The 1st Statistical Account
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PARISH of LOGGIE EASTER
(COUNTIES OF ROSS AND CROMARTY)
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 John Ross
Name, Situation, Soil, River, etc. –
The parish of Loggie Easter is so called, because there was another of the same name some time ago in the western division of Ross. The name Loggie, (in the Gaelic Lagie) signifies “a hollow”. The church formerly stood in a beautiful hollow, surrounded by braes or hillocks. It is nearly 7 miles in length, and in some places more than 2 in breadth; bounded on the S. by the parish of Kilmuire, on the E. by Nigg; on the N.E. by Fearn; on the N. by Tain; and on the W. by Eddertown and Kilmuire. This parish lies partly in the county of Ross, and partly in the county of Cromarty, within 4 miles of the town of Tain, which is the Presbytery-seat, and sometimes the seat of the Synod of Ross. The diseases to which the inhabitants are most subject are the cough, asthma and rheumatism. Sometimes fevers get in among them. The smallpox raged here twice lately, and carried off a considerable number of children. Some of the inhabitants, from a religious prejudice, were not reconciled to the practice of inoculation; whilst others were prudent enough to take the benefit of this successful mean to save their children. There have been, and are still several instances of longevity here. The soil, in some places, is a strong deep clay, in others a rich black mould, and in others a light earth on an open bottom. There is a considerable part of the parish not in culture, which is capable of being turned to good account. There was, however, something done of late in this way. The proprietors give some encouragement towards it, by building houses on waste ground, and giving their possessors the benefit of that ground they can break up for seven years, before they pay any rent. Some likewise give each of them, a spade, mattock and seed for once to sow what ground they yearly bring into culture. There is a good deal of plantations in a thriving condition. The only natural wood is on the ground of Ulladale. The only river in this parish goes generally by the name of Abhor, or “river”. It has 2 bridges upon it. There are 3 burns or rivulets, one of which, with heavy rains, overflows its banks, and sometimes, particularly in seed-time, considerably damages the fields on each side of it, washing away the loose earth and seed within its reach, and spoiling the grass. We have some of the finest springs in different parts of the parish. One of them near the old church was once superstitiously thought to foretel the future recovery or death of any sick person, for whom they fetched some of its water, by changing its colour if he was to die, and continuing the same if he was to recover.
At the time of Dr Webster’s report, the numbers were 850. The population has been greatly on the increase for 10 years back. The last incumbent had no more than 600 examinable persons on his list; whereas, by an exact list taken by the present incumbent 2 years ago, there were 900 persons in the parish, from 8 years old and upward. In the summer of 1782, whole families came down from the Highlands, on account of the dearth, and settled here for the benefit of daily labour, and having the fuel so near them. The encouragement given for turning waste ground into culture, has likewise increased the population. The monopoly of farms, or turning some small ones into a large one, takes place here. Gentlemen proprietors have very considerable farms under their own management; and the farmers wish to have each as much land as he can. This, however, does not affect the population. There are 258 houses possessed; 2 residing heritors, a gentleman captain on half pay, the minister, schoolmaster and kirk-officer, 49 farmers, 33 out-servants, 32 cottagers, 15 weavers, 11 shoemakers, 2 masons, a brick-maker, a cartwright, a plough-wright, 3 smiths, 3 coopers, 3 millers, 3 pedlars, 2 turners, 3 public-house keepers, 8 tailors, 2 house carpenters, 2 gardeners. The remaining 78 houses are possessed by day-labourers, poor widows and maidens who set up by themselves, sometimes only 1, generally 2 of them in a house. The number of births for 10 years back, reckoning at an average, is 32 yearly; of marriages 8.
The valued rent is L.1514 Scots. The real rent may be about L.1100 Sterling. Some of the proprietors have converted customs and services into money, and there are no services at present from the tenants to their masters, except that some tenants, by their leases, are obliged yearly to cut some peats for them, and carry these home, and to give them 3 days assistance in harvest. The cottagers who reside near their masters house, are obliged to attend and assist in carrying their corn-stacks from the barnyard into the barn. The servitudes which disgraced human nature, by rendering tenants almost slaves, are, in this parish, done away; and I hope the day is fast approaching, when proprietors will find it proper to have their rents paid in victual and money only. The greatest farmers pay about L. 60 Sterling. The principal crops are oats, barley, and potatoes, which last are the support of many poor families, with some little meal, for more than half of the year. There grows also a considerable quantity of peas, and rye. The proprietors, and even farmers, now sow clover and rye-grass, and find this the most profitable way of resting their lands, after which they get rich crops. Of every kind of grain, a far greater quantity grows than serves the inhabitants. A considerable quantity of barley is used in malting, for ale, and to serve the distilleries around us in other parishes, there being none licensed here. Oats, barley, and oat-meal are sold here to persons at a distance, and sometimes sent out of the country. There are about 600 horses, nearly twice the number of oxen, and a considerable number of milk cows. The horses are generally small, but even the farmers have begun the custom of supplying themselves with those of a large size from Moray; and this betters the breed of horses here. The number of sheep is not so considerable now as formerly, the gentlemen in this parish rather cultivating milk cows, and the tenants not having the same range for their sheep, by the improvement of waste ground.
