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The eight crosses, which Martinl mentions as pyramids for deceased ladies, stood in a semicircular line, which contained within it the chapel, They marked out the boundaries of the sacred territory within which an asylum was to be had. One of them, which we observed upon our landing, made the first point of the semicircle. There are few of them now remaining. A good way farther north, there is a row of buildings about four feet high: they run from the shore on the east along the top of a pretty high eminence, and so down to the shore on the west, in much the same direction with the crosses. Basay took them to be the marks for the asylum; but Malcom thought them to be false sentinels, a common deception, of which instances occur in Martin, to make invaders imagine an island better guarded. Mr. Donald M'Queen justly, in my opinion, supposed the crosses which form the inner circle to be the church's landmarks.
The south end of the island is much covered with large stones or rocky strata. The Laird has enclosed and planted part of it with firs, and he showed me a considerable space marked out for additional plantations.
Dun Can is a mountain three computed miles from the Laird's house. The ascent to it is by consecutive risings, if that expression may be used when valleys intervene, so that there is but a short rise at once; but it is certainly very high above the sea. The palm of altitude is disputed for by the people of Rasay and those of Sky; the former contending for Dun Can, the latter for the mountains in Sky, over against it. We went up the east side of Dun Can pretty easily. It is mostly rocks all around, the points of which hem the summit of it. Sailors, to whom it was a good object as they pass along, call it Rasay's cap. Before we reached this mountain, we passed by two lakes. Of the first Malcolm told me a strange fabulous tradition. He said, there was a wild oeast in it, a seahorse, which came and devoured a man's daughter; upon which the man lighted a great fire, and had a sow roasted at it, the smell of which attracted the monster. In the fire was put a spit. The man lay concealed behind a low wall of loose stones, and
1 Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, p. 164.—Editor.
he had an avenue formed for the monster, with two rows of large flat stones, which extended from the fire over the summit of the hill, till it reached the side of the loch. The monster came, and the man with the red-hot spit destroyed it. Malcolm showed me the little hiding-place, and the rows of stones. He did not laugh when he told this story. I recollect having seen in the Scots Magazine, several years ago, a poem upon a similar tale, perhaps the same, translated from the Erse, or Irish, called "Albin and the Daughter of Mey."
There is a large tract of land, possessed as a common, in Rasay. They have no regulations as to the number of cattle; every man puts upon it as many as he chooses. From Dun Can northward, till you reach the other end of the island, there is much good natural" pasture, unencumbered by stones. We passed over a spot which is appropriated for the exercising ground. In 1745, a hundred fighting men were reviewed here, as Malcolm told me, who was one of the officers that led them to the field. They returned home all but about fourteen. What a princely thing is it to be able to furnish such a baud! Rasay has the true spirit of a chief. He is, without exaggeration, a father to his people.
There is plenty of limestone in the island, a great quarry of freestone, and some natural woods, but none of any age, as they cut the trees for common country uses. The lakes, of which there are many, are well stocked with trout. Malcolm catched one of four and twenty pounds' weight in the loch next to Dun Can, which, by the way, is certainly a Danish name,1 as most names of places in these islands are.
The old castle, in which the family of Rasay formerly resided, is situated upon a rock very near the sea. The rock is not one mass of stone, but a congregation of pebbles and earth, so firm that it does not appear to have mouldered.
1 It is clearly an Erse or Celtic name, compounded of Dun, a hill, and Can, the head—i.e. the highest hill. So in Scotland, Kan-tyr, the head land or promontory. It may be observed that Knit— the Kantian promontory of England—is no doubt a contraction of Kan-ti/r, the head land, as the name of the capital—Cc.n-tyr-bury, the fortress of the promontorial land—denotes.— Croker.
