Literary Tours in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland
The following is from Literary Tours in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland by D. T. Holmes, B.A.:
At pretty frequent intervals, during the last four years, I have sallied forth from my home in Renfrewshire, north, south, east, and west, to some of the most remote and isolated nooks of insular and provincial Scotland, on a mission so uncommon as to justify the writing of a book of impressions and experiences. The Highlands and Islands of Scotland are, of course, visited every summer by a great host of excursionists, who go thither to fish, play golf, lounge, climb hills, and otherwise picturesquely disport themselves. A few earnest devotees of science spend their holidays botanising in the glens, scanning the geological strata, looking for fossils, measuring the outlines of brochs and prehistoric forts, or collecting relics of Culdee churches. My journeys were undertaken for none of the objects named: they were entirely connected with libraries and lecturing, and, being undertaken mainly in the months of winter and spring, they have given me the opportunity of noting a great many interesting particulars that the summer traveller, bent on recreation or science, cannot be expected to notice.
I do not think any finer gift could be given to a village community than a collection of useful and entertaining books. The libraries with which my work was connected were sent, free of charge, to strath and glen, and nothing was asked in return, except that the volumes should be well housed and delivered to the people to read by some local librarian. You will find these libraries in all the townships of the Hebrides, from Ness in Lewis, down the long chain of islands, to Islay and Jura. About thirty of them are established in the Shetlands, and as many in the Orkneys. Scores of little villages in Aberdeen, Ross, Sutherland, Argyle, Bute, and Perth, have been gratuitously supplied with them. The same is true of many a weather-beaten, quaint, red-tiled little fishing-village along the shores of the Moray Firth. In the barracks of Fort-George, Inverness, and Dingwall, the soldiers can solace their leisure hours by delightful, patriotic, and instructive reading, furnished to them without money and without price. Even in quiet, pastoral Roxburghshire, at a spot near the birthplace of Dandie Dinmont, you will find one of these serviceable collections of books.
It is a pleasure to me to be able to say that I have visited a great number of the districts mentioned, for the purpose of speaking to the people in a familiar and non-academic way on some of the books which have been presented to them. In this way I have spoken to about 40,000 people, the majority of whom had never previously been present at a discourse on a literary topic. Most of them had, of course, been in the habit of attending religious services and election meetings: but neither of these is the very best preparation for a literary evening. Some of my experiences have been intensely amusing, and I do not think any lecturer has ever, as regards rough roads, inclement weather, and amazing votes of thanks, had quite the same joys and sorrows as I have come through. I have often laughed (good-naturedly, I hope) at what came under my notice, but I am not so conceited as to suppose that the hilarity was always on one side.
Difficulties of Travel
It can very easily be seen that he who proposed to visit all the above districts would have some hard and continuous work in prospect. Even on the mainland of Scotland there are many villages of difficult access. The nearest railway station to Durness on Loch Eriboll is Lairg, sixty miles away. Gairloch in Ross-shire is thirty miles distant from the railway station of Achnasheen. In the great county of Aberdeen there are a good many villages that can only be reached by long and tiresome driving in a mail coach. At different parts of the Moray Firth little townships lie huddled at the foot of precipitous cliffs, and, at first sight, seem inaccessible except by sea. To one accustomed to the sumptuous equipment of the Clyde steamers, even the journey to the shrine of Hugh Miller at Cromarty is pleasant only in good weather: a wee, puffing, hard-wrought steam-launch takes a slant course of five miles from Invergordon to Cromarty pier, accomplishing the journey in forty-five minutes. The fare between the two piers is one shilling, and there is no extra charge for the use of the cabin, which is reached by a perpendicular and very slippery ladder, and would be better suited for philosophical reflection in a gale if the crew did not use it as a store-room for engine-grease and old oilskins. In the Outer Islands, Watt's machine is, of course, unknown, and many of the roads which imaginative cartographers have inserted in their maps, will perhaps be finished when the last trump is about to sound.
Railway travelling, too, is attended with some inconveniences in winter. The Glasgow-Inverness train, for example, may, on the coldest night of the year, break down at Dalnaspidal; and in such a case the passengers will have to sit, entertained by howling blasts, till a fresh engine comes up from Blair Atholl. Such an experience was once mine, and I always think of it when I read the ninth ode of Horace's first book. Outside were the great snow-sheeted mountains, and the moon was gazing in blear-eyed compassion through a screen of haze. From end to end of the train resounded the rhythmic beat of cold-footed passengers striving to bring some warmth of blood to the toes.
In Grantown-on-Spey, I got an uncommon surprise one February. There had been some snow in the Lowlands, but at Grantown the fall had been excessive, and the roads were encumbered. On arriving at the station, the travellers saw a sleigh waiting to convey them to the hotel. The conveyance suited the weather admirably, and the horses seemed to be enjoying the fun. No wheeled vehicles were to be seen: even the milkmen sleighed their commodity from door to door. "If we had a brace of grand-dukes and a bomb or two, we could fancy ourselves in Russia," said the facetious hotel-porter. He asserted that it was well for the country when abundant snow came down early in the year. It seems that Grantown is apt to suffer from drought in a hot summer following on a rainless spring. A copious fall of snow early in the year is retained in the mountains, and ensures plenty of moisture during the months of heat. Moisture is needed in summer, for the population is trebled then, and most tourists require a little water, sometimes, to qualify their potations.
It is evident from what I have said, that the pedantic and vexatious system adopted by Euclid in his Elements of Geometry could not be employed in arranging the chapters of this book. The stern consecutiveness of that immortal but unpopular author would be out of place in describing journeys which might have been taken in the reverse order without much difference in the results.
Literary Societies in the Highlands
Winter with its long nights gives leisure to the remote glensmen and crofters. The distractions of the town are not there to take their minds away from study and meditation. Books may not be abundant, but what literature is available is eagerly fastened on and thoroughly digested. In the Lowlands we skip over our books and know nothing thoroughly. The Highlander, with his limited means and choice, is forced to peruse and re-peruse, even though he has nothing more lively than Boston's Fourfold State, or Hervey's Meditations among the Tombs. But he knows well what he has so often read, and is quite competent to discuss and criticise his little row of volumes. A few of the Highland townships have literary societies in which every variety of subject is debated: the meetings are usually opened with prayer, but not always closed in that way. There is a tiny clachan, some twenty miles distant from Ullapool, on the side of a hill, in view of the grotesque peaks of Suilven, which has a most flourishing literary society--with president, vice-president, rules, minutes, and committees. Not once, but twice a week does this society meet, and when the full moon is propitious for a clear journey home through the morasses, the debates are often unduly prolonged and the chairman's summing-up luxuriantly prolix. How many politicians of note in London have been raked fore and aft in that little schoolroom! What measures and enactments, plausible to the unthinking metropolitans, have been cut and slashed there, while the conscious moon, gleaming in at the window, strove vainly to disperse the loquacious throng! Listen to the chairman's modest remarks: "I do not wish," he says, "to embarrass the Government, but...." Unthinking Asquith, here is a man who does not wish to embarrass you; he could do it, but he is merciful! You may breathe freely, you and your Cabinet, for spite of your slips and blunders, the Ross-shire crofters will not turn round and rend you. They do not wish to embarrass the Government; but have a care: their eyes are on you, and forbearance has its limits. Think not because they live remote from train and telegraph, that you are immune from their censure. Far from it! Round the hill-side at a stated hour every day, in shine or shower, gust or calm, comes the mail-coach of King Edward VII., bringing its pile of letters and newspapers. I see the little throng of village politicians, eager-eyed, peruse the latest parliamentary news. There they get all the needed pabulum for the next political debate. If the answers to Mr. Galloway Weir have been shifty and evasive, it will go hard with the Government to-night in the little schoolroom, and the plaster will fall in showers of dust from the ceiling as the iniquities of our rulers are ruthlessly shown up. I should not like to feel the rough side of that chairman's tongue.
