MacCrimmon Pipers

Give McIntyre ye pyper fforty pounds scots as his prentises(hi)p with McCrooman till May nixt as also provyde him in what Cloths he needs and dispatch him immediately to the Isles.

Instruction from John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane, to his chamberlain, Alexander Campbell of Barcaldine, c. 1697.

Item paid to quantiliane McCraingie McLeans pyper for one complete year as prentyce fie for the Litle pyper before he was sent to McCrooman, the soume of £160

Statement of Earl of Breadalbane, 22 April, 1697, at Taymouth Castle.

MACCRIMMON TRADITIONS.

THERE was a gathering of the clans at Dunvegan Castle. There sat down to dinner at the Macleod’s hospitable table eleven noble chiefs, each accompanied by his piper, a walking exhibition of his clan’s glory and greatness. Each chief was greater than the other, and each piper was better than his fellow. Great reputations were at stake; and all were anxious to have the matter decided at once. The Macleod gave the signal. Out stepped the famous piper of the Macdonalds of the Isles, and filled the hall with the well-known strains of the old Piob-mhor. Others followed and bravely upheld the traditions of clan and family. But one was amissing. There was an anxious look in Macleod’s eye. Where was the old piper who had so long and faithfully served the chief of Dunvegan? He sent a page-boy to look for him. He returned with sad news—the piper was hopelessly drunk. Great was the chief’s anger at being thus humbled in his own stronghold. Something must be done and that quickly. The tenth piper was tuning his pipes. One more to go—and then all would be found out. A sudden idea seized the chief’s mind. He grasped the pageboy’s hand, and whispered in his ear, “You are the twelfth piper—remember your chief’s words.” The feast went on as merrily as ever, and the fun grew fast and furious—but the page-boy, MacCrimmon, was not there to enjoy it. He was lying on a hillside, cursing the unkindly fate which had put him in so awkward a predicament. But there were friendly spirits moving about. Out of the hill-side there came the prettiest little fairy ever seen by human eyes. She made straight for MacCrimmon, and soon knew as much of his trouble as he did himself. She did not try to comfort him, but she did something better. She gave him a curiously-shaped whistle and bade him play on it. He smiled knowingly—but he would oblige the little lady because she meant kindly. He blew—and soon the hills and rocks re-echoed the divinest music ever heard in Dunvegan. He turned to thank his friend—but he was alone.

At once he hurried back to the castle and just came in time to hear the closing notes of the eleventh piper’s pibroch. He stepped out in his place and, heedless of the titter which passed all round the hall, he “blew up” the pipes. The scorn of the company was soon turned into admiration as the stripling played in faultless and brilliant manner compositions unknown to the others. From that hour MacCrimmon was the acknowledged prince of pipers.

On one occasion there was a pipe-music competition at Dunvegan Castle. There were competitors from all parts of the country, and among them the head of the MacCrimmon College, and his nephew. The professor had taught his nephew all the music known to him except one tune, which, he hoped, would give himself the lead in the competition. On their way to Dunvegan, they spent a night in a way-side inn, and shared a bed. The old gentleman was soon fast asleep, and naturally enough began to dream of the morrow’s work. He seized his nephew’s arm, on it played the notes of the tune which was to give him first place among the pipers. The keen witted youth was not slow to notice that there was more in the affair than might appear on the surface, and in a very short time he committed all the notes to memory. Next day, the first piper called on to play was the nephew. His first tune astonished most of those present, none more than his tutor, who at once gracefully retired from the competition, and allowed his worthy nephew to carry off the chief honours of the day. It was doubtless this incident which gave rise to the well-known Gaelic proverb—”An gille ‘toirt bàr air Mac Criomain“—the lad, or pupil, surpassing his master, MacCrimmon.

It may be added that the MacCrimmons were hereditary pipers to the MacLeods of Dunvegan. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century several generations of them acted in this capacity. They founded a college of music at Boreraig, Skye, and thither all the leading pipers of the day proceeded to complete their education. They invented a system of musical notation for the pipes, by means of which they taught their pupils.

Kenneth Macleod.

Two Oransay Grave-slabs

Slabs at Oransay, Argyll, Plate LX, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

PLATE LX.
AT ORANSAY.

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.

Grave-slab at Oransay Priory; photo credit: Andreas G. Wolff.

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.


Grave-slab of Domhnall MacDubhtaich, Conventual Prior of Oransay (1538-1554/5); photo credit: Carron Brown.

[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.]

