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above their heads, they turn themselves round and round, till they are enveloped by the whole mantle. They then lay themselves down on the heath, upon the leeward side of some hill, where the wet and the warmth of their bodies make a steam like that of a boiling kettle. The wet, they say, keeps them warm by thickening the stuff, and keeping the wind from penetrating. I must confess I should have been apt to question this fact, had I not frequently seen them wet from morning to night, and even at the beginning of the rain, not so much as stir a few yards to shelter, but continue in it without necessity, till they were, as we say, wet through and through. And that is soon effected by the looseness and spunginess of the plaiding; but the bonnet is frequently taken off and wrung like a dishclout, and then put on again. They have been accustomed from their infancy to be often wet, and to take the water like spaniels, and this is become a second nature, and can scarcely be called a hardship to them, insomuch that I used to say, they seemed to be of the duck kind, and to love water as well. Though I never saw this preparation for sleep in windy weather, yet, setting out early in a morning from one of the huts, I have seen the marks of their lodging, where the ground has been free from rime or snow, which remained all round the spot where they had lain.'-Letters from Scotland, Lond. 1754, 8vo, ii. p. 108.
-his henchman came.-P. 228.
'This officer is a sort of secretary, and is to be ready, upon all occasions, to venture his life in defence of his master; and at drinking-bouts he stands behind his seat, at his haunch, from whence his title is derived, and watches the conversation, to see if any one offends his patron. An English officer being in company with a certain chieftain, and several other Highland gentlemen, near Killichumen, had an argument with the great man; and both being well warmed with usky, at last the dispute grew very hot. A youth who was henchman, not understanding one word of English, imagined his chief was insulted, and thereupon drew his pistol from his side, and snapped it at the officer's head: but the pistol missed fire, otherwise it is more than probable he might have suffered death from the hand of that little vermin. But it is very disagreeable to an Englishman over a bottle, with the Highlanders, to see every one of them have his gilly, that is, his servant, standing behind him all the while, let what will be the subject of conversation.'-Letters from Scotland, ii. 159.
And while the Fiery Cross glanced, like a meteor, round.-P. 229.
When a chieftain designed to summon his clan upon any sudden or important emergency, he slew a goat, and making a cross of any light wood, seared its extremities in the fire, and extinguished them in the blood of the animal. This was called the Fiery Cross, also Crean Tarigh, or the Cross of Shame, because disobedience to what the symbol implied, inferred infamy. It was delivered to a swift and trusty messenger, who ran full speed with it to the next hamlet, where he presented it to the principal person, with a single word, implying the place of rendezvous. He who received the symbol was bound to send it forward, with equal despatch, to the next village; and thus it passed with incredible celerity through all the district which owed allegiance to the chief, and also among his allies and neighbours, if the danger was common to them. At sight of the Fiery Cross, every man, from sixteen years old to sixty, capable of bearing arms, was obliged instantly to repair, in his best arms and accoutrements, to the place of rendezvous. He who failed to appear suffered the extremities of fire and sword, which were emblematically denounced to the disobedient by the bloody and burnt marks upon this warlike signal. During the civil war of 1745-6, the Fiery Cross often made its circuit; and upon one occasion it passed through the whole district of Breadalbane, a tract of thirty-two miles, in three hours. The late Alexander Stewart, Esq., of Invernahyle, described to me his having sent round the Fiery Cross through the district of Appine, during the same commotion. The coast was threatened by a descent from two English frigates, and the flower of the young men were with the army of Prince Charles Edward, then in England; yet the summons was so effectual, that even old age and childhood obeyed it; and a force was collected in a few hours, so numerous and so enthusiastic, that all attempt at the intended diversion upon the country of the absent warriors was in prudence abandoned, as desperate.
This practice, like some others, is common to the Highlanders with the ancient Scandinavians, as will appear by the following extract from Olaus Magnus:
'When the enemy is upon the sea-coast, or within the limits of northern kingdomes, then presently, by the command of the principal governours, with the counsel and consent of the old soldiers, who are notably skilled in such like business, a staff of three hands length, in the common sight of them all, is carried, by the speedy running of some active young man, unto that village or city, with this command,-that on the third,
fourth, or eighth day, one, two, or three, or else every man in particular, from fifteen years old, shall come with his arms, and expenses for ten or twenty days, upon pain that his or their houses shall be burnt (which is intimated by the burning of the staff,) or else the master to be hanged (which is signified by the cord tied to it,) to appear speedily on such a bank, or field, or valley, to hear the cause he is called, and to hear orders from the sail provincial governours what he shall do. Wherefore that messenger, swifter than any post or waggon, having done his commission, comes slowly back again, bringing a token with him that he hath done all legally, an every moment one or another runs to every village and tells tho e places what they inust do. The mes sengers, therefore, of the footmen, that are to give warning to the people to meet for the Battail, run fiercely and swiftly; for no snow, no rain, nor heat can stop them, nor night hold them; but they will soon run the race they undertake. The first messenger tells it to the next village, and that to the next; and so the hubbub runs all over till they all know it in that stift or territory, where, when and wherefore they must meetOLAUS MAGNUS History of the Goths, englished by J. S. Lond. 1658, book iv. chap.
