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The Social and Economic Condition of the Highlands of Scotland Since 1800


Definition - Area

"AN approximately straight, or gently undulating line taken from Stonehaven, in a south-west direction, along the northern outskirts of Strathmore to Glen Artney, and thence through the lower reaches of Loch Lomond to the Firth of Clyde at Kilcreggan, marks out with precision the southern limits of the Highland area." Such is the definition of the Northern Highlands by Professor Geikie; and although this
boundary does not define the usually accepted limits, it is, nevertheless, the true physical frontier of the Scottish Highlands. The division of Scotland recognised to-day as "The Highlands" may be strictly confined to the area occupied by the Gaelic- speaking portion of the population.

It is not, however, within the province of this book to discuss the precise demarcation of the Highlands; and it will therefore be understood that the area herein referred to embraces the district popularly known as strictly Highland ground.

The region is wild and mountainous, intersected with many large and picturesque lochs traversing the country generally in a north-easterly and southwesterly direction; and although the country is of a wild savage nature, yet many rich, fertile straths and glens are interspersed among the mountains,. and wide stretches of fruitful alluvial plains are scattered along the seaboard and along the river valleys. Except at a considerable altitude, the mountains offer rich grazing for cattle and sheep, while the higher grounds afford sustenance for deer, and a quiet retreat for the various kinds of game so plentiful in the Highlands. The coast line is wild, rugged, and indented with long arms of the sea or lochs, running far up into the interior, and these lochs are at seasons of the year visited by shoals of herrings, which are caught by the fishing population along the shores. The herring and other fish are a source of considerable income to the country, but as this subject is referred to in another chapter I shall dismiss it at present. Scattered along the western seaboard are numerous islands, which are divided into two groups—called the Inner and Outer Hebrides. These islands form detached portions of the Highlands, and they have a still more rugged coast than the mainland, being scattered and battered by the incessant roll of the wild Atlantic waves.

POPULATION

HE Highlands are now very sparsely populated, even when compared with the most ` impoverished agricultural county of Ireland.

Take for illustration the extensive and by no means barren county of Inverness, with an area of 4088 square miles and a population of 90,454, being only a density of 22.10 inhabitants to a square mile; whereas county Galway in Ireland has 103.11 inhabitants to the square mile. Again Sutherland-shire will compare still more unfavourably with county 'Mayo in Ireland—the latter one of the poorest counties in Great Britain or Ireland—being situated on the bleak and barren western seaboard, which yet has 120 inhabitants to the square mile, while in Sutherlandshire there are barely 112.

Whether or not there are means of subsistence for a larger population the reader is allowed to draw his own inference, from the above and the following facts.

The appended table will show at a glance the amount of depopulation that has taken place in the following counties since 1841: —

According to this table it will be seen that in five of the above counties there is a total decrease of 38,248, and were we to take into consideration the increase of population in towns, the percentage of rural depopulation would show a corresponding decrease. Inverness, for instance, had a population of only 12,575 in 1841. The actual population within the Old Burgh boundary in 1841 was 11,575, but I have added 1,000 to include portions now embraced within the Parliamentary Boundary extension of 1847; while the burgh census of 1881 records 17,385, being an increase of 4,810, which number should be added to the rural depopulation column for the entire county, and therefore we may assume that the actual decrease in the county. of Inverness, during the forty years above referred to, is something like 10,000, allowing 2,158 as a fair increase for the burgh. It will also be seen that two counties—Caithness and Nairn—show a slight increase, but these may be accounted for by the great development, in recent years, of the herring industry at Wick, and by the popularity of the town of Nairn as a watering-place a.nd health resort. The combined counties of Ross and Cromarty show but a small decrease between the periods quoted in fable; but were the census of 1851 taken when the population reached 32,707, we should have a decrease of 4,160 in thirty years.

The total increase of population of the Highlands and Islands (including Orkney and Zetland) from 1755 to 1821 has been 118,213. Three-fourths of the population speak the Gaelic language, the number of persons understanding English better than Gaelic being 133,699, that of persons more proficient in Gaelic 303,153.—Vide Prize Essay by John Anderson, F.S.A. Scot., Highland Society Transactions, 1831.

CHARACTER AND CONDITION OF THE INHABITANTS

THERE are as distinctive characteristic feature of difference between the Highland and Lowland population of Scotland as there are in the physical demarcation line of the two divisions of the country. The Highlanders, socially and physically, are an entirely distinct people from the inhabitants of the Lowlands. Their language, dress, pursuits and customs are totally unlike those of the Southerner. The Highlanders or Celtic Scoti at the same time have always been sub-divided into two groups—the Hebridean and the Mainland Celts. When the Irish Scoti race moved northwards from the coast of Antrim they diverged into two streams, one branching north-eastward and on the mainland, and the other streaming away north and north-west among the Hebridean Islands. The Hebridean race on their northward course encountered the Scandinavians moving southward, while the Mainland Celts came in contact with the Picts, and later on with the Saxons, this contact and intermingling of the different races causing a certain amount of amalgamation and fusing, as it were,. of the various tribes into a distinct race, essentially different from the Irish Celts—their original progenitors—and also different from each other; and. hence we find in the Western Highlands what we may call the Scandinavian Celt, and the Picto-Celt in the eastern and midland districts. Undoubtedly in the portions of the country originally peopled by the Celtic race lying south of the Highland boundary, and which had originally been peopled by the Celtic race, there was effected a gradual alienation from the old and rude Celtic customs, and an adoption of the more civilized institutions of the Saxons.

