‘Loch Long, the Gareloch, the Holy Loch & the Clyde were all seen at the same moment & from them the mountains receded into a deep purple mist burnished at the summits with deep golden clouds from the Sun which had sunk never more to rise on that night.’
A year ago, when I first went back to my early transcription of Georgiana’s 1828 journal, which she wrote during a paddle-steamer journey around Scotland’s Western Isles, I added it to my ‘To Do’ list as a text I should make available in the public domain, because it’s such an important one. Then other projects got in the way, pushed their way up that list again and again, and time ran away with me. In the last month I’ve been reminded several times from my reading and enquiries from researchers that I should have got around to doing this much sooner. This little journal is a historical jewel, written in a diary format. Its very personal style strongly suggests Georgiana intended it for no other reader than herself and yet, at times, she seems to address an unknown, impersonal reader as if she was aware that, one day, there would be other audiences for the words she wrote in the summer of 1828, months when her young life was in turmoil. The emotional confusion she was living through gives her writing an edge that sharpens everything she tells us about that journey, brightens the colours she describes and deepens the shadows of her narrative, both literal and metaphorical.
‘… the beautiful shades which a bright July evening cast over those blue and varied mountains can only be imagined by those of a warm and ardent temperament whose mind is just recovering from many painful circumstances. This evening was particularly bright the fertile point of Roseneath formed a rich contrast to the grey parts of the mountains receding from it.’
I’ve written and spoken before, many times, about Georgiana’s connections with the Romantic movement and it didn’t come as a surprise when I discovered her family links with the Lake poets. I summarised those research findings in my biography of her life ‘The Mind That Shines‘ (2016) but since the book was published I’ve found a closer and even more intriguing web of relationships. Reading her 1828 journal again today, I feel sure that Georgiana was familiar with William Wordsworth’s poetry. If ever there was a testament to the influence of Romanticism on a young writer, the pages she first wrote hurriedly on board the Rothesay Castle and then copied out more neatly into the journal we can see today, are just that. She encountered some of the most dramatic, awe-inspiring scenery in Scotland at a time when her heart and mind were on fire and the result was a text that conveyed her experience of the Romantic ‘sublime’, in every way that she understood it at the time.
‘… the dark smoke emitted by some steam vessels plying from Gourock lighted on the dark greenwoods of Roseneath and was lost to the sight, the sky all the while, most beautifully blue and mingled with soft white clouds.’
Her words reveal so much even though she was only away for two days and one night. There are layers and layers to be explored along the lines and between the lines. Most of all, it’s a complete text available for researchers to view today and one from her early life, a year before she received John Molloy’s proposal of marriage. In fact, this journal includes the very first mention of his name that’s survived for us to read! I hope that by making my transcription publicly available for the first time, her early writing will be viewed and enjoyed by many more readers and, hopefully, will add momentum to future research. In the last year, my own research has made the full version very long and weighty so I’m posting the text without my annotations.
I’ve retained Georgiana’s original spelling and punctuation. She used the more archaic version of ‘Roseneath’ rather than ‘Rosneath’ which is more common today. Place names are sometimes written phonetically in part, as she had heard them without having seen them on the page. I’ve often wondered whether ‘Mr Hutcheson Dunlop’ (a son of her host at Keppoch, Alexander Dunlop) and the other ‘Mr Hutcheson’ she refers to are one and the same person. There was a young, unmarried Mr Hutcheson (David) who lived at Greenock and had connections with the paddle-steamers so perhaps his was the house on the quay that she and his namesake visited that morning. Your insights on this are welcome!
I took this photo while waiting for the ferry to Arran. For scale, note the human being on the right 🙂
TRANSCRIPTION OF AN ORIGINAL NOTEBOOK in the JS Battye Library, Perth WA
The handwriting is that of Georgiana Kennedy
Saturday July 5th 1828 Margaret Mr Hutcheson Dunlop and I left Keppoch House on a tour to Inverary via Loch Gryle [sic] etc on arriving at Helensburgh we essayed entering the Sovereign for Greenock but the wind was very high and the sea heavy we therefore awaited a calm after no small irrigation from ye advancing waves of the Clyde Another attempt found us seated on Deck but much tossed and rain coming on Our spirits suffered a temporary depression
Arrived at the Quay we drove to Mr. Hutchesons and Maggie read whilst I worked Miss Carus’ pelerine with no interruption excepting the friseur for me. The day about two began to clear, and Mr. John Dunlop was announced, on his exit Captain Darroch made his transit but for a second Margaret having descried [sic] his Palfrey indulging its excelent [sic] propensities without the Bridle, the Captain left us to arrest its progress and being successful returned.
