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The Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century

In the year 1801 the first Parliamentary census was taken in Great Britain. The total population of Scotland was returned in that year as 1,608,420. In 1821 the population had risen to 2,091,521, and in 1901 the returns show a total of 4,472,103. This gives, in spite of copious emigration, an increase of nearly threefold in a hundred years. How has it fared in the same period with the five (nominally six) Northern Counties, Inverness, Nairn, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, and Caithness? In the district formed by these counties the total population in 1801 was 183,038, and twenty years later, 221,012; while in 1901 it stood at 231,155. We are thus 48,117 better than a hundred years ago, and 10,143 better than eighty years ago. Compared with the rise in general population, the increase in the Northern Highlands is trifling, but some persons will be surprised to find that any increase at all has taken place. The following table of comparative figures may be given —

Counties 1801 1821 1901
Inverness 72,672 89,961 90,104
Nairnshire 8,322 9,268 9,291
Ross & Cromarty 56,318 68,762 76,450
Sutherland 23,117 23,840 21,440
Caithness 22,609 29,181 33,870
  183,038 221,012 231,155

Generally speaking, there was an increase in the population of the district until the middle of the past century. The highest figures in all the counties except Nairnshire are to be found in the twenty years between 1841 and 1861. Another tabular statement will show the year in which each county touched its highest limit

Year County Population
1841 Inverness-shire 97,799
1851 Ross-shire 82,707
1851 Sutherland 25,793
1861 Caithness 41,111
1881 Nairnshire 10,455

Thus the County of Inverness reached its highest point in 1841, when the population stood at 97,799. It was at its lowest in 1861 and 1871, when the numbers were a little over 88,000. For the last three decades the returns have been rather above 90,000, but showing 350 more in the first than in the last of the three. The County of Ross, however, has steadily fallen from 82,707 in the middle of the nineteenth century, to 76,450 in the first year of the twentieth. Sutherland has fallen from 25,793 in 1851 to 21,440 in 1901; Caithness from 41,111 in 1861 to 33,870 in 1901; Nairnshire from 10,455 in 1881 to 9291 in 1901. Though special causes, such as the extension of sheep farms at one period and latterly the growth of deer forests, have certainly operated to restrict and reduce population, there is no doubt that more general causes have had considerable effect. The chief decrease has occurred since the country began to be opened up by railways. During the same period the whole world has been opened up, and its remotest corners have become accessible; and the Highlands have freely contributed a proportion of their sons and daughters not only to industrial centres in the South of Scotland and in England, but to the colonisation of English-speaking lands. The Education Act of 1872 has accelerated the migration of young people, and the Crofters Act has not stopped the movement; indeed, there are observers who think that it has helped it forward by giving the tenants in possession a hold of the soil, and making it their interest to check squatting and sub-division. For our present purpose, however, it is only necessary to note that the population of the district is, as has been said, 48,000 higher than in 1801, and 10,000 higher than in 1821. The distribution is, of course, very different now from what it was then; there are more people in the towns and fewer in the rural districts.

As to the town of Inverness itself, the earlier returns did not discriminate between burgh and parish. In 1801 the total population of both was 8732; in 1821 it was 12,264; and in 1901 it had risen to 27,046. As far as can be made out, the population of the town proper was in 1801 about 5500, and in 1821 about 8500; these figures, however, to be taken as including more than the Royal burgh. In 1901 the population of the town, embracing the portion which was beyond the municipal boundary, was 23,066. The boundaries were extended as this volume was passing through the press, and now include the total just given, or a little more. Thus the population of town and parish together has increased more than three times during the century; the town itself has increased more than four times.

The period which this volume covers was the great era of road-making in the Northern Highlands, and also witnessed the construction of the Caledonian Canal. Confining our attention meantime to roads, it may be said generally that to the north of Inverness and the west of the Great Glen, there were at the beginning of the nineteenth century no proper roads, except one along the East Coast to Wick, which was satisfactory in parts, and in parts rough and imperfect, and several well-constructed lines in the Peninsula of the Black Isle, lying between the Moray and Cromarty Firths. Two roads had been made to the west, but, as will afterwards appear, they were practically useless for wheeled vehicles. Lord Cockburn, in his Memorials, says: —"Those who are born to modern travelling can scarcely be made to understand how the previous ages got on. The state of the roads may be judged of from two or three facts. There was no bridge over the Tay at Dunkeld, or over the Spey at Fochabers, or over the Findhorn at Forres. Nothing but wretched ferries, pierless, let to poor cottars, who rowed or pushed or hauled a crazy boat across, or more commonly got their wives to do it." He says that he rode circuits himself when he was Advocate-Depute between 1807 and 1810. There were no bridges from Inverness northwards across the large rivers, although some of the smaller streams had been spanned. The bridge at Brora, in Sutherland, is specially mentioned by Pennant. In the Central Highlands the military roads begun by General Wade and carried on long after his time, afforded convenient means of communication, but they were formed on military rather than commercial plans, and many of them were so roughly constructed, so liable to get damaged by floods and the fall of debris, that they were difficult to keep in repair. The Survey of the Province of Moray, published in 1798, gives a list of roads, which is too long to be quoted in full, but may be summarised. The writer treats the post road running parallel to the Moray Firth, as the basis of all the other roads, and we follow his arrangement as follows —

Main road from Inverness to Edinburgh, by way of Elgin, Fochabers, Banff, Aberdeen, Forfar, Perth, and Queensferry, 236 miles.

First Branch - From Inverness by way of Fort-Augustus to Edinburgh, 161 miles. It is noted that there was a road to Fort-Augustus (32 miles) on each side of Loch-Ness, but the southern only was passable for wheeled vehicles. From Fort-Augustus the road went over Corryarrick, and by way of Garvamore, Dalwhinnie, Dalnacardoch, and Dunkeld, to Perth. The distance from Inverness to Perth by this route was 126 miles, but the road over Corryarrick was very steep. A branch led from Fort-Augustus to Fort-William, 29 miles, making the length of road between Inverness and Fort-William 61 miles. There was also a road from Fort-Augustus to Bernera, in Glenelg, on the West Coast, 43 miles; but Telford, in his report a few years later, says that only "the vestiges" of this road remained. This is the route which Dr Johnson and Boswell travelled in 1773, when they found military parties working on the road.

Second Branch - This road led from Inverness by way of Dalmagarry (Moyhall) to Aviemore and Dalwhinnie, and thence by the road before-mentioned to Perth and Edinburgh, a distance of 155 miles.

Third Branch - This road broke off five miles from Fort-George, going by way of Dulsie Bridge to Grantown, Tomintoul, Braemar, Glenshee, and Blairgowrie, thence by Coupar-Angus to Perth. Distance between Inverness and Edinburgh, 167 miles. It is stated that a new road had been lately formed direct from Dulsie Bridge to Aviemore by one stage of 18 miles. This was the most direct road from Forres through Badenoch to Edinburgh.

Fourth Branch.—This branch struck off from the main road at Fochabers, conducted up the River Spey. At Rothes it was joined by a road from Elgin. Thence it proceeded to Aberlour and Grantown, from which the journey could be continued either by Aviemore or Tomintoul. There was also a road from Aberlour through Glenrinnes and Glenlivat to Tomintoul.

