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CaithnessTraditional.png
County of Caithness
until circa 1890
Missing map
County of Caithness
circa 1890 to 1975
Missing map
Caithness District
1975 to 1996
ScotlandHighlands.png
Highland council area
1996 to present

Caithness (Gallaibh in Gaelic) is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area of Scotland. The name was used also for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (1708 to 1918). Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is now entirely within the Highland council area. In 2007 the Highland Council, which is now the local government authority, created the Caithness ward management area, which has boundaries similar to those of the historic local government area.

Caithness became a local government county, with its own county council, in 1890, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. Although officially within the county, the burghs of Wick and Thurso retained their status as autonomous local government areas. Wick, a royal burgh and traditionally the county town, became the administrative centre for the local government county. County and burgh councils were later abolished, in 1975, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, and Caithness became one of eight districts, each with its own district council, within the new two-tier Highland region. In 1996, under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994, the region became a unitary local government area, and the district councils were abolished.

As registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area, Caithness has a land boundary with the equally historic local government area of Sutherland. Otherwise it is bounded by sea. The land boundary follows a watershed and is crossed by two roads, the A9 and the A836, and one railway, the Far North Line. Across the Pentland Firth ferries link Caithness with Orkney, and Caithness has also an airport at Wick. The Pentland Firth island of Stroma is within Caithness.

In 2001 Caithness had a resident population of 23,866 and settlement centres include those of Berriedale, Burnside, Castletown, Dunnet, Halkirk, Haster, Reiss, John o' Groats, Latheron, Gillock, Mey, Reay, Sibster, Thurso, Watten and Wick.[1]

Contents

Toponymy

The Cait element of Caithness is Pictish or Goidelic in origin but the origin of Caithness is Norse or Norn, and may be read as meaning Horn (or Nose) of Cait. The Gaelic name, Gallaibh, means among the foreigners (the Norse). The Cait element of Caithness is represented as Cat in Cataibh, the Gaelic name for Sutherland, and as Cait in Na h-Innse Cait, the Old Irish for Shetland. The Kingdom of Cait was one of the seven Pictish kingdoms in Alba and is believed to have been in the area of Caithness and Sutherland.

Geography

Caithness extends about 30 miles (50 kilometres) north-south and about 30 miles (50 km) east-west, with an area of about 712 square miles (1844 km²). The topography is flat, in contrast to the majority of the remainder of the North of Scotland. Until the latter part of the 20th century when large areas were planted in conifers, this was rendered still more striking by the almost total absence of forest.

Caithness landscape, looking towards Halkirk from Beinn Freiceadain

The underlying geology of most of Caithness is old red sandstone to an estimated depth of over 4,000 metres. This consists of the cemented sediments of Lake Orcadie, which is believed to have stretched from Shetland to Grampian during the Devonian period, about 370 million years ago. Fossilised fish and plant remains are found between the layers of sediment. Older metamorphic (granite) rock is apparent in the Scaraben and Ord area, in the relatively high southwest area of the county. Caithness' highest point (Morven)[1] is in this area.

Because of the ease with which the sandstone splits to form large flat slabs (flagstone) it is an especially useful building material, and has been used as such since Neolithic times.

Caithness is a land of open, rolling farmland, moorland and scattered settlements. The area is fringed to the north and east by dramatic coastal scenery and is home to large, internationally important colonies of seabirds. The surrounding waters of the Pentland Firth and the North Sea hold a great diversity of marine life. Away from the coast, the landscape is dominated by open moorland and blanket bog known as the Flow Country which is the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe, extending into Sutherland. This is divided up along the straths (river valleys) by more fertile farm and croft land.

History

The Caithness landscape is rich with the remains of pre-historic occupation. These include the Grey Cairns of Camster, the Stone Lud, the Hill O Many Stanes, a complex of sites around Loch Yarrows and over 100 brochs. A prehistoric souterrain structure at Caithness has been likened to discoveries at Midgarth and on Shapinsay.[2] Numerous coastal castles (now mostly ruins) are Norse in their foundations. When the Norsemen arrived, probably in the 10th century, the county was probably Pictish, but with its culture subject to some Goidelic influence from the Celtic Church. The name Pentland Firth can be read as meaning Pictland Fjord.

