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Statistical Accounts of Scotland

Caithness

Old and New Statistical Accounts

ReayThursoOlrigDunnetCaanisbayBowerWickWattenHalkirkLaatheron

Bower (V7, P521) Latheron (V17, P19) Watten (V11, P259)
Canisbay (V8, P142) Olrick (V12, P156) Wick (V10, P1)
Dunnet (V11,P243) Reay (V7, P570)  
Halkirk (V19, P1) Thurso (V20, P493) blank

The opportunity afforded by Google Books to quote extracts from books on their site has been taken here, so that the text below is that of the actual accounts rather than a summary - in one or two places a summary is provided in italics. The NSA accounts can be accessed on Google Books here; the volumes in which the OSA accounts appear are given above under each parish and can be accessed here.

The maps below are from the 1923 quarter-inch OS Map, sheet 7, with thanks to the Ordnance Survey.

Additional information about parishes can be found on the Vision of Britain site and Scotlands Places.

See George Watson, Roads and Tracks through Local History (Caithness Community Website) for more details of Caithness roads.

Bower

OSA No particular mention of roads

NSA No particular mention of roads

 

 

 

 

 

 


Canisbay
OSA
Roads, Inns, Traffic etc.—The public roads in the parish are those leading from Huna to Wick and Thurso, both lying along the coast, the one in a southerly, and the other in a westerly direction. They have never been completed, and are very uncomfortable in the winter. A third from Huna, leading into the middle of the country by Brabster, would be a great conveniency to other parishes, as well as to Canisbay.
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Tippling houses are by far too numerous in the parish : they have undoubtedly a bad influence on the industry, as well as morals of the people. Three, besides the ferry houses, are all that ought to be allowed. From Huna, the ferry boat crosses with the mails for Orkney once a week. From Burwick in South Ronaldsay, the Orkney mails in like manner cross to Huna. The distance there, being the shortest betwixt Caithness and Orkney, is reckoned 4 leagues in extent. If a passenger goes along with the mails, the freight is 1s.; but if he hires the ferry boat for himself, it is 7s.
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In the summer season, there is almost a continued communication betwixt Caithness and Orkney, in the traffic of horses. Colts from the highlands of Caithness, from Sutherland and Strathnaver are sold to Orkney ; and these very colts, when past their prime, are again brought from Orkney, and re-imported into Caithness. By far the greatest number of these cross to and from the shores of Canisbay on account of the shortness of the passage. Large boats are made for transporting them ; and the freight of each colt is Is., and a full grown horse is 8d. to the nearest land. There are 2 petty markets in the parish, in the course of a year, one in December, and the other in February.
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Mention of John O Groat in the time of James IV being proprietor of ferry to Orkney.

NSA
Parochial Economy. Market-towns, etc.—There is no market-town in the parish. Wick is the market-town of the east end of the parish, being sixteen miles and a-half distant from the church, and ten miles from the nearest boundary; and Thurso, of the west end of the parish, being eighteen miles from the church and twelve miles from the nearest boundary.

There are two post-offices, one at Mey and one at Huna. From the last mentioned, the mail-boat with the Orkney bags crosses the frith three times a week: but, by a recent arrangement, it is intended to cross every lawful day. The distance from Huna to the landing place in Orkney is twelve miles, and the freight of the boat is 10s.; but a passenger going along with the mails pays only Is. To Huna the mail is conveyed daily from Wick in a gig; and to Mey there is a runner from Thurso post-office every lawful day ; between Mey and Huna post-offices, a distance of five miles, there is no communication.

Roads.— The length of good and passable turnpike road in the parish is twelve miles. An old road that runs for a considerable distance parallel to the new line, and which passes through the inhabited parts of the parish, is principally used by the parishioners, though in a total state of disrepair. By the Act of Parliament that authorized the new line, the old line also is appointed to be kept in repair, but, I believe, want of funds has hitherto prevented this most desirable object from being carried into effect. A cross road through Brabstermire is very much needed to give the inhabitants access to the middle of the county. The roads in this parish, as in Caithness, generally present the rather anomalous fact of being almost all parallel to each other, with scarcely a single connecting cross road.

Fairs.—Two small markets for the sale of horses, cattle, and swine are held in the parish - one in February at Freswick, and the other in December at Canisbay.

Inns and Ale-houses.—There are no less than six inns, which have a pernicious influence on the morals and industry of the people. Half the number would be more than sufficient for all useful purposes. Indeed, Huna inn may be said to be the only one indispensably necessary.

