Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century
There are several items of interest
in connection with the year 1808. The first incident recorded is the
finding of a silver chain at Torvean by the labourers engaged at the
construction of the Caledonian Canal. The chain, it will be observed, was
found in the end of 1807, not in 1809 as generally stated. Five such
chains have been found in Scotland, and none elsewhere. They are nil now
in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries in Edinburgh. The Inverness
chain is the largest. The original description quoted below says it
weighed 104 ounces; Dr Joseph Anderson, the careful and accurate curator
of the Museum, gives its weight at 92½ ounces. "Each link," he says, "is a
solid bar of silver, hammered round and bent circularly till the ends come
close together." A second chain of the same kind has been found at
Parkhill, in the parish of New Machar, Aberdeenshire; a third at
Whitecleuch, in the parish of Crawfordjohn, Lanarkshire; a fourth at
Hordwell, in Berwickshire; and the fifth at Haddington. On two of the
chains (ParkhilI and Whitecleuch) are symbols of the kind found on the
Sculptured Stones of Scotland. They belong, apparently, to early Christian
times. It is, perhaps, worthy of note that the Inverness chain was found
"in the side of a large flat cairn." The flat near Torvean was formerly
known as Kilvean, the hill and the plain thus taking their name from some
The winter of 1807-8 was intensely
severe. Fodder became very scarce, and many black cattle died. As late as
April 29th "the internal parts of the country" were completely covered
with snow, and the Highland road was blocked. An examination of the
newspaper files shows that the social condition of Scotland was much worse
than at present. Cases of theft and robbery were more frequent, and there
were two murders at Tain. The military spirit of the country, fostered by
the war with France, was very active. Battalions of Militia and Volunteers
met at stated times for drill, and underwent careful inspection. Among the
most active officers in the North in connection with these local movements
were the Hon. Archibald Fraser of Lovat, Donald Macleod of Geanies,
Sheriff-Depute of Ross-shire, and Lieut.-Colonel Rose of Kilravock.
It will be seen that the Town
Council of 1808 had among its members no fewer than four ex-Provosts-an
unusual distinction, we imagine, even in the period of close burgh
corporations. The congregation of the Nairn Parish Church had a narrow
escape from serious disaster owing to the unsafe condition of the
building, which must have formed a striking contrast to the present
handsome edifice. In those days the Northern Meeting was held at a
somewhat later date than now, and in October 1808, the Marquis of Huntly,
who was a prominent member, rode all the way from Aberdeen to Inverness in
less than seven hours. Readers will see what assistance was given to the
Royal Academy and the Infirmary by Mr Lachlan Mackintosh of Raigmore, who
collected no less than £2811 7s in India for the benefit of these
Several meetings were held during
1808 to protest against a bill proposing to allow malt to be made from
sugar. This, it was feared, would greatly affect the price of barley.
We referred last week to the smacks
that plied between Inverness and Leith and Inverness and London. Hugh
Miller describes one of the Leith and London smacks as a vessel "with a
huge single mast, massive and tall as that of a frigate, and a mainsail of
a quarter of an acre." It may be remembered that in 1826 Hugh spent seven
days in a voyage north from Leith to Cromarty. He describes them as "days
of thick, foggy mornings, clear, moonlight nights, and almost unbroken
From the "Inverness Journal." 1808.
January 1."Some labourers, while
digging in the eastern corner of Torvean,, on the line of the Caledonian
Canal, lately discovered a massy silver chain, in the side of a large,
flat cairn, about 2 feet below the surface. The chain consists of 33
circular links, formed of a perfectly cylindrical body, half-an-inch
thick, neatly joined without solder. They are linked in pairs, each of
which is about 2 inches in diameter, except those at the extremities,
which are 21 inches. A. link at one of the ends has, since the discovery
of the chain, been taken away; but as the remaining one is of the same
dimensions with those at the other end, we may conclude that the chain was
then entire. Its whole length is 18 inches, weighing about 104 ounces."
There were two detached fragments which formed part of a flat and very
massy ring, which had been broken after it was found; but from its form,
and the appearance of wearing on the outside, it had evidently moved on
some bolt. It was neatly channelled round, leaving a prominent astragal on
every side. "Both the chain and ring are of excellent workmanship; and
whether we attend to the uniform thickness and polish of the links, the
ingenuity with which they are joined, or the perfect symmetry of the
whole, we cannot but pronounce it to have been the work of an artist of no
inconsiderable skill." The Editor adds that it was hinted that other
articles bad been found, according to report a ball and bar also of
silver; but the labourers kept the matter a profound secret, as steps had
been taken to compel the owner of the chain to deliver it up to the Crown.
