The Second Statistical Account

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United Parishes of Urquhart and Loggy-Wester

(Presbytery of Dingwall, Synod 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. John Macdonald, Minister


The great majority of the inhabitants of the parish is employed in agriculture; either as occupiers, feed-servants, or day-labourers. And of those who have a handicraft, the most hold also a small portion of land; so that there are very few who are not, occasionally at least, engaged in husbandry. This circumstance, it is obvious, renders it extremely difficult to classify the people. The extent of the farms varies from 20 to 150 acres, the average being about 50. The possessions of the cottars are small; say, at an average, 4 acres. Of late years, the system of forming large farms out of several small ones has become pretty general; and suitable encouragement is given to the tenantry to build commodious dwelling-houses and offices, as well as to reclaim waste ground, and to introduce the modern improvements in husbandry. Consequently a great change in the appearance of the parish has already been effected, and a greater is in rapid progress. Several comfortable dwelling-houses and convenient farm-steadings have started up; farms have been enclosed and subdivided; many a valuable acre has been brought under the plough; a regular rotation of crops is now pursued; and the most approved farming implements introduced; also lime and bone-dust are employed to a considerable extent to stimulate and fertilize the soil.

The spirit of improvement has extended to the cottars, who, perceiving the advantages of the new system, readily adopted it, and not without success. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that the result is a great increase of produce, amounting to double what it was twenty years ago. As ,further evidence of the rapid march of improvement among us, it may be stated that, at the date of the former Statistical Account, there was not a single thrashing-mill within the bounds of the parish; now, however, there are seven, and the erection of several more is contemplated.
The principal crops of grain raised are oats and barley. Wheat was a few years ago very generally cultivated; but though it succeeded in point of return and quality remarkably well, yet it was found that the growing of this grain considerably injured the land, so that it is now not so extensively sown. The soil is well adapted to pease, beans, potatoes, and turnips. The cultivation of this last-mentioned root is much attended to; and it may be remarked, that of all the improvements introduced into this quarter, the plan of eating off the turnip by sheep on the field, seems the most beneficial to the farmer, this process being almost in every case followed by splendid white crops.
Since the possessions of the cottars are too small either to keep them in constant employment, or to maintain their families, numbers of them generally go to some of the southern counties, (after laying down their little crops,) in quest of employment as labourers, and remain at such work as they may find till the beginning of winter, when they return with the proceeds of their labour, which go to pay the rent, and to the support of the family. This practice is pursued also by some of our tradesmen, such as masons and carpenters, who visit the large towns of the south with the double view of adding to their earnings, and of improving themselves in their respective crafts. In consequence of the recent improvements in husbandry, an increased demand for labourers is created at home, so that the number of persons who now visit the south in quest of employment, especially as reapers, is materially on the decrease.

Leases.- The usual duration of leases is nineteen years. A few of what are called improving leases extend to the term of thirty- one years.

Rent of Land.- The average rate of rent for arable land is about L.l, 5s. per acre. .

Wages.- Ploughmen receive from L.6 to L.8 per annum, together with board. Maid-servants are allowed from L. 3 to
L. 4. Men employed as day-labourers are paid at from 1s. 3d. to 1s. 6d. per day. Women for field-work, 6d., and in harvest they are allowed 1s. When day-labourers are provided by their employers with board, about one-third of the usual money wages is deducted.
There is no manufactory in the parish. The machinery of the south has almost entirely superseded the spinning-wheel of the industrious matron, and the simple loom of the country weaver. The good old practice of manufacturing the linen and other apparel for the use of the family, which at one time formed a principal part of the domestic employment of the female sex, is now nearly forgotten. Our young people have accordingly exchanged the simple but comfortable woollen stuffs in which their ancestors attired their limbs, for the more gaudy but less substantial fabrics of Glasgow or Manchester. Whether any benefit accrues to their health from the change may be questioned. Is it improbable that the substitution of their cotton for warm woollen raiment in the humid climate of Britain is a main cause of the prevalence of consumption in the present day?



Market- Towns.- There is no market-town in the parish. The nearest is Dingwall, distant from the central parts of the parish, round by Conan Bridge, about five miles. But across the frith, by a boat, at time of high water, and by the sands during ebb time, the distance is not more than two miles. Dingwall is also the nearest post-town; which is obviously an inconvenience to the parish at large, but especially to the eastern parts.

Fairs.-At a small village called Culbokie, four fairs are held in the course of the year.

Villages.- The village of Conan Bridge, on the line of the great northern road, is a thriving place, with a population of upwards of 300 souls. Culbokie, already noticed, is the only other village.

Means ofCommunication.- The Bridge thrown over the Conan, at the village called by that name, in 1810, consisting of five arches, is a handsome solid fabric. It is built of durable freestone, and the cost of erection, was L.6000 Sterling. Between it and the Beauly Bridge, subsequently built, a communication is opened by an excellent turnpike road, along which the mail runs. Another road leads from Conan Bridge, across the Maolbine, to the Kessock, sending off a branch about half-way, in the direction of Fortrose and the ferry of Fort George. These roads are kept in excellent repair; but the smaller branches which intersect the parish are not at all attended to as they ought, being often In a very insufficient state.

