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Robert Dick of Thurso
Chapter XVII. Robert Dick and Charles Peach


A succession of visits from Peach to Dick, and a long correspondence between them, followed their first introduction. Peach travelled a great deal, especially during the shipwrecking season ; and when in the neighbourhood of Thurso it was his invariable practice to call upon his friend Dick. They communicated to each other all that they had found since their last meeting, and they often sent parcels of shells and fossils by the carrier’s cart, with numerous communications, to ask each other’s opinion about their special findings.

Shortly after Peach’s first visit to Thurso, he found a specimen of a new fossil fish which he thought allied to the Dipterus. It was a bony fish. He consulted Dick on the subject. Dick thought it very unusual; and “ from the resemblance (he said) which it bears to the vertebral column of the Coccosteus, fragments of which are commonly attached to its buckler, I should, for my part, have no hesitation in pronouncing it what you take it to be.1 Cartilage becomes petrified, and in some formations cartilaginous fish are found. But your specimen shows as decidedly bony a structure as Coccosteus. Your specimen is altogether new to me. I will take good care of the fossil. . . . I am in a tremendous hurry of business to-day, but feel your kindness very much. . . . Since you saw me here I have walked to Morven top and back again to Thurso with little inconvenience. I have since been at Scrabster hills, and intend being at Duncansby Head very soon.”

Dick and Peach also interchanged shells with each other, though Dick said in one of his letters—“ I do not think that you require any information from me on matters pertaining to this or any other study or research. You are a bred veteran, and I am but a greenhorn.” Still, Dick would not give way on any point on which he thought that he was right and Peach wrong. He insisted that he was entitled to have his say, especially where his own eyes were concerned. He did not believe so much in books or in theories, but he believed in facts.

In one of Peach’s enthusiastic letters he expresses the hope that Dick is “revelling in the midst of the beauties he has collected.” To this Dick replies, “I dinna ken. ... You perhaps know the story of the gentleman who returned from India with a black servant. One frosty morning the master went a-shooting, and took the dark Oriental to beat the bushes. He was rendered powerless by the cold. The master impatiently demanded why he did not cry ‘ Hush, cock, hush.’ ‘ Ah, massa,’ he tremulously replied, ‘ me wish hush cock had never been born.’ And so, Massa Peach, sometimes I wish beauties had never been born. Hot that there is too much loveliness in Nature; but that the hunting for objects of interest squeezes me so very confoundedly that the wonder perhaps is, not that I do so little, but rather that I manage to heat the bushes at all.

“The monk of Camhray!—Yes, I think ’twas he,
The monk of Cambray was a wonderful man !
He turned his face to the northwards,
And, mutt’ring a prayer with Amen! he began
Reading backwards instead of forwards !

“Exactly so! And dull disciples in the school of Stones too much resemble him. Whether from the effect or defect of early training, when too much left to themselves, they soon fall back to their first ideas, and monkishly read backwards. Our friend Hugh Miller knew that I never fell in love with his peculiar views on the order of creation; and how he did me the honour of enrolling me among the geological gods remains a mystery to this day. I suspect that, just before pushing me in, he had been consulting the Apostle Paul, who says—‘ Him that is weak in the faith receive ye; but then he adds, ‘Not to doubtful disputations.’ Ah ! there’s the rub ! I am a sad mule. What then? Every one according to his gift. Conviction must precede conversion.

“All that lived during the deposition of the Old Red Sandstone has not been preserved. What has been preserved has not been found. What has been found is understood very imperfectly. No geologist has said that all that lived during the deposition of the Silurian, the Old Red, Carboniferous, and other formations, has been preserved. They rather allow that not a tithe, not a fractional part, has been petrified and preserved. And how do they know that this earth had not once a habitable surface capable of accommodating the whole of them? all that has become extinct, and all that still survives? . . . I have not the least doubt that had Sir Charles (Lyell), Sir Roderick (Murchison), Agassiz, or Hugh Miller, taken a fancy to work out the notion, they might have given us a habitable surface capable of accommodating all that lives with all that is extinct, and thus saved us the necessity of swallowing that, to me at least, unpalatable thing, a patchwork creation—a system of odds and ends, of clippings and parings. I cannot believe that this earth ever saw a creation but one. Much has become extinct I allow, but much is supposed to be extinct which is not extinct.

