3 Is thy servant a cabbage or a mushroom that his literary growth should be likened to that of one of the vegetable kingdom?
The Professor is so " canny " a critic, that it is a matter of some difficulty to catch him tripping. His literary judgments not being for the most part his own—he is for ever wishing us to " homologate" some other person's opinion regarding some one else; it is somewhat difficult to pin him down, as it were, to any definite statement which, by the greatest stretch of the imagination, can be allowed to pass for original literary criticism. On the rare occasions, however, on which, emerging from the conduct of his leading strings, he attempts a flight, in that way, of his own, he cannot justly be congratulated on the success of the novel and dangerous experiment. Apparently he thinks it quite safe to extol the literary judgment and acumen of the late Professor Blackie who, in spite of his excellent heart, many lovable traits and noble qualities, had about as much idea of literature as Professor MacLean has himself, which, as the intelligent reader may suppose, is not saying much. It is noticeable that Livingstone, who is one of our greatest bards—perhaps even a greater satirist than Iain Lom himself—does not receive half the applause or a quarter the sympathetic consideration which is strictly due to him ; whilst illiterates like Rob Donn and other self-taught rustic votaries of the Muse (whose poems enjoy a vogue out of all proportion to their merit, in my opinion), are praised and treated of at large, presumably simply because they have the merit of being "popular".
Here is another example of the Professor's unfortunate daring and originality. " More striking, and in some respects more novel," he says, "is the interest taken in nature. It is true that from ancient times, as seen in Pagan poet and Christian Apostle, the Gael manifested no ordinary delight in and sympathy with the objects and phases of outward nature. In him there appeared a feeling of kinship with his environment. Nature was instinct with life reflecting his moods and emotions. Yet it is to the bards that arose towards the middle of the eighteenth century that we must turn for the full expression of this intimate sympathy and keen enjoyment" Surely Professor MacLean's LiteratureoftheCelts,scrappy, perfunctory, unscholarly and imperfect though it is, might have taught him better than this? "Coire a 'Cheathaich" and " Beinn Dorain" are fine poems, no doubt; and I yield to no discriminating critic in my admiration of them, but to assert that we must wait until we come to the poets of the '45 in order to realise " the full expression of this intimate sympathy and keen enjoyment" is, if the author will pardon my candour, sheer nonsense. Remember that ancient Gaelic literature is particularly rich in the poetry of nature; and that whilst much yet remains to be printed, sufficient has been made public to enable us to form a true estimate as to its literary value. " It may be safely predicted," says Professor Kuno Meyer in his preface to the beautiful Liadainand Curithir,"that these anonymous and neglected poems, once properly collected, edited and translated, will strongly appeal to all lovers of poetry. There is in them such delicate art, so subtle a charm, so true and deep a note, that with the exception of the masterpieces of Welsh poetry, I know nothing to place by their side." Indeed, it is precisely on account of this very same " full expression " of " intimate sympathy and keen enjoyment" of nature that ancient Gaelic poetry is so remarkable. The moderns may have done well— I do not dispute it—but to assert that " Pagan poet
(why Pagan?—the best poetry is Christian) and Christian Apostle" knew less about nature and how to sing of it than the poets of the '45is not only uncritical but ignorant. An eminent French man of letters to whom a translation of one of these beautiful old pieces was recently sent could not believe that it was a fragment of Gaelic literature. He would have it that so exquisite a performance must needs be the product of ancient Greece or Rome.
I could give many other instances in which Professor MacLean has either surrendered at once to indiscretion, or has allowed other people's opinions to run away with whatever little acumen and critical faculty he may possess of his own; but really, to hold popular language, the game is by no-means worth the candle. The Literature ofthe Highlands, however " succinct and popular " it may be, is not a book calculated to set the Moyle on fire; nor can I conscientiously say that these pages are like to go down to posterity as pearls before swine.
