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Scotland Hospitality

I saw a stranger yestreen;
I put the food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place;
And, in the sacred name of the Triune,
He blessed myself and my house,
My cattle and my dear ones.
And the lark said in her song,
Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise;
Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.
Old Gaelic Rune recovered by Kenneth Macleod.

It was a very humble dwelling, built of turf upon a foundation of stones, and roofed with turf and straw. One little window of a foot and a half square looked out on the universe. At one end stood a stack of peat, half as big as the cottage itself. All around it were huge rocks, some of them peaks whose masses went down to the very central fires, others only fragments that had
rolled from above. Here and there a thin crop was
growing in patches amongst them. A few of the commonest flowers grew about the door, but there was no garden. The doorstep was live rock, and a huge projecting rock behind formed the back and a portion of one of the end walls. . Facing the broad south, and leaning against the hill, as against the bosom of God, the cottage looked so high-humble, so still, so confident, that it drew Gibbie with the spell of heart-likeness. He knocked at the old, weather-beaten, shrunk and rent, but well patched door. A voice, alive with the soft vibrations of thought and feeling, answered, “Come on in, whoever you be.”
George MacDonald.

Among the ancient Scots it was deemed infamous in a man to have the door of his house shut, lest, as the bards express it, ‘the stranger should come and behold his contracted soul’.

The free and open hospitality survived much later in Scotland, and particularly in the Highlands, than in the
supposedly more highly civilized countries of Europe.

Robert Burns, who made a tour of the Highlands in 1787, leaves an enduring tribute to the virtue of hospitality in the race to which he was bound by blood and sentiment:

When death’s dark stream I’ll ferry over
A time that surely shall come
In heaven itself I’ll ask no more
Than just a Highland welcome.

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