Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Boys and Guns


Boys will be Boys


Boys the world over have a common denominator - a sense of adventure and inventive imaginations. Whilst the youth of Badbea did not have the scope of those in the populous areas, they did not lack in spirit or adventure.


The rocks swarmed with thousands of sea-fowl in the summer. We could climb the rocks like squirrels. Often do I wonder how so few accidents happened to us. 

Game laws


The game laws were very strictly enforced upon us. Offenders were first subjected to the usual course of law, and if householders, they were driven off the estate at the next term. If not householders but living with their parents, the parents were visited with the sins of the children, turned out of their house and land, and no rest found for the soles of their feet on the estate. My parents were very much against the use of a gun by any of us, lest, in an unguarded moment, we might be tempted to break the law, game being then very plentiful.

Straw in a barn at Laidhay

Lucky Escape


On one occasion we had concealed a gun under some straw in the barn where a younger member of the family found it. He was not the length of being able to use a gun, and not knowing it was loaded, he held it over the lower half of the door and pulled the trigger. The gun went off about the ears of several onlooker children. Luckily all escaped unhurt, but a couple of hens fell victim to the rashness of this child.

Old Rusty Gun Barrel


Our firearms were of a very primitive sort. An old rusty gun barrel that no rational being would pick up from the refuse heap would put us into ecstasies, and in a very short time we would have it cleaned and mounted in a stock of our own handicraft, ready for sport.
We sometimes risked a shot at a hare on the sly. 



Red Davies and the Stuffed Hare


There was a youth of the name David Bruce, 'Red Davies' as he was called in the place. He was a few years our senior, and, we thought, did not treat us with due respect at all times. He was very fond of the gun and thought himself better than any of us. One day we snared a hare, stuffed the skin with grass and laid it down very near to a hare's natural position amongst the heather. A messenger was dispatched to Davie telling him there was a hare on the face of the brae. Davie came in all haste with his gun loaded, and came with the messenger to where we were pretending to watch the movements of the hare. Davie crept along the ground for some distance, took aim, and fired, after which we took to our heels. Davie ran forward and lifted what he supposed was a dead hare, when, lo and behold, it was only a stuffed hare skin! We took good care that he did not forget the exploit for many a long day.



Source: Alan Roydhouse unpublished 1977. This article was published by Alexander Gunn but the Northern Ensign original is missing. Alan Roydhouse had access to many of Gunn’s articles while he was resident in Helmsdale in the nineteen seventies.




Thursday, August 17, 2017

Escaped prisoner, Braemore, Dunbeath. Rambling Recollections of My Schools and School Days

Article XXVII written by Alexander Gunn was published in the Northern Ensign on 8 February 1883 – Part B

Farm buildings at Braemore 

"Braemore, that quiet and rural township, so secluded and embedded among the hills, was about this time the centre of attraction. An aggravated act of theft had been perpetrated, and caused considerable surprise and commotion among the inhabitants. Placed at a distance of five or six miles from their nearest neighbours and brought up in a state of simplicity and innocence, crime of all kinds was all but unknown."

"The ‘black bothy’ was a well know institution, no doubt, but that was considered but a venial sin, and vice of any kind was very rare. Besides the people were very comfortable, and want was unknown among them, so that there was no excuse for anyone to commit a breach of the eighth commandment. The party guilty of this found crime was the head of a family and had also a bit of a farm. He was apprehended, and tried before the High Court of Justiciary in Inverness where he was sentenced to a term of penal servitude."




"On the return journey to Wick – the mode of conveyance being a spring cart – and while passing Forse, the prisoner asked permission to get down from the machine for a second or two, which wish was complied with. The prisoner, thereupon, leaped over a dyke which ran along the roadside, having the handcuffs on all the while. The officers in charge stood still with the machine, waiting for the return of their prisoner, but after waiting for some time they considered he was rather long in making his appearance, and on looking over the dyke, to their dismay there was no man there. Their prisoner had made his escape. The disappointed officers scoured the country in all directions, but no tidings of the runaway could be found." 



