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In the Isle of Rum.


DURING many weeks of painful gloom, the picturesque Isle of Rum, one of the Hebrides, to which I had been invited by an old friend, had been flitting through my mind, now and then, with a cheery gleam of hopeful change; and as the crush, and din, and motley riot of Whit-week in Manchester were fast drawing nigh, I made haste to escape to the solitude of that sea-girt nest, in search of peaceful renovation.

    It was at three o'clock, on Sunday afternoon, the 28th of May, 1882, that I left Manchester for the north.  The day was fine.  "Grand groo-weather," as the country folk call it; sultry, and sunny, with fitful clouds, and soft-falling showers of warm rain between the bursts of sunshine.  At such a time, one feels what a charming country Lancashire would be, but for the inevitable smoke-blight.

    Manchester looked calm and clear in the pure air, as we rolled away over the chimney tops of Salford.  It was Whit Sunday.  I gazed again and again upon the receding city.  Its streets had a remarkably clean and quiet appearance, in the light of that beautiful spring day; they were quiet with an almost unearthly quietness, for such a place; and the tired pavements, which had been trampled, from morning to night, through the whole of the week, by continual crowds of restless feet, seemed to look up at the blue over-arching sky, as if they were grateful for that sweet sight—and thankful to be untrodden for a little while.  It was Whit Sunday; yet there were fewer country folk upon the streets than was usual on the Sabbath day.  They were probably saving up their money for the wild rant of the following week; and I knew full well that the strange calm that lay upon the city like a spell, was the portentous slumber of a full-charged volcano, which the dawn of next morning would see belching forth its annual gush of revelry; and I was glad to feel myself gliding away from the scene, before the eruption began. . . .

    It is Sunday; and a slow train; and we stop at every station; and they don't seem to be particular about when they start again.  I don't care much about this, for I am quite content with the fact that I am going away.  The country looks richer than usual at this time of year, in its mantle of posied green.  We pass Eccles, with its fine old church; we pass Worsley, with the hall of the Earls of Ellesmere on the green hillside, overlooking the southward plain; we pass Tyldesley, with its historic memories of the old Tyldesleys "of that ilk,"—especially Sir Thomas, who died fighting for Charles the First; and now, as we draw near to Wigan, the fine old church is in full view, at the head of the town.

    Here we are, at Wigan.  The place is smokeless to-day,—or comparatively so,—because it is Sunday.  But, during the week, it is a scene of great activity,—a great and grimy activity,—both on the surface, and deep down below the surface; for the land under the town, and for a considerable distance around, is all tunnelled and honeycombed with excavation for coals.  And this reminds me that, about twenty years ago, I went down one of Messrs. Brancker's pits, at Orrell, about two miles from this town, the workings of which were about 1,700 feet deep; where I got a piece of "cannel coal," which I now possess, in the shape of a large inkstand.  Coal smoke, restless crowds of grimy workmen, and livid fires, in all directions,—these are the general features of the town during the week.  Today, the air is clear; and the whole town and neighbourhood looks like a burnt-out firegrate, full of cold cinders.

    At Wigan, news comes to us that the train will be an hour late.  I try to wile away the time by drinking tea in the refreshment room, and pacing to and fro, on the lee side of the station, dreaming, meanwhile, of the battle of Wigan Lane, and of the old local tradition of "Mab's Cross," a little.  Away we go, at last, across a partially green country, that grows greener as we go.

    "Proud Preston."  Beautiful valley,—beautiful river.  Fine station, here, now, too.  Used to be the gloomiest in the kingdom, for a town of such importance.  On we go again,—across Ribbleton Moor, where Cromwell thrashed the Royalists, under the Duke of Hamilton.  The town of Preston fades away as we roll along; and now the land of long chimneys is entirely behind us; and the rest of our way lies through a charming rural land, no less remarkable for the beauty of its natural features than for its rich historic associations.  The towered steep of old Lancaster glides away behind us; the hoary remnant of Kendal Castle, upon a shapely green hill overlooking the ancient burgh, where Catherine Parr was born the ragged ruins of Penrith Castle, close by our way; Shap the beautiful pastoral hills, and dales, and streams of Westmorland; ancient Appleby, with its castle; and now we are at the famous border city of Carlisle.

    It has been a beautiful evening; and now it is a fine moonlight night,—for we are nearly an hour and a half behind time; and the full moon is up in a cloudless sky.  Here we put up for the night, at the Station Hotel.  After a time I sally forth for a walk into the city.

    Old Carlisle looks fine in the clear moonlight.  I feel a little elated, for I am near the border land of my forefathers; but I turn in again, for the night air is cold, and we have to be up by four in the morning, so as to be in time for the train to Greenock at five.  Capital bedroom; but I am some time before I get to rest; for I keep getting up, and peeping out at the moon.  It is a beautiful night.  At last, nature's soft nurse "weighs mine eyelids down," and I get about three hours' sleep, which is very good, for me.  I am up, and dressed, before the knock comes to the door at four in the morning.  We breakfast hastily, in a rough kind of refreshment room, on the opposite side of the station; and away we go towards Greenock, by the five o'clock train.

    It is a sweet spring morning; and the scenery of the south of Scotland looks charming.  We pass Dumfries.  Robert Burns is in my mind the whole of the way.  Here he wandered, and mused, and wrote, and suffered, and died.  First one, then another of his songs, flit through my memory as we roll along. 
We pass Kilmarnock.  "Kilmarnock wabsters fidge and claw."  A benevolent-looking old gentleman, in the opposite corner of our carriage, tells me that there is not as much weaving upon the hand-loom in Kilmarnock, as there was in Burns's time.  I have no doubt of it; but my thoughts are busy in other directions.  The old gentleman tells me that he has been in ill health for some time, and is now on his way home to the east end of Greenock from Harrogate, where he has been staying for the benefit of the mineral waters.  He tells me that he has suffered many years from habitual sleeplessness; and that his daughter, twenty-four years old, is sorely afflicted in the same way.  I can feel for both the old gentleman and his daughter.  We are very thick during the remainder of the journey.  We part at the last station before we come to Greenock; and he points out his house, on the green slope, below the line.

    Cab from the station at Greenock to the old pier, with luggage.  Leave it in charge; and find that the boat is not expected from Glasgow till five in the evening.  Eight hours to wait.  How to spend the time?  Wander about among the shipping.  This is a great port, now.  It is the birthplace of James Watt, the inventor of the steam-engine; and Burns's Highland Mary lies buried here.

    Feel ill and fidgetty, and cough a great deal.  Too feeble to walk much.  The town, itself, not interesting; nor pleasant to the senses—except at the west end.  Take the tramcar out to Gourock, a favourite watering-place, about two miles and a half west of the town.  This would be a delightful ride but for the crowded state of the tramcar.  They ram them in, as long as they can, till there is not even an inch of standing room left.  It chokes me; and I am forced to get out, and crawl along the footpath, till a tramcar comes by with more room in it.  It comes, at last.

    The Clyde is a noble river, here.  The view of it, and of a grand stretch of the highland hills, beyond the opposite shore, is very fine all along the line of this tramway to Gourock.  I do the ride, to and fro, twice over.  I see no more agreeable way of occupying the time, just now; for I am resting; and I am pleased with all I see as we go along.

    The boat comes at last, after I had lounged about the pier, wearily, more than two hours beyond the time when she was expected.  We steam away from Greenock about nine o'clock.  It is a glorious night.  The sky is cloudless; and the full moon is up; but the air is keen.  I lie down on some hay in a sheltered part of the boat, looking up at the moon, and listening to a highland herdsman who is crooning a wild monotonous Gaelic song, over and over again, till I fall asleep.  I sleep a few minutes, and then start up, and go below, for I am starved.  About half-past one, I creep up on deck again.  The night is still fine, but there is a strong breeze, and it is bitter cold.  We are passing between the Point of Kintyre and the Isle of Rathlin; and the north coast of Ireland is in full view, with Fairhead rising 600 feet from the sea.  Rathlin looks gloomy and bleak in the dim dawning light; with its ruined castle, where Robert Bruce sheltered for a while; I shall never forget my trip to that wild island, about twelve years ago.

    It is nearly nine o'clock as we pass the picturesque ruin of Dunolly Castle, the ancient stronghold of the Macdougall, Lords of Lorne.  Oban looks beautiful in the calm summer morning.  We stay there about an hour, and we go, up the Sound of Mull.  It is no use my then on attempting to describe the scenery on the way.  That is admirably done in the guide books.  I can only say that it must be one of the most enchanting trips of the kind in all the wide world.  At Salen, we stay nearly an hour, to get thirty head of wild-looking highland cattle on board.  I go and ramble about, slowly, delighted with the scene ashore.  At Tobermory, we are delayed about an hour and a half.  This is our last calling place.  I meet with some pleasant company on board, amongst whom is Dr. Munro, a Catholic clergyman, of Glasgow, who points out many places of historic interest as we go along.

    The captain leaves his ordinary route a little to land me on the Isle of Eigg.  He sets the steam-whistle going, as a signal for a boat to put off from the island.  The whistle sounds wild upon the lonely sea, and is echoed by the rocky ridge of the Scour of Eigg.  The boat comes at last.  We pass the night at the clean and comfortable little inn; and we receive some kind attentions from Professor Macpherson, who is the owner of the island.  Next day we leave Eigg about noon, in an open boat; and cross over to the Isle of Rum, a distance of about fifteen miles.  Of this place I shall have something to say in my next.



                                                   The isle is full of noises.
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices,
That if I had then waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again.


THE Hebridean Isles, which lie scattered along the sea, like skirmishers sent out from the Scottish coast into the stormy wilderness which divides that land from North America, teem with interest for the scholar, the man of science, the antiquary, and the lover of nature.  In these remote little sea-girt worlds,—each cherishing its own wild traditions,—the old race, the old manners, and the old language of Britain still linger.  Like all mountainous and isolated lands, they have been slow to change, because in times gone by they were difficult of access, and easily defended, and more than all, perhaps, because they were comparatively untempting to the rapacious prowlers of the sea.  No wonder, then, that, even yet, in spite of all the modern facilities for communion with the rest of the world, they still retain enough of the ancient features of their insular life to strike an imaginative stranger with the charm of romantic novelty.

    Much of their early history has gone down with the ebbing tide of time, leaving no record upon the shore; but

                 Nameless mound and dateless stone,
Where generations like successive waves
    Have rolled each o'er the other, and have gone,
As all go, undistinguishably fused,
Their separate lives in common death confused.

There are some traces of Druidical occupation here and there amongst these isles; but, whatever were the features of human life existing there in Druidical times, they are now almost entirely shrouded in mystery; for they have no place in the annals of mankind.

