COIGACH (the "Mitford Manuscript")

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the "Mitford Manuscript"

This file links from my genealogy introduction file at index.htm, which includes links to files with some other history of Coigach, a gazetteer of descriptions and translations into english of the gaelic place names of Coigach communities and places, and annotated 19th century census returns for the area.



This file is based on a previously unpublished article entitled "Coigach", which is also known as "the Mitford manuscript", William "Willy" Muir of Achiltibuie is thought to be the author of this 37 page typescript history of Coigach.

The typewritten manuscript was recently acquired by the Ullapool Museum, donated by a volunteer there, Ann Urquhart. Ann found the papers sitting on a high shelf in a cupboard at home! By coincidence Kate Ferris (CONTACT INFO) was visiting the museum the day Ann brought them in. Kate obtained a photocopy, which she has since photocopied and sent on to me, and which has become the source of this file.

Robin McLeod in Toronto ([email protected]) has scanned the pages, and fed them through an optical character recognition program to produce the ascii. Together with input from Kate in Scotland and Greg Wighton in Tasmania (CONTACT INFO) we have edited out obvious spelling errors such as spelling the word "this" as "tihs", and probably added some new ones of our own!

Where you see square brackets like so [square], they enclose either a hypertext link into notes I have added at the end of the file, or a short note I have added at that point.

The document is referred to in the book 'Peoples and Settlement in North-West Ross' (SOURCE) in note number 5 on page 387, at the end of the chapter "At the back of the Great Rock: Crofting and Settlement in Coigach Lochbroom", chapter by the book's editor, John R. Baldwin.

Baldwin refers to it as the "Mitford manuscript", and says it was acquired by Willy from Kenny John MacLeod of the Achduart Schoolhouse about 1960. Kate has talked to relatives of Willy, including his brother Jim, who as well as encouraging its transcription onto this website have expressed the opinion it was written by Willy. My guess is Willy wrote it, but obtained the documents he used as sources from John MacLeod.

Baldwin says;

"According to Mr Muir and Angus MacLeod, Achnacarnian, it was based on papers held by the late Mrs Mitford (nee Fowler, of Braemore Estate), giving the names of Coigach crofters in the (?)1770s.... Examination shows the manuscript to include material extracted from Morrison's Survey of Coigach(1775), as well as from other Forfeited Estate Papers and from the Cromartie Papers."

Though the authorship remains unclear, it is a fascinating bit of research, done before many of the source documents referred to became more widely available. As far as I am aware, the source documents though available for viewing at the archives in Edinboro have not been published in full elsewhere, though many books refer to them. If anyone has any further info please contact me, Donald MacDonald-Ross, at [email protected]


A detailed account of Coigach would take up a couple of columns per week for years to come. Indeed, only a person with plenty of leisure and the purse of a Carneige could do justice to the stirring history of the district. One seldom hears of Coigach as a battleground of the clans, yet almost every inch is historic, for the land has been drenched with the blood of the brave. After the barony was acquired by the Macleods of Lews, it was time and again harried by the men of Assynt and the Mackays. Perhaps its most terrible visitation was during the struggle between Torquil of the Lews and Torquil Dow Macleod, the Usurper. A document in 1596 is to the effect that Torquil Dow, with 700 or 800 men, came in;

veirlyk maner to the lands of Gogach and Lochbrume quhar thay committitt barbarous and monstrous crewalties as the lyk of haid nocht bene heir of, spairing nayther man vyfe nor bearne quhome they mycht apprehed sua that ane grete number of our trewe subjectis ar crewallie murderit and slaine; the haill groundis foresaid displenischt and laid vest, and the haill bestiall and gudis therof of girit and slane.

The harassed people only got peace when the district came under the firm sway of Sir Rorie Mackenzie of Coigach, ancestor of the Cromartie family. Documents prove that the inhabitants were never in a flourishing condition, the land was farmed out to tacksmen to such an extent that there were only about thirty people in Coigach who had land direct from the Earl of Cromartie even so late as 1730. In that year the Earl "set" all Coigach in tack for 15 years, the tenants having to pay a grassum for each five years. Owing to the failure of the herring fishing in 1740, Cromartie agreed to take the last five years' grassum in five moieties. When the tacks terminated in 1745 he proposed to continue these moeities in the new leases, but the tenants refused, and "he went home without agreement". As a result a good many of the sub-tenants at Ullapool, Corrie, Ardmair, and Achnahaird appear on the rolls for the first time. Owing to the '45 a considerable portion of the estate was "unrentalled and lying waste". Here is the first rent - roll drawn up after the '45:

Location                         pounds.s.d   Wedder   Stones     White
                                 Scots                 Butter     Plaids

   Murdoch M'Iver of Lecklelm      60.0.0       1      3&1/2       1/2

Riddoroch and Caulternach
   Murdoch M'Kenzie of Achilty    120.0.0       2          7         1

   Murdo M'Kenzie of Achilty       33.6.8       -          -         -

   Murdoch M'Kenzie of Achilty
   (Fue 27.13.4)                        -       -          -         -

   John M'Leod                    66.13.4       1      3&1/2       1/2

   John M'Leod (Half Ox Gate)      28.6.8       1      1&3/4       1/4
   John Bain (Half Ox Gate)        28.6.8       1      3&1/4       1/4
   John M'Kenzie                   28.6.8       1      1&3/4       3/4
   John M'Kenzie, Tailor          14.13.4     1/2        1/2       十1/8

   John Macleod                   15.16.8     1/2        1/2       十1/8
   Evan Cameron                   15.16.8     1/2        1/2       十1/8
   Angus Macauley                 15.16.8     1/2        1/2       十1/8
   Donald Urquhart                15.16.8     1/2        1/2       十1/8
   Katherine Mackenzie            7.18.44     1/4        1/4      1/16
   Kenneth Maclean                7.18.44     1/4        1/4      1/16
   Kenneth Deor                   7.18.44     1/4        1/4      1/16
   Willima M'Leod                 15.16.8     1/4        1/2       1/8
   William Urquhart                3.19.2     1/8        1/8      1/32
   Roderick Mackenzie              3.19.2     1/8        1/8      1/32
   Duncan Ker                      7.18.4     1/4        1/4      1/16

   Kenneth Mackenzie of Langwell
       (superplus)                  5.6.0       -          -         -

   Hugh Macleod                   26.13.4       1        1/2       1/4
   William Mackenzie               13.6.8     1/4        1/2       1/8
   William Macleod                26.13.3     1/2          1       1/4
   Donald Kerr                     6.13.4     1/4        1/4      1/16
   Roderick Maclean                13.6.8     1/4        1/4       1/8
   Donald Macleod                  13.6.8     1/4        1/2       1/8

   Roderick Mackenzie              78.6.8       3          4       1/2

   Kenneth Mackenzie               78.6.8       3          4       1/2

   Donald Macleod                  78.6.8       3          4       1/2

   Kenneth Macleod of Dundonell   200.6.0       -          -         -

   Kenneth Macleod of Dundonell
       (Feu duty 11.134)

   Malcolm Mackenzie              15.16.8     1/2        1/2       1/8

   Roderick Macleod              32.10.10       1          2       1/4
   Roderick Macleod                16.5.0     1/2          1       1/2
   John M'Leod                     16.5.0     1/2          1       1/8

Ulluble (part of)
   Roderick Mackenzie             10.12.4     1/8        1/8      1/12

Lossitore (part of)
   Katherine Mackenzie            10.12.4     1/8        1/8      1/12
   John Ker                       10.12.4     1/8        1/8      1/12

   John Macleod                    7.18.4     1/4        1/4      1/16

   Murdoch Mackenzie, officer      3.19.0     1/8        1/8      1/32

Badintarbet (one third)
   John Fraser      )
   Hugh Macdonald   )
   Donald Macleod   )              26.2.2       1      1&1/8       1/8
   Florence Macleod )

