BIBLIOGRAPHY OF CAITHNESS AND SUTHERLAND V.
(Continued from Vol. III., p. 225)
MACGIBBON AND ROSS. The Castellated
Architecture of Scotland. 2 vols. D. Douglas, Edinburgh, 1887.
MACGILLIVRAY, REV. ANGUS. Sketches of Religion and revivals of religion in the north highlands. 1st edition, 1859. Reprinted, Glasgow, 1904.
MCGILLIVRAY, REV. DR. A monument in a highland churchyard at Lairg. Darien Press, Edinburgh, 1881.
MACGREGOR, REV. A. The feuds of the clans (Edited by). E. Mackay, Stirling, 1907.
MCIAN, R. R., AND LOGAN. The costumes of the clands of the scottish highlands. 2 vols. Ackermann and Co., London, 1845-7. The most valuable and most interesting book on the subject. The figures are painted by a Highlander who thoroughly understood, and was familiar with, his subject.
MCIVER, EVANDER. Memoirs of a highland gentleman. Being the reminiscences of Evander McIver of Scourie; edited by Rev. George Henderson. Constable, Edinburgh, 1905.
MACKAY, ALEXANDER. Sketches of Sutherland characters. James Gemmell, Edinburgh, 1889.
MACKAY, REV. ALEX., LL. D. Life and times of Rev. George Davidson of Latheron. Edinburgh, 1875. Interesting on account of the sidelights given of Religious and educational matters in the North.
MACKAY, REV. ANGUS, M.A. The book of Mackay, with documents from the family papers of the Mackays of Strathnaver. 16 plates, map and numerous illustrations. W. Rae, Wick, 1906. A volume of great historical value.
---------- Autobiographical Journal of John MacDonald, Schoolmaster and soldier, 1770-1830. Edinburgh, 1906.
---------- Sutherland and Caithness in ancient geography. Reprint of the Soc. of Antiq. of Scot. Edinburgh, 1908.
---------- The province of Cat. (In preparation).
MACKAY, ANNIE. The last sabbath in Strathnaver and other poems.
MACKAY, GEORGE G., C.E. On the management of landed property in the highlands. Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1858.
MACKAY, HECTOR H. The ancient tolbooths of Dornoch. Neill and Co., Edinburgh, 1896.
MACKAY, GEN. HUGH, OF SCOURIE. Rules of war for the infantry. John Reid, Edinburgh, 1693.
---------- Memoir touching the scots wars. Bannatyne Club, 1833.
MACKAY, REV. JOHN (of Lybister). Memoir of the Rev. John MacDonald, of Helmsdale. Edinburgh, 1856.
MACKAY, JOHN (Edinburgh). An old scots brigade; being the history of the Mackay's regiment. Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1885.
MACKAY, JOHN (Glasgow), edited Sutherland and the Reay country. Glasgow, 1897. The Celtic Monthly. Glasgow, 1892-1909.
MACKAY, JOHN (of Hereford). The Reay Fencibles or the Mackay highlanders. Glasgow, 1890.
MACKAY, JOHN (of Rockfield). Memoir of General Hugh Mackay of Scourie, Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Scotland 1689-1690. Laing and Forbes, Edinburgh, 1836. A new edition, with memoir of John Mackay of Rockfield. London, 1842.
MACKAY, ROBERT (Thurso). The history of the house and clan Mackay. Jack and Co., Edinburgh, 1829. Containing, besides, accounts of several other northern families and historical notes of the district gathered at first hand.
MACKAY, WILLIAM. Narrative of the shipwreck of the Juno, written at Portsmouth 1797. Edinburgh, 1830. New edition. Darien Press, Edinburgh, 1892.
MACKENZIE, ALEX. The isle of Skye and the trial of Patrick Sellar. A. and W. Mackenzie, Inverness, 1883.
----------- The history of the highland clearances. A. and W. Mackenzie, Inverness, 1883.
----------- Sir James Matheson, Bart., of Lewis. A. and W. Mackenzie, Inverness, 1893.
----------- History of the Mackenzies. A. and W. Mackenzie, Inverness, 1894.
----------- History of the Munroes of Fowlis. A. and W. Mackenzie, Inverness, 1898.
----------- History of the Mathesons. E. Mackay, Stirling, 1900.
----------- History of the MacLeods. E. Mackay, Stirling, 1903.
(To be continued).
By the late George Sutherland Taylor. (21)
"Mie love is dedde,
Gone to his death-bedde
Al under the willowe tree."
Most of our readers must have heard of the individual who is the subject of this short and imperfect sketch; but we suspect that many of them are merely acquainted with the simple facts, that he was an uneducated countryman, a native of Sutherlandshire, and that he composed several poems and songs in his native and only language, the Gaelic, which are enthusiastically admired by all who understand that language. The universal and extensive range of his delightful and truly poetic genius, the soul stirring majesty of his solemn and moral compostitions, the pathos and exquisite tenderness of his elegies and love songs, and the strength and boldness, and desperate severity of his sarcastic effusions, are now only fully known to a few of his countrymen. This ignorance of such a gifted individual as Rob Doun, and of the true tendency and character of his compositions, may be considered, at first sight, as indicating a want of taste in his countrymen, particularly as it must further be added that hitherto no authentic or correct copy of his works has been published; that few, very few, individuals now living can furnish such facts and information as are necessary to supply a full and connected account of his life; and that we experienced great difficulty in obtaining the information that enables us to furnish the present notice of him. It is by no means complete or satisfactory; but as far as it goes, it can be relied upon as authentic and genuine, and is, besides, the only published account of the Sutherland bard.
