Soa-Brettil lies within a quarter of a mile to the south of the mountain Quillin; it is five miles in circumference, and full of bogs, and fitter for pasturage than cultivation. About a mile on the west side it is covered with wood, and the rest consists of heath and grass, having a mixture of the mertillo all over. The red garden-currants grow in this isle, and are supposed to have been carried thither by birds. There has been no venomous creature ever seen in this little isle, until within these two years last that a black and white big serpent was seen by one of the inhabitants, who killed it; they believe it came from the opposite coast of Skye, where there are many big serpents. There is abundance of cod and ling round this isle.
On the south of Sleat lies island Oronsa, which is a peninsula at low water; it is a mile in circumference, and very fruitful in corn and grass. As for the latter, it is said to excel any piece of ground of its extent in those parts.
In the north entry to Kyle-Akin, lie several small isles; the biggest and next to Skye is Ilan Nan Gillin, about half a mile in circumference, covered all over with long heath, and the erica baccifera; there is abundance of seals, and sea-fowls about it.
A league further north lies the isle Pabbay, about two miles in circumference; it excels in pasturage, the cows in it afford near double the milk that they yield in Skye. In the dog-days there is a big fly in this isle which infests the cows, makes them run up and down, discomposes them exceedingly, and hinders their feeding insomuch that they must be brought out of the isle to the isle of Skye. This isle affords abundance of lobsters, limpets, whelks, crabs, and ordinary sea-plants.
About half a league further north lies the small isle Gilliman, being a quarter of a mile in circumference; the whole is covered with long heath and the erica baccifera. Within a call further north lies the isle Scalpa, very near to Skye, five miles in circumference; it is mountainous from the south end, almost to the north end, it has wood in several parts of it; the south end is most arable, and is fruitful in corn and grass.
About a mile further north is the isle Raasay, being seven miles in length, and three in breadth, sloping on the west and east sides; it has some wood on all the quarters of it, the whole is fitter for pasturage than cultivation, the ground being generally very unequal, but very well watered with rivulets and springs. There is a spring running down the face of a high rock on the east side of the isle; it petrifies into a white substance, of which very fine lime is made, and there is a great quantity of it. There is a quarry of good stone on the same side of the isle; there is abundance of caves on the west side, which serve to lodge several families, who for their convenience in grazing, fishing, &c., resort thither in the summer. On the west side, particularly near to the village Clachan, the shore abounds with smooth stones of different sizes, variegated all over. The same cattle, fowl, and fish are produced here that are found in the isle of Skye. There is a law observed by the natives that all their fishing lines must be of equal length, for the longest is always supposed to have best access to the fish, which would prove a disadvantage to such as might have shorter ones.
There are some forts in this isle, the highest is in the south end; it is a natural strength, and in form like the crown of a hat; it is called Dun-Cann, which the natives will needs have to be from one Canne, cousin to the king of Denmark. The other lies on the side, is an artificial fort, three stories high, and is called Castle Vreokle.
The proprietor of the isle is Mr. MacLeod, a cadet of the family of that name; his seat is in the village Clachan. The inhabitants have as great veneration for him as any subjects can have for their king. They preserve the memory of the deceased ladies of the place by erecting a little pyramid of stone for each of them, with the lady's name. These pyramids are by them called crosses; several of them are built of stone and lime, and have three steps of gradual ascent to them. There are eight such crosses about the village, which is adorned with a little tower, and lesser houses, and an orchard with several sorts of berries, pot herbs, &c. The inhabitants are all Protestants, and use the same language, habit, and diet, with the natives of Skye.
About a quarter of a mile further north lies the isle Rona, which is three miles in length; vessels pass through the narrow channel between Raasay and Rona. This little isle is the most unequal rocky piece of ground to be seen anywhere: there is but very few acres fit for digging, the whole is covered with long heath, erica-baccifera, mertillus, and some mixture of grass; it is reckoned very fruitful in pasturage: most of the rocks consist of the hectic stone, and a considerable part of them is of a red colour.
There is a bay on the south-west end of the isle, with two entries, the one is on the west side, the other on the south, but the latter is only accessible; it has a rock within the entry, and a good fishing.
About three leagues to the north-west of Rona is the isle Fladda, being almost joined to Skye; it is all plain arable ground, and about a mile in circumference.
About a mile to the north lies the isle Altvig; it has a high rock facing the east, is near two miles in circumference, and is reputed fruitful in corn and grass; there is a little old chapel in it, dedicated to St Turos. There is a rock of about forty yards in length at the north end of the isle, distinguished for its commodiousness in fishing. Herrings are seen about this rock in great numbers all summer, insomuch that the fisher-boats are sometimes as it were entangled among the shoals of them.
The isle of Troda lies within half a league to the northernmost point of Skye, called Hunish; it is two miles in circumference, fruitful in corn and grass, and had a chapel dedicated to St. Columba. The natives told me that there is a couple of ravens in the isle which suffer none other of their kind to come thither; and when their own young are able to fly they beat them also away from the isle.