It took many years after the rebellion of 1745 before the hitherto turbulent spirit in the Highlands subsided; but with the dawn of the new century, the peaceful influences of civilizing enterprise seemed to renovate the war-worn and jaded Highlander with an amount of vigour and energy which I fear has not since then been manifesting itself in the same forcible manner; for we find that industry, education, and the general development of the natural resources of the country received at that time such an impulse that, in the few years embraced in the first quarter of that century, the

country assumed a comparative position in the commercial world that perhaps no other country under the sun can lay claim to as having achieved at a. single stride within the same period. The powerful natural energies of the Highland people, which, previous to the pacification of the country, were wasted on petty feuds and contentious rebellions against the crown—a misconceived Celtic idea of genuine loyalty to their chiefs—we find developing and progressing to that exalted position which ranks the Scottish Highlander so high among the. peoples of the world. The martial spirit of their ancestors still holds sway in the dispositions of true Highlanders; and multitudes of the sturdy sons. of the "land of brown heath and shaggy wood" have displayed their warlike and chivalrous spirit, on many a bloody battlefield during the last century; and should Britain's cause require his assistance to-day, the Highland warrior's arm is as vigorous to wield his broad claymore or handle the rifle, and his courage is as undaunted to face the foe, "as when heretofore he marshalled for the lawless foray, or shed his blood in the shock of conflicting clans."

A writer in "Blackwood's Magazine" in 1836, speaking of the character of the Highlander, says "We love the people too well to praise them—we have had heartfelt experience in their virtues. In castle, hall, house, manse, hut, hovel, and shieling --on mountain and moor, we have known without having to study their character. It manifests itself in their manner, in their whole frame of life. They are now as they were, affectionate, faithful, and fearless ; and far more delightful surely it is to see such qualities in all their pristine strength—for civilization has not weakened nor ever will weaken them—without the alloy of fierceness and ferocity which was inseparable from them in the turbulence of feudal times. They are now a peaceful people; severe as are the hardships of their condition, they are in the main contented with it; and nothing short of necessity can drive them from their dear mountains."

Although more than half a century has elapsed -since the above was written, it may still be applied to the average Highlander. The Saxon reckons the Celt a lazy animal; and not only do the Irish lie under this stigma, but the Scoto-Celt is classed as equally indolent, and perhaps, in a sense, John Bull, with his advanced notions of social and political economy, is partly justified in asserting this. But when we consider the circumstances and the isolated position of the inhabitants of the west of Ireland and Scotland, we should not judge too harshly. Removed far from the centres of industry, with no opportunity of obtaining regular employment, ill fed and poorly clad, need we wonder at their lapsing into a state of what some people imagine to be indolence?

The Scottish Highlander of the littoral districts is engaged during part of the year at the fishing, or training in the Militia or Royal Naval Reserve Corps; and when these occupations are over, he wanders home to his bleak moorland holding to secure his scanty crops of corn and potatoes. What can he now do during the long dreary winter but mope about in idleness; for were he even disposed to improve his land the severe Highland winter prevents him; and, were he anxious to do a day's fishing, the tempestuous sea and a dangerous coast will prohibit him. These surroundings, therefore, tend to unnerve and suck the very ambition from their souls, so that they never seek to rise from the prison house of their mean estate. Were this people taught home arts and industries, these would not only help them to pass the dreary winter, but would form a source of income, and would ultimately be the means of elevating their social position and stimulating them to uproot themselves from the "bogs of immemorial routine."

[Since these lines were written the Home Industries Associations, in whose useful work the Duchess of Sutherland takes such a noble part, and other similar organizations, have worked a social revolution in Highland homes. In many parts of the Highlands and Islands the people are actively employed in weaving, knitting, carving, and other suitable home occupations, the remuneration for which adds considerably to their limited income.]

I must not, however, overlook the record made by General Stewart of Garth in his excellent work, "Sketches of the Highlanders." Speaking of the charge of indolence made against them, he mentions the fact that during the construction of the Caledonian Canal very few Highlanders availed themselves of this constant and well-paid labour-offered them in the very heart of their own country. This at the time was attributed to their natural lazy disposition; while, as a matter of fact, at the very time they refused work at their doors, thousands flocked southward in search of employment. General Stewart refutes the charge of laziness by ascribing it to Highland ambition; and, undoubtedly, the recollection of their former independence under the feudal or clan system prevented them from accepting a labourer's hire in

sight of the scenes which once witnessed them in better circumstances. The semi-military life they also led, together with their constant contemplation of the renown of their noble ancestors, imbued them with the notion that they were "gentlemen" in comparison with their Lowland brethren, and their supreme contempt for any commercial or servile pursuit served to make them look upon manual work as degrading and dishonourable. Perhaps if I quote from the late Professor Walker it will illustrate more clearly what I wish to show. He says:— "Wherever the Highlanders are defective in industry, it will be found, upon fair enquiry, to be rather their misfortune than their fault, and owing to their want of knowledge and opportunity, rather than to any want of spirit for labour. Their disposition to industry is greater than is usually imagined, and if judiciously directed is capable of being highly advantageous both to themselves and to their country." This forecast has proved true; for to-day Highlanders may be found all over the world occupying positions of honour and trust.

