Kilmuir and Logie Easter History

Kilmuir and Logie Easter Community Collage

Kilmuir and Logie Easter History - page 4

Social Conditions and the Development of the Land 

Easter Ross is fortunate in having an excellent climate and soil of great natural fertility. These advantages, combined with the system of cultivation which has been practised for many years by the farming community, have resulted in making it one of the finest agricultural districts of Scotland.

Except for some moorland on the higher reaches of the parish, Kilmuir is divided into well-cultivated farms of varying acreage, where, particularly on the largest farms, the latest type of machinery is used and the most modern methods of cultivation followed. A great change has taken place from conditions prevailing towards the end of the eighteenth century, when only the most primitive of implements were in use, and oxen were employed for the farm work, the harness being made by the farmers themselves, of ropes of straw or rushes. Not until well into the nineteenth century was there any improvement in these respects. No regular rotation of crops seems to have been followed, and while potatoes were grown to some extent and a certain quantity of barley and oats, neither turnips nor clover and very little wheat were raised. In Kilmuir only sufficient wheat was grown to meet the requirements of the parish, but there was a small surplus of oats and oatmeal which was sent to market, and about two-thirds of the barley grown was distilled.

Many acres of the parish were bog or moorland, which by dint of hard labour were gradually brought under cultivation. This was for the most part the work of the small holders or mealers, encouraged by the proprietors. In a period of twenty-five years about three hundred acres were reclaimed. In the same period, Sir John Lockhart Ross of Balnagown reclaimed forty-five acres of moor in the vicinity of Balnagown Castle, and laid out extensive plantations of fir on his estate.

A Balnagown laird of an earlier date also was interested in the culture of trees, and a document dated 1735 tells of instructions being issued to "all tenants, maillers and servants" on the estate "to make their reive gardens sufficiently fencible, and carry each of them from the nurseries of Balnagown 20 young trees of such kinds as shall be given them to be planted at 5 foot distance in gardens, to be thereafter duly preserved by them." The penalty for letting them perish was ten pounds Scots for each tree.

The document is signed by George Ross, afterwards 13th Lord Ross of Hawkhead, whose family acquired the estate of Balnagown in 1711.

A report in 1768 by the factor for the annexed estates of Cromartie contains much interesting information regarding the condition of agriculture on that part of the estate within the parish of Kilmuir, known as New Tarbat.

He states that there the soil is sandy, but produces a good deal of barley, rye, oats and pease, that some flax and potatoes are grown, but not in great quantities. A considerable portion of the land is wild and barren, with very little pasture ground, except for sheep, the black cattle having to be sent in the summer time to remote Highland grazings not belonging to the estate. Indeed, few cattle were reared at that time on New Tarbat, and these of a small kind, which were of little value, as they did not yield sufficient milk for making butter and cheese. There were no woods or plantations, except a few ash trees and planes and some elder bushes, and no land was enclosed, except upon the mains of New Tarbat, where also some land was sown in grass.

The people are described as being sober and honest, and more industrious than in any other part of the estate, which may account for the fact that the court-house and prison at Milntown was allowed to fall into disrepair !

In 1787, when Lord MacLeod was pardoned for the part he had taken in the Rebellion of 1745 and restored to these estates, he immediately set about improving his property. He planted many thousands of fir trees and built a handsome mansion. On his death the work was continued by his successor, Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.

It was about the end of the eighteenth oentury that the proprietors, not only of Kilmuir, but all over the Highlands, saw the advantage of using the land for the rearing of sheep. For this purpose they proceeded to take possession of the farms. They joined together the smaller ones, and compelled the tenants to leave the land which they had tilled and the houses which they had built, and settle down on waste ground, where they were forced to begin once more the toil of bringing the rough soil into cultivation. Here they planted potatoes, and by industry and perseverance brought two, three or more acres into cultivation in the course of seven years, during which period they paid no rent with the exception of a small acknowledgment in hens and eggs. They received an advance of 20/- to assist in the building of a house, which, on their leaving, had to be handed over to the landlord in good repair. If they continued in possession after the expiry of the seven years, a rent was charged according to the estimated value of the land at that time.

A favourite device of the landlord to get rid of these small crofters, whose land they desired, was to raise the rent until it reached a figure which the poor crofters were quite unable to pay. One outstanding exarnple of this occurred about 1770, on the estate of Balnagown, where three small farms were let to nine tenants at a rent of £9 sterling, each tenant contributing £1. Their joint possession consisted of a hundred acres of meadow on the banks of the River Oykel, some tracts of hill land which afforded good heath pasture, and an extensive stretch of moor and moss on which there was a considerable quantity of coarse pasture.

