Friday, October 22, 2010

The Tour Reaches Oban

On October 22, 1773, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell are nearing the end of their trek to the western reaches of Scotland.  Leaving Mull that day, they reach Oban to discover that people are reading of their tour in the newspaper, though the paper is far behind actual events.  From "The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D": 'We bade adieu to Lochbuy, and to our very kind conductor. Sir Allan M'Lean, on the shore of Mull, and then got into the ferry-boat, the bottom of which was strewed with branches of trees or bushes, upon which we sat. We had a good day and a fine passage, and in the evening landed at Oban, where we found a tolerable inn. After having been so long confined at different times in islands, from which it was always uncertain when we could get away, it was  comfortable to be now on the  main land, and to know that, if in health, we might get to any place in Scotland or England in a certain number of days.


Here we discovered from the conjectures which were formed, that the people on the main land were intirely ignorant of our motions; for in a Glasgow news-paper we found a paragraph, which, as it contains a just and well-turned compliment to my illustrious friend, I shall insert:
We are well assured that Dr Johnson is confined by tempestuous weather to the isle of Sky; it being unsafe to venture, in a small boat upon such a stormy surge as is very common there at this time of the year. Such a philosopher, detained on an almost barren island, resembles a whale left upon the strand. The latter will be welcome to every body, on account of his oil, his bone, etc. and the other will charm his companions, and the rude inhabitants, with his superior knowledge and wisdom, calm resignation, and unbounded benevolence.'

Sir Walter Scott visited Oban in September 1814.  Son-in-law John Lockhart describes their visit in his "The Life of Sir Walter Scott": 'The isle of Kerrera is now in sight, forming the bay of Oban. Beyond lie the varied and magnificent summits of the chain of mountains bordering Loch Linn he, as well as those between Loch Awe and Loch Etive, over which the summit of Ben Cruachan is proudly prominent Walk on deck, admiring this romantic prospect until ten ; then below, and turn in.'

While in Skye, earlier on their tour, Johnson and Boswell had met Flora MacDonald who helped Charles Stuart escape following the '45.  Oban shared in that history, as well.  Continuing with Lockhart: 'When the affair of 1745 was in agitation, it was expected by the south-western clans that Charles Edward would have landed near Oban, instead of which he disembarked at Loch-nan-augh, in Arisaig. Stuart of Appin sent information of his landing to MacDougall, who gave orders to his brother to hold the clan in readiness to rise, and went himself to consult with the chamberlain of the Earl of Breadalbane, who was also in the secret. He found this person indisposed to rise, alleging that Charles had disappointed them both in the place of landing, and the support he had promised. MacDougall then resolved to play cautious, and went to visit the Duke of Argyle, then residing at Roseneath, probably without any determined purpose as to his future proceedings. While he was waiting the Duke's leisure, he saw a horseman arriving at full gallop, and shortly after, the Duke entering the apartment where MacDougall was, with a map in his hand, requested him, after friendly salutations, to point out Loch-nan-augh on that map. MacDougall instantly saw that the secret of Charles's landing had transpired, and resolved to make a merit of being the first who should give details. The persuasions of the Duke determined him to remain quiet, and the reward was the restoration of the little state of Dunolly, lost by his father in 1715. This gentleman lived to a very advanced stage of life, and was succeeded by Peter MacDougall, Esq. now of Dunolly. I had these particulars respecting the restoration of the estate from a near relation of the family, whom we met at Dunstaffnage.'

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