New Statistical Account (1836) Applecross Parish

Applecross 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 Applecross

The following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Applecross from the Second or New Statistical Account for Scotland.




The parish of Applecross, in Gaelic called Comaraich, is divided into three large districts:

1. Applecross, strictly so called; 2. Lochs, consisting of Torridon, Shieldag, &c.; 3. Kishorn.

This parish formed a part of the parish of Lochcarron till 1726, when it was erected into a separate charge. The Applecross district was formerly occupied by a body of Roman Catholic priests, whose residence afforded an asylum to such as, from motives of piety, or to escape from punishment for criminal actions, sought such a place of protection. Hence the name Comaraich, a place of safety.

Name - The modern name Applecross was given to the parish by the gentleman who was proprietor of the Comaraich estate, at the time of the erection, in commemoration of which event, five apple trees had been planted crossways in the proprietor's garden.

Extent, &c. - The parish is of great extent, and if reduced to a regular form, might be calculated at 20 miles long, and as many broad, if not considerably more. The far greater part of the parish consists of mountainous rocks and hills, covered with heather, and wild grasses. There is nothing remarkable, however, in their height or in other respects.

There are several lakes and rivers which produce trout and salmon, as Loch Damf, &c, the rivers of Applecross, Torridon, Balgie, &c.

Geology - The predominating rocks in this parish are red sandstone, quartz rock, and gneiss.

Soil - The soil, for the most part, is not rich, deep, loamy, or clayey, but rather light, gravelly, and sandy. It produces, however, good crops of oats, barley, and potatoes, &c. There are some peat mosses, but they are not very deep, at least where accessible for fuel. In some parts, they are at such a distance from the inhabitants, that the making of peats is very expensive, and in many cases more expensive than coals. There is plenty of limestone at Applecross and Kishorn, but it is found cheaper to buy lime from the kilns at Broadford, in the Isle of Skye, than to be at the expense of burning the stones here. There is a copper mine at Kishorn, which was worked sometime ago, and is said to have produced very rich ore. It is to be wished that Mr Mackenzie of Applecross, the proprietor, would order it to be opened again, as that might considerably benefit his own family, and afford employment and support to persons who now lose their time in sloth and wretchedness.

There are several caves and grottoes, said to have been occupied in old times by banditti and outlaws, or used by the inhabitants as places in which they preserved their effects from marauders and plunderers.

Climate - The climate is rather moist and foggy, and torrents of rain frequently fall in all seasons of the year. For several years back there has been very little snow compared with the storms of former times. During the last winter, there was no snow which remained so long as a single day on the low grounds. The snow, however, covered the hills, and continued in some places till the end of April. The climate is not considered as unhealthy, nor are the people subject to any distempers but such as are common in other parishes on this coast, as fevers, rheumatisms, palsies, consumptions, &c; and these are not often very prevalent or destructive.

Zoology, &c. - There are great herds of deer, and some roes in the hills and woods. There are also beasts of prey, as foxes, pole-cats, &c which do considerable mischief among sheep, poultry, &c. Of birds there are several kinds, as heath-hens, black-cocks, partridges, ptarmigans, wild-pigeons, plovers, snipes, wild-ducks, &c: also birds of prey, as eagles, kites, hawks, &c. There are various kinds of salt water fish, as herring, cod, ling, sythe, cuddy, flounder, &c; also shell-fish in considerable quantity, as cockle, spoutfish, mussels, &c. There are great quantities of the latter found in the bay of Applecross, where the sea ebbs a great way, and leaves an extensive strand, the people in great numbers, sometimes to the amount of a hundred and more, coming with sticks of a particular description, to dig the sand for shell-fish, with which they fill large creels in a short time, and which affords a wholesome and nourishing food.

There is a good fir wood at Shieldag, producing timber fit for boats, vessels, and buildings, &c. At the mansion-house of Applecross, there are some young thriving plantations, consisting of ash, elm, larch, fir, &c.


Land-owners - The land-owners are: Thomas Mackenzie, Esq of Applecross; J. A. Stewart Mackenzie, Esq of Seaforth; and Sir F. A. Mackenzie of Gairloch, Bart.

Parochial Registers - There are some registers of baptisms and marriages, commencing in the year 1779, but they have not been regularly kept.

Antiquities - There are a few antiquities, as a small obelisk, near the parish church, and some little remains of the Popish religious houses; but they are of no importance.

Modern Buildings - There are no modern buildings, excepting the parish church at Applecross, and a Parliamentary church and manse at Shieldag.


In the year 1790, the population was 1734. According to the census in 1831, the number was 2892, of whom 1450 were males, and 1442 females. Baptisms are from 60 to 70, and marriages from 25 to 30, on an average of the last few years.

