New Statistical Account (1836) Parish of Cromarty

Cromarty 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.
 
PARISH OF CROMARTY.
PRESBYTERY OF CHANONRY, SYNOD OF ROSS.
THE REV. ALEXANDER STEWART, MINISTER. *

* Drawn up by Mr Hugh Miller, Author of “Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland.” 
 
I.—TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY.
 
  Situation, Boundaries, &c.—The parish of Cromarty lies in the extreme eastern angle of the old shire of that name,—abutting, on the south and west, on the parishes of Rosemarkie and Resolis ; and on the north and east, on the Cromarty and Moray Friths. It is of an irregularly oblong figure, averaging from 5 to 7 miles in length, and from 2 to 3 in breadth. On the east, it presents to the waves of the Moray Frith an abrupt and lofty wall of precipices ; and attains in this direction to its highest elevation, of about 470 feet above the level of the sea, at a distance of little more than 500 yards from the shore. On the north and west it sweeps gently towards the Frith of Cromarty ; but sinks abruptly over the beach into a steep continuous bank, which, from the shells occasionally dug up at its base, seems at some early period to have formed the coast line. There now intervenes, however, in most places, a lower terrace between it and the shore. Viewed from the north, the parish presents a bold high outline,—rising towards the east, where it marks the junction of the Cromarty and Moray Friths, like a huge leviathan out of the sea, and descending towards the west into a long rectilinear ridge, of the character so peculiar to sandstone districts. An irregularly edged stripe of fir wood covers, for about six miles, the upper line ; a broad arable belt mottled with cottages and farm-steadings occupies the declivity ; while the terrace below,—near the eastern extremity of which the town is situated, and which, like the upper belt, is mostly arable,— advances in some places on the sea in the form of low promontories, and is scooped out in others to nearly the base of the escarpment. 
 
  Name.—The parish is said to owe its name (Cromba, i. e. crooked bay) to the windings and indentations of its shores. It is surrounded by a highly picturesque country ; and is rich in prospects which combine the softer beauties of the lowlands with the bolder graces peculiar to an alpine district. 
 
  Climate.—In climate, the parish differs considerably from most of the adjacent country. The entrance of the Frith is guarded by two lofty headlands about a mile apart ; and during the warmer months, there sets in at noon a cool sea-breeze, which sometimes hardly ruffles the water for more than half a mile beyond the opening, and rarely extends for more than five miles within. It seems occasioned by the rarefaction of the warmer air in the interior, and the compression of the denser current,—rushing in to restore the equilibrium,—in the narrow entrance of the Frith. The average heat of summer is, in consequence, lower than in most of the neighbouring parishes. I have observed that the acorn rarely attains the ordinary size, and almost never ripens. But the winters are moderate ; it is no uncommon occurrence to find our gooseberry bushes in full blossom at Christmas ; and in no part of Scotland do trees flourish nearer the sea. The parish is rarely visited in the summer months by fever,—an effect, it is probable, of the cool ventilating breeze ; and though the keen damp air is found to bear heavy on persons affected by pulmonary complaints or rheumatism, the inhabitants in general are a robust healthy race, and many of them attain to extreme old age. There is at present residing in the town, a woman who was employed in tending a flock of sheep on the day of Culloden, and who still retains a vivid recollection of her terror on hearing the cannon ; and there died in it in one season, about seventeen years ago, three old men, the first of whom had completed his ninetieth, the second his hundredth, and the third his hundredth and first year.
 