The hospitality of the Highlanders once upon a time was unbounded; but since the Saxon has invaded their land, they have become more or less contaminated, and the greed for gold has developed. Donald's erroneous idea that English tourists are actually rolling in money leads him to overreach his conscience in matters of pecuniary detail; and hence the defamatory reports of the avaricious disposition of the Highlander. A Highland Chieftain's house was always open; and the law of hospitality and politeness forbade him, until a year had passed, to enquire of his guest what business he had called upon. Perhaps nothing can more beautifully and graphically illustrate pure Highland hospitality and confidence than the circumstances attending "The Massacre of Glencoe: --

"And tho' in them Glencoe's devoted men
Beheld the foes of all who held their name,
Yet simple faith allowed the stranger's claim
To hospitable cheer and welcome kind;
Undreaming that a Highland hand could shame
The ancient faith—the sacred ties that bind
The guest to him beside whose hearth he hath reclined."

I may be pardoned for here quoting Pennant's description of the character of the Highlanders; and although the date of "Pennant's Tour" is somewhat earlier than the period embraced in this work, the description would, nevertheless, be as applicable at any stage of the present century as it was in 1769. "The manner of the native Highlander," says Pennant, "may justly be described in these words: Indolent to a high degree unless roused to war, or to any animated amusements; or, I may say, from experience, to lend any disinterested assistance to the distressed traveller, either in directing him on his way or affording their aid in passing the dangerous torrents of the Highlands; hospitable to the highest degree, and full of generosity; are much affected with the civility of strangers, and have in themselves a natural politeness and address which often flows from the meanest when least expected. Through my whole tour I never met with a single instance of national reflection, their forbearance proves them to be superior to the meanness of retaliation. I fear they pity us, but I hope not indiscriminately. Are excessively inquisitive after your business, your name, and other particulars of little consequence to them, most curious after the politics of the world, and when they procure an old newspaper will listen. to it with the avidity of Shakespeare's blacksmith. Have much pride and consequently are impatient of affronts and revengeful of injuries." In the, main Pennant's description still holds good when applied to the average Highlander, yet much of the original character of the genuine son of the mountain has been destroyed. The rough and ragged edges of honest simplicity have been rubbed off by the so-called polishing influences of society, and the sturdy independence and self reliance of their ancestors are now being supplanted by, I fear, less commendable qualities, and they are gradually having transfused into them the Saxon .and Southern elements. This is one of the nu-avoidable results of the development of civilization, and although, in a sense, it may be a source of regret to the enthusiastic patriot that the good old Highland character is being gradually obliterated, still the Highlands and Highlanders have benefited in no small degree from their intercourse with the English nation, and they still retain the inestimable virtues of integrity and charity.

Sir John Dalrymple has observed of the Highlanders:—"That to be modest as well as brave, to be contented with a few things which nature requires, to act and to suffer without complaining, to be as much ashamed of doing anything insolent or ungenerous to others as of bearing it when done to ourselves, and to die with pleasure to revenge .affronts offered to their clan or their country, these are accounted their highest accomplishments."

SUPERSTITIONS, Etc.

"The gleaming path of the steel winds through the gloomy ghost. The form fell shapeless into air, like a column of smoke which the staff of the boy disturbs as it rises from the half extinguished furnace."—Ossian.

THE Highlanders are a superstitious people. Anyone acquainted with their finely strung imagination, and the weird, wild regions they inhabit, can well imagine

"As when a shepherd of the Hebrid's Isles,
Placed far amid the melancholy main,
Whether it be lone fancy him beguiles,
Or that aerial spirits sometimes deign
To stand embodied to our senses plain,
Sees on the naked hill, or valley low,
The while in ocean Phoebus dips his wane,
A vast assembly moving to and fro,
Then all at once in air dissolves the wondrous show."
—THOMPSON.

Often have I myself, while crossing some bleak moor, or traversing a lonely deserted glen, experienced a weird awe-stricken feeling; and it would require but very little imaginative power to convert a grey rock or a waving tuft of heather into a filmy ghost, a kelpie, or a brownie. Educational enlightenment has done much to dispel the darkness of superstitious beliefs which enveloped Highlanders up to near the middle of the nineteenth century; and in many parts of the Highlands, at. this very hour, scores of apparently very sensible people cling to the creed of their forefathers, and are firm believers in the existence of ghosts, fairies, and witches.

