Daemones ab Eodem Recesserunt Fonte

The Grampian Mountains, Scotland.

Caput 10: De Alia Maligna Fontana Aqua Quam Vir Beatus in Pictorum Regione Benedixit

ALIO in tempore, vir beatus, cum in Pictorum provincia per aliquot demoraretur dies, audiens in plebe gentili de alio fonte divulgari famam, quem quasi deum stolidi homines, diabolo eorum obcaecante sensus, venerabantur; nam de eodem fonticulo bibentes, aut in eo manus vel pedes de industria lavantes, daemoniaca, Deo permittente, percussi arte, aut leprosi, aut lusci, aut etiam debiles, aut quibuscunque aliis infestati infirmitatibus revertebantur. Ob quae omnia seducti gentiles divinum fonti deferebant honorem. Quibus compertis, Sanctus alia die intrepidus accessit ad fontem. Quod videntes magi, quos saepe ipse confusos et victos a se repellebat, valde gavisi sunt, scilicet putantes eum similia illius nocuae tactu aquae passurum. Ille vero imprimis elevata manu sancta, cum invocatione Christi nominis, manus lavat et pedes; tum deinde cum sociis de eadem, a se benedicta, bibit. Ex illaque die daemones ab eodem recesserunt fonte, et non solum nulli nocere permissus est, sed etiam, post Sancti benedictionem et in eo lavationem, multae in populo infirmitates per eundem sanatae sunt fontem.

— St. Adomnán’s Vita Columbæ, Book II, Chapter 10.

The Aberlemno Serpent Stone, Class I Pictish stone, showing (top to bottom) the serpent, the double disc and Z-rod, and the mirror and comb.

Highland Clearances in Das Kapital

Sheep in Glencoe, Scottish Highlands.

The Highland Celts were organised in clans, each of which was the owner of the land on which it was settled. The representative of the clan, its chief or “great man,” was only the titular owner of this property, just as the Queen of England is the titular owner of all the national soil. When the English government succeeded in suppressing the intestine wars of these “great men,” and their constant incursions into the Lowland plains, the chiefs of the clans by no means gave up their time-honored trade as robbers; they only changed its form. On their own authority they transformed their nominal right into a right of private property, and as this brought them into collision with their clansmen, resolved to drive them out by open force. “A king of England might as well claim to drive his subjects into the sea,” says Professor Newman. This revolution, which began in Scotland after the last rising of the followers of the Pretender, can be followed through its first phases in the writings of Sir James Steuart and James Anderson. In the 18th century the hunted-out Gaels were forbidden to emigrate from the country, with a view to driving them by force to Glasgow and other manufacturing towns. As an example of the method obtaining in the 19th century, the “clearing” made by the Duchess of Sutherland will suffice here. This person, well instructed in economy, resolved, on entering upon her government, to effect a radical cure, and to turn the whole country, whose population had already been, by earlier processes of the like kind, reduced to 15,000, into a sheep-walk. From 1814 to 1820 these 15,000 inhabitants, about 3,000 families, were systematically hunted and rooted out. All their villages were destroyed and burnt, all their fields turned into pasturage. British soldiers enforced this eviction, and came to blows with the inhabitants. One old woman was burnt to death in the flames of the hut, which she refused to leave. Thus this fine lady appropriated 794,000 acres of land that had from time immemorial belonged to the clan. She assigned to the expelled inhabitants about 6,000 acres on the sea-shore —2 acres per family. The 6,000 acres had until this time lain waste, and brought in no income to their owners. The Duchess, in the nobility of her heart, actually went so far as to let these at an average rent of 2s. 6d. per acre to the clansmen, who for centuries had shed their blood for her family. The whole of the stolen clanland she divided into 29 great sheep farms, each inhabited by a single family, for the most part imported English farm-servants. In the year 1835 the 15,000 Gaels were already replaced by 131,000 sheep. The remnant of the aborigines flung on the sea-shore tried to live by catching fish. They became amphibious and lived, as an English author says, half on land and half on water, and withal only half on both.

— Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Chapter 27.

Every Highlander Can Talk of His Ancestors

The inhabitants of mountains form distinct races, and are careful to preserve their genealogies. Men in a small district necessarily mingle blood by intermarriages, and combine at last into one family, with a common interest in the honour and disgrace of every individual. Then begins that union of affections, and co-operation of endeavours, that constitute a clan. They who consider themselves as ennobled by their family, will think highly of their progenitors, and they who through successive generations live always together in the same place, will preserve local stories and hereditary prejudices. Thus every Highlander can talk of his ancestors, and recount the outrages which they suffered from the wicked inhabitants of the next valley.

– Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

To Abstract the Mind from All Local Emotion Would Be Impossible

Iona Abbey with Mull across the sound.

After a tedious sail, which, by our following various turnings of the coast of Mull, was extended to about forty miles, it gave us no small pleasure to perceive a light in the village of Icolmkill, in which almost all the inhabitants of the island live, close to where the ancient building stood. As we approached the shore, the tower of the cathedral, just discernable in the air, was a picturesque object.

When we had landed upon the sacred place, which, as long as I can remember, I had thought on with veneration, Dr Johnson and I cordially embraced. We had long talked of visiting Icolmkill; and, from the lateness of the season, were at times very doubtful whether we should be able to effect our purpose. To have seen it, even alone, would have given me great satisfaction; but the venerable scene was rendered much more pleasing by the company of my great and pious friend, who was no less affected by it than I was; and who has described the impressions it should make on the mind, with such strength of thought, and energy of language, that I shall quote his words, as conveying my own sensations much more forcibly than I am capable of doing:

We are now treading that illustrious island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge, and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible, if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me, and from my friends, be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery or virtue. That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona! [Footnote: Had our tour produced nothing else but this sublime passage, the world must have acknowledged that it was not made in vain. The present respectable President of the Royal Society was so much struck on reading it, that he clasped his hands together, and remained for some time in an attitude of silent admiration.]

— The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by James Boswell;
Tuesday, 19th October 1773: Inchkenneth, Icolmkill (Iona).

Reason and Truth Will Prevail

Samuel Johnson LLD MA.

The religion of the Islands is that of the Kirk of Scotland. The gentlemen with whom I conversed are all inclined to the English liturgy; but they are obliged to maintain the established Minister, and the country is too poor to afford payment to another, who must live wholly on the contribution of his audience.

They therefore all attend the worship of the Kirk, as often as a visit from their Minister, or the practicability of travelling gives them opportunity; nor have they any reason to complain of insufficient pastors; for I saw not one in the Islands, whom I had reason to think either deficient in learning, or irregular in life: but found several with whom I could not converse without wishing, as my respect increased, that they had not been Presbyterians.

The ancient rigour of puritanism is now very much relaxed, though all are not yet equally enlightened. I sometimes met with prejudices sufficiently malignant, but they were prejudices of ignorance. The Ministers in the Islands had attained such knowledge as may justly be admired in men, who have no motive to study, but generous curiosity, or, what is still better, desire of usefulness; with such politeness as so narrow a circle of converse could not have supplied, but to minds naturally disposed to elegance.

Reason and truth will prevail at last. The most learned of the Scottish Doctors would now gladly admit a form of prayer, if the people would endure it. The zeal or rage of congregations has its different degrees. In some parishes the Lord’s Prayer is suffered: in others it is still rejected as a form; and he that should make it part of his supplication would be suspected of heretical pravity.

– Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

The Solace Which the Bagpipe Can Give

A Canadian piper plays “Amazing Grace” during a memorial service at Forward Operating Base Wilson, Afghanistan.

The solace which the bagpipe can give, they have long enjoyed; but among other changes, which the last Revolution introduced, the use of the bagpipe begins to be forgotten. Some of the chief families still entertain a piper, whose office was anciently hereditary. Macrimmon was piper to Macleod, and Rankin to Maclean of Col.

