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We had, as at all other places, some difficulty in landing. The crags were irregularly broken, and a false step would have been very mischievous.
It seemed that the rocks might, with no great labour, have been hewn almost into a regular flight of steps; and as there are no other landing places, I considered this rugged ascent as the consequence of a form of life inured to hardships, and therefore not studious of nice accommodations. But I know not whether, for many ages, it was not considered as a part of military policy, to keep the country not easily accessible. The rocks are natural fortifications, and an enemy climbing with difficulty was easily destroyed by those who stood high above him.
Our reception exceeded our expectations. We found nothing but civility, elegance, and plenty. After the usual refreshments, and the usual conversation, the evening came upon us. The carpet was then rolled off the floor; the musician was called, and the whole company was invited to dance, nor did ever fairies trip with greater alacrity. The general air of festivity, which predominated in this place, so far remote from all those regions which the mind has been used to contemplate as the mansions of pleasure, struck the imagination with a delightful surprise, analogous to that which is felt at an unexpected emersion from darkness into light.
When it was time to sup, the dance ceased, and six and thirty persons sat down to two tables in the same room. After supper the ladies sung Erse songs, to which I listened as an English audience to an Italian opera, delighted with the sound of words which I did not understand.
sixty winter in Rona, under the superintendance of a solitary herdsman.
The length of Raasay is, by computation, fifteen miles, and the breadth two. These coun tries have never been measured, and the compu tation by miles is negligent and arbitrary. We observed in travelling, that the nominal and real distance of places had very little relation to each other. Raasay probably contains near a hundred square miles. It affords not much ground, notwithstanding its extent, either for tillage or pasture; for it is rough, rocky, and barren. The cattle often perish by falling from the precipices. It is like the other islands, I think, generally naked of shade, but it is naked by neglect; for the laird has an orchard, and very large forest trees grow about his house. Like other hilly countries, it has many rivulets. One of the brooks turns a corn-mill, and at least one produces trouts.
In the streams or fresh lakes of the islands, I have never heard of any other fish than trouts and eels. The trouts which I have seen are not large; the colour of their flesh is tinged as in England. Of their eels I can give no account, having never tasted them; for I believe they are not considered as wholesome food.
It is not very easy to fix the principles upon which mankind have agreed to eat some animals, and reject others; and as the principle is not evident, it is not uniform. That which is selected as delicate in one country, is by its neighbours abhorred as loathsome. The Neapolitans lately refused to eat potatoes in a famine. An Englishman is not easily persuaded to dine on snails with an Italian, on I inquired the subjects of the songs, and was frogs with a Frenchman, or on horse-flesh with told of one, that it was a love-song, and of ano- a Tartar. The vulgar inhabitants of Sky, ther, that it was a farewell composed by one of I know not whether of the other islands, hold the islanders that was going, in this epidemical not only eels, but pork and bacon, in abhorfury of emigration, to seek his fortune in Ame-rence, and accordingly I never saw a hog in the rica. What sentiments would rise, on such an Hebrides, except one at Dunvegan. occasion, in the heart of one who had not been taught to lament by precedent, I should gladly have known; but the lady, by whom I sat, thought herself not equal to the work of translating.
Raasay has wild fowl in abundance, but neither deer, hares, nor rabbits. Why it has them not, might be asked, but that of such questions there is no end. Why does any nation want what it might have? Why are not Mr. Macleod is the proprietor of the islands spices transplanted to America? Why does tea of Raasay, Rona, and Fladda, and possesses an continue to be brought from China? Life imextensive district in Sky. The estate has not, proves but by slow degrees, and much in every during four hundred years, gained or lost a sin-place is yet to do. Attempts have been made gle acre.
One of the old Highland alliances has continued for two hundred years, and is still subsisting between Macleod of Raasay, and Macdonald of Sky, in consequence of which, the survivor always inherits the arms of the deceased; a natural memorial of military friendship. At the death of the late Sir James Macdonald, his sword was delivered to the present laird of Raasay.
The family of Raasay consists of the laird, the lady, three sons, and ten daughters. For the sons there is a tutor in the house, and the lady is said to be very skilful and diligent in the education of her girls. More gentleness of manners, or a more pleasing appearance of domestic society, is not found in the most polished countries.
