The 1st Statistical Account

- Page 4 -

THE PARISH OF KILTEARN

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

By the Rev Mr Harry Robertson

Rivers, Lakes, and Fisheries
Among the several streams of water which run through this parish, only two of them deserve to be mentioned. First, Skiak, which falls into the sea, close by the church. The banks on both sides are covered with brushwood and trees of various kinds, most of which grow naturally. This river being traced to its source, is found to terminate in a collection of small streams that meet together in the valleys, at the foot of the several mountains. The other river which we shall mention is Aultgrande, i.e. in Gaelic, the ugly water, or burn, so called on account of some rocks through which it runs down, that make a very formidable appearance, which will be more particularly described under the article Curiosities. This river falls into the sea about half a mile east of the former, and has its banks on each side covered with trees and shrubs. When the snow melts on the mountains, this river frequently pours down its streams with great rapidity, and often proves highly detrimental to the adjacent lands. It takes its rise in Loch Glass, a beautiful fresh water lake about 6 miles from the sea. This lake never freezes till about the spring season, and not even then, unless the frost be uncommonly severe. It is about 5 miles long, and near 1 mile broad, and navigable all the way. This, together with several other smaller lakes situated upon the north side of Ben-Uaish, affords abundance of fine trout, though they are not of a large size.

There is a small island near the south end of this lake, where it is said one of the lairds of Fowlis had formerly a summerhouse. Besides the trout taken in the rivers and lakes, there are a good number of salmon caught on the sea coast, sometimes by nets and cobles, called a Still fishing, but chiefly by means of yaires, or small enclosures, built in a curve or semi-circular form near the shore. At high water the salmon comes within these yaires, and at low water is easily taken, having no way to escape. This is the simplest and cheapest mode of fishing that can be devised. There are usually four or five yaires kept up in the parish; and each proprietor takes fish enough to supply himself and a few friends. In a good fishing season he can send some to market. Flounders, herring-fry, or sprats, are frequently taken in these yaires.

Fossils, Mines, and Minerals
In digging for peats in the mosses of this parish, numbers of fir trees are found, which afford a clear proof that those extensive tracts of ground were once covered with trees, which must have added much to the beauty of the country, and have been shelter to the cattle. These trees that are dug out of the mosses are perfectly found, and last long when applied to the purpose of building. One chief benefit derived from them is, that they burn well, and afford excellent light to the country people, who cannot afford to buy candles. Clay and shell marl are to be found in this parish. The clay marl is met with in a moss called Boginturie, upon the estate of Fowlis, 3 miles distant from the sea shore. There is abundance of it; and it has answered well with those who have tried it. It will probably come into more repute in proportion as the true notion of farming prevails. The shell marl, though of an excellent quality, does not afford so rich a supply as the other, as there is only a small vein that appears near the church, and is found in the same direction about the west end of the parish. It is pretty remarkable that this shell marl is found at the distance of about 200 yards from the sea, and at least 30 feet perpendicular above its level. There are very flattering appearances of coal in all the western part of the parish, from the sea to the hills. Several years ago, one or two attempts were made to discover a proper mine, but it was not pursued with that ardour and perseverance which the importance of the object deserved. The persons formerly employed only bored in 2 or 3 places. They acknowledged that they found coal, but pretended it lay so deep, that unless the vein was considerable, it would not pay the expense of working; but we cannot help suspecting that they knew but little, and presumed a great deal. Considering, however, the public spirit and independent fortunes of several gentlemen concerned, it is to be hoped that they will once more make a fair trial of the coal mines in this district, by sinking one or two pits, and employing some skilful hands for a few months to work in the mines, and ascertain the value of the coal. The expense would not be very great: the attempt would at least be laudable, and most probably would be crowned with success. In a rock on the banks of Aultnacaorach, i.e. the Sheep burn (a rivulet that falls into Aultgrande), there are indications of lead ore. The only trial ever made of it was about 36 years ago, by one Charles Smith, a common miner, who smelted a piece of the ore taken from this rock, which produced good lead. Near the storehouse of Fowlis there is a chalybeate spring, which has been drank with salutary effects about 60 years ago. There is another spring at Teinleod, above Fowlis Castle, called St Colman’s Well. Whether it has any medicinal virtue we have not heard; but it was common practice, in the memory of some still alive, for superstitious persons to frequent the well, and, after drinking the water, to tye some rags to the branches of the surrounding trees.

