New Statistical Account (1836) Parish of Nigg

Nigg and Shandwick 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.

New Statistical Account (1836)

The following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Nigg from the second or new Statistical Account of Nigg (dated Sept 1836).


* Drawn up by the late incumbent, the Rev. Lewis Ross, now minister of Duke Street Church, Glasgow.


Name - The derivation of the name of this parish from Neuk or Nook (a corner) seems improbable. In some old records of the parish, the name is spelled Wig and Wigg. It is probably, therefore, of the same origin as the names of the parishes of Uig and Wick. Bailey, in his Etymological Dictionary says, that Wich or Vich is a Saxon word for bay or harbour.

Extent. - The parish is situated in 57° 44', north latitude, and 4° west longitude, and forms the most southern point of the district called Easter Ross. It is nearly 6 miles in length, from 2 to 3 miles in breadth, and contains about 14 square miles. It is bounded on the south-east by the Moray Frith, on the south and west by the Cromarty Frith, and on the north by the parishes of Logie Easter and Fearn.

Topographical Appearances - About one-third of its extent consists of what is called the Hill of Nigg.* This hill is about five miles in length and one in breadth; it extends along the shore of the Moray Frith, from the north Sutor of Cromarty (the southern extremity) to the farm of Shandwick (the north-east extremity) and varies in height from 300 to 500 feet. The rock overhanging the shore is generally 300 feet in perpendicular height, in many parts covered with ivy trees of wonderful size, and studded with caves and fissures, which must be seen in order to be admired. From the highest part of the hill, nine counties may be seen by the naked eye, when the state of the atmosphere is favourable, viz. Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Cromarty, Inverness, Nairn, Moray, Banff, and Perth. The soil of this portion of the parish is generally poor, cold, and wet. The greater part has been planted with Scotch firs, which thrive or fail according to the favourable or unfavourable circumstances in which they are placed. All the inhabitants are comprised in twelve families.

* It was called of old the Bishop's Forest.

The remaining two-thirds of the territorial extent of the parish consist of a naturally fertile slope on the north-west side of the hill, and an equally fertile plain betwixt the termination of the slope and the boundaries of the parishes of Logie Easter and Fearn. Much has no doubt been done, of late years, by various proprietors in the way of improving tbis extensive slope and plain, but still much remains to be done. Roads, and drains, and fences and trenching are required. In few cases has good taste in planning farms and dividing fields been hitherto shewn, and in as few have the cottages of the poor been located and built with a regard to cleanliness and freedom from damp. Indeed, the writer is constrained to state that, good as is the soil of this part of the parish, there is not a spot of it on which the eye can look with unmingled pleasure. The parish is inferior to none in Scotland in soil and other natural advantages. Why should it be at once proverbial for its fertility, and a bye-word for its ruggedness ?

The Sands of Nigg (a name given to a large bay of the Cromarty Frith) belong partly to the parish of Nigg and partly to the parish of Logie Easter, a small rivulet (named the Pot) being the boundary. They are about one mile in breadth at the east end, and two at the west. During high water, and more especially at spring tides, they are covered by the sea to the depth of from 4 to 8 feet, but at low water they are dry, and eminently useful. Here are to be found in abundance, in their respective seasons, cockles and mussels, and flounders and sand-eels; and it is here, likewise, where the fishers of Nigg, Fearn, Cromarty, and many of those of Banffshire find the bait wherewith they catch cod and haddock and whiting. On the Nigg side of the sands, vessels of light tonnage discharge cargoes of coals, lime, and slates, and take in timber, potatoes, &c. There is no harbour excepting the level sand, and it is only by following the channel of the Pot that vessels can get, even at high water, a sufficient depth for their purposes. Previously to the importation of lime from the south, the only lime used for building in this country was made of shells dug out of the sands of Nigg. The pits caused by this operation gradually became dangerous quicksands, and various individuals have lost their lives in them. But now quicksands are unknown, and there is no danger to the traveller who keeps to the eastward of a line drawn betwixt Tarbat House and the church of Nigg. To the westward of this line, however, there are several deep pits in the Pot, in which several strangers have been drowned within the last few years. There is one, in particular, named Poll nan Ron (the Seal's Pool,) fatal to every one that touches its waters.

Climate - In the more inhabited and fruitful parts of the parish, the climate is comparatively mild and warm, though damp. The insularity of the situation, and innumerable spring wells, and the shelter afforded by the hill from the east wind, have a considerable effect on the temperature of the atmosphere. It is no uncommon thing to find, in winter and spring, the roads quite soft in the parish of Nigg in the morning, while the roads are frozen and slippery in the neighbouring parishes, not many rniles distant.

Diseases - Nervous disorders, and cough and asthma, are the prevailing complaints, and seem occasioned, in a great measure, by the damp of the houses, and the poor quality of the food. It is observable, that cough and asthma prevail most on the north-west face of the hill, where there is no morning sun, and where the damp oozing out of the ground is great. There are no instances, nowadays, of extraordinary longevity, though a greater than ordinary proportion of the inhabitants arrive at a good old age, varying from seventy to eighty-five years. Epidemic diseases are not common.