“I grant that chronology is corrupt. I grant that the earth is much older than was at one time thought; and that our habitable surface was not made in a day, or in a week, or by a word; but I cannot accept the order ot creation that geologists have carved out for me. The arguments of geologists, like disturbed strata, have a peculiar dip, and a strike, by which you can easily distinguish the school of the reasoner.

“And what means all this palaver? I am simply provoked by the old monkish trick of reading backwards instead of forwards. This is a land of liberty, and I avail myself of the privilege of resting and waiting for further light.”

Such were Dick’s views at the beginning of 1854.

About the same time, he wrote to Hugh Miller, “L)o you know, I am often accused of bearing an ill-will to geologists ! When I think them at fault, and am asked to speak, I merely speak what I think to be the truth. Mr. John Miller here has got Murchison's thirty-shilling book, and handed it to me to look at. Well, unfortunate fellow that I am, I saw that Sir Roderick was entirely wrong in saying that Cyclas was confined tc the uppermost beds of the Old Red. I told him so, and he, as usual, thought that I was doing injury, and what not, to geology ! Poof! poof! In what respect was I a gainer or Murchison a loser ? Instead of being angry, you geologists should be pleased, as it shows that we pay attention to what you say.”

Mr. Peach went to the meeting of the British Association at Liverpool in September 1854; and there he read his paper as usual. On this occasion he recorded his observations on “The Remains of Sand Plants and Shells in the Old Red Sandstone of Caithness.” On his return to Wick, Dick wrote to him, and asked, “What did you say about the fossil wood? Tell me also about the shells.” It may be mentioned that there was a long discussion between the two geologists about fossil wood. Dick was of opinion that the stuff which Peach had found in Caithness was “concretionary bituminous matter, and not organic.” “But I am anxious,” he says, “that my opinion about the matter should not retard the progress of discovery. I may be wrong, as I have been before. Professor Forbes described the fossil wood to be 'chert,' and ‘ masses without structure.' If I am wrong,” said Dick, “ men of mark have been wrong men of repute, though I am of none.”

In the meantime, Peach sent Dick specimens of fossils and plants. One of these was found near Wick, the Tedura testudinalis—a mollusc. Another was a Cornish heath—the Erica vagans. Of the latter Dick said, “I am very much obliged to you for it; and as my plants and I do not mean to separate while life lasts, I shall have a memorial of you, and I hope a proper sense of your kindness, each time that I examine it. . . . ’Tis a pity I have no other rarity, but I will give you a few grasses—a little brownish, and not so good as your last one.”

Dick again refers to his botanical collection. “ Every moment of my spare time is devoted to the labelling of my papers, and attaching dried plants to them. Thanks be praised, it is nearly over, and the roughest work is done. All the plants are gummed down, and the craving for a completion stirs me anew. How they are to come is a mystery, but then hope never fails me. . . . Your first favour of a mistletoe is in its appointed place, and the present addition you have sent is equally welcome. You may rely upon it, you bestow the specimen on one whose very life is bound up with those things; and I can in all sincerity say:

“For them I panted, them I priz’d
For them I’ve gladly sacrificed
Whate’er I lov’d before;
And shall I see them sacrificed?

friends are few, and I get on slowly. However, that English gentleman spoke, not long ago, very kindly to me; and if all goes well with him and me for a short time, ‘ I’ll cock my bonnet fu’ braw.’ He is a thorough botanist.”