By degrees the rent was increased until it reached the sum of £30. This demand they were quite unable to meet, and notwithstanding a passionate attachment to the spot where they had expended so much labour, they were turned out and had to start afresh to make a home elsewhere.

Immediately on their departure their land was converted into a farm for the rearing of sheep, the farmer who got possession of it, considering £100 per annum a moderate rent to pay for such a profitable concern.

In the parish of Kilmuir Easter the land which lay near the shore was considered most valuable, and was rented usually at about 20/- per acre, that further inland at 15/-. Near the village of Milntown, where there were fifteen small feuars holding about three-quarters of an acre each, seventeen larger and forty smaller tenants, and a great number of new settlers, the rent was anything from 51/- to 30/- per acre - land which, before being reclaimed, was estimated as being worth about l/- per acre.

Forty-eight families of disbanded soldiers and sailors had been settled in the parish. They received a house and three acres of arable land. The Government hoped they would be a nursery for the Army and Navy, but in ten years they had all, with the exception of two families, abandoned their holdings and left the parish.

Great dissatisfaction was felt among the country folk regarding the annexation of their land for sheep rearing, and about the year 1792 their smouldering indignation reached its height. The farmers, tradesmen and labourers determined to retaliate on the proprietors, and planned to collect the whole stock of sheep in Sutherland and Ross and drive them into Inverness-shire. The arrangements for this enterprise were announced by proclamation at the church doors.

Following instructions, a crowd gathered and, collecting over ten thousand sheep, were proceeding along the heights of the parish of Alness when the rumour reached them that a company of the 42nd Highlanders, under Sir Hector Munro, was on its way to suppress them. The crowd immediately dispersed, but a considerable number were apprehended and tried in the Circuit Court, Inverness. Two of these were transported, and a number imprisoned.

The system of granting leases to tenants came into vogue in Ross and Cromarty at an earlier period than in other counties in the North of Scotland, and resulted in great improvements in the agriculture of these counties. Gradually also the custom of payment of rent in kind fell into disuse, but as late as 1877 there were still two tenants on the Balnagown Estate whose rents were paid in this way, on the understanding, however, that the arrangement would terminate on the expiry of their leases.

At the end of the previous century, from August 1696 onwards, there had been several successive years of bad harvests, the sheep and oxen perished in thousands, and the population was destroyed in large numbers by disease and starvation.

A man who was an elder in Kilmuir Church for sixty years, and died in Kilmuir in 1791 at the age of a hundred, remembered as a child seeing the common coffin with hinged bottom then in use to allow of the bodies being dropped more expeditiously into the shallow graves prepared for them.

In the years 1770 and 1771, and again in 1782 and 1783, the history of a hundred years before repeated itself, and the same conditions prevailed, 1782 being known as the Black Year. An abnormal amount of rain fell. In the spring there was scarcely a dry day, and the summer and autumn were not much better. Crops were consequently very poor, and the condition of the people became desperate. Hoping for better times in a new country, many of them emigrated.

In the beginning of the new century weather conditions seem to have been more favourable. The advantage of draining the land had come to be more generally recognised, and draining operations on an extensive scale were undertaken, and certain proprietors received loans to cover the cost of these.

In 1850, Charles Robertson of Kindeace got a loan of £125 from the Inclosure Commissioners of England and Wales, the whole cost being estimated at £1189, "in respect of the drainage of certain lands, including Easter and Wester Inchfuires and Manor Place thereof, Keanrive and the lands of Torranlea and Miln thereof, Town and lands of Keanrive and the lands and grazings of Strathrory".

The Marquis of Stafford and his wife, Anne, received, in 1853, a loan from the same body of £2868, the estimated cost being £10,000 - "in respect of the drainage of the lands of Milntown of Meddat and the Miln thereof: lands of Kilnimuir, Dalnacleroch, Polnicol, etc., being parts of the Barony of Tarbat".

Thomas Ogilvy of Corrymony was granted £802, the total cost being £2000, "in respect of the drainage of the lands of Wester Pollo and Balintraid and Mill thereof and Teinds".

This improved drainage, together with the planting of trees all over the oountryside, not only beautified the landscape, but sheltered the fields from blasts and drifting snow, and also helped to drain the soil. It also reacted beneficially on climatic conditions, causing them to be drier and more equable.

Proprietors had begun to study to some purpose the farming methods of the South. As early as 1763 we hear of the factor for Balnagown, in order to effect improvements on the land, engaging John Baldrey, an Englishman, as manager of the home farm, for "£15 sterling a year, 10 bolls oatmeal, two cows' grass and fodder with their calves till they are one year old, a suitable dwelling-house, peats for fire, and a kail-yard". Later in the same year there is a report by Baldrey, in which he advises, in place of oxen, which were then employed to draw the plough and other farm implements, "four able horses", which he promises will do "twice the busyness" - also 200 stots and the same number of sheep, and intimates his intention of sowing 20 acres with turnips, and "plenty clover and trefoil" among the barley, oats and wheat to keep the animals from turnips till after Christmas, also black oats and vetches, white oats for meal, carrots and horse beans. In land that is foul he will "sow rape which will get it very clean". He suggests engaging the farm labourers by the year rather than by the day.

