Deerhound

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Friends and Foes of Man

From the 1917 Publication Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend
by Donald Alexander Mackenzie comes the marvelous chapter XV

Friends and Foes of Man


In ancient days the dog was looked upon as man’s best friend, and the enemy of all supernatural beings: fairies, giants, hags, and monsters of the sea and the Underworld. When the seasons changed on the four “quarter days” of the year, and the whole world, as the folks believed, was thrown into confusion, the fairies and other spirits broke loose and went about plundering houses and barns and stealing children. At such times the dogs were watchful and active, and howled warning when they saw any of the supernatural creatures. They even attacked the fairies, and sometimes after such fights they returned home with all the hair scraped off their bodies.

A story is still current in Edinburgh about a piper and his dog, and their meeting with a monster of the Underworld. This monster haunted an underground passage, which is said to run from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, and was called Great-Hand, for no one ever saw aught of it except its gigantic grisly hand with nails like an eagle’s claw.

In days of long ago the underground passage was used by soldiers when the enemies of the King of Scotland invaded the kingdom and laid siege to Edinburgh Castle, his chief stronghold. The soldiers could leave the castle and fall upon the besiegers from behind, and through it reinforcements could be sent to the castle. When, however, the spirit called Great-Hand began to haunt the tunnel, it could not be used any longer, for every man who entered it perished in the darkness.

The piper was a brave man, and he resolved to explore the tunnel with his dog. “I shall play my bagpipe all the way through,” he said to his friends, “and you can follow the sound of the piping above the ground.”

There is a cave below the castle which leads to the tunnel, and the piper entered it one morning, playing a merry tune. His faithful dog followed him. The people heard the sound of the bagpipe as they walked down High Street, listening intently, but when they reached the spot which is called the “Heart of Midlothian” the piping stopped abruptly, as if the pipes had been torn suddenly from the piper’s hands.

The piper was never seen again, but his dog, without a hair on its body, came running out of the cave below the castle.

There are other strange passages below hills, and even below the sea, about which stories have been told. The longest of these is one that is supposed to stretch from a cave in Oban to another cave in the Island of Mull. A Gaelic legend tells that a piper once entered the cave at Oban to explore the tunnel, but was never seen again. His dog returned with every hair torn from its body, and died soon afterwards.

It is said that most of these passages have been made by fairies for the monster with the gigantic grisly Hand, and there are two stories about men who once caught glimpses of the Hand inside caves, and yet managed to escape from it.

The first story is about an underground passage, over three miles long, that is said to connect the Dropping Cave, near Cromarty, with another cave in the fairy-haunted dell of Eathie, which is situated beside Navity Moor, where in ancient times the Earth Goddess was worshipped within a grove. It is told that when fires are lit in one of the caves the smoke comes out of the other.

The Dropping Cave is so called because drops of water are constantly falling from its ceiling, which bristles with long tapering stalactites that look like icicles. There are lots of strange stories about this cave. Fishermen have told that they have seen blue lights hovering near it in the darkness, and also that often, on moonlight nights, a mermaid sits on a rock below it, combing her long yellow hair with her fingers and singing a low sad song.

Once upon a time a little old man, with a pale wrinkled face and long grey beard, was seen sitting near the cave, gazing over the sea. He did not move for three days. People crept along the lonely shore to watch him from a distance, and fishermen, passing in their boats, stared at him with wondering eyes. No one dared to go near him except a half-witted lad, who first walked round the little old man, and then spoke, saying: “Why are you sitting here? Are you not tired yet?”

The little old man made no answer, but shivered all over. Terrified by his appearance, the lad turned at once and fled homeward, crying:

“He is shivering now, he is shivering now.”

On the evening of the third day the little old man disappeared. Soon afterwards a terrible storm broke out. It raged fiercely for several days, and, when it was over, the shores were strewn with wreckage and the bodies of drowned sailors. The people believed that the little old man was one of the inhabitants of the Underworld, and some have declared he was no other than Thomas the Rhymer.

A Cromarty man, named William Millar, who lived over a hundred years ago, is said to have entered the Dropping Cave and explored part of the underground passage. When he returned he told that he had caught a glimpse of the great Hand.

Before he entered the cave, Millar sewed sprigs of rowan and witch hazel in the hem of his vest. Into one of his pockets he put a Bible, and in his right hand he held a staff of blackthorn which he had cut on a calm night when the moon was full, and had dressed without using anything made of iron. With the aid of these charms he hoped to be able to protect himself against the spirits of the Under-world.

