The 1st Statistical Account

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Parish of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden

(Counties of Cromarty and Ross,* Synod of Ross, Presbytery of Chanonry) * A small part only of this parish is in the county 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

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 Mr Robert Arthur

Name, Situation, Extent, &c.
This parish had formerly been divided into three, Kirkmichael, Cullicudden and St. Martin’s, as appears not only from old charters and tradition, but from the burial grounds and remains of the old churches still visible in each of them. St. Martin’s had been first annexed to Cullicudden, as both (under the name of Cullicudden) were afterward united to Kirkmichael, about the end of the last century. Keil – Mhichel and Keill – Mhartin, the Gaelic names of Kirkmichael and St. Martin’s, signify the burying-places of Michael and Martin, who were probably the two Popish Saints to whom the churches were dedicated. Couill-chuitin (contracted for Couill-chutigin), the Gaelic name of Cullicudden, signifies, the Nook, or Creek of Cuddies, a small delicate species of fish, well known on all the coasts of Scotland, which, during summer and beginning of harvest, are caught in great numbers along the shore of Cullicudden, particularly in a small creek a little above the old kirk. This parish lies on the S. side of the Frith of Cromarty, and in that part of the sheriffdom of Ross and Cromarty distinguished by the names of an eilein dubh (or black isle), and aird-mheadhonach (i.e. high in the middle, or high midland ), both of which give a very just description of its situation and appearance, as it is of a peninsular form, nearly surrounded by the Friths of Cromarty and Fort-George, rising gently from the shores of both, to a considerabe height in the middle from E. to W.; and 4-fifths of it being as yet uncultivated, and producing nothing but short dwarf heath, give a black and dreary appearance to the whole, notwithstanding the finely situated and highly improved gentlemen’s seats with which it abounds. This parish is nearly 8 miles in length from E. to W., and 3 miles in breadth from N. to S.; bounded on the N. by the Frith of Cromarty, and on the S. by the ridge of the Mull-bui, or that extensive track of common which stretches along the summit af the Black Isle, from the Mains of Cromarty almost to the county road that leads from the Ferry of Scuddal to the Ferry of Bewley; being almost 16 miles in length from E. to W., and 2 in breadth from N. to S. As a great part of this very large, and almost useless common, requires nothing but the plough to bring it into culture, and as the whole of it is peculiarly adapted for growing Scotch fir, larix, oak, &c., it is truly astonishing that it should remain undivided till now.

Soil, Agriculture, &c.
The soil is various, as might be expected in such an extent of surface, but what mostly prevails is a black light loam, on a stratum of till, above a hard gravelly clay, which renders it very wet, and unfit for tillage in winter and spring, and generally prevents the farmers from sowing before the end of March, or reaping before the middle or end of September. On a considerable part of the farms lying on the shore and wester end of the parish, where the soil is light and sandy, on a free-stone bottom, oats are sown the beginning of March, barley and pease in April, and often reaped in the beginning of August. The farmers here, averse to fallowing, green crops, enclosures and winter herding, continue the same plan of agriculture that was practised a century ago. Many of them, indeed, have sown small patches of clover in their little gardens for several years past, but none of them, excepting 2, ever attempt to fallow, or sow green-crops or grass-feeds in their fields, in consequence of which these fields are over-run with weeds, particularly quickens (or joint-weed); and their crops are very light, in proportion to their sowing, as they have not, at an average (save on the shores) above 31/2 returns of barley, and 21/4 of oats and pease. Instead of Kellachye carts, with wicker-baskets of a conical form, and the Scotch plough, of a bad construction, many of the farmers begin to use small box-carts with spoke-wheels, and a small chain plough, with feathered-sock and curved mould-board. On farms of 20 bolls and upwards, the plough is drawn by 6 or 8 oxen in bows and yokes, and, on lesser farms, by 2 horses, 2 oxen, and 2 cows, or by 2 horses and 2 cows. The farms are generally small, consisting of from 10 to 50 acres of arable land, of which the rents are from 6 to 36 bolls, besides money for vicarage and schoolmaster’s salary; with wedders, straw, tarf, hens, chickens and eggs, either in kind or at a moderate conversion. With only one exception, a lease was never given in this parish for a longer period than 7 years, till, in the year 1782, the late Mr. George Munro gave leases to 2 tenants for 19 and 21 years : Since that time, many leases have been given on the estate of Newhall for 21 years, besides melioration for enclosing the farms, and bringing moor into arable land.*

* As there has been no moss in this parish for near a century past, the men and horses have been constantly employed, during summer, in cutting, drying. and carrying home sandy turfs, or divots, from the Muall-bui, which, at best, is but a wretched kind of fuel, and often rendered useless by a few days’ rain, after all the expense of time and labour bestowed upon it. When the season is rainy, as often happens in this country, the situation of the people in this, and the neighbouring parishes, is truly deplorable, during the next winter and spring. From recollecting their former miseries and hardships for want of fuel, there is, at present, an uncommon degree of joy diffused among all ranks, and especially the poor, by the late irnportant and truly patriotic act of Parliament, which takes off the late duty on all coals water borne to the N. of St. Abb’s Head, a tax which was partial and impolitic in the extreme, and has proved most inimical to the agriculture, manufactures and happiness of the northern part of the British empire. As the north of Scotland has long distinguished itself in sending forth its thousands of brave and hardy sons to recruit our armies on every appearance of public danger, it is now to be hoped, from the many navigable friths with which it is intersected, the number of people with which its coasts and glens are inhabited, and the free importation of coals, that its manufactures and trade will rapidly increase, and soon enable it to contribute a great number of hardy seamen, as well as soldiers, to repel the enemies of British liberty and property.-From the superior quality of the grain, and the great quantity of barley distilled in the Black Isle, the price of barley and meal is generally higher in this than in any parish to the north of it. In 1783, meal and barley sold from 16s. to 24s. the boll, and many were in great want of bread, before the supply of grain voted by Parliament, arrived; since that period, meal and pease have sold from 12s. to 18s. the boll, and barley from 14s. to 19s. Wheat is seldom sown, except in small quantities, by the residing heritors, for the use of their own families.

As the wages of servants, day-labourers and tradesmen, with the prices of provisions, are much the same in this, as mentioned in the Statistical Accounts of adjacent parishes, already published, tbe reader is referred to those for information.

From the want of fuel, manufactures, lime and other means of improving their situation, the inhabitants of this parish are so poor, that there are not above 3 farmers in it who use a bit of butcher meat, a fowl, or a bottle of beer in their family, from one end of the year to the other; nor is there 20 stone of butter and cheese made by them altogether in a season. Potatoes, flummery, bread and brochan, a little cabbage, with potatoes, once and generally twice a-day, for 9 months, is their invariable bill of fare.

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