Today we set off for Glen Coe, passing through Tyndrum where the railroad splits into two lines, one to Oban and the other to Fort William. We drove past the famous Green Wellie shop which was a family business, the owners paid a lot of money to have it rebranded and all that changed was eyes that were put on the wellie and the ‘h’ in shop changed to ’t’ to read stop at a cost of £35,000.00!
We passed a lot of hikers walking the 95 mile West Highland Way trail on ROUTE through Glen Mohr and the Bridge of Orchry. Some of the glens were wide and open and others wooded with forests. Near Glen Coe, the mountains veiled in the Scots misty rain with their dark brooding crags menaced in the narrow valley, with paths of scree running down the mountainsides. These dramatic landscapes are ideal for adventure stories and were used as sets for the filming of Brave Heart, the story of William Wallace. Other films made in this area were ‘Rob Roy McGregor’ (Leam Nielson), ‘First Night’ –( Sean Connery), the TV series ‘Rock Face’. RS Stevenson used Glen Coe and Rannoch Moor as the setting for ‘Kidnapped’ in the 18th Century. On the way to Rannoch Moor we saw the area where the James Bond movie “Sky Fall”, was filmed with the pyramid mountain in the background. The mountain cutting going down into Glen Coe, was used in the Harry Potter films as well. I stopped to take a photo at the lookout spot at the head of Mohr Glen, the Black Mont still had a bit of snow on it, this year (2015) there was 183% more rain than usual and the worst summer for 30 years. The main business in Glen Coe is the slate quarries.
A famous period in Scottish history was the massacres of Glen Coe in 1692. The King insisted on the massacre, it was not a clan feud as is generally supposed. In 1689 there was a change of Monarchy James VII was replaced by William of Orange, he wanted them to sign the Treaty of Allegiance, but they did not want to. The Protestant Secretary of State, John Dalrymple was asked to sort it out, and called for a Campbell to negotiate the Oath of Allegiance with the rebel McDonalds whom he hated, who lived in the area. The Allegiance to James VII who was in France had to be annulled but when the Campbell turned up at Fort William to sign, he could not find a magistrate to legalise it, so the McDonalds signed. Dalrymple crossed their names off to make an example of them. Campbell was dependent on army pay so he was given orders to murder them. The code of conduct in those days was hospitality, so the McDonalds stayed a fortnight with the Campbell’s who were then given orders to murder them, and nobody was allowed to escape. Forty-eight people were killed; the rest ran for their lives, about 70 people all together. No one was punished for it. How it was done was the problem, but not why it was done. Captain Campbell drank himself to death after a verdict of unlawful killing. The rebellions went on as people were so upset about the abuse of the hospitality
system. The people were forced to learn English, and not allowed to wear kilts or play the bagpipes as they were classified as a weapon of war! A very bitter and sad period in the history of Scotland followed.
We continued down to Loch Leven. The burial ground of the McDonalds is in the middle of St Mundo’s Isle. The bridge across Loch Leven was opened in 1971 – there is a monument to R L Stevenson’s ‘James Stewart of the Glens’. The story ‘Kidnapped’ is based on this historical incident. The Crown Factor dispersed
the rebels ‘ruled by fear’ (usually out of anger), James Stewart of Callen was framed. He stood trial at a Campbell Kangaroo court and was convicted as an accomplice and hung as an example. The monument was at the site of the gallows where he was
hung and was left for a long time as a warning to all those who sailed up and down the river. Another was a book written about him “Grass will never grow on my Grave”, by Mary MacGrigor. We stopped at the Loch Leven hotel for scones and tea, enjoying the very pretty view across the Loch.
Another interesting character was Kenneth Adair, a prophetic seer circa 1650, who used a divining stone to prophesy. His mistress burned him over a barrel of tar! These things happened only six years after Culloden. He prophesied the world wars, rebellions and that a bridge over the Caledonian Canal would be built and then fall down, therefore through superstition, engineers did not finally complete the bridge, and they left off a nut and bolt so it would never be complete! There is a book called “The Prophesies of Braham Seer”.
Seagulls sat on the rocks of Loch Linne with wind ruffling their feathers. A strong tang of sea and seagrass filled the air. Loch Linne exits by the Isle of Mull. We past Castle Stalker, a fortress of the Stewarts, built on Cormorant Rock at the head of Loch Laich. Lots of little fishing boats were moored in the loch. Highland coos grazed in the fields as we went past St Columba’s Bay, Bandleloch and the Sound of Mull, but we could not see the Isle of Mull for all the mist. When the tide goes in and out ‘The Falls of Lorn’ are seen under the Connell Bridge with the turbulence as the two waters meet.
We arrived in Oban, a fishing village and harbour for the island hopping ferries servicing the Hebrides. It became a popular destination after Queen Victoria visited. I found Oban a very dreary place with its overcast weather and intermittent rain. I headed for the only cheerful looking building with a red roof I saw on the other side of the harbour which brightened the ominous sky. I had a toasted sandwich and then meandered back to the waiting coach via the usual high street shops; one of which was called The Wide Mouthed Frog!
