Posts tagged W. Kersey Holmes

Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 12. Loch Ard

Strathard

From Aberfoyle Leave by B829 to Inversnaid by Milton-of-Aberfoyle. There is a good general description of the Trossachs in E.A.Baker‘s Scottish Highlands. Interestingly, he regards Aberfoyle as their focal point:

What was called Rob Roy’s or the MacGregor’s Country is the hilly region, difficult at that time with streams, marshes, lochans, and the absence of roads, the no-man’s land on the far side of Ben Lomond, the one habitable place in which was the hamlet of Aberfoyle. What romantic reader has not dreamed himself into the skin of Frank Osbaldistone, and gone with Bailie Nichol Jarvie on that journey from Glasgow into the fastnesses where Rob Roy bade his enemies defiance? Aberfoyle is now a most respectable place; a good hotel represents the tavern where Mr Jarvie fought the Highlandman with the red-hot coulter of a plough, and there are villas and boarding-houses where visitors from Glasgow and Edinburgh come and rusticate.

Queen Victoria‘s description of her journey up Strathard, which is here fringed with meadowlands and called, on that account, the Laggan, is as follows:

Here the splendid scenery begins – high rugged and green hills(reminding me again of Pilatus), very fine large trees and beautiful pink heather, interspersed with bracken, rocks and underwood in the most lovely profusion and Ben Lomond towering up before us with its noble range. We went on perhaps a quarter of a mile, and it being then two o’ clock, we got out and lunched on the grass under an oak tree at the foot of Craigmore. It was very hot, the sun stinging, but there were many lightwhite clouds in the blue sky, which gave the most beautiful effects of light and shade on this most marvellous colouring.

In Rob Roy Scott describes the inn at the Milton-of-Aberfoyle as follows:

About half a mile’s riding, after we crossed the bridge, placed us at the door of the public house where we were to pass the evening. It was a hovel rather worse than better than that in which we had dined; but its little windows were lighted up, voices were heard from within, and all intimated the prospect of food and shelter, to which we were by no means indifferent.

The inn, ‘Jean MacAlpine’s Inn’, is the scene of perhaps the most famous incident in Rob Roy, the ‘Fray at the Clachan’. Frank Osbaldistone, who relates the occurrence, and his companions, including Bailie Nichol Jarvie, are engaged in a brawl with a gang of Highlanders:

The Fray at the Clachan in Rob Roy

The Fray at the Clachan in Rob Roy

I put myself in a posture of defence, and, aware of the superiority of my weapon, a rapier or small sword, was little afraid of the outcome of the contest. The Bailie behaved with unexpected   mettle: as he saw the gigantic Highlander about to confront him with his weapon drawn, he tugged for a second or two at the hilt of his shabble as he called it; but finding it loth to quit the  sheath, to which it had long been secured by rust and disuse, he siezed, as a substitute, on the red hot coulter of a plough, which had been employed arranging the fire by way of a poker, and brandished it with such effect, that at the first pass he set the Highlander’s plaid on fire, and compelled him to keep a respectful distance, till he could get it extinguished. Andrew Fairservice, who ought to have faced the Lowland champion, vanished at the very commencement of the fray; but his antagonist, crying “fair play!” seemed courteously disposed to take no share in the scuffle. Osbaldistone’s aim was to possess himself of his antagonist’s weapon, but he declined from closing with him through fear of a dirk which he held in his left hand. The Bailie, notwithstanding the success of his first onset, was sorely bested. The weight of his weapon, the corpulence of his person, the very effervescence of his own passion, were rapidly exhausting his strength and his breath, and he was almost at the mercy of his antagonist when up started the sleeping Highlander, with his naked sword and target in his hand, and threw himself between the discomfited magistrate and his assailant, exclaiming, “her nainsell has eaten the town bread at the cross o’ Glasgow, and by her troth sh’ll fight for Bailie Sharvie at the clachan of Aberfoil.

Walter Scott Rob Roy

The incident was depicted on the inn sign at the Bailie Nichol Jarvie Hotel in the village and, opposite the hotel, attached to the stout oak tree, the supposed ‘coulter’, often renewed, can be seen. This has led thousands of visitors to suppose that the affray took place there, but Scott undoubtedly set it at the Milton where a few stones behind the cottage at the foot of the Pass of Aberfoyle were, at one time, all that was left of the highland residence which was for long known as ‘Jean MacAlpine’s Inn’. The cottage has now been lovingly restored and thatched.

