1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sutherlandshire

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SUTHERLANDSHIRE, a northern county of Scotland, bounded N. and W. by the Atlantic, E. by Caithness, S.E. by the North Sea and S. by the shire of Ross and Cromarty. It has an area of 1,297, 846 acres or 2,028 sq. m., being the fifth largest shire in Scotland. The western and northern shores are much indented and terminate at many points in precipices and rugged headlands. The mountains are distinguished by grandeur of outline. Ben More (3273 ft.) in Assynt is the highest in the shire, and next to it in height is Ben Clibreck (3154). Ben Hope (Icelandic h6p, haven, 3040), in the north, is noted as the only place in Great Britain where the Alpine Alsine rubella is found, and also for its fauna, ptarmigan being common, and even the wild cat and golden eagle occurring at rare intervals. Other lofty hills include Foinaven (wart mountain, 2980) in the north-west; Ben Hee (2864), the highest point in Reay Forest; the serrated ridge of Quinag (2653) and Glasven (2541) north, and the cone of Canisp (2779) south of Loch Assynt; the precipitous Cam Stackie (2630) in Durness; Ben Arkle (2580) and Ben Stack (2364), frowning above Loch Stack; the fantastic peaks of Ben Loyal (the hill of the young calves, or deer, 2504) in Tongue; and Suilven (2399). The greater part of the mountainous region consists of wild and desolate moorlands. The chief river is the Oykell, which, rising in Coniveall (3234), a peak of Ben More, flows south and then south-east for 33 m. to Dornoch Firth, forming the major part of the southern boundary of the shire. Its principal left-hand tributaries are the Shin and Cassley. Other rivers flowing to Dornoch Firth are the Helmsdale (22 m.), issuing from Loch an Ruathair; the Brora (28 m.), rising in Mt Uaran and preserving in its name (bridge river) the fact that its bridge was cnce the only important one in the county; and the Fleet (17), the head of the estuary of which was embanked for 1000 yds. in 1813 by Thomas Telford, whereby a considerable tract of rich lluvial land was reclaimed from the sea. The longest rivers flowing to the north coast are the Dionard (14) to Kyle of Durness, the Naver (17) to Torrisdale Bay, and the Halladale (22), rising in Knockfin on the borders of Caithness and entering the sea to the east of Portskerry. Much of the surface in the district of Assynt is honeycombed with lakes and tams, but the only large lake is Loch Assynt, which is 6f m. long, lies 215 ft. above the sea, has a drainage area of 43 sq. m.,and a greatest depth of 282 ft., and empties into the sea by the Inver. Other lakes are Loch Crocach, little more than 1 m. long by 1 m. wide, in which the ratio of the area of islands to the total area of the loch is greater than in any other British lake; Loch Shin (17 m. long); Loch Loyal (4 m.) Loch Hope (6 m.); Loch Naver (6 m.); and Loch More (4 m.). The principal inlets of the sea are, on the north coast, Kyle of Tongue — on the east shore of which stands Tongue House, once the property of the Reay family, now a seat of the duke of Sutherland—Loch Eriboll and Kyle of Durness; on the west, Lochs Inchard, Laxford (salmon fjord), Cairnbawn, Glendhu, Glencoul, Eddrachilis Bay and Loch Inver; and, on the south-east, Loch Fleet. There are many waterfalls in the county. Those of Escuallin, near the head of Glencoul, are among the finest in Great Britain. There are three principal capes—Strathy Point on the north; Cape Wrath at the extreme north-west; and Ru Stoer, near which is the Old Man of Stoer, a detached pillar of rock about 250 ft. high. On its seaward face Cape Wrath (a corruption of the Icelandic hvarf, turning-point) rises in precipitous cliffs to a height of 300 ft. The gneiss rocks are scored with pink granite. Sunken reefs keep the sea almost always in tumult. Of the larger islands Handa, usually visited from Scourie on the west coast, has magnificent cliff scenery, distinguished for its beautiful coloration, its caverns and the richness and variety of the bird life, especially on the north-west, where the Torridonian sandstone rocks are 406 ft. high. The cave of Smoo (Icelandic smuga, hole: same root as smuggle) on the north coast, 1 m. east of Durness, is the most famous cavern in the shire; it consists of three chambers hollowed out of the limestone; the entrance hall, 33 ft. high and 203 ft. long, is separated from the inner chamber, 70 ft. long by 30 ft. wide, by a ledge of rock beneath which pours a stream that descends as a cataract from a hole in the roof, 80 ft. above. Behind the waterfall is the third chamber, 120 ft. long by 8 ft. wide, which can only be seen by artificial light.