Numerous bands of Norse settlers landed in the county, and gradually established themselves around the coast. On the Latheron (south) side, they extended their settlements as far as Berriedale. Many of the names of places, and not a few of the surnames in the lowland parts of the county, are Norse in origin.

For a long time sovereignty over Caithness was disputed between Scotland and the Norwegian Earldom of Orkney. Circa 1196 Earl Harald Maddadarsson agreed to pay a monetary tribute for Caithness to William I. Norway has recognized Caithness as fully Scottish since the Treaty of Perth in 1266.

Language

At the beginning of recorded history Caithness were inhabited by the Picts, whose language is unknown. The Norse occupation of Caithness resulted in the development of the Norn language in Caithness, Orkney and Shetland. A dialect of the Norn language was spoken, although little is known about it. Some of this linguistic influence still exists in some parts of the county, however. A native of Wick, for example, will tend to say til instead of to. This is an example of the surviving modern use of an Old Norse word (til is Old Norse for to). The language lingered until the end of the 18th century in the islands, but died out earlier in Caithness, leaving only place names behind.

Scottish Gaelic was historically spoken throughout Caithness and remained the majority language until the early 19th century.[3] It has survived, in a limited form, in the west of the county.[4] Gaelic is sometimes erroneously claimed to have never been spoken in Caithness; the Gaelic name for the region, Gallaibh, translates as "Land of the Gall (non-Gaels)" - a name which reflects historic Norse rule - but this is a result of language shift towards English within recent centuries.[4] The language boundary changed over time, but the New Statistical Record in 1841 says,

"On the eastern side of [the Burn of East Clyth] scarcely a word of Gaelic was either spoken or understood, and on the west side, English suffered the same fate".

Historically, the Anglic language of Caithness has been defined and named, usually, as English. There is little[5][6][7][8][9][10] or no evidence, predating the late 20th century, of Scots being used as a name for Caithness dialect, but there is now, in some quarters, a tendency to see and name it as a form of Scots language.

Other quotes,

"There are Seven parishes in [the Presbytery of] Caithness where the Irish language is used, viz. Thurso, Halkrig [Halkirk], Rhae [Reay], Lathrone [Latheron], Ffar [Farr], Week [Wick], Duirness [Durness]. But the people of Week understand English also." (Presbytery of Caithness, 1706)[3]
"Persons with a knowledge of Gaelic in the County of Caithness (in 1911) are found to number 1,685, and to constitute 6.7 per cent of the entire population of three years of age and upwards. Of these 1,248 were born in Caithness, 273 in Sutherland, 77 in Ross & Cromarty, and 87 elsewhere.... By an examination of the age distribution of the Gaelic speakers, it is found that only 22 of them are less than 20 years of age." (J. Patten MacDougall, Registrar General, 1912)
"A presbytery minute of 1727 says of 1,600 people who had 'come of age', 1500 could speak Gaelic only, and a mere five could read. Gaelic at this time was the principal language in most parishes except Bower, Canisbay, Dunnet and Olrig" (Omand, D. From the Vikings to the Forty-Five, in The Caithness book)

The bilingual road sign policy of Highland Region Council has led to some controversy in the region.[11]

Natural heritage

The underlying geology, harsh climate and long history of human occupation have shaped this rich and distinctive natural heritage. Today we see a diverse landscape incorporating both common and rare habitats and species, and Caithness provides a stronghold for many once common breeding species that have undergone serious declines elsewhere, such as waders, water voles and flocks of over-wintering birds.

Many rare mammals, birds and fish have been sighted or caught in and around Caithness waters. Harbour porpoises, dolphins (including Risso's, bottle-nosed, common, Atlantic white-sided and white-beaked dolphins) and minke and long-finned pilot whales are regularly seen from the shore and boats. Both grey and common seals come close to the shore to feed, rest and raise their pups, and otters can be seen close to river mouths in some of the quieter locations.

Local government

See also: Politics of the Highland council area
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County, burghs and parishes, 1890 to 1975

Caithness became a local government county, with its own elected county council, in 1890, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. At that time, two towns within the county, Wick and Thurso, were already well established as autonomous burghs with their own burgh councils. Ten parish councils, covering rural areas of the county were established in 1894.

Wick, a royal burgh, served as the county's administrative centre.

