Historical References

Fort Augustus / Cil Chuimein

Often, records are created in order to enforce a governing body, collect taxes more efficiently, establish boundaries and so on. There are almost no official records of any kind which can be shown to have no ulterior motive. However, these records viewed in hindsight offer more than just a cold collection of data about the land and its population. Historical references of the documentary kind give a unique insight to the prevailing social and political climate of the times in which they are compiled. Equally then, as now, travellers often recorded what they saw and found on their travels and these writings were as popular in the past as they are today.

The Abertarph Extract

This extract is from "Geographical Collections relating to Scotland" made by Walter MacFarlane, edited by Sir Arthur Mitchell. in 3 volumes, published Edin. 1906. {Transcribed G.B.- Cill Chuimein Heritage.}

"...the church of Boleskine is distant from Inverness 15 miles & from Kill Chumin in Abertarph or Barracks there, 9 miles... the land yeilds bear, black and white oats in many corners and close on the lake of Ness, beans, pease or any grain growing in Murray land. Here the catle are horse, nolt, sheep and goats, deer roe and hare in hills and woods.

...The other end has its name from the River of Tarph...has its rise from a place called Shelich & Cori Gherrag hills betwixt Badenoch & Abertarph from which it runs rapid 6 miles, & then falls into Lochness from South to North. Closs W on this river is Kill Chumin where is a charity school, near the foot of the river. About a mile East of this river is ane other called Do ariseing from the hills of Cornichulen...

About 5 miles W of Tarph is ane other river called Calidor having its rise from the hills of Corri Gherrag, Glenbuick & Glenturret, rising from them 4/5 miles & then falling into ane other river, the greatest in the parish, called Oich. Salmond fish goes up from Ness in abundance to Loch Garry. This river is seldom foordable from October to March, yet no bridge or ferry boat on it. Closs S of this river stands the barracks of Kilchumin on arising hill having Tarph to the South a litle more distant so that they stand betwixt the two.

Betwixt the Barracks and Lochness there is a point not a quarter mile long, on the extremity of which close on the Lake stood the ruins of ane castle supposed to be built by the Cummings from whom it had its name to this day but scarce the vestiges of it remain, being demolished for the Barracks use. Those Barracks are the largest built in the highlands in King George his time consisting of 2 parts of equal size each three storeys high with a garret, having betwixt both, 48 chambers of which 36 fire rooms. If I weel remember there is a parad betwixt the two parts, in the midst of which is a cistern, which is the best of the work. To the W & E of the parad is a strong rampart wall & at the midst of the eastern is the entry.

...In this parish are severall wild fowls such as swane, duck and drake, teil, and arteil, whape, plover, cushet dove, black cook, muire fowls, tarmichen and co and many other hurtfull creatures, such as eagles, ravens, of all sorts otters foxes, wild capts, serpents, toads and frogs..."

Contrast this with the amount of detail given and the style of delivery in a document fulfilling a much more "official" purpose. The "First Statistical Account of Boleskine & Abertarf" published in 1798... {© Cill Chuimein Heritage.}

The 1st Statistical Account of Boleskine & Abertarf


By an Heritor, a friend to Statistical Inquiries.

Name and Extent, &c

The parish of Boleskine, so termed from a farm contiguous to the Fall of Foyers, meaning Bail-o’s-cionn in Gaelic, or the town hanging above the loch, was many years ago united with the parish of Abertarf, situated in the neighbourhood of Fort-Augustus, and so denominated from the confluence of two rivers, Tarf and Oich, which, discharging themselves into Lochness, forms the ground on which the garrison now stands to a beautiful peninsula.

The date of this union, nor the particular lands composing each of these parishes, cannot be traced. The united parish both the old glebes were annexed to the estate of Lovat, then under the management of the Commissioners of forfeited estates, and an equivalent given to the minister contiguous to the new church. This measure relieved the clergyman from preaching in two different places of Stratherrick, as, when the church remained at Boleskine, he was in use every second Sabbath, of performing worship at a place called Bellaloin, about one mile distant from Drimtemple.

