On the top of Ben Cruachan is the spring from which Loch Awe was filled, and this is how they say the event happened:–Aged Bera lived in the cave of the Great Rock. She was a daughter of Grenan the Wise. For many ages her ancestors inhabited that country–a princely family, hospitable and powerful. Bera was the last of that renowned family. She owned as her inheritance each fair grassy glen all around Ben Cruachan, and the many flocks that fed in every dell and strath around. To Bera was entrusted that secret spring of many virtues, hid from the knowledge, and beyond the ken of the world. That became the spring of woe to Bera, and to her father’s race! There was a great flagstone on the mouth of the spring, and it was Bera’s duty to place the flagstone over the spring about sundown and to lift the same stone away as soon as the beams of the morning light began to gild the horizon. There were words graven on this flagstone, like ancient writing, but no eye ever beheld the stone that could read the secret letters. One of those days, Bera happened to be out hunting the deer among the rugged steeps of Ben Cruachan, and, being faint with the weariness of the chase, she no sooner returned home at night, and set herself on her bed of rashes under the leafy shade, then she fell asleep and neglected to place the flagstone over the mouth of the spring! The water quickly poured forth like a great river which could not be stayed! Swiftly streamed the flood, like a torrent or great waterfall, down the side of the mountain, from rock to rock, till the waters filled the glen, which from that time is called Loch Awe. On the third day poor Bera awoke. She looked down the glen, but instead of that green and most beautiful and lovely glen, nothing could be seen but water. Bera gave forth a dreadful scream which was echoed by every crag and grove and dell, and Ben Cruachan quivered to its centre! Bera left this poor world! She ascended to the lofty halls of the great princes from whom she sprung–far far up beyond the vision of created eyes, among the thin white clouds of heaven. Up there her scream may still be heard, and is the dread of the shepherds and hunters of Ben Cruachan. On dark clouds she is seen hovering around the top of the Ben; there oft-times may be heard her song of sorrow, and often she is abroad amid the roar of the tempest. On the dark skirts of the black clouds of the sky she is often seen sporting in wild fury. Like a tall pillar of the whitest mist she is seen hunting the deer on the hill, with her bow and her quiver of arrows! In white foam she is seen on the flood ; from cascade to cascade, from pool to pool, till at length she reaches Loch Awe, on which she may be seen swimming like a calm, white swan from island to island. From the broken ruins of Kilchurn, from the old abbey of Innisfail and of Inniswraith, are often heard her dismal wail. And on the peaks of Ben Cruachan she is often seen on a summer’s morning rising in her airy robes of mist to welcome the sun, till she is quickly lost from view amid bright and joyful birds of the air.
The slabs on this Plate are selected from the many examples within the ruined church here.
The one represents an abbot1 in his rich ecclesiastical vestments, with one hand lifted up in the act of benediction, and the other holding his staff.
The other pourtrays a man in armour. Two figures, apparently ecclesiastics, are engaged in buckling on his Spurs. The sculpture of this slab is in high relief. One of the figures on the pillar may represent St. Michael and the Dragon.
1 Sir Donald MacDuffie, Conventual Prior of Oransay, d. 1554/5.
[HIC] IACET D(OMI)N(U)S DONALLDUS / MACDUFFIE PRIO[R (CON)VEN/TUALIS DE O[RR]ANSAY QUI / OBIIT AN(N)O MDL-
“Here lies Sir Donald MacDuffie, Conventual Prior of Oransay, who died in the year 155-”
[This tombstone was originally in the mural recess of the MacPhie chapel, with the foot towards the east. He was appointed Prior by authority of the Pope in April 1538 and died in 1554; he had probably been in ill-health since an application had been made to permit him to retire, and since his gravestone was able to be prepared with confidence in advance.]
[W]hen an estate is so heavily burdened by an accumulation of debts inherited by its present possessor from the unwisdom of their forefathers. A point is ever reached … when the interest on money borrowed can no longer be paid and the lands themselves have to be sold. This in brief is what had happened not only with the lands we speak to you of, but of nearly all the lands which march with Ardkinglass. You will all of you recollect that it was but some 10 years ago that the neighbouring estate of Strachur which (with that of Ardgarten) was held for at least 9 centuries by a branch of our race passed into other hands. Drimsynie, Carrick, Ardentinny and Kilmun and even Dunoon all once part of the vast Barony of Ardkinglass and all held by younger sons of the parent stock have long since passed away, with the single exception of Dunoon which is still held by one of the old race. And though it seem but a span in the lifetime of a planet, and though the hills that keep watch, in their own unchanging silence, over the changing ownership of the glens, shall smile at the thought it seems a long time in the history of the race when we look back at the far off day when Cailein Oig first Laird of Ardkinglass with his three tall sons settled, in the place where in obedience to a predicted omen his hamper strings should snap.
