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The Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century
No. I

The changes that have occurred in the North of Scotland during the century which has just closed will be understood in some detail by those who follow the chronicle now begun.

It is our hope to be able to proceed with the annals of the North, so as to form an index to the principal events of the century in the Highlands. This work cannot be completed without occasional breaks, but it will be kept in view and carried out as circumstances permit. A bare index, though useful, would be comparatively dull, and we therefore give in most instances short paragraphs, including some not important in themselves, but interesting as illustrating the life or habits of the period.

For the first six and a-half years of the century, we have been obliged to fall back on the late Mr James Suter's Memorabilia, which consist of short notes of events of public interest. From the 7th of August 1807, we have the guidance of the "Inverness Journal," and shall follow its files until the foundation of the "Courier" in 1817. Our file of the "Journal" is not absolutely complete, but some of the missing numbers have already been placed at our disposal, and the other few blanks may be filled. The publisher of the "Journal," Mr. John Young, printer and bookseller, issued several works in Gaelic and English, including a handsome edition of Macpherson’s Ossian. "Mr Young is said to have conducted the ‘Journal’ himself for a little time, but early in its career the editorial chair was taken by David Carey, a native of Arbroath, who discharged the duties for nearly five years. Carey was an author of considerable versatility and ability—a poet, novelist, and successful pamphleteer. While in Inverness he published a volume of poems, printed by Mr Young, ‘Craig-Phadrick,’ &c.: Inverness, 1810. This volume is now chiefly valuable for the notes to the piece Craig-Phadrick, containing as they do much information on the early history of Inverness. In connection with the ‘Journal,’ it may be mentioned that a younger son of Mr Young’s, Murdo Young, was long editor and latterly proprietor of the ‘London Sun’ and ‘True Sun’ newspapers." (From Bibliography by the late John Noble in Scottish Notes and Queries. April 1888.)

At the beginning of the century the means of communication were exceedingly limited. In 1804 smacks were established to run once in three weeks between Inverness and London. It was in 1806 that the first regular coach began to run to Perth by the Highland Road, but it seems for a time, though only for a short time, to have been discontinued. The Acts of Parliament for the construction of the Caledonian Canal and the making of roads and bridges were passed in 1803, and for years afterwards work was plentiful throughout the Highlands. It will be observed that emigration was going on, apparently against the wish of public men, if we may judge from the expression of opinion given below. The sad fate of a large party of emigrants from the north coast is chronicled by the "Journal."

From James Sitter’s Memorabilia

1800.—A keen contest took place for the representation of the County between A. Forbes of Culloden, S. Fraser, yr. of Lovat, and Charles Grant, when Mr Grant was returned, and continued to be member until 1819, when his son, the Right Hon. C. Grant, succeeded him.

Ibid.—Sunday Schools first established in the town by Charles Grant.

Ibid.—Episcopal Chapel built. Expense, £700, defrayed by subscriptions and a loan of £200.

Ibid.—A fund. of £675 raised by voluntary subscriptions for relief of the poor.

Ibid.—The Castle Hill enclosed with a wall.

Ibid.—Northern Missionary Society begun. [1822. This institution has collected at Inverness and Tain, since its commencement, about £3000 of voluntary contributions.]

1801.—A large quantity of gunpowder exploded in the centre of the town, by which seven persons were killed and many others wounded. Almost all the houses in the middle of the town were injured and had their windows shattered on this occasion.

Ibid.—The first public nursery garden in this place formed, viz., the Telford Street one.

Ibid.—In this year died William Inglis of Kingsmills, merchant and banker, a native of the town and Provost of the Burgh,. the ablest and most useful Magistrate it had ever possessed, the founder of its finest public buildings and of some of its most valuable institutions, and for 30 years the chief promoter of all its improvements.

1802.—Regular cattle markets commenced at the Island.

1803.—A chapel erected by the Seceder congregation. [In 1820 this was converted into a Roman Catholic Chapel.]

