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under the necessity of residing upon them; and Funerals were formerly solemnized by calling
Highland bards, and Highland genius, many Their arms were anciently the Claymore, or will startle when they are told, that the Erse great two-handed sword, and afterwards the never was a written language ; that there is not two-edged sword and target, or buckler, which in the world an Erse manuscript a hundred years was sustained on the left arm. In the midst of old; and that the sounds of the Highlanders the target, which was made of wood, covered were never expressed by letters, till some little with leather, and studded with nails, a slender books of piety were translated, and a metrical lance, ab two feet long, was sometimes fixed; version of the Psalms was made by the synod of it was heavy and cumbrous, and accordingly Argyle. Whoever therefore now writes in this has for some time past been gradually laid aside. language, spells according to his own perception Very few targets were at Culloden. The dirk, of the sound, and his own idea of the power of or broad dagger, I am afraid, was of more use the letters. The Welsh and the Irish are culin private quarrels than in battles. The Loch- tivated tongues.
The Welsh two hundred aber axe is only a slight alteration of the old years ago, insulted their English neighbours for English bill.
a place, nie
the instability of their orthography; while the After all that has been said of the force and Erse merely floated in the breath of the people, terror of the Highland sword, I could not find and could therefore receive little improvement. that the art of defence was any part of common When a language begins to teem with books, education. The gentlemen were perhaps some- it is tending to refinement ; as those who undertimes skilful gladiators, but the common men take to teach others must have undergone some bad no other powers than those of violence and labour in improving themselves, they set a procourage. Yet it is well known, that the onset portionate value on their own thoughts, and of the Highlanders was very formidable. As wish to enforce them by efficacious expressions ; an army cannot consist of philosophers, a papic speech becomes embodied and permanent ; difis easily excited by any unwonted mode of an- ferent modes and phrases are compared, and the noyance. New dangers are naturally magnified ; best obtains an establishment. By degrees, one and men accustomed only to exchange bullets at age improves upon another. Exactness is first a distance, and rather to hear their enemies obtained, and afterwards elegance. But dicthan see them, are discouraged and amazed tion, merely vocal, is always in its childhood. when they find themselves encountered hand to As no man leaves his eloquence behind him, the haud, and catch the gleam of steel flashing in new generations have all to learn. their faces.
possibly be books without a polished language, The Highland weapons gave opportunity for but there can be no polished language without many exertions of personal courage, and some- books. times for single combats in the field ; like those That the bards could not read more than the which occur so frequently in fabulous wars. rest of their countrymen, it is reasonable to supAt Falkirk a gentleman now living was, I sup- pose ; because, if they had read, they could propose after the retreat of the king's troops, en- bably have written ; and how high their compogaged at a distance from the rest with an Irish sitions may reasonably be rated, an inquirer dragoon. They were both skilful swordsmen, may best judge by considering what stores of and the contest was not easily decided : the dra- imagery, what principles of ratiocination, what goon at last had the advantage, and the High- comprehension of knowledge, and what delicacy lander called for quarter; but quarter was of elocution, he has known any man attain refused him, and the fight continued till he was who cannot read. The state of the bards was reduced to defend himself upon his knee. At yet more hopeless. He that cannot read, may that instant one of the Macleods came to his now converse with those that can ; but the bard rescue; who, as it is said, offered quarter to the was a barbarian among barbarians, who, knowdragoon, but he thought himself obliged to ing nothing himself, lived with others that reject what he had before refused, and as battle knew no more. gives little time to deliberate, was immediately There has lately been in the islands one of killed.
these illiterate poets, who hearing the Bible
po to bude
one of the certainment
To thera lowestia a
were their support
a beer were de
works ot lears
the d liberis followed 's ass
read at church, is said to have turned the sacred We heard of manuscripts that were, ar that history into verse. I heard part of a dialogue had been, in the hands of somebody's father, or composed by him, translated by a young lady at grandfather; but at last we had no reason to Mull, and thought it had more meaning than I believe they were other than Irish. Martia expected from a inan totally uneducated; but he mentions Irish, but never any Erse manuscripts, had some opportunities of knowledge; he lived, to be found in the islands in his time. among a learned people. After all that has I suppose my opinion of the poems of Ossia been done for the instruction of the Highlanders, is already discovered. I believe they never ej. the antipathy between their language and li- isted in any other form than that which we have terature still continues ; and no man that has seen. The editor, or author, never could show learned only Erse, is at this time, able to read. the original; nor can it be shown by any other.
