The 2nd Statistical Account
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PARISH OF APPLECROSS
(PRESBYTERY OF LOCHCARRON, SYNOD OF GLENELG)
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty
The Second Statistical Account (1840)
The New (or Second) Statistical Account of Scotland built on the previous work carried out by Sir John Sinclair for the First Statistical Accounts by including the knowledge of local doctors and schoolmasters. The Second Statistical Accounts were published between 1834 and 1845.
By the REV RODERICK McRAE, MINISTER.
I. – TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY.
The parish of Applecross, in Gaelic called Comaraich, is divided into three large districts:
1. Applecross, strictly so called;
2. Lochs, consisting of Torridon, Shieldag, &c.;
This parish formed a part of the parish of Lochcarron till 1726, when it was erected into a separate charge. The Applecross district was formerly occupied by a body of Roman Catholic priests, whose residence afforded an asylum to such as, from motives of piety, or to escape from punishment for criminal actions, sought such a place of protection. Hence the name Comaraich, a place of safety.
The modern name Applecross was given to the parish by the gentleman who was proprietor of the Comaraich estate, at the time of the erection, in commemoration of which event, five apple trees had been planted crossways in the proprietor’s garden.
Extent, &c. –
The parish is of great extent, and if reduced to a regular form, might be calculated at 20 miles long, and as many broad, if not considerably more. The far greater part of the parish consists of mountainous rocks and hills, covered with heather, and wild grasses. There is nothing remarkable, however, in their height or in other respects.
There are several lakes and rivers which produce trout and salmon, as Loch Damf, &c, the rivers of Applecross, Torridon, Balgie, &c.
The predominating rocks in this parish are red sandstone, quartz rock, and gneiss.
The soil, for the most part, is not rich, deep, loamy, or clayey, but rather light, gravelly, and sandy. It produces, however, good crops of oats, barley, and potatoes, &c. There are some peat mosses, but they are not very deep, at least where accessible for fuel. In some parts, they are at such a distance from the inhabitants, that the making of peats is very expensive, and in many cases more expensive than coals. There is plenty of limestone at Applecross and Kishorn, but it is found cheaper to buy lime from the kilns at Broadford, in the Isle of Skye, than to be at the expense of burning the stones here. There is a copper mine at Kishorn, which was worked sometime ago, and is said to have produced very rich ore. It is to be wished that Mr Mackenzie of Applecross, the proprietor, would order it to be opened again, as that might considerably benefit his own family, and afford employment and support to persons who now lose their time in sloth and wretchedness.
There are several caves and grottoes, said to have been occupied in old times by banditti and outlaws, or used by the inhabitants as places in which they preserved their effects from marauders and plunderers.
The climate is rather moist and foggy, and torrents of rain frequently fall in all seasons of the year. For several years back there has been very little snow compared with the storms of former times. During the last winter, there was no snow which remained so long as a single day on the low grounds. The snow, however, covered the hills, and continued in some places till the end of April. The climate is not considered as unhealthy, nor are the people subject to any distempers but such as are common in other parishes on this coast, as fevers, rheumatisms, palsies, consumptions, &c; and these are not often very prevalent or destructive.
Zoology, &c. –
There are great herds of deer, and some roes in the hills and woods. There are also beasts of prey, as foxes, pole-cats, &c which do considerable mischief among sheep, poultry, &c. Of birds there are several kinds, as heath-hens, black-cocks, partridges, ptarmigans, wild-pigeons, plovers, snipes, wild-ducks, &c: also birds of prey, as eagles, kites, hawks, &c. There are various kinds of salt water fish, as herring, cod, ling, sythe, cuddy, flounder, &c; also shell-fish in considerable quantity, as cockle, spoutfish, mussels, &c. There are great quantities of the latter found in the bay of Applecross, where the sea ebbs a great way, and leaves an extensive strand, the people in great numbers, sometimes to the amount of a hundred and more, coming with sticks of a particular description, to dig the sand for shell-fish, with which they fill large creels in a short time, and which affords a wholesome and nourishing food.
There is a good fir wood at Shieldag, producing timber fit for boats, vessels, and buildings, &c. At the mansion-house of Applecross, there are some young thriving plantations, consisting of ash, elm, larch, fir, &c.
