The 1st Statistical Account
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The following is a transcription of the actual Account of the Parish of Urquhart and Logie Wester, of which Ferintosh is a part, from the first or old Statistical Account of the 1790’s
United Parishes of Urquhart and LOGGY WESTER
(County of Ross)
Sir 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 1790, 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.
By the Rev. Mr. Charles Calder
Origin of the Names –The particular period when the parishes of Urquhart and Loggie Wester were united is not known. None of the parochial records are of an older date than the year 1709; at which time they made but one parish. One of these parishes derives its designation, according to a tradition current in the place, from the first church, on its formation into a parish, having been built by a lady of eminent piety, Sophia Urquhart by name, of the family of Cromarty. The landed property of that family in this country was anciently of vast extent; and to that lady, it is said, the lands of Urquhart had been allotted as her dowry. Though they have long since passed from that to a different line of proprietors, yet still many of the inhabitants of this, and some of the heritors of the adjacent parish, are of that name. Loggy, the name of the other united parish, is a Gaelic word, descriptive of the situation of the old church of that parish, of which the ruins are still extant in a pleasant valley on the water of the Conan, with the contiguous grounds gently sloping towards it, and overlooked by those on the opposite side of the river. It is called Loggy Wester, to distinguish it from another parish of the same name, within the bounds of this Synod.
Situation Extent Proprietors etc- Considering these parishes which were thus originally divided as now but one, and Urquhart (agreeable to general use) as comprehending both, its extent is about nine or ten statute miles in length and from three to four in breadth. It belongs to the Presbytery of Dingwall and Synod of Ross. It lies along Cromarty Firth, terminating in the river of Conan, in a direction nearly from East to West and in a position in general gently declining towards the shore.
At high water the tide flows to within about 2 miles of the western extremity of the parish. And at low water retires much the same distance from its eastern extremity leaving exposed a flat beach with the river lying about half way between the opposite shores. There are only three heritors in the parish, by whose estates it is formed into as many distinct divisions, each of them occupying a continued extent of some miles along the shore (including under that designation both the sea coast and the bank of the river) and running from thence to the uncultivated heights or ridge of moor lying between this parish and those of Killearnan and Kilmuir Wester. The principal seats of the heritors, and the bulk of the fortunes of some if not all of them lie in other parishes. They have however seats in this parish. There is an old but a good house, and lately repaired, at Findon in the eastern division of the parish, belonging to Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Scatwell. It is pleasantly situated between Cromarty Firth on the one side and a beautiful oak wood on the other. There are a good many other forest trees of considerable size scattered about the place and it is furnished with an excellent garden. Fields and trees interspersed and alternately intersected by a purling brook which runs by the house into the sea form altogether a pleasing scene; the proprietor does not reside at this place. On this estate there is a market town on the high road from Dingwall and the ferry of Scuddale to Cromarty. It is provided with an inn; and four fairs are held at it throughout the year.
The chief proprietor of this parish, Mr Forbes of Culloden, whose estate here lies between those of the other two heritors, and is known by the name of Ferrintosh, has only a small, but neat and commodious lodge in it, occupied by his factor. As Ferrintosh does not constitute the principal, so neither is it the oldest part of the landed property of the Culloden family. It signifies in Gaelic the Thane’s Lands, and made anciently a part of the Thanedom of Calder. That family being heritable Sheriffs of the county of Nairn, Ferrintosh, whilst their property , was on that account, (notwithstanding the distance, and the intervention of the Moray Frith) annexed to that county. It passed from their possession about the beginning of last century; but its connection with that county in some respects still subsists. Hence Mr Forbes of Culloden, as Baron of Ferrintosh, votes in Parliamentary elections for the county of Nairn. The houses on some parts of Ferrintosh are extremely numerous. There is an oak wood on this estate of considerable extent. It abounds with delightful walks, and adds much to the ornament of the place. But the oaks in this parish attain not in general to any considerable size, and are much retarded in their growth from not being enclosed.
Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch, the only other heritor belonging to this parish, has a handsome modern house at his place of Conanside, in the west end of the parish, where he resides a part of the year. Situated on the banks of the Conan river, this place possesses many natural beauties, and it has of late been much improved by art. There are plantations of firs on this estate of considerable extent. Some of them are intermixed with forest trees, and all of them in a thriving condition. Where dismal bleakness lately prevailed, the eye is now presented with refreshing verdure.
Population –The population of this parish, as appears from the following statements, has been very variable. Occasional chasms in the old registers, are partly the cause of selecting the particular periods in the subsequent table of births and marriages. No register of deaths has been kept in this parish; nor could the number be so easily ascertained as in many other parishes, there being two burial places.
