The 1st Statistical Account

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PARISH OF ALNESS

(COUNTY AND SYNOD OF ROSS, AND PRESBYTERY OF DINGWALL)

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. Mr. ANGUS BETHUNE, Minister.

Population
The number of persons now living in this parish is 1121; of these, 800 are examinable, or above seven years of age.

Abstract of the baptisms, marriages, and burials, for the four years immediately preceding the 1st of January I795:

Years

Baptisms

Marriages

Burials

1791

30

11

10

1792

27

5

8

1793

31

9

11

1794

28

8

13

The population is rather on the increase, the population in 1755 amounting to 1090; the difference only 31.

Previous to the admission and settlement of the present incumbent, which took place in September 1771, the ministers of this parish since the Revolution were: Mr John Fraser, Mr Daniel Mackilligan, and Mr James Fraser, all worthy and excellent men, and successful preachers of the Gospel. The last, in particular, was a clergyman of profound erudition as well as piety, and distinguished for great ability and acuteness in sacred criticism.

State of the Church, &c.
The church was rebuilt 15 years ago, and neatly finished. It still continues to be a decent and comfortable placc of worship. A new manse, superior to the generality of ministers’ houses, has been built two years ago; and so cordially were the heritors disposed to grant such good accommodation, that no application was made to the presbytery for their interposition. The stipend is 128 bolls of victual, L.36, 1Os. Sterling in money, with an allowance of L.5 Sterling for communion-elements; and as the minister feels, so he cannot help expressing, much gratitude to all the heritors, who, far from opposing his getting an augmentation of stipend, voluntarily concurred in his application to the Court of Teinds.

State of the Poor
The number of poor upon the roll of the parish is considerable, being above 70 persons. The fund for their partial support and relief arises from the weekly collections, which will amount to about L.20 Sterling per annum, and the interest of L.124, a late donation by pious persons connected with the parish. Since the year 1774, General Sir Hector Munro of Novar has ordered a very liberal and charitable bounty of 12 bolls oat- meal to be annually distributed among the poor of the parish, which frequently proves a very seasonable supply,* and it is owing to the stated and exemplary attendance of the residing heritors on public worship, that the weekly collections amount to the sum already mentioned, which is far superior to the collections of neighbouring country parishes. One instance this of the many happy effects, of which the regular attendance of the higher ranks, on the sacred institutions of religion, would be productive.

* Psalm xcii. 9.

Schools
There are three schools in the parish. A parochial school near the church, in which 60 children are usually taught. The schoolmaster’s salary is 200 merks Scots; but his income, including his appointments of session-clerk and precentor, together with the emoluments of the school, will be above L.20 Sterling. In the higher parts of the parish, there are two schools established by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge; one for instructing children in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and another for teaching young girls spinning, sewing, and knitting stockings. In both, there are about 60 boys and girls generally taught.

Ores
On the property of Andrew Munro of Lealdie has been discovered an iron ore, which, from appearances, seems to be of considerable extent. It is also of a rich quality. A sample of it, which has been sent to the Carron Company, at their own desire, produced 75 lb. iron per cwt. The rock is of easy access, but is three miles distant from the shore. It may, however, at some future time, become a source of considerable benefit to the proprietor.

Character of the People
The people are naturally judicious and acute, possesing considerable vigour of mental faculties. They are also, on the whole, industrious and sober, and, with a few exceptions, of good morals. They abstain carefully from profane swearing, and rarely utter an oath. To the Sabbath they pay a sacred regard; many of them are devoutly disposed, and seem to feel deep impressions of religion on their hearts. They all belong to the Established Church, and discover no particular propensity to fanatical sectarism. It must be confessed, however, that some of them do not distinguish as they ought, between the means and the end of religion; an error not uncommon where religion is most professed.

Language
The Gaelic or Erse language is generally spoken by the country people, and is their native tongue. The English, however, has made very considerable progress in the parish for 20 years back, owing to the benefit received from the number of schools planted in it much about that time. The heritors and higher ranks seldom speak Gaelic, but some of them understand it so well, as to be able to converse with such of their tenants as have no English.

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