    About the middle of the sixth century they began to emerge from the enfolding gloom, chiefly through the agency of one of the most remarkable men of that time.  In the year 563, St. Columba, Columb Kill, "The Dove of the Cell," left Ireland, where he had founded thirty-seven monasteries, and crossed the sea, with twelve companions, in a boat of hides, with the intent of converting the heathen of the Hebrides.  St. Columba was forty-two years old when he left Ireland on this mission; and he must have been a man of high mark among the wild Celtic tribes of that time, for he is said to have been "related to the regal races of the O'Neills and O'Donnels,' and, in addition to his piety and learning, he was distinguished by "a tall and commanding figure, good looks, and a sweet but powerful voice."  Such gifts and graces as these would have told among the crowded life of our own time; no wonder, then, that, with such a man as this at the head of that little band of missionaries, the superstitious savages of the Hebrides "were awed by the loud and sonorous chanting of the psalms by the saint and his followers."  It is said, too, that the cause of his leaving Ireland was his having surreptitiously copied the psalter of his master, Saint Finian, whilst he was at school under him, at Clonard.  Be that as it may, there is something touching in the record of his wanderings from island to island before he found a resting place in Iona.

    "Passing the island of Islay, Columba landed on the island of Oronsay; but, finding that the coast of Ireland could still be descried, he sailed northward beyond Colonsay, and landed on the southern shore of Iona, at The Port of the Coracle."  From the highest point of Iona, he could no longer see the Irish coast, and so consented to remain; his outlook being thence called "The Cairn of Farewell."

    The wonderful story of Iona is now well known; how it became the Lantern of the West, from which,—when the light of religion had grown dim in the rest of the world,—it was purely relumed and disseminated through distant lands; how it became the sanctuary to which, for nearly a thousand years, "the pious, the learned, warriors, princes, the poor, and the stricken,—all turned for counsel, for absolution, for refuge, and for alms;" and how this rocky isle became, also, the burial place of monarchs and nobles, where, mingling with the dust of the pious and the learned, lie the mouldering remains of forty Scottish kings, one king of France, two Irish kings, two Norwegian kings, and many of the most powerful chiefs of the Scottish clans.  These islands owe much to those devoted men who first

Dared the dangers of the narrow seas,
To plant the cross amongst the Hebrides.

    It was with their settlement in Iona that the history of the Hebrides first begins to mingle with that of the rest of Europe; and, in addition to twenty-one churches which were established by St. Columba upon the mainland, he established thirty-two churches in these lonely islands, one of which was Kilmory, or "The Church of St. Mary," in the Isle of Rum, where I am now staying, and of which I am now writing, as I sit at my window looking out upon Scresort Bay, with the southern point of the Isle of Skye, and the distant mountains of Invernesshire in full view before me, beyond the intervening sea. . . . Here I am; on the wild, sweet, sea-girt solitude, called "The Isle of Rum," where there is no inn, no shop, no magistrate, no lawyer, no policeman, no doctor, except one or two wild-eyed Celtic herdsmen, who know how to tinker up the sheep and kine when they are ailing; and the old women of the island, who are all more or less skilful in the use of simples, and are, amongst themselves, what the lowland Scotch call "doctors by guess."  I find that when they are in absolute need of a professional doctor, here, their only chance is to send a boat fifteen miles to the Isle of Eigg for one.

    With the exceptions I have mentioned, there is no doctor, nor apothecary, on the island; there is no gas,—and not many candles; there are no cabs, no clubs, no newspapers, no pillar posts, no din, no dust, no rattle of wheels, no 'buses, no music rooms, no front streets, no back slums, no green lanes, nor lanes of any other colour, no roads, —except a wandering slip of road, about half a mile long, which leads from the rude pier on the south side of Scresort Bay, through a straggling cluster of eight or ten thatched cottages, called "The Town," and then onward by the edge of the water, to a place where cattle, and the one or two carts belonging to the island, have to go splashing through the mountain stream, and where there is a little wooden bridge "for ither folk;" from thence this short road leads across a level meadow, through a fine clump of trees (the only trees on the island) which shades the rear of Kinloch House, and across another mountain stream, up to the farmstead of the island.  This is the only road in all Rum.  There is no church nor chapel in the island, except one small edifice of wood, about eight yards long and four yards wide, and so plain in form that an acquaintance of mine once said that when he first saw it as he entered the bay, it looked like a haystack with two windows in it.

    And yet, in that simple fane, which looks as modest as a mountain daisy, upon its little patch of green slope down by the shore of the bay, learning and religion have found a home not to be despised; for there, during the week days, a studious dark-eyed, far-off cousin of the ancient Lords of Lorne teaches the rudiments of education to about a score of hardy, bare-legged little islanders; and there, too, on a Sunday, he officiates as minister.  The service is in Gaelic; which is much more common than English.  There is no other school or chapel on the island, but this; there is no smoke, except the blue smoke curling up lazily into the clear air from the green thatch of a little cottage, here and there; there is no steam,—except when that daring little rover of the narrow seas, the "Hebridean," comes puffing and churning up to the pier, about once in a fortnight; there are no slutchy streams, no swill-shops, no public dinners, no speeches, no swells, no betting shops, no butchers, no banks, no need for Bank Holiday, no bailiffs, no bills, no creditors, no placards, no paste, no walls to paste them on, no society but a few simple-hearted shepherds and fishermen; no anything, in fact, but peace, and quiet breathing, and plain wholesome fare; and "the shapes, and sounds, and shifting elements" of nature in continual play; and full of infinite variety and incessant delight . . . .

    And now, having said so much about what there is not on the island, I will try to give the reader an idea of what there is there; and what the place is like.  In the first place, then, Rum is one of the larger Hebridean isles, being about seven miles square; that is, if it were square, which it is not.  It is crowded with picturesque mountains, wild corries, and some pastoral valleys; and it is almost entirely devoted to the grazing of sheep.  After the Isle of Skye, it is one of the most picturesque in appearance of all the Hebrides.  At its south-east corner, the Scour-na-Gillean, or "Hill of the Young Lads," rises 2,504 feet from the sea; and between this mountain and Loch Scresort, on the east, the black volcanic peaks of Haskeval, 2,667 feet, and Haleval, 2,367 feet, steeply overfrown the south-eastern side of the island.  There are many other lesser hills upon the island; but these wild peaks are visible far out at sea; and as we draw near, the island looks as bare and bleak as a stone, at first sight; and there is not a tree to be seen anywhere, except the beautiful little bit of woodland which shades the rear of the house at the head of Scresort bay.

    I find that there are about seventy people now living upon the island.  The other day, old Kenneth Maclean, whose fore-fathers have lived at "Carn-an-Dorian," or "The Otter Stones," for many generations, went over the entire list of the families upon the island, naming every member of each family, old and young; and when he had got to about seventy persons, he could get no further, because there were no more on the island.  I find that the name of the island, which is now commonly spelt Rum, is both spelt and pronounced "Ruim," which, Celtic scholars say, means "The Spacious Land,"—though I cannot exactly see how "spacious" applies to an island which is almost entirely mountainous.  In an article which I met with accidentally in one of the magazines, a few months ago, I find, too, that this "Rum" was the ancient British name of the Isle of Thanet before that island was ceded to the Saxons; and, also, that the first syllable of the name of "Ramsgate" has the same Celtic origin.  This is a matter, however, which I must leave to those who know more about it than I do.

    But whilst I am on this subject of local names, I may be pardoned for introducing a short passage from Dr. Johnson's "Journey to the Western Isles," in which he speaks of the name of an island very near to this—the Isle of Muck.  Speaking of his stay at Dunvegan, in the Isle of Skye, he says:

"Among the guests which the hospitality of Dunvegan brought to the table, a visit was paid by the laird and lady of a small island south of Skye, of which the proper name is Muack, which signifies swine.  It is commonly called Muck, which the proprietor not liking, has endeavoured, without effect, to change to Monk.  It is usual to call gentlemen in Scotland by the name of their possessions, as Rasay, Bernera, Loch Buy, a practice necessary in countries inhabited by clans, where all that live in the same territory have one name, and must be therefore discriminated by some addition.  This gentleman, whose name I think is Maclean, should be regularly called Muck; but the appellation, which he thinks too coarse for his island, he would still less like for himself, and he is therefore addressed by the title of 'Isle of Muck.'"

    Of the history of the island scarcely anything is known now, except what comes down in the shape of misty tradition,—very misty, and very scanty, indeed,—for even that has been almost entirely swept away in the wholesale emigration of the old inhabitants, which took place in 1828.  In that year all the inhabitants of Rum, with the exception of old Kenneth Maclean's father, who then lived at "Carn-na-Dorian," where his son lives now, were carried off in a body to America.  So clean, indeed, was the sweep of the population, that a few families were afterwards brought over from Skye, to keep up the continuity of human life upon the island.  Old Kenneth tells me that "seven hundred and fifty souls" of the old population left the island, on that memorable day, in the year 1828.

    At the time of the Reformation, the people of Rum clung still to the Catholic, or "old religion," whilst Maclean, the laird of the isle, became a convert to the Protestant faith.  His sister, however, continued to lead the people to the Catholic chapel, which the laird resisted, stopping them on their way, and driving them back with his yellow cane to the Protestant chapel, where they afterwards continued to go.  Hence, the Protestant religion became known as "the religion of the yellow stick."

    Like most of the Hebridean Islands, Rum may now be called an "immemorial isle of graves;" for, as an anonymous writer says, "there is nothing left to mark the presence of its old population save the foundations of their dwellings.  Their lives and their legends have no other memorials but the nettles growing in waste places."  I can trace the faint outlines of these ruined habitations, here and there, overgrown with grass and moss, and wild lichens, as I wander about the shore of the island to-day.  What little is really known of the early history of Rum comes through its connection with the religious establishment on Iona; and of this, the ancient graveyard of Kilmory, or "The Church of St. Mary," on the north-west side of the island, is the most remarkable existing relic.



I'll show thee every fertile inch of the isle.



Who made the bonny green glens clear,
And acres scarce and houses dear;
Where we were reared and kindly grew,
And lived to kin and country true?
Who bared the houses to the wind,
When hearths were warm and hearts were kind?

IGHLAND SONG, from the Gaelic.

THE oldest annals of mankind are but things of yesterday in comparison with the testimony of the rocks, which tells us of the slow, persistent action of the natural elements during vast cycles of time, beyond the calculation of man.  "Ask the earth and it will tell thee," says the Book of Job.  I know very little of the science of geology, although I am every day more and more convinced of its immense value; and the following lines, the origin of which I have entirely forgotten, have clung to me for many years:—

                              Take heed, take heed
We are writing faster than you can read;
At every pulse of our sire, the deep,
On headland and shore, we are laying to sleep,
The leaves of a mystical lore.

