Scotland's History, Legends, Wildlife and Hunting Practices...because the past lives in us and guides our footsteps.

EDUCATION IN THE PARISH.                   393



Education before the Reformation.—The Parochial System.—
Unsuccessful Attempts to Plant Schools in the Parish.—The
First School.—Charity Schools at Duldreggan, Milton, Pit-
kerrald, and Bunloit.—The First Parish School.—Subsequent
Agencies. — The Education Act. — Old Salaries. — Old
School Books.—Gaelic in Schools.—Old Punishments.—Cock-
fighting and other Sports.—Urquhart Authors.—James Grant
of Corrimony.—Charles Grant.—Lord Glenelg.—Sir Robert
Grant.—James Grant.—John Macmillan.—Buchanan Mac-
millan, King’s Printer.—Patrick Grant.—James Grassie.—
Angus Macdonald.—William Grant Stewart.—William Somer-
led Macdonald.—James Grant, Balnaglaic.—Allan Sinclair.—
The Bards of the Parish.—Iain Mac Eobhainn Bhain.—Ewen
Macdonald.—Shewglie and his Daughter.—Alasdair Mac Iain
Bhain.—Iain Mac Dhughaill.—John Grant.—Archibald Grant.
—Angus Macculloch.—Lewis Cameron.—Angus Macdonald.—
William Mackay.—Survival of Bardism.

The history of Education in Scotland may be said
to form part of the history of the Church. Before
the Reformation the country was wholly indebted
to the clergy for the little learning it possessed ;
and after that event it was John Knox and the
ministers of the Reformed Church who originated
and developed the parish school system. To that
system Scotland as a whole owes much ; but its
benefits were slow to reach the Highlands, and
Knox was two hundred years in his grave before


Urquhart and Glenmoriston could boast of a parochial

During the period of the Celtic Church the
clerics who officiated in the small cells which, as we
have seen, were scattered over the Parish, doubtless
devoted much of their time, as their brethren are
known to have done elsewhere, to the copying of
the Scriptures ; and it is probable that they com­
municated some slight knowledge of letters to the
more curious among their people. This knowledge,
again, may have been increased in Roman Catholic
times by the priests of the Parish, and the monks
who studied and taught within the neighbouring
Priory of Beauly. But in the dark ages that
preceded the Reformation there was no education
in the modern sense of the word, and very few
even of the better classes could read or write.
Knox’s grand purpose was to establish at least
one school in every parish throughout Scotland.
His scheme was too ambitious for his time, but it
was not lost sight of, and in 1616—long after his
death—it was adopted by the Privy Council, which
ordained that a school should be erected in each
parish, “ that all his Majesty’s subjects, especially
the youth, be exercised and trayned up in civilitie,
godliness, knowledge, and learning ; that the vulgar
Inglishe tongue be universallie planted, and the
Irish [that is, the Gaelic] language, which is one of
the chieff and principall causes of the continuance
of barbaritie and incivilitie among the inhabitants
of the Isles and Heylandis, may be abolishit and
removit.” The resolution that a school should be

EDUCATION IN THE PARISH.                   395

established in each parish was confirmed by Parlia­
ment in 1631, and again in 1646 ; but generations
passed before effect was given to it in Urquhart
and Glenmoriston. At a meeting of the Presby­
tery of Inverness held in the Parish in 1627, “it
was found requisit that ane scholemaister suld be
planted thair, for educatioun of the youth within
these bounds, in respect the parochiners thair
wer found willing to do dewtie heirin glaidlie.”1
This was reported to the Synod of Moray in
October, when Mr Alexander Grant, the minister,
stated “that he, with his parochiners, hed bein
cairfullie searching efter ane [schoolmaster] to
supplie that roume [that is, Urquhart and Glen-
moriston], bot as yit culd find nain ;” and the
Presbytery was ordained “ to enquyr for ane maister
of schole, and to settle him thair with diligence.”2
But if the enquiry was made, no result followed.
Fifty years later—in 1677—the minister and elders
reported to the Presbytery that there was no
school in the Parish, “ bot quhen the Laird of Grant
cam to the countrey that they were to require his
helpe and assistance how to get some victuall to
mantean an schoolmaster.” They were exhorted
“to do the same, which should be good service done
to God ;”3 but the exhortation was not responded
to, and Urquhart and Glenmoriston remained with­
out a parochial school until the year 1770.4

1 Records of Synod of Moray. 2 Ibid. 3 Inverness Presbytery Records.
4 Other Highland parishes were even in a worse condition. Boleskine,
Laggan, and Kilmonivaig, for example, had no parish schools for years after
1770. On the other hand there were schools in Kirkhill and Kiltarlity, which
march with our Parish, as early as 167l.


