The 2nd Statistical Account

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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


* Drawn up by Mr Donald Munro Parochial Schoolmaster of Kilmuir Easter and Preacher of the Gospel.


Eminent Characters
Long ere the controversies which have lately agitated our church and land were known, and while the people, especially in our rural districts, were distinguished by their devoted attachment to the clergy of the Establishment, flourished the excellent and amiable Mr Porteous. The Rev. John Porteous – a name which was never pronounced in Ross-shire without the deepest veneration – was minister of the parish of Kilmuir Easter for the long period extending between 1732 and 1775. His grandfather is said to have come to Inverness in Cromwell’s army, and after the Restoration he settled in that ancient burgh, of which Mr Porteous, the minister of Kilmuir, was a native. During the period of his incumbency in this parish, extending to forty-three years, he officiated with the highest reputation, adorning his profession with all those gifts and graces which serve to remind us of the primitive purity and integrity of apostolic times. Nor did his Divine master fail to acknowledge him in his work of faith and labour of love, for he was favoured with many proofs of an accepted ministry while living; and there is abundant reason to believe that he will have many as his joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord.

The distinguishing characteristics of this venerable man, as a preacher of the Gospel and a teacher of righteousness, appear to have been, sublimity and spirituality of doctrine; patriarchal simplicity of diction, and of manner; a deep insight into the arcana of the human constitution, and the power of embodying his conceptions in striking and forcible language, and of carrying irresistible demonstration to the conscience. He possessed a brilliant imagination, which, though subject to occasional eccentricities, was still so thoroughly imbued with the solemnities of Christian truth, that it always ministered instruction, and enabled him to enlighten and to edify his hearers. He was “a man on earth devoted to the skies” and, from the fatness of a heart overflowing with love to God and to his fellow-creatures, he spoke with an unction and a pathos which carried captive the understanding and the affections to the obedience of the truth. Though now dead upwards of sixty-three years his memory is cherished with the highest veneration, and the respect and reverence with which his primitive pastoral admonitions, and profound doctrinal and experimental observations, have been handed down, resemble more the regard with which we may conceive the Jewish people to have listened to the predictions of their prophets, than the attention ordinarily paid to the instructions of uninspired men. Whilst minister of this parish, he was pre-eminently popular; and the church of Kilmuir constituted a centre of attraction to a large surrounding neighbourhood, who hurried eagerly from different and widely distant parishes to hear this man of God, and to hang upon his lips. He did the work of an evangelist, and made full proof of his ministry. “He watched and prayed – he wept and felt for all.” His mortal remains are deposited in the church-yard of Kilmuir, and in the close vicinity of that spot in which he so long held forth the word of life, and cheered so often the Christian pilgrim in his journey toward Zion.

How sleep the good who sink to rest
By all their country’s wishes blest.
When spring with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallowed mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than fancy’s feet have ever trod.
By angels hands their knell is rung;
By forms unseen their dirge is sung,
There virtue comes, a pilgrim gray
To bless the turf that wraps their clay,
And piety shall still repair,
To dwell a weeping hermit there.

In the autumn of 1833, this parish was deprived of one of its most valuable members in the person of Donald Mitchell, who died at an advanced age, after having been for upwards of thirty years employed in the office of catechist. Though an illiterate man, and not able to read even the Gaelic language until after his marriage, his views of divine truth were comprehensive, accurate, and profound, and for many years he was an able instructor to the young and rising generation. Diligent in duty, and clothed with the dignity and the moral force of Christian character, he had acquired the esteem and veneration of an extensive district of country, in which he was familiarly known as a solid, judicious, and deeply experienced disciple of the Lord Jesus. Never was there a more striking exemplification of the efficacy of Divine teaching, in enlightening the mind with that wisdom which cometh from above, and which often reveals to babes what is hid from the wise and the prudent. The inhabitants of this parish will long remember the solemn warnings, the affectionate addresses, and the pathetic appeals of this man of God and though dead, he yet speaketh.

There are six land-owners. Mr Hay Mackenzie of Cromarty possesses the highest valuation, and is patron of the parish.

Parochial Registers
The register of births commences in 1738, and there are no sessional records of an older date than 1771.

In addition to the antiquities, so well described in the former Statistical Account of this parish, may be mentioned a round tower connected with the present church, and used as a belfry, which bears date in large figures, 1616, and which, after having braved the storms of two centuries, is still in a high state of preservation.

There are still some remains of the ruins of the Castle of New Tarbat, once the seat of the Earls of Cromarty, which is said to have been the most elegant and highly finished house in the three counties. It stood near the site of the present mansion, and was allowed to fall into a state of dilapidation during the period of forfeiture. It is said to have been a most superb and spacious building, and beautifully adorned with turrets.

On the estate of Kindace, there is a small wooded hillock, on the summit of which there was a Druidical circle until within the last few years, when the farmer of the place removed the stones to build a dike. There is a fine spring of clear water at the foot of the hillock; and on the same property, there is a large cairn of stones, the tradition in regard to which is, that in a great battle fought there, a king was killed, and his head struck off, and buried under this cairn. The hill is now called Kenrive, a corruption from the Gaelic of Ceaarz Righ, or King’s head; and the foundation of a large castle or building can yet be traced close to the cairn.

Modern Buildings
Balnagown Castle is a beautiful building, and splendidly situated. It is partly ancient, and partly modern. It boasts a very high antiquity, and was one of the seats of the Earl of Ross during the prevalence of the feudal system. Within the last two years, an elegant and handsome addition has been made to it. There is a spacious lawn in front of the castle, tastefully laid out and adorned with a variety of trees. Altogether, it is one of the most delightful residences in the north of Scotland, enjoying a commanding prospect of the finest scenery in the surrounding country. Within a short distance of Balnagown, and near the shore, stands Tarbat House, a highly finished modern building, and the chief seat of Mr H. Mackenzie of Cromarty. The grounds surrounding it are laid out with great taste, and have of late years been highly improved. Kindace House is a commodious mansion, and very pleasantly situated in the upper part of the parish. The house of Milmount is a beautiful residence.

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