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Highland Patriots, by "Ajax",

Probably written by the Rev. Donald MacCallum with a postscript by Joseph MacLeod

Cover page of Highland Patriots

By "AJAX" (Rev. Donald MacCallum, minister of Lochs, Stornoway)
with a Message to my fellow Highlanders by Joseph MacLeod,


The Highland News Printing and Publishing Works

Hamilton Street


Ajax (Joseph MacLeod) visiting a crofter

If this little book will be able to make its way in the world, it is my intention to send others of the same size on subjects affecting the Highlands to be its companions.

Having, along with eminent Land Leaguers and Christian Democrats, taken part in the conflict for our inheritance on the earth and heirship to heaven, during the decade 1880-1890, I am able to put on record many incidents which, I hope, will prove interesting to my countrymen.

Go then, my little book, and in demolishing the castles of despair and dungeons of torture, which the would-be lords of the bodies and souls of men have erected, send thou thine aid.



(ISAIAH XXI., 11).

" What of the night? O watchman say,
From off the ramparts high ;
Dost thou discern a patch of grey
Upon the ebon sky ? "

" Arising o'er the hills afar,
The watchman made reply,
I see the long'd for ruby star
That tells of morning nigh."

"0, long and dark has been the night,
And mercilessly cold ,
But joy shall come when morning light
Shall tinge the clouds with gold."

"0, dark and drearie still the night
Of hate and rivalry ;
But through the gloom we see the light
Of love and liberty."

"And to their dens the monsters foul
Of ignorance and pride
Are heard to rush with dying howl,
There ever to abide."

"And, hark how joyful is the lay
With which the waking lark
Of hope doth welcome in the day
That breaketh through the dark."




It has long been my intention to write a series of articles on Highland Patriots, and I now begin with one on a Sutherlandshire Land Law Reformer who has played an important part in bringing about a better state of matters than obtained. Mr Angus Mackay was born at Armadale in 1860, and is a great-grandson of that notable woman, the late Jane Mackay, of Armadale ("Sine Armadail.") Mrs Mackay is referred to by the author of the "Sutherland Clearances " as large-hearted, tender and sympathetic, with views far beyond her days and surroundings, yet withal the " belle ideal " of a real Christian woman. The late Dr Guthrie, in Free St Jobn's Church, Edinburgh, some fifty years ago, preaching on the subject of pure religion, made mention of Jane of Armadale as an example worthy of imitation.

Mr Mackay, when only twelve months old, was removed to his uncle's house at Swordly, the late Mr Hugh Mackay. Angus learned the alphabet from the relation and associate of the family, Dr Hew Morrison, F.S.A., &c., now of Edinburgh Free Library, and shortly after went under the able training of Mr John Macdougall, Farr Parish School, now for some time retired, and perhaps the oldest parochial teacher in Scotland.

When the land law reform and franchise agitation became the question of the day in the Highlands it was found that Mr Mackay was the distinguished writer who had for years advocated reform in the columns of the "Northern Ensign," under the nom-de-plume, " Free Lance."

When the clergy and the people could not see eye to eye upon the representation of the county of Sutherland, and the Strathmore Crofters' Association required a leader, Mr Mackay was called upon to take the helm which he held during the heat of two Parliamentary elections. Acting as president of the Strathnaver Association, delegate to various conferences, and election agent for the liberal candidate, to Sutherlandshire people Mr Mackay requires no word of introduction, and I am pleased to say that he is still able to wield his facile pen in support of the good cause, and his well-known connection with the press in Sutherlandshire is always in favour of his country. I am pleased to say that I now find Mr Mackay living in the Capital of the Highlands, hale and hearty. "Lang may his lum reek."

Mr Angus MacKay

The greatest glory of the world is its rivers, for they are its arteries through which runs its life-blood. Along their borders flourish beauty, joy, plenty. Stop them in their courses and the whole world will become the dominion of famine, despair and death.

The Land League is a social river, changing the face of the land from that of a forest - the hiding place of man and beast from the lords of the soil who goes forth, strapped and buckled, with his retinue of hounds and ghillies, on their slaughter and eviction bent - to that of a beautiful land, the home of a happy and prosperous nation.

Not greater joy had Livingstone in tracing the source of the Nile than I have in tracing the source of this great social river which has given us "beauty for ashes." Not more sacred can the source of the Ganges be to the Indian devotee than the source of this river is to me.

Walking upwards along the banks of this mighty river, I come to where it first was heard to gurgle underground. On a glorious day in June, 1882, Lord Archibald Campbell, one of the best Highlanders that ever trod a Scottish heath, convened a meeting in the hall of the Scottish Corporation, Crane Court, Fleet Street, London, to consider the disturbed conditions of the Highlands, and in order to appoint a deputation to proceed to Skye with the object of inducing the crofters in revolt to resume law-abiding citizenship. There was goodly gathering of loyal and patriotic clansmen and friends interested in Northern affairs.

After a resolution was moved by Lord Archibald, and duly seconded in language appreciative of Highlanders as a God-fearing, peaceful and loyal race, and appointing a deputation, Mr T. C. Hedderwick, barrister-at-law, moved a rider to the resolution -" and that Her Majesty's Government be asked to take immediate steps for redressing the grievances of the Highland crofters and cottars."

In his speech Mr Hedderwick said that events in Skye, Lewis and Tiree were portentous signs like the mutterings of a volcano, and that it behoved all concerned to read, mark, learn and act. His sentences were not relished by several in the audience, and there were cries of "Order !"

No sooner had Mr Hedderwick ceased than there stood up in the midst of the hall a young man of magnificent proportions, the glow of whose eyes, the ring of whose voice bespoke the free mountaineer. As if a peal of thunder he seconded Mr Hedderwick's rider, the storm of his opponents was hushed to a dead calm.