DITHIS BHRAITHREANAnn an cladh Bhaile-chaisteil ann am Braigh-mhairr, faisg air Luchairt Ghaidhealach an Righ, chithear leac-lighidh air an leughair na briathrean
so, "Chaith an t-Urramach Iain Mac Fheachair feasgar a laithean mur shagairt-taighe do bhrathar-athair Alaisdir Mac Fheachair Fear InbherAdhe,
1 The Eevs. John and Charles Farquharson, S.J.
ngtis shiubhail e ann am Baile-mhorail air darna latha fichead de Mhios Toiseachd an Fhogair anns a bhliadhna 1782 ". Agus aig iochdar na lice ciadna leughar " Chaoch ail an t- Urramach Tearlach Mac Fheachair air an deicheamh latha f chead de mhios Toiseachd a Gheamraidh anns a bhliadhna 1799, an deigh dha 'bhi na phears-eoglais a measg na Cait-liceach air feadh na Gaidhealtach re ioma bliadna ". Tha na briathrean pongail so a leighadh a thuigsinn dhuinn nach robh e 's an dàn gum biodh an da bhrathair so, bha co-ionnan nan driachd agus nan inbhe, dealaichte, seadh, anns an uaigh. B'iad so clann Luthais Mhic Fheachair, Achadh-an-Dreaghain, agus clann brathar de dh' Fhear Inbher-idhe a dh'eirich Bliadhna Thearlaich. Ao-coltach ri'n sinnsir agus ris a chuid eile dha'n teaghlach, cha robh e orduighte guns biodh an dithis so a lnimhsaichadh a chlaidhamh-mhor. Bha cogadh eile a feitheadh orre agus blair a bu chruadh-dalaiche agus a bha dol a mharsuinn na b-fhaide, no na dh'fhuilig am brathair Uilleam an deigh Latha Chuillodair.
Bughadh Iain, am fear a bu shinne dhiu, air an naoidh-lath-diag do 'n Ghiblin anns a bhliadna 1699. 'X uair nach robh e ach gle og, thug e e fhein a suas agus choisrig e e fhein ann an Comunn Iosa ann an Tournai ann an rioghachd Bhelgium. An deigh dha crioch a chuir air 'oilean, fhuair Ordugh Naomh agus chaidh a chuir air ais do dh' Albainn. Euigh Dunedeinn mu dheireadh an Fhogair anns a bhliadhna 1726. An deigh sin, chaidh e do Shtrathghlais ann an siorruchd Ionarnis far an d'fhuiraich e re ioma bliadhna. 'S ann an so a chuir am feothas a dheadh-eolas air a Ghaidhlic air chor's gu'm bu sgoilear Gaidhlic e nach robh na b'fhearr's an duthaich ri linn. Cuir e cruinn
moran de bhardach Oisein a fhuair e bho aithris-bhialean an t-shluaigh. Ach gu mi-fhortanach chaidh a shaothir a dholaidh le cion tuir agus mi-churam feadhnach aig robh eolas air a Ghaidhlic bheannaichte. Gus an latha 'diugh tha tuath Shtrathghlais, le aithris-bhialean na feadhnach a thainig mar a thainig iad a toirt ioma sgialachd dhuinn mu Mhaighstir Iain. Cha robh e air a sharachadh le tuille 's choir do chuid an t-shaoghailsa. Bha gille, no clerach aige a bhiodh gu tric a talach air gainne an teachd-an-tir. Latha bha sid thuit do'n chlerach a bho'n tigh, ach co thainig a thun doruis an t'Shagairt ach diol-deirce bochd. Cha robh sian a stigh ach mias de mhin-choirce. Ach cha leigadh Mr. Iain creutair bochd air falbh bho 'dhorus gun deirc' thoirt dhaibh. Ghlac e a mhias le miann leth a chodach a thoirt do'n diol-deirce. Ach, seall, gu dè a thacair! Thuit a h-uile grainne dhe'n mhin ann am malaid a chreutair thruaigh! 'Nuair a thug Mr. Iain fainear mar a bha' chuis, rinn e glag-gaire, agus thuirt e ris a bhagair, "Tog ort, bi falbh mu'n d'thig an gille dhachaidh, agus thoir taing agus buidheachas do'n Fhreasdal gu'n robh thu cho fortanach ". Thainig an gille dhachaidh, agus mu thainig; bha e sgith, agus air acras agus fior chrosde. Chunnaic Mr. Iain gu'n robh fior dhroch nadur air a ghille. Ciod a thairgeas e dha ? Cha robh sian a stigh! Cha robh uibhir de mhin's dhianadh mias bhrochain do'n chlerach! Chuala'n clerach le corraich mar a thacair do'n mhin agus cha do chaomhain e a mhaighstir. Thuirt e ris nach robh gnothach 's am bi aige a leithid de ni a dhianadh. "Bitheadh foighdinn agad agus cuir d'earbsa's an Fhreasdal" ars' an Sagart, " maith a dh'fhaodte gu faigh sinn deadh-lon mu'n d'theid sinn a laidhe a nochd." Ach cha robh a leithid sid de dh'earbs 'aig a ghille. Shuidh e aig taobh an teine le muig agus gruaim mhor air a ghnuis. Ciod 'tha sid? Bhuail cuideigin aig an dorus. Dh'eirich an gille gu mail agus chaidh e thun an dorus, agus co chunnaic e ach marcaich e a thilg maleid throm air, agus a theab an gille chur thar a chas. Dh'fhalbh am marcaiche as an t'shealladh gun smid a radh agus cha chualeas iomradh riamh tuille air.
