Feadan Dubh

THE BLACK CHANTER OF CLAN CHATTAN.

AMONG the many interesting historical relics carefully treasured at Cluny Castle in Badenoch—the Seat of the Chief of Clan Chattan—is the Black Chanter or Feadan Dubh, of the Clan, on the possession of which the prosperity of the House of Cluny is supposed to depend. Of the many singular traditions regarding it, one is that its original fell from Heaven during the memorable Clan battle—rendered familiar to general readers through the pages of Scott’s “Fair Maid of Perth”—fought between the Macphersons and the Davidsons in presence of King Robert III., his Queen, and Nobles, on the North Inch of Perth, in 1396, and that being made of crystal it was broken by the fall and the existing one made in fac simile. Another tradition is to the effect that this is the genuine original, and that the cracks were occasioned by its violent contact with the ground. Be the origin of the Feadan Dubh what it may, it is a notable fact that whether in consequence of its possession, or of their own bravery, no battle at which the Macphersons were present with the Bratach Uaine, or green banner, of the Clan, and the Chief at their head, was ever lost.

The following lines are inscribed upon the Chanter:—

Feadan Dubh Chlann Chatain
‘S fad o chualas
‘S buan a mhaireas
‘S mor ‘àdh.

It is related that before the Battle of Culloden an old witch, or second seer, told the Duke of Cumberland that if he waited until the Bratach Uaine and the Feadan Dubh came up he would be defeated. Ewen of Cluny was present at the Battle of Prestonpans with six hundred of his Clan, and accompanied Prince Charlie into England. On the Prince’s retreat into Scotland, Cluny with his men put two regiments of Cumberland’s dragoons to flight at Clifton, fought afterwards at the Battle of Falkirk, and was on his way from Badenoch to Inverness with his Clan to join the Prince when flying fugitives from Culloden met him with the intelligence of that sad day’s disaster. As Colonel John Roy Stuart (Iain Ruadh Stiubhart) the famous warrior-poet of the ’45 has it in his Oran eile air latha Chuilodair:—

Clann-Mhuirich nam buadh,
Iad-san uile bhi bhuainn,
Gur h-e m’ iomadan truagh r’a leughadh

which may be freely translated:—

(Clan Vourich of might!
When dire was our plight,
Would you had been there to aid us!)

The celebrity of the Highland bagpipe and the part it has played—so to speak—in the history of the Highlands and of our Highland regiments are well known. “As others with the sound of trumpets, so those with the sound of the pipes are inspired with ardour for the fight.” The potency of bagpipe music on the hearts of all true Highlanders is universally acknowledged. As regards the Gathering it was the piobaireachd’s shrill summons thrilling in the ears of our forefathers “the sad tale of their devastated glens, and their houseless friends which gathered them for the war by notes which had often sounded to hard-earned victory; speaking in strains which made their blood boil with glowing emulation, as they marched to the foe, and which pealing to survivors of the battlefield in notes re-echoed by the frowning crags, drowning by its piercing tones the loud waitings of the bereaved, and the woful shrieks of the despairing women, called in a maddening voice for speedy and unsparing retribution.”

To those whose dearest associations are connected with the blue hills and rushing torrents of the Highlands there is something, on the other hand, singularly heart-stirring in the Failte, or Welcome, on the strains of the bagpipe, and something inexpressibly touching in the plaintive notes of the Cumhadh, or Lament, especially when heard in after years or in the exile of a distant land. According to tradition the Black Chanter of Clan Chattan is endowed with magical properties. Towards the end of the combat on the North Inch of Perth, we are told that there was seen an aerial minstrel hovering over the heads of the Macphersons, who after playing a few wild strains on the instrument let it drop from his hand. The Macpherson piper secured this enchanted pipe, and even though mortally wounded poured forth the pibroch of the Clan till death effectually silenced his music. The Black Chanter was ever after held to ensure success not only to the Macphersons, but also to its temporary possessors, whenever lent to other Clans by the generosity of the Chief of the time. The Grants of Strathspey having received an affront through the cowardice of some unworthy members of that Clan and being dejected beyond measure, borrowed this magical instrument. Its bold war-notes soon roused their drooping energies and stimulated them to such valour that from that time forth it passed into a proverb that “no enemy ever saw the back of a Grant.” The Grants of Glenmoriston afterwards borrowed it in the same way, and it was only restored to “old Cluny” in the early part of the present century.

