New Statistical Account (1840) Avoch Parish

Avoch and Killen Community Collage
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 for Avoch

The following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Avoch from the second or new Statistical Account of Avoch (dated Feb. 1840).

PARISH OF AVOCH PRESBYTERY OF CHANONRY, SYNOD OF ROSS 

THE REV. JAMES GIBSON, MINISTER.

I - TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY

Name, Boundaries - AVOCH (a name which in the opinion of an ingenious etymologist, signifies "shallow waters") is bounded on the east by the parish of Rosemarkie; on the south-east, south, and south-west, by the Moray Firth, and that branch of it called Munlochy Bay; on the west, by the united parishes of Kilmuir Wester and Suddie; on the north-west, by the parish of Urquhart; and on the north, by the united, parishes of Cullicudden and Kirkmichael.

Extent - The greatest length of the parish of Avoch, in a straight line from the coast of the Moray Firth to the Folds of Auchterflow, is 41/4 miles, its greatest breadth along its northern boundary, 3 miles. But this measurement, from the irregularity of its figure and boundary, would give an area much beyond the true one, which is only about 10-1/2 square miles. This extent may be strictly said to form a portion of the southern side of one great hill, called the Milbuy, Maol Buidh, (yellow headland) which, although only about 500 feet high, extends from the Muir of Ord to the town of Cromarty, and divides the two great arms of the Moray Firth which wash, the one the shores of Dingwall, and the other one, of Beauly.

Topographical Appearances - Although, however, this range presents in appearance a regular acclivity from the sea to its summit, there are several ridges of sandstone and conglomerate over the lower half of the parish, running parallel to the main range, which occasion an agreeable diversity of hill and dale.
The extent of the coast along the Moray Firth, from the Craigland Burn to the Bay of Munlochy, is exactly three miles; and the shore of Munlochy Bay, with which the parish bounds almost the whole way, on one side measures one mile and three-quarters more. Along the coast, from the east boundary to the village of Avoch, there is a steep romantic ridge of conglomerate, covered with wood, and the richest and choicest collection of native plants. And at the entrance to Munlochy Bay, there is a large mass of similar material, which, according to tradition, was once covered with stately oak timber, but which now, whatever has been the cause of the great change, presents no trace of such a forest, and indeed over two-thirds of the mass seems to be completely denuded of the soil, and presents in its curiously formed circular peaks and basins of bare rock, a very apt miniature resemblance to a volcanic range. At these two places there are detached portions of rock but otherwise, the whole shore is sandy and gravelly, with here and there an occasional small boulder. The upper portion of Munlochy Bay is formed of a deep blue clay, which, if reclaimed, and it might be reclaimed at no great expense, would form a valuable addition to the agricultural portion of the district.

Climate - The air is generally dry and healthy. There are 44 of the inhabitants of this parish above seventy years of age. There are no distempers peculiar to this parish, but it may be here mentioned, that in 1833, considerable havoc was made in the village by cholera.

Hydrography - The waters of the Moray Firth, and also of Munlochy Bay, which bound the southern, and part of the western sides of the parish, are dark-coloured, but perfectly salt at all times of the tide. The tide recedes one-fourth of a mile opposite the village of Avoch, where the breadth of the Firth is about three miles. As the tides come through the Pentland Firth, they are always raised by a westerly, and depressed by an easterly wind. The highest stream tides rise from sixteen to eighteen feet, the highest neap tides from eight to ten feet. The whole of the parish, with the exception of the south side of the second ridge, called Tourie Lum, is well supplied with excellent water from perennial springs. There are two on the north side of the village of peculiarly excellent quality, Hainuck and Charles's. But the one of great celebrity is Craiguck, on the estate of Bennetsfield, which is annually resorted to by numbers of invalids - at any rate by numbers who fancy themselves to be invalids - early on the first Sabbath morning of May, old style, from various parts of the country. Previous to partaking of it, the propitiatory oblation has sometimes been rigidly observed, namely, of spilling a portion of the water upon the ground three times, and of affixing an offering of a rag, which is suspended upon a bramble bush that overhangs it which, from the traditionary antiquity of the custom, might appear to refer to something before the introduction of Christianity; at the same time, there seems a shade of compromise, as they do not forget to cross themselves. The amount of benefit, fancied or real, derived from the pellucid water of Craiguck, it is impossible to ascertain. But of this there can be no doubt, that in favourable weather, a morning sail or walk to that most picturesque spot, must prove essentially conducive to the health of many an invalid, whether the disease be real or imaginary. The Burn of Avoch, which rises principally in this parish, and proves so essentially serviceable to four mills, one wool-carding mill, and three cornmills. After winding beautifully through the estates of Rosehaugh and Avoch, discharges its waters into the firth at Henrietta Bridge, close to the village. Near to the source is a beautiful pool, called Littlemilstick, celebrated as the pool in which, in times past, Baptists were immersed. The last immersion was that of a young woman, from the parish of Rosemarkie, nearly twenty years ago. The only piece of fresh water is Scadden's Loch, which covers fourteen imperial acres.

