specially left its impression upon my memory. In the north of Scotland a distinction prevailed in the annual administration of that ordinance which in the south was utterly unknown. That distinction was made between the public and the private or parochial administration of the Lord's Supper in any parish. The ordinance was considered as administered publicly when communicants from other parishes joined with those of the parish in its observance, and when, on that account, there were two distinct services, one in Gaelic and the other in English, and two different congregations, the one without, the other within doors. My father administered the sacrament for the most part publicly, and it was customary on those occasions for the minister on Sabbath to keep open table, as the services were much prolonged on that day, and a number of the parishioners lived at a distance from the church. To provide for such emergencies, the whole of the preceding week was occupied in receiving presents of mutton, butter, and cheese. On these occasions I have seen the whole range of a large cellar so closely laid with mutton carcases, that the floor was literally paved with them, and the gifts, like the offerings of ancient Israel, far exceeded the purpose for which they were intended. The sacramental occasions at Kildonan, which still fling their shadows upon my memory, are much associated with individuals who took part in them. First, I recall the ministers who preached on the Thursdays, the men who "spoke to the question" on the Fridays from Tongue, Parr, Loth, Clyne, Rogart, Latheron, and Reay; also the ministers who preached on the Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. Then I recollect the impression which the solemnities of the sacrament Sabbath produced more upon my imagination I fear than upon my understanding and conscience. On one occasion I distinctly remember that the congregation was assembled before the church, close by the banks of the river, and the communion table, extending to about 30 feet in length, was covered with a white cloth and surrounded by a dense multitude of between three and four thousand persons. On another and similar occasion, I recollect that we children had been seated with our step-mother near "the tent," or covered wooden pulpit used for the out-door services. When the communicants, at the close of the preliminary services of the day, rose to take their places at the Lord's table, we all followed her, and placed ourselves close by her side. The elders in attendance, with a smile of compassion, removed us, and conducted us back to our seats. It was on one of such occasions that I first saw Mr. MacCulloch of Loth, whom I have already described. He was assisting my father, and in his ministrations, both in English and Gaelic, he was, as usual, hot on the Arminian controversy, alien as the subject was to the occasion. The consequences were that, when he left the manse for home on Tuesday, he was way laid on his journey homewards by the notables of the parish, beaded by John Grant, who called him to a reckoning for his heterodoxy. Mr. MacCulloch was as bold as a lion, but his antagonists were more than a match for him; they had better Gaelic and a more accurate knowledge of their bibles than he had, and he was at length but too happy to make his escape from them as fast as his horse could carry him. One Monday evening he entered into a controversy with Mr. Hugh Mackenzie, minister of Tongue. That gentleman was at the time a young man but recently returned from the army, where he had acted for some years as chaplain to a Highland regiment. He had preached on the Monday, whether in Gaelic or English I now forget; but Mr. MacCulloch was his hearer, and Mr. Mackenzie's views of doctrine, based as they were on the top stone of Calvinistic orthodoxy, were accordingly directly opposed to Mr. MacCulloch's Arminianism. Scarcely therefore had they both finished their dinner, than Mr. MacCulloch broke ground by impugning Dr. Hugh's discourse, whilst the preacher, thus assailed, vigorously returned the fire, both parties arguing without intermission for three weary hours.

The last sacramental occasion at Kildonan but one, of which I have any recollection, was connected with a circumstance which, childish and thoughtless as I then was, yet deeply affected me. It was a schism which broke out between my father and his elders in regard to the administration of that ordinance. My father wished to celebrate it privately, or rather parochially, about the middle of spring. This his elders resisted. They wished him to defer it till the middle of summer, and to have it publicly as usual. To this, however, my father would not agree, and matters ran so high that all the elders refused to assist him on that occasion. My father asked Mr. Mackenzie of Tongue to assist him, and his popularity, which was then very high, drew a far greater crowd than could be accommodated within the walls of the church. To the repeated and earnest demands for out-preaching my father would not listen, and on the Sabbath, during the fencing of the tables and the table services, I remember seeing about two hundred persons assembled on the north side of Torr-an-riachaidh, whilst Donald MacLeod, the schoolmaster, read a few chapters of the Scriptures to them, accompanied by prayer and praise. The elders, with the exception of Rory Bain, kept stoutly to their resolution to take no part. Although good old Rory was just as much opposed as any of them to the parochial sacrament, yet he attended every day and officiated, from his sincere regard and attachment to his minister. It was on a sacramental occasion that I first saw, and thenceforward became most intimately acquainted with Mr. Evan MacPherson of Ruthven in Badenoch. This gentleman, for justly might he be so styled, was the second teacher which the "Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge in the Highlands and Islands" sent to the parish of Kildonan. His first commission from the Society directed him to teach at Badenloch, but in the course of time he migrated from place to place till, from the upper part of the parish, he ultimately settled at Caen, in the lower and eastern extremity of it. Here he died, and his memory is still venerated by all who knew him.

