Kilchoman Cross

Kilchoman Cross, Plate XXXIV, <em>Sculptured Stones of Scotland</em>, Vol. 2, 1856.
Kilchoman Cross, Plate XXXIV, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

This parish [Kilchoman] consists of the south-west portion of the island of Islay, known as the Rinns. The church, apparently dedicated to St. Comghan, stood on the west coast, to the south of Loch Guirm. In the surrounding graveyard the present cross stands. Near to it is a fragment of another cross, and in the neighbouring fields are two small crosses of a peculiar type, said to have been two of three crosses which marked the limits of the sanctuary. There are five churches in ruins, to each of which a burying-ground is attached, in some of which specimens of the sculptured slabs so common on the west coast are to be seen. There are also several unsculptured obelisks in the parish, and many fortified sites. Two gold ornaments were found under a large pillar near to Sunderland House, which weighed 22 ½ sovereigns. About thirty years ago several stone coffins, of from 2 ½ to 3 feet in length, were discovered in the conical hills below Sunderland Farm. Some of them contained one or two clay urns; others contained skulls and other human bones.

This monument, which is of the Campbelton type, has on the east face a representation of our Lord on the cross, surrounded by four figures within the disc, and an angel in each arm of the cross. Near the top of the shaft are two figures under a cusped arch, and beneath them an inscription in fourteen lines, mostly illegible. Towards the bottom is a horseman under another arch of like form. The west side is covered with foliated patterns on the shaft, with knot-work on the arms of the cross.

Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

Kilchoman Cross in the churchyard, behind the ruins of Kilchoman Old Parish Church.
Kilchoman Cross in the churchyard, behind the ruins of Kilchoman Old Parish Church.

This beautiful cross measures 8 feet 4 inches in height, and with the exception of the inscription it is in a very perfect state of preservation, though the design is in places obscured by lichen. An illustration of it appears in Dr. Stuart’s Sculptured Stones of Scotland.

Beginning with the east face we find on the circular head a representation of the crucifixion. The upper part of the cross head is filled with plaited scroll-work, in each of the arms is the figure of an angel, while to the right and left of the crucified Saviour are four figures in the attitude of adoration. The upper figure on the right is winged and below it is a fragment of scroll-work like that at the top. Below this group and at the top of the shaft are two figures in a niche, and these have probably some connection with the inscription immediately below them. The same arrangement of niche and lettering is to be seen on the Campbeltown Cross with which this has many points of similarity.

Diagram of Kilchoman Churchyard from The Carves Stones of Islay. The Kilchoman Cross still stands at the position marked 39.
Diagram of Kilchoman Churchyard from The Carves Stones of Islay. The Kilchoman Cross still stands at the position marked 39.

I think the following can be fairly made out of the inscription. The illustration shows all that can be obtained from a photograph of the cast. The cast itself is naturally easier to make out, though extremely difficult at the best.

Below the inscription there is foliated scroll-work surmounting another niche which contains a mounted figure, and below that again there is a panel of simple but effective interlaced bands.

Inscription on the east face of the Kilchoman Cross, Islay.
Inscription on the east face of the Kilchoman Cross, Islay.

The reverse of the cross head is singularly rich and the combination of bands more elaborate than is generally to be met with. A sketch is given on the next page to show the way in which these bands interlace.

It will be seen that the design consists in part of a series of circles each complete in itself: there are five of these counting from top to bottom, six counting from arm to arm. Again there is a continuous band crossing in the centre and forming four heart-shaped loops, in the direction of the circular segments of the cross head. Again, close to these segments and forming the outer part of the design are eight more loops complete in themselves, not circles this time, but arranged to work into the geometrical pattern already arrived at; within the scolloped pattern formed by the inner edges of these eight loops there is another complete band of an octagon form. The whole design is completed by the scroll which forms into loops at the extremities; this can be traced working its way in and out through the maze of circles and loops about half-way between the octagon band and the edge of the design. It will thus be seen that no less than twenty-three different bands are introduced into this elaborate composition.

Diagram showing scrollwork on the head of Kilchoman Cross, west face.
Diagram showing scrollwork on the head of Kilchoman Cross, west face.

The cross-shaft is adorned with foliated scroll-work which springs from the tails of two animals at the base.

The cross still stands in its original three-stepped pedestal of which the two lower steps are protected with concrete; but the top one is untouched, and at its angles may be seen four curious depressions varying greatly in depth, as one is only a slight hollow while another goes through the entire thickness of the stone.

