Raeburn Portrait (Exhibition Guide)
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty

The Second Statistical Account (1834 - 1845)

The New (or Second) Statistical Account of Scotland built on the previous work carried out by Sir John Sinclair for the First Statistical Accounts by including the knowledge of local doctors and schoolmasters. The Second Statistical Accounts were published between 1834 and 1845.

The Second Statistical Account of Alness

The following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Alness from the second or New Statistical Account of Alness.


* Drawn up by James Flyter, A.M., Alness.


Name - Alness appears to be the only name which has, at any period, been given to this parish. It is compounded of two Gaelic words, auld signifying a burn or small river, and neas, a point.

Extent, Boundaries, &c. - The extreme length of this parish from north to south, though from the mountainous and uncultivated character of a great part of it has not been exactly ascertained, may be stated at 20 miles. The breadth from east to west varies very considerably at different points, and may be considered as giving an average of 5 miles throughout the entire length. The parish of Alness is bounded on the north by imaginary lines dividing it from that of Kincardine; and on the south by the shores of the Cromarty Frith. On the east, it is divided from the parish off Rosskeen by the river of Alness; and on the west, from that of Kiltearn by the river Auldgrande.

Topographical Appearances - The general appearance of the parish is pleasing, as it is well wooded , and presents to the eye an agreeable variety of moor and cultivated land. The lands lying in the southern extremity, and on the shores of the Cromarty Frith, are in general flat, and, with very little exception, cultivated. Towards the north, however, the character of the country is entirely changed, and becomes mountainous and barren. The hills, though some of them are of considerable height, do not occur in any continuous chain or group, but, like the generality of those in this county, present a scattered and straggling appearance. There is nothing very remarkable in the structure or composition of any of them; but one, having an elevation of about 1OOO feet above the level of the sea, may be conjectured, both from its name (Fyrish) and from its proximity to the shores of the Frith, to have been employed at some remote period as a station for beacon lights.*

* faire is Gaelic word for beacon or watch.

Climate - The climate may be described as dry and salubrious. There are no diseases which can be said to be peculiar to, or even prevalent in, the parish; but, on the contrary, the inhabitants generally, and those of one of the highland districts in particular, are characterised by their health and longevity. It is evident also that the climate has undergone a considerable change for the better since the year 1793, when the former Statistical Account was written, for, since that period, the important operation of drainage, together with other improvements in agriculture which have been introduced, and the immense extent of moorland which has been planted, must have greatly modified the general state of the atmosphere.

Hydrography - The only body of salt water connected with the district is the Cromarty Frith, which forms the southern boundary of this parish. The entire length of the Frith does not exceed twenty miles, and at that part which is contiguous to Alness its average breadth may be stated at two miles. So great, however, is the quantity of fresh water continually flowing in to it from the rivers and occasional mountain torrents that the character of the water as regards its saltness is greatly modified. The water is generally considered to decrease in strength proportion to its distance inland, and at this point it may be regarded as having lost one-half of its saltness, and is therefore, by experiment, only sixty-fourth part denser than common fresh water. The parish is well supplied with fresh water, in all the forms in which is found collected. Many springs are to be met with it the different districts, all of them supplying excellent water, and generally of a low temperature. There are none, however, in which the water has any peculiar mineral character, except one or two bearing a small quantity of lime in solution. In the northern districts there are two fresh-water lochs, each of them about three miles in length, with an average breadth of one mile. Neither of them is destitute of the ordinary beauties of highland scenery; but the more remarkable is the easterly one, which is called Muire or Mary, taking its name from a Roman Catholic place of worship, built in a romantic glen at one extremity of the loch, and the ruin of which still exist. This collection of water is of no great extent; yet, from its position, and the immense height of the rocky precipices which rise on either side, it affords an excellent specimen of what may be termed the sublime in mountain scenery. Another feature in its character, and one which is worthy of notice, is its great depth, which might be inferred as well from the immense height of the rocks on either side, as from the fact that even in the most severe and protracted frosts, its water has never been known to freeze farther than a few yards from the side. There is no river which can properly be said to belong to this parish, for though both the Alness and Auldgrande take their rise within its bounds, they rather bound than intersect it. The former originates in Loch Muire, which has been already noticed, and after flowing for about fifteen miles in a winding direction, falls into the Cromarty Frith. Though larger, it is not, however, so interesting or so worthy of remark as the Auldgrande, which, from the singular character of part of its channel, forms one of the most striking natural curiosities in the north. Issuing from a small but beautifully situated loch at the foot of Ben Wyvis, it flows for severa1 miles, gradually increasing in size, in consequence of the number of torrents, which pour themselves into it from the neighbouring hills. When within three miles of the sea, its banks on either side suddenly heighten and contract, and the waters becoming invisible, from the depth of the gulf, and the quantity of under-wood growing on its sides, their presence is discovered only by the hollow roaring within, resembling at times the noise of continued thunder. The whole length of the chasm is about a mile and a-half, but, so near do the sides approach each other, that boys have been known to cross on branches of trees, growing from the sides and stretching across the centre. There is no convenient way of crossing the chasm, except at one part where a wooden bridge has been thrown across. But even here, from the great depth and narrowness of the opening, an observer, though obtaining a view directly downwards, can scarcely discern the water, as it boils and hisses below. A stone of ordinary density, dropped from the bridge, strikes the surface of the water in three seconds, giving a depth of about 140 feet, which may be regarded as the average depth of the chasm unoccupied by water. The depth beneath the water is not so easily ascertained, and most probably varies considerably at different points in the length. On examining the course of the Auldgrande, two very interesting subjects of inquiry are naturally suggested: 1st, What are the causes which have operated in the production of a phenomenon so unusual? and 2d, What are those traditions, which, though now fast dying away, the superstitions character of the Highlanders cannot have failed to connect with a place of such a description? These questions, however, will more properly find a place under the respective heads of Geology and Antiquities.