The parish councils were abolished in 1930 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929. The county council and the burgh councils were abolished in 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. The 1973 act also created a new two tier system, with Caithness as a district within the Highland region.

Parishes

Prior to implementation of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, civil administration parishes were also parishes of the Church of Scotland, and one Caithness parish, Reay, straddled the boundary between the county of Caithness and the county of Sutherland, and another, Thurso had a separate fragment bounded by Reay and Halkirk. For civil administration purposes, implementation of the act redefined parish boundaries, transferring part of Reay to the Sutherland parish of Farr and the fragment of Thurso to the parish of Halkirk.[12]

In the cases of two of the parishes, Thurso and Wick, each includes a burgh with the same name as the parish. For civil administration purposes each of these parishes was divided between the burgh and the landward area of the parish. Landward, in this context, means rural.

Name Notes
Bower Has the Stone Lud near its geographic centre
Canisbay Includes the village of John O Groats
Dunnet Includes the village of Dunnet and Dunnet Head
Halkirk Includes the village of Halkirk
Latheron Includes the village of Latheron
Reay Includes the village of Reay
Was, at one time, partly in the county of Sutherland
Olrig Includes the village of Castletown
Thurso Landward A rural area around the burgh of Thurso
Watten Includes the village of Watten
Wick Landward A rural area around the burgh of Wick

District, 1975 to 1996

Caithness was a district of the Highland local government region of Scotland from 1975 to 1996. When created, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the district included the whole of the county plus Tongue and Farr areas of the neighbouring county of Sutherland. The boundary was soon changed, however, to correspond with that between the counties. Caithness was one of eight districts in the Highland region.

The region was also created in 1975, as one of nine two-tier local government regions of Scotland. Each region consisted of a number of districts and both regions and districts had their own elected councils. The creation of the Highland region and of Caithness as a district involved the abolition of the two burgh councils in Caithness, Wick and Thurso, as well as the Caithness county council.

Wick, which had been the administrative centre for the county, became the administrative centre for the district.

In 1996 local government in Scotland was again reformed, to create 32 unitary council areas. The Highland region became the Highland unitary council area, and the functions of the district councils were absorbed by the Highland Council.

Management area and area committee, 1996 to 2007

In 1996, Caithness and the other seven districts of the Highland region were merged in to the unitary Highland council area, under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994. The new Highland Council then adopted the former districts as management areas and created a system of area committees to represent the management areas.

Until 1999 the Caithness management and committee areas consisted of 8 out of the 72 Highland Council wards. Each ward elected one councillor by the first past the post system of election.

In 1999, however, ward boundaries were redrawn but management area boundaries were not. As a result area committees were named after and made decisions for areas which they did not exactly represent. The new Caithness committee area, consisting of ten out of the 80 new Highland Council wards, did not include the village of Reay, although that village was within the Caithness management area. For area committee representation the village was within the Sutherland committee area.

New wards were created for elections this year, 2007, polling on 3 May and, as the wards became effective for representational purposes, the Highland Council's management and committee structures were reorganised. The Caithness management area and the Caithness area committee were therefore abolished.

Ward management area, from 2007

In 2007 an area similar to that of the Highland Council's Caithness management area was divided between three new wards electing councillors by the single transferable vote system of election, which is designed to produce a form of proportional representation. One ward elects four councillors. Each of the other two elects three councillors. Also, the council's eight management areas were abolished, in favour of three new corporate management areas, with Caithness becoming a ward management area within the council's new Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross operational management area, which covers seven of the council's 22 new wards. The boundaries of the Caithness ward management area are not exactly those of the former Caithness management area, but they do include the village of Reay.

The ward management area is one of five within the corporate management area and consists of three wards, the Landward Caithness ward, the Thurso ward and the Wick ward. Each of the other ward management areas within the corporate management area consists of a single ward.

Community councils, 1975 to present (2008)

Although created under local government legislation (the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973) community councils have no statutory powers or responsibilities and are not a tier of local government. They are however the most local tier of statutory representation.

Under the 1973 Act, district councils were obliged to implement community council schemes. A Caithness district scheme was adopted in 1975, dividing the area of the district between 12 community councils.

Statutory status for community councils was continued under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994, and a Caithness scheme is now the responsibility of the Highland Council.