The English gentleman referred to was Mr. W. L. Notcutt, then residing at Rakenham, Norfolk. He had asked Dick to send him a collection of the Old Red fossils of Caithness; offering his botanical services in return. Dick cheerfully complied with his request, and Mr. Notcutt acknowledges “most cordially his noble suite of fossil fish from the Old Eed Sandstone.” “There are no fossils I more wished for,” he says, “than some specimens from your ancient strata, and your kindness has indeed furnished me with a magnificent collection. ... I fancy your creed in natural history is somewhat akin to my own. I make very free in asking help from brother naturalists, and I am never better pleased than to be made quite as free use of in return. Indeed, I think the very character of our pursuits almost claims the free interchange of such help; for, unless one is possessed of an independent property, the amount of travelling necessary for the examination of the productions or geological deposits of distant parts of our land is otherwise an impossibility.”

Mr. Notcutt accordingly added largely to Eobert Dick’s botanical collection. He sent him additions from year to year, until he had almost finally completed his collection ; Dick, at the same time, furnishing him with examples of the grasses and plants growing in the county of Oaithne.

Robert Dick received numerous letters from men of distinction, requesting specimens of the Holy Grass which he had discovered on the hanks of the river Thurso. Professor Balfour wrote to him in 1854, requesting roots of the plant for the Botanical Garden at Edinburgh. Dr. Allman, then professor of Natural History at Edinburgh, and now president of the Linnean Society, requested specimens of the fossil fish for the University Museum. Letters flowed in from Perth, from Aberdeen, from Glasgow, from various places in England and Ireland, requesting specimens of the Holy Grass, of shells, and of fossil remains. Among his correspondents we find the names of the Rev. Mr. Brodie, of the Vicarage, Rowington, near Warwick; Mr. Backhouse, of York; and Professor Babington, of Cambridge. Many of these were made known to Dick through his friend Charles Peach.

The correspondence with Mr. Peach continues : “I am sold,” says Dick, “body and soul, to dried plants, not fossil ones;—no breaking of stones or anything else for me, but the drudge of self-denying determination. . . . Who was it that wished he was a tailor, for then he might sometimes get a holiday? Ay, Mr. Peach, plants are plants, and stones are stones indeed, to those who gape and gasp to get a mouthful of fresh air. But man was born to struggle and to endure.”

Unfortunately, Dick’s health began to fail. He complained of a rasping cough, and of rheumatism. Though a strong-looking man, and in the prime of life (for he was not yet fifty), he complains of pain—daily pain. He says to his friend Peach that he is “suffering the punishment of over-fatigue and confinement to the house.” He had no assistant in his daily labour—no journeyman, no apprentice. All his work was done by himself. And yet he continued his walks. “Like all confined animals,” he said, “when snuffing the caller air, I become quite uproarious. A walk of twenty-six miles is such a very fine thing.”

But it is an awful thing in the North to take a walk on a Sunday. The Thurso folks saw him going out and coming in on that day, and they were very much shocked. What could come of such a person? They began to belabour him with tracts. These accumulated on his hands so much, that he went to the oven one day, drew the fire to the front of the grate, put in the bundle of tracts, and pushed the burning coals back, thus consuming them to ashes.

A few years later, when Dr. Macleod raised such a stir in the North by his observations as to the Judaical observance of the Sabbath by his countrymen, Robert Dick observed to his brother-in-law:—“I have got the newspaper containing the uproar about Dr. Macleod, and am much amused at what their reverences said. They would, if they could, shut out the light. ‘Donald, man, Donald! what is it that ye’ll aye be shutting out ta light?’ ‘If ta tail pe brak, ye’ll find that! Very good ; and all the noise, I fancy, is for fear that ‘the tail pebrak.’”

One Sunday morning, when wearied out with his week’s work, he went out to take a walk. He described it in a letter to his friend Peach, written in the month of July. He begins with the quotation :—

“God blames not him who toils six days in seven,
Where smoke and dnst bedim the golden day,
If he delight beneath the dome of heaven
To see the clouds and hear the winds at play.’

“To-day,” he said, “the wind blew hard, and as I had been wearied with heat, sweat, and confinement during the week, it struck me that a walk of about eight miles up the country would do me good in every way.

