New Statistical Account (1837) Parish of Dingwall

Dingwall 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 Dingwall (1836)

The following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Dingwall from the second or new Statistical Account of Dingwall (dated March 1837).



The parish of Dingwall, consisting of the royal burgh of that name, with an inconsiderable tract of the surrounding country, is situated at the western extremity of the Frith of Cromarty.

Name - A diversity of opinion exists as to the origin of the name "Dingwall". The accomplished author of the former Statistical Account derives it from "Digma Vallis", words indicativeof the richness and fertility of the low grounds, which constitute a great part of the parish. Others, with perhaps greater probability, consider it, like that of several of the towns on this coast, of Scandinavian origin, and refer it to a word expressive of its being the seat of justice. It is certainly not Celtic, as the Highlanders have not yet become familiarized to it, but call the place Innerfeoran (Inverpeffery) marking its situation with regard to the small stream which gives its name to the well-known valley of Strathpeffer.

Extent, boundaries - The parish occupies an extent of 10 square miles. It forms nearly an oblong, its northern extremity resting on the base of Ben Wyvis, whence, stretching in a direction almost south, it descends the fertile slope which forms the northern boundary of Strathpeffer, and crossing that valley where it opens into a rich flat, which extends along the shore to the end of the frith, on which the town is built, and through which the stream called the Peffery winds its way to the sea, it cuts off a portion of the abrupt rising ground which separates Strathpeffer on the south from the valley of the Conan, and reaches that river at its junction with the frith. It is bounded on the north by Ben Wyvis; on the east by the parish of Kiltearn; on the west and south-west by that of Fodderty; and on the south and south-east, by the sea, which, however, at ebb-tide recedes about three miles, leaving exposed a flat slimy strand, which detracts considerably from the interest with which the surrounding scenery is generally regarded.

Topographical appearances - The general aspect of the parish is exceedingly beautiful. The character of the surface, diversified by hill and valley, the appearance of high culture which it presents, the abundance and luxuriance of the wood with which it is everywhere clothed, and the frith, which at flood-tide appears a beautiful sheet of water completely enclosed by land, stretching eastward for about fourteen miles; together with the rugged outline of the mountains in the back-ground combine in producing an effect which excites the admiration of strangers. The road from Inverness enters the parish at the east end of the village of Maryburgh, about a mile and three-fourths from the town. From this it passes eastward along the southern slope of the ridge, which runs between the town and the Conan. This ridge is crested by plantations of fir, its acclivity being lined out into fields intersected by hedge-rows with trees. On approaching the town it terminates abruptly, forming a steep bank called the green hill, which is covered by a plantation of hard wood. Along the base of this, the road runs, and enters the town flanked by a row of fine old trees. With the exception of its situation, which is beautiful, and its rows of tall poplar trees, which give it rather an uncommon air, the town itself presents little of interest. It consists of a main street, about half a mile long, running nearly from east to west. From this a number of small streets and lanes strike off at right angles, an arrangement which, in many instances, has the effect of presenting the gables of the houses to the street. The houses are in general of two stories high. Both the church and the jail have steeples. The flat on which the town stands, which is scarcely four feet above the extreme flood-mark, is about half a mile wide. To the west of the town, however, it contracts to about half this width, the southern ridge of Strathpeffer falling back at this point, and forming the recess occupied by the town. To the north of the town stands the hill of Tulloch, a continuation of the northern ridge of Strathpeffer, which rises to the height of about 800 feet. Its acclivity presents an aspect of uncommon luxuriance. It is occupied by several farms, which are ornamented by rows of fine old trees, and by the beautiful grounds attached to Tulloch Castle, which stands midway, about a mile from the town. "Embosomed deep in tufted trees."

The summit of the hill is covered with wood, which is disposed in masses. Behind this hill, and distant about six miles, is seen Ben Wvvis, whose massy form affords a complete shelter from the north and north-west.

Meteorology - The following table shows the monthly and annual mean pressure and temperature of the atmosphere in this parish, as ascertained by observations carefully made twice each day for the last five years.

   January                February          March              April                  May 
Years  Bar.  Ther.   Bar.      Ther.   Bar.      Ther.   Bar.   Ther.       Bar.       Ther.
1831 29.803 35.80 29.61  39.10  29.658 43.90  29.723  47.80  29.915  57.30
1832 29.740 40.00 29.84  41.91  29.614 43.15  29.965  47.95  29.903  50.29
1833 30.120 30.00 29.24  36.53  29.915 39.25  29.615  45.59  29.950  57.50
1834 29.150 41.40 29.763 42.60 29.860 43.40  30.166  47.98  29.890  56.00
1835 29.795 37.35 29.350 39.30 29.725 41.05  30.000  45.29  29.750  51.65

             June                   July                   August              September 
Years   Bar.  Ther.         Bar.       Ther.   Bar.       Ther.   Bar.       Ther.
1830                                29.940  63.80  29.740  56.00  29.480  54.47
1831     29.815  60.60  29.730  62.20  29.834  63.60   29.794 56.38
1832*    29.806  56.96  30.010  59.40  29.750  60.25  29.895  55.23
1833     29.630  57.80  29.910  62.00  29.865  58.60   29.785  57.50
1834     29.775  58.60  30.120  64.15  29.755  60.21   29.960  55.85
1835     29.957  57.60  29.840  59.85  29.892  58.58   29.470  52.89

* In August and September of this year Dingwall was visited with cholera.

            October             November        December        Mean of years 
Years  Bar.  Ther.        Bar.       Ther.   Bar.       Ther.    Bar.      Ther.
 1830  30.000  51.12  29.480  42.95  29.567  36.46  29.701  50.80
 1831  29.499  53.31  29.604  39.97  29.497  42.62  29.712  49.657
 1832  29.766  49.95  29.630  39.50  29.630  38.25  29.795  48.570
 1833  29.630  52.57   29.530 44.50  29.240  40.45  29.703  48.524
 1834  29.770  48.87  29.775  43.10  30.080  43.17  29.855  50.494
 1835  29.590  44.95  29.740  41.33  29.980  36.27  29.757  47.150

The prevailing winds in this parish are the westerly and south westerly, which blow during a great part of the year From this quarter also we have our most boisterous and stormy weather. Our easterly winds are generally laden with fogs and damps from the German Ocean, and are frequently accompanied with rain The coldest wind is from the north-west.