The area of the former district of Caithness is now covered by 12 community council areas which are numbered and described as below in the Highland Council's Scheme for the Establishment of Community Councils in Caithness, October 1997. Current community council names and contact details are given on a Highland Council website.[13]

1. Royal Burgh of Wick
2. Sinclair's Bay (including Keiss, Reiss and part of Wick)
3. Dunnet and Canisbay
4. Bower (excluding Gelshfield area)
5. Watten (including part of Bower i.e. Gelshfield area)
6. Wick south-east, Wick south-west and part of Clyth (i.e. Bruan) (Tannach & District)
7. Latheron, Lybster and remainder of Clyth (including Occumster, Roster and Camster)
8. Berridale and Dunbeath
9. Thurso
13. Halkirk south, Halkirk north-east, Halkirk north-west (excluding Lieurary, Forsie and Westfield area)
14. Castletown, Olrig, Thurso east (excluding area on west side of Thurso River)
15. Caithness West (that part on the west side of Thurso River only), Thurso West, Reay and part of Halkirk north-west (that part comprising Lieurary, Forsie and Westfield area)

Constituency

The Caithness constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain (1708 to 1801) and the Parliament of the United Kingdom (1801 to 1918) represented essentially the county from 1708 to 1918. At the same time however, the county town of Wick was represented as a component of Tain Burghs until 1832 and of Wick Burghs until 1918.

Between 1708 and 1832 the Caithness constituency was one of the Buteshire and Caithness alternating constituencies: one constituency elected a Member of Parliament (MP) to one parliament and then the other elected an MP to the next. Between 1832 and 1918 it was a separate constituency, electing an MP to every parliament.

In 1918 the Caithness constituency and Wick were merged into the then new constituency of Caithness and Sutherland. In 1997 Caithness and Sutherland was merged into Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

The Scottish Parliament constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross was created in 1999 and now has boundaries slightly different from those of the House of Commons constituency.

The modern constituencies may be seen as more sub-divisions of the Highland area than as representative of counties (and burghs). For its own purposes, however, the Highland Council uses more conservative sub-divisions, with names which refer back to the era of district councils and, in some cases, county councils.

In the Scottish Parliament Caithness is represented also as part of the Highlands and Islands electoral region.

See also

Local media

Newspapers

The John O'Groat Journal and The Caithness Courier are weekly newspapers published by Scottish Provincial Press Limited[14] trading as North of Scotland Newspapers[15] and using offices in Union Street, Wick (but with public reception via Cliff Road.) and Olrig Street, Thurso.

News coverage tends to concentrate on the former counties of Caithness and Sutherland. The John O'Groat Journal is normally published on Fridays and The Caithness Courier is normally published on Wednesdays.

Historically, they have been independent newspapers, with the Groat as a Wick-centred paper and the Courier as a Thurso-centred paper. Even now, the Groat is archived in the public library in Wick, while the Courier is similarly archived in the library in Thurso. The Courier was printed, almost by hand, in a small shop in High Street, Thurso until the early 60's by Mr Docherty and his daughter. The Courier traditionally covers that week's sheriff court cases.

Radio

Caithness FM has been broadcasting since 1993.[16]

Websites

Various community organisations, including Caithness Arts,[17] Castletown and District Community Council,[18] Castletown Heritage Society,[19] and Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council[20] Caitness Moto Cross Club, maintain their own websites, as do the trusts that run the Castle of Mey[21] and Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.[22]

Watsonian vice-county

Caithness, with the boundaries of the former local government county, is one of the Watsonian vice-counties, subdivisions of Britain and Ireland which are used largely for the purposes of biological recording and other scientific data-gathering.