In bringing my reminiscences down to the beginning of the present century, there are a few things which occur to my memory, and which, although I know that they took place within this period, yet I cannot connect with any particular year. One of them is the marriage of John Ross the miller, Eppy Mackay's cake-and-pudding wooer and my early acquaintance. So long as Eppy's importance remained, which John could turn to advantage, he was all tenderness, love, and attention. But when, by my father's marriage, Eppy first lost her place, and then, as a matter of course, her influence, John drew off. lie now became the thriving wooer of the eldest daughter of Rory Bain. Rory gave his consent and a hearty wedding, which I recollect, took place in the dead of winter. After feasting for two days at Killearnan, the young couple were accompanied to their own house by the greater part of their guests, and the ice was so thick on the river that, on their way to Kildonan, men, women, and children, horse and foot of the party passed safely over the river on the ice below Dalhalmy. At the house-warming in Kildonan we were all present, and I remember seeing John Ross, after the manner of the ancients, borne over his threshold.

Another incident which made a deep impression upon me, not eradicated by the sober reasoning of maturer years, I must now relate. A family, named Murray, lived at the place of Tuaraidh. The head of the family was Alexander Murray, one of Captain Baigrie's sub-tenants, as indeed he had been of his predecessor, Major Sutherland of Midgarty, who held 'luaraidh as a highland pendicle to Midgarty. Murray's wife was a sister of Barbara Corbet, my nurse, and an intimacy, in consequence of this connection, held between us children and the family. My brother, my sisters, and myself were often invited, and nearly as often went to spend days and even weeks at Tuaraidh, and the scenery, as well as names of hill and dale, in that wild and sequestered spot, are still familiar to me. The Innis mor, the Innis beag, the Lou, as also Tuaraidh-bheag and Tuaraidh-mhor—the site of Alister Murray's house, of his barn on the brow of the hill, of his swaggering corn-rigs, of his peat-moss on the banks of the Loist, which meandered through the Lon, and the houses of his sub-tenants, are all at this moment vivid in my memory. Two events arise as fresh to my remembrance as if they had happened but yesterday. These are the marriages of Murray's two daughters, Barbara and Janet. Barbara was married to Robert Mackay, a native of Clyne. At their wedding my sisters, my brother and I were amused and feasted for nearly a week, whilst our fellow-guests numbered about fifty. Her sister Janet, a few years later, also married a young man named Mackay, a younger brother of William Mackay in Ascaig, who was one of my father's elders, and as single-hearted and sincere a Christian as I ever knew. It was at Janet's wedding that this impressive incident took place. The marriage service was performed by my father in church at noon. As was the practice, after the day's festivities, the guests of both sexes retired to sleep in the barn. My brother and I were placed beside each other at the lower end of the building; the season might be about the end of autumn, as I remember that the nights were dark. So long as the sound of the voices, after we had all lain down, rang in my ears from all corners, I felt very drowsy; but when to the hum of speech, a deep silence succeeded, broken only by the bard breathing of the sleepers, I became wide awake. I felt an undefinable dread creep upon me, and, looking towards the upper part of the barn, the whole of which was enveloped in pitchy darkness, I noticed a white figure gliding slowly down from the upper to the lower part of the building, where it disappeared. It seemed to be a human form covered with some white garment hanging about it in loose folds, but although it passed within little more than a yard of me, I could neither see its countenance nor even hear the tread of its feet. On my way home the next day, I told the circumstance to those who accompanied us, and they accounted for it by saying that a young woman at Tuaraidhbheag had long been confined to bed with consumption, and that she had been found dead in her bed that morning. Be that as it may, I never could satisfactorily account for the singular apparition. Had it been any of my bed-fellows rising in their sleep, and walking in their night-clothes, which, of course, were white, I could not possibly have perceived them without the aid of light, and light there was none, either shining from without through the chinks of the doors, or yet from within. Then how could the figure pass me without my hearing the tread of its feet. What it was I am as unable now, after the lapse of forty years, to account for as I was then.

