A HIGHLAND CHIEF AND HIS FAMILY SOME REMINISCENCES BY LOUISE C. R. MACDONELL FP GLENGARRY 1895 Published in (Blackwood's Edinburgh magazine - Volume 157 - Page 527
No doubt our father and our uncle, afterwards Sir James Macdonell, were well accustomed to manly sports and exercises at Glengarry in their boyhood. On their father's death the one was sent to Oxford and the other to Cambridge. Their instructor at home seems to have given lessons in fencing or some such exercise. At Cambridge, my uncle was so expert that he drove his teacher back into a corner. The latter was naturally annoyed at this, and said no one had ever done so, "except that fellow at Oxford they call Glengarry," to which our uncle remarked, "My brother, sir." Both of them were very determined men. Our father had two other brothers, but I do not remember either of them. I believe our uncle's first service was in India'; afterwards he was in Egypt, in the Peninsula, and at Waterloo he was the well-known hero of Hougomont.
Both brothers must have been well accustomed to speak and hear Gaelic, but at school they would hear nothing of it. At one time my uncle was in a Highland regiment, and I have heard him say that on one occasion while in action he was extremely anxious, as he observed a sort of hesitation along the line of troops under his command, when he in haste made up a sentence in Gaelic, on hearing which the men cheered and rushed forward. In afterwards telling the story, the sentence (which I never learned) was greeted with amusement and applause. No doubt it would be ungrammatical, but it did its work.
After leaving Oxford our father was in Rome. His great friend was the Hon. Lord Montgomerie. When in Rome they both had full-length portraits of themselves painted by Angelica Kaufmann.
Afterwards on his coming of age he raised the Glengarry Fencibles, a volunteer regiment, when with the assistance of some one he studied reading and writing in Gaelic, which I have heard him say he did chiefly through the oldest Gaelic songs. He was particularly fond of music, and had a perfect ear and perfect time, but not a good voice.
His marriage took place in 1802, at which time Loch Oich must have been quite a private lake, the stables being on the opposite side from the house.
The change since that time in respect of roads must have been very great, for by the time I remember there was a good carriageroad on both sides of Loch Oich. There were twenty-seven miles of a carriage-road between Glengarry and Loch Hourn Head, which was made in our father's time, no doubt partly by the road-money. Afterwards I remember something of that sort having been done in Knoydart—a good road made between Loch Nevis and Shennachie, a narrow one for riders only from Shennachie to Barasdale and Loch Hourn Head, no doubt partly with road-money also.
* See "Glengarry and his Family," 'Maga,' September 1893.
Our mother, as a daughter of Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, always was an Episcopalian, and continued so till her death in 1840. She mentioned that she never was more surprised than when our father first spoke of having an infant baptised into the Episcopal Church, and of joining it himself. Stupidly none of us asked why he did so. We all knew that this must have taken place between 1809 and 1812, as our brother was baptised by a Presbyterian and Jemima by an Episcopalian minister; but so far as we were concerned his Presbyterian customs continued, for on Sunday evenings we had to repeat to him as formerly psalms or paraphrases, not collects, &c., out of the English Prayer-book. There was an Episcopalian chapel about two and a half miles from the house, which, we understood, was built by our father and a lady whose name we never heard. It seems never to have been consecrated, as for some years back it has been used as a Free Church. In those days we must have been far from a parish church, as Inverie was in the parish of Glenelg, and Glengarry in the parish of Kilmonivaig. About 1824 Glengarry got a missionary, when the population of the parish, or perhaps some district of it, consisted of 609 Ptoman Catholics, 589 Presbyterians, 8 Episcopalians, and 5 nothing. The last consisted of a Yorkshire gamekeeper, his wife, and three children; but they were soon after baptised into the Episcopal Church. I remember our elder sister expressing her satisfaction that the Protestant population was so large.
Our aunt, Mrs Mackenzie of Portmore, told us a good story of the experiences our mother sometimes had. One time, when in England, she heard very high words between a little English woman and our footman. It turned out that, knowing our father's love of a fresh-laid egg, this footman went regularly, and usually got the wished-for egg; but on this particular occasion no egg had been laid, so he carried off the hen, that he might perhaps get the egg in time for breakfast. The little woman, in a high state of indignation, followed him, insisting that he had stolen her hen, which he stoutly denied, saying he had told her he would take back the hen as soon as it had laid the egg!
When the part of the Caledonian Canal which runs through Loch Oich began to be cut, that portion of Glengarry was to become Government property. About a week before the fixed time a boat was placed on the loch, but it was nowhere to be found the next day. The disappearance of the boat caused some excitement in official circles, and our mother's Edinburgh friends wrote to her saying that that sort of thing might have been done two centuries ago, but not now. She knew nothing about it, however. It seemed that a hunting-party had been arranged, and about 3 A.m. the boat was carried up to Loch Lundy, where it remained till their return, when it was replaced where it had been left a week before.
I do not know if it was before or after his marriago that the creelhouse at Inverie was put up, but our father delighted in everything that reminded him of former days in the Highlands, and hence had this very curious house erected at Inverie. I greatly regret that there seems to be no sketch, drawing, or photograph of its interior. It was formed of very handsome fir beams and standards, probably 18 inches broad, with perhaps 3 or 4 feet of hazel basket-work between them. As there were threewindows on each side of the front door, the house was probably 49 feet long by 14 feet broad, or it may have been 63 feet by 18 feet. It was covered outside by wood and slates only down to the ground. The only mason-work was in the centre, dividing it into two equal parts. There was a fireplace in the masonry for each room, and at the end of each room were two small bedrooms 7 or 9 feet square, and about 8 feet high, plastered inside, and perfectly comfortable, at least in summer. I occupied one of them in 1837, during a visit to the Highlands from May till November. There was a door at the back between the rooms, opening into an ordinary stone-and-lime back wing, the floor of which was made of some sort of firm clay. It was taken down and replaced by a handsome set of modern rooms some years ago.