The vice-counties were introduced in Hewett Cottrell Watson who first used them in the third volume of his Cybele Britannica published in 1852. He refined the system somewhat in later volumes, but the vice-counties remain unchanged by subsequent local government reorganisations, allowing historical and modern data to be more accurately compared. They provide a stable basis for recording using similarly-sized units, and, although grid-based reporting has grown in popularity, they remain a standard in the vast majority of ecological surveys, allowing data collected over long periods of time to be compared easily.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Ordnance Survey grid references:
  2. ^ C.Michael Hogan, Castle bloody, The Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham, 2007
  3. ^ a b Caithness of the Gael and the Lowlander
  4. ^ a b http://www.linguae-celticae.org/dateien/Gaelic_1901-2001.ppt
  5. ^ Jamieson, J.(1808) An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language.
  6. ^ The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845) Vol. XV
  7. ^ Transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society (1863)
  8. ^ Murray, James A. H. (1873) The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland, Transactions of the Philological Society, Part II, 1870-72. London-Berlin, Asher & Co.
  9. ^ Grant, William; Dixon, James Main (1921) Manual of Modern Scots. Cambridge, University Press.
  10. ^ The Scottish National Dictionary (1929–1976) vol. I
  11. ^ http://news.scotsman.com/scotland/War-of-words-over-Gaelic.3854359.jp
  12. ^ Boundary changes as described in Boundaries of Counties and Parishes in Scotland, Hay Shennan, 1892
  13. ^ Community 03 March 2008, Highland Council website, accessed 3 March 2008
  14. ^ Scottish Provincial Press Limited website
  15. ^ North of Scotland Newspapers (John O'Groat Journal in association with the Caithness Courier) website, accessed 6 March 2008
  16. ^ Caithness FM website
  17. ^ Caithness Arts website, accessed 4 March 2008
  18. ^ Castletown and District Community Council website
  19. ^ Castletown Heritage Society website, accessed 6 March 2008
  20. ^ ,Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council website, accessed 4 March 2008
  21. ^ Castle of Mey website
  22. ^ Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

External links

Coordinates: 58°25′N 3°30′W / 58.417°N 3.5°W / 58.417; -3.5


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CAITHNESS, a county occupying the extreme north-east of Scotland, bounded W. and S. by Sutherlandshire, E. by the North Sea, and N. by the Pentland Firth. Its area is 446,017 acres, or nearly 697 sq. m. The surface generally is flat and tame, consisting for the most part of barren moors, almost destitute of trees. It presents a gradual slope from the north and east up to the heights in the south and west, where the chief mountains are Morven (2313 ft.), Scaraben (2054 ft.) and Maiden Pap (1587 ft.). The principal rivers are the Thurso ("Thor's River"), which, rising in Cnoc Crom Uillt (1199 ft.) near the Sutherlandshire border, pursues a winding course till it reaches the sea in Thurso Bay; the Forss, which, emerging from Loch Shurrery, follows a generally northward direction and enters the sea at Crosskirk, a fine cascade about a mile from its mouth giving the river its name (fors, Scandinavian, "waterfall;" in English the form is force); and Wick Water, which, draining Loch Watten, flows into the sea at Wick. There are many other smaller streams well stocked with fish. Indeed, the county offers fine sport for rod and gun. The lochs are numerous, the largest being Loch Watten, 21 m. by 4 m., and Loch Calder, 21 by 1 m., and Lochs Colam, Hempriggs, Heilen, Ruard, Scarmclate, St John's, Toftingale and Wester. So much of the land is low-lying and boggy that there are no glens, except in the mountainous south-west, although towards the centre of the county are Strathmore and Strathbeg (the great and little valleys). Most of the coast-line is precipitous and inhospitable, particularly at the headlands of the Ord, Noss, Skirsa, Duncansbay, St John's Point, Dunnet Head (346 ft.), the most northerly point of Scotland, Holburn and Brims Ness. From Berriedale at frequent intervals round the coast occur superb "stacks," or detached pillars of red sandstone, which add much to the grandeur of the cliff scenery.

Caithness is separated from the Orkneys by the Pentland Firth, a strait about 14 miles long and from 6 to 8 miles broad. Owing to the rush of the tide, navigation is difficult, and, in rough weather, dangerous. The tidal wave races at a speed which varies from 6 to 12 m. an hour. At the meeting of the western and eastern currents the waves at times rise into the air like a waterspout, but the current does not always nor everywhere flow at a uniform rate, being broken up at places into eddies as perilous as itself. The breakers caused by the sunken reefs off Duncansbay Head create the Bores of Duncansbay, and eddies off St John's Point are the origin of the Merry Men of Mey, while off the island of Stroma occurs the whirlpool of the Swalchie, and off the Orcadian Swona is the vortex of the Wells of Swona. Nevertheless, as the most direct road from Scandinavian ports to the Atlantic the Firth is used by at least S000 vessels every year. In the eastern entrance to the Firth lies the group of islands known as the Pentland Skerries. They are four in number - Muckle Skerry, Little Skerry, Clettack Skerry and Louther Skerry - and the nearest is 41-- m. from the mainland. On Muckle Skerry, the largest (2 m. by a m.), stands a lighthouse with twin towers, ioo ft. apart. The island of Stroma, i 2 m. from the mainland (pop. 375), belongs to Caithness and is situated in the parish of Canisbay. It is 24 m. long by m. broad. In 1862 a remarkable tide climbed the cliffs (200 ft.) and swept across the island.