Fifth Branch.—This road also set off from Fochabers to Edinburgh, going by way of Keith, Huntly, Boat of Alford, Kincardine O’ Neil, across the Grampians to Fettercairn, and so to Brechin, where it joined the main road. The distance from Inverness to Edinburgh was 205 miles. There was a connecting road from Huntly to Aberdeen.

Sixth Branch.—This branch left the "great road" at Stonehaven, and proceeded by way of Dundee. This road was "the course of the post," and the distance from Inverness to Edinburgh was about 172 miles; but the crossing of the firths at Dundee and Kinghorn made it undesirable for ordinary travellers.

The writer of the chapter adds the following comments: —"The shortest road from Inverness to Edinburgh, through Badenoch, is greatly superior to any of the others, in the complete repair in which it is always kept, in the satisfactory accommodation of almost every necessary bridge, and in the ingenuity and care with which the acclivities are in general avoided. The snow, however, in winter is often so embarrassing that it is but little frequented during the season; the inns, of course, are then but poorly provided; the shivering traveller is received in a room comfortless and cold, and most of the articles in the bill are charged one-third higher, on the pretence of the distant land carriage, than in the taverns along the Coast. The other roads are not always in so good repair as with little care and skill might be attained, and little or no ingenuity has been exerted in avoiding the acclivities."

It will be observed that the list of roads given above applies only to the communications of Inverness with the East and South. To make his work complete, the writer describes the continuation of the post road from Inverness to the extremity of the island at Houna, where the Pentland Firth was crossed to the Orkney Islands. The route lay by Beauly, Dingwall, Tain, and the Meikle Ferry to Dornoch, thence to Golspie, Helinsdale, and Wick. The journey could be shortened by taking the ferries to and from the Black Isle. He mentions that at Dunbeath a branch set off "through the causeway mire" to Thurso. He also complains of the "very considerable revenue" exacted from the traveller by the proprietors of ferries, "above what is requisite for the support and navigation of the boats."

From the particulars given above, it appears that previous to 1800 the Central Highlands were well supplied with roads, though many of them were not of a kind suitable to modern times. If we take a wider survey, we find that the whole system of Highland roads, central and northern, with the partial exception of the highway along the Coast, was the work of about a hundred years, beginning with the operations of General Wade in 1725. Up till his time the roads in the glens were mostly cattle tracks, broadened by use as traffic increased, and in part enclosed by turf dykes. Burt describes certain native roads as "so rough and rocky that no wheel ever turned upon them since the formation of this globe"; but perhaps the rockiness, as a general characteristic, is exaggerated. Dr Alexander Ross, Inverness, who has examined the remains of some of the old cattle tracks, says that they gave the guiding lines to General Wade’s system. They had often a broad margin, where cattle got a bite of grass in summer as they moved along. A specimen of these roads is to be seen in the neighbourhood of Inverness, going over the Leachkin. "The space between the bounding dykes is so considerable that squatters settle on the margin and build houses." (See paper in the fourteenth volume of the Transactions of the Inverness Gaelic Society.) During the eighteenth century the great lines of military road were constructed in the Central Highlands, converging at Inverness. The late Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Gairloch, in two valuable papers, which appear in the fifth volume of the Transactions of the Inverness Field Club, describes these roads, and says that the system attained its fullest development about 1784. The total extent of military roads was about 1100 miles. In 1814 the last of them were transferred to the care of the Commissioners of Highland Roads and Bridges; but by that time the extent under maintenance had fallen to 530 miles. Only one military road was ever made in Ross-shire, running from Contin, near Strathpeffer, to Poolewe. Sir Kenneth says he was told by a relative how Lady Seaforth, on her way to the Lews, attempted to take her coach over this road with disastrous results. It got as far as Loch-Achanault, about fifteen miles from Contin, but was then so wrecked that it was not worth taking back to Brahan. "Certainly," says Sir Kenneth, "at the beginning of this [the nineteenth] century, the road was not used for wheels, and I doubt whether the traffic between the East and West Coasts was ever carried over it otherwise than by pack-horses." He mentions as a singular fact that in the police books of the County of Ross no reference is ever made to the military parties working on this road, though from 1770 onwards the statute labour upon it was regularly arranged for.

There was a succession of distinguished travellers to the North of Scotland in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Bishop Forbes, who travelled to John O’Groats in 1762, left his wife at Inverness, as he was afraid of the Ross-shire roads, but he repented his caution, as he says he "found the roads, though only natural, extremely good." The Bishop went by way of Ardersier and Fortrose through the Black Isle, travelling in a post chaise. He was able to use the conveyance as far as Tain, and then took to horseback. Pennant, who followed the same route in 1769., says that after leaving Dingwall he rode "along a very good road cut on the side of a hill, with the country very well cultivated above and below." He mentions that he crossed the water of Brora, in Sutherland, by a handsome bridge of a single arch. He had to ford the River Helmsdale, but he ascended the Ord Hill, that "vast promontory," as he calls it, "on a good road winding up its steep sides, and impending in many parts over the sea." His precursor, Bishop Forbes, gives a graphic description of the ascent of this road. He says that he "rode up every inch of it, a thing rarely done by any persons," though his companions, gentlemen and servants, walked every foot of it, a good long mile. "Its steepness," he says, "and being all along on the very brink of a precipice, are the only difficulties; for otherwise it is one of the finest roads in the world, being so broad that in most places two coaches might pass one another, and then of fine, hard channel naturally, which no storm can make an impression on so as to break it. But then so very steep it is, particularly at entering upon it, that no machine can be drawn up it by any cattle whatsoever, unless it be empty; and even then there must be some sturdy fellows at the back of it, pushing it forward to assist the horses; for if they are allowed to make the least stop, backward they must tumble by the very declivity of the place." The same pleasant traveller gives a description of the "Causeway-mire" road to Thurso, which diverged to the left in the neighbourhood of Latheronwheel. The landlord of the inn told him that this was a piece of ground that few gentlemen in Caithness would venture on, except under the conduct of a man familiar with it. "Accordingly," the Bishop proceeds, "he [the landlord] got one John Sutherland for us, a sturdy, stout fellow, with whom we set out at four o’clock, and who performed his part very well over the Causey-mire, one continued piece of mossy ground for about two miles at least, full of sloughs and quagmires, directly across the road to Thurso; but why it is called by such a name I could not conceive, as the smallest vestige of a causeway we could not discover in the whole. However, at Thurso they told me that a causeway had been there of old, but it had sunk down out of sight by the ruins of time." Two of the party slipped off through their horses bogging in the mire. "The only way," says the Bishop, "of crossing in these narrow sloughs is to make the horses go speedily over; for if they make the least halt, or too leisurely a step, down they must sink."

