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The Scottish Gael
Chapter XI
Of the food of the Celts, their cookery, liquors, medical knowledge, health, and longevity

THERE was no scarcity of food amongst, the Celtae, when they came
jnder the observation of the more polished nations of Europe, and their
good living must have materially assisted in producing the strong limbs
and large stature for which they were so remarkable. The vegetable
Kingdom, unimproved by horticultural skill, and the wild herds of the
ibrest, afford the means of subsistence to mankind in the first stage of
civilisation; but the nations of the west were not confined to these pre-
carious supplies, having long before the commencement of our era, as
may already appear, pastured numerous flocks of cattle, and cultivated,
with success, extensive fields of corn. To this general observation the
state of some of the remote and barbarous tribes will indeed be an ex-
ception. Strangers to the advantages of climate and intercourse with
more refined nations, they continued in primitive rudeness, unaffected
by commerce, and contented with their savage enjoyments; but the
Gauls were far removed from that state in which human beings are under
the necessity of appropriating the coarse fruits of the forest trees, or the
wild herbs and roots of the field, for their chief subsistence. They were,
as has been shown, supplied with abundance of venison from their well-
stocked forests, and other meat from their tame herds, and the plenty
which filled the land was evinced by their well-supplied tables and con-
tinued feasting, which were the theme of even Roman commendation
The Aquitani were famed for their sumptuous and frequent entertain-
ments,* and the Celtiberi were noted for being particularly nice and
curious in their diet."f

Before manners have been changed by civilisation, or mankind has
emerged from a state of nature, the savage beings subsist on the coarse
and undressed articles of food which they may be able to procure.
The roots of the field, and the produce of the forest trees, supply a


t Pliny.


ready, though precarious, means of sustenance, and, consistent with the
plan hitherto pursued, it will be inquired how far the ancient Cells
depended on the wild productions of nature, or had supplied themselves
with vegetables and fruit, improved by horticultural industry.

Tne Germans, according to Tacitus and Appian, lived chiefly on raw
herbs and wild fruit, and some of the Britons, also, were accustomed to
satisfy the cravings of hunger with the same unsavory aliment ; but this
must have been in cases of necessity, and among the most barbarous
of the tribes, for they certainly had, in general, ample supplies of other
food. It is, besides, found that nations will continue the use of the hard
fare which satisfied their fathers, when it is in their power to procure
better provisions, as the Arcadians, who continued to eat acorns to the
time that the Lacedemonians warred with them ;* and the Celtiberi,
who used, throughout all the country, to serve up roasted mast as a
second course,! notwithstanding they had all sorts of flesh in plenty,
and were not obliged to use this plain diet.J The Celts, although, as
shall be shown, they by no means disregarded good living, seem to have
considered temperance a virtue, being moderate, as Diodorus and
Tacitus express themselves, in eating, banishing hunger by plain fare
without curious dressing. This race have ever been noted for their
contempt of delicacies, or aversion to epicurianism, and their ability to
bear the privations of hunger and fatigue. It has been found that the
Highlanders are, when surrounded with plenty, more sparing in their
diet than others ; and it is a fact,, that they will continue a whole day
at laborious field work, contenting themselves with only two meals of
water brose, or a simple mixture of oatmeal and water. They will eat,
says Mrs. Grant, with a keen appetite and sufficient discrimination ; but
were they to stop in any pursuit because it was meal time, growl over a
bad dinner, or exult over a good one, the manly dignity of their charac-
ter would be considered as fallen forever. I have seen a piper from
"the head of the Highlands," at a sumptuous dinner on St. Andrew's
day, select, from the various choice dishes around him, plain boiled
sheep's trotters in preference to any thing else!

The ancient Celts held corpulence in so much abhorrence, that the
young men had a girdle to determine their size, and if they were found
to exceed its dimensions, they were subjected to a fine. A fat paunch
has always been reckoned a great misfortune in the Highlands.

Health may be preserved with a much less quantity of food than is
generally supposed ; for repletion is more inimical to the system than a
scanty meal. Martin justly observed, that if among the Highlanders
there were no corpulent persons, none bore the appearance of starvation.
The remark is still applicable ; and although, from their hard living and
frequent exposure to the severity of the weather, the appearance of old
age is seen at a more early period of life than is the case with laborers
in more favored climes, yet they live equally long, if not longer, enjoy

* PausaniaSj vii. i. t Pliny, xvi. J Diodorns.


as good health, and perform as much work, and often of a great dea
harder nature.*

The Caledonians, we learn from Dio, were obliged, when in the woods,
to live on the fruits of the trees, and even on the leaves and roots of
wild herbs; but game, the chief subsistence of an uncivilized people,
formed their principal food, to which the vegetable kingdom afforded an
estimable accession. In the woods and valleys were found the natural
productions, which diversified the simple meals of the Celtic nations, and
the herbs and esculents which nature had spread before them, they were
long satisfied to gather from the open fields, before they thought of culti-
vating them around their dwellings. The Britons, in distant ages, paid
some attention to this useful pursuit, yet many, in Strabo's time,"!" were
totally ignorant of horticulture. The vegetable garden of the ancient
Celt, we may believe, was but scantily stored; the natural meadows in
the vicinity of his humble dwelling, and the mountain wilds, afforded
him a sufficient and not uninviting supply. In summer, the Gael could
vary his repasts by many sweet and wholesome productions of his native
land; he could gather subhans^ in the glen and avrons^ on the height; in
the woods he could find various fruits and nutricious herbs on the muirs
he could pick the delicious blackberry, the aromatic aitnach, the lus-
cious blaeberry, arid many others.

A people occupied in pasturage could not fail to become acquainted
with the value of different vegetables, either as human food, or suste-
nance for their herds. Turnips were served up at table in Gaul, and
were given to the cattle in winter, a part of rural economy which we
thus see is far from being an improvement of modern times. || A sort of
wild carrot was known in almost every country. The kind called Dau-
cus grew spontaneously in the woods of Gaul and Britain, and was
known in Italy as the Gallic. Leeks, of which the Welsh are reputed
to be so fond, were plentiful in the Principality in the fifth century. The
old Irish made great use of watercresses, sorrel, and scurvy grass; and
even shamrock is said to have been eaten by them. The poor of that
country were often obliged to make such articles a chief part of their
food. In 1673, they are represented as " feeding much on watercresses,
parsneps, potatoes, and sea weed," and Sir William Petty describes
them as using potatoes from August to May, a pennyworth of cakes
serving an individual a week; to which, eggs and rancid butter were
added by some; others, it is said, used a preparation of curdled milk and
norse's blood, and those who lived near the sea gathered mussels, cock-
'es, and oysters, but flesh meat was seldom seen among the lower order.

*The alleged abstinence of some ancient nations is almost incredible. Pliny tells us
the Sauromatse took but one meal in three days ! Lib. vii. 2.
t Lib. iv. p. 200.

t Strawberries, used in the Low Countries of Mar and Banff for raspberries.
Otherwise oighreag, the cloudberry, rubus chamoemorus.
II Columella, ii. 10, p. 198, edit. 1595 H Dio.


The ancient Gael had a certain vegetable, of which, about the si/.e of
a bean enabled them to resist, for some time, the effects of a want of eithei
meat or drink. The Highlanders, at this day, occasionally use an irticle
that was in much esteem with their ancestors, and which, if not the above,
seems to possess similar qualities. The root braonan, which grows
abundantly in the country, is delicious, and very nutritious when boiled.
It is dug from November to April, and, when dried and ground, it
makes good bread. Many, also, chew it like tobacco, and allege that it
allays the sensation of hunger. Pennant confounds this with the
cor-mheille, or blue button, the root of which is only used as a tonic.
The Scythians, according to Pliny, who, it must be confessed, was
credulous, had two herbs which can hardly be classed among those used
for food, although they appear to have answered as most valuable sub-
stitutes. One received its name from the people among whom it was
found, or who discovered its properties, being called Scythica; the other
was called Hyppici, and by keeping either in the mouth, the want of
meat or drink was not felt for a considerable time.* A knowledge of
these excellent articles would be of inestimable value to hungry wights
in the civilized society of the present day.

Shunis, or Scots' parsley, is much valued by the Highlanders, who
use it both as food and medicine. The vegetables which they usually
cultivated were cabbages, onions, carrots, beans, and peas. The kale
yard, or garden for the vegetable, Cole, was formerly an important
adjunct to a cottage in the Lowlands, but since the introduction of
potatoes it is in less esteem. The Highlanders, about one hundred
years ago, had in general an aversion to the productions of the kitchen
garden. The Grants appear to have been the first among the clans who
cultivated the above-noticed vegetable, and they are, at this day, often
alluded to as ' : the soft kale-eating Grants." The old Highlanders
were chiefly carnivorous and lactophagious, and even yet they are indif-
ferent to the use of vegetables. The kale and cabbage which they
require for planting, are purchased in the Low Country. Kale seems
derived from the Latin, Caulis, a stalk or stem, but the original plant
does not appear to be well-known.

The Celtae paid great attention to the management of the dairy, the
produce of which is necessarily a principal part of the subsistence of a
pastoral people, and they were able to make butter, the nature of which
was unknown to the Romans."!" Pliny describes the churn as " longa
vasa angusto foramine," but although a handle is not mentioned, the
cream is said to have been shaken. J The name buyd ur, chief or
excellent food, is believed to have arisen from its being confined to the
use of the chiefs. The better sort, who were thus distinguished from
the poor, had so much that they sold of it,|| and it is probable that the

* Pliny, xxv. 8. t Pliny, xxvii. J Ibid.

Whitaker. || Dalechamp. Comment, on Pliny, xxviii. 9.


nobles received butter of their followers as a perquisite. In Gaelic it
is called Im.

The Irish are described as very " unmannerly in making their butter,"
and the process is certainly not likely to have been inviting when they
thought it extremely unlucky ever to wash their milk vessels,* and by
a practice of hiding it in the bogs it was usually rancid. It would be
unfair, however, to let it appear that the Irish alone were addicted to
this filthy and superstitious practice, for in some parts of Scotland, I
have been informed, the same prejudice exists, or did exist, which is
humorously noticed in the " Cottagers of Glenburnie," " Do you not
clean the churn before you put in the cream ?" asked Mrs. Mason
" Na, na," returned Mrs. Mac Clarty, "that wadna be canny ye ken.
Nasbody hereabouts wad clean their kirn for ony consideration. 1
never heard o sic a thing in a my life." In some parts of the High-
lands the gudewife takes the following method to procure fresh butter
in winter. Salt butter being mixed with sweet milk, in the proportion
of one pound to the chopin, or quart, of milk, is put through the same
process as cream undergoes in a small churn: the butter, consequently,
becomes sweet, and the milk turns salt. This is sometimes practised
by the Irish also.

The Gauls made excellent cheeses : they were highly aromatic, and
Pliny extols them as medicinal. The best of those at Rome were pro-
cured from Nismes, and two villages in the Gevaudan. They were
excellent for present use, but were not made to be kept long. Pliny
expresses his surprise that some nations, who thickened their milk into
a pleasant curd and rich butter, should not make cheese ; f an igno-
rance with which some of the Britons are charged by Strabo.^ Cais is
the proper Gaelic name of cheese cabog, the Scots kebbuck, seems
to denote the shape. The process of making cheese in the Highlands
has been before alluded to. There is one sort, of which some people
are very fond, called cais tennal, or gathered curd, which is thus made :
the whey being pressed from the curd, it is put, without any salt, into
a damp and dark place, where it is allowed to remain for fourteen or
twenty days, when it is broken down, mixed with salt in the usual pro-
portion, and put into the cheese press, becoming ripe for use in six or
eight months. It is generally made of sweet milk, but cream is some-
times added when the salt is mixed with it. Cheese of goat and ewe
milk is only used by the poorer people ; the former yields scarce any
cream, the latter makes tolerable cheese, but white rancid butter. It
was usually mixed with that of the cow, and the mixture produced the
best of all cheese. Little goats' milk is now to be seen in the High-
lands ; and, since the establishment of large sheep farms, no ewes' milk
at all.

A great accession to the supply of food is procured from the cultiva-

* Riche. t The Germans used coagulated milk. Tac. de Mor. Germanium

t Lib. iv. p. 200.

BREAD. 321

(.ion of the soil. Panick was much used in Aquitain, and formed part
of the food of all the Celtae; the nations on the Euxine had no daintier
meat than what was made of this grain ; about the Po, they scarcely
used any of it without a mixture of beans.* Barley gruel was in com-
mon use among the Gauls. In Germany, they cultivated oats, and
lived much on gruel, or pottage, made of it, which they called abre-
mouz."|" The Japides, a Celtic nation in Pannonia, lived chiefly on and millet. The Britons used the panick, which was first cul-
tivated by the Gauls; and, in very ancient times, were accustomed to
take as much grain from their storehouses as would serve them for a
day, and having dried and bruised the grains, they made a sort of food
for immediate use.J The Irish and ancient Caledonians pursued the
same system, and among the remote Highlanders it still exists. They
bring home at night as much corn in the ear as may be wanted at the
time, and quickly convert it into meal in the manner described in
page 313.

Eireirich, or araradh, is a term which the Highlanders apply both to
the drying of corn in a pot, according to the old practice, and to the
grain and bread so prepared. Giraldus Cambrensis says the Welsh
lived on butter, cheese, &q. with plenty of flesh, but used very little
bread. The Irish ate their flesh without bread, keeping what corn they
had for their horses.^ An assertion that, in a wild part of Argyleshire
there was no bread, until some strangers arrived and taught the art of
baking, is certainly untrue. |j The bread of the Gauls, who, according
to Athenoeus, used but little, was superior to that of the Romans, from
the use of yeast in the kneading of the dough. Their knowledge of
brewing enabled them to procure barm, which was a much better
ingredient than honey or eggs, used by other nations. " When the
Gallic and Celtiberian brewers steeped their wheat in water, and
mashed it for their drink, they took the froth that collects at top, and
used it instead of leaven, which was the reason that their bread was
always lighter than any other. "IT

Ovens must have been very early known to the Britons, from the dis-
coveries of baked pottery; but if applied to the purposes of cooking,
they were, probably, confined to the establishments of chiefs ; neverthe-
less, the Celtae excelled in preparing their bread, which Pliny attests
was the best in the world. It was baked on stones placed around the
fire, which the Britons denominated greidiol ; and Whitaker says the
inhabitants of Manchester retained this simple mode of preparing their
bread until recent times. From this word is derived the Scotish
girdle, a round piece of iron suspended over the fire, on which oat
cakes are baked. Amongst the most rural of the Scots, the " cakes "
are still " fired " in this manner, and are called bonnach ctaiche, or

* Pliny. The Sarmatians lived chiefly on pottage, or gruel of millet, and used raw
meal mixed with the milk of mares, and sometimes with the blood of the ;attle.

t Ibid. i Diod. v. Campion. || Birt. tf J tiny xviii. 7



rather bonnach lichde, stone cakes. The baking of this family, or
household bread of the Scots, has not yet become a trade ; every
guidwife makes her own cakes, by which, as the agricultural reporter
of the Isle of Man observes of the people of that interesting island, she
is independent of the baker. There is no scarcity of bakers of wheaten
bread, but oat cakes have not been sold, except, perhaps, in the lowest
puilieus of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, or other large and manu-
facturing cities.

