Morvern Lines with Iain Thornber

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End of year quotes
Caledonia by an enthusiast:

Land of chivalry and freedom; land of old historic fame, may your noble sons and daughters, long, preserve their honoured name. Land where foreign foe ne’er ventured; land where dastard slave ne’er trod, land whose sons are ever foremost, treading nobly life’s long road.

Land of simple-hearted kindness; land of patriotic worth, may your virtues ever flourish, hardy clansmen of the North. Land where rest in silent slumber ashes of our honoured sires; may their virtues long be cherished round our humble cottage fires.

And by a critic:

Land of ancient bloody tyrants! Sneaking traitors, deep and sly. Land of thieving Heilan’ deevils, kilted rogues and stolen kye. Land of Bibles, kirks and b*****ds! Saints and lassies awfu’ frail! Drunkards, sheebeens, Godly deacons, parritch, whisky, brose and kail!

Land of cunnin’ carefu bodies, foes to all ungodly fun; those who sum up man’s whole duty – heaven, Hell, and number one!

Land of psalms and drowsy sermons, pawky wits and snuffy bores, faurgaun chiels sae fond of Scotland, that they leave it fast, in scores!

(Author unknown.)

Duart Castle on the Sound of Mull.
Duart Castle on the Sound of Mull.
Duart Castle

My dear Sir Fitzroy.

As the day draws near for you to formally hoist your banner on the Castle of Duart, so long the property of your ancestors, I feel strongly that I ought to change the name of my house and estate to what I believe it was formally called – ie, TOROSAY.

I wish to leave the name of Duart to you alone, who certainly have the senior right to it. My husband and I loved the old buildings, and have been proud to act as guardians for the past 15 years. Now it remains for me to wish you long life and all happiness in its possession and to express the sincere hope that as long as the tides meet and swirl round the Lady’s Rock, Duart Castle will remain in the keeping of the Chief of the Macleans.

(Letter received by Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 26th Clan Chief, from Mrs Olive Guthrie at a gathering at Duart Castle on August 24, 1912, to celebrate its restoration.)


On the day when death will knock at my door, what shall I offer him, either in the closing minutes of this life or in the opening minutes of my new birth in the life beyond?

Oh, I will set before him all the lovely things that I have seen, all the love that I have received and given, all the insights of truth that I have gathered, all the things that I have valued and enjoyed, all the tasks completed or left for others, all my gratitude and love for the past, all my content in the present and my hope for the future.

(Words inspired by Rabindranath Tagore 1861-1941. Bengali polymath who reshaped Indian literature, music and art. He also wrote, ‘I slept and dreamed that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy’.)


The tradition of Hebridean hospitality has happily retained living substance so that, soon after approaching the little croft at the head of the bay [Finsbay, Isle of Lewis] with my request for a gallon of water, I was seated by the fire at the kitchen table of Mrs Catherine Ross. Her ‘you’ll be staying for a cup of tea’ was more of a forceful suggestion than a statement of ‘second sight’, but Hebridean ‘tea’ equally deserves a place in immortal folklore and is not to be missed, for the reference of the word is far wider than on the mainland.

Within minutes I was tucking into homemade scones, oatcakes and several mugs of strong, hot brew. The homely chat and kitchen warmth began to make me drowsy and I was concerned that the kayak should be hauled securely above the incoming tide; but I was only able to leave that croft by accepting a bag of fresh scones and butter and promising to let Mrs Ross know when my journey was safely completed, for until that time she would not sleep for worry.

‘It’s a good thing you’re not married and it’s sorry I am for your poor mother!’

Smiling, I made my way back to the tent, my hands warmed by the scones only slightly less than her kindness had warmed my heart; but it was not ‘kindness’ that I ate so gratefully for breakfast next morning.

(Blazing Paddles – A Scottish Coastal Odyssey, by Brian Wilson,  conservationist and author 1988.)

On the beach and on the mountain

I am forever walking upon these shores, betwixt the sand and the foam. The high tide will erase my footprints, and the wind will blow away the foam. But the sea and the shore will remain forever.

(Kahlil Gibran 1883-1931. Lebanese writer and poet.)

In Coire a’ Ghrunnda this May day, at a height of 1,700 feet above sea-level, I passed the nest of a wren. Domed, compactly built, and newly finished, it was placed in a cranny of a great boulder, and I wondered what had induced its owners to set their home thus high.

(The Charm of Skye by Seton Gordon 1886-1977.)

Iain Thornber