網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

times a pleasant and well-attended service in Gaelic and in English in the School-room at Selma.

The people are all crofters, and are simple in their habits, and particularly kindly and courteous in their manners, even the smallest children giving you a friendly nod and smile as you pass.

The cottages are clean and tidy, though small, and most of them have a patch of garden ground. The men, who are sober and industrious, hold crofts, the largest of which is ten acres ; at this time of year you see no absolute poverty, but in winter the struggle to make both ends meet is often a very hard one. There is little or no drunkenness, for, though the people are not teetotal, they do not often keep whisky in their houses, and only use it at such times as weddings, funerals, fairs, harvest homes, and New Year's Day, and even on these occasions the fun now-a-days seldom degenerates into licence, a decided improvement on the good old times, when, if all tales are true, festivity was carried to excess, and a West Highland funeral was apt to be as wet as the climate, so unsparing was the allowance of whisky, and so great the thirst of the mourners.

There is no branch of the Land League in Benderloch, but the men take an intelligent interest in politics, and appreciate greatly the boon of the county franchise. They are not discontented, but they tell you plainly that, while crofts are so small and rents so high, it is impossible to provide for their families in comfort, and lay by money for a rainy day.

The land is poor, and the grazing for a cow is now nearly double what it was before the Government grant of money for the improvement of Highland estates. At that time we were told the twenty-five years' loan, at the rate of £6 135. 4d. on capital and interest, naturally raised the rents, until the money was repaid to the landlords, and in many cases, for one reason or another, the rents were never lowered again to the old sum of £3 for a cow's grazing, so that, with no better land, rents are now often twice as high as in the old times. The people also say that were a croft twenty instead of ten acres, and somewhat lower rented, a crofter could keep a few sheep, four cows, and possibly a horse, and have steady work all the year round ; whereas now there is a great daal of compulsory idleness, and the milk of two cows is not sufficient to make it worth while to send the dairy produce across the ferry to Oban, the ferries being a great drawback to the crofters of Benderloch. That they must be, indeed, a serious nuisance, we can well prove from personal experience, as, owing to a violent storm, and the strong flow of the falls, we were detained three hours and a-half at North Connel on our homeward journey, and had the pleasure of seeing the train puff off to

the South full in sight, but hopelessly out of reach. Even when crossing was barely possible, it was far from pleasant; and to have taken across a boat-load of farm produce, or of live stock, on such a day would have been out of the question, so that it is easy to see what a serious drawback the Shian and Connel Ferries are to the agriculturists of the district. The want of fences is also a grievance, for horses and cattle often go a great distance across country, trampling and eating the crops as they pass.

Kelp is free, and after the September gales it was pretty to see the crofters possessed of horses and carts, bringing up loads of the shining, brown sea-weed for themselves and their friends. Labour is difficult to be had, and each family is usually to be seen at harvest-time picturesquely busy about the cutting and ingathering of the crops on the croft. A right of common grazing ground on the grass near the shore is included in the rent of the crofts, and a common herd is kept by all the crofters to look after the cows there, and paid among them in money and in food. Ten of them have a horse or sheep, but most of them have two cows and a number of plump pigs and fowls. At the fisher cottages the boats look small to an East Coast eye, and not well suited for rough weather, and unless the fish is taken to Oban during the short tourist season, there is not much sale for it. This year the crops, though late, were fair, but the weather of late September and early October coming just as cutting began, left them in a condition that must mean a most miserable harvest for the poor crofters. The wind and hail ruined both the cut and standing crops, and the rain seemed to threaten disease among the potatoes, which had promised so well.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

WHAT I have undertaken to do to-night is to give some account of the Christian Church as it existed in Scotland in the earliest Christian times, and before it fell under the influence and authority of the Bishop of Rome. The Christianity of Scotland came from Ireland, and at the outset of our enquiry it is necessary to consider when and by whom the Irish were converted. The Roman world became officially Christian about 321, and at that time Britain, up at least to the Southern wall, was a Roman province, and presumably it became Christian as the rest of the Empire did. We know that a Christian Church existed among the provincial Britons at the time the Romans took their departure, and continued to exist among those Britons who were not subdued by the Saxons. But whether the Christianity of the Roman Province extended itself among the unsubdued Caledonians to the North, or among the inhabitants of Ireland, is a matter as to which we have no certain light. About 397, thirteen years before the final abandonment of the province by the Romans, St. Ninian, a bishop of the Britons, built a Church at Whithern, in Galloway, and is said by Bede to have converted the Southern Picts; and the Southern Picts are said by Bede to have been those living

