Scenes and Legends (1)

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"Tradition is a meteor, which, if once it falls, cannot be rekindled."—JOHNSON.

    EXTREMES may meet in the intellectual as certainly as in the moral world.  I find in tracing to its first beginnings the facts slowly accumulated magazine of fact and inferences which forms the stock in trade on which my mind carries on its work of speculation and exchange, that my greatest benefactors have been the philosophic Bacon and an ignorant old woman, who, of all the books ever written, was acquainted with only the Bible.

    When a little fellow of about ten or twelve years of age, I was much addicted to reading, but found it no easy matter to gratify the propensity; until, having made myself acquainted with some people in the neighbourhood who were possessed of a few volumes, I was permitted to ransack their shelves, to the no small annoyance of the bookworm and the spider.  I read incessantly; and as the appetite for reading, like every other kind of appetite, becomes stronger the more it is indulged, I felt, when I had consumed the whole, a still keener craving than before.  I was quite in the predicament of the shipwrecked sailor, who expends his last morsel when on the open sea, and, like him too, I set myself to prey on my neighbours.  Old grey-headed men, and especially old women, became my books; persons whose minds, not having been preoccupied by that artificial kind of learning which is the result of education, had gradually filled, as they passed through life, with the knowledge of what was occurring around them, and with the information derived from people of a similar cast with themselves, who had been born half an age earlier.  And it was not long before I at least thought I discovered that their narratives had only to be translated into the language of books, to render them as interesting as even the better kind  of written stories.  They abounded with what I deemed as true delineations of character, as pleasing exhibitions of passion, and as striking instances of the vicissitudes of human affairs—with the vagaries of imaginations as vigorous, and the beliefs of superstitions as wild.  Alas! the epitaph of the famous American printer may now be written over the greater part of the volumes of this my second library; and so unfavourable is the present age to the production of more, that even that wise provision of nature which implants curiosity in the young, while it renders the old communicative, seems abridged of one-half its usefulness.  For though the young must still learn, the old need not teach; the press having proved such a supplanter of the past-world schoolmaster, Tradition, as the spinning-wheel proved in the last age to the distaff and spindle.  I cannot look back on much more than twenty years of the past; and yet in that comparatively brief space, I see the stream of tradition rapidly lessening as it flows onward, and displaying, like those rivers of Africa which lose themselves in the burning sands of the desert, a broader and more powerful volume as I trace it towards its source.

    It has often been a subject of regret to me, that this oral knowledge of the past, which I deem so interesting, should be thus suffered to be lost.  The meteor, says my motto, if it once fall, cannot be rekindled.  Perhaps had I been as conversant, some five or ten years ago, with the art of the writer as with the narratives of my early monitors, no one at this time of day would have to entertain a similar feeling; but I was not so conversant with it, nor am I yet, and the occasion still remains.  The Sibyline tomes of tradition are disappearing in this part of the country one by one; and I find, like Selkirk in his island when the rich fruits of autumn were dropping around him, that if I myself do not preserve them they must perish.  I therefore set myself to the task of storing them up as I best may, and urge as my only apology the emergency of the case.  Not merely do I regard them as the produce of centuries, and like the blossoms of the Aloe, interesting on this account alone, but also as a species of produce which the harvests of future centuries may fail to supply.  True it is, that superstition is a weed indigenous to the human mind, and will spring up in the half-cultivated corners of society in every coming generation; but then the superstitions of the future may have little in common with those of the past.  True it is, that human nature is intrinsically the same in all ages and all countries; but then it is not so with its ever-varying garb of custom and opinion, and never again may it wear this garb in the curious obsolete fashion of a century ago.—Geologists tell us that the earth produced its plants and animals at a time when the very stones of our oldest ruins existed only as mud or sand; but they were certainly not the plants and animals of Linnćus or Buffon.

    The traditions of this part of the country, and of perhaps every other, may be divided into three great classes.  Those of the first and simplest class are strictly local; they record real events, and owe their chief interest to their delineations of Character.  Those of the second are pure inventions.  They are formed mostly after a set of models furnished perhaps by the later bards, and are common—though varying in different places according to the taste of the several imitators who first introduced them, or the chance alterations which they afterwards received—to almost every district of Scotland.  The traditions of the third and most complex class are combinations of the two others, with in some instances a dash of original invention, and in others a mixture of that superstitious credulity which can misconceive as ingeniously as the creative faculty can invent.  The value of stories of the first class is generally in proportion to their truth, and there is a simple test by which we may ascertain the degree of credit proper to be attached to them.  There is a habit of minute attention almost peculiar to the common people (in no class, at least, is it more perfect than in the commonest), which leads them to take a kind of microscopic survey of every object suited to interest them; and hence their narratives of events which have really occurred are as strikingly faithful in all the minor details as Dutch paintings.  Not a trait of character, not a shade of circumstance, is suffered to escape.  Nay more, the dramatis personć of their little histories are almost invariably introduced to tell their own stories in their own language.  And though this be the easiest and lowest style of narrative, yet to invent in this style is so far from being either low or easy, that with the exception of Shakspere, and one or two more, I know not any who have excelled in it.  Nothing more common than those faithful memories which can record whole conversations, and every attendant circumstance, however minute; nothing less so than that just conception of character and vigour of imagination, which can alone construct a natural dialogue, or depict, with the nice pencil of truth, a scene wholly fictitious.  And thus though any one, even the weakest, can mix up falsehoods with the truths related in this way, not one of a million can make them amalgamate.  The iron and clay, to use Bacon's illustration, retain their separate natures, as in the feet of the image, and can as easily be distinguished.

    The traditions of the second class, being in most instances only imperfect copies of extravagant and ill-conceived originals, are much less interesting than those of the first; and such of them as are formed on the commoner models, or have already, in some shape or other, been laid before the public, I shall take the liberty of rejecting.  A very few of them, however, are of a superior and more local cast, and these I shall preserve.  Their merit, such as it is, consists principally in their structure as stories—a merit, I am disposed to think, which, when even at the best, is of no high order.  I have observed that there is more of plot and counter-plot in our commonest novels and lowest kind of plays, than in the tales and dramas of our best writers; and what can be more simple than the fables of the Iliad and the Paradise Lost!—From the third class of traditions I trust to derive some of my choicest materials.  Like those of the first, they are rich in character and incident, and to what is natural in them and based on fact, there is added, as in Epic poetry, a kind of machinery, supplied either by invention or superstition, or borrowed from the fictions of the bards, or from the old classics.  In one or two instances I have met with little strokes of fiction in them, of a similar character with some of even the finest strokes in the latter, but which seem to be rather coincidences of invention, if I may so express myself, than imitations.—There occurs to me a story of this class which may serve to illustrate my meaning.

    In the upper part of the parish of Cromarty there is a singularly curious spring, termed Sludach, which suddenly dries up every year early in summer, and breaks out again at the close of autumn.  It gushes from the bank with an undiminished volume until within a few hours before it ceases to flow for the season, and bursts forth on its return in a full stream.  And it acquired this peculiar character, says tradition, some time in the seventeenth century.  On a very warm day of summer, two farmers employed in the adjacent fields were approaching the spring in opposite directions to quench their thirst.  One of them was tacksman of the farm on which the spring rises, the other tenanted a neighbouring farm.  They had lived for some time previous on no very friendly terms.  The tacksman, a coarse, rude man, reached the spring first, and taking a hasty draught, he gathered up a handful of mud, and just as his neighbour came up, flung it into the water.  "Now," said he, turning away as he spoke, "you may drink your fill."  Scarcely had he uttered the words, however, when the offended stream began to boil like a caldron, and after bubbling a while among the grass and rushes, sunk into the ground.  Next day at noon the heap of grey sand which had been incessantly rising and falling within it, in a little conical jet, for years before, had become as dry as the dust of the fields ; and the strip of white flowering cresses which skirted either side of the runnel that had issued from it, lay withering in the sun.  What rendered the matter still more extraordinary, it was found that a powerful spring had burst out on the opposite side of the firth, which at this place is nearly five miles in breadth, a few hours after the Cromarty one had disappeared.  The story spread; the tacksman, rude and coarse as he was, was made unhappy by the forebodings of his neighbours, who seemed to regard him as one resting under a curse; and going to an elderly person in an adjoining parish, much celebrated for his knowledge of the supernatural, he craved his advice.  "Repair," said the seer, "to the old hollow of the fountain, and as nearly as you can guess, at the hour in which you insulted the water, and after clearing it out with a clean linen towel lay yourself down beside it and abide the result."  He did so, and waited on the bank above the hollow from noon until near sunset, when the water came rushing up with a noise like the roar of the sea, scattering the sand for several yards around; and then, subsiding to its common level, it flowed on as formerly between the double row of cresses.  The spring on the opposite side of the firth withdrew its waters about the time of the rite of the cleansing, and they have not since re-appeared; while those of Sludach, from that day to the present, are presented, as if in scorn, during the moister seasons, when no one regards them as valuable, and withheld in the seasons of drought, when they would be prized.  We recognise in this singular tradition a kind of soul or Naiad of the spring, susceptible of offence, and conscious of the attentions paid to it; and the passage of the waters beneath the sea reminds us of the river Alpheus sinking at Peloponnesus to rise in Sicily.

    Next in degree to the pleasure I have enjoyed in collecting these traditions, is the satisfaction which I have felt in contemplating the various cabinets, if I may so speak, in which I found them stored up according to their classes.  For I soon discovered that the different sorts of stories were not lodged indiscriminately in every sort of mind—the people who cherished the narratives of one particular class frequently rejecting those of another.  I found, for instance, that the traditions of the third class, with all their machinery of wraiths and witches, were most congenial to the female mind; and I think I can now perceive that this was quite in character.  Women, taken in the collective, are more poetical, more timid, more credulous than men.  If we but add to these general traits one or two that are less so, and a few very common circumstances; if we but add a judgment not naturally vigorous, an imagination more than commonly active, an ignorance of books and of the world, a long-cherished belief in the supernatural, a melancholy old age, and a solitary fireside—we have compounded the elements of that terrible poetry which revels among skulls, and coffins, and enchantments, as certainly as Nature did when she moulded the brain of a Shakspere.  The stories of the second class I have almost never found in communion with those of the third; and never heard well told—except as jokes.  To tell a story avowedly untrue, and to tell it as a piece of humour, requires a very different cast of mind from that which characterized the melancholy people who were the grand depositories of the darker traditions: they entertained these only because they deemed them mysterious and very awful truths, while they regarded open fictions as worse than foolish.  Nor were their own stories better received by a third sort of persons, from whom I have drawn some of my best traditions of the first class, and who were mostly shrewd, sagacious men, who, having acquired such a tinge of scepticism as made them ashamed of the beliefs of their weaker neighbours, were yet not so deeply imbued with it as to deem these beliefs mere matters of amusement.  They did battle with them both in themselves and the people around them, and found the contest too serious an affair to be laughed at.  Now, however (and the circumstance is characteristic), the successors of this order of people venture readily enough on telling a good ghost story, when they but get one to tell.  Superstition, so long as it was living superstition, they deemed, like the live tiger in his native woods, a formidable, mischievous thing, fit only to be destroyed; but now that it has perished, they possess themselves of its skin and its claws, and store them up in their cabinets.