Geology and Mineralogy - In the researches of the geologist, the parish of Alness presents a field of inquiry neither very interesting nor instructive. The best geological section that can perhaps be obtained of the district, is that given by the course of the Alness, and from an examination of the rocks denuded by this stream, together with those which appear occasionally on the sides of the hill, it may be inferred that the parish rests entirely on the old red sandstone formation, leaning to the north, of gneiss, and some of the other primitive rocks of the Wernerian nomenclature. The sandstone strata, as laid bare by the Alness river, exhibit great uniformity in texture, composition, and external appearance; but they have yielded no traces of organic remains, either animal or vegetable, to any observations as yet made upon them. In ascending the stream, the strata are found to dip to the south east by east, at an angle varying from 12° to 20° till the observer arrives at a certain point, about two miles from the Frith, when they change their direction, and dip at much the same angle to the opposite point of the compass. Immediately beneath the sandstone occurs a bed of conglomerate, which also belongs to the old red sandstone formation. It is chiefly composed of rounded pebbles of quartzite or quartz rock, and sometimes of pure quartz. These rounded masses vary in size, from a small fraction of an inch to a foot in diameter, and are held together by an arenaceous cement. Notice has been taken in a former part of this account of the extraordinary chasm through which the Auldgrande flows for some distance. It is not, strictly speaking, within the parish of Alness, but, as it forms part of the western boundary to the parish, it appears worthy of notice, especially as it is interesting in a geological point of view. The chasm, as has already been stated, is up-wards of 140 feet in depth, and about a mile and a quarter in length, occurring in a thick bed of conglomerate, apparently of the old red sandstone period. In order to account for its formation, one of two opinions must be adopted. The water must either by continual action have worn down the channel to the present depth, or the fissure must be referred entirely to a fault in the rock, the chasm occasioned by the fault having either remained unoccupied, or been filled up with loose material, which could offer no great resistance to running water. The former supposition is rendered more probable, if we suppose that when the water first began to flow, the rock was softer than it now is. Each of the pebbles which form the conglomerate would then, when once set in motion, lend its aid by abrasion deepening the channel. The conclusion that such a process gave rise to the chasm, is therefore probable at first sight; but on a closer examination, it is not found consistent with observation on many streams which flow over exactly the same species of rock. On the contrary, where a stream flows over this species of conglomerate, which is very frequently the case in this district, the water seldom or never finds its way further than a few feet into the rock. From the circumstance that the rock in which the fissure has been made is a conglomerate, and not a regularly stratified mass, we are deprived of the additional conformation to the supposition of a fault, which might be derived from stria and other appearances usually observed on the sides of shifted strata. But the single fact of its great depth, taken in connection with what is observed in similar streams sufficiently warrants us to conclude that the chasm has not been owing to any abrasive process in the course of the stream, but must be referred to a pre-existing fault.