1

* Read at the opening meeting of the Gaclic Society of Inverness.

between the Friths of Forth and Clyde and the Grampian range. Whether Bede is right in this is a matter about which I shall have something to say farther on; but if the Picts to the south of the Grampians were converted by Ninian, they appear soon to have lapsed into paganism. Again there are evidences of a tradition in Ireland that Ninian went to that country and preached Christianity, and he is commemorated there under the name of Monen—the term of endearment “mo" being very frequently prefixed to the names of saints—while, at a later period, the monastery at Whithern, supposed to have been founded by Ninian, was undoubtedly resorted to by Irish ecclesiastics for instruction. Bede states that about 430, Palladius was sent by Celestine, the Roman Pontiff, to the Scots (that is the Irish) that believed, to be their first bishop, and from this it might be inferred that Christianity had made some progress in Ireland before that. In the 8th century there is no doubt the Irish believed that they had been converted by Saint Patrick; and that a saint of this name did go to Ireland about the year 432, and become at least a main instrument in the conversion of the Irish, is beyond doubt. There remains a confession or account of himself by St. Patrick, and a letter by him to Coroticus, the British prince then reigning at Dumbarton, which those competent to judge accept as genuine. From these it appears that he was born in the Roman province of Britain, that his father was a deacon, and also a decurio or “bailie" of a Roman provincial town, that his grandfather was a presbyter, that his father lived in “Bannavern of Tabernia," that in his youth he was carried as a captive to Ireland and remained there for six years, that he then escaped and returned to his parents, and that he afterwards went back to Ireland as missionary, and in or about his 45th year was ordained a bishop. In his confession he says that he converted many in Ireland who had hitherto worshipped unclean idols, that he had ordained many clerics, and that the sons of the Scoti, and the daughters of princes, were seen to be monks and virgins of Christ. All this seems to be authentic, but it is singular that Bede, while he mentions Palladius, makes no mention of Patrick, and that, when about 100 years after his death, the Irish and Scottish Church came in contact with the Church of Rome, and had to defend

a

It was a

their peculiar customs, they do not appeal to the authority of Patrie. Columbanus, in his controversy with the Clergy of Gaul, does not mention him, nor does Colman of Lindesfarne, in his controversy with Wilfred, in presence of King Oswy, appeal to his authority, and Adamnan only once mentions him incidentally as “Patrinus the Bishop.” In the Irish annals there is frequent mention of a saint who is called Sen, or old Patrick, and who is said in one place to be the tutor of Patrie, and in another to have been the same as Palladius, and the later lives of St. Patrick are evidently made up of the acts of two distinct persons who are confounded.

It is certain, however, that about the year 432 Christianity was firmly established in Ireland, and it would appear that the type of Church then established did not differ in any respect from the Church in other parts of the Western World. Church with three orders of clergy-bishops, priests, and deacons --and in which the bishops had the rule, if not over distinct districts or dioceses, at least over the churches which they had themselves established. The conversion of the Irish, it will be seen, was almost contemporaneous with the final departure of the Roman Legions from Britain, and with the arrival of the Saxons. Soon after the time of Patrick all intercourse between Ireland and the outer world seems to have ceased for upwards of 100 years, and during this time there grew up in Ireland a Church constituted in a manner entirely different from that founded by Saint Patrick, and exhibiting features which do not appear to have distinguished the Christian Church in any other part of the world at any time. And after this Church had fully developed itself in Ireland, it manifested an extraordinary missionary zeal which lasted for several centuries, and spread its establishments from Iceland to Italy, and covered the continent of Europe with bands of Scottish monks, apt scholars, and eager teachers. It was to this burst of missionary zeal that our ancestors owed their conversion in or about the year 565.

It may be well to consider for a moment what the political condition of Scotland was at this time. About the beginning of the century, Fergus Mor M'Erc, of the Royal Family of the Scots of Dalriada, in Ireland, had led a colony of Scots into Scotland,

« 上一頁繼續 »