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bost, Melbost, Garrabost, and others (in all about thirteen). Further, we find such names as Laxay (Laxá, Laxaa; Eng., Salmon river), Laxdale, Nether Holm and Upper Holm, Tong (túnga), &c. These Norwegian names of places are met with as well towards the south and west as on the east coast, where they are most numerous about Loch Seaforth (Sæfjörðr), and in the vicinity of the little town of Stornoway. But they are chiefly concentrated at one point, the most northern in the island, in a district which still retains the pure Norwegian name of “Ness.”
On this Naze, or promontory, are the lakes Langavat and Steapavat; the valleys Dibidale, Eorodale, North Dell, and South Dell; the manors and towns Skegersta, Swainbost, Habost, Cross, and at the farthest extremity Oreby or Eoropie (" Eyribor," the town on the Eir or Naze?); with the adjacent headland of Raven, which may possibly have been called after Odin's sacred bird. At all events, there is good ground for assuming, from these names of places, that the promontory had a pre-eminently Norwegian population, which, indeed, is unmistakably apparent even at the present day.
Throughout Harris and Lewis, for instance, the Gaelic inhabitants are small, dark-haired, and in general very ugly. But no sooner do we arrive at Ness, than we meet with people of an entirely different appearance. Both the men and women have in general lighter hair, taller figures, and far handsomer features. I visited several of their cabins, and found myself surrounded by physiognomies so Norwegian, that I could have fancied myself in Scandinavia itself, if the Gaelic language now spoken by the people, and their wretched dwellings, had not reminded me that I was in one of those poor districts in the northwest of Europe where the Gaels or Celts are still allowed a scanty existence. The houses, as in Shetland, and partly in Orkney, are built of turf and unhewn stones, with a wretched straw or heather roof, held together by ropes laid across the ridge of the house, and fastened with stones at the ends. The houses are so low, that one may often see the children lie playing on the side of the roof. The family and the cattle dwell in the same apartment, and the fire, burning freely on the floor, fills the house with a thick smoke, which slowly finds its way out of the hole in the roof. The sleeping-places are, as usual, holes in the side walls.
It is but a little while ago that the inhabitants of the Naze, who are said to have preserved faint traditions of their origin from Lochlin (called also in Ireland, Lochlan), or the North, regarded themselves as being of better descent than their neighbours the Gaels. The descendants of the Norwegians seldom or never contracted marriage with natives of a more southern part of the island, but formed among themselves a separate community, distinguished even by a peculiar costume, entirely different from the Highland Scotch dress. Although the inhabitants of Ness are now, for the most part, clothed like the rest of the people of Lewis, I was fortunate enough to see the dress of an old man of that district, which had been preserved as a curiosity. It was of thick coarse woollen stuff, of a brown colour, and consisted of a close-fitting jacket, sewn in one piece, with a pair of short trousers, reaching only a little below the knees. It was formerly customary with them not to cover the head at all. In a carefully compiled Scotch and English guide book (Anderson's Guide, 1842) it is stated, that “The islanders of the northern part of Lewis, with their long, matted, and uncombed hair, which has never been restrained by hat or bonnet from flowing as freely in the wind as their ponies' manes, and their true Norwegian cast of countenance, form living portraits of the ancient Norsemen. The other inhabitants are chiefly of Celtic origin.” The difference between the descendants of the Gaels and of the Norwegians is consequently so apparent that it is as striking to a Scotchman or an Englishman as to a Scandinavian.
It is said on the island that the inhabitants of Ness are more skilful fishermen and better sailors than the rest of the men of Lewis. However that may be, as a pretty numerous Norwegian population on it has long kept itself unmixed and distinct from the Gaels, it is not improbable that those men of Lewis who are related to have formerly harried Shetland, until they were entirely defeated in a great battle in Mainland, may have been inhabitants of Ness, who, after the custom of the ancient Norwegians, went on expeditions beyond sea, either to gain booty, or, more probably, to decide some old dispute by the sword. That men of Lewis, of Gaelic descent, who have never liked the sea, but, on the contrary, always feared it, should have ventured repeatedly, and in great numbers, so far as Shetland, altogether exceeds belief.
