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Gairloch in North-West Ross-Shire
It's Records, Traditions, Inhabitants and Natural History with a Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree and a Map and Illustrations" by John H. Dixon FSA Scot. published in 1886.


THE preparation of the following account of Gairloch has been prompted by regard—almost affection—for this beautiful and interesting Highland parish. It is published in the hope that it may not only assist the tourist, but also be found to constitute a volume worthy of a nook in the great library of local history. Here and there some few general remarks on the subjects dealt with have necessarily been introduced by way of explanation or illustration, but in the main this book relates solely to Gairloch. I have tried to make short chapters, and to dispense with footnotes.

Without much assistance the work could not have been satisfactorily completed. The necessary help has been given with the greatest freedom and kindness. Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch, has himself furnished much valuable and accurate information, and Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch has kindly assisted. From Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie of Inverewe, youngest son of the late Sir Francis Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch, I have received a large amount of personal aid. Much of the information about the Mackenzies has been culled from the works of Mr Alexander Mackenzie (a native of Gairloch) with his consent. He is the able author of a copious history of the Mackenzies and other important books, and the editor of the Celtic Magazine, from which last the memoir of John Mackenzie of the "Beauties" and several of the traditions have been mainly taken. From the MS. "Odd and End Stories" of Dr Mackenzie, Eileanach, only surviving son of Sir Hector Mackenzie, Bart., eleventh laird of Gairloch, numerous quotations will be found. These extracts are published with the consent of Dr Mackenzie, as well as of Mr O. H. Mackenzie to whom he has given his MS. volumes. With one exception, wherever Dr Mackenzie is quoted the extract is taken from his "Odd and End Stories." The Dowager Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch has been so good as to prepare a short statement, from which extracts are made. Dr Arthur Mitchell, C.B., Senior Commissioner in Lunacy for Scotland, has permitted the use of his paper on the Isle Maree superstitions. Mr Jolly has contributed three valuable chapters, and the Rev. J. M'Murtrie and Professor W. Ivison Macadam have each given a chapter. To Mr William Mackay of Craigmonie, Inverness, I am indebted for full notes on ecclesiastical matters, and for extracts from the old records of the Presbytery of Dingwall. The Rev. Alexander Matheson, minister of Glenshiel, has supplied extracts from the records of the Presbytery of Loch-carron. I have to thank Messrs Maclachlan & Stewart, of Edinburgh, who in 1882 brought out a sumptuous edition of the "Beauties of Gaelic Poetry," by the late John Mackenzie, a Gairloch man, for permission to use the accounts of John Mackay (the blind piper), William Ross, William Mackenzie, and Malcolm Maclean, contained in the "Beauties." James Mackenzie, of Kirkton (brother of John Mackenzie of the "Beauties"), has furnished a large chapter of Gairloch stories, besides a number of facts, traditions, and anecdotes; wherever the name of James Mackenzie occurs in these pages, it is this worthy Highlander who is referred to. Other Gairloch traditions, stories, and information have been furnished by Kenneth Fraser, Leac nan Saighead (through the medium of the Celtic Magazine); Alexander Maclennan, Mossbank; Roderick Mackenzie (Ruaridh an Torra), Lonmor; George and Kenneth Maclennan, Tollie Croft; John Maclean (Iain Buidhe Taillear), Strath; Simon Chisholm, Flowerdale; Roderick Campbell, Tollie; Donald Ross, Kenlochewe; Alexander Mackenzie (Ali' Iain Ghlass), piper, Pool-ewe ; George Maclennan, Londubh; and Alexander Maclennan (Alie Uistean), Inveran, who especially has given me considerable assistance. The legend of Ewan Mac Gabhar is mainly in the form given in the works of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, supported to some extent by several of the old people now living in Gairloch. That enthusiastic friend of the Highlander, Professor Blackie, has kindly contributed two English versions of Gaelic songs; and Mr William Clements Good, of Aberdeen, has given similar aid. Professor W. Ivison Macadam has communicated the results of his analyses of ores and slags, and has assisted in examining the remains
of the old ironworks. Mr D. William Kemp, of Trinity, Edinburgh, has generously done a very great deal to unravel the history of the ironworks, and in other ways. Lieutenant Lamont, of Achtercairn, has procured the traditions given on the authority of Ruaridh an Torra, Mr Mackintosh, postmaster, Poolewe, has supplied some anecdotes and facts. The Glossary has been prepared with the aid of Mr O. H. Mackenzie; the Rev. Ronald Dingwall, Free Church minister, Aultbea; Mr Alexander Cameron, the Tournaig bard ; and Mr Alexander Maclennan, Inveran. The names of some others who have rendered valuable help are stated where their information is utilised. To all these ungrudging helpers, and to many others not mentioned by name, I beg to offer my sincere thanks.

To render the natural history of Gairloch complete, lists are still needed of the insects, sea-anemones, grasses, mosses, lichens, fungi, sea-weeds, and fresh-water weeds. Any information on these and other branches of natural history will be heartily welcomed, with a view to insertion in a possible future edition.

The process of zincography, by which nearly all the illustrations have been reproduced, has not in many cases realised my expectations, but it has been thought best to issue the book at once rather than wait until the illustrations could be rendered in a superior manner.

The profits, if any, from the sale of this book will be applied in aid of the Poolewe Public Hall.

Inveran, Gairloch, 1st September 1886.


Glossary of Gaelic Names and Words


Extent of Gairloch parish—Name—Curious muddle about "the Gairloch"— Name used in four senses—Attractions of Gairloch—Loch Maree—Superficial observation of tourists—A party declare they have "seen Loch Maree"— Inducements to longer visits—Credibility of old traditions—Gaelic names— Pronunciation—Interference with sportsmen and deer forests deprecated—Mountain ascents—Drawbacks to them—Shorter climbs recommended—Mania for exterminating plants—Instances.

Part I.—Records and Traditions of Gairloch

Chapter I. —Early History

Absence of ancient records—Giants in those days—Fingalian legends— Condition of Pictish aborigines—Their houses and implements—Druids—Roman invasion — Pictish monarchy — Introduction of Christianity — St Maelrubha — Hermits of Isle Maree — Norse vikings — Norwegians and Danes — End of Norwegian rule in 1263 — The earls of Ross — Donald of the Isles — The Mackenzies.

