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Deeside Tales

IN my father’s side I am of pure plebeian extraction. My paternal great-great-grandfather crossed the hills from Strathdon or Corgarff, the officina of our name, and settled on Gaimside, tending a few sheep on the hills and tilling a few acres of land by the moors. His name appears in the Poll Book, 1696. Whence the origin of the name or how the Michies came to Dee or Donside I do not wait to inquire. The following genealogy is sufficient for my present purpose:—L John Michie came from Corgarff; died about 1720; issue—ii. Alexander Michie; settled in Wester Micras c. 1710; died c. 1760; issue—iii. Charles Michie; bom c. 1750; married Mary Fraser, of an old Protestant family; died c. 1810; issue—iv. James Michie,, my father; bom 1792; married Margaret Grant, 1823; died 1861.

On the mother’s side my descent is traced thus:—Sir James Grant of Freuchie, laird of Grant, and father of the 1st Earl of Se&field of that name, had by a daughter of the goodman of Aviemore an illegitimate son Alexander, The paternity was acknowledged, and the mother, whose name was Janet Grant, was handsomely paid for his maintenance and education. She afterwards married one of the Grants of Rothiemurchus, to whom she bore at least one daughter, who became the mother of Mr. John Grant, bank agent, Kemnay. Besides Alexander, his illegitimate son, Sir James had six legitimate children. One of the sons was Major Grant of Auchterblair, who was brother-german to my grandfather. Major Grant was the father of Field-Marshal Sir Patrick Grant, who was my mother’s cousin-german. The relationship was fully acknowledged, though there was not much intercourse between them.

Alexander Grant was born in 1758, came to Deeside in 1776, and married Elizabeth Brown, of an old family, and one of the best educated women of her time in the district He died in 1842. His daughter Margaret, my mother, was born in 1800, married in 1823, and died in 1892.

My mother’s forebears had thus some claim to quality; and though, by the misfortune of his birth, my grandfather’s education may not have been so well attended to as it otherwise might have been, it was much in advance of that of young men of his own class on Deeside. His manners and whole bearing were also of a higher type, and soon gained him both friendship and respect In a short time he was able to take a croft from Farquharson of Monaltrie. Thence he removed to Torgalter, where he married and succeeded his father-in-law in a small holding under MacDonald of Rineaton. The proverb that “ like draws to like” was well exemplified in my grandfather’s marriage. He selected his help-mate from the only family for many miles around that had any credit for learning, and no more congenial spirits were ever joined in matrimony. They were stricken in years when I first saw the light, but I am more indebted to them for some modes of feeling and traits of character than even to my own parents.

Without the least tincture of sentimentality, my father had the warmest heart of any man I ever knew. Easily touched and painfully irrepressible when affected, his feelings were never proof against the slightest appeals, and by them he was generally governed. I know from sad experience how unpleasant an inheritance he left to one of his children in this sensitiveness of nature. Veneration was the predominant element of his religious feelings. No Jew had ever greater reverence for the sacred word Jehovah than my father had for that and the other names of the Deity. He never relished a book in which these occurred too frequently, and could never be induced to read it aloud, either because the needless repetition grated on his feelings or the solemnity of their use touched them too keenly. When reading for his own benefit merely, if the former was the effect produced he would soon desist, and if the latter, he would find some excuse to retire, book and all, that his weakness might not be observed. But he was sometimes caught in circumstances when neither course was practicable, and then it was almost amusing to note the awkward shifts he would adopt to escape. When he read aloud, whether there were strangers present or not, any piece that became too pathetic for him, he would find something the matter with the text, or with his spectacles, or the light required adjusting, or if none of these availed he would suddenly recollect something that required his absence for a little, and so contrive to conceal the real cause of his inability to proceed. I have watched him on such occasions when his uneasiness was due to the too frequent repetition of God’s name: he would at first hesitate to pronounce it, then drop it out of the sentence altogether, or substitute some less direct appellation, such as his favourite one, “The Supreme Being”—an evasion which often increased his perplexity by giving to the subject a greater degree of solemnity. Once I remember, after all his attempts had failed to extricate him from his embarrassment, he slightly lost his temper, and throwing down the book exclaimed, “The man does not know what he is about. He presumes too much with the name of the Almighty.” Mackenzie’s man of feeling was stoical in comparison with my father.

Though a staunch Roman Catholic, he had a great respect for the Bible, especially for the New Testament; for I must own that he made a distinction between it and the Old Testament Scriptures. The latter he very seldom read, and was but imperfectly acquainted with their contents. A copy of the New Testament, however, published with the authority of his own Church, he sedulously perused, but almost always by himself, and generally out of sight even of his own family. There were plenty of Protestant copies of the Scriptures in our house, and on the Sabbaths he would see to it that we made a good use of them for ourselves. He was all that the most strict Sabbatarian could desire, except on the single point of reading the newspapers. The deepest feeling in his nature was veneration for the Church of his forefathers, and he was proof against any battery of logic that could be opened on him by the assailants of his religion. He rather sought than avoided controversy of this kind, and though no man could be worse adapted for such contests both from his meagre glossary of English words and his equally meagre acquaintance with the history of his Church, he was fond of being considered her champion.

In my father’s youth smuggling had become the trade of the Highlands. Of course, he engaged in it; all then did. But it was never a favourite occupation with him. On Deeside it was carried on very much in this manner. The men procured the bere or barley, often going to the low country for it, and fetching it home in currachs and crook saddles on the backs of a whole herd of Highland ponies. It was then handed over to the women, who manufactured it into malt, with some slight assistance occasionally from the men. They also converted the malt into spirits, which it was afterwards the business of the men to convey to market. While to their wives, daughters and female servants fell the drudgery, the men moved about the hills from bothy to bothy, gadding and getting drunk. When the Excise appeared, however, both sexes ' were equally active and daring, and it is difficult to determine from the traditions of the trade which were the bolder and more masculine.

My father’s favourite pastime, I should rather say occupation, was not smuggling but shooting—poaching it would now be called. He was passionately fond of the gun, mainly, I believe, because he thought hunting and shooting of all kinds a manly exercise. A peculiar trait of his character was to act the gentleman, to aim at being courteous, generous, and dignified. Poaching at that time in the Highlands was not the sneaking, thievish breaking into preserves and parks with nets and gins to steal game, which in the low country and England goes by the name, but the real wild sport of the chase, in which the prey was hunted down in the wild mountains or wilder glens with almost as much freedom and regardlessness as if it were the right of the bold to practise it Indeed, so little did some proprietors then regard the preservation of their game that I have heard my father tell that Captain Macdonald of Rineaton, whose tenant he was, would sometimes scold him, not for shooting his grouse, but for disturbing his wedders with his dog and gun in doing so. When poaching began to be considered an offence he gave it up, and never within my recollection did he go beyond the bounds of his own farm in the pursuit of game, though to the end of his days nothing gave him greater pleasure than a shot at a hare when she took too great liberties with his turnips or kailyard whether by day or night

To return now to myself. I was bom on 22nd January, 1830, being the fourth child and oldest son, followed afterwards by three brothers and two sisters—nine in all were we. My earliest recollections of this world do not form a subject of pleasant reflection. I was only eighteen months old when my next brother was born, who was either so sickly or peevish, perhaps both, that he gave my poor mother no end of trouble and no time to think of me. And as for my father he had no taste for children of any age. I do not think he ever had any of us on his knee for five minutes at a time. From that early age I was therefore little cared for. I had indeed no childhood. We were already too large a family to be brought up on the poor croft (for it was little more) to the produce of which we looked for both food and clothing. Of course, we were not worse off than some of our neighbours, and as we knew of no better condition we were wonderfully content with our lot Let me try to sketch the hamlet in which it was cast Wester Micras at that time consisted of eleven inhabited houses. There were three small farms, of which ours was one, the arable land consisting of from ten to fourteen acres besides the hill pasture. Three crofts had from three to four acres of land with no hill pasture attached. Each of these was supposed to keep a cow, but never did, and their produce had to be supplemented by fodder, begged or bartered for work done to farmers who had it to spare. As the old race of crofters died out, their holdings were added to the farms. There were besides five cottars with no land beyond a kailyard.