The youth of the Parish were, however, not
wholly left in darkness. Sometimes the lairds,
wadsetters, and larger tenants combined to employ
some struggling student to teach their children
during the college recess ; sometimes they sent their
boys to be taught at Inverness, Fortrose, or Petty ;
and the result was that during the darkest years of
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a few
were to be found in the Parish who could read and
write and express themselves in fair English. Even
the humbler occupiers of the soil began to commit
their transactions to writing ; and we find, as early
as 1616, the tenant of Raddich and Borlum signing
his patronymic—for he had not yet adopted a
surname — in a beautiful round hand, “ Donald
McHomas,” Donald, son of Thomas.1

It was, however, left to the Society in Scotland
for Propagating Christian Knowledge to bring the
means of education within the reach of the people
generally. In 1701 a few private gentlemen met in
Edinburgh, and resolved to establish schools in the
Highlands and Islands, and to appeal to the public
for pecuniary support. They opened their first
school at Abertarff ; but in less than two years the
people drove the schoolmaster from the district.
The Edinburgh philanthropists were, however, not
discouraged. In 1707 they induced the General
Assembly of the Church of Scotland to appoint
a committee to consider the question of the propa­
gation of Christian Knowledge in the Highlands

1 Renunciation of Lease, at Castle Grant.

EDUCATION IN THE PARISH.                 397

and Islands. The incorporation of the Society
followed in 1709. Next year its members resolved
to open free schools—or “ charity schools,” as they
were called—in such districts as from time to time
should most require them. In 1711 a school was
established at Abertarff, to which Glenmoriston lads
probably found their way ; and in 1726 the first
school in our Parish was opened. On the 14th day
of April of that year, certain gentlemen of Glen-
Urquhart appeared before the Presbytery of Aber-
tarff, within whose bounds the Parish then was, and
represented that they greatly stand in need of a
Charity School in the Breas of that countrie, on
account of the Ignorance of the people, Popish
priests takeing occasion to encroach upon that corner,
as it is remote, and discontiguous from the Strath of
the Parish.”1 The Presbytery considered the pro­
posal “ just and reasonable,” and appointed the Rev.
Alexander Macbean of Inverness to apply to the
Society for an allowance for a schoolmaster. The ap­
plication was granted in June, and in October a school
was opened at Meiklie, and placed under the charge
of Henry Urquhart, a learned shoemaker, who had
been duly examined by the Presbytery and found

This arrangement, however, continued but a short
time. In October, 1728, the Presbytery, “considering
the state of Glenmoristone for want of a school, and
that there appears a greater probability for procuring
a Parochial School at Urquhart than at Glen-

1 Abertarff Presbytery Records.


moristone, have resolved that against summer next
the School at Urquhart shall be transported to
Glenmoristone as soon as the Presbytery are
informed that a schoolhouse and other conveniences
are prepared at Dulldregan in that countrey for him
[the teacher].” This resolution was the outcome of
an application which the inhabitants of Glenmoriston
had made to the Presbytery as early as October, 1726.
The modest “ conveniences” considered necessary
were soon provided ; the Meiklie establishment was
closed ; and Henry Urquhart removed to Duldreggan,
where he laboured for several years. And from his
time until the Education Act came into operation in
1873, the Society was not without a school in
Glenmoriston, except for an interval of eight years
immediately after the troubles of The Forty-Five.

To Glen-Urquhart the Society was equally
generous. When the Presbytery resolved to send
Henry Urquhart to Glenmoriston, they instructed
the Rev. Alexander Macbean “ to write to the Laird
of Grant in order to obtain a Parochial School at
Urquhart.” Nothing, however, came of the appli­
cation, and the Society had again to take the place
of the heritors. In 1732 a charity school was
opened at Milton, and placed under the charge of
William Grant, who taught in it for many years.
At a later period the school was “transported” to
Pitkerrald. “ There is no parish schoolmaster,”
said Mr William Lorimer in a Report on Urquhart
which he wrote for the Laird of Grant in 1763 ;
“ the tenants send their children to the charity



schoolmaster, who lives at Pitkerrald, who teaches
them to read and write. . . Alexander Macrae,
a Kintail man, . . teaches reading, writing, and
arithmetic, and singing psalms—exacts no school-
ages [fees].”1

The failure of the heritors to provide the means
of education which the law required of them led the
Society, in 1770, to threaten to withdraw their
charity teacher unless a parochial schoolmaster was
appointed. The threat had the desired effect. A
parish school was at once opened, and in 1775 the
Society’s establishment was transferred to Bunloit,
where it continued to flourish until 1873. To the
Bunloit schoolmaster, Sir James Grant gave a
dwelling-house and two acres of land free of rent.2

