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The Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century

The year 1814 witnessed the invasion of France by the Allied Armies, the abdication of Napoleon as Emperor of the French, and his temporary exile to Elba. The Act of Abdication was signed at Fontainebleau on the 4th of April 1814. News, however, in those days travelled slowly, and a week later British and French were still fighting five hundred miles from Paris. On the 10th, Wellington defeated Soult at Toulouse. On the 11th the French Marshal evacuated the city, and Wellington, on entering it, found the white flag flying and everybody wearing the white cockade. On the afternoon of the same day messengers arrived from Paris bringing news of Napoleon’s abdication and the establishment of a provisional Government in the name of Louis XVIII. It was not, however, until the 18th that Soult, having received an order from Berthier, concluded a convention with Wellington, putting a final step to hostilities. The war with the United States went on during 1814, but a treaty of peace was signed at Ghent on the 24th of December. The news did not reach the States until after the attack on New Orleans, which was disastrous to the British.

From the "Inverness Journal"

January 7.—Further notices of rejoicings on the occasion of the marriage of the Marquis of Huntly to Miss Brodie. These notices are from Elgin, Nairn, and Lochaber, and speak of great and general enthusiasm. A set of verses of considerable merit celebrates the qualities of the bridegroom. The following are a couple of stanzas —‘

Where echoes out the martial din,
Or festive joys are reaped within,
Or human ills compassion win,
There shines the noble Huntly.

"The soul that’s steel in field of fight,
The heart that gladdens gay delight,
The eye that melts at pity’s sight,
Are thine, most noble Huntly."

January 14.—The Hon. J. F. Campbell, eldest son of Lord Cawdor, was the previous week returned without opposition as member of Parliament for the Burgh of Carmarthen.

Ibid.—Died, on 13th December, Major Maxwell Mackenzie, Lieutenant-Colonel of the 71st Regiment, son of John Mackenzie of Kincraig, Ross-shire. "This gallant officer received his mortal wound in the engagement with the enemy near Bayonne, while nobly cheering and leading on his men to charge the enemy, and thus terminated an honourable life in a glorious death."

January 21.—Re-election of Charles Grant for the Inverness Burghs on his appointment as one of the Lords of the Treasury.

Ibid.—Died, at Ardgowan, suddenly, on 5th inst., Lieutenant-Colonel Æneas Mackintosh, of the 79th Regiment, in the 34th year of his age. He entered the service at the age of 17, and distinguished himself in various campaigns and expeditions in different quarters of the globe. Special mention is made of his gallant conduct at Flushing, at Fuentes d’Honore, and in the attack on Fort San Christoval, where he led the forlorn hope. Lieutenant-Colonel Mackintosh was interred at Greenock with military honours, the Magistrates, officers of the local Militia, and principal gentlemen of the town attending the funeral. He was a son of the late Lachlan Mackintosh of Balnespick, and nephew to Sir Æneas Mackintosh of Mackintosh, Bart.

January 28.—"This day were published in octavo, price 16s, boards, Thoughts on the Origin and Descent of the Gael, with an account of the Picts, Caledonians, and Scots; with observations relative to the authenticity of the Poems of Ossian. By James Grant, Esq. of Corrymony, advocate." The object of this work was to show that the Gaels were the aboriginal inhabitants of all the Britannic islands.

Ibid—News of the Allied armies pouring across the Rhine into France. "Lord Wellington on the south-west and the whole of their western coast blockaded by English squadrons, affords the unexampled spectacle of an Empire of nearly three thousand miles in circumference entirely surrounded by enemies, of whom 500,000 are advancing against the centre."

Ibid---A meeting of heritors was held at Dingwall on the 18th inst. to consider the expediency of applying to Parliament for a revision of the laws regulating the exportation and importation of corn. The meeting objected to restraints on exportation, and to free importation of corn from abroad. They were in favour of a duty "to put the foreign importer on a par with the native farmer," and when that point had been reached they wanted the enjoyment of free exportation. A petition on these lines was prepared for presentation to Parliament.

February 11—We are happy to learn that the history of Great Britain from the Revolution in 1688 to the French Revolution in 1789, by Sir James Mackintosh, is proceeding, and will be published in course of this season." This project was not fulfilled, only a portion being published after its anther’s death. Sir James, however, long busied himself in collecting materials.