    Sitting here, at the front window of Kinloch House, which looks out upon the blue, crisp, sunlit waters of Scresort Bay, with the wild peaks of Haleval and Haskeval looking proudly down upon the southern end of the house, and the grand outlines of the mountains of Inverness-shire in full view beyond the sea,—little as I know of geology,—I cannot but be impressed by the magnificent aspect of these tremendous evidences of Nature's action in some great convulsion, long before the first records of the human race.  I feel this all the more, at this moment, because, in a book which lies before me, I find that the celebrated Hugh Miller wandered over this island of Rum, and

"found from observations in a main valley, that the old sedimentary rock, yielding no more trace of life than the melted lavas, had been filled up in strata three thousand feet thick, and through this tremendous crust had burst the grim peaks of Haleval and Haskeval.   On the shores of Loch Scresort, the Cambrian rock is broken up so accurately by its cleavage that the most fantastic forms are left.  Upon some slab on the beach I found ripple marks of[that sea without life—even without salt—the fury of which had ground the iron gneiss to powder."

    To students of geology, this will be very interesting; but even to my uninitiated mind there was something striking in these words, which I could not willingly pass by. . . .

    Scresort Bay, on the east side of Rum, is the only harbour in the island in which there is anything like good anchorage; and it is also the best approach to the island, in these days, for it faces the ordinary route of the steamers going between north and south, either for traffic or pleasure.  It is about a mile in length, at high water, and half a mile in breadth; and it is overlooked, on all sides but the east, by mountainous land, which rises, in the peak of Haskeval to 2,667 feet, and in the peak of Haleval, to 2,367 feet.  Kinloch House stands at the head of the bay, with its bright green lawn sloping down to the shore.  The rear of the house, which looks west, and the north end of the house and lawn, are both thickly shaded by a dense cluster of healthy-looking trees; and the south end of the house, with the lawn, are closed in, partly by trees, and partly by a large garden, which contains many excellent fruit trees.  Seen from the bay, this fine cluster of trees which shades, and partly over-tops the house on three sides, catches the eye as a singularly-beautiful feature; for there is not another tree nor bush in sight; indeed, as far as I have seen yet, there is not another tree on the island.  With this exception, seen from a distance, Rum looks as bare as a rock over which green moss has crept, here and there; but as soon as we begin to wander about the island, we find that the bleak looking solitude is richly enamelled with wild floral beauty.

    Kinloch House is the best dwelling on the island; indeed, apart from this, and one good farmstead, all the other habitations upon the island are mere Highland huts, or thatched cottages.  The view from the house is very fine.  The nearest land is the point of Sleat, which is the southern end of Skye.  Beyond that, further over the sea, the background is filled with the stormy outlines of the mountains of Inverness-shire; and, in favourable weather, the effects of light and shade upon this glorious range of hills are continually changing from one magical combination of wild grandeur and tender evanescent beauty to another.

    In fine weather, the regular steamers, on their way between Oban and the north, with many other vessels which rove these narrow seas in summer time, are in view from the head of the bay.  The snowy, sunlit sails of the small craft look beautiful in the distance as they flit to and fro across the blue water, like great white birds.  The boats of the island are frequently going and coming in the bay, some to fish, some with a chance passenger for a passing steamer, some on errands to the neighbouring isles; sometimes a boat emerges from the rainy gloom bringing over the parish doctor, drenched to the skin, from Arisaig, on the mainland opposite, and all those who are any way distressed in body begin to hope for some alleviation of their sufferings; or a boat comes gliding round the southern point, bringing the Rev. John Sinclair from the historic Isle of Eigg, to speak words of guidance and consolation to the inhabitants of the Isle of Rum; and a glad flutter runs along the shore of the little bay, amongst the few scattered huts where poor men lie.

    It was from this bay, in the year 1828, that, with two or three exceptions, the entire population of the island, numbering seven hundred and fifty, were drafted away in one day, to America.  Mr. Colin Livingstone, a cousin of the late Dr. Livingstone, the celebrated African explorer, is now resident in the island.  A few years ago, Mr. Livingstone, whilst on his way to Falkirk Tryst, fell in with one John McMaister, a fine old shepherd, who was a native of Argyleshire.  At the time of this wholesale forced emigration of the inhabitants of Rum, this John McMaister was employed as a shepherd under Maclean, the laird of the island; and he saw the whole of the distressful scene in the bay, on that day, when the people of the island were carried off in one mass, for ever, from the sea-girt spot where they had been born and bred, and where the bones of their forefathers were laid in the ancient graveyard of Kilmory.  The old shepherd stood upon the shore of Loch Scresort when the poor emigrants sailed away from their native island that day; and he told Mr. Livingstone that the wild outcries of the men, and the heart-breaking wails of the women and their children filled all the air between the mountainous shores of the bay; and that the whole scene was of such a distressful description that he should never be able to forget it to his dying day.  But they went away wailing across the stormy sea; and the wild hills of their native isle will see them no more for ever; and after this painful exodus, the desolated island was slightly re-peopled by a few families brought over from the Isle of Skye, and now, almost the whole population of the Isle of Rum dwells in the thatched cottages which are scattered along the southern shore of Scresort Bay.

    There is Kinloch House, at the head of the bay; and hard by that, there is the dwelling house and farmstead of the sheep farmer of the island; there are, also, three or four families dwelling elsewhere, in solitary nooks of the isle, such as the lonely cottages of Papadala, with its little loch; the wild glen of Harris; and the pastoral dell of Kilmory, the most ancient settlement of the island; but with these exceptions, the rest of the inhabitants are all here, scattered about the shore of the bay . . . .

    I am beginning to know the people here, in a friendly way, both old and young; and I will now take a stroll along the edge of the sea, amongst the cottages in which they dwell.

    Beginning at the southern point of the bay, the first sign of the handicraft of man that we come to is in the ruins of a cottage in a green nook of the rocky shore.  Its ruined and roofless walls have been so long deserted, now,—and the mantling hues of Nature have crept over them so kindly, that they are hardly distinguishable from the scene around.  This is one of the touching relics of the old population, of which we meet with so many in this island.  Their lives and their legends have no memorials, now, but ruined walls, and nameless mounds, and "the nettles growing in waste places."

    About a hundred yards farther along the edge of the bay, we come to the cottage of old Kenneth Maclean, with its little byre close by, both standing end to end, at the head of a green field which slopes down to the rocky shore.  The fertile greenness of the spot contrasts so much with the bleak, heathery bill above that it looks like a place of ancient settlement, long cared for, in a rude way.  Its name is "Carn-an-Dorian," or "The Otter Stones."  Kenneth is strongly attached to this hereditary plot of ground; for, as he tells you, it was granted to his forefathers, as "a free land," by one of the old Macleans, lairds of the island in former days.  The prevailing names upon this and some of the adjacent islands seem to be Maclean and Macleod, even yet; and old Kenneth is more than a little proud of his name and clan, in spite of all the change which has been going on in the world during the last century.  He has seen four new lairds of Rum in succession in his own life-time; but he tells you with pride that his progenitors have lived upon the island for eleven generations, before he was born.  He never wearies in talking, in a dreamy way, of the Macleans of old; the Macleans of Duart, in Mull, the Macleans of Coll, and of Muick, and of Rum, and elsewhere,—of their power, and their grandeur; now greatly declined, and drowned in the flood of change.  The old man is easily set-a-going upon this theme; and he is not easily stopped.  You have nothing to do but to ask him a question about the old Macleans,—and away he goes with the bridle between his teeth.  But, if you venture to croon a bit of an old Jacobite ballad in his hearing,—

Come o'er the stream, Charlie,
    Blithe Charlie, young Charlie;
Come o'er the stream, Charlie,
    An' dine wi' Maclean;

his eyes begin to kindle with a strange light.

    Kenneth is a man of mark among the simple herdsmen and fishers who dwell in the straggling line of huts upon the shore of Scresort Bay.  In the first place, he is a far-off cousin of the great Maclean; and he doesn't forget it.  He sometimes acts as precentor, or "letter-gae," in the little chapel on the shore; and he is said to know more about the unwritten traditions of Rum than any man living.  He is well acquainted with

                              All the qualities o' the isle,
The fresh springs, brine pits, barren place, and fertile;

and his simple neighbours all look upon him as a kind of two-legged lantern, in a dark place.  He is supposed to know a good deal about botany, too; which I have no doubt he does.  The other day he came to me with a flowering sprig of wild thyme in his hand, to which he drew my special attention, saying "Now, that is a fery fine herb.  It is good for many disease.  It's name in the Gaelic is 'Mac-righ-Britain,' which means 'The King's son of Britain.'  If I wass in Liverpool, and I take a pound of that herb to the shops there, I get a pound of the best tea for it in wan minute and fery glad to get it, I assure you."




LEAVING "Carn-an-Dorian," where old Kenneth Maclean's cottage looks down upon the bay from its green nook of the shore, a rough walk of about half a mile, towards the head of the water, brings us to the next inhabited spot.  The way is along a ragged footpath, which winds in and out among mossgrown rocks, and boggy holes, and splashy patches of peaty ground, which shake under the foot; and it is crossed, here and there, by rindles of water from the heathery steep of Haleval.

    At last, this wandering pathway dips down into a little creek, called "Reigan-na-Pol," or "The best of Pools," on the eastern side of which stands a simple-looking chapel, built of wood, with a slated roof.  I may call it "the chapel of the island," because it is the only place of worship existing there now; and although it is not more than about eight yards long by four yards in breadth, it would hold all the present population, twice told.  I can see the modest little fane from the front window of the house at the head of the bay.  It stands, unshaded by bush or tree, about the middle of a small plot of green land, which slopes gently down to the water; and the bright verdure of the mound upon which it stands contrasts pleasantly with the bleak mountain side, where grey rocks peep out here and there, ending in the wild peak of Haleval, seen from far away.

    There is a touching simplicity in the appearance of the lowly house of prayer upon the grassy knoll, hard by the craggy shore.  Its whitewashed walls are quite bare; and the earthen floor is baked, and hard, and dinged, and worn with frequent footing.  The furniture of the place is as plain as the building itself.  There are a few wooden forms across the body of the chapel, and along the walls; and in front of the form which stands under the window at the pulpit end of the chapel there is a small deal table.  The "swells" of the island generally sit in front of this little table, and lay their hats and books upon it.  A few forms, a little table, and a little pulpit,—these are the only pieces of furniture in the place.  One step from the floor leads up into the pulpit, which is made of oak, and is very simple in form, with a small shelf-like ledge, or seat, low down under the reading-desk, where the clerk, or "letter-gae of haly rhyme," is supposed to sit.  Old Kenneth Maclean often fills that office; but he prefers a seat off at the left-hand side of the pulpit, against the wall.