Raasay is the only inhabited island in Mr. Macleod's possession. Rona and Fladda afford only pasture for cattle, of which one hundred and
to raise roebucks in Raasay, but without effect. The young ones it is extremely difficult to rear, and the old can very seldom be taken alive.
Hares and rabbits might be more easily ob tained. That they have few or none of either in Sky, they impute to the ravage of the foxes, and have therefore set, for some years past, a price upon their heads, which, as the number was diminished, has been gradually raised, from three shillings and sixpence to a guinea, a sum so great in this part of the world, that in a short time Sky may be as free from foxes, as England from wolves. The fund for these rewards is a tax of sixpence in the pound, imposed by the farmers on themselves, and said to be paid with great willingness.
The beasts of prey in the islands are foxes, otters, and weasels. The foxes are bigger than those of England; but the otters exceed ours in a far greater proportion. I saw one at Armidel, of a size much beyond that which I supposed
them ever to attain; and Mr. Maclean, the heir of Col, a man of middle stature, informed me that he once shot an otter, of which the tail reached the ground, when he held up the head to a level with his own. I expected the otter to have a foot particularly formed for the art of swimming; but upon examination, I did not find it differing much from that of a spaniel. As he preys in the sea, he does little visible mischief, and is killed only for his fur. White otters are sometimes seen.
In Raasay they might have hares and rabbits, for they have no foxes. Some depredations, such as were never made before, have caused a suspicion that a fox has been lately landed in the island by spite or wantonness. This imaginary stranger has never yet been seen, and therefore, perhaps, the mischief was done by some other animal. It is not likely that a creature so ungentle, whose head could have been sold in Sky for a guinea, should be kept alive only to gratify the malice of sending him to prey upon a neighbour: and the passage from Sky is wider than a fox would venture to swim, unless he were chased by dogs into the sea, and perhaps then his strength would enable him to cross. How beasts of prey came into any islands, is not easy to guess. In cold countries they take advantage of hard winters, and travel over the ice: but this is a very scanty solution; for they are found where they have no discoverable means of coming.
The corn of this island is but little. I saw the harvest of a small field. The women reaped the corn, and the men bound up the sheaves, The strokes of the sickle were timed by the modulation of the harvest-song, in which all their voices were united. They accompany in the Highlands every action which can be done in equal time, with an appropriated strain, which has, they say, not much meaning; but its effects are regularity and cheerfulness. The ancient proceleusmatic song, by which the rowers of galleys were animated, may be supposed to have been of this kind. There is now an oarsong used by the Hebridians.
The ground of Raasay seems fitter for cattle than for corn, and of black cattle I suppose the number is very great. The laird himself keeps a herd of four hundred, one hundred of which are annually sold. Of an extensive domain, which he holds in his own hands, he considers the sale of cattle as repaying him the rent, and supports the plenty of a very liberal table with the remaining product.
Raasay is supposed to have been very long inhabited. On one side of it they show caves into which the rude nations of the first ages retreated from the weather. These dreary vaults might have had other uses. There is still a cavity near the house called the oar-cave, in which the seamen, after one of those piratical expeditions which in rougher times were very frequent, used, as tradition tells, to hide their
This hollow was near the sea, that nothing so necessary might be far to be fetched; and it was secret, that enemies, if they landed, could find nothing. Yet it is not very evident of what use it was to hide their oars from those, who if they were masters of the coast, could take away their boats.
A proof much stronger of the distance at
which the first possessors of this island lived from the present time, is afforded by the stone heads of arrows, which are very frequently picked up. The people call them elf-bolts, and believe that the fairies shoot them at the cattle. They nearly resemble those which Mr. Banks has lately brought from the savage countries in the Pacific Ocean, and must have been made by a nation to which the use of metals was unknown.
The number of this little community has never been counted by its ruler, nor have I obtained any positive account, consistent with the result of political computation. Not many years ago, the late laird led out one hundred men upon a military expedition. The sixth part of a people is supposed capable of bearing arms: Raasay had therefore six hundred inhabitants. But because it is not likely that every man able to serve in the field would follow the summons, or that the chief would leave his lands totally defenceless, or take away all the hands qualified for labour, let it be supposed, that half as many might be permitted to stay at home. The whole number then will be nine hundred; or nine to a square mile; a degree of populousness greater than those tracts of desolation can often show. They are content with their country, and faithful to their chiefs, and yet uninfected with the fever of migration.