    I have thus given a general character of the contents of my departed library, and the materials of my proposed work.  My stories form a kind of history of the district of country to which they belong—hence the title I have chosen for them; and, to fill up some of those interstices which must always be occurring in a piece of history purely traditional, I shall avail myself of all the little auxiliary facts with which books may supply me.  The reader, however, need be under no apprehension of meeting much he was previously acquainted with; and, should I succeed in accomplishing what I have purposed, the local aspect of my work may not militate against its interest.  Human nature is not exclusively displayed in the histories of only great countries, or in the actions of only celebrated men; and human nature may be suffered to assert its claim on the attention of the beings who partake of it, even though the specimens exhibited be furnished by the traditions of an obscure village.  Much, however, depends on the manner in which a story is told; and thus far I may vouch for the writer.  I have seriously resolved not to be tedious, unless I cannot help it; and so, if I do not prove amusing, it will be only because I am unfortunate enough to be dull.  I shall have the merit of doing my best—and what writer ever did more?  I pray the reader, however, not to form any very harsh opinion of me for at least the first four chapters, and to be not more than moderately critical on the two or three that follow.  There is an obscurity which hangs over the beginnings of all history—a kind of impalpable fog—which the writer can hardly avoid transferring from the first openings of his subject to the first pages of his book.  He sees through this haze the men of an early period "like trees walking;" and, even should he believe them to be beings of the same race with himself, and of nearly the same shape and size—a belief not always entertained—it is impossible for him, from the atmosphere which surrounds them, to catch those finer traits of form and feature by which he could best identify them with the species.  And hence a necessary lack of interest.


"Consider it warilie ; read aftiner than anis."—GAVIN DOUGLAS.

    THE histories of single districts of country rarely ascend into so remote an antiquity as to be lost like those of nations in the ages of fable.  It so happens, however, whether fortunately or otherwise, for the writer, that in this respect the old shire of Cromarty differs from every other in the kingdom.  Sir Thomas Urquhart, an ingenious native of the district, who flourished about the middle of the seventeenth century, has done for it all that the chroniclers and senachies of England and Ireland have done for their respective countries; and as he united to a vigorous imagination a knowledge of what is excellent in character, instead of peopling it with the caco-demons of the one kingdom, or the resuscitated antediluvians of the other, he has bestowed upon it a longer line of heroes and demigods than can be exhibited by the annals of either.  I avail myself of his writings on the strength of that argument which O'Flaherty uses in his Ogygia as an apology for the story of the three fishermen who were driven by tempest into a haven of Ireland fifteen days before the universal deluge.  "Where there is no room," says this historian, "for just disquisition, and no proper field of inquiry, we must rely on the common suffrages of the writers of our country; to whose opinions I voluntarily subscribe."

    Alypos, the forty-third in a direct line from Japhet, was the first, says Sir Thomas, who discovered that part of Scotland which has since been known by the name of Cromarty.  He was contemporary with Rehoboam, the fourth king of Israel, and a very extraordinary personage, independent of his merits as a navigator.  For we must regard him as constituting a link which divides into ancestors and descendants—a chain that depends unbroken from the creation of Adam to the present times; and which either includes in itself, or serves to connect by its windings and involutions some of the most famous people of every age of the world.  His grandmother was a daughter of Calcido the Tyrian, who founded Carthage, and who must have lived ages before the Dido of Virgil; his mother travelled from a remote eastern country to profit by the wisdom of Solomon, and is supposed by many, says Sir Thomas, to have been the queen of Sheba.  Nor were his ancestors a whit less happy in their friends than in their consorts.  There was one of them intimately acquainted with Nimrod, the founder of the Assyrian Empire, and the builder of Babel; another sat with Abraham in the door of his tent, sharing with him his feelings of sorrow and horror when the fire of destruction was falling on the cities of the plain; a third, after accompanying Bacchus in his expedition to the Indies, and receiving from him in marriage the hand of Thymelica his daughter, was presented with a rich jewel when passing through Syria, by Deborah, the judge and prophetess of Israel.  The gem might have been still in the family had not one of his descendants given it to Penthesilea, that queen of the Amazons who assisted the Trojans against Agamemnon.  Buchanan has expressed his astonishment that the chroniclers of Britain, instead of appropriating to themselves honourable ancestors out of the works of the poets, should rather, through a strange perversity, derive their lineage from the very refuse of nations: Sir Thomas seems to have determined not to furnish a similar occasion of surprise to any future historian.  There were princes of his family who reigned with honour over Achaia and Spain, and a long line of monarchs who flourished in Ireland before the expedition of Fergus I.

    The era of Alypos was one of the most important in the history of Britain.  It was that in which the inhabitants first began to build cities, and to distinguish their several provinces by different names.  It witnessed the erection of the city of York by one Elborak, a brother-in-law of Alypos, and saw the castle of Edinburgh founded by a contemporary chieftain of Scotland, who had not the happiness of being connected to him, and whose name has therefore been lost.  The historian assigns, too, to the same age the first use of the term Olbion as a name for the northern division of the island—a term which afterwards, "by an Eolic dialect," came to be pronounced Albion, or Albyn; and the first application of the name Sutors, from the Greek σωτηζες, preservers, to those lofty promontories which guard the entrance of the bay of Cromarty—a fact which Aikman the historian recommends, with becoming gravity, to the consideration of Gaelic etymologists.  Much of a similar character, as appears from Sir Thomas, could have been brought under their notice in the reign of Charles I., when, as he states in one of his treatises, the names of all places in the shire of Cromarty, whether promontories, fountains, rivers, or lakes, were of pure and perfect Greek.  Since that time, however, many of these names have been converted into choice trophies of the learning and research of those very etymologists;—even the derivation of the term Sutors has been disputed, but by the partisans of languages less ancient than either Greek or Gaelic.  The one party write the contested dissyllable Suitors, the other Soutars, and defend their different modes of spelling each by a different legend—a species of argument practised at one time with much ingenuity and success by the contending Orders of St. Dominic and Loyola.

    The promontories which bear this name are nearly equal in height, but when viewed from the west they differ considerably in appearance.  The one, easy of access, crowned with a thick wood of pine, divided into corn-fields, and skirted at the base by a broad line of ash and elm, seems feminine in its character; while the other, abrupt, stern, broken into precipices, and tufted with furze, is of a cast as decidedly masculine.  Two lovers of some remote age, had met by appointment in a field of Cromarty which commands a full view of the promontories in the aspect described.  The young man urged his suit with the characteristic warmth of his sex—his mistress was timid and bashful.  He accused her of indifference; and with all the fervour of a passion which converts even common men into poets, he exclaimed, pointing to the promontories, "See, Ada! they too are lovers—they are hastening, to embrace; and stern and hastening as that carte-hill of the north may seem to others, he is not reckoned so by his lady-hill of the south;—see how, with all her woods and her furrows, she advances to meet him."— "And think you," rejoined the maiden, entering into the poetry of the feeling, "that these tongueless suitors cannot express their mutual regards without the aid of language; or that that carle of the north, rude as he is, would once think of questioning the faith and affection of his advancing mistress, merely because she advances in silence?"  Her reply, say the people who contend for the English derivation of the word, furnished the promontories with a name; and as those alchemists of mind who can transmute etymology into poetry have not been produced everywhere, few names have anecdotes equally pleasing connected with their origin.  The other legend is of a different character, and has a merit peculiar to itself, to be amenable to any known law of criticism.

    In some age of the world more remote than even that of Alypos, the whole of Britain was peopled by giants—a fact amply supported by early English historians and the traditions of the north of Scotland.  Diocletian, king of Syria, say the historians, had thirty-three daughters, who, like the daughters of Danaus, killed their husbands on their wedding night.  The king, their father in, abhorrence of the crime, crowded them all into a ship, which he abandoned to the mercy of the waves, and which was drifted by tides and winds till it arrived on the coast of Britain, then an uninhabited island.  There they lived solitary, subsisting on roots and berries, the natural produce of the soil, until an order of demons, becoming enamoured of them, took them for their wives; and a tribe of giants, who must be regarded as the true aborigines of the country, if indeed the demons have not a prior claim, were the fruit of these marriages.  Less fortunate, however, than even their prototypes the Cyclops, the whole tribe was extirpated a few ages after by Brutus the parricide, who, with a valour to which mere bulk could render no effectual resistance, overthrew Gog-Magog, and Termagol, and a whole host of others, with names equally terrible.  Tradition is less explicit than the historians in what relates to the origin and extinction of the race, but its narratives of their prowess are more minute.  There is a large and very ponderous stone, in the parish of Edderton, which a giantess of the tribe is said to have flung from the point of a spindle across the Dornoch Firth; and another within a few miles of Dingwall, still larger and more ponderous, which was thrown from a neighbouring eminence by a person of the same family, and which still bears the marks of a gigantic finger and thumb impressed on two of its sides.  The most wonderful, however, of all their achievements was that of a lady, distinguished even among the tribe as the Cailliach-more, or great woman, who, from a pannier filled with earth and stones, which she carried on her back, formed almost all the hills of Ross-shire.  When standing on the site of the huge Ben-Vaiebard, the bottom of the pannier is said to have given way, and the contents falling through the opening, produced the hill, which owes its great height and vast extent of base to the accident.  Prior to the invasion of Brutus, the promontories of Cromarty served as work-stools to two giants of this tribe, who supplied their brethren with shoes and buskins.  They wrought together; for, being furnished with only one set of implements, they could not carry on their trade apart; and these, when needed, they used to fling to each other across the opening of the firth, where the promontories are only about two miles asunder.  In process of time the name Soutar, a shoemaker, was transferred by a common metonymy from the craftsmen to their stools—the two promontories; and by this name they have ever since been distinguished.  Such are the etymological legends of the Sutors, opposed each to the other, and both to the scholar-like derivation of Sir Thomas; which must be confessed, however, to have been at one time a piece of mere commonplace, though it has since become learning.