Fladda-Chuan, i.e., Fladda of the Ocean, lies about two leagues distant from the west-side of Hunish-point; it is two miles in compass, the ground is boggy, and but indifferent for corn and grass; the isle is much frequented for the plenty of fish of all kinds, on each quarter of it. There are very big whales which pursue the fish on the coast; the natives distinguish one whale for its bigness above all others, and told me that it had many big limpets growing upon its back, and that the eyes of it were of such a prodigious bigness as struck no small terror into the beholders. There is a chapel in the isle dedicated to St. Columba, it has an altar in the east-end, and there is a blue stone of a round form on it, which is always moist. It is an ordinary custom, when any of the fishermen are detained in the isle by contrary winds, to wash the blue stone with water all round, expecting thereby to procure a favourable wind, which the credulous tenant living in the isle says never fails, especially if a stranger wash the stone: the stone is likewise applied to the sides of people troubled with stitches, and they say it is effectual for that purpose. And so great is the regard they have for this stone that they swear decisive oaths on it.
The monk O Gorgon is buried near to this chapel, and there is a stone five feet high at each end of his grave. There is abundance of sea-fowl that come to hatch their young in the isle; the coulternebs are very numerous here, it comes in the middle of March, and goes away in the middle of August; it makes a tour round the isle sunways, before it settles on the ground, and another at going away in August; which ceremony is much approved by the tenant of the isle, and is one of the chief arguments he made use of for making the like round, as he sets out to sea with his boat.
There is a great flock of plovers that come to thus isle from Skye, in the beginning of September; they return again in April, and are said to be near two thousand in all; I told the tenant he might have a couple of these at every meal during the winter and spring, but my motion seemed very disagreeable to him; for he declared that he had never once attempted to take any of them, though he might if he would; and at the same time he told me he wondered how I could imagine that he would be so barbarous as to take the lives of such innocent creatures as came to him only for self-preservation.
There are six or seven rocks within distance of a musket shot, on the south-east side the isle, the sea running between each of them: that lying more easterly is the fort called Bord Cruin, i.e., a round table, from its round form; it is about three hundred paces in circumference, flat in the top, has a deep well within it, the whole is surrounded with a steep rock and has only one place that is accessible by climbing, and that only by one man at a time: there is a violent current of a tide on each side of it, which contributes to render it an impregnable fort, it belongs to Sir Donald MacDonald. One single man above the entry, without being exposed to shot, is able with a staff in his hand, to keep off five hundred attackers; for one only can climb the rock at a time, and that not without difficulty.
There is a high rock on the west side of the fort which may be secured also by a few hands.
About half a league on the south side the round table lies the rock called Jeskar, i.e., Fisher, because many fishing boats resort to it; it is not higher than a small vessel under sail. This rock affords a great quantity of scurvy-grass, of an extraordinary size, and very thick; the natives eat it frequently, as well boiled as raw: two of them told me that they happened to be confined there for the space of thirty hours, by a contrary wind; and being without victuals, fell to eating this scurvy-grass, and finding it of a sweet taste, far different from the land scurvy-grass, they ate a large basketful of it, which did abundantly satisfy their appetites until their return home. They told me also that it was not in the least windy or any other way troublesome to them.
Island Tulm on the west of the wing of Skye, called Trotterness, lies within a musket shot of the castle of the name; it is a hard rock, and clothed with grass; there are two caves on the west side, in which abundance of sea-cormorants build and hatch.
About 5 leagues to the south-west from Tulm lies the island Ascrib, which is divided into several parts by the sea; it is about two miles in compass, and affords very good pasturage; all kinds of fish abound in the neighbouring sea. On the south-west side of the isle Ascrib, at the distance of two leagues, lie the two small isles of Timan, directly in the mouth of Loch Arnizort; they are only fit for pasturage.
On the west side of Vaterness promontory, within the mouth of Loch-Fallart, lies Isa, two miles in compass, being fruitful in corn and grass, and is commodious for fishing of cod and ling.
There are two small isles, called Mingoy, on the north-east side of this isle, which afford good pasturage.
There is a red short kind of dulse growing on the south end of the isle, which occasions a pain in the head when eaten, a property not known in any other dulse whatever.
The two isles Buia and Harlas lie in the mouth of Loch-Brackadil; they are both pretty high rocks, each of them about a mile in circumference, they afford good pasturage, and there are red currants in these small isles, supposed to have been carried there at first by birds.
The southern parts of Skye, as Sleat and Strath, are a month earlier with their grass than the northern parts; and this is the reason that the cattle and sheep, etc., bring forth their young sooner than in the north side.
The days in summer are much longer here than in the south of England, or Scotland, and the nights shorter, which about the summer solstice is not above an hour and a half in length; and the further we come south the contrary is to be observed in proportion.
