Robert Naylor.

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with a pistol," and alarming the whole assembly. As she insisted on
Glengarry being arrested, he was immediately surrounded, and the Garter
King of Arms came forward and begged him to give up the much-dreaded
pistols; but he refused, as they were not loaded, and pleaded that they
formed an essential part of his national garb. At length, however, after
much persuasion, he gave them up.

Glengarry wrote a letter to the editor of _The Times_, in which he said:
"I have worn my dress continually at Court, and was never so insulted
before. Pistols, sir, are as essential to the Highland courtier's dress
as a sword is to English, French, or German; and those used by me on
such occasions as unstained with powder as any courtier's sword, with
blood. It is only grossest ignorance of Highland character and costume
which imagined that the assassin lurked under their bold and manly

Glengarry, who, it was said, never properly recovered from the effects
of this insult, died in 1828.

After about another mile we came to a monument near the side of the
road, on the top of which were sculptured the figures of seven human
heads held up by a hand clasping a dagger. On each of the four sides of
the base there was an inscription in one of four different
languages - English, French, Latin, and Gaelic - as follows:

As a memorial to the ample and summary vengeance which in the swift
course of Feudal justice inflicted by the orders of the Lord
MacDonnell and Aross overtook the perpetrators of the foul murder of
the Keppoch family, a branch of the powerful and illustrious Clan of
which his Lordship was the Chief, this Monument is erected by Colonel
MacDonnell of Glengarry XVII Mac-Minc-Alaister his successor and
Representative in the year of our Lord 1812. The heads of the seven
murderers were presented at the feet of the noble chief in Glengarry
Castle after having been washed in this spring and ever since that
event which took place early in the sixteenth century it has been
known by the name "Tobar-nan-Ceann" or the Well of the Heads.

The monument was practically built over the well, an arched passage
leading down to the water, where we found a drinking-utensil placed for
any one who desired a drink. We were glad to have one ourselves, but
perhaps some visitors might be of such refined and delicate taste that
they would not care to drink the water after reading the horrible
history recorded above.

It appeared that Macdonald of Keppoch, the owner of the estate, had two
sons whom he sent to France to be educated, and while they were there he
died, leaving the management of his estate to seven kinsmen until the
return of his sons from France; when they came back, they were murdered
by the seven executors of their father's will. The Bard of Keppoch urged
Glengarry to take vengeance on the murderers, and this monument was
erected to commemorate the ample and summary vengeance inflicted about

[Illustration: INVERGARRY CASTLE.]

Leaving this memorial of "ample and summary vengeance," we crossed the
Loggan Bridge and gained the opposite bank of the Caledonian Canal. The
country we now passed through was very lonely and mountainous, and in
one place we came to a large plantation of hazel loaded with nuts. We
reflected that there were scarcely any inhabitants to eat them, as the
persons we met did not average more than a dozen in twenty miles, and on
one occasion only six all told; so we turned into nut-gatherers
ourselves, spurred on by the fact that we had had no breakfast and our
appetites were becoming sharpened, with small prospect of being appeased
in that lonely neighbourhood.

A little farther on, however, we met a man with two dogs, who told us he
was the shepherd, and, in reply to our anxious inquiry, informed us that
we could get plenty to eat at his house, which we should find a little
farther on the road. This was good news, for we had walked eight miles
since leaving Invergarry. When we reached the shepherd's house, which
had formerly been an inn, we found the mistress both civil and
obliging, and she did her best to provide for our hungry requirements.
The house was evidently a very old one, and we wondered what queer
people had sat in that ingle-nook and what strange stories they had told
there. The fireplace was of huge dimensions; hanging above it was a
single-and a double-barrelled gun, while some old crockery and ancient
glass bottles adorned various parts of the kitchen - evidently family
heirlooms, which no doubt had been handed down from one generation to
another - and a very old bed reposed in the chimney corner.

