Old Statistical Account (1790) Parish of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden

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

The First Statistical Account (1790)

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

Old Statistical Account (1790) for Kirkmichael Parish (Resolis)

The following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden from the first or old Statistical Account of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden.

Parish of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden (Counties of Cromarty and Ross,* Synod of Ross, Presbytery of Chanonry)
By the Rev Mr Robert Arthur

* A small part only of this parish is in the county of Ross.

Name, Situation, Extent, &c. - This parish had formerly been divided into three, Kirkmichael, Cullicudden and St. Martin's, as appears not only from old charters and tradition, but from the burial grounds and remains of the old churches still visible in each of them. St. Martin's had been first annexed to Cullicudden, as both (under the name of Cullicudden) were afterward united to Kirkmichael, about the end of the last century. Keil - Mhichel and Keill - Mhartin, the Gaelic names of Kirkmichael and St. Martin's, signify the burying-places of Michael and Martin, who were probably the two Popish Saints to whom the churches were dedicated. Couill-chuitin (contracted for Couill-chutigin), the Gaelic name of Cullicudden, signifies, the Nook, or Creek of Cuddies, a small delicate species of fish, well known on all the coasts of Scotland, which, during summer and beginning of harvest, are caught in great numbers along the shore of Cullicudden, particularly in a small creek a little above the old kirk. This parish lies on the S. side of the Frith of Cromarty, and in that part of the sheriffdom of Ross and Cromarty distinguished by the names of an eilein dubh (or black isle), and aird-mheadhonach (i.e. high in the middle, or high midland ), both of which give a very just description of its situation and appearance, as it is of a peninsular form, nearly surrounded by the Friths of Cromarty and Fort-George, rising gently from the shores of both, to a considerabe height in the middle from E. to W.; and 4-fifths of it being as yet uncultivated, and producing nothing but short dwarf heath, give a black and dreary appearance to the whole, notwithstanding the finely situated and highly improved gentlemen's seats with which it abounds. This parish is nearly 8 miles in length from E. to W., and 3 miles in breadth from N. to S.; bounded on the N. by the Frith of Cromarty, and on the S. by the ridge of the Mull-bui, or that extensive track of common which stretches along the summit af the Black Isle, from the Mains of Cromarty almost to the county road that leads from the Ferry of Scuddal to the Ferry of Bewley; being almost 16 miles in length from E. to W., and 2 in breadth from N. to S. As a great part of this very large, and almost useless common, requires nothing but the plough to bring it into culture, and as the whole of it is peculiarly adapted for growing Scotch fir, larix, oak, &c., it is truly astonishing that it should remain undivided till now.

Soil, Agriculture, &c. - The soil is various, as might be expected in such an extent of surface, but what mostly prevails is a black light loam, on a stratum of till, above a hard gravelly clay, which renders it very wet, and unfit for tillage in winter and spring, and generally prevents the farmers from sowing before the end of March, or reaping before the middle or end of September. On a considerable part of the farms lying on the shore and wester end of the parish, where the soil is light and sandy, on a free-stone bottom, oats are sown the beginning of March, barley and pease in April, and often reaped in the beginning of August. The farmers here, averse to fallowing, green crops, enclosures and winter herding, continue the same plan of agriculture that was practised a century ago. Many of them, indeed, have sown small patches of clover in their little gardens for several years past, but none of them, excepting 2, ever attempt to fallow, or sow green-crops or grass-feeds in their fields, in consequence of which these fields are over-run with weeds, particularly quickens (or joint-weed); and their crops are very light, in proportion to their sowing, as they have not, at an average (save on the shores) above 31/2 returns of barley, and 21/4 of oats and pease. Instead of Kellachye carts, with wicker-baskets of a conical form, and the Scotch plough, of a bad construction, many of the farmers begin to use small box-carts with spoke-wheels, and a small chain plough, with feathered-sock and curved mould-board. On farms of 20 bolls and upwards, the plough is drawn by 6 or 8 oxen in bows and yokes, and, on lesser farms, by 2 horses, 2 oxen, and 2 cows, or by 2 horses and 2 cows. The farms are generally small, consisting of from 10 to 50 acres of arable land, of which the rents are from 6 to 36 bolls, besides money for vicarage and schoolmaster's salary; with wedders, straw, tarf, hens, chickens and eggs, either in kind or at a moderate conversion. With only one exception, a lease was never given in this parish for a longer period than 7 years, till, in the year 1782, the late Mr. George Munro gave leases to 2 tenants for 19 and 21 years : Since that time, many leases have been given on the estate of Newhall for 21 years, besides melioration for enclosing the farms, and bringing moor into arable land.*

