Parish of Forres

(County of Banff, - Presbytery of Forres, - Synod of Moray.)
By the Rev. Mr John McDonnel, Minister.

Situation and Name

Forres, a royal burgh, situated upon the Moray Firth, gives name to this parish. It lies in the synod of Moray, and is the seat of the presbytery of Forres. Forres, as anciently written, is of Celtic origin, signifying its situation upon the sea.

Extent and Boundaries

The form of this parish is irregular, approaching nearest to a triangle, with a stripe of moorish and hill ground, about three miles in length, stretching from one corner. It is four miles in length and about two and one half in breadth; bounded by the north by the bay of Findhorn, a large bason of shallow water, formed by the meeting of the tide and the river Findhorn; on the north-east by the parish of Kinlop; on the east and south by the parish of Rafford. On the south-west and north-west, by the river Findhorn, which divides it from the united parishes of Dyke and Moy.
The south and south-east parts of this parish are hilly, covered with short heath and furze. The rest is one continued rich arable well cultivated field.

Climate and Prospect

Forres, in point of situation, is inferior tono part of Scotland. The air is dry, serene and healthy. The town, being built upon a rising ground, about a mile from the Bay of Findhorn, commands an extensive prospect of a rich and well cultivated country, interspersed with the seats and improvements of many of the neighbouring proprietors. Less rain falls here than in most other parts of the kingdom, the showers being attracted by the Moray Firth on the north, and on the south, by the hills which divide Moray from Strathspey.

Church and Stipend The value of the living is 98 bolls of bear, 20 bolls of meal, and 490 pounds Scots, a glebe of 4 acres, and manse and office houses. The Earl of Moray is undoubted patron. The church was built in 1745. Its dimensions, within walls, are 72 by 36 feet; and it contains 1800 people.

The heritors of the parish are the Earl of Moray, Sir James Grant of Grant, Robert Urquhart of Bandsyards, Alexander Penrose Cumming of Altyre, John Gordon of Grushop, Dunbar of Grarye, Leslie of Balnegeith, Urquhart of Tannachy, and Mr Strahan of Druimduan, with some small proprietors, holding of the town of Forres.
All these, except Lord Moray and Sir James Grant, have their residences within the parish.


From an actual survey lately made, the number of the inhabitants was found to be 2987; of which number there are,
Males 1341 and Females 1646.
2398 reside in the town and 589 reside in the country
The number of inhabitants in 1774, appears, from actual surveys, to have been 2793, so that there is now an increase of population of 194.

The number of births, during a period of 11 years, from 1779 to 1789 inclusive, is 895; 453 males, and 442 females, being in the proportion nearly of 41 to 40, and the average 81 4/11.
Upon an average of the last 11 years, the number of marriages of persons residing in the parish is 15 annually.
There are many persons now living in the parish of 80, but none whose age exceeds 92.

There are 18 farmers residing in the town, and 43 in the country, many of whom, especially those in town, hold very small possessions.
56 Shoemakers 4 of whom reside in the country.
33 Weavers 8 ditto.
25 Taylors 2 ditto.
6 Blacksmiths
58 Journeymen and apprentices.


There are in Forres 60 merchants and shopkeepers. These were formerly principally supported by travelling and vending their goods in all the villages and market towns to the west and north, particularly Sutherland, Caithness, and Ross, and as far as Orkney. But this intercourse is in a great measure now rendered unnecessary, as in all these countries they have got stationary shopkeepers, who can retail their goods nearly upon as low terms as the merchants of Forres.


About 50 years ago there were only 3 tea-kettles in Forres; at present there are not less than 300. The blue bonnets of Forres were then famous for good credit, and at that period there were only 6 people with hats in the town; now above 400. Happy for our country did we keep pace in virtuous improvement, with the extravagent refinement adopted in dress and manners. About 30 years ago, 30s. would have purchased a complete holiday suit of clothing for a labouring servant; according to the present mode of dress, it will require at least 5l. to equip him.