Here are some spirited and appropriate lines on the Black Chanter composed by Mrs. D. Ogilvy about half-a-century ago, and worthy, I think, of a permanent place in the pages of the
Celtic Monthly:—

Black Chanter of Chattan, now hushed and exhausted,
Thy music was lost with the power of the Gael,
The dread inspiration Macpherson had boasted.
For ever expired in Drummossie’s* sad wail.

Of old on St. Johnstone’s† dark meadow of slaughter
Thy cadences hurried the piper’s last breath;
The vanquished escaped amid Tay’s rolling water,
The conqueror’s pibroch was silenced by death.

That piper is nameless, and lost in like manner,
The tribes are forgotten of mighty Clan Quhele;
While Chattan, that bears the hill cat on his banner,
No time can extinguish, no ruin assail.

From the hand of a cloud-cleaving bard thou wert given
To lips that embraced thee till moveless and dead;
Since then never idly Macpherson hath striven,
Nor trust in his fortune been shaken by dread.

O mouth piece of conquest! who heard thee and trembled?
Who followed thy call, and despaired of the fight?
Availed not that foemen before thee dissembled,
For quenched was their ardour and nerveless their might.

The blast of thy pibroch, the flaunt of thy streamer,
Lent hope to each spirit and strength to each arm;
While the Saxon confronting was scared like the dreamer
Whose sleep is of peril, of grief, and alarm.

Led on by thy promise, what Chieftain e’er sallied,
Nor proved in his venture how just was thy vaunt?
At the spell of thy summons exultingly rallied
The faltering pulse of dispirited Grant.

Forerunner of victory! why didst thou tarry?
Thy voice on Drummossie an empire had changed;
We then had not seen our last efforts miscarry,
The Stuart had triumphed, the Gael been avenged.

Ah, fatal Drummosie—sad field of the flying!
The Gathering sank in the hopeless Lament;
What pibroch could stanch the wide wounds of the dying?
What magic rekindle the fire that was spent?

Proud music! by shame or dishonour ne’er daunted,
By murmur of orphan, by widowed despair.
The fall of thy country thy spell disenchanted,
With the last of the Stuarts it vanished in air.

Yet rouse thee from slumber. Black Chanter of Chattan,
Send forth a strong blast of defiance once more;
On the flesh of thy children the vulture doth batten,
And sodden with blood are the sands of Lahore.

As fierce as the tiger that prowls in their forest,
Those sons of the Orient leap to the plain;
But the blade striketh vainly wherever thou warrest,–
Black Chanter of Chattan, bestir thee again!

* Another name for Culloden.
In olden times the City of Perth was sometimes so-called from its patron, Saint John.

A. MACPHERSON.

Catonic Pleasure in the Defeated Cause

Figure representing "The South" atop the Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery.
Figure representing “The South” atop the Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery.

On the other hand, Catholicism as a factor in history was very real and very abominable to me. Protestantism has, I suppose, been instilled into English people of education not so much by those infant catechisms in which an earlier generation delighted, nor even by the solidly one-sided picture which is still given of the Reformation in all early histories, as by a single book—Westward Ho! Nothing else binds up quite so successfully the cause of England’s greatness with her loss of the Catholic Faith. I never read this book till much later, but I read many containing the same moral, and I came to assume, as all normal non-Catholic boys assume, that because the Reformation was successful it was therefore right,

Treason doth never prosper. What’s the reason? For, if it prosper, none dare call it treason—

There was never a more piercing analysis of English historical methods. The losing side is wrong, because it lost; William of Normandy was a patriot, Philip of Spain a tyrant. The Reformation may be cherished by its devotees because the fires of Smithfield failed; it is recommended to the hearts of Englishmen because the hangings at Tyburn succeeded. For, as a race, we pay our principal homage to the fait accompli.