Table of Births and Marriages per annum, upon an average of three years at different periods
1737/ 38/ 39
1747/ 48/ 49
1777/ 78/ 79
1786/ 87/ 89
1789/ 90/ 91
Number of souls at different periods
State of the Population for 1792
Below 10 years of age,
Between 10 & 20,
Between 20 to 50,
Between 50 to 70,
Between 70 to 100,
houses occupied, each by
Tradesmen, including their apprentices
Ferrintosh Privilege – The great decrease in the number of inhabitants in this parish, which appears from the above difference of its population in the years 1779 and 1789, began to take place in 1786, and was occasioned by an event of general notoriety, and which was at that time the subject of Parliamentary discussion. The lands belonging to Mr Forbes of Culloden, which go by the name of Ferrintosh, and form the central and largest division of the parish, possessed from 1690 to 1786, an exemption from the duties of excise on spirits distilled from grain of their growth. This privilege was originally granted to the present proprietor’s great grandfather, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, one of those patriots, who at the glorious period of the Revolution, stood up in defence of the religion and liberties of their country. By opposing the disaffected, and supporting the loyal subjects in his neighbourhood, at much expense, he was materially instrumental in quashing a rebellion, which at that time threatened the north of Scotland. Going some time thereafter to Holland in prosecution of the same patriotic plan, the Popish faction, during his absence, laid waste his estates, particularly the barony of Ferrintosh, and destroyed extensive distilleries, of which it was the seat at that time, and before the introduction of the Excise into Scotland. In compensation for the losses, which he had thus sustained in the service of government, the Parliament of Scotland, by an Act passed in 1690, farmed to him and his successors, the yearly excise of the lands of Ferrintosh, for the sum of 400 merks Scotch, subject, as explained by a posterior Act, to a proportion of any additional duties of excise, that might be thereafter imposed by law upon the kingdom. This privilege his successors enjoyed without interruption, till the year 1786. As a mark of public favour, it was not more honourably acquired at first, than it was amply merited afterwards, by a continued succession of important services in their country’s cause. In 1715, the original granter’s son, adhering to the principles of the Revolution, raised all the men upon his estates, and deeply impaired his private fortune, by keeping them in arms at his own expense, till that rebellion was happily quelled. The services rendered to Government in 1745, by that great man and ornament of his country, the Honourable Duncan Forbes of Culloden, President of the Court of Session, are universally known. At the breaking out of that rebellion, he applied himself with zeal to nip it in the bud. He successively invited the chieftains to Culloden house, and whilst he delighted them with his conversation and winning manners, he so wrought on them by his persuasive eloquence, that he was the happy instrument of keeping thousands from joining the Pretender’s standard. His exertions at that critical conjuncture, whilst they brought his own liberty, and even his life into imminent hazard, involved his family in a debt, double to that which he had found it loaded, from his predecessor’s zeal in the same cause, and amounting together to upwards of £30,000 Sterling. About two thirds of that sum, and less than 16 years purchase of its proven increasing value, was the allowance made by Government to the present proprietor, on their resumption of this immunity in the year 1786. The singularity of this privilege, and its great influence, in a statistical view, on the condition and number of the inhabitants of this parish, have led to this short account of its origin, and of the services by which it was earned.
Upon the extinction of this right, many of the people, being deprived of employment, were obliged to seek elsewhere for that support, which they had no expectation that the place could any longer afford; and in a little time thereafter, the inhabitants of the parish were found to have decreased some hundreds in number. Few of them, however, left the kingdom; their supposed superior skill, in the business to which they had been inured, occasioned a demand of hands from Ferrintosh, wherever distilleries were erected under the new act of Parliament, respecting that branch of revenue which took place about the same time with the deprivation of their privilege. This decrease of inhabitants ceased, however, in the course of two or three years after the event to which it had been owing. Since that time, the population of the place has been uniformly advancing, and amounts at present to little short of what it has been at any former period. The extent to which their original occupation, though stripped of its former advantages, is now again carried on, partly occasions this returning increase of the population; but it is owing, to a still greater degree, to that attachment to the natale folum, which induces the poor people to settle in the moor grounds in the skirts of the parish, rather than to seek for subsistence by emigration, and because the proprietors were beginning to see (what is to be hoped, they will see still more) the good policy of giving them all due encouragement in their little improvements. But it was not solely the population of the parish that was affected by Government’s resuming the Ferrintosh privilege. The people of that district, who constitute the great body of the parish, underwent in general a great deterioration, as to their circumstances and mode of living, from that event, against which few of them comparatively had made any provision. The monopoly they enjoyed, and the acknowledged superiority of the spirits produced from their small stills, occasioned a demand for them from all quarters, and a constant circulation of cash in the place, which brought the people in general an ease in their circumstances, and a fulness of the necessaries of life, beyond what commonly falls to the class of farmers. A transition in these respects to the level of their neighbours, so abrupt, would have been more severely felt, had it not found some mitigation in the distinguished humanity of the proprietor of these lands. But the business of distillation is now resumed in Ferrintosh, and diffused throughout the parish in general, to an extent that requires a very considerable annual importation of barley, and gives employment to 29 licensed stills. There are, however, very few who derive from it any benefit; but the mischief resulting from it is manifest; and there is too much cause to apprehend, from the low price of spirits, and the restriction as to a foreign market, that the country in general may furnish multiplied instances of the pernicious tendency of this trade, as an inlet to intemperance, and a bane to the industry and morals of the people.