Language of the People - The language of the people is generally Gaelic, but a great many of them speak English also. The people, for the most part, are decent, orderly, and industrious in their habits. Cotton cloths are much used by them. Their ordinary food is potatoes and fish, bread, gruel, pottage, milk, butter, and cheese, and a little animal food. They, however, complain of their circumstances, like the people of neighbouring parishes, which is much owing to the augmentation of rent, which took place in the time of the French war, and still remains for the most part unreduced. They have suffered, also, by the failure of the herring fishing on this coast for several years back, and the low price of cattle, two important sources of their comfort. It is true there is a considerable rise in the price of cattle this year, but it is doubtful how long that may continue.

Number of families in the parish - 559
Chiefly employed in agriculture - 387
In trade, manufactures, or handicraft - 31
Within the last three years there have been 5 or 6 illegitimate children.


Number of acres, standard imperial measure, in the parish, which are either cultivated or occasionally in tillage, about 1800.

There are more than 300 square miles which can never admit of cultivation, but must always remain in pasture. 

Number of acres that might be added to the cultivated land, with a profitable application of capital, from 400 to 500.

Number of acres under wood, but none planted except about 30 acres at the mansion-house of Applecross 400.

Farms in general are of small extent. A few of them pay from L.30 to L.50 rent. But the generality of the farms consist of townships, where the tenants pay from L.4 or L.5 to L.9 or L.10. There are few leases; ordinary duration, seven years. There are not many enclosures, excepting a few near the mansion-house of Applecross. The rental of the parish is upwards of L.3000, but some of the rents are irregularly and ill paid. Meal, grain, and potatoes are often imported, as the produce of the soil is not sufficient to support the inhabitants. The manure used for the land is compound dunghills, shelly sand, sea-ware, and a little lime. There has been much improvement of late in agricultural instruments. Iron ploughs are used, two horses to the plough, directed by the ploughman without a driver. Formerly four horses were used to a plough, with a ploughman and driver, and other two persons to keep down the plough in the ground, and level the rigs.

The crooked spade is still used, where there is but little pasture for horses, and where the ground is too rough and rocky for the plough. Something has been done in the draining and improving of land. There are plenty of quarries for building, but none regularly worked.

There is very little commerce, except in small shop-keeping and fishing. No manufactures.

There are about 21 vessels of from eighteen to fifty tons burden, employed in the fishing and coasting trade.

There are salmon fishings at Torridon and Balgie, which rent at about L.15 or L.16. As to the herring-fishing, the tenants have all a little concern in it.

Wages - The wages of men-servants, ploughmen, and such, are L.8 a year, with their maintenance; of women servants, from L.2. 10s, to L.3 a year; herd boys get much the same sum; labourers charge 1s. a day, and often ls. 6d; carpenters, masons, and other tradesmen charge generally by the piece. When employed at day's wages, wrights and boat-carpenters charge 2s. 6d; masons, 3s. 6d. Weavers get from 4d to 8d per yard; tailors for a suit of clothes, from 10s. to 15s; a great-coat, 5s; a cloak, 5s.

Produce - Average gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish, as nearly as can be ascertained, is as follows:

Oats and barley may be worth about £3,000
Potatoes and turnip, about £1500
Pasturage, black-cattle, and sheep £3,000
Fishings £500
Total £8,000
Deducting L.3000 for rent, price of seed, expense of labour, and other incidents, very little will remain for the support of a population of 3000 souls.


Market-Towns - There is no market-town in the parish, nor within many miles of it.

Villages - There is a fishing village at Shieldag, containing a population of 200 souls, with as many more in its environs.

Means of Communication - There are good Parliamentary roads from Lochcarron to Applecross, and Shieldag. The nearest post-office is that of Lochcarron, about twenty miles from Applecross, and fifteen from Shieldag. Letter-carriers are employed from both these places, a serious expense to the few contributors who furnish their salary. There are many bye-roads and footpaths across the hills, but they are only fit for foot-travellers. There are many bridges on the Parliamentary roads, and kept in good repair.

There are good harbours at Poldown, Shieldag, and Torridon.

Ecclesiastical State - The parish church is very ill situated, having very few inhabitants near it, and lying on the north side of a river, without a bridge over it, which frequently prevents the people from attending public worship. They often, however, wade the water, and sit in church during service with wet feet and wet clothes, which no doubt occasions many serious complaints among them. It were earnestly to be wished, that, by some means or other, whether by subscription or otherwise, a bridge was erected on this river. A subscription for the purpose has been lately commenced; it amounts to L.30, and it is to be hoped that an equal sum may be obtained from kind contributors in other places interested in the welfare of the people of this place, and the general cause of humanity, which sum, it is supposed, would be sufficient to complete the work. The parish church was built in 1817, and is in good repair. It is large enough to accommodate upwards of 600 sitters. There are no seat rents. The manse was built in 1796, and has been repaired since. The glebe may be worth from L.12 to L.14 a year. The stipend, all paid in money, is L.158. 6s 5d of which Government pays L.54. 4s 10d. The ministers of the parish since its erection in 1726, have been Mr Angus Macaulay, Mr Colin MacFarquhar, Mr John Macqueen, and the present incumbent. The Government church at Shieldag, which was commenced in 1825 and finished in 1827, is about twelve miles from the parish church. It is exceedingly well situated for the accommodation of a large congregation, and it is satisfactory to find, that, along with the other Government churches, it has been lately erected by the General Assembly into a parochial charge. It is also to be hoped that Government will soon complete their own bounty by raising the stipends of the ministers of these churches to the minimum stipends of Scotland. There is a catechist supported by the Royal Bounty Committee. There are few dissenters, only three or four Episcopalians, and about the same number of Baptists. The minister of Shieldag is appointed to preach at Kishorn, ten miles distant, once a month, in a place of worship built by the inhabitants. The people near the various places of worship attend pretty regularly.