The chain is now in the Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh.
Ibid.It is recorded that 57 men out
of 534 men were ballotted to serve in the Militia for the town and parish
January 8.Proposal to establish a
corn market in Inverness.
January 15. - Advertisement of a
woollen factory formed at Inverness, under the firm of Mackenzie, Gordon,
& Co. It had already manufactured broadcloth and other fabrics.
Ibid.Foreign vessel wrecked at Rue
Rhea. Gairloch, and 4 out of a crew of 8 drowned. The vessel was laden
with oil and oranges, and was supposed to have been driven round from the
West of Ireland.
January 22It is noted that at a
meeting of the Highland Society in Edinburgh, the Duchess of Gordon was
elected a member without the ordinary form of ballot. "The Society adopted
this mode of election as on former occasions, being a mark of its
approbation of ladies of high rank coming forward in support of the
Ibid.The estate of Rosehall, in
Sutherland, having being lately purchased by Lord Ashburton, his lordship
was planning making extensive improvements, such as laying out waste
ground for plantations. He was also about to erect a chapel in lieu of a
ruinous old kirk, for the accommodation of the poor inhabitants residing
in that distant part of the parish of Creich.
Ibid.The following paragraph
appears from a correspondent in the Long Island:"The ship Hamilton, of
Greenock, Captain Gilchrist, is arrived at Lochmaddy, in North Uist, in 25
days from Halifax, which place she left on 30th November. The Hamilton is
bound for Greenock with a valuable cargo of prize goods, consisting of
coffee, tea, and sugar; she carried dispatches for Government from Admiral
Berkeley and General Hunter at Halifax, which were immediately landed at
the Post-Office, with several hundred private letters, and forwarded by
the Uist packet."
January 29.Died, at Bengal, on
Sunday, the 20th July 1807, Alex. Gray, Esq., M.D., Surgeon on the Bengal
Establishment. "From his first entrance into the Companys service, Dr
Gray was remarked for his faithful and assiduous discharge of his duties.
He died possessed of large property, chiefly vested in Government
security. The principal part of his fortune, amounting to 3 lacs of
rupees, is after the payment of five legacies devised for building a
church and endowing an hospital at Elgin."
February 8.The lands of Dalcrombie
and Letterchullin purchased by Sir William Fraser of Ledclune for about
nine thousand guineas.
February 12.Another notice of the
loss of the emigrant vessel, the Pampler of Leith, reported in a previous
issue. It was believed that many of the emigrants were from the parishes
of Farr, Lairg, Creich, and Rogart, in Sutherland. The writer adds"The
diminution of the inhabitants of our island is at all times a subject of
regret, and the annals of our country cannot point out a period when the
emigration of our brave Highlanders would have been more regretted than
the present, when recruits for our standing army and Militia are so hard
to be found. From 30 to 40 guineas is, we understand, the common bounty
paid to substitutes in this and in most of the counties of the Kingdom."
In a subsequent issue it is stated that the emigrants were not from
Sutherland but from Caithness. "No person from Sutherland emigrated to
North America for the last two years, excepting about two or three
families from the Reay district, who wantonly left the county and safely
arrived in the western hemisphere." The largest amount given in Sutherland
for a substitute was stated to be £20.
Ibid.The Inverness Farmer Society
set on foot a subscription for the purchase of a stallion to improve the
breed of horses.
Ibid.Heavy snow-storm; 3 women
perished, one near Beauly, one in Strathdearn, and one in the
neighbourhood of Ullapool.
Ibid.Died, at Pittsburgh, 20th
November 1807, Alexander Addison, "one of the most eminent counsellors at
the western bar." He was son-in-law to the Rev. Mr Grant, of Elgin.
February 19.Editorial note" Owing
to the late very heavy fall of snow, which we understand is to the depth
of 5 feet in many parts of the road between Edinburgh and London, we have
had no mails from the latter place for these 3 days past, nor have any
arrived at Edinburgh; a circumstance almost unprecedented, and which has
considerably lessened the sum of our intelligence in an unusual degree."
February 26.A prisoner sentenced to
transportation for forgery nearly effected his escape from Inverness jail
by making a hole in the back wall of the prison. The fall of rubbish
excited attention, and prevented the escape.
March 4.A woman, named Catherine
Munro, murdered in her house at Tain. A reward of 10 guineas was offered
by the Magistrates of Tain for the arrest of the supposed murderer, a
cartwright named Macgregor. [This proved to be a libel on poor Macgregor.]
