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Weekly Mailing List Archives
6th March 2009

Alastair McIntyreElectric Scotland's Weekly Email Newsletter

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Dear Friend

It's your Electric Scotland newsletter meaning the weekend is nearly here :-)

You can view what's new this week on Electric Scotland at and you can unsubscribe to this newsletter by clicking on the link at the foot of this newsletter.

See our Calendar of Scottish Events around the world at

Electric Scotland News
The Flag in the Wind
New Statistical Account of Scotland
Clan and Family Information
Poetry and Stories
Book of Scottish Story
The Concise Household Encyclopaedia
Children's Rhymes, Children's Games, Children's Songs, Children's Stories
Social Life in Scotland
The Gateway of Scotland
Robert Burns Lives!
Wilderness Homes
Crofting Agriculture (New Book)
The Highland Line
The Scottish Highlander (Short Book)
The Writings of John Muir

We've started to get in more write ups on our South Loch Ness advertiser group and there are many great pictures of the area along with them. As I get in individual entries from the group I'm moving them to the top of the list. You can see these at

Here is what they say about South Loch Ness...

South Loch Ness – why you have to visit!

South Loch Ness, the name given to the area that lies between the southern shoreline of Loch Ness and the high slopes of the Monadhliath mountains, only 8 miles from the thriving city of Inverness but really a different world. South Loch Ness is an area of outstanding natural beauty with deep dark forests, wild windswept hills and panoramic vistas that will take your breath away.

The range of elevation, from 20 to 1000 metres means there is a great diversity of flora and wildlife. In spring the roadside vergers are covered with wild yellow primroses and the woodlands are carpeted by a sea of bluebells. In late summer the open high ground is covered by the purple flowers of bell heather. Autumn turns the native woodlands to gold while in winter many of the higher area are regularly blanketed with snow. No matter which season you choose to visit South Loch Ness, we can guarantee you will not be disappointed.

If you are interested in wildlife, South Loch Ness has a good population of badgers and pine martens while on the hilltops look out for grouse and mountain hares and occasionally soaring high above, ospreys, golden eagles and red kites. Also common to the area are roe deer, red deer and sika deer as well as red squirrels. This area is one of the few in Scotland where these red squirrels still thrive without the threat from the larger greys. They can be seen throughout the year but they are especially active in autumn, jumping amongst the hazel trees, collecting food for winter.

With such a beautiful and wild landscape it is little wonder that many people come to South Loch Ness to walk and see the rich diversity of wildlife and flora. Many of the walks are waymarked, particularly those in the Inverfarigaig, Foyers and Whitebridge areas, providing excellent safe routes for visitors to experience the area and enjoy the panoramic views over Loch Ness.

For the more intrepid visitor, with a good map and compass there are miles and miles of woodlands, hills and glens to explore. Or see our interactive Loch Ness map ( where you will find a wide variety of things to do and walks in our area with convenient one click print and go.  With so many quiet roads, the area is also ideal for cycling. Take a picnic and enjoy the area at a leisurely pace.

Fishing is also widely available in the area and there are a number of ghillies who would be pleased to take you out for a half or a full day on one of the hill lochs where you can fish for brown trout. Within a short drive horse riding, golf and water sports are available as well as a choice of cruises on Loch Ness. Whatever your age and whatever your level of fitness, there is something for you to enjoy in South Loch Ness.

Although it is sparsely populated today, ancient Picts, early Christian missionaries, fierce Celtic clans and proud Jacobites all lived and died here. In an age where it seems there is little new left to discover in the world, here in South Loch Ness you can still find your very own piece of history, whether it be a ruined Wade bridge or a graveyard with a thousand stories to tell or even a hidden cave, untouched, unspoilt and unchanged in hundreds or even thousands of years. If you are particularly interested in the heritage of the area we have a very active group on the South side who have collected a huge amount of information on the area, much of which is now available to view on their own website and which also has a wonderful gallery of old photographs showing you how life was in days gone by. Have a look at the site yourself at 
Of course, if you are going to visit Loch Ness then you will need somewhere to stay. Listed below is a range of accommodations to suit all tastes and budgets. We look forward to welcoming you to South Loch Ness.

Accommodation can be found at


I was away in Toronto this past weekend and took in the baptism of Onora Elizabeth Jane Boadicea who is Nola and Harold's grand-daughter. Most enjoyable and I even got to try a caviar pie!

Onora in her tartan dress :-)


Next week I'm going to make a start at the 10 volume "Writings of John Muir". As most of you will know, John Muir was brought up in Scotland but moved to America with his father where he spent the rest of his life. He was mainly responsible for getting the Yosemite designated as a national park as well as other areas of America. We all very much enjoy these national parks today and so his legacy lives on. Most of his work was done from the mid 1800's onwards and so his descriptions also tell us what places in America looked like back in these times. He does actually comment about one area that were fabulous forrests but today are a concrete jungle.

I've given a taster by including the Introduction toward the foot of this newsletter.


