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less than 3,000 feet, shows to what a tremendous process of denudation they have since been subjected. Judging from the evidence of the curious leaf-beds of Ardtun in the neighbourhood, this great volcanic outburst took place at a comparatively recent period of geological history. The fossils found in these remarkably-preserved beds, intercalated between thick deposits of volcanic ashes, are analogous with the existing flora of the eastern sea-board of North America from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to Carolina; and they tell us that islands now utterly bare and destitute of wood were at this period covered with luxuriant forests of deciduous trees, ere they were overwhelmed like the neighbourhood of Naples with a succession of fiery deluges. If we wish to form some idea how these ancient geological forests looked, we have only to go to any part of eastern North America, where the aboriginal woods have not been cut down. The Puritan fathers saw the very same kind of vegetation when they landed on the shores of New England two centuries ago. Immeasurably older than this volcanic region are Iona and the outer Hebrides with their Laurentian rocks. They are fragments of a lost country, against whose iron shores, the unbroken force of the Atlantic dashed at a time when Skye and Mull and the Garveloch Islands lay as mud at the bottom of a wide sound, and the Alps, Himalayas, and Andes, the highest but youngest mountains of the earth, had not yet reared their snowy crests to heaven.
It is most interesting to compare the geological with the civil and ecclesiastical history of this region, and to trace the striking points of resemblance between them. The inconceivable antiquity of the rocks of Iona formed a fitting scene for those primitive Christian missions which go so far back in our short human history, that they seem almost lost in the mists of fable. The later fiery eruptions which played so important a part in the formation of Mull and the Garveloch group were paralleled by the wild scenes of human strife which those places witnessed from the sixth to the fourteenth century. During the time of St. Columba they formed the battleground between the Scots of Dalriada and the heathen Picts, when sanguinary fights between the two rival nations were continually taking place and no human life or possession was safe. Pictish pirates infested the surrounding seas, and ravaged the coasts with fire and sword. On the highest point of one of the Garveloch Islands, called Dunchonnel, perched on the edge of a basaltic cliff, are the scanty ruins of a rude fort, where dwelt a noted sea-robber of the name of Johan, son of royal Conall, who descended from his eyrie at frequent intervals and plundered the island of Mull and the mainland of Ardnamurchan. Then came the Danish and Norwegian invasions, which proved even more disastrous to the inhabitants, and resulted in the subjugation of all the Western Isles to the rule of the Northmen. The whole region is a land of romance, to whose exciting story Sir Walter Scott has given charming poetic expression in his Lord of the Isles.' On almost every projecting trap-rock and prominent headland on this
intricate coast, are the remains of strongly fortified castles, erected after the expulsion of the Scandinavians by the fierce Celtic chieftains, whose grim effigies with sword and helmet and coat of mail, we see carved on the tombstones of Iona.
But it is not of fiery eruptions and lawless human passions only that this region witnesses. At the present day the visitor in bright summer weather sees only a paradise of surpassing loveliness reflected in the mirror of a sea as blue as the sky above; and the beauty and tranquillity of nature seem a fit background to that enchanting story of piety and devotion that belonged in the far-off ages to those lonely isles. As out of the faint morning mists that lightly envelope them in July when touched by the rising sun, the islands and coasts emerge, and with a subtle witchery of shyness and boldness reveal their hidden charms, so out of the dim misty ecclesiastical legends that hover around them, shine before the eye of the student of church history the heavenly lives of saints and hermits, who helped by their faith and zeal almost to perpetuate into uninspired times the apostolic age. It is of an episode in this romantic half-fabulous period, which has a charm to the imagination that never palls, that I have now to write.