Roads and Bridges
Very particular attention has been paid of late years to the roads in this district; and the bridges have been widened for the conveniency of carriages. The new bridge over Aultgrande is remarkably neat, and well finished, and does credit to Mr Kyle, the architect, who built it. All the bridges are built and kept in repair at the expense of the county. The roads are kept in repair by the statute labour, which the inhabitants perform personally, and very seldom by commutation. An improvement is now making on the road that leads through this parish, which will add much to the pleasure and comfort of travellers. The chief heritor has, at a considerable expense, carried off the road in a sweep or curve, about a quarter of a mile farther south than it was formerly. By this means, travellers will not only pass through the middle of rich fields and fine plantations of trees, but will also have a full view of that ancient and elegant mansion, Fowlis Castle. This improved road was begun in 1790, and will be completed in the course of 1791.

Villages, Schools, & Manufacturers
There is only one small village in the parish, called Drummond, situated in a level field contiguous to the river Skiak. This village is yet in its infancy; but, as the situation of it is centrical, and agreeable, being on the post-road between Dingwall and Novar Inn, there is every reason to believe that it will increase considerably in a few years. At present, there is a public house, two shop-keepers, a dyer of woollen stuffs, who keeps a press and scouring-mill; and a few other mechanics. Two fairs or markets are held here annually, the one early in June, and the other the first week in December, where black cattle and other country commodities are sold; and, though the proprietor exacts no toll or custom, he maintains a guard while the market lasts, to keep order, and prevent riots. The fair in December is known by the name of the Goose-market. But, as no geese are sold at it, the name Goose-market has probably taken its rise from an entertainment usually given by the gentlemen of the parish to the principal inhabitants on the second day of the market, where a goose (being then in season) always makes a part of the feast. On this occasion, there is no excess in drinking encouraged; and the company meet merely for the sake of social intercourse. Adjoining to the village of Drummond is the parish school, which is commonly attended by 60 or 80 children, and often by a much greater number. The salary paid by the heritors to the master is a chalder of barley; and, as precenter and session-clerk, his emoluments will amount to about L.4, besides the quarter-fees paid by the scholars, which are as low and moderate as any where in Scotland; English being taught for 1s. per quarter; writing 1s. 6d; arithmetic 2s.; and Latin 2s. 6d. It is no more than justice to say that the education of youth is at present conducted at the school upon the most approved plan, and with correspondent success. To which we may add, that, besides what is usually taught at grammar schools, several other branches of useful science and literature are taught here, such as the French language, geography, geometry, book-keeping, and the different branches of practical mathematics. This deserves the more to be remarked, because so few country parishes are favoured with similar advantages for educating their youths. Within a quarter of a mile of the village of Drummond, to the east, on the farm of Upper Balcony, there is a licensed distillery for aqua-vitae or whisky, which pays £30, and consumes about 180 bolls of barley yearly; but it is much to be regretted that a great quantity of spirits, beside the whole produce of this distillery, is consumed within the parish. On the opposite side of the river, and close to the New Bridge, is Culcairn bleachfield, the only one in the county. This bleachfield was first established by the late John Munro, Esq., of Culcairn, father of the present proprietor of that name, in 1751. Though it promised well for several years, yet it afterwards declined much, while it passed through the hands of different managers. In the year 1779, it fortunately fell into the hands of the present manager, William Tait, from Salton Bleachfield in East Lothian. The proprietor, observing that Mr Tait was not deficient, either in skill or activity, resolved to give him every encouragement, granted him a lease of the bleachfield, and built a comfortable house for him. A clear proof of the rapid progress this field has made under the present manager is, that, in the year 1779, there were only 440 pieces of cloth bleached here; but, in the year 1790, the number of pieces amounted to 2242. The Honourable Board of Trustees, being well informed of Mr Tait’s industry and success, were pleased, in 1786, to grant £50 for erecting a drying house. And it is not doubted that, on a proper representation, they will give some further aid towards setting up proper machinery, and a complete bleaching apparatus, at this very flourishing field.

