Tuesday, 15 May 2012

the good doctor

As we speak I am coming to the end of writing up our Wednesday adventures on Mull and Ulva.  But, having trouble cramming everything in, have decided to dash off this addendum on Doctor Johnson and James Boswell's jaunt to the Western Isles rather than putting it all in the same blog post.

I'd been reading snippets of their journals which I found online (click below to read):

Johnson's account

Boswell's account

just from the part where they were coming to Mull from the Isle of Coll (Katie Morag's home, if you were paying attention to Tuesday's blog!).
Yale University Press book cover
Johnson says, "After having listened for some days to the tempest, and wandered about the Island till our curiosity was satisfied, we began to think about our departure. To leave Coll in October was not very easy. We however found a sloop which lay on the coast to carry kelp; and for a price which we thought levied upon our necessities, the master agreed to carry us to Mull".

Doesn't this make you realise how adventurous travel was back in 1775.

"As we were to catch the first favourable breath, we spent the night not very elegantly nor pleasantly in the vessel, and were landed next day at Tobor Morar, a port in Mull"

The roads would have been virtually non-existant.  They spent some time with friends then decided to travel to Iona by horse, by way of Inch Kenneth for a night.

"This was a day of inconvenience, for the country is very rough, and my horse was but little. We travelled many hours through a tract, black and barren. . . . . . . .   We travelled diligently enough, but found the country, for road there was none, very difficult to pass".

Boswell adds,  "We had a very hard journey to-day. I had no bridle for my sheltie, but only a halter; and Joseph rode without a saddle. At one place, a loch having swelled over the road, we were obliged to plunge through pretty deep water. Dr Johnson observed, how helpless a man would be, were he travelling here alone, and should meet with any accident; and said, 'he longed to get to a country of saddles and bridles'."
from, http://www.greatclanross.org/icons5.html
And by the time they got to the coast it was very late at night, the ferry to Inch Kenneth had gone and a gentleman who could have put them up was ill so they had nowhere to stay and no-one to ask at that late hour, although they could see Ulva across the straits.  However, as fate would have it . . .

Johnson says, "While we stood deliberating, we were happily espied from an Irish ship, that lay at anchor in the strait. The master saw that we wanted a passage, and with great civility sent us his boat, which quickly conveyed us to Ulva, where we were very liberally entertained by Mr. Macquarry."

and this will be Lachlan Macquarrie who went on to become Governor of New South Wales.  He left Ulva in debt in 1777 due in part to his over generous nature!   So Johnson and Boswell only just managed to enjoy his hospitality - read all about it here:

and so the journals go on - quite fastinating if you fancy dipping in.

and you'll see that later on our Wednesday travels in 2012 (click here) we took the little ferry across to the very Isle of Ulva - so that was quite an amazing feeling!!

(If you've come to this page from our 2013 holiday on Mull, then please click here to return).

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