Geology.—A very irregular line from Loch Eriboll on the north coast to the neighbourhood of Cromalt near the southern boundary separates the two rock groups that form the foundation of the major portion of the county. On the western side of this line are the ancient gneisses and schists (the Lewisian gneiss); these are penetrated by innumerable basic and acid dikes which generally have a north-west to south-east trend. On the eastern side of the line, occupying the whole of the remaining area except the eastern fringe of the county, is a younger series of metamorphic rocks, the Moine schists. Resting with marked unconformability upon the old gneiss near Cape Wrath, at Ru Stoer, Quinag, Canisp and Suilven are the dark red conglomerates, breccias and sandstones of Torridonian

age. Cambrian rocks succeed the Torridonian, again with strong unconformity; they are represented in ascending order by (1) false

bedded quartzite, (2) quartzite with annelid burrows, the "pipe rock," (3) the fucoid beds with Olenellus band,_ (4) serpuhte grit, (5) Durness limestone and dolomite and their marmorized equivalents. The white quartzite that has been left as a cap on such dark Torridonian hills as Quinag and Canisp forms a striking feature in the landscape. These Cambrian rocks occupy a very irregular belt along the line above mentioned; the broadest tract is in the neighbourhood of Loch Assynt, another large area lies about the southern end of Loch Eriboll and the Durness limestone is extensively developed near the loch of that name. Along the belt of Cambrian rocks there is abundant evidence of crustal deformation on the most extensive scale; one after another great slices of rock, often miles in extent, have been sheared off and pushed forward by thrusts from a south-easterly direction, so that in several places it is possible to find the Lewisian gneiss dragged up and carried forward right on to the Cambrian; in the Durness district the eastern schists have been so transported from a distance of 10 m. The most striking of the planes of thrusting is that known as the Moine, others of great magnitude occur to the west of it, such as those by Glencoul and Ben More. Masses of granite appear in the eastern schists on the county boundary by Strath Halladale.at BenLaoghal, Ben Stomino and east of Lairg. The Old Red Sandstone forms some elevated ground around Dornoch and Golspie and patches occur at Portskerra and elsewhere. A narrow strip of Mesozoic strata lies along the coast from Golspie Burn to Ord. Triassic marls are seen in the Golspie stream; these are succeeded northwards, near Dun- robin Castle, by Lias, then by Great Oolite, with the Brora coal, followed by Oxfordian, Corallian and Kimeridgian beds. Evidence of ice action is everywhere apparent, the striations show that the ice travelled towards the north-west and north, and from the eastern part of the county, towards Moray Firth.

Climate and Agriculture. — The rainfall varies greatly, being lowest on the south-east and highest in the mountainous hinterland of the west, with an annual mean of 44-7 in. The average temperature for theyearis47° F., for January 38-5° F., for July 56-5° F. Only one- fortieth of the total area i9 under cultivation, the shire ranking lowest in Scotland in this respect. The great mass of the surface is grazing ground and deer forest. The best laad adjoins Dornoch Firth, where farming is in an advanced condition, but there are fer- tile patches along the river valleys. At the beginning of the 19th century the crofters occupied almost every cultivable spot, and were more numerous than the soil could support. The first duke of Sutherland (then marquis of Stafford) adopted a policy of wholesale clearance. Between 18 11 and 1820 fifteen thousand peasants were evicted from their holdings in the interior and transferred to the coast. The duke incurred great obloquy, but persisted in Jiis re- forms, which included reduction of rent, improvement in the well- being of the people, reclamation of thousands of acres, and abolition of the tacksman or middleman, so that tenants should hold directly of himself. He also did much to open up the shire generally. Be- tween 1812 — when there was only one bridge and no road in Suther- land — and 1832, he bore half the cost, the government contributing the rest, of constructing 450 m. of road, 134 bridges, some of con- siderable size, and the iron bridge at Bonar of 150 ft. span. The 3rd duke (1828-1892) carried out a large plan of reclamation. Attempts have been made to repeople some of the glens (Strath- naver, for example) depopulated by the clearances. Crofters still largely predominate, nearly two-thirds of the holdings being under 5 acres — the highest proportion in Scotland. The chief grain crops are oats and barley, the chief green crops turnips (including swedes) and potatoes. The raising of livestock is the staple business of the county. The sheep are mostly Cheviots, the cattle West Highland, shorthorn and crossbred. Horses — principally ponies, though Clydesdales are used on the bigger farms — are almost wholly kept for agricultural purposes, and pigs are.also reared. The deer forests belonging to the duke of Sutherland are Reay, 64,600 acres; Ben Armine and Coirna-fearn, 35,840; Glen Canisp, 34,490; and Dun- robin, 12,180 — in all 147,110 acres, or more than one-ninth of the whole area. Excepting the south-east coast, the valley of the Shin, and a considerable portion of Strath Oykell, there are very few districts under wood.