Ancient History

The whole of this united parish was, previous to the 15th century, the property of the Lovat family; but who previously possessed it can only be learned from tradition. What leads to a belief that Abertarf was inhabited by the Cummins, a very powerful and warlike clan, is, that the place of Fort-Auguflus, only called so from the establishment of the garrison, is in the vulgar language called Kilichuiman, meaning the burial-ground of the Cummins. And an eminence on the hill to the east of Loch-tarf is called Sui-Chuiman, or Cummin's resting place.

Stratherrick, composing the other part of this parish, so called from the river Errick, rising in the mountains of Strathdearn, and entering Lochnefs at Boleskine, Strath signifying a valley or plain betwixt two hills, was anciently possessed by the clan Grant; whether they quitted it voluntarily or otherwise, is immaterial as well as uncertain; but it would appear they went from thence to Strathspey, and called the names of their new possessions after those they inhabited in Stratherrick. Thus we still find the names of Delchapple, Garthbeg, and Garthmore, &c. in both these countries.

Before the year 1545 the united parish seems to have been occupied by the tribes called Macgruers, Macimesheirs, and Mactavishes, then followers of the Lovat family; but the principal persons of all these tribes having accompanied the Lord Lovat in his expedition to settle the heir of the Clan-ronald family in his father's estate, were almost cut off in a bloody battle fought that year at the east end of Lochlochy, by the Clan Macdonald, who intercepted Lovat and his attendants in their return from the Hebrides, this battle, called Blar-lein, from the warriors of both sides having stripped and fought in their shirts, is recorded in the following picturesque lines of Buchanan's history of Scotland: -

"Fraserii pauciores a pluribus victi, atque ad unum caesi. Itagens numerosissima et saepe de re Scotica bene merita tota interierat, nisi divino (ut credi par est) consilio, ex familiae principibus octoginta domi reliquissent gravidas uxores, quae suo quaeque tempore mares peperunt singulos, qui omnes incolumes ad virilem pervenerunt aetatem."

A few years before this period, a son of Lovat had settled at Foyers, and at same time acquired the property of the lands of Aberchalder in Abertarf. And the lineal descendant of another of Lovat's sons settled at Farraline, situated by a lake of that name in Stratherrick. - At the above conflict Farraline was slain, and Foyers so dangerously wounded, that he was carried from the field of battle by one Norman Gow, on his back, to the top of Suichuimain, about eight miles from Lochlochy; but Gow having an arrow in his side all the time, found himself unable to proceed farther, and there pulled out the arrow and expired.

His descendant, in commemoration of this amazing effort of attachment, enjoyed a croft of land, rent free, from the family of Foyers till within these sixty years. Mr Fraser of Foyers having recovered from his wounds, was enabled, with the assistance of the few commoners who had not accompanied their chief on this fatal occasion, to protect the country from the inroads of the rival clan, who were much enfeebled by the effects of this severe conflict.

The numerous offspring descended of the Frasers killed in that battle, grew up, in process of time, to obliterate the depopulation thereby occasioned; and to corroborate the evidence resulting from the above passage in Buchanan, it is a notorious fact, that the whole principal gentlemen now resident in Stratherrick do, (with a few exceptions), trace their descent either from Mr Fraser of Foyers, or Farraline above mentioned; hence the country of Stratherrick for many years consisted principally of two tribes, the one called Mac-mhic-ulliams, or Foyer's tribe; and the other Sliochd-ion-mhic-alister, or Farraline's tribe: and from the 1545 till the forfeiture of the Lovat estate in the 1746, the state of the Highlands requiring much the attachment of vassals and tenants to their chief, Stratherrick was more considered as a nursery of men, than as yielding much pecuniary emolument to the Lovat family. Some of them received feu-rights of certain parts of the country, and all the younger sons, possessed of any funds, obtained proper wadsets of their respective possessions, and in the general valuation of the county for ascertaining the land-tax, in the 1691, every wadsetter is rated in the same manner with the heritors.

