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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland


Fencible Regiments

Regiment of the Isles
1799

No name could be more appropriate for a regiment, commanded by a Macdonald, having a number of officers and men of the same name, and nine-tenths of both composed of Islanders, than the "Regiment of the Isles." In the traditions of the Highlanders, the Isles are so associated with chivalry, deeds of valour, and chieftainship of a superior order, that their imaginations are immediately thrown back to those days when the Lords of the Isles, assuming sovereign authority over their insular domains, frequently entered into treaties, and contracted alliances, with the Kings of England. But their possessions were not confined to the Islands. They held extensive domains on the Mainland of Scotland, great part of which is to this day possessed by their descendants, Glengarry, Clanranald, Glenco, and other families of the clan. It was in the Isles, however, where they could not be so easily attacked, that they possessed their principal power. There, as petty sovereigns, they supported a sort of regal state, being equal in power to several states in Germany, and certainly exceeding many Continental principalities in the number of disposable men at arms.

It was in Islay, the most southerly of these insular possessions, that the Macdonalds had their principal residence. A small island in Loch Finlagan, in Islay, was "famous for being once the court in which the great Macdonald, King of the Isles, had his residence. His houses, chapels, &c. are now ruinous. His garde-de-corps, called Luchtach, kept guard on the lake side nearest to the isle. The walls of their houses are still to be seen there. The high court of judicature, consisting of fourteen, sat always here; and there was an appeal to them from all the courts in the Isles. The eleventh share of the sum in debate was due to the principal judge. There was a big stone of seven feet square, in which there was a deep impression made to receive the feet of Macdonald; for he was crowned King of the Isles standing in this stone, and swore that he would continue his vassals in the possession of their lands, and do exact justice to all his subjects; and then his father's sword was put into his hand. The Bishop of Argyle and seven priests anointed him King, in presence of all the heads of the tribes in the Isles and Continent who were his vassals."

The preceding account of Martin will afford some idea of the estimation in which these great Chiefs were held, and the consequent power which flowed from the devotion and ready obedience of their subjects,—a power which, in times when laws were weak and inefficient, was not always exercised for the protection of their property merely, but sometimes to invade that of others, and sometimes to oppose the laws of the realm, which the King was unable to enforce. Of these inroads, and petty insurrections, there are many instances; but in the fifteenth century, an event occurred of more than usual importance in the history of this family. Walter Leslie, of an ancient family in Aberdeenshire, married the only child and heiress of the twelfth Earl of Ross, the last of that ancient house, and had by her one son, and a daughter, Margaret. The son married a daughter of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, Governor of Scotland during the captivity of his nephew James I., and by her had an only daughter, who, being sickly and deformed, became a nun. Donald of the Isles married Margaret, daughter of the Countess of Ross, and heiress of her estate and title, when her grand-daughter became a nun; but before she took the veil, her grandfather, the Duke of Albany, prevailed upon her to make a settlement of the earldom of Ross on his son, John Stewart Earl of Buchan, afterwards Constable of France; thus setting aside the claims of her aunt Margaret. Incensed at the loss of so great a succession, the Lord of the Isles concluded a treaty of alliance with the King of England; and, supported by the Laird of Maclean, with his followers, he collected his forces, crossed over to the Mainland, marched into Ross-shire, and took possession of the estate, without opposition; the people preferring the daughter and heiress of their ancient lords to the Earl of Buchan, who was a stranger them. Encouraged by this success, Donald of the Isles marched forward to the Lowlands of Moray, Banff, and Aberdeen; and being joined by the Laird of Lochiel and the Camerons, and the Laird of Mackintosh, with a number of the Clan Chattan, the whole force amounted to 10,000 men. Their progress was attended with the usual ravages and pillage of the times. To quell this insurrection, the Duke of Albany sent his nephew, Alexander Stewart Earl of Mar, "who drew together, with great expedition, all the nobility and gentry between the two rivers of Tay and Spey, consisting chiefly, as they do at present, of the Lyons, Ogilvies, Maules, Carnegies, Lindsays, Erskines, Fotheringhams, Leslies, Frasers, Irvines, Gordons, Forbeses, Abercrombies, Bannermans, Arbuthnots, Burnets, Leiths, Douglases, Duguids, Mowats, Barclays, and various other clans. Being seconded by these, he met the invaders at Harlaw, a village in the Garioch, within ten miles of Aberdeen, where a long, uncertain, and bloody battle ensued: so long, indeed, that nothing but night could put an end to it; so uncertain, that it was hard to tell who had lost or won the day; and so bloody, that, to say nothing of the loss sustained by the Islanders, almost the whole country of Angus, Mearns, Mar, Buchan, and Garioch, were cut off: insomuch, that one family of the surname of Leslie, I mean that of Balwhain, is reported to have lost Leslie the father, and six of his seven sons. Vast numbers of others had the same fate: among the rest, Alexander Ogilvie, Sheriff of Angus, and his son and heir. Scrimgeour, Constable of Dundee, Irvine of Drum, Maule of Panmure, Abernethy younger of Saltoun, Straiton of Lauriston, Alexander Stirling, Thomas Murray, and Robert Davidson, Provost of Aberdeen, all knights, and some of them chiefs of honourable families in those parts. They of the Earl of Mar's party, who survived, lay all night on the field of battle; while Donald, being rather wearied with action than conquered by force of arms, thought fit to retreat, first to Ross, and then to the Isles." Thus ended the battle of Harlaw, which was fought in 1411, and is still celebrated in the ballads and music of Scotland; [A very old but long neglected musical piece, called the Battle of Harlaw, is worthy the notice of those who delight in the ancient music of their native country. When played with spirit in the style of the original composition, it imitates the different movements of a battle, with the cries of the wounded, lamentations for the brave who have fallen, &c. in a remarkable manner.] a battle contested with such desperation, that "there fell so many eminent and noble personages as scarce ever fell in one battle against a foreign enemy for many years before." [Buchanan.] "The event of the fight was so uncertain, that, when both parties had reckoned up how many they had lost, each counted himself the conqueror."

