The 1st Statistical Account

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Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness (Image taken from Raeburn painting) with background of west coast outline

Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty

Souls under 10 years


..........From 10 to 20


..........From 20 to 50


..........From 50 to 70


.....Above 70, and not exceeding 87


By the Rev. Mr. Robert Smith.

Population, etc. – According to Dr. Webster’s report, the population in 1755, was 2096. The present incumbent finished a survey of the population of the parish on the 1st day of April 1790, since which time no alteration as to number has taken place. The number of souls in the country part of the parish amounts to 727, and in the town, to 1457, making in all 2184. There was a lift of the inhabitants in the country, taken by the former incumbent in the year 1785, from which it appears that there is a decrease of about 40 since that period; this, probably, has been occasioned by several small farms being joined into larger, through, upon the whole, no great change of this nature has taken place in this parish; another cause is the emigration of labourers to the south country, some of whom do not again return. The inhabitants of the town have, without doubt, increased considerably within these last 18 years, which has been occasioned by the extensive* of hemp, erected here by the late Mr. George Ross. The number of males in the parish amounts to 1020, the number of females to 1164.

Abstract of Baptisms, etc. for the last 8 years

































Total for period




Yearly average




The above state of ages, through not perfectly exact, will be found not far from the truth. The number of farmers in the parish may amount to 50. There may be about 800 cattle which are, in general, of a superior kind: the number of horses may amount to 300, and sheep to 600.

Number of Acres, Improvement, Etc. 
There was a survey of the estate of Cromarty taken by the late Mr. George Ross, as also of the estate of Udal by Mr. Anderson, the present proprietor, and accurate maps of both properties made out. From which it appears that there are, in all, 6343 acres, 2 roods, 31 falls; of which 1639 acres, 2 roods, 35 falls, are arable; 1832 acres, 1 rood, 7 falls, in plantation; 2871 acres, 2 roods, 29 falls, in pasture and moor. Here it will be proper to observe that few parishes can boast of larger sums having been laid out in improvements of all kinds, than were applied, to this purpose, by the late proprietor of the estate of Cromarty, whose memory should ever be held in estimation by the inhabitants of this place for the many public spirited, as well as disinterested, schemes he projected for promoting the welfare of the place, and rendering its many local advantages productive of the most extensive usefulness; and, while he lived, no personal expense was thought too great by him, which might be subservient to carry such plans into execution. Upwards of 50,000L. was laid out by him, in enclosures, the cultivation of a vast extent of moor ground, and other improvements; good crops are now raised, where many of the inhabitants have seen nothing but bare moor. A considerable proportion of the above sum was applied towards beautifying and enlarging the pleasure grounds around the house and hill of Cromarty. The latter is covered with firs and forest trees of all kinds, and beautifully interspersed with delightful walks; the grandeur of the prospect from many parts of this hill, or south Sutor, is beyond description, being enriched, on one side, with an extensive view of the Murray Firth, the whole coast with which it is lined; and, on the other, it takes in all the principal gentlemen’s seats in the counties of Ross and Cromarty, including the bay, which completes the richness of the scene, and constitutes, upon the whole, the most beautiful variety of the land and water that is to be met with in Britain. Travellers of the first rank and taste have traversed the hill, and spoke of its beauties, with admiration, as exceeding any thing they had ever seen for grandeur and extent of prospect *.

Language, Manners, Etc.
The language of all born and bred in this parish approaches to the broad Scotch, differing, however, from the dialects spoken in Aberdeen and Murrayshire, this being one of the three parish in the counties of Ross and Cromarty, in which, till of late years, the Gaelic language, which is the universal language in the adjacent parishes, was scarce ever spoken. There has been a considerable change, of late years, in this respect among the inhabitants here, the Gaelic having become rather more prevalent than usual. There is a very genteel society in this place, composed of several respectable and good families, remarkable for sobriety, for decency and propriety of conduct, in every respect. There are also in the country part of the parish, and among the farmers, several judicious heads of families who conduct themselves, through life, in an honest and industrious manner, and possess a degree of civility and discretion not always to be met with among people of their station. A regard to religion, and the duties of public worship, form a leading part of the character of all ranks in this parish, and, among many, the duties of morality are happily conjoined to give consistency and beauty to their religious prosession.+

Rent, Proprietors, Etc.
The valued rent of the parish is 2579L. 17s. 2d. Scots. The gross rent in victual and money will be little short of 1600L. It is here worthy of notice, that there has been no rise in rent in this parish, except about the town, for a long course of years, and the tenants have an advantage, not now very general, by having 2 third part of their rent converted at 10s. the boll, the consequence of which is that those of them who are sober, keep decent families, and live comfortably. The lands about the town are let at 2L. the acre, and are all enclosed. Scarcely any of the country farms are enclosed, they are let, at an average, from 12s. to 15s. the acre. In the year 1763, the property of this Parish was divided among 18 or 20 different proprietors. The principal heritor, at that time, was Captain John Urquhart, who was a branch of the old family of the Urquharts of Cromarty, a lineal descent of which, from Adam, has been whimsically attempted by Sir Thomas Urquhart, who represented the family of Urquhart about the middle of the 17th century .# There are now but 8 proprietors in the parish, except the Lairds of Cromarty and Udal, the property of all the rest put together is but trifling. The former resides constantly in England; the latter lives upon his property. It is worthy of remark that the estate of Udal has been in possession of the same family for a period of 200 years. The present proprietor, Mr. Anderson, has planted a considerable extent of it with firs and forest trees, which come on very well.