Letter of Niall Diarmid Campbell, 10th Duke of Argyll, to the tenantry of Ardkinglas upon deciding to sell the estate (h/t Ardkinglas Estate).
Eodem anno  infra octavas Ascencionis beatae Virginis Mariae idem rex Ergadiensis devicit in medio Ergadiae et totam terram sibi subegit, ducem eorum nomine Alexandrum de Argadia fugientem ad castrum de Dunstafinch per aliquod tempus inibi obsedit, qui eidem regi Castrum reddidit et sibi homagium facere recusans, dato salvo conductu sibi et omnibus secum recedere volentibus in Angliam fugit et ibidem debitum naturae persolvit.
John of Fordun, Chronica Gentis Scotorum, cxxvi.
The king that stout wes stark and bauld
Till Dunstaffynch rycht sturdely
A sege set and besily
Assaylit the castell it to get,
And in schort tym he has thaim set
In swilk thrang that tharin war than
That magre tharis he it wan,
And ane gud wardane tharin set
And betaucht hym bath men and met
Sua that he lang tyme thar mycht be
Magre thaim all off that countre.
CAMPBELTOWN is built on what was originally the seat of the Dalriadan monarchy. About the middle of the third century Cormac, King of Ireland, quelled a dispute which had arisen between two tribes, and during this civil war Cormac’s cousin, Cairbre-Riada, conquered a district in the north-east of Ireland, which he called Dalriada, or the portion of Riada. About 503 A.D. the three sons of Erc, the then King of Dalriada, named respectively Loarn, Fergus, and Angus, settled a colony on the promontory of Cantyre, which was effected by peaceful means. These three chiefs then each took possession of a separate territory. Fergus took Cantyre, Loarn took what is now known as the district of Lorne, and Angus is said to have taken possession of Isla. When Campbeltown was the seat of the Dalriadan monarchy it bore the name of Dalruadhain. In the sixth century St. Ciarnan landed here, and lived in a cave known as Cove-a-Chiarnan. He became the patron saint of all Cantyre or Kintyre, and having founded a church at Dalruadhain, the place became known as Chille-a-Chiarnan, which has been modernised to Kilkerran. After this the Macdonalds of the Isles took Kilkerran for a capital, built a castle, and rebuilt the town, calling it Kinlochkerran, which means the head of Ciarnan’s Loch. It is said that King James IV. built the castle, and called it his “new castle of Kilkerane in Kintyre.” He seemed to have resided here in 1498. King James V. had many conflicts with the Macdonalds, and as he was unable to subdue them, he granted the place to the Campbells of Argyle, and they, after many fierce struggles, almost depopulated it. On account of this grant the place once more changed its name, and has since been known as Campbeltown.
The town was erected into a Royal Burgh in 1700, and the charter states that this was done at the desire of Archibald, the tenth Earl of Argyll, who was made Duke of Argyll in the following year. Previous to this it had been a Burgh of Barony, and the charter quotes a charter of King James VI., which ordained that “for the better entertaining and continuing of civility and policy within the Hielandes and lies,” . . . “that there be erected and builded within the bounds thereof, three burghes and burrowetowns, in the maist conuenient and commodious partes meet for the samen; to wit, ane in Kintyre, another in Lochaber, and the third in the Lewis.”
The Seal of the Burgh of Campbeltown is as follows: A shield divided into four. In the first quarter a castle; the second quarter gyronny of eight; the third quarter a lymphad, with sail furled and oars in action; and in the fourth quarter a fret. Beneath is the motto, “Ignavis precibus fortuna repugnat,” meaning “Fate is deaf to idle prayers.”
The castle represents the old castle of Campbeltown, the site of which is now occupied by the parish church, which was built in 1780.
The gyronny of eight is the armorial bearings of the Clan Campbell. Nisbet speaks of the gyronny as follows: “The giron is a French word which signifies the lap—one sitting with knees apart if line drawn from one knee to the other the space within makes a giron with the point in gremio. So all girons are of a triangular or conal form, broad at one end and sharp at the other. The first is at the sides of the shield, and the other ends at the naval, or centre point of the shield. They are said to represent triangular pieces of stuff, commonly called gussets, placed in garments and women’s smokes, to make them wide below and narrow above. . . . This armorial figure is frequent in armorial bearings in Europe, and . . . has its rise in armouries from the robes, gowns, and coats of armour used by the ancients.”