    I have seen in the museum of the Northern Institution a very complete collection of stone battle-axes, some of which were formed little earlier than the last age by the rude natives of America and the South Sea Islands; while others, which had been dug out of the cairns and tumuli of our own country, witnessed to the unrecorded feuds and forgotten battle-fields of twenty centuries ago.  I was a good deal struck by the resemblance which they bore to each other—a resemblance so complete, that the most practised eye could hardly distinguish between the weapons of the old Scot and those of the New Zealander.  Both seemed to have selected the same rude materials, employed the same imperfect implements, and wrought after the same uncouth model.  But man in a savage state is the same animal everywhere, and his constructive powers, whether employed in the formation of a legendary story or of a battle-axe, seem to expatiate almost everywhere in the same rugged truck of invention.  For even the traditions of this first stage may be identified, like its weapons of war, all the world over.  Mariner, in his account of the Tonga Islands, tells us that the natives pointed out to him a perforated rock, in the hollow of which, they said, one of their gods, when employed in fishing, entangled his hook, and that, pulling lustily to disengage it, he pulled up the whole island (one of the largest of the group) from the bottom of the sea.  Do not this singular story, and the wild legend of Ben-Vaichard, though the product of ages and countries so widely separated, belong obviously to the same rude stage of invention?

    There may be some little interest in tracing the footprints of what I may term the more savage traditions of a country in the earlier pages of its history, and in marking how they blend with its imperfect narratives of real but ill-remembered events, on the one hand, and its mutilated imitations of the masterpieces of a classical literature, on the other.  The fabulous pages of English history furnish, when regarded in this point of view, a not uninteresting field to the legendary critic.  They are suited to remind him of those huts of the wild Arab, composed of the fragments of ruined grandeur which the traveller finds amid the ruins of Palmyra or Balbec, and in which, as he prosecutes his researches, he sees the capital totter over the architrave, the base overtop the capital, masses of turf heaped round the delicate volute, which emulated in granite the curled tresses of a beautiful female, and the marble foliage of the acanthus crushed by the rude joist which bends under a roof of clay and rushes.  Perhaps the reader may indulge me in a few brief remarks on this rather curious subject.

    Diocletian, the Syrian king of the English legend, is, as Buchanan justly remarks, a second Danaus, and owes his existence to the story of his prototype, but the story of the marriages of his daughters with an order of demons, which, according to that historian, the English have invented through a pride of emulating the Gauls and Germans, who derive their lineage from Pluto, does not appear to me to be so legitimately traced to its original.  The oldest of all the traditions of Britain seem to be those which describe it as peopled at some remote era by giants;—they are the broken vestiges, it is possible, of those incidents of Mosaic history which are supposed to be shadowed out in the fables of the giants of Grecian mythology, or they are perhaps mutilated remains of the fables themselves.  It seems more probable, however, that they should have originated in that belief, common to the vulgar of all countries, that the race of men is degenerating in size and prowess with every succeeding generation, and that at some early period their bulk and strength must have been gigantic.  Judging of them from their appearance, they must have been known in a very early age—an age as early perhaps as that of the stone battle-axe; and what more probable than that they should have attracted the notice of the chroniclers, who would naturally consult tradition for the materials of their first pages?  But tradition, though it records the achievements of the giants, is silent respecting their origin.  A first link would therefore be wanting, which could only be supplied by imagination; and as, like every other class of writers, the chroniclers would find it easier to imitate than to invent, it is not difficult to conceive how, after having learned in their cloisters that in an early age of the world the sons of God had contracted marriages with the daughters of men, and that heroes and giants were the fruit of the connexion—they should blend a legend imitative of the event with the stories of the giants of Britain.  Their next employment, for it would be too bold an attempt to link so terrible a tribe to the people of their own times, would be to show how this tribe became extinct, and the manner in which the country was first peopled with men like themselves.

    There is but one way in which anything probable can be acquired concerning the origin of a people who have no early history; but the process is both difficult and laborious.  There is another sufficiently easy, which barely reaches the possible, and which the historians of eight hundred years ago would have deemed the more eligible of the two.  Instead of setting themselves to ascertain those circumstances by which the several families of men are distinguished, or to compare the language, character, and superstitions of the people of their own country with those of the various tribes of the Continent, they would apply for such assistance as the imitator derives from his copy, to the histories of other kingdoms.  From their connexion with the Latin Church they would be conversant with Roman literature, and acquainted with the story of Ćneas as related by the historians, and amplified and adorned by Virgil.  And thus, what may be termed the third link of their history, has come to bear a discernible resemblance to the early history of Rome.  The occasion of the wanderings of Brutus resembles that of the expatriation of Tydeus, or rather that of the madness of Śdipus, but he is the Ćneas of England notwithstanding.  His history is a kind of national epic.  Cornćus is his Achates.  He finds hostile Rutulians, headed by a Turnus, in the giants and their leader; and Britain is both his Italy and his Trinacria, though, instead of fleeing from the Cyclops, he conquers them.

    The legend of Scotland may also be regarded as a national epic.  It is formed on the same model with the story of Brutus, but it has the merit of being a somewhat more skilful imitation, and there is nothing outrageously improbable in any of its circumstances.  Galetlius, its hero, is the Ćneas of Scotland.  He was the son of Cyclops, the founder of Athens, and, like Romulus, made himself famous as a captain of robbers before he became the founder of a nation.  Having repeatedly invaded Macedonia and the neighbouring provinces of Greece, he was in imminent danger of being overpowered by a confederacy of the states he had injured, when, assembling his friends and followers, he retreated into Egypt, at a time when that kingdom was ravaged from its southern boundary to the gates of Memphis by an army of Ethiopians.  Assuming on the sudden a new character, he joined his forces to those of Pharaoh, gave battle to the invaders, routed them with much slaughter, pursued them into Ethiopia, and after a succession of brilliant victories over them, compelled them to sue for peace.  On his return he was presented by the king with the hand of his daughter Scota, and made general in chief of all the forces of the kingdom.  Disgusted, however, by the cruelties practised on the Israelites, and warned by Moses and an oracle of the judgments by which these cruelties were to be punished, he fitted out a fleet, and, accompanied by great numbers of Greeks and Egyptians, set sail from the river Nile with the intention of forming a settlement on the shores of the Mediterranean.  After a tedious voyage he arrived at a port of Numidia, where no better success awaited him than was met with by Ćneas in the scene of his first colony.  Again putting to sea, he passed the Pillars of Hercules, and after having experienced in the navigation of the straits dangers similar to those which appalled Ulysses when passing through the Straits of Messina, he landed in that part of Spain which has ever since been known by the name of Portugal.  He found in this country a second Tiber in the river Munda, and a fierce army of Rutulians in the inhabitants.  But his good fortune did not desert him.  He vanquished his enemies in one decisive battle, dispossessed them of their fairest provinces, built cities, instituted laws, conquered and colonized Ireland, and, dying after a long and prosperous reign, left his kingdom to his children.  Prior to his decease, his subjects, both Greeks and Egyptians, were termed Scots, from their having sunk their original designations in that name, out of courtesy to their Queen Scota—a name afterwards transferred to Albyn by a colony from Ireland, who took possession of it a few ages subsequent to the age of Galethus.  Such is the fable of what may be regarded both as the historic epic of Scotland, and as the most classical of all the imitations of the Ćneid which were fabricated during the middle ages.

    Sir Thomas has recorded nothing further of his ancestor Alypos, than that he followed up his discovery of Cromarty by planting it with a colony of his countrymen, who, though some of his ancestors had settled in Portugal several ages before, seem to have been Greeks.  Of sixteen of his immediate descendants, it is only known that they were born, and that they married—some of them finding honourable consorts in Ireland, some in Greece, and one in Italy.  The wife of that one was a sister of Marcus Coriolanus—a daughter of Agesilaus the Spartan, a daughter of Simeon Breck, the first crowned king of the Irish Scots, a daughter of Alcibiades, the friend and pupil of Socrates, and a niece of Lycurgus the lawgiver, were wives to some of the others.  Never was there a family that owed more to its marriages.

    Nomaster, the son-in-law of Alcibiades, disgusted by the treatment which that great but ambitious statesman had received from his country, took leave of Greece, and, "after many dangerous voyages both by sea and land, he arrived at the harbour Ochoner, now called Cromarty."  It owed its more ancient name to Bestius Ochoner, one of the sixteen immediate descendants of Alypos, and the father, says the genealogist, of the Irish O'Connors; the name which it now bears is derived by Gaelic etymologists from the windings and indentations of its shores. [1]  Nomaster, immediately on his landing, was recognised by the colonists as their legitimate prince, and he reigned over them till his death, when he was succeeded by his son Astorimon, a valiant and accomplished warrior, in whom the genius and heroism of his grandfather seem to have been revived.  And the events of his time were suited to find employment.  For in this age an immense body of Scythians, after voyaging along the shores of Europe in quest of a settlement, were incited by the great natural riches of the country to make choice of Scotland; and, pouring in upon its western coasts, they dispossessed the natives of some of their fairest provinces. But the little territory of Astorimon, though one of the invaded, was not one of the conquered provinces.  The Scythians, under Ethus their general, intrenched upon an extensive moor, which now forms the upper boundary of the parish of Cromarty; and the grandson of Alcibiades drew out his forces to oppose them.  A battle ensued, in which the Scythian general was killed in single combat by Astorimon; and his followers, dispirited by his death, and unable to contend with an army trained to every evolution of Greek and Roman discipline, were routed with immense slaughter.  The Scythian afterwards became famous as the Picts of Scottish history; and Ethus, their leader, is reckoned their first king.  Sir Thomas, to the details of this battle, which he terms the great battle of Farna, [2] has added, that "the trenches, head-quarters, and castrainetation" of the invading army can still be traced on a moor of Cromarty.

    This moor, which formed a few years ago an unappropriated common, but which was lately divided among the proprietors whose lands border on it, has evidently at some remote period been a field of battle.  It is sprinkled over with tumuli and little heathy ridges resembling the graves of a churchyard.  The southern shore of the Cromarty Firth runs almost parallel to it for nearly fourteen miles; and upon a hill in the parish of Resolis, which rises between it and the firth, and which is separated from it by a deep valley, there are the vestiges of Danish encampments.  And there is perhaps scarcely an eminence in Scotland on which in the early ages an invading army could have encamped with more advantage than on this hill, or a moor upon which the invaders could have been met with on more equal terms than on the moor adjacent.  The eminence is detached on the one side from the other rising grounds of the country by a valley, the bottom of which is occupied by a bog, and it commands on the other an extensive bay, in which whole fleets may ride with safety; while the neighbouring moor is of great extent, and has few inequalities of surface.  Towards its eastern boundary, about six miles from the town of Cromarty, there is a huger heap of stones, which from been known to the people time immemorial has of the place as The Grey Cairn, a name equally descriptive of other lesser cairns in its vicinity, but which with the aid of the definite article serves to distinguish it.  Not more than thirty years ago the stones of a similar cairn of the moor were carried away for building by a farmer of the parish.  There were found on their removal human bones of a gigantic size, among the rest a skull sufficiently capacious, according to the description of a labourer employed by the farmers, to contain "two lippies of beer."