This good youth was Mr James Murray, son of Rev. Donald Murray, a native of Resolis, and minister of Shieldaig, Lochcarron, hailing from Stornoway, to the honour of whose memory I dedicate this article.

From that day to the end of his life Mr Murray gave himself up to the service of his countrymen along with his brother, Mr Donald Murray, and great was the work which he accomplished. He had all the qualifications necessary to a reformer in a marked degree. He had a strong constitution, a pure soul, a loving heart and a vivid mind.

Well did the bard, T. D., sing of Mr Murray:-
"But though lost to our sight still thy memory lingers,
And engraved on our hearts aye thy name shall remain;
And, Oh! never the blight of long Time's despoiling fingers
That name and that memory can e'er cause to wane."

One of Mr Murray's family treasures is a Bible with the inscription -"
Presented to Mr Donald Murray, student, with best wishes from his friend, Donald Sage, Manse of Resolis."

On 17th July, 1886, Mr Murray passed to his rest. Over his grave at Sandwick, Stornoway, is placed a beautiful stone, subscribed for by his admirers, bearing the words- "His soul was generous and kind."

Mr James Murray

In the last article I brought the reader to the spot where the waters which were destined to become the Land League river were first heard to gurgle underground. Now let me show the spot where, in their freshness, purity and abundance, they burst forth to sparkle in the light of the sun, to rush down the steep ravine, and to refresh our arid land. It was in Crane Court. Fleet Street, London.

Mr Donald Murray, in whose honour I write this article, asked those in favour of the rider­ " And that Her Majesty's Government be asked to take immediate steps for redressing the grievances of the Highland crofters and cottars" - proposed by Mr Hedderwick, but ruled out of order by the Chairman - be added to the resolution proposed by Lord Archibald Campbell ­ " That a deputation be appointed to proceed to Skye with the object of inducing the crofters in revolt to resume law-abiding citizenship," at the meeting held in the Hall of the Scottish Corporation Crane Court, Fleet Street, London, in June 1882 to confer in Crane Court at the close of the meeting and they did so.

Those who conferred were, in addition to the brothers Donald and James Murray, sturdy sons of the Manse of Shieldaig, Lochcarron, but hailing from Stornoway, Macolm MacLeod, the grandson of the famous Bard of Harris ; Ewen Cattanach whose forefathers were famous in Kingussie; Alexander Watt, a Highland Aberdonian of good fettle; Malcolm Ferguson, a Gael of the Gaels from near Inverness ; Bennett Burleigh, the famous war correspondent, who is proud of the fact that his mother and grandsires spoke Gaelic; Dan Gow, who, though born in Johnstone, is Highland to the core on both sides; J. Morrison Davidson, the eloquent speaker and powerful scribe on behalf of all who are suffering from the effect of the unjust laws; and Mr Hedderwick, who became later M.P. for the Wick Burghs.

At that meeting the Highland Land Law Reform Association was launched, with Mr Donald Murray as hon. secretary, Mr Angus Mackintosh of Holme as treasurer, and Mr Donald H. Macfarlane - afterwards Sir, and M.P. for Argyllshire - as president.

From that day till the early part of the year 1888, when he retired from this position, it may be said that the brunt of the work fell on Donald Murray, who had a loyal and enthusiastic assistant in his brother James, Sir Donald Macfarlane, in presenting the former with a watch in recognition of his services as hon. secretary, said - " Donald Murray's labours of love in connection with the Highland Land Law Reform movement cannot be fully estimated, but his hair and his cheeks bear indelible testimony to years of strenuous and devoted work on behalf of his kith and kin."

So much for the brothers Donald and James Murray. Now allow me to make mention of their sisters -: Mrs Rose and Miss Christina Murray, who are worthy of their fame.

Mrs Rose has taken a prominent part as a member of the Stornoway Gaelic Choir, and has on two occasions led the waulking songs at the Gaelic Society's concert in the Queen's Hall, London.

Miss Christina Murray has been identified with the various philanthropic agencies, and is well known at Egham, Surrey, as an active and energetic worker in connection with the Congregational Church and the Egham Liberal Association.

Mr Donald Murray

The reader would have seen the water of the Land League river burst forth in the lofty mountain; now behold how it flows down the steep ravine. Shortly after the launching of the Highland Land Law Reform Association a great meeting was held at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon, London, with D.H. Macfarlane in the chair and Professor Blackie as the principal speaker.

The London daily as well as the provincial papers gave capital reports of the proceedings, and commented on the state of affairs in the crofting districts.

Large and energetic meetings were afterwards held in Shoreditch Town Hall, Exeter Hall, the Town Halls of Finsbury, Northampton, Liverpool and other centres. Deputations were received by the then Lord Advocate and the Secretary for Scotland. Mr D. H. Macfarlane, M.P. for Carlow, and Mr Charles Fraser-Mackintosh, M.P. for the Inverness Burghs, raised on various occasions questions in the House of Commons as to the condition of the crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands.

Sir Donald Horne Macfarlane was a great man. Not more conspicuous for magnificence of frame, princely bearing, benevolence of aspect was Saul, the son of Kish, than he; while as a reasoner, lover of truth and orator, he was a second Chrysistom.

Although almost lacking in the sense of humour, he was the most humorous of men. His innocent replies to the sectarian divines who tried to prove out of his own lips that, being a Roman Catholic, he was not a fit person to represent a Highland constituency in Parliament, were often ridiculously disconcerting to his enemies, and the audience were convulsed with such roars of laughter that I do not know of anything to compare to it except the inextinguishable hilarity that was raised by the Olympians on seeing Jove's cup-bearer limping about after his fall to earth.

While one of the most devoted friends of the crofters, he was too true not to tell them of their faults, and thereby he made himself many enemies amongst them. Being accustomed by their ministers to being praised for their holiness in refusing to hear the Gospel except at their convenience, and by their leaders for their faithfulness in blindly doing what they told them, the crofters were astonished and scandalised to hear from a Roman Catholic that their souls were their own; and that their bodies were not intended for stepping stones on the tyrant's way to glory - that, in short, they were supposed to be men to be convinced and not sheep to be driven.

