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Parish of Rosskeen
From the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness


The Parish of Rosskeen is situated on the northern shore of the Cromarty Firth, along which it extends a distance of five miles from the east end of Saltburn to the River Alness. It is wedge-shaped, 18 miles long from south-east to north-west, and about 5 miles broad near the east end. It comprises an area of 54 square miles, of which about 15 square miles are arable. The lower part of the parish is partially flat and partially undulating. The soil is of average richness in the lower portions, but poor in some of the higher portions, especially where the cultivation extends to from 600 feet to 1000 feet above the sea level. The inland portions are hilly, some of the eminences reaching heights of 2300 feet. A valley stretches along the south-west side a length of 15 miles, the first seven miles from the sea called the valley of the Alness, the next 4 miles Strathrusdale, and the remaining 4 miles Glackshellach. Nearly parallel to the valley of the Alness along the north side of the parish is the valley of the Achnacloich water, extending to about 6 miles.

In the beginning of the present century the area of arable land was comparatively small. In the possession of new proprietors and industrious tenants, however, rapid changes have taken place, especially within the last forty years, since Sir Alexander Matheson became the principal heritor. Miles which were then covered with boulders, scrub, and bog are now clothed with verdure, and numerous hill-sides are covered with flourishing woods.

From remains found in mosses, there are evidences of extensive forests having existed in the valleys centuries ago.

In one place in particular, called “a’ Chrannich,” the wooded place, on the Estate of Ardross, large logs of bog oak are turned up in peat-cutting, a piece of which, sent to the Forestry Exhibition in Edinburgh in 1884, was awarded a certificate.

The topography is principally descriptive and historical. I refrain from giving the derivation of Rosskeen, as I am not quite sure of it. A few of the names of the places may be interesting. Commencing at the lower end of the parish, and following successively iuward, we have to begin with Saltburn. “Alltan-an-t-Saluinn,” a small stream at whose mouth smugglers used to dispose of salt to the inhabitants when it was taxed : hence the name.

Invergordon, named after the first of the Gordons who were proprietors of the place. The Gaelic name is “Ruthanach-breachie,” the little speckled point. In the end of the last century, where Invergordon now stands there were only three houses, occupied by the ferryman and two crofters. The neighbouring farm is called Inverbreakie, the speckled Inver. The hand of the improver has so changed the face of the country here that the “Inver” cannot be certified, but is supposed to have been north of Invergordon Castle, where a small stream entered a swamp, now all arable.

Kincraig.—“Ceann-na-Creige,” the end of the rock. This name must have been translated, as there is no conspicuous rock at the place.

Newmore.—“An-fheith-mhor,” the big bog, which still exists at the south side of this estate, and from which the estate derives its name. •

Obsdale.—“Ob-an-dnil,” the bay in the flat. The bay and the flat are still there, but the name is now changed to Dal-more, the large flat, and the village to Bridge-End of Alness.

Alness, of old spelled “Anes.” The name of this river in the charter granted by James VI. to Sir Robert Munro of Fowlis in 1608 is “Affron,” a corruption of “ M’ath bhron,” my next sorrow. The tradition is that a woman crossing the river in a flooded state on a temporary foot-bridge (put up for their own convenience by the masons who were erecting the first stone bridge there) with a child in her bosom and leading another child by the hand, let slip the child she was leading; calling out “Och mo bhron,” och my sorrow, and in her attempt to save the child that was being carried away, let the other fall into the water, calling out “Och m’ath bhron”—Och my next sorrow. Both children were drowned., and from this circumstance the river got the name. I have read several derivations of “Alness,’ but none of them is correct. I feel convinced the following is the correct derivation :—

The River in the last 600 or 700 yards of its course divided itself into several branches, somewhat in the form of a delta, forming one or more islands. The old district road, of which there still remains a portion, passed below Teaninich House, and there being no bridge, the river had to be forded. Thus we have the “Ath,” ford, and “Innis” the Island, naturally changing to Athnish, corrupted to “Anes,” and furthur corrupted into Alness.

Nonakiln. — “Nini-cil. ” The church dedicated to St Ninian.