"Latterly it was mooted that he had returned to his home and family. The criminal authorities made a raid on the dwelling at midnight, but the prisoner managed to escape from among their fingers, and the police had to return empty-handed. Several attempts were made from time to time to get hold of him, but he always managed to make good his escape. Latterly he took up his abode in a subterranean cave in Ben Nagoviag, half way between Braemore and Berriedale, making occasional stealthy visit to his wife and family, and he was frequently seen by the neighbours. The police did not care to attack him in his mountain fastness, as it was alleged that he was well armed, and the entrance to his mountain home being very narrow and contracted, that he would be in a position to defy anyone who should attempt to intrude. He managed to keep out of the reach of the authorities till the time of his sentence (five years) had expired, after which he returned to his family but shortly afterwards left the place."

A NATIVE OF BADBEA
(To be Continued)


My Comments


An interesting story. I have not found any records of this incident from the Court at Inverness nor in any newspaper archives.

Without a record it is impossible to know what the crime was but I did find a report of a cattle theft deal that happened between an unnamed Braemore local and some drovers. I suppose a similar incident would be a possibility and it would carry the likelihood of a sentence of penal servitude – five years imprisonment with hard labour.

The spring cart with the prisoner and officers was heading for Wick. Wick has had a jail for centuries. The first town hall and Burgh jail were erected in 1750 in Tolbooth lane. That building was superseded by another town hall and prison in1828. Apparently a row of old stairs from the prison below Bridge Street was somehow connected to a spiral staircase that led to the courthouse. 

The escaped prisoner who eventually took up residence in a cave was probably a lot more comfortable there than living in a prison cell underneath the court house. Considering the vigilance with which the police usually hunted down ‘black bothies’ (illicit whisky distilleries) and jailed the owners it seems that they were not that determined to find this particular offender.

Scaraben near Braemore is a long ridge with three tops. This view looks up the rough terrain that forms the northern slopes of Scaraben's western top. There are probably good places to hide in the hills here.
Braemore has been a place of habitation and residence for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Standing Stone, Braemore, looking toward Maiden Pap and Morven 

The place Alexander Gunn refers to as Ben Nagoviag I wonder if it is an alternative spelling for Bienn Nan Coireag a hilly area between Braemore and Berriedale. If I am correct there is a Trig station there.


Prisoner’s Leap


The Braemore prisoner was not the first prisoner in this district to leap to freedom. In the Dunbeath Strath near to Braemore is a gorge known as the Prisoner's Leap. The rock on the north side is 100 feet high and on the south side 70 feet high. The distance between is 35 feet. The tradition is that in the sixteenth century a powerfully strong man from Braemore, Ian McMormack Gunn was imprisoned in Forse Castle by his enemies, the Keiths. Fear of retribution from other clans prevented the revered McCormack being hanged.  Instead, the Keiths set him an impossible task, sure to end in his death, saying they would let him go if he jumped the gorge. Of course the strong man confounded all and jumped the gorge. Various versions of the story have the gorge being wider and higher at the time of the feat while others suggest the opposite must be nearer the truth.
Source: Tales from Braemore, Robert Gunn




Monday, August 7, 2017

Gold Hoard Houstry, Dunbeath. Rambling Recollections of My Schools and School Days

Article XXVII written by Alexander Gunn was published in the Northern Ensign on 8 February 1883 – Part A

Gold at Houstry, Dunbeath


“We have heard of gold discoveries in Kildonan, and in the Berriedale River, but there is not a word said about the discovery of the precious metal that was made at Dunbeath a number of years ago, yet true it is, and no mistake, gold has been found in Dunbeath. In Houstry of which we have been speaking in the past articles, gold was found, not as on the Kildonan and Berriedale in small particles which require much skill and labour to perceive, but in bars and wedges.”



“Somewhere about thirty years ago, a crofter in Houstry, in preparing his ground for the seed in the spring time, turned up some yellow metal, in the form of bars, wedges and rings of a large size. It looked very pare and yellow, not having suffered from rust, or being tarnished in the least, from having been embedded in the soil. 

