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Reminiscences of Scottish Life & Character
Chapter 1 - Introductory


I WISH my readers always to bear in mind that these Reminiscences are meant to bear upon the changes which would include just such a revolution as that referred to at page 15 in the bonnet practice of Laurence-kirk. There is no pretension to any researches of antiquarian character; they are in fact Reminiscences which come almost within personal recognition. A kind friend gave me anecdotes of the past in her hundredth year. In early life I was myself consigned to the care of my granduncle, Sir Alexander Ramsay, residing in Yorkshire, and he was born in 1715; so that I can go pretty far back on my own experience, and have thus become cognisant of many changes which might be expected as a consequence of such experience.

I cannot imagine a better illustration of the sort of change in the domestic relations of life that has taken place in something like the time we speak of, than is shown in the following anecdote, which was kindly communicated to me by Professor MacGregor of the Free Church. I have pleasure in giving it in the Professor’s own words :—"I happened one day to be at Panmure Castle when Lord Panmure (now Dalhousie) was giving a treat to a school, and was presented by the Monikie Free Church Deacons’ Court with a Bible on occasion of his having cleared them finally of debt on their buildings. Afterwards his Lordship took me into the library, where, among other treasures, we found a handsome folio Prayer Book presented to his ancestor Mr Maule of Kelly by the Episcopalian minister of the district, on occasion of his having, by Mr Maule’s help, been brought out of jail. The coincidence and contrast were curiously interesting."

For persons to take at various intervals a retrospective view of life, and of the characters they have met with, seems to be a natural feeling of human nature; and every one is disposed at times to recall to memory many circumstances and many individuals which suggest abundant subjects for reflection. We thus find recollections of scenes in which we have been joyous and happy. We think of others with which we only associate thoughts of sorrow and of sadness. Amongst these varied emotions we find subjects for reminiscences, of which we would bury the feelings in our own hearts as being too sacred for communication with others. Then, again, there, are many things of the past concerning which we delight to take counsel with friends and contemporaries. Some persons are disposed to go beyond these personal communications with friends, and having through life been accustomed to write down memoranda of their own feelings, have published them to the world. Many interesting works have thus been contributed to our literature by writers who have sent forth volumes in the form of Memoirs, of their Own Times, Personal Recollections, Remarks upon Past Scenes, etc., etc. It is not within the scope of this work to examine these, nor can I specify the many communications I have from different persons, both at home and in our colonial possessions; in fact, the references in many cases have been lost or mislaid. But I must acknowledge, however briefly, my obligations to Dr Carruthers, Inverness, and to Dr Cook, Haddington, who have favoured me with valuable contributions.

Now, when we come to examine the general question of memoirs connected with contemporary history, no work is better known in connection with this department of Scottish literature than the History of his Own Times, by my distinguished relative, Dr Gilbert Burnett, Bishop of Salisbury. Bishop Burnett’s father, Lord Crimond, was third son of my father’s family, the Burnetts of Leys, in Kincardineshire. There is now at Crathes Castle, the family seat, a magnificent full-length portrait of the Bishop in his robes, as Prelate of the Garter, by Sir Godfrey Kneller. It was presented by himself to the head of his family. But, as one great object of the Bishop’s history was to laud and magnify the personal character and public acts of William of Orange, his friend and patron, and as William was held in special abhorrence by the Jacobite party in Scotland, the Bishop holds a prominent, and, with many, a very odious position in Scottish Reminiscences; in fact, he drew upon himself and upon his memory the determined hatred and unrelenting hostility of adherents to the Stuart cause. They never failed to abuse him on all occasions, and I recollect old ladies in Montrose, devoted to the exiled Prince, with whom the epithet usually applied to the Prelate was that of "Leein’ Gibby." [Lying Gilbert]

Such language has happily become a "Reminiscence." Few would be found now to apply such an epithet to the author of the History of his Own Times, and certainly it would not be applied on the ground of the Jacobite principles to which he was opposed. But a curious additional proof of this hostility of Scottish Jacobites to the memory of Burnett has lately come to light. In a box of political papers lately found at Brechin Castle, belonging to the Panmure branch of the family, who, in ‘15, were forfeited on the ground of their Jacobite opinions and adherence to the cause of Charles Edward, there has been found a severe and bitter supposed epitaph for Bishop Burnett. By the kindness of the Earl of Dalhousie I was permitted to see this epitaph, and, if I chose, to print it in this edition. I am, however, unwilling to stain my pages with such an ungenerous and, indeed, I may say, so scurrilous a representation of the character of one who, in the just opinion of our Lyon King-at-Arms, himself a Burnett of the Kemnay branch, has characterised the Bishop of Salisbury as "true and honest, and far beyond the standard of his times as a Clergyman and as a Bishop." But the epitaph found in these Panmure papers shows clearly the prejudices of the age in which it was written, and in fact only embodies something of that spirit and of those opinions which we have known as still lingering in our own Reminiscences.

If it were not on my part a degree of presumption, I might be inclined to consider myself in this volume a fellow-labourer with the late accomplished and able Mr Robert Chambers. In a very limited sphere it takes a portion of the same field of illustration. I should consider myself to have done well if I shall direct any of my readers to his able volumes. Whosoever wishes to know what this country really was in times past, and to learn, with a precision beyond what is supplied by the narratives of history, the details of the ordinary current of our social, civil, and national life, must carefully study the Domestic Annals of Scotland. Never before were a nation’s domestic features so thoroughly portrayed. Of those features the specimens of quaint Scottish humour still remembered are unlike anything else, but they are fast becoming obsolete, and my motive for this publication has been an endevour to preserve marks of the past which would of themselves soon become obliterated, and to supply the rising generation with pictures of social life, faded and indistinct to their eyes; but the strong lines of which an older race still remember. By thus coming forward at a favourable moment, no doubt many beautiful specimens of SCOTTISH MINSTRELSY have in this manner been preserved from oblivion by the timely exertions of Bishop Percy, Ritson, Walter Scott, and others. Lord Macaulay, in his preface to The Lays of Ancient Rome, shows very powerfully the tendency in all that lingers in the memory to become obsolete, and he does not hesitate to say that "Sir Walter Scott was but just in time to save the precious relics of the minstrelsy of the Border."

It is quite evident that those who have in Scotland come to an advanced age, must have found some things to have been really changed about them, and that on them great alterations have already taken place. There are some, however, which yet may be in a transition state; and others in which, although changes are threatened, still it cannot be said that the changes are begun. I have been led to a consideration of impending alterations as likely to take place, by the recent appearance of two very remarkable and very interesting papers on subjects closely connected with great social Scottish questions, where a revolution of opinion may be expected. These are two articles in Recess Studies (1870), a volume edited by our distinguished Principal, Sir Alexander Grant. One essay is by Sir Alexander himself, upon the "Endowed Hospitals of Scotland"; the other by the Rev. Dr Wallace of the Greyfriars, upon "Church Tendencies in Scotland." It would be quite irrelevant for me to enlarge here upon the merits of those articles. No one could study them attentively without being impressed with the ability and power displayed in them by the authors, their grasp of the subjects, and their fair impartial judgment upon the various questions which come under their notice.

From these able disquisitions, and from other prognostics, it is quite evident that sounder principles of political economy and accurate experience of human life show that much of the old Scottish hospital system was quite wrong and must be changed. Changes are certainly going on, which seem to indicate that the very hard Presbyterian views of some points connected with Church matters are in transition. I have elsewhere spoken of a past sabbatarian strictness, and I have lately received an account of a strictness in observing the national fast-day, or day appointed for preparation in celebrating Holy Communion, which has in some measure passed away. The anecdote adduced the example of two drovers who were going on very quietly together. They had to pass through a district whereof one was a parishioner, and during their progress through it the one whistled with all his might, the other screwed up his mouth without emitting a single sound. When they came to a burn, the silent one, on then crossing the stream, gave a skip, and began whistling with all his might, exclaiming with great triumph to his companion, "I’m beyond the parish of Forfar now, and I’ll whistle as muckle as I like." It happened to be the Forfar parish fast-day. But a still stricter observance was shown by a native of Kirkcaldy, who, when asked by his companion drover in the south of Scotland "why he didna Whistle," quietly answered, "I canna, man; it’s our fast-day in Kirkcaldy." I have an instance of a very grim assertion of extreme sabbatarian zeal. A maid-servant had come to a new place, and on her mistress quietly asking her on Sunday evening to wash up some dishes, she indignantly replied, "Mem, I hae dune mony sins, and hae mony sins to answer for; but, thank God, I hae never been sae far left to mysell as to wash up dishes on the Sabbath day?"