A library of representative English works, presented to a remote provincial society like the one I speak of, is a centre of unspeakable entertainment and instruction. The entertainment, during the long nights of winter, when the natives gather round the ingle and someone reads aloud, is a very palpable addition to the joys of life. The instruction is perhaps slower in coming, but is none the less sure. Only by comparison of books can their relative value as literature be determined. Bigotry and narrow-mindedness in literature and religion are almost always the result of ignorance. In the Highlands it is oftenest the local teacher who is the librarian, and the books are accommodated in the school. The teacher is thus able to make his instruction in literature vivid and interesting to his senior pupils; he can authorise a pupil to take a particular volume home and require an essay to be written on it within a given time; and he can, in school, read aloud typical passages of good prose to supplement the limited extracts of the class text-books. The books have been selected (i.) to form useful reading for adults; (ii.) to supply suitable pabulum for literary societies; (iii.) to aid the schemes of the Education Department in connection with what is called the "Supplementary Course of Instruction in English Literature." The selection of the books for the use of senior scholars has been, as a rule, easy enough. Dictionaries of the French and German languages, good atlases, and works of reference have, in most cases been included. 
 Let the southern reader remember that a boy born in a city like Glasgow has, as respects opportunities of getting on, infinitely better chances than a lad of equal ability born in a Highland village. The crofter's son has no reading-room with costly works of reference, scientific manuals, English translations of Latin authors, etc., to go to when he is in need of help. He begins the battle of life at a very serious disadvantage, and often gives up the fight altogether. Anything that tends to equalise the chances of town and country, from the point of view of mental equipment, would do more general good to Scotland, by bettering the available brain power, than any half-dozen Acts of Parliament taken at random.
In selecting the books specially intended for the perusal of the older people, an attempt is made to meet the needs of the various localities. In the bi-lingual districts there is always a shelf of Gaelic books, such as the original texts of Norman Macleod's exquisite sermons, M'Rury's religious compilations, Macleod's clever poetry The Lyre of the Grove, Campbell's Popular Tales of the West Highlands, and Magnus Maclean's manuals of Celtic Literature. There being a distinct dearth of comely Celtic reading that the ordinary native can understand, arrangements have been made for the translation into Gaelic in several volumes by competent scholars, of extracts from Mr. Lang's True Story Book, and from other sources.
The regrettable thing about Gaelic is its hopelessly bewildering spelling. The sounds are pleasing and melodious in a high degree, but they hide themselves behind most peculiar disguisements of print. Most people will admit, I think, that a language which spells Avon, Amhuinn, and Rory, Ruaridh, would benefit greatly by a visit from Pitman. The utility of sane phonetics was brought home to me very forcibly by a story I heard from a gentleman in the west of Skye. This gentleman is an excellent English scholar, can speak Gaelic but is unable to read it. He got a letter once from St. Kilda composed by an islander who spelt Gaelic by ear and not according to the awe-inspiring orthography of the dictionary. The gentleman, who could not have made out the letter had it been spelt correctly, was able to read it as it stood, without the slightest hesitation. If a more rational spelling were generally adopted, an immense number of Lowlanders who are interested in philology, would study the grand old tongue, were it only to understand the numberless place names of Celtic origin that occur in British geography.
What I have said about Gaelic spelling explains the inability of a large percentage of the population to read a book printed in the native idiom. What is the use then, it may be asked, of translating the True Story Book? The answer is obvious to one who knows the Highlands. In the Outer Isles there are many old people who know no English and whose only literary solace comes from listening to others reading. At the evening ceilidh a competent reader of Gaelic can usually be found. Then, again, we are likely to see, in the near future, a notable revival of interest in the old language, consequent on the efforts of the Mod, and on the recognition of Gaelic by the Department as a fit subject of study in the Highland schools. Such a revival, to be lasting in its effects, must be enforced and sustained by a constant supply of pure and interesting Gaelic books, both native and translated. Religious books there are in abundance, thanks to the zeal of the Protestant clergy. Needless to say, the compilations of the Dean of Lismore are as unintelligible to the modern Gael as Cynewulf is to a London cab-driver. I should like to see a round dozen of good English novels put into Gaelic by translators who knew the idiom thoroughly.
The fervour displayed at Highland gatherings, admirable as it is from a sentimental point of view, is apt to grow cold at the prospect of laborious work to be done. It is not creditable that the great majority of Gaelic speakers are unable to read a page of Gaelic print. Nor is it creditable that those who can both read and speak, do so little for the interpretation of the literature. Blackie's books and translations are still among the best, and Blackie was a Lowlander, was born, indeed, in the Saltmarket of Glasgow. My frequent visits to the north and west have convinced me that another difficulty in the way of a possible resurgence of Gaelic is the lack of a recognised standard of colloquial speech. The language is split up into many dialects, each possessing its own special idioms and vocabulary. A Glasgow firm of printers not long ago conceived the idea of printing post-cards with Gaelic greetings: they found that every city Highlander they consulted had either in grammar or turn of phrase some special way of framing the sentences. "Grand Gaelic to-day!" is an exclamation sometimes heard at the door of a Highland church in town, and indicates that the minister who has officiated comes from the same strath as the person speaking.
A moderate amount of encouragement to Gaelic is all that can reasonably be expected from the Government, seeing that the prime duty of the schoolmaster everywhere is to impart a sound knowledge of English. 
 In an editorial of June 6, 1908, the Glasgow Herald excellently says:--"The first requisite for a Highlander is such a knowledge of English as will open up to him the lucrative employment from which ignorance of English must shut him out, and it is no kindness to him to interfere with his acquisition of this indispensable accomplishment.... So good a Gael as Professor Magnus Maclean has observed that 'even more remarkable than the dearth of philosophical and dramatic poems, and, we might add, of narrative and pastoral poetry proper, is the scarcity of Gaelic prose.' By all means, however, let a literary knowledge of the Gaelic language be encouraged among Gaelic-speaking children. It is a very different matter to enforce such steps as would lead to the teaching of Gaelic to children that live indeed in Gaelic-speaking districts but yet speak only English."
Happiness and Geniality of Natives
What has struck me most in my travels by land and sea, is the extraordinary amount of happiness, geniality, and good humour that still exists in the world. There is a substantial amount of felicity in the majority of men. Every one knows the sentence of Emerson: "Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of empires ridiculous." I like to give concrete examples of philosophic maxims, and I should particularise Emerson's dictum thus: "Bard Macdonald of Trotternish, Skye, whose only cow came near being impounded by the Congested Districts Board in order to pay for the price of seed-potatoes furnished to him by the said Board, having good health, makes the pomp of empires ridiculous three hundred and sixty-five days every year." Bard Macdonald is a very poor man, yet he has contrived to hitch his waggon on to a fixed star. He lives in one of those low thatch-roofed bothies that, with the accompanying croft, are rented at from £2 to £4 a year. He has a wife and a large family. Yet, tormented as he is by present poverty and past arrears, he eyes the future with serenity. I heard him sing a Gaelic poem of his own composition, containing twenty-five verses of intricate versification, and at the conclusion he was far less exhausted than any of the company. Then, again, Torquil M'Gillivray, schoolmaster of a rainy township on the sea-edge of one of the Skye nishes, has tranquillity of mind as great as any of the Seven Sages ever enjoyed. He is perfectly contented with his lot of rural dominie, and when I, in my presumption, ventured to speak critically of certain social conditions in his beloved island, he rebuked me by crooning tenderly the following lines:
We all know what a unique poetical gem Wordsworth composed after he heard a Highland girl singing at Inversnaid. I witnessed many fine examples of concentrated joy which might have resulted in metre if I had not had the presence of mind to pull myself up and refrain. One was at Acharacle, where in front of a croft a young fellow was dancing the Highland fling with such whole-souled and consuming zeal that I stood transfixed with wonder and awe. He was alone, and I came suddenly upon him at a sharp bend of the road. He threw his legs about him with such regardless glee, that for a moment I was afraid one of them would get unfixed and come spinning through the air to hit me. I watched him like one fascinated for fully ten minutes. When at length he saw me, the glory flowed suddenly off his legs; he subsided into a country bumpkin, and beat a hasty retreat indoors. "If Greek dances were as artistic as this one," said I, "and if the lines of each chorus had a reference to the diversity of the steps, it is little wonder that God in His providence should have sent us so many commentators to explain the mysteries of ancient scansion."