A pear-shaped stone which tradition says was used to form these depressions is kept at the manse. At one time it lay in one of the holes, but it has had many vicissitudes. Once it was thrown into the sea but in a short time was found again lying on the shore. At another time it was buried in a grave, but before many years had passed it had found its way to the surface. What the object of these holes was is unknown, but a local tradition gives the curious explanation that they were made by expectant mothers anxious to secure male offspring.

— Robert C. Graham, The Carved Stones of Islay, 1895.

Slane at the Feild of Flowdane

Sir Duncan Campbell, 2nd Laird of Glenorchy (1455-1513), as depicted in the <em>Black Book of Taymouth</em>. Sir Duncan was buried not at Kilmartin, as the caption indicates, but alongside his kinsman, Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll, at Kilmun, as in the text below.
Sir Duncan Campbell, 2nd Laird of Glenorchy (1455-1513), as depicted in the Black Book of Taymouth. Sir Duncan was buried not at Kilmartin, as the caption indicates, but alongside his kinsman, Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll, at Kilmun, as in the text below.

Sir Duncane Campbell, eldast and lauchfull sone to the foirsaid Sir Colene, succedit secund laird of Glenvrquhay, as said is.

The said Sir Duncane mareit Margaret Dowglas dochtir lauchfull to the Erle of Angus, on quhome he begat thre sones: The eldast callit Sir Colene: The second namit Archbald: The thrid Patrik, quha deit being ane young man in the Ile Badchelich: And ane dochtir callit Elizabeth Campbell, quha wes mareit on the laird of Monivaird.

The said Sir Duncane eftir the deceis of his said first wyffe he mareit Margaret Moncreiff, dochtir to the laird of Moncreiff, on quhome he begat ane sone callit Maister Jhone Campbell (quha wes secund bischope of the Iles of the hows of Glenvrquhay), and tua dochtiris: The eldar callit Katherine Campbell, quha wes mareit on the laird of Tullibardin: The other nameit Annabill Campbell, quha wes mareit on the laird of Merchistoun.

The said Sir Duncane levit laird threttie thre yeiris, induring the quhilk tyme he obtenit tackis of the Kingis landis in Braidalbane, and of the thee Chartirhows landis lyand within the same, the takis of the tuelf markland of Cranduich.

Item, he conquesit the heretable tytill of the baronie of Finlarg: Quhilkis takis and heretabill conques for said, togidder with the bailyerie of Discheoir, Toyer, and Glenlyoun, tane of the King, he annexit to the hows.

Item, he conquesit the threscoir markland of the baronie of Glenlyoun, quhilk he gaiff to his secund sone Archbald Campbell forsaid, togidder with the twenty-four markland of the thrid of Lorne, quhilk he tuke fra the hows.

Item, he conquesit the eight markland of Scheane in Glenquoich, quhilkis he gaiff to his brother Jhone Campbell of Lawiris, to be haldin of the hows.

Item, the said Sir Duncane excambit the thrid of the landis of Dolour and Aucharnsyde, etc., with the landis of Kilbryde lyand on the side of Lochfyne.

The said Sir Duncane biggit the laich hall of Glenvrquhay; the great hall, chapell, and chalmeris, in the Ile of Lochtay.

The said Sir Duncane was slane at the feild of Flowdane, with King James the ferd, the 9 of September anno 1513.

And wes bureit with his chief Archbald Campbell then Erle of Ergyle in Kilmown, because in the forsaid field that deit valiantlie togidder.

Black Book of Taymouth.

To Confound the Druids

St. Columba, Bishop's House, Iona.
St. Columba, Bishop’s House, Iona.

By virtue of his prayer, and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, he healed several persons suffering under various diseases; and he alone, by the assistance of God, expelled from this our island, which now has the primacy, innumerable hosts of malignant spirits, whom he saw with his bodily eyes assailing himself, and beginning to bring deadly distempers on his monastic brotherhood. Partly by mortification, and partly by a bold resistance, he subdued, with the help of Christ, the furious rage of wild beasts. The surging waves, also, at times rolling mountains high in a great tempest, became quickly at his prayer quiet and smooth, and his ship, in which he then happened to be, reached the desired haven in a perfect calm.