IbidKenneth Macrae, late of the
76th Regimen, appointed Deputy Paymaster-General to the Island of Jamaica
and the Leeward Islands. He had served 30 years in the army, 25 of them in
India, and "though only a lieutenant-colonel," commanded a brigade at the
Siege of Bhurtpore. On two occasions he commanded storming parties, for
which he received the thanks of Lord Lake.
Ibid.The following note may be
quoted: "Through the multiplicity of other matters, we have hitherto
overlooked giving an idea of a rural feast provided on the last of the
holidays, old style. Cattle fetching little or no price, and fodder very
dear in the extreme, it occurred to the proprietor of Beaufort that it
would not be amiss to draw back his countrymen to the habit of eating some
flesh with their food, and washing it down, in the convivial hour, with
Lune Laiter, strong ale, instead of ardent spirits. He had a fat bullock
roasted on a wooden windlass for a spit, and gave his tenants Inverness
strong ale to wash it down. The roast took 18 hours in preparing, and
nearly 500 persons of all ages and both sexes partook of this substantial
feast. The bagpipe and the fiddle organised the happy scene, and they
parted in good humour, and several matches for life took place in
March 11.The Highland road, which
was during the winter completely blocked up by snow, is now open to
travellers. [There was a time of sharp frost after this without snow, and
then another snow-storm.]
Ibid.Advertisement of the first
carrier going beyond Dingwall. His name was Donald Ross, and he was to
proceed as far as Tain.
March 18.The road from Golspie to
the Ord Hill and County of Caithness begun.
Ibid.In the House of Commons, Mr
Charles Grant brought in a bill for commuting the statute labour in
Ibid.Died, at Lossiemouth, on
Friday, the 11th curt., at the advanced age of 89, Lady Gordon, relict of
Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun.
March 25.The cartwright, John
Macgregor, who was supposed to have murdered Catherine Munro at Tain, was
himself found murdered in a wood. It seems that he was known to possess
some money, and was watched and murdered while out of town. "After this
the perpetrators proceeded to his house in Tain, which they plundered of
his money, &c., and it would appear that while in the act of so doing they
were discovered by Catherine Munro, who lived under the same roof with
Macgregor, and whom it is supposed the wretches also dispatched by
strangling to escape detection." Two persons residing in the Hill of Tain,
were arrested on suspicion for the double murder.
April 29.It is noted that there is
great distress throughout the Highlands and Morayshire on account of want
of fodder for cattle, due to the uncommon severity and length of the past
winter. Black cattle and sheep were dying by hundreds. A Morayshire
correspondent states that no less than 47 carcases of cattle which had
been thrown into the Spey were carried down at one time. "Nor," adds the
Editor, is there any prospect of immediate relief, the internal parts of
the country being completely covered with snow." The Circuit Court was
held the same week at Inverness, and the Judges had to go home by
Aberdeen, as the Highland road was blocked with snow.
May 6.Mr Cockburn of Kincorth
drowned in the River Findhorn by attempting to cross too near the
quicksands. His companion and neighbour, Mr Bezeck, was saved with
difficulty. "Mr Bezeck was fortunately enabled to keep his head above
water, and in this situation, endeavouring to support his friend in his
arms, he remained for about two hours, when some fishermen, who heard his
cries, came to his relief. Every means used to restore Mr Cockburn to life
proved ineffectual, and he was interred at Nairn on Sunday afternoon."
Ibid.Died, at Fort-George, on
Wednesday last, the Hon. James Stuart, Lieutenant-Governor of that place.
May 20.William Freemantle elected
M.P. for the Northern Burghs in room of Major-General Mackenzie, who had
become member for Sutherland.
Ibid.Continued reports of the
losses caused by the severity of the winter. It was reported from Latheron,
in Caithness, that no less than 184 black cattle, besides horses, had died
of want. This, however, could not be ascribed altogether to the severity
of the season, "but chiefly to the ruinous practice of over-stocking,
which has too long prevailed among Highland farmers."
May 27.Advertisement asking for
vouchers from creditors "of the deceased Lewis Cuthbert, Esq. of
Castlehill, in the County of Inverness, some time merchant in Jamaica, and
all and sundry persons whatsoever having claims against the said estate of
Castlehill or proceeds thereof."
June 3.Meeting in Edinburgh to
concert measures of relief for distress in the North. Vessels had sailed
from Leith and Berwick under convoy for Kirkwall, laden with provisions
and meal. "It is greatly to the honour of the Magistrates of Inverness and
the heritors of the County that from their attention to the wants of the
public, the inhabitants have hitherto been abundantly supplied:; we also
learn with satisfaction that along the West Coast the effects of scarcity
have not been much felt, it being chiefly confined to the counties of
Sutherland and Caithness."
