« السابقةمتابعة »
tination when we should have been returning, and passed the greater part of the night at sea.' I. 281, 282.
• Between Garvrisa and the point of Craignish is the passage known by the name of Dorish more (the great gate), frequented by vessels passing from Cónan northwards, and distinguished, like the other narrow channels of this coast, by the strength and rapidity of the tides, and by the short cross sea produced when their course is opposed to a fresh breeze.
• On the day of my visit to these islands, a boat with six men was lost in this passage ; an accident, like most of those which hap. pen in the Western islands, resulting from the rashness and ignorance of the boatmen. Were it not for the extreme buoyancy of their boats, generally built on the plan of a Norway skiff, and often indeed built in Norway, such accidents would be more frequent, as no experience seems to have taught them the management of a boat in those delicate cases which are of perpetual occurrence in such a sea of cross tides, and in a climate so squally.
' It is not an exaggeration to say, that the traveller who makes this tour, is in daily, often in hourly risk of his life, more particularly with the boatmen of the country ; the rigging of their boats being as bad as their management. Fortunately for themselves, their timidity is generally equal to their ignorance. II. 270.
Nor are these the only obstacles a traveller has to contend with in these islands; for he who is so satisfied with the first answer to his question as to venture to act upon it, will very soon discover, that the testimony is not to be relied upon, even in matters that come under his daily observation.
• “How long is this Loch ? "_" It will be about twanty mile.". “ Twenty miles ! surely it camot be so much."-" May be it will be twelve."_" It does not seem more than four."-" Indeed I'm thinking ye're right.”—“ Really you seem to know nothing about the matter, "-" Troth I canna say I do." This trait of character is universal ; and the answer is always so decided, that the inquirer, unless he is a strenuous doubter, is not induced to verify the statement by this mode of cross-examination. I.
162. Note. Dr Macculloch estimates the population of the Western Islands at 60,000. But if the inquiries instituted by the Gaelic School Society are to be relied on, and there is no reason to doubt their accuracy, he has underrated their numbers very considerably. In the first Report of that Society, published in 1811, the population of the Islands is estimated at from 90 to 100,000; and as the population has, for the last seventy years, beco regularly progressive, it is probably now fully equal to the greater of these numbers. Although this is a scanty population, when compared to the extent of territory, such is the natural barrenness of the soil, and the small proportion of land that has been brought into cultivation, that almost every one of the islands is oppressed with a redundant population, living in a state of wretched poverty, and very often exposed to the most serious privations. Só few are the wants of the inhabitants, so wholly ignorant are they. of the comforts of civilized life, that a bare subsistence is sufficient to remove all the fears of oppression from a numerous family. This excessive population has been gradually created by that ruinous system so long prevalent in the islands, by which the cultivation of that part of the land which is capable of culture, is in the hands of small occupants; a system excellently adapted to the end, when the great object of the Laird was to swell his band of submissive vassals, but most unhappy in its consequences, now that these Lairds have been tamed, and brought under the dominion of the laws. It is quite clear, that the soil and climate are insuperable obstacles to the successful cultivation of grain to any considerable extent; and that the land can in no way be turned to so good account as in the rearing of cattle and sheep. This change, however, cannot be brought about until a vast proportion of the present inhabitants are removed from the soil; a measure which cannot be accomplished on a sudden without outraging humanity, but which may perhaps be brought about by some system of certain but imperceptible operation. We do not believe that much relief can be looked for from emigration ; for this simple reason, that, to a people like the inhabitants of these islands, who are not very unhappy with their condition, it does not hold out temptatious sufficiently strong to overcome those powerful ties which attach them to the land of their forefathers.
• The Englishman, to whom the habits and feelings of this people are unknown, will be surprised that such a state of things can exist at all, and not less so to find that it is difficult to apply a remedy. He expects that the natural overflowing of people in one place, will, without effort, discharge its superfluity on those where there is a deficiency. Ile is unacquainted with the pertinacity with which the Highlanders adhere to their place of birth ; and that, it would seem, exactly in the inverse ratio of all apparent causes of attraction. At the same time it must be remarked, that the insulated state, the peculiar habits, ard the language of these people, present additional obstacles to migration ; and that many changes, yet far distant, must be made before such a free communication can be established as shall allow it to take place, without effort and without pain, before it shall become a current part of the system of action. Any expedients which shall break through these habits and destroy these bounds, will facilitate this measure so much to be wished; and by abolishing distinctions in the community at large, render the interchange of all its constituent parts casy.' I. 109, 110.
But this great population is not only labouring under the pressure of wretched poverty-it is in the most deplorable state of ignorance. We shall scarcely be believed by those of our countrymen who do not attend to inquiries of this sort, when we tell them, that at this moment there are in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, nearly three hundred thousand persons who are unable to read. And, when this is made known to our Southern neighbours, how justly will they rebuke the presumption of the assertion, so often made in reproach to them from this part of the island, that it is the proud distinction of Scotland that every poor man is taught to read and write. This most melancholy fact would, in all probability, have never been brought to light, had it not been for the exertions of those enlightened and benevolent individuals who established the Gaelic School Society—who have, with very limited support, during the last nine years been actively engaged in the most judicious plans to remove, as far as their slender means will extend, this humiliating national disgrace. We take shame to ourselves, that we have not long ago taken notice of the valuable Reports published by that Society, which are full of the most interesting information; but we hope ere long to bring the subject more prominently forward. In the mean time, that we may induce some of our sceptical countrymen, who are firmly persuaded that no such disgrace can attach to Scotland, to look into the facts stated by the Gaelic School Society, we give the following extract from their First Report, in 1811.
