Page images

pretence, in order to render himself more respectable with his clan; but at length, in spite of fiue abilities, was made a dupe to his own artifices, became possessed with a serious belief of the faculty, and for a considerable number of years before his death was made truly unhappy by this strange opinion, which originally arose from the following accident. A boat of his was on a very tempestuous night at sea; his mind, filled with anxiety at the danger his people was in, furnished him with every idea of the misfortune that really befel them; he suddenly starting up, pronounced that his men would be drowned, for that he had seen them pass before him with wet garments and dropping locks. The event was correspondent, and he from that time grew confirmed in the reality of spectral predictions."

There is another sort of divination, called Sleinanachd or reading the speal-bone, or the blade-bone of a shoulder of mutton well scraped. When Lord Loudon was obliged to retreat before the rebels of the isle of Skie, a common soldier, on the very moment the battle of Culloden was decided, proclaimed the victory at that distance, pretending to have discovered the event by looking through the bone.

"I heard (continues Mr. Pennant) of one instance of second sight, or rather foresight, which was well attested, and made much noise about the time the prediction was fulfilled. A little after the battle of Preston Pans, the president Duncan Forbes, being at his house of Culloden with a nobleman, from whom [ had the relation, fell into discourse on the probable consequences of the action: after a long conversation, and after revolving all that might happen, Mr. Forbes, suddenly turning to a window, said, All these things may fall out; but depend on it, all these disturbances will be terminated on this spot.

The parish of DUNNET is ten miles in length and four in breadth, and contains 282 houses and 1366 inhabitants, viz. 539 males and 777 females; of whom

[blocks in formation]

1355 were returned as being employed in agriculture, and only 11 in trade or manufacture. This parish extends westward from Canisbay, to the termination of the Pentland Frith, which opens into the North Sea between Hoyhead in Orkney, and Dunnet-head, which claims the privilege of being as far north as John O'Groat's. This headland is about three miles in length and one in breadth, rising, as a rude wall to the height of four hundred feet from the sea, yet not strikingly elevated above the general level of the land. At its western end, the shore for two miles is a low sandy beach, the termination of a valley, which winds quite across the island, from the similar beach of Kees, in the parish of Wick; as if it might become a strait of the ocean, parallel to the Pentland Frith. Dunnet parish is well cultivated.

HALKIRK is an extensive parish, being twenty-four miles in length, and twelve in breadth, containing 431 houses, inhabited by 2545 persons, viz. 1159 males and 1386 females; of whom 1227 were returned as being employed in agriculture, and 229 in trade and manufacture. This parish skirts along those of Bower, Wattin, and Latherou, and is bounded by Kildonnan in the county of Sutherland. It comprehends the source of the river Thurso, and the greater part of its course; it is both a corn and grazing country; in the upper quarter, the crops are subject to damage from frost and mildew, when ripening in the month of August, from foss evaporating from lakes, marshes, and the slowly-flowing stream of Thurso.

Many places of worship have been in this parish, such as the parish kirk of Skinnan ; the Hospital of St. Magnus at Spittal, the walls of the church belonging to it being still extant; the chapel of Olgrim beg; the chapel of St. Trostin, at Westfield; the chapel of St. Queran, at Strathmore; another chapel at Dilred; and as the bishop of Caithness lived of old at Halkirk,

his chapel was called St. Kathrin, of which there is no vestige left but a heap of rubbish.

The Norwegian lords that were superiors of Caithness, built the castle of Braal in this parish. Here lived Earl John, who is said to have caused the burning of the bishop of Caithness. This bishop,

whose name was Adam, lived near the place where the minister's house stands, too near the bloody Earl. It is said that he was severe in exacting tithes, which made the country people complain; upon which the Earl told them that they should take the bishop and boil him. Accordingly, says Mr. Pennant, they went on furiously, and boiled the bishop in his own house, together with one Serlo, a monk, his companion, in the year 1222. King Alexander II. came in person to Caithness, and it is said, executed eighty persons concerned in the murder. The earl fled, but was af terwards pardoned by the king; however, he was some time after killed in the town of Thurso, by some persons whom he designed to murder. At Braal there was a fine garden, besides which, salmon is caught here from the month of November to August.

