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The Life of James Robertson
DULL


OF all Scotland’s lovely valleys, none is lovelier than that through which flows the lordly Tay, and of the Tay valley there is no lovelier bit than that which stretches west and north from the town of Aberfeldy. Out from the mountains flows the river, down the wide valley, past sloping fields rich and fertile with their cosy farmsteads, sheep-runs, lands high and bare, decked out with birches, firs and beeches, singly and in groups and plantations, past great houses set within their policies, past pretty villages, quaint and straggling, every mile rich in surpassing beauty and historic interest.

But there is one spot where it were worth while to pause, for it is the birthplace of a great man, whose name is written in large letters over the Canadian West. Four miles west of the town of Aberfeldy the river takes a turn about one of the Grampian spurs which ends here in a bold bluff crag. At the foot of the rock, on the river’s north bank, lies one of those quaint straggling villages. This bluff crag is the Rock of Dull, and this straggling group of houses huddling at its base is the village of Dull. In this village James Robertson was born.

The glory of the village lies in the past. The ruins strewn everywhere about, gaunt and bare or half-covered with kindly turf, proclaim that. It is an ancient village getting its name from the ninth abbot of Iona who, when dying, commanded that they should bear his body eastward towards Strathray till the withes by which the coffin hung, should break. At the foot of a precipitous rock on the north side of the Tay the withes broke. There they laid his saintly body to rest, and from the breaking of the withes, dhullan, they named the spot "Dhull," modern Dull. The place became a famous educational and ecclesiastical centre. A college was established and a monastery founded, with right of sanctuary attached, within a radius marked by crosses, of which one, sorely battered, still stands in the village. In the time of Crinan, the fighting Bishop of Dunkeld, son-in-law to King Malcolm II, and father of Duncan, the unfortunate victim of Macbeth’s ambition, the landholdings pertaining to the monastery of which Crinan was tenth abbot, were greatly extended. The memory of this monastery demesne is preserved in the Appin Abbatania of Dull. But long before the Reformation the monastery was dissolved and the college transferred to St. Andrew’s, thus becoming the nucleus of the oldest of the Scottish universities.

In those great old days Dull was not only an educational and ecclesiastical centre; it was a populous, commercial metropolis as well, with streets devoted to certain trades and offering the principal produce market for the surrounding district. But now of this ancient greatness, educational, ecclesiastical and commercial, all that remains is the parish school, the parish church, itself a pre-Reformation relic recently restored to its former splendour, the straggling village, and those eloquent gaunt or turf-clothed ruins. Unchanged by the passing years, the old gray Rock abides, and the flowing river, for the generations of men come and go, leaving ruins behind to show where they have been and where they have wrought! Ruins? Yes, but more than ruins. For lives of men are more enduring than grim rocks and flowing rivers. They never die, but in a people’s character and in a people’s influence and in a people’s work in their home lands and in lands far across the sea, they live eternally.


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