Froissart gives us a curious account of the mode in which the Scots
soldiers were anciently accustomed to convert their meal into cakes.
Observing that neither knights nor squires took carriages into the
field with them, he says, " every man carries about the saddle of his
horse a great flat plate, and he trusses behind him a wallet of meal, the
purpose of which is this: after a Scotish soldier has eaten flesh so
long t that he begins to loathe it, he throws this plate into the fire, then
moistens a little of his meal in water, and when the plate is heated he
lays his paste upon it, and makes a little cake, which he eats to
comfort his stomach. Hence it is not strange that the Scots should be
able to make longer marches than other men."

The occupations of baking and brewing continued to be performed
by women, even when the profession had become public.* The kings
of Scotland had bakers and brewers,! who were, like most professors
among the Celtic people, hereditary, and were in high estimation,
holding lands in reward for their services.^

Little more can be said respecting the art of cookery, or the various
dishes of the ancient. Celts. The Germans ate their venison fresh, ^
the Gauls occasionally salted it.]) These latter also used great quan-
tities of flesh sodden in water, or roasted on the coals or on spits. IT
They had abundance of provisions, and were not indisposed to improve
their food by culinary process, but it would appear they preferred plain
joints, and feasted with more delight on such substantial fare as "the
roast beef of old England," than on soups and hashes, so much esteem-
ed by their French posterity. It appears from Varro, that they sent
into Italy, sausages, hogs' puddings, gammons of bacon, and hams.
The Celtic women carried pots of pudding into the baths, which they
eat along with their children while they washed.**

The British tribes, who " were contented with plain and homely
fare," were, probably, less expert in the art of cookery than those of
the continent, and the people in the northern division of the island
must have been still less versed in the science. The activity of their
lives, and healthy, robust constitutions, imparted a zest to their rough
and scanty meals, which epicures wish for in vain. The heroes of

* When making bread became a trade at Rome, the chief bakers were tvomen. Pliny.
1 Baxter and Brewster, whence the family names.

t Caledonia, Robertson's Index, &c. Tac. de Mor. Germ. || Strabo-

V Athenseus. ** Plutarch, viii. 9.


Lacedemon lived on a certain black broth, so unsavory and coarse to
those of more delicate taste, that a citizen of Sybaris, tasting it, said he
ceased to wonder at the Spartan contempt for death, since they were
obliged to live on such fare. The observation which was made to the
tyrant Dionysius respecting it had more truth but less wit ; " the dish
wants the sauce," remarked the cook. " What sauce," asked he.
" That of a good appetite," was the reply. The art of cookery is,
however, of more importance than might at first be supposed, and Drs.
Hunter and Kitchener, Count Rumford, and others have employed
their talents in this useful science ; but, although duly appreciated, it
is by no means so highly esteemed as formerly. In the middle ages,
the master cook, provost of the cooks, Sec. were officers of dignity and
emolument, and the king's larderer, was often a clergyman of high
rank. His Majesty's cook is allowed, by the laws of honor and prece-
dence the title of Esquire, now so much prostituted: but to return to
the food of the ancient Celts. In Dio's account of the expedition of
Severus, the food of the people beyond Adrian's wall is said to have
been the milk and flesh of their flocks, what they procured by hunting,
with the fruits of trees, and leaves and roots of herbs. The inhabi-
tants of Thule lived chiefly on milk in summer, and on fruit in winter.
The stature and strength of the ancient Caledonians indicate a suffi-
ciency of food, yet they appear to have had some means of subsistence
with which we are not sufficiently acquainted.

The Gauls are not entirely free from the imputation of cannibalism.
Those who went into Greece with Brennus, according to Pausanias,
drank the blood and ate the flesh of the best conditioned infants at the
breast.* The horrors of famine may be an excuse for so revolting a
practice. Those who resisted the Cimbri and Teutones were reduced
to the deplorable necessity of living on the bodies of the aged ; and
long afterwards, when besieged in Alesia, Critognatus, the command-
ing general, advised his adherents to imitate their ancestors and do the
same, rather than yield. t

The testimony of St. Jerome, representing the Scots or Attacots as
cannibals, is well known. In this noted passage it is said, that when
these people met with herds of cattle, sheep, and pigs, they were wont
to select the most delicate parts of both the male and female keepers for
their repasts. The correctness of this translation has been questioned,
and fhe meaning asserted to be, merely that they preferred the rumps
of the oxen, and udders of the cows, leaving untouched the other parts.
I am afraid, however awkward the sentence may be, " pastorum nates,
et feminarum papillas," cannot well be mistaken; but, with deference
to the Saint's authority, we may entertain some doubt of the prevalence
of so horrible a practice. Diodorus had indeed said, that those nations
who were towards the north, bordering upon Scythia, were so fierce and
savage that they, according to report, ate men as the Britons ivho
* Lib. x. c. 22. Bello Gall. vii. 71.


inhabited Iris did; and he is, unfortunately, not the sole authority foi
this shocking propensity of the ancient Irish. Strabo accuses them of a
gluttonous indulgence in human flesh, and says they did not hesitate to
eat their dead relations,* in which he is followed by Solinus, who repre-
sents them in a state of deplorable barbarity. Except we believe that
those authors were misinformed, or exaggerated the vices of a people of
whom so little was then known, it is to be feared the Irish, who claim the
Attacots as a native tribe, must take them with this imputation, to which
their ancestors, from concurring authorities, seem more certainly obnox-
ious than the Scots of Britain.

It will scarcely excite surprise that this idea of the cannibalism of the
Celts should have prevailed among the ancients, concerning a people
who were so distant, and reputed so barbarous, when we find that, so
recently as the rebellion of 1745, the people of England really believed
that the Highlanders were accustomed to eat children, a fact which is
attested by several officers of the Scots army! Mr. Cameron, of
Locheil, on entering a house," was implored by a woman to spare her
children; and on his assuring her, with some surprise at her alarm, that
he had not the least intention of doing them any injury, she released
them from a closet where they were concealed, telling them to come out,
for the gentleman would not devour them! Mr. Halkston, of Rathillet,
also, in inquiring where all the children were, as none could be seen,
was told that they had been sent out of the way, to prevent their falling
into the hands of the Highlanders, who were believed to eat human
flesh ! | Perhaps the good folks of England were at some loss to conceive
how these Highlanders lived, they seemed to require so little food.J
They did not, indeed, obtain very large rations during the progress of
the rebellion, and it was well that their desires were moderate. When
the Highlanders of former days took the field, they only provided them-
selves with a small bag of oatmeal: in 1745, they often had nothing else
to carry them through their toilsome marches than a little of this, which
they ate mixed with water, morning and evening; but, to them, this rough
fare was no privation. The ability of the Highlander to endure a long
abstinence from food was remarkable; and the ancient Caledonian much
excelled his posterity, for he could live many days concealed in the
marshes, up to the neck in water, without sustenance; and in the woods
he could live on the bark, roots, and leaves of trees. The Scots have
always been an abstemious or rough-living people a quality excellent
for soldiers. Cromwell complained that his troops were ruined, for
"whom the Scots were too hard in respect of enduring *the winter's

The usual diet of the present Highlanders is milk and crearn, cheese,
butter, oat and barley cakes, and mutton or goat's flesh, with that excel-

* Lib. iv. p. 201. t Memoirs of the Chev. Johnstone, and remarks on ditto.

J' Tt was said by the troops who so ineffectually pursued them, that " they lived by
snuffing- *he wind *


lc it article, potatoes. They also have meal of peas, which they usually
buy unground, and which they use with milk in bread and puddings.*
When at the Shealings in the summer months, their meals in general con-
sist of curds and cream, or oatmeal and cream, mixed cold, and qualified
by a glass of good whisky. In times of scarcity, which have frequently
occurred in the Highlands, the inhabitants are under the necessity of
bleeding their cattle in summer, and dividing the coagulated blood into
square cakes, they boil it, and eat it with milk or whey.j

Brulhuiste, or brose, a dish said to be of Greek derivation, is common
all over Scotland. In the most simple preparation, it is merely meal and
hot water mixed together; to which butter is added; but the proper way
is to use the juice of cabbages or turnips in which meat has been boiled.
The Irish, says Campion, " crammed" oatmeal and butter together.
The Highlanders do the same still, forming it into rolls like sausages,
called bodmear. ,

Brochan is a similar preparation to oatmeal gruel, but the Gael fre-
quently add onions, and sometimes even pounded cheese. Easoch, or
thin brochan, is eaten with bannocks, and was the sole winter diet of
thousands of the Highlanders in the time of Martin.

Sughan is the suans or sowens of the Low Country, being the juice
of" sids," or the sittings of oatmeal, after having been steeped in water
until it has acquired a slight acidity. In the process of making sowens,
a peculiar sieve is used in draining the liquid, which is thin and white,
and, on^being boiled, acquires a starchy consistency, in which state it is
usually eaten with milk, and termed lagan by the Gael; but many prefer
it '* knotted," or half boiled, with the addition of butter, a little sugar, or
treacle. This is the preparation of which all in the Low Country par-
take on the morning of Yule day or Christmas. Cath-bhruich is sowens
as thin as bnochan acidulated gruel, one of the most healthy prep-

Libhte, or pottage, is the favorite preparation of oatmeal in Scot-
land. That it was much used in ancient times, appears from St. Jerome,
who taunts Celestinus, a native, for gorging himself with Scots pot-

Drammack, in Gaelic Tiorman, is oatmeal and a little salt, sprinkled
with cold water, and stirred with the hand until the whole is in a state
of adherence. This is preferable to eating the meal dry, and is more
agreeable than the foarag or crowdy, which is a thinnish mixture of
meal and any cold liquid. When milk is at hand, the crowdy, to save
time, is preferred to drammack.

Potatoes have been a fortunate acquisition to the Highlanders. The
various soups and other dishes of which they form a principal part, need
not be enumerated; but the practice of boiling and mashing them, and

* A mixture of bean and barley-rneal used to be a favorite food in the south of
Scotland. 1 Rev. Skene Keith, in Rep. of the Agriculture of Aberdeenslure.

i St Hieron. on Jeremiah


slicing them up the next morning for the purpose of being toasted Ike
bread, seems peculiar to the mountaineers.

Oon froth is a quantity of milk or whey boiled, and then worked ap
by a stick having a cross part at the lower end. This substitute for
more substantial fare was often used by the poor of the Western Isles;
and Martin asserts that he saw those who had for months lived on whey
thus prepared, climb the rugged mountains with as much agility as those
who were better fed. Many curious anecdotes might be told of this
pleasant but unsubstantial mess.

The people in the remote islands boiled dulce, a seaweed, gathered
from the rocks, and if able to add a little butter to it, it was esteemed a
very excellent dish.

When cattle were slaughtered, the smith got the head, the quarter-
master got the hides, and the piper was entitled to a certain share. This
last person was called ullaicher, literally, provider of both food and lodg-
ings. Droin-uinn, a rump, has been called the bard's portion from this
circumstance: when a person was helped to this part, he or she was
obliged to compose a verse, or resign the nice morsel. A few of these
rhymes would be a curious collection.

In dressing flesh-meat, the old Gael were probably contented with
plain roasting and boiling, the latter being most usual. In the poem on
the death of Carril, mircorra, a favorite dish with Fingal and Gaul, is
mentioned. It was a choice collop, chopped small, and mixed with
marrow and herb-seeds. The ancient manner of preparing their meat,
after hunting, as preserved by tradition among the Highlanders, is
curious. A pit, lined with smooth stones, was made, and near it a heap
of smooth flat pebbles was placed. The stones and the pit were both
well heated by burning heath, and part of the venison was then laid in
the pit, and covered by the hot, loose stones ; another t piece was laid
over that, and the same process repeated until the pit was full, when it
was closed over with heath. To confirm this tradition, pits are shown
in various parts ; and a passage in the poem of Fingal thus describes
the preparations : ce It was on Cromla's shaggy side that Dorglas had
placed the deer, the early fortune of the chase, before the heroes left
the hill. A hundred youths collect the heath ; ten warriors wake the
fire ; three hundred choose the polished stones. The feast is smoking

The fires of the ancient Caledonians were formed of wood ; and, at
their feasts, a large trunk of an oak tree was reckoned an indispensable
part of the entertainment ; and so much attached were the people to the
practice, that they viewed its disuse as a kind of sacrilege. The decay
of the forests prevents the general use of wood ; and peats, or turf, have
long been the common fuel in the Highlands and in the North. The
use of coal was early adopted in many parts, to which necessity alone
seems to have led. JEneas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius II., says, the
poor people of Scotland were obliged to burn black stone instead of


wood.* At this day, crofters will go ten or fifteen miles for peat, in
preference to coal, which might be had with less trouble and at as little
expense. In digging turf, a particular spade is used, represented in the
closing vignette of last Chapter, which cuts it into regular squares of
the form of a brick, the workmen either casting the peats, as it is called,
by cutting horizontally or perpendicularly. The latter, called pitting,
was the ancient way of working mosses in the Highlands, and although,
in some respects, objectionable, it is not so destructive to the bogs as
running level, by which mosses have, in some cases, been rapidly
exhausted. The Irish taught the inhabitants of Lismore and other
islands the method of baking loose peat earth, which forms serviceable
fuel. The cottages are always accompanied by the peat-stack, that is,
the fuel neatly built up at the end of the house, a covering being formed
of the surface parts of the moss or heath dug in large pieces. Great
part of the summer is often consumed in casting and bringing from a
distance the winter's stock of fuel, in which work the poor have the
voluntary assistance of their neighbors.