The barns, byres and stables were built as near to the dwelling-house as possible, often attached to the end of it, ^with the dung-heap directly in front, and only a few paces, in some cases only a few feet, from the door. The cottars1 houses had each a pig-stye at the back and sometimes a hen-house, but always an ash-pit handy in front The walls of the houses were all built of undressed stones, called “ dry stone walls,” with fell (turf) gables and roofs of the same material cut on the hillside in thin flakes by a flauchter-spade. Of course, the wind whistled through such walls with but little let or hindrance. This did not matter in summer, for it provided splendid ventilation, but it was different in winter when the winds were loaded with snowdrift It became, therefore, a part of the autumn labour, as necessary as the “cocking” (fencing with thorns) of the kailyards to prevent the invasion of sheep, to bung the holes in the walls to keep the wind away. This was done in the go-hairst (after-harvest) by the women and children collecting a quantity of moss crop and inserting it carefully, bit by bit, into every external crevice—an operation which was called fogging the wets.

The internal accommodation of the better sort of houses generally consisted of a but and a ben, with a bed, sometimes two, in each, and one or two in the trance or passage between them. The cottars’ houses were minus the but, except when it was used as an apartment for the fowls to roost in. They got the benefit of the heat of the ben end as well as of its smoke, neither of which seems to have disagreed with them, for they were always the plumpest and fattest that were so housed.

The yearly round of occupation of the crofters or small farmers was as follows. As soon in the spring as practicable the pkuch was streekit, i.e., put to use. The horses, unaccustomed to such work, were restive, and generally required two or three loons to guide them and make them draw evenly; but loons were plentiful in those days, and though they did not like the work it kept them out of mischief. A strong man held the wooden plough, and at times it required all his strength; for though a light implement that he generally carried on his shoulders to and from the field, it was very vicious when put to work, jumping from side to side, often quite out of the furrow, and sometimes tossing the holder upon his back on the red land, wherever its course was opposed by a big stone, or kicking up its heels when it encountered a yird-fast one to the serious danger of his ribs. Ploughing was therefore no child’s play, nor an artistic operation such as it is now, for there were no straight furrows but windings along crooked baulks, into shapeless gushets and round jutting rocks and huge boulders. The first portion of the spring work was called the ait seed. It was generally completed before any other was undertaken. Then followed the here seed, a most important piece of work, especially in the smuggling days, but going out of fashion ere the ’thirties began. The land for this crop required manuring; hence the saying, “When the muck’s a’ oot the bere seed’s done.” Potatoes and turnips came next after a short interval, but though so important now they were not, especially the latter, of much account then, and did not require, at least did not get, much of the men’s work. These operations finished, the “labouring” was said to be done. For the rest of the summer, except for a week at the moss and two or three days at making the hay and clipping the sheep—all occasions of rural festivity—most of the younger men engaged themselves where work was to be got; the others amused themselves the best way they could, doing what they called jots, but really spending their time in idleness. The women and children did all the rest of the field work till harvest came on, and most of it even then. The reaping was wholly done by means of the toothed hook, later on by the scythe hook, and seldom indeed did a full-grown man bend his back so far as to use even the one or the other. Often the women went to their knees in the process of shearing, and the work was so carefully done that not a straw was dropped nor one misplaced in a sheaf. It was the men who built and thatched the stacks, and in so doing they were supposed to have contributed their part of the harvesting. It was not till the ’forties had well begun that the scythe in its most primitive form, that is, with the long sned, was employed in reaping oats. For years after it was considered unsuitable for bere or barley, though for some time before it had been used to cut such patches of artificial hay as were then grown. The harvest completed, the men laid themselves up for the winter, seeking amusement by gadding about the country—stralking, they called it—and by ball shooting by day and ball dancing by night, drinking a good deal of whisky at both. Not so the women. Besides the ordinary work of the household, they took charge of the cattle, and during the long forenights their busy hands never ceased plying the spinning wheel or the knitting wires. Variety in their life work there was little; two or three big balls in the winter, which to them were great events, and a fireside dance for an hour now and again, constituted their amusements. Such was the mode of life in my early boyish days. It may be asked how under such circumstances did the people get food and raiment The raiment they. made for themselves; as to food, even the crofts of from three to four acres, nearly all under oats and potatoes, were supposed to supply enough of these articles for a family of about the same number of individuals, and the small farms supplied whatever deficiency there was in payment of work rendered. Seldom was money given; any one offering it was considered to be rich. All the cottars had a drill or two of potatoes on an adjacent farm given in exchange for the manure of the ash-pit A pig was killed at Martinmas and a ham cured for use throughout the year.

I believe the earliest event I retain any recollection of was a cock-fight I remember nothing about the combat; what is impressed upon my memory was seeing my eldest sister crying bitterly with many tears because the fowl she had presented for the championship had turned out a fugiey that is, a cock that would not fight. Her grief was to me a thing never to be forgotten. It was the first and last tournament of the kind I ever saw, and was intended, in theatrical phrase, to be the teacher’s benefit day. Every scholar paid him sixpence of entry money, and he got all the fugie cocks. I have a recollection of an adventure I had in the autumn of 1838, the year of the “big storm,” as it was called Though eight years old, I had not been to school, my education having been conducted by my elder sisters; but, being the oldest boy, I had plenty of work to do at home in the shape of herding the cattle and sheep and taking charge of my two younger brothers. The adventure was in this wise. I had been sent with my next youngest brother to look after and bring home some cattle that were pasturing on the hillside about a mile distant A fearful storm of wind and rain came on. There was no shelter anywhere but in the “howe bum,” the deep den cut in the mountain side by an impetuous torrent Thither we were all, boys and beasts, soon driven by the violence of the tempest. The rain became blinding sleet, and the cattle refused to face it. Every time my brother and I attempted to leave our shelter we were driven back by the force of the wind. The snow now began to accumulate above us as the only place where the hurricane would permit it to rest. At last, in sheer desperation, I rolled my little plaid round my brother’s neck and dragged him by the hand out into the storm to make for home. He cried bitterly, but the loud blast prevented my hearing his wailing, though I saw it plainly in his face. We had to cross an open field which had been newly cut There was not a stook standing, and the sheaves were flying before the wind as if hurled by an army of demons. Three or four times we were dashed to the ground by the blows they dealt us. At last I perceived a human figure approaching, a tall, lanky woman, with a considerable sprinkling of beard on her chin. I knew her, but why she should be there—it was not near her own home—struck me as something very strange. However, she gave us the help we needed, and brought us home. She was the “howdie” of the district, and the occasion of her visit to our mother explained—though we did not then understand it—why we had been so little thought of for a time. The storm is still (1896) remembered as one of the severest that for many years had visited Deeside. Meteorologically considered, the two months beginning with this storm formed a period of an exceptional character. A month later began a snow-storm which, alternating with intervals of keen frost, continued till late in the month of February, attaining a depth never remembered before. All I remember of it is the dreary confinement to the house while the snow was falling; the miserable shifts we were put too for meal, the hand-quems being often in requisition; the cutting of steps or boring of tunnels in the huge mass of drift in front of our dwelling. Then came a memorable day in August It was the Sunday on which the new Roman Catholic Chapel in Braemar was opened, and the whole population of that persuasion—and they were then very numerous—crowded to the ceremony from all parts of Upper Deeside. From early dawn the elements poured down torrents of rain, which raised the river to a higher level than it had attained since the famous flood of 1829.