I should say, then, that my historical views were as much coloured on this subject as those of most English boys—not more so, in spite of family traditions. But there is one exception, not indeed in the elementary histories, but in the novels of adventure, to this rule that the losing cause is wrong. A referendum in almost any collection of small boys would produce a vote in favour of, not against, the Stuart dynasty. Chiefly, I suppose, owing to Scott and Stevenson, this saving glimpse of the gloriousness of failure has been left to keep us all from pure materialism. In my own family, the “Cavalier” and “Roundhead” parties were equally divided at first; I had embraced the latter cause chiefly, I think, because my hair hung straight, and I envied my brother’s curls. At a sensational moment, for what reason I cannot remember, I played traitor to the standards of Dunbar and threw in my lot with the monarchy.

This fin de siècle loyalty never quite left me. Not, indeed, that I was ever in a serious sense a political Jacobite; when I argued at the Oxford Union that the Stuarts were the pioneers of Socialism I was conscious of paradox, and no one was more surprised than myself when, in commenting kindly on my conversion, the Daily News, my own breakfast organ, described me as “a Tory of the Tories,” and the Westminster Gazette speculated whether I was anxious to put Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria on the throne. But I did naturally join, at Oxford, the ranks of those Anglicans who look upon the White King as a martyr for episcopal religion; and of the effect of this atmosphere I shall have more to say later. But the thing went deeper than that: my sympathy for the lost cause of the Stuarts, combined with the sympathy I learned at Eton for “the sorrowful King” whose name closes the Lancastrian dynasty, did predispose me to an attitude of mind which is for reversing the judgments of history: I have always taken a Catonic pleasure in the defeated cause, and set my head against the stream. I am not here priding myself on the chivalry of such an instinct; I am only suggesting that it is open for anybody to find here the cause, or the first symptom, of that readiness to defend the indefensible with which critics have frequently credited me.

— Ronald Knox, A Spiritual Aeneid, London, 1918.

An Pàpanach Mòr and the Campbells of Ardslignish

On the right: the gravestone of Alexander Campbell of Ardslignish, An Pàpanach Mòr ("the Great Papist"), third son of Alexander Campbell, 6th of Lochnell, Camus nan Gael, Ardnamurchan.
On the right: the gravestone of Alexander Campbell of Ardslignish, An Pàpanach Mòr (“the Great Papist”), third son of Alexander Campbell, 6th of Lochnell, Camus nan Gael, Ardnamurchan.

Campbells of Ardslignish.
(Supplied by Mrs. Lillias Davidson, neé Campbell, Lochnell.)

ALEXANDER CAMPBELL of Ardslignish, son of (Airdslignis)
the sixth Lochnell (Loch-nan-eala), brother to Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochnell, and commonly known as the “Pàpanach Mòr,” either on
account of his great stature, or his zealous adherence to the Church of Rome, was an enthusiastic Jacobite; while his only son John was a Protestant, and in the service of the king.

By an accident characteristic of these unhappy times, when religion and politics superseded the ties of kindred, Ardslignish and his son met on Stirling (Sruileadh) Bridge: the latter leading on his men, though himself disabled—one arm being broken, and the other run through; the father, unwounded, and untouched by pity, exclaiming as he passed, “Would to God, John, that every man on your side was in the same state!”

On another occasion, the father and son were again brought together: in a remarkable manner, when the army of the Prince, amongst whom was the Pàpanach Mòr, were surrounding Edinburgh Castle (Caisteal Dhun-èideann), in which his son John was shut up with the king’s troops. The latter, having volunteered to convey despatches from the garrison to their friends in Stirling, was let down in a basket from a window in the Castle at the dead of night, and passing through the enemy’s camp, unseen by his father and the rest of the Prince’s army, reached Stirling; and returning to Edinburgh (Dun-éideann) before daybreak, re-entered the Castle in the same manner as he had quitted it.

