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


*Drawn up by the Rev. Donald McRae, Minister of Poolewe.


The number of families employed in agriculture, including those who employ servants, is 556; male servants upwards of twenty years of age, 86; female servants of all ages, 141. Number of acres under wood, 5000. I have already mentioned the trees indigenous to this parish, and also the exotic trees planted for timber. The woods are generally kept in good condition, by thinning, pruning, &c.

Rent of Land
Average rent of arable land is from 10s. to L.1 per acre; rent of grazing a cow or ox for a year, from L.1 to L.2; rent of pasturing a ewe or sheep for a year, from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d.

Farm-servants receive from L.5 to L.8 per annum for wages, exclusive of their victuals; masons receive from 2s. 6d. to 3s.; carpenters from 2s. to 2s. 6d.; blacksmiths, 3s.; weavers, from 1s. 6d. to 2s. per day, all including victuals.


The various kinds of fisheries carried on in this parish, are salmon-fishing, cod, and ling-fishing, and herring-fishing. The salmon-fishings are let at L.150 per annum. Salmon fishing is carried on by cruives, stell-nets, bag-nets, and stake-nets. Cod and ling are taken by long lines, and the hand-line, and herring, by the common mode of meshed nets.

There are four vessels belonging to the several ports in the parish, averaging about thirty-five tons burthen each.


Means of Communication
This parish is extremely ill supplied with the means of communication, owing to the want of roads. We have one post-office situated at Poolewe.

Ecclesiastical State
The parish church is as conveniently situated as it could well be, considering the extent of the parish; its distance from the eastern extremity of the parish, is twenty-eight miles; from the southern, fifteen miles; from the western, twelve miles; and from the northern extremity, twenty miles. The church was built in the year 1791, and got a thorough repair in 1834. The church affords accommodation for 500 sitters only. The manse was built in the year 1805,but a considerable addition was built to it in the year 1823. The glebe is worth about L.30 per annum; the amount of the stipend is L.240. There is one Government church in the parish; it is situated at Poolewe, six miles to the north of the parish church, and fourteen from the northern extremity of the parish. It is now erected into a new and separate parish quoad sacra, called the parish of Poolewe. Exactly one half of the population of the whole parish is connected with this new parish. We have one catechist employed by the Committee for managing his Majesty’s Royal Bounty, and another paid by contributions from the parishioners. There is not a single Dissenter within the bounds of the parish. The average number of communicants at the parish church and Government church, is 360.

The total number of schools in the parish is 9; the parochial school is one of that number; all the rest are supported by different religious societies. The branches of instruction taught at the parochial school are, Greek, Latin, mathematics, arithmetic, writing and English, and Gaelic reading. The branches taught at the Society schools are arithmetic, writing, English and Gaelic reading. The salary in the parochial school is L.30 Sterling, and L.4 are obtained from school fees; at the Society schools the salaries are from L.5 to L.25 Sterling. Scarcely any school fees can be calculated upon, owing to the poverty of the people. From six to eight schools are still required in the parish, and some of the schools now in operation ought to be put on a more permanent and efficient footing. Not more than one in every ten of the whole population is able to read and write in English. In 1833, 1773 persons above six years of age could not read either in the Gaelic or English languages.

The number of poor receiving parochial aid in the parish, is about 100, each receiving from 2s. 6d. to 6s. per annum. The annual amount for their relief is about L.16, principally arising from church door collections.

There are five licensed inns in the parish. Their effects are most destructive to the morals of the people. This is evident from the fact, that those who live in the close neighbourhood of these houses are in general given to tippling and idleness, while those who have not such a temptation at their doors are sober, industrious people.

Peat is the only kind of fuel used by the people; it is procured in the mosses contiguous to their dwelling-houses, at an expense of from L.1 to L.2 for a family, in the year.


In concluding this short Account of the parish, I must take leave to say that either the Parliamentary Commissioners for Highland roads, or those whose duty it was to make application to them, were very remiss in overlooking this parish. When other parishes received large grants for conducting public roads through their whole length and breadth, this parish, though the public mails pass twice through it every week, from Dingwall to Stornoway, was completely neglected. It is almost unnecessary to add that, without public roads, no regular improvement can be carried on in any part of the Highlands. The first great improvement required in this way is a public road from the east end of Lochmaree, along its banks to the harbour of Poolewe, and throwing an arch across the river Ewe, near its confluence with the sea; a spot which seems formed by nature for the purpose. The population is by much too dense for the means of support which they enjoy. A Government grant to convey one-third of the people to Upper Canada would be most desirable; and, in order to promote the moral and religious improvement of the people, two missionaries, and from six to eight schools, on a proper footing, are absolutely necessary and loudly called for.

September 1836.

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