Dh'fhosgail iad a mhaleid's fhuair iad innte de gach ni a b'fhearr na cheile, air chor 's gun robh sunnd' agus cridhealas gu leoir air a ghille mu'n do ghabh e tamh an oichdh' ad.
Bha Maighstir Iain, mar a bha Eob Ruadh Mac Ghrigair, na chearnach-coille, 's e sin ri radh, chaidh pris a chuir air a cheann, agus bha e an aghaidh an lagh dha a dhriachd a chleacadh mar phears-eaglais Caitliceach. Chaidh a chuir da thurus am priosan air na Seann Longa bha air Amhuin Lunnain. Uair a bha sid chaidh a bhrath agus a ghlacadh 'n uair a bha e tairgse suas Ard-Iobairt-na-h-Ifrionn. Thug na saighdearan air falbh e direach mar a bha e air eidadh na Chulaidh-Ifrionn. Turas eile chaidh a ghlacadh ann an Gleanncannaich. Thainig am brathadair air chulthaobh agus chuir e a lamh air a ghuailean ag radh.
"'S d'thusa mo phriosanach ann an ainm an Righ."
Thug an Sagart suil thiamhaidh air a bhratha-dair agus dh'aithnich e e agus thuirt e ris " mo thruaighe, Iain, mo thruaighe, gu dianamh d'thusa a leithid so, bithidh an lamh sin na h-aobhar bàis dhut fhathast" agus b'ann mar a b'fhior. Shearg an lamh sin agus a ghairdean. 'S e duine mifhortanach truaigh e fhein a dh'innis a sgeula so air leab'a-bhàis ann am Braighmhairr.
Bha fior mheas mor agus cliu aig a h-uile duine air Mr. Iain agus air Mr. Tearlach. Chleachd Maighstir Tearlach a dhriachd ann an Gleann-gairne agus ann am Braighmhairr; agus mar a thacair dha' brathair, chaidh pris a chuir air a cheannsan cuideachd. Latha bha sid, thuit de dh'Fhear Inbhir-chalde le a ghile-coise, a bhi 'gabhail sraide air bruach na h-aimhne, agus co chunnaic iad air an taobh-thall na shuidhe aig bun craige, air chul gaoithe 's air aodun greine, ach Mr. Tearlach gu durachdach a leughaidh a leabhair. Thug an gille-coise duibh leum as, agus ghabh e thar na h-ainmhne. Shnaig mar nathair-nimhne gus an robh e air cul an t'shagairt. Chuir e a lamh air a ghuaille agus ghlac e e ann an ainme an Eigh. Thog an Sagart a cheann agus thuirt e "M'eudail, an d'thusa th'ann, bitheadh foighdinn agad, fhir-chridhe, gus a cuir mi crioch air mo leasan agus falbaidh mi leat do chearna 's am bi do'n t-shaoghal". Chum Mr. Tearlach air a leabhair gus an do chuir e crioch air a chaibidal "ann an Ainm an Athair, agus a Mhic, agus a Spioraid Naoimh, ga chomharrachadh fhein le comharradh na Croise ". Nis, 'ille," ars' an Sagart, "ceana tha sinn a dol?" as thoiraich e air canntaireachd.
" Cha'n eil cearn de Rinn-eorpa eadar air traigh is tir mòr
Anns nach eil larach mo bhroig's gach ceum dheth
Bha mi'm Portugal thall, is cha b'e m'fhortan a bh'ann, etc."