We left Oban to its mizzle and went past Tennel, an old iron smelting works with a hot blast furnace, which made the ironworks and cannon balls for Nelson’s Navy, from 1787 -1853. We passed fields with brown and cream highland coos grazing peacefully and then past the Loch Awe Holiday Park where there is an underground hydro- electric station. The unique Loch Awe Church was built by Walter Douglas Campbell for his mother from local rock, as the carriage trip from their mansion on Innischonan to the church in Dalmally was too tiring for her. We then went through Dalmally, following the old railway line and river, with a stretch of forest above the line. We drove back through Tyndrum to our hotel after an interesting day’s narration with our coach driver Eddie.
(All pictures are from the Eastern Province Herald 150th Anniversary Weekend Post Souvenir Supplement which I obtained when I arrived in Port Elizabeth in 1970 – so fitting Marianne’s descendent arriving in the same place 150 years later!)
On the deck of the Amphetrite, Marianne struggled against the icy blast of wind as she wrapped her shawl closer around herself and baby Mary Anne, she had only given birth a week ago, she was trying to feed the child while she sniffed and sneezed as well. Most of Wilkinson’s Party were sick with colds and some were suffering from frostbite as well. Life on board a small sailing ship was a harsh reality, the Captain had assigned duties and each person had to pull their weight. Marianne called to eight year old Sarah,
“Sarah, please can you come and help out here with cooking the beef and biscuit, and line up for our hot water to make the tea.” Sarah had to grow up quickly assuming some of her mother’s tasks; it was a tough call minding little James and Sophie well. Sarah brought her mother the hot water to make tea, Marianne looked at the raw chapped little hands. The poor child had also had to help out with washing the single men’s clothes not having the strength to squeeze the water out, the clothes were permanently damp with no sunshine to dry them. The ship’s food was rationed, beef and biscuit twice a week and tea, sugar, cocoa, salt, rum and port on other days. James helped when he wasn’t doing duties assigned to the men.
By the middle of January 1820 the whole fleet of ships bound for the Cape Colony was on the high seas. They were now past the extreme weather of the Bay of Biscay. Once they entered the tropics sometimes the ships were becalmed. People became fractious in the overcrowded boats and it was not always easy to keep the peace between the different parties and the social classes of the passengers. In some ships there was lack of leadership of the heads of parties. There were of course a
number of births and deaths and breakouts of disease during the course of the four months voyage, including the death of John Jenkins from Wilkinson’s party.
One morning, after this long, arduous voyage, the outline of Table Mountain loomed out of the mist, with its table cloth of cloud dropping over the side. The ships began to arrive in Table Bay and drop anchor. James called his family.
“Look! There is our future, we have almost reached our destination,” said James as he put his arm around Marianne, Sarah, little James and Sophia. The family stood there staring for a long while at the mountains and the shore line. Marianne was excited, yet apprehensive; this adventure they had planned was she up to it?
“Oh James,” she said in awe as a shiver ran down her spine “Do you think we are going to be happy here? It is all so different,” James drew her nearer, “We have to have faith that it will, we are both young and hardworking, we will be fine”, he said to soothe her fears. The journey had exacted a lot from Marianne, what was Albany going to be like? The ships spent several days re-provisioning in Cape Town for the final leg of the journey to Algoa Bay. Only Wilkinson and Morton from their party were allowed ashore to make the final arrangements for the settlers with the Acting governor, Sir Rufane Donkin, which was a disappointment.
Rumours started to get back to the ships about the poor conditions in the Zuurveld where their land was allocated; some settlers were regretting their decision to emigrate and blamed their leaders that they had been deceived. The ships set off again to round the Cape of Storms travelling 500 miles up the coast to Algoa Bay. As the Amphetrite hugged the coast, James and Marianne looked at the majestic mountains, untamed nature and forests reaching down to the bare rocky stretches of coastline. They also sailed past great bays and lagoons near Knysna, James saw how uncivilised it was with a savage loneliness born of lack of inhabitants.
It was the first week of March 1820, when the fleet of ships dropped anchor in Algoa Bay. This was an emotional moment for James and Marianne – they were to disembark. They looked at the shore line with its first sign of habitation, the fortified barracks and few thatched cottages of Fort Frederick, with tents and marquees spread along the shoreline. They saw the hive of activity as the 72rd Regiment prepared to receive the settlers. There were wagons drawn up ready to transport them to the interior. James turned to Marianne and said,
“Whatever the future holds we are on our own now, there is no turning back, but I trust that we have made the right decision for the family and I know that as far as I am able with the help of God, I will take care of our family and protect us.”
Marianne replied “You are a good man James, and we have General’s Scherer’s compass to give us direction and with his indomitable spirit to give us courage we will make Albany our home.” James held her tight, his eyes teared up as he kissed her, she was his everything, this strong courageous young woman, his child bride.
In the morning the sailors started to transport the settlers in flat bottomed boats from the ships through the roaring surf as it pounded on the beach. The men and boys waded ashore, the women and children being carried by the soldiers of the 72nd Regiment.
Marianne found herself hoisted up and carried by a burly soldier through the surf. James had gone with the children and they were waiting for her on the beach. The Smith family was shown to a tent, where they had to make themselves as comfortable as possible. Once all the settlers were ashore, the provisions, rations, seeds and agricultural implements were sold from Government supplies and delivered to each Party and family.