Church, Stipend, School, Poor, etc. –
About 24 years ago, the present neat little church was built on an eminence, at some distance from the hollow where it formerly stood. Twelve years ago, during the vacancy, Sir John Ross of Balnagown, with consent and approbation of heritors and presbytery, took the manse and glebe to himself, and built a neat manse for the present incumbent. The former glebe measured 9 acres of very good land, in lieu of which, by the arbitration of proper judges, he gave 26 acres of arable and waste ground, around the hill on which the manse was built. On this hill, there is a most charming prospect to the south of the town and the bay of Cromarty, and to the east, of the parishes of Nigg and Fearn, and a part of the parish of Tarbat. From the month of May, to that of October, such a scene of corn fields, over so very considerable a space of ground, strikes the delighted beholder. the stipend is 5 chalders of barley, L.22. 15. 6 Sterling, and a right to the small tithes in kind. Kenneth Mackenzie, Esq; is patron. The salary of the parish schoolmaster is only 100 merks. By this salary and school-dues, which are far from being extraordinary, with his salary and perquisites as session-clerk, and some laudable shifts, this man decently supports himself and family. There is a school in the heights of the parish of Kilmuire, the salary of which yearly is paid by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, which lies very contiguous to the heights of this parish, and at which several children from it are taught. The number of persons on the poor’s roll is generally between 60 and 70. The greatest part of them can do something towards their own support; such of them as are able, go about once a year and collect something in this way. They receive alms frequently from the inhabitants at their own houses, and the money collected at church (except a little given in the way of salary to the session-clerk, catechist, and kirk-officer) goes all to their use. They have also the fines raised from such as commit fornication. They are likewise established funds from several mortifications, for the behoof of this and some neighbouring parishes, from which this parish has a fund of L.24 Sterling. Besides, there is a fund of L.18 Sterling belonging to the session, the interest of which is yearly given to the poor. Collections at church for 10 years back are, at an average, L.14 Sterling yearly.
Miscellaneous Observations –
The common people generally speak the Gaelic language; many of them understand something of the English, and speak it through the Gaelic accent and idiom. The inhabitants are in general of a pious, sober, and industrious disposition, well acquainted with the principles of religion, and regular in their practice. This does not say that there are no exceptions. There has not been one of them tried for theft or murder since the present incumbent came among them. Two instances of suicide have indeed occurred here during that time. The necessaries of life are easily acquired here; its conveniencies and superfluities fall to the share of a very few persons. This parish abounds in the extremities of it, and in some parts through its very middle, with moss and turf ground; some of the neighbouring parishes cut their peats and turf in it, and carry them to their own homes. To cut, dry, and carry these home, is the labour of many during the greatest part of the summer, and the first months of harvest. Peats, turf and brushwood, are in general the fuel here. Gentlemen indeed buy and use coals. The out-servants have a house from their master, 6 bolls of meal for their meat, and 3 for their wages in the year; with 2 pairs of shoes, and the use of as much land to plant potatoes, and sow barley on, as they can provide manure for. The produce of potatoes is all their own. They give half seed for the barley land, and receive half of the increase. All these things, with some perquisites they expect and get, will be worth about L.12 Sterling a year. So that an out-servant, with his wife (if she be sober and industrious), and 5 or perhaps 6 children, can live easily, though frugally, and may be justly more void of care than his master. The hire of a day-labourer here is from 6d. to 8d. a-day; but they generally deal in what they call slump work, or work by the piece. The women, besides out labour, deal much in spinning hemp, flax and lint, of which they can make each 3d. a-day; and some maidens choose rather to keep house by themselves (as a hut can easily be built, and fuel procured), and live in this way rather than go to service. They reap in harvest, for which they have each a boll and two pecks, for about 6 weeks labour, and spin throughout the rest of the year. The hire of a man for the harvest work is a boll and a half, with one diet a day. There is a ridge of small hills in the middle of the parish, of no great height. On the top of one of these once stood a gallows, which part was surrounded by a ditch, as may be still seen. Not far from it, near the very end of the ridge, is a pond of water, narrow in circumference, but very deep, and not easily fathomed. This pond goes by the name of Poll a bhaidh, or the ‘Pool for drowning’. About 40 years ago, died a man, who witnessed the last execution in this pool, that of a woman for child-murder. Hence it appears, that when heritable jurisdiction took place, this was one of those places in this county appointed for the execution of condemned criminals. On each side of the burn or rivulet, called Aultran, Albanick, or Scotsburn, are several cairns. The tradition respecting them is, that there was a battle fought in this place by the Scots and Danes, which the Scots gained; that this water received its name from that circumstance; and that under these heaps of stones they buried their slain. A part of one of these heaps was removed, the ground under it dug up, and human bones and an axe were found there. In several places are tumuli, some of which clearly appear to be the works of art. There are likewise small inclosures of turf artificially made, some of them square, and some circular. Two always appear near each other; they are called in the Gaelic, Reitagan. Reite or Reitachas, in that language, signifies ‘agreement’; and the tradition respecting them is, that in former times, parties at variance met there with their friends for settling of differences.