Another instance of natural and spontaneous bliss came under my notice about two miles along from Kinlochewe, on the banks of Loch Maree. It was a glorious, sun-illumined spring morning, and every crevice in the rough flanks of Ben Slioch was mirrored in the unwrinkled surface of the noble loch. Ben Eay had a bright covering of Nature's whitest, softest lawn. No sounds were heard except the low droning of a vagrant bee, the whizzing of a sea-mew's pinions, or a bark from this croft answered by a bark from that other a mile away. Suddenly the repose of the morning, in which a pedestrian could hear the echo of his own feet, was startled by the voice of a girl singing. For a moment I thought of the Lorelei; but it was soon evident where the notes were coming from. A maiden of ten or twelve was sitting in front of a cottage that faced the lake, combing her long, black hair that glistened in the morning rays, and pouring forth such exquisite trills as might have made Orpheus envious. The whole beauty of ben, loch, and sky seemed to be gathered up in that child's song. I had been wandering along in the sparkling air and feeling that something ought to be done to intimate to Heaven that it was a heavenly morning. The girl felt so happy in the gracious gift of another blue day that her nature responded at once in a spontaneous burst of melody. I was very grateful for her vicarious hymn of praise--
Oban to Gairloch
It is impossible for anyone who has a fair supply of the uncurdled milk of human kindness to sail from Oban to Gairloch and not be struck with the heartiness and good humour of the native population. Such a trip is rarely accomplished without some memorable incident or some outstanding impression. The landscape is doubtless magnificent, but the people one sees on the way are infinitely more interesting. No one, I am sure, can fail to observe the well-groomed, fresh, and imperial aspect of the pier policemen. The general polish of their boots and belts, the self-satisfied, Parnassian smile that never comes off, the spotless gloves, the muscular frame, combine to make up a splendid type of impressive Law grounded on Strength. I am ashamed to employ the term "policemen" to a body of officials who command such instantaneous respect. These men are King Edward's Highland satraps, and they both know it and feel it: law in the North is never undignified or unkempt. Then, again, the captain of the steamer is a man whom it is impossible to regard without veneration. All Macbrayne's men are fine fellows; they look well as they stand in stately fashion on the bridge: yet many a scowling sky of torrential rain they have to face, many a time have their beards been shaken by the hurricanes of the Minch. If you speak to a ship-captain, you are certain to get the utmost civility and politeness. It is true that most of them have several sets of vocabularies: to passengers they are urbane and choice of speech; but they have, within easy reach, another set of phrases, which they find of service in addressing delinquent mariners.
A student of Virgil in making the trip I have alluded to above, would run the risk of recalling the passage in which the poet suggests that the big island of Sicily was at one time connected with the mainland, but that some huge convulsion of nature disjoined the twain and allowed the Mediterranean to come roaring in a channel between. The scenery of Western Scotland stirs the imagination to suppose that some similar catastrophe permitted the sea to mangle the fair uniformity of a prehistoric coast, submerge the low-lying lands, and leave a great number of islands lying in lonely fashion out in the watery waste. Heavy weather, truly, it must have been ere Coll, Tiree, Rum, and Eigg were sundered from the mainland by the Atlantic flow.
All the islands I mention (save Tiree) can be seen from the deck of the Gael during the earlier part of the daily passage of that boat from Oban in the summer season. Tiree is off the main tourist track, but a few antiquarians are now finding it worth their while to go and dig there for relics of byegone civilisation. A friend of mine, a zealous and erudite F.S.A., has spent many a pleasant holiday in Tiree, and has come back with loaded trunks of valuable prehistoric remains. Certain artists go out to the island regularly in order to transfer to canvas some of Nature's most impressive aspects of cloud, wave, and crag. Nor let me forget the doughty members of the Faith Mission, who evangelise this and others of the outer isles, and sing such sweet melodies to the natives as would melt any "Wee Free" heart, let alone an ordinary heart of stone. Tiree has long been famous for its schools and for its intelligent inhabitants; as a consequence, the libraries have been enthusiastically welcomed in its townships, and are regarded by the teachers there as a new and valuable adjunct of education. I have often heard it said that Tiree produces more ministers than any other district, of like population, in the Celtic part of Scotland. The Duke of Argyll does not allow any licensed house on the island, but he has not as yet suppressed the Fingal and the parcels post. Should His Grace ever unbend so far as to permit the temperance hotels to obtain the licence, learned men might flock in greater numbers to Tiree, and dazzle themselves and the world with further antiquarian finds. 
Rum has not been dowered with a Paisley library, and I regret to say that the natives have the reputation of not keeping the Sunday with ostentatious strictness. Eigg, the little island contiguous, is a little heaven below. The missionary there well deserves a word of commendation: the island of Muck is under his spiritual supervision, and with a sandwich and a sermon in his pocket, he often sets sail, scorning gust and current, to preach to his parishioners in that tiny islet.
 Coll is also a very interesting island for the antiquarian. It contains distinct traces of twenty-nine Hill-forts or Duns, so that there must have been lively times out there long ago. Some fine shells, beads, pins and pottery have been found in the prehistoric kitchen-middens. Before the Reformation the island was thickly peopled, and sites of old churches and deserted crofts are numerous. Coll has gone back in population; in 1901 it had 432 inhabitants; in 1755 the number of natives was 1,193.
The summer tourist knows Skye very imperfectly, for he goes there in a commodious steamer and traverses the island at a season when the days are long and the weather benign. No one should vaunt of knowing Skye unless he has seen it in winter also. It is the small Lochiel that, in the dark days of December, bears the passengers along the chilly Sound of Sleat, and through the narrows of Raasay, into the haven of Portree. At such a time there is something fearsome and weird in the aspect of the coast, as seen from the cabin window of the brave little boat as she battles and plunges along in the teeth of the north-eastern gale. Her progress is slow, for when passengers are few Macbrayne wisely economises his coal. The long-stretching hills of Raasay (on the highest of which Boswell danced a jig) are white from head to foot, and gleam through the darkness of the afternoon, vivid and ghostly. As Raasay House, with its lamp-lit windows shining in a snowy recess, is approached, the engines slow down, and through the howl of the wind can be heard the plashing of oars. The broad waves swirl and seethe cruelly around the ferry-boat and toss it about at all angles, up and down, on crest and in trough, till you fear it will end its struggles keel upwards, and send the mail-bags down among the mackerel. But the boatmen know their trade, and so do the dripping, top-booted seamen of the Lochiel. Amid much running and shuffling and casting of ropes and animated bandying of (I fear) strong expressions in Gaelic sung out upon the night, the ship's ladder is cast down and the boat tied thereto. In a few minutes the transfer of mails is over, the ladder up, and the small boat leaping back to land. (I speak of December 22, 1904). A new passenger has come on board and is seen to descend the cabin stairs to unfreeze his fingers over the tiny stove. Half-an-hour's heaving still remains before Portree. A lady who has been on the border-line of squeamishness for the last hour, hurriedly leaves the cabin, probably to see if her luggage is all right. Good news at last for all! Portree is visible, and its lights are twinkling on the height. The moon comes graciously out, silvering the snowy shoulders of Essie Hill. What a contrast is this moonlit haven, with its background of terraced lights, to the rough surges outside. Glad indeed is everyone to set foot on the pier and trudge through disregarded slush to the warmth of home or hotel. We are told by our island friends that all Skye is under snow and that the roads are impassable. No mail-coach has ventured to Dunvegan for two days and in other directions, the postmen, turned cavaliers, have gone off on horseback with their letters. (Let me say in passing, that a red-bearded Highland postman, clad in post-office livery and seated on a sheltie, is a sight which any artist would go a hundred miles to see.)