The mistress provided us with a splendid breakfast, upon which we
inflicted "ample and summary vengeance," for those words were still
ringing in our minds and ears and had already become by-words as we
travelled along. The "best tea-pot," which looked as if it had not been
used for ages, was brought from its hiding-place; and, amongst other
good things, we were treated by way of dessert to some ripe
blackberries, which the mistress called brambleberries and which she
told us she had gathered herself. It was half-past ten o'clock when we
left the shepherd's house, and shortly afterwards we had a view of the
snow-covered summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain.
We had a lonely walk alongside Loch Lochy, which is ten miles in length;
but in about six miles General Wade's road, which we followed, branched
off to the left. About four miles from the junction we reached Spean
Bridge, over which we crossed the river of that name, which brings along
the waters of sundry lochs as well as others from the valley of Glen
Roy. This Glen forms an almost hidden paradise beloved of geologists, as
along the sides of the valley are the famous "Parallel Roads" belonging
to the Glacial Period. We replenished our stock of provisions, which we
had rather neglected, at Spean Bridge, and treated ourselves to another
little picnic in the lonely country beyond. It was dark before we
reached Fort William, where we found comfortable lodgings at the house
of Mrs. MacPherson opposite the Ben Nevis Hotel, and retired with the
intention of ascending Ben Nevis the following day.

(_Distance walked twenty-five and a half miles_.)

_Thursday, September 28th._

After breakfast we commissioned Mrs. MacPherson to engage the services
of the guide to conduct us to the top of Ben Nevis, which is 4,406 feet
high, offering to pay him the sum of one sovereign for his services. We
had passed the old castle of Inverlochy in the dark of the previous
night, and, as we wished to visit it in the daylight that morning, we
arranged that the guide should meet us on a bridge outside the town,
which we must cross on our way to and from what we were told was once a
royal castle, where King Achius signed a treaty with Charlemagne. The
castle was some distance from the town, and quite near the famous
distillery where the whisky known as "Long John" or the "Dew of Ben
Nevis" was produced. We found ready access to the ruins, as the key had
been left in the gate of the walled fence which surrounded them. "Prince
Charlie," we learned, had "knocked" the castle to its present shape from
an adjoining hill, and what he had left of it now looked very solitary.
It was a square structure, with four towers one at each corner, that at
the north-west angle being the most formidable. The space enclosed was
covered with grass. What interested us most were four very old guns, or
cannons, which stood in front of the castle, mounted on wheels supported
on wood planks, and as they were of a very old pattern, these relics of
the past added materially to the effect of the ancient and warlike

We did not stay long in the ruins, as we were anxious to begin our big
climb, so we returned to the bridge to await the arrival of the guide
engaged for us by our hostess, and whom we had not yet seen. We waited
there for more than half an hour, and were just on the point of
returning to the town when we noticed the approach of a military-looking
man carrying a long staff spiked at one end, who turned out to be the
gentleman we were waiting for, and under whose guidance we soon began
the ascent of the big mountain. After climbing for some time, we came to
a huge stone on which the Government engineers had marked the altitude
as 1,000 feet above sea-level, and as we climbed higher still we had a
grand view of the hills and waters in the distance. We went bravely
onward and upward until we arrived at a lake, where on a rock we saw the
Government mark known as the "broad arrow," an emblem which we also saw
in many other places as we walked through the country, often wondering
what the sign could mean. We surmised that it stood for England,
Scotland, and Ireland united in one kingdom, but we afterwards learned
that it was introduced at the end of the seventeenth century to mark
Government stores, and that at one time it had a religious significance
connected with the Holy Trinity. The altitude was also marked on the
rock as 2,200 feet, so that we had now ascended half-way to the top of
Ben Nevis.


On our way up the mountain we had to stop several times, for our guide
complained of diarrhoea, but here he came to a dead stop and said he
could not proceed any farther. We were suspicious at first that he was
only feigning illness to escape the bad weather which we could see
approaching. We did our best to persuade him to proceed, but without
effect, and then we threatened to reduce his fee by one-half if he did
not conduct us to the summit of Ben Nevis as agreed. Finally we asked
him to remain where he was until we returned after completing the ascent
alone; but he pleaded so earnestly with us not to make the attempt to
reach the summit, and described the difficulties and dangers so vividly,
that we reluctantly decided to forgo our long-cherished ambition to
ascend the highest mountain in Great Britain. We were very much
disappointed, but there was no help for it, for the guide was now really
ill, so we took his advice and gave up the attempt.