Ores - About five miles from the Frith, and on the property of Finlay Munro of Lealdie an iron-ore has been discovered, which, from all appearances, may be of considerable extent. Previous to the writing of the former Statistical Account a specimen was sent to the Carron Company at their own desire, which was found to yield 75lbs iron per cwt. The rock in which the vein occurs is a gneiss and it is worthy of remark, as confirmatory an observation already made in geology, that the metallic vein is injected into the primary rock, at a point not many yards distant from its junction with the aqueous or sedimentary strata.

Boulders - The only remaining feature which is in the least degree striking in the geology of this parish, is the frequent occurrence throughout its surface of immense boulders or erratic blocks of stone. In the more cultivated parts, these obstructions to the plough have for the most part been removed, by blasting or otherwise; but in the moorland districts, and studding the sides of the hills, they are seen in great numbers, and of various shapes and sizes. These rounded masses belong entirely to the primary class of rocks, being composed either of granite or gneiss, and as they must have been transported from a great distance to occupy their present locality, it becomes a problem of considerable interest to discover where they occurred in situ.

Zoology -The animals to be found in this parish are all of the same species as those commonly to be met with throughout the country, and it is therefore unnecessary to notice them particularly. In the lower parts of the parish, hares, rabbits and partridges are to be met with in great abundance, and in the more hilly and uncultivated districts are found moorfowl or grouse, blackcock and roe. Foxes were very numerous some years ago, but they seem now to be totally extirpated. Of the rarer birds existing in this country, the eagle, pheasant, and ptarmigan are occasionally to be seen in this parish. The fish commonly taken in the Frith are of those kinds which live indifferently in fresh or salt water; the water in the Frith having, as has already been stated, not above one-half the strength of undiluted salt water. In the rivers and lochs, but principally in the latter, are to be found several species of black trout, which, in consequence perhaps of their not being regularly taken, frequently attain to an immense size. The salmon and salmon trout taken in the Frith and rivers are of a very superior quality, and would be very numerous, were it not for the poaching and fishing during close season, which for many years has prevailed to a great extent. It may here be remarked that the salmon-fishing along the shore of the Frith is uncommonly late, no fish being taken, in general, till the month of June. The salmon are supposed, by those having charge of the fishing, to go up the rivers to spawn during the month of September, and not to return again till the beginning of February.


There does not appear to have been any account of this parish drawn up, either printed or in manuscript, if we except the former Statistical Account, written by the Rev. Angus Bethune, one of its ministers. The session records are, perhaps, the only written source from which information can be expected as to the former state of Highland parishes, but even these, in the present case, are wanting, till within a comparatively recent period. The records are said to have been regularly kept in former times, but seem to have disappeared at or soon after the death of Mr Fraser, one of the ministers of this parish, who died in October 1769. The documents in question were most probably carried away among the papers of that individual. The minutes of session have since that period been regularly entered and preserved, but, not having even the claims of antiquity to recommend them to notice, they contain nothing interesting or important to the general reader. The traditional history of the parish appears to have been more considerable, if we may judge from the fragments which can still be gathered. It is now, however, fast dying away with the language originally spoken. One or two circumstances, it may be proper to state, which, though they posses no higher authority than that of oral tradition, are, nevertheless, founded in fact, and are therefore worthy of notice. It is said that, soon after the accession of William III, the parish was visited by famine of such severity, that in one district, extensive as well as populous, the number of the inhabitants was reduced to three. On that occasion, if the accounts of tradition can be believed, the people were under the necessity of forming common coffins, into which the dead, being thrown promiscuously, were committed to the earth, without even the ordinary solemnities of funeral. Connected with another period, equally interesting in the history of Scotland, some incidents occurred which are worthy of notice. The period to which we allude is that which succeeded the restoration of Charles, when an attempt was made to do away with the Presbyterian form of worship in Scotland, and to introduce Prelacy, in its room. The minister of Alness at this time was a Mr Mackilligen, who, from his conduct, appears to have been a man of no ordinary strength of mind. In the year 1602, Paterson was ordained Bishop of Ross, and all the clergy throughout the country being commanded by order of council to attend the diocesan meetings, Mackilligen, together with three others, were the only ministers in the diocese of Ross who possessed the inclination together with the strength of principle, to resist the innovations. These four individuals were, in consequence of their resistance, immediately ejected from their charges, but Mackilligen, possessing more boldness than the rest, remained in Alness discharging his duties, notwithstanding the threats of the Bishop and council, which had ordained that no nonconforming minister should take up his abode within twenty miles of his former church. "Mr Mackilligen, a faithful and active preacher of the forbidden doctrines," says Mr Miller, in his Scenes and Legends, seems to have given him (the Bishop) so much trouble, that he even threatened to excommunicate him; but the minister, regarding his threat in the proper light, replied to it by comparing him to Balaam, the wicked prophet, who went forth to curse Israel, and to Shimie, the son of Gear, who cursed David. The joke spread, for such was it regarded, and Paterson, who had only the sanctity of his office to oppose to the personal sanctity of opponent, deemed it prudent to urge the threat no farther. He had the mortification of being laughed at for having urged it so far. There is a little hollow among the hills, about three miles from the house of Fowlis, and not much further from Alness, in the gorge of which the eye commands a wide prospect of the lower lands, and the whole Frith of Cromarty. It lies, too, on the extreme edge of a cultivated part of the country, for behind there stretches only a brown uninhabited desert, and in this hollow the neighbouring Presbyterians used to meet for the purpose of religious worship. On some occasions, they were even bold enough to assemble in the villages. In the summer of 1675, Mr Mackilligen, assisted by his brethren of Tain and Cromarty, and the Laird of Brea, celebrated communion in Obsdale, in the house of the lady-dowager of Fowlis. "A party had been dispatched at the instance of the Bishop," continues the same author, "to take Mackilligen prisoner, but, misinformed regarding the place where the meeting was held, they proceeded to his house at Alness, and spent so much time in pillaging his garden, that, before they reached Obsdale, he had got out of their way, but he fell into the hands of his enemy, the bishop, the following year, and during his imprisonment in the Bass, for such was he sentenced, he contracted a disease of which he died.