    On a fine Sunday there is generally a congregation of from twenty to thirty, old and young—leaving out the sheep dogs, which almost always follow their masters to church on the Sabbath day.  During the service, the dogs lie about the floor, or under the forms, or they go lazily in and out at the open door, or they sleep, curled up in the sunshine, upon the grassy mound in front of the chapel.  At ordinary times the service is in Gaelic; but if any English visitors happen to be present, that service is usually supplemented by a short service in English.  Whilst the service is going on, the wild birds hop in at the open doorway, and chirp, and look round, first at the minister, then at the people, and then at the dogs lying asleep about the floor, and then they hop out again; or they come in chasing one another in swift flight round the inside of the chapel, and then flit back again to the open air.

    One of the most delightful things I have experienced since I came upon this island happened on one sunny Sabbath day, as I sat upon a heathery knoll, so near to the chapel that I could hear the service going on inside, whilst I gazed around upon the scene before me.  The crisp waters of the bay, glittering in sunshine, and blue with the cloudless blue of the sky, came rippling up to the foot of the rocks, a few yards below me.  The murmurs of the surge mingled dreamily with the preacher's voice; and with the cry of white sea-birds flitting round and round, in graceful gyrations, above the blue waves; and with the sweet, low undersong of the mountain streamlet that runs down into the little creek where the chapel stands; whilst the bleating of sheep came, now and then, from the mountain side, on the opposite side of the bay, in plaintive tone, softened by distance.  It was a sweetly-peaceful pastoral scene.  There were English visitors in chapel that day; and when the congregation began to sing, soft and slow, the old Scottish tune called "Kilmarnock," to the the beautiful psalm,—

The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want,
    He doth my needs supply,
And leadeth me through pastures green,
    The quiet waters by;

the effect of the whole was such as I shall not easily forget.  The service in the chapel floated quietly out to the listening air; and there was something touchingly beautiful in its harmony with the scene outside.

    On week-days the chapel is used as a school for the children of the island; and, from my window, I can see the little bare-legged students as they wend their way in a morning, in two or three companies of twos and threes, "creeping like snails," with their books in their hands, along the road that winds by the edge of the bay; and I can see them again, too, at four o'clock in the afternoon, coming out at the doorway of the chapel, with a rush; and, when school is over, I often see the schoolmaster, Mr. Wm. Henry Macdougall, taking a solitary walk along the shore, to seaward, with a book under his arm.  He is an Edinburgh student, and when the session begins, he takes flight from the island to his college.

    The eagerness of the people for education is very remarkable.  The other day a poor woman, the wife of a shepherd, living in a lonely part of the island, called Guridale, opposite the Isle of Canna, came eight miles over the mountains to see if she could get any kind of a lodging on the shore of Scresort Bay, for her son, a lad of about fourteen years of age, who could scarcely speak a word of English, so that he might have the benefit of the week-day school, here, for a little while.  Unfortunately, after spending the best part of a day in making inquiries among the huts along the shore, she could not get any kind of accommodation for the poor lad on whose account she was so anxious; and she went back over the hills at sunset, quite cast down.  She was a comely, intelligent-looking woman, very cleanly and decently clad; her husband was only a poor shepherd; and they had nine children, the youngest of which were twins.  She could read and write a little, herself; and she had taught all her children the alphabet,—at least, all those who were of a teachable age.  She had even taught one of her little girls to write a letter,—after a fashion.  She had taught her to write it so that they could manage to understand it well enough, amongst themselves,—but she didn't think that any English body would be able to make it out.  She was very sorry to see her children growing up and learning nothing; and in a place where there was no chance of their learning anything; and, now, the twins and the house together, took up so much of her time that she had no time to teach them as she used to do.  Indeed, what could she teach them; for she knew very little herself.  She told me all this as she sat in the kitchen at Kinloch House; and, when she had done talking, she gave a deep sigh, and looked quietly around, as if she didn't know where on earth to turn for help; and I can only say that I felt downright sorry for that poor soul as she went back homeward up the wild mountain side that night.

    The fact that this poor woman could not find a lodging for her lad, will give the reader some idea of the character and extent of the cluster of huts, here, called "The Town."  And yet there are, sometimes, poor lads who come from distant nooks of the isle to attend this school, remaining here during the week, and returning on a Saturday.  There is one here just now; he is Kenneth, the son of James Chisholm, who lives in a lonely hollow of the mountain, called "Papadale," near the south-eastern shore of the island, in which there is a beautiful little tarn, about a mile in circumference, overfrowned by the dark steep of Haskeval, from which, in rainy seasons, roaring torrents of water come down, filling the solitary "hove" with wild sound.  The lad is about fourteen years of age; he looks as hardy and as shaggy as a highland colt, and he can hardly understand you if he is addressed in English; but, like all the rest, he seems quite eager to learn.  He comes nine miles over a wild mountain track every Monday morning, and sometimes in very rough weather; he gets his porridge and milk, two or three times a day, in the kitchen, here; and he sleeps at night with Kenneth Maclean's children, at "Carn-an-Dorian;" and he goes whistling back over the hills to his father's solitary homestead, every Saturday morning, as content as a king; carrying with him into that secluded spot all the news of the busy world upon the shore of Scresort Bay. . . .

    "Reigan-na-Pol," or "The Best of Pools," on the east side of which the chapel stands, is a picturesque nook of the shore; and there are some little plots of cherished green land in it, which contrast with the rocky waste around, and show that it has been a favourite dwelling place of the old inhabitants of the island.  We meet with these green evidences of ancient settlements all over the shores of Rum, but they are almost all deserted now, and they are generally associated with weed-grown foundations or ragged walls over which the grass has long been creeping.  But "The Best of Pools" is not deserted.  Apart from the chapel, there are three inhabited cottages there now, and everything about them indicates long residence.

    The first of these cottages is the home of Malcolm Macleod, the lobster fisher.  It stands upon the edge of a rocky shelf, which overlooks the little creek, and commands a fine view of the bay, and of the mountains of the island, looking westward.  It is a breezy spot where the fisherman lives; and when the weather is fine and the boat laid up for the day, I can see him smoking near the door, and looking quietly around.  Behind that rude, stone-built cottage, roofed with a grassy thatch, there is a small level field so brightly green that it shines across the bay like an emerald gem amongst the dark rocks that shut it in.  Malcolm is what in Lancashire we call "house-proud," and his cottage contains little nick-nacks and conveniences which are not common in these highland cottages.  He is not seen much about the shore.  His time is almost entirely spent in the fishing boat with his comrade Donald Henderson, or in his own cottage with his wife and young children: or, on a Sunday, in the chapel, at the foot of the crag upon which his little shieling is perched.

    Malcolm is a hardy, good-looking young fellow; but he is a man of few words, and with strangers he is as shy as a girl; although one day, when he and his comrade took us round the northeast side of the island in their fishing boat to see the ancient graveyard of Kilmory, we managed, after some coaxing, to get him to sing part of a Gaelic song, two lines of which were translated for me into the words "Oh, my brown-haired girl if you have left me, I shall never have any more fun!"  I got him to sing it twice over, for I have a strange delight in listening to these Gaelic songs, although I may not know the meaning of a single word.



Oh, sweet, wild island of the western sea,
How blest the days I've spent alone in thee;
Roving o'er heathery steeps where tempests play,
Or through lone curries where the dun deer stray;
Or lingering by some twilit mountain stream,
'Neath dark peaks tipped with daylight's parting gleam;
Whilst all the solemn scene, from earth to sky,
Was steeped in nature's peaceful witchery.


DURING my stay in the Isle of Rum I have had many an hour of quiet delight, whilst seated upon the shore, gazing silently upon the changeful waters of Scresort Bay, which never seem to be the same in motion or in hue many minutes together; or in watching the fishing sea-birds as they glide gracefully round and round above the water, and then sink, and then soar, and then suddenly plunge with a splash into the bay, as straight as a thunderbolt; or in tracing the faint smoke of a distant steamer; or in following the track of the white-sailed yachts or the brown-winged fishing-boats, as they flit to and fro along the blue sea, between the island and the mainland; or perhaps, more exquisite still, the magical play of light and shade upon the grandly-clustered mountains of Skye and of Inverness-shire, which close in the eastern view beyond the Sound; listening meanwhile to old Kenneth Maclean's dreamy tales of ancient Hebridean life.

    One fine day, as I wandered about the shore of the bay, I found him engaged in very quietly mending a rough bit of the road which leads from the pier to Kinloch House.  He was doing this because the shooting season was drawing nigh, and English visitors were expected.  But the old man was too tender-hearted to deal rudely even with the hard road; and he seemed more desirous to coax it into shape than to coerce it; in fact it was evident that it was habitual with him to take a long time to do very little.  No matter.  From what I have seen it seems to be a custom of the island; and both employer and employed appear to be content.

    I sat down under the shade of a rough wall, close by the bit of road upon which the old man was supposed to be working; and, after the usual preamble about the weather, I gradually drew him into talk about the old lairds of the island.  I no sooner mentioned the thing than Kenneth began to lean vigorously upon his spade, and, from that moment, the road mending fell into arrear.

    It was a very hot day, about the end of June, when the plague of gnats and flies in the island is proverbially severe.  At this time of the year, for about a month, it is, indeed, sometimes a terrible infliction, and two or three years ago, as Mr. Colin Livingstone informed me, the torment was so much greater than usual that several of the shepherds came down from the mountains one hot day so bitten and stung that they had been forced to fly with their heads and faces swollen, and their eyes almost blinded.  They came down in a rush to his kitchen for shelter and relief, for they were much disfigured and in great pain, and soothing lotions had to be applied to their faces; and for several days after that they were compelled to wear a kind of gauzy veil whilst they were up in the hills looking after the sheep.  I know something about this myself now, for I spent the whole of the last month of June upon the island, and during the greater part of that time the air swarmed with stinging insects; and their vindictiveness was something startling.  They came down in murderous hordes upon every exposed bit of skin about you, and there they stuck, quietly fixing their bloodsucking apparatus, so firmly, that it was absolutely necessary to kill them on the spot before they would let go.  They died at their posts; and left their lances planted on the field.  I used to walk about with a leafy branch in my hand, waving it around my face to keep them off, but it took me all my time to repel about one-third of the assailing swarms.  And it was nearly as bad as this on that hot day in June when I sat down in the shade near old Kenneth Maclean, as he was gently trying to mend a broken bit of the road which winds in and out from the pier to the head of Scresort Bay.