Having lit a torch, Millar climbed up to the mouth of the dark wet cave, and entered it just as the sun was beginning to rise. He walked forward until the passage became so low and narrow that he had to crawl on his hands and knees. He crawled for some distance until the cave began to widen, and at length he found himself in a big underground chamber which was full of blue mist. A small and beautiful rainbow appeared round his flaming torch. For a time he stood gazing around him and above. The roof seemed to be very high, and the rocky walls were rough and bare. He walked onward, and as he did so the sound of his footsteps awoke many echoes loud and faint. It seemed as if a hundred people were walking through the cave.

Suddenly Millar heard a curious humming noise. He stopped to listen, and when he did so the humming grew louder. He peered through the blue mist for a time, fearing to advance farther into the depths of that fearsome place. Then a fierce gust of wind blew in his face. The flames of the torch were swept backward, flickered, and went out. Just as this happened, Millar caught a glimpse of many dim forms flitting round about him. A cry of fear came from his lips, and he turned to run away, but stumbled over a stone, fell heavily, and became unconscious.

How long he lay there he never could tell. When he woke, the chamber was no longer dark, for a red light shone through it. The humming noise had grown very loud, and seemed to be the noise of falling water. Thinking he was not far from the waterfalls of Eathie burn, he rose up and hastened forward. The passage grew narrow, and led to another large chamber, where he saw a great fire of fir logs burning fiercely, and a waterfall dashing over a rock into a deep pool beneath. In front of the pool was a big stone chest. The floor of the rocky chamber was strewn with human bones.

Millar crept forward cautiously until he saw a big iron mace, red with rust and blood, lying at one end of the stone chest, and a horn dangling on a chain which came down from the rocky ceiling.

He gazed at the horn for a minute; then he grasped it in his hands and blew a single blast which awoke a hundred echoes.

No sooner did he do so than the waters ceased to fall. Millar was astonished, and thought he would blow the horn once again to see what would happen. But when he leaned forward to grasp it, he saw the lid of the stone chest rising slowly. He stepped back at once, for a sudden fear struck him, and he began to tremble like an aspen leaf.

The lid rose and rose, and suddenly fell backward with a crash. Then out of the chest came a gigantic grisly Hand which grasped the big rusty mace. Millar shrieked and fled out of the rocky chamber. A fierce yell broke out behind him, and, turning round, he saw the Hand throwing down the mace, the lid of the chest rising, and the waterfall beginning to pour again over the rocks into the deep pool.

With hasty steps he ran into the chamber in which he had lain in a swoon, and having found his torch, lit it again, and crept forward until he reached the narrow passage through which he had crawled. When at length he got out of the Dropping Cave, he found that the sun was setting over the western hills. He vowed never again to attempt to explore the underground passage to Eathie.

Another cave story is told about a west-coast man named Mac Fadyen, who had a wonderful black dog which he had got from a fairy. This animal was very lazy, and used to sleep a great deal, and cat huge quantities of food. Mac Fadyen’s wife hated it, and often said to her husband: “Your black dog is quite useless; it eats much food, and never does anything to help you. I think it should be drowned.”

Mac Fadyen would not drown it, however. “Leave it alone,” he would say; “the dog will have its day.”

One morning many of the villagers went out to hunt the wild deer on the mountains. They roused a great fleet-footed stag which ran towards the village. All the dogs were behind it in full chase, except Mac Fadyen’s dog, which lay sleeping in the sunshine at the corner of his house. The stag was heading for the loch, over which it could swim, and so escape from its pursuers, but it had first to pass Mac Fadyen’s dog. Someone said: “Now the dog’s great day has come at last.”

The hunters shouted and their dogs bayed aloud. Mac Fadyen’s dog was awakened by the tumult, and, rising up, stretched itself and looked round about. It saw the great stag, but never moved to attack. Instead, it just lay down again and closed its eyes, and the stag entered the water and swam across the loch.

“Kill that lazy dog of yours, Mac Fadyen,” the hunters cried out; “it is of no use.”
Said Mac Fadyen: “Leave the dog alone; the dog will have its day.”


One morning Mac Fadyen and other two men went out to fish round the shores of a lonely island. When the boat was launched the dog walked down the beach, and leaping into it, stretched itself at Mac Fadyen’s feet and went to sleep.
“We do not require a dog when we go fishing,” one of the men said. “Put your dog ashore, Mac Fadyen.”

Said Mac Fadyen: “Leave the dog alone; the dog will have its day.”

The men fished round the island all day, and when evening was coming on they landed and went to a cave. They lit a fire there and cooked some fish. Mac Fadyen’s dog ate as much fish as did the three men together.

