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The Database of Ornament

THE Land of Lorne is, to me, the most interesting
in Scotland—indeed in the British Isles. It
is the most picturesque, the most diversified
by nature and by association. Its scalloped
islands, its slender peninsulas, and its deeply
indented mainland, with its bens and glens
and corries—its lochs and rivers, its varied
fauna of sea and land, with its ancient build-
ings, its sculptured remains, and its human interests—all seem
to give it pre-eminence over other lands.

The Land of Lorne is the cradle of Christianity in Scotland,
of monarchy in Scotland, and so, in a way, of that merged
monarchy on which the sun never sets.

It was the home of Naois and Darthula; of Ardan and Aille;
of Fingal and Ossian; a home of epic poetry and song, of art
and music. It was there that ‘Waverley’ originated, and’ Kid-
napped’ and ‘Catriona’—for Stevenson, like Scott, lived, there,
and to its rugged shores and fronded bens and fragrant birchy
glens the heart of Stevenson, like the heart of Scott, ever
tenderly turned.

And possibly the dying Stevenson, in the fair isle of Samoa,
thought of the Land of Lorne as did the dying Scott in the
sunny clime of Italy, when he was heard crooning to himself—

             ‘And it’s up the heath’ry mountain,
                And down the rugged glen,
             We daurna go a-milking
                For Charlie and his men.’

And it was of the Land of Lorne that another noble-hearted

Scot—Ian Campbell of Islay—was thinking when crooning to
himself a few hours before he died-

               ‘Cha till, cha till,
               Cha till mi tuillidh!’
               ‘I return, I return,
               I return no more!’

And it was the home of some of the best pastoral poets. For I
think there is nothing in all pastoral poetry to excel, if to equal,
the ‘Beinn Dorain’ of Duncan Ban Macintyre. And the Land of
Lorne was not only the ancestral home of Lord Macaulay, of
David Livingstone, of Thomas Campbell, but, as Blackmore
himself tells us, of the forbears of ‘Lorna Doone,’ and of those
of Robert Burns and John Ruskin.

The bards were the most powerful of the retinue of the Celtic
Kings and Chiefs. They roused to war and lulled to peace at
will the subjects of the one and the vassals of the other.
Edward First realised this when he massacred the Welsh
bards, and his successors showed that they understood it, by
their atrocities towards the Irish bards. Had Celtic Scotland,
like Celtic Wales and Ireland, been trampled under the heel of
conquest, that grandest of battle odes, ‘Brosnacha Catha Mhic-
mhuirich Mhoir,’ had never been written. It may be mentioned
that the Macmuirichs were hereditary bards to the Clanranalds
for the long period of seventeen generations. They held a free-
hold farm of the value of £450 a year or thereby for their
services, and only lost it when their charter was wiled from
them by fraud. The person of the bard was sacred, and his
house a sanctuary.

But the bards, being human, fell: they abused their powers, and
like other tyrants were deposed. Then many of these (sons of
song’ joined forces and travelled the country in bands. No
band could consist of more than sixteen, and each had a chief—
none being admitted into the circle till he had proved his power

of satire. These bards went under the name of Cliar Shean
achain’ —Strolling Satirists. They overran the country, going
where and when they liked, and preying upon whom they
pleased, always choosing good wit, good quarters, and good
cheer. They satirised everything and every one and one
another—the dread of the people wherever they went. They
could remain in a place for a year and a day, unless their satire
was overcome by satire. The last Strolling Satirists of whom
I have any knowledge were at Nunton, in Benbecula, about the
middle of last century. The band was sixteen strong. Clan-
ranald treated them with lavish hospitality, as became a great
chief, and of this they availed themselves to the full. But
though the Satirists had the civility to pass over Clanranald
and Lady Clanranald, they satirised everybody else in the place,
till all was excitement and resentment throughout the land.
The foolish laughed, but the wise mourned, for nothing was
talked of but the vitriolic sayings of these men: society was
scandalised, and work was hindered.

The year and a day of their’ sorning , was speeding on, and the
forty-second mart was killed for their use, when Clanranald
came out breathless and bonnetless, and raising his arms
appealingly exclaimed, in the bitterness of his heart: ‘A Dhe
Mhoir nam feart, agus Iosa, Mhic Mhuire, nan neart, am bheil
duin, idir, idir an Clanradhail a thilleas air a ghraisg dhaoine so!’
‘0 Thou great God of might, and Thou all-powerful Jesu, Son
of Mary, is there not a man at all at all in Clanranald can over
match these scurrilous kerns!’

