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The Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century

Note A - The Moray Floods
The late Mr Joseph Mitchell, C.E., an engineer of marked ability and distinction, superintended for many years the works of the Parliamentary Commission for Highland Roads and Bridges. He was in Kirkwall in August 1829, when the Moray Floods occurred, and records that he experienced there an unexampled deluge of rain and a perfect hurricane. On his return home he found a scene of widespread destruction, and he has left the following succint account of the disaster :—"They [the floods] occurred chiefly along the south shores of the Moray Firth, in the valleys of the Nairn, the Findhorn, the Spey, the Don, and the Dee. Serious damage had been done to the public works, and the roads and bridges under the charge of the Commissioners. The magnificent bridge across the Spey at Fochabers, and the bridge over the Findhorn at Forres, both on the great coast road, were destroyed. The bridge of five arches over the Dee at Ballater, the bridge of three arches at Corrybrough over the Findhorn, the bridge of Carr over the Dulnan, the bridges of Kirkton of Alford, of Craggan, and Dava, and many others of smaller size, were totally swept away. The beautiful iron arch of 150 feet span at Craigellachie was much endangered, one of the abutments damaged, and three side arches destroyed. The pier of a 70-feet arch of the large bridge at Grantown was undermined, and the roads were cut up and damaged very seriously for miles in various parts of the country. The damage to private property—to trees, crops, stock, dwellings, and outbuildings was very great. Whole fields were torn up and covered with the debris carried down by the floods." Sir Thomas Dick Lauder gives a picturesque and detailed account of the calamitous visitation. He mentions that the heat in the province of Moray during the previous three months had been unusually great, causing an excessive drought, and that as the season advanced the fluctuations of the barometer became very remarkable. "The deluge of rain," he says, "that produced the flood of the 3rd and 4th of August, fell chiefly on the Monad-liadh mountains, rising between the south-eastern parts of Loch-Ness and Kingussie in Badenoch, and on that part of the Grampian range forming the somewhat independent group of the Cairngorms. The westerly winds, which prevailed for some time previously, seem to have produced a gradual accumulation of vapour somewhere north of our island, and the column being suddenly impelled by a strong north-easterly blast, it was driven towards the south-west, its right flank almost sweeping the Caithness and Sutherland coasts, until rushing up and across the Moray Firth, it was attracted by the lofty mountains I have mentioned, and discharged in torrents perfectly unexampled." Sir Thomas mentions that the storm was felt at Wick and Kirkwall, though not to anything like the same extent as in the province of Moray and other districts associated with the mountain ranges above-mentioned.

Note B - Charles Grant, M.P.
The Life of Charles Grant, M.P., written by Mr Henry Morris of the Madras Civil Service, and published by John Murray (London, 1904), enables us to revise and supplement some of the particulars which were given in the first volume. Charles Grant was born not on the day of the battle of Culloden, as was long supposed, but a short time before, namely, in March 1746. His father was in Prince Charles’s army, and was severely wounded at Culloden, but escaped, and remained in concealment until the search for prisoners came to an end. At a later date he joined a Highland regiment, and died in 1762 from fever contracted at the siege of Havana. His son Charles was educated at Elgin by his uncle, his father’s youngest brother, who held an appointment in the Excise. The boy attended school till he was nearly thirteen years of age, and was then taken as an apprentice by Mr William Forsyth, a merchant and shipowner in Cromarty, where he served between four and five years. In March 1763, being then seventeen, he left Cromarty for London, to enter the counting house of a cousin Captain Alexander Grant, who had previously served under Clive in India. He sailed from Cromarty with only half-a-guinea in his pocket, and was a fortnight on the voyage. In his cousin’s employment he remained for several years, becoming head clerk in the firm. In the summer of 1767 he departed for India, having received encouragement and assistance from directors and friends in the East India Company, one of them being Mr Becher, with whom he was afterwards closely associated. The young man—he was now but twenty-one—must have impressed these influential friends with a sense of his ability and integrity. He received the nominal appointment of cadet, but this was only for the voyage out, to comply with the regulations which then existed about going to India. On arriving at Calcutta Grant was placed in charge of Mr Becher’s private business. The latter was at the time a Member of Council, and was soon afterwards appointed Political Resident at Moorshedabab, to which Grant accompanied him. When they were there a terrible famine broke out, in the alleviation of which Becher and his young assistant worked hard. Owing to failure of health, both returned to England in 1771. In the end of 1772 Grant obtained a writership in the service of the East India company, and before he sailed in 1773 he married Jane Fraser, a member of the Balnain family. "It was," we are told, "a singularly happy union. Mrs Grant was very young, being scarcely seventeen years of age, and he was only ten years older. They were a handsome couple." Grant’s first appointment after his return to India was as Secretary to the Board of Trade. For a time he was friendly with Sir Philip Francis, and generally disapproved of the administration of Warren Hastings. At first he threw himself into the gaiety and dissipation of social life in Calcutta. His scrupulous integrity, however, remained unimpaired even when he got into debt. The vital religious change which came over his character followed the death of two children, young daughters, who were carried off by smallpox in 1776. A visit to the Rev. J. C. Diemer, a missionary connected with the Soeiety for promoting Christian knowledge, brought him final peace, and he was ever afterwards a deeply pious man, eager to promote every form of evangelical effort. In December 1780 he was appointed Commercial Resident at Malda, where he made his fortune. There he was so exact in his intromissions as to receive the special commendation of Lord Cornwallis, who went out as Governor General in 1786. In 1781 Lord Cornwallis appointed him a Member of the Board of Trade. In 1790, on account of illness in his family, he returned to this country, finally closing his career in India. In subsequent years he was a director and Chairman of the East India Company, and from 1802 to 1818 M.P. for the county of Inverness. At his first ParIiamentary election he had to stand a severe contest in the limited constituency which then existed. There was a triangular fight between Grant, Fraser of Lovat, and Forbes of Culloden, the result being as follows:- Grant, 15; Lovat, 11; Culloden, 6. The election expenses of the successful candidate, including his journey northward, came to £600. Before the contest came off he had purchased the estate of Waternish in Skye for £16,000. Grant retained the seat without further contest until be retired in 1818 in favour of his son, Charles Grant junior, afterwards Lord Glenelg. He died in 1823. The careers of his sons, Lord Glenelg and Sir Robert Grant, are sketched in the first volume.