The Erse has many dialects, and the words To revenge reasonable incredulity, by refusing used in some islands are not always known in evidence, is a degree of insolence, with which others. In literate nations, though the pronun- the world is not yet acquainted ; and stubborn ciation, and sometimes the words of common audacity is the last refuge of guilt. It would be speech, may differ, as now in England, com- easy to show it if he had it; but whence could pared with the south of Scotland, yet there is a it be had? It is too long to be remembered, and written diction, which pervades all dialects, and the language formerly had nothing written. is understood in every province. But where He has doubtless inserted names that circulate the whole language is colloquial, he that has in popular stories, and may have translated some only one part, never gets the rest, as he cannot wandering ballads, if any can be found; and get it but by change of residence.
the names, and some of the images, being recolIn an unwritten speech, nothing that is not lected, make an inaccurate auditor imagine, by very short is transmitted from one generation to the help of Caledonian bigotry, that he has foranother. Few have opportunities of hearing a merly heard the whole. long composition often enough to learn it, or I asked a very learned minister in Sky, whe have inclination to repeat it so often as is neces- had used all arts to make me believe the genusary to retain it; and what is once forgotten, is ineness of the book, whether at last he believed lost for ever. I believe there cannot be reco- it himself? but he would not answer. vered in the whole Erse language five hundred wished me to be deceived, for the honour of his lines of which there is any evidence to prove country; but would not directly and formally them a hundred years old. Yet I hear that the deceive me. Yet bas this man's testimony been father of Ossian boasts of two chests more of publicly produced, as of one that beld Fingal to ancient poetry, which he suppresses, because be the work of Ossian. they are too good for the English.
It is said, that some men of integrity profess He that goes into the Highlands with a mind to have heard parts of it, but they all heard naturally acquiescent, and a credulity eager for them when they were boys; and it was never wonders, may come back with an opinion very said that any of them could recite six lines. different from mine ; for the inhabitants, know. They remember names, and perhaps some proing the ignorance of all strangers in their lan- verbial sentiments; and having no distinct ideas, guage and antiquities, perhaps are not very coin a resemblance without an original. The scrupulous adherents to truth; yet I do not say persuasion of the Scots, however, is far from that they deliberately speak studied falsehood, universal ; and in a question so capable of proof, or have a settled purpose to deceive. They have why should doubt be suffered to continue? The inquired and considered little, and do not al- editor has been heard to say, that part of the ways feel their own ignorance. They are not poem was received by him, in the Saxon chamuch accustomed to be interrogated by others; racter. He has then found, by some peculiar and seem never to have thought upon interro- tortune, an unwritten language, written in a gating themselves ; so that if they do not know character which the natives probably never bewhat they tell to be true, they likewise do not held. distinctly perceive it to be false.
I have yet supposed no imposture but in the Mr. Boswell was very diligent in his inqui- publisher; yet I am far from certainty, that ries; and the result of his investigations was, some translations have not been lately made, that the answer to the second question was com- that may now be obtruded as parts of the origi monly such as nullified the answer to the first. nal work. Credulity on one part is a strong
We were a while told, that they had an old temptation to deceit on the other, especially to translation of the Scriptures; and told it till it deceit of which no personal injury is the conse would appear obstinacy to inquire again. Yet quence, and which flatters the author with bis oy continued accumulation of questions we own ingenuity. The Scots have something to found, that the translation meant, if any mean- plead for their easy reception of an improbable ing there were, was nothing else than the Irish fiction : they are seduced by their fondness for Bible.
their supposed ancestors. A Scotchman must
be a very sturdy moralist, who does not love | tivity supplied all defects, and procured us more Scotland better than truth; he will always love than sufficient accommodation. it better than inquiry; and if falsehood flatters Here I first mounted a little Highland steed; bis vanity, will not be very diligent to detect it. and if there had been many spectators, should Neither ought the English to be much influenc- bave been somewhat ashamed of my figure in ed by Scotch authority; for of the past and the march. The horses of the islands, as of present state of the whole Erse nation, the Low- other barren countries, are very low; they are landers are at least as ignorant as ourselves. To indeed musculous and strong, beyond what their
be ignorant is painful; but it is dangerous to size gives reason for expecting ; but a bulky man & quiet our uneasiness by the delusive opiate of upon one of their backs makes a very disproporhasty persuasion.
