Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


332 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. Not discouraged by the reproof conveyed in the decision of the Assembly, Mr. M'Donald is known in the religious world for his praiseworthy exertions in various parts of the Highlands, and particularly in behalf of the previously much-neglected inhabitants of St. Kilda'-the most distant and isolated of all the islands of Scotland. Commissioned by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, his first visit was undertaken in 1822, for the purpose of ascertaining the religious and moral condition of the inhabitants. In his journal Mr. M'Donald gives an interesting account of his reception by the natives. He was accompanied by Mr. M'Lellan, the tacksman of the island; and not being able to effect a landing on the eastern coast, in consequence of the boisterous state of the weather, the boat veered round to the leeward, where shelter was found in an arm of the sea. Upon landing, he and Mr. M'Lellan walked towards the village, a distance of nearly two miles. " When descending the brow of the hill above the village," says the journal, "we observed some persons standing without ; and on a sudden, in consequence, as we afterwards learned, of his sounding the alarm, all the souls in the village appeared at once ; at first flying in different directions, until they discovered from what quarter the strangers were coming, when they made toward us in a body, shook hands with their tacksman, and welcomed him to the place. After these salutations were over, he introduced me to them as a minister who had come to visit them, and was sent by the Society. Upon this they immediately shook hands with me, as if we had been many years acquainted ; and, ' God bless the Society which sent him, and God bless him for coming,' was the general exclamation." Mr. M'Donald remained nearly a fortnight on the island, during which he embraced every opportunity of preaching to them ; and in his private conversations entered so warmly into their affairs and interests, that when the day of departure came, he had much difficulty in sustaining the emotions'with which the scene overpowered him. Mr. M'Lellan and he were accompanied by the inhabitants to the beach, where they assisted in launching the boat-took an affecting farewell-and long after the party had bid adieu to the shores of St. Kilda, they could still see the group of islanders clustering round the gentle rising ground, gazing as if unwilling to lose sight of their recent visitors. The report which Mr. M'Donald submitted to the Society on his return contains some interesting particulars regarding St. Kilda and its inhabitants. We need offer no apology for the following extract :- 1 St. Kilda, or Kirta, a solitary isle in the Atlantic Ocean, belonging to the range of the Hebrides, but removed to a considerable distance from the main cluster. The nearest land to it is Harris, from which it is distant sixty miles in a west-south-west direction ; and it is about one hundred and forty mile3 from the nearest point of the mainland of Scotland.-EncycZopdiu Britannica. Of late a trip to St. Kilda has become a favourite steamboat and pleasure-yacht excursion ; and some curious, though rather exaggerated, descriptions of the isle and its inhabitants were in circulation a short time ago. In former days, however, little intercourse was maintained with the mainland ; and so late as about the middle of last century the island was the prison of the lady of Erskine of Grange, brother of the Earl of Mar, attainted for his concern in the Rebellion of 1715. The cruel treatment of the unfortunate lady was attributed to a violence of temper on her part, and a fear on that of her husband lest she might betray the secrets of the party to which he was attached. She was a daughter of Chiesley of Dalry, who was executed for the murder of President Lockhart in 1689.
Volume 9 Page 442
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