Winter sailing may at times be as pleasant as a cruise in June. At 8 A.M. in the snug cabin, the breakfast-table, with its tea, ham, eggs, and sausages, is a welcome piece of scenery, and the genial talk of the captain and his colleagues is far better than pepsine as a digestive. After breakfast, a pipe on deck is a necessity. Who that has once seen Ben-na-ceallich all white to the feet and softly veiled with airy mists, but wishes he were a Turner to paint, or a Shelley to sing? The sail from Broadford to Kyle on a calm, cold, snow-dazzling morning is (if one is wrapped and coated well) absolutely majestic. The sun pours, if not warmth, at least light and heat on the hundred bens of the mainland and the breeze aiding, wakens a multitudinous smile on the glittering face of the cold waters.
I never take this trip without thinking of such books as The Brave Sons of Skye, which gives a record of the brave men born in the misty island who have come south and distinguished themselves in many a different walk in life. It is a most inspiring thing to reflect on the dauntless way in which genius treads the stony road that leads from poverty to glory. There is not a district in Skye but has its great man, who forms the subject of conversation round the peat fire when the winter winds are blowing down the strath. "From Log Cabin to White House" is the American way of putting it: in Scotland we might say "From Crofter's Cot to Professor's Chair."
A Crofting Village
The sight of a crofting village is at first rather surprising to one accustomed to large towns. The low roofs are not far from the ground. Often, while driving, if you turn a corner swiftly, you run the risk of being thrown out of the trap on to one of the chimneys. It does not take much imagination, especially in the dim dusk, to transform a low-thatched cot into some weird animal that might begin to walk along the hill-side at any moment. So irregularly grouped are the townships, dropped here and there, as it were, that you might fancy the houses had begun at one time to run a race with each other, and in the middle of it had suddenly stopped. Dr. Johnson complained that the windows were fixed into the walls and could not, in consequence, be opened to let in the air. That fault exists to some extent still: I have been told, however, that peat reek is very purifying, and that its thick fumes make short work of any noxious germs that might lodge about the nooks of the interior. Great changes are gradually coming over many of the clachans, changes not loved by an artist or a devotee of the picturesque. Instead of thatch, held down by ropes weighted with heavy stones, there is often to be seen a roofing of tarred cloth or corrugated iron. Romance might attach itself to a roof of thatch, but corrugated iron, with its distressing parallelism, could never awaken a genuine lyric note. Further, it does not make a very comfortable seat, whereas thatch is soft. Now, children in the Highlands are rather fond of sitting and even playing on the roof: thatch is less cruel on bare feet than iron is.
Horrors of the Minch
I have alluded to the distresses of winter voyaging to Skye. But there are other routes worse, notably that from Tarbert in Harris to Lochmaddy, which is a perfect Tartar of a trip. When the wind is high and contrary, the traveller (if he can stay on deck and maintain an interest in the scenery), beholds a sight of extreme grandeur. The waves are to be seen all along the Harris coast leaping up to a terrific extent with an unbroken line of foam extending for miles. So much does the boat romp and dance, however, that most passengers forsake the deck and retire inelegantly below. When a man lies in a stuffy cabin wishing himself wedged into it to prevent the perpetual rolling to this side and to that, and hearing the desperate thud of the Minch flinging itself against the port-hole, a series of vivid panoramic pictures pass before his mental eye. Home appears so lovely and reposeful: faces of friends on shore arise, transfigured by the glow of love: the squeamishness and retching he endures seem to the sufferer a special and direct judgment on him for impiously endeavouring to find pleasure otherwise than by thepractice of the domestic virtues. Disquieting memories of bursting boilers surge up to the surface of the mind, and old catches like the weird ballad of Sir Patrick Spens lilt themselves to the clank of the staggering ship's machinery--
The romance of the sea is apt to vanish as you look out upon a wilderness of foaming water, tossing the boat like an insignificant toy, drenching the bulwarks and vehemently smiting everything in its riotous anger. Neptune seems a mere blind force without reverence or mercy for the works of man. It is good for a boy of romantic disposition to cross to the Long Island in a gale: it will effectually cure him of all desire to take up the profession of pirate. What a sad moment for such a youth when he sees his breakfast where it shouldn't be, and reflects that he has not the staying power of Sir Ralph the Rover!
I regret to say that I have no specific to give as a preventive for sea-sickness. Even the Phoenicians who had time, during the intervals of their hardy voyaging, to invent the alphabet, were unable to devise a remedy for the mal de mer. Custom does not create immunity, for even the mighty Nelson, who had a life-long acquaintance with the ocean, was afflicted with sea-sickness to the end of his days. In France there exists a Ligue contre le mal de mer, commenting upon which a French journalist says: Avec une ligue on est toujours assuré d'une chose: àdéfaut de progrès, qu'elle nous fera peut-être attendre, elle fera des congrès: et c'est du moins une consolation que de pouvoir discourir de son mal.
He that will to Cupar maun through Fife, and he that has business in the Lews must brave the billows of the Minch.
Notes on Lewis
The great island of Lewis, formerly so distant from Edinburgh and Glasgow, can now be reached in fourteen hours by one who leaves the latter city at 5.40 A.M. The old route was very tiresome and circuitous: the traveller had to proceed to Inverness, take the Dingwall and Skye line to Strome Ferry, and then sail over the Minch to Stornoway. The opening up of the West Highlands by the railway to Mallaig has changed all that. At Mallaig pier, when you leave the train, you find the connecting steamer ready to set off, at noon, for its journey to Stornoway, where it arrives about eight in the evening.
I don't think anyone would want to stay more than a week at a time in Stornoway. The town itself is just like the fishy part of Boulogne-sur-Mer, only more so. There is a pervading odour of mussels, bait, and herring, and the gulls go flapping overhead in crowds everywhere. If the tourist remained a week in the place, he would go every day to the Castle grounds. Here, if anywhere, is the paradise of the Lews. There is a profusion of dells, burns, glades, ivy-grown bridges, and far-extending vistas over sea, moorland, and town. As with a knife (so precise is the division) the well-wooded policies are separated from the barren and disheartening moor. When one gets to the highest point of the grounds and gazes over the long, tiresome slopes of the island, one's belief in design in nature gets a sudden stab. A man will think long and sore before he arrives at any raison d'être for including such a wilderness of bogs in the scheme of creation.
The men of the island are, in the main, shrewd, resourceful, and intelligent--qualities fostered by their constant fighting with the sea. "The young fellows here," said one of the hotel-keepers to me, "will either make a spoon or spoil a horn. They come to a decision speedily and put it into practice at once. It is hit or miss with them, usually hit. At sea, in a gale, there is no time for parliamenting; and Lewismen act on land with the swift decision that is needed in a tempest." All round the coast are fishing-villages, thickly populated by these intrepid children of the tempest.
Fishing is a precarious industry, and often fails. The harvest of the land may fail at the same time as that of the sea: in such a case the plight of the islanders is sad indeed. During the last five years, the trade of weaving has been wisely fostered by the Government, so that in future, when sea and soil are churlish, the loom will to some extent supply the lack. The Duchess of Sutherland and the Congested Districts Board have done excellent service in encouraging the tweed-weaving industry all over the Long Island. Her Grace, some years ago, made a progress through Lewis and addressed the people by means of an interpreter, on the advantages of such industry in their homes. She also instituted exhibition sales of work in the big cities of the south, with the result that large quantities of cloth were sold and a precious publicity given to the scheme. Depots for receiving the cloth from the workers are now established in Stornoway and Harris. The Congested Districts Board advance money without interest for the purchase of looms, provide an experienced instructor to supply the people with new patterns, and give an adequate supply of dye-pots free of charge. This instructor goes over the whole of Lewis and Harris, spending month about in each, erecting new looms and modernising old ones. There is a large carding mill in Stornoway, where the natives can have the wool expeditiously carded in the most approved modern style. An industry thus fostered and supervised is bound to succeed.
