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longest and most entertaining tale, whether stranger, or friend, was the most acceptable guest. * When a stranger appeared, the first question, after the usual introductory compliments, was, "Bheil dad agud air na Fian t" (Can you speak of the days of Fingal ?) If the answer was in the affirmative, the whole hamlet was convened, and midnight was usually the hour of separation. At these meetings the women regularly attended, and were, besides, in the habit of assembling alternately in each other's houses, with their distaffs, or spinning-wheels, when the best singer, or the most amusing reciter, always bore away the palm.
• When a boy I took great pleasure in hearing these recitations, and now reflect, with much surprise, on the ease and rapidity with which a person could continue them for hours, without hesitation and without stopping, except to give the argument or prelude to a new chapter or subject. One of the most remarkable of these reciters in my time was Duncan Macintyre, a native of Glenlyon in Perthshire, who died in September 1816, in his 93d year. His memory was most tenacious; and the poems, songs, and tales, of which he retained a perfect remembrance to the last, would fill a volume. Several of the poems are in possession of the Highland Society of London, who settled a small annual pension on Macintyre a few years before his death, as being one of the last who retained any resemblance to the ancient race of Bards. When any surprise was expressed at his strength of memory, and his great store of ancient poetry, he said, that, in his early years, he knew numbers whose superior stores of poetry would have made his own appear as nothing. This talent was so general, that to multiply instances of it may appear superfluous.
A few years ago the Highland Society of London sent the late Mr Alexander Stewart* through the Southern Highlands to collect a few remains of Gaelic poetry. When he came to this house, a young woman in the immediate neighbourhood was sent for, from whose recitations he wrote down upwards of 3000 lines; and, had she been desired, she could have given him as many more. So correct was her memory that, when the whole was read over to her, the corrections were trifling. When she stopped to give the transcriber time to write, she invariably took up the word immediately following that at which she stopped. The girl had peculiar advantages, as her father and mother possessed great stores of Celtic poetry and traditions. Several of them are in possession of the Highland Society of London.
• Ha was grandson to the man who bathed in his native waters.
The powers of memory and fancy thus acquired a strength unexampled among the peasantry of any other country, where recitation is not practised in n similar way, and where, every thing being committed to paper, the exercise of memory is less necessary. It is owing to this ancient custom that we still meet with Highlanders who can give a connected, and minutely accurate detail of the history, genealogy, feuds, and battles of all the tribes and families in every district, or glen, for many miles round, and for a period of several hundred years; illustrating their details by a reference to every remarkable stone, cairn, • tree, or stream, within the district; connecting with each some kindred story of a fairy or ghost, or the death of some person who perished in the snow, by any sudden disaster, or by some accidental rencounter; and embellishing them with various anecdotes, such topics forming their ordinary subject of conversation. In the Lowlands, on the other hand, it is difficult to find a person, in the same station of life, who can repeat from memory more than a few verses of a psalm or ballad. The bare description, however, of such rencounters or accidents, among a people merely warlike, how impetuous and energetic soever in character, would have proved exceedingly monotonous, or fit only to amuse or interest persons possessed of few ideas and obtuse feelings ; but in the graphic delineations of the Celtic narrator, the representation of adventures, whether romantic or domestic, was enlivened by dramatic sketches, which introduced him occasionally as speaking or conversing in an appropriate and characteristic manner. This, among people accustomed to embody the expressions of passion and deep feeling in a powerful and pathetic eloquence, gave life and
* A heap of (tones was thrown over the spot where a person happened to be killed or buried. Every passenger added a stone to this heap, which was called a Cairn. Hence the Highlanders have a saying, when one person serves another, or shows any civility, "I will add a stone to your cairn;" in other words, I will respect your memory.