" Feumaidh sinn," ars' an spailpeanach, 's e ain bhalbh-chrith leis an eagal, " dol thar na h-ainmhe thun Fear Inbher-chalde."
" Seadh, Seadh! mata," ars' an Sagart, " toga-maid oirne."
Ach, cha rachadh Mr. Tearlach a stigh do'n amhain ach ann aite thogradh e fhein. Cha dianadh an t'aite so, no'n t-aite ad eile an ghnothach. Mu dheireadh thagh e an t-aite bu doimhne do'n amhain. 'N uair a bha iad mu mheadhan na b-aimhne, agus an t-uisge suas ri achlais an t'Shagairt ('s e duine mor a bh'ann a Mr. Tearlach, agus cha robh anns ghile ach creutair crionn leibideach) rug an Sagart air cul cinn a ghille agus air màs a bhriogais agus thum e thar a chinn anns an amhain e. Thug e sin an uachdar e, agus ghabh e beachd air cor a ghille agus chunnaic nach dianaidh aon tumadh eile cron 's am bith dha (oir's e deadh-lighiche bh'ann a Mr. Tearlach) 'sios chaidh an gille rithist thar a chinn. Feadh 's bha so a tachairt, bha Fear Inbher-chalde a gabhail mion-bheachd air na bha dol air aghart, agus cha mhor nach do chaile e a chli a gaireach-daich. Ghiulean Mr. Tearlach an creutair truagh is e leth-mharbh is dh'fhag e air toman boidhaich uaine e aig casan a Mhaighstir. Thug Fear Inbher-chalde sanas do Mhaighstir Tearlach, agus mu'n d'thainig an gille dha ionnsuidh fhein thug an Sagart a chasan as.
Mar a thuirt mi cheana, bha cliu mor aig an t shluagh air Mr. Tearlach, agus mar lighiche fhuair e ainm mor air feadh na dutcha gu leir. Ach bha' dhoigh fhein aige air smior na firinn fhaighinn mu chor na feadhnach e bha easlainteach. Na biodh amhuras orre nach d'thigeadh an doigd ri Mr. Tearlach, cha ghabhadh ni a chunnaic iad riamh agus so aideachadh, agus is math a bha fios aig Mr. Tearlach air a so. Latha' bha sid, chaidh a ghairn thun leanabh a bha'n coltas bàis. So agad a chiad cheist a dh'fhaighnaich e. "Am bi sibh a toirt gu leoir do bhainne do'n leanabh ?" Dh'-faighnaich e so, direach mar gum biodh amhuras
aige gu'n robh iad ri dearmad mor anns an t-sheadh so. Fhreagair Mathair an leinibh agus thuirt L
" Le'r cead, tha e faighinn gu leoir de bhainne."
"Ach," ars' an Lighiche. 'N uair a bhitheas sibh a dianadh an ime, am bi sibh a toirt fuarag dha as a mhuidhe?"
"Cho fior ris a bhàs, gu cead duibhse, Mhr. Tearlach," ars' a mhathair bhochd, "a h-uile uair a tha mi a dianadh ime tha mi toirt dha deadb fhuarag as a mhuidhe."
"Direach sinn, a bhean-an-taighe," ars' an Lighiche, "faodaidh sibh a nis a leinne-bhàis a cheannach le pris an ime, mhil thu goille an leinibh le'd chuid fhuaragan. Tha mi an earbsa gun gabh thu barrachd curam do'n chor do d' chloinn."
Cha robh comhairle Mhr. Tearlach daonan a cordadh ri cuid do'n t-shluagh. Latha do na laithean sid, thuit dha a bhi gabhail a sios rathad Ghlinn-sithe, is chaidh iarraidh air suil a thoirt a stigh, anns an dol seachad, air bean tuathanaich airidh a bha gu bochd na slainte. Chaidh e stigh agus chuir e failte an latha air an teaghlach. Dh'-fhaighnaichd e ceist no dha air an te a bha tinn. Thionndaidh e ri fear an taighe agus thuirt e. "Fheargais, gabh mo chomhairle agus cuir ealach chlach air a muin agus saodaich i a suas gu mulach Beinn-Ghuilibean." Cha'n eil n'ion a radh nach d'fhuair e taing na buidheachas airson na comhairle so. Goirid an deigh bàs na mnatha so, thacair fear-eolais a mhuinntir Bhraighmhairr air agus dh'fhaighnaich e dheth. " Gu dè sid a chomhairle a thug sibh do dh'Fheargas Mac Fhionlaidh mu dheibhinn a mhnatha—ealach chlach a chuir air a druim agus a saodachadh gu mulach Beinn-Ghuilibeann ?" Fhreagair Mr. Tearlach agus thuirt e. "Na'n do ghabh iad mo chomhairle bhiodh i maireann an diugh, oir bha iongarachadh mor an taobh as stigh dhi, agus a reir coltais, leis a stri, bhristeadh e agus bhiodh i slan fallain an diugh."