Hydrography - The Moray Frith bounds the parish on the south-east side. The Cromarty Frith bounds the parish on the south and west sides. The Bay of Cromarty has the appearance of an inland lake, and is a remarkably safe and commodious place of anchorage for vessels of all sizes. It was known to the Romans as Portus Salutis.

The springs of the parish, which are very numerous, are all perennial, and excellent, though various in their qualities. Strong chalybeates are not uncommon. Sulphureous springs are likewise found, and even some containing a small quantitv of magnesia. Of the latter description, there is at Wester Rarichie a very copious spring named in Gaelic Sul na ba, the cow's eye. There is a tradition that it flowed in olden times through the trunk of a tree that grew about 400 yards to the south-east of the present site, and that some injury or insult having been offered to this natural pump, the water disappeared, and afterwards came forth as Sul na ba. While the water discharged itself through the tree, many diseased persons from distant parts of the country flocked to it for healing. It does undoubtedly possess some medicinal qualities, operating as an aperient.*

*It would appear from the following extract from the records of the kirk-session, that even in comparatively modern times, this well was much resorted to, and Sabbath explanation the consequence. "July 7th 1707. In regard many out of the parish brethern and several other parishes within the sheriffdom, profane the Sabbath by going to the wel1 of Rarichies, John and William Gallie, &c. are appoinited to take notation every Saturday evening and Sunday morning of such as come to the well, and to report the same accordingly."

Half a mile to the eastward of Sul na ba is a spring, noted as a favourite of the fairies, before they were driven away from the parish. If, as is said to have happened in days of yore, any of the little people stole a child from a parent of the race of Adam, and left a puny bantling in its place, the child of the human parent might be got back by leaving the elfin near the well, late in the evening, and perhaps offering some presents to the King of Fairyland.

Half a mile to the eastward of this latter well may be found, at the foot of the rock on the shore of the Moray Frith, a well dignified with the name of Tobar na Slainte, the well of health or salvation. The occasion of its having received this appellation is unknown. It seems nowadays as much neglected as that well of spiritual salvation, of which the Evangelical Prophet sweetly sung of old in the land of Judah. In the centre of the parish, near the Black Hill, is a well named John the Baptist's well. But why it has been so called, none can tell. At Dunskeathness, close to the ferry of Cromarty, there is a draw well in the sand, the water of which deposits a siliceous sediment.

Geology - Professor Sedgwick of Cambridge, and Mr Murchison of London, examined the geological structure of this parish and coast a few years ago, and gave to the public the result of their inquiries in the Transactions of the Geological Society of London. Last year, Messrs Anderson of Inverness favoured the public with a very good essay on the same subject in the "Guide to the Highlands" and Mr Hugh Miller of Cromarty has, in his "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland" given an interesting and beautifully descriptive, at the same time highly poetical chapter on the various processes, whereby the present structures of rocks, and hills, and vales, have been made to spring out of the original mass of chaotic elements.

But all these learned authorities may speak for themselves; and in the meantime the following sketch by a novice may suffice. A scientific one is not attempted.

1st, The more elevated part of the parish must at one time have been an island, as throughout the whole extent of the neck of land betwixt the Cromarty bay to the west, and the village of Shandwick on the shore of the Moray Frith to the east, the substratum contains a layer of sea shells and shingle, mingled with such organic remains of land vegetable matter as the neighbouring shores may be supposed to have added. Even at Fearn, which is two miles distant from the present shores of either frith, the skeleton of a cetaceous animal has been found.

2nd, This island must, at a previous period, have formed a continuation of the Black isle, as an examination of the submarine strata betwixt the Sutors will testify. The disruption may have been caused by an agency comparatively local.

3rd, The rocks of the parish may be described as follows, in an ascending order: 1. The north Sutor consists of granitic gneiss, much foliated and nearly vertical; conglomerate of rolled pieces of various size and composition; white sandstone alternating with schistose limestone; and red sandstone forming a terrace on the north-west side of the hill, from one extremity to the other. The two strata of sandstone are highly inclined, and stretch in the same direction as the hill. 2. Passing along the top of the hill towards the north-east, the gneiss is succeeded by conglomerate, and this again by sandstone highly inclined, and subsiding at Shandwick. The different strata may be classed as follows, in an ascending order, viz. 1. Hard red sandstone. 2. Soft white sandstone, containing coal apparently of woody origin, several veins about a foot broad, appearing just at the surface, and not easily distinguished on account of the shingle. 3. Greenish clay passing into sandstone, and containing fragments of shells and impressions of bivalves. 4. Hard greenstone containing many belemnites. 5. A series of shales and limestones.