(http://www.colonsay.info/text/ORONRIPweb.pdf)

Flame of God

St. Bride by John McKirdy Duncan; 1913; National Galleries of Scotland (Scotland); tempera on canvas.

ST. BRIGET OF THE SHORES

I have heard many names of St. Briget, most beloved of Gaelic saints, with whom the month of February is identified . . . the month of “Bride min, gentle St. Bride” . . . Brighid boidheach Muime Chriosd, Bride the Beautiful, Christ’s Foster Mother . . . but there are three so less common that many even of my readers familiar with the Highland West may not know them. These are “the Fair Woman of February,” “St. Bride of the Kindly Fire,” and “St. Bride (or Briget) of the Shores.” They are of the Isles, and may be heard in some of the sgeulachdan gàidhealach, or Gaelic tales, still told among seafaring and hill folk, where the curse of cheap ignoble periodicals is unknown and books are rare. True, in several of the isles . . . Colonsay, Tiree, the Outer Hebrides . . . “St. Bride of the Shores” is not infrequent in songs and seasonal hymns, for when her signals are seen along the grey beaches, on the sandy machars, by the meadow path, the glen-track, the white shore-road, the islanders know that the new year is disclosed at last, that food, warmth, and gladness are coming out of the south. As “the Fair Woman of February,” though whatever other designation St. Bride goes by, she is often revealed. Her humble yellow fires are lit among the grasses, on the shore-ways, during this month. Everywhere in the Gaelic lands “Candlemas-Queen ” is honoured at this time. Am Fheill Bhride, the Festival of St. Briget, was till recently a festival of joy throughout the west, from the Highland Line to the last weedy shores of Barra or the Lews: in the isles and in the remote Highlands, still is.

It is an old tale, this association of St. Briget with February. It goes further back than the days of the monkish chroniclers who first attempted to put the disguise of verbal Christian raiment on the most widely-loved and revered beings of the ancient Gaelic pantheon. Long before the maiden Brigida (whether of Ireland or Scotland matters little) made her fame as a “daughter of God”; long before to Colum in Iona or to Patrick “the great Cleric” in Ireland “Holy St. Bride” revealed in a vision the service she had done to Mary and the Child in far-away Bethlehem in the East; before ever the first bell of Christ was heard by startled Druids coming across the hills and forest lands of Gaul, the Gaels worshipped a Brighde or Bride, goddess of women, of fire, of poetry. When, to-day, a Gaelic islesman alludes to Briget of the Songs, or when a woman of South Uist prays to Good St. Bride to bless the empty cradle that is soon to be filled, or when a shennachie or teller of tales speaks of an oath taken by Briget of the Flame, they refer, though probably unconsciously, to a far older Brighid than do they who speak with loving familiarity of Muime Chriosd, Christ’s Foster Mother, or Brighid – nam – Bratta, St. Bride of the Mantle. They refer to one who in the dim, far-off days of the forgotten pagan world of our ancestors was a noble and great goddess. They refer to one to whom the women of the Gael went with offerings and prayers, as went the women of ancient Hellas to the temples of Aphrodite, as went the Syrian women to the altars of Astarte, as went the women of Egypt to the milk-fed shrines of Isis. They refer to one whom the Druids held in honour as a torch bearer of the eternal light, a Daughter of the Morning, who held sunrise in one hand as a little yellow flame, and in the other held the red flower of fire without which men would be as the beasts who live in caves and holes, or as the dark Fomor who have their habitations in cloud and wind and the wilderness. They refer to one whom the bards and singers revered as mistress of their craft, she whose breath was a flame, and that flame song: she whose secret name was fire and whose inmost soul was radiant air, she therefore who was the divine impersonation of the divine thing she stood for. Poetry.

“St. Bride of the Kindly Fire,” of whom one may hear to-day as “oh, just Bhrighde mìn Muim (gentle St. Bride the Foster Mother), she herself an’ no other,” is she, that ancient goddess, whom our ancestors saw lighting the torches of sunrise on the brows of hills, or thrusting the quenchless flame above the horizons of the sea: whom the Druids hailed with hymns at the turn of the year, when, in the season we call February, the firstcomers of the advancing Spring are to be seen on the grey land or on the grey wave or by the grey shores: whom every poet, from the humblest wandering singer to Oisin of the Songs, from Oisin of the Songs to Angus Og on the rainbow or to Midir of the Underworld, blessed, because of the flame she put in the heart of poets as well as the red life she put in the flame that springs from wood and peat. None forgot that she was the daughter of the ancient God of the Earth, but greater than he, because in him there was but earth and water, whereas in her veins ran the elements of air and fire. Was she not born at sunrise? On the day she reached womanhood did not the house wherein she dwelled become wrapped in a flame which consumed it not, though the crown of that flame licked the high unburning roof of Heaven? In that hour when, her ancient divinity relinquished and she reborn a Christian saint, she took the white veil, did not a column of golden light rise from her head till no eyes could follow it? In that moment when she died from earth, having taken mortality upon her so as to know a divine resurrection to a new and still more enduring Country of the Immortal, were there not wings of fire seen flashing along all the shores of the west and upon the summits of all Gaelic hills? And how could one forget that at any time she had but to bend above the dead, and her breath would quicken, and a pulse would come back into the still heart, and what was dust would arise and be once more glad.