   Florence Macleod (other third)
   John Macleod                    26.2.2       1      1&1/8       1/8

North Langwell
   Hugh Macleod                   18.16.2       -          -         -
   Donald M'clean                 18.16.0       -          -         -
   Margaret M'Leod                18.16.0       -          -         -
   Kenneth M'Leod                 18.16.0       -          -         -

   Alex M'Lean alias M'Kenzie    25.16.10       1          -         -
   Duncan M'Kenzie )
   Norman M'Kenzie )               31.0.0   1&1/2          -         -
   Alex. Ker                       8.10.8       -          -         -
   Mary Macleod                   5.13.10       -          -         -
   Mary Macleod (Filinmore)         5.0.0       -          -         -
   Isobel Morrison                 11.7.6       -          -         -
   Roderick Morrison             11.13.10       -          -         -

   Kenneth M'Iver                 6.15.10       -          -         -
   John Macleod                   6.15.10       -          -         -
   John Macleod (boatwright)      6.15.10       -          -         -
   Alex. MacIndeor                6.15.10       -          -         -

   John Macleod M'allan             8.4.6     1/3        2/3         -
   John M'Iver                      8.4.6     1/3        2/3         -
   Katherine Mackenzie              8.4.6     1/3        2/3         -

   Roderick MacMichael              8.1.4       -          -         -
   Donald Macleod                 16.12.8       -          -         -
   Alex. M'Michael                  4.0.8       -          -         -

   Donald Mackenzie                78.6.8       2          4         1

   Aulay Macaulay                 200.0.0       -          -         -

   Alexander Mackenzie of Belloan
    (feu 92.6.8

Summer Isle
   Alexander Mackenzie of Belloan  26.2.4       1      1&1/3       1/6

   William Mackenzie of Gruinard)
   Mrs. Elizabeth Forbes        )206.13.4       -          -         -

Glenurigoulach & Ridorch
   Alex. Mackenzie of Sand
    (feu 15.11.)

Kildonan, Scorraig, Rireoach
   Simon. Mackenzie of Keppoch
    (feu 19.8.1)

   Angus and Donald Macleods(sub-ten. Of Corrie)
                                  26.13.4       1          2       1/2

   Angus Macleod, sub-ten. Of Corrie
                                  26.13.4       -          -         -

   Angus Macleod                  26.13.4       -          -         -

   Murdoch Maclean     )                   )
   Duncan Maclean      ) 5 merks           )
   Kenneth Maclean     )   each    20.0.0  )
   John McKenzie       )                   )  Sub-tenants
   Donald Macdonald    )                   )
                                           )      of
   Malcolm Macleod     )                   )
   Duncan Macleod      ) 8 merks  26.13.4  )    Corrie
   Katherine Macleod   )  each             )
   Neil Kerr           )                   )
   Katherine Mackenzie )                   )
   John                ) 6 merks           )
     & Murdoch Macleods)  each      8.0.0  )

Customs House of Lochbroom         60.0.0       -          -         -

The total of rented subjects amounted to Two thousand one hundred and eighty-nine pounds eighteen shillings Scots, feu duties One hundred and sixty-six pounds Scots, thirty-seven and three eighth wedders, fifty-seven and one-third stone butter, and nine and half white plaids.

Besides the foregoing, there "was unrentalled and lying waste":

Location                         pounds.s.d   Wedder   Stones     White
                                 Scots                 Butter     Plaids

Glastullich (part of)             15.10.0     1/2        7/8       1/8

Lossitmore (four pecks)             63.68       -          -         -

Rimore                              7.1.4     1/4        1/4      1/16

Pollichoir (one half peck)          8.1.0     1/4          -         -

Langwell and Breanauld            36.12.0       -          -         -

Achnahaird, Reefvater of Garve and Kerrowgarve
                                 228.13.4       7         14     1&3/4

Forest of Coigach                 66.13.4       -          -         -

Forest of Fanich                   60.0.0       -          -         -

                                 ---------     ---   --------   -------
total waste etc.                  557.9.8       8     15&1/8     15/16

The gross rent therefore 2746.11.4 Scots, 166.13.4 of feu-duties, forty five and three-eighth wedders, seventy-two and fourtenth stone butter, eleven and seven-sixteenth plaids.


An examination of the rental of Coigach shows that 59 people had holdings of less value than one pound sterling per annum. But this does not include cottagers and others whose names do not appear in the rolls. The barony of Coigach was surveyed in 1756 by Peter May who was instructed to measure the sub-tenants possessions separate from those of the principal Tacksmen. May replied that it was impossible to do that, for he must measure the whole. In a letter, 21st July 1756, he again represented the difficulty of the task:-

to do it distinctly is almost impossible as they are so interwoven with one an other and run-ridged on sundry farms with the tenants themselves, and these ridges are only patches that they dig up with a crooked spade, and so very small that above 100 ridges in an acre scattered up and down like lazie beds of potatoes. Where they are at a side by themselves I shall measure them separately, but where they are intermixed as above there can be no such thing done with exactness.

He was therefore instructed to make no distinction between the holdings but to give the gross arable acreage, etc., upon each of the farms of possessions. The result of that survey is now printed for the first time. A few notes are given within brackets; the arithmetic is startling:-

                                         Ac.    Rd.    Falls
      Corn land                          20      3      20
      Grass and good pasture              8      2      10
      Hill and moss                    1274      2      10
      Wood                              104      0       0
                                       1408      0       0

(A shealling at Calluscaig at the end of the loch.)
      Corn land                          27      0       8
      Grass and good pasture              2      0       0
      Hill and moss                    1550      3      10
      Wood (Chile Tornes)                10      0      30
                                       1590      0       0

(A shealling over the hill at tornes and another at Culnacriach near
      Corn land                           7      2       0
      Grass and good pasture              0      0       0
      Hill and moss                     559      2       0
      Wood (birch, near Mill of Ullapool) 0      0       0
                                        567      0       0

(some arable at Morechyle, now Morefield. The burn Allatryne was called

So. Kanachulish
      Corn land                           8      3       0
      Grass and good pasture              6      3      30
      Hill and moss                     273      1      10
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                        289      0       0

(The arable land lay near the beach; Meall Mor was called Pindericas)
      Corn land                          30      0       0
      Grass and good pasture             73      0       0
      Hill and moss                    1912      3       0
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                       2046      0       0

(The arable lay on the west of the burn called Alt-mor, and between that
burn and Altvrae (Alt Ach abraighe), Achduart was then a 3/4 shealling.)

      Corn land                          78      0      20
      Grass and good pasture             23      2       0
      Hill and moss                    2386      2       0
      Wood (Chyle Patawyne and
                        Altrenahuy)      16      3       0
                                       2505      0       0

(The arable lay along the shore from the little burn seat of Polglass and
Lochashew of Loch Poll an Dunan)
      Corn land                          11      2      30
      Grass and good pasture              4      3      20
      Hill and moss                    1075      1      30
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                       1092      0       0

(The arable lay on the west side of the road to Achnahaird)

      Corn land                          21      0       0
      Grass and good pasture              0      0       0
      Hill and moss                     799      0       0
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                        820      0       0

(This point was called Ruvater Roy and the arable lay along the shore. A
shealling called Arievallich lay between Loch Vallen on the west and Loch
Dhu on the east, near Meall and Feadain. Loch Camus na Feidh was called
Loch Lemanshineak.)

      Corn land                          26      3       0
      Grass and good pasture              0      0       0
      Hill and moss                     113      1       0
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                        140      0       0

(The arable began near the burn that ran from Loch Lemashineak into the
sea at Camushinea, and lay scattered to the burn that ran into the sea
from Loch Arickaphelre, which lay to the N.W. of Loch na Cruran).
      Corn land                          36      3      20
      Grass and good pasture             12      1       0
      Hill and moss                    1878      3      20
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                       1929      0       0

(The arable lay along the shore of Loch Reiff. There was a shealling
called Ruluisk near Loch-na-Ploytack, west of Faodbeg.)
      Corn land                          54      2      30
      Grass and good pasture             14      1      30
      Hill and moss                    3297      0       0
      Wood                                7      3      20
                                     [totals not filled in!]