Geology - The great peninsula of Ardmeanach, or the Black Isle, contained between the Moray and Cromarty Firths, consists mainly of a succession of sandstone ridges falling from the high sandstone hills, which are abutted in huge conglomerated masses on the primitive slates of Ord, Fairburn, and Coul, in the parishes of Urray and Contin. None of these ridges seem to be prolongations of the magnificent cliffs of Brahan, which, however, with the neighbouring masses to the south and west of them, undoubtedly belong to the old red sandstone formation.

To the east and north of the village of Avoch, a high granitic ridge has been upheaved from below the sandstone strata, disturbing and throwing their beds irregularly in every possible direction, but which has not to a great extent, or in many places, except along the coast, overtopped them. We shall afterwards describe the granitic rock, with its associate beds, directing our attention, in the first place, to the sandstone ridges, as to which it may be remarked, that an examination of them collectively, as extending over the whole district of the Black Isle, will prove more satisfactory (and save repetition) than if they were noticed in detail in the Statistical Account of each parish.

Commencing, then, with the coast line at Avoch, and proceeding westward and across the district to the shores of the Cromarty Firth, the sandstone ridges are disposed in the following order, having extensive plains between them, more or less open, sometimes inclined, and sometimes flat or undulating.

1st Ridge. Ormondy Hill, or the Lady's Hill of Avoch, and Castleton Hill, continued on the south side of Munlochy Bay, by the hills of Craigiehow, Pitlundy, and the Ord of Kessock, where the ridge is interrupted by the sea, but is prolonged on the opposite shore by Craigphadrick and Dunain Hill, to the sides of the primitive mountains on Loch Ness.

The rocks throughout the course of this ridge are simply either hard red sandstone, or coarse granitic conglomerate, composed of fragments more or less rounded, of primitive rocks, either immediately cohering together, or united by a gritty cement, with no alternating argillaceous or calcareous beds. The formation, therefore, may be decidedly pronounced as that of the old red sandstone.

2nd Ridge. Hill from which the stones for the garrison of Fort George were quarried, on the Bennetsfield estate, prolonged from the southern shore of Munlochy Bay, by the ridge of Drumderfit and Knockbain, to Lettoch, Coul, and Redcastle, on Loch Beauly.

This ridge most probably is of the same formation as the first or exterior one, its superior beds, however, passing into, and forming part of the next, or

3rd Ridge. Proceeding at first in a direction rather transverse to the former two, by Avoch House and Rosehaugh, this ridge afterwards assumes a course more parallel to them, as it proceeds past Suddy, Allanbank, Allangrange, and Arperpheilly, to the heights behind Redcastle, where it sinks rapidly, and on the estate of Tarradale is covered by the gravelly accumulations of Muir of Ord.

4th Ridge. The great central range of the ancient commonty called Milbuy which overlooks all the other ridges, its elevation being 500 feet above the sea, and whose sides, sloping up to it as the great back-bone of the district, are shortest and steepest toward the north, but broader and more gentle in their southern inclination. Behind Belmaduthy House, this ridge attains its greatest altitude, but it thence proceeds with no interruptions or breaks in its outline, and generally of a pretty equal height, both towards Cromarty on the east and by Tore, Kilcoy Castle, and Ryefield on the west, to the valley which is watered by the rivers Orrin and Conon, which separate it from the sloping fields and rocky frontlets of Brahan. On the north, the Milbuy range subsides by several parallel but lower sandstone ridges, into the Dingwall or Cromarty Firth, and on the south it is separated from the third ridge above described, by the moss of Auchterflow, the cultivated grounds below Belmaduthy, and the flat or boggy land which separates the property of Tore from that of Redcastle.