[The Laird of Mackintosh was killed, with many of his followers. His son got a grant of Glenspean and of Glenroy (celebrated for the parallel roads) from the Lord of the Isles for the assistance he and his clan afforded at Harlaw. These lands have continued in the family of Mackintosh to this day Glenspean, Glenroy, and other lands in the neighbourhood, the property of the Duke of Gordon, are also remarkable as having been occupied by Macdonell of Keppoch and his followers as tenants nearly 400 years. It is one of the most singular circumstances in the history of the Highlands, that a family without an acre of land in property, tenants only to the Duke of Gordon and the Laird of Mackintosh, could for so many centuries maintain a power which few chiefs or proprietors could equal. Keppoch could command a body of followers from 200 to 400 men, according as exigencies or circumstances might require.

Hector Maclean of Duart, and Alexander Irvine of Drum, two chivalrous knights and chiefs of their name, happened to encounter, as they inarched at the head of their men, and fought in single combat till both were killed on the spot; the men on either side not interfering, each party being anxious for the honour of their chief, and that he would prove victorious solely by his own prowess.

The successors of Hector, or Eachin Rua (as he was called from his red hair), and of the Laird of Drum, afterwards exchanged the swords with which their predecessors fought, as a mark of respect to their memory, and as a token of future amity between the families, and oblivion of any inimical feelings that might arise from the fall of their chiefs.]

In no battle, where one side consisted entirely of clansmen, were they collected in so numerous a host; and in no battle in Scotch annals except Bannockburn, and those bloody but successful struggles of the Caledonians and Celts for their liberty and independence against the usurping power of the Roman legions, and the equally successful resistance made by the inhabitants of the plains and Lowlands of Scotland to the later invasions of the Danes and Norwegians, were a greater number of combatants engaged.

