The Betsey

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MORRISON AND GIBB, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH.


PREFACE.


NATURALISTS of every class know too well how HUGH MILLER died—the victim of an overworked brain; and how that bright and vigorous spirit was abruptly quenched for ever.

    During the month of May (1857) Mrs. Miller came to Malvern, after recovering from the first shock of bereavement, in search of health and repose, and evidently hoping to do justice, on her recovery, to the literary remains of her husband.  Unhappily the excitement and anxiety naturally attaching to a revision of her husband's works proved over much for one suffering under such recent trial, and from an affection of the brain and spine which ensued; and, in consequence, Mrs. Miller has been forbidden, for the present, to engage in any work of mental labour.

    Under these circumstances, and at Mrs. Miller's request, I have undertaken the editing of "The Cruise of the Betsey, or a Summer Ramble among the Fossiliferous Deposits of the Hebrides," as well as "The Rambles of a Geologist," hitherto unpublished save as a series of articles in the "Witness" newspaper.  The style and arguments of HUGH MILLER are so peculiarly his own, that I have not presumed to alter the text, and have merely corrected some statements incidental to the condition of geological knowledge at the time this work was penned.  The "Cruise of the Betsey" was written for that well-known paper, the "Witness," during the period when a disputation productive of much bitter feeling waged between the Free and Established Churches of Scotland; but as the Disruption and its history possesses little interest to a large class of the readers of this work, who will rejoice to follow their favourite author among the isles and rocks of the "bonnie land," I have expunged some passages, which I am assured the author would have omitted had he lived to reprint this interesting narrative of his geological rambles.  HUGH MILLER battled nobly for his faith while living.  The sword is in the scabbard: let it rest!

W. S. SYMONDS.


PENDOCK RECTORY, October 1, 1857.

 

THE CRUISE OF THE BETSEY.

CONTENTS.
______

[This table of contents was inserted by the website Editor, there being none in the book as published.  Some illustrations have also been added.]


CHAPTER I.

The players: Mr. Swanson, the minister; Mr. Stewart, the sailor; Mr. Miller, the geologist and commentator; and Betsey, the Free Church yacht—
A five-week holiday—Chisels and hammers (for the specimens)—By steamer to Tobermory—The geography of the Western coast—Oban; hammer and chisel put to work—The geology of the Oban area; M'Dougall's Dog-stone—The sound of Mull—Anchored in the Bay of Tobermory—The Free Church yacht Betsey—Cramped accommodation—Toasted herrings for dinner—The Florida, a wrecked Armada galleon—The fossils of Tobermory—The Isle of Eigg, and to bed.

CHAPTER II.

The islanders provide cream, butter, oaten cakes, eggs for breakfast—Difficulty in anchoring safely—The Island shoes; tanning the skin—A gift from supporters of The Witness—The view from the anchorage; the Chapel of St Donan—Origin of the white sand—An exploratory ramble on Eigg—The cave of Frances; the M'Leods and the Massacre at Eigg—The M'Donalds: their human and domestic remains—Teeth, ancient and modern—The story of the massacre—The Scuir of Eigg, a perpendicular but ruinous rampart.

CHAPTER III.

The Scuir of Eigg; parallels with the Giant's Causeway—The geology of the Scuir —Taking samples; the ancient Eigg pine—Climbing the Scuir; an ancient hill fort; "the island, spread out at our feet as in a map, was basking in yellow sunshine"—The Disruption; penalty of a dissenting minister; the Betsey—Mashed potato for dinner—American drift wood—The curious "rejectamenta of the sea"—the new minister's gratuitous unkindness to a brother in calamity.

CHAPTER IV.

A misty morning, then sunshine—A walk to the Bay of Laig, "bearing bag and hammer"—View of the island of Rum—"A tall withered female", the spectre of the island's superstition—A thick oyster-bed; Ammonites, Belemnites, "chalky Bivalves" and other fossil shells—Curious sandstone ditches and "fields of petrified mushrooms, of a gigantic size"—The musical sand of the Bay of Laig—The Æolian harp of Jabel Nakous and the large drum of the hill of Reg-Rawan—At a loss to explain the phenomena.

CHAPTER V.

