« PreviousContinue »
Now Mac upon the Solway shore,
And whilks and mussels cheep;
For siller fry sae deep.
He entereth upon;
Nae matter, I'll batter
As weel's I can through life;
Throughout this worldly strise.
To refer to the “Encyclopædia” in terms of more exact criticism might appear ungracious and unnecessary—ungracious, because there is no end of good things within the book, and unnecessary, because the author has said that the work is presented just as he wished it. As for errors, “let them rest on my own broad back. Works of this kind are always fuller of errors than any others; also, should any be displeased because I have not taken notice of some curiosity which was a favourite of theirs, be it told that I was either not of their way of thinking or that I knew nothing about it.” In the face of such a direct disclaimer it would be of little use trying to show that "Hogmanay” could hardly be derived from "hug-me-now," or that “Effic,” not “Eppie,” is the endearing contraction of Euphemia. So at least Scott thought, Eppie being, probably, rather allied to Elspeth. One story might have been given, seeing it lay at our author's own door. His treatment of the “ Laird of Coul's Ghost,” and of ghosts generally, makes it matter for regret that Mactaggart did not try his hand on “A true Relation of an Apparition, Expressions and Actings of a Spirit which infested the house of Andrew Mackie, in Ringcroft of Stocking, in the Parish of Rerrick, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, in Scotland, 1695, by Mr. Alexander Telfair, minister of that parish, and attested by many other persons who were also eye and ear witnesses. Ephesians vi. 11~Put on the whole armour,'" &c.
DRUMLANRIG AND THE DOUGLASES.
By slow degrees, and at uncertain intervals, the antiquaries of the South of Scotland are making up for their remissness in illustrating various sections of local history, so thoroughly overtaken by the superior zeal of their brethren in the North. It cannot of course often happen that a single corner of Scotland so prolific as Aberdeenshire or Moray in great names can send out within one generation scholars of such rare culture as Robertson and Innes, Stuart and Burton; but, putting for a moment great names aside, the common rank and file of the antiquarian force have shown infinitely superior industry and enthusiasm in dealing with such a tract of country as lies between the Grampians and the Murray Frith. Here was the land of Barbour, who sung so well of the hero-king, even although he was a Southerner; of gossiping old Spalding, who lights up the sombre page of his “Troubles” with dashes of genuine humour, entitling him to the warm commendation of the most recent historian of that agitated period. The pious Bishop Elphinstone, the Parson of Rothiemay, the "gay Gordons,” the valiant Keiths, not to speak of municipal records, and the very
Breviary” of the old Church, have all found painstaking and loving commentators. The “Spalding Club” was mainly instituted to illustrate the history and antiquities of the north-east counties, and the useful series of volumes issued under its auspices make it plain that it may serve as a model for some kindred association in the neglected South. There matters are improving, but still far behind. With the exception of M‘Diarmid's “Picture of Dumfries,” avowedly light and sketchy, though full at the same time of his inimitable graces of style, and a few dry and not very accurate “Statistical Accounts," there was hardly any literature in existence relating to this part of Scotland, till M‘Dowall set himself with cultivated ardour to put into continuous historic shape the existing traditions clustering round “The Queen of the South.” The part taken by the burgh in
events so recent as Mar's Rebellion, or the entry of the young Chevalier on the retreat from Derby, could seldom be encountered except in the imperfect pages of Peter Rae, or in the loose talk of some old burgess of the Johnny Gas type, who might be spoken of as having at a very uncertain period the felicity of encountering some plundering Celt "out" in the perilous '45. The notes to Mayne's “Siller Gun” were thought to present as many genealogical and traditionary facts as people in those neglected times needed to care about.