The three schools which our Parish now possessed
were soon found insufficient to meet its educational
wants, and side-schools were, about the end of the
century, erected in Glenmoriston and the Braes of
Urquhart. Other agencies subsequently arose. The
Gaelic School Society had a school at Meiklie in
1815 and 1816 ; and after the Disruption, Free
Church schools did good work for years at Drum-
nadrochit and Polmaily, while the Countess of
Seafield maintained a school at Blairbeg, and Mr
Ogilvy of Corrimony another on his estate. The
Education Act put an end to the Parochial System,
and—so far as our Parish was concerned—to the
other agencies which it found at work. The first

1 Report, at Castle Grant. 2 Report of the Society, in 1790.


School Board1 set itself with vigour to provide the
school accommodation required under the new order
of things ; and within a few years commodious
school buildings were erected throughout the Parish,
which strongly contrast with the poor, comfortless,
dry-stone, turf-roofed, hovels in which the teachers
of the past laboured, with no small measure of
success, for a salary, then, no doubt, regarded as
amply sufficient, but which would be looked upon
in the present age as miserable in the extreme.2

The Society for Propagating Christian Know­
ledge, having in view that religion and industry
go always hand in hand,” obtained new letters
patent in 1738, empowering them to “cause such
children as they shall think fit to be instructed and
bred up in husbandry and housewifery, or trade and
manufacture, as they should think proper, at such
places and in such manner as to them and their
directors shall seem the most practicable and
expedient.” As thus authorised, the Society not
only settled a gardener and blacksmith in Glen-
moriston in 1755, for the purpose of instructing the

1 The members of the first School Board were nominated at a public
meeting, and unanimously elected without ballot. They were, in alphabetical
order—Rev. John Cameron, minister of the parish ; Major William Grant,
factor of Urquhart ; Rev. Alexander MacColl, Free Church minister of Fort-
Augustus and Glenmoriston ; William Mackay, Blairbeg ; Rev. Angus Macrae,
Free Church, Glen-Urquhart ; Thomas Ogilvy of Corrimony ; and John
Sinclair, Borlum, factor for Glenmoriston.

2 The amount expended on the schools (including teachers’ houses) were :
—Culanloan, £3834 19s Id ; Balnain, £1595 0s 2d ; Bunloit, £1463 2s 6d ;
Dulchreichart, £1393 12s 0d ; Invermoriston, £1388 Is 6d ; and Corrimony
£862 9s 9d—total, £10,537 5s 0d. The salaries of the Society’s teachers
ranged from £8 to £14. When the first parochial school was established in
the Parish in 1770, the schoolmaster’s salary was fixed at £10 a year.

EDUCATION IN THE PARISH.                  401

people in their trades, but they also, in subsequent
years, employed the wives of their schoolmasters in
the Parish to teach spinning, knitting, sewing, and
other branches of female industry.1 In 1802, more­
over, they opened a “ spinning school” at Lewistown,
and placed it under the charge of Mrs Georgina
Forbes, who continued for twenty-seven years to
instruct the young girls of the district in these
branches, and in religion. In Mrs Forbes’ school a
portion of the English Bible was read every day,
and the pupils were required to learn at home, and
repeat to her, passages of Scripture, and questions
from the Shorter and Mother’s Catechisms.2

For many years the progress of education in the
Highlands was greatly impeded by the absurd
manner in which the language of the people was
created. The excellent Lowlanders who directed
the affairs of the Society in its early days dreaded
Gaelic as they dreaded Papistry, with which they
associated it ; and the same regulation that bound
their schoolmasters to subscribe the “ Formula
against Popery,”3 bound them also to

1 Reports of the Society. 2 Ibid.

3 The Formula was in the following terms :—“ I, ——, Schoolmaster

in the Parish of——, do sincerely from my heart profess and declare before

God, who searcheth the heart, that I deny, disown, and abhor these tenets
and doctrines of the Papal Romish Church, viz., the Supremacy of the Pope
and Bishops of Rome over all pastors of the Catholick Church ; his power and
authority over Kings, Princes, and States, and the infallibility that he pre­
tends to, either without or with a General Council ; his power of dispensing
and pardoning ; the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and the Corporal Presence,
with the Communion without the cup in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ;
the adoration and sacrifice practised by the Popish Church in the Mass ; the
invocation of Angels and Saints ; the worshipping of Images, Crosses, and