The Celts used numbers of pots, pans, and spits for preparing their
victuals; and thought game, killed by arrows dipt in the. juice of helle-
bore, the flesh surrounding the wound, being speedily cut away, became
tender. The Britons, there is reason to believe, were less nice in their
taste, and less attentive to their culinary arrangements. Among the
rude tribes of the North, such an art received but very little attention.
Their mode of roasting or baking, already described, was ingenious; but
even in the time of Bruce the raw hide of the animal, stretched on four
sticks, was used to form the bag in which the flesh was seethed. When
Douglas and Murray retreated, after the celebrated inroad which they
made on England, no less than three hundred of these awkward utensils,
with a thousand wooden spits, were found in the camp which they had
evacuated. The people of some parts of the Highlands, at a much later
period, continued this custom. Birt tells us they had a wooden vessel,
hollowed by the dirk, for the purpose of heating water, by means of hot
pebbles thrown into it. The most ancient iron pot is seen in the vignette,
with a high neck, and the sort at present in common use, which is not
reckoned so good for boiling, is beside it.

In hunting, the flesh was occasionally eaten raw, after the blood was
squeezed out; but the Irish were more accustomed to this barbarous
food, and Campion remarks, that the flesh thus swallowed " was boyled
in their stornaks with aqua vitas, which they swill in after such a sur-
feit e by quarts and pottles." They also, he says, bled their cattle, and
baked the curdled blood spread with butter. A French writer, some
centuries ago, describes Scotland as " pauvre en or, et en argent, mais
fort bon en vivres;" and again, " assez des veaux et vaches, et par le
moyen la chair est a bon compte."

* Gough's Top. ii. 564. A coal mine was discovered in Ireland concerning which
there was no tradition. Hamilton's Letters on the Coast of Antrim.


The Caledonians, no doubt, preserved their meat by salt, which the
surrounding ocean would supply; in the isles, the ashes of burnt sea
ware was often used to preserve fowl and to mix in cheese; but they
could save fish for many months without salt. In Gaul and Germany,
salt was made by pouring seawater upon burning wood. For this pur-
pose the oak was generally preferred, the ashes of which alone was
sometimes used. In certain parts hazael was considered best for the
purpose; but all salt so made, as might, be expected, was very black.
The Umbrians procured this article by boiling some sort of reeds and
canes until the water was nearly evaporated. At Egelasta?, in Spain,
there were mines whence salt was dug, which was reckoned medicinal.*
No river in Germany possesses the qualities which are ascribed to one
by Tacitus, who is either misunderstood or has been imposed upon by
his informers. As the story is curious, it may be related: the Catti and
Hermanduri quarrelled about the property of a river, the waters of which,
on being poured over large fires of wood, produced salt, and they were,
perhaps, the more irritable on the subject of their respective rights, in
consequence of a belief that the stream and the neighboring woods were
near heaven. The war seemed to be one of extermination; for the Cat
tans, who were ultimately defeated, had taken avow to devote the whole
of their opponents men, horses, and every article to be burnt or slain,
in honor of Mars and Mercury. "f There was also a controversy,
fomented by the Romans, in the time of Marcellinus, between the Bur-
gundians and Germans, concerning salt-pits.

The Britons procured salt from mines, and one of the ancient roads is
called the Salt way. Many curious observances, to be deduced from
the Celts, were connected with this article, several of which still exist.
The Manx will do nothing without carrying or interchanging salt; a
beggar will even refuse alms if offered without it.J Camden says, that
before the Irish put seed in the ground, the mistress sent salt into the
field; and when a person entered on a public office, women in the
street, and girls from windows, sprinkled them and their attendants
with it. In parts of Scotland, a portion is put into the first of a cow's
milk after calving, which is intended to prevent the person who receives
it, if one of the "uncanny," from doing any harm to the cattle; and
that it was an antidote to witchcraft, we learn from Reginald Scot, who
assures us the devil cannot bear to take any in his meat, it being a sign
of eternity. The Gorleg yr Halen, or prelude of the salt, is a tune which
was first played, say the Welsh, when the salt-seller was placed before
Arthur and his celebrated knights, || a fanciful origin, perhaps, of a more
ancient ceremony. The Scots were anciently accustomed to salt ryeef
in (he hide.

The Celts are said to have had a dislike to the flesh of swine, which
is supposed to have arisen from religious scruples. This aversion does

* Pliny, xxxi. 7. t Tacitus' Annals, xiii. | Waldrons' History

3 Slat. Account of Killearn, &c. [[ Pennant's Tour in Wales.

FISH. 329

exist, but it upbears doubtful whether the antipathy is of ancient origin.
The laws of Kenneth Mac Alpin contain some regulations respecting
this animal; and from the Chartularies and other documents, it. is appar-
ent that very considerable numbers were formerly reared. The Gauls
who inhabited Pesinus, a city of Galatia, could not bear to touch swine,*
but the boar was a favorite object of pursuit with the Celtic huntsman, "]"
and Strabo says, they used much pork, both fresh and salted.^ In Spain,
the inhabitants used to live on boar's flesh; but they believed that, to
eat of the heads, drove men mad, and, therefore, effectually to guard
against that calamity, they always burned them.5; There was not,
among the ancient Britons, a daintier dish than the chenerotis, a bird
less than a goose. ||

The Celtae did not in general make use of fish as an article of food,
from religious prejudices; for, as they adored the waters, it would appear
they abstained from living on the inhabitants of that element. This
abstinence, however, was not universally adhered to, for the Celtiberi
caught scombri, or mackerel, from which they procured the celebrated
garum,lT and Athenaeus says, the nations about the Po used both sea and
river fish; while Solinus informs us, the people of the Hebudos Islands
lived on them; but the Caledonians are expressly noticed by Dio and
Herodian as not eating the fish with which their seas and rivers abounded.
The Irish "had little skill in catching fish" two centuries ago, a proof
that they paid small attention to the pursuit; and the Highlanders appear
to have been still more indifferent to it, and had a particular antipathy to
eels and pike. From the abundance of land animals and the feathered
race, this dislike to a species of food so excellent, and so bounteously pro-
vided by nature, in a country where the variable climate renders the
harvest so uncertain; may have, in ancient times, produced little effect;
but the continuance of so much indifference to so obvious a source of
national profit is much to be regretted. The'clergy were obliged to eat
fish during thueir fasts, and necessity would, no doubt, compel the Celt
to relinquish his ancient prejudice for a time, and might, ultimately,
subdue his obstinacy; but as he had no motive ever to catch more than
was sufficient for his wants, he was not likely to become very enterpris-
ing. The Dalriads, it must be observed, did not refuse to partake of
fish; and in a copy of the poem of Darthula, in possession of the High-
land Society, and of date 1238, their food is said to have consisted of
fish and venison, but the Highlanders, notwithstanding the mention of
fish in several old poems, certainly did never willingly make use of
such food. It was matter of astonishment to an English resident
among them a century ago, that the trout with which their streams
were teeming remained entirely disregarded; but they retain a proverb
which implies their contempt for fish-eaters, and the encouragement of

* Pausanias, vii. 17. * Pork was much esteemed among the Scandinavians. Pink.
t Lib. iv. 19. Pliny, viii. 36. || Pliny, xxii.

IT Pliny, xxxi. The Scyths ate river fish.


330 FISH.

government has not yet induced either the Scots, Welsh, or Irish, to
enter with spirit into the fishing trade. "When we see a principle of
religion itself exploded, producing consequences through so many cen-
turies of change, we ought not to be surprised that the manners and
customs of the same races of men should have continued for ages, so
extremely analogous."* No great lines were formerly used in the west
isles of Scotland; but cod, ling, and other large -fish were angled for,
and occasionally they were speared.

The Seal, Ron, may not have been considered as a fish by the Gael,
as it appears to have been eaten by them in most ancient times. The
monks of lona had artificial ponds of salt water, in which they were
preserved,! and many of the Highlanders were accustomed in the last
century to cure hams of them. Young seals are even at the present
day eaten in some of the Orkney Islands. J Many dishes were formerly
esteemed, that would now be thought intolerable. The monks of Dum-
fermline had a grant from Malcolm IV. of all the heads of a species
of whale, called crespeis, that should be caught in Scotwattre, or
the Firth of Forth, his Majesty reserving the tongues, as the most
dainty part, for himself. In 1290, the ship that was sent to bring over
the Maiden of Norway had the fish part of her provisions from Aberdeen,
and, amongst other articles, were fifty pounds of whale. ^ Martin, whose
curious work appeared in the beginning of last century, says the people
of Tirey ate whales with certain roots. Seals and porpoises were com-
mon at English tables in the time of Richard II. At Uist they were
regularly fished for in Martin's time; the steward and his officer had
each a young one, as a perquisite, and the minister was allowed his
choice of those caught. A poem in Mac Donald's collection, of a date
somewhat later, contains these lines:

" Nuair a'ghabhd go tamh,

Ann an cala port sheamh

Cha b 'f hallan bhom laimhs an ron."

In Aberdeenshire, a traveller of the last century observed, that "there
was neither fine architecture nor gardening, but abundance of good cheer
and good neighborhood," the servants, during the summer, having so
much salmon that they refused to eat of it oftener than twice a week.|i
In that part of the country a favorite winter dish is " stappit heads,"
or boiled haddocks, the heads being filled with a mixture of oatmeal,
onions, and pepper. It is from the fishing villages on the coast of Kin-
cardineshire, the adjoining county, that the much esteemed fish called
Finau haddocks, from the name of a small port, are procured. They
are cut open when taken, and cured by being suspended for some time 'n
the smoke of turf. In the isle of Sky. herrings .vere dried and preserv-

Caledonia, i. p. 4GO. It is but just, however, to remark, that the English hare not
engaged with greater spirit into the fisheries than the Scots.

t Adomnan, i. c. 41. t Stat. Account, vii. 46.

Mac Pherson's Annals of Commerce. || Journey through Scotland, 1729.


ed without salt, and if they were taken after the 10th of September, O
S., they would keep for eight months. About the Po, the inhabitants
ate their fish either roasted or boiled, with vinegar, salt, and cummin,
oil being too scarce for common use, but, had it been otherwise, they
did not like it so well as their old sauce.

The Scots have but very recently divested themselves of many preju-
dices against certain fish, and those without scales are still disliked.
" It was only at a late period that turbot was relished even in Fife, where
fishing is so generally followed; and people advanced in life do not yet
esteem it so much as the halibut, which is very commonly dignified with
the name of turbot. There are living, or were very lately, in one of the
coast towns, several poor people who were wont to derive great part of
their subsistence from the turbots which the fishermen threw away on
the beach, because nobody could be found to purchase them."*

HOSPITALITY was a virtue which the Celts carried to the extreme.
They took the greatest delight in inviting strangers to their tables, be-
fore whom were always placed the fairest and best joints."!" The Celti-
beri were famed for courteousness to strangers, from whatever place
they came; and those who were so fortunate as to have it in their power
to entertain guests, were esteemed the favorites of the gods.f In deeds
of hospitality and social feasts, says Tacitus, no nation on earth was ever
more liberal than the Germans. J The Gaulish chiefs had always a
numerous retinue, who followed them to the war, and lived well at their

Some curious instances of the delight which the Celts took in an os-
tentatious display of liberality are recorded. Ariamnes, a wealthy Ga-
latian, formed a resolution of entertaining all his countrymen for a whole
year, at his individual expense, and he proceeded in this manner. He
divided the roads throughout the provinces into convenient day 's journeys,
and with reeds, poles, and willows, erected pavilions capable of contain-
ing three hundred persons or upwards, and having the preceding year
employed numerous artificers to fabricate caldrons, he placed them in
these buildings, and kept them continually full of all sorts of flesh. Every
day many bulls, swine, sheep, and other cattle were slain, and many
measures of corn, and much barley meal ready kneaded, was procured;
and all this was not confined to the .inhabitants, but the servants were
instructed to constrain all strangers to partake of the feast. The rich-
es of the Gauls enabled them to indulge in very extravagant expenditure,
l.uernius, a king of the Arverni, to court popularity, was accustomed

" * Tullis's ed. of Sibbald's Hist, of Fife.

t Diodorus. Caesar in like manner celebrates their hospitality, vi. 23.

; De Mor. Germ. This is a virtue of most unpolished nations. A poor woman in
Norway refused any payment from some English travellers, observing, that " as long
as the earth gives us corn, and the sea fish, no one shall have to say we have taKen
money of him." Boye's Tour in Norway. The Poles had Radogost, the gcd of hoa-
itality, and the only one worshipped, in a covered temple, called Gontina.

Athenasus, iv.


to throw silver and gold among the crowds who followed him as he drove
through the fields. On one occasion he inclosed a space of twelve fur-
longs, in which he had constructed ponds filled with costly .and delicious
liquors. Stores of victuals, ready cooked, were also provided, sufficient
for all who chose to partake of them, for many days.* It is not to be
doubted but numbers availed themselves of this munificent treat, and
the pleasure of the feast was heightened by the civilities of numerous

The manner in which the Germans received their guests was familiar
and kind. To refuse admitting any person whatever, was held wicked
and inhuman. Every one that came to a house was received and treat-
ed with lodging and repasts, as long and as liberally as the owner could
possibly afford, and, when his whole stock was consumed, he took his
guests to a new scene of hospitality, both proceeding to the next house,
to which the formality of an invitation was unnecessary, and where they
were received with the same frankness and joy, no difference being ever
made between a stranger and an acquaintaftce, in dispensing the rites
of hospitality. Upon the departure of a guest, if he asked anything, it
was cheerfully given. Favors were requested and bestowed with equal
familiarity,| for in mutual gifts the Celts delighted, but neither claimed
merit from what they gave, nor acknowledged any obligation for what
they received. The Gauls, with singular delicacy, never asked the
name of a stranger, what he was, or his business, until the entertainment
was all over.J The guest of a Highland chief was not questioned as to
his business until the expiration of a year, should he stop so long.^
There was a striking resemblance to these manners in the practice of
hospitality among the Britons, who cherished this characteristic virtue of
the Gauls as long as they were able to retain their primitive Celtic man-
ners. Giraldus Cambrensis says of the Welsh, that when a stranger
entered a house, water was immediately brought for him to wash his
feet. If he did so, it was then known that he would stop some time,
perhaps for the night, or longer, which diffused great joy throughout the
family, and every entertainment which they could afford was provided
for their guest. ||

The Highlanders of Scotland formerly carried their hospitality to as
great an extent as the ancient Celtoe; and even at this day the more se-
questered inhabitants are prone to indulge in a habit of liberality, which
however honorable to their feelings, their limited means do not altogeth-
er justify. In past ages, it was uniformly a practice to leave their doors
open during the night, as well as the day, that any traveller might be
able to avail himself of shelter and entertainment. It was long consid-
ered infamous in a man of condition to have the door of his house ever
shut, lest, as the bards expressed it, the stranger should come and be-

* Tbid., from Posidonius. Strabo also extols the Celtic feasts.

t Tac. de Mot. Germ. t Diodorus.

