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.

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.

Eject Vice and Follow Treuth Alway

Portrait of James I, King of Scots, National Galleries of Scotland.
Portrait of James I, King of Scots, National Galleries of Scotland.

Sen throw vertew incressis dignitie,
And vertew is flour and rute of noblesse ay,
Of ony wit or quhat estait thow be,
His steppis follow and dreid for none effray:
Eject vice and follow treuth alway:
Lufe maist thy God that first thy lufe began,
And for ilk inche he will the quyte ane span.

Be not ouir proude in thy prosperitie,
For as it cummis sa will it pas away;
The tyme to compt is schort thow may weill se,
For of grene gress sone cummis wallowit hay.
Labour in treuth quhilk suith is of thy fay;
Traist maist in God, for he best gyde the can,
And for ilk inche he will the quyte ane span.

Sen word is thrall and thocht is only fre,
Thou dant thy toung, that power hes and may,
Thou steik thy ene fra warldis vanitie:
Refraine thy lust, and harkin quhat I say:
Graip or thow slyde, and keip furth the hie-way,
Thow hald the fast upon thy God and man,
And for ilk inche he will the quyte ane span.

— James I, King of Scots, from The Gude and Godlie Ballates (1578).

Iona by Thomas Keith

The ruins of the medieval abbey of Iona as photographed by Thomas Keith (1827-1895) in 1856; salt print from waxed paper negative, 27.10 x 24.00 cm, National Galleries of Scotland.
The ruins of the medieval abbey of Iona as photographed by Thomas Keith (1827-1895) in 1856; salt print from waxed paper negative, 27.10 x 24.00 cm, National Galleries of Scotland.

Bride Ban-Chobhair

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

Thainig thugam cobhair
Moire gheal is Bride;
Mar a rug Anna Moire,
Mar a rug Moire Criosda,
Mar a rug Eile Eoin Baistidh
Gun mhar-bhith dha dhi,
Cuidich thusa mise ‘m asaid,
Cuidich mi a Bhride!

Mar a gheineadh Criosd am Moire
Comhliont air gach laimh,
Cobhair thusa mise, mhoime,
An gein a thoir bho ‘n chnaimh;
‘S mar a chomhn thu Oigh an t-solais,
Gun or, gun odh, gun ni,
Comhn orm-sa, ‘s mor m’ othrais,
Comhn orm a Bhride!

– Carmina Gadelica, Aimsire, 71.

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