One who has sojourned in
every part of a country and for sixty years has mingled with all classes
of its inhabitants; who has watched the decay and disappearance of old,
and the uprise of new usages; who has been ever on the outlook for
illustrations of native humour, and who has been in the habit all along
of freely recounting his experiences to his friends, may perhaps be
forgiven if he ventures to put forth some record of what he has seen and
heard, as a slight contribution to the history of social changes.
Literature is rich in Scottish reminiscences of this kind, so rich
indeed that a writer who adds another volume to the long list runs great
risk of repeating what has already been told. I have done my best to
avoid this danger by turning over the pages of as many books of this
class as I have been able to lay hands upon. In the course of this
reading I have discovered that not a few of the ‘stories’ which I picked
up long ago have found their way into print. These I have generally
excluded from the present volume, save in cases where my version seemed
to me better than that which had been published. But with all my care I
cannot hope to have wholly escaped from pitfalls of this nature.
No one can have read much in this subject without discovering the
perennial vitality of some anecdotes. With slight and generally local
modification, they are told by generation after generation, and always
as if they related to events that had recently occurred and to persons
that were still familiarly known. Yet the essential basis of their
humour may occasionally be traced back a long way. As an example of this
longevity I may cite the incident of snoring in church, related at p. 86
of the following chapters, where an anecdote which has been told to me
as an event that had recently happened among people now living was in
full vigour a hundred years ago, and long before that time had formed
the foundation of a clever epigram in the reign of Charles II. Another
illustration of this persistence and transformation may be found in the
anecdote of the wolf’s den (p. 292). The same recurring circumstances
may sometimes conceivably evoke, at long intervals, a similar sally of
humour; but probably in most cases the original story survives,
undergoing a process of gradual evolution and local adaptation as it
passes down from one generation to another.
Social changes in Scotland consequent on the Union of the Crowns.
Impetus given to these changes after Culloden in the eighteenth century,
and after the introduction of steam as a motive power in the nineteenth.
Posting from Scotland to London. Stage coach travelling to England.
Canal travelling between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Loch Katrine in 1843.
Influence of Walter Scott. Steamboats to London. Railroads in Scotland.
Effects of steamboat development in the West Highlands.
Traces of Paganisn. in Scotland. Relics of the Celtic Church; 'Deserts.’
Survival of Roman Catholicism in West Highlands and Islands. Influence
of the Protestant clergy. Highland ministers. Lowland ministers. Diets
of catechising. Street preachers.
The sermon in Scottish Kirks. Intruding animals in country churches. The
‘collection.’ Church psalmody. Precentors and organs. Small
congregations in the Highlands. Parish visitation. Survival of the
influence of clerical teaching. Religious mania.
Superstition in Scotland. Holy wells. Belief in the Devil. Growth of the
rigid observance of the Sabbath. Efforts of kirk-sessions and
presbyteries to enforce Jewish strictness in regard to the Sabbath.
Illustrations of the effects of these efforts.
Litigiousness of the Scots. Sir Daniel Macnee and jury-trial. Scottish
judges, Patrick Robertson, Cullen, Neaves, Rutherford Clark.
Medical Men. Sandy Wood. Knox. Nairn and Sir William Gull. A broken leg
in Canna. Changes in the professoriate and students in the Scottish
Universities. A St. Andrews Professor. A Glasgow Professor. Some
Edinburgh Professors—Pillans, Blackie, Christison, Maclagan, Playfair,
Chalmers, Tait. Scottish Schoolmasters.
Old and new type of landed proprietors in Scotland. Highland
Chiefs—Second Marquess of Breadalbane; late Duke of Argyll. Ayrshire
Lairds—T. F. Kennedy of Dunure; 'Sliddery Braes’; Smith of Auchengree.
Fingask and Charles Martin. New lairds of wealth.
Lowland farmers; Darlings of Priestlaw. Sheep-farmers. Hall Pringle of
Hatton. Farm-servants. Ayrshire milk-maids. The consequences of salting.
Poachers. ‘Cauld sowens out o’ a pewter plate.’ Farm life in the
Highlands. A Skye eviction. Clearances in Raasay. Summer Shielings of
former times. Fat Boy of Soay. A West Highlander’s first visit to
Glasgow. Crofters in Skye. Highland ideas of women’s work. Highland
repugnance to handicrafts.
Highland ferries and coaches. The charms of Iona. How to see Staffa. The
Outer Hebrides. Stones of Callemish. St. Kilda. Sound of Harris. The
Cave-mas?acre in Eigg. Skeleton from a clan fight still unburied in
Jura. The hermit of Jura. Peculiar charms of the Western Isles.
Influence of the clergy on the cheerfulness of the Highlanders.
Disappearance of Highland customs. Dispersing of clans from their
original districts. Dying out of Gaelic; advantages of knowing some
Gaelic; difficulties of the language.
The Orkney Islands. The Shetlands Islands. Faroe Islands contrasted with
Western Isles. 'Burning the water.’ A fisher of men. Salmon according to
London taste. Trout and fishing-poles. A wolfs den.
Scottish shepherds and their dogs. A snow-storm among the Southern
Uplands. Scottish inns of an old type. Reminiscences of some Highland
inns. Revival of roadside inns by cyclists. Scottish drink. Drinking
customs now obsolete.
Scottish humour in relation to death and the grave. Resurrectionists.
Tombstone inscriptions. 'Naturals’ in Scotland. Confused thoughts of
second childhood. Belief in witchcraft. Miners and their superstitions.
Colliers and Salters in Scotland were slaves until the end of the
eighteenth century. Metal-mining in Scotland.
Town-life in old times. Dirtiness of the streets. Clubs. Hutton and
Black ?n Edinburgh. A feast of snails. Royal Society Club. Badies ‘gang
lowse.’ Rothesay fifty years ago. James Smith of Jordanhill. Fisher-folk
of the Forth. Decay of the Scots language. Receipt for pronouncing
The Scottish School of Geology. Neptunist and Vulcanist Controversy. J.
D. Forbes. Charles Maclaren. Hugh Miller. Robert Chambers. W. Haidinger.
H. von Dechen. Aini Boue. The life of a field-geologist. Experiences of
a geologist in the West Highlands. A crofter home in Skye. The Spar Cave
and Coruisk. Night in Loch Scavaig.
Influence of Topography on the people of Scotland. Distribution and
ancient antagonism of Celt and Saxon. Caithness and its grin. Legends
and place-names. Popular explanation of boulders. Cliff-portraits.
Fairy-stones and supposed human footprints. Imitative forms of flint.
Scottish climate and its influence on the people. Indifference of the
Highlander to rain. Dry rain. Wind in Scotland. Salutations on the
weather. Shakespeare on the climate of Morayland. Influence of
environment on the Highlander.