Chapter II.—The Tragedy of Isle Maree

Scene laid in Isle Maree—The hermit saint—Prince Olaf—His fiery temper- -Falls in love—Brings his bride to Isle Maree—Is compelled to leave her on an expedition—The white and black flags—Return of the prince—Jealousy of the princess—Her scheme to test Olaf s affection—His madness on seeing the black flag—Thinking her dead he kills himself—The princess stabs herself and dies— Their graves on Isle Maree.

Chapter III.—The Mackenzies of Kintail

Two origins of the family of Mackenzie—The Cabar Feidh—Angus Mac Mhathain—Kenneth, first lord of Kintail—John, second lord, shelters Robert Bruce—Kenneth of the Nose—Kenlochewe ravaged—Leod Mac Gilleandreis— Black Murdo of the Cave—Joined by Gille Riabhach—Comes to Kenlochewe— Slays Leod Mac Gilleandreis and his followers—Ath nan Ceann—Fe Leoid— Black Murdo of the Cave recovers Kintail—Murdo of the Bridge, fifth lord of Kintail—Alexander the Upright, father of Hector Roy, first laird of Gairloch— Skirmish of Beallach nam Brog—Residences of lords of Kintail.

Chapter IV.—Ewan Mac Gabhar, the Son of the Goat

Ardlair—The cave of the king's son—Old Oighrig and her son Kenneth The goat Earba nourishes Ewan in the cave—Flora and Ewan come to Letterewe —Ewan's sword and mantle of state—The lord of Kintail comes to hunt—Flora and Ewan suspected—Kenneth and Flora carried off to Eileandonain—Oighrig and Ewan conveyed to Colin Mor Gillespie—Colin Mor brings up Ewan—Great war against the queen widow of Olamh Mor—Ewan gets a command—His slender page—Mull plundered—The invaders surprised at night and captured—The queen condemns the chiefs to death—Ewan led forth to die—The execution arrested—Ewan identified and proclaimed king—Prophecy fulfilled .

Chapter V.—The Macraes of Kintail and Gairloch

The Macraes settle in Kintail—Become Mackenzie's "shirt of mail"—The sons of Fortune—Assist in conquest of Gairloch—List of Macraes who fought for Gairloch—Effigy of Donald Odhair—Macraes renowned archers—Compared with Turkish archers—The Macraes bore the dead bodies of their chiefs to burial— The last occasion of this—Curious statement.

Chapter VI.—The MacBeaths

MacBeaths from Assynt—Some still in Gairloch—Had several strongholds— Lochan nan Airm—Kintail men come to Loch Tollie—Shoot MacBeath's servant on the island—MacBeatb flies—Is struck by an arrow—Kintail men stay a night on the island—Come through Gairloch—Report to their chief.

Chapter VII.—The M'Leods of Gairloch

The Siol Torquil—Claim to Gairloch—Legal title commenced 1430—MacBeaths expelled—The Tigh Dige—Strongholds of the M'Leods—Eilean Ruaridh —Allan M'Leod, laird of Gairloch—Murdered by his brothers at the "Hill of evil counsel"—They also murder his two boys—The widow takes their bloody shirts to her father—Hector Roy takes the shirts to the king—Who gives Hector commission of fire and sword against the M'Leods—The M'Leods confined to one-third of Gairloch.

Chapter VIII.—The Macdonalds in Gairloch

Macdonalds, clansmen of Donald of the Isles—Probably some settled in Gairloch—Still in Gairloch and Alligin—Mac Gille Riabhaich—His cave—Story of his oak cudgel—The soubriquet Darach—His descendant, Darroch of Torridon —Donald Dubh Mac Gillechriosd Mhic Gille Riabhaich—Threatens Hector Roy—Slays Buchanan after Flodden Field.

Chapter IX.—Hector Roy Mackenzie, first Laird of Gairloch

Vision of the great chief and his bodyguard—His appearance and valour— Obtains charter to Gairloch—Slays three M'Leods at "the Gairloch "—The battle of Park—Hector Roy and Big Duncan of the Axe—Hector Roy at Sauchie-burn—He claims Kintail—Battle of Drum a Chait—Big Duncan again assists— Hector Roy outlawed—Assists Mac Cailean—Kneels before the king—Grasps his hand—Is pardoned—Abandons his claim to Kintail—Fight with M'Leods at Beallach Glasleathaid—Big Duncan and his son Dugal—Hector Roy conquers part of Gairloch—Battle of Flodden—Clan Eachainn.

Chapter X.—John Glassich Mackenzie and his Sons

John Glassich brought up in Strathglass—Claims Kintail—Refuses to join the royal standard—Apprehended by Kenneth of Kintail—Iain Gearr's pluck— Death of John Glassich—Donald Gorme invades Kenlochewe—Hector and Alexander, sons of John Glassich, both slain.

Chapter XL—John Roy Mackenzie

John Roy resembled his grandfather Hector—His youth—Visits his mother, wife of Mackay—Goes with a bodyguard to Iain Liath at Glas Leitire—Lord Kintail abandons his hunt on the Glas Leitire hills—John Roy and Iain Liath go to Gairloch—Iain Dubh Mac Ruaridh M'Leod abandons the Gairloch dun —Struggles with the M'Leods—John Roy's family—His bodyguard composed of his twelve sons—Dealings with the tithes of Gairloch—The Talladale ironworks—John Roy's residence—Visits Mackay—Mackay's piper becomes John Roy's piper—Lord Mackenzie summons John Roy to Torridon— He stays the night with his lordship—Proposed assassination deferred—John Roy's sons arrive and take him away—Allies of Glengarry Macdonalds make an incursion to Kenlochewe—Lord Mackenzie visits John Roy—John Roy granted a remission by the crown.