February 18.—Died, at Balnagown Castle, on the 8th curt., Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown, Bart. "His death is deeply deplored, not only by his family and intimate friends, but by all who had the happiness of being acquainted with him. It is a public loss of no ordinary magnitude."

Ibid.—"Died, at the Manse of Dyke, on the 3rd curt., the Rev. David Brichan, D.D., an accomplished scholar and elegant writer."

February 25.—The river Findhorn overflowed its banks on the 11th in the neighbourhood of Forres. At the Broom of Moy four houses were thrown down and the residents with difficulty rescued. "The soil of three acres of land sown with wheat and the break furrows of several fields have been completely washed away. In short, the loss is so great that it wilt take the labour of years to make it up."

March 4.—In this number there is an account of a thaw which took place on the Kyle of Sutherland after six weeks of intense frost. The ice bound up the rivers and Kyle to such an extent "that men, cattle, and waggons might cross the arm of the sea above the bridge, and it was passable also below it as far as Creich." When the thaw came the ice was broken up into great masses, and jammed among them were 400 logs of wood, brought down by the River Carron. Large fragments of the ice and many of the logs struck the iron arch of the new bridge with great force, and, happily, it stood the strain. [The bridge remained until nearly eighty years afterwards, when it was carried away by another flood.]

Ibid.—"Died, at Tongue Manse, on the 5th ult., in the 76th year of her age, much regretted, Mrs Jane Porteous, spouse of the Rev. William Mackenzie, minister of Tongue, and daughter of the Rev. William Porteous, once minister of Rafford, a near relative of the late celebrated Dr Porteous, Bishop of London." The paragraph goes on to speak of Mrs Mackenzie’s piety and poetical talent.

March 25.—There was a proposal at this time on the part of the Earl of Fife to restore and occupy as a residence the Abbey of Pluscarden. An architect from Edinburgh was engaged on a survey of the Abbey.

April 1 to 22.—These numbers are missing from our file. One of them must have contained the news of the abdication of Napoleon, which was signed at Fontainebleau on 4th April.

April 29.—News of the battle of Toulouse, in which Wellington defeated Soult. The battle was fought on the 10th, and the news of Napoleon’s abdication had not then been received.

Ibid—On the previous Friday the town of Inverness was illuminated to celebrate the fall of Napoleon. "Early in the evening a grotesque figure of the ‘great captain’ was carried through the streets on horseback, to the no small amusement of thousands, and afterwards publicly burned on Clachnacuddin amidst the acclamations of the populace. An immense bon-fire was lighted on an eminence in the neighbourhood of the town, and serving as a signal to the surrounding country, the whole sky was speedily inflamed with the reflection of the fires which blazed on every hill as far as the eye could reach." Neighbouring towns were also illuminated.

Ibid.—A cargo of coals from Brora arrived in Inverness, and were considered to be of excellent quality.

May 6.—It is announced that the Marquis of Stafford has laid off the site of a new town at Brora, and proposes to grant feus for house and garden ground.

May 3.—"Tuesday’s Gazette announces the promotion of Lord Wellington to the dignity of a Dukedom by the title of Duke of Wellington."

May 20.—"Despatches were received by Government on Sunday se’enight announcing the arrival of Bonaparte at the Island of Elba."

Ibid.—The Colonels Commandant received circular letters informing them that the local Militia will not be called out for training or exercise during the present year.

Ibid.—"Died, at Cheltenham, on the 17th April, Captain W. Mackenzie, 9th Royal Veteran Battalion, late of the 42nd Regiment; an officer of distinguished merit, who served many years in that corps; was severely wounded in the memorable battle of the 21st March 1801 in Egypt; was one of the standard bearers of that regiment at the battle of Aboukir. The flag he carried was pierced through with ball in many places. Those standards are now placed as an emblem of that event in the great hail of Novar House in Ross-shire, the seat of the late Sir Hector Munro, then Colonel of that regiment."

June 3.—On the 12th ult. the foundation-stone of the Varar bridge was laid by William Chisholm of Chisholm.

