Ferintosh History

Ferintosh Community Collage
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in CaithnessSir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty

The First Statistical Account (1790)

On the 25 May 179, Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness wrote to over nine hundred Parish ministers throughout Scotland asking them to contribute to a Statistical Inquiry by answering as best they could,a series of one hundred and sixty-six Queries respecting each Parish.

Ferintosh History

The First Statistical Account of Urquhart and Logie Wester
The following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Urquhart and Logie Wester, of which Ferintosh is a part, from the first or old Statistical Account of the

By the Rev Mr Charles Calder

Origin of the Names -The particular period when the parishes of Urquhart and Loggie Wester were united is not known. None of the parochial records are of an older date than the year 1709, at which time they made but one parish. One of these parishes derives its designation, according to a tradition current in the place, from the first church, on its formation into a parish, having been built by a lady of eminent piety, Sophia Urquhart by name, of the family of Cromarty. The landed property of that family in this country was anciently of vast extent, and to that lady, it is said, the lands of Urquhart had been allotted as her dowry. Though they have long since passed from that to a different line of proprietors, yet still many of the inhabitants of this, and some of the heritors of the adjacent parish, are of that name. Loggy, the name of the other united parish, is a Gaelic word, descriptive of the situation of the old church of that parish, of which the ruins are still extant in a pleasant valley on the water of the Conan, with the contiguous grounds gently sloping towards it, and overlooked by those on the opposite side of the river. It is called Loggy Wester, to distinguish it from another parish of the same name, within the bounds of this Synod.

Situation Extent Proprietors etc - Considering these parishes which were thus originally divided as now but one, and Urquhart (agreeable to general use) as comprehending both, its extent is about nine or ten statute miles in length and from three to four in breadth. It belongs to the Presbytery of Dingwall and Synod of Ross. It lies along Cromarty Firth, terminating in the river of Conan, in a direction nearly from East to West and in a position in general gently declining towards the shore. At high water the tide flows to within about 2 miles of the western extremity of the parish. And at low water retires much the same distance from its eastern extremity leaving exposed a flat beach with the river lying about half way between the opposite shores. There are only three heritors in the parish, by whose estates it is formed into as many distinct divisions, each of them occupying a continued extent of some miles along the shore (including under that designation both the sea coast and the bank of the river) and running from thence to the uncultivated heights or ridge of moor lying between this parish and those of Killearnan and Kilmuir Wester. The principal seats of the heritors, and the bulk of the fortunes of some if not all of them lie in other parishes. They have however seats in this parish. There is an old but a good house, and lately repaired, at Findon in the eastern division of the parish, belonging to Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Scatwell. It is pleasantly situated between Cromarty Firth on the one side and a beautiful oak wood on the other. There are a good many other forest trees of considerable size scattered about the place and it is furnished with an excellent garden. Fields and trees interspersed and alternately intersected by a purling brook which runs by the house into the sea form altogether a pleasing scene; the proprietor does not reside at this place. On this estate there is a market town on the high road from Dingwall and the ferry of Scuddale to Cromarty. It is provided with an inn; and four fairs are held at it throughout the year.

The chief proprietor of this parish, Mr Forbes of Culloden, whose estate here lies between those of the other two heritors, and is known by the name of Ferrintosh, has only a small, but neat and commodious lodge in it, occupied by his factor. As Ferrintosh does not constitute the principal, so neither is it the oldest part of the landed property of the Culloden family. It signifies in Gaelic the Thane's Lands, and made anciently a part of the Thanedom of Calder. That family being heritable Sheriffs of the county of Nairn, Ferrintosh, whilst their property, was on that account, (notwithstanding the distance, and the intervention of the Moray Frith) annexed to that county. It passed from their possession about the beginning of last century, but its connection with that county in some respects still subsists. Hence Mr Forbes of Culloden, as Baron of Ferrintosh, votes in Parliamentary elections for the county of Nairn. The houses on some parts of Ferrintosh are extremely numerous. There is an oak wood on this estate of considerable extent. It abounds with delightful walks, and adds much to the ornament of the place. But the oaks in this parish attain not in general to any considerable size, and are much retarded in their growth from not being enclosed.

Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch, the only other heritor belonging to this parish, has a handsome modern house at his place of Conanside, in the west end of the parish, where he resides a part of the year. Situated on the banks of the Conan river, this place possesses many natural beauties, and it has of late been much improved by art. There are plantations of firs on this estate of considerable extent. Some of them are intermixed with forest trees, and all of them in a thriving condition. Where dismal bleakness lately prevailed, the eye is now presented with refreshing verdure.

Population -The population of this parish, as appears from the following statements, has been very variable. Occasional chasms in the old registers, are partly the cause of selecting the particular periods in the subsequent table of births and marriages. No register of deaths has been kept in this parish, nor could the number be so easily ascertained as in many other parishes, there being two burial places.