Education - There are five schools in the parish: the parochial school at Applecross, a school at Shieldag, and another at Torridon, both supported by the General Assembly's Committee, a school at Kishorn, by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and a Gaelic school at Badanvougie.

The scholars attending these schools may be averaged at 50 each school. English, Gaelic, writing, arithmetic, Latin, and mathematics are taught in these schools. The parish schoolmaster has a salary of L.25, and L.2 in lieu of a garden. The fees amount to about L.8 a year. The salary of each of the teachers at Shieldag and Torridon is L.20, and of the teacher at Kishorn L.15. The fees may be about L.5 at each of these schools. At Badanvougie, the salary is L.25, but the teacher has no fees. The parochial teacher has the legal accommodations. Several districts are at a great distance from all these schools, and wish much for teachers. There are six or seven such districts in this parish. Religious knowledge has no doubt been increased of late, but it is questionable if moral improvement has kept pace with that knowledge. Supposed knowledge puffeth up many, but it unfortunately appears, that they are very deficient in that charity which edifieth. There are also disputes and hurtful divisions which may, in many cases, be ascribed to the conduct of improper teachers employed by some well-meaning Societies, both in the metropolis and other places, who are unacquainted with the state of the Highlands, and misled by the reports of interested persons and busy bodies. And it is a matter of much regret that no small share of these remarks applies to the case of superintendants and catechists, under the ludicrous denomination of local missionaries, though ignorant and illiterate, employed by so respectable a body as the Highland Missionary Society.

There is no circulating library in the parish, except those sent to the schools at Shieldag and Torridon, by the Assembly's Committee. It would be a most desirable measure, if several school societies would place their funds under the management of that Committee.

In 1833 it was found there were 1100 persons in the parish above six years of age unable to read, and 500 between six and fifteen years of age in the same situation.

Poor and Parochial Funds - The funds for the poor are very small, but happily the number of persons on the poors' roll is not large. About 30 persons receive parochial aid - getting from 5s to 7s a year each. The annual amount of contributions for their relief is about L.10 from church collections, and the interest of a sum of L.60 deposited in the bank. Owing to the general poverty of the Highlanders, and the great distance of the people here from the parish church, the Sunday collections rarely amount to 2s and often not to ls.

The Shieldag church being more centrically situated for the attendance of the people, the collections are larger. Some small sum is also collected at Kishorn. These collections, with the interest of L.40 for the Applecross district, and of L.20 for the Kishorn district, with fines for delinquencies, are the only funds for the poor in this parish. And out of these the precentor's salary is paid, and the poor only get a pittance of from 5s to 7s each in the year. They, however, generally plant some potatoes, and get a little fish without expense. The tenants also help them from the produce of their farms. There is little temptation to be put upon the poor's roll, and not many of them are desirous of it without great necessity.

Fairs - There are no fairs in the parish.

Inns - There are 4 inns, at Applecross, Kishorn, Shieldag, and Torridon.

Prices of Provisions - No fixed prices for provisions can be stated. Low country meal sells this year at 14s and 15s a boll, potatoes at 2s a barrel. There are no butchers to sell meat in small quantities, but, from the prices usually paid for cows and sheep, beef and mutton may be had from 2d to 3d a pound. Hens sell at 6d a piece, eggs at 2d per dozen, and sometimes 3d.

Fuel - The ordinary fuel is peat, which, in some places, is carried from a great distance, either by sea or land, and is very expensive. When sold, 2d a creel is paid for it.

The new Parliamentary roads are a great advantage to this parish. A bridge on the river of Applecross would be a most important improvement, not only for the benefit of the inhabitants, but also of travellers from various quarters. And it is to be hoped, that, through friendly assistance, this most desirable measure will soon be accomplished. Additional schoolmasters and catechists would be a great advantage. Agricultural improvements might be carried on to a considerable extent. Manufactures cannot be easily introduced, nor is it likely they would answer. There are too many of them in other places already. The improvement of the soil is what chiefly demands attention.

September 1836.

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