The geology and fossils of the Bay of Laig—A geological theory of the inner Hebrides—The Scuir viewed from below—The puffin and "the harsh scream of the eagle"—The potato replaces the puffin as a meal—The young puffin's fat-reducing diet—
Ru-Stoir, or the "Red Head"; fossil-hunting and a hospitable meal—John Stewart's lesson in fossil-hunting—Fossil teeth, and reptilian bones "in abundance"—A beach "thronged by reptile shapes more strange than poet ever imagined"— The Plesiosaurus—A picture of a shieling'; A hospitable island girl, a turf fire and "a rich bowl of mingled milk and cream"—Hoffman's extraordinary fossil, its fate and eventual justice.

CHAPTER VI.

Apologies to both 'non' and 'semi' geologist readers—The "latest-born creation in the series"—The Sabath; a dull and rainy morning, and off to church—The Gaelic congregation, their minister (Mr Swanson) and their church—The previous incumbent "deposed from his office" for drunkenness—Dr. Johnson on the conversion of the inhabitants of Rum—The story of the father of the two ragged boys—The Disruption; leaving the manse—To Ornsay; the herring fishermen; the Minister's home; the geology—Luidag the goblin—To the Isle of Skye, by post-gig, for a geological ramble .

CHAPTER VII.

The geology of Skye—Signs of "a very considerable marks of disturbance"—The Storr of Skye—The Ammonites Murchisonœ—A gathering storm; a soaking—A debt to Sir Roderick Murchison—Misjudging "The three Edinburgh gentlemen"—The postmaster of Portree, "a cuttlefish, that preyed on the weaker molluscs"—Back to Ornsay; at home with the Swansons—Setting sail for Rum, with two bottles of vintage Madiera—Becalmed; a gathering storm, then a gale—Anchoring at Loch Scresort—A stormy Sabbath—To church; a full congregation; "two long energetic discourses"; a weary minister.

CHAPTER VIII.

Geology of the island of Rum, a partly-framed picture—Agassiz, and the mysterious 'scratchings' and 'polishings'Killing a lizard; "divided life"—The amygdaloid of Scuir More, "a mountain of gems"—The formation and anatomy of a pebble of Scuir More—The hospitable shepherd and his wife; "a vast bowl of milk" and a basket of bread and cheese—"A wool and mutton speculation"; the depopulation of Rum and its social consequences—A gift of fish—Herding trout; trout for dinner.

CHAPTER IX.

Bernera Barracks—Awaiting the tide; the fierce currents of the Kyles of Skye; "swept in the tideway, like a cork caught during a thunder shower"—The fishers for sillocks—The fleet-footed Betsey—Anchorage at Broadford; razor-fish for dinner—Fossils of the neighbouring Lias—To Pabba, by a light breeze, to explore—Castle Maoil—A bare larder, but 'needs must,' and dried thornback for dinner—Back to Ornsay; what the anchor brought up; the Caileach stone, a navigational hazard—The story of the Betsey's grounding; cast away on a rock.

CHAPTER X.

Mr. Swanson gives "an English preaching" to the fishermen—Allegory on the bones of
Uamh Fraing—To Dingwall by mail-gig; conversation with an Establishment minister—Old memories, the "fossils of mind"—Looking up an old work-mate—On to Cromarty—The international language of geology—The Pterichthys and the Diplacanthus; taking pride in their discovery.

CHAPTER XI.

The fossils of Shandwick and the Cromarty Firth—signs of "disaster and sudden extinction"—The armour-plated fish of the Old Red; the "humble arts of the tiler and slater" anticipated—Pre-historic use of jet and of flints—The curious distribution of fossil types; comparison with today's fish habitats—Thurso; an exploratory ramble—Speculation on the geology of the planet Mars—"Bones steeped in pitch"; "a Holoptychius of gigantic proportions"—Wild and broken scenery; the cave of Pudding-Gno; the birds of Dunnet Head—Some 'extenders' of the limits of geology.

CHAPTER XII.

