Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Langwell Strath and Violin Player - Article X - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea, & Neighbourhood – Part A

Article X written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 15 January 1880 – Part A

Map Langwell House Inver B Berriedale 1932
The site of the Langwell castle near where Aucastle was. Inver is also shown. Postcard of Berriedale 1832. Langwell House is on the hill above.

GoogleEarth_Image Langwell Castle from the air Alan Moar
The site of the old castle is in front of the round circle on the green at Langwell House Langwell Castle site from the air by Alan Moar on

“I have referred to the Berriedale Strath in a previous paper. I propose in this to refer Langwell Strath beginning with the "Inver of Berriedale," situated on the western banks of the river, beginning at the old castle, and extending about a mile along the turnpike road, and bounded on the other side by the rocks and "traie-muralie." It consisted of six families, and one in Knoctor-an-rectan. There was a man of the name of John Sutherland in the "Inver" who could play the fiddle, or violin, the only person in the west end of the country who could discourse sweet music on that instrument. His services were in great request at marriages and other social gatherings. But John's fame as a musician extended beyond the boundaries of the Inver and Berriedale, as not unfrequently he had professional engagements in the west, as far as Ross-shire; and many a long and weary tramp John had in travelling to and from Ross-shire in those days when there was no means of conveyance but the mail coach, whose charges were beyond the reach of the purse of an itinerant musician, however well paid. But people were not so easily beat then. A hundred mile tramp did not put them much about. I was one of four who in the spring of '43' walked to Inverness on foot in search of employment, and travelled all the way back without thinking that we had done anything extra.”

Highland Wedding at Blair Atholl 1780 Sir David Wilkie - The Penny Wedding 1818
Highland Wedding at Blair Atholl 1780, by  David Allan The Penny Wedding 1818, by Sir David Wilkie

Unknown fiddler 1858 Travelling fiddler
Unknown Fiddler about 1858. Am Baile Facebook Travelling Fiddler
Am Baile Facebook

“There was a fine tract of land in the Inver. I have seen splendid crops on it after the people were turned out, as they too had to be scattered to the winds to make room for sheep. Aucastle stands on a height immediately behind the Inn, and midway between the two rivers. Here stood the big house occupied by the Laird. The "grieve" or land steward, also lived there. Many a heavy basket of haddocks have I carried to Mrs Grieve - whose husband was then land steward - a hearty, frank, homely person, who always packed my basket with "braxy," and sent me home with a heavier basket than I brought. There is a fine home farm there which in my day was well cultivated, and yielded splendid crops.”

Heather Ch1ElectricScotland Highland Foot Post McIan Series
Walking on moorland was often the only means of travel. Highland Foot-post by McIan

“Langwell stands about two miles up the Strath. There is a garden here, capable of raising fine fruit and vegetables. If properly attended to there would not be the equal to it in the country, as it lies in a fine sheltered situation, and has a splendid rich soil. I never saw potatoes grow to the same perfection as in Langwell. I remember well my first visit to Langwell, accompanied by my father, in the days of John Caucher, the gardener - a hearty, kind and good neighbour. After we did ample justice to the very best fruit that John could supply, he crammed my father's plaid neuk with his delicacies, to treat the remainder of the household when we reached home.”

My Comments:
  • The remains of old Langwell Castle are still there near the front of the Langwell House lawn. Horne built a farm house near there at some stage. Alexander Gunn seems to refer to this area as Aucastle. The main house was started in the early nineteenth century but has been altered and added to since. To give perspective, in the post card of Berriedale the war memorial can be seen centre left while the aerial picture shows the war memorial top centre.
  • The Berriedale Inn is not there any longer.
  • Braxy was meat from a sheep that had died from some cause often by getting stuck in snow or ice. It would not be eaten these days.
  • The violin or fiddle had been introduced to Scotland in the late 17 century. It was a popular instrument with both the rich and poor. Robert Burns had a violin and not only played it but also put words to fiddle music. In the eighteenth century a very skilled and popular violinist named Niel Gow played at many functions. He is recognisable in both the wedding pictures here. The Duke of Athol actually paid him 5 pounds per year to play for him. There is now a vast collection of dance music for violin much of which was published in Scotland from the mid 18th century.
15 1 1880 NE (Article X) part aa 15 1 1880 NE (Article X) part ba
1879, 17 July NE Original 1 copy B

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Desolate Land and Sutherland Reclamations - Article IX - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea and Neighbourhood – Part E

Article IX written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 25 December 1879 – Part E

“There was a meal mill at Millary. This beautiful strath, once inhabited by a happy and contented race, is now desolate and lonely as a desert. The monarch of the feathery tribe, if he still inhabits the solitude of Craignahuilerach, must travel a considerable distance from his craggy home ere he can procure the sweet morsel of tender lamb on which he used to feast at his very door, as the whole district is now under red deer. We hear much now-a-days about agricultural distress and unremunerative farming. Unfortunate farmers are recommended to seek a home and more remunerative farming in the boundless plains of Canada, or the fertile and genial plains of New Zealand, the "Britain of the South." I maintain, however, that there is no reason why our Scottish farmers should expatriate themselves, and leave home and friends to push their fortunes in a foreign land, so long as there are thousands of acres of the very best land lying waste in the straths and glens of Caithness and Sutherland, as well as other parts of Scotland - tracts of land yielding nothing, but rearing red deer and other game for the delight of the sportsman.”