“Well, I had got about eight miles out. Some beautiful tufts of Erica Tetralix grew temptingly a few paces off, along the high road. So, without a moment’s hesitation, I stepped aside among them, and, stooping down, began pulling at them admiringly. From my reverie of delight, amidst beauties blushing crimson, I was suddenly startled by a rough voice accosting me in Gaelic. I looked round, and saw one of the ugliest-faced Highlanders that ever ‘ cam doon’ staring wildly at me. ‘A blowy day,’ said I. ‘Ach, ach,’ said he. A brief silence ensued. ‘Why are ye no at sermon?’

a cavern with a very small entrance. The mother was out. One Highlandman went in to slay the pigs ; the other kept watch outside. The mother-pig, hearing the screams of her family, came up suddenly and rushed into the hole. The Highlandman outside took fast hold of the animal’s tail, and held hard, occasionally using his dirk. Hence the noise from the inside: “Donald, man, Donald ! what is it that ye’ll aye be shutting out ta light ? ” and the answer from the out* bide was, “If ta tail pe brak, ye’ll find that!” he growled. ‘ Why are ye no at sermon yoursel ? ’ I replied. ‘Eh?’ said he; ‘oo, ye see I maun mind the beasts.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘we are very much alike. You mind your beasts, and I mind this (holding up a piece of the beautiful plant I had plucked). We have both our reasons for what we are about.’ ‘Man!’ he said fiercely, ‘ ye’re nae better than a beast, tae be looking for grass on the Sawbath. The cattle there want reason, which maybe you have.’ ‘Stop, my good fellow,’ said I; ‘the cattle look at the plants without seeing the least beauty in them; they pick out the grass here and there to fill their bellies; but I look at them for the improvement of my mind.’ ‘Achl’ he grunted; and then he roared, ‘ It’s a sad tiling for a man who has got one wife already, to go a - after another.’ At this coarse outburst I laughed loudly; and after telling him that I had got no wife at all, I suddenly walked away and left the man with his beasts. I wonder what this blind zealot would have done to me if he had the power. The less we know, the more intolerant and tyrannical we become. All the religious persecutions that we read of are merely the result of ignorance, and of the cruelty that comes of ignorance. I wonder whether that man ever thinks of the words the Master he pretends to serve once said to His disciples—‘ Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.’”

Amongst the numerous scientific men who sought the acquaintance of Dick was the late Sir Roderick Murchison. He was appointed Director-General of the Geological Survey and of the School of Mines in 1855, and having been informed of the remarkable discoveries made by Mr. Peach in the Durness limestone, he proposed to make a journey in the north-west of Scotland in the course of the same year. He started in August, accompanied by Professor Nicol. They went by Inverness, to Applecross, Gairloch, and Assynt. They went northward to Durness and Tongue. It does not appear that Sir Roderick made any new discoveries on this occasion; field-geology was in the meantime at fault. Professor Geikie, in his Life of Murchison, says that “ so far as respected any new light on the geology of the north-west of Scotland, his excursion to Assynt left matters very much as they were.”

When at Tongue, Sir Roderick and Professor Nicol drove across the country by the north coast to Thurso. They were not then personally acquainted with Eobert Dick, though they had often heard of him by name. Professor Nicol first sought him out, and then he took Sir Roderick to his shop in Wilson’s Lane. The latter wished for some information from Dick as to the localities where he had found certain Old Red fossils. Dick, however, was very busy with his batch at the time; he could not leave his bread to burn in the oven, in order to give the necessary information. The travellers were also in a hurry, as Sir Eoderick had many other places to visit before the next meeting of the British Association, which was to be held at Glasgow in the beginning of September.

Sir Roderick, however, did not forget the Thurso baker-geologist and botanist. In May 1857 he wrote to him from the Museum of Practical Geology in Jermyn Street as follows :—“ Dear Sir—Aware of the talent you have evinced in collecting rare and good specimens of the fossil fishes of the Caithness flags, and finding that this establishment is very poor in such remains, I venture to ask you to taKe some steps to supply us with a few really good things in the ichthyic line. All cost of extraction, as well as the full value of the fossils, would be paid thankfully to the finders. Pray excuse the freedom I use. I have no other means of endeavouring to secure this desirable object.”