By boat to Nairn—The limestone quarry of Clune—Cheiracanthus; Glyptolepis; Coccesteus—Limestone nodules taking the form of the fossil fish they enclose; "stone coffins" expressing the outline of the corpses within—An evening in the forest of Darnaway—Ferried across the Findhorn at Sluie—A coach to Elgin; fossils of the Weald at Linksfield; the sandstones at Scat-Craig—Transmutation, development, progression of species—End of the Summer ramble; the coach to Edinburgh.

CHAPTER XIII.

Small Isles revisited—To Eigg, to search for the burial place of the Oolitic reptiles—To Ornsay; marooned by foul weather—Becalmed in the Sound of Sleat; fishing for medusæ; a rainy night—Towed ashore by the islanders—Exploring a cavern—Visiting a poor parishioner; a miserable hovel; poverty and helplessness—Basalt columns; the Oolitic beds are laid bare; the reptile-bed—The musical sand revisited—To Ornsay in a gale; Betsey springs a leak; all hands to the pumps—Home to Edinburgh.

_______________
 

RAMBLES OF A GEOLOGIST

CONTENTS.
______

[This table of contents was inserted by the website Editor, there being none in the book as published.  Footnotes 13 & 14 are also additions to the original text.]

CHAPTER I.

By steamer from Granton to Aberdeen—The hurricane; the wreck of a victim—Boundary of the 'Old Red Sandstone' and the granitic districts; its effect on agriculture—The changing landscape—The formation of arable land—Rev. Longmuir's 'stone-room' and its flint fossils—The theologian, geology and metaphysics—To Gamrie, in a "fatigue suit of russet"—Two fellow geologists; the ichthyolite bed of Gamrie—Fixing a poor rhyme.

CHAPTER II.

On the beach; searching for the ichthyolite beds; an act of gratuitous cruelty—The fishing village of Gardenstone; a drunk and a sumptuous dinner;—To Macduff by night, in a tempest—The lady in green, a ghost story—Dr Emslie of Banff, "an intelligent geologist"—The fossils of Banffshire—The Blackpots tile-clay and its formation.

CHAPTER III.

A walk along the shore—The Burn of Boyne and its valley—
Unriddling the history of graphic granite—Portsoy marble, a "pretty stone"—Elizabeth Bond of Portsoy—To Fochabers on a stormy day—An old pensioner, a sheep's head and trotters, and a case of mistaken identity—The learnèd coach-guard; by coach to Elgin—The geologic formations of Banffshire, "like Joseph's coat of many colours."

CHAPTER IV.

Northward from the Forth, the changing geology—The Weald at Linksfield—The 'evolution' of fish, "from the fantastic and the complex to the simple and the plain"—Fossilized fish scales; speculations regarding 'pore-covered' fish; "adaptation of means to an end"—Protection; "the flutes and fillets of Cromwell's helmet"—The puzzle of partly-armoured fish; a theory of 'burrowing'—The Elgin Museum—By coach to Campbelton—The Moray Frith and its curious "detrital promontories"; the arch-wizard theory.

CHAPTER V.

Rosemarkie and its boulder clay—The Keas' Craig, a breeding place for the daw and the sand-martin—The excavations of the valley of Rosamarkie, scenes of "strange and ghostly wildness"—To Cromarty, and among old familiar faces—The boulder-clay and a scenic peculiarity, the Giants' Graves—Samuel's Well—Ravines that cut the escarpment of the ancient coast line from top to base—The quarry; memories of "the evils of hard labour"—Exploring a deep ravine of boulder-clay; rocks that bear scratched and polished surfaces.

CHAPTER VI.

A puzzle - boulder-clay devoid of definite contemporary organic matter—The question of the shell fragments found at Wick and Thurso, and a forgotten discovery—The "iceberg theory" of the crushed shells—Dating the boulder-clays to the "existing geological epoch"—Speculating on the crushing action of ancient icebergs—Some corroborating evidence from the Isle of Man—Problems in defining the history of boulders—The story of the miller's cottage, the meteor, and the crowing cock.

CHAPTER VII.