    About fifteen years ago, a Cromarty fisherman was retuning from Inverness by a road which for several miles skirts the-upper edge of the moor, and passes within a few yards of the cairn.  Night overtook him ere he had half completed his journey; but, after an interval of darkness, the moon, nearly at full, rose over the eminence on his right, and restored to him the face of the country—the hills which he had passed before evening, but which, faint and distant, were sinking as he advanced, the wood which, bordering his road on the one hand, almost reached him with its shadow, and the bleak, unvaried, interminable waste, which, stretching away on the other, seemed lost in the horizon.  After he had entered on the moor, the stillness which, at an earlier stage of his journey, had occasionally been broken by the distant lowing of cattle, or the bark of a shepherd's dog, was interrupted by only his own footsteps, which, from the nature of the soil, sounded hollow as if he trod over a range of vaults, and by the low monotonous murmur of the neighbouring wood.  As he approached the cairn, however, a noise of a different kind began to mingle with the other two; it was one with which his profession had made him well acquainted—that of waves breaking against a rock.  The nearest shore was fully three miles distant, the nearest cliff more than five, and yet he could hear wave after wave striking as if against a precipice, then dashing upwards, and anon descending, as distinctly as he had ever done when passing in his boat beneath the promontories of Cromarty.  On coming up to the cairn, his astonishment was converted into terror.—Instead of with the heath, with here and there a fir seedling springing out of it he saw a wide tempestuous sea stretching before him, with the large pile of stones frowning over it, like one of the Hebrides during the gales of the Equinox.  The pile appeared as if half enveloped in cloud and spray, and two large vessels, with all their sheets spread to the wind, were sailing round it.

    The writer of these chapters had the good fortune to witness at this cairn a scene which, without owing anything to the supernatural, almost equalled the one described.  He was, like he fisherman, returning from Inverness to Cromarty in a clear frosty night in December.  There was no moon, but the whole sky towards the north was glowing with the Aurora Borealis, which, shooting from the horizon to the central heavens, in flames tinged with all the lines of the rainbow, threw so strong a light, that he could have counted every tree of the wood, and every tumulus of the moor.  There is a long hollow morass which runs parallel to the road for nearly a mile;—it was covered this evening by a dense fleece of vapour raised by the frost, and which, without ascending, was rolling over the moor before a light breeze.  It had reached the cairn, and the detached clump of seedlings which springs up at its base.—The seedlings rising out of the vapour appeared like a fleet of ships, with their sails dropping against their masts, on a sea where there were neither tides nor winds;—the cairn, grey with the moss and lichens of forgotten ages, towered over it like an island of that sea.

    But I daresay I have imparted to the reader more of the fabulous history of Cromarty than he will well know how to be grateful for.  One other remark, however, in better language, and a more vigorous style of thinking than my own, and I shall have done; it may show that Sir Thomas, however unique as a man, forms, as a historian, only one of a class.

    "The last century," says the philosophic Gibbon, "abounded with antiquarians of profound learning and easy faith, who, by the dim light of legends and traditions, of conjectures and etymologies, conducted the great-grandchildren of Noah from the tower of Babel to the extremities of the globe.  Of these judicious critics," continues the historian, "one of the most entertaining was Olaus Rudbeck, professor in the university of Upsal.  Whatever is celebrated either in history or fable, this zealous patriot ascribes to his country.  From Sweden, the Greeks themselves derived their alphabetical characters, their astronomy, and their religion.  Of that delightful region (for so it appeared to the eyes of a native), the Atlantis of Plato, the country of the Hyperboreans, the Garden of the Hesperides, the Fortunate Islands, and even the Elysian fields, were all but faint and imperfect transcripts.  A clime so profusely favoured by nature could not long remain desert after the flood.  The learned Rudbeck allows the family of Noah a few years to multiply from eight to about twenty thousand persons.  He then disperses them into small colonies to replenish the earth and to propagate the human species.  The Swedish detachment (which marched, if I am not mistaken, under the command of Askenos, the son of Gomer, the son of Japhet), distinguished itself by more than common diligence in the prosecution of this great work.  The northern hive cast its swarms over the greater part of Europe, Africa, and Asia; and (to use the author's metaphor), the blood circulated from the extremities to the heart."


"The wild sea, baited by the fierce north-east,
 So roar'd, so madly raged, so proudly swell'd,
 As it would thunder full into our streets.—A

    THE Bay of Cromarty was deemed one of the finest in the world at a time when the world was very little known; and modern discovery has done nothing to lower its standing or character.  We find it described by Buchanan in very elegant Latin as "formed by the waters of the German Ocean, opening a way through the stupendous cliffs of the most lofty precipices, and expanding within into a spacious basin, affording certain refuge against every tempest."  The old poet could scarce have described it better had he sat on the loftiest pinnacle of the southern Sultor during a winter storm from the north-east, and seen vessel after vessel pressing towards the opening through spray and tempest;—like the inhabitants of an invaded country hurrying to the gateway of some impregnable fortress, their speed quickened by the wild shouts of the enemy, and pursued by the smoke of burning villages.

    Viewed from the Moray Firth in a clear morning of summer, the entrance of the bay presents one of the most pleasing scenes I have ever seen.  The foreground is occupied by a gigantic wall of brown precipices, beetling for many miles over the edge of the Firth, and crested by dark thickets of furze and pine.  A multitude of shapeless crags lie scattered along the base, and we hear the noise of the waves breaking against them, and see the reflected gleam of the foam flashing at intervals into the darker recesses of the rock.  The waters of the bay find entrance, as described by the historian, through a natural postern scooped out of the middle of this immense wall.  The huge projection of cliff on either hand, with their alternate masses of light and shadow, remind us of the out-jets and buttresses of an ancient fortress; and the two Sutors, towering over the opening, of turrets built to command a gateway.  The scenery within is of a softer and more gentle character.  We see hanging woods, sloping promontories, a little quiet town, and an undulating line of blue mountains, swelling as they retire into a bolder outline and a loftier altitude, until they terminate, some twenty miles away, in the snow-streaked, cloud-capped Ben Wevis.  When I last gazed on this scene, and contrasted the wild sublimity of the foreground with the calm beauty of the interior, I was led to compare it, I scarcely knew how, to the exquisite masterpiece of his art which the Saxon sculptor Nahl placed over the grave of a lady who had died in the full bloom of youth and loveliness.  It represents the ruins of a tomb shattered as if by the last trumpet; but the chisel has not been employed on it in merely imitating the uncouth ravages of accident and decay; for through the yawning rifts and fissures there is a beautiful female, as if starting into life, and rising in all the ecstasy of unmingled happiness to enjoy the beatitudes of heaven.

    There rises within the bay, to the height of nearly a hundred feet over the sea level, a green sloping bank, in some places covered with wood, in others laid out into gardens and fields.  We may trace it at a glance all along the shores of the firth, from where it merges into the southern Suter, till where it sinks at the upper extremity of the bay of Udell; and, fronting it on the opposite side, we may see a similar escarpment, winding along the various curves and indentations of the coast—now retiring far into the country, along the edge of the bay of Nigg—now abutting into the firth, near the village of Invergordon.  The Moray and Dornoch firths are commanded by resembling ramparts of bank of a nearly corresponding elevation, and a through identity of character; and, as in the Firth of Cromarty, the space between their bases and the shore is occupied by a strip of level country, which in some places encroaches on the sea in the form of long low promontories, and is hollowed out in others to nearly the base of the escarpment.  Wherever we examine, we find data to conclude, that in some remote era this continuous bank formed the line of coast, and that the plain at its base was everywhere covered by the waters of the sea.  We see headlands, rounded as if by the waves, advancing the one beyond the other, into the waving fields and richly-swarded meadows of this lower terrace; and receding bays with their grassy unbeaten shores comparatively abrupt at the entrance, and reclining in a flatter angle within.  We may find, too, everywhere under the vegetable soil of the terrace, alternate layers of sand and water-worn pebbles, and occasionally, though of rarer occurrence, beds of shells of the existing species, and the bones of fish.  In the valley of Munlochy, the remains of oyster-beds, which could not have been formed in less than two fathoms of water, have been discovered a full half mile from the sea; beds of cockles still more extensive, and the bones of a porpoise, have been dug up among the fields which border on the bay of Nigg; similar appearances occur in the vicinity of Tain; and in digging a well about thirty years ago, in the western part of tile town of Cromarty, there was found in the gravel a large fir-tree, which, from the rounded appearance of the trunk and branches, seems to have been at one time exposed to the action of the waves.  In a burying-ground of the town, which lies embosomed in an angle of the bank, the sexton sometimes finds the dilapidated spoils of our commoner shell-fish mingling with the ruins of a nobler animal; and in another infection of the bank, which lies a short half mile to the cast of the town, there is a vast accumulation of drift peat, many feet in thickness, and the remains of huge trees.

    The era of this old coast line we find it impossible to fix; but there are grounds enough on which to conclude that it must have been remote—so remote, perhaps, as to lie beyond the beginnings of our more authentic histories.  We see, in the vicinity of Tain, one of the oldest ruins of the province situated far below the base of the escarpment; and meet in the neighbourhood of Kessock, at a still lower level, with old Celtic cairns and tumuli.  It is a well-established fact, too, that for at least the last three hundred years the sea, instead of receding, has been gradually encroaching on the shores of the Bay of Cromarty; and that the place formerly occupied by the old burgh, is now covered every tide by nearly two fathoms of water.