That monk, of savage form and face. .-P. 230.
The state of religion in the middle ages afforded considerable facilities for those whose mode of life excluded them from regular worship, to secure, nevertheless, the ghostly assistance of confessors, perfectly willing to adapt the nature of their doctrine to the necessities and peculiar circumstances of their flock. Robin Hood, it is well known, had his celebrated domestic chap: lain, Friar Tuck. And that same curtal friar was probably matched in manners and appearance by the ghostly fathers of the Tynedale robbers, who are thus described in an excommunication fulminated against their patrons by Richard Fox, Bishop of Durham, tempore Henrici VIII. 'We have further understood, that there are many chap'ains in the said territories of Tynedale and Redesdale, who are public and open maintainers of concubinage, irregular, suspended, excommunicated, and interdicted persons, and withal so utterly ignorant of letters, that it has been found by those who objected this to them, that there were some who, having celebrated mass for ten years, were still unable to read the sacramental service. We have
also understood there are persons among them who, although not ordained, do take upon them the offices of priesthood; and, in contempt of God, celebrate the divine and sacred rites, and administer the sacraments, not only in sacred and dedicated places, but in those which are profane and interdicted, and most wretchedly ruinous; they themselves being attired in ragged, torn, and most filthy vestments, altogether unfit to be used in divine, or even in temporal offices. The which said chaplains do administer sacraments and sacramental rights to the aforesaid manitest and infamous thieves, robbers, depredators, receivers of stolen goods, and plunderers, and that without restitution, or intention to restore, as evinced by the act; and do also openly admit them to the rites of ecclesiastical sepulchre, without exacting security for restitution, although they are prohibited from doing so by the sacred canons, as well as by the institutes of the saints and fathers. All which infers the heavy peril of their own souls, and is a pernicious example to the other believers in Christ, as well as no slight, but an aggravated injury, to the numbers despoiled and plundered of their goods, gear, herds, and chattels 1.'
To this lively and picturesque description of the confessors and churchmen of predatory tribes, there may be added some curious particulars respecting the priests attached to the several septs of native Irish, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. These friars had indeed to plead, that the incursions, which they not only pardoned, but even encouraged, were made upon those hostile to them, as well in religion as from national antipathy; but by Protestant writers they are uniformly alleged to be the chief instruments of Irish insurrection, the very well-spring of all rebellion towards the English government. Lithgow, the Scottish traveller, declares the Irish wood-kerne, or predatory tribes, to be but the hounds of their hunting priests, who directed their incursions by their pleasure, partly for sustenance, partly to gratify animosity, partly to foment general division, and always for the better security and easier domination of the friars 2. Derrick, the liveliness and minuteness of whose descriptions may frequently apologize for his doggerel verses, after describing an Irish feast, and the encouragement given, by the songs of the bards, to its termination in an incursion upon the parts of the country more immediately under the dominion of the Eng
1 The Monition against the Robbers of Tynedale and Redesdale, with which I was favoured by my friend, Mr. Surtees of Mainsforth, may be found in the original Latin, in the Appendix to the Introduction to the Border Minstrelsy, No. VII. vol. i, 1274
2 Lithgow's Travels, first edition, p. 431.
lish, records the no less powerful arguments used by the friar to excite their animosity:
And more t' augment the flame,
an almose deede to God,
To spoile, to kill, to burne,
this frier's counsell is;
And for the doing of the same,
he warrantes heavenlie blisse.
the white he tournes to black;
The wreckful invasion of a part of the English pale is then described with some spirit; the burning of houses, driving off cattle, and all pertaining to such predatory inroads, are illustrated by a rude cut. The defeat of the Irish, by a party of English soldiers from the next garrison, is then commemorated, and in like manner adorned with an engraving, in which the frier is exhibited mourning over the slain chieftain ; or, as the rubric expresses it,
The frier then, that treacherous knave; with ough ough-hone lament,
To see his cousin Devill's-son to have so foul event.' The matter is handled at great length in the text, of which the following verses are more than sufficient sample:
'The frier seyng this,
laments that lucklesse parte, And curseth to the pitte of hell the death man's sturdie hearte; Yet for to quight them with
the frier taketh paine,
For al the synnes that ere he did
And therefore serves his booke,
It 'longs not to my parte
infernall things to knowe; But I beleve till later daie,
thei rise not from belowe, Yet hope that friers give
to this rebellious rout,
If that their souls should chaunce in hell,
as neither God nor man,
Without revenge for their desartes,
permitte or suffer can. Thus friers are the cause,
the fountain, and the spring, Of hurleburles in this lande,
of eche unhappie thing. Thei cause them to rebell
against their soveraigne quene, And through rebellion often tymes, their lives do vanish clene.
