Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century
The year 1834 was one of great political stress in
Parliament. Earl Grey’s administration got into difficulties over the
Irish Church question and the renewal of the Irish Crimes Act. Besides the
reduction of the Irish Episcopate, they had to consider a scheme for
putting an end to the tithe war, and proposals for dealing with the
surplus of Irish Church funds. One section of the Government was in favour
of applying the surplus to general philanthropic purposes; another desired
to reserve it for strictly ecclesiastical purposes. The adherents of the
latter view, namely, the Duke of Richmond, Mr Stanley (afterwards Earl of
Derby), Sir James Graham, and the Earl of Ripon, resigned. It was at first
thought that their secession would break up the administration, but their
places were filled by the Marquis of Conyngham, who became
Postmaster-General; the Earl of Carlisle, Privy Seal; Lord Auckland, First
Lord of the Admiralty; and Mr Spring Rice, Colonial Secretary. The aspect
of political affairs, however, continued to be very unsettled.
During the summer and autumn misunderstandings arose in
connection with an Irish Coercion Bill. Earl Grey, wearied with the
difficulties of his position, resigned office as Prime Minister, and Lord
Melbourne was called to the head of the Government. During the same time
the Lord Chancellor, Brougham, had been subjected to relentless criticism
by the London papers for his restlessness, irritability, and generally
When Parliament rose, Brougham paid a visit to
Scotland, where he was entertained at great houses and received with
unbounded enthusiasm by the populate, who knew him by reputation rather
than at first hand. They were proud of his ability and public services,
and unaware of his peculiarities or indifferent to them. At Inverness,
Brougham delivered a speech which excited a storm by the remark that the
Government had done "too much rather than too little." Seeing that he had
made a mistake, the Chancellor endeavoured at other meetings to retrieve
himself by going on an opposite tack. "Using Radical language at one
place, employing Conservative arguments at another, he amazed and alarmed
the friends who were not merely amused at his eccentricity." Suddenly, in
November, King William dismissed his Whig Ministers, and asked the Duke of
Wellington to form an administration. Wellington sent for Sir Robert Peel,
who was at Rome, and Peel, on his return advised a dissolution of
Parliament. The country, however, resented the action of the Sovereign,
and failed to return a Conservative majority.
From the "Inverness Courier." 1834.
January 1.—A dinner in the Macdonell Arms at Invergarry
was held to celebrate the marriage of young Glengarry to Miss Bennet,
niece of the late Bishop of Cloyne. Mr Grant of Glenmoriston presided.
January 1 and 8.—An atrocious murder was perpetrated
near Elgin on Saturday, 28th December. An industrious man named Ritchie,
residing at Lhanbryde, was killed by a blow from a bludgeon as he was on
his way home from the town. The motive was evidently robbery. His murderer
turned out to be a deserter named Noble, who after the crime re-enlisted
under another name, and was apprehended at Fort-George.
January 8.—The question of admitting reporters and the
public to the meetings of the new Town Councils was discussed in many
places. Some Councils opened their doors, some did not. "When the present
Town Council of Inverness came into office," says the editor, "the
question of open meetings was canvassed. We confess we thought the Council
might safely open their doors, for very few would have time or inclination
to attend; but it was deemed best, for some time at least, till the
members were familiarised with municipal business and details, to exclude
even reporters for the local papers. It was agreed, however, to let the
Council books be open for inspection at the Town Clerk’s office, and we
accordingly transfer the minutes of the respective meetings to our
columns. Perhaps this is as much as the public will tolerate. If we were
disposed and enabled to give the conversation that passes around the
Council table, we are confident that it would be read by none but the
members themselves." These were the municipal and editorial views of 1834.
January 15.—An Inverness vessel, the "Oak," went to
Portmahomack to load grain, and when lying in the bay during rough
weather, lost one of her boats, and was afterwards driven ashore. Five
lives were lost.
January 22.—"In looking over some old business letters
lately we were surprised, under so late a date as 1805, to find a
gentleman in Ross-shire write in the following strain: —‘I expect to be in
Inverness on my way South on Monday, and should be glad if you could fall
in with travelling companions for me, either to go in a chaise or on
horseback, as it is dull travelling alone.’ We have now four coaches
running South—the Mail, the Defiance, and the Star, daily, and the
Caledonian coach by the Highland Road, thrice every week in summer and
twice in winter."
January 29.—"The fine lordship of Lochaber, which from
the associations of song and music seems part of the classic ground of
Scotland, has, we understand, been disposed of in the following manner
:—The first portion that was sold (which is the second in point of value)
was purchased by Mr Walker of Crawfordtown, Dumfries-shire; the next lot
was disposed of to Lochiel and Sir Duncan Cameron of Fassifern; and the
largest and best lot was sold last week to Lord Aboyne." A paragraph in
another issue says that the town of Fort-William was part of the lot that
fell to Sir Duncan Cameron.
