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Nether Lochaber
The Natural History, Legends and Folk-Lore of the West Highlands by Rev. Alexander Stewart FSA Scot, (1883)

A Weasal killing a Hare


The contents of this volume made their first appearance in the shape of a series of papers from "Nether Lochaber" in the Inverness Courier, a well-known Northern Journal, long and ably conducted by the late Dr. Robert Carruthers. They are now presented to the public in book form, in the hope that they may meet with a friendly welcome from a still larger constituency than gave them kindly greeting in their original shape, as from fortnight to fortnight they appeared.

At one time it was the Author's intention to rewrite and rearrange all, or almost all, these papers, adding, altering, or expunging as might be considered best. On second thoughts, however—second thoughts, besides, approved of by many literary and scientific friends, in whose judgment and good taste the Author has the utmost confidence—it was resolved to let them retain very much the form in which they first attracted attention, in the belief that any good that could result from a rewriting and reconstructing of them would be dearly purchased if it interfered, as it was almost certain to interfere, with their prima cava directness of phrase and freshness of local colouring.

In a volume dealing so largely with the Folk-Lore of the "West Highlands and Hebrides, there are necessarily many Gaelic rhymes and phrases which at the first blink may tend to startle and repel the southern reader. These Gaelic quotations, however, the Author has taken care to translate into fairly equivalent English, so that even in this regard it is to be hoped the volume may prove equally acceptable to the Saxon, who is ignorant of the language of the mountains, as to the Celt, who knows and loves it as his mother tongue.