Gradually by the first half of the nineteenth century a complete revolution had taken place, not only in the system of agriculture, but in social customs. Baldrey's methods had become general, the crops of barley, oats and potatoee being supplemented by wheat, turnips and clover. The breed of animals was also much improved.

About 1840, Alexander Matheson, a member of the Attadale family in Lochalsh, returned from China. He was only thirty-five years of age, but was the possessor of great wealth, and he immediately set about acquiring property in the Highlands. He started with certain land in the vicinity of Lochalsh, and gradually extended his possessions to Easter Ross, purchasing, with other lands, the estate of Ardross. Spending money lavishly, he entered with enthusiasm into schemes for bringing prosperity to the Highlands. The extension of the Highland Railway, which brought the Highlands into closer touch with the South and gave a great impetus to cattle feeding, was largely due to his efforts.

One of his undertakings was the draining of a large flat of swampy land on the estate of Delny. The greater part of the flat, now the property of Matheson, was at one time a common shared among five surrounding proprietors, whose tenants had the right to cut their peats from the common. The burn of Delny, which has its source in the valley of Strathy and near Strathrory, followed a winding course through this boggy flat, at times overflowing until the whole area became submerged. The soil is described at that time as of "peaty bog and marsh and spirity sand, charged with noxious, ochrey-coloured water, impregnated with sulphur and saltpetre". In its dry state the pasture was poisonous, and caused, it was believed, black cattle to turn grey in the course of one season. Various attempts had been made to drain the flat, but were unsuccessful.

Matheson determined to undertake the task, and in 1868 a start was made, Mackenzie, his factor, being charged with the carrying out of the operations.

The first step was to secure a proper outfall for the water, and for this purpose a large, stone-built, two-feet-square drain was run from the sea west of Balintraid farmhouse, while a main leading drain, laid with vitrified pipes, 10 to 15 inches in diameter and jointed with cement, was continued for about 800 yards through the flat to a depth in some parts of 8 feet. To relieve the main drain, part of the drainage was directed to the old mill dam of Delny and part towards Pollo. About 800 acres were drained by these three outfalls.

The process was attended by tremendous difficulties. The subsoil was of sand, and was so charged with running water that, in cutting the drains for the main leading pipe, the sides had to be supported with a framework of wood, and at the bottom of the drain only the length of one pipe could be excavated at a time. From the main drain a system of smaller drains extended in all directions. On the completion of this process the land was limed and manured, and in a marvellously short time the poisonous swamp was transformed into a stretch of fertile land, producing excellent pasture and rich crops of corn.

Like all classes of industrial workers, although, perhaps, more slowly, the wages of farm workers have gradually increased, while their standard of living has also risen.

At the end of the eighteenth century, ploughmen and carters had on an average in money from £2 10s to £6 per annum, with six bolls of oatmeal (9 stones to the boll) and a ridge of land well drained for potatoes. Day labourers had from 6d to 9d per day. Trenching new ground was paid at the rate of 6d per rood of thirty-six square yards; draining three feet deep and felling back the earth, a penny per yard; building hollow drains with stones, from a halfpenny to a penny per yard; boring and blowing stones (powder and irons furnished) at a penny per inch.

Conditions varied slightly in different localities. In Kilmuir, in 1793, the wages of labourers are given as 6d and 8d per day, according to skill and strength; the wages of women, which are said to have increased about that time, were 4d to 6d per day, no food being provided in either case.

Masons, carpenters and slaters got from 1/2 to 1/6 per day; on the farms, out servants received £3 wages per annum, with six bolls of meal and a piece of arable land rent free, sufficient to provide seven or eight bolls of potatoes, free house and garden and peats, all of which were reckoned to be worth £12 per annum. This was considered in those days, according to the Old Statistical Account of the parish, "a sufficiency to enable a careful, sober man, with the assistance of a virtuoua wife, to live more comfortably than many of the farmers, and to rear a family of children till they are of an age to work for their bread".

Food was correspondingly cheap, but even so, labourers and their families fed on extremely plain fare.

In a manuscript, written by a farmer named John Wallace, in the neighbouring parish of Rosskeen, who died at the age of ninety-three, and whose father was farmer of Culrain from 1779 to 1792, is given the usual dietary for servants in his youth -

Breakfast - Brochan o' peasemeal; bread.
Dinner in summer - Whey and bread.
Dinner in winter - Potatoes and bread.
Supper - Sowens or brochan.