vigour to the narratives, and was, in fact, the spirit by which these narratives were at once animated and preserved. *
By this manner of passing their leisure time, and by habitual intercourse with their superiors, they acquired it great degree of natural good breeding, together with a fluency of nervous, elegant, and grammatical expression, not easily to be conceived or understood by persons whose dialect has been contaminated by an intermixture of Greek, Latin, and French idioms. Their conversations were carried on with a degree of ease, vivacity, and freedom from restraint, not usually to be met with in the lower orders of society. The Gaelic language is singularly adapted to this colloquial ease, frankness, and courtesy. It contains expressions better calculated to mark the various degrees of respect and deference due to age, rank, or character, than are to be found in almost any other language. These expressions are, indeed, peculiar and untranslatable. A Highlander was accustomed to stand before his superior with his bonnet in his hand, if so permitted, (which was rarely the case, as few superiors chose to be outdone in politeness by the people,) and his plaid thrown over his left shoulder, with his right arm in full action, adding strength to his expressions, while he preserved a perfect command of his mind, his wordst and manners. He was accustomed, without showing the least bashful timidity, to argue and pass his joke (for which the language is also well adapted) with the greatest freedom, naming the person whom he addressed by his most familiar appellation. t Feeling thus unembarrassed before his superior, he never lost the air of conscious independence and confidence in himself, which were acquired by his habitual use of arms, " a fashion," as is observed by a celebrated writer, "which, by accustoming them to the instruments of death, remove the fear of death itself; and which, from the danger of provocation, made the common people as polite and as guarded in their behaviour as the gentry of other countries." *
• Martin, speaking of the Highlanders of his time, says, "Several of both sexes have a quick vein of poesy; and in their language (which is very emphatic) they compose rhymes and verse, both of which powerfully affect the fancy, and, in my judgment, (which is not singular in this matter,) with as great force as that of any ancient or modern poet I ever yet read. They have generally very retentive memories."
f If the individual was a man of landed property, or a tacksman of an old family, he was addressed by the name of his estate or farm; if otherwise, by his Christian name or patronymic. From these patronymics many of our most ancient families, such as the Mncdonalds, Mncdou
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gals, Macgrcgors, and others of the western and southern clans, assumed their names, as well as the more modern clans of the southern Highlanders, as the Robertsons and Farquharsons, the latter changing the Celtic nine to the Scottish ton, as the Fergusons have done, although this last is supposed to be one of the most ancient names of any, as pronounced in Gaelic, in which language the modern name Ferguson is totally unknown. The last instance I knew of a person assuming the patronymic as a surname, was the late General Reid, who died Colonel of the until regiment in 1806, and whom I shall have occasion to mention as an officer of the 42d regiment, and as one of the most scientific amateur musicians of his time. He was son of Alexander Robertson of Straloch, whose forefathers, for more than three centuries, were always called Barons Rua, or Roy. The designation was originally assumed by the first of the family having red hair, and having got a royal grant of a barony. Although the representative of the family was in all companies addressed as Baron Rua, and, as I have said, was known by no other name, yet his signature was always Robertson, all the younger part of the children bearing that name. General Reid never observed this rule ; and, being the heir of the family, not only was called Reid, but kept the name and signature of Reid. The celebrated Ceaniarh, Robert Rua Macgrcgor, sometimes signed Rob Roy. t * Sir John Dalrvmple's Memoirs of Great Britain.
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t See Appendix, Q.
Attachment to the exiled family—Political differences between the Laplanders and the Highlanders—Disinterested but mistaken feeling of loyalty—Military conduct.
Under the House of Stewart, * the Highlanders enjoyed a degree of freedom suited to the ideas of a high spirited people, proud of having, for a series of ages, maintained their independence. Excepting the attempts made by James I. and James V. to check their endless feuds, there are few instances of the Sovereign interposing his authority betwixt the chieftains and their clans. Whether this conduct resulted from want of power or from kindness, it produced a favourable impression on the minds of the Highlanders; nor was it till after the reign of Charles I., and during the Commonwealth, when Oliver Cromwell planted garrisons in the heart of their country, to punish them for their loyalty during the civil wars, that the Highlanders began to find their freedom restrained. This restraint, however, continued only during the period of the Usurpation; for soon after the Restoration, the garrisons were withdrawn by Charles II. in consideration of the eminent services rendered to his father and himself in their adversity. The subsequent measures adopted by King William helped greatly to awaken and confirm the attachment of the Highlanders to their ancient kings, while it increased their aversion to the new monarch.
To these causes may in part be ascribed the eagerness with which the Highlanders strove for the restoration of their ancient line of sovereigns. Another source of this attachment may be traced to the feudal system itself. When
* See Appendix, R.