Ibid.Died, on Thursday seenight,
in the 76th year of his age, Colonel James Fraser of Belladrum; much and
June 10.At the examination of the
Inverness Academy a Gaelic oration was recited "which to the admirers of
Celtic literature afforded peculiar pleasure."
Ibid.Among the bills to which the
Royal assent was given on Friday, the 27th ult., was "An Act for building
a bridge over the River Ness, at Inverness, widening certain streets,
improving the present harbour, extending the Royalty, supplying the
inhabitants with water, regulating the police, and lighting the streets of
the said burgh."
Ibid.The Northern Association of
gentlemen farmers and breeders of sheep, met at Beauly on the previous
Friday, and appointed office-bearers, Hon. A. Fraser of Lovat being
President, and the Vice-Presidents Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown and
Donald Macleod of Geanies. Premiums were given for bulls for improving the
breed of black cattle. Sheep markets were held at this period at Beauly
June 17.Notice of a successful
Milch Cow Market, held for the first time by the Inverness Farmer Society.
8Great distress on
the West Coast of the counties of Inverness and Ross from the want of
provisions. It would appear from this that the information given in a
previous paragraph was imperfect.
August 26 and September 2.Two
versions of a curious story of a man who walked out of the prison of
Dingwall, but afterwards surrendered. The prisoner had been a schoolmaster
at Contin, and was accused of housebreaking and theft. At the Circuit
Court in September he was sentenced to 14 years transportation.
September 9.The fifth anniversary
of the Badenoch and Strathspey Farming Society was held at Pitmain and
Kingussie on the 1st. A dinner party, presided over by the Marquis of
Huntly, was followed by a ball. Among the ladies present were the Duchess
of Manchester and her daughter, Lady Jean Montague; Mrs and Miss Grant of
Arndilly and Mrs Macpherson of Belleville.
Ibid.The Nairnshire Volunteers,
through Capt. Davidson of Cantray, presented Lieut.-Colonel Rose, their
commandant, with an elegant sword, value 40 guineas.
Ibid.A wherry from North Uist, with
four men and cattle, wrecked a short time previously on the island of
Heiskar. Three of the men were drowned, and all the cattle except one. A
cow survived three days, and the fourth man kept himself alive by sucking
her blood. On the cow dying, the man supported himself on the animals
tongue till he was rescued on the fifth day.
Ibid.Died, on Monday last,
universally regretted, Mr Ebenezer Young, teacher of Latin in the
September 16.The new bridge over
the Ness at the Merkinch was now completed. This was long known to us as
the Black Bridge.
September 23.Election of Convener
and Deacons of the Incorporated Trades. The following were chosenThomas
Fraser, Convener of Trades and Deacon of the Wrights; George Phenick,
Weavers; Donald Macdonald. shoemakers; Donald Macbean, Taylors; Donald
Ibid.Yesterday was married at the
Episcopal Chapel here the Rev. Dr Griffith, Master of University College,
Oxford, to Miss Ironside, daughter of the late Rev. William Ironside, and
sister to Mrs Grant of Rothiemurchus.
IbidDied, in the province of
Guzerat, on the 13th of October 1807, Lieut. Simon Fraser Robertson, of
the 8th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry, third son of Arthur Robertson,
Esq. of Inches.
Ibid."Died, at Littletoun of
Ardersier, on Monday last, in the 95th year of his age, Andrew Allan,
farmer, a truly worthy and honest man, of a cheerful and contented mind,
remarkable for his regularity and early rising; and until a few days
before his death was never known to be confined to bed by sickness or by
any other cause whatever."
September 30.Thomas Gilzean
re-elected Provost of Inverness. The Council included four former
provostsPhineas Mackintosh, John Mackintosh, Alexander Mackintosh, and
James Grant. Sir Archibald Dunbar of Northfleld was elected Provost of
Nairn, and a number of county gentlemen in Nairn and Morayshire were on
Ibid.Rejoicings at Portree to
celebrate the defeat of Marshal Junot at Vimiera. Great guns were fired,
tables "with excellent liquor" placed on the terrace by orders of Lord
Macdonald, and the vessels in the harbour, to the number of nearly
60, hoisted their
flags. In the evening the town was illuminated.
