The 1st Statistical Account

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United Parishes of Urquhart and Loggy Wester

(County of Ross)

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

By the Rev. Mr. Charles Calder

Rent, Church, Schools etc – The valued rent of the parish is £3011 Scotch. The real rent, exclusive of the salmon fishing on the water of Conan, is supposed to be upwards of £2000 Sterling. Mr Forbes of Culloden is patron of the parish. The minister’s stipend is paid partly in victual and partly in money; of the former, five chalders of barely and one of meal; of the latter, 600 merks, with 100 more for communion elements. Besides the glebe in the neighbourhood of the manse, there is another adjacent to the ruins of the old church of Loggy, and within the improvements at Conan-side, the proprietors of which place have farmed it for a series of years past. The manse was built in the year 1777. The present church has been recently condemned, as unworthy of reparation, and a new one is begun to be built in a different and more eligible situation; for which and a wall to enclose it, a sum of £580 Sterling is allotted. Besides the parochial school, there are two others, in the more remote districts of the parish, established by the Society for propagating Christian Knowledge, and to the support of which, the respective proprietors laudably contribute. All these schools, for a great part of the year, are numerously attended, and productive of the most beneficial consequences, in diffusing among the people religious instruction, and civilisation of manners.

Farms, produce etc – The farms in this parish are small, paying at a medium, it is supposed, about 18 bolls, or nearly that value, between money and victual. After payment of the rent, the subsistence they yield to the tenant is extremely scanty. Tradesmen and day labourers occupy a great many crofts, or smaller possessions, which pay from a few shillings to £2 of rent. There are however a few farms in the parish, of considerable extent, and of which the possessors enjoy more favourable circumstances. Some of these are furnished with cattle of large size, and implements of husbandry of a correspondent good quality. Very little of the ground has been inclosed. The crops commonly raised are barley, oats, and potatoes, with some pease and rye. No wheat, and but an inconsiderable quantity of grass feeds, are sown in this parish. The horses used here are generally of a small aize. The black cattle are of rather better quality. The sheep are inconsiderable in number, and of the common Scotch breed.

Freestone, Fishing etc – Through a great part of the parish, along the sea, and the rivulets running into it, quarries of freestone abound, which supply the country around in millstones, and from whence other hewn work is occasionally sent by boats across the frith. There is a salmon fishing belonging to the Cromarty estate, on the water of Conan, from whence the fish are sent to Inverness, to be shipped for London. Except the few hands employed about the fish, nets and coops, at that place, there are no fishermen belonging to this parish; nor are any fish worth mentioning to be found elsewhere on this shore, except an inconsiderable quantity of salmon, and small fish of different kinds, in a wear belonging to the Ferrintosh estate.

Fuel. – This parish is very ill supplied with fuel. Those whose circumstances can afford it, make use of coals; but the bulk of the inhabitants have no other fire, but what the surface of the moor furnishes them with, or what they can procure from mosses of a light unsubstantial quality, at a distance of 2 or 3 miles, and at a great expense of time and labour. Such as are engaged in the business of distilling use partly coal, but chiefly peats got from other parishes, on each side of the frith, and at high prices.

Poor.- In this populous parish the poor are very numerous. The number of them on the kirk-session’s list commonly exceeds 200. The funds allotted for their relief, being partly of a fluctuating nature, cannot be ascertained with precision. They admit however one year with another, after payment of salaries to the session clerk, and other parish officers, of a distribution among the poor of about £23 or £24 Sterling annually. The general and severe scarcity of the years 1783 and 1784 called for a more unrestrained use of their funds; and for these two years their usual allowance was nearly doubled*.

*There being no manufactures (that of grain into spirits excepted) established in this place, nor improvements going on in it of any consideration, together with other circumstances, occasions the number of our poor being so great. There are however, very few places in this country into which manufactures that would afford general employment to people of different ages, and of both sexes, could be introduced, with such prospect of advantage, or bid fairer for rescuing numbers from the penury and distress in which they languish at present, from want of employment. Besides inducements of a more important nature for such an establishment, there are buildings, which during the existence of the Ferrintosh privilege, were erected by a company for the purpose of distilling, and now lie unoccupied. They are of very considerable extent, situated about the middle of the parish, and contiguous to the shore, where there is occasionally a depth of water, sufficient for vessels of 100 tons burden.

