The 2nd Statistical Account
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PARISH OF LOCHCARRON
(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 (1836)
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. JOHN MACKENZIE, MINISTER*
* Drawn up by a probationer of the Church of Scotland
I. TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY
LOCHCARRON is so called from an arm of the sea of the same name by which it is intersected, and which derives its name from the river Carron (signifying in Gaelic a winding stream) which falls into it.
It is 25 miles long. To its breadth it is difficult to apply any scale of measurement. From its eastern extremity to the end of the loch (about 15 miles) it is upwards of 10 miles broad. It is then considerably narrowed. On the south side, the parish extends along the loch for about 4 miles. On the north, it consists of an elevated ridge, extending along the coast for nearly ten miles, and seldom exceeding 2 miles in breadth. Including Courthill, situated in Kishorn, within the parish of Applecross, Lochcarron may contain 250 square miles.
Topographical Appearances –
The entrance to the parish from the east is a glen bounded by hills varying in height, and stretching out into heathy and uncultivated moors. As you pass along, the scene becomes more interesting. The bottom of the valley is watered by the Carron, which, by the accession of several tributary brooks, is increased to a considerable stream. The banks are diversified with portions of cultivated ground, and the hills on both sides present pasture of a superior description.
Not far distant, along the base of a hill facing the north, rising almost perpendicularly, covered with natural wood of birch, alder, and wild ash, you see Lochdowal in the Carron adorned with tbree islands, skirted with ash, oak, and underwood, and, farther on, you have Lochcarron, which presents the appearance of a fresh water lake. The glen widens as you approach the loch, and opens into a valley equal in extent to any on the coast, and furnishes a fine subject for improvement. The most interesting view of the parish is from an eminence in Lochalsh above Strome Ferry. From this eminence, looking to the north-east, you behold the fine expanse of Lochcarron, presenting the appearance of a fresh water lake about 20 miles in circumference, embosomed in hills, which at the head of the loch rise to a considerable height. The hills surrounding the valley appear almost to meet in their bases, and to jut towards the loch like so many promontories
The sloping ground of Strome, extending from the ferry, presents a series of gentle and irregular hillocks, diversified with natural birch, ash, and underwood, while cultivated fields frequently relieve the eye, and behind tbis ridge, the mountains of Applecross tower aloft, in rugged and precipitous magnificence.
In a calm summer evening, when hundreds of boats are seen shooting their nets, and scores of vessels lying at anchor, Lochcarron exhibits a scene of rural felicity and of rural beauty that is seldom to be witnessed.
Soil, etc. –
The parish presents every variety of soil. The prevailing winds are north-east and south-west. The climate, in the opinion of the older inhabitants, has undergone a considerable change. They allege tbat the winter has become less severe, the summer less mild. The climate is so variable as to render an accurate description of it impossible. The winter is generally mild, and during its continuance vegetation is seldom checked. The spring is usually wet, and such as greatly retards the operations of the farmer. Early in this season, we have occasionally storms of hail, brought by a north-west wind. In April and May, we have keen easterly winds, with frost at night, which proves very injurious to such fruit trees as are then in blossom. We nave not the genial warmth of summer until the beginning of June. The crops then make rapid progress, nature is clothed in the beauty of summer, and when free from rain the weather is most delightful. The weather in harvest is very changeable, and renders the securing of the crop very troublesome and expensive. Speaking in general, this parish, like the rest of the west coast, is very subject to rain, from the height of the mountains and tbeir proximity to the Atlantic. The prevalent distempers are such as arise from damp and sudden vicissitudes of weather, such as fevers, colds, and rheumatism. Cutaneous and scrofulous disorders are likewise common, occasioned, probably, by poor feeding and inattention to cleanliness.
Geology and Mineralogy –
Our mountains are principally composed of gneiss, with smaller dasplays of quartz rock and red sandstone. The same gneis rocks and clay generally meet us on tbe plain. In the heights of the country, limestone is found in beds in the gneiss, and is wrought for agricultural purposes by the tenantry in the neighbourhood. In Kishorn, limestone is abundant.