[prohibit] their scholars to speak Earse [Irish or
Gaelic].” The result was that, while the great
majority of the children, who knew no language but
Gaelic, learned mechanically to read the Proverbs,
Confession of Faith, Shorter Catechism, Vincent’s
Catechism, Protestant Resolutions, Pool’s Dialogue,
and Guthrie’s Trials, which were their not too
attractive school-books, they utterly failed to
understand what they read ; and that when they
left school they left their books and their “ learning”
behind them. The directors of the Society at last
realised the error of their ways ; and in 1767 they
printed a Gaelic translation of the New Testament,
which was used in their schools. Translations of
other works followed, and in 1781 the directors
were able to report “ that their translations have
been of the greatest utility, not only in opening the
minds of the people to knowledge, but in giving a
greater desire to learn the English language than
they had ever before discovered.”1 After this the
teachers worked on a more rational system, and the
ancient tongue was treated with some degree of
respect. In the schools of the Gaelic School Society,
which was founded in 1811,2 Gaelic spelling-books

Relics ; the doctrine of Supererogation, Indulgences, and Purgatory ; and the
Service and Worship in an unknown tongue : all which tenets and doctrines
of the said Church I believe to be contrary to, and inconsistent with, the
written word of God. And I do from my heart deny, disown, and disclaim
the said doctrines and tenets of the Church of Rome, as in the presence of
God, without any equivocation or mental reservation, but according to the
known and plain meaning of the words as to me offered and proposed. So
help me God.”

1 Account of the Society, June, 1780, to June, 1781.

2 The Gaelic School Society was dissolved in 1892.


EDUCATION IN THE PARISH.                  403

were used, and in 1817 similar books were issued
to their schoolmasters by the older Society. The
bad old system, however, long survived in the
Parish School of Urquhart. Mr Daniel Kerr, a
native of Perthshire, who presided over that
institution during the closing years of last century,
and the first decade of the present, was an ardent
believer in its merit. He made it his first duty, after
the opening prayer, to hand to one of the boys a
roughly carved piece of wood which was called “ the
tessera.”1 The boy transferred it to the first pupil
who was heard speaking Gaelic. That offender got
rid of it by delivering it to the next, who, in his
turn, placed it in the hand of the next again. And
so the tessera went round without ceasing. At the
close of the day it was called for by Mr Kerr. The
child who happened to possess it was severely
flogged, and then told to hand it back to the
one from whom he had received it. The latter was
dealt with in the same manner ; and so the dreaded
tessera retraced its course, with dire consequences
to all who had dared to express themselves in
the only language which they knew. When
the master wore his red night­cap in school, as he
often did, it was observed that he was more
merciless than at other times, and the children came
to look upon the awful head­gear as a thing of
strange and evil influence. It was long before they

1 Tessera (Latin), a square or quadrangular piece of wood or other substance.
The old teachers made use of Latin words in an amusing manner. To this
day an Urquhart boy who wants to dip his pen in his neighbour’s ink-bottle
says, “ Thoir dhomh guttum ”—“ Give me a guttum ”—from gutta, a drop.


discovered that the wearer’s irritability on those
occasions proceeded from a sore head brought
on by the previous night’s excessive conviviality.
He never spared the rod ; but it was not his
only instrument of punishment. The Fool’s­ Cap
was the terror of the children ; yet they dreaded
the Fox’-Skin and the Necklace-of-Old-Bones even
more. Sometimes Kerr covered the offender’s
head with the cap, and his shoulders with an
evil-smelling skin of a fox, and placed around his
neck a string of bones. Thus adorned, the boy
had to proceed into the open, and suffer the jeers of
his companions and of passers-by ; or he was made
to stand in the centre of the schoolroom, while his
fellows filed past and spat on him as they went !

But even in Mr Kerr’s time school life was not
without its bright seasons and pleasant features.
The boys delighted in their sports — the shinty
matches between the Braes and the Strath being
specially exciting. More interesting still, perhaps,
was the annual cock-fight. On the occasion of that
great event, it was the duty of every boy to bring a
well-fed rooster to school. If he failed in this he
was bound to pay the value of a bird to the school­
master. The schoolroom was for the time converted
into a cock­pit ; the fights took place before the
pupils and their parents—the minister, as a rule,
gracing the meeting with his presence, and the
schoolmaster being umpire and master of ceremonies.
The victorious birds were restored to their proud

LITERATURE IN THE PARISH.                  405

owners—perhaps, to fight another day. The dead
birds and the “fugies,” or runaways, became the
property of the master, whose modest stipend was
thus in no small measure augmented.1

Notwithstanding the backward state of education
in the past, our Parish can boast of not a few who
have made some little mark in the field of literature.