In the year 1773, Dr Samuel Johnson and Boswell travelled in a post-chaise as far as Inverness, and thence rode to the West Coast by way of Fort-Augustus and Glenmoriston. "We were now," says Dr Johnson, in his Tour, "to bid farewell to the luxury of travelling, and to enter upon a country upon which perhaps no wheel has ever rolled. We could indeed have used our post-chaise one day longer along the military road to Fort-Augustus, but we could have hired no horses beyond Inverness." On the way from Fort-Augustus to Glenelg the travellers entertained a party of soldiers who were working at the road. For some reason this road was allowed rapidly to fall into decay. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie mentions that it was on the list of military roads as late as 1799, but that Colonel Anstruther stated a few years later that, though it had been on the list, "it had never existed as a road, nor had it been ordered to be inserted in any estimate." Sir Kenneth points out that this was a mistake, and that from 1770 to 1784 the road had been named in all the detailed estimates laid before Parliament. He thinks that Colonel Anstruther’s investigations had probably not gone back beyond the year 1790, when military labour was dispensed with. The Parliamentary estimates for 1770 include a sum "for building an inn on the line of road from Fort-Augustus to Bernera, there being no house in fifty miles of said line." This was the inn at which Johnson and Boswell put up. The neglect into which the road had fallen is succinctly disclosed by Telford, who says in 1802, that "there are just the vestiges remaining of what was once a military road to Bernera, opposite the back of the Isle of Skye." This road to Glenelg, and the road from Contin to Poolewe, seem to have been the only two "made" roads which crossed the Highland mainland to the West Coast, and they were obviously very imperfect and unfit for wheeled traffic. A road to Ullapool had been formed in 1792, but it was so badly constructed that it soon fell into decay, and had to be reconstructed by Telford.

Mention may be made of an Atlas of Scotland, published by authority of Parliament in 1776. It is entitled "Taylor and Skinner’s Survey and Maps of the Roads of North Britain or Scotland," and is inscribed to John, Duke of Argyle, Commander of his Majesty’s Forces in North Britain. In a note the publishers say —"We shall only observe that the military roads are kept in the best repair; and so much has been done of late years to the other roads by the attention of the nobility and gentry that travelling is made thereby incredibly easy, expeditious, and commodious; and such a spirit of improvement prevails throughout Scotland that we may venture to say a few years will complete all the public roads in that part of the United Kingdom. There are good inns on all the roads, with post-chaises and horses at every stage as far north as Inverness, by Aberdeen." It will be observed that Inverness is the limit. The maps show the East Coast road winding along the shore to Wick, John O’Groats, and Thurso; also the military roads of the Central Highlands and the road from Fort-Augustus to Glenelg. It likewise shows the roads of the Black Isle, and one turning west from Dingwall, and going towards Contin. North of Inverness the Coast road is broken by the ferries of Beauly, Conon, Meikle Ferry, and Little Ferry. The condition of affairs which we have thus described is practically the same as Telford found it to be in his survey and report of 1802. He speaks as if the general road connections of the country terminated at Tain. He emphasises the lack of bridges not only on the Northern rivers, but on the Spey at Fochabers and the Tay at Dunkeld. Summing up, it may be said that in the beginning of the nineteenth century, Inverness was the natural limit of traffic or travelling by wheeled vehicles. A conveyance might go as far as Tain, but horses were difficult to be obtained. The "natural roads," or cattle tracks, were better than we might nowadays imagine, but only for their own purposes or for foot passengers. The military roads in the Central and Southern Highlands had served their day, and were insufficient. There was a clamant necessity for a new and extensive system of roads if the Highlands were to be incorporated with the rest of the country.

The Act for making Roads and Bridges in the Highlands and for constructing the Caledonian Canal was passed in 1803, and the work was promptly begun, under the general superintendence of the famous engineer, Mr Telford, who appointed qualified assistants. For years thereafter the work went on, giving the Highlands in the end the splendid svstem of communication which they have since enjoyed. It is easy to understand what the mere expenditure of money meant to a large and impoverished district. Among the objects aimed at were the opening up of intercourse, the promoting of fisheries, and the stoppage of emigration. The making of new roads through the central Highlands and the west and north continued until 1821, the construction of the Canal proceeding during the same period. Every year saw steady progress. Mr Telford began with the building of the bridges over the Tay at Dunkeld and over the Spey at Fochabers, the latter not directly under the Commissioners, but assisted by the Treasury, and apparently superintended by their engineer. The bridge near Forres, over the Findhorn (which was carried away by the flood of 1829), was undertaken by local effort, but Mr Telford seems to have been consulted. "The whole expenditure on new roads and bridges," says the late Mr Joseph Mitchell, C.E., "amounted to £540,000, of which £267,000 was furnished by the Government, the difference being contributed by the counties and individuals. This sum was expended on 875 miles of roads, and on several large bridges not included in the road contracts, the average over all amounting to a cost of about £400 a mile." From other sources we learn that the counties contributed to the above sum £214,000, and individual proprietors, £60,000. Harbours and ferry piers were also constructed, half the cost provided by balances remaining from the forfeited estates, and half by individual contributions, the total coming to £110,000.

The progress of improvement can be traced in the files of Inverness newspapers from the year 1807. We see about the erection of bridges at Beauly, at Conon, at Contin, at Bonar, about the construction of the Mound, in Sutherland, and the completion of roads to the east, west, and south. The roads in the central Highlands follow in many places a new line, and were, of course, much better formed than the old military roads. In November 1807, we read that "the total number of roads now formed and forming in the Highlands amount to forty," and the same issue notices the erection of a pier at Broadford, Skye, through the exertions of Lord Macdonald. At length, in April 1818, we are informed that "from Edinburgh to Inverness, and from Inverness to John O’Groat’s House, it is now possible to travel without crossing a ferry or fording a river, or even encountering a descent where the necessity of using a drag-chain is required." It is right to note that the proprietors gave willing contributions to the extension of roads. For instance, we read in 1809 that the road to Glenelg had been contracted for as far as Aonach, in Glenmoriston, being constructed to this point by the aid of assessments, but beyond it by means of private subscriptions. The list of these subscriptions was headed by Lord Macdonald with £1000, and followed by Lord Seaforth with £500, Macleod of Macleod with £400, Sir Hugh Innes of Lochalsh with £300, and others with contributions of from £100 to £200. It may be added that the system of roads in Sutherland was completed in the north and west of the county about the year 1830, at the expense of the house of Sutherland.

