Imatges de pÓgina

and fiercest tumults of our mortal state.

There is another thing to be seen, or rather not to be seen, at Scourie, which few passers-by will fail to look for the grave of General Hugh M'Kay of Scourie, who fought against Dundee. (By the way, why does the generally correct, and always correcting historian, John Hill Burton, repeatedly speak of M'Kay's lairdship being in Ross-shire?) M'Kay, who, a Highlander himself, yet used such utterly un-Highland tactics, was, it is true, no very great general. He was thoroughly accomplished in the best rules of war, as practised by the great masters of the art in his time, but it is rather against his fame that he and the best rules generally got beaten, as at Killiecrankie, where, having arranged his troops on the most accurate principles, he found himself in five minutes left without either foes or followers-the one having driven the other in hopeless rout down the glen just when he was going to leave off his scientific faces and begin. But, though misplaced and unfortunate, he was a brave and humane soldier, an honest man, and a sincere patriot-virtues more than sufficient to entitle his grave to preservation from oblivion and dishonour. It stands on a knoll overhanging the sea, not only unmarked, but left outside a modern enclosure of other graves. This is not only neglect, but indignity; and now that these northern regions are so much more full of the Covenanting spirit than they used to be, some local atonement to the Whigamore general, who, as to his own Sutherland, was so far before his times, is fitting, and should be immediately forthcoming. The erection of some worthy memorial is therefore recommended as a fit subject for rivalry between the Established and the Free Kirk Presbyteries of Tongue whom failing, we protest and appeal to the ensuing Synod of Sutherland and Caithness.

Leaving grave matters, let it be known that within easy reach of Scourie Inn lies perhaps the finest seatrout fishing to be had in any British loch-we do not say river, and we do not include Ireland, in memory of

some possible exceptions in Kerry and Galway. After a tantalising journey up two or three miles of a river with the ancient and most fish-like Norse name of Laxford, which is tabooed for a resident sportsman, the angler has Loch Stack, full of fish, and encircled by a magnificent amphitheatre of hills. For some thirty miles farther inward and upward, there is an almost unbroken chain of lochs free to all comers, renewed again when the water-shed tends southwards, and ending with Loch Shin, itself about as long as from London to Windsor. That, however, is somewhat off our road, though in Sutherland the angler can hardly go wrong. All along the northern sea-coast, eastward as well as westward from Scourie, you have more loch than land-and some knowledge, as well as plenty of fish, is to be got in some of these waters. Within a stone's throw from the door of the inn, and lying literally on the sea-beach, there is a loch which, under moderately favourable circumstances, is to be seen "hottering" with wellsized trouts. But here, too, is to be witnessed a fact which much vexes and perplexes anglers in Sutherland more than in any other known country

that the nearer the sea-level, the more wary, or fastidious, or capricious, do fresh-water fish become. In this loch, whose Gaelic name, we daresay, signifies disappointment, you shall see hundreds of trouts dashing at everything on the face of the waters, with apparently ravenous appetites and reckless demeanour; but the most tempting lure, plied with the lightest hand, seldom obtains any other notice than a contemptuous and unseemly toss of the tail. Half a mile up a gentle ascent there is a larger loch, where things are comparatively better, though not positively good; up again and behind some gentle heights, there are at least half-a-dozen lochs where things are excellent—that is, where the fish, though not superb either in size or quality, are open to reason and apprehension. But it would be endless to mention the lochs even in clusters; between Scourie and the next inn, Rhiconich, there is a week's fishing

without leaving the roadside. There, too, is a loch called Garbet-beg, crowded with salmon and sea-trout, for the catching of which nothing is required but the factor's permission and a strong wind. Immediately above it is another loch called Garbet-more, where many anglers have been tempted to waste their time under the impression that "beg" means the big loch, and more the bigger one, with fish to correspond: but in Gaelic" beg" perversely means little, and "more" means simply big; and in this case, as in many others, the big fish are in the little loch, and vice versa.