Witchcraft was the most prevalent superstition;: and many a' poor decrepit or eccentric individual suffered—under the very eye of the church—the extreme penalty of the law, branded with the appellation of wizard or witch. Although it takes a long time to eradicate a belief, when once rooted in so tenacious and conservative a mind as that possessed by the Celt, the belief in witchcraft, to the extent of persecuting the supposed subjects of it, is well-nigh extinct. Yet fairies, ghosts, and. brownies are still often seen hovering about some lonely and haunted locality—if reliance may be placed on the statements of belated travellers. Another common belief, prevalent all over the Highlands fifty years ago, and in some degree believed in at the present time--particularly in the western isles—is second sight, supposed to be a supernatural gift whereby the seer can see the distant future, and

........."Framed hideous spells,
In Skye's lone isle the gifted wizard seer
Lodged in the wintry cave, with fate's fell spear,
Or in the depths of Uist's dark forest dwells.

. . .. . . .. . ...

To monarchs dear, some hundred miles away,
Oft have they seen fate give the fatal blow,
The Seer in Skye shriek'd as the blood did flow,
When headless Charles warm on the scaffold lay."

The Seer was a very reticent and mysterious person, employing enigmatical language when disclosing any of his prophecies so as to be construed to suit the circumstances of the case, and they were regarded "as men to whom strange things had happened."

ANCIENT CUSTOMS AND FESTIVE AMUSEMENTS

MANY of the ancient customs peculiar to the Highlands are being Anglo-Saxonised, or gradually dying out. Hallowe'en is still celebrated with much of its ancient rites and ceremonies, and: —

"The auld guidwifes weel hoordet nits
Are round and round divided,
And mony lads' and lasses' fates
Are there that night decided;
Some kindle, couthie, side by side,
And brin thegither trimly;
Some start awa' wi' saucy pride
And jump out owre the chimlie,
Fu' high that night."

These lines from Burns's "Hallowe'en" refer to the custom of burning nuts, to decide if some secretly admired one would yet be wooed and won. But within my own recollection Hallowe'en festivities have lost much of the enthusiasm and excitement once associated with them. Many of the ancient games and pastimes of the country are neglected or abolished. The "Northern orthern Meeting' has done more than any other institution I know of towards promoting and stimulating the continuance of the manly and athletic sports so peculiar to the Highlands. Where can you see a finer gathering of strapping, stalwart fellows, and of noble, commanding, and lovely women, than at the Northern Meetings in Inverness? While the institution has done much towards developing and perpetuating the national music—and in this respect I must not omit the minor kindred societies and associations which I am glad to see springing up in almost every parish—yet I will venture to suggest that the usefulness and, I may assert, the attractiveness of the meeting might be greatly extended were prizes offered for the best web of home spun cloth, tartan- plaid, the best knitted pair of hose, or other articles of home manufacture, so as to kindle the desire for industry among the peasantry.

RELIGION

SCOTLAND is a Presbyterian nation. Roman Catholicism, and Episcopacy have often endeavoured to gain the ascendency, but the former as a national religion died with James Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow, and only in very remote regions of the Highlands did popery find space to raise its head. Recently, however, it has apparently been regaining vitality, and the re-establishment by the Pope of the Scots Hierarchy has given a stimulus to a creed which was fast falling into decay in the Highlands. Episcopacy received a very crushing blow at the time of the memorable '45, whose echo rings through Scotland to this hour, and from then till the middle of the present century it struggled to keep itself rooted in Scottish soil; but in recent years it has been asserting its position in the Highlands to such an extent, that the erection of a magnificent Cathedral in Inverness and the creation of a new See indicate that its roots have again dipped into good soil in the North, and that the independence-dreaming Presbyterian creed of the Highlands is succumb:ing to the once despised and rejected Prelatic form of religion. The Established Church of Scotland is in a minority in the Highlands when compared with the United Free Church and other dissenting Presbyterian bodies. In 1843, what has been called the Disruption took place, whereby 451 ministers [Of these 451, 289 were Parish and 162 Quoad Sacra Ministers, or Ministers of Chapels of Ease.] of the Church of Scotland resigned their livings and formed themselves into a religious body called the Free Church of Scotland. The main causes of this secession may be ascribed partly to certain abuses in the patronage system, and partly to the looseness of the Presbyteries in licensing unsuitable persons to be preachers. Patronage had been previously twice abolished and reinstated again by Parliament. This Act empowered the patron of a living to appoint 'as minister his own nominee without consulting either the congregation or the Presbytery. There is no essential .difference between the doctrines of the Established Church and those of the United Free Church, and now that the obstacle of patronage is abolished, it seems a matter of regret that the two bodies do not unite, and thereby instil new life and vigour into a Free United Established Church for the advancement of a true and not spurious Christianity in Scotland. It is lamentable to think that petty jealousies and ill-feeling often exist between the, adherents of the two churches. [Since the above was written a serious schism has. occurred between the United Free Church and the little Body that has vindicated for herself the name of "the Free Church of Scotland." There is now much bitterness of feeling between these two Churches. This is a great pity.] Notwithstanding all this, the Highland peasantry are a religious people, and I venture to affirm that in no country in the world is the observance of the Sabbath day more rigorously enforced or more strictly adhered to than in the Highlands of Scotland.

"How softly, Scotia, falls the Sabbath's calm
O'er thy hushed valleys, and thy listening hills;
And, oh! how purifying is the balm
Of that day's peace which then the bosom fills!"

