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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Tain (Scand. Thing, `a place of assembly '), a town and a parish of NE Ross and Cromarty. A royal, parliamentary, and police burgh, the town stands 3 furlongs from the southern shore of the Dornoch Firth, and has a station on the Highland railway (1864), 25¾ miles NE of Dingwall and 44 NNE of Inverness. Extending ½ mile north -westward along the ancient sea-margin of the firth, it has pleasant environs of hill and brae, terrace and down; and, though irregularly aligned, has undergone such improvement of recent years as to contain a number of good modern houses, and to present a remarkably tidy appearance. The Gaelic name of Tain is Baile Dhuthaich, or `Duthus' town, ' after St Duthus or Duthac, a famous Saint styled `Confessor of Ireland and Scotland,' and supposed (probably erroneously) to have been Bishop of Ross, who was born at the site of St Duthus' Chapel, Tain, about the year 1000, and died in 1065 at Armagh in Ireland, whence his body was `translated' to Tain for burial in 1253. A rude granite chapel `quhair he was borne,' now roofless and partly broken down, bears his name, and was of. old a famous `girth' or sanctuary. Hither, in 1306, Isabella, Queen of Robert the Bruce, his daughter Marjory, and ladies of his court with attendant knights, fled for safety from Kildrummy Castle, but were seized at the chapel by the Earl of Ross, and delivered by him to Edward I. of England, who imprisoned the ladies and executed their male attendants. Hither, also, in 1427, M `Neill of Creich (Sutherland), a barbarous chief, pursued Mowat of Freswick (Caithness), and burned the chapel over him and his followers, who had taken refuge in it. It was probably on that occasion that the earlier charters of the burgh had been burnt `by certain savages and rebellious subjects,' as stated in a charter of Novodamus, granted by James VI. in 1587. It is probable that several of the earliest Scottish monarchs visited the shrine of St Duthus; and after the death of James III., an annual sum was paid to its chaplain from the royal treasury to say masses for the King's soul. But it is certain (from entries of disbursements in the King's Treasurer's books) that James IV. visited it regularly every year, probably without the omission of one, during at least 20 successive years from 1493 to 1513, to do penance for the part which he took in reference to his father's death. His last visit was made early in August 1513, and on 9th September of the same year he was killed on the fatal field of Flodden. Again, in 1527 James V. made a pilgrimage barefooted to it at the instigation of his popish advisers, who wished to get him out of the way when they were about to condemn and burn for heresy his near relative Patrick Hamilton, the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation. A rough footpath across the moor in the uplands of the parish is traditionally pointed out as the hastily-constructed route by which he approached, and still bears the name of the King's Causeway. The grounds around the chapel have been recently enclosed by a handsome parapet wall and railing, and formed into a very pretty cemetery. The collegiate church of St Duthus, in the Decorated English Gothic style, was founded in 1471 by Thomas Hay, Bishop of Ross, for a provost, eleven prebendaries, two deacons, a clerk, and three singing-boys. -From the Reformation till 1815, it was used as the parish church, but being too small to contain the parishioners, it was, in that year, relinquished for the present large parish church, and thereafter was allowed to fall into great decay by neglect. At the instance of the late Provost M`Leod and- his son, A. B. M `Queen M `Intosh, Esq. of Hardington (son of Rev. Dr Angus M`Intosh, during whose ministry the church was vacated), Kenneth Murray, Esq. of Geanies, Provost Vass, and others, the church was completely restored between 1849 and 1882 at a cost of about £1110; and, set apart for monumental and memorial purposes-the Valhalla of Ross-shire- it has been entrusted to the `Tain Guildry Trust,' for care and preservation. It may be remarked that its fine old oak pulpit was a gift from the `good Regent' Murray to Tain for its zeal in the Reformation. the church stands beautifully on the N side of the town on a wooded knoll, by whose trees it is embosomed. All its five principal windows are filled in with stained-glass designs. The five-light E window is on a grand scale, and is the gift of Mr A. B. M `Queen M `Intosh, in memory of His father, Rev. Dr Angus M`Intosh, and his brother, Rev. Dr C. C. M `Intosh, ministers of Tain; and the four-light W window, representing the adoption of the Confession of Faith by the Scottish Parliament in 1560, is the gift of Mr George M`Leod, in memory of his father, Provost M`Leod. A third window represents Malcolm Ceannmor with his good Queen Margaret, handing the burgh's first charter to the provost and magistrates. Underneath the E window there is a most beautiful double pannelled monument 16 feet long by 7½ high, in the Gothic style of the 16th century which is of Scottish national interest. It commemorates Patrick Hamilton - of royal extraction-the youthful Abbot of Fearn, who was burned at the stake at St Andrews, 28 February 1528, the first martyr of the Reformation; and Thomas Hog, the Covenanting minister of Kiltearn, one of Tain's most honoured sons, and the intimate friend and adviser in Scottish affairs of William III., Prince of Orange. Opening into the churchyard in which the church stands, a very handsome ornamental gate has been erected (1885) in memory of the late William Ross, hank agent, Tain.