The climate here is upon the whole pretty good. It is, however, exceedingly variable, and subject to frequent showers, owing to the vicinity of Ben Wyvis, about which the clouds congregate, and which on this account serves the purpose of a natural barometer, from the position of the clouds with regard to which changes can be predicted with tolerable accuracy. From the sheltered situation of Dingwall, being almost surrounded by hills, it suffers little from cold, the winters being remarkably mild. But from its low situation, the nature of the soil, and its vicinity to the sea, it suffers considerably from damp, more so than the quantity of rain which falls (as showed by the following table of observations for

Years  1830  1831     1832     1833    1834     1835     Mean of months
                         Inches  Inches  Inches  Inches  Inches  Inches 
January          1.09      0.95      0.41      3.53      3.21      1.83
February         2.33     1.07      2.26      2.55      4.17       2.47
March              3.71     3.56      0.43     4.33       2.60       2.92
April                 1.75     1.52      1.06     0.53       3.12       1.59
May                  2.13     1.56      1.12     1.20       2.24       1.65
June                1.37      3.38      2 49     3.26       1.22       2.35
July                  1.52                    3.31     3.57       2.15       2.63
August             1.40                   1.33     1.46        1.43       1.40
September      1.80     2.45      0.74     2.71        3.94       2.32
October  1.20  3.02     3.24      1.23     3.96       2.48       2.52
Nov.        4.02  4.10     1.34      3.82     5.37       2.17       3.47
Dec.        1.87  3.19     3.36      5.64     2.03       2.16       3.04
mean       2.36  2.29    2.24      2.98     2.87       2.57 

The climate, although variable, is decidedly salubrious. The parish is occasionally visited, in common with the district around, by the usual epidemics of the country, small-pox and measles, typhus and scarlet fever, &c; but these occasions are by no means frequent, nor are those diseases distinguished here by any particular virulence. The only complaint peculiar to this parish and district is not a little singular, and is deserving of notice, on account of the mode of cure, which is illustrative of the simplicity of the people, and worthy of being classed with the celebrated system which rendered Mesmer and Deslon so famous at Paris towards the close of last century. This notable disease, which is confined exclusively to the lower orders, among whom it is of frequent occurrence, is supposed to consist in such a derangement of the bones of the chest, as impedes the action of the vital organs, accompanied by a variety of symptoms, such as slight pains about the breast and shoulders, difficulty of respiration, disinclination to labour, etc. (probably caused by a slight rheumation.) When any of these is felt, the person affected has immediate recourse to a man in the neighbourhood, distinguished for his skill in curing the disorder, who, on seating the patient, proceeds to draw some hieroglyphical figures on the ground, and to mutter a spell, in the course of which the fingers are carefully counted over, and the parts affected gently pressed and rubbed, and thus, on receiving a few shillings for his trouble, generally succeeds in dislodging a disorder whose seat is chiefly the imagination.
Hydrography - A considerable part of the parish to the south and east is washed by the Cromarty Frith, which, from this quarter, presents the appearance of a long narrow inland lake, its opening to the ocean being concealed by an intervening headland. The tide formerly advanced quite close to the town, but a canal, which was cut some years ago, has served the additional purpose of an embankment, by means of which a good deal of wet carse land, over which the sea formerly flowed, has been converted into fields. Owing to the distance to which the tide recedes at ebb, the muddy nature of the bottom, and the freshness of the water from the influx of the Conan, and the other streams which discharge themselves into it here, the frith in this parish is very unproductive, affording no fish, with the exception of a few flounders and some salmon, the latter of which are taken in yairs during the summer months.
Perennial springs of clear wholesome water abound throughout the parish, from one or two of which, in the neighbourhood, a plentiful supply has lately been introduced into the town. Along the south side of the hill to the north of the town, there are mineral springs strongly impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen, issuing from a dark-looking schistose rock, one of which, at a place called Drynie, is nearly as powerful, and contains the same ingredients, as the celebrated Strathpeffer spa. There is also within the town a strong chalybeate spring, which has lately attracted some attention as a powerful tonic. It rises from a depth of about 20 feet below the surface, and was discovered by sinking a pump-well through the clay strata upon which the town is built.

There are no lakes, properly speaking, within this parish, but a small isolated and now uninhabited district of it is situated on the border of a lake called Ousie, about two miles to the south-west of the town. It is nearly a square mile in extent, studded all over with richly wooded islets, which, with the bold outline of the blue hills around, give it rather an interesting appearance. It is, in other respects, only remarkable as the haunt of various aquatic birds, which resort to it for the purpose of breeding.

The river Conan, which bounds this parish to the south, is a considerable stream. It has been estimated to discharge 70,000 cubic feet per minute. Its course, which is from west to east, is about thirty-five miles, from its source in one of about a dozen mountain lakes which feed it, to its debouchement into the Cromarty Frith. The Conan has few peculiarities. It is one of the Scotch rivers which furnish pearls. They are obtained in considerable quantity, and often of remarkable beauty, from the river mussel (Mya Margaritifera Lain) It produces abundance of salmon, trout, &c. and derives its name from the number of otters that formerly infested it, but which have now become comparatively rare.

Geology - The prevailing rock in this parish is sandstone, intermixed with conglomerate, being a part of the mass of old red sandstone and conglomerate which traverses this county from the Sutherland coast in a south-westerly direction, till it reaches the borders of Inverness-shire. This rock, which is stratified, dipping towards the south, and apparently resting conformably on the gneiss and mica-slate of Ben Wyvis, passes occasionally, particularly in this and the neighbouring parish of Fodderty, into a dark-coloured calcareous schist, foliated and impregnated with bituminous matter, producing the sulphureous mineral springs mentioned. As it approaches its junction with this latter rock, the sandstone loses its characteristic colour, and becomes of a pale bluish gray, and, being of a smooth friable texture, is well adapted for the purposes of masonry. Over this, there is generally a pretty thick deposit of a species of coarse, gravelly, light-coloured clay, containing boulders of granite, sienite and gneiss, occasionally of considerable size, and this is separated from the black vegetable mould by a layer of yellow clay. The low flat, however, which forms the bottom of the valley, and which bears evident marks of having at some period been a part of the bed of the frith, consists of successive strata of blue clay, varying in thickness, and alternating with sand or gravel containing quantities of sea shells. In this clay, whilst cutting a water-run some years ago, in the bottom of the strath within the parish, the vertebrae of a whale was found not far from the surface, in high preservation. And this succession continues to the depth of about twenty-five feet, beyond which the writer is not aware of its having been penetrated.