The last event of this period of my life which I shall mention is the raising of the 93rd Highlanders, or Sutherland Regiment, better known under the name of "An Reismeid Cattach." This gallant body of men is favourably spoken of by the late General Stewart of Garth. "Not only in all those qualities," says he, "which constitute good soldiers are they not excelled by any regiment in the service, but in those also which make men in any profession valuable members of society. The light infantry company, for a period of twenty years, had not a single man of their number punished. After the regiment was completed in 1800, it embarked in September of that year for the island of Guernsay."

There is nothing more fresh in my memory than the enlisting of soldiers for this regiment. It was in May 1800, and Major-General William Wemyss of Wemyss, along with Major Gordon Cluness of Cracaig, and other gentlemen from the coast, came up to Kildonan. Their arrival was expected, and General Wemyss, to ingratiate himself with the Highlanders, sent up to the manse of Kildonan immense quantities of tobacco-twist and strong, black rapes snuff, together with the very suitable accompaniment of a large snuff-horn superbly mounted with silver, and having attached to it by a massive silver chain a snuff-pen of the same costly material. He had, however, mistaken the tastes of the Sutherland Highlanders, and had consequently put himself to unnecessary expense. Smoking was a luxury then utterly unknown and quite unappreciated by the men of Kildonan. What became of the General's supply I know not; but none of it was used, the old men contenting themselves with the light-coloured snuff which their fathers had used before them. I remember an assemblage on the green to the west of the manse; it was popularly called " the Review." The majority who assembled were tall handsome young fellows, who at the verbal summons of the Countess' ground-officer, Donald Bruce, presented themselves before General Wemyss, that he might have for the asking the pick and choice of them. But while the young men showed no reluctance to enlist, some manoeuvring became necessary to induce their parents to part with them. So two things were promised—first, that the fathers should have leases of their farms, and next, that the sons, if they enlisted, should all be made sergeants. The first promise was to a certain extent fulfilled; the second, it is needless to say, could not possibly be fulfilled.

I find that I have omitted to mention in its proper place a very serious illness which I had when about eight years old. It began with a hard, dry cough, which continued for nearly nine months, accompanied with profuse morning sweats and hectic fever, loss of sleep and appetite, shortness of breath, and an almost total prostration of strength. I was sent up to the garret to sleep alone, whilst another lay in the opposite conch to watch me. It was then that my excellent step-mother proved herself in possession of the skill of a physician in her treatment of my disease. She never allowed me to take anything cold—whether tea, or gruel, or soup—all must be warm; and this under God was the means of my recovery. The complaint, however, long and obstinately resisted treatment, so that on one occasion, when I was very low, I overheard my step-mother say to my sisters that she had given up all hope of my recovery, and that next week a bearer must he sent to the merchant at Brora to purchase linen for a shroud. The complaint, however, yielded at last, and of my step-mother's skill and tenderness I shall carry a grateful, sense to my grave. Alas, that I cannot feel equally grateful to Him in whose hands she was but the instrument.

Closely associated with all my recollections of olden times at Kildonan, is an individual who largely contributed to our amusement. She was a Mrs. Gordon who died at Golspie, a daughter of the Rev. Murdo Macdonald of Durness. She was then a widow with an only daughter called Peggy. Inheriting her father's taste for music, she played beautifully on the violin, and was a periodical visitor, and an almost constant residenter at the houses of the Sutherland gentry. Many a time and oft have we tripped it to her heart-and-heel-stirring reels and strathspeys in the low easter-room at the manse of Kildonan. She was universally known under the name of "Fiddlag." Her fiddle was her god. When on her death-bed nearly her last words were to "spread a cloth over the fiddle." When told that it was her soul that should then be her chief concern, and not her fiddle, she replied, "O I leave all these good things, as I ever did, to the worthy man, Mr. Keith."

