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Parish Life in the North of Scotland
Chapter XV - Prominent Persons in Sutherland


MY father, in the prime of his life, was both strong and healthy, but as he approached his grand climateric, and in immediate consequence of a fall from his horse, he began to feel unusual pains in the lower part of his chest, which at first entirely confined him to bed, and filled him with apprehensions of approaching dissolution. My step-mother, at first, feared dropsy. It turned out, however, to be "the stone," from which complaint, by the use of very simple remedies, such as soda-water and the decoction of black currant leaves, after passing some calculi, lie completely recovered some years before his death in 1821. It was during the earlier stages of his illness, however, that my step-mother first incurred that fatal disease which, in 1819, at the age of sixty-five, brought her to her grave. Her complaint was cancer. During my residence at Achness she daily got worse. The Strathpeffer mineral water was recommended, and I accompanied her thither by sea from Helmisdale to Din wall. We slept at Cromarty, and next day arrived at the Spa, where I took lodgings at the place of Achdermid. She remained there for some weeks, and returned greatly benefited. But her recovery was temporary. During the last year and a half of my residence at Achness she was entirely confined to bed. The illness was eminently sanctified to her. 1 have often, on a Sabbath evening after preaching at Ach-nah'uaighe, arrived at Kildonan and preached in her bedroom, when she would listen with intense interest.

My sister Elizabeth came to reside with me and keep my house at Achness. Our sister Jean had for some years before been the wife of Mr. William Forbes, minister of Tarbat. They were married during my absence at the Divinity Hall on the 26th of November, 1813, by Mr. Munro of Halkirk. Both my sisters had, many years before, given the most decided evidences of the power of Divine grace in their hearts. Elizabeth, the elder, was a most decided, deeply-exercised, progressive and consistent Christian, and during her life, which was comparatively a short one (for site died at the age of 52), the excellency and purity of her Christian character were remarkably conspicuous. I only wish that I had derived the benefit which I might have done front her converse and example while she stayed with rue. During her residence at Achness, she fell under the influence of a highly nervous disorder, superinduced by the loneliness of the place, by my frequent absence from home, and by her apprehensions about my safety when, in winter, I had to cross the burns and fens of immense extent, so abundant in that Alpine region. Her fears were, on one occasion, well-nigh realised. I had procured from a friend, Mr. Gordon of Breacachadh, a Highland pony, very strong and sure-footed. Having been bred in that district, the animal, with the instinct for which horses in general are so remarkable, could find his way through the most sequestered and intricate morasses to his stall, or to the house of his owner, whether by night or by day. This creature was instrumental, on this occasion, in saving my life. I had left Achness on a Saturday, in order to officiate on Sabbath at Ach-na-h'uaighe. It was in winter, and the day was bitterly cold, so that the showers of hail, blowing directly on my face, pierced the skin in many places and drew blood. I had to cross a small rivulet in going to Breacachadh from Achness, which then scarcely wet my horse's hoofs. A great deal of rain had fallen, however, during Sabbath, and on my return on Monday the rivulet was flooded. 1 heedlessly entered it, without thinking of the circumstance, but the force of the stream almost immediately carried both horse and rider down with the foaming current into the lake, into which it emptied about thirty yards below, and from which the stout pony only made his escape, with his rider, by swimming about forty yards onwards to the other shore. During the summer months my sister usually went to Ross-shire, not only to visit her sister at Tarbat, but to attend the sacraments, administered at that season of the year almost weekly, by rotation, throughout the district of Easter-Ross and the Black Isle.

I never administered the sacrament to my flock, as there was no accommodation for that purpose at either station, but 1 regularly catechised and visited in both districts, and, owing to their large extent and the amount of their population, this occupied me five months of the year. A catechist was appointed who officiated in each district, but while these men were themselves pious, and most conscientiously discharged their duties, there were some things decidedly wrong in the system at that time adopted. For example, in Strathnaver the catechist came from another parish where he had his residence, and made his appearance only once a year among the people. In the discharge of his public duties, he collected whole townships together at each respective diet, including ten or fifteen families, and then asked three or four of them merely to repeat each a question of the Shorter Catechism, after which he lectured to them for the remaining time of the meeting. But there was another defect, or rather I might call it a practical abuse of the system, which was exceedingly prevalent in the northern counties. Catechists often held the catechetical charge of three or four parishes at once, solely for the sake of the emoluments, and thus established a system of pluralities exactly similar, although on a small scale, to that of the English and Irish establishments.

I shall now mention some of the individuals among my flock at Achness. About the middle of the 18th century there lived a generation of very godly men all over that district, though when I came amongst them but few of their type of Christian character remained. I shall particularly mention William Calder, John Maclan, William Mackay, and Alexander Mackay, as with them I became personally acquainted during my ministry at Achness.

