The 2nd Statistical Account

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(Presbytery of Tain, Synod 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

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

V. Parochial Economy

Means of Communication
There is no market-town or village in the parish, the post-town, which is five miles from the manse, being Tain. The mail-gig, which turns betwixt that town and Bonar bridge, passes here at 8 a.m. going to Kincardine, and at 6 p.m. on its return to Tain.

There is a good harbour at Ardmore, capable of accommodating vessels of 150 tons burthen, and ,during the summer season, a considerable number of schooners and smacks, and sometimes a brig, arrive there, with cargoes of coals, lime, etc.


Ecclesiastical State
The parish church is situated about a mile and a half from the eastern extremity of the parish, and eight from the western extremity towards Kincardine (which is marked by an immense rock of grey whinstone, extending from the public road to the sea, at a place called Ardcronie). It is exactly a mile from the manse, and is very inconveniently situated for the inhabitants, on account of the distance the greater part of them have to come. There are two dates on the church, “1743” being that on the west, and “1794” that on the east gable; the former is the date of its original erection, and the other of the last repair of any consequence which it received. Its length is 55 feet, breadth 18, and height of ceiling 7 feet from the gallery, and under gallery 6 feet 3 inches – the walls being only 10.5 feet high outside, and passages and floor sunk two feet. All the seats, excepting about half-a-dozen, are too narrow from back to front, many being only 21 inches, while the legal minimum width is 27 inches. The roof and galleries are much decayed, the west one being supported by props, the front gallery so ill constructed as to be but seven feet from the pulpit, and there are several rents in the back wall. In conclusion, the church is ill lighted and ventilated, and is situated in such a low damp place that the floor is frequently flooded; so that, on the whole, it is perhaps the worst constructed and most uncomfortable place of worship in the county.

The church seats are all free, and have never been divided by the heritor of the parish. They accommodate from 400 to 500 persons, though, if the legal seat-room were exacted, the number would not exceed 300 – very inadequate accommodation for the population.

The manse, which was originally close to the church, and had to be removed on account of a destructive inundation of the river, was built in its present situation in the year 1799; and received a considerable repair in 1838 – several small additions which contribute much to the comfort of the house, being then erected. A new set of offices was also built at that time.

The glebe was originally designed (as the fixing of its limits is technically termed) on 3rd July 1729, after a tedious and expensive process, which cost the incumbent, Mr Hector Fraser, upwards of £1000 Scots (a large sum in those days) and the benefit of which he never reaped, having been removed by death in the month of May preceding; but the situation proved so inconvenient by its distance from the manse that it was never taken possession of by the succeeding ministers, and remained in the hands of the proprietor, who paid rent for it, and provided them with a farm, until 6th June 1838, when an excambion took place, and the former glebe having been perhaps the best land in the parish, and the soil of a deep loam, quantity was on this occasion given for quality. The extent of the present glebe is as follows, being the measurement taken by Gregory Burnett, Esq., Land-surveyor, Ardross:

Part laid off, 6 June 1838, as above


21 acres 2 roods 14 falls;


14 acres 1 rood 14 falls.

Ditto formerly occupied by manse, offices, garden etc


2 acres 1 rood 4 falls;


3 acres 0 roods 2 falls

Total contents of glebe of Eddertoun,

41 acres, 0 roods 34 falls imperial measure.

The place where the glebe is, now was, at no very distant period, a broom-moor, which its name signified in Gaelic, Fonn-bhealaidh, or the district of broom, but it is capable of much improvement, and a consequent increase of value. At present the value, including garden, is about £16 per annum.

The stipend is fifteen chalders, half meal, half barley, Linlithgow measure, and £8, 6s. 8d. Sterling for communion elements. The last augmentation which raised it to that having been awarded in June 1839, the modification took place 20th February previously. There is, however, a deficiency of eight bolls in the above at present, according to the interim locality. The annual value of the stipend of Eddertoun may therefore be estimated at £230.

Before the period of the Reformation, the sub-deanery of Ross “consisted of the two kirks of Tayn and Eddertayn, and the rental was £200. 6s. 8d. Scots (MS in Advocates’ Library), and this had probably been the case since Popery became the established religion of Scotland. There is a tradition in the parish that the only copy of the Scriptures in use here, during Popish times, was a large parchment scroll, which was chained to the pulpit. In the list of parsonages in Scotland in 1562, given in the History of the Affairs of Church and State in Scotland, by the Right Rev. Bishop Keith, the name of “Eddirtoun” occurs.

In the Register of Ministers, Exhorters, and Readers, and of their Stipends, soon after the Reformation, which exists in manuscript in the Advocates’ Library, there is the following notice of this and the neighbouring parish of Kincardine – “Kincardin – Etherhane. Farquhar Reid, exhortar, xl merkis, and xx merkis mair sen Lambmes 1569”. From which it would appear that these two parishes were under the ecclesiastical charge and inspection of only one exhorter, the difficulty of getting Protestant ministers to supply parishes being very great at that remote period, when the nation was just emerging from Popery. The next ecclesiastical notice of Eddertoun occurs in the Register of Assignations of Ministers’ Stipends for 1576 (MS in Register Office, Edinburgh), as follows: “Eddirtayn; Donald Symsoun, reidare at Eddertayn, his stipend xx merkis, with the kirk land thairof”.