The strata are inclined at an angle of about 30°, in the form of a curve, with the chord towards the hill, and dipping towards the south-east, under the sea The shells are chiefly ammonites, belemnites, and Gryphea gigantea and Gryphrea incurva.

Nigg is very barren of minerals. Iron enters into the composition of the gneiss in some places, and ironstone is found associated with the lias beds. Lime appears in the form of a crystallized carbonate in small veins at Shandwick, and of stalactites on the roofs and sides of the caves; and when associated with some of the springs, petrifies the mosses, over which their waters flow. Garnet is, frequently after a storm at sea, spread in small fragments over a considerable extent of the shores, and so thickly, as to give the sand a deep purple colour.

Soils - The soils are various, and apparently transported. The west end of the parish, which has a very bleak appearance, consists of light sand. But a foot or two under the sand, there is a deep layer of fine loam intermixed with blue clay; and there is a tradition, on which some dependence may be placed, that the covering of sand is not of older date than the seventeenth century; and that previously to that period, the west end of the parish of Nigg, which is now a sandy desert, was a fertile field. The sand is said to have performed its destructive work in the coursc of one night, as happened in the cases of Culbin in Morayshire, and Morichmore near Tain. The wickedness of the laird of Dunskeath is said to have been the occasion of this calamity. In various parts of the parish, the soil is clayey. But the greater part of the arable land consists of remarkably fine black loam on red sandstone, the loam varying from one to four feet in depth.

Zoology - The neighbouring friths abound with fish of various kinds, such as salmon, turbot, cod, haddock, mackerel, whiting, cuddies, crowners, soles, flounders, skate, dog-fish, and herrings in their season. The rocky shore abounds likewise with crabs. There were many lobsters fifty years ago, but the greater part of them were then conveyed to London, and now the race is almost unknown, as it is only once in a season, perhaps, that a gourmand can have the pleasure of seeing one at his table. There are a few oysters of large size in the Cromarty Frith. But they are seldom dredged for, and do not promise to multiply. It is difficult to account for the rarity of oysters now, when it is considered that under the soil in some of the lower grounds of the parish, there are to be found multitudes of oyster shells.

Botany - Among the rarer British plants growing within the range of the parish, may be mentioned Draba incana, Geranium sanguineum, Juncus balticus, and Oxytropis uralensis. The lofty and perpendicular rocks may, however, possess others, which men of ordinary nerves have not the courage to approach.


The first era to which reference can be made, in the history of this parish, is the tenth and eleventh centuries, in which the Danish invasions took place.

There is a farm on the top of the rock named to this day Ca an righ, the King's Path, or the King's Cave; and immediately below this farm at the foot of the rock, is to be seen a cave, named the King's Cave, and from it, there is a path cut in the face of the rock up to the top, named "the King's Path". Half a mile to the north-east of the cave and path, there is a little natural harbour, named Port an righ, the King's Harbour. Within half a mile of this harbour, there is in the sea a sunken rock about a mile in length, named the King's Sons.* At Easter Rarichie, near the east end of the parish, there is a detached hillock, said to have been a Danish fort, and it still bears evidence of its having been applied to some warlike purpose, for round the top edge of it there appears something like the remains of a wall or rampart. There is a tradition, which may possibly be connected with the names and localities here noticed, that a daughter of the royal Scandinavian having married the Thane of Ross, was so ill used by her husband, that she ran to complain to her father, and that he and his three valiant sons (whose fate has already been mentioned), and all his mighty men of war, came to avenge the cause of the injured countess.

* This rock is said to have got its name from the circumstance of three sons of the King of the Sea having been wrecked on it, and drowned. Their bodies were afterwards found and buried, one at Hilton, one at Shandwick, and one at Nigg; and there is, at each of these places, a monumental stone, covered on both sides with hieroglyphical sculpture and said to have been erected to the memory of the royal princes. These stones shall be afterwards described.

Dunskeath - The next era in the history of this parish, of which there is any account, is the year 1179, when (according to Sir David Dalrymple of Hailes, in his Annals of Scotland) William, surnamed the Lion, King of Scotland, caused a castle to be built on the top of the rock fronting Cromarty. The site of this castle may be still distinguished, but nothing more. The object of its erection is said to have been the suppression of robbers, and from this, it is supposed to have got its name Dunscath in Gaelic, Dunskeath in English. The surrounding farm is still called Castlecraig. The Abbey of Fearn was built much about the same time with the Castle of Dunskeath, and thus civil and ecclesiastical power were united to subdue and civilize the wild inhabitants of the country.