I hope it will not for a moment be supposed we would willingly throw any ridicule or discouragement on the Scottish national tendencies on the subject, or that we are not proud of Scotland’s example of a sacred observance of the fourth commandment in the letter and the spirit. We refer now to injudicious extremes, such, indeed, as our Lord condemned, and which seem a fair subject for notice amongst Scottish peculiarities. But the philosophy of the question is curious. Scotland has ever made her boast of the simplest form of worship, and a worship free from ceremonial, more even than the Church of England, which is received as, in doctrine and ritual, the Church of the Reformation. In some respects, therefore, may you truly say the only standing recognised observance in the ceremonial part of Presbyterian worship is the Sabbath day—an observance which has been pushed in times past even beyond the extreme of a spirit of Judaism, as if the sabbatical ceremonial were made a substitute for all other ceremony. In this, as well as in other matters which we have pointed out, what changes have taken place, what changes are going on! It may be difficult to assign precise causes for such changes having taken place among us, and that during the life-time of individuals now living to remember them. It has been a period for many changes in manners, habits, and forms of language, such as we have endeavoured to mark in this volume. The fact of such changes is indisputable, and sometimes it is difficult not only to assign the causes for them, but even to describe in what the changes themselves consist. They are gradual, and almost imperceptible. Scottish people lose their Scotchness; they leave home, and return without those expressions and intonations, and even peculiarity of voice and manner, which used to distinguish us from Southern neighbours. In all this, I fear, we lose our originality. It has not passed away, but with every generation becomes less like the real type.

I would introduce here a specimen of the precise sort of changes to which I would refer, as an example of the reminiscences intended to be introduced into these pages. We have in earlier editions given an account of the pains taken by Lord Gardenstone to extend and improve his rising village of Laurencekirk; amongst other devices he had brought down, as settlers, a variety of artificers and workmen from England. With these he had introduced a batter from Newcastle; but on taking him to church next day after his arrival, the poor man saw that he might decamp without loss of time, as he could not expect much success in his calling at Laurencekirk; in fact, he found Lord Gardenstone’s and his own the only hats in the kirk—the men all wore then the flat Lowland bonnet. But how quickly times change! My excellent friend, Mr Gibbon of Johnstone, Lord Gardenstone’s own place, which is near Laurencekirk, tells me that at the present time one solitary Lowland bonnet lingers in the parish.

Hats are said to have been first brought into Inverness by Duncan Forbes of Culloden, the Lord President, who died in 1747. Forbes is reported to have presented the provost and bailies with cocked hats, which they wore only on Sundays and council days. About 1760 a certain Deacon Young began to wear a hat, and the country people crowding him, the Deacon used humorously to say, ‘What do you see about me, sirs? Am I not a mortal man like yourselves?" The broad blue bonnets I speak of long continued to be worn in the Highland capital, and are still occasionally to be seen there, though generally superseded by the Glengarry bonnet and ordinary hat. It is a minor change, but a very decided one.

The changes which have taken place, and which give rise to such "Reminiscences," are very numerous, and meet us at every turn in society. Take, for example, the case of our Highland chieftains. We may still retain the appellation, and talk of the chiefs of Clanranald, of Glengarry, etc. But how different is a chieftain of the present day, even from some of those of whom Sir Walter Scott wrote as existing so late as 1715 or 1745! Dr Gregory (of immortal mixture memory) used to tell a story of an old Highland chieftain, intended to show how such Celtic potentates were, even in his day, still inclined to hold themselves superior to all the usual considerations which affected ordinary mortals. The doctor, after due examination, had, in his usual decided and blunt manner, pronounced the liver of a Highlander to be at fault, and to be the cause of his ill-health. His patient, who could not but consider this as taking a great liberty with a Highland chieftain, roared out: "And what the devil is it to you whether I have a liver or not?" But there is the case of dignity in Lowland Lairds as well as clanheadship in Highland Chiefs. In proof of this, I need only point to a practice still lingering amongst us of calling landed proprietors, not as Mr So-and-so, but by the names of their estates. I recollect, in my early days, a number of our proprietors were always so designated. Thus, it was not as Mr Carnegie, Mr Douglas, Mr Irvine, etc., but as Craigo, Tillwhilly, Drum, etc.

An amusing application of such a territorial denominative system to the locality of London was narrated to me by a friend who witnessed it. A Scottish gentleman, who had never been in the metropolis, arrived fresh from the Highlands, and met a small party at the house of a London friend. A person was present of most agreeable manners, who delighted the Scotsman exceedingly. He heard the company frequently referring to this gentleman’s residence in Piccadilly, to his house in Piccadilly, and so on. When addressed by the gentleman, he commenced his reply, anxious to pay him all due respect: "Indeed,. Piccadilly," etc. He supposed Piccadilly must be his own territorial locality. Another instance of mistake, arising out of Scottish ignorance of London ways, was made by a North Briton on his first visit to the great city. He arrived at a hotel in Fleet Street, where many of the country coaches then put up. On the following morning he supposed that such a crowd as he encountered could only proceed from some "occasion," and must pass off in due time. Accordingly, a friend from Scotland found him standing in a doorway, as if waiting for some one. His countryman asked him what made him stand there. To which he answered: "Ou, I was just stan’ing till the kirk had scaled." The ordinary appearance of his native borough made the crowd of Fleet Street suggest to him the idea of a church crowd passing out to their several homes, called in Scotland a "kirk scaling." A London street object called forth a similar simple remark from a Scotsman. He had come to London on his way to India, and for a few days had time to amuse himself by sightseeing before his departure. He had been much struck with the appearance of the mounted sentinels at the Horse Guards, Whitehall, and bore them in remembrance during his Eastern sojourn. On his return, after a period of thirty years, on passing the Horse Guards, he looked up to one, and seeing him, as he thought, unchanged as to horse, position, and accoutrements, he exclaimed: "Od, freend, ye hae had a lang spell on’t sin’ I left," supposing him to be the identical sentinel he had seen before he sailed.

It is interesting to preserve national peculiarities which are thus passing away from us. One great pleasure I have had in their collection, and that is the numerous and sympathetic communications I have received from Scotsmen, I may literally say from Scotsmen in all quarters of the world; sometimes communicating very good examples of Scottish humour, and always expressing their great pleasure in reading, when in distant lands and foreign scenes, anecdotes which reminded them of Scotland, and of their ain days of " auld lang syne."

There is no mistaking the national attachment so strong in the Scottish character. Men return after long absence, in this respect, unchanged, whilst absent, Scotsmen never forget their Scottish home. In all varieties of lands and climates their hearts ever turn towards the "land o’ cakes and brither Scots." Scottish festivals are kept with Scottish feeling on "Greenland’s icy mountains" or "India’s coral strand." I received an amusing account of an ebullition of this patriotic feeling from my late noble friend the Marquis of Lothian, who met with it when travelling in India. He happened to arrive at a station upon the eve of St Andrew’s Day, and received an invitation to join a Scottish dinner party in cornmemoration of old Scotland. There was a great deal of Scottish enthusiasm. There were seven sheep-heads (singed) down the table; and Lord Lothian told me that after dinner he sang with great applause "The Laird o’ Cockpen."

Another anecdote arising out of Scotsmen meeting in distant lands, is rather of a more serious character, and used to be told with exquisite humour by the late lamented Dr Norman Macleod. A settler in Australia, who for a long time had heard nothing of his Scottish kith and kin, was delighted at the arrival of a countryman direct from his own part of the country. When he met with him, the following conversation took place between them :—Q. "Ye ken my fouk, friend; can ye tell me gin my faather’s alive?" A.—" Hout, na; he’s deed." Q.—" Deed! What did he dee o’? Was it fever?" A.—" Na, it wasna fever." Q.—" Was it cholera?" A.—" Na." The question being pressed, the stranger drily said, "Sheep," and then he accompanied the ominous word by delicately and significantly pointing to the jugular under his ear. The man had been hanged for sheep-stealing!

It must always be amusing for Scotsmen to meet in distant lands, and there to play off on each other the same dry, quaint humour which delighted them in their native land, and in their early days at home. An illustration of this remark has been communicated by a kind correspondent at Glasgow. Mrs Hume, a true Scot, sends me the following dialogue, accompanied by a very clever etching of the parties, from the Melbourne Punch, August 17, 1871, headed "Too Poor—Night of W’averley Concert."

Southron.—You here, Mac! you ought to have been at the concert, you know. Aren’t you one of the ‘Scots wha hae?’

