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

By the Rev. David Carment, AM, Minister.

V . – PAROCHIAL ECONOMY

Means of Communication –
There are, as has been already mentioned, three villages in this parish, the largest of which, Invergordon, contains 1000 inhabitants. It is equidistant from the burgh towns of Tain and Dingwall, and is altogether most centrically situated. Few places, indeed, seem to possess such natural advantages for becoming a place of trade and commerce. It enjoys the most ample means of communication by means of coaches and steamers. The north and south mails pass daily through Invergordon. The Duchess of Sutherland, a new and magnificent steamer, plies once a fortnight to London, and a large sum has been already subscribed for building another for the same station. The Brilliant steam-ship plies regularly, during the summer, once a week, between Invergordon and Inverness, Aberdeen and Leith and the Velocity once a fortnight. A number of years ago a boat-slip was erected at Invergordon, and a few years ago a fine pier for large vessels was also erected. A wooden jetty was last year added to the pier, with a view to command ten feet water, at ebb-tide; but, from the absurd manner in which it has been constructed, it has, since its erection, been found to be of not the smallest use. A considerable quantity of grain is shipped annually at this port, for Leith and London, but we have been informed that, were it not that the shore dues are twice as high as at any other port, the amount shipped would perhaps be treble what it now is.

It would certainly be for the benefit, both of the place and of the proprietor, were the shore dues reduced to a reasonable rate. We may mention, that, from the 8th March to 12th August 1836, 150 bullocks, and 746 sheep and lambs were shipped at Invergordon by the London steamer for that port. There is also a harbour at Dalmore, at which a very considerable quantity of timber, chiefly fir, is annually shipped for the north of England. There are several roads of many miles extent, in this parish, all of them in excellent condition.

Ecclesiastical State
The church is situated in the centre of the parish, and its situation is most convenient so far as population is concerned. The district of Ardross is, indeed, distant from the church, but the modern system of large farms has reduced the population greatly in that extensive Highland district so that, where the prayers and praises of a pious peasantry were once heard echoing through the glens of their native hills,now, nothing is heard but the bleating of sheep or the bark of the shepherd’s dog. But, of a population of rather more than 3000, about 2800 are within three or three and a-half miles of the parish church, which to the hardy Highlander is only a pleasant walk.

The parish church, which is perhaps the most comfortable and commodious in the north of Scotland, was built in 1832, after a legal contest before the Court of Session for nearly two years, arising out of the opposition of a minority of the heritors, some of whom have since ceased to be heritors, the late Duke of Sutherland having, a few years ago, purchased the far greater portion of the inland or Highland districts of the parish. The church is seated for 1360 persons, and may contain about 1600, if closely occupied. The attendance on the Sabbath may be reckoned at from 1200 to 1400. We have no Dissenters of any kind or class, if we except three individuals, who occasionally attend church. As for voluntaries we know nothing about them; they cannot vegetate here. The Highland soil does not seem favourable to the growth of voluntaryism. We do at times get a solitary importation from the south, but they do not thrive, and become quite quiescent after a few months residence in the north. We sometimes, too, are visited by a kind of itinerant Independents, who baptise the children of all and sundry who apply to them, whether the parents be church members or not. The population of Ardross, though removed at a distance of from six to twelve miles from the parish church, in general attend regularly, even in winter. The sittings are or ought to be free, but it is believed that the feuars in the different villages, do pay a small sum annually for their sittings, which is not, however, given to the poor, as it is thought it should be.

The manse was built in 1825, and is large and commodious. There are two small glebes, one adjoining the manse, of four English acres, of good and fertile soil, the other is contiguous to the ruins of an old kirk, called Noinikil (the cell or chapel of St Ninian) and consists of about an acre and a-half, in three different divisions, which are let by the minister to a tenant in the neighbourhood. How this glebe came to be so curtailed, cannot now be ascertained. There is no grass glebe, which is felt to be a serious inconvenience, but the ministers of Rosskeen seem to have disliked litigation, and to have submitted to privations, rather than claim, at the risk of an expensive law-suit, what was their undoubted right.

The stipend is 16 chalders, half meal, half barley, and L.10 for communion elements. An augmentation was given in 1822, during the life of the late incumbent, but it was less than it would otherwise have been, from the cry of agricultural distress so called, which was particularly loud and lugubrious, at the period referred to, whereas we have thought that a very simple remedy might be found for that distress, without injuring the tenantry, or curtailing the stipends of the clergy, and that is by lowering the rents, as has lately been done by a Noble proprietor in this parish. But 16 chalders in 1822, and for some years after, were equal to 24 chalders for the last two or three years, and we have been simple enough to suppose, that the low price of grain furnishes an argument for the increase of the number of bolls awarded to the clergy, whose stipends have been so greatly reduced of late. Divine service is conducted in English and Gaelic. The ministers in this part of the country lecture and preach in Gaelic, each Lord’s day, and also preach regularly an English sermon, that is, three discourses each Sabbath, except for a part of the winter season, and yet we have cause to lament that real religion does not flourish, as might be expected where the truth is preached. The number of communicants is about 120. We have thus fewer communicants than our southern neighbours, but we are inclined to believe that we have both more religion, and more morality, and are more inclined to fear God, and honour the King, and less disposed to meddle with those who are given to change. But still,we must confess that there is a manifest departure, among all ranks, from that strictness and integrity, and genuine holiness, which in the olden time characterized the natives of our northern clime. We would pray for a revival of religion.in every corner of our land.