  Bays, Springs, Cascades.—The bay of Cromarty was deemed one of the finest in the world, at a time when the world was very imperfectly known, and modern discovery seems to have done nothing to lower its character. Almost all the black-letter historians dwell upon it in their quaint and impressive language, as the very paragon of harbours. Stow in his Chronicles characterizes it as “an exceeding quiet and saue hauen.” Boece eulogizes it in his preliminary book as the hail (health) of seamen ; and it has been described by Buchanan in elegant and graphic Latin, (showing us that the poet was not wholly sunk in the historian,) as “formed by the waters of the German Ocean, opening a way through the stupendous cliffs of the most lofty precipices, and expanding within into a spacious basin, affording certain refuge against every tempest.” As described by the historian, the entrance is narrow; the headlands lofty and precipitous, and so exposed to the sea, that it is not uncommon during gales from the north-east to see waves breaking upon them to the height of fully 100 feet ; but so completely sheltered is the basin within, that froth most points of view it presents the appearance of a lake. In breadth it varies from 2 to rather more than 5 miles; its length is about 18; the depth averages from 9 to 12 fathoms, but in the entrance in some places it exceeds 30,—a depth which nearly doubles that of the frith into which it opens. It has frequently been described by seafaring men, who are universally acquainted with it, and who rarely speak of it without an enthusiasm, the result of many a grateful association, as sufficiently capacious to shelter the whole British navy. Most of the springs of the parish are of a petrifying quality. The water of nearly all the draw-wells deposit inside our tea-kettles, in the course of a few years, a crust of lime fully a quarter of an inch thick; and some of our rock springs are so largely charged with this earth, as frequently to block up their older channels, and burst out in new ones, which are to be choked up in turn. There is one little spring which moistens a stripe of precipice not more than a yard in breadth, which yet, by this process of shifting, has covered an extent of at least twenty yards with coral-like petrifactions of moss and lichens, intermingled with grass and nettle stalks, and with a hard breccia, which, more enduring than the rock on the edge of which it has formed, projects over like a cornice, for nearly four feet. There are no rivers in the parish, and the streams are mere runnels ; but there is one of these (the burn of Ethie) which from its cascades, and the beauty of its scenery, is highly deserving of notice. It forms the extreme boundary of the parish towards the south, and runs for the last two miles of its course through a narrow precipitous gulf of great depth, which seems to have been scooped, by some frightful convulsion, out of an immense bed of sandstone, which in this part of the parish attains to an elevation of above 250 feet above the level of the sea. The traveller advances a few yards along the course of the stream, and finds that he is shut in from almost the entire face of nature, and from the whole works of man. A line of mural precipices rises on either hand,—here advancing in gigantic columns like those of an Egyptian temple,—there receding into deep solitary recesses, tapestried with ivy, and darkened by birch and hazel. The cliffs vary their outlines at every step, as if assuming in succession all the various combinations of form which constitute the wild and the picturesque ; and the pale yellow hue of the stone seems, when brightened by the sun, the very tint a painter would choose to heighten the effect of his shades, or to contrast most delicately with the luxuriant profusion of bushes and flowers that wave over every shelf and cranny. A colony of swallows have built, from time immemorial, in the hollows of one of the loftiest precipices. As the traveller proceeds, the dell becomes wilder and more deeply wooded, the stream frets and toils at his feet, here leaping over an opposing ridge, there struggling in a pool, yonder escaping to the light from under some fragment of cliff: There is a richer profusion of flowers, a thicker mantling of ivy and honeysuckle, and after passing a semicircular inflection of the bank, which, waving from summit to base with birch and hawthorn, may remind one of some vast amphitheatre on the morning of a triumph, he finds the passage shut up by a perpendicular wall of rock, about thirty feet in height, over which the stream precipitates itself in a slender column of foam into a dark mossy basin. A little cluster of hazels fling their arms half-way across,—trebling with their shade the apparent depth of the pool, and heightening in an equal ratio the effect of the white flicker of the cascade, and of the little bright patches of foam, which, flung from the rock, incessantly revolve on the eddy. The entire scene is exquisitely wild and picturesque,—such a one as the painter would love to transfer to his canvas, and the man of taste delight to contemplate ; but a larger body of water is wanting to raise it to the dignity of the sublime. There are two other cascades, scarcely inferior in beauty, in the upper part of the dell.
 