It was probably about 1804 or 1806 that our father got the guns formerly used on the old castle, and taken away after Culloden, restored to him, as in 1806 Allan Macdougall, our bard, composed a song in honour of our father's gallantry in getting back the guns, of which he says, "Many a one knows it is threescore years since they were taken away." The recovery of these guns must have been a source of much rejoicing. They were long wall-pieces, such as one man could carry for a short distance. On receiving permission to have them, our father set out for Fort Augustus with twenty-four men to carry them in turns. On reaching Fort Augustus he found that the Governor, either Lord Dalrymple or Lieutenant - General Alexander Ross, had received no orders to hand over the guns; but a week after our father and party set out again, and no doubt returned in triumph with them this time. They were not now quite the same as when they formerly stood on the castle walls of Glengarry, having been altered by the Government. They were to be used on festive occasions, one of which was when Prince Gustavus visited Glengarry. I remember seeing the guns on the lawn supported on trestles, and there were tents, which had probably been used by the Glengarry Fencibles, making the place look very gay and military like.
In those days there were no such grand shooting-lodges in the Highlands as now. I am told that a young Duchess of Gordon asked the butler how the late Duchess managed to have so much company at Kinrara, for she could see no room, when he replied by telling her that for weeks at a time he had slept on the top of the kitchen dresser; and it was known that a niece and two other young ladies slept in her bedroom, probably not a large one, as they were sent out to wash in the burn!—no doubt some sheltered spot. There was a waterfall near Ochtertyre where the late Sir W. Murray told me he and his brothers used to go to for a shower-bath, having some sort of screen hung up to hide them from the road. Greenfield at Glengarry was quite small, three rooms below and two lofts above. No doubt the risings in the Highlands in 1715 and 1745 left the properties heavily in debt, added to which would be the loss to all seaward estates of the kelp industry, as described in the 'Transactions' of the Celtic Society of Inverness, pp. 405-407, besides other native industries.
I believe Highlanders are naturally very musical. They have, I may say, always a correct ear, perfect time, and in general good voices even when quite untaught. They used to sing at all their work, in their boats when rowing, and in reaping the corn men and women all sang, as well as when making a stack and tramping down the hay. The women also sang when waulking the new cloth, and at their washing-tubs they could sing for themselves to keep time with their work. Up to 1837 this was the general custom, hut it gradually fell off until 1845, after which there was little of it. I am told that the Free Church ministers at once set their faces against any sort of ordinary songs and dancing, and that when men were driving carts for miles along a country road, perhaps with the sun beating on them, they were apt to go to sleep and fall off, which if they were singing they were less likely to do. At marriages or "harvest homes," when many young people were collected, if they did not sing or dance, they must talk, which would often end in gossip of an ill-natured kind; certainly it would not always be of the best sort.
There were in my young days two gentlemen, brothers, frequent visitors at Glengarry, for whom our father had a decided liking. About 1822 they were named Ian and Charles Hay Allan, about 1824 they were named Stuart Hays, and about 1837, when in Edinburgh, they were talked of as "the Princes." Before Ian's death he was known as John Sobieski. At Glengarry they were believed to be related in some crooked way to the royal Stuarts, and were said to have been educated in a Spanish monastery. They had pleasant conversational powers, were accomplished, drew all sorts of old Highland armour, old brooches, &c, sang one or two Gaelic and English songs, sometimes joined in the Highland games, and danced some parts of the Highland Fling very well. They were obliging and goodnatured, and went to the Episcopal chapel with the family, though our Presbyterian servants suspected them to be Eomanists, as they had a black St George's cross 6ewed on one corner of their plaids. I remember my eldest sister telling our governess that they were talking much about some dress Stuart tartan on a white instead of on a red ground; but for her part she thought it must be like a Scottish blanket (made of tarry wool and crossed with checks of blue), but no doubt they would soon be seen wearing it, and so they did, calling it the royal Stuart tartan. Some years after we heard of and saw what they called the "Stuart hunting-tartan " on a green ground. I have long since believed that both tartans were their own invention. On one occasion a party of gentlemen wished to cross Loch Garry to Greenfield, used as a shootinglodge, but the loch was flooded, and the boat could not be reached, when, to their surprise, Charles came from Ton-an-doun, the small inn (where he had undressed), with a blanket round him, and swam for the boat, so that soon after they all got across.
In 1827 Ian had a long illness at Glengarry, and was confined to bed. Afterwards he got, for some hours in the day, to the dining-room sofa. On leaving the house he must have driven seven miles to Fort Augustus, so as to join the steamer on his way to Forres. He continued so ill that only Charles could come to our father's funeral in February 1828. I do not think I met them again till 1837, when my brother, myself, and others were on a visit to Lady Ramsay (my father's sister) at Erkless Castle, and we wished to call for them, as they then lived near. It was arranged that, as our aunt did not wish to meet them, we were to leave her and party at a certain point until we returned, as this would prevent their meeting her, instead of which they met us, and, in spite of all we could do, insisted on coming to see us into the carriage. So poor Aunt Ramsay was in horror, but there was no escape. The horse of the dogcart in which she was to drive became restive, and in a second one of the gentlemen stood at its head while the other handed her ladyship up to her seat, both of them looking as courteous and magnificent as possible.