Wilkinson, Morton and the rest of their party were housed in tents near to the Smiths and Marianne and Sarah continued to help them with preparing meals. The menfolk sorted out their requirements, equipment and food and the arrangements for the wagons to transport them to their allotment which had previously been surveyed and demarcated.
It was a whole month before Wilkinson’s party was ready to move into the interior and it was with apprehension they set off as stories of the Zuurveld started to filter back to them.
They travelled with other groups of settlers in the wagons requisitioned from farmers in the district. They crossed the Quagga flats and saw how barren the Zuurveld looked; they forded the Bushman’s River at Rautenbach Drift and then congregated at Assegai Bush before the settlers finally dispersed to their allocated destinations. Wilkinson’s party was headed to the north-east, to a location consisting of 2342 acres on the Blaaukrantz River, a tributary of the Kowie River.
Marianne felt the journey would never end, cooking and washing for the menfolk and looking after a small baby and the other children as well. She struggled the sixteen days the ox wagon took to walk the 130 miles to the settlement, which was one of the furthest from Algoa Bay.
“James”, she said wearily one evening, “will we ever get there? The children are cranky and it is so hard to keep everyone happy on the move, how I long for my own home again.”
”It won’t be long now, Wilkinson is calling our allotment New Essex, that will certainly feel like home, and we have the privilege of being on a river. Already I am thinking it would be so much easier to transport things by boat up the river,” James reassured her, hiding the uneasiness in his own breast at the distance from civilisation, and he certainly did not want to scare her with the stories he had heard of the native tribes across the Fish River.
Eventually the lead wagon came to a standstill, and the surveyor who had ridden with them to show them the boundaries of the Allotment called out.
“Here you are, this is New Essex!” James and Marianne looked around them; there was just barren soil with a few bushes and trees that lined the edge of a steep ravine. James rushed down to look at the river. He froze in his step – that was no river that was a seasonal stream, with a very rocky bed, not a navigable river. His dream of being a shipbuilder and his own business died in that moment.
He slowly turned around and went back to the family. Marianne said, “But where are the villages and fields?” The realisation that they were to be dumped in the middle of the veld to make a living for themselves with very little to no support slowly dawned on the group.
Wearily they unloaded the wagons and put up temporary shelters with tents and some of the men got to chopping down trees to make rudimentary structures to live in. There were squabbles as people from other groups came to chop down trees from their allotment as they had no trees on theirs.
Wilkinson, Morton and James all worked hard together with the help of the other men and boys to provide shelters for each family or group. Someone cut a pathway down the ravine to the river so Marianne and the children could go and draw water.
Her back hurt, she was exhausted with the hard work. James hands were blistered and he had cuts and bruises sustained with cutting wood. The children too had cuts and bruises and were tired out each day as they helped fetch and carry and hold to help with the building of their home.
At the end of that month just before the harsh winter rain and cold hit the Zuurveld, James carried Marianne over the threshold of their humble home. She laid her weary head upon his breast and sighed.
“Thank you James, you are so strong, making our home with your own hands, I am sure together we will be able to make a new life here”. James kissed her, weary in body and soul.
Marianne picked her way through the filth littered streets back to their home in Mile End. The stench nauseated her heightened senses as she was pregnant once again. She leant over an open drain and added the contents of her stomach to the slow moving filth. She held tightly to her purse and small packet of potatoes and beans that she had been out to purchase. Wretched orphans jeered at her and she feared they would snatch her purse. London was even worse than Paris now after the war. Life was a struggle with overcrowding, poverty, wretchedness on all sides and crime flourished when people were reduced to stealing a loaf of bread to feed their hungry families. Even the threat of deportation to Australia didn’t make any difference when you could die of starvation anyway.
She just made it home to No 7, Grove Street, James was anxiously waiting for her; he could see she looked pale and wan. He too was struggling to get work now that the war was over, there was no need for new ships to be built, he was kept reasonable busy with repairs, but there was a strong undercurrent of discontent in the country as people were starving. His in-laws Joseph and Elizabeth Scherer had helped them out with a place to stay when they had arrived back from France.
Elizabeth had joined a charitable organisation to help the starving elderly who could no longer fend for themselves, taking them food and coal to relieve their suffering. Marianne had gone with her on some occasions and seen the abject squalor of their conditions. She feared for her own children’s future as she saw ragged orphans huddled together under bridges. Marianne’s grandfather Mr Noble continued to supply James with work to keep the family going and James was a resourceful young man as well after having spent some time in the Cape Colony during the war years.
James was good to Marianne and was by her side when little James was born. He was a strong baby and thrived with the tender monitions of his grandmother and sister Sarah. Two years later little Sophie arrived on the scene, a bonnie child named after her grandmother with the same dark curly hair. James now had quite a brood to care for and wanted a better life for his family. London with its daily hazards of disease and crime and his dependence on Mr Noble for his livelihood had no appeal. He envisioned having his own ship building company in one of the Colonies.
“Listen” said James, as he read from The Times to Marianne.
“….since our minds have long been made up as to the necessity of employing emigration for one, perhaps the principal, among the means of regular and lasting provision for the surplus inhabitants of these islands, it becomes to us to urge with the greatest earnestness the selection of a scene the most desirable of all others, and of a plan of emigration the most vigorous and effective than can be adopted by the state.”