The general character of the soil in this parish is clayey, containing a greater or less admixture of vegetable matter. In the lower part, particularly in the neighbourhood of the town, it consists of a bed of black vegetable mould, varying in depth from one foot to two and a-half feet. Throughout the whole parish, it is remarkably fertile, and, being generally in a high state of cultivation, yields luxuriant crops. It is especially adapted, with the aid of lime, for the growth of wheat, affording in favourable seasons grain of this description, not inferior to the finest production of the Lothians. From the richness of the soil, however, the nature of the subsoil, which renders it exceedingly retentive of moisture, and from the extreme flatness which makes drainage difficult, if not in some cases impracticable, farming in the lower part of the parish is somewhat precarious - a wet season always proving uncommonly injurious, not only in retarding farming operations in spring and autumn, but in spoiling the grain, by causing the crops to lodge from over-luxuriance.

Botany - Of the plants most peculiarly attached to the soil perhaps the most characteristic is the poplar tree, which here rears its slender form to an unusual height. Numbers of these grow in the neighbourhood of the town, whose tall pyramidal shapes, disposed in rows, have an uncommonly picturesque effect. It would appear that in former times (as it is at the present day) Dingwall was famous for the growth of cabbages! as it was, and even is still known by the sobriquet Baille a Chaille (kail-town), a title which was no doubt originally intended, by their wild and warlike neighbours, to convey a sarcasm on the effeminacy of the worthy burghers.

Zoology - The animals found in this parish, are such, generally as are common to it with most parts of the Highlands. In addition to the usual domestic quadrupeds, we have, either as permanent inhabitants, or occasional visitants, the roe-deer (the red-deer is now rarely seen in the district), the rabbit, the common hare, the mountain hare (Lepus variabilis), the weasel, the ermine, the black, the brown, and the water rats, the shrew, the mole, the fox, the otter, and the seal. The wild-cat, the polecat and the badger, which were formerly common, are now almost extinct in the district.

From the sheltered situation of this parish, and the abundance of wood and which it is covered, it is a favourite resort of the feathered tribes - few places of an equal extent affording so great a variety. There is abundance of game, consisting of partridges, grouse, black-game and pheasants. These last have been only lately introduced, but have multiplied so amazingly fast as to have become, to the no small annoyance of the farmer, almost as numerous as partridges. Along with these the following are either stationary residents, or periodical or occasional visitors.

Eagle (common),  Kite,  Peregrine falcon, Sparrowhawk,  Kestrel, Merling,  
Hen-harrier, Owl, barn, Owl, long-eared, Owl, tawny, Thrush, common, Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare, Ousel (rose), Water ousel, Kingfisher, Chatterer, Redbreast,   Redstart,  Whinchat,  Stonechat, Hedge sparrow, Wren,   Reed wren,    Willow wren,   Wheatear,  White wagtail,   Grey wagtail,    Titmouse, great,   Titmouse, blue, Tit, longtailed, Skylark, Titlark, Bullfinch, Crossbill,  Greenfinch,  Bunting, common,  Bunting, reed, Bunting, yellow, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Siskin, Linnet, common, Linnet - Twite, Linnet, rose, House sparrow,     Swallow, house,  Martin, common,  Martin, sand, Swift, Cuckoo,  Woodcock, Snipe, Land-rail,   Water-rail,  Gallinule, common,  Crow, carrion Crow, hooded,  Rook, Jackdaw,  Magpie, Lapwing, Plover, golden,  Plover, ringed, Dotterel 

Along the shore are found:  
The Heron, Sandpiper, Green sandpiper, Curlew, Barnacle, Mallard, Widgeon, Teal, Golden-eye, Goosander, Sea pie, Gull, common, Gull, herring, Gull,blackheaded, 
Common Tern, Common Shag.

The fishes found in this parish are chiefly those of the salmon tribe, the frith (as has been observed) affording no sea-fishing. The Conan produces abundance of salmon of excellent quality. They begin to ascend the river to their spawning ground about the middle of January, but comparatively few are taken before the end of March or beginning of April, the Conan being later than some of the northern rivers. About the middle of June, the grilse make their appearance, and proceed up the river in great numbers, upwards of 100 of them having repeatedly been taken at one sweep of the net. They continue to travel upwards until towards the end of August or middle of September, and return in the sea in February or March. There is abundance of trout of various kinds. The salmon-trout appears about the beginning of June, and is taken in considerable quantities throughout that and most of the succeeding months. Towards the end of July, the whitling (known here by the name of finnock) enters the river in great numbers, and remains throughout the winter, and part of spring, affording excellent sport to the angler. The Conan also produces pike and eels, the latter of which commence their great annual migration from the sea early in June.

Burgh - The burgh of Dingwall is of considerable antiquity, but, as there are no annals existing of its early history, the only records now extant commencing at a period comparatively recent, we are left almost entirely to conjecture as to its origin and early condition. It was probably originally, as its name would seem to indicate, a Danish settlement, which afterwards became one of the royal fortifications, which were erected along the coast for the purpose of defending the country against the incursions of that people. The charter of its erection into a Royal Burgh was granted in 1227, by Alexander II, and dated 6th February, and 13th of his reign. By this he gave it title to "omnes libertates et liberas consuetudines quas burgenses nostri de Inverness et in eo manentes habent". This was subsequently confirmed and embodied in a charter of James IV, dated 12th February 1497, and again ratified by a charter of James VI, dated 9th February 1587.