Fuel.—The only fuel is peat and turf from the mosses, which appear to be inexhaustible. The only expense incurred is the labour necessary for cutting, drying, and carrying the fuel home.


Dunnet
OSA
No particular mention of roads.

NSA
The parish, with a trifling exception betwixt Dunnet and Brough, is well provided with roads......

Parochial Economy. Market-Towns, etc.—Thurso and Wick are the market-towns. There is nothing that can be called a village in the parish. Thurso is nine miles from Dunnet church. A sub-office to Thurso was established in 1839. There is no post-office at present. It is hoped this grievance will soon be remedied. There is one good and safe harbour at Ham, built at Mr Traill's expense. There are three landing places for boats at Dunnet, Brough, and Scarffskerry. A slip has been built at Brough, at the expense of the Commissioners for Northern Lights, for landing their stores. Here a good harbour could be formed. Nothing has been done at Dunnet or Scarffskerry to aid nature.

Fairs.—There are four fairs or markets held in the parish annually for the sale of cattle, horses, sheep, &c, viz. one at Dunnet, first Tuesday of April, and the great market at the same place, on Tuesday, after 15th August, old style, which lasts two days, and is well attended. There is another on the first Tuesday of October, old style; and the Reaster market, third Tuesday of October, old style.

Fuel.—The fuel used is nearly altogether peats: it is of easy access, and good quality. The expense of it is not easily ascertained. A large cart load sells for 2s. Coals are imported at the neighbouring harbour of Castlehill, but little is used.


Halkirk
OSA
The writer notes that bad weather makes it difficult to make roads and keep them in good condition as they deteriorate very quickly. He refers to the influence Sir John Sinclair had had in road building and hopes that the laudable exertions of the county will eventually result in good roads.
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There are no bridges worth noticing on any of these waters, (only one on the Thurso), which is the occasion of great inconveniency to the inhabitants of this parish in particular, and to the country in general, and no less so to strangers and travellers from other countries.

He says this bridge is quite old and so well built that it has withstood severe floods. While it is a great advantage, there needs to be more bridges.

It was projected by Sir George Sinclair of Clyth, one of Sir John Sinclair's predecessors, for the accommodation of his tenants in the neighbourhood, (who are numerous), and of the country at large, and he left and consigned a sum for the execution of it. It was accordingly undertaken and executed by John Sinclair of Ulbster, Esq; Sir John Sinclair's grandfather, who, to the original sum destined for that purpose, added liberally out of his own funds. It stands in the near neighbourhood of the church, at the distance of 6 miles from the town of Thurso, and consists of 3 arches.

Before I close this article, I should mention another water, which runs only through a small part of this parish, at the extremities of it, and is next in bigness to the last mentioned, I mean the water or river of Forss. It is a very rapid and dangerous water, especially in time of speat, abounds with excellent trout, and a considerable number of Salmon are fished in it every year; a few years ago there was a very good bridge built upon it, at a place in the parish of Reay, and very few waters in the country need it more.
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It is only of late years also that carts began to be used. Now the great advantage of them is seen and felt, and the use of them is daily becoming more and more general.
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As to black cattle, I believe, that, communibus annis, about 1000 of them are sold between the butcher and the drover.

NSA
Antiquities ......A third of these ruined chapels, St Magnus, said to have been founded by the same individual who was the originator and the benefactor of the Kirkwall Cathedral, is at a place called Spittal.......Here was the cemetery of the clan Gunn, at one time a powerful and a warlike race, who inhabited the mountainous parts of this county, as well as the Kildonan district of the Sutherland county, and who, notwithstanding the high mountains, the many mosses and morasses which intervene to render the journey tedious and laborious, are said to have carried their dead, especially the remains of their chiefs and principal men, from the glens of the Crask and Knockfinn, in order to be interred in the Chapel of Spittal.
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Great numbers of (flagstones) are annually exported to Leith, Aberdeen, &c.
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The nearest market-town is Thurso, which is about seven miles from the parish church.

Means of Communication.—There are three roads through the parish by which people can travel to Thurso; these are not finished to the different extremities of the parish. They have been made within the last three years on Macadam's principles, and are in very good repair. An annual market is held in the village of Halkirk on the Tuesday before the 26th December. Its name is St Magnus; it is not much attended. Another annual market is held within two miles of the church. The site of this market is the hill of Ruggy, which is partly in this parish, and partly in the parishes of Thurso and Bower. The market is principally a cattle one ; the situation is centrical; and people from all parts of the county can conveniently attend. Five roads may be said to lead to the place where it is held: one from Thurso, one through Bower and Watten, one from Wick, one from Latheron, and one through this parish.

