Saturday, 1 March 2014

A New Career.

Having left Gairloch, Donald and Neil found themselves travelling alongside the most beautiful of lochs. It was Loch Maree. "There is nowhere in Lewis as splendid as this," said Donald. " Look at the mountains and the tall trees as far as you can see. Truly wonderful, Neil?" They had a mileage reckoner which gave the distances between towns throughout all of Britain. The distance from Gairloch to Inverness was about 70 miles. There was no way that the lads would push themselves and their horses to reach Inverness that night. They rode through Glen Docherty to the small hamlet of Achnasheen, and then headed down the long river course called Strath Bran, towards the end of which they determined to rest up for the night at a small place called Achanalt, ( Gael. "field by the stream" ) - perfect for their horses ! Neil and Donald got lodgings that night with a family of Mackenzies. Over a dram or two, Old Mackenzie eventually broached the subject that was on everyone's mind, the arrival in Scotland of Charles Edward Stuart. " I cannot see Scotland and England coming to his aid," said Mackenzie. " Some of the Highland clans may be persuaded to join him, but only from those areas which remained Catholic after the Reformation. The Clan Mackenzie who hold these lands here and the Isle of Lewis are firmly in the Government camp, and they are Protestant, of course. What about you lads ?" Donald replied that they were from Lewis, were not Catholic and hadn't thought much about Charles Stuart landing on our shores. "You don't believe, Maighstir Mhic Choinnich, that they are capable of fomenting rebellion," said Neil " We are here only to attend some markets to see what price our Highland black cattle can fetch, if we ship them over from Lewis. There is nothing for any of us to fear, I believe. Rebellion ? I don't think so ! Let's have one more dram before we sleep." Passing onwards through Garve and Beauly they arrived in Inverness mid afternoon. Donald and Neil spent some time on horseback taking in the "sights of Inverness." The majority of the houses, laid out in streets, were low, stone built and with thatched roofs and cold clay floors. They were the same as the 'black houses' to be found all over Lewis. There were a few 'white houses' of which the most beautiful example was the mansion called Balmain House, built by a rich Invernesian, which would not have been out of place in fashionable London. The foundations of a garrison called the Citadel were still extant. This had been built by Oliver Cromwell in the mid 1600s, and which could hold 1000 soldiers (for another pacification programme beloved of Cromwell.) It only stood for seven years before being pulled down and its stones used by General George Wade to build Inverness Castle. Inverness in 1745 was a busy port and market town where the recently built Citadel Quay fostered the export trade. Wool was the main foreign export along with locally woven textiles. Brewing now flourished in the town, whose taverns could now offer a thirst quenching cask conditioned ale. As they watered and rested their horses by the River Ness, one could surmise that this town was to their liking. Yet, they had business here in Inverness, which if successful, could alter the course of their life. You will recall the two men from Inverness that Neil and Donald met in that tavern in Stornoway, with whom they shared their ambition of reporting on outcome of the growing Jacobite activity in the West Highlands and where the ambitions of Charles Edward Stuart might take them. Neil and Donald were told that a new journal, "The Inverness Courant" had just been launched, and unusually the owner was a young lady of some means. They decided they would seek a meeting with this lady who might set the Dalmore boys on a new career path.

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