The Pearl of Scotland

Sign at the entrance to South Queensferry, Edinburgh, displaying the arms of the royal burgh.
Sign at the entrance to South Queensferry, Edinburgh, displaying the arms of the royal burgh.

First of all, in regard to King Malcolm: by the help of God she made him most attentive to the works of justice, mercy, almsgiving, and other virtues. From her he learnt how to keep the vigils of the night in constant prayer; she instructed him by her exhortation and example how to pray to God with groanings from the heart and abundance of tears. I was astonished, I confess, at this great miracle of God’s mercy when I perceived in the king such a steady earnestness in his devotion, and I wondered how it was that there could exist in the heart of a man living in the world such an entire sorrow for sin. There was in him a sort of dread of offending one whose life was so venerable; for he could not but perceive from her conduct that Christ dwelt within her; nay, more, he readily obeyed her wishes and prudent counsels in all things. Whatever she refused, he refused also; whatever pleased her, he also loved for the love of her. Hence it was that, although he could not read, he would turn over and examine books which she used either for her devotions or her study; and whenever he heard her say that she was fonder of one of them than the others, this one he too used to look at with special affection, kissing it, and often taking it into his hands. Sometimes he sent for a worker in precious metals, whom he commanded to ornament that volume with gold and gems, and when the work was finished, the king himself used to carry the volume to the queen as a kind proof of his devotion.

Life of St. Margaret, by Turgot, Bishop of St. Andrews, translated from the Latin by William Forbes-Leith, S.J.

All the Psalms Sung in Thy Kirks

The 1828 R & R Dickson spire atop the Tron Kirk, Edinburgh.
The 1828 R & R Dickson spire atop the Tron Kirk, Edinburgh.

Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

St. Matthew xi. 20, 23.

If a’ the blood shed at thy Tron
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
If a’ the blood shed at thy Tron
Were shed intae a river
It would ca’ the mills of Bonnington
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
It would ca’ the mills of Bonnington
For ever and for ever.

If a’ the tears that thou hast grat
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
If a’ the tears that thou hast grat
Were shed intae the sea
Where would ye find an Ararat
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
Where would ye find an Ararat
Frae that fell flood tae flee?

If all the psalms sung in thy kirks
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
If all the psalms sung in thy kirks
Were gaithered in the wynd
It would shaw the tops o’ Roslin’s birks
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
It would shaw the tops o’ Roslin’s birks
Till time was oot o’ mind.

If a’ the broken hearts o’ thee
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
If a’ the broken hearts o’ thee
Were heaped in a howe
There would be neither land nor sea
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
There would be neither land nor sea
But yon rede brae and thou.

— Lewis Spence, Capernaum

Argyll Sword

Sword of Archibald Campbell, 4th Earl of Argyll (in 1884 in the collection of the Antiquarian Museum, Edinburgh, now presumably in the care of the National Museum of Scotland).
Sword of Archibald Campbell, 4th Earl of Argyll (in 1884 in the collection of the Antiquarian Museum, Edinburgh, now presumably in the care of the National Museum of Scotland).

33 GEORGE SQUARE, EDINBURGH, 18th June 1884.

MY DEAR LORD ARCHIBALD,– It was not in my power to get to the Museum till yesterday, when I carefully examined the lately discovered sword. That it is in its original condition there can be no doubt. As little doubt can there be that the style of the hilt a form of basket considerably earlier than that with which we are familiar on Highland broadswords is in perfect accordance with the date engraved on the blade; or that that date, with the Argyll and Lorne achievement, and the device and legend also engraved thereon, are contemporaneous with the fabrication of the weapon.

You may assure Lord Lorne that the shield is all right,– 1st and 4th, gyronny of eight; 2d and 3d, lymphad.

With regard to the device on the reverse of the blade,– taken in connection with the legend, which, though much effaced, may be read, “God’s strength and the nations,”– I am inclined to think it is meant to represent a hand holding, not a dagger, but a sword, erect–  a “sword of the Lord and of Gideon” emblem! The armourer’s mark on the blade is not Eastern; and your first impression that the inscription was Arabic was no doubt due to the defective rendering obtained by a rubbing.

The extreme rarity of armorial bearings on Scottish, and especially on Highland weapons, fully warrants the inference that this sword was made for some personage of note; and I am not prepared to say that in assuming that it belonged to the Earl of Argyll of the period, you would overstrain the significance of the fact that it is engraved with the full heraldic achievement of his house.

From Dr Anderson I learnt that many years ago a number of old swords were presented to the Society of Antiquaries by the Town Council of Edinburgh, but that it is no longer possible to identify the weapons so presented. Could it be proved that this sword was one of these, an important link in its history would be supplied. The circumstances connected with the end of Archibald, the ninth earl, would rather lead to than discourage the impression that it might have been the sword of that ill-fated nobleman, taken possession of by the civil authorities here.

