Saturday, October 2, 2010


On October 2, 1773, Johnson and Boswell's tour of the Western Isles is still situated at Skye.  Boswell records an observation on the state of emigration from Skye: '...Mrs M'Kinnon told me, that last year when a ship sailed from Portree for America, the people onshore were almost distracted when they saw their relations go off; they lay down on the ground, tumbled, and tore the grass with their teeth. This year there was not a tear shed. The people on shore seemed to think that they would soon follow. This indifference is a mortal sign for the country...'

Walter Scott also published a book on the Western Isles, which was based on letters written by John MacCulloch, a Scottish geologist, to Walter Scott.  "The Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland" was published in 1824, based on correspondence between the years 1811 - 1821.  Included, is this description of the Portree area:

'The coast-line of Sky is almost every where rocky, and, very commonly, rude and wild. From Strathaird, all the way round by the west to Portree, it is, with a few exceptions in the lochs, a continued range of cliffs, ofteu rising to three, four, or even to six hundred feet; in a few cases, exceeding even this height. The remainder is rarely very high; but it is every where rocky, and interspersed with headlands and small bays or sinuosities. The rivers are of no note; and, excepting Coruisk, Loch Creich, and Loch Colmkill, there are no lakes that deserve a much higher name than pools. Loch na Caplich is the only one of those that is worthy of notice; and it is rendered so by containing that rare plant the Eriocaulon, known, as a British plant, here only, till I found it in Coll.

The north-east coast, from Portree, is a perfect storehouse of geology. It is not very good seamanship, I admit, to put all the ballast in one boat and all the sail in another; but having nearly foundered under the weight of my last literary and scientific cargo, I have determined to throw all the lumber overboard now, and to carry all the sail I can. Perhaps you may think me overmasted, and in want of a reef now and then; and I will therefore throw you in a hundred weight of ballast at present, as a great favour.'

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