Dr. Mac Phta-son. || Descriptio Camb. c. 10.


hold his contracted soul. The gate of Fingal stood always open, and his
hall was the stranger's home.* The Celts never closed the doors of their
houses, ~f but esteemed it the greatest happiness to have the opportunity
of entertaining strangers. In later times, it was the practice in Scotland,
before closing the doors, to look out for strangers or wayfaring men, and
it is still remembered in the traditions of the peasantry in many parts of
the North, that the Laird had his " latter meat table," daily spread for
all who chose to partake of his liberality.

To their friends, the Gael gave the protection of their roof, regardless
of circumstances. To one who besought their hospitality, they perform-
ed the sacred duty, and were ready to fulfil their own saying, " I would
give him a night's fare, although he had a man's head under his arm-
pit." An anecdote told of Mac Gregor, of Glenstrre, and young La-
mond, of Cdwal, is in point. The latter had killed the only son of Mac
Gregor, and, when pursued, had rushed into the father's house to save
his life, without knowing whose protection he had claimed. The old
Laird, in ignorance of his loss, afforded him an asylum, fulfilled his pledge
of protection wheji he knew him as the murderer of his son, and, to pre-
vent the otherwise inevitable destruction of Lamond, he even aided his
escape during the night.

For the following account of a worthy Highlander of the old school,
I am indebted to Mr. Donald Mac Pherson, author of melodies from the
Gaelic. Donald Mac Donald, Esq., of Aberarder, of the house of Kep-
poch, father of Captain Mac Donald, of Moy, was remarkable for his
hospitality, as well as for many other traits of eccentric virtue. Aberar-
der House is situated in one of the most romantic spots on earth, at the
side of Loch Laggan, and is distant on one side four, and on the other
six, miles from any house. In good weather, he used to seat himself on
a green knoll, above the mansion, which commanded a view of the road,
at least a mile each way, and when he discovered a traveller, he used
to desire Mrs. Mac Donald immediately to prepare food, for that he had
discovered a stranger, whose slow progress indicated the necessity of
refreshment. Sometimes, it happened that the stranger passed without
calling; on discovering which, he would exclaim, " Damn the scoundrel,
I am sure he is a bad fellow at home." He was even known sometimes
to follow a considerable distance with food, or to persuade the traveller
to return and spend the night.

The unbounded hospitality of the Celtic chief was a favorite theme
of the Bards, who continued, like their predecessors among the ancient
Gauls, to fare well at their master's table, and enliven his banquets by
adulatory effusions. In the compositions of this, latterly, servile body,
the hero and the hospitable are almost the only persons whose praises
are extolled, and it is remarkable that in Gaelic there is but one word
for a landholder and a hospitable man. Cean uia' na dai, or the point
to which all the roads of the strangers lead, was the epithet bestowed on

* Smith's Gallic Antiquities. t Agathias. i. p. 13, quoted by Ritson.


the chief's house ; and so uncommon was it for any to be otherwise
spoken of, that the translator of Ossian declares, among all the poems
he nad ever met with, but one man was branded with the charge of
inhospitality. He was described as the cloud which the strangers
shun. Birt mentions a Laird to whose house he was going,' who met
him with an arcadian offering of milk and cream, carried before him
by his servants.*

But it was not the higher order only who were distinguished for the
virtue of hospitality the whole population was imbued with a spirit of
disinterested kindness, which, according to their means, they cheerfully
displayed. For this feeling the Scots are still remarkable. When
Dr. Mac Culloch, who had fallen sick at Dollar, recovered so far as to
be able to walk forth, " half the whole sex came out of their houses
when they saw the stranger gentleman crawling up the hill, to offer
him seats and milk, and what not; and when I returned many years
afterwards, I was received, not as one who had been a source of trouble,
but as an old friend." The poorest cottager is ready to share his
little provision with a stranger. On a hundred occasions I have par-
taken of their hospitality without being able to prevail on them to
accept remuneration, which, in some cases, they have refused in a
manner that showed their feelings were hurt at the idea of selling their
meat and drink. It is a common practice, not only where the Gaelic
prevails, but towards the Lowlands, to set before you milk, ale, bread
and cheese, or whatever else they may have, unasked. Nor are they
less willing to afford you the shelter of their roof, nay, will even give
up the beds of the family for your use; and if you will listen to their
kind solicitations, your day's march will be often shortened.

The rites of hospitality were practised to a ruinous extent by the poor
Islanders, who retained the virtue when its exercise was highly injurious
to themselves. In the distant isle of Rona the clergyman who super-
intended the spiritual concerns of the inhabitants, was seldom able to
reach these remote members of his flock ; but when he could visit
them, the poor people killed five sheep, being one for each family, and
presented him with their skins neatly flayed and full of meal.f The
untutored, but generous islanders carried their charity to an imprudent
length, for they bestowed so liberally the little they possessed that
many unprincipled persons frequented the Hebrides for the purpose
of unworthily profiting by their indiscriminate bounty. Such improv-
idence, however well meant, brought on these simple people much
in convenience, and heightened the miseries of occasional want ; and
it was sometimes necessary for the chiefs to restrain so injurious a
system of supposed charity, by enjoining their people to bestow their
alms on natives or acknowledged objects only.J Those who subsisted
on the bounty of others, in the Highlands, did not however appear as

* Letters, ed. 1818, ii. 7. It was customary to offer milk to those passing a fold.

* Martin. t Ibid.


paupers. As the houses were never locked up, the poor entered freely,
and, without begging, were supplied with present food, and perhaps
something besides ; and if in want of a lodging, a plaid was given them,
in which they reposed themselves on the floor. The unprotected state
of the houses proves the honesty of the people. Nothing was stolen,
even by the poorest mendicants ; and the altered state of society has
not yet induced the inhabitants of many secluded districts to provide
bolts for their doors. The number of persons in the Highlands who
had no means of their own on which to subsist, was very considerable,
but the statement in the Gartmore MS., where they are calculated at
57,000, is surely much exaggerated.* It is observable that, at the
present day, the professional beggars are from the Lowlands.

The acts of the Scots parliament, ordering " that nane pass in the
country an'ly on the king's lieges, or thig or sorn on them," but that
" in all burrowes there sail be hostellaries, and provision for horse and
man, that all travelling men on horse or foot lodge in hostellaries,
and that nane other receive them,"| were evidently framed to repress
the practice of idle and dissolute people traversing the country, en
couraged by the inconsiderate hospitality of the natives. In Ireland,
statutes were passed for a similar purpose ; but such acts were anoma
lous and premature, in that country, for, while coigny and livery were
prohibited, there were no inns, and it was treason to enter a house for
refreshment, were it the dwelling of the traveller's own tenant! '

When, like their ancestors on the continent, the stock of the High
lander was exhausted, he carried his visiter to the house of his neigh-
bor, to whose care he was then resigned. " They never depart so long
as any provision doth last; and when that is done, they go to the next,
and so from one to one, until they make a round from neighbor to
neighbor, still carrying the master of the former family with them to
the next house." This was practised less than fifty years ago, and the
custom is not entirely laid aside in the present day. It is only an idle
people who could devote so much time to these protracted entertain-

The practice of entertaining a stranger as long as he chose to stop,
by a whole circle of friends, was zealously adhered to in Ireland, where
its ancient name, coshering, is still in use, even in Dublin and other
cities, and is applied in almost the original sense. The Irish gentlemen
retain much of the hospitable disposition of the ancient chief, and the
curious custom alluded to is thus described by a tourist of the last
century. When strangers arrive at any of their houses, the relations
of the family are informed of it, who immediately join the company
After you have received the attentions of your first host, you are invit-
ed to another family, where you are entertained with the same hospi-
tality, and are successively conducted to the houses of others, until

" Appendix to Birt's Letters, ed. 1818. t Acts of James. I. J Spenser


you have gone through the whole circle, if you are inclined to stop so
long. The day of separation is the only one of grief and discontent.*
The visits of the flaith, or chief, to the raths, for the redress of popular
grievances, were the occasions of great feasts, the origin of coshering,
among the ancient Gael; but the chronicles of Ireland inform us that
the fonnteach, or house for travellers; kept by a person denominated the
bruigh, was supported at the public expense; and it is believed that
every tribe had one of these establishments. In the British Museum is
preserved a MS. , in Gaelic, which gives an account of six of these houses. |

It was said of O'Niel, in the language of the bards, that " guests
were in his house more numerous than trees in the forest." The Mac
Swineys were anciently famous for hospitality. Near Clodach castle,
an old seat of theirs, a stone was set up by the highway, on which was
an inscription, inviting all travellers to repair to the house of Edmund
Mac Swiney for refreshment. One of the family overturned this stone,
perhaps for very substantial reasons; but it was well remarked, that he
who did so never afterwards prospered. Doctor Molloy relates that
one of his ancestors, in the time of Elizabeth, entertained 960 men, at
Christmas, in his house of Broghell.

The Forbes's, of Culloden, near Inverness, were celebrated for their
extraordinary hospitality. Birt says, there was as much wine spilt
there as would content a moderate family. "A hogshead was constant-
ly on tap near the hall door, for the use of all comers; and it appears in
the account book of President Forbes, that for nine months' house-
keeping in his family, the wine alone cost a sum which, at the present,
price of that article, would amount to upwards of ,2,000, sterling. J

Among the Scots Highlanders, the chief gave a great entertainment
after any successful expedition, to which all the country round was
invited. On an occasion like this, whole deer and beeves were roasted,
and laid on boards or hurdles of rods placed on the rough trunks of
trees, so arranged as to form an extended table, and the uisge beatha
went round in plenteous libations. This was called the sliga crechin,
from being drunk out of a shell. The pipers played during the feast,
after which the women danced, and, when they retired, the harpers were
introduced. There were also entertainments, some of which continued
to be acted when Dr. Mac Pherson wrote; but if these little dramas
were, as the Rev. Dr. Mac Leod says, chiefly selections from Ossian,
they could scarcely deserve the epithet ludicrous, which the former
applies to them. The funeral of any great personage was accompanied
with profuse feasting, a custom, although conducted with less extrava-
gance, not yet disused. At the burial of one of the Lords of the Isles,
in lona, nine hundred cows, valued at three marks each, were consumed.

* Luckombe's Tour.

t Harl. Coll. 5280. Solinus, however, testifies against their hospitality, saying the
country was rendered inhuman by their savage manners, iii. 6.
t Culloden Papers, p. xxii. .


At Highland entertainments, the chief sat at the upper end of the
table, and the chieftains and principal men of the clan were ranged on
each side, in order of precedence, the commons being at the bottom.
The best dishes were, of course, served to those who occupied the
honorable end.

The famous Lord Lovat was a striking example of a genuine chief of
the old school. About 1725, when he was actively engaged in raising his
company of the freceadin dhu, his manners, and the arrangement of his
household, are thus described by a veteran who volunteered into his
service.* His lordship got up between five and six o'clock, when both
doors and windows were thrown open. Numbers of the vassals were
about the house, and all were entertained at the chief's expense. The
lairds sat towards the head of the table, and drank claret with their host;
next to these were seated the duin uassals, who drank whisky punch;
the tenants who were beneath these were supplied with ale ; and at the
bottom, and even outside, a multitude of the clan regaled themselves
with bread and an onion, or, perhaps, a little cheese and table beer.
Lovat, addressing the second class, would say " Cousin, I told the
servants to hand you wine, but they tell me ye like punch best." To
others, " Gentlemen, there is what ye please at your service, but I send
you ale, as I know ye prefer it." It required good management to make
a limited income sufficient for so liberal house-keeping, and some atten-
tion was necessary to preserve the motley company in good humor.

In the laws of Hwyel Dha we find that two tables were daily spread
in the hall of the palace; the king, with ten chief officers, occupying
the one; the other being placed at the lower end of the room, for the
master of the household and other three personages, empty spaces
being left for such as might, in confequence of misbehavior, be dismiss-
ed from the king's table. The whole were thus arranged: the king sat
next the fire, and close to him the torch bearer, beside whom was
placed the guest; next to him sat the heir apparent, then the master of
the hawks, then the foot holder, to be about the dish with him, and then
the physician, to be about the fire with him. Next to the fire, on the
other side, sat the chaplain, to bless the food and chant the Lord's
Prayer,"|" the crier striking the pillar above his head, to command
silence. Beside him was placed the judge of the court, and next to
him the bard of presidency, and the smith of the court sat on the end
of the form before the priest. The master of the household had his
station at the lower end of the hall, his left hand opposite the front door;
and any of the guests whom he might desire were obliged to sit with
him. The domestic bard sat on either side of the master of the house-
hold, and the master of the horse was to be near the fire with the king,
while the chief huntsman was to be on the other side with the priest.

* Mem. of Donald Mac Leod.

} The conclusion of the Highland chaplain's grace always contained a hearty
prayer for the prosperity of the chief.


Giraldus Oambrensis gives the following description of his country-
men's meals: The Welsh " remain fasting from morning to night,
being employed through the whole day in managing their affairs; and
in the evening they take a moderate supper. If, by any means, they
are disappointed of a supper, or get only a very slight one, they wait
with patience till the succeeding evening. In the evening, the whole
family being assembled, they prepare their provisions according to their
ability; in doing which, they study only to satisfy nature, not to provoke
an appetite by the arts of cookery, sauces, or a variety of dishes.
When supper is ready, a basket of vegetables is set before every three
persons, and not before every two, as in other countries. A large dish,
with meat of various kinds, and sometimes a mess of broth or pottage,
is added. Their bread is made into thin and broad cakes, which are
bake,d from day to day. They neither use tables, table-cloth, nor
napkins. When strangers are present, the master and mistress of the
house always serve them personally, and never taste any thing until
their guests have finished their repast, in order that, should there be
any deficiency of provisions, it may fall to their share."

The old Highlanders had but two meals a day. " Taking a small
bit of oatcake in the morning and passing to the hunting, or other busi-
ness, they content themselves therewith until the evening."* In distant
ages, they only took repast in the day. Lon, or daily meal, is the
only genuine native word. Breakfast, dinner, and supper are modern
terms : but there is certainly diot (Greek JKXITU) bheg, little meal, and
diot mhor, great meal. Feill, cuirme, and fleagh, were the names
applied to great feasts. The former was that which a chief gave to his
vassals, and including the company as well as the entertainment, the
term became used for a fair.f The alloglach, who carried his master's
armor, and was himself heavily armed, was allowed a brefier, that is
a rrtan's meat, or double allowance. The men servants were always
allowed twice the quantity of food which the women received, an ar-
rangement of which, says Martin, the females never complain, from a
feeling consideration of the more severe labor of the men. When
allowed meal instead of house board, the scalag received a stone, or
seventeen pounds' weight per week, the ban scalag, or maid-servant,
being allowed only a peck, or about eight pounds.