There are two bridges on the river of Halkirk; one at the village not more than a quarter of a mile from the church. It was built in 1731, consists of three arches, and is very convenient and useful. It has of late undergone considerable repairs, and, if no unforeseen accident happen, it may stand for centuries to come. The other bridge is at Dale, five miles farther up the river than the Halkirk bridge. It contains two arches, each thirty feet span. It is quite new, having been finished in 1834. There is also a timber bridge in the Mission at Dirlot. It is intended for the convenience of people coming to hear preaching at the Mission-house, and is equally convenient for general and ordinary communication.

There is a mile of turnpike road passing through a corner of the parish, and the mail-coach passes through this part of the parish twice every day, but the inhabitants do not enjoy the benefit of it, for all letters for the parish are carried to Thurso, and sometimes lie there a day or two before they are brought to the Bridge-end of Halkirk, to which there is a penny-bag thrice a week. This is kept up at an expense of L. 9,—a much greater expenditure than could be incurred were there a bag with all letters for the parish left at one or other of the houses in that part of the parish through which the mail passes. Besides this mile of turnpike, there are three branches of county road,—the whole making an aggregate of about fifteen miles.

Ecclesiastical State.— There is a missionary employed in the most distant parts of the parish.....The missionary has three preaching stations—one at Achrenny in this parish; one at Halsary in the parish of Watten; and the third at Halladale in the parish of Reay. To the Halsary district there is attached a part of the parish of Latheron. The population in this parish within the bounds of the mission is 784; these are very much scattered, and are often prevented from attending the missionary's preaching by the river and other streams, which, especially during the winter and spring, are so much swollen.... Is it to be supposed that a minister can administer religious instruction to a population of at least 2500, scattered over the remote parts of three parishes, and the greater number of the distant glens and valleys in the high and mountainous districts of the county of Caithness? Here is committed to the pastoral superintendence of a missionary a boundary, the extremes of which, by a practicable road, are from forty to fifty miles distant from one another. The distance, however, is the least of the obstructions in the missionary's way, and of the difficulties he has to encounter in the discharge of his highly important duties: there are moors, mosses, and quaking fens which disjoin one valley from another, and which make it impossible, except by circuitous routes, to pass from glen to glen during the winter and spring months.

Inns.— In the village of Halkirk there are three inns, and four in other parts of the parish.

Fuel .—There is great abundance of moss in every part of the parish, from which the inhabitants have an excellent supply of peats, the only fuel used in the parish. Every farmer is allowed to cut as many peats on his landlord's property as he requires, and, as farmers either cut and bring home their own peats, or employ their servants in doing so, the expense is very little, and seldom thought of, as the people have more time than money.

General Observations.— ....The new roads lately made, and those intended to be made, as soon as an increase in the funds at the disposal of the trustees permits, will, in the course of some years, enable landlords and tenants to carry on improvements, which must convince almost every one how little has yet been done of what it is possible to accomplish.

Drawn up in 1834, Revised 1840.


Latheron
OSA
Roads.
The principal, or only proper road from the south to Caithness and Orkney, along the Ord of Caithness, which divides Caithness from Sutherland, passes through this parish. This road, when it comes within a mile of the minister's house, divides itself into two roads, the one passing along the sea-side to Wick, and the other crossing the country by the Causaymire towards Thurso.

As an act of Parliament has lately been obtained to convert the statute labour into money, it is to be expected that good roads and bridges, of which there is much need, will be the happy consequence. The want of harbours is a very great disadvantage. There is not a proper one from Cromarty to Orkney. And the want of proper markets for the productions of the parish is another.
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As the boundaries between Caithness and Sutherland lie in this parish, it may not be improper to give the following account of them, as inserted in M'Farlane's Geographical Collections, (A. M S. in the Advocates Library) vol. I p. 198, where there is a description of the parish of Latheron.

  "The hill of the Ord is that which divides Sutherland and Caithness. The march is a small rivulet, called the Burn of the Ord, which takes its rise from some springs, near the top of the hill. The south side of the hill is very steep, sloping all along to the top of a rock, which is many fathoms high. 'Cross the south side of this hill is the common passage to and from this country. The road hath not been so very dangerous as at first view it would appear to the traveller, for the whole face of the hill to the top of the rock has been covered with heath, so that though a person's foot might slip, he was not in great danger; but whether through moor burning, or some other accident, it hath happened some few years ago, that the heath was all burnt, and now it looks more frightful than formerly, but the road, by the pains of Sir James Sinclair of Dunbeath, is made so broad that 3 horses can conveniently ride it abreast. A little to the east of the Burn of the Ord, which is the march, there is a pleasant green moat, called the Dunglass, as high as the top of the rock. Since the heath was burnt, passengers, who observe, may see the vestiges of a ditch, digged up from the said Dun, all along the top of the rock, until it come to a burn, near the top os the Ord, called Aultnuder, a small rivulet rising from the morasses about a mile above the top of the foresaid rock. The top of the Ord is large 9 miles of bad road to the south-west of the church."