The battle of Harlaw was followed by the submission of Donald of the Isles, who, weakened by his loss on that occasion, and probably intimidated by the preparations of the Duke of Albany, who had sent vessels round the coast to convey an army to his Isles, and attack him in his strongholds, renounced his alliance with the King of England; and some time afterwards his son Alexander obtained the Earldom of Ross, which the Governor's son had surrendered to the Lords of the Isles, as heirs (through their mother) to the ancient Earls. Soon after this period, James I. was released from his long captivity in England, and assumed the government of his kingdom. In the course of his able and energetic government, the suppression of the turbulence and feuds among the Highland chiefs formed a prominent object. In an excursion to the North, he assembled about forty of the Chiefs and principal proprietors at Inverness. Of this number was Alexander, Lord of the Isles, whom the King ordered to Perth, where, in a trial or inquiry into his conduct, he was convicted of different acts of oppression and disobedience to the laws. "Yet, such was the King's clemency, that he generously pardoned him, and dismissed him highly obliged to his country, where he might have lived, nay in some measure reigned, secure and content, had not bad counsel made him more sensible of the pretended affront, than of the real favour which he had received." [Abercromby,] An instance of this soon appeared; for Donald Balioch, a kinsman of the Earl of Ross, made several descents on the west coast of Scotland, in revenge for the imprisonment of his Chief, which was considered as an affront to the whole clan. To check these devastating invasions, the Earl of Mar, who commanded at Harlaw, accompanied by Allan Stewart, Earl of Caithness, son of the Earl of Athole, marched with a considerable force to Lochaber; and in August 1428 lay at Inverlochay, a place celebrated both for its ancient castle, and the different battles fought near it. Donald Balloch had good information from his scouts, and, learning that the Earl of Mar, neglecting the necessary precautions of an experienced and brave commander, as he had shown himself at Harlaw, and in the wars in Flanders and the Low Countries, where he commanded large armies in several campaigns with great military talents and success, or, perhaps, trusting to his numbers, and despising his enemy, as too frequently has happened, in modern as well as ancient warfare, kept no night-guards or out-posts; Macdonald landed from his fleet of galleys, and, at midnight, attacked the King's troops so unexpectedly, that they were totally routed with great slaughter. Of this number was the Earl of Caithness, and Mar escaped with difficulty. Retreating through the mountains to Brae-Mar, he was two days without food, when he met with a man herding some cattle. This man had a small quantity of barley-meal, which he gave to the unfortunate Commander. He mixed the meal with a little water in the heel of his shoe, and greedily swallowed it. Lord Mar told the shepherd, that if ever he required assistance, to repair to Kildrummy Castle, where he would meet a grateful friend. The shepherd soon appeared at the Castle. He was kindly received by Lord Mar, who settled him, rent free, on a small farm well stocked, declaring that the handful of barley-meal and water in the heel of his shoe, was the sweetest morsel he had ever swallowed. [his afterwards became a proverb in the Highlands, something similar to "Hunger requires no sauce."]

King James hearing of this disaster, hastened with a considerable force to Lochaber, when Donald Balloch retreated to the Isles, but not believing himself safe there, he fled to Ireland. The King having received information that he was concealed in the house of a chief of that country, sent messengers to demand that the person of Macdonald should be delivered up to answer for his rebellion; "but the nobleman, fearing that if he should send him away alive through so long a tract, both by land and sea, he might possibly make an escape, and then his maligners might allege that it was done by his connivance, caused him to be slain, and sent his head to the King by his own messenger." [ Buchanan's History of Scotland.]