Nether Lochabeb, 


  • Chapter 1
    Primroses and Daisies in early March—"The Posie "—Burns—"The Ancient Mariner"— William Tennant, Author of Anster Fair—Hebridean Efithaluuium—A Bard's Blessing—A Translation—Macleod of Berneray.
  • Chapter 2
    Autumnal Tints—Solomon and the Queen of Sheba—Series Sacra—Sortes Virgiliancr— Charles the First and Lord Falkland—Virgilius the Magician—Thomas of Ercildoune.
  • Chapter 3
    An old Gaelic MS.—"The Bewitched Bachelor Unbewitched"—Fairy Lore—Lacteal Libations on Fairy Knowes.
  • Chapter 4
    Transit of Mercury—Improperly called an "Eclipse" of—November Meteors- Mr. Huggins— Spectrum Analyses of Cometary Light—Translation of a St. Kilda Song.
  • Chapter 5
    Bird Music—The Skylark's Song—Imitation of, by a French Poet—Alasdair Macdonald—Scott.
  • Chapter 6
    Severe Drought—The Drive by Coach from Fort-William to Kingussie— Breakfast at Moy— Where did Scott find Dominie Sampson's "Pro-di-gi-ous!"?—Professor Blackie's Poem on Glencoe.
  • Chapter 7
    O the Barren, Barren Shore—Brilliant Auroral Display—Intense Cold—Birds—Glanders — Scribblings on the Back of One Pound Notes.
  • Chapter 8
    A Wet February—Good Time Coming—Sir Walter Scott—Mr. Gladstone—Death of Sir David Brewster.
  • Chapter 9
    Long-Line Fishing—Scarcity of Fish—Their Fecundity—Large Specimen of the Raia Chagrinea—The Wolf-Fish—The Devil-Fish.
  • Chapter 10
    Birds—Contest between a Heron and an Eel.
  • Chapter 11
    Sea Fishing—Loch and Stream Fishing—"Brindled Worms"—Rush-Lights—Buckie-Shell Lamps—The Weasel killing a Hare— Killing a Fallow Deer Fawn.
  • Chapter 12
    Extraordinary aspect of the Sun—Sunset from Rokeby—Mr. Glaisher—"Demoiselle" or Numidian Crane at Deerness—The Snowy Owl in Sutherlandshire—Does the Fieldfare breed in Scotland?—The Woodcock.
  • Chapter 13
    Extraordinary Heat and Drought—Plentifulness of Fungi—Cows fond of Mushrooms— Shoals of Whales—A rippling Breeze, and a Sail on Loch Leven.
  • Chapter 14
    Herrings—Chimara Munstrosa— Cure for Ringworm—Cold Tea Leaves for inflamed and blood-shot Eyes—An old Incantation for the cure of Sore Eyes—A curious Dirk Sheath— A Tannery of Human Skins.
  • Chapter 15
    The Ring-Dove—A Pet Ring-Dove—Its Death—Shenstone—The Belone Vulgaris or Gar-Fish—A Rat and a Kilmarnock Night-Cap—Extraordinary Roebuck's Head at Ardgour.
  • Chapter 16
    The "Annus Mirabilis" of Dryden—1870 a more wonderful Year in its way than i6£6 — Winter—Number of Killed and Wounded in the Franco-Prussian War—Battles of Langside, Tippermuir, Cappel—Carrier Pigeons—The Velocity with which Birds fly.
  • Chapter 17
    Signs of a severe Winter—The Little Auk or Auklet—The Gadwall—Falcons being trained by the Prussians to intercept the Paris Carrier Pigeons—Balooning—The King of Prussia's Piety—John Forster—Solar Eclipse of 22d December 1870—The Government and the Eclipse—Large Solar Spots— Visible to the naked eye—Rev. Dr. Cumming— November Meteors.
  • Chapter 18
    November Rains: 1500 tons per Imperial Acre!—Rainfall in Skye—An old Gaelic Apologue —The Drover and his Minister—Grand Stag's Head—Scott as a Poet—Mr. Gladstone and Scott—An old Lullaby from the Gaelic.
  • Chapter 19
    Winter—Auroral Displays in the West Highlands always indicative of a coming Storm— Corvus Corax—Wonderful Ravens—Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Chapter 20
    Along the Shore after Birds—An Otter in pursuit of a Fish—Tame Otter at Bridge of Tilt: Employed in Fishing—His hatred of all sorts of Birds—"The Otter and Fox," a translation from the Gaelic.
  • Chapter 21
    Storms—An "inch" of Rain—Atfwrina Presbyter—Lophius Piscaiarius—Mr. Mortimer Collins' misquotation from the Times.
  • Chapter 22
    Aurora Borealis—Unfavourable weather for Birds about St. Valentine's Day—The Water-Vole in the Rhi—In the Eden in Fifeshire—In the Black Water, Kinloch Leven—Does it feed on Salmon Fry and Ova?—The Kingfisher—Character of the Water-Vole—Note about the Hedgehog.