· The returns which have been made by the clergymen of different parishes, fully confirm all that had been feared by individuals belong, ing to your Society. This will appear by the mention of a few parishes, their population, and the number incapable of reading in each.
. On the Main Land• In the parish of Fearn, out of 1500, 1300 are unable to read.
Gairloch, 2945, 2519 ditto.
ditto. In the Islands* In the parish of Kilmuir, Skye, 3056, 2718 unable to read.
Stornoway, Lewis, 4000, 2800 ditto.
3000, 2900 ditto.
4000, 3800 ditto. Thus, out of 22,501, 19,367 are incapable of reading either English or Gaelic; and many other parishes might be mentioned in a state equally destitute. Connected with this melancholy fact, it must be observed, that the proportion who are able to read, reside in or near the district where a school is taught; but in the remote glens, or subordinate islands of almost every parish, few or none can be found who know even the letters.
And here we cannot avoid expressing our surprise at the eonduct of the Bible Societies, and similar associations, who, with such immense funds at their disposal, lavish vast sums in foreign missions, while so great a proportion of our own people, both in Scotland and in Ireland, have so much stronger claims upon their attention. Why should a single shilling go abroad, so long as it deprives a single individual among our own countrymen of that very blessing which it is sent away to bestow ? Such extensive philanthropy would be very praiseworthy, if the work at home was accomplished; but to lay out our treasure in cultivating another man's field, while our own is overgrown with briars and thistles, is either insanity or the most preposterous vanity. We fear that it is to this last source that we must trace this wild delusion; for a Report from a Missionary in Otaheite or Owhyee, who tells how many hundred Bibles he has distributed to the savages, has a much more imposing sound in a speech at the Freemason's Tavern, than could be produced by the homely names of Sutherland and the Isle of Skye.
The peculiarities of character and of manner among the inhabitants of these insulated regions, are no less interesting to a stranger than the country they inhabit; and they did not fail to awaken the attention of this acute traveller. One of the most striking features in their character, is that invincible indolence which can hardly be overcome either by the promise of profit, or the certainty of danger. That it is created by the peculiar circumstances in which they are placed, and is not a constitutional disease, is manifest, because it ceases when they leave their country, and are roused into exertion by the bustle of active life in the busy world. Where the work to be done is so little, and the labourers so many, in a climate where the inhabitant is forced to seek shelter from the inclemency of the weather for three fourths of the time that the sun is above the horizon; where there are no manufactures ; and where he is denied the occupation that reading would afford,-can it be wondered at, if the Highlander sleeps away his existence in listless inactivity ? He has no spur to exertion by sceing luxury and refinement around him, in the possession of those who have risen into wealth by the industrious exercise of their talents : The little he does
belongs to those who have inherited their riches from a long line of ancestry, and who seem to their surrounding tenantry as beings of a higher race of existence. We have already quoted some instances of this indolent habit, in pointing out the
difficulties a traveller has to contend with in these countries; but it would seem, from the following example, that the lord is not exempt from this disease of his vassals.
• In a proportional degree, a Highland gentleman is as little anxious to multiply his enjoyments as his tenant, whose domestic animals dispute the fireside with himself, and whose smoke, for want of other vent, must find its exit at the door of his miserable hut.
• The following example is characteristic. An Highland estate was given in lease for 200 years to a cadet of the family, as a reward for military services, under the sole condition of delivering it at the expiration of the lease, with a specified number of growing trees of a certain age, and under a determined fine for each tree de ficient in the required age. That lease is on the point of expiring, and, as yet, not a tree is planted. When I visited it not long ago, the lessee informed me that he meant to plant to-morrow. He had been twenty years in possession; and his predecessors, for five or six ge. nerations past, had probably all, like him, intended for the last 200 years to plant " to-morrow.” I. 156, 157.
It is comfortable however to reflect, that amidst all the privations which the poor people of these islands are doomed to suffer, they are yet contented and happy with their lot; and that, too, in situations where these sufferings must be felt in their severest form. There are few who will not derive a most valuable lesson of contentment from the following very interesting account of our author's visit to the Island of North Rona.
The islands of Sulisker and North Rona, although at a consi. derable distance from each other, are usually associated by the joint appellation of Barra and Rona ; but they are scarcely known except to the mariners who navigate the North Sea, and to the inhabitants of Lewis, of which estate they form a part. They are the northernmost of the Western Islands,-the Thulé of the other islanders, who consider them as placed “ far from the sun and summer gale, ” and beyond the limits of the habitable world. To have visited Barra and Rona gives a claim to distinction scarcely less in their estimation than to have explored the sources of the Nile or the Niger,
· Rona is accessible in one spot only, and even that with difficulty, from the long swell which is rarely altogether absent in this sea. The landing-place is only the face of an irregular cliff; and it is necessary to be watchful for the moment to jump out on the first ledge of rock to which the boat is lifted by the wave. The removal of the sheep is a perilous operation, the animal being slung by the legs round the neck of a man, and thus carried down the face of a rock where a false step exposes him to the risk of being either strangled or drowned.
To find inhabitants on such an island, is a strong proof, among many others, of the value of land in this country, compared to that of la.
VOL. XXXIII. NO. 66.