So as by friers meanes,
in whom all follie swimme,
The Irishe karne doe often lose
1 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. 591, 594.
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, 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.
'I remember,' says this author, 'I 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 rayment, and lives in as great simplicity as any of his order; his diet is very mean, and he drinks only fair water; his habit is no less mortifying than that of his brethren elsewhere: he wears a short coat, which comes no farther than his middle, with narrow sleeves like a waistcoat: he wears a plad above it, girt about the middle, which reaches to his knee: the plad is fastened on his breast with a wooden pin, his neck bare, and his feet often so too; he wears a hat for ornament, and the string about it is a bit of a fisher's line, made of horse-hair. This plad he wears instead of a gown worn by those of his order in other countries. I told him he wanted the flaxen girdle that men of his order usually wear; he answered me, that he wore a leathern one, which was the same thing. Upon the matter, if he is spoke to when at meat, he 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.-MARTIN'S Description of the Western Highlands, p. 82.
Of Brian's birth strange tales were told. -P. 230.
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
peculiar to, and characteristic of, the country in which 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 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 GilliDoir-Magrevollich.
'There is bot two myles from Inverloghie, the church of Kilmalee, in Lochyeld. In ancient tymes there was ane church builded upon ane hill, which was above this church, which doeth now stand in this toune; and ancient men doeth say, that there was a battell foughten on ane litle hill not the tenth part of a myle from this church, be certaine men which they did not know what they were. And long tyme thereafter, certaine herds of that toune, and of the next toune, called Unnatt, both wenches and youthes, did on a tyme conveen with others on that hill; and the day being somewhat cold, did gather the bones of the dead men that were slayne long tyme 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 remaine there for a space. She being quyetlie her alone, without anie other companie, took up her cloaths 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-chyld. Severall 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 Maghrevollich, 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.'-MACFARLANE, ut supra,
Yet ne'er again to braid her hair The virgin snood did Alice wear. -P. 231.
The snood, or riband, with which a Scottish lass braided her hair, had an emblematical signification, and applied to her maiden character. It was 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 neither 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 the popular tune of 'Ower the muir amang the heather.'
'Down amang the broom, the broom, Down amang the broom, my dearie, The lassie lost her silken snood,
That gard her greet till she was wearie.'
The desert gave him visions wild, Such as might suit the spectre's child. -P. 231.
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 confirmed 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 a character as the supposed hermit, that he should credit the numerous superstitions with which the minds of ordinary Highlanders are almost always imbued. A few of these are slightly alluded to in this stanza. The River-demon, or Riverhorse, for it is that form which he commonly assumes, is the Kelpy of the Lowlands, an evil and malicious spirit, delighting to forbode 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 'noontide hag,' called in Gaelic Glaslich, a tall, emaciated, gigantic female figure, is supposed in particular to haunt the district of Knoidart. A goblin, dressed in antique armour, and having one hand covered with blood, called from that circumstance, Lham-dearg, or Red-hand, is a tenant of the forests of Glenmore and Rothiemurcus. 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.
The fatal Ben-Shie's boding scream. -P. 231. 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 Rothiemurcus had an attendant called Bodach-an-dun, or the Ghost of the Hill; and many other examples might be inentioned. The Ban-Schie implies a 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, with 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 Dreng, or death of the Druid. The direction which it takes, marks the place of the funeral. [See the Essay on Fairy Superstitions in the Border Minstrelsy.]
Sounds, too, had come in midnight blast,
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. How easily the eye, as well as the ear, may be deceived upon such occasions, is evident from the stories of armies in the air, and other spectral phenomena with which history abounds. Such an apparition is said to have been witnessed upon the side of Southfell mountain, between Penrith and Keswick, upon the 23rd 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 21st July 1745, is printed in Clarke's 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 deception.-Survey of the Lakes, p. 25.
Supernatural intimations of approaching fate are not, I believe, confined to Highland families. Howel 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. 1726, 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 Bampton, 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, was loose and dishevelled. The dress, which Lady Fanshaw's terror did not prevent her remarking accurately, was that of the