(Arable lay compact round the house, with a shealling, now covered by the
sea, at Achnahaird bay; another shealling lay between the burn and

      Corn land                          11      0      10
      Grass and good pasture              3      0       0
      Hill and moss                    3023      0       3
      Wood                               12      3       0
                                       3050      0       0

(This farm lay between Inverpollie, Loch Sheanscaig, Lochdirranaherry and
Loch Badagyle. The wood near Loch Dirranaherry Chile-Charnamore on the
shore of Loch Bad a' Ghoill and shore of Loch-na-Chrachly.)

      Corn land                          10      0      10
      Grass and good pasture             16      2      10
      Hill and moss                    1793      1      20
      Wood                                5      0       0
                                       1825      0       0

      Corn land                           2      0       0
      Grass and good pasture              0      0       0
      Hill and moss                     224      0       0
      Wood                               10      0       0
                                        236      0       0

(This farm marched with Inverpollie and had a shealling at the bend in Alt
Gleann an t'Stathain.)
      Corn land                           7      2       0
      Grass and good pasture              5      3      20
      Hill and moss                    3825      0      30
      Wood                               12      2      10
                                       8346      2      10

(Arable lay on the banks of the Kirkaig. There was a shealling near 

      Corn land                           5      3      20
      Grass and good pasture              5      3      20
      Hill and moss                    3825      0      30
      Wood (shore of Lochvaitie)         10      0       0
                                       3870      0       0

      Corn land                          35      2       0
      Grass and good pasture             28      3      30
      Hill and moss                    3825      0      30
      Wood                               12      2      10
                                       8346      2      10
      [The numbers do not add up! I suspect a mistranscript from May]

(The arable lay scattered on both sides of the water of Langwell from its
junction at the burn Altkuil to Deasypane meadows.)
      Corn land                          65      0       0
      Grass and good pasture             77      1      20
      Hill and moss                    3619      0      10
      Wood                                5      2      30
                                       3767      0      20

(The arable lay near the bend of the river, whith pasture near the burn of
Runie. A shealling at Loannalogart east of the junction of the burns Awin
in Eithin and Awin Altnaclaggan.)

      Corn land                          13      2       0
      Grass and good pasture              3      0       0
      Hill and moss                    3532      2       0
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                       3549      0       0

      Corn land                           3      1       0
      Grass and good pasture              5      2      20
      Hill and moss                     599      0       2
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                        608      0       0

      Corn land                          10      0       0
      Grass and good pasture              5      1       0
      Hill and moss                    2893      3       0
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                       2909      0       0

      Corn land                           6      0       0
      Grass and good pasture              8      0       0
      Hill and moss                     226      0       0
      Wood                               50      0       0
                                        290      0       0

      Corn land                          15      0       0
      Grass and good pasture              0      0       0
      Hill and moss                     237      0       0
      Wood                               13      0       0
                                        280      0       0

Little Gruinard
      Corn land                          25      1       0
      Grass and good pasture              0      0       0
      Hill and moss                     686      2       0
      Wood                                0      0       0
                                       [No totals listed!]

(There was a small shealling on the burn side.)

      Corn land                          30      2      20
      Grass and good pasture             15      2       0
      Hill and moss                    1377      3      20
      Wood                               36      0       0
                                       1460      0       0


May's survey was incomplete; it did not include Ardmair and one or two places of no importance. Yet the document is more eloquent than mere words. It should be studied in conjunction with the rent roll, as in this way one can obtain a better idea of the real state of the country in the days of old. But in considering the points disclosed by the papers, it must be borne in mind that only about one-third of the arable land was under cultivation each season. This fact throws clear light on the condition of the people, and explains much that follows. Life in Coigach in those days was far from pleasant. A few years later the factor wrote:

"there are fifty families in Coigach who rents only from five shillings to twenty shillings stg. per annum; upwards of thirty families that farms from twenty to thirty shillings. These cannot, it is imagined, be supposed to maintain their families in any comfortable way upon so small farms but are found by experience to be a great nuisance upon every Highland estate."

No wonder there were such stirring times in Coigach. On 6th November, 1755 the factor wrote that the sub-tenants were constantly complaining against the tacksman who sub-set the worst part of their farm to poor people at exorbitant rates and live rent free themselves. This same old story is often found in the records of estates in the Lowlands, aye, even upon properties in the fertile plains of England.

In 1756 Peter May alluded to the strife between the two sections of the community. The Tacksman and the sub-tenants were in a state of civil war and there was bad neighbourhood between the parties for the latter becoming more independent want to balance accounts with the Tacksmen. May suggested that the best plan would be to break some farms and fill them entirely with the present sub-tenants, or detach them to remote corners at some distance from the principal tacksmen.

Beyond all doubt the common people had been cruelly oppressed; they lived in such miserable habitations that May asked for a tent, as there was no such as sleeping in their houses. Everything was scarce and dear and bere bannocks were difficult to get. He suggested that the poor folk might be usefully employed in making improvements, and he often urged the people to make garden plots for cabbage and turnip but they all answered as they had no leases they could never propose to improve. A fruitful cause of strife was the way in which the tenants commandeered the services of their underlings on the principle that it was better for these to work than to starve.

So great was the clamour about oppression that some of the tacksmen had to be removed. One of them, George Mackenzie, in Achnahaird, wrote on 30th March, 1756, in self-defence:-

Altho' a cottar or sub-tenant work one day in the month or week to his master, he very probably sits idle and basks himself in the sun for the greatest part of the rest of his time half starved for want of victuals which the master always gives him plenty when at his work.

Letters in similar strain - almost word for word, appear among the estate papers of many families.

There is, perhaps, no name more cherished on Coigach tradition than that of Mr James Robertson, minister of Lochbroom. Yet, his severe strictures cannot be printed, but in a letter of 5th July 1756 he gives one cause for his bitter strife:-

Permit me to tell you that several sub-tenants of Coigach have of late turned to be such bad neighbours of the Tacksmen that they refuse to keep their sheep or cattle off the grass or corn when their own (the Tacksmen's) are in the hills at sheallings; that when they challenge them for this, and other acts of bad neighbourhood, they attack them with the most provoking and abusive language. Now, Sir, such insult from silly senseless men and scalding wives will sit very uneasy upon a man of spirit let his temper never be so meek and peaceable and if you do not speedily command the peace I know what may be the consequence.

Murdoch the brother of Hugh Macleod the murderer had the confidence to accuse himself of uncleaness before our Session with a daughter of ......... Because he would not get her to be his wife. After this he fled to Assint, etc.

It is quite apparent that the trouble arose through the growing independence of the poorer classes. Owing to the herring fishing they were able to earn a little money for themselves, and no longer tamely submitted to the exactions of tacksmen or tenants. These last had to render various services to the tacksmen - they often compelled cottars and others to act as substitutes. The poorer sort began to resist the servitude under which their fore-fathers had groaned; they no longer hired themselves out to the farmers, and even those who did usually broke their engagements without scruple whenever it suited their purposes. Thus the servant question was very acute in Coigach in those days, but Robertson's description of the state of things seems really deplorable. He held that industry could never be promoted in the district so long as men and maidservants are allowed to throw themselves out of service to go fishing. By this practice the tenants can get no servants to work for any hire - not even a herd or little girl. But once the fishing season is over they will in the interval until the fishing returns again loiter in idleness in some obscure hut drinking and eating the pennyworth they earned, likeways sorning upon the tenants. In time of bad fishing, he says, they turn beggars and oppress the tenants.