Ibid.—Acts of Parliament passed for cutting the Caledonian Canal, and for making roads and building bridges in the Highlands of Scotland.

Ibid.—The lands of Merkinch first feued out for building.

Ibid.—The Northern Infirmary opened for the reception of patients. Expense of building, £5000. Annual expenditure, about £700 a-year. The whole defrayed by voluntary contributions, chiefly parochial.

1804.—Smacks begin to ply successfully at fixed days to and from London. At first the period of succession was once in three weeks. [In 1814 it became one in ten days.] In 1770 vessels arrived from London only once in four or five weeks, and even these were very small; and at the same period the communication with Leith was not more frequent. At present the voyage to Leith is at least one in ten days.

Ibid.—Sasso Ferrato’s valuable picture of the Holy Family (bequeathed to the town by James Clark, of Naples, a native of Inverness) was placed in the hall of the Academy.

1805.—Theatre built. This building was the speculation of a private individual.

Ibid.—Inverness-shire Farmer Society formed for the improvement of agriculture. [There was no meeting of this Society for many years previous to the spring of 1821, when it was revived.]

Ibid.—The interest of a sum of £1500, bequeathed by Baffle Thomas Young, to be paid yearly to the poor and placed under the management of the Kirk Session.

Ibid.—First iron foundry commenced.

1806.—First regular coach to Perth by the Highland road. Mr Suter adds—This coach was soon discontinued, and the present useful establishment was then projected.

Ibid—Poor’s Coal Fund begun. Collected chiefly at the church doors. Mr Suter notes that from the time this fund was started until the time he wrote (1822) £680 had been paid into it.

Ibid.—Buildings of Telford Street begun.

1807.—Gunpowder magazine built at the Long-man. Expense, £250, paid by the Burgh.

From the "Inverness Journal."

The dates at the beginning of each paragraph are the dates of issue of the paper, not of the events chronicled.

August 7, 1807.—On this date was issued the first number of the "Inverness Journal." It bears the imprint as publisher of John Young, bookseller, Inverness, and the price was six-pence per copy, by subscription £1 7s 6d per annum. The paper was issued weekly on Friday. It consists of a well-printed sheet of four pages, five columns to a page. The first leading article begins by referring to the progress that had been made in recent years in all the useful arts in the Northern Counties. "The face of Nature has, by the exertions of some discerning and spirited individuals, happily assumed a different aspect, and new channels of industrious occupation have been opened for the surplus population of the County." The writer trusts "it will be readily admitted that the value of these blessings may be enhanced and more fully appreciated by a more extended knowledge of their nature and effects; and that few sources of general information are better calculated for the attainment of this desirable object than a well-conducted newspaper. Interested," the writer continues, "in everything that relates to the prosperity of a district of country to which we lie under so many obligations, it shall be our earnest desire to introduce into the ‘Inverness Journal’ every topic that may tend to its improvement and advantage." The number is well advertised, chiefly with sales of timber and farms to let. One of the news paragraphs states that a bill has just been passed by the Legislature authorising the distillers in Scotland hereafter to commence working on the 10th of November in each year, instead of the first of October; the date being more convenient than the other with respect to the harvest, the providing of cattle, hiring of servants, &c. A communication appears from Sir George Mackenzie of Coul giving the results of experiments with vaccination on members of his own family. He expresses the conviction that "cowpox, when properly managed, is a perfect safeguard against the most loathsome and pestilential disease to which the human frame is subject."

August 14.—The Inverness-shire Farmer Society met on 7th inst., when office-bearers were elected, the Hon. A. Fraser of Lovat being President, and Mr John Young, bookseller, secretary. The Society met quarterly. The subject set down for discussion at the November meeting was "What is the best rotation of crops for land that has been limed?"

