Feb 192018
 

This is the second post looking at the influence of Scotland on the world. This time we are focusing on trade between Scotland and other countries, as well as Scots traveling and working abroad.

Trade

Scotland, at the time of the Statistical Accounts, was very much a sea-faring nation, with many ports situated not just around the country’s coastline, but also inland on its river banks. These included: Campbelton, Kirkcaldy, Port Glasgow, Grangemouth, Alloa, Inveresk, Leith, Prestonpans and Banff, with many of these no longer operating. It was primarily through these porst that goods were imported and exported in Scotland.

Many of the parish reports contain excellent records of its ports, containing information on the type and number of ships stationed there, what was imported and exported and other activities based there, for example the carrying of passengers on steamboats. Very detailed tables are given for Port Glasgow, County of Renfrew (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 67), Inveresk, County of Edinburgh (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 293) and Stromness, County of Orkney (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 447).

At Campbelton, in the County of Argyle:

“There are thirty-three registered sloops and schooners belonging to this place, employed in the coasting trade, besides a number of fishing-boats. There is also a ship of 515 tons register, the property of Messrs Nathaniel MacNair and Company, employed in carrying timber from Canada. In 1840, five ships, and in 1842, two ships from foreign parts landed cargoes at Campbelton. In 1842, there were 646 vessels with cargoes inwards, and 365 with cargoes outwards, and, besides these, two steam-boats belonging to the port ply regularly between Glasgow and Campbelton with goods and passengers. The principal imports are barley, yeast, coals, timber, iron, and general merchandise, and the exports are whisky, malt, draff, black cattle, sheep, and horses, potatoes, turnips, beans, butter cheese, and fish. The quantity of barley and bear imported in 1842 was 41,735 quarters, 5 bushels.” (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 464)

At Kirkcaldy, in the County of Fife:

“Two vessels are engaged in whale-fishing; the rest in trading to North and South America, the Mediterranean, France, the Baltic, and occasionally beyond the Cape of Good Hope. The foreign ships which usually trade to this port are Norwegian, Danish, Hanseatic, Hanoverian, Prussian. On an average of years there have been 92 vessels from foreign parts. The principal articles of import are flax and timber; of export, coals and linen yarns.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 756)

A painting called 'The Ship 'Castor' and Other Vessels in a Choppy Sea' by Thomas Luny. Dated 1802.

The Ship ‘Castor’ and Other Vessels in a Choppy Sea. Thomas Luny, 1802. Thomas Luny [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Scottish exports included:

“The manufacture of golf balls has long been carried on here, to a considerable extent. Above 10,000 are made annually. A good workman can make from 50 to 60 a-week. Nearly one-half of the product is required for the use of the cultivators of the amusement in St Andrews. A market for the remainder is found in other places. Some have been sent as far as Calcutta and Madras.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 476)

Imports included:

Changes in Trade

Even during the time of the Statistical Accounts, great changes were taking place in trade, both within Scotland itself and in other countries. For example, in the parish of Borrowstowness, County of Linlithgow, it was reported that:

“Between 1750 and 1780, Bo’ness was one of the most thriving towns on the east coast, and ranked as the third port in Scotland. But since the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal, and especially since the erection of Grangemouth into a separate port, the commerce of this place has decreased, and at present it is in a very languishing condition.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 138)

In the parish report for Perth, County of Perth:

“During a great part of the eighteenth century, trade was carried on to a considerable extent between the port of Perth and the principal ports, not only of Britain, but of Russia, Germany, France, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Spain, and Italy. This foreign intercourse, however, has, particularly of late years, been very much diminished. Various causes have operated in producing the decline, such as a total change in the description of the manufactures of the place; a successfully pushed competition on the part of other ports which are free from the inconvenience of river navigation; the establishment of extensive general agencies, through which our merchants now obtain the products of other countries. But the most powerful of all causes has been the natural obstructions to navigation which have arisen in our river itself.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 101)

The American War of Independence also had an effect on trade, especially that between Glasgow and North America. (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 499)

Scottish Strengths Abroad

In our last post, we referred to the hardships endured by whole families, who then decided to emigrate for the chance of a better life. The lack of opportunities was also keenly felt by young Scots. In the parish of Kilbride, County of Bute, as in many other places in Scotland, there were “increased habits of industry in the rising generation, who, instead of following the old practice of loitering half idle at home, go to trades or service in the low county, or engage as sailors in merchant ships.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 26).

In the parish of Ronaldshay and Burray, County of Orkney, it was noted that:

“The passion of the young men for a sea faring life nothing can exceed, except their aversion to a military one. Four or five young men have this winter voluntarily entered on board his Majesty’s navy. Every year several young men go to Greenland or Iceland fishing, to Hudson’s Bay, or on board some merchant ship: All of them prove to be excellent sailors. And it is believed, that they are more industrious abroad than at home. In no country are the people more tenacious of their old customs than here.” (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 311)

Along with it’s great seafaring capabilities, Scotland has always had a very strong fishing tradition. An excellent account of fisheries and the trading of fish can be found in the report for Thurso, County of Caithness. (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 522) and the report for Boindie, County of Banff. (NSA, Vol. XIII, 1845, p. 236) It is, therefore, no surprise that some decided to work with the Iceland or Greenland fishermen, “with whom they only continue for 3 or 4 months”, but, according to the report of Kirkwall, County of Orkney “when they return, the money which they have earned, instead of furnishing the means of industry, is almost always spent in idleness, and often in dissipation.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 551)

Despite the seafaring nature of  the Scots, not all wanted a life on the open seas. In the parish of Drumblade, County of Aberdeen, the decrease in inhabitants was attributed to “young men, such as masons, shoemakers, wrights, slaters, etc. going abroad to improve themselves in their respective crafts; and to the enlisting of some in the army, particularly in the artillery”. (OSA, Vol. IV, 1792, p. 53)

Fencibles

There are several mentions of the Highland Fencible Corps in the Statistical Accounts. Fencibles were British regiments raised to fight in numerous wars abroad during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the parish of Stromness, County of Orkney, 200 Fencibles were raised (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 444), while in the parish of Golspie, County of Sutherland, a regiment was raised and sent into service in the space of just 4 weeks! (OSA, Vol. XXI, 1799, p. 231) Even Rev. Dugal Campbell, the writer of the report for the parish of Kilfinichen and Kilviceuen, County of Argle, enlisted in a Highland Fencible Corp (“the late West Fencible regiment, raised by the Duke of Argyll”). (OSA, Vol. XIV, 1795, p. 210)

In the report for Rosskeen, County of Ross and Cromarty, there is a wonderful story about Mr George Macintosh and his role in not just raising a Fencible regiment in Glasgow, but also commanding (with respect) a regiment based abroad – the Canadian Fencibles!