In all contests betwixt the Lovat family, their neighbours, and others, the Stratherrick tribes were ready upon the first summons to espouse the cause of their chief, and as every tribe arranged itself under its particular leader, the county of Stratherrick exhibited a species of military subordination. If any dispute happened among individuals in the country, it was generally terminated by the strong-hand, or the baron-baillie placed there by the Lovat family, who was vested with the extravagant jurisdiction of the times. As the wadsetters had the lands on very moderate conditions, the principal rent demanded by them from their sub-tenants and cottars was military attendance, and their aid and assistance in such agricultural and rural services as was necessary for the wadsetter's accommodation.

Till the beginning of this century, the whole heritors and wadsetters in this parish lived in houses, composed of cupple trees, and the walls and thatch made up of sod and divot; but in every wadsetter's house there was a spacious hall, containing a large table, where he and his family and dependants eat their two meals a-day, with this single distinction, that he and his family sat at the one end of the table, and his dependants, at the other; and it was reckoned no disparagement for the gentlemen to sit with commoners in the inns, such as the country then afforded, where one "cap", and afterwards a single glass, went round the whole company.

As the inhabitants experienced no want, and generally lived on the produce of their farms, they were hospitable to strangers, providing they did not attempt a settlement among them. But it was thought then disgraceful for any of the younger sons of these wadsetters, to follow any other profession than that of arms and agriculture; and it is in the remembrance of many now living, when the meanest tenant, would think it disparaging, to sit at the fame table with a manufacturer. In progress of time however, these prejudices gave way to ideas, more suitable to an improved state of society.

This country is naturally divided by rivers, hills, and moors, into a variety of sections, and each of these admitting of some agricultural cultivation, have been computed by the inhabitants into davochs, half davochs, or plough-lands, being the fourth part of a davoch, according to their extent; each half davoch-land was again subdivided into eight parts, commonly called aughten-parts, and agreeable to the regularity and order which the Author of Nature has observed in all his operations.

The whole country, with two exceptions, consists of a variety of half-davoch-lands, each of which was let or disponed by the Lovat family or their chamberlain to a wadfetter or principal tacksman, and had no concern, with the sub-tenantry, each sub-tenant had again a variety of cottars, equally unconnected with the principal tacksman; and each of these had a number of cattle of all denominations, proportional to their respective holdings, with the produce whereof he fed and clad himself and whole family.

As there were extensive sheallings or grasings attached to this country, in the neighbourhood of the lordship of Badenoch, the inhabitants in the beginning of summer removed to these sheallings with their whole cattle, man, woman, and child, and it was no uncommon thing, to observe an infant in one creel, and a stone on the other side of the horse, to keep up an equilibrium; and when the grass became scarce in the sheallings, they returned again to their principal farms, where they remained while they had sufficiency of pasture, and then, in the same manner, went back to their sheallings, and observed this ambulatory course during the seasons of vegetation; and the only operations attended to during the summer season was their peats or fuel, and repairing, their rustic habitations.

When their small crops were fit for it, all hands descended from the hills, and continued on the farms till the same was cut and secured in barns, the walls of which were generally made of dry stone, or wreathed with branches or boughs of trees; and it was no singular custom, after harvest, for the whole inhabitants to return to their sheallings, and to abide there till driven from thence by the snow.

During the winter and spring, the whole pasturage of the country was a common, and a poind-fold was a thing totally unknown. The cultivation of the country was all performed in spring, the inhabitants having no taste for following green crops or other modern improvements.

Alteration Since 1746

From the year 1746, the minds of the inhabitants seemed to have taken a different turn; the wadsetters, finding no longer the importance of their sub-tenants, cottars, and dependants, withdrew their former familiarity and protection, and these thereupon imbibed a spirit of independence, and trusting to their own industry and exertions, many of them quitted their native country, for a better mode of living; and those who remained, being now obliged to pay money-rent in place of their former services, became more attentive to the cultivation of the soil.

The wadsetters rights, having been all redeemed by the Crown, while in possession of the Lovat estate, became then sensible of their precarious tenures, and exacted from their tenants an additional rent, proportioned to the value of their possessions; and it must be acknowledged, that this change of system made a great alteration on the appearance of the inhabitants; they no longer were seen at church or market with garments the produce of their own sheep, spun by their wives and daughters, and the simple fare of their ancestors entirely lost its relish; the labourer increased his demand of wages; and the principal tacksman, thereby finding the returns from his holding not to bear proportion to his wants, bethought himself of a different plan of management, and exchanged his former tenants and dependants for a flock of south country sheep.

