TAIN, a royal burgh, the county-town, and a parish, in the county of Ross and Cromarty, 30½ miles (N. by E.) from Inverness, and 201 (N. by W.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the village of Inver, 3128 inhabitants, of whom 2287 are in the burgh. This place, the name of which is of uncertain derivation, appears to have attained a considerable degree of importance at a very early period; and the ancient town, according to an old document preserved among the records of the Northern Institution at Inverness, was first erected into a burgh by charter of Malcolm Canmore. The whole surrounding lands were annexed to the see of Ross, of which St. Duthus was bishop about the year 1200; and to that saint was dedicated a chapel near the town, which had the privilege of sanctuary. In 1306 King Robert Bruce, at that time in his greatest difficulties, sent his queen and daughter for safety to the stronghold of Kildrummy, in Marr, from which, when threatened with a siege, they escaped, and took refuge in the sanctuary of St. Duthus, at this place; but the Earl of Ross, violating the sanctuary, seized their persons, and delivered them to the English. About the year 1427, Mc Niell, Lord of Criech, in Sutherland, having a feud with Morvat, Lord of Freswick, in Caithness, the latter was defeated, and fled with his attendants to the chapel of St. Duthus, whither they were pursued by Mc Niell, who set fire to the chapel, and put the whole party to the sword. James V., in the year 1527, made a pilgrimage to the chapel, then in ruins, to which he walked barefoot; and the path that was made for him upon that occasion, still retains the appellation of the King's Causeway. The ruins of this ancient chapel yet remain, consisting chiefly of the roofless walls, combining great strength and rude simplicity of architecture; they are situated on an eminence near the sandy plain on which the ancient town stood. A memorial of the saint is preserved in the device of the town seal, and in the names of numerous localities in the parish.
   The town stands near the head of the bay of Tain, in Dornoch Frith, and though irregularly built, contains some substantial houses. Many improvements have recently been effected: several of the streets have been straightened by the removal of ancient houses, which have given place to others of better appearance, particularly towards the east, to which the town has been considerably extended. A handsome building has been erected, in which public meetings are held. Though within a short distance of Dornoch Frith, the numerous shoals and sand-banks on the coast preclude the possibility of forming a harbour; and the town consequently has but little trade, except what it derives from its situation in the centre of a wide agricultural district, of which it is the principal mart. An iron-foundry for the manufacture of cast-iron goods of every sort for domestic use, is carried on to a considerable extent for the supply of the surrounding country; there are also extensive ale breweries, and several mills for grinding meal, sawing timber, carding wool, and for dyeing, all driven by the burn of Morangie, which flows near the town.
   The markets, which are numerously attended, and abundantly supplied with provisions of all kinds, and with fish from the village of Inver, are held on Tuesday and Friday. Fairs are held annually, for ponies, cattle, and agricultural produce, on the first Tuesday in January, the third Tuesday in March, the second Wednesday in July, the third Wednesday in August, the third Tuesday in October, and the Tuesday before Christmas. Facility of communication is afforded by good public roads, which pass through the parish for many miles, and by a considerable number of bridges kept in good repair. The burgh, after the destruction of its ancient charters, obtained from James VI. a charter confirming all its former privileges and immunities as a royal burgh, and which was ratified and extended by Charles II. in 1675. The government is vested in a provost, three bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and nine councillors: the fees paid for admission as a burgess vary from £1.10. to £5. 5., but the only privilege is freedom to trade. The magistrates, assisted by the town-clerk, who acts as assessor, exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction within the royalty; but very few cases in the former, and none in the latter, have been tried within the last few years. The burgh is associated with Dingwall, Dornoch, Kirkwall, and Wick, in returning a member to the imperial parliament. The town and county hall, a handsome building erected in 1825, was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1833, and has not been rebuilt; the gaol is used for the whole of the surrounding district.
   The parish, which is bounded on the north, and partly on the east, by Dornoch Frith, is nearly ten miles in length from north-east to south-west, and, including the peninsular projection into the Frith at Meikle Ferry, four miles and a half in breadth, though the average breadth is less than three miles. The surface is naturally divided into three distinct portions. That on the shore of the Frith is flat and sandy, and scarcely fifteen feet above the level of the sea: about a quarter of a mile towards the south-west, the land rises to a ridge nearly fifty feet in elevation, forming a fine tract of table-land, on which the town is built, and behind which is a highly-cultivated and richly-wooded district. Beyond this is the upland portion, consisting of a chain of hills, of which the highest, called the Hill of Tain, is 780 feet above the sea. The Frith, in that part immediately below the town, is at high-water five miles broad, but at ebb tides is diminished to about three miles; towards the north-west it is greatly contracted by the projection of the headlands at the ferry, after which it assumes the appellation of the Frith of Tain. There are no rivers of any importance in the parish; the principal stream is the Morangie burn, which, after turning several mills in its short course, flows into the Frith below the town. In the uplands are numerous springs, some of which are slightly chalybeate. The number of acres in the parish has not been ascertained; but it is estimated that more than 5000, belonging originally to the corporation, have been divided into lots, and brought under tillage. The soil, though various, is generally fertile, and well adapted for the growth of wheat, of which considerable quantities are raised. Much waste land has been reclaimed by draining, and now produces the usual crops of grain; and great improvement has taken place within the last few years, in the system of agriculture, and the inclosing of the lands. The plantations are, Scotch fir, of which much is exported for props in coal-mines, and larch, elm, ash, beech, and birch; all thrive well, and there are many fine trees of venerable and stately growth. The substrata are chiefly white and red sandstone, of which the hills are mostly composed; and large boulders of gneiss and granite occur in some places, one of which, called the Stone of Morangie, measures about 1500 cubic feet. There are extensive quarries of the white sandstone in the Hill of Tain. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5475.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Tain and synod of Ross. The minister's stipend is £281. 5. 7., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £9 per annum; patrons, the family of Hay Mc Kenzie. The old church of St. Duthus, founded by Thomas, Bishop of Ross, and made collegiate for a provost and eleven prebendaries, at length became dilapidated; and in 1815, the present church was built, at the eastern extremity of the town, and nearly in the centre of the parish. This is a neat structure containing 1200 sittings. One-half of the congregation still speak the Gaelic language only; and for their accommodation the ancient church, though the interior has suffered some trifling mutilation of its ornaments, might be fitted up at a trifling expense. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school, which is also the burgh school, is now vacant; the late master had a salary of £44. 10., one-half paid by the heritors and the other by the burgh, with a house and garden, in addition to the fees, which, however, were moderate. The Tain Academy, for which a handsome and spacious building was erected by subscription in 1812, is under the management of a rector, and two masters for the ancient and modern languages; it has an endowment of about £200 per annum, in addition to the fees, and is well attended. There are a Gaelic school at Inver, and various other schools, several Friendly societies, and a Masonic lodge. The sum of £500 was left to the parish by a Mr. Robertson, the interest to be regularly distributed at Christmas for the relief of reduced householders; and there is also a sum of £300, left by the late George Murray, Esq., of Westfield, to the poor.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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