    The last vestige of this ancient town disappeared about eighteen years ago, when a row of large stones, which had evidently formed the foundation line of a fence, was carried away by some workmen employed in erecting a bulwark.  But the few traditions connected with it are not yet entirely effaced.  A fisherman of the last century is said to have found among the title-deeds of his cottage a very old piece of parchment, with a profusion of tufts of wool bristling on one of its sides, and bearing in rude antique characters on the other a detail of the measurement and boundaries of a garden which had occupied the identical spot on which he usually anchored his skiff.  I am old enough to have conversed with men who remembered to have seen a piece of corn land, and a belt of planting below two properties in the eastern part of the town, that are now bounded by the sea.  I reckon among my acquaintance an elderly person, who, when sailing along the shore about half a century ago in the company of a very old man, beard the latter remark, that he was now guiding the helm where, sixty years before, he had guided the plough.  Of Elspat Hood, a native of Cromarty, who died in the year 1701, it is said that she attained to the extraordinary age of 120 years, and that in her recollection, which embraced the latter part of the sixteenth century, the Clach Malacca, a large stone covered with seaweed, whose base only partially dries during the ebb of Spring and Lammas tides, and which lies a full quarter of a mile from the shore, was surrounded by corn fields and clumps of wood.  And it is a not less curious circumstance than any of these, that about ninety years ago, after a violent night storm from the north-cast, the beach below the town was found in the morning strewed over with human bones, which, with several blocks of hewn stone, had been washed by the surf out of what had been formerly a burying-place.  The bones were carried to the churchyard, and buried beneath the eastern gable of the church; and one of the stones—the corner stone of a ponderous cornice—is still to be seen on the shore.  In the firths of Beauty and Dornoch the sea seems to have encroached to fully as great an extent as in the bay of Cromarty.  Below the town of Tain a strip of land, once frequented by the militia of the county for drill and parade, has been swept away within the recollection of some of the older inhabitants; and there may be traced at low water (says Carey in his notes to Craig Phadrig), on the range of shore that stretches from the ferry of Kessock to nearly Redcastle, the remains of sepulchral cairns, which must have been raised before the places they occupy were invaded by the sea, and which, when laid open, have been found to contain beams of wood, urns, and human bones.—But it is full time that man, the proper inhabitant of the country, should be more thoroughly introduced into this portion of its history.  We feel comparatively little interest in the hurricane or the earthquake which ravages only a desert, where there is no intelligent mind to be moved by the majesty of power, or the sublimity of dangler; while on the other hand, there is no event, however trivial in itself, which may not be deemed of importance if it operate influentially on human character and human passion.

    It is not much more than twenty years since a series of violent storms from the hostile north-east, which came on at almost regular intervals for five successive winters, seemed to threaten the modern town of Cromarty with the fate of the ancient.  The tides rose higher than tides had ever been known to rise before; and as the soil exposed to the action of the waves was gradually disappearing, instead of the gentle slope with which the land formerly merged into the beach, its boundaries were marked out by a dark abrupt line resembling a turf wall.  Some of the people whose houses bordered on the sea looked exceedingly grave, and affirmed there was no danger whatever; those who lived higher up thought differently, and pitied their poor neighbours from the bottom of their hearts.  The consternation was heightened too by a prophecy of Thomas the Rhymer, handed down for centuries, but little thought of before.  It was predicted, it is said, by the old wizard, that Cromarty should be twice destroyed by the sea, and that fish should be caught in abundance on the Castle-hill—a rounded projection of the escarpment which rises behind the houses, and forms the ancient coast line.

    Man owes much of his ingenuity to his misfortunes; and who does not know that, were he less weak and less exposed as an animal, he would be less powerful as a rational creature?  On a principle so obvious, these storms had the effect of converting not a few of the townsfolk into builders and architects.  In the eastern suburb of the town, where the land presents a low yet projecting front to the waves, the shore is hemmed in by walls and bulwarks, which might be mistaken by a stranger approaching the place by sea for a chain of little forts.  They were erected during the wars of the five winters by the proprietors of the gardens and houses behind; and the enemy against whom they had to maintain them, was the sea.  At first the contest seemed well-nigh hopeless;—week after week was spent in throwing up a single bulwark, and an assault of a few hours demolished the whole line.  But skill and perseverance prevailed at last;—the storms are all blown over, but the gardens and houses still remain.  Of the many who built and planned during this war, the most indefatigable, the most skilful, the most successful, was Donald Miller.

    Donald was a true Scotchman.  He was bred a shoemaker; and painfully did he toil late and early for about twenty-five years with one solitary object in view, which, during all that time, he had never lost sight of—no, not for a single moment.  And what was that one?—independence—a competency sufficient to set him above the necessity of further toil; and this he at length achieved, without doing aught for which the severest censor could accuse him of meanness.  The amount of his savings did not exceed four hundred pounds; but, rightly deeming himself wealthy, for he had not learned to love money for its own sake, he shut up his shop.  His father dying soon after, he succeeded to one of the snuggest, though most perilously-situated little properties within the three corners of Cromarty—the sea bounding it on the one side, and a stream, small and scanty during the droughts of summer, but sometimes more than sufficiently formidable in winter, sweeping past it on the other.  The series of storms came on, and Donald found he had gained nothing by shutting up his shop.

    He had built a bulwark in the old, lumbering, Cromarty style of the last century, and confined the wanderings of the stream by two straight walls.  Across the walls he had just thrown a wooden bridge, and crowned the bulwark with a parapet, when on came the first of the storms—a night of sleet and hurricane —and lo! in the morning, the bulwark lay utterly overthrown, and the bridge, as if it had marched to its assistance, lay beside it, half buried in sea-wrack.  "Ah," exclaimed the neighbours, "it would be well for us to be as sure of our summer's employment as Donald Miller, honest man!"  Summer came; the bridge strided over the stream as before; the bulwark was built anew, and with such neatness and apparent strength, that no bulwark on the beach could compare with it.  Again came winter; and the second bulwark, with its proud parapet, and rock-like strength, shared the fate of the first.  Donald fairly took to his bed.  He rose, however, with renewed vigour; and a third bulwark, more thoroughly finished than even the second, stretched ere the beginning of autumn between his property and the sea.  Throughout the whole of that summer, from grey morning to grey evening, there might be seen on the shore of Cromarty a decent-looking, elderly man, armed with lever and mattock, rolling stones, or raising them from their beds in the sand, or fixing them together in a sloping wall—toiling as never labourer toiled, and ever and anon, as a neighbour sauntered the way, straightening his weary back, and tendering the ready snuff-box.  That decent-looking, elderly man, was Donald Miller.  But his toil was all in vain.  Again came winter and the storms; again had he betaken himself to his bed, for his third bulwark had gone the way of the two others.  With a resolution truly indomitable, he rose yet again, and erected a fourth bulwark, which has now presented an unbroken front to the storms of twenty years.

    Though Donald had never studied mathematics as taught in books or the schools, he was a profound mathematician notwithstanding.  Experience had taught him the superiority of the sloping to the perpendicular wall in resisting the waves; and he set himself to discover that particular angle which, without being inconveniently low, resists them best.  Every new bulwark was a new experiment made on principles which he had discovered in the long nights of winter, when, hanging over the fire, he converted the hearth-stone into a tablet, and, with a pencil of charcoal, scribbled it over with diagrams.  But he could never get the sea to join issue with him by changing in the line of his angies; for, however deep he sunk his foundations, his insidious enemy contrived to get under them by washing away the beach; and then the whole wall tumbled into the cavity.  Now, however, he had discovered a remedy.  First he laid a row of large flat stones on their edges in the line of the foundations and paved the whole of the beach below until it presented the appearance of a sloping street—taking care that his pavement, by running in a steeper angle than the shore, should, at its lower edge, lose itself in the sand.  Then, from the flat stones which formed the upper boundary of the pavement, he built a ponderous wall, which, ascending in the proper angle, rose to the level of the garden; and a neat firm parapet surmounted the whole.—Winter came, and the storms came; but though the waves broke against the bulwark with as little remorse as against the Sutors, not a stone moved out of its place.  Donald had at length fairly triumphed over the sea.

    The progress of character is fully as interesting a study as the progress of art; and both are curiously exemplified in the history of Donald Miller.  Now that he had conquered his enemy, and might realize his long-cherished dream of unbroken leisure, he found that constant employment had, through the force of habit, become essential to his comfort.  His garden was the very paragon of gardens; and a single glance was sufficient to distinguish his furrow of potatoes from every other furrow in the field; but, now that his main occupation was gone, much hung time hung on his hands, notwithstanding his attentions to both.  First, he set himself to build a wall quite round his property; and a very neat one he did build; but unfortunately, when once erected, there was nothing to knock it down again.  Then he whitewashed his house, and built a new sty again, for his pig, the walls of which he also whitewashed.  Then he enclosed two little patches on the side of the stream, to serve as bleaching-greens.  Then he covered the upper part of his bulwark with a layer of soil, and sowed it with grass.  Then he repaired a well, the common property of the town.  Then he constructed a path for foot-passengers on the side of a road, which, passing his garden on the south, leads to Cromarty House.  His labours for the good of the public were wretchedly recompensed, by, at least, his more immediate neighbours.  They would dip their dirty pails into the well which he had repaired, and tell him, when he hinted at the propriety of washing them, that they were no dirtier than they used to be.  Their pigs would break into his bleaching-greens, and furrow up the sward with their snouts: and when he threatened to pound them, he would be told "how unthriving a thing it was to keep the puir brutes aye in the fauld," and how impossible a thing "to watch them ilka time they gae'd out."  Herd-boys would gallop their horses and drive their cattle along the path which he had formed for foot-passengers exclusively: and when he stormed at the little fellows, they would canter past, and shout out, from what they deemed a safe distance, that their "horses and kye had as good a right to the road as himself."  Worse than all the rest, when he had finished whitening the walls of his pigsty, and gone in for a few minutes to the house, a mischievous urchin, who had watched his opportunity, sallied across the bridge, and, seizing on the brush, whitewashed the roof also.  Independent of the insult, nothing could be in worse taste; and yet, when the poor man preferred his complaint to the father of the urchin, the boor only deigned to mutter in reply, that "folk would hae nae peace till three Lammas tides, joined intil ane, would come and roll up the Clach Malacha" (it weighs about twenty tons) " frae its place i' the sea till flood watermark."  The fellow, rude as he was, had sagacity enough to infer that a tide potent enough to roll up the Clack Malacca, would demolish the bulwark, and concentrate the energies of Donald for at least another season.

