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Loch Etive and The Sons of Uisnach
By R. Angus Smith (1885)

Narrows at Eilean Dhuirinnis

Ben Starav

The above two colour photographs are courtesy of Brigadier John Macfarlane, Taynuilt.


THIS book was begun as the work of holidays, and was intended to be read on holidays, but there is not the less a desire to be correct. The primary object is to show what is interesting near Loch Etive, and thus add points of attachment to our country. There is so much that is purely legendary, that it was thought better to treat the subject in a manner which may appear preliminary rather than full, going lightly over a good deal of ground, and, from the very nature of the collected matter, touching on subjects which may at first appear childish. It is believed that to most persons the district spoken of will appear as a newly discovered country, although passed by numerous tourists. The landing of the Irish Scots has held a very vague place in our history, and it is interesting to think of them located on a spot which we can visit and to find an ancient account of their King's Court, even if it be only a fanciful one written long after the heroes ceased to live. The connection of Scotland and Ireland, previous to the Irish invasion, is still less known, and to see any mention of the events of the period by one who may reasonably be supposed to have spoken in times which for Scotland can scarcely be called historic, excited much surprise and interest in the author of this volume, and it is believed will be pleasing to those who for the first time read the account of the children of Uisnach.

These two eras belong to the earliest notices of our land. The first mentioned has generally been noticed by historians, but little has been said to make us think it real. The other has not passed into history, and it stands at present as our very first account of a connection between Scotland and Ireland which seems to be authentic, although despised as belonging only to Bardic legends. The dreamy state in which the accounts come to us, has led to a desire not to use either the historic or severely critical style in this volume. In the discussion relating to places the wish has been to avoid arguments well known, and as friends have in some cases communicated new ones, these have been chiefly retained as more interesting. The importance given in the main legends to Bards and Druids has led the author to say something of them. It has been his aim whilst beginning with the more distant allusions native to these lands, to describe, after frequent visits and investigations, the remains of antiquity of a pre-historic character as they now appear near Loch Etive, connecting, by historic theories, the larger body of Celts in Europe with the people who were the actors in that region. He wishes to shew that it has required several races to make up the population of countries called Celtic, judging either from their early history or from their present condition.

The slightness of the older materials affected in various ways the mode of treatment, and it was decided to bring together several persons to represent the various views. A Highlander, of course, was necessary to skew part of the ground, but an Irishman was equally required—indeed nearly all the Celtic literature quoted is Irish. A Lowlander was brought to give unbiassed opinions, and he brings three of his family to vary the tone of thought or mode of observation. All, however, take interest in the district, and are supposed to have given to the subject some previous attention. A few of the names are spelt in various ways by writers of good standing, and the author sometimes thought it well not to confine himself to one form, when it does not spew any quality that gives it prominence.



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