No particular mention of roads
No particular mention of 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.
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.
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
of John O Groat in the time of James IV being proprietor
of ferry to Orkney.
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
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.
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.
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
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
particular mention of roads.
parish, with a trifling exception betwixt Dunnet and
Brough, is well provided with roads......
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
to black cattle, I believe, that, communibus annis,
about 1000 of them are sold between the butcher and
......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.
numbers of (flagstones) are annually exported to Leith,
nearest market-town is Thurso, which is about seven
miles from the parish church.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the village of Halkirk there are three inns, and
four in other parts of the parish.
.—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.
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.
up in 1834, Revised 1840.
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
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.
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
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
of Communication .—There are two
post-offices in the parish, viz. Dunbeath and Lybster,
the former of old establishment, and the latter more
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.
bridges along the Parliamentary and county roads are
kept in excellent repair.
There are four fairs held in the parish for general
purposes, two at Dunbeath and two at Lybster, during
.—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.
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.
particular mention of roads.
inhabitants of London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow,
and other towns are now reaping the benefit of pavement
exported from this parish.....
access to the southern markets by the aid of steam-vessels......
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.
are three annual fairs held in the parish, in March,
June, and November, for the sale and purchase of cattle.
are two in the parish, which are well kept, but one
would be fully sufficient for the accommodation required
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
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.
are in this parish 181 ploughs, and 92 carts.
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
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.
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 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
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 commonly made use of is peat . Every one cuts and
prepares this for himself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
road, at present, from Skinnet to Thurso is not very
good, but it might be completed at a small expence.
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 -
To 6 2/3 roods of parapet, with coping, at L.10.16s.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
are no market or other towns in the parish. The nearest
market-town is Wick, distant eight miles.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
of Communication.—Wick is a post-town.
In 1829 the revenue of the post-office amounted to L.1200
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.
steam-boat of 200 horse-power plies once a-week, from
March till November, between Lerwick, Kirkwall, Wick,
Aberdeen, and Leith.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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