William Calder was a native of Ardclaeh, Nairnshire, and came to Strathnaver about the year 1786 as a teacher in the service of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. His school was, during the days of my childhood, at the place of Rhiloisk, a pendicle on the east bank of the Naver, about four miles from Achness. After our mother's death, my father sent both my sisters as pupils to his school, boarding in his house. In course of time the Society removed their school from that station, when Mr. Calder, who was then out of employment, went to reside at Tongue. Some years thereafter he was appointed catechist of that parish, and subsequently of Strathnaver, Durness, and Strathhalladale. William Calder was a man of consider- able strength of mind. His judgment was solid, his powers of perception clear and comprehensive, and his knowledge of divine things extensive, accurate, and profound. He could express himself with great terseness, both in Gaelic and English, on subjects of Scripture doctrine and Christian experience. But he was chiefly distinguished for his fervent piety; it was a fire ever burning, a light ever shining, a pure limpid stream never ceasing to flow. He was often my guest at Achness, and his conversation was edifying and refreshing. On one occasion he visited, along with me, the sick-bed of a dying woman. He knelt at her bedside and prayed, and words of supplication more suitable, comprehensive, and earnest are rarely heard in such circumstances. His peaceful and peace-making character was often severely tested. A sect existed in those days which, while professing to remain within the pale of the Church of Scotland, at the same time separated itself from its communion and other public ordinances. The founder of this sect was Peter Stewart, who lived in Strathmore of Caithness, but who afterwards, in capacity of catechist, went to reside, first in the parish of Croy, and then in the vicinity of Inverness. its tenets were: that divine influences were denied to ordinances administered by the ministers of the church on account of their secularity; and that the duty of all, who had in any measure felt the power of divine truth, was to separate themselves from the public ministry of word and ordinances, and to attach themselves to the leaders of the sect, who would read and expound Scripture to them. Those leaders were men of considerable talent; they made a very strict and imposing religious profession, and arrogated to themselves almost exclusively an experimental knowledge of the truth by divine teaching. Their influence among the people was therefore almost paramount, and even the truly pious were in great measure carried away by them. Their influence was promoted by various causes. The public ministry of the Word in that portion of the church was, it must be admitted, in a very declining state, and far from being either vital or efficient. Then, the leaders themselves were too much countenanced by old men of eminent piety and long-standing Christian character, such as John Grant of Strathy, whom I have already mentioned. With this sect William Calder could not fully agree. Their unscriptural and extravagant notion of a church without a stated ministry he decidedly opposed; yet with all of them, whether leaders or followers, who he could believe were walking according to the truth, he lived on terms of Christian amity. It was when he came into contact with such of them as were of a fierce and contentious character that the peaceful spirit of the gospel developed itself in him in all its strength, and, like a warm and plentiful summer shower, extinguished the kindling fire. One of those Separatists, at whose house he called on a certain occasion, fastened on him a keen and angry controversy for giving so much countenance to "graceless ministers" by his attendance at their public sacraments, and he went on with such a reckless strain of abuse as to work himself up into a violent passion. William Calder heard him patiently and answered him not a word, but, seizing a bible which lay on a table, he solemnly asked the divine blessing, sang, read, and prayed. His angry antagonist was subdued and melted even to tears. "Son of peace," said he, throwing himself on his neck and weeping, "while others with their idle tattle would only have supplied fuel to my too hot and angry spirit, you, in the spirit and service of your Master, have calmed and humbled it." Mr. Calder lived to an advanced age, and to almost the last day of his existence he was engaged in his calling. He died at Strathhalladale in 1S9, after a very few days' illness. When death approached he addressed these words to his body and his soul: "Now," said lie, "you have been long together, peacefully united in the mortal tie. That is now to be dissolved, and you must part. God bless you both, and may you have a happy and a blessed meeting at the resurrection." So saying, he yielded up his spirit.

With John fackay, or MacIan, I was from childhood intimately acquainted. In personal appearance he was a tall, venerable-looking man. He resided at Scaill in Strathnaver, and was catechist of the Ach-na-h'uaighe district for nearly forty years. It is among my earliest remembrances to have seen him at Kildonan, busy in the little garret, making a pair of leathern gaiters for my father, to whom he was warmly attached. His mind was brought under saving impressions of the truth during the ministry of Mr. Skeldoch [Mr. John Skeldoch was translated from Kilmonivaig, Inverness-shire, to Farr on 18th July, 1731; he died 2dth June, 1733, in the 23th year of his ministry. His widow, who survived him 41 years, died at the age of 100--Ed..] of Parr, a very unpopular man when first settled there, but afterwards a useful and highly-honoured servant of God. John MacIan was warmly attached to an earnest Christian, William Mackay, or "Uilliam Shaoir," as he was usually called from his place of Saor, or Syre, in Strathuaver, whose praise was in all the churches as one of the burning lights of the five northern counties. With this eminent individual John Maclan lived on terms of the closest fellowship. As a catechist John stood at the head of all his contemporaries. He carefully instructed the people in the questions of the Shorter Catechism, taking care that they should repeat them accurately and that, by his judicious explanations, they should fully understand the doctrines stated in them. His favourite subject, however, was faith—the duty of man but the work of God, in its exercises, struggles, trials, triumphs, and fruits; and he had much tenderness and sympathy with those who, he knew, had "a root of true faith in them without being aware of it themselves."