Indeed, Coigach must have been an extremely lively place during the summer of 1756 when Robertson wrote the foregoing letters. Sub-tenants complain of being barbarously and inhumanly bruised, beaten and dispossessed of their holdings, while on the other hand tacksmen complain about tenants taking their manure, chasing their sheep, breaking down dykes, pasturing cattle in grass enclosures and generally behaving in lawless fashion. In short, it makes one's heart ache to read some of the papers dealing with Coigach in these supposed good old times. The people were removed in as cruel as fashion. So long as people paid their rents and behaved themselves, they had been allowed to remain. Two quotations from petitions of tenants against removal put the position very clearly. These tenants knew what they wrote about, as they had sad experiences, being several times removed to make way for others, although they had paid their rents punctually and were among the most industrious in the whole barony: -

Since the estate of Cromarty was forfeited the tenants have begun a different system hitherto unknown, and in their former wandering and unfixed situation imprudent to practice. In those days their rents were often raised and the tenants removed every other year on no other account but to gratify the humour or interest of factors or such as had better access to the great Earls and gentlemen than they. But finding now by experience that their rents were not raised and that they enjoyed their own possessions without any attempt to remove them so long as they paid the rent many of them began to improve their possessions depending that themselves and their bairns by long continuance therein should reap the benefit of their expense, industry and labour.

These people were naturally concerned at the prospect of being deprived of their holding and losing all benefit in the most cruel fashion. Another set of tenants, and there were a good many others in similar case, wrote that they were removed to make way for Grant, the baron bailie in 1758, and their continued out of possession for a year which reduced them greatly in their circumstances, and if they are set adrift again to accommodate Lieut. Alexander they can't help thinking it the greatest hardship they can suffer, and contrary to your honour's usual humanity to poor industrious tenants who pay their rents punctually. When tenants were treated in this way every one can realise how the sub-tenant and cottars were kicked about from pillar to post in these sad days of old.


Between 1757 and 1786 a great many tenants and cottars were ruthlessly shifted in the hope that, when contentious neighbours were separated, the community would enjoy some peace. The estate management simply reverted to the time system of transplantation under which sub-tenants and cottars had to flit with each change of tacksman. This method involved poor folks in terrible hardship. Even substantial tenants were affected by the terrible unrest. Some were removed for oppression, others on account of squabbles with their dependants, and a few to make way for certain half-pay officers. These changes were not carried out without strong remonstrance on the part of those concerned, but it would take up too much space to deal in detail with all the compulsory flittings. Some of the protest against removal disclose heartrending scenes and circumstances. One or two cases show how strictly tithes of fish were exacted - a fifth part of the catch being taken from the fisherman-crofters. The ejection of the people of Ullapool was an account of their treatment of the soldier-colony. A letter dated 5th June 1766 reports that the soldiers corn and ground was patched with the sheep goat horses and black cattle of the tenants. The military colonists were unable to work during the day, as they were obliged to watch their own corn all night, and when they poinded the cattle they were carried from them by force. The people of this barony are so stubborn and unruly that nothing but every resolution being strictly execute will ever bring thain to a due sense of subordination or order. As the possessors of Gluach, Pollichoire, and Keanchulish made every little improvement they were warned out, but were allowed to remain.

Dornie folks were removed for quarrels among themselves; those of Ridderoch were shifted to make way for Lieut. John Mackenzie, and they settled peaceably on Achility's farms of Corrie and Dalkinloch by June 1767. But the tenants of Achilitybuie, Keanchulish and Pollichoire resisted removal. A letter dated 18th June 1767 reports:-

"The stubborness of the people in the barony of Coigach is scarce to be imagined. Advisors stir up poor ignorant people to imagine, while they pay their rent duly, the Board has no power to remove them."

Some of the tenants made appeal to the Lords of Justiciary in Inverness, there being a right of appeal from the Sherriff Courts to the Judges on circuit, but all in vain.

Little wonder indeed that the poor folk were stubborn. The fault was not always on one side, and while not going into much detail a few instances of the oppressive methods then in vogue must be given. Some of Keanchulish tenants had been previously dispossessed to accommodate Hugh Macfarlane, son to Alexander Mackenzie in Ardmair. Hugh was Mackenzie of Achilty's groom and changed his name out of complaisance to Achilty's lady, and coveted the land. To gratify him the tenants were warned out. The Minister's nephew, Alexander Robertson, desired the farm of North Langwell on the ground that the possessors are so poor idle and ignorant, as well as contentious, that there can be no hope of their being over able to improve the place. He next desired to have Keanchulish and a process of removal was brought against the tenants who retorted that young Robertson looked with an eye of envy on their farms on account of the fine corn growing; but, if Mr. Robertson had been as industrious as they were it is more than probable he might have good corn. Robertson would benefit by their improvements, which would enable him to support himself in a life of pleasure and dissipation.

Lieut. Daniel Mackenzie from the Lews desired Achiltybuie so the tenants and all sub-tenants were warned out. They paid their rents punctually and made considerable improvements but that did not in the least help them. Achilty's widow held the farm which Lieut. Daniel alleged was neglected and cultivated with the spade. Achilty's son Sandy, a boy of 16, promptly challenged the Lieutenant to a contest with the plough; as the farm was up to date one of the sons having been in the south learning farming.

But there were other cases, like the people of Badenscallie, whose tacksman desired their removal:- Such obstreperous sub-tenants don't pay rent punctually but also break petitioners inclosures continually.

In the olden times under the Earls of Cromartie before the '45 certain of the aged and indigent had the privilege of having grass for a cow and follower or for a few goats rent free. The tacksmen also continued this right, and owing to scarcity of labour were compelled to increase the number of those enjoying the liberty of grazing without paying rent. Serious abuse arose and this was also a most fruitful source of squabbles. Indeed, the same state of things exist in our own day in certain places, through some tenants pasturing more cattle than they are legally entitled to possess. In Coigach the tenants were naturally indignant at the abuse of privilege in this way, and every reader will see they had just cause, as the following table gives those who kept cattle and paid no rent. Sheep includes goats:-


                                            Horse.   Cattle    Sheep
Margaret Macleod                               1        0       12
Mary Macleod                                   1        9       20
Christopher Stewart                            0        7       10
John Macleod                                   3        8       14
Allan Maclead                                  2        4       16
Murdo Mackenzie                                0        4       12
John Mackenzie                                 0        6       10
                                               6       38       94


                                            Horse.   Cattle    Sheep
Alex. Graham                                   1        1       26
Donald Maclean                                 0        1        0
Donald Macleod                                 0        0       10
Alex. Macleod                                  0        0        4
Alex. Macleod                                  0        0        4
                                               1        2       44


                                            Horse.   Cattle    Sheep
Margaret Macleod                               0        2        5
Christion Macleod                              0        3        5
Ann McKenzie                                   0        2        2
Alex. Mackenzie                                0        6        4
Christy McGillymichael                         0        3        1
John Macleod                                   9        9       13
Donald McRitchie                               0        0        4
                                               9       25       40

Achiltybuie, Baldounan etc.

