New Statistical Account (1835) Parish of Lochbroom

Lochbroom Community Collage
Raeburn Portrait (Exhibition Guide)
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty

The Second Statistical Account (1834 - 1845)

The New (or Second) Statistical Account of Scotland built on the previous work carried out by Sir John Sinclair for the First Statistical Accounts by including the knowledge of local doctors and schoolmasters. The Second Statistical Accounts were published between 1834 and 1845.
The Second Statistical Account for Lochbroom (1835)

The following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Lochbroom from the second or new Statistical Account of Lochbroom (dated May 1835).




Name, Situation, and Extent - The parish of Lochbroom derives its name from a fresh water lake of about 3 Scotch miles in length, and 1 in breadth, at the distance of from 12 to 15 miles from the sea, which, being surrounded by high hills, and consequently much visited by the moisture of the passing clouds, is known by the very characteristic appellation of Loch-a'Bhraoin, or the Lake of Showers, Braon, or Braom, in Gaelic, signifying a shower, or drizzle of rain. The same name of Broom is, from this lake, also communicated to the river, which flows from it through a considerable part of the parish, and to the great arm of the sea into which that river falls near the parish church.

The parish is bounded on the west by the channel called the Minsh, which separates the island of Lewis from the mainland of Scotland. It has the parish of Assint on the north, the parishes of Kincardine and Contin on the east, and the parish of Gairloch on the south.

The figure of the parish is exceedingly irregular, a great part of it consisting of a variety of promontories of very different extent and appearance, and separated from each other by lochs and creeks and inlets of the sea. The distance, in a straight line, between the extreme points of the western boundary, is not more than from 22 to 24 miles, yet within that space of direct latitude there are included above l00 miles of shore washed by the ocean. The inland boundaries are almost equally irregular, so that the extent in square miles is utterly unknown, and will probably continue to be so. It may, however, be very safely affirmed, that, in regard to extent of territory and number of inhabitants, and difficulty of the ground, and natural divisions, the parish of Lochbroom alone (independently of the village of Ullapool, in which there is a Government church) would form four large parishes, which would furnish ample scope for the exertions of four able and active parochial ministers. It may be proper to add that, if the parish of Lochbroom were divided into four such distinct parishes, having churches planted at the most suitable distances, with ministers in each, there would still be many persons in these parishes who would require to travel from five to fifteen miles, of very difficult road, before they could obtain any of the sealing ordinances of religion. It may be further observed, that, in this parish, there are seven cemeteries, or public burying-grounds, eight stations in which the minister thinks it his duty (though not obliged) to preach occasionally - always in the open air - yet always to larger congregations than on ordinary occasions meet in the parish church; eighteen stations, at which from 45 to 220 scholars could assemble for instruction, if they were blessed with teachers; besides several hundreds who could only meet in tens, and fifteens, and twenties; and finally, that in this parish alone, there are above 1300 young people - all poor - who are either receiving, or require to receive, instruction in the first principles of an useful education.

Surface, General Appearance, and Natural Divisions - To a spectator placed on an eminence in the inland part of this parish, the appearance is that of a wide and dreary waste of bleak and barren heath, as if a segment of the great ocean, agitated and tossed, and tumbled, not by an ordinary storm, however violent, but by some frightful convulsion of nature, with here and there a rude and lofty peak of rugged rock, towering to the skies,had been suddenly condensed, and formed into a solid shapeless mass of unproductive desert, without one spot of green on which to rest the eye. On descending from the heights, however, and advancing towards the sea, the ground assumes a very different, and more pleasing aspect. Here, along the shores of the ocean, on the sides of the great arms of the sea by which the parish is intersected, and the rich valleys which extend far among the hills, the eye is refreshed by the sight of fertile fields, and populous hamlets, with numerous flocks and herds, and woods, and water streams. The parish is divided into four districts, viz. The Aird, or height of Coigach, Lochbroom Proper, the Little Strath, and the Laigh. The appearance from the sea, in a clear summer evening, is magnificent beyond description.

Rivers, Lakes, and Fish - In Coigach, are the beautiful vales of Strathceannard and Rhidorch, watered, the former, by the water of Ceannard, and the latter, by the finely wooded lake of Achall, and the river of Ceannchruinn or Ullapool. Lochbroom is divided into what are called the Big and Little Straths, through the former of which flows the rapid river Broom, from the mountain lake already mentioned, which gives its name to the parish, till it falls into the Big Loch, below the parish church. Through the latter runs the Little Broom, fed by a number of mountain streams, into the Little Loch, about a mile below the House of Dundonnell.

The Laigh is watered by the Meikle river, which pours the waters of Loch-na'-sealg, (a beautiful sheet of fresh water, six Scotch miles in length) and of many other lakes and rivulets into the sea at Greenyard, and by the little river of Greenyard, which forms the boundary of the parish on the south. All these streams are well stocked with salmon, grilse, trout, and other kinds of fish.