The air here is commonly moist and cold. This disposes the inhabitants to take a larger dose of brandy or other strong liquors than in the south of Scotland by which they fancy that they qualify the moisture of the air. This is the opinion of all strangers, as well as of the natives, since the one as well as the other drinks at least treble the quantity of brandy in Skye and the adjacent isles that they do in the more southern climate.
The height of the mountains contributes much to the moisture of the place, but more especially the mountain Quillin, which is the husbandman's almanac; for it is commonly observed that if the heavens above that mountain be clear and without clouds in the morning then it is not doubted but the weather will prove fair; and e contra, the height of that hill reaching to the clouds breaks them, and then they presently after fall down in great rains according as the wind blows. Thus when the wind blows from the south then all the ground lying to the north of Quillin hills is wet with rains, whereas all the other three quarters are dry.
The south-west winds are observed to carry more rain with them than any other, and blow much higher in the most northern point of Skye than they do two miles further south; for which I could perceive no visible cause, unless it be the height of the hill about two miles south from that point; for after we come to the south side of it the wind is not perceived to be so high as on the north side by half.
It is observed of the east wind that though it blow but very gentle in the isle of Skye and on the west side of it for the space of about three or four leagues towards the west, wet, as we advance more westerly, it is sensibly higher; and when we come near to the coast of the more western isles of Uist, Harris, &c., it is observed to blow very fresh, though at the same time it is almost calm on the west side the isle Skye. The wind is attended with fair weather, both in this and other western isles.
The sea in time of a calm is observed to have a rising motion before the north wind blows, which it has not before the approaching of any other wind.
The north wind is still colder, and more destructive to corn, cattle, &c., than any other.
Women observe that their breasts contract to a lesser bulk when the wind blows from the north, and that then they yield less milk than when it blows from any other quarter; and they make the like observation in other creatures that give milk.
They observe that when the sea yields a kind of pleasant and sweet scent it is a sure presage of fair weather to ensue.
The wind in summer blows stronger by land than by sea, and the contrary in winter.
In the summer the wind is sometimes observed to blow from different quarters at the same time. I have seen two boats sail quite contrary ways, until they came within less than a league of each other, and then one of them was becalmed, and the other continued to sail forward.
The tide of ebb here runs southerly, and the tide of flood northerly, where no head lands or promontories are in the way to interpose; for in such cases the tides are observed to hold a course quite contrary to the ordinary motion in these isles and the opposite mainland. This is observed between the east side of Skye and the opposite continent, where the tide of ebb runs northerly, and the tide of flood southerly, as far as Killach-stone, on the south-east of Skye, both tides running directly contrary to what is to be seen in all the western isles and opposite continent. The natives at Kylakin told me that they had seen three different ebbings successively on that part of Skye.
The tide of ebb is always greater with north winds than when it blows from any other quarter; and the tide of flood is always higher with south winds than any other.
The two chief spring tides are on the tenth of September and on the tenth or twentieth of March.
The natives are very much disposed to observe the influence of the moon on human bodies, and for that cause they never dig their peats but in the decrease: for they observe that if they are cut in the increase they continue still moist and never burn clear, nor are they without smoke, but the contrary is daily observed of peats cut in the decrease.
They make up their earthen dykes in the decrease only, for such as are made at the increase are still observed to fall.
They fell their timber, and cut their rushes in time of the decrease.
The Diseases Known and not Known in Skye and the Adjacent Isles
The gout, corns in the feet, convulsions, madness, fits of the mother, vapours, palsy, lethargy, rheumatism, wens, ganglions, king's-evil, ague, surfeits, and consumptions are not frequent, and barrenness and abortion very rare.
The diseases that prevail here are fevers, stitches, colic, head-ache, megrim, jaundice, sciatica, stone, small-pox, measles, rickets, scurvy, worms, fluxes, tooth-ache, cough, and squinance.
The ordinary remedies used by the natives, are taken from plants, roots, stones, animals, &c.
To cure a pleurisy the letting of blood plentifully is an ordinary remedy.
Whey, in which violets have been boiled, is used as a cooling and refreshing drink for such as are ill of fevers. When the patient has not a sweat duly, their shirt is boiled in water, and afterwards put on them; which causes a speedy sweat. When the patient is very costive, and without passage by stool or urine, or passes the ordinary time of sweating in fevers, two or three handfuls of the sea-plant called dulse, boiled in a little water, and some fresh butter with it, and the infusion drunk procures passage both ways, and sweat shortly after: the dulse growing on stone, not that on the seaward is only proper in this case.
To procure sleep after a fever, the feet, knees, and ankles of the patient are washed in warm water, into which a good quantity of chick-weed is put, and afterwards some of the plant is applied warm to the neck, and between the shoulders, as the patient goes to bed.
The tops of nettles, chopped small, and mixed with a few whites of raw eggs, applied to the forehead and temples, by way of a frontel, is used to procure sleep.