“When war recommenced in 1803, it was mainly through his exertions that the Glasgow Highland Volunteer Regiment was raised and organized; and when, about this time, the regiment of Canadian Fencibles, then stationed in Glasgow, evinced symptoms of mutiny Mr Macintosh, at the desire of General Wemyss, then commanding the district, hastened to their quarters, and addressed the soldiers in their native tongue; – the effect was electrical.”

With such authority, the troubled host he swayed,

(NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 269)

The Hudson’s Bay Company

As mentioned above, a large number of young Scottish men, especially those from Orkney, went to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company, which, since 1670, had an exclusive charter to trade at Hudson Bay. Back in 1795, the Company had three ships which carried over “provisions, guns, powder, shot, hatchets, cloths, etc. to be exchanged with the Indians for beaver, and other furs. These vessels usually arrive at the harbour of Stromness about the first of June, where they stop for two or three weeks to take aboard men for their settlements. They engage usually from 60 to 100 men, natives of this country, to go to these settlements, every year… The Company’s ships usually return to the harbour of Stromness about November, to land those men who choose to return home.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 442)

An image of a Hudsnn's Bay Company settlement, 1848.

An image from page 7 of “Hudson’s Bay, or, Every-day life in the wilds of North America, during six years’ residence in the territories of the honourable Hudson’s bay company”. By Robert M. Ballantyne. (1848). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

As reported by the parish of Orphir, in the County of Orkney:

“It was long the practice of many of the young men to go to Hudson’s Bay as labourers and mechanics, as carpenters, blacksmiths and brick-layers. Few have gone in later times, though the wages have been raised. A labourer receives L. 16 a-year annually, for the first three years, with maintenance, while employed at the factories. A mechanic. L. 25 a-year. The engagement is now for five years, and at the end of three years everyone is advanced according to his merit. The great object was to save as much as might render his future days at home, easy and comfortable.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 25)

In the report Section on the county of Orkney from volume 15 in account 2 there is a table showing the sums received in Orkney in 1833, from farm-produce, manufactures, fisheries, etc. This includes the sum of about L. 1500 that the Hudson’s Bay Company paid annually for the men employed in Hudson’s Bay. (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 215) When you compare this sum with other figures in the table you can get a sense of the men’s value at that time.

The writer of the report from the parish of Orphir, Rev. Mr Liddell, was very scathing about those who went into the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company, as well as the company itself. (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 406) However, he then goes on to praise that same company who had just agreed to increase wages, writing:

“At the same time it must be acknowledged, for the honour of the Hudson’s Bay Company, that no men ever acted with more integrity, or fulfilled their agreements more honestly, than those gentlemen have uniformly done; and further, upon a representation from the present incumbent of this parish, they have been pleased to augment the wages to L. 10; by which means above L. 1000 Sterling per annum is added to the income of Orkney.”

As well as looking at the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, you can find out what it was actually like to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company by reading Robert M. Ballantyne’s fascinating account, from which the above image is taken.

The East India Company

Another large and well-known company that should be mentioned is the East India Company, which at first focused on trade, but then went on to build an empire in India. Many Scots were employed by the company in various roles, including those in the military, medical and civil service departments, spending several years of service in India before returning home to Scotland. Such people included Brigadier-General Alexander Walker of Bowland (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 415), Alexander Macleod, Esq and his son; natives of the parish of Harris, County of Inverness (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 365) and David Scott, Esq. of Dunninald, along with his nephew David Scott, Esq. “to whose memory a monument has been erected by the Supreme Government in India”. (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 250)

Eminent Scots Abroad

In the Statistical Accounts, there are also many mentions of Scots well-known outside of Scotland. One fascinating story is that of the celebrated botanist and traveler Mr David Douglas who was born in Scone, County of Perth. He firstly worked as an apprentice gardener before becoming a botanical collector. Between 1823 and 1827 he traveled throughout America, Canada and South America, collecting plants and seeds. “After remaining two years in London, he again sailed for Columbia in the autumn of 1829. Here he continued his favourite pursuit. Afterwards he visited the Sandwich Islands; and when his return was expected, intelligence was received of his death in very shocking circumstances…” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 1068)

An image of David Douglas, Scottish botanist and North America's first mountaineer (1799 – 1834).

David Douglas, Scottish botanist and North America’s first mountaineer (1799 – 1834). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Other fascinating people to search for in the Statistical Accounts include:

  • James Francis Edward, who entered into military service abroad (including Spain and Russia) and whose great qualities outshone his bad ones – leading him to become a Field Marshal for the King of Prussia. (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 152)
  • Archie Armstrong who, after having been a sheep-stealer, “had the honour of being appointed jester to James I. of England”, but was later dismissed for being obnoxious. (OSA, Vol. XXI, 1799, p. 244)
  • Dr John Hutton, a one-time sheep-herder, who studied medicine in Edinburgh, and later saved the life of Mary, Princess of Orange. (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 30)

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In reading The Statistical Accounts, it is clear that to see that Scotland was not an insular country. It’s interwoven links with other countries and cultures are varied and fascinating.  Their influences can still be felt within Scotland and beyond. This post just gives you a taster of what you can discover in the Statistical Accounts. We hope that it will encourage you to explore it for yourself. You never know where the journey will take you!

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Feb 062018
 

The ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Statistical Accounts of Scotland are a record of what life was like in the parishes throughout Scotland, but reading through them you can see that it is not a country in isolation. During the 18th and 19th centuries Scotland had a wider place in the world, whether it was through emigration, travel or trade. The Scots and their way of life diffused into other parts of the world, most notably North America and Canada. Interaction through trade with other counties, such as India and England, is particularly emblematic of the influence nations had on each other, with the sharing of not just goods and services, but also ideas and experience.

In the first of two blog posts looking at the influence of Scotland in the world, we focus on Scottish emigration, its reasons and effects.

Emigration

In both Statistical Accounts there are many references to working-class Scots, often whole families, moving to other countries. The most common destination was North America and Upper Canada, though some did also emigrate to Australia and New Zealand.

A Scottish poster advertising emigration to New Zealand from 1839.