Coast, Mountains, and Islands - It has been already mentioned that the parish of Lochbroom possesses a very great extent of shore. But this is chiefly formed by the bays and deep inlets of the sea, by which the land is intersected. Along the coast of the Atlantic, the shore is bold, rocky, and precipitous, consisting of the promontories of More (or Great) Riff, Dunan, Duard, Ardchaduill, Handerick (or Cailleach) and Stadaig. But the heads of the lochs or bays are chiefly low and sandy. The principal mountains are Stac, Cumhill-Mhor, and Big Rock, in Coigach, on the north, Beinn-Deirg on the east; Fannich on the south-east; and the hills of Strath-na'sealg on the south-west. But their elevation above the sea is uncertain. There are several islands belonging to the parish, off the coast. Some of them are inhabited, as Ristal, Tanara, Isle Martin, Isle Greenyard, and sometimes the Priest Island. The others, called the Summer Isles, are excellent for wintering young Highland cattle. The hills of this parish were well stored with game of all kinds till the introduction of extensive sheep-farming, which has greatly diminished the quantity of game, as well as of salmon and other fish in the lakes and rivers. The same circumstance has had an equally deleterious effect on the growing woods of the country in general, and also on its race of heroes.

Meteorology - The temperature of the atmosphere, though exceedingly changeable, is rather moderate and mild; neither so high in summer, nor so low in winter, as on the eastern coast of the island, in Cromarty, Leith, or even London. The mercury in the thermometer perhaps never falls below 16° nor rises above 74° Fahrenheit. In the barometer, it runs over the whole range, from 28 to 31, sometimes beyond it; and it has been often seen to fall or rise a full inch, and more, in the course of one day. The climate is certainly moist, and much rain falls from the one end of the year to the other; yet more harm is done to the crop, on the whole, by dry weather than by excessive rain. Rainbows by the sun and the moon are frequently observed. Of the latter, a most beautiful instance occurred on Thursday the 24th of October 1833, at 8 o'clock p.m., forming a magnificent arch over the whole of the Big Loch, from side to side, such as Telford never constructed. The Polar Lights are often exceedingly grand and brilliant. The prevailing wind is the south-west, which almost always brings foul weather. There seem to be no diseases which can be said to be peculiar to the country; but consumption, and obstinate constipation of the bowels, are the most prevalent distempers among the people. In the year 1812, the parish was visited by small-pox in the natural way, which carried off almost all that were attacked by it. But the minister got the people, by much persuasion, to agree to have their children inoculated. A physician was accordingly called in, who inoculated from 900 to 1000 young people, out of which number only 5 died. Vaccination has been partially used; but the small-pox has not since prevailed in the parish.

Hydrography - There is little to be said on this head. The lochs, rivers, and lakes have been already noticed. There are some beautiful cascades in the parish, as may well be supposed from the nature of the ground, and the quantity of rain which falls upon it, but none of them of sufficient importance to merit a particular description here. There are also many mineral springs, which are chiefly of a chalybeate nature.

Geology - Old red sandstone forms extensive tracts in this parish, as Coigach and other parts on the mainland, and the Summer and other islands along the coast. Quartz rock abounds in some quarters, and Beinn Deirg on the east, Fannich on the southeast, and other mountains, are chiefly composed of gneiss, with veins of granite, beds of quartz rock, &c. A bed of limestone appears in the Little Strath, passes under the Big Loch to Ullapool, from which it runs into the beautiful and magnificent marble quarries of Assint. But, from the difficulty of the ground, and the scarcity of fuel, little use is made of it here. On the farm of Scorraig, the property of Dundonnell, there is a prodigious quantity of bog-iron ore, which seems to be of the sub-species of meadow-ore. It communicates a strong and harsh chalybeate taste, to all the springs of water in the neighbourhood. The soil in this parish, as may be supposed from its great extent aml different degrees of elevation and distance from the sea, is exceedingly various; but the prevailing character is that of a light, sharp, gravelly loam, well adapted to produce the ordinary crops of oats, barley, and potatoes. Wheat also has been tried in it, and answered remarkably well.

Zoology - On this head there is little to be said. The animals which were generally found in wild mountain districts, abounded long ago on the hills of Lochbroom: deer, roe, hare, rabbit, ptarmigan, grouse, black game, wild pigeons, sheep, goats, horses of a small size, but hardy, and cows. The race of wolves has been extirpated; but reynard contrives to keep his ground in spite of every effort to expel him, and often commits sad ravages among the sheep. The hens he scorns, as also the ducks of the poultry-yard, and leaves them to the meaner tricks, but not less rapacious fangs, of fumarts, martins, and wild-cats. Badgers are found among the lower grounds, partridges in the fields, and abundance of otters along the shores of the sea, and the banks of the rivers and lakes.