Table of Births and Marriages per annum, upon an average of three years at different periods

Years Births Marriages
1737 / 38 / 39       29  
1747 / 48 / 49       49              17
1777 / 78 / 79       83              21
1786 / 87 / 89       37              13
1789 / 90 / 91       43              15

Number of souls at different periods

Years Souls
1755 2590
1779 3022
1789 2597
1792 2901

State of the Population for 1792

Males 1357
Females 1544 
Total 2901
Below 10 years   814
10 to 20   609
20 to 50   984
50 to 70   437
70 to 100   566
Above 100       1
Total 2901

Number of houses occupied No. of inhabitants Total
69   69 total
86  2 172
89  3 267
79  4 316
90  5 450
83  6 498
61  7 427
33  8 264
18  9 162
10 10  100
 6 11   66
 3 12   36
 1 13   13
 2 14   28
 1 15   15
 1 18   18
632   2901

Tradesmen, including their apprentices

Masons 34 Tailors 29
Carpenters 16 Shoemakers 18
Millers  8 Smiths  7
Weavers 29    
Ferrintosh Privilege - The great decrease in the number of inhabitants in this parish, which appears from the above difference of its population in the years 1779 and 1789, began to take place in 1786, and was occasioned by an event of general notoriety, and which was at that time the subject of Parliamentary discussion. The lands belonging to Mr Forbes of Culloden, which go by the name of Ferrintosh, and form the central and largest division of the parish, possessed from 1690 to 1786 an exemption from the duties of excise on spirits distilled from grain of their growth. This privilege was originally granted to the present proprietor's great grandfather, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, one of those patriots, who at the glorious period of the Revolution, stood up in defence of the religion and liberties of their country. By opposing the disaffected, and supporting the loyal subjects in his neighbourhood, at much expense, he was materially instrumental in quashing a rebellion, which at that time threatened the north of Scotland. Going some time thereafter to Holland in prosecution of the same patriotic plan, the Popish faction, during his absence, laid waste his estates, particularly the barony of Ferrintosh, and destroyed extensive distilleries, of which it was the seat at that time, and before the introduction of the Excise into Scotland. In compensation for the losses, which he had thus sustained in the service of government, the Parliament of Scotland, by an Act passed in 1690, farmed to him and his successors, the yearly excise of the lands of Ferrintosh, for the sum of 400 merks Scotch, subject, as explained by a posterior Act, to a proportion of any additional duties of excise, that might be thereafter imposed by law upon the kingdom. This privilege his successors enjoyed without interruption, till the year 1786. As a mark of public favour, it was not more honourably acquired at first, than it was amply merited afterwards, by a continued succession of important services in their country's cause. In 1715, the original granter's son, adhering to the principles of the Revolution, raised all the men upon his estates, and deeply impaired his private fortune, by keeping them in arms at his own expense, till that rebellion was happily quelled. The services rendered to Government in 1745, by that great man and ornament of his country, the Honourable Duncan Forbes of Culloden, President of the Court of Session, are universally known. At the breaking out of that rebellion, he applied himself with zeal to nip it in the bud. He successively invited the chieftains to Culloden house, and whilst he delighted them with his conversation and winning manners, he so wrought on them by his persuasive eloquence, that he was the happy instrument of keeping thousands from joining the Pretender's standard. His exertions at that critical conjuncture, whilst they brought his own liberty, and even his life into imminent hazard, involved his family in a debt, double to that which he had found it loaded, from his predecessor's zeal in the same cause, and amounting together to upwards of £30,000 Sterling. About two thirds of that sum, and less than 16 years purchase of its proven increasing value, was the allowance made by Government to the present proprietor, on their resumption of this immunity in the year 1786. The singularity of this privilege, and its great influence, in a statistical view, on the condition and number of the inhabitants of this parish, have led to this short account of its origin, and of the services by which it was earned.