Millcraig (of old and in the Crown charter “ Oulkenzie”)— “Cuil-Choinnich.” The origin of this name is worth noticing. Malcolm Ceann-mor in his war with Macbeth solicited the assistance of a chief, Donald, from the foot of the River Roe in Ulster (hence Donald Munro), and for his services received a grant of the lands from the Peffery at Dingwall to the Alness river, extending northwards to beyond 'Wyvis, still called Ferrindonald, but having too little land to supply all his followers, he fened a portion on the east side of the River Alness. He then got them all supplied but one —“Coinneach Ard,” tall Kenneth. Kenneth of course could not be left landless, and in consulting his assistants in dividing the land, he said “C’ait am faigh sinn cuil do Choinneach,” where shall we get a nook for Kenneth? A suitable nook was found. The name “Cuil Choinnich” still sticks to the corner, and Kenneth is honoured by the Estate being named after his corner.

There are a good many people in the district of the name of Aird, who are said to be descendants of Kenneth.

Kvocknavib.—“Cnoc an fheith bliuidhe,” tliehill of the yellow bog. The bog is now drained, but yellow fog still grows there.

Achnacloich, named after a large granite boulder. There is a loch here in which, when low, the remains of a Crannaig or lake dwelling can be seen, and about 200 yards east of the loch the castle of the lairds of Achnacloich stood, now all removed except a portion of the dungeon. Hugh Ross of Achnacloich got a Charter of the lands of Tollie from Charles I. in 1635. Ardross Castle now stands on the site of Tollie House—“Cnoc an doire leathain,” “The hill of the broad oak clump.” This name indicates that oak trees grew here, and at an elevation of over 1200 feet. On the south-east face of the same hill there can be traced the remains of a croft at the elevation of over 1100 feet. Old men told me that 80 years ago the rigs could be traced. Now, except in good seasons, we cannot get corn to come to maturity at 600 feet, so much has the climate changed, and so much for the physical knowledge of a few of our legislators and (though perhaps well meaning) blind leaders of the blind.

Preas-a’-mhadaidh, the wolfs bush. The name of a clump of hazel and birch bushes which was removed about thirty-four years ago. It was situated about three-quarters of a mile north-east of Ardross Castle. The last wolf in Scotland was killed here. When I was a young lad I got the information of the killing of this wolf with that degree of freshness which convinced me of the circumstance not having been far back. The story is that an old maid at four o’clock on a New-Year’s morning going to a neighbour’s house for the loan of a girdle to cook a bannock for herself, took a path through this clump. At a sharp curve in the path, for some natural cause she stooped. On her return by the same path she suddenly espied the. wolf scraping the ground where she stooped, and in her desperation struck him with the edge of the girdle in the small of the back, and bolted to the house she came from. The alarm was raised, and all who could wield bludgeons or other weapons of destruction hastened to the place, when they found the brute sprawling, trying to escape. He was soon dispatched, and thus “the last of his race” in Scotland ignominiously fell under the hands of an old woman. As far as I could trace, this occurred about the beginning of the last century. She was the sister of a man whose great-great-grandson is now employed as a carpenter at Ardross. A hill about four miles north-west of this place is called “Cnoc-a’-mhadaidh,” where the wolf had his den.

Glaicksiiellach, the saucby glen. Not a tree or bush exists here now, and even the heather is stinted. There are several interesting reminiscences connected with this glen. On the ridge south of this glen, which forms the march between the parishes of Rosskeen and Alness, there is a conspicuous piece of Schist rock in situ cropping up, called “Clach-nam-ban,” the stone of the women. The tradition is, that before the Reformation, four women were in the depth of winter proceeding from Glencalvie, in the parish of Kincardine, to the Roman Catholic Chapel at Kildermorie, in the parish of Alness, and carrying with them bundles of hemp. When near this rock they were overtaken by a severe stcrm of snow and drift. They took shelter in a cleft of the rock and perished there Their bodies were not found till the snow melted several weeks after. The party in search of them were led to the spot by seeing one of the bundles of hemp suspended from a stick which the women found there, and erected as a guide to their friends, who, they knew, would search for their remains.