Rates of Wages

About the year 1750, a servant engaged for harvest had 4d. a day with his victuals; now 10d. with two meals. For the whole of harvest then, he had 10s. now 25s.
A journeyman mason had then 1 merk Scotch, without victuals, now 20d.
A labouring servant had, at the above period, 15s. 4d.; now from 2l. 10s. to 3l. 10s. in the half year.
A woman servant then had 8s. and 4d. and some 10s. half yearly; now from 18s. to 21s.

Ecclesiastical State

There are no sectaries in Forres, except a few Seceders. They are not upon the increase.

Productions of this Parish

The soil and climate of this parish will produce any crops that can be raised in any part of Scotland. Harvest begins the first week of August, and towards the end of that month, even during the late rainy seasons, it becomes general. It is no uncommon thing, in this neighbourhood, to cut down barley in 12 or 13 weeks after the time of sowing it.

Poors Funds

About 125 persons receive charity from the church and poors funds, many of whom are heads of families. Amongst these there is annually divided about 40l. arising chiefly from the collections made at the church doors. But the poors funds have been lately considerably augmented by a donation left by the Rev. Mr Alexander Watt, late minister of this parish, of about 200l. Besides the above sums, there is 15l. annually divided amongst the poor of Forres, being the interest of money left under the direction of the Town Council.

Price of Provisions

About the year 1750, beef and mutton sold the markets at 1d. per lib. and fish for 1d. per dozen; oat meal for 8s. per boll of 9 stone; wheat for 11s. and barley for 10s. our market is plentifully supplied with every article of provision, beef and mutton at 3d.; fish, at an average, at 6d. the dozen of haddocks, and salmon at 4d. the lib.; pork, from 3d. to 4d.; lamb and veal from 4d. to 4 1/2d.; butter, from 7 1/2d. to 9d. per lib.; and cheese 4s. to 4s. 6d. per stone. The lib. of butter 24 0z. and 16 lib. to the stone.


In the town of Forres there is a grammar school, with a salary of 20l.; and, from the abilities and attention of the present teacher, it has acquired a great character. Latin, Greek, French, and the various branches of the mathematics, are taught with great success; and a young gentleman may have board and education for 20l. per annum. Besides the salaries given to the public teachers, the Magistrates give some small donations to those who keep private schools, to encourage them in their attention to their charge.
There is likewise an English school, separate from the grammar school; the teacher has a salary of 15l. per annum, and every encouragement from the magistrates that can render his situation comfortable. The price of education in this town, as in every other part of Scotland, is very low. The learned languages are taught for 2s. 6d. per quarter; English for 1s.6d. per ditto.

There is likewise a boarding school for young ladies, where the various branches of needle work, music, and other parts of female education, are taught with great success. The mistress has a salary of 16l. per annum from the town; and a young lady may have every accomodation for 15l/ a year.
Dues per quarter, music, 10s.6d.; plain work, 2s.6d.; tambour, 5s.; gumflowers, a guinea. Particular attention is paid to the morals of youth in these different semineries of learning; and from the abilities of the present teachers, and attention paid to the schools by the Magistrates, and the healthy situation of the town of Forres, there is not, perhaps, a more eligible place for the education of youth anywhere.

Rivers and Fish

In this parish there are no fresh water lakes, and the river Findhorn and the burn of Forres are the only streams in the parish. The fish found in the river and bay of Findhorn, are salmon, trout, eels, flounders, and abundance of haddocks are taken in the Frith, which supplies the town of Forres and the neighbourhood. The quantity of salmon exported from Forres, upon an average of 10 years, from 1773 to 1783, was about 300 barrels annually, besides the home consumpt, which is not very considerable. Since the 1783, the quantity of salmon taken is considerably less; but last year, 1792, the fishing of the Findhorn has been much more productive than for several years preceding. The price of salmon is 4d. and for trout 5d. per lib.