Dingwall would seem, in the course of its history, to have suffered various changes of fortune, and to have passed through different stages of prosperity and decline. Several circumstances would seem to indicate that the town was once much more extensive than it is at present. Pavements have been dug up, and traces of building discovered running in a south-easterly direction, and considerably beyond the present limits of the town. Being the principal residence of the powerful Earls of Ross, who acted so conspicuous a part in the early history of Scotland, and doubtless depending much on their protection and bounty, it is natural to suppose that it must have participated to a certain degree in the fortunes of that family. Accordingly, we find, that on the extinction of the earldom by forfeiture in 1476, the affairs of the burgh suffered a rapid decline, from which it did not for a long time recover - the inhabitants loudly complaining that their trade had almost totally disappeared, not only from a want of the requisite capital for reign commerce, but because their inland traffic was intercepted on all sides by the burghs of barony which were springing up around, under the patronage of the lesser-proprietors, who were now rising in importance.

The burgh at one time possessed a considerable extent of property, but through the rapacity or mismanagement of its functionaries, this was, even so early as towards the end of the seventeenth century, almost wholly alienate - being either sold or feuded out for a merely nominal equivalent - so that the heritors and inhabitants were reduced to the necessity of submitting to a personal stent or impost, to maintain the "liberty and credit of the town", a state of things which could not have been favourable towards effecting works of public improvement. The necessity for some of these, about this period, may be inferred from a report presented in 1733 to the town-council of Inverness, by certain of their number who had been commissioned to explore this "terra incognita". "There was," it says, "no prison, but there was a lake close to the town, which kept the people from church and market for want of a bridge." It further states, that there was no trade in the town, "but that there were one or two inclined to carry on trade if they had a harbour." (Inverness burgh records.) For some time after this, we find no occurrence worthy of notice. The public tranquillity was occasionally affected by the feuds of the surrounding clans, and when any of the hostile parties met, as they occasionally did at fairs, affrays frequently ensued, which sometimes ended in bloodshed. In one of these, in 1740, the lady of the provost was killed. But various circumstances, shortly after this, tended to improve the condition of the place. Its trade was extending in proportion as the surrounding country grew in agricultural importance, which the altered habits of the Highlanders, subsequently to 1745, tended to promote. Under a better and purer management, the revenue arising from its remaining property was increased. Bridges were built, a jail was erected, the streets were paved, and water introduced into the town. And the loss of the common lands was in some measure compensated by their rapid conversion from swamps and pasture lands, to fertile fields and thriving plantations, a change at once beneficial and ornamental. In more recent times, the cutting of a canal began in 1815, and was completed in 1817, by which vessels of considerable burthen are brought into the immediate vicinity of the town. The establishment of a branch bank in 1828, the high state of culture to which the surrounding country has been brought, the constant and easy communication with an extensive and populous district, together with several other circumstances of a less obvious character, have contributed to increase considerably, the commercial and political importance of Dingwall.

Antiquities - At the east end of the town may still be seen part of the ruins of what once was the chief residence of the Earls of Ross. This family, which occupied a distinguished rank among the Scottish barons, possessed a great part of the landed property of this district, several of the most considerable proprietors around holding their lands by charter from them dated "apud castrum nostrum de Dingwall". This building, which would seem to have been a regular fortification, occupying an area of about half an acre, was well situated for defence. It stood quite close to the shore, the deep slimy channel of the Peffery into which the sea flowed winding about two of its sides, and a level plain of considerable extent surrounding it on the other. A small fragment of the castle wall is all that now remains of it, but even this is capable of giving some idea of the solidity and massive proportions of the original structure. The fosse, which surrounded it, may still be traced; and a regular glacis is plainly visible. After the forfeiture of the Earl, the proprietor of the estate of Tulloch was appointed hereditary constable of the castle, with a salary of 20 merks, or L.1. 2s. 2.2/3d. Sterling. Its site is now occupied by a castellated building, erected by a naval gentleman, a native of the place, who obtained the land in feu, and who, by the improvements which he has effected, has contributed much to the ornament of the town.

Near the church stands an obelisk, which, although of no great antiquity, attracts the notice of all travellers. It is erected on an artificial mound, occupying about two-thirds of an acre. The obelisk is 6 feet square at the base, and rises in a pyramidal form, to the height of 57 feet. It was erected by George, first Earl of Cromarty, Secretary of State for Scotland, in the reign of Queen Anne, and was intended to ornament and distinguish this spot, which he designed to be the family burying-place.

Towards the north end of the parish there are the remains of a Druidical temple, and there are many similar remains in the neighbourhood. It stands on a bare moor, all that now remains of it being the upright stones of the inner circle - those of the outer circle, which may still be distinctly traced in the sward, having been removed to build a march-dike in the vicinity.


For the reasons above assigned, it is impossible now, with any accuracy, to ascertain the ancient state of the population of this parish, which would appear to have been subject to considerable fluctuation, both in circumstances and numerical amount.

The amount of the population since the commencement of the Parliamentary census has been as follows:

Year Total Male Female
1801 1418 619 799
1811 1500 647 853
1821 2031 930 1101
1831 2189 980 1159

This gradual increase of population is satisfactorily accounted for by the growing habits of attention to cleanliness and health, apparent among the people, the universal use of vaccination, and the occasional influx of strangers, particularly the settlement here of the staff of the Ross-shire militia in 1816. The increase since 1821, as indicated above, is considerably less than it would have been, owing to the extent to which emigration has been carried on during the last few years; the average number of persons who have left this parish for the Canadas, during that period, being not much below twenty, annually. A considerable number also of young men leave this parish yearly, in quest of employment in the south.
The number of the population residing in the burgh is being about four-fifths of the whole -  1715.  There are no villages in the parish. 
The yearly average of births for the last seven years is 50.  That of marriages for the same period - 11.
There is no register of deaths kept in the parish. 
The number of individuals and families of independent fortune residing the parish is about 15.
The number of proprietors of land, of the yearly value of L.50 and upwards, is 7.
Number of families in the parish - 484.
Number of families chiefly employed in agriculture - 90.
Number of families in trade, manufactures, or handicraft - 127.
The people of this parish are not remarkable for any peculiarity in their personal appearance.