Along with the work of road-making came improvement in mail and travelling accommodation. In 1800 the mails were carried to Inverness by post-horses three times a-week from Aberdeen. The time at which a daily mail coach was established between Aberdeen and Inverness is sometimes given as 1809 or 1810. The newspaper file, however, gives the exact date as 5th April 1811, the fares for the journey being—Inside, £3 13s 6d; outside, £2 9s. The late Mr A. P. Hay, postmaster at Inverness, says that a two-horse post was all that was provided at first, but it was soon followed by a four-in-hand. The time taken to transmit a letter from London to Inverness was, he says, six days. Meantime communication, more or less regular, had been established by the central road to Edinburgh. Mr James Suter notes that the first attempt to start a regular coach to Perth was made in 1806, but it was soon discontinued. In 1809 we find the "Duchess of Gordon Inverness Coach" running three times a-week in summer and twice a-week in winter. Mr Hay says that for some time its expenses were supplemented from the Corporation funds. Until the roads were well advanced, the mails north of Inverness were conveyed by a man and pony to Tain, and thence by post-runner. In March 1808 there is an advertisement of the first carrier going beyond Dingwall. His name was Donald Ross, and he was to travel as far as Tain. In June 1809 a "diligence," as it was called, began to run from Inverness to Tain by way of Beauly and Dingwall. The same issue that records this step mentions the following instance of the rapidity with which a person might now travel in the Highlands. "Mr Gordon of Carrol, a few days ago, left Edinburgh per the Inverness coach, and reached his house in Sutherland, a distance of 215 miles, in forty-seven hours and a-half." In September 1818 a proposal was made to start a mail diligence to Wick and Thurso, the local authorities at Inverness, Bonar, and Helmsdale allowing it to pass their bridges toll free, and the counties of Ross and Sutherland each subscribing £200 to assist the movement. The coach started in the following July (1819), being timed to leave Inverness at 6 a.m., to arrive at Wick at half-past seven on the following morning, and at Thurso at half-past eleven. Mr John Anderson, in his Essay on the Highlands, published in 1826, says that horses were brought from Edinburgh, and stables and inns erected by Lord Stafford at very considerable expense. "By one common bond of intercourse," he adds, "the two most distant parts of the island, the one situated at the extremity of the English Channel, the other in the latitude of John O’Groat’s House, were thus joined together, at a distance of 1082 miles. In no country, it may safely be said, is there a parallel of so rapid a change." To us of the twentieth century, the change only marks a small step of progress; but to men of that generation it seemed an extraordinary advance. Dr Alexander Ross, however, in the paper formerly mentioned, notes that even after the roads were available and stage coaches running, the county families did not always avail themselves of the public conveyances, but continued posting with the same horses all the way to London. "While looking," he says, "over a wonderful collection of old carriages in the coach-house of the late Sir George Dunbar, with great C springs and rumble behind, I remember remarking to the old coachman that these carriages were worthy of being put into a museum. He replied, ‘Many’s the time I have driven them to London all the way.’ On expressing my astonishment that they should have been so recently in use, he said, ‘Ah, sir, these were the fine old times. We used to leave here about the end of October and reach London in about two months, travelling each day about thirty miles, and staying ten days or a fortnight in Edinburgh to dine with the lawyers and settle our law pleas. When we got near London we would meet other families also going in, and the young folks would have rare times. We left London about the beginning of April, and took a similar time to reach home. Of course,’ he said, ‘we often had to rest the horses and get them shod, and such events lost us a day now and then." Dr Ross observes that these were the picturesque days of travelling, when men took time to look at the country and to know the people.

The work of constructing the Caledonian Canal greatly assisted in opening up the Highlands and in distributing money during a trying period. For nearly twenty years the Canal employed large relays of workmen, many of them day labourers, many skilled masons and carpenters from the counties of Nairn and Moray. Exclusive of payment for land and for damage (which came in the end to £48,000), the estimated cost of construction was £474,531. This sum, however, was greatly exceeded. When the waterway was opened in 1822, the cost had reached £884,000, and subsequent operations, completed in 1847 or a little later, brought the total up to £1,300,000.

The difficulties presented by the loose gravel of the bed and the enormous rise in wages and prices during the Continental war, account for the increase in expenditure. Labourers who were paid from 1s 6d to 1s 8d per day in 1803, received in 1814 from 2s 4d to 2s 6d, and skilled workmen shared in the advance, though in somewhat smaller proportion. The price of timber was doubled, and in the case of native fir, more than doubled in the same period. The native fir and birch came largely from Lochiel’s forest and from Glenmoriston, and was reported by Telford to be particularly hard and sound, more durable in vessels and wheeling planks than Baltic timber at double the expense. The dressing stone was obtained at the east end from Redcastle, but at the west end had to be transported from the Cumbraes; rubble was got at the one end from Clachnaharry and at the other from the north shore of Lochiel. The work excited interest as a national undertaking, though grumblings were naturally heard about the expenditure. At length, in 1818, navigation was allowed during summer on the Loch-Ness side, but was closed in November as a precaution against floods. In June 1820 a steamboat was placed on the route by Mr Henry Bell, to ply between Inverness and Fort-Augustus, and in October 1822 the Canal was opened from sea to sea, amidst general jubilation. The member for the County (the Right Hon. Charles Grant) and his father, with a party of gentlemen from town and county, travelled by the steamer on her first through voyage. There was a grand

Canal expenditure

dinner at Fort-William to celebrate the memorable occasion. The financial returns from the Canal have proved disappointing, but it has helped to make the Highlands accessible, and has made a beautiful route familiar to travellers from all parts of the world. During the time of its construction, the expenditure mitigated the poverty which might otherwise have proved serious in its effects.

Our period saw changes as great in the conveyance by sea as by land and canal. Mr James Suter mentions that in 1804 smacks began to ply regularly between Inverness and London, for the first seven years going once in three weeks, and afterwards once in ten days. The smacks called at Cromarty, and latterly seem to have started from that place. The time taken depended on the winds. The voyage seems sometimes to have lasted from ten to fourteen days. Mr Joseph Mitchell says he made the passage in a smack from Aberdeen in six days. Occasionally the voyage was much more expeditious. In February 1815, for instance, we are told that the Inverness Packet arrived at Burghead from Gravesend in the short space of seventy hours, having outstripped the mail by thirty-four hours. Steam navigation sprang up while the Canal was in progress, and the waterway, as we have seen, was utilised even before it was fully opened. The first steam vessel, the Comet, was placed on the Clyde by Henry Bell in 1812, and in the next ten years the new system of navigation came into general use. In December 1820, Sir Hugh linnes of Lochalsh made arrangements for the running of a steamboat between Glasgow and Kyleakin once a-week. It is recorded that she made her first voyage in 35 hours and 50 minutes, and the return voyage in 40 hours and 16 minutes, the latter in spite of heavy gales. In May 1821 a steamer was launched at Dumbarton to complete the connection with Inverness by way of Aberdeen. Thus almost at the same time the Highlands came into possession of a complete system of roads, of steam service by sea, and of the advantages of communication by the Caledonian Canal.

The rural economy of the Highlands underwent a vital change during the period under consideration. The abolition of heritable jurisdictions after the rising of 1745 changed the whole constitution of Highland society. Though it was absolutely necessary to take away the feudal powers which the chiefs possessed, the measure, from an economic point of view, had unfortunate effects. It was inevitable that under the new circumstances a commercial system should take the place of the patriarchal, but the change was too sudden and revolutionary. It must not, however, be forgotten that the occupancy of land in the Highlands at the time was essentially on an unsound basis. Tacksmen related in blood to the chief held considerable tracts at low rents, and sub-let to the body of the people, whose payments helped to support the middlemen in comfort. Cottars, with still smaller patches of soil, added to the numbers of the population. The time had now come when the presence of a large body of men was no longer necessary to support the dignity of a chief, and as proprietor his thoughts turned to the improvement of his rent-roll. The tacksmen resented the increased demands made upon them, and began to emigrate. During this state of friction farmers from the Southern counties came to the Highlands and offered large sums for land as sheep walks. The process began on the Glengarry estates in 1782, and went rapidly forward. Mr Fraser Mackintosh says that in 1768 the rental of the Glengarry estates was only a little over £700, and in 1802 it had risen so enormously that it exceeded £5000. There was a large emigration from Knoydart in 1786, and another even larger in 1802. In the latter year three vessels sailed from Fort-William to Quebec, carrying with them hundreds of Highlanders, who were a great loss to the old country, but who enriched the land to which they went. In 1792 sheep-farming had spread to such an extent in the counties of Ross and Sutherland that it led to serious riots, the people attempting to drive the sheep away. This, however, did not stop the movement. The authorities were strong, and the people, who were peaceful at heart, submitted, but with passionate protestations, which still evoke profound sympathy. In 1817 the Sheep and Wool Fair was established at Inverness. Up till this time and afterwards, in spite of eviction and emigration, the population continued to increase. It was stimulated, no doubt, by the growth of the kelp industry on the western seaboard and islands, which gave employment to many people, but which broke down just about the end of our period, and brought in a new element of distress. It must also be remembered that there were wide districts which were never cleared, and in which the old imperfect system of agriculture was gradually supplanted by newer methods. It was during the first quarter of the century that a real beginning was made with the improvement of cultivation.