At the foot of the same hill, north-east of this rock, is to be seen a small green patch called “Achadh-a’-bhad-dhuibh,” the field of the black clump, which, about 90 years ago was a little croft, occupied by an old woman, the solitary resident in the glen. At the time above stated, in the month of July, a man passing through the glen observed something like a bundle of clothes in the potato plot. Curiosity led him to see what it was, and there he found the old woman dead. It would appear that she had no food, and went to try if she could find a few tubers to the potato shaws to appease her hunger. A sort of a coffin and a rude bier were made, and a few people collected to bury her, but going along the hill-side to the place of burial at Kildermorie, the insufficiency of both coffin and bier shewed itself by the body falling through to the ground. My informant, who was there, told me that they turned the coffin upside down and put the body in again, adding “ people were not so proud then as they are now; they carried stumps of nails in their pockets, and as many nails were found among the party as made the box secure.”

On the side of the glen, opposite to this croft, is to be seen a portion of the hut, which was occupied by a herd employed by the Ardross tenants when they had this glen as common pasture ground. This man was a notable character, and a careful herd, for he always returned from the grazing the same number of cattle as he got to it. Somehow a few of them would have changed colour, but animals of the same changed colour would be missing in other quarters, perhaps 20 miles or more away. I heard a great many anecdotes about this man, but I refrain from mentioning more than two or throe, lest I should offend, and these only to show that the man had natural abilities, which, it is to regretted, he had not the opportunity of applying for good:—

The harvest of 1817 was late, and the crops a failure. The following year many felt the scarcity of food. Money was scarce also among the poor. Our friend, the herd, was among the sufferers, and having heard that a well-to-do farmer, residing a few miles off, had meal to dispose of, he went to ask the farmer for a boll till lie would be able to pay. “I have meal to dispose of,” said the farmer, “but should I give you, you will never pay me.” “I will,” said the herd, “the first money I can lay my hands upon will be yours.” “Well,” said the farmer (who was noted for cuteness), “if you tell me the cleverest piece of handiwork you committed, I’ll trust you.” “Good,” said the herd, “the smartest turn I ever did was to relieve yourself of a stot, and sell him to you.” “Never,” said the farmer; but said the herd, “don’t you remember a black stot belonging to you having gone amissing?” “Yes.” “And you remember of me selling to you thereafter a speckled stot1?’’ “Yes.” “Well, it was the same animal.” “I’ll give you the meal for nothing if you tell me how you did the trick.” “Done,” said the herd. “The stot happened to come to my byre. I took a few bunches of salt herrings out of the brine and bound them to the animal’s body. In a few days the black hair under the herrings rotted out, and on their removal white hair grew instead.” The herd was not asked to pay for the meal.

Our friend on one occasion passed through the East Coast of Sutherlandshire, and on his way home took a fancy to a 6ne Highland cow with a docked tail. He managed to conceal himself and the cow for a day or two, till, as he supposed, the search would be over, and then took the road to the Meikle Ferry, but before doing so cut a tail from a dried hide he fell in with somewhere, and neatly bound it to the stump of the living cow. He entered the ferryboat with the cow, and just as the boat was to start, a man sprung in who closely scrutinised the cow and said, “I lost a cow three days ago, and were it not that that cow has a tail (mine had only a stump), I would say she is mine.” “But the cow is mine,” said the herd. The man approached the cow and again said, “were it not she has a tail I would swear she is mine.” The herd saw that matters were getting rather too hot for him, and just as the man was about laying his hand on the tail, the herd took out his knife, whipped off the tail above the joining, and threw it into the sea. “There she is now a bleeding tailless cow, and swear is she yours.” Of course the man could not, for the evidence was gone.

On another occasion, when hard up, on his way to the Muir of Ord Market, he took under his care a tine colt he found grazing on the Novar parks. The animal was soon sold at a fair price and paid. To oblige the buyer he agreed to see it stabled and fed; but while the buyer was regaling himself in the company of his friends, he slipped away with the colt to Inverness and sold it again. He managed to get the animal again under his care, and by daylight next morning it was quietly grazing on the park from which it was taken, without any one noticing its absence.

Our hero died in 1855 at the great age of 101. I saw him a few years before he died—of middle height, straight and active, considering the many wintery storms he had stood.