Foxglove, applied warm plaisterwise to the part affected, removes pains that follow after fevers.
The sea-plant linarich, is used to procure sleep, as is mentioned among its virtues.
Erica-baccifera, boiled a little in water, and applied warm to the crown of the head and temples, is used likewise as a remedy to procure sleep.
To remove stitches, when letting blood does not prevail, the part affected is rubbed with an ointment made of camomile and fresh butter, or of brandy with fresh butter; and others apply a quantity of raw scurvy-grass chopped small.
The scarlet-fever, which appeared in this isle only within these two years last, is ordinarily cured by drinking now and then a glass of brandy. If an infant happen to be taken with it, the nurse drinks some brandy, which qualifies the milk, and proves a successful remedy.
The common alga, or sea-ware, is yearly used with success to manure the fruit-trees in Sir Donald Macdonald's orchard at Armidill: several affirm, that if a quantity of sea-ware be used about the roots of fruit-trees whose growth is hindered by the sea-air, this will make them grow and produce fruit.
Head-ache is removed by taking raw dulse and linarich applied cold by way of a plaister to the temples. This likewise is used as a remedy to remove the megrim. The jaundice is cured by the vulgar, as follows: the patient being stripped naked behind to the middle of the back, he who acts the surgeon's part marks the 11th bone from the rump on the back with a black stroke in order to touch it with his tongs, as mentioned already.
Sciatica is cured by applying the case with the fat of the carara-fowl to the thigh-bone; and it must not be removed from thence till the cure is performed.
Flamula-Jovis, or spire-wort, being cut small, and a limpet shell filled with it, and applied to the thighbone, causes a blister to rise about the bigness of an egg - which being cut, a quantity of watery matter issues from it: the blister rises three times, and being emptied as often, the cure is performed. The seaplant linarich is applied to the place, to cure and dry
Crow-foot of the moor is more effectual for raising a blister, and curing the sciatica, than flamula-Jovis: for that sometimes fails of breaking, or raising the skin, but the crow-foot seldom fails.
Several of the common people have the boldness to venture upon the flamula-Jovis, instead of a purge. They take a little of the infusion, and drink it in melted fresh butter, as the properest vehicle: and this preserves the throat from being excoriated.
For the stone they drink water-gruel without salt. They likewise eat allium or wild garlic, and drink the infusion of it boiled in water, which they find effectual both ways. The infusion of the sea plant dulse boiled is also good against the stone; as is likewise the broth of whelks and limpets. And against the colic, costiveness, and stitches a quantity of scurvy-grass, boiled in water, with some fresh butter added, and eaten for some days, is an effectual remedy.
To kill worms, the infusion of tansy in whey or aquavitæ, taken fasting, is an ordinary medicine with the islanders.
Caryophylata Alpina Chamedress fol. It grows on marble in divers parts, about Christ Church in Strath; never observed before in Britain, and but once in Ireland, by Mr. Hiaton. Morison's Hist Ray Synopsis, 137.
Carmel, alias knaphard, by Mr. James Sutherland called argatilis sylvaticus. It has a blue flower in July. The plant itself is not used, but the root is eaten to expel wind; and they say it prevents drunkenness by frequent chewing of it; and being so used gives a good relish to all liquors, milk only excepted. It is aromatic, and the natives prefer it to spice for brewing aquavitæ. The root will keep for many years; some say that it is cordial, and allays hunger. Shunnis is a plant highly valued by the natives; who eat it raw, and also boiled with fish, flesh, and milk. It is used as a sovereign remedy to cure the sheep of the cough. The root taken fasting expels wind. It was not known in Britain except in the north-west isles, and some parts of the opposite continent. Mr. James Sutherland sent it to France some years ago.
A quantity of wild sage, chewed between one's teeth, and put into the ears of cows or sheep that become blind, cures them, and perfectly restores their sight, of which there are many fresh instances both in Skye and Harris, by persons of great integrity.
A quantity of wild sage chopped small, and eaten by horses mixed with their corn, kills worms. The horse must not drink for 10 hours after eating it.
The infusion of wild sage after the same manner produces the like effect.
Wild sage cut small, and mixed among oats given to a horse fasting, and kept without drink for seven or eight hours after, kills worms.
Fluxes are cured by taking now and then a spoonful of the syrup of blue berries that grow on the mertillus.
Plantain boiled in water, and the hectic-stone heated red hot quenched in the same, is successfully used for fluxes.
Some cure the toothache by applying a little of the flamula-Jovis in a limpet shell to the temples.
A green turf heated among embers, as hot as can be endured, and by the patient applied to the side of the head affected, is likewise used for the toothache.
For coughs and colds, water-gruel with a little butter is the ordinary cure.
For coughs and hoarseness they use to bathe the feet in warm water, for the space of a quarter of an hour at least; and then rub a little quantity of deer's grease (the older the better) to the soles of their feet by the fire. The deer's grease alone is sufficient in the morning; and this method must be continued until the cure is performed. And it may be used by young or old, except women with child, for the first four months, and such as are troubled with vapours.