I will also be starting work on the History of Alberta through a 3 volume account of the Province. But, I'll also be working on 4 volumes of the writings of John McDougall which will tell us of his work through the pioneering days in and around Alberta. I think you'll enjoy these particular writings as he tells a grand story with many illustrations.


And finally I came across a book about pioneer life in New Zealand. These accounts are quite scarce so was particularly pleased to find this book. It will go up as I get around to ocr'ing it in.


Should you be down in Houston then you can visit the Scottish Festival Spectacular that will feature the Five-time World Champion St. Thomas' Episcopal Pipe Band and world renowned Highland dancers on Thursday, March 12, at 7:30 PM at Toyota Center.


The Scottish Society of Dallas Tartan Day Ceilidh is at Winfrey Point House, White Rock, Lake Dallas on April 5th 2009 1pm to 5pm Free! Entertainment: The Caledonia Pipes & Drums, Dallas Highland Dancers, Seamus Stout. More info can be found at 


I was asked this week about several spelling mistakes throughout the site. Essentially when I ocr in books page by page they are copied to my clipboard and then pasted into my web editor, Front Page. When I paste in the text Front Page highlights with a red underline any word it thinks is misspelled. I then get to double check it with the book. I find it easier to check for errors by doing it page by page as I once tried doing it chapter by chapter but ended up taking a huge amount of time trying to find the word in the entire chapter to see if it was correct or not.

That said there can be words that are actually correctly spelled but incorrect in context. For example Ranald MacIntyre spotted the word "whore" which is of course correctly spelled but the word should have been "whom". Another common error is the word "lie" which in many cases should be "he".

I do quickly scan each page but I can certainly miss some obvious errors. I remember getting a completely incorrectly spelled paragraph sent to me which was deliberately filled with errors and yet I managed to read it no problem. I thus took the view that most errors would likely be passed over in the reading.

One nightmare I have is when I come across text in latin, gaelic and the old Scots language. These can take up a very large amount of time to proof and I confess I don't spend as much time as I should double checking every word. I kind of take the view that most won't know the word anyway so if an odd error creeps in no great problem as I see it.

I might however add that many texts can be spelled using both English and US English and hence a word like "color" and "colour" can both be correct depending on who wrote the text.

I still remember Marie Fraser offering to proof read a book for me as it went up. The first chapter had 17 errors, the next had 16 errors. At that point it became a bit of a challenge for me to try and get a perfect page. Marie still found errors. If I remember correctly the final chapter took me ages to do as I was determined to get it 100% correct and I almost did it... I just had one error where a comma should have been a full stop :-)

All of that said, if you do spot any errors you are welcome to send me an email telling me of them and I'll certainly correct them :-)

Some of the stories in here are just parts of a larger story so do check out the site for the full versions. You can always find the link in our "What's New" section at the link at the top of this newsletter or on our site menu.

This weeks Flag is compiled by Jim Lynch, editor of the Scots Independent newspaper. As usual Jim brings us an interesting range of stories as well as columns in Gaelic and the Scots language.

In Peter's cultural section he is telling us about Shinty...

This Saturday (7 March 2009) see the start of a new season in a game which has existed in Scotland for 2,000 years – no, not football but Shinty (camanachd or iomain in modern Scottish Gaelic). A few years ago the sport’s ruling body The Camanachd Association switched the game from being a winter sport to summer. The change has meant fewer cancellations and has led the new digital TV Gaelic channel BBC Alba to announce that five live Shinty matches will be broadcast this summer – in June, July and August. The matches will be broadcast live on Saturdays from 5.30pm – 7.30pm.

Although the game has been played for some 2,000 years in Scotland it wasn’t until 10 October 1893 that the Camanachd Association came into being at a meeting held in the Victoria Hall, Kingussie. The new association standardised the rules for the then existing 33 clubs and has always had one aim above all – To foster, encourage, promote and develop the sport of Shinty. The move to summer has met with success as the 12-a-side teams battle in out for the major league and cup honours – including the premier and coveted Camanachd Cup. Although most clubs are Highland-based there are sides the length and breadth of Scotland.

Although Shinty is unique to Scotland it is similar to Hurling in Ireland and the two countries compete in Shinty/Hurling internationals. Scotland has come out top on the last four international contests. Shinty also gave rise to ice hockey in Canada which arose from early Scots settlers playing Shinty on ice. Visit for more details of a sport which is one of the oldest in the world.

Good luck to the 39 clubs setting out to meet another season’s challenges and the recipe this week has to have a taste of the Highlands. A venison recipe seems appropriate and Carbonnade of Venison is just the ticket.

Carbonnade of Venison

Ingredients: 900g medallions of Venison; 50g olive oil; 700g onions; halved and thinly sliced; 4 garlic cloves, crushed; 2 tbsp. light brown sugar; 3 tbsp. flour; 600ml pale ale or lager; 300ml beef or game stock; 1 fresh bay leaf; 2 large fresh thyme sprigs; salt and freshly ground black pepper; 30ml wine or cider vinegar; chopped parsley, to garnish

Method: Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) Gas Mark 2. Cut each medallion horizontally into two chunky pieces.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan or sauté pan and brown the Venison in batches over a high heat. Transfer to a large casserole, using a slotted spoon.