It was, until lately, customary at festivals to burn a large trunk of a
tree, which was termed the trunk of the feast. The common people
looked on it as a sort of sacrilege to discontinue this ancient practice.
On the first of November, it was an ancient Celtic practice to indulge
in a sort of feast, which was called la mas ubhal, the day of the apple
fruit, because, on that occasion, roasted apples were bruised and mixed
in ale, milk, or, by those who could afford it, in wine.J This is the ori-
gin of lamb's wool !

* Chronicle, 1597. t Ross's Notes on Fingal. t Vallancey.


An extract from the work of Barnaby Riche will give an idea of
the coshering feasts of the Irish, arid the viands with which the company
were enlivened. Good bundles of straw, or, in summer, green rushes
were laid on the floor, on which the guests sat down, another bundle
being shaken over their legs, on which were placed the dishes and meat.
The rhymers sang, and the harpers played, whilst the company regaled
upon beef, mutton, pork, hens, and rabbits, all put together in a great
wooden dish. They had also oaten cakes, and good store of aqua vitae,
without which it was not to be termed a feast, and on Wednesday, Fri-
day, and Saturday, when, according to their religion, they dare eat no
meat, they substituted plenty offish.

Derrick gives some other particulars of Irish banquets, which farther
illustrate the manners of the people. Before they sat down, the priest
blessed the whole party, and repeated his benediction before they rose
from the table, after which, we are given to understand, they were well
prepared for an assault on the English, a favorite pastime. The seats
were formed of straw, or hay, plaited into mats or hassocks. They used
wooden platters,* and " a foyner of three quarters of a yard long," for a
knife. Milk was their common drink, but on great occasions the uisge
beatha was handed about in basins. The bards and harpers were not
brought in until the repast was finished.

We have some account of their mode of dining, at a more ancient period.
Sir Richard Cristeed, who was appointed by Richard II. to introduce
the four kings of Ireland to English customs, thus describes their man-
ners at table, and his own conduct towards his pupils. " I observed, as
they sat at table, that they made grimaces that did not seem to me
graceful or becoming, and I resolved, in my own mind, to make them
drop that custom. When they were seated at table, and the first dish
served, they would make their minstrels and principal servants sit beside
them, and eat from their plates and drink from their cups. They told
me this was a praiseworthy custom of their country, where every thing
was in common, but the bed. I permkted this to be done for three
days; but, on the fourth, I ordered the tables to be laid and covered
properly, placing the four kings at an upper table, the minstrels at anoth-
er below, and the servants lower still. They looked at each other and
refused tc eat, saying I had deprived them of their old custom in which
they had been brought up." Having explained to them that it would
be neither decent nor honorable to continue it, they good-humoredly
gave it up. When they were afterwards knighted, and dined with his
Majesty, notwithstanding their tutoring, and being " very richly dressed,
suitable to their rank, they were much stared at by the lords and those
present: not, indeed, without reason; for they were strange figures,
and differently countenanced to the English, or other nations. We are
naturally inclined," adds the knight, " to gaze at any thing strange, and

* Aisead, a platter, in Armoric aczyed, French assiette.


it was certainly, at that time, a great novelty to see four Irish kings."*
The description of a coronation in Ulster, given by Campion, seems
rather apocryphal. A white cow was killed by his Majesty, and imme-
diately seethed whole. In the water of this carcass he placed himself
naked, and thus sitting, he and his people supped and ate the broth and
flesh, without spoon or dish !

It is not digressing to observe, that knives and forks were not former-
ly in use among the Gael. Indeed, the latter were introduced Jn Eng-
land no earlier than the beginning of the 17th century, and they were not
very generally used fifty years afterwards."]" Martin, who visited the
Isles at the close of that century, says, the people of North Uist used a
long stick for a fork, when eating the flesh of the seal, on account of its
oiliness. The Highlanders, who carried knives and forks, politely cut
the meat for the ladies. The want of these utensils, so indispensable
in modern society, is not felt by those who are unaccustomed to their
use, nay, they are considered ridiculous assistants ; so much are we
under the influence of custom. Among the Arabs, there are no such
articles as knives, forks, or spoons, but all sorts of victuals are taken
up in the hands, a mode of feeding at which Europeans are extremely
awkward : " Poor creatures !" exclaimed they, on observing some of
our countrymen, who recently visited them, with so much difficulty
taking up curdled milk in their hands, "they do not even know how to
eat ; they eat like camels !"

Diodorus and Athenceus give curious and not unpleasing pictures of
the Celtic manner of conducting feasts. The former says, " at their
meals, they sit upon the ground, on which wolves' or dogs' skins are
spread ; near at hand, are their fire-places, with many pots and spits,
full of joints of meat, and they are served by young girls and boys,"
their feasts continuing until midnight.^ No one touched any thing
until the master of the house, or chief person, had first tasted of all the
dishes. Among the Germans, every man sat by himself, on a partic-
ular seat, and at a separate table. |j Strabo says, most of the Gauls took
their meals sitting on rush beds or cushions. When a company could
agre^, they sat down to supper in a circle. In the middle sat he who
was reckoned most worthy, either from his rank or valor, and next to him
was placed the person who gave the entertainment. The others were
arranged, each according to his rank. Behind the guests stood some
who bore shields, a number of spearmen sat in a circle opposite to the
others, and both took meat with their lords. The Celts offered their
libations upon wooden tables, brought in, we are told, neat and clean,
being raised a little above the ground, and covered with hay. It was
the custom to put the bread, broken into many pieces, on the table,
with flesh out of the caldron, of all which the king or chief first tasied.

* Froissart's Chronicles, vol. iv. c. 84. Johnes's edition,
t Beckmann's History of Inventions. t Marcel.

Flerodotus, iv. ap. Montf. || Tacitus


Some would take up whole joints with both hands, and tear them in
pieces with their teeth ; but if the flesh were too tough, they cut it
with a little knife, which was kept in a sheath, in a certain place near
at hand. Boys served round the wine, both right and left, in earthen
or silver pots. The company drank very leisurely, frequently tasting,
but not taking more at a time than a glassful. After supper, they
sometimes engaged in sword play, challenging each other to friendly
combat, in which they only joined their extended hands and points of
their swords, without injury, but sometimes they began to fight in earnest,
wounding each other ; in which case, they became irritated, and, if the
others did not interfere, they fought till death. In former times, also/
the strongest would take up the limbs of cattle, and, if challenged by
any, they fought with swords until one was killed.*

In Celtiberia, the lights were brought in by boys, who cried out
" vincamus;"j" and, speaking of lights, it may be noticed that the sub-
stitute for a candle among the Gael, and Scots farmers generally, is a
slip of the resinous fir wood, dug out of the mosses, and dried. This
is called Gius puil, or blair, and is held beside the guid man during
meals, by the younger branches of the family. It would seem that,
anciently, the chiefs had servants for the purpose of holding their rude
flambeaux ; and a story is related of an Earl of Braidalbane showing
some English friends these torch-bearers, in proof that he possessed
much more valuable chandeliers than those of silver exhibited to him in
the South. Old Gaelic poems mention wax candles as in use. The
Master of the Lights, an officer in the King of Wales' household, was
obliged to hold a taper near the king's dish, when eating.

An ancient and common way among the Highlanders, of illuminating
their dwellings, is this : The quantity of gius required for the night is
split in the morning from the roots, heaped near the peat-stack, and is
placed- on the Suiican, and suspended at a convenient distance over the
fire, to be thoroughly dried. At the close of the day's labor, the duine,
literally the man, as the head of every family is emphatically called,
takes his seat close by the headstone of the fire, which is an oblong solid
square, generally about three feet long, three feet high, and one and a
half broad, placed at the back of the hearth. As soon as it is dark, the
duine kindles the solus, or light, by putting a large burning coal on the
top of the headstone, and laying some of the dry resinous slips upon it.
This he continues to feed, by adding a fresh one or two ; and such a
light will illuminate a large apartment better than six good tallow

The entertainment of James V. by the Earl of Athol, when on a
hunting visit, as before noticed, was an extraordinary occasion ; but as
it is characteristic of the manners of the time, and as the various provi-
sions are minutely detailed in the historian's quaint style, it is d^sira-
* Ritson, Mem. of the Colts, 211. This seems what Athenseus calls waging war for
cicatand drink. t Amm. Marc. xvi. 4.


ble to insert his account. " There were all kinds of drink, as ale, beer,
wine, both white and claret, Malvasy, Muskadel, Hippocras, and Aqua-
vitrc. Further, there was of meats, wheatbread, mainbread, and
gingerbread, with fleshes, beef, mutton, lamb, veal, venison, goose,
grice, capon, coney, cran, swan, partridge, plover, duck, drake, biissel
cock and pawnies, black cock and muir fowl, capercoilies; and also the
stanks that were round about the palace were full of all delicate fishes,
as salmonds, trouts, pearches, pikes, eels, and all other kind of delicate
fishes that could be gotten in fresh waters; and all ready for the banquet.
Syne were there proper stewards, cunning baxters, excellent cooks and
pottingars, with confections and drugs for their deserts; and the halls
and chambers were prepared with costly bedding, vessels and napry
according for a king; so that he wanted none of his orders more than he
had been at home in his own palace. The king remained in this wilder-
ness the space of three days and three nights, and his company. I
heard men say it cost the Earl of Athol every day, in expenses, a thous-
and pounds. The ambassador of the Pope, seeing this banquet and
triumph, which was made in a wilderness, where there was no town
near by twenty miles, thought it a great marvel that such a thing should
be in Scotland, and that there should be such honesty and policy in it,
especially in the Highland, where there was but wood and wilderness.
But most of all, this ambassador marvelled to see, when the king depart-
ed, and all his men took their leave, the Highlandmen set all this place
in a fire, that the king and ambassador might see it. Then the ambas-
sador said to the king, ' I marvel, sir, that you should thole yon fair place
to be burnt that your Grace has been so well lodged in;' then the king
answered and said, ' It is the Mse of our Highlandmen, though they be
never so well lodged, to burn their lodging when they depart."*

Water is the natural drink of mankind, but the art of rendering it
pleasant, or increasing its strength by the addition of various ingredients;
is found among people in the lowest scale of civilisation. A very simple
method of producing an agreeable beverage is by the admixture of other
substances, and we find the Gauls steeping honeycombs in water, and
the Celtiberi using drinks made of honey.

It here becomes necessary to say something of this article, the excel-
lent succedaneum for sugar. " Of all the insect tribes, none have
engrossed so much attention as bees. Their social habits, and indefatiga-
ble industry, must have excited the admiration" of mankind in the most
early ages. Their delicious stores must have equally soon attracted
attention. The Celtge certainly employed themselves in the manage-
ment of bees, their honey being in much request for mixture with
different liquors, and Pliny observes, that the combs were largest among
the Northern nations, noticing one found in Germany eight feet long,
which, he says, was black inside. In Spain, which according to Dio-
dorus, abounded in honey, it had a flavor of broom, from the great

* Pitscottie, p. 147, fol. ed.


quantifies of that shrub. , In this country the people were accustomed,
when the flowers became insufficient to afford the requisite supply for
the bees, to remove with their hives to a more desirable situation, in the
same manner that a pastoral people did with their flocks.* The Britons
kept considerable numbers of these useful insects. In Ireland the Bre-
hon laws provided for their careful protection, and in the Isle of Man it
is still a capital crime to steal them. Ireland was celebrated for swarms
of bees, and abundance of honey, and the monks, in the fourth century,
according to Ware, had an allowance of a certain quantity in the comb
fresh from the hive. The Celtic Britons kept their bees in a bascaud
formed of willow plaited. t About fifty years ago one of these was found
in Lanishaw Moss, and about eighteen years since another was discov-
ered, about six feet under ground, in Chat's Moss, both in Lancashire.
This last was a cone of two yards and a half high, and one in diameter
at bottom, and was divided into four floors or separate hives, to which
were doors sufficiently large to admit one's hand. The whole was
formed of unpeeled willows, and contained combs and complete bees.
These were larger than the present species,^ which may perhaps account
for the great size of those combs noticed by Pliny.

Scotland was formerly called a land of milk and honey, but it hardly
deserves the latter appellation in these days. In most parts of the
Highlands about fifty years ago, a farmer had two or three hives that
remunerated him very well for the trouble attending the management.
It is not so now, which is matter of surprise, the abundance of heath af-
fording so plentiful a field for the collection of honey, at no expense; and
it is well known that what is gathered from the heaths is much preferable
to that which is extracted from garden flowers. The Highland Society of
Scotland is, at this time, endeavoring to extend the culture of these use-
ful insects throughout the country.^ That the Highlanders had ancient-
"ly a liquor made from honey, appears from ancient allusion to it. It is
probable that the beverage was similar to metheglin, or mead, called
mil dheoch by the Gael. This excellent liquid is made by boiling honey
and water in certain proportions, subjecting it to fermentation; and the
Welsh, who have different ways of making it, and have used it from
early times, derive its name from medclyg, medicinal, and lyn, drink.
The mead maker ranked the eleventh person in the household of the
kings of Wales. The famed Athole brose is a mixture of whisky and
honey, with a little oatmeal.

Milk, so easily procured by a pastoral people, is a common and ex-
cellent drink by itself, and affords, in its different states, a pleasant

* Pliny, xi. 8, xxi. 13.

1 Kanelh, fn Welsh a large basket, is, in Cornish, a bee-hive.

t WhitiVer's Hist, of Manchester.

Many superstitions formerly prevalent, still exist concerning bees. In Devonshire
f.liey are never paid for in money; never moved but on Good Friday; and, on occasion
of a funeral, the 1 hives are carefully turned round. Brande's Pop. Ant. ii.202. Ellis's
'tid. From Domesday book we find the Gustos apium was a person of some note.


refreshment. The making of butter produces whey, a wholesome liquor,
which some of the Highlanders, Buchanan says, boiled and kept in
hogsheads under ground for several months, by which it was rendered
a very agreeable beverage.* Sweet cream mixed with butter-milk is
delicious. The Irish are said to be peculiarly fond of the latter, but they
formerly used a great deal of other milk, whey, and broth.

The infusion of herbs in the formation of cordials must have been
practised in the most early ages, and it is to be noted that the Gaelic
lusadh, drinking, is derived from lus, an herb, or plant. Boece says the
old Scots were moderate drinkers, using chiefly infusions or mixtures
of thyme, mint, anise, &c.