This step, altho' it had the appearance of great rigour, has turned out much to the advantage of the tenantry, who thereupon retired to the town of Inverness, and applying themselves to industrious labour in the two manufactories there, they thereby not only improved their living, but were enabled to give education and trades to their children, some of whom are now sending grateful remittances from distant climes.

The introduction of sheep, though it at first had only the effect of banishing the small tenantry, will, if successful, in a few years have the same tendency towards the principal tacksmen; and this once populous country will then exhibit the same scene of depopulation as we behold in the borders of this part of the united kingdoms: at same time, the success of this new plan appears problematical, from the state of the climate, which we shall now attempt to describe. —But we must here, in treating of this parish, make a distinction betwixt the parts of it to the east of Suichuiman, and those to the westward; the latter shall be denominated Abertarf, and the former Stratherrick.


The country of Abertarf, containing an extensive plain from the west end of Lochness to the bounds of the parish of Kilmanivaig, is hardly 30 or 40 feet above the level of the sea ; and owing to this circumstance, as well as to the temperature of the lake, it is very little addicted to any lasting snow, but from its contiguity to the Western Ocean, much more liable to floods of rain than the eastern part of the parish.

—Stratherrick, rising gradually from the river Tarf to an altitude of 400 or 500 feet above the level of the lake, with the exception only of the principal residence of the family of Foyers, and some other possessions on the banks of the lake, being nearly the central point bewixt the eastern and western seas, is not liable to incessant rains; but, from its being surrounded with very high hills it is not only accustomed to an early fall of snow, but it is in the remembrance of many persons now in life, to have seen the country for 6, 8, and 9 weeks, in such a state that not a tuft of heather was to be seen. It is true, this has not been the case for seven or eight years bygone, but who can venture to say that these seasons may not again recur; and as the produce of the country in corn and hay could not subsist its present immense stock of the woolly species for one week, the question is, in that event, in what manner they can be preserved from starvation.


The soil in this parish is of different qualities, that in Abertarf consists, in the surface, of light black mould, but sandy in the bottom; and in most years, from the great moisture issuing from the rains and vapours, to which that part of the parish is generally liable, the growth of corn and grass is very abundant; but except early crops, it is very seldom got safely secured.

In Stratherrick, except in the few farms on the banks of Lochness, the soil is of a quality nearly approximating to moss. On the south side of the country it is generally observed that the surface is not above a foot or 18 inches from the chingle; on the north, from two to three feet deep; but as the whole united parish is intersected by a variety of rivers, the lands on the banks thereof are frequently found to contain abundance of clay, which in many places is very near the surface; and as these rivers are permitted to flow in their natural direction, without any interruption, they frequently inundate the neighbouring plains, and often lacerate and demolish these parts thereof contiguous to them; and when these overflows happen in the winter or spring seasons, before the crop is sown, the effect thereof is greatly to ameliorate vegetation, and the consequence is a redundant crop of corn; but when this happens after the seed is in the ground, it generally proves the destruction of the crop ; but the portions of lands, contiguous to rivers, always produce the most exuberant crop of natural hay and pasturage.

Agricultural Process

Although no parish is better supplied by nature with limestone, there being abundance thereof in the lands of Foyers in Statherrick, and in Aberchalder in Abertarf, it is with regret we must mention, that the same has proved of very little benefit to the inhabitants of this parish. We do not learn that any part of Abertarf has been tried with lime as a manure, although many of the farms are within a very little distance of the quarry.