My father, during an incumbency of nearly forty years, was only once a member of the General Assembly. I remember his return after an absence of nearly a month. He had brought a box from Edinburgh of many good and desirable things for his wife and children. What they were I forget, but on that occasion he secured the regular transmission of a London paper called "Baldwin's London Weekly Journal." From that paper we received information of the progress of the French Revolution, and of the determined opposition of this country to that reckless and fertile source of human enormities. I remember listening to my father reading aloud to us both the foreign and domestic intelligence of this journal—the atrocities of Robespierre and the whole Jacobin faction under the "Reign of Terror;" the subsequent fall and death of the miscreant; rise of Bonaparte; the victories of Lords Duncan and Nelson; and many other public and stirring incidents. The victory obtained by Admiral Duncan in 1797 over the Dutch fleet, off the mouth of the Texel, made the triumphant thunders of his cannon be heard throughout every glen in Scotland. Being himself a Scotchman of ancient descent, his countrymen were proud of him, as for many ages previously their country had produced no naval hero of whom they could boast. Lord Duncan's prowess made its way to my mind, however, merely through the instrumentality of a piece of printed cotton which had been purchased for dresses to my sisters. In honour of the Dundee hero the cloth was called "Camperdown," and I recollect when the parcel arrived, and the piece of print was spread on the table, I took it into my head to suppose that it came direct from the great Admiral, as a token of his regard to his friends at Kildonan. Lord Nelson's victory over the French fleet, under the brave but unfortunate Bruyes, in 1798, off the coast of Egypt, was the next note of war which reached us. Napoleon was then rapidly rising to that height of power from which in 1815 he fell "like lightning from heaven." His descent on Egypt was a blow struck at the very vitals of the British power in India, and Nelson's victory on the Nile was a blow still more deeply and mortally aimed at the power of Bonaparte. The only tidings of this great victory which made any impression upon my mind were conveyed by a pedlar who wended his way to the manse, and who, among other articles for sale, had a parcel of huge wood-cuts of Lord Nelson's battle of the Nile. One of them my father readily purchased, and it was immediately fastened up with wafers on the wall of the dining-room. Mr. Gordon of Navidale, when his lease expired, took the Mains of Embo, in the parish of Dornoch, and resided there for a few years, after which he remained in Edinburgh. The farm of Navidale was taken in lease by Mr. Robert Pope, second son of Mr. Peter Pope, tacksman of Gartimore, younger brother of Mr. Alexander Pope, minister of Reay. This old gentleman I recollect to have seen at Kildonan, and I was much struck with his antique and venerable appearance. He must, when I saw him, have been close upon seventy years of age. He wore what was usually called a Welsh wig, and showed by his manners a rude and choleric temper. When I saw him on that occasion we had a few more guests at the manse, among others Mr. and Mrs. Mackay of Skerra in the Reay country. My recollections of them remain in my memory owing to a circumstance calculated to impress the mind of a boy. On the second day after their arrival, an excursion around the glebe was proposed and agreed to. My father and mother and their three guests, accompanied by us young folks, sat down in a circle on the grassy summit of the islet in the middle of the river. Having all assembled, Mrs. Mackay distributed several rich and highly-seasoned cakes of ginger-bread. In the round, however, I was forgotten, but Mr. Mackay, who was an exceedingly amiable man, noticed the omission, and immediately divided with me the portion he had got for himself. Old Peter Pope amused us on our return by stuffing his coat pockets with new-mown hay. His eldest son, William, whom I well knew, was then in the East Indies. His second son, Robert, had just returned from the West Indies, where, for upwards of twenty years, he had been engaged as a planter, and had realised several thousand pounds. On the expiry of Mr. Gordon's lease of Navidale, he took that farm at a lease of thirty-eight years. Besides holding Navidale, Mr. Robert Pope rented the Highland farms of Tiribol and Dallangal in the parish of Kildonan, and in looking after these possessions he had frequent opportunities of being a guest at the manse. He very soon afterwards had another and a far more interesting reason for being so often at Kildonan. Soon after Mr. Gordon's removal from Navidale to Embo, Miss Bertie, of whom I have already made mention, and who had resided with her sister whilst she was at Navidale, came to live alternately with her sisters at Midgarty and Kildonan. My step-mother had during one of these visits been confined to bed by a serious ailment, and while she was ill Miss Bertie had charge of the house, and her judicious and tender care of her sister as well as her lady-like accomplishments and her rich vein of wit attached us all so much to her that we almost idolised her. Mr. Robert Pope, soon after his arrival from the West Indies, had seen her at Midgarty, and at the very first interview, was smitten with the tender passion. He made no secret of his attachment, and was in consequence very much teased about it by the gentry of the parish of Loth, and very particularly so by the minister of Loth and his daughters, the Misses MacCulloch. Mr. Pope was annoyed at this, and even Miss Bertie was compelled at last, in order to escape their unceasing and clamorous raillery, to take refuge at Kildonan and reside there almost entirely. Mr. Pope followed her thither, and was all but her daily attendant. The event of their marriage is impressed upon my memory in connection with an amusement in which I was then engaged. It might be about the beginning of October, and a good deal of rain had fallen. I resolved to build a house with the mud which had collected during the rainy weather. Mr. Pope and Miss Bertie were in the house, and after dinner, leaving them all engaged in matters which, compared with mine, I considered secondary, I went out, laid the foundation of my house, and finding the mud quite plastic and ready to be formed into any shape, I was getting on with a success that exceeded my expectations. I had no thought about father, mother, sisters, or guests within—my house was everything to me. Most unwillingly was I called off from my employment at night-fall. I got up, however, in the morning with the very peep of dawn to continue my architectural labours. I was well enough acquainted with the internal arrangements of the manse to know where guests usually slept. I knew that since Mr. Pope and Miss Bertie had come to the house a few days before, Miss Bertie had slept in the little garret, and fir. Pope in the principal bedroom. On passing the door of Mr. Pupe's room, therefore, what was my astonishment to notice Miss Bertie's little shoes placed side by side with Mr. Pope's boots at his bedroom door. I thought this very strange, and one of the servant-maids, meeting me at the time, participated in my astonishment, but said with a sly leer, "'S cinnteach gu bhei had posda," (Surely they are married). I came open-mouthed to my sisters, and told them what I had seen; but they were already initiated in the mystery, and told me that about 12 o'clock last night Mr. Pope insisted on being married to Miss Bertie, and that my father, after remonstrating upon the too great privacy and precipitancy of the measure, had yielded and married them. So I resumed my mud-building. Mr. and Mrs. Pope came often in the evening to look at my edifice, and I was much gratified with their minute examination of it and with their commendations. After remaining for some days at Kildonan, during which they amused themselves by strolling through the dells and woods, they went home accompanied by my father and mother.

