Eddrachillis

   EDDRACHILLIS, a parish, in the county of Sutherland, 15 miles (N. N. W.) from Assynt; including the islands of Handa and Scourie, and the late quoad sacra district of Keanlochbervie, and containing 1699 inhabitants. The Celtic name of this place, Eadarda-chaolas, signifies "between two kyles or arms of the sea," and is descriptive of the situation of the main part of the parish between the kyle of Scow, which separates Eddrachillis from Assynt on the south, and the kyle of Laxford. The parish was anciently part of the barony of Skelbo, and was granted by Hugo Freskyn de Moravia, ancestor of the Duke of Sutherland, in the twelfth century, to his brother, Bishop Gilbert Moray, by whom, in 1235, it was transferred to a third brother, Richard Moray, of Culbyn. About the year 1440, it came to the family of Kinnaird of Kinnaird, by an heiress, Egidia Moray; and in 1515. Andrew Kinnaird disposed of it to John Mackay of Eddrachillis, son of Mackay of Strathnaver, the superiority remaining with the earls of Sutherland. In 1829, it was restored to the Sutherland family by purchase. So early as 1550, another branch of the Mackays seized the territory of Scourie by displacing the Mc Leods, and located themselves here under the title of Mackays of Scourie; and from this family sprang Lieutenant-General Hugh Mackay, the famous commander-in-chief in the time of William and Mary, eminent for his skill and bravery, and who fell in 1692, shortly after the siege of Namur, where he commanded the British division of the grand army.
   The parish was formerly included in Durness, but was separated in 1726; its extreme length from north to south is 'twenty-five miles, its mean breadth seven miles, and it contains about 112,000 acres. It is situated in the angle of the county formed by the Atlantic and Northern Seas, and in its general features, like other Highland districts, is exceedingly wild, rugged, and mountainous, in some parts highly romantic, and interesting to the tourist. Its outline is altogether irregular, being indented by numerous fissures and arms of the sea, and it is naturally formed into three parts, namely, the Scourie division, between Loch Glendhu and Loch Laxford; Ceathramh-garbh, between Loch Laxford and Loch Inchard; and Ashare. The derivation of the first of these three names is unknown; the second signifies "a rough section of country," and the third "arable land." The principal mountains are, BeinneLeothaid, Beinne-Stac, Beinne-Stroim, Arkle, and the south-west range of the Reay forest to the summit of Toinne-Beinne, Meal-Horn, Sabhal-mhoir, and MilleRinidh, with part of Beinne-Shith: several of these rise 3000 feet above the level of the sea. The Reay forest, or Diru-moir, which claims particular notice, has always been reckoned one of the principal forests in Scotland. Considerable tracts of it had been allotted for sheep at the commencement of the present century, but upon the expiration of the leases, the proprietor restored the whole to its ancient character of a deer forest, and the extent of land set apart for this purpose is estimated at 60,000 acres, of which half is in this parish, and half in Durness. Thousands of red-deer roam in this territory, under the management of regularly appointed foresters; almost every description of game visits the parish, and the black eagle occupies the highest rocks. The harbours are numerous and excellent, and are said to be so large as to be capable of affording safe anchorage to the whole naval and mercantile shipping of Great Britain; those most celebrated are, Lochs Laxford, Inchard, Badcall, Calva, Glendhu, and the Sound of Handa. Besides the island of Handa, there is a cluster of isles consisting of about twenty, lying between Eddrachillis and Assynt, which are uninhabited, but afford good pasturage for lambs and cattle. The most remarkable inland lakes are Loch Moir and Loch Stac, which are well stocked with different kinds of trout; the most considerable rivers are the Laxford and Inchard, which, with numerous minor streams, discharge themselves into the Atlantic Ocean. The different districts of the parish are well supplied with water, principally from perennial springs.
   Though the principal occupation, besides fishing, is the rearing and pasturing of sheep, yet some part of the land is under tillage. The soil is generally a mixture of gravel and moss, considerably improved by the application of sea-weed for manure; the lands of Ashare are superior to the rest, and consist, like the island of Handa, of dark loam mixed with sand. The crops raised are, potatoes, bear, and oats, the ground for which is prepared by the common garden spade and the Highland implement called the cas-chrom. The sheep on the large farms are the pure Cheviots; those of the smaller tenants are a cross between the Cheviot and the native black-faced: the cattle are of an inferor kind. The rateable annual value of the parish is £3027. The rocks comprise gneiss, hornblende, veins of granite, and quartz; limestone, also, is met with on the sides of some of the lochs. The island of Handa is composed chiefly of the best sort of red sandstone, and its rocks lie horizontally, and are considered by geologists as possessing an almost equal interest, though of another kind, with the celebrated basaltic columns in the island of Staffa.
   The people are principally located on the sea-coast, in townships or hamlets, each family possessing a certain portion of land; and their occupation consists partly of tilling the ground and partly of fishing, the latter comprehending the herring, salmon, white, and lobster fisheries. Those who have commodious boats go for herrings to the Caithness coast, but large quantities are taken at home in the lochs, especially in Loch Glendhu. The salmon-fishing is good, and of the swarms of almost every description of white-fish on these shores very considerable numbers are taken; all kinds of shell-fish are abundant, and lobsters are conveyed from this place in smacks, by a London company, to the market at Billingsgate. Whales, porpoises, and seals, likewise frequent the coast; but the first of these are never captured. The chief approach to the parish from the south is through a part of Assynt to the kyle of Scow, where is a ferry 380 yards broad; and there is a post-office at Scourie, which communicates twice a week with Golspie. A line of road thirty-two miles in extent runs through the parish; and three inns have been erected in it, solely at the expense of the Duke of Sutherland, by whose liberality and exertions the whole aspect of the district has been entirely changed. The ecclesiastical affairs are subject to the presbytery of Tongue and synod of Sutherland and Caithness; patron, the Crown. The stipend is £158, of which £103 are paid by the exchequer, with a glebe valued at £20 per annum, and there is a manse at Badcall, recently erected. The church is a plain edifice, built upwards of a century ago, and thoroughly repaired about seven years since; it is a commodious edifice in very excellent condition, and contains 275 sittings. There is also a good church at Keanlochbervie, to which a quoad sacra district was annexed by act of parliament in the 5th of George IV. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. There is a parochial school at Scourie, of which the master has the maximum salary, a house, and allowance for a garden; a school was erected and endowed for the Keanlochbervie district in 1845, and another is supported at Ashare by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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