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Social History of the Highlands
Love of Country


The Highlanders, like the inhabitants of other romantic and mountainous regions, always retain an enthusiastic attachment to their country, which neither distance of place nor length of time can efface. This strong feeling has, we think, been attributed erroneously to the powerful and lasting effect which the external objects of nature, seen in their wildest and most fantastic forms and features, are calculated to impress upon the imagination.

Firmly attached as they were to their country, the Highlanders had also a singular predilection for the place of their birth. An amusing instance of this local attachment is mentioned by General Stewart. A tenant of his father's, at the foot of the mountain Shichallion, having removed and followed his son to a farm which the latter had taken at some distance lower down the country, the old man was missing for a considerable time one morning, and on being asked on his return where he had been, replied, "As I was sitting by the side of the river, a thought came across me, that, perhaps, some of the waters from Shichallion, and the sweet fountains that watered the farm of my forefathers, might now be passing by me, and that if I bathed they might touch my skin. I immediately stripped, and, from the pleasure I felt in being surrounded by the pure waters of Leidna-breilag (the name of the farm) I could not tear myself away sooner." But this fondness of the Highlander was not confined to the desire of living upon the beloved spot - it extended even to the grave. The idea of dying at a distance from home and among strangers could not be endured, and the aged Highlander, when absent from his native place, felt discomposed lest death should overtake him before his return. To be consigned to the grave among strangers, without the attendance and sympathy of friends, and at a distance from their family, was considered a heavy calamity; and even to this day, people make the greatest exertions to carry home the bodies of such relations as happen to die far from the ground hallowed by the ashes of their forefathers.

This trait was exemplified in the case of a woman aged ninety-one, who a few years ago went to Perth from her house in Strathblane in perfect health, and in the possession of all her faculties. A few days after her arrival in Perth, where she had gone to visit her daughter, she had a slight attack of fever. One evening a considerable quantity of snow had fallen, and she expressed great anxiety, particularly when told that a heavier fall was expected. Next morning her bed was found empty, and no trace of her could be discovered, till the second day, when she sent word that she had slipt out of the house at midnight, set off on foot through the snow, and never stopped till she reached home, a distance of twenty miles. When questioned some time afterwards why she went away so abruptly, she answered, "If my sickness had increased, and if I had died, they could not have sent my remains home through the deep snows. If I had told my daughter, perhaps she would have locked the door upon me, and God forbid that my bones should be at such a distance from home, and be buried among Gall-na-machair, The strangers of the plain."

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