It was a grand sight for us boys to watch the trees, logs, fragments of bridges, and other material borne along at headlong speed by the impetuous torrent. Dr. Robertson was wont to tell an anecdote illustrative of the Scotch proverb, "It’s an ill wind that blaws naebody good.” Next day, or the following, as he was riding along, he saw an old man contemplating from the public highway his com rigs, on which he had been collecting a crop of sheaves. “Do you think, John, you have got about the bulk of your own?” interrogated the doctor. John, still keeping a critical eye on the result of his labours, answered, “I think, Doctor, I have, and if ony odds—raither.”

School Days

My early school days were quite uneventful. I recollect stealing away two or three times with some neighbouring boys, without parental permission, and presenting myself at school with them. This was in the fine summer days, when the object was more play and companionship than lessons. Winter came on, and then I was sent in regular form. This was, I think, in 1839, when I was eight or nine years of age. I could read a little; but, having up till then used only the Gaelic language at home, I must have felt rather awkward at first among boys who spoke only English—nothing else was spoken at school For the rest of the year—from April to November—being the oldest boy in the family, I was kept constantly at work, often much harder work than was suitable for my years; or I was put to herding—an occupation I always detested. At school, I was not fond of play, and merely took part in the usual games that I might not appear singular.

The Presbyterial Examination was then the great field day of the school year, when prizes of books, as rewards of merit, were awarded by competition to the best scholars. This took place annually, in March or April, after which only those (a small number) whose services were not required at home remained at school.

On one of these occasions the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge offered a set of prizes to be competed for by the four schools in the district, namely, Crathie, Aberarder, Castleton of Braemar, and Inverey. The teachers selected a number of their best scholars, and sent them to the competition, which took place at Aberarder, as being the most central locality. The contest was keen, as on the result depended not only the merit of the competitors, but the reputation of the several teachers. I mention it merely because I can distinctly date from this event my first liking for books and desire for learning. It put into my hands two volumes—“Robinson Crusoe” and Thomson’s “Seasons” and “Castle of Indolence.” The first inspired a love for reading, the other a desire to understand. From this time every book was a treasure, and as they were few, they were proportionately diligently perused. As I have said, I hated herding; but as that occupation afforded opportunities for reading in fine summer weather—though that made me a worse herd—I took to it more kindly, and about this time it happened that I had a good deal of it to do.


An event now happened to which I trace one of the banes of my life. Michael Gordon, laird of Abergeldie, having become embarrassed in his circumstances, was obliged to sell a large quantity of his wood, which was purchased by a timber merchant in Aberdeen, of the name of Smith. My father unfortunately entered into a contract with this man to drag the trees to the Dee, and float them in single logs to Aboyne. I was then a raw boy of scarcely sixteen, but, to save expense, I had to do the work of a strong man in dragging the timber to the river. It was rough work, often not unattended with danger. I have the most unpleasant recollection of it, having had charge of a very intractable and vicious horse. This work lasted for eight or nine months, during which I had neither proper food nor clothing; for our family were in great poverty at the time, to relieve which was the reason why my father engaged in the business. Before this part of it was finished, I felt my strength giving way, lassitude by day and troubled dreams at night In short, I was not well, and had a feeling that I was in a manner crushed.

But this was not the worst of my suffering. With the spring thaws came the floating. A number of the roughest and most daring hands were engaged, men who, twenty years before, had floated the Braemar timber, and were inured to the work. Though once a means of livelihood to a considerable number of the labouring population, floating timber on the Dee is now so much a thing of the past, never again to be revived, that some account of the mode of operation may be of some interest to antiquaries. First, then, the entire trees had to be tumbled on to the bank of the river, where they were heaped up in great piles. When the thaw came, those nearest the flood were first pushed into it, and sent on their watery journey. This was exciting work. Great care had to be taken lest the loosening of a log below should not bring down those behind, and hurl both logs and men into the raging stream. Several fatal cases of this kind are recorded.

When all the logs have been thus set afloat, the floaters take to their boats and follow them down the river. Conceive it in full flood—and the Dee in this condition is a wild cataract throughout the whole stretch between Abergeldie and Aboyne—hurrying along on its foaming billows its burden of logs, mingled with masses of floe ice impinging now on one bank and again on another, sometimes getting stranded, but often wheeling round and taking to the stream again, and you will have some idea of the excitement and danger incurred by the men in the boats, four or five in each, whose business it is to refloat the stranded logs, often on rocks where they cannot land, but must strike the log with a long clip as they sweep past, and haul it after them into the current This is an exceedingly dangerous operation, and one that requires great care and expertness, for, should the log remain fixed, the dip will either be lost or the boat swamped. But the greatest difficulty and danger occur when the logs get jammed up into what the floaters call a cairn ; that is, when they get heaped together in a confused pile on a jutting rock, on the bank at some sharp turn of the river, or on an island in its midst They then become huddled together in the utmost disorder, some endwise, some broadside, and so locked that a great part of the logs, though in deep water, remains immovable. To disentangle them is a most dangerous business. The boatmen ply their clips from the side of the water, while other men venture on the floating cairn from the shore, and try to loosen the logs with levers and crowbars. If the river is rising, there is the risk that the whole cairn, or a considerable portion of it, may move off at once, carrying the men along with it, and many lives have been lost when this takes place. Usually, however, there is some warning, and then there is a rush for the land on one side and a flight of the boats on the other.

I had to take my full share of this hard and perilous work, wading in the snow water from morning to night, what they contained; and I now began to read and study the Scriptures not as a school book as formerly, but with an earnest desire to learn from them the way of salvation.