The people of Achness received me as their pastor on John's recommendation. After the people were turned out of the Strath in 1819, John Maclan retired to a small and almost ruinous hovel on the heights of Kildonan at a place called Bad-an-t'sheobhaig. He, along with others, was offered a lot of land at the mouth of the laver, but he preferred to end his days at this lonely spot, chiefly that he might be buried in the adjacent cemetery of Achanneccan, with which he had solemn associations. His wish was granted, and when lie died in 1820, at the age of 84, his mortal remains were laid as he had desired.

William Mackay, commonly called Achoul, from the farm on the banks of Loch Naver, which lie and his progenitors of the Clan Abrach had for many generations possessed, was another distinguished member of my congregation at Achness. If John Maclan was remarkable for the strength, William Achoul was none the less so for the childlike simplicity, of his faith. When a very young man he had deep convictions of sin, by which h lost all his peace of mind and even his sleep at night. But one e Tening, after humble prostration, Christ was revealed to him. "He promised to save me, I took Him at his word, and lie has not allowed me once to doubt Him, not even for an hour, and that is sixty years ago." In recounting to inc the incidents of his life, he said that he was about eighteen years of age during the rebellion of 1745. He had been sent on some errand to Dunrobin Castle, and, being permitted to look into the room where the Countess of Sutherland sat, entertaining two of her noble relatives who were of the prince's party, he noticed one of them (he was told it was Lord Echo) with a stick in his hand attempting to demolish a print of the elector of Hanover which hung upon the wall. He also heard the firing of the musketry in the skirmish at the Little-ferry. He was turned out of his hereditary farm of Achoul when the whole district on the south side of Loch Naver was let to Marshall and Atkinson, from Northumberland, for a sheep-grazing by Campbell of Crombie, factor on the Sutherland estate from 1810 to 1812. William Achoul took a small farm afterwards on the north bank of the loch at Grumbtg. There his wife died, and he laid her lifeless remains in the churchyard at Achness. As he took his last look of the rapidly disappearing coffin, "Well Janet," said he, "the Countess of Sutherland can never flit you any more." Had he lived to hear of the dreadful doings at the reconstruction of Dornoch Cathedral, by the orders of this heartless woman, he might not have been so sure that even in her narrow house his Janet was altogether beyond another summons of removal from the same ruthless hand. His eldest daughter was married to a young man from Aberdeenshire, who had come to Achness as a teacher for the Christian Knowledge Society. He had boarded at Achoul in William Mackay's house, and, though he knew not a word of Gaelic, lie noticed and was deeply impressed with the warm and unsophisticated piety of his host. He applied himself to the task of acquiring the Gaelic tongue with the whole energies of a highly-gifted mind. He also made daily progress in the Christian life, and engaged in prayer alternately with his father-in-law in the family and at fellowship-meetings. The teacher studied under the excellent Alexander Urquhart of Rogart, who was then stationed at Achness, and rapidly acquired the knowledge of Latin and Greek, thus preparing himself for the University. He was well on in life when he entered King's College, passing through the curriculum there, and studying for three sessions at the Hall, when he was licensed by the Presbytery of Tongue to preach the gospel. The individual thus prepared by God in circumstances of comparative obscurity was none other than the late Mr. John Robertson, minister of Kingussie in Badenoch, a man who became a most distinguished ornament of the Scottish Church. Soon after he was licensed to preach he was appointed to the mission at Berriedale, afterwards to the Chapel of Ease in Rothesay, and ultimately, in 1810, was settled minister of Kingussie, where he closed his life 4th March, 1825, aged 68 years. Old William Acioul lived to a patriarchal age. When turned out again in 1819 he went with a daughter and her husband, with whom he had lived at Grumbeg, to reside near Wick, where he died at the age of 101.

Alexander Mackay, or Alastair Taillear, as he was usually called, and his brother Murdoch, were among my first acquaintances. On commencing my ministry at Achness Alastair lived at Trudarscaig, but when expelled from thence he lived at Farr. He was one of the first of those pious men to whom I freely communicated the doubts and perplexities of my mind in regard to my personal knowledge of divine truth, and to the office and calling of the ministry. He dealt both tenderly and faithfully with me. His brother Murdoch went to Caithness, where he was employed as a catechist in the parish of Latheron.

I may also record my reminiscences of the clergy and laity of my acquaintance while I ministered at Achness.

Mr. David Mackenzie, minister of Parr, was my immediate predecessor at Achness, previous to his settlement in that parish in 181:1. He was the eldest son of Hugh Mackenzie, tacksman of Meikle-Creich, a native of Ross-shire, the elder brother of Mr. William Mackenzie, minister of Tongue. Hugh Mackenzie was a man of eminent piety. His repeated failures as a farmer, however, by which he injured the temporal interests and tried not a little the patience of his best friends, obscured what would otherwise have been a very brilliant Christian character. In his latter days he lived in poverty at the village of Spinningdale, where his son David wrought as a day-labourer in the factory, and in that capacity had arrived at the years of manhood before he thought of directing his views to the ministry. His younger brother Hugh had lived with his uncle at Tongue, and by him been educated and sent to college. David was persuaded by his uncle to prepare himself also for college. I recollect meeting him once at Lairg manse, when he communicated to me his uncle's intentions. He did not then appear to entertain very sanguine hopes of ultimate success, as he lacked early literary training. He, however, made the attempt, and passing through College and Hall, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Tongue in 1812, and was soon after appointed to Achness. Of him and his brother I have already made mention. His marriage to his cousin, Barbara Gordon, took place a year after his settlement at Farr. As a preacher, he could express himself in Gaelic with much readiness and accuracy, while his views of Divine truth were sound and scriptural. [Died 24th Feb., 1868, aged 85 years.—ED.]