At the Milton there is another bridge over the infant Forth which tumbles in great style from Loch Ard to the Laggan. Just below the Milton this river, which is called the Avon Dow, joins the Duchary to form the Forth proper:

The Duchary, which is one of the parent streams of the Forth, takes its rise on the north-east shoulder of Ben Lomond, not much more than half a mile south of Loch Arklet, and for five or six miles flows in a south easterly direction through a wild and dreary and solitary valley. About half way from its source to its junction with the stream from Loch Ard it forms one of the wildest cataracts, with the exception of Foyers, I think I have ever seen. The stream here bounds over an overhanging precipice of great height into an extraordinary basin formed in the solid rock, well known in the district as ‘The Big Linn’.

Malcolm Ferguson Tour Through the Highlands of Perthshire 1870

This waterfall is the Black Linn of Blairvaich. It is a fine fall, and it was used, very effectively, in a scene in the Richard Todd film of Rob Roy. It can be reached from the Milton, or from Kinlochard. Rather closer at hand is Craigmuick Cottage associated with William Glen (1789-1826) Scottish poet, and singularly unsuccessful businessman in the West Indian trade. He was author of Wae’s Me For Prince Charlie, and other lyrics, and was born and died in Glasgow. He married Mary MacFarlane of Aberfoyle, and spent the summers of the last eight years of his life at Craigie Cottage[Craigmuick Cottage] which is situated in the Loch Ard Forest. There is a relief of a small bird in the wall of the cottage commemorating Glen’s most famous poem. He also wrote the poem Mary, of Sweet Aberfoyle, about his wife when he was in the West Indies:

The sun hadna peeped frae behind the dark billow,:
The slow-sinking moon half illumined the scene,
As I lifted my head frae my care-hunted pillow,
An’ wandered to muse on the days that were gane.
Sweet hope seemed to smile o’er ideas romantic,
An’ gay were the dreams that my soul would beguile,
But my eyes filled wi’ tears as I viewed the Atlantic,
An’ thought on my Mary of sweet Aberfoyle

Though far frae my hame in a tropical wild wood,
Yet the fields o’ my forefathers rose on my view;
An’ I wept when I thought on the days of my childhood,
An’ the vision was painful the brighter it grew.
Sweet days! when my bosom with rapture was swelling,
Though I knew it not then, it was love made me smile,
Oh! the snow wreath is pure when the moonbeams are
dwelling,
Yet as pure is my Mary of sweet Aberfoyle.

Glen’s most famous poem is about the Young Pretender. Birds were used in songs like this to mean Jacobites. The poem was a favourite with Queen Victoria. It begins as follows:

A wee bird cam to oor ha’ door,
He warbled sweet and clearly,
And aye the owre-come o’ his sang
Was ‘Wae’s me for Prince Charlie!’
Oh! when I heard the bonnie, bonnie bird
The tears cam drappin rarely,
I took my bonnet aff my head,
For weel I lo’ed Prince Charlie.

 

These sights can be reached by walks from the Car Park in the Lochard Forest  at the Milton.

Loch Ard

Loch Ard

Loch Ard

From the Milton the road climbs a short hill which forms the beginning of the Pass of Aberfoyle. Queen’s View, Loch Ard is the viewpoint where the Loch comes into sight. The road [B829] mainly by the lochside to Ledard. In discussing Scott’s literary techniques Coleman Parsons (1905-1991) , for long a significant authority on Scottish Literture, points out the way in which the author uses changes in the landscape to quicken the interest in the story. One such boundary is about to be crossed at the Pass of Aberfoyle, the narrow road which leads from the Milton to Loch Ard:

Scott is at his best in conveying awe, suspense, mystery, and personal feeling through nature. When Edward Waverley or Frank Osbaldistone penetrate the Highlands interest quickens. Entering Highland passes, caves, glens, and recesses is like slipping from the conscious into the unconscious, womblike, enfolding, dream freighted, or from the illusion of free will into the substance of fate. A border is also being crossed between what is and what might be, reality and romance, between selfish causes and lost causes, the calculating present and the impulsive past. This excitement and tension may be due to a symbolic re-enactment by Scott of his own crossing of the border between youth and manhood, fancy and sober control. Because renewed choice is renewal of possibility, to go back is a way of briefly recapturing what is lost.