  • Chapter 23
    March—The Story of a Spanish Dollar—The Spanish Armada—The "Florida"—Faire-Chlaidh, or Watching of the Graveyard—Molehill Earth for Flowers.
  • Chapter 24
    The Beauty of the West Highland Seaboard—Dr. Aiton of Dolphinton—Dr. Norman Macleod—Specimen of Turtle-Dove (Columba Tartar) shot in Ardgour—The belief on the Continent of its value as a Household Pet—Bechstein—Male Birds dropping Eggs in confinement.
  • Chapter 25
    Thunderstorm—Potato Field in Bloom—The Hazel Tree—Hazel Nuts—Potato Shaws for Cattle—Ferns for Bedding Cattle—Marmion—Scott.
  • Chapter 26
    Harvest—Scythe and Sickle v. Reaping Machines — Potatoes — Garibaldi and Potatoes at Caprera—Fishing—Platessa Gemmatus, or Diamond Plaice—Mushrooms—The Poetry of Fairy Rings—Harvest-Home.
  • Chapter 27
    The disappearance of the glories of Autumn, and the advent of Winter—Innovations and Innovators—New Version of the Scriptures—The Milkmaid and her Fairy Lover, translated from the Gaelic.
  • Chapter 28
    November Rains: 1500 tons per Imperial Acre!—Rainfall in Skye—An old Gaelic Apologue —The Drover and his Minister—Grand Stag's Head—Scott as a Poet—Mr. Gladstone and Scott—An old Lullaby from the Gaelic.
  • Chapter 29
    The Vernal Equinox—Beauty of Loch Leven—Astronomical Notes—How an old Woman supposed to possess the Evil Eye escaped a cruel death.
  • Chapter 30
    Midges and other Bloodsuckers—The Tsetse of South Africa—The Abyssinia — Livingstone—Adders and Grass Snakes—Lucan's Pharsalia—Celsus—Legend of St. John ante Portam Latmam.
  • Chapter 31
    The Leafing of the Oak and Ash—Splendid Stags' Heads—Edmund Waller—Old Silver-Plate buried for preservation in the '45—Mimicry in Birds—An accomplished Goldfinch.
  • Chapter 32
    Potato Culture—Sensibility of the Potato Shaw to Weather changes—The Carline Thistle— Burns—The true Carduus Scotticus—The old Dog-Rhyme.
  • Chapter 33
    A non "Laughing" Summer—Rheumatic Pains—Old Gaelic Incantation for Cattle Ailments.
  • Chapter 34
    Early sowing recommended—Vitality of Superstitions—Capnomancy—Hazel Nuts : Frequent References to in Gaelic Poetry—How best to get at the full flavour of a ripe Hazel Nut.
  • Chapter 35
    Strength of Insects—Necrophoi-us Vespillo, or Burying-Beetle—Foetid smell of—How Willie Grimmond earned an Honest Penny in Glencoe.
  • Chapter 36
    Seaweed as a Fertiliser—Homer, Horace, Virgil—November Meteors—Gaelic Folk-Lore— A Curfew Prayer—A Bed Blessing—A Cattle Blessing—Rhyme to be said in driving Cattle to Pasture—"Luath," Cuchullin's Dog—Notes from the Outer Hebrides.
  • Chapter 37
    The Delights of Beltane Tide—Bishop Gawin Douglas—His Translation of the Æneid— The Fat of Deer—"Light and Shade" from the Gaelic—Mackworth Praed—Discovery of an old Flint Manufactory in the Moss of Ballachulish.
  • Chapter 38
    Warm showery Summer, disagreeable for the Tourist, but pastorally and agriculturally favourable —Xiphias Gladius, or Sword-Fish, cast ashore during a Midsummer Gale— Garibaldi dining on Potatoes and Sword-Fish steaks at Caprera—The General's Drink— Medicinal virtues of an Onion—Nettle Broth—Translation of a New Zealand Maori Song.
  • Chapter 39
    Mountains—The Lochaber Axe, Ancient and Modern.
  • Chapter 40
    Sea-Fowl—Weather Prognostics— Goosander (Mergus Merganser, Linn.)—Gales of Wind— January Primroses— Lachlan Gorach, the Mull "Natural"—A Dancing Rhyme.
  • Chapter 41
    Plague of Thistles in Australia and New Zealand—How to deal with them—Cnicus Acaulis, Great Milk Thistle, or Stemless Thistle—Fierce Fight between two Seals, "Nelson" and "Villeneuve."
  • Chapter 42
    Wounds from Stags' Antlers exceedingly dangerous—The old Fingalian Ballads—Number of Dogs kept for the Chase—Dr. Smith's "Ancient Lays" of modern manufacture—The Spotted Crake (Crex Prozana)at Inverness—Its Habits.
  • Chapter 43