    Kenneth was glad to rest from his labours, and we soon got into talk.  "Kenneth," said I, "the gnats are very troublesome again to-day."  "Indeed, sir," replied Kenneth, "the gnats and flies, as you say, is fery troublesome to-day, whatever.  They is alwiss bad at this time of the year.  It is much worse in some places along the shore than in others.  Now there is a place upon the shore down towards the south point of the bay, yon'er, which is fery bad indeed for midges and flies.  A man wass wance stung to death there, I assure you.  I have often heard both my father and my grandfather tell the story; and it wass well known to aal the old people who lived on the island when I was a child.  It happen in the time of the old Macleans, when they were lairds of the island.  The man wass a native of the island, and a clansman of the Maclean.  He had committed some crime, and the laird ordered him to be stripped naked and tied to a stake, and then left exposed in the sun in that spot till he wass stung to death by the gnats and flies.  I can assure you the people do not like the place now; because it is haunted, and groans is heard there in the night-time."

    Such was old Kenneth's version of a story which is common amongst the inhabitants of the Isle of Rum; and Mr. John Macpherson, a young medical student, now living upon the neighbouring Isle of Eigg, informs me that the penalty inflicted by the laird of Rum upon his offending clansman was one of the ancient forms of punishment in that island.  Be that as it may; after what I have felt myself I can thoroughly believe in the possibility of a man being stung to death in that way; and the story is quite in accord with the savage traditions of the Hebridean isles.  I find that this is only one of many wild traditions still floating in the memories of the people of these islands.

    About the end of June I went over to the Isle of Eigg, where I stayed for three days; during which time I dined at the Manse, with the Rev. John Sinclair, minister of the parish, which consists of that island and three other adjacent islands, of which Rum is one.  In the course of our conversation at table I happened to mention old Kenneth Maclean's story of the man who was stung to death by order of the laird of Rum.  I found that he was well acquainted with the tradition, and that he believed it might be founded upon fact.  He said that one of the punishments most dreaded by the natives of the Hebridean isles in ancient times was banishment from the isle of their birth, even when that banishment involved no further removal than to one of the neighbouring isles.  He told me that there was a well-known tradition amongst the people of his parish concerning a native of the Isle of Rum, who, for some offence against one of the ancient chiefs of that island, was banished by that chief to another of the islands under his rule,—the Isle of Coll, which is about twenty miles south-west of Rum.

    It seems that the banished man no sooner reached the Isle of Coll than he began to pine from day to day; and he spent much of his time in sitting in gloomy silence upon the shore, gazing across the sea to catch a sight of the wild peaks of his native island.  He then became so ill that he was forced to take to his bed, and seemed likely to die; and as the end drew near, he moaned restlessly, and said again and again that he should like to see the laird once more before the dark hour came; and he begged of the people about that they would send for him.  The chieftain came; and he seems to have had a touch of kindly feeling for his poor clansman, for, as he sat by his bedside, he took the hand of the dying man, and asked what he could do for him.  The poor fellow eagerly grasped the hand of his beloved chief in both of his, and, gazing earnestly into his eyes, he whispered that if he would only let them bring him a drink of water from the old well at Kilmory, in the Isle of Rum, it would save his life.  The chieftain promised that it should be done; and he instantly ordered a well-manned boat, with six oars, to set off, without loss of time, to the Isle of Rum for the water of the old well at Kilmory.  But soon after the boat left the shore of Coll, a storm arose, and the boatmen had to struggle so severely against adverse winds that, at last, they agreed amongst themselves to land upon a place in the Isle of Rum where they could get fresh water from a well which was many miles nearer than the old well at Kilmory.  Feeling sure that no man could tell the difference, they landed there, and came away with a full bottle of the water.

    On their return to the Isle of Coll, the dying man eagerly seized the bottle; but he no sooner put it to his lips than he cried out piteously, "Ah, this is not the water of the well of Kilmory!" and, letting the bottle fall from his hands, he turned his face to the wall, and closed his eyes for ever.

    Such are the traditions of the isle, so far as they have fallen in my way up to this time; but I feel that they are far from being exhausted; for the whole region teems with interest, and every additional day I linger in it seems to reveal something new and startling. . . .

    I will now resume my stroll along the shore of the bay, through the little straggling cluster of huts, called "The Town."  In my last chaper, I left the reader at the little stone-built cottage, roofed with grassy thatch, which stands upon a ledge of rock overlooking the creek in the bay, known as "The Best of Pools."  This cottage is the dwelling place of Malcolm Maclean, the lobster fisher.  Leaving Malcolm's cottage, a rough walk of about a hundred yards along the broken slope brings me to a pretty little rocky ravine, richly festooned with bright lush greenery, and wild flowers that love the water, through which one of the many streamlets which streak the dark steep of Haleval with silvery lines runs down into the bright pool at the foot of the hill, and thence into the sea.



Merrily, merrily bounds the bark,
O'er the broad ocean driven,
Her path by Ronin's mountains dark
The steersman's hand hath given.
And Ronin's mountains dark have sent
Their hunters to the shore,
And each his ashen bow unbent,
And gave his pastime o'er,
And at the Island Lord's command,
For hunting spear took warrior's brand.


IT seems that "Ronin," mentioned in the lines at the head of this chapter, is one form of the ancient name of what is now popularly known as the Isle of Rum.  In Monro's "Description of the Western Isles" there is a passage which runs as follows:

"Ronin—sixteen myle north-west from the ile of Coll, lyes ane ile callit Ronin Ile, of sixteen myle long, and six in bradthe in the narrowest, ane forest of heigh mountains, and abundance of little deir in it, guhilk deir will never be slane dounewith, but the principal saittes man be in the height of the hill, because the deir will be callit upwart ay be the tainchell, or without tynchel they will pass upwart perforce.  In this ile will be gotten als many wild nests upon the plane mure as men plaasis to gadder, and yet by resson the fowls has few to start them except deir.  This ile lyes from the west to the east in lenth, and pertains to M'Kenabray of Colla.  Many solan geese are in this ile."

    So much of the history of the island has been lost, and what remains of it is so scanty, that one feels thankful even for so poor a notice of its ancient condition as this is.  It may be remarked, however, that, apart from some inaccuracy in the measurements of the isle as therein set down, and also from the fact that it has frequently changed masters in the interval, the character of the island is not much altered since the time when it was thus quaintly and briefly described by Monro.  It is still "ane forest of heigh mountains," with many wild deer in it, whose principal haunts are in the lonely corries and stormy heights of the island; and although since the time of Monro the population once rose to near eight hundred persons, that population was so completely swept away by the compulsory exodus in the year 1828 that it was suddenly reduced to a solitary wilderness; so much so, indeed, that, even now, after a lapse of more than fifty years, it may be truly said that "the fowls has few to start them except deir". . . .

    At the close of the last chapter I halted in the course of my ramble amongst the huts on the shore of Scresort Bay, at a little ravine, through which a mountain streamlet runs down into a tiny creek, known by a Gaelic name which means "The Best of Pools;" and, when one stands upon any point which commands a good view of the place, it is easy to imagine why this green-bordered, cup-like nook of the shore, with its little pool in the hollow, obtained that name amongst the ancient inhabitants of the isle.

    The pool is fed by the streamlet which wanders down the mountain side through the little ravine.  When the tide is out the pool is not more than twenty yards across; and it empties itself into the sea by a short channel about two yards in width.  When the tide is in, however, the influx of water from the bay increases the pool very considerably, and, at the same time, brings into it fish from the sea, which are easily caught by netting in the narrow channel, before the water retires.  It seems not unreasonable to suppose that it was because this pool was a kind of natural trap for the fish that come and go with the tide, that it first got the name of "The Best of Pools."

    Advancing again towards the head of the bay, a few yards beyond the little ravine, and within reach of the streamlet's dreamy song, a grey low-built cottage stands upon a green ledge near the foot of the hill, yet overlooking the pool in the hollow.  The walls of the cottage are strongly built of fragments of basaltic rock, all mottled and tinted with age, and creeping mossy hues, and many-mooded weather stains; and its thatched roof is thickly overgrown with grass, and weeds, and peeping floral gems, amongst which the wild birds, and the domestic fowls belonging to the cottage wander at will, undisturbed by aught but "the blue, blue smoke" which curls up lazily into the pure air, now and then, from its tiny chimney.  This is the cottage inhabited by old John Mathieson and his daughter.  He is the oldest man upon the island, being nearly ninety years of age.  "I am auchty-aucht," said he to me one day as we sat upon hedge-side together, at the foot of his wild-looking little garden; "I am auchty-aucht, when the time-o' the year comes roan."  But it is not improbable that be may be older than that, for the people of the island say that he has been eighty-eight for many a year gone by.

    Old John is a square-built, short man; and he has been very strong in his best time.  He is a wonderful man now, for his age.  He likes a cheerful chat; and he can enjoy a joke.  In fine weather he will sit for an hour or two at once, upon the green slope near his cottage, looking quietly around upon the scene below, and upon the blue waters of the bay, with the wild mountain steep on its opposite side; crooning, meanwhile, some snatch of highland song:—

Arise, arise, and go with me;
My last farewell to Finaray.

It is a pleasant thing to see the old man wandering, with no halting step, upon the rocky steep of Haleval, or working quietly in his potato field, with a kindly salute for any chance passer-by.

    Old John's cottage is only of one storey in height, yet it is somewhat more roomy than the rest of the shielings upon the shore of the bay.  The schoolmaster of the island lodges there, within sight of the little wooden chapel, which serves also as a schoolhouse.  Looking up from the rough pathway which crosses the stream that feeds the pool, and then leads up to the chapel, I can see his paraffin lamp, and a few of his books, in the tiny window at the east end of the cottage.  "A little lowly hermitage," indeed it is; but I have no doubt that the quiet-minded student is very happy amongst his books in the venerable crofter's humble shed; folded in, too, by the profound repose of the sweet wilderness around.

    Leaving John Mathieson's cottage, about one hundred yards walk over broken, rocky, and miry ground brings us to the door of old Etty Russell's cottage, which stands on the west side of the pool, and is the last dwelling in the nook of the shore which takes its name from that pool.  Etty is an agèd widow, "a lone body," as she would be called in Lancashire.  Everything in her cot, from the earthen floor to the roof, is black with the smoke of the turf fire, which wanders round the inside of the little shieling, and lingers there, covering everything "thick and three-fold," until, at last, it finds an outlet by a hole in the thatch, or by the doorway.  The inhabitants of these dingy buildings seem to keep out the blessèd light and the pure air as carefully as possible; and just as carefully they seem to keep in everything that it is desirable to part with.  I am told that this smoke is a powerful disinfectant.  I can only say that, if it be a disinfectant, it finds plenty to do in those gloomy highland huts, however powerful it may be.  Any stranger to the way of life in the Hebridean isles, entering one of these cots at early morning when the turf fire is new lighted upon the hearth, would start back from the dense smoke which met him at the doorway, effectually concealing every object within.  As a Lancashire acquaintance of mine once said of one of these smoky interiors, "a factory chimbley's a foo' to it."  And yet, if the explorer were to seek diligently in this cloud, he would find the inhabitants of the cot going about their usual work, in the very thick of it, and seemingly quite unaffected by it.