Table of contents

Geology

Along the western margin of the county from Reay on the north coast to the Scaraben Hills there is a narrow belt of country which is occupied by metamorphic rocks of the types found in the east of Sutherland. They consist chiefly of granulitic quartzose schists and felspathic gneisses, permeated in places by strings and veins of pegmatite. On the Scaraben Hills there is a prominent development of quartz-schists the age of which is still uncertain. These rocks are traversed by a mass of granite sometimes foliated, trending north and south, which is traceable from Reay southwards by Aultnabreac station to Kinbrace and Strath Helmsdale in Sutherland. Excellent sections of this rock, showing segregation veins, are exposed in the railway cuttings between Aultnabreac and Forsinard. A rock of special interest described by Professor Judd occurs on Achvarasdale Moor, near Loch Scye, and hence named Scyelite. It forms a small isolated boss, its relations to the surrounding rocks not being apparent. Under the microscope, the rock consists of biotite, hornblende, serpentinous pseudo-morphs after olivine and possibly after enstatite and magnetite, and may be described as a mica-hornblende-picrite. The remainder of the county is occupied by strata of Old Red Sandstone age, the greater portion being grouped with the Middle or Orcadian division of that system, and a small area on the promontory of Dunnet Head being provisionally placed in the upper division. By means of the fossil fishes, Dr Traquair has arranged the Caithness flagstone series in three groups, the Achanarras beds at the base, the Thurso flagstones in the middle, and the John. o' Groats beds at the top. In the extreme south of the county certain minor subdivisions appear which probably underlie the lowest fossiliferous beds containing the Achanarras fauna. These comprise (1) the coarse basement conglomerate, (2) dull chocolate-red sandstones, shales and clays around Braemore in the Berriedale Water, (3) the brecciated conglomerate largely composed of granite detritus seen at Badbea, (4) red sandstones, shales and conglomeratic bands found in the Berriedale Water and further northwards in the direction of Strathmore. Morven, the highest hill in Caithness, is formed of gently inclined sandstones and conglomerates resting on an eroded platform of quartz-schists and quartz-mica-granulites. The flagstones yielding the fishes of the lowest division of the Orcadian series appear on Achanarras Hill about three miles south of Halkirk. The members of the overlying Thurso group have a wide distribution as they extend along the shore on either side of Thurso and spread across the county by Castletown and Halkirk to Sinclairs Bay and Wick. They are thrown into folds which are traversed by faults some of which run in a north and south direction. They consist of dark grey and cream-coloured flagstones, sometimes thick-bedded with grey and blue shales and thin limestones and occasional intercalations of sandstone. In the north-west of the county the members of the Thurso group appear to overlap the Achanarras beds and to rest directly on the platform of crystalline schists. In the extreme northeast there is a passage upwards into the John o' Groats group, with its characteristic fishes, the strata consisting of sandstones, flagstones with thin impure limestones. The rocks of Dunnet Head, which are provisionally classed with the upper Old Red Sandstone, are composed of red and yellow sandstones, marls and mudstones. Hitherto no fossils have been obtained from these beds save some obscure plant-like markings, but they are evidently a continuation southwards of the sandstones of Hoy, which there rest unconformably on the flagstone series of Orkney. This patch of Upper Old Red strata is faulted against the Caithness flagstones to the south. For many years the flagstones have been extensively quarried for pavement purposes, as for instance near Thurso, at Castletown and Achanarras. Two instances of volcanic necks occur in Caithness, one piercing the red sandstones at the Ness of Duncansbay and the other the sandstones of Dunnet Head north of Brough. They point to volcanic activity subsequent to the deposition of the John o' Groats beds and of the Dunnet sandstones. The materials filling these vents consist of agglomerate charged with blocks of diabase, sandstone, flagstone and limestone.