Scottish Poster Advertising Emigration to New Zealand. By New Zealand Colony’s Office, Glasgow, 1839. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Emigration seemed to be most extensive in the 1820s through to the 1840s. In the parish of Dingwall, County of Ross and Cromarty,

“The increase since 1821… is considerably less than it would have been, owing to the extent to which emigration has been carried on during the last few years;-the average number of persons who have left this parish for the Canadas, during that period, being not much below twenty, annually. A considerable number also of young men leave this parish yearly, in quest of employment in the south.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 222)

and in Ardnamurchan, County of Argyle:

“Families, numbering, 124 individual members, emigrated to America in 1790 and 1791. Since then, individuals and single families have been constantly emigrating to the low country or the colonies. In 1837 and 1838 not less than twenty families left Ardnamurchan and Sunart chiefly for Australia. About five years ago, thirteen families, amounting to about 70 individuals, emigrated to Canada. In 1837 and 1838, families, amounting to about 100 individuals, sailed for Australia.”  (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 148-149)

The reasons for emigration

By far the biggest reason for such a high level of Scottish emigration is the Highland Clearances, which took place in the Scottish Highlands during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In The Statistical Accounts there is specific mention of changes in agricultural practices (the Scottish Agricultural Revolution), overpopulation (which caused increased burden on an already undeveloped infrastructure), and landlords debts (which resulted in their demand for higher rents).

In Tiree and Coll, County of Argyle, “Thirty-six men, women, and children, emigrated from Coll to America in 1792. None hitherto has emigrated from Tiree, though some talk of doing so. Their crops failed in 1790 and 1791, which, together with the low prices of kelp and cattle, has much reduced them. They must soon go somewhere for relief, unless manufactures be introduced to employ them.” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 416)

In the first half of the nineteenth century, landowners, such as Sir W.D. Stewart in the district of Little Dunkeld, County of Perth, were now converting their small farms into large ones. “The consequence is, that many of the small tenants are turned out of their possessions, to shift for themselves and families the best way they can. Some of them have sought farms in other parishes, and some have emigrated to Canada, never again expecting to return to the land of their nativity, and of their early associations.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 1011)

It seems that even inhabitants in districts not affected by this change in farming, such as Moneydie in the County of Perth, were still emigrating, probably knowing that it was only a matter of time before the changes would reach their parish, or they just felt that their life would be better somewhere else.

“In Logiealmond, where the system of large farms has not yet been adopted, and where the population is large in proportion to the soil, any decrease that has taken place has been in consequence of emigration. – Within the last eight years, upwards of 100 persons have emigrated to Canada from Logiealmond alone.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 202)

Faed, Thomas; The Last of the Clan; Glasgow Museums; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-last-of-the-clan-83914

Thomas Faed: The Last of the Clan, 1865. Glasgow Museums.

A particularly insightful assessment on emigration at the end of the eighteenth century (including thoughts on how “to put a stop to the present rage for emigration”) can be found in the parish report for North Uist, County of Inverness (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 317-320).

“The sense of grievances, whether real or imaginary; the fear of having the fruits of their industry called for by their landlords, many of whom think they have a right to the earnings of the tenants, except what barely supports life; the want of employment for such as have no lands to cultivate; the encouragements held out to them by their friends, who are already settled in that country, of living in a state of much greater affluence with less labour; and the facility of procuring a property for a small sum of money, the produce of which they can call their own, and from which their removal does not depend on the will of capricious masters. These are the principal motives that determine people now to emigrate to America, without at all attending to the difficulties and discouragements in their way…”

Such difficulties were very apparent in 1834 when thousands of emigrants fell victim to cholera soon after landing in Canada, as reported by the parish of Bedrule, County of Roxburgh (NSA, Vol. III, 1845, p. 296-297). Other dangers included the sea crossing itself, traveling many miles from the shore to reach the settlements, buying necessities anew and the possibly disagreeable effects of the new climate on their health (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 317-320)

Role of Scottish Land-Owners

It is very interesting to read in The Statistical Accounts about the role Scottish landlords had on the emigration of the poor and working classes. Some actively helped their tenants to emigrate, such as Lord MacDonald in the parish of Portree, County of Inverness, “expended large sums of money in conveying the poor people, on his property (tenants or not tenants) to North America” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 231). Others tried to prevent it, such as Mr. Dale, a landowner in Lanark, who offered employment, housing and schooling to families who were trying to emigrate to America but were caught up in a storm (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 40). He also showed some ingenuity by letting people living in Argyleshire and the isles know that they could come and work for him (which many did)! It is very likely that acts like these were not completely borne out of concern for the Scottish working class, but also showed an evident desire towards self-advancement.

It was not only the land-owners who helped people emigrate. In the parish of Whitsome and Hilton, County of Berwick, L.8  out of its L. 115, 19s total of poor and parochial funds (year ending at Martinmas 1833) was spent on enabling a pauper to emigrate to Canada! (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 179)

Effect of Emigration on Scotland

The depopulation of Scotland was of particular concern to many. The Rev. Mr. James Robertson, Minister of the parish of Callander, County of Perth, called emigration a”national evil” that “must be stopped, either by legal restraints, or by sound policy”.

“When we have battles to fight in any future wars, our hardy peasantry, who are the strength of a country, may be gone and we shall have none to recruit our armies, except a band of mercenaries from abroad, (who may turn their swords against ourselves), and effeminate manufactures, or defenseless sheep and shepherds dogs.” (OSA, Vol. XI, 1794, p. 626)

Other negative aspects of emigration in Scotland are mentioned in the parish report for Elgin, County of Elgin, including the increase in manufacturing (which causes ill health), loss of sheep farmers and even acts as a deterrent to marriage! (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 20)

As the Reverend Mr Roderick Macrae, Missionary Minister in the parish of Applecross, wrote in the report for Lochbroom Parish, County of Ross and Cromarty:

“It has been said, however, that these people who are dispossessed of their farms, can live much more comfortably in the manufacturing employment, than ever they could do before.
But would they not be still more happy, if manufactures were introduced among themselves*? And is it not a matter of importance to the nation to encourage population in the High-
lands, as well as in other parts of the kingdom?” (*There was a LINT MANUFACTURING STATION established here, some time ago…) (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 471)

Influence of emigration

  • Religion

A large area of influence which Sottish emigration had on countries abroad was in the realm of religion. It was considered very important for emigrants to practice the right religion correctly. The Rev. James Russell, a minister at the Presbytery of Lochcarron, Parish of Gairloch in the County of Ross and Cromarty, wrote in September 1836:

“The population is by much too dense for the means of support which they enjoy. A Government grant to convey one-third of the people to Upper Canada would be most desirable; and, in order to promote the moral and religious improvement of the people, two missionaries, and from six to eight schools, on a proper footing, are absolutely necessary and loudly called for.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 99)

In Weem, County of Perth, a Bible Society had been established and great satisfaction arose “that many of our emigrated countrymen are now in possession of Bibles purchased here, several of them in the back-woods of Canada, and a few on the shores of Australia.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 714)

There is also mention in the report for Kincardine, County of Ross and Cromarty, of a “Gaelic and English congregation at Dundas in Upper Canada (now Aldborough, presbytery of Toronto;)” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 431).

