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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Lairg, a village and a parish of central Sutherland. The village stands on the left bank of the river Shin, a little below its efflux from Loch Shin, and 1 7/8 mile N of Lairg station on the Sutherland railway (1868), this being 9 miles N by W of Bonar-Bridge and 66 ¾ N by W of Inverness. A pretty little place, it serves as a centre of trade and communication, running a mail car daily to Lochinver, thrice a week to Tongue, and having a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and railway telegraph departments, a branch of the Caledonian Bank, a commodious hotel, a police station, the parish church (1846; 500 sittings), and a Free church. In the beautiful churchyard are two noteworthy monuments - one to William Mackay, whose Narrative of the Shipwreck of the Juno (1795) is virtually embodied in Byron's Don Juan; the other to Sir James Matheson, Bart. (1796-1878). The latter, erected in 1880, is a splendid structure by a Mentone sculptor. Measuring 25 feet by 10, and 22 feet high, it is a dome supported on blue marble pillars, with a dove-surmounted, white marble cross beneath.

The parish is bounded NE by Farr, E by Rogart, S, SW, and W by Creich, and N W by Eddrachillis and Durness. Its utmost length, from NNW to SSE, is 24 miles; its breadth varies between 6 and 121/8 miles; and its land area is 189 ½ square miles or 121, 358 acres. Loch Merkland (2 7/8 miles x 2 ½ furl.; 367 feet), lying on the Eddrachillis border, sends off the Amhainn na Ceardaich 1 3/8 mile south-south-westward to Loch Griam (11 x 3 furl.; 304 feet), which itself sends off a stream 3 furlongs southward to the head of Loch Shin (16 3/8 miles x ¼ to 1½ mile; 270 feet); and from the foot of Loch Shin the river Shin flows 5 ½ miles south-by-eastward through the interior and along the Creich border, till it passes off into Creich on its way to the Oikell. Of fifty-four feeders of Loch Shin, the two largest flow to its NE side - the Fiag or Fiodhaig, issuing from Loch Fiodhaig (1 ½ mile-x 5 ½ furl.; 650 feet), and running 5 5/8 miles southward; and the Tirry, rising at an altitude of 1750 feet in the NE corner of the parish, and winding 17 ¾ miles south-westward, westward, south - south - eastward, and south - south - westward. Loch- Craggie or Creagach (1 mile x 2 ½ furl.; 525 feet), on the Rogart border, and Loch Beannaichte ( ¾ x ¼ mile 615 feet), lie 3 ¼ miles ENE and 3 ¾ NNE of Lairg village; and forty-four smaller lakes are scattered over the interior Sinking in the extreme S along the Shin to 120 feet above sea-level, the surface is everywhere hilly, but mountainous only in the N. Chief elevations to the W,as one goes up the valley, are *Cnoc a' Choire (1318 feet), *Maol a' Bhealaidh (1673), and *Meallan a' Chuail (2461); to the E, a nameless height (1018) 2 miles E of the station, Meall Odhar (1403), and *Ben Hee (2864), where asterisks mark those summits that culminate on the confines of the parish. Granite and trap are the prevailing rocks; and limestone is plentiful along Loch Shin. There is a considerable extent of light gravelly loam, mixed with moss, and lying on a clayey subsoil; but the uplands generally are covered with peat earth. In the triangular stretch of land between Loch Shin and the last 3 miles of the Tirry 2000 acres were reclaimed during 1873-77 by the Duke of Sutherland at a cost of £100,000, under the superintendence of the late Kenneth Murray, Esq. of Geanies, to whom a monument, 33 feet high, was here erected on an elevated spot in 1877. The works excited great interest, being visited by a deputation from the Highland and Agricultural Society (1874) and by the Prince of Wales (1876). As at Kildonan, they are designed to increase the arable area so as to raise sufficient oatmeal for the native population, and sufficient winter fodder for the large flocks of sheep that graze in summer on the neighbouring hills. The huge steam plough, made specially for the reclamations by Messrs Fowler of Leeds, and the reclamations themselves, are fully described on pp. 28-40 of Trans. Highl. and Ag. Soc. (1880). One sheep farm in the parish, that of Dalchork, extends to 25,000 acres, and carries an excellent stock of some 4000 sheep, whilst the Duke himself holds 2000 on Shiness farm. Hut circles, tumuli, and Pictish towers make up the antiquities. Achany is the only mansion. Lairg is in the presbytery of Dornoch and synod of Sutherland and Caithness; the living is worth £224. Two public schools, Lairg and Shiness, with respective accommodation for 120 and 114 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 62 and 19, and grants of £55, 7s. and £32, 7s. Valuation (1860) £3487, (1882) £8699, 5s., of which £567 was for 3 5/8 miles of railway, and £5708, 15s. was held by the Duke, £2232 by Lady Matheson. Pop. (1801) 1209, (1841) 913, (1861) 961, (1871) 978, (1881) 1355, of whom 931 were Gaelic-speaking.—Ord. Sur., shs. 102, 108, 1881-80.

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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