Further west in Glaekshellach, on the border of the road made there recently, is an enormous granite boulder, so shaped at one end that it has been taken advantage of to form the wall and roof of one side of a shelter stable. About the middle of last century a man named Alexander Campbell, better known as “An t-Iomharaeh mor,” big Maciver, while going through the glen on his way to Glenealvie, where he resided all his life time, was overtaken by a severe storm of drifted snow. Fearing that he might lose his way, he sat beside this boulder for twenty-four hours, till the storm abated—his dress being the kilt and his covering a plaid. This man was born in 1699. The year of his death is not accurately known, but is supposed to have been 1822 or 1823, in the month of May. In 1819 Lord Ashburton, who rented the shootings of Rosehall, in Sutherlandshire, heard about him and invited him to Rosehall. He proudly accepted of the invitation, and arrived at the shooting lodge between six and seven o’clock in the morning, after having walked over ten miles across the hills. His Lordship was so much taken with Campbell that he gave him a present of 120 newly coined shillings —a shilling for every year of his age. Campbell was greatly elated both by the present and the attention paid to him. He carefully stored the shillings to meet the expense of his funeral. He could easily walk forty miles a day, after passing his hundredth year, without much fatigue. I saw his grandson, who died at the age of ninety-two, and his great-grandson is an Ardross crofter.

Archaeology.—From its Archaeological remains the parish appears to have been early peopled. Large sepulchral cairns were numerous, many have been wholly removed, but of a few there are still preserved the outer rings and principal centre stones.

Dalmore Cairn.—Commencing at Dalmore we have in a field there the cist measuring about 3˝ by 2˝ by 2 feet of one which was removed about 1810. It was about 60 feet diameter, and 15 feet high. What remains of it is now enclosed by a stone wall.

Millcraig Cairx.—The next we come to is on the farm of Millcraig, about a mile north of liridge-Knd of Alness. Four large central stones—one measuring 9 feet by 6 feet, the outer circle and a considerable quantity of small stones remain. The diameter is 76 feet. No living person saw it entire, so that its height is not known.

Knocknavie Cairn.—A mile further up on the west shoulder of Knocknavie are the remains of what was once a large cairn. From the existing stones it would appear that there were two cists, each measuring about 9 feet long by 2| feet broad. The diameter was 74 feet, and the height about 20 feet. This cairn was removed in 1826 to build a neighbouring march dyke between the estates of Millcraig and Culcairn. To come to an amusing incident connected with the removal of this cairn we must go back a couple of centuries, and introduce an historical faet. In August 1633, Sir Robert Gordon, uncle of the then Earl of Sutherland, was acting as referee adjusting the march between the estates of Hugh Ross, the laird of Achnacloich, and of the laird of Newmore, when a party of Argyllshire marauders, who were under the leadership of one Ewen Aird, were seized for depredations committed by them. Brown, in his “History of the Highlands,” Vol. I., 306, states— “In their retreat they destroyed some of the houses in the high parts of Sutherland, and on entering Ross, they laid waste some lands belonging to Hutcheon Ross of Achnacloich. These outrages occasioned an immediate assemblage of the inhabitants of that part of the country, Who pursued these marauders and took ten of them prisoners. The prisoners were brought to Achnacloich, where Sir Robert Gordon was at the time deciding a dispute about the marches between Achinloich and Neamore. After some consultation about what was to be done with the prisoners, it was resolved that they should be sent to the Earl of Sutherland who was in pursuit of them. On the prisoners being sent to him, the Earl assembled the principal gentlemen of Ross and Sutherland at Dornoch, where Ewen Aird and his accomplices were tried before a jury, convicted and executed at Dornoch, with the exception of two young boys who were dismissed. The Privy Council not only approved of what the Earl of Sutherland had done, but they also sent a commission to him and the Earl of Seaforth, and to Hutcheon Ross of Achnacloich.”