There is a survey of the County of Inverness prepared for the Board of Agriculture in 1808 by Rev. Dr James Robertson, minister of Callander, in Perthshire, which contains many interesting particulars. Dr Robertson deplores and condemns the depopulation of districts caused by the extension of sheep-farming. He also lets us see what the old system was like. He thinks there was too great a gulf between the tacksmen and the small tenants. He says that the culture of the potato, which fifty years before was almost unknown except in the gardens of the wealthy, had spread until it had become universal. He observes that one-half of the inhabitants of Scotland lived mainly on potatoes during eight or nine months in the year, and that the proportion so sustained was higher in the Highlands than in the rest of the country. The possibility of the crop failing did not strike him, as indeed at that time there was nothing to foreshadow such disaster. He states that the lower class of Highlanders lived in greater comfort and plenty than in any former generation. There was no necessity to bleed cattle in bad seasons to supplement the "pittance of meal." The housing of the great majority of the people was, however, as bad generally as it still remains in some of the outer islands. The dwellings of the better class—the small minority—were comfortable, but all the rest were of the most miserable description. "The huts of the Indians bordering on the Lakes of St Lawrence," says Dr Robertson, "cannot be worse in point of structure and accommodation." A communication to a newspaper just beyond our present period supplies some curious particulars. The writer assumes the population of an ordinary Highland parish to be about 2000, and he says that three-fourths, or more nearly four-fifths, lived in black huts. He thinks there may be 500 huts in such a parish and 500 outhouses, making a total of 1000; and he puts the cost of erection at £12 a-piece, making a total value of £12,000. Improvement, however, was at work. The Highland Society of Scotland did much for agriculture by the offer of premiums, and local Farming Societies were established to promote the movement. On the part of the proprietors the difficulty of providing satisfactory houses and steadings for small holdings no doubt helped to bring about the enlargement of farms and the decrease of population.

Without attempting to describe the general condition of Highland agriculture in the olden time, concerning which much has been written elsewhere, it may be interesting to give a few further gleanings from Dr Robertson’s survey. He speaks more than once of the number of horses kept by the small tenants before the introduction of sheep farming. These horses were allowed to roam the moors at large, and sent down in annual droves to the Lowlands for sale. They were of a poor kind, and in Dr Robertson’s opinion not remunerative. "There is," he says, "no species of bestial more useless or expensive than an idle horse. In Glenmoriston alone, a district of no great extent, a gentleman of veracity told me there had been 900 horses until very lately. In a fine meadow of a well-cultivated part of the country I reckoned six small horses grazing upon one farm." Dr Robertson describes the method of ferrying the cattle from Skye across the sound at Kylerhea. The animals were forced to swim. "For this purpose the drovers purchased ropes, which are cut at the length of three feet, having a noose at one end. This noose is put round the under-jaw of every cow, taking care to leave the tongue free. The reason given for leaving the tongue loose is that the animal may be able to keep the salt water from going down its throat in such a quantity as to fill all the cavities in the body, which would prevent the action of the lungs; for every beast is found dead, and said to be drowned at the landing-place, to which this mark of attention has not been paid." Each cow was tied to the tail of the cow before, forming a string of six or eight; and a man in the stem held the rope of the foremost cow. The most favourable passage was at high water, and very few beasts were lost. It is said that from 5000 to 8000 cattle were taken across in this fashion in course of the year. Dr Robertson condemns the practice of casting turf for fuel or for thatching, which spoilt the pasture ground. Ploughmakers and cartwrights had only recently settled in the low and central parts of the county. The late proprietor of Cantray was the first to introduce a thrashing mill driven by horses, having imported the machinery and tradesmen from Leith. The number of sheep in Inverness-shire in 1808 was reckoned at 50,000, having doubled in ten years. "The old indigenous sheep, which are small, fine-woolled, and altogether white, are still very numerous. The Linton breed, or those with black legs and faces, are the most prevalent. Stocks of Cheviot sheep are gaining ground, because their wool is much finer, and their carcase equally large with the Linton breed." At that time there was no regular deer forest in the county, except at Lochiel, though "there are straggling deer to be met with in almost every part of the mountainous districts. [The late Mr Macpherson in his book on "Church and Social Iife in the Highlands," gives extracts respecting the old deer forests from a paper written by Captain I.achlan Macpherson, "Old Biallid," who died in 1858. He says that at one time the deer forests possessed by the Earls of Huntly commenced at Ben Avon, in Banffshire, and terminated at Ben Nevis, near Fort-William, a distance of seventy miles, without a break except for the estate of Rothiemurchus, about two miles in breadth. "No alteration took place until after the Rising of 1745, when the whole forests were let as grazings, except Gaick, which the Duke of Gordon continued as a deer forest until about the year 1788, when it was let as a sheep walk, and continued so until 1826, when the late Duke of Gordon (then Marquis of Huntly) re-established it." (See also pages 48 and 49 of this volume.)] Dr Robertson speaks very highly of the moral and law-abiding character of the people. "Single individuals travel unarmed, in all directions, through the Highlands, with thousands of pounds in their pockets, to purchase cattle, without dread or annoyance." Finally, we may quote the following passage relating to home industries —

"The domestic manufacture of this county is very considerable, because upwards of sixty thousand of the inhabitants, out of a population of seventy-four thousand, may be said to be clothed by their home-spun and home-wrought, stuffs of various kinds, excepting bonnets, handkerchiefs, and a few more articles for female, or Sunday’s attire.

‘The housewives, and their daughters, and servant-maids, are more industrious than one could suppose, in a country where the pastoral habits and employments still continue so much to prevail. Their cloths are woven by the country weavers, and dressed by the dyers in the neighbourhood. Their tartans and plaids are universally admired for fineness of fabric, brilliancy of colours, and the taste displayed in the variety of setts or patterns. This display of ingenuity and industry, is by no means confined to the common people. Many of the ladies of fortune understand the art of dyeing to great perfection, not only with respect to the more easy and cheap colours, but even as to the more delicate and vivid kinds, which they often execute full as lively and permanently as the most skilful and experienced dyers in the great towns. To enumerate all the instances of these thrifty habits would be endless. I shall mention only one or two, as a specimen of the rest. At a gentleman’s house in Lochaber, I saw two hearthrugs of the most beautiful mixed colours; one dozen of chair-covers woven, and another dozen sewed by a stitch called vigo (well-known to ladies), having five different shades of green, four of red, three of purple, a black ground, with a yellow and white edging; all spun, and dyed, and sewed in the house. The whole drawing-room furniture, sopha and chair-covers, was of the same kind; sixteen carpets, of different patterns. The bed and table linen was countless; as also the blankets, which, in warmth and fabric, were equal and in fineness, superior, to those sold in the great towns, under the name of being imported from the South. Shawls and gowns of twisted worsted, and tartans of the most lively colours, beautifully diversified, and various other articles, all spun and dyed in the family, under the inspection, and by direction of Mrs Cameron of Fassfern. In the opposite side of the county, Mrs Macpherson, at Mains of Ardersier, near Fort-George, besides many other articles of industry, which it might be thought tedious to enumerate in detail, sends every year to the bleaching between three and four hundred yards of linen, spun in her own house, from the flax raised by her husband."