  Geology.—The eastern corner of the parish, which, from its superior elevation, bears the name of the hill of Cromarty, is composed of an immense primary mass of granitic gneiss, partially veined with white quartz, and lined, in some places where it bounds on the Moray Frith, with huge blocks of hornblende. The strata are much twisted and broken, as if shattered by earthquakes when passing under the influence of extreme heat from a solid to a fluid state, and in many places they assume a nearly vertical position. •The precipices of the hill are of great height, rising perpendicularly nearly an hundred yards above the shore, and they abound in caverns, which add much to the wildness of the scenery, and present us in several places with picturesque and highly uncommon combinations of form. In the gorge of a deep precipitous chasm about two miles to the east of the town, there is a natural arch which yields a narrow and doubtful passage to what would have been otherwise an insulated pile of rock, at the height of about an hundred feet over the beach. A second pile of rock, which stands out of the sea like the ruins of an inundated temple, is perforated by no fewer than four natural arches, one of which is about forty feet in span ; and there is a cave near the extreme angle of the hill, which runs so deep into the rock, that at its inner extremity the light of the opening is hardly seen to glimmer along the hoar and dewy sides,—crusted with hardening moss, and ridged with stalactites ; and the objects beyond seem as if viewed through the tube of a telescope. The granitic gneiss extends over a space of about three square miles. The rest of the parish, which is secondary, is variously composed of sandstones, argillaceous shales, breccia, and minute veins of lime ; and the angle of the strata averages in most places from about twenty to thirty, except in the neighbourhood of the hill, where, like that of the granitic mass, it is nearly vertical. The older sandstone formations He in this direction,—the more recent towards the west ; and between these, there intervene beds of a stratified clay, which seem in this part of the country, like the carboniferous shales of Caithness, to represent the coal measures of the south. They abound in animal remains of an obscure but highly interesting class. In a little bay about three hundred yards to the east of the town, where the beds have been laid bare by the sea, and in which they assume a nearly horizontal position, we find their softer clays partially covered with nodules of a firmer texture, which, from their detached and rounded appearance, resemble floats of broken ice on a lake. Each of these, even the most minute, contains the remains of some animal,—plates resembling those of the tortoise, pieces of skin roughened like that of the dog-fish or shark, the scales and bones of fish ; and in some of the better specimens we can still trace the original form, with the fins and tail spread to the full, and the scales as regularly arranged as when they covered the living animal. The clays of the little bay, after losing themselves in the beach, reappear in the bottom of a deep ravine which intersects the old coast line; and here, rather more than a century ago, they were perforated to a considerable depth in boring for coal. But the attempt was unsuccessful. On withdrawing the kind of augre used for the purpose, a bolt of water, which occupied the whole diameter of the bore, came rushing after like the jet of a fountain, and the work was prosecuted no farther ; for, as steam engines were not yet invented, no pit could have been wrought with so large a stream issuing into it. The spring, a fine chalybeate, still continues to flow between its double row of cresses to the sea, at the rate, as was ascertained by experiment about twenty years ago, of nearly a hogshead per minute. A little dome of hewn stone has been raised over it, and, with the wooded ravine in the back ground, and surrounded by trees and bushes, it would form, in the hands of Turner, no bad subject for a vignette. It is still known to the towns-people as “The well of the Coalheugh,” a name commemorative of its origin. 
  The eastern part of the parish presents a highly interesting field to the geologist. A few hundred yards beyond where it bounds on the Moray Frith, there is a ridge of bituminous shale interspersed with beds and nodules of limestone, which abound in the various fossils peculiar to the lias formation. The ridge itself is covered by the waters of the Frith, but after every fresh storm from the north-east, we find fragments which the waves have detached from it strewed upon the beach. They contain ammonites, belemnites, scallops, both plain and striated, pieces of wood and charcoal, and the fleshy leaf of a plant resembling the aloe. The boulders and water-worn pebbles which line the shores of the parish, and abound in its alluvial clays and gravels, are composed mostly of schistose gneiss, and a variety of granite, of which no rocks are to be found nearer than the western coast of Ross-shire. The rounded and half-polished masses of the latter stone are often of immense size, containing many hundred cubic feet ; and they seem to have been carried across the island in the direction of the larger valleys, by some irresistible flood setting in from the west. In most places, the subsoil of the parish is a stiff alluvial clay, which, on the edge of the old coastline, overlies the sandstone to the depth of nearly an hundred feet, but it thins off in the ascent to not more than ten. It yields easily to the action of water, and hence we find that every little stream in the parish has scooped out a channel for itself to the sandstone below, and runs at the bottom of a deep narrow dell, lined in most cases by steep precipitous banks. 
 
  Mosses, Fuel.—A short half mile to the east of the town, in an inflection of the bank, there is a vast accumulation of drift peat covered over by a layer of soil. Somewhat more than thirty years ago, it was laid open by a waterspout to the depth of twelve feet, when it was first discovered to be composed mostly of vegetable remains,—part of the ruins, perhaps, of one of those forests which covered at one time almost the entire surface of the island, and sheltered the naked inhabitants from the legions of Agricola. Huge trees from two to four feet in diameter, and so entirely decayed that they offered scarcely more resistance to the tool than banks of common clay, were seen to stretch across the bottom of the newly formed chasm, or to protrude from its sides. The soil in which they were imbedded is a black solid peat moss, composed mostly of bark and branches ; and in masses of a fetid unctuous earth, which seems endowed with a stronger preservative quality than even the moss itself, there were found the leaves of plants so little decayed that the species could still be distinguished, stalks of what seemed to have been either grass or straw, and whole handfuls of hazel nuts. It is not yet four years since there were dug out of the sides of the chasm, about nine feet from the surface, three huge oaken planks, which had evidently been fashioned by the hand of man ; and in the bottom, which is now fast filling up, there were found, about fourteen years before, fragments of the bones and horns of deer, and the horn of an elk. In the upper part of the parish, there was a much more extensive moss, which, before the opening of the coal trade with Newcastle, supplied the place with fuel, but it gradually wore out, and the poorer part of the people were subjected in consequence to much hardship during severe winters. “A Cromarty fire” was a name current over the country for a fire just gone out ; and some humorist of the period represents a Cromarty farmer in a phrase which became proverbial, as giving his daughter the key of the peat-chest, and bidding her take out a peat and a-half that she might “put on a good fire.” 

