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The matter is handled at great length in the text, of
though of a different kind, serves to establish the existence of ascetic religionists, to a comparatively late period, in the Highlands and Western Isles. There is a great deal of simplicity in the description, for which, as for much similar information, I am obliged to Dr John _Martin, who visited the Hebrides at the suggestion of Sir Robert Sibbald, a Scottish antiquarian of eminence, and early in the eighteenth century published a description of them, which procured him admission into the Royal Society. He died in London about 1719. His work is a strange mixture of learning, observation, and gross credulity. st I remember,» says this author, stl have seen an old lay-capuchin here (in the island of Benbecula), called in their language Brahir-bocht, that is, Poor Brother; which is literally true; for he answers this character, having nothing but what is given him: he holds himself fully satisfied with food and raiment, and lives in as great simplicity as any of his order! his diet is very
which the following verses are more than sufficicnt i a plad above it, girt about the middle, which reaches to
The frier saying this. lamentes that lucklesse parte, And curseth to the pitte of hell the death man's sturdie harte: Yet for to qnight them with the frier taketh paine, For all the synnes that e’er he did remission to obtaine.
his knee: the plad is fastened on his breast with a wooden pin, his neck bare, and his feet often so too:
Andlllewfvrfl serve‘ his books. I Upon the matter, if he is spoke to when at meat, he
the candell and the bell; But thinke you that suche aplshe toies bring damned souls from hell T It ’longs not to my parte infernal things to knowe; But I believe till later daie.
answers again; which is contrary to the custom of his order. This poor man frequently diverts himself with angling of trouts; he lies upon straw, and has no bell (as others have) to call him to his devotions, but only his conscience, as he told me.»—M.\artn's Description of
thei rise not from belowe.
to this rebellious rout,
If that their soules should chaunce in hell, to bringe them quickly out,
Doeth make them lead suehe lives, as neither God nor man.
Without revenge for their desartes, permitte to suffer can.
Thus frlers are the cause,
. the fountain and the spring,
Of hnrleburls in this lands,
Thai cause him to rebell
And through rebellion often tymes
So as by friers' meanes,
The Irishe karne doe often lose
As the Irish tribes, and those of the Scottish Highlands, are much more intimately allied, by language, manners, dress, and customs, than the antiquaries of either country have been willing to admit, I flatter myself I have here produced a strong warrant for the character sketched in the text. The following picture,
Yet hope that friers give ~
' This curious Picture of Ireland was inserted by the author in the republication of Somers' Tracts, vol. I, in which the plates have been also inserted, from the only impressions known to exist, belonging to the copy in the Advocates’ Library. See Somers' Tracts, vol. I. pp. Sgt, 591. _ |
the Western Islands, p. 82.
Note 3. Stanza v. Of Brian's birth strange tales were told.
The legend which follows is not of the author's invention. It is possible he may differ from modern critics, in supposing that the records of human superstition, if
the scene is laid, are a legitimate subject of poetry. He gives, however, a ready assent to the narrower proposition, which condemns all attempts of an irregular and disordered fancy to excite terror, by accumulating a train of fantastic and incoherent horrors, whether borrowed from all countries, and patched upon a narrative belonging to one which knew them not, or derived from the author’s' own imagination.
In the present case, therefore, I appeal to the record which I have transcribed, with the variation of a very few words, from the geographical collections made by the Laird of Macfarlane. I know not whether it be necessary to remark, that the miscellaneous concourse of youths and maidens on the night and on the spot where the miracle is said to have taken place, might, even in a credulous age, have somewhat diminished the wonder which accompanied the conception of Gilli-Doir-Magrevollich.
(( There is hot two myles from Inverloghie, the church of Kilmalee, in Loghyeld. In ancient times there was
peculiar to, and characteristic of, the country in which ‘
ans church builded upon ane hill, which was above this church, which doeth now stand in this tonne; and ancient men doeth say,'that there was a battell foughten on aue little hill not the tenth part of a mylc from this church, be certaine men which they did not know what they were. And long tyme thereafter, certain herds of that tonne, and of the next tonne, called Unnatt, both wenches and youthes, did ona time conveen with others on that hill: and the day being somewhat cold, did gather the bones of the dead men that were slayne long time before in that place, and did make a fire to warm them. At last they did all remove from the fire, except one maid or wench, which was verie cold, and she did remain there for a space. She being quyetlie her alone, without any other companie, took up her clothes above her knees, or thereby, to warm her; a wind did come and caste the ashes upon her, and she was conceived of ane man-child. Several tymes thereafter she was verie sick, and at last she was knowne to be with chyld. And then her parents did ask at her the matter heiroff, which the wench could not weel answer which way to satisfie them. At last she resolved them with ane answer. As fortune fell upon her concerning this marvellous miracle, the chyld being borne, his name was called Gili-doir Maghrevolich ; that is to say, the Black Child, Son to the Bones. So called, his grandfather sent him to school, _and so he was a good schollar, and godlie. He did build this church which doeth now stand in Lochyeld, called Kilmalie.»—MAcl=ltitLAivi:, ut supra, II, 188. Note 4. Stanza v.