Dr. Hugh Mackenzie, during my stay at Aclrness, resided constantly at Tongue manse. When the parish of Assynt became vacint, by the translation of Mr. MaeGillivray to Lairg, he was presented by the patron to the living, and, on the demise of Mr. Walter Ross, he was presented to the parish of Clyne in 1825. I remember being present on that occasion. He was inducted into the charge by Mr. Angus Kennedy of Dornoch, who preached in English, while the Gaelic sermon was preached by my father's successor at Kildonan, Mr. James Campbell. Dr. Mackenzie married first his cousin Nelly, who (lied at Assynt, and afterwards Miss Mackenzie of Old Aberdeen. He had not been many years in Clyne when, by the recommendation of Mr. George Sinclair of Ulbster, he was, in 1828, on the death of Mr. Macdougall of Killin, in Perthshire, presented to that parish. Not long after, as be was returning home in his gig from Taymouth Castle, on the evening of a communion fast-day. the horse took fright., when not far from the manse, and ran off. He was thrown violently out, and expired soon after he had been brought home. Dr. Hugh Mackenzie was a man of gentlemanly and winning manners, he was well-educated and most accomplished in ancient and modern learning, and of a very amiable disposition. His pulpit ministrations were clear expositions of Scripture doctrine, and specimens of finished composition both in English and Gaelic.

Mr. Hugh Mackay Mackenzie, the only son of the minister of Tongue, was assistant to his father when I was at Acliness. He laboured most assiduously in the pastoral office; but his health was at all times so very indifferent that his father, then near eighty years, of age, seemed rather the assistant than his son. Mr. Hugh Mackenzie married his cousin Mrs. Russel, a widow of great sense and prudence, who had seen much good society, and was of a very amiable disposition. The only fruit of the marriage was a son, who was named after his venerable grandfather William. [Mr. William Mackenzie was ordained colleague and successor to his father in the Free Church at Tongue. He died in 1845, within a month of the death of his father, who had been minister for forty-nine years. (see an affecting description of "the two Mackenzies of Tongue," by Dr. Thomas Guthrie in his memoirs.)—Ed.]

Mr. William Findlater, minister of Durness, son-in-law and immediate successor of Mr. Thomson, I knew very imperfectly. He was the eldest son of the eminent Robert Findlater of Drummond, Ross-shire. His younger brother Robert was then missionary-minister of Loch Tay-side. Mr. William Findlater married Mr. Thomson's youngest daughter, a very handsome woman. This was not a happy marriage; but he found it turn to his spiritual advantage in the decided progress which, through manifold afflictions, he was enabled to make in the Christian life. [Mr. William Findlater retired from pastoral work in 1865, and died at Tain, 29th June, 1869, in the eighty-sixth year of his age and sixty-second of his ministry. He was a man of cultivated literary taste, faithful and refined as a preacher of the gospel. He wrote a memoir of his brother Robert, one of the ministers of layer. ness.—Ed.]

The only two of my early clerical acquaintances hitherto unnamed are Mr. Murdoch Cameron, minister of Criech, and Mr. Alexander MacPherson, minister of Golspie. Mr. Cameron was the immediate successor of worthy Mr. Renny, after having been for some years his assistant. I have a distinct recollection of his induction. The people, to a man, were opposed to him, and his settlement was one of those violent ones which so much disgraced the Established Church at that period. The parishioners rose en inosse, and barred the church against the presbytery, so that the Sutherland Volunteers, under the command of Captain Kenneth Mackay of Torboll, were called out to keep the peace. In the riot which ensued, Captain Mackay got his sword, which he held naked in his hand, shivered to pieces by stones thrown at him by an old woman over seventy years of age. The people never afterwards attended Mr. Cameron's ministry, but assembled at the rock of Migdol, and on the banks of the lake, to hear old Hugh Mackenzie already mentioned. Mr. Cameron tried to make the best of it, by employing, on communion occasions, the most popular and eminent ministers of the church who could be found in the north. He still lives, very old, very useless, but very wealthy. [Mr. Cameron died 13th December, 1853, in the fifty-fifth year of his ministry. —Ed]

Mr. Alexander MacPherson, minister of Golspie, was a native of Ross-shire, and was the immediate successor of Mr. William Keith. Previous to his settlement, he was for some years rector of Tain Academy. He there married Harriet. second daughter of Donald Matheson of Shiness. She died before his induction to Golspie. The people of that parish petitioned the patrons for me, but they met with a peremptory refusal; and MacPherson, on the application of his wife's uncle, John Mackay of Rockfield, was appointed to the charge. Ile had not been many years there, however, when, seized with a morbid melancholy, be resigned his charge, and retired to his native parieb. Donald Ross, the present minister of Loth, was presented by the patrons; but, just as he was about to be inducted by the presbytery, Mr. MacPherson came back upon them, and entered a protest against the proceedings. The case was ultimately carried to the General Assembly, and he was restored to his pastoral office. In creed Mr. MacPherson was an Arminian, and its a preacher was cold and uninteresting. [He afterwards had D.D. conferred upon him by Aberdeen University, and died in 1861, aged eighty years.—Ed.]

