New Statistical Account (1840) Parish of Killearnan

Killearnan 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 following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Killearnan from the second or new Statistical Account of Killearnan (dated c.1840).



Name - The origin of the name of this parish is uncertain. Tradition makes the burying ground which gives its name to the parish to have been the burying-ground of Irenan, a Danish prince who fell in battle on the northern confines of the parish, where Cairn Irenan still exists. In all church records, it is now known by the name of Killearnan.

Extent, &c. - The length of the parish from west to east is from 5 to 6 miles; its breadth, in one part, is from 2 to 3 miles, from south to north. It is bounded on the west by the parish of Urray; on the north by the parish of Urquhart; on the east by the parish of Kilmuir Wester and Suddy; and on the south by the Frith of Beauly, along which it is pleasantly situate. It is wholly the property of two heritors, viz. the Trustees of the late Sir William Fettes, Bart. Residing in Edinburgh, and Colin Mackenzie, Esq. of Kilcoy, residing at Balmaduthy, in the parish of Kilmuir Wester and Suddy.

Topographical Appearances - The elevation of the parish from the sea on the south side to the summit on the Mil-Bui in the north, is gradual. The shore is sandy and clayish, without any headlands, bays, or islands. The clay in the shore is used as mortar in building houses, and also as compost in muddings. There is a considerable variety in the soil of this parish. You will find, even on one and the same farm, light loam, gravel, red and deep blue clay. Broom is natural to the soil. Many fields, if left unploughed for three years, would be nearly covered over with a luxuriant crop of broom. There are many fields, particularly on the Redcastle property, covered thickly over with small stones and though they are taken away this season at a considerable expense, yet the same process must be gone through, when the land is again brought under the plough. Nearly the whole soil of this parish rests upon a reddish freestone (the old red sandstone) easily dressed, and, when well selected, very eligible for buildings of any description. A quarry of this freestone has been worked for hundreds of years. Inverness has been supplied from it, and the locks of the Caledonian Canal were built with stones taken from it. Other smaller quarries have been opened up, of late years, in several districts of the parish, of the same colour and quality, for the purpose of building farm houses, farm-squares, &c.

Climate, &c. - The prevalent diseases are measles, hooping cough, scarlet and typhus fever, asthma; consumption rare; liver complaint not frequent; the small-pox nearly extirpated by vaccine inoculation. The prevailing winds are the east and the west. We have more rain from the east than the west. The north wind is not so much felt here as the west and south-west. The inhabitants are generally healthy, and many of them live to a great age. One man, born in the parish, died within the last fourteen years, at the advanced age of one hundred and six years, and he was able to attend regularly at church till within a year and a-half of his death. He retained his mental faculties pretty entire to the last. He learned more, during the last seven years of his life, of the mysteries of the kingdom of God than he did during the whole of his preceding life. There are several persons now in the parish, both men and women, above eighty years of age.*

* The man who precented to church, in the times of my two immediate predecessors, is now above eighty, and still precents in the Gaelic services occasionally,works his loom as formerly, and continues to enjoy excellent health and spirits.

Hydrography - As already observed, the Frith of Beauly bounds this parish on the south, along its whole line from west to east. The water of this Frith is blackish in colour, arising from the great quantity of moss mud carried down by the river Beauly when flooded. The water is brackish in its taste, from the quantity poured by the Beauly into the Frith. In the broadest part, the Frith of Beauly may be three miles. Its depth may average from one to six or seven yards. There are several excellent springs in the parish.

Geology and Minerology - There are no limestones, granites, or porphyries, as yet discovered in this parish, the prevailing rock being the old red sandstone. Mines are not here known. The quality of the soil, as already stated, is various.

Zoology - Serpents are found, but are not numerous. There are also foxes and polecats, but, as there are not many sheep reared in the parish, their haunts are not narrowly looked after. There are no rare species of animals known in this parish, nor am I aware that any which formerly existed in it are not now to be met with. The roe and roebuck are now more numerous than they have been, owing to the shelter and protection afforded them in the extensive plantations on the Redcastle property. The different species of cattle now reared in the parish are horses, cows, hogs, and sheep. The insects which are common to other parts of the country are to be met with in this parish. Mussels and whelks are plentiful on our side of the Beauly Frith, in the east end of the parish. The mussels are used by the fishers of the parish of Avoch for bait for their small lines, and both are used for food by the poor people in summer when meal is scarce.