When returning from the country of the Picts, where he had been for some days, he hoisted his sail when the breeze was against him to confound the Druids, and made as rapid a voyage as if the wind had been favourable. On other occasions, also, contrary winds were at his prayers changed into fair. In that same country, he took a white stone from the river, and blessed it for the working of certain cures, and that stone, contrary to nature, floated like an apple when placed in water. This divine miracle was wrought in the presence of King Brude and his household. In the same country, also, he performed a still greater miracle, by raising to life the dead child of an humble believer, and restoring him in life and vigour to his father and mother. At another time, while the blessed man was yet a young deacon in Hibernia, residing with the holy bishop Findbarr, the wine required for the Sacred Mysteries failed, and he changed by his prayer pure water into true wine. An immense blaze of heavenly light was on many and wholly distinct occasions seen by some of the brethren to surround him in the light of day, as well as in the darkness of the night. He was also favoured with the sweet and most delightful society of bright hosts of the holy angels. He often saw, by the revelation of the Holy Ghost, the souls of some just men carried by angels to the highest heavens. And the reprobates too he very frequently beheld carried to hell by demons. He very often foretold the future deserts, sometimes joyful, and sometimes sad, of many persons while they were still living in mortal flesh. In the dreadful crash of wars he obtained from God, by the virtue of prayer, that some kings should be conquered, and others come off victorious. And such a grace as this he enjoyed, not only while alive in this world, but even after his departure from the flesh, as God, from whom all the saints derive their honour, has made him still a victorious and most valiant champion in battle.

— St. Adomnán’s Vita Columbæ, Book I, Chapter i.

Your Lofty, Bedizened Stilts

William Thomas Beckford by John Hoppner, oil on canvas, 124 x 99 cm, Salford Museum and Art Gallery.
William Thomas Beckford by John Hoppner, oil on canvas, 124 x 99 cm, Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

The time is not far distant, Mr. Gibbon, when your almost ludicrous self-complacency, your numerous, and sometimes apparently wilful, mistakes, your frequent distortion of historical truth to provoke a gibe or excite a sneer at everything most sacred and venerable, your ignorance of the Oriental languages, your limited and far from acutely critical knowledge of the Greek and the Latin, and in the midst of all the prurient and obscene gossip of your notes, your affected moral purity perking up every now and then from the corrupt mass, like artificial roses shaken off in the dark by some prostitute on a heap of manure; your heartless scepticism, your unclassical fondness for meretricious ornament, your tumid diction, your monotonous jingle of periods, will be still more exposed and scented than they have been. Once fairly kicked off from your lofty, bedizened stilts you will be reduced to your just level and true standard. — W. B.

Conclusion of autograph note of William Beckford (1759-1844), written on the fly-leaf of his copy of Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Such is Truly Demoniac, Blind, and Dumb

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Botticelli, 1480, Chiesa di Ognissanti, Florence, Italy.
Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Botticelli, 1480, Chiesa di Ognissanti, Florence, Italy.

Dæmonium enim habens, cæcus et mutus est, qui non credit Deo; et subditus est diabolo, qui non intelligit, et non confitetur ipsam fidem, vel qui non dat laudem Deo. S. Augustinus, Quæst. Ev., i, 4.

How the Galley for Lorne Came to the Campbells

Arms of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell; Quarterly, 1st & 4th: Gyronny of eight or and sable (Campbell); 2nd & 3rd: Argent, a lymphad or ancient galley sails furled flags and pennants flying gules and oars in action sable (Lorne).
Arms of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell; Quarterly, 1st & 4th: Gyronny of eight or and sable (Campbell); 2nd & 3rd: Argent, a lymphad or ancient galley sails furled flags and pennants flying gules and oars in action sable (Lorne).

(These notes on the Galley for Lorne are based upon letters which appeared in the ‘Scotsman,’ signed “Ergadiensis,” “T.H.I.S.,” and “Mr H.D. Smith,” all of whom wrote in answer to letters from me in the  ‘Scotsman’ or ‘Glasgow Herald.’ — Ed.)

THE charter […] 1470 was no confirmation of the heiresses’ claim to Lorne, for none of the respective husbands ever made any claim through them; it was the sequel of a long tragedy. In 1463, John Stewart, Lord Lorne, was murdered at Dunstaffnage by a MacDougall, to prevent him legitimising his son Dugald; but he lived a sufficiently long time to marry Dugald’s mother.