Yet ne'er again to braid her hair
The srtood, or riband, with which a Scottish lass braided her hair, had an emblematical signification, and applied to her maiden character. ltwas exchanged for the curch, toy, or coif, when she passed, by marriage, into the matron state. But if the damsel was so unfortunate as to lose pretensions to the name of maiden, without gaining a right to that of matron, she was neithcr permitted to use the snood, nor advanced to the
graver dignity of the curch. In old Scottish songs there
occur many sly allusions to such misfortune, as in the old words to thepopular tune of u Ower themuiramang the heather.»
Down among the broom, the broom.
Note 5. Stanza vii.
The desert gave him visions wild,
In adopting the legend concerning the birth of the Founder of the Church of Kilmalie, the author has endeavoured to trace the effects which such a belief was likely to produce, in a barbarous age, on the person to whom it related. It seems likely that he must have become a fanatic or an impostor, or that mixture of both which forms a more frequent character than either of them, as existing separately. In truth, mad persons are frequently more anxious to impress upon others a faith in their visions, than they are themselves confirmcd in their reality: as, on the other hand, it is difficult for the most cool-headed impostor long to personate an enthusiast, without in some degree believing what he is
so eager to have believed. It was a natural attribute of such acharacter as the supposed hermit, that he should credit the numerous superstitions with which the minds of ordinary Highlanders are almost always embued. A few of these are slightly alluded to in this stanza. The River Demon, or lliver-horse, for it is that form which he commonly assumes, is the Kelpy of the Lowlands, an evil and malicious spirit, delighting to forebode and to witness calamity. He frequents most Highland lakes and rivers; and one of his most memorable exploits was performed upon the banks of Loch Vennachar, in the very district which forms the scene of our action: it consisted in the destruction of a funeral procession, with all its attendants. The u noontide hag,» called in Gaelic Glas-lich, a tall, emaciated, gigantic female figure, is supposed in particular to haunt the district of Knoidart. Agoblin dressed in antique armour, and havingone hand covered with blood, called, from that circumstance, Lham-dearg, or Red-hand, is a tenant of the forests of Glenmore and Rothiemurchus. Other spirits of the desert, all frightful in shape and malignant in disposition, are believed to frequent different mountains and glens of the Highlands, where any unusual appearance, produced by mist, or the strange lights that are sometimes thrown upon particular objects, never fails to present an apparition to the imagination of the solitary and melancholy mountaineer.
Note 6. Stanza vii. The fdtal Ben-Shio's hoding scream.
Most great families in the Highlands were supposed to have a tutelar, or rather a domestic spirit, attached to them, who took an interest in their prosperity, and intimated, by its wailings, any approaching disaster. That of Grant of Grant was called May Moullach, and appeared in the form of a girl, who had her arm covered with hair. Grant of Rothiemurchns had an attendant called Boduch-an-dun, or the Ghost ofithe hill ;—and many other examples might be mentioned. The BanSchie ' implies the female fairy, whose lamentations were often supposed to precede the death of a chieftain of particular families. When she is visible, it is in the form of an old woman, Will! a blue mantle and streaming hair. A superstition of the same kind is, I believe, universally received by the inferior ranks of the native Irish.
The death of the head of a Highland family is also sometimes supposed to be announced by a chain of lights of different colours, called Dr’eug, ordeath of the Druid. The direction which it takes marks the place of the funeral. '
Note 7. Stanza vii.
Sounds. too, ‘kind come in midnight blunt,
Along Benharrow's shingly side,
Where mortal horseman ne'er might. ride.
