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the matter in their own hands this spring there were two, and
to tempt, one would a reason, that the grouse of these think, none but the veriest duffer. counties, like those of the western
The peewit is almost unknown islands, never become so wild as in Caithness during the winter those farther south. It is not that months, though the golden plover they have less reason to fear the abounds at that season, and is a approach of man, for the wide harbinger of spring almost as un- moors are shot just as diligently erring as the swallow.
and regularly as those elsewhere; quite an event when, owing to nor is it owing to the character of the exceeding mildness of last the ground, which differs little winter, flights of lapwing began apparently from southern moorto arrive in February.
land. The far-stretching wastes When Charles St John pub- of undulating moor seem to prolished his charming "Tour in vide a perfect theatre for the pracSutherland' in 1849, he was able tice of driving, but it has never to record the finding, and—what proved a success, because the birds had better not have been the refuse to be driven,—they never robbing, of several eyries of osprey. become wild enough. This is all Now the whole county might be the more remarkable because the searched in vain for one, though partridges on the arable lands of no doubt passing birds may be Caithness, though not so nervous as seen at times on the coast or fish- those of Norfolk and Lincoln, take ing in one of the innumerable quite as much care of themselves lochs. In the whole British Isles in winter as those of Galloway or there are only two places known the Lothians. If the progress of where the osprey rears its young. education ultimately teaches these It is not likely that I am going northern grouse to take timely to betray these; but I have this flight before the line of flags, the piece of good news for those who stock will probably show the same delight in our nobler fauna, that proportionate increase as has folat one of these stations, where lowed on the institution of driving there has been a single eyrie each elsewhere-at Moy, in Inverness
— year for more than a generation, shire, for instance, and on the
1 The Fowler in Ireland.'
If that come annexed to the new-born kingdom to pass, the returns from Caith- of Scotia. Dazzled by the intreness ought to be prodigious, for pidity of the outlaw Wallace and there are few counties which pos- the masterly enterprise of the Norsess such unbroken stretches of man knight Robert de Brus, people good heather.
are apt to forget how slender and These, and others of like nature, recent was the tie which held towere the problems and objects gether the kingdom which, between which kept busy our wits, note- them, they rendered independent. books, and field-glasses during the The realm which the award of water famine; but if watching Edward I. assigned to John de beast and bird were not enough Balliol included Orkney and Caithto relieve his tedium withal, the ness indeed, but they had been so salmon-fisher might turn his at- included for less than a century tention to the trout, with which previous. Therefore, while the every loch and stream abounds. people of these counties are among Of these he may catch as many as
the most loyal subjects of Queen he cares for, but in one important Victoria, and as proud as any of respect they are disappointing so their standing as Scotsmen, they early in the season. Caithness do well not to forget that their trout are very backward in coming forefathers were lieges of Thorfinn into condition-far behind those of the Skull-cleaver and Earl Harold. the waters of Sutherland in this Somehow the infusion of Scanrespect. Very few, indeed, are dinavian blood into the native so well made up as to give the population seems to have had less fastidious sportsman much gratifi- effect in dulling the mercurial cation in contemplating them when temperament of the Gael than the landed. But their numbers seem heavy Anglo-Saxon has done in inexhaustible; their size is far other parts of Scotland. One from despicable—fish of a pound meets with flashes of occasional weight being far from uncommon; humour recalling the divine gift and the only detriment to the of repartie enjoyed by the Irish. sport they afford later on, in the “Oh, go to hell, will you !” exsummer months, consists in their claimed an angry sportsman to his exceeding boldness and the small gillie, who had made some proexertion of skill necessary for their voking blunder. "Certainly, sir,” capture.