Night came on, and the men lay down to sleep. Mac Fadyen had his dog beside him, and in the middle of the night the dog woke him with its growling. Mac Fadyen sat up. The fire was burning low, and in the silence he heard a dripping sound. He threw some dry twigs on the fire, and when the flames from them lit up the cave, he saw that both his friends were dead. The dripping he heard was the dripping of their blood flowing over the flat stones. The light went out, and Mac Fadyen sat trembling in the darkness while the dog kept growling angrily.

Then Mac Fadyen heard a rustling sound, and saw, passing over the embers of the low fire, a great grisly Hand. It was feeling round about the cave for something, and Mac Fadyen shrank back to escape from it. Suddenly his dog leapt up and attacked the giant Hand. A fierce struggle followed. The Hand tried to grasp the dog, and the dog tried to tear the Hand to pieces. For several minutes the fight was waged with fury, and then the Hand was withdrawn. The dog followed it, and scampered out of the cave, and Mac Fadyen, trembling in the darkness, heard a great stamping overhead.

He waited until the dawn began to break. Then he rose and left the cave, and ran down the beach. With a great effort he launched the boat, and, leaping into it, began to row away from the haunted island.

He had not rowed a hundred yards when he saw two bright lights following him in the dusk of the dawn. Terrified by the lights, he bent himself to the oars and rowed faster and faster. The boat went quickly through the water, but the lights came quickly after him. In the growing brightness of early morning, Mac Fadyen saw at length that the lights he dreaded were the flaming eyes of his dog, which was swimming from the island and endeavouring to reach the boat. The fury of the fight had roused all the slumbering energy of the dog, and Mac Fadyen was afraid of it. He did not wait for it, but kept on rowing until the dog became exhausted and, sinking below the waves, was drowned.

“The dog has had its day,” said Mac Fadyen. “It saved my life.”

There are many Gaelic stories about faithful dogs, and some examples of these are as follows.

A man named Colin Cameron had once a great fleet-footed greyhound. He went out to hunt with it on a September morning, and lost his way among the mountains. Night came on, and he allowed the dog to go ahead and followed it. In time he came to a lonely shieling on a hill-side, and saw a light issuing from it. The door was open, and he looked in. He saw an old woman clad in green sitting on the floor. She looked up and spoke, saying: “Are you not coming in, Colin Cameron?”

Colin suspected that the woman was an evil spirit, and answered: “Not just now.”

“You have lost your way,” she said.

“Perhaps I shall find it ere long,” he told her.

“If you do not come in,” she said next, “I had better go with you and show you the way to your house.”

“Do not trouble yourself,” he answered; “I shall find my way myself”

Having spoken thus, Colin turned and ran down the hill-side. Soon he found that his dog was not following him, and he stopped to call it. As he did so, the sound of a fierce struggle fell on his ears, and he began to run again. He ran a great distance. Then the moon rose up, and he found himself in a glen he knew, and turned his face homewards. He reached his own house in safety, and soon after he entered it his dog came in. The animal had not a hair left on its body except on its ears. It was panting with exhaustion and pain. Lying down at Colin’s feet, it licked his hand, and then fell over on its right side and died.

Colin realized at once what had happened. His faithful greyhound had waited behind at the shieling to prevent the green woman from following him.

Another story is told about three men who once crossed a lonely moor in the night-time. They had a dog with them, and when they were halfway on their journey it began to run round and round them in ever-widening circles. At length the men heard the sound of fairy music, and one said to another: “The wee folk are dancing and making merry somewhere near us.”

They hastened on their way, fearing to meet the fairies. At length the sound of the dog howling and barking mingled with the music.

Suddenly the music stopped abruptly, and they heard the trampling of many feet on the dark moor. They ran as fast as they were able until the sounds died away in the distance, and they reached in safety the house to which they were going. Early next morning the dog made its appearance. All the hair on its body had been scraped off as if with long nails, and soon after it entered the house it lay down and died.

A man named Malcolm Mac Phee was once walking along a lonely rocky beach in Islay when a mermaid seized him. She thrust him into a cave, and there kept him a prisoner.

Now Mac Phee had a big black dog, and his wife sent it out to search for its master. The wise animal at once ran towards the cave on the beach, where it found Mac Phee. No sooner did it arrive, however, than the mermaid rose out of the sea to prevent her prisoner escaping.

The dog growled fiercely when it saw her, and she tried to drive it away.
Said Mac Phee: “You had better let me go, or my dog will attack you.”