The structure of the third and fourth ridges may now be considered together, and although between them and the first and second ridges above-mentioned, we have discovered no beds of the true mountain limestone of the coal measures, nor yet of the bituminous shales of Ferrindonald and Strathpeffer* which seem to represent them, yet we have little hesitation in assigning the geological place of these two ridges to the new red or variegated sandstone formation. Mr Miller's recent fossil discoveries at Cromarty may, however, perhaps determine these ridges to be the upper beds of the old red sandstone deposit. Their strata are softer and finer in texture than those of the old red sandstone ridges. They have much fewer imbedded masses of conglomerate; they are more argillaceous, and abound in steatite and chlorite or green earth. No organic remains have as yet been seen in these strata, but in very many places they present the striped or variegated aspect whence the formation has acquired its name; some of the quarries, as on the estate of Rosehaugh and Suddy, exhibiting layers of alternate yellow, brown, and red colours, disposed in parallel streaks or ribbons. Several of the superior beds are also entirely yellow, or of a dusky white colour, whence it is suspected that they might perhaps be the outgoings in this direction of some of the colitic deposits, which at one time seem to have been extensively spread around the shores of the adjoining firth. The unusual fertility and deepness of soil, however, on these ridges prevent the rocks from being frequently seen, and the prolific nature of the materials into which they are decomposed, hence affords a farther indication of their belonging to the new red sandstone series, which abounds more largely with unctuous and clayish substances than such as occur in the older sandstone deposit.

As already stated, the sandstone ridges now enumerated have been affected at their eastern termination by a great granitic eruption or ridge which first appears in the cliffs of the Craigwood between Avoch and Fortrose, behind which it is covered with sand and gravel-banks, but the granite reappears on the north side of the burn of Rosemarkie, and thence composes several of the hills and cliffs along the coast, till, at the Sutors of Cromarty, it is found completely disencumbered of the secondary deposits. The rock, especially at its western boundary, consists chiefly of a hard, small granular and flesh-coloured granite, through which are interspersed in minute grains and coatings, crystals of black iron ore and lead glance. Numerous and large masses of gneiss also occur intermixed with beds of hornblende, actynolite slate and quartz rock, among which garnets are extensively disseminated, while the whole are everywhere charged with granite veins. The intrusion of such granitic invasion among the sandstone strata could not fail to have greatly affected them, and accordingly, on the estates of Avoch and Rosehaugh, the ridge of which seems to have been over a centre of volcanic action, we find the soft new red sandstone upheaved into short perpendicular hardened masses, the alteration and dislocation of the previously horizontal strata being seen to extend from the base to the very summit and crest of the ridge. On the opposite sides of the hill, the strata are seen thrown off in opposite directions, and even in the plains of Suddy the layers of the red sandstone are so irregularly disposed, and so often broken and disturbed, that it would be as useless as tedious to attempt to lay down with any degree of precision, the bearings or dip of the rocks. This confusion is worthy of notice, only as demonstrative of the greatness and extent of the granitic influence. That rock itself, with its various beds, falls to be more minutely described in the reports of the parishes of Rosemarkie and Cromarty. It is proper to add, however, that the great elevation of the Milbuy sandstones has been most probably occasioned by the same subterranean action, although we have not as yet seen the granitic rock cropping out on the surface, and in this view, it is likely that the basin of the Cromarty Frith was formed on the upheaving of the sandstone ridges along its sides, and that, before the invasion of the sea from between the Sutors, it consisted of a series of inland lakes or hollows.

* These beds usually intervene between the old and new red sandstone formations.

Gravel - The whole of the parish of Avoch is, like the neighbouring districts, strewn over with great beds of sand and gravel, transported from a distance, as well as resulting from the decomposed materials of its own rocks. In the eastern part of the parish, towards Raddery, the gravel beds increase in extent and thickness, and on descending the course of the burn of Rosemarkie, which is situated nearly along the junction of the sandstone and granitic masses, we find that hollow to have been a very ancient one, for it appears to have been partially filled with a vast accumulation of fine sand and communicated gravel, enclosing boulderstones of various sizes, disposed in layers, not horizontal, but inclined towards the centre of the valley. Streams from the adjoining hills have since greatly cut up these gravel beds, which, from their great depth, present most fantastic forms, many of the banks being cut into large cones, both acute and truncated, while others present sharp ridges, leading up to battlemented impending masses, perched like old castles over the deep and winding moats which encompass their bases. Some of these gravel beds are, at least, 250 feet high, and exhibit bare sections most instructive to the geologist.

Zoology - In the burn of Avoch, the common trout and eel are to be found, and in the Firth, opposite to Avoch, oysters, cuddies, flounders, and occasionally small herrings, are caught. When the small herrings appear, cod generally abounds. Halibut is also to be found in the Firth. There are two salmon-fisheries, one on the estate of Avoch, the other on the estate of Rosehaugh. In Munlochy Bay, mussels are to be found in great profusion. This bay is much frequented during winter by swans, the great northern diver, and an immense variety of ducks.

Botany - Few parishes in Scotland contain such a rich and extensive flora as that of Avoch. But it will be sufficient to give the following list of those not common in many districts in Scotland.

