Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 10. Menteith

Leave Callander by A81 (Glasgow Road) which climbs the Braes of Greenock to Loch Ruskie, where there were the remains of an island castle occupied by the Earl of Menteith. Shortly after Loch Ruskie the Carse of Forth comes into view and there is a good view of the Lake of Menteith in the middle distance. Turn right at the foot of the hill. The ruined castle on the right is Rednock Castle, former seat of the Grahams. The road then leads to Port of Menteith (road junction), and the Lake of Menteith:
Queen Victoria followed this route on her visit to Aberfoyle when she was staying at Invertrossachs. She mentions Uam Var the prominent, isolated mountain above the Teith which dominates Callander from the south east. Scott used it in The Lady of the Lake in the chase, which forms the subject of the first canto, and is the source of most of the famous passages in that work. The reason for this was the magnificent view of the district from the brow of Uam Var:

The noble stag was pausing now,
Upon the mountain’s southern brow,
Where broad extended, lay beneath-
The varied realms of fair Menteith,
With anxious eye he wandered o’er-
Mountain and meadow, moss and moor,
And pondered refuge from his toil(
By far Loch Ard or Aberfoyle;,
But nearer was the copsewood gray.
That waved and wept on Loch Achray,/
And mingled with the pine-trees blue+
On the bold cliffs of Ben Venue.

Sir Walter Scott Lady of the Lake

It was a fine day and Victoria describes the scenery crossing the Braes of Greenock road in greater detail than most guidebooks to the district. Further information about the Queen’s holiday at Invertrossachs is given under Loch Venachar:

A very fine bright warm morning. We decided to go on an expedition, but not to Loch Lomond, as we should have to start so early. Breakfasted in the drawing room with Louise and Beatrice. Then writing, etc. At twenty minutes to twelve I started in the sociable with Louise, Beatrice, Jane Churchill and Colonel Ponsonby and Brown on the box, and drove (excellent post horses, always only a pair), to Callander, but turned right short of it, and went on some little way. On coming to the top we saw Ben Ledi, a splendid hill; to the north Ben Vorlich, and to the east the heights of Uam Var, a pink heathery ridge of no great elevation; andi in the distance rising up from the horizon, Dumyat, and the Wallace Monument on the Abbey Craig, near Stirling. We went across a moor and soon passed Loch Ruskie, quite a small lake. The country here is rather lowland but as we proceeded it was extremely pretty, with very fine trees and cornfields, and harvesting going on; and soon after that, descending a hill we came on the “Loch” of Menteith (the only loch in Scotland which is ever called a lake). it reminds one very much of Loch Kinnord near Ballater, and very low blue and pink hills rise in the distance. There are two or three islands in it; in the large one, Inchmahome, you perceive among the thick woods the ruins of an ancient priory. Queen Mary lived there once and there are monuments to the Menteiths to be seen upon it. To the right we passed the ruin of Rednock Castle, and on the left the gates of the park of Rednock, with very fine large trees.

Queen Victoria Highland Journal

The castle was long ago levelled, and the building stones were used to build houses at Blairhoyle, and the farm-steading of Muirhouse. The island on which the castle was built was submerged when the level of the loch was raised. Margaret Holford (1778-1852), minor poet and unsuccessful imitator of Scott, mentions the castle in her first poem Wallace, or the Fight of Falkirk [1809]:

Where the majestic Grampians spread.
Their shadows o’er old Rusky’s head;
Where friendship warns the escutchion’d walls,
Of frowning Rusky’s antique halls.

The old castle of Rednock and its successor Rednock House at the foot of the pass have a highly significant literary connection. Susanna Blamire (1747-94) was a Cumbrian poet whose sister, Sarah, married Col Thomas Graham in 1767. Between 1767 and his death in 1773 Susanna spent much time in Scotland with her sister. One of her lost poems celebrated the ‘Lake of Menteith’ while several others became famous Scottish songs. The DNB puts it thus: “As a song-writer she deserves to rank very high. She preferred to write songs in the Scottish dialect, and three at least of her songs are exquisite, What ails this heart o’ mine?,  And ye shall walk in silk attire (The Siller Croun), and The Traveller’s Return. Another beautiful song, ‘The Waefu’ Heart’, is, with great probability, attributed to her. Of the four songs The Traveller’s Return may be the least well known, but it is the most interesting. Students of folk song suggest that the air to which Susanna Blamire set When silent time wi’ lightly foot is probably the original of Burns’ tune for “Auld Lang Syne”. In 1871, Sarah Tytler and J. L. Watson included her in The Songstresses of Scotland, asserting that she “adopted Scotland and the Scotch with enthusiasm, and thenceforth wrote Scotch songs like a Scotchwoman” Hugh MacDiarmid stated that she wrote some of the finest Scots verse ever written by any non-Scot, fully equal to all but the very greatest work of the same sort ever achieved by any Scots poet — praise indeed. Susanna was very friendly with the Grahams of Gartmore as well.

Susanna Blamire

Susanna Blamire

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) is one of the giants of Scottish literature. He was a novelist and poet, and as young man he was actively employed as a lawyer in the district. His greatest creative impetus probably came from the Borders where he lived for much of his life, but he had an intimate knowledge of, and love of parts of the Highlands. He made an early acquaintance with Perthshire when engaged in an eviction, but revisited Loch Lomond and the Trossachs frequently to see two friends, his fellow advocate Hector MacDonald Buchanan at Ross Priory on Loch Lomond, and Major Buchanan at Cambusmore beside the Keltie near Callander. He was also well known to Patrick Graham, the then Minister of Aberfoyle.

His Lady of the Lake, published in 1810 and set in the Trossachs created a lasting interest in the place. His first novel, Waverley (1814) makes use of a scene in the locality, but it was Rob Roy (1818), the nexus of which is set in the district, which brought as much fame to Aberfoyle as The Lady of the Lake brought to Loch Katrine. Scott was a fine storyteller as this extract from Tales of a Grandfather set in Menteith illustrates:

The Earls of Menteith, you must know, had a castle, situated upon an island in a lake, or loch as it is called of the same name. But though this residence, which occupied almost the whole of the islet, upon which its ruins still exist, was a strong and safe place of abode, and adopted accordingly to such perilous times, it had this inconvenience, that the stables and other domestic offices were constructed on the banks of the lake, and were, therefore, in some sort defenceless.

It happened upon a time that there was to be a great entertainment in the castle, and a number of the Grahams were assembled. The occasion, it is said, was a marriage in the family. To prepare for this feast, much provision was got ready, and in particular, a great deal of poultry had been collected. While the feast was preparing, an unhappy chance brought Donald of the Hammer to the side of the lake, returning at the head of a band of hungry followers, whom he was conducting homewards to the West Highlands, after some of his usual excursions in Stirlingshire. Seeing so much good victuals ready, and being possessed of an excellent appetite, the Western Highlanders neither asked questions, nor waited for an invitation, but devoured all the provisions that had been prepared for the Grahams, and then went on their way rejoicing through the difficult and dangerous path which leads from the banks of the Loch of Menteith, through the mountains, to the side of Loch Katrine.

The Grahams were filled with the highest indignation. The company who were assembled at the castle of Menteith, headed by the Earl himself, hastily took to their boats, and disembarking on the northern side of the lake, pursued with all speed the marauders and their leader. They came up with Donald’s party in the gorge of a pass, near a rock, called Craig Vad, or the Wolf’s Cliff. The battle then began, and it was continued with much fury till night. The Earl of Menteith and many of his noble kinsmen fell, while Donald, favoured by darkness, escaped with a single attendant. The Grahams obtained, from the cause of the quarrel, the nickname of Gramoch an Garrigh, or Grahams of the Hens.

Tales of a Grandfather 1828-30

Scott sets this incident in the Duke’s Pass. Others state that it took place in the Pass of Glenny immediately above the Loch of Menteith where an old Roman road leads to Loch Vennacher.

There is at least one splendid fairy tale associated with the Loch of Menteith. Again, it is connected with the feasting, which appears to have gone on there:

One of the Earls of Menteith – which one, the tale does not condescend to say – was entertaining a company of friends in the halls of Inchtalla, when it was found that the supply of liquor was running out. Late though it was, he summoned his butler and ordered him to set off at once for Stirling, procure the necessary supply, and be back as early as possible the next day. The butler immediately took his cask, and unmooring the boat proceeded to row himself to the shore. As he neared the shore he observed two ‘honest women’ among the reeds at the margin. watching them, he saw each cut a bulrush for herself, then crying the one to the other ‘Hae wi’ ye!’, they mounted their bulrushes and immediately rose sailing into the air. The butler, seized with a sudden impulse, also cut a bulrush, and shouting ‘Hae wi’ ye!’ found himself flying at lightning speed through space. Together they descended in the palace of the King of France, where, being invisible, they enjoyed themselves in their several ways. The butler, in some mysterious manner, never let go his cask; and finding himself in the royal cellar he replenished it with the choicest wine. But that was not all. In case the truth of the marvellous story of adventure he had to tell might be doubted, he resolved to carry off a memento of his visit, and so laid hands on the King’s own drinking cup of silver. Then with the cup and barrel, getting astride of his bulrush again, another ‘Hae wi’ ye!’ brought him back to the servants’ hall at Inchtalla, where he was found by the Earl in the morning sound asleep beside his barrel. The Earl, thinking that he had drunk too much and neglected his message, awoke him and began to reproach him for his dereliction of duty, when the butler, begging his lordship’s pardon, informed him that he had got the wine, and much better wine than could be found in the burgh of Stirling. Then he told the whole story of his adventure, and in confirmation, not only pointed to the full cask, but handed over the valuable silver cup he had brought with him. The earl believed, or affected to believe the story, and that day entertained his guests with a wine the quality of which astonished them all. The silver cup, with the fleur de lys and the royal arms of France also graced the board.
A. F. Hutchinson Book Of Menteith

The largest of three irregular islands in the Lake of Menteith, on which is a ruined priory is Inchmahome where the five-year old Mary Queen of Scots found refuge after the Battle of Pinkie. A very good historical account of the incident is to be found in Antonia Frazer’s Mary Queen of Scots. The young Queen tended a garden there, the subject of an essay by the author Dr John Brown (1810-1882) in Horae Subsecivae [Leisure Hours]:

“Here you find on landing huge Spanish chestnuts, one lying dead, others standing stark and peeled, like gigantic antlers, and others flourishing in their viridis senectus, and in a thicket of wood you see the remains of a monastery of great beauty, the design and workmanship exquisite. You wander through the ruins, overgrown with ferns and Spanish filberts, and old fruit trees, and at the corner of the old monkish garden you come upon one of the strangest and most touching sights you ever saw – an oval space of about eighteen feet by twelve, with the remains of a double row of boxwood all round, the plants of box being about fourteen feet high, and eight or nine inches in diameter, healthy, but plainly of great age. What is this? it is called in the guide-books Queen Mary’s Bower; but besides its being plainly not in the least a bower, what could the little Queen, then five years old, and ‘fancy free’, do with a bower? It is plainly …. the Child-Queen’s Garden with her little walk, and its rows of boxwood, left to themselves for three hundred years.” [1863]

Alexander Scott (c1515-1583), the lyrical poet of the first Scottish Renaissance, was appointed organist at Inchmahome in 1548. This was a result of his connection with Robert Erskine through whom this Scott was also connected with the exiled court of Queen Mary.

The Lake of Menteith, on the edge of the Highlands ‘ is lovely rather than beautiful, and is a sort of gentle prelude, in the minor key, to the coming glories and intenser charms of Loch Ard and the true Highlands beyond’ [Dr John Brown].

Stewart Alan Robertson (1866-1933), who worked in Stirling, celebrated Menteith in verse. He was a poet whose settings included the Pentlands, Perthshire and Stirlingshire:

Moonrise with its dusky radiance veiled
the moorlands of Menteith,
Where the cliffs of Ben Dearg glimmered to
the gleaming lake beneath,
And, like emerald set in silver on a gentle
maiden’s breast,
Lies the sweetest named of islands,
Inchmahome, the Isle of Rest.

A further, at one time obscure, artistic visitor to the district was Edith Holden (1871-1920) who spent several happy summers in Perthshire, and was particularly appreciative of the Lake of Menteith. She records one visit in the best-selling Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady.

Edith Holden (self portrait)

Edith Holden (self portrait)

The ruined Priory of Inchmahome is one of the most delightfully situated of all the historic monuments in Scotland. In the aisle are the graves of the ‘Gaucho Marxist’, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (1852-1936), Cunninghame Graham, whose body was brought back from Argentina, and of his wife, Gabriella. She was a poet admired by W.H.Hudson, and a religious historian. Her grave was dug by Cunningham Graham himself, whose own remains rest among those of his ancestors in this atmospheric place. There was a notable turn out for his burial in April, 1936, including many of his political and literary associates: James Bridie (O.H.Mavor), Wendy Wood, Compton MacKenzie, Alisdair Alpin MacGregor, Helen B. Cruickshank, and others. The distinguished literary critic, William Power, delivered his funeral oration.

He spent much time in Argentina, helped to set up both the Labour Party and the SNP, and, with others, came close to bringing about a Revolution in Britain on ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1887. His first book was Notes on the District of Menteith for Tourists and Others, written “half in idleness and half out of that affection, which is common to a man, and trees for the soil in which they have been for ages rooted.” A notice on the first page illustrates Graham’s wit: ‘All rights reserved except in the Republic of Paraguay’. Here he describes the lochans of the District:

Wolves roamed the hills, as the name Craig Vad would seem to show. Around the desolate Loch Reoichte, perhaps, the Caledonian bull has fed, the wild boar harboured; and yet the ground was more secure than nowadays, for fewer perils from broken whisky bottles and sardine tins lurked in the heather. And how shall sardine tins offend? Are they not, after all, a sign natural and visible, of the spirit of the age, and did not Providence place them (most likely) in our path to show us something? What if we cannot see it, and only cut our feet upon the bottles and jagged tins? No doubt the cross, which, seen in the sky, converted Constantine, was there before; and many another Roman general was not so much deep-dyed pagan as merely unobservant.

Hard by Craig Vad is the desolate hill tarn known as Loch Reoichte. In the district there are many of these curious black hill-lochs, generally in peaty hollows, with the water black as jet, peopled with little muddy trout, and often overgrown with water-lilies.

Each has its legend, as in duty bound. Loch McAn Righ, close to the Lake of Menteith, is sacred to the memory of a king’s son, who, in the days when princes of the blood-royal perambulated the world at a loose end and unattended, almost lost his life whilst chasing wild deer, by his horse bogging down with him. Tradition hath it that one Betty or Betsy, for there is room for doubt on the forms of the name that the royal maiden bore, extracted him like a royal cork, from the mud and saved his life. The field is known as Achnaveity, said by Gaelic speaking men to mean the field of Betty. Tradition is in error in having woven no romance about the King of Scotland’s son and Betty, but then how seldom tradition, on the whole, misses its opportunities in matters of the sort. Anyhow, nearby the field is the ‘laroch’ of the chapel of Arnchly, one of four chapels connected with the monastery of Inchmahome, so possibly the nearness of the sacred edifice prevented scandal making free with the Prince’s or Betty’s name.

Other little lochs preserve their legend, as the Loch at Duchray Castle, said to be unfathomable, and the Tinker’s Loch (Lochan Cheird), above the hills of Aberfoyle, in which the mysterious water- bull of the Highland legends was said to dwell. Among them all for desolate beauty Loch Reoichte stands first.
   Notes on the District of Menteith

The writer is buried at the Priory on Inchmahome next to his wife, Gabriela Cunninghame Graham who was a religious historian and minor poet whose work was admired by one of Graham’s many literary friends, W.H.Hudson. Graham was the author of a number of Scottish pieces, which have been admirably collected by John Walker in The Scottish Sketches of R. B. Cunninghame Graham [1982]. One of his most interesting longer works is the biography of his ancestor Robert Graham (1735-1797), the eighteenth century poet and politician, which begins with an evocative description of the country between Gartmore and Aberfoyle:

The old house of Gartmore, in the district of Menteith, was built, as tradition says, by the grandfather of the brothers Adam, somewhere about the year 1680. With it low flanking wings, its perron and heavy mouldings over the windows and the doors, it was a perfect specimen of a Georgian mansion of the time. In the days of the poet’s youth, before extensive planting was the fashion in the north, it must have looked a little bare, although the great beech avenue was possibly growing up. Rough woods of scrubby oak sheltered it from the north. The six great yews which I remember as a child were probably old trees when the poet was a boy. Great rushy parks led down to Flanders Moss, that had once been a shallow inland sea, as said tradition, and flowed up to the hill of Gartmore, where a huge stone, known as Clach nan Lung (the stone of the waves) was there to testify.

Looking out of the windows of his home, to the left of the tall cedars, then perhaps just planted – they are shown as little trees in the drawings of the time – he could see the Grampians.

The silvery waters of the Lake of Menteith, dotted with its two dark wooded islands, shrouding the Priory of Inchmaholme and the Castle of Inch Talla, the fortress of the Earls of Menteith, the poet’s ancestors, and with the fir-clad promontory of Arnmauk cutting the lake almost in two halves, lay just below the hills. The moss that flowed right from the Hill of Gartmore through the Carse of Stirling to the sea bounded the lake upon one side. Upon the other rose Ben Dearg and Ben Dhu. Between them ran the Pass of Glennie, an old Fingalian track, whose stones, polished of yore by generations of feet shod in deerskin brogues, even today show white amongst the heather in places now disused, that once it traversed like a dull silver streak.

Only two miles away to the north-west by the hill-road behind the Drum, crossing the burn where the stones form a rude bridge, lay Aberfoyle with the change-house immortalised by Walter Scott, and half a dozen black Highland cottages, all thatched with rushes or with ling.

