Memoirs of a Highland Lady: The Moral Training of Great Men Began in a Cabin

Willie Grant was a fine handsome boy, a favourite with every body and the darling of his poor father, who had but this bright spot to cheer his dull home horizon. All this summer Willie had come to the Doune with the parson every third Sunday; that is, they came on Saturday, and generally remained over Monday. He was older than any of us, but not too old to share all our out of doors fun, and he was full of all good, really and truly sterling. We were to love one another for ever, yet we never met again. When we returned to the highlands he was in the East India Military College, and then he sailed, and though he lived to come home, marry, and to settle in the highlands, neither Jane nor I ever saw him more. How many of these fine lads did my father and Charles Grant send out to India? Some that throve, some that only passed, some that made a name we were all proud of, and not one that ever I heard of that disgraced the homely rearing of their humbly positioned but gentle born parents. The moral training of those simple times bore its fair fruits: the history of half the great men in the last age began in a cabin.

Colquhoun Grant, Gentleman Spy

Sir Charles Forbes was the son of a small farmer in Aberdeenshire. Sir William Grant, the Master of the Rolls, was a mere peasant—his Uncles floated my father’s timber down the Spey as long as they had strength to follow the calling. General William Grant was a footboy in my Uncle Rothy’s family. Sir Colquhoun Grant, though a woodsetter’s child, was but poorly reared, in the same fashion as Mrs. Pro’s fortunate boys. Sir William Macgregor, whose history should we tell it was most romantick of all, was such another. The list could be easily lengthened did my memory serve, but these were among the most striking examples of what the good plain schooling of the dominie, the principles and the pride of the parents, produced in young ardent spirits: forming characters which, however they were acted on by the world, never forgot home feelings, although they proved this differently. The Master of the Rolls, for instance, left all his relations in obscurity. A small annuity rendered his parents merely independant of hard labour; very moderate portions just secured for his sisters decent matches in their own degree; an occasional remittance in a bad season helped an Uncle or a brother out of difficulty. I never heard of his going to see them, or bringing any of them out of their own sphere to visit him. While the General shoved on his brothers, educated his nephews and nieces, pushed the boys up, married the girls well—such of them at least as had a wish to raise themselves and almost resented the folly of Peter the Pensioner (see below), who would not part with one of his flock from the very humble home he chose to keep them in. Which plan was wisest or was either quite right? Which relations were happiest—those whose feelings were sometimes hurt, or those whose frames were sometimes over wearied and but scantily refreshed? I often pondered in my own young enquiring mind over these and similar questions…

Peter the Pensioner

We knew him always as Peter the Pensioner, on account of sixpence a day my father got him from Greenwich, in lieu of an eye he had lost in some engagement. He lived in one of a row of cottages on the Mill town moor, with a very large family of children, all of whom earned their bread by labour. We had a son in the wood work and a daughter as kitchenmaid during the time their uncle the General was paying a visit to us.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

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