* As there has been no moss in this parish for near a century past, the men and horses have been constantly employed, during summer, in cutting, drying. and carrying home sandy turfs, or divots, from the Muall-bui, which, at best, is but a wretched kind of fuel, and often rendered useless by a few days' rain, after all the expense of time and labour bestowed upon it. When the season is rainy, as often happens in this country, the situation of the people in this, and the neighbouring parishes, is truly deplorable, during the next winter and spring. From recollecting their former miseries and hardships for want of fuel, there is, at present, an uncommon degree of joy diffused among all ranks, and especially the poor, by the late irnportant and truly patriotic act of Parliament, which takes off the late duty on all coals water borne to the N. of St. Abb's Head, a tax which was partial and impolitic in the extreme, and has proved most inimical to the agriculture, manufactures and happiness of the northern part of the British empire. As the north of Scotland has long distinguished itself in sending forth its thousands of brave and hardy sons to recruit our armies on every appearance of public danger, it is now to be hoped, from the many navigable friths with which it is intersected, the number of people with which its coasts and glens are inhabited, and the free importation of coals, that its manufactures and trade will rapidly increase, and soon enable it to contribute a great number of hardy seamen, as well as soldiers, to repel the enemies of British liberty and property.-From the superior quality of the grain, and the great quantity of barley distilled in the Black Isle, the price of barley and meal is generally higher in this than in any parish to the north of it. In 1783, meal and barley sold from 16s. to 24s. the boll, and many were in great want of bread, before the supply of grain voted by Parliament, arrived; since that period, meal and pease have sold from 12s. to 18s. the boll, and barley from 14s. to 19s. Wheat is seldom sown, except in small quantities, by the residing heritors, for the use of their own families.

As the wages of servants, day-labourers and tradesmen, with the prices of provisions, are much the same in this, as mentioned in the Statistical Accounts of adjacent parishes, already published, tbe reader is referred to those for information.

From the want of fuel, manufactures, lime and other means of improving their situation, the inhabitants of this parish are so poor, that there are not above 3 farmers in it who use a bit of butcher meat, a fowl, or a bottle of beer in their family, from one end of the year to the other; nor is there 20 stone of butter and cheese made by them altogether in a season. Potatoes, flummery, bread and brochan, a little cabbage, with potatoes, once and generally twice a-day, for 9 months, is their invariable bill of fare.

Heritors, Population, &c. - The property of lands is divided among 7 heritors (the 3 first of whom reside for the most part), viz. Mrs. Urquhart of Braelangwell, proprietrix of the estate of Newhall; David Urquhart of Braelangwell, Esq.; George Gun Munro of Poynterfield, Esq.; Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Scatwell, Bart.; William M'Kenzie of Pitlundie, Esq.; John Urquhart of Kinbeachy, Esq.; and - Duff of Muirtown, Esq.