Thus these proud and turbulent Islanders were in a constant state of warfare, endeavouring to support their imaginary independence, making treaties and forming alliances, and breaking them on any supposed or real injury, insult, or encroachment, with as much facility as has been exhibited in the disputes and wars of states and kingdoms; and, while the different acts of submission which necessity or policy compelled the Lords of the Isles to make to the Kings of Scotland, rankled in their breasts as humiliating and derogatory to their claims of independence, they only required an opportunity or excuse to fly to arms. An instance of this happened in 1461, when Donald of the Isles, grandson of Alexander Earl of Ross, who had succeeded to that title after the son of the Duke of Albany had resigned it, prepared a fleet of galleys, and collecting his people from the different islands, landed in Lochaber, marched to Inverness, seized upon the castle, took the Governor prisoner, and proclaimed himself King of the Isles. He sent forth edicts into the neighbouring counties, "that the inhabitants should pay tribute to none but himself, and that they should acknowledge no other lord or master, denouncing a great penalty to those that did otherwise." He then marched southward to Athole, his route being marked by the usual accompaniments of the times, pillage, fire, and sword; he attacked the Castle of Blair Athole, burnt the church of St Brides, seized on much valuable property lodged there as a sanctuary, took the Earl of Atholl, who was uncle to the King (James III.), with his Countess, prisoners, and carried them north. He entered Athole so unexpectedly, and with such rapidity, that the Earl, taken by surprise, left the Castle of Blair, and flew to the church as a sanctuary. Macdonald having accomplished his object, retreated with as much expedition as he had advanced, and was beyond reach before the Athole men could assemble in sufficient numbers to attack him. But he met with a worse enemy when he embarked on the west coast for Islay. A fierce tempest immediately arose, which scattered and destroyed a number of his light and frail galleys, while his captives and himself narrowly escaped the same fate. He landed in Islay, but, struck with remorse of conscience for his sacrilegious destruction of the church of Blair Athole, and believing that the losses he sustained in the tempest were a judgment upon him, it so affected his mind, that he lost his reason, and died soon afterwards. The Earl and Countess of Atholl were released, and restitution was made for burning and plundering the church. But the impression was not lasting; for John Lord of the Isles, who succeeded him, forgetting his father's misfortunes, entered into a new treaty with Edward King of England, who appointed the Earl of Worcester and the Bishop of Durham to "treat with his most dear cousin John of Islay, Earl of Ross, Lord of the Isles." This treaty was finally settled at Westminster the 13th of February 1462, Ronald, cousin to the Earl of Ross, and Duncan, Archdean of the Isles, being appointed to meet the Bishop and the Earl of Worcester. Encouraged by the friendship of such a powerful ally, the Lord of the Isles invaded and plundered the western parts of Inverness-shire. Incensed at these proceedings, the King (James III.) ordered his uncle, John Stewart, Earl of Atholl, then appointed Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, to assemble a sufficient force, and proceed against the Earl of Ross, to follow him to his Islands, attack him in his stronghold, reduce his power, compel him to submit to the King's authority, and renounce his alliance with England. This was a commission which Atholl would perhaps execute with the more zeal, from the remembrance of the treatment he had experienced from the last Lord of the Isles; and, according to the custom of the times, take ample revenge, and recompense himself for the captivity, affront, and loss he had sustained. His expedition was attended with complete success. He quickly overpowered his antagonist, and carried him and his chief councillors captives to Perth. For this service the King made, as an addition to the armorial bearings of Atholl, a man with his feet in fetters of iron, connected with a chain held in his left hand, as a supporter, along with a lion on the dexter side; and a crest of a demi-savage, with a wreath round his head, a key in his left hand, and a sword in the right, in allusion to the Earl of Atholl having opened the way by the sword to the strongholds of the Lords of the Isles; the whole being confirmed by a motto of "Furth, Fortune, and fill the Fetters," which have ever since been part of the heraldic achievements of the Earls and Dukes of Atholl. The Earldom of Ross was annexed to the Crown; but Macdonald, having made full submission to the King, he was allowed to keep his estates and title of Lord of the Isles. The new grant of his estates in Inverness-shire and in the Isles, was confirmed by a charter from James III. dated at Edinburgh, December 1478. But the Lord of the Isles dying without legitimate children, his great estate came into the hands of different proprietors, a very considerable portion of it descending, as I have already noticed, to different branches of the family; the greatest portion in the Islands to the ancestors of Lord Macdonald.