A rough hill-track skirting the waterfall, known as the Grey Mare’s Tail, passing Craig Vadh and coming out upon the shore of Loch Achray, led to the Trossachs, in whose fastnesses lurked broken men from all the highland clans. Still farther westward rose Ben Lomond, looking exactly like Vesuvius, with its perfect cone and its top shaped crater-wise, when the white mists curled round its crest, steaming and billowing.

A dividing line, almost as abrupt as that between Portugal and Spain upon the Minho when Tuy and Valenca still glare at one another in mutual incomprehension, was drawn between the denizens of Gartmore House and the wild Highlanders, who lived only a mile or so away in the recesses of the hills.

R.B.Cunninghame Graham Doughty Deeds 1925

Cunningham Graham got his title from the nickname by which Robert Graham was known. He wrote the distinguished song, which begins:

Then tell me how to woo thee love;
O tell me how to woo thee!
For thy dear sake nae care I’ll take
Though ne’er another trow me

If doughty deeds my lady please,
Right soon I’ll mount my steed;
And strong his arm, and fast his seat’
That bears frae me the meed.

In his Minstrelsy Scott stated that the verses were taken down from recitation, averred to be of the age of Charles I. However, he went on to say that since their publication in the first edition, he had been assured that the late Mr.Graham of Gartmore composed them.

Robert Graham made several significant literary friendships. Hector MacNeil (1746-1818), the minor poet, was a frequent visitor to Gartmore 1786-90 when he lived near Stirling. Graham almost certainly met him in the West Indies, where he also formed a lifelong connection with Tobias Smollett (1721-71). Robert Burns (1759-96) thought Graham “the noblest instance of great talents, great fortune, and great worth that ever I saw.” John Leyden (1775-1811), the scholar who collaborated with Scott on The Minstrelsy dedicated a book of poems to a Miss Graham of Gartmore, presumably one of Graham’s three sisters.

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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 21. Callander to Killin

Map Callander DochartThe main road (A84) leaves Callander for the north by the Pass of Leny. It then follows the windings of Loch Lubnaig, before reaching Strathyre. Further on, at King’s House, a by-road (a dead end) leads to the village of Balquhidder and the Braes of Balquhidder. The A84 then climbs northwards across a low pass to reach a junction with the A85 at Lochearnhead. From there a circuit of Loch Earn may be undertaken. Beyond Lochearnhead the road ascends Glen Ogle, and then descends to Lix Toll, the junction for Killin. The road from Callander to the north follows the line of the old military road, which links Stirling with Fort William. It was begun in 1748 by Major William Caulfield, and completed in 1761. The former Callander and Oban railway line, which provides an alternative route for walkers and cyclists, follows the other side of Loch Lubnaig.
Loch Lubnaig

The Pass of Leny, is a memorable way to enter the Highlands. At one time road and railway were intertwined in the pass. The river roars over impressive waterfalls, which are best seen from the path that follows the old railway line north of Kilmahog. The path may be reached by crossing the bridge at the head of the Pass of Leny, signposted to the “Forestry Commission Log Cabins”. Alexander Smith (1830-67) described the scene in A Summer in Skye [1865]:

You ascend a steep path, birch trees on the right and left; the stream comes brawling down, sleeping for a moment in black pools beloved by anglers then hastening on in foam and fury to meet her sister in the Vale of Menteith below.

At the head of the Pass of Leny and at the foot of Loch Lubnaig is the thirteenth century St Bride’s Chapel, where the marriage ceremony in the Lady of the Lake [1810] takes place. In the poem, following the wedding of Norman of Armandave and Mary of Tombea, Angus of Duncraggan appears with the fiery cross conveying a summons to arms, which must be obeyed. Norman is thus obliged to leave his bride on his wedding night, and go and fight. Scott has him sing a haunting song, memorably set to music by Schubert:

Norman’s Song
The heath this night must be my bed,
The bracken curtain for my head.
My lullaby the warder’s tread,
Far, far from love and thee, Mary;
To-morrow eve, more stilly laid,
My couch may be my bloody plaid
My vesper song, thy wail, sweet maid
I dare not, dare not, fancy now
The grief that clouds thy lovely brow;’

I dare not think upon thy vow’
And all it promised me Mary!
No fond regret must Norman know
When bursts Clan-Alpine on the foe
His heart must be like bended bow,
His foot like arrow free Mary!

A time will come with feeling fraught,
For, if I fall in battle fought,
Thy hapless lover’s dying thought
Shall be a thought on thee Mary!
And if restored from conquering foes,
How blithely will the evening close
How sweet the linnet sings repose
To my young bride and me, Mary!

P.R. Drummond (1838–1884), farmer and litterateur, characterised it, in Perthshire in Bygone Days [1879], as the most beautiful Perthshire love-poem. He further stated that it was inspired by Scott’s affection for Mary Ann Erskine, the daughter of the Rev. Erskine of Muthill. Scott was attached to her, but she married another young lawyer, a Mr Colquhoun. The chapel is at an awkward corner on the A84, but can be reached with care from the lay-by just north of the Pass, or by a (rather trying) walk along the banks of the Leny. The site was restored in 1932 and there is a carved stone in the wall commemorating the centenary of Scott’s death. The plaque reads:

The foundations of this ancient Chapel of St Bride were identified and restored in his centenary year of 1932 in memory of Sir Walter Scott whose romantic genius still sheds ornament on this countryside.

Loch Lubnaig [Artist: John Fleming Engraver Joseph Swan]

Loch Lubnaig [Artist: John Fleming Engraver Joseph Swan]

 The township of Tombea, of which there is now little trace, was east of the Chapel on the old road. It was the birthplace of Alexander Campbell (1764-1824), perhaps the most considerable locally born artist, musician and poet, whose Journey from Edinburgh through parts of North Britain of 1802 and 1811 was highly influential in bringing early C19 visitors to the Trossachs before the publication of The Lady of the Lake. Campbell was a pupil of, the celebrated counter tenor Tenducci, and the tutor of the rather unmusical Walter Scott. He was also the editor of Albyn’s Anthology; or, A select collection of the melodies, songs, dancing measures, and military music peculiar to…Scotland and the Isles.. It was published in two folio volumes, by Oliver & Boyd in 1816 and 1818. The most enduring song in it is Macgregor’s Gathering, composed by Scott. A prospectus, written by Scott, one of Campbell’s supporters, appeared in 1816. However, the miscellaneous author was never quite talented enough to be successful, and was always an impoverished figure.

In 1925, opposite St Bride’s Chapel, Lord Esher built a little chapel in a ravine overlooking the loch. Reginald Brett (1852-1930), Lord Esher, the trusted advisor to both Queen Victoria and Edward VII, owned the Roman Camp in Callander, and liked the Teith, the hills, the tranquility, and the local people. He intended his ashes to be buried in the chapel, but it was not used. It is now roofless, but can be reached by an attractive forest trail, which leads to Stank Falls from the old railway track. Parking is to be had by crossing the bridge at the head of the Pass of Leny, signposted to the Forestry Commission Log Cabins. It is still possible to appreciate what a superb site it was. Esher wrote to his son in 1902:

‘Such a day. An absolutely cloudless day. Not a speck in the azure. Lubnaig was like Como. No movement of the deep blue water, except an occasional ripple, when the lightest of breezes touched the loch.’

Esher was clearly a keen Stevensonian because two inscriptions were carved in the doorway of the little chapel quoting RLS, the first from his poem ‘To S.R.Crockett’, the Galloway author:

Blows the wind today, and the sun and rain are flying,
Blows the wind on the moors to-day and now,
Where about the graves of the martyrs the waups are crying,
My heart remembers how!

The other is RLS’s famous epitaph:

Under a wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I lay me down with a will

Scott’s best description of the scenery of Loch Lubnaig is in The Legend of Montrose (1819):

Their course had lain for some time along the banks of a lake, whose deep waters reflected the crimson beams of the western sun. The broken path which they pursued with some difficulty, was in some places shaded by ancient birches and oak-trees, and in others overhung by fragments of huge rock Elsewhere, the hill, which formed the northern side of this beautiful sheet of water, arose in steep, but less precipitous acclivity, and was arrayed in heath of the darkest purple. In the present times, a scene so romantic would have been judged to possess the highest charms for the traveller; but those who journey in days of doubt and dread, pay little attention to picturesque scenery. The master kept, as often as the wood permitted, abreast of one or both of his domestics, and seemed earnestly to converse with them, probably because the distinctions of rank are readily set aside among those who are made to be sharers of common danger. The dispositions of the leading men who inhabit this wild country, and the probability of their taking part in the political convulsions that were soon expected, were the subjects of their conversation.

At Ardchullarie, beside Loch Lubnaig, is a mansion house whence a rough track, described in Scott’s Legend of Montrose [1819], leads across a mountain pass to Loch Earn, The house (not open), was the country residence towards the end of his life, of the discoverer of the source of the Blue Nile, James Bruce (1730-1794). He wrote part of his substantial account of his travels in Ethiopia or Abyssinia in 1768 at Ardchullarie: “few books of equal compass are equally entertaining” [DNB]. However, the gangly and self-opinionated Bruce was an awkward character. When he described his adventures, Dr Johnson, for one, dismissed them as fabrications, and Bruce retired to Ardchullarie to nurse his wounds. A lintel from Bruce’s house can be seen in the Stalker’s Cottage; Ardchullarie itself is a newer house

Johnson had translated an account of some early travels in Ethiopia and later written a novel, Rasselas, set in the same country. Bruce’s descriptions did not accord with Johnson’s imagination, so Johnson belittled Bruce, and Boswell followed suit. Poor Bruce was known at one time as the ‘travel-liar’. However, posterity has given him his due as one of the more significant African explorers.

He is buried at Larbert where the inscription on his grave reads:

His life was spent in performing useful and splendid actions;
He explored many distant regions,
He discovered the fountains of the Nile,
He traversed the deserts of Nubia.
He was an affectionate husband, An indulgent parent,
An ardent lover of his country.
By the unanimous voice of mankind,
His name is enrolled with those who were conspicuous
For genius, for valour and for virtue.

Strathyre and Balquhidder

At the head of Loch Lubnaig is an unusual regimental stone marking the site of some repairs undertaken on the former military road by soldiers under the command of General Pulteney. Strathyre is the site of a fountain commemorating the well-remembered Gaelic Poet, Dugald Buchanan (circa 1716-1776) born at Ardoch, near Strathyre. There is also an obelisk at Rannoch where he taught, and a plaque near Callander where he is buried. Ardoch can be reached along the back road to Balquhidder which is a recommended route, in any case. The fountain was erected as a result of the efforts of a fellow poet, Robert Fergusson (1819¬-95), born at Easter Stronvar, also situated on the back road, and buried at Balquhidder. He taught for many years at Raploch in Stirling. Buchanan is regarded as the most important composer of sacred lyrics in the Gaelic. Fergusson made a pleasing translation of one of his poems, The Dream, beginning:

As I reclined in sleep’s embrace,
And idly dreamed as others do,
I seemed to grasp sweet pleasure’s cup,
But, ah! it vanished from my view!
Methinks that one beside me stood,
Who to me said, “Oh fool thou art
To think that thou canst hold the wind,
Or that the world can fill thy heart.”

The back road past Ardoch approaches Balquhidder by Stronvar, the one time residence of David Carnegie (1813-1890), a lesser member of an enterprising family. The by road crosses the Calair Burn and the Balvag by two old bridges Parking in Balquhidder is to be had at the Church Hall. The old kirk at Balquhidder, in the grounds of the modern church, is the site of Rob Roy’s Grave. Near it is a memorial plaque to Alastair Alpin MacGregor (1889-1970) whose ashes were scattered in the Hebrides. MacGregor was a noted travel-writer and essayist. He was educated in Tain, and wrote many books about Scotland. He was particularly strong on the MacGregor country. He relates with pride that he met an elderly roadman near Inversnaid who was able to recite from memory his father’s poem, Love’s Last Request, which begins:

On the braes of fair Balquhidder,
Braes of ever-famed renown
When my mortal race has ended,
Delve my grave and lay me down,
That my dust at last may mingle
With the sod that I have loved
Through the changing moods of
fortune,
Or wher’er my footsteps roved.

His father, Colonel John MacGregor (1847-1932), was a notable Gaelic poet, and became Bard of the MacGregors. He is actually buried in Balquhidder.

The fame of Balquhidder does not owe everything to the Macgregors since the renowned Reverend Robert Kirk (1644-1692) was the Minister there. On 8th November 1664 he became minister of Balquhidder and on 9th June, 1685 was appointed to his father’s old charge at Aberfoyle. Kirk was twice married. He married Isobel Campbell in 1678, and the couple had one son, Colin. However, Isobel died two years later, on Christmas Day, and her gravestone, with an epitaph cut by her husband is situated at the western end of the graveyard. Unfortunately the inscription can no longer be read.

Whilst at Balquhidder, Kirk began work on the transliteration of the Bible, the Psalms and the Catechism into Highland Gaelic, and wrote a helpful vocabulary (in effect the first Gaelic dictionary). He also created a metrical Psalter, published in 1684. This work was the first-ever complete translation of the psalms for Gaelic speakers. It was reckoned to be both important and elegant, displaying a great deal of literary talent as well as skill.

He also began gathering material in Balquhidder for his book about fairies, The Secret Commonwealth (see Aberfoyle).

In Victorian times the Free Church Minister of Balquhidder was Eric John Findlater (1813–1886), who married Sarah Laurie Borthwick (1823–1907). She had collaborated with her sister Jane in translating hymns from the German. In her husband’s parish Sarah inaugurated a library, ‘as a diversion from what she considered the excessive drinking habits of the residents.’ [ODNB]. Two of their three daughters, Mary and Jane, later wrote successful novels (see below).

The pleasing lyric The Braes 0′ Balquither to the air ‘The Three Carles o’ Buchanan’ by Robert Tannahill (1774-1810), can be said to have contributed almost as much as Rob Roy MacGregor to the fame of Balquhidder. The weaver-poet’s first editor declared that ‘from the description of the vegetation and animals of the mountain mentioned in this song, and the mention of Benvoirlich and Fillan Glen (in Brave Lewie Roy), it was clear that the poet had visited these places, but there is no other evidence of him.’ The song runs:

Let us go, lassie, go,
To the Braes of Balquither,
Where the blaeberries grow
‘Mang the Highland heather;
Where the deer and the rae,
Lightly bounding together,
Sport the lang Simmer day
On the braes o’ Balquither.

I will twine thee a bower
By the clear siller fountain,
An’ I’ll cover it o’er
Wi’ the flowers o’ the mountain;
I will range through the wilds,
An’ the deep glens sae dreary,
An’ return wi’ their spoils
To the bower o’ my dearie.

Now the simmer is in prime,
Wi’ the flowers richly bloomin’
An’ the wild mountain thyme
A’ the moorlands perfumin’,
To our dear native scenes
Let us journey together,
Where glad innocence reigns
Mang the braes o’ Balquhidder.

Opposite the church is Glenbuckie. There and elsewhere in the district there were prominent supporters of the Jacobite risings. It was at Glenbuckie that Murray of Broughton sheltered with the Stewarts during his flight from Culloden. James Stewart of Ardsheil, Stevenson’s ‘James Stewart of the Glen’, also stayed there in 1752, and was visited by ‘real’ Alan Breck. Famously, Stewart of Glenbuckie also sheltered Dr Archibald Cameron in the following year when the Elibank plot was afoot. Glengarry betrayed the plot, and let the Hanoverians know what Cameron was doing in the Highlands. However, Calum Maclean (1915-1960), the eminent folklorist, states that Cameron was discovered because his presence was suspected when a child, who was ill, made a surprising recovery and a jealous rival reported him. Other sources state that a kinsman betrayed him; yet others implicate James Mor MacGregor, Rob Roy’s son. There is an account of Cameron’s arrest by soldiers from Inversnaid in the National Archives, but whether it took place at Glenbuckie or at Brenachoil on Loch Katrineside is also in dispute.

In Redgauntlet Scott has it as follows:

Doctor Archibald Cameron, brother of the celebrated Donald Cameron of Lochiel, attainted for the rebellion of 1745, was found by a party of soldiers lurking with a comrade in the wilds of Loch Katrine five or six years after the battle of Culloden, and was there seized. There were circumstances in his case, so far as was made known to the public, which attracted much compassion, and gave to the judicial proceedings against him an appearance of cold-blooded revenge on the part of government; and the following argument of a zealous Jacobite in his favour, was received as conclusive by Dr. Johnson and other persons who might pretend to impartiality. Dr. Cameron had never borne arms, although engaged in the Rebellion, but used his medical skill for the service, indifferently, of the wounded of both parties. His return to Scotland was ascribed exclusively to family affairs. His behaviour at the bar was decent, firm, and respectful.

From the foot of Loch Voil there is a charming road beside Loch Voil and Loch Doine, leading to a car park at the head of the glen. The road follows the line of an early military road, which linked Inversnaid and Ruthven Barracks in Inverness-shire. Invernenty is the site of a farmstead, rebuilt in 1746, which is situated across the river from the car park. It belonged to the MacLarens, and is now ruined, but it has important literary associations. It is opposite Inverlochlarig, site of Rob Roy’s last home, where he died in 1734, and it is probably the place, which Robert Louis Stevenson had in mind where David Balfour rests up in Kidnapped, and Alan Breck and Robin Oig have their renowned ‘piping contest’.

It was certainly the place where Sir Walter Scott, as a young lawyer apprenticed to his father, first learned ‘even in his own time’ that the King’s writ did not pass quite current in the Braes of Balquhidder. Some rents were due from the Maclarens, and the young Scott was to try and enforce payment:

An escort of a sergeant and six men was obtained from a Highland regiment lying in Stirling; and the author then a writer’s apprentice, equivalent to the honourable situation of an attorney’s clerk, was invested with the superintendence of the expedition, with directions to see that the messenger discharged his duties fully, and that the gallant sergeant did not exceed his part by committing violence or plunder. And thus it happened, oddly enough, that the author first entered the romantic scenery of Loch Katrine, of which he may perhaps say he has somewhat extended the reputation, riding in all the dignity of danger, with a front and rear guard, and loaded arms. [Scott: Rob Roy]

It was a Maclaren of Invernenty who gave Scott the idea for the incident in Redgauntlet when a clansman wraps himself in his plaid and rolls down the hillside at the Devil’s Beef Tub.