                                            Horse.   Cattle    Sheep
Kenneth Macleod                                2        3       15
Rory Fraser                                    2        0        4
A poor woman                                   0        0        2
Kenneth Macleod                                2       10       18
                                               5       13       39


                                            Horse.   Cattle    Sheep
Kate Macleod                                   0        2       12
Donald Mackenzie                               0        3       12
Wm. Mcleod                                     0        4        6
                                               0        9       24


                                            Horse.   Cattle    Sheep
Marion Macdonald                               0        3        6
Hugh Mcleod                                    1        3        2
Christy Urquhart                               0        1        9
Christy McEiver                                0        2        8
Margaret Macleod                               0        0        6
Kenneth McEiver                                0        3        0
                                               1       12       31

We thus find a total of 23 horses, 89 cattle and 272 sheep and goats grazing rent free. No wonder that the tenants and sub-tenants complained about the grass being eaten up. As a consequence the Coigach farms were "soumed" by certain MacRaes from Kintail and result is give in tabular form for the convenience of reference: -

                                    Cows   Horses  Sheep  Goats  Value per

Badenscallie                         60      10      5       5       3/-
Alchiltybuie & Ouscaig               80      20     10      10       3/4
Badentarbat                          35       6      3       3       3/-
Dornie                               70      13      5       5       3/4
Altandow                             20       4      3       3       2/6
Reeve                                40       6      5       5       3/-
Achnahaird Eisbreaky instead
               of Ouscaig added     100      20     10      10       3/4
Dalpollie                            50       8      5       4       3/-
Inverpollie                          65       6      6       5       3/-
Leorkircaig                          35       4      3       2       3/-
Runabreck                            30       4      2       2       3/-
Sheancraig                           35       3      2       2       3/-
Achindrean                          100      20     10      10       3/4
    Do   (present grazing)          130      24     16      16       3/4
Keanchulish and Pollichoire          56       8      6       6       3/-
Gluach                               20       4      3       3       3/4
Achilmorie                           40       8      6       6       3/4
North Langwell                       30       4      4       4       3/4
South Langwell                       80      12     12      10       3/4
Glastulich                           75       6      5       4       3/4
Dalkinlock                           40       4      3       3       3/4
Corrie                               40       8      6       6       3/4
Dalvraid                             40       8      6       6       3/4
Ullapool 2 pk of Kinachrine
                  and Morechyle     100      12      8               3/4
Armair and Island Martin             30       6     10      10       3/4
Island Taurara                                      24               3/-
Forest                              300 Soums                        1/-
Kinachrine and Morechyle             40      10      5       5       3/4

The above estimate for Keanchrine and Morechyle was with grass of Upper Ullapool on the south side of the water. The "Souming" was certified thus:-

Ullapool, Oct. 31st 1768
We Ninan Jeffrey factor of Coigach, Alex. McRa Tacksman of Achyouran and Alex. McRa Tacksman of Invershiel are of the opinion the above is a just souming to the best of our knowledge.
Ninian Jeffery
Alex. McRa.
Alex McRa.


Coigach folk found to their cost that the government could act as harshly as even the most cruel of the tacksmen under the Earls of Cromartie. When the Cromartie family held the estate, the run-rig or kavel system was in full swing, so that every one knew perfectly well that what was theirs one year would be anothers next time. After the forfeiture of the estate in 1746, those who got upon the rent-rolls were to a great extent permitted to remain in their holdings, so no question arose as to the date of entry or quitting possession. But owing to the popular unrest and the necessity for compulsory removal of various tenants an inquiry was hold to ascertain the term of entry to the several farms. This inquiry disclosed the effect of the unbusiness-like methods in vogue after 1746. Very few of the tenants knew the precise date of entry to their lands as there were no leases or minutes of any kind. Some got possession on the death of relatives; others had been sub-tenants of tacksmen and got upon the rolls after the '45; some were given the land by the tacksman or by the factor, but whether they knew or not, only a few condescended to make any explicit statement. They indulged in generalities and dated events from obscure local happenings, the death of a tacksman, a wedding or the visit of the Earl of Cromartie in 1745. The Government officials, therefore, had no option but to get the tenants to sign a declaration as to term of entry to the lands in order to put things once more on a proper footing. These declarations, through considerations of space, have to be slightly abridged.

Obligations to Remove

[ these "Obligations" appear to be from a document at NAS, E746/167 ]

We, Neil Macleod tenant of Ardmair,
    Norman Mackenzie tenant there,
    Kenneth Stewart tenant there,
    Roderick Macleod tenant there,
    John Mackenzie tenant there,
    John McCallum alias Mackenzie tenant there,
    Kenneth Macleod junr. tenant there,
    John Macleod tenant there,
    Roderick Macleod tenant there,
    Roderick Mackenzie tenant there,
    Neil McIver tenant,
    Norman Stewart tenant there,
    Murdoch Mackenzie tenant in North Langwell,
    Kenneth Maclean tenant there,
    Kenneth Macleod tenant there,
    John Macleod tenant there,
    Kenneth Mackenzie tenant there

all parts of the forfeited estate of Cromarty (etc) considering that we have been allowed by the said commissioners to continue in the possession of our respective farms and possessions ever since they were annexed, without any Tack or Minute of Sett, and whereas in removing some of the tenants of the annexed estate inconveniences have arisen from the terms of their entries to their farms and possessions not being known with certainty and it being reasonable and proper to prevent such inconveniency in time coming, that the term of our entry to our respective farms and possessions be ascertained. Therefore we by these presents do declare and acknowledge the term of our entry to our respective farms and possessions to have been the term of Whitsunday, and we bind and oblige us our heirs and successors to flit and remove from our respective farms and possessions at the term of Whitsunday or 15th day of May New stile in the year 1770, or at any subsequent term of Whitsunday upon 40 days warning -

At Ullapool of Coigach before these witnesses:

            Lieut. John Mackenzie tenant Riddorich,
            Lieut. Alex Macleod at Iverpolly,
            John Mackenzie tenant Ullapool.

Similar obligation by the tenants of Achmilmorie and Gluach:-

    Murdoch Macleod tenant in Achmilorie,
    Donald Mackenzie tenant there, 
    Katherine Macleod relict of Neil Mackenzie late tenant there,
    Ronald Macleod tenant there,
    Murdoch Cameron tenant there,
    John Mackenzie tenant there,
    Rod. Mackenzie, tenant there,
    Anable Macleod relict of deceased Roderick McGillimichael late tenant
    Neil Macleod tenant in Gluach,
    Norman Macleod tenant there,
    John Maceiver tenant there,
    John Macleod tenant there.

Similar obligation by tenants of Dalpolly, Leorchircaig, Sheanscaig:-

    Katherine Mackenzie relict of deceased Roderick Mackenzie (of Achilty) 
                        now in Dalpolly,
    Alexander Mackenzie son of to the said Roderick tenant there,
    Roderick Macleod tenant there,
    John Mackenzie tenant there,
    Angus Macleod tenant Leorchircaig,
    Hector and Donald sons to the said Angus Macleod tenants there,
    Neil Macleod son to the deceased Angus Maclaod late tenant in
    and Hector Maclean tenant  in Lochanganich.

Similar obligation by :-

    Colin Mackenzie tacksman of Keanachrine, Morechyle, Island Martin 
                    Glastullich and grazings of Ullapool dated at Leckmelm 
                    16th January 1770.

Similar obligations by tenants of Achnahaird, Badenscallie, Dalvraid and Keanchulish:-

    Duncan Maclean tenant in Achnahaird,
    Donald Maclean tenant there,
    John Maclean tenant there,
    Duncan Maclean tenant there,
    Alexander Mackenzie tenant there,
    Murdoch Maclean tenant there,
    John Maclean tenant there,
    John Maclean tenant there,
    John Macleod tenant in Badscally,
    Anable Mackenzie relict of deceased Murdoch Macleod late tenant there,
    Hugh Macleod tenant there,
    Murdoch Stewart tenant there,
    William Mackenzie tenant in Dalvraid,
    Roderick Mackenzie tenant there
    and Alexander Robertson tenant in Keanchulish.  

Similar obligation by tenants of Dalkinloch and Runabreck:-

    John Mackenzie tenant in Dalkinloch,
    Donald Maclenan tenant there,
    Alexander Macleod tenant there,
    Alex Munro tenant there,
    Christopher Mackenzie tenant there,
    John Cameron tenant there,
    Roderick Macleod tenant Runabreck,
    Murdoch Macleod tenant there,
    Christian Macleod relict of deceased Hugh Ross late tenant there,
    Donald Kerr tenant there,
    Kenneth Graham, Donald and John Graham tenants there,
    and Donald Kerr tenant there.

