PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION
It is with real
diffidence that I offer these volumes to the public. I am induced to do
so by the wishes of many of my friends and companions in the woods and
fields, who, having received with indulgence my former volume on
Highland Sports, have persuaded me to launch another barque laden with a
similar cargo of odds and ends. That it should have as favourable a
voyage as its predecessor is more than I can venture to hope. If,
however, these pages serve to entertain for a few hours any of my
fellow-lovers of nature, or if any whose occupations in life are of a
graver and more laborious kind, find relaxation and amusement in their
perusal, my object is fully gained.
I do not fear the criticism of the learned; my flight is far too humble
to obtain even their censure: nor do I aim at instructing any of my
readers, but solely at amusing them. The scientific naturalist must
excuse my errors of description and my want of skill: but thus far, and
thus far only, I can venture to say a good word in favour of my rough
notes—that they are the result of actual and personal observation, and
not of hearsay or second-hand information; and that, therefore, some
reliance may be placed in them.
The present volumes consist of extracts from a Journal, written during a
wandering excursion through Sutherlandshire, one of the most interesting
counties in Scotland, and one of the least known; of a series of
field-notes for each month in the year, written during my residence in
the pleasant land of Moray ; and of a few miscellaneous chapters on
matters of interest to the sportsman. Such as they are, I offer them to
the public, trusting that they will receive them as the off-hand
thoughts and observations of one who is more accustomed to the hillside
than to the study—to the gun than to the pen.
The second edition of Mr]
Charles St. John’s Tour in Sutherland is almost au exact reprint of the
original, as published in 1849. Instead of altering the text or adding
fresh notes so as to bring the hook up to the requirements of the day,
the editor considered that it would he better to leave the work as the
author wrote it, and to supplement the volumes by an entirely new
chapter on the Fauna of the district. In carrying out this plan he was
so fortunate as to secure the hearty co-operation of Mr. Buckley and Mr.
Harvie-Brown, who have been careful students of the natural history of
Sutherlandshire for the last seventeen years; the results of their
experience, written from accumulated uotes kept during these years, are
given in the Appendix. In addition to the authorities consulted, a list
of which will he found on pp. 292-3 of vol. ii., “They have vol. i. b
received most able and willing assistance from numerous friends and
correspondents either resident in, or closely connected with, the county
of Sutherland; and they beg to express their thanks to Mr. Houstoun of
Kintradwell Dr. Joass of Golspie, Sheriff Mackenzie, and Mr. Hill of
Helmsdale, for many valuable communications respecting the Fauna of the
east and south-east districts ; to Mr. Crawford of Tongue for lists and
notes from the north; and to Mr. L. MTver and Mr. Murdoch Kerr for Fish
lists from Scourie and Loch Inver. From the Messrs. Peach, and from Mr.
Mackay, Portnacon, they have received most ample lists and notes on Fish
of the north coast of the county of Caithness and of the Moray Firth.
Mr. Mackay’s notes were received too late, and were too long to print in
extenso, but they hope to make a fuller use of these at a future date.
From the west they have received very valuable assistance and practical
aid from Mr. John Sutherland, and Mr. John Munro of Inch-nadampli, both
being men well acquainted with the birds of the district. Dr. Day—than
whom they could not have any better authority—has most kindly looked
over and revised their list of Fishes. Nor can they omit mention of the
keepers, shepherds, and ghillies, everywhere throughout the county, too
numerous to mention by name, who have so often given them a helping
hand, without which many a pleasant and successful nesting expedition
would have proved a failure.”
The only other additions to the volumes are Capt. H. C. St. John’s brief
recollections of his boyhood; and the vignette illustrations from the
author’s sketch-books, which have been carefully drawn and engraved by
Mr. John Adam, Edinburgh.
RECOLLECTIONS OF THE
By Captain H. C. St. John
I have been asked to jot
down some few reminiscences of my father. I was only eighteen when he
died, and as I had been to sea for four years, my recollections of him
are almost those of a child.