was the reply, “and when would The idler in this country will you be wishing me to start ?” do well to let his thoughts wander It was in 1197 that Caithness in the records of the past. Not was first reduced to full subjection the least interesting associations to the Scottish Crown. In that of Caithness are those of the year William the Lion invaded ancient Norse dominion, of which Moray, and after vanquishing many signs may still be traced in Roderic and Thorfinn (not the the ruins, whether of masonry or Skull-cleaver this, but a son of of language, with which the dig- Earl Harold), advanced to Thurso, trict abounds. It would be strange, where he destroyed the castle and indeed, had they all disappeared, sent Harold a prisoner to Roxfor it is only seven centuries-next burgh. year will be precisely the seven- Such a checkered history—the hundredth anniversary-since the contest of people of different races earldom of Caithness was forcibly for a land always leaves an indel
ible record in the place-names. In to learn Gaelic, have substituted Orkney, indeed, the ancient Pictish a name in the English language nomenclature was completely obli- (which they speak with remarkterated during the four or five able purity), and then invented a centuries of Norse dominion; nor story to account for it. Thus at did the Gaelic language ever cross Dirlot, about fourteen miles above the sea again to these islands ; so the sea, the Thurso runs through that it has come to pass that not a series of deep gorges, cut in the a single Gaelic name appears in table-land of Strathmore. It is a the topography of those islands, scene of ineffable melancholy: you saving only the first syllable of cannot see the river till you are Orkney itself, which is supposed close upon it, only a wide brown to be the Gaelic orc, a whale- moor, with
moor, with a little graveyard the whale islands. But in Suther- perched on the windiest ridge, land and Caithness it has hap- enclosed in a high wall. No pened differently; Gaelic, Norse, church, nor the ruin of one,-just and Anglian names are spread all the dead-yard, with one tall, lean over the map. Sometimes the object showing above the enclosing Norse original has not even a veil wall. As you get nearer you find of disguise, as in Loch Watten, that this object is a human effigy, the largest lake of Caithness; of the figure of a young girl carved which the meaning is the some- with considerable vigour and feelwhat childish one of Lake Lake- ing in red sandstone.
It is a vatn being the common Norse monument to the daughter of one equivalent to “lake" at this day. in the neighbourhood, and the At other times the Scandinavian handiwork of a local, self-taught name has received a gloss sug- artist, who, under more propitious gested by local characteristics.
characteristics. auspices, would surely have made Cape Wrath is a very appropriate himself a name.
This lone figure, designation on the lips of English- standing thus high over everymen for the northernmost point of thing near, midway between the Sutherland, for nowhere round the stupendous cliffs of Hoy in Orkwhole ragged coast of Scotland do ney to the north and the boding the winds roar more constantly or cone of Morven in the south, imthe surges chafe with greater fury. presses the imagination as many But the Vikings laughed at the more elaborate and costly mestorm,-if the sea ran too high, morials fail to do. they could pull ashore their black Having paused, as you are sure kyuls in any sheltered creek and to do, before this tomb, and taken wait for fine weather; so they in the spirit of the place, you named the cape Hvarf, the turn- walk round the outside of the ing-point, for it was there they graveyard and find that it is pushed their helms a-starboard, to perched on the precipitous verge run down to their possessions in of the gorge. Below you, if it is the Sudrey, the southern islands- winter, Thurso thunders, lashed Hebrides, as we now call them.1 into tawny foam; if it is summer,
Not seldom it has happened as now, it steals with the voice of that the people of Caithness, a harmless brook from one pool having forgotten their Norse
Norse to another, deep, dark, impenespeech, and not taken the trouble trable to the eye. An isolated cliff
1 The name Sudrey is still retained in an English bishopric-Sodor and Man.
rises athwart the stream and because of its boiling, swirling thrusts it at right angles to its eddies. The presence, therefore, former course. At the base of the of the kettle in the story is cliff is a pool-deepest, darkest, easily accounted for, though the least penetrable of all: on its natives have preferred to explain summit stands the ruined tower it in a less matter-of-fact way, and of Dirlot, the stronghold once of the convenient but homely utensil some petty Norse tyrant, passing has been suppressed in favour of afterwards into possession of the the romantic but inconvenient Mackays.
