Colonsay and Oronsay.,
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Ruins at Oronsay
The island of Colonsay has been for centuries the property and the home of the M'Niels. Its possession was held in early days by the strong-armed hand, and successful resistance made to all invasions by surrounding islanders and pirates on the ocean. This was one of the clans whose presence was invoked by Flora, sister of Vich Ian Vohr, in the song sung by her for Waverley prior to the last rising in favor of the house of Stuart:
"Ye sons of Brown Dermid who slew the wild boar,
Resume the pure faith of the great Callum More:
M`Niel of the Islands, and May of the Lake,
For honor, for freedom, for vengeance, awake!"
But the fiery cross no longer summons the clan to bloody fields. The M'Niels of to-day have won far more renown by the pen than their ancestors did by the sword. Two brothers, born at Colonsay, are among the eminent men of Scotland. The elder, Duncan M'Niel, formerly Dean of the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh, Lord Advocate of Scotland in the administration of Sir Robert Peel, and afterward Lord Chief Justice, is now a peer of the realm, with the title of Lord Colonsay. Sir John M'Niel, married to Lady Emma Campbell, sister of the Duke of Argyle, long in the East India service, and British minister to Persia, and who is gratefully remembered in the United States for his kindness to American missionaries, is now the owner and lord of Colonsay. It was his carriage that awaited us at the little stone pier, and in which we took our midnight ride to his hospitable home. Early the next morning the good old laird gave us a genuine Scotch welcome. Tall, erect, with white flowing locks; with a clear complexion, showing no marks of an Asiatic sun; with faculties unimpaired, though in age beyond fourscore years; with so many reminiscences of life in the East, and much quaint Scotch humor, he is still a most interesting companion either for youth or for age.
His wife, the good Lady Emma, good both in word and deed, abounding in all charities, is loved by all who know her. She was much gratified when I told her that her brother, who had spoken words of cheer for us during the darkest days of our late war, would be the most popular ambassador the British government could send to the United States. She expressed a strong desire to come herself, and look with her own eyes upon the great kindred country on this side of the Atlantic; but the advanced age of Sir John would not permit it.