Emigration also had an effect on religion at home. As many of Scotland’s best laborers re-located from the North Highlands to America, many Glasgow manufacturers encouraged hard-working Roman Catholics to work for them, promising them security in the exercise of their religion. (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 194)

  • Surveys and diffusion of information

Another big area of influence was on the surveying of Canada and the way of life of its inhabitants. The Scot Robert Fleming Gourlay (1778-1863) first emigrated to Canada in 1817 and, while there, compiled two volumes of the Statistical Account of Upper Canada, using the Statistical Accounts of Scotland model developed by Sir John Sinclair. (Both Volume 1 and Volume 2 can be found on the Internet Archive.) Even though there are deficiencies, it is considered “easily the best compendium of information about Upper Canada for his period. Though Gourlay made no attempt to analyze them, the 57 township reports he printed present an unrivaled picture of provincial social and economic life”. (Dictionary of Canadian Biography) Gourlay’s story is fascinating and is well worth reading.

Engraved, illustrated title-pages of the Statistical Account of Upper Canada, Volume 2, 1822.

The Statistical Account of Upper Canada : compiled with a view to a grand system of emigration, Vol. 2, 1822. Found on the Internet Archive.

Another Scot who surveyed and reported on Canada was Roderick Mackenzie (c.1761-1844) who emigrated to Canada in 1784 to work in the fur trade. He wrote the Survey of North West Canada, which was issued as a printed circular to the Indian traders in the North West Company from Montreal on 21 April 1806. This and the subsequent responses by the other traders, can be found on the scholarly research website In Pursuit of Adventure: The Fur Trade in Canada and the North West Company. He took direct influence from Sir John Sinclair, having seen the strong similarities between the accounts given by the Parish clergy and those that might be obtained from the traders of the seven Indian tribes.

Interestingly, in the Statistical Accounts there is also mention of a Mr. Calder in the parish report of Whitsome and Hilton, County of Berwick, who was the “author of a very neat account of the Five Nations of Canada” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 355). The Five Nations of Canada refers to the Iroquois, a historically powerful northeast Native American confederacy, pre-1722.

As well as surveying, Scots played a part in making information easily available. Libraries were set up in Canada, among other countries, through Samuel Brown, Esq.’s initiative of itinerating (or traveling) libraries, which began in 1817 and whose headquarters was at Haddington. This involved collections of books (divisions) being “stationed in the towns and villages of the county for two years, when they are removed and exchanged.”

“In 1831 and 1834, I received from a few friends of the plan about L.400, to promote the introduction of libraries into certain specified districts, and I have since sent to various parts of Scotland, England, Ireland, Jamaica, Canada, South Africa, St Petersburgh, ninety divisions containing 4500 volumes. They were furnished at cost prices, and to same districts at half the cost price, and those sent to Ireland still lower. They were placed under the superintendence of gentlemen or ladies in the different districts.” (OSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 17)

For further information take a look at the book Some Account of Itinerating Libraries and Their Founder by Samuel Brown which is available on the Internet Archive.

In the next blog post on the influence of Scotland on the world, we will focus on trade with other counties and Scots working abroad.

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Nov 222017
 

We’re always interested to hear how you use the Statistical Accounts. Family historians are one of the key groups who make use of our service so we were delighted to see Jane Harris recently publish a blog on using the Statistical Accounts for family history research. Jane has kindly agreed that we republish her post – we hope it’s useful for those of you researching your Scottish roots! 

portrait shot of Jane

Jane Harris

Jane specialises in Scottish genealogy and family history. A member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and the Scottish Genealogy Network, Jane provides both family history research and tutoring so you can do research yourself. Her particular interests include the Stirling area, where she lives, and Orkney, where she was born and grew up. Jane described her experience with the Statistical Accounts for us:

A row of books with rather dull dust jackets; a couple of interesting quotes in a lecture or course book. That sums up my knowledge of the Statistical Accounts from my student days. When I started seriously researching my own family history many years later that view changed rapidly. Checking the earlier censuses, I was fascinated by the number of distinctively Highland surnames in my father’s home parish of Walls, Orkney. The Old Statistical Account provided an explanation: that a large number of people had come from “Strathnaven”, having been cleared to make way for sheep, so early victims of the clearances. I was hooked.

The Statistical Accounts are now one of my standard sources for client research in the late eighteenth to mid nineteenth centuries, both for general background and also for specific information on churches, migration, occupations and so on. 

Now for Jane’s original blog, with some great pointers…

 

S is for Statistical Accounts of Scotland 

Keep reading! They are far more than numbers. The Statistical Accounts are two fascinating sets of reports on each Scottish parish in the 1790s and the 1830s/40s.  They cover economic and social activities as well as natural resources.

What, when, who, how? 

Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster sent out 171 queries to the ministers of each of the 938 parishes in Scotland in the 1790s. Their responses form the Old Statistical Account (OSA). In 1832, because of all the changes that had taken place in Scotland, a new survey was agreed. The responses are collectively known as the New Statistical Account (NSA). Find out more about the background.

 How are the Statistical Accounts useful for family history? 

  • Context for our ancestors’ lives.

“The prejudices, entertained by the inhabitants of this parish, against inoculation [sic] were, for a long time, invincible. But the better sort, setting the example, the rest gradually followed… In one season 460 were inoculated, of whom only 3 died” (Kilmalie, Invernesshire, Old Statistical Account, p409). Mortality by age group statistics (Glasgow, Old Statistical Account p508).

 

  • Information on churches other than the established Church of Scotland.

“There is in St Ninians a Relief meeting-house… there is another meeting-house in Ba-burn connected with the United Secession” (St Ninians, Stirlingshire, New Statistical Account p336).

 

  • The state of the parish registers: “the fourth is a mere ragged fragment” (Wick, Caithness, New Statistical Account p137). May explain why you can’t find a baptism:
Excerpt from the New Statistical Account for Wick, Caithness, Vol XV, 1845, p137.

Excerpt from the New Statistical Account for Wick, Caithness, Vol XV, 1845, p137.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Names of landowners, which could lead you to estate records.

For example, see Menteith, Perthshire, New Statistical Account p1108.

 

  • Local history generally, development of industries, migration and so on.

“What accounts for this [population] increase of 71 is the settlement of a colony of Highlanders, who had been forced to emigrate from Strathnaven [sic], where their farms had been converted into sheep pasture” (Walls, Orkney, Old Statistical Account p313).

 

  • The minister’s view on his parishioners.

This snip from the Dalziel, Lanarkshire, (Motherwell area) New Statistical Account is particularly rich:

Excerpt from the New Statistical Account for Dalziel, Vol VI, 1845, p454.