Coleman Parsons Witchcraft and Demonology in Scott’s Fiction 1964

On the morning following the affray described above, Osbaldistone and his companions enter the Highlands by this route and very soon have a dramatic, if unreal, encounter with Helen MacGregor. Scott describes the scene, ‘such a scene of natural romance and beauty as had never before greeted my eyes’:

To the left lay the valley, down which the Forth wandered on its easterly course surrounding the beautiful detached hill, with all its garland of woods. On the right, amid a profusion of thickets, knolls and crags, lay the bend of a broad mountain lake, lightly curled into tiny waves by the breath of the morning breeze, each glittering in its courseunder the morning sunbeams. High hills, rocks, and banks, waving with natural forests of birch and oak, formed the borders of this enchanting sheet of water; and as their leaves rustled to the wind and twinkled in the sun, gave to the depth of solitude a sort of life and vivacity. Man alone seemed to be placed in a state of inferiority, in a scene where all the ordinary features of nature were raised and exalted.”

Sir Walter Scott Rob Roy                              

Queen Victoria is equally enthusiastic:

After luncheon and walking about a little, not finding any good views to sketch, we got into the carriage (our horses had been changed), but had not gone above a few yards when we came upon Loch Ard, and a lovelier picture could not be seen. Ben Lomond, blue and yellow, rose above the lower hills, which were pink and purple with heather, and an isthmus of green trees in front dividing it from the rest of the loch. We got out and sketched.

Queen Victoria Journal 1869

Loch Ard is generally regarded as one of the most attractive of Scotland’s smaller lochs.

For picturesque effect it has justly been said to exceed almost all the Scottish Lakes.

Charles Roger A Week at the Bridge of Allan 1851

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The best view of Loch Ard is that first encountered from Aberfoyle, the Queen’s View, so-called because Queen Victoria executed some sketches there when she visited Aberfoyle while she was staying at Invertrossachs in 1869. After making the sketches at the Queen’s View her account continues:

We then drove on, and certainly one of the most lovely drives I can remember, along Loch Ard, a fine long loch, with trees of all kinds overhanging the road, heather making all pink; bracken, rocks, high hills of such fine shape and trees growing up them as in Switzerland; the road rough and bad, with very steep bits of hill (but the post-horses went remarkably well) overhanging the loch, which reminded me very much of the drive along Loch Zug in Switzerland.

A short distance beyond the Queen’s View the road climbs away from the loch to traverse a wood, situated above ‘The Narrows’, a strait which joins the two parts of the loch. It descends to the loch shore beside a steep cliff. Scott’s description of the road is faithful to the topography:

Our route, though leading towards the lake, had hitherto been so much shaded by wood, that we only from time to time obtained a glimpse of that beautiful sheet of water. But the road now suddenly emerged from the forest ground, and winding close by the margin of the loch, afforded us a full view of its spacious mirror, which now, the breeze havingtotally subsided, reflected in still magnificence the high dark heathy mountains, huge grey rocks, and shaggy banks by which it is encircled. The hills now sunk on its margin so closely, and were so broken and precipitous, as to afford no passage except just upon the narrow line of the track which we occupied, and which was overhung with rocks, from which we might have been destroyed merely by rolling down stones, without much possibility of offering resistance. Add to this, that, as the road winded round every promontory and bay which indented the lake, there was rare;ly a possibility of seeing a hundred yards before us.

It was the stretch of country where Scott set the first memorable encounter in Rob Roy with Helen MacGregor. In the resulting skirmish Bailie Nichol Jarvie is suspended from a tree on one cliff, and Helen orders their guide to be thrown into the loch from another. The Bailie’s Rock is the one beside the road:

The Bailie, to whom fear had given a temporary share of agility, had ascended about twenty feet from the path, when his foot slipping, as he straddled from one huge rock to another, he would have slumbered with his father the deacon, whose acts and words he was so fond of quoting, but for a projecting branch of ragged thorn, which, catching hold of the skirts of his riding coat, supported him in mid air, where he dangled not unlike to the sign of the Golden Fleece over the door of a mercer in the Trongate of his native city.