    Such a dwelling is old Etty Russell's, and he who has seen one of these cots may be said to have seen them all; for, so far as I have seen them on this ground, there is very little difference in them, except that I have noticed a little more rude evidence of natural taste and love of order in some than in others; just as it is in other places.  But old Etty is not quite so poor and forlorn as a stranger might think from the appearance of her dwelling place.  She has a cow of her own; and she has a croft and a cottage, and a "byre" for her cow, for which she pays nothing; and "black be his fa'" that would begrudge the poor old soul of any little she has.  She is thrifty and industrious, too.  I noticed an old-fashioned spinning wheel in a corner of her cottage.  I have no doubt the old wheel is brought into play now and then.  I know that she does a little weaving upon the handloom at so much per yard when she can get it to do.  Mr. Ferguson, the sheep farmer of the Isle of Rum, gives her work of that kind, now and then.  He is a manufacturer of what is here called "Highland cloth,"—and rare stuff it is for roughly tumbling about in.  I have a suit of it on just now; it was shorn, spun, and woven by old women on the Isle of Uist; it has never been dyed at all; and I never felt so comfortable in any clothing I ever wore.  Old Etty weaves this kind of cloth, when she can get a job.  She has the milk of her cow; she bakes a little oatcake, and a little soda cake, by her turf fire; and she delights in tea, brewed, and stewed, and boiled, till it is as black as ink,—which, if it were used in a tanyard, would probably tan a cow's hide as well as oak bark could.  But old Etty likes it; and she is so old, now, that it is of no use trying to persuade her that it is not good for her; and Etty's cottage is not quite so lonely as a stranger might think. She has a kindly old sister, Mary by name, who is helpful, and strongly attached to her.  They are very thick together.  When one of the sisters is unwell, the other attends to her; and so they get on very well, helping one another quietly towards the end.  I could never find out where old Mary lived; but she lives somewhere in the huts along the shore.  I meet her now and then.  She is always either going to her sister Etty's or coming away from her sister Etty's; and she has always a kind of smile, and a kindly, inarticulate greeting, though she can hardly understand a word of English.  But Mary is not the only kind neighbour that cheers old Etty's lonely hours, for the crones of the clachan creep into her cottage, and sit round her hearth, chatting among the smoke. . . .

    And now I will quit this nook, and move onward again towards the head of the bay.  Climbing the gently-rising rocky ground, behind old Etty's cottage, about a quarter of a mile brings me clean out of sight of "The Best of Pools," and here, upon a slight eminence overlooking the bay, there is a green sheltered nook amongst the rocks, where I saw a strange scene, about the end of last June, which revealed to me another curious phase of Hebridean life.  One fine day, as I sat by the window of Kinloch House, somebody near me cried out "Hollo; what's this coming round the north point of the bay?"  It was a large boat, not unlike a fishing boat.  Her brown sail was filled with a favourable wind; and she was making right for the pier, on the south side of the bay.  On going out upon the shore, I found there were several persons watching this new arrival, who knew all about it; and one of them told me that it was "The Pot Boat," and when we got down to the pier we found that it was laden with earthenware, chiefly of a very rude kind, which the owner and his two lads were preparing to hawk among the huts along the shore. 

    About half an hour after the arrival of this boat it was followed by two other boats,—a large one and a small one,—coming from the same direction.  These were the "Tinker's Boats," laden with various kinds of common utensils made of tin, and containing also the tinker's family, consisting of his wife and six children,—a child at the breast, two little girls, and three lads, the eldest seemingly about eighteen years of age.  The father's name was McAlister, and the whole family had something of a wild, gipsy look; which is not to be wondered at, considering the kind of life they led.  I found, upon enquiry, that they spent the greatest part of the year in roving the Hebridean sea, from island to island, hawking their wares; generally sleeping in their open boats, sometimes in very stormy weather.  On this occasion, however, the weather being fine, they pitched a rude kind of tent upon the shore, near old Etty's cottage, and there they spent the night, young and old, potters and tinkers; and they seemed very cheerful.  The tinker had a little dog, called "Pegh," which is Gaelic for wasp; and it was a great favourite with the children.




    "Are there any great families about here, Dougal?"  "Is it great families, Mr. Gunter?  Deed there is that!  There is Lachlan at Stigarsta has fourteen; and M'Comas, down Drissaig way, has twelve; and I myself has ten—five living, and five in Kilmory kirk-yaird.'


THE pedlars of the Hebridean sea, mentioned in my last chapter, are welcomed wherever they go amongst these islands, not only because they supply the inhabitants with certain simple and necessary household utensils, which they sometimes exchange for milk, or eggs, or rags, or old iron, or bottles, or bits of wool,—but because they are also a kind of wandering news-mongers, bringing tidings of what is going on in one island to those dwelling in another, which tidings, but for this accidental means of communication, might never be heard of at all, or at least not for a long time, in these sea-girt solitudes.

    When old McAlister, the highland tinker, came into Scresort bay about the middle of last June, with his two boats, laden with tin wares and with the rubbish he had received in exchange for them, amongst which were packed his strapping wife and six children, and his little dog "Pegh," he was brimming over with news gathered in the islands lying north and north-west of Rum, amongst which he had been wandering from door to door hawking his wares and doing tinkering jobs, and telling travellers' tales in hut and hall.  A rustle of welcome ran through the cottages on the shore of the bay as soon as his boat came in sight; for the inhabitants knew right well that the old tinker was bringing with him many a bit of gossip that would help to keep them in fireside talk through the coming winter.  Young and old seemed to hail his boat with that thrill of change which is so admirably expressed in Burns's song,

Tell the news in burgh and glen,
Donald Caird's come back again!

    When any one of these islands is likely to change masters, the inhabitants of the neighbouring islands are always anxious to know who is to be the next laird; and when the tinker's boat came gliding round the north point of the bay, the people of Rum were especially eager to know what news the old "caird" had brought from the Isle of Canna, of which island it had been rumoured for some time previous that it would "come to the hammer" before long.  Canna is only about ten miles north of the Isle of Rum, and it was the last place the tinker had come from in his watery wanderings.  The old man had hardly time to get ashore before he was met with the question, "Is Canna sold?"  "Canna is sold," replied he; "Canna is sold; it was sold last Thursday to a gentleman of the name of Thom, a Glasgow shipowner.  It was sold for £23,000,—the island and all the stock upon it."  And, instantly, the news began to fly from mouth to mouth, all over the island; and it will go hard with the people of Rum if they don't find out all about the new laird of Canna before long. . . .

    From the sheltered nook, in which I saw the tinker's camp last June, a few yards' rough walk over a rocky knoll brings one to another little inlet or port, upon the shore of the bay, indeed, this is the most central point of the bay in one sense, for the pier is here; and almost all the traffic between the island and the outer world comes up to it.

    The pier is a rude but substantial stone structure, with a flight of steps leading down to the water near the eastern end.  It is about fifty-five yards long, running into the bay along the east side of the port, and making a secure little harbour for the boats of the island, of which there are generally two or three lying in shelter there.  There is depth enough along the inner side of the pier, at high water, for the large steamers from Oban to come up to it; but the traffic with the island is so small and so uncertain, that they never call there except by special arrangement.  This little haven at the pier is known by a Gaelic name, which means "The Port of the Priest's Rock," and near the south-west corner of its shore there is a rock, in the front of which there is a kind of natural seat, almost like an armchair.  I understand that tradition points to this as the rock to which the boat of the priest used to be fastened in ancient times.  This may have applied to the boats of priests coming over to visit Rum from the ancient monastic establishment of St. Donan, upon the neighbouring Isle of Eigg.

    Coming shoreward from the pier, the first dwelling we pass is the cottage of old Norman McKinnon, the gardener at Kinloch House; and adjoining that there is a small warehouse, of one storey, of the same rough and simple style as the gardener's cottage, in fact, a continuation of the same building.  In this warehouse wool and other goods, waiting for transit, are stored.  Old Norman has a wife and two small children, and he has a cow of his own, and a free croft for potatoes.  The good wife does a little hand-loom weaving now and then, and Norman looks after the gardens at the "big house," at the head of the bay.

    Old Norman is a genuine highlander,—he is "as highland as a peat," as they say hereabouts.  He is a good gardener, and a careful industrious man.  He takes as much pride in the things grown in his garden as if he had made them himself; and when he sees any careless foot approach that sweet "pleasaunce," he trembles for the fruits and flowers that have cost him so much care.  Peeping through the garden hedge as we pass by, it is a pleasant thing to see the old man at work there in the midst of his little floral world, bending intently over some delicate plant, and crooning meanwhile like a mother trying to sing her child to sleep.  The old man is naturally civil and obliging; indeed when you chance to meet him upon the road, he seems so anxious to say something pleasing that, even in stormy weather, he is not at all unlikely to tell you that it is "a fine day;" and when you answer that "It's rather wet," he will immediately say, "Well, yes, indeed; it is rather wet." 

    About thirty yards beyond the warehouse, the cottage of Kenneth Campbell stands about the middle of the shore of the port; and is only divided from the water by the road which winds round from the pier to the head of the bay.  The gardener's cottage and Kenneth's cottage are the only two dwellings in the port; and they have slated roofs withal.  In addition to these two, there are not more than half a dozen buildings upon the whole island with slated roofs.

    Kenneth Campbell is a stout, good-looking specimen of the highland man; of middle height, and rather more than middle age.  He has seen a good deal of life as a common sailor, for he has been long voyages to Australia and other distant parts of the world; and he has settled down here at last, with his comely-looking goodwife, and his seven fine children, as skipper of the yacht belonging to the island.  A clear streamlet comes down by the end of the cottage, into the port, and Kenneth's wife does her washing in the bright running water; and she spreads her clothes upon the heathery slope behind the cottage to dry.  Both Kenneth and his goodwife are "house-proud," and their dwelling is kept in better trim, and contains more of the conveniences of household life than is common among highland cottages.  There are generally logs of timber, broken masts, or other pieces of wreck, lying about Kenneth's cottage, which have been gathered from the shore.  Kenneth has a cow and a free croft, like most of the cottars of this island; and he is looked upon, among his poor neighbours, as a man rather "well-off" in the world.

    But I must wander on; and as I leave "The Port of the Priest's Rock," I notice a deserted limekiln, near the roadside.  This limekiln was built a few years ago, by order of the late Marquis of Salisbury, who was then the owner of the island.  The limekiln was quickly abandoned, because it was found that the stones of which it was built would not stand fire. . . .