The beds of washed out ravines; evidence of iceberg action—The cause of the red clay—The ferruginous pavement of the boulder-clay, the cause of "soil doomed to barrenness"—Relics of an ancient Pictish battlefield fought on a barren moor, mottled by "huge pebbles"—Exploring along the Burn of Killein; a good speciman of Coccosteus decipiens—A Statistical Account of the Parish of Avoch—Towards Strathpeffer; the changing hue of the boulder-clay—The Great Conglomerate—The beauty of the River Auldgrande—Granitic gneiss of a pale flesh-colour, streaked with black, "the most remarkable stone on the lands of Balnagown"—Where occur the boulder-stones of the region—The mute boulders of Cromarty; the huge boulder called Clach Malloch.

CHAPTER VIII.

The geological history of the Clach Malloch—Earthquakes, introduced "to bring authors out of difficulties"—The Celtic myth of the boulder beside the Auldgrande—A meeting with "an extremely old woman, cadaverously pale and miserable looking"—Buchubai Hormazdji, a little Parsi girl—On to Dingwall; the old solitary burying-ground beside the Conon; longevity—Half an hour with an old acquaintance.

CHAPTER IX.

The Great Conglomerate; the Brahan district—A traditionary story—The banks of Loch Ousy—The summit of Knock Farril; soil condition—The puzzle of the "vitrified forts"; several unconvincing theories; a possibility; examining the vitrified materials—A visit to the spa at Strathpeffer; the passage of spa water through rock saturated with the organic matter—Possible medicinal uses of rock—The view from Knock Farril summit, all "gloomy and chill"—A nightmare at Evanton—The ruins of Craighouse;  the arrival of tea accounting for the disappearance of ghosts and fairies.

CHAPTER X.

By coach to Wick—An introduction to Mr Bremner, a wreck raiser of distinction; a discussion on the building of harbour walls—The passage to Orkney—Kirkwall, and a view over the Town—Fossil hunting  in a quarry; a new species, Coccosteus minor?—The antiquities of Kirkwall; Saint Magnus Cathedral; the mansion of old Earl Patrick; the Bishop's Palace.

CHAPTER XI.

The last Norwegian invader;  the Icelandic Sagas and the death of Haco—The lack of Christian influence upon Norse aggression—Orcadian features; the ethnic distribution of Northern Scotland—An evening with an antiquary; some "curious old papers" concerning Mary Queen of Scots, General Monck, Rev. Alexander Smith of Colvine, and Jacobitism—The fossils of the quarry of Pickoquoy—To Stromness; views of Orkney from the mail-gig—The Orkney poet, John Malcolm.

CHAPTER XII.

Stromness; seeking fossils about the Great Conglomerate—An Asterolepis uncovered of remarkable size—The anatomy of the Asterolepis—Dipterians, Acanthodians  and Cephalaspides, ranged in three-storied order—The extraction of medicinal iodine—A coastline fatal to the mariner—Distinguishing between Dipterians—A walk to see a 'stack'; the attrition of the surf upon "the iron-bound coast"; the Orkney precipices.

CHAPTER XIII.

Fossils well preserved within a brittle jet—more examples of the "three-storied order"—The Coccostei—A shipwreck; the story of 'Johnstone's Cave'—The story of the ruined country residence of the bishops of Orkney—Sandstones of subaerial formation—The Loch and Standing Stones of Stennis—The story of Jarl Einar, who carved the back of Halfdan the Long-legged into a red eagle.

CHAPTER XIV.

The communal ownership of land; the accumulation of landed property in the hands of a few—Harray, a land-locked parish, the stronghold of many ancient customs and superstitions—The "gay meadows" towards Birdsay—A link between degradation and hardship, and reproduction—Orkney, a land of defunct fishes"—Similarity between the teeth of the Dipterus and the Striped Wrasse—The dearth of fossilized vegetable matter on Orkney—A voyage to Hoy; the story of the 'unsociable fisherman'.

CHAPTER XV.

The island of Hoy—The enormous Dwarfie Stone, the work of an ugly, malignant goblin, the Elfin Trolld—Sheltering from a storm; recalling an interview with Trolld;  contributing to the graffiti—The carbuncle of the Ward Hill—A striking profile of Sir Walter Scott; the models for two of Sir Walter's characters—A model for Byron's 'The Island'—A German visitor—Some fossil specimens—Return to Wick, with pleasing recollections of an interesting country and a hospitable people—"To Orkney", a poem by David Vedder, the sailor-poet of Orkney.

 


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