I shall now conclude this hasty and unsatisfactory sketch of these celebrated Chiefs in the words of Abercromby, in his Martial Achievements of Scotland. "Whatever may be said for or against the pretensions and conduct of these noble and potent Lords, I must own that I have a vast respect for, and a feeling sense of the exemplary and untainted loyalty, as well as prowess of their posterity,—I mean the clan and surname of Macdonald,—a clan to this day so numerous, so brave, and so generally well affected to the monarchy, that in all those respects it is equalled by few, and surpassed perhaps by none in the nation." After describing the feuds and forays which caused one clan to march with fire and sword into the country of a rival, when government was too weak, and when, during the captivity of James I. the laws were unable to reach or punish the guilty; the same author concludes: "I relate these barbarities with much reluctancy, the rather because I have a very great esteem for the often tried valour, and undaunted loyalty of our Highland clans. They preserved themselves and us from conquest and slavery, in the days both of King Robert and King David Bruce; and, as they have ever been the last who laid down their arms as often as the nation has either been cheated or defeated out of their liberties, so they are always the first who took them up in opposition to domestic iniquity, or foreign encroachments. But the exorbitant power of the Earl of Ross, and Lord of the Isles, the independency pretended to by the last, and the impunity which they met with during the absence or minority of our king, had debauched them from all the principles of honour, humanity, and justice." [Abereromby's Martial Achievements. Edinburgh, printed 1710.] The melancholy consequences of weak laws, and the absence of a strong and efficient government, were felt at different times over the whole kingdom. In a note, page 47, Volume I, is a view of the state of Scotland in the minority of James II., when "great cruelty of nobles among themselves, for slaughters, thefts, and murders, was their patent, and so continually, day by day, that he was esteemed the greatest man of renown and fame that was the greatest brigand, thief, and murderer."

From these times of turbulence, of feuds and rebellion, we now descend to later periods, not perhaps more peaceful, nor with less thirst of revenge; but as our wars were, in modern times, carried on against foreign enemies, when the blood of the youthful and the brave was spilt at a distance, or when at home, redress and revenge were obtained by legal process, instead of resorting to the sword, the effects were less felt, and a vindictive spirit less visible. Of the many descendants of the Lords of the Isles, the Macdonalds of Sleate, now Lords Macdonald (or, as the chieftain is called in Gaelic, Macconnell), have always possessed the greatest and most populous portion of the insular domains. Along with these territorial possessions, the chieftains of this family have ever held a high station in the respect and consideration of the Highlanders. This feeling was not without cause. While the Chiefs lived on their estates, surrounded by their people, the latter were treated with a patriarchal kindness which met with a grateful return. The last of this family who made Skye his constant residence was Sir Alexander Macdonald, who died in the year 1746. The power and popularity of this chieftain was seen in the year 1745, when he was surrounded by upwards of 1300 men in arms, anxious to be led to the field under his command. Living with the hospitality of a chief, [It was said that a hogshead of claret was the weekly consumption of his table, ] his personal influence and character received no small addition from his marriage with Lady Margaret Montgomery,—a lady whose virtues and condescending kindness made her so adored in Skye, "that when she travelled through the island, the people ran in crowds before and took the stones off the road, lest her horse should stumble and she be hurt." [Boswell's Tour with Dr Johnson.] One of the misfortunes which has befallen the Highlands was the premature death, at the age of thirty-six, of Sir Alexander Macdonald, and of his son and heir, Sir James Macdonald, one of the most accomplished men of his own or almost of any other country. He died of a consumption at Rome in 1766, where his character stood so high, that the Pope Clement XIII., (who sent to inquire for him daily during his long illness) ordered that he should have a public funeral, and be interred in consecrated ground;—an unprecedented concession to a Protestant. Cardinal Picolomini wrote an elegant Latin poem to his memory. But his character, talents, and accomplishments, will be best understood by the elegant inscription, written by his intimate friend Lord Lyttleton, and placed on a monument executed in Rome, and erected in the church of Sleate, in Skye.

"To the Memory of Sir James Macdonald, Bart. who, in the flower of youth, had attained to so eminent a degree of knowledge in Mathematics, Philosophy, Languages, and in every other branch of useful and polite Learning, as few have acquired in a long life wholly devoted to study. Yet to this erudition he joined what can rarely be found with it, great talents for business, great propriety of behaviour, great politeness of manners. His eloquence was sweet, correct, and flowing; his memory vast and exact; his judgment strong and acute. All which endowments, united with the most amiable temper and every private virtue, procured him, not only in his own country, but also from foreign nations, the highest marks of esteem. In the year of our Lord 1766, the 25th of his life, after a long and extremely painful illness, which he supported with admirable patience and fortitude, he died at Rome, where, notwithstanding the difference of religion, such extraordinary honours were paid to his memory, as had never graced that of any other British subject, since the death of Sir Philip Sidney. The fame he left behind him is the best consolation to his afflicted family. And to his countrymen in this isle, for whose benefit he had planned many useful improvements which his fruitful genius suggested, and his active spirit promoted, under the sober direction of a clear and enlightened understanding. Reader, bewail our loss, and that of all Britain."