Near the house at Raasay is a chapel unroofed and ruinous, which has long been used only as a place of burial. About the churches in the islands are sma!! squares enclosed with stone, which belong to particular families, as repositories for the dead. At Raasay there is one, I think, for the proprietor, and one for some collateral house.
It is told by Martin, that at the death of the lady of the island, it has been here the custom to erect a cross. This we found not to be true. The stones that stand about the chapel at a small distance, some of which, perhaps, have crosses cut upon them, are believed to have been not funeral monuments, but the ancient boundaries of the sanctuary or consecrated ground.
Martin was a man not illiterate: he was an inhabitant of Sky, and therefore was within reach of intelligence, and with no great difficulty might have visited the places which he undertakes to describe; yet with all his opportunities, he has often suffered himself to be deceived. He lived in the last century, when the chiefs of the clans had lost little of their original influence. The mountains were yet unpenetrated, no inlet was opened to foreign novelties, and the fendal institutions operated upon life with their full force. He might therefore have displayed a series of subordination and a form of government, which in more luminous and improveo regions have been long forgotten, and have delighted his readers with many uncouth customs that are now disused, and wild opinions that prevail no longer. But he probably had not knowledge of the world sufficient to qualify him for judging what would deserve or gain the attention of mankind. The mode of life which was familiar to himself, he did not suppose unknown to others, nor imagine that he could give pleasure by telling that, of which it was, in his little country, impossible to be ignorant.
What he has neglected, cannot now be per
formed. In nations, where there is hardly the | tion with a delightful contrariety of images. use of letters, what is once out of sight is lost Without is the rough ocean and the rocky land, for ever. They think but little, and of their few the beating billows and the howling storm: thoughts, none are wasted on the past, in which within is plenty and elegance, beauty and gayety, they are neither interested by fear nor hope. the song and the dance. In Raasay, if I could Their only registers are stated observances and have found an Ulysses, I had fancied a Phæacia. practical representations. For this reason an age of ignorance is an age of ceremony. Pageants, and processions, and commemorations, gradually shrink away, as better methods come into use of recording events, and preserving rights.
At Raasay, by good fortune, Macleod, so the chief of the clan is called, was paying a visit, and by him we were invited to his seat at Dunvegan. Raasay has a stout boat built in NorIt is not only in Raasay that the chapel is un- way, in which, with six oars, he conveyed us roofed and useless; through the few islands back to Sky. We landed at Port Re, so called which we visited we neither saw nor heard of because Jaines the Fifth of Scotland, who had any house of prayer, except in Sky, that was curiosity to visit the Islands, came into it. The not in ruins. The malignant influence of Cal-port is made by an inlet of the sea, deep and vinism has blasted ceremony and decency to-narrow, where a ship lay waiting to dispeople gether; and if the remembrance of papal super- Sky, by carrying the natives away to America. stition is obliterated, the monuments of papal In coasting Sky, we passed by the cavern in piety are likewise effaced. which it was the custom, as Martin relates, to catch birds in the night, by making a fire at the entrance. This practise is disused; for the birds, as is known often to happen, have changed their haunts.
It has been, for many years, popular to talk of the lazy devotion of the Romish Clergy; over the sleepy laziness of men that erected churches, we may indulge our superiority with a new triumph, by comparing it with the fervid activity of
those who suffer them to fall.
Of the destruction of churches, the decay of religion must in time be the consequence; for while the public acts of the ministry are now performed in houses, a very small number can be present; and as the greater part of the islanders make no use of books, all must necessarily live in total ignorance who want the opportunity of vocal instruction.
