The 2nd Statistical Account
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PARISH OF EDDERTOUN*
(Presbytery of Tain, Synod of Ross)
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty
The Second Statistical Account (1840)
The New (or Second) Statistical Account of Scotland built on the previous work carried out by Sir John Sinclair for the First Statistical Accounts by including the knowledge of local doctors and schoolmasters. The Second Statistical Accounts were published between 1834 and 1845.
By the Rev Donald Gordon, Minister**
*The writer owes his grateful acknowledgements to Mr Rowand of the Theological Library, in the University of Edinburgh, and to the Rev Hew Scott, MA, minister of Wester Anstruther, for much useful information and friendly assistance afforded him while engaged in this Statistical Account.
**Drawn up by A.S.A. and revised by the Minister
I. – Topography and Natural History
This parish derives its name from its situation, being surrounded on all sides except the north by hills, and those round towers called Dunes or Burghs. The Celtic orthography is Eadar Duin, which signifies between hills or dunes, and the word is compounded of the preposition eadar (between or betwixt) and duin, the plural of the substantive dun (a hill or fortified house). Eddertoun has been written at different periods Edirdoun, Edirdovar, Etherthane, Eddirtayn, and sometimes Nether-tayne
Extent – Boundaries –
The parish, which is situated in the county of Ross, is 10 miles in length, and about 8 in its greatest breadth. It is bounded on the east and south by the parishes of Tain, Logie-Easter, Kilmuir-Easter, and Rosskeen; on the west by the parish of Kincardine; and the Dornoch Frith washes its coast on the north.
Topographical Appearances –
The principal expanse of the parish, containing most of the arable land, consists of three ledges, surrounded by hills – the Hill of Eddertoun or Cambuscurry (Camus-Cari, the harbour of Carius) to the east; Cnoc-an-t-sabhal (the hill of the barn) to the south; Muidhe-Blarie (the churn of the plains) to the south-west; and the Hill of Struie (probably from Struidh, wasting or unproductive, which is just the character of the soil) to the west. The first of these, which is about 600 feet above the level of the sea, and the last, upwards of 1000 feet, are within this parish; and the other two, the former of which is about the height of Struie, and the latter nearly 300 feet higher, are, “as wind and water fall”, boundaries betwixt this and the neighbouring parishes. Between these hills there are, together with the frith, six passes; by two of them, towards the sea, is the Parliamentary road from Bonar Bridge to Tain; by other two, below Muidhe-Bhlairie, the road from Bonar Bridge to Dingwall passes; the remaining two, Lairg (lorg, a footpath) and Strath-rory (Strath- ruaridh or uaradh, Strath of Roderick or Fox, or rather of Water-Spouts) have no roads, though the public advantage of a road in both, and especially in the former, has been much felt and generally admitted. A committee of the road trustees of Easter-Ross inspected the ground two years ago, and the principal hindrance in carrying this public and important improvement into effect is some difference of opinion about the exact line which ought to be adopted – a difference which no doubt the intelligent individuals concerned will ere long judiciously adjust for the public good. The lower ledge runs along the whole length of the parish, including the shore of the Cambuscurry bay eastward, and the Fearns (Fearna, the alder tree) beyond Struie, to the boundary towards Kincardine, westward, and bears evident marks, from the character of the soil and other circumstances, of having been at one period, though, perhaps, a very remote one, under the sea; accordingly the lower parts are rich alluvial soil, excepting near the shore, where it becomes sandy. The second ledge, especially on the higher side, is shallow and gravelly, but when properly cultivated it yields in average seasons sure and remunerating returns. Within this range there are hundreds of acres not worth a penny per annum, which if cultivated would pay to the proprietor at least five per cent immediately, and at no distant period ten per cent, for outlays judiciously made. The third and highest ledge contains in many parts, especially at Ramore (Rath-mor, the great circle or enclosure) and Little Daan (Daan Bheag, the smaller of the two flats or lower grounds), better soil for cultivation, but from its altitude there is such a difference of climate, that it is exposed in no ordinary degree to all the evils of late springs and uncertain harvests. In the years 1837 and 1838 the tenants there lost almost all their potato crop, and their oats were unproductive.
From the summit of each of the hills mentioned above, the view in clear weather is very extensive, picturesque, and interesting. The hill of Struie being most accessible from the public road is frequently ascended for this purpose, and from a pinnacle called the Lady’s Seat, considerable portions of nine counties are within the range of an ordinary telescope. Beyond Struie, towards Kincardine, lies the beautiful and romantic valley of the Fearns; the hills of Corryfearn (Coire-fearna, the glen of the alder tree); Cnoc-lagan (the hill of ravines or hollows); and Garvary (Garbh-‘Airidh, the coarse hill pasturage), on the summit of which last the parish terminates in that direction; and as these hills rise in some parts almost abruptly from the road, the effect is more imposing and impressive.