Ibid.—Died, at Geanies House, Ross-shire, on the 21st
curt., Donald Macleod, Esq. of Geanies, late Sheriff of Ross and Cromarty,
in the 89th year of his age. A paragraph says— "This respected gentleman
held the office of Sheriff-Depute of the counties of Ross and Cromarty
during a period of 59 years; that of Convener of Ross-shire during 40
years, and that of Vice-Lieutenant of the same county while lord Seaforth
was Lord-Lieutenant. His energetic activity and sound judgment were
remarkably conspicuous at those periods when the public safety required
the measures of the Government to be promptly and strictly executed; and
the Militia, Volunteers, and local Militia forces were successively
embodied under his immediate superintendence. He himself commanded a body
of a thousand men distinguished by their fine appearance and discipline.’"
idea of having a University established at Inverness, with the possible
aid of the Mackintosh, Bell, and other endowments, was at this time
broached by the Town council. Now and again the same idea has since been
revived, but has never come to anything.
Rev. Wm. Mackenzie of Tongue, in Sutherland, died on the 5th inst., at the
age of 96, and in the sixty-seventh year of his ministry. He was a native
of Kilmuir, in Ross-shire, and was settled in Tongue in 1769. A
co-Presbyter contributes an account of his character and labours. Mr
Mackenzie was an earnest and zealous preachers and had laboured with great
success in Tongue. During the last seven or eight years of his life he was
totally blind, but he would not give up preaching. Even within four weeks
of his death be preached sitting in his arm-chair in his dining-room.
February 5.—A native of Skye, Mr Donald Macdiarmid, who
died in South Carolina, sent during his lifetime £1000 to be devoted to
education in Portree, and bequeathed a second sum of £1000 for the same
February 5 and 12.—There
are notices in these two issues of the Rev. Thomas Fraser, senior minister
of Inverness, who died on the 3rd inst. He was a native of the parish of
Kirkhill, and in his sixty-ninth year. Mr Fraser was appointed to the
third charge of Inverness in 1801 and to the first in 1821. "During all
this period he discharged the duties of his office with unremitting
diligence, not only preaching regularly in his turn, but catechising his
people, visiting the sick, superintending the schools, assisting in the
management of the other public institutions, and attending particularly to
the poor, whom he had the greater access to know from his having acted
many years as Kirk-Treasurer. The leading features of his mind were a just
and practical judgment, uncompromising integrity, and a delicate sense of
at Dochnalurg, near the banks of Loch-Ness, on Sunday last, Mr Alexander
Fraser, tacksman of that places and of various salmon fishings in this
neighbourhood. Mr Fraser was author of a treatise on the natural history
of the salmon, published lately, which contains a great deal of curious
and valuable matter, gleaned from the observation of a long course of
years." The deceased, it is stated, acquired the esteem of all who knew
him by his active exertions and his honest, upright, character. "Many a
person whom business or pleasure led to visit the beautiful scenery amidst
which Mr Fraser’s lot was cast, will sigh to think that their intelligent
and kind entertainer is at length summoned to his final rest. Mr Fraser
was in his 71st year." This gentleman was the father of the late Dr
Fraser-Mackintosh, M.P. [See brief bio of
Charles Fraser-Mackintosh, M.P. (1828-1901) at
Ibid.—A paragraph is quoted from an Elgin paper under
the heading "unexampled economy worthy of imitation." The two senior
bailies of the burgh went on behalf of the town to Lossiemouth to meet the
gentlemen appointed to stake off the ground for a proposed new harbour.
The worthy Magistrates walked the whole distance, five miles out and five
miles home, and only spent one shilling! This expenditure consisted of
sixpence for whisky and the other sixpence to the waiter.
March 5.—On the motion of Mr Sinclair, M.P. for
Caithness, the House of Commons appointed a Select Committee to consider
the past and present state of the law of Church patronage in Scotland.
March 19.—"The subject of Church patronage is at
present exciting much interest in Scotland. So far as we have been able to
ascertain the sentiments of the people in this Northern part of the
Kingdom, a general wish appears to be entertained for some modification of
the present system, without, however, rushing to the opposite extreme of
popular election." The Ministers of the Crown were supposed to be in
favour of a veto on the rights of patrons. The Inverness Town Council
adopted a series of resolutions suggesting that presentations should be
made by delegates representing the heritors, the Kirk-Session, and male
heads of families.
Ibid.—"The street lamps of this town [Inverness] being
superseded by gas, were, of course, thrown aside. But keep a thing, says
the proverb, seven years, and it will come of use. The good folks of Nairn
have purchased part of the disused illuminants, and thirty more have been
sent to enlighten the inhabitants of Tain."
March 26.—"The expense of executing criminals condemned
to death at the Circuit Court has hitherto been a burden on this burgh."