General Darroch’s visit to Edinburgh precluded the probability of so dutiful a son’s leaving home, especially as he appears to be his father’s shadow, & here let me observe my admiration of my noble friend Duncan Darrochs attention to his fathers wishes, although a deprivation to our party I cannot but esteem him for it, he made his congé and we worked until Dinner at 5, after which we went to town and returned to the Glen where we took tea, came home again and gave loose to our premises whether we were to Include Captain Darroch or not in our party. I had never seen Dumbartonshire from the Greenock side before and the beautiful and shades which a bright July evening cast over those blue and varied mountains can only be imagined by those of a warm and ardent temperament whose mind is just recovering from many painful circumstances. This evening was particularly bright the fertile point of Roseneath formed a rich contrast to the grey parts of the mountains receding from it and called the Duke of Argyle’s Bowling green a misnomer as the summits of each form a sort of rude and uneven crater. The Clyde was unrippled and of a palish sapphire blue two or three skiffs lay mom moored off the Beach, and the dark smoke emitted by some steam vessels plying from Gourock lighted on the dark greenwoods of Roseneath and were was lost to the sight, the sky all the while, most beautifully blue and mingled with soft white clouds. Why did I feel an oppression or rather an indescribable alloy to this scene, as if my mind & desires were grasping at more than I was permitted to enjoy in the first place I recurred to past scenes at Rugby and the [sic] in the sound I know I shock and think too much of this sublunary world. My mind was also after meeting with Miss Anderson & Mr John Dunlop much depressed and, from an unbroken spirit of Pride and Independance. [sic]
This closes our first day’s occurrences.
Sunday July 6th.
We sallied forth to hear Mr Carter, the first time since being in Scotland I attended an english [sic] Church. The day was lowering, rain having fallen at night, We had an excellent sermon from the 148th Psalm 14 verse On our return the Darrochs drove into Town, but as yet we were uncertain of our friend’s intention. We saw him in great speed hastening up to Mr, Hunter’s. We went to Evening Service at 1/2 past 2 & heard a second discourse from Mr. Carter from the 17th of Jeremiah 17th verse
On coming out of Church the Darroch’s Phaeton was at the door and it would appear the driver of it had been in a state of delinquency, absence without leave, for he stared at Margaret made no sign of recognition and flew as if pursued by a Phantom This was avowed to be most strange nor could we at all account for such unheard of conduct Neither note nor message had been left when we went back. At 5 we dined After Dinner I retired and finished my favourite Evangelist St. John but my attention after a little was attracted by a fight between some poor idle boys which was finally ended by one of their noses bleeding violently. The scene was if possible more beautiful today than yesterday, perhaps being the Lord’s day, the peaceful rest which the waters and mountains wa presented was more according with my feelings which though a good deal excited in the morning by my organs of ideality and secretiveness were now less glowing, and with the sacred volume in my hand I could only be more convinced of the wonderful and transcendantly [sic] beautiful works of that gracious Being who alike created them and me, and of my own inferiority and ingratitude in the alienated state in which I feel myself to be. Still no answer from Captain Darroch. After tea at 7 Margaret being tired Mr. Hutcheson & I went up to the Shawes, which are large
Waterworks on Sir Michael S. Stewart’s property immediately above the west end of Greenock for the purpose of erecting Cotton Mills, (what Goths & sordid beings men are!) on that beautiful hill. I saw General Darroch’s property and from a desire, to be on it unknown to the proprietor persuaded Mr Hutcheson to accompany me. We passed several slips into which the water is conveyed from a reservoir 8 miles distant, being Sunday the water was not an inch in depth. The Engineer was Mr. John and the Works cost about £30000 They are worth seeing. I wish the ground that is to be destined for such a purpose belonged to me and I would save it from such profanation. I saw a most beautiful view of the Clyde both up and down and the beautiful shades of the summer evening increased it. Loch Long the Gareloch, the Holy Loch & the Clyde were all seen at the same moment & from them the mountains receded into a deep purple mist burnished at the summits with deep golden clouds from the Sun which had sunk never more to rise on that night. We came round by Fancy Farm an estate of General Darroch’s and where some of the Lunatics from Loch Lomond are confined. I gathered some flowers as souvenirs of the different places. We lost our road, but were shewn the right path by a Boy. I picked some beautiful orchises & heaths on a line with Gourock House and was much amused by a little urchin who smiled at seeing me laugh at Mr. Hutcheson’s distress in case I should be tired. After a nice walk & delightful scenery I arrived. Margaret gave us a note from Capt Darroch who could not come We went to Bed & the next day receiving notes from Grant and Miss Nielson we returned to Keppoch & deferred our tour until Thursday the 10th on which day we set off for Inverary and waited until 12 for Edward Grant who was to form one of the party, he arrived in a profound sleep & the difficulty of getting him out of the noddy caused Margaret & I considerable laughter. At 1/2 