Hartstongue and maidenhair boiled in wore and the ale drunk is used for coughs and consumptions.
Milk or water, wherein the hectic stone hash been boiled or quenched red hot, and being taken for ordinary drink, is also efficacious against a consumption.
The hands and feet often washed in water, in which the hectic stone has been boiled, is esteemed restorative.
Yarrow, with the hectic-stone boiled in milk, and frequently drunk, is used for consumptions.
Water-gruel is also found by experience to be good for consumptions. It purifies the blood, and procures appetite, when drunk without salt.
There is a smith in the parish of Kilmartin, who is reckoned a doctor for curing faintness of the spirits. This he performs in the following manner:
The patient being laid on the anvil with his face uppermost, the smith takes a big hammer in both his hands, and making his face all grimace, he approaches his patient; and then drawing his hammer from the ground, as if he designed to hit him with his full strength on the forehead, he ends in a feint, else he would be sure to cure the patient of all diseases; but the smith being accustomed to the performance, has a dexterity of managing his hammer with discretion; though at the same time he must do it so as to strike terror in the patient; and this, they say, has always the designed effect.
The smith is famous for his pedigree; for it has been observed of a long time that there has been but one only child born in the family, and that always a a son, and when he arrived to man's estate, the father died presently after: the present smith makes up the thirteenth generation of that race of people who are bred to be smiths, and all of them pretend to this cure.
Ilica passio or twisting of the guts, has been several times cured by drinking a draught of cold water, with a little oatmeal in it, and then hanging the patient by the heels for some time. The last instance in Skye was by John Morison, in the village of Talisker, who by this remedy alone cured a boy of fourteen years of age. Dr. Pitcairn told me that the like cure had been performed in the shire of Fife for the same disease. A cataplasm of hot dulse, with its juice, applied several times to the lower part of the belly, cured the iliac passion.
The sea-plant dulse is used, as is said above, to remove colics; and to remove that distemper and costiveness, a little quantity of fresh butter, and some scurvy-grass boiled and eaten with its infusion, is a usual and effectual remedy.
A large handful of the sea-plant dulse, growing upon stone, being applied outwardly, as is mentioned above, against the iliaca passio takes away the after-birth with great ease and safety; this remedy is to be repeated until it produce the desired effect, though some hours may be intermitted: the fresher the dulse is, the operation is the stronger: for if it is above two or three days old, little is to be expected from it in this case. This plant seldom or never fails of success, though the patient had been delivered several days before; and of this I have lately seen an extraordinary instance at Edinburgh in Scotland, when the patient was given over as dead.
Dulse, being eaten raw or boiled, is by daily experience found to be an excellent antiscorbutic; it is better raw in this case, and must be first washed in cold water.
For a fracture, the first thing they apply to a broken bone is the white of an egg, and some barley meal; and then they tie splinters round it, and keep it so tied for some days. When the splinters are untied, they make use of the following ointment, viz., a like quantity of betonica Pauli, St. John's wort, golden rod, all cut and bruised in sheep's grease, or fresh butter, to a consistence; some of this they spread on a cloth, and lay on the wound, which continues untied for a few days.
Giben of St. Kilda, i.e., the fat of sea-fowls made into a pudding in the stomach of the fowl, is also an approved vulnerary for man or beast.
The vulgar make purges of the infusion of scurvy-grass, and some fresh butter; and this they continue to take for the space of a week or two, because it is mild in its operation.
They use the infusion of the sea-plant dulse after the same manner, instead of a purge.
Eyes that are blood-shot or become blind for some days are cured here by applying some blades of the plant fern, and the yellow is by them reckoned best; this they mix with the white of an egg, and lay it on some coarse flax ----- and the egg next to the face and brows, and the patient is ordered to lie on his back.
To ripen a tumour or boil they cut female jacobea small, mix it with some fresh butter on a hot stone, and apply it warm; and this ripens and draws the tumour quickly, and without pain; the same remedy is used for women's breasts that are hard or swelled.
For taking the syroms out of the hands they use ashes of burnt sea-ware, mixed with salt water; and washing their hands in it, without drying them, it kills the worms.
Burnt ashes of sea-ware preserve cheese, instead of salt; which is frequently practiced in this isle. Ashes of burnt sea-ware scour flaxen thread better, and make it whiter than anything else.
When their feet are swelled and benumbed with cold, they scarify their heels with a lancet.
They make glisters of the plant mercury, and some of the vulgar use it as a purge, for which it serves both ways.
They make glisters also of the roots of flags, water, and salt butter.