Excerpt from the New Statistical Account for Dalziel, Vol VI, 1845, p454.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In summary 

Topography, geology, botany, agriculture, weather, population statistics, diseases, the state of the church and manse, manufactures, occupations (for example see table from Inverness’ Old Statistical Account below), wages, prisons, schools, language, history, antiquities, communications – and much more. Each account as individual as the minister who wrote it. You can find them all on the Statistical Accounts of Scotland website.

Table of occupations from the Old Statistical Account for Inverness, Vol IX, 1793, p622.

Table of occupations from the Old Statistical Account for Inverness, Vol IX, 1793, p622.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Jane for letting us share her thoughts. You can find Jane’s blog here:

http://www.janealogy.co.uk/blog/

Follow Jane on Twitter @janenharris

 

Let us know your story 

Could you share your Statistical Accounts experience with us? What have you found that’s been particularly helpful in your local or family history research? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below or email us, edina@ed.ac.uk.

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Dec 142016
 

This is the last in a series of blog posts about some of the functionality you may have come across (or may not have yet discovered!) in the new Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online. Here we concentrate on the new My statacc feature.

We have now introduced functionality to enable more personalisation when using the service. If you are a subscriber you can now save, annotate and tag  individual pages, whole sections, illustrations and maps. You can use the star button to save. The label icon allows you tag items with one or two words of your choice, so that you can find them easily when you next visit  (just type your words into the box), and the post-it note to write longer annotations which are stored alongside the item.  If you are planning to coming back to a particular page, image or section, you can store information about why it is interesting, how it relates to your research or how you might want to use it.

These new features are designed to allow you to easily find and review content of particular interest to you. Tags and annotations are stored against your profile, and will remain there until you delete them. Just sign in and click on the My statacc red button on the top right of the page to find everything you have saved.

A screen-shot of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland showing personalistion features and the transcript functionality.

A page of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland showing personalisation features and the transcript. Screen-shot captured on Thursday 1st December 2016.

You can tag, annotate and save both sections and individual pages. Individual pages can be printed out and whole sections of the Statistical Accounts can now be downloaded as PDFs. You can even share what you have found on social media by clicking on the sharing icon and follow the links. Using these features is so easy – just click on the relevant icon and away you go!

We are particularly pleased to be able to offer such personalisation, which will help you to get the most out of your searching and browsing of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online. Please let us know what you think.

More information on all the features mentioned above, as well as others, can be found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Help Pages and the How to get the most out of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland online page. If you have any comments or queries please contact the EDINA Help Desk (edina@ed.ac.uk).

 

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Dec 132016
 

This is the second in a series of blog posts about some of the functionality you may have come across (or may not have yet discovered!) in the new Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online. Here we concentrate on the images and maps, as well as the transcripts found on the website.

Images and maps

The new service contains a number of illustrations and maps published with the original accounts. Your search may result in a box containing the thumbnail views of related images or maps. As a subscriber you would be able click on these to view them (in a gallery view) in a much higher resolution than before. You are also able to zoom in and out, which is fantastic to be able to do! All other relevant images are on the left-hand side of the gallery view, making it easy to scroll and browse related illustrations and maps.

There are a number of interactive maps available in the service, which we are able to feature courtesy of the National Library of Scotland. One example is the map of Scotland on the homepage, where you can click on the map to open out a larger version, and as the mouse cursor moves over the map you will see the names of counties highlighted. There are also interactive maps available on the county pages, showing each of the parishes clearly within the county and allowing you to click through to more information on the parish.

A screen-shot of an interactive map for the southern part of Northern Part of Ross and Cromarty Shires, taken from the Statistical Accounts of Scotland.

The interactive map for the southern part of Northern Part of Ross and Cromarty Shires. Screen-shot taken from the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online on Thursday 1st December 2016.

Transcriptions

Another greatly improved feature is that of the transcripts, which are available for most pages in the Statistical Accounts. The reading quality of the transcription has been improved through rendering the text in html, making it an even more useful to aid understanding when reading the Statistical Accounts.

We hope that these new features mean you get even more out of the wonderful wealth of information found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. More information on all the features mentioned above, as well as others, can be found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Help Pages and the How to get the most out of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland online page. If you have any comments or queries please contact the EDINA Help Desk (edina@ed.ac.uk).

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Dec 022016
 

As you may have already noticed, the Statistical Accounts of Scotland service now has a new look as well as new and improved features. We hope you have been exploring them since the new service was launched at the beginning of November. This is the first in a series of blog posts about some of the functionality you may have come across or may not have yet discovered! Here we concentrate on the search and structure of the new website.

Improved search

We have aimed to allow searching in the same way as you would use an internet search engine. The service will look not only for direct matches but also for possible variations and related terms.

Search features include:

  • The ability to limit your search to the old statistical accounts or new statistical accounts by adding either OSA or NSA to your search terms, e.g. OSA schools. It is also possible to limit your search still further by stating the actual volume and even the specific page, e.g. OSA vol5 pg27.
  • The ability to search by geographical area, by using one of the eight cardinal compass points in your search term, i.e. N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW.
  • A subject search which allows you to search for pages which are discussing a particular topic but which may not mention the exact word. The system looks at the words you type into the search box and tries to deduce any subjects you might be interested in or you can include the subjects directly. The full list of subjects can be found on the How to get the most out of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland online page. This functionality is a little experimental at the moment, so it would be great to get any feedback on this feature.
  • The ability to search the related resources, with access to these available from the main search results page. Please note that related resources, such as digitised versions of Sinclair’s Specimens of Statistical Accounts (1793) and Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland (1825-1826) and related surveys such as the Stow Census, are only available to subscribers.
  • Associated words which is another experimental feature that may present words that frequently appear in proximity to your search terms. If your search term returns a box of associated word you can click on these words to explore terms related to those you are interested in.
A screen-shot of a search results page form teh Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online

Search results page showing a number of features of the new service. Screen-shot captured from the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online on Wednesday 30th November 2016.

County and Parish Pages

We also wanted to make it easier to search for material that is related to specific places, and tried to do this by bringing together information on each parish or county on one dedicated page. These can be navigated to using the maps, as well as the search box. These pages present all the content we have that is related to that county or parish, alongside a county or parish map and a brief description, extracted from the text. From here, you can view the map in high resolution, navigate to the county page if you are on a parish page, or navigate to one of the accounts or resources related to the parish if you are on a parish page.

We hope that the improved functionality and re-design of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland will both allow you to find the relevant information quickly and to explore other related information easily. Try the new features and discover more about Scotland’s counties and parishes.

More information on all the features mentioned above, as well as others, can be found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Help Pages and the How to get the most out of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland online page. If you have any comments or queries please contact the EDINA Help Desk (edina@ed.ac.uk).

