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TRADITIONS OF STRATIGLASS.
By COLIN CHISHOLM.
XI. Long ago a man, much respected by his neighbours, was residing in the Davoch of Clachan, Strathglass. His name was Cameron, but he was more frequently known by the patronymic of Mac-'ill-donaich. He was noted for his acts of kindness and his willingness to assist his neighbours. In return for his good-natured deeds, it was supposed that everything he undertook prospered so much that on three different occasions he had a miraculous multiplication of such things as he required. This auspicious kind of increase is called in Gaelic “ An torc sona." According to the legend it appears that Mac-'ill-donaich was a joint farmer with another man in a part of the Davoch of Clachan, the arable portion of which was at that time called “an t-Ochdamh," i.e., the eighth-part of a Davoch of land. In the spring of the year Mac-'ill-donaich ploughed and prepared the ground for the seed. He took a firlot of oats to the field, and began to sow, but, strange to say, the more he took out of the bag of oats the larger it looked. Mac-'ill-donaich continued sowing away with all his might. He finished his own, and continued with equal vigour to sow his neighbour's land out of the same firlot of oats.* Some idle man, who was curiously looking on, and could perceive no diminution in the size of the bag of seed, remarked rather unceremoniously, “ Am bheil thu 'n duil gu'n cuir thu an t-Ochdamh leis a cheathramh ?" Do you think you will 80w the eighth with the quarter? Immediately the remark was uttered, the bag became empty. Mac-'ill-donaich, attributing the sudden stoppage of the supply of seed to the inquisitive question of the idler, aildressed him thus :“A dhuine leibidich, na’m bi'dh tu air do theangaidh pheasanach a chumail samhach, chuirrinn talamh mo nabaidh, an deigh mo chuid fein a chur mar tha, leis an aon cheathramh,"— You thoughtless man, had you held your flippant tongue quiet, I would have sown my neighbour's land after my own with the same firlot. Tradition silys that the oats are said to have grown so well as to render the whole circumstances the wonder and source of talk in the district, until, at last, the farm on which the miracle took place acquired the Gaelic name of “ Ceathramh," or, as it is written in English, Kerrow. Clann Mhic-'illTunaich were both strong and numerous on the Strathglass estates about Three hundred years ago. I heard it said that they were instrumental in settling two very knotty points in favour of the Chisholm. I believe there are a few of this family of Camerons still in the parish of Kilmorack. 'i here was another old family of the Clan Cameron in Strathglass, descendants of Mac-Mhic-Mharstinn na Leitreach, of whom some members were noted soldiers. I heard old people saying that Lochiel was on a curtain occasion in trouble with Mackintosh of Mackintosh. News came to the Strath that a battle between the two chiefs was imminent. One of the Mac Martin Camerons, Eoghan beag, was at the time a servant to the Chisholm. Ewen asked leave to go and assist his chief, Lochiel. Permission
* Firlot is an old Scotch measure equal to one-fourth part of a boll.
was readily granted, and little Ewen gladly started for Lochaber. He was in time to join the Camerons on the morning of the day of battle. The contending parties were marching on, in haste, to cross a certain ford. The Camerons on one side of the river suddenly descried the Mackintoshes about equi-distant on the other side. Placed in this position, the plans of both armies were instantly upset. If either determined on crossing, the chances were that the other would annihilate them in the water. The contending clansmen eagerly watched each other for some time ; rested on their arms; then sat on the heather, and began to devise new plans of attack. Little Ewen, however, thought their council of war tedious, for he meant business. He left Strathglass with the purpose of doing some service for his chief, and was determined to prove that he was both able and willing to do it. So he got up and coolly walked out of the Cameron ranks, wending his way towards the river. He then stood on a small plateau and shouted out at the top of his voice, “ An dean fear agaibh malairt saighde rium ?” (i.e., “ Will one of you exchange arrows with me?"). In answer to this challenge an archer came down from the enemy's camp, stood on a steep bank of the river, and shot an arrow which fell quite harmless close to Ewen. He took it up and shouted to his opponent—“Co dhiu 'sfhearr leat do phlaigh fhein na plaigh fear eile ? " (i,e., “Will you have your own or another man's plague sent back to you ?”). The reply was, “ Send back my own, if you can, little man.” Ewen shot the archer's own arrow across, hitting and killing him. The body of the archer having rolled down the bank into the water, another came to avenge the death of the first one, and little Ewen killed him also. After a long pause the Camerons observed the Mackintoshes preparing to move. Lochiel ordered a counter-movement in his ranks. Instead, however, of attacking the Camerons, the enemy left the field. Then Lochiel asked the little man for his name, where he came from, and several other particulars, and having received answers, he said, “My brave fellow, if you stay with me you shall have one of the best farms in Lochaber.” But Ewen was plain spoken, and said that he could not wish for a better master than the Chisholm, and consequently he intended to remain with him. “In that case you must call on me before you leave Lochaber," said Lochiel. Needless to say that Ewen called on his Chief, remained with him for some days, and, when parting, Lochiel gave him a letter to the Chisholm, on receipt of which, or very soon afterwards, Ewen was placed by the Chisholm in the fertile farm of Baile na bruaich. In this farm one generation after another of his descendants lived as farmers until about the beginning of the present century, when the general curse or infatuation for sheep seized the landed proprietors of the Highlands. The only one I now know of these Mac Martins or Camerons, originally of Letterfinlay, is Hugh Cameron, who is in the 82d year of his age, and living alone at 36 King Street, Inverness. He had one son a soldier, who was in the Indian Mutiny, and if now alive I know not where.