II – CIVIL HISTORY
The land-owners are: Thomas Mackenzie, Esq of Applecross;
J. A. Stewart Mackenzie, Esq of Seaforth;
and Sir F. A. Mackenzie of Gairloch, Bart.
Parochial Registers –
There are some registers of baptisms and marriages, commencing in the year 1779, but they have not been regularly kept.
There are a few antiquities, as a small obelisk, near the parish church, and some little remains of the Popish religious houses; but they are of no importance.
Modern Buildings –
There are no modern buildings, excepting the parish church at Applecross, and a Parliamentary church and manse at Shieldag.
III – POPULATION
In the year 1790, the population was 1734. According to the census in 1831, the number was 2892, of whom 1450 were males, and 1442 females. Baptisms are from 60 to 70, and marriages from 25 to 30, on an average of the last few years.
Language of the People –
The language of the people is generally Gaelic, but a great many of them speak English also. The people, for the most part, are decent, orderly, and industrious in their habits. Cotton cloths are much used by them. Their ordinary food is potatoes and fish, bread, gruel, pottage, milk, butter, and cheese, and a little animal food. They, however, complain of their circumstances, like the people of neighbouring parishes, which is much owing to the augmentation of rent, which took place in the time of the French war, and still remains for the most part unreduced. They have suffered, also, by the failure of the herring fishing on this coast for several years back, and the low price of cattle, two important sources of their comfort. It is true there is a considerable rise in the price of cattle this year, but it is doubtful how long that may continue.
Number of families in the parish
Chiefly employed in agriculture
In trade, manufactures, or handicraft
Within the last three years there have been 5 or 6 illegitimate children.
IV – INDUSTRY
Number of acres, standard imperial measure, in the parish, which are either cultivated or occasionally in tillage, about 1800.
There are more than 300 square miles which can never admit of cultivation, but must always remain in pasture.
Number of acres that might be added to the cultivated land, with a profitable application of capital, from 400 to 500.
Number of acres under wood, but none planted except about 30 acres at the mansion-house of Applecross 400.
Farms in general are of small extent. A few of them pay from L.30 to L.50 rent. But the generality of the farms consist of townships, where the tenants pay from L.4 or L.5 to L.9 or L.10. There are few leases; ordinary duration, seven years. There are not many enclosures, excepting a few near the mansion-house of Applecross. The rental of the parish is upwards of L.3000, but some of the rents are irregularly and ill paid. Meal, grain, and potatoes are often imported, as the produce of the soil is not sufficient to support the inhabitants. The manure used for the land is compound dunghills, shelly sand, sea-ware, and a little lime. There has been much improvement of late in agricultural instruments. Iron ploughs are used, two horses to the plough, directed by the ploughman without a driver. Formerly four horses were used to a plough, with a ploughman and driver, and other two persons to keep down the plough in the ground, and level the rigs.
The crooked spade is still used, where there is but little pasture for horses, and where the ground is too rough and rocky for the plough. Something has been done in the draining and improving of land. There are plenty of quarries for building, but none regularly worked.
There is very little commerce, except in small shop-keeping and fishing. No manufactures.
There are about 21 vessels of from eighteen to fifty tons burden, employed in the fishing and coasting trade.
There are salmon fishings at Torridon and Balgie, which rent at about L.15 or L.16. As to the herring-fishing, the tenants have all a little concern in it.
The wages of men-servants, ploughmen, and such, are L.8 a year, with their maintenance; of women servants, from L.2. 10s, to L.3 a year; herd boys get much the same sum; labourers charge 1s. a day, and often ls. 6d; carpenters, masons, and other tradesmen charge generally by the piece. When employed at day’s wages, wrights and boat-carpenters charge 2s. 6d; masons, 3s. 6d. Weavers get from 4d to 8d per yard; tailors for a suit of clothes, from 10s. to 15s; a great-coat, 5s; a cloak, 5s.
Average gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish, as nearly as can be ascertained, is as follows:
Oats and barley may be worth about
Potatoes and turnip, about
Pasturage, black cattle, and sheep
Deducting L.3000 for rent, price of seed, expense of labour, and other incidents, very little will remain for the support of a population of 3000 souls.