The 1st Statistical Account
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PARISH OF DINGWALL
(County of Ross)
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty
The First Statistical Account (1790)
On the 25 May 1790, Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness wrote to over nine hundred Parish ministers throughout Scotland asking them to contribute to a Statistical Inquiry by answering as best they could,a series of one hundred and sixty-six Queries respecting each Parish.
By the Rev. Mr DANIEL ROSE
Situation and Boundaries –
The parish of Dingwall, situated at the west end of the Frith of Cromarty, lies in the presbytery of Dingwall, of which the town of that name is the seat, and in the synod and county of Ross. It is bounded on the east by the parish of Kiltearn; on the north lie a vast tract of high mountains; and on the west and south by the parish of Fodderty. That part of the parish of Urquhart, called Ferrintosh, lies on the skirt to the south-east, but from it Dingwall is divided by the river Conan, which, at high water, is widened to about half a mile by the influx of the sea.
The Name and General Appearance –
The name was formerly Dingnaval or Dingnavallis, and took its origin from the richness and fertility of the soil of the lower grounds, which form a considerable part of the parish. Excluding a small district, peopled by few inhabitants, and divided from the rest by a high hill, this parish forms nearly an oblong of one and a half by two miles. It consists partly of a pretty extensive valley, and partly of the sloping sides of hills, a great portion of which is in a high state of cultivation. The waste ground is not very considerable, and there are no commons in the parish; the great bulk of the land is in culture, and the whole forms a beautiful interchange of hill and valley, wood and water, corn-fields and meadows.
The soil over the whole parish is abundantly fertile, and the greater part is uncommonly rich. It generally consists of a deep loam, or clay mixed with a considerable quantity of vegetable mould, which, in seasons of any tolerable mildness, and with an ordinary degree of good culture, seldom, if ever, fails to produce luxuriant crops. Every kind of pulse, and all the culniferous grains are accordingly found to thrive well in this parish. But, from the flatness of the ground in the lower parts, and the steepness of the neighbouring hills, together with the nature of the soil, a wet season is always uncommonly pernicious to its produce. It retards the labour of the farmer both in spring and in autumn, to a degree not experienced in other places, which are neither more favourably situated with respect to climate, nor nearly equal in point of fertility of soil.
The climate of this part of the country is upon the whole tolerably good. It is not subject to any destructive inundations, nor has it more frequent rains than most other parts of the kingdom; but it is exposed to high winds, which, though never rising to any signally pernicious violence, are often inconvenient to the inhabitants, and sometimes hurtful to the growing corn. The winter is not attended with any peculiar degree of severity.
This district has never been remarkable for the prevalence of any peculiar disease. To periodical visits of the small pox we are exposed in common with every part of the kingdom. It returns after unequal and uncertain intervals, but it seldom gives us a longer respite than from six to eight years. The last summer it was, in the natural way, extremely mortal. This distressful circumstance, however, was attended with some happy consequences. It opened the eyes of the lower classes of people to the advantages of inoculation, against which their prejudices had before been as violent as they were general.
Mineral Springs –
All along the side of the hill, fronting the south, which forms the northern part of the parish, there are mineral springs strongly impregnated with sulphur. One of them at Drynie appears nearly, if not fully, as strong as a spring in the neighbouring parish of Fodderty, which has been found extremely efficacious in curing a variety of cutaneous diseases.
Rivers and Fishings –
There are some rivulets in the parish, but no river except Conan. In these some excellent trouts are caught, but they are so few as never to be brought to market. The Conan is not, nor probably ever can be made, navigable for large vessels. On this river, however, there is a very productive salmon fishery. The time allowed by law for fishing is from the 30th of November to the 6th of August, but, on account of the frost in the winter, or the quantities of rain, which, by falling in the hills where the river has its sources, keep it too high to admit of hauling the nets, there is generally no regular fishing till the spring is well advanced. Though there are cruives (weirs) on the river, the water runs above them in the almost incessant floods which happen previous to that time, and most of the fish getting over the dyke (dams), a great number is seldom caught in the chest (lock) before March or April. When sold to the people of the country, 2d. a pound is the usual price of the fresh fish throughout the season.
There is belonging to the public good of Dingwall, a stell salmon fishery on Conan, or a fishery on that part of the river into which the sea flows. Five and twenty years ago, it brought no rent, but is now let at L.18: 10s. per annum.
The sea, at high water, washes a considerable part of the parish, running in apparent canals in several directions along the side of the town, and forms a beautiful variety of islets and peninsulas. But, even in this state, it is very shallow for several miles down the frith, and, at low water, it recedes to the distance of near four miles, leaving nothing but a slimy strand, which makes it unfit for the navigation of any large vessels, adverse to the production of fish of almost any kind, flounders excepted, and barren of all objects which merit the attention of the naturalist, the farmer, or the politician.
The goods imported to this place from London, Glasgow, Leith, and other manufacturing and trading towns are carried in the London and Leith smacks, which maintain a constant communication every three weeks, or month at most, between the southern and northern parts of the kingdom. There are in this parish only two boats, one of which is very small, plies at high water, between Dingwall and Ferrintosh; the other serves for the carriage of bulky articles from place to place.
Three quarries have been opened in this parish. The stones in one of them, which is not now used, were of a very indifferent quality, being apt to moulder into sand, when long exposed to the weather. Another, the property of the public, and discovered within these fifteen years, is of a much better quality. Its stones, though hard, are extremely useful in all those parts of houses where hewnwork is not necessary, and lying within a quarter of a mile of the town, they have contributed not a little to its improvement and increase. The third quarry, which is of a fine light blue colour, is private property. It is of a still superior quality, as it is fit for hewn as well as for coarse work, and is capable of a very fine polish. It has, however, one disadvantage: there is a small intermixture of iron ore, upon which the rain in time operates, and stains in a very ugly manner the contiguous stones.
Domestic and Wild animals –
The domestic quadrupeds and birds are such as are usually found in every other part of the country. There are plenty of hares, and, at a little distance, great numbers of red-deer. Once, and, only once, the minister saw two roe deer in the parish. They were probably driven by the sevcrity of the weather from the woods among the neighbouring hills to those in the lower part of the country, where better shelter and more easy access to pasture were found. There are some foxes, with the usual smaller kind of quadrupeds. Thc stationary birds are of the common kinds. Plenty of partridges, grouse, black game, plovers, and water-fowl of various species. The migratory birds are pretty numerous. They are the bernacle or rood-goose (note 1, see below), the woodcock, landrail, lapwing, cuckcoo, fieldfare, redwing, swallow, mountain finch or snow-flake, and sometimes the Bohemian chatterer (RSPB image library). The latter appears seldom, but then it comes in great flocks, feeding upon the berry of the mountain-ash; all the former are very plentiful in this parish.
The vegetable productions of the parish are such as are common to the whole country. There are few trees indeed of spontaneous growth, except alders, which abounded much some years ago, but are now rapidly giving place to corn and grass fields.