I may dismiss my acquaintances among the laity in a few words. Captain John Mackay, of an infantry regiment, then lived at Syre, in Strathnaver. He was the only son of the eminently pious William Mackay by his first marriage. He had seen much service in the army abroad during the first of the Spanish campaigns, and when he retired on half-pay he came to reside in his native parish. He was appointed factor for Strathnaver by the Marquis of Stafford, with a salary of £120, which, combined with his half-pay, afforded him in that sequestrated spot a comfortable income. His father's house was then occupied by his widow and her family—two sons and a daughter. When he got his appointment as factor he built a neat addition to the cottage in which his step-mother resided. His half-brothers he sent to the West Indies. His eldest sister was married, a year or two before I came to Achness, to John Mackintosh, a native of Durness, of the Reay Fencibles. He lived at Syre, and was catechist of one of the districts of Latheron in Caithness, and of the parish of Daviot in Inverness-shire. He was a fluent and elegant speaker in Gaelic, and the intimate associate of Peter Stewart, one of the most violent of the Separatists. Captain Mackay's sister was his second wife. Her brother procured for them a good small farm in his immediate neighbourhood, but it was at the expense of turning out an infirm old man, Alexander Mackay, married to a sister of Thomas Breaeachadh. This was, however, the only harsh thing which I knew Captain Mackay to do whilst he held the office. He was a warm-hearted and most gentlemanly man, and, residing as I was in his immediate neighbourhood. I very much enjoyed his society. He often refreshed me with reminiscences of his eminent father.

After the people of Strathnaver were cleared out to make way for the sheep in 1819, Captain Mackay was appointed factor for Strathy, in the north-east of the parish of Farr towards the shore. He relinquished this office in favour of Lieutenant Mackenzie, who married his second sister, and lie himself went to America. When in Aberdeen in 1820 I saw him so far on his way. His errand thither was to get married. Many years previously he was with his regiment near Halifax, Nova Scotia, and when there became acquainted with a young lady, daughter of a. wealthy merchant. They conceived a mutual attachment, and were to be married; but her father forbade the union on the ground of the young man's comparative poverty. The lady, however, refused to marry any other, and in course of time her father died, leaving to his only child his whole fortune. Although at the time of his death she was no longer young, yet she did not forget her youthful attachment. She wrote accordingly to a friend of hers in Scotland, making enquiries about Captain Mackay, and adding that, if he were unmarried and remembered her, she was unmarried and had not forgotten him. Captain Mackay went to America, was married to the lady, lived in great affluence, and became a member of the Provincial Parliament; but his health suddenly gave way-, and he died in 1823. His widow long survived him, arid, with her cordial concurrence, considerable sums of money were, in accordance with his will, transmitted from time to time to his relatives in Strathnaver.

My next neighbour, and often my kind entertainer, was Robert Gordon, tacksman of Langdale. As already mentioned, this gentleman was married to the eldest daughter of Mr. William Mackenzie of Tongue, the fruit of their marriage being an only daughter, Barbara, who married Mr. David Mackenzie, minister of Farr. Mr. Gordon possessed the farm of Langdale not only from the proprietor of the soil, but also from his own ancestors, who were tacksmen or wadsetters thereof. His remote ancestor was one of the Gordons, who were placed there by the Earl of Sutherland when he purchased the lands of Strathnaver from Donald, first Lord Reay. The Robert Gordon of my time was the last of his race. He was a kind old man, intimately acquainted with the simple annals of the church in times past. In youth he had known Mr. George Munro of Farr and all the worthies of the Reay country. He had stored in his memory all their sayings and doings, their views of Divine truth, and their remarkable experiences. His house, a rustic cottage, stood on a fairy-like knowe, on the banks of the Naver, and was freely open to all comers of every rank. His farm was parcelled out among a number of sub-tenants, to whom he granted every indulgence. He had a brother and sister; the former had predeceased him, and the latter kept house for him while I was in the district. His wife died soon after the birth of their only child. She was as much distinguished for her personal attractions as for her piety. For some time before her death she was rather unhappy; unbelief had clouded her past experiences of grace and her hope of glory. William Mackay of Syre was her constant visitor during her illness, and as the end approached he wrestled earnestly in prayer on her behalf. At last the light broke in upon her soul, and she was enabled fully to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Triumphantly pointing upwards and looking her Christian friend steadfastly in the face, with a smile of joy she yielded up her spirit to Him who gave it. Mr. Gordon of Lansdale died a widower. When with the rest of the people, he was turned out of his ancestral home, he went to reside at Farr manse, where, after a lingering illness, he died a few years after.

