Thursday, 27 April 2017

Inverness, Loch Ness and the North East Highlands

The Mannie

Distance: 6.22 miles
Ascent: 459 metres
Duration: 2 hours 26 minutes

Walk 18: Big Burn Glen and Ben Bhraggie

The Pathfinder Walks title of this walk is descriptive enough: it is a walk featuring two topographic elements. First the luscious glen of Big Burn, and then an ascent of the adjacent Ben Bhraggie. But who are they trying to kid? The walk can only be about one thing: The Mannie, a huge statue on the summit of the Ben that dominates the Sutherland coast in a way that makes me feel very uncomfortable.

the-mannie.jpgThe "mannie" in question was George Granville Levenson Gower, the first Duke of Sutherland, husband of Elizabeth. The statue claims to have been paid for by subscription of his tenants; my impression is that the contributions weren't entirely voluntary.

His gaze is fixed on the distant horizon, roughly south-east. It's a such a curious orientation that one can't help but wonder whether the intended symbolism is in what his back is turned to: the vast tracts of Highland that he and his wife cleared of crofters to make way for more profitable large-scale farms.

The statue stands on a large stone plinth, the bottom three metres of which has been recently clad in a sturdy metal gauze. Such is the divisiveness of the Duke's reputation that even in recent years stone blocks have been worked loose in an attempt to topple the man, thus the crude defence.

The view from the summit is tremendous, and we were able to see pretty much the full extent of this week's walking, from the Black Isle in the south right up to the far corner of Caithness.

Leveson-Gower's wife Elizabeth died six years after him. Like him she's buried in Dornoch Cathedral although she's not celebrated with a huge statue. Instead on the floor behind the altar are a series of stones with this potted biography:

In the vault beneath are deposited the remains of Elizabeth, Dowager Duchess of Sutherland and in her own right Countess of Sutherland. Born at Leven Lodge near Edinburgh XXIV May MDCCLXV, left an orphan by the untimely and almost simultaneous death of her parents she succeeded at the age of thirteen months to possessions amongst the most extensive and a title amongst the most ancient in Scotland. To that title her right was keenly contested but by her guardians zealously and successfully maintained.

elizabeth-grave.jpgEducated under the care of her grandmother Elizabeth Hairstanes widow firstly of William Maxwell of Preston and secondly of Charles Erskine of Alva Lord Justice clerk of Scotland.

Married in MDCCLXXXV to George Granville Leveson Gower first Duke of Sutherland K.G. her attachment to Sutherland and her clansmen was shared by her husband and during a happy union of XLVIII years was fostered by his encouragement guided by his judgement and made effectual by his wealth.

Eminent in the exercise of a strong intelligence and excelling in various accomplishments she enjoyed through a long life of energy and usefulness the admiration and love of her family and friends.

She died in London XXIX January MDCCCXXXIX having on her death bed desired that her remains might rest by the side of her husband in the cathedral church of Dornoch, the burial place of her ancestors.

While her Mannie was indeed buried in the cathedral, we could find no monument to him within its bounds. Still too contentious, perhaps?

There's a fascinating story to be told here; Elizabeth and her family could have been feminist role models challenging primogeniture, but she'll forever be associated with the Clearances and even now two hundred years later, the wounds run too deep to heal.

Posted by pab at 21:20 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!