Like other parts of the world, Strathglass has its fairy tales, goblin and ghost stories. Here is one of them. A man named Allan Bàn Macdonell from Glengarry was on a visit with some friends at Clachan, Strathglass, in the beginning of December. When about to return home he proposed to cross the hills in a straight direction from Clachan to the house of a relative in Glenmoriston, with whom he intended to pass the night. The hills he had to cross are dreary, lonely, and long, without road or path to guide his steps. The distance as the crow flies is some ten miles. A portion of the hills is called Crabhach, and this part is supposed to have been from time immemorial haunted by some evil spirit. His friends at Clachan endeavoured to dissuade Allan Bàn from his purpose of crossing the hill. They used all available arguments to induce him to return home by the ordinary road through Urquhart. Last of all they reminded him that it might be dangerous for a lone man to pass through Crabhach about dusk, or at night, in case the old hag of the place, or as she was called in Gaelic, Cailleach-a-Chrabhaich, might attack him. “If she attacks me,” said Allan, “she will never attack another after me." He was a powerful man, and was accompanied by his favourite stag-hound, whose name was Gille Dubh, or Black Gille. Allan Bàn, in bidding his friends at Clachan good-bye, told them to make themselves easy in regard to his safety, and added, “With my faithful Gille Dubh at my side, I would not hesitate to face any number of ghosts and goblins. Why, therefore, should I be afraid of danger where no danger exists ?" So saying, he took himself off to the hill. According to his own tale all went well with him until he reached about half-way between Clachan and Glenmoriston. But, when passing by the side of the lake at Crabhach, he was intercepted by an ugly looking spectre, who announced itself as Cailleach a-Chrabhaich, and ready to try conclusions with him. Allan, determined to despatch the old hag at once, entered on a fierce combat with her. He found it more difficult than he anticipated, and called his Gille Dubh to his assistance. The desperate combat was now at its height; Allan dealing heavy and mighty blows at the spectre with his ponderous sword, while bis stag-hound was lacerating, galling, and ripping it on all sides. The ghost could not long stand such merciless treatment. But Allan vowed by all that was sacred, on earth and elsewhere, that he would not desist until the goblin's head should be in the nook of his plaid as a trophy for his friends at home. The moment the sacred name of the Almighty was mentioned, the spectre disappeared. Allan felt much exhausted, but proceeded on his journey.
Sitting down to rest he discovered that he had left his bonnet at the scene of conflict. To go home without his bonnet might be attributed to cowardice, so he returned and found his enemy, the old hag, had taken possession of his head-piece; and had her feet in it, busily engaged milling it at the loch side. Allan made a peremptory demand for his bonnet ; but he was met with an offensive refusal, and the battle had to be fought over again. The second encounter was even more severe than the first. In the struggle, however, the brave Allan got hold of his bonnet and kept it. The Cailleach, finding she could not vanquish the hero, addressed him thus :—“You have slipped through my hands to-night; you had a narrow escape ; if I had succeeded in making a hole in your bonnet you would have been dead this very night. But I shall meet you again soon, and by the time the cock crows on Christmas night you shall be a dead man." Allan reached home battered and bruised, and he took to his bed. His friends visited him daily ; whatever they dreaded or believed they pretended that he was in no danger from what occurred in Crabhach. However, on Christmas night his nearest relatives and friends in the neighbourhood gathered at his house, determined to share the dangers of the night with him. About midnight, congratulating themselves that no danger appeared, wine and spirits were placed on the table, glasses were filled; but the momentous signal was given, the cock flapped his wings, and with his shrill, clear voice announced that the line was drawn between day and night. In ecstasies of joy Allan shouted—“Tha Chailleach breugach," “ The spectre is a liar: let me drink long life and happiness to all of you.” Saying this, he took up a glass, but before he tasted of its contents it fell from his hand; the hand fell on the table ; and the brave Allan there and then fell down a corpse before his friends, His tragic death has been commemorated in song by the poets of the time, one, who attributes the death of more of his clan to Cailleach a chrabhaich, begins thus :
Cha teid mise do'n rathad,
'S gu'n caireadh Dia spiorad n'as fhearr ann. In concluding this series of short papers on the traditions of my native Strath, I may be permitted to express my regret that there is no vein of the theologian about me, otherwise I might have felt inclined to say something on the peculiar state of religion in my native district during the last five hundred years. I may, however, say that under existing circumstances, it does seem to me very remarkable that the people of Strathglass were able to adhere to the Catholic faith during all this time, while the people of the neighbouring straths and glens, and the whole inhabitants of the four counties northwards, embraced either the Episcopalian or Presbyterian form of religion.
