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

By the REV. CHARLES DOWNIE, MINISTER

III. – POPULATION

By Dr Webster's census in 1755 the population was

1949

According to last Statistical Account in 1792

2000

By the census of 1831

2028

The number of males in 1831 was

943

of females

1080

The inhabitants, being partial to the place of their nativity, do not remove from it while they can earn a subsistence, until they are swept off to make way for extensive farmers.

The average of births for the last seven years has been

55

of marriages

14

The number of deaths cannot be ascertained from the want of a register.

Widowers above 50 years of age

13

Unmarried women above 45 years

44

Number of families in the parish in 1884

437

The number of proprietors of land of the yearly value of L.50 and upwards, is

9

Gaelic, being the vernacular tongue, is the language chiefly spoken, but, from the general diffusion of knowledge by means of schools, English is acquired by a large portion of the rising generation.

Habits and Character of the People
Poverty having tended greatly to crush the social feelings of the people, they enjoy in a very limited degree, the pleasures and advantages of society, yet they are in general not dissatisfied with their condition. The general character of the peasantry merits the most honourable testimony. It is that of a religious and moral people. Wherever the contrary appears, it may be traced to the influence of bad example, or to the mismanagement of those into whose hands it has been their misfortune to fall. Here, as throughout the Highlands, the native inhabitants discover great natural acuteness. Their disposition is ingenuous, and when treated with kindness they are tractable and grateful. Sincerity of friendship, ardour of attachment, and strict fidelity to those who repose confidence in them, continue to characterise them. In their dealings they are just, in their callings industrious, in their manners obliging, disinterested in hospitality, and kind and generous towards their brethren in distress. With few exceptions, they are of sober habits, and give regular attendance upon public worship.

The Highlanders are grossly calumnated, when represented as inactive and indolent. Let the proper encouragement be given to them, and it will be found that, however far they may surpass, they are certainly not inferior to any of their countrymen, in sagacity, ability, and inclination to work. It is true that in Contin, as well as in various other parishes, the population is seen at present under many disadvantages. The few that remain of the old race are greatly reduced in circumstances, and those who have known the noble-minded people of these districts in better days, who are competent to judge, and who institute a comparison now, will readily, yet sorrowfully, subscribe to the sentiment of the poet:

“A bold peasantry, their country’s pride, when once destroyed can never be supplied.”

To the pleasures of the sportsman, who ranges unmolested over moors and mountains, the inhabitants of Contin were long accustomed, in common with their Highland neighbours. But these days are past, and the people are now utter strangers to such amusements, for where the game is not let to English sportsmen, it is very carefully preserved. Poaching of any kind is therefore little practised. Indeed, he who possesses the proper independent feeling that animates the breast of a true Highlander, scorns thus to take what the lord of the soil denies to him.

For many years smuggling prevailed to an alarming extent throughout the interior of the parish, and must have been hurtful, as it always is, to the morals of the people, but it has been so completely suppressed that illicit whisky has now become almost as rare as foreign spirits.

In the course of the last three years, there were 4 illegitimate births in the parish.

IV. – INDUSTRY

By last census the number of males employed in agriculture was

271

in manufactures

0

in retail trade or handicraft

50

educated men, &c.

13

labourers

45

retired tradesmen not included above

16

female servants

97

The precise extent of arable and pasture lands it has been impossible to ascertain; but the want of this information is of less consequence, from the greater part of the parish being mountainous, and therefore chiefly adapted to pastoral purposes. It may, however, be remarked that the arable land in the several valleys is of an active and fertile description, and in the eastern or lowland division, there are several farms entirely arable, averaging 140 or 150 acres each, the soil of which is of a superior kind, and farmed after the most improved system of modern husbandry.

Rent of Land
The average rent of arable land per acre is L.1. 10s.; of grazing an ox or cow, about the same; of a sheep’s grass, from 1s. 9d., to 2s. per annum.

Rate of Wages
Labourers have commonly 1s. a day in summer, and 10d. in winter with victuals, or 1s. 6d. and 1s. 4d. without victuals; a farm-servant receives from L.7 to L.8 of yearly wages, besides his victuals. Masons and carpenters earn 2s. 6d. and 2s. per day.

Cattle and Sheep Stock
Several farms are stocked both with Cheviot and black-faced sheep, and those reared on some grazings fetch the highest prices at market. We may particularise the farm of Acnashine, belonging to Mr Mackenzie of Kilcoy, the stock of which when exhibited at competitions has repeatedly obtained premiums; likewise Leadgowan, the property of Mr Mackenzie of Hilton, and which is also well known as a sheep walk of superior value.

The few black cattle reared for sale are the remains of the old Highland breed, which seems to have degenerated in the same ratio in which the circumstances of the people have declined.

Leases vary in their duration from four to nineteen years, and it naturally follows that the tenants who receive the longest leases improve their farms most. All the arable farms are furnished with suitable houses and enclosures.

Recent Improvements
The principal recent improvement in this parish is at Craigdarroch, where Captain James Murray of the Royal Navy has erected a beautiful residence within a short walk of Loch Achilty. The house is a substantial and comfortable building, and stands in a romantic situation, commanding a view of the lake and surrounding scenery. The garden and grounds have been laid out with great taste, and a track of barren moor has been, by persevering industry and judicious outlay, converted into productive soil.

Fishing
The salmon-fishings of Connon and Rasay are the only two in the parish. The quality of the fish caught in each is superior, and both may be worth about L.40 a-year.

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