Upon the extinction of this right, many of the people, being deprived of employment, were obliged to seek elsewhere for that support, which they had no expectation that the place could any longer afford; and in a little time thereafter, the inhabitants of the parish were found to have decreased some hundreds in number. Few of them, however, left the kingdom; their supposed superior skill, in the business to which they had been inured, occasioned a demand of hands from Ferrintosh, wherever distilleries were erected under the new act of Parliament, respecting that branch of revenue which took place about the same time with the deprivation of their privilege. This decrease of inhabitants ceased, however, in the course of two or three years after the event to which it had been owing. Since that time, the population of the place has been uniformly advancing, and amounts at present to little short of what it has been at any former period. The extent to which their original occupation, though stripped of its former advantages, is now again carried on, partly occasions this returning increase of the population; but it is owing, to a still greater degree, to that attachment to the natale folum, which induces the poor people to settle in the moor grounds in the skirts of the parish, rather than to seek for subsistence by emigration, and because the proprietors were beginning to see (what is to be hoped, they will see still more) the good policy of giving them all due encouragement in their little improvements. But it was not solely the population of the parish that was affected by Government's resuming the Ferrintosh privilege. The people of that district, who constitute the great body of the parish, underwent in general a great deterioration, as to their circumstances and mode of living, from that event, against which few of them comparatively had made any provision. The monopoly they enjoyed, and the acknowledged superiority of the spirits produced from their small stills, occasioned a demand for them from all quarters, and a constant circulation of cash in the place, which brought the people in general an ease in their circumstances, and a fulness of the necessaries of life, beyond what commonly falls to the class of farmers. A transition in these respects to the level of their neighbours, so abrupt, would have been more severely felt, had it not found some mitigation in the distinguished humanity of the proprietor of these lands. But the business of distillation is now resumed in Ferrintosh, and diffused throughout the parish in general, to an extent that requires a very considerable annual importation of barley, and gives employment to 29 licensed stills. There are, however, very few who derive from it any benefit; but the mischief resulting from it is manifest, and there is too much cause to apprehend, from the low price of spirits, and the restriction as to a foreign market, that the country in general may furnish multiplied instances of the pernicious tendency of this trade, as an inlet to intemperance, and a bane to the industry and morals of the people.

Rent, Church, Schools etc - The valued rent of the parish is £3011 Scotch. The real rent, exclusive of the salmon fishing on the water of Conan, is supposed to be upwards of £2000 Sterling. Mr Forbes of Culloden is patron of the parish. The minister's stipend is paid partly in victual and partly in money; of the former, five chalders of barely and one of meal; of the latter, 600 merks, with 100 more for communion elements. Besides the glebe in the neighbourhood of the manse, there is another adjacent to the ruins of the old church of Loggy, and within the improvements at Conan-side, the proprietors of which place have farmed it for a series of years past. The manse was built in the year 1777. The present church has been recently condemned, as unworthy of reparation, and a new one is begun to be built in a different and more eligible situation, for which and a wall to enclose it, a sum of £580 Sterling is allotted. Besides the parochial school, there are two others, in the more remote districts of the parish, established by the Society for propagating Christian Knowledge, and to the support of which, the respective proprietors laudably contribute. All these schools, for a great part of the year, are numerously attended, and productive of the most beneficial consequences, in diffusing among the people religious instruction, and civilisation of manners.

Farms, produce etc - The farms in this parish are small, paying at a medium, it is supposed, about 18 bolls, or nearly that value, between money and victual. After payment of the rent, the subsistence they yield to the tenant is extremely scanty. Tradesmen and day labourers occupy a great many crofts, or smaller possessions, which pay from a few shillings to £2 of rent. There are however a few farms in the parish, of considerable extent, and of which the possessors enjoy more favourable circumstances. Some of these are furnished with cattle of large size, and implements of husbandry of a correspondent good quality. Very little of the ground has been inclosed. The crops commonly raised are barley, oats, and potatoes, with some pease and rye. No wheat, and but an inconsiderable quantity of grass feeds, are sown in this parish. The horses used here are generally of a small size. The black cattle are of rather better quality. The sheep are inconsiderable in number, and of the common Scotch breed.

Freestone, Fishing etc - Through a great part of the parish, along the sea, and the rivulets running into it, quarries of freestone abound, which supply the country around in millstones, and from whence other hewn work is occasionally sent by boats across the frith. There is a salmon fishing belonging to the Cromarty estate, on the water of Conan, from whence the fish are sent to Inverness, to be shipped for London. Except the few hands employed about the fish, nets and coops, at that place, there are no fishermen belonging to this parish, nor are any fish worth mentioning to be found elsewhere on this shore, except an inconsiderable quantity of salmon, and small fish of different kinds, in a wear belonging to the Ferrintosh estate.

Fuel - This parish is very ill supplied with fuel. Those whose circumstances can afford it, make use of coals, but the bulk of the inhabitants have no other fire, but what the surface of the moor furnishes them with, or what they can procure from mosses of a light unsubstantial quality, at a distance of 2 or 3 miles, and at a great expense of time and labour. Such as are engaged in the business of distilling use partly coal, but chiefly peats got from other parishes, on each side of the frith, and at high prices.

Poor - In this populous parish the poor are very numerous. The number of them on the kirk-session's list commonly exceeds 200. The funds allotted for their relief, being partly of a fluctuating nature, cannot be ascertained with precision. They admit, however, one year with another, after payment of salaries to the session clerk, and other parish officers, of a distribution among the poor of about £23 or £24 Sterling annually. The general and severe scarcity of the years 1783 and 1784 called for a more unrestrained use of their funds, and for these two years their usual allowance was nearly doubled*.