Robert Dick acceded to the baronet’s request. He did not sell any of his fossils, but he sent the donation of “a very fine specimen of Asterolepis,” for which their Lordships of the Committee of Privy Council of Education sent Mr. Dick their best acknowledgments.

Sir Roderick Murchison was much more fortunate in finding Dick at liberty on his next visit to Thurso. Besides, he had Charles Peach with him, who soon made everything smooth between the baronet and the baker. They were both introduced to the bakehouse. It was only Dick’s intimate friends who were introduced to that sanctum sanctorum. Dick was still in his working clothes. A conversation took place about the dip of certain rocks in Caithness. Sir Roderick complained of the want of any sufficient map of the county. Here Dick could chime in with him. In fact, he had wandered over the whole length and breadth of the county, and found that the existing maps were mere “bosh.” “But if you will permit me,” he said, “I will endeavour to show you a map of Caithness.” “By all means,” said the baronet.

Taking up a few handfuls of flour, and spreading it out on the baking board, Dick proceeded to mould a model in relief of the geological structure of Caithness. He showed all the principal features of the county—the hills and dales, the rocks and cliffs, the dislocations and fractures, the watersheds and the drainage, and, in fact, an outline of the entire geography of the county. To quote the words of Sir Roderick Murchison, “Mr. Robert Dick directed my notice to the presence of numerous powerful fractures and dislocations in the flagstones ranging over Caithness, and which, to the superficial observer, seem to lie simply in undulations. But to whatever extent these dislocations have occurred, they never can be accurately defined until a correct map of the county be executed, it being a melancholy fact, that though easily capable of examination owing to the slight elevation of the greater part of the county, Caithness is probably the worst mapped county in Scotland.”

Mr. Peach has also a pleasant recollection of the interview. He says: “ I felt it to be a great privilege indeed to be present at the meeting of the baronet and Dick in the bakehouse. It was a treat to me to see the hills and dales, the rocks and cliffs, made up with flour, and a likeness of Caithness moulded in relief by his nimble fingers. He seemed to be familiar with every foot of the county, every hill and dale, every movement and flexure, every fracture and dislocation, and the readiness and ease with which he communicated the information greatly pleased and surprised the renowned geologist; and when he left the place he expressed his delight and astonishment at the amount of information he had received from the wonderful, though comparatively unknown, baker of Thurso.”

The conference between Sir Roderick Murchison and Dick lasted so long, that Peach says “ he was so much overcome by sleep, that he had a long nap while they talked together.” For Dick took the baronet up to his museum, and showed him his collection of plants. Sir Roderick was as much surprised at his knowledge of botany as of geology. He found that Dick had almost exhausted the plants of Caithness, and that he was engaged in making up a complete Herbarium, principally by exchanging plants with other botanical collectors.

When the two geologists left Dick’s shop, they went to the flag yards over the river, for the purpose of obtaining pieces of the Banniskirk flags for analysing. “ We got a boat,” says Peach, “passed over the harbour, looked at the Old Church, and felt much disgusted with Hie Thurso people for leaving it roofless and allowing it to go to decay.”

Before he left Thurso Sir Boderick addressed Dick in the following letter:—

“My dear Mr. Dick—I cannot leave Thurso for the Ultima Thule without thanking you sincerely for the information I have received from you respecting the structure and succession of the Caithness deposits, and for your very agreeable conversation, which was so instructive as to the physical geology of these parts of Scotland. Pray do not forget the old geologist who wrote upon Banniskirk fishes thirty-tw’o years ago, and who much desires to make a decent show of them in the great National Museum of the Survey; and in return I promise you all the rarer British plants, which are to be had by the zealous endeavours of—Yours most faithfully, Roderick I. Murchison.”