Once a week cabbage was served at dinner, and next day a sort of porridge made of what remained of the cabbage was taken with butter at breakfast. Sometimes a cow was killed, and as long as it lasted, servants got broth and sometimes beef. During winter and spring there was always plenty of home-made ale, and occasionally the servants got butter and curds.

Sir John Sinclair, in his view of the Northern Counties in 1795, mentions oatmeal as the principal article of consumption, about six bolls per man, four bolls per woman, and one boll per child, being the average consumption in a year. Potatoes were also a great stand-by, and there would be an occasional haddock in the summer time. Not 5 lbs. of meat would be consumed by a family in a year, and an egg, though cheap, was a luxury seldom enjoyed.

In 1838 the wages of farm labourers in Kilmuir are stated to have been, for men, 1/- per day, no food being provided; for women, 6d per day. Masons and joiners received 1/6 to 2/- per day. Farm servants who resided on the farm had an income, including everything, of from £18 to £20 per annum, with a house in addition.

About that time the large farms employed for the harvest work sixty to eighty women, and from ten to twelve men. A woman was paid at the rate of 30/- for five weeks, a man at the rate of £2 for the same period, sleeping accommodation being provided, but by the time the century was well advanced the reaping machine had almost completely superseded the scythe for cutting, and steam had begun to be utilised for driving the threshing-mill. Consequently, fewer men and women were required, and although the wages were higher than formerly, the total cost of the harvesting operation was much less.

Regarding hours of labour, Sir John Sinclair states in 1795 that "gentlemen have restricted the hours of labour on their farms from six in the morning to six at night," and adds that "the tenants' servants naturally wish to have that rule everywhere adopted, but in so unsteady a climate, where an additional hour either in the morning or evening may save a stack of hay or a field of corn from destruction, any restriction of that sort may be attended with fatal consequences, and ought to be discouraged as much as possible."

Almost a century elapsed before there was any shortening of the hours of labour for farm workers, or any appreciable improvement in their conditions generally. Then the Ploughmen's Union was formed, and through its efforts wages were gradually raised, hours of work shortened, more holidays given and better houses provided.

A woman known to the writer, who died in Milntown within the last twenty years, was left a widow in 1870, with four small children to support, and in order to supplement the meagre allowance she received for them from Kilmuir parish, went to work on the fields. Her wages were 10d per day, her working hours being from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a couple of hours off for a mid-day meal, and in harvest time there might be a short interval for tea, served in the field at the farmer's expense. If by some mischance she had to be absent for an hour from work, 2d was deducted from her day's pay.

In 1793 the average price of barley, meal and pease for fifteen years had been 12/6 per boll. Potatoes were from 8/to 10/- per boll (of 9 stones). From October to January, beef, mutton, pork and veal cost 3d per lb. for the best quality, 2d per lb. for inferior quality. For the rest of the year the price of butcher meat was higher. Fresh butter cost 8d per lb., salt butter about 10d, cheese was from 4/- to 6/- per stone. A good hen cost 6d, a duck 8d, a chicken 2d, and eggs were ld per dozen.

In 1695, just a hundred years earlier, the value of beef per carcase in Ross-shire is given as £1; mutton per carcase, 2/6; capons, 4d; farmyard fowls, 21/2d; eggs, ld per dozen; boll of oats, 5/-, and a load of peats, 21/2d.

In 1838 oats were £1 5s per quarter; wheat, £3 per quarter; barley, £1 13s; potatoes, 10/- per boll; turnips, £5 per acre; hay, 9d per stone; rye, £1 14s per quarter; peas and beans, £2 per quarter.

Farming was not the only occupation followed by the people of Kilmuir in the eighteenth century and earlier. It has already been mentioned that fishing was also engaged in, chiefly by the inhabitants of the village of Portleich, who at one time were entirely fishers.

Prior to the Revolution and up to the reign of Queen Anne, herring, that most capricious of fish, frequented the Cromarty Firth and were caught by the fishers of Portleich and the other villages round the shores of the Firth.

There is an old tale that, shortly after the Union, a great shoal of herring, pursued by a school of whales and porpoises, oame swimming into the Bay of Cromarty, and were stranded there a few hundred yards to the east of the town. The beach was covered with these fish to a depth of several feet, and although the fishers worked hard to get the whole catch salted and packed, it was impossible. Most of it perished, and had to be carted away to be used for manure by the farmers of the district.

It is said that not long after this, following a successful fishing season, the herring left the Firth in a single night. They have never returned in sufficient quantity to affect the prosperity of the district.