The castle of Dilred is a small building, situated on the top of a rock: It was built by Sutherland of Dilred. His son Alexander Sutherland forfeited his estate, and these lands were given to the ancestors of Lord Reay; since which they have belonged to Mr. Sinclair.

Up the river stands an old ruin, called Lord Chein's, or Ronald Chein's hunting house: he was the Nimrod of that age, spending a great part of his time in that exercise. The house stood at the outlet of a loch, called Lochmore, the source of the river Thurso, which abounds with salmon. Ronald Chein had a cruise on this river, with a bell so constructed that when a fish tumbled in the cruise, the bell rang.

The tradition is, that all these highlands were then forest and wood, but uow there is scarcely any wood. The loch is about half a mile long, and near the same in breadth, and is one of the best fish-ponds in Britains many

many lasts are caught every year on the shore of this loch by the country people. Many gentlemen claim a property in it, for which cause it is a common good to the country in general.

There is in the town of North Calder an old ruin, called Tulloch-hoogie. Torfous says, that Ronald, Earl of Orkney, was treacherously murdered there by a ruffian he calls Thiorbiornus Klerkus, and a smart skirmish ensued. Thiorbiornus fled, and being hotly pursued, was burnt in a house where he took shelter, and eight more with him. This was in the twelfth century.

Two battles were fought by the Danes in the dales of the parish of Halkirk. One at, Toftin-gale, the grave of the foreigners. A Scots nobleman, whom Torfous calls Comes Magbragdus, commanded on one side, and a Norwegian, called Liotus, on the other. Liotus was mortally wounded, and buried at Sten-hou, near the kirk of Watten. The other battle was fought at Halsary. The large stones erected at Rangag and thereabouts, are sepulchral monuments where persons of note are buried. There was a battle fought in the sixteenth century, by the Gunns and others, at a place called Blarnandoss, near Harpisdale, wherein the Gunns

were routed.

Pictish houses are very numerous along the shore, but they are all fallen down. It is a most beautiful parish, and must of old have abounded with game and fish, which invited people to settle in it.

The parish of LATHERON. lies on the shore of the Moray Frith, and is twenty-seven miles in length, and fifteen in breadth, containing 775 houses, and 3612 inhabitants, viz. 1655 males, and 1957 females, of whom 3435 were returned as being employed in agriculture, and 58 in trade and manufacture.

Langwell house, a seat of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, is in a pretty wooded vale, mostly of natural birch: there is a garden, a hot-house, and much improvement.


Nottingham, a modern handsome edifice, with grounds much improved, is the family mansion of Sutherland of Forse, Esq.

Near Langwell is a strong old ruin said to be Ronald Chein's castle, who lived in the fourteenth century, and as before mentioned, was a great hunter of deer: he had a third part of Caithness in property; his great estate was divided between his two daughters, one of which became a nun, the other married the ancestor of Lord Duffus.

At the loch of Stempster, in this parish, stands a famous Druidical temple: the circle is large, being above one hundred feet in diameter. The stones are large and erect, and to shew, says Mr. Pennant, that the planetary system was observed by them, they are set up in this manner, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7; then the same course begins again, 1, 2, 3, 4, &c. Few of the stones are fallen. Near the temple is a ruin, where the arch-druid, it seems, resided.

Upon a rock on the edge of the sea, in Easter Ayth, there is an old building, called Cruner Gunn's Castle. This gentleman of the name of Gunn, was coromator or justiciary of Caithness: he was basely murdered, with several gentlemen of the name, and of other names, in the kirk of St. Teay, near castle Sinclair, by Keith, earl marischal. This happened in the fif teenth century.

There is an old building at Lathrone, called Harold tower, said to have been built by wicked earl Harold, in the twelfth century.

Dunbeath castle, the seat of Mr. Sinclair, is situate on a narrow neck of land, on one side impending over the sea, on the other over a deep chasm, into which the tide flows. This castle was taken and garrisoned by the marquis of Montrose, in the year 1650, immediately before his final defeat.

There are the remains of many castles along this coast. The shore is composed of high rocks, intersected by various creeks, where fishing-boats can


« PreviousContinue »