This seems to put the matter beyond all doubt, in addition to which it may be observed, that the mountain of the Ord is expressly included in the charters of Langwell.

The people of Sutherland are ready to acknowledge that the burn of the Ord is the boundary, but some in the neighbourhood pretend, that they have acquired a servitude of common over the ground in the neighbourhood, though situated in the county of Caithness. But it seems impossible that charters, restricted to lands in the county of Sutherland, can be the means o£ acquiring even a right of common, over lands in another county, that of Caithness.

The Burn of the Ord is certainly the natural division between the two counties ; and until the roads were made, the cattle and sheep of Sutherland could hardly get into Caithness at that place.

When the roads were made, it was agreed by both parties to begin at the burn of the Ord, as the point of division between the two counties. The point was incidentally decided at the Circuit Court, when the bridge was ordered to be built over the Burn of the Ord, as being the boundary.

NSA
Market-Town.— There is no market-town in the parish. The nearest to it is Wick, the county town, which is at the medium distance of twenty miles. Several villages have been projected, but none of them have yet arisen to any consequence except Lybster, which contains many excellent houses, and a population of fully 400 individuals. Several new buildings are now in progress, and many of the inhabitants are very respectable. It was commenced by the late proprietor, Lieutenant-General Sinclair, in 1802; but it is only within the last twenty years that the spirit of improvement has been particularly called forth. It is now a rising place, and evidently promises to be of considerable consequence at no very distant period, should the herring-fishing continue to flourish, of which there is every prospect.

Means of Communication .—There are two post-offices in the parish, viz. Dunbeath and Lybster, the former of old establishment, and the latter more recent.

The great north road runs from one extremity of the parish to the other, a distance of twenty-eight miles along the coast, and is of immense importance in facilitating the means of communication. The mail-coach from Inverness to Thurso has continued to run since the completion of this road, about twenty-two years ago. The weekly communication by steam from Leith and Aberdeen to Wick and Orkney, has considerably lessened the number of passengers by the coach.

The bridges along the Parliamentary and county roads are kept in excellent repair.

Fairs.— There are four fairs held in the parish for general purposes, two at Dunbeath and two at Lybster, during the year.

Inns .—There are not fewer than 26 public-houses, for retailing spirits, &c. in the parish, when six would have been quite sufficient for every necessary purpose.

Fuel.— Almost all the fuel used consists of peats. The expense attending its manufacture and carriage makes it ultimately very little cheaper than coal; only, it is more convenient, being always at hand.
October 1840.


Olrick
OSA
No particular mention of roads.

NSA
...The inhabitants of London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other towns are now reaping the benefit of pavement exported from this parish.....

...easy access to the southern markets by the aid of steam-vessels......

Parochial Economy.—The parish is well accommodated with roads. The county line, from Thurso to Wick, passes through it, and there is no deficiency of cross-roads. There is a daily post between Castletown and Thurso; and a regular carrier to Wick.

Fairs.—There are three annual fairs held in the parish, in March, June, and November, for the sale and purchase of cattle.

Inns.—There are two in the parish, which are well kept, but one would be fully sufficient for the accommodation required by travellers.

Fuel.—Moss is not very abundant in this parish; but there is now an abundant supply of English coal to be had at the village of Castletown : it is conveyed in vessels that are constantly arriving at Castlehill for cargoes of pavement.

October 1840.


Reay
OSA
Produce etc .—The exports are in general bear, oatmeal, beef, mutton, pork, geese, hens, butter, cheese, tallow, malt, whiskey, to the market of Thurso;— black cattle, sold to drovers from the south;—horse colts sent to Orkney,—lambs; to the lowlands; —geese, sometimes to Sutherland and Ross;—as also hides, skins, goose-quills and other feathers.

There are in this parish 181 ploughs, and 92 carts.

Public Houses.—Little ale is drunk in the parish excepting in private houses. There are three inns or public houses wherein whiskey is retailed, and travellers are accommodated, but not very comfortably for the better sort. The hospitality of the parish supplies the public instead of elegant inns.

