Thursday, 16 July 2009

Review - Ed. David A QUINE - “Expeditions to the Hebrides by George Clayton Atkinson 1831 and 1833”

Publ: 2001
Stornoway Library
ISBN: 1 899272 06 2
Genre: Topography, History, Western Isles
Pages: 190p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** ***

Trying to catch up with all the books I've read recently. Not easy when I've been doing so much other blogging so the next few reviews are very brief...

A most enjoyable view of the Hebrides by naturalist and diarist George Clayton Atkinson who described himself as the first non-native commentator on the |isles. He wasn’t but he was certainly one of the early ones and his perceptions were quite insightful. The artwork by the various artists (1831 Edward Train; 1833 T.M.Richardson, G. Richardson, Henry Perlee Parker) is a great bonus.

Sunday 19th May 1833
Digression on the Methodists... The introduction of this overcharged degree of sanctity to the Hebrides took pace 15 or 16 years since, and originated with an institution which was calculated, in a simple form, and with moderate and judicious management, to do much good among the poor in reading the Bible and for some years it ent on quietly and well.... But when the teachers - men qualified to instruct no further than in the simple reading of the scriptures, were sent forth to the more remote parts of the Highlands, where this bare qualification alone gave them a decided superiority over the common inhabitants, they became puffed up - human nature couldn’t stand it - and from teaching, they go to explain, from explaining to preaching, from preaching to disputing with the regular clergy....

Tuesday 21th (sic) May 1833
In passing the cottage doors today, I remarked what I had never seen in use beore: earthen and vessels of baked clay, formed entirely with the hand... Of course, they were very rough, and being unglazed, incapable of containing liquids. But they were of considerable size, maybe a couple of gallons, and appeared to be in general use for such dry goods as potatoes and oat meal. The use of such utensils as these may probably convey to my reader a more correct notion of the primitive and unimproved state of being of our countrymen of Lewis, than anything else which I could state.
...The ingress was therefore neither cleanly nor convenient... and the tracks of otters (which all the world knows to be a pugnacious, hard biting animal) were most abunant on the mud.... Another similar passage presented itself on the south side of the cave, to be about 100 paces in length and equally uninteresting and Ottery.

Wednesday 22th May
About three miles north of Barvas... a gigantic looking object... a single upright stone of great size. called by the islanders “Clach an Truiseil” or “The Giant’s Stone”, from a legend they have of some gigantic warrior who lies beneath it. The mass of stone must be considerable, as it stands about 16 feet out of th ground, and must be pretty well planted below the surface to support itself. It is flat on the north and south sides, and about 16 feet in circumference.

Saturday 25th May 1833
About 40 years since two or three hares were introduced, and they have increased wonderfully on the island...
On the whole there is little in Lewis to induce a tourist to visit it. It is, I think, almost the only spot my ramblings have led me to, that I should not feel desirous or re-visiting to see something more or. I have seen nearly enough of Lewis and formed the general conclusion that its north part is chiefly level, uninteresting moor, interspersed with numerous, boggy un-picturesque lakes, but very destitute of incident in its interior. Its shores, unlike many of the islands, are more bold and precipitous on the east than on the west side, and rise, I should think, in some places, to a 100 ft or more, and contain a few fine caves.
The Remains of Antiquity, consisting of the Druidical Circles, the Danish fort as it is called ... and the ruins of the Roman Catholic Chapels... exist, I believe, almost entirely along its west side, and would afford, to an antiquarian a most curious subject for enquiry and research.

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