It is curious to note that while the system of sheep-farming was extending, much alarm and lamentation were caused by the constant stream of emigration. One of the objects of the construction of the Caledonian Canal was to stop this movement. Mr Telford, in his report of 1801, says that about three thousand persons had left our shores in the previous year, and he was informed that three times that number were preparing to leave in course of the year in which he was writing. The men who were going were not without resources. "The very high price of black cattle," says Mr Telford, "has facilitated the means of emigration, as it has furnished the old farmers with a portion of capital which enables them to transport their families beyond the Atlantic." At the present day a passage to Canada or the States is an easy thing. At that time, however, the passage occupied from six weeks to two months, and was often accomplished in vessels ill-equipped with water and provisions The tale is one on which no one cares to dwell.

There is a sentence in Lord Cockburn's Memorials which describes the warlike atmosphere of a protracted period. Of the peace of 1814 he says:—"Old men, but especially those in whose memories the American War ran into the French one, had only a dim recollection of what peace was; and middle-aged men knew it now for the first time." Even then there was still the final conflict to come with Napoleon, before the battle of Waterloo put an end to the clash of arms. During the wars the Highland regiments were winning those laurels which have made their names famous. For home defence there were Fencible regiments, some Volunteers, regular militia, and latterly the Local Militia, instituted in 1808 and suspended in 1816. The Fencible regiments formed a home force in Scotland, raised by recruiting instead of by ballot, but the last of them were disbanded early in the nineteenth century. The Local Militia gathered into its ranks the greater part of the young manhood of the country, drawn by ballot between the ages of eighteen and thirty, each county being obliged to furnish a force of the kind six times as large as the regular militia quota. It is not surprising that with constant war abroad and periodical warlike training at home, the military spirit was dominant. In the newspapers of the time there are frequent references to the Local Militia. The Hon. Archibald Fraser of Lovat was Colonel of the 1st Inverness-shire regiment and Glengarry of the second; and authority was given to Highland battalions to wear the Highland dress as their uniform. Apparently this permission was granted on the application of Glengarry, who, whatever his faults, cherished an enthusiastic pride in the Highland name.

The practice of illicit distillation became exceedingly prevalent during the period with which we are dealing. About the year 1814 two causes operated to increase the practice to an enormous degree. The first was the passing of an Act which prohibited the use of stills of less capacity than 500 gallons, a measure which served as a complete interdict to legal distilling in the Highlands. The second and more permanent cause was the distress which set in after 1815, owing to the fall in agricultural prices at the close of the war. Matters then became so serious that the county authorities petitioned Government to legalise the use of small stills. This was conceded in 1816, stills of 40 gallons capacity being allowed, and the duty reduced. But the new Act was surrounded by so many restrictions that the distilleries which were established failed to become successful. The legal distiller was obliged to make his wash of a specific strength, and to pay duty on a specific quantity of spirits, whether he was able to extract the required amount or not. In point of fact, he was required to produce one-fourth or one-fifth more than the smuggler, and so it was true that smuggled whisky was at that time better in quality than the whisky legally distilled. It was not until 1823 that a new Act was passed which conceded more liberal regulations, and allowed distillers to warehouse spirits without payment of duty. Accordingly, the year 1823 saw both the climax in smuggling and the turn in the tide.

When smuggling was at its height the whole Highland district was involved in it, from east to west and from north to south. Bands of men carried the product of their stills through the glens on ponies, and often resisted the officers of the law. The military had to be called in to help the Excise. The late Mr Joseph Mitchell mentions that one morning when, as a young man, he was driving up Glenmoriston before breakfast, he met twenty-five Highland ponies tied to each other, carrying two kegs of whisky apiece, and attended by ten or twelve men armed with bludgeons. They looked at Mr Mitchell with suspicion, but at length one of them said to his companion, "You need not mind; it is the son of Mitchell, the man of the high roads" (his father being superintendent under Telford), and they treated him to a dram. During the same period quantities of wines and foreign spirits were smuggled in from Holland. Under date of December 1821, the "Courier" contains an account of a strange case which was tried at a Justice of Peace Court at Inverness. The shoremaster had been accommodating enough to bury in his garden eighteen kegs of gin which the skipper of a smack had picked up at sea, and moreover, to ensure concealment, had planted cabbages over the spot. The kegs having been discovered, the culprits were prosecuted, but they pleaded that the gin was flotsam, that the statute allowed them twenty-four hours to give notice to the Excise, and that the officers had made their seizure before the expiry of this period of grace. The Court actually accepted the plea, and the defenders had the audacity to give notice that they intended to raise an action against the Excise officers for illegal detention of the vessel. It is not likely that the action ever came off.

Naturally there were great complaints as to the demoralising character of smuggling. The community was infected with it from top to bottom. Farmers found a market and obtained a better price for their grain through the illicit traffic; landowners secured higher rents; the people generally obtained cheaper whisky. At a Justice of Peace Court at Inverness in 1823, no fewer than 400 persons from the districts of the Aird, Strathglass, and Urquhart were fined for illicit distillation or for selling spirits without a licence. In the same year there were 14,000 detections in the Highlands for breaches of the Excise laws. The Act of that year helped to improve matters, assisted by the spread of education and the influence of the clergy. But much was likewise due to the increased activity and determination of the Excise, and the enforcement of high penalties. The Justices had been in the habit of imposing fines much below the minimum authorised by law. At the time of the passing of the new Act, however, the authorities resolutely demanded that the minimum of £20 should be imposed, otherwise six months’ imprisonment. The Justices demurred, and some of them talked of resigning. They were not aware of the resources of the Department. In a prosecution in Banffshire, when the Justices proved obstinate, the Excise transferred the cases to the Court of Exchequer, which subjected the offenders to penalties varying from £100 to £500 a-piece. This seems to have broken down the opposition, and the enforcement of stiff penalties by local Justices proved a deterrent to the smugglers. In 1834 the number of detections had fallen to 692.

