NOTES on the Parish of
Gairloch, from the "Old Statistical Account," being an Extract from "The
Statistical Account of Scotland, drawn up from the Communications of the
Ministers of the different parishes, by Sir John Sinclair, Bart.," vol.
iii., page 89, printed in 1792.
"PARISH OF GAIRLOCH.
"By the Rev. Mr Daniel
Extent, &c.—This parish had its name originally from a very small loch,
near the church and the house of Flowerdale, and so close by the shore
that the sea at high tides covers it. The etymology of it is abundantly
clear, and signifies in the Gaelic language a short contracted loch.
"The parish of Gairloch is
situated in the county of Ross, in the presbytery of Lochcarron, and synod
of Glenelg. Its length is no less than thirty-two miles English, and its
breadth about eighteen.
Soil.—This country resembles many other parts of the
Highlands of Scotland. The valleys are surrounded with hills, that afford
good pasture to different kinds of cattle. As the parish abounds in hills
and mossy ground, the arable parts of it are consequently but of a small
extent. When the season is favourable, the crops are by no means bad, yet
they scarcely serve the inhabitants above seven or eight months. The
potatoes the farmers plant, and the fish they catch, contribute much to
their support. This country, and all the West coast, are supplied in the
summer with meal by vessels that come from different ports at a distance,
such as Caithness, Murray, Peterhead, Banff, Aberdeen, Greenock, &c, and,
at an average, sell the boll, consisting of eight stones, at 16s., and,
when provisions are high, at 18s. and upwards.
"Rivers and Antiquities.—There
are many rivers in this parish, but no bridges nor passage but by horses;
and therefore, when these rivers overflow their banks, which often happens
in the winter and spring seasons, and sometimes even in summer, travellers
are detained, and are exposed to delays and additional ex-pences. There
are two large rivers near the east end of this parish, which meet and run
into one at Kenlochew, which, in the Earse language, imports the Head of
the Loch-River. These two rivers empty themselves into Loch-Mari. This
loch again is twelve computed miles in length, and more in some parts than
a mile in breadth. There are twenty-four small islands in it, which are
beautified with fir trees, and a variety of other kinds of wood; in one of
these islands there is an antient burying-place, called Isleand-Mari,
where the people on the north side of the loch still continue to bury
their dead. There is a well in it of a salubrious quality, the water of
which hath been found, for ages past, very serviceable to many diseased
persons. The remains of a Druidical temple is likewise to be seen in this
"Fish.—Gairloch has been for many ages famous for the cod-fishing. Sir
Hector M'Kenzie of Gairloch, the present proprietor, sends to market
annually, upon an average, betwixt 30,000 and 40,000 cod, exclusive of the
number with which the country people serve themselves. Gairloch hath also,
from time immemorial, been remarkable for the herring-fishing. The coast
of this parish abounds in very safe harbours for vessels of all
"Agriculture.—Oats and barley are sown in this country. Some of the
gentlemen sow a small quantity of pease, which, when the harvest is warm
and dry, yield profitable returns; our time of sowing oats, black and
white, is commonly from the middle of March to the end of April, within
which period we also plant potatoes; we sow barley from the beginning of
May to the ioth of June ; our latest barley is seldom the worst part of
the crop, when the summer proves warm and showery. Our harvest commences
about the end of August, and the crop is gathered in about the ioth of
October. Our crop frequently suffers much from shaking winds, attended
with heavy cold rain, about the autumnal equinox.
"Diseases.—No peculiar local
distemper of any kind is prevalent in this parish. Fevers are frequent;
sometimes they are of a favourable kind; at other times they continue
long, and carry off great numbers. An infectious and putrid fever, early
in winter last, made its way from the north over a long tract of different
countries, and proved fatal to many.
"Population.—There were in this parish, in the year
1774, of examinable persons about two thousand. And from that period to
the present there is an increase of two hundred souls and upwards. In Dr
Webster's report the number was two thousand and fifty. There are a few
people in the parish at the age of eighty-six and eighty-seven. Two died
lately who arrived at the age of an hundred years.
"Character of the People.—They
are in general sobre, regular, industrious, and pious. They have always
been remarked and esteemed for their civility and hospitality to
"School.—In the great extent of this parish, as hath been already
observed, there is no school but the parochial, by which means the rising
generation suffer much and are wholly neglected, having no access to the
benefit of instruction. There are only two catechists, who have their
appointments partly in the skirts of this and partly of the two
"Church.—All the people of every denomination are of
the Established Church; there are no Dissenters, Seceders, nor any other
kind of sect whatever in the parish. The church of this parish has stood
more than a century, but has for some years past been in a ruinous
situation, and was therefore taken down this summer, and a new elegant
church is building. There are three places of public worship in the
parish, exclusive of the churcn, viz., Kenlochew, Chapel of Sand, and the
croft of Jolly. The church and manse are at the distance of six English
miles from each other. The manse is very near the shore, on the north of
the church, and supposed to be in the centre of the parish. The value of
the living,. exclusive of the glebe, and including the expence allowed for
communion elements, is only ^58, 6s. 9jd. There are five heritors in the
parish, viz., Sir Hector M'Kenzie of Gairloch, Baronet, John M'Kenzie of
Gruinord, John M'Kenzie of Letterew, Roderick M'Kenzie of Kernsary, and
Colonel M'Kenzie of Coul, who is at present in the East Indies; all the
rest reside in the parish.
"Rent.—The land-rent cannot be ascertained with
accuracy. It may probably be about £1700 per annum.
of the poor in this as well as in many other Highland parishes is daily
increasing. There are eighty-four upon the kirk-session roll, besides some
other indigent persons, who, though not inroiled, yet are considered as
objects of sympathy. They have the annual collections made in the church,
with the interest of £20, distributed among them. The collections, upon an
average, are about £6, 7s.
"Language.—The Gaelic is the prevailing language in
this as well as in several other corners of the West coast, where the
people have no opportunity of learning English."