Besides those of the principal and residing heritors, there are families of farmers 71
- - - - families of mealers and tradesmen, 119
The population in 1755, according to Dr. Webster's report, was 1371
The number of souls in 1780 was 1345
The number of souls in 1789 was 1199
The number of souls in 1791 was 1234
Of the last number, 568 were males; 666 females; and 201 at and below 8 years of age.*


Millers - 4 Weavers - 17
Ferrymen - 8 Fishermen - 4
Merchant - 1 Dyers - 5
House carpenters - 8 Coopers - 2
Cartwrights - 2 Corn mills - 4
Boatbuilder - 1 Stills of 40 gallons each - 4
Blacksmiths - 4 Ferries - 2
Wheelwrights - 2 Black cattle - 712
Shoemakers - 9 Horses 356
Tailors with apprentices - 11 Sheep - 2391
  Swine, about 30

* As even the small sum payable to the session-clerk on these occasions is an object to people struggling with poverty, it has been hitherto found impracticable to keep an exact register of baptisms, marriages and burials. The variation that has taken place in the population of this parish, within the short space of 14 years, has arisen from the following causes. The decrease frorn 1780 to I789 was occasioned, in a great measure, by the arrears of rent, and other debts unavoidably incurred by the tenants, through the failure of crop 1782, which obliged them, in l783, to dismiss every servant they could possibly spare and make their children endeavour to supply their places, at a much earlier period than they were wont to do before; and ever since that memorable era, many of the young and stoutest lads have annually gone to Glasgow, and other places in the W. and S. of Scotland, where the price of labour is high, instead of marrying and settling in the parish, as was the custom formerly. This annual drain of young men, has raised the wages of servants, and is severely felt by the tenants.

The increase of population from 1789 to 1792, was owing to the great encouragement given by Mr. and Mrs. Urquhart of Braelangwell and Newhall to people who settled on, and improved moor-ground.

From the farmers keeping an overflocking of cattle and horses, whereby they are obliged to send many of them to cold Highland grazings in summer, while they have little natural and no sown grass to feed properly such as are kept at home, their cattle and horses are of a diminutive size; while an excellent breed and size of both are reared on the extensive and highly improved farms possesed by the residing heritors. The sheep also are very small, except on the above mainses, where the Galloway breed has been crossed by the Cheviot, which promises to answer, even beyond expectation, in increasing the size of their body, and value of their wool. Sheep pastured on the shore are generally healthiest, owing, probably, to their drinking salt-water, eating seaweed, and the grass which is flooded at stream-tides. 100 large sheep, well littered, are said to make a quantity of manure fully sufficient for 5 acres.

Number of Acres, Rent, &c. - As only the estates of Newhall, Braelangwell and Poyntsfield have been surveyed, the incumbent cannot pretend to accuracy as to the number of acres of which the other 4 estates are supposed to consist in the following statement; nor can he even guess at the extent of common belonging to the parish, and therefore it is not mentioned:


  Newhall Braelangwell Poyntersfield Other 4 Estates Total
Acres arable 1112 680 487 740    3019
Acres pasture 550 340 138 180    1208
Acres wood 260 446 162 12      880
Acres moor 1500 2766 356 500    6044
Total, besides the common           11151

(Note - 21.12.01 - the total of acres of moor does not add up to 6044, but there is no way of deciding which figure is wrong.)

The valued rent is 2357L. Scots, and the real gross rent, putting a moderate value upon the mainses, victual rent. customs, &c. is nearly 1500L. Sterling.

Stipend, Schools, Poor, &c. - Mrs. Urquhart of Braelangwell and Newhall is patroness of this united parish. The kirk is neat and commodious. The manse, lately repaired, is very small, and very improperly situated on swampy ground, below a brae. The stipend amounts to 19L. 8s. 10d. Sterling in money, with 4 chalders of barley, and 4 chalders of oat meal. The glebe consisted, at the incurnbent's admission, of 19 acres of poor moorish soil arable, and about 12 acres of barren stony moor; he has since added 6 acres to the arable ground. As the bulk of the inhabitants reside towards the extremities of the parish, the parochial school is taught in the E. end by a deserving young man, who has only 8L. 6s. 8d. of stated salary; and a school for spinning, knitting stockings, and reading English, is established by the Honourable Society, in the wester end, with a salary of 7L. It is to be hoped, that the period will soon arrive, when the landed interest of Scotland will feel themselves constrained, by the love of justice and their country, to grant something like decent salaries to that most useful class of men, the parochial teachers of youth, who, after a liberal and expensive education, devote their time and talents to the duties of an office which is not only most laborious and fatiguing in itself, but of the utmost importance to the best interests of society. There never was an established fund for the poor of this parish:; and though the number of those who received of the weekly collections amounted, till of late, to from 60 to 70, the annual collections have seldom exceeded 8L., after paying the session-clerk's and kirk officer's fees .*