For six long years there was a bloody struggle for the possession of Lorne, between Dugald and the Lorne Stewarts on the one side, and the MacDougalls, secretly helped by Argyll and Dugald’s, uncle Walter Stewart, on the other. In the year 1469, Dugald Stewart and the MacDougalls, being both exhausted, Mac Cailein Mòr got from Walter Stewart a resignation in his own favour of the claims of Walter, which he alleged he had in Lorne, and interfered actively in the quarrel. Neither Dugald nor his adversaries were able, after six long years of contention, to resist this powerful opponent, and he had to compromise his right to the whole of his father’s lands for Appin, and became the ancestor of the Stewarts of Appin.

After this compromise only, in 1469, Walter took seisin of Lorne, and granted it in pretended exchange for others to Cailein Mòr; and in 1470 this exchange was confirmed by the minor James III., at whose Court Argyll was supreme.

About the year 1388, the Galley, the family cognisance of the MacDougalls — the “Lords of Lorne of Auld,” as Sir David Lyndsay, Lord Lyon King-at-Arms calls them — a branch of the family of the Lords of the Isles, was quartered by Sir John Stewart on his marriage with a daughter and co-heiress of John MacDougall, Lord of Lorne; and three generations later it was assumed by Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy, and Sir Colin Campbell of Lochow, afterwards first Earl of Argyll, some time after their marriage with two of the daughters of Sir John Stewart, Lord of Lorne. Glenorchy, who married the eldest, also assumed the fess “checquy” of the Stewarts.

John of Lorne, having no lawful son (Stewart of Appin being a natural son), some years before his death executed a deed of settlement in favour of his own brothers, the Stewarts of Innermeath, as next heirs male.

The deed was confirmed by charter under the Great Seal, 1452; and on the death of the old chief in 1463, his eldest surviving brother, Walter, claimed and succeeded to the estate and dignity.

Argyll’s seal, appended to a charter dated 17th December 1470, granting to his uncle, Sir Colin of Glenorchy, a part of his recent acquisition of Lorne, in exchange for Glenorchy’s share of the Clackmannan lands, is not charged with the Galley (Laing’s ‘Ancient Scottish Seals’).

The three daughters1 were co-heiresses of the lands of Dollar and Gloom, but not of Sir John Stewart’s great baronies of Redcastle, Innermeath, and Lorne. The actual transaction by which these were transferred to Argyll was this: In 1469 the new chief granted an indenture binding himself to resign the lordship of Lorne in favour of Colin, Earl of Argyll, in exchange for the lands of Kildoning, Baldoning, and Innerdoning, in Perthshire; the lands of Culrain, in Fife; and Cutkerry, in Kinross: the Earl on his part binding himself to use his influence (which was very great) to procure for him another title — namely that of Lord Innermeath — which was done, and within a year the patent passed the Great Seal.

It is scarcely correct to say that the co-heiresses of the Clackmannan lands, one-third of which estates were appointed to each of the three heiresses, inherited only these lands; for the eldest, marrying Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy, 1448, carried to her husband a small grant of lands adjoining Glenorchy, extending to somewhat less than six2 merks out of the Lorne estates (Orig. Par. Sc.)

Such is the story of the “blazoning” of the Galley “For Lorne” on the shields of the Campbells of Argyle and Breadalbane.

1 The eldest married Glenorchy; the second, Sir Colin Campbell, first Earl of Argyll; the third, Arthur Campbell of Ottar.

2 Or as another authority says, an eighteen-merk land.

— Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

The Laird of Achallader and MacIntyre

Ruin of Achallader Castle. The castle formerly rose to three storeys and a garret, well defended by shot-holes. Now only two walls, one with a trace of corbelling, remain, sheltering the farm buildings of Achallader Farm.
Ruin of Achallader Castle. The castle formerly rose to three storeys and a garret, well defended by shot-holes. Now only two walls, one with a trace of corbelling, remain, sheltering the farm buildings of Achallader Farm.

DUNCAN BÀN was forester in the upper part of Glenlochy (Gleann-lòcha). Achallader removed him thence, and put a friend of his own in his place. The bard was of course much offended, and consequently composed a bitter satirical song to his successor. This offended Achallader, who was resolved somehow to punish Duncan for it. Duncan Bàn attended Killin (Cillfhinn) fair, and Achallader saw him, struck him hard with his staff, and said to him —

“Make a song to that!”

“Well, Sir Achallader,” rejoined the bard, “I will do that, sir, as you have asked me to do so.”