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Oct 312016
 

In our last post we revealed some of the Halloween customs detailed in the Statistical Accounts, including some spooky ghost stories.  Although superstitious beliefs seem to have been receding during the late Eighteenth Century, there are nevertheless many accounts of another devilish figure in the accounts: the witch. Such stories give us a real insight into what people in the eighteenth century and earlier believed in and how they dealt with alleged witches.

In Tongland, County of Kircudbright, the lower classes “firmly believed in ghosts, hobgoblins, fairies, elves, witches and wizards. There ghosts and spirits often appeared to them at night. They used many charms and incantations to preserve themselves, their cattle and houses, from the malevolence of witches, wizards, and evil spirits, and believed in the beneficial effects of these charms.” (OSA, Vol. IX, 1793, p. 328)

Several places are mentioned in the Statistical Accounts where witches were burnt. These include: near the Old Castle of Langholm in the County of Dumfries, where some of the witches here acted as midwives and had the power to transfer labour pains from the mother to the father! (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p.421); a hill in the parish of Mordington, County of Berwick, called Witch’s Know (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 187); another Witch’s Know in Gask, County of Perth (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 282); and an upright granite stone located in the parish of New Monkland, County of Lanark, “where it is said, in former times, they burned those imaginary criminals, called witches” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 280).

A watercolour 'The Three Witches of Macbeth' by John Downman.

The Three Witches of Macbeth, 1824. John Downman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Spott in the County of Haddington was renowned as a habitation for witches (NSA, Vol. II, 1845 – p.227).  In October 1705, “many witches were burnt on the top of Spott Loan” and indeed it is generally believed that the last witch who was executed in Scotland was burnt at Spott; a stone commemorative of the event, marking the place of execution, is to be seen a little way to the cast of the manse. It was also here in Spott, in 1698, where the trial of Marion Lillie, otherwise known as the Rigwoody Witch, took place (OSA, Vol. V, 1793 – p 454).

Indeed, you can find a number of accounts of trials for witchcraft in the Statistical Accounts. The most complete report of a trial is that of the Trial of William Coke and Alison Dick for Witchcraft on September 17th 1633, which is found in the accounts for Kirkaldy, County of Fife, OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796 – p.656 to 662.

Other witches are mentioned too, such as  the Bargarran Witches who were seven men and women accused of bewitching a young woman in the parish of Erskine, County of Renfrew (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p.507 to 508 and p.122). Other renowned witches are Lillias Adie who, in 1704, was accused of witchcraft and “afterwards died in the jail of Dunfermline, and was buried within the flood-mark between the villages of Torryburn and Torrie” (Torryburn, County of Fife, NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 732) and Gorm Shuil, or blue-eyed, a famous witch from Laggan in the County of Inverness “who was such an adept in her profession that she could transform herself and others into hares, and crows, raise hurricanes from any quarter of the compass she pleased, and perform other wonderful exploits, too tedious to mention” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 426).

There is a really interesting piece by Sir John Sinclair on the Castle of Dunsinnan or Dunsinane and the probability that William Shakespeare had collected here its traditions on Macbeth to use it in his celebrated play! (Collace, County of Perth, OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p.242)

Witches also had a hand in the formation of the Castle of Dumbarton! It seems that Kilpatrick, a village in Dumbartonshire, both derives its name from, and gave birth to, the celebrated saint of Ireland, Patrick. The Devil was so incensed at Patrick’s sanctity and success in preaching the gospel that he:

sent a band of witches against him; that the weird-sisters fell upon him so furiously, that he was forced to seek safety by flight; that finding a little boat near the mouth of the Clyde, he went into it and set off for Ireland; that they seeing it impossible to pursue him, for it seems they were not of that class of witches who can skim along the waters in an egg shell, or ride
through the air on a broom stick, tore a huge piece of a rock from a neighbouring hill, and hurled it, with deadly purpose, after him; but that, missing their aim, the ponderous mass
fell harmless, and afterwards, with a little addition from art, formed the Castle of Dumbarton.

(Kilpatrick-New, County of Dumbarton, OSA, Vol. VII, 1793 – p. 99)

An engraving of Dumbarton Castle by William Miller.

Dumbarton Castle (Rawlinson 518) engraving by William Miller after Turner. Created 1 January 1836. [William Miller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

So how were suspected witches actually dealt with? In 1563 the Scottish Witchcraft Act was passed which made both the practice of witchcraft and consulting with witches capital offences. There were many more witch prosecutions in Scotland (an estimated 4,000 to 6,000) than in England at this time. Most trials took place in secular courts and later taken over by kirk sessions, with the majority being held in the Scottish Lowlands. During 1596-97, there was an active inquiry in the County of Aberdeen when several Commissioners from the region were appointed by his Majesty “to tackle and apprehend witches, sorceraris, consultaris, and traffiquaris with witches”. (Leochel, County of Aberdeen, NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 1123)

In Forfar there was “a witch-pricker called John Ford who was sent for to prick witches, and was admitted as a burgess, on the same day with Lord Kinghorn. The bridle which was placed in the mouths of the witches condemned to be burned, and with which they were fastened to the stake, is preserved in the burgh.” Also, the field in which the witches suffered is pointed out to strangers as a curiosity (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 524). Those people charged with witchcraft were brought to trial in Forfar by a special commission appointed by the Crown in 1661. Interestingly, ‘the records of these trials were preserved and contained many curious statements; but it has recently been amissing.’ (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p.695)

In Gladsmuir, County of Haddington, (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 188) “the Lord Commissioner and Lords of the Articles, after bearing the petition, granted a commission for putting to death such of the above persons as were found guilty of witchcraft by confession, and for trying the others, which, if we may credit tradition, was put into execution”.

In the parish of Torryburn it is even reported that the first Presbyterian minister after the Revolution “Mr Logan’s great hobby appears to have been the prosecution of witches” and on April 4, 1709, Helen Kay was rebuked before the congregation for having said that the minister “was daft,” when she ” heard him speak against the witches”! (Torryburn, County of Fife, NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 732)

It is actually frightening to think that people from judges to the parish elite had the power to put to death those accused of witchcraft based on such questionable evidence as witch-pricking and confessions forced under duress (torture and sleep deprivation). Thankfully, by the seventeenth century there was a growing scepticism of witchcraft and by the time Scotland became part of the Commonwealth with England and Ireland in 1652 there was a marked decline in witch trials and prosecutions. It is both a fascinating and troubled period of Scotland’s history, and the traces of this time that are to be found in the Statistical Accounts are well worth exploring.

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Oct 282016
 

Halloween is approaching and the nights are drawing in. So this is the perfect time to discover some spooky stories and supernatural superstitions reported in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. There certainly are plenty!