It is not my intention to describe the mental struggle through which I at this time passed. It was severe and protracted, but I bore it in silence and tried to conceal it from every one. It could not, however, altogether escape the notice of some of the family. The priest became suspicious that my learning Latin was not with a view to taking orders in his Church, and spoke to my father on the subject, proposing that I should be sent to Blairs Roman Catholic College. This I did not learn till some years after, when my father, becoming somewhat reconciled to the change, told me what trouble he had got from the priest on my account. Me he persecuted with threatenings and anathema, fulminating the vengeance of his Church against me if I dared to sever myself from her communion. I was in a state of the utmost distress. The terrors of the priest’s denunciations were not altogether ineffectual. They did not break down my resolution, but I dreaded what he might do —some dire unknown thing. I had not yet been to confession, and that was now urged upon me with great vehemence, but I had made up my mind not to go whatever might happen. Thinking no time was to be lost, he urged my father to send me on a particular day, and, if necessary, to use extreme means to compel me to attend. This brought matters to a crisis. When my father asked me to accompany him, I informed him of the state of my feelings, and that I had, after much thought, resolved to leave the Church of Rome. He was very angry, but not so violent as I feared he would be. The truth is that he had seen the change in my religious sentiments for some time past, and was not wholly unprepared for the declaration I had now made. I had resolved to soothe him by paying him even greater regard and affection than I had done before, and I was not unsuccessful; for as one after another of the family followed my example he was less and less vexed at their desertion of his Church. In fact, before his death he had become at heart very much a Protestant himself.

I do not intend, even in an autobiography meant to be candid, to say anything regarding my personal religious sentiments and struggles. These I hold to be too sacred for any eye to see but the eye of the Omniscient alone. They are matters that concern only the creature and his Creator and Judge. I shall only say that at this time I passed through a season of spiritual trial and conflict with myself that was very hard to bear.

Struggling on

In the month of August, 1846, there occurred one of the most violent and destructive thunderstorms ever experienced on Upper Deeside. I have given some account of it in “ Deeside Tales.” * The mountain torrents bursting their bounds covered much arable ground with gravel and mountain debris several feet in depth, and swept away some bridges. Employed by the road trustees, I wrought hard at repairing this damage, and in a few months found myself richer by a few pounds, with which I proposed to carry out my project of educating myself for a session at the Grammar School. With this view, and still further to increase my little store, I continued to teach the side school I have mentioned during the following winter, and in the spring went to reside with a sister near Ballater, to attend the school there during the summer months.

Ballater was then very different from what it is now, small in comparison and more homely in its manners. The school was then taught by the Rev. James Smith, a licentiate of the Church of Scotland, a man of fair abilities, well known in the district and not a little esteemed by all classes of the community; but getting old and having offices besides that of schoolmaster, he often entrusted the junior classes to the care of his more advanced pupils. This task was generally laid on me; and it is needless to say that my own studies made but little progress. At least, I got little help from my teacher.

Being at home assisting at the harvest and other work about the new and enlarged farm on which my father had just entered, and seeing some prospect of getting a session at the Grammar School, which a year ago had been the summit of my ambition, I employed every spare minute in studying Latin and learning a little Greek. Some higher attainment began now dimly to loom in the distance. At this time I received not a little assistance in my studies and much encouragement to aim even at a session at college » from a former school fellow, now living with his father on a neighbouring farm, and preparing to enter the magistrand class in King's College, Aberdeen. He was some years my senior, and had been little at home since my early school days, so that our companionship had not been very intimate; but now there sprang up between us a friendship which has lasted unimpaired to the present hour, and done much to shape the whole after course of my life. He is now (1896) the Rev. George Davidson, LL.D., the respected minister of Logie-Coldstone.

The following winter (1847-8) I went to Ballater School again, this time avowedly to teach, and receive in return private lessons and board and lodgings in the schoolhouse.

I had few or no companions outside the school, but there were there several pupils—some of them girls—of about my own age, and quite equal to me in some branches of learning. The girls teased me unmercifully, but were always easily forgiven.

Among the elder members of Ballater society there was only one outstanding figure, and he was a surgeon. Dr. Sheriffs, as he was called, though he was not an M.D., was a shrewd headed, rough mannered man, with a moral character not of the highest order, but with a great reputation in his profession, much knowledge of the ways of the world and skill to use it to his own advantage. If not much respected he was greatly feared, and he ruled in Ballater without a rival. Some years before he had attended me during an attack of typhus fever, and I had now the rare fortune to stand pretty high in his good graces, which was of some advantage to me.

The Rev. James Smith, M.A., schoolmaster, with whom I lived, was a man of totally different life and character. As I have already said, he filled many offices besides that of schoolmaster. He had been Clerk to the Justices of the Peace in the smuggling days, to the Parochial Heritors, to the Road Trustees, to the Savings Bank Managers, and to the Kirk Session; and afterwards Inspector of Poor, Collector of Rates, and Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. These offices brought him into contact with both high and low. A frequent guest at the tables of the former, and a prominent person at all public meetings and parties, he had a wide reputation as a man of business and of great social qualities. No man had a greater fund of anecdotes nor a happier way of telling them, which made him a great favourite with the ladies, of whose society he was very fond, and to which he devoted much of his time. He was of a happy temperament, disposed to be at peace with all mankind; yet there was one man who constantly crossed his path and poisoned his cup of pleasure. This was Dr. Sheriffs, of whom he stood in dread, and who missed no public opportunity of treating him with ridicule; and the doctor was a sarcastic dog. When at the Grammar School in Aberdeen he had as a class-fellow, Lord Byron, and often told how he was present on the occasion when the Rector, Mr. Cromar, in calling the catalogue, came to Byron’s name and pronounced it for the first, and, as Mr. Smith asserted, the last time, “Domine Byron,” laying particular emphasis on the “Domine,” and how his pupil, instead of answering “ Adsum,” burst into a flood of tears. Mr. Smith was early appointed to the school of Ballater, and had been a witness of, and taken a keen interest in its rise and progress, to which he contributed in no inconsiderable measure. It was mainly through his efforts that the bridge, which succeeded the one carried away by the great flood of 4th August, 1829, was subscribed for and built Indeed, he originated or greatly promoted every public improvement in the village for the long space of 68 years. And now he lies in the quiet Churchyard of Tullich, not yet forgotten by a few scattered over the wide world, to whom he was the great figure of their school days.

As a preacher, Mr. Smith composed neat and effective discourses. At one time he had expectations of succeeding to the church of Ballater, and it was said that he diligently cultivated the favour of the parishioners with this view. But the incumbent, the Rev. Hugh Burgess, lived too long, and saw Mr. Smith too old to permit of this taking place. I knew Mr. Burgess well—a stem, somewhat overbearing man, but withal not unkindly. I joined the last young communicants’ class he admitted to the Lord’s Table, and thus, in 1848, became a member of the Church of Scotland.

In the summer of that year I obtained work at Balmoral, then getting ready for the reception of Her Majesty and Prince Albert, and in the autumn I was engaged as a ghillie to His Royal Highness. Here I had a good deal of time on my hands, which I employed in prosecuting my study of Latin, seldom going out to the moors or forest without a Caesar or some other Latin book in my pocket, to be pored over when my attendance was not required. I was very careful, however, that this should not be known, for I should have been laughed at if it had been discovered.

For the following nine months I returned to Ballater, teaching and being taught—plenty of the former, for I had now most of the work to do, but very little of the latter. I was left almost entirely to my own efforts. It will easily be understood that, under these circumstances, my knowledge of Latin, and still more of Greek, was neither very accurate nor extensive.

