Deerhound

A passionate little blog started by a deerhound dog in Scotland called Rogue ‘Brylach’ MacAllister and Passed to Rascal ‘Logan’ Dorrator Heath

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Deerhunt 1618 in the Scottish Highlands

As a first year celebration to Rogues blog I thought it worthy of this fantastic Historical piece from 1618 which tells tale of Deerhounds in Action long before they were named such, and from a time when the Highland Hounds were seldom observed outside their native Highland Environment. Indeed, here we find them refered to as Irish Greyhounds and one can also note that the Highlanders are observed as speaking only the Irish - the author John Taylor not being in understanding of the Gaelic. Also of interest is the detailed description of Highland dress and the reference to so many of these Clansmen having dogs, which, as mentioned in previous posts, it was a common part of the Celtic Highland culture. Enough already . . . read on and Enjoy . . .

That eccentric genius, John Taylor, the Thames waterman, commonly called the WATER-POET, set out from his native London on the 14th of July, on a journey to Scotland—’because,’ says he, ‘I would be an eye-witness of divers things which I had heard of that country.’ He called it a Pennyless Pilgrimage, because he intended to attempt making his way without any funds of his own, and entirely by the use of what he might get from friends by the way. Having traversed the intermediate distance on horseback in about a month, he entered Scotland by the western border, walking, while a guide rode with his baggage on a gelding. Somewhat to his surprise, he observed no remarkable change on the face of nature.

‘There I saw sky above, and earth below,
And as in England, there the sun did shew;
The hills with sheep replete, with corn the dale,
And many a cottage yielded good Scotch ale.’

As he passed along Annandale, he counted eleven hundred neat at as good grass as ever man did mow. At Moffat, where he arrived much wearied by his walk from Carlisle, he ‘found good ordinary country entertainment; my fare and my lodging was sweet and good, and might have served a far better man than myself.’ He travelled next day twenty-one miles to a sorry village called Blyth, in Peeblesshire, where his lodging was less agreeable. Next again, passing through a fertile country for corn and cattle, he entered Edinburgh.

A gentleman named Mr John Maxwell, whom he casually encountered, conducted him to see the Castle, which he deemed impregnable, and where he noted the extraordinary piece of antique ordnance which still exists there under the name of Mons Meg. ‘I crept into it, lying on my back, and I am sure there was room enough and to spare for a greater than myself.’ He describes the principal street of the city as the fairest and goodliest he had ever seen, ‘the buildings on each side of the way being all of squared stone, five, six, and seven stories high.’ ‘I found entertainment beyond my expectation or merit, and there had fish, flesh, bread, and fruit in such variety, that I think I may without offence call it superfluity. The worst was,’ he adds waggishly, ‘that wine and ale were so scarce, and the people there such misers of it, that every night before I went to bed, if any man had asked me a civil question, all the wit in my head could not have made him a sober answer.’

At Leith, he met a bountiful friend in Bernard Lindsay, one of the grooms of his majesty’s bed-chamber, and was informed that ‘within the compass of one year, there was shipped away from that port fourscore thousand bolls of wheat, oats, and barley, into Spain, France, and other foreign parts, and every boll contains the measure of four English bushels . . . . besides some hath been shipped away from St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen, Dysart, Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn, Burntisland, Dunbar, and other portable towns.’

In good time, Taylor commenced a progress through the country, entertained everywhere by hospitable gentlemen, who probably considered his witty conversation ample recompense. At Dunfermline, he viewed with pleasure the palace and remains of the abbacy, and the surrounding gardens, orchards, and meadows. Then he went to visit at Culross the enterprising coal-proprietor, Sir George Bruce, who entertained him hospitably and sent three of his men to guide him over the works. The imagination of the Water-poet was greatly excited by the singular mine which Sir George had here formed, partly within the sea-mark. ‘At low-water, the sea being ebbed away, and a great part of the sand bare—upon this same sand, mixed with rocks and crags, did the master of this great work build a circular frame of stone, very thick, strong, and joined together with bituminous matter, so high withal that the sea at the highest flood, or the greatest rage of storm or tempest, can neither dissolve the stones so well compacted in the building, nor yet overflow the height of it. Within this round frame, he did set workmen to dig . . . . they did dig forty foot down right into and through a rock. At last they found that which they expected, which was sea-coal. They, following the vein of the mine, did dig forward still; so that in the space of eight-and-twenty or nine-and-twenty years, they have digged more than an English mile, under the sea, [so] that when men are at work below, a hundred of the greatest ships in Britain may sail over their heads. Besides, the mine is most artificially cut like an arch or vault, all that great length, with many nooks and by-ways; and it is so made that a man may walk upright in most places.’

‘All I saw was pleasure mixed with profit,
Which proved it to be no tormenting Tophet;
For in this honest, worthy, harmless hall,
There ne’er did any damned devil dwell.'

