LAIRG, a parish, in the county of Sutherland, 19 miles (W. by N.) from Golspie; containing 913 inhabitants, of whom 69 are in the village. The name of Lairg is generally supposed to be derived from the Gaelic word Lorg, signifying "a footpath," and to be descriptive of the situation of the parish, which lies in the direct line from the northern to the southern part of the county, and the way through which was only a footpath till the present high road was constructed. Some, however, derive the name from the compound La-ri-Leig, "bordering on the lake," in allusion to the extensive and beautiful sheet of water called Loch Shin. The parish is not remarkable for any events of historical importance; but there are still remaining several cairns, concerning the origin of which very little is known, the people of the country, when questioned upon the subject, merely repeating the tradition that they were built by the Fingalians. At a place called Cnoek a chath, "the hill of the fight," also, a number of tumuli are visible, which are reported to be the graves of those who fell in an encounter between the Sutherlands and Mackays.
   The parish is thirty miles in its greatest length, from east to west, and about ten miles in breadth, from north to south, containing 40,000 acres. It is twenty miles distant from the sea, and is bounded on the north by the parish of Farr; on the south by Criech; on the east by Rogart; and on the west by Assynt and Eddrachillis. The surface throughout is hilly, and by far the larger part of it covered with heath: the hills vary in height in different parts, but are generally lofty, and on the northern boundary stands Ben-Chlibrig, the highest mountain in the county. The whole site of the parish, indeed, is very considerably elevated, and the air in winter is bleak and piercing, the cold being often accompanied with heavy falls of rain and snow; the climate, however, is healthy, and the inhabitants hardy and long-lived. The lakes are about twenty in number: the principal is Loch Shin, extending nearly the whole length of the parish; it is twenty-four miles long, and its average breadth is about one mile, the depth varying from twenty to thirty fathoms. There are five rivers, four of which fall, and some with great impetuosity, into this loch. From the east end of it issues the river Shin, which, after a rapid course of three miles, precipitates itself over a rock twenty feet high, forming a fine cascade, and at last loses itself in the waters of the Kyle of Sutherland. Trout are found in many of the lakes; in Loch Craggy they abound, and are considered to be of as fine quality as any in the kingdom.
   The common alluvial deposit in the parish is peat, resting upon a subsoil of gravel; in a few places the earth is loamy and very fertile. The mossy ground, which is of great extent, is wet and spongy, and in every part imbedded with large quantities of fir, the certain indications of a once well-wooded district, though at present scarcely a tree is to be seen, except some birch growing along the lake. The agricultural character of the parish stands very low; the larger part of it is moorland, and the whole, with the exception of the lots occupied by the small tenants, has been turned into large sheep-walks. The population has consequently considerably decreased; and the old tenantry have gradually passed away, and settled either on the coast, or near grounds more susceptible of cultivation. There is no great corn farm in the parish; but the lotters raise enough of grain for domestic use. The breed of sheep is the Cheviot, and usually makes a very fine show, much attention having been paid to the rearing of them for some years past: they are sent to the markets of the Kyle and Kincardine, in Autumn and November. The rocks of the parish are chiefly coarse granite and trap, in addition to which, at the side of the lake, is a large bed of limestone: this, however, though much wanted for agricultural purposes, the inhabitants have no means of working. The rateable annual value of Lairg is returned at £1913. There are about forty miles of road, in very good condition, and affording every facility of communication: the Tongue line from south-east to north-west, and, branching from it, the Strathfleet county road, pass through the parish. A post-gig carrying passengers arrives twice in the week. The ecclesiastical affairs are subject to the presbytery of Dornoch and synod of Sutherland and Caithness; patron, the Duke of Sutherland. The stipend of the minister is £184, with a manse, built in 1795, and a glebe of ten acres valued at £9 per annum. The church, though distant from the western extremity of the parish about twenty miles, is conveniently situated, as the greater portion of the people reside in its neighbourhood; it was built in 1794, and is a very plain structure, now ruinous, but accommodating 500 persons with sittings, all of which are free. A new church and manse are in course of erection. There is only one school, the parochial, in which all the ordinary branches of education are taught, with Latin and Gaelic, the latter being the vernacular tongue: the master's salary is £34, with a house, and about £8. 10. fees. The poor have the interest of £500, bequeathed by Capt. Hugh M'Kay, son of a late minister of Lairg. Capt. William M'Kay, author of the narrative of the ship Juno, from which, Moore states, Byron drew his description of a shipwreck, was a native of the parish, and brother of Capt. Hugh M'Kay.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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