This is the text of a letter from the Provost of Inverness to the Lord
Advocate. The Provost urges that the expense should be borne by the
Exchequer or by the county where the crime was committed.
Ibid.—A committee of the farming societies of Easter
and Wester Ross resolved to hold a joint show at Invergordon.
April 2.—"Died, at Dumfries, on Wednesday, the 26th
ult., Mrs Robert Burns, widow of our great national poet. Her health was
considerably injured by a serious illness about twelve months ago, from
which, however, she gradually recovered. On Saturday last she had a
paralytic attack which deprived her of speech and hearing; but she
remained perfectly sensible, and knew the relations and friends who
zealously ministered to her comfort." Mrs Burns had survived her husband
April 9.—There is an article on steam navigation in the
North, explaining a scheme to establish a vessel to ply between the Moray
Firth and London. There is also a suggestion for steam communication
between Inverness and Liverpool, to connect with the coach at the latter
port. By this route, it is stated, the mails could be carried in 57 hours.
"Now the mail which leaves London at 8 o’clock p.m. on Monday does not
reach Inverness until 9 o’clock p.m. on Thursday, or in 73 hours, sixteen
more than might be occupied if the giant steam were brought into the
April 16.—"The workmen on the Inverness Castlehill
have, at the distance of about ten feet below the surface, come upon part
of the ancient foundations of the Castle. Another skull has been dug up."
April 23.—At the Synod of Moray a motion was carried,
by 28 votes to 9, that the presentation of Mr Grant to the parish of Petty
should be sustained. The case had created a good deal of local excitement.
April 30.—The following were the wages at the
half-yearly feeing market :—Able, experienced ploughmen, from £3 10s to £4
10s; half-grown men for working odd horses, 50s to £3; herd boys from 26s
to 30s; women for dairy and out-work from 25s to 30s.
May 7.—"Friday last was a grand gala day in Inverness.
Two public edifices have been contemplated here for some time—the County
Buildings, including Court-House, Sheriff-Clerk’s office, and depository
for county records; and the United Charities School, intended to
accommodate the Infant School and the ladies’ Work Society. When the plan
was fully matured, designs obtained and contracts completed, it was
resolved to gratify the lieges with a Masonic procession on occasion of
laying the foundation-stone of the two structures. The brethren in the
North entered into the scheme with the zeal and cordiality which
distinguish the fraternity, and the Provincial Grand Master, William
Brodie, Esq. of Brodie, willingly took upon himself the honourable duty of
officiating at the imposing ceremony." The procession started from the
Academy Park, and included the Provost and Magistrates, the Academy
teachers and scholars (the latter carrying white wands), the friends of
the Infant School charity, the county gentlemen, officials connected with
the buildings, the Sheriff, Sheriff-Substitute, and Procurator-Fiscal, and
the brethren of Masonic lodges. Brodie, as Provincial Grand Master, first
laid the foundation-stone of the County Buildings on the Castle Hill, and
then, the procession having been reformed, laid the foundation-stone of
the United Charities School, on the eminence near the reservoir (opposite
Viewhill). The ceremonies concluded with a dinner in the Caledonian Hotel,
Sheriff Tytler in the chair.
Ibid.—"The Northern Institution was established at
Inverness in 1825, for the promotion of science and literature in general,
and more particularly with the view of investigating the antiquities and
civil and natural history of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. A
museum was collected, and has been enriched by many valuable contributions
from all parts of the world, in natural history as well as scarce books
and manuscripts. The funds of the institution have, however, been
declining for some years, and nearly all interest in it has been
extinguished. The members have accordingly resolved to break it up, and to
transfer the Museum to the Academy here, the directors of the latter
agreeing to pay the debts and engagements of the Institution, not
exceeding £80. The coins alone, if sold as bullion, are worth this sum."
The fragments of the Museum ultimately came into the hands of the Town
Council, and are now (1904) in the Free Library Buildings, arranged by the
Council of the Inverness Field Club. Many of the original gifts, however,
had either been reclaimed or mislaid. New gifts and new cases were added
by the Field Club.
Ibid.—The trial of William Noble for the murder of
William Ritchie took place at the Circuit Court at Inverness. He was
convicted, and sentenced to be hanged at Elgin. After his conviction Noble
confessed that he had committed the crime.
Ibid.—The Ross-shire County Meeting was held on the
30th of April at Dingwall. Formerly it had been held at Tain. The Sheriff
stated that he had called the meeting at Dingwall for the convenience of
gentlemen of the western district. There was no Act fixing a head burgh.
Ibid.—A movement was on foot for bringing mails by the
Highland Road. The mail coaches, however, were exempt from tolls, while
the county of Inverness derived £300 a year from the tolls paid by the
Caledonian coach. There was difficulty in proposing to bring the mail
coach toll free, and the county meeting appointed a committee to consider
May 14.—At the close of the Circuit Court the previous
week, the Lord Justice-Clerk recommended that the Northern Counties should
unite in erecting a large district Jail. The county of Inverness, at a
meeting on the 13th inst., instructed the Sheriff and Convener to
correspond on the subject with the members of Parliament and the Sheriffs
and Conveners of other counties in the district.