I remember him — a slight, active man, of middle height, wiry and
strong, with a handsome, animated face, blue eyes, and a singularly
sweet smile. He became bald early, which showed to advantage the
intellectually-formed head. In disposition he was calm and collected,
and I never remember him violently excited about anything. When young, I
have always heard he was gay, mixing a great deal in society; but my own
recollections of him are as a thoroughly domestic man, devoted to his
children, natural history, and sport. Perhaps he was rather too
indulgent a father, for we boys had little difficulty in getting extra
holidays, and this rather too frequently for our progress up the ladder
of learning. In one way these holidays were not wasted; they were almost
always spent with him on some long wild ramble, or shooting excursion,
which he made valuable and instructive by his conversation, teaching us
to observe carefully all we saw in nature. In the winter evenings he
taught us drawing and chess, so graphically described by Mr. Iunes in
his memoir of my father. A first-rate sportsman, an excellent shot, and
fond of making a good hag for home use or for friends, yet he had no
delight in killing, and thoroughly disliked battue-shooting. His chief
pleasure was in watching and noting the habits of all creatures ferce
nacturcc—as his hooks show.
I shall never forget those happy young days, when trotting in my kilt by
his side, or left in the path or track by which the roe-deer would leave
the wood, while he went round with the dogs to drive them to where he
had placed me. In this way I killed my first deer—a feat my father was
as proud of as I was.
The love of natural history fostered in us has always been of good
service to my brothers and myself; never have I visited any part of the
world, however wanting in general amusements, without being able to find
continual interest and pleasure.
Of all our many Scotch homes, Invererne was, I think, my father’s
favourite; it was charmingly situated, close to the river Findhorn and
the lame bay of that name. The wild sandhills, and the equally wild
stretch of coast, made an excellent locality for the naturalist and
sportsman. About a mile and a half from the mouth of the river it
divides (or did so in those days), forming an island in the fork, the
habitat of rabbits and all kinds of wild-fowl. Here an almost fatal
accident occurred. One day, after refusing to let my brother and myself
fish in the river, he took us to the island ferreting. In the course of
the afternoon, without the least warning, we saw the river “ coming
down,” like a great brown wall, ten feet high, sweeping everything
before it. We had barely time to reach the highest point, for in a few
seconds the island, barring a dozen square yards on which we stood, was
a seething mass of water several feet deep. If we boys had been fishing
nothing could have saved us. My father often spoke of this providential
escape, as he did not anticipate the rise of the river, and had no
reason for refusing our request. At all our homes we had a varied
menagerie of the tamest and most intelligent of pets. He had great power
and influence over animals; and his dogs, from being his constant
companions, were remarkable for their sagacity. The “ College,” our
Elgin home, rejoiced in a great walled garden of about four acres. In
one part was a grass plot, where my father kept trained Peregrine
falcons, which he used to fly after the fashion of bygone days, and much
amusement it afforded him and us boys.
The art of training and flying hawks was taught us by our dear old
friend Mr. John Hancock, the celebrated naturalist.
My father was fond of flowers, and the lighter kinds of gardening,
budding, pruning, etc.
He must have been a very even-tempered man.
I cannot remember a single instance of his being angry or irritable.
When out shooting with him once, he caught sight of a poacher, who, on
being run down, threatened to shoot my father. Giving me his gun to
hold, he very quickly took the gun from the poacher, whom he simply made
promise not to trespass again, and allowed him to go home. This was all
done in the coolest manner, without anger, and with very few words.
When at Invererne he was often warned by Dr. Allan (then at Forres,
since well known in London) that he was ruining his constitution by
over-exposure to cold and wet, particularly in duck-shooting during the
winter; but no one anticipated that fatal results were so soon to be
At the time of his seizure my father was alone at the “College” (the
rest of the family being at the sea-side). He then occupied an unused
room—the proverbial haunted room which belongs to most Scotch houses.
Something very strange seems to have happened to him in this room, hut
what I know not, as he never would speak of it. The next day he went out
shooting in company with Major Campbell, and was suddenly seized with
loss of power in the left side—paralysis. Strange to say, the only other
time my father was in company with that gentleman he met with a very
nasty accident: A dying roe-deer kicked the hunting-knife into his foot,
inflicting a deep wound, severing the tendon of the big toe, which was
stiff ever after.
My poor father never regained power after his first attack, and became a
confirmed invalid. He bore this terrible affliction for two long years
with wonderful resignation and patience. The enforced idleness was
particularly trying to one so active in mind and body; and yet, I
believe, he never lost his cheerfulness.