“I am going to find out more about this emigration scheme,” said James and jumped up to write his letter of application. This was just the impetus he needed. [From National Archives, Kew]
No 7 Grove Street
Mile End Road
July 26th 1819
In consequence of the official communication made by Government respecting the emigration to the Cape, I beg leave to intimate that (with permission) I mean to avail myself thereof & request you will have the goodness to register my name if required, & in the mean time you would particularly oblige by informing me where the vessel is expected to sail from hence, what room or tonnage in the Ship each family will be allowed for the purpose of taking out tools, implements for husbandry or any thing else required & if there are frequent or any communications from the Colony of Cape Town.
I am a ship carpenter by trade & have superintended the building of several ships of war in this time. I have a wife and three children I intend to take with me.
The favor of an early reply will oblige
Sir, your obdt hble servt
There was a lot of public interest, but the information given to prospective emigrants to the Cape of Good Hope was of dubious nature, in fact it was deliberately withheld that they would be exposed to the plundering native hordes to the north of the proposed settlement and that it was in fact to be a buffer zone between the Xhosas and the trek-Boers. No one could give any real information about climate, crops, land etc. Neither was information published about the local population, Dutch Boers, indigenous Hottentots and Xhosas and the continuing warfare between the two as the Boers trekked north after the British Occupation of the Cape of Good Hope in 1814 when it was handed over in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty.
The scheme was confined to those persons “ ….possessing the means, will engage to carry out at least ten able bodied individuals above eighteen years of age, with or without families, the government always reserving the right of selecting from the several offers made to them those who may prove, upon examination to be the most eligible.
..Every person engaging to take out the above mentioned number of persons or families, shall deposit at the rate of Ten Pounds (to be repaid as hereinafter mentioned) for every family taken out, provided that the family does not consist of more than one man, one woman and two children under fourteen years of age. All children above the number of two will have to be paid for, in addition to the deposits above mentioned, in the proportion of five Pounds for every two children under fourteen years of age and five pounds for every person between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.
In consideration of this deposit a passage shall be provided at the expense of the government for the settlers who shall also be victualled from the time of their embarkment to the time of their landing in the colony. A grant of land under the conditions hereafter specified shall be made to him at the rate of 100 acres for every person or family he takes out. One third of the price paid at outset, one third as soon as the settlers are located and the remainder three months after being located.” [From National Archives, Kew]
The total assistance therefore from the Government consisted of free passage, a grant of land, and remission of quit-rent on the first ten years; otherwise the settlers were to fend for themselves from the moment they landed, except that tents were to be lent to the settlers until such time they had built themselves more permanent homes.
Full of enthusiasm for the scheme and dreams of owning his own ship building company James set off to find workmen and ex-colleagues to come with him to make up the ten men required for the group to emigrate. He continued to ply the government with reasonable questions regarding the Cape Colony and the navigable rivers and the tonnage required to take with on the ship. While James was busy getting the group together Marianne had realised she was pregnant again. She decided to keep it quiet so as not to influence James or her parents as she knew they would be concerned. Their situation was pretty bleak and she wondered whether the child would survive anyway. So when James made his application it was quite correct they were a family of five. By September he had found his group of persons to emigrate with him.
James discussed the prospect of this assisted emigration scheme with Marianne’s parents and Mr Noble. They encouraged the young couple to make the move for a better life for the children and opportunity for the expansion of business interests. James wrote again to the government with the annexe of the names of his group. [From National Archives, Kew]
No 7 Grove Street
Mile End Road
8th Sept 1819
I hereby send you a annexed statement of the number, names & age of all the persons I propose to take out with me to the Cape of Good Hope agreeable to your letter of 28 of August and I do hereby agree to conform to all the conditions upon which His Majesty’s Government have offered to grant land in the said Colony.
Your further communication will oblige
Sir, your obd’t serv’t
Name and Description of the Person taking out the Settlers:
James SMITH, Shipwright, age 36, Mary Ann SMITH my wife, age 20, Sarah Fish SMITH my daughter, 7, James SMITH, 3, Sophia SMITH, 2 years of age. John ASTHORP, Joseph ALFORD, John ALFORD, William HAYWOOD ,James GIBSON, Richard WHITE ,Timothy ROGERS, Robert GIBSON ,Thomas HORNER ,Thomas ADAMS. There were ten men, four of whom had wives and nine children of which eventually only Richard White remained to sail with them.
By the 30th September James had still not heard from the Government whether his proposals were accepted and when the vessel would proceed. The family were now excited and gearing up for their proposed emigration, the Government’s dilatory lack of correspondence frustrated him and James being a man of action decided regardless of the Government approving his application he would take matters into his own hands. He made contact with George Wilkinson from Essex whose application had been turned down. George’s father Rev Thomas Wilkinson rector of Bulvan, a man of influence, put in a new proposal to Lord Bathurst, Secretary of State to the Colonies whereby he offered to charter a vessel privately for the party to proceed to the Cape at their own expense if the government would give them ‘settler privileges’ as well as a substantial grant of land. This proposal was met favourably with the additional benefit of a refund of the cost of chartering the vessel at £12 per head on arrival at the Cape. They were also to be given 100 acres per person.in the Albany settlement.