Add the onions to the oil remaining in the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and sugar, mix well and cook gently for 10 minutes or until they begin to brown and caramelise.

Stir in the flour, then gradually add the beer, stirring. Bring to the boil, scraping up any sediment from the bottom of the pan, then pour over the Venison in the casserole.

Pour the stock over the Venison and onions and add the herbs and plenty of pepper. Stir lightly to mix. Bring to a simmer, then cover tightly and cook in the oven for about 1 hour.

Carefully stir in the vinegar and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the Venison is very tender indeed. Check the seasoning. Serve garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by boiled potatoes and some crunchy Savoy cabbage.

Tip: For a darker stew, use half light ale and half stout.

You can read the Flag, listen to the Scots Language, enjoy the Scots Wit and lots more at

Christina McKelvie's Weekly diary made a late appearance at

Her current entry is at

New Statistical Account of Scotland
Being accounts of the Parishes of Scotland produced in 1845.

This week have added the Parish of Cranston.

Name.- The name of the parish of Cranston or Cranstoun, in the charters of the twelfth century, was written Cranestone, the Anglo-Saxon, Craenston, signifying the crane's district, or resort. The river Tyne, where it intersects Cranston, is even now frequented by cranes, that find shelter in the woods, and fish in the water.

In the twelfth century, Cranston was divided into two manors, Upper Cranston and Nether Cranston, which were afterwards distinguished as New Cranston and Cranston Ridel. The church stood at Nether Cranston, which was the larger of the two manors. This district was granted by Earl Henry to Hugh Ridel. From him it obtained the name of Cranston Ridel, which distinguished it till recent times. Hugh Ridel granted to the monks of Kelso, the church of Cranston, with its tithes and other pertinents, for the soul of David I., and for that of Earl Henry, ]us lord; and it con tiriued wi tli th em till 13 17. During that long period, they enjoyed the revenues of the rectory, while the vicar served the cure and received the vicarage tithes. Adam de Malsarveston was vicar of Cranston during the reign of William the Lyon. in 1296, Hugh, the vicar of Cranston, swore fealty to Edward I. The church of Cranston was early of great value; and in the ancient taxatio, it was valued at 60 merks, The barony of Cranston Ridel continued with the Ridels till the reign of David II., when it passed, successively, by various transmissions, through the Murrays to the Macgilis, who acquired the church of Cranston.

Sir James Macgill, in 1651, was created Viscount Oxenford and Lord Macgill of Cousland. He dying in 1663, left the whole estates and patronage to his son Robert, who died without male issue in 1706. By another series of heirs, these estates and the patronage came to Lady Dalrymple Hamilton Macgill, spouse of the late, and mother of the present Sir John Hamilton Dalrymple, Bart. There was of old a chapel at Cranston, which served the lord and tenants of the manor. The monks probably retained this chapel till the Reformation dissolved such connexions. The manor and chapelry of Cousland were annexed to or merged in the parish of Cranston at the Reformation. The chapel stood on the south side of the village of Cousland, where its remains may still be traced, with its almost forgotten cemetery. It was probably dedicated to St Bartholomew, as some lands near it retain the name of Bartholomew's Firlot.

Extent, &c. - The parish of Cranston extends about 5 miles in length, and 3 in breadth. It is bounded by the parishes of Inveresk and Ormiston on the east; by Crichton and Borthwick on the south; and by Newbattle on the west and north. It contains 4778 acres, and is somewhat in the form of an hour-glass, being very narrow in the middle.

You can read this account at

Clan and Family Information
Got in the Clan Ross of Canada Newsletter at

Poetry and Stories
John sent in another poem, "The Dairyman" at

And of course more articles in our Article Service from Donna and others at 

Book of Scottish Story
Our thanks to John Henderson for sending this in for us.

This week have added a new story...

Young Ronald of Morar

Here is how it starts...

Angus MacDonald, a son of Clanranald, having quarrelled with his neighbour and namesake, the Laird of Morar, he made an irruption into that district, at the head of a select portion of his followers. One of his men was celebrated for his dexterity as a marksman; and on their march he gave a proof of this, by striking the head off the ‘canna’, or moss cotton, with an arrow. This plant is common on mossy ground in the Highlands ; it is as white as the driven snow, and not half the size of the lily.

Having got possession of the cattle, Angus was driving away the ‘spreith’ to his own country ; but Dugald of Morar pursued him with a few servants who happened to be at hand; and, being esteemed a man of great bravery, Angus had no wish to encounter him. He ordered the marksman to shoot him with an arrow; but the poor fellow, being unwilling to injure Dugald, aimed high, and overshot him. Angus observed this, and expressed his surprise that a man who could hit the ‘canna’ yesterday, could not hit Dugald’s broad forehead that day; and drawing his sword, swore that he would cleave the marksman’s head should he miss him again. John then reluctantly drew his 1 bow, and Dugald fell to rise no more.