Eminent Characters - In a parish, where, till within a comparatively recent period, the prevailing, and indeed almost the only language in use was the Gaelic, few instances can be expected of individuals rising to literary eminence. Among that class of the people, however, which an acquaintance with the English language enabled to keep pace with the march of modern improvement, such instances have not been wanting. Few names, we believe, connected with this part of the country are more deserving of notice than that of Mr James Fraser, one of the ministers of Alness. This eminent individual was born in the year 1700, and was the son of the Rev. John Fraser, also a minister of the parish, and well known on account of the sufferings which be endured for his steady adherence to the principles and constitution of the Church of Scotland, during the persecution of 1679 or 1680. The Rev James Fraser, in whose history we are more immediately interested, was very young when his father died, and could not, therefore, be immediately appointed to the parish, but on the death of Mr Daniel Mackilligen, who was the immediate successor of his father, he was inducted, being then twenty-six years of age. He appears to have been a man as much distinguished for the talents necessary to eminence as a public character, as for the virtues which rendered him so much esteemed as a private Christian. For his literary eminence, he was, however, chiefly indebted to his great strength of judgement, and acuteness in Biblical criticism. This talent he displayed in critica1 work on sanctification and in a sketch of his life, prefixed to the work, we find him spoken of in the following terms. As it will serve in some degree to point out the nature of the work, we may quote the words. "His distinguished abilities as a sacred critic appear in the following treatise, from the strong and masterly manner in which he has examined some of the most eminent Socinian and Arminian commentators. The judicious reader will easily see that the author's understanding was quick, clear, and penetrating, his judgement solid, and his learning very extensive. His public ministrations were highly edifying, and contained rich entertainment for the learned as well as the unlearned."