To some minds, perhaps, this unduly rigorous observance of the Sabbath day may seem extravagant, and when carried to extremes often appears ludicrous. Professor Blackie illustrates an instance when he ventured to pass a remark on the weather to a Skye elder on the Sabbath day. "A fine day," said the Professor. "Ay," retorted the elder, "a fine day indeed, but is this a day to be speaking about days?" This morose or "gloomy religion" is chiefly confined to the Free Churchmen; the Established Church adherents, or "Moderates," as they are called, are somewhat more lax and advanced. Before closing these remarks on the religion of the Highlands I must touch briefly on the Sacraments or Highland Communion. The "Sacrament" is a great event in a Highland parish, and thousands of people flock from every district to attend. It extends over five days—Thursday, "the little Sabbath or Fast-day;" Friday, when the "Men" address the people and pray; Saturday, a day of preparation; Sabbath,. the great day for the celebration of the Lord's Supper; and Monday, a day of solemn farewell.. On Sunday the Gaelic services are held in the, open air, as no building sufficiently large can be found to contain so vast an assemblage.

EDUCATION

THE current belief that Scotland is such a well educated nation is erroneous in the extreme, for this supposed universal "diffusion of education," particularly in the Highlands, is anything but true; and although Scotland has long enjoyed the reputation of being the best educated nation in Europe—and as far as University education 'is concerned that is undoubtedly true—still we find that the Commission
appointed to enquire into the educational state of the Highlands in 1818 found that portion of the kingdom sadly destitute of facilities for elementary learning. Notwithstanding the efforts made by the S.P.C.K. and the Church, little progress was made -until the "Grants in Aid " system was established in 1839, which gave an impetus to the educational machinery of the poorer districts of the Highlands.

Again the Free Church, shortly after the Disruption, in order to vie with the Parish or Established Church schools, erected, in almost every parish, schools in which the children of their denomination were taught, perhaps not in so efficient a degree as in the Parish school, nevertheless they created a healthy spirit of rivalry, which benefitted in no small degree the educational development of the country. The passing of he Education Act of 1872 was the means of placing all the schools in a parish under the direct management of a Board, elected triennially by the ratepayers. This School Board has full control over the teachers, regulates the course of instruction, and was empowered to levy a rate to meet any deficiency not covered by the Government Grant and school fees. [School fees are now abolished in Board Schools.] In the poorer and more thinly populated parishes the education rate was often excessive: in the parish of Lochs it reached 4s. 6d. in the , while in Barvas it attained to the high figure of 5s. 8d. in the . In these two parishes the poor rate was fixed at 4s. 8d. and 4s. 6d. in the C respectively. Whether the new system is an improvement on the old Parochial one remains yet to be seen; but I fear very much that the high pressure under which it is worked does not make the same lasting impression on the young mind as did the slow, steady grinding under the old Parish Dominie. Dr. Norman Macleod, in his "Reminiscences of a Highland Parish," depicts with lifelike touches the quiet peaceful life of the parish schoolmaster, passed among the solitudes of some wild Highland glen. "The glory," Dr. Macleod says, "of the old Scots teacher of this stamp was to ground his pupils thoroughly in the elements of Greek and Latin. He hated all shams, and placed little value on what was acquired without labour. To master details, to stamp grammar rules, thoroughly understood, upon the minds of his pupils as with a pen of iron; to move slowly but accurately through a classic, this was his delight; not his work only, but his recreation, the outlet for his tastes and energies." . . . "I like to call those old teachers to remembrance. Take them all in all they were a singular body of men; their humble homes and poor salaries and hard work presented a remarkable contrast to their manners, abilities, and literary culture. Scotland owes to them a debt of gratitude that never can be repaid, and many a successful minister, lawyer, and physician is able to recall some one of those old teachers as his earliest and best friend, who first kindled in him the love of learning and helped him in the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties." Then there is "Domsie" of Ian M'Laren's creation, whose prototype is still often met with in the Highlands.

DOMESTIC LIFE

DOMESTIC life in the Highlands may be divided into three classes—the Lairds, large Farmers and Crofters. The Lairds or Land Lords have large and elegant castles or mansions; and the majority of them live in luxury and maintain large and expensive establishments. The extraordinary demand for land, for agricultural and sporting purposes, caused a corresponding increase in the value of this class of property, but recent depression of trade has considerably reduced the rentals of several large estates, resulting in the cutting down of expenditure, and this will be a loss very severely felt by many poor workmen who were wholly dependant on the employment they constantly obtained about the "Big Hoose. "Up to the middle of last century, large and middle class tenantry were ill accommodated; but now few indeed there are who have not handsome and commodious dwelling-houses and offices. The crofters and cottars on the other hand, we may safely assume, are still in some places not one whit better than they were a hundred years ago. Their habitations are but miserable hovels, in many cases the walls being built of turf, with a few cabers, thatched with heather, for a roof ; while an opening in the roof serves the two-fold purpose of allowing the peat reek to escape and admitting a dim light —for in many cases there are no windows. The floors are formed of clay beaten down to a hard surface, which in dry weather serves the purpose very efficiently, but in wet weather forms into a slushy puddle. I am now referring more particularly to the dwellings in some parts of the. Western Isles---on the mainland considerable improvements have been effected on many estates within the last ten to twenty years—on the dwellings of both crofters and cottars. [Since the passing of the Crofter Act, in many townships. substantial houses have been erected by the crofters.] Miss Gordon Cumming, in her interesting worn. "In the-Hebrides," published in 1883, graphically describes a South Uist crofter's "Home, Sweet Home," as she calls it, in the following words: —"Right across the island the road is built upon a narrow stone causeway, which is carried in a straight line over moor and moss, bog and loch, and which grows worse and worse year by year. Such miserable :human beings as have been compelled to settle in this dreary district, having been evicted from comparatively good crofts, are probably poorer and more wretched—their hovels more squalid, their filth more unavoidable, than any others in the isles —the huts clustering together in the middle of the :sodden morass, from which are dug the damp turfs which form both walls and roof, and through these the rain oozes, falling with dull drip upon the -earthen floor, where the half-naked children crawl about among the puddles, which form even around the hearth—if such a word may be used to describe a mere hollow in the floor, where the sodden peats smoulder as though they had no energy to burn. Outside of each threshold lie black quagmires crossed by stepping stones—drainage being apparently deemed impossible. Yet with all this abundance of misplaced muddy water, some of the townships have to complain of the difficulty of procuring a supply of pure water, that which has -drained through the peat moss being altogether unfit for drinking or cooking.