The man examined it very minutely, and came to the conclusion that the metal was copper. He told his neighbours about it, and showed them what he had found, and also expressed his opinion as to what metal it was. His neighbours seemed to agree with him as to its being copper; one of them a shoe maker, got a few of the bars, and by means of a cold chisel cut the most of it into ‘sparables,’ which he used in the heels of women’s boots, under the impression all the time that it was copper that he was using. Others of the neighbours got some of the rings, in shape and size like dog’s collars, all the while in the belief that they were copper rings or collars. 

After a week or two had elapsed, by some means or other the original finder came to the knowledge that what he had considered all along to be copper was nothing less than pure gold. His first thought was to get possession of the bars and collars he so freely gave to his neighbours, and keep the secret of its real quality to himself. He succeeded in some cases in regaining possession of part of the stuff, but so true it is that ‘murder will out,’ that by some means or other it came to be known what the real quality of those bars and collars were, and those who had not returned them to the finder refused to give them up; the pretence they made was that they considered them so valueless that they threw them aside and they were now lost.”

“The original finder, however got a considerable portion of his lucky find into his possession, and he was determined that no one would deprive him of them. The authorities in Wick heard of the find and the nature of the metal, and they set inquiries on foot with a view of getting possession of them as treasure trove, but the story that the man’s neighbours concocted in answer to his inquiries, he found suitable for his own case, and the authorities did not succeed in getting possession of a single ounce. 

By and by the poor man paid a flying visit to Edinburgh, on pretence that he was visiting friends, while in reality he was disposing of his gold and rings to some of the Edinburgh jewellers. It was reported that he got a couple of hundred pounds as the proceeds of his unexpected find, but he was old fashioned enough not to tell anybody what he got, and by and by the story about the gold bars, wedges and rings was forgotten and the poor man was allowed to reap the fruits of his good luck in peace. No doubt he searched and scanned the place where the treasure was found with great interest and care ever after this, but whether his searches were rewarded with success or not he kept to himself. How these pieces of gold came to be there was a mystery that could never be solved. The same bit of ground had been under cultivation for a long time previous to this, and there never was the least trace of anything of this kind see in it; and how or when it came to be there was a profound mystery.” 

My Comments:

Hoards

There have been a number of ‘Hoard’ finds in Scotland over the years, some very recently.

Derek McLennan with a Minelab Metal Detector
         & holding ingots and arm-rings discovered in Galloway

  • The Galloway Hoard, also known as the Dumfriesshire Hoard is a hoard of more than 100 gold and silver objects from the Viking age discovered in 2014 by a metal detector enthusiast.
  • The Dairsie Hoard of late 3rd century Roman hacksilver was found in 2014 by a teenage boy at a metal detecting rally. The hoard comprises over 300 pieces of silver, including fragments of at least four vessels.

  • The Migdale Hoard is a collection of early Bronze Age jewellery discovered by workman at a granite knoll behind Bonar Bridge in 1900. They include a bronze axe head, sets of bronze bangles and anklets and some carved jet and cannel coat buttons.

The Treasure Trove Unit

In Scotland any ownerless objects found by chance or through activities such as metal detecting, field walking, or archaeological excavation become the property of the Crown and therefore may be claimed as treasure trove. The role of the Treasure Trove Unit is to ensure that objects of cultural significance from Scotland’s past are protected for the benefit of the nation and preserved in museums across the country.


The Blacksmith's Hoard

One possible older hoard which was relevant to the inhabitants of Badbea was that said to be associated with the Horne family. In Memorabilia Domestica of 1889 Donald Sage comments “Langwell was purchased by Sir John Sinclair and when he too got unhappily involved, was by him forfeited, at a valuation of £40,000, to one Horne, the son of a blacksmith at Scouthel in Caithness, but who had prospered as a lawyer in Edinburgh.

On 20 May 1977 an article was published in the John O Groat Journal connecting James Horne, the new Laird of Langwell, with the possibility of a hoard.

“There is some mystery surrounding this gentleman James Horne.  He was born at Scouthel, Caithness, the son of a local blacksmith.  A part of the mystery lies in the rise of a blacksmith’s son to the prominence of an Edinburgh notary, and his subsequent possession of the Langwell estate in 1813 for the reported figure of £42000.”

