The Second Statistical Account
- Page 2 -
United Parishes of Urquhart and Loggy-Wester
(Presbytery of Dingwall, Synod of Ross)
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty
By the Rev. John Macdonald, Minister
It is believed that there exists no account of the parish either in print or manuscript. Neither are there any traditionary sketches that are deserving of notice, with the exception of one relating to President Forbes, and which forms an interesting episode in the history of the Rebellion. So far as has been observed by the writer, it has not been noticed in any of the published accounts of that eventful period. It has been preserved among the old people in these bounds, and as of its authenticity there can be no doubt, it may not be improper to introduce it here.
Some time previous to the battle of Culloden, a design had been formed by the rebels to surprise President Forbes, Lord Loudon, and other friends of the Government, who were then at Culloden House, guarded by a party of the Ferrintosh and Culloden tenants. To execute this plan, a detachment was sent down with great secrecy from the Aird along the water of Nairn. The officer in command, with a view to ensure the accomplishment of the object proposed, concealed his party in a wood in the vicinity of Culloden House, which he intended to surround in the night, after ascertaining that the loyal party had not previously departed.
In this state of things, a woman residing on the mains of Culloden, happened, in looking for some sheep, to go near the wood, when, to her great consternation, a tall Highlander, completely equipped in armour, suddenly presented himself before her, and in a whisper inquired whether she knew the President or not. Instantly suspecting mischief, she made no reply. But the warrior, assuring her that he was no enemy to his Lordship, charged her, if she valued his life, without the least delay, to deliver into his own hand a letter which he pulled out of his sporan, and which he stated contained intelligence of the last importance to the President. The woman, hastening with the letter as directed, arrived at the castle just after the company had taken their seats at the dinner table; she had accordingly great difficulty in obtaining access, but her urgency induced some of the servants in attendance to mention her earnest request to be admitted immediately to his Lordship. She was ordered in, and walking up to the head of the table, with a profound courtesy, delivered the letter, requesting at the same time that it should be forthwith read, as she had reason to believe it related to a matter of great moment to all present. The President was not the man to act the part of the Theban, to whom a letter, warning him of imminent danger, had been brought as he was sitting at a feast, and which, instead of reading, he put sealed under his pillow, saying “in crastinum defero res severas.” The sagacious patriot acted differently, and having instantly read the letter, became aware of the perilous situation in which he was placed, in time to escape with his life. For so seasonable and important information, he was indebted, as was said, to the gratitude of Coll Bain (Macdonald) of ___ who had some years before then, stood trial before the Court of Justiciary, on a capital charge, and had been, contrary to his own expectations, acquitted through the able services of the President, at that time practising as an advocate in the courts. Coll, aware of the danger that now threatened his benefactor, repaid him his important services; enabling him, by conveying this timely intelligence, to escape the clutches of his mortal foes. In this critical situation, the President’s usual prudence and promptitude did not forsake him. Orders were given to treat the men with ample cheer___ the bagpipes were blown, and dancing was commenced on the lawn. Every thing betokened the absence of alarm, till arrangements for a speedy flight were completed. Then the whole party darted away towards the Kessock, and reached the boats just in time to escape the rebels, who, having observed the movement from the castle, gave chase with the swiftness of the mountain stag. As the boats were crossing, some bullets whizzed past the ears of the loyalists, but happily no person received injury. The President and his friends having thus narrowly escaped, pursued their flight to the mountains between Ross and Sutherland, where they skulked for several weeks, in a state of most painful anxiety, enduring the inclemency of the weather, and reduced to the greatest extremity of hunger. The inhabitants of those districts, being generally in favour of Charlie, would afford the fugitives neither shelter nor supply of food; nay, on one occasion, they actually hunted them with dogs. And but for the seasonable kindness of some friend of the Government, who with great secrecy sent them a present of a few sheep, &c. they must have perished of famine. Intelligence of the battle of the 26th April, however, released them from these hardships, and was considered a rich reward for all their privations and sufferings. So reduced were the men, however, on their return to their homes, that their families could scarcely recognize them. A daughter of one of the Ferrintosh tenants, who formed part of the President’s escort on this occasion, still survives, and states that she remembers perfectly having often heard her mother declare, that the children of the family fled affrighted from their father when he first presented himself on his own floor after his return, so greatly was his aspect changed, like Nebuchadnezzar after his sojourn among the beasts of the field.
Ferrintosh Privilege.- The history of this celebrated privilege we transcribe without alteration from the former Statistical Account of the parish.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 own 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 thereafter be 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 (grantee’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 by 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 with which he had found it loaded, from. his predecessor’s zeal in the same cause, and amounting together to upwards of L. 30,000 Sterling. About two-thirds of that sum, and less than sixteen 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.
Eminent Characters.- The most distinguished character ever connected with this parish, so far as is known, was President Forbes; but, in consequence of what is stated above regarding him, it is unnecessary to take any further notice of him at present. We must not under this head pass over General John Mackenzie, residing at Balevil, in this parish. He is of the family of Gairloch, and was born at Conan House. While very young he entered the army, and soon distinguished himself as an intrepid soldier. He had the reputation of being a kind and generous officer, and at the same time an exact and efficient disciplinarian. After serving his country in various parts of the globe, such as Holland, India, the Peninsula, &c., he now enjoys his “otium ‘cum dignitate,” on a farm which he has brought to a high state of improvement.