Here we dined at a public-house, I believe the only inn of the island, and having mounted our horses, travelled in the manner already described, till we came to Kingsborough, a place distinguished by that name, because the king lodged here when he landed at Port Re. We were entertained with the usual hospitality by Mr. Macdonald, and his lady Flora Macdonald, a name that will be mentioned in history, and if courage and fidelity be virtues, mentioned with From these remains of ancient sanctity, which honour. She is a woman of middle stature, soft are every where to be found, it has been conjec-features, gentle manners, and elegant presence. tured that, for the last two centuries, the inhabitants of the islands have decreased in number. This argument, which supposes that the churches have been suffered to fall, only because they were no longer necessary, would have some force, if the houses of worship still remaining were sufficient for the people. But since they have now no churches at all, these venerable fragments do not prove the people of former times to have been more numerous, but to have been more devout. If the inhabitants were doubled, with their present principles, it appears not that any provision for public worship would be made. Where the religion of a country enforces consecrated buildings, the number of those buildings may be supposed to afford some indication, however uncertain, of the populousness of the place; but where by a change of manners a nation is contented to live without them, their decay implies no diminution of inhabitants.
Some of these dilapidations are said to be found in islands now uninhabited, but I doubt whether we can thence infer that they were ever peopled. The religion of the middle age is well known to have placed too much hope in lonely austerities. Voluntary solitude was the great art of propitiation, by which crimes were effaced, and conscience was appeased: it is therefore not unlikely, that oratories were often built in places where retirement was sure to have no disturbance.
In the morning we sent our horses round a promontory to meet us, and spared ourselves part of the day's fatigue, by crossing an arm of the sea. We had at last some difficulty in coming to Dunvegan: for our way led over an extensive moor, where every step was to be taken with caution, and we were often obliged to alight because the ground could not be trusted. In travelling this watery flat, I perceived that it had a visible declivity, and might without much expense or difficulty be drained. But difficulty and expense are relative terms, which have diffe rent meanings in different places.
To Dunvegan we came, very willing to be at rest, and found our fatigue amply recompensed by our reception. Lady Macleod, who had lived many years in England, was newly come hither with her son and four daughters, who knew all the arts of southern elegance, and all the modes of English economy. Here therefore we settled, and did not spoil the present hour with thoughts of departure.
Dunvegan is a rocky prominence, that juts out into a bay, on the west side of Sky. The house, which is the principal seat of Macleod, is partly old and partly modern; it is built upon the rock, and looks upon the water. It forms two sides of a small square: on the third side is the skeleton of a castle of unknown antiquity, supposed to have been a Norwegian fortress, when the Danes were masters of the islands. It is so nearly entire, Raasay has little that can detain a traveller, that it might have easily been made habitable, except the laird and his family; but their power were there not an ominous tradition in the fawants no auxiliaries. Such a seat of hospitality, mily, that the owner shall not long outlive the amidst the winds and waters, fills the imagina-reparation. The grandfather of the present
laird, in defiance of prediction, began the work, but desisted in a little time, and applied his money to worse uses.
As the inhabitants of the Hebrides lived for many ages in continual expectation of hostilities, the chief of every clan resided in a fortress. This house was accessible only from the water, till the last possessor opened an entrance by stairs upon the land.
They had formerly reason to be afraid, not only of declared wars and authorized invaders, or of roving pirates, which in the northern seas must have been very common; but of inroads and insults from rival clans, who, in the plenitude of feudal independence, asked no leave of their sovereign to make war on one another. Sky has been ravaged by a feud between the two mighty powers of Macdonald and Macleod. Macdonald having married a Macleod, upon some discontent dismissed her, perhaps because she had brought him no children. Before the reign of James the Fifth, a Highland laird made a trial of his wife for a certain time, and if she did not please him, he was then at liberty to send her way. This however must always have offended, and Macleod resenting the injury, whatever were its circumstances, declared, that the wedding had been solemnized without a bonfire, but that the separation should be better illuminated; and raising a little army, set fire to the territories of Macdonald, who returned a visit, and prevailed.
Another story may show the disorderly state of insular neighbourhood. The inhabitants of the isle of Egg, meeting a boat manned by Macleods, tied the crew hand and foot, and set them adrift. Macleod landed upon Egg, and demanded the offenders; but the inhabitants refusing to surrender them, retreated to a cavern, into which they thought their enemies unlikely to follow them. Macleod choked them with smoke, and left them lying dead by families as they stood.
