The 1st Statistical Account

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(County and Synod of Ross Presybtery of Chanonory)

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 First Statistical Account (1790)
On the 25 May 1790, Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness wrote to over nine hundred Parish ministers throughout Scotland asking them to contribute to a Statistical Inquiry by answering as best they could,a series of one hundred and sixty-six Queries respecting each Parish.

By the Rev. Roderick Mckenzie.

Name, extent, Climate, Soil, Etc. –
KILMUIR is a Gaelic name, signifying “a church dedicated to Mary”. It has Wester affixed to it, to distinguish it from a parish of the name of Kilmuir, situated in Easter Ross, within 6 miles of Tain, which is near the extremity of this county. Suddy is a Gaelic name also, that signifies “a good place to settle in” both from its fertility and local situation. The kirk and manse of Kilmuir were built on the S. side of the parish, close by that branch of the Murray Firth, leading towards Beauly, commanding a view of the town of Inverness, the place of Culloden, Fort George, and all the way along that coast to the town of Forres, and for a beautiful situation was inferior to no place in this country.

The kirk and manse of Suddy were built to the N. side of the parish, in the heart of a rich and fertile country.* This parish, which now goes commonly by the name of Knockbain (from the kirk and manse being built on a spot of ground of that name), is rather irregular in its form, being divided by a branch of the Murray that goes toward Beauly, called the Bay of Munlochy. It is also covered on the N. and N.W. by a part of the parish of Killearnan, for at least 2 English miles. Its length from E. to W. is supposed to be from 5 to 6 miles, and from S. to N. from 6 to 7. The air is clear and falubripus, which is in a great measure owing to the immense quantity of open country and moors, which still lie uncultivated in this parish, and to there being no high mountains, nor any large tracks of wood to prevent the free circulation of the air. The inhabitants are healthy, and subject to no diseases but such as are peculiar to their neighbours. The nature of the cultivated soil is various; that along the sea coast is thin stony, but, when properly cultivated, yields good crops of grass and corn, especially if the summer months be moist and rainy; that in the middle of the parish is deep, rich, and having a clay bottom, produces luxuriant crops on such farms as are kept in a good state of culture. 

As it extends toward the Mulbuy (a long track of common, extending from Cromarty to the public road leading from Beauly to Dingwall, and covering a considerable part of this parish to the N.) the soil, though good, from its high situation is cold; and though it yields tolerable crops of oats and pease, the barley crops are generally poor, owing, in a great measure to the wetness of the ground, and no drains nor fences being made to carry off the hill-waters, or shelter the fields, excepting on the heritor’s mains, as also from the people’s not giving it a sufficient quantity of good and rich manure. This parish, not withstanding, yields a much greater quantity of grain than is sufficient to support the inhabitants, and from the grain being always early sown, and as early gathered in at harvest, it is found to be of a superior quality for the brewer, the distiller, and mealmonger, and being in the close neighbourhood of the town of Inverness, it is sure of a really market. The whole of the harvest last year, though late all over England and Scotland, was safely ingathered in this parish before the 1st of October, although exposed in some of the neighbouring parishes till the middle of November.

*These two parishes, together with the parish of Killernan, were united in the year 1756, at the joint request and application of all the heritors (except Mr. McKenzie of Suddy), and of the 3 incumbents, viz Mr. Donald Fraser of Killernan, Mr Munro of Suddy, and Mr. Robert Munro of Kilmuir, to the Lords of Council and Session, as commissioners for the plantation of kirks and valuations of teinds, and upon the death of the minister of Suddy, which happened in 1762, the kirk and manse of the united parishes of Kilmuir and Suddy were built upon a bleak and barren moor, to the S. side of Munlochy, called, by way of burlesque, Knockbain, where it had a glebe affixed to it of considerable extent, but of little value. This place, no doubt, was chosen for the minister’s comfort or advantage. The stipend of the three parishes was equally divided on the death of Mr. Munro of Suddy, which happened in May 1762, between the minister of Killearnan, and the minister of the united parishes, and a considerable part of the parish of Kilmuir, and a small part of the parish of Suddy, were disjoined from it and annexed to the united parish of Kilmuir and Suddy. One thing worthy of remark in this division of the parishes, is that in order to make the stipend payable to the minister of Killernan, although the minister of the united parish is obliged to perform every part of the pastoral office quad sacra, and the inhabitants of the town accommodated with room in the church of the united parish [processor has omitted end of this paragraph]

The small-pox generally makes dreadful havock among the children, and times in a great measure owing to the aversion the common people have at inoculation, which, I am told, has never been practised here, but by the gentlemen and such of their dependents as have been prevailed upon, by earnest persausion and entreaty, to permit their children to be inoculated. However, it is to be expected, that as the people become a bit more acquainted with this happy mean, which has already saved the lives of thousands, and see its salutary effects, that they may be brought to yield to the practice of it, and so save the lives of their own young ones.

According to Dr. Webster's report,

the population in 1755 was


The number of souls at present in this parish is


of these there are above the age of 10 years


and below 10 years


of which there are males




of the above 704, there are 341 above the age of 15.

Number of marriages

In 1791


In 1792



In 1791


In 1792*


The number of tenants is 106,

cottagers and mealers 404;

of these there is 1 merchant,

62 widows,

13 widowers,

49 shoe and brog-makers,

5 smiths,

17 squre and cart-wrights and millers,

11 maiden lasses keeping house,

3 bachelors keeping house

41 weavers,

18 tailors,


regular in at Kessockferry,

6 distillers of whisky,

1 ferry,

with a sufficient number of boatmen.

*There are many more children born in this parish than the number contained in this report, such as baptized by the Episcopal clergymen, and the names of those children are not engrossed in the parish register. I suppose they keep no register of their own, so that the number cannot be ascertained with any degree of exactness, but may be supposed at 10. No account at all can be given of the number of deaths in the parish, as there is no register of burials kept besides that of many of the inhabitants in the neighbouring church yards, although there be two burial places in the same parish, one at Suddy, and one at Kilmuir. The people of this parish, in general, are healthy though not long lived. There are few instances of men’s arriving at the age of 80 years; and this may be owing to their being inured to hard labour from their youth, from their eating little or none of butcher meat, and but very little milk; the principal food of the common people being oatmeal and potatoes, with a little fish in the fishing season. There are a few women now living in this parish, who have attained to the age of 90 years.

This ferry is the property of Mr. Grant of Redcastle, who is to build a pier and an inn, and stables at the ferry, for the accommodation of the public, which, with proper boats, will cost between 700 L. and 800 L. Sterling.

The population of this parish has, of late years, considerably increased, and this to be chiefly attributed to the encouragment given by the family of Kilcoy to mealers and cottagers on the estate. This plan was originally adopted by Mrs. McKenzie, Dowager of Kilcoy, during the minority of her son, and carried on with spirit and success; and as there is still a considerable quantity of waste lands in his property, that is fit for culture, he continues to encourage these new settlers upon liberal and advantageous terms, least to himself and them.*

*There are no Papists, Seceders, Methodists, nor any other religious left from the Established Church in this parish, except about Episcopalians, who have a chapel of their own, and a clergyman to preach to them once in 20 days. This clergyman regularly administers the sacraments, and marries his own hearers, but never without a line from the session-clerk of his parish, certifying the parties having been proclaimed, and the dues paid.

United Parishes of Kilmuir Wester and Suddy continue reading

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