The Emigrants B The Emigrants F
The Emigrants, Helmsdale

“This land could be brought into cultivation at a fraction of what his Grace the noble Duke of Sutherland is expending on the improvements at Lairg and Kinbrace. I am surprised to see the noble duke expending so much money on bleak, barren hill. Why should he not take his great steam-plough and set it to work on the fine straths and glens with which his estate abounds - get them under cultivation once more, and peopled with a thriving and industrious tenantry. After he has done this, let him have recourse to those heathery hills, and make himself a name, as an agriculturist, and as a patron and friend of the British farmer, worthy of the noble house of Sutherland.”

Steam plough Steam plough Duke of Sutherland
The Duke of Sutherland’s Steam Plough The Steam Plough

“No doubt many persons have succeeded in making their fortune in our colonies, but that is no reason why we should lock up the land in this country so as to drive our industrious population to seek a home in other countries - persons who, had the same encouragement at home, would be as prosperous and fortunate as the could be in any distant land.”

                            The Glendoe Eagle and Piper
The Glendoe Eagle and Piper

My Comments:

Alexander Gunn reminds me of the piper who plays the same bagpipes' lament over and over again –the desolate land, the lost opportunities, the loved ones who had to emigrate to Canada, New Zealand or Australia. Gunn may not have been so angry at the clearances of the land for sheep if sheep had in fact been farmed successfully and the poverty of so many good families had been relieved in some way. But that was not the case and Gunn saw previously productive land now lying waste with wealthy land owners turning sheep walks into game reserves to keep the money coming in. The impoverishment or emigration of the people was never ending.

On his estates the Duke of Sutherland was experimenting with developing land but his steam plough had it’s drawbacks and turned out to be not so effective after all. The stony ground required a huge amount of preparation and the engines were weighty and awkward to use requiring a lot of labour. Gunn had a point – maybe the Duke should use the steam plough on better land first, however the steam plough was incredibly expensive and labour intensive to run no matter where. On steep and stony land the old chas chrom was probably still the best implement but those who knew how to best use it were gone - cleared off the land and many out of Scotland altogether.

25 12 1879 NE (Article IX) part d copy C 25 12 1879 NE (Article IX) part d copy D

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Eagles and Salmon - Article IX - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea and Neighbourhood – Part D

Article IX written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 25 December 1879 – Part D

"The grounds of Berriedale reached up the Berriedale, or Millary Strath, about five miles, and bounded by Baymore grounds at a spot called Craignahuilerach, or the Eagle's Craig. Here the monarch of the feathery tribe could be seen perched on the highest craig, or soaring about in quest of his prey. Many a newly-dropped lamb he has picked up from its dam about Borgue, Ray, and neighbourhood. At other times he could be seen rising from the edge of a large deep pool, into which fell a nice little waterfall or cascade, which rushed furiously over the edge of the perpendicular rock above, and from which his majesty fished a fine salmon, for he appears to be as fond of a bit of salmon as he is of lamb."

040 038
A dead lamb dropped by an eagle on the lintel of the old homestead at Rumsdale. The orange rubber ring in the fireplace tells that the lamb was docked by the shepherd then taken by a predator to a safe place and devoured.

The eagles nest Golden Eagle
The eagles nest A golden eagle

"It is interesting to see the salmon leaping over this cascade. The fish bent itself like a bow, and sprang up out of the water, leaping up the face of the cascade. Sometimes he failed in reaching the top, and fell back again into the pool beneath, only to try and try again, till he succeeded in gaining the pool above. Seldom is this pool without a fish, but woe betide the man who dared to fish one. He might as well be discovered stealing sheep. He would not be banished the country for taking the fish, as he might be for stealing the sheep, but he would be banished the estate and all his friends with him, if he had any, least they should be affected with the same disease."

Female salmon part eaten by otter Roy Turnbull Jumping salmon at Murray's Cauld, Philiphaugh
Female salmon part eaten by otter. Note the eggs on the ground above her tail Salmon jumping at Murray's Cauld, Philiphaugh.

25 12 1879 NE (Article IX) part c copy 25 12 1879 NE (Article IX) part d copy A 25 12 1879 NE (Article IX) part d copy B

1879, 17 July NE Original 1 copy B

My Comments:

The Golden Eagle population is now monitored carefully as it has suffered decline in recent years.

Salmon fishing is still a very regulated sport with high fees to be paid for fishing beats and often long waiting lists on estates to 'buy' a beat.