To what extent the Laird of Achnacloich exercised his power as commissioner is not recorded, but one traditional case is notable. He occupied a large portion of Glackshellach as a sheiling. About two years after he got his commission, two wayfarers entered the hut which belonged to him in the glen, and being hungry asked of the dairymaid a little food for which they offered payment. She refused, whereon one of the men took possession of a cheese, leaving as much money as he considered it worth. The dairymaid despatched a messenger to the laird to give information of what she called the robbery. The men were pursued, overtaken at Contullich, in the parish of Alness, brought to Achnacloich, summarily tried, hanged on the top of Knocknavie, and buried in the Cairn above referred to. We now pass on to 1826, when the cairn was being removed. A youth of about 20 years, employed at the removal of the cairn, on pulling out a stone from the face, let down a large fall, when out rolled a grinning skull. The youth was horrified, and leaving his horse ran off to his father, who was emptying a load about 200 yards away from the cairn. The father, who was a plucky fellow, castigated the son for his cowardice in running away from a bone, but on the two of them returning to the cairn, the father received no less a shock than the son, for there was the skull with its upturned empty eye sockets in a state of vibration, put in motion by a field mouse that got jammed among the nasal bones. Information was given to the managers of the neighbouring estates, who came the following day, and had all the bones removed and buried close by the cairn. These were the bones of the two men who were hanged by the Laird of Achnacloich, the finding of which verifies the tradition. The man who got the first fright is still alive, and is my informant.

An incident in connection with the settling of the march between Achnacloich and Newmore is worth mentioning. A large boulder, conveniently situated, was fixed upon as one of the march stones (it is to be seen on the margin of the road from Achnacloich to Tain), and is still the march stone. Both parties had a host of old and young men accompanying them to point out the old marches and to bear in remembrance the new. On the side of the laird of Achnacloich was a smart boy, to whom the laird said, “Will you remember this to be the march stone” The boy said he would. “Put your hand flat upon it,” said the laird. The boy did so, and, before he was aware, the laird drew his sword, and cut off the boy’s fingers, saying, “You will remember it now,” and he did remember it, and told it to others who told it to succeeding generations; and the stone is called “Clach ceann na meoir,” the stone of the finger ends, to this day.

Dalnavie.—The next we mention, though not a cairn, was an interesting place of sepulture. Whilst trenching waste land on the farm of Dalnavie in 1847, the workmen came upon a number of urns at a uniform depth of about sixteen inches. They wore surrounded by a low circular turf fence about eighteen yards diameter. In the centre was a large one, which would contain about a gallon, and a beautifully formed stone axe was found beside it. The central urn was surrounded by fifteen other urns, which would contain about lialf-a-gallon each. Through carelessness the urns were all destroyed. I understand the axe was sent to the Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh.

Stittenham.—About half-a-mile north of Dalnavie a large cairn was removed in 1847-48. It was 108 feet diameter, and 20 feet high. In September 1880 a search was made for the cist, when a very interesting discovery was made. Having been engaged in the search, I am in a position to give a correct description of it.—

A grave was dug in hard boulder clay 12 feet long, 7 feet 9 inches wide, and 8 feet deep, rounded at the corners. The whole of the bottom was covered with a layer of flags, on which was formed a cist of thick flags, 8 feet long, 2˝ feet broad, and 2 feet deep. The covers were large—one weighing about half a ton. Around and above the cist was filled with stones to a height of about 5 feet from the bottom. From the stones to the natural surface of the ground was filled with a portion, the clay turned out. Over this, and extending about 6 feet beyond the cutting all round, was a layer of tenaceous blue clay in the form of a low mound, 2 feet thick in the centre, and over the blue clay a layer of black earth 18 inches thick. From the form of the cist it is clear that the body was laid at full length in it. The body was wholly decomposed; only a small quantity of carbonate of lime and black animal matter remained adhering to the bottom flags. A few crumbs of decayed oak having been found at the head and foot of the cist suggests that the body was encased in a coffin. The only relics found were three beautifully formed arrow-heads, and a thin circular piece of shale about two inches diameter, apparently a personal ornament. About 150 yards south-west of this cairn, the workmen employed at trenching the moor in 1847 found what was evidently a smelting furnace, and among the debris turned out two beautifully formed sets of moulds for casting bronze spear-heads. They are preserved in a cabinet in Ardross Castle. The material is steatite, of which a vein exists in the banks of a burn flowing by the Ardross Estates Office.