The mermaid laughed, and answered: “I shall keep you here until you die.”
No sooner did she say that than the dog sprang at her. A fierce struggle took place, and the mermaid tried to escape by leaping back into the sea. The dog followed her, and fought until it killed the mermaid, but was itself so severely wounded that it was drowned before it reached the shore. Mac Phee hastened homeward, lamenting the loss of his faithful dog.

It is told that dogs can see the spirit messenger of death coming nigh in the darkness. When they catch sight of it they begin to howl.

People who hear dogs howling at night fear that someone they know will meet with a fatal accident or die suddenly while asleep.

The Banshee is dreaded by dogs. She is a fairy woman who washes white sheets in a ford by night when someone near at hand is about to die. It is said she has the power to appear during day-time in the form of a black dog, or a raven, or a hoodie-crow.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Clootie from the Deerhound Club

Looking for a clootie to bake your dumplings ? Or something to dry your dishes ? Maybe a print, to stretch as a canvas and hang on your wall ? Well yae cannae whack the 2008 Deerhound Club tea-towel !

I decided to try it as a paw cleaner but for some reason was hunted out of the studio. So I chose to swipe a collectible, 1980’s ‘apple mac’ promo hat from the work surface instead. It’s the best way to entertain your humans, encouraging them into a run around the garden for their fitness.

Contact the UK Deerhound club for further tea-towel information.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pride & Prejudice

The multi-media sleuth hound, Rogue, provides yet more deerhound moments from the movies. This little out-take from Pride & Prejudice, follow the link - watch the trailer - buy the movie etc. etc. Oh! and tell them that the Highland Rogue sent you.



Deerhounds, enhancing the scenery from when mother nature was a child!

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Scottish Deerhound and Three Dandy Dinmonts

From Mallet antiques comes the little history of Scottish artist GOURLAY STEELL brother to John the sculptor who’s most famous works include the Scott Monument in Edinburghs, Princes’ Street and interestingly this Gourlay piece is a Deerhound. Read on and enjoy.



GOURLAY STEELL RSA (1819-94)

A Scottish Deerhound and Three Dandy Dinmonts by an open fire


Gourlay Steell, or the ‘Scottish Landseer’ as he came to be known, was born in Edinburgh in 1819. His family was an artistic one: his father a wood carver and an engraver, and his brother, Sir John Steell a well-known sculptor. Early in his career Steell taught modelling classes at the Watt Institute in Edinburgh. His teaching demonstrated an exceptional understanding of the anatomy and physiology of animals and at this time he produced models of animals that were reproduced by silversmiths.
Steell’s passion however was painting and he was accepted at the Trustees’ Academy where he studied under Sir William Allan and Sir Robert Scott Lauder. Lauder’s influence on the artist was significant and he is credited with having taught many of the most accomplished Scottish artists of the Victorian period. Steell began exhibiting at the Royal Scottish Academy when he was just fourteen years old. In 1846, at the age of twenty-seven years old, Steell was elected as an Associate ofthe Royal Scottish Academy and an Academician in 1859 - the same year he was selected as the official painter of the Highland Agricultural Society. Steell’s highest accolade came when he was appointed Animal Painter for Scotland by Queen Victoria, succeeding Sir Edwin Landseer, a position he retained until his death in 1894. The painter was also made Curator of the National Gallery of Scotland in 1882, again a role he continued until his death. Steell exhibited over two hundred and seventy paintings at the Royal Scottish Academy between 1835 and 1894 and also exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. He lived in Edinburgh throughout his life and is known to have lived in Randolph Place between 1870–76 and at 4 Palmerston Place. He also retained a studio
in the city at 123 George Street.

Steell’s reputation as an animal painter grew very quickly and the artist came to monopolise animal painting in Scotland. He received many aristocratic commissions for his work with patrons including the Earl of Wemyss, the Duke of Buccleuch, the Earl of Rosebery, the Duke of Atholl and the Earl of Haddington. Steell painted The Earl of Wemyss with his Huntsman and Pack in 1862 and the painting shows Steell’s talent at
equestrian subjects as well as his obvious affection and understanding of canine form and character. The artist’s most notable commissions were from Queen Victoria who felt great affection for dogs. Many of Steele’s paintings remain in Queen Elizabeth II’s private collection. The best known of these commissions is A Cottage Bedside at Osborne, which pictures Queen Victoria reading the Bible to an elderly fisherman.
As with other paintings by the artist A Cottage Bedside was engraved which further enhanced Steell’s profile and popularity. Queen Victoria also commissioned portraits by Steell of her favourite dogs – including Jeannie in 1858 - showing a similarly vibrant palette of colours to the present painting. He also proudly exhibited sketches of Queen Victoria’s dogs, Noble, Corran and Waldmann at the Royal Academy in 1874 and
they were marked ‘painted by command’.