Of fishes, besides salmon, grilse, and trout, there are perch, pike, eel, and minnows, to be found in some of the rivers and lakes of the parish. The salmon come up to spawn in autumn. But, alas! it is much to be feared that but very few of them are allowed to return to their briny element, being intercepted by lawless and merciless poachers. The fishes which frequent the sea coasts of the parish are too numerous to be particularly noticed, but the herrings cannot be passed over in silence, being the great staple of the country.

Of herrings, prodigious shoals appear off the coast of Lochbroom, often as early as the month of May; but they pass on towards the south, and do not strike into the lochs and arms of the sea, so as to be productive of much benefit to the country, sooner than the month of September. From that time, their appearance, though exceedingly irregular, is anxiously looked for, till the month of February. Great is the preparation made, and much the expense incurred, engrossing even the little all of most of the poor families along the coast to meet and profit by the expected bounty. When the herrings set fairly in, at a proper season, and when they continue for a considerable time within the lochs and bays, the benefit is very great. The herrings of this coast are of the very best kind - the people are instantly afloat with every species of seaworthy craft - numerous crews from all parts of the east and west coasts of Scotland, and even from Ireland, press forward with the utmost eagerness to the field of slaughter - sloops, schooners, wherries, boats of all sizes, are seen constantly flying on the wings of the wind, from creek to creek, and from loch to loch, according as the varying reports of men, or the noisy flight of birds, or tumbling and spouting of whales and porpoises, attract them. Hundreds of boats are seen to start at day-set for the watery field, they silently shoot their nets, lie out at the end of their train, all night, and return in the morning full of life and spirit, to sell or cure their cargoes. The scene is extremely animated and interesting. And when there is a successful fishing, it is important, in a national as well as in an individual point of view. For some years back, however, the take has not been great, and much loss has been sustained.

Of insects, the most injurious to fruit and garden vegetables, in this parish, has been the caterpillar; and the only means which the writer of this has found effectual in preventing their depredations, has been to pick them off the leaves as soon as they appear, by the fingers of young people, and put them into small dishes containing a little water, to be carried away and destroyed. And although this method may appear, at first sight, an endless work, particularly in a large establishment, it is by no means so. Let the work be boldly and perseveringly attempted, and it will infallibly succeed.

Of shell-fish we have great varieties, many of which, such as oysters, cockles, mussels, spout-fish, &c. are most useful to many of the poor people near the shores, who, in a great measure, subsist upon them during the summer season, when meal is scarce or exhausted. Great numbers of crabs and lobsters also are taken among the islands, and along the coast, which are carried in smacks to the London market.

Botany - This parish was once thickly covered with woods of various descriptions of trees, chiefly Scotch fir, ash, elm, oak, birch, alder, mountain-ash, willow, poplar and hazel. There are still some beautiful trees of oak, ash, birch, geen, bird-cherry, and mountain-ash, with some small thriving plantations of fir, in the Little Strath, about Dundonnell House and Mains; and a few old ash trees about the village of Ullapool, and firs in the glen of Achall. But with these exceptions, and some few alders, growing at the sides of rivers, in the glens, the parish is nearly denuded of wood.

The soil and climate, however, are exceedingly favourable to the growth of wood of all kinds which are common to this country; as may be seen by passing through the glebe, where firs of different kinds, and hard wood, and fruit-trees, planted by the present incumbent, have succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations. Of fruits in particular, viz. apples, pears, plums, cherries, Spanish filberts, walnuts, currants, gooseberries, of many different kinds, he can shew samples which he has not seen exceeded in any part of the country; all on standards, in the open air. The culinary plants committed to the soil produce the best returns.


Of the ancient history of this parish very little is known, there being no printed or manuscript accounts of it in existence, so far as the present writer is aware. Yet there have been men of genius and talents connected with it.

Eminent Men - Norman M'Leod (alias Tormaid Ban), the author of the well known song of Caberfeidh, and of many other very popular and highly poetical productions, was a native of this parish, and father of the late minister of Rogart in Sutherland, and of Professor M'Leod, late Regent of the University of Glasgow.

Murdoch M'Leod, (alias Murcha M'Iain 'Ic Uilliam ) also another poet of great merit, was a native of this parish. He was bred to the Episcopal church, but never took orders, nor obtained a settlement. He was nearly related to the best families in Coigach and Assint, among whom he spent his tinme composing spiritual hymns, which are yet remembered, and held in the highest estimation. A printed copy of them would be an inestimable present to the Highlands.

The Rev. James Robertson, from the district of Athole, who was settled minister of Lochbroom, shortly before the Rebellion of 1745, was a man of uncommon strength of body, and firmness of mind, eminently suited to the times in which he lived, and to the state and character of the people among whom he was placed, and highly deserving of being recorded in any annals of this parish.