The shore is sandy, excepting where the Struie hill descends to the water’s edge, and there it is rocky. Cambuscurry Bay, where a Danish invading fleet once anchored, is now not above a fathom deep at high water, and possibly the extent of land recoverable would compensate for the expense of shutting out the sea altogether. An enterprising gentleman, whose improvements in roads, cultivations etc are well known, and who possesses extensive estates in the county – Mr Ross of Cromarty – it is understood, proposed to undertake this task, if the other neighbouring proprietors would co-operate.
In Summer Fahrenheit’s thermometer averages from 57 to 70, but in frost, the range is from 20 to 32. It has occasionally, though very rarely, been as low as 12, and February 1837, at eleven p.m., it actually fell to 6. The general range of the barometer is betwixt 28.5 and 30.5, so that the average may be stated at 29.5. It has been as high as 30.9, and as low as 27.8, but these are extremes which it approaches but seldom.
From the number and heights of the hills, already described as bounding the parish towards the east, south, and west, there falls a greater quantity of rain, particularly in the heights of the parish, than in any similar extent of Easter Ross. The general temperature of the atmosphere is, from the same causes, proportionably low. From the nature of the soil, however, this is of much advantage to the lower ground, which, to be productive, requires frequent showers, and the climate, generally speaking, is favourable and healthy.
It is remarkable how seldom storms of thunder and lightning occur, and especially when contrasted with the frequency of such phenomena in the neighbouring county of Sutherland. The aurora borealis or polar lights, when visible on the coast of the northern counties, appear to great advantage in most parts of this parish. That rare phenomenon, a lunar iris, was visible here about six years ago, and the beautiful colours of the rainbow, though subdued and chastened by the pale light of the moon, were distinctly seen.
For the gay beams of lightsome day,
Gild, but to float the rainbow’s ray.
The prevailing and most powerful winds are from the west, a fact indicated by the inclination of the trees eastward, where the soil is light and the locality exposed. The hurricane which blew on Christmas-day, 1806, forced in, and totally destroyed two windows in the western gable of the manse, and otherwise damaged the roof, though the house had been built but a few years previously. The east wind is, however, very prevalent, and is colder and more disagreeable than any other, comparatively sheltered as the parish is on the eastward.
The district may be generally stated as healthy, and the most prevalent distempers, as influenza, bronchitis, pulmonary, rheumatic, and asthmatic complaints, are often aggravated, but seldom occasioned by the climate. Strictly speaking, the diseases caused by cold and variable climate are anasarca, dyspepsia, paralysis, scrofula, acidity, typhoid fevers, and oedematous swellings of the legs. Such cases, however, are rare in this parish, excepting dyspepsia and acidity, which are occasioned as much by other causes as by that of climate.
The Dornoch Frith runs along the whole of the northern coast of the parish, and after passing Bonar Bridge is commonly termed the Kyle of Sutherland, and navigation is quite safe for vessels not exceeding 100 tons burthen. Springs are numerous, and some break out quite fresh within high water-mark, when the tide recedes: such as appear throughout the interior of the parish are excellent for ordinary use. They are perennial, but whether of any peculiar quality is not known, as none of them have been analysed.
There are no lakes or lochs here. The rivers are four in number, viz. Eddertoun, Daan, Easter Fearn, and Grugaig (the surly stream) and are commonly known by the appellation of burns; in dry weather the flow of water is small, but during heavy rains they become suddenly swollen, and rush along with great violence and impetousity. On Sunday, 15 September 1839, the bridges of Easter Fearn and Grugain were swept away, and the other two so much undermined that they narrowly escaped a similar fate. These bridges have since been rebuilt, but it is a remarkable fact that the old bridge at Easter Fearn, which is situated about 500 yards further up the river, and is at least half-a century old, withstood the force of the current, while its more modern neighbour gave way, and that it was by it that the public road went, while the present bridge, which has only been opened the other day, was being rebuilt. The bridge of Eddertoun probably owed its escape to its having been very carefully built, as its predecessor was carried off in the year 1799, by a flood or speat, which rose to such a height as to enter at the windows of the manse – which was then situated on its banks, and close to the church – destroyed much of the minister’s furniture, and occasion the abandonment of the house, and removal to its present site.