Knockfionn.—On the face of the hill, called Knockfionn, above Easter-Ardross, there is a large cairn, which has not been opened, and on the summit of this are the remains of what appeared to be a small fortification of stone, said to have been one of Fingal’s strongholds.

Mains of Arduoss.—In 1848, a large cairn, “Carn Fionn-tairneach,” on the farm of Ardross, similar to the one at Millcraig, was wholly removed. As well as the central cist, there were several others in the body of the cairn, proving after burials. A number of bones in good preservation were found, and a few flint arrow heads.

On the same farm there is an interesting grave preserved. It is 16 feet long and 4 feet broad, enclosed by six large flag stones —two at each side, and one at each end. At the request of an officer of the Royal Engineers in 1876, it was carefully opened by digging a longtitudinal trench, when it was discovered that two bodies were buried, the one at the foot of the other, in graves each about 7 feet long, by 2 feet broad, and only about 2 feet deep from the surface to the bottom. There are side walls about a foot high, and a division of a foot between the two bodies. The bodies were probably covered with flags, as disintegrated clayey slates were turned out in digging. The only remains found were a few teeth where the heads lay, and a thin layer of bituminous like matter, the whole length of the graves. A few hundred yards to the west of this grave there existed about 200 small cairns, said to have been raised over men who fell in a battle fought there long long ago, each being buried where he died. They have been all removed in improving the land.

The cists without cairns discovered in the district are numerous, notably those at Dalmore described by Mr Jolly in the “Transactions of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland, 1878.” A group at the site of Achnacloich Castle, which contained pottery, a group north of Achnacloich loch, which have not been properly searched, as the tenant of the farm protested against such sacrilege, especially because the man who discovered them in trenching the moor immediately ran home, and kept to his bed for a couple of months. At Baldoon, on an eminence north of the source of the Achnacloich burn, are the remains of a cairn which, I think, has been a small stronghold. The name “Baile-’n-duin" suggests this. The cairn was oval, 52 feet by 42 feet. Near the centre is an elongated oval often standing stones. It measures 16 feet long by 8 feet broad, divided into two compartments of 8 feet each, by two standing stones, having a space of two feet between them, evidently a door. No living person saw or heard of this cairn being other than it now is, so that what has been removed of it must have been done long ago. T propose to search the floor, when, perhaps, something may be found to lead to the object of its erection.

Clacii-a’-mheirlicii.—About a mile and a half west of Invergordon, in a field north of the County road, is a standing stone called “Clach-a’-mhcirlich,” the thief s stone. There is an archaic device upon it said to resemble a portion of Bramah’s foot.

Though a few hundred yards beyond the march of the parish of Rosskeen, there are two interesting cairns I would not wish to overlook. They are situated in the valley extending from Achnacloich to Scotsburn, at Ivenrive, in the upper part of the parish of Kilmuir. A tradition is common among the old people of the district that in a hostile incursion of the Danes in the ninth or tenth century, the Danes, who were put to flight by the natives, made their final stand here, where they were all slain, hence the name “Cearn-an-ruidhe,” the end of the chase. One of the cairns, the most interesting of them, is now nearly removed, but a description can be given of what it was. About thirty years ago the crofter on whose land the cairn stood had his attention attracted towards it by his dog chasing a rabbit thither. The dog’s persistent barking at a hole near the top of the cairn induced the man to go to the dog’s assistance, and after removing a few stones with the intention of getting hold of the rabbit, he discovered a vault, but superstitious awe prevented him from prosecuting his search alone. He got the assistance of a canny neighbour who joined in a private exploration, expecting a lucky find which would keep them in comfort during the remainder of their lives. They removed the stones from above the vault, and at the depth of a few feet, came upon a flag stone; which, on being removed, made an opening large enough for them to get down. Their find was only a layer of black earth. A man who frequently visited the vault gave me a description of it. It was about nine or ten feet long, over five feet wide, had side walls of large flagstones, five feet high, the roof formed of flagstones corbelling inwards and finishing with large flags closing in both sides at a height of about eight feet from the floor.