The number of insane persons is 2; of fatuous 6; of blind 1; and of deaf and dumb l.

Gaelic is still the language of the lower orders of the people, although it has been sensibly declining within the last twenty years, and promises at no very distant period to be completely supplanted by the English, which is understood by all, and tolerably well spoken by most of the inhabitants. It has become the language of ordinary conversation among the young, Gaelic being now rarely heard on the playground. Still the older members of the community are strongly attached to it, and public worship is every Sabbath performed in it, at which a large proportion of the people attend.
There are no popular customs peculiar to this parish worthy of notice. The taste for amusements would seem to be declining here; even the Christmas and New year's shinty matches, in which but recently both old and young used to indulge with eager interest, are now abandoned, and exchanged, it is to be feared, in many instances, for pastimes of a less equivocal character.

The people generally are simple, industrious, and temperate in their habits, rather cheerful in their dispositions, and affable in their manners and address. Although by no means filthy in their persons, they are far from remarkable for cleanliness in their dwellings and domestic arrangements. But a marked change in this respect is now taking place. More regard is now paid to neatness, at least in the exterior of their houses; and the dunghill, which used to disfigure the approach to them, is now pretty generally giving place to a flower-plot or shrubbery. The staple articles of food among the peasantry are potatoes and herrings, which, with oatmeal, form the subsistence of the poorer classes. Fresh fish, with which the market here is abundantly supplied at particular seasons of the year, comes on these occasions within the reach of their limited funds, and supplies them with a wholesome and agreeable variety. But the standard of living is exceedingly low, butcher meat being to the lower orders a luxury in which they seldom indulge. Still, however, the people are social and contented, and enjoy the comforts of society in a higher degree than their slender circumstances would indicate.

Their intellectual character stands as high as that of most people who labour under the disadvantage of using the Gaelic as their vernacular tongue, in which there existed nothing, at least until recently, deserving the name of literature. Most of them, it is true, were taught to read and write English, but they think in Gaelic, which renders these acquisitions of comparatively little use to them. But although thus necessarily, in a great measure, strangers to the intelligence acquired by reading, and consequently a good deal influenced by the narrow prejudices inseparable from ignorance, they are naturally shrewd and observant, sagacious in the management of their affairs, and not altogether destitute of that thoughtful and imaginative cast of mind characteristic of Highlanders.
Their character for morality is upon the whole creditable. Making due allowance for exceptions, they are honest, sober, and peaceable, good citizens, and loyal subjects. The number of habitual drunkards in the place is small, bearing no proportion to the amount of temptation to that vice presented by the great number of public-houses. Still the tone of their morality is perhaps rather strict than high.

With regard to religion, in so far at least as externals are concerned, they are decidedly a religious people, having great reverence for sacred things, evincing a laudable diligence in attending the means of religious instruction, and in general maintaining a suitable conduct, with those exceptions which must occur in every society.

Agriculture - The number of acres in this parish, either cultivated or occasionally in tillage, is 2388. The number which have never been cultivated, but remain in pasture is 3168. There is very little of this capable of being added to the cultivated land of the parish with any prospect of remuneration. It chiefly consists of some hill pasture, and moorland lying at the northern extremity of the parish. But there is an extent of about 200 acres within the parish recoverable from the sea, and capable of being very profitably improved. It consists of a flat bay, with a bottom composed of mud, covered only at high water, which might be easily rendered capable of yielding excellent crops; all that is requisite being to exclude the sea, which might easily be effected by means of an embankment, owing to the shallowness of the water. A method has been suggested by which this land might be recovered at a very inconsiderable expense, which is worthy of notice. It is found that each tide carries along with it a quantity of the slime of which the shore is chiefly composed for a considerable distance, which at present it washes off again by its action as it recedes. But if a row of pretty closely set piles were so placed as to prevent its being carried away, the mud would not only accumulate about the piles (which might be multiplied from time to time, as an increase of height or solidity was required) so as in time to form an embankment, but a deposit would gradually go on which would have the additional advantage of raising the whole surface. That this would actually be the result is proved by the fact, that within a yair which was erected a few years ago in the neighbourhood, and which could but partially answer the purpose of the piles, a bed of mud of considerable depth has already been deposited. And this is further confirmed by the rapidity with which mud accumulates in those parts of the canal which are not exposed to the action of the current.

There are no common lands in the parish.

There are 1385 acres covered with plantations of fir, larch, and hard-wood, chiefly the first, of all ages, all very thriving, and in general well attended to. But besides this, there is a great deal of very fine wood, consisting of beech, elm, oak, ash, sycamore, &c. dispersed all over the parish in the form of clumps, rows, and borders. Tulloch, the residence of the principal proprietor, is very richly wooded, which is disposed with great taste, And the fields all over the parish are edged with rows of trees, the disadvantage of which to the farmer is compensated to the public in the luxuriant and picturesque appearance which they impart to the country.

The average rent of arable land in the parish is about L.2 per acre. The lands around the town, which are of superior quality, are very highly rented, some as high as L.4. 10s. per acre.

The average rent of grazing here is at the rent of L.1 per ox or cow, and 3s. per sheep during the year.

The usual rate of wages for farm-servants is from L.7 to L.8 in money, 7 bolls of meal, a quarter of an acre of potatoes, and a free house and garden, worth in all about L.20 per annum. Labourers only occasionally employed are paid at the rate of about 7s. 6d. a-week, and country artisans at about 9s. The average rate of mason work for some years past is from L.1. 16s. to L.2 per rood, journeymen being paid at the average rate of 12s. a-week. Carpenters are paid from 10s. to 12s. a-week; slaters about 12s.; painters from 12s. to 16s. But work of all kinds is done now by estimate, and the rate of wages varies according to the demand, and the qualification of the workman.

The number of sheep and cattle bred in this parish is inconsiderable, the grazing, which is well sheltered by wood, being generally let as wintering for sheep reared in the more mountainous and exposed parts of the country, and as summer grazing for the black-cattle reared by the farmers and cottars around, which are grazed at so much per head. The few sheep produced in the parish, which were formerly the common black-faced breed of the country, are now Cheviot of the most approved breed. The cattle are generally of the Highland stamp, with the exception of some Ayrshire cows, recently introduced. The horses on all the larger farms are Clydesdale, of a superior caste; the cottars still use the small garrons of the country.