Here the violence of the weather confined us for some time, not at all to our discontent or inconvenience. We would indeed very willingly have visited the islands, which might be seen from the house, scattered in the sea, and I was particularly desirous to have viewed Isay; but the storms did not permit us to launch a boat, and we were condemned to listen in idleness to the wind, except when we were better engaged by listening to the ladies.
We had here more wind than waves, and suffered the severity of a tempest, without enjoying its magnificence. The sea being broken by the multitude of islands, does not roar with so much noise, nor beat the storm with such foamy violence, as I have remarked on the coast of Sussex. Though, while I was in the Hebrides, the wind was extremely turbulent, I never saw very high billows.
The country about Dunvegan is rough and parren. There are no trees except in the orchard, which is a low sheltered spot surrounded with a wall.
When this house was intended to sustain a siege, a well was made in the court, by boring the rock downwards, till water was found, which though so near to the sea, I have not heard mentioned as brackish, though it has some hardness, or other qualities, which make it less fit for
use; and the family is now better supplied from a stream which runs by the rock, from two pleasing waterfalls.
Here we saw some traces of former manners, and heard some standing traditions. In the house is kept an ox's horn, hollowed so as to hold perhaps two quarts, which the heir of Macleod was expected to swallow at one draught, as a test of his manhood, before he was permitted to bear arms, or could claim a seat among the men. It is held that the return of the laird to Dunvegan, after any considerable absence, produces a plentiful capture of herrings; and that, if any woman crosses the water to the opposite island, the herrings will desert the coast. Boetius tells the same of some other place. This tradition is not uniform. Some hold that no woman may pass, and others that none may pass but a Macleod.
Among other guests which the hospitality of Dunvegan brought to the table, a visit was paid by the laird and lady of a small island south of Sky, of which the proper name is Muack, which signifies swine. It is commonly called Muck, which the proprietor not liking, has endeavoured, without effect, to change to Monk. It is usual to call gentlemen in Scotland by the name of their possessions, as Raasay, Bernera, Lock Buy, a practice necessary in countries inhabited by clans, where all that live in the same territory have one name, and must be therefore discriminated by some addition. This gentleman, whose name, I think, is Maclean, should be regularly called Muck; but the appellation, which he thinks too coarse for his island, he would like still less for himself, and he is therefore addressed by the title of Isle of Muck.
This little island, however it be named, is of considerable value. It is two English miles long, and three quarters of a mile broad, and consequently contains only nine hundred and sixty English acres. It is chiefly arable. Half of this little dominion the laird retains in his own hand, and on the other half, live one hundred and sixty persons, who pay their rent by exported corn. What rent they pay we were not told, and could not decently inquire. The propor tion of the people to the land is such, as the most fertile countries do not commonly maintain. The laird having all his people under his immediate view, seems to be very attentive to their happiness. The devastation of the small-pox, when it visits places where it comes seldom, is well known. He has disarmed it of its terror at Muack, by inoculating eighty of his people. The expense was two shillings and sixpence a head. Many trades they cannot have among them, but upon occasion, he fetches a smith from the isle of Egg, and has a tailor from the main land six times a year. This island well deserved to be seen, but the laird's absence left us no opportunity.
Every inhabited island has its appendant and subordinate islets. Muck, however small, has yet others smaller about it, one of which has only ground sufficient to afford pasture for three wethers.
At Dunvegan I had tasted lotus, and was in danger of forgetting that I was ever to depart, till Mr. Boswell sagely reproached me with my sluggishness and softness. I had no very forcible defence to make; and we agreed to pursue our
journey. Macleod accompanied us to Ulinish, where we were entertained by the sheriff of the island.
however, I am by no means persuaded. This was so low, that no man could stand upright in it. By their construction they are all so narrow, that two can never pass along them together, and being subterraneous, they must be always damp. They are not the work of an age much ruder than the present; for they are formed with as much art as the construction of a common hut requires. I imagine them to have been
islander, upon a sudden alarm, hid his utensils or his clothes, and perhaps sometimes his wife and children.