On the coasts of Lewis and Harris are several small islands, with still recognisable Norwegian names, such as Calvay (“ Kálfey"), Pabbay ("Papey"), Skarpa (Skar. pey), Scalpay (Skalpey), together with the places called Meathallybost, Bernera (Bjarnarey), and others. In the south-west there are three large islands in a row; North Uist, Benbecula, and South Uist (in the Sagas " Ivist”), where there are also evident traces of a Norwegian population. A small island to the west of North Uist is called Kirkibost (Kirkjubolstadr); on Benbecula there are the lakes Loch Ollevate and Langavat, as well as the Vaage, or inlets, Uskevagh, Kenlerevagh, and Riavagh ; and on South Uist there are likewise lakes and inlets called vat and vagh; to which may be added such names of places as Frobast, Kirkidale, Hillisdale, and lastly, a mountain called Heckla, probably from the well-known volcanic mountain in Iceland. In a bay in the middle of South Uist are the islands Calvay and Pabbay. There is still a great num. ber of small isles on the coasts of these islands, whose names in a greater or less degree all betray their Norwegian origin; for instance, Grimsa (“Grimsey"), Barra (“ Barey”), Lingay (“ Lyngey"), Hellesay (“ Hellisey"), Eriskay ("* Eiriksey ”), and others. The Norwegians must even have visited the little island of St. Kilda, which lies about eighty miles west of Lewis; at least, two of the often-mentioned and peculiarly Scandinavian bowl. formed brooches have been discovered on the island; one of them I have seen in the Andersonian Museum, in Glasgow. Similar brooches were also found, with a skeleton, in the island of Sangay, between Harris and North Uist.
To the east of North and South Uist is the large island of Skye (“Skið '), separated from the Highland mainland by a narrow sound (“ Skiðsund "). Between its more northern part and the mainland, where the sea is broader, are the islands of Rona, Raasay (“ Hrauneyjar"), Scalpa (“ Skál. pey"), Pabba (“ Papey”), and Longa (" Langey"). Skye, towards the south, is remarkable for its numerous and lofty mountains, whose beautiful forms are visible at a great distance. Towards the north the island becomes gradually flatter and broader. In the west and northwest parts it is indented by deep firths, round which are to be found the most fertile districts in the island. The east coast, on the contrary, is not so capable of cultivation, as it has large tracts of moorland heath and sand. The Norwegians, therefore, advisedly chose to settle on the western and north-western firths, which, besides being more fertile, were not so exposed to the attacks of the Gaels as the eastern and south-eastern coast, which very nearly approach the mainland. Not a few Scandinavian names of places may be still clearly recognised near Loch Snizort, such as Scuddeburgh, Skabost, Braebost, and, near a waterfall, Forscachregin (the Norwegian Fors with a Gaelic termination) By Dungevan Loch are the inlets Kilmaluag and Altivaig, and the villages Husabost, Collbost, and Nisabost. By Loch Bracadale (the “ Vestrifjordr" of the Sagas) are Fors, Orbost, Collbost, and Eabost. By Loch Harporth, Carabost; and by Loch Eynort, Husedalebeg and Husedalemore; which latter, in a mixture of Norwegian and Gaelic, signify little and great
ataley; and, with as the valley of
Hausdal (Housedale); and, with a similar mixture, Ghionaforsenary. A little more inland is the valley of Tungadelebeg, where the Gaelic beg (little) is added to the Norwegian Tungadal.
From the frequent Gaelic terminations and corruptions of the Norwegian names, it is sufficiently evident that the Norwegian language has lost its former dominion in the island, and that the Gaelic has resumed its ancient preeminence. The western districts of Skye, as well as the previously mentioned Norderöer, or northern islands, from Lewis to Barrahead (which last are often called under one name, “ the Long Island"), are precisely those places in the Highlands where the Gaelic tongue is most unmixed, and where the greatest quantity of old Gaelic traditions and songs still survives among the people. It was here also, that a great number of the world-renowned songs of Ossian were first composed. It is true we no longer hear the people sing them, but there can nevertheless be scarcely any doubt, particularly if we regard the perceptible traces of the ancient metre in the Gaelic texts, that the so frequently and warmly disputed edition by Macpherson is really founded on ancient songs, although these may have been somewhat altered by lapse of time, and by a not very happy translation. They have quite a peculiar interest for the Scandinavian North, from the striking agreement in tone and spirit which they present to several of the songs of the Sagas and Edda. These last, again, afford a strong proof of the genuineness of those attributed to Ossian, since the songs of the Sagas and Edda, at the time when Macpherson published his Ossian, were either not at all, or but very imperfectly known, even in Scandinavia itself, not to speak of other countries. The real age of Ossian's songs is very uncertain, and very difficult to discover; but this much is clear, that they indicate a lively intercourse between Alba (Scotland) and Lochlin (Scandinavia), long before the times of the Vikings, and previously to all historical accounts of connections between