Lost Glasgow

Glasgow's People, 1956-1988

Thomas Campbell,
page 4 of 11

Divo, for economy’s sake! When night came on we repaired to the little inn where we had bespoken our beds, and there our famine overcame our frugality. Poor dogs! we had eaten nothing since noon, and were ravenously sharp set. In the course of the evening we had saved the life of a little boy by plunging after him into the water, and we thought it hard that two such heroes should go supperless to bed. So we ordered a dish of beefsteaks. What the landlady chose to call a pound was brought in, set upon the table, and vanished like smoke. Then came in another — then a third, together with a tankard of ale, that set us both singing and reciting poetry. I still retain the opinion that life is pleasanter in the real transition than in the retrospect, but still I am bound to regard this part of my recollections of life as very agreeable. I was very poor, but I was gay as a lark and hardy as the Highland heather.”

Finlayson and he crossed next morning to the Cowal shore, and proceeded, knapsack on back, to Inveraray. The wide world contained not two merrier lads. They sang and recited poetry through the long Highland glens. The Highland inns were then very primitive, the bill of fare announcing only herrings, potatoes, and usquebaugh. But the roaring streams and torrents, with the yellow primroses on their banks, the cuckoos calling, and the heathy mountains, covered with bleating sheep, delighted them beyond measure. These feelings of joyous anticipation were considerably damped by experiences of storm and exposure before he reached the house of Sunipal on the Point of Callioch, in Mull, which was to be the scene of his pedagogic labours. With a poet’s vicissitude of feeling he proceeds to write the poem entitled, “An Elegy written in Mull.”

                  “The tempest blackens on the dusky moor,
                  And billows lash the long-resounding shore:
                  In pensive mood, I roam the desert ground,
                  And vainly sigh for scenes no longer found.”

The Point of Callioch commands a magnificent prospect of 13 Hebridean islands, among which are Staffa and Iona, which he visited with enthusiasm. The sight of the red deer sweeping over the wild moors, and of eagles perching on the rocks, aroused his fancy; but with the instincts of a Glasgow man he at times longed for the kirk steeples and whinstone causeways of the city, as beyond all the eagles and wild deer of the Highlands. The now world-renowned rocks of Staffa and the ruins of Iona are graphically described in his letters. He entered Fingal’s cave with a peal of bagpipes which “made a most tremendous echo.” Mull was the very school for laying in a stock of poetic imagery. Moor, glen, rock, streams, torrents, sky, and sea were ever before his eye, and the sea that lay wide and boundless before him, studded with islands and fretted with frequent storms, made the deepest impression on his mind. All these were afterwards reproduced in his poems, especially in his last, the “Pilgrim of Glencoe.”

At the close of his fifth session he again accepted a tutorship, this time at Downie, near Lochgilphead. Some of the places around it have also been immortalised by his genius. Mull and Downie were the two schools which furnished him with the materials of many life-like pictures, which he afterwards sent forth to the world. His visits to Inveraray, the sweetly-scented road along the border of the loch, Caroline, the belle of the West, the Inveraray Arms, St. Catherine’s, Strachur, the various beauties of the loch, the house he inhabited at Downie, its primitive hospitality, the patriarchal suppers, the domestic circle, are all touched


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