The lymphad, an old-fashioned ship with one mast and oars, is the armorial bearings of the ancient House of Lorne, because in ancient times the Island chiefs held their lands under the tenure of providing one or more ships for the use of the sovereign.
The fret sable is the armorial bearings of Baron Tollemache. At the time of the erection of the Burgh, Lady Elizabeth Tollemache was the wife of the then Earl of Argyll, and the device was adopted by the Burgh in compliment to her. The fret is a figure composed of a narrow saltire or cross and a mascle, which are interlaced. Nisbet says that the mascle “is a lozenge voided of the field—i.e., with the centre cut out. Heralds make it represent different things—the eye or ring to fasten a coat of mail. Others the mesh of a net; others mirrors.” And regarding the fret, he says: “Mr Thomas Crawford, in the fragments of his ‘Manuscript of Heraldry,’ . . . says the fret is . . . a badge of fastness and fidelity, like a knot or tie of ribbons . . . is called by some English heralds the herald’s love-knot, because it is devised by them as an armorial bearing.” In Seton’s “Heraldry” it is said that the origin of the lozenge has been variously accounted for, and Sylvanus Morgan says that while the form of the shield was taken from Adam’s spade, that of the lozenge was derived from Eve’s spindle.
THE earliest notice of Inverary is in a charter dated 8th May 1472 granted to Colin, first Earl of Argyll, erecting Inverary, or “Inoureyra” as it is there spelt, into a Burgh of Barony. It takes its name from being situated “on the Aray,” and Queen Mary in 1554 “for policie to be hade within this realme, and increasing of vertue within the samyn, created the burgh of the Innerrara a free royal burgh forever—appointed Archibald, Earl of Ergile, customer of the burgh for life, and gave power to the Provost, Baillies, Councillors, community and inhabitants to build a pretorium for the administration of justice.” This “pretorium” was used till about 1754, and was the first of the kind in Argyleshire. Then another court house and prison were built, which is now used by the Chamberlain of Argyll as an office. The town obtained another charter from King Charles I. in 1648.
The Seal bears in the centre a shield, with horizontal wavy lines representing the sea, and with five herrings swimming into a net which is shown suspended at one side. Above the shield is the name Inverary, and surrounding the lower part, the motto “Semper tibi pendeat halec” which may be freely translated “May the fish sauce always be ready for you.”
As the principal industry of the Burgh is the herring fishing in Lochfyne, the design speaks for itself, and is intended to represent a net set in the loch with herrings entering it.
The motto, however, requires a word of explanation, as it seems to refer to the fishing industry being the most important of all industries, and the Lochfyne herrings being the finest of all fish. The Latin word halec or alec is translated in dictionaries as “the sediment of a costly fish sauce called garum; and the meaning of garum is given as “a thick sauce-fish sauce.” This garum was much used by the Romans in almost all their dishes, and seems to have been very expensive. It is said that the most esteemed was that which came from Antipolis and Dalmatia, but Horace praises that made at Byzance, and says that it was considered the best as well as the most expensive. Pliny says that garum is a liquid of a very exquisite nature made from the intestines of fish, and several parts which would otherwise be discarded. These are macerated in salt, and, he says, garum is, in fact, the result of their putrefaction. He also remarks that it was originally prepared from a fish called “garos” by the Greeks. He then proceeds to speak of “alec” which, he says, is the refuse of garum, or its dregs when imperfectly strained. He also tells us that in course of time this alec became a great object of luxury, and that an infinite number of different kinds of it were made, and he adds that garum also became much improved, and was made to resemble the colour of old honied wine, and that it was so pleasantly flavoured as to admit of being drunk as a beverage. Possibly the Romans knew the delicacy of the Lochfyne herrings, and from their indulgence in them, or the alec made from them, the motto may have originated.
From time immemorial this part of Lochfyne has been celebrated for its herrings, and the “Old Statistical Account” says that the harbour of Inverary was anciently called Slochk Ichopper, meaning a Gullet where vessels bought or bartered for fish, and it goes on to say that “anciently the French merchants used to come and barter their wines for herrings, as there is a point of land, about 3 miles south of Inverary, still called the Frenchman’s point; and the tradition of the country is that it was to that particular spot the herrings were in use to be brought, in order to be cured and sold.”
LOCHGILPHEAD came under the provisions of the various previous Police Acts in 1858, and under the Burgh Police Act of 1892 adopted as the Common Seal a design illustrative of the fishing industries of the place. The Seal is—On a shield an anchor with a cable, and across the anchor and in front is a herring. The whole is encircled by a cable. Beneath, as the motto, is the Gaelic word “Dochas” meaning “Hope.”