A court house, erected in 1825, was burned to the ground in 1833, when three lives were lost; but in 1849 it was succeeded by a handsome pinnacled edifice in the Scottish Baronial style, which, with additions made in 1873, cost about £3000. Immediately adjoining it is an ancient square tower, formerly the prison, which is a fine massive erection with a completely foreign air, and which has been utilised to form a handsome entrance to the court house. It has a central conical spire, and a smaller one at each angle. It has also a fine weathercock, and a sweet-toned bell, founded in Holland in 1616. In 1706 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ordered a collection to be made over the whole church for the building (repairing ?) of `the Tolbooth of Tain,' but with what result, and whether it was for this Prison Tower, is unknown (Church of Scotland Magazine, 1834). A market-cross formerly stood in front of the tower, and was surmounted by a lion rampant, the crest of the Earls of Ross. A public hall, French Renaissance in style, was erected in 1875-76 at a cost of £2500, and contains accommodation for nearly 600 people. In 1879 a very handsome monument, 44 feet high, in the Decorated Gothic style, by Mr Laurence Beveridge, of Edinburgh, was erected at a cost of £700 to the memory of the late Kenneth Murray, Esq. of Geanies, of whom there is a fine marble bust by Mr T. S. Burnett, Edinburgh, under its central arch. The present parish church, built in 1815, is a square battlemented structure, with 1200 sittings and a heavy tower at each of the four angles. Other places of worship are a Free church (1844; 1200 sittings), a U.P. church (entirely remodelled in 1879; 350 sittings), and an iron Episcopal church (1878; 84 sittings). The Academy, constituted by royal charter in 1809, and built by subscription in 1812, is a handsome and spacious edifice, pleasantly situated in a park of nearly 3 acres at the W end of the town. It is conducted by mathematical, classical, and English masters, and a female teacher of music and drawing; is attended by 175 scholars; and has a yearly endowment of upwards of £300. A university bursary, with a capital fund of £930, was founded in connection with it in 1879, in memory of Kenneth Murray, Esq. of Geanies. The Easter Ross Poorhouse, 7 furlongs SSW of the town, is a high-roofed building, erected in 1848, and having accommodation for 176 paupers. Tain has besides a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, branches of the Bank of Scotland, the Commercial, British Linen Co., and North of Scotland Banks, 14 insurance agencies, a gas company, 3 hotels, a mechanics' institution, a farmers' club, a curling club, a volunteer corps, 2 masonic lodges, a fortnightly Friday grain market, and fairs on the first Tuesday of January (Cormack's Fair), the third Tuesday of March, the Wednesday after the second Tuesday of July, the Wednesday after the third Tuesday of August, the third Tuesday of October, and the Tuesday before Christmas. In the neighbourhood are Glenmorangie Distillery and Hilton Woollen Mills, the former 13/8 mile NW, the latter 1¼ mile SE, of the town. Tain has a most spacious links, affording great scope for recreation. Near its centre is the Gallows Hill' (the magistrates in ancient times had the power of `pit and gallows'); and at its S end is a large skating-pond, formed in 1882. As the sea had, during the last century, been making rapid and severe inroads upon it, it has been protected by a strong rough bulwark of boulder stones. In the neighbourhood of the links, and near the railway station, have been erected (about 1878) a large wood and meal mill; an extensive store house for corn, coals, manures, etc. (1885), at a cost of £1400; and a public shambles (1885), in the Lombardic style, at a cost of £800. A most copious supply of excellent spring water was introduced to the town in 1871 from a distance of 4 miles, at a cost of £4200; and £2000 was expended in 1877-84 in a system of thorough drainage over and above previous outlay for this purpose; so that the town is now one of the healthiest in the kingdom.

Tain is said to have been created a royal burgh by Malcolm Ceannmor about the year 1057, but its earliest extant charter was granted by James VI. in 1587, and was ratified and extended by others of 1612 and 167172. In 1863 it adopted the General Police and Improvement Act (Scot.) of 1862, and is governed by a provost, 3 bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and 9 councillors. With the five other Wick burghs it returns a member to parliament. A district sheriff court sits every Wednesday during session. Corporation revenue (1833) £314, (1865) £1131, (1884) £1024. Valuation (1864) £4055, (1885) £5983. Parliamentary constituency (1885) 237; municipal, 282. Pop. of royal burgh (1841) 2287, (1861) 2319, (1881) 2221; of parliamentary and police burgh (1841) 1867, (1861) 1779, (1871) 1765, (1881) 1742, of whom 972 were females Houses in parliamentary burgh (1881) 343 inhabited and 10 vacant.

