Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mull

On October 13, 1773, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell are still enjoying their trip to Scotland's Western Isles.  On that day, they ready to sail to the Isle of Mull.

Wednesday, 13th October



Col called me up, with intelligence that it was a good day for a passage to Mull; and just as we rose, a sailor from the vessel arrived for us. We got all ready with dispatch. Dr Johnson was displeased at my bustling, and walking quickly up and down. He said, 'It does not hasten us a bit. It is getting on horseback in a ship. All boys do it; and you are longer a boy than others.' He himself has no alertness, or whatever it may be called; so he may dislike it, as Oderunt hilarem tristes.

Sir Walter Scott visited Mull on his trip to the Northen Lights with Robert Stevenson in 1814.  As related in "Scott in Mull and Iona (Sir Walter Scott) ", published in Scotland Magazine (Issue 30), 'Next stop was Mull itself, and the party landed at Torloisk where Scott and a companion landed to visit an acquaintance of the poet, Mrs Maclean Clephane. But paying calls on the islands was not without hazards in those days, as Scott noted. They landed in mist, could see no house and followed a cart-track in hope. After Scott and his companion being thoroughly soaked by falling in a burn, they stumbled on the house, “in darkness, dirt and rain.” The Light-House Commissioners’ vessel then passed down the Sound of Mull, Scott observing and commenting on the sights of antiquarian interest which were passed, till they arrived at Tobermory, the little capital of an island which had a population of more than 10,000 at that time; today it is about one-quarter of that number. Scott had noted the massive build up of population on Iona, the subdivision of holdings, and “the danger of a famine in case of a year of scarcity.” The same was the case in Mull.'

Mull was an integral part of Scott's poem "The Lord of the Isles", published after Scott's Northern Lights trip in 1815:

XII.



With Bruce and Ronald hides the tale.
To favouring winds they gave the sail,
Till Mull's dark headlands scarce they knew,
And Ardnamurchan's hills were blue.
But then the squalls blew close and hard,
And, fain to strike the galley's yard,


And take them to the oar,
With these rude seas, in weary plight,
They strove the livelong day and night,
Nor till the dawning had a sight,
...

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