    And now, as I ascend the gently-rising ground, I see that another patch of wild land intervenes between the port I am leaving and the next dwellings upon the shore.  On the left, the heathery, rock-studded steep of Haleval begins to rise from the roadside to the height of 2,367 feet, crowned by a craggy peak.  In rainy weather, white wandering lines mark the water courses upon the dark mountain side; and little conical black piles, here and there, show the places where the inhabitants get peat for firing.  A footpath starts from the left-hand side of our way, winding up the hill for about a third of its height, then gliding out of sight over its eastern shoulder, and thence away by a rugged up and down route which leads through solitary haunts of the wild deer, to a lonely spot called "Papadale," where James Chisholm and his family dwell in solitude by the side of a little lake, with only a patch of sky above it; for the place is almost like the hollow of a cup; on the south there is an opening to the sea, between the lofty cliffs, but the sea is concealed from the inhabitants of the hollow by an intervening rise in the rugged shore, and on all other sides their secluded homestead is steeply hemmed in by the highest and wildest hills of the island.  A few yards beyond the point where the mountain path leaves our wayside, a bright streamlet comes singing down the heathery slope, and runs under the road on its way to the sea; and on the right hand, between us and the bay, the shore is all covered with rocks of extraordinary shape, and sea-worn boulders,

                      Confusedly hurled,
Fragments of an earlier world.

    The rocks upon this part of the shore of the bay, and for about a mile along to seaward, are so remarkable in appearance that this must be the spot of which it is said, "On the shore of Loch Scresort, the Cambrian rock is broken up so accurately by its cleavage that the most fantastic forms are left.  On some slab on the beach Hugh Miller found ripple marks of that sea without life,—even without salt,—the fury of which had ground the iron gniess to powder."  Whilst wandering about these weird-looking rocks I have sometimes wondered which was the particular slab bearing "ripple marks of the sea without life;" but, unfortunately, not being able to read "the leaves of the mystical lore" which nature has been laying to sleep on headland and shore, through all the by-gone centuries, for the edification of man,—I could not tell it,—even if I saw it.  And yet the thing was continually, though mysteriously, interesting to me.  No man of thoughtful mind, however ignorant of geology, could wander about the shore of Loch Scresort,—indeed the shore of the whole island,—without feeling that he was in the presence of evidences of some tremendous convulsion of nature in a long past time. . . .

    And now, after our short walk-along the foot of the hill, "The Port of the Priest's Rock" is clean out of sight; and here we are, at the cluster of huts which the inhabitants of the island call "The Town."  There are six of these huts; and, although a little separated from each other, they stand almost all in a line, with their doorways and their tiny windows looking across the rocky shore on to the bay, and their backs within ten yards of our roadside.  They are as like one another as peas, at the first glance.  They are all strongly built of fragments of basaltic rock; and they look as if they had been built a long time, for they all are more or less moss-grown, especially near the ground, where grass as well as moss has crept up the walls.  They are little and low, although they look strong; and their thatched roofs are crossed and re-crossed with ropes, from the ends of which heavy stones are slung, to keep the thatch on in stormy weather.  Only two of them have each a little rude chimney, which have evidently been added a long time after the cottages were first built; from the rest, the smoke escapes by a hole in the roof, or by the doorway,—or by both; and, of course, their interiors are all "subdued to what they work in, like the dyer's hand;" indeed, the rafters of these cottages are as black as ebony.  Each thatched roof is more or less covered with a pretty wild growth of grass and field flowers, which makes them look, at a distance, as if they were part of the natural landscape around.

    The first of these cottages has a "but" and a "ben," which means, literally, a front and a back room; and, in this case, they consist of a sleeping room and a kitchen, or "house-place " as we sometimes call it in Lancashire,—both, of course, upon the ground floor.  This cottage is inhabited by John McCaskill, and his good wife, and their seven children, ranging from six months to ten years old.  John is not much more than forty years of age; and he is a man of some mark among his simple neighbours; for, like the "skipper," he has seen a good deal of the world as a common sailor.  He was one of the crew of the good ship "Lesbia," of Newcastle-on-Tyne, which was water-logged in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean, on her way from Quebec to Grimsby.  He, with twenty-three others, spent seven days upon the mast-head; and were picked up, in a state of great exhaustion; on the eighth day, by the steamer "Arthur," on her way to London.




    "The habitations of men in the Hebrides may be distinguished into huts and houses.  By a house I mean a building with one storey over another; by a hut, a dwelling with only one floor. . . . A hut is constructed with loose stones, ranged for the most part with some tendency to circularity.  It must be placed where the wind cannot act upon it with violence, because it has no cement; and where the water will run easily away, because it has no floor but the naked ground.  The wall, which is commonly about six feet high, declines from the perpendicular a little inward.  Such rafters as can be procured are then raised for a roof, and covered with heath, which makes a strong and warm thatch, kept from flying off by ropes of twisted heath, of which the ends, reaching from the centre of the thatch to the top of the wall, are held firm by the weight of a large stone.  No light is admitted but at the entrance, and through a hole in the thatch, which gives vent to the smoke.  This hole is not directly over the fire, lest the rain should extinguish it; and the smoke therefore naturally fills the place before it escapes."


MORE than a century of tremendous change has elapsed since Dr. Johnson described the dwelling places of mankind in the Hebrides in the words which I have chosen as a motto for this chapter.  And yet, in spite of the startling alterations which have been flashing in rapid succession across the world into all places of ordinary resort since that time, it is astonishing to find how little such remote nooks of our own land as the Isle of Rum have been affected by these mutations.  With four or five exceptions,—one of which, of course, is "the big house" at the head of the bay,—all the habitations of man upon this island are much the same to-day as those seen by Dr. Johnson during his sojourn in the Hebrides, in the autumn of 1773.

    With slight shades of difference here and there,—such as straw for thatch, instead of heath,—the building materials and the construction of these Hebridean "shielings" are the same now as they were then.  The floor is still the bare ground, and the smoke from the turf fire upon it still wanders round and round the gloomy shed, leaving its dusky deposit upon everything therein, before it finds its outlet by a hole in the thatch,—for, even yet, there is very rarely any kind of chimney; and although, here and there, tiny windows are beginning to creep into the walls of these lowly dwellings, it may still be truly said of the meanest sort of these huts of to-day, as was said by Dr. Johnson of the huts he saw in 1773, that "the first room is lighted by the entrance, and the second by the smoke hole" in the roof.

    Dr. Johnson says, also, of the Hebridean cottages of his time, "Huts are of many gradations, from murky dens to commodious dwellings.  There are huts, or dwellings, of one storey, inhabited by gentlemen, which have walls cemented with mortar, glass windows, and boarded floors.  Of these, all have chimneys, and some chimneys have grates."  Although, in this Isle of Rum, there are none of these huts or dwellings of one storey "inhabited by gentlemen," nor any striking gradations in them "from murky dens to commodious dwellings," yet, even among the poorest of them, there are visible differences, which are very interesting.  Even when all seems alike, as seen from the outside, the condition of the interior varies.  Some are cleaner, and more orderly, and, in a rude and simple fashion, more ornate than others,—at least, there is an evident struggle in these directions, more in some than in others.  This, of course, is the natural result of individual differences in the inhabitants themselves.  They are strongly "soil bound," as a people; but here and there is one who has seen more of the world than the rest; and some of them are, naturally, more cleanly and orderly than others.  I find, however, that the huts of the poorest inhabitants of this island are far from being the worst specimens of dwellings in humble life to be found in the Hebrides to-day.  We have heard a great deal lately about the crofters of Skye; and from what I have heard lately I believe there are human habitations upon that island which are as miserable as any upon the face of the earth. 

    One fine afternoon, near the end of last July, a large yacht put into Scresort Bay, here, and remained at anchor until the evening of the next day.  The owner of the yacht, with his son, and his brother-in-law,—one of Her Majesty's judges,—came ashore and strolled about the island awhile, during which we "forgathered" by accident and fell into talk together.  In the course of conversation I found that they had just come from the Isle of Skye, where they had inspected several of the poor crofters' huts, the wretched condition of which had astonished him.  "On our way from the yacht," said they, "we had occasion to call, and make inquiries at some of the highland cottages, or huts, along the shore of the bay here and we were struck by their superiority in cleanliness and convenience inside, in comparison with the huts we had seen in the Isle of Skye.  The huts here, in the Isle of Rum, are bad enough; but the wigwams of the original red men of the American woods are better, from a sanitary point of view, than the wretched hovels inhabited by many of the crofters of Skye.  Amongst them we often found that the man and his cow went in at the same door for shelter at night, and a rough wooden partition, or half-partition, was all that divided the sleeping places of the two.  The accumulation of filth, too, both inside and about the doorways, was something fearful to see, apart from 'the foul congregation of pestilential vapours.'" . . .

    At the close of my last chapter, I began a partial description of the cottage inhabited by John M'Caskill and his family, which is the first of the little cluster, or rather, row of dwellings, known here as "The Town."  This cottage, or hut, is one of the better-conditioned kind.  It has a little chimney, half-hidden in the thatch.  It has even a firegrate, which is a very rare thing in these island huts.  It is kept in very fair trim, too,—under many difficulties,—for John's good wife is a cleanly and rather particular body; and it contains some simple articles of ornament and of convenience which are seldom seen in such places.  Compared with many of these huts, too, it is unusually light and cheerful; for, in addition to the tiny window in the wall, John has fixed a small window or skylight in the thatched roof.  At leisure times, which are not unfrequent here, except during harvest and clipping time, John's cottage is a great resort of the people of "The Town" for a friendly chat.  There are only about seventy-five persons, old and young, on the whole island; no wonder that they creep together now and then; and I have no doubt that, in many of these lowly sheilings, during the gloomy winter time the weather-bound inmates have been ready to say, in the words of the old song,—

The greatest divarsion that's under the sun,
Is to sit by the fire till the praties are done.

    The next cottage to John M'Caskill's is the dwelling place of a cheery, ruddy-faced old spinster, called Mary Maclean.  Mary is a stiff-built, good-tempered, smiling little body, who trots about the road and the rough hillside in all weathers looking after her cow, or carrying turf, with a kindly greeting for everybody she meets.  Although she can scarcely speak a word of English, old Mary has a humble cot entirely to herself now; but, six months ago it was the residence of her brother, Malcolm Maclean, who died there in the month of May last, at the age of seventy-six.  Old Malcolm was very much respected in the island as a thoroughly honourable man, and a man of more than common intelligence, although somewhat proud, quick-tempered, and eccentric.  He was familiarly known amongst his neighbours by the name of "The Old Captain," but he called himself "Mr. Malcolm Maclean, merchant, of Rum."  Old Malcolm's claim to the title of "merchant" was founded upon the fact that he did a small trade amongst the inhabitants of Rum in groceries.  His little hut was the only shop upon the island.  He also gathered periwinkles upon the shore of the bay, and shipped them off in bags to some well-known London dealer, each bag containing a certain number of bushels; and for which he received sometimes £1 per bag, sometimes less, according to the state of the market.