"Small wonder that the children born and reared in such surroundings should be puny and sickly, and their elders listless and dispirited, with no heart left to battle against such circumstances. Existence in such hovels must be almost unendurable to the strong and healthy, but -what must it be in the times of sickness? The medical officer of this district states officially that much fever prevails here, distinctly due to under feeding. He says, two families often live in the same house, and that he has attended eight persons in one room all ill with fever, and seven or eight other persons were ,obliged to sleep in the same room." [Dr. Ogilvy Grant, Medical Officer for the County of Inverness, has some very interesting statistics in his report for 1897. He finds that the average length of life is seven years shorter in the Islands than on the Mainland. Dr. Grant attributes the recent serious epidemic of typhus fever in Skye to the insanitary state of the townships and contaminated water supply. It is, however, gratifying to learn that the District Councils are steadily forming special water supply districts, and that trained nurses are being stationed all over the districts. But until the existing wretched dwellings are substituted by cottages built on modern sanitary principles, these ever-recurring epidemics can never hope to be stamped out.]

The foregoing picture, which, alas! is too true, does not, however, depict the prevailing state of matters in the Hebrides generally; but taking the most advanced townships in any part of the Highlands or Islands of Scotland in this enlightened age, we find the sanitation of those dwellings in a state that should certainly claim the immediate attention of the Board of Supervision, and rather than tolerate a recurrence of so deplorable and so, demoralising a thing as to allow sixteen persons to. occupy one room—eight of whom were down with fever—the Government should step in and compel the owners to supply adequate accommodation and proper sanitary arrangements, failing which State aid should be granted, and thus remove from our land one of the foulest stains that ever disgraced-the annals of a civilized country.

Before leaving the question of dwellings I will make a short extract from the report of Sir John MacNeill, who specially surveyed the Northern districts of Scotland for the Government in 1850. Sir John says:—"The crofters' houses, erected by themselves, are of stone and earth or clay. The only materials they purchase are the doors, and in most cases the rafters of the roof, on which are laid thin turf covered with thatch. The crofters' furniture consists of some rude bedsteads, a table, some stools, chests, and a few cooking utensils. At one end of the house, often entering by the same door, is the byre for his cattle, at the other the barn for his crop. His fuel is the peat he cuts in the neighbouring moss, of which an allotted portion is often attached to each croft. His capital consists of his cattle, his sheep, and perhaps one or more horses or ponies; of his crop, that is to feed him till next harvest, provide seed and winter provender for his animals; of his furniture, his implements, the rafters of his house, and generally a boat or a share of a boat, nets or other fishing gear, with some barrels of salt herrings, or bundles of dried cod or ling for winter use."

Notwithstanding all this, sanitary improvements in the Highlands have made remarkable progress during the last century, particularly so in towns and villages. But although in many cases rural districts have advanced considerably, still, as I have already shown, much yet requires to be done. I presume the reader is fully acquainted with the lovely town of Inverness with its charming surroundings, its commanding views of miles of characteristic Highland landscape, with the winding silvery Ness and its wooded islands and picturesque bridges; all presenting an air of attractiveness which fills the beholder with ecstasy and delight. Yet what do you think of the report of the Provost of Inverness made to the Home Secretary from the Poor Law Commissioners "On an enquiry into the sanitary condition of the labouring population of Great Britain, July, 1842? [We need hardly add that the sanitary condition of Inverness has greatly improved since 1842.] The worthy Provost says: —"Inverness is a nice town, situated in a most beautiful country and with every facility for cleanliness and comfort. The people are, generally speaking, a nice people, but their sufferance of nastiness is past endurance. Contagious fever is seldom, if ever, absent; but for many years it has seldom been rife in its pestiferous influence. The people owe this more to the kindness of Almighty God than to any means taken for its prevention." . . . He adds, "When cholera prevailed in Inverness, it was more fatal than in almost any other town of similar population in Britain."