Bishops of Ross - From the twelfth till the sixteenth century, there is no land-mark in the history of the parish. But in the latter century, mention is made of the Bishops of Ross, and it would appear, that their Lordships, before and after the Reformation, had a summer residence immediately behind the site of the present church, and that the whole of the parish, with the exception of the estate of Dunskeath, formed a bit of glebe for their convenience, Tempora mutantur. Even till the final extinction of prelacy in Scotland, the parish of Nigg was a mensal charge of the Bishops of Ross, and still all the lands of the parish (with the exception already mentioned) pay bishop rents to the Crown. These amount to about L.200 or L.300 a-year, according to the fiar prices of victual. But some people maintain, that the King does not always get the justice he gives, while others with equal authority affirm that the bishop rents ought not to go into the coffers of the Crown at all, but should be devoted to the promotion of those sacred objects, for which bishops or ministers were first appointed by the sole king and head of the church.

Parochial History - About the middle of the seventeenth century, a Sir Jolm Sinclair, in Caithness, became proprietor of the lands of Culiss and Wester Rarichie. This led to the introduction into the parish, of various individuals of the name of Gunn, from the boundary that separates Caithness from Sutherland. The people of the parish called them "Na Gallich" the Caithness men, and from this casual appellation, arose the name Gallie, which has been for nearly 200 years a common and rather respectable name among the inhabitants. The name is now, however, much on the decrease.

A Hugh Rose of Kilravock, in Nairnshire, married a daughter of the fore-mentioned Sir John Sinclair, and got her father's lands, in the parish of Nigg, as her dowry. Hugh after Hugh possessed them, till about the middle of the eighteenth century, and as the Gunns had formerly come from Caithness, so did the Roses come from Kilravock, though few of their descendants remain to tell the tale. The lands of Culiss and Rarichie were sold to a gentleman of the name of Ross, who had made a fortune in Poland, and was on that account called Polander Ross. One of the Hugh Roses of Kilravock was sheriff-depute of the counties of Ross and Cromarty in the beginning of the last century, and it was he that instituted the only fair in the parish. Till a few years ago, it was held at Wester Rarichie, but it is now held at Ankerville, commonly on the third Tuesday of November. It is named Hugh's Fair, in honour of its founder.*

*Previously to Kilravock's marriage with Sir John Sinclair's daughter, there was an immigration of Roses to this parish, caused by the following circumstance, which tradition still preserves. A laird of Kilravock, it is said, or some gentleman nearly connected with him, and of the same name, had married twice, and three sons of the first marriage had conceived a strong dislike to their stepmother - so strong, indeed, that they barbarously put an end to her existence. The young ruffians immediately made the best of their way across the ferries in order to escape the vengeance they deserved, and though pursuit was instant and zealous, perhaps, it was unavailing. A young maiden, in the first house they entered in Ross-shire, became enamoured of one of the young men, and, by this circumstance, they succeeded in finding friends and protection. Some of their descendants are to be found to this day in the parish of Nigg, families of fishermen, and it is remarkable, that among them there are only three surnames, Ross, Skinner, and M'Leod. The original seat of these colonies was at the foot of the hill, immediately below Dunskeath castle. But there is no plausible tradition as to the time or occasion of their having come to the parish. At Shandwick, in the east end of the parish, there is a colony of fishermen originally from the same stock. Vass, Skinner, and Ross are their most common names.

From the end of the seventeenth century till a few years back, the estate of Meikle Pitculzean was the property of Mr John Frazer, minister of Alness, and his descendants. His son, Mr James Frazer (the author of the celebrated and excellent Treatise on Sanctification, as revealed by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans), possessed it after his father's death, and, having no children, was succeeded in it by his sister, Mrs M'Arthur. These three worthies deserved a better memorial than the present writer can give of their excellence. Their connection with Meikle Pitculzean brought clansmen to it, and there are consequently thirteen families of the name of Frazer in the present day within the bounds of the parish.

There are two small fishing villages in the west end of the parish, Balnabruach, and Balnapaling, each containing nearly twenty families.

The principal occupiers of the soil at present are, generally speaking, recent immigrants, and the most of their numerous farm-servants are entire strangers. There are few, if any, individuals in the parish whose progenitors were in it two hundred years ago.

Three important events have occurred at various periods since 1694, that have had marked effects on the identity and character of the population. The first of these was the seven years famine betwixt 1694 and 1701. During that awful period, many died of want, the rich became poor, the lands changed their occupants, and the whole face of society was changed. It is to be remarked, however, that notwithstanding the sufferings endured for so long a time, the morals of the people do not seem to have improved in consequence. On the contrary, it would appear that, during a few years after the famine, vices of the most abominable kinds prevailed to an almost incredible degree, as the records of the kirk-session testify.

