Kilmuir Easter, Ross & Cromarty, Scotland

A parish partly in the county of Ross and partly in the county of Cromarty. It is about 10 miles long and c.4 miles wide, situated on the Firth of Cromarty. The shore is flat and the soil sandy, but tolerably fertile. Further from the coast the soil black and mossy, retentive of moisture and unfavourable for vegetation. The back-grounds reach into the barren moory district of Ardmeanach. Balnagown Castle is an elegant mansion, Tarbat House is also a fine modern building, New Tarbat, once the beautiful residence of the Earls of Cromarty has fallen to decay; and Delny, once the seat of the Earls of Ross, is also in ruins. There are three villages in the parish, vis. Milntown, Barbaraville and Portlich. Of these Milntown is the principal and has a population of about 200. Population in 1801: 1703, in 1831: 1551 with 339 houses. The church was built in 1798. [Bartholomew's gazetteer].

     For further details see Kilmuir Easter: the history of a Higland parish, by Helen Myers Meldrum. Inverness, 1935.

     The Statistical Account of Scotland, 1792 states: The soil of this parish is various: along the shore, which is flat, it is generally light and sandy, but in rainy seasons very fertile; and even in the driest summer, it seldom fails of yielding a fare crop. ... The climate: Within a mile of the shore, which is sandy, the climate is often mild and temperate; while the bak, and the whole tract of ground behind it, is cold and covered with snow. ... In good fishing seasons the parish is plentifully supplied with haddocks, cod, skate, floundes and cuddies, form the Murray-Firth, carried here in baskets by the fishers of Fearn and Nigg. There is a bed of small cockles withing the bounds of the parish, which, in scarce years, has proved very useful to the poor people. In 1782 40 horse loads have been taken out of it in one day. When herrings appear on the coast of Murray, they sometimes come in to the bay and firth of Cromarty, and are killed opposite to this parish by the inhabitants; though not in such quantities as to admit of exporation. ...

     Improvements: ... New Tarbat, the principal seat of the Earls of Cromarty ... was allowed to fall into ruins. ... The Late Lord McLeod, immediately upon the restoration of his estate, began to extend and inclose the policy, planted many thousand forest and fir trees and built a superb house upon a modern plan. What was left unfinished, are now carried on with attention and taste by Captain Kenneth McKenzie, his successor, and the representative of that honourable family. Farms and rent: ... The land next the shore lets at 20s. per acre, and near the village of Milntown 30s. and upward is paid for small lots; but more remote from the shore, the farmers, on an average, pay no more than 15s. per acre. The proprietors begin to see the advantage of granting leases to their tenants, and to convert the half of the victual rent into money, at 14s. per boll, including customs and services. Number of Proprietors: there are 6 proprietors, 3 either occasionally or constantly reside in the parish: 15 small feuars in the village of Milntown, most of whom have no more than 1/4 acre each; 17 larger, and about 40 smaller tenants; and a great number of new settlers, paying from 5s. to 20s. rent ech. There are 4 shop-keepers, 3 distillers, 12 masons, 4 cart-wrights, 1 cooper, 6 house carpenters, 4 blacksmiths, 1 carpet weaver; 2 stocking weavers, 15 common weavers, 10 taylors, 10 shoe makers, and 20 lime-makers. The parish is well situated for carrying on manufactures of different kinds. Mr John Montgomery, merchant in Milntown, has introudced the spinning of flax among the people and has for 30 years been pretty successful in that branch, so that all the women, old and young, are become dexterous at the spinning wheel and have greatly increased their income by it. Population: It is certain that the number of inhabitants is tripe what it was 50 years ago. This increase is ascribed to the great extent of improveable waste ground in the parish, the easy access to fuel, and the encouragement given by the proprietors and tenants to day-labourers; these inducements led many emigrants from the Highland parishes to settle here. And in 1763, the commissioners for managing the annexed estates, settled 48 families of disvanded soldiers and sailors at once in the parish; allowing to each a house and 3 acres of arable land, but in the source of 10 years, there remained in the parish no more than 2 families of these strangers, all the rest having deserted their lots, which are now occupied by a more industrious set of people. 50 new houses have been built in the last 4 years. By an accurate list taken in April last, there were 1975 persons of whom 450 were under 10, 900 between 10 & 50, 581 between 50 & 70, 35 between 70 & 80, 7 between 80 & 90 and 2 between 90 & 100. The return to Dr Webster, in 1755 was 1095 souls. Abstract of BDMs ... the great disproportion that appears in this abstract srises chiefly form teh many emigrant families that settle yearly in the parish. The great number of burieals in 1784 was occasioned chiefly by the small pox, since that period the people have been persuaded to practice innoculation, and they have experienced the happy effects of it.

     General character of the People: The people are spber, regular and industrious, though there are many among them whose morals are corrupted, by having too easy access to spirits, there being upwards of 30 tippling houses in the parish and only one principal inn. Notwithstanding the free use of spirits, few feuds and quarrels are heard of in the parish.

     Church, schools and poor: The church was built in 1621. There are two schools in the parish, one supported by the heritors, the other by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. There are upwards of 120 children at these schools. Celtic is the prevailing language, but there are very few under 30 in the parish who do not speak both that and English. The average number of poor who receive alms is 100. The wages of labourers: some men get 8d while othere receive no more than 6f per day. The day's pay of a mason, carpenter and slater is from 1s 2d to 2s.6d per day.

     Miscellaneous observtions: .. There is an extensive bed of shells in the lands of New-Tarbet and Nigg, manufactured into lime by pesons trained up to the business from their infancy. There are 10 men with their wives and children, who are employed in this trade. At full sea, they go from the shore in boats, cast anchor over a bed of shells, and remain there until the sea ebbs; then all hands begin to dig up the sehells and freigh the boats and they are ready by the time of flood to return to shore, this is attempted only in the summer season. ... There are 8 boats in the parish, 5 of which are employed in the lime trade for 3-4 months, during the rest of the year, they either fish on the neighbouring coasts, or are employed in carrying corn and peas to the opposite shore.

In 1881 Portleich was still occupied by crofters and masons including a John McKenzie, 45, mason, born KE; also there were Catherine 82 & Christine 72, pauper sisters.
Research note: In 1801 the population was 1703, in 1881 it was 1559 and in 1821 down to 1381.

The Kirk Sessions records are classes at CH2/429/1.

Portleich, Kilmuir Easter, Ross & Cromarty, Scotland

A village in the parish of Kilmuir Easter, 3 miles N.E. of Invergordon, population 90 c.1851. [Smith's gazetteer of Scotland]. Also known as Portlich

     The boats used at Portleich wer flat bottomed cobbles, and they worked with the tide. They ceased to ply there when Ballintraid Pier was built [Meldrum, 1935, p.74-5].

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