    But Donald found employment, and the neighbours were left undisturbed to live the life of their fathers without the intervention of the three Lammas tides.  Some of the gentlemen farmers of the parish who reared fields of potatoes, which they sold out to the inhabitants in square portions of a hundred yards, besought Donald to superintend the measurement and the sale.  The office was one of no emolument whatever, but he accepted it with thankfulness; and though, when he had potatoes of his own to dispose of, he never failed to lower the market for the benefit of the poor, every one now, except the farmers, prenounced him rigid and narrow to a fault.  On a dissolution of Parliament, Cromarty became the scene of an election, and the honourable member-apparent deeming it proper, as the thing had become customary, to whitewash the dingier houses of the town, and cover its dirtier lanes with gravel, Donald was requested to direct and superintend the improvements.  Proudly did he comply; and never before did the same sum of election-money whitens so many houses, and gravel so many lanes.  Employment flowed in upon him from every quarter.  If any of his acquaintance had a house to build, Donald was appointed inspector.  If they had to be enfeoffed in their properties Donald acted as bailie, and tendered the earth and stone with the gravity of a judge.  He surveyed fields, suggested improvements, and grew old without either feeling or regretting it.  Towards the close of his last, and almost only illness, he called for one of his friends, a carpenter, and gave orders for his coffin; he named the seamstress who was to be employed in making his shroud; he prescribed the manner in which his lyke-wake should be kept, and both the order of his funeral and the streets through which it was to pass.  He was particular injunctions to the sexton, that the bones of his father and mother should be placed directly above his coffin; and professing himself to be alike happy that he had lived, and that he was going to die, he turned him to the wall, and ceased to breathe a few hours after.  With all his rage for improvement, he was a good old man of the good old school.  Often has he stroked my head, and spoken to me of my father, a friend and namesake, though not a relative; and when, at an after period, he had learned that I set a value on whatever was antique and curious, he presented me with the fragment of a large black-letter Bible which had once belonged to the Urqharts of Cromarty.


'All hail, Macbeth! thou shalt be king hereafter."—SHAKSPERE.

IT is, perhaps, not quite unworthy of remark, that not only is Cromarty the sole district of the kingdom whose annals ascend into the obscure ages of fable, but that the first passage of even its real history derives its chief interest, not from its importance as a fact, but from what may be termed its chance union with a sublime fiction of poetry.  Few, I daresay, have so much as dreamed of connecting either its name or scenery with the genius of Shakspere, and yet they are linked to one of the most powerful of his achievements as a poet, by the bonds of a natural association.  The very first incident of its true history would have constituted, had the details been minutely preserved, the early biography of the celebrated Macbeth; who, according to our black-letter historians, makes his first appearance in public life as Thane of Cromarty, and Maormor, or great man of Ross.  But I am aware I do not derive from the circumstance any right to become his biographer.  For though his character was probably formed at a time when he may be regarded as the legitimate property of the provincial annalist, no sooner is it exhibited in action than he is consigned over to the chroniclers of the kingdom.

    For the earlier facts of our history the evidence is rather circumstantial than direct.  We see it stamped on the face of the country, or inscribed on our older obelisks, or sometimes disinterred from out of hillocks of sand, or accumulations of moss; but very rarely do we find it deposited in our archives.  Let us examine it, however, wherever it presents itself, and strive, should it seem at all intelligible, to determine regarding its purport and amount.  Not more than sixty years ago a bank of blown sand, directly under the northern Sutor, which had been heaped over the soil ages before, was laid open by the winds of a stormy winter, when it was discovered that the nucleus on which the hillock had originally formed, was composed of the bones of various animals of the chase, and the horns of deer.  It is not much more than twelve years since there were dug up in the same sandy tract two earthen urns, the one filled with ashes and fragments of half-burned bones, the other with bits of a black bituminous-looking stone, somewhat resembling jet, which had been fashioned into beads, and little flat parallelograms, perforated edgewise, with four holes apiece.  Nothing could be ruder than the workmanship: the urns were clumsily modelled by the hand, unassisted by a lathe; the ornaments, rough and unpolished, and still bearing the marks of the tool, resembled nothing of modern production, except, perhaps, the toys which herd-boys sometimes amuse their leisure in forming with the knife.  We find remains such as these fraught with a more faithful evidence regarding the early state of our country than the black-letter pages of our chroniclers.  They testify of a period when the chase formed, perhaps, the sole employment of the few scattered inhabitants; and of the practice, so prevalent among savages, of burying with their dead friends whatever they most loved when alive.  It may be further remarked as a curious fact, and one from which we may infer that trinkets brought in so uncouth a style could have belongs to only the first stage of society, that man's inventive powers receive their earliest impulses rather from his admiration of the beautiful, than his sense of the useful.  He displays a taste in ornament, and has learned to dye his skin, and to tatoo it with rude figures of the sun and moon, before he has become ingenious enough to discover that he stands in need of a covering.

    There is a tradition of this part of the country which seems not a great deal more modern than the urns or their ornaments, and which bears the character of the savage nearly as distinctly impressed on it.  On the summit of Knock-Ferril, a steep hill which rises a few miles to the west of Dingwall, there are the remains of one of those vitrified forts which so puzzle and interest the antiquary; and which was originally constructed, says tradition, by a gigantic tribe of Fions for the protection of their wives and children, when they themselves were engaged in hunting.  It chanced in one of their excursions that a mean-spirited little fellow of the party, not much more than fifteen feet in  height, was so distanced by his more active brethren, that, leaving them to follow out the chase, he returned home, and throwing himself down, much fatigued, on the side of the eminence, fell fast asleep.  Garry, for so the unlucky hunter was called, was no favourite with the women of the tribe;—he was spiritless and diminutive, and ill-tempered; and as they could make little else of him that they cared for, they converted him into the butt of many a teasing little joke, and the sport of many a capricious humour.  On seeing that he had fallen asleep, they stole out to where he lay, and after fastening his long hair with pegs to the grass, awakened him with their shouts and laughter.  He strove to extricate himself, but in vain; until at length, infuriated by their gibes and the pain of his own exertions, he wrenched up his head, leaving half his locks behind him, and, hurrying after them, set fire to the stronghold into which they had rushed for shelter.  The flames rose till they mounted over the roof, and broke out at every slit and opening; but Garry, unmoved by the shrieks and groans of the sufferers within, held fast the door until all was silent; when he fled into the remote Highlands, towards the west.  The males of the tribe, who had, meanwhile, been engaged in hunting on that part of the northern Sutor which bears the name of the hill of Nigg, alarmed by the vast column of smoke which they saw ascending from their dwelling, came pressing on to the  Firth of Cromarty, and leaping across on their hunting-spears, they hurried home.  But they arrived to find only a huge pile of embers, fanned by the breeze, and amid which the very stones of the building were sputtering and bubbling with the intense heat, like the contents of a boiling caldron.  Wild with rage and astonishment, and yet collected enough to conclude that none but Garry could be the author of a deed so barbarous, they tracked him into a nameless Highland glen, which has ever since been known as Glen-Garry, and there tore him to pieces.  And as all the women of the tribe perished in the flames, there was an end, when this forlorn and widowed generation had passed away, to the whole race of the Fions.  The next incident of our history bears no other connexion to this story, than that it belongs to a very early age, that of the Vikingr and Sea-King, and that we owe our data regarding it, not to written records, but to an interesting class of ancient remains, and to a doubtful and imperfect tradition.

    In this age, says the tradition, the Maormor of Ross was married to a daughter of the king of Denmark, and proved so barbarous a husband, that her father, to whom she at length found the means of escape, fitted out a fleet and army to avenge on him the cruelties inflicted on her.  Three of her brothers accompanied the expedition; but, on nearing the Scottish coast, a terrible storm arose, in which almost all the vessels of the fleet either foundered or were driven ashore, and the three princes were drowned.  The ledge of rock at which this latter disaster is said to have taken place, still bears the name of the King's Sons; a magnificent cave which opens among the cliffs of the the neighbouring shore is still known as the King's Cave; and a path that winds to the summits of the precipices beside it, as the King's Path.  The bodies of the princes, says the tradition, were interred, one at Shandwick, one at Hilton, and one at Nigg; and the sculptured obelisks of these places, three very curious pieces of antiquity, are said to be monuments erected to their memory by their father.  In no part of Scotland do stones of this class so abound as on the shores of the Moray Firth.  And they have often attracted the notice and employed the ingenuity of the antiquary; but it still appears somewhat doubtful whether we are to regard them as of Celtic or of Scandinavian origin.  It may be remarked, however, that though their style of sculpture resembles, in its general features, that exhibited in the ancient crosses of Wales, which are unquestionably British, and though they are described in a tradition current on the southern shore of the Moray Firth, as monuments raised by the inhabitants on the expulsion of the Danes, the amount of evidence seems to preponderate in the opposite direction; when we consider that they are invariably found bordering on the sea; that their design and workmanship display a degree of taste and mechanical ability which the Celtć of North Britain seem never to have possessed; that the eastern shores of the German Ocean abound in similar monuments, which, to a complexity of ornament not more decidedly Runic, add the Runic inscription; and that the tradition just related—which, wild as it may appear, can hardly be deemed less authentic than the one opposed to it, seeing that it belongs to a district still peopled by the old inhabitants of the country, whereas the other seems restricted to the lowlands of Moray—assigns their erection not to the natives, but to their rapacious and unwelcome visitors, the Danes themselves.  The reader may perhaps indulge me in a few descriptive notices of the three stones connected with the tradition; they all lie within six miles of Cromarty, and their weathered and mossy planes, roughened with complicated tracery and doubtful hieroglyphics, may be regarded as pages of provincial history—as pages, however, which we must copy rather than translate.  May I not urge, besides, that men who have visited Egypt to examine monuments not much more curious, have written folios on their return?

    The obelisk at Hilton, though perhaps the most elegant of its class in Scotland, is less known than any of the other two, and it has fared more hardly.  For, about two centuries ago, it was taken down by some barbarous mason of Ross, who converted it into a tombstone, and, erasing the neat mysterious hieroglyphics of one of the sides, engraved on the place which they had occupied a rude shield and label, and the following laughable inscription; no bad specimen, by the bye, of the taste and judgment which could destroy so interesting a monument, and of that fortuitous species of wit which lies within the reach of accident, and of accident alone.


    The side of the obelisk which the chisel has spared is surrounded by a broad border, embossed in a style of ornament that would hardly disgrace the frieze of an Athenian portico;—the centre is thickly occupied by the figures of men, some on horseback, some afoot—of wild and tame animals, musical instruments, and weapons of war and of the chase.  The stone of Shandwick is still standing, [3] and bears on the side which corresponds to the obliterated surface of the other, the figure of a large cross, composed of circular knobs wrought into an involved and intricate species of fretwork, which seems formed by the twisting of myriads of snakes.  In the spaces on the sides of the shaft there are two huge, clumsy-looking animals, the one resembling an elephant, and the other a lion; over each of these a St. Andrew seems leaning forward from his cross; and on the reverse of the obelisk the sculpture represents processions, hunting-scenes, and combats.  These, however, are but meagre notices; the obelisk at Nigg I shall describe more minutely as an average specimen of the class to which it belongs.