Ecclesiastical State, Stipend, Poor
There are two clergymen in the parish: the parish minister, and the minister of the Gaelic Chapel. There was no Gaelic preached in this place until the erection of the chapel, and the principal reason of introducing it was for the accommodation of Mr. Ross’s numerous labourers, and others who came from the neighbouring parishes to the manufacture of hemp. Accordingly, the place of worship was built solely at the expense of Mr. George Ross, in the year 1783, and he obtained a grant from the Exchequer of 50L., paid annually from the bishop rents, as a living to the Gaelic minister. The manse underwent a partial repair at the admission of the present incumbent, and is a good substantial house. The church was roofed anew, in the late incumbent’s time; the old roof, at that time, taken off, was all oak, said to have been cut down from the hill of Cromarty upwards of 140 years before. The living was augmented by the Court of Teinds, during their last session, having got an increase of 28L. 13s. 7d. Sterling. The state of the living now stands as follows: 8 chalders of victual, and 38L. 8s. Sterling of money. The glebe may be valued at 120L. a-year. The crown is patron both of the parish church and the Gaelic. The number of poor, upon the town’s roll, amounts to 77, and upon the country’s, to 33, making in all 110. The funds, for them are as follow: in meal there are 9 bolls, 6 pecks, payable from mortified lands left for the behoof of the poor, 138 years ago, by one M’Culloch of Good-tree. Along with this there is the annual interest of 120L. Sterling of a fund; five Guineas given annually, for a course of years back, by a Lady formerly connected with this place; and about 4L. Sterling annually of seat rents. The weekly contributions, at both congregations, have considerably increased within the two last years, and may be estimated annually, between 30L. and 40L. Sterling; so that between meal and money, there will be a sum amounting to 60L. Sterling annually for the above number of poor, which is distributed among them, in two parts, at those seasons of the year when the necessaries of life are purchased at the easiest rate. It is worthy of remark, that in the year 1783, there was upwards of 30L. Sterling . collected in one day’s time, in this small place, for the relief of the destitute. Several of the tenants still speak of their feeling the hard effects of that and preceding year.


*The crops raised in the parish are oats, barley, pease, very little wheat, potatoes. Oats are generally sown in the end of March and beginning of April; potatoes and pease in the month of April, and barley in the month of May. Barley Harvest begins, in general, about the middle of August, other crops are reaped in September. The parish finds consumption for the greater part of the victual raised among us. Some indeed is exported to the neighbouring counties, but in no great quantities.

This change has been partly occasioned by the great number of labourers from other quarters of the country, employed in carrying on Mr. Ross’s improvements, many of whom took up their residence in the place; the number of such labourers may be judged of, from this circumstance, that in one year, there was known to be no less a sum than 1000L. distributed among them at 6d. a-day. What makes the Gaelic language now have any footing is the establishment of the manufacture, which has collected many inhabitants to the place who never knew any other than the Gaelic tongue. It is to be observed, in general, that the Gaelic is wholly confined to those who have settled here from the neighbouring parishes. It is worthy of notice that there is a peculiar surname, Mustard, among the people here, not common elsewhere.

+The principal exception to this latter observation, is a habit of drunkenness which has long been prevalent among the lower classes in this place. The late proprietor saw the sad consequences with which the intemperate use of spiritous liquors was daily attended in the above class of people, and to check the evil, as far as in him lay, did erect a very extensive brewery in the place to furnish the inhabitants, at an easy rate, with a wholesomer and less noxious liquor; but the cheapness of spirits has totally abolished the use of beer among the lower ranks; scarce a gallon of the latter is drunk among them in the week, while too many have run into the excessive and pernicious use of the former. It is to be hoped, however, that the late wise commutation, which transfers the tax from coals to spiritous liquors, will supersede the necessity in the people of having recourse so much to what heated them internally, by affording them more easy access to comfortable heat of an external nature.

# The property of this family was once very extensive in the country of Cromarty, and comprehended much more than what is now called the estate of Cromarty. Sir John Urquhart, who died about the year 1659, left his affairs in great disorder, which obliged his son Jonathan to bring the estate to sale. The purchaser was George M’Kenzie, Viscount of Tarbat, afterward Earl of Cromarty, being the first who bore the title. The Earl of Cromarty gave the estate to his second son Sir Kenneth M’Kenzie. Sir Kenneth was succeeded by his son Sir George, and, shortly before his death, the estate was bought to a judicial sale, and purchased by the above mentioned Captain Urquhart of Craigston. By him it was sold to Mr. William Pultney, who made sale of it to Mr. George Ross, the late proprietor, and whose nephew, Mr. Alexander Ross, is now proprietor of most of the lands in the parish.

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