II.— CIVIL HISTORY.
 
  The celebrated Macbeth makes his first appearance in history as Thane of Cromarty ; but we are acquainted with only the fact. In a later age, the hill directly behind the town was the scene, says tradition, of one of Wallace’s victories over the English ; and a few shapeless hillocks which may still be seen among the trees and bushes that now cover the eminence, were raised, it is said, over the slain. A still more ancient field of battle is pointed out on a moor in the upper part of the parish. It abounds in tumuli and little heathy ridges which resemble the graves of a churchyard, and towards its eastern extremity there is a huge pile of stones, known to the people of the place as the grey-cairn ; but the conflict, of which only these vestiges remain, seems to have taken place in a remote and misty period, ere the ingenuity of man had taxed itself to record the ravages of his fiercer passions. There was a second cairn on the moor, which, about thirty years ago, was carried away for building by a farmer of the parish, and there were found on its removal human bones of a gigantic size ; among the rest, a skull sufficiently capacious, according to the description of one of the labourers, to contain  “two lippies of bear.” 
  Cromarty owed little to its Highland neighbourhood; the inhabitants were lowland Scots ; and it seems to have constituted one of the battle-fields on which needy barbarism and the imperfectly formed vanguard of a slowly advancing civilization contended for the mastery. Early in the reign of James IV. it was ravaged by a combination of the nearer clans, and so complete was the spoliation, that the entire property of the inhabitants, to their very household furniture, was carried away. Restitution was afterwards enforced by the Lords of Council. We find it decreed in the Acta Dominorum Concilii for 1492, that Hucheon Rose of Kilravock (the main projector of the enterprise) do restore, content, and pay to Mr Alexander Urquhart, Sheriff of Cromarty, and his tenants, the various items carried off by him and his accomplices, viz. 600 cows, 100 horses, 1000 sheep, 400 goats, 200 swine, and 400 bolls of victual ; but how immense an amount of suffering must the foray have occasioned, from which nothing could be subtracted by any after sentence of the law!
 
   Eminent Men.—Sir Thomas Urquhart, so famous for his Genealogy and his Universal Language, was a native of Cromarty, and during the reign of Charles I. proprietor of nearly the entire shire. He was born in 1613, and died on the continent after an eventful life, spent in courts and camps, in prison and in exile, on the eve of the Restoration. Few of his works survive. Nearly a hundred manuscripts, the labours of his studious hours, were lost on the disastrous field of Worcester, where he was taken prisoner by the army of the Commonwealth. Enough remain, however, to show the extraordinary mind of the writer. He was one of that singular and highly curious class of geniuses, in whom rare and uncommon talents seem to rest, not on their proper basis of practical good sense, but on a substratum of extravagance and absurdity. A periodical critic of the present age describes him as “not only one of the most curious and whimsical, but one of the most powerful also, of all the geniuses our part of the island has produced.” The late Dr James Robertson, Librarian of the University of Edinburgh, and Professor of the Oriental Languages, was, like Sir Thomas, a native of Cromarty. His history is that of many a scholar, and many a man of genius besides. He entered life poor and friendless, and with a thirst for knowledge which every fresh draught served only to increase, spent his early days in a long struggle with difficulties and privations, which a spirit not invincible could not have overcome. He is the author of a Hebrew grammar, to which the self-taught linguist, Dr Alexander Murray, owed, as he tells us in his interesting autobiography, his first introduction to Hebrew ; and we learn from Boswell, in his Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, that Dr Johnson when in Edinburgh “was much pleased with the College Library, and with the conversation of Dr James Robertson, the librarian.” 
 