The mode of living among the poorer classes is of the commonest description, indeed often bordering on starvation. Their chief fare is oatmeal porridge, or salt herrings and potatoes, while in many of the outer isles a meal has often to be made on a few cockles gathered on the sands or some limpets picked off the rocks. During the most prosperous year, the poor crofter lives but a "hand to mouth" existence; and when a bad season turns up, Or the fishing proves a failure, starvation stares him in the face—hence the famine which occurred during the years 1846-47 when the potato blight visited the country, and plunged the poorer people. into the severest distress. Their chronic state of almost entire poverty, together with the potato failure, landed them in a state of extreme wretchedness. Ireland was suffering in a similar manner; yet notwithstanding the heavy drain made on public generosity, in the case of Ireland, a "Destitution Fund" was raised by voluntary subscription in Scotland, England, and the Colonies, to relieve, if not to check, the prevailing distress in the Highlands. Sir John MacNeill, who, at the time of the potato failure, was chairman of the Poor Law Board of Scotland, in speaking of the demoralising effects of eleemosynary aid, said: —"The inhabitants of Lewis appear to have no feeling of thankfulness for the aid extended to them, but on the contrary regard the exaction of labour in return for wages as oppression. Yet many of these very men, on a coast singularly destitute of safe creeks, prosecute the winter cod-and-ling-fishing in open row boats, at a distance from the land that renders. it invisible, unless in clear weather, and in a sea open to the Atlantic and Northern Oceans, with no land beyond it nearer than Iceland or America. They cheerfully encounter the perils and hardships of such a life, and tug for hours at an oar, or sit drenched in their boat without complaint; but to labour with a pick or a spade to them is most distasteful."

Highlanders are a very sociable race, and perhaps nothing is more enjoyed, by old and young, than a "Ceilidh," when, sitting around the glowing turf fire, they repeat story upon story, each more wonderful than the other, about giants and witches and fairies and midnight adventures, that make the very hairs of the head stand on end. These tales are sometimes varied by songs; and often does Donald blow his chanter and make his bagpipes skirl; and all join in a hearty country dance or in the good old-fashioned "Reel of Tulloch," and thus the long winter nights are passed by those humble people in innocent simplicity. Can we wonder at them thus trying to wile away the long dreary weary time in that desolate country and damp moorland atmosphere, where they are compelled to pass an existence in poverty, hardship, and isolated imprisonment?

The characteristic Highland weddings and funerals, with their peculiar customs, are fast be-coming extinct, and of one thing I am glad, that considerable reformation has taken place in the matter of Highland funerals; and, although as yet, as a rule, no religious ceremony is conducted at a burial further than, perhaps, the offering up of a prayer by the minister, still many of the scenes of revelry and apparent levity, in olden times, have been abolished. Refreshments are still dispensed; and the practice—unless abused—is commendable, as many of the mourners come from remote places, and perform long and weary journeys to attend the funeral.

Lord Teignmouth, in his "Sketches of the Coasts and Islands of Scotland," thus relates the description of the funeral of a distinguished officer, as conveyed to him by an enthusiastic Highlander: "Oh, sir, it was a grand entertainment, there were five thousand Highlanders present; we were so jolly!" continued the guileless native, "some did not quit the spot till next morning, some not till the following day, they lay drinking on the ground; it was like a field of battle."

To those acquainted with the Highland character, the foregoing may appear uncivilized and barbarous conduct; nor will I attempt to justify it. Yet for all this it cannot be attributed to their levity, as Highlanders regard death with becoming, solemnity; neither is it want of attachment to the memory of the deceased. It is but the perpetuation of a remnant of a rude custom of showing respect to the dead and hospitality to the mourners. In our day, at festive seasons, the customs of "drinking the health" of friends is still indulged in; and, undoubtedly, in those "good old times," long ago, the same method was employed in paying respects to the memory of the dead.

EMIGRATION

"From the lone sheiling on the misty island,
Mountains divide us, and a waste of seas,
But still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides."

THE emigration question is one which requires very careful consideration before any definite conclusion is arrived at, for it is nothing less than a great national problem, a problem which, up till now, has had no satisfactory solution.

That our surplus population must be got rid of is an undisputed fact, but whether it is the wisest course to drain off the congested districts by emigration I am not prepared to say. I, however think that voluntary emigration, whether of communities or individuals, should be encouraged, so long as it can be satisfactorily shown that those persons are qualified and adapted to undergo the life of an emigrant; but wholesale compulsory emigration cannot be too strongly condemned, as a system rotten at its very core, for while it hurls whole townships higgledy-piggledy into a howling, wilderness in a foreign land, it also forms a cloak to screen many cruel evictions that have occurred throughout the Highlands. But, as I have said, we must somehow dispose of our over population; and still I question very much if it is a judicious policy to drive from their native land a race of people who, in bygone years, formed the stamina end backbone of the nation. [The Island of Skye alone has sent forth since the beginning of the last wars of the French Revolution, 21 lieutenant-generals and major-generals, 48 colonels, 600 commissioned officers, 10,000 soldiers, 4 governors of colonies, 1 governor-general, 1 chief baron of England, and 1 judge of •the Supreme Court of Scotland.—DR. NORMAN MACLEOD.]