NSA
Antiquities......Along the Halladale strath are the remains of several circular towers, about 60 or 70 feet in diameter. The walls are thick, and artfully built of large stones, without mortar. They do not seem to have been intended for dwelling places, nor is it easy to determine to what purposes they were appropriated, unless it was for beacons, or watch-towers, —which is most probable, as they stand in sight of each other.

Parochial Economy.— The nearest market-town is Thurso, which is eleven miles distant. The only village is New Reay. A mail-coach runs between Thurso and Tongue, and passes here every alternate day; and there is a post-office at Reay and at Melvich. A very neat and commodious harbour has lately been built in the bay of Sandside by Major Innes, on which upwards of L. 3000 have already been expended. While it encourages and promotes trade and commerce, it is also of great advantage to the herringfishing.

Fairs.—Two fairs are held at the cross of New Reay, one in the beginning of September, and the other in the end of December ; but very little business is transacted at either.

Inns.—There are four inns or public-houses-; but we are happy to state, that the people are now so far alive to the evils of whisky-drinking, and the poverty and misery attendant on intemperance, as to frequent them but very seldom.

Fuel.—The fuel commonly made use of is peat . Every one cuts and prepares this for himself.
July 1840.


Thurso
OSA
The weekly markets are held on Friday, instead of Saturday, the day appointed by the charter of erection; and of the stated yearly fairs, that on St Peter's Day is the only one which is kept, but the want of the other three is fully compensated, by a great fair called the Marymas Market, which begins about the latter end of August, and continues for ten days. Merchants, shopkeepers, and chapmen, from various parts of Scotland, resort to this fair, with goods to a large amount. It is also a market for horses, butter, cheese, linen-cloth, and yarn, and other commodities of the growth, produce, and manufacture, of the country. But, of late years, since the merchants in the town have extended their trade, and enlarged their shops, and increased the number of articles they deal in, this market has not been so much frequented by strangers as formerly.

Poor.—There are a great many beggars and indigent people in this parish, not only natives of it, but persons who, falling off in their circumstances, resort to the town of Thurso, from the districts in the neighbourhood.

Post-Office.—The postmaster of Thurso's allowance for salary and expence of runners to and from Dunbeath, is L. 47, 4 s. yearly. After defraying this expence, he remitted to the General Post-Office at Edinburgh, for the year ending 1796, the sum of L. 210, 19 s. of clear revenue, exclusive of the postages of letters sent in byebags. At present there are only three posts in the week, to and from Thurso; but the gentlemen of the town and county have it in contemplation to apply for a daily post, which has been lately extended so far north as Dornoch, in the county of Sutherland.

Coasting Trade.—The coasting trade of the port of Thurso has been gradually increasing for the last 20 years, and is now pretty considerable. It employs about 11,500 tons of (hipping, including the repeated voyages of the different vessels. Of these, 6000 tons, or thereby, are employed in the carriage of goods coastwise from the port, and about 5500 tons in carrying goods coastwise to the port.

Supply of Fuel.—The fuel most generally used in Thurso is peat and turf; but, of late years, coal has become the favourite fire with the better fort of people, and every year increases the importation of coals to Thurso; and though, notwithstanding the exemption from duty, it still sells as high, nay, higher than when the duty was paid, yet such is the advanced price of peats, that such of the inhabitants as use coal, find it the cheaper firing of the two; and in all probability, a few years more, will bring coals into general use in town.

Inns.—There are two very good inns in town ; and the one having been lately set up, in opposition to the other, has begot an emulation, and a spirit of rivalship in both, which operates favourably to the traveller and the public. Mr Morrison, the senior innkeeper, is just now finishing a large assembly room, which he has added to his house, which will surpass any thing of the kind to the northward of Inverness. The dimensions are 37 feet long, by 18s feet wide, and 16 feet in height. This innkeeper isdeserving of encouragement from the public, aud he meets with it.
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The road, at present, from Skinnet to Thurso is not very good, but it might be completed at a small expence.
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The want of a bridge across the river is a great inconveniency, both to the town and the surrounding county; but without public aid, there is little prospect of getting that inconvenience removed. Two plans have been proposed for erecting a bridge over this river; one of timber, and the other of stone. The timber bridge was intended to be 363 feet long, and the estimate of the expence was L. 211, 16 s. A plan of the stone bridge was drawn up by that excellent engineer, John Rennie, Esq; of New Surrey Street, London, and the following was the estimate he drew up :
To 30 roods of mason-work in the wing walls and spandrills, at L.7 per rood, - L.210
To 15 roods in piers and abuttments, at L.8.8s. - L.126
To 6588 cubic feet of stone-work in arches, at 5d - L.135.11.8
To 6 2/3 roods of parapet, with coping, at L.10.16s. - L.72
To digging the foundations, and filling up the spaces between the wing walls and arches,- L.74.10
To 2 centres, - L.60.12
To foot paving, - L.15
To pumping water from the foundations, and sundries, - L.62
L755.13.8