George Wilkinson and John Morton were appointed leaders of the party and with James, set about getting sufficient people to join them and to find a vessel to charter.
“This is it!” said James one Thursday morning in October as he was poring through the classified ads in The Times.
“To sail immediately for THE CAPE of GOOD HOPE, the remarkably fast-sailing SHIP AMPHITRITE, burden 400 tons, A.L. copper and copper fastened, SAMUEL DAVIDSON commander, lying in the London docks.”
He immediately contacted the commander and Rev Wilkinson, George and John and so the arrangements were made to charter the Amphitrite. Now began the great task of procuring equipment, seeds and anything they might require. It was really hard to get any information what to expect in the Colony and as they were only experienced in English agriculture took what they thought would be suitable equipment. James was hoping that there would be a navigable river like the Thames so he could continue with his trade as a ship builder, and thus make a good living for his family. James also recruited his apprentice Robert Humphrey to join the party. There were many applicants for the other party members, but people kept dropping out, some lost courage at the last minute and it was only when the whole group was eventually on board that the final Party of 25 persons could be verified. The other party aboard the Amphitrite was David Thomas Nightingale’s Party, he was a retired naval surgeon, and this party consisted of 35 persons.
Each party was meant to have a clergyman to perform all the sacred rights that the people may need. There was a great evangelising spirit at the time when people were fired up to spread the gospel to the heathen nations around them. There were also adventurous spirits on board wanting to explore the unknown. As well as those who were financially secure and wanted to open up trade and businesses in the colonies, such as James.
The day arrived when the Smith’s finally packed up their home at No 7, Grove Ave. As they stood before the carriage doors Joseph handed Marianne General Scherer’s compass that he had given him on the general’s death bed.
“Take this Marianne, not only to find your way in your new life, but also to be a reminder of your family heritage.” They warmly embraced Marianne’s parents’ and said their goodbyes. Marianne shed tears as they bid farewell as they would never see each other again. Joseph and Sophia felt their hearts ripped out as the coach turned the corner and began the journey to Gravesend.
This was a particularly hazardous journey and as Marianne was now quite heavily pregnant she groaned as the coach shook and rattled its way down the rutted roads. The children looked out of the window hoping to see a highwayman, as this was a notorious route for attacks on coaches and they were loaded down with all their worldly possessions to make a new start in the Cape Colony. They were excited with this new adventure and chatted as they snuggled together under a warm rug as it was bitterly cold and rain and gusts of wind rocked the coach from side to side.
They encountered other travellers to Gravesend at the coaching Inns along the way. Marianne’s heart sunk as she heard stories of black hordes waiting to kill them all, others were full of hope and anticipation, some travellers gave up just at the mention of the black hordes and went back home.
”James, I am frightened, it is still not too late to turn back” she said.
“There is not much choice between a bleak future in England or taking the risk of a new life in the Cape Colony whatever that will entail.” said James.
Resolutely the Smith’s set their face to their new life. Eventually the party arrived at Gravesend and embarked on the Amphitrite, only then was a full head count done of George Wilkinson’s Party. George, John Morton and James set about organising their belongings on board according to the Captain’s rules and on board procedures. They had brought along a portable threshing machine and a water-boring machine and as far as they knew were as prepared as they ever would be.
The other members of George Wilkinson’s were James’s apprentice Robert Humphrey, John and Joseph Cleaver who were soap makers, John Gaugain, John Harris. The labourers were James Cannon, Charles, James and John Jenkins and James Neale.
The weather was appalling it was stormy and bitterly cold. The children were miserable, all excitement had now gone with the harsh reality of life on board ship. Marianne with the other wives had to prepare food for her family and for the other unmarried men as well. She also had to wash the clothes in the bitterly cold weather and there was not much chance of getting them properly dry. Some of the party fell ill with colds and some even suffered frostbite with the chill wet air on board ship. Some of the ships had been frozen in and could not leave on time; there were massive storms in the Bay of Biscay. The Amphitrite had to pull in at Brixham, four of the labourers decided they did not want to leave their homeland and deserted at Brixham and John Jenkins died at sea. At last the Amphitrite set sail from Brixham into the unknown on 28th December 1819. Marianne went into labour and amidst the cold; wet and gales of the Bay of Biscay, the plaintive wail of Mary Ann Smith could be heard.
Early in the morning I walked up to the nearest ‘Passing Place’ above Inversnaid hotel to enjoy the view across Loch Lomond and the forest where feral goats were grazing. I then explored the other side of the hotel walking up to the bridge where it crosses the stream and the waterfall flows into the Loch. On the bridge was an ‘In memory of’ plaque of someone who had ‘crossed over to the other side’ so fitting. It was difficult terrain to reach the last few steps to get level with the bridge to cross over the deep ravine, a reminder that the last stage of life can be the most difficult. This was where William Wordsworth penned “The Highland Maid,” a love poem to a woman he was smitten with in this place.
Nor am I loth, though pleased at heart,
Sweet Highland Girl! from thee to part;
For I, methinks, till I grow old,
As fair before me shall behold,
As I do now, the cabin small,
The lake, the bay, the waterfall;
And thee, the spirit of them all! (At Inversneyde, upon Loch Lomond)
Sweet Highland Girl, a very shower
Of beauty is thy earthly dower!