The Fair Woman of February is still loved, still revered. Few remember the last fading traditions of her ancient greatness: few, even, know that she lived before the coming of the Cross: but all love her, because of her service to Mary in Her travail and to the newborn Child, and because she looks with eyes of love into every cradle and puts the hand of peace on the troubled hearts of women: and all delight in her return to the world after the ninety days of the winter-sleep, when her heralds are manifest.

Poem by Winifred Mary Letts.

What, then, are the insignia of St. Briget of the Shores? They are simple. They are the dandelion, the lamb, and the sea-bird, popularly called the oyster-opener. From time immemorial, this humble, familiar yellow plant of the wayside has been identified with St. Bride. To this day shepherds, on Am Fheill Bhrighde, are wont to hear among the mists the crying of innumerable young lambs, and this without the bleating of ewes, and so by that token know that Holy St. Bride has passed by, coming earthward with her flock of the countless lambs soon to be born on all the hillsides and pastures of the world. Fisherfolk on the shores of the west and on the far isles have gladdened at the first prolonged repetitive whistle of the oyster-opener, for its advent means that the hosts of the good fish are moving towards the welcoming coasts once more, that the wind of the south is unloosened, that greenness will creep to the grass, that birds will seek the bushes, that song will come to them, and that everywhere a new gladness will be abroad. By these signs is St. Briget of the Shores known. One, perhaps, must live in the remote places, and where wind and cloud, rain and tempest, great tides and uprising floods are the common companions of day and night, in order to realise the joy with which things so simple are welcomed. To see the bright sunsweet face of the dandelion once more— an dealan Dhé, the little flame of God, am bearnan Bhrighde, St. Bride’s forerunner— what a joy this is. It comes into the grass like a sunray. Often before the new green is in the blade it flaunts its bright laughter in the sere bent. It will lie in ditches and stare at the sun. It will climb broken walls, and lean from nooks and corners. It will come close to the sands and rocks, sometimes will even join company with the sea-pink, though it cannot find footing where later the bind-weed and the horned poppy, those children of the seawind who love to be near and yet shrink from the spray of the salt wave, defy wind and rain. It is worthier the name “Traveller’s Joy” than the wild clematis of the autumnal hedgerows: for its bright yellow leaps at one from the roadside like a smile, and its homeliness is pleasant as the gladness of playing children.

It is a herald of Spring that precedes even the first loud flute-like calls of the missel-thrush. When snow is still on the track of the three winds of the north it is, by the wayside, a glad companion. Soon it will be everywhere. Before long the milk-white sheen of the daisy and the moon-daisy, the green-gold of the tansy, the pale gold of the gorse and the broom, the yellow of the primrose and wild colchicum, of the cowslip and buttercup, of the copse-loving celandine and meadow-rejoicing crowsfoot, all these yellows of first spring will soon be abroad: but the dandelion comes first. I have known days when, after midwinter, one could go a mile and catch never a glimpse of this bright comrade of the ways, and then suddenly see one or two or three, and rejoice forthwith as though at the first blossom on the blackthorn, at the first wild-roses, at the first swallow, at the first thrilling bells of the cuckoo. We are so apt to lose the old delight in familiar humble things. So apt to ignore what is by the way, just because it is by the way. I recall a dour old lowland gardener in a loch-and-hill-set region of Argyll, who, having listened to exclamations of delight at a rainbow, muttered, “Weel, I juist think naethin ava’ o’ thon rainbows . . . ye can see one whenever ye tak the trouble to look for them hereaboots.” He saw them daily, or so frequently that for him all beauty and strangeness had faded from these sudden evanescent Children of Beauty. Beauty has only to be perceptible to give an immediate joy, and it is no paradoxical extravagance to say that one may receive the thrilling communication from “the little flame of God” by the homely roadside as well as from these leaning towers built of air and water which a mysterious alchemy reveals to us on the cloudy deserts of heaven. “Man is surprised,” Emerson says, “to find that things near and familiar are not less beautiful and wondrous than things remote.” Certainly no Gaelic lover of St. Bride’s Flower, of the Flower of February, but rejoices to see its welcome face after the snow and sleet of winter have first sullenly receded, if only for a time, and to know that St. Bride of the Shores wears it at her breast, and that when she throws it broadcast the world is become a green place again and the quickening sunlight a gladsome reality.