Educationally, the Long Island is making great progress. Higher education is almost entirely centred in the Nicolson Institute, Stornoway, a school admirably conducted and finely equipped. The pupils of marked ability in the elementary schools of Lewis come here to continue their higher studies, and, in many cases, to prepare themselves for the University. I have seen specimens of a magazine, annually put forth by the senior pupils of this school, and containing many interesting essays and poems, grave and gay. The English of the essays was remarkably good, and contained here and there some piquant suggestions of Gaelic idiom. The pupils read French well, probably because their native Gaelic contains such a rich reservoir of nasal sounds to draw upon.
I have a great respect for the medical gentlemen who have taken up their position in remote districts of Scotland, and devote themselves to the healing art under most disadvantageous circumstances. The distances are incredibly long and dangerous in winter: I have in my mind an insular doctor who has a deal of midnight boating to do in glacial weather, and whose bills are often paid not in coin but in fleece newly off the sheep's back. As the population gets smaller, the doctor's work becomes more laborious and less remunerative. The institution of district nurses has been a great success, and I wish there were more of them. A sympathetic and competent nurse is a valuable asset in a crofting or seafaring community. In one district of Mull, recently visited, I found that the nurse was also the village librarian. She was quite at home both with lotions and literature, and could recommend a poet or prepare a poultice with equal skill. The ante-room to the village hall was her dispensary: it seemed to me remarkably complete, and to have as scientific an odour as any city pharmacy. I was glad to see that the Clan Maclean was so well supplied with the resources of modern civilisation.
In every one of the village libraries there is a copy of Black's Medical Dictionary, a most useful compilation, written in clear and simple language, and detailing all the commonest remedies. Many rural teachers and clergymen have considerable skill in coping with illness. Every country minister should have at least a smattering of medical knowledge. 
 At Spean Bridge there is a worthy old farmer, Mr. Chalmers, who has a widespread fame for dexterous bone-setting, a talent which is said to have descended to him from a long line of forbears. A young gentleman from Glasgow was in the hotel there during my stay, and from personal experience spoke of Mr. Chalmers's remarkable powers. He told me that patients come from far and near (after eminent surgeons have failed to give benefit), in order to be treated at Spean Bridge.
Hotels and Anglers
Wherever the angler goes, you find a good hotel. Uist is low-lying and barren, with nothing to attract the eye--no tourist would go near the place for anything it has to show in the way of scenery. But as it has hundreds of small lochs, full of fish, ardent anglers go thither from all parts of the British Isles; and so at Lochmaddy and Lochboisdale the hotels are not merely good, they are excellent. The recording angel is kept busy, during the season, in taking a note of all the myths told there by the fishers in the evening over the whisky and soda.
There may be heard, at night, in most hotels in the Western Isles, the riotous scampering of rats overhead and along the walls. In Lochmaddy hotel there used to be an old frisker (perhaps he is living still) that gave great entertainment, though no one ever saw him. He lifted a stone, evidently with his mouth, ran a yard or two with it, and then dropped it with a great clatter. The game was a pleasure to him, for he would practice it for half an hour at a time. The anglers who frequented the hotel called him the mason.
I have got into conversation with innumerable knights of the rod, and can sympathise to a slight extent with their enthusiasm. Nothing seems to take hold of a man so irrevocably as Walton's mania. Travelling by night in the north lately, I looked out into the dusk from the carriage window and beheld a bright flash of lightning, and by the gleam thereof saw a midnight maniac with his rod silhouetted against the vast inane. How few fishers nowadays, except perhaps Mr. Andrew Lang, can write their experiences in good marrowy English--
I believe the best region in all Scotland for trout is the wild and picturesque county of Sutherland. In the district of Assynt alone there are 150 lochs, fine sheets of water most of them, lying about among the hills. Half-way between the two seas and just on the borders of Sutherland and Ross, is the cosy wee hotel of Altnacealgach, with a well-stocked loch at the door, from which hundredweights of trout are taken every year. The air that blows about the house is to that of London as champagne is to dish-water.
There is a close connection, as I said, between the frequentation of a district by anglers and the excellence of its hotels. Where there is no great influx of tourists, the hotel accommodation is decidedly poor. I remember one inn, at a cold windy clachan on the west coast, which only stress of weather and dire necessity would make a man enter. Dirty stone steps, worn and crumbled in the centre, led to an upper room which had apparently not been swept out for a year or two. Not even the city of Cologne in Coleridge's time could have produced from among its imposing catalogue of stenches anything to match the complex ensemble of that malodorous inn. There was stale fish intil't, and bad beer intil't, and peat reek intil't, and mice intil't, and candle grease intil't, and the devil and all intil't. Though I was the only visitor, I feared I should not have the bed to myself: so I e'en wrapped myself in my Highland plaidie (after the minimum of disinvestiture), and stretched my limbs on an arthritic settee, with intent to sleep. No sleep came till the quaffing roysterers of the clachan had ceased fighting under the moon outside, about 2 A.M. namely. Rather than stay two nights in such a place, I boated out early next day into the mid-channel of the Sound of Mull, and clambered up the sides of Macbrayne's Lapwing, which took me to Oban.
The most charming of recent works on the Outer Islands is that one of which the preface was written in Jerusalem. I refer to the volume of Miss Goodrich Frere, a lady whose vivacity, fervour, and picturesque style are deserving of unqualified praise. All the libraries in the bilingual districts contain the book, and few are so often asked for. In conversation and publicly I have often given myself the pleasure of recommending it, alike to Highlander and Lowlander. My admiration for Miss Frere's talents makes me wish that one or two of her prejudices had been less glaringly displayed. She speaks, for example, with something like scornful reproach of Lochmaddy, because the habit of taking afternoon tea is common in that township. It would have been more to the purpose if Miss Frere had issued a general warning to the people of the Hebrides not to drink tea as black as porter, and, above all, not to boil it. The pale anæmic faces one so often sees in the north and west, the mental prostration and actual insanity so alarmingly on the increase in the Long Island, are unquestionably due, in great measure, to the abominably strong tea that is swilled in such quantities there. A Tarbert doctor told me that the medical profession now talk quite familiarly of the Harris stomach just as drapers talk of Harris tweed: the former is, he averred, as weak and devoid of tone as the latter is strong and of good texture. This doctor was called up at two one morning to attend a patient in one of the moorland townships. At that hour, away over there on the gusty rim of the Atlantic, the natives were all afoot. People were talking to each other at the doorsteps; lamps were lighted inside, and tea that had been boiling for hours among the red peats, was being imbibed with infinite gusto. This, the doctor assured me, was the normal style of living. 
Talking of North Uist, Miss Frere shows indignation at the invasion of southern ideas, and thinks that everything is being vitiated by the taint of Lochmaddy. Lochmaddy, characterised in so droll a way, is a tiny township with a Sheriff Court, a church, a few well-built modern houses, a school, and an excellent hotel. Cleanliness is a welcome feature of the place, and I am sorry to say that the same can not be said of certain crofting villages not far distant. I expect that the visits of the Government Sanitary Officer, whom I met at Lochmaddy, and who knows his business well, will ultimately work an enormous amount of good. That gentleman gave me such unsavoury details regarding the conditions of life in certain of the townships as made me hope that the "taint of Lochmaddy," that is to say, the cleanliness and civilised life of that village, may more and more become evident throughout both the Uists. Improved sanitation would allow heaven's breath to circulate through the low-lying cots and prevent them from being hot-beds of malignant disease.
One feature of Miss Frere's book which does honour to her fine sympathy, but which is not ethnologically justifiable, is the persistent attempt to draw a sharp racial distinction between Highlander and Lowlander. The truth is, that no part of the Highlands is purely Celtic: the population is a welter of Picts, Gaels, Norsemen, Danes, and Saxons. The Lowland blood is, in like manner, a bewildering blend, there being no uncontaminated Anglo-Saxon district in any single county of Scotland. Mr. J. M. Robertson's clever book, The Saxon and the Celt, seems to me to dispose finally of certain fallacies that Hill Burton and others have light-heartedly written on the subject of racial characteristics. The conditions of life, the ungeniality of sea and soil, the wild and grand aspect of nature, influence thought, feeling, and character at least as much as blood and heredity. 