On the following day, Sir Roderick and Mr. Peach left Thurso for Stromness in the Orkneys, on the other side of the Pentland Firth. They went to Kirkwall, passing on their way the Standing Stones of Stennis, the Orkney Stonehenge. On their way north, they visited Sumburgh Head, and saw the Old Red Sandstone of Caithness prolonged into the southern limb of the Shetland Islands. Then to the northernmost island of the group ; and finally the two geologists were dropped by the steamer "Pharos,” on its way south, on the bleak headland of Cape Wrath. They proceeded to visit the Durness limestone, where all that Peach had already discovered was confirmed by the personal observation of Sir Roderick. It was not until the end of September that Mr. Peach reached Wick.

In the meantime, Sir Roderick proceeded to Leeds, where the next annual meeting of the British Association was to be held. There he laid before the geological section “ The Results of his Researches among the older rocks of the Scottish Highlands.” He did full justice to Mr. Peach’s discovery of organic remains of the Lower Silurian age in the crystalline limestone of Sutherland; similar to those which occur in the Lower Silurian rocks of North America. Sir Roderick also said in his paper, that as regarded the ichthyolitic flagstones of Caithness, “he had made various interesting additions to his former knowledge, particularly as derived from the researches of Mr. Robert Dick of Thurso.”

But Sir Roderick made further mention of Robert Dick at the public meeting held in the Leeds Town Hall on the 29th of September 1858. In fact, his eulogium of Dick constituted the principal part of his address. We have already given part of it in the preface to this book, and need not here repeat it. Sir Roderick concluded his speech by saying that he had referred to the facts relating to the marvellous knowledge acquired by this humble working baker of Thurso, “in order that the audience might deduce a practical application.”

Mr. Peach immediately sent to his friend at Thurso the newspaper in which the report of Sir Roderick Murchison’s speech appeared, and he also congratulated Dick upon the cordial manner in which the baronet had referred to his scientific knowledge. Dick, as we shall afterwards find, did not think so much of the speech as Peach did ; but, after about fifteen minutes’ deliberation, he scribbled off the following stanzas, and sent them to Charles Peach as his answer. Peach sent the verses to

the Wick newspaper, where it was printed under the title of the “ Song of a Geologist.”

Hammers an’ chisels an’ a’,
Chisels an’ fossils an’ a ;
Sir Rory’s the boy, o’ the right sort o’ stuff,
Hurrah ! for the hammers sae braw.

It’s good to be breaking a stone,
The work now is lucky an’ braw ;
It’s grand to be finding a bone—
A fish-bone the grandest of a’.

Hammers an’ chisels an’ a’,
Chisels an’ fossils an’ a;
Resurrection’s our trade; by raising the dead
We’ve grandeur an’ honour an’ a’.

Hay labour be crown’d wi’ success—
May prudence promulgate the story—•
May scoffers grow every day less,
Till the rocks are a mountain o’ glory.

Hammers an’ chisels an’ a’,
Chisels an’ fossils an’ a’ ;
The deeper we go, the more we shall know
Of the past an’ the recent an’ a’.

Here’s freedom to dig and to learn—
Here’s freedom to think an* to speak ;
There’s nane ever grumbled to look at a stone,
But creatures baith stupid an’ weak.

Hammers an’ chisels an’ a’,
Chisels an’ fossils an’ a’;
In spite of the devil we’ll dig as we’re able—
Hurrah ! for the hammers sae braw.

Amygdaloid.

