The 2nd Statistical Account
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PARISH OF CROMARTY.
(PRESBYTERY OF CHANONRY, SYNOD OF ROSS)
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty
By the Rev. ALEXANDER STEWART, MINISTER. *
* Drawn up by Mr Hugh Miller, Author of “Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland.”
Rather more than half a century ago, there was a small village in the parish, named Meikle-Farness ; but it has since disappeared under the influence of those changes, which, within the last fifty years, have new modelled the domestic economy of the country. The steam looms of Glasgow and Paisley have stripped the village weaver of his employment ; the manufacturers of Sheffield and Birmingham have discharged its smith ; the taste for fashionable furniture, to which the improved dwellings of our agriculturists naturally led, has shut up the workshop of its carpenter ; and the love of dress, so universally diffused in the present age, has levelled the domicile of its tailor, and the stall of its maker of Highland shoes. The town of Cromarty is pleasantly situated in the eastern part of the parish, on a low alluvial promontory, washed on two of its sides by the sea. It is irregularly built, exhibiting in its more ancient streets and lanes, that homely Flemish style of architecture characteristic of all our older towns of the north ; and displaying throughout that total disregard of general plan, which is said most to obtain in the cities and villages of a free country.
The place is so surrounded by friths and arms of the sea, that its communications with neighbouring districts are frequently interrupted. Much, however, has been done to facilitate the necessary intercourse. In the summer months, an omnibus plies every day, except Sundays, between the town and Inverness, passing in its route through the towns of Chanonry, Rosemarkie, and Avoch ; a steam-boat from Leith touches at it once a-week ; and a splendid vessel of this description, intended to trade between London and the upper towns of the Moray Frith, (Cromarty among the rest,) is now in course of building. The town has its post-office, from which letters are sent once a-day to join the mail at Inverness ; and there has lately been established in it a branch of the Commercial Bank of Scotland, which promises to be of much advantage to the trading interests of the district.
Prior to the Reformation there were no fewer than six chapels in the parish, but a low broken wall and a few green mounds now form their only remains,—even the very names of three of the number have perished. Two of the others were dedicated to St Duthac and St Rennet, and two fine springs on which even time himself has been unable to effect any change, come bubbling out in the vicinity of the ruins, and bear the names of their respective saints. Of the last and most entire, which is still known as the chapel of St Regulus, it is said that there once belonged to it a valuable historical record,—the work, probably, of some literary monk or hermit,—which at the Reformation was carried away to France by the priest. The parish church, a true Presbyterian edifice, is situated in the eastern part of the town. Its first minister was a Mr Robert Williamson, whose initials may still be seen on a flat triangular stone, which bears date 1593, and whose name occurs oftener than once in Calderwood. We learn from the historian, that “Jesuits having libertie to passe thorough the countrey in 1583, during the time of the Earle of Huntlie’s lieutenantry, great coldness of religion entered in Ross ;” and that by an act of council passed five years after, Mr Robert Williamson was among the number empowered to urge matters to an extremity against them. Few parishes have been so fortunate in their clergymen as Cromarty. Since the days of Episcopacy, when its excellent and honest pastor, a Mr Hugh Anderson, was ejected from his charge, and a curate thrust into his place, there has not been a single instance of the induction of a minister in opposition to the wishes of the people. All its clergymen, too, have been hard-working men of the evangelical school ; and it seems a natural consequence that there are at present not half-a-dozen dissenters in all its population, and not more than two persons opposed to the principle of church establishments. The minister’s stipend is 16 chalders. The glebe, which contains about five acres, has been valued at L.15 per annum.