Mr Robertson was born about the year 1701, and soon after obtaining license as a preacher, was appointed assistant to the Rev. Donald Ross, minister of this parish. On the translation of Mr Ross to Fearn, Mr Robertson was recommended as his successor, by the Duke of Athole, to the Earl of Cromarty, the patron of the parish. His Lordship, however, was so much occupied, at that time, in preparations for the Rebellion which broke out in 1745, that the presentation was not lodged with the Moderator of the Presbytery till after the expiry of six months from the commencement of the vacancy; in consequence of which, the presbytery proceeded on the jus devolutum, and bestowed the living on Mr Roderick M'Kenzie, a native of the parish, and nearly related to several of the heritors. But the influence of the Duke of Athole and of the Earl of Cromarty, at that period, was not to be resisted. The presbytery was obliged to yield. Mr M'Kenzie was deprived of the parish, and Mr Robertson was inducted in his place. He was a powerful and evangelical preacher, and laboured, with much earnestness and zeal, among his numerous and semi-barbarous parishioners, whose grosser delinquencies he had often occasion to visit with the weight of his tremendous arm, as well as with the spiritual weapons of his Christian warfare.

Soon after his settlement, Mr Robertson, while on a visit to his predecessor at Fearn, was present in the church of that parish, a Gothic building, covered with large gray flags in place of slates, when, during Divine service, the roof came suddenly down upon the congregation, throwing out the walls with irresistible force. Mr Robertson remaining unhurt, made directly for the principal door, and seeing the lintel ready to give way, he placed his shoulder under the end of it, and stood in that position till as many of the people as could move, escaped. He then extricated his friend, almost suffocated under the canopy of the pulpit, and a mass of stones and rubbish. For this extraordinary feat of strength, he was always afterwards called "Am Ministeir laidir" - the strong minister.

When the Rebellion of 1745 broke out, he had the misfortune to find that his patron and other heritors were decidedly favourable to the exiled family, by which means, the far greater number of his parishioners, in spite of all his remonstrances, became involved in the guilt of their superiors and landlords. His own loyalty, however, remained unshaken, and by his persuasion and influence many were deterred from throwing off their allegiance.

On the return of the victorious Highlanders from the battle of Falkirk, Lord Loudon, accompanied by Lord President Forbes, abandoned the town and county of Inverness, withdrew to Sutherland, and being desirous to pursue a secret route, through the vast mountains of that county and of Lochbroom, to join the Macdonalds and M'Leods, now wavering in their opinions, and stationed between Skye and the mainland of Lochalsh and Glenelg, aware of the danger of such a journey, through a waste, rugged, and hostile country, and well knowing the steady loyalty, and sagacious zeal of the minister of Lochbroom, he dispatched a confidential messenger to Mr Robertson, bearing dispatches to the commanders of the new levies above-mentioned, intimating his intention of joining them, and the route he was to take, and directing that provisions and accommodations should be furnished for his reception. The messenger delivered his dispatches at the manse of Lochbroom, and Mr Robertson instantly forwarded them by a trusty person, who carried them in safety to the place of their destination.

The news immediately transpired that a stranger from Sutherland had arrived at the manse, and Mr Robertson and the messenger were both arrested, and brought before the commanding officer of a party of Highlanders, stationed near the manse. But here he acquitted himself with his usual coolness and presence of mind, and, after a night's confinement, was liberated. This bold, but successful, measure, was the salvation of Lord Loudon and his whole corps - perhaps the means of the ultimate triumph of the royal cause.

In a few days after, Lord Loudon, with his detachment, and the Lord President, arrived at Lochbroom, and was hospitably entertained for a night, with all his suite, by this intrepid clergyman. Soon after the battle of Culloden, he waited on the Duke of Cumberland, at Inverness. His Royal Highness received him graciously, thanked him for his zeal and services, and ordered twelve stand of arms to be given to him, to be put into the hands of such persons as he might think worthy of being entrusted with them. He also carried on a regular and confidential correspondence with him, during the whole of his Royal Highness's stay in the north.

