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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Halkirk, a village and a parish of Caithness. The village, regularly built, stands 135 feet above sea-level, on the right bank of the river Thurso, ¾ mile N of Halkirk station on the Sutherland and Caithness railway (1874), this station being 1½ mile WSW of Georgemas Junction, 8¼ S by E of Thurso, and 15½ WNW of Wick. It has a post office, with money order and savings', bank departments; a fair is held here on the third Tuesday of Dec-; and on the opposite side of the river, ½ mile to the N, stands Thurso Combination Poorhouse, which, built in 1855, contain accommodation for 149 inmates. Pop. (1871) 391, (1881) 372.

The parish contains also Scotscalder and Altnabreac stations, 2¾ and 12 miles SW of Halkirk. It is bounded N by Thurso, NE by Thurso and Bower, E by Watten, SE and S by Latheron, and W by Reay and a detached portion of Thurso. Its utmost length, from NNE to SSW is 213/8 miles; its breadth varies between 3½ and 13 miles; and its area is 98,063¾ acres, of which 2301 are water. Of fully fifty lakes and lakelets the larger, from N to S, are Lochs Calder (23/8 miles x 7½ fur;-; 205. feet), Olginey (5½ x 3 fur;-; 235 feet), Madie (1 mile x 3 fur;-; 372 feet), and More (5¾ x 4 fur;-; 381 feet). Glut or Strathmore Water, rising in the extreme SW at an altitude of 1400 feet, winds 14½ miles north-eastward to Loch More, and, issuing thence as the river Thurso, continues 19 miles north . north . eastward through the interior, then 2¼ miles north-north-westward along the boundary with Thurso. It is joined in this course by a number of affluents, and drains the greater portion of the parish, whose NW border, however, is traced or skirted for 5 miles by Forss Water. The surface, which sinks to 70 feet above sea-level along the Thurso, is much of it flat and monotonous, the higher points of the northern district being the Hill of Sour *359 feet), the Hill of Calder (306), and, on the Watten boundary, Spital Hill (577); but to the SW, at the Latheron and Sutherland borders, rise Ben Alisky (1142) and the Knockfin Heights (1442). The rocks, of the Old Red Sandstone system, furnish plenty of `Caithness flag' for home use and exportation; limestone too has been quarried, and mar; has been raised from Calder Loch; whilst ironstone and lead ore are also known to exist. The soil ranges from clay or loam mixed with moss to gravel resting on a cold rocky bottom, being mostly wet and difficult to dry; still, great improvements have been effected in the way of reclamation and building, Co;. Guthrie alone having nearly trebled the rental of his property in thirty years. Little more than a tenth of the entire area is under cultivation, by far the greater part being moor or flowmoss. The arable holdings are for the most part small; the sheep farms, on the other hand, are large. Several 'Picts' houses' and standing stones are dotted over the parish, in which stood two pre-Reformation chapels, and special features of which are noticed separately under Achavarn, Braal, Dirlet, and Lochmore. Five proprietors holds each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 2 of between £100 and £500, and 2 of from £20 to £50. The present parish comprises the two ancient parishes of Halkirk and Skinnet. Skinnet church was dedicated to to Thomas, and that of Halkirk to St Fergus, a Pictish bishop of Ireland, who came to Caithness in the 8th century. It is in the presbytery of Caithness and synod of Sutherland and Caithness; the living is worth £327. The parish church, at the village, was built in 1753, and, as enlarged in 1833, contains 756 sittings. A Free church stands 2½ miles S of the station; and six public schools-Calder, Halkirk North, Harpsdale, Leurery, Spital, and Westerdale -with total accommodation for 582 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 260, and grants amounting to £294, 17s. Valuation (1860) £9622, (1883)£16,639, 9s-, of which nearly two-fifths are held by Sir John G. Tollemache Sinclair of Ulbster. Pop. (180l) 2545, (1841) 2963, (1861) 2864, (1871) 2664, (1881) 2705, of whom 253 were returned as `Gaelic-speaking.'-Ord. Sur., shs. 116, 117, 109, 110, 1877-78.

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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