NSA
Quarries.—There are in this parish several slate, freestone, and whinstone quarries. The slate quarries have been for some years extensively worked, and the flags which they furnish have been exported to London, Newcastle, and Glasgow, and other cities and towns in England and Scotland, where they have been used for pavement. About 250 men are employed in dressing these flags.

Means of Communication.—The ordinary means of communication are enjoyed by the parish. There are good roads and a daily mail-coach to and from the south. Three times a week there is a coach between Thurso and Tongue. There are two sailing vessels from Thurso to Leith, and, except during the winter months, there is weekly a steam-boat from Wick to Leith. To Wick, which is twenty-one miles from Thurso, the mail-coach travels daily, performing the journey in two hours and a half.

Thurso is a post-town, and has a daily dispatch and arrival to and from the south. It is itself the most northern post-town in Great Britain. There is a post three times a week to and from Tongue and the places intervening, on the west, and a daily post to and from Castleton and Dunnet on the east.

The turnpike road along the coast of the parish from east to west is eight miles and a half long, of which three miles are to the east of the town, and five miles and a half to the west . Besides this road, there is the mail-road to the south, which traverses about six miles of this parish. There is also another road to the west of the mailroad, and almost parallel to it, on the west side of the river, leading from Thurso to the village of Halkirk. There are only four miles of this road in this parish. From this road, another road branches off to the west, about two miles from Thurso, and joins the coast-road at Reay. Of this branch, there are about two miles and a half in this parish, besides the two miles from Thurso to the point at which it branches off.

The only public carriage which travels through the parish is the mail to and from the south, and to and from the west, as already stated.

There are several bridges in the parish, and all in good condition. The principal is that over the river Thurso, at the entrance to the town from the south and east. This bridge is a very large and substantial and ornamental one. It was not in existence at the time of Sir John Sinclair's Account, in which much is said of the great inconvenience felt by the want of a bridge. It is difficult to imagine now, how this want could have been so long borne.

There is a harbour at Thurso at the mouth of the river, where vessels of twelve feet draught land and lie in safety. Scrabster Roads, within the bay of Thurso, distant about a mile from the town, affords good and safe anchorage for vessels of any size; and it is at present in contemplation to erect a pier there.

Fairs.— There are three fairs held in the parish, the Petersmas, in the end of June; the Georgemas, in July; and the Marymas, in the beginning of September. They are intended chiefly for the sale of cattle and sheep.

Inns and Alehouses.— There are 2 or 3 inns and about 30 alehouses in the parish. These last cannot but have an injurious effect ; but it is hoped both their number and their influence are decreasing.

Fuel.—A good deal of English coal is used in the town of Thurso; but many of the town's people, and all the people in the country, with a few exceptions, consume nothing but peats. These are to be found in abundance in the parish; and the tenants have a right to take of them at no other cost but that of the time and labour, (which, however, are considerable,) required for casting them and carrying them home.

October 1840.


Watten
OSA
Fuel.—The labouring being ended, the next work which comes on, is to make provision for winter firing. We have fuel in great abundance, and of an excellent quality. Cutting, winning, and carrying home their peats, however, consumes a great deal of time, notwithstanding they be at no great distance from them, most places having ready access to the adjacent moors and commons. Their labour, in this respect, however, will become less, as they now begin to use carts even for that purpose. As yet they are, in general, of a very trifling kind, though, at the same time, tolerably well adapted to the size of their cattle; and the principal use made of them, is to carry out their dung in the bear-feed season. Amongst the gentlemen and more substantial farmers, carts of a very good size are used; some drawn by horses, others by 2 oxen, and applied to all the purposes of farming and carriages.

NSA
A wonderful stimulus has been given to agriculture, and the rearing of improved stock in this parish, as well as others in the county, by the easy access to the southern markets, opened up by steam within these few years, for fat cattle and sheep, a great number of which are now annually shipped to Leith, Newcastle, and London.

There are no market or other towns in the parish. The nearest market-town is Wick, distant eight miles.