'N uair a bhiodh Mr. Tearlach dol mu chuairt feadh na duthcha, mar phears'-eaglais agus mar lighiche bhiodh mi-fhortain gu leoir na luib. Cha robh cuid an t-shaoghail a cuir a bheag do dhragh air. Gu'n bhonne sia ruadh na sheilbh, ghrios e, lath'bha sid, an t-aisig air portair Prostanach. "Cha'n eil sgillinn ruadh agam," ars' esan, "ach a chionns gur gille og thu, bheir mi dhut comhairle 's fhearr na airgiod no òr, na pos aon-nighean banntrich, no sgoileam, no idir te a chul-chainaidh."
Aig an àm ad, fhuair na Duthaich seilbh air roinn mhor de dh'oighreachd Bhraighmhairr, agus bha iad a toirt e h-uile oidheirp air " poachairachd " a chuir a sios. Latha bha sid dh'fhalbh an t-Iarla e fhein a dh'aon obair a choimhead air Mr. Tearlach, Ios a chuidachadh agus a chomhairle fhaighinn gu crioch a chuir air a " phoachairachd ". Fhuair an t-Iarla an Sagart trang ag obair. Bha e togail dìg Ios gu 'n cumar an amhain a mach as a chroit aige. Chuir an t-Iarla failte an latha air an t-Shagairt, "Ciamar a tha sibh an diugh, a Mhr Tearlach ?"
"Tha mi, gu cead duibhse, ann am breacadh, is tha sibh'gam fhaicinn trang ag obair," arsa Mr. Tearlach.
"Am beil fios agaibh ciod a chuir an so mise an diugh."
" Mata, cha'n eil," fhreagair Mr. Tearlach.
"Thainig mi," ars' an t-Iarla, "a dh'aon obair Ios gun d'thugadh sibh dhomh mo dhinneir."
"Mata 's e 'ur deadh-bheath' e," arsa Mr. Tearlach, "ach leigaibh leum falbh agus innseadh do'n bhean-taighe Ios gum bi rudeigin aice deas air arson."
Nam biodh fios aig Mr. Tearlach an gnothach a thug an t-Iarla sid an lath'ad, dh'iarradh e air a bhean-taighe ceithramh de shithonn a bh'anns a phot a chuir air leth-taobh. Ach cha fhuair e cothrom rabhadh a thoirt dh'i.
'N uair a thainig an t-am, chaidh iad a stigh le cheile agus shuidh aig bord. 'S gann a bha iad na'n suidhe, 'n uair a thainig bean-taighe an t-Shagairt a stigh, gu neo-chionntach, le spag an fheidh aice air aisid mhoir. Chuir an t-Iarla gruaim air agus thuirt e " Ciamar, Ciamar a thainig so a dh'ionnsuidh do laimh ?"
Fhreagair Mr. Tearlach agus thuirt, "Le'r cead, agus a dh'innseadh na firinn dhuibh, 'n uair a thig a h-aon agus ultach aige air a ghairdean cha bhi mi cho mi-mhodhail 's gun fhiosraich mi dheth c'aite an d'fhuair e e ".
" Glè cheart," ars' an t-Iarla, " agus an uair bheir a h-aon cuirradh dha fhein gu lòn a ghabhail ann an tigh fir-eile, 's beag a choir a th'aige fhaighnachd ciamar a thainig a leithid de ghnothaiche an matha air a bhialthaobh."
Chaidh an t-Iarla dhachaidh an lath'ad gun ghuth a thoirt air a ghnothach a thug ann e.