Inns and Ale Houses
There are only two licensed ale-houses in the parish which pay excise-duty; one at Drummond, and the other at Wester Fowlis. These are necessary for the accommodation of travellers, and for transacting country business. But there are a number of blind whisky houses, situated in obscure corners, at a distance from the public road. These last are much frequented by tipplers, and dram-drinkers, who sometimes sit up whole nights at their debauch. Such tippling-houses have proved a great nuisance for several years past, and have been very prejudicial to the health, the morals, and the circumstances, of several inhabitants of this parish. It is not uncommon to see two mechanics, or day labourers, repairing once or twice a day to one of these ensnaring haunts, and drinking a choppin bottle of unmixed whisky at each time, with as great ease as their forefathers would drink a Scots pint of twopenny ale, or small beer. What adds to the grievance is that the keepers of these corrupting haunts are not always very scrupulous as to the mode of receiving payment for their drink. When money fails, they will receive meal and victual at a low price, which is often stolen from the mills, and farmers’ barns. When this resource fails, they receive household furniture, and wearing apparel. An evil that has come to such a height loudly calls for the interposition of the civil magistrate; and it is a great pity that the gentlemen of the district who are justices of the peace, and are remarkably temperate themselves, have not made greater exertions to suppress this growing evil.

Advantages and Disadvantages
As it is the common lot of mankind to have their condition in this world chequered with a mixture of good and evil, so it cannot be denied that the inhabitants of Kiltearn have their own share, both of the advantages and disadvantages of life. It is a very favourable circumstance for this parish, that it is situated on a beautiful bay, and within four leagues of Cromarty; from which place there is a communication by sea once every fortnight to London and Leith. Besides, there are three several harbours in the parish, viz. at Balcony, Fowlis, and Ardullie point, where vessels from 80 to 100 tons burden may load and unload, and anchor with the greatest safety, as there are no dangerous rocks or shelves near the shore. Excellent freestone quarries, that are easily wrought, are to be met in every corner of the parish. This circumstance, added to the abundance of timber, affords great encouragement to carry on buildings, and other improvements. The advantages of education which are to be had at the public schools here, is a very encouraging circumstance to determine such as have rising families to settle among us. The prevailing taste for buildings and improvements among the gentlemen of the parish is a great blessing to artificers and day-labourers, which was particularly experienced in the hard years 1782 and 1783; being, under God, the mean of preserving many families from perishing for want of bread. But, as the gentlemen’s improvements will soon be completed, many hands who are now employed will be at a loss to provide for themselves and their families, unless some manufacturers are speedily established; and, considering the great number of women in the parish, it would be desirable that some manufacture should be introduced to employ the females, and children of both sexes; for it is a hard case when a labouring man is unable to work, by age or sickness, that his family has no means of earning a subsistence, however unwilling to work. This leads us to mention another disadvantage which the poor women labour under here, which is, that they seldom have proper assistance when in child-bed, as there is no regularly bred midwife in the parish. This often proves of fatal consequence to women in that situation, which, of all others, require the most tender care, as well as skill. It is also much to be wished that the inhabitants in general were better lodged than they can possibly be in their present huts. In no country, perhaps, are the gentlemen better lodged, and the tenants worse accommodated, than in this parish; for who could suppose that, among the 385 houses in the parish, there are not forty, in which a person accustomed to a decent accommodation, would choose to lodge a single night. Perhaps their being so frequently obliged to remove their cottages makes them less solicitous to have them comfortably built. The greatest number are built of earth, and are usually razed to the ground once in 5 or 7 years, when they are added to the dunghill. Indeed, they cannot afford to build them of better materials, not even with clay and stone; and yet, as a proof of the late increase of population, when any of these mean huts become vacant, there are perhaps five or six candidates for them; and the successful one is supposed to owe the preference to superior interest. But, among the chief disadvantages of this parish may be reckoned the extreme poverty of many who become farmers. Too many assume this character who have hardly any flock to begin with; and the consequence is, that, after struggling for a few years to keep credit, they at last sink under the load of poverty, while the landlord has a long arrear of rent due to him. In a word, it cannot be denied that many among us have the name of farmers who ought more properly to be day labourers. Indeed, some of their own hired servants have the necessaries of life with a greater degree of comfort than their masters, the farmers. One circumstance very prejudicial to the farmers is that they are too much at the mercy of their servants. When a servant engages with a poor farmer, he bribes him with a promise of high wages; and, when money fails, he allows his servant to sow a quantity of corn for his own use, and to keep a cow in summer, and perhaps two or three in winter, on the farm, which brings certain ruin upon the tenant in the end. We will add, that it is a great loss to have so few justices of peace in the district to take cognizance of this and other grievances. The last particular we shall mention, under the head of disadvantage, is not confined to this parish only, but is equally felt in the parishes around us, viz. the personal service of the tenants. These, however, were formerly more grievous than at present; for it is not long since the farmers, their servants, and horses, must have been ready at a call from the laird when he had any operations to carry on his farm, or otherwise. They ploughed, harrowed, manured, and reaped, the landlord’s farm, while their own were often neglected. Here, however, we must observe that, in former times, these services, though a burden, were not such a grievance as they would be now. The rents were then low, and money scarce. Hence the services made a considerable part of the revenue which landlords derived from their lands. But now the case is altered, and, wherever tenants are expected to thrive, personal services must be dispensed with, and commuted. That which has been longest kept up, is the providing a certain quantity of peats or fuel for the master yearly, which interferes much with the labours of the husbandman, as his whole time is employed in providing his own and his landlord’s fuel, from the time the seed is sown till the beginning of harvest. Thus he loses all that time in which he ought to provide manure for his land. The personal services of the tenants are, however, always limited, and as exactly known as the rent of the farm. Some proprietors of lands in the parish have begun, of late, to accept of a conversion for all services, and also to grant leases to the industrious part of the farmers. If these conversions were moderate, and if the tenants were encouraged to build decent houses, it would conduce to the comfort of the farmer, and the interest of the landlord.