Mac.—Indeed Indeed no. I’m ane o’ the Scots wha hae na, or I wadna be here the nicht.

He would not have stayed at home if he had been one of the "Scots wha hae."

I am assured that the genuineness of the following anecdote is unquestionable, as my informant received it from the person to whom it occurred. A popular Anglican Nonconformist minister was residing with a family in Glasgow while on a visit to that city, whither he had gone on a deputation from the Wesleyan Missionary Society. After dinner, in reply to an invitation to partake of some fine fruit, he mentioned to the family a curious circumstance concerning himself, viz., that he had never in his life tasted an apple, pear, grape, or indeed any kind of green fruit. This fact seemed to evoke considerable surprise from the company, but a cautious Scotsman, of a practical, matter-of-fact turn of mind, who had listened with much unconcern, drily remarked, "It’s a peety but ye had been in Paradise, and there micht na hae been ony faa." I have spoken elsewhere of the cool matter-of-fact manner in which the awful questions connected with the funerals of friends are often approached by Scottish people, without the least intention or purpose of being irreverent or unfeeling. By the kindness of Mr Lyon, I am enabled to give an authentic anecdote of a curious character, illustrative of this habit of mind, and I cannot do better than give it in his own words:— "An old tenant of my late father, George Lyon of Wester Ogil, many years ago, when on his deathbed, and his end near at hand, his wife thus addressed him: 'Willie, Willie, as lang as ye can speak, tell us are ye ‘or your burial-baps round or square?’ Willie having responded to this inquiry, was next asked if the murners were to have glooes (gloves) or mittens, the former being articles with fingers, the latter having only a thumbpiece; and Willie, having also answered this question, was allowed to depart in peace."

There could not be a better example of this familiar handling, without meaning offence, than one which has just been sent to me by a kind correspondent. I give her own words. "Happening to call on a poor neighbour, I asked after the children of a person who lived close by. She replied, "They’re no hame yet; gaed awa to the English kirk to get a clap o’ the heid." It was the day of confirmation for St Paul’s. This definition of the ‘outward and visible sign’ would look rather odd in the catechism. But the poor woman said it from no disrespect; it was merely her way of answering my question." But remarks on serious subjects often go to deeper views of religious matters than might be expected from the position of the parties and the terms made use of.

Of the wise and shrewd judgment of the Scottish character, as bearing upon religious pretensions, I have an apt example from my friend Dr Norman Macleod. During one of the late revivals in Scotland, a small farmer went about preaching with much fluency and zeal the doctrine of a "full assurance" of faith, and expressed his belief of it for himself in such extravagant terms as few men would venture upon who were humble and cautious against presumption. The "preacher," being personally rather remarkable as a man of greedy and selfish views in life, excited some suspicion in the breast of an old sagacious countryman, a neighbour of Dr Macleod, who asked him what he thought of John as a preacher, and of his doctrine. Scratching his head, as if in some doubt, he replied, "I’m no verra sure o’ Jock. I never ken’t a man sae sure o’ Heaven, and sae sweert to be gaing tae’t." He showed his sagacity, for John was soon after in prison for theft.

Another story gives a good idea of the Scottish matter-of-fact view of things being brought to bear upon a religious question without meaning to be profane or irreverent. Dr Macleod was on a Highland loch when a storm came on which threatened serious consequences. The doctor, a large powerful man, was accompanied by a clerical friend of diminutive size and small appearance, who began to speak seriously to the boatmen of their danger, and proposed that all present should join in prayer. "Na, na," said the chief boatman; "let the little ane gang to pray, but first the big ane maun tak an oar." Illustrative of the same spirit was the reply of a Scotsman of the genuine old school, "Boatie" of Deeside, of whom I have more to say, to a relative of mine. He had been nearly lost in a squall, and saved after great exertion, and was told by my aunt that he should be grateful to providence for his safety. The man, not meaning to be at all ungrateful, but viewing his preservation in the purely hard matter-of-fact light, quietly answered, "Weel, weel, Mrs Russell; Providence here or Providence there, an I hadna worked sair mysell I had been drouned."

Old Mr Downie, the parish minister of Banchory, was noted, in my earliest days, for his quiet pithy remarks on men and things, as they came before him. His reply to his son, of whose social position he had no very exalted opinion, was of this class. Young Downie had come to visit his father from the West Indies, and told him that on his return he was to be married to a lady whose high qualities and position he spoke of in extravagant terms. He assured his father that she was "quite young, was very rich, and very beautiful." "Aweel, Jemmy," said the old man, very quietly and very slily, "I’m thinking there maun be some faut." Of the dry sarcasm we have a good example in the quiet utterance of a good Scottish phrase by an elder of a Free Kirk lately formed. The minister was an eloquent man, and had attracted one of the town-council, who, it was known, hardly ever entered the door of a church, and now came on motives of curiosity. He wis talking very grand to some of the congregation: "Upon my word, your minister is a very eloquent man. Indeed, he will quite convert me." One of the elders, taking the word in a higher sense than the speaker intended, quietly replied, "Indeed, Bailie, there’s muckle need."

A kind correspondent sends me an illustration of this quaint matter-of-fact view of a question as affecting the sentiments or the feelings. He tells me he knew an old lady who was a stout large woman, and who with this state of body had many ailments, which she bore cheerfully and patiently. When asked one day by a friend, "How she was keeping," she replied, "Ou, just middlling; there’s ower muckle o’ me to be a’ weel at ae time." No Engishwoman would have given such an answer. The same class of character is very strongly marked in a story which was told by Mr Thomas Constable, who has a keen appreciation of a good Scottish story, and tells it inimitably. He used to visit an old lady who was much attenuated by long illness, and on going upstairs one tremendously hot afternoon, the daughter was driving away the flies, which were very troublesome, and was saying, "Thae flies will eat up a’ that remains o’ my puir mither." The old lady opened her eyes, and the last words she spoke were, "What’s left o’ me’s guid eneuch for them."

The spirit of caution and wariness by which the Scottish character is supposed to be distinguished has given rise to many of these national anecdotes.

Certainly this cautious spirit thus pervaded the opinions of the Scottish architect who was called upon to erect a building in England upon the long-lease system, so common with Anglican proprietors, but quite new to our Scottish friend. When he found the proposal was to build upon the tenure of 999 years, he quietly suggested, "Culd ye no mak it a thousand? 999 years'll be slippin’ awa’."

But of all the cautious and careful answers we ever heard of was one given by a carpenter to an old lady in Glasgow, for whom he was working, and the anecdote is well authenticated. She had offered him a dram, and asked him whether he would have it then or wait till his work was done: "Indeed, mem," he said, "there’s been sic a power o’ sudden deaths lately that I’ll just tak’ it now." He would guard against contingency and secure his dram.

The following is a good specimen of the same humour:— A minister had been preaching against covetousness and the love of money, and had frequently repeated how "love of money was the root of all evil." Two old bodies walking home from church - one said, "An’ wasna the minister strang upo’ the money?" "Nae doubt," said the other, rather hesitatingly; and added, "ay, but it’s grand to hae the wee bit siller in your haund when ye gang an errand."

I have still another specimen of this national, cool, and deliberative view of a question, which seems characteristic of the temperament of our good countrymen. Some time back, when it was not uncommon for challenges to be given and accepted for insults, or supposed insults, an English gentleman was entertaining a party at Inverness with an account of the wonders he had seen and the deeds he had performed in India, from whence he had lately arrived. He enlarged particularly upon the size of the tigers he had met with at different times in his travels, and by way of corroborating his statements, assured the company that he had shot one himself considerably above forty feet long. A Scottish gentleman present, who thought that these narratives rather exceeded a traveller’s allowed privileges, coolly said that no doubt those were very remarkable tigers; but that he could assure the gentleman there were in that northern part of the country some wonderful animals, and, as an example, he cited the existence of a skate-fish captured off Thurso, which exceeded half-an-acre in extent. The Englishman saw this was intended as a sarcasm against his own story, so he left the room in indignation, and sent his friend, according to the old plan, to demand satisfaction or an apology from the gentleman, who had, he thought, insulted him. The narrator of the skate story coolly replied, "Weel, sir, gin yer freend will tak’ a few feet aff the length o’ his tiger, we’ll see what can be dune about the breadth o’ the skate." He was too cautious to commit himself to a rash or decided course of conduct. When the tiger was shortened, he would take into consideration a reduction of superficial area in his skate.