The tunes of the bagpipe are traditional. There has been in Sky, beyond all time of memory, a college of pipers, under the direction of Macrimmon, which is not quite extinct. There was another in Mull, superintended by Rankin, which expired about sixteen years ago. To these colleges, while the pipe retained its honour, the students of musick repaired for education. I have had my dinner exhilarated by the bagpipe, at Armidale, at Dunvegan, and in Col.

— Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

To Lose This Spirit Is to Lose What No Small Advantage Will Compensate

Glencoe, Lochaber, Highland, Scotland.

It affords a generous and manly pleasure to conceive a little nation gathering its fruits and tending its herds with fearless confidence, though it lies open on every side to invasion, where, in contempt of walls and trenches, every man sleeps securely with his sword beside him; where all on the first approach of hostility came together at the call to battle, as at a summons to a festal show; and committing their cattle to the care of those whom age or nature has disabled, engage the enemy with that competition for hazard and for glory, which operate in men that fight under the eye of those, whose dislike or kindness they have always considered as the greatest evil or the greatest good.

This was, in the beginning of the present century, the state of the Highlands. Every man was a soldier, who partook of national confidence, and interested himself in national honour. To lose this spirit, is to lose what no small advantage will compensate.

– Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

Lasting Evidences of Petty Regality

Map depicting general clan territories.

In the Highlands, some great lords had an hereditary jurisdiction over counties; and some chieftains over their own lands; till the final conquest of the Highlands afforded an opportunity of crushing all the local courts, and of extending the general benefits of equal law to the low and the high, in the deepest recesses and obscurest corners.

While the chiefs had this resemblance of royalty, they had little inclination to appeal, on any question, to superior judicatures. A claim of lands between two powerful lairds was decided like a contest for dominion between sovereign powers. They drew their forces into the field, and right attended on the strongest. This was, in ruder times, the common practice, which the kings of Scotland could seldom control.

Even so lately as in the last years of King William, a battle was fought at Mull Roy, on a plain a few miles to the south of Inverness, between the clans of Mackintosh and Macdonald of Keppoch. Col. Macdonald, the head of a small clan, refused to pay the dues demanded from him by Mackintosh, as his superior lord. They disdained the interposition of judges and laws, and calling each his followers to maintain the dignity of the clan, fought a formal battle, in which several considerable men fell on the side of Mackintosh, without a complete victory to either. This is said to have been the last open war made between the clans by their own authority.

The Highland lords made treaties, and formed alliances, of which some traces may still be found, and some consequences still remain as lasting evidences of petty regality. The terms of one of these confederacies were, that each should support the other in the right, or in the wrong, except against the king.

– Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

Expectation of the Battle

Among a warlike people, the quality of highest esteem is personal courage, and with the ostentatious display of courage are closely connected promptitude of offence and quickness of resentment. The Highlanders, before they were disarmed, were so addicted to quarrels, that the boys used to follow any publick procession or ceremony, however festive, or however solemn, in expectation of the battle, which was sure to happen before the company dispersed.

– Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

A Kind of Irregular Justice

Samuel Johnson LLD MA.

In the Highlands it was a law, that if a robber was sheltered from justice, any man of the same clan might be taken in his place. This was a kind of irregular justice, which, though necessary in savage times, could hardly fail to end in a feud, and a feud once kindled among an idle people with no variety of pursuits to divert their thoughts, burnt on for ages either sullenly glowing in secret mischief, or openly blazing into public violence. Of the effects of this violent judicature, there are not wanting memorials. The cave is now to be seen to which one of the Campbells, who had injured the Macdonalds, retired with a body of his own clan. The Macdonalds required the offender, and being refused, made a fire at the mouth of the cave, by which he and his adherents were suffocated together.

— Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

Overcast and Rainy

It looks like we’re in store for at least an entire day of overcast skies and more or less steady rain from the tropical storm out in the Gulf of Mexico.  I love those rare mornings (at least in Florida) where the ambient light is the same at 8:00 AM as it was at 6:00 AM.  When you wake up, you are not quite certain what time it is; your circadian rhythm is telling you one thing, but the day seems to be telling you another.  On these days I wake up slowly and peacefully, and Magaidh and I spend some quality time snuggling up in the bed covers before I go to work.  The atmosphere also reminds me of my beloved Highlands, though the temperature here may be twenty degrees warmer than the ideal.

Alasdair Mac Colla Chiotaich Mac Domhnuill

A figure of Gaelic folklore, Alasdair the son of Colla the Left-handed MacDonald was born into Clan Donald around 1610 on the island of Colonsay in the Outer Hebrides. As Clan Donald was spread across them, Mac Colla had experience of both the Scottish Highlands and Islands and the Gaeltacht of Ireland. A soldier like his father, and being particularly renowned for his expertise with the claymore, his youth was taken up with the perpetual conflict between the Presbyterian Covenanter Campbells and the Catholic MacDonalds. He came to prominence in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms during which Clan Donald sided with the Royalists and Irish Confederates.

Attacked by a Covenanter/Campbell force, Mac Colla was forced to flee the Western Isles early in the war. Colla, his father (“Collkitto”), was taken prisoner by the Campbells. Upon the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Mac Colla found himself in Antrim, under the command of Randal MacDonald, the chief of the Irish MacDonalds. Mac Colla quickly became involved in fighting the Protestant settlers in east Ulster. He was implicated in several massacres of Protestant civilians, but he also scored some notable military victories. He was defeated and wounded in an attack on Lurgan and was rescued by Dónall Geimhleach Ó Catháin. The Scottish Covenanters landed an army in Ulster and drove the Irish Catholic forces out of the greater part of the province.

In 1644, he was selected by the Supreme Council of Confederate Ireland to lead an expedition to Scotland to aid the Royalists against the Covenanters there. He was charged with an army of perhaps two thousand Ulstermen. Arriving in Scotland, Mac Colla joined forces with the Royalist James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, and he also raised more men from among his MacDonald clansmen and other anti-Campbell clans.

In the subsequent Scottish Civil War, Mac Colla and Montrose won a series of victories at the battles of Tippermuir, Aberdeen, Inverlochy, Auldearn, Alford, and Kilsyth. Perhaps the most notable of these battles was the Battle of Inverlochy, during which the Marquess of Argyll left the command of his army to his General, Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, and retired to his galley anchored on Loch Linnhe to watch the battle. In many respects, the Battle of Inverlochy was as much part of the clan war between the deadly enemies Clan Donald and Clan Campbell and their allies as it was part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, and that is how it was portrayed in Gaelic folklore.

During his Highland campaign, Mac Colla also freely pillaged Campbell lands, killing all the men he could find there. On January 14, 1645, Mac Colla sacked Inveraray, the seat of the Campbells of Argyll. In an incident in Argyllshire after the Royalists were ordered to lay down arms, Mac Colla burned down a building full of Campbell women and children becoming known as the “Barn of Bones.”

Mac Colla has been credited with inventing the tactic of the Highland Charge in the Civil Wars– a tactic whereby his men ran toward the enemy infantry, fired a single volley at close range, and then closed in hand-to-hand combat. This tactic proved remarkably effective in both Ireland and Scotland, due to the musket’s slow reloading time and the poor discipline and training of many of the troops Mac Colla’s men faced.

Mac Colla’s father was killed by the Campbells in retaliation for his son’s atrocities in the Campbell country. Mac Colla himself retreated to Kintyre and then to Ireland with his family, where he re-joined the Irish Confederates in 1647. His troops (both Irish survivors of the 1644 expedition and Scottish Highlanders) were split up and assigned to the Leinster and Munster armies, with Mac Colla attached to the latter. Mac Colla’s men were mostly killed in the Confederate defeats at the Battle of Dungan’s Hill in County Meath and then at the Battle of Knocknanauss in County Cork. Alasdair Mac Colla himself was killed by English Parliamentarian soldiers at Knocknanauss after he had been taken prisoner.

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