Note C - No Popery Riot in 1829.
The following graphic account of a "No Popery" riot which occurred in Inverness in 1829 was given by a correspondent in our columns in 1870 :

Perhaps nowhere was the anti-Catholic spirit of a community more strongly manifested than by the inhabitants of Inverness during the progress of the Catholic Emancipation Bill. At that time the Right Hon. Charles Grant (afterwards Lord Glenelg), M.P. for the county, being on a visit to the town, a bitter feeling of dissatisfaction with the right hon. gentleman was felt by the people; and they secretly determined to show their displeasure by publicly burning him in effigy, Hughie Macbean, an enthusiastic young townsman, undertaking to produce the inanimate member at the time and place appointed. Appropriating for that purpose a suit of his father’s clothes, he took them to a garret in High Street, where they were nicely stuffed up with paper shavings and a volume or two, in sheets, of Grant on the Gael, Fraser on Isaiah, and Knockie's Strathspeys and Reels adapted for the Pianoforte—all works of merit, but which an undiscerning public had left on the publisher’s hands to moulder away in his lumber garret. Meanwhile the watchword was secretly but widely spread, and about eight o’clock straggling parties might be seen coming from all directions and sauntering along towards the Lochgorm, where ultimately they amounted to some hundreds. In due time the effigy was produced and before the authorities were in the least aware of what was going on, the crowd moved in a body through High Street, carrying the effigy ignominiously along with a large placard bearing the words "Catholic Emancipation Bill" pinned to its breast. On arriving at the Exchange or Market Cross, the effigy was tied to a stake (or lamp-post), and a pile of shavings being ignited, it was soon reduced to ashes, amid the shouting, yelling, and "No Popery" cries of the crowd. But for a single incident the affair might have all ended here. The town’s officers during the tumult locked themselves up in the police-office-—then a small crib at the southwest corner of the Exchange (next door to "Skelpan’s" shop)—but when the noise had somewhat subsided, to show their employers that they were doing something, they sallied out and captured a young lad as prisoner, carrying him into their stronghold. But in five minutes the door was smashed and the captive set free. Exulting in this triumph over the "beagles," the mob moved down to the Caledonian Hotel in Church Street, where Mr Grant had taken up his quarters. They here commenced shouting for him to appear in his proper person, and answer for his conduct; but instead of responding to this request, the door of the hotel was shut up and all the lights extinguished. This was taken as a signal of defiance of the mob; and with missiles of every description all the front windows of that old established hotel were shattered to atoms. Not satisfied with this, they next proceeded to the Catholic Chapel—then a plain building in Margaret Street—which was broken into and some damage done. After this the mob went to the School Hill, and burned to the ground a useful wooden building which had long stood there, after which they dispersed. The town, of course, had to pay the piper for the damage done; but like those connected with the Porteous mob, the real ringleaders were not found out. The artist of the effigy, however, did not escape altogether scatheless, and while undergoing punishment from his father for the loss of his clothes, he told the old gentleman in extenuation that, instead of being angry, he should only be very proud that Mr Grant, the member of Parliament, had worn his clothes! "Weel, weel," exclaimed the old man, and the incorrigible escaped further molestation. But Mr Grant was destined not long to remain in "disgrace," for on his next visit to Inverness, for his advocacy of reform, the "Sleeping Lion" was chaired in triumph, with music and banners, through all the streets of the town—the people being proud of this opportunity of showing that "still they lo’ed their Charlie." His two reverend supporters, the Rev. Donald Fraser, Kirkhill, and Mr Beith, were also extremely popular, as also the laird of Mackintosh.