*There being no manufactures (that of grain into spirits excepted) established in this place, nor improvements going on in it of any consideration, together with other circumstances, occasions the number of our poor being so great. There are however, very few places in this country into which manufactures that would afford general employment to people of different ages, and of both sexes, could be introduced, with such prospect of advantage, or bid fairer for rescuing numbers from the penury and distress in which they languish at present, from want of employment. Besides inducements of a more important nature for such an establishment, there are buildings, which during the existence of the Ferrintosh privilege, were erected by a company for the purpose of distilling, and now lie unoccupied. They are of very considerable extent, situated about the middle of the parish, and contiguous to the shore, where there is occasionally a depth of water, sufficient for vessels of 100 tons burden.

Language, Antiquities etc - Gaelic is the language commonly spoken, and universally understood in this parish. The English is, however, understood by a great many of the inhabitants. Public divine service is performed in both languages. The names of places throughout the parish are evidently of Gaelic origin. At the south-west extremity of the parish in an extensive high but level moor, there are several tumuli, or large conical heaps of stones. There is not any tradition as to the particular occasion of collecting them. By the directions of the proprietor, one of them was lately laid open, when 3 stone coffins were found in it, ranged in a line from east to west.**

**As to climate, wages of servants, prices of provisions, and several other objects of a statistical nature, there is nothing peculiar to be observed with regard to this parish, or different from the accounts already presented to the public from other parishes in the neighbourhood; only as to the last of these articles, and mercantile goods in general, a considerable additional expense, and much inconvenience are incurred in this place, from not having access to either Inverness or Dingwall, (the only towns which can supply it in these articles) without the intervention of a ferry. Its situation with regard to a post-office is subject to the same inconvenience, and occasions a heavy drawback on the pleasure of public intelligence and private correspondence. From the great number of inhabitants, there can be little doubt that the establishment of a post-office in this parish would do more than defray the necessary expense, and, at the same time, contribute essentially to their accommodation.

Ferries etc - There are two or three ferries in this parish, one of them at its eastern extremity and opposite to Fowlis, from whence it has its name. This is not a much frequented ferry, and is incommodious at low water, from the shallowness of the shore. Towards the west end of the parish on the river of Conan, and beyond where the tide at any time flows, is the ferry of Scuddale, on the post road from Beauly to Dingwall. Besides these ferries, there is a small boat for foot passengers, which at high water plies between Dingwall and Ferrintosh. On the tide's retiring, and when the river is not high, there is access to Dingwall from this side of the water by different fords. Some of these fords have a zig-zag direction, which they maintain amidst partial variations, to which all of them are very subject, from the united force of high tides, and frequent swellings of the river. These circumstances, together with the rapid flowing of the tide at particular times, render this a hazardous passage, which proves fatal to many. Since the settlement of the present minister in 1774, scarce a year has passed without the loss of some life on it. Some years it has brought 2, 3, or more to an untimely end. Within the course of 14 months, about 8 years ago, 7 persons perished in crossing the water of Conan, at different places within the bounds of this parish. Humanity strongly solicits the long promised public aid for erecting a bridge on a river, in which the hopes and supports of many families have fallen by a premature fate.

Character - Whilst the people of this parish enjoyed peculiar advantages, as to their external situation, their character was strongly marked by a correspondent hospitality of disposition, and liberality to those in distress.Though as to the generality, their ability is now circumscribed, the same dispositions still prevail, and are ready to show themselves by suitable exertions on every proper occasion. Every general collection, for any charitable purpose, vindicates their title to this praise. The people in general are very regular in their attendance on public worship; nor are there any dissenters in the parish of any denominations, except some Episcopalians, who live in the western district, and attend a place of worship in a neighbouring parish. Populous as this parish is, there has not been an instance during the time of the present incumbent, which is 18 years, nor long before, to the best of his knowledge, of an individual belonging to it being guilty of a capital offence, or even suffering banishment. This happy exemption from criminal prosecutions, and these favourable traits of character, are owing in a very considerable degree to the advantages this parish has long enjoyed for the education of its youth.* The early establishment of a school in it, by the Society for propagating Christian Knowledge, at which for a long tract of years, about a hundred children (besides those enjoying similar advantages at the parochial school) have annually received instruction in the great duties of religion and morality, as well as the first principles of literature, could hardly fail, in such a course of time, to have a happy influence on the character and manners of the people. From the recent extension of the same advantages by that excellent institution, in consideration of the extreme populousness of this parish, to its western and most remote district, similar good effects are expected. And much room, it must be confessed, there still remains with us, for advancement in that purity of manners, of which the principles of Christianity, when duly inculcated and received, must ever be productive.

*The present teacher of the parochial school has kept it upwards of 20 years, and it is remarkable, that during the space of 3 years, 12 of his pupils have been sent to college to study divinity etc.

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