About this time died Mr. MacCalloch of Loth, and was succeeded by Mr. George Gordon, of whom I have many recollections. Mr. Gordon, was the eldest son, by his first marriage, of Adam Gordon, tacksman of Rhenevy in Strathnaver, parish of Farr, and a nephew of Charles Gordon of Pulrossie. When a young man, and during his attendance at the University, he was tutor in the family of Mr. Gordon of Carrel, who resided at Kiutradwell in the parish of Loth. Mrs. Gordon, sister of the late Donald MacLeod of Geanies, was an eminently pious woman, and took a deep interest in the spiritual and temporal welfare of the tutor of her children. George Gordon, after being a year or two in the family of Carrol, resigned his situation, as advantageous prospects of entering into the commercial line were held out to him by a near relative of his residing in London. Mrs. Gordon of Carrol strongly dissuaded him from availing himself of these prospects, and recommended him to pursue his studies as a candidate for the ministry. This, however, Mr. Gordon declined doing, upon the ground that he saw his call in Providence clearer to the one than to the other. " Well, young man," said the venerable lady, "I shall not live to see it, but, mark my words, you will die minister of Loth "--a prediction strictly fulfilled. Mr. Gordon's London prospects burst like air bubbles, and he himself, turning his attention to his theological studies, was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Tongue. He then succeeded Mr. Alex. Urquhart as missionary of Achness, and afterwards became assistant to my grand-uncle, Mr Thomas Mackay of Lairg, whose second daughter Harriet he married. In 1801 he was settled minister of Loth, where he died in 1822, in the 26th year of his ministry. While missionary at Achness he used frequently to be at Kildonan, and he particularly arrested my attention by his inexhaustible store of anecdote, as well as by the hearty laugh with which he wound up every story he told, and into which he seemed to throw his whole heart. I always rejoiced when I saw him alight in the close on Monday evening after preaching at Aeh-na-h'uaighe on the Sabbath. He was ever and anon accompanied by his servant, who followed him on foot like his shadow. What this man's name was I forget, but we never knew him by any other name than the "Gillie Roy." He was red-haired, and a young fellow of caustic, copious, and sterling humour. His master told anecdotes of him which made us laugh till we wept again, whilst he himself, at the very time, was setting the kitchen fireside in a continuous roar of laughter at his witty sallies.