In the Kildonan district of my mission lived also some individuals worthy of special mention.

Adam Gordon was tacksman of Griamachdary, and a shrewd, worldly-wise man. He was of the same age as my father, and had a throng family of sons and daughters. His eldest son John rose to the rank of major in the army, was thrice married, was acquainted with the late Puke of Kent. and thus got commissions for his three brothers, William, Adam, and Thomas. Adam Gordon, during my residence at Achness, got a life-rent of his farm. He and his wife lived in the exercise of the most unbounded hospitality, and at the same time economised so as to realise a good deal of money. Their eldest daughter Anne was married to John Mackay from Strathhalladale, who had come to reside with his father-in-law at Griamachdary. John Mackay was one of my father's elders—a kind-hearted and excellent man. He also had a numerous family, and one of his daughters, afterwards married to Charles Gordon, merchant at Thurso, resided with my sister at Achness. John Mackay now holds the small farm of Clyne-Milton, parish of Clyne. Adam Gordon's second daughter May was married. upwards of thirty years ago, to Joseph Mackay, second son of Angus Mackay, tenant at Dyke, Strathhalladale.I3y his brother-in-law's interest with the Duke of Kent, he got a commission in the army, went on foreign service, and was present at the battle of Waterloo. He returned on half-pay to reside at Griamachdary with his family about the end of the year 1815. Possessed of considerable acuteness, and a ready speaker in his native tongue, he joined the party of the Separatists, or Stewartites, and became one of their most violent members. lie now lives in the parish of Reay, in Caithness.

Adam Gordon's third daughter Margaret I married to Lieutenant Alexander Grant during the last year of my ministry at Achness. Adam Gordon survived my father for some years. He and his wife are buried at Kildonan. [The late Lord Gordon was also a descendant.—Ed.]

David Ross, the miller at Claggan in Strathbeg, was the only son of Mr. John Ross, minister of Kildonan, [Mr. John Ross was ordained missionary at Farr 20th September, 1759, and admitted minister of Kildonan 18th November, 1761; he died 28th March, 1770, in the forty-second year of his age and sixteenth of his ministry. He succeeded in Kildonan Mr. Hugh Ross, who died in 1761 after a ministry of six years.—ED.] the immediate predecessor of Mr. William Keith. His mother was the widow of Gunn MacSheumais who had resided at Badenloch, which he had rented, or held as wadset, from the Earl of Sutherland. MaeSheumais had a number of sons, who all went into the army and died in action. Mr. John Ross married the widow, and the whole family then came to reside at Kildonan manse. They were all very extravagant, however, and nearly ruined Mr. Ross in worldly circumstances. By the decease of all her sons by MacSheumais, the direct line of the Clan Gunn MacSheumais became extinct. Mr. John Ross had two children, David and Catherine. Kate Ross married David Gunn, eldest son of Robert Gunn of Achaneccan, who, after the death of his wife's half-brothers, by the Highland law, succeeded to the chieftainship of the Clan Gunn. David Gunn, how- ever, never laid claim to the honours. He was an eminently pious man; and leaving the honours of this world to be usurped by Hector Gunn at Thurso, he himself humbly but ardently aspired after the honours which came from above. During my time at Achness, he lived at Achaneccan, but afterwards went to reside in Caithness-shire, where he died in 1827. David Ross in early youth entered the army as a private soldier, and being a young man of great promise and of good abilities, he soon rose from the ranks and had every prospect of success in the military profession. After his father's death, however, those who had charge of him bought him out of the army and brought him home to Settle on a small farm. He married the daughter of a substantial tenant, with whom he got wealth of farm stock, thus renouncing all prospect of the honours and comforts of social position. His wife could not speak a word of English, but was an amiable and kind woman, and she had a large family of sons and daughters. Their eldest son went to America as a teacher. He himself was an acute and intelligent man. I have frequently been his guest during my ministerial perambulations. He had an abundant store of the original poetry and traditions of his native soil. He read a good deal also, chiefly the old Scottish divines and ecclesiastical historians, of which he had very old folio copies, the remains of his father's Iibrary. After the clearance in 1819, he went with his family to the parish of Rogart, and became ground-officer to the proprietor. He still lives at an advanced age. A near neighbour of his, Thomas Gordon, then resided at the place of Torghordston. He was a decided Christian of great simplicity, far advanced in life. He had a grown-up family, who persuaded him to accompany them to America.

Samuel Matheson lived at Badenloch. He was second son of Donald Matheson at Kinbrace, catechist of the upper part of the parish of Kildonan during the ministry of Mr Hugh Ross, predecessor of Mr. John Ross. Donald Matheson was a very distinguished Christian in his day. He was also a poet, and composed a number of spiritual songs, which his son Samuel printed and circulated. Donald Matheson was the contemporary of Rob Dean; and the character of Donald's poetry may best be understood by Rob Donn's remark upon it. They met, it is said, at a friend's house, and each sang one of his own songs. When they had concluded, Donald submitted his song to the judgment of the Reay Country bard. "Donald," answered Rob, "there is more of poetry in my song, and more of piety in yours." Matheson lived to an advanced age. He was a man of much piety, but was also diligent in his calling of cattle-dealing. He had two sons, Hugh and Samuel. The former lived at Badenloch, and was a deeply-exercised Christian. Samuel was also a man of reputed piety, but he associated with the Separatists. His wife was the daughter of a pions widow who first resided at Rhimisdale in Kildonan, and afterwards at Ceann-na-coille in Strathnaver. Samuel Matheson was also a self-taught mediciner and surgeon, and in many cases was most miraculously successful. He died at Griamachdary in 1829.