By 1838, fishing had been almost entirely abandoned by the inhabitants of Portleich, although some still continued to own boats, which went to waters other than the Cromarty Firth for the herring fishing. This custom was also discontinued, and the population came to depend for their supply of fish on the fishers of Fearn and Nigg, who came to Kilmuir by train, and carried in creels supplies of haddock, cod, skate and flounders for sale in the parish.

There was also carried on in the parish during the 18th oentury a very flourishing trade in lime making. The sands of Nigg, opposite New Tarbat, at that time contained quantities of cockles and mussels and other varieties of shell fish. Five boats belonging to the parish were employed for three or four of the summer months in transporting the shells from the bay to the shore. In 1782, forty horse loads are said to have been taken out of the bay in one day.

At full tide the workers went out in the boats and cast anchor over the bed of shells, at ebb tide they dug up the shells and again at flood tide returned with their freights to the shore.

The shells were manufactured into lime, which was used to make a cement for building purposes. It was considered peculiarly suited for plastering work. About twenty men, with their wives and children, were employed in this trade.

The fishers of Cromarty also found the shell-fish a useful commodity, and until well on in the nineteenth century used to cross in their boats and secure quantities of the shell-fish for bait. For this privilege a tax was imposed on them by the Laird of Cromartie, who claimed this part of the Firth as his property. This the fishers considered a grave injustice, and at length their indignation reached such a height that they boldly refused to pay. The laird retaliated by issuing orders forbidding them to fish for bait any longer in these waters. To prevent any attempt on the part of the fishers to defy the prohibition, a man armed with a gun was posted on the shore.

One day a wealthy Englishman, who had come to reside for a time in the town of Cromarty, crossed the Firth to enjoy a day's fishing at the mouth of the Balnagown River, which was part of the prohibited area. He had scarcely got his fishing tackle ready when one of the laird's gamekeepers appeared, and in a rude and threatening manner ordered him off. He obeyed, but vowed he would make the laird of Cromartie pay dearly for this affront. Returning to Cromartie, he immediately offered his financial support to the fishermen in their dispute, and with this assurance they took the case to the Court of Session. The result was a victory for the fishers, and the consequent loss to the Cromartie Estate of a steady source of income.

That was not the first time that Cromarty and Kilmuir came into conflict. A century earlier the body of a native of Kilmuir was being brought from Cromarty, where he had been resident, for interment in the Kilmuir Churchyard. As the cortege reached the boundary of the parish it was met by a contingent of Kilmuir men, who claimed the prescriptive right of carrying the corpse when it had entered their own domain. This claim was disputed by the Cromarty party, and the argument became heated, finally developing into a lively skirmish, from which the Cromarty men emerged victorious, after having broken the heads of most of the male population of Kilmuir.

An industry which flourished in the parish in the l8th century-as it did all over the Highlands-was the manufacture of linen. In addition to the spinners and the weavers, this industry absorbed a large number of the parishioners, as a quantity of the flax used was grown in the parish, and between the sowing of the seed and the weaving of the yarn there were many processes. A strip of reclaimed land in the centre of the parish, between the farms of Polnicol and Garty, is still reminiscent of those days, being known as the "Lint Pools". Here it was the custom for the flax to be steeped. About fifty years ago, while this bit of land was in process of cultivation, a bunch of flax was discovered there, deeply imbedded in the ground.

The centre of the industry was the village of Milntown. In a report submitted in 1756 by the factor on the annexed Estates of Lovat and Cromartie, the writer urged that there ought to be an English school erected at or near the Church of Kilmuir, and a Spimling School at Milntown of New Tarbat. This recommendation regarding a spinning school was never carried out.

William Sandeman, a manufacturer in Perth, was the chief organiser of the linen industry in the Highlands, especially upon the annexed estates. His principal establishment for spinning was in Kilmuir Easter, under the management of John Montgomery, a merchant, who had come to reside in the village of Milntown about 1751. His daughter later became the wife of the Rev. John Matheson, minister of the parish.

The Commissioners for the Forfeited Estates, in response to applications from Sandeman, seem to have given him a considerable amount of financial support in his undertakings, and the industry flourished, notwithstanding certain losses, as, for example, when, owing to a fall in prices he fails to realise on the sale in London of £500 worth of linen cloth as much as the cost of production.

In Sandeman's letters there are frequent references to his manager, John Montgomery, of whom he speaks in high terms, commending his fidelity and care. He assured the Commissioners that should they want a "carefull honest man in that part of the country for promoting any improvements they cannot well have a better man than this Mr Montgomery."

On one occasion he urges them not only to pay Montgomery the sum of £75 18s 4d, which he claims for the trouble he has had in the management, but to increase it to £100, as he considers that he well deserves it.

In 1769, however, we find an action being raised against Montgomery by William Sandeman and Co., for failing to account for £168 worth of flax which they had consigned through him, as their agen, to George Ross, Tain, to be manufactured there. The result of the action is not recorded.