tionate appearance. But this is the age in which those who could From the habitation of captain Maclean we not read, have been supposed to write ; in which went to Grissipol, but called by the way on Mr. the giants of antiquated romance have been ex- Hector Maclean, the minister of Col, whom we hibited as realities. If we know little of the found in a hut, that is, a house of only one ancient Highlanders, let us not fill the vacuity floor, but with windows and chimney, and not with Ossian. If we have not searched the inelegantly furnished. Mr. Maclean has tho Magellanic regions, let us however forbear to reputation of great learning : he is seventy-sepeople them with Patagons.
ven years old, but not infirm, with a look of veHaving waited some days at Armidel, we nerable dignity excelling what I remember in were flattered at last with a wind that promised any other man. to convey us to Mull. We went on board a boat His conversation was not unsuitable to his that was taking in kelp, and left the isle of Sky appearance. I lost some of his good will, by behind us. We were doomed to experience, treating a heretical writer with more regard like others, the danger of trusting to the wind, than, in his opinion, a heretic could deserve. I which blew against us, in a sbort time, with honoured his orthodoxy, and did not much censuch violence, that we, being no seasoned sailors, sure his asperity. A man who has settled his were willing to call it a tempest. I was sea- opinions, does not love to have the tranquillity sick, and lay down. Mr. Boswell kept the of his conviction disturbed ; and at seventy-seven deck. The master knew not well whither to it is time to be in earnest. go; and our difficulties might perhaps have Mention was made of the Erse translation of filled a very pathetic page, had not Mr. Maclean the New Testament, which has been lately pubof Col, who, with every other qualification lished, and of which the learned Mr. Macqueen which insular life requires, is a very active and of Sky spoke with commendation; but Mr. skilful mariner, piloted us safe into his own Maclean said, he did not use it, because he harbour.
could make the text more intelligible to his auditors by an extemporary version. From this I inferred, that the language of the translation
was not the language of the isle of Col. In the morning we found ourselves under the He has no public edifice for the exercise of isle of Col, where we landed; and passed the his ministry; and can officiate to no greater first day and night with captain Maclean, a gen- number than a room can contain; and the room tleman who has lived some time in the East of a hut is not very large. This is all the opIndies, but having dethroned no Nabob, is not portunity of worship that is now granted to the too rich to settle in his own country.
inhabitants of the islands, some of whom must Next day the wind was fair, and we might travel thither perhaps ten miles. Two chapels have had an easy passage to Mull; but having, were erected by their ancestors, of which I saw contrarily to our own intention, landed upon a the skeletons, which now stand faithful witnew island, we would not leave it wholly unex- nesses of the triumph of Reformation. amined. We therefore suffered the vessel to The want of churches is not the only impedidepart without us, and trusted the skies for an- ment to piety; there is likewise a want of miotber wind.
nisters. parish often contains more islands Mr. Maclean of Col, having a very numerous than one; and each island can have the minister family, has, for some time past, resided at Aber- only in its own turn. At Raasay they had, I deen, that he may superintend their education, think, a right to service only every tbird Sunday. and leaves the young gentleman, our friend, to All the provision made by the present ecclesiastigovern his dominions, with the full power of a cal constitution, for the inhabitants of about a Highland chief. By the absence of the laird's hundred square miles, is a prayer and sermon in family, our entertainment was made more diffi- a little room, once in three weeks: and even this cult, because the house was in a great degree parsimonious distribution is at the mercy of the disfurnished; but young Col's kindness and ac- weather : and in those islands where the minis
GRISSIPOL IX COL.
ter does not reside, it is impossible to tell how expectedly upon Macneil. Chiefs were in those many weeks or months may pass without any days never wholly unprovided for an eneroy. A public exercise of religion.
