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.


There is a village in the parish, Milntown, in which there are four markets held annually. The population of this village amounts to 200. There are other two villages, Barbaraville and Portlich.

Means of Communication
There is a post-office at Milntown, and the great county road runs through this village; by which the royal mail-coach travels daily north and south, and another coach for the accommodation of passengers, during the summer and harvest months, from Inverness to Tain. The roads are excellent. A new road has been lately constructed through the most high land part of the parish, which will prove a great convenience to the people. There are several other new roads in progress, so that the whole parish will soon be intersected with excellent means of conveyance. There are two bridges, one over the river of Balnagown, and the other at Pollo. They are both in good condition. There is a harbour at Balintraid, which affords accommodation for vessels from Leith and Aberdeen and other ports; and which is very convenient for the people of this, and of neighbouring parishes, by the facility with which it enables them to procure coal, and various articles of merchandise. A considerable quantity of grain from the district of Easter Ross, and large quantities of fir wood for the coal-pits and railroads in the south, are likewise annually exported from Balintraid pier.


Ecclesiastical State
The present church was built in 1798, and contains 900 sittings. It is situated in the south-east end of the parish, and is distant about five miles from some of the inhabitants. There are from twenty to thirty free-sittings in it. It is at present in a good state of repair. The manse was built about 100 years ago, since which time additions have been made to it, and it has been frequently repaired. There are 6 acres of glebe, valued at L.12 per annum. The stipend is 87 bolls, 1 firlot, 1 peck, 3.8 lippics oatmeal, 9 stones, Ross-shire boll, and 68 bolls, 1 firlot, 1 peck, 1.4 1ippy barley, 9 stones, [Ross-shire boll], and L.62. 0s. 4d. Sterling. The stipend awarded by the Court of Teinds was 15 chalders; but the teinds do not pay the stipend, nor the sum for communion elements.

There is no chapel of ease or Dissenting chapel in the parish, the people being, with the exception of one or two individuals, all members of the Established Church, which, in this parish is well attended, and in general crowded. There is a catechist appointed by the minister, with the consent of the congregation, and paid by the people and minister. There are individuals from 350 families, amounting to 800, who regularly attend the parish church. The average number of communicants may be stated at 60. The probable average amount of church collections yearly for religious objects may be estimated at L.20. There is a Bible Society, which meets regularly once a quarter for prayer, and for the purpose of making contributions, and once in the year for the purpose of distributing its funds to the various objects of Christian benevolence.

There are two schools, the parochial, and one supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The parish schoolmaster has the legal accommodation, and a salary of L.32. 2s. 9d. Sterling. The school fees may amount to L.12, yearly. The salary of the Society teacher is L.18, with a house, built by the parishioners. His school fees may amount to L.6 annually. The numbers who attend both schools during the year may amount to 160 children. The expense of education, and the branches of instruction taught at the parochial school, are as follows: reading per quarter, 2s.; reading, writing, and arithmetic, 2s. 6d.; Latin and Greek, 5s.; book-keeping, 7s. 6d.; and English grammar; 3s. In the Society school, English reading, writing, and arithmetic are regularly taught. The people generally are able to read, and appear to appreciate the benefits of education. There is no additional school necessary in this parish.

There is no parochial library, but many of the more respectable inhabitants are connected with a district library, which affords many valuable works. And it would be difficult to find a rural parish in the north of Scotland, of the same dimensions, which contains a greater number of intelligent and well informed individuals, in the various classes of society.

Poor and Parochial Funds
There are from 80 to 100 who regularly receive parochial aid. Their funds are derived from the following sources: mortcloth per annum, L.2; rent of house in Tain belonging to the poor, which averages L.15 annually; collections in church, which amount to L.22 yearly, making in all L.39. There is likewise a mortification of barley by George, Earl of Cromarty, which produces 5 bolls annually, for distribution among the poor; and there are other mortifications, amounting to L.1. 3s. 10d. yearly. There is no other mode adopted for procuring funds for the poor. An assessment has never been resorted to. The annual sums distributed to each pauper may average 5s. or 6s. in the year. None but the extremely necessitous receive parochial aid, and others are dissuaded from seeking it, and taught to consider it as degrading. Some who receive occasional assistance are not enrolled in the list of paupers.

