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then learned how to estimate the narration of a and dependents that were not domestics, and, Highlander.
if an estimate be made from the capacity of any They said that a great family had a bard and of their old houses which I have seen, their do a senachi, who were the poet and historian of the mestics could have been but few, were approhouse; and an old gentleman told me that he priated certain portions of land for their support. remembered one of each. Here was a dawn of Macdonald has a piece of ground yet called the intelligence. Of men that had lived within me. Bards' or Senachies’ field. When a beef was mory, some certain knowledge might be attain- killed for the house, particular parts were claimed. Though the office had ceased, its effects ed as fees by the several officers, or workmen. might continue; the poems might be found, What was the right of each I have not learned. though there was no poet.
The head belonged to the smith, and the udder Another conversation indeed informed me, that of the cow to the piper; the weaver had likewise the same man was both bard and senachi. This his particular part; and so many pieces followed variation discouraged me; but as the practice these prescriptive claims, that the laird's was at might be different in different times, or at the last but little. same time in different families, there was yet no The payment of rent in kind has been so long reason for supposing that I must necessarily sit disused in England, that it is totally forgotten. down in total ignorance.
It was practised very lately in the Hebrides, and Soon after I was told by a gentleman, who is probably still continues, not only at St. Kilda, generally acknowledged the greatest master of where money is not yet known, but in others of Hebridian antiquities, that there had indeed once the smaller and remoter islands. It were perbeen both bards and senachies ; and that senachi haps to be desired, that no change in this parti. signified the man of talk, or of conversation; but cular should have been made. When the laird that neither bard nor senachi had existed for some could only eat the produce of his lands, he was centuries. I have no reason to suppose it exactly under the necessity of residing upon them; and known at what time the custom ceased, nor when the tenant could not convert his stock into did it probably cease in all houses at once. But more portable riches, he could never be tempted whenever the practice of recitation was disused, away from his farm, from the only place where the works, whether poetical or historical, perish- he could be wealthy. Money confounds subored with the authors; for in those times nothing dination, by overpowering the distinctions of had been written in the Erse language.
rank and birth, and weakens authority, by supWhether the man of talk was an historian, plying power of resistance, or expedients for whose office was to tell truth, or a storyteller, escape. The feudal system is formed for a nalike those which were in the last century, and tion employed in agriculture, and has never long perhaps are now among the Irish, whose trade kept its hold where gold and silver have become was only to amuse, it now would be vain to in- common. quire.
Their arms were anciently the Claymore, or Most of the domestic offices were, I believe, great two-handed sword, and afterwards the hereditary; and probably the laureat of a clan two-edged sword and target, or buckler, which was always the son of the last laureat. The was sustained on the left arm. In the midst of his'ory of the race could no otherwise be com- the target, which was made of wood, covered municated or retained; but what genius could with leather, and studded with nails, a slender be expected in a poet by inheritance ?
lance, about two feet long, was sometimes fixed; The nation was wholly illiterate. Neither it was heavy and cumbrous, and accordingly has bards nor senachies could write or read; but if for some time past been gradually laid aside. they were ignorant, there was no danger of de- Very few targets were at Culloden. The dirk, tection; they were believed by those whose va or broad dagger, I am afraid, was of more use nity they faitered.
in private quarrels than in battles. The LochThe recital of genealogies, which has been aber axe is only a slight alteration of the old considered as very efficacious to the preservation English bill. of a true series of ancestry, was anciently made After all that has been said of the force and when the heir of the family came to manly age. terror of the Highland sword, I could not find This practice has never subsisted within time of that the art of defence was any part of common memory, nor was much credit due to such re-education. The gentlemen were perhaps somehearsers, who might obtrude fictitious pedigrees, times skilful gladiators, but the common men either to please their masters, or to hide the de- had no other powers than those of violence and ficiency of their own memories.
courage. Yet it is well known, that the onset Where the chiefs of the Highlands have found of the Highlanders was very formidable. As an the histories of their descent, is difficult to tell; army cannot consist of philosophers, a panic is for no Erse genealogy was ever written. In ge- easily excited by any unwonted mode of annoy neral this only is evident, that the principal house ance. New dangers are naturally magnified; of a clan must be very ancient, and that those and men accustomed only to exchange bullets as must have lived long in a place, of whom it is a distance, and rather to hear their enemies than not known when they came thither.