We frequently, in 1838, met them at balls in Edinburgh, and again in Bute, about 1844. They also about this time published some books, one of which made me think very little of them, as it alludes to a funeral (my father's), and infers that Charles was treated as the most important person at it. Such nonsense! my father's only son, only brother, and my mother's brother, Lord Medwyn, and Mr George Forbes never would have given place to him.
Our father's intense love of, and pride in, all Highland things must have seemed very strange to members of the family from the South. Miss Patterson, who for six years was our governess, and a very good governess too, a native of Edinburgh, educated as a Presbyterian in the Merchant Maidens' Hospital, and Mr Green, for a short time our brother's tutor, must have found themselves in a very strange atmosphere, particularly the latter. I think Mr Green could only have been a very few years older than my brother, as they both came from Eton together. He distinctly resisted our father's opinions of Highland character, and to such an extent that he agreed to run a race of twenty-seven miles, from Loch Hourn Head to Glengarry House, against our piper,
Archie Munro, an active man, a native of Oban. I .do not know how long this was settled before the challenge came off; but we knew that Mr Green on one or two occasions ran round Loch Oich by way of practice, a distance of from five to eight or ten miles!
The day before the race Mr Green, the piper, and perhaps our father were all at Loch Hourn Head ready for the next day. The competitors started from the house of Air Macrae, one of our tenants, commonly called "Glenquaich," from the name of his farm. On starting, Mr Green promised an old wife some tea if she would start with them, which she did, but I never heard how far she ran! The first part of the road was extremely steep, the last half was a gentle descent. Our father rode along with the first, and no doubt the groom followed with whoever was last. Soon after the start the piper's nose began to bleed, which he knew to be an omen of success, and so it turned out, for in due time he overtook Mr Green, and won the race by about twenty minutes. I cannot be certain, but I think the race was run in about four hours. When the piper arrived he got the usual dram, and we were surprised to see our mother take out porter for Mr Green. I think it was warm, with oatmeal or something of the sort on the top. She had always been afraid of the race being bad for him, and he so far from his friends in England. Though he did not come in first, our father gave him the promised prize of a Highland dress, which no doubt would be a curiosity amongst his English friends.
Miss Patterson was a vastly more sensible person. She saw clearly the good points in the family arrangements, and the healthful manner in which her pupils were trained; and. our father always expressed his satisfaction at our vigour and spirits. She must, however, have found it difficult to understand the value set upon birth, old family being considered independently of wealth or poverty. I have long thought this feeling accounts for the native dignity and self-respect of the Highlander. He knows to what chief he is related by the ties of blood; and whether he is fourth or fourteenth cousin to him, he is not ashamed of being poorer. He feels proud of his descent, proud of his clan and of the country his ancestors never disgraced. Miss Patterson could know little of such feelings: the daughter of an Edinburgh tradesman, brought up also as a Presbyterian, her ideas were rather more strict on the subject of a well-kept Sunday than ours.
My father had no end of anecdotes about our ancestors, parts of which I remember, though I was only a schoolroom child of under fourteen when I heard him relating them. I was, however, old enough to feel keenly interested in them. One story that impressed me very much was related to account for the origin of the Clan Macintyre. A party of Macdonells on one occasion were out in a boat, when a knot of wood sprang out, causing a serious leak; whereupon one of the party stuck in his finger to fill the hole, and then cut it off with his dirk, thus saving the life of the whole party. From this circumstance his descendants were called the Macintyres, or Sons of the Carpenter.
Another story which I heard my father tell relates to the bloody hand which appears in our coat of arms. A doubt having arisen as to which of two brothers a certain estate belonged, it was agreed that he whose flesh and blood should first touch the property was to be regarded as the rightful owner. Accordingly the two young men started in two boats for the land in question. One of them, seeing that he was losing the race, when near the shore pulled out his dirk, cut off his hand and threw it on land, thus establishing his right to the property, as his flesh and blood had touched it first.
Our father, like most Highlanders, was a firm believer in dreams and Highland prophecies. I remember him one evening after family worship (Episcopal), in which 2 Kings 20th chapter had been read, telling us that his father had a dream in which the day of judgment had come, and on the book being opened he was told that his life would be prolonged seven or fifteen years longer (I forget which); that he might be either better or worse; and that about the end of the stated time he died. He also told us of a man who dreamt he saw a light floating down a river and turning into a creek, where it remained. On mentioning this dream to a friend, he was told there would be a dead body in the creek, and on going to the spot and removing some withered leaves he found the body of a man who had been drowned.
In 1831, when boarded in a London school, a companion, also from Scotland, told me that my father had dreamed he saw three birds on a tree, all of which flew away, and that he believed the birds represented his young boys who had died. I often wondered about this. We had lost six young brothers, and had only one brother alive. In 1834 I managed to ask aunt Fanny, our mother's youngest sister, still unmarried, about it, when, to my surprise, she told me that he had seen seven birds on a tree; six (our little brothers) had flown away, but the seventh (our one brother) stayed a long time and then flew away also. The two dreams came wonderfully true. Our only brother married in 1833 and died in 1851, leaving three sons, of whom two died unmarried, the youngest married but left no family, by which time the whole of both properties had been sold except a small portion round the ruins of the castle, the burialground, and a small monument our father had built. These became the property of his elder daughter, and are now the property of her only surviving child, J. A. Cunningham, Esq. of Balgownie, which is the fulfilment of a wellknown prophecy that the whole of the properties were to pass out of the family, after which they were to be restored by the son of a black woman. This also may come true, as the descendant of one of our great-granduncles may be alive, and perhaps wealthy enough to purchase the properties, now in the hands of two people.