Thomas Wilkinson’s Tours of the British Mousntains, was published in 1824, but written following a visit to Scotland in 1797. It was Wilkinson’s manuscript of the book that encouraged the Wordsworths to visit Scotland in 1803. He was a Quaker friend of theirs from Yanwath, near Penrith and he copied down an extract from his manuscript in Wordsworth’s common¬place book:

Passed by a female who was reaping alone, she sung in Erse as she bended over her sickle, the sweetest human voice I ever heard. Her strains were tenderly melancholy, and felt delicious long after they were heard no more.

It was after the Wordsworths had crossed the hill pass and were descending towards Loch Voil that they saw reapers in the fields. Wordsworth recalled Wilkinson’s phrase when writing his finest Scottish poem, The Solitary Reaper (1805):

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands :
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings? –
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorry, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate’er the theme, the maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending; –
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

It should be noted that Wilkinson encountered his solitary female on one of the islands of Loch Lomond, but Dorothy Wordsworth makes it quite clear in her Journal that her brother was thinking of the Braes of Balquhidder. John Wyatt (1925-2006), the first Warden of the Lake District National Park, has pointed out that there may be a further source for the poem. It occurs in Robert Heron’s Scotland Described [1799], a book Wordsworth quotes from at length in a note to The Excnursion. The passage from Heron (1764-1807), which, unconsciously or otherwise, may have influenced The Solitary Reaper, is as follows:

I have long since learned to admire the simple, native music of my country with all the fond enthusiasm of ignorance: And as I have not the happiness to understand Gaelic, it was natural for me to be pleased with the words of a Gaelic song. . . It is a fact in the history of the manners of the Highlanders, that they are accustomed to sing at the performance of almost every piece of social labour: Rowers in a boat sing as they ply the oars; reapers sing as they cut down handful after handful of the corn; and here were washers singing as they rubbed and rinsed their clothes. This accompaniment of music certainly renders the labour more cheerful.

From the head of the glen it is necessary to retrace one’s steps to the A84. At the main road is another reminder of the military road, the King’s House. The hotel was built in 1779.

Loch Earn

The big hotel, successor to the inn, at Lochearnhead has gone, burnt down some years ago, creating an odd vacuum at a great Highland road junction. When Wordsworth, and his wife, Mary, visited Lochearnhead in 1814, they walked to see Edinample Castle and the waterfalls there. On 5th July 1841 Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and his wife arrived in Lochearnhead and remained for three nights ‘to rest and work’, Dickens continuing with Barnaby Rudge. In a letter to John Forster he described the inn and others he had stayed in, as ‘the queerest places imaginable’, but he appreciated the area: “The way the mists were stalking about today, and the clouds lying down upon the hills; the deep glens, the high rocks, the rushing waterfalls, and the roaring rivers down in deep gulfs below; were all stupendous.”

In 1882 Robert Louis Stevenson also stayed at the inn with his father. Here he began to collect material for Kidnapped in earnest. RLS was the basis for the successful character, Lorin Weir, in Penny Moneypenny [1911] by the sisters Jane Helen (1866–1946) and Mary Williamina (1865–1963) Findlater. Mary, possibly descended from a laird on the wrong side of the blanket, was born in the Manse (now the Mansewood Hotel) at Lochearnhead, and although, after their father’s death, they moved to Prestonpans, to England and eventually to Comrie, their early life was significant in their work.

Kate Douglas Wiggin

Kate Douglas Wiggin

They wrote highly successful romantic novels separately, in collaboration, and with other writers between 1896 and the twenties. Their successful book Crossriggs [1908] has been re-published as a Virago Classic. They wrote two books with Charlotte Stewart of Ardvorlich (see below) and Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856-1923), the American author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. These two novels were The Affair at the Inn [1904] and Robinetta [1911]. Like their other books they were popular at the time in both Britain and the United States.

An estate worker in these parts, Angus McDiarmid, wrote The Striking and Picturesque Delineations of the Grand, Beautiful and Interesting Scenery around Loch Earn [1815]. It is MacGonagal in prose, quite inimitable, and, for this reason, sometimes considered to be a skilful spoof. Here is his introduction:

May it please your LORDSHIP,

With overpowering sentiments of the most profound humility, I prostrate myself at your noble feet, while I offer, to your Lordship’s high consideration, these very feeble attempts to des¬cribe the indescribable and ineffable beauties of your Lordship’s delicious estate of Edinample. With tumid emotions of heart-distending pride, and with fervescent feelings of gratitude, I beg leave to acknowledge the honour I have to serve so noble a master, and the many advantages, which I, in common with your Lordship’s other menials, enjoy from the exuberance of your princely liberality. That your Lordship may long shine with refulgent brilliancy in the exalt¬ed station to which Providence has raised you, and that your noble family, like a bright constella¬tion, may diffuse a splendour glory through the high sphere of their attraction, is the fervent prayer of,
Your Lordship’s most humble,
And most devoted Servant,
ANGUS MCDIARMID                     Cartran, near Lochearnhead May 1815

For McDiarmid this passage is fairly coherent, but he exuberantly carries on until, beside the Falls of Beich Burn, he is virtually incomprehensible. Enthusiasts can find him on Google Books.

From Lochearnhead a circuit of Loch Earn is strongly recommended. The southern side of the loch has the lesser road but it passes two significant sites. The first is the Falls of Edinample at the foot of Ben Vorlich. Both the Wordsworths and Dickens visited them. A little further on Ardvorlich was turned into a fiction in The Legend of Montrose by Scott. It is one of his best novels. Sam Bough illustrated one edition, and depicted Menteith’s party approaching Darnlinvarach (Ardvorlich):

A hill was now before the travellers, covered with an ancient forest of Scottish firs, the topmost of which, flinging their scathed branches across the western horizon, gleamed ruddy in the setting sun. In the centre of this wood rose the towers, or rather the chimneys, of the house, or castle, as it was called, destined for the end of their journey.
As usual at that period, one or two high-ridged narrow buildings, intersecting and crossing each other, formed the CORPS DE LOGIS. A protecting bartizan or two, with the addition of small turrets at the angles, much resembling pepper-boxes, had procured for Darnlinvarach the dignified appellation of a castle. It was surrounded by a low court-yard wall, within which were the usual offices.

One of the principal characters in the novel is the rather elusive Allan McAulay. In the late nineteenth century the daughter of the house, Charlotte Stewart of Ardvorlich (1863-1918) chose his name as her nom de plume. Charlotte was a great childhood friend of the Findlater Sisters of Lochearnhead. She wrote half a dozen historical novels between 1900 and 1912, under the pseudonym Allan McAulay, of which Black Mary [1901], a sympathetic account of life in the Perthshire Highlands, is generally considered the best. There is an intiguing link between Gordon Bottomley (1874-1948) and Loch Earn. Bottomley was an early exponent of verse drama and set several of them in Scotland. Ardvorlich’s Wife [1928] is a retelling of The Legend of Montrose. He refers to the setting of the tale in the play:

By the crags of Dundurn,
In the heart of Glen Gonan ..

Quite what the connection beween Bottomley and Loch Earn was is not clear; he was born in Yorkshire and lived in north Lancashire. He and his  wife died in Wiltshire, but their ashes are scattered in the Chapel of Saint Fillan under Dundurn, where there is a memorial gravestone.

The Pictish fort of Dundurn (also known as Dunfillan or St. Fillan’s Hill), is revered as a sacred site. It is situated at the foot of Loch Earn. St Fillan is probably the same saint as the one associated with Killin established himself there early in the 6th century. Not far from the foot of the crag is a stream called Allt Ghoinean which is the Gonan or Monan of Scott’s Lady of the Lake:

The stag at eve had drunk his fill,
Where danced the moon on Monan’s rill.

St Fillan appears at the very beginning of Lady of the Lake:

Harp of the North! that mouldering long hast hung
On the witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan’s spring

Scott, being Scott, provides a note about both ‘witch-elm’ and ‘St Fillan’:

The broad-leaved or wych elm (Ulmus montana), indigenous to Scotland. Forked branches of the tree were used in olden time as divining-rods, and riding switches from it were supposed to insure good luck on a journey. In the closing stanzas of the poem it is called the “wizard” elm.

Of St Fillan Scott says:

Saint Fillan was a Scotch abbot of the seventh century who became famous as a saint. He had two springs, which appear to be confounded by some editors of the poem. One was at the eastern end of Loch Earn, where the pretty modern village of St. Fillans now stands, under the shadow of Dun Fillan, or St. Fillan’s Hill, six hundred feet high, on the top of which the saint used to say his prayers, as the marks of his knees in the rock still
testify to the credulous.”

Breadalbane

From Lochearnhead the road to Killin climbs the A85 through Glen Ogle. The old military road lies in the valley and combined with the line of the old railway makes a splendid round from Lochearnhead. The road crosses the Lairig Cheile and descends to Lix Toll. The old military road is clearly seen from the pass. Breadalbane comprehends the whole of the upper Tay and more; the romantic-sounding name means ‘the upland of Scotland’
James Logie Robertson (1846-1922), the author of Homer in Homespun [1900], wrote a splendid rhyme for Punch in 1903:

In Braid Albyn
[To be read Scotto Voce]
From Kenmore
To Ben Mohr
The land is a’ the Markiss’s;
The mossy howes
The heathery knowes
An’ ilka bonny park’s his
The bearded goats,
The toozie stots,
An’ a’ the braxy carcasses;

Ilk crofter’s rent,
Ilk tinker’s tent,
An’ ilka collie’s bark is his.
The muircock’s craw,
The piper’s blaw,
The gillie’s day’s wark is his;
From Kenmore
To Ben Mohr
The Warld is a’ the Markiss’s.

Archie McKerracher, the local historian showed that this poem is a reworking of an older verse dating from the evictions.

Duncan Ban MacIntyre [Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t¬-Saoir] (1723? –1812), Scotland’s most renowned Gaelic poet, is particularly associated with Argyll, but he spent more than twenty years (1744-66) working as a forester on the Breadalbane estate in Glen Lochay, in Perthshire. The subject of one of his most famous poems, The Misty Corrie, is in upper Glen Lochay. We can also suppose that the mock sporting estate, ‘Crummie Toddie’, in Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) The Duke’s Children [1880] was located in Breadalbane. He associates it with ‘The Callander and Fort Augustus Railway’. If it isn’t, it ought to be.

One must also add that in all the vast literature of the Scottish Hills there is no more affectionate, well put-together and readable book than V. A. Firsoff (1912-82) In the Hills of Breadalbane [1954]. In it he makes the memorable remark, which visitors ought to reflect on: ‘It is difficult to get a balance between sight-seeing and real life.’

After Glen Ogle the road reaches Lix Toll, the turn-off for Killin (see Literary Glendochart)

 

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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 7. Literary Glendochart

 

 

Crianlarich is an interesting hamlet consisting of a railway station, a grand inn, a shop and one or two houses. From it take the A82 to Tyndrum, five miles away.

Strathfillan

The Fillan is the remotest head-stream of the river Tay. It winds east-south-eastward from Tyndrum past Dalrigh and Crianlarich, until it expands to form Loch Dochart. Near the river’s left bank stand the ruins of an Austin priory church, St Fillan’s Priory where there are some remains of what appears to have been a once extensive building. The Priory is situated on the West Highland Way at Kirkton [which takes its name from the Priory], between Crianlarich and Tyndrum. It was dedicated, as a thank-offering for the victory of Bannockburn in 1314, to St Fillan by Robert Bruce. Nearby is a Holy Pool, as it is called, where the insane were dipped with certain ceremonies, and then left bound all night in the open air. If they were found loose the next morning, they were supposed to have been cured. Pennant added that the patients were generally found in the morning relieved of their troubles — by death. Scott alludes to this pool in Marmion:

“Thence to Saint Fillan’s blessed well,
Whose springs can frenzied dreams dispel,
And the crazed brain restore.”

St Fillan’s bell and crozier are now housed in the National Museum in Edinburgh. St Fillan is also associated with Killin where there was an old meal mill and St Fillans (qv) where there is another old Kirk.

Dalrigh is SE of Tyndrum. It was the scene on 11 August 1306 of a skirmish between Robert Bruce and Macdougal of Lorn, when the famous Brooch of Lorn, described in Scott’s Lord of the Isles, was torn from Bruce. In a note Scott describes the conflict

Robert Bruce, after his defeat at Methven, being hard pressed by the English, endeavoured, with the dispirited remnant of his followers, to escape from Breadalbane and the mountains of Perthshire into the Argyle¬shire Highlands. But he was encountered and repulsed, after a very severe engage¬ment, by the Lord of Lorn. Bruce’s per¬sonal strength and courage were never displayed to greater advantage than in this conflict. There is a tradition in the family of the MacDougals of Lorn, that their chieftain engaged in personal battle with Bruce himself, while the latter was employed in protecting the retreat of his men; that MacDougal was struck down by the king, whose strength of body was equal to his vigor of mind, and would have been slain on the spot, had not two of Lorn’s vassals, a father and son, whom tradition terms Mac-Keoch, rescued him by seizing the mantle of the monarch, and dragging him from his adversary. Bruce rid himself of these two foes by two blows with his redoubted battleaxe, but was so closely pressed by the other followers of Lorn that he was forced to abandon the mantle, and broach which fastened it clasped in the dying grasp of the MacKeochs. A studded broach said to have been that which King Robert lost upon this occasion was long preserved in the family of Macdougal and was lost in a fire consumed their temporary residence.
Great art and expense were bestowed upon the broach which secured the plaid, some [broaches] were as broad as a platter and engraved with curious designs and decorated with crystals or more valuable stones

In Scott’s Lord of the Isles there is a description of the Brooch:

“Whence the brooch of burning gold
That clasps the chieftain’s mantle fold,
Wrought and chased with rare device,
Studded fair with gems of price.”

Tyndrum

Standing 700 feet above sea-level, Tyndrum is described by Queen Victoria, on 22 Sept. 1873, as ‘a wild, picturesque, and desolate place in a sort of wild glen with green hills rising around. . . . There are a few straggling houses and a nice hotel at the station.’ Tyndrum is slightly more sophisticated these days.
It was there that the famous engineer John Rennie essayed his only recorded attempt at verse in his Journal for 1797:

Barren are Caledonia’s Hills,
Unfertile are her Plains,
Barelegged are her Brawney Nymphs,
Bare-arsed are her Swains

Samuel Rogers, found Tyndrum particularly civilised: “At Tyndrum heard a Highlander whistle ‘The Ploughboy’ produced but lately in the comic opera The Farmer. Have been waited on everywhere but here by waiters in philibegs and maids without stockings.” In 1803 the Wordsworths reached the inn shortly after Coleridge had left, sulkily tramping northwards. In 1814 Wordsworth was inspired to write a sonnet there. He contrasts the peaks of Tyndrum with the pastoral surroundings of classical Greece. The storm is an awesome reminder of Nature’s powers:

Suggested at Tyndrum in a Storm

ENOUGH of garlands, of the Arcadian crook,
And all that Greece and Italy have sung
Of Swains reposing myrtle groves among!
‘Ours’ couch on naked rocks, – will cross a brook
Swoln with chill rains, nor ever cast a look
This way or that, or give it even a thought
More than by smoothest pathway may be brought
Into a vacant mind. Can written book
Teach what ‘they’ learn? Up, hardy Mountaineer!
And guide the Bard, ambitious to be One
Of Nature’s privy council, as thou art,
On cloud-sequestered heights, that see and hear
To what dread Powers He delegates his part
On earth, who works in the heaven of heavens, alone.

 

Glendochart

From Tyndrum return to Crianlarich and follow the A85 to Killin. Glen Dochart can disappoint. Travelling westwards it may be found to be a progressive ‘falling off’ in the quality of scenery to be had at Crianlarich, until Killin itself is reached. In the other direction, it may be perceived to be relatively subdued after the tumultuous waterfalls of Killin. Dorothy Wordsworth considered ‘the face of the country not very interesting, although not unpleasing’ However, Glen Dochart has its charms. Fine roads traverse both Strathfillan and Glendochart. Indeed, Glen Dochart has always been a significant line of communication, at one time carrying an important military road, then a turnpike and the much-loved Callander and Oban railway.

The Wordsworths travelled this way in 1803:

William Miller Frazer RSA (1864-1961) "On the Dochart" [image: Anthony Woodd]

William Miller Frazer RSA (1864-1961) “On the Dochart” [image: Anthony Woodd]

We had about eleven miles to travel before we came to our lodging, and had gone five or six, almost always descending, and still in the same vale (Strath Fillan), when we saw a small lake before us, after the vale had made a bending to the left. It was about sunset when we came up to the lake; the afternoon breezes had died away, and the water was in perfect stillness. One grove-like island, with a ruin that stood upon it overshadowed by the trees, was reflected on the water. This building, which, on that beautiful evening, seemed to be wrapped up in religions quiet, we were informed had been raised for defence by some Highland chieftain. All traces of strength, or war, or danger are passed away, and in the mood in which we were we could only look upon it as a place of retirement and peace. The lake is called Loch Dochart.

The picturesque qualities of Loch Dochart also impressed William Gilpin:

About the middle of this ascent, the country becoming flat, we found the torrent arrested by a valley; and formed into a small lake, called Loch Dochart; the shores of which afforded us some fine scenery, both when we saw it in extent (for tho it was small, it had dimensions sufficient for any landscape) and when we saw only a portion of it. In the former situation, the distant hills made an agreeable boundary to the water. In the latter we had a huge promontory hanging over a castle, which stood upon an island at its foot.