On this head it will not be improper to enumerate the excellent pastors with which this parish has been favoured, in uninterrupted succession, since the period of the Revolution. The last Episcopalian minister, who held the charge, was a Mr Andrew Ross, said to have been a very pious man, and popular as a preacher. His. successor was a Mr Alexander Fraser, who, it appears, was eminent for both piety and talent, and was translated to Inverness. He was succeeded by Mr Alexander Falconer, admitted in 1729. In character he was like his predecessor. After him was Mr Donald Fraser, inducted in 1757. He has been represented as a man of a vigorous and comprehensive mind, and of extensive attainments. As a theologian he was reputed profound; and in expounding the Scriptures few were considered his equals. The late eminent Dr Fraser of Kirkhill, known in the theological world by his ” Key to the Prophecies, and Commentary on Isaiah,” was a son of this clergyman. Mr Fraser died in 1773. His successor was Mr Charles Calder, who finished his ministry in 1812. Of this eminent servant of Christ, it may be said, that perhaps no minister ever reigned more in the hearts of his people. As a preacher he was solemn, earnest, and affectionate. His discourses were fraught with the theme of redeeming love, and were composed in chaste and elegant language, evincing, in a high degree, a polished mind, and a classical taste. His ministrations were consequently peculiarly attractive, and were attended with abundant success. The heavenliness of his deportment rendered him an object of reverence,-while his liberality to the poor,__his sympathy with the distressed,__ his kindness to the young,-and the fatherly interest he took in the welfare of all, endeared him to his parishioners. His name is fragrant among the religious community or these bounds, and is embalmed in the memory of such of them as enjoyed his ministry, who still delight in repeating many a striking passage of his sermons, which remain as it were stereotyped on the tablets of their hearts.
Land-owners.- The land-owners are, Mr Forbes of Culloden Sir James Wemyss Mackenzie of Scatwell; and Sir Francis A. Mackenzie of Gairloch.
The estate of Findon, forming the eastern portion of the parish, is the property of Sir James. According to a survey made in 1835, it consists of 4214 imperial acres, as follows
The yearly rent is L.1766, Os. 9d. Sterling. . It is proper to observe, that considerable improvements are in progress on this property___ such as adding to the arable, enclosing farms, and laying out ground for planting.
The far-famed barony of Ferrintosh, belonging to Culloden, forms the central district of the parish. It contains, as appears from a survey made in 1810, 4726 Scotch acres (5960 acres im- perial) comprising:-
House and Gardens,
The quantity of arable is now, however, greatly increased, as hundreds of acres have been brought into cultivation since the survey referred to was taken; and it may be added that much of the reclaimed land is of a superior quality. Improvements on an extensive scale are rapidly advancing on this estate. The yearly rent is about L.2500 Sterling.
Of the estate of Conan, comprising the western portion of the parish, Sir Francis is proprietor. The extent of this property may be estimated at 2400 imperial acres, of which are arable 1500 acres; in pasture, including moor, 300 acres; and in woods 600 acres. It is due to the worthy Baronet to state, that he is distinguished for zeal in agricultural improvements, as respects both the reclaiming of waste ground, and introducing the modern system of husbandry among his tenants. The annual rent is above L. 1000 Sterling.
Parochial Registers.- The oldest register now extant is dated in 1715. The writer of the former account of the parish makes mention of one commencing in 1709; but if such ever existed it must have been lost, as the present incumbent never saw it. For the first thirty or forty years the entries seem to have been made very irregularly, there being intervals of years, during which neither baptism nor marriage was inserted; and in the case of baptism, when recorded, the name of the father alone was registered. Subsequently, however, more attention was paid to this important matter; and for a considerable number of years back, the registers have been kept with great care; baptisms and marriages being punctually entered. Of deaths no record is kept, a circumstance which requires reform.
In 1792, the population was
1811, - - -
1821, - - -
1831, - - -
Census 1831- Males above 20 years of age, - - -
Average number of births for the 7 years ending in 1830 - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - marriages, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Houses inhabitated, - - -
uninhabitated, - - -
building, - - -
Language.- The language generally spoken by the natives of the parish is Gaelic; and though English is daily spreading among us, and is now certainly better understood than at any former period; yet it is believed that the original language of the Highlands has not lost ground for the last forty years. This may be easily accounted for, from the fact that almost all the youth are now taught to read the Scriptures in Gaelic as well as in English in the schools. The consequence is, that the Gaelic is not only preserved, but actually makes progress among us.
Character of the People.- The cottars, who are still by far the more numerous class, cannot be said to enjoy in any considerable degree the comforts of life; but they are in general content with their situation. The better sort of tenants are, however, fast advancing in intelligence, and consequently in respectability of character and circumstances. Since the period of the former Statistical Account, the people have made progress in religious knowledge and in moral conduct. Smuggling, which at one time was very prevalent, is now happily extinct. A single drop of whisky has not been distilled in Ferrintosh for years: What a change! But it is all for the advantage of the morality and circumstances of the inhabitants. Neither can poaching be said to prevail, though a case may now and then occur.