« AnteriorContinuar »
TRADITIONS OF STRATHGLASS.
It is a common tradition in Strathglass that it was proposed at one time to remove the centre of county business to a town to be built on the moor of Comar. This moor is a broad level promontory, jutting out for about a mile between two considerable Highland rivers; and it is situated in the most central part of the district, having a southern aspect, and water power on three of its sides, capable, if utilised, of driving all the machinery in the county. Add to this that the fourth side of this largo plateau is a mountain of grey rock, partially covered with wood and verdure. The quality of the stone in this rock is considered to be very superior of its kind; and as to quantity, with an occasional dose of powder, it would build Inverness, Perth, and Edinburgh over again. "With all these advantages, one cannot help seeing that nature has prepared this spot as an admirable site for a great and healthy town.
The Island chiefs, lairds, and people of the western part of the county argned that the moor of Comar was more central for the County Buildings than any other place to the east of it. But the chiefs and people resident in the eastern portion of the county maintained that one advantage in their favour outweighed all the arguments against them—viz., that they could at any time have stores of all kiuds of water-borne goods at Inverness wherewith to supply the demands of the county. This was the pivot on which the principal argument revolved, and it was clearly conclusive in favour of Inverness.
Had the great carrier (the railway) been at that time, as it now is, within sixteen miles of the site alluded to, the Island chiefs might have carried their point Whether the affairs of the shire would flourish better under the name of the County of Comar than they have flourished under Inverness-shire is a subject which does not call for immediate settlement. But I have no hesitation in saying that a town established at Comar would have been most central and beneficial in Strathglass.
Macleod of Macleod seemed to have been quite aware of the advantages that might accrue from the county town being built on the moor of Comar, inasmuch as he secured for himself, for his retinue, and for his tenantry, a halting place near the proposed site of the proposed capital of the county. Here they used to encamp, rest, and remain days and nights so long as it suited their convenience. From that time until now this halting place, consisting of a field of a few acres, is called Iomaire-MhicLeoid, or Macleod's field. Whether Macleod acquired his—perhaps nominal—title to this field by right, or by might, or by prescription, ttie traditions of the district do not inform us. It would appear, however, that there was something peculiar about the origin of allotting it to Macleod. There are five such halting places in Glencannaich, all of which were, and still are, pro bono publico. On one of these stances, Eilean-agharbh-uisg, I have even seen held a considerable cattle fair.
Oaradh-an-ruidhe-bhric, Beul-ath Altnasocaich, and the foot of Garadh-na-criche, between Main and Longart, were also halting places. Eudhadubh-Ardtaig was not only a halting place, but, like Eilean-agharbh-uisg, a recognised stance for drovers and travellers to pass a day or night in, and of which more presently. It is recorded that these places and similar spots throughout every glen and valley in the Highlands were accessible to all as places long consecrated by prescription for the public good.
Here and in connection with such places I must be pardoned for a slight digression. I have seen in England what appeared to me very remarkable tenacity on the part of the people to old rights something similar to the halting places alluded to. Not only are rights of way through the fields and meadows accessible to the public and maintained by them, but are frequently provided at each end with a stile, I well remember a right of way through the middle of the large dining room in the Ship Tavern, Water Lane, Thames Street, London, and I have seen the public passing through it repeatedly while dining there myself. Since then the tavern has been turned into merchants' and brokers' offices, but the ancient right of way has been retained through the centre of them. About twenty years ago the Italians resident in London commenced to build a large church for themselves in Hatton Garden, London. I saw it when the walls were nearly finished, when some old residenter in the neighbourhood came forward and declared that he remembered a right-ofway passing through the site of the building. The poor Italians were obliged to pull down all they had built on that site, and leave the rightof-way accessible to the public, though much sympathy was felt at the time for the civil and industrious foreigners. And last but not least, King George IV. attempted to close a right-of-way through Eichmond Park, but a cobbler on the confines of the Park brought an interdict against the King. The case was tried before the highest Court in England, and decided in favour of the cobbler. I give these three cases as specimens of what I have seen and heard, and most heartily would I wish to see my countrymen in the Highlands inspired with the same determination to hold their rights with equal tenacity against those who are constantly robbing them of their ancient inheritance.