Other Industries. — Next to agriculture, the deep-sea fishery and the salmon fisheries in the rivers are the most important interest. Helmsdale (pop. 1259) is the only port of any consequence. Her- rings are the principal catch, but cod, ling and other fishes are also taken. Whisky is distilled at Clyne and Brora; some woollens are manufactured at Rogart; coal is mined at Brora, marble quarried in Assynt and limestone and sandstone in several districts. The exceptional facilities offered by the deer forests, moors and the many lochs and rivers attract large numbers of sportsmen whose custom is valuable to the inhabitants; and Dornoch and Lochinver are in growing repute as holiday resorts. The Highland railway enters the county at Invershin, goes northward to Lairg, then east to Brora and north-east to Helmsdale, whence it runs north-west to Kildonan, and north to Forsinard, where it shortly afterwards leaves the shire. The Glasgow steamers call at Lochinver once a week, and mail-cars run periodically from Lairg to Lochinver and Scourie in the west and to Durness and Tongue in the north; from Helmsdale, by the coast, to Berriedale, Dunbeath, Latheron and Lybster; and from Tongue to Thurso. Considering its scanty and scattered population and mountainous character, the county is well inter- sected by roads, many of which were constructed by successive dukes of Sutherland, who own four-fifths of the shire.

Population and Administration. — In 1891 the population amounted to 21,896, and in 1901 it was 21,440, or 11 persons to the square mile, the least populous of Scottish counties. Several islands lie off the west and north coast, but only Roan, at the entrance to Kyle of Tongue, is inhabited (67). In 1901 there were 469 persons speaking Gaelic only, 14,083 who spoke Gaelic and English. The county returns a member to parliament, and Dornoch, the county town, belongs to the Wick group of parliamentary burghs. Sutherland forms a joint sheriffdom with Ross and Cromarty, and a sheriff-substitute presides at Dornoch. The county is under school-board jurisdiction; some of the schools earn the grant for higher education, and the " residue " grant is expended in bursaries. The Sutherland combination poorhouse is situated in Creich and there is a hospital, the Lawson Memorial, in Golspie.

History and Antiquities. — Of the Picts, the original inhabi- tants, there are considerable remains in the form of brocks (or round towers), numerous and widely scattered, Picts' houses, tumuli, cairns and hut circles. Dun Dornadilla, in the parish of Durness, 4 m. south of Loch Hope, is a tower, 150 ft. in circumference, still in good preservation. The Norse jarl Thorfinn overran the country in 1034 and the Scandinavian colonists called it, in relation to their settlements in the Orkneys and Shetlands, Sudrland, the " southern land," or Sutherland. After the conquest of the district by the Scottish kings, Suther- land was conferred on Hugh Freskin (a descendant of Freskin of Moravia or Moray), whose son William was created earl of Sutherland in 1228 by Alexander II. Assynt was peopled by a branch of the Macleods of Lewis, till they were dispossessed by the Mackenzies, who sold the territory to the earl of Sutherland about the middle of the 18th century. The vast tract of the Reay country, belonging to the Mackays, an ancient clan, also fell piece by piece into the hands of the Sutherland family. Killin, on the east bank of Loch. Brora, was the site of an old chapel dedicated to St Columba, an association commemorated in the name of Kilcolmkill House, hard by. On the south shore of Helmsdale creek stand the ruins of the castle in which the nth earl of Sutherland and his wife were poisoned by his uncle's widow in 1567, with a view to securing the title for her only child who was next of kin to the earl and his son. Ardvreck Castle, now in ruins, at the east end of Loch Assynt, was the prison of the marquis of Montrose after his defeat at Invercarron (1650), whence he was delivered up by Neil Macleod of Assynt for execution at Edinburgh. In the graveyard of the old church of Durness is a monument to Robert Mackay,* called Rob Donn (the brown), the Gaelic poet (1714-1778).

Bibliography.—Sir Robert Gordon, History of the Earldom of Sutherland (1813); R. Mackay, House and Clan of Mackay (1829); C. W. G. St John, Tour in Sutherlandshire (1849); Hugh Miller, Sutherland as it was and is (1843); D. W. Kemp, Bishop Pococke's Tour in 1760 in Sutherland and Caithness (1888); Sir W. Fraser, The Sutherland Book (1893); A.Gunn and S. J. Mackay, Sutherland and the Reay Country (1897).