Rob Roy so captured the imagination that it was successfully adapted for the stage as early as 1818, and used as the basis of the libretto for at least two operas. There can be no better illustration of the quality of some of these adaptations, and of the grasp that the average foreigner had and still has of Scottish history than the following plot summary of Act II of De Koven’s light opera, an ancestor of Brigadoon, first performed in New York in 1894:

The Highlanders led by Rob Roy are posted to guard a mountain pass. The Battle of Culloden is in progress and the Scotch expect a great victory. After a song by Janet, bag-pipes are heard in the distance. The Highlanders at first think it is a signal of victory, but presently they recognise the song of defeat, the coronach. The Scotch, led by the Prince and Locheil return wounded and defeated. a chorus declaring allegiance follows. A reward is offered for the Prince who, disguised as a peasant is sheltered by the MacGregors in their mountain retreat. The Provost and his henchmen appear as wandering ballad-mongers, having fled before the battle. They are still in highland dress, not having heard of the rout of the Scotch. Sandy MacSherry arrives and informs the Provost of the English victory, and the Provost, changing Highland kilt for English uniform, becomes an Englishman. He determines to obtain the reward offered for the Prince, and the at is mainly devoted to his his efforts toward this end and his sudden change of nationality according to the fortunes of war. At length the English capture the prince in the dress of a miller’s boy and are about to lead him away when Flora is led away by the English soldiers in spite of efforts made to rescue her by the Prince, Rob Roy and their followers.

Patrick Graham, Minister of Aberfoyle, already referred to published his early account of the District in 1806 in his Sketches of Perthshire. It is the source of many subsequent accounts. For example, it was Graham who first described, long before the publication of Rob Roy, the echo at what subsequently became known as the ‘The Bailie’s Rock’:

Immediately under this rock, near its western extremity, is a remarkable echo. In a calm day, a line of ten syllables, uttered with a firm voice, is distinctly repeated across the lake, and again repeated by the woods on the east.

In a preface Graham relates how he first put the description together in 1792 for a visit by Joseph Farington (1747-1821), one of the most influential artists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, who was engaged in making some sketches of the Forth for what proved to be an abortive publication. Farington commented:

A stranger must feel himself uncommonly struck on meeting, at the very back of Ben Lomond, in a spot so sequestered as to be almost unknown to the world, a scene like the present; an extensive sheet of water, skirted with woods and cultivated fields, and accompanied with every object essential to picturesque beauty; the whole grouped and diversified in a style of harmony which may be thought by some to rival the scenes presented by the Cumberland lakes.

It was Farington who advised Turner about his early visits to Scotland in 1797 and 1801, but the great man did not visit Loch Ard until 1831. Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1857) is generally regarded as Britain’s greatest landscape painter. Unlike Loch Katrine, Loch Ard did not produce any famous finished works, but his ‘Loch Ard Sketch Book’ contains notable drawings of Aberfoyle, Craigmore, the Queen’s View and Loch Ard. In their way they are quite as impressive as his drawings of other parts of the Trossachs. Turner was visiting the district with a view to illustrating Scott’s Poetical Works and outlined his plans to Scott, who offered him a pony for the duration of his visit, as follows:

Therefore, do pray say how long do you think it will take me to collect the materials in your neighbourhood. Many are near but my bad horsemanship puts your kind offer of a pony, I fear, out of the account in shortening the time, and when I get as far as Loch Katrine shall not like to turn back without Staffa, Mull and all. A steamboat is now established to the Western Isles, so I have heard lately, and therefore much of the difficulty becomes removed, but being wholly unacquainted with the distance I will thank you to say what time will be absolutely wanting.

J.M.W.Turner April 1931

Turner, not wanting to opt for pony trekking, opted for ‘public transport’ and was almost certainly following one of the formal ‘Trossachs Tours’. Farington’s comparison with the English Lake District is frequently echoed by later writers. Such parallels owe their origin to Thomas Gray and William Gilpin who, along with Boswell and Johnson, were amongst the first travellers to visit Scotland in the eighteenth century which, at the time, was far less well known than places on the
Continent visited during the course of the ‘Grand Tour’. The Lake District had already been ‘discovered’, and the comparison was natural enough, although it tends to aggravate many Scots. The Wordsworths were by far the most prone to draw these parallels, and they were almost always to the disadvantage of the Scottish countryside. William Wordsworth visited Loch Ard and Loch Chon in 1814 in company with Mary Wordsworth and Sarah Hutchinson. The latter’s journal describes the
district:

