She was conscious of being poverty-stricken and backward, a mere northern appanage which England had once seen fit to conciliate, and, the Union accomplished, could now neglect.A friendly visitor like Pennant might find something to patronize and praise, but the common traveller’s tale was only of a bleak land, vile weather, bad inns, bad roads, dirty farms and shabby stone towns.This was the Carron Ironworks, now eleven years old, and a canal was being made from Grangemouth-on-Forth to carry their products to the world.There, within sight of the Highland Line, a quarter of a century after a Jacobite army had campaigned on that very ground, the coal and iron of the Scottish midlands were being used in a promising industry.In truth she had given England small cause to love her.The seventeenth century, with its invasion of England by a Scots army, the bartering of their king by that army for arrears of pay, and the attempt to impose the Presbyterian discipline upon all Britain, had left an ugly memory.
They cultivated a thing called rhetoric, which was supposed to be a canonical use of language freed from local vulgarities, and in the shabby old college Mr Hugh Blair lectured on that dismal science with much acceptance.
And the spectator, according as he was a lover of old things or an amateur of novelties, would have sighed or approved.
The little city, strung from the Castle to Holyroodhouse along her rib of hill, where more history had been made than in any place of like size save Athens, Rome and Jerusalem—which, according to the weather and the observer’s standpoint, looked like a flag flung against the sky or a ship riding by the shore—was enlarging her bounds and entering upon a new career.
It was the clearing-house of the Highlands, as Stagshawbank on the Tyne was the clearing-house of Scotland.
The drover from Glen Affric, herding his kyloes among the autumn bracken, could see from his bivouac a cloud of dark smoke on the banks of the Carron river, and hear by day and night the clang of hammers.