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wished ; and by abolishing distinctions in the community at large, render the interchange of all its constituents easy.'*
The small farms and grazings, we have said, formed the only source of revenue to the proprietor of the land. These were all in very limited holdings, tenanted by the inhabitants of the strath. That portion of the land which was under the plough, for the most part in detached patches, produced a crop of oats or bear, scanty at the best of times, precarious always; so ungrateful the soil, and so rude the climate. The number of sheep raised was not greater than sufficed to provide food for the household of the tenant, and supply the demand of the nearest market-town. Black cattle formed the important stock of the country. It was only in the year 1803 the Highland Society offered a premium for the best essay on the 'Introduction of sheep-farming, the results of which might, it was hoped, render the Highlands a food-producing country, and make sheep a staple of commerce.
This was the first impulse given to a movement which has eventually led to such important results. Here the Highland proprietor reaped a twofold advantage; his rental was augmented by the transfer of the land to men of capital and enterprise, while, at the same time, the poor and struggling families which were in some sort dependent upon him, being suddenly thinned by the introduction of a system of husbandry requiring fewer hands, were no longer a burden to him. Many of the people were obliged to leave their mountain homes to seek employment in the low country; and this expatriation, setting aside the first painful feeling natural to those whose love of fatherland is proverbial, was an actual benefit to them; for the Highlander, indolent and careless, as he is, in a position in which he feels that no exertion or industry on his part could avail him beyond the securing wherewithal to keep body and soul together, becomes a new creature, patient, active, plodding, industrious, and generally successful, where he is placed among stirring companions and sees his way to the attainment of a better and more prosperous condition.
It may be doubted whether the original projectors of the scheme for turning the Highlands into sheepwalks, could have contemplated the absorption of small holdings into large farms. In the mean time, it is certain that the system they advocated has been carried out to an extent they could hardly have foreseen, and with all the beneficial effects they ventured to predict. Nay, so important has sheep-farming become that it is now the main hope of those who wish to retain the existing population
**Western Islands,' i. 109 (1819).
of the Highlands: and, as there are co-operative companies in almost every trade, a system of co-operative sheep-farming is growing up The old system of club farming is applied to sheep-farming
But it would be beside our subject to enter more fully into the causes which brought about the first social revolution in the Highlands. The progress of an improved system of sheepfarming, adapted to the natural capabilities of the country, was rapid and continual; remunerative to the new and enterprising tenant, it added largely to the rent-roll of the proprietor, while it had the effect of bringing about an entire change in the distribution of the population. The class of small independent farmers paying rents ranging from 201. to 501. disappeared : the crofters, whose rent varied from 21. to 101., have in most parts of the country followed them, or have changed their condition for the more healthy one of farm labourers or shepherds; of the cotters, there remained only as many as were wanting to make up the number of hands requisite on extended farms, and those who, having some trade or handicraft to fall back
could a livelihood, and be useful members of the community.
Such would appear to have been the state of the Highlands when the happy idea of going further afield for the indulgence of his tastes first dawned upon the mind of the southern sportsman; and, when his inclinations pointed northward, his wildest dreams could scarcely have suggested to him that a barren moorland and rugged hill-country could ever possess sufficient charms to induce him to become a willing resident in its solitudes even for a season, still less that, after once experiencing its effects and tasting its delights, he should in after-time look forward to the same period of each year with the impatient longing of a schoolboy for breaking-up day.
Among the earliest pioneers into the unexplored region of the north, was the celebrated Colonel Thornton, who, in the year 1803, made a successful progress through the Highlands of Scotland for the express purpose of shooting and hawking and fishing—we use the word progress advisedly, because all his appointments and appliances, both for the journey and its objects, were on an almost regal scale. He published an account of his travels and adventures in the shape of a journal, illustrated by an artist, who formed one of his numerous suite, and whose contributions to the volume formed its chief merit, The nature of his equipments sufficiently proves the sense he entertained of the
* A Sporting Tour,' &c., by Colonel Thomas Thornton, of Thornville. Royal 4to. 1804.
difficulties and privations likely to be encountered in a journey so novel ; and the details of his roving sport show at the same time how little the game was thought of by the proprietors of land.
Having secured the services of Mr. Garrard as artist to the expedition, the Colonel says:
Matters thus far arranged, it took nearly three weeks to get everything completed. I had bespoken a very curious boat during the winter, having felt the want of such an accommodation in my former journey, and I was anxious to see it put on board a York vessel previous to my quitting town. This, together with a portable kitchen, and a variety of other useful articles, being, however, at length procured, we left London in high spirits, and on reaching Thornville found everything safely arrived but the boat and the kitchen. The former, I received advice, was delivered at Hull, but of the latter, after waiting anxiously some time, Mr. Merlin disappointed me. And now, having hired a cutter, I embarked all my stores, servants, guns, dogs, nets, oatmeal, beans, &c., together with the boats—and the whole being ready for sea, only awaited a favourable breeze, which soon after sprung up—we went on board our vessel, which we christened “The Falcon." The largest boat, which was made for me in London, I named “The Ville de Paris," as a small honorary tribute to the brave Lord Rodney. The other boat was called “The Gibraltar,” and it being the fourth of June, we ordered the crew an additional quantity of Hip upon the occasion, to drink the health of our gracious Sovereign, and then, trusting to the good fortune which attends everything done on this auspicious day, we were set on shore, the sails were spread, the crew gave us a salute, and with colours flying, the vessel fell down the Ouse to Hull. At this place she was to take in biscuits, porter, &c., as well as ale and small beer (the latter being a necessary I had found great want of), and then set sail for Forres, the nearest port to Raits.'