HOW GLENMORISTON OBTAINED GLEN DUCATAY.
In the old days of ignorance and superstition, Highlanders used to attach great importance to charms and spells. These charms were composed of materials of infinite variety, worn and believed in as a sure protection against an endless catalogue of real or imaginary evils. Very frequently they were worn in the form of some article of jewellery; among others, the pin or fibula used for fastening the plaid, was often the object of the greatest importance to the wearer. Some of these ancient fibulwe are still preserved as family heirlooms, or in museums. They were generally of large size, and adorned with carvings of grotesque figures and quaint legends, and if they should happen to be engraved with the names of the three fabulous kings, who were supposed to have done homage to the infant Saviour-viz., Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar—then, indeed, they became invaluable, protecting the fortunate possessors from every danger, even from sickness. Such a charm was worn by the Laird of Glenmoriston at the time the following incident occurred.
It happened one day that the young Chief of Lovat was out hunting, accompanied by Glenmoriston, and while passing through the narrow glen of Ducatay, near the wood of Portclare, on the Lovat estate, a fine deerhound held in leash by Lovat, in straining after the quarry broke away, His master called him back, and mended the leash with the brooch he wore in his plaid. In a little while, however, the eager animal had again broken the frail fastening. Fearful of having his sport interrupted, Lovat turned to his friend and beyged the loan of the large fibula he wore to secure the dog's leash. Glenmoriston was in a dilemma; he was anxious to oblige his friend, but most unwilling to risk losing his valued charm, so he began to excuse his seeming impoliteness by expatiating on the extraordinary value of the ornament, which had descended to him through a long line of ancestors, and saying how grieved he should be to lose it. Lovat assured him that no harm should come to it; he merely wanted the loan of it for a short time; that he would fasten it so securely that it could not possibly get lost. Still Glenmoriston hesitated, while Lovat continued to urge him, and at length said, half in fun, that if the fibula should by any chance be lost he would give the whole of the glen they were then in to Glenmoriston for over, without homage or acknowledgment. Glenmoriston then gave way, handed Lovat the pin, and they continued the chase.
On their return home, Lovat found to his confusion that he had, in spite of his vehement protestations of safety, indeed lost the precious article, whereupon Glenmoriston at once claimed the penalty, which Lovat was in honour bound to repay. Thus it happens that the glen of Ducatay, in the midst of Lovat's lands, belongs to Glenmoriston.
M. A. ROSE.
THE HON. ALEXANDER MACKENZIE, EX-PREMIER OF CANADA, AT INVERNESS.-We mentioned in our last that Mr and Mrs Mackenzie passed through Inverness on their way North. On Wednesday, 27th of July, they returned, and visited places of interest in the town and suburbs, and on the following afternoon they were driven by Mr A. Mackenzie, editor of the Celtic Magazine (accompanied by Bailie Macdonald and Mr James Barron, editor of the Inverness Courier), to the Battlefield of Culloden, and the Druidical remains at Clava. The trenches in which the Highlanders are buried on Culloden Moor, and all the surroundings, were examined with melancholy interest. On their return the party called at Culloden House, where they examined with mixed feelings the relics of 1745, including the bed upon which Prince Charles slept the night before the battle, and upon which are still found the bed-cover and hangings which decorated it on that historical occasion. In the afternoon Mr and Mrs Mackenzie made a private call upon Mr A. Mackenzie of the Celtic Magazine, whom they kindly entertained last year in Canada, and there met our well-known Gaelic bard, Mrs Mary Mackellar, who on Saturday enjoyed their company on the Caledonian Canal as far as Fort-William. At two o'clock on Friday a special meeting of the Town Council was called by the Provost, at which, on his motion, seconded by Bailie Macdonald, and supported by the Dean of Guild, it was unanimously resolved to offer Mr Mackenzie the freedom of the Burgh-the highest honour at their disposal --in appreciation of his distinguished and honourable career in Canada, and as a Highlander in whom all his countrymen take a very warm and special interest. Having agreed to accept this honour, it was conferred in the Castle Convening Room, at 6.30 P.M., when the ex-Premier made a speech, universally admitted to have been the best delivered in Inverness within living memory, perhaps, excepting that delivered by our own present Premier, the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, on the occasion of the same honour having been conferred upon him. In the evening a handsome album of Highland scenery in the neighbourhood of Inverness, and on the route of the Caledonian Canal, was presented to Mrs Mackenzie, by a deputation from the Town Council, consisting of the Provost, and Dean of Guild Mackenzie, as a souvenir of her visit to the Highland Capital. Inverness has done itself great honour, and we feel sure our brother Highlanders, and Scotchmen generally, in Canada, will appreciate the compliment we have paid to their distinguished countryman. We may state that, though a native of Perthshire, Mr Mackenzie's grandfather went there in the capacity of Schoolmaster from the County of Ross,