The second event is the cruel and unchristian settlement of a minister, in the year 1756. The people who had been highly reformed, and elevated in mind and character under the ministry of his predecessor, Mr John Balfour, almost unanimously resisted the settlement for three years, and spent L.500 in law expenses. They subsequently became true Seceders under the ministry of Mr Buchanan from Perthshire, and continued so for a considerable time, and though now the parish church be full, and the parish minister has no reason to complain of want of people, no Christian philanthropist can help bewailing the circumstance that turned away from the church many of the Lord's people; neither can he cease to deplore the extremities to which many of their descendants have gone, and the blighting influence which division has produced upon the charities of life

The third event is the introduction of the large farm system, about forty years ago. The improvement of the soil was much required at that time, as it still is. But its improvement may be carried on, at an expense of morals and human comfort which no pecuniary advantage can counterbalance. Many families were driven from their homes, a few strangers were introduced in their room, and poverty succeeded in the train of almost all the actors and sufferers in the scene. The writer is passionately fond of improving and beautifying the face of the earth. But he conceives that the earth, though beautiful as the garden of Eden, would be but a waste without moral beauty, and that those proprietors who expel the inhabitants from their properties are depriving themselves of some of the highest enjoyments in life - the luxury of doing good, and the pleasure of being surrounded by a moral, a grateful, and a happy population.

Land-owners - The land-owners are: Charles Cockburn Ross of Shandwick; Sir Charles Ross, Bart. of Balnagown; Robert Mitchell of Bayfield; Hugh Ross of Cromarty; William Murray of Westfield; Mrs Taylor of Nigg and James Taylor, Esq. her husband; and George Ross of Pitcalnie.

Antiquities - The only antiquities in the parish are the two monumental stones already mentioned, the one at Shandwick, the other at Nigg. The stone at Hilton is in the parish of Fearn.

The one at Shandwick is called "Clach a Charridh" the stone of the burying-ground. "Carridh" is the Gaelic word for a burial-place, and it was a mistake, in the former Statistical Account, to call this stone "Clach a Charraig", the stone of the rock. It is about 3 feet high, 4 broad, and 1 thick. It has been often described and admired by the lovers of antique curiosities. Mr Hugh Miller says, "that it bears on the side which corresponds to the obliterated surface of the other, the figure of a large cross, wrought into an involved and intricate species of fret work, which seems formed by the twisting of myriads of snakes. In the spaces of the sides of the shaft, there are huge, clumsy-looking animals, the one resembling an elephant, the other a lion; over each of these a St Andrew seems leaning forward from his cross, and, on the reverse of the obelisk, the sculpture represents processions, hunting scenes, and combats." The ground around was, for ages, employed as a burying-place. But it has not been used for that purpose within the last fifty years.

The stone in the churchyard of Nigg is very similar to that at Shandwick, though not so large. It now stands fixed to the eastern gable of the church, but it stood near the gate till about the year 1725, when it was thrown down by a remarkable blast of wind, which, at the same time, threw down the belfry of the church, and broke the bell. The top, like the pediment of a portico, is of a triangular shape. On the one side of this upper compartment are two priest-like figures, attired in long garments, and furnished each with a book. They incline forward, as if intent on reading and devotion. Betwixt them, is a small circular table, which may represent an altar, and above it there is the representation cf a dove in the act of descending to carry away the sacrifice offered. It has a circular cake in its bill. Under the table, two dogs, of large size and ill-boding appearance, seem restrained by the priestly incantations of the human figures from executing their hellish purposes. Under the triangular top, and on the same side with the hieroglyphics already mentioned, the surface contains the figure of a cross beset with serpents. The spaces above and below the arms of the cross are divided into rectangular compartments of mathematical exactness.These, according to Mr Hugh Miller's account, "are embossed into rows of circular knobs, covered over as if by basket-work, with the intricate foldings of myriads of snakes; and which may be either deemed to allude to the serpent and apple of the fall, thus placed in no inapt neighbourhood to the cross; or to symbolize (for even the knobs may be supposed to consist wholly of serpents) that of which the serpent has ever been held emblematic, and which we cannot regard as less appositely introduced - a complex wisdom or an incomprehensible eternity. The hieroglyphics of the opposite side are in lower relief, and though the various fret work of the border is executed in a style of much elegance,the whole seems to owe less to the care of the sculptor. The centre is occupied by what, from its size, we may deem the chief figure of the group; it is that of a man attired in long garments, caressing a fawn; and directly fronting him, there are the figures of a lamb and a harp. The whole is perhaps emblematical of peace, and may be supposed to tell the same story with the upper hieroglyphic of the reverse. In the space beneath, there is the figure of a man furnished with cymbals, which he seems clashing with much glee, and that of a horse and its rider, surrounded by animals of the chase, while in the upper part of the stone, there are dogs, deer, and armed huntsmen, and surmounting the whole, an eagle or raven." So far Mr Miller's description. The present writer has nothing to add, except that he considers the cross side of the stone as intended to emblematize the fall and salvation of man; and the reverse side to represent the the Scandinavian heaven. It is well known that the belief of all ages and countries, has been, with respect to the future world of happiness, that its inhabitants are employed with full delight in those exercises and pursuits which constituted their enjoyment in the present. The barbarous Scandinavians were no exception to this general rule. Even the most enlightened Christians have the same belief with respect to themselves. If they delight in serving and praising God on earth, they hope to be for ever happy in the same employments above.