Such a discovery as this was not, in the opinion of the two worthies (now both dead), a thing that ought to be divulged, and for a space of eight years it was found to be a very convenient malt deposit and whisky warehouse, and might have been so still had not Preventive Officer Munro, and his assistants, discovered the “bothy” in a naturally formed cairn in the face of the hill, north of the farm offices of Inchandown.

Sixteen years ago a portion of the cairn was removed to build the dyke in the march between the estates of Newmore and Kindeace. The vault was exposed to the public about twelve years ago, when stones were removed to build a new house for the tenant who now occupies the land. When I visited the place a month ago, the weather was so frosty that I could not search the floor for remains, which I believe are still there, for I understand no search was made. In the remaining portion of this cairn there is apparantly another similar vault with the roof fallen in. Two other cists measuring about 4 feet by 3 feet, and 2 feet deep, formed in the ordinary way of single flags, are exposed, one at the north side of the removed vault, and the other at the east end of the unopened vault. The diameter of the cairn was 80 feet, and the height about 15 feet. Some of the remaining stones are of large size, one in an upright position of mica schist measures 7 feet 6 inches by 5 feet and 2 feet thick, and another, which apparently formed part of the roof of the unopened vault, of granite, measures 7 feet by 5 feet, and one foot thick.

The other cairn is situated about 150 yards east of the one described above, and is supposed to cover the remains of the common soldiers who fell in the battle. No portion of it has been removed. It is oblong, measuring 70 yards long, 22 yards broad at the east end, 14 yards broad at the west end, and about an average of 8 feet high.

Smuggling.—Many humorous stories are told of the smugglers in the upland parts of the parish. I give two as examples.—

About seventy years ago two worthies, John Holm and Sandy Ross (Uaine), who resided a short distance east of the Strathrusdale river, went to enjoy a day with a friend who had his bothy in full work at the west side of the river. After having partaken of their friend’s good cheer as much as made them tellingly affectionate towards each other, they left for home. On coming to the river, which was slightly flooded, John said to Sandy, “ Sandy, as I am the youngest and strongest, stand you on that stone, and come on my back, that I may carry you over dry.” Sandy obeyed, but John took only three steps when he fell into the water, and before they recovered their footing, both were wet to the skin. “I am sorry I fell,” said John, “but come you to the stone again, and get on my back, that I may take you over dry.”Sandy went to the stone and mounted again, but they proceeded half-a-dozen yards only when the mishap was repeated. John again expressed regret, and insisted on the attempt being made the third time, which, fortunately, proved successful, and John, in throwing Sandy from off his back, said, “ I am glad, Sandy, after all our mishaps, that I took you over dry!”

My other story is an occurcnce of fifty-five years back. The tmiuggler was Donald Ross (Mac Eachain), whodiedin Strath rusdalc about twelve years ago. Tie had his bothy at the base of a rock on the north side of Kildermorie loch. Two young gentleman— one of whom went for the first time to see a bothy at work—paid Donald a visit. As they were approaching the bothy, Donald, always on the alert when at work, espied them, and suspecting them to be questionable characters, moved out cautiously to reconnoitre. Recognising one, he rushed out, with his bonnet under his arm, welcoming and praising them in the most flattering terms, finishing with, “Such two pretty young gentlemen I never saw; come down from your horses till I see who is the prettiest.” They obeyed, and then Donald gave the finishing touch by saying, “You are both so pretty, I cannot say who is the prettiest.” During the few hours speut by the party in the bothy, Donald felt himself so elated that he drank so much of the warm stream flowing from the worm as to make him top heavy. To get him cannily to his house, it was proposed that he should be mounted behind one of the young gentlemen. This done, and Donald left without side supports, he lost his balance and fell. He w*is .ut up again with the same result, but in his second fall his head came against a rock, which brought him a little to his senses. Cautiously coming to his feet, and looking up to the rider, he said, “May all good attend us; truly, Mr Munro, we ought to be thankful that the ground is soft.”