see them, are discouraged and amazed when they Thus hopeless are all attempts to find any find themselves encountered hand to hand, and traces of Highland learning. Nor are their pri- catch the gleam of steel flashing in their faces. mitive customs and ancient manner of life other The Highland weapons gave opportunity for wise than very faintly and uncertainly remem- many exertions of personal courage, and some bered by the present race.
times for single combats in the field; like those The peculiarities which strike the native of a which occur so frequently in fabulous wars. At commercial country, proceeded in a great mea- Falkirk a gentleman now living was, I suppose sure from the want of money. To the servants) after the retreat of the king's troops, engaged at
a distance from the rest with an Irish dragoon. There has lately been in the islands one of They were both skilful swordsmen, and the con- these illiterate poets, who hearing the Bible read test was not easily decided: the dragoon at last at church, is said to have turned the sacred his. had the advantage, and the Highlander called tory into verse. I heard part of a dialogue comfor quarter ; but quarter was refused him, and posed by him, translated by a young lady at the right continued till he was reduced to defend Mull, and thought it had more meaning than I himself upon his knee. At that instant one of expected from a man totally uneducated; but he the Macleods came to his rescue; who, as it is had some opportunities of knowledge; he lived said, offered quarter to the dragoon, but he among a learned people. After all that has thought himself obliged to reject what he had been done for the instruction of the Highlanders, before refused, and as battle gives little time to the antipathy between their language and literadeliberate, was immediately killed.
ture still continues; and no man that has learned Funerals were formerly solemnized by calling only Erse, is at this time, able to read. multitudes together, and entertaining them at a The Erse has many dialects, and the words great expense. This emulation of useless cost used in some islands are not always known in has been for some time discouraged, and at last others. In literate nations, though the proin the isle of Sky is almost suppressed.
nunciation, and sometimes the words of common Of the Erse language, as I understand nothing, speech, may differ, as now in England, compared I cannot say more than I have been told. It is with the south of Scotland, yet there is a written the rude speech of a barbarous people, who had diction, which pervades all dialects, and is underfew thoughts to express, and were content, as stood in every province. But where the whole they conceived grossly, to be grossly understood. language is colloquial, he that has only one part, After what has been lately talked of Highland never gets the rest, as he cannot get it but bý bards, and Highland genius, many will startle change of residence. when they are told, that the Erse never was a In an unwritten speech, nothing that is not written language; that there is not in the world very short is transmitted from one generation to an Erse manuscript a hundred years old; and another. Few have opportunities of hearing a that the sounds of the Highlanders were never long composition often enough to learn it, or have expressed by letters, till some little books of piety inclination to repeat it so often as is necessary to were translated, and a metrical version of the retain it; and what is once forgotten, is lost for Psalms was made by the synod of Argyle. Whoever,
I believe there cannot be recovered in the ever therefore now writes in this language, spells whole Erse language five hundred lines of which according to his own perception of the sound, there is any evidence to prove them a hundred and his own idea of the power of the letters: years old. Yet I hear that the father of Ossian The Welsh and the Irish are cultivated tongues. boasts of two chests more of ancient poetry, The Welsh two hundred years ago, insulted which he suppresses, because they are too good their English neighbours for the instability of for the English. their orthography, while the Erse merely floated He that goes into the Highlands with a mind in the breath of the people, and could therefore naturally acquiescent, and a credulity eager for receive little improvement.
wonders, may come back with an opinion very When a language begins to teem with books, different from mine; for the inhabitants, knowit is tending to refinement; as those who under- ing the ignorance of all strangers in their lantake to teach others must have undergone some guage and antiquities, perhaps are not very scrulabour in improving themselves, they set a pro- pulous adherents to truth; yet I do not say that portionate value on their own thoughts, and ihey deliberately speak studied falsehood, or wish to enforce them by efficacious expressions ; have a settled purpose to deceive. They have speech becomes embodied and permanent; dif- inquired and considered little, and do not always ferent modes and phrases are compared, and the feel their own ignorance. They are not much best obtains an establishment. By degrees, one accustomed to be interrogated by others; and age improves upon another. Exactness is first seem never to have thought upon interrogating obtained, and afterwards elegance. But diction, themselves; so that if they do not know what merely vocal, is always in its childhood. As no they tell to be true, they likewise do not disman leaves his eloquence behind him, the new tinctly perceive it to be false. generations have all to learn. There may pos Mr. Boswell was very diligent in his inquiries; sibly be books without a polished language, and the result of his investigations was, that the but there can be no polished language without answer to the second question was commonly books.