James Grant of Corrimony, Advocate, who was
born in 1743, and died in 1835, and who enjoyed
the friendship of such literary men as Henry
Erskine, Henry Mackenzie, Sir James Mackintosh,
and Lord Cockburn, was a scholar of singular
erudition and attainments. His published works
are, an account of our Parish, in Sir John Sinclair’s
Statistical Account ; “Essays on the Origin of
Society, Language, Property, Government, Juris­
diction, Contracts, and Marriages, interspersed with
Illustrations from the Gaelic and Greek Languages;’’
and “ Thoughts on the Origin and Descent of the
Gael, with an Account of the Picts, Caledonians,
and Scots, and Observations relative to the Author­
ship of the Poems of Ossian.”2 The late well-known

1  These reminiscences were communicated to the Author by old men who
had, in their boyhood, attended Kerr’s school.

2 James Grant’s tombstone at Corrimony bears the following inscription
by Lord Cockburn :—“ Here lies what was mortal of James Grant, Esquire,
the last of the Grants of Corrimony—Born 13th April, 1743, Died 12th
September, 1835. Literary, amiable, and independent, he was one of the very
few of his class who in his day promoted the principles of political liberty,
which have since triumphed. He lived to be the oldest member of the
Scottish Bar. He died, the last of a race that for more than 350 years
inherited this Glen.” Mr Grant left a large family. Corrimony was sold
before his death.


novelist, James Grant, was his grandson, and the
representative of the family.

Charles Grant, son of that Alexander Grant
whose devotion to Prince Charles cost him the
situation of forester in Glen-Urquhart,1 was born in
1746. He received the rudiments of his education in
the charity school of Milton, where his grandfather
resided, and afterwards spent some time at a school
in Elgin, with the aid of Shewglie’s son Alexander,
who escaped from Culloden and found his way to
India. Entering the service of the East India
Company, he rose to be Chairman of the Company.
For many years he represented the county of
Inverness in Parliament. He was the author
of “ Observations on the State of Society among
the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain,” published
in 1792, and again printed, by order of Parlia­
ment, in 1813. “I can sincerely say,” observed
Wilberforce of him after his death in 1823, “that
he was one of the very best men I ever knew. And
had he enjoyed in early youth the advantages of a
first-rate education, he would have been as dis­
tinguished in literature as he was in business.”2 In
1696, his great-grandfather and grandfather could
not write their names ;3 in 1801 his sons Charles
(afterwards Lord Glenelg), and Hobert (afterwards

1 See p. 250, supra.

2  Life of Wilberforce, chap, xxxvi. A fine portrait of Charles Grant,
painted by Raeburn at the expense of the County of Inverness, is in the
County Buildings.

3 Peed of 1696, at Erchless Castle, signed by a notary on their behalf.

LITERATURE IN THE PARISH.                  407

Sir Robert Grant), astonished the learned world by
the place which they took at Cambridge—Charles
being third wrangler and first medallist, and Robert,
fourth wrangler and second medallist. Charles’
speeches and despatches made him famous. Robert
published in 1813 a “Sketch of the History of the
East India Company from its foundation to the
passing of the Regulating Act, in 1773, with a
Summary View of the Changes which have taken
place since that period in the Internal Adminis­
tration of British India ;” and, in the same year,
“The Expediency maintained of Continuing the
System by which the Trade and Government of
India are now Regulated.” In 1839—after his
death—were published his “ Sacred Poems,” edited
by Lord Glenelg, some of which have attained great
popularity in the Churches.1

James Grant, son of that James Grant, younger
of Shewglie, who was imprisoned in Tilbury Fort in
1746, went to India early in life, and devoted much
time to the study of the systems of revenue and
land tenure of that country. Warren Hastings
appointed him Resident at the Nizam’s Court—an

1 Charles Grant (Lord Glenelg) was born in 1783, and died unmarried in
1866. He represented Inverness-shire from 1818 till he was raised to the
peerage in 1836. During his long political career he filled the offices of Chief
Secretary for Ireland, President of the Board of Trade, Secretary of State for
the Colonies, &c. Sir Robert Grant was for a time Judge Advocate-General.
In 1834 he was appointed Governor of Bombay, an office which he held till his
death in 1838. His son, the present Sir Charles Grant, was for a time
Foreign Secretary to the Government of India.


office which he resigned in 1783.1 He wrote several
treatises, for the information of the Government and
the East India Company, on the subjects of revenue,
agriculture, and land tenure, in Bengal. In 1788
the Company’s Indian Board appointed him Chief
Serrishtadar, and placed these subjects under his
control. The appointment was approved of by the
Court of Directors in London, who, on 20th August,
wrote to their representatives in the East :—“ If
any new appointment was necessary, you could not
have pitched upon a more capable servant than Mr
James Grant, whose industry and peculiar talents
for investigation had been so well demonstrated by
the great mass of materials he had obtained, and
ably digested in his several laborious productions
concerning the history of our Possessions and
Revenues.” In 1790 he printed a disquisition on
the nature of Zemindary tenures, and sent a copy
of it to Pitt, along with a long letter on the same
subject. On retiring from service he purchased the
estate of Redcastle. He died in 1808.