Traditional Stories.—There is hardly a district of Scotland that has more traditional stories connected with it than the parish of Cromarty, or whose legends seem more various in their origin, or are more distinctly impressed with the character of the past ages. Some of these belong evidently to a very early period, and seem to have floated into it from the neighbouring Highlands. There are other stories which are peculiar to it as a remote sea port, inhabited for ages by sailors and fishermen ; while a third and more recent class belongs to it as an insulated lowland colony. No single story, therefore, can be regarded as a specimen of the whole ; and it is, besides, rather a nice matter to make choice of one, when there are hundreds from which to select ; but even one, though taken at random, may serve as a sort of relief to the dryness of topographical history. 
  There is a little path which, in the eastern part of the parish, goes winding over rock and stone along the edge of a range of low-browed precipices, till it reaches a fine spring of limpid water, that comes gushing out of the side of a bank covered with moss and daisies. This beautiful spring has been known to the people of the town for a century and more, by the name of Fiddler’s-well. Its waters are said to be medicinal ; and there is a tradition still preserved of the circumstance through which its virtues were first discovered, and to which it owes its name. Two young men of the place, who were much attached to each other, were seized at nearly the same time by consumption. In one, the progress of the disease was rapid ; he died two short months after he was attacked by it ; while the other, though wasted almost to a shadow, had yet strength enough left to follow the corpse of his companion to the grave. The sirname of the survivor was Fiddler,—a name still common among the seafaring men of the town. On the evening of the interment, he felt oppressed and unhappy,—his imagination was haunted by a thousand feverish shapes of open graves, with bones mouldering round their edges, and of coffins with the lids displaced ; and after he had fallen asleep, the images, which were still the same, became more grisly and horrible. Towards morning, however, they had all vanished; and he dreamed that he was walking alone by the sea shore in a clear and beautiful day of summer. Suddenly, as he thought, some person stepped up behind, and whispered into his ear, in the voice of his deceased companion, “Go on, Willie, I shall meet you at Stormy.” There is a rock in the neighbourhood of Fiddler’s well so called, from the violence with which the sea beats against it when the wind blows strongly from the east. On hearing the voice, he turned round, and seeing no one, he went on, as he thought, to the place named, in the hope of meeting with his friend, and sat down on a bank to wait his coming; but he waited long, lonely and dejected; and then remembering that he for whom he waited was dead, he burst into tears. At this moment a large field-bee came humming from the west, and began to fly round his head. He raised his hand to brush it away ; it widened its circle, and then came humming into his ear as before. He raised his hand a second time, but the bee could not be scared off ; it hummed ceaselessly round and round him, until at length its murmurings seemed to be fashioned into words, articulated in the voice of his deceased companion, “Dig, Willie, and drink,” it said, “Dig, Willie, and drink.” He accordingly set himself to dig, and no sooner had he torn a sod out of the bank than a spring of clear water gushed from the hollow ; and the bee taking a wider circle, and humming in a voice of triumph that seemed to emulate the sound of a trumpet, flew away. He looked after it, but as he looked, the images of his dream began to mingle with those of the waking world ;—the scenery of the hill seemed obscured by a dark cloud, in the centre of which there glimmered a faint light ;—the rocks, the sea, the long declivity faded into the cloud ; and turning round, he saw only a dark apartment, and the first beams of morning shining in at a window. He rose, and after digging the well, drunk of the water and recovered. And its virtues are still celebrated ; for though the water be only simple water, it must be drunk in the morning, and as it gushes out of the bank; and with pure air, exercise, and early rising for its auxiliaries, it continues to work cures.
 
III.— POPULATION.
 