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For all that is to be seen and caught in the region beyond-across the howling wilderness of the Gualin, and down the boggy and midge-infested Grudie-reference is made to the literary works of Mr Andrew Young of Invershin. But let us save from disappointment the tourist who, under Andrew's guidance, may be taking his way through this region. On the right or south side of the Kyle of Durine," says Andrew, we see the most beautiful hills perhaps in Scotland." Stimulated by this strong remark, you look to your left as directed, in expectation of beholding a range which shall dwarf and make commonplace all you have beheld before; and what you see is the lowest, tamest, and most uninteresting elevations within the Highland line. You think perhaps of that odd misineasurement by Miss Porter, in her Wallace, or the Scottish Chiefs, where she speaks (we hope our memory is not wronging her) of "the Scottish army wheeling its march along beneath the frowning and gigantic range of the Corstorphines." In Miss Porter's case the mistake arose probably from a defect in her topography; but in Mr Young it is only a peculiarity of taste, about which, though there is no use disputing, it may be permitted to wonder. Revealing his meaning, he goes on "At all events, there is nothing to compare with these hills north of Fifeshire." Fife, before being thus taken in hand by Mr Young, had a celebrity of her own, but not in the way of anything Highland; indeed, Fife is in all respects the most non

Highland county in Scotland, and some people have a theory that the main causes are its peninsular form, and the difficulty presented of old to Highland immigration by the demand of a halfpenny pontage at Perth. But Mr Young has a theory of his own about mountains, under which he arrives at the conclusion that Largo Law and the Lomonds. are the most beautiful in Scotland. Here, says he of those particular Sutherland hills which alone draw his admiration-"here you have no heather and but few rocks-green as a meadow to the very top!" The less a mountain is a mountain, the more meritorious and beautiful does it become in the eyes of the author of The Tourist's Guide. Mountains, he reasons, are for feeding sheep; the more sheep fed, the more beautiful the mountain. Andrew is logical— he is also patriotic, if we may venture to infer that his infancy was spent amongst those Fifeshire mountains which, except at the Kyle of Durine, Sutherlandshire so utterly fails to rival.

Moving eastwards, the waters are found to be running due north, and the small lochs get both less numerous and less valuable, though one of them at least-called, we think, Loch Sain-is of some value as a curiosity. Its peculiarity consists in being a sort of compromise between loch and sea. Its water is fresh, but its bed is salt; a large expanse of fresh water has found itself a basin on the sea-beach, the basin retaining all its natural characteristics notwithstanding its unnatural contents. The aquatic vegetation seems entirely marine, the bottom and many parts of the surface being covered with sea-tangle, to the equal astonishment and disgust of the angler. Its piscine inhabitants are mixed and motley: fish which are never got but in fresh water, such as common trouts-and fish, such as sythe and coal-fish, nowhere else found out of the salt water-both abound. Of course there is a supply also of those species which frequent both salt and fresh, though, perhaps, not so many of these as some people might or did assume. We hooked a fish of highly respectable dimensions,

either, we at once concluded, a salmon, or a grilse of considerable weight and decision of character; but from faults on his side we parted on bad terms. "Fery fine cuddie, indeed, sir, but she would not stay-oh, no, sir," was uttered from behind by an ancient Celt, who had, to no good purpose that we could perceive, wandered our way, and had been looking on unobserved until he made this unwarranted observation. What this superanuuated person meant, it turned out on explanation, was, that the fish which had so highly excited and so deeply disappointed the angler was one of that most degraded and despised even of all sea-fish, very vulgarly known in some districts as a cuddie, and in others by an equally dignified name, and everywhere regarded as the very extreme of stupidity and worthlessness. Nevertheless it is of course open to the person chiefly concerned to cherish for ever the conviction that that fish was a fine salmon, and that that Donald was an old fool. But willingly pass ing that, how is it that we have here saltwater fish living and thriving in perfectly fresh water? Even in the case of the migratory fish, which spend part of the year in the fresh and part in the saltsalmon, sea-trout, and eels-there seems to be in all ordinary cases a sort of acclimatising process, by a lingering both on the outward and inward journeys, at the point where river and sea meet and mix. But here the communication between loch and sea being by a small burn or cascade of only half-a-dozen yards in length, and existing only after heavy rains, and much more rarely by the inroad of a wave during high tides and certain winds-there is but one step from the salt to the fresh and back again, which step, however, does not seem to be considered a rash one even by those fish which naturally have no more to do with fresh water than with bitter beer. All the numerous sea-fish in this lake -for instance, that cuddie of six or eight pounds, not the individual thoughtlessly alleged by that ignorant barbarian to have personated a salmon, but any given cuddie out of