The rest of this story can be read at

The other stories can be read at

The Concise Household Encyclopaedia
Five pages added which include Collecting, College Cream, College Pudding, Colles Fracture, Collie, Collinsia, Collodion, Collomia, Collops, Collyrium, Colocynth, Colour, Color Schemes for the Home, Colour Photography, Colour Blindness, Coltsfoot, Columbine, Colza Oil, Coma, Comb, Comforter, Commode, Commutator, Compasses.

You can read about these at

Children's Rhymes. Children's Games, Children' s Songs, Children's Stories
A Book for Bairns and Big Folk by Robert Ford (1904).

The pages we have up this week are...

Children's Rhyme-Games
Whuppity Scoorie
Three Brethren come from Spain
Here Comes a Poor Sailor from Botany Bay
Janet Jo
The Goloshans
Children's Songs and Ballads
Cock Robin

You'll note we have now started on Children's Songs and Ballads with the first being "Cock Robin" which you can read here...

Who killed Cock Robin?
I, said the Sparrow,
With my how and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin.

Who saw him die?
I, said the Fly,
With my little eye,
I saw him die.

Who caught his blood?
I, said the Fish,
With my little dish,
I caught his blood.

Who'll make his shroud?
I, said the Beetle,
With my thread and needle,
I'll make his shroud.

Who'll carry him to his grave?
I, said the Kite,
If it's not in the night,
I'll carry him to his grave.

Who'll dig his grave?
I, said the Owl,
With my spade and shovel.
I'll dig his grave.

Who'll carry the link?
I, said the Linnet,
I'll fetch it in a minute,
I'll carry the link.

Who'll be chief mourner?
I, said the Dove,
I'll mourn for my love,
I'll be chief mourner.

Who'll sing the psalm?
I, said the Thrush
As he sat on a bush,
I'll sing the psalm.

Who'll be the parson?
I, said the Rook,
With my little book,
I'll be the parson.

Who'll be the clerk?
I, said the Lark,
If it's not in the dark,
I'll be the clerk.

Who'll toll the bell?
I, said the Bull,
Because I can pull,
I'll toll the bell.

And all the little birds
Fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
When they heard the bell toll
For poor Cock Robin.

You can read the other pages at

Social Life in Scotland
From Early to Recent Times by Rev. Charles Rogers in 3 volumes (1884)

I now have up...

Chapter VI.
The Land and its Cultivators

Chapter VII.
Rural Life and Manners

Here is how Chapter VII starts...

THE condition of the Scottish peasantry had undergone only perceptible amelioration from the commencement of the fourteenth to the early part of the eighteenth century. Writing in 1661, Dr John Ray, the naturalist, who then visited Scotland, remarks: "The ordinary country houses are pitiful cots, built of stone, and covered with turves, having in them but one room, many of them no chimneys, the windows very small, broke, and not glazed." The "cou'dna be fash'd " system so admirably portrayed by Mrs Elizabeth Hamilton in the "Cottagers of Glenburnie" was no overstrained picture of rural life up to the period of the last rebellion. When, as Mrs Hamilton depicts, a village bridge was only half repaired and yet insecure, the remark "it'll do weel eneuch," settled all questions as to its stability. Describing the state of Ayrshire husbandry in 1750, Colonel Fullarton remarks that "the farm-houses were hovels, moated with clay, having an open hearth or fire-place in the middle and a dunghill at the door." When William Burnes, crofter at Alloway, resolved in the autumn of 1757 to enter into matrimony, he with his own hands reared his future dwelling. Composed of mud walls, it was covered with straw. About the 5th of February 1759, some ten days after his firstborn appeared on the scene, a violent gale threw down one of the gables, to the great peril of the mother and of her son. That son was the poet, Robert Burns.

An improved style of farm-dwelling proceeded about the close of the century. Farm-houses were now erected in stone, each containing from three to six apartments. But the door still opened into the farm-yard, as did nearly all the windows. This arrangement was intended to secure a constant surveillance of the hinds and maidens, also to discover the condition of the calves, pigs, and domestic fowl, which severally disported within a central enclosure named the reed. At the farm-house door a stone seat cushioned with turf, and projecting from the wall, formed the summer afternoon resting-place of the gudewife as she knitted her stocking and superintended her maidens. This seat was called the dais; it had its counterpart in the loupin-on-stane, a small erection of masonry for accommodating the gudewife in mounting and dismounting from her horse, on which she sat behind her husband as she accompanied him to kirk and market.

The farm-house was the headquarters of those who worked upon the farm, for though the hinds at night were lodged elsewhere, it was to all, including the married labourers, who occupied huts, a place of daily resort.

You can read lots more from this chapter at

You can get to the index page of the book at

The Gateway of Scotland
East Lothian, Lammermoor and the Merse
By A. G. Bradley (1912)

Have now completed this book with the following 2 chapters...

Chapter XIV. Upper Lauderdale
Chapter XV. Lower Lauderdale

Here is how Chapter XIV starts...