Ben Nevis, we knew, was already covered with snow at the top, and a
further fall was expected, and without a guide we could not possibly
find the right path. We had noticed the clouds collecting upon the upper
peaks of the great mountain and the sleet was already beginning to fall,
while the wind, apparently blowing from an easterly direction, was icy
cold. My brother, who had had more experience in mountain-climbing than
myself, remarked that if it was so bitterly cold at our present altitude
of 2,200 feet, what might we expect it to be at 4,400, and reminded me
of a mountain adventure he had some years before in North Wales.

On his first visit to the neighbourhood he had been to see a relative
who was the manager of the slate quarries at Llanberis and resided near
Port Dinorwic. The manager gave him an order to ride on the slate train
to the quarries, a distance of seven miles, and to inspect them when he
arrived there. Afterwards he went to the Padaro Villa Hotel for dinner,
and then decided to go on to Portmadoc. There was no railway in those
days, and as the coach had gone he decided to walk. The most direct way,
he calculated, was to cross Snowdon mountain, and without asking any
advice or mentioning the matter to any one he began his walk over a
mountain which is nearly 3,600 feet high. It was two o'clock in the
afternoon when he left the hotel at Llanberis, and from the time he
passed a stone inscribed "3-3/4 miles to the top of Snowdon" he did not
see a single human being. It was the 23rd of November, and the top of
the mountain, which was clearly visible, was covered with snow.

All went well with him until he passed a black-looking lake and had
reached the top of its rocky and precipitous boundary, when with
scarcely any warning he suddenly became enveloped in the clouds and
could only see a yard or two before him. He dared not turn back for fear
he should fall down the precipice into the lake below, so he continued
his walk and presently reached the snow. This, fortunately, was frozen,
and he went on until he came to a small cabin probably used by the guide
in summertime, but the door was locked, the padlock resting upon the
snow; soon afterwards he arrived at the cairn which marked the summit of
Snowdon. It was very cold, and he was soon covered with the frozen
particles from the clouds as they drifted against him in the wind, which
gave out a mournful sound like a funeral dirge as it drove against the

He walked round the tower several times before he could find a way down
on the other side, but at length his attention was attracted by a black
peak of rock rising above the snow, and to his astonishment, in a
sheltered corner behind it, he could distinctly see the footprints of a
man and a small animal, probably a dog, that had gone down behind the
rock just before the snow had frozen. The prints were not visible
anywhere else, but, fortunately, it happened to be the right way, and he
crossed the dreaded "Saddleback" with a precipice on each side of him
without knowing they were there. It was a providential escape, and when
he got clear of the clouds and saw miles of desolate rocky country
before him bounded by the dark sea in the background and strode down the
remainder of the seven miles from the top of Snowdon, his feelings of
thankfulness to the Almighty may be better imagined than described. He
himself - a first-class walker - always considered they were the longest
and quickest he ever accomplished. He occupied two hours in the ascent,
but not much more than an hour in the descent, reaching, just at the
edge of dark, the high-road where the words "Pitt's Head" were painted
in large letters on some rocks, which he afterwards learned represented
an almost exact profile of the head of William Pitt the famous Prime
Minister. He stayed for tea at Beddgelert and then walked down the Pass
of Aberglaslyn on a tree-covered road in almost total darkness, with the
company of roaring waters, which terrified him even more than the
dangers he had already encountered, as far as Tremadoc, where he stayed
the night.

We had a dismal descent from Ben Nevis, and much more troublesome and
laborious than the ascent, for our guide's illness had become more acute
and he looked dreadfully ill. It was a pitiable sight to see him when,
with scarcely strength enough to stand, he leaned heavily upon his staff
on one side and on ourselves alternately on the other. We could not help
feeling sorry for him for we had so recently suffered from the same
complaint ourselves, though in a much milder form. We were compelled to
walk very slowly and to rest at frequent intervals, and to add to our
misery the rain was falling heavily. We were completely saturated long
before reaching Fort William, and were profoundly thankful when we
landed our afflicted friend at his own door. We handed him his full fee,
and he thanked us and said that although he had ascended Ben Nevis on
nearly 1,200 occasions, this was the only time he had failed.