Air latha tiodhlachaidh Mhr. Tearlach, 'n uair a bh' an comhlan air an t-shlighe gu cladh Bhaile-] chaisteil, co thacair air a ghiulan ach an t-Iarla e fhein, is e air muin eich. Leum e thar an eich agus ghlac e a cheannadach na laimh agus thuirt e. "Bheirinn rud a chunnaic mi riamh, gu robh mi coltach risan : bhithean deonach air bhi far a bheil esan".
Bha' bharrachd's beachd chiadna agus bha iad mar-an-ciadna am beachd gun robh Mr. Tearlach & caitheadh crun a b'aillidh agus a bu ghile na Iarla's am bi ann an Albinn.
Buaidh agus piseach air fear na cathrach ! Gilleasba'mac Dhomhnuil'ic Eobhain.
[By a Government Official]
Complaint has been made that what is known as the Celtic Renaissance does not pay sufficient attention to the material needs of those whom it seeks to rejuvenate by means of letters. However well founded this complaint may be, personally I do not see how the fact itself can be otherwise. The Renaissance, I take it, is an intellectual movement, whose principal aim is the revival of native letters amongst the " sea-divided Gaels ". That being so, it is difficult to understand how a purely sentimental agitation of this kind can reasonably be expected to foster manufactures and to improve agriculture. The Celtic Renaissance, it is true, can give the idea, can revive the notion of a lost or languishing nationality, but it cannot (directly) build factories or inaugurate handicrafts. Doubtless if this were a movement likely to appeal to millionaires of the i'.trnegie order something might be done to reestablish dead and gone industries in the Highlands and Isles. But it would appear to have no attrac-d for the man who has made his money in soap or
iron; at all events, none of our commercial Midases has yet manifested his sympathy for it in any practical shape or form. The endeavour, too, to float small " cottage industries " here and there throughout the Highlands and Isles, however praiseworthy the intentions of those who are responsible for them, are in too small a way, and too much in the hands of inexperienced though well-meaning amateurs, to effect much or enduring good. The consequence is that the Renaissance is blamed for a state of affairs for which, it appears to me, it is in no wise responsible. It is not a "rich" movement as yet. It would not appear to possess the faculty of enlisting the sympathies and opening the purse-strings of those wealthy and powerful people who, were they willing, could very well afford to do something practical for the Highlands and Isles in the way of restoring to the Celtic people some part at least of their former pre-eminence as skilled artisans and so forth. But however much this may be the case, and whatever the causes, there can be no doubt, I think, that to brand the Renaissance as "unpractical," simply because it has not ready cut and dried a panacea for every ill to which the Highlands and Isles may at this time be subject, is unjust and absurd. The special work of the Renaissance is the re-creation of a healthy national sentiment, operating within the thought-limits of that Empire to which, whether Gael or Saxon, we all are heirs. The Renaissance cannot, directly, do more than make a present of this idea to the people, and encourage them to work out their salvation on the lines which it sensibly suggests. It is not a limited liability company with a huge capital at its command, and nothing to spend it on save vast undertakings of a purely philanthropic character. The people must help themselves, if they wish to benefit their condition, and to prove themselves worthy of the race from which they are sprung.
No doubt the purely sentimental aspect of some features of the Celtic Renaissance is too pronounced. There is a regrettable tendency to not a little " posturing," especially amongst Cian societies and the like, whose energies and resources, apart from their purely philanthropic work, are frittered away in a variety of superfluous and undignified directions. Some of these societies are quite respectably well off, and one wonders why it has never occurred to them to combine their forces and undertake some work of a really useful and practical description, by which alone, it appears to me, they can hope to justify their existence. But as I have said, it is the people themselves who must help themselves, if the present state of affairs is to be remedied. All the Celtic societies in the Kingdom could not set Humpty Dumpty together again, if Humpty Dumpty is in no mind to do what he can to assist himself and his neighbours. Nor can much be expected of Parliament. That is quite certain ; and I do not know that it is even desirable that Government should go out of its way to frame special legislation for such as are incompetent to better themselves, or unwilling to make the effort to improve their surroundings. Artificial legislation of this kind is an unhealthy symptom both on the part of a Government which makes, and on that of a people which clamours for, it. Some improvements in the Acts applying to the crofter classes might undoubtedly be made; and the vexed subject of communications should undoubtedly receive more attention at the hands of Government than it is now in the habit of receiving in Parliament; but I feel sure that most political economists will agree with me when I say that it is neither the part nor the duty of Government to create artificial conditions by any series of legislative enactments which professedly and avowedly partake of that character, however honourable the designs and praiseworthy the intentions of those who are responsible for such legislation. After all, " fair rent and fixity of tenure " is the most that can reasonably be expected of Government. Subsidised undertakings, bounty-fed industries, and artificially inflated concerns of all sorts are neither morally nor politically defensible. As a rule, they are not even commercially successful.