* Two years ago, the session entered into a resolution of giving no part of the collections, except to such as should consign whatever they might be.

Miscellaneous Observations - In searching for lime-stone, in 1786, several specks of rich lead ore were found in a free-stone rock, to the S. of the mill of St. Martin's, by the late Mr. Gordon of Newhall, whose classical knowledge, philanthropy, and engaging manners endeared him to all who knew him. Appearances were so favourable that workmen had proceeded a good way in cutting through the rock, under ground, in 2 different directions, in hopes of meeting a vein of ore, when his sudden and much lamented death, in January 1778, put an end to the attempt. Some spar, lime-stone, and stone-marl were found in digging through the above rock, in which a number of specks of ore were found embedded. Rich shell-marl was discovered, a few years ago, in a small loch near the mansion-house of Braelangwell, which the proprietor has used, as a manure to his fields, with great success.

Salmon, trout, skate, herrings, whitings, small cod, flounders of various kinds, cuttle-fish, needle-fish, cuddies, and a variety of smaller fry, are caught in the frith opposite to this parish by hooks and nets, and also by yares (belonging to Newhall and Poynterfield), in which cart loads of herrings and other kinds of fish are sometimes found enclosed, after the tide leaves them.

About 10 tons of kelp are made, every third year, on the shores of New-worth at their death (after paying funeral charges) to the poor of the parish, if they did not leave an indigent parent or child. In consequence of this regulation, the number of poor receiving aid from the session is now reduced to 35. Besides the weekly collection, the greatest part of which is given by the residing heritors, the incumbent has been at pains, for several years past, to make up a small permanent accumulating fund, the interest of which, he hopes, will, in a few years, afford considerable relief to the greatest objects.It has already increased to 30L. Sterling.

Newhall. -The late Sir George Munro was the first, in this part of the country, who began improvements in agriculture on a large scale by enclosing, planting, draining, liming, fallowing, and sowing green crops on his mains of Poyntsfield, which now add greatly to the beauty and value of that part of the estate; and very great improvements have been carried on in all these respects, on the mainses of Braelangwell and Newhall, and these 3 contiguous feats, in full view of the noble bay and harbour of Cromarty, form as beautiful a landscape as can be imagined. The county-roads and bridges in this parish have been much improved of late, and are in general very good.

Antiquities - There is a greater number of ancient encampments in this than in any other parish in the N. From tradition, and the general's tent being circular, they are supposed to have been formed by the Danes when they invaded Scotland. It is favourable to this hypothesis that, from the eminence on which these entrenchments are most numerous, there is an extensive prospect in all directions, to prevent their being surprised in their camp; and as they are seldom found above a mile from the shore, if they should have been surprised and defeated by the natives, they could easily have retired on board their ships, and landed in some other part of the country, where the inhabitants were not in force to oppose them. There are likewise a great many tumuli or cairns; the larger are formed of stones of various dimensions, and the lesser of earth and stones thrown promiscuously together. In removing the stones of some of these cairns, stone-coffins were found, formed by 4 large and 2 small slabs of unhewn free-stone, containing ashes, and blades of offensive weapons, almost totally consumed by rust.*

* Considering the spirited exertions made by the gentlemen of this and the neighbouring counties in making good roads and bridges, it is surprising that little or no attention has been paid to improving the passage boats at the numerous ferries in and surrounding this district of country. It is to be hoped, that this truly important object will no longer escape their particular notice, and that ferry-boats of an improved construction as well as piers for receiving and landing passengers, cattle and carriages, will be as seriously attended to, as roads and bridges, especially at the ferries of Invergordon and Fort-George.