Geology and Mineralogy –
The rock of Cambuscurry presents an extended front of considerable height towards the public road. It consists chiefly of red conglomerate sandstone, broken into distinct, truncated, and somewhat pyramidal masses; the fissures run from east to west, and the blocks lie at an angle of about 12o northward. In the hill of Struie, the strata are of various kinds, such as old red sandstone, gneiss, quartz, granite and whinstone, and the dip averages from 15o to 25o towards the north. It is remarkable that near the foot of this hill, and towards the shore, the dip is inward to the south, as if the strata in the valley had broken down in the centre. Here, too, the secondary stratified deposits of old red sandstone and conglomerate rise high up on the sides of the neighbouring gneiss hills, the upper part graduating into calcareo-bituminous slates, and the lower part composed of the debris of the neighbouring primary rocks, and generally resting uncomformably upon them. The aggregate thickness of these deposits is enormous, and their original extent was probably much greater than at present, as it perhaps once filled up a great hollow or trough of the primary rocks. At Meikle Dann, and in other places, are quarries of freestone, which are neither easily hewn nor durable, from being much impregnated with iron ore. At Daan there is also a bed of limestone of a hard kind, which has been occasionally burnt for lime, but was found to be rather expensive under ordinary management. The whole of the deeper mosses, especially in the heights of the parish, contain, as in almost all the Highlands, trunks and roots of trees, chiefly fir, but also oak, hazel, birch etc. Some of these are of immense size, indicating the existence of an extensive forest at some period, though probably a very remote one.
The soil is various, according to locality, as already stated. In the division nearer the sea the higher parts are gravelly; next comes deep alluvial loam; and the lowest turns quite sandy. The middle division is chiefly gravelly and mossy, with a mixture of clay and common soil. The highest is also a varied mixture of clay, gravel, moss, and common soil, but is deeper and more easily cultivated than the middle division of the parish. Cultivation has done very much for this parish within the last forty years, so that the general aspect is quite changed; much, however, still remains to be done. The principal land-owner, Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown, has been liberal and encouraging to the larger farmers on his estate; and is giving considerable quantities of lime to the smaller tenants, according to the extent and quality of the lands they occupy. Such judicious liberality and kindness, benefiting as it does all parties, is worthy alike of commendation and imitation.
The following are the Mammalia found in this parish, synoptically arranged according to their genera and species.
Cheiroptera Carnivora Rodentia
Plecotus auritus Mustela putorius Mus decumanus
Vespertilio murinus Mustela vulgaris Mus musculus
Insectivora Martes foina Mus sylvaticus
Sorex araneus Vulpes vulgaris Arvicola ater
Sorex fodiens Phoca vitulina Arvicola agrestis
Ruminantia Lepus timidus
Cervus capreolus Lepus variabilis
Rod deer are not very numerous, and red deer are not supposed to exist in the parish. Besides the above there are, of course, the usual domestic animals in great abundance.
Raptores Salicaria phragmites Linaria montana
Falco tinnunculus Sylvia trochilus Linaria minor
Accipiter fringillarius Paris caeruleus Pyrgita domestica
Pandion haliaeetus Parus ater Pyrgita montana
Buteo vulgaris Accentor modularis Fringilla montifringilla
Milvus regalis Montacilla boarula Fringilla coeleba
Circus cynacus Anthus pratensis Emberiza miliaria
Strix flammes Anthus rupestris Emberiza citrinella
Incessores Muscicapa grisola Emberiza schoeniculus
Cinclus aquaticus Corvus corax Alauda arvensis
Merula pilaris Corvus cornix Pyrrhula vulgaris
Merula musica Corvus monedula Troglodytes Europaeus
Merula vulgaris Corvux frugilegus Coculus canorus
Saxicola oenanthe Pica melanoleuca Caprimulgus
Saxicola rubetra Sturnus vulgaris Hirundo rustica
Saxicola rubicola Coccothraustes chloris urbica
Erithaca rubecula Carduelis elegans Hirundo riparia
Phoenicura anticilia Carduelis spinus Hirundo apus
Curruca cinerea Linaria cannabina
Besides the above, we have to notice the game birds which frequent this parish. This family, which are classed among the Rasores or Gallinaceous birds, are known as the Tetraonidae or grouses. Of these we possess two genera, 1. Perdix; common partridge (P. cinera), 2. Lagopus; red grouse or moorfowl (L. Scoticus); common ptarmigan (Tetrao lagopus).
At Easter Fearn there once existed an extensive oak and birch wood, which extended from the top of Struie Hill to the shore. Tradition relates that the whole was purchased, early in the seventeenth century, by two brothers from England, who got it cut down and manufactured into charcoal. The place still retains the name of Meike Wood, and is now covered with brushwood to a considerable extent. At Wester Fearn, on the estate of Balnagown, there is a fine plantation of Scotch fir, chiefly old trees, covering an extent of nearly 100 acres. At Mid-Fearn, on the Sutherland estate, there is a natural wood of birch of 60 acres, and a planted wood of fir, birch, oak, etc. of the same extent. There was also a fir wood of 78.5 acres on the hill of Eddertoun, which was on the estate of Cadboll, and was sold in 1838 for £680 Sterling. It is now nearly cut down, but is to be replanted whenever the ground is cleared of the old wood.
The soil here, in its present state, is best adapted for Scotch firs and larches, of which there are considerable plantations in the parish, as mentioned above, and two on the Balnagown property.