Often when the Highland audience expected our patriot to show them that the desolation that overwhelmed the land was to be accounted for by the greed, rapacity and pride of the landlord, they were compelled to hear a tirade on their own sycophancy, sloth and abasement.

Sir Donald was one of the few who obtained a seat in Parliament not on account of eagerness for glory, but on account of zeal for justice. The story of his political career reads like a National tragedy and his final exit from the battlefield is one of the most pathetic incidents in the history of the Highlands

To help to save the men of Argyleshire from the thraldom of landlordism, he strove to be their advocate a second time in Parliament, but they, electing to be permanent slaves, rejected him.

After his defeat, someone wrote to ask him if he would stand for any other constituency in the Highlands, and his answer was -" Supposing I were a man of forty-six years of age, instead of sixty-four, which I am, I would not stand again for a Highland constituency."

Sir Donald Horne MacFarlane

Mr John Macpherson, Glendale, Skye, is the most renowned crofter in the Highlands. He is not the greatest. Were it not for the Land League wave on whose crest he was lifted up to the heavens he would never, beyond his native Isle, have been heard of, yet no man was ever raised to eminence who, to a greater extent justified those who raised him than he.

Like Amos called from the labour of the field to the high calling of a prophet, his native grace directed him how to speak and act with the utmost propriety and gentleness. While never losing the simplicity of the lowliest crofter, he carried the dignity of the noblest lord.

John is not a profound thinker, indeed it may be said of him, like the majority of his countrymen, he does not think at all. His minister, for that purpose, he takes as his proxy. In religion, knowledge, conduct, he is absolutely satisfied with the inheritance left to him by his forefathers, but his soul being pure, his vision clear, his hands clean, oppression roused his wrath and he saw how the weak were held in bondage by the strong, and their chains were as the withies that bound Samson in its grasp.

A man of goodlier frame than John I have never seen. He is not a giant. But for the weight of Puritanism which has bowed his head, bent his shoulders, and slowed his step he would have been magnificent. As it is the expanse of his snowy brow, the fascination of his eager eyes, the ring of his mellow voice, bespeak the nobleness, the honesty and the joyousness of his nature.

In three things our hero has no rival, and these are eloquence, earnestness and devotion. I have seen him in his wrath denouncing the greed, cruelty and pride of the lords of the soil, while their worshippers gazed spellbound upon his face. I have seen him in his sorrow, describing the sufferings of his countrymen, while the tears were running down the cheeks of stalwart men. I have seen him in his joy prophesying the day of restoration, while the faces of his hearers were glowing in the rising sun of new-born hope.

Like his namesake, the Baptist, he was a voice crying in the wilderness. With the multitudes who flocked to hear him came the Pharisees and the Sadducees and he was not afraid to say to them - " O, ye generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come." Before him they were silent for they knew he was in earnest.

If there lives a man who is able to say with Paul - " For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh," that man is John Macpherson.

How different is he who knows not what self-seeking is from the people's idol now, who, to hear their prayers, must be daily appeased by chanted peans and melted trinkets. Do you wonder my wail is "Ichabod! "

The crest of a wave is a very precarious situation to raise a throne upon. John found it so, for close upon the one - the Land League wave - on which he raised his throne, there rolled another - the Ecclesiastical Secession wave (I narrowly escaped writing the Religious Secession wave, which would be a sad misnomer for there was no religion in it), and, in its wilder course, overtaking his wave he was hurled from his lofty eminence to the ocean level.

It is all the same to him, for he is satisfied with the love of those who wrought with him and are now left behind in the race.

I rejoice to say that he is still hale and hearty; neither elated by the glory that is past nor depressed by the lowliness that is present.

Mr John Macpherson

During the ten years of conflict - 1880-1890 - between the Highland crofters and landlords, the latter, though comparatively few, being infinitely better provisioned, equipped and marshalled, were often able to send batches of the former as prisoners of war to Calton Jail, Edinburgh; but let me have the honour of recording that, owing to the ministrations of a brother Joseph, in the person of Mr Dugald Cowan, a native of Easdale, Argyll, Inspector of Poor, Edinburgh, Secretary of the Edinburgh Branch of the Highland Land Law Reform Association, whom God had sent before them, the House of Bondage was transformed, to the astonished men and women who were sent there, into the Delectable Mountains.

To Mr Cowan, being himself a city official and a man held in the utmost reverence by all who knew him, his colleagues of the prison could not show more deference if he were Lord Provost than they did. Upon his approach at the outer gate, however often he made his appearance there, all doors flew open before him as of their own accord, and an attendant was told off to wait upon him; and to the joy of these prisoners of war he called upon them almost daily, for was he not their ministering angel? One day he took me to see them, and this is what I wrote in my after I went home, which as his memorial I give, for he has now passed into his rest :- " I am glad I was alive to see this day and was allowed to be a witness of the scene enacted in the Calton Jail, for it has greatly enhanced my joy and strengthened my faith in fallen humanity.

"With the softest of touches let me picture this scene. I am standing in one of the cells to which a jailor has called the prisoners of war to meet Mr Cowan and myself. With the blessing of Boas he blessed them and they answer in the words of the reapers. At his request I offer a prayer. The jailor hands him a Bible, and, opening it, he reads in the language of the Gael "Let us read in the Gospel of Freedom. My dear brethren, be of good cheer. This friend of yours has just come from the north, and he wishes me to tell you that your families are all in health and that they are looking forward with joy to welcome you on your victorious return home. Keep up your heart!. It is no disgrace, but the highest honour, to suffer imprisonment for the cause of truth and justice. The Lord of Hosts be with you always. Amen.'"

Mr Cowan closed the book. We shook hands with the prisoners of war, who returned to their several cells, while we passed into the busy streets of the metropolis.