Grammar School

I entered myself here in the 5th; or highest class, in August, 1850, under the celebrated Latinist, Dr. James Melvin. I had not been in this class a week when I found out my great deficiencies, and almost lost heart During this quarter there was a great influx of the best scholars from the parochial schools of the north of Scotland. These were designated extraneans, while those who had come through the regular course of the Grammar School were called alumni. The object of both was to be coached up for the Bursary competition, then held in the end of October. No effort of mine could raise even the faintest hope of success at the approaching dread trial of learning. I had made considerable progress, and learned what was of much advantage to me, my deficiencies, and how far I was behind. This gave direction to my work, in order to be ready by another year. I, however, attended the competition to acquaint myself with the nature of it It is needless to say I was unsuccessful The first bursar at King’s College was an extranean, now the Rev. James McLauchlan, minister of Inveravon, and the first bursar at Marischal College was Charles Robertson, afterwards ranking third in the competition for appointments in the Indian Civil Service—an alumnus and justly esteemed the best student of his year.

I had now realised my early dream—for the aspiration at first was little more than a dream—of a quarter at the Grammar School, though the attainment had been with small credit, and given less satisfaction. Nothing would content me now but to make a bold push for a college education. For the next nine months I was again engaged as Mr. Smith’s assistant in the Ballater School, this time without any promise from him of help in my studies.

My second quarter at the Grammar School then followed, just a year after the first An extranean I was again, of course, but this time no stranger to Dr. Melvin, the august rector, or to the majority of my class-fellows. From the first I took a respectable position among them. We had what was called a trial version every Friday. These the Doctor took home with him, examined each carefully, marking the errors, which in inverse order determined our status in the class for the following week. There were maxim^ medii and minimi errors, counting 4, 2 and 1 respectively. I never on these occasions succeeded in making a sine errore version, though I sometimes came near to it Before the end of the quarter there would be from four to ten sine errore versions at every trial

I am not to attempt to describe Dr. Melvin—that has been often attempted by very able pens, but never, in my opinion, with complete success. Suffice it to say that I regarded him with mingled feelings of awe, respect, affection and fear. No teacher I ever had, and no man I ever knew, made so deep an impression on me: I believe quite as much by the high moral tone of his character as from my admiration of his learning.

The Bursary Competition

This was to me a most anxious, and in many respects the most important, event in my life. If I were successful in gaining a fairly good bursary, there was the prospect of being able to work my way through college, and thereafter take my chance of what good things Providence might cast in my lot If unsuccessful, my past labour would be lost, and “all my day-dreams of what I then dreamt” would have vanished into thin air, leaving only a dark cloud over my future. I had brooded over this so long and so intensely that my mind had become almost unhinged; and to add to my misery I was struck down a few days before the competition with my indefatigible enemy, gastric catarrh, always brought on by excessive anxiety or excitement I, however, went to it at Marischal College, and I shall never forget the misery of that day. I could scarcely raise my head from the desk on which I was attempting to write; I had almost lost the power of thinking, my mind was nearly a blank. I sickened once or twice, but put in such papers as I had been able to write, and went home to my lodgings in a state bordering on despair.

A few days after there was to be at King’s College a competition for the McPherson bursary—value £20— limited to Gaelic speaking students; and, being a little recovered in health, I went to it and sat down with other six competitors to work the papers presented to us. In giving their decision the examiners said they had much difficulty in deciding between the first two, and regretted not having two bursaries. This was small consolation to me who was finally assigned the second place. The declaration of the bursaries at Marischal College was made from the Town House that same night at n o’clock Almost all the competitors had been waiting for hours in the street to hear their fate. I did not go, I knew mine already, and I was indeed too ill to be out so late. I learned, however, that I was in the list of bursars, but very far down. It turned out to be a £7 10s. bursary, out of which the class fees and other dues had to be paid. I saw I could not maintain myself for the five months of the session on the remainder, and was now possessed of no means of my own, and had no hope of obtaining any. In this difficulty—I might say despair—I resolved to apply for teaching, and, knowing that Dr. Melvin had great influence in procuring such, and believing that he had some favour for me, I plucked up courage to call upon him and tell him exactly how I was circumstanced. He received me kindly, and asked me to call upon him again next day. I did so, thinking there was now some prospect of finding teaching. He advised me to wait on Dr. Cruickshank, Professor of Mathematics in Marischal College, at a certain hour, which I punctually did, still thinking of teaching. The professor told me that he had seen Dr. Melvin, and it so happened that there was a lapsed bursary of the value of £14, which, after examination, might perhaps be obtained for me on resigning my competition bursary of £*] 10s., but that it only ran for three years, whereas the one I was entitled to was for four. To me this offer was like life from the dead. I accepted it gratefully, was examined, passed, and so entered on my college career.

College: Session 1851-2

I took a fairly good position in the class from the beginning; and though much troubled with illness consequent on early hardships, comfortless lodgings and poor fare, I worked hard to maintain this position throughout My success was doubtful. A large number of my class-fellows were the Hite of the Grammar School, the Gymnasium, and all the best schools in the north. I formed friendships with many of them which death only has severed. Their memories are even now the most pleasant recollections of my youth.

About the middle of the session, I obtained some private teaching, for which I received a guinea a month for six hours a week It was a mistake; but nullam hdbet necessitas legem. The compulsory classes of the session were only two, Latin and Greek. For the former I was pretty well prepared, but for the latter my preparation was almost wholly limited to my own private study—not very satisfactory it may well be supposed. The Greek Chair was then held by the Rev. Robert Brown, D.D., well read in the language, but getting old, and somewhat absent-minded. His kindly disposition was sometimes taken advantage of by the more idle and frolicsome of the students. He occasionally gave lectures on the manners and customs of the ancient Greeks, in which there were so frequent references to those of the Dorians that among the students the worthy Doctor was only known by the appellation of The Dorian. He gave us plenty of work to do at home, which only a few honestly did, the others finding the means of copying their exercises. The fraud was seldom detected, which gave rise to the suspicion that the exercises were not very carefully, if at all, examined compulsory, Chemistry and Higher Latin being optional. I did not take these.

I have already described Dr. Brown and his manner of conducting the work of his class. The doctor’s authority was even less respected in the Senior Class, and the order was far from good. He often imposed fines, sometimes as high as half-a-crown, which were generally promptly paid; but the doctor, instead of appropriating them, laid them upon his desk, whence they generally found their way back to the pockets of the culprits, and by next morning the good doctor had forgotten all about the offence and the fine.

In the mathematical classroom we were confronted by a man who did not need to fine or even reprove a student One look was sufficient to quell the most audacious. It would be difficult adequately to describe Dr. Cmickshank. It was not alone sternness of manner that kept us so much in awe of him. It was a feeling that to offend him would bring about some dire calamity of the nature of which we could form no conception. It was a mixture of respect and awe and terror with which we regarded him during our first year under him. The element of terror wore off the second year, but the respect and awe remained. One of the best of his students, the late Colonel Duncan, M.P., told me that, after having been absent from the country for twelve years, he met Dr. Cruickshank on the street, and all the feelings with which he regarded him in the classroom came back upon him, and he could not divest himself of them, notwithstanding the doctor’s efforts at familiarity. It was different with me. I had never been so long out of his sight, and he had been my friend in need While a student, I had been deeply impressed with respect for him, but instead of fear I had a feeling of gratitude, more powerful than fear, to make me desire to do my best to please him in the only way in which he could be pleased, by doing my duty as a student In after life, I found him both pleasant and sociable. He was a kind of Dr. Johnson in manner, and I think also in character. Deeply learned in many subjects besides that of his own chair, like him he spoke with authority. Johnson was burly and corpulent; Cmickshank—or “Croikie” as we called him when out of sight and hearing—was long and lank, but both had the same ungainly gait in walking.