Twice seven consenting years have shed
Their utmost bounty on thy head:
And these grey rocks; that household lawn;
Those trees, a veil just half withdrawn;
This fall of water that doth make
A murmur near the silent lake;
This little bay; a quiet road
That holds in shelter thy Abode—
In truth together do ye seem
Like something fashioned in a dream;
Such Forms as from their covert peep
When earthly cares are laid asleep!
But, O fair Creature! in the light
Of common day, so heavenly bright,
I bless Thee, Vision as thou art,
I bless thee with a human heart;
God shield thee to thy latest years!
Thee, neither know I, nor thy peers;
And yet my eyes are filled with tears.
With earnest feeling I shall pray
For thee when I am far away:
For never saw I mien, or face,
In which more plainly I could trace
Benignity and home-bred sense
Ripening in perfect innocence.
Here scattered, like a random seed,
Remote from men, Thou dost not need
The embarrassed look of shy distress,
And maidenly shamefacedness:
Thou wear’st upon thy forehead clear
The freedom of a Mountaineer:
A face with gladness overspread!
Soft smiles, by human kindness bred!
And seemliness complete, that sways
Thy courtesies, about thee plays;
With no restraint, but such as springs
From quick and eager visitings
Of thoughts that lie beyond the reach
Of thy few words of English speech:
A bondage sweetly brooked, a strife
That gives thy gestures grace and life!
So have I, not unmoved in mind,
Seen birds of tempest-loving kind—
Thus beating up against the wind.
What hand but would a garland cull
For thee who art so beautiful?
O happy pleasure! here to dwell
Beside thee in some heathy dell;
Adopt your homely ways, and dress,
A Shepherd, thou a Shepherdess!
But I could frame a wish for thee
More like a grave reality:
Thou art to me but as a wave
Of the wild sea; and I would have
Some claim upon thee, if I could,
Though but of common neighbourhood.
What joy to hear thee, and to see!
Thy elder Brother I would be,
Thy Father—anything to thee!
Now thanks to Heaven! that of its grace
Hath led me to this lonely place.
Joy have I had; and going hence
I bear away my recompense.
In spots like these it is we prize
Our Memory, feel that she hath eyes:
Then, why should I be loth to stir?
I feel this place was made for her;
To give new pleasure like the past,
Continued long as life shall last.
Nor am I loth, though pleased at heart,
Sweet Highland Girl! from thee to part;
For I, methinks, till I grow old,
As fair before me shall behold,
As I do now, the cabin small,
The lake, the bay, the waterfall;
And thee, the spirit of them all!
Paddle steamers were the mode of transport in the old days so the original roads around Loch Lomond were very busy; there was a stage coach service from Inversnaid in those days when Queen Victoria travelled by paddle steamer. The steamer “Princess May” in 1812 built by David Napier and the “Marion” used to chug their way up and down the Loch. General Wolfe and the Duke of Montrose both had stayed in this area.
Not far from Loch Lomond is Lake Katrine which we visited. The first steam powered boat on Lake Katrine was the “Rob Roy” followed by the “Sir Walter Scott” in 1901. Queen Victoria had opened the valves of Loch Arklet which is the header tank to Lake Katrine which has been supplying water since 1851.
We chugged our way down Lake Katrine, the throb of the engines and lapping of water in the wake of the “Sir Walter Scott,” which still had its original engines, fuelled now by diesel and not wood. We stood gazing at the highland cattle grazing on the open hillsides as the sun briefly lit up the dark rolling hills with their forest fringe and grey granite rocky outcrops. We chugged the length of the Loch from Stronachlachar to where the coaches were waiting for us at the Trossachs Pier. A variety of pines and birches and grew down to the water’s edge with luxuriant moss and ferns growing on the trees and on the banks.
This area is full of stories of the legendary Rob Roy who was held a prisoner on one the islands. Sir Walter Scott wrote “The Lady of the Lake” and “Rob Roy”, making this area famous. The original Drovers Route was made into a toll road by the Duke of Montrose and is now called the Duke’s Pass. We drove past Loch Achray, the cottage gardens along the route ablaze with colour and perennial borders. The slopes down to Loch Venachar had open fields dotted with clumps of sedge grasses with sheep and cattle grazing amongst them. The Rob Roy and Trossachs Walking Trail are in this area and walkers often overnight at Inversnaid. We stopped at Callander which meant, ‘road to the beach’ our driver told us, according to the geology of the area: the Highland Boundary Fault is near here. We stopped for lunch at a small café where we ate soup and bread. The High Street was very pretty with a river at running at the bottom with a lovely bridge and picnic area.
We drove through the bracken clad hillsides of Strathshyre where foxgloves poked their head out of the greenery on the verges and hillsides. In the past villages were built to discourage the clans from living in the hills and to make them a community in the villages where it would be easier to have control over them. We passed the viaducts of the old railway which was closed due to a rock fall, the site was declared unstable by geologists and was not repaired. We drove through open meadowlands with buttercups and daisies, then on through LIX, which was named after the Roman 59th Legion which was stationed in the area. A lot of the roads in Scotland were military roads, to enable troops to move quickly from one area to another. We went past the old tollhouse on the way to Killen and the Dochart Falls, where we stopped off for a while to view the falls and the grave of the McNab family. The couple who sat at my table were McNabs so they took some photos and were obviously interested in this piece of history. The old water Mill on the river (see photos) still turned as the waters flowed through it. The bridge over the river Dochart was a very narrow stone bridge which would only take traffic one way at a time. I walked over the bridge to see a long stretch of very pretty rapids and falls as they chattered over the rocks and flowed away under the bridge. I stood there meditating on the water that flows under the bridge which cannot return, I thought one has to keep going with the flow, not to try and swim upstream again; you can only cross over the bridge and move on.