There was no response. All the wits of the district had already
measured swords with these keen blades, only to be discomfited
and disarmed, and made the laughing-stock of the land. The
only man who had not tried was the fool of Clanranald, and he,
being a fool, had not been asked. But the Satirists now
attacked him, and the fool retorted—so effectively that they
fled the land.

The Strolling Satirists came to the house of Campbell of

Bailendeor, in Lome. Campbell was a substantial man, and
hereditary almoner to the ancient Abbey of Airdchattan. He
was generally called from his office, ‘An Deora ‘-the almoner,
‘An Deora Mor’- the big almoner. The Satirists and Walter
Campbell, son of the Deora, had frequent wit combats-often
angry, and many times exasperating. They somed upon his
family, and satirised his clan and his kin-searing him to the
soul. He retorted; but his retorfs, they declared, were inept.
He said—but in vain—

               ‘Dh’ithe tu mo chuid
               ‘Us phronna tu mo ghab,
               Dh’ola tu m’fhion
               Spiona tu mo bhad.’

               ‘Thou wouldst eat my bread
               And bruise my mouth,
               Thou wouldst drink my wine
               And pluck my beard.’

Walter Campbell felled a tree in a place known since then as
‘Glac a Chlamhain’—’dell of the harrier.’ The dell is wide and
open towards the north-west, gradually narrowing and closing
towards the north-east. He asked the Satirists to come and
help him to split up the tree. They came. Campbell drove a
wedge into the bole and rent it along the stem. He then
ranged the men on each side, and asked them to place their
hands in the rent, and pull with all their might against one
another, as he drove the wedge. The men pulled and Campbell
struck the wedge, not in, but out; and the two sides of the rent
bole sprang together like a steel trap, holding the men securely.
Then Campbell fell upon them and killed them.

Had the Satirists been simple Macleans, Macdonalds, Mac-
gregors, Murrays, Lamonts, or any other clan, the Campbells
would have shielded Walter Campbell, however dark his crime.
But they were of all clans, and some of them of good family.

All acknowledged—to use the words of Professor Blackie re-
garding the murder of Archbishop Sharp—that

               ‘The loons were weel away…
               But the deed was foully done.’

Great sensation was caused, and deep indignation roused, and
Walter Campbell fled. He crossed the river Awe at the
Brander—where Macdougall and Bruce had fought a battle—
and continued his course up Glenorchy and down Glenlyon,
among friendly clansmen and possibly kinsmen, and after many
weary wanderings to and fro settled down in Kincardine.
Bailendeor is in the near neighbourhood of Taynuilt—Bunawe.
Taynuilt means burn-house—from ‘taigh,’ house, and ‘uillt,’
oblique form of ‘allt,’ a burn, stream. Whether Walter Campbell
himself ever divulged his real name in Kincardine is not known.
But being from Burnhouse he became known among his neigh-
bours in Kincardine as ‘Walter Burnhoose ‘—shrivelling down
through the years to ‘Burness’ and in his great-great-grand-
son into ‘Burns’.

The practice of calling a man after his occupation, or the place
where he lives or whence he came, is common throughout

Walter Campbell of Bailendeor in Lome thus became Walter
Burness of Bogjoram in Kincardine, and great-great-grandfather
of Robert Burness—afterwards (Burns.’ It has often been re-
marked that the genius of Burns was Celtic—not Saxon. And
this shrewd observation was made by those who were ignorant
of the historical fact.

His poetical genius, moreover, was inherited; for the Camp-
bells of Bailendeor were known as a race of bards, and
fragments attributed to them are still repeated at the ‘ceilidh’
round the winter fires. Walter Campbell’s description of Glen-
lonan shows that he had a keenly observant eye, and a singularly
musical ear—


             ‘“Clacha dubha” an aghaidh srutha,
            Am bun a bhruthaich bhoidheich,
            Barragoille an oir na coille,
            Am moch an goir an smeorach.’

            ‘“Blackened stones” against the stream
            At the foot of the lovely brae,
            Ridge of Gaul” on the woodland fringe,
            Where early sings the mave.’

                                                                                                ALEXANDER CARMICHAEL.

MLA citation:

Carmichael, Alexander. “The Land of Lorne and the Satirists of Taynuilt.” The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal, vol. 1, Spring 1895, pp. 110-115. Evergreen Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2016-2018. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.