The ill-fortune of Charles Edward did not in any way diminish Ardslignish’s enthusiasm in his cause,—as may be seen from the fact that, when he knew himself to be dying (in 1767), he desired his son to have him arrayed in the dress he wore at Culloden (Cùil-fhodair), and caused the pipers to march round the house playing the “Prince’s Welcome” (“Fàilt a’ Phrionnsa“).

At the funeral of this Ardslignish’s father (in 1714) there were 4000 men, under arms, attending the various chieftains; and before the mourners left the house, Rob Roy, who claimed kindred with the family, stepped up to the bier, declaring that, if he was not allowed to have the first lift of Lochnell’s body, it would not be the only one that would leave the house. This demand was granted,—undoubtedly rather because brawling was considered out of place at such a time than that so great a number of men would be intimidated even by Rob Roy.

On one occasion, when John Campbell of Ardslignish was going to leave home, he went to the kiln where it was customary for the dead to be taken between the time of decease and of interment; and while there, while speaking to the smith of the place, who was supposed to be gifted with secondsight, he was surprised to see the man’s face suddenly change, and his gaze become riveted on one corner. The smith, on being asked the cause of his extraordinary manner, said that he saw either Ardslignish or himself lying dead in the kiln, as the body was covered by a plaid woven in an unusual manner, and of which only two had been made—one being in his possession, and the other in that of Ardslignish. To calm the man’s agitation, the latter said that he would make it impossible that this dream should come to pass, as he would leave orders that, in the event of the smith’s death, his body should not be taken to the kiln, and in his own case such a thing was obviously impossible; thus the dream could have no fulfilment. However, he forgot all about the circumstance, and left without giving the promised order,—to find, on his return, that the smith was dead, and his body lying in the kiln, wrapped in the plaid, as he had predicted.

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

Victorious, Gay, Triumphing Unicorn

Hanoverian broadsheet, An Emblematical Print of Culloden, 16 April 1746; Walter Blaikie Collection, National Galleries of Scotland.
Hanoverian broadsheet, An Emblematical Print of Culloden, 16 April 1746; Walter Blaikie Collection, National Galleries of Scotland.

An Emblematical Print Of Culloden.
[April 16, 1746]

This engraving is in three divisions, inclosed by a highly decorated scroll frame. The central division is enriched at one side by a lion and rose, at the other by a unicorn and thistle, and contains the following lines:—

“The Sacred Lion conquers every Foe,
And tears in Pieces all devouring Beasts
Of Christian Prey. But long and well preserves
His gallant Servant, and heroic Friend,
The brilliant, royal Protestant George the Second,
Our only rightful Sovereign, Earthly Prince,
And Lords anointed King, Brave Defender
Of our glorious Reformation Faith.
Constant, adroit, mighty, kind Protector,
Illustrious, tender-nursing Father,
Of the whole British-Israel of God.
And high exalts his potent shining Horn,
Like that of lofty, beauteous, and strong
(Of old Record in History Divine)
Victorious, gay, triumphing Unicorn.”

In the upper division stands George II. crowned, supported by the British Lion. Opposite to him is the Pretender, exclaiming, “We shall never be a Match for George, while that Lion stands by him.”, and turning round to the King of France, who, armed with a spur at his knee, is pricking and pushing him forward, with “Jettons les Reformez à Terre.” Behind the King is the Pope, looking slightly intoxicated, emptying a bottle and glass on Louis’s back, and averring “Pete Sanguinis Ampullam haeretici alteram.” The Devil, armed at the knee with a spur, is pushing the Pope forward in his turn, and boasting “Sum primum Mobile.”

In the lower division is the Duke of Cumberland laureate on horseback. On the ground are four lions tearing in pieces the Pope, the Devil, the Pretender, and the King of France.

Culloden’s Dread Echoes Shall Ring

Marker designating the position of Clan Cameron on the field at the Battle of Culloden.
Marker designating the position of Clan Cameron on the field at the Battle of Culloden.

LOCHËIL’S WARNING
Wizard. — Lochiël.