The castle was for long held by the Campbells of Loch Awe, and was one of the homes of Duncan Campbell of the Cowl (Black Duncan of the Seven Castles). One winter, the Macgregors took it, by storming the castle across the ice. Seton Gordon points out that there is a poem which makes mention of the island castle and is dedicated to the Macgregor, chief of the Clan, in the Book of the Dean of Lismore. This was a miscellany of Scottish and Irish poetry, the oldest collection of such poetry still extant, compiled between 1512 and 1526. In addition Gordon relates a gory legend about the death of Fingal, which is connected with the next loch, Loch Iubhair

After leaving Crianlarich the foothills of Ben More begin to dominate the glen. Both Murray’s Handbook and the 1927 Blue Guide state that Glen Dochart is the setting for James Hogg’s Spectre of the Glen. This appears to be a reference to The Spectre’s Cradle Song one of the poems in The Queen’s Wake (1813). In a note Hogg explains:

I mentioned formerly that the tale of McGregor is founded on a popular Highland tradition – so also is this Song of the Spectre in the introduction to it, which to me, at least, gives it a peculiar interest. As I was once traveling up Glen Dochart, attended by Donald Fisher, a shep¬herd of that country, he pointed out to me some curious green dens, by the side of the large rivulet which descends from the back of Ben More, the name of which, in the Gaelic language, signifies the abode of the fairies. A native of that country, who is still living, happening to be benighted there one summer evening, without knowing that the place was haunted, wrapped himself in his plaid, and lay down to sleep till the morning. About midnight be was awaked by the most enchanting music; and on listening, he heard it to be the voice of a woman singing to her child. She sung the verses twice over, so that next morning he had several of them by heart. Fisher had heard them often recited in Gaelic, and he said they were wild beyond human conception. He remembered only a few lines, which were to the same purport with the Spirit’s Song here inserted, namely, that she (the singer) had brought her babe from the regions below to be cooled by the breeze of the world, and that they would soon be obliged to part, for the child was going to heaven, and she was to remain for a season in purgatory. I had not before heard any thing so truly romantic.

Hush, my bonny babe! hush, and be still!
Thy mother’s arms shall shield thee from ill.
Far have I borne thee, in sorrow and pain,
To drink the breeze of the world again.
The dew shall moisten thy brow so meek,
And the breeze of midnight fan thy cheek,
And soon shall we rest in the bow of the hill;
Hush, my bonny babe! hush, and be still!

Just beyond Loch Iubhair, where the long straight road turns a corner, is Coirechorach, the gable of a house on the site of an older house where Rob Roy lived under the protection of the Earl of Breadalbane. Rob Roy also stayed at Portnellan.

Returning home in 1804 Hogg came down Glen Dochart to Suie and, in his capacity as shepherd, rather than that of poet, expounds on the Earl of Breadalbane’s mastery of the art of keeping sheep, or, perhaps, his lack of it:

The whole of Breadalbane, with its adjacent glens is an excellent sheep country, and it being the first on which the improved breed of short sheep was tried, it has long produced large droves of the best wedders, most of which are bred at home; yet the draft ewes which that country sends to the south, are commonly of an inferior quality. This must either be owing to their age or bad treatment, as it is evident from the samples of their wedders what the country can do.

Hogg also comments favourably on the fine view to be had from the ancient pass, which connects Glen Dochart at Suie and Balquhidder.

Lady Sarah Murray paused at Suie, at a little distance from Luib, where she was shown a relic of St. Fillan, the ‘coigreach’ — the curved head of a pastoral staff. She gives way to her customary raptures, although the manner in which the sentence below is constructed doesn’t really make this very clear:

Glen Dochart is a region of mountains, moor, and water, till near, at the head of it, though all the way the banks of the Tay, at the bases of the mountains, are mostly ornamented with wood, and now and then gentlemen’s houses; but the forms of the lower hills, hanging over Loch Dochart, the verdure, and in short, the whole is enchanting. On the south bank of the lake, the huge sides of Ben More give great majesty and solemnity to the scene. The islands in the lake are extremely picturesque; particularly the one that is formed by a large rock, covered with wood, through which a ruin is seen. All the surrounding objects conspire to make Loch Dochart a view of the sublime and the beautiful united.

At Luib, sometimes Tynluib, is an old inn, which Wordsworth visited twice: in 1803 with his sister, Dorothy — a famous occasion when they complained about not getting any wine — and in 1814 when he returned with his wife and sister-in-law. The Wordsworths approached Killin on 5 Sept. 1803 from Luib and breakfasted there:

On Monday we set off again [from Luib] a little after six o’clock-a fine morning – eight miles to Killin – the river Dochart always on our left. The face of the country not very interesting, though not unpleasing, reminding us of some of the vales of the north of England, though meagre, nipped-up, or shrivelled compared with them. Within a mile or two of Killin the land was better cultivated, and, looking down the vale, we had a view of Loch Tay. . . .

Killin
Killin (or Kill Fin) is said to signify the “burial-place of Fingal,” whose purported grave is marked by a stone in the village. However the most noted authority on Breadalbane Rev Wm A. Gillies points out that many of the stories about him can be shown to be made up. A wooded island in the Dochart is the burying-place of the Macnabs, a clan which once dominated the surrounding country.

One of the most celebrated visitors to Killin was Charles Dickens in July 1841 who wrote enthusiastically to John Forster about the Falls of Lochay. Dickens must be thought of by most people as essentially urban, but he was an appreciative traveller who enjoyed both Scotland and the Lake District:

We left Lochearnhead last night and went to a place called Killin, eight miles from it, where we slept. I walked six miles with Fletcher after we got there to see a waterfall; and it was a magnificent sight, foaming and crashing down three great steeps of riven rock, leaping over the first as far as you could carry your eye, and rumbling and foaming down into a dizzy pool below you, with a deafening roar.

Lady Sarah Murray was, for once, defeated by these falls; she underestimated—as many another visitor must have done—the distance from Killin. By way of contrast Maria Edgeworth, visiting Killin in 1823, stated:

At Killin took a very pretty walk before tea, of about two miles and a half, and back again, to see a waterfall, which fully answered our expectations: you see I am very strong.

Joseph Farington who refers to the Falls of Lochay as the Falls of Coilig (probably “the wooded falls”) is lyrical about them in his Journal for October 1801:

The ride to it is beautiful. A little before I got to the fall I stopped at a cottage and took with me as a guide an elderly man who had all the civility, which is so common in the highlands. He told me he had been a soldier and had served abroad. Lord Breadalbane, to whom the estate of Coilig belongs, had made good pathways to three points from which the fall may be viewed. The first point is the finest and I was equally surprised and gratified on seeing so noble a fall accompanied as it is by rocks simple in their forms, in their height and breadth proportioned to the vast body of water which fell between them. Before I saw the fall I expected to find it a pleasing garden stream not having heard it spoken of by persons who have visited this country, and was the more surprised to find it of a size and character resembling the falls of Clyde, though not equal to the two principal of those falls (Cora Linn and Stonebyres), the accompaniments above the rocks being inferior in grandeur, but superior to Bonnington Linn the third and uppermost of those falls. It is only a few years since this fall was noticed sufficiently to make those who travelled through this Country acquainted with it, but it is now recommended to all who go to Killin in search of picturesque scenery.

The Falls of Lochay are nowadays part of a hydro electric power scheme. This is served by a power station pleasingly designed by the nationally known architects Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners. The other notable sight in Glen Lochay is the Moirlanich Longhouse, a late eighteenth century cottage of the kind which the Wordsworths and other early visitors must have found everywhere they went in Scotland. The house is looked after by the National Trust for Scotland; it is an instructive place to visit.

Strath Tay

Strath Tay

 

 

So much for Glen Lochay, but Killin is more frequently approached from Lix and entered by crossing the Dochart. Dr. John M’Culloch, the geologist describes the place:

Killin is the most extraordinary collection of extraordinary scenery in Scotland-unlike everything else in the country, and perhaps on earth, and a perfect picture gallery in itself, since you cannot move three yards without meeting a new landscape.. Fir trees, rocks, torrents, mills, bridges, houses-these produce the great bulk of the middle landscape, under endless combinations; while the distances more constantly are found in the surrounding hills, in their varied woods, in the bright expanse of the lake, and the minute ornaments of the distant valley, in the rocks and bold summit of Craigchailliach, and in the lofty vision of Ben Lawers, which towers like a huge giant in the clouds, the monarch of the scene.’

 

Farington was fascinated by the Falls of Dochart above the bridge at the entrance to the village:

We could not have seen them to more advantage, for the flood of waters, rushing in every direction not only filled the spaces formed by frequent inundations, but presented all the varieties which different interruptions could give it. The whole scene appeared from different situations singularly curious and interesting. On moving to different points on the rocks which divided the waters I was still more delighted while contemplating particular points of these extensive falls where I found the stream associated with mills and other objects on its margin, and a noble background of hills rising above them producing together most beautiful compositions.

Lady Sarah Murray is also highly enthusiastic:

The linn at Killin is very striking, and uncommon. The Tay advances to it from Glen Dochart, and widens to a very considerable breadth as it approaches Killin; which is a row of small houses facing the linn; the road only between it and the houses. The broad bed of the river is there choked up by large masses of rock lying on one another, in every kind of form and direction. These fragments of rock have been, most of them at least, washed thither by floods, and in the course of years have collected sufficient soil to unite many of them together, so as to form rough islands, covered with beautiful bushes, and trees of no great size; but sprouting from every crevice, branching and weeping over the rocks, in a style that delights the eye. Two small bridges, from rock to rock (but not in a line), lead from the south to the north side of the river. Just at the bridges the head of a small rocky high-banked island divides the river. This nook is the terra firma between the bridges; against which, and the rocks before it, the water dashes, foams, and roars to such a degree, at the time of flood, that it is scarcely possible to hear the sound of a human voice, even close to the ear. I wonder that the inhabitants of Killin are not all deaf (like those who are employed in iron or copper works), from the thundering noise of the rushing waters. Standing on either of the romantic bridges, the scene around is prodigiously grand, awful and striking.

Today the entrance to the village is much as these two travellers described it. At the far end of the bridge is St Fillan’s Mill, which posseses a water wheel. It is occupied by the Breadalbane Folklore Centre where further information about such local luminaries as Robert Kirk may be had. It was when he was in Balquhidder that Kirk started to collect fairy stories and at least one such tale in The Secret Commonwealth is set in Killin It suggests that visitors to Killin ought to exercise caution before going into an ale-house:

IT is notoriously known what in Killin, within Perthshire, fell tragically out with a Yeoman that liv’d hard by, who coming into a Companie within ane Ale-house, where a Seer sat at Table, that at the Sight of the Intrant Neighbour, the Seer starting, rose to go out of the House; and being asked the Reason of his haist, told that the intrant Man should die within two Days; at which News the named Intrant stabb’d the Seer, and was him self executed two Days after for the Fact.

Before leaving the bridge — notable in itself — a visit ought to be paid to Innis Bhuidhe. The key can be had from the Folklore Centre. Seton Gordon (1948) describes it:

Through the heart of Killin the Dochart thunders, and in heavy water its spray bathes the MacNabs’ ancestral burial ground of Inchbuie. Inch Buie, the Yellow Island, which may have been an ancient stronghold, is densely shaded by veteran beeches and pines and golden moss covers the ground.

You enter the island burial site and discover a magical place, cut off from the rest of the world. Dorothy Wordsworth found it ‘altogether uncommon and romantic — a remnant of ancient grandeur: extreme natural wildness — the sound of roaring water and withal, the ordinary half-village, half town bustle of an everyday place.’

The Wordsworths had approached Killin on 5 Sept. 1803 from Luib:

We crossed the Dochart by means of three bridges, which make one continued bridge of great length. On an island below the bridge is a gateway with tall pillars, leading to an old burying-ground belonging to some noble family’

At about the same time as the Wordsworths Samuel Rodgers was in the village. He ‘came to Killin, through which runs a rocky torrent to the lake. On the banks of this were several women and girls dipping their clothes in the river, and spreading them out on the green margin, like king’s daughters of old’

The bridge is used in both the original Casino Royale and the first re-make of The Thirty-nine Steps. At the Folklore Centre a Heritage Trail begins. It draws attention to various interesting places in the village; literary visitors will find it convenient to follow the trail to see Fingal’s Grave, Sròn a’ Chlachain, the Parish Church and Finlarig Castle. From the Main Street turn left (opposite the bakery) into Manse Road and then turn right and right again to join Fingal Street. Fingal’s Stone is on the left through a gate. It is said to mark Fingal’s grave, if he ever had a grave.

Fingal, Fionn mac Cumhaill, is a mythical hero of old Gaelic stories which were given a new life in the last quarter of the C18 by James Macpherson who published what he called translations of them. In practice, he was helped by Gaelic speakers to collect the stories, mainly in the Hebrides, and then ‘enhanced’ them in various ways. One of the greatest critics of their authenticity at the time was Dr Samuel Johnson, but it is now accepted that they were, at least, based on Celtic originals.

There are a number of sites in Highland Perthshire associated with Fingal. It is said that ‘Fingal had twelve castles in the crooked glen of large stones.’ This is taken to be Glen Lyon, north of Loch Tay, and well outside the National Park. Near Fortingall, at the mouth of Glen Lyon is ‘an Dun Geal’ (the white fort) where Fingal was supposed to live. These forts or castles occur throughout the district between the Forth and the Tay (the Pictish province of Fortrenn). The first person to draw wider attention them was Thomas Pennant (1726–1798). He secured information about them from the Rev. James Stuart, minister of Killin. In Glenlyon these defences are called “Caistealan nam Fiann” to this day. William A. Gillies points out:

Legend and heroic Gaelic poetry have associated these round forts with the Fiann, who are believed to have been bands of warriors acting under the rule of a leader, or chief. The most famous of these leaders was Fionn, the renowned Fingal of Celtic tales.

In Killin Pennant described the well-preserved stone circle consisting of six stones found in the field called Kinnell Park in the grounds of Kinnell House (on the other side of the Dochart from the village).

A sub-Wordsworthian American poet, Robert Edward Lee Gibson (b.1864) celebrated Fingal’s Grave in 1901

OFT have I seen the spot of his repose
Whose might all men acknowledged – Morven chief.
Fingal, once glorious, but departed now,
The most deplored of our lamented kings.

Fingal’s Stone is a good starting point for the ascent of Sròn a’ Chlachain which involves a climb of 400 m. It was probably in the year 1646 that Iain Lom, the distinguished Gaelic poet composed a lament for the young Keppoch chief who was killed in a skirmish at Sròn a’ Chlachain the prominent hill above Killin. The poet’s father was also killed in this skirmish, but protocol required the main emphasis to be on the chief’s death. The hill affords magnificent views of Loch Tay.

At the north-eastern end of the village is the distinctive white-harled octagonal church built in 1744 by the mason Thomas Clark to a design by John Douglas of Edinburgh. Inside it has been altered from a ‘wide’ church to a ‘long’ church. In front of the church is a monument to Rev James Stewart (1701-89), the highly respected minister of Killin, who first translated the New Testament into Scots Gaelic (published 1767). Prior to this Gaelic was, in effect, suppressed although Robert Kirk had done much valuable work in making Irish Bibles understandable. Indeed, Dr Samuel Johnson was one Stewart’s admirers and offered to help him in any way he could. His son John Stuart (1743–1821), Gaelic scholar and botanist, was born at the manse on 31 July 1743. Apart from his interest in the Gaelic language, in which capacity he accompanied Thomas Pennant throughout the Highlands and Islands in 1771 and saw Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s poems through the press, Stuart was also a devoted student of botany and lichenology, and identified many of Perthshire’s rare alpine plants. Pennant’s first tour of Scotland was unfairly criticised for superficiality, so he made sure, by engaging Stuart that he was able to interpret place names and describe antiquities.

Stuart’s sister married James McLagan (1728–1805), folklorist, who was one of the first collectors of the poems of Ossian. Their eldest son, James, became professor of divinity at King’s College, Aberdeen. This makes the manse at Killin a particularly literary household.

From the Church turn right into Pier Road and cross the River Lochay to reach Finlarig Castle. The former pier is a reminder of the days when a steamer plied on Loch Tay, and the Killin Branch line came meet it. Finlarig is a picturesque ruined castle at the head of Loch Tay, An ancient seat of the Earl of Breadalbane’s ancestors, it figures in Scott’s Fair Maid of Perth as the death-place of the chief of the clan Quhele:

A distant sound was heard from far up the lake, even as it seemed from the remote and distant glens out of which the Dochart and the Lochy pour their streams into Loch Tay. It was in a wild, inaccessible spot, where the Campbells at a subsequent period founded their strong fortress of Finlarig, that the redoubted commander of the Clan Quhele drew his last breath; and, to give due pomp to his funeral, his corpse was now to be brought down the loch to the island assigned for his temporary place of rest.

The castle is a narrow three-story ivy-clad pile, with a square tower at one corner. Adjoining it is the buryingvault of the Breadalbane family; surrounding it is an undulating park with grand old trees. This inspired Wordsworth’s sonnet of 1814, The Earl of Breadalbane’s Ruined Mansion and Family Burial Place, near Killin. Sara Hutchinson’s letter from Killin refers to the place:

There is an ancient residence in ruin of the earls of Breadalbane & a burial place with finer and older wood than any I have seen in Scotland and not often surpassed in England

The sonnet runs as follows:

WELL sang the Bard who called the grave, in strains
Thoughtful and sad, the “narrow house”. No style
Of fond sepulchral flattery can beguile
Grief of her sting; nor cheat, where he detains
The sleeping dust, stern Death. How reconcile
With truth, or with each other, decked remains
Of a once warm Abode, and that ‘new’ Pile,
For the departed, built with curious pains
And mausoleum pomp? Yet here they stand
Together —’mid trim walks and artful bowers,
To be looked down upon by ancient hills,
That, for the living and the dead, demand
And prompt a harmony of genuine powers;
Concord that elevates the mind, and stills.

A different path opposite the castle leads back to the village. This concludes the visit to a village with considerable literary associations.

