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saved by the corn passing but once through their hands, as at each time they pilfer some. It appears to me that the graddaning is a strong proof of the laziness of the Highlanders, who will rather make fire act for them at the expense of fodder than labour themselves. There was also what I cannot help disliking at breakfast, cheese ; it is the custom over all the Highlands to have it, and it often smells very strong, and poisons to a certain degree the elegance of an Indian repast. The day was showery; however, Rasay and I took a walk, and had some cordial conversation. I conceived a more than ordinary regard for this worthy gentleman. His family has possessed this island above four hundred years. It is the remains of the estate of Macleod of Lewis, whom he represents. When we returned, Dr. Johnson walked with us to see the old chapel. He was in fine spirits. He said, "This is truly the patriarchal life; this is what we came to find."
After dinner, M'Cruslick, Malcolm, and I went out with guns, to try if we could find any black-cock; but we had no sport, owing to a heavy rain. I saw here what is called a Danish fort. Our evening was passed as last night was. One of our company, I was told, had hurt himself by too much study, particularly of infidel metaphysicians; of which he gave a proof on second-sight being mentioned. He immediately retailed some of the fallacious arguments of Voltaire and Hame against miracles in general. Infidelity in a Highland gentleman appeared to me peculiarly offensive. I was sorry for him, as he had otherwise a good character. I told Dr. Johnson that he had studied himself into infidelity.-JOHNSON: "Then he must study himself out of it again. That is the way. Drinking largely will sober him again.”
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10.
Having resolved to explore the island of Rasay, which could be done only on foot, I last night obtained my fellow-traveller's permission to leave him for a day, he being unable to take so hardy a walk. Old Mr. Malcolm Macleod, who had obligingly promised to accompany me, was at my bedside between five and six. I sprang up immediately, and he and I, attended by two other gentlemen, traversed the country during the whole of this day. Though we had passed over not less than four-and-twenty miles of very rugged ground, and had a Highland dance on the top of Dun Can, the highest mountain in the island, we returned in the evening not at all fatigued, and piqued ourselves at not being outdone at the nightly ball by our less active friends who had remained at home.
My survey of Rasay did not furnish much which can interest
my readers; I shall therefore put into as short a compass as I can the observations upon it which I find registered in my journal. It is about fifteen English miles long, and four broad. On the south side is the laird's family seat, situated on a pleasing low spot. The old tower of three storeys, mentioned by Martin, was taken down soon after 1746, and a modern house supplies its place. There are very good grass-fields and corn-lands about it well dressed. I observed, however, hardly any inclosures, except a good garden plentifully stocked with vegetables, and strawberries, raspberries, currants, &c.
On one of the rocks just where we landed, which are not high, there is rudely carved a square, with a crucifix in the middle. Here, it is said, the Lairds of Rasay, in old times, used to offer up their devotions. I could not approach the spot without a grateful recollection of the event commemorated by this symbol.
A little from the shore, westward, is a kind of subterraneous house. There has been a natural fissure or separation of the rock, running towards the sea, which has been roofed over with long stones, and above them turf has been laid; in that place the inhabitants used to keep their oars. There are a number of trees near the house, which grow well; some of them of a pretty good size. They are mostly plane and ash. A little to the west of the house is an old ruinous chapel, unroofed, which never has been very curious. We here saw some human bones of an uncommon size; there was a heel-bone, in particular, which Dr. Macleod said was such, that if the foot was in proportion, it must have been twenty-seven inches long. Dr. Johnson would not look at the bones; he started back from them with a striking appearance of horror. Mr. Macqueen told us that it was formerly much the custom in these isles to have human bones lying above the ground, especially in the windows of churches. On the south of the chapel is the family burying-place. Above the door, on the east end of it, is a small bust or image of the Virgin Mary, carved upon a stone which makes part of the wall. There is no church upon the island. It is annexed to one of the parishes of Sky; and the minister comes and preaches either in Rasay's house or some other house, on certain Sundays. I could not but value the family seat more for having even the ruins of a chapel close to it. There was something comfortable in the thought of being so near a piece of consecrated ground. Dr. Johnson said: "I look with reverence upon every place that has been set apart for religion;" and he kept off his hat while he was within the walls of the chapel.
The eight crosses, which Martin 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. Rasay took them to be the marks for the asylum; but Malcolm 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 Macqueen justly, in my opinion, supposes the crosses which form the inner circle to be the church's land-marks.
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 to 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 beast in it, a sea horse, 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 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."
* The translation appeared in the "Scots' Magazine" for 1756. It was by Jerome
There is a large tract of land, possessed as a common, in Rasay. They have no regulations as to 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 unincumbered 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 band! Rasay has the true spirit of a chief. He is, without exaggeration, a father to his people.
There is plenty of lime-stone 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, as most names of places in these islands
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 concretion of pebbles and earth, so firm that it does not appear to have mouldered. 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.
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 Stone, a young man in Dunkeld, who was the first to collect and translate the ancient poems of the Highlands. The original, according to Stone's copy, and his translation with a literal translation of the original, are given in the Appendix to the Highland Society's Report on the Poems of Ossian.-ED.
* Dun, a very common prefix in the names of places, in the ancient British signi fied stronghold, or fortified hill. Can is the Celtic for head.-ED.
At this end
It is in a
Before it the
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. of the island of Rasay is a cave in a striking situation. recess of a great cleft, a good way up from the sea. 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 must 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 petrifications 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 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, sheep, 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 blackcock 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 Rasay; 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 western 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 [sweet gale or bogmyrtle], 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 Rasay,