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A Hundred Years in the Highlands
By Osgood Hanbury MacKenzie  of Inverewe (1921)


My uncle, Dr. John Mackenzie, having left behind him ten manuscript volumes of Highland Memories, covering the period 1803 to 1860, and I, who inherited these manuscripts, having reached the age of seventy-nine, it has occurred to me that I might make a book of reminiscences which would give pleasure to those who reverence ancient customs and love the West Coast Highlands.

I make no pretence to the art of the writing man. The reader must be kind enough to imagine that he is sitting on the opposite side of a peat fire listening to the leisurely memories of one who has lived a great number of years, observant of the customs of his neighbours, attentive to things of the passing moment, and who finds an increasing pleasure, after a life of the open air, in dwelling on the times that are gone.

If my book should give pleasure to its readers, I shall be glad; if it should do anything to deepen affection and give them reverence for the noblest memories of our Scottish past, I shall be humbly grateful.

Tournaig, Poolewe,
March, 1921.


Chapter I - Parentage
Birth in Brittany—Curious coincidences—My father’s death and burial—An eventful voyage—Highland stage-coach in winter—The Gairloch property—Annual migrations— Incidents on the journey—The old inn—Milkers and their cows—Pandemonium—Tigh Dige, the old home.

Chapter II - Family History
Our Gairloch ancestor—Threat by Lews Macleods—Murder of kinsman’s two boys—Retribution—Slaughter of the Macleods—Treachery to the Mackenzies—Fight on the ship—An unpopular clan—Personal beauty of the Macleods—The forty-five—The family bard—Search for Prince Charlie—The secret chamber.

Chapter III - Childhood
Potato blight—Relief work at Gairloch—The Loch Maree road —I cut the first sod—The first wheeled vehicle—Transport before the days of roads—My mother’s love for Gaelic— . Schools in the parish—My mother as parish doctor—Early recollections—My grandmother as housekeeper— Old-time customs and habits—Climatic changes—Strawberries in June—Disappearance of wild bee.

Chapter IV - Boyhood
Amusements—Nesting on Loch Maree—Pine marten and the gulls—Trout-fishing—My uncle’s adventure on the hill— Fox-hunter’s eerie experience—Eagles’ nests—The shepherd’s ruse—Stormy petrels in Longa—Otter-hunting— Polecats — My education — Successful young man — Highland lairds and the Gaelic—Family affection—My grand-uncles—Kidnapping recruits for the Army—Kerrys-dale garden.

Chapter V - Youth
My first gun—Game iu the old days—Introduction of rabbits into the Highlands—Abundance of vermin—Martens as robbers of gardens—The sheep-killer: a unique experience —Stories of the wild-cat—Simple shooting—Expeditions to the Shiant Islands—Sea-fishing—Boatloads of puffins— Netting rock-pigeons—Tour in Normandy—Visit to 1851 Exhibition.

Chapter VI - Voyage to St. Kilda
We set out—Our vessel—At Lochmaddy—The Sound of Harris —Countess of Dunmore’s school—At Rodal—Tossing on the ocean—Arrival at St. Kilda—Difficulties of landing —Description of the island—Primitive houses—The church—A healthy people—The fulmar and the puffin— Solan-geese—Return voyage—Typical South Harris house —What I saw in the “black house”.

Chapter VII - The Lews
My oldest story—A Stornoway whale-hunt—My first visit to Lews Castle—Plentiful sport—Salmon-fishing on the Ewe —Netting in my uncle’s time—Kate Archy and her chickens—More expeditions—Lawsuit with Seaforth— Foolish and expensive litigation.

Chapter VIII - Early Sporting Days
Trip to Germany—A quick return—Shooting over Inverewe—My first dog—On the hill—The pointers—Dogs versus badger—Breeding setters—My friend “ Fan ”—A wonderful hunter—Shooting experiences—Increased sporting area—Big bags—A wandering quail—A ptarmigan at sea-level—Late Dr. Warre’s best day’s sport^-Flock of strange grouse—Some curious shots—Swan-shooting.

Chapter IX - Deer Stalking
Our guns—Deer asleep—A monster royal stag—In a corrie—A ten-pointer—A difficult journey—Wounded deer—Gill the lurcher—A “ grand beast ”—Fox versus roebuck —The poachers—Cave robber—Modern stalkers—Donald the gillie—Drowning the deer.

Chapter X - Deer Stalking continued.
A cheap licence—Start for the forest—The shepherd’s bothy— Almost unbearable—The two stags—Present to the laird—Ceremony at the big house—An eccentric laird—His ideas about a kilt—My biggest stag—Cornish tenant’s disgust—Watson and the eagles—Two and a half brace before breakfast—Vermin-killing—Mystery of the heronry —A handy drug.

Chapter XI - The Fionn Loch
Description of Loch—A snake story—Eyrie of white-tailed eagles—Expedition for eggs—The Osprey’s Loch—Goose-ander’s nest—Extinct birds—A hare drive—Ptarmigan and grouse—Wild cats and otters—My tame otter— Amazing fishing records.

Chapter XII - Reminiscences
My grandfather—His dress and habits—Highland hospitality —Shooting with flint-locks—Dinner at Tigh Dige— Training of landlords—Loyalty of the people—Stories of hard times.

Chapter XIII - Agriculture
The runrig system—Caschrom and croman—The modern crofter —Modes of cultivation—Sea-ware for the land—Cultivating enclosures—Cattle, sheep, and goats—A hardworking people.

Chapter XIV - Church and State
The disruption—Old-time Communion—People gather from all quarters—“ The Bed of the White Cow ”—Congregation of three thousand—Preachers’ warnings—Sabbath observance—The Parish Manse—Minister and his glebe— Minister’s wig in the cream—Funerals—Copious supplies of whisky—Coffin left behind—A jovial outing—A great funeral—Parliamentary elections—How votes were secured.

Chapter XV - Smuggling and Sheep Stealing
Drinking habits—The Rover’s Bride—Justice of the Peace’s qualms of conscience—Attitude of the clergy—The gaugers and the people—Smuggling stories—Sheep-stealing stories.

Chapter XVI - Local Superstitions
Lunatics—The Holy Island cure—Heuk Donald at Tain— Inverness judge and “ the calf ”—Dingwall’s doctor’s encounter with Jock—Witches—Curing the cows—The cure for epilepsy—Apparitions—Fairies and kelpies— Draining the Beiste Loch—The laird’s revenge.

Chapter XVII - The Famous Gairloch Pipers

Chapter XVIII - The Inverewe Policies

Chapter XIX - Vanishing Birds

Chapter XX - Peat

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