A presage of the kind alluded to in the text is still believed to announce death to the ancient Highland family of M‘Lean of Lochbuy. The spirit of an ancestor slain in battle is heard to gallop along a stony bank, and then to ride thrice around the family residence, ringing his fairy bridle, and thus intimating the approaching calamity. I-Iow easily the eye as well as the ear may be deceived upon such occasions, is evident
I In the first edition, litil was erroneously explained as equivalent to Ben Sc/tichiait, or the head ofthe Fairies.
from the stories of armies in the air, and other spectral phenomena with which history abounds. Such an ap
parition is said to have been wimessed upon the side of Southfell mountain, between Penrith and Keswick, upon the 23d June, 1744, by two persons, William Lancaster of Blakehills, and Daniel Stricket his servant, whose attestation to the fact, with a full account of the apparition, dated the ztst July, 1745, is printed in Clarke’: Survey of the Lakes. The apparition consisted of several troops of horse moving in regular order, with a steady rapid motion, making a curved sweep around the fell, and seeming to the spectators to disappear over the ridge of the mountain. Many persons witnessed this phenomenon, and observed the last, or last but one, of the supposed troop, occasionally leave his rank, and pass at a gallop to the front, when he resumed the same steady pace. This curious appearance, making the necessary allowance for imagination, may be perhaps sufficiently accounted for by optical l.‘lt:0epli0I.'l.—Surue_y of the Lakes, p. 25.
Supernatural intimations of approaching fate are not, I believe, confined to Highland families. Howell mentions having seen at a lapidary's, in 1632, a monumental stone, prepared for four persons of the name of Oxenham, before the death of each of whom the inscription stated a white bird to have appeared and fluttered around the bed, while the patient was in the last agony.—Familiar Letters, edit. I726, 247. Glanville mentions one family, the members of which received this solemn sign by music, the sound of which floated from the family residence, and seemed to die in a neighbouring wood; another, that of Captain _Wood of Bamptou, to whom the signal was given by knocking. But the most remarkable instance of the kind occurs in the MS. Memoirs of Lady Fanshaw, so exemplary for her conjugal affection. Her husband, Sir Richard, and she chanced, during their abode in Ireland, to visit a friend, the head of a sept, who resided in his ancient baronial castle, surrounded with a moat. At midnight, she was awakened by a ghastly and supernatural scream, and, looking out of bed, beheld, by the moonlight, a female face and part of the form, hovering at the window. The distance from the ground, as well as the circumstance of the moat, excluded the possibility that what she beheld was of this world. The face was that of a young and rather handsome woman, but pale, and the hair, which was reddish, loose, and dishevelled. The dress, which Lady Fanshaw's terror did not prevent her remarking accurately, was that of
the ancient Irish. This apparition continued to exhibit‘
itself for some time, and then vanished with two shrieks similar to that which had first excited Lady Fanshaw‘s attention. In the morning, with infinite terror, she communicated to, her host what she had witnessed, and found him prepared not only to credit but to account for the apparition. At A near relation of my family,» said he, a expired last night in this castle. We disguised our certain expectation of the event from you, lest it should throw a cloud over the cheerful reception which was your due. Now, before such an event happens in this family and castle, the female spectre whom you have seen always is visible. She is believed to be the spirit of a woman of inferior rank, whom one of my ancestors degraded himself by marrying, and whom afterwards, to expiate the dishonour done his family, be caused to be drowned in the castle moat.»
Im.-h-Ca-illiach, the Isle of Nuns, or of Old Women, is a most beautiful island at the lower extremity of Loch Lomond. The church belonging to the former nunnery was long used as the place of worship for the parish of Buchanan, but scarce any vestiges of it now remain. The burial ground continues to be used, and contains the family places of sepulture ofservcral neighbouring clans. The monuments of the lairds of Macgregor, and of other families, claiming a descent from the old Scottish King Alpine, are most remarkable. The Highlanders are as jealous of their rights of sepulture, as may be expected from a people whose whole laws and government, if clanship can be called so, turned upon the single principle of family descent. -1 May his ashes be scattered on the water,» was one of the deepest and most solemn imprecations which they used against an enemy.
Note 9. Stanza xiii. —-—the dun deer’: hide On floater foot was never tied.
The present broguc of the Highlanders is made of half dried leather, with holes to admit and let out the water; for walking the moors dry-shod is a matter altogether out of question. The ancient buskin was still ruder, being made of undressed deer’s hide, with the hair outwards, a circumstance which procured the Highlanders the well-known epithet of .Rcd—shanks. The process is very accurately described by one Elder (himself a Highlander), in the project for a union between England and Scotland, addressed to Henry VIII. \( We go a hunting; and after that we have slain reddeer, we flay off the skin by and by, and setting of our bare-foot on the inside thereof, for want of cunning shoe-makers, byyour grace's pardon, we play the coblers, compassiug and measuring so much thereof as shall reach up to our ancles, pricking the upper part thereof with holes, that the water may repass where it enters, and stretching it up with a strong thong of the same above our said ancles. So, and please your noble grace, we make our shoes. Therefore, we using such manner ofshoes, the rough hairy side outwards, in your grace's dominions of England we be called Rough footed Scots.»—Pmxcin'ou's History, vol. I], p. 397.