Note D - The Old Castle of Inverness
We gave in our first volume a picture of the ruins of the old Castle of Inverness as they appeared between the years 1790 and 1800. The picture was communicated to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1823, and is preserved in the Archaeologia Scotica. It shows the ruins of the old Castle which was blown up by Prince Charlie’s French engineer in 1746. Some further particulars may be useful.

In the Archaeologia, the paper which accompanies the picture is entitled "Notice respecting Macbeth’s Castle at Inverness by Colonel Grahame." This title is, of course, a mistake. The Castle had no pretension to be called Macbeth’s Castle, but was in fact the last of a series of fortified buildings which had stood on the present Castle Hill. The notice, though written by Colonel Grahame, was communicated to the Society by one of the Fellows, Mr H. W. Williams, and read at a meeting on 18th November 1823. Mr Williams, in a note addressed to Mr Thomas Kinnear, says :

"Castle Street, Monday.

"My Dear Sir,—I was on a visit to a friend the other day, who, on looking among his papers, found a description of Macbeth’s Castle at Inverness, accompanied by a drawing of it as it appeared about thirty years ago. The drawing is very rude, to be sure; but, still, it greatly assists the description. Both were done by a Colonel Grahame, who lives near the village of Duddingston; and, supposing that this little account of the Castle might be acceptable to you to present to the Antiquarian Society, give me leave to enclose it in this note."

Colonel Grahame, in his account, which accompanies his drawing, claims no other merit for his sketch except that it is "a tolerably correct resemblance." He states that the view was taken from the south-west, on the west side of the river Ness. He then describes the drawing "What is betwixt and beneath the two chimneys are the remains of the ancient Castle. The ground floor was vaulted; the upper floors were of timber; and the roof, when last inhabited, was flat and leaded and surrounded by a low parapet. Within the north entrance a handsome stone stair led to the upper floors. The walls were of great thickness, and almost entirely composed of that mixture of lime and small stones of every shape, frequently met with in structures of very ancient erection; a composition which resembled one compact mass of hard stone or flint, appearing capable of resisting the impressions of weather and of time. In each of the chambers exposed in the three upper floors, there was an alcove or recess, partially discovered in this view, formed in the thickness of the north wall of the Castle, of sufficient dimensions to contain a bed."

The writer adds that tradition pointed out one of the alcoves as "that in which King Duncan was murdered by Macbeth"—-so curiously does legend seek to connect itself with visible remains. Piles of rubbish appear to right and left of the ruins, and it is mentioned that when the old Castle was blown up a fragment of it fell on the slope of the hill and remained there. "The part of the hill to the right was covered with good grass—to the left it was rather bare and sandy, on which were dispersed many plants of balm, and the remains of patches of sweet herbs, planted there by the officers of the garrison." In 1828 Mr John Anderson, W.S., made Colonel Grahame’s notes the text of another paper to the Society, in which be corrects some historical mistakes, and mentions that Mr Godsman, factor to the Duke of Gordon at Inverness, completed the work of destruction, which the Highlanders began in 1746, by removing walls from the Castle to build dykes.. "He took away, much to the chagrin of the gentlemen of the town (as a venerable lady resident there has informed me), a carved stone bearing an inscription commemorative of the era when the Castle was erected. My informant, when a little girl at school, was often promised a reward by her father if she could discover this stone in any of the dykes; and many were the anxious and fruitless researches she made in consequence. She never learned that it had been found." The late Joseph Mitchell, C.E., (born in 1803), speaking of his boyhood, says "The remains of the Castle consisted of some perpendicular walls, still in existence on the Castle Street side of the hill, and the ruins of the old Castle on the top of the hill, six or eight feet above the ground. On them was fixed a tall flagstaff, on which the Royal ensign was hoisted on the King’s birthdays, Sundays, and holidays."