But whatever confidence was placed in this excellent man, and whatever favours he was entitled to ask for his important services to his King and country, he employed all, not for the aggrandizement of his own family, but for the benefit of his deluded, though often obstreperous and ungrateful, parishioners. When the trial of these unhappy men, who were taken prisoners in 1746, came on, Mr Robertson set out on a journey of 700 miles, to London (an arduous undertaking at that time), at his own private expense, that he might use all his influence in their behalf. He arrived while Hector Mackenzie, a retainer of the Earl of Cromarty, and a respectable man, was on his trial, and to his unspeakable mortification, in spite of all his interest and exertions, Mackenzie was condemned. But the "Ministear Laidir" was not thus to be put off. He went directly to the Duke of Newcastle, and earnestIy entreated his intercession with the Sovereign, for mercy to the condemned criminal. The Duke received him favourably, and satisfied him with a fair promise that the man's life would be spared. He was, however, soon alarmed, by a hint from some of his friends, that such promises by the Duke were not always to be relied on, and worked his honest way again into the presence of his Grace, where he earnestly renewed his intercession. The Duke, to get rid of his importunity, renewed his prornise, with the offer of his hand. The minister grasped his hand in his own awful fist, and gave it such a squeeze, that his Grace in agony, exclaimed,"Yes, yes, yes! Mr Robertson, you shall have him, you shall have him". This promise was not to be forgotten, and the man was saved.

During many of the subsequent trials, Mr Robertson was employed as interpreter, in the taking of the evidence of witnesses, in which capacity, from his intimate knowledge of the Highland character, and of the arts which had been practised upon his people, he was able so to direct the course of the examination, that he both served the cause of truth, and the best interests of the country, and rescued many a victim of folly and delusion from a violent and ignominious death.

While thus detained in London, Mr. Robertson one day, in crossing the Thames in a boat, was assailed by a loud voice from a hulk then lying in the river, with these words, in the Gaelic language, viz. "O! a Mhaisteir Seumas, am bheil thu' g'am fhagails' an so?" "O! Mr James, are you going to leave me here?" Mr Robertson, instantly recognizing the speaker, answered, "Ah! a Dhonuil, bheil cuimhn agad air la na biodaig?" i.e. "Ah ! Donald, do you remember the day of the dirk?" The despairing culprit replied, "Och a Mhaisteir Seumas, is olc an t-aite cuimknachan so" i.e."Oh ! Mr James, bad place of remembrance is THIS." The conversation ceased. The speaker was a Donald Mackenzie, a bold and powerful man, well known to Mr Robertson as a quondam parishioner. The ruffian had, a few years before, come to the minister for baptism to a child, which, as he was grossly ignorant, was inflexibly refused. The fellow, after repeated refusals, till he should exhibit some suitable qualification, resolved to extort by force, what he could not obtain by solicitation, prevailed on a neighbour of his, another rude and athletic Highlander, to accompany and assist him in this unprincipled attempt. 'l'hey found the minister at some distance from the manse, when Donald renewed his suit for baptism to his child. But after a short examination, he was found as unqualified as ever, and positively refused. Upon which, the two fellows laid violent hands on the minister, swearing that they would never let him go till he would comply with the request. A desperate struggle ensued, and Donald, perceiving that the minister was stronger than himself and his neighbour drew his dirk, and inflicted a deep wound on Mr Robertson's right arm, notwithstanding which, he beat the two, and sent Donald home again to study his catechism

The day of retribution for the violence of the dirk was come, and Mr Robertson, in the true spirit of his holy calling, lost no time in employing all his influence in favour of the desponding criminal. His exertions were attended with success. Poor Donald received a free pardon, returned home to his native country, and lived for many years, the most attached and grateful parishioner of his reverend benefactor. It may be added, that Mr Robertson returned to his parish, and to the most grateful and admiring affections of his people of all ranks, among whom he lived for nearly thirty years after, in the zealous, diligent, and successful discharge of his ministerial duties.

Soon after the battle of Culloden, a squadron of King's vessels, under the command of one Ferguson, appeared off the coast of this parish, and dropped anchor in Loch Ceannard. A strong party landed there, and proceeded up the strath, as far as the residence of Mr M'Kenzie of Langwell, who was married to a near relative of Earl George of Cromarty. Mr M'Kenzie got out of the way; but the lady was obliged to attend some of her children, who were confined by small-pox. The house was ransacked, a trunk containing valuable papers, and among them a wadset of Langwell, and Inchvennie, from the Earl of Cromarty, was burnt before her eyes, and about fifty head of black-cattle were mangled by their swords, and driven away to the ships. Similar depredations were committed in the neighbourhood, without discrimination of friends or enemies, during eight days that they remained upon the coast.

Land-owners - The landed proprietors of the parish are the Hon. Mrs Hay M'Kenzie of Cromertie; Mr Davidson of Tulloch; Mr M'Kenzie of Dundonnell; Sir George M'Kenzie of Coul; and Captain Fraser of Balnain. None of these reside within the parish. Neither are there other families of any note residing in it. They all possess land to the yearly value of L.50 and upwards.

Parochial Registers - There are no parochial registers within the parish, further back than the year 1808, the date of the present incumbent's induction.

Antiquities - There are many of the drystone circular buildings called Duns, in this parish, but there is no tradition of their origin or use.