‘The sea at certain places doth leak or soak into the mine, which by the industry of Sir George Bruce is conveyed to one well near the land, where he hath a device like a horse-mill, with three great horses and a great chain of iron, going downward many fathoms, with thirty-six buckets attached to the chain, of the which eighteen go down still to be filed, and eighteen ascend still to be emptied, which do empty themselves without any man’s labour into a trough that conveys the water into the sea again. . . . . Besides, he doth make every week ninety or a hundred tons of salt, which doth serve most part of Scotland; some he sends into England, and very much into Germany.’

The pennyless pilgrim proceeded to Stirling, of whose castle and palace he speaks in terms of high admiration; stating, moreover, that at his host Mr John Archibald’s, his only difficulty was for ‘room to contain half the good cheer that he might have had.’ Advancing to St Johnston (Perth), he lodged at an inn kept by one Patrick Pitcairn. It was his design to visit Sir William Murray of Abercairny; but he here learned that that gentleman had left home on a hunting excursion. It was suggested that he might overtake him at Brechin; but on reaching that city, he found that Sir William had left it four days before.

Taylor now made a journey such as few Englishmen had any experience of in that age. Proceeding along Glen Esk, and passing by a road which lay over a lofty precipice, he lodged the first night at a poor cot on the Laird of Edzell’s land, where nothing but Erse was spoken, and where he suffered somewhat from vermin—the only place, however, in Scotland where he met any such troubles. With immense difficulty, he next day crossed Mount Skene by an uneven stony way, full of bogs, quagmires, and long heath, ‘where a dog with three legs would outrun a horse with four,’ and came in the evening to Braemar. This he describes as a large county, full of lofty mountains, compared with which English hills are but ‘as a liver or a gizzard below a capon’s wing.’ ‘There I saw Benawne [Ben Aven], with a furred mist upon his snowy head, instead of a night-cap.’

He here found his friend, Sir William Murray, engaged in Highland sports, along with the Earl of Mar, the Earl of Enzie (afterwards second Marquis of Huntly), the Earl of Buchan, and Lord Erskine, accompanied by their countesses, and a hundred other knights and squires, with their followers, ‘all in general in one habit, as if Lycurgus had been there.’ ‘For once in the year, which is the whole month of August, and sometimes part of September, many of the nobility and gentry of the kingdom, for their pleasure, come into these Highland countries to hunt, where they conform to the habit of the Highlandmen, who for the most part speak nothing but Irish... Their habit is shoes with but one sole apiece; stockings which they call short hose, made of a warm stuff of divers colours, which they call tartan: as for breeches, many of them, nor their forefathers, never wore any, but a jerkin of the same stuff that their hose is of, their garters being bands or wreaths of hay or straw, with a plaid about their shoulders, which is a mantle of divers colours, [of] much finer and lighter stuff than their hose; with flat blue caps on their heads, a handkerchief knit with two knots about their neck; and thus they are attired Their weapons are long bows and forked arrows, swords and targets, harquebusses, muskets, durks, and Lochaber axes. With these arms, I found many of them armed for the hunting. As for their attire, any man of what degree soever that comes amongst them, must not disdain to wear it; for if they do, they will disdain to hunt, or willingly to bring in their dogs; but if men be kind to them, and be in their habit, then they are conquered with kindness, and the sport will be plentiful. This was the reason that I found so many noblemen and gentlemen in those shapes.’

Taylor allowed himself to be invested by the Earl of Mar in Highland attire, and then accompanied the party for twelve days into a wilderness devoid of corn and human habitations— probably the district around the skirts of Ben Muicdhui. He found temporary lodges called lonchards, designed for the use of the sportsmen, and he himself received a kind of accommodation in that of Lord Erskine. The kitchen, he tells us, was ‘always on the side of a bank, many kettles and pots boiling, and many spits turning and winding, with great variety of cheer, as venison—baked, sodden, roast, and stewed beef—mutton, goats, kid, hares, fresh salmon, pigeons, hens, capons, chickens, partridge, moorcoots, heath-cocks, cappercailzies, and termagants; good ale, sack, white, and claret, tent (or Alicant), with most potent aquavitæ.’ Thus a company of about fourteen hundred persons was most amply fed.

‘The manner of the hunting is this: five or six hundred men rise early in the morning, and disperse themselves divers ways, and seven, eight, or ten miles compass, they bring or chase in the deer in many herds (two, three, or four hundred in a herd), to such or such a place, as the noblemen shall appoint them. Then, when day is come, the lords and gentlemen of their companies ride or go to the said places, sometimes wading up to the middle, through burns and rivers; and then they, being come to the place, lie down on the ground, till those foresaid scouts, who are called the Tinchel-men, bring down the deer....After we had stayed there three hours or thereabouts, we might perceive the deer appear on the hills round about us (their heads making a show like a wood), which, being followed close by the Tinchel, are chased down into the valley where we lay. Then, all the valley on each side being waylaid with a hundred couple of strong Irish greyhounds, they are let loose, as occasion serves, upon the herd of deer, [so] that with dogs, guns, arrows, durks, and daggers, in the space of two hours, fourscore fat deer were slain, which after are disposed, some one way and some another, twenty or thirty miles, and more than enough left for us to make merry withal at our rendezvous.’