At the western extremity of the Garveloch group there is a small island separated from its larger neighbour by a narrow strait. Its cliffs are lower, more broken and rugged; and far down over their beetling brows appear patches of grass and wild flowers, which give them a softer appearance. Fronting the mainland, the island rises abruptly in a wall-like face, but at the back it slopes gradually down to the level of the sea. In some places its trap-dykes have been isolated by the action of the tides, and project from the rocks like Cyclopean walls; while at the south end there are deep caves mantled with ivy and huge arches like the fantastic rock scenery of Carisaig, on the opposite shore of Mull. A fringe of rugged rocks, with sharp teeth-like projections, standing out in the water, guards it on the western side; with tortuous channels, running in among them to the shore like the reef around a coral island. By the natives of the district this island is called 'Eilean na Naomh,' or the 'Isle of Saints.' It has been identified almost beyond doubt as the 'Insula Hinba' or 'Hinbina,' to which Adamnan refers in his Life of St. Columba,' as one of the islands on which the great Celtic apostle had founded his earliest monasteries. From time immemorial it has enjoyed a sacred reputation, a 'religio loci.' Before the time of St. Columba it was probably, like Iona, the seat of socalled Druidic worship, or whatever kind of nature-cult the primitive inhabitants had favoured. St. Brendan, whose name is still commemorated in that of the neighbouring parish of Kilbrandon, had placed upon it a Christian establishment, supposed to have been a college for training preachers of the gospel, previous to its occupation by the monastery of St. Columba; and this establishment was in all likelihood swept away in the severe struggle between the Picts
and the Dalriadic Scots in the year 560, which ended in the defeat of the latter. The old Gaelic word for college, viz., Aileach, is still preserved in the name of Elachnave, by which the island is best known in our guide-books. Between it and Oronsay there was once a close ecclesiastical connection; its parsonage and vicarage teinds having, previous to 1630, belonged to the celebrated priory of that island, which in its turn was an appanage of Holyrood Abbey near Edinburgh. Latterly it has been included in the parish of Jura. For many centuries it has been uninhabited; and with the exception of shepherds who pay an occasional visit to it to look after their sheep, and a few zealous antiquaries who land on its shores at long intervals-its stern silence is never disturbed by the presence of man.
Owing to this seclusion the island has almost entirely escaped the notice of the world; but next to Iona it is one of the most interesting places in Scotland to the student of sacred archæology. Having heard incidentally of its wonderful ecclesiastical ruins, I determined to see them for myself. Happening to be staying two summers ago at Easdale with Mr. Whyte, the hospitable and intelligent manager of the famous slate quarries there, he placed one of the company's steamers at my disposal. We went first to Oronsay, and spent the day in inspecting the interesting remains of the priory there, with its well-preserved cloisters, grand cross, and richly sculptured tombstones, not much inferior to those in the famous churchyard of Reilig Oran. Returning late in the afternoon to Elachnave, the steamer lay at the back of the island, at a safe distance from the jagged outer rocks, over which the swell of the sea broke in foam. Descending into a small boat, we rowed a long way to shore, entering in between the rocks by a narrow lane of water which shallowed gradually, and was paved at the bottom with white pebbles. The primitive wicker boats covered with hides, in which the early Scottish saints went from island to island to carry on their missionary work, could land here without running any risk from the surf of the Atlantic. Landing on the soft turf, we saw before us looming vaguely through the evening shadows that were beginning to fall, the objects of our quest. In a wide hollow, between two parallel ridges of rock that stretched across the middle of the island, formed by the erosion of several closely contiguous trap-dykes, when the island was at a lower level and the sea broke over it, we saw a series of grey walls ascending one beyond the other up the slope. One could tell at a glance that this spot had been long inhabited, for the grass on the terraces was green as an emerald and smooth as velvet, contrasting strikingly with the bare rocks that everywhere came to the surface. The nettle and the dock, too, grew in the sheltered places, those strange social plants that follow everywhere in the footsteps of man, and indicate even in the loneliest wilderness where his home had been. Close to the shore, at the foot of the slope, we came upon the well, to which the reverence of ages has given the name of Tobhair Columkill, the well of St. Columba. It was just beyond the reach of the tide; but
the winter storms doubtless often dashed the salt spray into it. Around its margin, almost touching the clive seaweeds, the products of another element, grew the wild thyme, crimsoning the turfy bank with its blossoms, and the little euphrasy with its mystic associations; and in the very baptism of the water was a bed of wild cress and a tuft of blue-eyed forget-me-nots, keeping alive at the same time the memory of the azure sky from whence their beautiful tints had come, and of the saintly men whose devoted lives had consecrated the spot. Like the patriarchs who encamped around a well in the desert, the Celtic hermits had built their monastery near this well, the only fresh water on the island. Still and quiet, deep and cool as that well was their own life here; like the margin of flowery verdure which its waters nourished was the influence which that monastery exercised amid the dreary pagan waste. All around had changed; but this silver link with the remote generations remained the same. We could drink from its clear refreshing cup to-day,
as St. Columba had done thirteen centuries ago.