The frith is not of sufficient depth, so far up as this parish, to admit of the approach of vessels of considerable burden. A good deal of trade goes on, however, by means of sloops, which come into a quay erected a few years ago, at a place called Alcaig. They bring us coals, lime, &c.; and receive in return props for coal-pits, and timber of larger size for other purposes.

Ecclesiastical State.- The parish church is a plain capacious; house, situated near the sea-shore, as nearly as possible in the middle of the parish. It was built in 1795, and is in a good state of repair. The number of sitters intended to be accommodated 1200; but from 1500 to 1800 persons have often been crammed within its wall. The manse was built in 1777, and is still in good condition. It underwent, of course, repairs several times,- the last in 1837, when a complete square of offices was erected, one of the best in the county. It was stated in the former Statistical Account, that two glebes were attached to the church, each of which was at a considerable distance from the manse. To obviate this inconvenience, the present incumbent, soon after his admission, got both excambed for lands contiguous to the manse, and received in lieu of them-arable, 15 acres, and moor ground 18 acres. Of the latter, he has since reclaimed to the extent of 8 acres; so that the arable now consists of 23 acres. In regard to value, it is equal to the average of the land throughout the parish.- The stipend, since the last augmentation in 1834, is 18 chalders, Linlithgow measure, half meal, half barley.

For many years, no fewer than three catechists were employed in this parish by the kirk-session; at present there is only one. To compensate, however, for that apparent diminution in the agency for communicating religious instruction, it is proper to observe, that several Sabbath evening schools (to the number of six,) have been put into operation in the different districts of the parish, all of which are well attended, and are successful in conveying to the rising generation, as well as to others, much important Scripture knowledge. All these schools are taught without remuneration.- There is scarcely a Dissenter in the parish. A considerable number of the inhabitants of the western districts of the parish were, thirty or forty years ago, Episcopalians; but, of .that persuasion, there are now very few indeed,-a)most all the young people having be- come attached to the Established Church. The attendance upon divine service is very regular throughout the whole year. The number of communicants, at present, exceeds 150. There is a penny-a-week society, the average amount of whose annual contributions to the cause of religion may be stated at L. 10. It has been in operation for upwards of twenty years. The amount of church collections for religious and charitable objects may average, yearly, L.20. Sterling.

Education.-There are 3 schools in the parish, the parochial school, in the centre; a school maintained by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, in the east end; and one, established a few years ago by Sir F. A. Mackenzie on his own property, in the westend; and to which, besides having provided, at his own expense, the whole of the requisite accommodations he very laudably grants a small salary out of his own pocket, and also allows the master a good garden. All these schools, are, especially during the winter and spring months, well attended; consequently, there are but very few, indeed, of the young people who do not obtain some share of education, to the extent, at least, of being taught to read the Scriptures in both languages. The parochial schoolmaster has the legal accommodations; the salary is the maximum; and his fees may amount , to L.12 per annum. The emoluments arising to him from the office of session-clerk are from L.4 to L.5. The average attendance of scholars is about 65. The branches taught are, English and Gaelic reading, English grammar, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, Latin, geography, and mathematics. The rate of fees per quarter is, for reading, 2s.; reading and writing, 2s. 6d.; arithmetic, 4s.; Latin, 4s.; mathematics or geography, 7s. 6d; and for three sets of book-keeping, L. 1; 1s. The salary of the Society schoolmaster is L.15. In addition, the proprietor allows him a small portion of land.

Poor and Parochial Funds.- The number of persons at present receiving parochial aid is 170. It is necessary to observe, that none of the poor of this parish depend entirely on the session for maintenance,-the most of them shewing a most laudable desire to do all in their power towards their own support; and in cases of total inability through age or sickness, the relatives of the poor are generally ready to extend a helping hand to relieve their wants, and to prevent their becoming a burden on the parish. The funds at the disposal of the session, arising from church collections, rent of land, and interest of invested money, amounting, at an average, after deducting the usual burdens, to L.55 Sterling, are distributed annually; of course, the allowance to each cannot be more than a mere trifle; still it is in almost every case thankfully accepted. In cases of sickness and urgent want, occasional relief is afforded out of the Sabbath collections, and that sometimes to persons not on the poor’s roll. When families in indigent circumstances happen to be visited with serious sickness, and death makes breaches in their numbers, the sympathy of the parishioners is promptly manifested in special collections for the relief of the distressed.

Inns.- The only Inn in the parish is one at Conan village, on the great northern road, where it is quite necessary, and is very well kept. Of dram-shops there are 3, which might be dispensed with, without any inconvenience to the public, or detriment to the morals of the inhabitants.

Fuel.- The fuel chiefly used by the principal tenants is coals, which is imported from Newcastle or Sunderland, and which can be obtained at the average price of 15s. per ton. A considerable number of the inhabitants use only a baked kind of peat, which is found in a moss in the upper part of the parish. With the addition of a little fire-wood, which can be had at a very cheap price, this peat makes a pretty good fire; and to coals, it is a great and decided improvement.

February 1840.

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