“Caithness conjectural lore has it that somewhere about 1750 Horne the Blacksmith, while ploughing on land near Scouthel, turned up treasure trove in the form of massive gold artifacts.  Caithness was at the time host to many forgers and coiners.  The lucky find of Horne’s was soon converted into gold coin of the day and thus, James Horne was enabled to enter the Edinburgh legal profession for the initial training, and subsequently obtained substantial estate retainers…one of which was that of Sir John Sinclair.

Series


Unfortunately there are a number of articles in this series by Alexander Gunn that are missing. The previous article was XVII – 17 Nov 1881, and this one XXVII - 8 Feb 1883, so ten articles over a year are missing. It is possible that they may have survived in the records at the Wick Library but the librarian has not located them and I am not able to go and search again right now.  




Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Whole Contents of the Paper. Rambling Recollections of My Schools and School Days.

Article XVII written by Alexander Gunn was published in the Northern Ensign on 17 Nov 1881 – Part D
A Badbea lintel and fireside. This may have been the house of David Sutherland

“News travelled very slowly in those days, and was but very imperfect often when it did come to hand. There was not much startling news came our length, and I must say that a newspaper was not the most welcome visitor to us. If my father got hold of a paper, our good neighbour, David Sutherland, got word of it, and whatever business might be on hand, and however important or pressing, it got leave to stand, and David came to our fireside, when the whole contents of the paper were gone into, and every word read, and read aloud, with the greatest interest. If David got a paper he acted in like manner. We could not imagine how the old folks felt such an interest in reading the papers. As for us, it was the greatest punishment that could be inflicted upon us, as we dare not move from our seats, or speak a word louder than a whisper. Should we forget ourselves, and speak a loud word, we did not miss our punishment. We could sit a live long winter night and listen to stories about fairies and ghosts till our hair would stand on end like a porcupine’s quills with fair fright, and not a single word out of our head, but we had no taste for politics, or general news, and we could not conceive how anybody else could have cravings that way.”
John O Groat Journal 1845

“A brutal murder was committed at Wick about this time. How the intelligence reached our length I cannot say. Such horrible affairs were not so common in those days as, alas, they are now. Years might pass without a single case occurring in Scotland, or England. There were, however, a few cases of murder in dear Ould Ireland even in those quiet time, even before the shooting of landlords had found a place among the sports in the Irish calendar, and a man in our neighbourhood declared his partiality for Irish newspapers, because, he said, there were murders and outrages reported in them pretty often.”


A NATIVE OF BADBEA.
(To be continued.)



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Newspapers and Postage. Rambling Recollections of My Schools and School Days

Article XVII written by Alexander Gunn was published in the Northern Ensign on 17 Nov 1881 – Part C



Newspapers


"I referred to the library in connection with the school, as the only literature we had within our reach. Newspapers in those days were a rarity in the far north. The John O’Groat Journal and the Northern Star, if I remember right came into existence about the time I allude to, the one published in Wick where it still flourishes, the other, I think, in Thurso. They were both diminutive sheets, perhaps about 12 inches by 10, so far as I can recollect. Then the Northern Ensign came into life, and I need not say still flourishes prosperously. The price of these papers at the time was 3d, I think, and I believe the postage for one of them would cost as much as the price of the paper."


Postage


"There was no penny post at that time, and the rate of the postage was very high. A letter from Helmsdale to Berriedale, or Badbea, which was only one stage, cost 4 1/2d. A letter from Edinburgh was 1s 1d, and letters to Canada cost 2s 6d. There was this advantage, if advantage it could be called, there was no rule as to prepayment, and no difference in the rate whether prepaid or not."

My Comments:


As Alexander Gunn tells us, in the1830s postal rates in Great Britain were very high. At the time it was usual for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet and distance travelled. In 1837 Sir Rowland Hill proposed an overhaul of the postage system using a glued stamp to show pre-payment of postage. It was first issued on 1 May 1840 and featured a picture of Queen Victoria. The ‘Penny Black’ allowed letters of up to ½ ounce to be delivered at the rate of one penny regardless of distance.




