>Shooting Lodge (name unknown, at least unpronounceable),

6th August ’43.

You will be pleased to hear that everything has gone on among us most agreeably, in spite of an occasional angry disputatious wind and sullen sky. I believe that we enjoy our bright sunshine all the more for the contrast, like a diamond ‘on the brow of an Ethiopian’.

We arrived at the south-eastern corner of Harris on the evening of Tuesday, 2d August. The approach on such a calm sweet evening was beautiful, or rather it was wild and romantic, with something of an unrelenting sternness in the lofty background which bestowed upon it almost a character of magnificence.

Rodil lies in a little creek, screened by rocky islands.
We made our approach in the long-boat, and just as we neared the shore the cutter fired a salute of six guns, and I never saw a finer marine picture than she presented as the engines of ‘load-throated war’ threw successively their huge wreaths of pearly smoke over the clear waters, and all the rocky creeks and mountain caverns echoed repeatedly the voice of thunder. ‘Dunmore’ seemed highly pleased with this piece of nautical attention. Although on these almost unpeopled shores there were but few to witness or to welcome the arrival of the great man.The factor himself was from home, but we were warmly welcomed by his wife, a handsome woman of excellent manners. She had a fair-haired pretty daughter, of six or seven years old, not unlike what M — used to be.

We explored the old churchyard and the ruins of the cathedral of Rodil, both that evening and during the earlier part of the ensuing day. There are some curious old monuments, with stony knights in armour, and inscriptions which it is difficult to decipher. It appears from a Latin table that the whole building was restored in 1787, and consumed by fire almost immediately thereafter, and then repaired again. For some time after that it served as the parish church, or at least as the hurch of that portion of the parish, and then it fell into gradual disrepair, till most of the roof fell down. It is now of no use except to the starlings, of which great numbers were nestling in the main tower or perching on the remains of the rafters. One of the more modern monuments records that a certain Macleod married his third wife in his seventy-fifth year, and was blessed with nine children before his death, which took place in his ninetieth year.

The mountains in this northern part of Harris are of great height, and with the bold rocky foreground and the placid sea and their own broken gigantic summits, form a noble landscape in the way of sterile grandeur. The island is said to produce good pasture, and I suppose the numerous little vales, or rather hollows, among the sheltered rocks are clothed with grass; but the general aspect of the whole, as seen from the sea, is as barren as anything unscorched by fire. However, on a calm, sweet summer evening, the hills lying in deep shadow, very dark and solemn—above and between them in the western distance a most gorgeous sky of crimson-coloured gold, broad and rich below, and dying away towards the zenith in fleecy specks of fire upon a ground of most transparent blue—the whole reflected on the bosom of still waters— the scene is one of almost unexampled beauty. The pleasure is probably the greater from the contrast presented by these aerial effects of a perfectly fine evening, and those of a cold monotonous or misty morning, such as I daresay prevails throughout a lengthened portion of the year.

Saturday the 5th was wet and blustry. We left the cutter about three o’clock, and met Lord Dunmore and his friend on shore at the head of the loch. We then crossed together the narrow neck of land which separates East from West Tarbet. On the shore of the latter we found his lordship’s gig, and a crew of six picked men, all in uniform, with scarlet caps. In an hour and a half they rowed us eight miles westward to where we now are, a snug little sheltered mansion in a creek called Loch Losevagh, with all comforts at command. I have got a wee room, not much bigger than a state-room in a steamer, and a larger one would have been too sudden a transition from my crib on board the cutter.
I feel little need to comment ,save to say that the sentence that is in bold is a pretty good example of the poetic prose that Harris inspires…

Ref: Memoirs of the life of James Wilson, Esq. FRSE, MWS of Woodville by James Hamilton, DD, FLS 1859 Chapter VII – Cruises in the Princess Royal, the Dasher, and the Lucifer

2 thoughts on “>TO MISS H. WILSON

  1. There’s so much here that is immediately recognisable as being the unchanged reality of Harris. But it’s nice to reflect that Rodel Church has been restored. I’d never thought of it as being in ruins, and I’m glad that it isn’t any more.

  2. Very true – the original restoration was by Captain Alexander Macleod in 1784 but it burned down almost immediately and was finally completed in 1787.
    Having again again fallen into disrepair, another restoration took place in 1873 at the behest of the Dowager Countess of Dunmore. Her son, the 6th Earl of Dunmore, was possibly abroad performing his military duties at this time because the 1871 Census shows his wife (then Countess of Dumore) & their children at her family home of Holkham Hall in Norfolk but there is no census record showing him in the UK.

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