From Luss on Sunday morning we went to breakfast at Drymen and attended the kirk where there was an excellent preacher – this was a sweet drive by the side of Loch Lomond and then across an excessive, rich, and well cultivated strata just like English Parks, well wooded, and surrounded by all the magnificent hills of Scotland – the Duke of Montrose’s property – from Drymen to Aberfoyle where we spent the night and the next forenoon viewing Loch Ard and Loch Chon above Aberfoyle,
and then we met with a friendly Highlander who went with us; he lived in an abject house but was a Gentleman and his wife a Lady – we passed also another highland farm where the genteel appearance of the inhabitants surprised us; for you can have no idea of the deep solitude of these places – but they go many miles to kirk – and during the interval of morning and afternoon service those who have not friends near, almost all the congregation indeed, sit in the churchyard. From Aberfoyle we passed a sweet lake in a vale – which hilly scene is called Menteith – with two islands, upon which are five ruins – and here we saw Stirling Castle at a great distance – the walls brightened by the setting sun – slept at Callander and went to the Trossachs where we were drenched.

Sarah Hutchinson Letter 3rd Aug 1814

James Sheridan Knowles (1784-1862), the nineteenth century actor-manager and playwright, frequently stayed at the residence of Robert Dick, Lochard Lodge, which is now Altskeith. In the summer vacation reading parties from the universities came to Loch Ard as well as to other Highland resorts. Charles Lloyd (1824-1862) from Christ Church, Oxford spent several summers at Loch Ard with reading parties, and was visited there by other literary lights, including John Campbell Shairp (1819-85) and Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-61):

On Thursday we passed through Glen Croe – descended on the fine salt Loch Long, crossed the four miles intervening miles and found ourselves on Loch Lomond – six or seven miles from its head. We went up it about three miles on a steamer ‘to the rough falls of Inversnaid’ crossed a high moor of five miles and found ourselves at the head of Loch Katrine – rowed twelve miles down and were landed in the Trossachs.

On Friday, Edward and Oliver went off to Perth, Tom and I crossed the hills to Loch Ard where a Christ Church man named Lloyd is staying with a pupil, and I went up the lake and there took a pony and joined them by a roundabout way, passing a very beautiful water called Loch Chon. I came back and slept at Inversnaid; they remained behind and attended a Highland reel party in a shoemaker’s hut at Loch Ard and after staying up dancing and drinking milk and whisky till half-past-two, rose at half-past-four, walked 11 miles to a hasty breakfast with, or rather after me and then took steam down to the foot of Loch Lomond, and so by Dumbarton we came home, dirty and dusty and bankrupt.

Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond are both like Ullswater, the former less beautiful, the latter, I think more so. Both are less cultivated; Loch Katrine quite cold, and the little land-locked lakelet at its foot cut off by Lady’s Island and one or two promontories is exceedingly beautiful – the heather is also a great accession throughout the Highlands.

Arthur Hugh Clough Letters August 1845

Clough, who wrote poems set in the Highlands and in the Lake District, was with Lloyd and others at Drumnadrochit in 1845, and he returned to Loch Ard in 1846. Prodigious walks often before breakfast, like that described in the above letter, were characteristic of Clough. In 1846 on a day trip, we learn from his diary, he crossed from the Trossachs by Loch Drunkie to Aberfoyle, went to Loch Ard and then climbed Ben Venue descending to Loch Achray.
A good descriptive piece about Loch Ard occurs in Cunninghame Graham‘s introduction to Kirk’s Secret Commonwealth (1933):

Standing up sentinel above Loch Chon, Ben Lomond with the shadows of evening creeping up its flanks, to join the fleecy clouds that mantle round its top looms as gigantic as Aconcagua or Purac. It seems to watch over the whole district and to dominate it. No sound is heard, except the babbling of the mountain streams as they slip down over the smooth stones, or the sharp belling of a roe in the thick alder copsewood that surrounds Loch Ard. The little wavelets break upon the pebbly beaches, or plash gently on the rocks of the steep islet on which Duke Murdoch’s ruined Castle stands. In Couligarten Bay, the bullrushes bend gently, as the homing wild duck squatter down noiselessly amongst their stems, vanishing as silently as a seal slips into the sea. The lime trees on the point below the mansion of Alt Skeigh look dark and menacing, as the light fades gradually, blotting out the little pier, the beach, the high road, and the ground they stand upon, leaving their tops suspended in the air.