Modern Buildings - There is nothing, under this head, worth noticing, except the parish church, which was built in 1816-17. It is an excellent house, seated for 1200, but capable of containing nearly 2000 sitters. The manse was built in 1812, and is in great need of repair. There is a very comfortable mansion-house on the property of Dundonnell, greatly enlarged and improved by the late proprietor, Kenneth M'Kenzie.


According to Dr Webster's return in 1755 the population was   2211
By returns to Sir John Sinclair about 1794 3560
At the last census in 1831 - 4615
Making an increase since the former Account of 1115

In fact, however, the number of inhabitants actually belonging to the parish, at the time of the last census, must have been considerably greater than that given in. For, by a very correct enumeration, taken by the present incumbent in 1824, in which the name and surname of every individual in the parish are inserted, the number of inhabitants then in the parish was 4747, being 132 more than in the last census, although the population has undoubtedly been gradually and rapidly increasing for a hundred years back.

The discrepancy, however, is easily accounted for, in full consistency with the accuracy of the last Report. For, the act of Parliament of 1830 requiring that the population of the whole kingdom should be taken at one and the same time, it became necessary to return the number of persons then actually within the parishes, rather than the number of persons which fairly belonged to them. And by this means, some hundreds of the parishioners of Lochbroom, away at sea, at the Caithness and deep-sea fishings, and at south-country labouring of various kinds, must have been omitted in their own, and returned from other parishes.

The population returns of 1831 are as follows: viz. males, 2214; females, 240l; total, 4615. Males above twenty years of age, 1065; families,938; inhabited houses, 917; houses building, 6; houses uninhabited, 5; occupiers of land, 572; employed in retail and trade, 96. Average of baptisms for the last seven years, 119; of marriages, 241.

The real population of the parish of Lochbroom, as correctly ascertained in November 1834, is 5206; of which 2546 are males, and 2660 are females.

Character and Habits of the People - There is nothing very remarkable in the appearance, character, or habits of the people. The language generally spoken is Gaelic; but it is evidently losing ground. The people are in general sober and quiet; but when an opportunity occurs, as at a wedding, or even a funeral, it cannot be denied that some of them occasionally exceed the bounds of perfect moderation. They are in general very poor. Their ordinary food consists chiefly of potatoes and fish, and it must be admitted that the strength of body, and daring spirit for which the Highlanders were once justly celebrated, are greatly on the decline. They cannot be entirely acquitted of poaching in game or salmon, nor is the country entirely free from the degrading and demoralizing practice of smuggling whisky. But this is greatly owing to the proprietors or their factors.


Agriculture - The number of acres in the parish, cultivated or uncultivated, has never been ascertained. The black-cattle reared in the parish are small, but hardy. The original small sheep of the country were, about forty years ago, supplanted by the blackfaced, and these are now fast yielding to the white-faced or Cheviot breeds. There is truly little to be said in commendation of the farm-buildings and enclosures of the parish, but the labouring implements have certainly been much improved. When the present incumbent entered on his charge in the year 1808, there were only two coup-carts in the whole parish, and perhaps not one low country made plough. But now, where there is arable land to cultivate, both are universally used.

The principal improvements which have been made in the parish were executed by the late Kenneth M'Kenzie, Esq. of Dundonnell. This gentleman, brother-in-law to the writer, had been for some years abroad and in the army, and succeeded his father, George M'Kenzie, in the year 1816. Being left a free estate:worth L.1600 a-year, and some thousand pounds in money, he soon came home, settled on his property, completely changed the whole system of management which had been previously followed; introduced a superior breed of cattle, for which he had a fine taste; bought valuable horses with corresponding implements of husbandry, and harness; greatly enlarged and improved his mansion-house; built a fine square of offices; enclosed a large piece of ground for a garden, with a wall of stone and lime, ten or twelve feet high, which he laid out in the most tasteful manner, and stocked with a rich variety of fruit trees and bushes, as well as flowering shrubs and flowers; recovered many acres of waste land; opened up the country by new roads; built hundreds of yards of stone dikes; planted millions of firs and hard-wood trees; and in every way beautified and adorned his own romantic little strath. He died at the age of 36, and left no children behind him. *

There are few leases given in this parish, except to the principal sheep-farmers, and these are from fifteen to nineteen years. The farm-buildings and enclosures in the parish, except those at Dundonnell already mentioned, are mean and worthless. The proprietors will lay out nothing on their lands, nor will they allow meliorations to their tenants, even for substantial improvements. The state of the parish, therefore, in regard to improvement, may easily be imagined.