There was another prophecy, now fulfilled, of which I knew nothing till about 1845—that of the three last Glengarrys, one was to be drowned, as my brother's second son was when at Chatham; one was to die a lone stranger in a strange land, as his eldest son did in New Zealand; and one was to be poisoned. We can hardly say his youngest son was so, but improper food or medicine may have acted as poison, for he died at sea out of health on his way home from New Zealand.
We had very nice gardens just outside the orchard gate. We had each a rake, hoe, and spade, and a little wheelbarrow between us. We had each our own garden, and each year we got radish, cresses, and Dutch turnip seed to sow in them, and to feast upon as soon as they were ripe; also flowers, the gardener now and again giving a tuft of polyanthus or other plant in flower, which pleased us greatly. When our brother was at home from school he helped Caroline with her garden, so it was sometimes in better order than Jemima's or mine.
One day we were much pleased at a visit from our father and mother. They told us to bring our barrow and to come with them. There had been some walks cut through the lawn, and the turf was all neatly built in heaps alongside. We were told we might have the turf to build a house with, and we were to wheel it to our gardens ourselves, which we set about at once, and began to build the walls close to the orchard wall. Our great difficulty was about a roof. We had no end of turf, but how could we make them keep up? One day, to our great joy, Jemima said she had seen some wood with which a splendid roof could be made, and so we resolved to use it. It was so large it took Jemima at one end and Caroline and me at the other to carry it. Our house was now soon built. It had a turf wall, perhaps 2 or 3 feet high, on which the roof rested, leaning against the orchard wall. The one end was filled up with turf, leaving an open space as a door near the wall. The other end was all built up except a square space which served as a window. There were two seats, probably of turf, one quite low, on which Caroline and I sat bending forward, as the roof at that side was very low, while the other seat was close to the wall, on which Jemima could sit erect, also a cousin, James Skene, about her own age, who sometimes spent his holidays at Glengarry. The roof was covered with turf, and the erection looked nice.
This house was our great delight. We took shelter in it if rain came on—not that we in the least disliked being wet, but that we liked the fun of taking shelter. I do not know how long we had this house; but one day our father and mother visited us in our garden, and to our dismay told us our roof was the top of the box in which our father's full-length portrait by Eaeburn had come to Glengarry, and that it was now to be returned. We had been endlessly asked if we knew where this lid could be, but it never occurred to any of us that it was the roof of our turf-house. "When the empty box was to be returned the butler said we must know about it, for some time ago he had seen us playing about it as it lay on the grass in front of the servants' hall window. The picture remained in its box for some time leaning against the wall in the drawing-room, no doubt till the necessary arrangements were made to have it hung in its proper place. This is the identical picture of our father now in the National Gallery, Edinburgh. Our governess was quite sure we would not tell a lie, and said we knew nothing about it. So our poor turf-house had to be broken up; but our father said the piper would make us a nice moss-house at another part of our gardens, and soon we had a very pretty one, with a table and seats. This house was made of basketwork inside and with moss outside; the roof was nearly flat, and made of rough outside wood, also covered with moss. We were much pleased at having a table and seats on which we could sit upright, and we had more room; but before long the midges became so troublesome that we preferred sitting on the roof, also in wet weather the rain got through the roof and wet everything we left in it, and besides there were a lot of earwigs about it. A few years ago, on telling our girlish troubles to a lady friend, she said, "But you would get another house?" No, not we. Our governess would have been shocked if our parents heard even a complaint about the house the piper had built for us.
Our father liked us to have as much exercise in the open air as possible, so each day we walked for about two hours with our governess, once or twice round the home parks,—the same walk week after week for five successive days; but we never felt dull or stupid, as we usually sang aloud the whole time, and our attention was called to objects of natural history, such as birds, trees, and foliage, fruits, or seeds of the trees. On Saturdays, having a half-holiday, we had longer walks, up to the waterfall or to the top of a small hill some way off; but for these extra walks our mother's leave had always to be obtained. No matter though it was rain, sleet, or snow, we were out our usual two hours, which was more than our governess was sometimes able for; and this was all the better fun for us, as we delighted having a race with dogs.
We went to the gamekeeper, who gave each of us a dog-couple, one strap of which was made into a loop for us to hold, while the other was strapped round a deer-hound's neck. In this way we started at once, and tried who would get to a particular gate first. The dogs enjoyed the race quite as much as wo did, and in their keenness not unfrequently pulled us flat on the ground; but as we held quite firmly, they had to wait till we got up, and were off again. One day when our youngest sister, now Mrs Brown of New Hall, about six years of age, was beginning to enjoy this sport, the dog she had took the sulks, and would not run a step. It had done so before, but fortunately this time it was so close to a fence that we fastened it there, where it continued yelping until we returned with the other dogs, and the result was that we had no more trouble with its sulks.
There was a pond in which we sailed boats of the commonest make,—a bit of wood sharpened at one end, with one or two turkey feathers to act as mast and sails; and we made long green boats of sedges. We had a very nice swing fastened to the branch of an oak-tree on the lawn. We played horses like other children, and sometimes found a branch broken off a tree, which made a nice carriage for our dolls. They were tied to the branch and drawn along the avenue in great style. On one occasion Sir Hugh limes, Mrs Lindsay, and her only daughter, who was about Jemima's age, were at Glengarry for a few days. Her mother said she was a great romp; but we were far greater, and I fear she found it difficult to manage three such wild horses as we were, or keep her seat on such a swing as ours was. She afterwards became Mrs Livingstone of Balmacarra.