Means of Communication.—The means of communication enjoyed by the parish are, one post-office, (at the bridge of Watten), being a sub-office to Wick, twenty miles of turnpike roads, (along seven miles of which the mail passes daily, and a carrier twice a week), and various bridges, all of inconsiderable size, excepting two at Watten and Dunn.

Fairs.—The following are held in the parish, for the sale of horses, cattle, sheep, and other stock, for hiring servants, and other purposes of markets generally. 1. Roodsmass, on the first Tuesday of May, (old style); 2. Roodsmass, on the third Tuesday of September, O. S.; 3. Wester Market, on the last Tuesday of October; 4. Magnusmass, on the last Tuesday of December. Also three cattle-trysts, on the first Mondays of July, August, and September, on the Hill of Backless.

Inns.—There are 4 of these, being three more than the public accommodation requires. They receive almost no countenance from the people of the parish.

Fuel.—The fuel almost universally used is peat or turf, procured from the peat-bogs, with which the parish abounds, at an expense of about 6d. per cart load, exclusive of carriage.
October 1840.


Wick
OSA
The extent of the sea coast is more than double the number of miles, that the public road passing in a direct line can measure. The shortest road to the ferries to the Orkney islands, being evidently by Wick, and not by Thurso, a regulation took place, in 1791, by which the course of the Orkney post was altered, so that it now goes by the former, instead of the latter, town.

Cattle.—The county at large, as well as this parish in particular, abounds with black cattle; considerable numbers of which young and old are purchased by drovers at from 40 s. to 50 s. per head, and are driven to Falkirk, Edinburgh, and England. It is here asserted, that the shore or lowland, drive fully as well as the highland, cattle. Horse coupers or dealers buy up in summer all the year-old garron stags or colts they can find, which they send over to Orkney; and sell with profit. These the Orkney men, after keeping and working for 3 or 4 years, resell when full grown, perhaps at double the price, according to their age and appearance; so that when they are brought back to Caithness, the farmer must give such a price for them that he pays for their keeping in Orkney, more than they would have cost had they remained in Caithness. These horses, called here garrons, are a small breed, between 4 and 4 1/2 feet high, very hardy, requiring little care, and living in winter on fodder with little or no corn.

Carts.—The use of carts has been only of late years introduced into this country; and they are as yet far from being so generally used, as every good fanner would wish. The tenants carry home their peats, and some lead their corn, in what they call crubans. They carry their victual in straw creels called cassies, made very compactly of long oat straw woven with small twisted ropes of rushes, and fixed over straw flets on the horses backs with a clubber and straw ropes.—When a call comes to ship the master's victual, some scores of the garrons or small horses above described are sent out by the tenants, tied to one another by the tail, with a cassie of meal or bear on either side of every horse. A boll of meal or half a boll of bear is all the load each can carry in this miserable mode of conveyance.

Fuel.—As to fuel, some parts of the parish abound with moss grounds, which furnish the contiguous farmers with plenty of peats. Other places, particularly the town of Wick, lie two or three miles distant from moss. Providing this article of peats takes up the farmer during the greater part of the summer season, and, in bad years, a part of the harvest also; and yet in a wet season, many are very ill supplied. This mode of getting fuel proves very hurtful to husbandry, as a farmer could much more profitably employ his carts in making dunghills for his lands; a garron load of peats on crubans is sold in Wick, at a penny. Each horse carries only about ten or twelve peats. Ten or twelve of these loads will scarcely fill an ordinary cart. To the poor tenant making peats is an unprofitable occupation, and to the buyer they are undoubtedly dear. The burgh is so sensible of this inconvenience, that they and the neighbourhood are coming more and more into the practice of burning coals. But Caithness and the other northern counties labour under a grievous burden, that most unreasonable duty on coals waterborn, which, however, there is now a prospect of soon being freed from.

NSA
Manufactures. - A Gas Company was formed in 1840, whose works are in the course of being erected; and it is to be hoped, that, by another winter, both Wick and Pulteneytown will be lighted with gas.

Navigation. - A steam-boat began to run from Wick to Leith in 1833, once a fortnight. The Sovereign steam-boat of 200 horse-power, which commences for the season in March, and is laid up in November, makes a voyage, once a week, between Lerwick, Kirkwall, Wick, Aberdeen and Leith. It carries passengers, stock, and goods; and has been of the greatest advantage, not to Wick only, but to Caithness, Orkney, and Shetland. Two smacks ply, each once a fortnight, between (here?) and Leith. There is at Wick a Chamber of Commerce.
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Wick is the market-town of this parish. It is a place of great antiquity; and was at the request of the Earl of Caithness, of whose earldom it formed a part, erected into a royal burgh on the 25th of September 1589.
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Pulteneytown, commenced in 1808, by the British Fishery Society, is separated from (Wick) on the south by the bay, and united to it by a bridge of three arches, over the River of Wick.