May 28.—A party of scientific gentlemen paid a visit to
the county of Sutherland to investigate its natural history. They took
with them a light boat, supported on springs and fitted to a carriage, to
enable them to examine lakes which would be otherwise inaccessible. The
party consisted of Mr Selby of Twisell, Sir William Jardine, Dr Greville,
and Mr James Wilson.
June 4.—The announcement is made of the secession of
four members of the Government on account of a proposal for the
appropriation of Irish Church property.
Ibid.—The Veto Act was adopted by the General Assembly
of the Church of Scotland. In the division 184 voted for the motion as
against 138 for an amendment giving the people a qualified right of
objection. At the same Assembly, the Presbytery of Inverness was
instructed to proceed with the settlement of Mr Grant in the parish of
Ibid.—William Noble was executed at Elgin on the 31st
of May for murder. He was only twenty years of age. It is stated that
there had not been an execution in Elgin for upwards of seventy years. The
hangman was procured from Dundee at the charge of £12, exclusive of
travelling expenses. The same functionary officiated at Aberdeen. "This
plan," says a paragraph, "of engaging executioners only when required, and
not for life, according to the ancient use and wont, will soon become
general. It will be a great saving to the burghs, and two or three hangmen
will do for all Scotland."
June 11.—The publication of a complete Guide to the
Highlands and Islands, by Messrs George and Peter Anderson, is announced
in this issue as about to take place. This was the first edition of the
work, and is still prized by every one who happens to possess a copy. The
Guide furnished Hugh Miller with the key to his geological observations.
The book was written by men of exceptional culture and knowledge of the
Highlands, and is packed with valuable information.
Ibid.—The Inverness Town Council, on the motion of the
Provost, agreed to admit the public to their sittings. At the next meeting
the public consisted of one citizen and two reporters.
June 18.—The Right Hon. Robert Grant, Judge-Advocate,
brother of Lord Glenelg, was appointed Governor of Bombay. The salary was
£12,000 per annum.
Ibid.—There is a report from a committee of Town
Council on the Wooden Bridge (it is called "the New Bridge") and the
administration of the account by the town. It appears that in 1804 Messrs
Lockhart Kinloch and Peter Anderson took a lease of the lands of Merkinch
from the proprietor, Mr Fraser of Torbreck, for 300
years. They granted feu tacks and building leases, and made
proposals to the Magistrates of Inverness to have the lands brought within
the extended Royalty, and to have a bridge built. Ultimately the tenants
of Merkinch agreed to build the Wooden Bridge at their own expense, with
the aid of voluntary subscriptions, and to hand it over to the Provost and
Magistrates, who obtained an Act of Parliament for the purpose. The
original cost of the bridge is said to have been above £2000, and daring
the next twenty-five years the town expended in repairs no less than
£2580, independent of interest. A toll was levied, the average produce of
which was £58 a year.
Ibid.—A Crown presentation was issued transferring the
Rev. Alexander Clark from the third to the first ministerial charge of the
Church and parish of Inverness, vacant by the death of the late Rev.
June 25.—There is an account of rejoicings in Lochaber
to welcome Lochiel and his wife, Lady Vere Cameron, sister of the Earl of
Buckinghamshire, who was introduced to the Clan for the first time. A
large gathering of clansmen took place, each wearing a sprig of oak in his
bonnet. The Macdonalds of Keppoch came down from Glen-Spean wearing the
heather and oak entwined as emblematic of the good understanding which had
existed between the two clans.
July 2.—Disease had appeared in the potato crop, but it
was not general, and excited curiosity rather than anxiety.
July 9.—A memorial was forwarded to the Treasury by the
Magistrates and Town Council of Inverness in favour of the transmission of
the South mail direct from Perth to Inverness by the Highland Road. ‘We
have frequently," says the editor, "taken occasion to advert to the
advantages such a change would confer on the whole of the Northern
Counties. The arrangement under which the mail is conveyed from Edinburgh
to this place has for many years been the subject of complaint and
remonstrance. The only coach by which it is carried traverses the road
along the eastern coast, and by this route Perth is more than 200 miles
distant from Inverness, while by the great Highland road the distance is
only 115 miles. A stage coach has been run for several years on the
Highland road; it is kept in the highest state of repair, and has recently
undergone some extensive improvements. It has also been found by
experience that it is less liable to be obstructed in winter by snow than
the present mail road."