The Grey Hen’s Well was the place Badbea letters were collected and posted from. I doubt most of the Badbea residents could afford to post letters but John Badbea Sutherland received some financial gifts from Christians he corresponded with and over several decades he both wrote and received many letters. The earliest I have a transcription of is 12 July 1838.


See my blogs on August 18 2014 and July 15 2015 for more on the postal services and John’s letters.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Boy’s Quarrels - Rambling Recollections of My School and School Days

Article XVII written by Alexander Gunn was published in the Northern Ensign on 17 November 1881 – Part B

The route along the coast from Badbea to Berriedale. The school was just below the Berriedale cemetery

Frequent Rows


"There were frequent little “rows” between us boys on our way to school. The long road we had to travel (four miles), tended a little in that direction, and these squabbles sometimes ended up in a stand-up fight. One of our Badbea boys was constantly on my top, and many a sound thrashing he gave me; but while I well knew that it would end in my defeat, I never shrank from facing him, nor showed the white feather." 

A white feather on stinging nettle. A white feather was a traditional symbol of cowardice. 

Victor


"This state of matters went on for years, but one day as we were returning from school, he again picked a quarrel with me. We were just at the top of the Berriedale brae, and we turned down off the road to a bit of short smooth heather, and went at it full tilt, when, to my great delight and his evident surprise, I came off victor. This settled matters for some time, but, as of determined not to be beat, he picked a quarrel with me once more. This time I came off victor with greater ease than the first time. After this we were the best of friends, and quarrelled and fought no more."

Boys Quarrels


"While we fought amongst ourselves pretty frequently, as boys will do, we always made up matters among ourselves, and neither parents nor master knew anything about our differences. So much was this the case, that we were referred to by the master as the best behaved boys under his charge, and less complained of by the public on our way to and from school than the others. We took a pride in this and sought in every way we could to keep up our good name. Our quarrels were but boys’ quarrels, and when they were ended, we were as if they had never occurred."

Gunn tells us elsewhere that the boys wore kilts to school in Auchencraig but they may have worn homespun clothes to Berriedale school like these boys from St Kilda.

My Comments:


According to Wikipedia a white feather has been a traditional symbol of cowardice, used and recognised especially in the British Army since the 18th century. It was used by some patriotic groups in order to shame men who were not soldiers. The white feather supposedly comes from cockfighting and the belief that a cockerel sporting a white feather in its tail is likely to be a poor fighter. 


I am not going to try to figure out what was going on in these fights. Looks like a case of bullying which would be hard to condone. But Alexander Gunn was charitable enough many years later to almost shrug off the beatings he received at the hand of a bigger boy especially as Gunn was the victor in the end. Gunn suggests it was boys being boys. 

It certainly doesn’t seem as though the classroom and home teachings of the Bible and the Shorter Catechism with their emphasis on “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” did much to curtail the fights the boys had. Anyway the very real business of being soldiers and fighting for the crown was part of the fabric of their lives. Alexander’s grandfather was press-ganged and forced to enlist and his father was in the Aberdeenshire Militia at the time of his marriage to Marion. Alexander Gunn went on to become a policeman enforcing law and order. 


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Maggie Dow - Part A - Rambling Recollections of My School and School Days

Article XVII written by Alexander Gunn was published in the Northern Ensign on 17 November 1881 – Part A

Berriedale School


The school at Berriedale was a mixed school. Gentle and simple meet on a common footing. It was the only school between the Ord and Latheron. The young ladies from Achastle, the daughters of Mr Grieve, the overseer and factor for the estate, stood side by side with the daughters of Peter MacGungle, an Irishman who lived down at the shore, and the only Irishman, I suppose, in the county at the time. There was no respect of persons. All shared the same treatment at the hands of the teacher, and at the hands of our fellow-scholars. We all engaged in the same games, where each strove to outdo his neighbour.