Means of Communication.—Wick is a post-town. In 1829 the revenue of the post-office amounted to L.1200 a-year.

A daily mail-coach from Thurso passes through the town to the south in the morning, and another from the south through the town to Thurso at night. The mail-coach commenced to run on the 15th of July 1819. A daily post-gig runs between Wick and Huna, from which latter place the letters for Orkney are dispatched twice a-week.

A steam-boat of 200 horse-power plies once a-week, from March till November, between Lerwick, Kirkwall, Wick, Aberdeen, and Leith.
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The Huna road, entering the parish from the north at Nybster, passes through Keiss, and close to the lower end of the Loch of Wester, near which it is joined by the new line from Bower.

Crossing the Water of Wester by a bridge of two arches, this road joins the one from Castleton, at a short distance to the west of the House of Keiss. Its length within the parish is seven miles, and that of the new Bower road nearly four; the road from Castleton, in the parish of Olrig, enters the parish of Wick at Kirk, and, crossing the Moss of Kilminister, where there are two or three trifling bridges, continues in a pretty straight line till it approaches the town, where it bends to the south, and, passing the manse and the church, joins the main-street of Wick, at a distance from Kirk of eight miles.

Before it reaches the manse, it is joined from the west by the road from Wattin through Sibster-Wick. This road measures seven miles, and is not yet completed through the townland of Winless.

From the Castleton road a branch is sent through Louisburgh along the coast by Papigoe and Broad Haven to Staxigoe, a distance of about two miles.

The Parliamentary road from Thurso enters the parish of Wick three-quarters of a mile to the west of Bilbster House, and runs in a tolerably straight line down the south side of the River of Wick, till it joins the south road at Rosebank, a distance of six miles and a half. The south road, on passing from the town, crosses the river of Wick on a plain stone bridge of three arches, which cost L.1700, and runs in a winding direction through the estates of Hempriggs, Thrumster, and Ulbster, till it leaves the parish at the Mission House of Bruan, a distance of about eight miles.

A new county road leaves the north Parliamentary road at Stirkoke, and, passing through Tannach, joins the south Parliamentary road at Thrumster, a distance of about four miles and a half. A road runs from the south Parliamentary road to Sarclet, a distance of about two miles. All these roads are of the very best description. The whole extent of road in the parish is very nearly fifty miles, of which the Parliamentary line measures fourteen.

Ecclesiastical State.— In the very middle of the Moss of Kilminister are the ruins of a building, called unto this day the Kirk o' Moss. A causeway, the traces of which are yet distinctly visible, led through the deep and otherwise impassable bog to this ancient place of worship, which stood on a little knoll. This situation corresponded exactly with the predilection of the Culdees, who loved, in those ferocious times, remote and sequestered residences, whence, indeed, they had their distinctive appellation (Culdees, from Cuildich, dwellers in remote or sequestered places).

Fairs.— The following fairs are held within this parish ; Skitten Market, at Kilminister, on the first Tuesday of March; Wick Market, on the first Tuesday after Palm Sunday; Fair of Wick in June. All these are for cattle. Margaretmas, at Hill of Wick, on the Tuesday after the 20th of July, for cattle, and the hiring of persons for the harvest; and Fergusmas, at Wick, in the end of November, for cattle.

Inns and Public-Houses.— Of these there are in Wick and Louisburgh, 22; Pulteneytown, 23; the landward part of the parish, 9; total, 54. Instead of this appalling number, every person acquainted with the circumstances of the parish must admit, that a dozen were more than enough for all the necessities of the district. An excess of public-houses is one of the most frightful curses which can befall a community. Their effect upon the morals and comfort of the people is most disastrous. Multitudes can trace their ruin in body, soul, and outward estate, to such seminaries of Satan and Belial, as the lower public-houses generally are. Those to whom it belongs to license such places in the parish of Wick have incurred an awful responsibility.

Fuel.— The fuel made use of in this parish, is peats and coals. The latter are brought from the Wear and Tyne, and cost about 18s. a ton. Peats, which form the greater part of the fuel consumed by the commonalty, are dug in the mosses of the parish, and sold in the town for 2s. a cart.
March 1841

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