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The Scots Week-End
Non-Human Natives


The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone,
The kye stood rowtin' i' the loan;
When up they gat, and shook their lugs,
Rejoiced they werena men but dugs.

Burns

HERE Scotland holds her own. She stands as well as ever she did-in some ways better-as regards birds, beasts, flowers and semi-precious stones, not to mention gold. A considerable portion of this native stock, animate and inanimate, is peculiar to her. In no other British rivers can you hopefully seek for non-synthetic pearls, in no other British trees for wild-cats, capercailzies or ospreys, in no other British rocks for topazes filled with whisky-coloured fire.

FLOWERS

We have most of the English species and are famous for our gardens and gardeners. On the whole our cottage gardens are better than those in the South. For one thing we have peculiarities of climate which, by retarding certain early blooms, enable these to appear at the same time as later ones. Thus spring and summer flowers may be seen, both at their best, side by side in Scotland. For example, if you have the good luck to visit Dryburgh Abbey in June, you may easily see lilacs, laburnums, hawthorns (called "flourish"), wisterias, rhododendrons and roses, all blooming in rivalry, while the ground beneath them is starred with spring flowers, such as hyacinths and daffodils that have not yet begun to look tired.

As for wild flowers, we have far fewer cowslips, this being a comparatively rare field-flower in Scotland. But our wild hyacinths-as we properly name the "bluebell" of England-are at least as good and as profuse as any elsewhere, and our true bluebells, which the English call harebells, are better, bigger and far more plentiful. So are our wild (Anglice, "dog") roses. Those who wish to see one of the floral sights of a lifetime will go to the Leadhills district of Lanarkshire in summer when the wild pansies are out. They carpet the soil there so closely, thickly and gaily that they must be seen to be believed. And even then you will rub your eyes, wondering if you have seen aright. The Hebridean Islands, too, are covered with wild flowers in June, and the lovely plant which we call sea-pinks and the English "thrift" multiplies its clumps on many of our coasts, both in the West and in the East. Our whins are more thickly covered with gold, which looks the brighter for its background of brilliant heather. Our brooms are excellent. The rowan is a common tree. The laburnum loves us.

We make a feature of alpine plants, even of arctic ones (these last being confined to the heights of Ben Nevis and Ben Lawers), of cryptogamic plants (mosses), of lichens and of fungi. Among the arctics are the rare saxifrages-Rivularis, Cernua and Moalis; among the alpines, Pingincula alpina is to be found in Skye, and both in Skye and in Coll the rare American genus, Erioaulon septangulare, while Arran boasts the unique Pyrus aria var. fennica, not elsewhere extant in Britain. Mosses are particularly rich in the West, where the in-running sea-lochs, the land bogs and the moderation of sunshine create favourable conditions to which there is no parallel except on the coasts of Norway, The Greater Cumbrae, which measures scarcely more than four miles in length by less than two in breadth, has a greater variety of different species than will be discovered in any other district of like extent in Scotland, perhaps out of Scotland. Continental botanists come to us for the sake of our Hepaticae. We have many and rare lichens, some of them used in the dyeing of tweeds and tartans. We yield the palm to none in fungi, edible or poisonous. In one small stretch-the Cadder Wilderness-about four miles from Glasgow-700 to 80o species of fungi have been gathered. On the other hand, tropical plants exist in Rothesay Bay. Collectors are advised to look about them carefully when strolling the purlieus of ruined castles and monastic institutions, as there they are likely to find plants "of dubious nativity" which, long since, came from overseas and have acclimatised themselves. An example is the Nepeta cataria that is naturalised under the walls of Craignethan Castle.