Language, Antiquities etc – Gaelic is the language commonly spoken, and universally understood in this parish. The English is however understood by a great many of the inhabitants. Public divine service is performed in both languages. The names of places throughout the parish are evidently of Gaelic origin. At the south-west extremity of the parish in an extensive high but level moor, there are several tumuli, or large conical heaps of stones. There is not any tradition as to the particular occasion of collecting them. By the directions of the proprietor, one of them was lately laid open, when 3 stone coffins were found in it, ranged in a line from east to west.

As to climate, wages of servants, prices of provisions, and several other objects of a statistical nature, there is nothing peculiar to be observed with regard to this parish, or different from the accounts already presented to the public from other parishes in the neighbourhood; only as to the last of these articles, and mercantile goods in general, a considerable additional expense, and much inconvenience are incurred in this place, from not having access to either Inverness or Dingwall, (the only towns which can supply it in these articles) without the intervention of a ferry. Its situation with regard to a post-office is subject to the same inconvenience, and occasions a heavy drawback on the pleasure of public intelligence and private correspondence. From the great number of inhabitants, there can be little doubt, that the establishment of a post-office in this parish would do more than defray the necessary expense, and, at the same time, contribute essentially to their accommodation.

Ferries etc – There are two or three ferries in this parish, one of them at its eastern extremity and opposite to Fowlis, from whence it has its name. This is not a much frequented ferry, and is incommodious at low water, from the shallowness of the shore. Towards the west end of the parish on the river of Conan, and beyond where the tide at any time flows, is the ferry of Scuddale, on the post road from Beauly to Dingwall. Besides these ferries, there is a small boat for foot passengers, which at high water plies between Dingwall and Ferrintosh. On the tide’s retiring, and when the river is not high, there is access to Dingwall from this side of the water by different fords. Some of these fords have a zig-zag direction, which they maintain amidst partial variations, to which all of them are very subject, from the united force of high tides, and frequent swellings of the river. These circumstances, together with the rapid flowing of the tide at particular times, render this a hazardous passage, which proves fatal to many. Since the settlement of the present minister in 1774, scarce a year has passed without the loss of some life on it. Some years it has brought 2, 3, or more to an untimely end. Within the course of 14 months, about 8 years ago, 7 persons perished in crossing the water of Conan, at different places within the bounds of this parish. Humanity strongly solicits the long promised public aid for erecting a bridge on a river, in which the hopes and supports of many families have fallen by a premature fate.

Character – Whilst the people of this parish enjoyed peculiar advantages, as to their external situation, their character was strongly marked by a correspondent hospitality of disposition, and liberality to those in distress.Though as to the generality, their ability is now circumscribed, the same dispositions still prevail, and are ready to show themselves by suitable exertions on every proper occasion. Every general collection, for any charitable purpose, vindicates their title to this praise. The people in general are very regular in their attendance on public worship; nor are there any dissenters in the parish of any denominations, except some Episcopalians, who live in the western district, and attend a place of worship in a neighbouring parish. Populous as this parish is , there has not been an instance during the time of the present incumbent, which is 18 years, nor long before, to the best of his knowledge, of an individual belonging to it being guilty of a capital offence, or even suffering banishment. This happy exemption from criminal prosecutions, and these favourable traits of character, are owing in a very considerable degree to the advantages this parish has long enjoyed for the education of its youth.* The early establishment of a school in it, by the Society for propagating Christian Knowledge, at which for a long tract of years, about a hundred children, (besides those enjoying similar advantages at the parochial school) have annually received instruction in the great duties of religion and morality, as well as the first principles of literature, could hardly fail, in such a course of time, to have a happy influence on the character and manners of the people. From the recent extension of the same advantages by that excellent institution, in consideration of the extreme populousness of this parish, to its western and most remote district, similar good effects are expected. And much room, it must be confessed, there still remains with us, for advancement in that purity of manners, of which the principles of Christianity, when duly inculcated and received, must ever be productive.

*The present teacher of the parochial school has kept it upwards of 20 years, and it is remarkable, that during the space of 3 years, 12 of his pupils have been sent to college to study divinity etc.

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