Of charter lore, municipal records, or ecclesiastical history, there was absolutely none. Public documents of that kind were neither read nor cared for. Even yet in this respect the southern antiquaries are but on the threshold of their work. Lincluden and Dundrennan, neither of them possibly rivalling in magnificence the stately fane at Elgin, so roughly handled by the “Wolf of Badenoch," or the surpassing beauty of the lonely Kirkwall, saved by its isolation from the despoiler-still even Lincluden, Sweetheart, and Dundrennan have all a story to tell. Why are they permitted to remain dumb? Why is no cunning hand engraving in detail the crumbling fragments ere they pass from sight. Is it never to be known how the monks of the South lived when the Church was independent without being rebellious, zealous without being intolerant, the guide and home of the scholar, the patron and instructor of the craftsman. Of “sweet Lincluden's holy cells," which struck even the robust Burns with plaintive tenderness, little more is on record than that there was interred Margaret, Countess of Douglas, daughter of Robert III.; and there, also, in later and evil days, the barons assembled to decree the code known as “Grim Lord Archibald's battle laws.” Dundrennan, again, is chiefly known in connection with the hurried flight of Queen Mary after the disastrous overthrow at Langside, and to a few in modern times, who have not forgotten how often the bench of this country has been adorned by the scholarly taste and courtly bearing of its occupants, as giving an honoured title to the owner of the Abbey ruins, the genial and gifted Thomas Maitland. Holywood also, with its Druidical cromlechs, should be made to reveal something, unless, indeed,
as some students deem probable enough, the reputed Abbot of Sacrabosco is a sort of doubtful creation. Then for family records. With the exception of the Maxwells and Scotts, finished with such fine taste by Mr. Wm. Fraser, the charter-rooms of the old houses in the South are almost virgin ground for the student. Drumlanrig itself must contain priceless treasures in the way of national, territorial, and family lore. Even a good catalogue or calendar would be an acquisition to the working antiquary. A little gleaninghardly one sheaf out of the harvest, and this relating to a single historic season, but certainly of exceptional interest-makes up a most interesting portion of the “ Memoirs of Viscount Dundee,” by the late Mark Napier, Sheriff of the County. Raehills, again, must be full of memories of Johnstons, as Jardine Hall is of Jardines, and Hoddam of the Sharpes-one member of the last, the accomplished but odd “C. K. S.," being in himself alone worthy of the most delicate treatment. Bonshaw and Wyseby, Robgill and Stapleton, might all be made to render up interesting details of many a long line of Irvings and Bells, Edgars and Flemings. The distinction indicated above between North and South, so far as antiquarian study is concerned, cannot be explained by any deficiency of interest in the annals of the latter. Mr. M‘Dowall has already shown that these are full of unfailing interest, while the natural peculiarities of the district—its crops and minerals, its breezy uplands and rich vales, its luxuriant woods and fairy gardens, its winding streams and trouting pools, its linns and haughs and fertile holms, the brawling Annan, storied Liddle, and, greater still, the sweeping Nith, “whose distant roaring swells and fa’s”--the very sough of the Caul-all go to furnish material to the student of physical science, as rich as the floating traditions are to the novelist or the poet. Nor are the sons of the soil naturally unfitted for dealing with such attractive specialities. Were the honours of the eightieth birth-day not so recent (1875), Mr. Carlyle might be referred to as able to speak for Annandale. Telford, “Eskdale Tam," knew a century since all the traditions then current about Langholm and Canonbie. So long as Mr. Carruthers reigned in Inverness, it would take a bold man to plead that there was anything in the air of Dumfries
shire, disqualifying its natives from dealing with the higher elements of literary criticism or chilling sympathy with the engrossing traditions of their birth-place. Long since Arthur Johnstone wrote of the district
Florida tot pingues hic tondent prata juvenci,
Pleasantly paraphrased by Rev. Mr. Bennett, Moffat, as
Full many a sleek and seemly steer enjoys the flowery fields;
But, better than all reasoning on such a point, here is Dr. Ramage, with his little book confined to three parishes, and these not of supreme importance, showing how every little corner has its pleasant record, when the eye has been properly trained to decipher, and the ear to hear, the floating traditions of the past. Having rather exceeded our limits with remarks designed to stir up friends in the South to good work in the field of antiquarian study, it is hardly possible to give extracts showing the extreme value and fidelity manifested all through Dr. Ramage's very enticing work. But this is the less to be regretted, as by far the larger portion has already found a wide audience in the pages of the “Dumfries and Galloway Courier," and where, at the present time (1875), another series of interesting topographical and genealogical notes are appearing from week to week. Dr. Ramage has endeavoured, and fairly succeeded, in bringing together about as much information as can at present be obtained regarding the three parishes selected for illustration-Durisdeer, Closeburn, and Morton. Tumuli, cairns, stone and bronze celts, coins, remains of ancient camps, placenames—the most enduring and probably the most important of all the means of illustrating the occupation of a country-have been pressed into the service, though, with a modesty almost unnecessary in his case, he explains that such