My father encouraged us in all sorts of exercise. He used to throw his stick, a very stout heavy one, on the ground, and tell Caroline and me to pick it up between us and try which of us would take it from the other, he standing by to see fair play. My eldest sister told me she remembered when she and her sister had done the same; afterwards she had to take it against both her sister and her brother, and ultimately from her brother alone, who was about seven years younger than herself. We did all sorts of exercises. We lay down flat on our backs on the floor, and had to risestraight up on our feet without turning to either side or putting our elbows on the floor. We did manage to sit up clasping our hands, and as it were pulling ourselves forward, after which we drew in our feet, and with another strong effort pulled our bodies forward till we stood upright. Another exercise could only be done in our nightgowns. Our thumbs were tied together behind our backs, and we had to pass our bodies, feet and all, between our arms, so that we stood with our thumbs tied in front of our waists. Both of these exercises we came to do with little difficulty, and greatly delighted in them. We also tried our skill at various feats performed at the Highland games, — leaping, racing, and putting the stone; but we were forbidden to try throwing the hammer, as our mother always feared an accident by the head parting from the handle.
There was a pair of white swans on Loch Oicb, and it was my particular pleasure and charge to feed them during winter. The oats or raw potatoes sliced were given to me in the schoolroom, and off I started in my house dress, without bonnet or extra wrap, over the frosted grass or snow, to the edge of the loch, calling to the swans, who soon came to eat the food I threw into the water for them. The island on which they made their nests was frequently flooded in spring, so that they seldom reared cygnets; but in a year when they did we delighted to see the young birds, covered with dark down, often on the backs of the old birds, with a great white wing arched over them.
On one occasion a tea-kettle was left on the schoolroom fire when our governess was in the diningroom at breakfast. It soon began to boil, and I thought proper to take it off the fire. Not wishing to get my hand scalded with the steam, I lifted it off with the tongs firmly closed; but it slid over a bit, and some of the boiling water was poured on the instep of my foot. We rarely, I might say we never, cried for pain. We held that Lowlanders, not Highlanders, would do that . So we made no noise, and Jemima at once brought a basinful of cold water from the next room— our bedroom—into which my foot was plunged, and on the return of our governess she found me seated .with my foot in the cold water. On removing my shoe and worsted sock she found my foot badly blistered. Of course I had done wrong to meddle with either the kettle or tongs, but in due time my foot healed without much anxiety.
At one time my sister Jemima was quite lame. When swinging down-stairs on the banisters, she fell over and sprained her ankle severely, and nothing seemed to do it good. Mr Macnab from Badenoch, who was a frequent visitor at Glengarry, advised that every forenoon she on a maid-servant's arm should wade up the river, and that before going to bed she should have a maid standing on a chair pouring cold water on the injured ankle out of a kettle. This cure proved most successful, as before long, though she was quite lame on first going down to the river, she soon walked up the steep brae with ease, and speedily the one ankle was as strong as the other. I think Mr Macnab must have been a tenant of Cluny's, and was considered a good judge of cattle. It was at his house, "Sheribeg," we lunched a few years after, when in 1828 our mother, with all of us, was on her way to Edinburgh.
About 1827, when walking as usual past the gardener's house, I saw a nice little terrier which I must needs pat, and to the surprise of us all it bit my hand. Our parents were from home, so Mr Hood, our factor, had it drowned, for fear of hydrophobia I was told. I was entirely to blame, and we were all very sorry that Hector was to be killed. Next day we found his dead body near the pond in which he had been drowned. We soon settled he might yet be saved, and for a day or two we took some porridge and milk, which we left beside him, which must have been eaten up by some bird or beast instead of by him, for to our grief he never came to life again, and his dead body must have been removed or buried out of our sight.
No nonsense about our food was permitted. On one occasion we did not like our porridge and milk at supper, and were anxious to leave the milk, we thought it so bad; but Miss Patterson insisted there was nothing wrong with it. One of our elder sisters, who happened to be in the schoolroom reading at the fireside, tasted the milk, which had a turnip flavour but was quite good, and she said we ought to be ashamed of ourselves to complain of such good milk. She also added that our two eldest sisters had visited the Rosses lately (Ross was a lockkeeper on the canal), and saw the porridge for the children cooling, and that they had nothing but water to take it with. Miss Patterson said she thought they had a cow, to which our sister agreed; "but," she said, "their cow has no milk at present." This information had a great effect on us, as soon after we resolved to do as the Rosses did, and take our porridge with cold water too. No doubt we had to finish the whole of both porridge and milk; but in due time we managed to eat a whole plate of porridge with a little cold water, and drank up the bowl of milk at the end. The lesson was a very wholesome one, never to be regretted. Some years after we resolved (as much as possible) to eat nothing except what grew in Scotland. This made us refuse sugar with our stewed apples, and take plain milk and warm water instead of sugar. We could not, of course, help taking any sugar used in cooking puddings, &c.
After the peace of 1815 a number of foreign princes and noblemen visited Great Britain, some of whom found their way to the Highlands. One of them was much amused to see mo, a child of five years old, standing as happy as possible where a perfect shower-bath was falling from the roof of the house, whore two sets of slates met. We might get wet as often as we liked if only our clothes were changed as soon as we came in. To such an extent was this done, that our brother's usual punishment of us when we plagued him was to walk us into Loch Oich and lay us flat down in tho water. We did not dislike his doing so, but rather disliked the trouble of having to change all our clothes in the middle of the day.
