The 2nd Statistical Account

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(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 (1840)
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.


* Drawn up by Mr George Dunoon, Parochial Schoolmaster of Tarbat.


Boundaries, &c.
The parish of Tarbat occupies the eastern promontory of the shire of Ross, being bounded on the south and east by the Murray Frith, and on the north by the Dornoch Frith, and terminating in a narrow point called Tarbat Ness, on which an elegant lighthouse has lately been built.

From the want of woods and enclosures, the parish presents rather a naked appearance.

The soil is generally light, a great deal of it being sandy, but a considerable proportion of most of the large farms is a deep black loam, capable of bearing all ordinary farm produce; and the lighter lands in rainy seasons also give good crops of turnips and grass, from sea-ware, which the neighbouring shores supply in great abundance.

A variety of caves occur along the shores of the parish some occupied for many months together by bands of tinkers.


There is, above the village of Portmaholmack, a green hill, called Chapel Hill, where there was discovered, on levelling the ground for new buildings, a number of human bones deposited within rough flags of freestone. There is a beautiful piece of masonic work in the Churchyard, called the Dingwall’s Tomb.

On the north side of Tarbat Ness, at a creek called Port Chaistel, are the ruins of an old castle, overhanging the sea, and cut off from the land by a deep ditch, and beside it, on the Black Moor, is the vestige of a Roman camp, near the site of the lighthouse as a land-mark.

The Castle of Balconie is a most ancient building and perhaps the largest and the most entire now in Ross-shire. It is said to have been built by the Earls of Ross. But the last inhabitants were the Earls of Cromarty, and Alexander Mackenzie of Ardloch Assint, brother to the late Earl George Mackenzie of Cromarty. It has not been inhabited by any respectable family for 200 years.

Fragments of what is said to have been a Danish cross are to be seen scattered among the graves in the church-yard and a low green mound, adjoining the eastern gable of the church, is still pointed out as the site on which it stood.

Several chests, composed of rough freestone flags, were dug up a few years ago, at a place in the neighbourhood of Portmaholmack, by labourers employed in levelling the ground for new buildings. Each chest contained an entire skeleton, of a size unusually large and, from the position of the bones, it appeared that the bodies had been doubled. A number of small copper coins, all of Charles I., together with a lady’s ring encircled with the inscription, Finish my desire, rudely executed, were discovered about twenty years ago in a garden near Balconie Castle. The ring is now in the possession of George Mackenzie Ross, Esq. of Aldie, and is said to be of considerable value.

Parochial Registers
The only parochial registers extant are a book in which the minutes of the kirk-session are kept, and another in which births and marriages are recorded. The earliest entry in the first is in the year 1750, and in the second, 1801. These books have been regularly kept.


Valued Rent

Real Rent


L.1834. 7. 6

Mackay of Rockfield

L. 234. 0. 0

Mackenzie Ross of Aldie

L. 322.10. 0

L 202.10. 0

Macleod of Cadboll

L.2138. 3. 4

L.2030.12. 7

L.4529. 0.10

The house Geanies is the only mansion house in the parish.


Amount of population in 1801


Amount of population in 1811


Amount of population in 1821


Amount of population in 1831


No. of families, engaged in agriculture


No. of families engaged in Trade, manufactures, or handicrafts


No. of families otherwise engaged


The plantations in this parish consist of the common Scots fir, elm, ash, beech, and, though capable of being rendered congenial, by draining, to the growth of alder, poplar, and willow, nothing has as yet been done in that way of improving them, excepting in the estates of Geanies and Rockfield, in consequence of which, the eastern part of the parish has but a very bare and bleak appearance.

The various sorts of timber of which the plantations consist are all planted, and of fifty or sixty years standing. So diminutive are the trees in point of size, in consequence of not having been properly attended to, that the average produce of thinning and felling for the last four years amounted only to L.127 per annum. The average produce of gardens and orchards may be estimated at L.20 per annum.

The only kind of insect known here which is not common to any other part of the country, is a small insect, particularly hurtful to fruit trees. It is covered with a white downy kind of moss, and fastens in hordes round the stems, particularly of pear and apple trees, causing the leaves attached to the fruit stems, which they sometimes ascend to and fasten on, to fall off, and so discolouring the bark as to give it a very unhealthy appearance.

The herring-fishing commences about the middle of July, and continues till September. The fishing ground lies off Tarbat Ness, at the distance of about five miles, and is taken by certain landmarks. Curers engage their boats during the months of November and December, and give a bounty of from L.5. 5s. to L.8. 8s., varying according to the skill of the fishermen, to each of the different crews at the time of engagement, and each boat receives in May an advance of about L.10, to assist in making the preparations for sea. The number of boats engaged in fishing for the curers at the different stations in this parish, last season, was about 100; and the average take of each boat was 105 crans, exclusive of many hundreds of barrels carried off in carts to various parts of the country. The total number of boats employed in fishing on the coast last season, is said to have been about 300. The haddock and cod-fishing continues from the close to the commencement of the herring-fishing season. The number of salmon taken annually is very inconsiderable. Lobsters and several other kinds of shell-fish are found in great numbers from May till August, and sold to vessels employed in collecting them for the London market. The fishermen are, in general, industrious and frugal in their habits. Many of them have good houses, and there are a few comparatively wealthy. The only vessel belonging to the place is the property of a fisherman. She is quite new, and cost L.700.

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