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Strathnairn Heritage Association

Statistical Account Pt 2

First Statistical Account by Rev Alexander Gordon (Part 2)

Valued rent of Daviot and Dunlichity £3186 13s 4d, Scots money. Real current rent, by the best information that could be obtained, £1500 sterling.

Animals, &c.- The blackfaced sheep have been introduced into the upper part of Dunlichity, but too late to ascertain, with precision, the profit or disadvantage that may accrue from them. They are chiefly in the possession of 6 persons, and have not suffered in the least from the climate of this country. Their whole number does not exceed 2000; medium value, 9s each; best lambs 5s; shots 2s 6d. The common and cross-breeds are more than double that number; worth, at a medium, 5s; lambs from 1s 6d to 3s. Black cattle have diminished greatly since the eager desire of sheep-farming has become so general in the neighbouring parishes, and partly in this; there being, from that cause, no way of pasturing them in the glens, in summer, as usual. Their number not above 1300; medium value £2 each. There are few saddle or draught horses; but those of the small kind, kept by the tenants for labour and breeding, amount to more than 800; medium value, £2 10s. There are 14 corn mills, and 1 fulling mill. Five blacksmiths; a few wrights and coopers; a great many weavers of coarse woollen stuffs; a number of tailors, and a few brogmakers.

The tradesmen are paid for the piece, or with a certain sum or quantity of victual annually agreed on, called soud. The best male servants get £6 of wages, and their maintenance, a year; the second ditto from £4 to £5; female servants from 28s to 40s a year; boys for tending cattle, from 16s to 20s each half year; and all classes of hired servants expect, and receive some small perquisite above what they agree for. Day-labourers are from 4d to 1s a day, and their victuals, according to the season of the year, and the species of work they are capable of executing.

Agriculture, &c -The soil in these parishes varies much, being in some places sandy and light, in others, spongy and wet, with a clay bottom. In some, it is of a black mossy nature, and in many a composition of all these. The produce, except when the early frosts affect it, is, at a medium to the feed, as 4 to 1. Black oats and rye answer best. Barley and white oats but in few places and more frequently misgive. The different measures or quantities of land are here denominated Davochs, Ploughs and Auchten parts, and are in an arbitrary and uncertain proportion. Few of the tenants occupy more than one auchten part, the rent of which is from £3 to £5 sterling. Customs and services, or money conversions in lieu of them, are always exacted and paid over and above the stipulated rent.- This country abounds with mealers, or people who have houses but no farm. They have generally a few sheep, that are kept with their master's flock; and some are allowed grass for a cow or a horse. Every tenant has 1, and some 2 or 3 of these householders, many of whom are the parents, or wives and children of a set of people who abstract themselves from us during the greatest part of the year, and seek employment in other parts.

The state of agriculture here is but very indifferent; for besides the great number of small holdings, short leases, and a predilection among the people for ancient modes of farming, however awkward and unproductive, several other causes concur to prevent any great improvements, at least for some time. The soil indeed, is, in many places, so good, as to yield tolerable crops, even under the present untoward management. But,

1: the climate is so variable, and unpropitious, as frequently to blast the hopes and labour of the farmer by frost and mildews, in the course of one night or morning, in the months of August or September. The level and best fields are most liable to this disaster.

2: The people in general labour with horses instead of oxen, whereby they deprive themselves of a better manure, which, if they had in abundance, would give them earlier crops, and a chance of escaping those destructive frosts, which affect them less or more every year.

3: The landlords oblige their tenants to perform services in spring and harvest, to the neglect of their farms at these critical seasons; a practice which, though not peculiar to this country, is evidently detrimental to both. Some of the gentlemen here have therefore dropped these services, and accepted a reasonable conversion in lieu of them.

4: Our young men, how soon they are fit for labour, go to the south country, or elsewhere for employment; where they remain some part of the spring, together with all the summer and harvest. This practice operates much against improvements in agriculture, is inimical to the general prosperity of the people, and productive of these two evils to the farmers and tenants in particular, viz. extravagant wages to the few labourers, who, from choice or necessity, may happen to remain at home; and the introduction of fine clothes, and other luxuries, among the lower class. By the former, there is no proportion between the price of labour and the produce of it. By the latter, the servants themselves consume their wages in expensive dress and other superfluities, while those partial emigrants, or, as they are called, the 'South Country lads.' live with their parents or relations during the winter upon the common stock of the family. We have 60 persons of this description, and upwards. 5. The last cause unfavourable to agriculture, is not so general, but, as far as it extends, of equally bad or worse effect than some of those which have been mentioned. The whole parish of Daviot, and some parts of Dunlichity, lie within the distance of between 4 and 6 miles to the royal burgh of Inverness, a large and populous town, to which all the tenants, in the above space, send their horses with peats or turf regularly twice-a-week, the spring and harvest not excepted. The whole summer is spent in cutting, drying and leading the peats, without ever attempting any measure that might be in their power for meliorating their farms. The mosses, at same time, are so rapidly cut and destroyed, that great distress for want of fuel must soon ensue; and many of the people feel this distress already. It ought to be observed, however, that, under these unfavourable circumstances, these parishes, in good years, produce crops sufficient for the inhabitants, and perhaps never felt a dearth but in times of general scarcity. It is obvious, therefore, that they are capable of improvement.

Miscellaneous Observations

Epidemical or chronical diseases seldom appear in this country. The people, though not robust, are very healthy; and many of both sexes attain to the age of 80 years and upwards. There are, in these parishes, 20 persons now living at and about that age. As to the general character of our people, they cannot be commended for industry. The small returns for manual labour, may perhaps be the reason, since none, by the greatest exertions of this kind, can make rich. They are, however, frugal, and have a sense of honour and shame, in a high degree for their station; and remarkable for that acuteness of judgment which has been peculiarly attributed to Highlanders. In their morals, they are not sufficiently strict in abstaining from the smaller breaches of duty; but felony, or any great crime, has not been committed among them for many generations. In their profession of religion, they are devout and regular, a little inclined to lay too much stress upon certain local forms and customs not legally imposed, but which, it does not appear, has any bad effect on their morals.