  Ancient Inhabitants and early Trade of the Parish.—Though, from the older names of places in the parish, it is evident its original population, like that of the neighbouring districts, was Celtic, the inhabitants about a century ago were so exclusively lowland that there was no Gaelic service performed in its church. The character of the people, too, their dress, personal appearance, habits, and the sirnames common among them, identified them with their country folks of the south. They were the descendants, we may infer, of some such lowland colony as James VI. planted in the Isle of Lewis with the intention of civilizing the wild natives; and the facilities for trading afforded by the admirable harbour of the place would, it is probable, have directed their choice. The Scotch seem at a very early period to have been a seafaring people. We learn from Heron, that, prior to the reign of Robert the Bruce, they exported wool and salmon from the southern ports of the kingdom into Flanders and France ; and in charters of lands bordering on the sea the spoils of stranded vessels were either granted or reserved with much care,—a proof that shipwrecks were no unfrequent occurrences. Inverness and Cromarty, which seem to have been united by charter, appear to have shared at a remote period in the trade of the south. In the museum of the Northern Institution, there is an ancient custom-house seal or cocket of the united burghs of Invirnis et d Chrombhte, supposed to belong to the reign of Robert II. There were laid open, in trenching a piece of ground in the eastern part of the town about ninety years ago, several ranges of vaults, apparently intended for store places, which must have belonged to our earlier merchants ; and of a collection of little pieces of copper coin which were dug up at different times in our fields and gardens, I have found that two-thirds were Scotch, and the remaining third French. And it seems improbable that the north country trader of the obscure period to which these remains belong, could be of other than lowland extraction ;—his contemporary, the Highlander, was only conversant with the dirk. Cromarty seems to have sunk almost entirely during the seventeenth century ; a dark era of distress and depression to Scotland ; but it rose almost immediately after the Revolution ; and early in the reign of Queen Anne, when it drove an extensive trade in herrings, there were five large vessels connected with it, as the property of its wealthier merchants. But it again experienced a reverse. Like many of the trading towns of Scotland, it suffered from the Union ; the sudden failure of its herring fishery completed its ruin; and so low had it fallen before the year 1730, that a single shopkeeper, who was not such literally, for in the summer season he travelled the country as a pedlar, more than supplied the inhabitants. It began, however, about thirty years after to emerge yet a third time, under the impulse of that general spirit of improvement, which, since the suppression of the last rebellion, has operated throughout the kingdom; and the population, which has become much less exclusively lowland than formerly, has been steadily on the increase ever since. The breaking up of the feudal system first introduced habits of comparative industry into the Highlands ; the breaking up of the small farm system has scattered many of the people over the low country, to avail themselves of these habits, as labourers, fishermen, or mechanics ; and so large a proportion of this class has fallen to the parish of Cromarty, that it was found necessary, about fifty years ago, to build and endow a Gaelic chapel, which is now attended by a congregation of at least 500 persons. The population of the parish in 1801 amounted to about 2413. It had increased to 2900 in 1831. Fully three-fourths of the latter number are inhabitants of the town. 
  During the last three years, there were about 6 illegitimate births in the parish. 

IV.— INDUSTRY.
  Agriculture.— 
 
Number of acres cultivated or occasionally in tillage, is about, - 2047 
    constantly waste or in pasture - - 3166
                 under wood, - - - - 1855
               
 
  It is supposed that a considerable number of acres in the upper part of the parish might be profitably added to the cultivated land. 
  The arable part of the parish towards the east is laid out into fields inclosed by fences of stone or hawthorn ; and the offices of the various farms in this direction consist of those square-looking stone and lime erections, which always indicate the introduction of the modern system of agriculture. But in passing towards the west, we seem as if retrograding from the present to the middle of the past century ; we find the surface broken into irregular map-like patches, divided from each other by little strips and corners of land not yet reclaimed from the waste ; and the steadings are composed of straggling groups of cottages built of undressed moor-stones, and covered with turf. In most instances, rows of gnarled and time-wasted elms form an accompaniment to these groups, as if to connect them more thoroughly with the past, by reminding us that the present occupants are growing old under the roofs which sheltered their grandfathers. The improved system of agriculture was first acted upon in Cromarty, on a scale sufficiently extensive to render it advantageous, by a Mr George Middleton, a gentleman from England, who settled in the parish about forty years ago. It had been introduced into the place by a spirited proprietor (of whom more anon) nearly twenty years before. 
  Mr Middleton erected the first thrashing mill seen in this part of the country, and exported the first wheat ; for it is a singular fact, that, forty years ago, there was not a field of this grain reared in the parish, though it now forms the staple of its agriculture, and one of the chief exports of its trade. The difficulties which of late years have borne so heavily on our farmers, have done much towards the general introduction of the modern system. In the universal struggle with high rents on the one hand, and very low prices on the other, all have striven to restore the balance destroyed through the reduction in the value of their produce, by adding to its amount; and the observation and experience of a full quarter of a century have convinced even the most prejudiced, that there is but one set of means through which the necessary amount can be obtained. During the last ten years every farmer in the parish has reared and exported wheat ; but the inevitable effects of over-production have already become apparent ; the value of this grain is fast sinking below even that of oats and barley, and a consequent change of system must necessarily ensue. 
  The lands of the parish, with the exception of a few little patches, are divided between two proprietors, Hugh Rose Ross, Esq. of Cromarty, and Captain George Mackay Sutherland of Udale. The extensive and beautiful estate of the former contains nearly 6500 acres, of which 1800 are arable, and the rest under wood and pasture. The highly cultivated property of the latter gentleman, one of the most beautiful in this part of the country, contains about 500. 
  The rental of the parish is estimated at about L.3300.
 
