[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]
TAIN, a parish on the northern border of Ross-shire; bounded on the north by the Dornoch frith; on the east by Tarbat and Fearn; on the south by Logie-Easter; and on the west by Edderton. Its greatest length from east to west is between 9 and 10 miles; its breadth at a peninsula which runs into the frith at Meikle-ferry, is about 4½ miles; and its mean breadth elsewhere is about 3 miles. The coast, from end to end of the parish, has nearly the figure of a crescent, and encloses the bay of Tain. It is, in general, low and flat, nowhere rising to a greater altitude than 15 feet; it is sandy, curved, and indented; and, suffering constant erosion from the sea, it may be viewed as a broken sand-bank. Along the skirt of its eastern half, a tract of sand, in some places from a mile to 2 miles broad, is alternately dry and covered with the tide. Shoals and sunk banks embarrass the whole frith opposite the parish, and render navigation quite impracticable to strangers, and but limitedly practicable by the most skilful local pilots. The chief bank, called the Gizzen-Briggs, runs from coast to coast, with the exception of a narrow and difficult channel through its middle; and, whenever northerly or easterly winds blow, or sometimes even during a calm in frosty weather, it flings up a roaring and violent surge. A small bank in the middle of the frith, 2 miles above the Gizzen-Briggs, furnishes very large supplies of mussels, and is notable for having, in 1783, during a great scarcity of bread, furnished such immense quantities of cockles as contributed to the support of multitudes of human beings over the adjacent country. So comparatively recent has been the conquest of these banks and the adjacent sea-grounds from the solid territory both of Tain and of the opposite coast that, in the words of the New Statistical Account, “although the frith now measures several miles across, the remarkable fact has been preserved by tradition, that it was at one time possible to effect a passage over it at low water upon foot, by means of a plank thrown across the channel where narrowed to a few feet” by promontories which have been worn into the long sunken bank of the Gizzen-Briggs. MEIKLE FERRY [which see] is at the extreme west. A small trouting stream, absurdly dignified with the name of the river Tain, comes in from the west, and makes a circuit round the burgh to the frith. Springs of excellent water are numerous. The surface of the parish consists of three well-defined districts:- a belt of low flat plain along the coast, about half-a-mile in mean breadth, and partly disposed in public links or downs; a broad sheet of land, of middle character between a terrace and a hanging plain, receding from bank or escarpment of about 50 feet above the level of the plain, and displaying rich embellishments of wood and culture; and a ridge or series of gentle uplands along the exterior frontier, sending up their loftiest summit in the hill of Tain to an altitude of nearly 800 feet above sea-level. The soil is variously deep and light, fertile and barren; and the hills are partly heathy, and partly clad with forests of pine. The geognostic formation of the lowest grounds indicates an alternation of conquests and abandonments by the sea; that of the central district shows a prevalence of red clay with numerous boulders of granitic gneiss; and that of the hills is entirely sandstone, – apparently the old red, though principally of whitish colour. The sandstone is extensively quarried in the hill of Tain. The chief mansions are Ankerville and Little Tarrel. The fishing village of Inver, with a population of about 150, stands in the extreme east, 4 miles from the burgh. Chief roads diverge from the burgh toward Dingwall and Bonar-bridge; and subordinate ones toward Portmaholmack, and in three directions between south-east and west. Population, in 1801, 2,277, in 1831, 3,078. Houses 627. Assessed property, in 1815, £2,293. – Tain is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Ross. Patron, Mackenzie of Cromarty. Stipend £281 5s. 7d.; glebe £9. Unappropriated teinds £280 4s. The church was built in 1815. Sittings 1,200. A catechist for the parish is supported by the Society for propagating Christian knowledge. Schoolmaster’s salary £44 10s. with fees. Additional to the parish-school, there are 6 schools, conducted by 8 teachers, and attended by about 350 scholars. One of these schools is an academy, to be noticed in the article on the burgh; another is a boarding-school for females; another is a society’s school in the landward district; another is a private school for females; and two are private English schools.