It must have been about 1822 that we first saw the two Mr Hay Allans, of whom I have already spoken. They were tall, and extremely handsome, and, like most gentlemen, arrived on foot, wearing the Highland dress. Their coats were not made of tartan cross-cut, such as most gentlemen wore, but of green cloth, and with uncommon sleeves at the shoulder, rather military-looking. The first morning they were not down for 9 A.m. breakfast, nor for some hours after, and we could all see that our mother was very ill-pleased at this. Our brother and Jemima said there was a nice ploy for me. I was to take a jug of cold water to the door, and very quietly open it. I went in, holding the jug behind my back.
Charles was seated in front of the looking-glass in his shirt and kilt, and Ian was in bed. They both seemed pleased to see me, and Ian held out his hands to welcome me, when I poured the jug of water right over his head, and ran off as fast as I could. Ian called out "Halloo!" and Charles laughed outright. I got no end of praise from my brother and Jemima for having done my work so well. Both gentlemen were down for one o'clock lunch, when we could hear our mother laughing with them over the children's trick; but no doubt our mother had much to do with it herself, for nothing of the sort could have been done without her sanction.
It was probably in 1826 that the Earl of Carnarvon, with his daughter, Lady Harriet Herbert, and a son, whose name I forget, visited Glengarry. They were delighted with the scenery and the air of romance with which they were surrounded. One warm summer evening, after a six o'clock dinner, Lady Harriet, our mother, and two elder sisters were seated outside the house, when Lady Harriet's attention was called to some twenty men in the Highland dress marching down from the square headed by the piper, as there was to be dancing that night in honour of our guests. Lady Harriet looked thoughtfully at them for some time, and then said, "How beautiful! how beautiful! and all alive!" which greatly amused the other ladies, who were well accustomed to such scenes. No doubt Lady Harriet must often have seen pictures of Highlanders, but had never beheld them in real life before.
One afternoon there was a demand for Gaelic and Jacobite songs, so Jemima and I were called down from the schoolroom and seated on chairs in the middle of the parlour floor, where we sang song after song as desired. Our little sister, five or six years of age, was dressing her doll on a sofa, when its frock fell on the floor, and a young Blenheim spaniel carried it off, tossing it in triumph over its head. The dog passed close to my chair, and, without interrupting my song, I caught hold of the stolen frock, which my sister came for. This greatly amused our visitors, as to us it was as easy to sing as to speak.
This year Miss Patterson and her three pupils were in lodgings in Inverness for a few weeks, and got private lessons on the pianoforte and in dancing. I had only just begun music, and must have been about twelve years of age—a clear proof of how little value our mother set on such accomplishments. At that time we spent two days or so at Moy Hall on a visit to our father's aunt, Lady MacIntosh, who, with Sir Eneas, had been long in India. We were delighted with a cabinet of curiosities, containing an ostrich's egg-shell and the figure of a Chinaman, who always seemed to be shaking his head. We also saw the bed in which Prince Charles slept the night after the battle of Culloden, and a Highland bonnet he had worn.
Our uncle James's nurse was a little old woman about seventy years of age, who with her husband had a room and kitchen to themselves in a back wing of Glengarry house. The husband had to herd the house cows, some five in number, while her chief work was to have a comfortable fire on in tho kitchen, where cottars or others who wished to see our father could wait till he returned from the hill or elsewhere, and she had to warm up the dinner which the housekeeper sent out for them. She also had charge of a large flock of turkeys, which she was quite unable to manage. She was fond and proud of our uncle, of whom she had charge in his infancy. On his coming to Glengarry he always brought her print for a dress, in those days rather more expensive than now, as the commonest cost Is. a yard, and was very narrow. He usually sent one of us round to say he was coming, when she was sure to have on the dress he gave her on the last visit, worn that day to receive him for the first time. Of a night when there was to be regular dancing he sent one of us to tell her he wished to have a dance, and would come for her soon. Shortly after that they might be seen coming arm in arm along the back passage, the little old woman so proud of the 6 feet 3 inches Colonel of tho Coldstream Guards, and such a dance can be rarely seen now !— the little woman dancing so smoothly, with her hands never as high as her shoulders, snapping her fingers in answer to his wild whooping, with his arms right over her head, while he too snapped his fingers all the while. At the end of the dance they went as they came along the back passage, till he left her safely in her own kitchen. One day she was seated ou a high bank of the river Garry while he was angling for salmon, his favourite sport. When asked why she was sitting there, she said she was watching for fear the "coronel" would fall into the river!
My uncle, Sir James, had distinguished himself in the following battles,—Maida, fought on the 4th of July 1806. There were only seventeen gold medals given for the battle of Maida, and he got one of them. Salamanca, 1812; Vittoria, 1813; Nivelle, 1813; Nive, 1813. For these four my uncle had clasps, which he usually wore with his Waterloo medal.
Once on a 1st of April a young, raw Highland footman resolved to make her a "gowk," and told her the "lady" wished to see all the turkeys collected in front of the drawing-room window. The little old woman could be seen with her staff beating about all the bramblebushes, so as to herd all the turkeys down in front of the house. Our mother was very ill-pleased when we reported it to her. She found fault with the footman, had corn at hand for the turkeys, and sent us to help old nursie to bring them down. When they were fed, nursie was duly praised for their number and condition, and probably she never knew the trick that was played upon her.
Our mother was very methodical, and must have had some trouble with new Highland servants. One evening our father rang the bell for other candles, when the footman answered, "There are none, sir." "What, no candles?" "No.sir; the lady would not give them out." So our mother had to rise to give them out. Every morning at ten o'clock she might be seen in the housekeeper's pantry giving orders for the day, and then she gave out of her storeroom all provisions required. No doubt the footman had been too late in asking for candles, and she refused to unlock the storeroom door again, the key of which she always kept herself till we were old enough, when the eldest in the schoolroom got the key from her, and gave out what was required—a valuable lesson for us.