The Celtiberi, at their festivals, had a certain liquor in the composi-
tion of which no fewer than five score different herbs were employed,
but no one appeared to know precisely the particular ingredients of
this famous wassail, although every one understood that it required
one hundred articles, if properly prepared, as its name implied. This
name has not been preserved, but we are told the mixture was esteemed
the most sweet and wholesome of drinks. "j" The people of the Scilly
Islands are fond of distilling various flowers and herbs, to mix in their
liquors, and they take special care to gather them at a certain age
of the moon.J

The art of making strong liquors seems to be one of the first acquire-
ments of mankind; in all parts of the world, and in the rudest state
of society, substances, or mixtures to produce intoxication have been
discovered. Before wine became known to the Gauls they appropriated
much of their corn for the production of an excellent beverage. The
nations of Western Europe Gauls, Germans, Celtiberians, and Brit-
ons made liquors of two sorts from grain steeped in water, which were
denominated curmi and zythus, answering to the modern ale and beer.^
Schcepflin thinks zythus was the British cider, |j in which he is evident-
ly wrong. The Gaelic suthan, juice, clearly shows its relationship to
the ancient Celtic term. The Britons, Dioscorides says, drank the
strong liquor called curmi, a word long retained by the Gael in its
original acceptation, being the curvvi of the Welsh, which is their name for
ale. Ol elmi, I drink, is the expression of a modern High lander, IT and
it is not a little curious. Ol is ale, and el, in ancient German, signified
water;** from which original term the alica, a drink of the Britons,
apparently a sort of gruel or frumenty and other names originated.
The Highlanders substituted loin, or lain, provisions, for the ancient

* Lib. i. It seems to be what Perlin calls " force laict."

t Pliny, xxv. 8. t Troutbeck.

The . Egyptians made a similar liqnor. Where vines would not grow, says
Diodorus, Osiris, or Bacchus, taught the inhabitants to make drink from barley.
Lib. i. 2. iv. i. In Illyricum, the liquor made from grain was called Sabaia. Marcellinus.

l| Alsatia illust. p. 64. U Sir J. Foulis, of Colintotm.

** Cannegieteri Diss. de Brittemburgo.


tame of this liquor, not an inapt term for what is in modern times
called " liquid bread."

Corma appears to have been zythus made without the addition of
honey.* Marcellinus mentions garaus as a drink of the Germans in the
time of Valens,| and in Spain they used coelia and ceria, or cervisia,
which Whitaker tells us signify strong water. The Gauls drank the
strongest ale with water, and the Celtiberia made it to keep for a con-
siderable time.J Whether the Caledonians could make malt liquors
so early as we find them in use by the south Britons, is not known, but
curmi was drank in the third century, and was common in the sixth. ^

The Picts are celebrated for possessing an art whereby they extract-
ed a delicious drink from the tops and blossoms of heath, which it is
believed was lost with their supposed extirpation. This is related by
the national historians, and is preserved in popular tradition throughout
Scotland ; the story representing the secret as last remaining with a
father and son, prisoners to Kenneth Mac Alpin, who were urged by
the promise of liberty and liberal rewards, to impart their valuable
knowledge to the Scots. The father, after long solicitation, expressed
himself willing to accede to their proposals, on condition that his son
should previously be put to death, which request being unsuspectingly
complied with, the stern Pict told his enemies they might also put him
to death, for he could never be prevailed on to disclose a secret known
only to himself. The enraged Scots, as may be supposed, speedily
sacrificed the obstinate captive. Many extensive tracts of Muir are
observable that are level and free from stones, and they are believed
to have been the fields cleared by the Picts for the cultivation of the
hoath, which they mowed down when in bloom. This shrub, I have
been told, may, by a certain process, produce a good spirit, and a
pleasant liquor is often made in the Highlands chiefly from its flowers,
but it differs from the ancient beverage, in having the additions of honey
or sugar with other ingredients, whereas the heather ale of the Picts, it
is thought, required nothing extraneous to bring it to perfection. In
the Highlands it was an almost invariable practice, when brewing, to
put a quantity of the green tops of heath in the mash tub, and when the
plant is in bloom it adds much to the strength and flavor of the beer.
The roots, also, will improve its qualities, for v they are of a liquorice
sweetness, but their astringency requires them to be used with caution.

Herb ale was a favorite " brewst" with the women of olden times.
An ancient matron, whose grandmother had made it, has often descant-
ed to me on its excellence, alleging that those who drank heartily of it
became speckled in the face like a salmon. Being only a child when
this was observed, she could not say what were the ingredients, .but as
her ancestors were natives of Buchan, where the descendants of the an-
cient Picts, according to Pinkerton, are to be found, the secret was not,

I * Athenseus, iv. t Lib. xxvii. i. t Pliny, xiv. 22, xviii. 7.

Scrip. Hist. August, p. 942, ap. Low's History of Scotland.



perhaps, entirely lost.* I am assured by a native of the Highlands,
that he could make beer, equal to the best malt liquor, from ingredi-
ents furnished entirely by the Scotish mountains.

Perlin describes the Scots as regaling themselves with " bierre, god
alles, and alles." They were partial to malt liquor, and the old farmers
used much more of it than their successors, and made it of a superior
quality. Even the poorer sort brewed their own ale, sometimes using
no other utensils than a common pot, and pail, or tub. Hops were
unknown to the old Highlanders, and are not used by many even yet.
The con mheill root was, no doubt, an excellent substitute^ but a
common infusion was wormwood. A curious method of preserving
yeast was used in the Isles. A rod of oak, which was to be cut before
the middle of May, from four to eight inches long, and twisted round
like a wyth, was boiled in the wort, and when dried was kept in a
bundle of barley straw until wanted for use, when, being steeped in the
liquor, it produced fermentation. Martin says he saw one that had
served the purpose no less than thirty years.

Brewing devolved on the Celtic females, and the Saxons observed
the same rule; it is only in recent times that the business has been done
by men, malt liquor being formerly made and sold by the women.
The " ale wife" was, at one time, synonymous in England with the
keeper of a " pot house" in Scotland the appellation is still expressive
of the landlady of a " change house." A curious old Scots statute
respecting " wemen wha brewis aill to be sauld," ordains " gif she
makis evil aill, and is convict thereof, she sail pay an unlaw of aucht
shillings, or she sail be put upon the cuckstule, and the aill sauld to
be distribute to the pure folk."

Dr. Smith thinks the Caledonians had a drink formed by a fermenta-
tion of parts of the birch tree. It is well known that the birch furnishes
the strongest and most pleasant of all British wines, but whether the
old Highlanders knew this I cannot say; few of their descendants are
aware of it, and, notwithstanding popular belief, there is reason to
think ,the opinion that spirits were made of this tree, is not well

Whisky, so common in Scotland and Ireland, so much esteemed, and
produced in such excellence, by the Celts of both countries, is well
known, and the art of making it was probably possessed from an early
period by the Gael, who have so long been celebrated as distillers of
the " mountain dew." It is, however, a matter of dispute with antiqua-
ries whether it be a late invention or of ancient origin. Ware inclines
fo the former opinion, and Pinkerton says it became known perhaps
three centuries ago.J Uisge-beatha is literally aqua vitre, water of

"Augsburg beer, so much esteemed in Germany, is said to owe its excellence to
aven's roots, geum nrbanum, that are pat into it.
\ IVnmnt, says a fermented liquor was rnnde of it.
1 Enquiry ii. 144. In 1599 it was a favorite beverage of the Irish.

WINE. 347

life; whisky is a corrupt pronunciation of the first part of the lerm.
Trestarig is whisky three times distilled, which is reckoned an excel-
lent spirit, and uisge beatha haul is four times distilled, of whi^h two
spoonfuls is enough to drink at one time.* Whisky, illicitly distilled,
is termed in Ireland potteen, and in Scotland pot dhu, that is the small
pot and the black pot, in allusion to the vessel in which the wash is
boiled. The superior excellence of small still whisky is believed to be
owing, in a great measure, to the regular coolness of the pipes, which
is effected by introducing a small stream of water, which flows through
the bothy where the spirit is made.

The Gauls were excessively fond of wine, which their own country
did not, it is said, in early ages, produce. It is evident from Possidon-
ius, Strabo, and Martial, that the grape was cultivated by the Celts, but
they do not appear to have understood how to make wine. The climate
could not have been an obstacle to its manufacture, for the districts
famed for the best varieties have long been the northern provinces of
France. | The Celtiberians, according to Diodorus, also bought their
wine, but Pliny mentions a vine called cocolobin, famed for a medicinal
drink which it afforded. J The berry called fionag, literally wine-berry, is
produced in great abundance in the mountains of Scotland. It is about
the size of a Zante currant, of the same color, and equally juicy and
sweet. It also bears the appellation dearcag fithich, crow-berry, but the
above' is the proper name, and from its being called wine-berry, it is clear
that wine must, at some period, have been procured from it by the Gael,
unless we may suppose that that people came immediately from a grape-
producing country into the Highlands of Scotland, and from the resem-
blance of the crow-berry to the grape, imposed that name upon it. I
have no doubt, however, but good wine may be procured from it without
the addition of sugar.

The Gauls imported large quantities of wine from other countries,
and they are represented as drinking it with avidity as soon as they re-
ceived it. The Roman merchants encouraged an intemperance by
which they made immense profits, and supplied the Gauls with abun-
dance of wine, 'both by the navigable rivers and land carriage. The
trade was most lucrative ; for so inordinately fond were they at one time
of this excellent liquor, that they purchased it at any cost, and did not
hesitate to give a boy in exchange for a hogshead. ; They often drank it
to such excess, that they continued, at times, " wrapped in wild and wan-
dering cogitations," and even became stark mad ; yet, perceiving these
strange effects, they began to believe that the use of wine was highly
improper, and Tully, in pleading for Fonteius, says, they had resolved to
dilute it with water henceforth, because they thought it poison. |j The

* Martin.

t In 1808 there werft nearly four millions jf acres occupied in vineyards, and there
uiv 1400 different wines in that country.

; Lib. xiv 2 Diodorus, v \\ Ainm. Mar. xv. 10.


Germans on the Rhine dealt largely in this article, and were equally
remarkable for their intemperate use of it. They would continue drink-
ing night and day, and the broils that constantly attended their debauch-
es, commonly ended in maiming and slaughter. The Gauls in Asdrubal's
service, having procured a large quantity of wine, made themselves
raging drunk, when the army being attacked by the consul Csecilius,
was, in consequence, completely overthrown.* From the charge of
debasing themselves in this way, the Nervians must be excluded, as the
importation of wine into their territories was strictly prohibited. The
Scythians are stigmatized as very intemperate, and gave riste to the say-
ing of the Greeks, " let us drink like the Scyths," when they meant to
indulge themselves immoderately."!" A remark of one of their ambassa-
dors, however, that the thirst of the Parthians increased as they deep-
ened their potations, J does not countenance the charge of drunkenness.
A favorite beverage of the rich Gauls was a mixture of wine and water,
called dercoma; they also put salt, vinegar, and cumin in wine, ingre-
dients which likewise formed a sauce for fish. Wine appears to have
been very early known to the Highlanders, from its mention in old
poems. It was formerly plentiful in Scotland, being chiefly procured
from France, and was both good and cheap. Before the laws regulat-
ing the importation of Port affected that part of his Majesty's dominions,

" the free-born Scotsman stood,

Old was his mutton and his claret good ;

Drink Port ! the English legislator cried,

He drank the poison, and his spirit died."

The vessels out of which the Caledonians drank, were the corn or
horn, the sliga or shell, and the fuach or cup. Ki-gu&ai, the expression
of Athenaetis, translated, pour our the drink, is, literally, horn the
liquor, the horn of animals being apparently the first articles converted
into drinking^cups. Those used by the Highlanders are sometimes
mounted with silver, or otherwise ornamented, and are usually formed
of a portion of the horn, to which the ruder sort have a cork or wooden
bottom. The chiefs were accustomed to use a whole horn, of large size,
and richly ornamented, chiefly to be offered to visitors as a mark of res-
pect, or as a trial of their abilities. It was the object to take off the
contents at once; and if this was not done, the remainder in the horn,
discovered the failure by the noise which it made in the sinuosities,- on
which the company immediately called out, corneigh, the horn cries;
when the party was obliged to refill it, and drink Celtic, i. e. according
to the custom of the Celts. || At Dunvegan, in Sky, the ancient seat of
the chiefs of Macleod, is an ox horn of this sort, finely mounted with sil-
ver, which was borne on the arm, and its mouth being brought over the
elbow, the contents were drank off. The choicest liquors were served

* Diod. Fragment, xxxiii. Ritson. t Herod, vi. 84.

t Pliny xiv. 22. Home.

|| Foulis, in Trans, of Scots Antiquaries, i. The Hirlas horn of the Welsh appears
to be a similar article.


round in shells, whence the expressions to rejoice in the shell, and feast
of shells. They were cockles, held with the thumb placed on the hinge
part, and continued in use by the Highlanders until lately. Whisky
was filled out in a shell, at Mr. Mac Svvein's, in the Isle of Coll, in
1773.* After the disuse of natural shells, some made of silver were re-
tained. The Picts appear, from Adomnan, to have had drinking-glasses
The Highlanders used wooden cups; but the usual article for ale was
the maighder, a round vessel, with two handles, as represented in the
vignette, by which it was carried to the head. The quach, so named
from cu, round, is formed of different colored pieces of wood, in manner
of cooper's work, but the staves are joined together by mutual insertions,
presenting a very pretty appearance, and they are, besides, often hooped
with silver. Plenty of liquor was of great importance at festivals. With-
out this adjunct, as an author said of the Irish coshering, it could be no
feast; the truth of which is proved by the term which the Highlanders
apply to a great entertainment: they call it curme, the very word by
which the strong liquor, at first confined to the household of a chief, is

The bach-lamhal, or cup-bearer, was a high office among the Gael,
and, like the steward of the household in Wales, tasted all liquors. The
smith, among the latter, was entitled to a draught of every sort brought
to the king's table. The truliad, or butler, who had the custody of the
king's cellars, was the eleventh person in the royal establishment. When
a guest sat down at the table of a Highland chief, he was first presented
with a draught of uisge beatha out of the family cup or shell, and when
he had finished this cordial, a horn, containing about a quart of ale, was
given him, and if he was able to finish it, he was esteemed a good fellow. f
Riche, in his Irish Hubbub, describes the manner of drinking among
that people: One standing up and uncovering his head, took a full cup,
and, with a grave countenance, gave the name of the party whose health
was to be drank, and he who was pledged, took off his cap, kissed his
fingers, and bowing himself "in signe of reverent acceptance," the lead-
er took off his glass, and, turning the bottom up, gave it "a phillip, to
make it cry twango." The bumpers being refilled, the person whose
health had been drank repeated the same ceremony, and it went in like
manner round the whole company, provided there were three uncovered
until it had made the circuit of the table.