  Trade, Manufacture, Fishery.—About the year 1T65, the estate of Cromarty was purchased by Mr George Ross, a gentleman of superior talents and singular energy of character, who had realized an immense fortune in England as an army agent. He owed his first advancement in life to the patronage of the celebrated Lord Mansfield ; and the redoubtable Junius, who spared no one out of respect to his lordship, alludes to him in one of his letters in no very friendly spirit, as “George Ross, the Scotch agent.” And justly might the satirist have accused him of a true Scotchman-like attachment to his country. No one ever did so much for this northern part of it, or pointed out with more statesman-like sagacity its hitherto neglected resources. He furnished the town, at a great expense, with an excellent pier ; established in it a manufactory of hempen cloth, which has ever since employed about 200 persons within its walls, and fully twice that number without; built a brewery, which at the time of its erection was the most extensive in the north of Scotland ; and first set on foot a trade in pork for the English market, which, for the last twenty years, has been carried on by the traders of the place to an extent of from about L.15,000 to L.20,000 annually. None of his various projects seem to have been entered into with an eye to personal advantage ; and though all of them were ultimately found to be benefits conferred on the country, not one of them proved remunerative to himself. The Gaelic chapel, already referred to, and the town-house, a neat substantial edifice, with a large hall in the upper storey, and a prison in the lower, and surmounted by a dome furnished with a clock, were two of his gifts to the place. There is but one branch of trade connected with Cromarty, whose history is not comprised in that of this patriotic and generous proprietor. The herring fishery, which in the reign of Queen Anne furnished its only staple, was so successfully prosecuted about twelve years ago, that more than 20,000 barrels were exported in one season ; but of late years the fish seem almost to have deserted the frith, and many of the fishermen, in consequence of a series of expensive and ill remunerated exertions, have sunk into abject poverty. 

V.—PAROCHIAL ECONOMY.
 
  Towns, Villages.—Rather more than half a century ago, there was a small village in the parish, named Meikle-Farness ; but it has since disappeared under the influence of those changes, which, within the last fifty years, have new modelled the domestic economy of the country. The steam looms of Glasgow and Paisley have stripped the village weaver of his employment ; the manufacturers of Sheffield and Birmingham have discharged its smith ; the taste for fashionable furniture, to which the improved dwellings of our agriculturists naturally led, has shut up the workshop of its carpenter ; and the love of dress, so universally diffused in the present age, has levelled the domicile of its tailor, and the stall of its maker of Highland shoes. The town of Cromarty is pleasantly situated in the eastern part of the parish, on a low alluvial promontory, washed on two of its sides by the sea. It is irregularly built, exhibiting in its more ancient streets and lanes, that homely Flemish style of architecture characteristic of all our older towns of the north ; and displaying throughout that total disregard of general plan, which is said most to obtain in the cities and villages of a free country. The place is so surrounded by friths and arms of the sea, that its communications with neighbouring districts are frequently interrupted. Much, however, has been done to facilitate the necessary intercourse. In the summer months, an omnibus plies every day, except Sundays, between the town and Inverness, passing in its route through the towns of Chanonry, Rosemarkie, and Avoch ; a steam-boat from Leith touches at it once a-week ; and a splendid vessel of this description, intended to trade between London and the upper towns of the Moray Frith, (Cromarty among the rest,) is now in course of building. The town has its post-office, from which letters are sent once a-day to join the mail at Inverness ; and there has lately been established in it a branch of the Commercial Bank of Scotland, which promises to be of much advantage to the trading interests of the district. 
 
  Ecclesiastical State.—Prior to the Reformation there were no fewer than six chapels in the parish, but a low broken wall and a few green mounds now form their only remains,—even the very names of three of the number have perished. Two of the others were dedicated to St Duthac and St Rennet, and two fine springs on which even time himself has been unable to effect any change, come bubbling out in the vicinity of the ruins, and bear the names of their respective saints. Of the last and most entire, which is still known as the chapel of St Regulus, it is said that there once belonged to it a valuable historical record,—the work, probably, of some literary monk or hermit,—which at the Reformation was carried away to France by the priest. The parish church, a true Presbyterian edifice, is situated in the eastern part of the town. Its first minister was a Mr Robert Williamson, whose initials may still be seen on a flat triangular stone, which bears date 1593, and whose name occurs oftener than once in Calderwood. We learn from the historian, that “Jesuits having libertie to passe thorough the countrey in 1583, during the time of the Earle of Huntlie’s lieutenantry, great coldness of religion entered in Ross ;” and that by an act of council passed five years after, Mr Robert Williamson was among the number empowered to urge matters to an extremity against them. Few parishes have been so fortunate in their clergymen as Cromarty. Since the days of Episcopacy, when its excellent and honest pastor, a Mr Hugh Anderson, was ejected from his charge, and a curate thrust into his place, there has not been a single instance of the induction of a minister in opposition to the wishes of the people. All its clergymen, too, have been hard-working men of the evangelical school ; and it seems a natural consequence that there are at present not half-a-dozen dissenters in all its population, and not more than two persons opposed to the principle of church establishments. The minister's stipend is 16 chalders. The glebe, which contains about five acres, has been valued at L.15 per annum. 
 