Mr. Macqueen travelled with as, an directed our attention to all that was worthy of observation. With him we went to see an ancient building, called a dun or borough. It was a circular enclosure, about forty-two feet in diame-places only of occasional use, in which the ter, walled round with loose stones, perhaps to the height of nine feet. The walls are very thick, diminishing a little towards the top, and though in these countries stone is not brought far, must have been raised with much labour. Within the great circle were several smaller rounds of wall, which formed distinct apartments. Its date and its use are unknown. Some suppose it the original seat of the chiefs of the Macleods. Mr. Macqueen thought it a Danish fort.
The entrance is covered with flat stones, and is narrow, because it was necessary that the stones which lie over it, should reach from one wall to the other; yet, strait as the passage is, they seem heavier than could have been placed where they now lie, by the naked strength of as many men as might stand about them. They were probably raised by putting long pieces of wood under them, to which the action of a long line of lifters might be applied. Savages, in all countries, have patience proportionate to their unskilfulness, and are content to attain their end by very tedious methods.
If it was ever roofed, it might once have been a dwelling, but as there is no provision for water, it could not have been a fortress. In Sky, as in every other place, there is an ambition of exalting whatever has survived memory to some important use, and referring it to very remote ages. I am inclined to suspect that in lawless times, when the inhabitants of every mountain stole the cattle of their neighbour, these enclosures were used to secure the herds and flocks in the night. When they were driven within the wall, they might be easily watched, and defended as long as could be needful; for the robbers durst not wait till the injured clan should find them in the morning.
The interior enclosures, if the whole building were once a house, were the chambers of the chief inhabitants. If it was a place of security for cattle, they were probably the shelters of the keepers.
From the Dun we were conducted to another place of security, a cave carried a great way under ground which had been discovered by digging after a fox. These caves, of which many have been found, and many probably remain concealed, are formed, I believe, commonly by taking advantage of a hollow, where banks or rocks rise on either side. If no such place can be found, the ground must be cut away. The walls are made by piling stones against the earth, on either side. It is then roofed by large stones laid across the cavern, which therefore cannot be wide. Over the roof, turfs were placed, and grass was suffered to grow; and the mouth was concealed by bushes
or some other cover.
These caves were represented to us as the cabins of the first rude inhabitants, of which,
This cave we entered, but could not proceed the whole length, and went away without knowing how far it was carried. For this omission we shall be blamed, as we perhaps have blamed other travellers; but the day was rainy, and the ground was damp. We had with us neither spades nor pickaxes, and if love of ease surmounted our desire of knowledge, the offence has not the invidiousness of singularity.
Edifices, either standing or ruined, are the chief records of an illiterate nation. In some part of this journey, at no great distance from our way, stood a sheltered fortress, of which the learned minister, to whose communication we are mueh indebted, gave us an account.
Those, said he, are the walls of a place of re fuge, built in the time of James the Sixth, by Hugh Macdonald, who was next heir to the dignity and fortune of his chief. Hugh, being so near his wish, was impatient of delay; and had art and influence sufficient to engage several gentlemen in a plot against the laird's life. Something must be stipulated on both sides; for they would not dip their hands in blood merely for Hugh's advancement. The compact was formally written, signed by the conspirators, and placed in the hands of one Macleod.
It happened that Macleod had sold some cattle to a drover, who, not having ready money, gave him a bond for payment. The debt was discharged, and the bond redemanded; which Macleod, who could not read, intending to put into his hands, gave him the conspiracy. The drover when he had read the paper, delivered it privately to Macdonald, who being thus informed of his danger, called his friends together, and provided for his safety. He made a public feast, and inviting Hugh Macdonald and his confederates, placed each of them at the table between two men of known fidelity. The compact of conspiracy was then shown, and every man confronted with his own name. Macdonald acted with great moderation. He upbraided Hugh both with disloyalty and ingratitude; but told the rest that he considered them as men deluded and misinformed. Hugh was sworn to fidelity, and dismissed with his companions; but he was not generous enough to be reclaimed by lenity; and finding no longer any countenance among the gentlemen, endeavoured to execute the same design by meaner hands. In this practice he was detected, taken to Macdonald's castle, and imprisoned in the dungeon. When he was hungry they let down a plentiful meal of salted meat; and when, after his repast, he called for drink, conveyed to him a covered cup, which, when he lifted the lid, he found empty. From