Peace, joined to the existence of a healthy national sentiment, which should imply emulation and rivalry in commercial affairs, are the two great mainstays of trade. If your community is apathetic —if, to use homely language, it does not take a pride in itself—your trade will be correspondingly bad. A nation which has no sense of homogeneity —which is all at sixes and sevens, as it were— cannot be a prosperous nation, using that word in the best sense of the term. Now, the reason, in my opinion, why the Highlands and Isles are so much a desert to-day compared with what they once were, is that at present we are a people conspicuously lacking in this sense. We are all at sixes and sevens, mainly no doubt in consequence of that sequence of political events which has transferred the political centre of gravity elsewhere, and partly, I am afraid, through our own supineness, and neglect of the most ordinary precautions to improve such small advantages as we may yet have. You cannot, of course, shift the centre of political gravity from one nation to another without grievously disturbing the balance of trade in that country from which the centre of political gravity is removed. The palmiest days of the Highlands and Isles were undoubtedly those in which our country and nation enjoyed something resembling settled government and trading advantages under the rule of the kings of the Isles. No person at all conversant with our history will venture, I think, to dispute the truth of this assertion. In those days, truly and in a more pathetic sense than is commonly imagined by those onwhose lips the well-known Ossianic phrase is frequently heard—" the days of other years "—arts and industries, trades and callings and professions of all kinds flourished apace and in abundance in the Highlands and Isles. Our civilisation in fact was a reflection of the fine civilisation of contemporary Ireland. I do not say that it was superior to that of that country, concerning which such particular accounts have come down to us ; but this I do say, that it was no bad imitation of it, at its best, and that since those times the Highlands and Isles in everything that stamps a nation as refined, artistic, enterprising, prosperous and resourceful have been neadily declining until, at the present day, so parlous is our condition, nothing now remains to us are peat-hags and grouse-moors and a peasantry, virtuous and deserving if you will, but incapable of sing to the achievement of any sort or kind of art »ve that of thrashing the melancholy seas in open boats in pursuit of fish, or scraping an ungrateful and inhospitable soil in the hopes to obtain a meagre tod precarious subsistence thereby.
It is the misfortune of the Highlands and Isles that they have long been in the hands of the political physician. They are the " sick man " of the West, and every political quack that comes along conceives ktmself at liberty to experiment with his nostrums
i6oCeltic Renaissance and Industrial Revival
thereon. Even before the union of the crowns in the person of James VI., legislators were at work, dosing and physicking in their familiar ignorant and improvident manner. At one time it was " education" which was to restore the Highlands and Isles to their former prosperity—the inhabitants were to be brought off from the state of ignorance and barbarity in which the political specialists were pleased to imagine them to be, and were to be made contented, happy and prosperous by means of the introduction of the English language and customs. Then, when these failed, other specifics were recommended, with all the vehemence and confidence that had formerly been employed to urge the application of the preceding " remedies " from the extensive and varied pharmacopoeia of the political quack. But still in spite, or rather, partly in consequence of the plethora of physicians and the superabundance of " remedies," the Highlands and Isles continued to languish. Then came the political upheaval of the year 1745, after which the condition of the Highlands and Isles was so melancholy and desperate in every respect that there were not wanting those to come forward and boldly declare that nothing short of wholesale expulsion (which, adopting the language of the political casuist, they styled "emigration") could save the Highlands and Isles from the state of abject bankruptcy and desolation with which they were threatened. But even this desperate remedy, which may be compared to the now discarded medical practice of cupping or blood-letting, failed to improve the impoverished state of the Highlands, which, together with the Isles, continued in so low a condition that before very long the political operators with their injurious paraphernalia were in haste assembled again, when
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on this occasion it was confidently declared by the political specialists gathered together to practise their ingenuity on the helpless body of their victim, that sheep-farming on a large scale was the only true remedy for the Highlands and Isles.1 And