The Black Isle with Resolis
Separately from the sourcebook on Resolis on which I have been working, I was requested to produce a shorter guidebook to Resolis. This is now for sale, price £9.75, on the Kirkmichael Trust website. Profits from this guidebook go to assist restoration of the historic Kirkmichael site within Resolis
This site has several functions
The two parishes of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden, on the south side of the Cromarty Firth, were joined in 1662 by Act of Parliament. The united parish, now known as Resolis, celebrated its tercentenary in 1962. Few of the commemorative mugs produced for the occasion are in daily use in the parish, but fortunately, as part of its millennial celebrations, a new mug with the dates 1662-2000 has been produced!
Origins of the names
The two churches, located at opposite ends of the united parish (Kirkmichael to the east and Cullicudden to the west) fell into ruin and after much debate and delay a new "centrical" church was built at Resolis. This name in time became the name of the parish, although it was a slow process. Even in the early 19th century, church records still refer to "the united parish of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden, commonly known as Resolis." It is fortunate for the researcher that Cullicudden and Resolis are unique names; records relating to Kirkmichael need to be examined with caution as there are several occurrences of the name in Scotland.
Centres of population
The main centres of population are the planned village of Jemimaville and the hamlets at Balblair and Newhall. A planned village at Gordons Mill's never really took off. The remainder of the population is dotted over the parish.
The prevalence of family names varies with time. From the 1851 Census, the commonest surnames, in decreasing order, were Mackenzie, Macdonald, Fraser, Urquhart, Munro, Holm, Cameron, Ross, Maclennnan, Mackay, Stewart and Forbes. Older records point to a greater historical preponderance of the families of Aird, McCombie, McCulloch and Murray. I have not included links to many sites dedicated to family names as most search engines throw up a plethora of useful family or clan sites with Resolis connections.
Historically the land routes through Resolis were links from the ferries on the south side of the Black Isle (Kessock Ferry and the Chanonry-Ardersier Ferry) to the main ferries on the north side of the Black Isle (Balblair-Invergordon and Cromarty-Nigg). An additional west-east route from Conon Bridge to Cromarty intersected these. Nowadays communications in this part of the Black Isle generally are dominated by the modern A9 which crosses both the Beauly and Cromarty Firths, and crosses the peninsula three miles west of Resolis.
There were three ferries serving the parish, Foulis Ferry at the far west (the Black Isle landing-place lay just within Resolis; it was still active in the late 19th century), Alness Ferry in the middle (it appears to have become inactive in the mid-19th century) and Balblair Ferry at the east (this is the only one that survived into modern times). The first crossed from Toberchurn in Resolis to the Foulis area, the second crossed from the old quay at Alness Ferry to Alness, and the third crossed from Balblair to Invergordon. As Invergordon was originally known as Inverbreakie (a farm still bears the original name), the ferry was historically known as Inverbreakie ferry.
The name and location of Ferryton, lying a mile to the west of Balblair, are shown on the 400 year old manuscript map by Gordon, and this suggests that a ferry once operated here, crossing from Ferryton Point.
The Counties of Ross and Cromarty
The parish was split over the two counties of Ross and Cromarty, most of the Ross section extending in an irregular intrusion from the west boundary. However, there was one isolated area of Ross around Easter Balblair - on more than one occasion those charged with offences in land in one county challenged (unsuccessfully) the legal jurisdiction of the other county's Sheriff Court to try them. From figures given on the first edition six-inch to one mile Ordnance Survey maps, the area in Cromartyshire was 11,517 acres and the area in Ross-shire was 2,111 acres (total 13,628 acres).
The parish is 7 miles west-east, and 3 to 4 miles in breadth. It is bounded by the Cromarty Firth to the north and elsewhere by four parishes: Urquhart to the west, Avoch and Rosemarkie to the south and Cromarty to the east. The parish rises from the Firth to form a ridge, then dips down to the burn that runs from the western boundary to Udale Bay at the east, and finally rises to share with the parish of Avoch the highest point in the Black Isle at Mount Eagle at 841 feet. The Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar marking the summit is hidden in forestry but finding it can be a rewarding afternoon's hike.
The population fell dramatically over the last century due to migration and emigration, the highest recorded population since statistics on the population of the parish became available (1755) being 1,568 in 1861. In 1971 there were only 524 residents left. In recent years there has been a welcome resurgence in population (680 in 1991), many working in Inverness and commuting using the modern A9 over the Black Isle and the bridge at Kessock. Other employment relates to the oil industry, and several oil rigs can usually be seen in the Firth from Resolis, being serviced or dismantled. Historically employment was of course mostly agricultural, although some industrial initiatives (as at the distillery at Braelangwell, the mills at Gordon's Mills and several factories in nearby Cromarty) employed many Resolis inhabitants at various periods.
Census returns of 1851 and onwards give the parish of birth, and it is clear from these records that there had been prior to 1851 a significant flow of crofters from the West into the parish. In 1824, 55% of the population was calculated to be habitual Gaelic speakers, in 1881 this figure was 42%, and in 1891 this figure was 46%, no doubt reflecting to some extent the continuing inflow of crofters from the West.
The earliest reference to Cullicudden that I have identified is 1226, when the parson of Cullicudden, along with several other clergy of the area, is a signatory to a deed. The earliest reference to Kirkmichael I have identified is in a 1429 record in the Vatican, but I assume that the name had existed since the establishment of parishes. It has been suggested that the original parish divisions in Ross must have been approximately contemporaneous with the organisation of the Bishopric of Ross c 1128. The earliest references I have found to Resolis and other placenames in the parish are much later, as the sources are land records or map references as opposed to church records. The first positively dated reference to Resolis I have found is thus in a sasine of 1628 (although the name and location are given in a geographical manuscript by, probably, Timothy Pont in the 1580s/1590s).
Modern land use
Land use is nowadays, in the main, mixed farming on the lower ground with conifer forestry (some of which is now being felled for timber) higher up. The Cromarty Firth itself is internationally important for wintering wildfowl and waders, and there is an observation hide at Udale Bay, giving good views across the Firth over the Nigg and Udale Bay Nature Reserve.
Resolis: a Source Book for the Black Isle Parish
I've been gathering information on the parish for many years. My intention was to publish the book during the millennial year as a contribution to the millennial celebrations. However, I did not reckon on the demands of a young family! And then, moving back to Resolis and renovating a large house has intervened. However, the house is now nearing completion - a few more months and I should be done. I am now aiming for publication mid-2008. It is not so much an issue of collection of material - it's more an issue of finding time to edit down and check the material I've already gathered. Watch this space!
I stress that most of the material contained in my book will relate to the period before 1855. At this point Civil Registration in Scotland started and those seeking genealogical information should find it simple enough in most cases to work back to the 1850s. In my experience, it is then that the investigation starts to get more difficult, and all sorts of alternative information sources have to be tapped. I have included as many of these alternative sources as possible in my book. Historical and social sources of information relating to the parish also become much more accessible and voluminous.
I have compiled all the information listed below and more, but it has to be pruned down to the 500 pages I have in mind for the book. Some tough decisions have to be made. I intend to include on this site some of the information that doesn't make it into the book. I would welcome views on what you would like to see as a permanent record in the book.
Please send mail to JimMackay111@hotmail.com to comment on this site and particularly to tell me what you would like to see in the book (and please tell me of any sources of information you're aware of that I haven't mentioned). Apologies to those who have tried to e-mail me recently on the previous link which has now been deleted.