If sport like this can on the mountains be,
Where Phoebus’ flame can never melt the snow:
Then let who list delight in vales below,
Skie-kissing mountains pleasure are for me.
What braver object can man’s eyesight see,
Than noble, worshipfull, and worthy wights,
As if they were prepared for sundry fights,
Yet all in sweet society agree?

"Through heather, moss, ‘mong frogs, and bogs, and fogs,
‘Mongst craggy cliffs, and thunder-battered hills,
Hares, hinds, bucks, roes, are chaced by men and dogs,
Where two hours hunting fourscore fat-deer kills.
Lowlands, your sports are low as is your seat:
The Highland games and minds are high and great"!

After spending some days in this manner in the Brae of Mar, the party, attended by Taylor, went into Badenoch, and renewed the sport there for three or four days, concluding with a brief visit to Ruthven Castle. This grand old fortress—anciently the stronghold of the Cumins, lords of Badenoch—seated on an alluvial promontory jutting into the haugh beside the Spey, occupying an area of a hundred and twenty yards long, and consisting of two great towers surrounded by a fortified wall with an iron gate and portcullis, was now the property of the Gordon family. Here, says Taylor, ‘my Lord of Enzie and his noble countess (being daughter to the Earl of Argyle) did give us most noble welcome for three days.’ ‘From thence we went to a place called BaIlo[ch] Castle, a fair and stately house, a worthy gentleman being the owner of it, called the Laird of Grant....Our cheer was more than sufficient, and yet much less than they could afford us. There stayed there four days four earls, one lord, divers knights and gentlemen, and their servants, footmen, and horses; and every meal four long tables furnished with all varieties; our first and second course being threescore dishes at one board; and after that always a banquet; and there, if I had not forsworn wine till I came to Edinburgh, I think I had there drank my last.’

The Water-poet was afterwards four days at Tarnaway, entertained in the same hospitable manner by the Earl and Countess of Moray. He speaks of Morayland as the pleasantest and most plentiful country in Scotland, ‘being plain land, that a coach may be driven more than four-and-thirty miles one way in it, alongst the sea-coast.’ He spent a few days with the Marquis of Huntly at the Bog, ‘where our entertainment was, like himself, free, bountiful, and honourable,’ and then returned by the Cairn-a-mount to Edinburgh.

Here he was again in the midst of plentiful good cheer and good company for eight days, while recovering from certain bruises he had got at the Highland hunting. In Leith, at the house of Mr John Stuart, he found his ‘long approved and assured good friend, Mr Benjamin Jonson,’ who gave him a piece of gold of the value of twenty-two shillings, to drink his health in England. ‘So with a friendly farewell, I left him as well as I hope never to see him in a worse estate; for he is among noblemen and gentlemen that know his true worth and their own honours, where with much respective love he is worthily entertained.’

In short, Taylor, in his progress through Scotland, seems to have been everywhere feasted sumptuously, and supplied liberally with money. So much of a virtue comparatively rare in England, and so much plenty in a country which his own people were accustomed to think of as the birthplace of famine, seems to have greatly astonished him. The wonder comes to a climax at Cockburnspath, near his exit from Scotland, where he was handsomely entertained at an inn by Master William Arnot and his wife, the owners thereof: ‘I must explain,’ he says, ‘their bountiful entertainment of guests, which is this:

‘Suppose ten, fifteen, or twenty men and horses come to lodge at their house. The men shall have flesh, tame and wild fowl, fish, with all variety of good cheer, good lodging, and welcome, and the horses shall want neither hay nor provender; and at the morning at their departure the reckoning is just nothing. This is this worthy gentleman’s use, his chief delight being to give strangers entertainment gratis! And I am sure that in Scotland, beyond Edinburgh, I have been at houses like castles for building; the master of the house’s beaver being his blue bonnet, one that will wear no other shirts but of the flax that grows on his own ground, and of his wife’s, daughters’, or servants’ spinning; that hath his stockings, hose, and jerkin of the wool of his own sheep’s backs; that never by his pride of apparel caused mereer, draper, silk-man, embroiderer, or haberdasher, to break and turn bankrupt; and yet this plain home-spun fellow keeps and maintains thirty, forty, fifty servants, or perhaps more, every day relieving three or four score poor people at his gate; and besides all this, can give noble entertainment for four days together to five or six earls and lords, besides knights, gentlemen, and their followers, if they be three or four hundred men and horse of them, where they shall not only feed but feast, and not feast but banquet; this is a man that desires to know nothing so much as his duty to God and his king, whose greatest cares are to practise the works of piety, charity, and hospitality. He never studies the consuming art of fashionless fashions; he never tries his strength to bear four or five hundred acres on his back at once; his legs are always at liberty, not being fettered with golden garters and manacled with artificial roses... Many of these worthy housekeepers there are in Scotland....

‘There th’ Almighty doth his blessings heap,
In such abundant food for beasts and men,
That I ne’er saw more plenty or more cheap.’

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