Another delightful book on the Outer Hebrides is that written by Mr. W. C. Mackenzie. Proceeding in the order of chronology, the author gives a vivid series of historic summaries (enlivened by many a piquant episode and humorous touch) of the Long Island from the earliest times. The wanderings of Prince Charlie, and the condition of the country after Culloden, have never been better told than in Mr. Mackenzie's narrative.
 The student of eugenics will note that among the tea-bibbing islanders of the west the teeth of the natives are poor. My experience tends to show that the best teeth in Scotland are to be found in Aberdeenshire. When a Buchan audience laughs, there is a gleam of polished ivory that is very impressive; but rural Aberdeen has deviated less into slops than any other part of Britain.
 "There are probably now more persons of Highland descent in the Lowlands than in the Highlands themselves."--Scotland of To-Day, by Henderson and Watt, p. 300. See also note at end of chapter on Inverness surnames, etc.
I hinted at the beginning of this chapter that the barracks of the Highland regiments had been supplied with extensive libraries for the use of the soldiers during their leisure hours. Fort-George, the erection of which was directly due to the Highland rebellions, has been presented with two fine libraries, and I am happy to say that the men greatly appreciate the gift. I happened to be in the vicinity of Fort-George when the Duke of Connaught was conducting an official inspection. The little town of Ardersier, which is some two miles from the Fort, was gay with bunting for the ducal visit. The books at the Fort are under the charge of Sergeant-Major Markham, an able elocutionist and one who, in his own sphere, does an immense amount of good. He gets the young recruits to band themselves together in social clubs, organises games and entertainments for them, and encourages them to read and study. The philanthropic Sergeant-Major was engaged in typing a catalogue of the books when the genial Duke came upon the scene. His Royal Highness was astonished to see such a magnificent selection of reading matter at the disposal of the soldiers, and eagerly asked for information as to the origin of the boon. His curiosity was satisfied, and when he heard that the same donor had given appropriate libraries to the garrisons at Inverness, Dingwall, and Kinbrace, he exclaimed, "Such a gentleman is indeed the Soldier's Friend."
Since the Duke's visit, a small library of books has been sent to the children's school at the Fort. The population of this military community, containing as it does a great many married men with their wives and families, is fully equal to that of Ardersier, and necessitates a separate school. I was struck with the pronunciation of the children in this part of the country. Many of the Fort children, having mothers from the other side of the Border, speak with an unmistakable English accent and are rather unscrupulous with respect to the aspirate. The town of Inverness, which is at no great distance from Fort-George, has long been famous for its clear and unprovincial English speech, a fact which Johnson (oddly enough) thought due to some of Cromwell's soldiers having settled there.
Dr. Johnson devotes two pleasant little paragraphs to describe his visit to Fort-George and his entertainment there by Sir Eyre Coote. I have always admired the Doctor's sly way of avoiding a description of the Fort: "I cannot," he says, "delineate it scientifically, and a loose and popular description is of use only when the imagination is to be amused."
In spite of the menace of Fort-George, the Highlanders fondly cherished the memory of Charlie for many a year. To no subject even now do their descendants listen with such rapt attention as to his tragic story. I have heard indeed of a Highland minister who was so displeased at the homage paid to the Prince's memory by some of his flock, that he threw at them the unanswerable question, "What will Prince Charlie do for you at the day of judgment?"
I have had the curiosity to ask some of the Session Clerks of country parishes that were in the line of the insurgents' advance or retreat, if any references to the rebellion appear in the minutes of the year 1745. No references appear, as a rule, for that year; but, under 1746, there
are brief accounts of church discipline being exercised in the case of a few illegitimate births,--the paternity being ascribed usually to ane sodger. 
At Inverness and Dingwall there exist similar libraries of great range and excellence. The men show an interest in Miss Marie Corelli's works that is rather astonishing. Their hard and strenuous drill does not deprive them of a curiosity to know something about Barabbas and The Sorrows of Satan. Sir Conan Doyle and Dr. Neil Munro are also great favourites, and deserve to be.
A large number of the Inverness recruits come from the Long Island. They almost invariably require to be taken to the hospital a week or two after their arrival. Change of diet and new modes of life seem to upset them at first. For those who have a mind to improve themselves, there are abundant opportunities. The reading and recreation rooms are well appointed and comfortable. Altogether, the regular life, physical drill, and healthy tone of the barracks must have a most beneficial effect on the men.
I am bound to say that I do not greatly admire the English style of the gentleman who composes the War Office placards that one sees at railway stations in the north. These are meant to allure country labourers to join the army, but the following piece of fatuous rhetoric must surely act rather as a deterrent than otherwise:--"Are you, the descendants of those who conquered India and carried the colours of the Gordon Highlanders through the Peninsula and at Waterloo, content to sit at home, or be satisfied with dull labours in the fields or at the mills, whilst the ranks of your own regiment are filled by strangers from the South?" I heard two freckled rustics, with difficulty and labour hard, spelling out the phrases of the foregoing sentence at the little station of Fyvie. They did not seem at all impressed by the fervent interrogation nor by this picture of prospective delights: "Many of your countrymen have seen the wonders of the Indian Empire and enjoyed the soft calm of Malta, and of Ceylon, the Paradise of the Ancients." It does not evince much knowledge of a ploughman's mind to seek to awaken his martial ardour by old myths about the Garden of Eden; nor is it specially alluring to him to mention, as the acme of glory, that he may distinguish himself so much as to gain "thanks from both Houses of Parliament." Such weak and watery declamation won't do for a country that has had thirty-eight years of compulsory education. If our War Office wishes to rouse patriotic feeling, it should cease to contrast "the dull labour of the fields" with "the soft calm of Malta": the veriest clown would not be caught by such chaff. It would be more to the point to send gratuitous copies of The Barrack Room Ballads to all the village libraries.
 I have heard it maintained by some zealots, whom I greatly esteem, that Gaelic is a highly moral language, that the use of it conduces to purity of life and thought, and that everyone would be improved in tone by contact with its roots. Those ministers who have charge of Session Records, chronicling events that happened before English was known in the West, cannot unreservedly corroborate these views.
My various visits to the shores of the Moray Firth have convinced me that a man may enjoy the majesty and terror of the sea without embarking on a boat at all. All he need do is to take a ticket to Portsoy in the month of March, when the wind is snell and the clouds low. I have never seen a more grim or cruel-looking coast than that which stretches for miles east and west of Portsoy. One shudders even at the thought of those detestable, razor-edged rocks, tilted up at all angles, with the tide for ever boiling and hissing about them. Neither by land nor sea, at many parts of the coast, can you get to what might be reasonably called a beach. The so-called shore-road is high up on the hills, and gives a good view far out over the billows, but does not take the traveller's feet near the water at all. Ill-advised would he be who should strive to guide his skiff from the outer firth to any chance cove on the shore, for the uncouth crags, huge and sombre, would have no mercy on any timber jointed by the hand of man. Perhaps the summer sun would give a gentler appearance to the rocky and wave-beaten shore, but I am certain Mr. Swinburne would prefer to see it in March.
The town of Portsoy in itself cannot be said to have much comeliness; the streets are irregular, the houses dismal, and the shops few. God has, as is meet, the best of the architecture, most of the churches being graceful and well-spired.
About twenty minutes by rail from Portsoy is the trim and typical fishing village of Portknockie, high-raised on a hill, and with little protection from any wind that Aeolus may send out of his cavern. The population comes near 1,600 souls, and it is rare to find a native who is not called by one of the following surnames: Mair, Wood, Munro, Pirrie. I believe such a dearth of appellatives is the invariable rule in the fishing villages of the North Sea. To counteract the confusion that would inevitably arise, an agnomen or "tee-name" is usually appended. The Portknockie tee-names are Mash, Deer, Doodoo, Bobbin, and Shavie. Examples of postal addresses are--
I don't envy the young minister who, fresh from Lucian, has to read with solemnity a roll of such communicants.