A kind correspondent has sent me about as good a specimen of dry Scottish quiet humour as I know. A certain Aberdeenshire laird, who kept a very good poultry-yard, could not command a fresh egg for his breakfast, and felt much aggrieved by the want. One day, however, he met his grieve’s wife with a nice basket, and very suspiciously going towards the market; on passing and speaking a word, he was enabled to discover that her basket was full of beautiful white eggs. Next time he talked with his grieve, he said to him, "James, I like you very well, and I think you serve me faithfully, but I cannot say I admire your wife." To which the cool reply was, "Oh, ‘deed, sir, I’m no’ surprised at that, for I dinna muckle admire her mysel'."

An answer very much resembling this, and as much to the point, was that of a gudewife on Deeside, whose daughter had just been married and had left her for her new home. A lady asked the mother very kindly about her daughter, and said she hoped she liked her new home and new relations. "Ou, my lady, she likes the parish weel eneuch, but she doesna think muckle o’ her man!"

The natives of Aberdeenshire are distinguished for the two qualities of being very acute in their remarks and very peculiar in their language. Any one may still gain a thorough knowledge of Aberdeen dialect and see capital examples of Aberdeen humour. I have been supplied with a remarkable example of this combination of Aberdeen shrewdness with Aberdeen dialect. In the course of the week after the Sunday on which several elders of an Aberdeen parish had been set apart for parochial offices, a knot of the parishioners had assembled at what was in all parishes a great place of resort for idle gossiping—the smiddy or blacksmith’s workshop. The qualifications of the new elders were severely criticised. One of the speakers emphatically laid down that the minister should not have been satisfied, and had in fact made a most unfortunate choice. He was thus answered by another parish oracle-perhaps the schoolmaster, perhaps a weaver: "Fat better culd the man dee nir he’s dune? He bud tae big’s dyke wi’ the feal at fit o’t." He meant there was no choice of material—he could only take what offered.

By the kindness of Dr Begg, I have a most amusing anecdote to illustrate how deeply long-tried associations were mixed up with the habits of life in the older generation. A junior minister having to assist at a church in a remote part of Aberdeenshire, the parochial minister (one of the old school) promised his young friend a good glass of whisky-toddy after all was over, adding silly and very significantly, "and gude smuggled whusky." His Southron guest thought it incumbent to say, "Ah, minister, that’s wrong, is it not? You know it is contrary to Act of Parliament." The old Aberdonian could not so easily give up his fine whisky to what he considered an unjust interference; so he quietly said, "Oh, Acts o’ Parliament lose their breath before they get to Aberdeenshire."

There is something very amusing in the idea of what may be called the "fitness of things," in regard to snuff-taking, which occurred to an honest Highlander, a genuine lover of sneeshin. At the door of the Blait-Athole Hotel he observed standing a magnificent man in full tartans, and noticed with much admiration the wide dimensions of his nostrils in a fine upturned nose. He accosted him, and, as his most complimentary act, offered him his mull for a pinch. The stranger drew up, and rather haughtily said: "I never take snuff." "Oh," said the other, "that’s a peety, for there’s grand acommodation! "

I don’t know a better example of the sly sarcasm than the following answer of a Scottish servant to the violent cornmand of his enraged master. A well-known coarse and abusive Scottish law functionary, when driving out of his grounds, was shaken by his carriage coming in contact with a large stone at the gate. He was very angry, and ordered the gatekeeper to have it removed before his return. On driving home, however, he encountered another severe shock by the wheels coming in contact with the very same stone, which remained in the very same place. Still more irritated than before, in his usual coarse language he called the gatekeeper, and roared out: "You rascal, if you don’t send that beastly stone to h—, I’ll break your head." "Well," said the man quietly, and as if he had received an order which he had to execute, and without meaning anything irreverent, "aiblins gin it were sent to heevan it wad be mair out o'' your Lordship’s way."

I think about as cool a Scottish "aside" as I know, was that of the old dealer who, when exhorting his son to practise honesty in his dealings, on the ground of its being the "best policy," quietly added, "I hae tried baith."

In this work frequent mention is made of a class of old ladies, generally residing in small towns, who retained till within the memory of many now living the special characteristics I have referred to. Owing to local connection, I have brought forward those chiefly who lived in Montrose and the neighbourhood. But the race is extinct; you might as well look for hoops and farthingales in society as for such characters now. You can scarcely imagine an old lady, however quaint, now making use of some of the expressions recorded in the text, or saying, for the purpose of breaking up a party of which she was tired, from holding bad cards," We’ll stop now, bairns; I’m no enterteened;" or urging more haste in going to church on the plea, "Come awa, or I’ll be ower late for the ‘wicked man’"—her mode of expressing the commencement of the service.

Nothing could better illustrate the quiet pawky style for which our countrymen have been distinguished, than the old story of the piper and the wolves. A Scottish piper was passing through a deep forest. In the evening he sat down to take his supper. He had hardly begun, when a number of hungry wolves, prowling about for food, collected round him. In self-defence, the poor man began to throw pieces of his victuals to them, which they greedily devoured. When he had disposed of all, in a fit of despair he took his pipes and began to play. The unusual sound terrified the wolves, which, one and all, took to their heels and scampered off in every direction: on observing which, Sandy quietly remarked, "Od, an I’d kenned ye liket the pipes sae weel, I’d a gien ye a spring afore supper."

This imperturbable mode of looking at the events of life is illustrated by perhaps the most cautious answer on record, of the Scotsman who, being asked if he could play the fiddle, warily answered, "He couldna say, for he had never tried." But take other cases. For example: One tremendously hot day, during the old stage-coach system, I was going down to Portobello, when the coachman drew up to take in a gentleman who had hailed him on the road. He was evidently an Englishman—a fat man, and in a perfect state of "thaw and dissolution" from the heat and dust. He wiped himself, and exclaimed, as a remark addressed to the company generally, "D—d hot it is." No one. said anything for a time, till a man in the corner slily remarked, "I dinna doubt, sir, but it may." The cautiousness against committing himself unreservedly to any proposition, however plausible, was quite delicious.

A more determined objection to giving a categorical answer occurred, as I have been assured, in regard to a more profound question. A party travelling on a railway got into deep discussion on theological questions. Like Milton’s spirits in Pandemonium, they had

"Reason’d high
Of providence, fore-knowledge, will, and fate
Fix’d fate, free-will, fore-knowledge absolute;
And found no end, in wand’ring mazes lost."

A plain Scotsman present seemed much interested in these matters, and having expressed himself as not satisfied with the explanations which had been elicited in the course of discussion on a particular point regarding predestination, one of the party said to him that he had observed a minister, whom they all knew, in the adjoining compartment, and that when the train stopped at the next station a few minutes, he could go and ask his opinion. The good man accordingly availed himself of the opportunity to get hold of the minister, and lay their difficulty before him. He returned in time to resume his own place, and when they had started again, the gentleman who had advised him, finding him not much disposed to voluntary communication, asked if he had seen the minister.

"Oh ay, he said, he had seen him. And did you propose the question to him?" "O ay." "And what did he say?" "Oh, he just said he didna ken; and what was mair he didna care!"

I have received the four following admirable anecdotes, illustrative of dry Scottish pawky humour, from an esteemed minister of the Scottish Church, the Rev. W. Mearns of Kinneff. I now record them nearly in the same words as his own kind communication. The anecdotes are as follows :—An aged minister of the old school, Mr Patrick Stewart, one Sunday took to the pulpit a sermon without observing that the first leaf or two were so worn and eaten away that he couldn’t decipher or announce the text. He was not a man, however, to be embarrassed or taken aback by a matter of this sort, but at once intimated the state of matters to the congregation: "My brethren, I canna tell ye the text, for the mice hae eaten it; but we’ll just begin whaur the mice left aff, and when I come to it I’ll let you ken."

In the year 1843, shortly after the Disruption, a parish minister had left the manse and removed to about a mile’s distance. His pony got loose one day, and galloped down the road in the direction of the old glebe. The minister’s man in charge ran after the pony in a great fuss, and when passing a large farmsteading on the way, cried out to the farmer, who was sauntering about, but did not know what had taken place: "Oh, sir, did ye see the minister’s shault?" "No, no," was the answer, "but what’s happened?" "Ou, sir, fat do ye think? the minister’s shault’s got lowse frae his tether, an’ I’m frichtened he’s ta’en the road doun to the auld glebe." "Weel-a-wicht!" was the shrewd clever rejoinder of the farmer, who was a keen, supporter of the old parish church, "I wad na wonder at that. An’ I’se warrant, gin the minister was gettin’ lowse frae his tether, he wad just tak’ the same road."

