The 2nd Statistical Account

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PARISH OF ROSSKEEN

(PRESBYTERY OF TAIN, SYNOD OF ROSS)

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

The Second Statistical Account (1838)
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. David Carment, AM, Minister.

I. – TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY

Name
“The name of this parish,” says the writer of the last Statistical Account, “seems to be derived from the Gaelic word Coinneamh, signifying a meeting or junction, and Ross-coinneamh may denote the place where the districts of Easter and Wester Ross join, which is the western boundary of this parish, and where the inhabitants might occasionally assemble.”

Extent and Boundaries
This parish is situated on the northern shore of the Frith of Cromarty. It is supposed to extend in length, from south-east to north-west, from 25 to 30 miles; its greatest breadth is about 12 miles. It is bounded on the east by the parish of Kilmuir; on the west by Alness; on the north by the parish of Kincardine and Edderton; and on the south by the Frith of Cromarty.

Topographical Appearances
That part of the parish which lies along the coast, is level. The ground rises from the sea coast with a gentle acclivity, for a distance of about four miles, after which it becomes hilly. The hills, however, are not in general of remarkable height. The highest is Cairn Coinneag. It is situated on the confines of the parish, where it borders on the north-west with Kincardine and Alness, and is supposed to be about 3000 feet above the level of the sea. In the interior of the parish, at a distance of about seven miles from the coast, there is a very extensive strath called Strathrusdale, used chiefly for sheep pasturage.

 

Meteorology, &c.
The climate is dry, temperate, and salubrious. The temperature in summer rarely exceeds 80° Fah. in the shade, and in winter it seldom falls below 14°. The climate sometimes varies a little in different parts of the parish, “for all kinds of farm-work can be carried on in the lower part of the parish,when in the heights the operations are interrupted by hard frost or a fall of snow.”

Hydrography
This parish, as we have already mentioned, is situated on the northern shore of the Frith of Cromartv, and is bounded by it for a distance of nearly six miles. The frith finds entrance between the two hills known by the name of the Sutors of Cromarty, and runs up into the country a distance of about twenty miles, and is almost surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills, between which and the shore lies a well-wooded and fertile country. The scenery of the frith is remarkably fine. From the Ness of Invergordon, the spectator can, on a clear summer evening, obtain a view of rarely equalled beauty. Looking to the east, across the broad waters of the Moray Frith, “the finest water piece in Britain”, he can discern in the distance, skirting the horizon, the distinctly defined coast of Moray; nearer, he beholds the Sutors of Cromarty, uprearing themselves on either side of the gateway through which the waters of the Frith enter, and which, immediately within these natural barriers, expand into a broad and beautiful bay, with the sweetly situated town of Cromarty on the south side, and on the north a rich and fertile country, with a magnificent back-ground of hills. Turning his eyes westward, he sees the calm and peaceful frith stretching up farther than the eye can well reach, and bordered on the north side by a stripe of richly wooded and comparatively level country; in the distance may be perceived the mountain monarch Ben Wyvis, raising high into the clear blue air his snowy summit, and surrounded by a hundred ancient hills, like so many chiefs round their sovereign; while to the south-west, the view is bounded by the huge and many-peaked Ben Vaichard. The general depth of the frith is from 15 to 20 fathoms, it preserves this depth for 12 or 14 miles, but after that, it shoals considerably. It is navigable, however, at full tide, for vessels of considerable size, to its furthest extremity.

Lakes
There are four fresh water lakes in this parish – Lochs Achnacloich, Patavieg, Coinneag, and Charnac. None of them is of any great extent, the largest not exceeding half-a-mile in length. The only one of them which merits notice on account of its scenery is Achnacloich. It is situated in a small but beautiful and secluded glen. At the lake’s eastern extremity, there is a lovely sylvan amphitheatre, from whence a view can be commanded of almost unrivalled majesty. Standing in this sequestered spot, surrounded on three sides by wood, the spectator has immediately before him the quiet lake, bordered by its beautiful fringe of birch and alder, while, to the west, may be seen a wilderness of hills, stretching to an apparently interminable distance, and heaped together in seemingly chaotic confusion, Ben Wyvis with its “diadem of snow” proudly towering above them all.

Rivers
The only stream of any magnitude connected with this parish, is the water of Alness, which forms the boundary between this and the neighbouring parish of Alness. It is a wild and romantic river, and will very amply repay the lover of the picturesque for his trouble in visiting it. There is one place, in particular, on the banks of the river called Tollie, which is of surpassing beauty, and affords not a few scenes worthy of the painter or the poet.

The river of Balnagown, which falls into the bay of Nigg, has its source in this parish.