such as nullified the answer to the first. That the bards could not read more than the We were a while told, that they had an old rest of their countrymen, it is reasonable to sup- translation of the Scriptures; and told it till it pose; because, if they had read, they could pro- would appear obstinacy to inquire again. Yet by bably have written ; and how high their compo- continued accumulation of questions we found, sitions may reasonably be rated, an inquirer may chat the translation meant, if any meaning there best judge by considering what stores of imagery, were, was nothing else than the Irish Bible. whai principles of ratiocination, what compre We heard of manuscripts that were, or that hension of knowledge, and what delicacy of elo- had been, in the hands of somebody's father, or cution, he has known any man attain who cán- grandfather; but at last we had no reason to benot read. The state of the bards was yet more lieve they were other than Irish. Martin menhopeless. He that cannot read, may now con- tions Irish, but never any Erse manuscripts, to verse with those that can; but the bard was be found in the islands in his time. a barbarian among barbarians, who, knowing I suppose my opinion of the poems of Ossian nothing himself, lived with others that knew no is already discovered. I believe they never ex
isted in any other form than that which we have
seen. The editor, or author, never could show | were flattered at last with a wind that promised the original ; nor can it be shown by any other. to convey us to Mull. We went on board a boat To revenge reasonable incredulity, by refusing that was taking in kelp, and left the isle of Sky evidence, is a degree of insolence, with which behind us. We were doomed to experience, the world is not yet acquainted; and stubborn like others, the danger of trusting to the wind, audacity is the last refuge of guilt. It would be which blew against us, in a short time, with easy to show it if he had it; but whence could it such violence, that we, being no seasoned sailors, be had ? It is too long to be remembered, and were willing to call it a tempest. I was sea: the language formerly had nothing written. He sick, and lay down. Mr. Boswell kept the has doubtless inserted names that circulate in deck. The master knew not well whither to popular stories, and may have translated some go; and our difficulties might perhaps have wandering ballads, if any can be found; and the filled a very pathetic page, had not Mr. Maclean names, and some of the images, being recol- of Col, who, with every other qualification lected, make an inaccurate auditor imagine, by which insular life requires, is a very active and the help of Caledonian bigotry, that he has for- skilful mariner, piloted us safe into his own merly heard the whole.
harbour. I asked a very learned minister in Sky, who had used all arts to make me believe the genu In the morning we found ourselves under the ineness of the book, whether at last he believed isle of Col, where we landed ; and passed the it himself? but he would not answer. He first day and night with Captain Maclean, a genwished me to be deceived, for the honour of histleman who has lived some time in the East country; but would not directly and formally Indies, but having dethroned no Nabob, is not deceive me. Yet has this man's testimony been too rich to settle in his own country. publicly produced, as of one that held Fingal to Next day the wind was fair, and we might be the work of Ossian.
have had an easy passage to Mull; but having, It is said, that some men of integrity profess contrarily to our own intention, landed upon a to have heard 'parts of it, but they all heard them new island, we would not leave it wholly unes. when they were boys; and it was never said amined. We therefore suffered the vessel to that any of them could recite six lines. They re- depart without us, and trusted the skies for anmember names, and perhaps some proverbial other wind. sentiments; and having no distinct ideas, coin a Mr. Maclean of Col, having a very numerous resemblance without an original. The persua- family, has, for some time past, resided at Abersion of the Scots, however, is far from universal ; deen, that he may superintend their education, and in a question so capable of proof, why should and leaves the young gentleman, our friend, to doubt be suffered to continue? The editor has govern his dominions, with the full power of a been heard to say, that part of the poem was re- Highland chief. By the absence of the laird's ceived by him, in the Saxon character. He has family, our entertainment was made more diffithen found, hy some peculiar fortune, an un- cult, because the house was in a great degree written language, written in a character which disfurnished; but young Col's kindness and acthe natives probably never beheld.