[Illustration: BEN NEVIS]

We had not been quite satisfied that the cause assigned to our attack at
Inverness was the real one, as we had drunk so little water there. We
thought now that there might be some infectious epidemic passing through
that part of Scotland, perhaps a modified form of the cholera that
decimated our part of England thirty or forty years before, and that our
guide as well as ourselves had contracted the sickness in that way.

We must not forget to record that on our way up the "Ben" we saw a most
beautiful rainbow, which appeared to great advantage, as it spread
itself between us and the opposite hills, exhibiting to perfection all
its seven colours.

We were as hungry as hunters when we returned to our lodgings, and,
after changing some of our clothes and drying the others, we sat down to
the good things provided for our noon dinner, which we washed down with
copious libations of tea.

As the rain continued, we decided to stop another night at Mrs.
MacPherson's, so we went out to make some purchases at the chemist's
shop, which also served as an emporium - in fact as a general stores. We
had a chat with the proprietor, who explained that Fort William was a
very healthy place, where his profession would not pay if carried on
alone, so he had to add to it by selling other articles. The Fort, he
told us, was originally built in the time of Cromwell by General Monk to
overawe the Highlanders, but was afterwards re-erected on a smaller
scale by William III; hence its name of Fort William.


We asked the chemist if he could recommend to us a good shoemaker, who
could undertake to sole and heel two pairs of boots before morning, as
ours were showing signs of wear-and-tear owing to the long distances we
had walked both before and after reaching John o' Groat's. This he
promised to do, and he sent one across to Mrs. MacPherson's immediately.
After we had parted with our boots, we were prisoners for the remainder
of the day, though we were partially reconciled to our novel position
when we heard the wind driving the rain against the windows instead of
against ourselves. But it seemed strange to us to be sitting down hour
after hour reading the books our hostess kindly lent to us instead of
walking on the roads. The books were chiefly historical, and interested
us, as they related to the country through which we were passing.
Terrible histories they contained too! describing fierce battles and
murders, and giving us the impression that the Scots of the olden times
were like savages, fighting each other continually, and that for the
mere pleasure of fighting. Especially interesting to us was the record
of the cruel massacre of Glencoe, for we intended visiting there, if
possible, on the morrow. It was not the extent of the carnage on that
occasion, but the horrible way in which it was carried out, that excited
the indignation of the whole country, and my brother spent some time in
copying in his note-book the following history of -


After King William had defeated the Highland Clans, he gave the
Highland Chiefs a year and a half to make their submission to his
officers, and all had done this except MacDonald of Glencoe, whose
Chief - MacIan - had delayed his submission to the last possible day.
He then went to Fort William to tender his Oath of Allegiance to the
King's Officer there, who unfortunately had no power to receive it,
but he gave him a letter to Sir Colin Campbell, who was at Inverary,
asking him to administer the Oath to MacIan. The aged Chief hastened
to Inverary, but the roads were bad and almost impassable owing to a
heavy fall of snow, so that the first day of January, 1692, had
passed before he could get there; Campbell administered the Oath and
MacIan returned to Glencoe thinking that all was now right. But a
plot was made against him by the Campbells, whose flocks and herds,
it was said, the MacDonalds had often raided, and it was decided to
punish MacIan and to exterminate his clan; and a company of the Earl
of Argyle's regiment, commanded by Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, was
sent to Glen Coe to await orders. MacIan's sons heard that the
soldiers were coming, and thought that they were coming to disarm
them, so they removed their arms to a place of safety, and, with a
body of men, they went to meet the soldiers to ask if they were
coming as friends or foes. They assured them that they were coming as
friends and wished to stay with them for a short time, as there was
no room for them, for the garrison buildings at Fort William were
already full of soldiers. Alaster MacDonald, one of MacIan's sons,
had married a niece of Glenlyon's, so that the soldiers were
cordially received and treated with every possible hospitality by
MacIan and his Clan, with whom they remained for about a fortnight.