Linnean Name - English Name - When in flower:

Adoxa mosehatellina - Tuberous mosehatel - April, May
Allium ursinum - Broad-leaved garlic -  June
Astragalus glycyphyllus -  Sweet milk vetch - July
Avena pratensis - Narrow-leaved oat-grass - July
Carex capillaris - Rare dwarf capillary carex - June, July
Carex binervis - Green-ribbed carex - June
Circea alpina - Alpine enchanter nightshade - July, August
Drosera Auglica -  Great sundew - July, August
Echium vulgare - Common viper's bugloss - June, July
Equisetum variegatum - Rough horsetail - July, August
Equisetum hyemale - Rough horsetail - July, August
Eriophorum pubescens - Down-stalked cotton-grass - April, June
Eupatorium cannabinum - Common hemp agrimony - July, August
Fedia olitoria - Salad or lamb's lettuce - April - June
Galium boreale - Cross-leaved bed-straw - June, July
Geranium sanguineum - Bloody cranesbill - June, July
Helianthemum vulgare - Common rock-rose - July, August
Hyoseyamus niger - Henbane - July
Juncus Baltieus - Rare Baltic rush - July
Knautia arvensis - Field knautia - July
Listera ovata - Common bird's nest 
Pinguicula alpina - Rare Alpine butterwort - May, June
Sinapis alba - White mustard - July
Trollius Europaeus - Mountain globe-flower - June, July
Viburnum opulus - Common guelder rose or water-elder - June, July
Vicia sylvatica - Wood vetch - July, August

The exposure of the Craigwood, like that of all the cliffs along the coast down to the Sutors of Cromarty, and the clayish qualities of its decomposing granites, render it extremely prolific in native herbaceous plants. In no part of the Highlands are more luxuriant festoons to be seen of Vicia sylvatica, or larger and more showy specimens of Geranium sylvaticum, and G. sanguineum, and Saxifraga granulata. The roses which make such a show in the same neighbourhood, and which caused the celebrated courtier, Sir George Mackenzie, to style his property "Rosehaugh" are of the species Rosa canina and R. spinosissima.

In the above list there will be found several rare plants, and one, Pinguicula alpina, recently discovered here in great abundance, and not yet found in any other part of Britain. As this discovery excited at the time and since, considerable interest in the botanical circles, and as the particulars of it are variously detailed in several publications, it may be interesting to give the following account which the writer has received from Campbell Smith, Esq., land-surveyor.

In June 1831, while Mr Smith was engaged in the survey of Sir James W. Mackenzie of Scatwell's estate of Rosehaugh, he invited his friend, the Rev. G. Gordon of Birnie, to visit him, and make a botanical examination of the neighhourhood. Upon Mr Gordon's arrival, Mr Smith presented him with a number of plants which he had collected for his examination (he himself having only commenced the study of the science), with one of these, viz. the new Pinguicula. Mr Gordon was delighted, and next day proceeded to the ground to gather fresh specimens of what he had hastily, and without examination, denominated P.lusitanica, which he had never seen either in a live or dried state, but which he knew was to be found on the west coast of Ross-shire. He traced it in great abundance from the bog of Auchterflow to Boggiewell, Raddery, a distance of more than two miles, and although he, no doubt, looked upon it with the eye of an experienced botanist, which he is, and observed the difference in the form of the spur, the specific character of the genus, yet, never questioning his first impression, and far less dreaming of being in possession of a plant which had as yet no place in the British Flora, and being content with finding a new and extraordinary station for P.lusitanica, which has never been found on the east coast of the kingdom, and rarely if ever in the interior, he sent specimens of it as such to several botanical friends, and among others to Mr H. C. Watson, the author of the Geographical Distribution of British Plants, to whom the credit of examining and determining it to be a species new to Britain, must be awarded.

Mr Watson communicated his opinion along with the specimen to Dr Graham, who also recognized the plant as P.alpina, and was the first to communicate to Mr Gordon the discovery which he had been the means of making to the British Flora. Dr Graham afterwards described the plant, and got it figured in the Botanical Magazine, from live specimens furnished by Mr Gordon.

This new plant, P.alpina, is confined to the Rosehaugh estate, the property of Sir James Weymss Mackenzie of Scatwell, Bart. Lord Lieutenant of the county of Ross, and it is a curious circumstance, that since its discovery, P.Iusitanica, which it was at first confounded with, has been found by Mr Smith in great abundance, on a Highland estate, Kinlochluichart, in the very centre of Ross-shire, belonging to the same proprietor.

II. - CIVIL HISTORY
 
Eminent Characters - The celebrated Scots historian, priest and Lord of Session, Chambers of Ormond, was born in this parish about the year 1530. He was proprietor of Castleton and Ormond Hill, which gave title to Douglas, Earl of Ormond. Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh resided in this parish, and had very extensive possessions in it and its vicinity. These are now principally the property of the families of Scatwell, and Avoch, and Bennetsfield.