Language, and Etymology of Names
The language commonly spoken here is the Gaelic, or Earse; but, of late years, the English begins to be more cultivated than formerly, and is understood by the generality of the inhabitants. The church service is performed here, as in the greatest part of the county, in Gaelic in the forenoon, and in English in the afternoon.

The names of places seem, in general, to be of Gaelic original. For example, Balcony, that is, in Earse, a dwelling place. This is a beautiful seat, situated on the banks of the river Skiack, on a fine eminence, which slopes gradually towards the sea. This was formerly one of the seats of the ancient Earls of Ross. Hence it is called Balcony vie Dhonail, or MacDonald’s habitation. Ketwal, that is, in Earse, Kead vail, or, the first possession, acquired by the Earls of Ross in this parish. Tennaird, that is, the house on the height. Mountgerald is a modern name given by Mr McKenzie, father to the present proprietor, to a place formerly called Clyne, being situated on an inclined plain. This name was given to allusion to Fitzgerald, who came from Ireland, and who was the progenitor of the McKenzies.

Antiquities and Curiosities
About half a mile to the west of the house of Clyne, and a quarter of a mile to the north of the post road, is a remarkable piece of antiquity, which plainly appears to have been erected by the Druids, and used by them as a place of sacred worship. It consists of a single row of twelve large stones, placed upright, and to disposed as to form two ovals, which are joined to each other. The areas of these ovals are equal; they are 13 feet from east to west, and 10 feet in the middle from north to south. At the west end of one of them is a stone, which rises 8 feet above the surface of the earth; the other stones are from 4 to 6 feet long. There is also, in the middle of this oval, a flat stone, which was probably the altar; it seems to have stood formerly at the east end, but has been thrown down by some accident. Distant about 3 paces from the eastern oval is a circular hollow, said to have been a well of a considerable depth, but it is now filled up; its diameter at top is 8 feet. These ovals are situated on the top of an eminence, round which are marked out three concentric circles; one at the bottom, another 28 paces above the former, and the third 12 paces higher, immediately surrounding the ovals. The circumference of the first is 80, of the second 50, and of the third, or highest circle, 35 paces. It is observable, that these curious remains have a great resemblance to many others in different places of Great Britain, particularly to those in the parish of Addington, near Malling in Kent (an account of which is given by Mr Colebrooke in the Archaeologia, vol. ii page 107), and the celebrated ones at Stonehenge in Wiltshire*. Large conical heaps of stones, or cairns, as they are called are to be met with on the tops of many of the hills and eminences in the parish. About 800 paces to the west of the above ruin is a circular cairn, in diameter about 30 paces, containing, in the centre, a grave 3 feet 6 inches long, 18 inches broad, and 14 inches deep, neatly lined with four flat stones, and covered by another. There are also at the circumference three graves of the same dimensions, on the east, south, and west, but they are in a more ruinous condition than the central one. It is probable that these were the sepulchres of a certain family or tribe; the chief was buried in the centre, and his relatives or dependents at certain distances around him. But we shall be at a loss to account for the smallness of these graves, unless we suppose them to have contained only the ashes or bowels of the deceased person. These, it is likely, were deposited in earthen pitchers or vases, as several vessels of that kind have been dug up by the plough in the neighbourhood of these cairns. There is also on the north side of the river Skiack, and nearly opposite to the village of Drummond, a grave of an oblong