Chapter XII.—Expulsion of the M'Leods from Gairloch

Murchadh Riabhach na Cuirce—Slays Mac Iain Dhuibh M 'Leod—Ruaridh Mac Allan M'Leod assassinates Iain Mac Ghille Challum M'Leod and his sons by Janet Mackenzie—John Roy revenges the murder—Expels the M'Leods from Gairloch—The Cnoc a Chrochadair—The affair at Leac nan Saighead—Mor Ban persuades the M'Leods to invade Gairloch—They come to Fraoch Eilean— Donald Odhar and his brother shoot them from Leac nan Saighead—Only two M'Leods escape in the birlinn—Donald Odhar's long shot from Craig a Chait— Young M'Leod of Assynt asks John Roy's daughter for his wife—Is refused— Fionnla Dubh na Saighead insults him—The M'Leods return to take vengeance on Finlay—He and Chisholm shoot many of them—Finlay pursues Neil M'Leod to the Bac an Leth-choin and shoots him at the Druim Cam Neill—Fight at Lochan an Fheidh—Affair at Raasay—Murdo Mackenzie in his .ship driven into Kirkton—Young M'Leod of Raasay and his companions visit him—All the party get drunk except four Gairloch men—A fight ensues—Murdo drowned—All on board slain except three of the abstainers—They escape.

Chapter XIII.—Alastair Breac, and his Son and Grandson

Alastair Breac, a renowned warrior—Raids of cattle lifters—Iain Geal Donn proposes a raid on Gairloch—Alastair Buidhe Mackay intercepts him at Scardroy —Slays him and all his men except one—Alastair Breac sends the news to Lord Mackenzie—Cameron of Lochiel plans a raid on Gairloch in revenge— Alastair Breac sends eighty men to oppose him, but he has retired—Song composed to the Guard of the Black Corrie—Colla Ban—In default of black-mail threatens raid on Gairloch—His spies are frightened by four Gairloch men at Luibmhor—Kenneth, sixth laird of Gairloch, fined as a "malignant"—Alexander, seventh laird of Gairloch.

Chapter XIV.—The Baronets of Gairloch and some other Gairloch Mackenzies

Sir Kenneth, eighth laird of Gairloch—M. P. for Ross-shire—Sir Alexander, ninth laird of Gairloch—Builds Flowerdale—The "Forty-five"—Murder of the Gille Buidhe, valet to Prince Charlie—Duncan Macrae conveys a keg of gold for Prince Charlie's use—The " sian "—r-English man-of-war fires at Flowerdale—Sir Alexander, tenth laird of Gairloch—Builds Gonan House—His son called " Fighting Jack," the father of the British army—Sir Hector Mackenzie—Lives at home—Lord-Lieutenant of Ross-shire—His beloved lady—Sir Francis Mackenzie—Publishes his "Hints" in 1838-—Sir Kenneth, present baronet—Mackenzies of Letterewe—Mackenzies of Lochend—Mackenzies of Gruinard—Large family—Mackenzies of Kernsary—Summary of Mackenzie History—Crest, Badge, Slogan, and Pipe tunes.

Chapter XV.—Gairloch Estates, and Old Names of Places

Kenlochewe—Gairloch—Description in protocol of 1494—Description in retour of 1566—Description in 1638—Names in Dutch map of 1662—Second half of the water of Ewe bought in 1671—Strip on north of River Ewe acquired in 1844— Letterewe originally Kin tail property—Acquired by Charles Mackenzie in 1696— Sold to Mr Bankes in 1835—Northern parts of Gairloch belonging to Gruinard Mackenzies before 1655—Sold to Davidson of Tulloch in 1795—Afterwards acquired by Mr Bankes—Mr O. H. Mackenzie's estate of Inverewe.

Chapter XVI.—-Ecclesiastical History of Gairloch

First church in Gairloch—Other early ecclesiastical buildings—Rector of Gairloch at date of Reformation—Presbyterianism—Tulchan bishops—Changes from Episcopalianism to Presbyterianism—Rev. Alexander Mackenzie—Rev. Farquhar Macrae—Rev. Roderick Mackenzie—Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie of Kernsary—Rev. John Morrison—Persecuted by Episcopalians—Anecdotes—His turf-built church in Tollie Bay—Christmas story—Rev. James Smith—First school in Gairloch— Anecdote of Rev. Mr Sage—Rev. AEneas McAulay—Rev. John Dounie—Rev. James Russell—His imperfect Gaelic—Poolewe made a separate parish—The Disruption—Presbyteries of Dingwall, Kenlochewe, Chanonry, Gairloch, and Loch Carron—Churches in Gairloch—Manse and glebe at Achdistall, Cliff and Strath— Free churches and their ministers.

Chapter XVII.—Ancient Gairloch Ironworks

Two classes of remains of ironworks—Rev. Donald M'Nicol's statement— Coin found near old Yorkshire ironworks—Iron implements used by ancient inhabitants—Disappearance of them accounted for—Other ancient remains in Sutherlandshire, Ross-shire, and Inverness-shire—Bog iron was the ore used of old in Gairloch—Processes of the ancient ironworkers—Wasteful richness of their slags accounted for—Charcoal was their fuel—The ancient forests of timber— Their disappearance—Water power anciently employed for working hammers.

Chapter XVIII.—The Historic Ironworks of Loch Maree

The present series of Scottish ironworks commenced on Loch Maree—The licence to Archibald Primrose for making iron ratified in 1612—Spread of the iron industry in the eighteenth century—Iron furnaces in Glengarry—Abernethy furnaces of the York Buildings Company—The Bonawe furnace—The Argyle Furnace Company—The Lorn Company—The Carron ironworks—The Wilsonton works—Furnace at Goatfield—Pennant's notice of the furnace near Poolewe—The Fife Adventurers and the Lews—The Rev. Farquhar Macrae, vicar of Gairloch —The Letterewe furnace established in 1607 by Sir George Hay—Previous history of Sir George—His residence at Letterewe—His ironworks—The timber consumed—The goods produced—The improvements he effected—Act prohibiting the making of iron with wood—Monopoly of iron manufacture granted to Sir George—Ratified by Parliament—Proclamation restraining the export of iron ore —Licence to Sir George to sell iron in royal burghs—Sir George's probable acquaintance with John Roy Mackenzie, laird of Gairloch—Sir George's friendship with the Rev. Farquhar Macrae—The minister's stone—Sir George leaves Letterewe—His distinguished after-career—Created first Earl of Kinnoull—Continuance of the ironworks—Tombstone of John Hay—His probable relationship to Sir George—Discontinuance of the ironworks—The artisans employed— Whence they came—The Kemps—The Cladh nan Sasunnach—Condition of the ironworkers in the then state of the Highlands—The Big Englishman.