They have found out a strange remedy for such as could never ease nature at sea by stool or urine. There were three such men in the parishof St. Mary's, in Trotterness. Two of them I knew, to wit, John Macphade and Finlay Macphade; they lived on the coast, and went often a fishing, and after they had spent some nine or ten hours at sea, their bellies would swell; for after all their endeavours to get passage either ways, it was impracticable until they came to land, and then they found no difficulty in the thing. This was a great inconvenience to any boat's crew in which either of these three men had been fishing, for it obliged them often to forbear when the fishing was most plentiful, and to row to the shore with any of these men that happened to become sick; for landing was the only remedy. At length one of their companions thought of an experiment to remove this inconvenience; he considered that when any of these men had got their feet on dry ground they could then ease nature with as much freedom as easy as any other person; and therefore he carried a large green turf of earth to the boat, and placed the green side uppermost, without telling the reason. One of these men who was subject to the infirmity above-mentioned, perceiving an earthen turf in the boat, was surprised at the sight of it, and enquired for what purpose it was brought thither? He that laid it there answered that he had done it to serve him, and that when he was disposed to ease nature he might find himself on land though he was at sea. The other took this as an affront, so that from words they came to blows; their fellows with much ado did separate them, and blamed him that brought the turf into the boat, since such a fancy could produce no other effect than a quarrel. All of them employed their time eagerly in fishing, until some hours after that the angry man, who before was so much affronted at the turf, was so ill of the swelling of his belly as usual, that he begged of the crew to row to the shore, but this was very disobliging to them all. He that intended to try the experiment with the turf, bid the sick man stand on it, and he might expect to have success by it; but he refused,and still resented the affront which he thought was intended upon him; but at last all the boat's crew urged him to try what the turf might produce, since it could not make him worse than he was. The man being in great pain was by their repeated importunities prevailed upon to stand with his feet on the turf; and it had the wished effect, for nature became obedient both ways; and then the angry man changed his note, for he thanked his doctor whom he had some hours before beat. And from that time none of these three men ever went to sea without a green turf in their boat, which proved effectual. This is matter of fact, sufficiently known and attested by the better part of the parishioners still living upon the place.
The ancient way the islanders used to procure sweat was thus: A part of an earthen floor was covered with fire, and when it was suiciently heated the fire was taken away, and the ground covered with a heap of straw; upon this straw a quantity of water was poured, and the patient lying on the straw, the heat of it put his whole body into a sweat.
To cause any particular part of the body to sweat, they dig a hole in an earthen floor, and fill it with hazel sticks and dry rushes; above these they put a hectic-stone, red hot, and pouring some water into the hole, the patient holds the part affected over it, and this procures a speedy sweat.
Their common way of procuring sweat is by drinking a large draught of water gruel with some butter as they go to bed.
Of the Various Effects of Fishes on Several Constitutions in these Islands
Dongal MacEwan became feverish always after eating of fish of any kind, except thorn-back and dog-fish.
A ling fish, having brown spots on the skin, causes such as eat of its liver to cast their skin from head to foot. This happened to three children in the hamlet of Talisker, after eating the liver of a brown spotted ling.
Finley Ross and his family, in the parish of Uig having eaten a fresh ling fish, with brown spots on its skin, he and they became indisposed and feverish for some few days, and in a little time after they were blistered all over. They say that when the fresh ling is salted a few days, it has no such effect.
There was a horse in the village Bretill which had the erection backward, contrary to all other of its kind.
A weaver in Portree has a faculty of erecting and letting fall his ears at pleasure, and opens and shuts his mouth on such occasions.
A boy in the castle of Duntulm, called Mister to a by-name, hath a pain and swelling in his great toe at every change of the moon, and it continues only for the space of one day, or two at most.
Allan Macleod being about ten years of age, was taken ill of a pain which moved from one part of his body to another, and where it was felt the skin appeared blue; it came to his toe, thigh, testicles, arms, and head; when the boy was bathed in warm water he found most ease. The hinder part of his head, which was last affected, had a little swelling and a woman endeavoring to squeeze the humour out of it, by bruising it on each side with her nails she forced out at the same time a little animal near an inch in length, having a white head sharp pointed, the rest of its body of a red colour, and full of small feet on each side. Animals of this sort have been seen in the head and legs of several persons in the isles, and are distinguished by the name of Fillan.
Yeast, How Preserved by the Natives
A rod of oak, of four, five, six, or eight inches about, twisted round like a with, boiled in wort, well dried, and kept in a little bundle of barley straw, and being steeped again in wort, causeth it to ferment, and procures yeast: the rod is cut before the middle of May, and is frequently used to furnish yeast; and being preserved and used in this manner, it serves for many years together. I have seen the experiment tried, and was shown a piece of a thick with, which hath been preserved for making ale with, for about twenty or thirty years.
The Islanders of Skye
Fergus Caird, an empiric, living in the village Talisker, having by a mistake eaten hemlock- root, instead of the white wild carrot, his eyes did presently roll about, his countenance became very pale, his sight had almost failed him, the frame of his body was all in a strange convulsion,and his pudenda retired so inwardly, that there was no discerning whether he had then been male or female. All the remedy given him in this state was a draught of hot milk, and a little aquavitæ: added to it; which he no sooner drank, but he vomited presendy after, yet the root still remained in his stomach. They continued to administer the same remedy for the space of four or five hours together, but in vain; and about an hour after they ceased to give him anything, he voided the root by stool, and then was restored to his former state of health: he is still living, for anything I know, and is of a strong healthful constitution.