Ibid.—Mr Goodacre, a lecturer on astronomy, suggested
the erection of an observatory on the site of the United Charities School,
then in progress of erection. He offered the proceeds of the lecture as a
donation to the proposed scheme. In the next issue an appeal was made for
subscriptions by the Rev. Mr Fyvie and Mr George Anderson.
July 16.—Resignation of the Prime Minister, Earl Grey,
and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Althorp, on account of
differences in the Cabinet relating to the Irish question.
lbid.—The Inverness Sheep and Wool Market was held the
previous week. On wool there was a rise of almost 3s per stone; a
considerable advance on ewes and lambs, and a slight advance on wedders.
Cheviot wedders fetched from 22s to 31s; ewes from 13s 6d to 21s; lambs
from 9s 6d to 11s 6d. Blackfaced wedders fetched from 16s to 22s; ewes
from 10s to 13s; lambs from 6s to 8a 6d. Cheviot washed wool fetched from
21s to 24s 6d; unwashed from 18s to 21s; cross from 16s to 20s; coarse
laid from 11s to 12s; unlaid from 13s to 14s. The market was stiff.
July 23.—Lord Melbourne succeeded Earl Grey as Premier.
"Lord Melbourne is an amiable, accomplished nobleman, but we suspect he
wants weight to rule and consolidate the Cabinet. He has long been at the
head of the fashionable world; but we have yet to learn that his lordship
can, like Charles James Fox, unite the opposite characters of leader of
the haut ton and first Minister of
England." Lord Althorp remained in office as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
August 6.—A suspension bridge was thrown across the
river on the east side of the Islands in 1828, but the funds were
inadequate to provide one on the western side. "Additional subscriptions,"
we are now informed, "have since been obtained, and a contract has been
entered into for the erection of a suspension bridge on the western bank,
which will connect the beautiful walks on both sides, and form a fine
ornament to the town."
Ibid.—It is stated that the great bulk of the Clan
Chisholm had emigrated some years before to America, and that "the major
part of the small remainder" were now settled on the estate of Lovat.
"These good people, says a correspondent, hearing that Mrs Gooden, the
daughter of the late Alex. Chisholm of Chisholm, who died in 1793, was
making a tour in these parts, assembled on Friday, 18th ult., at the
bridge of Struy, to pay their respects to her in passing, and after
drinking her health with three heartfelt cheers, separated for their
respective homes. It was a meeting of the deepest interest on both sides."
Ibid.—This issue records the death of a respected
townsman, who had held the office of Convener of the Incorporated Trades
for seventeen years, and was accordingly known as Convener Alexander
Williamson. He had carried on for upwards of forty years a successful
business as cabinet-maker and upholsterer, and died in the 62nd year of
his age. The funeral was on an impressive scale. "Each Incorporation went
in the following order. Officer-Apprentices, four and four—Journeymen,
four and four—present and late Box-masters. Afterwards the five Deacons,
the old and new Conveners, and the General Box-master. The Magistrates,
preceded by the town’s officers, next walked in procession, and a large
concourse of persons resident in the town and neighbourhood followed the
body and the family mourners."
August 13.—A successful show of stock for the counties
of Ross and Cromarty was held at Invergordon. At the dinner, however,
there was talk of agricultural distress. It was said that this distress
"was seen and felt in every rural district throughout the kingdom."
August 20.—The publication is announced of the Guide to
the Highlands by Messrs George and Peter Anderson. "It is a complete
work," says the editor in a preliminary notice, "full of information on
all points interesting to the tourist, and, independently of its
possessing the usefulness of an itinerary and guide book, it may be
considered as affording an introduction to the temple of science, by its
copious appendices on the geology, botany, natural history, and
antiquities of the Highlands." A fuller notice appears in the following
Ibid.—The number of visitors at Strathpeffer is so
great that "half-a-guinea and even a guinea per week have been given for a
bed in small dark rooms with earthen floors."