Chapter XIX.—The Iron Ores used in Gairloch

References to local iron ore—Local bog iron used at ancient bloomeries— Ferruginous rocks and shales—Traditional quarries—Richness of bog iron— Places where it is still found in Gairloch—Bog iron originally used by Sir George Hay—He afterwards imported red hematite and clayband ironstone—Mr Marr's description of these ores—They were landed at Poolewe—Remains of them there— Mr Macadam's analyses—Mixture with local ore—Classification of the ores.

Chapter XX.—Remains of Ironworks in the Parish of Gairloch

Mr Macadam's description of two classes of slag—List of six localities of ironworks—Glen Dochartie—Fasagh—Analyses—Lochan Cul na Cathrach— Furnace, Letterewe—Talladale—Garavaig, on Slatadale farm—Red Smiddy, near Poolewe—Iron articles found—The borings at Cuil an Scardain—Chronological order of the ironworks—Other supposed furnaces—Notices of ironworks or mines in old Dutch map, and in "Present State of Great Britain and Ireland "— Conclusion.

Chapter XXI.—Antiquities

Want of interesting remains of ancient buildings—Supposed Druidical remains in Tollie wood—Druidical enclosure on Isle Maree—The Island of Justice— Pictish round houses—Vitrified fort—Ancient duns, strongholds, or crannogs— Remains of churches—Gairloch church—Culinellan church—Turf-built church in Tollie Bay—Church at Tollie Croft, or Cruive End—Chapel of Inverewe—Chapel of Sand of Udrigil—Old burial-grounds—Remains of other old buildings—Remains on Isle Maree—On Eilean Ruaridh Beag—On Eilean Suthainn—The Tigh Dige —The Sabhal-Geal—The Temple house—Old houses—Ancient weapons and implements—The Feill Iudha—Caves.

Part II.—Inhabitants of Gairloch

Chapter I.—Ancestry and Names

Highlanders different to Scotch—Gairloch people originally Celtic—Admixture of blood—Mackenzies predominant—Surnames little used—Mode of constructing Gaelic names—Examples—Bynames—Curious names of girls.

Chapter II.—Warfare and Weapons

Gairloch a bone of contention—Broadsword and targe—Bows and arrows— Battle-axe—Dirk—Guns—Clan fights no more—Seaforth Highlanders—A Gairloch company—The press-gang—Donald M'Lean returns "from hell"—Volunteer corps—Story of Finlay Fraser and his guns.

Chapter III.—Polity and Customs

Improvement after the "Forty-five"—Increase of schools—Report on educational position of the people by Rev. James Russell—Education under the School Boards —Relief of the poor—Beggars almost unknown—Tramps—Tinkers—Old man seeking America—Her Majesty's note about him—Old marriage customs—Funeral customs—Whisky at funerals—Heaps of stones at halting-places—New Year's day, old style—Administration of justice at the Island of Justice—Mode of procedure— The Cnoc a Chroich, or Gallows Hill—Some old Gairloch men acquainted with folk-lore.

Chapter IV.—Religion and Religious Observances

No records of Episcopal times—Sunday services—Baptism—The Lord's supper dispensed in the Leabaidh na Ba Baine—Dr Mackenzie's account of churchgoing and the communions—Johnnie at ,church for the first time—Five days' services— Large crowd ; few communicants—Preparation for Gairloch communion—The scene in the Leabaidh—Aunt Sally—Characteristics of Free Church services and religion.

Chapter V.—Character and Characteristics

Criticism invidious-—Gairloch people have a good character—Fidelity, courtesy, and hospitality—Sir G. S. Mackenzie's opinion—Sir Francis Mackenzie's tribute to his Gairloch people—Attachment to home—Caution and keenness in money matters—Anecdote—Captain Burt's charge of want of cleanliness not generally applicable now—Morality—Indolence—Always behind time—Clinging to old ways —Old Highland esprit dying out—Annual competition recommended.

Chapter VI.—Language and Dress

Gaelic called Irish—Gairloch dialect—Not dying out—Knowledge of English increasing—Old people still unable to speak English—Gaelic phrases in English— Gaelic literature in Gairloch—Should Gaelic be discouraged?—Ancient dress in Gairloch—Belted plaid or truis—Separate form of the kilt—Antiquity of the kilt —Highland dress' proscribed—Subterfuges—Discouraged homespun fabrics—Kilt common in Gairloch in early part of nineteenth century—Sir Francis Mackenzie on the kilt—Now fallen into disuse—Present dress of men—Gairloch hose —Dress of women—The mutch—Maiden's headdress—Dr Mackenzie on maiden's hair and on mutches.

Chapter VII.—Ways and Means

Sources of livelihood—Industry of women—Dwellings—Byres adjoining—No chimneys—Gradual improvement—Gardens rare«r-Fevers and consumption—Food —Absence of pigs—Whisky—Illicit distillation—Fuel—Torasgian—-Cabar lar— Peat creel—Carts—Sledges before roads were made.

Chapter VIII.—Agriculture and Stock

Little agriculture in ancient days—Black cattle—Blood taken from living cattle m —The bowmen—Hill shielings miserable places—Introduction of sheep farming— Sheep farms forested—Sheep deteriorate pasture—Ancient breed of sheep—Present farms—Run-rig—Crofts established in Gairloch—Crofters' crops—The cas-chrom —Sir G. S. Mackenzie on imperfect agriculture—On indolence—The Highland husbandman—His negligence—Sir Francis Mackenzie on imperfect cultivation— On manures—On the cas-chrom—On lack of industry—On absence of gardens— Introduction of the potato.

