Cromarty, pp.267-268.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   CROMARTY, a very small county, washed on three sides by the friths of Cromarty and Moray, and bounded on the west by the county of Ross. Its extreme length is about 16 miles; and it is, on an average, about 6½ or 7 miles in breadth; but it is intersected by a large tract of common called the Mulbuie, or Mulbuy, which belongs to Ross-shire, and by the district of Ferintosh, which is in the county of Nairn. The whole peninsula has the name of Ardmeanach, or the Black Isle; and the Cromarty part is called ‘the old shire of Cromarty.’ This district was in very early times a sheriffdom, hereditary in the family of Urquhart of Cromarty. It comprehended, 1st, The whole parish of Cromarty. 2d, The parish of Kirkmichael, with the exception of the farm of Easter Balblair, and perhaps Kirkmichael – which form a tract of nearly one mile in length, and half-a-mile in breadth, situated on the point of land at Invergordon ferry, and which is considered as a part of Ross-shire: And 3d, The farm of Easter St. Martin’s, in the parish of Cullicuden. Thus, the old shire was a tract, whose greatest length was 10 miles, and average breadth 1¾. The area, therefore, was only 17½ square miles. To the south of this district, and in the middle of the peninsula, lies the extensive common moor, named the Mulbuie, in which the county of Cromarty has an undoubted share; but, until a division be made, it is impossible to ascertain any boundary in it. Beginning on the shore of the Moray frith, at the burn of Eathie or Craighouse, about 3 miles south of Cromarty, the boundaries of the old shire follow this burn to its source, and then run westward, in the same direction, to the Fortrose road to Invergordon ferry; by this road they run so as to include the White bog, or Glen Urquhart, till we arrive at the turn towards Cromarty, and the burn of Killean or the Black stank, where we meet the Mulbuie moor, in which the boundary is uncertain. On the north of this moor, we may proceed from the junction of the Fort-George and Kessock roads to Invergordon, directly west, between Brea and Easter St. Martin’s, to the bridge across the burn of Newhall, between East and West St. Martin’s, then northwards, between the farms of Cullicuden and Resolis, until we arrive at the frith of Cromarty, about 1½ mile west of the ferry of Alness. We must again cut off that piece of the ferry point of Invergordon, called Easter Balblair, as being in Ross-shire. It is nearly triangular, extending on the north-west shore about half-a-mile, and on the east about one mile from the point. “How this little patch came to be excluded from the shire of Cromarty,” says Sir George Mackenzie in his ‘General Survey of Ross and Cromarty,’ [London. 1810. 8vo. pp. 12, 13.] “I cannot explain. It is alluded to in the old valuation-roll of the county, taken in 1698, in these words; – ‘Sir Alexander Gordon, in vice of St. Martins, for all the lands he bought of St. Martins, except Wester St. Martins, Kirkmichael, and Easter Balblair, which is in Ross, £894 0s. 0d.’ From this, I am inclined to think, we should also include the farm of Kirkmichael in Ross, Wester St. Martin and Easter Balblair being confessedly so, and accordingly are so valued in the cess-books. We would thus bring the boundary of this part of Ross-shire down to the mouth of the burn of Newhall. But I believe Kirkmichael is reckoned as part of Cromarty. Had the word ‘is,’ in the above entry, been ‘are,’ we might have supposed it decisive.” The rest of this county consists of nine detached portions scattered up and down in various parts of Ross-shire, containing in all about 344 square miles, or 220,586 acres. George, Viscount Tarbat, afterwards Earl of Cromarty, who was secretary of state, and clerk to the parliament of Scotland, in the reign of James II., William and Mary, &c. procured an act, in 1685, annexing several lands to the shire of Cromarty. This act being afterwards repealed, another was procured in 1698 – of which an extract is here inserted in a Note – annexing some part of his lands to the shire of Cromarty.1 By this extraordinary annexation, the shire of Cromarty has now a territory fifteen times its former extent; and its valued rent has been increased threefold. But these annexations consist of so many detached parts, that a description of their boundaries would be exceedingly irksome. It has been found necessary, in all bills relating to roads, bridges, &c., to include the whole of these annexations in Ross-shire; although, from their being thus kept in the back-ground, very great inconvenience has been often felt, both by the counties of Ross and of Cromarty. A great part of this shire now belongs to the Andersons of Udal, and the family of Ross of Cromarty. The face of the country is pleasant. A long ridge of hills extends the whole length, in the middle of the county, having a fine declivity on either side towards the shores of the friths. The higher grounds are mostly covered with heath; but towards the shores the soil is light and early. Cromarty contains only one town – from which the county takes its name – which was formerly a royal burgh, and 5 parishes. The language spoken is generally Gaelic; but many speak that broad Scottish which is commonly called the Buchan or Aberdeenshire dialect. Freestone, granite, and reddish-coloured porphyry, are almost the only minerals, if we except topazes similar to those of Cairngorm, which are found in the parish of Kincardine. Fisheries are very successfully carried on, and pearls of considerable value are sometimes found in the frith of Cromarty, where the river Conal falls into that bay. The district is comprehended in the sheriffdom of Ross-shire; and a sheriff-substitute holds courts every alternate Friday at the town of Cromarty. It now joins with the county of Ross in returning a member to parliament. Constituency in 1839, 103. Cromarty gave the title of Earl to a branch of the Mackenzies of Seaforth. The family came into favour in the reign of James VI., and having been raised to a baronetcy, was, in the reign of James II., elevated to the viscountcy of Tarbet. Lord Tarbet was created Earl of Cromarty in 1702; but the title was attainted in the person of George, the 3d Earl, on account of his having engaged in the rebellion of 1745. He was surprised and defeated by the Earl of Sutherland’s militia, near Dunrobin castle, on the day before the battle of Culloden; and being sent to London, was tried, and condemned to be executed, but by great intercession his life was spared, though his estate and honours were forfeited. His son entered the Swedish service. He was commonly known as Count-Cromarty, and died in 1789. At present the peerage is claimed by Sir Alexander Mackenzie of Tarbet, Bart. The valued rent of Cromarty shire is £12,897 Scots; the real land rent may be estimated at £7,000 sterling. Population, in 1801, 3,052; in 1811, 5,481. In all the more recent returns this shire is included with that of ROSS: which see. 