The Church of Scotland at this time held almost undisputed sway in the Highlands, except for the Catholic and Episcopalian sections of the population. There was very little dissent of any other kind; only a few small congregations founded under special circumstances. The Church was earnest in its work, both in the religious and educational fields. The people out of their poverty contributed freely to such objects as were brought before them. For instance, there was a Northern Missionary Society founded in 1800, which raised in twenty-two years about £3000 for missionary purposes, and had by no means at that date come to an end of its career. In 1823 a sum of £50,000 was granted by Government for providing additional places of worship in the Highlands and Islands. By the erection of churches and manses this sum made provision for over forty additional ministers, whose services were appreciated in the wide rural parishes. In the matter of education the Gaelic-speaking population was very backward. But there was constant effort for improvement. In 1811 a Gaelic School Society was established in Edinburgh; in 1818 a Society for the education of the poor was formed at Inverness. In a report which the latter Society issued in 1825, it is calculated that in the Hebrides and other western parts of Inverness and Ross, 70 persons in the hundred could not read; in the mainland parts of the Northern Highlands, 40 in the hundred. According to the same report, there was in the western district only one copy of the Bible for every eight persons above the age of eight years, and in other districts only one copy for three persons. In 1825 the General Assembly appointed a Committee for the purpose of increasing the means of education and religious instruction. From this step great benefit accrued. The Bible Societies also gave valuable assistance in providing Gaelic Bibles.

There are several names that frequently occur in the annals of the Highlands in the early part of the century. The two Charles Grants, father and son, exercised in succession great influence as members of Parliament from 1802 until 1835. Other distinguished persons took a leading part in the social life of the country, either as residents or occasional visitors. The Northern Meeting then, as now, was the culminating point of the Highland season. The famous Lady Jane, Duchess of Gordon, was a prominent patron of this assembly, supported by her son, the Marquis of Huntly, and by one or other of those daughters who had made such brilliant marriages. The Duchess delighted to spend the autumn at Kinrara, enjoying a simple Arcadian life after the toils of London society. Miss Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus, afterwards Mrs Smith of Baltiboys, describes the unpretending accommodation and the frank enjoyment of hostess and visitors. "Half the London world of fashion, all the clever people that could be hunted out from all parts, all the north country, all the neighbourhood from far and near, without regard to wealth or station, and all the kith and kin of both Gordons and Maxwells, flocked to this encampment in the wilderness during the fine autumns to enjoy the free life, the pure air, and the wit and fun the Duchess brought with her to the mountains." Mrs Smith also says that Lord Huntly was the life of social gatherings. "He was young, gay, handsome, fond of his mother, and often with her; and so general a favourite that all the people seemed to wake up when he came amongst them." The Duchess died in London in April 1812, and her remains were brought North by her son, and interred in a sequestered spot chosen by herself not far from Kinrara House. The Marquis was the last of his line. He married in 1813 Elizabeth Brodie, daughter of Brodie of Arnhall, but without issue. In 1827, on the death of his father, he succeeded to the dukedom, and to an encumbered property. Before his death in 1836 he had to part with Lochaber and a portion of his Badenoch estates. The late Dr Carruthers, in his Highland Notebook, gives the following interesting reminiscences of the closing days of the "gay and gallant Marquis" after he had become Duke of Gordon: —

"There certainly never was a better chairman of a festive party. He could not make a set speech; and on one occasion when Lord Liverpool asked him to move or second an address at the opening of a session of Parliament, he gaily replied that he would undertake to please all their Iordships if they adjourned to the City of London Tavern but he could not undertake to do the same in the House of Lords. He excelled in short, unpremeditated addresses, which were always lively and to the point. We heard him once on an occasion which would have been a melancholy one in any other hands. He bad been compelled to sell the greater part of his property in the district of Badenoch, to lessen the pressure of his difficulties, and emancipate himself, in some measure, from legal trustees. The gentlemen of the district resolved, before parting with their noble landlord, to invite him to a public dinner in Kingussie. A piece of plate, or some other mark of regard, would perhaps have been more apropos, and less painful in its associations but the dinner was given and received. Champagne flowed like water; the Highlanders were in the full costume of the mountains, and great excitement prevailed. When the Duke stood up, his tall, graceful form slightly stooping with age, and his grey hairs shading his smooth, bald forehead, with a general’s broad riband across his breast, the thunders of applause were like a warring cataract or mountain torrent in flood. Tears sparkled in his eyes, and he broke out with a hasty acknowledgment of the honours paid to him; he alluded to the time when he roamed their hills in youth, gathering recruits among their mountains for the service of his country---to the strong attachment which his departed mother entertained for every cottage and family among them—and to his own affection for the Highlands, which be said was as firm and lasting as the Rock of Cairngorm, which he was still proud to possess. The latter was a statement of fact: in the sale of the property the Duke had stipulated for retaining that wild mountain range called the Cairngorm Rocks. The effect of this short and feeling speech—so powerful is the language of nature and genuine emotion—was as strong as the most finished oration could produce."

On the death of the nobleman who figures in this pathetic scene, the entailed estates—still a splendid patrimony went to the Duke of Richmond, the grandson of Duchess Jane by her eldest daughter. The ancient title was revived in 1876, and the present venerable peer holds the honours of Duke of Richmond and Gordon.

There were other three great proprietors who occupied a prominent place, and who experienced their share of human troubles. The last Earl of Seaforth was a man of marked ability, whose mental endowments triumphed over the defects of deafness and imperfect speech. But he lived during a lavish period, and he was, at least for a time, a member of the extravagant circle which gathered round the Prince Regent. He was also involved in West Indian plantations which proved unprofitable. So his property became embarrassed, and part of it had to be sold. His four sons predeceased him, the last two dying in 1813 and 1814; and Lord Seaforth himself, broken in heart, passed away in the beginning of 1815, leaving the estates that remained to a widowed daughter. The Hon. Archibald Fraser of Lovat, the last surviving son of the famous Lord Simon, was a careful and attentive business man, who managed his affairs with credit and success. He was proud of his Highland descent, and assisted the Duke of Montrose in getting rid of the law which prohibited the wearing of the Highland dress. But in his case also his sons, five in all, predeceased him. The eldest son, the last of the family, represented the County of Inverness in Parliament from 1796 until 1802. By his death the deed of entail came into operation which secured the succession to the Strichen branch of the family. The Hon. Archibald Fraser died in the same year as Lord Seaforth, 1815, but at an interval of eleven months. The third of these conspicuous proprietors was Macdonell of Glengarry, who succeeded to a fine inheritance, and squandered it away. His ambition was to be a Highland Chief of the olden time, so far as that could be attained under modem conditions. Glengarry moved about with a body of retainers, which constituted his "tail.’ He was always eager for a leading place among his contemporaries. Though he possessed talent and many kindly qualities, his overbearing temper led him repeatedly into difficulties, and his careless expenditure far exceeded his income. The estates were deeply involved before his death in 1828, and after his time they passed from the family. Many other Highland families, who were less prominent before the world, transmitted their estates unimpaired to their successors.