Botany - There are no very rare natural plants known here. There are very large plantations of Scots fir and larch, intermixed with hard wood, particularly oak, ash, and birch, on both the properties, but chiefly on that of Redcastle. The wood plantations are very extensive, occupying 2533 imperial acres, 2 roods, and 14 falls. The plantations are seemingly thriving. Ash, elm, beech, and plane trees, of very large dimensions, are also to be met with in various parts of the parish.


I am favoured by Kilcoy with the following measurement of the two estates in this parish.
Imperial standard measure
  Arable land Wood Pasture Total
  A R P A R P A R P A R P
1. Barony and
lands of
1565 3 38 1652 0 4 577 3 32 3795 3 34
2. Lands and
barony of
Kilcoy and
977 0 36 881 2 10 1182 0 14 3040 3 20
Total of parish 2543 0 34 2533 2 14 1760 0 6836 3 14

Eminent Men - The late General Mackenzie Fraser was born in the castle of Kilcoy, now a ruin, but, at the time of his birth, the seat of that family. The General was the second son of Colin Mackenzie of Kilcoy, then the representative of that family. He distinguished himself at the siege of Gibraltar in early life, but his character as a military man is so fully known to the public that it is unnecessary to give it here. In several successive Parliaments he represented his native county. He died in the rank of Lieutenant General, regretted, esteemed, and beloved by all who knew him.

There is another distinguished officer, a descendant of the Kilcoy family on the maternal side, Lieutenant-General Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, who has lately taken the name of Douglas of Glenbervie. His military character is well known.
General Sir George Elder was born in this parish, of humble but respectable parents, near the Castle of Kilcoy. By his merits alone, he overcame all difficulties, and raised himself to his present distinguished rank and station.

Parochial Registers - The parochial register of this parish has been regularly kept from the year 1744.

Modern Buildings - There is little in this parish to interest the antiquary. There are no modern buildings in the parish, except some very excellent and substantial farm-houses, built with in the last twelve years upon the property of Redcastle. There are two mills in the parish, one on each of the properties, where oats, barley, pease, and beans are ground, and which pay a yearly rent to the proprietors. In ancient times, there were two mansion-houses, built in the form of castles, one on each of the properties. In these houses, the representatives of the families of Kilcoy and Redcastle resided, originally Mackenzies. The Kilcoy Castle, as already observed, is now a ruin, but the castle on the other property, once used as a fortification, is at present in an excellent habitable condition, modernized inside, beautifully situated, and containing ample accommodation for a genteel family.


The population of this parish, according to the census of 1831, is 1479. I find an increase of more than an hundred upon the whole population upon that of 1821, not withstanding of the depopulation which since then has taken place on the estate of Redcastle. This increase arises from the accommodation given by Colin Mackenzie of Kilcoy, on his properties in this parish, to tenants removed from the estate of Redcastle, and also, in a more especial manner, from the encouragement which the same gentleman gives to strangers expelled from various parts of the Highlands, to settle on his portion of the late Mill-Buie commonty, and on other woodlands on his property of Tore, where they are accommodated on liberal terms, and where it is expected they may make for themselves, in a few years, pretty comfortable settlements. Those who first settled in these parts of the Kilcoy property after I became minister of this parish are now able to keep a horse, a cow, with a follower, and a few sheep.

The number of families in the parish is  324
The number of inhabited houses  293
The number of uninhabited houses  4
The number of houses building  4
The average number of marriages for the last ten years may be from  8 to 10
 The average number of baptisms from  16 to 20
The average number of deaths  12

There are three blind persons in the parish; none deaf or dumb. The language of the natives is Gaelic, and the greatest portion of the inhabitants can receive religious instruction through no other medium. The Gaelic, however, may be considered as on the decline. Nearly the whole of the young people understand and speak English well. And of late years, and in consequence of the new system of farming introduced, converting large tracts of land into one farm, strangers have come amongst us, who do not understand Gaelic, and must therefore bring along with them from other parts servants who can understand them. The inhabitants are cleanly in their habits, industrious and sober, religiously disposed, moral in their conduct, teachable and tractable, punctual in their attendance of public worship, religiously observing the Sabbath day, believing the Divine authority of the Bible, and taking it for the rule of their faith and practice. We have a few solitary exceptions, but they are few. There is no temptation to poaching; and smuggling is almost entirely abandoned.

Within the last three years, there has been but one illegitimate birth in the parish.