form, lined with stone in the same manner as those above described; it is called the Priest’s Sepulchre, and is 7 feet long, 3 broad, and about 3 deep. It is evident from these remains, and many others of a similar nature, which abound in almost every part of the Highlands of Scotland, that it was the custom of our ancestors to cover their burying places with heaps of stones; and the reason probably was to prevent the bodies from being dug up, and devoured by wolves, wild boars, and other beasts of prey, which then infested the country**. There are ruins of five different chapels and burying places in this parish, viz. one at Balcony, called St Ninian’s Chapel, one at Culnaskeath, one at Wester Fowlis, one at Kilchoan, and one at Limlair, near the sea shore, called St Mary’s Chapel. Several families continue still to bury at the last named church yard, and there are some vestiges of the manse, or minister’s house, contiguous to it. The last incumbent’s name was Mr Henry Kincaid, who seems to have lived about the beginning of the last century; for it appears from some records that he disposed of certain teinds to the Baron of Fowlis in 1607.

* In order to make the above description more easily understood, Mr. Robertson subjoined a sketch of the form and situation of these stones; and the Editor is sorry that the plan of this work would not suffer an engraving of it to be made.

** “I’ll add a stone to your cairn” was formerly a proverbial expression of friendship among the Highlanders.

The natural curiosity that chiefly deserves notice is the rock called Craig-grande, or the ugly rock. This is a deep chasm or abyss, formed by two opposite precipices that rise perpendicularly to a great height, through which the Ault-grande runs for the space of 2 miles. It begins at the distance of 4 miles from the sea, by a bold projection into the channel of the river, which it diminishes in breadth by at least one half. The river continues to run with rapidity for about three quarters of a mile, when it is confined by a sudden jutting out of the rock. Here, the side view from the summit is very striking. The course of the stream being thus impeded, it whirls and foams, and beats with violence against the opposing rock, till, collecting strength, it shoots up perpendicularly with great fury, and, forcing its way, darts with the swiftness of an arrow through the winding passage on the other side. After passing this obstruction, it becomes in many places invisible, owing partly to the increasing depth and narrowness of the chasm, and partly to the view being intercepted by the numerous branches of trees which grow on each side of the precipice. About a quarter of a mile farther down, the country people have thrown a slight bridge, composed of trunks of trees covered with turf, over the rock, where the chasm is about 16 feet wide. Here the observer, if he has intrepidity enough to venture himself on such a tottering support, and can look down on the gulf below without any uneasy sensations, will be gratified with a view equally awful and astonishing. The wildness of the steep and rugged rocks; the gloomy horror of the cliffs and caverns, “inaccessible by mortal’s trod”, and where the genial rays of the sun never yet penetrated; the water falls which are heard pouring down in different places of the precipice, with sounds various in proportion to their distance; the hoarse and hollow murmuring of the river, which runs at the depth of near 130 feet below the surface of the earth; the fine groves of pines, which majestically climb the sides of a beautiful eminence, that rises immediately from the brink of the chasm; all these objects cannot be contemplated without exciting emotions of wonder and admiration in the mind of every beholder. The appearance of this singular and picturesque scene, will naturally bring to the recollection of the classical spectator those beautiful lines of Virgil, in which he describes the gulf, through which his Alecto shoots herself into the internal regions:

……….. densis hunc frondibus atrum
Urget utrimque latus memoris, medioque fragosus
Dat sonitum faxis et torto vortice torrens.
Hic specus horrendum, et saevi spiracula Ditis
Monstrantur; ruptoque ingens Acherontse vorago
Pestiferas aperit fauces …………..

Critics may labour to convey the force and meaning of the author’s words; and travellers may, by their ingenious descriptions, give us a still more lively idea of their beauty and propriety; but he who would see a living commentary on this noble passage, must visit the rock of Aultgrande. There is also a most delightful ride from the church of Kiltearn to Ardullie by the sea side, which is only fordable at low water. Here the traveller has the sea on the one hand, and a fine view of Ferintosh on the opposite side of the bay. On the other hand there is a bank covered with various trees and shrubs, as oak, beech, larix, spruce fir; and about half way there is a perpendicular rock, about 30 feet high, also covered with shrubbery. Here there is a natural cascade, or fall of water, and close to the fall an artificial grove, and seat, planted around with flowers, and some ornaments fixed in the face of the rock; all which is very gratifying to any one who takes a forenoon’s ride for pleasure. But, as the fine plantations contribute so much to the beauty of this parish, we cannot avoid taking notice of it as a remarkable event, greatly to be regretted, that, upon the 17th day of January 1791, the high wind broke down, and tore up by the roots, about 6000 fine firs in the different plantations upon the estate of Fowlis. We must not omit to take notice of a place called Corrivackie, which is so situated behind the great hill of Uaish, that the sun does not shine there from November to the beginning of March.

Church
It has never been ascertained beyond a doubt who is patron of this parish. The only claimants are the Crown, and the family of Fowlis. All the ministers from the Revolution, down to 1770, were settled by a call from the heritors. The present incumbent, and his predecessor, were settled by royal presentations. Mr Harry Robertson was translated from Clyne to Kiltearn the 9th May 1776. He has been married since 1772, and has 8 children now living, 4 sons and 4 daughters. The church of this parish was handsomely rebuilt in 1790, at the expense of £700 Sterling. The manse and offices were built in 1762, at a very moderate expense. They require some repairs; and there is no doubt that they will soon be made comfortable. The stipend consists of 136 bolls, half oat-meal, and half barley, and £32 Sterling, with a glebe of 4 acres arable ground, without any grass.