In these desolate far isles where life is so hard, where the grey winds from the north and east prevail for weeks at a time on the grey tempestuous seas, and where so much depends on such small things— a little drift- wood, a few heaps of peat, a few shoal of fish now of one kind now of another, a few cartloads of seaweed, a rejoicing sound is that in truth when the Gille-Bhride is heard crying along the shores. Who that has heard its rapid whirling cry as it darts from haunt to haunt but will recognise its own testimony to being “Servant of Breed” (the common pronunciation of the Gaelic Brighid or Bride)— for does it not cry over and over again with swift incessant iterance, Gilly-breed, gilly-breed, gilly-breed, gilly-breed, gilly-breed.

White may my milking be,
White as thee;
Thy face is white, thy neck is white,
Thy hands are white, thy feet are white.
For thy sweet soul is shining bright—
O dear to me,
O dear to see,
St. Briget White!

Yellow may my butter be,
Firm, and round:
Thy breasts are sweet.
Firm, round, and sweet,
So may my butter be:
So may my butter be, O
Briget Sweet!
Safe thy way is, safe, O
Safe, St. Bride:
May my kye come home at even,
None be fallin’, none be leavin’,
Dusky even, breath-sweet even,
Here, as there, where O
St. Bride thou
Keepest tryst with God in heav’n,
Seest the angels bow
And souls be shriven—
Here, as there, ’tis breath-sweet even
Far and wide—
Singeth thy little maid
Safe in thy shade
Briget, Bride!

When the first lambs appear, many are the invocations among the Irish and Hebridean Gaels to good St. Bride. At the hearth-side, too, the women, carding wool, knitting, telling tales, singing songs, dreaming— these know her whether they name her in thought, or have forgotten what was dear wisdom to their mothers of old. She leans over cradles, and when babies smile they have seen her face. When the cra’thull swings in the twilight, the slow rhythm, which is music in the mother’s ear, is the quiet clapping of her hushing hands. St. Bride, too, loves the byres or the pastures when the kye are milked, though now she is no longer ” the Woman of February,” but simply “good St. Bride of the yellow hair.”

— Fiona MacLeod (William Sharp), The Works of “Fiona MacLeod” (Uniform Edition), Volume VI, arranged by Mrs. William Sharp, London, William Heinemann, 1910.

Seals of the Burghs of Argyll

Seal of the Royal Burgh of Campbeltown, Argyll.

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.

Seal of the Royal Burgh of Inveraray, Argyll.

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.”

Seal of the Burgh of Lochgilphead, Argyll.

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.

Seal of the Burgh of Oban, Argyll.

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.

Seal of the Burgh of Dunoon, Argyll.

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.

Seal of the Burgh of Tobermory, Mull, Argyll.

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.

Last of the MacDonalds of Islay

“FOR it shall be known, I shall seek no other refuge but only your Majesty’s clemency, nor no other living, but that which your Majesty’s princely liberality, it shall please your Highness bestow upon me as at more length, the bearer will inform your Majesty, and so I beseech God to bless your Highness with a long and prosperous reign, your Majesty’s most humble servant, (Signed), Angus M’Connal of Dunivaig. From Iylaye, the tent of September, 1606.”

Bond of the men of Islay to the Privy Council of Scotland.
Bond of the men of Islay to the Privy Council of Scotland.

About this period the following affecting supplication was sent to the Council, whereof a fac-simile is given. The spelling is modernized:—

My Lords of Secret Council, please your Lordships to understand that we the tenants and under subscribers testify and approve to your Lordships that Angus M’Connell of Dunivaig and his forbears have been native superiors above us under His Majesty’s hands and grace. Now therefore we crave of your Lordships’ grace in respect of his native kindness of superiority over us, and specially seeing has nothing to say against him, but using us well, in all manner of form, and is willing to keep all good order that his Majesty and your Lordships will lay to his charge, therefore we beseech your Lordships for the cause of God to let us have our own native said Master your subject during his lifetime, and thereafter his eldest son and heir Sir James. This we beseech your Lordships to do for God’s cause, as we are ever bound to pray for your Lordships’ standing. We rest at Yllaye the [..] day of [..].