From 1576 to 1638, a period of sixty-two years, there is nothing known regarding the ecclesiastical history of this parish; but since the latter year there is a complete succession of parish ministers preserved.

Ministers of Eddertoun

Mr Hector Monro, whose name occurs in the list of members of the famous General Assembly which met at Glasgow, 21st November 1638, as one of the commissioners from the Presbytery of Tayn: thus, “M. Hector Monro, min. in Nether Taine”. Mr Monro was second son of Mr William Monro, parson of Coulecudden* in Cromartyshire, about the end of the sixteenth, or rather beginning of the seventeenth century, and was proprietor of the small estate of Daan, in this parish, which descended to his son. He was translated to the parish of Kincardine about the year 1665, and appears to have either conformed to Episcopacy, or been one of the indulged Presbyterian clergymen of that period.

*The parson of Cullicudden was nephew of Mr Donald (or John as it occurs in some places) Munro, “High Dean of the Isles” or Archdeacon of that diocese, “Superintendant of Ross, and minister of Kiltearn”, who travelled through the most of these districts in the year 1549, and wrote an interesting account of them in the Scottish dialect and orthography, the greatest part of which Buchanan adopted in his History of Scotland. He was appointed at the Reformation “Commissioner to plant kirkis in Ross, and to assist the Bischope of Caithness (Robert Stewart, Earl of March, who was, however, not in priest’s orders) in semblate planting, to begyn at Lambmes 1563, stipend iiijc (400) merkis”. The eldest son of the parson of Cullicudden was Mr Robert Monro of Coull, minister of Kiltearn, and thereafter in Strathnaver, and by his wife, Isobell Thorntown, daughter of the Laird of Dalgelly, had two other sons and a daughter. The family were cadets of the Munros of Foulis, being descended from George, thirteenth Baron of Foulis (1425-1452) and seem to have always had some of their sons in the church.

Mr William Ross, who succeeded, was Rector of Eddertoun about fourteen years. He died in 1679, and a tombstone in this churchyard marks the place of his interment.

Mr Arthur Sutherland, who was the last Episcopal incumbent or curate here, succeeded, and at the Revolution was allowed to remain in possession of his church, manse, and stipend, upon taking the oath of allegiance to the existing powers. Accordingly, he continued to preach, etc. undisturbed, though he never conformed to the Presbyterian form of church-government, until the period of his death, which took place 8th April 1708. Mr Sutherland having, at his own private expense, laid out considerable sums on repairing the manse, “which was in no good case when he entered to the place”, and which was valued altogether at £481 Scots; and the Presbytery, “finding by a subscribed compriseing of the said manse, at the said Mr Arthur Sutherland, his entrie thereto, the old manse was comprised to the soume of ninety-seven pounds Scots money”, ordered the heritor of the parish to meet at Eddertoun, on the 6th April 1709, and “stent and tax themselves, according to their several valuations in the forsd paroch, for paying to the heirs and executors of the said Mr Arthur Sutherland the soume of £384 Scots money”* which was accordingly paid; and shows that the heritor at that period considered themselves liable to the heirs of a clergyman for expenses necessarily incurred by him, though not laid out under the sanction of the presbytery. Besides his relict Mr Sutherland left a son, John, who was minister of Golspie 1731-52, and of Tain 1752-69, and of whom there is a sketch amongst the “Eminent Individuals” of this parish.
*Presbytery Records of Tain, Vol. i. pp. 69-70.

Mr Hector Fraser, who seems to have been a probationer of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and was sent north by the Assembly 1699 to supply vacancies in the bounds of Ross. That year he was ordained to Kincardine, and on the 12th September 1706 an “act of transportability” (as the privilege of accepting a call to another charge, if such a call should be given, was termed) having been passed by the united presbyteries of Ross and Sutherland in his favour, Mr Fraser accepted “a call from the paroch of Eddertoun”, which was presented to the presbytery 30th November 1708. He died, after an eminently useful ministry of twenty years, on the 17th of May 1729.

Mr Robert Robertson succeeded: he was previously minister of the parish of Loth in Sutherland, to which he had been ordained and admitted 10th May 1721. His settlement here was disputed for a considerable time, but at last, as before noticed, Mr. Robertson received a Presbyterial call, on the 16th April 1730, and the presbytery of Dornoch (in which Loth is), having agreed on the 7th May to “transport him to the parish of Eddertoun”, he was accordingly admitted here on the 29th July 1730. From the various steps taken previously to Mr Robertson’s admission to Eddertoun, it will be readily seen that, though the “act restoring patronage” had been passed nearly twenty years before, patrons of parishes were in the habit of allowing the people to choose their own ministers, without any reference to them whatever, or presentation to a particular person being issued. Mr Robertson was minister of this parish only ten years, and died 13th December 1740.