The teachers and pupils of Scoraig School, 1897 Am Baile Facebook


We had a yearly Presbyterial examination of the school, when all did their best so as to carry away a prize, which consisted principally of Bibles or Testaments, and I believe the prizes were given more to please the parents than according to merit. There were not prizes enough for one to be given to each scholar, but they were equally divided, and those omitted one year go them the next, and that seemed to please everybody. There was one exception to this rule, in the case of a girl named Maggie Dow, daughter of John Dow of the Inn. She generally carried away a prize every year. She was possessed of a wonderfully retentive memory, and could repeat the Psalms from beginning to end without a single slip or mistake, and also could repeat any verse of any particular Psalm you wished. As might be expected she excelled in mental arithmetic.

Source: Land of Heather

My Comments:


While the three Rs were the core part of the curriculum, one of the main goals of Scottish schools at the time was on pupils being able to read the Bible and the Shorter Catechism. Prior to the Disruption in 1843 most schools were paid for by the Church of Scotland and were open to boys and girls regardless of social status. As we have seen in previous blogs, children educated in a Scottish school could get to University although I think the higher education opportunities applied more to young men than young women.

I can’t find a birth record for Maggie Dow but there are records for seven children of Mr John Dow the Innkeeper at Berriedale and his wife Margaret Munro, including one Maryanne born in 1822 (so a contemporary of Alexander Gunn). This may be the clever girl he refers to as Maggie. 


Roydhouse makes the following comments from his research of other letters of Alexander Gunn.


Of the school at Berriedale, surviving letters of early contemporary scholars describe both the building and the dominies of the period 1830 and forward to about 1850.

The building which was designated the 'School' (at Berriedale), must, I am inclined to think, have been intended for a crofter's dwelling. The school room was a small room with a couple of small windows facing to the south, and the one doorway at the eastern end. Adjoining the schoolroom were two rooms and a 'closet', the abode of the dominie. 

Small window at the Laidhay croft museum

The school furniture was of the most primitive description. There were three, or perhaps four, homemade, clumsy desks, each about eight feet long and three feet high, the desk top being steeply sloped. There were no fixings to the earth floor and be-times desks would fall over or get moved just as you were attempting to make a beautiful hair stroke (as we called them) in our copybook.'

'There was a single fireplace in the extreme end of the room, and in cold weather two or three pupils were permitted to warm themselves at the peat fire.



There was an old door key hanging on a nail at the window nearest the doorway. Where it came from I cannot tell. Anyone who asked to leave the room had to take the key with them and place it back on the nail when they returned. The idea of the 'key' business was instituted by one of the teachers who discovered that it was becoming a practice among pupils to ask out one after the other and thus enjoy themselves for a little time together and thereby slip uncongenial tasks. When the key was not on the nail by the window anyone asking liberty to leave the school had to wait until it was replaced.'

The schoolroom was perhaps a matter of twenty by twelve feet and was crowded by fifty or so scholars, and about 1845 the schoolroom was extended which gave more comfort - additional windows were provided and another fireplace added in the extension. The management of the school was lately in the hands of the parents of the scholars and the teacher.


The little school on the barren hillside at Berriedale saw the roll of fifty or so scholars augmented in the winter by some of the older lads - they attended school to be 'finished off' as it were; during the summer they were engaged in all kinds of work to augment the 'smaller livings' at home. Although advanced in years compared with the regular pupils, they were in no sense advanced in education and had to take their places in the classes often with mere bairns.'

This extract from the 1861 census shows Alexander McLeod (my great-grandfather) still a scholar at age 18

Nearly all our writing at school was done on slates and the scratch and scrape of the slate 'pencils' is a lasting memory of those days. 

Old slate

Our teachers as a whole gave us of their best and the marvel to me now is that considering all the disadvantages from which was suffered we made so great progress in our studies. After all there is something to be said for the old parochial system of education - which was a kind of hybrid between both the 'Education Board' and the parochial style it was devoid of the 'cram' of today; what one was taught was learned and remembered. I hardly think it probable that there was another school in the whole of the North that did not come under School Board management, but ours continued to be governed and worked on the primitive lines I have indicated for fifteen or more years after the passing of the Education Act of 1872. Yet, after all, some of the lads of those days are now occupying responsible positions in various spheres throughout the world.'