A rival of Sandeman in the trade appeared in 1763 in William Forsyth, of Cromarty, who claimed to have been the first to introduce the spinning of linen yarn into the counties of Cromarty and Ross, and this as early as 1748. There certainly was a factory in Milntown in that year, for we find in a summons of that date, "James Ross, master of the linning manufactory at Milntown".

Forsyth asserted that he still continued to carry on the spinning on a greater scale than any other in the North, but had obtained no bounty or encouragement. He advanced as an argument in his favour that he employed the disbanded soldiers and their families in the business, and asked to keep supplied with a certain number of wheels and reels, and a sum of money to erect a suitable house at Milntown of New Tarbat for storing the flax and yarn. He submitted to the Commisioners elaborate plans for the whole scheme with probable costs, including the instruction of the work people.

As the nearest place to New Tarbat for landing boats was Portleich, he pointed out the advantage of having a pier built there, and a store house for lodging the flax and other materials until transported to and from the factory.

In 1764 it was decided that a house should be built at Portleich, "to serve as a granary for part of the Estate of Cromartie, and also as a storehouse for the manufacturers, Sandeman and Forsyth, according to an estimate amounting to about £100."

The boats used at Portleich were flat-bottomed cobbles, and they worked with the tide. They ceased to ply there when Balintraid Pier was built.

Finally, Forsyth requested that he should be supported in preference to any other.

Sandeman, however, seems to have continued to hold the monopoly. He petitions for the "large house of New Tarbat, at present not in use, to my Doer there, Mr Montgomery, for a Store House to hold the Flax and Yarn."

He, too, must have seen the advantage of a pier at Portleich, but there is no trace of one having ever been there. The remains, however, of an old store house stood near the shore until the end of the nineteenth century. In its later days it was used as a coal store.

All through the eighteenth century the industry continued to prosper. In 1766 there were of spinners alone over one thousand employed in the parish.

The following statement may be of interest as showing the extent of the industry carried on at Milntown of New Tarbat:-

Accompt of the Trade of Spinning Linen Yarn Carried on at New-tarbat, Milntown, by John Montgomery on Account of William Sandeman, Merchant in Perth.

The Account of the True State of the Spinning Trade

Perth 27 July 1763. The above Acct. is a true State of the Spinning Trade carried for me at Newtarbat Milntown by John Montgomery taken from my Books and his Accompts. (Errors excepted)  Willm. Sandeman.

At the end of the century the trade was still being carried on. In 1798 a Weaving Company, with works at Spinningdale and Milntown of New Tarbat, petitions the Sheriff for a warrant to apprehend two apprentices who had absconded, breaking an indenture being a serious offence. The apprentice had to bind himself to "erve faithfullie for five years under penaltie of 1 mark a day". He undertook not to waste his time in "carding, dicing, drunkenness, nor night-walking, nor defile his body with uncleanness under penalty of serving other 2 years".

Unfortunately, partly owing to the production of cheap Manchester cotton and partly to the changed conditions resulting from the consolidation of small holdings into large sheep farms, a period of depression in the linen trade set in. The people lost heart, and gradually this most profitable of Highland industries ceased to flourish, and finally disappeared from the Highlands.

The population of the parish has declined since then. In 1755 it contained 1095 persons. In 1794, when it was at its maximum, there were 1975. Soon afterwards it began to show a steady decrease until in 1879, when it is 1024, 434 of these being returned as bi-lingual. At last census the population was 705.

The following table shows the number of baptisms, marriages and burials from 1784 to 1789:

Year Baptisms Marriages Burials
1784 40  7 54
1785 46 10 28
1786 44 10 41
1787 42  8 25
1788 45  8 38
1789 53  9 32

Smallpox was prevalent in 1784, which accounts for the large number of deaths in that year.

Nothing undergoes more changes during the passage of the years than fashions in clothing. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the garments of both men and women were gay and very elaborate, tending as the century advanced to become more sober.

An idea of the fashions in men's clothes among the upper classes may be gained from an inventory of the wardrobe of the Hon. General Ross of Balnagown, dated 1718 :-

"Ane plain coulered cloth coat and britches with a brocade westcoat .... Ane suit of light coulered cloth trim'd with silver. Ane druget suit trim'd with gold. Ane grey coat and britches trim'd with gold. Ane blew westcoat. Ane silver camlet westcoat without buttons. Ane camlett riding coat and britches . . . pairs of scarlett stockins, grey, light coulered and Thred . . . 3 hatts 3 wiggs . . . boots . . . spurs . . . gaiters . . . boot stockins, 8 new and 11 old rufled shirts. 12 new cravats ........ 5 night caps."