Eminent Men
Though every age and every soil does not produce men of eminent talents, it cannot be denied that Kiltearn has given birth to several who have done honour to their native country. The Munros have distinguished themselves, at different periods, by their martial spirit and warlike achievements. This circumstance is taken notice of by Buchanan, in the 17th book of his History, where, after speaking of the difficulties in which Mary Queen of Scots was involved at Inverness, he adds, “That, as soon as they heard of their Sovereign’s danger, a great number of the ancient Scots poured in around her, especially the Frasers and Munros, which (says he) were esteemed among the most valiant of the clans inhabiting those countries.” And, in the war carried on by Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, against the Emperor Ferdinand II there were so many of the name of Munro, that, among the officers of that name who served in that war, there were 3 generals, 8 colonels, 5 lieutenant-colonels, 11 majors, and above 30 captains, besides a great number of subalterns. Many of them gained great reputation in this war, particularly their chief, Robert Munro, the 21st Baron of Fowlis, who so distinguished himself by his military conduct, that he was made colonel of two regiments at the same time, one of foot, and another of horse. It is not necessary, on this occasion, to enumerate the several illustrious characters that sprung from the house of Fowlis, as this has already employed the pen of a very learned and pious writer*. But, it would be unpardonable to omit mentioning the late Sir Robert Munro, who was killed at the battle of Falkirk on the 17th January 1746. There are still many living witnesses to attest how great an ornament he was to his name and to his country. His conduct at the battle of Fontenoy was heard with just applause through all Great Britain; and there is still extant a copy of a letter from the Elector Palatine to his envoy at London, desiring him to thank the King of Great Britain, in his name, for the excellent behaviour of the Highland regiment, while they were in his territories, “which (as he says expressly) was owing to the care of Sir Robert Munro, their lieutenant-colonel; for whose sake (he adds) he should always pay a regard to a Scotsman for the future.” Sir Harry Munro, son to Sir Robert Munro just mentioned, was highly distinguished in another line, as a scholar of the first rank. In classical learning he was an uncommon proficient. He laid the foundation of his learning at Westminster school, and perfected it at the university of Leyden. He employed his leisure hours, for near 20 years, in writing a large critical work upon Buchanan’s Psalms, which he finished, and left completely prepared for press. This work he submitted to the review of the late learned Mr Thomas Ruddiman, who gave his approbation of it, and paid the highest compliments to the classical knowledge and critical abilities of Sir Harry; which appears by a holograph letter of Mr Ruddiman’s, still extant in the library at Fowlis. Sir Harry, having gone to Edinburgh for the recovery of his health, died there on the 12th June 1781. Some divines have also flourished in Kiltearn that would do honour to any parish; but we shall only mention two. The first is Mr Donald Munro. This eminent man, contemporary with the celebrated Buchanan, was descended of the family of Coul, a branch of the Munros. He was first Archdeacon of the Isles, and gave Buchanan a description of them, which he acknowledges in his History. He was afterwards appointed superintendent of Ross, and parson of Kiltearn. The other is Mr Thomas Hogg, who was settled minister at Kiltearn in 1655, but was turned out at the restoration to make way for an Episcopal minister. He suffered much persecution, being long imprisoned in the Bass [i.e. Bass Rock prison, Firth of Forth]. When he obtained his liberty he retired to Holland, where he was highly esteemed for his learning and piety. There is a pamphlet published, containing memoirs of his life, and many remarkable anecdotes of him. There are several facts well attested, which indicate that he had a remarkable presentiment of future events respecting the Church in general, and himself in particular. Even at a period when, to all human appearance, it was most unlikely, and when he was obliged to fly from his country and charge, he foretold, with the most assured confidence, that there would be such a revolution as happened afterwards, and that he should return to his charge at Kiltearn, and be buried there; which accordingly turned out as he had said. And, in consideration of his eminent worth, and great sufferings, King William was pleased to appoint him one of his Chaplains for Scotland; but he died very soon after his appointment, at Kiltearn, in 1692, and is buried at the entry to the south-west door of the church. Some person, out of respect for his memory, and zealous to express the sense he had of Mr Hogg’s uncommon worth, caused the following singular inscription to be put on his grave-stone: “This stone will witness against the parishioners of Kiltearn, if ever they bring in an ungodly minister here.” But, while we pay the just tribute of praise to those whose stations and advantages of education enabled them to distinguish themselves in the world, it would be unjust to overlook those blossoms of genius that shoot forth in the humble walks of life. Here, a watchmaker in this parish naturally occurs to our view. This man (now about 30 years of age) was born and brought up in the Highland district of this parish, and, although he never saw a watch or clock till he was grown up to manhood, yet, by mere intuition, has made several clocks of coarse materials, which go well. He only wants a little instruction and assistance to make a figure in his line. It is a pity that he can neither read nor write, and hardly speaks English. There is also a school-boy, about 16 years of age, who discovers a good taste for drawing, and promises to arrive at some eminence in that art, if his genius was properly cultivated: As he is of a weak constitution, he is not fit for any hard labour. Such instances of genius, who want the advantages of education, are frequently to be met with in the world, and naturally suggest to the feeling heart that thought which Mr Gray so beautifully expresses in his Elegy:

“Perhaps, in this neglected spot, is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre:
But knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unrol;
Chill penury repress’d their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.”

* Vide an account of the antient family of Munros of Fowlis, in the Appendix to the Life of Colonel Gardiner, by the late Dr Doddridge.

Parish of Kiltearn continue reading