Chapter IX.—Fisheries

Gairloch fishermen and fish—Herring fisheries—Lobsters and crabs—Oysters —Gairloch cod fishery—Under Sir Alexander Mackenzie, 1721 to 1766—In 1792 —Sir G. S. Mackenzie's account of it under Sir Hector—Lines and hooks formerly home-made—First foreign hooks in 1823—Cod fishery in 1884 and 1885—Salmon fishery—Bag-nets—Diminution in stock of salmon.

Chapter X.—Posts and Road-making

Post-runners to Gairloch—Dr Mackenzie's account—Donald Charles—Roderick M'Lennan—William Cross—M*Leay—Iain Mor am Post—General Wade's road —Bridges in Gairloch—Road from Gairloch to Poolewe—The Dowager Lady Mackenzie's account of road-making—Destitution Committee contribute to road-making—Road to Fionn loch.

Chapter XI.—Superstitions of Isle Maree

Isle Maree conspicuous—The wishing-tree—Her Majesty's offering—St Mael-rubha permitted sacrifices of bulls—Continued to 1678—Latterly associated with cure of insanity—Treatment of lunatics—Still continued—Dr Mitchell's description —Circular enclosure supposed to be Druidical—Graves of the prince and princess —The well—Description of the wishing-tree—Trees of Isle Maree—Probability of the legend of Isle Maree—Name of island derived from St Maelrubha—St Mael-rubha worshipped.

Chapter XII.—Superstitions of Isle Maree—continued

Druidical sacrifices engrafted on Christianity—Resort to Isle Maree for cure of lunacy probably ancient—Parallel superstitions—Bull sacrifice at Kirkcudbright— Sacrifices of bulls not confined to the saint's day—Descriptions of proceedings for cure of lunatics—Mac Culloch's description—No form of words—Recent cases—St Maelrubha and St Ruffus identical—Mad dog dipped in the well—Sad consequences—Quotations as to Pagan practices engrafted on Christianity.

Chapter XIII.—Superstitions generally

Highlanders' surroundings suggest superstition—Gradual diminution of it— Older superstitions—Loch Maree water cure—The Fox Point—Coins found —The Cathair mor and Sitheanan Dubha—Gairloch fairy tale—The Shiant Isles' fairy—Eilean Suthainn—Fairies seen on Isle Ewe in 1883—Lights and music of fairies noticed at Mellon Charles—William M'Lean gets a bagpipe chanter from the fairies—The Gille Dubh of Loch a Druing—Superstitious fancies—The Loch of the Beast—Evidence of the appearance of the beast—Proceedings for its suppression—Rorie and the mermaid.

Chapter XIV.—Witchcraft and Magic

Rudha Chailleach—Witchcraft and magic still believed in—Jessie the cripple, a witch—Depriving milk of its fruit—Kenlochewe case in presbytery records— Kenneth Mackenzie, the maighstair sgoil, punishes the witch at Strath—His cows recover—Recent cases—The sian—Description of it—Duncan M'Rae—His song—Entrusted with a keg of gold for Prince Charlie—Hides the keg in the Fedan Mor—Renders it invisible by the sian—The wife of the Cibear Mor sees the keg—The cave at Meallan a Ghamhna—The cave and weapons concealed by the sian—Seen by several women recently—Another similar case on Loch Maree —Alastair Mor an V Sealgair— Runs the blockade by means of the sian—His variations of the sian—Other examples of Alastair's and his father's powers--The wind made favourable by magic.

Chapter XV.—Visions and Second-sight

Distinction between visions and second-sight—Old Alastair's vision of Hector Roy and his bodyguard—A young man sees a ghost—Two men see a woman in a house—Spectre seen before a shoot—Two kinds of second-sight—Jessie the cripple—Ducked as a witch—Her vision of a shepherd, his dog and sheep, fulfilled —The smith's son sees a crowd on Poolewe bridge—His vision fulfilled—The great storm on Loch Ewe—Great sight at Mellon Udrigil—Fleet of ships and boats filled with red coats—Visions of soldiers in red uniforms near Inveran— These visions compared with similar sights elsewhere.

Chapter XVI.—Bards and Pipers

Ancient bards an illustrious class—Ossian's poems—Office of bard or seannachie —Bards of recent date—Ceilidh—Antiquity of bagpipes—Office of piper in old days—In the present day—Love of pipe music in Gairloch—Some old Gairloch bards—Ruaridh Breac—The English bard—Duncan M'Rae—Roderick Campbell, piper and fiddler—The Piobaire Ban—List of living Gairloch pipers.

Chapter XVII.—Hereditary Pipers of the Gairloch Family

The Mackays—Rorie Mackay, piper to John Roy Mackenzie—Alastair Breac, and his son and grandson—His brother Donald—John Mackay, the blind piper— Taught by the M'Crimmons—Piper to the two first baronets of Gairloch—His compositions—Anecdotes of his life with the M'Criminous—His songs and poems —Angus Mackay—Piper to Sir Alexander, third baronet—Moladh Mairi—John Mackay, piper to Sir Hector—Emigrates to America—A splendid piper—His offspring.

Chapter XVIII.—William Mackenzie and Malcolm Maclean

William Mackenzie a catechist—His song to Balone's sister—His song lampooning a wedding party—His consequent dismissal—Malcolm Maclean a Notorious bacchanalian—His beautiful daughter—His wife's resignation illustrated by an anecdote—Translation by Professor Blackie of his song to his daughter.

Chapter XIX.—William Ross, the Gairloch Bard

William Ross, a grandson of the "Blind piper"—His youth—His travels— Appointed schoolmaster of Gairloch—Dies young—Monument over his grave— Estimate of his poetry.

Chapter XX.—Alexander Campbell, Bard to Sir Hector

Alastair Buidhe's ancestry and youth—Appointed ground-officer and bard to Sir Hector—Instructed to remove the roof from a defaulting tenant's house—His prudent artifice approved by Sir Hector—Dr Mackenzie's recollections of Alastair as bard—His bad health, and death—His character—His friendship with William Ross—His descendants—His poetry highly appreciated.

