The 1st Statistical Account

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(County and Synod of Ross- Presbytery of Tain)

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. Alexander Munro, Minister.

Name, Situation, and Extent
The parish of EDDERTOWN certainly derives its name from its situation, being on all sides, excepting the N, surrounded by hills and mountains. It is pronounced Ederdoun in Gaelic, and surely ought to be written so in English. The parish is situated in that part of county of Ross, called Easter Ross. It is about 10 miles in length, and 7 in breadth, and the Firth of Tain washes its coast on the North.

Rivulets, Soil, Cultivation, etc. –
There are no rivers of note, but several small rivulets, known by the appellation of burns, which, when swelled with rainy weather, being without bridges, greatly interrupt the traveller. Here there is a variety of soils, generally deep and rich, but the moisture falling from the surrounding hills makes the bottom cold, and occasions late harvests. The climate is the same with that of the parishes around it. There is no natural woods, but Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown, and Mr. M ‘Leod Gaball, have some hundred acres planted with Scotch firs.

Cattle, Cultivation, and Produce
There are about 1000 black cattle in the parish. There are no sheep walks, but as every tenant and cottager rears a few sheep, the number upon the whole must be considerable. As there are no improvements in husbandry, the time and attention of the people is taken up in management of the farm, which require many hands, and occupy many cattle, their horses and oxen being of a small size. Those of Mr Hugh Scobie of Ardmore, however, must be excepted. This gentleman labours successfully according to the new system, and was lately at the expense of bringing a manure, known by the name of shelly sand, from the island of Tanara, near Ullapool, through the Pentland Firth, to his farm at Ardmore. His labour and expence are already most amply repaid. His flock of cattle is large, and of the best quality, the place giving him every advantage for these purposes. In summer he abounds with grass, and in winter he has the best of covering, and a good shore. He likewise rears large quantities of wheat, barley, oats, beans, pease, potatoes, turnips, and artificial grass. The farm of Easter-Fearn, for which, about 40 years ago, a tenant could not be found at the rent of 21L., is so improved by watering, that it lets now at more than triple that sum.

Inclosures, Fuel, etc.
This Parish is very capable of improvement, having great tracts of moors, gently sloping, with clay and gravelly bottoms. The grounds inclosed by Sir John Ross, formerly barren moor, are now richly covered with barley, oats, turnips, potatoes, clover and rye-grass. The whole inclosure consists of 300 acres, of Scottish acres of a circular form, and on the outside of the circle is a deep belting of firs, ash, and other forest timbers. The death of that gentleman seems to have put a stop to any more of the ground being subdivided and turned into corn land. Few parishes have more the means of improvement within themselves; the soil of the moors is good; there is great abundance of turf and the peat; and the burn of Daan, which is pretty centrical, abounds with lime. There are great quantities of sea weed, commonly called sea ware, on all our shores.

The population of this parish is upon the increase. The present number of souls, of all ages, is about 1000. The return to Dr. Webster, in 1755, was only 780.
Increase 220.

Since the year 1775 there have been very considerable additions to the arable ground of this parish, by cottages settling in these moors. The late Admiral Sir John Ross of Balnagowan, inclosed and subdivided, with excellent stone dikes, about 60 acres.

Here it may not be improper to take notice of the Dutch way of preparing turf. As soon as the Dutch have sown their spring corn, they begin to prepare the turf for winter fuel. They first take off the green sod, they then pour water on the turf mould, and dig it out, by little and little, till they reach sandy soil. The hole is made slopping that a horse and cart may go in to it. This mud is carted out onto a field, then spread with a spade, to 3 or 4 inches thick, then cut cross ways. Those who wish to have their turf still harder, squeese the mud, whilst soft, into round forms, resembling loaves, or form them in shapes like brick making, and then let them dry in the fields. When the pieces of turf are become a little hard, they are laid in heaps, that they may dry, and be more effectually sheltered from rain. From this they are carried home, and put under a roof. The turf soil is either brown, red, or black, but must not be mixed with sand or clay.

Rents and Proprietors
The gross rent of the parish is about 650 bolls of grain, and 500L. Sterling in money. The rent is fluctuating, but is daily increasing. The heritors are Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown; Mr M’leod of Cadboll; Mr. M’kenzie of Ardross; Mr John Robertson merchant in Glasgow; and Mr Ross of Kerse. None of these gentlemen reside in the parish.

Church and School
The church is situated within a mile of the eastern extremity of this parish. Both church and manse are old, and stand much in need of repairs. The stipend is 120 bolls of grain, and 9L. 14s. 6d. Sterling for vicarage and communion elements. All the parishioners are in communion with the church of Scotland. The patron is Capt. Kenneth M’kenzie of Cromarty. There is a parochial school. The salary is so very small, that none can be got to teach it, who is at all master of any of the learned languages. However, the cultivation of the English language is increasing.

Employment and Character
We have no established manufactures, but the women and girls are often employed in spinning what in this country we call factory yarn, from lint; and the best spinners among them, with difficulty, earn 2d. per day. The people subsist chiefly by agriculture, and like their neighbours, are of mixed character. They are very industrious, and, upon the whole, are very regular in attending divine ordinances.

Antiquities, etc. –
There is a large plain, about half a mile to the W. of the church, and in circumference about 2 miles, where there are evident marks of an encampment. Tradition says that a battle was fought here against the Danes. Near to this there is a large circle of earth, flat in the top, and raised about 2 feet above the level of the ground around it. In the centre of this circle there is a large obelisk, above 10 feet high above the ground. No tool seems to have been employed in forming it, through there are some rude figures still discernible, the largest of a triangular form, with small circles suspended from it. Here the Prince of Denmark, who commanded his countrymen, is said to be interred. The plain is called Carriblair, and the village, immediately to the S. of it, is to this day called Ballioch, or Physician’s Town, where, it is said, the wounded were lodged and taken care of.* There is only one other piece of antiquity that merits attention, which is Dunaliskag, about 4 miles from the church, by the sea side. It is one of these circular buildings, called by some cairns, by others douns. The stones are of a very large size, and laid very regularly and close. To the S. W. it is still about 12 feet high, and 7 where it is lowest. The entry is to the E., and the middle of the wall, which makes the circle, is open, with a stair on each side of the door. The only remarkable natural curiosity, is a water fall, over which the small river Grugag, in the wester end of the parish, falls, which is thought to be about 100 yards of perpendicular height.

*There are evident marks, indeed, of a battle, and a very bloody one, as these are still many heaps to be seen, under which the slain has been interred. One of these about, 10 years ago, was levelled by the schoolmaster, and when trenching it, along with the ground around it, his spade struck against a coffin. He soon found five of them, in which there were human skeletons perfectly entire, expecting one that wanted the head. The coffins were made of fir, and in the highest preservation. By the skeletons it would appear, that the size of the bodies was about 5 feet 10 inches.

Often mentions the battle of Carros in one of the detached pieces annexed to Single, and where he himself commanded, and worsted the Danes. Perhaps this may have been the fence of action, Carriblair, in Gaelic, signifying the battle of Carros.

In the memory of many still living, it was more than double its present height. About these circles there is such a variety of opinions, that the author of this article shall not venture to mention one of his own.

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