The 2nd Statistical Account

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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



The distribution of males among the several employments is as follows: farmers, 15; cottars, 19; labourers, 64; employed in agriculture in all stations, 155; in trade and manufactures, 60; 1 auctioneer or appraiser; 6 blacksmiths; 5 masons; 7 carpenters; 1 wheel-wright, above eighty years of age, still found working at his turning-loom; 6 sawers; 2 millers; 6 innkeepers, of retailers of beer and whisky; 16 shoe and brogue-makers; 2 shopkeepers; 8 tailors; and 17 weavers. There are about 52 female servants in constant service, and other females in the parish are employed by the day, in field labours, by the principal farmers, when their services are required, but who, when not so employed, live either in houses by themselves or with their parent, occupying their time in spinning flax of wool, of which they make webs for sale, and thus contriving to support themselves by their own industry.

The improvement in agriculture in this parish within the last sixteen years has been very great, particularly on the estate of Redcastle, where it is now carried on with great spirit, and in a very substantial manner. The lands are laid out and cultivated in the most modern style, and the appearance of the fields is now very different, indeed, from what it was even twelve years ago. There are now many scores of acres yielding wheat and green crops, which were then useless, without any other cover than short heath and broom. Both the heritors are liberal in giving encouragement to their tenants in improving waste lands, by allowing them L.5 Sterling for every Scots acre they improve, and leaving it in their possession during the currency of their lease, without rent. Nearly the whole arable lands of the estate of Redcastle, with a considerable part of the waste lands, are in the possession of six principal farmers or tacksmen. These farms are now worked by horses, from two to six pair for each farm. The three largest of these farms were formerly occupied by small tenants, each paying a rent of from L.12 to L.60, L.70 and 80. Some twelve or fourteen of these small tenants occupied among them what is now in the occupancy of one individual. These farms have been laid off with regular boundaries, and are subdivided into regular fields. New steadings of the most complete description, with comfortable dwelling-houses, have either been built, are building, or are about to be built, on these farms on the Redcastle property. Substantial stone dikes have been built, and are building, around the several subdivisions of the farms. Similar improvements are in progress on the estate of Kilcoy, and I understand, that both the tenants and the crofters have got lease of from nineteen to twenty-one years, so that when the proposed improvements are completed, few parishes will present a more highly cultivated appearance than the parish of Killearnan. The principal tenants raise heavy crops of wheat, barley, oats, rye, pease, beans, potatoes, turnips, and clover, in great abundance. The returns are various, as the season varies. If the summer be dry, the returns may be from three to four, but if the summer be warm and rainy, the returns may then be from six to eight.

The rent per acre of the large farms may average L.2 or L.2. 2s. The average rent per acre of the Kilcoy lands, though not yet so highly cultivated (they are liming) may be from L.1. 15s to L.2. The remuneration of the farmer varies, of course, with the markets.

There are no fish-curers in this parish, though a few boats go every season for a few months to the Caithness herring fishing, at great risk, and great previous out-fits; they succeed pretty well some seasons, and at other times they return with considerable loss.

The principal farmers rear upon their own farms their own horses and cattle, necessary for the farming purposes. From which stock, they are able to sell a yearly portion of each kind. In the end of harvest, they buy a good many young cattle for the consumption of their straw, and sell them at the summer markets, sometimes with considerable profit. They also by in cattle and sheep for feeding on turnip, for the fleshers at Inverness. The sheep are fed in folds on the field; and the cattle are fed in stalls in their squares.

The average amount and value of raw produce yearly raised in the parish, as nearly as can be ascertained, is as follows:

Wheat, 270 Scots acres, giving 7 imperial bolls each acre, the average price for the last three years being L1. 4s each boll

L.1950. 0. 0

Barley, 140 acres, at 5 imperial quarters each, average price for the last three years L.1. 8s per quarter

L. 980. 0. 0

Oats and rye, 200 Scots acres, at 5 imperial quarters each acre, average price for the last three years L.1. 1s each equal to

L1522.10. 0

Turnip, 100 Scots acres, at L.5 each acre

L. 500. 0. 0

Potatoes, 60 Scots acres, at L.6 each acre

L. 360. 0. 0

Clover for hay, 400 acres, valued at L.5 per acre

L2000. 0. 0

Pastured yearly by 450 cows, the remaining arable at L.4 each besides the working horses and some young ones sold, with sheep and pigs

L. 300. 0. 0

Annual thinnings of woods and quarries may be equal, with garden returns, to

L. 120. 0. 0


There are no manufactures of any description carried on in this parish. Only individuals purchase wool and flax, dress and spin it, get it weaved in the parish, clothe themselves by it, and the remainder not so used is sold at the public markets.

There are no ships, the property of individuals residing in the parish, employed in trade, except two; a schooner and a sloop belonging to the tacksman of Lettoch have been, within the last eight years, employed by him in the timber and coal trade betwixt this and Newcastle.

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