Education, Poor, Friendly Societies.—
The parish is amply furnished with the means of instruction. It has, like every other, its proper parochial school, furnished with all the legal accommodations. A society school, in which Gaelic is taught, has been stationed in the upper part of it for the last quarter of a century. Two other schools have been opened in the town by masters who depend solely on the fees ; and a free school, taught on the system of Sheriff Wood, together with a female school, have been established in it for the last six years, by a Society of the place. There are one or two other schools besides; and a Sabbath school, which seems to have done more for the manners and morals of females in the lower ranks than any of the others, is taught by the ladies of the place. Our farmers and mechanics (in the main an intelligent race, and strikingly marked by those traits of character which are said to be peculiar to the lowland Scotch) seem fully alive to the benefits of education,—but these cannot be appreciated unless they be known ; and the poor fishermen of the place, whose perilous and uncertain profession has a tendency to keep them ignorant, and who have been both disheartened and crippled in their means by the late failure of the herring fishery, are much more careless in availing themselves of its advantages.
The poor of Cromarty, partly from the superior amount of the regular contributions made in the parish, and partly through legacies bequeathed for their support, are more largely provided for than the poor of most of the neighbouring districts; but it has been observed that every new addition to their funds has had the effect of adding less to their comforts than to their number. There is a continual influx of strangers who settle in the outer skirts in the parish, and who, after residing in it for the legal term, have recourse for support to its Session ; and that excellent spirit of independence which so ennobled the Scottish poor of the last age, and inspired them with so wholesome a dread of being indebted to aught save their own exertions, seems to be fast evaporating under the influence of a lower toned morality than that which characterized our fathers. In some degree, however, the spirit still survives among the more intelligent of the people ; and we owe to it the establishment of several friendly societies, which have the merit of ministering to the wants of the individuals which compose them, when overtaken -by age or sickness, without trenching on their self-respect. One of these in particular, “The Cromarty Friendly Society,” which has been established since 1801, has distributed for the last ten years from L.90 to L.100 annually, among decayed and ailing members. The average number of persons receiving parochial aid is 150 ; and the average annual amount of contributions for their relief is L.172. The amount arising from church collections for the year ending April last was L.70 : the amount of voluntary assessments for the year 1835, was L.27, 9s. 3d. The annual amount from alms or legacies, seat-rents, mortcloth, &c. L.75.
The people of Cromarty in general eat and dress rather better in the present day, than at the time of the last Statistical Account. Their employments, too, though affected by occasional depressions, are in the main less interrupted ; they work harder, are more ingenious, and more freed from the influence of superstition; their information embraces a wider range ; they are better acquainted with the principles of agriculture and of trade ; and they have learned to identify their interests as a body with those of the people everywhere. Their intelligence, too, “is of a different cast from that of their fathers, and derived from a very opposite source; It IS much less peculiar to them as Scotchmen and Presbyterians. Formerly, when there were comparatively few books and no periodicals in this part of the country, there was but one way in which a man could learn to think. His mind became the subject of some serious impression ; he applied earnestly to his Bible and the standards of the church; and in the contemplation of the most important of all concerns his newly awakened faculties received their first exercise. And hence the peculiar tone of his politics, and the exclusive character of the liberty for which he deemed it his duty to contend. Hence, too, the nature of his influence in the humble sphere in which he moved ; an influence which the constitution of his church, from her admission of lay members to deliberate in her courts, and to direct her discipline, tended powerfully to increase ; it was not more intellectual than moral, nor moral than intellectual. He was respected not only as one of the best, but also as one of the most intelligent men of the parish, and impressed the tone of his own character on that of his contemporaries. But a thorough, though noiseless revolution has taken place,—new sources of intelligence have been opened up,—it is the newspaper and the magazine, not the Catechism and the Confession of Faith, that are now stereotyped on the public mind ; and the older and better source, under the influence of causes which it might prove a melancholy’, but no uninstructive task to trace, seems to have lost much of its efficacy. But on questions so open to prejudice, there must obtain an immense variety of opinion ; almost every one would hold -the balance after his own fashion, and decide differently regarding the result; nor is the subject one of those which can be discussed in a single paragraph, nor by a common pen.