The only relics of antiquity, known to have been dug up in the parish, may be described in Mr Hugh Miller's words: "Not more than sixty years ago, a bank of blown sand, directly under the northern Sutor, which had been heaped over the soil ages before, was laid open by the winds of a stormy winter, when it was discovered that the nucleus on which it had formed, was composed of the bones of various animals of the chase, and the horns of deer. It is not much more than twelve years since, there were dug up in the same sandy tract two earthern urns, the one filled with ashes and fragments of half-burned bones, the other with bits of a black bituminous-looking stone, somewhat resembling jet, which had been fashioned into beads, and little flat parallelograms, perforated edgewise, with four holes apiece. Nothing could be ruder than the workmanship. The urns were clumsily modelled by the hand, unassisted by a lathe; the ornaments rough and unpolished, and still bearing the marks of the tool, resembled nothing of modern production, except perhaps the toys which herd-boys sometimes amuse their leisure in forming with the knife." One of the urns is now in the possession of James Taylor, Esq. of Nigg. In the brow of the north Sutor, fronting Cromarty, there was once, according to tradition, a wondrous gem, which occasionally in the night season emitted a light more brilliant than the zeolite of Iceland, or the carbuncle of the Wardhill of Hoy. But it has long since disappeared, and not a crown in Europe seems to possess it.

Modern Buildings - The only building worthy of mention is the mansion-house of Bayfield. It was built about forty-five years ago, and no house in the country can exceed it in point of comfort. But it has an awkward appearance, owing to the door fronting the north, and the naked and unimproved appearance of the surrounding grounds.

Parochial Registers - The session records of the parish commence on 17th December 1705. They have not in general been well kept, and some of them were accidentally burnt, many years ago. They consist of three volumes. There were sessional records of an older date, but they have been lost.


The earliest census of the population is that procured by Dr Webster in the middle of the last century. It was then 1261.
Population in 1801 - 1443
Population in 1811 - 1349
Population in 1821 - 1486
Population in 1831 - 1404

There are three fishing villages, which contain 420 souls. All the rest of the population are more or less connected with agriculture, and even the fishers spend a considerable part of their time in raising potatoes.

The number of landed proprietors is seven in all; of these three reside in the parish, and there is no rental under L.350.

The people are not remarkable for any personal qualities. But it may be observed of the fishermen, that though their marriages are, and have been from time immemorial, confined to themselves, like those of the royal families of Europe, they are in general a fine-looking set of men, and give no evidence of deterioration in any way. Rheumatism and scrofula are, however, common among them.

There are no blind, nor deaf and dumb persons in the parish. The only fatuous individual is a well-known one, named Angus, a native of Sutherland, who has been for many years a favourite residenter in the kind mansion-house of Nigg. He is a curiosity in his way, preferring a halfpenny to a shilling, delighting in solitary rambling among the tombs, incapable of comprehending one abstract idea, and yet a perfect pattern of innocence, devotion, and love to all that is good.

During the last three years, there were 3 illegitimate births in the parish.

Languages - The Gaelic* language is that generally spoken; but the English has made rapid progress of late. There is nothing peculiar in the habits of the people. On Sabbath days they are all well dressed, and on other days their dress corresponds with their employments. Though their lot in the world be not of the most enviable description, in as far as bodily comforts and intellectual improvement are concerned, they exhibit a moral character superior, perhaps, to that of any other parish which can be named. During the last twenty years, not an individual connected with the parish has been suspected of a felonious action. The people generally read the Bible and have family worship, and few of them seem altogether indifferent about the ordinances of religion. The parish became noted, betwixt the years 1740 and 1750, for an effusion of the Holy Spirit along with the preaching of the Word, under the ministry of Mr Jolm Balfour. A chosen generation then appeared, men of God and of prayer. There were a Donald Roy and an Andrew Roy, a John Noble and a Nicholas Vass, and others, whose names may be forgotten on earth, but whose record is on high. Vital godliness prevailed - the day and house of the Lord were revered - the commandments of God were obeyed, and the character of the people afforded a wonderful contrast to the common abominations that characterized the preceding generation. The records of the kirk-session for the thirty years succeeding 1705, while they afford abundant evidence of the zeal and faithfulness of ministers and elders in checking vice of every description, are disgusting in the extreme, as exhibiting a frequency and a grossness of vice among the people, which the succeeding generation would shudder to contemplate. And yet, be it added, the favourable change was produced by the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon the Heaven-appointed means, which an authoritative ministry and eldership were indefatigable in employing. Be it added, further, with shame and sorrow, that many of the present descendants of the "chosen generation'' already mentioned, are busily employed in endeavouring to subvert those institutions which were the means of bringing their fathers from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan into the kingdom of God.

*The Gaelic of the parish is not classical, though it cannot be said to be bad. As from time immemorial, there have been occasional immigrations from various parts of the north of Shetland, the language of the people has been modified, and consequently their Gaelic and English have little of a peculiar provincialism in them.


