The 2nd Statistical Account

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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



There is no market-town in the parish, nor within many miles of it.

There is a fishing village at Shieldag, containing a population of 200 souls, with as many more in its environs.

Means of Communication
There are good Parliamentary roads from Lochcarron to Applecross, and Shieldag. The nearest post-office is that of Lochcarron, about twenty miles from Applecross, and fifteen from Shieldag. Letter-carriers are employed from both these places, a serious expense to the few contributors who furnish their salary. There are many bye-roads and footpaths across the hills, but they are only fit for foot-travellers. There are many bridges on the Parliamentary roads, and kept in good repair.

There are good harbours at Poldown, Shieldag, and Torridon.


Ecclesiastical State
The parish church is very ill situated, having very few inhabitants near it, and lying on the north side of a river, without a bridge over it, which frequently prevents the people from attending public worship. They often, however, wade the water, and sit in church during service with wet feet and wet clothes, which no doubt occasions many serious complaints among them. It were earnestly to be wished, that, by some means or other, whether by subscription or otherwise, a bridge was erected on this river. A subscription for the purpose has been lately commenced; it amounts to L.30, and it is to be hoped that an equal sum may be obtained from kind contributors in other places interested in the welfare of the people of this place, and the general cause of humanity, which sum, it is supposed, would be sufficient to complete the work. The parish church was built in 1817, and is in good repair. It is large enough to accommodate upwards of 600 sitters. There are no seat rents. The manse was built in 1796, and has been repaired since. The glebe may be worth from L.12 to L.14 a year. The stipend, all paid in money, is L.158. 6s 5d of which Government pays L.54. 4s 10d. The ministers of the parish since its erection in 1726, have been Mr Angus Macaulay, Mr Colin MacFarquhar, Mr John Macqueen, and the present incumbent. The Government church at Shieldag, which was commenced in 1825 and finished in 1827, is about twelve miles from the parish church. It is exceedingly well situated for the accommodation of a large congregation, and it is satisfactory to find, that, along with the other Government churches, it has been lately erected by the General Assembly into a parochial charge. It is also to be hoped that Government will soon complete their own bounty by raising the stipends of the ministers of these churches to the minimum stipends of Scotland. There is a catechist supported by the Royal Bounty Committee. There are few dissenters, only three or four Episcopalians, and about the same number of Baptists. The minister of Shieldag is appointed to preach at Kishorn, ten miles distant, once a month, in a place of worship built by the inhabitants. The people near the various places of worship attend pretty regularly.

There are five schools in the parish: the parochial school at Applecross, a school at Shieldag, and another at Torridon, both supported by the General Assembly’s Committee, a school at Kishorn, by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and a Gaelic school at Badanvougie.

The scholars attending these schools may be averaged at 50 each school. English, Gaelic, writing, arithmetic, Latin, and mathematics are taught in these schools. The parish schoolmaster has a salary of L.25, and L.2 in lieu of a garden. The fees amount to about L.8 a year. The salary of each of the teachers at Shieldag and Torridon is L.20, and of the teacher at Kishorn L.15. The fees may be about L.5 at each of these schools. At Badanvougie, the salary is L.25, but the teacher has no fees. The parochial teacher has the legal accommodations. Several districts are at a great distance from all these schools, and wish much for teachers. There are six or seven such districts in this parish. Religious knowledge has no doubt been increased of late, but it is questionable if moral improvement has kept pace with that knowledge. Supposed knowledge puffeth up many, but it unfortunately appears, that they are very deficient in that charity which edifieth. There are also disputes and hurtful divisions which may, in many cases, be ascribed to the conduct of improper teachers employed by some well-meaning Societies, both in the metropolis and other places, who are unacquainted with the state of the Highlands, and misled by the reports of interested persons and busy bodies. And it is a matter of much regret that no small share of these remarks applies to the case of superintendants and catechists, under the ludicrous denomination of local missionaries, though ignorant and illiterate, employed by so respectable a body as the Highland Missionary Society.

There is no circulating library in the parish, except those sent to the schools at Shieldag and Torridon, by the Assembly’s Committee. It would be a most desirable measure, if several school societies would place their funds under the management of that Committee.

In 1833 it was found there were 1100 persons in the parish above six years of age unable to read, and 500 between six and fifteen years of age in the same situation.

Poor and Parochial Funds
The funds for the poor are very small, but happily the number of persons on the poors’ roll is not large. About 30 persons receive parochial aid – getting from 5s to 7s a year each. The annual amount of contributions for their relief is about L.10 from church collections, and the interest of a sum of L.60 deposited in the bank. Owing to the general poverty of the Highlanders, and the great distance of the people here from the parish church, the Sunday collections rarely amount to 2s and often not to ls.

The Shieldag church being more centrically situated for the attendance of the people, the collections are larger. Some small sum is also collected at Kishorn. These collections, with the interest of L.40 for the Applecross district, and of L.20 for the Kishorn district, with fines for delinquencies, are the only funds for the poor in this parish. And out of these the precentor’s salary is paid, and the poor only get a pittance of from 5s to 7s each in the year. They, however, generally plant some potatoes, and get a little fish without expense. The tenants also help them from the produce of their farms. There is little temptation to be put upon the poor’s roll, and not many of them are desirous of it without great necessity.

There are no fairs in the parish.

There are 4 inns, at Applecross, Kishorn, Shieldag, and Torridon.

Prices of Provisions
No fixed prices for provisions can be stated. Low country meal sells this year at 14s and 15s a boll, potatoes at 2s a barrel. There are no butchers to sell meat in small quantities, but, from the prices usually paid for cows and sheep, beef and mutton may be had from 2d to 3d a pound. Hens sell at 6d a piece, eggs at 2d per dozen, and sometimes 3d.

The ordinary fuel is peat, which, in some places, is carried from a great distance, either by sea or land, and is very expensive. When sold, 2d a creel is paid for it.

The new Parliamentary roads are a great advantage to this parish. A bridge on the river of Applecross would be a most important improvement, not only for the benefit of the inhabitants, but also of travellers from various quarters. And it is to be hoped, that, through friendly assistance, this most desirable measure will soon be accomplished. Additional schoolmasters and catechists would be a great advantage. Agricultural improvements might be carried on to a considerable extent. Manufactures cannot be easily introduced, nor is it likely they would answer. There are too many of them in other places already. The improvement of the soil is what chiefly demands attention.

September 1836.

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