tivity supplied all defects, and procured us more I have yet supposed no imposture but in the than sufficient accommodation. publisher; yet I am far from certainty, that some Here I first mounted a little Highland steed; translations have not been lately made, that and if there had been many spectators, should may now be obtruded as par of the original have been somewhat ashamed of my figure in work. Credulity on one part is a strong temp- the march. The horses of the Islands, as of tation to deceit on the other, especially to deceit other barren countries, are very low; they are of which no personal injury is the consequence, indeed musculous and strong, beyond what their and which flatters the author with his own inge- size gives reason for expecting; but a bulky nuity. The Scots have something to plead for man upon one of their backs makes a very distheir easy reception of an improbable fiction : proportionate appearance. they are seduced by their fondness for their sup From the habitation of Captain Maclean we posed ancestors. A Scotchman must be a very went to Grissipol, but called by the way on Mr. sturdy moralist, who does not love Scotland bet- Hector Maclean, the minister of Col, whom we ter than truth; he will always love it better than found in a hut, that is, a house of only one floor, inquiry; and if falsehood flatters his vanity, will but with windows and chimney, and not inele not be very diligent to detect it. Neither ought gantly furnished. Mr. Maclean has the reputathe English to be much influenced by Scotch tion of great learning: he is seventy-seven authority; for of the past and present state of years old, but not infirm, with a look of venethe whole Erse nation, the Lowlanders are at rable dignity excelling what I remember in any least as ignorant as ourselves. To be ignorant other man. is painful; but it is dangerous to quiet our un His conversation was not unsuitable to his easiness by the delusive opiate of hasty persua- appearance. I lost some of his good will, by sion.
treating a heretical writer with more regard But this is the age in which those who could than, in his opinion, a heretic could deserve. I not read, have been supposed to write ; in which honoured his orthodoxy, and did not much the giants of antiquated romance have been ex- censure his asperity. A man who has settled his hibited as realities. If we know little of the opinions, does not love to have the tranquility ancient Highlanders, let us not fill the vacuity of his conviction disturbed ; and at seventy-seven with Ossian. If we have not searched the it is time to be in earnest. Magellanic regions, let us however forbear to Mention was made of the Erse translation of people them with Patagong.
the New Testament, which has been lately pub Having waited some days at Armidel, we lished, and of which the learned Mr. Macqueen
CASTLE OF COL.
of Sky spoke with commendation ; but Mr. | man provoked him, to lay hands upon him, and Maclean said, he did not use it, because he push him back. He entered the tent alone, could make the text more intelligible to his au- with his Lochaber axe in his hand, and struck ditors by an extemporary version. From this I such terror into the whole assembly, that they inferred, that the language of the translation dismissed his uncle. was not the language of the isle of Col. When he landed at Col, he saw the sentinel,
He has no public edifice for the exercise of who kept watch towards the sea, running off to his ministry; and can officiate to no greater Grissipol, to give Macneil, who was there with number than a room can contain; and the room a hundred and twenty men, an account of the of a hut is not very large. This is all the op- invasion. He told Macgill, one of his followers, portunity of worship that is now granted to the that if he intercepted that dangerous intelliinhabitants of the islands, some of whom must gence, by catching the courier, he would give travel thither perhaps ten miles. Two chapels him certain lands in Mull. Upon this promise were erected by their ancestors, of which I saw Macgill pursued the messenger, and either the skeletons, which now stand faithful witnesses killed or stopped him; and his posterity, till of the triumph of Reformation.
very lately, held the lands in Mull. The want of churches is not the only impedi The alarm being thus prevented, he came un ment to piety; there is likewise a want of mi-expectedly upon Macneil., Chiefs were in those nisters. “A parish often contains more islands days never wholly unprovided for an enemy. A than one ; and each island can have the minister fight ensued, in which one of their followers is only in its own turn. At Raasay they had, I said to have given an extraordinary proof of acthink, a right to service only every third Sunday. tivity, by bounding backwards over the brook All the provision made by the present ecclesias- of Grissipol. Macneil being killed and many tical constitution, for the inhabitants of about a of his clan destroyed, Maclean took possession hundred square miles, is a prayer and sermon in of the island, which the Macneils attempted to a little room, once in three weeks: and even this conquer by another invasion, but were defeated parsimonious distribution is at the mercy of the and repulsed. weather: and in those islands where the minis Maclean, in his turn, invaded the estate of the ter does not reside, it is impossible to tell how Macneils, took the castle of Brecacig, and conmany weeks or months may pass without any quered the isle of Barra, which he held for seven public exercise of religion.