The next individual who appears particularly discerning of notice is the biographical history of this parish, is General Sir Hector Munro, K.B. He was one of the principal proprietors when the former Statistical Account was written, and rendered himself famous by his exploits in India during the war which was carried on there towards close of the eighteenth century. From an anecdote which is still current in the family of the Munros, it appears that he owed his first commission in the King's service, and probably the whole of his after success and military glory, to a circumstance in itself trivial. A lady of considerable risk, happening to travel alone in a thinly peopled part of the country, was left in a helpless and unprotected state, in her carriage, from her postilion getting intoxicated. Sir Hector, then quite a youth, finding her in this condition, took the place of the drunken coachman, and rendered her considerable service. For his activity and gallantry on this occasion, the lady was so grateful, that she did not relax her exertions, till, by her influence, she had procured him a commission in the army. Without entering minutely into the particulars of his life, some idea may be given of his eminence as an officer, by quoting shortly from an interesting account of the military operations of which he was engaged, written by an officer in the same service. The first occasion on which Sir Hector Munro signalised himself in India was immediately after the hostile intentions of France had become manifest, when the British Parliament and the East India Company boldly determined to strike the first blow in the east. Government had at this time resolved, as the Mahratta war had already employed so many of the Company's troops, to send out a squadron with fresh supplies, and 1000 Highlanders, composing the seventy third regiment, to assist in the reduction of Pondicherry, and for other services in India. "It happened, however," says the officer to whom we are indebted for information on the subject, "that intelligence of this resolution had no sooner been transmitted overland to India, than the presidency of Madrass found means to collect force enough themselves. For that purpose, before the seventy-third could arrive, with which Major General Sir Hector Munro quickly laid siege to Pondicherry, and, notwithstanding every effort of M. Bellecombe and his officers, the garrison was obliged to capitulate in less than six weeks afterwards; and, according to orders, the ramparts of that extensive and beautiful city were completely levelled with the ground." Passing over several actions on the Coromandel coast, in all of which Sir Hector Munro signalised himself more or less, but in which he acted either as second in command, or in conjunction with other of officers, we may notice the taking of Negapatnam, which was conducted and finally accomplished under his sole command. The garrison had been strongly reinforced by a large detachment of Hyder Ally's troops, and consisted, at the time it was besieged of 7000 Sepoys and upwards of 800 Europeans. Sir Hector Munro, having taken command of the army, sat down before the place on the 21st of October, and before the middle of next month, the garrison was obliged to capitulate. After describing minutely the taking of Negapatnam, the officer from whom we have already quoted gives the following testimony to his merit, alluding at the same time to his former services at Pondicherry. "Thus were two of the most formidable foreign garrisons upon the coast of Coromandel razed to the ground, under the conduct and command of Major-General Sir Hector Munro; and what to his honour as a man, will equal his reputation as a general, was his humane and magnanimous carriage towards those whom the fortune of war had placed within his power. The besieged and captive inhabitants of either place, instead of having cause to accuse him with the wanton commission of cruelties and injustice - an impeachment but too common in this licentious country - have echoed throughout the whole tract of Asia, the most grateful panegyrics upon his benevolence, humanity, generosity, and good faith."

Land-owners - the proprietors of the parish are: H. A. J. Munro of Novar; Major-General Munro of Teaninich; and Finlay Munro of Lealty. Of these, the first mentioned possesses in extent more than two-thirds of the parish, but a great part of the property being either moorland or plantation, is chiefly valuable as affording pasturage for sheep and for its game. In order to contrast the present state of the parish as regards the extent and division of property, with that which existed at a period considerably earlier, it may here be stated, that in the year 1726 there were twelve proprietors of land in the parish. These were Munro of Novar; M'kenzie of Assynt; Munro of Fyrish; M'Intosh of Contlich; M'Leod of Culcragie; Mackilligen of Balachragan; Munro of Lealty; Munro of Caul; Simson of the Quarter of Alness; Munro of Ceanuachdrach; and Fraser of Cromraon.