Among other celebrities Allan Dubh MacEanuil of Lundy passed a night in Eudha-dubh-Ardtaig, in Strathglass, with a creach he took from the Mackenzies. This Allan Dubh was the cruel barbarian who burnt the Church of Cille-Chriosd, i.e., Christ Church, near Beauly, in the year 1603. This atrocious deed was done on a Sunday morning, when the whole congregation, chiefly Mackenzies, were at their devotions, all of whom perished either inside the burning pile or by the sword in the attempt to escape through the windows. I have heard, old men in Strathglass stating that after Allan Dubh MacEanuil crossed the river at Beauly on his hasty return from the foul massacre ho halted on Bruthaeh-aphuirt, opposite Beauly, about a mile and a half in a straight line from the scene of his diabolical work, and ordered his piper to play up the tune of "Cillechriosta." It was then that the piper for the first time played the melancholy part of the pibroch, the words of which are as follows:—
Chi mi thallud
In England, as well as in Scotland, I have sometimes heard this pibroch as if the words of the first line ran thus—
Chi mi smud mor,
but I well remember old people in the Highlands saying that the piper who played "Cillechriosta" and omitted the word "thallud" did not follow the original. Over and over again a very old man named Duncan Macrae, who was considered a good judge of pipe music, said that Kenneth Mackenzie from Redcastle, known as "Coinneach Deas," was one of the best pipers that ever played the pibroch of " Cillechriosta," and he always played it as above described.
It was from Bruthach a-phuirt that Allan Dubh made the luckless division of his men when he sent thirty-seven of them round by Inverness. History informs us that they were closely chased by Murdoch Mackenzie of Kedcastle with a party of men who overtook them at Torbreac, about three miles west of Inverness, where he found them in an ale-house, which he set on fire, and the thirty-seven suffered the same fate which in the earlier part of the day they had so wantonly inflicted on others Allan Dubh and others crossed over from the Aird to the south side of Urquhart. Allan was soon overtaken by the Mackenzie.1*, and the rest is already well known to the readers of the Celtic Magazine, and of Mackenzie's "History of the Mackenzies," pp. 157-163.
It is said that the level valley called Strathglass was at one period a sheet of water extending from Duufionn, above Beaufort Castle (or Caisteal Dunie), to Cnockfionn, opposite Giusachan, and covering a distance of about fifteen miles in length, with an average breadth of about threequarters of a mile. This valley is bounded on the south and north sides by a continuous range of two parallel hills. From their formation and general appearance one might readily incline to the belief that these hills formed, at some remote period, the two sides of a capacious basin. There are unmistakable traces of cultivation high up—almost on the top of some of these lulls. There is an old place of sepulchre, Acha-na-h-eaglais, on the brow of a mountain range, about a mile south-east and considerablyabove Giusachan. This seems to prove that there were a number of inhabitants located high up here in bygone days. The name of the next cultivated portion of the hill is Dminach, plainly meaning the Druids' field. Whether or not the Druids held possession of the surrounding fields of arable land can only bo left to conjecture. It is, however, certain that a considerable portion of the hill lands on each side of Strathglass bear the impress of a rude sort of cultivation at some pre-historic period. The appearance of remote industry through the hills used to be adduced as an element towards proving that what we now see as the valley below was formerly a great lake, of which the long stretch of level fields and meadows, forming the plains of Strathglass from east to west, for about the whole distance already mentioned, is said to have been the bed I heard one of the best old Seanachies in the district saying, "Cha 'n eil ann san duthich so ach cladach aibhne," meaning that the whole valley was a mere river bed.
In support of this view he mentioned the name of Christopher Macrae, a Kintail man, admitted to have heen one of the most reliable authorities on such matters in the Highlands. Macrae further stated to him that Strathglass acquired its name on account of the barrier at the east end of the lake, "Glas" being the Gaelic for a lock or barrier. It is asserted that one of the outlets from this lake discharged itself through the small valley south of Fanellan, by Brideag and Lonbuy. Faine-cilean evidently derives its name from a comparison with a ring, or circular island, the whole block of land or davoch being about as broad as it is long. The meandering river so slowly winding its placid course through the fertile plains of Strathglass, unwilling, as it were, to quit its parent hills, turns again half-way round at short intervals. To begin with the davoch of Clachan, its productive broad acres of arable land and splendid hill grazings are bestowed on the south side of the strath. Comar or Cam-ar, on tho north side, seems to have been at one period attached to the davoch of Clachan, inasmuch as the burying-ground is always called Clachan of Comar, and the formation of the land clearly proves that the "Glas" at one period passed at the foot of the hills to the north of Comar. The division is impartially continued. On the north side is the great davoch of Invercannich; again, on the south, we have the davoch of Croicheal; the half-davoch of Struy to the north; the half-davoch of Mauld to the south; and the davoch of Erchless to the north: the davoch of Maine and Eskadale to the south; and the davoch of Aigais to the north. Never was there a better division of plain fields than is exhibited here on both sides of the river all the way east to what is called the Druim, ridge, or barrier. When tho winter snows are thawing and running through all the glens from the watershed of Strathconan on the north to Glenmoriston on the south, and when they are all accumulated in the valley of Strathglass, they form what appears almost one lake at the foot of the mountains. Thus it has acquired from time immemorial the cognomen of the Sea of Aigais, and by this name it was well known throughout the whole Highlands.