Hints respecting Improvements - It is almost unnecessary to observe that the establishing woollen, lint, and cotton manufactures in this country, would be of the greatest advantage to the inhabitants. Among many others on the Frith of Cromarty, there is an excellent station for a lint or hemp manufacture in this parish, at the store-house of Newhall, where there is a fine natural harbour, in which ships of a considerable burden could lie unmolested by any wind, excepting from the N. and N. W. As the soil of this parish is well adapted to raising lint and hemp, the farmers would no doubt take the advantage of this favourable circumstance, if proper lint-mills were erected, and premiums given to allure them to the attempt. Surely the trustees for the improvement of manufactures, &c. cannot suppose, that inducements of that nature are now so necessary in southern counties, where manufactures have been long established, and where the method and advantage of raising lint and hemp are well understood, as in these northern districts, where they are hardly known, and where the people are in that low state of poverty and depression, which has ever been found to check and smother a spirit of industry and improvement.

* The only building in this parish that has the appearance of great antiquity, is the castle of Craighouse, on the shore of Cullicudden, about a mile and a half westward of the old kirk. It is 5 storeys high, built with run lime on a rock perpendicular towards the sea, which washes it at flood-tide, and, being surrounded on the land side by a ditch and high wall, it evidently appears to have been a place of considerable strength. All the apartments of the one half of it, which is most entire, are formed by stone arches, but the floors of the other half, which is evidently more modern, have been laid on wooden joists, part of which are still to be seen on the walls. About 200 years ago, the castle, with the lands adjoining, belonged to the Williamsons of Craighouse, the representative of which family is a Count Williamson in Germany. The castle and lands of Craighouse, afterward became the property and occasional residencc of the Bishops of Ross and are now a part of the estate of Newhall.

Besides these, converting all, or, at least, one half of the victual-rents into money, at a moderate rate, giving long leases, with melioration for enclosing the farms, and abolishing thirlage, would have a powerful tendency to rouse a spirit of improvement among the farmers, and render the situation of the people in general much more easy and comfortable than it is at present. Giving premiums to farmers for fallowing and liming their ground, sowing turnips and grass-seeds in their fields would, no doubt, excite a spirit of emulation and industry among them. And as these are the great and truly patriotic objects which the lately formed Ross-shire farming-society has in view, it is not doubted but every gentleman of property in the counties of Ross and Cromarty, will give it his hearty countenance and support. Were they to contribute to the common stock according to their rentals, and pay particular attention to such tenants as should compete for premiums, though they should not succeed, a spirit of improvement might be soon excited in this country, similar to that which arose in Aberdeenshire, from a farmer-society, formed and patronised by the late Earl of Errol, about 30 years ago. The very attempt would be meritorious, and should it be attended with the probable and desired effect, besides the pleasure it would give to every benevolent heart, to raise a numerous and most irnportant class of men from a state of inactivity and penury to industry and affluence, the money laid out would soon return to themselves or their heirs with tenfold interest; and a few years' experience of the mode and profit of an improved system of husbandry would, in a short time, render the continuance of premiums quite unnecessary. Having fairly made the experiment himself for 6 months past, the writer earnestly recommends to farmers who plough with 6 or 8 oxen and a driver, to plough witb 2 large oxen in harness, without a driver; besides saving the meat and wages of a driver, they will plough more, and better than 6 or 8 of their present size of oxen; they wil1 not require so much provender; and, if yoked in a cart like horses, each of them will draw a load that 4 of their small garrons would not move.

The writer cannot conclude this miscellaneous branch of his subject, without observing, that it must give the greatest pleasure to every friend to his country to look forward to the many and important advantages that agriculture and manufactures will derive from a Board of Agriculture and internal improvement, sanctioned by Parliament, or the patriotic and well-digested plan proposed by Sir John Sinclair.

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