The distribution of males among the several employments is as follows: farmers, 15; cottars, 19; labourers, 64; employed in agriculture in all stations, 155; in trade and manufactures, 60; 1 auctioneer or appraiser; 6 blacksmiths; 5 masons; 7 carpenters; 1 wheel-wright, above eighty years of age, still found working at his turning-loom; 6 sawers; 2 millers; 6 innkeepers, of retailers of beer and whisky; 16 shoe and brogue-makers; 2 shopkeepers; 8 tailors; and 17 weavers. There are about 52 female servants in constant service, and other females in the parish are employed by the day, in field labours, by the principal farmers, when their services are required, but who, when not so employed, live either in houses by themselves or with their parent, occupying their time in spinning flax of wool, of which they make webs for sale, and thus contriving to support themselves by their own industry.

Agriculture - The improvement in agriculture in this parish within the last sixteen years has been very great, particularly on the estate of Redcastle, where it is now carried on with great spirit, and in a very substantial manner. The lands are laid out and cultivated in the most modern style, and the appearance of the fields is now very different, indeed, from what it was even twelve years ago. There are now many scores of acres yielding wheat and green crops, which were then useless, without any other cover than short heath and broom. Both the heritors are liberal in giving encouragement to their tenants in improving waste lands, by allowing them L.5 Sterling for every Scots acre they improve, and leaving it in their possession during the currency of their lease, without rent. Nearly the whole arable lands of the estate of Redcastle, with a considerable part of the waste lands, are in the possession of six principal farmers or tacksmen. These farms are now worked by horses, from two to six pair for each farm. The three largest of these farms were formerly occupied by small tenants, each paying a rent of from L.12 to L.60, L.70 and 80. Some twelve or fourteen of these small tenants occupied among them what is now in the occupancy of one individual. These farms have been laid off with regular boundaries, and are subdivided into regular fields. New steadings of the most complete description, with comfortable dwelling-houses, have either been built, are building, or are about to be built, on these farms on the Redcastle property. Substantial stone dikes have been built, and are building, around the several subdivisions of the farms. Similar improvements are in progress on the estate of Kilcoy, and I understand, that both the tenants and the crofters have got lease of from nineteen to twenty-one years, so that when the proposed improvements are completed, few parishes will present a more highly cultivated appearance than the parish of Killearnan. The principal tenants raise heavy crops of wheat, barley, oats, rye, pease, beans, potatoes, turnips, and clover, in great abundance. The returns are various, as the season varies. If the summer be dry, the returns may be from three to four, but if the summer be warm and rainy, the returns may then be from six to eight.

Rent - The rent per acre of the large farms may average L.2 or L.2. 2s. The average rent per acre of the Kilcoy lands, though not yet so highly cultivated (they are liming) may be from L.1. 15s to L.2. The remuneration of the farmer varies, of course, with the markets.

There are no fish-curers in this parish, though a few boats go every season for a few months to the Caithness herring fishing, at great risk, and great previous out-fits; they succeed pretty well some seasons, and at other times they return with considerable loss.

The principal farmers rear upon their own farms their own horses and cattle, necessary for the farming purposes. From which stock, they are able to sell a yearly portion of each kind. In the end of harvest, they buy a good many young cattle for the consumption of their straw, and sell them at the summer markets, sometimes with considerable profit. They also by in cattle and sheep for feeding on turnip, for the fleshers at Inverness. The sheep are fed in folds on the field; and the cattle are fed in stalls in their squares.

Produce - The average amount and value of raw produce yearly raised in the parish, as nearly as can be ascertained, is as follows:

L.1950. 0. 0.
Wheat, 270 Scots acres, giving 7 imperial bolls each
acre, the average price for the last three years being
L1. 4s each boll
L.1950. 0. 0
Barley, 140 acres, at 5 imperial quarters each,
average price for the last three years L.1. 8s per
L.  980. 0. 0
Oats and rye, 200 Scots acres, at 5 imperial
quarters each acre, average price for the last three
years L.1. 1s each equal to
L1522.10. 0
Turnip, 100 Scots acres, at L.5 each acre L. 500.  0. 0
Potatoes, 60 Scots acres, at L.6 each acre L. 360. 0.  0
Clover for hay, 400 acres, valued at L.5 per acre L2000. 0.  0
Pastured yearly by 450 cows, the remaining
arable at L.4 each besides the working horses
and some young ones sold, with sheep and pigs
L.  300. 0. 0
Annual thinnings of woods and quarries may be
equal, with garden returns, to
L. 120. 0.  0

Manufactures - There are no manufactures of any description carried on in this parish. Only individuals purchase wool and flax, dress and spin it, get it weaved in the parish, clothe themselves by it, and the remainder not so used is sold at the public markets.