Yesterday I met Ian Islay in Princes Street, and told him of the sword, which he promised to go and see to-day. You may probably hear from him in regard to it. I send this memorandum to you, as you requested, so that you may make such use of it as you may deem advisable. In very great haste.– Faithfully yours,


Black Duncan of the Cowl and Buchanan of Bochastle

West rampart of Bochastle Roman fort, with Ben Ledi (left) and the Pass of Leny (centre) in the background.
West rampart of Bochastle Roman fort, with Ben Ledi (left) and the Pass of Leny (centre) in the background.

Once when Black Duncan of the Cowl was in the house of Buchanan of Bochastle (Bochaisteil), the food that was customary at the time was put before him — milk, bread, and cheese. Black Duncan liked the cheese well, and he said to Buchanan, “Where was this cheese grown (made), laird of Bochastle?”

“It grew among the broom in these yellow braes and hollows,” replied Bochastle.

In a short time thereafter Black Duncan observed, “I should like to see your title-deeds. I am sure they are good.”

“I have no written title-deeds,” rejoined Bochastle; and he went to his armoury, got a sword and a target, stood before Black Duncan with these, and said, “These are the title-deeds of the land of Bochastle, and there are none but these.”

“Oh, very good — very good. Lay them by — lay them by;” and the laird of Bochastle went and laid by his sword and target. There was nothing further about this for the time being.

Black Duncan went home, and the laird of Bochastle did not in the least suspect that he himself and Black Duncan were not on amicable terms.

It happened some time after this affair that the laird of Bochastle went to Edinburgh, and Black Duncan of the Cowl was there at the same time.

They met one another at the same inn. Black Duncan had sent Green Colin1 with a large force of men to plunder Bochastle; but Buchanan was not aware of this, and Black Duncan felt inclined to give him a hint of the matter. So he said to Buchanan, “Would not this be a fine day to carry off a cattle-spoil from Bochastle?”

“It would be equally as good a day for turning back the cattle,” answered Buchanan. Nevertheless the latter did not know that Black Duncan had sent a force of men to carry off a spoil, and the two were speaking to one another as though they were in jest.

When Green Colin had reached Bochastle, the people of the place did not expect that he was coming for pillaging purposes, till the men who were with him began taking away the cattle. The people of Bochastle did not know that Black Duncan was not at peace with them; but Colin took away the cattle of the district, and went with them up the Strath of Balquhidder and the way of Lairig Eirinn (Pass of Eirinn or Erne). The laird of Bochastle had five sons, who were called the Red-haired Lads of Bochastle: these went and raised all the men in Bochastle and Lenny (Làinidh), who went after the cattle-spoil to turn it back.

There was a man at Lenny (Làinidh) who had been fishing on the river. He killed a trout, with which he went home. He spoke of the excellence of the trout, and a woman who was in said —

“It does not signify much to you; you shall never eat a bit of it.”

“It is a lie,” he said; “I will eat a part of it.” He cut a piece off the trout and put it on the fire to roast it, but before it was ready the cry came for armed men to turn back the cattle-spoil.

This man went out and went away with the rest. He was slain at the battle of Lairig Eirinn (Pass of Erne), and never returned.

They overtook the plunderers at Lairig Eirinn. Green Colin turned back towards the pursuers and said, “Let the best man among you hold up his hand!”

The eldest son of the laird of Bochastle held up his hand. Green Colin let fly an arrow at him, and the arrow pierced his armpit.

Green Colin cried, “Bring home that spike to the women of Lenny (Làinidh), that they may see how good the aim was.”

“Well now,” said Bochastle’s eldest son, “let the best among you hold up his hand.”

Green Colin scorned to decline to lift his hand himself, and he lifted his hand. Bochastle’s eldest son put an arrow in his bow: he shot it at Green Colin, and the arrow went in at his mouth and out at the back of his head; and the laird of Bochastle’s eldest son cried, “Bring that spike home with you, that the women of Lorne may see how good the aim has been.” A battle then began between the plunderers and pursuers, and the battle went against the plunderers. The latter were scattered, and six of the sons of Black Duncan of the Cowl were slain that day. Black Duncan’s force had to flee, and the red-haired lads of Bochastle turned back the cattle.

Black Duncan, as has been said, was at the time in Edinburgh, and the Baron of Bochastle along with him. A messenger was sent to Edinburgh to inform Black Duncan of the affair of the cattle-spoil, and of how the battle went. The messenger arrived in Edinburgh, and the Baron of Bochastle met him in the street, and knew by his dress that he was from the land of the Campbells.2

So he inquired of him, “What is your news? I perceive that you come with intelligence to the Black Knight.”