 

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Room Enough to Swing a Cat: Quotations from Tobias Smollett

 

 Smollett and Some of his Opinions

  I was born in the northern part of this United Kingdom, in the house of my grandfather; a gentleman of considerable fortune and influence, who had, on many occasions, signalised himself in behalf of his country; and was remarkable for his abilities in the law, which he exercised with great success, in the station of a judge, particularly against beggars, for whom he had a singular aversion. 

Roderick Random [first lines]

He comforted me with observing that life was a voyage in which we must expect to meet with all weathers; sometimes was calm, sometimes rough; that a fair gale often succeeded a storm; that the wind did not always sit one way, and that despair signified nothing; that resolution and skill were better than a stout vessel: for why? because they require no carpenter, and grow stronger the more labour they undergo.

 Roderick Random 41

 

If there be such a thing as true happiness on earth, I enjoy it.

Roderick Random 69

 A prodigy in learning. 

Roderick Random 6

This became the famous malapropism  ‘a progeny of learning’ in The Rivals by Sheridan. 

 I’ll warrant him dead as a herring. 

Roderick Random 4

 Death’s like the best bower anchor, as the saying is, it will bring us all up.

Roderick Random 24

 Some folks are wise and some are otherwise.

Roderick Random  6

London is the devil’s drawing room

  Roderick Random 18

He was formed for the ruin of our sex. 

 Roderick Random 22

We have been jeered, reproached, buffeted, pissed-upon and at last stript of our money; and I suppose by and by we shall be stript of our skins

 Roderick Random 15

 I consider the world is made for me, not me for the world. My maxim is, therefore, to enjoy it while I can, and let futurity shift for itself. 

Roderick Random 14

 The demon of discord, with her sooty wings, had breathed her influence upon our counsels.

Roderick Random 33

 An ounce of prudence is worth a pound of gold

 Roderick Random 15

 In a certain county of England, bounded on one side by the sea, and at the distance of one hundred miles from the metropolis, lived Gamaliel Pickle Esq; the father of that hero whose adventures we propose to record.            

Perigrine Pickle [First Lines] 

The painful ceremony of receiving and returning visits. 

Perigrine Pickle v

 I make good the old saying we sailors get money like horses, and spend it like asses.

Perigrine Pickle ii

  Number three is always fortunate.

Perigrine Pickle x  

 A mere index hunter, who held the eel of science by the tail.

Perigrine Pickle xliii

  There’s a dragon among the chambermaids. 

Perigrine Pickle lxxxii

 Every man of importance ought to write his own memoirs, provided that he has honesty enough to tell the truth. 

Ferdinand Count Fathom i

 The genteel comedy of the polite world.

Ferdinand Count Fathom i

 I ain’t dead, but I’m speechless

Ferdinand Count Fathom  xli

  Nothing is more liable to misconstruction than an act of uncommon generosity; one half the world mistake the motive from want of ideas to conceive an instance of beneficence that soars so high above the level of their own sentiments; and the rest suspect it of something sinister or selfish, from the suggestions of their own sordid and vicious inclinations.

Ferdinand Count Fathom v

 To a man of honour the unfortunate need no introduction.  

Ferdinand Count Fathom  lxii

 He made an apology for receiving the Count in his birthday suit, to which he said he was reduced by the heat of his constitution, though he might have assigned a more adequate cause, by owning that his shirt was in the hands of his washerwoman; then shrouding himself in a blanket, desired to know what had procured him the honour of such an extraordinary visit. 

Ferdinand Count Fathom   xli

 This is believed to be the first use of the phrase ‘birthday suit’ in this sense. Win Jenkins uses it again on a more famous occasion after emerging naked from Loch Lomond.

 Bare I was born, and bare I remain.

Smollett’s Translation of Don Quixote [1755]

“Cervantes’s masterpiece is lucky to have found so perfect a translator as the flamboyant Smollett . The rambunctious personalities of author and translator are ideally matched.”  Quoted on Amazon

I think for my part one half of the nation is mad – and the other not very sound.

 Sir Launcelot Greaves vi

Discord seemed to clap her sooty wings in expectation of a battle.

 Sir Launcelot Greaves iii                      

True patriotism is of no party.

Sir Launcelot Greaves ix

After clouds comes clear weather. 

Sir Launcelot Greaves x

A   seafaring   man   may   have   a   sweetheart   in   every   port, but   he should steer clear of a wife, as he would avoid quicksand.

 Sir Launcelot Greaves xxi

 “That great Cham of Literature, Samuel Johnson.”

Smollett in a Letter to John Wilkes

Boswell interpreted the word ‘Cham’ as ‘Chum’ at first, and he animadverted on Smollett’s ignorance. In fact, the word is an archaic form of ‘Khan’, an entirely appropriate epithet for Johnson because it conveyed, at one and the same time, the despotic nature of his ‘rule’ and the barbarous hordes of writers over whom he ruled. James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-99), was known as ‘the lesser Cham’.

Depend on it, my friend, all men love two hands in their neighbour’s purse, though only one in their own. Men’s principles are all alike; the only difference lies in the mode of carrying them into effect.                       

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book X Ch i

Facts are stubborn things.                                                                                      

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book X Ch 1 

Opinions cannot survive if one has no chance to fight for them

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book X Ch 1

Naked glory is the true and honourable recompense of gallant actions

 Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book VIII Ch 12

Glory is the fair child of Peril

Regicide viii

Hark ye, Clinker, you are a notorious offender.   You stand convicted of sickness, hunger, wretchedness and want.

 Humphry Clinker (24 May)

 

 

There is an idea of truth in an agreeable landscape taken from nature, which pleases me more than the gayest fiction, which the most luxuriant fancy can display. 

Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

  One wit, like a knuckle of ham in soup, gives zest and flavour to the dish, but more than one serves only to spoil the pottage.

 Humphry Clinker (5 June)

 Save a thief from the gallows, and he will cut your throat.   

Humphry Clinker (23 June)

   Writing is all a lottery — I have been a loser by the works of the greatest men of the age.

Humphry Clinker, (10 August)

   I believe I should send for the head of your cook in a charger — She has committed felony, on the person of that John Dory, which is mangled in a cruel manner, and even presented without sauce.

Humphrey Clinker  (30 April)

She starched up her behaviour with a double portion of reserve.

Humphry Clinker (12 Sept)

 The oppressive imposition of ridiculous modes, invented by ignorance, and adopted by folly.

 Humphry Clinker (Oct 8)

  Every shot has its commission, d’ye see? We must all die at one time as the saying is. 

The Reprisal II viii

  It is commonly remarked, that beer strengthens as well as refreshes. 

 Travels xix

 

If the spirit of a British admiral been properly exerted the French fleet would have been defeated and Minorca relieved. A man’s opinion of danger varies at different times, in consequence of an irregular tide of animal spirits; and he is actuated by considerations, which he dares not avow.

 On Admiral Byng in The History of England 1757

The highways were infested with rapine and assassination, the cities teemed with the brutal votaries of lewdness, intemperance and profligacy The whole land was overcome with a succession of tumult, riot and insurrection excited in different parts of kingdom by the erection of new turnpikes.

History of England 1757

Quotations from Smollett’s Poetry

It can be argued that Smollett’s first published work was The Tears of Scotland, later set to music by Haydn. It brought him immediate success.

Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn

Thy banished peace, thy laurels torn.

 The Tears of Scotland [1746].

 While the warm blood bedews my veins,

And unimpaired remembrance reigns,

Remembrance of my country’s fate

Within my filial breast shall beat.

The Tears of Scotland [1746].

 

 

The glory of the victory was sullied by the barbarity of the soldiers. They had been provoked by their former disgraces to the most savage thirst of revenge. Not contented with the blood which was so profusely shed in the heat of action, they traversed the field after the battle, and massacred those miserable wretches who lay maimed and expiring: nay some officers acted a part in this cruel scene of assassination, the triumph of low illiberal minds, uninspired by sentiment, untinctured by humanity

On Culloden in Smollett’s Continuation of the History of England    

Thy fatal shafts unerring prove

I bow before thine altar, Love                        

Roderick Random xi

THE REGICIDE

The Regicide was Smollett’s first play, written when he was eighteen years of age. It adapts Buchanan’s account of the assassination of James I, King of Scots. Smollett took it with him when he first went to London, but was unable to get it produced.

True courage scorns

To vent her prowess in a storm of words;

And to the valiant actions speak alone. 

The Regicide

. . . Not sleep itself

Is ever balmy; for the shadowy dream

Oft bears substantial woe

The Regicide

. . . Few live exempt

From disappointment and disgrace who run

Ambition’s rapid course. 

The Regicide

As love can exquisitely bless

Love only feels the marvellous of pain,

Opens new veins of torture in the heart,

And wakes the nerve where agonies are born.

The Regicide

. . . Keen are the pangs

Of hapless love, and passion unapproved;

But where consenting wishes meet and views,

Reciprocally breathed, confirm the tie;

Joy rolls on joy, an unexhausting stream!

And virtue crowns the sacred scene.

The Regicide

Is ever balmy; for the shadowy dream

Oft bears substantial woe

 The Regicide

. . . Simple woman

Is weak in intellect as well as frame

And judges often from the partial voice

That soothes her wishes most

The Regicide

Not to the ensanguin’d field of death alone

Is valor limited: she sits serene

In the deliberate council, sagely scans

The source of action: weighs, prevents, provides,

And scorns to count her glories, from the feats

Of brutal force alone.

The Regicide

   

Soft sleep, profoundly pleasing power

Sweet patron of the peaceful hour

Ode to Sleep

Deep in the frozen reaches of the North                                                      

A goddess violated brought thee forth      

Ode to Independence

Thy spirit, Independence, let me share

Lord of the lion-heart and eagle eye

Thy steps I follow with my bosom bare

Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky

Ode to Independence

Nature I’ll court in her sequester’d haunts,

By mountain, meadow, streamlet, grove, or cell;

Where the pois’d lark his evening ditty chants,

And health, and peace, and contemplation dwell.

Ode to Independence

Tis, infamous, I grant it, to be poor.

Advice     

What though success will not attend on all

 Who bravely dares must sometimes risk a fall

Advice   

Too coy to flatter and too proud to serve

Thine be the joyless dignity to starve.

Advice 

False as the fowler’s artful snare.

Song: To fix her! ’twere a task as vain

While British oak beneath us rolls,
And English courage fires our souls;
To crown our toils, the fates decree
The wealth and empire of the sea.

The Reprisal 1757 

                    ODE TO LEVEN WATER.

This poem celebrates the Vale of Leven at the foot of Loch Lomond where Smollett was born, and was first published in Humphry Clinker

On Leven’s banks, while free to rove,

And tune the rural pipe to love,

I envied not the happiest swain

That ever trod the Arcadian plain.

Pure stream, in whose transparent wave

My youthful limbs I wont to lave,

No torrents stain thy limpid source;

No rocks impede thy dimpling course,

That sweetly warbles o’er its bed,

With white, round, polish’d pebbles spread;

While, lightly poised, the scaly brood

In myriads cleave thy crystal flood;

The springing trout, in speckled pride,

The salmon, monarch of the tide,

The ruthless pike, intent on war,

The silver eel, and mottled par.

Devolving from thy parent lake,

A charming maze thy waters make,

By bowers of birch, and groves of pine,

And edges flower’d with eglantine.

Still on thy banks, so gaily green,

May numerous herds and flocks be seen,

And lasses, chanting o’er the pail,

And shepherds, piping in the dale,

And ancient faith, that knows no guile,

And Industry, embrown’d with toil,

And hearts resolved, and hands prepared,

The blessings they enjoy to guard

 

 

 

 

 Smollett on Europe

  In Sterne’s phrase Smollett was a ‘splenetic traveller’, and his works are full of unkind references to the French, the Germans and the Italians, as well as to his fellow countrymen. However, most modern readers will detect some substance in a number of Smollett’s more notorious passages. In any case, what he had to say was usually funny and invariably well put.

…on England

 I am heartily tired of this land of indifference and phlegm where the finer sensations of the soul are not felt…

 Letter to Alexander Carlyle 1754

  I am attached to my country because it is the land of liberty, cleanliness and convenience.

Travels 

  This sort of reserve seems peculiar to the English disposition. When two natives of any other country chance to meet abroad, they run into each other’s embrace like old friends, even though they have never heard of one another till that moment; whereas two Englishmen in the same situation maintain a mutual reserve and diffidence, and keep without the sphere of each other’s attrac­tion, like two bodies endowed with a repulsive power.

Travels xii

 

 

Chelsea Plaque

I know not whether the porcelain made at Chelsea may not vie with the productions either of Dresden, or St. Cloud. If it falls short of either, it is not in the design, painting, enamel, or other ornaments, but only in the composition of the metal, and the method of managing it in the furnace.

Travels viii

…on Germany

German genius lies more in the back than in the brain.

Travels

 

…on Italy

I   repeat   it again; of all the people I ever knew the Italians are the most villainously rapacious.

Travels xxxiv

…on France and the French

Smollett on The French (1)

 A Frenchman in consequence of his mingling with the females from his infancy, not only becomes acquainted with all their customs and humours; but grows wonderfully alert in performing a thousand little offices, which are overlooked by other men, whose time hath been spent in making more valuable acquisitions. He enters, without ceremony, a lady’s bed-chamber, while she is in bed, reaches her whatever she wants, airs her shift, and helps to put it on. He attends at her toilette, regulates the distribution of her patches, and advises where to lay on the paint. If he visits her when she is dressed, and perceives the least impropriety in her coeffure, he insists upon adjusting it with his own hands: if he sees a curl, or even a single hair amiss, he produces his comb, his scissars, and pomatum, and sets it to rights with the dexterity of a professed friseur. He ‘squires her to every place she visits, either on business, or pleasure; and, by dedicating his whole time to her, renders himself necessary to her occasions.  

Travels vii 

Smollett on The French (2)

 If a Frenchman is admitted to your family, and distinguished by repeated marks of your friendship and regard, the first return he makes for your civilities is to make love to your wife, if she is handsome; if not to your sister, your daughter or your niece. 

Travels vii 

Smollett on The French (3)

 A Frenchman pries into all your secrets with the most impudent and importunate curiosity, and then discloses them without remorse.  If you are indisposed, he questions you about the symptoms of your disorder, with more freedom than your physician would presume to use; very often in the grossest terms. He then proposes his remedy (for they are all quacks), he prepares it without your knowledge, and worries you with solicitation to take it, without paying the least regard to the opinion of those whom you have chosen to take care of your health.  

Travels vii 

 

Smollett on The French  (4)

 They affect to believe that all the travellers of our country are grand seigneurs, immensely rich and incredibly generous; and we are silly enough to encourage this opinion, by submitting quietly to the most ridiculous extortion, as well as by committing acts of the most absurd extravagance. 

Travels 

Smollett and the French (5)

  The French, as well as other foreigners, have no idea of a man of family and fashion, without the title of duke, count, marquis, or lord, and where an English gentleman is introduced by the simple expression of monsieur tel, Mr. Suchathing, they think he is some plebeian, unworthy of any particular attention.

Travels xl 

Smollett and the French (6)

 A French friend tires out your patience with long visits; and, far from taking the most palpable hints to withdraw, when he perceives you uneasy he observes you are low-spirited, and therefore he will keep you company.

Travels vii

Of all the people I have ever known I think the French are the least capable of feeling for the distresses of their fellow creatures.

 Travels  vii

Some Different Views on the French

He observed, that France was the land of politeness and hospitality, which were conspicuous in the behaviour of all ranks and degrees, from the peer to the peasant; that a gentleman and a foreigner, far from being insulted and imposed upon by the lower class of people, as in England, was treated with the utmost reverence, candour, and respect; and their fields were fertile, their climate pure healthy, their farmers rich and industrious, the subjects in general the happiest of men.

Perigrine Pickle 35

France abounds with men of consummate honour, profound sagacity, and the most liberal education.

Peregrine Pickle 39

He advised him, now that he was going into foreign parts, to be upon his guard against the fair weather of the French politesse, which was no more to be trusted than a whirlpool at sea.

Peregrine Pickle 33

Birdwatching with Smollett

 The neighbourhood of this fort [near Boulogne], which is a smooth sandy beach, I have chosen for my bathing place. The road to it is agreeable and romantic, lying through pleasant cornfields, skirted by open downs, where there is a rabbit warren, and great plenty of the birds so much admired at Tunbridge under the name of wheat-ears. By the bye, this is a corruption of ‘white arse’, the translation of their French name ‘cul-blanc’, taken from their colour; for they are actually white towards the tail.

…on Scotland

  I do not think I could enjoy life with greater relish in any part of the world than in Scotland

Letter to Alexander Carlyle 1754

  Mr. Cameron of Lochiel, the chief of that clan, whose father was attained for having been concerned in the last rebellion, returning from France, in obedience to a proclamation and act of parliament passed at the beginning of the late war, paid a visit to his own country, and hired a farm in the neighbourhood of his father’s house, which had been burnt to the ground.  The clan, though ruined and scattered, no sooner heard of his arrival, than they flocked in to him from all quarters, to welcome his return, and in a few days stocked his farm with seven hundred black cattle, which they had saved in the general wreck of their affairs: but their beloved chief, who was a promising youth, did not live to enjoy the fruits of their fidelity and attachment

Humphry Clinker (Sep 6)

  The Cameron of Lochiel to whom Smollett refers was John Cameron of Lochiel, XX Chief, who died in 1762, a mere three years after returning to Scotland. 

 It was not to be wondered at if I had a tolerable education, for learning was so cheap in my country, that every peasant was a scholar.

Roderick Random 40 

 

 

I should not be a true Scotch man if I went away without my change

Roderick Random 17

I know that very well; we have scarce any other countrymen to examine here [at the Barber Surgeons’ Hall]; you Scotchmen have overspread us of late as the locusts did Egypt.

Roderick Random 17

  I am so far happy to have seen Glasgow, which, to the best of my recollection and judgment, is one of the prettiest towns in Europe and, without all doubt, it is one of the most flourishing in Great Britain.