personage above-named. It is a scene of intense savagery :
Kettles, by the by, must have you can imagine the traces of remained at a premium in this disalmost any
imaginable crime trict as late as the seventeenth having been committed to the century,—not articles to be lightly profundity of that sombre pool, flung into rivers, if we are to beand you, being Saisneach, are not lieve Richard Franck, who trathe least surprised to hear that it velled through this country about is called the Devil's Hole. Then the
year 1650. you will be told an elaborate story to account for the name; and there
From Dornoch,” he writes in his is no harm in that, provided you
we travel into
Caithness, and the country of Stradon't believe it. I forget the
navar ; where a rude sort of inhabidetails, but it is something about tants dwell (almost as barbarous as a wicked lord of Dirlot named Canibals), who when they kill a beast, Sutherland, who robbed a church boil him in his hide, make a caldron (nothing more likely); on the of his skin, browis of his bowels, drink neighbours assembling to besiege his carcase ; since few or none amongst
of his blood, and bread and meat of him in his tower, and seeming
them hitherto have as yet understood about to prevail (which, having any better rules or methods of eating.” regard to the situation, is not so likely, unless they starved him Sir Walter Scott, who re-edited out), this evil man thrust his ill- this entertaining work in 1821, regotten valuables into a kettle or marked in a note on this passage, cauldron, and flung it into the that apparently the people of pool. Just as it touched the sur- Strathnaver retained to this late face, a hand and arm emerged period the rude cookery once profrom the water and received it, per to all Scotland. When Ransaid hand and arm belonging- dolph Moray and the gentle Doug. . as cannot be denied is what might las gave Edward III. the slip at be expected-to old Hokey. Yet, Stanhope Park in Weardale in
in spite of the inherent credibility 1326, their troops left nothing beof this tale, and the impossibility, hind them but three hundred caulin the absence of documentary drons made of raw hides. On evidence, of disproving it, did Í which Froissart comments as fol
I not well, in view of the following lows: "They have no occasion fact, to warn you against believing for pots or pans, for they dress the it? The old Gaelic name for flesh of the cattle in the skins, the pool, still preserved on the after they have flayed them off.” Ordnance Map, is pol a' choire- In which practice the curious that is, the kettle or cauldron reader may discern the true origin pool, named, as so many similar of the Scottish haggis. pools have been in the Highlands, When Richard Franck dabbles in ornithology he puts a greater and as all things have periods, and in strain on our confidence in him. time drop off, so does the barnicle by
a natural progress separate it self from “More north in an angle of Caith
the member it's conjoined to. But ness lives John a Groat, upon an isth- further, to explicate the method and mus of land that faceth the pleasant manner of this wooden goose more Isles of Orkney; where the inhabit- plainly: The first appearing parts ants are blessed with the plenty of
are her rump and legs ; next to them, grass and grain, besides fish, tiesh, her callous and unploom'd body; and and fowl in abundance. Now that last of all her beak." barnicles (which are a certain sort of wooden geese) breed hereabouts, it's And so on. Ah, well! we smile past dispute, and that they fall off at old Franck, his turgid periods from the limbs and members of the and deliciously inconsequent syllofir-tree is questionless ; and those so gisms; but some of us retain a fortunate to espouse the ocean (or any privy hankering after the arbitrary other river or humitactive soil) by and marvellous, such, for example, virtue of solar heat are destinated to live ; but to all others so unfortunate
as that the phases of the moon to fall upon dry land, are denied their affect the weather, or that comnativity.
munications from departed spirits
are conveyed by rappings on Theophilus, Franck's companion, modern upholstery. usually eager to accept any state- But if the character of the ment that his Mentor may choose nameless lord of Dirlot is unblemto impose upon him, boggles a ished by the legend of the Devil's little over this startling explana- Pool, there are ugly stains on the tion. “Can you credit your own history of this land not so easily report ?” he ventures to say, “or effaced. The Sinclairs, Earls of do you impose these hyperboles Caithness, were unruly subjects of ironically upon the world, de- the Stuarts; but they were so signedly to make Scotland appear powerful and so far distant that a kingdom of prodigies ?”
they generally got off cheap. Thus “No, certainly,” replies the un
on December 23,1556, George, Earl blushing Franck; “and that there is of Caithness, obtained a remission such a fowl, I suppose none doubts from Queen Mary for it; but if any do, let him resort to Cambden, Speed, or Gerhard's herbal. “the cruel Slaughter and Murder of
So that few ingenious and intel- Henry Leslye and his son, a youth, ligible travellers doubt a truth in this and other six persons, who were in a matter; and the rather, because if certain boat loaded with victual, opsedulously examined, it discovers a posite the place of Girnego ; also for want of faith to doubt what's con- the cruel Slaughter of Hugh Neilfirmed by such credible authority, soune in Strathvlze [Helmsdale] .. But if eyesight be evidence against by way of Hamesuckin, in his own contradiction, and the sense of feel- house. .. Item, for treasonable ing argument good enough to refute usurpation of the Queen's authority, by fiction, then let me bring these two taking David Sinclare his [the earl's] convincing arguments to maintain my brother and incarcerating him for a assertion ; for I have held a barnicle long space. Item, for the cruel in my own hand, when as yet unfledg’d, Slaughter of William Auld in Scarmand hanging by the beak, which as I clet, committed on suddenty")_ then supposed of the fir-tree : for it grew from thence, as an excrescence besides a variety of other crimes grows on the members of an animal; of less magnitude, including vio
1 Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, vol. i. part i. p. 394.