It is true, Mr James Fraser, writer to the signet, proprietor of the lands of Gortuleg, has, within these 5 or 6 years, manured his ground with lime brought from the quarries of Mr Fraser of Foyers; from the ruggedness of the road, he is obliged to lead the lime-stone on horses backs to his farm, or places nearly contiguous thereto; and as he has abundance of convenient fuel, he is enabled to burn them, in kilns built in the corners of his fields, with less expence than any of his neighbours ; and although the consequential returns of green crops, potatoes, and corn, greatly exceeds what is usual in that country, the great expence of procuring this manure, does not seem to afford sufficient encouragement, for his example admitting of imitation; but probably the heritor of this quarry, may lay down a plan, for disposing of the raw materials, at a moderate rate, for a specific number of years, and his neighbours may thereby be induced to make sufficient roads to the quarry, and thereby, with all local inconveniences, make a trial of this species of manure, especially as the country abounds in variety of mosses, which has now been found by experience to be an excellent subject of improvement, when drained and sufficiently manured with lime.

It should not be omitted, that some of the principal tacksmen in this country, have of late years been in the practice of ploughing their ground in the latter end of harvest, and beginning of winter; but the generality of sub-tenants continue the old mode of labouring, which, so far as we have been able to learn, was as follows: -

When a field was 3, 4, or 5 years lea, and failed to produce any grass, if calculated for bear, it received one ploughing as soon after harvest as was convenient, and in the spring it was spread over with a compost of old divot, sod or turf, and dung, and in the beginning of summer the lands were a second time ploughed, and sown with bear, and afterwards yearly with black oats, while it yielded any tolerable produce: if unfit for bear, it was tautbed in the preceding summer, or covered with the same compost as above-mentioned during the winter, and so on successively cropt with oats, every following year, in manner above specified ; and it was no uncommon practice, for a farmer to take 5 or 6 successive crops of oats from the same field; the reason assigned for this frequency of crops is, that the severity of the winter storms rendering it necessary for the inhabitants to house their cattle, it was expedient, by every method, to provide the means of their subsistence.


The grain of this country, was anciently bear and black oats; and before the introduction of sheep, the country abounded in black cattle, and on them the tenants chiefly relied for payment of their rents; and we have been assured, that the number of cattle annually sold from this parish would exceed 800. In Abertarf, from the mildness of the climate, these cattle were often disposed of early in the year; but in Stratherrick they were so reduced during the course of the winter, as not to be saleable till the months of August or September. But as more than three-fourths of this parish is now covered with sheep, the number of black cattle is proportionably diminished, and it may be safely computed, that there are now sold annually from this parish from 2,000 to 3,000 sheep and wethers. Within the last 30 years, the tenantry in general have run much upon potatoes, and in the country of Abertarf, this article of late years constitutes the principal part of their crop; and in Stratherrick, although a hilly country, every tenant and cottar has a proportion of his ground planted with this valuable root; and it should also be recorded, that two heritors of this country, having of late years been at considerable expence, in clearing their grounds of stones, levelling the same, by removing the banks or interstices, vulgarly called merins which are now frequently to be seen in the unimproved part of the country, building dikes, &c. have also introduced a rotation of crops; the first by sowing turnips, following that with bear and grass-seeds; and it is to be hoped, that these successful attempts will become hereafter an object of imitation.

Mr Fraser of Gortuleg having about 4 years ago imported a species of grain called red oats, brought from the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, he has had such prosperous returns, that most of the tenants in the country, to whom he is so obliging as communicate what can be spared of the produce, now prefer this grain to the black oats used by their ancestors, as it is not only found to produce a redundant crop of straw, but to ripen as early as the native grain of the country; but it would appear from the trials made, that this grain deteriorates in two or three years trial, and therefore a triennial importation would seem proper and necessary. Mr Fraser has also inclosed several of his fields with thorn hedges, which are in a thriving condition.

The natural wood of this country is chiefly birch, allar[sic], and hazel; but from the great trunks found in all the mosses, there seems no doubt, that the face of the country was anciently covered with fir and oak trees. The two above-mentioned heritors, of late years, have much improved the face of that part of the country where they reside, by large plantations of fir, larch, &c. &c.

So far as have been discovered, there appears to have been no minerals of any value in this country, excepting the lime-stone quarries on the estate of Foyers and Aberchalder, as already noticed.