Humphry Clinker (Aug 28)

  Glasgow is the pride of Scotland, and, indeed, it might well pass for an elegant and flourishing city in any part of Christendom.

Humphry Clinker (Sep 3)

…the English language [is] spoken with greater propriety at Edinburgh than in London.

Humphry Clinker (July 13)

    Edinburgh is a hot-bed of genius.

Humphry Clinker  [Aug 8]

   The English who have never crossed the Tweed, imagine erroneously, that Scotch ladies are not remarkable for personal attractions; but, I can declare with safe conscience, I never saw so many handsome females together.

Humphry Clinker  (Aug 8)

    The Scots are all musicians.

Humphry Clinker  (Aug 8)

… and, in particular, on Loch Lomond

 

Loch Lomond Paul Sandby

  John Gray, a minor historian, described Smollett as  “the author who by the magic of his pen turned the banks of Loch Lomond into classic ground” 

This country is justly stiled the Arcadia of Scotland; and I don’t doubt but it may vie with Arcadia in every thing but climate…

Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

“I have seen the Lago di Garda, Albano, De Vico, Bolsena and Geneva, and, upon my honour, I prefer Loch Lomond to them all a preference which is certainly owing to the verdant islands that seem to float upon its surface, affording the most inchanting objects ‘of repose to the excursive view. Nor are the banks destitute of beauties which even partake of the sublime. On this side hey display a sweet variety of woodland cornfield and pasture, with several agreeable villas emerging, as it were, out of the lake, till, at some distance, the prospect terminates in huge mountains covered with heath which being in the bloom, affords a very rich covering of purple. Everything here is romantic beyond imagination. This country is justly stiled the Arcadia of Scotland, and I don’t doubt but it may vie with Arcadia in everything but climate. I am sure it exceeds it in verdure, wood and water.”

 Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

 

We went to Loch Lomond, one of the most enchanting spots m the whole world.     

Humphry Clinker  (7 September)

We now crossed the water of Leven, which, though nothing near so considerable as the Clyde, is much more transparent pastoral and delightful. This charming stream is the outlet of Loch Lomond and through a tract of four miles pursues its winding course, murmuring over a bed of pebbles, till it joins the firth at Dumbarton. A very little above its source on the lake stands the house of Cameron so embosomed in an oak wood that we did not see it till we were within fifty yards of the door.  

 Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

 

 

 The Proverbial Smollett

The same Davy Jones, according to the mythology of sailors, is the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is seen in various shapes….warning the devoted wretch of death and woe.

 Peregrine Pickle xiii

    This is the first mention of Davy Jones. No relevant real person has been found; Davy Jones is likely to be a sailor’s story about evil sea sprits possibly based on the biblical story of Jonah. 

I am pent up in frowzy lodgings where there is not room enough to swing a cat. 

Humphry Clinker (8 June)

   The image which this phrase may conjure up may be of a domestic cat, but Smollett was probably thinking of the cat o’ nine tails with which he would have been familiar in the navy.

  My mother was an honest woman; I didn’t come in on the wrong side of the blanket.

Humphry Clinker 14 October

  I pulled out the post book, and began to read the article, which orders that the traveller who comes first shall be first served.

Travels viii

  You always used me in an officer-like manner that, I must own, to give the devil his due.

Peregrine Pickle I xvii

Hunger, thou knowest, brings the wolf out of the wood.

Translation of Gil Blas Book  XIII Ch v

Why stand shilly-shally? Why not strike while the iron is hot and speak to the squire without loss of time.

Humphry Clinker (14 October)

Casting an eye at my hat and wig he took his off and clapping his own on my head declared that fair exchange was no robbery.

Roderick Random xli

It can’t be had for love nor money.

Humphry Clinker (26 April)

Greater familiarity on his side might have bred contempt.
          

Adventures of an Atom 

The world would do nothing for her if she should come to want–charity begins at home: she wished I had been bound to some substantial handicraft, such as a weaver or a shoemaker, rather than loiter away my time in learning foolish nonsense….

Roderick Random I vi     

  I meddle with nobody’s affairs but my own: the gunner to his linstock and the steersman to the helm, as the saying is.

Roderick Random II xlii  

This proverb is, of course, a variation on ‘let the cobbler stick to his last.’

  He knew not which was which; and, as the saying is, all cats in the dark are grey.

 Humphry Clinker (7 September)

The sense in which this proverb is used by Smollet is probably to describe the similarity which there may be between the two women’s private parts.

  Insolence…akin to the arrogance of the village cock who never crows but upon his own dunghill

Humphry Clinker II 178

  All the fat’s in the fire.

The Reprisal I viii 

  The captain, like the prophets of old, is but little honoured in his own country.

Humphry Clinker

Egad, appearances are very deceitful

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas (1749) III vii i

  ‘ Tis a true saying – live and learn

Humphry Clinker

  You knows master, one must live and let live as the saying is

Sir Launcelot Greaves II xvi 

  Which sheweth that he who plays at bowls will sometimes meet with rubbers.

Sir Launcelot Greaves x

Rubbers are impediments encountered in the game of bowls. The expression is also used in Humphrey Clinker

  Please your eye and plague your heart

Roderick Random II xl    

“Well, fools and their money are soon parted.

Roderick Random xi 

She is not worthy to tie her majesty’s shoe-strings.

 Smollett’s Translation of Don Quixote 1 iv 3 

 

 

 

 

Some Observations from Dr. Smollett

   “In 1763 that quintessentially bad-tempered Scotsman, Tobias Smollett, consulted a famous doctor in Montpellier, France, by sending him an account of his condition in Latin. The poor doctor, clearly out of his depth in Latin, replied in French, and made so many errors that Smollett sent him another letter — with another fee — pointing out all the mistakes and confusions in his reply. Later, Smollett triumphantly reported meeting an Englishman who had received an identical letter from the physician, even though they had very different diseases. As Smollett discovered, possession of a doctorate does not necessarily imply knowledge.” 

Ryan Huxtable in a review of The Shocking History of Phosphorus

I find my spirits and my health affect each other reciprocally–that is to say, everything that decomposes my mind produces a correspondent disorder in my body; and my bodily complaints are remarkably mitigated by those considerations that dissipate the clouds of mental chagrin. 

Humphry Clinker (14 June)

I have put myself on the superannuated list too soon, and absurdly sought for health in the retreats of laziness — I am persuaded that all valetudinarians are too sedentary, too regular, and too cautious — We should sometimes increase the motion of the machine.

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (26 Oct )

 There is, however, one disease, for which you have found as yet no specific, and that is old age, of which this tedious unconnected epistle is an infallible symptom: what, therefore, cannot be cured, must be endured…

 The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (26 June)

  The Concise Oxford Book of Proverbs attributes “What cannot be cured must be endured” to Langland in Piers Plowman. Bartlett states that it comes either from  Robert Burton (1577–1640) Anatomy of Melancholy or from François Rabelais (c.1490–1553) Works v

Pure water is certainly of all drinks the most salutary beverage…Those admirable qualities inherent in spring water are clearly evinced by the uninterrupted health, good spirits and longevity of those who use nothing but water for their ordinary drink.

An Essay on the External Use of Water [1752]

 

 

 

 

I am resolved to set out to-morrow for York, in my way to Scarborough, where I propose to brace up my fibres by sea-bathing, which, I know, is one of your favourite specifics.

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (26 June)

The people here [Nice] were much surprised when I began to bathe in the beginning of May … some of the doctors prognosticated immediate death.

  Travels

“No other English writer leaves to posterity so clear a picture of contemporary medicine as does Tobias George Smollett”. Claude E. Jones. 1935.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smollett On the adulteration of food

of wine

As to the intoxicating potion, sold for wine, it is a vile, unpalatable, and pernicious sophistication, balderdashed with cyder, corn-spirit, and the juice of sloes….

of bread

The bread I eat in London, is a deleterious paste, mixed up with chalk, alum, and bone-ashes; insipid to the taste, and destructive to the constitution. The good people are not ignorant of this adulteration; but they prefer it to wholesome bread, because it is whiter than the meal of corn [wheat]: thus they sacrifice their taste and their health, and the lives of their tender infants, to a most absurd gratification of a mis-judging eye; and the miller, or the baker, is obliged to poison them and their families, in order to live by his profession….

of greens

They insist on having the complexion of their pot-herbs mended, even at the hazard of their lives. Perhaps, you will hardly believe they can be so mad as to boil their greens with a brass halfpence, in order to improve their colour; and yet nothing is more true….

. . . of milk

[Milk is] the produce of faded cabbage leaves and sour draff, lowered with hot water, frothed with bruised snails, carried through the streets in open pails….

. . . and of butter

the tallowy rancid mass, called butter, is manufactured with candle-grease and kitchen-stuff….

and the remedy

Now, all these enormities might be remedied with a very little attention to the article of police, or civil regulation; but the wise patriots of London have taken it into their heads, that all regulation is inconsistent with liberty….

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker 8 June

  Smollett on French Food

The longer I live, the more I am convinced that wine, and all fermented liquors, are pernicious to the human constitution

Travels xxxix                                                 

 

An insuppressible affection for a fricassee of frogs . . .

Peregrine Pickle 6

 

For my own part, I hate French cookery, and abominate garlic, with which all their ragouts, in this part of the country, are highly seasoned…         

Travels viii

 
 

 
Smollett’s Libel on Admiral Knowles

Marshalsea Prison, Southwark

  Smollett is famous for complaining about things, and his diatribes in Travels in France and Italy and elsewhere are notorious. However, he was thrown into Marshalsea prison for his most famous piece of invective, the libel on Admiral Knowles. One cannot help suspecting that, like a lot of Smollett’s other observations, it was true:

   We have heard of a man, who, without birth, interest, or for­tune, has raised himself from the lowest paths of life to an eminent rank in the service; and if all his friends were put to the strappado, they could not define the quality or qualities to which he owed his elevation. Nay, it would be found upon enquiry, that he neither has, or ever had any friend at all; (for we make a wide distinction between a patron and a friend); and yet for a series of years, he has been enabled to sacrifice the blood, the treasure, and the honour of his country, to his own ridiculous projects Ask his character of those who know him, [and] they will not scruple to say, he is an admiral without conduct, an engineer without knowledge, an officer without resolution, and a man without veracity. They will tell you he is an ignorant, assuming, officious, fribbling pretender; conceited as a peacock, obstinate as a mule, and mischievous as a monkey; that in every station of life he has played the tyrant with his inferiors, the incendiary among his equals, and commanded a squadron occasionally for twenty years, without having even established his reputation in the article of personal courage. If the service can be thus influenced by caprice, admiral Knowles needs not be surprised at his being laid aside after forty years constant and faithful service.

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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 6. Upper Loch Lomond and Glen Falloch.

 

Upper Loch Lomond

At first the A82 from Tarbet to Crianlarich clings very closely to the shore of the upper loch; then it climbs Genfalloch. At one point the road is so narrow that only one-way traffic is permitted. There are several sights: Inveruglas is the site of one of the first major hydro electric power stations in Scotland; just to the north of it is a fine viewpoint, and further on one of the first concrete railway viaducts. Opposite are The Falls of Inversnaid and Rob Roy’s cave (dealt with in more detail elsewhere). The hotel at Inversnaid runs a ferry from Inveruglas for hotel guests . Nichol Graham writing in 1747 described the country seen on the other side of the loch:

“The lands in the head of the parish of Buchanan lying between Loch Lomond and Loch Katerin are, of all these in that country, the best adapted for concealments and the most conveniently situate for bad purposes. Theft and depredations were pushed successfully in these places with an intention, either to turn these lands waste, or oblige that lord; the proprietor of them then, by a purchase from the family of Buchanan, to grant leases to those ancient possessors. The scheme purported answered the sons of Rob Roy got one half of those lands in lease, and Glengyle the nephew, the other half. When these people got possession of these places so well fitted for their designs, they found they were able to carry matters one point further; in order to which, it was necessary that thefts and depredations should be carried on incessantly through their whole neighbourhood. As they had now got possession of these high grounds in a legal way, from whence they could vex the whole neighbourhood, the thing was agreed, and a formal blackmail contract entered into betwixt MacGregor and a great many heritors, whose lands lay chiefly exposed to these depredations, and which enabled him, when the troubles of 174 5 began to raise about forty men for that service, and opened the first scene in that fatal tragedy, by surprising the barracks of Inversnaid, and that part of General Campbell’s regiment which was working at the Inveraray roads.”

Edwin Way Teale(1899-1980), the distinguished American naturalist, wrote a classic travel book Springtime in Britain [1970] in which he described an extended tour of Britain. He catches the atmosphere of the upper loch as follows:

Wherever we stopped, somewhere within sight a foaming cataract traced its descending thread or narrow ribbon, chalk-white or shining silver according to the shade or sun, down the steep plunge to the opposite shore. By the time we turned away towards Inveraray – not far from the place where Wordsworth stood while ‘The Solitary Reaper’ sang her plaintive song perhaps .. . for old, unhappy, far-off things, and battles long ago we had counted 25 waterfalls.

The first site with significant literary connections is Clach nan Tairbh, literally the Bull Stone, but long known as Pulpit Rock. It is an erratic boulder of considerable size between Tarbet and Ardlui. Legend has it that two bulls fought a battle on the slopes of Ben Vorlich and disturbed the rock which came thundering down the hillside. A hollow in the rock, which used to be fronted by a wooden platform, was used by local ministers in place of a church. The site impressed the Wordsworths, and was apostrophised by Blackie. It was after visiting Pulpit Rock that Wordsworth was inspired to write two poems about the hermit who inhabited Eilean a Vow — Eilean Bho, the isle of cows, close to Pulpit Rock. Introducing the first poem of 1814 he has a swipe at Burns:

IN this tour, my wife and her sister Sara were my companions. The account of the “Brownie’s Cell” and the Brownies was given me by a man we met with on the banks of Loch Lomond, a little above Tarbert, and in front of a huge mass of rock, by the side of which, we were told, preachings were often held in the open air. The place is quite a solitude, and the surrounding scenery very striking. How much is it to be regretted that, instead of writing such Poems as the “Holy Fair” and others, in which the religious observances of his country are treated with so much levity, and too often with indecency, Burns had not employed his genius in describing religion under the serious and affecting aspects it must so frequently take.

The poem is elaborately titled:

Suggested by a beautiful ruin upon one of the Islands of Loch Lomond . A place chosen for the retreat of a solitary individual from whom this habitation acquired the name of The Brownie’s Cell

It was probably composed in 1814, but it was not published until 1820. It describes both the island and the hermit:

All, all were dispossessed, save him whose smile

Shot lightning through this lonely Isle!

No right had he but what he made

To this small spot, his leafy shade;

But the ground lay within that ring

To which he only dared to cling;

Renouncing here, as worse than dead,

The craven few who bowed the head

Beneath the change; who heard a claim

How loud! yet lived in peace with shame.

 

In 1831 Wordsworth returned to the district and heard that the hermit had died. He penned a lament, The Brownie, introducing it as follows:


Upon a small island, not far from the head of Loch Lomond, are some remains of an ancient building, which was for several years the abode of a solitary Individual, one of the last survivors of the clan of Macfarlane, once powerful in that neighbourhood. Passing along the shore opposite this island in the year 1814, the Author learned these particulars, and that this person then living there had acquired the appellation of “The Brownie.” See “The Brownie’s Cell,” to which the following is a sequel.

How disappeared he? Ask the newt and toad;

Ask of his fellow men and they will tell

How he was found, cold as an icicle,

Under an arch of that forlorn abode

The river Falloch tumbles down an attractive defile at the head of Loch Lomond, which is traversed by both the West Highland Way and the road [A82] to Crianlaraich. Mountain, Moor and Loch [1895] describes the entrance:

Inverarnan, which lies on the bank of the Falloch, consists of only a few houses and the old hotel, which, during the construction of the [railway] line, was turned into houses, the principal [house] being a residence for the engineers engaged  The steamers on Loch Lomond used to come up to Inverarnan, before the pier at Ardlui was built, and the hotel was the old posting establishment. Beside it can be seen the little artificial basin where the vessels lay. From Inverarnan coaches used to run all the way to Fort William, Oban, and Ballachulish.

 

The inn at Inverarnan was for long the focal point for the winter meet of the Scottish Mountaineering Club. One of its members was the distinguished writer about the Scottish countryside Campbell Steven (1911-2002). In 1971 in Enjoying Scotland he recalled:

… those halcyon days of the past when Inverarnan Hotel was  open all year round, with that reputation for hospitality which was to become almost legendary in the world of climbers and skiers

 

The Glenfalloch estate became the property of Colin Campbell of Glen Orchy in the reign of James IV and the lower part of the glen is densely wooded. The trees were probably planted by Colin’s son, Black Duncan of the Cowl, who was one of the first highland lairds to pay attention to the improvement of his estates. For a time Lucy Walford, the novelist, lived in Glenfalloch House, and John Stuart Blackie, among others, called on her there. Walford’s account of Inverarnan and Glen Falloch in her Recollections is instructive:

At the upper end of Loch Lomond steamers are able to penetrate a short way inland, as the river Falloch broadens into a sort of canal before losing itself in the waters of the lake; and the little saloon steamers thread their way up this as far as Inverarnan, where they come to an anchorage at a rustic pier beneath a huge, wide-spreading elm. When we saw the steam arising from this secluded spot (which we could do from the windows of Glenfalloch House), we knew the boat was there, and ten minutes’ walk would take us to it.

Half-way was the boundary between Dumbartonshire and Argyllshire, with a turnpike-gate on the edge of either county. Thus there were two turnpikes within a hundred yards of each other – a queer state of things, which has since passed away.

There being no West Highland Railway at the period, coaches from the north were the only means of conveying tourists and other passengers from Dalmally and Tyndrum to Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, and the far-famed Pass of the Trossachs; so that every afternoon coaches came in rapid succession, galloping, rocking, and swaying, down the glen.