Then Glenlyon received a letter from Duncanson, his commanding
officer, informing him that all the MacDonalds under seventy years of
age must be killed, and that the Government was not to be troubled
with prisoners. Glenlyon lost no time in carrying out his orders. He
took his morning's draught as usual at the house of MacIan's son, who
had married his niece, and he and two of his officers accepted an
invitation to dinner from MacIan, whom, as well as the whole clan, he
was about to slaughter. At four o'clock the next morning, February
13, 1692, the massacre was begun by a party of soldiers, who knocked
at MacIan's door and were at once admitted. Lindsay, who was one of
the officers who had accepted his invitation to dinner, commanded the
party, and shot MacIan dead at his own bedside while he was dressing
himself and giving orders for refreshments to be provided for his
visitors. His aged wife was stripped by the savage soldiers, who
pulled off the gold rings from her fingers with their teeth, and she
died next day from grief and the brutal treatment she had received.
The two sons had had their suspicions aroused, but these had been
allayed by Glenlyon. However, an old servant woke them and told them
to flee for their lives as their father had been murdered, and as
they escaped they heard the shouts of the murderers, the firing of
muskets, the screams of the wounded, and the groans of the dying
rising from the village, and it was only their intimate knowledge of
the almost inaccessible cliffs that enabled them to escape. At the
house where Glenlyon lodged, he had nine men bound and shot like
felons. A fine youth of twenty years of age was spared for a time,
but one, Captain Drummond, ordered him to be put to death; and a boy
of five or six, who had clung to Glenlyon's knees entreating for
mercy and offering to become his servant for life if he would spare
him, and who had moved Glenlyon to pity, was stabbed by Drummond with
a dirk while he was in the agony of supplication. Barber, a
sergeant, with some soldiers, fired on a group of nine MacDonalds
who were round their morning fire, and killed four of them, and one
of them, who escaped into a house, expressed a wish to die in the
open air rather than inside the house, "For your bread, which I have
eaten," said Barber, "I will grant the request." Macdonald was
accordingly dragged to the door, but he was an active man and, when
the soldiers presented their firelocks to shoot him, he cast his
plaid over their eyes and, taking advantage of their confusion and
the darkness, he escaped up the glen. Some old persons were also
killed, one of them eighty years of age; and others, with women and
children who had escaped from the carnage half clad, were starved and
frozen to death on the snow-clad hills whither they had fled.

The winter wind that whistled shrill,
The snows that night that cloaked the hill,
Though wild and pitiless, had still
Far more than Southern clemency.

It was thrilling to read the account of the fight between the two Clans,
Mackenzie and MacDonnell, which the Mackenzies won. When the MacDonnells
were retreating they had to cross a river, and those who missed the ford
were either drowned or killed. A young and powerful chief of the
MacDonnells in his flight made towards a spot where the burn rushed
through a yawning chasm, very wide and deep, and was closely followed by
one of the victorious Mackenzies; but MacDonnell, forgetting the danger
of the attempt in the hurry of his flight and the agitation of the
moment, and being of an athletic frame and half naked, made a desperate
leap, and succeeded in clearing the rushing waters below.

Mackenzie inconsiderately followed him, but, not having the impulse of
the powerful feelings that had animated MacDonnell, he did not reach the
top of the opposite bank, succeeding only in grasping the branch of a
birch tree, where he hung suspended over the abyss. Macdonnell, finding
he was not being followed, returned to the edge of the chasm, and,
seeing Mackenzie's situation, took out his dirk, and as he cut off the
branch from the tree he said, "I have left much behind me with you
to-day; take that also," and so Mackenzie perished.

There was another incident of Highland ferocity that attracted us
powerfully, and read as follows: "Sir Ewen encountered a very powerful
English officer, an over-match for him in strength, who, losing his

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 11 of 66)