Lairg parish


Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, Samuel Lewis - 1851

LAIRG, a parish (large), in the county of Sutherland, 19 miles (W. by N.) from the village of Golspie; containing 913 inhabitants, of whom 69 are in the village of Lairg. The name is generally supposed to be derived from the Gaelic word Lorg, signifying " a footpath ", and to be descriptive of the situation of the parish, which lies in the direct line from the northern to the southern part of the county, and the way through which was only a footpath till the present high road was constructed. Some, however, derive the name from the compound term ia-ri-Leig-, "bordering on the lake ", in allusion to the extensive and beautiful sheet of water called Loch Shin. The parish is not remarkable for any events of historical importance. There are several cairns still remaining, concerning the origin of which very little is known, the people of the country, when questioned upon the subject, merely repeating the tradition that they were built by the Fingalians. At a place called Cnoek a chalk, " the hill of the fight ", a number of tumuli are visible, which are reported to be the graves of those who fell in an encounter between the Sutherlands and the Mackays.

The PARISH is thirty miles in its greatest length, from east to west, and about ten miles in breadth, from north to south; containing 40,000 acres. It is twenty miles distant from the sea, and is bounded on the north by the parish of Farr, on the south by that of Criech, on the east by that of Rogart, and on the west by the parishes of Assynt and Eddrachillis. The surface throughout is hilly, and by far the larger part of it covered with heath: the hills vary in height in different parts, but are generally lofty, and on the northern boundary towers Ben-Chlibrig, the highest mountain in the county. The whole site of the parish, indeed, is very considerably elevated, and the air in winter is bleak and piercing, the cold being often accompanied with heavy falls of rain and snow; the climate, however, is healthy, and the inhabitants are hardy and long-lived. The lakes are about twenty in number: the principal is Loch Shin, extending nearly the whole length of the parish; it is twenty-four miles long, and its average breadth is about one mile, the depth varying from twenty to thirty fathoms. There are five rivers, four of which fall into this loch. From the east end of it issues the river Shin, which, after a rapid course of about three miles, precipitates itself over a rock twenty feet high, forming a fine cascade, and at last loses itself in the Kyle of Sutherland. Trout are found in many of the lakes; in Loch Craggy they abound, and are considered to be of as good quality as any in the kingdom.

The common alluvial deposit in the parish is peat, resting upon a subsoil of gravel; in a few places the earth is loamy and very fertile. The mossy ground, which is of great extent, is wet and spongy, and in every part embedded with large quantities of fir, the certain indications of a once well-wooded district, though at present scarcely a tree is to be seen, except some birch erowint; along the lake. The agricultural character of the parish stands very low; the larger part of it is moorland, and the whole, with the exception of the lots occupied by the small tenants, has been turned into large sheep-walks. The populution has consequently considerably decreased; the old tenantry have gradually passed away, and settled either on the coast, or near grounds more susceptible of cultivation. There is no great corn farm in the parish; but the letters raise enough grain for domestic use. The sheep are of the Cheviot breed, and much attention has been paid to the rearing of them for some years past: they are sent to the markets of the Kyle and Kincardine, in Autumn and November. The rocks of the parish are chiefly coarse granite and trap, in addition to which, at the side of the lake, is a large bed of limestone: this, however, though much wanted for agricultural purposes, the inhabitants have no means of working. The annual value of real property in Lairg is returned at £1913. There are about forty miles of road, in very good condition, and affording every facility of communication: the Tongue line from south-east to north-west, and, branching from it, the Strathfleet county road, pass through the parish. A post-gig carrying passengers arrives twice in the week. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the limits of the presbytery of Dornoch, synod of Sutherland and Caithness: patron, the Duke of Sutherland. The stipend of the minister is about £184, with a manse, built in 1845, and a glebe of ten acres valued at £9 per annum. Lairg church was erected in the year 1845. There is only one school, the parochial, in which all the ordinary branches of education are taught, with Latin and Gaehc, the latter being the vernacular tongue: the master's salary is £34, with a house, and about £8. 10. fees. The poor have the interest of £500, bequeathed by Capt. Hugh Mackay, son of the Rev. Thomas Mackay, a late minister of Lairg. His other sons were, Capt. William Mackay, author of the narrative of the ship Juno, from which, according to Mr. Moore, Lord Byron drew his description of a shipwreck; and John Mackay of Rockfield, who, whilst labouring under the loss of sight, wrote the Life of General Mackay of Scourie. James Matheson, Esq. M.P., of Achany, is grandson of the same clergyman.