Antiquities - Under the head Antiquities, there is not much that is interesting connected with this parish. At a place called Multivie, two cairns were discovered some years ago, buried to a considerable depth in the earth. They appear to have been simply square enclosures, or boxes, constructed by placing together immense flat stones. On being opened, they were found to contain human bones which are said to have been of a very large size. These extraordinary repositories of the dead, however, cease to have any peculiar interest attached to them, as so many of a similar description have been discovered throughout the country. The custom of burying in this manner appears to have been an honour conferred in ancient times, on the chiefs of clans, or on individuals distinguished in some other way. In the hill ground, and almost on the march line which separates the properties of Teaninich and Ardross, there is a stone of remarkable; size, known by the name of "Clach airidh a Mhinistir". The tradition connected with this stone has shared the fate of many others, and nothing is now left us but the name. From the name, which signifies the minister's shealing, we may infer that there existed there a piece of land, which was employed as grazing or pasturage ground by one of the ministers of the parish. On a bleak and dreary spot, in the moor not far from Gildermorry, there is also a stone or rather two immense stones, piled one up on the other, in a very extraordinary manner, and having the appearance at first view of being the effect of art rather than of nature. Among the nearest inhabitants, it is known by the same of "Clach nam ban", which signifies the stone of the women. The tradition regarding this place must have originated at a remote period, and is now very imperfectly related. Several women, it appears, were proceeding during the depth of winter to the Roman Catholic Chapel at Gildermorry, and carrying with them bundles of hemp or flax. When near this place, they were overtaken by a snow storm, and, in order to escape the rigour of the blast, they took shelter under the pile. The storm, however, which was of very long continuance, and almost unexampled severity, was then only in its birth, and not for many weeks could any trace be discovered of the women of the stone. When the covering of snow had at length been partially removed, some of their friends coming to the spot, found their bodies lying at the foot of the pile, and beside them was erected a stick, which they bad probably found at the place, on which was suspended one of the bundles of hemp as a memorial of their fate. In a glen at one extremity of Loch Muire, which has already been noticed under the head Hydrography, there are still to be seen the ruins of a Roman Catholic place of worship, from which circumstance we may conclude, that the district of the parish which is at present inhabited only by a few individuals, was, at a former period at least thinly peopled. The chapel occupies a very romantic situation at the head of the loch, and is surrounded by a burying ground. It is only 40 feet long by 18 broad in the inside, but the walls are almost 4 feet in thickness, and so indurated has the lime which cements the stones become, that it is almost impossible to separate them. There is no date now distinguishable to show at what period it was built. Near the chapel, there is a spring called "Tobair na Maire", or Mary's Well, obviously taking its name from the circumstance of its being consecrated to the Virgin Mary. The water of the spring was thought by the people to have the peculiar virtue of healing disease either in man or beast, provided they visited the spot, and under this impression, pieces of coloured cloth were left as offerings to the numen of the place. The offering made to the officiating priest were probably more substantial and valuable donations.

Population - There are now no means of accurately ascertaining the state of the population in this parish at a very remote period. From all the information that can be gathered on the subject, it appears, that, for a long series of years, the population has been increasing, though by no means rapidly. Previous to the time at which the former Statistical Account was written, the number seems for many years to have been almost stationary, but since that period, and from the commencement of the Parliamentary census taken at different periods, there has been a regular increase. In the former Account, which was written, we believe, in the year 1793, the number of persons then inhabiting the parish is stated at 1121, of whom 800 are stated having been above seven years of age. The number now 1iving in the parish is 1440. The chief cause, apparently, of the low ratio of increase may be traced to a practice now becoming too common throughout the country, of converting districts of land which have been formerly tenanted by a number of small farmers or crofters into large farms. The tenantry thus ejected are obliged either to emigrate to some of the colonies, or to congregate in the villages at home.

Language - Till the end of the eighteenth century, the privileged, and, indeed, almost the only language in use, was the Gaelic. Since that period, however, the English has been advancing rapidly chiefly in consequence of the schools which have bee established in the different districts of the parish, and partly from the difficulty experienced by the Highlanders speaking the Gaelic alone, in transacting business in the more southern part of the country. Though there are still some of the older inhabitants who, in consequence of their not being able to read, and from their having spent the greater part of their lives in the use of the Gaelic language exclusively, have not become acquainted with the English, it may be stated generally, that there is now no individua1 in the parish, under twenty years of age, who does not understand the more modern language in a greater or less degree.

Character of the People - The people of this parish cannot be said to differ greatly from the rest of the population of the country. They are sober, and, upon the whole, industrious, attending strictly to the ordinances of religion. There is a difference, however, very strikingly marked, between the village population and that of the rural and more northern districts. The character of the latter is decidedly the more favourable one. They still possess many of the traits peculiar to the character of the ancient Highlanders, while among the former, there is scarcely a trace left to remind us of the race from which they sprung. As one striking characteristic of the poorer classes in these rural districts, it may be remarked that they have a decided reluctance to apply for charitable aid, either public or private.

Smuggling and Poaching - Some years ago, illicit distillation was carried on to a considerable extent, especially in the more remote Highland districts. It is now, however, totally abolished. The practice of salmon poaching during close season, by means of the spear and torch light, is also in a great measure discontinued.