1 The following letter was addressed to Grant on the occasion of his
resignation :—

“ Fort-William [Calcutta], 27th March, 1783.

“ Dear Sir,—I am much concerned that the ill state of your Health
obliges you to relinquish an Employment in which your Talents might have
been so eminently useful to the Public.

“ Wishing to know the Sentiments of Nizam Ally Khawn upon the
Appointment of the Successor to you as the Resident at his Court, I have
written the enclosed Letter, which I request you will be pleased to forward to
him with as much Expedition as possible.

“I am, Dear Sir, with great esteem, your most obedt. humble Servant,

“ Warren Hastings.”

LITERATURE IN THE PARISH.                  409

In 1740, Alexander Chisholm of Chisholm married
Elizabeth, daughter of Mackenzie of Applecross ;
and her half-sister, Christian — an illegitimate
daughter of Applecross—accompanied her to Strath-
glass. Christian became the wife of Finlay Mac-
millan, the son of a crofter or small farmer in
Buntait. Two sons of the marriage, John and
Buchanan, were educated with The Chisholm’s
children, and afterwards settled in London—John
as a journalist, and Buchanan as a printer. The
latter rose to be printer to George the Third and
the Prince Regent, and books printed by him are
frequently met with. He died at Belladrum in
1832, and his dust lies in the Newton burial-ground,
within the Priory of Beauly.1 The literary produc­
tions of John, who died young, cannot now be
identified, and all that is known of them is contained
in an extravagant epitaph on his tombstone at Kil-
more—probably the work of his friend, the eccentric
Dr Gilbert Stuart, the defender of Mary Queen of
Scots :—“ Under this Stone are Deposited the
Remains of John McMillan, a Man whose Friend­
ship and Benevolence Endeared his Name to all

1 His tombstone bears the following inscription :—“ Here are Deposited
the Remains of Buchanan McMillan, Esq. Born in the Glen of Urquhart, in
this County, he travelled from England that he might revive, or expire, in his
native air, and died at Belladrum House on the 6th September 1832, in hie
74th year. As a husband, father, and friend, he was conspicuously good and
zealous. His industry, fidelity, and punctuality raised him to affluence in his
profession as a printer in London, where he long resided, beloved and respected
for his hospitality and integrity. The graceful piety of his grand­daughter
Mary Christian Blagdon, has erected this stone to commemorate his virtues.”
A large painting of Macmillan, presented by himself to his friend, Mr Fraser
of Newton, is now in the possession of the Author.


who knew Him. Studious in the Attainment of
Literary Pre-eminence, His Productions bear a
lasting Monument of his Merits. His Wit was
poignant without Invective. His Genius, copious
without redundancy. His Essays are esteemed as
Models of Ease, Elegance, Energy, and Humour.
His Poetry is Affecting, Descriptive, and Sublime.

If e’er the Man of Genius tread this yard,
And feel the god­like phrenzy of the Bard,
Here let him pause and cast his wand’ring eyes,
Where Wit extinct with John McMillan lies ;
One who possessed all Virtues to admire,
The flame of Friendship, and the Attic fire ;
Weary of Life, tho’ young, he kissed the Sod,
Preserved his Fame with Man, his Soul with God.

He died the 11th Day of Feb. 1774, in the 25th
year of his Age.”1

1 The tombstone bears the foliowing further inscription :—“ Also [under
this stone are deposited] the Remains of Christian McMillan, Mother of John
McMillan, who departed this Life the 27th Day of March 1781, in the 54th
Year of her Age. To the affectionate Wife, the tender Mother, the pious
Christian, and the friend of Distress, she united every other Virtue that could
adorn her Sex, and give a Hope of future Immortality. This Memento is laid
down by an aged Husband and Father, as a last Tribute to the Memory of an
affectionate Wife and a dutiful Son.”

It is related of Finlay Macmillan, that after his marriage he was so
destitute that his father had to give him more than one cow for food for him­
self and his young wife and family. There was, indeed, only one cow left, and
with it the old man firmly refused to part. But as he lay in bed one night he
heard a voice at the window :—“ Gabh mar gheibh, ’us gheibh mar chaitheas—
’us thoir a bho ruadh do dh-Fhionnlaidh !
—“ Take as you get, and you’ll get
as you’ll spend—and give the red cow to Finlay !
“ I will, I will ! “ replied
the terrified old man ; and next morning the red cow went the way of the
others. Better days came upon Finlay, and his later years were passed in com­
fort through the filial generosity of his son Buchanan, whose name is com­
memorated in the Glen by Fuaran Channain—Buchanan’s Well—near
Corrimony Bridge.