"Ill fares the land, to hast'ning ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay,
Princes and Lords may flourish or may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made
But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
When once destroyed can never be supplied."
—GOLDSMITH.

True it may be that it is next to impossible for so large a population as now occupy the barren and .swampy wastes of many of the Western Isles to ,even eke out a miserable existence; yet were the Government aid which was offered to emigrants given to them, with the power to migrate and settle on some of the rich fertile lands scattered throughout the many beautiful straths and glens of bonnie Scotland, we should not only be retaining the people and their capital in our midst, but also ,enriching the land, and, above all, feeling that we were not expatriating a people whose love for their native land is such that, when the heather-clad mountains sank from their view-, their hearts would sink, and their arms would shrink like ferns in the winter's frost; and when they reached that far western land, with no heart or energy to face the rough battle of life, they would say

"The Highlands! the Highlands! O gin I were there,
Tho' the mountains an' moorlands be rugged and bare."

"In these grim wastes new homes we'll rear,
New scenes shall wear old names so dear
And while our axes fell the tree,
Resound old Scotia's minstrelsy
Stand fast, stand fast, Craig Elachie?"
—Mrs. D. OGILVY.

After the Anglo-Boer War the Land Settlement Departments of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony made several attempts to settle Government lands, but after enormous sums of money had been expended on the scheme, the results have been anything but satisfactory. Had one half of this money been expended in erecting houses and supplying-stock and implements for re-peopling the fertile straths and glens of Scotland, the result would not only be remunerative, but a more happy and contented community would be the result. The-Imperial Government would act wisely if they devoted a large sun of money for this object.

Between the years 1773-1775 30,000 persons. from various parts of the Highlands crossed the. Atlantic, but it was not until about the beginning. of the last century that the tide of emigration reached its full height, when the crofters were swept away to make room for the wealthy sheep farmers. from the southern dales who invaded the Highlands, and offered an enormous increase for the summer "shielings" of the poor crofters. The late, Dr. Carruthers, of Inverness, quotes an instance in which a sheep farmer from the south offered no less a rent than 350 for a cattle grazing belonging to the men of Kintail who only paid an annual rent of 15 for it. To impecunious lairds such temptations were beyond their power to resist.

"Then it was that the more active and enterprising of the people had emigrated; and the few that remained squatted down in lethargic contentment, so long as their miserable patches of half cultivated lands yielded them a few potatoes and sufficient corn for some meal, with an occasional shoal of herrings throwing themselves within the weirs of the lochs; and thus the people struggled on in that lethargic manner, never endeavouring to elevate or improve themselves above the customs and manners of their forefathers. They married and multiplied; the crofts were sub-divided, and additional huts thrown up to accommodate an ever-increasing population, which, notwithstanding the moderately steady drain of emigration and military employment, still went on growing till the townships failed to support a population now double that of its original settlers. No opportunity was given for spreading out from their confined area; and as they depended wholly on potatoes as their staple food, which now failed them, in 1846, when the destitution crisis began, and became so unequalled for intensity, and which involved both chief and clan, landlord and tenant, in irretrievable embarrassment and ruin." And though the immediate distress was mitigated by the generosity of the British public, its effects are still more or less chronic; and ever and anon the sad case of human destitution and starvation occurs, and will continue to do so, until permanent remedial measures are introduced that will for ever place it beyond the possibility of recurring.

The natural aversion Highlanders have to emigrate further suggests that some improvement of their condition at home should be first attempted before the adoption of the extreme measure—emigration; for when the late Sir James Matheson of Lewis offered to cancel all arrears of rent, forgive all debts, purchase the stock, and provide a free passage to Canada, to any of his tenants willing to emigrate, his generous offer was only accepted by a few. As I have already observed, men who emigrate and have their whole soul concentrated on "the old country," cannot be expected to labour with that energy which is necessary to cope with the difficulties of a new country, and to make them successful in proportion to the troubles they have undergone.

Dr. Norman Macleod illustrates this in that graphic and pathetic styli so peculiar to him. "To Highlanders," he says, "emigration has often been a very passion—their only refuge from starvation. Their love of country has been counteracted on the one band by the lash of famine, and on the other by the attraction of a better land opening up its arms to receive them with the promise of abundance to reward their toil. They have chosen, then, to emigrate; but what agonising scenes have been witnessed on their leaving their native land? The women have cast themselves on the ground, kissing it with intense fervour. The-men, though not manifesting their attachment by such violent demonstrations on this side of the Atlantic, have done so in a still more impressive form in the colonies—whether wisely or not is another question—by retaining their native-language and cherishing feelings of the warmest affection for the country which they still call 'Home.'"

In his "Reminiscences of a Highland Parish, Dr. Macleod, in describing the departure of some emigrants, says:—"Among the emigrants from `the parish' many years ago was the piper of an old family which was broken up by the death of the last laird. Poor `Duncan Piper' had to, enpatriate himself from the house which had sheltered him and his ancestors. The evening before he sailed he visited the tomb of his old master, and, playing the family pibroch while he slowly and solemnly paced round the grave, his wild and wailing notes strangely disturbed the silence of the lonely spot where his chief lay interred. Having done so, he broke his pipes, and laying them on the green sod, departed to return no more."


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