The Chief Land Owners - There are three land-owners: first, Sir James W. Mackenzie of Scatwell, Baronet, Lord Lieutenant of the county. His seat of Rosehaugh House stands on a beautiful bank about a mile and a-half from the sea, an elegant modern edifice, substantial and commodious. It is surrounded by rich fields in high cultivation, well fenced, and skirted with woods of different kinds. He served for some time as Paymaster of the 55th Regiment, in the West Indies. Subsequently, he represented the county of Ross in Parliament for three successive Parliaments, a period of nine years, without opposition. He married Henrietta Wharton Mackenzie, sister of the late General John Mackenzie of Suddie, who met a 'death of glory' on the field of Talavera. An elegant monument is erected in St Paul's, commemorative of his bravery as a soldier, and his high accomplishments as a gentleman.

The second land-owner is Alexander Mackenzie, Esq of Avoch. He is at present qualifying for the English Bar. He is the son of the late spirited and enterprising Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who, among many other important discoveries in North America, discovered the river which bears his name. The House of Avoch, whose beautiful site was admired by every passer by, was burned in the year 1838, while it was rented by General Sir Donald Macleod, HEICS.

The third land-owner is John Matheson, Esq of Bennetsfield. He holds the rank of captain, in the 78th Regiment. He long served his King and country in foreign parts. He is the chief of the ancient clan Matheson. He is now resident on his own estate in this parish on a beautifully romantic spot near Munlochy Bay.

Parochial Register - There is a parochial register regularly kept. The earliest entry in the oldest register of this parish, which was by no means regularly kept, is dated 1727.

Antiquities - Almost the only antiquities in this parish are the site of the ancient Castle of Avoch, and the ruins of an old tower, called Arkendeith. The former occupied a detached rocky knoll, about 200 feet above the level of the sea, which juts out from the eastern corner of the hill of Castletoun, which forms the northern promontory of the Bay of Munlochy, and at the distance of about a quarter of a mile west from the modern village of Avoch. This knoll is now called "Ormond" or the "Lady Hill" and its steep sides and smooth summit are bedecked with a green velvety coat of grass, enriched by the lime and rubbish of the ancient buildings, and which marks it out to the eye in the midst of the adjoining heathy grounds. The eastern and more accessible slope is traversed by three breastworks of earth, with ditches behind them, and the summit, which is naturally divided into two irregular areas, extending together to about half an acre of ground, was covered with buildings formed of stones, cemented by shell-lime, exceedingly hard, from which encircling walls proceeded round the whole upper crest of the rock, and down a slight opening or ravine on the south side, along which the principal approach was formed, and which, from the accumulation of rubbish at the top and bottom, seems to have been guarded by a barbican and outertower, with, in all likelihood, a regular portcullis and gate-way.

But few historical reminiscences exist of this castle. Mr Fraser Tytler, in his History of Scotland, Vol ii. page 65, mentions that Sir Andrew Moray, "a Lord", as described by an ancient chronicler, "of great bounty, of sober and chaste life, wise and upright in council, liberal and generous, devout and charitable, stout hardy, and of great courage", sinking under the weight of age, "and worn out by the constant fatigues of war", retired to his castle at Avoch, in Ross, where he soon after died. Winton states that he was buried at Rosemarkie, about the year 1338. Subsequently the castle passed into the hands of the Earls of Ross; and on the forfeiture of the earldom in 1455, we find among the castles then annexed to the patrimony of the Crown, mention made of the House of Innerness and Urquhard on Loch Ness, and of "Annache (Avoch) Edderdail, callyt Ardmanache". And this annexation in the time of James II was repeated and confirmed by the whole Parliament on the 1st July 1476, in favour of James III, who afterwards, on the 29th January 1487, created his second son Duke of Ross, Marquis of Ormond, and Earl of Edirdal, otherwise called Ardmanache; from which period the lordship of Ardmanache, or the Black Isle, was generally considered as part of the patrimony of the King's second son. (See the Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, Thomson's folio edition, Vol.ii.pp.42, 113, and 181.)

In the annexation in 1455, Redcastle, with the lordship of Ross pertaining thereto, is also particularly mentioned.

Thus the origin of the term Ormond's Mount, as applied to the site in question, admits of easy explanation, that of "the Lady Hill" probably results from local tradition having confounded this site with that of some religious edifice. Like the Cathedral of Fortrose, and many other buildings along the margin of the Moray Firth, the Castle of Avoch was most likely razed to the ground by the soldiers of Oliver Cromwell, and the stones of it transported to form part of his great citadel or fort at Innerness.