An old clerical friend upon Speyside, a confirmed bachelor, on going up to the pulpit one Sunday to preach, found, after giving out the psalm, that he had forgotten his sermon. I do not know what his objections were to his leaving the pulpit, and going to the manse for his sermon, but he preferred sending his old confidential housekeeper for it. He accordingly stood up in the pulpit, stopped the singing which had commenced, and thus accosted his faithful domestic: "Annie; I say, Annie, we’ve committed a mistak’ the day. Ye maun just gang your waa’s hame, and ye’ll get my sermon oot o' my breekpouch, an’ we’ll sing to the praise o’ the Lord till ye come back again." Annie, of course, at once executed her important mission, and brought the sermon out of "the breekpouch," and the service, so far as we heard, was completed without further interruption.

My dear friend, the late Rev. Dr John Hunter, told me an anecdote very characteristic of the unimaginative matter-of-fact Scottish view of matters. One of the ministers of Edinburgh, a man of dry humour, had a daughter who had for some time passed the period of youth and of beauty. She had become an Episcopalian, an event which the Doctor accepted with much good-nature, and he was asking her one day if she did not intend to be confirmed. "Well," she said, "I don’t know. I understand Mr Craig always kisses the candidates whom he prepares, and I could not stand that." "Indeed, Jeanie," said the Doctor slily, "gin Edward Craig were to gie ye a kiss, I dinna think ye would be muckle the waur."

Many anecdotes characteristic of the Scottish peasant often turn upon words and ideas connected with Holy Scripture. This is not to be considered as in any sense profane or irreverent; but it arises from the Bible being to the peasantry of an older generation their library__their only book. We have constant indications of this almost exclusive familiarity with Scripture ideas. At the late ceremonial in the north, when the Archbishop of Canterbury laid the foundation of a Bishop’s Church at Inverness, a number of persons, amid the general interest and kindly feeling displayed by the inhabitants, were viewing the procession from a hill as it passed along. When the clergy, to the number of sixty, came on, an old woman, who was watching the whole scene with some jealousy, exclaimed, at sight of the surplices, "There they go, the whited sepulchres! " I received another anecdote illustrative of the same remark from an esteemed minister of the Free Church: I mean of the hold which Scripture expressions have upon the minds of our Scottish peasantry. One of his flock was a sick nervous woman, who hardly ever left the house. But one fine afternoon, when she was left alone, she fancied she would like to get a little air in the field adjoining the house. Accordingly she put on a bonnet and wrapped herself in a huge red shawl. Creeping along the dykeside, some cattle were attracted towards her, and first one and then another gathered round, and she took shelter in the ditch till she was relieved by some one coming up to her rescue. She afterwards described her feelings to her minister in strong language, adding, "And eh, sir! when I lay by the dyke, and the beasts round a’ glowerin’ at me, I thocht what Dauvid maun hae felt when he said—’ Many bulls have compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.’"

With the plainness and pungency of the old-fashioned Scottish language there was sometimes a coarseness of expression, which, although commonly repeated in the Scottish drawing-room of last century, could not now be tolerated. An example of a very plain and downright address of a laird has been recorded in the annals of "Forfarshire Lairdship." He had married one of the Misses Guthrie, who had a strong feeling towards the Presbyterian faith in which she had been brought up, although her husband was one of the zealous old school of Episcopalians. The young wife had invited her old friend, the parish minister, to tea, and had given him a splendid "four hours." Ere the table was cleared the laird came in unexpectedly and thus expressed his indignation, not very delicately, at what he considered an unwarrantable exercise of hospitality at his cost: "Helen Guthrie, ye’ll no think to save, yer ain saul at the expense of my meal-girnel!"

The answer of an old woman under examination by the minister to the question from the Shorter Catechism—"What are the decrees of God?" could not have been surpassed by the General Assembly of the Kirk, or even the Synod of Dort—" Indeed, sir, He kens that best Himsell." We have an answer analagous to that, though not so pungent, in a catechumen of the late Dr Johnston of Leith. She answered his own question, patting him on the shoulder: "‘Deed, just tell it yersell, bonny doctor (he was a very handsome man); naebody can tell it better."

To pass from the answers of "persons come to years of discretion "—I have elsewhere given examples of peculiar traits of character set forth in the answers of mere children, and no doubt a most amusing collection might be made of very juvenile "Scottish Reminiscences." One of these is now a very old story, and has long been current amongst us :—A little boy who attended a day-school in the neighbourhood, when he came home in the evening was always asked how he stood in his own class. The invariable answer made was, "I’m second dux," which means in Scottish academical language second from the top of the class. As his habits of application at home did not quite bear out the claim to so distinguished a position at school, one of the family ventured to ask what was the number in the class to which he was attached. After some hesitation he was obliged to admit: "Ou, there’s jist me and anither lass." It was a very practical answer of the little girl, when asked the meaning of "darkness," as it occurred in Scripture reading: "Ou, just steek your een." On the question, What was the "pestilence that walketh in darkness"? being put to a class, a little boy answered, after consideration: "Ou, it’s just bugs." I did not anticipate when in a former edition I introduced this answer, which I received from my nephew, Sir Alexander Ramsay, that it would call forth a comment so interesting as one which I have received from Dr Barber of Ulverston. He sends me an extract from Matthew’s Translation of the Bible, which he received from Rev. L. R. Ayre, who possesses a copy of date 1553, from which it appears that Psalm xci. 5 was thus translated by Matthew, who adopted his translation from Coverdale and Tyndale:— "So that thou shalt not need to be afrayed for any bugge by nyght, nor for the arrow that flyeth by day." Dr Barber ingeniously remarks: "Is it possible the little boy’s mother had one of these old Bibles, or is it merely a coincidence?"

The innocent and unsophisticated answers of children on serious subjects are often very amusing. Many examples are recorded, and one I have received seems much to the point, and derives a good deal of its point from the Scottish turn of the expressions. An elder of the kirk having found a little boy and his sister playing marbles on Sunday, put his reproof in this form, not a judicious one for a child: "Boy, do ye know where children go to who play marbles on Sabbath-day?" "Ay," said the boy, "they gang doun to the field by the water below the brig." "No," roared out the elder, "they go to hell, and are burned." The little fellow, really shocked, called to his sister, "Come awa’, Jeanie, here’s a man swearing awfully."

A Scotch story like that of the little boy, of which the humour consisted in the dry application of the terms in a sense different from what was intended by the speaker, was sent to me, but has got spoilt by passing through the press. It must be Scotch, or at least, is composed of Scottish materials—The Shorter Catechism and the bagpipes. A piper was plying his trade in the streets, and a strict elder of the kirk, desirous to remind him that it was a somewhat idle and profitless occupation, went up to him and proposed solemnly the first question of the Shorter Catechism, "What is the chief end of man?" The good piper, thinking only of his own business, and supposing that the question had reference to some pipe melody, innocently answered, "Na, I dinna ken the tune, but if ye’ll whistle it I’ll try and play it for ye."

I have said before, and I would repeat the remark again and again, that the object of this work is not to string together mere funny stories, or to collect amusing anecdotes. We have seen such collections, in which many of the anecdotes are mere Joe Millers translated into Scotch. The purport of these pages has been throughout to illustrate Scottish life and character, by bringing forward those modes and forms of expression by which alone our national peculiarities can be familiarly illustrated and explained. Besides Scottish replies and expressions which are most characteristic—and in fact unique for dry humour, for quaint and exquisite wit—I have often referred to a consideration of dialect and proverbs. There can be no doubt there is a force and beauty in our Scottish phraseology, as well as a quaint humour, considered merely as phraseology, peculiar to itself. I have spoken of the phrase "Auld langsyne," and of other words, which may be compared in their Anglican and Scottish form. Take the familiar term common to many singing birds. The English word linnet does not, to my mind, convey so much of simple beauty and of pastoral ideas as belong to our Scottish word LINTIE.

I recollect hearing the Rev. Dr Norman Macleod give a most interesting account of his visit to Canada. In the course of his eloquent narrative he mentioned a conversation he had with a Scottish emigrant, who in general terms spoke favourably and gratefully of his position in his adopted country. But he could not help making this exception when he thought of the "banks and braes o’ bonny Doon "—" But oh, sir," he said, "there are nae linties i’ the wuds." How touching the words in his own dialect! The North American woods, although full of birds of beautiful plumage, it is well known have no singing-birds.