Chapter XXI.—Alexander Grant, the Great Bard of Slaggan

Sandy Grant's ancestry—His enormous stature and strength—His appearance, portrait, and poetry—Reputed to have second-sight—Anecdote—Sandy Grant discovers cheeses stolen in Loch Carron—His descendants.

Chapter XXII.—John Mackenzie of the "Beauties."

John's ancestry and youth—His mechanical skill—An accident disables him— Collects Gaelic poems—Devotes himself to literary work—List of beoks he translated—Known as a poet and piper—Anecdote of his humour—Buys a ship and her cargo—Gives up the bargain—Monument to his memory.

Chapter XXIII.—Living Gairloch Bards

Alexander Mackenzie, of Oban—Duncan Mackenzie, the Kenlochewe bard— Short memoir—His poetry—His epithalmium on the marriage of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie—Translation of it by Professor Blackie—Alexander Cameron, the Tournaig bard—His song in praise of Tournaig—English translation by Mr W. C. Good—Alexander Bain—His elegy on the late Dr Kennedy—English translation.

Chapter XXIV.—The Poolewe Artist

Paucity of art in Gairloch—Finlay Mackinnon—His characteristics—His yearning for art as a young boy—Assisted by Mr Davis, R.A., and others—His watercolour sketches.

Chapter XXV.—James Mackenzie's Gairloch Stories

Short Account of James Mackenzie—William Roy Mackenzie and the exciseman—Kenneth and John Mackenzie of Rona and the press-gang—John M'Gregor of Londubh escapes from the press-gang, but is killed by a fall over a rock—Murdo Mackenzie, or Murdo's son, marries Lord Breadalbane's daughter and takes possession of a lugger full of smuggled spirit—Anecdote of Sir Hector Mackenzie and M'Leod of Raasay's boat—Mackenzie of Kernsary and James Mackenzie's grandfather—The whale in Loch Ewe drowns three men—A story of Rob Donn—The Loch Broom herring fishery—The other Rob Roy Macgregor and the Dundonnell estates—Cases of drowning in Loch Maree—Hector Mackenzie, William Urquhart and his son, and Kenneth Mackenzie—A Kenlochewe man rolls overboard—Kenneth Mackenzie and Gregor Macgregor carried down by the Talladale river—John M'Ryrie—Kenneth Urquhart—Sandy Mackenzie—The Stornoway packet and the whale—Wreck of M'Callum's schooner at Melvaig—A sea captain buried in Isle Ewe—The loss of the " Glenelg "—Wreck of the " Helen Marianne " of Campbeltown—Wreck of the "Lord Molyneux" of Liverpool—John Macdonald, the drover of Loch Maree—The murder of Grant, the peddler, by M'Leod, who is at length hung—Death of the Shieldaig shoemaker and his companions at Lochinver.

Part III.—Natural History of Gairloch

Chapter I.—Physical Features

Area and boundaries of Gairloch—Sea-board—Long valley bisecting the parish —Ranges and groups of mountains—Islands in the sea—Fresh-water lochs—Rivers —Woods—Caves—Waterfalls—The Steall a Mhuinidh—Victoria Falls—Letterewe waterfall—Kerry falls—Flowerdale waterfalls—Scenic beauties.

Chapter II.—Climate and Weather

Healthy climate of north-west Highlands—Changeable weather—Sir G. S. Mackenzie on the climate—Dr Mackenzie on the old-fashioned summers—Former abundance of nuts—Strawberries on 4th June, also cherries—Short summer nights—Aurora borealis—Rarity of intense frosts—Spring mist presages snow—A hard winter—Sunsets from the Gairloch Hotel—Cloudscapes—Colouring of landscapes.

Chapter III.—Anecdotes and Notes

Birds, formerly rare in Gairloch, now plentiful, and vice versd—Dr Mackenzie's remarks on this point—Eagles in Gairloch—Anecdote of Craig-Tollie eagle and roe deer—Confirmation from Martin's book—Also from story of Kirghiz eagles, &c.— Anecdote of Kenlochewe eagle and the cat—Subject of a well-known Gaelic riddle —Eagle at Talladale—Two-and-a-half brace of eagles killed in Gairloch before breakfast—Sea-gulls—How they were driven from Eilean Ruaridh—Sounds of various birds at Inveran—Insects—Midges and wasps—Her Majesty's remarks on them—Rhyme on midges—Preventive measures—Other insects—Animals in general—Vermin—Marten's fur—Wild cats—Wild cat in Loch Tollie island— Highland cattle—Goats—Ponies.

Chapter IV.—Lower Forms of Life

Diffusion of life—Luminosity of footprints on boggy ground—Reptiles—Freshwater fish—Shells—Molluscs—The spout fish—How to take it—Sea anemones— Love of flowers — Localities recommended to botanists—Grasses—Mosses— Lichens—List of a few—Seaweeds—Fungi—Conclusion.

Chapter V.—Mammals of Gairloch

List of Gairloch mammals, with notes—Notes on Arctic fox in Gairloch and elsewhere.

Chapter VI.—Birds of Gairloch

List of Gairloch birds, with notes.

Chapter VII.—Flowering Plants of Gairloch

List imperfect—A word to visitors—Destruction of plants by sheep—Bouquets of wild flowers—Seasons for them—Rarer plants—List of flowering plants.

Chapter VIII.—Shells of Gairloch, by Rev. John M'Murtrie, M.A.

Paper by Rev. John M'Murtrie, M.A., on "Springtide at Gairloch, a Study of small Shells "—Appendix, with list of shells.

Chapter IX.—The Geology of Loch Maree and Neighbourhood, by William Jolly, F.G.S., F.R.S.E.

Long controversy—Attack by eminent geologists—Others enter the lists— Prospect of early peace—Conditions of the problem well exhibited round Loch Maree — Succession of rocks—Hebridean gneiss—Torridon red sandstone— Quartzite—Its annelid borings—Its fucoid remains—Limestone—The "Logan" rock—The eastern gneiss—The controversy—Other noteworthy geological phenomena—Faults—Glaciation—Denudation—Rock junctions—The valley of the hundred hills—Curious impressions on Torridon sandstone near Talladale— The Fionn and Dubh loch—The Trias at Loch Gruinard.