In this remnant of antiquity I found nothing worthy of being noticed, except, a certain accommodation rarely to be found at the modern houses of Scotland, and which Dr. Johnson and I sought for in vain at the Laird of Rasay's new-built mansion, where nothing else was wanting. I took the liberty to tell the Laird it was a shame there should be such a deficiency in civilized times. He acknowledged the justice of the remark. But perhaps some generations may pass before the want is supplied. Dr. Johnson observed to me, how quietly people will endure an evil, which they might at any time very easily remedy; and mentioned, as an instance, that the present family of Rasay had possessed the island for more than four hundred years, and never made a commodious landing-place, though a few men with pickaxes might have cut an ascent of stairs out of any part of the rock in a week's time.1
The north end of Rasay is as rocky as the south end. From it I saw the little isle of Fladda, belonging to Rasay, all fine green ground; and Rona, which is of so rocky a soil that it appears to be a pavement. I was told, however, that it has a great deal of grass in the interstices. The Laird has it all in his own hands. At this end of the island of Rasay is a cave in a striking situation; it is in a recess of a great cleft, a good way up from the sea. Before it the ocean roars, being dashed against monstrous broken rocks; grand and awful propugnacula. On the right hand of it is a longitudinal cave, very low at the entrance, but higher as you advance. The sea having scooped it out, it seems strange and unaccountable that the interior part, where the water mnst have operated with less force, should be loftier than that which is more immediately exposed to its violence. The roof of it is all covered with a kind of petrifactions formed by drops, which perpetually distil from it. The first cave has been a place of much safety. I find a great difficulty in describing visible objects. I must
1 Though Johnson thus censured Rasay and his ancestors for having remained tour hundred years without rendering their island accessible by a landing place, yet, when he came to write his Journal, he remembered that, perhaps, it was only for the last few years that it was desirable it should be accessible. i; I know not whether, for many ages, it was not considered as a part of military policy to keep the country not easily accessible."—Croker.
own too, that the old castle and cave, like many other things, of which one hears much, did not answer my expectations. People are everywhere apt to magnify the curiosities of their country.
This island has abundance of black cattle, sheen, and goats; a good many horses, which are used for ploughing, carrying out dung, and other works of husbandry. I believe the people never ride. There are indeed no roads through the island, unless a few detached beaten tracks deserve that name. Most of the houses are upon the shore; so that all the people have little boats, and catch fish. There is great plenty of potatoes here. There are black-cock in extraordinary abundance, moor-fowl, plover and wild pigeons, which seemed to me to be the same as we have in pigeon-houses, in their state of nature. Rasay has no pigeon-house. There are no hares nor rabbits in the island, nor was there ever known to be a fox, till last year, when one was landed on it by some malicious person, without whose aid he could not have got thither, as that animal is known to be a very bad swimmer. He has done much mischief. There is a great deal of fish caught in the sea round Easay; it is a place where one may live in plenty, and even in luxury. There are no deer; but Rasay told us he would get some.
They reckon it rains nine months in the year in this island, owing to its being directly opposite to the westernl coast of Sky, where the watery clouds are broken by high mountains. The hills here, and indeed all the heathy grounds in general, abound with the sweet-smelling plant which the Highlanders call gaul, and (I think) with dwarf juniper in many places. There is enough of turf, which is their fuel, and it is thought there is a mine of coal. Such are the observations which I made upon the island of Easay, upon comparing it with the description given by Martin, whose book we had with us.
There has been an ancient league between the families of Macdonald and Rasay. Whenever the head of either family dies, his sword is given to the head of the other.
1 So in all the editions, but the eastern coast of Sky is next to Rasay. Boswell means that the eastern coast of Sky is westward of Rasay.— Croker.
The present Rasay has the late Sir James Macdonald's sword. Old Rasay joined the Highland army in 1745, but prudently guarded against a forfeiture, by previously conyeying his estate to the present gentleman, his eldest son. On that occasion, Sir Alexander, father of the late Sir James Macdonald, was very friendly to his neighbour. "Don't be afraid, Rasay," said he, "I'll use all my interest to keep you safe; and if your estate should be taken, I'll buy it for the family." And he would have done it.
Let me now gather some gold dust, some more fragments of Dr. Johnson's conversation, without regard to order of time. He said, "he thought very highly of Bentley; that no man now went so far in the kinds of learning that he cultivated; that the many attacks on him were owing to envy, and to a desire of being known, by being in competition with such a man; that it was safe to attack him, because he never answered his opponents, but let them die away. It was attacking a man who would not beat them, because his beating them would make them live the longer. And he was right not to answer; for, in his hazardous method of writing, he could not but be often enough wrong; so it was better to leave things to their general appearance, than own himself to have erred in particulars." He said, "Mallet was the prettiest dressed puppet about town, and always kept good company. That, from his way of talking, he saw, and always said, that he had not written any part of the Life of the Duke of Marlborough, though perhaps he intended to do it at some time, in which case he was not culpable in taking the pension. That he imagined the Duchess furnished the materials for her Apology, which Hooke wrote, and Hooke furnished the words and the order, and all that in which the art of writing consists. That the Duchess had not superior parts, but was a bold frontless woman, who knew how to make the most of her opportunities in life. That Hooke got a large sum of money for writing her Apology. That he wondered Hooke should have been weak enough to insert so profligate a maxim, as that to tell another's secret to one's friend is no breach of confidence; though perhaps Hooke, who was a virtuous man, as his History shows, and did not wish her well, though he wrote her Apology, might