Of the fortalice or tower of Arkindeith but the lower or dungeon story remains. It is situated close by the farm-house of that name, on the hill side, a little way above the offices of Avoch. It evidently belonged to a castellated mansion of no great antiquity, erected, perhaps, by some of the clergy, who are known to have held independent possessions in this parish, exclusive of the glebe lands; or by some of the Bruces of Kinloss, a family who are specially mentioned in the printed retours for the seventeenth century, (1611-18) as having held the lands of "Muireal-house and Arkindeuch".

* In the departments of Geology and Antiquities, Mr Gibson begs to acknowledge his great obligations to George Anderson Esq., Solicitor, Inverness.

III. - POPULATION

The amount of the population of this parish in 1831 was 1956 - males, 906; females, 1050. The amount of population this year, (1839) is 1936. The decrease has been occasioned by the removal of several families where farms have been enlarged for the sake of improvement.

The no. of the population in Avoch, Henrietta town, Geddeston Kirkton, is 936
In the landward part of the town 1000.   Total 1936.
The yearly average of births for the last seven years, is 50
Of deaths 20
Of marriages 14
The average number of persons under 15 years of age  684
From 15 to 30 - 476
30 to 50 - 463
50 to 70 - 269
above 70 - 44
Total 1936
Families employed in agriculture 83
in trade 80
in fishing 80
All other families not comprised in the three preceding classes 180
Total families 423
Married men 265
Widowers   25
Bachelors  27
Married women 268
Widows 74
Spinsters  40
Belonging to the Established Church 1036
Episcopalians 18
Independents, the precise number is not ascertained. 
Baptists 6
Communicants 93
Natives of the parish 1390
Scotch 533
English 9
Irish 1
Foreigners 3

The number of illegitimate births in the parish during the last three years is 2.

The only proprietors of land of the yearly value of L.50 and upwards are the three heritors. The number of families is 423. The number of inhabited houses is 323, and apartments, 96. There are 9 insane persons, 2 blind, 5 deaf and dumb in this parish.

Language -The English language is spoken by all the families, with the exception of one or two who have recently emigrated from Highland parishes. The game peculiar to the fishermen of this parish is throwing a ball, weighing about four pounds, to test their strength and dexterity. It is only practised during the new-year holidays, 0.S. The competition is often kept up with great keenness, and uniformly with good humour. Not unfrequently the ardour of the competitors carries them miles along the turnpike-road before the palm for strength and dexterity is yielded.

Habits and Character of the People - The ordinary food of the peasantry at their meals is oatmeal porridge, and potatoes and fish. They are certainly destitute of many comforts; yet they seem, upon the whole, contented with their situation and circumstances. The general character of the people is decidedly moral and religious; yet it is remarkable how few in these regions are communicants.

Superstitions - When a fisherman's marriage takes place, there is a superstitious practice, which never fails to be observed, even in these enlightened days, with the view, it is said, of setting at defiance the power of witchcraft, and it is this: when the bridegroom's party arrives at the church door, the best man unties the shoe upon the left foot of the bridegroom, and forms a cross with a nail or a knife upon the right side post of the door. The shoe of course remains untied till next morning. While many admit the absurdity of this relic of superstition, no one has had the hardihood yet to move for its abolition.

The fishermen here generally marry at an early age, and seldom select a bride above nineteen years. The marriage is solemnized in the church, on a Friday, but never before 12 o'clock. On one occasion there were three marriages to be solemnized on one day. The friends of the parties, as is usual, waited upon me previously to engage my services. I assured them I should be at their command; and requested them to fix upon a convenient hour for the three parties to be married at once. The friends of the parties looked grave, shook their heads, said nothing. I was entirely at a loss to divine what was meant by this sudden gravity of countenance, the shaking of the head, and the profound silence, and begged them to assign me their reason for this mysterious conduct. After some delay, and hesitation, and reluctance upon their part, I was given to understand, that if the three parties were to be married at once serious consequences might ensue, for there would be a struggle made by each party to get first out of the church, believing, as they did, that the party that should get out first would carry the blessing. To prevent such serious consequences as might ensue, under such circumstances, and these consequences might, perchance, prove far more serious than the mere tearing of gowns and caps and coats (and these their best of course), I offered to marry the parties in succession. But next came the question of precedence a delicate and difficult point, at all times to settle, at least to settle to every one's satisfaction, a point which they all acknowledged they were unable to settle and that is not to be wondered at, for they knew that each party wished to be married first. How then were we to get out of this second difficulty, became the question. After a cool and deliberate, and I can assure the parties, an impartial view of the subject, I thought fit to propose that the party first contracted should be married first. The proposition was at once agreed to unanimously. The friends of the parties to be married went home perfectly satisfied with the arrangement. The three parties were married on the same day in succession. But let it be remembered that special care was taken that no party should meet any of the other parties either going to or returning from the church. Why? Because it would be unlucky.