    Whelks and Periwinkles—An Ossianic Reading—The Sea-shore after a Storm The Rejectamenta of the Deep—An amusing Story of a Shore-Searcher—Severity of Winter—Wild-Birds' Levee—Woodcock—Snipe—Blue Jay.
  • Chapter 44
    A "Blessed Thaw" after a Severe Frost—Longevity in Lochaber— A ready "Saline draught" A prohatiim est Recipe for Catarrh and Colds—Egg-shell Superstition—Curious old Gaelic Poem.
  • Chapter 45
    "Albert," a famous Labrador Dog—As a Water-Dog—His intelligence—Takes to Sheep-stealing—Death!
  • Chapter 46
    An old Fingalian Hero—His keenness of Sight and sharpness of Ear- Foresters and Keepers —Foxhunters—Donald MacDonald—His Dogs—Sandy MacArthur the Mole-catcher.
  • Chapter 47
    Autumnal Night—Meteors—The Spanish Mackerel—Professor Blackie's Translations from the Gaelic—The "Translations" of the Gaelic Society of Inverness.
  • Chapter 48
    Crops—Potato Slug—Fern Slug—Brackens: How thoroughly to extirpate them—The Merlin—Falcon and Tringa.
  • Chapter 49
    The Hedgehog an Egg and Bird Eater?—Bird-catching—"Old Cowie"—Mackenzie— Lanius Excubitor—The Butcher-Bird or Shrike—Tea drinking and Sobriety.
  • Chapter 50
    Superstition amongst the People—Difficulty of dealing with it—Examples of Superstitions still prevalent in the Highlands—Cock-crowing at untimely hours—Itching of the Nose-Ringing in the Ears—The "Dead-Bell"—Sir Walter Scott—Hogg—Mickle.
  • Chapter 51
    Welcome Rain in May—Plague of Mice in Upper Teviotdale—Arvicola Agrestis—Field-Mice in Ardgour—How exterminated—A Singing Mouse—Fanners' Mistakes—Mackenzie the Bird-Catcher.
  • Chapter 52
    Tourist Grumblers; how to deal with them—Sea Fishing—Superstition about a Gull— Josephus—Story of Mosollam and the Augur.
  • Chapter 53
    Heat in Mid-August—Early Planting and Sowing - Over-ripening of Crops—Medusse— Stinging Jelly-Fish—The amount of solid matter in Jelly-Fish.
  • Chapter 54
    Approach of Winter—Contentedness of the People—Poets and Wild-Bird Song—Differences in the Colouring and Markings of Birds' Eggs—Late Nest-Building—Anecdote of Provost Robertson of Dingwall, Mr. Gladstone's Grandfather.
  • Chapter 55
    Spring—Hood's Parody of Thomson's Invocation—The excellence of Nettle-Top Soup— Cock-crowing — Birds'-nesting — Professor Geikie — Curious Story of an old Pipe-Tune.
  • Chapter 56
    Rain in Lochaber—An Apple Tree in bloom by Candle-light—Mackenzie the Bird-Catcher— A Badenoch "Wise Woman" spitting in a Child's Face to preserve it from the Fairies!
  • Chapter 57
    Caught in a Squall on Loch Le\en—Potatoes and Herrings: How to cook them—A day in Glen Nevis—A visit to Uaimh Shomhairle, or Samuel's Cave—The Cave-Men.
  • Chapter 58
    Showers in Harvest Time—Magnificent Sunset—Night sometimes seeming not to descend but to ascend—Death of M. Leverrier—The Discovery of Neptune—Pigeon cooing at Midnight—The Owl at Noon—Cage-Birds singing at Night.
  • Chapter 59
    October Storms—Cablegram Predictions—Indications of coming Storms—Geordie Braid, the St. Andrews and Newport Coach-driver—The Naturalist in Winter—Drowned Hedgehogs: Spines become soft and gelatinous—Lophius Piscatorius—Disproportion between head and body in the Devil-Fish a puzzle—An Itinerant Fiddler.
  • Chapter 60
    A Trip to Glasgow—Kelvin Grove Museum—Highland Association—A run to Rothesay— Rothesay Aquarium.
  • Chapter 61
    Overland from Balluchulish to Oban on a 'Pet Day' in February—Story of Clack Ruric— Castle Stalker: an Old Stronghold of the Stewarts of Appin—James IV.—Charles II.— Magpies—Dun-Mac-Uisneachan.
  • Chapter 62
    Nest-building—Cunningham's Objection to Burns' Song, "O were my Love yon Lilac fair"— Birds and the Lilac-Tree—Rivalries of Birds—Birds and the Poets—The Nightingale.
  • Chapter 63
    March Dust—Moons of Mars— Planetoids—Occultation of Alpha Leonis—Zodical Light-Snow Bunting—Old Gaelic Ballad of "Deirdri:" Its Topography.

Chapter XXXIX

'Twixt Ben Nevis And Glencoe
by Rev. Alexander Stewart LL. D. FSA Scot, (1885)

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