Above this well in a sheltered nook we found a cluster of ruins, which looked at first sight like the wrecks of a long-neglected sheepfold, or a rude farm-steading. But a closer inspection revealed their true character. They were evidently ecclesiastical remains of great antiquity. Nearest us was the largest and most perfect building, beyond doubt a primitive chapel or oratory. The walls were roofless and destitute of gables, but were otherwise almost entire. They measured twenty-five feet by fifteen, and were fringed at the top with large hanging tufts of sea spleenwort and polypody, and shaggy with masses of grey filamentous lichen, such as grows upon rocks at the sea-shore. They were built without mortar, in the most compact and admirable manner, of squared pieces of slate, procured from one of the neighbouring islands. Nothing could exceed the simplicity of the structure, presenting no architectural detail except a square-headed doorway in the west end, a small window, splayed on both sides, in the east end, and on the south side a projecting shelf, which probably indicated the site of an altar. To the east of the chapel were several square enclosures, communicating with each other, which formed in all probability the domestic part of the establishment. A little way beyond, on the rising ground, we found a very curious building in a good state of preservation, with one end semicircular and the other square and gabled. It had a doorway on each side, but no traces of windows. In the inside the floor of the semicircular part was considerably raised above the rest; another had a round hole in the centre communicating with a small chamber below. This has been identified as a kiln for drying corn. Below the chapel in the middle of the greensward we nearly stumbled into what seemed an underground cell of irregular oval shape and very small dimensions. Its roof was formed by heavy slabs of stone laid across the walls and covered with turf, and the entrance was by a hole almost level with the ground. In rainy weather it is often half full of water.
We examined this little group of buildings with profound interest; for there is every reason to believe that they are the very ruins of the first monastery which St. Columba himself founded after that of Iona. Upwards of thirteen hundred years have passed quietly over them in this forgotten ocean solitude. They are among the very oldest ecclesiastical remains in Scotland; and their preservation is owing not only to the seclusion and loneliness of their situation, but also to the fact that, contrary to the custom of the time, they were constructed of stone. The religious edifices which St. Columba and his followers had erected in Iona were built of oaken planks, or consisted of strong wooden stakes driven into the ground, intertwined with wands, and plastered on the outside and inside with clay. The monastery was called by an old writer'gloriosum cœnobium;' but its glory certainly did not lie in its architecture. The church was simply a log house, and the dwellings of the saints clustered around it were mere wigwams. Adamnan speaks of St. Columba sending forth his disciples on one occasion to gather bundles of twigs, and to cut down stakes to build his hospice. St. Ninian had, indeed, a hundred and sixty years earlier constructed at Whithorn in Galloway, by the aid of masons whom he obtained from St. Martin of Tours on his way home from Rome, a little church and monastery of stone, called Candida Casa from the whiteness of its walls. It was built twenty-three years before the final departure of the Romans from Britain, and could not therefore have been the first stone building erected in this country, for the houses and temples of the Romans were all constructed of solid stone or brick. But it was in all likelihood the first native structure built of stone, and must have been a great wonder in those days of wattled huts and wooden stockades. St. Kentigern originated the cathedral of St. Asaph in Wales in the sixth century as a wooden church, after the manner of the Celts. And even the missionaries who went abroad carried with them this custom of building churches of wood. In the wooden oratory of Bobbio, afterwards famous for its collection of ancient manuscripts, St. Columbanus, early in the seventh century, reproduced in classic Italy the rude type of Scottish and Irish ecclesiastical architecture. The Celts were woodlanders, finding in the extensive forests that covered the country their houses and their food. Occupied with the chase, and supported by the spontaneous produce of the earth, they never dreamed of stone edifices or felt the want of them. The first Christian missionaries therefore endeavoured to estrange the minds of the natives from their old idolatry by building wooden churches after the model of the native dwellings, differing from them only in being larger and more substantial. And when afterwards the fashion of building them of stone came in, the innovation was resented by a large conservative party. Constructed of such perishable materials, the primitive ecclesiastical buildings speedily disappeared, being set on fire in those troublous times, or yielding to the natural process of decay. No trace can now be seen in Iona of the original monastic buildings which St. Columba had