LITERATURE IN THE PARISH.                  411

Patrick Grant, of Lakefield (born 1795), who
succeeded to Redcastle, and was married to a sister
of Lord Glenelg, took a keen interest in journalism
in the exciting days of Catholic Emancipation, and
Reform. He was for a time principal proprietor of
the famous Sun. He afterwards ceased his con­
nection with that paper, and started the True Sun,
which he managed so extravagantly that it involved
him in financial difficulties, and he had to sell Red-
castle. He died in 1855, and is buried under the
beautiful family monument at Cnocan Burraidh,
near Blairbeg.

James Grassie, son of Peter Grassie, Supervisor of
Excise, Drumnadrochit, published in 1843 a volume
of “ Legends of the Highlands, from Oral Tradition.”
The scenes of his tales are chiefly laid in our Parish
and neighbouring glens.

William Grant Stewart, factor of Urquhart,
although not a native of our Parish, resided in it for
many years, during which he published “ Songs of
Glen-Urquhart,” “ The Popular Superstitions and
Festive Amusements of the Highlanders of Scot­
land,” and “ Lectures on the Mountains, or The
Highlands and Highlanders, as they were and as
they are.” He died at Viewville, Drumnadrochit,
in 1 870. By his will he bequeathed the sum of £50
to the Urquhart Parish School, with directions that
the annual interest should be applied in the purchase
of prizes.1

1 By virtue of a Scheme of the Educational Endowments (Scotland)
Commission, dated 3rd December, 1886, Stewart’s Bequest, and a bequest of
£10 a year by the late Evan Cameron, are now amalgamated, and administered
by the School Board,


Angus Macdonald, son of John Macdonald, the
noted schoolmaster and catechist of Bunloit, pub­
lished in 1836 Searmona leis an Urram. Ralph
—a Gaelic translation of four sermons by
Ralph Erskine—which attained considerable popu­
larity ; and, in 1869, a translation of a sermon
by Spurgeon on the Head of the Church. He
was a bard of great merit, his poem on the
Highlanders in the Crimea, and his Lament for
Lord Clyde, being especially powerful and felicitous.
He was the first Bard of the Gaelic Society of
Inverness, and died in 1874, at the age of seventy.

William Somerled Macdonald, who was born
at Meiklie-na-h-Aitnich about the year 1815, pub­
lished a Gaelic translation of Bunyan’s Water of
Life,” and also translations of the hymns “ Abide
with me,” and “ Nearer, my God, to Thee.” At first
engaged in teaching in Scotland and England, he
latterly took orders in the Church of England, and
died at Hennock, Devonshire, in 1884,

James Grant, son of Grigor Grant, Balnaglaic,
was an accomplished charter scholar, who, in addition
to assisting Mr Cosmo Innes and Professor Masson
in connection with the Government publications
edited by them, gave to the public in 1876 a
valuable “ History of the Burgh Schools of Scot­
land.” He was engaged at the time of his death, in
1885, on a similar work on the Parish Schools. By
his will he bequeathed a sum of £500 to the School
Board for the establishment of a “ James Grant
Bursary,” open to boys who have been born in the


Parish, or have attended any of the public schools
in the Parish for not less than two years.

The Rev. Allan Sinclair, son of Robert
Sinclair, tenant of Borlum, published in 1865 a
Gaelic translation of the Memoir and Remains of
the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. He was also
the author of an interesting work—“ Reminiscences
of the Life and Labours of Dugald Buchanan”—
and of numerous articles in magazines and news­
papers on subjects connected with the Highlands.
He was minister of the Free Church at Kenmore,
Perthshire, where he died in 1888.

These, with the exception of such as still survive,1
and of Archibald Grant, to whom reference will
hereafter be made, are the only authors connected
with our Parish who have ventured to put their pro­
ductions in print. But there were many bards and
seanachies in the past whose compositions were left
to the caprice of oral tradition. These have not all
met the same fate. Beautiful tales and ballads still
survive, of whose authors nothing is known. On
the other hand, of the effusions of John the Bard,
the first of the name of Grant who owned Urquhart,
probably not one line remains ; and Iain Mabach,