the hundreds that are lying within a few yards of us-came in in a couple of seconds from the brine of the Northern Ocean to this moor-loch, the water of which is made up partly of caller springs, and partly of peatimpregnated exudations, but as fresh as if it were not within sight of the sea. Yet there he is, seemingly quite at home, taking his food and his fun, sometimes (though certainly not this time) at the cost of the wayfaring angler. How can it be? Can it be that fish do not feel the difference between salt water and fresh? This seems incredible, looking at the extreme sensitiveness displayed, not only by the fresh-water fish, but by the migratory species, to the quality and the condition of the waters of rivers and lakes-how they detect and abhor every kind of adulteration, and, even when the water is left undisturbed by the operations of man, will seek and thrive in this water, and shun or pine in that. Nor is the case made clearer by the fact that, at least in the instance we have stumbled upon, there is no reciprocity in the emigration trade; the sea-fish come on shore, so to speak, but the fresh-water fish never go to sea. For the two reasons that this is not an ichthyological essay, and that we have nothing to say, we say nothing on this knotty case, beyond thus mentioning its existence and hinting its difficulties.

And other ichthyological puzzles are to be found without going much or almost any farther from the spot we have been speaking of. This Loch Sain is, as to its common trouts, another illustration of the fastidious and capricious habits of the fish in lochs near the sea-level; but pass on a few miles across Loch Erriboll, then across the river Hope, you come to a quaking morass called the Moin. At the very summit of this lifeless and storm-swept region there lies a small loch full of trout. Yet it is only now and then, with the finest tackle, and with the greatest caution, that it is possible to obtain even two or three specimensworm, and worm at night, being the only reliable lure at any season of the year. To look at the altitude of this lake, and the sterility of its

borders, destitute of anything promotive of insect life, you would conclude that nowhere on earth, nor in the waters under the carth, had Dr Malthus been more utterly defied, and the demand for food got so ridiculously in excess of the supply. In a cluster of most attractive but most unget-at-able lakes in what may be called the same district, a few miles up the very rough country at the head of Loch Erriboll, there is something to be seen that might mistakenly be called similar-the trout in one loch rising recklessly at anything you may throw in their way; those in another, a few yards off, refusing to look at anything but their own interests. But in these cases there are not only visible differences between the lochs-in the quality of the water, and the aquatic vegetation-but the trout in the shy lochs are large, few, and fat, conditions of fish-existence everywhere accompanied by a repugnance to any sort of entertainment which the angler has to offer; while in this loch on the moor (which is only one instance among many), the trout are small, many, and lean-just the very circumstances under which, naturally and ordinarily, fish are most eager to be killed. Again, why is it that in some rivers closely adjoining, as in the Borgie and the Halladale in this district, both salmon and trout will, in one, refuse to "take" or be taken in the evenings; and, in another, seem only then to awake to a sense of duty? Why is it that, in some rivers, fish of the salmon kind take as soon as they enter, and in others not till after they have passed days and miles in their new element? Why is it that on most Highland rivers, although you may have ten times the number of fish in any one "cast" that you might have in a "cast" on the Tweed or other Lowland rivers, you have not ten times the chance of success, nor even so good a chance? Ask any keeper who has had sufficient experience in both regions, and he will tell you that so it is; but be cautious in listening to him on the point why it is.

Only once more. In these Sutherland rivers, a point in the salmon question, hitherto undisputed, is very