August 21.—Majority of the eldest son of the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford celebrated on 8th inst. A company of 60 dined at Dornoch, Lord Reay in the chair. "Two companies of the Sutherland Volunteers attended and fired volleys after each of the leading toasts." Other five companies of the battalion were entertained on the Links of Golspie.. There was another battalion, the companies of which were entertained in Lord Reay’s county and in Assynt.

Ibid.—"Died here, on the 9th curt., Mr Thomas Hossack, officer of Excise. He was stationed in this place for upwards of 30 years, a circumstance which affords the best proof of his integrity as an officer and of his good conduct as a member of society."

August 28.—Memoir of Colonel Patrick Macleod, of the 78th, who fell commanding a detachment stationed at El Hermet in Egypt to cover the Siege of Rosetta. He was the second son of Donald Macleod of Geanies, Sheriff-Depute of the County of Ross. The memoir is continued through several issues.

Ibid.—"The Highland Society of London have sent Mr Alexander Stewart, the editor of a recent collection of Gaelic poems, on a tour through the Highlands for the purpose of collecting such fragments as are still extant of the poetry, music, and historical tales of the ancient Caledonians. An inquiry into the topography of the dominions of Fingal; of the places of birth, residence, and interment of the Invincible Chief, his warriors, and bards; of the scenes of their exploits; together with the remains of their buildings, tumuli, &c., form also a part of his mission."

September 17.—Thomas Gilzean elected Provost. October 2.—Duncan Munro, on 26th inst., elected  Provost of Fortrose. "After the election Sir Alexander Munro, late Provost, came forward in the most handsome manner, and tendered to the Magistrates and Council £50 sterling to assist in defraying the expense of pipes lately laid for supplying the inhabitants with water."

Ibid.—At the Circuit Court, held on 29th ult., several persons were tried for assaulting Revenue officers, and were sentenced to imprisonment. The following case is also recorded —"James Hogg and others, residenters in Cromarty, were indicted for riotously obstructing the funeral of a person who they supposed had been guilty of suicide, and assaulting the persons attending the funeral. But his lordship, being of opinion that this was a matter more proper to be taken cognisance of by the Sheriff of the County than for trial before the Circuit Court, he remitted the case to the Sheriff of Ross and Cromarty, with power to him to proceed therein."

October 9.—Foundation-stone laid of the bridge across the river Conon, near Dingwall. The ceremony was performed by Sir Rector Mackenzie, attended by a number of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood, and the Dingwall Volunteers.

Ibid.—Sir Charles Ross of Balnagown elected Provost of Tain. Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster elected Provost of Wick.

Ibid.—"On Tuesday, 29th ult., an animal resembling a tiger cat found its way into a house in Invermoriston, which being observed by a woman of the house, who instantly gave the alarm, he sprang towards her with the greatest ferocity, at least sixteen feet, but was prevented from doing her injury by three men who pursued and killed him. A leather collar, with an iron chain about eight inches long, was found round his neck. It is supposed to be the same animal which recently made his escape from Brahan, and is said to have done considerable mischief."

Ibid.—A Caithness correspondent writes as follows:—"With so many incitements to industry and the means of employment afforded by the Caledonian Canal and other public works now carrying on in the North of Scotland, it might naturally be expected that the rage for emigration among the Highlanders should be repressed, if not altogether extinguished. Yet it is to be regretted that within these few days a ship was cleared out of the Custom-house of Thurso for Pictou, in America, with a number of families of these deluded people, consisting of 130 persons in men, women, and children, none of whom were under the necessity of leaving their native country." The Editor adds—-"Most criminal infatuation that can thus lead men to migrate from their native homes into a state of voluntary banishment, peril, and toil the most laborious, to a country where they have not only to toil, but to make the field, the half of which exertion and labour would have made the country they thus abandon pregnant with every blessing." (See below.)

Ibid.—The following obituary notices appear:- "Died, at Nairn, on the 7th curt., Alexander Hay, Esq., depute-lieutenant, and captain of Volunteers in Nairnshire. His merit alone raised him to the most respectable situation in that county, and afforded him the exercise of a mind truly benevolent. He is much and will be long regretted.—"Died, at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on the 10th July, Thomas Carnaby, there, son of William Carnaby. merchant in Forres; beloved, respected, and regretted by all who knew him."