Celebrating Halloween

Even though Halloween is widely believed to be more of an American tradition, there is a long tradition of celebrating All Hallows Eve in Scotland, and there are mentions of Halloween in both Statistical Accounts. One example is that of the parish of Logierait, County of Perth, (OSA, Vol. V, 1793 – p84) where the evening of the 31st October was marked by a special fire ceremony:

Heath, broom, and dressings of flax, are tied upon a pole: This faggot is then kindled; one takes it upon his shoulders, and running, bears it round the village; a crowd attend: When the first faggot is burnt out, a second is bound to the pole, and kindled in the same manner as before. Numbers of these blazing faggots are often carried about together, and when the night happens to be dark, they form a splendid illumination.

In the parish of Cullen, County of Banff, Halloween celebrations were sporty and involved the young people of the community and surrounding districts playing games, such as football, running, throwing the hammer and playing bowls (NSA, Vol. XIII, 1845 – p.331). Unfortunately, bowls, which was played by rolling or throwing a cannon ball, was later forbidden by magistrates as one year a man was accidentally killed by the ball! By 1845 the parishioners kept to playing golf, shinty, football and target shooting.

However, not everyone amused themselves with games and pagan ceremonies for Halloween. In the parishes of Broughton, Glenholm, and Kilbucho in Peebles, people observed Halloween with “a kind of religious scrupulosity”. (NSA, Vol. III, 1845 – p.89)

Ghosts

There are some amazing ghost stories in the Statistical Accounts. In one of my favourites, funeral mourners battle it out to ensure that their deceased loved one is not burdened with ghostly duties:

In one division of this county, where it was believed that the ghost of the person last buried kept the gate of the church-yard ’till relieved by the’ next victim of death, a singular scene occurred when two burials were to take place in one church yard on the same day. Both parties staggered forward as fast as possible to consign their respective friend in the first place to the dust. If they met at the gate, the dead were thrown down, ’till the living decided by blows whose ghost should be condemned to porter it.

(Appendix for Monquhitter, County of Aberdeen, OSA, Vol. XXI, 1799, p. 144)

In another, an unfaithful lover asks for help to posthumously fulfil a vow:

About the middle of the last century, a man was buried in the island. For several nights after, the dead man disturbed the whole neighbourhood in Glenco, calling in a most dolorous strain, on a certain individual, to come and to relieve him. The man at last set off for the island, in the dead hour of night, and having arrived at the grave, found the dead man with his head and neck fairly above the ground: “What is your business with me,” says the Glenco man “and why are you disturbing the neighbourhood with your untimely lamentations after this fashion?” “I have not,” says the dead man, “rest night or day since I lay here, nor shall I as long as this head is on my body; I shall give you the reason. In younger days I swore most solemnly, that I would marry a certain woman, and that I never would forsake her, as long as this head remained on my body. At this time I had hold of a button, and the moment we parted, I separated the head of the button from the neck, thinking that then all was right. I now find my mistake. You must therefore, cut off my head.” The other, fetching a stroke, cut off the head close to the surface of the ground; and then the dead man dragged the rest of the body back to the grave, leaving the head to shift for itself. This story is as firmly believed in Glenco this day, by some people, as any truth of holy writ.

(Laggan, County of Inverness, NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 427)

You could not make up better stories! Obviously, there are many more mentions of, ghosts and all other kinds of supernatural happenings which you could search for in the Statistical Accounts.  It’s interesting to note that in both the Old and New Statistical Accounts such stories were reported with a sceptical tone as the folk tales of previous generations or as outmoded superstitions: perhaps this illustrates a growing faith in Enlightenment rationality, but it is equally likely that the Christian ministers who compiled the accounts simply refused to accept that their parishioners continued to hold ‘heathen’ beliefs. In any case, these fantastical stories and superstitions have been handed down from generation to generation, and the accounts themselves continue this process. They are part of the history of Scotland and so it is wonderful that these stories have not been lost.

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Apr 112016
 

In October 1795, Sir John Sinclair asked Rev. Robert Douglas of Galashiels to “assist the Board of Agriculture” by updating and republishing the County Surveys of Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire. Sinclair had been frustrated at the eccentric diversity of styles employed by the various contributors to the first phase of the Statistical Account, and he now sought to standardise according to the model of his favourite: the Midlothian survey. He hoped that Douglas would contribute his local knowledge to a national statistical survey, by copying the format, structure, and style of a prototype. However, the production of this survey, and in particular the production of the map it contained, illustrates just how challenging such standardisation could be.

Map of Roxburghshire, from the General View of the Agriculture in the Counties of Roxburgh and Selkirk (1798). Photo by the author.

Map of Roxburghshire, from the General View of the Agriculture in the Counties of Roxburgh and Selkirk (1798). Photo by the author.

By January 1798, Douglas’s reports were completed and published, alongside a map of each county, in a single volume: General View of the Agriculture in the Counties of Roxburgh and Selkirk, with Observations on the Means of Their Improvement. To produce the maps, Douglas engaged the professional assistance of the Edinburgh-based mapmaker John Ainslie. Ainslie has been called “virtually the Master-General of Scotland’s national survey”. He was employed to prepare maps of a number of Scotland’s southern counties, at the indirect behest of Sinclair, to illustrate the various Surveys in the late 1790s. In some cases, where the county had already been surveyed in recent decades, Ainslie’s task was merely to copy pre-existing maps. In the case of Roxburghshire, Ainslie used a pantographer to reduce Matthew Stobie’s 1770 map of the county. Ainslie wrote to Douglas in May 1797:

I have perused the coloured map of the County [of Roxburghshire] and has [sic] begun Engraving a new Plate by reducing Stobies map exactly and have put in the villages and Towns from the map you sent onto me. I am at the greatest loss about the Hills. You complain of them being too dark, if I had done them for another county they would have been reckoned too light. I am doing the County of Kirkudbright just now and the people concern’d about it finds great fault because the hills are not dark enough altho much bolder than your map they have actually given me orders to make every one of them stronger before I get them done as they want they will be very dark indeed.

So Ainslie had trouble standardising the topographical features on his county maps, as he found that different counties’ hills required different treatment. In the same letter he refers to the map of Selkirkshire as “totally hills which is the most tedious of all engraving”.