In the nineteenth century Queen Victoria set a precedent for the commissioning and collecting of portraits of dogs. Her interest in dog portraiture did much to encourage the careers of animal painters such as Sir Edwin Landseer, Richard Ansdell, Maud Earl, Charles Burton Barbour and Gourlay Steell. Dogs came in to their own in the nineteenth
century. They became primary subjects in paintings, previously havingbeen secondary subjects and often included for decoration or for symbolic reasons. It spawned a new interest in different breeds of dogs and a desire by owners to record their pets.

Queen Victoria’s fondness for dogs reportedly gave her great comfort in the more difficult times of her life. So extensive was her family of dogs that she built kennels in 1841 at the Cottage where her kennelman lived and also The Queen’s Cottage from which she would watch her dogs play. The cottage’s interior decoration scheme was much dominated by portraits of dogs. She became Patron of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1835 and gave it a Royal commission in 1840. In
1842 the Prince Consort gave his wife a Skye Terrier and during the 1840s several more were added to the Royal household. The Royal family’s interest enhanced certain breeds’ popularity, for example, the Skye Terrier, Collie, Pomeranian, Daschund, Scottish Deerhound and the Dandie Dinmont. Crufts dog show was first staged in 1886. Such was the interest in Queen Victoria’s collection of dogs in 1891 she was persuaded to exhibit a Collie and six of her Pomeranians at Crufts and all of them won prizes.

The present painting by Steell features two of Queen Victoria’s favourite breeds of dog - the Scottish Deerhound and the Dandie Dinmont. Steell painted several paintings of the two breeds, which were indigenous to Scotland and the Borders. Dandie Dinmont at Home of 1885 became one of the most popular engravings of Steell’s paintings. The Scottish Deerhound was a favourite of Prince Albert and Steell’s other portraits
include Ghillie with Scottish Deerhounds. The Scottish Deerhound derives from the greyhound - a British breed that has been in existence for several centuries. It was bred as a deer-hunting dog by the Scottish chieftains in the Middle Ages. It adjusted to its environment and tasks and increased in its size and strength and grew a protective coat. The Scottish aristocracy adopted the breed as the Royal dog of Scotland and only those ranked as an Earl or above were allowed to own one. The
breed suffered in the decline of deer hunting and the diminishing power of the Scottish clans. However two enthusiasts Archibald and Duncan McNeill revived the interest in Scottish Deerhounds in the 1800’s. Owners such as Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott also contributed to their rebirth. Today, the breed is usually a companion dog but their speed and sense of smell would still lend them to hunting, tracking,racing and lure coursing. The Dandie Dinmont had less salubrious origins. The breed is thought to derive from the now extinct Scotch Terrier and the Skye Terrier and to have originated from the Borders. They were originally raised by gypsies and farmers to kill vermin and are also known to have hunted rabbit, otter and badger. They were christened by Sir Walter Scott who named them after a character in his novel ‘Guy Mannering’ in the 1800’s.

William Secord praised Steell highly in his definitive book on dog portraiture: ‘Dog Painting 1840-1940: A social history of the dog in art’, published in 1992. Secord admires Steell and comments that ‘his work includes some of the best dog portraits completed in the Victoria period’. The present portrait shows many of Steell’s fine qualities - his attention to form and character and the luxurious and vibrant backgrounds with which he frames his subjects. Several similarities can be drawn between the present picture and Bran, a Favourite Deerhound painted around 1880.
Bran was commissioned by Dr. Alexander and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1880. Secord comments of Bran that ‘He [the deerhound] remains unperturbed by the activities of the churlish Terrier under the stool, who seems about to attack.’ Likewise the present picture shows playful Dandie Dinmonts and a dignified and watchful Scottish
Deerhound. Both pictures share similar props of a chair with a hunting horn and draperies slung over it and a skin on the floor; and are set against richly coloured backgrounds with a dramatic use of light.

Interest in the artist has been boosted recently by the inclusion of his 1885 work, A Highland Parting in the highly popular ‘A Picture of Britain’ exhibition at Tate Britain in 2005.

Scotland, circa 1860
Height: 67.7 in (172.0 cm) Width: 87.8 in (223.0 cm)
Location: New York
P2G0217