Rob Roy was a cattle drover, he became very successful and owed three properties along Loch Lomond. The drovers used to travel great distances, so there was a system of Drovers Inns along the route. Not only did they drive cattle, but also carried money and documents (same idea as couriers today). They were able to carry weapons to protect themselves so they would stay at a Drovers Inn, the one on the main road along Loch Lomond was built in 1705. Everybody behaved like Rob Roy in those days, it was not just him and his clansmen, one must not judge the past by today’s standards. He died in his house at Inverlochlarig Beg, Balquhidder, We also went past the Pulpit Rock, which was a large rock with a niche cut out of it. The law required that people had to attend Church on Sundays, and the nearest church was at Tabor, which took about 7 hours to reach, so the people made this an outdoor church in 1850. There was also an entrepreneur who set up a stall at the back of the rock to sell whiskey and cheese! There were probably as many people on both sides of the rock! The narrow road was upgraded to Arlui, extending over the Loch in places. A new church was built at Arlui, to replace the Pulpit Rock but this also fell into disrepair and was later turned in to a home.
We arrived at Inveruglas in time to catch the “Loch Lomond” back to Inversnaid for dinner after an interesting day exploring Rob Roy country.
This poem I wrote after the death of one of my very dearest friends in Cape Town, she was the most hospitable woman I knew and often invited women on their own around for Sunday Lunch and an afternoon of chat and craft work. We also went out exploring the countryside together and she and her husband were a great support to me during my late husband’s illness. I was devastated when she suddenly became ill and died just after her seventieth birthday and all the plans we had made for our retirement died with her. I was inspired to write this poem in her honour by a massive Gum tree that grew outside of my home whose one branch had broken in a storm and had had to be removed. Month on month I saw how this great tree slowly started to heal itself where the branch was cut off and so my grief also slowly healed.
Our coach driver Eddie told us the origin of the famous song ‘Loch Lomond’ which was pretty sad. It was written by a Jacobite highlander in the Invararey gaol at the time of the 1745 uprising when Bonnie Prince Charlie was fighting James II of England’s grandson. The Jacobites were part of the political movement that aimed to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart King James II of England and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Jacobite Rebellion was an important time in Scotland; this ended at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the final confrontation which was primarily a religious civil war. These Jacobite highlanders were taken prisoner and were systematically being killed; ten hung per day. One son in each family was allowed to be spared. There were two brothers in the Invararey gaol, one brother said to the other, “you must go home to the family, and I will stay to be killed and buried. I am taking the high road and will be in Scotland before you.” His meaning was his soul would be in Scotland. This song is sung when a person gets very melancholy at the end of Hogmanay and reminisces over the past. Listening to the words of Loch Lomond will never be the same for me after hearing that story of familial sacrifice.
We passed the forestry region of Dumfries as we drove along the M74 towards Glasgow. The hillsides were clad in native Scots Pine, a tree that adapted to climate change over the previous centuries; it has a natural range confined to the Highlands, covering about 17,000 hectares, mainly growing on north-facing slopes. Forestry is a big industry in the area. Thirty five years after the trees are planted they are cut down and two more planted in their place. There is an enormous demand for trees worldwide and Scotland is the third largest producer of wood in Europe. Running under the A73 is the Longannet Coal Mine, now closed. This was the deepest coalmine in Scotland. – The mine shafts run for 9 miles in all directions, the area is now landscaped where it was built over and beautified by roadside sculptures; the ghostly Andy Scott’s ‘Arria’ metal mermaid sculpture, overlooking the M80 motorway near Cumbernauld and the Clydesdale Horse, facing Glasgow with its backside towards Edinburgh on the M8.
Another major industry is whiskey, manufactured from the abundant supplies of barley and the pure, clear spring water from the peaty burns, an environment rich in the highest quality ingredients which have made this liquor magic and a top export. Each distillery has its own distinctive handcrafted characteristics with £8billion of whiskey sold per annum.
The boundary between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland is at the town of Comrie which sits on the Highland Boundary Fault where the tectonic plates butt against each other. To the north are the mountains which are called benns or tors, Ben Nevis is the highest at 4409 ft above sea level. A loch is a stretch of water, a glen is a narrow valley, and a strath is a wider valley. A munro is a mountain over 3000 feet named after Sir Hugh Munro, (1856–1919) who listed all the mountains. ‘Bagging a munro’ is a mountain climber’s ambition, and each year people die trying to achieve this. There are 282 munros in Scotland. Clans are tribes or children and Mac means ‘son of’.
Spikes of purple wild flowers poked through the white daisies and Queen Anne Lace as we bypassed Glasgow onto the Stirling Road, we skirted Bannock Burn where Robert the Bruce won the battle against the English 700 years ago. We past Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, and turned off to Callendar. This area was quite flat and was at one time under the ocean, where the Oceana Germanica or North Sea covered the area.