The love of intoxicating liquors is a vice which people in a low scale
of civilisation are prone to. The Gauls, who drank sparingly of their
own beverages, indulged to excess in the produce of the Italian vintage.
The Highlanders can enjoy a social glass as much as any persons; but
although whisky is plentiful with them, habitual tippling is extremely-
rare, and there is a proverb which speaks their contempt of those who
meet for the sake of drinking only. The renowned Fingal, who, by the
by, delivered his maxims in Triads, said, that one of the worst things

* Boswell's Journal of a Tour. * Dr. Mac Pherson.


which could happen to a man was to drink curmi in the morning. Measg
mixture, now pronounced meisg, signifies drunkenness, apparently from
the stupifying effects of drinking mixed liquors. A gentleman assured
me that, in the parish of Lairg, in Ross-shire, where he was formerly
resident, there was but one person addicted to drink; and a native of
Laggan, Inverness-shire, knew but one individual in that part who was
accustomed to intoxication: these characters indulged their depraved
tastes in solitude, for they could find no associates. The Highlanders
seldom met for a carousal, and when they did assemble they enjoyed
themselves very heartily, the " lawing," or bill, being paid by a general
contribution, for which a bonnet was passed around the company. If,
however, the Highlanders seldom met to drink together, it must be con-
fessed that when they did "forgather," they were inclined to prolong
their stay, and would occasionally spend days and nights over the bottle.
Donald Ross, an old man, full of amusing anecdotes of the gentlemen of
Sutherland and the neighboring counties, used to dwell with particular
pleasure on those social treats. The laird of Assynt, on one occasion,
having come down to Dunrobin, was accosted by the smith of the village,
when just ready to mount his garron and set off. The smith being an
old acquaintance, and the laird, like the late Mac Nab, and others of
true Highland blood, thinking it no derogation from his dignity to ac
cept the gobh's invitation to take deoch an doras, a draught at the door,
or stirrup cup, for every glass had its significant appellation, and went
into the house where the smith called for the largest jar or graybeard
of whisky, a pitcher that holds perhaps two gallons, meaning, without
doubt, to .show the laird that when they parted, it should not be for want
of liquor. " Well," says Donald, " they continued to sit and drink, and
converse on various matters, and the more they talked, the more sub-
jects for conversation arose, and it was the fourth day before the smith
thought of his shop, or the laird of Assyrit."

It is customary at meetings of Highland Societies to accompany cer-
tain toasts with " Celtic honors," that are thus bestowed. The chief
or chairman, standing up, gives the toast, and with a slight wave of the
hand, repeats three times, suas e, suas e, suas e, up with it, up with it,
up with it, the whole company also standing, and joining him in three
short huzzas. This is repeated, when he then pronounces the word
nish, now, also three times, with peculiar emphasis, in which he is join-
ed by the company, who dwell a considerable time on the last cheer.
As the company sit down, the piper strikes up an appropriate tune.

Every one knows that the Scots are fond of snuff, and the figure of a
Highlander is the almost invariable symbol of a snuff-shop. How they
became so noted for their partiality to " sneeshin " is not easy to deter-
mine; it is a subject that has hitherto received little attention. There
is a tradition, that when the Black Watch, now the 42nd regiment, first
came to London, the men were so constantly calling to supply themselves
with their favorite powder, that the dealers whose snuff had met with


their patronage, adopted the figure of a Highlander to indicate their
business. This may be very correct, but how came the inhabitants of
the remote Highlands and Isles so speedily to bring into universal use
an article that had been but recently introduced in England? Sir Wal-
ter Raleigh first brought tobacco here, about 1586, and we know that,
like all innovations, it must have been some time before its use became
common, even in the south; yet, in a poem by Mary Mac Leod, of the
house of Dunvegan, addressed to John Mac Leod, brother to Sir Nor
man, and written about 1600, she thanks him for presenting her with a
bra thombac, or tobacco mill-stone.

Now it is not at all probable that the Highlanders could have received
their knowledge of this plant from the English, or that, in so short a
time, they would have been, not only reconciled, but proverbially ad-
dicted to its use. The strong prejudice which the Gael have to inno-
vation of all kinds, even emanating from a less objectionable quarter
than the Sassanach, forbids us to believe that their snuff* was connect-
ed with Raleigh's discovery. The root cormheille, or braonan was
chewed like tobacco by the old Highlanders, and may have been smoked
or ground to snuff, but whatever the article was, it is certain that the
Celts were accustomed to smoke, and their pipes have been frequently
dug up both in Britain and Ireland. They were discovered, in consid-
erable numbers, under ground, at Brannockstown, in the county of Kil-
dare, in 1784, and a skeleton, found under an ancient barrow, had' a
pipe actually sticking between its teeth!* Its form is much similar to
those now in use, only of an oval or egg-shape. Herodotus says, the Scyths
had certain herbs, which were thrown into the fire, and the smoke being
inhaled by those sitting around, it affected them as wine did the Greeks.
Strabo tells us, a certain religious sect among them smoked for recrea-
tion; and Mela and Solinus "f" plainly describe the smoke as being inhaled
through tubes. The Highlanders appear to have adopted the tobacco
introduced by Raleigh from a previous addiction to a native herb of
similar pungency, and they are said to have formerl)- grown and prepar-
ed their own tobacco in a very judicious manner, drying it by the fire,
and grinding both stem and leaf, making a snuff* not unlike what is now
termed Irish blackguard. They are so partial to snuff, that a supply
of it is often a sufficient inducement for one to accompany a traveller
across extensive tracts of mountain or muir. The mull, as the neat spi-
ral horn, represented in the preceding vignette, in which they carry
their snuff, is called a constant companion, and they take much pride in
ornamr .ting it. They usually carry it in the sporari, or purse, but it
was formerly stuck before them in the belt, J and the snuff* is taken by a
" pen," either a quill or small spoon of tin, brass, or silver, attached to
it by a chain of similar melal. The large ram's horn, with its appen-

* Anthologia Hibernica, i. 352, where there is a print of it. The author picked up
om, thrown out of a recent excavation at Primrose-hill, near London.

t C. xv. Brodigan on Tobacco, &c. t Journey through Scotland, 1729.


dages, as represented in the closing vignette, is for the banqueting
table, and usually lies before the chief, who occasionally passes it to the
company. This utensil is usually ornamented in a very costly manner
with silver and precious stones, and sometimes both horns and part of
the skull are retained. The hammer is to shake the snuff from the
sides, the rake is to bring it within reach, the spike is to break it if
pressed together, the hare's foot is to brush away any particles that may
be dropped, and the pen is to convey the snuff to the nose. I cannot
vouch for the truth of the assertion, that the large horn was formerly
carried about the person.

The art of cookery and practice of medicine were formerly very inti-
mately connected, and it is, perhaps, to be regretted, that they are now
disjoined. Mankind, in a rude state of society, entertain a superstitious
opinion of the healing powers of herbs ; but their belief is not, in all cases,
groundless. When the chief occupations of a people are the pasturage
of tame and the hunting of wild beasts, or even when they are employed
in agriculture, the vegetable kingdom, so constantly under their obser-
vation, is the wide field which nature spreads before them, whence they
procure the simple remedies that are applied to their diseases and
their wounds. Their materia medica is confined to roots and plants, and,
from the experience of ages, they acquire a considerable knowledge of
their sanative properties; the brute creation have even, sometimes, it is
related, informed mankind of the medicinal virtues of certain plants; a
crow is said to have led the Gauls to the discovery of the virtues of
toracwn* It is easier to ascertain the properties of vegetables than
'.hose of minerals. From the vegetable kingdom are still procured many
valuable specifics, and the most ancient physicians prescribed no other
remedies than what were derived from herbs. |

Untutored savages have been found to possess valuable secrets in the
science of medicine, .where the prescriptions were the natural produce
of the earth, and administered almost without preparation; but, perhaps,
the repute which has been, in some cases, attached to the application of
simples, has arisen as much from their innocuous qualities as from their
medicinal properties. People ignorant of more active medicines, will
always esteem remedies which can be administered with safety, if not
with a decidedly salutary effect.

The Gauls are represented by the ancients to have attained very old
age, enjoying peculiarly good health and vigor. The Britons were par-
ticularly remarkable for their protracted lives. .Plutarch says, sorm*
of them lived one hundred and twenty years, and the inhabitants of

* Aristotle.

t Pliny, xx vi. 1, 4. The virtues imputed to these prescriptions were so incrediblr,
that, at last, a general skepticism arose, which paved the way for the new practice
of Asclepiades ; that, in its turn, became equally corrupted. Ibid. The loss of that
portion of Solomon's wisdom, contained in the treatise on every plant, " from thf
cedar-tree, that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop, that springeth out of the wall "
.8 to be regretted equally by the physician and naturalist.


the Hyperborean Island are said to have lived until they were satiated
with existence. Their mode of life was, doubtless, conducive to strength
and longevity, but the Celts were not entirely exempt from disease; yet
those which were common at Rome, were little known in Gaul or Spain.*
The glacach, among the Highlanders, is a disease of a consumptive
nature, affecting the chest and lungs. It is also called the Mac Don-
ald's disease, because there are particular tribes, of that name, who are
confidently believed to be able to cure it with their touch, accompanied
by a certain form of words, means which are quite ineffectual if any fee
is offered or accepted! From the simple and active lives of these people,
they were subject to few diseases; and it is only since linen has come into
general use, that rheumatism is said to have been known. In the large
county of Sutherland, only one doctor can find sufficient employment."!"

The practice of physic amongst uncivilized people is always accom-
panied by religious ceremonies, which have been assigned as the origin
of all magic and incantations. The Druids were physicians as well as
ministers of religion, J and, in certain diseases, their interposition with
the gods was added to their physical applications, for the recovery of
their patients. Sometimes it was thought necessary even to sacrifice a
human victim for the removal of some desperate malady. As these
priests were the chief depositaries of Celtic knowledge, which they pre-
served as part of their religious profession, it is probable that the other
classes of the community paid less attention to a study that would have
infringed on the peculiar privilege of the Druids; but this species of
knowledge being, in a great measure, the result of experience, it could
not remain entirely with that class, although the office of administering
bodily relief may have been conceded to them from a belief in their
superior sanctity and influence with the Deity.

In the Gaelic poem of Oithona, we find a chief who had been a diligent
student of Esculapius: " Can the hand of Gaul heal thee?"he asks;
" I have searched for the herbs of the mountains, I have gathered them
on the secret banks of their streams, my hand has closed the wound of
the brave. "^ Fingal is celebrated for his cuach fhinn, or medical cup,
which is yet commemorated in Highland tradition. |j Amongst the Cel-
tic nations, Pliny celebrates the people of Spain as most curious in
searching after simples; and some herbs, in great repute for their medi-
cinal virtues, were peculiar to that country. IT One of these was named
oantabrica, from the territories of the Cantabri, where it grew. Vetton-
ica, 01 betony, was not indeed peculiar to Celtiberia, but it received its

* Pliny, xxvi. 1. A sort of cancerous bubo is described as peculiar to Narbonne,
which, without being accompanied by pain, carried its victim to the grave in three
days. Ibid. t Agricultural Report. t Bello Gallico.

This is not, perhaps, a fair proof of the practice of surgery and medicine indepen-
dent of the Druids ; for tradition asserts, that the kings of Morven had, at this period
refused longer submission to that body. || Smith's Gallic Antiquities.

H Lib. xxv. P.


name from the Vettones, one of the tribes of that country, who probably
first discovered its salutary properties.*

The miseltoe was esteemed a panacea, and was called by a name
wmch signified all-heal. It was particularly celebrated for the cure of
epilepsy, in which disease it is even yet sometimes applied. "f Its wonder-
ful properties, which need not be enumerated, were quite lost if it was
allowed to touch the ground after being cut down.

An hrrb, called britannica, supposed to have been cochlearia, or
spoon-wort, was celebrated for the cure of paralysis. The name seems
to point to this country as its original soil; but although it was exported
to the continent from Britain, Pliny says it was not very plentiful in
this island, and confesses he does not know why it has received the
name.J Its properties were first discovered to the Romans in the time
of Cassar Germannicus, when the army, having drank the waters of
a certain fountain in Germany, lost the use of their legs, and were
otherwise much affected. On this occasion, the natives, who were well
acquainted with the deleterious quality of the water, and of the value
of this herb in counteracting its effects, instructed the Romans in its
application. y

Agaricum, a production resembling a mushroom, grew on most trees
in Gaul, and was not only prescribed as a medicine, but became an arti-
cle of export to Rome, where it was much esteemed as an ingredient in

Many very astonishing virtues were imputed to verbenacum or ver-
vain. It was not applied solely to heal bodily infirmities, but wag
famed for removing mental disorders, having the power effectually
to reconcile those who were at the deepest enmity, and by merely
sprinkling the place where a party were to feast, it promoted hilarity
and a good understanding among the company. These were, indeed,
estimable qualities, especially as the Gauls are represented to have
been extremely irritable, and prone to quarrel at their entertainments.
This plant deserved the estimation in which it was held, for it was
besides of much use in divination, and was gathered with the most
superstitious observances. Those who were employed in the work, com-
menced their operations by drawing a circle around it, and slipping
their left hand cautiously from under their cloak, as if afraid of being
seen, plucked it up by the roots and threw it in the air. They finally
made an oblation of honey to the earth, as an atonement for depriving it
of so valuable an herb.||

The Romans retained the ancient and almost universal veneration

entertained for verbenacum, imputing to it several wonderful virtues.

When the heralds went on any embassy, they carried a bunch of it,

pulled up for the purpose, from which circumstance they derived their

* Pliny, xiv.

i Sir John Colbach, in 1720, published a Dissertation on the Miseltoe, where he
recommends it as a medicine excellent to subdue epilepsy and all other convulsive dis-
orders. J Lib. xxr. 3, xxvii. Pliny, xvi. 9. || Pliny, xxv. 9.


name, Verbenarii.* The Greeks employed vervaine in the worship of
their gods, and the Eastern magi paid the same regard to it, affirming
that it possessed many miraculous properties. The Druids, in their
character of physicians, practised no greater deception than the priests
of other nations. They knew that this herb really possessed certain
qualities, which the wisdom of succeeding ages has not disputed, (e. g.
for headaches, wounds, .c.,) and if they disguised this knowledge by
superstitious ceremonies, and pretended miracles, they only displayed
what the credulous populace, who delight in the marvellous, were great-
ly pleased with, and thereby taught them to respect and venerate what
they would not otherwise have valued The shepherds in the North of
France continue to gather vervaine, pronouncing certain words, the
meaning of which is unknown perhaps even to themselves, and apply it,
not only for the cure of several complaints, but believe that it can ope-
rate as a charm. "j"

The Gauls seem to have believed that the potency of herbs were
chiefly imparted by the mysterious ceremonies with which they were
gathered and applied, an opinion that the Druids would naturally encoar-
age. Those nations appear to have imputed to certain plants very
wonderful and powerful virtues, and to have considered them as able
to assist them in battle. Pliny, although sufficiently credulous, justly
doubts their being able to fortify themselves by such means. " Where
were those potent herbs among the Cimbri," he asks, " when they were
so completely routed, that they yelled again ?"J The supernatural pow-
ers which the Gauls ascribed to their medical applications were certainly
ridiculous, but the articles which formed the prescriptions, if not effect-
ual in their operation, were naturally harmless. In general, they pos-
sessed some good quality, and, compared with the contemptible nostrums
in credit among the Romans, they were respectable applications.