*These improvemeuts had contributed to involve Dundonnell deeply in debt. His younger brother, and heir-at-law, was in such circumstances as rendered it impossible for him to clear the estate, or to retain it. It was settled past him, but burdened with a legacy to the eldest son of the heir, and still larger provisions to the numerous children of a favourite sister, of more than sufficient amount to exhaust the surplus value of the whole property. But this apparent disinheritance of the heir roused the indignation of the friends of the family, which operated powerfully on the characteristic attachment of the poor Highlanders; and outrages were committed of an atrocious character - fire-raising, destruction of property, brutal mutilation of cattle, and even deliberate attempts on life. Part of the settlements of the deceased were then made the subject of reduction by jury trial, and were reduced, and the heir was reinstated amidst much rejoicings. The heir, however, became immediately bankrupt. The estate was brought to the hammer for payment of the previous debts, and of an annuity of L.500 a-year to the widow, when it appeared that there was not surplus enough to pay the legacy bequeathed to the the sister or her children, at least during the widow's lifetime, and the lands, with all their improvernents and embellishments- have passed by purchase to an intelligent stranger.

Fisherie - The herring fishery has been already noticed. There are salmon killed on the rivers of Ullapool, Meikle and Little Broom, and Greenyard.

Manufactures - There is no manufacture of any consequence carried on in this parish. Even the manufacture of kelp, which was once a source of considerable profit, is now discontinued, since the duty on barilla was taken off, and the raw material is used only as manure for the land.

Navigation - There is no navigable river in this parish, nor any foreign trade carried on with it; and there are but two or three small sloops at the port of Ullapool, which ply between that place and Greenock, Liverpool, and Ireland.


There is no market-town in the parish, nor any nearer than Dingwall, at the distance of about forty-five miles from Ullapool. There is a foot-runner, who carries the post letters twice a week from Dingwall to Ullapool, but no turnpike roads, or rail-roads, or public carriages, or canals, and but one village, viz. Ullapool, the harbour of which, though srnall, is in tolerable repair.

Ecclesiastical State - The parish church is situated at the head of the Big Loch, at the distance of about thirty-five miles from the extremity of the parish, in one direction, and of twenty-five miles from the extremity in another. It was built in the year 1817, and. is now (May 1835) undergoing a repair, in consequence of a panic which seized the congregation about four years ago, causing a rush to be made to the doors and windows, by which many were crushed and bruised, though none killed. The alarm was given, not from any defect in the church, but by the scream of a person seized with epilepsy, yet such was the effect of the shock on the nerves of the people, that many of them could not be prevailed upon to enter the church again, unless it should undergo a repair. It affords accommodation for 1200 sitters. All the sittings are free.

The manse was built in 1811, and is now under repair.

The extent of the glebe is not well ascertained, being connected with a piece of ground given by the family of Seaforth to the church. The whole consists of an extensive piece of a very steep and rugged hill, at the foot of which the present incumbent has cleared and brought into culture about a dozen acres at an immense expense, which they will never repay to him. The rest is let to small tenants or crofters, who labour the ground with their own hands and feet, by means of a certain implement called the cas-chrom, and for which they pay a precarious rent.

The amount of stipend is 18 chalders, one-half barley, and one-half meal, the former, however, being one thirty second part, and the latter, one-ninth part per boll, less than the county measure; and the fiars prices being always considerably lower tban the ordinary retail prices of the county, particularly to a person who cannot afford to purchase a great quantity at once, the living is apparently more valuable than it is in fact.

There is one Government church in the parish, situated in the village of Ullapool, but no chapel of ease nor missionary. And it will astonish the reader to hear that, in this enormous parish, there is only one catechist, who receives only the paltry sum of L.7 a-year from the Committee for managing his Majesty's munificent Bounty of L.2000 a-year.

There is no Seceding, nor Episcopalian, nor Roman Catholic, nor dissenting chapel of any denomination, in this parish. All the parishioners are of the Established Presbyterian church, and firmly attached to its doctrines, discipline, and government. The church is generally well attended in time of Divine service, and the number of communicants in the parish is above 400.

The writer of this has no distinct recollection of the sums which his parishioners may have, on an average of years, collected for religious and charitable purposes, but he is quite sure that they have not been behind their neighbours in deeds of charity and benevolence.

There are no societies for religious purposes established in the parish. In a parish so extensive, so scattered, and so difficult, no such societies could meet sufficiently often for any useful purpose.

Education - The total number of schools in the parish is 8; one parochial school, and seven supported by various charitable societies. In the parochial school, there are taught, Gaelic and English reading, writing, arithmetic, Latin, Greek, and mathematics. The master's salary is L.34. 4s. Sterling, with the legal accommodations. The school fees may amount to about L 6. He has also L.3. 6s. 8d. as precentor and session-clerk - all too little for a man of liberal education.

Of the whole population of the parish, only 1496 can read or write in any language, and many of these very imperfectly indeed, while 3710 can neither read nor write; and it is to be lamented, as well as confessed, that many of the people are not sufficiently alive to the benefits of education. They make general professions of regard to the means of instruction, when destitute of them; but when these means are put within their reach, the sacrifice is small indeed which many will make to give their children the benefit of them.