Sheep stood watching us showing off their newly clipped fat bellies as we past the lake near Monreith. The game of Curling was a very popular game similar to Ice Hockey which was played on this frozen lake, although health and safety do not approve of it these days as the ice has to reach a certain thickness before you are allowed to play.
Eddie asked us all to disembark and go to the loo at Aberfoyle to make sure we had empty bladders before we drove down the winding narrow road to the hotel at Inversnaid. This road is called the ‘Inversnaid Highway’ and wound its way alongside Loch Ardon on the one side and lovely stone houses lining the way on the other and inbetween were clumps of purple heather on the open hillsides. We drove along the valley floor on a very narrow road with few squeeze places for cars to pass each other. It took an hour to drive the 15 miles as we had to stop at times to let other vehicles pass. At one stage Eddie tried to pass a wide bodied truck and it took several backwards and forwarding and holding of breaths to pass with a hairsbreadth between us.
We were all relieved to arrive at the hotel at Inversnaid and settle into our cosy rooms and enjoy a very welcome cup of tea.
Our coach driver was a Glaswegian named Eddie who kept us entertained and informed throughout the trip to Scotland. How I loved the feel of the coach wheels turning under my feet and watching the fields with their cattle and sheep flashing by. I love that movement of going forward, of going somewhere, a new adventure, to see what is around the next corner, who will I meet, and what will I experience? I must keep on going forward, forward, like Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘The Explorer’
Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated—so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges—
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”
What lies behind those mountains?
Sitting behind me were two women who never stopped talking the entire trip. I thought I was listening to teenage girls in a high school corridor gossiping about their friends instead of women in the sixties and seventies. It was next best to a soap opera.
Our first break was at Wetherby, Eddie said “You have all passed the first L&G bladder test!” After a three quarter hour break we headed off to the border.
The wheat was in the process of being harvested, with great bales of hay lying in the fields drying out for winter. We drove through light rain, the windscreen wipers squeaking as
they scraped the raindrops off the glass. We passed Leeming where on a previous trip we had stopped. I felt sorry for Eddie as he negotiated roadworks with a lot of heavy vehicles blocking the way, but he made good progress and we felt quite safe with him. We headed off on the road to Penrith and turned off at Richmond. This was a lovely drive across the Yorkshire dales, where white sheep dotted the green hillsides. I imagined that Bach could have been inspired by a scene such as this to write his Cantata “Sheep may Safely Graze.” Ponds settled in the hollows and fields of oats and barley were ready to be harvested. We passed Thorpe Farm with tree lined driveways and stone walls – sparse hedgerows bisected the hillsides. A shepherd was on his quad bike hustling the sheep, quite a far cry from the days of sheep dogs. We passed ruined cottages with greenery draped over the vacant panes, looking decidedly neglected.
The overcast skies with sagging grey bellied clouds ready to burst at any moment, accentuated the bleakness of the dales, as they became more sparsely treed. We then headed into the Lake District. Eddie stopped to fill up the tank with diesel, it cost £365.78 to fill the coach; he had to fill it twice for duration of the trip.
Eddie told us a bit about Scotland as we headed across the border. The Outer Hebrides (a Gallic word for a group of islands) are the furthest reaches of Scotland. Lewis is the largest and oldest landmass in this archipelago. The Romans called Scotland, Caledonia, Bretton or Britannia. The Pict tribes that lived there wore tattoos and spoke the Pictish language related to the Brittonic language of people living in the south both of which originated with the Celtish language. If the Roman scribes had not written these things down very little would be known about the early inhabitants of this region, they lived north of the rivers Clyde and Forth. Scotland was also known as Alba. The languages now spoken are Scots English, Polish, Urdu, Gallic, Welsh and Irish Gaelic, and on the west coast of Scotland and Edinburgh and Glasgow a Doric or Brettonic language is spoken.
BRIEF EARLY HISTORY
The Romans built the original border, Hadrian’s Wall, to try and keep the Picts out of England, they only spent forty six years in Scotland as they could not cope with the conditions or the Caledonians. They also built the Antonoine Wall between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde, It was started in AD142 and was built with turf and wood with a ditch on the northern side. It ran for 63 km across Scotland and was 5 m wide and 3m high. After only eight years the Romans retreated back to Hadrian’s wall.
In the 13th century, the famous warrior, Robert the Bruce, ( 1274-1329) was known as the head of this Kingdom and fought to maintain Scottish independence against English claims to the Scottish throne. He was crowned King of Scots in 1306 at Scone. He defeated Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314, a great milestone in Scottish history. The Scottish flag is the St Andrews white diagonal cross on a blue background, it is also known as the Saltire, and forms part of the Union Flag.
We arrived at Gretna Green, one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations. It became famous for its “runaway marriages”. In Scotland sixteen year olds were allowed to marry whereas in England the laws of the land required parental permission to marry under the age of twenty one. Marriages were officiated by the blacksmith over an anvil. Gretna Green was the first village over the Scottish border where the local blacksmith could perform the ceremony over his anvil. This is now a symbol of a Gretna Green wedding. Today it is a poplar venue for second and third marriages.
Watch out for next month’s post for the continuation of this story……..