A worthy Scottish Episcopal minister one day met a townsman, a breeder and dealer in singing-birds. The man told him he had just had a child born in his family, and asked him if he would baptize it. He thought the minister could not resist the offer of a bird. "Eh, Maister Shaw," he said, "if ye’ll jist do it, I hae a fine lintie the noo, and if ye’ll do it, I’ll gie ye the lintie." He quite thought that this would settle the matter!

By these remarks I mean to express the feeling that the word lintie conveys to my mind more of tenderness and endearment towards the little songster than linnet. And this leads me to a remark (which I do not remember to have met with) that Scottish dialects are peculiarly rich in such terms of endearment, more so than the pure Anglican. Without at all pretending to exhaust the subject, I may cite the following as examples of the class of terms I speak of. Take the names for parents—" Daddie" and "Minnie"; names for children, "My wee bit lady" or "laddie," "My wee bit lamb"; of a general nature, "My ain kind dearie." "Dawtie," especially used to young people, described by Jamieson a darling or favourite, one who is dawted, i.e., fondled or caressed. My "joe" expresses affection with familiarity, evidently derived from joy, an easy transition—as "My Joe, Janet"; "John Anderson, my joe, John." Of this character is Burns’s address to a wife, "My winsome"—i.e., charming, engaging—"wee thing"; also to a wife, "My winsome marrow "—the latter word signifying a dear companion, one of a pair closely allied to each other; also the address of Rob the Ranter to Maggie Lauder, "My bonnie bird." Now, we would remark, upon this abundant nomenclature of kindly expressions in the Scottish dialect, that it assumes an interesting position as taken in connection with the Scottish Life and Character, and as a set-off against a frequent short and grumpy manner. It indicates how often there must be a current of tenderness and affection in the Scottish heart, which is so frequently represented to be, like its climate, "stern and wild." There could not be such terms were the feelings they express unknown. I believe it often happens that in the Scottish character there is a vein of deep and kindly feeling lying hid under a short, and hard and somewhat stern manner. Hence has arisen the Scottish saying which is applicable to such cases—" His girn’s waun than his bite": his disposition is of a softer nature than his words and manner would often lead you to suppose.

There are two admirable articles in Blackwood’s Magazine, in the numbers for November and December 1870, upon this subject. The writer abundantly vindicates the point and humour of the Scottish tongue. Who can resist, for example, the epithet applied by Meg Merrilies to an unsuccessful probationer for admission to the ministry :—"a sticket stibbler"? Take the sufficiency of Holy Scripture as a pledge for any one’s salvation:—"There’s eneuch between the brods o’ the Testament to save the biggest sinner i’ the warld." I heard an old Scottish Episcopalian thus pithily describe the hasty and irreverent manner of a young Englishman:—"He ribbled aff the prayers like a man at the heid o’ a regiment." A large family of young children has been termed "a great sma’ family." It was a delicious dry rejoinder to the question— "Are you Mr So-and-so?" "It’s a’ that’s o’ me" (i.e., to be had for him). I have heard an old Scottish gentleman direct his servant to mend the fire by saying, "I think, Dauvid, we wadna be the waur o’ some coals."

There is a pure Scottish term, which I have always thought more expressive than any English word of ideas connected with manners in society—I mean the word to blether, or blethering, or blethers. Jamieson defines it to "talk nonsense." But it expresses far more—it expresses powerfully, to Scottish people, a person at once shallow, chattering, conceited, tiresome, voluble.

There is a delicious servantgirlism, often expressed in an answer given at the door to an inquirer: "Is your master at home, or mistress?" as the case may be. The problem is to save the direct falsehood, and some time ceased to be cultivated with much ardour, yet evade the visit; so the answer is: "Ay, he or she is at hame but he’s no in."

The transition from Scottish expressions to Scottish Poetry is easy and natural. In fact, the most interesting feature now belonging to Scottish life and social habits is, to a certain extent, becoming with many a matter of reminiscence of Poetry in the Scottish dialect, as being the most permanent and the most familiar feature of Scottish characteristics. It is becoming a matter of history, in so far as we find that it has for or to attract much popularity. In fact, since the time of Burns, it has been losing its hold on the public mind. It is a remarkable fact that neither Scott nor Wilson, both admirers of Burns, both copious writers of poetry themselves, both also so distinguished as writers of Scottish prose, should have written any poetry strictly in the form of pure Scottish dialect. "Jock o’ Hazeldean" I hardly admit to be an exception. It is not Scottish. If, indeed, Sir Walter wrote the scrap of the beautiful ballad in the "Antiquary"—

"Now haud your tongue, baith wife and carle
And listen, great and sma’,
And I will sing of Glenallan’s Earl,
That fought at the red Harlaw"—

one cannot but regret that he had not written more of the same. Campbell, a poet and a Scotsman, has not attempted it. In short, we do not find poetry in the Scottish dialect at all kept up in Scotland. It is every year becoming more a matter of research and reminiscence. Nothing new is added to the old stock, and indeed it is surprising to see the ignorance and want of interest displayed by many young persons in this department of literature. How few read the works of Allan Ramsay, once so popular, and still so full of pastoral imagery! There are occasionally new editions of the Gentle Shepherd, but I suspect for a limited class of readers. I am assured the boys of the High School, Academy, etc., do not care even for Burns. As poetry in the Scottish dialect is thus slipping away from the public Scottish mind, I thought it very suitable to a work of this character to supply a list of modern Scottish dialect writers. This I am able to provide by the kindness of our distinguished antiquary, Mr David Laing—the fulness and correctness of whose acquirements are only equalled by his readiness and courtesy in communicating his information to others :—

SCOTTISH POETS OF THE LAST CENTURY.

ALLAN RAMSAY. B. 1686. D. 1757. His Gentle Shepherd, completed in 1725, and his Collected Poems in 1721-1728.

It cannot be said there was any want of successors, however obscure, following in the same track. Those chiefly deserving of notice were:—

ALEXANDER Ross of Lochlee. B. 1700. D. 1783. The Fortunate Shepherdess.
ROBERT FERGUSSON. B. 1750. D. 1774. Leith Races, Caller Oysters, etc.
Rev. JOHN
SKINNER. B. 1721. D. 1807. Tullochgorum.
ROBERT BURNS. B. 1759. D. 1796.
ALEXANDER, FOURTH DUKE OF GORDON.
B. D. 1827. Cauld Kail in Aberdeen.
ALEXANDER WILSON of Paisley, who latterly distinguished himself as an American ornithologist. B. 1766. D.1813 Watty and Meg.
HECTOR MACNEILL. B. 1746. D. 1818. Will and Jean.
ROBERT TANNAHILL. B. 1774. D. 1850. Songs.
JAMES l-{OGG. B. 1772. D. 1835.
ALLAN CUNNINGHAM.
B. 1784. D. 1842.

To this list we must add the names of Lady Nairne and Lady Anne Lindsay. To the former we are indebted for "The Land o’ the Leal," "The Laird o’ Cockpen," and "The Auld Hoose"; to the latter for "Auld Robin Gray": and our wonder is, how those who could write so charmingly should have written so little.

I have no intention of discussing the general question of Scottish poetry—of defending or eulogising, or of apologising for anything belonging to it. There are songs in broad Scottish dialect of which the beauty and the power will never be lost. Words of Burns, Allan Ramsay, and Lady Nairne, must ever speak to hearts that are true to nature. I am desirous of bringing before my readers at this time the name of a Scottish poet, which, though in Mr Lang’s list, I fear is become rather a reminiscence. It is fifty years since his poetical pieces were published in a collected form. I am desirous. of giving a special notice of a true-hearted Scotsman, and a genuine Scottish poet, under both characters. I look with a tender regard to the memory of the Rev. JOHN SKINNER of Langside. He has written little in quantity, but it is all charming. He was a good Christian minister. He was a man of learning—a man of liberal and generous feeling. In addition to all this, he has upon me the claim of having been a Scottish Episcopalian divine, and I am always rejoiced to see among learned men of our church sympathies with liberalism, besides what is patristic and theological. John Skinner’s name and family are much mixed up with our church. "Tullochgorum" was father of Primus John Skinner, and grandfather of Primus W. Skinner and of the Rev. John Skinner of Forfar. The youngest brother of Tullochgorum was James Skinner, W.S., who died at ninety-one, and was grandfather of W. Skinner, W.S., Edinburgh. The Rev. J. Skinner was born in Birse, a wild part of Aberdeenshire, 1721. His father was parochial schoolmaster at Gight for nearly fifty years. He worked hard under the care of his father, who was a good Latin scholar. He gained a bursary at Aberdeen, where he studied. When he left college he became schoolmaster at Monymusk, where he wrote some pieces that attracted attention, and Sir Archibald Grant took him into the house, and allowed him the full use of a very line library. He made good use of this opportunity, and indeed became a fair scholar and theologian. Skinner had been brought up a Presbyterian, but at Monymusk found reasons for changing his views. In June 1740 he became tutor to the only son of Mrs Sinclair in Shetland. Returning to Aberdeenshire in 1741, he completed his studies for the ministry, was ordained by Bishop Dunbar, and in 1742 became pastor of Langside. He worked for this little congregation for nearly sixty-five years, and they were happy and united under his pastoral charge. One very interesting incident took place during his ministry, which bears upon our general question of reminiscences and changes. John Skinner was in his own person an example of that persecution for political opinion referred to in Professor Macgregor’s account of the large prayer-book in the library at Panmure. After the '45, Episcopalians were treated with suspicion and severity. The severe laws passed against Jacobites were put in force, and poor Skinner fined.