MINERALS

We refrain from encouraging tourists to extract our gold. The process absorbs more energy than results are likely to justify. There have been visitors, however, who have dredged good-sized pearls from the larger rivers, particularly from the Teith and the Spey, enough to make themselves a necklace. These river pearls are imperfect in shape and clouded in colour, but are not without their charm. Throughout Perthshire and in most of the mountainous regions it is hardly possible to hunt for half an hour with a hammer without finding amethysts, cairngorms (topaz), agates, onyxes and other crystals and quartzes which can be cut and used for jewellery. The cutting of "pebbles", which used to be a notable industry, is now, unhappily, almost wholly discontinued. But English cutters are delighted to undertake the work of preparing and setting Scotch stones for people who pay. A word of warning here. Make sure, if you send your stones to an English cutter, that you get the same stones back in your brooch or cuff-links and not some scrap of ready-mounted English or foreign cornelian. The trick is a common one. Naturally, a factory having numbers of set stones in stock, finds it easier and more profitable to send you one of these than to make the best of your own finds. Do not permit it. The old Scottish cutter would have scorned such commercial subterfuges. Be warned, and stipulate from the first that the submitted estimate is to be for your own crystals and for no others, even if the others may look better.

Polished fragments of Scotch marbles and granites make good paper-weights and have an association value if you find them yourself. Garnets are found in considerable number and size along the Fife coast. So, on several coasts, is amber. And if you should come across a dead whale, there is no harm in looking to see if it has any ambergris about it. If there is, and you can secure it, the perfumers will pay well for it per ounce. It is found in the intestines of a spermaceti whale who has suffered from biliousness, and is a grey, fatty substance with ruddy, marble-like veins running through it, and it smells very pleasantly. Sometimes it is to be seen without the whale, either on the shore or floating on the sea, where, presumably, the mammal has thrown off its bilious attack. If you see a dead whale, inquire first if it is a spermaceti one, as otherwise investigation is certainly useless. We are bound to add that investigation of a spermaceti whale is very nearly certainly useless. It is certainly troublesome.

BIRDS

From golden eagles downwards, we have birds, common and rare, land and sea birds, in greater variety than you will find in any other part of Britain. We have, in addition to almost all the familiar kinds known in England, such fowls as ptarmigan, ospreys, falcons (jer and orange-legged), hawks (merlin, hobby, ash-coloured, long-tailed blue), owls (golden, fern and horned), harriers (marsh and hen), ravens, goshawks, hooded crows, white-tailed sea-eagles, whaups or tilliwhillies, capercailzies, bristle-cocks and withery-weeps -in all some 539 species. If you are found red-handed with a dead grouse, partridge or pheasant and asked to explain yourself, say you took it to be a tilliwhillie or a withery-weep. You may pull this off if you look the part. Again, you may not even if you do.

The nightingale is the only bird found in England which we cannot produce. Persons have asserted from time to time that they have heard the song of a nightingale in Scotland, but on each occasion the performer has been found to be merely a skilful imitator. Once, indeed, for a few months we had a few genuine specimens, but they never stayed long enough to know what singing was. We owe their brief dumb presence to Sir John Sinclair, Scotland's first President of the Board of Agriculture. Sir John, determined to remedy, if he could, our defect in respect of' nightingales, procured as many eggs as the London dealers could steal from English nests for him and post to the North wrapped in cotton-wool at a shilling apiece. At the same time he employed men in Scotland to prepare for their immediate reception by robbing the nests of robin redbreasts of a single egg for which a nightingale's was substituted. The robin, as cuckoos and other practical ornithologists are aware, is a diligent and conscientious parent who annually diminishes his waistline by rearing several broods in succession. The Scottish robins and the English dealers and eggs all played their parts loyally up to a point. The Southern birds hatched out and were seen flying about as if unaware of the trick that Sir John and his little brother conspirators had played on them. Sir John slept well, and dreamed of what Thackeray has called the jugulating that would sound the following season in Scottish airs. But when September came, every nightingale, without notifying the Board or so much as bidding their foster-parents au revoir, left the shores of Scotland. Not one returned. No Scottish poet, accordingly, has been able to hearken to a nightingale on his native heath except over the wireless. Those early Scottish makars, such as Dunbar and Henryson, who speak with familiarity of the bird, were either lying or plagiarising, or they heard the song when they were abroad, which they mostly were.

REPTILES AND WILD BEASTS

Unlike the Irish, we have our fair share of adders and they bite as badly as if not worse than the English ones. But we have no other snakes, and no lizards. Our loch monsters are famous, especially during the silly season. Some of these turn out to be seals, which are notoriously intelligent and dramatic. Seals abound and are very musical, as Mrs Kennedy-Fraser and other folk-lore experts have discovered by eavesdropping behind rocks. We are waiting for a broadcast of a Hebridean seal. You are allowed to shoot seals, but the natives will not approve the practice and you can do nothing with the creature's carcase. His flesh makes considerably worse eating than venison and his skin is useless to the furrier, which things are evidences of his sagacity.