The lochside road clings to the very edge of the water in places until, at the head of it, there is a stretch of rather more open country where former country houses are occupied by the Youth Hostel, and the Forest Hills complex. At the end of this stretch is the seventeenth century farmhouse of Ledard. In 1821 Percy York, a student, published an account of a memorable visit to Ledard in Three Nights in Perthshire. Ledard is associated with Scott who used the waterfall behind the house in both Waverley and Rob Roy.

I am sure you will be gratified by the scenery which time cannot make any impression upon. Pray do not omit to visit the head of Loch Awe, which I look upon as equal to anything in the Highlands. There is some curious scenery near Aberfoyle, in Perthshire, particularly a waterfall at Ledard, at the top of Loch Ard, within an hour’s walk of the inn, which from its size and accompaniments, I should think particularly qualified to fill up a Highland landscape. I never saw any thing which I admired so much: the height is not remarkable, but the accompaniments are exquisitely beautiful. In a different style, and at no great distance is an island called Inchmahome which has some ruins of a monastery surrounded by huge chestnut trees, very striking, though looking of no importance from the shore.

Sir Walter Scott Letter to David Wilkie 1817

Immediately above the farmhouse of Ledard, and near the west end of the lake, is to be seen a cascade, which the traveller will do well to visit. The stream, which is considerable, falls in one sheet, over a height of ten or twelve feet, into a beautiful basin, formed of the solid rock, and so transparent, that, at the depth of ten feet the smallest pebble may be seen. From this basin, dashing over a ledge of rock, it precipitates itself again over an irregular shape of more than fifty feet, finely skirted with wood

Patrick Graham Sketches of Perthshire 1806

The rocks now receded, but still showed their grey and shaggy crests rising among the copsewood. Still higher rose eminences and peaks, some bare, some clothed with wood, some round and purple with heath, and others splintered into rocks and crags. At a short turning, the path, which had for some furlongs lost sight of the brook, suddenly placed Waverley in front of a romantic waterfall. It was not so remarkable for either its great height or quantity of water, as for the beautiful accompaniments which made the spot interesting. After a broken cataract of about twenty feet, the stream was received in a large natural basin filled to the brim with water, which, where the bubbles of the fall subsided, was so exquisitely clear, that although it was of great depth, the eye could discern each pebble at the bottom. Eddying round this reservoir, the brook found its way as if over a broken part of the ledge, and formed a second fall, which seemed to seek the very abyss; then wheeling out beneath from among the smooth dark rocks, which it had polished for ages, it wandered down the glen forming the stream up which Waverley had just ascended.

Sir Walter Scott Waverley 1814

At this point in the narrative Scott appends a note: ‘The description of the waterfall mentioned in this chapter is taken from that of Ledard, at the farm so called on the northern side of Loch Ard, and near the head of the lake, four or five miles from Aberfoyle. It is upon a small scale, but otherwise one of the most exquisite cascades it is possible to behold.’ There can be little doubt that Scott’s description was influenced by Graham’s; indeed one can suppose that Graham introduced him to the place. It is at the waterfall that Waverley encounters Flora MacIvor, who says, “I have given you the trouble of walking to this spot, Captain Waverley, both because I thought the scenery would interest you, and because a Highland song would suffer still more from my imperfect translation, were I to introduce it without its own wild and appropriate accompaniments.” The song is another of Scott’s splendid incantatory romps through Scottish land names, reminiscent of The MacGregors Gathering :

There is mist on the mountain, and night on the vale
But more dark is the sleep of the sons of the Gael.
A stranger commanded – it sunk on the land,
It has frozen each heart, and benumb’d every hand!

The dirk and the target lie sordid with dust,
The bloodless claymore is but redden’d with rust;
On the hill or the glen if a gun should appear,
It is only to war with the heath-cock or deer.

The deeds of our sires if our bards should rehearse,
Let a blush or a blow be the meed of their verse!
Be mute every string, and be hushed every tone,
That shall bid us remember the fame that is flown.

But the dark hours of night and of slumber are past,
The morn on our mountains is dawning at last;
Glenaladale’s peaks are illumined with the rays,
And the streams of Glenfinnan leap bright in the blaze.

O high-minded Moray! – the exiled – the dear !
In the blush of the dawning the standard uprear!
Wide, wide on the winds of the north let it fly,
Like the sun’s latest flash when the tempest is nigh!