Charles Gordon and his wife, of whom mention has already been made, then resided at Ach-na-moire. Mrs. Gordon was universally esteemed; so, however, was not he altogether. He had some feud or other on his bands every day of the year. His two brothers, Hugh and Adam, resided with him, as well as two of his sisters. Hugh was an ensign in the army, retired on half-pay. After staying here some time on his return, he took the farm of Bad'chlamhain, and first married his cousin, a daughter of Gordon of Innis-verry, parish of Tongue. He married a second time, and took a farm in Strathhalladale, where he died of paralysis in 1824. Adam, the other brother, went to America. The second sister married a man from the parish of Clyne. After I had performed the ceremony, my sister and I were guests at their wedding, where the feasting was kept up for two days.

One Lieutenant Gunn lived at Ach-na-h'uaighe. He held the place in lease from the proprietor for nineteen years, which commenced four or five years before I came to Achness. He married a Miss Bruce of Thurso, a woman of colour, daughter of Mr. Harry Bruce, a West Indian planter, by whom he got some money, which was soon dissipated. They had a large family. After the dispersion of the tenantry in 1819, Gunn, for a compensation, resigned his lease and went to reside, first at Thurso, and afterwards at Balfruch, parish of Croy, which he held from Davidson of Cantray. He died at Inverness in 1844.

There were a few individuals of whom I have most pleasing recoIlections, but who resided beyond the limits of my mission. The most distinguished as a Christian was Mrs. Mackay of Sheggira, or of Cape Wrath, as she was usually designated, the place of Sheggira being in the immediate vicinity of that far-famed northern headland. Her maiden name was MacDiarmid, and she was a native of Argyleshire. Her husband was a respectable man, a native of the Reay Country, but much her inferior in many ways. She was naturally a superior woman, quick in apprehension and particularly ready in repartee, especially so when provoked by ungodly taunts and sneers. She was above all things, however, distinguished for the vitality of her Christian character. She was usually designated "the woman of the great faith" (bean a chreidimh mhoir), a character which, as she once said to me, she did not wish to take from others, nor even to realise for herself. I observed that a great God was justly entitled to great faith on our part on account of the greatness of His own truth and of His promises. "True," said she, "but my desire is only to be enabled ever to exercise a little faith on a great God." "How so? " said I. She answered, " Because I need to behold that greatness not in my faith, but in Himself." She was a constant attendant upon public ordinances. She had resolved towards the close of her life, when she felt her strength, from growing infirmity, unequal to long journeys on foot, to leave the Reay Country, and to take up her residence in the parish of Redcastle, to be, as she said, in her declining years under "the latter rain," meaning the ministry of Mr. John Kennedy, Killearnan. This was not God's appointment for her, however. The late Duchess of Sutherland ever regarded those really influenced by the truth with the deepest veneration. On one of her summer rambles in the Reay Country, Mrs. Mackay was introduced to her at Tongue, and the interview much impressed the Duchess in favour of her new acquaintance. As a mark of her esteem, she granted to Airs. Mackay and to her husband a free liferent of the house and lot of land which they occupied in Melness, parish of Tongue. For some years before her death, the health of this excellent woman became feeble, tiII, at last, she was constantly confined to her bed-room. The heavy tidings of Mr. Kennedy's sudden and unexpected death proved a great shock to her, and in the course of a month or two thereafter she was numbered among the "blessed dead who die in the Lord."

Another acquaintance of this period was the late worthy Charles Gordon of Ribigill, Strathnaver. Although he did not belong to the mission district of the Strath, yet he was not unfrequently a hearer on Sabbath, and a welcome and much-esteemed associate of our fellowship meetings. I have often met him on communion occasions throughout the county. His personal appearance commanded respect, and his views of divine truth were sound and experimental, expressed on all occasions with great perspicuity and force. He was a near relative of the Cordons of Clerkhill, and had himself a numerous family of sons and daughters by each of his wives, for he was thrice married. Most of his family, however, as well as his last wife, preceded him to the grave. He died in 1824.

