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Social History of the Highlands

Accustomed, as the Highlanders were, to interminable feuds arising out of the pretensions of rival clans, the native courage which they had inherited from their Celtic progenitors was preserved unimpaired. Instances of cowardice were, therefore, of rare occurrence, and whoever exhibited symptoms of fear before a foe, was considered infamous and put under the ban of his party. The following anecdote, as related by Mrs. Grant, shows, strongly, the detestation which the Highlanders entertained towards those who had disgraced themselves and their clan by an act of poltroonery: "There was a clan, I must not say what clan it is, who had been for ages governed by a series of chiefs, singularly estimable, and highly beloved, and who, in one instance, provoked their leader to the extreme of indignation. I should observe, that the transgression was partial, the culprits being the inhabitants of one single parish. These, in a hasty skirmish with a neighbouring clan, thinking discretion the better part of valour, sought safety in retreat. A cruel chief would have inflicted the worst of punishments - banishment from the bounds of his clan - which, indeed, fell little short of the curse of Kehama. This good laird, however, set bounds to his wrath, yet made their punishment severe and exemplary. He appeared himself with all the population of the three adjacent parishes, at the parish church of the offenders, where they all were by order convened. After divine service, they were marched three times round the church, in presence of their offended leader and his assembled clan. Each individual, on coming out of the church door, was obliged to draw out his tongue with his fingers, and then cry audibly, 'Shud bleider heich,' (i.e.) 'This is the poltroon,' and to repeat it at every corner of the church. After this procession of ignominy, no other punishment was inflicted, except that of being left alone to guard the district when the rest were called out to battle.....It is credibly asserted, that no enemy has seen the back of any of that name (Grant) ever since. And it is certain, that, to this day, it is not safe for any person of another name to mention the circumstance in presence of one of the affronted clan."

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