Some light on the fashions for ladies of that date is shed from an account dated 1724 from John Hossack and Co., leading merchants in Inverness, to the Laird of Newmore for articles supplied for the use of his daughter, Mary Munro, then at school in Inverness, and later known as the Lady Newmore:-

" 1 yd. flowered saitine ribon. A fine straw Hat 30d. ... A paper patches 5d. . . . To a sizzars 31/2d.....worsted stockings for Miss at 30d . . . fine white gloves 16d . . . whalebone 2/9. To 1 yd. stenline (?) to mend a hoop. A Belt Buckle 6d. A paper patches 3d. To 1 lb. white powder for Miss. 1/8 yd. cherry persian 61/2d (coloured cord) . . . a pair Teiking shoes . . . 3s 6d. silk bynding for a tyer (head-dress) . . . a pair Pattens for Miss 14d . . . a bone comb 6d, a horn comb 2d...... wool to twill a petticoat 4d . . . a fine fan 30d.... a pair mourning buckles . . . silver ribbon. 14 yds. Callimanco. A powder box and pluff 9d."

In 1763 there is an inventory of the "Body Cloaths" of Lady Newmore now deceased. Among other items it mentions "a suit of blue riding cloaths with a black satin vest and Scarlet Joseph (riding habit with buttons down to the skirts) a black velvet cap and neck. A Black silk negligee and petticoat. A gray silk nightgown. A Black nankie petticoat. Four Dimity and three flannell smock Petticoats and a red freize. Two sleeping Dimity Jackets. 19 shifts 'twixt coarse and fine. Two lawn and one muslin hood. A Black gauze sewed hood. . . Two Black satin cloaks and a hat. A white silk shoulder cloak. Seven pair thread and three pair cotton stockings. 2 pair black lasting shoes. A silver mounted shell snuff box. A pair gogles. A gray fur muff and tippet."

The fashionable young men of that day in Ross wore coats, vests and breeches of red, brown, yellow and green, gold buttons and feathered hats.

By the end of the eighteenth century clothing had become simpler. By the men of the working classes knee breeches were worn with coats of bright blue made by their wives and after I782, when the ban against the wearing of the Highland dress was removed, some of the younger men wore the kilt. Farmers of all classes wore broad blue bonnets, and no hats were to be seen. About 1792 trousers began to be affected by the young men, and by 1850 breeches had almost entirely disappeared.

The dresses of their wives were usually of wincey of their own making. A small tartan shawl was frequently worn round their shoulders, and it was considered suitable for married women to wear a mutch on their heads and to have a clean white kerchief tied over it. Young single women had no covering on their heads. Their hair was worn hanging down, but when at work tied back with tape.

In this present age fashions in clothes undergo rapid change, and it is a brave woman or an exceptional one who can wear last season's outfit with no adjustments to bring it into line with the latest mode. The working women of an earlier day made no attempt to keep abreast of the fashions in clothes, for money was scarce, and, further, it was not considered fitting that the humbler classes should ape those who belonged to the higher social circles. All that the more selfrespecting aimed at in their garments was that they should be clean and whole. Fortunately, the fabrics of the period were strong and durable, and could be depended upon to give reliable and lengthy service.

There is no doubt that in the matter of clothing we have in some ways improved on the customs of our ancestors. Our standard of hygiene has risen and our artistic sense has become keener, but we have lost much of the old Scottish thrift and carefulness which was the pride of our fathers.

The changes which have gradually evolved in other departments in the life of the Highlander are mostly to the good.

To show the alteration in his drinking habits it is sufficient to mention that in 1793 there were "30 tippling houses" and one "principal inn" in the parish of Kilmuir; by 1838 there were only "2 inns and 4 public houses", while to-day there is but one licensed house in the whole parish.

In no department have greater developments taken place than in methods of transport.

In the present age in almost every department of life - industry, sport and locomotion - speed is considered of paramount importance. The firm that can execute orders with the greatest promptitude is the firm that captures the trade, and he who beats the latest speed record on road or water or in the air is the hero of the hour. In spite of the greater risks to life which increased speed in locomotion carries with it life is richer and infinitely more comfortable than in the old days when, according to a coachman of the beginning of the nineteenth century, fashionable people used to leave Inverness for London about the end of October and reach their journey's end in about two months, travelling each day about thirty miles, staying ten days or a fortnight in Edinburgh to dine with the lawyers and settle their law pleas. "When we got near London," he says, "we would meet other families also going in, and the young folks would have rare times. We left London about the beginning of April, and took a similar time to reach home. Of course, we often had to rest the horses and get them shod, and such events lost us a day now and then."

This was a considerable advance on the travelling facilities of a hundred years earlier, for in 1720 there were no carriages to be found north of the Tay. When in 1725 the first chaise drawn by six horses appeared in the streets of Invemess excitement ran high.