IV. - INDUSTRY

There are in the parish - shoemakers - 26; masons - 9; boat carpenters - 4; wrights - 11; tailors- 14; sailors - 5; innkeepers - 5; blacksmiths-5; cartwright - l; weavers - 6 ; wheelwrights-2; wool-carder - 1; pensioners - 5; diker - 1; gardeners - 3; saddler - l; butcher - 1; merchants-5; accoucheur-l; sail-maker-1; baker-l; sawyers - 4; corn-dealer - 1; millers - 2; gamekeeper - l; fiddler - 1; piper - 1.

Fisheries - At one time there was only one fishing-boat in Avoch, the crew of which resided in the country, now there are nine, manned by 10 men each, regularly employed in haddock and whiting fishing along the Sutherland and Caithness coasts. After supplying their own families, and the families around Avoch, they take the surplus to the Inverness market, a distance of about five miles. About the middle of July, Avoch sends forth no less than thirty-five boats for the herring-fishing at Caithness (two went last year to Aberdeen), for the space of six or eight weeks. Some years have crowned our fishermen's perilous labours with great success and prosperity, some of them have returned to their homes with L.20, others with L.30, others with L.40, and others with L.50 of clear gain. While other years again such is the uncertainty attendant upon all human undertakings few if any of our fishermen are able to cover the necessary expenses. During this season the fishermen and their families have been exposed to no inconsiderable hardships, for in consequence of the incessant tempests, by which so many valuable lives and property on different coasts of the empire have been lost, the fishermen were prevented from going to the haddock and whiting-fishing for the space of twelve weeks, and, were it not for the flounders which are caught nearly opposite to the village, many families would have been destitute indeed. It is perhaps, not unworthy of notice, that the first fishing after the tempests abated is reported to have been not only the most seasonable, but the most successful for the last forty years.

Agriculture - Part of this parish has not recently been surveyed, consequently the exact extent cannot be given, but the following will be near the truth: Rosehaugh contains 4929 acres, 26 poles imperial, of which 2056 acres, 3 roods is arable; 1344 acres, 20 poles improveable; 1340 acres, 3 roods, 24 poles planted or to be planted; and 187 acres, 1 rood, 21 poles waste. Avoch contains 933 acres, and Bennetsfield 336 acres. Total 6198 acres, 26 poles.

Rent - The average rent of arable land in this parish may be estimated at L.1. 3s. per imperial acre.

Improvements - This parish has improved immensely in its agricultural aspect since the former report of it was published. Then the horses and cattle were described as being small, and the implements of husbandry scanty and imperfect. Now the horses and cows are in general of a very good stamp and breed, and by the art and skill of our handicraftsmen, the implements of husbandry are abundant and effective. When the last report was drawn up, there was no wheat raised in this parish, but now it is raised on the three estates; and not many years ago a field of wheat on the estate of Rosehaugh yielded thirteen returns, and last year a field of wheat on the estate of Avoch might have vied in luxuriance and quality with any field in the Lothians. A regular rotation of cropping, on the most approved of four-shifts system, is almost universally observed. Liming is very generally practised, and in most cases with eminent success. It is not out of place to mention here that turnips are now extensively cultivated; and on several farms they are sown with bone manure, and eaten off by sheep, the effects of which have heen at once profitable to the farmers, and advantageous to the soil.

On the estate of Rosehaugh, which comprises more than two thirds of the parish, the leases recently expired, in consequence of which little improvement, comparatively speaking, was effected for some years previously. But the proprietor has got a new survey and divisions of the lands, by which the possession in "rung" which was very common, has been abolished, and the extent of the farms regulated and economized to suit one, two, or more pairs of horse labourings within distinct and convenient boundaries. And when granting new leases of nineteen years endurance, over the whole lands, the reclaiming and rendering thoroughly arable all the improvable waste ground was conditioned for, and the tenantry, now secure of their holdings, are going on with spirit and activity. And when the belts and clumps of planting which the proprietor has reserved, and is now enclosing, are completed, the district will assume a different and much more highly improved appearance.

V. - PAROCHIAL ECONOMY

Market Town -The nearest market-town to Avoch is the royal burgh of Fortrose, about a mile and three-quarters distant.

Means of Communication - There is a turnpike road through the southern district of the parish, which leads to Fort George Ferry on the east, to Kessock Ferry on the south-west, and to the royal burgh of Dingwall on the north-west. The toll lets at L.67 yer annum. In the year 1829, when such appalling devastations were committed by the floods in the north of Scotland, the bridge of Avoch was entirely swept away. The burn having for some days assumed the appearance and the power of a mighty river. A new bridge was speedily erected with a higher arch. It and all the other bridges and parapets are kept in good condition.