Mr Dugald Cowan

On a lovely day in September, 1905, was enacted in the little Island of Eriskay - ever made famous as the landing place of Prince Cbarles Edward Stuart on 28rd July, 1745 - a pathetic scene.

It is a funeral gathering. Surrounded by all the inhabitants of the Island, four stalwart men are lowering a coffin into the grave. On the coffin lid is the legend - "Allan Macdonald, aged 40 years." Not with spades do the mourners fill in the earth to shroud the body of their beloved, but with their hands, and the highest honour they pay him, for every handful with their tears they moisten. And what is the most magnificent tombstone ever raised to commemorate the departed compared to the tears of loving friends caught in the shrouding earth ?

To show my regard for the memory of the Rev. Allan Macdonald, of Eriskay, South Uist, Dean of the Isles, and my sympathy with his flock for their loss, allow me to place a few stones upon his cairn.

This one to the poet and singer, the author of the sweet song beginning :-
" Give to me my choice of places
Should the wand of Fairy,
I would choose thee for thy graces
Isle of Virgin Mary.

"Of the barley gently waving,
Though their hollows bare
Thy steep head-lands ocean-braving
In mine eyes full rare he."

His mission to earth was that of the sunbeam and the lark, to show us the infinite glory of the Works of God and to make us evermore to rejoice in them, and well in his joyful strains and thrilling quavers did he fulfill his mission. Not only during his encumbency did he enhance the joy inherent in the island of Eriskay, but he has permanently magnified it. This sunbeam being passed yet shineth, this lark being silent yet singeth.

This one to the antiquarian and folklorist, to the collector of many a fascinating and heart­stirring song. In his leisure moments Father Allan has built up a treasure store of the ancient beliefs and customs of our ancestors which is sufficiently imposing to be the labour of years.

This one to the humble priest and his people's joy who, when he might be promoted to one of the most honourable places in the pale of the Roman Catholic Church, elected to spend his days in this remote corner of her world. What clergymen do the Highlanders delight to honour, to whom do they flock to hear, whose elegies do they sing when they are dead? Are they not those whom the Lowlanders tell them are great by calling them to English-speaking congregations? Let the colliers give a call to a Highland clergyman and, however great a dunce he may be, the crofters will on the spot raise him to the status of a Highland idol. Here was a clergyman, who not only by his words, but by his actions, taught them to live in the country as more conducive to the perfection of soul and body than to live in the city by electing to do so himself.

This one to the man who was great but not proud, good but not hard, who was religious but not sanctimonious, charitable but not ostentatious, who was learned but not pedantic, blameless but not pretentious. Here was a man who, as a priest, did not lose his manhood. In the midst of their daily struggles he would have his people lighten their burdens with the thrill of song and the charm of story. The piper and the bard he cherished as God-given aids to the weary traveller of life's journey. The first reel at the weddings was always danced in his own house, for well he knew how necessary it is in the hardship of life for the people to be happy, and that we worship God in our secular happiness more acceptably than in our own sacred dolorousness.

Rev. Allan Macdonald

Although there is a section of Highlanders who admire the Rev. Malcolm MacCallum, minister of Muckairn, Argyllshire, as a preacher, he is far from being a sacred idol. No! Crowning his brow there is not the caul of a cloud, but the diadem of the sunshine; underlying his voice there is not the thunder of Sinaï, but the music of Tabor; pervading his teaching there is not the blood of the Nile, but the wine of Cana.

While Mr MacCallum rejoices in the glory of the world to come, he does not affect to despise as unworthy of the notice of a holy man the glory of the present world; while he is anxious for the welfare of the souls of men, he does not consider it beneath the dignity of a clergyman to take thought for the welfare of their bodies; while not ignoring "the smoke of their torment" which "ascendeth for ever and ever," he does not pass by as unworthy of notice the question - "Children, have ye any meat?" But it is not as a preacher I canonize him.

Mr MacCallum has done herculean work as the upholder of the banner bearing the legend­ " It is the duty of the Church to support its own poor." Full often in Presbytery, Synod and Assembly did he rouse the sleeping echoes with such mighty strains as this - "The problem of the idle rich, who are the great cause of the poverty that prevails, and the chief source of moral declension and corruption, is a greater problem than that of the idle poor whom the Church would save, not by cherishing them as their brethren with their substance in time of need, but by purchasing the land to convert it into labour homes for the unemployed and into gilded bureaus for the irreclaimable."

In passing, let me say, however, that I do not consider my hero's scheme practicable. Why ? For this reason : The churches without exception or demur accept of the copper of the poor, who give not of their own living but out of the living of those who kept them alive, as well as the gold of the rich, who give of their abundance, not to propagate the Gospel of peace and goodwill, but to create anomalous and exasperating situations to carry out their own fads, such as building churches and planting ministers over the land to kindle and perpetuate spiritual animosity against each other in the hearts of people who profess the same religion. In my estimation this blemish places the churches as organisations outside the category of possible aids to humanity in any material form.

No wonder, to show forth the glory of the New Jerusalem, where there shall be no more strife over the old cities of this world, in their multiplicity of sacred forts where we drill out "Salvation Armies" to fight one against another. it is written - "And I saw no temple there." But it is not as an ecclesiastic I canonize my hero.

Having covered the foreground of my canvas to a greater extent than was originally intended, there is but a small space left for the mountains which I wished to pourtray in the distance, and these I can only point out to you as the mountains which Mr MacCallum's axe, spade and trowel have helped to make beautiful, for it is as a Land Leaguer I canonize him.