LAUDERDALE is in Berwickshire, but it is a region unto itself, and justifies on this account the geographical ambiguity of our narrative. It is the western flank of the county, running north and south, and is cut off from the Merse proper by spurs of the Lanimermoors, and by the stretch of half-tamed, high, thin country, we touched about Gordon and Greenlaw. It is more easy of access, too, by road from that corner of East Lothian to the west of Haddington, and thence over the striking pass of Soutra, which has a fine road, and is indeed an Anglo-Scottish highway. By train it is rather more easily reached from Edinburgh than from Berwick, via the line to Galashiels and Melrose, primitive though the tortuous and leisurely little railroad is, by which the old borough of Lauder has within recent years attached itself to this through route down the Gala valley. More, however, than all these topographical conditions in determining the order of our movements here, which after all matters nothing, is the fact that I spent most of the latter end of my long revisitation of these counties in Lauderdale. Lastly, this region, so far as I was concerned, both gained and lost something, inasmuch as it was entirely new ground to me, and offered none of those fatal temptations to reminiscent philandering. As this is not a guide book, and under no obligations whatever of that nature, I shall say nothing about the Mid-Lothian or Edinburgh side of the county of Haddington. Prestonpans, with its battlefield around the railway station and its monument to Gardiner, verges on the Tranent coalfields; while apart from these disfiguring features

on a landscape undistinguished of itself, the immense material growth of Edinburgh within a generation or two has thrust out buildings of an industrial character far into the Mid-Lothian country, that not long ago was at least rural.

The last ten miles of rail or road approach to the Scottish capital from this side were never inspiring. But they are now almost depressing—from the train assuredly so—and painfully out of harmony with the striking qualities that when once within its bounds stamp the modern Athens as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The more inland portions of West Haddingtonshire and Mid-Lothian towards the hills are free of all unsightly enterprises below or above ground, and are distinguished by the high-water mark of Lothian agriculture interspersed with stately and often historic country seats entrenched amid noble woods. But rich as they are in historic memories, it is not amiss, perhaps, that the exigencies of space compel us to climb the Soutra Pass, to enjoy the three or four miles of level open solitary moorland the highway traverses at a height of a thousand or so feet, and drop down the folding hills to where the piping voice of the infant Leader proclaims the head of Lauderdale. Or we might follow the more normal alternative and take train from Edinburgh, breaking the brief journey with profit at Gorebridge, where, having admired the fine dominating pose of the old tower of Borthwick, restored and occupied by the present owner of that name and race, we might proceed on foot by tortuous ways to the great high-perched ruins of Crichton Castle. Borthwick, among other memorabilia in its long story, was the refuge, till driven out of it, of Bothwell and Queen Mary on their flight to Dunbar. Skilfully converted to present use from floor to lofty battlement, without any structural alteration from the ancient form, it stands above a gorge through which the railroad runs, and the infant streams of the

Mid-Lothian Esk fret their way. Crichton, as Scott, who was greatly attached to the spot, reminds the reader:-

"Rises on the steep
Of the green vale of Tyne;
And far beneath where slow they creep
From pool to eddy still and deep,
Where alders moist and willows weep,
You hear her streams repine."

You can read the rest of this chapter at

You can read these at

Robert Burns Lives!
By Frank Shaw

Several years ago while attending a symposium on Robert Burns at Emory University in Atlanta, I met a delightful man. He was a featured conference speaker and when he had finished his presentation, I understood why. This humble and courteous man is a gifted writer, scholar, professor, author, speaker, student, and conversationalist. His name is Kenneth Simpson. He visits Dr. G. Ross Roy at the University of South Carolina on a regular basis and, in turn, I usually try to find time for the drive over to Columbia to visit with Ken, and maybe share a meal or two.

Not only does Ken know Robert Burns, he knows how to deliver the message of Burns. It has been my joy to swap emails with him over the years. I have reviewed his best selling book, Robert Burns, on my website, A Highlander and His Books. More importantly, I consider him to be my friend. Here is a brief account of some of his achievements…

Ken Simpson was Founding Director of the Centre for Scottish Cultural Studies at the University of Strathclyde and organizer of the Burns International Conference held there annually from 1990 to 2004. He has twice been Neag Distinguished Professor of British Literature at the University of Connecticut and twice W. Ormiston Roy Research Fellow in Scottish Poetry at the University of South Carolina. Recently appointed Honorary Professor in the Department of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University, he is currently President of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society. Ken’s various international engagements recently have included discussions on Burns with William McIlvanney in St. Petersburg and giving a paper on Smollett at the Twelfth Congress of the Enlightenment in Montpellier. He also currently appears in a video accompanying the NLS touring exhibition on Burns entitled ‘Zig-Zag Man’.

Ken’s publications include The Protean Scot: The Crisis of Identity in Eighteenth-Century Scottish Literature; Burns Now; and Love and Liberty: Robert Burns – A Bicentenary Celebration. He is editing, with Ross Roy, Correspondence with Burns and is working on a study of Burns’ letters.

