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This article was published in the 5 June 1863 edition of the Inverness Advertiser.


A correspondant sends us some interesting information from this secluded district. He says. --

It is with no little pleasure that I now notice a decidedly progressive move in a district which hitherto, in physical progress, has been the most backward "frae Maidenkirk to John of Groat's." I allude to the district of Coigach in this Parish. Hitherto it has been utterly destitute of anything bearing a closer relationship to a high-road than footpaths "amang the heather," and it is at least curious that, within a day's walk of trains and telegraphs, there should exist an extensive and thickly-populated district, which until now, has been entirely destitute of anything which the most ardent stretch of imagination could fancy a road. However, on the principle of "better late than never," Coigach is at length to have its road, and for some time back a squad of some fourscore of the "natives" have been busily employed in it's formation.

The north-west Highlands in general have been in very destitute circumstances for some time now, and, certainly Coigach forms no exception to the general poverty. The want of a road conduced not a little to this. The nearest meal-mill is about eighteen miles distant from the more remote parts of Coigach and the only way, in the utter absence of roads, for bringing the grain to the mill, is by sea. In stormy weather it is, of course, impossible to go by sea, and in that case, should they have grain enough in their houses, they might starve for the mill. In fact, last winter, during a long spell of boisterous weather, and when not a pound of meal was to be had, I verily believe there would have been cases of actual starvation, had it not been for those primitive instruments termed "hand-mills," which, although generally in the Highlands some generations ago, are now, except in very remote quarters, fallen into disuse, but which were in active requisition in many places about here last winter. For the information of the uninitiated, I may explain that the "hand-mill" consists of two stones of a circular figure, the under one convex with an iron peg extending a few inches outward from its north pole, while the upper stone is concave with a hole in its center to admit the peg, and keep the upper stone in its orbit during its revolutions. The grain is introduced at this hole, the upper stone being kept revolving by the hand; the grain is thus crushed between the stones, and falls out at the side, and the meal is afterwards separated from the husks and dirt. A great waste is caused by the process. Now, however, that we are to have roads, and can go to the mill in all weathers, the "hand-mill" will likely be consigned to oblivion, so that if any of your local antiquarians should wish for a specimen of the article to place in his museum, he had better make "early application"

Exclusive of the prospective advantages of the road, it is of great immediate advantage in giving work to many of our starving people. I use the word "starving" advisedly, from personal investigation into the circumstances of the poor about me. I know a number of families who have lived (!) for some time back entirely on the mussels and whelks they gather on the shores during the ebb of the tide.

Even as I am writing, I see a poor woman and a child "walking" the rocks -- basket in hand -- in search of a dinner for themselves and the famished expectants at home; the father, this very morning, has been refused a single peck of meal on credit.

Fancy (if you can) living on whelks, morning, noon, and night, for weeks, without even oatmeal to vary it, or any prospect of getting any meal, unless God opens the heart of some charitable person, and induces him to "give to the poor," and "lend to the Lord."

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Donald MacDonald-Ross, at:

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