Agriculture - There are about 2500 acres in tillage; 1000 which might be profitably cultivated, but now lying waste; 100 acres in undivided common, and 1000 under fir wood. The full-grown wood is sawed and sold in the neighbourhood, or shipped to Caithness. The thinnings are sent to Newcastle as coal props. The woods, however, are but of secondary consideration.

Rent of Land - The average rent of arable land is about L.1.15s. per acre. At Castlecraig, an ox may be grazed during five months of the summer and harvest, for L.1. A milch cow, however, is charged double. A full-grown ewe may be grazed for the year for 5s., though it can hardly be said that sheep are taken in for grazing.

Wages - Ploughmen get each per annum a house; from 7 to 10 barrels of coals (equal to from 10 to 15 imperial measure ); 6 bolls of oatmeal (each 9 stones Dutch weight); 5 bolls of potatoes (each boll being in bulk equal to 2 quarters of wheat); a Scotch pint of skimmed milk (equal to an English quart) every day of the summer and harvest; and from L.6 to L.7 of money. A thrasher with the flail gets, per boll of wheat, 1s.; of barley, 10d.; and of oats, 9d. A day-labourer gets ls. per diem. Masons build for Ll. 6s. per rood, the materials being provided. Carpenters, smiths, tailors, shoemakers, &c. make the best bargain they can with their employers, and it is not believed that their average daily income can exceed 2s. The most of then would be very glad to compound for ls. 6d. if they got constant employment. The clothes used are generally bought in shops. The old weavers have given up their trade.

Live-Stock - There are few sheep in the parish, and these consist of Southdown, Cheviot, and the small country kind. In the rocks of Castlecraig, there are upwards of 100 goats, feeding on the herbs, which no other quadruped can approach. There is little attention paid to the rearing of black cattle. In the end of harvest, the farmers buy young Highland stock to eat the straw in winter and spring; and when summer arrives, they commonly sell them, if they can procure remunerating prices. Great milkers are not to be found. Fresh butter sells at 9d. per lb.; cheese at 6s. per stone, and warm milk at 3d. per Scotch pint. The parish was noted (not many years since) for the abundance and excellence of its barley. Now, however, there is little barley raised. It was no uncommon thing for the barley to weigh 56lb. the bushel, and when distilled, to give 3 Scots gallons (24 English quarts) per boll, of good whisky. Chevalier barley has been introduced within the last twelve months, and promises to become a staple article of produce. Angus and potato oats are quite common, and the Hopetoun oats are coming into fashion. Wheat, however, is the farmer's main stay, and the quality of it is in general excellent, as its quantity is great. But it must be observed that, owing to the high rents, the low price of wheat of late years, and the little demand for other kinds of farm produce, the land has been too much scourged by wheat crops. A four-shift rotation is common, and even a three-shift. Beans are much attended to now by high and low.

A good deal of lime and sea-ware are used as manure. Multitudes of fishers and others are much occupied from the middle of April till the middle of May, in providing sea-ware and planting potatoes. In the beginning of June, they gab them, and two or three weeks afterwards they take away the weeds. Then they hoe them twice, and in the month of October raise them. The people pay from L.3 to L.4 per acre, besides manure and labour to the tenants for potato land. A few years ago, they were induced to raise potatoes in great quantities, in order to feed swine for the market. But now the price of pigs is so low that comparatively few are reared. Turnips of all kinds are quite common, and bone manure is partially used for them with much success. The horses are generally of a superior breed, and well fed. Draining, trenching, and embanking have been carried on to a considerable extent. About eighteen years ago, a large embankment was formed at the side of the sands on the Bayfield estate, and 120 acres of land reclaimed. But the embankment was not properly constructed at first, though the expense was great, and consequently it is now fast giving way. There are many drains, and some of a large size, but many more are required. The leases are commonly for nineteen years. The farms vary in size from 30 to 400 acres. One farmer has three farms containing in all about 1000 acres. There are other five farms of 200 acres each, and two farms of 100 each. The most of the rest are on a smaller scale. The farm-buildings are in general good, particularly at Nigg, where there is an excellent square of offices, built by the late proprietor. There are four thrashing-mills driven by water - one at Nigg, one at Bayfield, one at Culiss, and one at Pitcalnie. There are three meal-mills. But they seldom have water in summer or harvest, and the multure payable is so high, that they are avoided as much as possible by those who are not thirled to them.

The principal obstacles to agricultural improvement are the following, viz.

1st, The two largest estates are strictly entailed under rather peculiar conditions, and consequently the encouragement given to improving tenants is on too limited a scale. Getting as much rent with as little outlay as possible, is the principle that guides the management.

2nd, Some of the estates have been for many years under judicial factors, who are restricted to the letter of instructions arbitrarily and perhaps injudiciously given.

3rd, Some of the farmers made and saved money in very favourable circumstances many years ago, while prices were high, and now they go on in the ordinary way, careless about improvements.