Chapter X.—Minerals of Gairloch, by Professor W. Ivison Macadam, F.C.S., F.I.C., M.M.S., &c, Edinburgh.

List of minerals and localities.

Part IV.—Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree.

Chapter I.—Gairloch of the Present Day

No town in Gairloch—List of townships or hamlets—Ministers and services-Free churches and ministers—Schools—School Board—Table of Schools, with average attendance—List of school teachers—Side schools—School rate—Obstacles to regular attendance—Annual inspections—Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages—Pauperism—Poor-rates—Pauper lunatics—Medical officer—The county road—Private roads—Policemen—Justices of the Peace—Licensed houses —Postal arrangements—Telegraph—Carrier—Bank—Markets—Preventive service —Steamers—Rifle corps—Its three sections—Principal houses in Gairloch— Poolewe Public Hall.

Chapter II.—Approaches and Roads

Approach from Achnasheen—From Loch Carron—From Loch Torridon—From Gruinard—By steamer—By boat from Ullapool—On foot—Main road maintained by the county—Private roads—Loch Maree a highway.

Chapter III.—Achnasheen to Kenlochewe

Dingwall and Skye railway—The Gairloch mail-car—Natural terraces like railway embankments—Loch Rosque—Remains of ancient ironworks—The Clach an t' Shagart at Bad a Mhanaich—Luibmhor in Gairloch—View of Scuir Mhullin—Persistent inquirer—Hill resembling a profile—Glen Dochartie—View of Loch Maree—Trysting-place—More old ironworks—View of Beinn Eay— Kenlochewe—Hugh Miller on this name—Kenlochewe village and hotel—Cul-inellan churchyard—The Cnoc a Chrochadair—Ath nan ceann—Two routes to Gairloch.

Chapter IV.—Kenlochewe to Talladale

Tagan farm—Glas Leitire woods—Ru Nohar—Umbrella-like firs—Her Majesty's description of the road—Glen Grudidh—Old fir trees—Eilean Grudidh—Wild stretch of road described by Her Majesty—Hamlet of Talladale—The Loch Maree Hotel—Accommodation—Angling—Visit of Her Majesty—Commemorative Gaelic inscription on a boulder—English translation.

Chapter V.—Talladale to the Gairloch Hotel

Road through woods—The Victoria Falls—Garavaig ironworks—Slatadale farm—Old road to west of Craig Tollie—View of the islands of Loch Maree— Feur loch—Loch Bad na Sgalaig—Kerry falls—Kerry bridge—Her Majesty's interview with Lews' people here—Kerrysdale House—Resort of fairies—Charleston—Flowerdale House—Port na heile—The Gairloch—Established church— The Leabaidh na Ba Baine—Gairloch churchyard—Old ironworks—Monument to John Mackenzie of the " Beauties"—The Crasg—The Cnoc a Croiche—The Gairloch Hotel — Accommodation and arrangement—Sea-bathing—Boating-Angling—Fine view.

Chapter VI.—The Gairloch Hotel to Poolewe

Achtercairn—Views of Strath and the hills of Skye—Deep gorge—Geikie on geology of a curious hill—The Shoe-stone—Funeral heaps—Lochan nan Airm— The Glen—Craig Bhadain an Aisc—Blar na Fala—Loch Tollie—Its crannog— Surroundirfg hills—Distant views—Old road—View of Loch Maree—Beinn Aridh Charr—Spidean Moirich—Croft Brae—Hamlet of Croft—Ceann a Chro, or Cruive End—The Still—The Hill of evil counsel—The Trossachs of Loch Maree—Poolewe village—The church—The inn—Pool House—Other houses—Londubh—The Inverewe burial-ground.

Chapter VII.—Poolewe to Aultbea

The pool—Srondubh—Inverewe House and gardens—Description from the limes— Loch nan Dailthean—Tournaig—The Dowager Lady Mackenzie's residence—Description of the garden from the Times—Coile Aigeascaig—Mac Gille Riabhaich s cave—Bleeding living cattle—Tournaig farm—Loch Toumaig— Dunan—The road ascends—Views—Drumchork—Aultbea—Townships—Houses —Anchorage—Aultbea inn.

Chapter VIII.—Excursions from Kenlochewe

Drives—Expedition to Loch Torridon—Cromasaig—Fe Leoid—Loch Clair—'Maelrubha's seat—Cam Anthony—Coire Cheud Cnoc—Precipices of Liathgach —Her Majesty's remarks—Sguir Dubh—Lochan an Fheidh—Loch Torridon— Village—Mr Darroch and Torridon House—Ploc of Torridon—The heights of Kenlochewe—Glen Cruaidh Choillie—Glen na Muic—Excursions on foot by the path on the east side of Loch Maree—Excursions on Loch Maree.

Chapter IX.—Excursions from Talladale

Drives and walks—Expeditions on Loch Maree—The steamer—Boats.

Chapter X.—Excursions from Gairloch

The south side of Gairloch—Shieldaig—Leac nan Saighead—Badachro—Loch Bad na h* Achlais—Port Henderson—Opinan—Cave—South Erradale—Ancient ironworks—Point—Views—North side of Gairloch—Achtercairn—Strath—Cam Dearg—Little Sand farm—Big Sand—Iron furnace—North Erradale—Wonderful cave—Peterburn—Altgreshan—Melvaig—The Leac—Rudha Reidh—Stac Buidhe —Other drives—Tour of Loch Maree—Boating expeditions—Walks—Geikie on geological features.

Chapter XI.—Excursions from Poolewe

West side of Loch Ewe—Cliff House—Cuil an Scardain—Boor—Views—Naast —Inverasdale—Brae—Midtown—Coast—Board school—Firemore —Telegraph to Stornoway—Meallan na Ghamhna—Caves—Loch a Druing woods—Cove—The village—The cave—Natural arch—Fionn Loch excursion—Craig an Fhithich— Inveran wood and farm—Inveran river—Loch Kernsary—Innis a Bhaird—Kern-sary farm—Fionn Loch—Fine view—Other excursions by road—Walks—Craig Bhan.