There is an Association for religious purposes in this parish, which since its establishment, about thirteen years ago, has given upwards of L.500 to various societies – Bible, Missionary, and Educational.

Succession of Ministers
It appears from the records of the presbytery of Tain, which commence in 1707, that the Episcopal incumbent of Rosskeen retained his living through the influence, as is supposed, of the Jacobitical gentry in the parish and neighbourhood. In the presbytery records there is not even an allusion to the parish of Rosskeen, until the death of the Episcopalian incumbent in 1714, and then the parish is noticed, and active exertions made to secure a pious and efficient minister. The person chosen was Mr Daniel Bethune, minister of Ardersier, who was inducted into Rosskeen, on the 23rd April 1717. He was a man eminently pious and successful in winning souls to Christ. He died the 16th March 1754. He was succeeded by his son, John Bethune, a man celebrated for his literary attainments, and honoured with the degree of D.D., a distinction which seldom falls to the lot of Highland clergymen, owing, we suppose, to their superior modesty and self-denial, rather than to their inferior attainments, or because their metropolitan brethren are more ready to monopolize these honours than to bestow them on those who, when out of sight, are out of mind, except when a vote to promote a party or partial object is required. We have seen two volumes of philosophical essays on various subjects by Dr Bethune.

He died the 15th April 1774. He was succeeded by Mr John Calder, minister at Weem, in Perthshire, who is said to have been singularly pious, and possessed of very popular talents. He was inducted on the 24th September 1775, and died 1st June 1783. Mr Thomas Urquhart was inducted 1st September 1784; died 17th May 1812. He was very much opposed at his induction, but is now generally said to have been a good and benevolent man, and of a meek and quiet disposition. Mr John Ross, minister of Logie Easter, was inducted 16th June 1813. He was a man of talent and sound evangelical views. He was translated to Rosskeen in his old age, much to the dissatisfaction of those left, and of those among whom he was settled. He died 8th February 1824. Mr David Carment, the present incumbent, was translated from the New Gaelic Chapel, Duke Street, Glasgow, and admitted assistant and successor on the 14th March 1822.

Education
There are in the parish one parochial school, two supported by societies, and three by school fees, which are trifling, and also ill paid. The parochial schoolmaster has the maximum salary, and perhaps his fees do not exceed L.3 per annum. There are also two Sabbath schools in the parish.

Library
A parochial library has been lately established, and seems to be already in a flourishing state. It is hoped that it will be the means of creating gradually, among the humbler classes of our population, a greater taste for reading than at present exists, and of thus aiding in the diffusion of useful knowledge.

Poor and Parochial Funds
The average number of persons receiving parochial aid, is 140. The annual amount of contributions for their relief, arising from church collections, mortcloth money, &c. is from L.50 to L.60. There is no assessment for the poor.

It is curious, though sufficiently explained by what has been said above, that there is in this parish more than one person, who has seen every Presbyterian minister in it since the Revolution. The comfort which the present incumbent, when in rather a delicate state of health, some years ago, received from one of these octogenarians, was, that he had secn six ministers in Rosskecn, and very likely he would see the seventh in this part of the country, which lays often a heavy tax on the minister, especially when the heritors happen to be non-resident. Dr Whyte of Bombay, grandson of one of the former ministers of Rosskeen, left L.2000 to the poor of the parish, the interest to be given, in certain specified proportions, to the modest poor. In general, none except the miserably poor ever think of applying for parochial relief.

Fairs
There are five fairs, held annually at Invergordon; in February, April, August, October, and December.

Inns
There are no less than 24 inns and alehouses, 15 of which, by far too many, are in the village of Invergordon. Drunkenness can, however, by no means be imputed, as a general vice, to the people.

Fuel
The fuel used by the humbler classes is peats, of which abundance can be easily procured. By the wealthier inhabitants, coals (English) are used, as they can be obtained here at a very moderate price.

MISCELLANEOUS OBSERVATIONS

In many respects, this parish has been improved within the last forty years, but the depopulation of the country by large farms is a serious evil, and is likely to bring along with it consequences which the landed interest seem not to have contemplated. There is no longer an independent peasantry. The morals of the people are deteriorated by the loss of independence, and their spirits embittered by what they deem oppression. The ties which united master and tenant are severed, and when the time comes, to which we look forward with fearful anticipations, it will, we fear, be found that an error has been committed, by grasping too much, at the risk of sooner or later losing all.

October 1838.

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