past one we went on Board the Rothesay Castle in going Grant met with some Brother Officers. the opening of Loch Long, the Holy Loch & the Frith of Clyde is very grand we took a passing view of Gourock House and thought to ourselves that one of its inmates might have formed a link to the chain. Dunoon looked very beautiful, the Cathedral is a fine Gothic Building the Castle can only be known from the mound & flag staff it belongs to the Duke of Argyle. The Sacrament was held there when we were passing We passed the spot were [sic] the Comet was wrecked & having visited Greenock Church Yard the previous night my thoughts for a moment were tinged with melancholy. What can the feelings of the unfortunate man be who was not only instrumental to that dreadful catastrophe but regardless of the dying shouts and groans of above 40 of his fellow creatures. In Gourock Church Yard there are two mounds 50 feet long caused by the Bodies of those poor wretches who were drowned on the [space] October 1825. I gathered some grass as tokens off their graves. To return to our voyage after we left Dunoon Ardgowan Sir Michael S. Stewart’s place appeared. Kelly, Wallace & the Ayrshire coast on the right Toward point & Castle, we saw Arran, Bute & presently Rothesay on a paralell [sic] line nearly with Largs in Ayrshire. All this time we were regaling ourselves with Bread & butter Beef & Porter on the Top of the Paddle Box much to the surprise of the other Passengers who very were without one exception most ordinary. Arrived at Rothsay [sic] about 2 having passed Toward Castle Kirkman Finlay’s Esqr. I thought to myself those walls in 24 contained my dear friend Mr Molloy & much wished he was with us. At Rothsay [sic] Capt Deans & Miss Lees came for a minute on Board. I saw the Castle an old Building where Robert the 3rd was confined. I do not admire the town much but the view from it is beautiful on the Left and I essayed a sketch of Loch Striven with which I was much pleased.
Called at Port Bannatyne Kaims [sic] Castle where are works of mica clay schistus Many minerals are found in this neighbourhood passed South Hall Campbell on the point between Loch Striven & Loch Ridden I am very fond of both these Lakes. I could not see much of the former but there is a mountain at its head & two on each side forming a half circle round their parent Hill and the shades of the Sun between 4 & 5 were very rich falling on the grey & barren sides. The Lake seems to shun the wide, and open space that the sea occupies, and has imparted some feeling apparently of this nature to its Sister Lake… Loch Ridden – I was delighted with this scenery so exceedingly wild and beautiful and only wished for as peaceful an habitation on its shores as suited to my kind, as the Herons (which I first saw there) had for their refuge. There are some black islands in it called Burnt Islands from there their burnt & withered appearance on the right is a little hut or Ferry called Culintraimh. Here the gentlemen dined & Maggie & I had some Lemonade. The Kyles or Straits of Bute are very imposing and the barren appearance suits me much On the islands are some vitrified forts and one to the right is called Red Island or Ellen greig. The Gentlemen now joined us and took their wine on deck. The Isles of Arran now broke upon us it is compared to a Giant lying on his Back, the appearance that night was beautiful. Arran was a beautiful Blue and lnchmarnock a deep purple. This lies to the Southwestern extremity of Bute
We now turned Aird [sic] Lamont Pt & encountered East Loch Tarbet Aird [sic]Lamont House to the Right belongs to Mgr General Lamont who has a beautiful wife. Loch Tarbet is very grand & very rocky Some islands to the right are called the Skate Islands & are nothing but solid Rock from the largest of them is a splendid view of Arran, Bute & Ailsa Crag [sic] which by the bye I discovered wh between Ellenna Graig [sic] & Aird-Lamont Point. my assertion was at first disputed & they all flocked around me as if I had been fabricating the situation of that impregnable Rock but my discovery was correct.
On approaching Tarbet we met above a hundred little fishing Boats going out for Loch Fine Herrings They had a pretty appearance & the poor fishermen looked quite happy & contented. I observed a post with a board set with this direction “Keep through this side of the Channel.” in english, [sic], and underneath what I imagined to be the same, in Gaelic The entrance to this harbour is dangerous but when once in, it is safely locked with impending rocks on each side At East Loch Tarbert is a castle in ruins of great antiquity belonging to Campbell Stonefield I like this place and in winter it must be very grand the hills crowned with snow & the sea dashing against the proud & haughty Rocks which threw back the waves today as if the wind had only passed over them. Leaving Tarbert we proceeded up to the left of Loch Fyne and passed Lismore belonging to Mr Campbell, a rugged and uncultivated ridge of hills lay on the left called Marldon the rugged region, and the extremity of Slamhgaoil [sic] or the Hill of Love, where Diarmid the progenitor of the Campbells was slain by a Boar. The hills now soften down to Inverniel [sic] House Campbell in the distance. At this time Rain began to fall and we were much amused with a Highland Bagpiper whose frequent importations of Whisky had heightened his naturally ludicrous character. We touched at Ardrissaig [sic] the mouth of the Crinal [sic] Canal in Loch Gilp a branch of Loch Fyne. after passing the Pt of SilverCraigs it was so wet I retired to the cabin in which I found a most ordinary party. Near Inverary I went on Deck & observed the sea quite luminous.