This was the name of a place he had hired in Strathspey as a sort of head-quarters, from which to make forays against the game with hawk and hound, with gun and rifle, and against the fish with rod, and trimmer, and net.
The cutter saved, by the presence of mind of Mrs. C., the housekeeper, from shipwreck (she hoisted, as a signal of distress, what white linen she could
procure, on the oar of the little jolly-boat '), arrived safely at Forres. “Their next concern was to procure carts to convey the cargo; and so little do these people carry in their small carriages, that it took no less than forty-nine, independent of the boats, which were left to the care of the captain, who pleased himself with having invented a kind of sledge which, with four horses, might transport the two boats over the mountains to Raits.'
On arriving at the house at Raits,' the Colonel makes a discovery which has been since made by many a sportsman who
has followed in his wake. 'I find,' he says, 'its outside appearance by no means equal to what it had been represented on paper, except'--this is indeed an exception we have rarely heard of - in the prospect of sport, and would willingly have been off on any terms, and have lived in camp, had I not engaged it at the desire of my friends, whose wishes and whose health made it necessary for them to have one; except for these causes, I should certainly have given it up on my own account; but, daily expecting them, I had no alternative, therefore took it with all its servants, gardens, grass, conveniences and inconveniences.'
The Colonel devoted his energies rather to hawking and fishing than to shooting; he did, nevertheless, make some remarkable shots, which he records with his usual becoming modesty; thus we read : September 7. The birds were exceeding wild, so much so, that I had very indifferent success. At one shot, however, I killed an old cock at so great a distance, that I was induced to measure it; it was not so far as I imagined, being only one hundred and three yards.'
This feat was eclipsed later in the season. After much walking I determined,' he says, 'to contend no longer against the weather, and returned homewards. At eight good shots my gun missed fire, though I put in five different flints; at as many bad ones it went off, and some of them I killed. Towards the afternoon it was more favourable ; and my last shot, on taking leave of the Moors, I am convinced was at the distance of a hundred and ten yards, on horseback, and at a trot.... I determined now to take my final adieu with this
d'éclat.' But our author seems to have piqued himself more particularly on his achievements in the commissariat department. We see throughout the journal almost daily entries, showing the regard he paid to the creature-comforts; he sometimes goes the length of giving the bill of fare of his dinner, and it is doubtful whether, at this day, with all the advantages of transport and ready communication with large towns in which purveyors have established themselves to minister to the necessities and luxuries of modern sportsmen, the tables of the best appointed shootinglodges are more amply and handsomely provided.
In Edinburgh we find him ordering in two large chests of biscuits, several Cheshire and Gloucester cheeses, together with a number of Yorkshire hams, reindeer and other tongues, hung beef, &c., in order to be amply provided for a large party. • Also laid in,' he writes, about seventy pounds weight of fine gunpowder, shot, &c. Bought an additional quantity of fishingtackle, with six or seven excellent rods, from that ingenious maker M.Lean; and, having provided divers portable gun-cases,
plaids, and other necessaries, the baggage-waggons were ordered to be ready to set forward in a few days.'
We have characterised the Colonel's equipments for his expedition as being almost regal. The pompous and inflated style he occasionally adopts in his journal would lead the reader to imagine that he must really have looked upon himself as the Commander-in-Chief in a foreign campaign. It is very clear he prided himself not a little on the spirit of adventure which had led him to break ground in a new country. The book he was about to give to the world was to immortalise him as the explorer of unknown regions, as the accomplished sportsman, as no mean contributor to the literature of his country. The following extract is not ill-calculated to give an idea of his self-importance and authority :
‘July 24th.—The boats, &c., being all now safely arrived, we issued the following General Orders :
• That all the stores are to be immediately examined, and an account delivered in, and a similar one also to be sent of the condition of the hawks, pointers, &c. Returns.
In good Order. Damaga. Spoilt. Hams, bacon, reindeer and other) Enough to serve
tongues, smoked beef, pig's counte. till the end of nances, &c.
October. Pickles, sweetmeats, &c.
Red Falcons Miss L. Townsend
(Craigon ..) Death
Red Tercels. Devil
Croc Franc ) Red Tercels.
Guns all in good Order.
Gunpowder. Two double barrels.
40 lbs. One rifle.
Ditto, rather damp 40 Three single barrels.
Flints sufficient. • Examined the above, as by order, the 20th of July. WILLIAM LAWSON, * Head Falconer and Inspector-General.