Belonging to this period I have pleasing and painful recollections. Captain Baigrie's eldest son Robert was, ever since my father's second marriage, a frequent visitor at Kildonan. When I first began the Rudiments, he used to throw me into a perfect ecstasy by the fluency with which he read and translated the Latin language. He was naturally very clever, but his progress in letters was counter-balanced by the fatal progress which he made in those dangerous propensities which to ardent youth are the direct road to ruin. These propensities his affectionate, but inconsiderate parents greatly, though unintentionally, indulged, and they did so in two ways—first, they took him along with them in their visits to the first families in the county, where his youthful precocity drew upon him attention and applause by which he was entirely upset. Then they gave no heed to his choice of companions, and he certainly did not choose the best. Robert's introduction into genteel society gave rise to habits of extravagance and to expenses which at last he could not possibly meet. He had contracted "debts of honour" by card-playing at the tables of the "great," which he could not pay, and of which he was afraid to tell his father. In an evil hour therefore, and with one John Gordon, footman at Midgarty, as his accomplice, he, under silence of night broke open a shop in Wester-Helmisdale, and plundered the till of nearly £20. The robbery was discovered early next morning, and the hue and cry raised in the neighbourhood. Suspicion fell upon the perpetrators. Gordon was openly accused of it, but the charge against the man glanced directly at his master and associate. With aching hearts and streaming eyes did Captain Baigrie and his amiable wife hear the confession of guilt from the lips of their misguided son; the merchant's loss was refunded, John Gordon sent out of the country, and poor Robert Baigrie sent to the West Indies, where, in a few months after his arrival, he died of fever. Mrs. Baigrie died in February, 1798; she happily did not live to witness this painful termination of her son's career.

It was at this period that my mind received its first religious impressions, though when I look back upon the course of my life, I am almost afraid to call them such. But I remember that I used to take much delight in the historical parts both of the Old and New Testaments, more particularly the books of Samuel and Kings, and the four Gospels. The history of our blessed Lord made a vivid, if not a saving, impression upon me, so much so that I used to lie awake at times for the greater part of the night thinking of the Saviour, and in imagination following him with his disciples from city to city in Judea and Galilee. At his persecutors I felt a thrill of horror and indignation, and I often wished that I had been some potent prince strong enough to interpose in behalf of the meek and lowly Jesus. Peter's attempt to do so I applauded in my heart, and I could not understand the Saviour's reproof, nor his interposition in behalf of the high-priest's maimed menial. It was the act of too high and holy a spirit for me to have the slightest comprehension of at the time. These juvenile meditations set me often to pray, which I did with many tears. I thought I felt love to the Saviour in my heart, and this caused me to form many resolutions to reform my conduct, to be always praying and to keep myself in a serious frame. When such resolutions lay strong upon me, I was most assiduous in the performance of what I considered to be a religious duty. I dared not indulge myself so much at play, I was afraid even to smile, and I laboured hard to keep every vain thought out of my mind. But alas, these good intentions were one after the other soon forgotten, and only renewed with fear and gloomy anticipations of failure. If I now know the truth (and that is a question for eternity), these first impressions were so many initiatory lessons in self-knowledge, and led me eventually to see that salvation is not of debt but of grace.


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