At 1/2 past 12 we arrived quite worn out at Inveraray after a most delightful sail in which every one – surpassed the other in kindness affability and heartfelt cordiality. When we got to the Inn no beds could be procured we were obliged to sleep on the floor & I on a sofa. I caught a glimpse of Dun a quaich [sic] enough to give scope to my imaginings at during the night. I was the first up & salied [sic] to the Breakfast Room where I found Mr. Hutcheson. The view from the window was beautiful the River Aray in front on the left the Grounds belonging to the Castle terminated by the beautiful Hill of Dunaquaich [sic]covered with wood in some parts, in others masses of Grey Rock it is 700 ft in height and a Tower on the summit on the Right lay the woods & point of Strachur and further up the Road to St. Catherine. After breakfast we visited the Castle belonging to the Duke of Argyle a large square castellated Building 4 towers at the corner. The ground immediately surrounding the house is laid out in the most woful [sic] taste in evergreens, the Duchess’ taste or idea rather absence of taste We entered the Hall a large one hung with arms on one side is a white hare caught on the grounds & preserved the floors or pavement is grey soft stone from some quarries in Arran. Nothing worthy of remark is shewn in the Dining-room. The Breakfast room contains many family portraits the most beautiful the present Lady Augusta Clavering’s & Lady C Bury when young holding a dog. The Tapestry in the Drawing room is very fine Gobaldin [sic] 30 years old & cost £8,000 the ground is white and a beautiful bower of flowers fruit surround pannels [sic] of various foreign scenes in the richest colours one couch with a chair affixed to it is very elegant the wooden part is gilt & the back of the chair is worked a vase of flowers many a sweet and civil thing has been lavished on the temporary occupant of that seat. The chimney piece of white marble is well executed & corresponds. from this room we went to the Library (but I forgot to mention a beautiful Scotch marble table in ye Drawing room of a rich red & spotted black the marble was found on the Duke’s property in the Isle of Tiree) where over the chimney piece is a full length of Lady Charlotte Bury (Campbell) as Ceres with a mantle & sandalled feet, her figure is commanding & en bon point her face forming a foil to it the Library is of no extent. the Duke’s contains a bust of some Anonymous person whom the present Duchess saw in Rome & she had his model cast I saw nothing striking about it. The Duchesse’s [sic] Boudoir or Tower as it is called contains a great many engravings & Landscapes in chalk I think some Italian views beautifully done she brought them from Italy & a beautiful landscape fancy scene in Claude’s style by a Mr Williams a British artist from this we saw there were some paintings of goddesses & graces but the gentlemen being present prevented me gratefying [sic] my great curiosity to see them. In the Hall are two statues from Rome one of Perseus & Andromeda the other – [space]
The gardens are a considerable way from the House On my way over the bridge I saw the largest Blue Bells I ever had seen such in my [sic] they be called the Blue Bells of Scotland I of course picked some The garden is in very bad condition eleven acres of ground is laid out in it & only 7 men for it & all the grounds which is nothing The small green house filled with sickly Balsams, a beautiful view from it. There is a very fine tree like a cedar alea.
I pulled some flowers to dry from it we then returned to the Inn Had bread & goats milk cheese not very good, we got into a cart & proceeded to Loch Dou [sic]. Grant was dreadfully shaken & made me laugh until my head ached. Loch Dou is a pretty small Lake about 3 miles distant from lnverary on the Oban road the scenery very pretty & varied & we saw numbers of beautiful fish leaping near this Lake are some offices belonging to the Castle. from this having discharged the cart Grant & I, Mr Hutcheson & Margaret ascended Duniquach [sic] & having gone out of the footpath made a road for ourselves through Bracken or fern which covered me over the head. This was about 5 oclock [sic] & had it not been for a Lemon I provided myself with I think I should have sunk from excessive fatigue for the way was perpendicular & the holes we got into incredible. but the scenery who can describe. I have it in my mind & there it will always rest but I cannot attempt to give it life.
I acknowledge the work of previous transcribers and thank them for their insights into this interesting, important document. Margaret Wilson’s transcription was revised in 1995 by Patrick Richardson-Bunbury in collaboration with Graham Hopner, Local Studies Librarian, Dumbarton District Libraries. I was fortunate to meet Graham Hopner in Dumbarton and to discuss this text with him then and in the following years. His knowledge of local history, both places and people, was significant at that stage in my own research.
SLWA ACC 4730A /17, ACC 4730A /18