This country, does not appear ever to have been an object for any great man to fix his residence in, and therefore, we can trace no remains of any edifice worthy of observation. But it would be wrong to omit mentioning the celebrated fall of Foyers, which is situated in this parish, and the beautiful ride from Inverness to this cascade, amidst a smooth road, cut through tremendous rocks, and shaded by a natural hedge betwixt the same and Lochness, which, together with a variety of scenery presenting itself amidst the thundering noise of the cascade, has frequently engaged the admiration of travellers.

The garrison of Fort-Augustus, situated at the western end of the loch, on a plain of no inconsiderable magnitude, having the river Tarf on the south-east, the river Oich to the west, and on all sides surrounded with hills towering to an extravagant height, has often been admired for the variety of the landscape; and as it lies in the centre of communication betwixt the Western Isles and the South, seems sufficiently calculated for the establishment of a market, for the several produce of these countries; and it is hoped, that the one lately attempted there, will, in time, prove of much public utility.

Were we to describe the various glens and valleys which are to be seen in this parish, it would prove more a degree of partiality to our native country, than any benefit and amusement to the reader. But it would have been unpardonable to neglect giving a short description of the productive shealling or grazing called Killin: It is totally concealed from the few strangers who are pleased to visit the inhabitants, being surrounded with hills of an immense altitude, and the access to it so rugged, as frequently to endanger the lives of infants, when transported thereto in manner above described.

It is bounded on the east by a lake, from whence issues the principal river composing the Fall of Foyers; on both sides of this loch the rocks descend with such inconceivable gradation as hardly to be passable; on the north side it is so steep that it is denominated Eakin, or Necessity, implying the great difficulty of passing that way; on the south-side called Craggin, or Rocky ; and not withstanding all the attempts by the inhabitants to render it passable, it in some parts only contains a path of two or three feet in breadth; and if a horse stumbles, or is in the least affrighted, it tumbles down by a precipice into the deepest part of the lake, and melancholy instances of this kind have sometimes occurred.

When we come to the end of this curious path we are struck with amazement; behold a valley covered with all species of verdure, a computed mile in length, and a half mile in breadth, bisected by a river flowing in a meandrous course, composed of a variety of streams descending from the hills at the wester end; and on all sides the ground, rising by imperceptible progression to the clouds, appears green to the very summit. To this shealling, the inhabitants, in ancient times, performed their periodical migrations in manner above described, but since the introduction of sheep, the same has been mostly detached from the former possessors, and is now principally inhabited by shepherds and their flocks.

This parish abounds in a variety of lakes, viz. Lochfarraline, Lochgarf, the two lakes of Knoky, Lochtarf, Lochkillin, &c, &c. and abound in a variety fish, which has frequently proved the amusement, and a delicious repast, to strangers, as well as to the natives.

The manners of the inhabitants of this parish have undergone a material change within these 50 years; before that period they lived in a plain simple manner, experienced few wants, and possessed not the means, nor had any desire, of procuring any foreign commodities. If they had salt and tobacco, paid their pittance of rents, and performed their ordinary services to their superiors, and that their conduct in general met their approbation, it seemed to be the height of their ambition; but this chain of attachment having been loosed, if not dismembered, by the abolition of heritable jurisdictions, &c. which soon succeeded the lamentable troubles of the years 1745 and 1746, the better sort or principal tacksmen having become more indifferent about their inferiors, this inspired them with a spirit of independence.

But though they have shaken off the prejudices of clanish chivalry, the impression of attachment to their natural superior is not totally defaced; for upon a late occasion, when their young chief had a call for men, in loyal support of his King and Constitution, it is a recent fact, that the heritors and principal tacksmen of this district held a meeting, and assessed themselves in men or money according to their several abilities:

Their effort was abundantly successful, without any breach of law or good order, and their example tended much to accelerate the national levy thereby intended; and if the heritors of this country will but persevere in treating their inferiors with the same tenderness, humanity, and sympathy, which they have hitherto experienced from the representatives of the first family in this district, we flatter ourselves, that we shall not see a final period, to this species of reciprocal sensibility, which probably, in a greater degree, is to be found among the Aborigines of this district, than in that more eligible country in which, after quitting this parish, they establish their settlement;

and were it not reckoned a digression from the subject of the present essay, we would express our admiration, to behold the attachment the natives of this country bear to their natale solum; that after wasting the prime of life in foreign climes, and in services honourable to themselves, and useful to their country, they limit their ideas to that domestic retirement, which has produced so many scenes of beauty and improvement, as in our visit to that district, the eyes are constantly struck with; and when we are informed, that their tenures are by no means of a permanent nature, protection, united with affability and complacency on the one hand, and implicit confidence on the other, excites our wishes that such principles were to become more general throughout the nation.