Between Portknockie and the sea-town of Cullen is a charming stretch of links and sea-sands. Over the broad Firth, as one looks north-west, may be faintly seen the hills of Sutherland and Caithness.
It is pleasant to read books amid the scenery in which they were conceived, and among the people they portray. Those who spend their holidays at Cullen would act wisely in reading George Macdonald's novels there. No one has drawn the character of the Moray Firth fisherman so lovingly, beautifully, and sympathetically as he. After reading such a tale as the Marquis of Lossie one looks upon places like Portknockie and the sea-town of Cullen with different eyes. The toilers of the deep that go forth on the waters from these seaboard shires are serious and moral men. Contact with the sea and the presence of danger at all hours, have made them alert, keen, and dexterous. Most of the crews carry a box of choice books with them for their odd hours of leisure when they go to the Yarmouth fishing. Let a stranger get into conversation with one or two of these hardy heroes, and he will be surprised at their intelligence and wide interests. He will certainly conclude that the young fisherman, Malcolm Macphail, whom Macdonald introduces in the novel mentioned, is no exaggeration, but true to the life.
The sea-town of Cullen consists of some hundreds of houses closely huddled together just at the edge of the sea. The rank odour of wreck, tar, fishing-gear, and bait, pervades the air, and is effectually kept from corruption by the searching sea-breezes that are ever blowing. When not engaged on the water, the men are busy mending their nets, stitching their sails, making fast the seams of their craft and tarring the big inflated floaters that support the lines. They are quite ready to chat with a stranger and discuss their methods of working, their gains, mishaps, and partnerships.
When the fishing season is over and the crews are known to be on the way home, the excitement among the women is intense. No Bourse ever tingled more feverishly with rumours and sinister fears than Sandhaven or Rosehearty or Seatown at such a crucial time. Costly nets may be riven, boats may be stove in by untoward accidents, or worse than all, fathers, husbands and brothers may be drowned on the road home to their loved ones. Rarely does a season pass without bringing sorrow to the heart of some waiting wife or sister.
The joys, hopes, and fears of these maritime townships have been worthily made vocal by Dr. George Macdonald. He has done this with a grace and an artistic conception that raise his stories to a very high rank in pure literature. I am afraid Macdonald is not much read by the present generation: his stories are too long, too philosophical, perhaps too poetical, for the taste of to-day. Every book of his is saturated from beginning to end with the religion of the Gospels--a religion of love, beauty, tolerance, and sympathy.
I am happy to say that I saw Dr. Macdonald once and heard him speak. His venerable aspect and chaste elocution made a powerful impression on all who heard him. His discourse could not be reported in cold print, for the flash of the mystic's eye, the human kindness that emanated from his whole being, and the felt emotion of his every tone could not be reproduced by any artifice known to the printer.
The Forfarshire fishwives have quite a Dutch mania for cleanliness. On Saturdays they give their homes a complete overhaul, and the men are driven out of doors during the ceremony. What man could stay at home when his wife, supplied with a mop and a big pail of soapy water, is sousing the floor and the walls? Furniture is scrubbed and dusted, glass ornaments, porcelain hens, and shell-boxes have to be carefully wiped, grates and fire-irons must be rubbed to a glittering polish. These industrious women, panting with the enthusiasm of work, enjoy Saturday more than any other day of the week. The enjoyment springs from various causes. There is first the delight that comes from a vigorous exercise of the muscles. This pleasure is heightened by the knowledge that the work is for a good end, and that on Sunday the house will be resplendent, immaculate, and peaceful. It is not to be denied that the feeling of satisfaction at having evicted the husband is also an important item. When he comes home from discussing politics with his co-mates and brothers in exile, she will not fail to jibe him on the general worthlessness of his existence, and accuse him of intemperance.
Among the Miners
A fishing village has a picturesqueness and a kinship with Nature and the hills, utterly lacking in a mining locality. The squalid rows of the latter, arranged in wretched, heart-breaking symmetry, are an offence to the landscape. Mud and filth cumber the door-steps, runnels of malodorous water ooze along the rows, ragged and ill-kempt bairns tumble about like little savages. A pitiful sight it is to see the black squads of colliers returning to their homes after a day in the damp bowels of the earth: greasy caps with little oil-lamps attached, wet, miry clothing and grimy faces, all make up a most saddening spectacle. The wages given to these poor fellows are miserably meagre, considering that after the age of forty-five, their limbs are stiffened with rheumatism and their lungs the seat of chronic asthma. It is not surprising that miners should be intemperate, and that their recreations should rise no higher than dog-racing and cock-fighting.
It is very unpleasant to think that so much good bone and muscle is being ground and destroyed by work so brutalising and unnatural. Coal must be brought to the surface for the wants of civilisation, and in the process the collier is destroyed, body and soul. Society needs constantly to be reminded of its duties towards those who, in Helot fashion, clean the drains and work the mines. Those duties involve more than the distribution of tracts.
I had the opportunity of speaking to a crowded meeting of miners in the county of Stirling quite recently, and was immensely pleased with the behaviour and close attention of the audience. Before the speaking began, the proceedings resembled a University Graduation Ceremony, that is, there was a great deal of whistling, cat-calling, and rowdy merriment. The audience kept on their caps, and many of them, disdaining the use of chairs and benches, squatted against the walls in the position so dear to subterranean workers. Once the lecture began, the resemblance to a University gathering ceased, for the colliers behaved like gentlemen. What subject, it may be asked, could possibly interest an assembly of illiterate miners? It so happens that, in Scotland, we have a great number of working-men poets, who have, in a homely but very graphic way, voiced the feelings of the labouring classes, and given fit expression to every joy and sorrow that men experience in this mortal round. These hodden-gray bards furnish abundance of material for giving even the humblest and most untrained mind a few glimpses of what is meant by literature. Burns has a broad and brawny humanity that appeals to all men, and, besides Burns, there are scores of major and minor warblers that are interesting, quotable, and full of grace.
The wild and unruly manners of some mining districts, even at the present day, may partly be explained by remembering that up to the end of the eighteenth century, colliers were serfs and, as such, were not allowed to leave the mines and seek work elsewhere. When a pit was sold, the workers passed as a matter of course into the hands of the new proprietor. The son of a miner was compelled to follow the father's occupation.  Slavery fixed a brutalising mark on generation after generation that is not yet entirely erased. In the first half of the nineteenth century the knights of the shuttle--intellectual, disputatious, and lyrical--looked down with infinite contempt on the ignorant and boorish slaves of the pick. Poetry has, in consequence, little to say about the digger for coal. The song of "The Collier Laddie," attributed to Burns, is one of the very few pleasant pieces of verse associated with the miner.
The Scotch mining villages of to-day contain a queer juxtaposition of nationalities, and the proportion of native colliers is becoming less and less. Thousands of Irish families from Ulster and Connaught are now settled permanently in the counties of Lanark, Stirling, and Ayr. The alien Pole, too, is to be found in the same regions uttering melodious oaths learned on the banks of the Vistula. To complete the welter, huckstering Orientals may be seen gliding about among the rows of houses, fulfilling prophecy and selling highly-coloured pictures of the Virgin Mary.
 In his book, Edinburgh and its Neighbourhood, Hugh Miller tells the following story, on the authority of Robert Chambers:--"Though legally only transferable with the works and the minerals to which they were attached, cases occasionally occurred in which miners were actually transferred by sale from one part of the country to another. During the early part of the XIXth century, the son of an extensive coal-proprietor was examining with a friend the pits of another proprietor, and finding a collier whose speech resembled that of the colliers of his own district, he inquired where he came from. 'Oh!' exclaimed the man with surprise, 'd'ye no' ken me? Do ye no' ken that your faither sell't me for a powny?'"
