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Bower, Caithness

Historical Description

BOWER, a parish, in the county of CAITHNESS, 11 miles (S. E. by E.) from Thurso, and the same distance (N. W.) from Wick; containing 1689 inhabitants. This place is said to derive its name from a Danish word signifying "a valley", and the application of the term to this locality seems to be by no means inappropriate. The parish is about twelve miles long, and four broad, and the surface is in general low and flat, being diversified only by a ridge of green hills, of small elevation, running from north to south, through the whole. On an eminence in this ridge is a large perpendicular stone called Stone Lude or Lutt, supposed to mark the sepulchre of some Danish or Norwegian chief who fell here. The soil of the arable land consists mostly of strong clay and loam, and the subsoil is clay; in some of the hollows and valleys a fine rich marl is obtained in great abundance, and extensively and very beneficially used as manure. The parish is altogether agricultural and pastoral: the recent prevalence of sheep-farming has diminished the importance of the former branch, and given to the latter a decided predominance. Grain and live stock are frequently sent to the south, being shipped at Wick by steamers or trading vessels. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4300. The rocks are of the primitive class; a vein of copper was discovered some time ago, but was never worked. Barrack House and Stempster House, both of them modern edifices; Stanstill; and Tister, are the principal residences. The population is scattered among the rural districts: of late years, many, in consequence of the expulsion of agricultural labourers by the extensive introduction of sheep-farming, have been driven to the moors, or to seek a livelihood in foreign lands. Four annual fairs are held here, namely, Campster fair, on the Tuesday after St. Patrick's day; Lyth fair, on the second Tuesday of October; St. Maud's, on the second Tuesday in November (all O. S.); and Stanstill, held in November. There is also a cattle-market every Wednesday from June till October, inclusive. The post-road, which is in good condition, passes through the south-west part of the parish for several miles, and there are also some good county roads, one of which joins the post-road above Halkirk, on the hill of Sordal. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Caithness, synod of Caithness and Sutherland, patron, Sir James Colquhoun, Bart.: the stipend of the minister is about £190, with a manse and glebe, and twenty-two acres allotted for pasture on a division of commons. The church is ancient, and the number of its sittings is computed at 440. A parochial school is supported, at which the usual branches are taught. There are several Druidical circles or temples, and numerous tumuli; the most striking relic is the cairn of Heather Cow, which is surrounded by six or seven circles of large stones, and situated on an eminence commanding an extensive prospect.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis