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The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 29 - Glengarry To-day, By Rev. Peerce Naylor McDonald


History paints for us in vivid colors the old life at Glengarry, but time has brought radical changes to the land of the McDonalds'; and the old ruined castle, once the home of their renowned leaders, looks down upon a much changed country. With the setting of the star of the Stuart's hopes, darkness and vicissitude rested upon Scotia's fair lands. Over those moors and glens at Glengarry, which once resounded to the shrill call of the bagpipe, we see feeding to-day droves of deer and various kinds of game. They have little fear of a chance intruder, for the shooting on the estate is leased to Lord Burton of England, for which he pays $25,000 a year, and any one who dares to touch one of the deer out of season will be severely dealt with. Glengarry can now be approached from two quarters, one by way of the Invergarry and Fort Augustus R. R., the time table of which bears on the outside an attractive picture of "Invergarry, Old Castle," and the other is by means of a popular line of steamers which runs from Oban to Inverness. In addition to this there are now splendid roads through this section which are very popular for motoring. But doesn't it seem like sacrilege to be motoring through such historic ground?

The post oflice at Glengarry is called "Invergarry," and the castle of the famous clan of Glengarry is also called "Invergarry." It is located on Loch Oich ("Queen of Highland Lakes"), at the mouth of the Garry River which heads in Loch Garry five miles away. Glengarry properly speaking derives its name from the valley along the river of the same name.

The place is now owned by an English family named Ellice. Mr. Ellice told me that his family had made their money fur-trading in Canada, and that on one occasion when the Indians had attacked the home of his ancestors, the Glengarry men who were then living in Canada came to their rescue and saved their lives. In appreciation for what they had received at their hands, these Ellices bought Glengarry and have ever after that made it their home. Mr. Ellice himself is a charming man, has taken a great deal of interest in the place and its people and has written a book in regard to the traditions of the place. As the old castle is in ruins he has built nearby a handsome new home and has done much to improve and preserve the estate.

The main revenue from the estate is in the hunting and the fishing, both of which are leased to the English nobility. The numerous hills are entirely without trees, but during the month of August are purple with the blooming heather. Trees grow luxuriantly in the glens, and the proprietor is planting forest trees on a large scale and hoping eventually to have the hill sides covered with them. There are on the estate about twenty-five families, all employees of Mr. Ellice. They look after the game and the fishing, also do some little farming and tree planting.

When I visited the old Place I landed at the lock, in the Caledonion Canal, three miles below the castle and slowly walked up the banks of that beautiful lake. The water in these Highland lochs comes from the peat boggs, and is very dark, but it reflects most beautifully the sky and the overhanging trees. At times, so perfect is the reflection that it is difficult to tell where the land ends and where the water begins.

As I was walking up to the castle I saw a clear, beautiful stream of water springing up beside the road. Over the spring was a tall marble shaft. On the top of this shaft is carved seven heads, through which a dagger is driven and on which is resting a foot, also carved in the stone. It is called "The Well of the Seven Heads." On the four sides of the monument there is an inscription in Gaelic, English, French and Latin which tells its story. In the 16th Century, seven men murdered some of the McDonald Clan, they were speedily captured and as their captors led them to the castle, they beheaded them and washed the blood off the heads in this little spring. This monument was put here by members of the clan to bear witness to the "swift course of feudal justice."

The old castle itself is built on a huge rock above Loch Oich, and at the mouth of the Glen of Garry. It is this massive cliff at the foot of the castle called the "Raven's Rock" which gave to the men of Glen= garry their war cry "Craggan fittich" or the "rock of the raven." The great heavy walls, pierced here and there with port holes, show that the castle was built for a fort as well as a home. It must have been a very handsome place in its day, and still stands in stolid grandeur, towering above the trees and clinging ivy, like a great giant of the past, refusing to surrender to the frills and foibles of the present generation. Beneath the walls are dark dungeons wherein the chiefs were accustomed to place those who questioned their authority. 'Tis no wonder that the men who went forth from that environment were men of fierce, firey natures, who counted human life cheap, and who would rather die than surrender a principle.

I wandered along the shores of the Garry River until I came to Loch Garry. Mr. Ellice has made a good path along the river bank for almost the entire distance. There were several men fishing in the lake and from the character of the fish that they caught and their number I am inclined to think that the Englishman pays very generously for his fishing privilege.

Along the shore I found a rough, flat-bottomed boat and in this I rowed out into the lake. As I sat there on the bosom of those dark waters, and heard the low sighing of the wind in the trees on the shore, I thought of the changes that had come to that mountain glen; the passing of the old life, with all its fierceness and glamor, the incoming of the Lowlander who with his gold had conquered what he could never win with his arms.

On my way back to the hotel at Invergarry, I talked with some of the men who worked on the estate. They were pleased at my interest in the place and told me many of its old traditions. They talked to each other in Gaelic when they had something to say that they did not want me to understand. They showed me the homes of the various retainers on the place. I visited Peter McClain, the chief forrester, in his home and found him a very intelligent fellow. His house was a one-story cottage, with cement floors. It seemed to me that it would be very damp in the long cold winters. However, his family seemed happy and said that the owner of the estate was very good to them. Peter McClain showed me a dark, rough-looking stool in which he thought I might be interested. He said that there had formerly stood, not far from the old castle, a large walnut tree which had always been known as "The Hangman's Tree." When this tree finally blew down, he had made this stool from the wood. I am sorry now that I did not bring that stool home with me, but perhaps it is best to remember our ancestors by what is best in their lives rather than otherwise and to let the "dead bury the dead."

I was struck with the small stature of the men whom I found on the place. I had expected to find great, sturdy giants, and when I spoke to Mr. Ellice of the fact, he said that the present generation at Glengarry no longer represented the old race of the past. After the battle of Culloden, 1745, practically all the strong, able-bodied men moved from there to America, and later there came in Irish laborers who intermarried with the people, and it is their descendants who are to be found to-day on the estate. The best blood of Glengarry emigrated to America and has entered largely into the life and history of that land.


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