Ye sons of the strong, when that dawning shall break,
Need the harp of the aged remind you to wake?
That dawn never beam’d on your forefathers’ eye,
But it roused each high chieftain to vanquish or die.

O, sprung from the Kings who in Islay kept state,
Proud chiefs of Clan Ranald, Glengarry and Sleat!
Combine like three streams from one mountain of snow,
And resistless in union rush down on the foe!

True son of Sir Evan, undaunted Locheil,
Place thy targe on thy shoulder and burnish thy steel!
Rough Keppoch, give breath to thy bugle’s bold swell,
Till far Coryarrick resound to the knell!

Stern son of Lord Kenneth, high chief of Kintail,
Let the stag in thy standard bound wild in the gale!
May the race of Clan Gilean, the fearless and free,
Remember Glenlivet, Harlaw and Dundee!

Let the clan of grey Fingon, whose offspring has given;
Such heroes to earth, and such martyrs to heaven,
Unite with the race of renown’d Rory More,
To launch the long galley, and stretch to the oar.

How Mac-Shimei will joy when their chief shall display
The yew-crested bonnet o’er tresses of grey!
How the race of wrong’d Alpine and murder’d Glencoe;
Shall shout for revenge when they pour on the foe

Ye sons of brown Dermid, who slew the wild boar,
Resume the pure faith of the great Callum-More!
MacNeil of the Islands, and Moy of the Lake,
For honour, for freedom, for vengeance awake!

Awake on your hills, on your islands awake,
Brave sons of the mountain, the frith and the lake!
‘Tis the bugle – but not for the chase is the call;
‘Tis the pibroch’s shrill summons – but not to the hall.

‘Tis the summons of heroes for conquest or death,
When the banners are blazing on mountain and heath;
They call to the dirk, the claymore, and the targe,
To the march and the muster, the line and the charge.

Be the brand of each Chieftain like Fin’s in his ire!
May the blood through his veins flow like currents of fire!
Burst the base foreign yoke as your sires did of yore,
Or die like your sires, and endure it no more!

Walter Scott Waverley 1814

Scott also uses the same waterfall in ‘Rob Roy’, and describes it in similar terms:

The brook, hurling its waters downwards from the mountain, had in this spot encountered a barrier rock, over which it had made its way by two distinct leaps. The first fall, across which a magnificent old oak, slanting out from the farther bank, partly extended itself as if to shroud the dusky stream of the cascade, might be about twelve feet high; the broken waters were received in a beautiful stone basin, almost as regular as if hewn by a sculptor; and after wheeling around its flinty margin, they made a second precipitous dash, through a dark narrow chasm, at least fifty feet in depth, and from thence, in a hurried, but comparatively more gentle course, escaped to join the lake.

Walter Scott Rob Roy 1818

Robertson points out in the Statistical Account that Ben Venue, the mountain on which the burn at Ledard rises is an English rendering of the gaelic for ‘less important mountain’ (i.e. less important than Ben Ledi). The following tribute may encourage the visitor to ascend Ben Venue:

Ben Venue is in every way a most beautiful mountain; in a sense, it seems to me to be a kind of epitome of the Scottish Highlands. The tourist from England or abroad is too often shewn the Trossachs and Loch Lomond as sample showpieces; having seen them from car, ‘bus, or steamer, he is allowed to have the impression that he knows what the Scottish Highlands are like. If, into the bargain, he were coaxed or encouraged to climb Ben Venue, he would realise some of the characteristics of Caledonia which, without that experience, remain unknown to him.

W.Kersley Holmes Tramping Scottish Hills 1946

Kinlochard was the residence for some years of the modern poet Tom Buchan (1933-1991), who wrote a memorable poem – The Low Road – about Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine which mused about the threat posed by the storage of nuclear weapons in Glen Douglas during the Cold War. It is a different kind of catechism from Flora MacIvor’s song, but equally heartfelt … :

But no doubt they’ll have arranged
for an airburst over Glen Douglas
the fireball of which will deforest Inchlonaig,.
vaporise Cailness and Rowcoish, fry
the Glasgow Councillors fishing for free
on Loch Katrine and kill all the spiders
and earwigs between here and Crianlarich
and me (he thought) as through the soft air
trucks cars buses and articulated lorries;
accelerated their loads of Omo, people and bricks
towards Oban and Inveraray.

Tom Buchan The Low Road

 

 

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