Some few years ago, all the flax in the barony of Trotterness was over-run with a great quantity of green worms, which in a few days would have destroyed it, had not a flock of ravens made a tour round the ground where the flax grew, for the space of fourteen miles, and eat up the worms in a very short time.
The inhabitants of this isle are generally well proportioned, and their complexion is for the most part black. They are not obliged to art in forming their bodies, for nature never fails to act her part bountifully to them; and perhaps there is no part of the habitable globe where so few bodily imperfections are to be seen, nor any children that go more early. I have observed several of them walk alone before they were ten months old; they are bathed all over every morning and evening, some in cold, some in warm water; but the latter is most commonly used and they wear nothing strait about them. The mother generally suckles the child, failing of which a nurse is provided, for they seldom bring up any by hand; they give new-born infants fresh butter to take away the miconium, and this they do for several days; they taste neither sugar, nor cinnamon, nor have they any daily allowance of sack bestowed on them, as the custom is elsewhere, nor is the nurse allowed to taste ale.
The generality wear neither shoes nor stockings before they are seven, eight, or ten years old; and many among them wear no night-caps before they are sixteen years old, and upwards; some use none all their lifetime, and these are not so liable to headaches, as others who keep their heads warm.
They use nothing by way of prevention of sickness, observing it as a rule to do little or nothing of that nature. The abstemiousness of the mothers is no small advantage to the children: they are a very prolific people, so that many of their numerous issue must seek their fortune on the continent, and not a few in foreign countries, for want of employment at home. When they are any way fatigued by travel, or otherwise, they fail not to bathe their feet in warm water, wherein red moss has been boiled, and rub them with it going to bed.
The ancient custom of rubbing the body by a warm hand opposite to the fire, is now laid aside, except from the lower part of the thigh downwards to the ankle; this they rub before and behind, in cold weather, and at going to bed. Their simple diet contributes much to their state of health, and long life; several among them of my acquaintance arrived at the age of eighty, ninety, and upwards; but the Lady Macleod lived to the age of one hundred and three years: she had then a comely head of hair, and a case of good teeth, and always enjoyed the free use of her understanding until the week in which she died.
The inhabitants of this and all the Western Isles do wear their shoes after Mr. Locke's mode, in his book of education; and among other great advantages by it, they reckon these two - that they are never troubled with the gout, or corns in their feet.
They lie for the most part on beds of straw, and some on beds of heath; which latter being made after their way, with the tops uppermost, are almost as soft as a feather-bed, and yield a pleasant scent after lying on them once. The natives by experience have found it to be effectual for drying superfluous humours, and strengthening the nerves. It is very refreshing after a fatigue of any kind. The Picts are said to have had an art of brewing curious ale with the tops of heath, but they refused to communicate it to the Scots, and so it is quite lost.
A native of this isle requires treble the dose of physic that will serve one living in the south of Scotland for a purge; yet an islander is easier purged in the south than at home. Those of the best rank are easier wrought on by purging medicines, than the vulgar.
The inhabitants are of all people easiest cured of green wounds; they are not so liable to fevers as others on such occasions; and therefore they never cut off arm or leg, though never so ill broke, and take the freedom to venture on all kinds of meat and drink, contrary to all rule in such cases, and yet commonly recover of their wounds.
Many of the natives, upon occasion of sickness, are disposed to try experiments, in which they succeed so well that I could not hear of the least inconvenience attending their practice. I shall only bring one instance more of this, and that is of the illiterate empiric Neil Beaton in Skye; who of late is so well known in the isles and continent, for his great success in curing several dangerous distempers, though he never appeared in the quality of a physician until he arrived at the age of forty years, and then also without the advantage of education. He pretends to judge of the various qualities of plants and roots by their different tastes; he has likewise a nice observation of the colours of their flowers, from which he learns their astringent and loosening qualities; he extracts the juice of plants and roots after a chemical way, peculiar to himself, and with little or no charge.
He considers his patient's constitution before any medicine is administered to them: and he has formed such a system for curing diseases as serves for a rule to him upon all occasions of this nature.
He treats Riverius's Lilium Medicinæ, and some other practical pieces that he has heard of, with contempt; since in several instances it appears that their method of curing has failed, where his had good success.
Some of the diseases cured by him are as follows: running sores in legs and arms, grievous headaches; he had the boldness to cut a piece out of a woman s skull broader than half-a-crown, and by this restored her to perfect health. A gentlewoman of my acquaintance having contracted a dangerous pain in her belly some days after her delivery of a child, and several medicines being used, she was thought past recovery, if she continued in that condition a few hours longer; at last this doctor happened to come there, and being employed, applied a simple plant to the part affected, and restored the patient in a quarter of an hour after the application. One of his patients told me that he sent him a cap interlined with some seeds, etc., to wear for the cough, which it removed in little time; and it had the like effect upon his brother.