I left England for China in January 1855; and in October 1856 my father
died, at the early age of forty-six.
March 10, 1884.
Sutherlandshire; its Wild-birds not sufficiently known—Our Start and
Conveyance—Kyle of Sutherland—Woods of Rosehall; old Keeper there; his
recollection of me—Oykel Inn—Altnagalcanach; Origin of Name; Fishing
at—Conveying Boat to Loch Urigil—Wild-geese and Divers 011 the
Loch—Large Trout of these Lakes—Drive to Inchnadamph —Value of rare Eggs
— Heronry — Peregrine Falcon and Buzzards’ Nests—Climbing over the
Mill at Inchnadamph—Liberal System of the Duke of Sutherland—Facility of
Travelling — Beauty of Country — Loch Assynt—Nest of Osprey—Large Spring
of Water—Water-ousel — Dense Mist—Wild Country near Kylesku — Country
between Kylesku and Scowrie—Nest of Osprey; curious position of—Eagle.
Inn at Scowrie—Another Osprey’s Nest—The old Ospreys — Eggs of—The River
Laxford—Inn of Rhiconnich—Drive to Durness—Beauty of Scenery—Drive round
Loch Erriboll—Glenmore—Loch Maddie—Crows — Gray Geese; time of breeding
— Old Nest of Osprey—Stag in the Loch — Foxhound — Black - throated
Divers — Aultnaharrow — Loch Laighal—Squall of Wind.
Return to Sutherland — Travelling from Edinburgh — Skye Terrier ;
peculiarities of—Lairg—Loch Shin—River Shin —Reserve of the English—Mr.
Young’s Experiments respecting Salmon ; Anecdotes of Salmon—Manner of
Spawning; Food of Salmon—Drive to Aultnaharrow—Curlews, etc. — Loch
Navcr — Phalaropes — Widgeon — Green -shank, etc.
Length of Day—Sedge Warbler—-Different Birds near Loch Naver — Ben
Cleebrick — Rain — Loch Maddie — Frost — Ben Laighal—Foxes—Sheep
Killing—Catching Wild-ducks —Peregrine Falcon ; manner of catching their
Young — Golden Eagles—Tongue—Fine Scenery of Bay of Tongue and
Ferry from Tongue—Difficulties of our Start—Seals—Shepherds, etc. —
Emigration — Hcilam Inn — Storm — River Hope — Drive to Durness—Cave—Rock-pigeons—Inn
at Rhiconnich—Search for Osprey’s Nest—Swimming to Nest —Loch of the
Eagle-fisher—Stalking the Osprey—Row up the Bay—Loss of Fishing-line—Scowrie—Island
of Handa —Innumerable Birds, etc.
Another Osprey’s Nest; Variety of Eggs — Golden Eagle; Manner of
Hunting; deerease of—Egg Collectors—Mr. Haneoek’s Collection—Nests of
Eagles; Animals killed by—The Mountain Hare—Fishing of Osprey.
County of Sutherland; Variety of Climate and Soil — List of Birds; of
Hawks ; Owls; of the smaller Land Birds; of the Crow Tribe; Pigeons,
List continued—Game Birds; Destruction of by Shepherds—
Plovers—Sandpipers and Snipes, ete.—Water-fowl; Swans, Geese, varieties
of Dueks, Grebes, Terns, Gulls, ete.—Deerease of many kinds of
Deer-hounds — Deer-forest in Sutherlandshire—Effect of the Forests on
Deer—The Stag easting his Horns—Hinds and Calves—Courage of the Hind—Poaehing
Shepherds—Value of Horns—Fighting of Stags—Highland Forester—Breed of
Agriculture in Sutherlandshire — Facilities of reaehing the County —
Caledonian Canal — Travelling in Sutherland— Inns, excellent management
of—Lairg—Tongue—Durness — Seowrie — Inchnadamph — Inveran — Conclusion
Wood pigeons — Feeding of Widgeon and Mallards — Wild
-fowl—Water-rail—Wild-duck Shooting—Change of colour in Trout.