 

There were dangerous corners to be turned; but of course the bulk of the coach-load did not know this, and were innocently happy as they spun past, though we, who soon grew familiar with every inch of the road, were well pleased when they disappeared among the trees on the plain below.

 

Many other writers, of whom Dorothy Wordsworth is perhaps the most famous, have celebrated Glen Falloch. She gives a memorable account of her walk from the head of Loch Lomond to Glen Gyle at the head of Loch Katrine, with her brother, William:

The most easy rising, for a short way at first, was near a naked rivulet which made a fine cascade in one place. Afterwards the ascent was very laborious being frequently almost perpendicular. Higher up we sat down and heard, as if from the heart of the earth, the sound of torrents ascending out of the long hollow glen. To the eye all was motionless, a perfect stillness. The noise of waters did not appear to come from any particular quarter; it was everywhere, almost, one might say, as if ‘exhaled’ through the whole surface of the green earth. Glen Falloch, Coleridge has since told me, signifies the hidden vale; but William says that if we were to name it from our recollections of that time we should call it the Vale of Awful Sound.

 

Dorothy Wordsworth calls Glen Falloch ‘the Vale of Awful Sound’, because of its waterfalls. At the Falls of Falloch the plunge pool is named ‘Rob Roy’s Bathtub’, and a small cleft above it is called ‘Rob Roy’s Soapdish’. The falls impressed Coleridge as he walked north towards Glen Coe and Fort William after parting with the Wordsworths. . They can be reached from a car park on the right of the road going north.

It was at the Falls of Falloch that W.H. Murray nearly lost his life. He tells the story in Mountaineering in Scotland (1962):

On our way home we visited the Falls of Falloch, which were in full spate and a sight worth seeing. Above the topmost fall was a long narrow gorge through which the congested waters dashed foaming to leap with a thunderous roar into a rock cauldron. At one point the gorge was narrow enough to challenge one’s sporting instinct. Was a leap possible? We measured it up. It would have to be a standing jump from spray-drenched rock….

One by one we jumped safely. The gut was narrower than it looked. We had been too impressed with the fury of the water. Thus I was just a trifle less careful in making the return jump; my foot slipped off the wet rock and down I went into the gorge.

 

He was swept over the falls and found it impossible to escape from the whirlpool at their foot. Nearing exhaustion he was finally carried out of the cauldron by an undercurrent. Murray is also one of the best biographers of Rob Roy, and writes well about district as a whole.

Sidney Tremayne (1890-1963), the Ayrshire poet who was a feature writer for the Sun and the Daily Mirror, echoes Wordsworth in his poem The Falls of Falloch‘:

This white explosion of water plunges down

With the deep-voiced rush of sound that shakes a city.

A fine cold smoke drifts across dripping stone

And wet black walls of rock shut in the scene.

 

Now thought hangs sheer on a precipice of beauty

Lifting with leaping water out from the rock.

A gasp of time, flung clear in a weight of falling,

Bursts like a bud above the deep pool’s black

Parted and curled back under by the shock

Where light’s bright spark dives to the dark’s controlling.

 

But the brilliance is not extinguished. The heart leaps up,

The heart of the fall leaps up, an eternal explosion,

Force without spending, form without fetter of shape.

And at the pool’s edge wavelets scarcely lap

Where drifted spume clings with a soft adhesion.

 

Beyond the waterfall, above the road on the left is Clach na Briton, so called because it marks the northernmost boundary of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde. Mountain, Moor and Loch [1895] relates a tale associated with it:

. . . an interesting object presents itself — a boulder of peculiar formation, standing on a gentle eminence on the west side ot the stream. This is the Clach-na-Brton, or, as it is generally called, the ” Mortar Stone,” its shape being exactly like that piece of artillery standing in position. It was here that Robert the Bruce paused to reconnoitre, in his flight after his defeat by the M’Dougals of Lorn, in Strathfillan, otherwise known as the Battle of Dairy — or, to write more correctly, Dail Righ, “the King’s Field.”

 

After climbing through Glen Falloch the road levels off, reaching a plateau which, was, in the words of John Thomas (1914-1982), the distinguished railway historian, and author of The West Highland Railway [1965]‘to become known to generations of West Highland footplatemen as ‘the fireman’s rest’.  After a gentle descent, the village of Crianlarich is reached.

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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 5. Into Argyll

 

Arrochar and Glencroe

At Tarbet the A83 leaves Loch Lomond and heads into Argyll proper. Until recently places like Helensburgh, Luss and Arrochar were in Dumbartonshire rather than Argyll, but there is no disputing that, beyond the head of Loch Long, you are in Argyll. The road between Tarbet and Arrochar is not much more than two miles long. Viking raiders took advantage of this portage in 1263 to stage a raid on Loch Lomond from the sea. The crossing, in either direction, is a pleasing one. Visitors evince surprise at the similarities and contrasts which there are between the two lochs. In Written in the Highlands of Scotland Sep 1, 1812 Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), travelling from fresh water to salt expressed his feelings as follows:

Tarbet! thy shore I climbed at last,

And through thy shady region passed,

Upon another shore I stood

And looked upon another flood:

Old Ocean’s self! (’tis he who fills

That vast and awful depth of hills).

 Rogers was, in his day, a highly regarded poet, who visited Scotland on several occasions. In 1803 his visit coincided with that of the Wordsworths. Jeffrey praised his work. Rogers, like other authors relied  on publishers. However, when his  poems did not sell well he produced a lavish edition of them himself, and persuaded Turner to illustrate it.
Loch Lomond 1832 Watercolour for Roger's Poems

Loch Lomond 1832 Illustration for Rogers’ Poems. Drawn: J.M.W.Turner Engraved William Miller

The praise which Robert Southey offers for the inn at Arrochar is praise indeed, since his opinions about other Highland inns was generally unfavourable:

“The country here is well cultivated, well wooded and very beautiful. A line of mountains is on the opposite shore, and behind them Ben Lomond rises in great majesty, Loch Lomond lying, unseen by us, between two ridges. The road turns leftward up the shore of the saltwater loch, and rounds the head: not far from the head stands the Arrochar Inn, more beautifully placed than any inn I have seen in Scotland or elsewhere – a large good house with fine trees about it, not a stone’s throw from the shore, and with the high summit of the grotesque mountain abominably called the Cobbler, opposite and in full view.”

‘The Cobbler’ is a rich joke. Travellers, bred on hills like Grasmere’s Helm Crag with its ‘lion and lamb’, have long supposed they can see a cobbler, his last, and even his wife. It is probably a corruption of the Gaelic for a sensible name for it, ‘forked peak’. However, John Stoddart pointed out:

“This terrific rock forms the bare summit of a huge mountain, and its nodding top so far overhangs its base as to assume the appearance of a cobbler sitting at his work, from when country people call it an greasaiche cróm, the crooked shoemaker.”

The famous ben at the head of Loch Long is, alternatively, and evocatively, called Ben Arthur. One of the sons of Aeden Mac Gabhran, a king of the Scots of Dalriada was called ‘Artur’, and it is sometimes argued that he formed a basis for the legendary monarch.

Coleridge, writing to his wife in September 1803, related how he went ‘ to Arrochar, on purpose to see the Cobbler, which had impressed me so much in Mr Wilkinson’s drawings…’ It was Wilkinson’s Tour which in part persuaded him and the Wordsworths to visit Scotland.

Writing from Arrochar, Burns probably had the Cobbler in mind when he referred to his sojourn in ‘a land of savage hills, swept by savage rains, peopled by savage sheep, tended by savage people.’ However, Turner, and others, thought it sublime.

Neil Munro made Arrochar one of two possible birthplaces of the skipper of the Vital Spark, and the setting for the famous story Mudges, giving the place a reputation of another sort.

Beyond Arrochar the character of the country changes. This is partly due to the fact that Loch Long is a sea loch, but it is also a result of the absence of deciduous trees. The Forestry Commission have excelled themselves in Cowal, where they have planted innumerable conifers. Elsewhere, in contrast to Loch Lomond, are apparently bare hillsides. The road turns into Glen Croe, and, nowadays, climbs steadily across the breast of a hill; the old military road sticks to the valley floor before scrambling in a series of dizzy hairpin bends to the summit. The hills to the south of the road have a splendid name: Argyll’s Bowling Green. In Scotland [1982] Tom Weir offers an explanation:

Argyll’s Bowling Green! How did such a piece of knobbly country, rugged even by Wester Ross standards, get such an undescriptive name?

It was nothing to do with some early duke’s sense of humour, merely the corruption of a Gaelic name Buaile na Greine, which means the sunny cattle fold, a place where the dukes and duchesses used to rest their horses on Loch Longside after crossing from Lochgoilhead.

It was their route to their castle of Rosneath. In 1735 the map maker Carington Bowles applied the name to the whole peninsula, except that he showed it as Argyll’s “Bowling Green.”

And rough as that peninsula is, it was much traversed by cattle drovers coming from Loch Fyne by Hell’s Glen to skirt Loch Goil, cross the ridge to Loch Long, and ferry their cattle across to Portincaple.

In The New RoadNeil Munro states ‘There is not a finer glen in Albyn than Glen Croe.’ Nowadays the traffic still appears to be reduced to insignificance by the mountains, but the spirit of the place has changed. It is not so wild and desolate as when Munro was thinking of it, or when Wordsworth climbed to the Rest and Be Thankful in late August 1803. The weather had brightened as they ascended the Rest, and Dorothy Wordsworth reported that ‘afternoon and evening the sky was in an extraordinary degree vivid and beautiful’ They got to the head of the pass:

At the top of the hill we came to a seat with the well-known inscription “Rest and be thankful” On the same stone it was recorded that the road had been made by Col. Wade’s regiment. The seat is placed so as to command a full view of the valley, and the long, long, road, which, with the fact recorded, and the exhortation, makes it an affecting resting-place.

It is unlikely that the seat, now gone, referred to Wade, since it was built by his successor, Caulfeild. William reflected on the pass in a sonnet Rest and Be Thankful of which the first four lines are:

Doubling and doubling with laborious walk,

Who, that has gained at length the wished-for Height,

This brief this simple wayside Call can slight,

And rests not thankful?

   The answer to this memorable poetic question might have turned out to be John Keats, who thought he was coming to an inn, and was very disappointed when he traversed this famous pass in 1818 :

We were up at 4 this morning and have walked to breakfast 15 Miles through two tremendous Glens – at the end of the first there is a place called rest and be thankful which we took for an Inn – it was nothing but a stone and so we were cheated into 5 more Miles to Breakfast

Southey compared Glencroe with Glencoe:

“The road too is in itself much finer, descending from the immediate summit down a much  steeper inclination; and with such volutions that a line drawn from the top would intersect several times in a short distance. In mountainous countries a fine road is a grand and beautiful work, and never so striking as when it winds thus steeply and skilfully. There has been some improvement of the old military line at this place.” [1819]

The naturalist and traveller, Thomas Pennant, crossing the Rest southbound in 1769 had nothing more to say of it than: “Ascend a very high pass with a little lough on the top of it” but Samuel Johnson called it:

a bleak and dreary region, now made easily passable by a military road, which rises from either end of the glen by an acclivity not dangerously steep, but sufficiently laborious. In the middle, at the top of the hill, is a seat with the inscription “Rest, and be thankful.” Stones were placed to mark the distance, which the inhabitants have taken away, resolved, they said, to have no new miles.

In 1784 a French scientist,Barthélemy Faujas de St Fond, travelled to Scotland, attracted by its remarkable geology. His route took him up Lochlomondside, which delighted him, and then into Glencroe:

I soon found a contrast to the delightful scenes we left. They were succeeded by deserts and dismal heaths. We entered a narrow pass between two chains of high mountains, which appear to have, at a very remote period, formed only one ridge, but which some terrible revolution has torn asunder throughout its length.

This defile is so narrow, and the mountains are so high and steep, that the rays of the sun can scarcely reach the place and be seen for the space of an hour in the twenty-four.  For more than ten miles, which is the length of this pass, there is neither house nor cottage, nor living creature except a few fishes in a small lake, about half way.

In 1796 Sarah Murray, the widow of Captain William Murray, RN, made an extensive tour in Scotland and wrote A Companion and Useful Guide to the Beauties of Scotland:

 

The carriage road…turns to the right, up one of the most formidable as well as most gloomy passes in the Highlands, amongst such black, bare, craggy, tremendous mountains, as must shake the nerves of every timorous person, particularly if it be a rainy day. And when is there a day in the year free from rain in Glen Croe? and on the hill called “Rest-and-be-Thankful?” no day; no not one!

Lord Cockburn, returning from administering justice in Inveraray, wrote:

The day was perfect for that glorious stage from Cairndow to Tarbet. Few things are more magnificent than the rise from Cairndow to Rest-and-be-Thankful. The top of it, where the rocky mountain rises above the little solitary Loch Restil, and all the adjoining peaks are brought into view, is singularly fine. As I stood at the height of the road and gazed down on its strange course both ways, I could not help rejoicing that there was at least one place where railways, and canals, and steamers, and all these devices for sinking hills and, raising valleys, and introducing man and levels, and destroying solitude and nature, would for ever be set at defiance.

From the Rest and Be Thankful a lesser road descends to Lochgoilhead.Sara Jane Lippincott[pseud: Grace Greenwood](1823-1904), an American poet, biographer, and author of children’s books, was best known by her pseudonym. InHaps and Mishaps of a Tour in Europe(1854) she describes Loch Goil:

It was not until we had passed from Loch Long into Loch Goil that the true Highland scenery began to open upon us in its surpassing loveliness and naked grandeur. The shores of Loch Goil are rough, barren, and precipitous, but now and then we passed green-sheltered nooks and dark glens of indescribable beauty. I grew more and more silent and unconscious of my immediate surroundings, for my very soul seemed to have gone from me, to revel abroad in the wide, varied, enchanting scene.

The coachman who took visitors through Hell’s Glen gave Sara Jane the impression that Lochgoilhead was the scene of Thomas Campbell’s poem Lord Ullin’s Daughter. The poem is properly associated with Mull, but it is easy enough to see how confusion may have arisen. Campbell’s second verse is as follows:

Now, who be ye, would cross Lochgyle,

This dark and stormy weather?”

“O, I’m the chief of Ulva’s isle,

And this, Lord Ullin’s daughter.—“

In Gaelic Lochgyle is Loch Goill, the forked loch. Mountain Moor and Loch [1895], the handsome guide produced to mark the opening of the West Highland Railway, offers an explanation for the mistake:

Whether this is the scene described in the ballad of “Lord Ullin’s Daughter” is open to question, as that “dark and stormy water” lies a long way off, west of Mull, with “Ulva’s Isle” adjoining, though, strictly speaking, the name is Loch-na-Keal and not Loch Goil; and our Loch Goil may well be the point intended by the poet, because three days from the mainland opposite Mull, would bring “her father’s men” to it.

Another Campbell poem sometimes attributed in guide books to Carrick Castle on Loch Goil is Lines on Visiting a Scene in Argyllshire , but it is almost certainly about Kirnan, near Kilmichael Glassary, where Campbell’s family came from.

Bill [W. H.] Murray (1913–1996) lived near Carrick Castle for many years . One of the best, and one of the most affectionate, books about the West Highlands is his Companion Guide to the West Highlands of Scotland [1968]. His mountaineering books, about both the Himalayas and the Highlands are entertaining and authoritative. He was also a novelist, and his biography of Rob Roy is important. In his Companion Guide he maintained that Loch Goil, ‘the only truly mountainous fiord of Argyll’ is the most beautiful sea loch of Cowal or the Clyde Coast.

 

Strachur and Ardentinny

From Lochgoilhead it is worthwhile travelling through Hell’s Glen [B839] to join the A815. Strachur is a small resort where there is a Smiddy Museum. Strachur House was in recent years the residence of the writer of one of the most distinctive books about the Second World War, Eastern Approaches [1949] by Sir Fitzroy Maclean (1911-1996), partly about his work with the Partisans in Yugoslavia. A diplomat, then an MP and a Minister, he is also the author of various serious, and other popular historical works.

From Strachur the A815 crosses to Loch Eck. From Whistlefield a lesser road [signposted Ardentinny] leads to Glen Finart.

Glen Finart was the country residence of George Murray, 5th Earl of Dunmore (1762-1836). It is situated near Ardentinny in Cowal, and was visited by Samuel Rogers in both 1803 and 1812 (when he encountered a grampus in the loch). Rogers wrote a poem [1812],  reminiscent of Wordsworth. He refers to Fingal’s Falls, near the head of the glen:

Oft shall my weary mind recall

Amid the hum and stir of men,

Thy beechen grove and waterfall,

Thy ferry with its gliding sail,

And Her – the Lady of the Glen.

In his Journal there is a letter to his sister describing the house affectionately, and shedding light on life in Cowal in the C19:

The house is very small and neat, in a narrow rocky glen running up among steep mountains, with its small river, and a beautiful beech grove between it and the lake. A ferry is within sight of the windows; and while we sit at dinner, we see the little boat passing and repassing continually. At the ferry house is kept also a packet-boat, which twice a week sails to Greenock with passengers, and takes and brings back our letters, and brings back grapes and peaches from the gardens at Dunmore….

This is a reference, of course, to the products of the most spectacular conservatory in Scotland, the ‘Pineapple’, erected by the Dunmores in 1761 at Airth near Stirling. Rogers asks ‘What would Fingal and his family have thought of this?’, and tells how an old laird living on Loch Eck who dined once a year with the Dunmores loved their ‘apples with stones’. He goes on to describe the walks he took to the point [Shepherd’s Point] above the ferry from which there was (and is) a stunning view up Loch Long:

. . . sublime, mountain behind mountain receding one behind another, on each side of the lake, till the vista terminates in a point, and these clad in the softest and richest colours that mist and sunshine can give them. Indeed, I think in its way it surpasses everything of the kind we ever saw together.

Turner’s illustrations for Roger’s Poems included one of Loch Long.