In keeping with the spirit of the 250th celebration of the birth of Burns, Ken has agreed to share the following article about the bard.

His article... What Burns Means to Me... can be read at

By W. Barclay (1922)

Added more chapters this week...

Chapter 5. Rivers and Lochs
Chapter 6. Geology
Chapter 7. Natural History
Chapter 8. Along the Coast
Chapter 9. Climate
Chapter 10. The People—Race, Language, Population
Chapter 11. Agriculture

Here is how the Agriculture chapter gets under way...

Agriculture is pursued in a most enterprising and enlightened manner, and both in arable farming and in the excellence of farm stock, the county takes a high position. Along the coast the soil consists mostly of sand and loam, the latter by far the more predominant, and these in several districts are blended with a proportion of clay soil. The arable surface along the coast lies in general upon a free open bottom, while that of the interior is mostly a light black soil on a hard bottom, retentive of water, hence one of the causes of the lateness of the crops in these districts.

Up to the middle of the eighteenth century improvements in agriculture were few. The arable lands were divided into outfield and infield. To the infield, which consisted of the acreage nearest to the farm house, the whole manure was regularly applied; the only crops cultivated on it were oats, bere and peas, and the land was kept in tillage as long as it would produce two or three returns of the seed sown. When the field became so reduced and so full of weeds as not to yield this return, it was allowed to lie in natural pasture for a few years, after which it was again brought under cultivation and treated in the same manner. The outfield lands were wasted by a succession of oats after oats so long as the crops would pay for seed and labour. They were then allowed to remain in a state of absolute sterility, producing little else than thistles and other weeds till, after having been rested for some years, they were again brought under cultivation and a few scanty crops obtained. There are authenticated cases of fields in Alvah and Boyndie which carried respectively 12, 14, and 15 crops of oats in succession. The system of farming pursued was clearly described by Alexander Garden of Troup, writing in 1686. The land as stated, was divided into "in-field" and "out-field." The in-field was kept "constantly under corne and bear, the husbandman dunging it every thrie year, and if he reap the fourth corne, he is satisfied." The outfield was allowed to grow green with weeds and thistles, and after four or five years of repose was twice ploughed and sown with corn. Three crops were generally taken in succession and then, or as soon as the soil was too exhausted to repay seed and labour, reverted to thistle and weeds. That this system was regarded as completely satisfactory, is shown by the old proverb:

If the land be thrie year oot and thrie year in,
'Twill keep in good heart till the Deil gaes blin.

Yu can read the rest of this chapter at

You can read the other chapters at

Wilderness Homes
A Book of the Log Cabin by Oliver Kemp (1908)

I now have up more chapters...

Chapter III - The Ax and the Tree
Chapter IV - Building the Cabin
Chapter V - The Roof and the Floor
Chapter VI - The Cabin and its Environment
Chapter VII - Inside the Cabin
Chapter VIII - What it will Cost
Chapter IX - Some Hunting Cabins

Are here is how Chapter III starts...

THE one indispensable tool in the building of a log cabin is the ax. I know a man who, with no other implement, can erect a marvelously complete cabin; but this degree of efficiency we ordinary people may not hope to attain.

If you be wise, then, purchase the best ax possible. The cost of this will not be over $1.25. An inferior one may be had as low as 75 cents, but the steel is not there. Long before the camp is finished you will have discovered that an ax which bites in deep and holds its cutting edge is desirable. Axes come of varying weights, but for the average user one of three and a half or three and three-quarter pounds is about right.

Perhaps it has not occurred to you that the "handle" or helve was a thing to be considered, yet the dealer will put out an assortment which, if you examine them, will be found to consist of crooked and straight, thick and thin, and varying combinations of these. If you have never handled an ax, you will have some difficulty in deciding. Your only guide probably will be, after selecting one fairly crooked, to purchase the one which feels best in your hand. If your fingers are short, do not get a handle too large in diameter, and trice versa. Neglected, this point may occasion you a painful period of cramped fingers. I have seen men in the woods (and they forget to complain of any hurt) whose grip had to be loosened by the aid of the swinging hand. An extra helve should be taken always.

To "hang" your ax properly requires care, and is important. If it be hung too far "out" or too far "in," or if it be out of line, it will lessen very materially the effectiveness of your stroke. Therefore, slip the helve into place in the eye of the ax, work the "bit" or cutting edge up and down, to see whether it can be brought to a proper position. This means that the center of the bit and the knob on the handle should touch if the ax were placed against a straightedge, as shown in the plate.

The rest of this chapter can be read at

The other chapters can be read at

Crofting Agriculture
Its practice in the West Highlands and Islands by F. Fraser Darling (1945)

A new book we're starting on...

AGRICULTURE in the crofts, the Islands, and West Highlands presents special problems. In this book Dr Fraser Darling explains the principles of putting land into good heart and of growing crops which suit the difficult climate and conditions.

There is no one better qualified to do this than Dr Fraser Darling, who has first-hand experience and a great sympathy with the crofter's problem.