To a distant and unimproved region, like Skye, the loss of such a man was irreparable. The example of his learning and virtues, his kindly feelings towards his people, and the encouragement and improvements he contemplated for them, would, no doubt, have produced incalculable advantages. His learning and accomplishments could have been understood and appreciated by the gentlemen farmers, tacksmen, and others of his people, who, as I have already noticed, were so well educated, that conversations were frequently carried on in the Latin language. The clergymen were also of a superior class. Born of good families, zealous in the discharge of their religious duties, and learned and exemplary in their conduct, their influence over the minds and actions of their flocks was great and beneficial. Even Dr Johnson, with all his prejudices against Scotland, and the Presbyterian clergy, could not conceal his surprise at the well selected libraries and the learning he met with in Skye.

The early death of Sir Alexander Macdonald was a severe loss to Skye on another account. A few years after this event, his widow, Lady Margaret, removed to England for the education of her three sons. Sir James, the elder, was old enough, before he left his native isle, to form a strong attachment to his poor and affectionate adherents;—an attachment which would have been productive of the highest benefit to them had his life been spared. [This attachment was reciprocal. Several years after Sir James's death, Mr Boswell accompanied Dr Johnson to the Isle of Skye, and one day "after dinner, when I alone was left at table with the Highland gentlemen who were of the company, having talked with very high respect of Sir James Macdonald, they were all so much affected as to shed tears. One of them was Lieutenant Donald Macdonald, of the Highland regiment raised by Colonel Montgomierie, now Earl of Eglinton, in the war before the last. From this gentleman's conversation I first learned how popular his Colonel was among the Highlanders, of which I had such continued proofs during the whole course of my Tour."] Sir Archibald Macdonald, a posthumous son, who had entered into a laborious profession, and had, by his talents and virtue, risen to be Chief Baron of the Exchequer, did not, like his great countrymen and brother Judges, Lords Mansfield and Rosslyn, return to his native country. Sir Alexander (the successor of Sir James), afterwards Lord Macdonald, having been also educated in England, Dr Johnson observed of this mode of educating a young man, heir to a great estate, at a distance from, and in ignorance of, the country where he has so high a stake,—that he cannot acquire a knowledge of the people,—can form no local attachment —must remain a stranger to his own property and tenants —and must be often disgusted with both, although the one be valuable by its produce, and the other estimable in character. "A strong-minded man, like Sir James Macdonald," says the Doctor, "may be improved by an English education, but in general they (the Highland chieftains) will be tamed into insignificance." In continuation of the same subject, Mr Boswell says, "My endeavours to rouse the English bred chieftain, in whose house we were, to the feudal and patriarchal feelings, proving ineffectual, Dr Johnson this morning tried to bring him to our way of thinking. —Johnson, "Were I in your place, Sir, in seven years I would make this an independent island. I would roast oxen whole, and hang out a flag to the Macdonalds."—Sir Alexander was still starting difficulties.—Johnson, "Nay, Sir, if you are born to object, I have done with you; Sir, I would have a magazine of arms."—Sir Alexander, "They would rust."—Johnson, "Let there be men to keep them clean; your ancestors did not use to let their arms rust."

Four years after this conversation, Sir Alexander (created Lord Macdonald in 1776) found that arms put in the hands of his people would not be suffered to rust; and that, when an opportunity offered, they were ready to take them up in defence of their country. This was in 1777, when the Macdonald Highland Regiment was raised under the patronage of Lord Macdonald.

Upwards of twenty years posterior to the embodying of the 76th regiment, the present Lord Macdonald requested permission from his Majesty to raise a regiment on his e-states in the Isles. This request was readily granted, and a respectable body of men soon recruited.