It may be here noticed that in conducting the work of the class during the first year he never condescended to call any student by name, but, “next student,19 or thus, “the fourth student in the 3rd faction.” But in his senior class we were called by name, thus—“John Michie”; and in the select class, consisting of the Simpson and Boxill bursars with three or four others of his best students who attended in their magistrand year, our Christian names were dropped and their places supplied with “ Mr.”

The Natural History class was taught by Mr. James Farquharson (now the Rev. James Farquharson, D.D., Minister of Selkirk), who read to us the lectures of Professor McGillivray, who had died in the previous year. The patrons of the chair had left it vacant for two years, the emoluments, less a fee for the lecturer, being paid to Mrs. McGillivray. Mr. Farquharson, though thus not in the position of professor, secured our attention and regard. He had been one of Dr. McGillivray's most distinguished students, a son of the Manse, his father, an eminent botanist, having been minister of Alford. The month of February being this year very fine, we had several Saturday excursions to Rubislaw and the Cove, collecting specimens and enjoying much free intercourse with each other. These laid in me the foundation of that predilection for the study of geology, which I have ever since retained. Although I felt the work somewhat hard, I believe this was to me the most enjoyable of all my sessions at college. What with my bursary and private teaching, I was able to live in a little more comfort than I had done the previous year, and I was less troubled with illness.

I went home to prepare for next session towards the end of June. At intervals during the summer I rambled much among the neighbouring hills, and made two excursions which I think worth recording, the first by myself soon after my release from town.

I had been several times to Lochnagar, both in company and alone, and had visited most of the mountains and crossed all the passes between the Capel and the Caimwell; but had never explored the grand group of the Cairngorms with Ben Muicdhui at their head presenting such an imposing and attractive panorama from Lochnagar and the other summits of the main range of the Grampians. I determined, therefore, to invade their solitudes and acquaint myself with their topographical, and geological characters. With this view I took up my quarters with an old acquaintance, a gamekeeper in Inverey. Here I stayed a fortnight, and every day was spent among the mountains and glens—sometimes both day and night—seeing occasionally a gamekeeper but no other human creature in my wanderings, for there was no Cairngorm Club in those days to incite its members to dare these high altitudes at all seasons of the year. I shall describe one of these excursions, and it may be taken as a sample of several others.

Having provided myself with a supposed sufficiency of cheese and oatcakes, a knapsack, a pocket compass, a chisel and hammer, and a highland plaid, I set off from Inverey at sunrise on, I think, the 24th June, 1853. The course I took was along Glendee to Pol Dee, then northward through the narrow pass between Scur-mor and Ben Bhrotan, northward still by the infall of the Guisachan, the Devil’s Point to the junction of the Dee and the Garchory, loitering a good deal by the way to examine every interesting object that came under my observation. At the Garchory I took some pains to ascertain which of the two streams contributed the larger volume of water—the Garchory Bum or the Gruamach Pass Bum, j.i., the Larig Bum. There was no doubt that at this time, and I should think at all seasons of the year, the Larig branch of the Dee contributed the larger volume, and on this account is entitled to be held as the infant Dee. Topographically viewed also, the Garchory, like the Guisachan, is of the nature of a tributary. I therefore stuck to the Larig Bum as still the Dee, and sought some amusement in calculating when I should be first able to leap across it I might have succeeded earlier than I did; but I did not care to risk a failure. I succeeded at a spot about half a mile beyond the junction with the Garchory. I now considered the stream vanquished, and mentally compared it with the great volume that passes my native abode, coming to the conclusion that the river gathers more water in the first 15 miles of its course than in any other 30 miles of it, and that before it reaches Invercauld it has at least half as much water as it discharges into the sea. Two miles north from the Garchory it issued from a great mass of frozen snow, much as Swiss streams leave the glaciers. Of course, I did not then know what that was like, but I fancied it, and I in after years verified my fancy. This snow bridge was about 300 yards broad I crossed on it several times, and this was in the end of June. It occurred under a great brow in the Pass, into which a vast quantity of snow had drifted during the winter. Beyond the brow, the stream, though still considerable, was often hid among the rough boulders of granite that obstructed its course. From this to the Pools, or Wells of Dee, a distance of about a mile, the Larig is narrow and exceedingly rough. The pools are two in number, each about 4 yards in diameter. They are situated almost on the watershed in the very heart of the Pass, and are fed by streamlets issuing from springs high up on Ben Muicdhui and Braeriach. I disturbed a flock of ptarmigan that had gathered about the pools. They allowed me to approach quite , close to them before they took wing. I dined here, and then set out to mount the big Ben, keeping in view the largest of the rills that came tumbling down its precipices. I found it was impracticable to scramble up along the side of it; and had to make a considerable detour to the north. Once above the rocks, I went in search of the highest well, and was fortunate in finding it, drank a very little of its icy cold water, and made for what I believed was the highest point in Great Britain. That reached, I had a glorious view; but almost nothing but hills and mountains were to be seen in every direction. In the extreme distance, north by east, the sea was plainly visible; but neither cultivated fields nor human habitation could I see anywhere. And as for the mountains, they were far too numerous for me to make out by name those in the distance. It seemed as if I could jump across to Braeriach and CaimtouL Cairngorm looked well, so did Lochnagar and Benabuird, but the other hundreds or thousands seemed as if they were hiding their diminished heads.

As the sun was now nearing the Monadhlia horizon, I made my way towards the Shelter Stone, of which I had heard much, but had no very distinct idea where it was to be found. The descent was difficult, and not without danger, but by twisting about a good deal I at last reached the shores of Loch Avon, and soon found my quarters for the night under the great stone, or rather fallen rock. I cannot say I was comfortable; it was too cold, but I slept some two or three hours, and was again up with the sun to make another exploration. My bread and cheese had shrunk into very small bulk, and required to be carefully husbanded in case of accidents. I would fain have gone to Cairngorm, but the food supply would not permit of passing another night under the Shelter Stone, and without doing that I could not examine the mountain to my satisfaction. I therefore relinquished the idea, and took up the shoulder of Ben Muicdhui to Corrie Etchachan. I was greatly fascinated with the stem aspect of this wild corrie, with its dark tam and overhanging precipices. The feeling produced by the scenery of Loch Avon is that of sheer desolation; the gloom of Corrie Etchachan inspires awe. I spent some time scrambling round the loch, and picked up a few specimens of small cairngorms; but from this and other visits to Ben Muicdhui I have come to be of opinion that it does not so much abound in these gems as some of its neighbours. Very little of the mountain has been searched compared with the old diggings on Benavon and Cairngorm. Whether this is owing to its situation as more distant from the abodes of men, or that there may be some geological reason why the central mass of the group should not be so favourable to their production, I cannot say.

