The 2nd Statistical Account
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PARISH OF FEARN
(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. HUGH ROSS, MINISTER
I. – TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY
The name of the parish is the Gaelic word Fearnn, signifying the alder tree, there being many of these trees growing at Mid-fearn, in the parish of Eddertown, in this neighbourhood, where the foundation of the abbacy was in the twelfth century first laid. But the churchmen in those days finding the lands there confined, and not so fertile as they would have wished, got a new bull from the Pope, for building the abbacy where it now stands, in a fertile and extensive plain of good land. It was founded here by Farquhard, or Farquhar, first Earl of Ross, in the reign of Alexander II.
Extent, Etc. –
The parish is of no great extent, being only 2 English miles in length, and nearly of the same breadth. It is bounded on the south, by the parish of Nigg; on the west, by Loggie (Easter); on the north by Tain; and on the east and south-east by Tarbat and the Murray Frith.
The soil is a deep loam, in the centre of the parish, about the abbacy church. The loans of Fearn to the south, and the lands of Allan to the west, a deep clay; the north and east part is gravellish; the south-east and south is light and sandy. The face of the parish is nearly flat, with the exception of a few eminences that are generally laboured. About three-fourths are arable, the rest partly green and partly covered with heath.
The loch of Eye is above two miles long, and about half a mile broad. The Murray Frith lies to the south-east of this parish. The coast for about a mile is flat and sandy, on which the fishing town of Balintore lies, and Hiltown, another fishing town about half a mile to the east of it; there it is rocky and high for about a mile more.
II. – CIVIL HISTORY
Parochial Registers –
There is but one parochial register, that of baptisms and marriages. The entries have been very irregularly made down till the year 1800.
The chief land-owners are
Robert Bruce AEneas- Macleod of Cadboll,
Hugh Ross of Cromarty,
Representatives of the late William Baillie Rose of Rhine,
David Monro of Allan,
William Murray of Pitkeire and Meikle Rhine,
Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown,
George M. R. Ross of Polfoil,
AEneas Barclay of Mounteagle.
“There are several Druidical temples in this parish. The abbacy is one of the most ancient buildings here. It is said to have been first made up of mud. It was not only a place of worship before the Reformation, but ever since, until October 1742, when, on a sudden, in time of public worship, the roof fell in. There were thirty-six persons killed instantly, by what fell in of the roof and slate, on that melancholy occasion; eight more died soon after. The Castle of Lochlin, in the north-east corner of the parish, is another remarkable building. It is said to be of 500 years standing. It stands upon an eminence, about one mile north-east of the loch of Eye, and about six miles east from Tain, and is indeed one of the most conspicuous objects in this country. It was certainly built as a place of security against sudden incursions in the days of violence. Its shape resembles two figures, nearly square, joined together by the corners, in which junction there is a staircase to the top. The lesser one, which looks towards the west, being about 20, and the greater, which looks towards the east, about 38 feet square. The castle is 60 feet high. It is fortified with three large turrets, of which one stands upon the lesser square, and two upon the greater. These turrets are each of them capable of holding three or more men with ease, and in each of them are five small round holes, of about four inches diameter, with three larger above them, of a quadrangular form. The latter, it is imagined, were intended for the sentries or watchmen to see through, and the others for shooting of arrows. The outer door of the kitchen was made of strong bars of iron, as thick as an ordinary man’s leg, and the windows were closed with small grates or twisted stanchions of iron, so that it may be readily supposed that it was almost impregnable at the period in which it was erected. There is another very ancient castle, that of Cadboll, equally old, if not older than either the abbacy of the Castle of Lochlin. There are little remains of it now, but two or three vaults.
There is a very singular and remarkable tradition concerning this castle, that though it was inhabited for ages, yet never any person died in it; as they longed for death, especially Lady May, who resided there about one hundred years ago, being long sick, and longing for death, she desired to be brought out of her castle, which at last was accordingly done and no sooner did she come out of it, than she expired!”
[Old Statistical Account]
III. – POPULATION
Amount of population in 1801
Number of families in the parish in 1831
chiefly employed in agriculture
trade, manufactures, or handicraft
Number residing at this date in the villages of Hilton, Balintore, and Hill of Fearn
Number at this date residing in the country
Number of illegitimate births during the last three years
IV. – INDUSTRY
Number of standard acres cultivated, or occasionally in tillage
Number never cultivated, but constantly waste, or in pasture
Number under wood
No part of the parish could be cultivated with a profitable application of capital.
The average rent of land per acre is L.1. 12s.; the real rental of the parish, L.5464.
Very great improvements have taken place in the agriculture of the parish within the last thirty years, by trenching, draining, levelling, etc, etc. Green crops are extensively raised, and some of the best wheat in Scotland is produced on the farms of Allan, Fearn, and Cadboll.
Fishings of grey fish and herring are carried on to a considerable extent by the villagers on the sea shore. But as there are no resident curers, the exact extent cannot be ascertained.
V. – PAROCHIAL ECONOMY
Ecclesiastical State –
The number of families in the parish belonging to the Established Church is 394; of dissenting or Seceding families, 27. Stipend, eight chalders barley, and three chalders oatmeal, Linlithgow measure; also an allowance for communion elements. The glebe is five acres in extent – value L.12. 10s.
The manse was rebuilt in 1825, and is at present in good condition.
There are two schools in the parish, but two more are required, one at Hilton, and one near Wester Geanies. The parochial teacher’s salary is L.36. 7s. 1d., including L.2 for a garden; his school fees L.6, and his fees as session-clerk L.3. 10s.
Number receiving parochial aid, about 70. Average annual amount of contributions for their relief, L.19. 6s. Of this amount, L.13 are from church collections, and L.6. 6s. from legacies, or the interest of mortifications.