fight ensued, in which one of their followers is said to have given an extraordinary proof of xtivity, by bounding backwards over the brook
of Grissipol. Macneil being killed, and many Arter a short conversation with Mr. Maclean, of his clan destroyed, Maclean took possession we went on to Grissipol, a house and farm te- of the island, which the Macneils attempted to nanted by Mr. Macsweyn, where I saw more of conquer by another invasion, but were defeated the ancient life of a Highlander than I had yet and repulsed. found. Mrs. Macsweyn could speak no English, Maclean, in his turn, invaded the estate of the and had never seen any other places than the Macneils, took the castle of Brecacig, and conislands of Sky, Mull, and Col: but she was quered the isle of Barra, which he held for hospitable and good-humoured, and spread her seven years, and then restored it to the heirs. table with sufficient liberality. We found ten here as in every other place, but our spoons
CASTLE OF COL. were of horn.
The house of Grissipol stands by a brook very From Grissipol, Mr. Maclean conducted us to clear and quick; which is, I suppose, one of the his father's seat; a neat new house erected near most copious streams in the island. This place the old castle, I think, by the last proprietor. was the scene of an actior., much celebrated in Here we were allowed to take our station, and the traditional history of Col, but which pro- lived very commodiously while we waited for bably no two relaters will tell alike.
moderate weather and a fair wind, which we Some time in the obscure ages, Macneil of did not so soon obtain, but we bad time to get Barra married the lady Maclean, who had the some information of the present state of Col, isle of Col for her jointure. Whether Macneil partly by inquiry, and partly by occasional ex. detained Col, when the widow was dead, or cursions. whether she lived so long as to make ber heirs Col is computed to be thirteen miles in length, impatient, is perhaps not now known. The and three in breadth. Both the ends are the younger son, called John Gerves, or John the property of the duke of Argyle, but the middle Giant, a man of great strength, who was then belongs to Maclean, who is called Col, as the in Ireland, either for safety or for education, only laird. dreamed of recovering his inheritance; and Col is not properly rocky; it is rather one getting some adventurers together, wbich in continued rock, of a surface much diversified those unsettled times was not hard to do, in- with protuberances, and covered with a thin vaded Col. lle was driven away, but was not layer of earth, which is often broken, and disdiscouraged, and collecting new followers, in covers the stone. Such a soil is not for planta three years came again with fifty men. In his that strike deep roots ; and perhaps in the whole way he stopped at Artorinish in Morvern, island nothing has ever yet grown to the beight where his uncle was prisoner to Macleod, and of a table. The uncultivated parts are clothed was then with bis enemies in a tent. Maclean with heath, among which industry has intertook with him only one servant, whom he spersed spots of grass and corn ; but no attempt ordered to stay at the outside : and where he has been made to raise a tree. Young Col
, should see the tent pressed outwards, to strike who has a very laudable desire of improving his with his dirk; it being the intention of Mac- patrimony, purposes some time to plant an lean, as any man provoked him, to lay hands orchard; which, if it be sheltered by a wall, upon him, and push him back. He entered the may perhaps succeed. He has introduced the tent alone, with his Lochaber axe in his hand, culture of turnips, of which he has a field, and struck such terror into the whole assembly, where the whole work was performed by bis that they dismissed his uncle.
own hand. His intention is to provide food for When he landed at Col, he saw the sentinel, his cattle in the winter. This innovation was who kept watch towards the sea, running off to considered by Mr. Macsweyn as the idle proGrissipol, to give Macneil, who was there with ject of a young head, heated with English a hundred and twenty men, an account of the fancies ; but he has now found that turnips invasion. He told Macgill, one of his followers, will really grow, and that hungry sheep and that if he intercepted that dangerous intelli- cows will really eat them. gence, by catching the courier, he would give By such acquisitions as these, the Hebrides him certain lands in Mull. Upon this promise may in time rise above their annual distress. Macgill pursued the messenger, and either Wherever heath will grow, there is reason to killed or stopped him; and his posterity, till think something better may draw nourishment; very lately, held the lands in Mull.
And by trying the production of other places, The alarm being thus prevented, he came un- plants will be found suitable to every soil.
