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

By the Rev. Roderick Mckenzie.

Miscellaneous Observations
There is one large cove in this parish, at a place called Craig-a-chow (a name given it for its famous echo) at the entrance to the bay of Munlochy; it is very large and reaches far into the rock, so far indeed that the farmers in the neighbourhood were obliged to shut it up toward the hill with rubbish, for, when their sheep and goats strayed into it, they were never again seen nor heard of. The mouth of the cave was made up with stone and lime several years ago, by traders who secured and secreted smuggled goods in it, but since that contraband trade has been abolished on this coast, the mason work is fallen to decay. The cave could easily contain, I am told, a whole ship’s cargo.*

*In this cave, there is a spring of water to which the superstitious part of the people attribute a medical effect, and still repair to it on the first Sunday of every quarter, for a cure to any malady or disease under which they happen to labour. The water is said to be particularly famous for restoring the sense of hearing by pouring a few drops of it into the affected ear, but this, in my opinion, must be owing to the cold and piercing quality of the water forcing its way through the obstructions of the ear. The coldness of this water is greater than any I ever tasted and no wonder, for the sun shines upon it, and it oozes through a considerable body of rock.


There is a good deal of sea ware or wrack along the coast, which is seldom converted into kelp. The farmers use it for barley, and potatoes are always soft and watery that grow upon it. I am told it is excellent manure for raising kail. There are 8 mills for grinding corn in this parish; 2 of these are wrought by the salt water. There are but 2 lakes, one of them, considerably above the level of the sea, is called the loch of Pitlundy. The neighbouring people allege that there have been water cows seen in or about this lake, but it is of too small an extent to give any shadow of credibity to such an assertion. In several parts of this parish, quarries of freestone have been found, and wrought with success, and all the moors abound with plenty of grey stone fit for building houses and stone fences. For an half mile to the W. of the village of Munlochy, which lies at the head of the bay, there are evident traces of the sea’s having once covered that rich and fertile flat, such as beds of shells, etc, but there is none now living who remembers to have seen that ground overflowed by the sea at any period.

Prices, Wages, Etc.
Mutton fells from 3½d. and 4d. down to 3d. and 2½d. the pound. Beef and pork fell at the same rate. Hens at 6d. There is little butter and cheese sold here. These articles are bought at the neighbouring markets at 10s. 6d. the stone of butter, and from 4s. to 5s. the stone of cheese.*

*Day-labourers get 5d. in summer and harvest, and 7d. in winter, a-day; an out-servant gets 6 bolls of meal of 9 stones to the boll, and from 4L. to 5L. wages, with some potatoes, ground, a house and some fuel. House servants get from 4L. to 4L. 10s., and the common servants who work at the farm get from 20s. to 30s. in the year.

Advantages and Disadvantages
One great advantage which this parish enjoys, arises from its being in the near neighbourhood of Inverness, from which it is only divided by a narrow kyle of the sea, over which there is a regular ferry-boat renting 128L Sterling. There the inhabitants get a ready-money market for any commodity they have to offer for sale, and get to purchase any article they wish for, with little trouble and no little loss of time.

Another arises from the close neighbourhood of Fairntosh, from whence there is a constant demand for their barley for making whisky. Another advantage is that there is great plenty of freestone quarries in the parish, and great abundance of clay for building comfortable houses and fencing their fields. Mr Mckenzie of Kilcoy has been making brick of some of this clay for 2 years past for his own use. They have answered exceedingly well, and a manufacture of this kind could be established to large extent on his estate, within a quarter of a mile of the sea. Another is that the inhabitants have water-carriage for any heavy articles they may need, either by Kessock or Munlochy bay. And the last I shall mention is, that the parish every where abounds with great plenty of fresh water, sufficient not only for the use of the inhabitants, but for carrying on any manufacture that might be established among them, that required such an aid.

The disadvantages, on the other hand, are many. The greatest, and that which is most sensibly felt by the inhabitants, arises from the want of fuel, the whole mosses in the parish being quite exhausted, and the people’s having recourse to nothing else to make up this want, but the purchasing of a few young planted firs which have little last, and as little warmth or heat in them. The second arises from the want of limestone to help to manure the lands, or any marl, except on the estates of Kilcoy and Bellmaduthy, which, from its scarcity, has been wholly confined to their own mains, and when and where applied, has been found to answer well. A third disadvantage arises from the want of manufactures There are several eligible stations for establishing manufactures in this parish, especially a woollen or linen manufacture which might be carried on here to any extent. Indeed there are 2 stations in this parish so naturally calculated for such a business, that it is rather surprising that they should, till now, be quite neglected; the one of these is at the village of Munlochy, where there is plenty of fresh water to work any machinery, a plain of a considerable extent, at least 100 acres, through every part of which water may be carried with the greatest ease, and it is surrounded with a fine green bank facing the S. for drying clothes, within less than a quarter of a mile of the sea, and in the midst of a populous country where the inhabitants are desirous of employment; and Mr. McKenzie of Kilcoy, the proprietor, I am well persuaded, would encourage a company on liberal terms to set up a manufacture there. There other station is on the shore of Kessock, opposite to the town of Inverness, the property of Mr. Grant of Redcastle. Ships of any burden can come quite close to that shore, and Mr Grant has told me that he would feu out the ground on his property along the shore, on easy terms, to such tradesmen as would wish to settle there, and give a manufacturer all due encouragement.

This place is also surrounded by a vast number of people. The last disadvantage I shall condescend upon arises from the smallness of the farms and shortness of the leases; but this I well know is owing to the poverty and indolence of the present inhabitants, and I am well convinced, if gentlemen farmers, possessed of capitals, came to settle in this place, they would meet with all due encouragement, both as to leases and melioration, from the proprietors, who all wish to encourage agriculture; and I am persuaded, that such adventures would find, upon trial, that it would turn out to their own private advantage.

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