Scotland - Cross-Bred Sheep In Scotland
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Scotland is the land of cross-bred sheep. The Black-face ewes come down to the lowland pastures and are put to Border-Leicester rams or to Oxford rams. Sometimes the half-bred ewe lambs are saved and bred again to similar types of pure-bred rams, the result being a fine, strong lamb that is easily fattened, and its wool is much more desirable than that of the pure Black-face breed. In fact, the Black-face ewe is in existence only because no other breed is so useful as it is for the high, cold, wet, poorly-grassed mountains. Transplanted to other lands, the Black-faces have seldom succeeded. They are wild and almost as intractable as deer, but when brought down to the lowland farms and confined in feeding pens, they soon adapt themselves to their new environment.
Edinboro to me is a place of delights. Princess Street is so picturesque with its park-like cañon on one side, its fine and often interesting buildings on the other side, and the grim old castle looming high on its rock. In Edinboro live the McGregors, and that is distinction enough for one town. I first met Robert McGregor, who is a great artist and a member of the Royal Academy, years ago out at Wedderlie, where he was painting a picture of shepherd life. I was then studying Scottish sheep-farming, and photographing the sheep. Thus we each wearied of our work and rested, walking together in the evenings. Robert McGregor was a genial companion, and together we took long walks over the hills of Wedderlie, exploring old ruined towers where once border-guarding soldiers lay and watched. There was a young daughter, Sally, who, if I must confess it, painted the heads of some of the figures that her father used in the larger work. Later I called at their home at Portobello, near to the sea, a few miles from Edinboro. There was a snug little stone cottage, a wee lawn in front, a big and unkempt garden at the back, and in the house a mother very full of motherliness. Also there were other daughters. Meaning to make a call of a few minutes only, I spent some exceedingly happy hours there, sitting beside the cheery grate fire, watching the kettle boil and later taking tea with the family. That was years ago.
Four years passed; again I found myself in Edin boro, and when evening came and my work was done, I hied me to the top of the little electric tram cars that go out to Portobello. I almost feared to do it. "All will be changed," said my dismal fore-boding. "They will be moved to another part ; some will be dead; it will not be as it was." Timidly I rung the bell, that evening in 1907. A rosy maid answered it and to my queries she made reply; "Yes, the McGregors live here; the ladies are at home; will you not step in?" In a few moments I was face to face with the dear little mother and then with Sally. We went to a little studio, all her own, built out in the garden, where I saw the beautiful heads that she was modeling in clay—sketches that she had made here and there in the world and the portraits of children. That night I sat by the cheerful fireside, and at the table shared a meal, and we grew very close together—the old artist with the head of a philosopher, the lovely daughters, the very good and comforting mother, and myself. Afterward I saw them again, and always they were unalloyed gold. Now was I come once more to Edinboro; again had four years passed over our heads; again timidly I knocked at the well-known door in Portobello.
It seems like a dream as I write it, but if I dreamed true nothing was changed; there still burned the fire upon the hearth; there sat the saintly mother in her accustomed place; there smiled cheery Robert McGregor and there still remained about the board three daughters. Their work went on as it always did; the father paints his fine pictures of still life, putting, it seems to me, more soul into his work than ever, and Sally has her garden studio, and her work is more interesting than ever. Happiness is a sort of vibration, scientists say; well, there was something about this household that awoke deeper, holier vibrations than one feels often in this world. I left the gate of the McGregors feeling as though I was leaving a sacred temple, as though I had been absolved and lifted to higher planes of life and thought.
I have mentioned the McGregor garden ; while it was unkempt it nevertheless was a garden of delights. It had the strangest mixture of gooseberries, dwarf apple-trees, lilacs, raspberries, currants, potatoes and pansies, with a wee lawn-like spot in the midst of it, where Sally sometimes would set the table for breakfast. I used to long to get to work on that garden, it sorely needed it; but perhaps after I had pruned and digged and trained it would have lost half its charm. I did manage to dig up a place and plant lettuce, radishes and other hardy salad stuffs at the time of my last visit; they wonderingly came up a little before Thanks-giving time and that is all that I know of their ultimate attainment. Before I reached Edinboro I received a charming letter from the McGregors, in which was enclosed a pen sketch of Sally break-fasting in the garden. This seems altogether too good to be wasted, and while naturally the qualities of a girl like Sally can not be presented in a few pen strokes, yet the sketch is good.