The 1st Statistical Account

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(County 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. Mr DANIEL ROSE

Agriculture, Produce, etc.
The greater part of the parish is arable, and produces corn of different kinds, chiefly oats, next barley, then pease, then wheat, a few beans, and occasionally a very little rye. The quantity of ground sown with oats is about 500 acres, with barley 200, with pease 50, and with wheat 10. About 100 acres are annually employed in the production of sown grasses for hay, and about double that quantity is pasture ground. Potatoes form a part of the food of all, and the greater part of most, of the parishioners. The culture of them is generally considered as favourable to the ground, and an excellent preparative for grass crops; because the necessity of keeping them clean destroys the weeds, and the general idea of much manure being requisite to insure a good crop serves to secure the melioration of the ground. This latter advantage is greatly increased by the populousness of the town. The people in general collect considerable quantities of dung, which they know not how to use to better purpose than the cultivation of this root. They accordingly manure the land, plant the potatoes, and keep them clear of weeds, in consequcnce of which the gentlemen or neighbouring farmers allow them to have ground rent free. Nearly 25 acres are annually employed for this purpose. The cultivation of flax is so inconsiderable an object, that it is left more to the charge of the housewife, than of the farmer. Small patches of hemp, a plant which always thrives remarkably well, are sometimes sown, but it is raised for the use of individuals only. Plantations of trees of different kinds cover at least 900 acres of ground. They consist chiefly of Scotch pines, oak, ash, beech, elm, plain, and larch. In all those plantations there is excellent shelter, and in many parts of them very good pasture.

Seed-time commences about the middle of March, but it is as irregular as the climate is variable. For it sometimes happens, from the severity of the spring, that no sowing takes place till a month later. The harvest is subject to the same uncertainty, yet it commences in general about the beginning of September.

Horses and Black Cattle
The horses of all descriptions amount to 374, of these 56 are of the larger sort, and 318 of the small country kind. The depth of the roads leading to the mosses, and perhaps the steepness of the ascent, make it eligible for the farmers and cottagers to prefer this breed of horses. Larger ones would certainly sink deeper, and perhaps not so easily climb the hills. The black cattle, great and small, somewhat exceed 600. Many of these are draught oxen, but they chiefly consist of milk cows and young cattle.

Ploughs and Carts
Scots ploughs are generally used; there are, however, about nine chain-ploughs in the parish. They are sometimes drawn by oxen, generally by horses but often by a mixture of both. About 18 are drawn by oxen, 48 by horses, and 27 by a mixture of both. The whole number of ploughs in the parish is 93. In the choice of the species of animals by which they are drawn, the farmers are regulated by the situation of the grounds, and other circumstances. There are only 24 carts, properly so called, in the parish. Of the smaller open kind used by country people in the north, there are about 2410; but these being seldom used, except in the season for drawing peats and in harvest, it is difficult exactly to ascertain their number. The farmers collect their manure into dunghills and spread it on their fields, by means of a kind of cart called kellachies. They consist of small solid wheels, on which a frame is placed, with trams for the horse; and in an opening of the frame, a conical coarse wicker basket is set, where the dung is carried. In hilly and uneven places, their lightness may be a reason for using them, but, in places differently situated, blind attachment to inveterate customs can only account for the use of them.

Rent of Land and Houses
The annual land rent of the parish is, I am informed, about L.1200. The rents of the houses are difficult to ascertain. It may not be improper, however, to observe, that such houses as day-labourers and servants occupy, are commonly let at from 15s. to 21s.

Church, etc.
The living of this parish is L.58; 32 bolls of oat-meal, 9 stones Dutch weight to the boll; and 16 bolls of barley, country measure, which is considerably larger than the Linlithgow. Eight bolls were the common rent of the glebe when it was let to a farmer. It consists of about eight Scots acres. The present minister is a bachelor, and has been settled in the parish upwards of 10 years. The King is patron. Within these two years, a commodious good manse was built. The church is nearly a ruin. It had connected with it, by wide arches, one large chapel, and several small ones, which were probably used both as cemeteries and places of devotion. They have long been shut out from the church, and used only as burying places. The heritors have it in contemplation to build a new church soon, which will be both convenient for the parishioners, and ornamental to the town. The heritors, including proprietors of burgage tenements, amount to 39. But, strictly speaking, there are only two, for there are only two separate valuations in the parish, viz., the valuation of the estate of Tulloch, and the magistracy of Dingwall. Upwards of four-fifths of these proprietors live in the town. Of the two wealthiest, one only resides occasionally in the parish, and the other has his principal family seat in the neighbourhood.