Mrs. Mackay of Skerray was one of my earliest acquaintances. I have already mentioned her and her husband as guests at Kildonan during the days of my childhood. She lost her husband many years before I went to college. My father and she being related, through the Kirtomy family of the Mackays, a friendly intercourse was always kept up between us, and I bare been a guest at her house both before I went to Achness and very frequently afterwards. She had three sons and two daughters. Her eldest son Hugh attended college at Aberdeen. About the time I was licensed, and during his second session at college, he was seized with a pulmonary complaint, which made such rapid and alarming progress that he hastened home in the hope of recovering in his native air. He arrived by sea, accompanied by his tutor, but on the very evening that he landed at Brora he expired. His remains were conveyed to the family burying-place at Torrisdale. Mrs. Mackay's second son took charge of the farm of Skerray after his brother's death. When, in course of time, the estate of Reay was purchased by the Stafford family, the place of Skerray was divided into a number of small lots for the accommodation of fishermen. James Mackay, along with a friend, came in 1825 on a visit to Ross-shire in quest of a farm, and they both spent a night in my house in Resolis. Poor James, about a year afterwards, was attacked by the same complaint which had proved fatal to his brother, and died after a lingering illness. His younger sister had also died of consumption some years before. The eldest daughter married a Lieutenant Mackenzie, and they reside at Borgie on the river of Torrisdale. The youngest son, who was quite a youth when I came to Achness, went at an early age to America. Mrs. Mackay's tutor I was intimately acquainted with. His name was Hugh MacLeod. His father, Robert MacLeod, was a native of Assynt, but then was resident in the parish of Durness, an eminently pious man and one of the quaintest and most original of speakers at a fellowship meeting, whether in prayer or in conference. The son Hugh was a very different man, and though he afterwards entered the ministry at Rosehall, he fell into habits of intemperance, which necessitated his going first to Canada and then to the West Indies, where he died. Mrs. Mackay of Skerray was a pious woman, and lived in habits of strictest Christian intimacy with those who were most distinguished for their spiritual attainments. She, perhaps, overmuch imbued her conversation with religious sentimentalism, and often mistook the marvellous or the romantic for the higher walks of spirituality. Whilst she sincerely wished to be the companion of those only who feared God, she was not a little ambitious also of being the fine lady among them. Mrs. Mackay is still alive at Skerray, having attained to very advanced age.

It was while my sister Elizabeth and I were residing at Achness that we first became acquainted with Mr. Finlay Cook, minister of Reay. I had met him at Grimachdary a few months before, and frequently afterwards on parochial communion occasions at Farr. He came to Achness on a visit to see my sister, who, in little more than a year after, became his wife. He was a native of Arran, and when a young man was brought to the knowledge of the truth under the ministry of Mr. MacBride of Kilmory, a minister of great eminence and usefulness in that part of the country. Mr. Cook had been one of the most thoughtless, light•beaded young men in the island; indeed, he was in the act of jibing and mocking the venerable servant of God, in his pew in the church, when the arrows of Divine truth smote him. From that momentous hour he ceased to mock and began to pray. He afterwards attended college, but his progress in literature was meagre, owing to the want of early training. Not so, however, his growth in grace. It was steady and prosperous, and it advanced and consolidated under the preaching of Dr. John Love, whom he heard during his attendance at the Glasgow University. When licensed to preach Mr. Cook was appointed lecturer to the Highlanders at the Lanark Mills by that strange visionary Robert Owen. From thence he came to be missionary -minister of Dirlot in Caithness. I shall recur to him later on.

It was towards the close of 1816 that Dr. Bethune of Dornoch died. I had frequently met with him since my ordination during sacramental occasions and at his daughter's house at Drummuigh, parish of Golspie. His last illness was very short. At his burial the parishioners held a meeting in order to adopt measures for procuring a successor, but the patrons at that time never encouraged nor countenanced such measures on the part of the people. A petition in my favour was drawn up and cordially signed, but in answer they were haughtily informed that the patrons had already elected a minister for the parish; as to the object of the popular choice, Lady Stafford conceived that he had so many patrons among the people as not to stand in need of any provision which she had in her power to extend to him. I knew nothing of this at the time, not having been invited to the funeral, The patrons' nominee for Dornoch was my near relative, Mr. Angus Kennedy, then of Lairg. He was the son of my father's second sister Mary, whom, with her husband Mr. Donald Kennedy of Kishorn, I have already named.

Mr. Angus Kennedy was born in 1769, and when a more lad he came to visit my father at Kildonan. By dint of hard study and unwearied application he fitted himself for college, became schoolmaster at Lochalsh, and was licensed to preach in 1801 by the Presbytery of Lochcarron. His first charge as a minister was the assistantship at Lairg. Mr. Thomas Mackay had, for some years before, been entirely confined to his room, and from the time he was first laid aside had employed several assistants in succession. On the death of Mr. Mackay in 1803 Mr. Kennedy was appointed in 1801 as his successor, and he laboured with such efficiency and zeal as very much to attach the parishioners to his person and ministry. He had received his first religious impressions under the eminent Mr. Lachlan Mackenzie of Lochcarron. As a preacher he was remarkable more for the strength of his judgment and shrewd common sense than for the gifts and graces of the ministerial office. The people of Dornoch did not at first relish his ministrations, although his venerable age, his genuine piety, and his spotless, consistent life, have almost entirely eradicated their prejudices. He still lives at Dornoch at the age of seventy-six. [Mr. Angus Kennedy died 22nd June, 1835, aged 83, in the 53 year of his ministry. His son, Mr. George Rainy Kennedy, was ordained as his assistant and successor, 23rd Nov., 1837, and has attained to the 53th year of a faithful and valued ministry.—Ed.]

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