The terrace which forms part of the town of Inverness has no doubt, at some part, been the site of fortification ever since a community gathered at the spot. It is generally supposed that Macbeth’s Dun stood near the ground now occupied by Victoria Terrace, and known in ancient documents as the Auld Castle Hill. According to tradition, Malcolm Canmore destroyed this stronghold and set up a fortification on the present Castle Hill. At any rate, there are authentic notices of a castle existing at Inverness under the kings who reigned before the War of Independence. We may with reasonable certainty assume that since the time of William the Lion, perhaps from an earlier date, the Castle stood where our County Buildings still stand. Bruce appears to have demolished the first Norman Castle, in conformity with his well-known policy. When it was next rebuilt it is difficult to say. We know, however, that in 1412 the Earl of Mar, the leader of the Royal army at the battle of Harlaw, erected a strong castle for the defence of the country against the Lord of the Isles. In the sixteenth century the building was enlarged and strengthened by the Earls of Huntly. In 1726 General Wade made further additions, so as to provide barracks for six companies of soldiers and lodgings for officers. The picture of the Castle given by P. Sandby, R.A., in 1744, the year before the Jacobite Rising, shows it to have been a handsome range of buildings. This was the edifice blown up in 1746. The work of demolition was fatal to the French engineer, a sergeant of artillery, who undertook it. "This unfortunate individual, believing the match extinguished, approached to examine it, when the mine sprung, which blew him into the air, with the stones of the bastions, to an immense height." According to another version the engineer and his dog were thrown across the river to the Little Green; the man was killed and the dog survived!

After the suppression of the Rebellion the Government did not rebuild the fortress at Inverness, but erected instead a new Fort-George at the Point of Ardersier. Inverness Castle remained in ruins, gradually disappearing by the removal of stones for such base purposes as the building of dykes. "Nonagenarian" (whose Reminiscences were published during his lifetime in 1842) says that the keep, with other parts, remained in tolerable preservation long after his birth; that the walls were much higher than the towers of the present Castle, and the rooms spacious and lofty. Before 1823 the Castle Hill was bare. Writing, as we have noted, in 1828, Mr John Anderson says—"The summit where the Castle stood has been levelled, and a portion of wall between Castle Street is the only relic of the fortress." The foundation-stone of the present County Buildings was laid in May 1834, and the foundation-stone of the prison in 1846. Now a new prison has been erected at Porterfield, and the cells of the old prison have been transformed into offices. The buildings form a handsome pile, and give a striking aspect to the Castle Hill.

A few notes may be added. Colonel Grahame, in the paper mentioned above, says that, when the buildings stood intact, they formed a square, "containing a house for the Governor and barracks for officers and soldiers; the old Castle forming part of the south side of the square, and being the Fort-Major’s residence. There was also a chapel and some other modern buildings on the south side of the Castle; and ramparts encompassed the hill along the riverside and behind Bridge Street and Castle Street." He also says that "a small portion of these ramparts appears at the side of the river in this view." This is a statement that requires further investigation. In the view of 1744 there is no wall round the hill, but there is a wall enclosing the Castle on its own level. Probably there was a wall at the riverside to prevent the sand from running. Burt in his time (about 1730) says that the workmen in widening the space between the hill and the river one evening loosened the gravel and it began running in course of the night, causing great alarm. There was a fear that the Castle "would be down before morning." However, he adds, "the town masons and soldiers soon ran up a dry wall against the foot of the hill (for stones are everywhere at hand in this country) which furnished them with the hasty means to prevent the fall." No doubt a stronger wall was afterwards erected.

Nonagenarian records that in his youth he had a narrow escape. "About seventy-one years ago, I was standing at five o’clock one summer’s morning, leaning against the western wall of the Castle viewing and admiring the beautiful scenery around me, and had not left my position scarcely a minute when the wall against which I had just been leaning fell with a tremendous crash, portions of it rolling into the river." This happened about 1771.

Note E - Sales of Great Properties
During the period several great Highland properties changed hands. The Reay or Mackay country, in the county of Sutherland, was sold in 1829 to the Marquis of Stafford, first Duke of Sutherland, for the sum of £300,000, which, in the opinion of the late Evander Maciver, "was much more than its value at the time." The district included three Highland parishes, Tongue, Durness, and Eddrachilis, covering an area of about 400,000 acres. The Duke of Sutherland, after becoming proprietor, expended large sums in making roads, effecting improvements in land, and erecting farmhouses and shooting-lodges. The present Duke has sold part of the property to Mr Gilmour, Dumbarton. The great estates of the Duke of Gordon in Badenoch and Lochaber were sold during the thirties, passing into various hands. After the death of the last famous chief of Glengarry in 1828, it was found that his estates were heavily burdened, and they were sold by his trustees and his son. In 1840 Glenquoich was purchased by Mr Edward Ellice for £32,000, and Glengarry by Lord Ward for £91,000. Twenty years later Mr Ellice added Glengarry to his Glenquoich estate, paying for it £120,000, and thus acquiring a splendid stretch of country from Loch-Oich westward. The property of Knoydart remained in the Glengarry family until a later date. The only possessions then retained by the representatives of the ancient house were the site and ruins of the old castle and the family burying-ground. Macdonald of Clanranald was another great chief who lost his possessions during the nineteenth century. The History of Clan Donald, by the ministers, of Killearnan and Kiltarlity, gives the following list of sales by the last proprietor, Ranald George Macdonald