“I come to the Black Knight with the intelligence,” replied the messenger, “that the cattle-spoil which his men were taking away from Bochastle was turned back; that a battle was fought; that Green Colin was slain, and his men slaughtered.”

The laird of Bochastle continued his inquiries until he ascertained all the particulars, and he then said to the messenger, “You would be the better of a drink after your journey. Come into the inn, and I will give you a drink.”

They went in. The laird of Bochastle called for a bottle of ale. They gave a drink to the messenger, and said to him, “Stay here till I come back. I will go and get the Black Knight and bring him home.”

The messenger sat where he was, and the laird of Bochastle went out quietly, got the messenger’s horse, and rode home before Black Duncan could obtain information concerning the battle, and then get men and send him (Bochastle) to jail. The messenger sat in the inn till his patience was exhausted, and he had thereafter to search for Black Duncan in the best way he could.

— 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: Legends, Traditions, and Recollections of Argyllshire Highlanders, Collected Chiefly from the Gaelic, with Notes on the Antiquity of the Dress, Clan Colours, or Tartans, of the Highlanders (1885).

1 “Green Colin” must have been a natural son, as he cannot be Black Duncan’s eldest lawful son Colin, who succeeded as 8th Laird and 2nd Baronet of Glenorchy.

2 This is perhaps an important early reference to district (tartan) dress.

Fostering: Argyll and Glenorchy

Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll with his second wife Anna; unknown artist; National Portrait Gallery, London.
Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll with his second wife Anna; unknown artist; National Portrait Gallery, London.

The following correspondence, reproduced in Cosmo Nelson Innes’ Preface to The Black Book of Taymouth: with Other Papers from the Breadalbane Charter Room, Edinburgh, 1850, intimately details the fostering of Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, son of Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl — and 1st (and only) Marquess — of Argyll, by Sir Colin Campbell, 8th Laird of Glenorchy and his wife, Juliana Campbell, daughter of Hugh Campbell, 1st Lord Campbell of Loudoun.

* * *



I receauit your lordships letter from Archibald Campbell schawing me that syndrie of your lordships freindis wer most desyrous to have your lordships eldest sone in fostering, yet for diuerss respectis your lordship wes better pleasit to have him brought vp with me, quich I acknowledge is a great testimonie both of your lordships trust and love, and I hop in God evir so to approve myself to be most willing and desyrous to deserue both. And in regard that your lordship and it may be your lordships lady have occasioun to be ane great part of this sommer in the Lawlandis, gif it may stand with your lordships pleasour, I desyre that your lordships sone may come heir to me about the 17 or 18 of Maii nixt, quhair, God willing, he sall have all the cairfull attendance that may ly in my powar to give him. And in regaird that I am not weill able to travell myself so far a iourney, I intend to send my wyfe and some vther of my friendis to be his convoy, quhairwith I thought guid to acquaint your lordship, hoping that agane that tyme your lordship will provyde some discrit woman and ane sufficient man quha hes bothe Irisch and Englisch and will have a care not onlie to attend him, but sometymes lykewayes to learne him and quhat else may concern him quhill he is in my company. God willing, my wyfe and I sail have a speciall care thairof. As for the rest of the particularis contenit in your lordships letter, I sail ansuer thame at my wyfes coming to your lordship or vtherwayes at my meiting with your lordship the aucht of Junii as your lordship hes desyrit at Stirling, to quhich time with the remembrans of my humell seruice to your lordships nobill lady, and evir I remane

Your lordships assurit frend and kinsman to my powar to serue,

[COLIN CAMPBELL of Glenurquhay. 1633.]

For my loving cousing the Lard of Gleanorquhay.


Man propons bot God dispons. I intended to heave gon presentlie to Inuerraray bot I had ane letter within thir two or three days from the Thesaurar Traquair desyring me to be in Edinburgh so soon as I could, quhiche hes altered my resolution that my familie cannot stur till it pleas God I returne. I will assoor you your foster longs very much to see you and doethe not dar to tell he had rather be thair nor her, and I assoor you he shall heave his choice, bot as you may see be this letter of his grandfathers the Erle of Morton that he intends to be in Scotland so shortlie, his mother desyrs if it pleas God to heaue hir childring togither till that tym, to draw her father her; and if wee hear any contrair advertisment of his dyet you shall immediatlie heaue him (as Archie calles it) home. So remembring my service to your lady I rest

Your loving cusin,


Rosneithe last May.

To my lowing foster-father and respected freind the Lard of Glenvrqhey, thes.