Rev. Malcolm Maccallum

Not to be able to call Count Leo Tolstoy "my dear friend" is a source of great grief to me, but I am consoled in the fact that I can thus address a man to whom his Lordship writes :- " It is the greatest joy of my life to know persons such as you, and to see the ideas which I live for are expressed in such beautiful and vigorous style as I have occasion to notice in your two books," and that man is Mr J. Morrison Davidson, the Grand Old Man of Fleet Street, who, in the glorious heights to which he soars above the din of this noisy world, in the strength and speed of his opinions, making him independent of time and space ; in his scorning of the fury of the elements, resting in the peaceful sunshine above the thunder storm, is the most fearless of democrats - the "Frigate Bird" of reformers.

Mr Morrison Davidson was born in the parish of Old Deer, Aberdeenshire, 66 years ago. ln his sixteenth year he went to the University of Aberdeen, having obtained a scholarship by public competition. Early in life he married Rose Fawlie, an old schoolmate - the devoted mother of his eleven children - and the very young couple betook themselves to Glasgow, where Mr Davidson taught in several schools.

Afterwards he resolved to qualify for the Scottish Bar. He was a very distinguished law student, and obtained a complete mastery of legal principles under such famous professors as Cosmo Innes, Lorimer and Muirhead.

Even the names of the papers for which Mr Davidson wrote, with the utmost distinction, would over-burden my sketch. Over all the civilised world he is known as the chief exponent of the people's rights in Britain, and that is no small distinction for anyone in these days of social upheaval, when even "semi­regal" Harcourt says - " We are all Socialists now."

To make mention of the names even of the books Mr Davidson has written is hopeless. Among his more recent publications may be mentioned, "Let there be Light," "Scotland for the Scots," "That Great Lying Church of England," "The Son of Man," "Christ, State and Commune."

With regard to "The Son of Man," Count Leo Tolstoy paid the author this remarkable tribute on10th July, 1906 :- " Dear friend, - I have received your very remarkable book "The Son of Man." I have read it with the same feeling with which read all your books - the feeling that it is just what I would have said on the same matter, but better and more energetically said. Your opinion of our Duma is, I regret to say, quite true. I hope that the fallacy of all this thing will be seen clear to everybody, and we Russians will go on another road. With best wishes. - Yours truly, Leo Tolstoy."

Our patriot is a born journalist and publicist. At fourteen years of age he was a confirmed Republican and Democrat, and fairly astonished his elder brother, Professor Thomas Davidson, of New York (then Rector of Old Aberdeen Grammar School), by the "ultra" character of his self-acquired views.

John Morrison Davidson

"Macleod of Macleod," I heard Mr John Macpherson say, in addressing a Lowland audience, "in order to convert Bracadale into a wilderness, thrust its inhabitants into Glendale, and in order to get rid of the people for ever, he sold Glendale. It puts me in mind, he went on, of the way an old fox gets rid of his fleas. He takes a bunch of dry wool in his mouth, and, going to a loch-side, lets himself slip gradually into the water tail foremost; as he sinks the fleas crowd up into the dry wool, and when at last he is in the water to the muzzle, and all his fleas are in the wool, he lets it go and slips out of the water rid of his fleas, which he grins to see drowning.".

In this humorous illustration with which the Martyr of Glendale brightened the bitter earnestness of his speech is to be found the reason why Glendale as a star of the first magnitude above on the dark feudal sky, while Bracadale was seen as a black body.

On the first day of January, 1880, to name a day, the sun rose on three kinds of estates in the Highlands - the devastated, of which Nimrod, the master of hounds and ghillies, was hunter ; the enslaved, of which Nero, the lighter of the human torches, was idol ; the congested of which Pharaoh, the builder of the royal sepulchre, was tyrant; and in its dealing with these three kinds of estates is seen the weakness of the Crofters' Act, for being a terror only to Pharaoh, it is Nimrod's protector, and a dead letter to Nero.

Enslaved under Nero was the parish of Morvern, Argyllshire ; that is to say the remnant of its inhabitants, spared by the evictor's broom deprived of their inheritance, were made the servants of the lord of the soil. Yet so mightily did a power unseen inspire to valour the souls of men in those days that even in benighted Morven deliverers arose. One of these deliverers is Mr Gillean Maclean, Kinlochaline, Morvern. Along with his comrades in arms, Messrs Malcolm Maclachlan, who has passed into his rest, and Donald Mackickan, who is still fighting with him in the battle of freedom, he has done much service in breaking down the chains of landlordism; in breaking down the Forts of Spoilation, and in spoiling the Castles of Despair, and for his courage, strength and hopefulness I enrol him as one of my patriots.

Gillean Maclean

In the spirit I have taken the wings of a dove to search in the New World for a patriot, and my choice has fallen, to begin with, on Mr Norman Murray, bookseller and publisher, 246 St. James Street, Montreal, who was born, in 1853, at South Dell, Ness, Lewis, and migrated to Canada in 1881.

I have passed by many a good man for one striking blemish such as credulity, greed and frivolousness.

Mr Murray is one of the most serious, open-handed and studious of men. While allowing that man was not "made to mourn," he holds he was not made to be merry; while he admires thrift, he abhors penuriousness; while in all humility he seeks to know the doctrines of the fathers, he scorns the dictum that true piety consists in holding to whatsoever they taught.

Shocking as it may appear to the majority of Highlanders, I must say that our hero holds that two statements which are destructive one or the other cannot both be true, and that a single statement which involves an impossibility must be false in theology as well as in science.

Here is a rara avis among Highlanders. Listen to some of his opinions: He holds that God gives as great souls, as high destinies, as divine a communion to His chosen now as He gave to His chosen in olden times; that He reveals Himself in material nature and human conscience as well as in His Word: that the whole duty of man consists not in fearing but in loving God.

It is as well for me to make a clean breast of it, and to say at once that our patriot holds that our fathers might have been wrong in some of their theological dogmas, and that it is our duty to "prove all things" and to " hold fast that which is good."

Our unseemly squabbles as sectarians have driven Mr Murray out of connection with any particular church organisation, but he is willing to unite with all good men in doing all the good he can for the spiritual enlightenment as well as the material prosperity of all men, especially the Highlanders, and to equip himself for this work he has studied all the standard books on theology, history and science, written in the English language, and has listened to all the great preachers of our time.