Mr Joseph Munro, son of Mr Robert Munro, minister of Kincardine (1711-41), was licensed by the presbytery of Haddington, 5th June 1739, and received a presentation* to this parish from the Right Honourable the Earl of Cromartie, dated 2nd June 1741, which he accepted; but on the day appointed for moderating in a call, the presbytery, finding that the heritors were unanimously for Mr Munro, while all the elders and some of the heads of families there petitioned for another (Mr G Robertson, then a probationer, and afterwards minister of Kincardine), they “referred the case simpliciter to the synod”. The call to Mr Munro was sustained by the synod of Ross, at their meeting in April 1742, and the presbytery appointed to concur therewith, which was accordingly done, and Mr Munro ordained and admitted minister of Eddertoun on the 16th of September 1742. He died 16th March 1785, in the seventy-first year of his age, and forty-third of his ministry.

*This was the first instance of the patron exercising his right of presentation to this parish since the Revolution, and even at this period the presbytery seem to have proceeded more on the call of the people than the presentation. Ever since, however, presentations have been issued by the family of Cromartie, “undoubted patrons of the parish of Eddertoun”.

Mr Alexander Munro was ordained and admitted minister of this parish on the 28th September 1785. During the earlier part of his ministry here he had to encounter considerable opposition from his having been settled without the concurrence of the majority of the parishioners. His high character, however, for piety, amiability, and diligence, secured to him the esteem of the public, and of those who were at first against him. Mr Munro died on the 30th October 1820, in the thirty-sixth year of his ministry.

Mr Alexander Cameron, AM, Rector of Tain Academy, was licensed by the Presbytery of Tain 12th August 1818, and ordained and admitted to Eddertoun, 13th September 1821. The patroness of the parish, Mrs Hay Mackenzie of Cromartie, in this instance, as in the general exercise of her patronage, consulted the interests and wishes of the people. Mr Cameron, accordingly, received a unanimous call (dated 21st July 1821), which contributed to his usefulness during an efficient ministry of fourteen years. He died at the early age of forty-two, 5th September 1835.

Mr Donald Gordon, MA, a licentiate of the presbytery of Tongue in Sutherland, was ordained assistant-minister of the parish of Edderachillis, 20th November 1822, admitted to the Parliamentary church of Store, in Assynt, 2nd September 1829;,and translated and admitted to Eddertoun, 7th April 1836; and though then a stranger to the patroness, he was presented (the date of presentation being 5th December 1835), in compliance with the unanimous petition of the heads of families, communicants, in the parish. Mr Gordon is the ninth minister of Eddertoun since the Reformation.

There is no catechist regularly employed in this parish at present, but arrangements are being made for procuring one, who will reside permanently.

There are two individuals belonging to the United Associate Synod, a remnant of the secession in Nigg, occasioned by a forced settlement there in 1756: they generally attend at a Dissenting meeting-house, which was recently erected in Tain. With the exception of these, the whole of the parishioners are connected with the Established Church, and are very regular church-going people.

The average number of communicants is 60, of whom 22 are male heads of families.

The probable average amount of church collections yearly for religious and charitable purposes is £30.

There are three schools in the parish, a parochial, Gaelic, and female school, on the second patent of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge.

The parochial school has been established for upwards of a century, and the salary has been the maximum since 1836. There are at present two schoolmasters – Mr Finlay Matheson, apointed in the year 1790, who was superannuated in 1836, with a portion of the salary of £16 per annum; and Mr David Watson, elected in August 1836, who is the acting parochial teacher.

There is one additional school required in the heights of the parish.

Savings Bank
There is one connected with this parish, which was established in Tain, January 1840. The minister of the parish is one of the directors.

Poor and Parochial Funds
The average number of persons receiving parochial aid may be estimated at 60; and the average sum allotted to each is 7s. 6d. per week. The annual amount of contributions for their relief is about £26; of which sum £7 per annum is contributed by Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown; £3 by the Duke of Sutherland; £2 by Mr Macleod of Cadboll; and the remaining sum of £14 (which is the average for the last four years) arises from church collections.

There is generally a disposition among the poor to refrain from seeking parochial aid, as degrading, but the feeling is decreasing, from pecuniary distress and want of employment.

Inn etc.
There is no fair or market of any kind held in this parish, and there is only one small inn, or rather alehouse, which is situated on Struy road from Bonar Bridge to Stittenham.

The fuel used by the lower orders is peats, and turf, which can be easily procured in the moors, and costs only the trouble of cutting, seasoning, and carrying home. Coals are burnt by the higher classes, and are sold by the Newcastle vessels, which come to the bay of Ardmore, at 16s. 6d. per ton.

November 1840.

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