Wizard. — Lochiël! Lochiël, beware of the day
When the Lowlands shall meet thee in battle array!
For a field of the dead rushes red on my sight,
And the clans of Culloden are scatter’d in fight.
They rally, they bleed, for their kingdom and crown;
Woe, woe to the riders that trample them down!
Proud Cumberland prances, insulting the slain,
And their hoof-beaten bosoms are trod to the plain.
But hark! through the fast-flashing lightning of war,
What steed to the desert flies frantic and far?
‘Tis thine, Oh Glenullin! whose bride shall await,
Like a love-lighted watch-fire, all night at the gate.
A steed comes at morning: no rider is there;
But its bridle is rrd with the sign of despair.
Weep, Albin! to death and captivity led!
Oh weep! but thy tears cannot number the dead:
For a merciless sword on Culloden shall wave,
Culloden! that reeks with the blood of the brave.

Lochiël. — Go, preach to the coward, thou death-telling seer!
Or, if gory Culloden so dreadful appear,
Draw, dotard, around thy old wavering sight!
This mantle, to cover the phantoms of fright.

Wizard. — Ha! laugh’st thou, Lochiël, my vision to scorn?
Proud bird of the mountain, thy plume shall be torn!
Say, rush’d the bold eagle exultingly forth,
From his home, in the dark rolling clouds of the north?
Lo! the death-shot of foemen outspeeding, he rode
Companionless, bearing destruction abroad;
But down let him stoop from his havoc on high!
Ah! home let him speed — for the spoiler is nigh.
Why flames the far summit? Why shoot to the blast
Those embers, like stars from the firmament cast?
‘Tis the fire-shower of ruin, all dreadfully driven
From his eyrie, that beacons the darkness of heaven.
Oh, crested Lochiël! the peerless in might,
Whose banners arise on the battlements’ height,
Heaven’s fire is around thee, to blast and to burn;
Return to thy dwelling! all lonely return!
For the blackness of ashes shall mark where it stood,
And a wild mother scream o’er her famishing brood.

Lochiël. — False wizard, avaunt! I have marshalled my clan:
Their swords are a thousand, their bosoms are one!
They are true to the last of their blood and their breath,
And like reapers descend to the harvest of death.
Then welcome be Cumberland’s steed to the shock!
Let him dash his proud foam like a wave on the rock!
But woe to his kindred, and woe to his cause,
When Albin her claymore indignantly draws;
When her bonneted chieftains to victory crowd,
Clanronald the dauntless, and Moray the proud,
All plaided and plumed in their tartan array —

Wizard. — Lochiël, Lochiël, beware of the day!
For, dark and despairing, my sight I may seal,
But man cannot cover what God would reveal;
‘Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
And coming events cast their shadow before.
I tell thee, Culloden’s dread echoes shall ring
With the bloodhounds, that bark for thy fugitive king.
Lo! annointed by Heaven with the vials of wrath,
Behold, where he flies on his desolate path!
Now, in darkness and billows, he sweeps from my sight:
Rise, rise! ye wild tempests, and cover his flight!
‘Tis finished. Their thunders are hushed on the moors:
Culloden is lost, and my country deplores.
But where is the iron-bound prisoner? Where?
For the red eye of battle is shut in despair.
Say, mounts he the ocean-wave, banish’d, forlorn,
Like a limb from his country cast bleeding and torn?
Ah, no! for a darker departure is near;
The war-drum is muffled, and black is the bier;
His death-bell is tolling: oh! mercy, dispel
Yon sight, that it freezes my spirit to tell!
Life flutters convulsed in his quivering limbs,
And his blood-streaming nostril in agony swims.
Accursed be the faggots, that blaze at his feet,
Where his heart shall be thrown, ere it ceases to beat,
With the smoke of its ashes to poison the gale —

Lochiël. — Down, soothless insulter! I trust not the tale:
For never shall Albin a destiny meet,
So black with dishonour, so foul with retreat.
Tho’ my perishing ranks should be strew’d in their gore,
Like ocean-weeds heap’d on the surf-beaten shore,
Lochiël, untainted by flight or by chains,
While the kindling of life in his bosom remains,
Shall victor exult, or in death be laid low,
With his back to the field, and his feet to the foe!
And leaving in battle no blot on his name,
Look proudly to heaven from the death-bed of fame.