The miner is still with us, but the weaver is almost obsolete in the Lowlands. You must search diligently for him. In Laurencekirk (a quaint village of one long street, in the shire of Forfar), and in similar out-of-the-way nooks, can still be faintly heard the music of the hand-loom. I went recently into a weaver's shop in Laurencekirk, and found three old men and one aged woman plying their shuttles. The oldest of the men was born four years after the battle of Waterloo, and there he sat, like a vision of the vanished years, striving to weave a few more yards of drugget before going to rejoin his contemporaries of the reign of George III. He told me there were once seven hundred hand-loom weavers in the place, and "that young fellow" said he, pointing to a wrinkled carle of eighty on the loom behind, "remembers it as well as I do."
The industry of hand-loom weaving, which, a century ago, made every town in Scotland resonant with the din of shuttles, is thus almost a thing of the past, and the men who engaged in it have gone the way of their shoe-buckles, knee-breeches, and seventeen-hundred linen. Yet weavers were typical of all that was intellectual in Scottish life: every shop was in its way a miniature university, and every weaver a man who believed himself capable of giving Pitt a lesson or two on the management of the war, and Dundas a few hints on political economy. They had, indeed, far clearer views on politics than most of their legislators; from their ranks at a subsequent period the Chartist agitators--regrettably extreme as they were--were largely recruited; and it is not too much to say that the minds of many of our leading accredited reformers took the ply from these politicians of the loom. These men who, in a way so characteristic of Scotland, managed to make high-thinking subsist on homely fare, can never quite fade from memory while their tuneful poetical exponent, Tannahill, is read and enjoyed. In his works we have a page out of the past; and as we read his life and poems, we behold the Scotch village as it was a century ago; we see the old houses with their outside stairs, the antique boulder-paved cross, and the assemblies of aproned craftsmen discussing news much older than their ale.
In Broadford, Skye, there is an old crofter who, in his early years, worked at the loom with Alexander Bain, late Professor in the University of Aberdeen. Half a century ago, John Stuart Mill said that Bain's erudition was encyclopædic. From long residence in France, I know that few British philosophers are better known than Bain (whose name the French amusingly pronounce to rhyme with vin). This old crofter tells how he used to chaff the future professor for invariably having a book in front of him as the shuttle was plied. Bain, by slow and careful work, overcame prejudice, and secured a high position among the leaders of thought. Long ago, those who had to sit for the London degrees used to regard him as the greatest thinker in Europe. When he retired from the examinership at London, students lost some of their old veneration for him, and when he married a second time, a Miss Barbara Something, they even ventured to make a logical joke on him, and say that he had been fascinated by Barbara's perfect figure. I know that many pupils of our public schools, in love with football more than syntax, often regretted that Bain ever composed his English Grammar. No book (unless perhaps Morell's Analysis) has ever been more cordially execrated, and no book ever more richly deserved it, for though, like Aberdeen granite, it is stately and impressive, it is also ruthless, cold, and implacable. The draught may be wholesome and medicinal, but there is no honey on the rim of the cup.
Professor Blackie in the Highlands
One hears a great deal of Professor Blackie in the North and West, and no wonder. He was a laughing, jocular, impressionable man, who hobnobbed with landlords and amiably slapped drivers and policemen on the back, throwing a Gaelic greeting at them as he did so. His faculty for writing poetry is seen in many a guidebook; Oban, Inverness, Pitlochry, and numberless other places, have had their beauties celebrated by this animated writer. He was a good friend to the Highlands--studied Gaelic most arduously, translated some of the finest of the Celtic bards, worked assiduously for the establishment of a Celtic Chair in Edinburgh, spoke many a good word for the crofters--in fact, did everything well except what he was paid to do, viz., teach Greek to his students. Grave D.D.'s could not understand or condone his cantrips. I have been assured that on one occasion, when Professor in the College of Aberdeen, he actually stood on his head before a class of students. Mr. Barrie has given a very amusing and quite unexaggerated account of the Professor's normal demeanour in Edinburgh. Blackie's text books of Greek Dialogues are full of the most waggish remarks.
The landlady of Kinlochewe Hotel gave some lessons in Gaelic to this convulsive old scholar. He would come in with a Celtic Bible below his arm, and, opening the sacred volume, read a chapter or two at a terrific rate of speed, and whistle triumphantly when he had finished. Highland folk did not care to converse with Blackie for three reasons: (1) he spoke too quickly for the leisurely and composed conversation of the Gael; (2) his pronunciation was bad, and people did not like to tell him so or correct him--(no one ever pronounced Gaelic to perfection who did not get the language with his mother's milk); (3) he was fond of using literary words, taken from the older bards, in his ordinary conversation; now, such words are obsolete in every-day talk and quite unfamiliar to crofters and cottars. In the Highlands, Blackie's English was better understood than his Gaelic.
Blackie was undoubtedly a very able scholar--not, indeed, of that minute burrowing kind famous in Germany, but rather of the class that delights in the literature and vivid force of a language. He spoke Latin and Greek, and held views on the teaching of these tongues that seemed more eccentric in his time than they do now. He declared that the linguistic achievement of which he was proudest was his mastery, such as it was, of the language of the Gael.
It affords me pleasure in the retrospect to think of old Blackie at a distribution of prizes to school-children in a town of the West some years before his death. During the chairman's opening remarks the merry old man continued to whistle like a mavis. When the chairman sat down, Blackie embraced him and called him fellow-sinner. Some recitations followed from the children, one of which was Burns's "Address to a Haggis." When the young elocutionist came to the lines--
Blackie rolled in his chair, held his sides and uproariously expressed his approbation. Then came the distribution of prizes, during which the Grand Old Boy made some pun or quaint remark on each of the children's names, as he presented the books: "Miss Minnie Morrow: never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day; James Glen: be a real genuine Glen all through life, not a valet or flunkey; William Lindsay: Willie, my lad, imitate your ancestors at Otterburn: 'The Lindsays flew like fire about till a' the fray was done'; Mary Black: black but comely like the daughters of Jerusalem," and so on, in a bird-witted, half-daft way that the audience contemplated with benevolent wonder.
Note on Inverness Surnames, Etc
Let me mention here a very useful and interesting piece of philology that was done by Dr. Macbain in 1895. That eminent scholar, working on the Inverness Directory, analysed the names occurring there, explained them on sound principles of etymology, and gave percentages of Celtic and Saxon surnames in the Highland capital.
Roughly speaking, the Directory of 1894-1895 had 5,000 single entries, and 750 distinct surnames. Of these surnames, only 110 are pure Gaelic. About 70 per cent. of the natives are, however, supposed to be of Highland descent.
Dr. Macbain points out that certain Highland clans have names that are not Celtic: Grant is from the French "grand"; Fraser from the French "fraise," a strawberry (the Frasers have a strawberry in their coat-of-arms); Chisholm is English and means "gravel-holm,"--the Anglo-Saxon ceosol (pebble) is preserved in Chesil Beach and Chiselhurst; MacLeod signifies "son of Ljot"; and ljotr is the Norse word for "ugly." Campbell is probably Norman-French, though Dr. Macbain suggests cam-beul, Gaelic for "crooked mouth." In olden times an external conqueror would sometimes subdue a district, and call the natives after his noble self.
The commonest names in the town are Fraser, Macdonald, Mackenzie, Macintosh, Ross, Cameron, and Munro. About 1,200 of the population have one or other of the first three names. The Frasers are an easy first, and form more than 9 per cent. of the population.
John, Alexander, and William, are the commonest Christian names in Inverness. "It is remarkable and indeed regrettable," says Dr. Macbain, "that the Gaelic Christian names (Donald, Duncan, Kenneth, Murdoch, and Angus), are not higher in the list."
The name of the first recorded inhabitant of Inverness (A.D. 1200) is Geoffrey Blount, a feudal warrior no doubt (French blond). In the thirteenth century we have the names Noreys, Grant, and Hay. In the fourteenth century the leading name is Pilch, derived from peluche, the French for "plush." In the fifteenth century, Reid, Vaus, and Cuthbert are prominent citizens. Vaus is said to mean "of the vales," i.e., de Vallibus; Reid is Scotch for "red"; and Cuthbert is pure Lowland. Evidently the leading men were aliens and interlopers.