Similar obligations by tenants of Reive:-

    Roderick Macleod tenant in Reive,
    Murdoch Mackenzie tenant there,
    Donald Macdonald tenant there,
    John Kerr tenant there,
    Alex. Mackenzie tenant there,
    Hugh Macleod tenant there,
    Donald Maclennan tenant there,
    John Macleod tenant there,
    Alex. Urquhart tenant there,
    Norman Macleod tenant there,
    William Macleod tenant there.

Similar by tenants of Dornie and Badentarbat;-

    Alex. Mackenzie tenant in Dornie,
    Donald Macleod tenant there,
    Neill Macleod tenant there,
    Angus Macleod tenant there,
    Duncan Maclean tenant there,
    Murdoch Maceiver tenant there,
    Mary Ross relict of deceased tenant in Badentarbat,
    Murdoch Macleod tenant there,
    and Hugh MacDonald tenant there.

Factor Jeffery's papers shew that while he had to execute the orders of his superiors he made vehement protests against their methods and the inconsideration shewn to the poor people. Young Murdoch Macleod at Achmilmorie - like a good many Coigach youths - had gone to the south to learn farming, and he lived with Captain James Kennedy of Kailzie. He returned home and desired a portion of his father's farm as the small tenants were so refractory he thinks they will be removed. The Board ordered the tenants to be removed to accommodate Macleod.

Jeffrey replied, on 15th July, 1771, that the petitioner was very deserving of a possession but the factor cannot clear out anyone. He adds The neighbours disagreed so much amongst themselves regarding the number of cattle each should keep that the factor found it necessary to give a summons of removal last term to oblige them to keep a more regular souming. But notwithstanding this he declined to remove them. His letters sometimes made this excuse - In regard the barony of Coigach is already so throng of people he cannot find any farm for them on the barony without turning out other possessors.

The "free and easy" period of 1746-1756 was followed by harsh repressive measures between 1757 and 1771 and, as if that were not enough, the poor folk had to endure years of sore trial by famine from 1771 until after 1784.


Famine 1771 - 1784

In 1771 a terrific storm burst over the north, leaving disaster and misery in its train. Cattle, horses and sheep perished in hundreds through the extreme severity of the weather. It was the beginning of an evil time for the people of Coigach. Lieut. Simon Mackenzie of Langwell, alluding to his loss by this storm, stated that of stock valued at 280 pounds sterling he had only 20 pounds worth remaining. Others lost their all. Factor Jeffrey's letter - book shows that he wrote on 27th February, 1771 to the effect that the storm obliged all the inhabitants to give the little provender they had to their cattle, and as that is generally exhausted they now begin to give their oats and bere. And as their horses will be so weak and scarce fit for the labouring, they will not have it in their power to provide oats and bere for seed. He also makes allusion to the dismal and deplorable situation of the Highlanders in general. For it must be understood that the state of things prevailing in Coigach was to be found in other localities. In face of fell famine people lay aside their differences, and we find each aiding his neighbour with that generosity which had always been so conspicuous a feature in highland life in the hour of affliction and trial. In a petition by the "United Inhabitants" of Coigach in July 1772, we have their own view of their position at this time of scarcity. The long petition begins by saying that some years ago the Highlands were in a thriving condition through good prices for cattle and corn and rents were raised. This was of course during the all too brief boom in black cattle and corn, 1766 - 1769, and then they make the usual agriculturist's wail over the good days of old, for they go on:-

But alas times are entirely altered as is most fatally experienced by your petitioners. Few or none of them but have lost a great part of their cattle and some their all. Besides this, their prodigious loss of cattle of all sorts, they expended all their corn upon these cattle so that they not only wanted bread to their families, but their landlays ley for want of seed. In this deplorable situation some of the Inhabitants had thoughts of transporting themselves and families to North America, but on mature consideration thought proper to make known their case....... But such is the scarcity at present that most of the people are in a starving condition, the more so as their horses are so weak that they could not carrie loads from the low country, and no ship appeared on the coast hitherto.

This petition was followed by the distribution of one hundred bolls of meal amongst the tenants of Coigach, who ware allowed to purchase it at cost price. A large quantity of meal was also bought from the people in Easter Ross, and in the autumn 100 bolls of bere and 80 bolls of oats ware sent to the district. But the people suffered great privation, the crowning misfortune being the total failure of the herring fishing. It is a most singular and remarkable fact that the fishing always failed in the years of greatest scarcity. On 30th December, 1772, Jeffrey alludes to the requirements of the tenants in the matter of seed oats, and bere and potatoes for the coming spring. The very lowest estimate was 100 bolls bere and 100 bolls oats of the earliest grain, with 45 bolls of potatoes. He says that:-

the people are in a precarious state. They depend on paying the meal and rents by selling herring to ships not on the bounty, and they had no fishing this year in Coigach or Lochbroom, tho' the fishing fleet was as successful this year as they have been for many the years past. Besides, the tenants keep none but the poor starved cattle, which won't sell till late markets, whereas the best prices are to be got in May and June. Then only well-boned good wintered cattle are bought. It is remarked throughout all the Highlands that where ever more that one or two people possess a farm they have bad cattle that does not bring above 30 shillings to 33 shillings 4 pence apiece, where neighbouring farm occupied by one brings from 45 shillings to 3 pounds each".

Government officials in those days had so little knowledge of geography that they thought the Dornoch Firth or Cromarty Roads the most convenient port for Coigach! They proposed to send the seed oats and potatoes to either of these places, but Jeffrey remonstrated. In a letter dated 18th February 1773, he wrote:-

that the winter had been so wet and stormy that scarcely any of the people in Coigach has as yet begun their labouring; and as few of them has provender to house their horses, it is with difficulty they are able to make out the labouring. Far less can they support so long a journey to carry their seed corn and potatoes.

He continued:-

It is absolutely out of the tenants power to carry their seed from Dornoch..... Last spring they were in so great want that they were eating the..... and killing bad mutton, and few or none or them had a bitt of bread to eat, but the most substantial in the barony could not prevent this for want of horses able to go for meal, and no year is their horses fit for this journey till last of May or first of June.

It would serve no purpose to harrow the feelings of readers with details of recurring years scarcity. Whatever Land League orators may say, people now generally recognise there were evil times in days of yore. The year 1782 was especially disastrous. Owing, perhaps, to the intense cold, the very grass seemed blighted and withered even till late June. Then there was no harvest weather, for the rains storms were followed by snowstorm and frost. A letter of the period states that the crop of 1782 almost totally failed in many parts of Scotland, particularly In Ross and Cromarty, and large quantities of foreign grain had to be purchased. In Coigach and Strathpeffer as we shall see later on, they were harvesting at Christmas; a letter, dated 24th December, 1782 says that The crop has failed much in Coigach having never ripened fully, and some of it was damaged in the ingathering. The potato crop totally lost in the ground by early frosts, and to add to the misery of the afflicted people, the herring fishing was a total failure.


As might be expected, the terrible loss suffered-by the tenants so disheartened them that-many threw up their holdings and emigrated. Twenty-six persons left Coigach in 1772, and eleven more families quitted their possessions at Whitsunday 1773 and sold their effects in order to be ready to set out for North America at the first opportunity. The chief difficulty that landlords then had was to keep the people on the land. Seaforth and others petitioned the Government for troops to prevent folk emigrating or being enticed away by the owners of emigrant ships. On 9th June, 1773 the factor for Coigach wrote:-

"The spirit of Emigration prevails at present in Coigach and Assynt and severals gave up their lands, but as there was not forty free days when they gave me the intimation I refused to take their land this year except Lieut. Alexander Macleod in Inverpolly whose intimation was early. I sett that farm at the augmentation on different poor people for one year."