October 7.The congregation in the
Parish Church of Nairn on the previous Sunday were alarmed by a loud
crash, which seemed to portend the fall of the building. "It is impossible
to convey an idea of the scene of terror and confusion that instantly
ensued. The access to the fishers loft, which is by one door only, was
immediately choked by people in their endeavour to escape from the
threatened calamity, which induced several persons in the front of the
loft to throw themselves down to the ground pews in hopes of getting out
with greater expedition. The consternation was further agitated by the
hearing of a second crash. Those next the windows broke immediately
through them, and nothing was heard but the most piercing shrieks, mixed
with the groans of numbers who were trodden down and were suffering under
weight of pressure of the crowd." No lives were lost, but many were
Ibid.Splendid ball and supper given
at Fort-George on 23rd September by the 74th or Assaye Highland Regiment
to celebrate the anniversary of the battle of Assaye.
October 14.Report of Northern
Meeting and Hunt, with which the meeting was then associated. The Duchess
of Gordon and the Duchess of Manchester were present. "On the days
appointed for enjoying the sports of the field, the hounds were well
attended and had excellent sport. The dinners and balls were also well
attended, particularly on Friday, when the convivial powers and marked
attention of Lord Huntly were unremittingly and most successfully exerted
to increase the pleasure of the company; exertions the more extraordinary
as the Marquis had in the beginning of the week attended the Shooting Club
at Aberdeen, and rode on Friday morning from thence to Inverness, a
distance of about 105 miles, in less than 7 hours, having 8 relays of
horses on the road. Lord Seaforth, with his usual politeness and
attention, presented the company with a brace of excellent fat bucks."
Ibid.Advertisement of 99 years
leases to be granted in Plockton, Lochalsh, lately erected into a burgh of
October 21.Advertisement of Sir
William Cumming Gordon, Bart., inviting fishermen to settle and form a
village at Cummingstown, one mile east of Burghead.
IbidDeath of Alexander Macrae,
Kintail, alleged to be the oldest man in Scotland. Age put at 120 years.
November 18."Sir Samuel Hood and
his lady passed through this place on Friday last from Brahan Castle, on
their way to London. The Magistrates of Inverness, desirous of testifying
their respect for the deservedly celebrated character of this gallant
officer, waited on the Admiral, and presented him with the freedom of the
Ibid..Account of the opening of the
Bridge of Dunkeld on November 7th. The foundation-stone was laid in June
Ibid.Died, at Kingussie, on Sunday,
6th inst. Mrs Margaret Macpherson, wife of Colonel Duncan Macpherson. "Few
characters ever possessed more dignified simplicity of manners, united
with pure affections and religious sentiments." She was a daughter of
Cluny of the 45, and the paragraph speaks highly of the cheerfulness and
even tempered spirit which endeared her to a wide circle.
Ibid.The number contains an account
of the meeting of the Directors of the Royal Academy and Managers of the
Royal Infirmary. Provost Gilzean presided, and Mr Grant, the late Provost,
laid before the meeting a letter from Mr Lachlan Mackintosh of Raigmore,
lately of Calcutta, with a list of subscriptions which he had procured in
India for the more liberal support of the Academy and Infirmary. The total
amount came to £2811 7s. Raigmore himself was the largest subscriber,
£150, and the next was General Macdonald, £125.
November 25.Died, on the 22nd ult.,
at Ruxley Lodge, Surrey, James Grant, Esq. of Redcastle, in Ross-shire.
December 16."Died here on the 27th
ult., in the 71st year of his age, Mr James Alves, a portrait painter of
eminence, and brother of the late Doctor Alves. His life was singularly
good, recluse, and inoffensive, and his death much regretted. He went
abroad when young to improve himself in the fine arts, and studied eight
years in Paris, and other eight years in Rome.
December 30.The Highland Society of
London suggest the establishment of a branch in the Highland Capital. They
also urge the establishment of a Chair of Celtic Literature in one of the
Scottish Universities, and the giving of encouragement to the teaching of
Gaelic in schools. They further suggest the establishment of a National
Academy of Pipe Music, and propose the name of Lieut. MCrummen [so the
name is spelt] as Professor. They think the Government should do
something, as pipe music was necessary for the Highland regiments. "It is
in the power of his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief to comply with
the wishes of the Society, by promoting Lieut. MCrummen from half-pay to
a higher and permanent rank in the garrison of Fort-Augustus or of
Fort-William, which to him would be equivalent to a salary, on being made
Professor of the establishment. Mr MCrummen is the last of the celebrated
race of pipers of that name; he is skilled in the theory and practice of
the ancient pipe music, and is now in the vale of years."
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