    It stands in the parish burying-ground, beside the eastern gable of the church; and bears on one of its sides, like the stone at Shandwick, a large cross, which, it may be remarked, rather resembles that of the Greek than of the Romish Church, and on the other a richly embossed frame, enclosing, like the border of the obelisk at Hilton, the figures of a crowded assemblage of men and animals.  Beneath the arms of the cross the surface is divided into four oblong compartments, and there are three above—one on each side, which form complete squares, and one a-top, which, like the pediment of a portico, is of a triangular shape.  In the lower angle of this upper compartment, two priest-like figures, attired in long garments, and furnished each with a book, incline forwards in the attitude of prayer; and in the centre between them there is a circular cake or wafer, which a dove, descending from above, holds in its bill.  Two dogs seem starting towards the wafer from either side; and directly under it there is a figure so much weathered, that it may be deemed to represent, as fancy may determine, either a little circular table, or the sacramental cup.  A pictorial record cannot be other than a doubtful one; and it is difficult to decide whether the hieroglyphic of this department denotes the ghostly influence of the priest in delivering the soul from the evils of an intermediate state; for, at a slight expense of conjectural analogy, we may premise that the mysterious dove descends in answer to the prayer of the two kneeling figures, to deliver the little emblematical cake from the "power of the dog;"—or, whether it may not represent a treaty of peace between rival chiefs whose previous hostility may be symbolized by the two fierce animals below, and their pacific intentions by the bird above, and who ratify the contract by an oath, solemnized over the book, the cup, and the wafer.  A very few such explanations might tempt one to quote the well-known story of the Professor of signs and the Aberdeen butcher; the weight of the evidence, however, rests apparently with those who adopt the last.  We see the locks of the kneeling figures curling upon their shoulders in unclerical profusion, unbroken by the tonsure; while the presence of the two books, with the absence of any written inscription, seems characteristic of the mutual memorial of tribes, who, though not wholly illiterate, possess no common language save the very doubtful language of symbol.  If we hold further that the stone is of Scandinavian origin—and it seems a rather difficult matter to arrive at a different conclusion—we can hardly suppose that the natives should have left unmutilated the monument of a people so little beloved had they had no part in what it records, or no interest in its preservation.

    We pass to the other compartments—some of these and the plane of the cross are occupied by a species of fretwork exceedingly involved and complicated, but formed, notwithstanding, on regular mathematical figures.  There are others which contain squares of elegantly arrayed tracery, designed in a style which we can almost identify with that of the border illuminations of our older manuscripts, or of the ornaments, imitative of these, which occur in works printed during the reigns of Elizabeth and James.  But what seem the more curious compartments of the stone are embossed into rows of circular knobs, covered over, as if by basket-work, with the intricate foldings of myriad of snakes; and which may be either deemed to allude to the serpent and apple of the Fall—thus placed in no inapt neighbourhood to the cross; or to symbolize (for even the knobs may be supposed to consist wholly of serpents) that of which the serpent has ever been held emblematic, and which we cannot regard as less appositely introduced—a complex wisdom, or an incomprehensible eternity.

    The hieroglyphics of the opposite side are in lower relief, and though the various fretwork of the border is executed in a style of much elegance, the whole seems to owe less to the care of the sculptor.  The centre is occupied by what, from its size, we must deem the chief figure of the group—that of a man attired in long garments, caressing a fawn; and directly fronting him, there are the figures of a lamb and a harp.  The whole is, perhaps, emblematical of peace, and may be supposed to tell the same story with the upper hieroglyphic of the reverse.  In the space beneath there is the figure of a man furnished with cymbals, which he seems clashing with much glee, and that of a horse and its rider, surrounded by animals of the chase; while in the upper part of the stone there are dogs, deer, an armed huntsman, and, surmounting the whole, an eagle or raven.  It may not be deemed unworthy of remark, that the style of the more complex ornaments of this stone very much resembles that which obtains in the sculptures and tatooings of the New-Zealander.  We see exhibited in both the same intricate regularity of pattern, and almost similar combinations of the same waving lines.  And we are led to infer, that though the rude Scandinavian of perhaps nine centuries ago had travelled a long stage in advance of the New-Zealander of our own times, he had yet his ideas of the beautiful cast in nearly the same mould.  Is it not a curious fact, that man, in his advances towards the just and graceful in design, proceeds not from the simple to the complex, but from the complex to the simple?

    The slope of the northern Sutor which fronts the town of Cromarty, terminates about a hundred and fifty feet above the level of the shore in a precipitous declivity surmounted by a little green knoll, which for the last six centuries has borne the name of Dunskaith (i.e. the fort of mischief).  And in its immediate vicinity there is a high-lying farm, known all over the country as the farm of Castle-Craig.  The prospect from the edge of the eminence is one of the finest in the kingdom.  We may survey the entire Firth of Cromarty spread out before us as in a map; the town, though on the opposite shore, seems so completely under our view that we think of looking down into its streets; and yet the distance is sufficient to conceal all but what is pleasing in it.  The eye, in travelling over the country beyond, ascends delighted through the various regions of corn, and wood, and moor, and then expatiates unfatigued amid a wilderness of blue-peaked hills.  And where the land terminates towards the east, we may see the dark abrupt cliffs of the southern Sutor flinging their shadows half-way across the opening, and distinguish among the lofty crags, which rise to oppose them, the jagged and serrated shelves of the Diamond-rock, a tall beetling precipice which once bore, if we may trust to tradition, a wondrous gem in its forehead.  Often, says the legend, has the benighted boatman gazed from amid the darkness, as he came rowing along the shore, on its clear beacon-like flame, which, streaming from the rock, threw a long fiery strip athwart the water; and the mariners of other countries have inquired whether the light which they saw shining so high among the cliffs, right over their mast, did not proceed from the shrine of some saint, or the cell of some hermit.  But like the carbuncle of the Ward-hill of Hoy, of which the author of Waverley makes so poetical a use, "though it gleamed ruddy as a furnace to them who viewed it from beneath, it ever became invisible to him whose daring foot had scaled the precipices from whence it darted its splendour."  I have been oftener than once interrogated on the western coast of Scotland regarding the "Diamond-rock of Cromarty;" and an old campaigner who fought under Abercromby has told me that he has listened to the familiar story of its diamond amid the sand wastes of Egypt.  But the jewel has long since disappeared, and we see only the rock.  It used never to be seen, it is said, by day, nor could the exact point which it occupied be ascertained; and on a certain luckless occasion an ingenious ship-captain, determined on marking its place, brought with him from England a few balls of chalk, and, charging with this novel species of shot, took aim at it in the night-time with one of his great guns.  Ere he had fired, however, it vanished, as if suddenly withdrawn by some guardian hand; and its place on the rock has ever since remained as indistinguishable as the scaurs and cliffs around it.  And now the eye, after completing its circuit, rests on the eminence of Dunskaith;—the site of a royal fortress erected by William the Lion, to repress, says Lord Hailes in his Annals of Scotland, the oft-recurring rebellions and disorders of Ross-shire.  We can still trace the moat of the citadel, and part of an outwork which rises towards the hill; but the walls have sunk into low grassy mounds, and the line of the outer moat has long since been effaced by the plough.  The disorders of Ross-shire seem to have outlived, by many ages, the fortress raised to suppress them.  I need hardly advert to a story so well known as that of the robber of this province who nailed horse-shoes to the feet of the poor widow who had threatened him with the vengeance of James I., and who, with twelve of his followers, was brought to Edinburgh by that monarch, to be horse-shoed in turn.  Even so late as the reign of James VI. the clans of Ross are classed among the peculiarly obnoxious, in an Act for the punishment of theft, rief, and oppression.

    Between the times of Macbeth and an age comparatively recent, there occurs a wide chasm in the history of Cromarty.  The Thane, magnified by the atmosphere of poetry which surrounds him, towers like a giant over the remoter brink of the gap, while, in apparent opposition to every law of perspective, the people on its nearer edge seem diminished into pigmies.  And yet the Urquharts of Cromarty—though Sir Thomas, in his zeal for their honour, has dealt by them as the poets of ancient Greece did by the early history of their country—were a race of ancient standing and of no little consideration.  The editor of the second edition of Sir Thomas's Jewel, which was not published until the first had been more than a hundred years out of print, states in his advertisement that he had compared the genealogy of his author with another genealogy of the family in possession of the Lord Lyon of Scotland, and that from the reign of Alexander II. to that of Charles I. he had found them perfectly to agree.  The lands of the family extended from the furthest point of the southern Sutor to the hill of Kinbeakie (i.e. end of the living), a tract which includes the parishes of Cromarty, Kirkmichael, and Cullicuden; and, prior to the imprisonment and exile of Sir Thomas, he was vested with the patronage of the churches of these parishes, and the admiralty of the eastern coast of Scotland, from Caithness to Inverness.

    The first of his ancestors, whose story receives some shadow of confirmation from tradition, was a contemporary of Wallace and the Bruce.  When ejected from his castle, he is said to have regained it from the English by a stratagem, and to have held it out with only forty men for about seven years.  "During that time," says Sir Thomas, "his lands were wasted and his woods burnt; and having nothing he could properly call his own but the moat-hill of Cromarty, which he maintained in defiance of all the efforts of the enemy, he was agnamed Gulielmus de monte alto.  At length," continues the genealogist, "he was relieved by Sir William Wallace, who raised the siege after defeating the English in a little den or hollow about two miles from the town."  Tradition, though silent respecting the siege, is more explicit than Sir Thomas in her details of the battle.