On leaving Loch Etchachan, I followed the outflow into Glenderry. The upper end of this narrow glen presents rather a curious geological feature. The granite mass of the Cairngorms is shattered in a very peculiar way. Rents on a large scale are common in granite ranges, and occur at pretty regular intervals. Glenderry is such a rent, but at the upper end it divides itself into three branches, separated from each other by rugged rocky mountains, the region presenting the idea of a ruined fortress or battered ancient castle, on nature’s scale. These three or four corries would in the ice age have given lodgement to an enormous quantity of nev£, sufficient indeed even in the last decay of that dreary period to feed a glacier large enough to occupy the glen to its junction with Luibeg. As I descended through it, I saw sufficient traces of glacier action, and at one remarkable place the ice had scooped out a bed for a lake that doubtless existed for ages after the glacier disappeared. This place had a peculiar interest for me, as it had in quite recent times (c. 1820) been again converted into a lake by running a dam across the valley, in order to store water to float the timber which then abounded in it to the Dee, and thence to Aberdeen. My father, when a young man, had worked at the “floating,” and told me many stories of the life the men led, of hairbreadth escapes, and fatal accidents that sometimes befel them. The sun was now setting, but it was not dark, and I had time to follow the Lui and mark the many linns—some of them very picturesque—in its way to the Dee, through which I waded, and got at midnight to my quarters at Inverey. [End of the Autobiography.]

The latter part of Michie’s manuscript is written in a tremulous hand, and though his memory of the past was still obviously fresh and vivid, and he had reached only the threshold of his career, he laid down the pen. The rest of his life may be briefly summarized. After graduating in the spring of 1855, he spent some months teaching in Dyke Academy and in Milne’s Institution, Fochabers, and towards the end of the year was appointed parochial schoolmaster of

Logie-Coldstone, which post he held for the next twenty-one years. Like many country schoolmasters of those days he kept the possibility of the ministry in view, and during his early years at Coldstone attended the Divinity classes at Aberdeen University, and became a licentiate of the Church of Scotland. His ambition in life would have been completely satisfied had he obtained a charge, but during the days of patronage his efforts in this direction were fruitless.

As a teacher, Michie was highly successful Without effort, his individuality made a strong impression on his pupils; and, at a time when Spartan methods of maintaining discipline and instilling knowledge were still by no means obsolete, he proved that there are other ways of reaching the hearts and minds of children. Further, being himself a life-long student he continued in natural sympathy with the developing minds of learners of all ages. The period of the ’sixties and ’seventies, subsequent to the passing of the second Reform Bill, was marked by a wave of enthusiasm for education, or, perhaps, more accurately, general information, which gave rise in towns to the establishment of Mechanics’ Institutes and similar institutions, and in the rural districts to the starting of debating and mutual improvement societies. With this movement Michie was in full sympathy, and during the winter months, in his own and neighbouring parishes, he frequently gave lectures, or courses of lectures, on geology and allied sciences, or on his summer rambles at home and abroad, to which the absence of domestic ties allowed him to devote many of his vacations. The duties of a teacher, according to his conception of them, were not confined to the schoolroom. He made it his business, as it was his pleasure, to encourage and assist all the intellectual activities of a somewhat remote and sparsely populated district The high regard in which his work, both professional and personal, was held, was attested by his receiving in 1876 a unanimous call to the newly formed quoad sacra parish of Dinnet, some miles from Coldstone, where the remainder of his life was spent In 1903, the growing infirmities of age rendered necessary an application to the Presbytery to be relieved of the active duties of the ministry, but he enjoyed his retirement for less than a year, dying in the manse of Dinnet on 21st January, 1904. By his own wish, he was buried in the old churchyard of Glentanar, within sound of the river Dee, whose murmur he had known and loved from infancy.

Apart from his educational and ministerial work, Michie, like many another country schoolmaster and minister, was mainly interested in local history and antiquities and in some branches of science. He had, however, what is less common, a strongly marked natural inclination towards committing the results of his investigations and enquiries to literary form. He began at College to follow this practice of composition and continued it all his life, even when much of what he wrote was evidently never meant to see the light of print Brought up to hear the language of the Gael at his father’s fireside, he was reared in an atmosphere where his Celtic passion for the past was fed on tales “ of the days of other years.” These he began to collect in his boyhood, and never lost an opportunity of adding to his stores of legend and tradition. He had a fine eye for the picturesque both in nature and in men, and a specially affectionate regard for the local setting and circumstance of the romantic incidents of the past His feelings towards the representatives of the great families associated with the history of Deeside were marked by a warmth of devotion that was apt to be misunderstood by those who failed to recognise how much of the old Highland sentiments of loyalty and affection still survived in his nature.

Michie’s equipment, therefore, for antiquarian and historical work was based on the excellent foundation of an intimate acquaintance with the field of local traditions, thanks to the keen appreciation which he had of the interest and value attaching to this kind of material At the same time he was a diligent student of books, and the most characteristic productions of his pen may be described as a happy blend of elements derived from both sources. He was in no hurry to seek publication, and it was not till 1872, when his powers were ripe and his matter thoroughly assimilated, that his first work, the M Deeside Tales,” appeared. It was written off rapidly, and con amort. Every page of it bears evidence of the author’s gusto and relish for his subject, and though he wrote much afterwards, this continues to be his most popular book. His idea of illustrating the different types of the society of the past by sketches of individuals drawn from life is a felicitous one, and variety in the incidents selected for narration is skilfully attended to. The humorous, the mysterious, the romantic, and the tragic all find a place in his pages. His writing is characterised by easy grace and simple dignity. While the level of expression never rises very high, at its lowest it does not fail to meander with a certain amount of pleasurable charm.

The district where Michie lived and the surrounding neighbourhood are interesting ground to the archaeologist They abound in prehistoric antiquities of various kinds, “eird” houses or underground dwellings, “ Druidical ” circles, inscribed stones, hill forts, and generally in those remains of the vanished past, the problems and puzzles of which are at once a fascination and a field of contention to the antiquarian mind. The shores and waters of Loch Kinnord had yielded a considerable crop of relics to the collector for many years, and in 1859, owing to a reduction of its level by drainage operations, some important finds were made. Among these was a specimen of the pre-historic log-canoe. Much interest was aroused, and the district became for a time the focus of keen antiquarian activity. Michie’s enthusiasm took fire, and he threw himself with ardour into the investigation of the archaeological problems presented. Besides contributions to the Society of Antiquaries, the outcome of his studies was the “History of Loch Kinnord,” published in 1877. Although his primary motive in this book was to treat of the archaeology of the district, he digresses into various bypaths, as accident or inclination leads. Geological problems are touched upon, place-names are explained (rather unhappily in most cases, as later Celtic scholarship would say), genealogy and family history are strong attractions, and such subjects as Byron’s boyish loves, or even the popular fireside story pleasantly diversify the exposition of the main theme. It may here be mentioned that at his suggestion the late Sir William Brooks erected close by the- loch a neat little building intended as a museum for the preservation of the antiquarian relics, geological specimens and other objects of interest It was to Michie a cause of bitter mortification that, owing to changes in the proprietorship, this project was not ultimately realised

Whether the archaeological views advanced in “Loch Kinnord ” would always be accepted by experts to-day may be doubtful. The subject is notoriously obscure, and much is still being done towards its elucidation. His researches at any rate brought to light many new and interesting facts, and if his explanations did not in every case command assent, they provoked discussion and further investigation. His reputation as the best authority on the antiquities and history of Upper Deeside was established, and led to a large correspondence with friends and acquaintances, or, it might be, casual enquirers, whose tastes and pursuits were similar to his own. One of the most amiable features of his character was his extreme readiness to put his knowledge at the disposal of those who might solicit his advice or assistance. The list of names which occur from time to time among his letters is practically co-extensive with his fellow-workers in the north-east of Scotland, and includes many that are known in a wider field, such as Miss Maclagan, author of “Hill Forts and Stone Circles". Dr. R. Angus Smith, author of “Loch Etive and the Sons of Uisnach”; Professor Rhys, of Oxford; Sheriff Nicholson, the Gaelic scholar; Mr. R. E. Prothero, the editor of Byron's letters; the Earl of Southesk, author of “Ogham Inscriptions,” and others.