   CROMARTY, a parish in the above county; about 7 miles in length, and from 1 to 4 in breadth; bounded by the frith of Cromarty on the north; by the Moray frith and the parish of Rosemarkie on the east and south; and by Resolis on the west. The burn of Ethie defines the southern limits of this parish. It flows in some places through a deep picturesque ravine. On the banks of the frith the surface is level; but a ridge about 2 miles from the coast, extends the whole length of the parish, above which the ground is covered with heath and moss. The soil is wet and moorish, which makes the seasons late, and the crop uncertain. The coast towards the east is bold and rocky: some of the cliffs being nearly 250 feet perpendicular towards the sea; the rest is flat and sandy. Population of the parish, in 1801, 2,413; in 1831, 2,901. Houses 518. Assessed property, in 1815, £3,569. Estimated rental £3,300 This parish is in the presbytery of Chanonry, and synod of Ross. Patron, the Crown. Stipend £251 12s. 6d.; glebe £15. Unappropriated teinds £395 18s. 5d. There is a Gaelic church, the minister of which has a stipend of £50 from Government. 

   CROMARTY, a neat and clean, but irregularly built, town in the above parish; 19½ miles north-east of Inverness; 11 south of Tain; 10½ north-east of Rosemarkie; 21 east of Dingwall; and 175 north by west of Edinburgh. It is situated upon a low point of land which stretches out into the sea in a picturesque manner. The sea has made considerable encroachments on the east end of the town. It was formerly a royal burgh, but was disfranchised by an act of the privy-council of Scotland, in consequence of a petition by Sir John Urquhart, proprietor of the estate of Cromarty. The harbour of Cromarty, inferior perhaps to none in Britain for safety, and a commodious quay, were built at the joint expense of Government and the proprietor of the estate of Cromarty, in 1785. Vessels of 350 or 400 tons may lie in it in perfect security. A considerable trade in sack cloth has been long established in Cromarty and the neighbourhood. In 1807, this town sent to London goods to the amount of £25,000. In the same year Cromarty exported 112 tons of pickled pork and hams, and 60 tons of dried cod fish. Its staple trade was, until lately, the catching and curing of herrings. The town has a weekly market on Fridays, and an annual fair. Here is a branch of the Commercial bank. A large rocky cavern tinder the South Sutor, called Macfarquhar’s Bed, and a cave which contains a petrifying well, are amongst the natural curiosities. The hill of Cromarty is celebrated for the grandeur and extent of the prospect from it. Population of the town, in 1801, 1,993; in 1831, 2,215. Cromarty unites with Wick, Dingwall, Dornoch, Kirkwall, and Tain, in returning a member to parliament. It is governed by a provost, 2 bailies, and 7 councillors, Parliamentary and municipal constituency in 1839, 49. A steam-boat from Leith touches here once a-week.

1  “Considering that, by act of parliament 1685, the barony of Tarbat and several other lands in Ross-shire were dissolved from it, and annexed to the shire of Cromarty, but. in 1686, this said act of annexation was rescinded, on pretence that it included lands not belonging to the Viscount Tarbat, in whose favour the said annexation to Cromarty was made, and now, the said Viscount desiring that only the said barony of Tarbat, and other lands in Ross-shire, which belong to him in property, and are presently possessed by him, or by his brother, or mother-in-law, in liferent, and by some wadsetters of his property, should be annexed to the shire of Cromarty: their Majesties, in favour of the said Viscount and his successors, did, with consent, &c., rescind the said act 1686, and, of new, annexed the said barony of Tarbat, and all other lands in Ross-shire, belonging in property to the said Viscount, and possessed, as said is, to the shire of Cromarty in all time coming, and to all effects; and as to any other lands contained in that act 1685, not being of the barony of Tarbat, and not being his other proper lands, and possessed in manner foresaid, they are to remain in the shire of Ross as formerly, notwithstanding of this or the other act passed in the year 1685; but prejudice of the said Viscount, his other jurisdictions in these lands, as accords,” &c. 

2 thoughts on “Cromarty, pp.267-268.

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