However, better and more peaceful times came round, and all that John Skinner had undergone did not sour his temper or make him severe or misanthropical. As a pastor he seems to have had tact, as well as good temper, in the management of his flock, if we may judge from the following anecdote:— Talking with an obstinate self-confident farmer, when the conversation happened to turn on the subject of the motion of the earth, the farmer would not be convinced that the earth moved at all. "Hoot, minister," the man roared out, "d’ye see the earth never gaes oot o’ the pairt, and it maun be that the sun gaes round: we a’ ken he rises i’ the east and sets i’ the west." Then, as if to silence all argument, he added triumphantly, "As if the sun didna gae round the earth, when it is said in Scripture that the Lord commanded the sun to stand still!" Mr Skinner, finding it was no use to argue further, quietly answered, "Ay, it’s verra true; the sun was commanded to stand still, and there he stands still, for Joshua never tauld him to tak’ the road again." I have said John Skinner wrote little Scottish poetry, but what he wrote was rarely good. His prose works extended over three volumes when they were collected by his son, the Bishop of Aberdeen, but we have no concern with them. His poetical pieces, by which his name will never die in Scotland, are the "Reel of Tullochgorum" and the "Ewie with the Crooked Horn," charming Scottish songs—one the perfection of the lively, the other of the pathetic. It is quite enough to say of "Tullochgorum" (by which the old man is now always designated), what was said of it by Robert Burns, as the first of songs," and as the best Scotch song Scotland ever saw.

I have brought in the following anecdote, exactly as it appeared in the Scotsman of October 4, 1859, because it introduces his name.

"The late Rev. John Skinner, author of ‘Annals of Scottish Episcopacy,’ was his grandson. He was first appointed to a charge in Montrose, from whence he was removed to Banff, and ultimately to Forfar. After he had left Montrose, it reached his ears that an ill-natured insinuation was circulating there that he had been induced to leave this town by the temptation of a better income and of fat pork, which, it would appear, was plentiful in the locality of his new incumbency. Indignant at such an aspersion, he wrote a letter, directed to his maligners, vindicating himself sharply from it, which he showed to his grandfather, John Skinner of Langside, for his approval. The old gentleman objected to it as too lengthy, and proposed the following pithy substitute:—

"‘Had Skinner been of carnal mind,
As strangely ye suppose,
Or had he even been fond of swine,
He’d ne’er have left Montrose.’"

But there is an anecdote of John Skinner which should endear his memory to every generous and loving heart. On one occasion he was passing a small dissenting place of worship at the time when the congregation were engaged in singing: on passing the door—old-fashioned Scottish Episcopalian as he was—he reverently took off his hat. His companion said to him, "What! do you feel so much sympathy with this Anti-Burgher congregation?" "No," said Mr Skinner, "but I respect and love any of my fellow Christians who are engaged in singing to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ." Well done, old Tullochgorum! thy name shall be loved and honoured by every true liberal-minded Scotsman.

Yes! Mr Skinner’s experience of the goodness of God and of the power of grace, had led him to the conviction that the earnest song of praise, that comes from the heart of the sincere believer in Christ, can go up to Heaven from the humblest earthly house of prayer, and be received before the throne of grace as acceptably as the high and solemn service of the lofty cathedral,

"Where, from the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault,
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise."

We must firmly believe that, obsolete as the dialect of Scotland may become, and its words and expressions a matter of tradition and of reminiscence with many, still there are Scottish lines, and broad Scottish lines, which can never cease to hold their place in the affections and the admiration of innumerable hearts whom they have charmed. Can the choice and popular Scottish verses, endeared to us by so many kindly associations of the past, and by so many beauties and poetical graces of their own, ever lose their attractions for a Scottish heart? The charm of such strains can never die.

I think one subsidiary pause for permanency in the popularity still belonging to particular Scottish songs has proceeded from their association with Scottish music. The melodies of Scotland can never die. In the best of these compositions there is a pathos and a feeling which must preserve them, however simple in their construction, from being vulgar or commonplace. Mendelssohn did not disdain taking Scottish airs as themes for the exercise of his profound science and his exquisite taste. It must, I think, be admitted that singing of Scottish songs in the perfection of their style -at once pathetic, graceful, and characteristic— is not so often met with as to remove all apprehension that ere long they may become matters only of reminiscence. Many accomplished musicians often neglect entirely the cultivation of their native melodies, under the idea of their being inconsistent with the elegance and science of high-class music. They commit a mistake. When judiciously and tastefully performed, it is a charming style of music, and will always give pleasure to the intelligent hearer. I have heard two young friends, who have attained great skill in scientific and elaborate compositions, execute the simple song of "Low down in the Broom," with an effect I shall not easily forget. Who that has heard the Countess of Essex, when Miss Stephens, sing "Auld Robin Gray," can ever lose the impression of her heart touching notes? In the case of "Auld Robin Gray," the song composed by Lady Anne Lindsay, although very beautiful in itself, has been, I think, a good deal indebted to the air for its great and continued popularity. The history of that tender and appropriate melody is somewhat curious, and not generally known. The author was not a Scotsman. It was composed by the Rev. Mr Leves, rector of Wrington in Somerset-shire, either early in this century or just at the close of the last. Mr Leves was fond of music, and composed several songs, but none ever gained any notice except his "Auld Robin Gray," the popularity of which has been marvellous. I knew the family when I lived in Somersetshire, and had met them in Bath. Mr Leves composed the air for his daughter, Miss Bessy Leves, who was a pretty girl and a pretty singer.

I cannot but deeply regret to think that I should in these pages have any ground for classing Scottish poetry and Scottish airs amongst "Reminiscences." It is a department of literature where, of course, there must be selection, but I am convinced it will repay a careful cultivation. I would recommend, as a copious and judicious selection of Scottish tunes, "The Scottish Minstrel." by R. A. Smith (Purdie, Edinburgh). There are the words, also, of a vast number of Scottish songs, but the account of their authorship is very defective. Then, again, for the fine Scottish ballads of an older period, we have two admirable collections— one by Mr R. Chambers, and one by the late Professor Aytoun. For Scottish dialect songs of the more modern type, a copious collection will be found (exclusive of Burns and Allan Ramsay) in small volumes published by David Robertson, Glasgow, at intervals from 1832 to 1853, under the title of Whistlebinkie.

But there are more than lines of Scottish poetry which may become matter of reminiscence, and more than Scottish song melodies which may be forgotten. There are strains of Scottish PSALMODY of which it would be more sad to think that they possibly may have lost their charm and their hold with Scottish people. That such psalmody, of a peculiar Scottish class and character, has existed, no one can doubt who has knowledge or recollection of past days. In glens and retired passes, where those who fled from persecution met together—on the moors and heaths, where men suffering for their faith took refuge—in the humble worship of the cottar’s fireside—were airs of sacred Scottish melody, which were well calculated to fan the heavenward flame which was kindled in lays of the "sweet Psalmist of Israel." These psalm-tunes are in their way as peculiar as the song-tunes we have referred to. Nothing can be more touching than the description by Burns of the domestic psalmody of his father’s cottage. Mr R. Chambers, in his Life of Burns, informs us that the poet, during his father’s infirmity and after his death, had himself sometimes conducted family worship. Happy days, ere he had encountered the temptations of a world in which he had too often fallen before the solicitations of guilty passion! and then, beautifully does he describe the characteristic features of this portion of the cottar’s worship. How solemnly he enumerates the psalm-tunes usually made use of on such occasions, and discriminates the character of each :—

"They chant their artless notes in simple guise;
They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim:
Perhaps DUNDEE’S wild warbling measures rise
Or plaintive MARTYRS, worthy of the name,
Or noble ELGIN
beets the heavenward flame."