Loch Gilp, at the “head” of which the town is situated, is said to take its name from the Gaelic Gilb meaning a chisel, from the shape of the loch bearing a fancied resemblance to that tool.
THE “Old Statistical Account” tells us that about 1714 the first house of any consequence was erected in Oban by a trading company of Renfrew, which used it as a storeroom. In 1736 a custom-house was erected “Oban being reckoned a proper place for clearing out vessels for the herring fishery.” About 1774 “there were from 20 to 30 vessels registered at Oban which were chiefly employed in the fisheries; but from the decrease of that trade on the N.-W. coast the number of vessels is now much smaller.” In 1811 it was erected into a Burgh of Barony in favour of the Duke of Argyll. But the Court of Session afterwards set this charter aside, and another charter was granted in 1820 in favour of the Duke of Argyll and Mr Campbell of Combie. The town was made a Parliamentary Burgh in 1833.
The Seal of the Burgh is a shield in the base of which is a representation of the galley of Lorn with oars in action, and beneath, in the sea, a fish swimming. In the left hand chief is a lion rampant, the Scottish Arms; and in the right hand chief the Campbell Gyronny. The motto beneath “Air aghart” is in old Celtic characters, and is the Gaelic for “Forward.” The fish refers to the nature of the industry long carried on by the inhabitants of the town before it became famous as a watering-place.
DUNOON adopted the Lindsay Act of 1862 in that year, and, under the provisions of the Burgh Police Act of 1892, took the following device as the Common Seal of the Burgh.
The lower division of the shield on the Seal bears a representation of the ancient Castle of Dunoon, beneath the shadow of which the town of Old Dunoon arose. The old castle, which crowned a rocky headland between the east and west bays, takes one back into the dark mists of antiquity. Some antiquarians think it was founded by remote Dalriadic chieftains in the early years of the sixth century, and, later on, to have been a stronghold of Scandinavian rovers. Some allege that it was at one time a nunnery, and that the name of the town comes from the Gaelic Dun-no-oigh, meaning “the house of the virgins.” But the origin of the name is uncertain, though Buchanan derives it from the Gaelic dun, a castle, and nuadh, new, and calls it Novio-dunum.
From the reign of Malcolm Canmore the castle was the seat of the Lord High Stewards of Scotland, and when King Robert II., son of Walter Stewart, and grandson of King Robert Bruce, came to the throne, it became a Royal palace, and was placed under the hereditary keepership of the Campbells of Lochow, the ancestors of the Dukes of Argyll. As they lived in it, their vassals and attendants had houses built in the neighbourhood for them to reside in, which houses were the origin of the town, and the ferry between this place and Greenock gave an additional importance to it. Part of the feudal tenure by which one of the proprietors in the vicinity holds his lands is that of maintaining this ferry across the Clyde.
The castle seemed to have covered an acre of ground, and to have had three towers. By Royal charter of 1472, Colin, Earl of Argyll, Lorne, and Campbell, obtained certain lands round the Castle of Dunoon. These lands he held of the crown for a white rose, shown at the bottom of the Seal. In 1544 the castle was besieged and taken by the Earl of Lennox, who had desired to be Regent during the infancy of Mary Queen of Scots, and on 26th July 1563 Queen Mary herself visited it. In 1646 it was the scene of a cruel atrocity perpetrated by the Campbells on the Lamonts of Cowal and Bute. Thirty-six of these were conveyed from the houses of Escog and Castle-Toward to the village of Dunoon and hanged on an ash tree at the kirkyard. “Insomuch that the Lord from heaven did declare His wrath and displeasure by striking the said tree immediately thereafter, so that the whole leaves fell from it, and the tree withered, which, being cut down, there sprang out of the very heart of the root thereof a spring like unto blood purpling up, and that for several years till the said murderers or their favourers did cause howk out the root.” After this the castle was utterly neglected and fell to ruin. Its stones were taken to build neighbouring cottages, and now its outline can hardly be traced, but it is believed there are a vast number of vaults underground.
The upper division of the shield bears a steamboat, indicating that the town received a new lease of life by the introduction of steamers on the Clyde. The shield is surrounded by Scotch thistles, and the recently added motto, “Forward,” shows that continuous prosperity is looked for.
TOBERMORY, in the island of Mull, was founded in 1788 by “The British Society for extending the Fisheries and improving the Sea coasts of the Kingdom.” In 1875 it adopted the Lindsay Act, and under the Burgh Police Act of 1892 designed a Common Seal as follows:—
On a background of thistles a shield divided into four. The first quarter bears a representation of the Virgin and Child, the Virgin being the patron saint of the Burgh, hence the origin of the name from the Gaelic Tobar Moire, the Well of the Virgin Mary. This was originally a fountain which, in the days of popery, was dedicated to the Virgin. In the second quarter is a dolphin spouting water; in the third, an ancient galley with flags on the mast and at the stern; and in the fourth, a fish, probably a herring. These three latter devices are emblematic of the scheme for the foundation of the town, and its subsequent development as a fishing centre.