    Somewhat more than four miles to the south of Cromarty, and about the middle of the mountainous ridge which, Stretching from the Sutors to the village of Rosemarkie, overhangs at the one edge the shores of the Moray Firth, and sinks on the other into a broken moor, there is a little wooded eminence.  Like the ridge which it overtops, it sweeps gradually towards the east until it terminates in an abrupt precipice that overhangs the sea, and slopes upon the west into a marshy hollow, known to the elderly people of the last age and a very few of the present as Wallace-slack—i.e., ravine.  The direct line of communication with the southern districts, to travellers who cross the Firth at the narrow strait of Ardersier, passes within a few yards of the hollow.  And when, some time during the wars of Edward, a strong body of English troops were marching by this route to join another strong body encamped in the peninsula of Easter Ross, this circumstance is said to have pointed it out to Wallace as a fit place for forming an ambuscade.  From the eminence which overtops it, the spectator can look down on a wide tract of country, while the ravine itself is concealed by a flat tubercle of the moor, which to the traveller approaching from the south or west, seems the base of the eminence.  The stratagem succeeded; the English, surprised and panic-struck, were defeated with much slaughter, six hundred being left dead in the scene of the attack; and the survivors, closely pursued and wholly unacquainted with the country, fled towards the north along the ridge of hill which terminates at the bay of Cromarty.  From the top of the ridge the two Sutors seem piled the one over the other, and so shut up the opening, that the bay within assumes the appearance of a lake; and the English deeming it such, pressed onward, in the hope that a continued tract of land stretched between them and their countrymen on the opposite shore.  They were only undeceived when, on climbing the southern Sutor, where it rises behind the town, they saw an arm of the sea more than a mile in width, and skirted by abrupt and dizzy precipices, opening before them.  The spot is still pointed out where they made their final stand; and a few shapeless hillocks, that may still be seen among the trees, are said to have been raised above the bodies of those who fell; while the fugitives, for they were soon beaten from this position, were either driven over the neighbouring precipices, or perished amid the waves of the Firth.  Wallace, on another occasion, is said to have fled for refuge to a cave of the Sutors; and his metrical historian, Blind Harry, after narrating his exploits at St. Johnstone's, Dunotter, and Aberdeen, described him as

"Raiding throw the North-land into playne,
 Till at Crummade feil Inglismen he'd slayne."

    Hamilton, in his modernized edition of the "Achievements," renders the Crummade here Cromarty; and as shown by an ancient custom-house seal or socket (supposed to belong, to the reign of Robert II.), now in the Inverness Museum, the place was certainly designated of old by a word of resembling sound—Chrombhte.

    Of all the humbler poets of Scotland—and where is there a country with more?—there is hardly one who has not sung in praise of Wallace.  His exploit, as recorded in the Jewel, connected with the tradition of the cave, has been narrated by the muse of a provincial poet, who published a volume of poems at Inverness about five years ago; and, in the lack of less questionable materials for this part of my history, I avail myself of his poem.

    Thus ran the tale:—proud England's host
Lay 'trench'd on Croma's winding coast,
And rose the Urquhart's towers beneath
Fierce shouts of wars, deep groans of death.
The Wallace heard;—from Moray's shore
One little bark his warriors bore.
But died the breeze, and rose the day,
Ere gained that bark the destined bay;
When, lo! these rocks a quay supplied,
These yawning eaves meet shades to hide.
Secure, where rank the nightshade grew,
And pattur'd thick th' unwholesome dew,
Patient of cold and gloom they lay,
Till eve's last light had died away.
    It died away;—in Croma's hall
No flame glanced on the atrophied wall,
Nor sound of mirth nor revel free
Was heard where joy had went to be.
With day had ceased the siege's din,
But still gaunt famine raged within.
    In chamber lone, on weary bed,
That castle's wounded lord was laid;
His woe-worn lady watch'd beside.
To pain devote, and grief, and gloom,
No taper cheer'd the darksome morn;
Yet to the wounded chieftain's sight
Strange shapes were there, and sheets of light.
And oft he spoke, in jargon vain,
Of ruthless deed and tyrant reign,
For maddening fever fired his brain.
    O hark! the warder's rousing call—
"Rise, warriors, rise, and man the wall!"
Starts up the chief, but rack'd with pain,
And weak, he backward sinks again:
"O Heaven, they come!" the lady cries,
The Southrons come, and Urquhart dies!"
    Nay, 'tis not fever mocks his sight;
His brooder's couch is red with light;
In light his lady stands confest,
Her hand clasp's on her heaving breast.
And hark; wild shouts assail the ear,
Loud and more loud, near and more near
They rise!—hark, frequent rings the blade,
On crested helm relentless laid;
Yells, groans, sharp sounds of smitten mail,
And war-cries load the midnight gale;
O hark! like Heaven's own thunder high,
Swells o'er the rest one ceaseless cry,
Backing the dull cold ear of night,
The Wallace Wight!—the Wallace Wight!
    Yes, gleams the sword of Wallace there,
Unused his country's foes to spare;
Roars the red camp like funeral pyre,
One wild, wide, wasteful sea of fire;
Glow red the low-brow'd clouds of night,
The wooded hill is bathed in light,
Gleams wave, and field, and turret height.
Death's vassa's dog the spoiler's horde,
Burns in their front th' unsparing sword;
The fired camp casts its volumes o'er
Behind spreads wide a skilless shore;
Fire, flood, and sword, conspire to slay.
How sad shall rest morn's early ray
On blackened strand, and crimson's main,
On floods of gore, and hills of slain;
But bright its cheering beams shall fall
Where mirth whoops in the Urquharts' Hall.
            *                        *                        *            *

    There occurs in our narrative another wide chasm, which extends from the times of Wallace to the reign of James IV.  Like the earlier gap, however, it might be filled up by a recital of events, which, though they belong properly to the history of the neighbouring districts, must have affected in no slight degree the interests and passions of the people of Cromarty.  Among these we may reckon the descents on Ross by the Lords of the Isles, which terminated in the battles of Harlem and Driemderfat, and that contest between the Macintoshes and Munros, which took place in the same century at the village of Clachnaherry.  I might avail myself, too, on a similar principle, of the pilgrimage of James IV. to the neighbouring chapel of St. Dothus, near Tain.  But as all these events have, like the story of Macbeth, been appropriated by the historians of the kingdom, they are already familiar to the general reader.  In an after age, Cromarty, like Tain, was honoured by a visit from royalty.  I find it stated by Calderwood, that in the year 1589, on the discovery of Huntly's conspiracy, and the discomfiture of his followers at the Bridge of Dee, James VI, rode to Aberdeen ostensibly with the intention of holding justice-courts on the delinquents; but that, deputing the business of trial to certain judges whom he instructed to act with a lenity which the historian condemns, he set out on a hunting expedition to Cromarty, from which he returned after an absence of about twenty days.

    We find not a great deal less of the savage in the records of these later times than in those of the darker periods which went before.  Life and property seem to have been hardly more secure, especially in those hapless districts which, bordering on the Highlands, may be regarded as constituting the battle-fields on which needy barbarism, and the imperfectly-formed vanguard of a slowly advancing civilisation, contended for the mastery.  Early in the reign of James IV. the lands of Cromarty were wasted by a combination of the neighbouring clans, headed by Hucheon Rose of Kilravock, Macintosh of Macintosh, and Fraser of Lovat and so complete was the spoliation, that the entire property of the inhabitants, to their very household furniture, was carried away.  Restitution was afterwards enforced by the Lords of Council.  We find it decreed in the Acta Dominorum Concilii for 1492, that Hucheon Rose of Kilravock do restore, content, and pay to Mr. Alexander Urquhart, sheriff of Cromarty, and his tenants, the various items carried off by him and his accomplices; viz., six hundred cows, one hundred horses, one thousand sheep, four hundred goats, two hundred swine, and four hundred bolls of victual.  Kilravock is said to have conciliated the justice-general on this occasion by resigning into his hands his grand-daughter, the heiress of Calder, then a child; and her lands the wily magistrate secured to his family by marrying her to one of his sons.

    There lived in the succeeding reign a proprietor of Cromarty, who, from the number of his children, received, says the genealogist, the title, or agnate, of Paterhemon.  He had twenty-five sons who arrived at manhood, and eleven daughters who ripened into women, and were married.  Seven of the sons lost their lives at the battle of Pinkie; and there were some of the survivors who, settling in England, became the founders of families which, in the days of the Commonwealth, were possessed of considerable property and influence in Devonshire and Cumberland.  Tradition tells the story of Paterhemon somewhat differently.  His children, whom it diminishes to twenty, are described as robust and very handsome men; and he is said to have lived in the reign of Mary.  On the visit of that princess to Inverness, and when, according to Buchanan, the Frasers and Munros, two of the most warlike clans of the country, were raised by their respective chieftains to defend her against the designs of Huntly, the Urquhart is said also to have marched to her assistance with a strong body of his vassals, and accompanied by all his sons, mounted on white horses.  At the moment of his arrival Mary was engaged in reviewing the clans, and surrounded by the chiefs and her officers.  The venerable chieftain rode up to her, and, dismounting with all the ease of a galliard of five-and-twenty, presented to her, as his best gift, his little troop of children.  There is yet a third edition of the story:—About the year 1652, one Richard Franck, a native of the sister kingdom, and as devoted an angler as Isaac Walton himself, made the tour of Scotland, and then published a book descriptive of what he had seen.  His notice of Cromarty is mostly summed up in a curious little anecdote of the patriarch, which he probably derived from some tradition current at the time of his visit.  Sir Thomas he describes as his eldest son; and the number of his children who arrived at maturity he has increased to forty.  "He had thirty sons and ten daughters," says the tourist, "standing at once before him, and not one natural child amongst them."  Having attained the extreme verge of human life, he began to consider himself as already dead; and in the exercise of an imagination, which the genealogist seems to have inherited with his lands, he derived comfort from the daily repetition of a kind of ceremony, ingenious enough to challenge comparison with any rite of the Romish Church.  For every evening about sunset, being brought out in his couch to the base of a tower of the castle, he was raised by pulleys, slowly and gently, to the battlements; and the ascent he deemed emblematical of the resurrection.  Or to employ the graphic language of the tourist— "The declining age of this venerable laird of Urquhart, for he had now reached the utmost limit of life, invited him to contemplate mortality, and to cruciate himself by fancying his cradle his sepulchre; therein, therefore, was he lodged night after night, and hauled up by pulleys to the roof of his house, approaching, as near as the summits of its higher pinnacles would let him, to the beautiful battlements and suburbs of heaven."

    I find I must devote one other chapter to the consideration of the interesting remains which form almost the sole materials of this earlier portion of my history.  But the class of these to which I am now about to turn, are to be found, not on the face of the country, but locked up in the minds of the inhabitants.  And they are falling much more rapidly into decay—mouldering away in their hidden recesses, like bodies of the dead; while others, which more resemble the green mound and the monumental tablet, bid fair to abide the inquiry of coming generations.  Those vestiges of ancient superstition, which are to be traced in the customs and manners of the common people, share in a polite age a very different fate from those impressions of it, if I may so express myself, which we find stamped upon matter.  For when the just and liberal opinions which originate with philosophers and men of genius are diffused over a whole people, a modification of the same good sense which leads the scholar to treasure up old beliefs and usages, serves to emancipate the peasant from their influence or observance.


1.    Cromba, i.e., crooked bay.
2.    Two ancient farms in the neighbourhood bear the names of Meikle and Little Farness, and a third that of Eathie.
3.    Since, however, blown down by a storm and broken into three pieces.

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