Poor and Parochial Funds - The average number of persons receiving parochial aid is about 101, and the average sum allotted to each per year is from 2s. to 5s. The annual amount of contributions for their relief is about L.21, of which about L.16. l3s. are collected at the church doors, and L.5 are the interest of L.100 left as a legacy to the poor. There is no other regular mode of procuring funds for the poor, except by fines imposed upon persons proved guilty of adultery, fornication, &c., part of which goes to pay the session-clerk and the beadle; and in the most clamant cases of distress, the heritors have always resisted an assessment, which cannot be enforced without law expenses.There is a strong disposition among the poor to refrain from seeking parochial relief, which they consider as in the lowest degree degrading.

There is no prison in the parish; nor is there any fair held there. The number of tippling-houses, particularly about UIlapool, is considerable, and their effects on the morals of the people, pernicious.

Fuel - The fuel chiefly used is peat, procured frorn mosses, which in many places are nearly exhausted, or so far removed from the townships, that, if the labour of providing it could be converted into money, at any reasonable rate, it would be much cheaper to burn the best of Newcastle coal than the worst of Lochbroom peat.


The difference betwixt the present state of the parish, and that which existed at the time of the last Statistical Account, in regard to the implements of husbandry and mode of cultivating the soil, has been already noticed. The difference is no less striking in the price of provisions and wages. At present, a boll of oatmeal, of the same measure as then, will fetch L.1. 4s.; a boll of oats, L1; of barley, L.1. lOs. Butter fetches from 12s. to L.1. ls. per stone, according to the quality; and cheese 8s. per stone. A good ploughman gets from L.6 to L.9 a-year of wages; a woman from L.1. 5s. to L.1. lOs. in the half year, with shoes; and a day labourer will hardly think himself well paid by ls. 6d. without victuals.

Improvements - The first and greatest improvement of any country, in a worldly point of view, is to have it well opened up by good roads and bridges. Of this improvement, not one parish in Scotland stands nearly so much in need, as the parish of Lochbroom. Above forty years ago, a road was constructed at a great expense from Dingwall to Ullapool, which, being a new thing in the Highlands, astonished the natives not a little. But the line chosen was so absurd, and the execution so wretched, that the road has been, for many years back, not only useless, but dangerous, to foot-passengers and riders on horseback, and to wheel carriages almost impassable, while several of the principal bridges are carried away, or threatened with being so, or deserted, from the original line of road being changed. A new road, therefore, with the requisite bridges, of which there has been much talk of late, would be an immense improvement, both for the heritors and population of Lochbroom. To talk of manufacturing or agricultural improvements to any considerable extent without these, is vain and visionary. Even if a hand manufacture, on the smallest scale, were introduced, which would enable the females of the parish, by any employment suitable to their sex, to purchase Newcastle or Liverpool coal for fuel to their families, instead of degrading their persons, and often losing their lives, by carrying peats upon their backs, from almost exhausted mosses inaccessible to horses or to carts, it would be an unspeakable benefit to the country.

In a moral point of view, the great improvement needed is additional means of religious instruction. On this subject, the people at the two extremities of the parish, viz. Coigach, containing a population of 1975, and Laigh, containing a population of 1187 souls, have lately presented very strong petitions to both Houses of Parliament representing their melancholy state of almost total destitution, and imploring the interposition of the Legislature in their behalf. And it must be allowed, indeed, by all, that in a parish which, if divided into four, with ministers and churches at the most convenient stations, would leave many of the parishioners at the distance of ten, twelve, and even fifteen miles, of rugged road, from any place of public worship, there is need of Legislative interposition. The voluntary scheme will not suit here.

But, whatever effect these applications may have in procuring churches and clerical teachers for the parish of Lochbroom, it can never be satisfactorily accounted for, that, out of the large amount of Royal and lay Bounty contributed annually for the religious and moral improvement of the Highlands, so very small a proportion should find its way to this enormous parish. The parish, it is true, has been highly favoured with schoolmasters for the instruction of youth by the Gaelic School Society, and by the General Assembly Committee, since the latter commenced their labours. But of catechists, the description of teachers of all others the best calculated to be useful to the grown up inhabitants, many hundreds of whom are so involved in ignorance as to be incapable of deriving benefit from a continued discourse, the minister, after innumerable applications for many years, has been able to obtain only one, of ten that are required, and for that one he could only procure L.7 of a yearly salary! The gentlemen who have the management of the Royal Bounty, and of the funds of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, may suppose that their money is better employed in paying missionaries and schoolmasters than catechists. But I again aver, and without any fear of successful contradiction, that, in such parishes as Lochbroom, and others in similar circumstances, no teachers, in connection with the parish ministers, are so much calculated to be useful as well chosen catechists.
May 1835. 

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