years, and then restored it to the heirs. GRISSIPOL IN COL. After a short conversation with Mr. Maclean, From Grissipol, Mr. Maclean conducted us to we went on to Grissipol, a house and farm te his father's seat; a neat new house erected near nanted by Mr. Macsweyn, where I saw more of the old castle, I think, by the last proprietor. the ancient life of a Highlander than I had yet Here we were allowed to take our station, and found. Mrs. Macsweyn could speak no English, lived very commodiously while we waited for and had never seen any other places than the moderate weather and a fair wind, which we islands of Sky, Mull, and Col: but she was did not so soon obtain, but we had time to get hospitable and good-humoured, and spread her some infurination of the present state of Col, table with sufficient liberality. We found tea partly by inquiry, and partly by occasional exhere as in every other place, but our spoons
cursions. were of horn.
Col is computed to be thirteen miles in length, The house of Grissipol stands by a brook very and three in breadth. Both the ends are the clear and quick; which is, I suppose, one of the property of the Duke of Argyle, but the middle most copious streams in the island. This place belongs to Maclean, who is called Col, as the was the scene of an action, much celebrated in only laird. the traditional history of Col, but which proba Col is not properly rocky; it is rather one bly no two relaters will tell alike.
continued rock, of a surface much diversified Some time in the obscure ages, Macneil of with protuberances, and covered with a thin Barra married the lady Maclean, who had the layer of earth, which is often broken, and disisle of Col for her jointure. Whether Macneil covers the stone. Such a soil is not for plants detained Col, when the widow was dead, or that strike deep roots; and perhaps in the whole whether she lived so long as to make her heirs island nothing has ever yet grown to the height impatient, is perhaps not now known. The of a table. The uncultivated parts are clothed younger son, called John Gerves, or John the with heath, among which industry has interGiant, a man of great strength, who was then spersed spots of grass and corn; but no attempt in Ireland, either for safety or for education, has been made to raise a tree. Young Col, dreamed of recovering his inheritance; and who has a very laudable desire of improving his getting some adventurers together, which in patrimony, purposes some time to plant an those unsettled times was not hard to do, in- orchard ; which if it be sheltered by a wall, vaded Col. He was driven away, but was not may perhaps succeed. He has introduced the discouraged, and collecting new followers, in culture of turnips, of which he has a field, three years came again with fifty men. In his where the whole work was performed by his way he stopped at Artorinish in Morvern, own hand. His intention is to provide food for where his uncle was prisoner to Macleod, and his cattle in the winter. This innovation was was then with his enemies in a tent. Maclean considered by Mr. Macsweyn as the idle protook with him only one servant, whom he ordered ject of a young head, heated with English to stay at the outside: and where he should see fancies; but he has now found that turnips will the tent pressed outwards, to strike with his really grow, and that hungry sheep and cows dirk; it being the intention of Maclean, as any, will really eat them.
By such acquisitions as these, the Hebrides country have been accurately related, every mile may in time rise above their annual distress. maintains more than twenty-five. Wherever heath will grow, there is reason to This proportion of habitation is greater than think something better may draw nourishment; the appearance of the country seems to admit; and by trying the production of other places, for wherever the eye wanders, it sees much plants will be found suitable to every soil. waste and little cultivation. I am more inclined
Col has many lochs, some of which have to extend the land, of which no measure has trouts and eels, and others have never yet been ever been taken, than to diminish the people, stocked; another proof of the negligence of the who have been really numbered. Let it be supislanders, who might take fish in the inland posed, that a computed mile contains a mile and waters when they cannot go to sea.
a half, as was commonly found true in the menTheir quadrupeds are horses, cows, sheep, and suration of the English roads, and we shall then goats. They have neither deer, hares, nor rab- allot nearly twelve Jo a mile, which agrees much bits. They have no vermin except rats, which better with ocular observation. have been lately brought thither by sea, as to Here, as in Sky, and other islands, are the other places; and are free from serpents, frogs, laird, the tacksmen, and the under-tenants. and toads.