The Regiment of the Isles was inspected and embodied at Inverness by Major-General Leith Hay, on the 4th June 1799. It would appear from the selection made, that there was no want of men on Lord Macdonald's estate, as their age averaged twenty-two years, a period of life the best calculated to enter upon military service; not too young to suffer from, or be incapable of, supporting the hardships and fatigues peculiar to the profession, nor too old to admit of the mental and personal habits of the soldier being moulded to the moral and military restraints, which the profession renders necessary. The good effects resulting from men commencing their military career at a proper age, were seen by the conduct of this regiment in garrison and quarters; for they were not called on any other duty except on one occasion, when a combination took place among the seamen of Whitehaven in 1801. The object of the seamen was to augment the rate of wages; and the ship-owners resisting their demand, the sailors persevered for several weeks in preventing vessels from leaving the harbour. The magistrates, anxious to avoid resorting to force, endeavoured, by argument and persuasion, to prevail upon the seamen to return to their duty; but their exertions having failed, the assistance of the Regiment of the Isles was called in. Without force, and more by the respect in which the regiment was held, and the imposing appearance of the men when drawn up and ready to act, than by any violence, the officers prevailed upon the sailors to give up their point; every man returned to his ship; order and tranquillity were restored ; and, so far from any persons being hurt or touched, the soldiers had no occasion to take their firelocks from their shoulders. Their conduct was particularly noticed by General Musgrave, who commanded on the occasion.

In July 1802 the regiment was marched to Fort George, and reduced. "Knowing the general character of Highlanders to be very tenacious of their rights, the field officers uniformly made it a rule that every man should be made fully sensible of the nature of these rights; and that not the most trifling item should, on any pretence whatever, be withheld. In this manner, when the soldiers saw themselves and their rights respected, they, in their turn, respected and obeyed their officers, flying with cheerful eagerness to execute every the slightest command or wish of men to whom they were much attached; and hence the misunderstandings, unhappily too frequent in Highland regiments in former times, were never heard of in the Regiment of the Isles. At the reduction, the soldiers ordered out all the carriages in the garrison, and putting the officers in them, dragged them to the village of Campbeltown, where they treated them with wine, &c. "

As the rugged and barren Isles of Skye and Uist have contributed a large share of the young and active of their population for the defence of their country, I shall enumerate the whole, having ascertained the number from the officers who recruited the men, from others who served with them, and from my own personal knowledge. A view of the number of those men, and of the character they exhibited, may be interesting to those who consider sound morals, respect for religion and the laws, and loyalty to the King and Government, among the bulk of the people, of vital importance to the prosperity and permanency of the state. The two great proprietors of the Isles, whose lands are occupied by a loyal and moral people, must view this subject with deep interest. They will not overlook their happiness and welfare in the progress of agricultural improvements, which have no object but the welfare of one class of people—the men of capital; nor will they adopt the opinion too often brought forward, that, in those changes which operate injuriously on the comforts of the people, by removing them from the cultivation of the soil, to throw it Into the hands of the rich, and crowding them in villages and situations possessed of no sufficient means of subsistence, "the misery is only temporary, that the evil will cure itself, and in time find its own level." Has the evil of giving extensive portions of land to men of capital, and confining the bulk of the people to small patches of the soil, found its level, or has it cured itself in Ireland? There it has been long in operation, and its effects on the condition and character of the peasantry must strike every feeling mind with horror, and afford an example which ought undoubtedly to check the progress of a similar system among the moral and peaceable inhabitants of the Highlands. Poverty is an intolerable evil in all countries; and, if occasioned by oppression, especially by the oppression of individuals, whose actions are, in a peculiar manner, under the observation of those who suffer by them, the inevitable result must ever be, hatred and a spirit of revenge against the immediate actors, and disaffection to the government which allows, or cannot protect them from systems which entail such evils as have rendered desperate the peasantry of a sister island, blessed with a more favourable climate, a better soil, and numberless natural advantages, capable of rendering a people happy; but whose desperation frequently produces such revolting scenes as ought to show the unsoundness of that sophistry which tends to smother the feelings of humanity, under the plea, that such evils will cure themselves, and find their own level.

I shall now return to a more agreeable subject,—the number of men who, during the first twelve years of the late war, entered the service from the estates of Macdonald, Macleod, Rasay, and those of the other Lairds in the Isles of Skye, Uist, and the smaller isles adjacent.


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