Regarding the dolphin, we are told by Nisbet: “The dolphin is taken for the King of Fishes . . . for his strength and swiftness in the pursuit of other fishes his prey, and is said to be an admirer of men, so as to be humane, and a lover of music, for which he is often used in arms and devices. Ulysses is said by Aldrovandus to have carried the dolphin on his shield. . . . Hopingius says, that Ulysses carried the dolphin on his shield and signet-ring, upon the account of that creature’s humanity for saving his son Telemachus when he fell into the sea.”
The motto “Ceartas” is a Gaelic word, meaning justice or equity.
— Porteous, Alexander, The Town Council Seals of Scotland; Historical, Legendary and Heraldic, Edinburgh: W. & A. K. Johnson, 1906.
“Claw for claw,” as St Conan said to the devil. The expression “blow for blow” occurs in Waverley, and in a note the following explanation is given of it.
In the Irish ballads relating to Fingal, or Fion, there occurs, as in the primitive poetry of most nations, a cycle of heroes, each of whom has some distinguishing attributes. Upon these qualities and the adventures of those possessing them many proverbs are formed which are still current in the Highlands. Amongst other characteristics Conan is distinguished as in some respects a kind of Thersites, but brave and daring even to rashness. He had made a vow that he would never take a blow without returning it, and having like other heroes of antiquity descended into the infernal regions he received a cuff from the Arch-fiend who presided, which he instantly returned, using the expression in the text. Sometimes the proverb is rendered thus–‘Claw for claw, and the devil take the shortest nails.’
We should be very unwilling to believe that St Conan and Thersites–the evil-minded, “scurrilous Grecian”–had anything in common, and though in those rough early days even a churchman–with little law to look up to or to help him–might now and then have to take it into his own hands, he could not well be a brawler, and at the same time retain the reputation for piety which we know was attached to St Conan. The Conan of the ballad of Fion may have been a Thersites, and the saying may have originated in his time, and may have been appropriated and applied to their master by the monkish scribes. At anyrate, one of them gives the following explanation of it: It appears that at one period of the saint’s earlier life the Evil One had great power in Argyllshire. We find in everyday life that one man, when disputing with another, will now and then find it politic to bargain and perhaps give way a little, even when he knows himself to be in the right, rather than provoke a contest in which he is not sure he will altogether be the victor, and so the good monk found it necessary to temporise with the Devil. There were many very bad characters–so says the old chronicler–in those days in the district of Lorn, or what we call Lorn now, to whom St Conan could not altogether deny the Fiend a right; some of whom were hopelessly wicked, and the latter was about sweeping them all, middling, bad and very bad, into his net. St Conan gave up the last and offered to draw alternately for the others, stating his determination if this proposal was refused of fighting most desperately for them all. The Devil, knowing how very formidable an opponent the saint would prove, agreed. The very black ones were raked away, and then the champions took in turn the souls of the remainder. It was while they were thus engaged that the saint made use of the memorable expression, for his great enemy grew so terribly excited in the grim game that he could not keep his turn, and was continually stretching out his awful hands for his prey. “Keep your turn,” thundered the saint, “play fair, claw for claw.”
— The Highland Monthly, Vol. II, no. 18, September 1890.
On the dark nights of winter, when folks circle round the cheery fire, and by turns amuse or frighten each other with legendary lore and ghost stories, there is one name which hardly ever fails to make the listener’s blood creep, even if it does not cause his hair to to stand on end—and that name is bogie. When in the Western Highlands, I was told a story which curiously exemplified the popular belief in the power of the Duke of Argyll. A Highlander was benighted on the moors, when suddenly he saw a light, which at first he imagined to be one of those two stars called by the Argyllshire men ton-theine, “fiery-tail,” and iùl-oidhche, “guide of night.” But he soon found that he was mistaken, for the light began to dance before him, being nothing more than the ignis fatuus, will-o’-the-wisp. The Highlander, however, concluded it to be a bogle, and, falling upon his knees, he prayed to Peter and Paul and the Virgin that it might disappear. But, instead of doing so, it danced before him in a more lively style than ever. Driven to an extremity, the Highlander then used to it the strongest form of adjuration of which he could think, and bade it get out of his path in the name of the Duke of Argyll. The charm was sufficient, the bogle instantly disappeared, and the Highlander got safely home.