Ibid.—"Died, at Bunchegovie, Stratherrick, on the 14th ult., Captain Alexander Fraser, aged 87. He was an officer in the war of 1757, and may be considered the last survivor of those serving in America under the command of General Wolfe."

June 17.—Mr J. Mactavish was admitted a Procurator before the Sheriff Court.

June 24.—"On the 13th ult., after a long and painful sickness, which he endured with the firmness and resignation of a true servant of Christ, died at Waterstein, in the 76th year of his age and 45th of his ministry, the Rev. William Bethune, minister of Duirinish, in the Isle of Skye. His social qualities, amiable manners, and Christian virtues will be long remembered, and his death lamented by his family, by his numerous friends and acquaintances."

July 1.—The case of Lord Cochrane was at this time engrossing public attention. The "Journal" expressed its conviction that Lord Cochrane was innocent.

Ibid~—News was received of the loss of a schooner on the west coast of Berbice, with nearly all on board. Among those drowned were Charles Mackintosh, of Dochgarroch; Angus Fraser, of Fort-William, and a Mr Duncan, from Moray-shire. From a subsequent notice it appears that the last-mentioned was William Duncan, merchant, Berbice. Angus Fraser was a merchant in Demerara.

July 8.—Married, at the Manse of Kiltarlity, the Rev. Alexander Flyter, Rothesay, to Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the Rev. Dr Bayne.

July 15.—Died, in Java, in the previous year, Captain James Macpherson, of the 78th. He seems to have been killed in a fight with the natives. The "Java Government Gazette" contained a poem of more than forty lines to his memory. After celebrating his good qualities, the writer says—

"Such was the man whom fate ordained to fall
By dastard creases, tinged in ruffian gall."

July 22.—Died, at Nairn, on the 18th inst. Colonel William Mackintosh of Millbank, in the 74th year of his age. "Twenty-five years of his life were dedicated to the service of his King and his country. In every relation, public and private, he never failed to conciliate the good-will and retain the esteem of all who knew him."

Ibid—Died, in the Island of Java, on the 6th of March 1813, Captain William Macpherson, of the East India Company’s service, Commandant of Fort-Nugent. He volunteered his services on the expedition against Batavia, and was mortally wounded in the storming and taking of Fort-Cornelis.

July 29—It is announced that an establishment under the denomination of the "Caledonian Asylum" is to be instituted in London, under the auspices of the Highland Society, for educating the children of indigent Scotsmen.

Ibid—"Died, on the 16th cult, at London, whither he had gone for medical advice, Mr Alexander Simpson, aged 61 years, some time Rector of the Grammar School of Inverness, which for many years he taught with approbation and success, and from which he retired about five-and-twenty years ago, to a farm in the neighbourhood, where he lived esteemed and respected. His death is now deeply lamented."

August 5.—At a meeting of the Highland Society of Scotland, attention was called to the subject of kelp, which had fallen so much in price as to hold out no encouragement for its manufacture. It was suggested to the meeting that the establishment of Parish Bank Societies throughout the country would be attended with very beneficial effects. The Society heartily approved of a congratulatory letter, written by desire of the Directors, to Colonel Cameron, younger of Fassifern, a member of the Society, whose conduct while in occasional command of the 92nd, 71st, and 50th Regiments as a brigade, and on other occasions, as the head of the 92nd Regiment, to which he belonged, had been particularly noticed by Lord Hill.

Ibid.—The decision of the Court of Session in a disputed right of presentation between the Crown and the family of Cromarty was affirmed in the House of Lords. By this decision the right of presentation to the parishes of Rosemarkie and Killearnan, which had long been vacant, was vested in Mr Mackenzie of Cromarty.

August 12.—"The ladies of Brussels are so fond of the Scottish Highlanders who are in garrison in their city that having heard of the approaching departure of this corps, they have made application, in the proper quarter, for their continuance."

August 19.—On the 12th of August, Lovat and his lady were the first to pass over the Beauly Bridge in their carriage. This being the Price Regent’s birthday, they ordered the workmen to be collected to drink his Royal Highness’s health.