Some of Mr Robert Adams's beautiful photographs of Highland scenery illustrate the book, and this selection shows that he does not neglect to record the arts and crafts of Highland Life.

Here is what the Preface has to say...

This book is the result of an experiment in agricultural journalism. When a series of articles first took shape in my mind as an accompaniment to personal travels in the crofting areas, I knew that its success would not be wholly dependent on such knowledge, and ability to impart it, as I might possess. The fortunes of the weekly articles would depend largely on the co-operation of the Highland newspaper editors: with their paper supplies being cut and increasing official demands being made on their space, would they be prepared to print an additional 600 to 700 words? Every editor resident in the Highlands who was approached replied that he would do his best, and that he has done. The weekly articles still could not be called a success unless it was known that they were widely read. The crofter's readiness to read them was just as important as my willingness to write and the editor's kindness and public spirit in printing them.

I believed that the crofter would read matter which dealt with the problems of his own husbandry. It did not matter to me whether he agreed or not with what I had to say, but I believed he would preserve an open mind and bring his critical sense to bear. The footnote each week inviting correspondence on crofting agriculture was in some measure a safeguard that I should not do all the talking!

The West Highlands are a country of difficult communications and on a part-time appointment it would have been impossible for me to see every crofter personally and have a crack with him—the more's the pity, from my point of view. The weekly article helped me to say something about basic principles of agriculture, and the crofter's response in letters asking for advice is an expression of goodwill and a definite sign that someone wants to know. The volume of letters from crofters has steadily grown, and if the truth be known, these letters are the only ones I sit down to answer with enthusiasm and enjoyment, instead of as an irksome necessity.

I was criticized recently for saying that there was defeatism in the Highlands, defeatism being the failure to believe that the croft was worth working for a living or part of a living. Such an attitude undoubtedly exists, but my remark should never have been represented as my final opinion of the crofter. I have faith in him and in the crofting life as the good life; the interest shown in these articles and the letters I receive asking for particular information are proof that defeatism is not general. While people can take the trouble to sit down with pen and paper and ask for knowledge, they are not taking the line of least resistance, which is the attitude of defeatism. These letters are a token of a positive will to action and I miss no opportunity of telling that to the outside world.

Many correspondents have asked if the articles might be gathered together in book form. The idea seemed a good one, and I am glad to present them in that form now in an expanded version, thanks to the co-operation of the Publishers.

I am also grateful for the opportunity of having Mr Robert M. Adam's illustrations. His beautiful photographs of Highland scenery are famous, but the selection given with this book shows that he does not neglect to record the arts and crafts of Highland folk. These photographs have enabled me to add a last few words to the book in such fashion as the reader and I might talk if we were walking round the croft together.

Kilcamb Lodge, Strontian

North Argyll, April 1945

I have the Introduction and the first 3 chapters up for you to read at

The Highland Line
Lots of discussion on where the Highland Line is and W. Neil Fraser sent me in a map of one place it might be found. I placed it on the index page of our Geography of the Highland Clans at

The Scottish Highlander
This is a copy of a talk given by J. L. Morison, Professor of History at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario which was then published in short book form.

The talk starts...

"EVERYTHING," wrote Macculloch, in his critical volumes on the Highlands, "whisky, courage, ghosts, virtue or Beltain, is alike peculiar to the Highlands among those who know no country but the Highlands"; and the essayist who takes the Scottish Highlands as his subject must justify his choice by avoiding the ignorant flattery and weakly acquiescence which makes so much of the occasional literature on the subject worthless. Yet Macculloch himself found in the North material sufficient to fill four stout volumes; and the century which has intervened since he wrote has been rich in new collections of Highland folklore and ancient customs. And now there is a peculiar fitness in suggesting Highland life as a subject for careful study; for a century of depopulation has culminated in the melancholy figures of the latest census. A generation ago it was the decay of Highland: manners which distressed the patriot; to-day it is the actual disappearance of the Highland stock from Scotland. A few years hence the historian of the North and West may take as his most appropriate motto:

"I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."

Without undue pessimism, it must be confessed that, in the Scottish Highlander, as the representative of a coherent people, dwelling in a fixed abode, we are dealing with a survival, the term of whose existence along the old lines cannot be prolonged far into the twentieth century. With relentless precision, modern civilisation has chosen other centres on which to mass her forces; and nothing marks the old positions now but ruined cots and the decay of ancient modes of life. I shall deal, theii, in my lecture, with the psychology of a lost cause, a nation based on principles, and living under physical conditions which seem to have contradicted the laws of modern national evolution; and my problem is to represent the virtues and picturesque qualities which have made the Highland name famous, and at the same time to trace, even in the very virtues, the elements of dissolution. It must be an essay on the decline and fall of the Highland people.

You can read this at

The Writings of John Muir
As I mentioned above I'll be starting on the 10 volumes of his writings next week and here is the Introduction to whett your appetite...