To come to the town of Inverness. A public-spirited Provost, William Inglis of Kingsmills, died in 1801. He was a merchant and banker, and is characterised by Mr James Suter as the most useful Magistrate the town ever possessed till that date, "the founder of its finest buildings, and some of its most valuable institutions, and for thirty years the chief promoter of its improvements." Among the most influential men who succeeded him were Mr Gilzean, Mr Grant of Bught, and Dr Robertson of Aultnaskiach. Mr Gilzean was a pluralist, being sheriff, collector of customs, and distributor of stamps, and yet able to hold office as Provost. He is said to have left a fortune of from £50,000 to £60,000, which was a large sum for those days, especially in a town like Inverness. Mr Grant has been described as a "kindly man of dignified manners," who promoted social intercourse, and was personally popular. Dr Robertson seems to have been the ablest and most public-spirited of the three, but as time went on he became identified with the party which resisted the demand for reform, and so lost some of his popularity. A curious incident in the history of the burgh was the suspension of its "set" or constitution, which took place in 1818, and lasted for several years. According to the constitution, Councillors and Magistrates were to be residenters, "and actually trafficking merchants or maltmen." Objection was taken that one Councillor and two Bailies were neither trafficking merchants nor maltmen. The Corporation pleaded usage, but rather than incur the expense of appearing before the Court of Session in Edinburgh, they allowed judgment to go against then Those who defended the practice which had crept into existence contended that the objection was an attempt to narrow the constitution of the burgh; that to confine the qualifications to the classes specifically mentioned was a retrograde step. There was obvious truth in this view, but doubtless there were persona]. feelings at the bottom of the quarrel, and a desire to overthrow what was regarded by the objectors as a local autocracy. The Court of Session disapproved of the application, though they felt bound to give effect to the technical objection. The election of a member of Parliament for the Burghs was in the hands of the Town Councils, which practically meant the Provosts, and the selection really rested alternately with the Provost of Inverness and the Provost of Forres. It is not surprising that these gentlemen were loth to relinquish a privilege which conferred upon them both influence and patronage. When Robert Grant, a younger son of Charles Grant, got notice to quit from the representation before the Reform Act of 1832, it was generally believed that a question of local patronage was as much the cause of his dismissal as the divergence of his political views from those of the local magnates of the day.

In the early part of the century the town consisted of little more than the streets which now form its centre— High Street, Bridge Street, Church Street, Castle Street, and New Street (or Academy Street), with a humble offshoot at East Gate. In Home’s map of 1774 the west side consists of a few blocks of building going as far down as about the present Greig Street Bridge. There was then a wide open space occupied chiefly by what is called the Red Yard, and after that a few more houses about the Green of Muirtown. An old channel of the river— but not the main channel—appears at the Abban. There is a road shown running across the mouth of this channel and down to Kessock, the only road to Kessock in those days. Behind the road, marking the old channel, are the words, "Stones called Bowbridge"; and behind this again an open space bearing the words on the map, "a salt water lake called the Nabon." The land running part of the way alongside consists of enclosures called Dalnabon, and the road to Beauly is traced between Dalnabon and high-water mark. The Centenarian says that in his boyhood, say about 1765, there were only fifteen "smokes" and eight small windows, with the exception of Phopachy House, between the Blue House and Kessock Ferry. Improvement had set in before the end of the eighteenth century, due in no small measure, as the writer of the Old Statistical Account says, to the great influx of money from the East and West Indies, and to the establishment of factories. The Northern Meeting Rooms were erected in 1790; the Royal Academy and the Jail and Court House in Bridge Street, in 1791. In 1796 the principal streets were levelled and paved, and Clachnacudain—the Stone of the Tubs—was removed from the centre of High Street to a place under the Cross. In 1798 the Chapel of Ease, now the U.F. East Church, was built. In 1800 the Castle Hill was enclosed by a wall; in 1803 the Northern Infirmary was erected, and the same year the lands of Merkinch were feued. In 1808 the Wooden Bridge was erected, and next year an embankment was formed between that point and Douglas Row. In 1812 the Head of Church Street was widened, and Geddes’s building was erected, apparently the fine block opposite the Exchange. In 1813 the embankment of the town lands at the Longman was completed, and in 1815 the Thornbush Pier was built and the Harbour deepened. These particulars are given in James Suter’s Memorabilia.

The old stone bridge (destroyed by the flood of 1849) was a fine feature in the town, described by Telford as the handsomest old bridge in Great Britain. The remains of the old Castle are shown in a picture of 1820, but they disappeared during the next few years, the stones probably forming a quarry for other buildings. The Centenarian says that the roads north and south of the bridge were carried out under the direction of Provost Robertson, who also widened the west end of Bridge Street at his own expense, removing the turnpike stairs in front and setting back his property. The work appears to have been carried out in the winter of 1816 and 1817, during a period of severe distress in the town. A contemporary notice says that "elegant and commodious roads have been made on both banks of the river, and extensive footpaths have been formed, which certainly add much to the comfort and to the health of the inhabitants." Part of these improvements was the Ladies’ Walk on the river-bank, which derived its name from the fact that it was made at the expense of some generous ladies. In the winter of 1817 the walk was injured by a flood, and some person or persons who had made a bet on the result of the burgh Parliamentary election and won it, applied the proceeds to the repair of the path. Telford Street was built for the accommodation of engineers and superintendents during the construction of the Canal. In 1818 a new line of road was constructed from this street to the town. "The present entrance in that direction," we are informed, "passes through all the filth of the Green of Muirtown, which is by far the most disagreeable and irregular access to the town; the new entrance will pass directly from the line of elegant buildings in Telford Street through the field on the north of the hovels on the Green, by Wells’s Foundry, to the fine embankment lately built on the west side of the river." The land was given free of charge by Mr Duff of Muirtown; and it is stated that few persons had done more than this gentleman for the improvement of the neighbourhood. There were, as has been said, factories in the town for tanning, thread-making, bleaching, dyeing, and making cloth, but they were not permanently successful. The fuel mostly used was peat and wood; coal only by the well-to-do classes. Mr Joseph Mitchell, who was born in 1803, and passed his boyhood in the town, says that some of the houses were of considerable size, with turnpikes and pepper boxes outside; but Petty Street, the Maggot, and the west side of the river consisted mainly of huts. A stream of water ran across Church Street from School Lane, and was turned into a drain in 1818.

In the year 1800, Dr John Leyden passed through the town of Inverness during the tour of which the Journal has recently been published. He says that he "beheld indeed very little that is not to be seen in every town"; also that "it contains some elegant buildings, but no regular streets or squares of neat houses." This negative account shows at least that there was nothing to call forth the travellers’ special animadversion. "Many of the houses," he adds, "are of considerable antiquity, and have the arms of some Highland chieftain sculptured on a large slab inserted in the wall, from having been the town houses of these chieftains in feudal times." Leyden climbed Craig-Phadrick, and continues—"The finest view of Inverness is from the eminence above Muirtown as you ascend Craig-Phadrick, one of the eminences of that ridge which conceals the Fraser country, or Aird. Here the apparent regularity of the arrangement and elegance of the structures greatly exceeds reality." The entry is dated at Nairn, September 11th, and Leyden’s appreciation may have been chilled by the mists which led him, as he says, to abandon his proposed journey to Ross-shire. Dr Macculloch, whose Tour was published in 1824, and who was not given to enthusiasm, is much more appreciative. He waxes eloquent in describing the beauty of the situation, and calls Inverness itself "a clean town and a good-looking town," adding that "it possesses the best and the civilest and cheapest inns in Scotland." We may fairly say that at the beginning of the nineteenth century the town was not behind other county towns in Scotland, and had advantages over many of them, due to its position and surroundings. Since then, in outward appearance and in the character of its buildings, it has kept pace with any community in the land. Indeed, it has been rebuilt to such an extent that, in spite of its ancient history, Inverness as it stands is essentially modem. It only remains for its people to maintain the enterprise which their fathers in their day exhibited, and thus to keep up the march of improvement which so far has not failed.

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