1 The following Glen-Urquhart authors still live :—Miss A. C. Chambers,
Polmaily, author of “Life in the Walls,” “Mill of Dalveny,” “Life
Underground,” “ Robin the Bold,” “ Away on the Moorland,” “ The
Shepherd of Ardmuir,” “ Annals of Hartfell Chase,” “ Amid the Greenwood,”
and “ The Tenants of Gorsmead ;” Miss Cameron, late of Lakefield, author of
“ The House of Achendaroch ;” Rev. K. S. Macdonald, D.D., Calcutta,
author of “ The Vedic Religion,” “ Rome’s Relation to the Bible,” and other
works ; Mr Alexander Macdougall, schoolmaster, Corrimony. translator into
Gaelic of Owen’s “ Communion with God ;” and Rev. Alexander Chisholm,
Boglashin, author of “ The Bible in the Light of Nature, of Man, and of God.”


an ancient bard of the Braes, is remembered, not by
his songs, but by the regret to which he gave
expression on his death­bed — “ Nach maith a’
gheallach chreach sin, ’s nach urrain dhomhsa feum
a dheanamh dhi!
“ Isn’t that a beautiful moon for
a cattle-spoil, and that I am unable to make use of

Of the bards whose names and productions have
come down to us, the oldest, perhaps, is Iain Mac
Eobhain Bhain, who flourished in Glenmoriston
early in the seventeenth century. Later in the same
century, Donald Donn sang much in and concerning
our Parish ; and early in the eighteenth century Ewen
Macdonald composed a descriptive poem on Coir-
iararaidh in Glenmoriston, which formed the model
of Duncan Macintyre’s better known “ Coirecheath-
aich.” Alexander Grant of Shewglie, who was
a cultured player on the violin and harp, wrote
a welcome to Prince Charles ; and his daughter,
Janet, wife of Cameron of Clunes, a stirring song in
praise of Lochiel of The Forty-Five.

Alexander Grant (Alasdair Mac Iain Bhain),
the most gifted of the bards of our Parish, was the
second son of John Grant, Achnagoneran, and was
born about the year 1772. He early joined the
army ; and saw service in Denmark, Portugal,
Spain, France, and the West Indies. During
his wanderings he was solaced and cheered by
the fellowship of the Highland muse ; and his
songs possess great merit, containing vivid glimpses
of the life of the British soldier during the events

THE BARDS OF THE PARISH.                    415

which followed the French Revolution, and breathing
burning affection to the scenes and companions of
his childhood and youth. Of his native Glenmor-
iston, and the joy of revisiting it, he sang and
dreamed for years ; but his dreams and hopes were
not to be realised. The longed-for furlough at last
came, and the happy soldier travelled northwards ;
but at Seann-Talamh, above Drumnadrochit, and
within a few hours’ journey of his father’s house, he
was suddenly taken ill, and, unable to proceed
further, he sought shelter under the hospitable roof
of “ Bean a’ Ghriasaiche Ghallda,” and there expired.
He was buried in the first instance in Kilmore, and
it is still told that while a young woman, whose
heart he had won and retained, lay on his grave
weeping, she imagined she heard moans from beneath
her. On her reporting this the grave was opened,
and it was found that the body had turned in the
coffin, and was lying face downwards ! It was
removed to Glenmoriston. and the churchyard of
Invermoriston now holds the dust of Alasdair Mac
Iain Bhain.1

“ Braigh Rusgaich”—the only song, so far as is
known, composed by Iain Mac Dhughaill, Bunloit
—has for the last eighty or ninety years continued
to be one of the most popular songs of the district
of Loch Ness. It was composed in Edinburgh,
where the bard died in the early years of the
present century, and happily depicts Nature in her

1 Alasdair’s songs, collected by the Author, are printed in the Transactions
of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Vol. X.


pleasantest moods, and gives pathetic expression to
his strong desire for the peaceful solitudes of Brae

John Grant, Aonach, who took part in the
siege of Gibraltar, composed songs and hymns ;
while his son Archibald Grant (Archie Tailleir,
born in 1785), was the author of a volume of
poems, which was published in 1863. Archibald
was a noted seanachie, and his productions abound
in interesting allusions to ancient traditions. He
died in 1870, and was buried with his fathers in
Clachan Mhercheird.

Among others who have successfully wooed the
Highland muse during the present century are
Angus MacCulloch, Bullburn ; Lewis Cameron,
Drumnadrochit; Angus Macdonald, who has already
been referred to ; and William Mackay, Blairbeg,
—all now deceased—as well as more than one who
are still with us. Bardism, it is pleasant to record,
has not yet ceased to exist in our Glens ; and
Glenmoriston, especially, is still the favoured retreat
of that Spirit of Poesy which so greatly and so
beneficially influenced the inhabitants of the Parish
in the Olden Times.1

1 See Appendix 0 for selections from the productions of the Bards of the

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