Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/410

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OLD-WORLD SURVIVALS IN ROSS-SHIRE.

BY SHEILA MACDONALD.

That it was a " far cry to Loch Awe " may have been true in those picturesque days of long ago, when it took days perhaps to get from one shire to another, across rugged hills and lonely glens. But it is not at all a far cry nowa- days to the shores of the sea-loch in Western Ross from which I write. It is indeed only some ten hours' journey from the Scottish capital. Yet some of the quaint survivals to be found here carry one centuries back into media^valism, and it is astonishing to what an extent superstitious customs still linger among a people who are more or less educated and intelligent.

All the things I am about to describe have come under my own observation, or have been related to me by the people principally concerned.

The district from which these stories are culled, and which is now a waste of deer forest, was once the home of a large and powerful clan ; and the picturesque ruin of their ancient stronghold is a dominant feature of the land- scape for miles around. The whole place is particularly rich in legend ; indeed it simply teems with romance, and the Sguelachds (tales) I have listened to since childhood about the old gray ivy-covered castle alone would fill many a bulky volume.

But you require to have two sides to your tongue, as we say in the North, to fully appreciate the poetic character of those Sguelachds^ with their wealth of imagery and fanciful situations. They lose much in translating them from our own poetic language into that of the Sassenach. Though, as a rule, Highlanders rather resent being asked about their old customs, and are very chary of telling about their