September 2 and 9.—Died, at Warriston House, near Edinburgh, on the 25th of August, the Hon. William Frederick Mackenzie, only surviving son of Francis, Lord Seaforth, and representative in Parliament for the County of Ross. His remains were interred in Fortrose Cathedral. "The sauvity of his manners, the gentleness of his disposition, and his many private virtues, have embalmed his memory in every heart; while the honest and conscientious discharge of his important public duties in Parliament, claim the approbation and gratitude of his constituents."

September 23.—At the Circuit Court at Inverness, Lord Meadowbank adverted to the state of the Court-room, which he considered greatly too small, and very incommodious and ill-situated, the administration of justice being frequently interrupted by the noise in the street. He recommended the county gentlemen and Magistrates to provide proper accommodation without delay. The Court-house was then in Bridge Street.

October 14.—A Highland officer of the Inverness-shire Militia was tried by Court-Martial at Portsmouth for having given a dance in the barracks on the 17th of June without having received the permission of his Commanding Officer, and for various incidents connected therewith. He was fully acquitted, and the charges were declared to be frivolous and vexatious.

October 21.—Lord Saltoun visited for the first time his estates of Ness Castle and Kinchyle. His visit was celebrated with bon-fires.

October 28._The Northern Meeting, held the previous week, was marred by unfavourable weather. "In the absence of public amusements, the day was spent in the interchange of visits, and in the display of costly and varied equipages, which paraded the streets in gay profusion." The balls were held as usual.

November 4.—At a meeting of proprietors and others interested in the community of Mulbuie, a Special Committee was appointed to take means to bring about an amicable arrangement for the division of the Common.

Ibid.—At a meeting of freeholders of Ross-shire, held at Tain on the 25th ult., Charles Fraser of Inverallochy and Castle Fraser was unanimously elected member for the County.

Ibid.—"Died, at Elgin, on the 22nd ult., in the 84th year of his age, the Rev. John Grant, one of the ministers of that place. In the course of his long life he was indefatigable in the humane discharge of the more important duties of the pastoral office - administering comfort to the distressed and relieving the necessities of the poor. When unoccupied with his official duties, his time was devoted to the acquisition of knowledge; his reading was varied and extensive, his taste chaste, and his judgment correct. Possessed of uncommon powers of memory, he composed an elaborate work on Chronology, which received the approbation of his schoolfellow, the inimitable historian of Charles V., and its publication was alone prevented by a similar work on a similar plan, by which it was anticipated. Though much of his time was devoted to study, his manners betrayed nothing of the restraint or pedantry which characterise the scholar; on the contrary, they were courteous and easy. He was the soul of harmless mirth, could be frolicsome with youth, serious with the sombre, and garrulous with old age."

November 11.—The ploughing match of the Inverness Farmer Society was this year held on the farm of Merkinch, belonging to Messrs Anderson & Kinloch. Twenty ploughs competed. Angus Mackintosh of HoIm was president of the Society.

Ibid.—Craigellachie Bridge, over the Spey, was completed and opened for traffic.

November 18—The Nairnshire Farmer Society held its annual ploughing match in a field occupied by Mr Skene, Skenepark. At a meeting thereafter the Secretary produced a communication from the Highland Society regarding the equalisation of weights and measures, and some papers transmitted by Sir John Sinclair relating to his General Agricultural Report of Scotland, "on consideration of which the Society unanimously elected the patriotic Baronet an honorary member, and resolved to purchase a copy of the Report." Sir Samuel Davidson of Cantray was elected President of the Society.

November 25.—The war with the United States still in progress. A severe action at Fort-Erie, in which both sides claim the advantage.

Ibid.—The Inverness-shire Farmer Society resolve to take three copies of Sir John Sinclair’s General Report of Scotland.

December 2.—It was reported at the Nairnshire meeting in London that £150 had been collected to assist in the erection of a pier at Nairn. The meeting resolved to promote a subscription for the erection of a monument to the late Mr John Straith, schoolmaster of Nairn.

December 16.—A long correspondence went on in this and other issues on the use of stake-nets. One of the writers made free use of classical quotations.

December 30.—"It gives us much pleasure to hear that the potato crop has, this season, proved very abundant in the North. The size is in general large. A correspondent informs us that a potato, among many others of nearly equal size, was lately taken up in the neighbourhood of Thurso weighing 29 ounces."

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