In a letter on 4th November of the same year he says that the tenants never recovered from the loss they had in 1771-72, and in April last many resigned their possessions and sold their cattle with a design to leave their farms. In 1776 the tenants of Runabreck were eager and willing to remove because of the poor life they had therein; and for the same reason the people of Badentarbat and Island Tanera, like many others elsewhere, wished to be relieved of their holdings.


Foxes and Eagles

Coigach was always famous for the great hunts, which often took place within its bounds. In very ancient times the district is said to have been the haunt of wolves and other wild beasts. Indeed, this idea prevailed in comparatively recent days. At all events, after the '45, the forests of Coigach and Faunich are described as full of wild beasts of prey. On this very ground a certain clergyman desired the grazing of Faunich at a low rental as he alleged it was full of subterranean caverns and wild bastes, which would occasion damage to his stock!

When the Cromartie family possessed Coigach, the Earls used to hold hunts on a magnificent scale, and "tremendous "bags" of all sorts of animals were obtained. But after the forfeiture of Cromartie in 1746 these hunts were abandoned, so that vermin multiplied exceedingly. As time went on the people complained of the damage done by foxes, eagles and other beasts of prey. In July, 1768, the factor went about collecting money for the maintenance of a fox-hunter, and made a levy of sixpence in the pound rent. But foxhunters were lordly personages in those days, and none would undertake the job for less than 25pounds per annum, in addition to the maintenance of himself and his pack of hounds and terriers. In 1770 a bargain was made with James Connel, a famous Argyle hunter, who undertook to hunt the barony for 30pounds per annum and maintenance by the tenants wherever he went in pursuit of his game. But still the tenants complained about the foxes and eagles destroying their sheep, and Connel was urged to do his best to get the vermin exterminated. In December, 1772, he states in a petition that he has been employed since June, 1770, at 25 pounds yearly and he killed upwards of 500 foxes. There were still many foxes, but owing to the loss sustained through the death of cattle in the spring the people cannot retain his services. And thus, in addition to their other severe tribulations, we find the Coigach folk making grievous complaint of the damage done to their stock by the foxes and eagles.


The roads of Coigach were bad, they were the worst in the Highlands, for there were no roads but rough paths. In July 1763, a survey was made of the road between Dingwall and Lochbroom, when it was described as rocky, full or stones, and no bridges on the rivers. Orders were issued for the building of two bridges, and a start was made soon afterwards. Statute labour was employed, and the work was in full swing during the next few years. In 1768 the road between Ullapool and the Oykel was surveyed, (completed July 1772) and in .... David Aitken had 13 pounds, 13 shillings for making a survey of the road from Ullapool to Aird of Coigach. Throughout 1774 and 1775 many people were employed on the various roads, but we must not take up space with details.

The Schools

The S.P.C.K. Society [Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge] had a school at Ullapool, where the teacher had a salary of 8 pounds per annum. He laboured under great disadvantage because the local prejudice was against the English language, which gained very little ground, and the pupils few in number. In 1761 John Sage, the schoolmaster at Ullapool was removed to Knoydart and Lochaber. It appears he was more successful as a small farmer than as a teacher. He repaired his houses, built two barns, two new byres, made two gardens and three enclosures. When he left he claimed 10 pounds sterling as compensation for improvements, and was allowed 8 pounds sterling!

In 1762 a temporary school was established at Knockdow under Alexander Stronach, who became schoolmaster at a salary of 25 pounds yearly. This spot was so inconvenient that the tenants of Coigach petitioned that a school for teaching Latin and dead languages should be built at Ullapool instead of at Meikle Strath. At the former place it would be near the people, and at a point where the fishing was plentiful. This proposal was strenuously opposed by James Robertson, the minister. In a petition he says that his manse is used as a schoolhouse, and suggests that the schoolhouse be built at Kirktown of Lochbroom. If this be done he will gladly allocate a part of his glebe and get the same "sanctified", with a privilege to the schoolmaster of pasturing 20 sheep and 20 goats at a sum not exceeding 12 shillings yearly, and in addition he will allow him 2 milk cows grass free during his incumbency. For some reason Robertson's proposal proved disagreeable to the heritors for he complains about some memorial of theirs reflecting obliquely on his conduct. His idea was that the children could attend at Kirktown without being boarded out, while the heritors held that if the school was a Kirktown the great bulk of the scholars would have to be boarded out. This would entail such expense that very few parents could afford to keep their children at school. Further they protested on 1st February, 1765, that the place was unsuitable because it was near a change-house. Meantime the schoolmaster, Alexander Stronach, on l9th July, 1764, desired permission to study book-keeping and geography at Aberdeen during the winter session. He offered to provide a substitute. He wished to go with some of his pupils, two sons of Mackenzie of Dundonell and the eldest son of Robertson the Minister. But the heritors were so active that by July, 1765 it was proposed to discontinue the building of the new school at Kirktown. They got 134 pounds, 2 shillings, 2 pence allocated for building a schoolhouse at Ullapool. When Stronach heard of this he wrote the following letter on 22nd July 1765, but there is no use printing a paragraph written in his wild wrath:-

Sir, - Permit me with the greatest submission, but real sincerity, to tell you that it much afflicts me to understand that it is intended to remove the school from Meikle Strath. I look upon it as the greatest hardship to think that the school hitherto successful should be removed to that obscure distant corner; far from the minister, far from the conversation countenance and assistance of both the minister and other gentlemen in a close neighbourhood who were assisting me in the Reformation of the manners of. my scholars. But what touches me to the Quick is that I have no view of having the least appearance of a school at Ullapool, and consequently no prospect of either promoting my own honour or answering the design of my worthy patrons. For I am well assured that the very moment I am translated to Ullapool eight of my scholars who I hope will be fit for college within two years will desert me, and so others shall reap the fruits of my labours, and enjoy the Honour of what they least wrought for.

The minister made a vigorous protest against the removal of the school on 14th February, 1766. In those days the poor scholars must have suffered terribly when pursuing their studies. The present school has no seats or writing tables but what I furnish them. The children suffer from storms of wind and rain and drift blowing in at the windows without glass and cannot be shut. The school was soon afterwards removed to Ullapool, where Stronach was settled in 1767 at a salary of 12 pounds 10 shillings per annum. One half of the former salary was given to a society teacher, Mr.Donald Lyon, Schoolmaster of Coigach. In addition to their ordinary duties Lyon and Stronach taught the children how to make nets, and so earned extra grants. The boys were encouraged by premiums to the extent of 5 pounds, and Lyon was particularly popular among them as he had a small yawl allowed to him for purposes of instruction. In 1768 Kenneth Mackenzie of Dundonell promoted a memorial desiring a parochial school, and the heritors called Mr.Stronach at a salary of 25 pounds as they desired the rising generation early educated in principals of virtue, loyalty and good manners. By 1771 schools were established at the Aird of Coigach and Achiltybuie. Donald Lyon, who took an active part in the movement for extending educational facilities in Coigach, met the people of the district and reported that those of Strathpolly and Kerrowgare agreed to cut and lead the necessary timber (for the school) and the people on this side to provide the necessary materials, but the folk are so poor they can hardly maintain themselves. This was in July 1771 and from this time forth educational matters prospered in Coigach.


