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

V. – PAROCHIAL ECONOMY

Market Town
Dingwall, which is distant seven miles, is the nearest market-town, none of the villages in the parish being of sufficient size to support a market. The Parliamentary road to Lochcarron passes through the parish from east to west. There are likewise district roads. The post-town is Dingwall.

Ecclesiastical State
The church of Contin has always stood where it is now, on the minister’s glebe, within two miles of the eastern extremity of the parish. It would seem to have been originally placed there, from the vicinity being better suited than any other part to a permanent population, and for the same reason we may suppose it to have been continued in use during the time of Episcopacy.

Its local situation could never have been convenient to a great part of the population, but the inconvenience arising therefrom was remedied latterly by the labours of a missionary minister, who itinerated among the people in the remoter parts, and the people have now the benefit of two Parliamentary ministers stationed among them.

At what period the church was erected is not known, but the ancient appearance of the fabric, several niches in the wall, and the immense number of human bones found strewed within (prior to the late repairs) afford a strong presumption that it was built in Popish times. There cannot be a doubt that it was used for divine service while Episcopacy flourished in Scotland. About sixty years ago, it was newly roofed and slated, but not having been finished within, it was long the most miserable place of worship in the shape of a parish church in the kingdom, nor can much be said in favour of it still. A repair was executed upon it last season, but of such a nature that it continues confined and comfortless.

The manse was built in the year 1794, but was very imperfectly finished, and having been found inadequate to the incumbent’s comfortable accommodation, the Court of Session, with its wonted enlightened and impartial liberality, decerned for a repair and improvement of it and of the offices in 1829.

Twenty-six Scots acres, arable and pasture, constitute the glebe. Being encompassed by water, and very flat, it is subject to inundation, which greatly deteriorates its value. In 1823, all the heritors surrendered their teinds; the stipend is consequently payable in money, and averages the value of 16 chalders. For nearly thirty years there has been an itinerating catechist on the establishment of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The people being warmly attached to the Established Church, there is no chapel or Dissenting meeting-house of any kind in the parish, and we are happily free from Papists, voluntaries, and Seceders.

Divine service is performed every Lord’s day both in English and Gaelic, and is well attended in each language. The average number of communicants is about 100.

Education
Besides the parish school, there are other three supported by societies, and one by the inhabitants. English, Gaelic, writing, book-keeping, and arithmetic are the branches generally taught in each of the schools, and in the parish school, if desired, instruction may be also had in geography, Latin, Greek, and mathematics.

The parochial schoolmaster’s salary is L 30, and the amount of fees varies from L. to L. 10. Probably the other teachers receive from L.15 to L.20 each, including salary and fees.

Generally speaking, the people are sensible of the value of education.

Poor
The poor are maintained entirely by church collections, and the interest of a small fund, amounting to L.71. 3s. 8d. which has been made up out of the remains of an old legacy bequeathed to them, and savings added occasionally thereto by the kirk-session. Of persons who receive parochial aid the ordinary number is 43, and the average sum allowed to each is 8s. Church collections average L.7. 9s. a-year. The poor in this parish do not apply for relief, until compelled by necessity; in any other case they regard it as a degradation.

Markets
A market, established time out of mind, still continues to be held at Contin Inn, twice every year. At one period, the site being favourable, the business transacted was considerable.

Inns
There are three inns along the line of the Parliamentary road, besides two or three dram-shops, which last are to be deprecated for their immoral influence.

Fuel
Such as can afford the expense of coals, burn them, but the ordinary fuel is peat.

It does not appear necessary to add any thing further on the statistics of the parish, and the writer regrets that the foregoing account contains so little which he can hope to have any interest for the general reader.

MISCELLANEOUS OBSERVATIONS

The increased value of land in the parish is worthy of remark. In 1792, the rental amounted at the utmost to L.1400 only; now, after a lapse of forty-two years, it approaches to nearly L.6000. As regards the arable land, the value has arisen from the additions made to it, as well as from the improved system of husbandry which has been adopted. The facility of access to market has also had an effect, and the high prices of sheep and wool for many years sufficiently account for the extraordinary increase in the rents of pasture farms. As an instance of the latter, the grazing of Fannich, which let fifty years ago at L.12, brings the present proprietor a yearly rent of L.200. The value of game is no less striking. In some cases, a larger rent is now paid for the privilege of shooting alone than was paid forty-five years ago for the right of pasturing.

It is gratifying to observe that the march of intellect has dispelled many of those superstitions that were formerly so common in the Highlands, and there is reason to believe, that, in a few years, such as remain shall disappear.

September 1837.

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