The 2nd Statistical Account

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PARISH OF CONTIN

(PRESBYTERY OF DINGWALL, 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 (1837)
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. CHARLES DOWNIE, MINISTER

I. – TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY

Name
The parish of Contin is situate in the centre of the county of Ross. Its etymology is not easily determined, and there are various opinions concerning it. In the former Statistical Account, the name is supposed to be derived from the Gaelic words Con-tuinn, i.e. the meeting of the waves or waters, with reference to the branches of the river Rasay, which form a small island, that has been, for time immemorial, the clergyman’s possession and place of residence. It is also observable that rivers of a considerable size meet at other two points in the parish. This derivation is not quite satisfactory, but we adopt it, in the absence of a better.

Extent-Boundaries
Contin is 33 miles long, by measurement of the Parliamentary road that passes through it, and the breadth is believed to be little short of the length. Thus, as regards extent of surface, it ranks among the largest parishes in Scotland. It is bounded on the west by Gairloch and Lochcarron; on the south by Kilmorack and Urray; on the east by Urray and Fodderty; and on the north by Lochbroom. The general aspect of the parish is mountainous, and the atmosphere is generally mild and dry.

Hydrography
The parish is abundantly supplied with perennial springs of the most wholesome water. On the estate of Hilton there are several strongly impregnated with iron.

Lakes are numerous. Those of sufficient importance to be here named are Loch Chroisg, supposed to be 5 miles long, and 1 broad; Loch Fannich, 12 miles in length, and 1 in breadth; Loch Luichart, 6 miles long, and generally half a mile broad; Loch Killin, 2 miles long, and about 1 mile in breadth. In each of these, the water is mossy and of a mild temperature.

There are likewise the smaller lakes of Achilty and Kinellan, which deserve to be noticed separately. The former is about 2 miles in circumference, and abounds in trout and char. The water is unusually pure, and very rarely freezes. The scenery all around this lake is highly picturesque. It is remarkable that a rivulet from an adjoining little lake forms the only visible ingress, while there is no egress that can be seen, although it is believed there is a subterraneous communication from it to the river Rasay, which runs within one mile to the north-east.

Loch Kinellan is also a pleasing object, with its pretty little island (for many years a garden) and the fine arable fields on one side contrast strikingly with the wilder scenery on the other.

There is here a very distinct echo. The principal rivers are the Connon, which has its origin in Loch Chroisg, in the western extremity of the parish, and is fed by tributary streams in its progress to the sea; Meig, which originates in Glenigag, the most distant point of Contin to the west, and receives similar supplies until it joins the Connon at Little Scatwell; Rasay, or Black Water, whose source is in Strath Vaich, on the confines of Lochbroom, and which runs parallel to the other two, until the three waters unite at Moy, and form one river, the Connon, which discharges itself into Cromarty Firth, within a few miles from the town of Dingwall. Salmon, pike, and trout are caught in these lakes and rivers.

Geology
The prevailing formation in this parish is gneiss with its various subordinate rocks; the old red sandstone also occurs, but only in the lower parts of the parish.

Wood
A considerable extent of the-lowland district is covered with wood, part of which has been planted. At one period a large proportion of the parish must have been wooded, for many roots and trunks of trees are still found imbedded in moss, in situations where there is not so much as a shrub now to be seen. Even in the recollection of persons still living, there were forests of Scots fir, remarkable for the richness and durability of their timber. These have been cut down, but there remain some plantations of larch and fir, and the soil is congenial to oak, ash, elm, birch, plane, alder, and beech also. Of the latter, some venerable and stately trees at Coul are highly ornamental.

II. – CIVIL HISTORY

Land-owners
The number of land-owners is 11, of whom only one (Sir George Mackenzie) resides in the parish.

Parochial Registers
With the exception of an old mutilated fragment, and one very imperfect register, there is no public record of any kind, of a remoter date than 1805. Marriages and births were not regularly entered until 1826, but since then a record of these has been kept in due form.

Eminent Men
Of AEneas Morison, the last Episcopal minister of Contin, many interesting anecdotes are still related, illustrative of his wit and benevolence. This excellent man suffered very harsh treatment for refusing to conform to presbytery. He was rudely ejected from his own church, to which he had fled as a sanctuary, and he closed a long, and honourable, and useful life in great indigence. It may be noticed, also, that Mr Murdo Mackenzie, the second Presbyterian minister in the parish, appears to have been a man whose prudence, sagacity, and decision of character fitted him well for the times in which he lived, and the circumstances under which he acted. Here, too, the name of the late Rev. Roderick Mackenzie, minister of Kilmuir Wester and Suddy, who was for sixteen years minister of Contin, is well entitled to a place, for his remarkable benevolence of disposition, his active exertions to promote the views of deserving youth, and the paternal interest he ever manifested in all that concerned the welfare of his flock.

Antiquites
At the eastern extremity of Loch Achilty, is seen one of those circles formed of stone, within which the Druids are supposed to have worshipped. We have heard that an attempt was made, some years ago, to ascertain its contents, but it ended in disappointment, as nothing else was found than a few empty earthen jars.

In Lake Kinellan stands an artificial island, resting upon logs of oak, on which the family of Seaforth had at one period an house of strength, and a quarter of a mile eastward, is the place of Blar’ na’n Ceann, or field of heads, so named from having been the scene of a very sanguinary conflict between the Mackenzies of Seaforth, and Macdonells of Glengarry. The latter, according to tradition, came, as was the fashion in those days, to resent an old feud by force of arms, but were routed after great slaughter, and, being pursued by the Mackenzies to the confluence of the rivers Rasay and Connon at Moy, were there forced into the water, and drowned.

There is still in Loch Achilty a small island, likewise supposed to be artificial. It belonged to MacLea Mor, i.e. Great MacLea, who possessed, at the same time, a large extent of property in the parish, and who was wont in seasons of danger to retire to the island as a place of refuge from his enemies. The ruins of the buildings which he there occupied may still be traced. A niche was long seen in the wall of the church, called Cruist Mhic’ a Lea, from its having formed part of a vault in which that family was buried.

Modern Buildings
At Coul, in the eastern part of the parish, a new mansion-house was built in 1821, which is handsome and commodious. The surrounding grounds have been tastefully laid out, and the garden is kept in a superior style.

Two churches have been, of late years, erected in this parish, one at Keanlochluchart, in 1825, and the other in Strathconnon, in 1830, upon the Government grant for building additional places of worship in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

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