Louing foster-father, I thoght good to wryt thir few lyns to yow to shawe yow that I am in good health and am vearie sorie that ye wryt not for me and I long weri much to sie yow; and as ye wold wis me to be well and to come to yow, send to me in all the heast and diligence ye can, Duncan Archibald and tuey horse with him, on to Mr Johen and on for my cariage: and prays and requests yow to send them in all the heast ye can, and I wil looke for them that they may be heir a Fryday or at the fardest at Setterday at night: and take it not in anay vncounes that I send not back the ansuere of the letter that I got in Edinbruch. I could not stay because I was in heast; and bring my commendations to your shelf and to yowr wyf and houpes that I wil seie yow my shelf shortlie, if ye doe yowr deutie, not duting but ye wildoe the same, comiting yow to Gods protection for euer. So I rest

Yours at pouer,


Wryten at Inderaray,
the thretie day of September.

To my much respectit and gud freind the Laird of Glenurquhy.


I haife sent this bearar to knowe how yea and my sone are in healthe, and to shaw you thatt all freindis heare are weall. I heair my sone begines to wearye of the Irishe langwadge. I intreatt yow to cause holde hime to the speakeing of itt, for since he hes bestowed so long tyme and paines in the getting of itt, I sould be sory he lost it now with leasines in not speaking of itt; bott this I know yea wilbe more cairfull as in ewery thing that concernes hime, so that I will fully leaffe him to your awin caire; only prayeing the Lord to giffe ane blessing to all the meanes of his educatioune: And so I shall still remain

Your most assurett friend,


the 14 of December 1637.



I have desyrit my brother Roberte to schau your lordship in quhat manere Maister Jhone Makleine misbehauis himself. I am sorie that I haue caus to do it, bot the respect I carie to my lorde and to your lordship and the loue I haue to your lordships sone makis to do so. Quhen your lordship plaissis your lordship may lede my lorde knau it, and I thinke it may be best remediete be provydinge in deu tyme on to supplie Maister Jhone his place, and your Lordship knauis it is requisit he be ane discreite man that is ane scollar and that can speike both Inglis and Erise, quharof I think thair may be hade in Argyll. Your lordship may do heirine as my lorde and your lordship thinks expediente. Your lordships sone is veill and in guide healthe, praysit be God. The Lord continou the same. So vissinge your lordship all prosperitie I remain

Your lordships assurite and affectionat friende to serue you,


Balloche the          [1638.]

For my loving Cusin the Laird of Glenwrquhy.


Since it hath pleased God to call my father to his eternall rest, I doubt not bot you kno als weall as I can desyr you what is fitting for yourself to doe. Onli in this I desyr you to suffer your foster with you to wear murning. And so ever mak use of me as

Your most affectionat cusin to my power


4 September [1638.]

To my loveing freind the Laird of Glenvrquhy.


Accordeing to this other lettre of my lordis, I will earnestlie desyire you to send heire my sonne, and to have him at your house in Glenvrquhy on Frayday at night the tuentie ane day of this instant preceislie, and I shall appoynt folkes to meitt him thair on Satterday in the morneing, for bringing him alonges heir. I hoipe ye wilbe cairfull to send sufficient company with him and to caus prowyd some secure place be the way, quhar he may be that night he comes frome you. So referring all to your cair, exspecteing assuredlie that ye will send him the tyme foirsaid,

I rest your loving freind,

14 Junii 1639.

Finlay of Colonsay

Finlay, The Deerstalker, Hill and Adamson  (British, active 1843–1848), calotype print, c. 1845, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Finlay, The Deerstalker, Hill and Adamson (British, active 1843–1848), calotype print, c. 1845, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Robert Adamson (1821 – 1848) was a pioneer photographer whose subjects included Archibald McNeill (1803 – 1870), Sir John McNeill and “Finlay of Colonsay, a deerstalker in the employ of Campbell of Islay.” There are three images of this Finlay, taken on 17 April 1846. Adamson established his studio in Rock House, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, based upon the Fox Talbot calotype process. He worked closely with the painter David Octavius Hill and his brother Alexander Hill, a publisher of prints.

This image of Finlay of Colonsay is one of the first photographic images to depict a civilian in tartan attire.

Scandalous to Our Profession

The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel (Louis Daguerre), 1824.
The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel (Louis Daguerre), 1824.

At a meeting of the Kirk-session of the parish of Holyrood in the year 1643 ‘the matter being motioned concerning that organe which was taken down and put into the yle, now lying idle, mothing and consuming; yea, moreover, the same being an unprofitable instrument, scandalous to our profession, whether the same might not be sold for a tollerable pryce, and the money given to the poor. The session agreed that this would be expedient, but postponed the subject.’ Sir John Graham Dalzell’s Musical Memoirs of Scotland.