— Thomas Campbell, 1802.

Colquhoun’s Leap

Pass of Glencoe, looking westwards.
Pass of Glencoe, looking westwards.

Some time before the Massacre of Glencoe, the laird of Appin (Tighearna na H-Apunn) had a servant of the name of Colquhoun, in whom he placed great confidence. On a certain occasion he sent him to Inverness (Inbhirnis) for money. The road from Appin to Inverness passed through Glencoe, but Colquhoun was afraid to take it on account of the wild character of the MacDonalds. Avoiding Glencoe, he went down Glen Leachd-na-Muighe, ascended the big pass (Am bealach Mòr), and thence made his way over the hills to the Highland capital. Having done his business, he returned by the same route. As he was passing over the hills above Glencoe, who should he meet but MacIain and his men, who were out hunting. They had rested to take luncheon, which consisted of barley-bread, cheese, and whisky. The bread was in the form of sausage-shaped cakes about seven inches long and an inch and a half in diameter. Colquhoun being invited to partake of the fare, he complied without hesitation. As they were seated on the grass around the chief, the MacDonalds began to confer with each other as to the propriety of using means to prevent Colquhoun from reporting to his master the kind of food they had. Colquhoun overheard what they said, but appeared as though he did not notice it. In order to throw them off their guard, he proposed that they should try who would take the largest bite out of a cake and eat one most quickly. When he saw their mouths full he took to his heels. A party of the MacDonalds followed him as soon as they recovered from their surprise. A waterfall being in his way, he leaped across it, which only two of his pursuers succeeded in doing. Turning upon the foremost of these he cut him down. The other, deeming discretion the better part of valour, gave up the pursuit. The waterfall is to this day called Leum Mhic-a-Chombaich — i.e., Colquhoun’s Leap. When Colquhoun reached home he informed his master of the treatment he had received from the MacDonalds. His master reported the case to the authorities, informing them at the same time that it was not safe for any one to go to Glencoe. This formed one of the many charges that had been accumulating against the unfortunate MacDonalds.

Note. — The following is from the pen of “Nether Lochaber”: “At the battle of Inverlochy (1645) a young man whose name was David Colquhoun, from Loch Lomond side, performed such prodigies of valour that Stewart of Appin took special notice of him, and soon afterwards took him into his own service. David Colquhoun married, and had lands given him in Duror. In course of time the Colquhouns multiplied, and became an important sept under the banner of MacIain Stiùbhart. Seventeen Colquhouns from Appin were at Culloden, where eight of them were killed. They were physically a very fine body of men, being accounted the biggest and heaviest men of the western mainland. Their descendants even at the present day are remarkable for personal strength and size. They are called the ‘dimpled Colquhouns’ from a peculiar dimpling all over the face when they smile, giving them a most pleasing expression. This dimpling is characteristic only of the Appin sept. Other Colquhouns have it not.”

— From the Gaelic of Archibald Campbell, Black Crofts, Benderloch;
Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

I Will Aye Remember

Bide a wee ye bonnie hours o’ sweet yestreen
Haud awa’ the thocht that e’er I will forget
Lang the wimplin wey unrowes afore my een?
And the mindin’ will be sweeter yet

Chorus:
Aye, the road was haudin’ frae the lass that I will aye remember
Braw burn the bridges far behind me in the rain
The leaves were changin’ tae the colours o’ the glowing embers
My heart lay waiting for the spring tae come again

Hae we rin the gless or daur we dream of mair
While as surely as the river meets the sea?
When the eastlin’s wind has blawn the forest bare
Will the pertin’ a’ the wider be?

Chorus

Could I leeze me on your lousome face again
Gin the traivel’s turn should bring me tae your side
Fain would I nae langer steek my heart wi’ pain
Or lay curse upon the ocean wide

Chorus

Braw Burn the Bridges, Roy Gullane.