Achallader was a thin, slender, ill-favoured, ill-formed man, and he squinted. Duncan sang extemporarily the following song:–

“Bha mi latha ‘siubhal sraid,
‘S fhuair mi tàmailt ro mhòr;
‘S ann o fhear na h-amhaich caoile —
‘S e Iain claon an Achaidh-mhòir.
“I was one day walking a street,
And a great insult I received;
‘Twas from the man of the thin neck —
Squint-eyed John of Achamore!
Fear crot-shuileach — haothaill-hothainn
Fear geoc-shuileach — hòthaill eo:
Gur coltach thu — haothaill-hothainn
Ri crochadair — hòthaill ò.”
A skew-eyed fellow — hooill-hothin —
A wry-eyed fellow — hohill yaw:
How like is he — hooill-hothin —
To a hangman — hohill aw.”

Written down as given by Catherine MacFarlane already mentioned.

HECTOR MACLEAN.

BALLYGRANT, ISLAY, November 23, 1883.

— Supplied by Mr. Hector MacLean, Ballygrant, Islay; Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

Once the Luminary of the Caledonian Regions

Iona Abbey, c. 1899.
Iona Abbey, c. 1899.

Perhaps, in the revolutions of the world, Iona may be sometime again the instructress of the Western Regions.

James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

What Would an Englishman Have Said?

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.
Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.

I said it was the translator’s business […] to preserve the idiom of his original. That means, not that he must copy it, which would be easy enough; he must transpose it into the idiom of his own language.

A hundred turns of phrase confront you as you read the Old Testament which make you sit back in your chair and ask yourself, “What would an Englishman have said?” When I say “an Englishman,” I do not mean a modern Englishman. The Old Testament record is of events that happened a very long time ago, under primitive conditions; to strike a modern note in rendering it is to make fun of it.

The new Catholic version of Genesis which has appeared in the U.S. contains one such lapse into the vernacular. When Eleazar, Abraham’s steward, has gone to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac, this version represents him as “waiting to learn whether or not the Lord had made his trip successful.” Now, I am not objecting to that as an American way of talking. My objection is that an American would not speak of the Mormons as having had a successful trip to Salt Lake City in A.D.1850. A successful trip suggests shifting your cigar from one side of your mouth to the other as you alight from your airplane in San Francisco. It does not suggest trekking over many miles of desert on a camel.

Ronald Knox, Trials of a Translator (1949).

Description of Kilchurn Castle

Lintel above the entrance doorway of the tower-house of Kilchurn Castle, dated 1693 (when it replaced the original), and displaying the arms of John Campbell, 1st Earl of Breadalbane, along with his initials and those of his second wife, Countess Mary Campbell, daughter of Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll and Lady Margaret Douglas.
Lintel above the entrance doorway of the tower-house of Kilchurn Castle, dated 1693 (when it replaced the original), and displaying the arms of John Campbell, 1st Earl of Breadalbane, along with his initials and those of his second wife, Countess Mary Campbell, daughter of Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll and Lady Margaret Douglas.

Kilchurn castle is situated on a peninsula at the north end of Loch Awe, and is well protected by water and marsh, while the buildings stand on a rocky platform of irregular shape, but with perpendicular faces, about 15 feet high, on three of its sides.

The plan of this keep has some peculiarities. The entrance door is in the north-east wall on the ground floor, and the stair to the upper floors starts from the opposite corner of that floor. The stair is unusually easy, being a square stair, so arranged that small vaulted rooms are provided on each side of it at the east end of the keep. The exterior is of the usual plain style and is built with granite rubble-work. The corbels carrying the corner bartizans are all cut out of the hardest gneiss or granite.

The additions were built in 1693, this date being carved on the work in two places, viz., the entrance door and the door to the stair turret on the south side of the keep. The first of these inscriptions is rather remarkable, and might be misleading. The original lintel of the entrance door of the keep has been removed, and a new lintel inserted, bearing the date 1693, and the initials and arms of John, first Earl of Breadalbane, and of his second wife, Countess Mary Stewart1 or Campbell.

Plan of Kilchurn Castle from <em>The Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal</em>, Vol. XII, No. 70, February, 1913; reproduced from David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, <em>Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland</em>, 1887.
Plan of Kilchurn Castle from The Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal, Vol. XII, No. 70, February, 1913; reproduced from David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, 1887.

