The 2nd Statistical Account
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PARISH OF DINGWALL
(PRESBYTERY OF DINGWALL, SYNOD OF ROSS)
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty
By the Rev. HECTOR BETHUNE, MINISTER
IV. – INDUSTRY
Agriculture – The number of acres in this parish, either cultivated or occasionally in tillage, is 2388. The number which have never been cultivated, but remain in pasture is 3168. There is very little of this capable of being added to the cultivated land of the parish with any prospect of remuneration. It chiefly consists of some hill pasture, and moorland lying at the northern extremity of the parish. But there is an extent of about 200 acres within the parish recoverable from the sea, and capable of being very profitably improved. It consists of a flat bay, with a bottom composed of mud, covered only at high water, which might be easily rendered capable of yielding excellent crops; all that is requisite being to exclude the sea, which might easily be effected by means of an embankment, owing to the shallowness of the water. A method has been suggested by which this land might be recovered at a very inconsiderable expense, which is worthy of notice. It is found that each tide carries along with it a quantity of the slime of which the shore is chiefly composed for a considerable distance, which at present it washes off again by its action as it recedes. But if a row of pretty closely set piles were so placed as to prevent its being carried away, the mud would not only accumulate about the piles (which might be multiplied from time to time, as an increase of height or solidity was required) so as in time to form an embankment, but a deposit would gradually go on which would have the additional advantage of raising the whole surface. That this would actually be the result is proved by the fact, that within a yair which was erected a few years ago in the neighbourhood, and which could but partially answer the purpose of the piles, a bed of mud of considerable depth has already been deposited. And this is further confirmed by the rapidity with which mud accumulates in those parts of the canal which are not exposed to the action of the current.
There are no common lands in the parish.
There are 1385 acres covered with plantations of fir, larch, and hard-wood, chiefly the first, of all ages, all very thriving, and in general well attended to. But besides this, there is a great deal of very fine wood, consisting of beech, elm, oak, ash, sycamore, &c. dispersed all over the parish in the form of clumps, rows, and borders. Tulloch, the residence of the principal proprietor, is very richly wooded, which is disposed with great taste, And the fields all over the parish are edged with rows of trees, the disadvantage of which to the farmer is compensated to the public in the luxuriant and picturesque appearance which they impart to the country.
The average rent of arable land in the parish is about L.2 per acre. The lands around the town, which are of superior quality, are very highly rented, some as high as L.4. 10s. per acre.
The average rent of grazing here is at the rent of L.1 per ox or cow, and 3s. per sheep during the year.
The usual rate of wages for farm-servants is from L.7 to L.8 in money, 7 bolls of meal, a quarter of an acre of potatoes, and a free house and garden, worth in all about L.20 per annum. Labourers only occasionally employed are paid at the rate of about 7s. 6d. a-week, and country artisans at about 9s. The average rate of mason work for some years past is from L.1. 16s. to L.2 per rood, journeymen being paid at the average rate of 12s. a-week. Carpenters are paid from 10s. to 12s. a-week; slaters about 12s.; painters from 12s. to 16s. But work of all kinds is done now by estimate, and the rate of wages varies according to the demand, and the qualification of the workman.
The number of sheep and cattle bred in this parish is inconsiderable, the grazing, which is well sheltered by wood, being generally let as wintering for sheep reared in the more mountainous and exposed parts of the country, and as summer grazing for the black-cattle reared by the farmers and cottars around, which are grazed at so much per head. The few sheep produced in the parish, which were formerly the common black-faced breed of the country, are now Cheviot of the most approved breed. The cattle are generally of the Highland stamp, with the exception of some Ayrshire cows, recently introduced. The horses on all the larger farms are Clydesdale, of a superior caste; the cottars still use the small garrons of the country.
The husbandry pursued in the parish is of a very high character. The neatness, extent, and regularity of the fields, and the general appearance of high culture which the farms present frequently excites the surprise of strangers who visit the Highlands for the first time, while the superior quality of the produce secures for it the highest prices in the markets. The implements used are of the most approved description, comprising most of the modern improvements. The systems of cropping practised are the following, chiefly the first:
1st. Six-course rotation for best loam or clay lands: 1 fallow manured, or turnips with manure or bone-dust; 2. wheat or barley; 3. hay; 4. oats; 5. potatoes, peas, or beans manured; 6. wheat –
2d. Five-course rotation for light or gravelly land: 1. turnips; 2. barley or wheat occasionally; 3. hay; 4. pasture; 5. oats, or wheat seldom –
3d. Seven-course rotation for inferior loam or clay: 1. fallow or turnips; 2. wheat or barley; 3. hay; 4. pasture; 5. oats; 6. beans or potatoes; 7. wheat.
