THE BLACK ISLE



The Black Isle is the piece of land between the Cromarty Firth to the north and the Moray Firth to the south. Its western boundary is not clearly defined but could be taken as the line of the present A9 from Inverness to Dingwall, or as the line of the old A9 from Beauly at the very head of the Beauly Firth through Muir of Ord and Maryburgh to Dingwall. This is the region in which my wife's maternal forebears lived. Until recently the area was part of the county of Ross and Cromarty. I have also included some information about areas on the other side of the Cromarty Firth, partly because my wife's Dingwall line seems to have an immediate source in Kiltearn and Alness, but also because there was a good deal of commerce across the water.

Cromarty is the main town on the north of the Black Isle and is situated at the east end opposite the present Nigg fabrication yard on the opposite shore of the Cromarty Firth. Nigg is one the places where oil platforms are built for exploration in the North Sea. At one time Cromarty was an important port. Invergordon itself is now a stop for cruise liners because of its deep water and sheltered harbour. Buses are laid on to Inverness and other places in the Highlands. Cromarty was also the birthplace of Hugh Miller who wrote on a vast range of topics from religion to geology as well as local folklore. The old courthouse has now been made into a museum. See my links page for more information.

To the south is Fortrose and its Chanonry Point is almost opposite Fort George making a narrow entrance to the landward end of the Moray Firth. Fortrose is the site of a cathedral, now in ruins, and an academy which is highly regarded as a result of its ratings in government measures of schools performance, although it has to be said that the underlying rationale of the statistics is not universally accepted. The academy has splendid views across the water. It was founded towards the end of the 18th century. Otherwise Fortrose is now a very poor town with little to attract the visitor.

Avoch is about 2 miles west of Fortrose and with less pretensions is in fact a much pleasanter village. It is basically a fishing town with a long history. Its pronunciation causes some problems for visitors - when I first came to live in the area with my wife it took me some months to realise that this is the place that I heard being called 'Och' (as near as it can be represented). Patience and Jack are common names here and my wife includes Jacks in her tree.

PARISH INFORMATION

KILLEARNAN

This parish lies to the west, and the parish church, close to the Beauly Firth, dates from roughly 1450. In 1843 the minister (Rev Donald Kennedy) took almost the whole congregation into the Free Church. A booklet "Killearnan: the story of the parish" was written by Margaret Oag in 1966 and has recently (1998) been reprinted with additions by her daughter. The Free Church is now located at Fettes crossroads on the main road from Muir of Ord to Tore

KILTEARN

This parish lies north of the Cromarty Firth and is roughly equivalent to Evanton. The old church is now roofless and abandoned but lies in its burial ground south of the A9 on the shores of the Firth. At the time of the Disruption the minister was Duncan Campbell and he and most of his congregation joined the Free Church. In 1900 the minister, Murdoch MacQueen stayed out of the Union and continued as minister until his death in 1912.

KILMUIR

The hamlet of Kilmuir is at the end of a single track road on the shores of the Moray Firth, not far as the crow flies from the Kessock Bridge. The parish (Wester Kilmuir) joined with Suddie to become Knockbain in the mid 18th century. The ruins of the church still stand within the burial ground. Easter Kilmuir is north of the Cromarty Firth not far from Invergordon. pictures of Kilmuir

KNOCKBAIN

The parish of Knockbain arose from the union of the two former parishes of Wester Kilmuir and Suddie. The old church of Knockbain was abandoned in 1933 and now lies in ruins a little south of Munlochy near Knockbain House. It was built in 1754. The present church is in Munlochy and was built in 1892 for the United Free Church. The Free Church is at Bogallan and the Episcopal Church of St John the Evangelist is at Arpafeelie in the far west of the parish.
At the Disruption the minister, John McRae, took his flock into the Free Church but the church and manse were built in the next-door parish of Killearnan as no land could be found within the parish of Knockbain. The Free Church congregation later split in the last decade of the 1800s over the building of a new church in Munlochy.

RESOLIS AND CULLICUDDEN

The parish of Resolis lies on the north coast of the Black Isle. It contains no towns of any size but there are a few hamlets. There was in the past an old church at Cullicudden dedicated to St Martin and the ruins of this are just visible. A church was then built right next to the shore west of Balblair and is also the site of the old burial ground of Cullicudden. A new burial ground is now being used and is further west and south of the B9169 road. In about 1662 the parish of Cullicudden was united with that of Kirkmichael and the united parish gradually came to be known as Resolis. A new church and manse was built around 1764 but was replaced by the present church in 1830. The burial ground of Kirkmichael which lies by the shore of Udale bay is still used but what remains of the church is a shored up decrepit ruin.
At the time of the Disruption the minister was Donald Sage and most of his flock followed him. The induction of a new minister to Resolis Church led to much unrest and a 'riot' which prevented the new minister being inducted his church but instead privately at Cromarty. One of the rioters, Margaret Cameron, was taken to Cromarty jail. The next day a mob broke into the jail and released her. These events eventually led to the arrest and trial of other rioters. David Alston of the Cromarty Courthouse Museum has written a booklet describing the background and circumstances of these events.
John MacIver was the Free Church minister in 1900 and many of of his flock joined the United Free Church despite their minister's opposition. Jim Mackay is about to publish a book on the parish and information about the area and some pictures are on his website. There is a link on my external links page PICTURES OF RESOLIS, CULLICUDDEN, & KIRKMICHAEL

SUDDIE

Easter Suddie now lies a short distance north east of Munlochy. The church is now in ruins and very little is left but there is still a burial ground with memorials to the MacKenzies and to the Mathesons of Bennetsfield. The church fell into disuse in 1762.

URQUHART & LOGIE WESTER

This parish lies in the west of the Black Isle and includes the village of Culbokie. John Sinclair, writing in the "Third Statistical Account" (page 75 of the Ross & Cromarty volume) comments that many of the local officials he asked about the parish wanted to know where it was, and suggests that some of the parish units are no longer relevant. The old church of Urquhart went out of use in 1792. The burial ground lies on the shores of the Cromarty Firth west of the present A9, and the replacement church is not far away to the west. The Free Church lies a bit still further west. At the time of the disruption (1843) the minister (Dr John MacDonald) led all the elders and 1200 parishioners into the Free Church. He was a well-known Gaelic preacher and was referred to as The Apostle of the North. Dr Donald Munro, the Free Church minister from 1894 to 1936 stayed outside the Union. Ferintosh is an alternative name by which the parish is known. At the present time the village of Culbokie shows every sign of becoming a 'dormitory' for commuters to Inverness in the south or Dingwall in the north. This must be partly because of the wonderful views that many cottages have over the water towards 'the Ben' (Ben Wyvis) to the north.
PICTURES OF URQUHART CHURCHES
EXTERNAL LINKS

Last update 04/06/2006