Letters at that time were conveyed through the country as far as Thurso by men known as foot-runners (though they were never known to run!), and it was not until 1750 that horses were employed and mail bags carried stage by stage by different postmen. Consequently, news of public events reached these remote parts slowly and fitfully. It frequently happened that prayer would be offered up for the life of some notable personage after the funeral had taken place, and thanks for victory in battle when the troops were retreating before the foe.

Even at the beginning of the nineteenth century the only proper road in the Highlands was one that ran along the east coast to Wick, going by Beauly, Dingwall and Tain. It passed through Kilmnir along the shore of the Cromarty Firth, and through the village of Milntown into the parish of Logie-Easter and further north. This road is shown in an atlas of Scotland published by authority of Parliament in 1776. It was probably constructed a dozen years earlier, for in 1764, Captain John Lockhart Ross of Balnagown wrote to Baillie, his factor, informing him that he had obtained a promise from Lord George Beauclerk that soldiers would be sent to assist in the construction of the road from Beauly to Dingwall, and from thence to Tain.

At that time traffic or travelling by wheeled vehicles was accomplished with difficulty north of Inverness, and north of Tain it was almost impossible, owing to the condition of the roads and the difficulty of obtaining horses. The mails, which had been conveyed to Inverness by pony-chaises, were carried thence as far as Tain by a man and pony, and still further north by post-runner.

In March 1808 the first carrier going beyond Dingwall started on the road. His name was Donald Ross, and he travelled as far as Tain. In 1809 a diligence commenced to run from Inverness to Tain, and in September 1818 a proposal was put forward to start a mail diligence to the North, as far as Wick and Thurso. The authorities at Inverness, Bonar, Helmsdale and the counties of Ross and Sutherland agreed to let it pass their bridges toll free, each subscribing £200 to assist the enterprise. The coach started in July 1819. It left Inverness at 6 a.m., arriving in Wick at 7.30 a.m. the following day, and at Thurso four hours later. This coach passed through Kilmuir by the shore road, one of the stopping places being in the village of Milntown, where the parish post office was.

On 6th January 1820, a report appeared in the Inverness Courier that the coach had been prevented for some time from proceeding further than Tain owing to a deep fall of snow.

No county, however rich its natural resources, can do much in the way of developing its industry without proper means of transport. Easter Ross was fortunate in having an outlet by sea, thereby establishing regular intercourse by sea between Ross-shire and the south. In 1839 the steam ship, Duke of Sutherland, began to trade in the Moray Firth. It sailed between Leith, Inverness and Invergordon, calling at all the intermediate ports going and coming.Then two steamers began to sail from Invergordon once a week.

At that time Balintraid Pier was of considerable importance. It served not only the parish of Kilmuir Easter, but a large part of Easter Ross for the importation of coal, lime, timber and general merchandise. The chief exports were firewood for the coalpits and railroads of the South, and grain. Coal was, perhaps, the principal commodity unshipped there.

The pier was built about the beginning of the nineteenth century by Kenneth Macleay, who was proprietor of Pollo and Balintraid. His initials may be traced above the door of the old building which still stands, where the goods were stored until collected by carriers for distribution. ''The pier is in a good state of preservation, although thickly carpeted by a growth of turf and rough grass, the sides encrusted with barnacles. It is seldom used now, as the approach to it is so silted up with sand and gravel that no ships can come near unless an occasional small boat from Cromarty or from one of the fishing villages on the Firth."

On 3rd March 1809, a boat from Balintraid Pier, loaded with peat, was upset by a squall, and six persons were drowned.

Again there came a change in transport, when, in 1862, the Highland Railway reached Invergordon, causing most of the traffic to be diverted from the sea to the railway. Two years later the railway was extended through the parish of Kilmuir and further north to Tain, and then to Bonar-Bridge.

In addition to trains there is now an excellent service of 'buses plying up and down the country. They carry passengers into the remotest parts, so that it is no longer necessary for country folk to traverse long weary miles on foot in order to reach a railway station, there to be picked up for conveyance to their destination by trains noted neither for punctuality nor comfort.

Times have changed since the days when men and women were content to live out their lives in the place where they were born, and when only a daring spirit here and there, athirst for adventure, or driven by force of economic circumstances, would turn his back on the simple life of the village or the croft, and fare forth to the great cities or to the lands beyond the sea. Looking back down the centuries, along the path civilisation has taken, one may see life as a simpler and more picturesque affair than in the rush of modern times, but in the light of history it is clear that to the majority of people it was both dull and hard, with little comfort and security for anyone, tyranny and bigotry riding rough-shod on every side, and freedom for the individual unknown.

Continued on Page 5

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