Source: Alan Roydhouse 1975 (unpublished) 


Thursday, February 23, 2017

School Library – Part B - Rambling Recollection of my Schools and School Days

Article XVI written by Alexander Gunn was published in the Northern Ensign on 29 September 1881 – Part B


“The little library also contained the voyage of Captain Cook round the world, his discovery of New Zealand, and his death by the treacherous and cruel natives."



Captain Cook by John Webber, 1776, Museum of New Zealand, Wellington.

"The story of “Robinson Crusoe” was a great favourite with us, as was also “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp,” "The Wandering Jew,” and the interesting narrative of Mungo Park’s travels on the Niger."

Aladdin in the Magic Garden – Project Gutenberg


Sue, Wandering Jew
"One of the incidents of Park’s travels is so touching, that I …

way I turned nothing appeared but danger and difficulty. I saw myself in the midst of a vast wilderness in the depth of the rainy season, naked and alone, surrounded by savage animals and men still more savage. I was five hundred miles from the nearest European settlement. At this moment, painful as my reflections were, the extraordinary beauty of a small moss in fructification irresistibly caught my eye. I mention this to show what trifling circumstances the mind will sometimes derive consolation from, for though the plant was not larger than the tip of one of my fingers, I could not contemplate the delicate conformation of its roots, leaves and capsule without admiration. Can the Being, thought I, who planted, watered, and brought to perfection in this obscure part of the world a thing which appears of so small importance, look with unconcern upon the situation and suffering of creatures formed after his own image? Surely not. I started up, and disregarding both hunger and fatigue, travelled forward, assured that relief was at hand, and I was not disappointed.” He reached a hut where he got shelter, and where the woman of the house composed a song to the weary traveller, in which she said that the poor white man had not a mother to grind his corn. Park died a martyr for the good of his country, as other brave and self-denying men have done, including the brave and the good David Livingston. These bore the burden and the heat of the day, and others reap the benefits of their labours. The following lines express the substance of the foregoing:-
Sad, faint, and weary on the sand,
Our traveller sat him down; his hand
Covering his burning head.
Alone – beneath, behind, around,
No resting fir the eye he found –
All nature seemed as dead.
One tiny tuft of moss alone,
Mounting with freshest green a stone,
Fixed his delighted gaze;
Through trusting tears of joy he smiled,
And while he raised the tendril wild
His lips o’erflowed with praise.

(To be continued.)

A Native of Badbea

My Comments:

Between 1768 and 1799 Captain James Cook did three main voyages of exploration in the Pacific and died in Hawaii in 1779.

Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe first published in 1719. Crusoe is a castaway who spends 27 years on a remote tropical desert island near Trinidad encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers before being rescued.

Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp is a Middle Eastern folk tale. It was first published in Les Mille et Une Nuit, Contes Arabes (12 Volumes),1704-1717 by Frenchman Antoine Galland who heard it from a Syrian storyteller from Aleppo. The first edition of ‘Arabian Nights Entertainments’ in English, based on Galland, was published by Andrew Bell, London in 1706 – 17 in 12 volumes. The Story of Aladdin: Or,The Wonderful Lamp was published in Vol 9.
Aladin illustration pg 1 Robida version

The Wandering Jew. The Wandering Jew (French: le Juif Errant) is an 1844 novel by the French writer Eugene Sue. Gunn must have had access to the circulating library after he had left school as this book was published in 1844 when Gunn was in his 20s.


Mungo Park
Mungo Park (1771 – 1806) was a Scottish explorer of West Africa. He was the first Westerner known to have travelled to the central part of the Niger River. His account of his travels is still in print.

View of Kamalia in Mandingo country, Africa, from Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa
According to Wikipedia: 

Park’s book Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa was a success because it detailed what he observed, what he survived, and the people he encountered. His honest descriptions set a standard for future travel writers to follow. This gave Europeans a glimpse of what Africa was really like. Park introduced them to a vast, unexplored continent. After his death public and political interest in Africa began to increase. He had proved that Africa could be explored. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mungo_Park_(explorer)

The poem above was written about Mungo Park’s experience by a fellow Scotsman named Robert Murray M’Cheyne. It is titled “On Mungo Park Finding a Tuft of Green Moss in the African Desert”