Change of colour in Stoats—Affection of Otters for their young
—Roe-hunting—Attachment of Birds to their Mates—Food of Fieldfares
during Snow—Widgeon—Wild-fowl shooting at Spynie—Incidents in Shooting—Winged
Swan—Cats— Food of Wild-geese—Brent Goose.
Wild-swans—Loch of Spynie; Wild-fowl on it—Pochard— Carrion Crows
—Death of Wild-swan —Domestication of Wild-fowl; flavour of—Arrival of
Field-mice — Brent Geese—Arrival of Migratory Birds — Instinct of Crows
in Feeding—Instinct,of Thrushes—Disappointments in Shooting
Wild-geese—Death of White-fronted Geese—Shetland Pony—Heronry—Anecdote
of Roebuck— Wild-duck’s Nest.
Nests of Birds—Cross - bills, etc.—Lateness of Season—Bean-geesc—Partridge’s
Nest—Northern Diver—Coot’s Nest— Teal and her Young—Wren’s Nest—Badgers;
cunning of; anecdote of—Aurora Borealis; sound made by.
Trout-fisliing — Sea-trout in the Findhorn — Breeding-place of
Black-headed Gulls — Salmon - fishing — Gray Crows— Hair
Worms—Fishing—Cromarty—Goats—The Peregrine Falcon.
Shore Birds; arrival of—Foxes—Herring, and Herring-fishing; Birds, etc.,
feeding on them—Herring-fishing in Sutherland— A Sharper—Numbers of
Flounders — Young Wildfowl— Eoe; habits of—Midges—Angling—Floods in the
Findhorn — Prophecy of a Woman — Escape of a Shepherd.
Golden Plover—Ring-dottrel—Migratory ‘Birds — Butterflies —Crabs; their
manner of casting their shells — The Sea Angler — The Deal Fish — Habits
of Woodcocks — A pet Eoe — Grouse - shootings and Grouse — Wild-fowl.
The 1st of September—Partridge-shooting—Migratory Birds— Grouse -
shooting in September — Widgeon — Jack-snipes; Breeding-places
of—Landrail—White variety of the Eagle— Sea-trout fisher—Stag’s
Horns—Deer-stalking—Cunning of Deer—Disappointed in getting a Shot.
OCTOBER PART I
Migration of Birds—Quails—Arrival of Wild-geese—White-fronted
Goose—Arrival of Wild-swans ; decrease of—Feast-ings of our
Ancestors—Food of Ducks, etc.—Field-mice— Roe feeding—Hawks — Peregrine
and Wild-duck—Training of Hawks—Migration of Eagle.
OCTOBER PART II
A SEA-SIDE WALK IN OCTOBER.
Beauty of a fine October morning—Departure and arrival of Birds—A walk
along the Coast—The Goosander—Goldeneye and Morillon — Plovers—Widgeon;
habits of in feeding ; occasionally breed in Scotland—Sands of the Bay—
Flounders—Herons — Curlews, Peewits, etc.—Oyster-birds — Mussel - scarps
— Sea View — Long - tails — Mallards — Velvet Ducks ; mode of
feeding—Rabbits and Foxes— Formation of the Sandhills ; remains of
antiquity found in them—Seals—Salmon - fishers — Old Man catching
Flounders—Swans—Unauthorised Fox-chase—Black Game —Roe.
The Snow Bunting—Regularity of appearance—Tomtit and Thrushes; worthy of protection—The Water Ousel—Trout—Otters; their defence of their young — Otter-hunting—Habits of Otters—Seals; power of remaining under water; habits of; decrease of—Wild-swans — Povers, etc. —Dun Divers—Hares.
Owls; destruction of Mice by them—Frogs—Snakes—Roe-bucks—Fondness of Birds for Sunsbine—Loch of Spynie—Habits of Wild-fowl; rapidity of their flight—Retrievers— The Otter; shooting of, by night—Eley's Cartridges—Wildswans —Accidents in Shooting —Variety of Country in Moray—Forres; public Walks of—Rabbits—Foxes—Immigration of Birds—Conclusion.
Deer-stalking; enjoyment of—Fine Stag; ill-luck in stalking; escapes of Stag; start in pursuit of him—View of Country —Roebucks—Hare and Marten—Tracks of Deer; find the Stag; death of—Meet the Shepherd—Cottage.