There used to be wolves in Scotland, but they have died long since. There are, further, no polecats and no martens left, although a hundred years ago they sported by the hundred. But the wild-cat, which, unlike the polecat, is a real cat, after verging on extinction, is looking up again, even in regions like Rothiemurchus, where it was thought to have wholly died out. Be careful, if you see one, not to attempt to stroke it. It does not purr under the human hand. One is said to have killed a knight in full armour, and even if yours did not kill you it might damage you. Whatever may be the truth of the story about the knight and the cat, a Scotch wild-cat has been seen within living memory to fight victoriously with an eagle, and you know what eagles are. Or perhaps you don't. One was seen by a walker lately. It was roosting on a decayed cabbage-stalk and looked depressed.

Deer, of which some people think there are too many in Scotland, can be a great nuisance to cross-country walkers, who slip about and foul their shoes among the droppings of a herd which they may not so much as have the satisfaction of seeing. This is particularly exasperating to those who neither possess shootings nor enjoy venison when shot by other people. Other vermin, for which nobody takes shootings, are plentiful, such as badgers, otters, stoats and weasels, foxes, rabbits and hares. One may see scores of hares at one time, blue and brown, and, of course, white ones in winter. Although in parts of Scotland the fox is hunted in the conventional English fashion, there is no prejudice against shooting or trapping him, so there will be no disgrace in your obtaining a brush as a trophy, no matter how you may come by it. Remember that foxes are bad for grouse.

Besides the true wild-cat, wild and semi-wild farm cats are common. These, having gone native, object to being stroked almost as much as the true ones, so do not venture it. Remember the motto of the Mackintoshes - "Touch not a cat but a glove".

DOGS

Besides a quantity of intelligent and not so intelligent mongrels, dogs of several distinctive breeds are to be found in Scotland. All are tame, most are sporting, and some are of practical use as workers. Each breed can boast a world-wide reputation.

King among them is the Collie or sheep-dog (collie means sheep). The cleverest of these is the original small Shetland collie, which is curly-haired and dark. For centuries he has been the beloved and profitable friend of shepherds throughout the British Isles. He can work a flock of sheep unaided and has been known to herd a batch of straying chicks back to their mother without injuring one hair of their fluff. His more showy cousin, through, it is said, intermarriage with the fox, has been developed into a creature of remarkable beauty in its purest state, while retaining its utilitarian charms, especially when permitted the forfeiture of some of its purity in favour of brains versus breeding. Originally black, tan and white, he is now more popular as sable or sable and white, with a fine long nose, a narrow head, an eloquent feather tail and a heavy, splendid coat. His eyes, dark and "speaking", are set obliquely, his ears are expressive, his ruff Elizabethan. There is a feather on each foreleg but none on the hind legs below the hock. Over-bred show specimens apart, he deserves all the best that has ever been said of him as an affectionate, hard-working animal whose youthful exuberance of spirits is rivalled as he grows older by his ability to follow the workings of the human mind as expressed in his master's face, voice and ways of whistling, and his willingness to gratify human wishes. The reputation of the collie for treachery is not well founded. He can usually be guaranteed to bite only interfering strangers, who are here reminded that the practising sheep-dog which trots at the heels of every shepherd is a busy creature who likes to be left in peace while resting. Also he is frequently of an age at which idiosyncrasies ought to be studied if harmony is to be maintained. There are smooth and rough collies, sometimes both kinds in one litter. The smooth variety has often a merle or marbled colour. A dozen clubs devote exclusive attention to his breed. Single specimens have been sold for 1300. His work at a sheep-dog trial is one of the things best worth seeing in Scotland.

