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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Helmsdale, a coast village in Kildonan parish, East Sutherland, with a station on the Sutherland and Caithness railway (1871-74), 46 miles SSW of Georgemas Junction, 82¾ NNE of Dingwall, and 101¼ NNE of Inverness. It stands at the mouth of the river Helmsdale, which here is crossed by a handsome two-arch bridge of 1811, and by which it is divided into Helmsdale and East Helmsdale on the left, and West Helmsdale, Marrel, and Gartymore on the right bank. A ruined castle, on the right bank, 1½ furlong below the bridge, was built as a hunting-seat by the seventh Countess of Sutherland in 1488, and is noted as the scene, in July 1567, of the murder of the eleventh Earl of Sutherland and his countess. The earl's aunt, Isobel, poisoned them both at supper, and would also have poisoned their son; but the cup that she mixed for him was drunk by her own son, who was next heir to the earldom. He died within two days, as within five did the earl and countess at Dunrobin Castle; and the wretched mother committed suicide at Edinburgh on the day appointed for her execution. The instigator of this foul tragedy was George, fourth Earl of Caithness. The village, dating from 1818, is neat and regular, and has a post-office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch bank of the British Linen Co., an inn, a good natural harbour with a pier and breastwork of 1818, 29 boats and 50 fisher men and boys, Kildonan parish church (1841), a Free church, and two public schools. Helmsdale is head of the fishery district extending from Embo to Dunbeath, in which in 1882 the number of boats was 215, of fishermen 772, of fish-curers 30, and of coopers 56, whilst the value of boats was £7459, of nets £13,140, and of lines £1135. The following is the number-of barrels of herrings cured or salted in this district (1867) 45, 302, (1874) 12,196, (1879) 22,656, (1881) 20,485; of cod, ling, and hake taken (1867) 21,363, (1873) 45,048, (1874) 15,667, (1878) 18,282, (1881) 6281. Pop. (1841) 526, (1861) 1234, (1871) 1511, (1881) 1334, of whom 675 were in Helmsdale and East Helmsdale.—Ord. Sur., sh. 103, 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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