Navigation, etc

The river Findhorn is navigable for boats nor farther than the tide flows. But did the increase of commerce and manufactures require it, there is no place where a canal might be more easily made. From Forres to the mouth of the Bay of Findhorn, which is the seaport of Forres, the distance does not exceed 3 miles, and the tide flows in the bason more than half that distance; and the level of the ground, at the foot of the eminence o which the town of Forres stands, does not exceed the level of half tide by 14 feet; and that depth of a canal would carry boats and lighters at high water to the town; and such a canal would have the advantage of the burn of Forres to keep it clear.
The bason already mentioned is a triangular piece of low ground, partly of that kind of stiff clay soil, called carse ground; and partly of fine compact sand, mixed with light particles of earth washed down by the floods. It is all dry at low water, except the channel of the river, and a little space at the inlet at high-water. Its circumference will be at least 7 miles, and contains more than 2 square miles of ground, all of which might be recovered from the sea, except what is necessary for a channel to the fresh water streams.
A bar of sand, which stretches across the mouth of the river, prevents any surge from entering the bason; so that an embankment would have no weight of water to sustain, but the small fetch of the lake itself.

Limestone, etc.

In all this parish there is only one quarry of limestone, upon the estate of Mr Cuming of Altyre. It is not used in any great quantities. There is only one small patch of coarse moor-stone; and no detached stones are found of any considerable size, either above or below ground.


The lower part of this parish is very much subject to be flooded by the rivers. In September 1768, and August 1782, there were a remarkable inundation. The river Findhorn rose to such a height, that more than a mile in breadth of the finest lands was laid under water, and the crops either carried away or destroyed.


The inhabitants in general are disposed to industry. No manufactures of public importance are carried out in or about Forres, except what supplies the town and its vicinity.
The spinning of linen yarn has for 20 years back brought a considerable supply of money to this country. The spinning of yarnm and manufacturing such of it as may be necessary for domestic purposes, has employed a considerable number of women, whose earnings have been of great advantage to themselves, and beneficial to the public.
The merchants are in the use of buying the yarn, and sending it to Glasgow, where there is generally a ready sale, unless the market is overstocked with Irish yarn, which, only on account of its cheapness, at certain times is preferred. But since the year 1784, the yarn trade has been gradually declining, owing to the increase of machines for spinning cotton in the south country, and the great quantities of yarn from Ireland imported into Glasgow, by which the price of yarn in this country has been greatly reduced.
Many of those formerly employed in spinning yarn for sale have of late taken to spinning of Dutch flax for the manufacturing companies at Aberdeen and Inverness.
A merchant of this town, in the year 1784, sent to Glasgow 23,290 spindles of yarn, which was collected near this place. The other dealers in that article sent at least 47,000 spindles, which, at the rate of 2s. per spindle for spinners, produced 7029l. Sterling.
The Trustees for Manufactures and Improvements have given some encouragement for the erecting of lint-mills in this neighbourhood, and these promise to be of great utility; and while they provide a proper and expeditious mode of manufacturing the flax, they will at the same time encourage the raising of that article in the country. Too much attention cannot be paid to this useful branch of trade, which employs those, and makes them useful to society, who would otherwise be a burden to the state.


In the neighbourhood of the town, land let so high as 50s. and some of the fields close to the town at 3l. an acre. These are farmed by horse-hirers, who lay them down to grass; and, are enabled to pay this enormous price for the land.


To the south of this town, upon a rising ground, commanding a view of Forres and Findhorn, and the Moray Frith, stands the house of Burdsyards, reckoned one of the best situations which any country can afford. Upon this estate are very extensive plantations of firs, in a very flourishing condition, planted by the present proprietors and others, and which now yield a profit of 100l. a year. There are likewise considerable plantations of firs upon the estate of Cuthall, belonging to Alexander Penrose Cuming of Altyre, situated to the south-west of the town, about 3 miles upon the road leading from Forres to Yverstown.

Bellie OSA