Among the Ruins

We were 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!

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

A Plaintive Harvest


From Lochourn to Glenfinnan the gray mountains ranging,
Naught falls on the eye but the changed and the changing;
From the hut by the lochside, the farm by the river,
Macdonalds and Cameron pass—and for ever.

The flocks of one stranger the long glens are roaming,
Where a hundred bien homesteads smoked bonny at gloaming.
Our wee crofts run wild wi’ the bracken and heather,
And our gables stand ruinous, bare to the weather.

To the green mountain shealings went up in old summers
From farm-town and clachan how mony blithe comers!
Though green the hill pastures lie, cloudless the heaven,
No milker is singing there, morning or even.

Where high Mam-clach-ard by the ballach is breasted,
Ye may see the gray cairns where old funerals rested,
They who built them have long in their green graves been sleeping,
And their sons gone to exile, or willing or weeping.

The chiefs, whom for ages our claymores defended,
Whom landless and exiled our fathers befriended,
From their homes drive their clansmen, when famine is sorest,
Cast out to make room for the deer of the forest.

Yet on far fields of fame, when the red ranks were reeling,
Who prest to the van like the men from the shealing?
Ye were fain in your need Highland broadswords to borrow,
Where, where are they now, should the foe come to-morrow?

Alas for the day of the mournful Culloden!
The clans from that hour down to dust have been trodden,
They were leal to their Prince, when red wrath was pursuing.
And have reaped in return but oppression and ruin.

It’s plaintive in harvest, when lambs are a-spaining,
To hear the hills loud with ewe-mothers complaining—
Ah! sadder that cry comes from mainland and islands,
The sons of the Gael have no home in the Highlands.

— John Campbell Shairp.

A Purely Celtic Family

Portrait of George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll by George Frederic Watts;. National Portrait Gallery: NPG 1263

Yet from the moment that the standard of national independence was raised by Bruce, he had no more devoted adherents than among the purest Celts, whilst some of his bitterest and most dangerous opponents were the descendants and representatives of western and northern Clans who had collected under Norseman Chieftains. Among the earliest of his followers, and among the most constant, was the purely Celtic family from which I am descended—a family of Scoto-Irish origin—that is to say, belonging to that Celtic colony from Ireland which founded the Dalriadic Kingdom, and to whom the name of Scots originally and exclusively belonged. The name when it first appears in writing is always Cambel, and never Campbell, the letter p having been subsequently introduced in connection with the fashion which set in at one time to claim Norman lineage as more honourable than the Celtic. But the name as universally written for many generations is a purely Celtic word, conceived in the ancient Celtic spirit of connecting personal peculiarities with personal appellatives. “Cam” is “curved,” and is habitually applied to the curvature of a bay of the sea. The other syllable “bel” is merely a corruption of the Celtic word “beul,” meaning “mouth.” So, in like manner, the purely Celtic name of another Highland family, Cameron, is derived from the same word “Cam,” and “srón” the nose. But that portion of the Celtic race which first owned the name of Scots must have had in its character and development something which made it predominant, so that its name came to be that of the whole united Monarchy. Probably all its Chiefs had a memory and traditions which predisposed them to fight for that Monarchy as their own. Certain it is that Sir Nigel Cambel fought with, and for, the Bruce in all his battles from Methven Bridge to Bannockburn, and was finally rewarded by the hand of the Lady Mary, sister of the heroic King, who achieved the final independence of his Country.

— George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, Scotland As It Was and Is, Volume 1, Edinburgh, 1887, pp. 33-34.

A Pure and Dignified Society

Illustration of the Old Market at Lynchburg, by James Wells Champney, from Edward King’s The Great South, Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1875.

Something of the old Scotch and English manners are still perceptible among the people in this part of Virginia; and there are bits of dialect and phrase which show how little the communities have been affected during the last century by the influences which have so transformed the populations of other sections of America. While England has gone on from change to change, and has even been capable of complete revolution in certain matters, Virginia has altered but little. Until now immigration has had no inducements to come and unlock the treasure-house of the grand mountains of the South-west, and so the people have lived under pretty much the same laws and customs that prevailed in England two centuries ago. Yet the absence of the rushing, turbulent current of immigration has had its compensating advantages in allowing the growth of families in which the hereditary love of culture and refinement, and the strictest attention to those graces and courtesies which always distinguish a pure and dignified society, are preeminently conspicuous.

Edward King, The Great South; A Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1875.

Gu Bràth, Am Byth

Bruti posteritas cum Scotis associata
Anglica regna premet, Marte, labore, nece.
Flumina manabunt hostili tincta cruore
Perfida gens omni lite subacta ruet,
Quem Britonum fundet Albanis juncta juventus:
Sanguine Saxonico tincta rubebit humus:
Regnabunt Britones Scotorum gentis amici
Antiquum nomen insula tota feret;
Ut profert aquila veteri de turre locuta,
Cum Scotis Britones regna paterna regent.
Regnabunt pariter in prosperitate quieta
Hostibus expulsis, judicis usque diem.