A few chalybeate springs are scattered over different parts of the country, but they are not of such a nature as to indicate the existence of extensive strata of iron.
The animals which inhabit the parish are: deer, roe, fox, polecat, and weasel. Game, moorfowl, partridge, plover, and ptarmigan. In our lakes, wild-duck abound, singing-birds, thrush, lark, linnet, blackbird, and redbreast; water-birds, gulls (they have their nests in islands in our mountain lakes), duck, scart, curlew, sea-lark, and oyster-eater. The black eagle builds in some of the most inaccessible rocks, but as great pains have been taken to destroy the species, it is now rare. The kite has his eyrie. Of migratory birds, swans visit us occasionally in winter, wagtail in February, swallow in April, and cuckoo about the same time.
In the river Carron, salmon are found early in the season; but they are most numerous in June, July, and August, during which months sea trout also come up in considerable numbers. Forty years ago, a common fisher could easily take with the rod twenty salmon in a day; at present, the most experienced angler will be contented with one good fish. Several species of fishes are taken in the Frith, but herring may be said to be the only species of importance in an economical point of view. The herring fishing has been unsuccessful for the last ten years, and may now be considered rather a losing concern, inasmuch as the profits of the few favourable seasons can hardly counterbalance the outlays of these and other seasons, during which a supply for home consumption is the utmost that can be secured.
II. CIVIL HISTORY
Impenetrable darkness rests on the history of this distriet till within a late period. It was for many ages the scene of the barbarous depredations of contending clans, who, as the use of letters was little known among them, left no other memorial of their transactions than the dubious records of traditional poetry. At an early period, the parish was in the possession of several chiefs, the principal of whom was Macdonald of Glengarry, who had the Western part at Strome. All these were gradually dispossessed by Seaforth, Lord Kintail, who took the Castle of Strome in 1609, as recorded in the last Statistical Account.
Not farther back than the middle of last century, the inhabitants of this district were involvod in the most dissolute barbarity. The records of presbytery, which commence in 1724, are stained with accounts of black and bloody crimes, exhibiting a picture of wildness, ferocity, and gross indulgence, consistent only with a state of savagism. The people, under the influence of no religion, but, from political considerations, attached to Episcopacy, conceived a rooted dislike to the Presbyterian system, which all the prudence of the clergy was for some time unable to eradicate. In March 1725, we find the presbytery of Gairloch (now presbytery of Lochcarron) obliged to hold a meeting at Kilmorack, as the presbytery, to use the language of the record, had no access to meet in their own bounds, since they had been rabbled at Lochalsh on 16th September 1724, that being the day appointed for a parochial visitation there. From a petition which Mr Sage (the first Presbytenan minister of Lochcarron, settled in 1726) presents to the presbytery in 1731 praying for an act of transportability, we see that he considered his life often in danger; that only one family attended regularly on his ministry, and that he despaired of being of any service in the place. Mr Sage laboured in the place for forty-seven years. By his prudent conduct, he gradually conciliated the affections of the people, and mitigated the rancour of their prejudices, and was instrumental in bringing them to a state of comparative civilization.
Eminent Men –
About the time that Mr Sage was settled in the parish, flourished William and Alexander Mackenzie, brothers, the authors of some Gaelic poems. Such of the effusions of William as have eseaped the ravages of time exhibit the dijecta membra poetae, and serve to excite our regret that so much has been lost. His elegy on his brother’s death, in tenderness of sentiment and felicity of expression, will not shrink from a comparison with some of the most successful efforts of the cultivated muse.
We have no monuments of antiquity to interest the antiquarian. The ruins of Strome Castle still remain, and on the rising ground behind Janetown, and at Langanduin in Kishorn, we have one of those circular buildinge or duin so frequent on the west coast.