August 27.—It is recorded that the Duchess Countess of
Sutherland, then in her 70th year, had just completed a tour of her great
Highland property. ‘It is worthy of remark that her Grace travelled over
the whole of this tour in her carriage, whereas a few years since the
county was only accessible by boat, on foot, or on ponies, attended by
guides to point out the way and render assistance through bogs and
September 3.—Lord Brougham passed through Inverness on
this date on his way to visit the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland at
Dunrobin. The two previous days he spent at Invereshie, the shooting
quarters of the Right Hon. Edward Ellice, and at the Doune of
Rothiemurchus, the summer residence of the Duchess of Bedford. The Lord
Chancellor’s Northern tour excited intense interest. His carriage arrived
at Millburn, Inverness, at half-past four o’clock "this day," Wednesday,
September 3. He was met by the Provost and Magistrates, the Trades
Incorporations, with banners displayed, and a large number of the
inhabitants. The procession accompanied him to the Caledonian Hotel, and
shortly afterwards his lordship entered the Northern Meeting Rooms, to
receive an address and the freedom of the burgh. The presentation was made
by Provost John Mackenzie, and Lord Brougham replied in what is described
as "a short but eloquent and emphatic address." He began by saying that
the distinction which the burgh had conferred upon him was due in the
first place to the fact that he had the honour of serving a monarch who
lived in the hearts of his subjects. "He had enjoyed the honour of serving
that Prince for nearly four years, and during that time he had experienced
from his Majesty only one series of gracious condescension, confidence,
and favour. To find that he lived in the hearts of his loyal subjects in
the ancient and important capital of the Highlands, as it had afforded him
(Lord Brougham) only pure and unmixed satisfaction, would, he was
confident, be so received by his Majesty, when he told him, as he would do
by that night’s post, of the gratifying circumstance." His lordship went
on to say that if he had any personal claim to the honour which the burgh
had conferred upon him, it arose from the part he had taken in such public
questions as negro emancipation, reform in Parliament and the
municipalities, and in the education of the people. "To those questions,"
he continued, "I have been a zealous friend, and I will continue the same
as long as life is preserved to me. In doing so I meet with nothing but
support, kindness, and assistance from the worthy and powerful part of the
community; from others I meet with nothing but revilings,
misrepresentation, and calumny. I cannot say that these have an effect
upon me, for in truth I regard them with perfect indifference. The people
now think for themselves, and will not take opinions from others, be they
priests, peers, or printers—at the same time reverencing their priests,
honouring their peers, and taking every opportunity—and God knows they
cannot go to a better source—of deriving information from the liberty of
the press, and the fullest and most unrestrained discussion." The speaker
then went on to state what work had been accomplished during the past
session. Incidentally he said that his own opinion was that the Government
had "done too much rather than too little." He was criticised for this
saying, and subsequent speeches had a more radical complexion.
September 10.—On the 4th
inst. Lord Brougham was honoured in the same way at Dingwall. He started
early from Inverness in order to reach Dunrobin in the evening, and the
ceremony at Dingwall took place shortly after ten o'clock a.m. His stay at
Dunrobin extended only from Thursday to Monday. On the forenoon of the
latter day he received deputations from Wick, Dornoch, Tain, and Cromarty,
who presented him with the freedom of their respective burghs. On his way
south he stayed a night at Beaufort Castle. Continuing his journey, he was
honoured with civic presentations at Nairn, Forres, Elgin, and Aberdeen.
The editor of the "Courier," in a pen-and-ink sketch, commends Lord
Brougham’s speech at Inverness and the manner of its delivery. He says,
however, that "the Chancellor’s profession of independence, and of
disregard for the opinions of both Tory and Radical, struck us as being
overcharged and out of place."
Ibid.—"The Lord Chancellor, while in Inverness last
week, supplied himself largely with the Highland tartan, having purchased
a great variety of the different clan patterns, in velvet and worsted, for
waistcoats, trousers, and ladies’ dresses. The draper (Mr Macdougall) who
furnished the goods was delighted to find that his lordship knew the
various patterns of the clans, and the tailor was no less proud at having
spanned the waist of the Lord Chancellor."
Ibid.—The same issue contains a short memoir of Thomas
Telford, the engineer of the Caledonian Canal and other great works, who
had passed away at the age of seventy-seven. He was a native of Langholm,
in Dumfries-shire, and rose from being a stone mason to the top of his
profession as a civil engineer. The "Courier" mentions that in his youth
he was only distinguished for his proficiency in cutting the letters on
tombstones. "He was sedulous, however, in availing himself of every
opportunity of improving his mind, and the life of a stone-mason is so far
favourable to this, that it affords many vacant hours, especially in
winter. By the light of his evening fire, Thomas Telford mastered many a
volume, and he also became distinguished over the countryside for his
powers as a rhymester." Though he gave up versifying, he did not lose
interest in poetry. He was one of a band of friends who exerted themselves
to publish the first collected edition of Burns’s works, to which Dr
Currie contributed his Memoir, and which realised a sum of nearly £2000
for the poet’s widow and family. Telford was also a good friend to Thomas
Campbell and Robert Southey. The first employment which he obtained in
London was an engagement as a journeyman mason at the building of Somerset
House. "When walking along the Strand, he used occasionally to point out
to his friends the particular portions of this great national structure he
had assisted to build. The architect, Sir William Chambers, soon
discovered Telford’s merit, and promoted him to the overseership of
different parts of the work. His rise was rapid when he was once lifted
above the level of the mallet and the trowel."
September 17.—This issue contains the text of the
addresses which were presented to Lord Brougham by the Northern Burghs,
and accounts of his receptions at Nairn and Forres.
Ibid.—The movement of visitors to and from shooting
quarters is noticed. "Captain Orme," says one paragraph, "has just
returned from his shooting quarters at Poolewe, on the estate of Sir
Francis A. Mackenzie of Gairloch, where he has had excellent sport, having
also killed upwards of 100 salmon and nearly double that number of sea
trout, on Sir Francis’s famous river, the Ewe."