Dick was amazed to find himself in print for the first time. In writing to his friend Mr. John Miller, then residing in London, he said:—“If there be Amygdaloid jnong the fossiliferous rocks of Thurso, or in your native county, your humble servant has hitherto failed to detect it. Charles Peach has a wonderful talent that way, and I remember his bringing me some pieces of supposed trap from the neighbourhood of Wick. But when I sent him these scribblings he thought for certain that he had found an eruptive rock at last. He clapped them into the paper and stuck Amygdaloid at the end. Charlie had found trap again. If the matter had depended upon me, the printers in Wick would have been saved the trouble of setting the verses up in print.” To Peach he wrote :—“ The rhyme was merely meant to make you laugh, and, that purpose served, to burn it. Time was when I used to scribble songs by the dozen, though I dare say no one would give a bawbee for a bagful of them. ... I never was free enough of care and trouble to cultivate the gift. . . . Sentimental folk want fine feeling and fine language, and I canna be fashed. And you laughed, did you ? So much laughter, so much life enjoyed. You are very dowie, you say. Well, Charles, if you gain by that, you’ll lose by nothing.

So, you sit by the fireplace,
And moping away,
To field or to sea-side
Want courage to stray.

When femies are withered,
And field flowers are gone,
Oh! who would go hunting
Starfishes alone?

After that, Dick confesses that he himself feels very dowie—he says he is very unwell, still feverish, with cough, cough, cough! Nevertheless he appends another bit of rhyme, to make Charlie laugh again!

Oh, gin ye was a fossil fish
Long petrified in Auld Red Stanes,
An’ I a wanderin’ found the rock
That held the remnant of yeer banes !

How I would try to dig ye out,
And send ye up to Lon’on fair,
Weel pack’t and sealed, ye needna doubt,
To rest at Rory’s 8 evermair !

Oh, gin ye were an Alpine plant
That grew upon die mountains high,
An’ I a wanderin’ found the plant
The little mossie burnie by I

How I would joy, if ye did ’scape
The wintry winds and storms severe—
I’d pu’ and put ye in my cap,
An’ dry ye, for a thousand year!

When Sir Roderick Murchison next visited Sutherland, in August 1859, he was unable to call upon Robert Dick; but he sent him the following letter:—

“My dear Mr. Dick—I send you by this mail a copy of my memoir on ‘ The Geological Structure of the North of Scotland/ It is a Great Reform Bill which I am endeavouring to pass; and it is hard to induce old mineralogical and bit-by-bit geologists to enter into my views. But if the grand superposition of strata be not set aside, nothing can be so clear (nothing at least that I have ever seen in any county) as the A B C D ol the great steps by which the geologist ascends, in proceeding from the west to the east coast of the north of Scotland.

“I deeply regret not to be able in my conscience to go and shake hands with you this summer. The fact is, that the general succession in Caithness, under the administration of Peach and yourself, is quite secure. I must therefore look to tracts never explored by me; and being satisfied myself that the statements printed in my memoir are substantially correct, I wish to test them by exploring the tract between Melvich and Helmsdale, which I have never yet visited.

“The workers had very nearly completed all your Herbarium before I left London, and you will have it soon. Professor Bamsay is with me, and is delighted with the clearness of the order of succession. He is to sing ‘ Hammers an’ Chisels an’ a’ ’ at our next anniversary dinner.—Yours very faithfully,

“Roderick I. Murchison.”

The remainder of the herbarium promised by Sir Roderick reached Thurso shortly after the date of his letter. Dick again exercised his rhyming faculties on his friend Peach. “As for mysel,” he said, “should anybody speer for me at Aberdeen, you may say that I am quite merry, singing like a cricket over those dried plants that Sir Eoderick has sent me. Listen a minute:

0, will ye gang oot owre the moor ?
0, will ye gang wi’ me, Rory ?
To while awa’ a weary hour ;
I’m sure I’d gang wi’ ye, Rory.

We’ll wander ’mang the heather knowes,
Their bonnie bells to pu’, Rory !
An’ where the purple fox-glove grows,
His stately grace to view, Rory !

0, will ye gang oot owre the moor, etc.
How lightly would I clim’ the hills
To gather thyme wi’ ye, Rory !
And seek the wild flowers by the rills,

As blithely as a bee, Rory!
0, will ye gang oot owre the moor, etc.

See what it is to get a good crop of hay! I’m just as happy as a beggar; and, like Tam o’ Shanter, * owre a* the ills o’ life victorious! ’ ”


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