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Fearn, Ross and Cromarty

Historical Description

FEARN, a parish, in the county of Ross and Cromarty, 5 miles (S. E.) from Tain; containing, with the villages of Balintore and Hiltown, 1914 inhabitants. The Gaelic name of this parish, Fearnn, signifies "the alder-tree", and was applied in consequence of the great number of alders growing at Mid-Fearn, in the parish of Edderton, in the neighbourhood. An abbey was founded there in the reign of Alexander II., by Farquhar, first Earl of Ross; but a bull was afterwards obtained from the pope for removing the establishment to a fertile plain in this parish, on account of the comparative sterility of the lands in Edderton. The abbey was not only a place of worship before the Reformation, but was used as such until October, 1742, when suddenly, during the performance of divine service, the roof fell in, and thirty-six persons were instantly killed, eight others dying soon afterwards. The parish, which is about two miles wide, and several miles in length, stretches along the western shore of the Moray Firth, and is bounded on the north by the parish of Tain, on the south by that of Nigg, and on the west by Logic Easter. Its surface is nearly level, with the exception of a few eminences; about three-fourths of the area are arable, and the rest partly green, and partly covered with heath. The coast for about a mile is flat and sandy, especially where the fishing-village of Balintore lies; but Hiltown, another fishing-station, half a mile from the former, is skirted by a coast altogether bold and rocky. The loch of Eye, the only water of consequence, is about two miles long, and half a mile broad.

In the centre of the parish the soil is a deep loam: the loans of Fearn to the south, and the lands of Allan to the west, are a deep clay; and in other parts the soil is gravelly or sandy. The greater portion is cultivated, or occasionally in tillage; 158 acres are occupied by wood, and the remainder is waste or pasture. Many improvements have taken place in agriculture within the last thirty or forty years, by trenching, draining, and levelling; green crops are extensively raised, and some of the best wheat in Scotland is grown here. The produce is sent to the Leith and London markets; and a monthly market for swine is held on the hill of Fearn. Fisheries of grey fish and herring are carried on to a considerable extent by the villagers residing on the seashore. The annual value of real property in the parish is £5229. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Tain and synod of Ross; patron, the Crown. The stipend of the minister is £206, with a good manse, and a glebe of five acres, worth about £11. 10. per annum. Fearn church is of early English architecture. There is a parochial school, the master of which has a salary of £36 (including £2 for garden), with a house, and about £10 fees. At Balintore is also a school, in which Gaelic is taught, and of which the teachers are supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The chief antiquities in the parish are the ruins of the old abbey; the castle of Lochlin, situated on the eastern head of the lake of the same name; the vestiges of the very ancient castle of Cadboll, and several Druidical temples. Here is buried Sir John Lockhart Ross, of Balnagown, vice-admiral of the Blue, a distinguished naval hero, who died in 1790.

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