Col has many lochs, some of which have , to the eight hundred be added what the laws of trouts and eels, and others have never yet been computation require, they will be increased to stocked; another proof of the negligence of the at least a thousand ; and if the dimensions of the islanders, who might take fish in the inland country have been accurately related, every milo waters when they cannot go to sea.
maintains more than twenty-five. Their quadrupeds are horses, cows, sheep, and This proportion of habitation is greater than goats. They have neither deer, hares, nor rab. the appearance of the country seems to admit ; bits. They have no vermin except rats, which for wherever the eye wanders, it sees much have been lately brought thither by sea, as to waste and little cultivation. I am more inclined other places ; and are free from serpents, frogs, to extend the land, of which no measure has ever and toads.
been taken, than to diminish the people, who The harvest in Col, and in Lewis, is ripe sooner have been really numbered. Let it be supposed, than in Sky, and the winter in Col is never cold, that a computed mile contains a mile and a half, but very tempestuous. I know not that I ever as was commonly found true in the mensuration heard the wind so loud in any other place ; and of the English roads, and we shall then allot Mr. Boswell observed, that its noise was all its nearly twelve to a mile, which agrees much betown, for there were no trees to increase it.
ter with ocular observation. Noise is not the worst effect of the tempests ; Here, as in Sky, and other islands, are the for they have thrown the sand from the shore laird, the tacksmen, and the under-tenants. over a considerable part of the land, and it is Mr. Maclean, the laird, has very extensive said still to encroach and destroy more and more possessions, being proprietor, not only of far the pasture ; but I am not of opinion, that by any greater part of Col, but of the extensive island surveys or landmarks, its limits have been ever of Rum, and a very considerable territory in fixed, or its progression ascertained. If one man Mull. has confidence enough to say, that it advances, Rum is one of the larger islands almost nobody can bring any proof to support him in square, and therefore of great capacity in prodenying it. The reason why it is not spread to portion to its sides. By the usual method of a greater extent, seems to be, that the wind and estimating computed extent, it may contain rain come almost together, and that it is made more than a hundred and twenty square miles. close and heavy by the wet before the storms It originally belonged to Clanronald, and was can put it in motion. So thick is the bed, and purchased by Col; who, in some dispute about so small the particles, that if a traveller should the bargain, made Clanronald prisoner, and kept be caught by a sudden gust in dry weather, he him nine months in confinement. Its owner would find it very difficult to escape with life. represents it as mountainous, rugged, and bar
For natural curiosities I was shown only two ren. In the hills there are red deer. The horses great masses of stone, which lie loose upon the are very small, but of a breed eminent for ground ; one on the top of a hill, and the other beauty, Col, not long ago, bought one of them at a small distance from the bottom. They cer- from a tenant; who told him that as he was of tainly were never put into their present place a shape uncommonly elegant, he could not sell by human strength or skill ; and though an him but at a high price; and that whoever had earthquake might bave broken off the lower him should pay a guinea and a half. stone, and rolled it into the valley, no account There are said to be in Barra a race of horses can be given of the other, which lies on the hill, yet smaller, of which the highest is not above unless, which I forgot to examine, there be still thirty-six inches. near it some higher rock, from which it might The rent of Rum is not great. Mr. Maclean be torn. All nations have a tradition, that their declared that he should be very rich, if he could earliest ancestors were giants, and these stones set his land at two-pence halfpenny an acre. are said to have been thrown up and down by a The inhabitants are fifty-eight families, who giant and his mistress. There are so many more continued papists for some time after the laird important things of which human knowledge became a protestant. Their adherence to their can give no account, that it may be forgiven us, old religion was strengthened by the countenance if we speculate no longer on two stones in Col. of the laird's sister, a zealous Romanist, till one
This island is very populous. About nine- Sunday as they were going to mass under the and-twenty years ago, the fencible men of Col conduct of their patroness, Maclean met them were reckoned one hundred and forty; which is on the way, gave one of them a blow on the head the sixth of eight hundred and forty ; and pro. with a yellow stick, I suppose a cane, for which bably some contrived to be left out of the list. the Erse had no name, and drove them to the
The minister told us, that a few years ago the kirk, from which they have never since departinbabitants were eight hundred, between the ed. Since the use of this method of conversion, ages of seven and of seventy. Round numbers the inhabitants of Egg and Canna, who contiare seldom exact. But in this case the autho-nue papists, call the protestantism of Rum, the rity is good, and the error likely to be little. If religion of the Yellow Suck.