Since the date of the former Statistical Account, a great proportion of the arable land of the parish has been brought into a state of culture. A considerable part of this was reclaimed from the sea. It consisted of carse lands lying to the south and east of the town, over which the sea flowed at high water. In the improvement of this, all that was requisite was to exclude the sea by means of embankments (which has been effectually done) and to level the surface, as the want of fall and the nature of the subsoil (a stiff clay) precluded drainage. By the aid of lime and manure, these lands have been brought into a state of great productiveness. Another extensive improvement was the drainage and culture of the low part of Strathpeffer, lying within this parish, consisting of a swampy morass overgrown by stunted alder trees, and commonly called the bog. Through this a channel was cut for the Peffery, sufficiently deep to afford a fall for drainage, by a judicious use of which, and by trenching and levelling the surface, this, which was formerly of so little value as to be used as a common grazing, has become one of the finest farms in the parish.
These improvements were chiefly effected by the tenants who hold their lands on leases of nineteen or twenty-one years and this demonstrates the great advantage resulting, not only to the proprietor but to society generally, from such leases as secure to the occupier the fruits of his enterprise or skill. The lands about town are generally held on leases of five years, the proprietor being unwilling to grant them for longer terms, as they might prove obstacles to improvements, and as the value of land is there more fluctuating.
The farm-buildings throughout the parish are in good repair. They are in general substantial and commodious. The enclosures are chiefly sunk fences and hedges, the latter of which are very badly kept.
The chief obstacles to improvement on the part of the farmer here arise from the frequent inability of the proprietor, owing to circumstances connected with the law of entail, to render the tenant any assistance or encouragement in times of depression. The best remedy for this would undoubtedly be the conversion of money into grain rents, which would render the tenant independent to a great degree of fluctuation in the market prices.
There are three quarries in the parish; one of these, which is situated about one-fourth of a mile from the town, is the property of the public. It is a hard grey sandstone of good quality; but the labour and expense of excavating it are very great, owing to the depth of clay and breccia by which it is covered. The other two, which are private property, are of a fine light-blue colour, affording stone fit for all kinds of work, and susceptible of a very fine polish. It has, however, one disadvantage; there is a small admixture of iron pyrites, upon which the rain in time operates, and stains in a very ugly manner the contiguous stones.
There are no fisheries in this parish, with the exception of a stell salmon-fishing in the Conan, one-third of which belongs to the common good of the burgh, and from which it derives an average revenue of L. 90. There is also belonging to the town a yair fishing in the frith, which pays a trifling rent, but, owing to mal-construction or some other cause, it has been for a few years past very unproductive.
The average gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish, which, owing to a variety of circumstances it would be almost impossible to ascertain with accuracy, may be approximated thus: Assuming the six-course rotation described above to represent the relative proportion of the crops, and the amount of arable land in the parish to be 2888 imperial acres, it follows that:
One-sixth being in fallow or in turnips, one-half of each, there are of the latter 199 acres, valued at L. 5 per acre
One-sixth wheat and barley, one-half of each,
........199 acres wheat, 28 bushels per acre, valued at 4s. 6d. per bushel
........199 acres barley, 40 bushels per acre, valued at 3s. 6d. per bushel
One-sixth hay, 398 acres, 200 stone per acre ( 24 lb. per stone ) at 8d
One-sixth oats, 398 acres, 51 bushels per acre, at 2s. 6d.
One-sixth potatoes and pease or beans one half of the first
........199 acres potatoes, 240 bushels per acre, at 10d
........199 acres pease or beans, 28 bushels per acre, at 3s. 6d
One-sixth wheat,398 acres, 28 bushels per acre, at 4s. 6d.
1500 sheep pastured at 2s.
Cattle pastured, value
Annual value of timber cut in the parish,
Fisheries, average gross produce
There are but two small vessels belonging to this place. They were built here, and are employed in the coast trade. But, besides these, the port is frequented by vessels of different descriptions, which supply the district with lime, coal, &c.
The “Farmers’ Society for Wester Ross”, which has for its object the promotion of agriculture and its interests in this district, holds its quarterly meetings at Dingwall. Of this society all the principal farmers, and most of the landed proprietors around, are members. At these meetings the business consists in reading essays, detailing experiments, describing new inventions or improvements on the implements of husbandry, and in deliberating on the general interests of agriculture. The influence of this society has been considerable in improving stock, by promoting local exhibitions, &c. in bringing modern discoveries in the theory or practice of farming into general notice, and in fostering feelings of kindliness and intimacy, such as should ever subsist between landlord and tenant.