Mr. Maclean, the laird, has very extensive The harvest in Col, and in Lewis, is ripe possessions, being proprietor, not only of far the sooner than in Sky, and the winter in Col is greater part of Col, but of the extensive island of never cold, but very tempestuous. I know not Rum, and a very considerable territory in Mull. that I ever heard the wind so loud in any other Rum is one of the larger islands almost square, place; and Mr. Boswell observed, that its noise and therefore of great capacity in proportion to was all its own, for there were no trees to in- its sides. By the usual method of estimating crease it.
computed extent, it may contain more than a Noise is not the worst effect of the tempest ; hundred and twenty square miles. for they have thrown the sand from the shore It originally belonged to Clanronald, and was over a considerable part of the land, and it is said purchased by Col; who, in some dispute about still to encroach and destroy more and more pas- the bargain, made Clanronald prisoner, and kept ture; but I am not of opinion, that by any sur-him nine months in confinement. its owner veys or landmarks, its limits have been ever fixed, represents it as mountainous, rugged and barren. or its progression ascertained. If one man has In the hills there are red deer. The horses are confidence enough to say, that it advances, no- very small, but of a breed eminent for beauty, body can bring any proof to support him in de-Col, not long ago, bought one of them from a tenying it. The reason why it is not spread to a nant; who told him that as he was of a shape greater extent, seems to be, that the wind and uncommonly elegant, he could not sell him but rain come almost together, and that it is made at a high price; and that whoever had him close and heavy by the wet before the storms should pay a guinea and a half. can put it in motion. So thick is the bed, and so There are said to be in Barra a race of horses small the particles, that if a traveller should be yet smaller, of which the highest is not above caught by a sudden gust in dry weather, he hirty-six inches. would find it very difficult to escape with life. The rent of Rum is not great. Mr. Maclean
For natural curiosities, I was shown only two declared that he should be very rich, if he could great masses of stone, which lie loose upon the set his land at two-pence halfpenny an acre. ground; one on the top of a hill, and the other The inhabitants are fifty-eight families, who conat a small distance from the bottom. They cer- tinued papists for some time afier the laird betainly were never put into their present place by came a protestant. Their adherence to their old human strength or skill; and though an earth- religion was strengthened by the countenance of quake might have broken off the lower stone, the laird's sister, a zealous Romanist, till one and rolled it into the valley, no account can be Sunday as they were going to mass under the given of the other, which lies on the hill, unless, conduct of their patroness, Maclean met them on which I forgot to examine, there be still near it the way, gave one of them a blow on the head some higher rock, from which it might be torn. with a yellow stick, I suppose a cane, for which All nations have a tradition, that their earliest the Erse had no name, and drove them to the ancestors were giants, and these stones are said kirk, from which they have never since departed. to have been thrown up and down by a giant and Since the use of this method of conversion, the his mistress. There are so many more impor- inhabitants of Egg and Canna, who continue tant things of which human knowledge can give papists, call the protestantism of Rum the relino account, that it may be forgiven us, if we gion of the Yellow Stick. speculate no longer on two stones in Col.
The only popish islands are Egg and Canna. This island is very populous. About nine- Egg is the principal island of a parish, in which, and-twenty years ago, the fencible men of Col though he has no congregation, the protestant were reckoned one hundred and forty ; which is minister resides. I have heard of nothing cuthe sixth of eight hundred and forty, and pro- rious in it, but the cave in which a former genebably some contrived to be left out of the list. ration of the islanders were smothered by MacThe minister told us, that a few years ago the leod. inhabitants were eight hundred,' between the If we had travelled with more leisure, it had ages of seven and of seventy. Round numbers not been fit to have neglected the popish islands are seldom exact. But in this case the autho- Popery is favourable to ceremony; and among rity is good, and the error likely to be little. If ignorant nations ceremony is the only preserto the eight hundred be added what the laws of vative of tradition. Since protestantism was computation require, they will be increased to extended to the savage parts of Scotland, it has at least a thousand; and if the dimensions of the perhaps been one of the chief labours of the