The Gael do not appear to have been much tinctured with the belief
in charms that prevailed among other people. Dr. Mac Culloch found no
" superstitious remedies" among the people of the Isles, and amongst
those to be noticed, few will appear to be such as deserve this term. In
an old Gaelic poem, allusion is made to a ring used as a preservative
from disease. " I am astonished, from the virtue of his ring, how he
should be in pain or torment." Need we be surprised, that "the
savage Celt," as he is stigmatized, should have believed that this article
possessed wonderful powers, when we find Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord
Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth, giving her Majesty a ring to protect
her from the plague ! The well-attested cure of Lady Baird, of Sauch-
tenhall, near Edinburgh, by the Lee penny, is on a par with the
Chancellor's gift. This valuable penny was borrowed by the town
of Newcastle, to protect it from the plague, and a bond was granted for
its sa'e return. |l In the Diary of El. Ashmore, 1681, we find, " I took
a ^ood dose of elixir, and hung three spiders about my neck, and they
"Pliny, xxii. 2. t M. Latour ap. Phillip's Flora Histonca. J. xxvi. 4, 1.

S Ellis's Letters on English Hist. iii. || Murray's Guide to the Beauties of Scotland


drove my ague away !" I believe some of the Highlanders still attach
a deal of importance to unspoken water, which is brought from certain
parts, and applied without uttering a single word. The veneration
which the ancient Celtse paid to water, led them to believe in the super-
natural virtues of particular fountains and streams, in which their
descendants continued long to bathe, in the faith of a cure, and this
respect for wells was not relinquished by the Christian Scots !

Selago, or hedge hyssop, was reckoned by the ancient Celts excellent
for all diseases of the eyes, the cure being produced by fumigation. It
was gathered with singular ceremonies, of the same character as those
observed in collecting other herbs, the person being clad in a white
robe, with bare feet, &c.*

Samolus, which was procured with similar observances, was chiefly
employed as a preservative of cattle from every disease, but all its virtues
seemed to depend on the due performance of the formalities with which
it was pulled. Those who were employed in this office were enjoined to
do it fasting ; they were not on any account to look aside, or turn their
eyes from the herb, &c.j"

The Celtic nard was valued at Rome as only inferior in quality to the
Indian, and a pound of it was sold for thirteen denarii, something more
than eight shillings sterling. It was much used by physicians, and was
employed in the manufacture of a certain wine, greatly esteemed by the
Romans, but whether the composition of this beverage was learned from
the Gauls does not appear.J The nard was plucked up by the roots,
which were carefully washed; it was then steeped in wine, dried in the
sun, and made up into little bundles wrapped in paper, for sale.

Exacon, a sort of centaury found in Gaul, was esteemed very useful
in several distempers.|| The virtue of ischamon, or mylet, in stanching
blood, was discovered by the Thracians. The scithica, which received
its name from the Scyths, besides its use among that people, as a pre-
ventive of hunger and thirst, was applied to the healing of wounds, for
which it was much esteemed even in Rome. IF

We know very little of ancient Celtic pharmacy. The juices of herbs
were usually extracted by bruising or boiling.* Sometimes the plants
were dried in the shade, at other times in the sun, and these operations
were accompanied with many superstitious and nice observances. The
leaves, the roots, and the stems of verbenacum, were each carefully
and separately dried before use in a place shaded from the rays ot* the
sun.** The Gauls extracted the juice of hellebore, a poison with which
they rubbed the points of their arrows, and which had the property of
making the venison sweet and tender."|"|" Limeum, called also belenium,
was another poisonous extract, which, besides several other uses, was
administered with salutary effect in a draught to cattle.

* Pliny, xxiv. 9. t Ibid. xxiv. 9. J Ibid. xvi.

Ibid. xii. 12. || Ibid. xxv. 6. IT Ibid. xxvi. 14, xxvii. J.

** Ibid. xxv. 9. tt Aulus Gellius, xvii. 15. Pliny, xxv.


Xenicum, also a poison, killed with such celerity, thtit it was necessa-
ry for the hunter when he had struck his game, to run up quickly and cut
the flesh from around the wound, to prevent the matter from spreading.
An antidote to xenicurn was oakbark, or a leaf which they called coracion.

There can be no doubt but tne Celtre were skilled in the treatment of
wounds, the reduction of fractures, &c. The state of almost constant
warfare in which they unhappily lived, afforded but too much practice
to the surgeon. Sir Richard Hoare, in a barrow which he opened,
near Stonehenge, found a skeleton, the skull of which had a piece,
about five inches broad, so neatly cut off, that he thought it could
only have been done by means of a saw. Severe wounds, that must
have been long healed, are often perceptible on the mouldering remains
of the Celtic warrior.

The physician was hereditary, like other professions, and one was
generally found in the retinue of a chief, where he held a situation of
some distinction. In Ireland, the surgeon and the priest were placed
beside each other at table, the chief perhaps considering the person who
took care of his body on a near equality with him who attended to his
spiritual welfare, or, it may be more likely, that when the professions
were separated, the priest was assigned the place which the Druid had

The kings of Scotland, from the most early period, had physicians in
their establishment, who enjoyed lands as the reward of their services.
Amongst the Highlanders, the rights of the physician were secured by
royal grant. In 1609, King James granted to Fergus Mac Beth the
office of principal physician of the Isles, with the lands of Ballenabe and
Tarbet.* The Scots always paid great veneration to the profession, but
they made it a rule to abstain from physic as much as possible, relying
much on a system of abstinence for effecting a cure. A mutilated trea-
tise on physic, and another on anatomy, were in the hands of Dr. Smith;
and one on medicine, written in the end of the thirteenth, or beginning
of the fourteenth century, was in possession of the late Mr. Astle. The
Dr. says, there were in Mull, until lately, a succession of doctors, who
wrote a chest full of Gaelic MSS., on subjects connected with their
profession, which were purchased by the Duke of Chandos.

Their prescriptions were from necessity chiefly confined to simple pre-
parations of herbs, to which the inhabitants of the Isles arid the coasts
of the mainland added certain sea weeds. A clergyman in the North
of England writes to Dr. Fosbrooke,| " I have often regretted that our
village herbalists are fallen so much into disrepute. There are some
plants have qualities which are disallowed or neglected by botanists; and
these qualities, brought into action by an old crony, will sometimes cure
a disease that has been given up by her betters as irremediable." He
instances a decoction of plantain and salad oil, successfully applied by
* Mac Farlane's MS. Gilcohn is said to signify " son of the physician."
t Traditions and Recollections.


these rural doctors for the bite of an adder, &c. A good constitution is
more in favor of a patient, perhaps, than any power in the application,
which, if it does not positively assist recovery, it is not likely to check.
The herbei, or herbary, was a spot in gardens, anciently devoted to the
rearing of medicinal plants.

We have a curious account of one of the self-taught Highland doctors
in the work of Martin, who wrote 125 years ago, and attests the cure of
a gentlewoman of his acquaintance, who was believed to be within but a
few hours of her last, by this person, who applied only a simple plant.
Neil Beaton was a native of Sky, and his renown was not only spread
over the Islands, but extended far and wide throughout the Western
parts of the mainland. Ho extracted the juices of roots and plants by
a process peculiar to himself, at little or no charge, and had so nice a
discernment, that he could discover their nature by the color of the
flower. He treated medical works with contempt, from observing that
their methods had often failed when his had succeeded. Martin says
he examined him, and, with great simplicity, declares his belief that he
worked by no supernatural assistance, but formed his system of treat-
ment chiefly from a consideration of the constitution of his patient.*
In Ireland, the O'Calinanes were so very famous for their skill, that it
gave rise to a proverb. In that country, willow herb, lythrum sali-
caria, is a celebrated medical plant.

A few recipes of acknowledged efficacy will impart an idea of the
state of medical science among these people. The tops of nettles,
chopped small, and mixed with the whites of eggs, applied to the fore-
head; or erica baccifera, boiled for a little in water, and applied warm
to the crown of the head, procures sleep. Spirewort, cut very small,
and applied in the shell of the limpet to the temples, removes toothache.
A similar application, sufficiently strong to raise a blister, cures sciatica
and other complaints. The infusion of wild garlic is drank for the
stone. Fern, mixed with the whites of eggs, dispels bloodshot from
the eyes. Wild sage, chewed, and put into the ears of cows or
sheep, certainly restores sight. The broth of a lamb, in which the herb
shunuish has been boiled, is reckoned good for consumption. The liver
of a seal, dried, pulverized, and drank with milk or whisky, is a good
remedy for fluxes. Linarich, a green colored sea weed, is applied to
the temples and forehead, to dry up defluxions, and for the cure of me-
grim: it is also applied to burns. I am not sure if the following practice
was peculiar to the Highlanders. At the birth of a child, the nurse
took a stick of green ash, and putting one end in the fire, while it was
burning, she received in a spoon the juice which oozed from the other
end, which she gave to the infant as its first food."f In the Island of
Gigay, nettles were used to stanch bleeding, but the most esteemed
article for this purpose is the bolgabeite, a round sort of fungus, that

'Western Islands, p. 198 Dr. Mac CullCfch says dyspepsia was the prevailing
disease. t Lightfoot.


when il dies becomes full of a light powder, of a brownish color, which,
being exposed to the wind, flies off like smoke. In cases of fracture, a
poultice of barley meal and white of eggs must be immediately applied;
the part then surrounded by small splinters of wood, tightly wrapped up,
and not to be untied for several days. An ointment of St. John's wort,
bettonica, and golden rod, all cut and mixed in butter or grease, with
which they cure wounds in general, is then applied, and in this manner
they treat the most compound fracture with tolerable success. When the
feet were benumbed, the West Highlanders used to scarify their heels.
When they were hot and galled with hard walking, they were bathed in
warm water, wherein red moss had been put. The leaves of alder, applied
to the feet, when inflamed by travel, was a prescription in other parts.

A singular but effectual method of inducing perspiration was anciently
practised by the inhabitants of the Hebuda?. A large fire was made on
the earthen floor, and when it was properly heated, the fire was removed,
and a heap. of straw spread over the place, upon which was poured a
quantity of water. The patient then lay down upon it, and was quickly
in a profuse sweat. In more recent times, they adopted another equally
efficacious means. The patient's shirt was boiled, and put on wet, and as
warm as could be borne.* To cure jaundice, the patient laid bare his
back, for the inspection of the doctor, who, without any previous intima-
tion, gently, but quickly, passed a hot iron along the vertebras. Others
suddenly dashed a pail of cold water on the naked body. In both cases the
cure was produced, or attempted, by the fright which the patient receives.

Having thus described the manner of living among the Highlanders,
exhibiting the activity and freedom of their lives, and showing the supply
of food which their situation affords,, with the means which they adopt to
counteract disease or accident, the inference must be, that these people
are both healthy and long lived. Such, indeed, is the case, most of
them attaining extreme old age, without suffering from any of the mala-
dies which are the scourges of the luxurious and inactive.

Martin, himself a native of the Hebrides, whom it has been found
necessarv so often to quote, in his very curious and particular account
of these islands, and their inhabitants, mentions several instances of pro-
tracted existence, some of which came under his own observation. Gil-
our Mac Grain, an inhabitant of Jurah, he says, kept 180 Christmasses,
in his own house, and notices a women in Scarba, who reached the
patriarchal age of 140 years, and a person in South Uist, who had but
lately died at 138. In more recent times we find Flora Mac Donald,
who died in Lewis in 1810, with full possession of her faculties, at the
age of 120, and Margaret Innes, who died in Sky in 1814, aged 127.
In 1817, Hugh Cameron, called Eobhan na Pillie, died at Lawers
in Braidalban, in his 112th year ; and one Elizabeth Murray died at
Auchenfauld, in Perthshire, when she had reached 116. Peter Gairden,
who has been before alluded to, a native of Mar, was a sturdy old High-

* Martin, p. 189.


lander when he died at the advanced age of 132. This veteran, whose
portrait has been engraved, continued to wear his native garb, in this
and other particulars resembling Alexander Campbell, alias Ibherach,
who lived in Glencalvie, in Ross-shire, and was born in 1699. This
"ancient of days" died at the age of 117, retaining his vigor of body
and mind to the last, and enjoying his favorite amusement of roaming
about the glens. A walk of eleven miles to visit his clergyman was a
recreation, and shortly before his death he went to Tain, a distance of
twenty-six miles in one day. He trod with a firm step, and uniformly
dressed in the kilt and short hose, leaving his breast and neck exposed
to the blast, however cold. Poor Ibherach, after living so long, was
indebted for support to the generosity of his friends. About a year
before his death, in 1816, he received from Lord Ashburton a shilling
for every year of his life, with something additional for whisky to mois-
ten his venerable clay, and cheer his spirits in the evening of life. This
sum outlasted Campbell, and helped his clansfolk to perform the last
offices with becoming decency and respect to the hoary veteran. In
August, 1827, John Mac Donald, a native 1 of glen Tinisdale, in Sky,
died at Edinburgh, aged 107. It was too memorable a circumstance to
forget, that early one morning he supplied two females, as he supposed,
with water from a fountain, which individuals were Flora Mac Donald
and Prince Charles Stewart in disguise. This man was very temperate
and regular, and never had an hour's illness in his life. On new year's
day, 1825, he joined in a reel with his sons, grandsons, and great-grand-

The public prints have for many years past occasionally recorded
the deaths of Highlanders, whose remarkable old age may have entitled
them to notice, but who obtained a place in the obituary chiefly from
the circumstance of their having been concerned in the last unfortunate
struggle, and being supposed at the time the only survivors of those
engaged in that affair. Successive communications have hitherto proved
the supposition erroneous, and afforded a proof of the general longevity
of the Gael. It is represented, that when his Majesty was in Edinburgh,
John Grant, aged 110, was presented to him as one who had fought
against the Royal forces in 1745, when, addressing his Sovereign, he
observed, that although " he might not rank among the oldest friends of
his throne, he was entitled to say that he was the last of his enemies."

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