Friday, 17 April 2015

Last Words of Lord Lovat

Library volunteer and Outlander lover Sue Henderson gives us a brief history of one of the most colourful figures in the Jacobite story.  And to whom, we ask, does he refer in his last words? 

SIMON FRASER, 11TH LORD LOVAT circa 1667 – 1747

Sometimes known as The Fox, Simon Fraser led a colourful life. Credited to ‘kidnapping’ with a view to forcefully marrying Lady Amelia Murray, daughter of John Murray 1st Marquis of Athol.
The Murray’s were a powerful family themselves and prosecuted Fraser who fled to France.
Convicted in ‘absentia’ attainted and sentenced to death, however, during the 1715 Rebellion, Fraser supported the Government and King, and was duly rewarded with a pardon for his crimes.
After winning litigation his title of Lord Lovat was bestowed upon him.
For whatever reason, he became entangled in the 1745 Rebellion, and was committed to a trial lasting from 9th March 1747 until 19th when he was condemned to death.
A great many rebel prisoners were transported to America “’Tis said that the government has for a good while past been at an expense of upwards of £40 a day for keeping state prisoners.”
On the 9th April 1747, the morning of his execution a terrible accident happened with scaffolding built in many stories by The Ship alehouse. This held several hundred persons on it, which had come along, for a day out! It fell down and 8 – 10 persons were killed including the master carpenter and his wife who was selling beer underneath it.
Just prior to his death, his Lordship called for William Fraser, his solicitor and agent, and holding up his gold headed cane said, “I deliver you this cane, as a token of my sense of your faithful services and of my committing to you all the power I have upon earth;” and embraced him. He now called for Mr James Fraser and embracing him said, “my dear James, I am going to heaven, but you must continue to crawl a little longer in this evil world” and took his leave of them both.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Steamboats on the West Coast of Scotland

Every month from April to October, the Friends of Innerpeffray Library hold a talk on a wide variety of topics with guest speakers, to raise funds for the Library. For every talk, the Keeper selects a book from the Collection to complement the subject of the talk.  Last Wednesday, the 8th of April, the subject was The Puffer, and the talk given by Eleanor Miller.  The chosen book was Sir Archibald Geikie's Scottish Reminiscences (1904), the extract is given below.

When Johnson and Boswell landed in Skye in the year 1773, there was not  road in the whole island   practicable for a wheeled carriage.  Locomotion, when not afoot, was either on horseback or by boat.  The inland bridle-tracks lay among loose boulders, over rough, bare rock, or across stretches of soft, sometimes treacherous bog. The boats were often leaky, the oars and rowlocks unsound, the boatmen unskilful; whiel the weather, even in summer, is boisterous enough to make the navigation of the sea-lochs and sounds difficult or impossible for small craft.  And such continued to be the conditions in which the social life of the West Highlands was carried on long after Johnson's time.  During the first thirty or more years of last century the voyage from the Clyde to Skye was made in sailing packets, and generally took from ten to fifteen days.  It as not until steamboats began to ply along the coast that the scattered islands were brought into closer touch with each other and with the Lowlands.  To the memory of David Hutcheson who organised the steamboat serice among the Western Highlands and Islands, Scotland owes a debt of gratitude.  The development of this service has been the gradual evolution of some seventy years.  Hlf a century ago it was far from havng reached it present state of advancement.  There were then no steamers up the West Coast to Skye and the outer Hebrides, save those which carried cargo and came round the Mull of Cantyre.  During the herring season, and about the times of the cattle markets, the irregularities and discomfort of these vessels can hardly be exaggerated.  When the decks were already loaded perhaps with odoriferous barrels of herring, and when it seemed impossible that they could hold anything more, the vessel might have to take  long detour to the head of some mountain-girdled sea-loch to fetch away a flock of sheep, or a herd of Highland cattle,  At most of the places there were no piers.  Passengers had accordingly to dismebark in small boats, sometimes at a considerable distance...
As the steamboat called at each place in summer only once, in later years twice, in a week, and in winter only once in a fortnight, the day of its arrival was eagerly looked forward to by the population, in expectation of the supplies of all kinds, as well as the letters and newspapers, which it brought from the south.  you might never be sure at what hour of the day or night it might make its appearance, and if you expected friends to arrive by it or if you proposed yourself to take a passage in it, you needed to be on the watch, perhaps for many weary hours. In fine weather, this detention was endurable enough; but in the frequent storms of wind and rain, much patience and some strength of constitution were needed to withstand the effects of the exposure.  The desirability of of having waiting-rooms or places of shelter of any kind is even yet not fully realised by the Celtic mind...
William Black, the novelist, used to tell of an English clergyman who, having breakfasted and paid his bill at Tobermory, was anxious for the arrival of the steamboat that was to take him north.  He made his way to the pier, and alkd up and down there for a time, but could see no sign of the vessel.  At last, accosting a Highlander, who, leaning against a wall,  was smoking a cutty-pipe, he asked him when the Skye steamer would call. Out came the pipe, followed by the laconic answer, 'That's her smoke' and the speaker pointed in the direction of the Sound of Mull.  The traveller for a time could observe nothing to indicate the expected vessel, but at last noticed a streak of dark smoke rising against the Morven Hills on the far side of the island that guards the little bay of Tobermory.  When at last the steamer itself rounded the point and came fully into sight, it seemed a much smaller vessel than he had supposed it would be and he remarked to the Highlander, 'That the Skye steamer! that boat will curely never get to Skye.'  The pipe was whisked out again to make way for the indignant reply, 'She'll be in Skye this afternoon, nothing happens to Skye.' The order of nature might concievably go wrong, but Hutcheson's arrangements could be absolutely depended upon.