Another curious circumstance connected with this door is, that it is the only entrance to the castle, so that to get into the quadrangle one has to pass through the narrow entrance door and cross the ground floor of the keep.

The additions made in 1693 convert this keep into a castle surrounding an irregular quadrangle.

The additional buildings have been very extensive, and would accommodate a large garrison, but they are not built with a view to resist a siege. The round towers at the angles and the numerous square loopholes on the ground floor would, however, suffice to defend the garrison against a sudden attack by Highlanders, which was probably what was to be chiefly apprehended in that inaccessible situation. Although this castle presents a striking and imposing appearance at a distance, it is somewhat disappointing on closer inspection. The interior walls are much destroyed, and the internal arrangements of the plan can scarcely be made out. The buildings have more the appearance of modern barracks than of an old castle. There are two kitchen fireplaces, and probably there were officers’ quarters and men’s quarters, while the keep and some additional accommodation adjoining would be set apart for the lord and his family.

— David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, 1887.

1 The identification with Stewart would appear to be an error. Lady Mary Campbell was born after 1634. She was the daughter of Archibald Campbell1st Marquess of Argyll and Lady Margaret Douglas. She married, firstly, George Sinclair6th Earl of Caithness, son of John SinclairMaster of Berriedale and Lady Jean Mackenzie, on 22 September 1657 at Roseneath, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. She married, secondly, John Campbell of Glenorchy, 1st Earl of Breadalbane and Holland, son of Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy, 4th Bt.and Lady Mary Graham, on 7 April 1678. She died on 4 February 1690/91.

Arms of Loudoun County, Virginia

Seal of Loudoun County, Virginia.
Seal of Loudoun County, Virginia.

Adopted by the Board of Supervisors on 16 January 1968, the arms of Loudoun County, Virginia, were modelled after those of its namesake, John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun, Commander-in-Chief, North America, and Governor General of Virginia (1756-1759). The arms were recorded by the College of Arms in London after suitable differencing — the addition to the shield of an embattled bordure, commemorating President James Monroe and the Monroe doctrine, “Vert and gutty Argent,” representing the county’s agricultural and dairying interests, and the alteration of Campbell of Loudoun’s motto (by a single letter) from “I Byde My Tyme” to “I Byde My Time.” The county celebrated its new coat of arms on 14 March 1968 with a gala event featuring an official presentation from the Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, Sir Conrad Swan.

A Story of Taymouth or Balloch

The village of Kenmore, Perth and Kinross, located on Loch Tay and by the emergence of the River Tay, taken from the Black Rock viewpoint.
The village of Kenmore, Perth and Kinross, located on Loch Tay and by the emergence of the River Tay, taken from the Black Rock viewpoint.

IN the reign of James I., an island at the east end of Loch Tay (Loch Tatha) was chosen for the site of a nunnery. The nuns vowed in presence of a priest that they had not and would not have anything to do with a man. It was one of the Stewarts of Atholl who had the superintendence of the island. He was very severe on people, and had the power of sentencing to death any one who should anger him.

There was a hollow called Lag-na-casgairt (Slaughter Hollow), where he was wont to hang or behead those whom he sentenced to death; and there was a pool called the Black Pool, in the river Tay, where he was in the habit of drowning some. It seemed to him that the island of the nuns was too near the land, and that the water between the island and land was so shallow that men might at times walk from land to it. He therefore resolved to build a wall across the river Tay to deepen Loch Tay, and he imposed a tax on the tenantry of the country that every one of them should individually have to come for a certain number of days in the year and carry stones to put a wall across the river; and were a traveller passing the way, Stewart imposed on him a tax to carry a stone to help the erection of the wall.

It happened that a son of the laird of Glenurchy, whose name was Dugald, was passing the way, and he had a servant along with him. Both he and his servant were riding. Dugald was informed that he should have to carry a stone and put it in the wall. Dugald was haughty, and he refused. He was put off his horse; still he refused to carry the stone to the wall. He was consequently taken to Slaughter Hollow, and there beheaded.

The servant returned home after this catastrophe, and told what had been done to Dugald. In about a year thereafter, another son of the knight of Glenurchy, named Duncan, went the way of Taymouth. When he had reached the same place, he was told that he should have to carry a stone and put it in the wall. Duncan stopped and inquired what was the reason that such a tax was imposed on passers-by.

He was told. He said he would put a stone in it; and when he had put the stone in the wall, he said that if Stewart wished he would stay for a space to work at the wall — that it was a very fine thing.