One day on returning from a drive father was very angry at seeing a bullet-hole in one of the windows. He was constantly in the habit of leaving his loaded gun in a corner of the parlour. We were all well taught not to touch it; but a young footman in his absence had taken a stable-boy into the parlour, and one of them had fired the gun off, but fortunately without hurt to himself or any other person.
I was a very hot-tempered child at Perth, when at about three and a half years of age, after the measles. I nearly lost my eyesight. A leech was applied to them, which I in a passion dashed off. I was on my mother's knee at one side of the nursery fire, and my nurse, Peggie Stuart, was seated opposite her. They screamed out at the exertion I had made, when I distinctly remember seeing the black creature lying on the white boards of the floor. All through life my eyesight has been very defective, which my teachers never half believed; but when they complained of my obstinacy or carelessness, my mother was sure to arrange that I was to do no book-work by candlelight, but my copy or sewing. To this day I have always been a slow reader, with a retentive memory for facts, but little taste for fiction. I never could do "tent-stitch," or work with red or bright colours like my sisters, as it was sure to pain my eyes. I must have been sixty-seven years of age when an optician in London saw how defective my sight was. He quietly asked me if I could read. I said "Yes," but that I had never read through a book with pleasure in my life, at which he was not surprised. He then asked me to spell out some large-printed words which hung on his shop wall. My sister, Mrs Stuart Forbes, was with me, and was vexed at the blunders I made. This discovery was a great satisfaction to myself, as I had often wondered, when my ear and time in music were so correct, that I had such difficulty in spelling well: in fact I had hardly seen what I read.
We spent the winter of 1823-24 near Perth, which I liked very much, many things being Bo new to ns. The sound of the church bells across the Tay we thought beautiful. "We had none at Glengarry, as in those days parish churches only had bells. The stage-coacb named "The SaxeCoburg" passed our gate on its way to Dundee, the guard wearing a red coat as the king's servant in charge of the mail-bags, and blowing a horn in case passengers might wish a seat in the coach. We had nice walks to the top of Kinnoul Hill; in Dixon & Turnbull's nursery-garden, in which we were shown grafts on fruit - trees; in Belmont garden, where we saw the sensitive and other curious plants. At Kinfauns Castle we first saw a cockatoo walking about on the grass; a toy caterpillar which, when wound up, crept across the table; and a clock from which a window opened and a man looked out when striking the hour.
That winter, when our parents were in the south of England, Caroline had scarlet fever, and Dr Macfarlane said we were all to remain in the same bedroom as usual, because if any more of us were to take it we had probably done so already, but the child in the nursery was not to come into our quarters. None of us took the fever, and we all had a holiday the first day Caroline got out to sit on the grass. She was always a very good child. In church we sat in Lord Mansfield's pew. One Sunday Caroline forgot to put her halfpenny into the plate at the door, being accustomed to the ladle being handed round after the service at Glengarry, and so in coming down-stairs she managed to get behind us all and passed her halfpenny into the empty plate. She often spoke of the kind look of a gentleman who observed her.
VOL. OLTII.—NO. DOCCCLIV.
On our way back to Glengarry we were surprised that the carriages were stopped at a toll-bar. The groom should have been forward before we came up. The toll, however, was soon paid, and we went on. In due time the groom came forward, and father finding fault with him, Caroline wondered much how he could have been charged with drinking (swallowing) sixpences and shillings!
Peggie Stuart was a very valuable old servant. She must have been nurse for several years since 1814, but latterly kept Inverie House with a Highland girl of about eighteen years of age all the year round, making cheese, butter, and rearing poultry. She was a native of Loch Rannoch, and had not the best of tempers, particularly in June and July, when we all came there for sea-bathing, and brought a few of the Glengarry servants with us. Our parents had been at Inverie for a few days early in the spring of 1827, and told me on their return that Peggie was rearing a pet lamb for me, and that its name was "Flora." This greatly pleased me. I was her favourite, as she had charge of me when I was only seven months old. In June our two elder sisters, myself, and our brother were sent to Inverie. On inquiring for my pet lamb, I was shown six lambs nearly as large as sheep, and told which was Flora. Peggie said there was one for each of us. They looked as wild as possible, fed on grass outside, and probably slept at night in some empty stable. These six lambs frequently came into the house, the lot of them running up to the bedroom floor, making a great noise on the wooden stair. We were frequently sent to turn them all out, and to shut the passage-door, which Peggie rarely did. No doubt, when fed by the hand, they had constantly followed Peggie through the house. At that time we had no governess.
One day Jemima, our two elder sisters, and our brother, when walking, found the tide so far in that they could not cross the river by the croubhes, or salmon-weir, so my brother rowed them across. On their return my brother had to wade into the river to get hold of the boat, and as he wore the Highland dress he had only to take off his brogues and hose, which he put on again when rowing tbem back, but not his garters, which Jemima threw into the river for a bit of mischief. He had to row down the river for them, and as a punishment for the trick landed her on the opposite side, so that she had to find her way home as best she could. This gave her a walk of some three miles up the river-side before she could cross, and some two miles more down to the house. On coming home she rather feared our father would be ill-pleased, but her relief was great when he only said, "Well, Miss Thunderbolt, where have you been?"