The husbandry pursued in the parish is of a very high character. The neatness, extent, and regularity of the fields, and the general appearance of high culture which the farms present frequently excites the surprise of strangers who visit the Highlands for the first time, while the superior quality of the produce secures for it the highest prices in the markets. The implements used are of the most approved description, comprising most of the modern improvements. The systems of cropping practised are the following, chiefly the first:
1st. Six-course rotation for best loam or clay lands: 1 fallow manured, or turnips with manure or bone-dust; 2. wheat or barley; 3. hay; 4. oats; 5. potatoes, peas, or beans manured; 6. wheat - 2d. Five-course rotation for light or gravelly land: 1. turnips; 2. barley or wheat occasionally; 3. hay; 4. pasture; 5. oats, or wheat seldom - 3d. Seven-course rotation for inferior loam or clay: 1. fallow or turnips; 2. wheat or barley; 3. hay; 4. pasture; 5. oats; 6. beans or potatoes; 7. wheat.

Since the date of the former Statistical Account, a great proportion of the arable land of the parish has been brought into a state of culture. A considerable part of this was reclaimed from the sea. It consisted of carse lands lying to the south and east of the town, over which the sea flowed at high water. In the improvement of this, all that was requisite was to exclude the sea by means of embankments (which has been effectually done) and to level the surface, as the want of fall and the nature of the subsoil (a stiff clay) precluded drainage. By the aid of lime and manure, these lands have been brought into a state of great productiveness. Another extensive improvement was the drainage and culture of the low part of Strathpeffer, lying within this parish, consisting of a swampy morass overgrown by stunted alder trees, and commonly called the bog. Through this a channel was cut for the Peffery, sufficiently deep to afford a fall for drainage, by a judicious use of which, and by trenching and levelling the surface, this, which was formerly of so little value as to be used as a common grazing, has become one of the finest farms in the parish.

These improvements were chiefly effected by the tenants who hold their lands on leases of nineteen or twenty-one years and this demonstrates the great advantage resulting, not only to the proprietor but to society generally, from such leases as secure to the occupier the fruits of his enterprise or skill. The lands about town are generally held on leases of five years, the proprietor being unwilling to grant them for longer terms, as they might prove obstacles to improvements, and as the value of land is there more fluctuating.

The farm-buildings throughout the parish are in good repair. They are in general substantial and commodious. The enclosures are chiefly sunk fences and hedges, the latter of which are very badly kept.

The chief obstacles to improvement on the part of the farmer here arise from the frequent inability of the proprietor, owing to circumstances connected with the law of entail, to render the tenant any assistance or encouragement in times of depression. The best remedy for this would undoubtedly be the conversion of money into grain rents, which would render the tenant independent to a great degree of fluctuation in the market prices.

There are three quarries in the parish; one of these, which is situated about one-fourth of a mile from the town, is the property of the public. It is a hard grey sandstone of good quality; but the labour and expense of excavating it are very great, owing to the depth of clay and breccia by which it is covered. The other two, which are private property, are of a fine light-blue colour, affording stone fit for all kinds of work, and susceptible of a very fine polish. It has, however, one disadvantage; there is a small admixture of iron pyrites, upon which the rain in time operates, and stains in a very ugly manner the contiguous stones.

There are no fisheries in this parish, with the exception of a stell salmon-fishing in the Conan, one-third of which belongs to the common good of the burgh, and from which it derives an average revenue of L. 90. There is also belonging to the town a yair fishing in the frith, which pays a trifling rent, but, owing to mal-construction or some other cause, it has been for a few years past very unproductive.

The average gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish, which, owing to a variety of circumstances it would be almost impossible to ascertain with accuracy, may be approximated thus: Assuming the six-course rotation described above to represent the relative proportion of the crops, and the amount of arable land in the parish to be 2888 imperial acres, it follows that:

One-sixth being in fallow or in turnips, one-half of each, there are of the latter 199 acres, valued at L.5 per acre - £995.
One-sixth wheat and barley, one-half of each, 199 acres wheat, 28 bushels per acre, valued at 4s. 6d. per bushel -  £1253.14. 8.
199 acres barley, 40 bushels per acre, valued at 3s. 6d. per bushel - £1393.
One-sixth hay, 398 acres, 200 stone per acre (24 lb. per stone) at 8d - £2653. 6/-.
One-sixth oats, 398 acres, 51 bushels per acre, at 2s. 6d. - £2537. 5/-.
One-sixth potatoes and pease or beans one half of the first 199 acres potatoes, 240 bushels per acre, at 10d - £1990.
199 acres pease or beans, 28 bushels per acre, at 3s. 6d - £975.
One-sixth wheat, 398 acres, 28 bushels per acre, at 4s. 6d. - £2507. 8/-.
1500 sheep pastured at 2s. - £150.
Cattle pastured, value £50.
Annual value of timber cut in the parish - £700.
Fisheries, average gross produce  - £600.
Quarries, about £50.
Total £15,854.15. 8
Navigation - There are but two small vessels belonging to this place. They were built here, and are employed in the coast trade. But, besides these, the port is frequented by vessels of different descriptions, which supply the district with lime, coal, &c.

Associations - The "Farmers' Society for Wester Ross", which has for its object the promotion of agriculture and its interests in this district, holds its quarterly meetings at Dingwall. Of this society all the principal farmers, and most of the landed proprietors around, are members. At these meetings the business consists in reading essays, detailing experiments, describing new inventions or improvements on the implements of husbandry, and in deliberating on the general interests of agriculture. The influence of this society has been considerable in improving stock, by promoting local exhibitions, &c. in bringing modern discoveries in the theory or practice of farming into general notice, and in fostering feelings of kindliness and intimacy, such as should ever subsist between landlord and tenant.


The burgh of Dingwall contains a population of 1715, amounting to about four fifths of the whole population of the parish.