Your Lordships’ subjects to be commanded with service, (signed), Neil M’Ky, Officer of the Rinns, with my hand; Neil M’Kay, younger; Hector Mactavish in Kinibos; Archibald Makduphee in Ballijonen; Donald Makduphee in Killicolmane; Neil Neonach Makduphee in Migirnes; Archibald Makduphee of Skerolsay; Malcolme Makphersone in Mullindrie; Lauchlane Makirini levin in Gronozort; Neill Makphetera of Kepposiche; Donald Maktavish of Ardacheriche; Hew M’Ky of Killikeran; Donald MakGoin of Esknis.

No satisfactory reply was made. Angus’ name appears occasionally thereafter at meetings of Western Highland Potentates, and heading the Lists. But restoration was not to be; and baffled and unsupported Angus Macdonald on 1st January, 1612, for the trifling sum of 6000 merks renounced in favour of Sir John Campbell of Calder all his rights to Islay, and dying shortly thereafter, is referred to in 1614, as “umquhile Angus Macdonald called of Dunyvaig.”

The Last MacDonalds of Isla: Chiefly Selected from Original Bonds and Documents, Sometime Belonging to Sir James MacDonald, the Last of His Race, Now in the Possession of Charles Fraser-Mackintosh, F.S.A. Scot., Glasgow, 1895.

Canna, Cross, and Camel

Sculpted cross at Canna, Plate L, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Sculpted cross at Canna, Plate L, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Sculpted cross at Canna, Plate LI, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Sculpted cross at Canna, Plate LI, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

The island of Canna, along with the islands of Eigg, Muck, and Rum, form the parish of Small Isles, in Inverness-shire.

The church of Canna, dedicated to St. Columba, stood about the centre of the island, in the bottom of a narrow glen. There are two burying-grounds close to each other. In the older one, now disused, are traces of the old church. In it also stands the sculptured cross here figured.

St. Columba's Church, Canna.
St. Columba’s Church, Canna.

Unlike most of the crosses of the Western Highlands and Islands, the monument is formed of yellow sandstone. It is cruciform in shape, and is about six and a half feet in height.

East side of Celtic cross at Canna.
East side of Celtic cross at Canna.

Isin bliadain sin tucad in camall, quod est animal mírae magnitudinis, o ríg Alban do Muircertach U Briain

Annals of Innisfallen, I1105.7.

On the east side of the remaining limb of the cross is a well-sculptured camel, of which there is no other example on our Scotch crosses.1 That this creature was not, however, unknown in Scotland in early times, we may gather from an entry in the Annals of Innisfallen, which, under the year 1105, records, “In this year a camel, which is an animal of wonderful size, was presented by the King of Alban [Edgar] to Mucertac O’Brian.” Some of the knotted work and patterns are the same as those on the early crosses on the east coast, but the figures of men and beasts on the east face are of a different contour, and the design and general idea of the monument is peculiar.

1 A camel is depicted on the reverse of the Pictish cross-slab Meigle 1 (Meigle Museum).

Highland Virtues

Portrait of General George Wade, Commander-in-chief in Scotland, attributed to Johan van Diest, c. 1731; Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Portrait of General George Wade, Commander-in-chief in Scotland, attributed to Johan van Diest, c. 1731; Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Their Notions of Virtue and Vice are very different from the more civilized part of Mankind. They think it a most Sublime Virtue to pay a Servile and Abject Obedience to the Commands of their Chieftans, altho’ in opposition to their Sovereign and the Laws of the Kingdom, and to encourage this, their Fidelity, they are treated by their Chiefs with great Familiarity, they partake with them in their Diversions, and shake them by the Hand wherever they meet them.

The Virtue next to this, in esteem amongst them, is the Love they bear to that particular Branch of which they are a part, and in a Second Degree to the whole Clan, or Name, by assisting each other (right or wrong) against any other Clan with whom they are at Variance, and great Barbarities are often committed by One, to revenge the Quarrels of Another. They have still a more extensive adherence one to another as Highlanders in opposition to the People who Inhabit the Low Countries, whom they hold in the utmost Contempt, imagining them inferior to themselves in Courage, Resolution, and the use of Arms, and accuse them of being Proud, Avaricious, and Breakers of their Word. They have also a Tradition amongst them that the Lowlands were in Ancient Times, the Inheritance of their Ancestors, and therefore believe they have a right to commit Depredations, whenever it is in their power to put them in Execution.

General George Wade, Report, &c., Relating to the Highlands, 1724.