"LONGEST is the life that contains the largest amount of time-effacing enjoyment — of work that is a steady delight. Such a life may really comprise an eternity upon earth." These words of John Muir I noted down after one of our last conversations. To few men was it given to realize so completely the element of eternity -- of time-effacing enjoyment in work — as it was to John Muir. The secret of it all was in his soul, the soul of a child, of a poet, and of a strong man, all blended into one. Only such a one would have mounted the top of a pine tree in a gale-swept forest in order to enjoy the better the passionate music of the storm, and then tell how "we all travel the milky way together, trees and men; but it never occurred to me until this storm-day," he wrote, "that trees are travelers in the ordinary sense. They make many journeys, not extensive ones it is true; but our own little journeys, away and back again, are only little more than tree-wavings — many of them not so much."

But the play of his rich imagination did not pause with the adventure in the tree-top. "When the storm began to abate," he continues, "I dismounted and sauntered down through the calming woods. The storm-tones died away, and turning toward the east, I beheld the countless hosts of the forests hushed and tranquil, towering above one another on the slopes of the hills like a devout audience. The setting sun filled them with amber light, and seemed to say, while they listened, `My peace I give unto you.'"

These quotations illustrate the irresistible charm of simplicity, the directness of poetical feeling and perception, that were a part of everything Mr. Muir wrote, said, and did. When he struck out upon the long trail he was not only foremost among the nature writers of America, but in many respects the most distinguished figure among contemporary men of letters. It will take more than this hasteful, fretful generation to take the measure of his greatness, and to explore the sources of his power.

Before me lies a letter written to Mr. Muir by a friend fifty years ago. He was then twenty-nine years old and had just received a serious injury to one of his eyes. "Dear John," the writer says, "I have often wondered what God was training you for. He gave you the eye within the eye, to see in all natural objects the realized ideas of His mind. He gave you pure tastes, and the steady preference of whatsoever is most lovely and excellent. He has made you a more individualized existence than is common, and by your very nature and organization removed you from common temptations.... Do not be anxious about your calling. God will surely place you where your work is."

Thus early did his friends see in him those personal qualities and those powers of insight which gave a rare distinction to his person and his presence. Evil thoughts fled at the sound of his voice. An innate nobility of character, an unstudied reverence for all that is sublime in nature or in life, unconsciously called forth the best in his friends and acquaintances. In the spiritual as in the physical realm flowers blossomed in his footsteps where he went. After all, it is to such men as John Muir that we must look for the sustenance of those finer feelings that keep men in touch with the spiritual meaning and beauty of the universe, and make them capable of understanding those rare souls whose insight has invested life with imperishable hope and charm.

Not many years ago the directors of the Sierra Club arranged for a quiet little dinner in honor of James Bryce, when he returned from his visit to Australia. To all intents and purposes there were only two men at the dinner, Bryce and Muir, for the rest were intent listeners — too intent, altogether, to take more than mental notes. Both were enlarging upon the value of the civilizing influences that arise from a deep and humane understanding of nature. Lord Bryce ventured the remark that the establishment of national parks, and the fostering of a love of nature and outdoor life among children, would do more for the morals of the nation than libraries and law codes. Muir welcomed this opinion, and added that children ought to be trained to take a sympathetic interest in our wild birds and animals. "Under proper training," he said, "even the most savage boy will rise above the bloody flesh and sport business, the wild foundational animal dying out day by day as divine, uplifting, transfiguring charity grows in."

To all who knew John Muir intimately his gentleness and humaneness toward all creatures that shared the world with him was one of the finest attributes of his character. He was ever looking forward to the time when our wild fellow creatures would be granted their indisputable right to a place in the sun. The shy creatures of forest and plain have lost in him an incomparable lover, biographer, and defender.

John Muir's writings are sure to live — by the law that men, when they lift their eyes from the commonplace tasks of work-a-day life, unerringly, indefeasibly fix them on the snowy crests of human thought and achievement. Thence it is that they must derive their power to hope and to toil. As long as daisies shall continue to star the fields of Scotland men will choose to see them through the eyes of Burns. Forgotten generations have heard the nightingale sing its love-song at twilight; but a finer music is in the song since Keats listened to the notes from the thicket on the hill. Nor will the name of Wordsworth ever be dissociated from the carol of the rising lark and the call of the cuckoo across the quiet of rural England.

John Muir is of their number. He had "the eye within the eye" — was a seer of rare distinction. Among the great few who have won title to remembrance as prophets and interpreters of nature he rises to a moral as well as poetical altitude that will command the admiring attention of men so long as human records shall endure. Thousands and thousands, hereafter, who go to the mountains, streams, and canons of California will choose to see them through the eyes of John Muir, and they will see more deeply because they see with his eyes.

But while in a high sense his wisdom has become a part of us forever, his going has left an aching void in the hearts of all lovers of the California mountains. Long accustomed to meet him where wild rivers go singing down the canons, and skyey trails are lost amid cloudy pines, they now must perforce apply to him the simple words which sixteen years ago he wrote on his visit to the grave of his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson: "He had gone to higher Sierras, and, as I fancied, was again waving his hand in friendly recognition."

April 15, 1916

And that's it for now and hope you all have a good weekend :-)


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