Norman's father, Neil Murray, was one of those who refused to be driven to America when Galson was desolated, and his croft was reduced to one-third of its size. Our hero is the only one living of the first Unionists in Ness. Rev. Donald Macrae, Mr Kenneth Murray, Mr Malcolm Macphail were with him - the force all told. He has greatly grown in might of knowledge, charity and wisdom since, for he informs me that he does not care a brass farthing about the matters the churches have been splitting hairs about in Lewis for so many years.

Norman Murray

Idolatry is the great curse of the Highlands, even as it was that of Canaan. Thus sings the Highland Bard -

An idle thing who claims the land,
Bedeck'd with stars of chivalry,
The simple peasant finds at hand,
And this his god shall be.

Thus sang the Hebrew Psalmist: ­
The man who has no money gets
A sturdy stump of tree ;
A gilded rag he o'er it sets,
And this his god shall be.

and both join in the chorus thus: -
Oh ! sons of men, do ye not know
Who made yon mighty galaxy
In endless space around that glow
Through all eternity?

The symptoms of this fell disease on the soul are as palpable as those of the smallpox on the body. It manifests itself in the idol, hero, lord, or by whatever name he is named, who is worshipped in carbuncles of pride, greed, arrogance, while in the slave, serf, fool, or by whatever name he is named, who worships in carbuncles of sycophancy, sloth, woe. It is the key to all the absurd scenes which are seen enacted in life. Why does yon creature strut about the streets in the garb of ancient Gaul with the air of a universal possessor ? He is an idol. Why do the men who meet him bow down in the dust before him? They are slaves. In the great assembly why does yon starred and ribboned person monopolise all the speaking? He is a lord. Why do all the rest so uproariously applaud the nonsense he gives utterance to? They are serfs.

High amongst those who have spent their lives in stemming the tide of idolatry I place Mr J. G. Weir, M.P. for Ross-shire. Not by eloquence, diplomacy, leadership, but by truth, simplicity, faith, does my patriot hurl down the mountains of pride on which the idols build their castles and fill up the gorges of sycophancy from which ascend the smoke of the sacrifice offered by the slaves.

I do not know of any harder or more thankless work to which a man may set himself than that of the Democrat - the foe of pride and sycophancy ­ for it is as natural to the idol to devastate the home and to dispossess the children of the slave as it is to the cuckoo to appropriate the nest and oust the chicks of the lark, and the lark can have no greater joy in serving the cuckoo than the slave has in attending upon the idol.

From long experience Mr Weir knows the arbitrary, unscrupulous and deadly sway of the lord of the soil, but from the conflict he does not turn aside;. He knows how fully provisioned, thoroughly disciplined and skilfully organised are the forces in possession of the stronghold of tyranny, but he does not raise the siege; he knows how ready the people, saved from the bondage of Pharaoh, are to say - " Because there were no graves in Egypt hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness ! " yet he does not lose heart.

Besides being one of the most honest staunchest and uncompromising of Radicals, Mr Weir is one of the kindest, most hospitable and joy-inspiring of men, and so long as he lives in London Town the wandering Highlander will, in his house, have a "quiet resting place" there.

May he long occupy, as the terror of the proud and the joy of the humble, the throne of Ross-shire, "seeing that his life is bound up" with its foundation.

John Calloway Weir MP

In the process of its formation to the Island of Skye were given three of the most wonderful features of the world, and these are - Gob-na-feastrach (Bridle Beak), Bodach-an-stor (The Old Man of the Ridge) and Cuife-Fhraing (Frances' Fold). And curiously enough, with these three features I associate the three great reformers of the island.

Here you will allow me, owing to loftiness of my point of view, the aid of the Muse :-

Of the men who stood most fearless
In the face of battle flame,
Monuments in splendour peerless
Still their glory aye proclaîm ;
City yard can not supply me,
Never so polished be its stone,
Nothing short can satisfy me
Or the earthquake's work atone.

Giving to the feather'd toiler
Of the moor and mighty main
Home above the reach of spoiler,
'World-admired Vaterstein.
" 'Neath my shadow," be thy story, "
Lived the Martyr of Glendale,
"Who demolished castles hoary',
Clad in truth as coat of mail."

First to see the sun apeeping
From his couch to give us Day,
Last to see him gently sleeping,
So that Night may have her sway ;
Bodach Stor, be thou for ever
Monument to good "J. G.,"
Whose right hand in twain did sever
Countless links of slavery.

Cuîfe-Fhraing, whose great upheaval
Shook the earth unto its core,
In whose courts in time primaeval
Gathered Titans now no more ;
" 'Gainst the lords to crush us during."
To thy store of legends add,
" Here the banner war declaring
First was raised by Garnfad."

Of the above trio this week I select as my patriot the last named, that is Mr Archibald Macdonald, innkeeper, Stenchol, Skye, familiarly called "Garafad."

What Von Moltke was to Germany in the time of the Franco-Prussian war, Mr Macdonald was to Skye in the time of the crofter-landlord war. Indeed he was a great deal more than that. He was the Luther of the land law reformation in Skye.

Long before the conflict began, when the Lords were satisfied that they had established a divine right to devastate the land by demanding a prohibitory rent, and when the inhabitants were convinced that their spiritual advisors were right in saying that it was their duty to submit to expatriation or extermination at the hands of the Lords as being the declared will of God on account of original and personal sin ; even as His will was declared by His servants of old against the aboriginal inhabitants of Canaan, my patriot preached the gospel of peace and goodwill, and with great blessing from on high he was able to make the people believe that it was the will of God neither to expatriate or exterminate them, but that instead it was His will that they should "multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it."

It may be that in the turmoil of the present dogma-reason war in which the people are engaged that they have forgotten such an episode as this, but it is my duty as a faithful historian to record it.