I Note to. Stanza xv.
The dismal coronach. The comnach. of the Highlanders, like the ululatu: of the Romans, and the ululoo of the Irish, was a wild
expression of lamentation, poured forth by the mourn- '
ers over the body of a departed friend. When the words of it were articulate, they expressed the praises of the deceased, and the loss the clan would sustain by his death. The following is a latneutation of this kind, literally translated from the Gaelic, to some of the ideas of which the text stands indebted. The tune is so popular, that it has since become the war-march, or gathering of the clan.
Commtclt ms Sir Lauchlan, Chief of Maclaan.
Which ofall the Senaohiet
Can trace thy line from the root, up to Paradise, But lllacvuirih, the son of Fergus?
No sooner had thine ancient stately tree
Taken tirm root in Albion,
The first stage of the fiery cross is to Dnncraggan, a place near the Brigg of,Turk, where a short stream divides Loch-Achray from Loch Vennachar. From thence, it passes towards Callender, and then, turning to the left up the pass of Lennie, is consigned to Norman at the chapel of Saint Bride, which stood on a small and romantic knoll in the middle of thevalley, called Strathlre. Tombea and Arnanduvc, or Armandave, are names of places in the vicinity. The alarm is then supposed to pass along the lake of Lnbnaig, ‘and through the various glens in the district of Balquidder, including the neighbouring tracts of Glenfinlas and Strath-Gartney.
' Bel'a fire, or Whitsunday. ‘ llolloween.
and a solemn oath. In other respects, they were like most savage nations, capricious in their ideas concerning the obligatory power of oaths. One solemn mode of swearing was by kissing the dirk, imprecating upon themselves death by that, or a similar weapon, if they broke their vow. But for oaths in the usual form, they are said to have had little respect. As for the reverence due to the chief, it may be guessed from the following odd example of the Highland point of honour :
it The clan whereto the above-mentioned tribe belongs, is the only one I have heard of, which is without a chief: that is, being divided into families, under several chieftains, without any particular patriarch of the whole name. And this is a great reproach, as may appear from an affair that fell out at my table, in the Highlands, between one of that name and :1 Cameron. The provocation given by the latter, w:ts—Namc your chief.-The return of it, at once, was,—You are a fool. They went out next morning, but, having early notice of it, I sent a small party of soldiers after them, which, in all probability, prevented some barbarous mischief that might have ensued; for the chiefless Highlander, who is himself a petty chieftain, was going to the place appointed with a small sword and pistol, whereas the Cameron (an old man) took with him only his hroadsword, according to agreement.
tl When all was over, and I had, at least seemingly, reconciled them, I was told the words, of which I seemed to think but slightly were, to one of the clan, the greatest of all provocations.»-Letters from the North. of Scotland, vol. II, p. zzt.
(t This is a very steep and most romantic hollow in the mountain of Ben-venue, overhanging the southeastern extremity of Loch Katrine. it is surrounded with stupendous rocks, and overshadowed with birchtrees, mingled with oaks, the spontaneous production of the mountain, even where its cliffs appear denuded of soil. A dale in so wild a situation, and amid a people whose genius bordered on the romantic, did not remain without appropriate deities. The name literally implies the Corri, or Den of the Wild or Shaggy Men. Perhaps this, as conjectured by Mr Alexander Campbell,I may have originally only implied its being the haunt of a. ferocious banditti. But tradition has ascribed to the Urisk, who gives name to the cavern, a figure between a goat and a man; in short, however much the classical reader may be startled, precisely that of the Grecian Satyr. The Urisk seems not to have inherited, with the form, the petnlance of the sylvan deity of the classics: his occupations, on the contrary, resembled those of Milton's Lubber Fiend, or of the Scottish Brownie, though he differed from both in name and appearance. K The Urisks,a say’Dr Graham, t< were a sort of lubberly supernaturals, who, like the Brownies, could be gained over by kind attention, to perform the drudgery of the farm, and it was believed that many of the families in the Highlands _had one of the order attached to it. They were supposed to be dispersed over the Highlands, each in his own wild recess, but the solemn stated meetings of the order were regularly held in this cave of Ben-venue. This current superstition, no doubt,
‘ Journey from Edinburgh, I801. p. tog.