October 16 and 23.—Notices of the Northern Meeting, which began on Monday, 12th inst., and lasted for the week. It is noted that the Duchess of Gordon was not present, and that Lord Seaforth, who had been unwell, was not sufficiently recovered to attend.

October 30.—"A few days ago at a marriage in Kirkhill, the mother of the bridegroom, who was 96 years old, was so elevated on the occasion that she sang and danced, and entertained the company with 80 years old stories, and would have no other music than the Highland bagpipe, which she said was always the music that Lord Lovat and the lairds of her day danced to on similar occasions."

November 6.—Very heavy rains, causing floods, and corn carried away. From the scarcity of fodder and general failure of the turnip crop, black cattle had become of little value. "A tolerable milk cow may be had for from three to four pounds." A storm followed of great severity.

November 13.—Heavy fall of snow and intense frost. Harvest not all gathered in.

Ibid.—Proposal to obtain Royal Charter for the Northern Association of Gentlemen Farmers and Breeders of Sheep, to extend to the counties of Inverness, Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness.

Ibid.—The Inverness Farmer Society, on previous Friday, held a ploughing match at Drakies. Fifteen ploughs competed. "The first premium was assigned to James Elliot, servant to Mr Fraser-Tytler of Aldourie; the second to Murdoch Macgregor, servant to Mr Shaw at HoIm; the third to John Macbean, servant to Mr Mackintosh of Holm; and the fourth to Gordon Watson, also servant to Mr Fraser-Tytler. It may be mentioned as worthy of notice that the plough used by Murdoch Macgregor was made by himself, though he never was bred to the cart-wright business."

Ibid.—"Died, at the Manse of Dyke, on the 6th curt., the Rev. John Dunbar, in the 71st year of his age and 45th of his ministry."

November 20.—Notice of the erection of a pier at Broadford, Skye, through the spirited exertions of Lord Macdonald.

Ibid.—"The large and beautiful basin of the Caledonian Canal has for some time been frozen over, and has afforded a delightful field of exercise and amusement to skaters."

Ibid.—"The total number of roads now formed and forming in the Highlands amount to forty, containing nearly one thousand miles of extent." Passages from the annual report of the Commission of Roads and Bridges appeared in several issues before this date.

December 25.—"The estate of Cradlehall, consisting of ninety acres arable, fifty-seven acres young planting, and nine acres pasture, which was advertised for sale in this paper, at the upset price of £4275 10s, has been purchased by Charles Grant, Esq., M.P., for £7950. Its commanding situation and other natural advantages render it capable of being made a most delightful place of residence. This property was originally a pendicle of the lands of Castle-hill, which were purchased in the year 1788 for £9000; and it may not be deemed unworthy of remark that the whole except two lots, valued at £12,000, has been sold for the sum of £44,000, so that this estate, without having undergone any material improvement. has been enhanced upwards of six times in 20 years."

Ibid.—A correspondent at Thurso communicated the following distressing intelligence —"We have just received; the melancholy accounts of the loss of the brig Rambler, of Leith, James Norris, master, cleared out at this port in September last for Pictou with emigrants. They left Stromness the 1st of October, and on the 29th of the same month were totally wrecked near the Bay of Bulls, in Newfoundland. When the ship left this port she had on board 130 passengers; the crew consisted of 14 seamen, besides the Captain and Surgeon. Of these, the only survivors are three passengers. the second mate, and four seamen; so that, melancholy to relate, 138 persons have perished on this unfortunate voyage."

Ibid.—"The King has been pleased to present the Rev. David Brichan, Doctor in Divinity, to the Church of the united parishes of Dyke and Moy, vacant by the death of Mr Jobn Dunbar, late minister there."

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