Archibald Macdonald

In the uprearing of Christian Socialism that is, the mansion of grace and truth, upon the foundation of Mosaic theocracy, that is, the rock of law and prophecy, we are making but slow progress. The reason, I think, is that though we know a man to be such that, being an hungered he will be persuaded to turn the stone into bread, contrary to the Word of God, we are perfectly satisfied to follow him into the battlefield on the principle that the proper thing is to "send a thief to catch a thief." My opinion is that a chosen leader, so long as he can be bought with the gold of Baalack or the silver of Sanhedrin, whatever place we give him in our ranks or however great be his ability, he will, on the first opportunity he gets, either sell or betray us. What else can you expect ? The stream can rise no higher than its source. St Paul has well said - " Take heed to thyself and to thy doctrine."

Fired with holy wrath at the tale of devastation wrought by the lords of the soil, as written in nature's letters of the ruined homesteads that cover the land, and in the lamentations of the enslaved remnant of a once prosperous nation -

Fearful as an Alpine village
Falls the sounding avalanche,
O'er the ranch
Come the blue-coats to the pillage ;
While the cheeks of heroes blanch
Livid, in the dancing flashes
Of the timber-feasting fire,
That shall soon reduce to ashes
Home of our desire.

Frighten'd to the lonely mountain
With our little ones we haste,
But the waste,
Frozen over, lake and fountain,
In its winter toga cas'd,
With the light of early morning
To our homes we make our way ;
But we find its rays adorning
'Stead of white walls, boulders grey.

Mr William Black, crofter, Gruids, Sutherlandshire, became one of the most renowned champions of the people's cause who twenty years ago paved the way for the Crofters Act by collecting, sifting and submitting evidence before the Royal Commission.

lt would make my sketch too elaborate to expatiate on Mr Black's sterling qualities, but this let me say, in his native valour he was proof against the meanness of the boycott who says:- "I will ruin you ;" against the taunt of the scoffer who says, "You are a fool ;" against bribe of the tyrant who says, "I know your price." And by this Satanic trio was our hero sorely tried.

Some years ago Mr Black, who was County Councillor for Eddrachillis, emigrated to Canada., and the papers of the period show in what high respect he was held by his constituency in the loving God-speed they gave him on leaving them.

When the Ardens' deforcement case was before the Sutherland County Council, the Chief Constable applied for bicycles for the police because of the wide district they had to traverse. On this occasion Mr Black made the remark that balloons would suit better as they could pounce on the Ardens' crofters out of the clouds. The application, 'mid roars of laughter, was ordered to lie on the table.

William Black

Mr John Campbell, crofter's son and soldier, Dervaig, Mull, 80 years of age, is one of the greatest patriots known to me. I take this personal note out of the report of the Royal Commission:- "I enlisted in the 79th Regiment in 1852. In the time of the Crimean War there were seven of us of the village of Dervaig in Her Majesty's Service, and four of us went up the heights of Alma, and I am the most insignificant of the whole. We went through the whole of the Crimean War. Three of us went through the Indian Mutiny. In Afghanistan we were represented by one of our number, Allan Macdonald who was killed at Candahar, the last battle. We have no less than fourteen war medals, a star, and twenty-one clasps in our village."

Anyone who wishes to know the iniquity perpetrated by the ruling classes in the Highland in his day, I refer to Mr Campbell's statement before the Royal Commission. "Our catalogue," he wrote, "embraces the parish minister, police inspector, collector of rates, registrar, sanitary inspector, poor inspector and postmaster.

From the outset, the Greenock branch of the Land League, of which John was the founder and hon. secretary for seven years, set their compass for assisting those in trouble in the north and their families. This was their first object, and in every other way possible they helped. He had for colleagues, I can truly say, a band of Greenock Radicals ready and willing at all time and hours to strike out in support of our cause.

I know for a fact that, in proportion to its population, Greenock contributed more dry cash than any other town in Scotland. I will give one instance to show the feeling in Greenock for our cause. When Ivory with his angels was hunting for criminals in Skye the people of that town set their hearts on a big demonstration and made application to the Town Council to give them the Town Hall free for it. The application was granted unanimously. Provost Shankland, who was in the chair that night, said - "These poor people are badly treated; they have a stout claim on our sympathy. I move that we grant the hall free." (£8 being the charge.)

They got Dr Cameron and Professor Lindsay, Glasgow, to speak at the meeting. The hall was packed and the turn-over in dry cash was over £30.

The following week the Clansman took £24 worth of food and clothing to Skye, Lewis, Clashmore and Tiree. Smaller troubles also received due allowance from Greenock. Besides helping the funds in London Greenock was the only town in Scotland which sent a public petition to Parliament on behalf of our cause.

Taking now my beloved harp unto my bosom, let my soul ascend far from the tumult of this world into the realms of peace, and let Johnnie be the subject of my lay:-

On the banks of Jordan sighing
Now is he whose praise I sing,
For the wing
That shall waft him where no crying
Shall the gladsome echoes ring ;
Where the notice stamped "legal,"
Hated of his soul below,
Shall not from his mansion regal
Order him forthwith to go.

Not by force of grand oration
Did he melt our frozen will,
Nor by quill,
Dipp'd in live imagination,
But by influence as still
And as mighty in adorning
Human souls with love of light
As the sun is in adorning
Mountain brows with ruby light.

Not in tomes, which tell the story
Of the Warlike hero bold,
Shall be told
How resplendent was the glory
Of the deeds he did of old.
No, his greatness is recorded
in the ruined castle wall,
And the liberty afforded
Us our souls our own to call.

But among the mighty heroes
Of the firmly-knitted band,
Whose right hand,
Of its Nimrods, Pharaohs, Neros,
Did for ever clear the land,
Let me in this artless measure
Of an idle summer day
The good name of Johnnie treasure,
Who my mate was in the fray.