Immediate consent was granted him to stay, and thanks given him. So Black Duncan and his gillie stayed to work at the wall. Duncan was exceedingly good at choosing his speech, and he and the other men who were working at the wall became very much attached to one another. He understood that they were tired of Stewart, on account of his severity. One day a man was to be hanged at Taymouth for no other reason than that Stewart had got angry with him; and the workmen were sorry for this man. Black Duncan said to them, “It is your own fault when you would permit this.”

One of the workmen replied, “What can we do?  It is he who has the power in the country and we cannot stand against him.”

Duncan said, “Are there not so many of you? and were you to be faithful to one another, could you not do to him as he does to those with whom he becomes angry?”

The workmen then asked Duncan, “Would you do that yourself?”

“Yes I would,” answered Black Duncan, “were you to stand true to me.”

They said, “We will stand true to you;” and they made a covenant with each other.

When Stewart had commanded the other men to go with the condemned man to hang him, Duncan Campbell said, “Why should we hang a guiltless man? Let us catch Stewart himself and hang him.”

So Black Duncan Campbell went first and seized Stewart. The rest followed his example, and so Stewart himself was hung; and it was a source of consolation to the people of the country that they had got quit of the bad man.

Black Duncan himself took possession of the land which Stewart had, and he let land to the men. He was not hard on them with the rents. They were therefore true to him, and he was allowed to keep possession of the land. They named the place where Dugald had crossed the river to be hanged, “Dugald’s Crossing.”

The nuns who abode in the island of the Garden (Eilean a’ ghàraidh), which is near Taymouth, got to land once a-year on the 26th of July; and there was a fair, called the “Fair of the Holy Women,” held opposite to the island, and the holy women had permission to go to the fair to sell any work which they had to sell. But it happened at a certain time that a man called Mac-an-Rùsgaich (Mackinrooskich), son of the stripper, got into the island by a boat, and was clad in woman’s clothes. He stayed in the island till he saw his own time for going. The abbot who had the care of the nuns was subsequently harder on them than formerly, and none of them could get to land off the island to attend the fair. They made up with one another (settled or conspired) that they would flee; so they fled.

It was to the upland of Acharn that they fled. When they were at the top precipice, they sat for a while to take the last view of the island in which they had been, and that place was thenceforth named the “Woman’s Watch.” They separated then from one another, and every one went to her own home. So a ditty was composed to them beginning with the words:–

Red-haired Duncan’s a holy women,
They ascended up the hillside.

No nuns were thereafter kept in the island of the Garden. After the nuns had left the island the Campbells made a dwelling-place for themselves in the island.

Killin and Loch Tay, with Ben Lawers on the left, taken from a short distance up Sron a Chlachain.
Killin and Loch Tay, with Ben Lawers on the left, taken from a short distance up Sron a Chlachain.

It was at Kenmore (An Ceannamhor) at Taymouth, that it was customary to hold the Court of the country; but after the Campbells had obtained possession of the land of Taymouth, it was held at Killin (Cillfhinn), which was a more suitable place for the purpose. A great number of gentlemen were wont to come to the Court, and they were short of stables at the inn for their horses.

The land about Killin belonged to MacNab of Kinell (Cinneala) — and also the land at that end of Loch Tay — at that time.

One day that the knight of Glenurchy was at Court at Killin he said to MacNab, “I wish you would sell me a bit of land at Finlarig, that I might have a place where to tie my horse when I come to the Court of Killin.”

MacNab refused at first; but after the knight had for a short time pressed his request, MacNab asked him, “How much land do you seek?”

“Were I to get the length and breadth of a thong,” rejoined the knight, “that would suffice.”

It seemed to MacNab that so much would be but a small bit, and he named the price for which he would sell such a bit of land; and the knight took MacNab at his word. He got a hide as large as could be found in the country. He got a good shoemaker, and made him begin at the border of the hide and cut it in one thong about the thickness of a latchet. He went to Finlarig, got MacNab himself to be present, and he measured the length of the thong in one direction, across which he measured its length again (sic). So he got a large piece of land for a small price. This was the commencement of the Campbells getting into the land of MacNab; but by little and little they got the whole thereof.

— From the Dewar MSS. Given to the Editor by Lord Lorne, for whom and the Duke of Argyll the tales were collected in 1870-1871. Translated by Mr. Hector MacLean, Islay; Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).