Chapter XII.—Excursions from Aultbea

To Mellon Charles—Cuilchonich—Bual na luib—Mellon Charles—Mellon Ud-rigil—Laide—The Loch of the Beast—Second Coast—Old church of Sand—Sandy beach—Curious rocks—First Coast and Second Coast—Mill Bay—Cadha Beag— Little Gruinard—Fisherfield—Meikle Gruinard river—Excursions by water.

Chapter XIII.—Excursion by Steamer on Loch Maree

Road to north end of Loch Maree—Opinions of the scenery—Leading characteristics—Tollie pier—Fox Point—Clearness of water—Sweetheart's stepping-stones—Fhridh Dhorch—Ardlair—Cave of the king's son—The minister's stone —Clach a Mhail—Uamh a Mhail—Rudha Chailleach—The white horse—The Bull rock—The cave of gold—Gold mining in Scotland—Mountains—Letterewe— Limestone quarry—Waterfall—Furnace —Innis Ghlas—Coppachy—Regoilachy— Slioch—Cladh nan Sasunnach—Fasagh—Tagan—Ru Nohar—Undercliffs of Meall a Ghiubhais—Woods of Glas Leitire—View of Glen Grudidh —Aid na h' Eigheamh —Isle Maree—Whittier's verses—Eilean Suthainn—Eilean Dubh na Sroine— Garbh Eilean—Eilean Ruaridh—The planted island—Wild fowl—Talladale— Slatadale—Doire—Craig Tollie—Bay of Corree—Rudha Aird an Anail—Cave— Heather burning.

Chapter XIV.—The Fionn Loch and its Dubh Loch, by William Jolly

Name—Approaches—Loch Kernsary—View of Fionn Loch—Mountains described—Visits to the loch—Lochanan Beannoch—Beinn Aridh Charr—Black-throated divers—Beinn Lair—Narrow glen—Old hill fort—Craig an Dubh Loch— Pegmatite—Dubh Loch—Thunder shower—Islands—Birds—Marten cats.

Chapter XV.—Loch Gruinard, by William Jolly

Loch Ewe—Mountain view—Aultbea—Moraines—Summer Isles—Distant views—Old Chapel—Caves—Modern Cave-dweller—Gruinard House—Gruinard river—Mountains of Loch na Sheallag.

Chapter XVI.—Angling in Sea Lochs

Several classes of anglers—Outfit recommended--Two usual modes of sea fishing—Trolling for lythe—Artificial sand-eels—Handline fishing—Scalps— Fishes captured—Conger eels—Large halibut—Large skate.

Chapter XVII.—Angling in Loch Maree

Excessive fishing—Reserved water—Species of fish—Char—Salmon—Sea-trout —Bull-trout—Finnocks—Property in salmon and sea-trout—Large brown trout— Ferox not a separate species—Variations in trout—So-called ferox not worth eating —Gizzard trout.

Chapter XVIII.—Angling in Fresh-water Lochs

Permission required—Trout scarcer than formerly—Dr Mackenzie accounts for this—The tarry sheep—Fionn Loch—Angling deteriorated—Good day's angling— The Dubh loch—Three trout at a cast—Bait fishing for trout—Loch Kernsary— Char—Char and trout, and pink and white-fleshed trout, indistinguishable to the taste—Burn fishing—Best time for trout fishing—Eels—Pike—Their introduction described by Dr Mackenzie—Re-introduced in Sir Kenneth's time.

Chapter XIX.—Salmon Angling

Salmon rivers—The Ewe—Cruives—The old cruive used for crossing the river—Roderick Campbell and an American merchant drowned—The new cruive —Gradual diminution of stock of salmon—Length of the Ewe—Pools on the east side—Pools on the other side—Runs of salmon and grilse—Kelts—Bulltrout—Sea-trout—Large salmon—Best flies—Dr Mackenzie's anecdote of Sir Humphrey Davy—John Bright—Odd incidents—Damaged fly—Successful fishing after a friend—Hooking a fish after losing another—Was it a rise?—Fish taking when line slack —Kelt caught twice—Holding on for five hours—Angler compared to the evil one—Water-bailiffs—John Glas—Sandy Urquhart—His loquacity—Fishing on the Ewe—Tailing salmon—Spiked gloves—Bags of salmon now and formerly—Singular mode of fishing by Sir Hector—Charms of the Ewe —Other salmon rivers in Gairloch.

Chapter XX.—Deer Forests and Grouse Shooting

The red deer—Free to roam—Antiquity of—Formerly scarce—Meaning of "forested"—List of deer forests—Estimated yield and stock—Stag season—A "royal"—Best heads—Hinds—Deer-stalking—Great caution required—Stag hounds not much used now—Quotation from John Taylor, the " Water-Poet "—Present system of letting deer forests—Colonel Inge in Gairloch—Misconceptions with regard to deer forests—Opinions of the Crofters Commission—Depopulation not due to deer forests—Deer forests not suitable for occupation by crofters— Loss of mutton and wool insignificant—Depredations by deer on crofters' crops easily remedied—Deterioration of pasture by deer not proved—Demoralization of gillies not due to forests—Summary of opinions—Substantial benefits conferred by deer forests—Afford employment to a greater extent than sheep farms—Recommendation by Commissioners—Grouse shooting—Grouse not abundant— Disease infrequent—Late birds—Mixed bags—Separate grouse shootings.

List of Books and MSS. Quoted or Referred to

Statement of Authorities for Traditions, &c, embodied in this Book.


I. Mountains of Gairloch
II. Distances
III. Population of Gairloch
IV. Ministers of the parish of Gairloch
V. Lairds of Gairloch


A. Genealogical Account of the MacRas, by Rev. John Macrae, who died 1704.
B. Tour in Scotland by Thomas Pennant in 1772.
C. Old Statistical Account of Scotland, 1792.
D. Dr MacCulloch's Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, 181 to 1821
E. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1836
F. Records of the Presbytery of Dingwall
G. Records and Extracts relating to Sir George Hay and the Manufacture of Iron
H. Addenda on St Maelrubha, and Ecclesiastical History


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