Having already observed, that in the days of old, the whole pasturage of this country, after concluding the harvest, was a species of common, we must not forbear to mention, that in modern times the practice is widely different; every tenant now-a-days is attentive to preserve his own bounds; and as the principal farms were some years ago granted under leases of 19 years endurance, with a limited obligation to recompense the tenants for certain improvements, this has produced several inclosures of various kinds; and though we cannot but admire the taste with which some of them have been executed, they have a tendency to divert the eye from the native deformity of the surface. This emboldens us to say, that if heritors in general were more liberal in their encouragement to the tenantry, and were they relieved from those fetters which their ancestors had imposed upon them, frequently beyond their abilities, that we would soon observe an exuberance of produce, and those scenes of beauty and urbanity, which strike us with pleasure and admiration in many improved districts of Scotland.

This parish, being situated in a part of the great opening betwixt the west and the sea, denominated, of old “Glennmore-na-h'alabin”, or the Large Glen of Caledonia. It may not be impertinent to this subject to notice the evident public utility that would result by opening a communication, by water, betwixt the Murray-Frith at Inverness and the branch of the Western Ocean at Fort-William. The Author of Nature seems to have intended this as a practicable measure: the distance, taken in a straight direction, does not much exceed 50 miles; of this, Lochness, Lochoich, and Lochlochy, all fit for navigation, make up betwixt 30 and 40; and though we cannot venture to prognosticate that the expenditure of uniting these lakes would return an immediate recompense, we must beg leave to signify our belief that the employing the executive wealth of this country in such operations would, in process of time, redound more to the national advantage than the sporting thereof in speculative schemes on transatlantic plantations, liable to the destructive inroads of Charibs, &c. &c.

We cannot entertain a doubt that it must be the blame of the heritors if the tenantry of this parish, so near to inexhaustible lime-quarries, will not in time imitate the successful experiments already made, of ameliorating the productive value of their several tenements. But whether this mode will be found to yield a greater revenue to the landholders than covering the whole country with flocks of sheep, is beyond our abilities to determine; but we may with confidence affirm that this mode can alone restore the decrease of population of this country, which falls in course of our plan now to be stated.

Formerly, Abertarf was inhabited by the numerous and hardy race of the names of Macdonald, Macgruers, Kennedies, and Frasers, and some of the principal towns or farms possessed by gentlemen of much estimation in the country; but this part of the parish having, within these 30 years, exchanged its proprietors, it is now almost totally under sheep, and hardly contains the tenth part of its former inhabitants; and some parts of the country of Stratherrick, having been converted into sheep-walks, has considerably reduced the number of its people: So that in exhibiting the following statement, taken from a late accurate investigation, we regret much to find it considerably short of the ancient inhabitants it formerly contained.

In Dr Webster's report, anno 1755, the number of souls is stated at 1,961. The parish at present contains 378 families, but of these at least 18 are connected with the garrison of Fort-Augustus, and 70 invalids, who all live in the fort; and the number of inhabitants, (including invalids), in the whole parish amounts only to 1,741; making a decrease of 220 souls. From the number of men who have inlisted in his Majesty's service in the course of the present war, it may be affirmed, that the proportion which the female sex bears to that of the male is from 3 to 2.


The only source of education the inhabitants of this parish have hitherto enjoyed was a schoolmaster established by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, in the village of Fort-Augustus, who has had frequently from 70 to 80 and 100 scholars; but in respect there have not hitherto been any parochial schoolmaster established in this district, that institution has lately been withdrawn; but, as we understand, that the whole heritors of this parish are unanimous in their wish to have this defect remedied, we hope soon to see that useful appointment revived under the patronage of the Honourable Society; and it may with confidence be asserted, that no place in the north country stands more in need of such an institution.