Ecclesiastical State - The parish church is very conveniently situated on the southern side of the parish, close to the village, in which nearly one-half of the whole population reside. There are none of the parishioners residing at a much greater distance from it than three miles. It was built in the year 1670, new roofed and enlarged in the year 1792, and the ceiling was lathed and plastered in the year 1833. It is at present upon the whole in a pretty comfortable state of repair, and affords accommodation for more than 600; some of the seats are the property of private individuals. The remainder in general belong to farms on the estates of the heritors, for which no payment is exacted. The manse was built in 1822, the extent of the glebe in detached parts amounting to 5 acres, 3 roods, 16 poles, 2 yards imperial, and may be valued at L.2 per acre. The stipend amounts to 93 quarters, 1 boll, 2 firlots, 3 quarts of barley, and to 159 cwt 108 lbs. of oatmeal, payable at the rate of the fair prices. The average for the last seven years is L.260. The annual allowance for communion elements is L.8, 6s. 8d. There is one Dissenting place of worship in the village, erected in the year 1819. It is an Independent chapel in communion with the Congregational Union of Scotland.

The minister is paid by the seat rents and weekly collections at the chapel door. The number of families and persons of all ages attending the Established Church and the Dissenting chapel is always very considerable. The average number of communicants in the Established Church is 93. The number of Dissenting or Seceding families is 46.

Education -There are two schools in this parish, the parochial school and one supported solely by school fees. The branches of education taught in the parochial school are, English reading, grammar, Latin, Greek, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, and navigation. In the voluntary school, English reading, writing, and arithmetic are taught. The parochial schoolmaster's salary is L.30, and the school-fees, which, from the poverty of the people, are ill paid, may amount to something between L.20 and L.30. He has the legal accommodations. The general expense of education may be estimated at 6d. or 8d. per month.

Friendly Society - There is one Friendly Society in this parish, established in the year 1830, the objects of which are, by means of assessment and quarterly subscriptions, to form a fund for defraying the funeral expenses of members and of their wives, and to insure a certain allowance to supply the wants of invalid members and widows.

Poor and Parochial Funds - The number upon the poor's roll at present is 100. Two distributions are made from the funds in the course of the year, in January and in July. The average sum allotted to each at these periods is 3s. But intermediate allowances are always made, when required, to meet as far as possible all pressing exigencies. The annual amount of church collections for the relief of the poor averages L.20 Sterling. The stock at present is L.160. In the year 1728, Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Scatwell, Bart., mortified 900 merks Scots (which sum now yields L.2. 10s. per annum), the annual interest of 600 of which was to be distributed among the poor of the parish, and the interest of the remaining 300 was to be given to a catechist, in terms of the deed of mortification.* It may not be out of place - indeed it is but an act of justice to the charitable to record here - that several handsome sums have been contributed to said poor's stock at different periods, from different sources. A legacy of L.30 was bequeathed by the late incumbent, the Rev. James Smith, in 1830. A donation of L.50 was made on the 20th June 1835 by Sir James W Mackenzie of Scatwell, Bart, on which day his son arrived at majority; and in November 1838, a handsome donation was made by James J R Mackenzie, Esq. younger of Scatwel1, on his marriage with the Right Honourable Lady Anne Wentworth Fitzwilliam. In addition to all this, the principal heritor, Sir James Mackenzie of Scatwell, Bart, makes a present to the poor of the parish of six bolls of meal, on the 20th June the birth-day of his son, and the same quantity in February to the poor on Rosehaugh estate. On the 14th February 1839, a considerable quantity of coals was distributed among the poor by Alexander Mackenzie, Esq of Avoch, on his arriving at majority.

*As no catechist is required in this parish, this sum is given to the parochial teacher, to aid in remunerating him for his unwearied exertions in teaching a Sabbath evening school where, to keep up a spirit of emulation, a prize is awarded every six weeks.

Inns.--There are six inns in the village, yet such is the temperate and peaceable deportment of the people, that rarely, indeed, are irregularities or excesses heard of. The proprietors, with a real regard for the morals of their tenantry, do not grant license even for a single inn or alehouse in the landward part of the parish.

Fuel - This parish is amply supplied with coals from Newcastle, which at present are selling at 10d. per cwt. They are delivered at the pier of Avoch, which is a most substantial and commodious erection, and is not only of essential benefit to the fishermen, but to the district at large, as it facilitates the exportation of grain and wood, and the importation of coal, salt, lime, and bone dust. The district is indebted for this incalculable advantage to the patriotic exertions of the late Sir Alexander Mackenzie of Avoch. From the poverty of the inhabitants, however, the fuel principally used in the landward district of the parish is turf, and in the village brushwood, which is carried in bundles by the fishermen's wives and daughters almost daily from plantations in the neighbourhood.

February 1840.

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