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Social History of the Highlands
Social duties


The attachment of the Highlanders to their offspring, and the veneration and filial piety which a reciprocal feeling produced on the part of their children, were leading characteristics in the Highland character, and much as these mountaineers have degenerated in some of the other virtues, these affections still remain almost unimpaired. Children seldom desert their parents in their old age, and when forced to earn a subsistence from home, they always consider themselves bound to share with their parents whatever they can save from their wages. But the parents are never left alone, as one of the family, by turns, remains at home for the purpose of taking care of them in terms of an arrangement.

Nor were the Highlanders less alive to the principles of honesty and fair dealing, in their transactions with one another. Disgrace was the usual consequence of insolvency, which was considered ex facie criminal. Bankrupts were compelled to undergo a singular punishment. They "were forced to surrender their all, and were clad in a party-coloured clouted garment, with the hose of different sets, and had their hips dashed against a stone, in presence of the people, by four men, each taking a hold of an arm or a leg. This punishment was called Toncruaidh."

Such was the confidence in their honour and integrity, that in the ordinary transactions of the people, a mere verbal obligation without the intervention of any writing, was held quite sufficient, although contracted in the most private manner, and there were few instances where the obligation was either unfulfilled or denied.3 Their mode of concluding or confirming their money agreements or other transactions, was by the contracting parties going out into the open air, and with eyes erect, taking Heaven to witness their engagements, after which, each party put a mark on some remarkable stone or other natural object, which their ancestors had been accustomed to notice.

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