Geology and Mineralogy
A large part of the parish is composed of that red sandstone referred to by geologists as the old red sandstone formation. In the upper part of the parish, the soil is a clayey loam incumbent on the red sandstone, and containing a number of rolled blocks of coarse granite, gneiss, &c. In the lower part, the soil varies considerably, “being partly gravelly and light, partly loam, and some a deep and strong clay”. In the middle of the parish, on the property of Culcairn, there is a very extensive bed of shell marl, amounting to perhaps from fifty to seventy acres. It is, however, little, if at all, used, as lime, which is preferred, can be obtained easily, and at a moderate price. There are large tracts of moss in the parish, in which considerable quantities of fir and oak are found imbedded.

Zoology
Of quadrupeds common to the parish, we may mention the red-deer (Cervus elaphus), the roe (C. apreolus), the fox (Canis vulpes), the badger (Ursus meles), the weasel (Mustela vulgaris), the marten (M. foina), the polecat (M. putorius), the otter (M. lutra), the wild cat (Felis catus ferus), the common hare (Lepus timidus), the alpine hare (L. variabilis), the rabbit (L. cuniculus), the mole (Talpa Europea), the bat (Vespertilio.)

Birds
Of birds which either occasionally visit us, or are natives to the parish, we may mention the following: the royal or golden eagle (Falco chrysaetos), the peregrine or common falcon (F. peregrinus), the Iceland falcon (F. islandicus), the sparrow- hawk (F. nisus), the glead (F.milvus), the hen-harrier (F. cyaneus), and several other varieties. The owl (Strix flammea), the raven (Corvus corax), the hooded, royston, or grey crow (C. cornix), the rook (C. frugilegus), the jackdaw or daw (C. monedula), the magpie (C. pica), the starling (Sturnus vulgaris), the greater butcher-bird (Lanius excubitor), the throstle or song-thrush (Turdus musicus), the fieldfare (T. Filaria), the blackbird (T. merula), the stonechat (Motacilla rubicola), the water wagtail (M. alba), the lark (Alauda arvensis), the bullfinch (Loxia pyrrhula), the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), the goldfinch (F. carduelis), the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), the kingfisher (Alcedo ispida), the swallow (Hirundo rustica), the goat-sucker, fern-owl, or night jar (Caprimulgus Europoeus), the wood-pigeon (Columba palumbus), the blackcock (Tetrao tetrix), the ptarmigan (T. lagopus), the moorfowl (T. Scoticus), the partridge (T.perdix), the plover (Charadrius pluvialis), the lapwing (Tringa vanellus), the heron (Ardea cinerea), the woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), the curlew (S. arquata), the snipe (S. gallinago), the corncrake (Rallus crex), the sea-gull (Larus canus). Large flocks of wild geese and ducks used during the winter months to frequent the Frith, but of late years they have almost entirely disappeared. To what cause this is to be attributed we know not.

Fishes
In the frith are found cod, coal-fish, skate, flounders, and salmon. Of old, haddocks and whitings were also found, but they have for many years almost totally disappeared. This has led to the conjecture that the bed of the frith is becoming gradually more muddy. Herring used also to enter the frith, but they have long ago totally deserted it. Of shell-fish, we may mention the cockle (Cardium edule), mussel (Mytilus edulis), limpet (Patella vulgaris), razor fish, &c. Very fine oysters (Ostrea edulis) are found by dredging.

Botany
The parish posseses few, if any, rare plants. There are very extensive plantations, consisting chiefly of larch and Scottish firs, but the latter greatly predominate. There is also a very considerable quantity of hard-wood, elm, beech, ash, oak, plane and lime trees, &c. besides natural woods of birch and alder. Altogether, there may be in the parish about 3000 acres under wood. On the estate of Ardross, the property of the Duke of Sutherland, there are some very noble trees. We may mention especially two magnificent oaks. Their dimensions are, of the one, girth at base, 10 feet, at 5 feet from the ground, 8 feet 4. It rises beautifully straight for about 25 feet before it begins to taper much, and may be altogether from 50 to 70 feet in height. Of the other, girth at base, 11 feet 6; it preserves nearly the same thickness for 12 or 15 feet, and then branches off into two enormous arms. These trees are supposed to be about 300 years old, and are, of course, as yet in the prime of their age. We may mention also an uncommonly large fir tree, which measures round the base about 11 feet. At the height of a few feet from the ground, it branches off into a number of arms, each about the size of an ordinary tree. One of these large branches was singularly enough broken off a few winters ago by the weight of a quantity of snow which had accumulated upon it. There are several other very fine firs, averaging 7 feet in girth, with the main stem rising 60 or 70 feet in height.

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