John of Fordun, Chronica Gentis Scotorum, lib. III., cap. xxii., quoting a poem of Gildas.

[The posterity of Brutus in league with the Scots shall harrass England with war, toil, and death; the rivers shall flow discoloured with blood, and the perfidious nation shall sink subdued by every contest. The British and Albanian youth united shall overwhelm them, and the soil be crimsoned with Saxon blood. The Britons shall reign in friendship with the Scots; the whole island shall bear its ancient name, as the eagle which spoke from the old tower declares; the Britons and Scots shall rule over the kingdoms of their ancestors, and reign alike in profound peace, after the expulsion of their enemies, until the day of judgment.]

Feadan Dubh


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.


Settling Ye Highlands


Seing all the principall theevs & recetters in the Highlands of Scotland does ather actuallie duell or constantly haunts & ar harboured in Glencoa, Ranoch, Brae lochaber, Glengarie & Lochaber & adjacent Glens, uher all depredations ar caried to ther disposed of & all Murtherers & persons guiltie of attrocious Cryms ar sheltered securly wt ther relations which plaices ar very remoatt from The head brughs of the shyres to which they belong.

1t Therfor yt a Garison consisting of tuo hundred men at least be plaiced at Jnnerlochay uher it shall be undertaiken by laying out 60 lib. ster: they may be conveniently lodged, & shall be easily provyded of all provisions at ye Cuntree vaitts.

2d The sojours would consist of highland men ayr to be levied or put in plaice of such as are most of their bussines being to goe out on pairties & to travell in the night for aprehending of theevs & recetters through deserts & Muntans & crossing rivers which ar utterly unknouen & rocks Inpracticable for such forces as ar now a foot.

3d That ye governor be a person of respect & Estait & Creditt so as his reputation will oblidge him to tack no base means to connive or transact wt any offenders  But that his deutie to his Matie & his Cuntrie will oblidge him to mack it his uork to Crush the thift & oppression uhich if authorised he may doe in a short tym  If he but will understand uher the Intric of it lyes.

4d Seing The reverence that is dew & reallie given to ye law is knouen to begett mor obedience then the force of such a number of men is able to doe Its overturd That the Governor be apoynted to be a Justice of Peace in the severall shyrs the forsds bounds belongs to, & lykwayes that the shyriffs of these shyrs viz. Pearth Argyll & Innernes be appoynted to give the Governor a Deputan from them uherby their power he may act legallie wt out Incroaching on yr priviledges but rayr comptible to ym for his respective decreets, so that he being armed wt these Legall pouesr togayr wt his Comission its not to be in the least doubted but will ever keep the Highlands from thifts & depridations, nor is ther any plaice in the Highlands that can so pirvaine any open rebellion uold be ther attempted lying equall be sea & land for all places & most of them in less then a nights merch or sailling to him.

5. That seing The Governours trouble & Chairges will be considerable for Intelligence & oyr Incident expenses, Its overturd that he have duble Capts pay The Companies to be only comanded by Livetennents under him. And Thus The King is at no more Chairge yn presently  The Cuntree will not be oppresst ut projects and the Highlands made peacable.

6. The Lau & Acts of Parlt ar still to be in force in order to Cheefs & Landlords, & this person alloued to persew them be lau upon all occasions.

7. That the Governor be by his Comission appoynted to mack severall circuitts to keep Courts which will contribut much uhen they see law brought to ther dors wt a force able to put it in execution, I mean shyriff Courts) & if a greater latitude be alloued its best.

8. That The Governor be appoynted to gett lists of all the Theevs & broaken men in the Highlands which he may easily gett & That his Maties Advocatt sumone them all to find Cation which many will doe Especiallie If it be thought fitt to Indemnifie them for bypast transgressions (except Murder) such as will not compear to be denounced fugitivs & a Comission to the forsd Governor to aprehend or destroy ym which he may doe if they keep Scotland.

9. That the severall shyriffs be appoynted (togayr ut the Magistrats of Brughs) to receave his prisoners & grant him receatts for them.

10. That ye forsd Governor shall by himself & give up the nams of such as he knowes to be cited to give in evidences agt such prissoners to be tryed befor the Justices & ther deputts.

The above is copied from the original (in the handwriting of the first Marquess) in the charter chest of the Marquess of Tweeddale. From 1662 to 1674 John Hay, second Earl, afterwards first Marquess, of Tweeddale occupied a very prominent place in Scottish politics, when he was distinguished for the moderation of his views. This paper is undated, but was found with papers dated about 1668, and there is little doubt that it must have been written just before an Act of Privy Council (of which Tweeddale was President) dated 22nd Dec., 1664, dealing with disorders in the Highlands.

The Scottish Historical Review, Vol. XII., No. 46, January 1915.

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