Having no manufactures, the trade of Dingwall is very limited, being confined, on the one hand, to the importation of those various articles of merchandise which are required for the supply of the surrounding country, and, on the other, to the exportation of corn, timber, bark, and such other country produce as can be conveniently procured to form a freight for the vessels which bring hither coal, lime, and other commodities.

The chartered constitution of the burgh consists in a council of fifteen members, including a provost, two bailies, a dean of guild, and a treasurer. These, by the late burgh Reform Act, are elected from time to time by those residing within the royalty, who possess or rent property to the yearly value of L.10 or upwards. The number of persons possessing this qualification here is about 100. Dingwall is one of the northern district of burghs that send a joint member to Parliament. 

The police of the place is very defective, owing to the limited state of the public funds. For although it possesses an average revenue of L.273. 7s. 2d. Sterling, arising from the superiority of certain lands held in feu of the burgh, the fishings in the river Conan, &c. and the rent of a small residue of the public lands, still the interest of debts to a large amount contracted chiefly in a tedious law-suit with the Honourable Mrs Hay McKenzie of Cromarty, regarding possession of part of the Conan fishings, together with the payment of public burdens, leave little to meet the expense of an efficient system of police and of cleaning, lighting, or improving the town.

The freedom of the town, which is an indispensable qualification to merchants commencing business here, costs from L.5 to L.15, according to the probable extent of the business to be carried on.

Means of Communication - There is the greatest facility of communication between Dingwall and all parts of the country. The roads in all directions are surpassed by none in the kingdom. The mail-coach passes and repasses daily through the town, and in summer there are two additional daily coaches, one betwixt Dingwall and Inverness by the ferry of Kessock, a distance of thirteen miles. And the other twice each day between Dingwall and the Strathpeffer spa, now a place of considerable resort, distant four miles and a-half. Weekly steam-boats from Edinburgh, and every second week from London, call at Invergordon, in this frith, distant only fourteen miles, and the town furnishes four post-chaises and six gigs.

There is a tolerably good harbour quite close to the town, consisting of a canal formed in the years 1815-17, at an expense of L.4365. The management of it is vested by an Act of Parliament passed in 1824 in a board of commissioners, a great majority of whom consist of the magistrates of the town. The average revenue arising from it is about L.130, which is not more than sufficient to keep it in repair. The advantages resulting from this canal must be obvious, for by means of it, vessels of considerable burden are brought into the immediate vicinity of the town, which, without it, owing to the shallowness of the frith, must have remained at a distance, and, from the muddy nature of the shore, almost inaccessible.

Ecclesiastical State - The parish church is situated on the north side of the town, and is exceedingly convenient to the whole population, being almost in the centre of the parish. It was built in 1801. Although plain in its exterior, within it is remarkably neat and commodious, and is in excellent repair. It affords seat-room for about 800. From the circumstance that the Gaelic and English portions of the population form two almost distinct congregations nearly equally numerous, this apparently deficient accommodation is ample. For the same cause also the poorer classes, who belong to the Gaelic congregation, enjoy the privilege of church accommodation free of expense, for the wealthier part of the community, by whom seats are rented, attend, with few exceptions, the English service only, and thus all the seats are open to the unrestricted access of any who may choose to occupy them during the Gaelic service.

The manse was built in the year 1791, and had an addition made to it in 1825. It is sufficiently commodious, and is at present in good repair. The glebe, which is a mile distant from town, consists of about ten acres, all arable, and of superior quality.

The stipend is 16 chalders, paid one-half in meal, and the other in barley.

There is a catechist employed in the parish, who receives about L.15 per annum for his services. This sum is paid partly by the inhabitants, who subscribe for the purpose, and partly by the kirk-session, who allow him L.5 for visiting the poor.
There are no Dissenting or Secession places of worship in the parish, but there is an Episcopalian chapel, in which service is performed every alternate Sabbath.
The whole population of the parish are members of the Established Church, with the exception of from 40 to 50 Episcopalians, and about a dozen Wesleyian Methodists - strangers connected with the staff of the Ross-shire militia, which is stationed here.

The people are regular in their attendance on divine worship. The average number of communicants is 140.

The only religious or charitable society established in the parish is "the Dingwall Ladies' Association for Missionary and Religious purposes" which meets annually with the view of collecting funds in aid of the objects of the association. But the Northern Missionary Society holds one of its annual meetings at Dingwall. The average amount collected by these annually is about L.65; the receipts of the latter generally amounting to about L.50.

The yearly average amount of church collections for religious and charitable purposes is about L.60.

Education - There are five schools in the parish. One of these is the parochial school; none of the others is endowed. One, an infant school, was erected in 1832 by private subscription, and is still supported by the same means. The other three, of which one is a female seminary, are private, the school fees being the sole emolument of the teacher. At these the ordinary branches of education are taught, viz. reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, and geography, in addition to which, at the parochial school, mathematics, the Latin and Greek classics, French, &c. are taught.

In addition to those mentioned, there is a Sabbath school in the parish, at which from 200 to 300 children generally attend. It meets in church, and is taught on Gall's system by a number of benevolent individuals of both sexes, under the superintendence of the minister.

The salary of the parochial teacher is the maximum, amounting to L.34, 4s. 4.1/2d. The average annual amount of school fees is about L.40. The teacher is provided with a house and garden - that occupied by him at present is rented for that purpose by the heritors, the house appropriated to the schoolmaster having fallen into disrepair.

The general expense of education is as follows; viz. for English reading, 6s. per annum; do. and writing, 8s.; do. do. and arithmetic, 12s.; Latin or Greek L.1. 4s. &c.

The people in general are sufficiently alive to the advantages of education, and, with few exceptions, avail themselves of the facilities afforded them of giving to their families at least an elementary education. The low rate of fees places this within the reach of all who exercise ordinary industry and prudence, and that the children of the poorest may not be excluded from its blessings, the kirk-session maintain at school twenty of the most destitute children out of the funds at their disposal.