Navigation - There are no ships, the property of individuals residing in the parish, employed in trade, except two; a schooner and a sloop belonging to the tacksman of Lettoch have been, within the last eight years, employed by him in the timber and coal trade betwixt this and Newcastle.


Means of Communication - There are no market-towns in the parish, and the nearest market-town is Inverness. We have no post-office, no bridges, properly called, no canals or rail-roads, no harbours, properly speaking, though vessels of a considerable tonnage can safely load and unload on the shore of the east end of the parish. We have a good turnpike road passing through the eastern extremity of the parish, from the Ferry at Kessock to Dingwall, Invergordon, and Fortrose, upon which a toll-bar is placed, and upon which carriages of every description pass.

Ecclesiastical State - The parish church is every thing but comfortable as a place of worship. It was originally built, some hundred years ago, in the form of a cross, and in that form it now stands. It is large enough to contain the population of the parish. It was first thatched with heather. But, upwards of forty years ago, it was raised on the walls, newly roofed, slated and seated. But, in opposition to the then minister's wishes, the heritors continued its former Popish form. The present heritors seem not less attached to this relic of Popery than their predecessors. They lately added to the former props supporting the decayed galleries, ten new additional props of planted wood, removing the decayed parts of the sarking, and splicing the rotten ends of some of the couples. In short, the church is a most uncomfortable place of worship, and most ruinous to the health of the incumbent, as it is said to have been to that of his predecessors. Even such as it is, there is no free sitting in it even for the very poor. The manse was first built about a hundred years ago. It has received the addition of a back wing and some repairs, since the present incumbent was admitted, and yet it is far from being either comfortable or commodious; and, were it not for the incumbent's own outlays upon it he would have had little satisfaction in it. The glebe may be from 5 to 6 acres, all arable, no pasture. There is, in addition to this glebe, the one-half of the glebe of Kilmuir Wester, belonging to the minister of Killearnan. This arose from a disjunction of the three parishes of Suddy, Kilmuir Wester, and Killearnan, which took place in 1756, when the two parishes of Killearnan and Kilmuir Wester and Suddy were formed from the former three, and when the stipend of the three parishes was equally divided between the present two. The stipend of Killearnan has been, ever since, 145 bolls of barley, 51 bolls of meal, and L.8. 4s. 2d. of money, without any allowance for communion elements. It is now the smallest stipend in the Synod of Ross, and there are no means for augmenting it, as no vacant teinds were left in this parish when the annexation took place. There are no chapels, belonging to any other denomination than that of the Established Church, in this parish, though a few of the parishioners attend a Scots Episcopal chapel on the parish of Kilmuir Wester and Sudddy, built upon the property of Allangrange. The people are generally a church-going people. There is a catechist in the parish, supported by the interest of L.300, funded for the purpose from the stipend of the parish which had accumulated during a vacancy of eight years, while the right of presentation was litigated between the Crown and the Honourable Mrs Hay Mackenzie of Cromarty, before the Court of Session and the House of Peers. The process was finally decided by the House of Peers in favour of the Honourable Mrs Hay Mackenzie, in the month of July 1814. The communicants of this parish are 150 in number, including the elders.

We have had a quarterly collection in the parish, during the last twelve years, for missionary purposes, which may amount yearly to from L.8 to L.12.

Education - There are two schools in the parish, the parochial school, and one endowed by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. We have, besides, a female school, taught on the second patent of the same Honourable Society. In the parochial school, the following branches are taught, viz, mathematics, book-keeping, mensuration, Greek, Latin, English writing, Gaelic, geography, English grammar, &c, In the Society's school, are taught English, Gaelic, translating English into Gaelic, writing, arithmetic, and book-keeping. The attendance at each school is from 80 to 100. The salary of the parochial school, including the legal allowance for a garden, is nearly L.30. The salary of the society schoolmaster, along with a small croft free of rent, is only L.15. The schoolmistress gets L.5. The quarterly charge for school fees may be from 1s to 4s. The children of the poor are taught gratis, and the good effects of early education is seen in the industry, sobriety, and good conduct of our youth.

Poor - The number of persons in the parish receiving parochial aid is betwixt 60 and 70; they receive yearly from 6s to 12s each. The collections at church, in their behalf, may amount to L.24 or L.30 a-year.

Fairs - We have two public fairs held, each year, in the months of March and July.

Fuel - The principal fuel used by the poor are, peats, turf, the foots of broom, branches of trees, and some coals. Coals are always used by the more wealthy portion of the inhabitants, for which they pay from 1s. 6d. to 2s. the Scots barrel, or from 1s. to 1s. 2d the imperial barrel. The coals are brought from Newcastle.


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