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Leaves from Logiedale
By David Wallace Archer (1889)

Author's Note

I SEND my little book out into the big world with a trembling hand. Most of the pieces in the volume were composed in leisure moments, spent among the woods of Logie, and my humble hope is that, in their present form, they may bring to my readers some pleasant sense of the sweet sights and sounds which moved me to express myself as I have done in my poems and sketches. I am deeply grateful to all who have interested themselves in me, and my little volume. My special thanks are due to Mr Barrie, who has so generously aided me, by throwing over my book a bright ray of the light of that genius which has already made him, and our dear native town, famous in the world of letters.



A FEW months ago I met, in London, a gentleman from Chicago (I think) who was very anxious to do Scotland thoroughly in a week or so. That he might miss nothing in Edinburgh, he meant to devote a whole day to it; the Burns country was to get two days; and Scott the remainder of the week.

“You don’t happen to know a place in Scotland called Killamoor?” he asked, when he had sketched his programme.

For a moment I was puzzled, and shook my head.

“It is also called Kirrie,” he continued, “or”—

“Or Kir?” I suggested, taking the word from his mouth.

“I see you know it. Now you can tell me whether it would be worth my while going there?”

Here was a predicament for a Kirriemuir man to be placed in. On the one hand was I, without blushing, to say that no one could pretend to a knowledge of Scotland, who had not gazed with pride (if he was a Scotsman), or with jealous admiration (if he was from foreign parts), on the Kirriemuir Square? On the other hand, could I be expected to belittle my town?

“What made you think of taking Kirriemuir in your wanderings?” I asked.

“Why not?” he said. “It seems to be a remarkable place.”

“Oh, it is,” I admitted, “but there is no mention of it in the Guide Books.”

“It was a native of the place,” he said, “who-interested me in it.”

“Ah,” I said, beginning to understand now, “a Kirriemarian whom you met in Chicago, I suppose? They are to be found everywhere.’’

“According to him,” he went on, “this Killa-moor—he called it Killamoor.”

“Yes; we find that the easiest way of pronouncing it. But what did he tell you about it?”

“Well, he said he had never seen a town in America to look at it.”

"He was evidently a true Kirriemarian. Anything else?”

“Yes; I took him to our cricket ground, and he said that it could not compare with the cricket ground at Kirriemuir.”

“Did he describe the Kirriemuir cricket ground?”

“He said they played on a place called the Hill; and I said that if it was a hill it could not be level ground.”

“Did that take him aback?”

“No; he said the hill was as smooth as a billiard table.”

"Anything else?”

“Well, when we had wet weather he was always saying, ‘Give me the Kirrie climate;’ and I gathered from him that the roads about Kirriemuir are unusually clean.”

At this I looked grave.

“The place at Kirriemuir which I specially want to visit,” he continued, “is called the Den.”

“Oh,” I said, “what did he tell you about the Den?”

“Well, his boasting about Kirriemuir irritated me, and I reminded him that we had Niagara.”


“Well, he even pooh-poohed Niagara. His words, I remember, were, ‘Niagara is a fairish place, a very fairish place, but, man! you should see the Killamoor Den.”’

Whether I advised this Yankee on no account to miss seeing Kirriemuir, and whether, if he did so, it came up to expectation, are matters of no importance. The incident is only mentioned as showing what a grip his native place takes of a man, for we may be sure that the Kirriemarian in Chacago (to whom greeting!) will never to his dying day see cricket as it was played on the Hill, with a stone from the dyke as wickets, nor hear water ripple so sweetly as he hears it in imagination still within a few feet of the Cuttle well, nor see fine houses that will make his heart bump and his eyes .glisten as they do when he recalls of nights the red-stone of his birthplace.

Probably there has never been any one so base as not to have felt and exulted in the strength of family ties. What days of delight this love for those nearest us has given—what nights of anguish; yet who, looking back, will say that the blackness of night has exceeded the brightness of the day? The mother you quarrelled with, the father to whom you were not always kind—ah, what would you not give to have them back? The old home is broken up now forever, but have its memories ceased to sing in your ears? You are now at the head of a family circle of your own—you who but the other day were a child tugging at an apron string. Now you have the arm chair by the fire that was once another’s seat, and your wife is in the place that used to be your mother’s. Or that place may be empty, and you alone in the world, alone with ghosts—not ghosts of long ago, but all of yesterday. The past does not go into the night. It is always knocking at your door. A shadow hand leads you back to the boy you once were, and the jump is so easy that you take it without knowing. What was it that set you dreaming to-night of the hearth that has long been cold? Nothing more than a word in a book, or a drop of rain against the window, or the sudden click of a little gate. Ah, you remember now. There was such a gate at the foot of the old garden, and its click, as some one you loved pushed it open, meant something to you then. That gate is gone, burned for firewood many a year ago, but you hear it opening and shutting still.

And what are we who grow up together in a little town but a family too? In after years we may be flung apart, but as children we have the same interests, and what are the great events of this world to one are the great events to all. We have had the hill for our nursery where we all played together; we have gathered blaeberries in the same woods, and wild rasps by the same roadsides. By the same burns we have learned to fish and to fill ourselves with the beauty of our mother nature. The little corner of the world that we call ours has taught us nearly all we know; in the future we forget everything sooner than what we learned unconsciously before we were ten years old. His environments takes only a less hold of the child than the mother who reared him, and so those who are of one place are coloured by it for the rest of their lives. There is no escaping its influence. The stones of which our houses are built come from the same quarry, and so do we. The little town has a heart to which ours beat just as we set our watches by the clock in the square. We belong to it, and we are often brought back to it when we die. It claims us as its own.

So, doubtless, without giving the matter a thought, when the author of this book took to composing, it came natural to him to write of the woods and hedgerows around his native town. He was full of them, and had but to cast in verse the thoughts that shaped thus of their own accord. They seem to me to be musical of the spots where the lintie sang when they were composed, not least musical when they are saddest. A vein of melancholy runs through many, not detracting from their manliness, but speaking to those who read of a life that has not always been in the sun. The author has had his dark days, when illness made his home sorrowful, and Logiedale seemed as far from him as if continents lay between them. When one is on a bed of sickness, one who has not more of the world’s prosperity than he can cut out of her weekly, as the mason chisels a rock, he has not much heart for singing as the birds sing.

But it is at such a time that he realises who are his friends. If the little town that gave him birth is the family group I think it, this book will bring back ease of mind to him, and with it health.


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