In the summer of 1826 as usual we helped Peggie with her young poultry. None of us could ever forget having seen a large kite carrying off a white chicken in its talons. We could see the white speck up in the sky and hear its piteous cry, knowing that before long it would be food for the young kites. We were accustomed to hear the old bird's cry of alarm, and to see how quickly the young ones hid under any broad leaf or tuft of grass they could find. We were quito happy herding the young turkeys or ducklings home if rain came on, or in the afternoon. We were no small help to Peggie, who sometimes asked us to rise about three
or four in the morning to help her to churn the butter, and this we were always willing to do. We managed to waken about the hour, dress ourselves, and go to the empty room for work. On one occasion Jemima and I were both down in good time with Peggie. We were the only persons in the house out of bed. About five or six Peggie left us churning, as she went to milk the cows and do her other work. We churned hard, but the butter would not come. About 7 A.m. we were quite tired, and hearing our schoolroom - maid in the passage, we asked her to help us. There were three of us now, and so we worked with a will. The churn was such as commonly used at that time, a tall narrow pail with a lid, through which the stick passed. This stick had at the low end a circular piece of wood full of holes, and this when drawn up and down through the milk thickened it into butter. In the middle of our active work the stick came up in our hands, leaving the circular wood quite useless at the bottom. Jemima and our maid saw at once that mischief was done. I could see no harm in emptying the half-churned milk, mending the stick, and going on with our work, but Jemima said Peggy would be very angry at having to let cold air into the milk. Our maid was quite frightened, knowing Peggie's bad temper, and just then Peggie was herself in the passage. Jemima called her in to see what state the butter was in. We all stood aside, and Peggie took the stick, cautiously turning it round between the palms of her two hands to gather the butter into a lump, and drawing the stick carefully up, got terribly angry when she saw it was broken. She soon drove out our maid, who got no breakfast that morning, as she was afraid to go near Peggie, while Jemima and I were glad to walk quietly up to the schoolroom, where as usual we breakfasted on porridge and milk. Our governess breakfasted in the dining-room, and Peggie meeting her on her way to the schoolroom, told her of the mischief we had done. Miss Patterson was not sorry to tell Peggie we would never be allowed to do so again, and we were strictly forbidden to go into Peggie's quarters either by the passage or by the back-door. This was a very severe punishment, but Miss Patterson had always disliked our love of being so much with Peggie, who very soon felt the punishment quite as much as we did. The milk-pantry was on our side of the passage-door, and she often gave us a delightful drink of milk or cream; but I think she failed to make us disobey our strict order.
We constantly waded about when the tide was out, and brought home shell-fish or crabs of five or six inches for our dinners, which were considered safe food if a silver spoon was not discoloured when put into the pan of water in which they were boiled.
One day, when bathing, Jemima managed to get her foot on a small flounder and kept it fast till she took it up with her hands; but it was considered to be sickly when so easily caught, and we did not get it for dinner.
Peggie was also something of a doctor. Jemima got her toe badly cut with a mussel - shell, which nothing seemed to cure; but Peggie gathered some herbs at the spring well, which, with butter and perhaps oatmeal, she chopped into a salve on a red-hot slate, and this soon worked a cure.
Her dress during the week was a shortgown and petticoat, spun, dyed, and woven in the district. On Sunday she wore a dress, also home-made, and being a strict Presbyterian, did no unnecessary work on that day. Most of the people were Eoman Catholics, a parish missionary sometimes coming from Glenelg to hold a Presbyterian service. If we happened to be there in June or July it was held in the open air, when we children found it very difficult to keep good and look at the minister when, perhaps, a grasshopper or a lovely blue butterfly moved about near us, or the shepherd-dogs began to quarrel, and a stone well directed sent the offender yelping away. When our Episcopal minister came from Glengarry, the dining - room was quite large enough to hold the small congregation.
In the summer of 1826 our father told us we were to take a valuable puppy up to the goatherd's every morning in time for it to get a drink of warm goat's milk, and we got some of the milk also. This puppy sometimes gave us much trouble. If it refused to walk, we had to take turns of carrying it, as we must be there in time for the warm milk. We always admired the goats, some eighty of them, of various sizes and ages, many of them standing on a turf dyke or rock at hand. One end of the goatherd's house consisted of a large room, with a turf seat at each side of the fireplace, and a third seat in front of it. Each seat might do for two people, and no doubt there would bo a movable low table and stools, though I do not remember them. The house itself was a turf one, perhaps with stone sides without lime. I quite think now that our father's true reason for sending us to the goatherd's was to give us a regular early walk when everything at Invorie was so irrregular, bathing having always to suit the tide.
We were to leave Inverie that year by a steamer which came into Loch Nevis for us on its way from Skyo, and some of us were on board when we had all to go ashore again, as there had been some mistake as to how far it could take us on our way to Glengarry. It was quickly settled that Miss Patterson, her three pupils, the nurse and infant, under the care of Saunders Macdonell, or "Kyles" as he was called, from the name of his farm, were to go round in a boat to Barasdalo. The elder members of the family were to go there, some on foot and some on horseback. After leaving Loch Nevis it became so stormy that we had all to leave the boat, and had a very long walk to Loch Hourn. We had some oatcakes and milk brought to us from a house about half-way, and it was almost dark when we got a boat to take us to Barasdale. It was only a salmon-cobble with a broad seat, from which the nets could be drawn up or let into the sea. On this, without any sort of back or rail, we three sat, having Caroline between us. She was so sleepy and tired, Jemima and I had to join hands behind her back to keep her from falling into the sea. We landed about midnight. Having been expected about 6 P.m., the elder members of the family were very anxious till the sound of oars could be heard. We were soon sound asleep, and next forenoon we got by a boat to Loch Hourn Head, where the carriages were waiting for us, and arrived at Glengarry perhaps about seven or eight o'clock at night.
Such are the happy reminiscences of our healthy childhood up to 1823.