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

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