At present, such of the tenants as have ability, send their children to distant places, for the means of education, but those of the poorer sort must necessarily be void of any species of literature.

For what reason we cannot assign, but we do not find that there has been any regular baptismal register kept in this parish, for many years past.


The valued rent of this parish, as appears from the general valuation-book, made up in the 1691, amounts to £ 3,295 : 3 : 4 Scotch; but what the real rent of it may be, or how far the same may admit of increase, or be liable to diminution, a circumstance depending upon the present speculation of sheep-farming, is what we cannot take upon us to ascertain.

Church and Manse

The present incumbent has a commodious manse, and a large church, which would contain the whole of the inhabitants of this parish, built and slated about 30 years ago. These underwent a late reparation, at a considerable expence to the heritors; but, from the exposure of both these edifices to the violence of the storm, they will almost require an annual repair, for which there was a fund established at the last presbytery visitation, which, if wisely applied, may in future relieve the heritors from a great expenditure, similar to what they were lately put to.


So far as we can learn, the old stipend payable to the clergyman was £ 75 Sterling, including communion elements; but, by a late augmentation, it was increased to £ 105 Sterling, and is all payable in money, there being no victual rent in this parish. The minister has no other farm, in addition to his glebe, excepting a small grazing on the Lovat estate, for which he pays a moderate rent.


The inhabitants of all ranks, are very regular in their attendance on divine worship; but we regret to mention our information, that the lower set are apt to assemble in the evening at whisky-houses: the late parliamentary prohibition to distillation, has brought about a great reformation in this respect, having almost annihilated these nuisances of retail, and we hope never again to observe, such frequent violation of morality and decency in this parish. Heritors. Besides the Lovat family, there are six other proprietors, each of whom possesses a separate mill; and there are three mills on the Lovat property in this parish.


We do not know of any monument of antiquity worth the mentioning, excepting that, on the east confines of this parish, there is a towering hill of great altitude, and difficulty of access on all sides, which, in the Gaelic language, is called Dunardile, on the summit of which there appears the remains of an old fortification, and we are informed that a similar tower is in the same direction, contiguous to the house of Invergarry, in the parish of Kilmanivaig; and the tradition of the country is, that these hills were watch-towers for giving signals upon the approach of an enemy, which was done by large fires, composed of wood and other combustibles, and this seems to correspond with the Gaelic etymology of the appellation, "dun" signifying a hill, "ard" high, and "dyil" Carnochs, or followers of a tribe.


We cannot conclude this narrative, without observing, that though few of the heritors reside in this parish, the principal inhabitants pay great attention to the police, such as establishing constables, holding regular meetings of Justices of the Peace, for conducting and repairing the highways, &c. &c.; and though it must be acknowledged, that several mistakes are committed in forming their plans, yet, if the skill and experience of the gentlemen of this parish was equal to their patriotic zeal, no district would be better supplied with these means of public accommodation.


[Note: the above is a precise transcription (and spelling !) of the original, published Account. However the text has been broken up to form more, and shorter, paragraphs and bold highlighting and italics have been used to make the text more user-friendly.

This "First Statistical Account", unlike those of other parishes, was apparently not written by the local Minister, Mr Chisholm - although his contribution was repeatedly requested in letters sent by Sir John Sinclair between 1790 and 1793. One wonders who our anonymous contributor was. He headed the above submission "By an Heritor, a friend to Statistical Inquiries."

Possibly he was the Rev William Fraser, who, having sent in an Account for his own parish, wrote to Sinclair from Gigha in April 1793 "having been confined on the Mainland for some months by sickness". In Dec 1792 he had outlined his own proposals for "A Canal from Fort William to Inverness", which Sinclair also published. In it Fraser seems particularly knowledgeable about the Great Glen - although pleading ill health and being "retired to a quiet corner".

Late submissions delayed publication of all the Statistical Accounts until 1798 - so we cannot know when, prior to this, the above "Account" was written. Obviously it was *between 1790 and -98. The "Second Statistical Account" was written in Sept 1831 and revised in Feb 1835.] G.B. © Cill Chuimein Heritage