He was not, alas! always disposed in after life to reverence these sacred melodies as he had done in his youthful days. In his poem of "The Holy Fair," he less reverently adduces mention of these sacred airs :—

"Now turn the Psalms o’ David ower,
And lilt wi’ holy clangour.
O’ double verse come gie us four,
An' skirl up the Bangor."

These tunes seem to have been strictly and exclusively national. In proof of such psalmody being quite national, I have been told that many of these tunes were composed by artisans, such as builders, joiners, blacksmiths, etc.

Several of the psalm-tunes more peculiar to Scotland are no doubt of an early date. In Ravenscroft’s Psalms, published with the music in four parts in 1621, he gives the names of seven as purely Scottish—King’s Duke’s, Abbey, Dunfermline, Dundee, Glasgow, Martyrs. I was used to hear such psalmody in my early days in the parish church of Fettercairn, where we always attended during summer. It had all the simple characteristics described by Burns, and there was a heartiness and energy too in the congregation when, as he expresses it, they used to "skin up the Bangor," of which the effects still hang in my recollection. At that time there prevailed the curious custom, when some of the psalms were sung, of reading out a single line, and when that was sung another line was read, and so throughout. Thus, on singing the 50th psalm, the first line sounded thus:—"Our God shall come, and shall no more;" when that was sung, there came the next startling announcement—"Be silent, but speak out." A rather unfortunate juxtaposition was suggested through this custom, which we are assured really happened in the church of Irvine. The precentor, after having given out the first line, and having observed some members of the family from the castle struggling to get through the crowd on a sacramental occasion, cried out, "Let the noble family of Eglinton pass," and then added the line which followed the one he had just given out rather mal-apropos—-"Nor stand in sinners’ way." One peculiarity I remember, which was, closing the strain sometimes by an interval less than a semitone; instead of the half-note preceding the close or key-note, they used to take the quarter-note, the effect of which had a peculiar gurgling sound, but I never heard it elsewhere. It may be said these Scottish tunes were unscientific, and their performance rude. It may be so, but the effect was striking, as I recall it through the vista of threescore years and ten. Great advances, no doubt, have been made in Scotland in congregational psalmody; organs have in some instances been adopted; choirs have been organised with great effort by choirmasters of musical taste and skill. But I hope the spirit of PIETY, which in past times once accompanied the old Scottish psalm, whether sung in the church or at home, has not departed with the music. Its better emotions are not, I hope, to become a "Reminiscence."

There was no doubt sometimes a degree of noise in the psalmody more than was consistent with good taste, but this often proceeded from the earnestness of those who joined. I recollect at Banchory an honest fellow who sang so loud that he annoyed his fellow-worshippers, and the minister even rebuked him for "skirling" so loud. James was not quite patient under these hints, and declared to some of his friends that he was resolved to sing to the praise of God, as he said, "gin I should crack the waas o’ the houss."

Going from sacred tunes to sacred words, a good many changes have taken place in the little history of our own psalmody and hymnology. When I first came to Edinburgh, for psalms we made use of the mild and vapid new version of Tate and Brady — for hymns, almost each congregation had its own selection —and there were hymn-books of Dundee, Perth, Glasgow, etc. The Established Church used the old rough psalter, with paraphrases by Logan, etc., and a few hymns added by authority of the General Assembly. There seems to be a pretty general tendency in the Episcopal Church to adopt at present the extensive collection called "Hymns Ancient and Modern," containing 386 pieces. Copies of the words alone are to be procured for one penny, and the whole, with tunes attached, to be procured for 1s. 6d. The Hymns Ancient and Modern are not set forth with any Ecclesiastical sanction. It is supposed, however, that there will be a Hymnal published by the Church of England on authority, and if so, our Church will be likely to adopt it. The Established Church Hymnal Committee have lately sanctioned a very interesting collection of 200 pieces. The compilation has been made with liberality of feeling as well as with good taste. There are several of Neale’s translations from medieaval hymns, several from John Keble, and the whole concludes with the Te Deum taken literally from the Prayer-Book.

This mention of Scottish Psalmody and Scottish Hymnology, whether for private or for public worship, naturally brings us to a very important division of our subject; I mean the general question of reminiscences of Scottish religious feelings and observances; and first in regard to Scottish clergy.

My esteemed friend, Lord Neaves, who, it is well known, combines with his great legal knowledge and high literary acquirements a keen sense of the humorous, has sometimes pleasantly complained of my drawing so many of my specimens of Scottish humour from sayings and doings of Scottish ministers. They were a shrewd and observant race. They lived amongst their own people from year to year, and understood the Scottish type of character. Their retired habits and familiar intercourse with their parishioners gave rise to many quaint and racy communications. They were excellent men, well suited to their pastoral work, and did much good amongst their congregations; for it should be always remembered that a national church requires a sympathy and resemblance between the pastors and the flocks. Both will be found to change together. Nothing could be further from my mind in recording these stories, than the idea of casting ridicule upon such an order of men. My own feelings as a Scotsman, with all their ancestral associations, lead me to cherish their memory with pride and deep interest. I may appeal also to the fact that many contributions to this volume are voluntary offerings from distinguished clergymen of the Church of Scotland, as well as of the Free Church and of other Presbyterian communities. Indeed, no persons enjoy these stories more than ministers themselves. I recollect many years ago travelling to Perth in the old stage-coach days, and enjoying the society of a Scottish clergyman, who was a most amusing companion, and full of stories, the quaint humour of which accorded with his own disposition. When we had come through Glen Farg, my companion pointed out that we were in the parish of Dron. With much humour he introduced an anecdote of a brother minister not of a brilliant order of mind, who had terminated in this place a course of appointments in the Church, the names of which, at least, were of an ominous character for a person of unimaginative temperament. The worthy man had been brought up at the school of Dunse; had been made assistant at Dull, a parish near Aberfeldy, in the Presbytery of Weem; and here had ended his days and his clerical career as minister of Dron.

There can be no doubt that the older school of national clergy supply many of our most amusing anecdotes; and our pages would suffer deplorably were all the anecdotes taken away which turn upon their peculiarities of dialect and demeanour. I think it will be found, however, that upon no class of society has there been a greater change during the last hundred years than on the Scottish clergy as a body. This, indeed, might, from many circumstances, have been expected. The improved facilities for locomotion have had effect upon the retirement and isolation of distant country parishes, the more liberal and extended course of study at Scottish colleges, the cheaper and wider diffusion of books on general literature, of magazines, newspapers, and reviews. Perhaps, too, we may add that candidates for the ministry now more generally originate from the higher educated classes of society. But honour to the memory of Scottish ministers of the days that are gone!

The Scottish clergy, from having mixed so little with life, were often, no doubt, men of simple habits and of very childlike notions. The opinions and feelings which they expressed were often of a cast, which amongst persons of more experience, would appear to be not always quite consistent with the clerical character. In them it arose from their having nothing conventional about them. Thus I have heard of an old bachelor clergyman whose landlady declared he used to express an opinion of his dinner by the grace which he made to follow. When he had had a good dinner which pleased him, and a good glass of beer with it, he poured forth the grace, "For the riches of Thy bounty and its blessings we offer our thanks." When he had had poor fare and poor beer, his grace was, "The least of these Thy mercies."

Many examples of the dry, quaint humour of the class occur in these pages, but there could not be a finer specimen than the instance recorded in the "Annals of the Parish" of the account given by the minister of his own ordination. The ministers were all assembled for the occasion; prayers had been offered, discourses delivered, and the time for the actual ordination had come. The form is for the candidate to kneel down and receive his sacred office by the imposition of hands, i.e., the laying on of hands by the whole Presbytery. As the attendance of ministers was large, a number of hands were stretched forth, more than could quite conveniently come up to the candidate. An old minister, of the quiet jocose turn of mind we speak of, finding himself thus kept at a little distance, stretched out his walking staff and put it on the young man’s head, with the quiet remark, "That will do! Timmer to timmer "—timber to timber.

Their style of preaching, too, was no doubt often plain and homely. They had not the graces of elocution or elegance of diction. But many were faithful in their office, and preached Christ as the poor man’s friend and the Saviour of the lowly and the suffering. I have known Scottish ministers of the old school get into a careless indifferent state of ministration; I have also known the hoary head of many a Scottish minister go down to the grave a crown of glory, in his day and generation more honoured than many which had been adorned by a mitre.


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