The parish, containing also most of Inver village, 6¼ miles E by N of Tain, is bounded N by the Dornoch Firth, E (for 3 furlongs only) by Tarbat, SE by Fearn, S by Logie-Easter, and W by Edderton. Its utmost length, from E to W, is 8¼ miles; its utmost breadth is 43/8 miles; and its area is 33¾ square miles, or 21,606¼ acres, of which 37062/5 belong to Cromartyshire, and 2691/3 are water, 4639 foreshore, and 302/5 tidal water. The coast, from end to end of the parish, has nearly the figure of a crescent, and encloses the Bay of Tain. In general low and flat, nowhere rising to a greater altitude than 30 feet; it is sandy, curved, and indented; and, suffering constant erosion from the sea, may be viewed as a broken sandbank. Along the skirt of its eastern half a tract of sand, 5 furlongs to 1¼ mile broad, is alternately dry and covered with the tide. Shoals and sunken banks obstruct the whole firth opposite the parish, and render navigation quite impracticable to strangers, and but limitedly practicable to the most skilful local pilots. The chief bank, or bar, called the Geyzen-Briggs, runs from coast to coast, with the exception of a narrow and difficult channel through its middle; and, whenever northerly or easterly winds blow, or sometimes even during a calm in frosty weather, it flings up a roaring and violent surge. Several banks in the middle of the firth, 2 miles above the Geyzen-Briggs, furnish large supplies of mussels, which are a principal source of revenue to the Burgh of Tain, and in 1783, during a great scarcity of food, yielded such immense quantities of mussels and cockles as, with some imported pease meal, contributed to the support of multitudes of human beings over the adjacent country. So comparatively recent has been the conquest of these banks and the adjacent sea-grounds from the solid territory both of Tain and of the opposite coast, that, in the words of the New Statistical Account, ` although the firth now measures 3¾ miles across, there is an (improbable) tradition, that it was at one time possible to effect a passage over it at low water upon foot, by means of a plank thrown across the channel where narrowed to a few feet ' by promontories which have been worn into the long sunken bank of the Geyzen-Briggs. Meikle Ferry, a -narrow promontory, extending 13/8 mile north-westward to within 5 furlongs of the opposite shore, is a the western extremity, and 4 miles distant from Tain. A small trouting stream, dignified with the name of the river Tain or Aldie Water, comes in from the SW, and makes a circuit round the burgh to the Firth. Springs of excellent water are numerous. Loch Eye (1¾ mile x 4½ furl.; 51 feet) lies on the Fearn boundary; and five smaller lagoons are scattered over the broad sandy golf-links of Morrich More, which skirt all the eastern seaboard. The surface of the parish consists of three well-defined districts-a belt of low flat plain along the coast, about ½ mile in mean breadth, and partly disposed in public links or downs; a broad sheet of land, of middle character between a terrace and a hanging plain, receding from a bank or escarpment of 50 feet above the plain, and displaying rich embellishments of wood and culture; and a ridge or series of gentle uplands along the exterior frontier, sending up their loftiest summit in the Hill of Tain to an altitude of 931 feet above sea-level. The soil is variously deep and light, fertile and barren; and the hills are partly heathy, partly clad with fir timber. The formation of the lowest grounds indicates an alternation of conquests and abandonments by the sea; that of the central district shows a prevalence of red clay with numerous boulders of granitic gneiss; and that of the hills is entirely sandstone-apparently the Old Red, though principally of whitish colour. The sandstone has been largely quarried in the Hill of Tain. Tarlogie House, 2 miles NW of Tain, was built in 1825 at a cost of £1750. Its owner, Major Hugh Law Rose (b. 1837; suc. 1867), is the largest proprietor in the parish with an annual rental of nearly £2000. Mr Macleod of Cadboll (residing at Invergordon Castle) has a rental of £1236 in the parish, and 2 lesser proprietors hold each an annual value of between £400 and £500, 11 of between £100 and £300. Tain is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Ross; the living is worth- £431. Two public schools, Inver and Tain, with respective accommodation for 70 and 323 children, had (1885) an average attendance of 59 and 208, and grants of £52, 6s. and £188, 17s. Valuation (1860) £7641, (1885) £6943, 12s. 10d., plus £1509 for railway. Pop. (1801) 2277, (1831) 3078, (1861) 3294, (1871) 3221, (1881) 3009, of whom 1016 were Gaelic-speaking.—Ord. Sur., sh. 94, 1878.

The presbytery of Tain comprises the quoad civilia parishes of Edderton, Fearn, Kilmuir-Easter, Kincardine, Logie-Easter, Nigg, Rosskeen, Tain, and Tarbat, and the quoad sacra parish of Croick. The Free Church also has a presbytery of Tain, with churches at Edderton, F earn, Invergordon, Kilmuir - Easter, Kincardine, Logie - Easter, Nigg, Rosskeen, Tain, and Tarbat, and a preaching station at Croick. See the History of Tain by the Rev. William Taylor, M. A. (Tain, 1882).

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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