Half a century has now nearly elapsed since the former Statistica1 Account was written, and in that space of time changes more or less must have taken place in all parts of the country. In this parish many important improvements have been effected. That a great change for the better has taken place in the method of cultivating the soil is sufficiently attested by the fact, that, within the period alluded to, it has more than doubled its value. This is to be attributed partly, perhaps, to an improvement in the implements of husbandry, but principally, we believe, to a better and more regular alternation of cropping, to the use of lime, before unknown, and to the more general introduction of drainage. A change no less marked has also been effected in the means communication throughout the parish; for where not many years ago, there existed only imperfect tracts, impassable in winter, from their forming the channel to some mountain torrent, and almost equally so in summer from the stones left by the winter stream, there are now to be found excellent roads, affording an easy passage to any species of conveyance. The general aspect of the parish has also been greatly improved by the cultivation of large tracts of land, and by the plantation of an immense quantity of wood, principally of the larch and Scotch fir species, which are already covering the sides of the hills, formerly bleak and rugged, with thick masses of evergreen.

Plantation - On the estate of Novar, since the property came into the hands of the present proprietor, four million and a half of trees have been planted. They are chiefly of the larch and Scotch fir species, but comprehend also a number of kinds of forest and ornamental wood.


There is no entire village in this parish. The village o£ Alness is divided nearly equally between this and the neighbouring parish of Rosskeen, by the river of the same name, which forms the eastern boundary of Alness. In that part of this village which belongs to Rosskeen, a market is held monthly, principally for the purpose of disposing of cattle.

Ecclesiastical State - The church is situated in the southern extremity of the parish, being only about a mile distant from the shores of the Frith. It thus apparently occupies a situation inconvenient for the people, the parish stretching to a great distance northward. The individuals who chose the present site were, however, justified in so far in placing it in the district in which it stands, as it is by far the most populous one in the parish. The present place of worship was built in the year 1780, but having been repaired at three different periods since then, it is still in pretty good condition, and is seated for about 800. All the people of the Parish belong to the Established Church, and are, with scarcely a single exception, regular in their attendance in public worship. The number of communicants belonging to the parish is about 60.

Education - There are, altogether, four schools within the bounds of this parish, which, for the educational wants of a population of more than 1400, may be considered a very ample provision. The principal school is the parochial one, which is built quite close to the church, and the teacher of which is qualified to instruct the scholars in the higher branches of education commonly taught throughout the country. The number of scholars attending varies considerably at different periods of the year. In summer, the average number is 40; in winter, it is upwards of 60. The schoolmaster's salary is the minimum, but, including school fees, and the provision made for the session clerkship, the yearly income may amount to L.50. Of the other three schools alluded to, two are endowed, one of them being supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and the other by the General Assembly's Education Committee. In both these the numbers vary with the different seasons of the year. The average number for the whole year may, however, be stated for the former at 35; in the latter, it amounts to 50. The fourth school is a female one; it is taught in the village, and is pretty well attended, but has no regular endowment,

State of the poor - The poor of this parish are better provided for than those of most of the neighbouring parishes. So much is this the case, that many instances have occurred of individuals who are obliged to live by the charity of others coming to reside this parish the necessary time in order to have their name added to the list of recipients. The number at present on the poor's roll is about 70. The fund for their parish support and relief varies principally from the weekly collections, which no amount yearly to the average sum of L.50, and partly from the interest of small sums of money left by various individuals which, were they all paid up, would amount to about L.400.

The circumstances of the poor have, moreover, been greatly ameliorated of late years, in consequence of the residence in the parish of Major-General Munro of Teaninich. The exertions of this gentleman on behalf of the poor and afflicted are indefatigable. Not confiding himself to mere pecuniary contribution, the amount of which, to men of wealth is in general a thing of very little consequence, he administers to their relief by daily personal visits, by supplying them with medicines, distributing among them meal and other provisions, and by providing them with fuel during the rigour of winter season. The tendency of this mode of bestowing charity is to excite in the minds of those benefited a sense of gratitude, which is unquestionably conferring a greater and more lasting benefit to the poorer classes, than the granting of pecuniary aid, to whatever amount, on the mere principle of legal assessment of taxation .

Fuel - Till of late, peats and wood were the articles of fuel almost exclusively in use, but since trading by means of vessels in the frith has become common, considerable quantities of coals, both English and Scotch, have been imported, and consumed in the lower parts of the parish. The population of the more highland districts, having peat mosses in their immediate neighbourhood, still continue to employ that species of fuel.
February 1840.

Return to home page
Terms & Conditions     © Ross and Cromarty Heritage