All our other breeds are terriers, and of all the Scotch terriers the real original is the Cairn or Highland terrier. This in spite of his existence not having been recognised by the Kennel Club until 1910. His ideal weight is about 14 lb., his fundamental quality "gameness". There are no limits to his courage and tenacity, but he evinces an ineradicable inclination to poach, and also to kill his prey, be it tame poultry or wild rabbits. He may be red, sandy, grey, brindled or nearly black, but he is most fancied in a creamy buff with a dark mask. He is shaggy, strong and compactly built, and his movements are free. He has wide-apart dark hazel eyes in his small foxy head, which has, however, breadth across the skull. His eyebrows are shaggy and there is an indentation between them. His muzzle is powerful but not heavy, and he is neither overshot nor undershot. His ears are small and pointed but not too closely set, his tail short and not feathery. It should never curl over his back. His lady, when blonde with a dark mask, is one of the beauties of the canine world.

The Scottish terrier, often called the Scottie, used to be known as the Aberdeen. He thrives and is a favourite in every country to which he has been taken. Hardihood, loyalty and a capacity to enter with zest into the life of his owner are his outstanding virtues. For some reason he is most fancied in a black coat, of which the chief distinction is that this is worse in quality than any other colour of coat in which he can be had. He weighs from 17 to 21 lb. and has powerful hind-quarters, a deep chest and straight forelegs. His head need not be very large, but should be fairly long, with a flat skull, a large nose and a medium-sized muscular neck. He is prick-eared and has dark brown eyes.

The Skye is one of the oldest breeds, but is quite out of fashion to-day. Having been popular, however, in the days of Queen Victoria, who greatly fancied them, Skyes may yet return to favour. The main cause of their decline was an exaggerated breeding for length of coat which, normally, should not be more than 5 inches. This interfered with his original function as a destroyer of foxes, badgers and otters, besides making his toilette a nuisance. This was a great shame, as by nature he has no nonsense about him and is always ready for hard sport. He can be dark or light blue, grey or fawn with black points. His body is long and low and straight, with broad shoulders, a long neck, and short, straight legs without dew claws. He is smothered in a thick, double coat of hair, which veils his forehead and eyes, and falls in locks round ears which can be dropping or upstanding. Drop-ears belong to the original type. Prick-ears should be small. He ought to hold his feathery tail either low or level with his back. His forehead is wide, eyes hazel or dark brown, close-set, nose black, head long, with strong jaws and teeth closing level.

The Clydesdale or Paisley terrier, a variety of the Skye, is also seen too seldom nowadays. He got his name through being bred by the Paisley weavers, who were also great bird fanciers and snarers. Characteristic is the silky coat, which some aver is of Spanish origin. It can be light blue or silver, but dark blue was the most prized.

The West Highland terrier was originally no more than a white Cairn (q.v.), and such are still quite common and much loved. But a new type has been bred and finds more favour. He has a straight coat of 2 inches and a straight tail without bushiness. Strongly built, straight in the back, with a deep chest and back ribs and powerful quarters, the West Highlander stands on muscular legs. His eyes are widely set and dark hazel, his muzzle tapering and not too long, his nose, roof of mouth and pads black. His mouth should be neither overshot nor undershot. Dogs weigh from 14 to 18 lb., bitches from 12 to 16.

The Dandie Dinmont, once known as a Border terrier, is a near relation to the Bedlington of Northumbria, but he is short-legged and long-bodied instead of longlegged and short-bodied. He acquired his name and a widespread vogue by figuring in Guy Mannering and is of Teviotdale breed. He may be either blue or yellow (a "pepper" or a "mustard") and is very strong and flexible, with straight, short and immensely muscular forelegs, and a short curved tail that is full of gaiety and held high. His head is strong and large with awe-inspiring jaw muscles and a well-domed forehead crowned with a remarkably light and silky top-knot. His muzzle is tapered and his teeth exceptionally large and competent. His eyes, wide apart, are a lustrous dark hazel, his ears pendulous, low on the skull and set far back and well apart. His coat should be about 2 inches and his weight anything from 14 to 24 lbs. That he is no longer modish distresses neither him nor his devoted owners.

To sum up, Scotland is the best place in the world to see a man about a dog. And when you have got the dog, there are almost none among the other natives here mentioned whom he may not be taught to retrieve or kill for you. If you have the patience you could probably train him to fish for pearls or salmon or to run up trees after wild cats. As for subterranean work, he will not be daunted by the very hole of Pluto, and he always manages to get back, usually with something in his mouth. We have no hesitation in recommending every manifestation of the Scotch dog.


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