A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Nigg, a parish in the NE of Ross-shire, on the N side of the entrance to the Cromarty Firth. It contains a village of the same name. The parish is bounded NNW, N, and NE by Fearn, E and ESE by the Moray Firth, N by the entrance to the Cromarty Firth, W by Cromartyshire, and NW by Logie-Easter. Except on the NNW, N, and NE the boundary is natural, that along the NW and W being formed by the burn that passes Shandwick House (Logie-Easter) and the channel called `the Pot,' formed by the course of this burn over the Sands of Easter Ross or the Sands of Nigg at low water. The greatest length of the parish, from Shandwick village on the NE to the ferry at the entrance to the Cromarty Firth on the SW, is 5 7/8 miles; the greatest breadth, from the boundary with Logie-Easter parish SE to the Moray Firth, is 3 miles; and the area is about 9000 acres. The indentation of the Cromarty Firth to the W of the parish, 4 miles across the mouth and 2 miles deep, is known as the Bay of Nigg. At high tide the depth of water is from 4 to 8 feet, but at low water the whole area is laid bare and becomes dry, except where the burns continue their courses over the sand to the main firth. It is frequented by ships of small burden bringing coals, lime, and slates, and exporting timber and -potatoes. It abounds in shells and shallow-water fish, and supplies bait for a very large proportion of the cod and haddock fishers along the shores of the Moray Firth. Along the Bay of Nigg, to the W and NW, the ground is flat and low, and from this it slopes gradually south-eastward to the Hill of Nigg, whence it again slopes, at first ruggedly and then precipitously, downward to the shore of the Moray Firth. The Hill of Nigg is a tract of high ground extending through the whole parish, along the shore of the Moray Firth, and about 5 miles in length and 1 ½ mile in breadth, with a height of from 300 to 600 feet above sea-level. It is partly covered with straggling plantations, and has on the side next the Moray Firth a front of lofty precipices, over 200 feet high. At the S end it terminates in the Northern Sutor of Cromarty, overhanging the entrance to the Firth of the same name. It belonged in ancient times to the Bishops of Ross, who had a residence in the parish, and was then called ` the Bishop's forest.' Of the whole parish about 3500 acres are under cultivation or wooded, and the rest of the area is either pasture land or waste. The soil of the arable portions is a good black loam, becoming lighter near the coast, and from 1 foot to 4 feet deep. Along the Hill of Nigg the soil is thin and cold. The underlying rocks are granitic gneiss, Old Red Sandstone, and on the coast at the NE corner, at Shandwick, are patches of liasic shales and limestones. There is a fine section of the Old Red Sandstone exposed along the Northern Sutor containing two beds with fossil fishes, which were, like all those in the Cromarty district, discovered by Hugh Miller:-`Selecting,' he says in the Cruise of the Betsy, `as a hopeful scene of inquiry the splendid section under the Northern Sutor, I set myself doggedly to determine whether the Old Red Sandstone in this part of the country has not at least its two storeys of organic remains, each of which had been equally a scene of sudden mortality. I was entirely successful. The lower ichthyolite bed occurs exactly one hundred and fourteen feet over the great conglomerate, and three hundred and eighteen feet higher up I found a second ichthyolite bed, as rich in fossils as the first, with its thorny Acanthodians twisted half round, as if still in the agony of dissolution, and its Pterichthyes still extending heir spear-like arms in the attitude of defence. The discovery enabled me to assign to their true places the various ichthyolite beds of the district. Those in the immediate neighbourhood of the town [of Cromarty], and a bed which abuts on the lias at Eathie, belong to the upper platform; while those that appear in Eathie Burn, and along the shores at Navity, belong to the lower. The chief interest of the discovery, however, arises from the light which it throws upon the condition of the ancient ocean of the Lower Old Red, and on the extreme precariousness of the tenure on which the existence of its numerous denizens was held. In a section of little more than a hundred yards there occur at least two platforms of violent death platforms inscribed with unequivocal evidence of two great catastrophes, which, over wide areas, depopulated the seas.' The liasic shales of Shandwick are also richly fossiliferous. The Hill of Nigg was one of the huntinggrounds of the Fions, who used to leap across the Cromarty Firth on their hunting-spears, but whose race became extinct in consequence of all their women