Literature - It is to be regretted that there is no public library or reading-room, nor any literary or scientific society in this parish. There was a subscription library established here some time ago, but, owing to public indifference, the project failed. The reason probably is that the wealthier and more influential part of the community, which comprises almost the whole of its literary taste, are generally possessed of private libraries, and supply themselves with newspapers and periodicals. Of the former, about forty-seven come to the parish, of which about seven are daily papers, and of the latter, the number of copies of the larger magazines and reviews which come to the parish is twenty-eight, and of the smaller class, 136.

Poor and Parochial Funds - The average number of poor receiving regular parochial relief is about 100, whose allowances vary from 5s. to L.1 yearly. Besides these, a considerable sum is annually expended in relieving contingent cases of necessity.

The average amount of poor's funds is L.100; of which about L.50 are derived from church collections. The remaining L.50 consists of the interest of various sums, amounting to L.1000, mortified at different periods for the behoof of the poor. Of this, L.700 was left by one of the proprietors of the estate of Tulloch, and L.100 by the late Bailie Murdo Mackenzie of this place. The remainder, consisting of cash at the disposal of the kirk-session, has been lent out on heritable security, for all which five per cent. interest is paid.

There is no regular assessment here for the poor, but claims for parochial relief do occasionally occur which the ordinary resources of the parish are incapable of meeting, and which compel recourse to a measure which ought always to be resorted to with caution, on account of its obvious tendency to encourage idleness, and to destroy that feeling of independence which shrinks from parochial relief, which still exists to a considerable degree here, and which is one of the strongest stimuli to habits of industry and economy.

Prisons - There is a jail in the burgh which, however, has been disused for a year or two past, owing to its great insecurity. It has recently undergone a temporary repair, and is about to be again employed as a place of confinement. Four-fifths of the prisoners confined in it when in use were committed for offences against the excise laws. These, the Highlanders, a simple people, unskilled in nice distinctions, were accustomed to view as oppressive restrictions on a practice to which habit had given them the feeling of a legal right. The infringement of them they therefore did not regard as criminal, and imprisonment on account of it they considered as rather a misfortune than a disgrace. But smuggling is now, happily for the peace and comfort of the people, almost wholly at an end; so that our jail will henceforth, it is hoped, be occupied by those only whose offences are of so unequivocal a criminality as that the severity of their punishment may not be aggravated by a doubt of its justice. The government of the jail was extremely defective. Indeed, the poverty of accommodation, and the character of the building, which permitted the prisoners to hold free and constant intercourse with the public, precluded anything like a proper system of discipline, while the damp and ill-ventilated cells into which many were necessarily crowded, seldom failed in affecting the most robust constitutions. A new county jail is at present in contemplation, of which Dingwall, as the county town, and the most centrical situation, is generally expected to be the site.

Fairs - There are three annual fairs held in the parish, at which all sorts of commodities are vended. At these the country people assemble in great numbers, partly because they still have somewhat of the character of festivals (which the term "feil" in Gaelic imports), but chiefly owing to the force of confirmed habit, since all that can be purchased at these fairs may be had quite as conveniently in town at any time.

Inns, &c. - In addition to the two principal inns, which are commodious and well kept houses, there are in the parish at present sixteen licensed public-houses. The number a few years ago was considerably greater, but the authorities, sensible of their demoralising tendency, have been gradually restricting the number, and have done much to counteract their influence, by maintaining over them a strict superintendence.

Fuel - The fuel used in the parish is chiefly coal, of which there is always an abundant supply. Peats are also a good deal used. They are brought from the neighbouring parish of Fodderty, in small rung carts, and sold at a shilling or fifteen-pence per load.


Since the time of the last Statistical Account this parish has undergone considerable change, chiefly in respect of its productive capabilities, the condition and appearance of the town, and the multiplied facilities of communication with all parts of the kingdom.

Since that period a great part of the parish, formerly waste, has been brought into culture, and that previously in cultivation greatly improved. At that time the land was principally occupied by small farmers and crofters, whose notions of husbandry were extremely limited; now it is laid out in large farms, where the most approved theories of farming are practically exemplified. Then the implements used were of the most primitive description, Scots ploughs, rung carts, kallachies, &c.; now these, which are not to be seen at all, have been supplanted by metallic ploughs, harrows and rollers, frame carts, &c. &c. These changes have not left much to be added to the productive capacity of the parish. Still it would be too much to say that this had attained its maximum. Some land, as has been mentioned, still remains to be reclaimed, and further improvements in agriculture may still do much in developing the latent energies of the soil.

In these changes also the town has shared in a similar degree. Since that time it has been greatly extended, and the character of the buildings, both in respect of size and comfort, very much improved. Most of the better sort of houses have been built within the last twenty years, and several excellent houses are at present in the course of erection. Shops of all kinds have multiplied to such a degree as to furnish every kind of goods, and to preclude the necessity which existed, even within the last twenty years, of sending to Inverness for all but the most common commodities. The access to the town has been greatly improved, especially towards the north, in which direction a new street has been opened. A new road has also been made leading eastward to the shore. A harbour has been formed, a bank has been established, new apparatus has been constructed for conveying water into the town, the pavement of the streets has been renewed, and more attention than formerly is now paid to keeping them clean. Light is still a desideratum.

Another important change in the benefits of which this parish has participated in common with the district around, is the facility of communication with all parts of the country. Roads of the very best description intersect it in all directions, along which coaches and carriers are continually passing, affording means of conveyance to the places around. A constant communication has been opened by steam both with Edinburgh and London; that with the latter place has only been recently established, but has already exerted a marked influence on the arrangements of the farmer, as rendering the feeding of stock for which this has opened up the market, to which little attention has been hitherto paid here, an object of the first importance.

With all these changes, the condition of the people has been improving. Habits of cleanliness and comfort now more generally prevail, and the bulk of the people have been advancing in intelligence and information, towards which the facilities of education, especially the institution of the Sabbath and Infant Schools, have contributed, and which the establishment of libraries accessible to the lower classes would still further promote. A savings bank is also very desirable for the encouragement of right management and economy. But many of the people are extremely poor, and in want of regular employment,a want which can only be supplied by the introduction of manufactures, for which the place is well situated. There is abundance of people who would be glad of employment. Living is comparatively moderate. The home market for several kinds of manufactures would be considerable, and conveyance to the foreign markets would always be easy and open.

March 1837.

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