In the preface of his General View, Douglas felt obliged to explain the different cartographic rationales that informed the maps of Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire:

In that [map] of Roxburghshire, nothing is inserted, but the names of parishes, towns, villages, such places as are mentioned in the work, and a few on the confines which jut out into other counties. With regard to Selkirkshire, there being few parish churches or villages, and not many farms deserving particular notice in an agricultural view, had the same rule been rigidly followed, a large track of it would have appeared uninhabited; to prevent which, the seats of the residing proprietors, the places from whence others take their titles, and some of the most extensive farms, are named in the map

In some cases, the imperfect science of hill-mapping led to debates about a hill’s very existence. Douglas had sought advice about possible “alterations and additions” to Ainslie’s draft map of Roxburghshire. He sent a manuscript copy to a number of correspondents, who took it out into the field to test its accuracy. James Arkle, minister for Castletown in the southern tip of Roxburghshire, wrote to Douglas with his own opinions on Ainslie’s map:

I received yours with the Map of the County inclosed which I now return and shall with pleasure give such answers to your enquiries as my information enables me… I have… carried the map along with me thro’ the parish and have compared it with the real situation of the Country by occular [sic] inspection. The line is drawn with ink separating the moor from the green pasture as accurately as possible. We are not of Mr Olivers opinion as to the nonexistence of the hill he has crossed. It lies between Thorlishope and Peel, tho’ not high when compared with the others near it, yet it rises to a considerable height. I cannot say that I am able to mark the hills by name as they appear on your map. If you have a copy of Stobies Map of County, I believe they are distinctly pointed out on it.

“Mr Oliver” had been given first look at Ainslie’s map, which was a reduced version of Stobie’s, and had crossed out a hill. Clearly Arkle disagreed with his assessment, on the basis of his own subjective “occular inspection.” The hill in question lay northeast of Thorlishope, and is represented by a faint fingerprint-like symbol on Stobie’s map.

Detail from Matthew Stobie's Map of Roxburghshire or Tiviotdale (1770). The hill in question is the section of shading north of Thorlishope. Image: NLS.

Detail from Matthew Stobie’s Map of Roxburghshire or Tiviotdale (1770). The hill in question is the section of shading north of Thorlishope. Image: NLS.

It is absent from the map ultimately published with Douglas’s General View, whereas the nearby hills northwest of Dawstane are clearly defined on it. It was not until later in the nineteenth century that the Ordnance Survey used contours to standardise hill-sketching.

In the meantime, the status and depiction of hills varied from map to map, depending on the criteria and propensities of the mapmaker(s), or on the subjective “occular inspection” of a chain of informants. This meant that, on the maps of the Statistical Account, a hill of a certain height in one county was not necessarily a hill in another. Therefore, Sinclair’s desire for standardised surveys according to one archetypical model was necessarily thwarted.

 

 Philip Dodds, School of Geosciences University of Edinburgh
Twitter: @PA_Dodds

We hope you have enjoyed this post: it is characteristic of the rich historical material available within the ‘Related Resources’ section of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland service. Featuring essays, maps, illustrations, correspondence, biographies of compliers, and information about Sir John Sinclair’s other works, the service provides extensive historical and bibliographical detail to supplement our full-text searchable collection of the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Statistical Accounts.

Sources

Robert Douglas’s correspondence, quoted here, is in the National Library of Scotland: MS.3117.

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Mar 152016
 

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Lothian Family History Society, who meet just outside Edinburgh in the Lasswade Centre. It was a lovely opportunity to meet some of the people who have interests in the Statistical Accounts, and another chance for me to delve into the content of the Statistical Accounts and explore the kind of interesting descriptive details they contain. A great deal can be gleaned about our ancestors in the late 18th and early 19th century through these reports.  I thought it would be fun to focus on the parish in which we were present, so had a look at the two Lasswade accounts.

Lizars Map of the County of Edinburgh, published with the Second Account (vol 1)

Lizars Map of the County of Edinburgh, published with the Second Account (vol 1)

The name Lasswade “signifies a well-watered pasture of common use”,* according to the Rev. M. Campbell MacKenzie, who complied the parish report for the second account. And well it might, given the position of Lasswade directly on the river Esk, in what is now the green belt around Edinburgh.

In the first account, we learn that the population in 1791 was more than 3000 inhabitants, so the village was a good size. There is plenty of work: agriculture is thriving and bleachfields, coal mining and paper making are the main (non-agricultural) industries with 260 people employed in the latter two. Around 150 women are employed as coal bearers underground. Only 50 people were claiming poor relief: the income from the church collection and fees (for weddings etc.), we learn, was supplemented by the heritors of the village:  “This mode they prefer widely to an assessment, a measure which ought always to be avoided, if possible, as it never fails to increase the number of claimants. There is a laudable spirit in the common people of this country, which keeps them from applying for aid out of the poor funds, so long as they can do anything from themselves. This arises from the apprehension that these funds depend for their supply solely on the voluntary contributions at the church door.” One of the common pastimes, the minister notes, is gardening: “the attention of the gardener is chiefly directed to the cultivation of strawberries, than which he has not a surer or more profitable crop […] It may be observed that it was in this parish that strawberries were first raised in any quantities for the public market.” So one of Lasswade’s claims to fame might be as the home of the commercially grown strawberry!

Half a century later, in 1841, Lasswade had a population of 5022: it had not quite doubled in size, but it had certainly increased. The growing parish had also been divided into two by this point, at least quoad sacra  (in a spiritual sense) but ‘temporal matters’, quoad civilia, were still common to both. Manufacturing in the area is now dominated by paper (c. 300 people) and carpets (c. 100 people). But despite the growing populace, and the 75 on the roll, and a considerable number of people who receive occasional assistance. There is an assessment, so the Heritors have evidently given up on their custom of supplementing the Church collections, which is perhaps unsurprising given the 50% increase in claimants. Gardening continues: “vegetation is both early and luxuriant” and by this time, we learn, the green charms of the area have rendered “the village of Lasswade a place of considerable resort to the inhabitants of Edinburgh and Leith numbers of whom annually spend the summer months in this delightful locality.”  Perhaps in keeping with its growing reputation as a notable locale in the area, the Lasswade report in the second account devotes a significant proportion of its pages to discussion of the lives of ’eminent characters’ and fascinating antiquities. The former include the poet William Drummond of Hawthornden, Mr Clerk of Eldin, author of an important essay on naval tactics, and the late Lord Melville. The latter feature notable sights such as the caves below Hawthornden which could hold upwards of 60 men and were used to conceal troops during “the contest between Bruce and Baliol” and “the famous sycamore tree which is called the fours sisters and is about 24 feet in circumference at the base. It was under this tree that Drummond the poet was sitting when his friend Ben Jonson arrived from London, and hence it is also called Ben Jonson’s tree.” Such points of historical interest might appeal to the kind of metropolitan visitor that Lasswade was now attracting, and – like the second account report for neighbouring Roslin, which is given over almost entirely to a description of the ornamental chapel – it reads more like a tourist guide than a survey of the people and the land!

 

*All quotations in this post are taken from the Lasswade parish reports, which appear in the OSA, Volume 10 p. 227 – 288 and the NSA Vol 1, p. 323 – 337

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