September 24.—There is a report of a great dinner given
to Earl Grey at Edinburgh. The Earl of Rosebery was in the chair, and gave
the toast of the evening. "The reply of Lord Grey was admirable for its
good taste and good feeling. The venerable statesman has made his
acknowledgements, and taken his leave with all the glory of the successful
patriot and the accomplished orator."
Ibid.—"Died, at Sciberscross, Sutherlandshire, on 6th
September, Mr James Hall, tacksman of that place, in the 64th year of his
age. Mr Hall was a native of the Border, and was one of the first who
introduced the improved system of sheep-farming into the Highlands. His
general intelligence, integrity, and kindness of disposition made him much
esteemed and respected by his friends and acquaintances."
October 1.—The Northern Meeting held the previous week
was well attended. "Every succeeding year seems to add to the number of
visitors from the South, anxious to explore the Highlands, and a few of
these remained to be present at our festival." The Meeting extended over
three days, from Wednesday to Friday, a dinner and ball being held each
evening. The largest attendance was on the Friday evening, when Cluny
Macpherson was in the chair, and about 160 ladies and gentlemen were
Ibid.—A public meeting was held at Inverness to
co-operate with the General Assembly in an effort for the extension of
Church accommodation. The Rev. Mr Clark said it was intended, as soon as a
reasonable suns could be obtained, to begin the building of a church for
October 8.—It is mentioned that the Duke of Bedford,
accompanied by his son, Lord Alexander Russell, and Mr Edwin Landseer, the
distinguished artist, had arrived at Inverness from Dunrobin. On their way
they visited the falls of Kilmorack and the scenery in the neighbourhood.
October 15.—Great improvements bad been made in the
condition of Elgin Cathedral, through the liberality of the Board of Woods
and Forests, directed by the taste of Mr Reid, the King’s architect for
Scotland. The keeper of the building, John Shanks, who had spent much time
in clearing rubbish from the building, was greatly delighted with the
renovation. He had now but two causes of regret; one was that Sir Walter
Scott had never visited the Cathedral, the other that Lord Brougham had
passed through the town without going to see it. If Scott had come John
was confident that the fame of the building, and perhaps his own name with
it, would have gone down to posterity "foaming like a speat in some of the
‘novells." As for Lord Brougham, "John had the chapter house sorted up in
fine order for the expected visit, and intended to ask his lordship to sit
down in the grand high stone seat, where the Bishop need to sit with all
his Deans and clerks around him." Alas for the vanity of human wits.
Ibid.—A weekly paper published in EIgin, entitled the
"Elgin Courier," terminated its existence after a life of seven years. The
copyright was sold for £5, and the plant for £130. The late Mr James
Grant, of the "Morning Advertiser," began his career on the "Elgin
Courier," but had left it some time before its demise. In his History of
the Newspaper Press he mentions that the gentleman who bought the
copyright of the old journal started a new one under the name of the
"Elgin Courant" which still flourishes.
Ibid.—Cholera had reappeared this year in Inverness.
One of its victims was a young medical practitioner, William Kennedy, son
of the Rev. Mr Kennedy, minister of the Independent Chapel in Inverness.
He had received a shock to his system by dressing the body of a gentleman
who died of the disease.
October 22.—An account is given of the destruction of
the Houses of Parliament by fire on the 16th inst.
November 5.—Great attention is given to a speech by the
Earl of Durham, who was entertained to a public dinner at Glasgow. We are
told that "few public dinners have been looked forward to with more
curiosity or interest." Lord Durham was in favour of household suffrage,
shorter Parliaments, and vote by ballot. There was open war between
himself and Brougham.
Ibid.—A great flood had taken place in the river Ness,
which carried off a rustic bridge connecting the two islands.
November 19.—This issue publishes the news of the
dismissal of the Whig Government by the King, who had "fairly turned them
out of office," and sent for the Duke of Wellington. The Whig Ministers
had become unpopular, but the summary action of the King created intense
lbid.—There is a report of a dinner given on the 13th
inst. at Kingussie to the Duke of Gordon. "Part of the possessions of the
Duke having passed into other hands, the gentlemen of Badenoch resolved to
testify their respect and attachment to his Grace, under whose family the
country had for centuries enjoyed protection, favour, and support." The
entertainment was given in the Assembly Hall,—Cluny Macpherson in the
chair. The tickets were confined to the "gentlemen of Badenoch," and about
seventy were present. A cavalcade of horsemen, sixty in number, met the
Duke about eight miles from Kingussie, and another large body on foot,
with pipes playing and flags waving, marched out to a point half-way
between Kingussie and Belleville. The Duke drove up in a carriage and
four. "Three of the best looking Highlanders came out of the ranks, and,
producing a bottle and glass, requested his Grace to accept a dram. The
request was made in Gaelic, but Cluny acted as interpreter. The Duke drank
the healths of all present, the pipes played up ‘Failte Phrionnsa,’ the
banners were lowered, and as if by one impulse the men doffed their
bonnets, the ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and the whole people gave a
long and loud cheer, which must have startled the slumbering echoes of the
hills of Badenoch. This enthusiasm was truly electrical; the Duke shed
tears, and the people were equally touched." The horses were then unyoked,
and the carriage drawn to Kingussie. It is mentioned that the flag of the
Macphersons was an object of attraction; it was pierced with several
musket balls, received chiefly at the battle of Falkirk in the ‘45. A body
of seventy fine looking Highlanders, arrayed in the kilt, surrounded this
relic. The speeches at the dinner are reported to the length of three
columns. Dr Carruthers afterwards described the scene in his Highland
Notebook, from which a passage is quoted in the Introduction to the first
volume of "The Northern Highlands."