    In addition to these legitimate sources of profit, it is said, in a kind of whisper, that the old man did a little sly traffic in the whisky line.  If he did so, he never got into trouble about it: and he is out of the reach of the revenue officers now, for he died in the month of May last; and he was buried in the ancient graveyard of Kilmory, on the north-west side of the island.  The old man oft used to cross the sea from the Isle of Rum to the Isle of Skye alone in his fishing boat, but at last the police of the Isle of Skye met him upon their shore, and threatened to lock him up if ever he came across alone again.  The next time he crossed, he did not go alone; for he took his agèd sister with him.  Another time, when he was crossing the sea at night, he was near being run down by a passing steamer.  The captain of the steamer rebuked the old man for being upon the open sea at such a time without light.  "What light do you want?" replied Malcolm; "sure, isn't there the light o' the moon?"

    But now old Malcolm has crossed the sea from whence there is no returning sail.  He was seventy-six years old when he fell sick; and, although he was grievously ill he refused the aid of any doctor.  He made his will, and he paid all his debts; and, after he had set aside money for three bottles of whisky to be consumed at his funeral, he found, upon balancing up, that the remainder of his estate amounted to forty shillings, which he left to his sister Mary.  And then he died.  Then the shepherds and fishermen in the neighbourhood began to lay their heads together about the old man's funeral; and in the first place they made a coffin, or rather a rough box, out of the driftwood brought ashore by the tide; and, when it was finished, they pressed his poor remains into it, and nailed him up.  They then consulted with one another about when he was to be buried; and, having agreed that the funeral should be on the following Monday, they went away, leaving the body in the care of watchers.  But when Monday came the weather was so rough that it was almost impossible to get round with the boat to the lonely graveyard of the ruined church of Kilmory, which was nine miles off; so they waited, day after day, for a change, and, when one of the neighbours asked the man who had taken the management of the funeral into his hands when they thought of burying old Malcolm, he said, "Oh, as soon as we get a little good weather."

    And so day after day passed by, and at last the storm blew over, and the weather became fine.  They then took the body, in a boat, round to the ancient burial-place, having previously sent old Kenneth Maclean and two of the shepherds across the island to prepare the grave.  On their way to the burial ground they pulled out their pipes, and smoked, and talked about sheep and such like, but never a word about old Malcolm who lay in the box at their feet.  When they got to the Kilmory shore, the rude coffin was lifted out of the boat and carried by six men, over the slippery rocks, to a green place, where they set it down, and rested, and smoked a while; and then they took it up again, and went on with it about half a mile farther, which brought them to the graveyard.  There they found the grave ready made, and old Kenneth and the two shepherds waiting.  The grave was between two and three feet deep.  They set the coffin down by the side of it, and rested, and smoked, and talked about sheep again for nearly half an hour.  Then, all at once, without a word, they got up, and lowered the coffin into the grave; and then, one after another, in turn slowly dropped a spadeful of earth upon the coffin.  Whilst they were doing this, they began to find amongst the earth with which they were filling the grave, rotten bits of old coffins, and fragments of mouldered bones; and they stopped, now and then, to talk about them, and to measure them.

    When they had filled up the grave, they got green sods from the hillside, and laid them carefully upon the earth; after which they began to look round the burial ground for a stone to lay upon the old man's grave.  At last they found a gravestone, the quaint lettering upon which was almost worn away by time.  It belonged to somebody else; but that didn't matter.  "Oh, this will do," said they; and, forthwith, the old stone was laid upon the new grave, and left there.  After this they went and sat down upon a green spot a short distance from the graveyard, where they smoked, and chatted, and drank the three bottles of whisky, and ate some oatcake to it, and then came away home again.  And there was an end of old Malcolm Maclean.




Away ye gay landscapes, and gardens of roses,
    In you let the minions of luxury rove;
But give me the hills where the snow flake reposes,
    For they are the birth place of valour and love.


THERE was neither bell, book, nor candle used when the remains of old Malcolm were laid down in the graveyard of Kilmory; where generation after generation of the inhabitants of the Isle of Rum have been buried during the last thousand years.  The soil of that lonely weed-grown "God's Acre" is thick with mouldering relics of the wild forefathers of the island; and when the body of the "old Captain" was brought by his neighbours to mingle with the rest in this last gathering ground of mortal decay, no prayers were said, no funeral rites were observed, nor was there a word spoken in sorrow by the simple shepherds and fishers who had brought him there; yet, although they "carved not a line, nor raised a stone," to mark his resting place, they seemed to have thought that it would be all the better for a little sculptured covering of some sort, so they took an old time-worn stone with an inscription upon it which was almost undecipherable, and saying amongst themselves, "Oh, this'll do!" they quietly laid it upon the old man's new-made grave, and then came away, leaving the tenants of the silent land to "sort themselves."

    After old Malcolm's death, his agèd sister, Mary, took possession of the forty shillings he had left, and of his cottage, with all that was therein; and there she lives now, all alone, waiting for the coming hour when the neighbours will have to carry her also across the hills, or round by the shore in a boat, to the old graveyard at Kilmory.

    The next building to Mary's cottage is precisely the same in build and general outward appearance as the other huts along the shore, except that it has no window, no chimney, no opening of any kind in its walls, but the dingy little doorway, which is almost always closed, especially when the tenant happens to be in; for this is the "byre" in which old Mary houses her cow at the close of the day.  The poor beast is driven in there at night, the door is closed upon it, and it spends all the dark hours in that gloomy hole, carefully shut in with the poisonous effluvia of its own filthy sty; whilst the health-giving elements of nature woo in vain for admission to the pestilential den.

    Such is old Mary's cow-house; and about twenty yards of miry ground divide it from another byre of precisely the same kind in every respect, except that it stands the other way about, that is, with its end to the road.  This latter byre belongs to Sarah Mackinnon, an agèd widow, who is so old indeed that neither she herself, nor her neighbours, nor even her married grand-daughter, who lives with her, can tell exactly how old she is, though they all agree in a kind of vague guess that she must be nearly ninety years of age.

    About ten yards more of miry ground brings me to the last hut upon the shore of the bay, which is jointly inhabited by old Sarah Mackinnon together with Donald Henderson, the fisherman, and his wife and child.  Donald's wife is the old woman's grand-daughter, and she is reckoned the belle of the island, for she is young and pretty; and the pair are proud of their one little bright-eyed child, which is christened Sarah after its great-grandmother.  There are more widows than one on the shore of the bay, but old Sarah Mackinnon is known among her neighbours as "THE Widow," probably on account of her great age.  Donald Henderson and his wife only live here with his wife's grandmother for about seven months in the year, that is, during the fishing season, from about the end of March to the end of September, when Donald and his comrade, Malcolm Macleod, retire with their fishing boat for the rest of the year to Tobermory, and in their absence the agèd woman must have a lonely time of it, in spite of the attentions of her neighbours; but she is so strongly attached to her smoky little hut by the sea that nothing in life can tempt her away from it now.

    Near the end of her cottage a rough, low wall of loose stones encloses a small plot of ground, which, for some accountable reason, has got the name of a garden.  It is known along the shore as "The Widow's Garden."  Perhaps, in some time gone by, it may have been more of a garden than it is now, but I have many a time leaned upon the low wall of that little enclosure and have looked carefully round, and I must say that at present I cannot discover anything therein to justify the name it bears.  There is not even "one rose of the wilderness left on its stalk, to mark where a garden has been."  It was about the end of September when I last saw it.  All within seemed a tangled wild.  The only spot which bore any evidence of having been cared for was a patch of newly-turned earth at the lower end, where a few potatoes had been grown.  The potatoes had all been taken up, there was not even a small one left among the soft brown soil; they were too precious and the stalks and roots from which they had been shaken were lying about here and there rotting in the rain.

    This was the only nook of "The Widow's Garden" where any touch of culture had been attempted; with all the rest nature had her own way.  Here wild mint grew thickly along the inside of the wall.  It grew so high, indeed, that the children used to lean over the outside, and pick off sprigs of it on account of the sweet smell; and I understand that the agèd woman and her neighbours sometimes drank a decoction of the herb, or as they put it themselves, they sometimes "made tea of it," just as the country folk in Lancashire used to do with the same herb.  I have had many a drink of good "mint tay" amongst my relatives up in the Lancashire moors when I was a lad.  With the exception of the little patch of potatoes, this narrow bed of mint is perhaps the most precious part of the old woman's garden.  Look as you will elsewhere, all is wild.  Here and there the bare rock crops out amongst tall grass, and rank weeds, and field flowers; and on the north side of the garden the nettles grow so high that they overtop the wall.

    The agèd widow never willingly leaves her little shieling now; but an event happened near the close of last year which made it necessary that she should be taken from it, even against her will, to save her life.

    In the month of November, 1881, the tide in Scresort Bay rose in the night-time to an extraordinary height, so high, indeed, that, with four or five exceptions, every dwelling-place along the shore of the bay was more or less flooded; and in a great majority of cases the people were fairly drowned out of their houses, and compelled to flee in the dead of the night through a howling storm of wind and rain.  Some took shelter in an unfurnished building called "The White House," which had been recently erected for the accommodation of visitors during the shooting season; others fled, with their children in their arms, towards the little bridge which led over the river, and so on to "the big house" at the head of the bay, but finding the road impassable, and the bridge carried away, they were forced to take a higher route, across the dark fields, and through the swollen stream, and over the great meadow, and through the wood to the house of Mr. Colin Livingstone at the head of the bay.  Mr. Livingstone's family were all in bed, for it was long after midnight, but they were soon awakened by the shouts and knockings of the men and the clamorous lamentations of the women and children who had been drowned out from their huts on the shore, and, amongst the plaintive outcries that mingled with the tempest that night, was the feeble wail of the old widow, Sarah Mackinnon, who had clung to her cottage till the water rose up to her bed, and even then she had to be dragged out by force, screaming feebly and clutching frantically at anything she could lay hold of.  Mr. Livingstone was away from home at the time; but when his family heard the wild outcry at the back of the house they threw up the window and cried, "Who's there?"  And the wind brought back a storm of distressful outcries; "We are out here on the road in the rain!  The sea is rising!  For God's sake, let us in!"  And it was a strange scene in Kinloch House that night; for the place was crowded with old and young, who had been drowned out by the tide; and the disaster was of such an unusual kind that many of the poor folk believed that the end of the world was at hand.


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