Ardentinny is a small holiday resort in Cowal held in high esteem by generations of Glasgow holidaymakers. No small part of its reputation is due to one of Robert Tannahill’s best-known lyrics:

Far lone amang the Highland hills,

‘Mid Nature’s wildest grandeur,­

By rocky dens and woody glens,

With weary steps I wander.

The langsome way, the darksome day 

The mountain mist sae rainy,

Are nought to me when gaun to thee

Sweet lass o’ Aranteenie.

As with some of Tannahill’s other topographical lyrics the evidence that there ever was such a lass in his life is uncertain.

Blairmore was the residence, after his retirement, of John Joy Bell (1871-1934), the journalist and author of the Glasgow equivalent of ‘Just William’, Wee Macgreegor. One of Bell’s between-the-wars travel books about the west coast, Scotland’s Rainbow West was very popular indeed between the wars. 

From Blairmore visitors returning to Loch Lomond will probably find it most convenient to continue via Kilmun to the Dunoon road [A815], and thence by the Younger Botanic Garden to Loch Eck and Strachur.

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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 4. Luss and Tarbet

 

Camstradden and Luss

Beyond Ross Dhu, at Camstradden, is the most intimate part of Loch Lomond. There are several large islands in the loch which partly close the view and give Loch Lomond the feel of a much smaller lake. It is no wonder that Dorothy Wordsworth found the place highly appealing.

It seems likely that it was as a result of visiting Inchfad in 1796 that Thomas Wilkinson (1751-1836) later recollected a singularly influential event:

On one of the islands was ripe corn; last week in the shire of Ayr we saw oats that had not yet arrived in the ear. Passed a female who was reaping alone: she sung in Erse as she bended over her sickle; the sweetest human voice I ever heard: her strains were tenderly melancholy, and felt delicious, long after they were heard no more.

Wilkinson’s book Tours to the British Mountains was not published until 1824, but Wilkinson, a landscape gardener employed by the Earl of Lonsdale at Lowther Castle, showed Wordsworth the manuscript before the Wordsworths travelled to Scotland in 1803. It was said to have partly inspired The Solitary Reaper. In a note of 1807 Wordsworth wrote:

“This Poem was suggested by a beautiful sentence in a MS Tour in Scotland written by a Friend, the last line being taken from it verbatim.”

Of the other islands Inchloanaig, ‘Yew Tree Island’, was used as a deer park by the Colquhouns, and visited by Dr Johnson and Boswell. In his amusing guide book, A Tour in Tartan Land [1863], Edward Bradley [pseud. Cuthbert Bede] (1827–1889), reported that foresters living on Inchloanaig told of fairy superstitions to protect their illicit stills:

“It is to be hoped, however, that all these spirits, not only of fancy, but of reality, had been banished the island by the commencement of the present century, for within its boundaries was founded an establishment for the reception and cure of persons who had been the victims to delirium tremens, and those other maladies which arise from excessive drinking…”

 The Tour of Dr Prosody, the satirical poem by William Combe (1742–1823), takes his characters to the same place, an episode illustrated by a well known ‘Rowlandson’ drawing.

In his Table Talk Coleridge asserted that the view of Loch Lomond from Inch Tavannach, Monks’ Island, was one of the five finest things in Scotland. Dorothy Wordsworth enthused, too:

We had not climbed far before we were stopped by a sudden burst of prospect, so singular and beautiful that it was like a flash of images from another world. We stood with our backs to the hill of the island, which we were ascending, and which shut out Ben Lomond entirely, and all the upper part of the lake, and we looked towards the foot of the lake, scattered over with islands without beginning and without end. The sun shone, and the distant hills were visible, some through sunny mists, others in gloom with patches of sunshine; the lake was lost under the low and distant hills, and the islands lost in the lake, which was all in motion with travelling fields of light, or dark shadows under rainy clouds. There are many hills, but no commanding eminence at a distance to confine the prospect, so that the land seemed endless as the water. . . . Wherever we looked, it was a delightful feeling that there was something beyond. Meanwhile, the sense of quiet was never lost sight of; the little peaceful lakes among the islands might make you forget that the great water, Loch Lomond, was so near; and yet are more beautiful, because you know that it is so. . . .

In contrast, William Gilpin (1724-1804), the high priest of the Picturesque, and chooser of stations from which places might be most rewardingly viewed, had a low opinion of the view:

“The countryside immediately beyond the islands appeared flat, and the mountains were too far removed to be of any picturesque use…”

Further north, just off Luss, is Froach Island, a prison where as Wilkinson puts it, ‘delinquents in remote times were conveyed and left, it is said, to shift for themselves as best they could’

 

 

Luss Straits Painted: E.W.Haslehurst

Wordsworth probably visited more of Loch Lomond’s islands than most. In 1803 Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth and Coleridge were rowed to Inchtavannach. In 1814 we learn from Sarah Hutchinson, Wordsworth’s sister-in-law, that they visited Inchtavannach,  again, and then went to Inchgalbraith, and sailed round Inchcruin. They landed on Inchlonaig, deer island, where they met the forester. They then became the only recorded literary visitors to Eilean Fraoch where they gathered bilberries

Luss is an enigma. Its estate cottages, built to house workers from the slate quarries, are attractive, but its present day ‘attractions’ all but destroy their effect. However, the village is much admired by visitors. Intriguingly Lord Cockburn(1779-1854), writing in 1838, condemned the place as a “hog-stye”. He found the best of Luss to be the churchyard where Mrs Cockburn searched for a verse inscription which she had found years ago The Church is to the south of the centre of the village. It was built built by the Colquhouns in 1875 and dedicated to St Kessog. ‘The church at Luss is as beautiful as ever’ said Cockburn. The minister at Luss in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was JohnStuart,(1743–1821), the notable Gaelic scholar and botanist, who was born in Killin. Immediately before he was translated to Luss he accompanied Pennant on his second Highland tour. During his own tour in 1798 Thomas Garnett reported:

After breakfast we repaired to the manse to visit Dr Stuart the minister a man of great taste and learning he received us very politely and shewed us his garden which contains a variety of scarce plants particularly British alpines brought by himself from their native mountains I found here most of the scarce plants which grow upon Benlomond and Benevis as well as in the wilds of the Hebrides but being removed into a milder clime they flourish more luxuriantly

Thomas Garnett (1766–1802), was born in Westmorland and practised as a doctor in Harrogate where his interest in Chemistry led him to became an expert on mineral waters. He was eventually appointed to a professorship of natural philosophy at Anderson’s Institution, Glasgow, a predecessor of the University of Strathclyde. He published Observations on a Tour through the Highlands and Part of the Western Isles of Scotland. [1800] which is one of the more entertaining and informative of several books of the same sort published at about that time. There is some evidence that Dorothy Wordsworth read it.

Three poems by Iain Crichton Smith (1928-1998), the poet who made memorable phrases about people and places all over Scotland, are about Luss.  Translating his own Gaelic in one he calls Luss ‘a picture of a village rather than a true village.’ In Luss Village, like Cockburn, he ends up in the in the churchyard:

Such walls, like honey, and the old are happy

in morphean air like goldfish in a bowl.

Ripe roes trail their margins down a sleepy

mediaeval treatise on the slumbering soul.

And even the water, fabulously silent,

has no salt tales to tell us, nor makes jokes

about the yokel mountains, huge and patient,

that will not court her but read shadowy books.

A world so long departed! In the churchyard

the tilted tombs still gossip, and the leaves

of stony testaments are read by Richard,

Jean and Carol, pert among the sheaves

of unscythed shadows, while the noon day hums

with bees and water and the ghosts of psalms.

The village of Luss and the islands nearby were used as the setting of Goblin Island [1907]. This was the first novel by Elsie Jeanette Dunkerley, [pseud. Elsie Oxenham] (1880–1960), in what became a so-called Scottish sequence of children’s stories Loch Lomond itself appears as Loch Avie. Luss also appears as ‘Markinch’ in the short story The Provost’s Tale [1931] , byA. J. Cronin(1896-1981) and elsewhere in his work. Cronin was a world famous novelist, born in Cardross, whose best known work was Hatter’s Castle [1931].A collection of short stories, Adventures of a Black Bag (1969), was made into the immensely popular radio and television series Dr Finlay’s Casebook.

Above Luss is one of finest viewpoints in Scotland. Wilkinson mentions it as follows:

At Luss took a young Highlander with me on an eminence and there I saw one of the most interesting scenes I ever remember to have beheld. Twenty-one islands rising from the lake in a variety of forms, and beautifully shaded with trees. The points of the islands run past one another in a most picturesque manner

In Observations Garnett describes it thus:

On our return to Luss we dined with our amiable and learned friend Dr Stuart who accompanied us after dinner to Strone Hill, just above the village whence we had a delightful view of the lake and its islands. The evening was fine, the lake still and a pleasing serenity pervaded the whole scene. Below us was the villageof Luss, almost hid in trees with its verdant points projecting into the lake. Inch Tavannach and most of the other islands are seen to great advantage and in the distance are part of the Grampian Mountains, which form a very fine background. The obelisk erected to the memory of Buchanan may likewise be seen distinctly.

Strone Hill, or Stronbrae, is above the glen road (which is now reached by car from the by-pass, or by a footbridge from the village) just outside Luss.

North of Luss the loch is at its most dramatic, its character caught by Hazlitt:

The road to Tarbet is superb. It is on the very verge of the lake – hard, level, rocky, with low stone bridges constantly flung across it, and fringed with birch trees, just then budding into spring, behind which, as through a slight veil you saw the huge shadowy form of Ben Lomond. It lifts its enormous, but graceful bulk direct from the edge of the water without any projecting lowlands….. Loch Lomond comes on you by degrees as you advance, unfolding then withdrawing its conscious beauties like an accomplished coquet.

Inverbeg and Tarbet

Qne of the ‘low stone bridges’ between Luss and Inverbeg, built by Caulfield after 1745 has been handsomely restored, and can still be seen beside the A82. Thomas Pennant offers this description of the military road and the loch:

“The road runs sometimes through woods, at others is exposed and naked; in some so steep as to require the support of a wall; the whole the work of the soldiery: blessed exchange of instruments of destruction for those that give safety to the traveller, and a polish to the once inaccessible native.

Two great headlands covered with trees separate the first scene from one totally different; the last is called the point of Firkin. On passing this cape an expanse of water bursts at once on your eye varied with all the softer beauties of nature. Immediately beneath is a flat covered with wood and corn: beyond the headlands stretch far into the water and consist of gentle risings; many have their surfaces covered with wood, others adorned with trees loosely scattered either over a fine verdure, or the purple bloom of heath. Numbers of islands are dispersed over the lake of the same elevated manner; others just peep above the surface, and are tufted with trees; and numbers are so disposed as to form magnificent vistas between.”

Perhaps one of the best travel books ever written about Scotland is The Companion Guide to the West Highlands of Scotland [1968] by W.H.Murray (see Lochgoilhead). Early on he touches on Loch Lomond:

The banks of Loch Lomond are clothed by deciduous woods. Oak, beech, chestnut, larch, and birch predominate. Caledonian pine and most other coniferous evergreens are present but not much in evidence. Loch Lomond thus appears most colowful in spring and autumn when leaf is either bursting or dying. One of the more enthralling sights of June is the bluebell wood north of Luss, or in May the azaleas and rhododendrons brightening cottage gardens, and in autumn dead bracken, sun-stricken on the hillsides and blazing like a Viking’s pyre. These woods of Loch Lomondside are becoming more highly prized as the work of the Forestry Commission, whose appetite for ground is insatiable, spreads a coniferous monotony across the face of Scotland, for broad-leaved trees and hardwoods are not a rewarding crop. That the banks of Loch Lomond have remained so long free from the forester’s axe and from impairment by tourist development appears well-nigh mira­culous. Their preservation has been due to the rule of enlightened landowners, principally the Colquhouns of Luss, who have sacrificed personal profit.

The librarian and mountaineer Ernest A. Baker(1869-1941), writing in the thirties recommended Glen Douglas, between Loch Lomond and Loch Long as a fine walk. George Eyre Todd explained in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs [n.d.] the connection which is sometimes made between Glen Douglas and King Arthur:

Geoffrey of Monmouth, the monkish chronicler who died in 1154, in his fantastic account of King Arthur, describes how that king pursued his enemies up Loch Lomond, besieged, and all but exterminated them on the islands, and overthrew an Irish army which came to their relief. The earlier historian, Nennius, from whom Geoffrey seems to have got his facts, merely states that Arthur fought certain of his battles in Glen Douglas, and this Glen Douglas is identified by Skene in his Celtic Scotland with the high pass which comes over from Loch Long, and descends at the little inn of Inverbeg between Luss and Tarbet.

In the sixtiesTom Buchan(1931-1995) drew attention to the Glen’s more terrible associations with nuclear warfare :

… the mountain behind him

was drilled with caves

each one crammed with nuclear hardware

and the sea loch over the mountain

lay easy with obsolescent new submarines.

Buchan was a poet who was also the part author of the revolutionary Great Northern Welly Boot Show [1972]. Glen Douglas climbs relatively gently from Loch Lomond before the road descends very precipitously indeed to Loch Long. There it joins the road from Helensburgh and makes an interesting route to Arrochar.

Between Luss and Tarbet on the banks of Loch Lomond is Firkin Point a low hill which best commands its upper and lower reaches. Boswell took General Paoli as far as this when he showed him Loch Lomond.”In point of picturesque beauty, Loch Lomond is probably surpassed by few lakes in Europe,” wrote ‘Christopher North’ in The Land of Burns:

“The highway suddenly ascends to the top of a lofty promontory denominated the Point of Firkin. Although the ascent is difficult, abrupt and tedious, the view from the summit amply repays the labour attending it. From this eminence the whole surface of the lake, diversified with its numerous islands is displayed to the eye.”

An ancient yew-tree beside the old military road which is situated above the A82 along Loch Lomond was for long pointed out as Robert the Bruce’s Tree. It served to mark a somewhat undignified episode in the great warrior’s career. After his defeat by the English at Methven in Perthshire he became a fugitive accompanied by a body of about 200 men. On reaching Craig Royston the King and his men were unable to find a boat but then found one, but one which would take only three at a time. The tree was their rallying point on the other side of the loch. It took a day and a night to ferry all the men. The poet John Barbour (c.1320-95) related all of this in the epic poem The Bruce. The medieval saga has been both transcribed and translated. One prose version was by George Eyre Todd, the local littérateur:

Tradition says he sheltered in the fastness there known as Rob Roy’s Cave. The enemy was behind, and the loch lay deep in front- No means of escape appeared till James of Douglas discovered “ane litil boat that wad but thresome flit”. In that little boat the king was ferried across, and all his host after him. While the passage was being made, Bruce entertained and heartened his men by reciting to them one of the romances which were the chief literature of that time.

Here is Barbour’s account:

The king efter that he wes gane

To Louch Lomond the way has tane

And come on the thrid day,

Bot tharabout na bait fand thai

That mycht thaim our the water ber.

Than war thai wa on gret maner

For it wes fer about to ga,

And thai war into dout alsua

To meyt thar fayis that spred war wyd.

Tharfor endlang the louchhis syd

Sa besyly thai socht and fast

Tyll James of Douglas at the last

Fand a litill sonkyn bate

And to the land it drew fut-hate,

Bot it sa litill wes that it

Mycht our the watter but a thresum flyt.

Thai send tharoff word to the king

That wes joyfull off that fynding

And fyrst into the bate is gane,

With him Douglas, the thrid wes ane

That rowyt thaim our deliverly

And set thaim on the land all dry,

And rowyt sa oftsys to and fra

Fechand ay our twa and twa

That in a nycht and in a day

Cummyn out-our the louch ar thai,

For sum off thaim couth swome full weill

And on his bak ber a fardele.

Swa with swymmyng and with rowyng

Thai brocht thaim our and all thar thing.

Not far south of Tarbet a splendid regency cottage, Stuckgowan, is exquisitely situated above the A82. In its architecture it is one of the finest houses in the National Park. In 1835 Nathaniel Parker Willis, the American poet, visited Scotland. He is a good, but sometimes acerbic guide:

“In the course of our ramble we walked through an open gate, and, ascending a gravel walk, found a beautiful cottage, built between two mountain streams, and ornamented with every device of taste and contrivance. The mild pure torrents were led over falls and brought to the thresholds of bowers; and seats and bridges and winding paths were distributed up the steep channels, in a way that might make it a haunt for Titania. It is the property, I found afterward, of a Scotch gentleman, and a great summer retreat of the celebrated Jeffrey, his friend. It was one more place to which my heart clung in parting.”

At the lochside close to Stuckgowan is Edendarroch, the subject of an extended paean of praise from Professor J.M.Blackie.

The name ‘Tarbet’ is found throughout the Highlands. It occurs where a low divide, forming a portage, separates two bodies of water, in this instance Loch Lomond and Loch Long. Viking raiders took advantage of this portage in 1263 to stage a raid on Loch Lomond from the sea. N. P. Willis, the American poet, St Fond, the French geologist, and others have waxed lyrical about Tarbet. Faujas dreams of returning there:

The superb Loch Lomond, the fine sunlight that gilded its waters, the silvery rocks that skirted its shores, the flowery and verdant mosses, the black oxen, the white sheep, the shepherds beneath the pines, the perfume of the tea poured into cups that had been given by kindness, and received with gratitude, will never be effaced from my memory, and make me cherish the desire not to die before again seeing Tarbet. I shall often dream of Tarbet . . .

Jeffrey, as already mentioned had a summer retreat at Stuckgowan. The old inn at Tarbet, at which various literary travellers sneered, was replaced in the C19 with a very grand hotel which now dominates the place. However, in his Reminiscences [1887], Thomas Carlyle, traversing the district in 1817 with friends, thought otherwise:

. . . to Tarbet , a most hospitable clean and welcome little country inn (now a huge “Hotel” I hear — worse luck to it, with its nasty “Hotel Company Limited”!)

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