considerably confused. It has been an accepted rule, that the proportion of grilse to salmon in the "take" on any river is a sort of measure of the severity of the fishing. Grilse are the crop, so to speak, of a single year, salmon the crops of an indefinite number of years; so that, if more are killed of the last year's produce than of the produce of all years preceding, the number of survivors of any year but the last must be very small. Grilse are on their first ascent, salmon on at least their second; so that, if more fish are killed on the first ascent than on the second, third, fourth, and so on, all put together, the state of things is much the same as if in any human community there were always alive a larger proportion of persons under, say, two years of age, than at all ages above. Further, grilse have never propagated, salmon have; so that the greater the proportion of fish killed as grilse, the smaller the sources of reproduc tion. All this seems plain in itself, and is corroborated by the history and statistics of the chief salmon rivers. In the Tay, and much more in the Tweed, as the proportion of grilse to salmon has increased, has the total produce dwindled. But in some of the best Sutherland rivers we find the proportion or disproportion of grilse killed much greater than in those cases, yet without there being the smallest ground for alleging anything of the nature of over-fishing. Thus, in the Halladale and neighbouring rivers the proportion is ten or twelve grilse to one salmon; and in the abounding Naver (which, by the by, is reputed the best salmon - angling river in Scotland) the proportion is not much smaller; although all these waters are netted very mercifully, and only at their mouths, and during a season much shorter than the legal one. There is not the shadow of a doubt that, in these rivers, a much larger proportion of the descending fish of any one year effect their return to the sea unharmed than in the case of the Tay or Tweed; yet it would appear that a smaller proportion come back from the sea. How is this? Is it the greater proportion of marine natural enemies in the

north than in the south? Who shall say, when not only is it not clear that that proportion really is greater, but when it is unknown in what part of all the ocean the salmon of the British rivers have their marine residences? The point is so important that we may be held to have made a sufficient contribution to that branch of science by stating the difficulty, leaving to posterity the honour of solving it.

Take it all in all, this extreme northern part of Sutherlandshire is perhaps the richest salmon district in the kingdom. The Hope, the Borgie, the Naver, the Halladale every few miles the traveller passes some river, moving on, stately and smooth, or hasting and brawling, from its birthplace in some chain of mountain-lakes to its grave in the sea. And though his basket may sometimes remain empty, his eye is filled and his mind stirred by the scenery, and by the very names of the region he traverses. He treads the rocks which wall out a sea stretching thence unbroken to the regions of eternal ice-on every cliff he passes is breaking, day and night, "the long wave that at the pole began." Nor can the traveller hear unmoved that those specks which, on rounding some headland, he sees mottling the blue expanse, are "the far Orcades," whose very name to the dwellers in cities is a synonyme for distance, storm, and loneliness. At this point, which is perforce a turning-point, we begin thinking that our prattle may be tedious, and shall have done.

At the river Halladale we are on the borders between Sutherland and Caithness. The summit of those low hills on the east of the river separates, by an imaginary line, two counties differing utterly in physical aspects, and not less, even at this day, in the blood, language, and social habits of the people. Eastwards, instead of mountains and glens, you have unbroken and especially treeless flats. In the matter of trees Sutherland has little to boast of; but she is able to look on Caithness with contempt, and is pleased to get up contemptuous stories regarding her neighbour's nakedness. Up Strathal

ladale, within the Sutherland boundaries, there is a clump of the scrubbiest birches that ever disgraced the name of "a wood;" and the Caithness people come thirty or even forty miles to picnic on that happy bog, and revel in forest scenery. This Caithnessian defect is visible even in the interiors of the churches, the timber in which the natives owe much more to the sea than to the land; the pews, and even pulpits, it is said, being ordinarily constructed, and that with but little adaptation to altered circumstances, out of the wrecks of fishing-boats. Our informant (but whose information, we fear, was less ample as to the inside of churches than as to many other subjects) was even ready to swear (but that seemed no effort with him) that in one Caithness kirk, which had been fitted up with timber not much altered from the state in which it had come ashore, he found himself embarked in a pew inscribed "The Brothers, of Banff," whilst the minister appeared to be considerably at sea in a pulpit which, as all men might read, had in its unregenerate days buffeted the waves as "The Jane, of Portsoy."

In the appearance and character of the population the diversity is striking, even to the most careless observer. On the one side of these knolls you have the Celts, with all their virtues and faults; on the other, the Scandinavians, with all theirs. "The Caithness folk," said a south-country shepherd, whose lot had been cast among both races, "are far mair anxious-they work harder, and live better, and pay bigger rents, than the folk in Sutherland, where the men like to beak at the house-ends while the women are tearing their lives out working." One notable form of this last evil is still to be seen in some parts of Sutherland, though we were fortunate enough not to see it-the manure is filled by men into creels on the backs of women, who, after carrying it to the field, open the bottom of the basket and let the contents spill down over their clothes to the ground, then return to the midden, where the men meanwhile have been leaning gracefully on their "graips," ready to renew their easy part in

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