The success attending this man's cures was so extraordinary that several people thought his performances to have proceeded rather from a compact with the devil, than from the virtue of simples. To obviate this, Mr. Beaton pretends to have had some education from his father, though he died when he hurnself was but a boy. I have discoursed him seriously at different times, and am fully satisfied that he uses no unlawful means for obtaining his end.
His discourse of the several constitutions, the qualities of plants, etc., was more solid than could be expected from one of his education. Several sick people from remote isles came to him, and some from the shore of Ross, at 70 miles distant, sent for his advice. I left him very successful, but can give no further account of him since that time.
They are generally a very sagacious people, quick of apprehension,and even the vulgar exceed all those of their rank and education I ever yet saw in any other country. They have a great genius for music and mechanics. I have observed several of their children that before they could speak were capable to distinguish and make choice of one tune before another upon the violin; for they appeared always uneasy until the tune which they fancied best was played, and then they expressed their satisfaction by the motions of their head and hands.
There are several of them who invent tunes very taking in the south of Scotland and elsewhere. Some musicians have endeavoured to pass for first inventors of them by changing their name, but this has been impracticable; for whatever language gives the modern name, the tune still continues to speak its true original; and of this I have been showed several instances.
Some of the natives are very dexterous in engraving trees, birds, deer, dogs, etc., upon bone and horn, or wood, without any other tool than a sharp-pointed knife.
Several of both sexes have a quick vein of poesy, and in their language (which is very emphatic) they compose rhyme and verse, both which powerfully affect the fancy. And in my judgment (which is not singular in this matter) with as great force as that of any ancient or modern poet I ever yet read. They have generally very retentive memories; they see things at a great distance. The unhappiness of their education, and their want of converse with foreign nations, deprives them of the opportunity to cultivate and beautify their genius, which seems to have been formed by nature for great attainments. And on the other hand, their retiredness may be rather thought an advantage, at least to their better part; according to that of the historian: "Plus valuit apud hos ignorantia vitiorum, quam apud Græcos omnia præcepta philosophorum": The ignorance of vices is more powerful among those than all the precepts of philosophy are among the Greeks.
For they are to this day happily ignorant of many vices that are practiced in the learned and polite world. I could mention several, for which they have not as yet got a name, or so much as a notion of them.
The diet generally used by the natives consists of fresh food, for they seldom taste any that is salted, except butter. The generality eat but little flesh, and only persons of distinction eat it every day and make three meals, for all the rest eat only two, and they eat more boiled than roasted. Their ordinary diet is butter, cheese, milk, potatoes, colworts, brochan, i.e., oatmeal and water boiled. The latter taken with some bread is the constant food of several thousands of both sexes in this and other isles, during the winter and spring; yet they undergo many fatigues both by sea and land, and are very healthful. This verifies what the poet saith, "Populis sat est lymphaque ceresque": Nature is satisfied with bread and water.
There is no place so well stored with such great quantity of good beef and mutton, where so little of both is consumed by eating. They generally use no fine sauces to entice a false appetite, nor brandy or tea for digestion; the purest water serves them in such cases. This, together with their ordinary exercise, and the free air, preserves their bodies and minds in a regular frame, free from the various convulsions that ordinarily attend luxury. There is not one of them too corpulent, nor too meagre.
The men servants have always double the quantity of bread, etc., that is given to women servants, at which the latter are no ways offended, in regard of the many fatigues by sea and land which the former undergo.
Oon, which in English signifies froth, is a dish used by several of the islanders, and some on the opposite mainland, in time of scarcity, when they want bread. It is made in the following manner: A quantity of milk or whey is boiled in a pot, and then it is wrought up to the mouth of the pot with a long stick of wood, having a cross at the lower end. It is turned about like the stick for making chocolate; and being thus made, it is supped with spoons. It is made up five or six times in the same manner, and the last is always reckoned best and the first two or three frothings the worst. The milk or whey that is in the bottom of the pot is reckoned much better in all respects than simple milk. It may be thought that such as feed after this rate are not fit for action of any kind; but I have seen several that lived upon this sort of food, made of whey only, for some months together, and yet they were able to undergo the ordinary fatigue of their employments, whether by sea or land; and I have seen them travel to the tops of high mountains as briskly as any I ever saw.
Some who live plentifully make these dishes above-said of goats' milk, which is said to be nourishing. The milk is thickened, and tastes much better after so much working. Some add a little butter and nutmeg to it. I was treated with this dish in several places; and being asked whether this said dish or chocolate was best, I told them that if we judged by the effects this dish was preferable to chocolate; for such as drink often of the former enjoy a better state of health than those who use the latter.
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