The Church

One could not desire a more fascinating theme than a history of the Church in Coigach, but it is not my intention to write about ecclesiastical affairs in the barony. Only a few jottings may be given in connection with the notes. An undated report (about 1762) states that the minister seldom preaches in English; his stipend is 44 pounds 18 shillings 10 pence and he has a glebe capable of grazing 40 milk cows. James Robertson, the minister, in a memorial of the same date, says that his parish is 32 miles long by 20 miles broad, it has seven places of worship, of which three are upon the estate of Cromartie. One at the Aird of Coigach is 26 miles from the parish church, and most difficult of access, as one has to pass the noted cove Uakgaduruian. There are 1900 catechisable persons in the parish, and Ardmair is the centre of the annexed estate. The General Assembly sanctioned a new erection in 1761. A detached sheet among the Jeffrey papers is an undated List of Catechisable persons in Coigach, apparently in connection with the above memorial:-

        Corrie 4;
        Ullapool, Keanchrine; and Morechyle 72;
        Glastullich 9;
        Dalkinloch 14;
        Dalvraid 11;
        Riddorroch and portinents 28;
        Ardmair 29;
        South Keanchulish 10;
        North Keanchulish 6;
        Achindrein 49; 
        Achmilorie 30;
        Gluach 12;
        South Langwell and portinents 24;
        North Langwell 29;
        Badenscallie and pertinents 40;
        Achiltybuie 68;
        Badentarbat and Summer Isle 45;
        Dornie 46;
        Reeve 45;
        Achnahaird 56;
        Inverpollie and Dalpollie 31;
        Leorchircaig 20;
        Sheanscaig 9;
        Pollochoire 23-700.

The kirk and manse of Lochbroom must have been old as they were constantly under repair so that the tenants of Coigach were frequently called upon to perform their quota of services. In this they sometime failed, but Robertson had a disagreeable knack of paying off the score at the most unexpected times, and in an encounter with him the tenants usually came off second best. When Stronach became minister he petitioned for a new manse. The heritors considered his claim as very reasonable; Coigach's quota amounted to 58 pounds 13 shillings 5 pence, as settled on 23rd June 1779, but Stronach had to wait some time for his manse.

The Fishing Industry

In the old days the prosperity of Coigach folk largely depended on the success of the herring fishing. The natives were much behind the times through clinging to old-fashioned methods. On this account they lost the riches of the sea for strangers carried off the spoil. Coigach morals were not improved by the visitors; riots and broken heads were of so frequent occurrence as to constitute a public scandal. But the chief offenders usually escaped punishment, leaving the natives to nurse their anger.

The Earl of Cromartie was anxious to improve matters so that the tenants should secure the riches of the sea. He proposed to settle several crews of expert fishermen in the district to instruct the natives. This scheme was knocked on the head by the Earl's forfeiture, but in 1760 suggestions were made that a fishing and manufacturing station should be set up at Ullapool, where its mighty probable it might be a flourishing village in a few years. Ullapool's time was yet to come; still it is interesting to recall that everyone had faith in the future of the place. Indeed in later times an idea prevailed that a fashionable Spa might arise through the curative properties of the mineral well at Leckmelm, whose waters were regarded as useful in cases of consumption!

On 1st February, 1769 Ninian Jeffrey formulated a scheme for erecting a fishing village at Dornie. His plan involved the provision of a sloop, 6 boats, 6 houses, lines, hooks, nets, etc., at a cost of 510 pounds 10 shillings. A fishing station was erected at Isle Martin in 1773 and another at Isle Tanera in 1785 but it was not until 1788 that the British Fishery Society began to build houses at Ullapool.

One or two Lochbroom merchants carried on a considerable trade. Their accounts in 1759 show dozens of claret Malaga and Red Port at 21s and 18s. casks of sugar loaf at 94s. Reams of paper, barrels of soap at 4 pounds 12 shillings each; lump sugar at 4 pounds 10 shillings per cwt; dozens of sherry at 18s. 200 loads great coals at 8&1/2d - 7 pounds 1 shilling 8 pence. One of these traders frequently sent south consignments such as 63&1/2 barrels beef at 25 shillings each, 123 quintail of ling at 14 shillings; 100 barrels salmon at 42 shillings; 200 spindles yarn at 2 shillings 6 pence.


People nowadays can form a pretty shrewd idea of the state of Coigach. They know the extent of its arable and of its pasture, its soums, rental and so on. Let them picture the land as destitute of fences and enclosures, for this is the subject that has to be considered here. It has always been a maxim in Scots law that a tenant had a right to compensation for improvements. We find cases from so early as the 15th century. But on the other hand, crofters and sub-tenants could not claim as they were bondagers the "couples" of whose houses were the exclusive property of the landowner or his tenant. Now the crofter has a right to compensation for improvements, but the fact that he could not claim it in the past explains why so many miserable dwellings exist but even the most wretched of the modern houses are a tremendous improvements on the old Highland creel houses or mud huts once quite general throughout Scotland and England. Even so late as 1756 the houses of the common people were made of wattles and inner framework of interlaced branches and boughs - having walls and roof of divots. Houses of alternate layers of turf and stone only date from 1750-1760 -, and houses having walls of stone date from about the same period. In those days houses were valued at from 1 pound 10 shillings to 6 pounds; barns of four couples, 3 pounds; stables 2 pounds; sheep byres of three couples 1 pound. Duncan Ross at Lossitore was one of the first to erect improved houses, and his dwelling was worth only 6 pounds, and the other buildings as above in 1751.

Angus Macleod Sheanscaig who had been forester to Cromartie was one of the most industrious of the Coigach tenants. Before 1761 he made 3100 yards of enclosures, and improved his buildings. Donald Mackenzie, brother of Murdo of Achilty, spent 100 pounds sterling on building houses before 1760, while George Mackenzie of Achnahaird made 407 rods of dykes before 1776 at a cost varying from 6 shillings per rod to 2 shillings. Alexander Macleod of Inverpolly between 1765 and 1773, made 3281 1/2 yards of double-faced dyke at a cost of 20 pounds 10 shillings, but he lost more then half his stock in 1772 and threw up the farm as he got no reduction of rent in 1773. Another army officer, Lieut. Simon Mackenzie of Langwell made many thousands of yards of enclosures, also bulwarks on the river bank. He was one of the most "spirited" of the Coigach tenants but he was greatly hindered by his sub-tenants, and in 1770 it was suggested that all these people should be settled in Island Martin. He improved his houses and made gardens. Great changes were effected at Riddoroch, Achmilmorie, Keanchrine, Dalvraid and Achterscaldnusk, where many acres were reclaimed and better class houses created. The following table shows the valuation of dykes made in a time of sore famine; compensation on such a scale may seem trivial:-

Estimate of Stone Dykes made by the Tenants of Coigach 1784-5
                     Rds.     Yds.      Value         Sustained
                                      [sterling]      [sterling]
Badenscallie          13       5       2. 13. 4       3. 19.  2
Crioch of do.          6       5       1.  7. 4
Achiltybuie           80       1      16.  0. 8       8.  5.  6
Badentarbat            8       2       1. 13. 4       1. 13.  4
Altandow               5       4       1.  2. 8       1.  5.  0
Reeve                 21       1       4.  4. 8          19.  8
Dalpollie             16       3       3.  6. -       3.  4. 10
Inverpollie           28       0       5. 12. -       5.  9. 10
Leorchirkaid           7       3       1. 10. -       1.  9.  2
Sheanscaig             2       5      11.  4. -          11.  2
Ullapool               -      82       -.  -. -       2. 14.  8
Keanchulish           19       1       3. 16. 8       3. 14.  -
Achmilmorie            8       1       1. 18. 9       1. 13.  9
Gluach                 9       4       1. 18. 8       1. 18.  8
Corry                 45       4       9.  2. 8       6. 14. 11
Achascaig             73       0      14. 12. -      13. 11.  1
Dalkanloch             8       5      14. 15. 4       1. 12.  9
Dalvraid              11       0       2.  4. -       2.  3. 10
Glastullich           15       8       3.  2. -       2. 18.  4
Achnahaird            73       0      14.  -. -      12. 16.  4
Langwell              11       5       3.  -. -       2.  -.  -
                       -      48       -.  -. -       1. 12.  -

[The unnamed community after Langwell was probably South Langwell]

Modern farmers may look with contempt on old time improvement with dykes of stone and turf at threepence or sixpence or one shilling per yard in the days of old before the estate was restored to the Cromartie family.

This file, and others dealing with history and genealogy of Coigach, links from my homepage at:

Any suggestions for additions or edits please feel free to email me,

Donald MacDonald-Ross, at:

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