Ibid.—The Nairnshire Missionary Society met at Nairn,
and voted to various objects subscriptions to the amount of £30.
Ibid.—Much regret was expressed that Mr John Mackenzie,
banker, found it necessary to resign the office of Provost of Inverness on
account of ill-health. He was the first Provost elected under the Reform
Act, and enjoyed the full support of the Council and community.
November 26.—"The Government is in a sort of abeyance,
or is wholly in the hands of the Duke of Wellington." A messenger had been
despatched for Sir Robert Peel, who was in Rome, and the Duke held the
chief place and several other offices until Peel’s arrival.
Ibid.—We are informed in this number that the streets
of Inverness were admirably paved, and might challenge comparison with any
other burgh in the Kingdom. The town had also boasted for years of being
one of the best lighted in the country, but recently the Gas Company had
been losing seriously by the street lamps, and the service had been
reduced. The Council was restricted to a sum of £200 as the maximum
assessment, and they could not give more without adopting the Police Act.
December 3.—A dissolution of Parliament is anticipated,
but as yet there is no certainty. Prospective candidates, however, are
issuing their addresses. Mr Charles Grant is again to stand for the county
of Inverness, and is to be opposed by Macleod of Macleod.
Ibid.—’We learn that a branch of the Commercial Bank is
to be established in a few weeks at Cromarty. The Bank has nominated
Robert Ross, Esq., agent, and Mr Hugh Miller, accountant. The latter
appointment will give much pleasure to all the numerous friends of ‘the
Journeyman Mason.’ We see no fear of Mr Miller falling into the error
deprecated by Pope—’To pen a stanza when he should engross’—and as the
blasts of winter have now come into play, the snug counting house and the
pen will be no unacceptable exchange forthe hillside and the
December 10.—The lands of Glendale, in the Isle of
Skye, were lately exposed to sale at £7513, being 26 years’ purchase, and
were sold at £8620, about 30 years’ purchase.
December 17.—The Inverness Town Council met; and after
recording their appreciation of the services of the retiring Provost,
elected as his successor the senior Bailie, Mr John Fraser. This gentleman
was the father of the late Rev. Dr Donald Fraser, of Inverness and
Marylebone. In accepting office, the new Provost said "he had the
misfortune to be elected at a period of great political excitement, and he
feared he must come far short of the expectation of some of his friends in
this respect; for he must acknowledge it was his own sense of propriety
that he would best consult the honour and efficiency of his station by
abstaining from taking any prominent or active part the present political
issue contains a list of the new Ministers, headed by Sir Robert Peel as
First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. It also
contains Peel’s address to the• electors of Tamworth, which formed his
manifesto. A dissolution of Parliament was known to be imminent, and
candidates were busy. Mr Edward Ellice, junior (afterwards member for the
St Andrews Burghs), had resolved to contest the Inverness Burghs with
Major Cumming Bruce of Dunphail. In Ross-shire the candidates were Mr
Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth and Mr Thomas Mackenzie of Applecross. The
seats of Mr Macleod, yr. of Cadboll, for Sutherland, of Mr James Loch for
the Northern Burghs, and of Mr George Sinclair for Caithness, were
believed to be secure.
Ibid.—The property of Torbreck, near Inverness, was
sold to the trustees of the late Colonel Baillie of Leys for £23,000, or
about thirty-three years’ purchase of the free rental. The estate of
Aberlour was purchased at a public roup by Mr Grant, late of Jamaica, for
December 31.—The Editor of the "Courier" in this issue
gives the first notice of "a curious old Manuscript history," now known as
the Wardlaw Manuscript. He published extracts from it in the paper, and
afterwards included them in his Highland Notebook. This interesting
Manuscript has now been published by the Scottish History Society, under
the editorship of Mr William Mackay, solicitor, Inverness. The volume was
shown in 1903 at the Highland and Jacobite Exhibition.