4th, The roads have been much neglected. Thousands of pounds have been taken from the parish of Nigg to make and repair roads in the parishes of Tarbat and Fearn, the three parishes being constituted into one district, and the heritors of Tarbat and Fearn taking care of their own interests to the neglect of the parish of Nigg.

5th, There is no encouragement given to cottars to build and improve. Their comfort has been too much neglected, and their superiors seem to have forgotten how useful cottars might be rendered in cultivating waste ground, if properly directed and encouraged.

6th, There is no market for hay, nor much demand for fat cattle, consequently the land is not allowed to lie long enough under lea.

Fisheries - During the last twenty years, about 16 boats have been annually employed in the herring fishing in various parts of the Moray Frith. The herring fishing season is confined to the dog-days. The expense of boats, nets, &c. has been great, and, though perhaps each man may have, in favourable seasons, averaged above L.20 of profit, it is questionable how far the herring fishing has been in reality a benefit to the parish. It is true, indeed, that many of the fishermen were enabled by their success, occasionally, a few years since, to build nice cottages, and improve their furniture (and there was abundance of need), but the ordinary fishing for haddocks, cod, &c. was a good deal neglected, debt was in many cases incurred, high ideas were raised, and now there is a lamentable degree of poverty, in consequence of the almost total failure, for some years back, of the herring fishing on this part of the coast.

There are stake-nets for salmon at Dunskeathness, but their success is not great, and few lament the failure. The rent is said to be L.5.

Produce - The average gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish may be as follows:

Grain of all kinds - L. 10800 0 0
Potatoes and turnips - 2240 0 0
Cultivated hay -            1250 0 0
Grazing cattle and sheep - 830 0 0
Gardens and woods -    240 0 0
Fisheries -                      1000 0 0

Total                         L. 16380 0 0

Navigation - There are about 32 large and small boats in the parish. The larger are used for the herring, and the small for the ordinary fishing.


Market Towns - Cromarty and Tain are the nearest market towns. The former is separated from the parish by the Ferry, about a mile broad, and the latter is six miles distant from the part of the parish that is nearest to it. Cromarty and Parkhill are the post-offices.

Ecclesiastical State - The parish church is not more than four miles from any extremity of the parish. It appears to have been built in 1626, but it has received several repairs, more especially in 1725 and 1786. It affords legal accommodation for 425 persons, and all the sittings are free, though formally divided among the heritors. The manse was built about 1758, and repaired frequently since. The glebe is 41 acres, and worth L.10 of rent. The stipend is 15 chalders, half meal half barley. There are upwards of 11 chalders of vacant teinds. There is a dissenting chapel of the United Associate Synod connexion. The minister's salary is said to be L.120, besides innumerable perquisites, and is paid out of the seat-rents and collections at the door. The chapel does not give any thing to support the poor.

It is impossible to state with accuracy the number of families that attend either the Established Church or Dissenting meeting-house, as families are in many instances divided. 160 families may, however, be mentioned as belonging to the parish church, and 120 to the Dissenting meeting-house. 74 is the average number of communicants of the Established Church, of whom there are 18 male heads of families. The collections for the poor vary from L.10 to L.12 a-year. About L.16 may be contributed otherwise to religious and charitable objects.

Education - There is one parish school, which is not well situated for the population, though it is near the centre of the parish. There is likewise a female school endowed with. L.5 a-year by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and there are two unendowed schools. None of them is well attended. The parochial schoolmaster's salary is L.34, and the amount of school fees less than L.5. He has the legal accommodations. The school fees in all the schools vary from ls. to 3s. 6d. per quarter. But they are seldom well paid, the parents being in general very poor, and many of them perhaps ignorant of the value of education to their children.

Poor and Parochial Funds - 62 persons receive each from 4s. to 10s. in the year. There is no fund, except L.20 left by the late Mrs Gair of Nigg. The heritors have of late been induced to give L.30 a-year to the poor. There seems no indisposition on the part of the poor to take. The kirk-session does not take any concern in the division of what is called the poor's money.

Fair - The only fair in the parish is Hugh's Fair, held in November, for general purposes. It is dying away very fast.

Inns - There are 3 small inns, which are in many cases an accommodation to traveilers, but otherwise they are no blessing.

Fuel - Coals from Newcastle are the principal fuel for the more opulent and the farm-servants. But whins and broom, and such other fire-wood as can be found, constitute the fuel of the greater part of the population. Coals cost about ls. per imperial barrel,and their quality is seldom good.


lst, The tenants do not now, as they did (not many years since) occupy the greater part of the summer in cutting and carrying-home peats and turf from the mosses of the parish of Loggie.
2nd,There has been a great improvement in the comfort of the houses, and in the dress and habits of the people.
3rd, A great many strangers have taken up their abode here, while many former residenters have vanished. 4th, The farms are now on a different plan from that on which they formerly were, and the system of farming has been quite changed.

Revised Seplember 1836.

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