John Campbell

"Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions."

(From " Human Hymns.")
"Upright God at first made man,
Crowning him with charity ;
But invented they a plan
It to change for rivalry.

"In his own beloved Son,
Whom He sent for us to die,
Gloriously He made us one,
Heirs with Him to thrones on high.

"But in churches numberless,
Which our ranks for aye divide,
Anarchy in holy dress
O'er the land we've petrified.

" The commandment from above,
Given to the men of old-
'As thyself thy neighbour love'­
We anull beyond our fold."

The Lord's Supper was instituted to perfect in holy communion our joy in those with whom we labour in the vineyard.-

(From "The Linnet.")
"The Son of Man in heaven above,
Who sits upon the throne,
Did institute the feast of love
To comfort here His own.

" Rejected of the world so cold,
The upper room let us prepare,
As did His dearest friends of old,
That we may hold it there.

"Where screen'd a while from worldly show,
And pomp of vanity,
The guests of Jesus we shall know
How good it is to be.

"'Tis the remembrance of the night
We supp'd with Him full sad,
That shall in realms of purest light
Our hearts for aye make glad. '

But have we not invented out of the Lord's Supper what may be called "The Adoration of the Stranger"?-

(From "The Blackbird.")
"To show the world how holy
We Scottish Churchmen be,
Our ranks, the proud and lowly,
Shall at the Supper see.

"Then in the bright pavilion,
When comes the holy day,
Surrounded by the million,
We shall the table lay.

"To cause a great commotion
Throughout our sleepy isle,
Across the wide, wide ocean
We'll call our guest the while.

"And o'er hill and valley,
When strikes the holy sound,
The multitudes shall rally
From all the lands around."

As one who has done much to propagate brotherly love, to inspire manliness, to raise up joyfulness and to conquer sorrow, I introduce to you Mr John Macdonald Campbell, accountant, 30 St John Street, Montreal: born Kiltearn, Ross-shire, in 1854, son of the late Rev. Duncan Campbell, F.C. minister of Kiltearn, grandson of the late Dr Macdonald, of Ferintosh ; was educated at the Parish School and Dingwall Academy, afterwards taking the Arts course at Edinburgh University; from that was articled as apprentice with the late Murdoch Paterson, C.E., Inverness; went to Montreal, Canada., in 1874, and has been engaged in commercial pursuits there ever since ; was a member of the old Thistle Society ; is a past president of the Caledonian Society ; has for several years been chairman of the Charitable Committee of the St Andrew's Society, and is also a member of the Highland Society.

To Mr Campbell, for all he has done in upholding our dignity as a nation, in brightening the lives of his brethren in a foreign land, and in setting us free from the thraldom of landlordism, I have great pleasure in giving a niche in my temple of fame ; and long may he be spared to carry out the great work to which he has set his hand.

John Macdonald Campbell

My dearly beloved Highlanders, I am privileged by the author of this most valuable collection to give you a message on this page which he has so generously placed at my disposal. Upon these Patriots we can ever look as the architects who courageously planned the buildings and the workmen who laid the foundation undeterred by adverse winds or the howlings of the opposition forces.

All honour to the brave, the fearless, and undaunted reformers of the past and present. It is with the future we have to do battle, to finish the task so well begun, to erect into a fair and flourishing edifice land reform, so that you, your children's children and posterity throughout all time may enjoy the blessings of "Paradise Regained."

Do this unselfishly, ungrudgingly, with a single eye and a stout heart looking for no reward other than what the brave and true get at the hands of their fellows.

I have long wished for such a record which might tell the generations of the glorious deeds which have been performed during those years of struggle in striving to emancipate our dearly beloved Highlanders from the thraldom of landlord oppression and tyranny.

As will be seen many of the patriotic souls who illumine these pages have been called to their rest and reward, yet the battle for freedom and liberty must continue until justice shall prevail throughout those cherished straths and glens, once the home of a happy and prosperous peasantry, and where could be heard so often and so widely the sweet melody of praise to our Father in Heaven.


2019 Editor's note:

While editing this volume for the internet, I have read carefully through it, and in particular compared the language of the "message to my fellow Highlanders", on the last page, which is actually acknowledged as being written by Joseph MacLeod with the body of the text, by the anonymous "AJAX". Also in comparing the language and style with Joseph's brief 1902 pamphlet The Land Question: The root of all social evils and to Joseph's book, Highland Heroes of the Land Reform Movement which was published in 1917, I thought the author could have been Joseph. Indeed the picture (to the right) caused a debate in my household, in comparing it with later photographs as to whether it might or might not have been Joseph.

All three books were published in Inverness by the Highland News. I had almost convinced myself that Joseph was "AJAX", before I realised that it must, instead, have been the Rev. Donald MacCallum, minister of Lochs, Stornoway. In his text concerning Dugald Cowan on pages 66 and 67 of "Highland Heroes", Joseph quoted the words used in the section of "Highland Patriots", above, about Dugald Cowan and the visits to Calton Jail, and ascribed those words to the Rev. Donald MacCallum. Also, while from his writings, Joseph was clearly a devout man, much of the text in "Highland Patriots" would suggest that the author was a man of the cloth.

Ajax (Rev. Donald MacCallum) visiting a crofter
One final clue lies in the address at the end of the PDF which I used to create this webpage. The book is addressed to Mr A. MacDonald, Staffin Inn, from the Rev. Donald MacCallum. A full sized image of this can be obtained by clicking on the thumbnail to the right. Perhaps Donald had self-published and thus was required to take on the role of distributor as well.

"Ajax" wrote in the preface "If this little book will be able to make its way in the world, it is my intention to send others of the same size on subjects affecting the Highlands to be its companions." Unfortunately there appears to be no trace of subsequent little books by Ajax in the catalogue of the National Library of Scotland, or elsewhere, although the nom-de-plume "Ajax" was used by others.

Peter Lawrie
Cover address of book