Sleeping in Shepherd's House—Start in the Morning—Eagle—Wild-geese—Find Deer; unsuccessful shot—Rocky Ground —Wounded Stag—Keeper and Dog—Walk Home.
Length of Life of Birds—The Eagle—Swan—Geese—Falcons—Fowls —Pigeons —Small Birds —Great age of Eagles and Foxes—Red-deer—Destruction of Old Stags—Roe—Sheep —Rifles; size of their bore—Double-barrelled Rifles—Size of Small Shot—Cartridges—Impossibility of laying down general rules —Necessity of discretion in all writers on Natural History.
Disease amongst Grouse; difficulty of assigning its cause — Supply of Grouse to Poulterers —Netting game, legal and illegal — Disguised Poachers — Game - Laws — Preserves — Criminality of Poachers —Epidemics amongst Hares, etc. — Black Game—Hybrids—Wood-pigeons—Geese—Sentinels.
The Landrail; Arrival and Habits of — Cuckoo — Swift — Associations connected with Birds — Enjoyment of Life by- Birds — Falcons — Water-Fowl; their different modes of Swimming — Wild-fowl shooting — Wounded Ducks — Retrievers; care which should be taken of them — Plumage of Water-Fowl; its imperviousness to wet; the cause and limits of this.
Taming and Education of Wild Animals—The Eagle ; his want of
docility—Courage and Intelligence of the Noble Falcons —The Hound—Return
of Cats to their home—Maternal Instinct of Cats — The Carrier-pigeon —
Wood-pigeons— Dovecot-pigeons—Sight of Pigeons — Blue-rock Pigeons —
Crested Titmouse—The Robin; pugnacious disposition of —Sparrows;
Instinct of Birds—The Woodcock carrying her young—Herons —Water-ousel—Nest
of Golden-eye Duck—Habits of Birds —Talons of Falcons and Hawks—Stuffed
Birds—Plumage, etc., of Owls—The Osprey and Sea Swallow—Manner of
Fishing—Carrion - feeding Birds—Manner of finding their Food—The
Eagle—Sense of Smell in Birds—in Ducks and Geese—Power of communicating
with each other—Notes of Alarm—A few words respecting destroying Hawks,
etc.— Colour of Birds adapted to concealment—Instinct of Birds finding
Scotch Streams and Lakes
Rivers, Streams, and Lakes in Scotland—The Tweed—The Lakes and Streams
of Argyleshire—Loch Awe—A Contest with a Salmo ferox—Inverness-shire,
Ross-shire, and Sutherland— Pike not an injurious destroyer of
Trout—Char—The River Shin—Pertinacity of Salmon in ascending Streams —
The Bcauly—The Findliorn—The Spey—The Dee—Decrease in the number of
Salmon; its causes and its cure—Extent of the trade of Fly-making.
Chapter XXXIII - Dogs
Learned Dog and Show-woman— Education of Sporting Dogs —Hereditary
Instinct of Dogs—Tlieir thievish propensities descend to their
offspring—Bad-tempered Dogs—Breaking of Dogs — Their jealousies—Their
hunting alliances — Attachment of a Dog to his Master—Dog-eating
reprobated —Bloodhounds—Skye Terriers—Dogs combining against a common
enemy—Old Dogs—Singular instance of sagacity in one.
Chapter XXXIV - Winter Sketches
Grouse; Hardiness of— Difference of Climate in Morayshire —Migratory
habits of Partridges—Grubs, etc., destroyed by
Pheasants—Ptarmigan—Ptarmigan-shooting during Winter —An Expedition to
the Mountains—Early start—Tracks of Otters— Otter-hunting— Stags
—Herons—Golden-eyes— Wild-cat—Mallards—Tracks of Deer—Gray Crows—Eagle—
Shepherd’s hut—Braxy Mutton—Ascent of the Mountain— Ptarmigan—Change in
the weather — Dangerous situation —Violent Snowstorm—Return
home—Wild-duck shooting —Flapper-shooting.
Chapter XXXV - Highland Sheep
Introduction of Sheep into the Highlands—Version of Highlanders to
Sheep; disliked by Deer also — Prophecy — Activity of black-faced Sheep;
instincts of—Mountain Sheep in enclosures—The Plaid ; uses of; various
ways of wearing; manufactures of; invisible colours—Shepherds— Burning
of Heather—Natural enemies of Sheep—Shepherds’ Dogs—Origin of Dogs.
