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


* Drawn up by James Flyter, A.M., Alness


Half a century has now nearly elapsed since the former Statistica1 Account was written, and in that space of time changes more or less must have taken place in all parts of the country. In this parish many important improvements have been effected. That a great change for the better has taken place in the method of cultivating the soil is sufficiently attested by the fact, that, within the period alluded to, it has more than doubled its value. This is to be attributed partly, perhaps, to an improvement in the implements of husbandry, but principally, we believe, to a better and more regular alternation of cropping, to the use of lime, before unknown, and to the more general introduction of drainage. A change no less marked has also been effected in the means communication throughout the parish; for where not many years ago, there existed only imperfect tracts, impassable in winter, from their forming the channel to some mountain torrent, and almost equally so in summer from the stones left by the winter stream, there are now to be found excellent roads, affording an easy passage to any species of conveyance.

The general aspect of the parish has also been greatly improved by the cultivation of large tracts of land, and by the plantation of an immense quantity of wood, principally of the larch and Scotch fir species, which are already covering the sides of the hills, formerly bleak and rugged, with thick masses of evergreen.

On the estate of Novar, since the property came into the hands of the present proprietor, four million and a half of trees have been planted. They are chiefly of the larch and Scotch fir species, but comprehend also a number of kinds of forest and ornamental wood.


There is no entire village in this parish. The village o£ Alness is divided nearly equally between this and the neighbouring parish of Rosskeen, by the river of the same name, which forms the eastern boundary of Alness. In that part of this village which belongs to Rosskeen, a market is held monthly, principally for the purpose of disposing of cattle.

Ecclesiastical State
The church is situated in the southern extremity of the parish, being only about a mile distant from the shores of the Frith. It thus apparently occupies a situation inconvenient for the people, the parish stretching to a great distance northward. The individuals who chose the present site were, however, justified in so far in placing it in the district in which it stands, as it is by far the most populous one in the parish. The present place of worship was built in the year 1780, but having been repaired at three different periods since then, it is still in pretty good condition, and is seated for about 800. All the people of the Parish belong to the Established Church, and are, with scarcely a single exception, regular in their attendance in public worship. The number of communicants belonging to the parish is about 60.

There are, altogether, four schools within the bounds of this parish, which, for the educational wants of a population of more than 1400, may be considered a very ample provision. The principal school is the parochial one, which is built quite close to the church, and the teacher of which is qualified to instruct the scholars in the higher branches of education commonly taught throughout the country. The number of scholars attending varies considerably at different periods of the year. In summer, the average number is 40; in winter, it is upwards of 60. The schoolmaster’s salary is the minimum, but, including school fees, and the provision made for the session clerkship, the yearly income may amount to L.50. Of the other three schools alluded to, two are endowed, one of them being supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and the other by the General Assembly’s Education Committee. In both these the numbers vary with the different seasons of the year. The average number for the whole year may, however, be stated for the former at 35; in the latter, it amounts to 50. The fourth school is a female one; it is taught in the village, and is pretty well attended, but has no regular endowment,

State of the poor
The poor of this parish are better provided for than those of most of the neighbouring parishes. So much is this the case, that many instances have occurred of individuals who are obliged to live by the charity of others coming to reside this parish the necessary time in order to have their name added to the list of recipients. The number at present on the poor’s roll is about 70. The fund for their parish support and relief varies principally from the weekly collections, which no amount yearly to the average sum of L.50, and partly from the interest of small sums of money left by various individuals which, were they all paid up, would amount to about L.400.

The circumstances of the poor have, moreover, been greatly ameliorated of late years, in consequence of the residence in the parish of Major-General Munro of Teaninich. The exertions of this gentleman on behalf of the poor and afflicted are indefatigable. Not confiding himself to mere pecuniary contribution, the amount of which, to men of wealth is in general a thing of very little consequence, he administers to their relief by daily personal visits, by supplying them with medicines, distributing among them meal and other provisions, and by providing them with fuel during the rigour of winter season. The tendency of this mode of bestowing charity is to excite in the minds of those benefited a sense of gratitude, which is unquestionably conferring a greater and more lasting benefit to the poorer classes, than the granting of pecuniary aid, to whatever amount, on the mere principle of legal assessment of taxation .

Till of late, peats and wood were the articles of fuel almost exclusively in use, but since trading by means of vessels in the frith has become common, considerable quantities of coals, both English and Scotch, have been imported, and consumed in the lower parts of the parish. The population of the more highland districts, having peat mosses in their immediate neighbourhood, still continue to employ that species of fuel.

February 1840.

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