It is related that a Strathglass man was once upon a time going across to the Lews. The craft he was in was overtaken by a severe storm, and the seamen wishing to resort to the old Jewish practice of throwing a human being overboard as a peace-offering to the waves, fixed on the Strathglass man as their victim. But the brave Glaiseach was equal to the occasion, and addressed his companions—" Tha bhuil oirbh f hearabh nach robh sibh riamh air cuan Aigais, air Mam-charraidh, nam Monadh Bhreachdaich, ma tha sibha gabhail eagal a so." Which means—"It is evident that you never were on the Ocean of Aigais, on the Mam of Carrie, or on the Hills of Breacachy, if you are afraid of this." He then took the helm into his own hands, and steered the vessel safely to the harbour of Stornoway. Well done, my countryman! With these observations 1 part with the traditional lake of Strathglass, and shall be glad to hear the opinion of some of the more learned members of the Field Club on the subject, and, notwithstanding tradition, will be disposed to abide by the result.
(To be Continued.)
MATCH-MAKING AMONG THE FRASERS—SIMON, LORD
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CELTIC MAGAZINE.
Sir,—In reference to the article in your October number, under the above head, permit me to say that it is unfortunate that almost all the histories of " The Last of the Martyrs," as Lord Lovat was called in 1747, •were written by his enemies, and they all seem to have followed the school-boy's rule—" Hit him again, he's got no friends." Drummond of Bochaldy was almost the only one who spoke kindly of " our good friend, Lord Lovat" Perhaps he used too strong language, for I do not mean to say that Lovat was a saint, but he certainly was not much worse than many of his cotemporaries.
Much strain is laid upon his forcible marriage in 1697, with the Earl of Athole's daughter, widow of his cousin Hugh, 11th Lord, who died without male issue; but forcible marriages with heiresses were common enough in Ireland for more than a century later, and Lovat's marriage was not to obtain the money of an heiress, but to recover by that means, if possible, his hereditary title and estates, which the Earl was endeavouring to defraud him of (by breaking the entail), and to which robbery the Earl's daughter must have been, at least, a consenting party.
It is also said that Lovat treated liis last wife, Primrose Campbell, whom he married in 1733, with barharoxis cruelty, which I can hardly believe, for, if so, her brother, the Duke of Argyll, would scarcely have continued to befriend the Master of Lovat. John Fraser was a consistent Jacobite to the last. He was outlawed, and to prevent any pursuit Lovat always gave out that his brother John was dead He, however, generally resided in France, but often visited Scotland under the assumed names of John Dubh, John MacThomas, and, I believe, also John Corsan. His daughter, Katharine, married, and had a daughter Elizabeth, my grandmother, born in 1738. The Duke of Argyll was her godfather, and after she was grown up she was invited once, if not twice, to Inveraray Castle, and after she was married in 1762, the Duke offered her some appointment about the palace, which she declined. The Duke was Hereditary Grand Master of the Household. Some years after my grand parents removed to Holland.
Now, the only tie whatever between them was that my grandmother was daughter of bis brother-in-law, Lovat's niece, and is it at all probable if Lovat had treated Argyll's sister so cruelly, that the Duke woidd have continued his kindness to Lovat's connections?
Many persons form their opinions of Lovat in a measure from Hogarth's portrait, but it must not be forgotten that Hogartli was a caricaturist, and he appears to have made a picture that would sell, and Lovat has therefore been likened to a " cunning old fox."
A truer portrait is that by Le Clero or Clare (10 x 12), painted about 1716, and engraved by Simon, of which I have a copy. Under it is engraved "The Right Honourable Simon, Lord Frasier (sic) of Lovat, Chief of the Clan of the Frasers, &c," I believe it is very rare. He is represented as clothed in armour. It is engraved in Thompson's Jacobites, London, 1845, and Mrs Thompson told me that it was copied from the original mezzotinto given to her by Kirkpatrick Sharp.
Tobonto. B, HOMEBJJIXQN.