TAIN, a small but prosperous town, and an ancient royal burgh, stands about ¼ of a mile from the Dornoch frith, in the centre of its cognominal parish. 11¾ miles north by east of Invergordon, 25½ north-north-east of Dingwall, 47 north by east of Inverness, 72¼ south-west of Wick, and 113 south-south-west of Thurso. It extends along the margin of the terrace or central district of the parish; and is a little upwards of half-a-mile in length, and about ¾ of a furlong in mean breadth. Its plan and its architecture are so irregular, and, at the same time, so tame and unattractive, that any attempt to describe them would be a waste of words. Yet it contains many good new houses; it has a promise of embellishing extension, both from the disposal of a considerable space of ground in building-feus, and from the project of a new street entrance on the south; and it is encompassed with rich and cheerful fields, and overlooks, along the sea-beach, a beautiful promenade of links. A handsome town-house and jail, built in 1825, were accidentally so far damaged by fire as to be rendered useless and unsightly, yet not to an extent to injure the walls. An ancient tower, surmounted by five spires or tall pinnacles, and used as the jail, stands agglomerated with this pile, and forms the principal feature in the burghal landscape. The academy of the burgh, built about 30 years ago, is one of the neatest and most tasteful edifices of its class in the north; and has attached to it a spacious play-ground, ornamented with wood and shrubbery, and enclosed with a wall and iron palisade. This institution is conducted by a rector and two masters; it is enriched with a choice and valuable assortment of chemical and mechanical apparatus; and it imparts so much importance to the burgh as to have attracted a number of families as residents for the sake of their children’s education. The church is a heavy but substantial building, without a tower. A previous church, built in 1471, and dedicated to St. Duthus, needs only a little interior repair to be still used as a place of worship, and was abandoned solely on account of its not affording sufficient accommodation. Its form is handsome, its windows are Gothic; one of its doors is surmounted by an effigies in bas-relief of St. Duthus; its walls are of great strength, and its interior is enriched with a beautifully carved, though partially defaced, oaken pulpit, presented to the burghers by “the good regent Moray,” for some unrecorded display of zeal in the cause of the Reformation. A chapel, also dedicated to St. Duthus, and of very ancient date, stands in ruin on a swell in the sandy plain, which formed the site of the original town. This ruin, though now rootless and neglected for four centuries, is so strongly cemented in its masonry as to remain in a surprising degree of preservation. The edifice enjoyed the privilege of sanctuary; and, in connexion with the fame of its saint, had distant and illustrious visitors. In 1427, Mackay of Creich, who had an inveterate feud with the laird of Freswick, and drove him to take refuge within its walls, scouted the idea of its sacredness, poured derision on its rights, and reduced it by fire to nearly the skeleton which it remains. In 1527, just a century after its destruction, James V. made a pilgrimage on foot to it from Falkland; and travelled with such expedition that he paused to recruit his strength only a short time at the priory of Pluscardine. A rough footpath across the moor in the uplands the parish is traditionally pointed out as the route by which he approached, and still bears the name of the King’s causeway. The only establishments connected in any sense with manufacture, are an iron foundry, a brewery, and 4 mills respectively for grinding, sawing, carding, and dyeing. A small trade by sea is conducted in the import of coal and lime, and the export of fir-props for coal-pits; but, as it enjoys no better facility than a dry berth for vessels on the broad belt of sand between tide-marks, it very generally gives place to a land-communication with Cromarty and Invergordon. A domestic trade of comparative importance arises from Tain being the market-town for a considerable part of both Easter Ross and Sutherlandshire. The weekly markets are held on Tuesday and Friday; and annual fairs are held on the first Tuesday of January, the third Tuesday of March and October, the Wednesday after the second Tuesday of July, the Wednesday after the third Tuesday of August, and the Tuesday before Christmas. The town has branch-offices of the British Linen company’s bank, the Commercial bank of Scotland, and the North banking company; a public reading-room; and three friendly societies; and is the seat of three or four religious and charitable associations for Easter Ross or the county. – The burgh is governed by a provost, two bailies, a dean-of-guild, a treasurer, and ten councillors. Municipal constituency, in 1839, 82, in 1841, 90. The burgh-property consists principally of lands, partly let on lease, and partly feued. About £37 13s. are annually derived from customs and market-dues. In 1833, the total revenue was £314 0s. 8½d.; and the expenditure £495 5s. 0½d. In 1841, the corporation revenue was £296. The only assessments are stent for the land-tax and the statute-labour money; the former nominal, or paid out of the common good, and the latter amounting to £60. The town-officers are eight, elected by the town-council, and aggregately salaried on £83 7s. The town-council elect also the teachers of the parish-school, an English school, and the female boarding-school; and pay to them respectively £22 4s. 5d., £10, and £20 of salary. There are no trades’ corporations; and no burgess derives private advantage from the public good. Fees for burgess-ship arbitrarily vary from £1 10s. to £5 5s. The police is managed by the magistrates, and maintained from the common funds. Tain unites with Wick, Dingwall, Cromarty, Dornoch, and Kirkwall, in sending a member to parliament. Constituency, in 1840, 86. – “As a burgh,” say the commissioners on municipal corporations, “Tain lays claim to very high antiquity, but no charter older than 1587 has been recovered. Its claims to antiquity rest upon an inquest dated 20th April, 1439, according to which it was found that the ‘immunity’ was first founded by the deceased most illustrious King of Scotch, Malcolm Canmore, of blessed memory, – and ‘that, afterwards, the foresaid immunity was confirmed by various Kings and illustrious Princes, viz., David the Bruce, Robert, his grandson, and, last, Robert, son of Robert I.; and that the said inhabitants in the town of Tain have and had full and free power and privilege to buy and sell all goods whatsomever within the four angular crosses of the said immunity; and that they have never paid, neither shall they pay, on any account, any contribution to the Kings of Scotland, nor to the Earls of Ross, except the custom to our Sovereign Lord the King; and, lastly, that it is lawful to all the inhabitants within the said immunity to work and navigate, with all their merchandize and goods whatsoever, everywhere at their pleasure, without any contradiction or further demand, by virtue of the privilege of the after-mentioned immunity, as it shall appear most expedient to them.’ ” The writer of the New Statistical Account, reasoning from this document, and quoting another part of it which states Tain to have been “under the special protection of the apostolic see,” conjectures that the town “may have been a chief seat of the bishopric of Ross, after its foundation by David I., the son of Malcolm, in the 12th century.” In 1306, the queen and daughter of Robert Bruce, when his fortunes were at the lowest, fled from the fortalice of Kildrummie in Mar for sanctuary in the old chapel of the town; but were remorselessly dragged thence by the Earl of Ross, and delivered to the English. In 1481, ten years after the erection of the church of St. Duthus, the bishop of Ross, at the instance of James III., rendered it collegiate for a provost, 11 prebendaries, and 3 singing-boys.