Our poet's name was Robert Mackay, but he and his family were always designated by the patronimic of Doun. Such designations are common in the Highlands; we have Bain, Roy, Dhu, and several other significative appellations, which, in many districts, are necessary to distinguish the different individuals of a numerous clan as in the Reay country, where almost all boast of a manu forte. (22) The period of his birth is not known with certainty, but he died in the year 1788, though by some mistake, the plain slab, which covers his grave in the churchyard of Durness, has the year 1777 marked upon it. His parents, who were poor country people, resided at Strathmore, in the parish of Durness, where out poet was born. At a very early stage, he discovered that innate independent spirit and talent for sarcastic versification which afterwards formed distinguishing traits in his character, by composing verses, even it is said at the almost incredible age of three years, in which he severely handled an unfortunate tailor, who made his first coat so as to button at the back instead of the front, while Robert could not brook the thoughts of being prevented from dressing and undressing himself without assistance. When able to tend cattle he was employed for that purpose by Mr. Mackay, then residing at Strathmore, and afterwards at Clashneanach, and with whom he resided as a servant for several years. In his younger years, he was long attached to a beautiful young woman (as all true poets are), whom he celebrates in many of his poems, by the name of "Ann i vie an Dhonil" (yellow-haired Anne, the daughter of Donald); but he was ultimately married to another young and handsome woman, in honour of whom he composed a beautiful poem known by the name of "Dheanin Sugrue vi du chean dhu." After his marriage he resided chiefly at Balnakeil, first in charge of Donald Lord Reay's cattle, and thereafter in charge of those of Colonel Hugh Mackay at Balnakeil. In his person he was of low stature, and by no means a good-looking man, though remarkable for a lively and expressive countenance, and great activity. He was a keen sportsman, and a successful hunter of red deer; but his propensities in that way often involved him in trouble.
With regard to the characteristics of his poetry, it is no easy matter to point them out to an English reader; and that difficulty is increased by the absence of a published and authentic copy of his works. Some manuscripts are scattered through the country, and a copy of his works collected by the late Rev. Mr. MacLeod, of Rogart, from the bard's recital, was, we understand, promised to the public some time ago. Those accustomed to notice the value placed upon English poetry of the first class, will naturally accuse Doun's countrymen, who understand his productions, and who all, with one voice, speak with rapture of their surpassing beauty and poetical excellencies, of want of public spirit, and national pride in permitting his works to remain unpublished at a distance of forty-eight years after his death, thereby running the risk of losing some of the best of them or having them mutilated and contaminated by the additions and alterations of capricious and ignorant individuals. Indeed such charges we have repeatedly heard made, and they appear so plausible and apparently just, that we consider it necessary to explain the reason why his works were not published in his life-time or immediately after his death.
The Highlanders, till their intercourse with commercial people effected a change in their sentiments and manners, may be said to have held the knowledge acquired from writings in contempt; and he was the most esteemed and honoured among them who could relate the best and rarest productions of "the days of other years." During the long and tempestuous nights of winter, poetry and song, with the wild and romantic superstitions of the country, and the wise sayings and smart repartees of celebrated characters, filled every cottage with that delight and satisfaction which the effusions of genius always yields to those capable of perceiving their beauties; and thus, without the aid of writings or of books, Doun's poems and songs are better and more universally known among his countrymen, than any English work is among the natives of the South. England had its Bloomfield, and Scotland its Burns, both rustic and uneducated poets, but where is the individual who can repeat their whole works from memory; while many of the poorest and most humble individuals in the Highlands, particularly in the interior, and on the west coast of Sutherland, can recite all Doun's compositions. With the exception therefore of the higher ranks of society who understand Gaelic, the Highlanders in general had no occasion for, and did not consider it necessary to possess, a published copy of his works. It may, however, be asked why the educated part of his countrymen have neglected to publish his poems? Probably three or four families who understand Gaelic may, on an average, be found in each parish, who have been well educated, but these bear so small a proportion to the great body of the people, that we do not feel surprised that they have not concerted measures to publish a complete copy of Doun's works. If any class in the Highlands might be expected to provide the public with such a publication, it is the clergy. They might be expected, from the nature of their education, and as judges of the merit of such compositions, to patronize and encourage every effort of genius. But poor Doun was of too independant a spirit to pass over the conduct of any person or set of men, however exalted, which required and deserved public censure; and a few particular traits in the clergy, which were at variance with the generous and open-hearted customs and habits of the North, drew forth severe but just remarks from our poet---and hence he was neglected and despised by those who might be expected, in their love for literature and genius, and anxiety for the fame and renown of the land that supported them, to have cherished and encouraged him, the rare and glorious Rob Doun, who under every disadvantage, elevated himself in the opinion of his countrymen, far more than every Gaelic poet of modern date. The clergy may maintain that no obligation lay upon them to encourage Doun or any other man. If the word obligation be taken in a limited sense, it may, with equal justice, be said that gratitude, benevolence, and charity and other moral duties, are not obligatory. But whether the neglect of a man of unquestionable genius, in the peculiar situation in which Doun was placed, will not be considered as blameable in our Highland clergy or not, no person will deny that a contrary line of conduct towards him, would be held as highly honourable to them as men of learning and as Christians. It is but justice to add, however, that a few individual clergymen distinguished themselves by very friendly feelings towards our poet; and he, equally ready to honour all that deserved honour, as to censure what was mean and contemptible, has handed their names and their friendship down to posterity in immortal verses.
(To be continued).
21. The following paper on Rob Doun or Rob Don was written for a Sutherland Magazine in 1826. By the kindness of Mrs. Taylor of Dornoch we are able to print the manuscript three quarters of a century after it was written. Back
22. The motto of the Mackays. Back