There are 2 inns, and 4 public-houses. Intemperance is not, however, a prevalent vice in the parish, and it is very rarely that the people are known to quarrel or fight.

Coals are generally used in the lower, and peats in the higher, district of the parish. Coals generally sell for ls. ld. imperial barrel, and peats for ls. the cart. The coals come from Newcastle, and there is abundance of moss in the parish.


1st. When the last Statistical Account of this parish was written, the real rent did not much exceed L.1400 Sterling; now it is L.3800 Sterling. The manufacture of kelp and shell-lime have been altogether discontinued, and lime and bone manure are generally in use. Within the last eighteen months, a toll-bar has been erected at the bridge of Pollo. Instead of there being upwards of 30 tippling houses in the parish, there are now only 2 inns, and four public-houses. All the agricultural implements now used are of the most approved kind, and oxen are never employed in ploughing. Wheat is generally grown on all the farms in the parish, and is found to afford a good remunerating price. The roads which intersect the parish, are kept in good condition. In the upper district, and especially in the environs of Kindace, great improvements have been effected of late years. There are now four public roads in the parish, running parallel to each other, including the new road lately constructed along the upper district, and reaching from Tain to the policy of Novar, in the parish of Alness. The harbour of Balintraid, in the south-west end of the parish, has likewise been erected since the last Statistical Account was published.

2d. With respect to the improvements of which the parish is susceptible. It has been already observed, that the system of husbandry pursued is of the most approved kind, and that the means of internal conveyance are excellent. Much however, remains to be done, in this, as in most other parishes, to advance the inhabitants to the maximum state of comfort and happiness. We have no desire to advocate any Utopian theory on this most important subject, but merely to suggest some hints for those substantial and sober improvements which might meliorate the condition of the people. If any thing could be done to give employment to the numerous and increasing settlers in villages – whether by establishing some branch of manufacture, or by urging and encouraging able-bodied men to fish regularly in the Frith of Cromarty, or by allocating certain small portions of ground to stances for houses, as an inducement to build, and to permanent residence in the parish; these expedients, or any one of them, if vigorously prosecuted, might increase indefinitely the comfort and happiness of the lower classes. The great evil which requires to be remedied in some way or other, is the fluctuating state of the population, in consequence of the arable land being in the possession of a few, which, however much it may tend to the agricultural improvement of the parish, certainly is not calculated to improve the state of the population. In consequence of this, many of the people are always on the wing, and shifting from one parish to another, in quest of a better place or of more congenial employment; thus rendering in a great measure nugatory the instruction which they receive, whether in the way of catechizing, or of private pastoral admonition and reproof.

It is expected that a savings bank will be soon established in this district with a government security, and the sooner this is set agoing the better.

We may observe, as an instructive fact in the philosophy of education, that the greatly more intelligent character of the people of this parish now, than it was forty years ago, is owing in no small degree to their having been taught to read Gaelic as well as English, in the school established by the Society. It was this which first excited a desire for more information, and roused within them the latent principle of curiosity, proving that the only effectual way to instruct the ignorant is to address them first in the language which is most familiar to them, whether our object be to win their attention, or to engage their affections.

If a village or parochial library were established by voluntary contributions, consisting of interesting and instructive books in Gaelic and English, to which the poor might have free access, it might prove an incalculable benefit to many. It would be the means of creating a relish for reading, and for intellectual enjoyment among those who are still destitute of it, and of filling up the void of idle hours with profitable and amusing pastime.

December 1838.

Parish of Kilmuir Easter continue reading

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