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

By the Rev. David Carment, AM, Minister.


The population of the parish, as returned to Dr Webster in 1755, was 1958 souls.

The population in 1801








According to an accurate private census taken a few years ago, the population was 3010. The difference between this and the Government census is easily accounted for by the fact that the latter included those only who were on the spot, whilst the former included all who belonged to the parish, whether present or absent, and many of the parishioners go during the summer months to other places for work. In the country part of the parish, the population has decreased, while in the villages there has been a corresponding increase. This is to be attributed to the doing away of the middle class of tenants, and merging their small into large farms.

Number of the population residing in the village of







Total residing in villages


The yearly average of births for the last seven years was


The yearly average of marriages for the last seven years was


No accurate account of deaths can be given.

There are at present in the parish







                                                       deaf and dumb


The principal clans in this parish are the Rosses and Munroes. The number of John Rosses and Donald Munroes is quite astonishing, and might prove at first not a little perplexing to a stranger, until he became acquainted with the bynames or patronymicks which serve to distinguish them from each other.

The language generally spoken is the Gaelic, but it has decidedly lost ground within the last forty years. In the villages, especially, the English is making rapid progress.

Habits, Customs, etc. of the People
The people seem to be very little addicted to games or amusements of any kind. Formerly there used to be a great turn out on new-year’s- day, old style, for playing at shinty; but the practice has now almost totally died away.*

* Connected with this great Highland game, we may relate the following traditional story: Rather more than a century ago it was the practice for the people to meet at Ardross, in the heights of the parish, on Sunday, to play at shinty. When Mr Bethune was settled as minister of the parish in 1717, this practice was one of tbe first things which caught his attention, and which he determined to put a stop to. The way he managed to do so, was this: There was a certain man noted for activity and strength, who was the chief and leader of the shinty players. Mr Bethune sent for this man and proposed to make him an elder. The man was at first, naturally, not a little surprised at this proposition, but after some persuasion consented to it. Upon his being, shortly afterwards, duly called to be an elder, Mr Bethune informed him of the various duties connected with his new office, and that he was especially bound to put a stop to the shinty playing on the Sabbath. The man promised to do so, and accordingly on the next Sabbath repaired to the playing ground, armed with a stout cudgel. He then declared to those assembled for their usual sport, that, if one of them dared to lift a shinty, he should forthwith feel the weight of his cudgel. The players, it is said thereupon quietly retired, and never afterwards met again on the Lord’s day, for a like purpose.

It is remarkable that the people here seem to have few, if any, ballads or old Gaelic songs, such as there are in other parts of the Highlands. The ordinary food of the peasantry is oatmeal and potatoes, chiefly the latter. The people are in general acute and intelligent, moral and attentive to the ordinances of religion. The Sabbath is well observed. Smuggling is nearly extinct. Poaching does not prevail to any extent.


Agriculture and Rural Economy
The number of imperial acres in the parish under cultivation is about 3900. The number of acres which never have been cultivated and remain constantly waste or in pasture may be stated at 30,000. The number of acres under wood is about 3000. The extent of ground capable of improvement, with a profitable application of capital, is very limited and is gradually being brought into tillage.

Rent of Land
The average rent of arable land per acre is about L.1. 5s., though some of it is as high as L.2. 15s. The total rental of the parish may be stated at above L.7000.

Rate of Wages
Day-labourers receive 1s. per diem all the year round, and women 6d. except in harvest, when men receive 1s. 6d. and women 1s. Farm-servants receive in general per annum L.6 in money, and six bolls of meal, besides potatoes and fuel.

There are various breeds in the parish of black- cattle, chiefly the Highland. Those kept for dairy purposes are, in many instances, Ayrshire and Buchan. Teeswater have also been introduced of late. There are annually grazed in the parish about 3500 sheep; of these, 3000 are Cheviot, the remainder black-faced. The Leicester breed have also been tried on a small scale on one farm, but, owing to the coldness of its soil, they have not thriven well. A considerable number of pigs is reared in the parish. There are also some goats in the heights. We may mention that there is a cattle-show, and also an exhibition of grain, held annually at Invergordon, when a number of premiums are awarded, at the one, for the best specimens of the different kinds of live-stock, and at the other, for the best samples of the different kinds of grain. These exhibitions cannot fail to be attended with the most beneficial effects.

The general character of the husbandry pursued may be said to be the five years rotation. The land is, in general, in a high state of cultivation, and capable of little farther improvement. It is said, that about L.12,OOO has been, of late years, expended on one farm alone, Ardross, in liming, draining, &c.; and a very fine farm it now is. The general duration of leases is nineteen years. The farm buildings are, in most instances, of a very superior description. The improvement which the parish has undergone, within the last forty years, may be learned from the fact, that, according to the last Statistical Account, the rental was then only L.2000, whereas it is now L.6000 and upwards.

There is a fine quarry of red sandstone on the banks of the water of Alness.

There are four stake-nets for the fishing of salmon in that part of the frith which bounds the parish, but, as may be guessed from the rent, which is only L.45 per annum, they are not very productive. Salmon are also caught by means of cruives on the water of Alness, but not in any number.

The gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish, as nearly as that can be ascertained, is as follows:

The wheat, barley, and oats in the following table, it is proper to mention, are set down at an average of the fiar’s prices for the last seven years.


Wheat, 400 acres, at 21 quarters per acre, at L.2.5s. per quarter


Barley, 400 acres, at 31 quarters, at L.1.10s.


Oats, 760 acres, at 41 quarters, at L1.1s.


Grass, 1560 acres, at L.1 per acre


Potatoes, 250 acres, at .L.5


Pease, 100 acres, at L.5


Turnips, 350 acres, at L.4






Total yearly value of raw produce raised


There are two hemp-manufactories in the parish, which together give employment to about 70 people, who receive each from 9s. to 12s. per week, besides the spinning, which occupies a great number of females, in the vicinity of the village of Invergordon.

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