  Education, Poor, Friendly Societies.—The parish is amply furnished with the means of instruction. It has, like every other, its proper parochial school, furnished with all the legal accommodations. A society school, in which Gaelic is taught, has been stationed in the upper part of it for the last quarter of a century. Two other schools have been opened in the town by masters who depend solely on the fees ; and a free school, taught on the system of Sheriff Wood, together with a female school, have been established in it for the last six years, by a Society of the place. There are one or two other schools besides; and a Sabbath school, which seems to have done more for the manners and morals of females in the lower ranks than any of the others, is taught by the ladies of the place. Our farmers and mechanics (in the main an intelligent race, and strikingly marked by those traits of character which are said to be peculiar to the lowland Scotch) seem fully alive to the benefits of education,—but these cannot be appreciated unless they be known ; and the poor fishermen of the place, whose perilous and uncertain profession has a tendency to keep them ignorant, and who have been both disheartened and crippled in their means by the late failure of the herring fishery, are much more careless in availing themselves of its advantages. 
  The poor of Cromarty, partly from the superior amount of the regular contributions made in the parish, and partly through legacies bequeathed for their support, are more largely provided for than the poor of most of the neighbouring districts; but it has been observed that every new addition to their funds has had the effect of adding less to their comforts than to their number. There is a continual influx of strangers who settle in the outer skirts in the parish, and who, after residing in it for the legal term, have recourse for support to its Session ; and that excellent spirit of independence which so ennobled the Scottish poor of the last age, and inspired them with so wholesome a dread of being indebted to aught save their own exertions, seems to be fast evaporating under the influence of a lower toned morality than that which characterized our fathers. In some degree, however, the spirit still survives among the more intelligent of the people ; and we owe to it the establishment of several friendly societies, which have the merit of ministering to the wants of the individuals which compose them, when overtaken -by age or sickness, without trenching on their self-respect. One of these in particular, “The Cromarty Friendly Society,” which has been established since 1801, has distributed for the last ten years from L.90 to L.100 annually, among decayed and ailing members. The average number of persons receiving parochial aid is 150 ; and the average annual amount of contributions for their relief is L.172. The amount arising from church collections for the year ending April last was L.70 : the amount of voluntary assessments for the year 1835, was L.27, 9s. 3d. The annual amount from alms or legacies, seat-rents, mortcloth, &c. L.75. 
General Remarks.
  The people of Cromarty in general eat and dress rather better in the present day, than at the time of the last Statistical Account. Their employments, too, though affected by occasional depressions, are in the main less interrupted ; they work harder, are more ingenious, and more freed from the influence of superstition; their information embraces a wider range ; they are better acquainted with the principles of agriculture and of trade ; and they have learned to identify their interests as a body with those of the people everywhere. Their intelligence, too, "is of a different cast from that of their fathers, and derived from a very opposite source; It IS much less peculiar to them as Scotchmen and Presbyterians. Formerly, when there were comparatively few books and no periodicals in this part of the country, there was but one way in which a man could learn to think. His mind became the subject of some serious impression ; he applied earnestly to his Bible and the standards of the church; and in the contemplation of the most important of all concerns his newly awakened faculties received their first exercise. And hence the peculiar tone of his politics, and the exclusive character of the liberty for which he deemed it his duty to contend. Hence, too, the nature of his influence in the humble sphere in which he moved ; an influence which the constitution of his church, from her admission of lay members to deliberate in her courts, and to direct her discipline, tended powerfully to increase ; it was not more intellectual than moral, nor moral than intellectual. He was respected not only as one of the best, but also as one of the most intelligent men of the parish, and impressed the tone of his own character on that of his contemporaries. But a thorough, though noiseless revolution has taken place,—new sources of intelligence have been opened up,—it is the newspaper and the magazine, not the Catechism and the Confession of Faith, that are now stereotyped on the public mind ; and the older and better source, under the influence of causes which it might prove a melancholy', but no uninstructive task to trace, seems to have lost much of its efficacy. But on questions so open to prejudice, there must obtain an immense variety of opinion ; almost every one would hold -the balance after his own fashion, and decide differently regarding the result; nor is the subject one of those which can be discussed in a single paragraph, nor by a common pen. 
  September 1836.  
Terms & Conditions     © Ross and Cromarty Heritage