One of the earliest of his antiquarian friends was Andrew Jervise, author of “Land of the Lindsays,” to whom Michie was able to give considerable assistance for the Deeside parishes in his “Epitaphs and Inscriptions.” In collaboration with Dr. William Alexander, of the Aberdeen Free Pressf he wrote the memoir of Jervise which is prefixed to the second volume of the “Epitaphs” (1879). Between the authors of “Johnny Gibb” and “Deeside Tales” a deep and lasting friendship subsisted. Alexander was a constant visitor at the manse of Dinnet, and their summer holiday was often spent together in tours in various parts of Britain and on the Continent To the Free Press Michie was a frequent contributor for many years. Many of his reviews of books, when his own special subjects were dealt with, might take rank as original essays; and occasional articles on topics of antiquarian interest appeared from his pen.

In 1897, his “History of Logie-Coldstone” was issued in connection with the occurrence of a bazaar there. Though the book was hurriedly prepared, and, as regards the greater port, is largely a compilation from printed sources, the materials are skilfully selected and woven into a picturesque and agreeable narrative.

His largest work, to which several of the later years of his life were devoted, was the “Records of Invercauld,” published by the New Spalding Club in 1901. To deal with the large mass of family papers that were entrusted to him for examination was a formidable undertaking for his advanced years and somewhat enfeebled health, and in certain respects the book might be improved upon, particularly in the matter of plan and arrangement It may be remarked, too, that the younger school of genealogists and writers of family history have set a higher standard of accuracy than their more easy-going elders either practised or felt the need of; and Michie was not trained in the newer methods. Living as he did at a distance from a good library, he was not always sufficiently acquainted with the results of later research. When all deductions, however, are made, the book remains an invaluable contribution to the history of the highlands of Deeside, and a storehouse of material from which future writers will draw. The imperfections of execution of which we have spoken are amply atoned for by the unique advantages which Michie brought to his task. In such a work, where the records extend over centuries and embrace all kinds of documents, demands are made on the editor’s knowledge in the most various directions. Unless he is at home in the district with which he is dealing, familiar with its topography present and past, with the history of its people, their language, agriculture, manner of life, and so forth, he will be continually at fault All this Michie knew better than any other man of his time; nor should we omit to mention, as one of the attractions of the book, the note of personal interest, arising from the affection which he felt as a native of Crathie for the race and name of Farquharson.

Next to his antiquarian and historical work, he devoted considerable attention to the study of geology. He wrote and lectured on geological subjects, and, though he never published anything in this line, at one time he projected and commenced work on a somewhat extended study of the physical features of the Dee basin. His interest, however, in the history of men was greater than in nature, and he wisely allowed the superior attraction to prevail. Like the man in Boswell^ who tried hard to be a philosopher, but “ always found cheerfulness breaking in,” Michie would have found it difficult, even if he had wished it, to remain a mere geologist “The Bum of Torgalter” in the present volume is a good illustration of the combination of science and story, which he found most congenial, and which he used with great effect in his popular lectures. While he lived at Coldstone, his scientific studies were no doubt stimulated by the society of his life-long friend and neighbour, Dr. Davidson, the minister of the parish. Davidson was deeply interested in certain branches of natural science, particularly meteorology and botany, and one of his discoveries attracted much attention at the time. He was fortunate enough to recognise the presence in a moss on the Dinnet moor of a large deposit of kieselguhr, an exceedingly uncommon infusorial earth which is used in the manufacture of dynamite. In the negotiations that were subsequently carried through for the working of the deposit on a commercial basis, Michie took an active part, prompted by the expectation, which, however, was hardly realised, that a large and flourishing industry might be established in the district.

His position at Dinnet suited admirably his quiet habit of life and literary inclinations. The parish and congregation being both limited in extent and number, his pastoral duties left him with a large margin of leisure for his favourite pursuits. In early life he was an indefatigable walker. He was rather above the middle height, and his figure was muscular, but light, active, and well proportioned. Nothing gave him more pleasure than rambling among the mountains, and much of his spare time was spent in excursions undertaken for geological or topographical investigation, or for the gratification of the mere aesthetic pleasures of exploration. In later life, however, when the writer was acquainted with him, he seldom ventured far from the manse. He was by nature affable and approachable, and his habitual bearing was one of polished, but quiet, courtesy. In company or in public his savoir faire was never at fault; no one could be readier with tactful remark or graceful compliment With a keen sense of humour, he was an admirable raconteur, particularly of those stories that savoured of the soil or were reminiscent of bye-gone days and manners. The anecdotist with a large repertoire is apt, it must be confessed, to become a bore, but Michie kept his faculty in due control, and his stories remained strictly the seasoning, and not the staple, of his talk. In the company of a congenial friend or two, his conversation was in the highest degree delightful—genial, informing, and original With all his social qualities, however, at the basis of his character there was an essential element of reserve, and his life, though full of happiness, seemed solitary. He never married. The household affairs were attended to for more than thirty years by “ Nanse ” (Agnes Henderson) with self-sacrificing devotion, and the welcome she extended to his friends was as cordial and personal as if she had been (what in effect she was) a member of the family. The manse is situated on a gravelly plateau a little above, but on the very brink of the Dee, and was then surrounded on three sides by plantations of growing fir trees. The view across the swirling waters of the river and its rocky ledges to the steep, grassy slopes beyond, thickly clothed with feathery, waving birches, was exceptionally beautiful His cosy study, lined on one side with books of a dingy, but workmanlike and well-used aspect, and filled from a large oriel window with plenty of sunshine, looked out on this delightful picture. Here Michie was to be found seated at the table with an array of books and papers around him. He would readily discuss any piece of work on which he happened to be engaged, but in a characteristically restrained and undemonstrative manner. Visitors from a distance anxious to leam anything about the neighbourhood—and in the summer months they were numerous— always found him accessible, and his stores of local knowledge freely at their command.

The autobiographical fragment emphasizes—perhaps to an undue extent—the res angusta domt of his early upbringing. At the same time it exhibits an impressive picture of steady and unsubduable resolution in the face of adverse circumstances. Among the peasantry of Aberdeenshire and the north-east of Scotland as a whole the ambition to succeed in life would, if ever conceived, remain in most cases in the realm of dreams but for the opportunities afforded by the University of Aberdeen, which has rendered an incalculable service to the country by extending the horizon of life’s possibilities. In this aspect the case of Michie is only one of thousands.

In most essentials he may be said to have attained the limits of his ambition, and among the many gratifications of his career none gave him more pleasure than the success which his writings met with, and the general recognition that he had done something of value for the history of Deeside. His life may be contemplated with the satisfactory feeling with which one regards a completed whole — rather hard festead at the outset, vigorous and strenuous in mid-career, and towards the close (as is befitting) calmer and quieter, but at all stages well filled with a fruitful activity.


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