The number of poor in the parish who receive aid from charitable funds is 58, of which 8 are males, and 50 females. The annual amount of the weekly contributions for their relief is extremely, small, viz. about L.7 or L.8. A sum of money, however, at interest, yields L.35. In the number of poor are included those who, although not unable to work, are incapable by their labour to earn what is sufficient for their own or their families subsistence, are admitted. None are admitted on the poor’s roll, or obtain occasional aid from the funds, without previously acknowledging the session to have a claim on the effects they may chance to leave, to the full extent of the sums they have received.

In the course of the year 1790, there were 18 persons confined in the jail of this town. Of these there were imprisoned for debt 11, for petty theft 5, for horse and sheep stealing one; and one woman, from a distant part of the country, has lain here under sentence of transportation, since the autumn circuit 1789. But in this parish no murder has been committed for these last 40 years, nor has an individual been banished.

The parochial is the only school in the parish. The schoolmaster’s salary from the town and parish amounts to L.3; his emoluments as session-clerk, to L.3: 10; and the school-fees, communibus annis, to L.24. He has also a very good house with a garden from the town. The number of scholars is variable, from 60 to 80. The present master’s knowledge fully qualifies him for his office, and his assiduity is unwearied.

Price of Provisions, Labour, etc.
The prices of provisions within these 30 years past have undergone a great alteration. At the commencement of that period, mutton, pork, even beef, &c. were sold in the lump, by the quarter, or the whole carcase. From 8d to 10d. was the usual price of a quarter of good mutton, 2s. 6d. of a quarter of pork, and 5s. 6d. or 6s. of an exceeding good quarter of beef. Now the average price of all these kinds of meat is 3d. per pound, which is at least double their former value. A good fat goose was then sold at 10d., a duck at 3d., and a fowl at 2.5d. They now fetch twice as much money. Butter was then bought at 6s. a stone; it is now sold at from 12s. to 14s.; common country made cheese at 2s. or 2s.6d at most; now it is never under 5s. Barley and oatmeal were commonly sold at that period for 8s. or 10s. a boll; they have not for many years been under 16s. How much soever these changes may evince the general increased prosperity of the country, they nevertheless bear very hard on individuals, whose livings are stationary at a certain allowance in money.

The wages of a common labourer are 6d. a day, and of masons and house-carpenters, from 1s. to 1s.6d. Supposing a labourer to have constant employment the whole year, he will earn L.7. 16s. His wife, though she should have the charge of a moderate family, will gain by spinning, with tolerable diligence, 1.5d. a day, which is near L.2 a year. There is no room for children to exert industry, as there are no manufactures. The whole earnings of the family, therefore, making no allowance for sickness, idle days, avocations, or any other exigences, cannot exceed L9.16s. Large families are, however, on such reared, and often on smaller incomes, with the assistance of a small field for potatoes, and perhaps a little patch of ground for greens, cultivated after hours of labour, or when other employment is not to be got. How this wretched pittance is distributed among the variety of objects which are necessary to human life in a very simple state, and how it is made sufficient for the subsistence of a family, is inconceivable. But habits of frugal management, taught by poverty to the indigent, are found to effect what the affluent do not imagine, and cannot easily believe.

Roads and Bridges –
The routes in this parish are exceedingly deep in winter. Their badness may be attributed in part to the nature of the soil through which they pass, but it is owing also to the not adopting a proper method in the reparation of them. One public road leads across Conan, which forms a communication between the very populous district of Ferrintosh and this town. From a desire to save labour or time, the ford is often attempted, when the tide is too far advanced, or the river too high, and the consequence is frequently fatal. A bridge over this river would not only be a vast accommodation to travellers, but would also be a means of saving many lives. There are two excellent bridges on a rivulet, in the course of the public roads; two, however, are still wanted, one over each of the burns which form the south and east boundary of the parish.

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