1813. Lochans—sold to Alexander Macdonald, Esq. of Dalilea £3,054
1813. Dalilea—sold to Alex. Macdonald of Glenaladale £5,960
1813. Island of Shona—sold to Alex. Macdonald of Glenaladale £6,100
1813. Island of Muck—sold to Alex. M’Lean of Coil £9,997
1826. Estate of Arisaig—sold to Lady Ashburton’s Trustees £48,950
1826. Superiority of Bornish—sold to Lady Ashburton’s Trustees £350
1826. Island of Eigg—sold to Dr Macpherson £14,500
1826. Island of Canna—sold to Don. MacNeill £9,000
1827. Lands of Moidart—sold to Major Allan Nicolson Macdonald £9,000
1827. Shealfishings—sold to Alexander Macdonald of Rhue £300
1827. Lands of Kenchreggan—sold to Colonel Cameron £8,000
1838. South Uist and Benbecula—sold to Col. Gordon £96,000
Total £214,211.

The failure of the kelp industry affected Clanranald more, perhaps, than any other western proprietor. The chief survived until 1873, when he died at the advanced age of 85. His son was a distinguished officer, the late Admiral Sir Reginald Macdonald, K.C.B., K.C.S.I., who received many honours in recognition of his public services. The family for many years retained the island and CastIe of Tirrim as its sole possession but they were sold in 1905 to Lord Howard of Glossop. In 1840 Colonel Gordon of Cluny purchased for £38,050 the island of Barra from the trustees of Colonel Macneil. In the same year the estate of Inverlochy was purchased by Lord Abinger for £75,150. Other interesting sales are recorded in the present volume.

Note F - Rise and Fall in Sheep-Farming
The late Evander Maciver, who went to be factor for the Duke of Sutherland in 1845, writes in his Reminiscences —"Sheep farming had been since the peace of 1815 a very unprofitable business; most of the tenants had died or had abandoned their farms, and the landlords were obliged in many instances to take the farms into their own hands and farm them on their own account; the price of wool was very low. But from 1832 both sheep and wool rose in price, and it became a more profitable business, and tenants of large farms began to make money, especially after 1840, and from that date to 1875 a great deal of money was made all over Scotland by sheep—farmers." Judging by entries in our columns, there were some good years even in the early period. Mr Maciver adds that after 1875 prices of wool and sheep fell, and the rents, which had risen largely—which "in some cases were more than doubled"—could not be maintained. The tenants made representations to the factor, and the Duke of Sutherland asked him to consider what reductions he would recommend. This he did to the satisfaction of the sheep-farmers, who were delighted that the reductions had been made spontaneously. Mr Maciver mentions that during the prosperous period "the rents of the small tenants or crofters remained much the same as they had been for many years before."

Note G - Highland Evictions
Evictions in the Highlands on a historic scale may be said to have occurred at two separate periods, the first prior to 1820, the second after 1839-40. The first were probably the most trying, the second, which occurred when the press was active and influential attracted mere immediate and widespread attention. Between 1820 and 1840 there was a great deal of emigration, how far voluntary and how far enforced it is hard to say. The economic condition of considerable areas in the Highland mainland, and still more in the Islands, was undoubtedly serious, all the worse after the suppression of smuggling and the ruin of the kelp industry. Both proprietors and tenants suffered. The extension of sheep-fanning coming alongside an increase of population aggravated the distress of the small holders. No one can deny that changes were necessary, but they were hasty and ill considered, possibly precipitated by financial necessities. The destitution which became acute about 1836, and culminated ten years later in the potato famine, intensified the trouble. Removals which it is difficult to account for occurred on the Chisholm estates in Strathglass in 1831. They occasioned little outside comment, because the tenants were well to do and made no disturbance, and because they were accommodated with holdings in the neighbourhood by Lord Lovat. The chief evictions in Strathglass took place in 1802 and 1803. Mrs Gooden, whose visit is referred to in 1834, had proved a warm friend of the tenantry.

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