and children having been burned to death in Glen Garry, while the men were here engaged in hunting. Two miles along the shore, northward from the Northern Sutor, is the King's Cave; while a path above, leading to the top of the precipice, is called the King's Path. It is said to take its name from the shipwreck near it of a traditional king of Denmark. His three sons, who accompanied him, were drowned, and one was buried at Nigg, another at Shandwick, and another at Hillton of Cadboll in Fearn parish, and it was at their graves that the sculptured stones at these places were erected. The Nigg stone originally stood near the gate of the parish burying-ground, but having been blown down in 1725 was afterwards fixed to the eastern end of the church. One side has a cross, with the usual knotted sculpturing and various figures of men and animals. That at Shandwick stood on the brow of an eminence, behind the village, but was blown down during a violent gale in 1847, and broken into three pieces. This also bears on one side a cross, and is very similar in style to the Nigg stone. A mile and a quarter SW of Shandwick village is a green mound, with a so-called Danish camp on the top. Near the brow of the Northern Sutor is a little green knoll called Dunskaith, on which it is said that a fort was erected by William the Lyon in 1179. The view from this point is very fine, the entire Firth of Cromarty and the rich country around lying spread out as if on a map. From other points also, along the summit, the view of the Moray Firth and its shores is equally good.

The drainage of the parish is carried off by a number of small streams. The principal mansion is Bayfield House. Besides Nigg village, at the church, the parish contains, on the extreme NE, the fishing village of Shandwick, and on the extreme SW the fishing villages of Balnabradich and Balnapaling. In 1882 Shandwick had 10 first-class, 6 second-class, and 2 third-class boats, with 45 resident fisher men and boys, while the last two had 2 first-class, 3 second-class, and 3 third-class boats, with 25 resident fisher men and boys. There is a ferry 1 mile wide connecting the S of the parish with Cromarty, and a road passes from the landing-place northward towards Tain. Nigg station, on the Highland railway, is in the parish of Logie-Easter, and 4 miles N of the village of Nigg, which is by the ferry about 3 miles N by E of Cromarty. The parish is in the presbytery of Tain and synod of Ross; and the living is worth £380 a year. The parish church, which was built in 1626, and has since been several times repaired, contains 425 sittings. One of the Episcopal ministers of the 17th century figures in the Answer to Scotch Presbyterian Eloquenee Displayed, as telling his parishioners that in eternity `they would be immortalised, so that nothing could hurt them: a slash of a broadsword could not hurt you, saith he; nay, a cannon-ball would play but baff on you.' In 1756 the parishioners had -a three years' struggle- against an obnoxious presentee to the church, and when at last he had gained his cause, and four members of presbytery arrived to carry out his induction, the church was found empty. ` Not a single member of the congregation was to be seen. While in a state of perplexity what to do in such a strange condition, one man appeared who had it in charge to tell them, "That the blood of the people of Nigg would be required of them if they should settle a man to the walls of the kirk," ' after which message he departed, leaving the members of presbytery so much disturbed that they referred the whole matter back to the General Assembly, which, however, ordered the induction to be carried out. The people, after struggling on for ten years by themselves, at length left the national church and became seceders. The bold messenger was Donald Roy, an ancestor of Hugh Miller, whose gifts of prayer and even prophecy or second sight are still remembered in the north. The Free church, erected soon after the Disruption, is 3/8 mile N of the Established church. One of its ministers was John Swanson, the early and intimate friend of Hugh Miller. A U.P. church, 1 ¼ mile to the NE, built in 1871, is a Norman structure, with a square tower, and contains 500 sittings. It superseded an older and slightly larger church, built in 1803. -The public schools of Nigg and Pitcalme, with respective accommodation for 100 and 85 pupils, had (1883) an average attendance of 50 and 43, and grants of £48, 13s. and £37, 17s. 6d. Six proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 or upwards. Valuation (1860) £4971, (1884) £6502, 5s. Pop. (1801) 1443, (1831) 1404, (1861) 1253, (1871) 1201, (1881) 1000.—Ord. Sur., sh. 94, 1878.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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