Ecclesiastical.—Before the Reformation there were three places of worship, and three priests officiating in the parish. One at Posskeen, one at Nonakiln, and one at Ardross. After the Reformation the three wore made into one charge, the minister being appointed to officiate two consecutive Sundays at Rosskeen, one at Nonakiln, and once a month as might be convenient for him at Ardross. The chapel at Rosskeen was condemned in 1829, and a new church was in 1832 built. Underneath the back wing of this chapel, the Caclboll family built their burial vault, which has been renovated and beautified by the present proprietor two years ago. Before the suppression of smuggling in the parish, this vault was frequently the abode of spirits as well as of the dead. The beadle, who had charge of the key, was sworn to secrecy, and the vault converted to a warehouse. The church-yard is near the sea, a stream passes by it, into which, at high water, the tide flows deep enough to float an ordinary boat. Sales were made, the warehouse emptied during night, and the cargo delivered along the coast before daylight.

The chapel at Nonakiln ceased to be used as a place of worship in 1713. An incident in connection with the last service held in it is illustrative of the tenacity with which superstition still sticks to a few of us.—

The story is that the farm manager at Invergordon Castle was frequently annoyed by a bull, belonging to a neighbouring farmer, being found frequently trespassing on the Invergordon lands. At last the manager threatened that the next time the animal would be found straying there he would be shot. On a Sunday in December 1713, the manager on his way to the Chapel at Nonakiln, saw the bull on the forbidden ground. He returned to his house, loaded his gun, and shot the animal. He then proceeded to the church. Before he arrived the service commenced, and as he was lifting the latch of the church door, part of the roof gave way, but did not fall in. The worshippers were all alarmed, and a few of them hurt in their exit. One of my informants, who is still living, wound up the tale with this expression, savouring of superstition—“Cha leigeadh an Eaglais a steach e airson gun do mharbh e tarbli air la na Sabaid.” (“The church would not allow him to enter because he killed a bull on the Sabbath day.”) His idea is that the sacred edifice would not sanction the man’s presence because he broke the Sabbath. The roof fell in the following year. The west gable and a portion of the side walls are still remaining.

The chapel at Ardross must, to an archaeologist, be the most interesting of the three. It was situated on the farm now called Achandunie, and known by the name of “Seapal-dail-a’-mhic.” It has been wholly removed, except a portion of the foundation. From what remains the ground area is found to measure 42 feet by 24 feet. The interest connected with it is, that it is placed in the centre of a Druidical place of worship, measuring 112 feet by 86 feet. Only two of the stones remain standing. They are of sandstone split out of one block, and measuring 5 feet 6 inches high, 3 feet 8 inches broad, and 1 foot thick. A few large stones are lying covered by the debris of the ruins, the rest have been removed. This fact confirms the account of the early Culdee Missionaries, having been in the habit of meeting the people at Druidical places of worship, who, after they were converted to Christianity, built churches in which to worship at the Druidical standing stones; and this is the reason why so many of our churches in the Highlands are to this day known as “An clachan," from the standing stones.

There are only two other Druidical circles now in the parish, one at Stittenham House, and the other at the west end of Strathrusdale. In each the throe concentric circles can be traced, but only a few of the stones remain.

The people were very wild and lawless in those times. I have collected many anecdotes about them, but as my paper is already too long I will finish with a few sentences about the Episcopal Minister of the Parish. His name was John Mackenzie, better known as “Iain Breac,” brother of the first Mackenzie of Ardross, who was son of the laird of Kildun near Dingwall. Mr John Mackenzie was appointed curate in 1664. He conformed in 1689 after the Revolution, and lived till January or February 1714, a month or two after the chapel of Nonakiln was deserted. The religious instruction of his flock gave him little concern. Aftei the dismissal of the congregation almost every Sunday at Nonakiln, a fair was held for the disposal of cattle, harness, implements of tillage, &c. The curate mingled with the people at these fairs, and occasionally entered into their games. The most noteworthy record about him is that he was so strong as to lift a firlot measure full of barley (1˝ bushels) on his roof. His successor, Mr Daniel Beaton, who was translated from Ardersier to the parish in March 1717, was in every respect a contrast. He was so small in stature that he is generally spoken of as “Am Beutanach beag,” but he was a sincere Christian, an industrious worker, and a gospel preacher; and before many years of his incumbency passed, the Parish was to a large extent civilized, His memory is still fragrant among pious old people.


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