Chapter XXXVI - Game Dealers
Poulterers’ Shops — Supply of Game—Red-deer—Deer killed in the
Fields—Roe—Grouse and Black Game ; calling of— Shooting Hares by
night—Pheasants—Advantages attending the sale of Game by the fair
Sportsman and the Landed Proprietor— American Game — Wild-fowl in Shops
— Bird-deal ers in Leadenhall Market—Norway Game—Manner of
collecting—Hybrids—introduction of new species of Game into
Britain—Prolific Birds—Sea-fowl; their breeding-places —Solan
Geese—Migration of Fish.
Chapter XXXVII - Fisheries
Supply of Fish in Scotland—'Herring - fishery—Highlanders coming to
Herring-fishing—Fishermen of East Coast—Difference of Language in Nairn—Departure
of Herring-boats; dangers to which they are exposed—Loss of Boats and
Lives —Fishing in good weather—Loch fishing—Fishing Stations on West
Coast—Fishing for Haddocks, etc.—State of British Sea-fislieries.
A Season in Sutherland
By John E. Edwards-Moss (1888) (pdf)
The Presbytery of Ross and Sutherland
1693 - 1700
By the Rev. Professor Donald Maclean, D.D. (pdf)
Sutherland and the Reay
History, Antiquities, Folklore, Topography, Regiments, Ecclesiastical
Records, Poetry and Music, Etc. with numerous portraits and
Illustrations, Edited by Rev. Adam Gunn, M.A. and John Mackay (1897)
WHILE a great many
works have already appeared bearing more or less remotely on the County
of Sutherland, only two of these can be said to possess much historical
value, viz. Sir Robert Gordon’s “Earldom of Sutherland” and Robert
Mackay’s “House and Clan of Mackay.” Copies of these are somewhat
scarce, and their price puts them beyond the reach of many. The want of
such a work as the present has been long felt, and the Editors
considered it would greatly enhance its value if each subject were
treated separately by the best authority procurable. It will be readily
understood that a considerable time was necessary in bringing together
contributions from a variety of authors, and this accounts for the delay
in the publication of the book. Subscribers, however, have lost nothing
by the delay, as the volume has greatly exceeded the dimensions
indicated in the prospectus, and contains 100 pages more than
It was intended at first to include chapters on the Natural History and
Geology of Sutherland ; but the exigencies of space, combined with the
recent appearance of exhaustive works on these subjects by Mr. Harvie-Brown,
of Larbert, and Mr. Cadell, of Grange, induced the Editors to depart
from their original intention.
The Editors record, with thanks, their indebtedness for valuable
assistance in the preparation of the work to Mr. John Mackay of
Hereford, whom all Highlanders recognise as one of the best
representatives of their race; to Colonel Duncan Menzies of Blairich,
the popular Commanding Officer of the Sutherland Volunteers; to the Rev.
James Aberigh-Mackay, D.D., the present representative of the famous
Clan Abrach of Strathnaver; to Mr. John Munro, Hanley; to the late Mr.
Thomas Bantock, of Wolverhampton to Mr. Henry Whyte (Fionn), the
distinguished Celtic scholar; to Dr. Anderson of the Society of
Antiquaries (Scotland), for the use of a number of engravings which
illustrate the Rev. Robert Munro’s paper on the “Antiquities”;, and to
Mr. Fred Box, House of Tongue, through whose kind assistance several
interesting views of the Reay country have been secured; and, above all,
to the various authors of the valuable papers relating to the County
which appear in this volume.
In preparing a list of notable men, the Editors found that the number of
names deserving of notice was so large as to preclude adequate treatment
of each. They therefore resolved to include only those who have kept in
close touch with the affairs of their native county, a goodly number of
whom are contributors to this work.
The Editors, having now completed their labours, feel satisfied that
Sutherland men at home and abroad will find in these papers something to
interest them, and possibly to add to their knowledge of the past
history of their native county; while they also hope that the volume
will not be without interest to other workers in the Celtic field.
JOHN MACKAY, Joint-Editors