An interesting feature connected with the geology of Caithness is the deposit of shelly boulder clay which is distributed over the low ground, being deepest in the valleys and in the cliffs surrounding the bays on the east coast. Apart from the shell fragments, many of which are striated, the deposit contains blocks foreign to the county, as for instance chalk and chalkflints, fragments of Jurassic rocks with fossils and pieces of jet. The transport of local boulders shows that the ice must have moved from the south-east towards the north-west, which coincides with the direction indicated by the striae. The Jurassic blocks may have been derived from the strip of rocks of that age on the east coast of Sutherland. The shell fragments, many of which are striated, include arctic, boreal and southern forms, only a small number being characteristic of the littoral zone.

Climate and Agriculture

The climate is variable, and though the winter storms fall with great severity on the coast, yet owing to proximity to a vast expanse of sea the cold is not intense and snow seldom lies many days continuously. In winter and spring the northern shore is subject to frequent and disastrous gales from the N. and N.W. Only about two-fifths of the arable land is good. In spite of this and the cold, wet and windy climate, progressive landlords and tenants keep a considerable part of the acreage of large farms successfully tilled. In 1824 James Traill of Ratter, near Dunnet, recognizing that it was impossible to expect tenants to reclaim and improve the land on a system of short leases, advocated large holdings on long terms, so that farmers might enjoy a substantial return on their capital and labour. Thanks to this policy and the farmers' skill and enterprise, the county has acquired a remarkable reputation for its produce; notably oats and barley, turnips, potatoes and beans. Sheep - chiefly Leicester and Cheviots - of which the wool is in especial request in consequence of its fine quality, cattle, horses and pigs are raised for southern markets.

Other Industries

The great source of profit to the inhabitants is to be found in the fisheries of cod, ling, lobster and herring. The last is the most important, beginning about the end of July and lasting for six weeks, the centre of operations being at Wick. Besides those more immediately engaged in manning the boats, the fisheries give employment to a large number of coopers, curers, packers and helpers. The salmon fisheries on the coast and at the mouths of rivers are let at high prices. The Thurso is .one of the best salmon streams in the north. The flagstone quarries, mostly situated in the Thurso, Olrig and Halkirk districts, are another important source of revenue. Of manufactures there is little beyond tweeds, ropes, agricultural implements and whisky, and the principal imports consist of coal, wood, manure, flour and lime.

The only railway in the county is the Highland railway, which, from a point some four miles to the south-west of Aultnabreac station, crosses the shire in a rough semicircle, via Halkirk, to Wick, with a branch from Georgemas Junction to Thurso. There is also, however, frequent communication by steamer between Wick and Thurso and the Orkneys and Shetlands, Aberdeen, Leith and other ports. The deficiency of railway accommodation is partly made good by coach services between different places.

Population and Government

The population of Caithness in 1891 was 33,177, and in 1901, 33,870, of whom twenty-four persons spoke Gaelic only, and 2876 Gaelic and English. The chief towns are Wick (pop. in 1901, 7911) and Thurso (3723). The county returns one member to parliament. Wick is the only royal burgh and one of the northern group of parliamentary burghs which includes Cromarty, Dingwall, Dornoch, Kirkwall and Tain. Caithness unites with Orkney and Shetland to form a sheriffdom, and there is a resident sheriff-substitute at Wick, who sits also at Thurso and Lybster. The county is under schoolboard jurisdiction, and there are academies at Wick and Thurso. The county council subsidizes elementary schools and cookery classes and provides apparatus for technical classes.

History

The early history of Caithness may, to some extent, be traced in the character of its remains and its local nomenclature. Picts' houses, still fairly numerous, Norwegian names and Danish mounds attest that these peoples displaced each other in turn, and the number and strength of the fortified keeps show that its annals include the usual feuds, assaults and reprisals. Circles of standing stones, as at Stemster Loch and Bower, and the ruins of Roman Catholic chapels and places of pilgrimage in almost every district, illustrate the changes which have come over its ecclesiastical condition. The most important remains are those of Bucholie Castle, Girnigo Castle, and the tower of Keiss; and, on the S.E. coast, the castles of Clyth, Swiney, Forse, Laveron, Knockinnon, Berriedale, Achastle and Dunbeath, the last of which is romantically situated on a detached stack of sandstone rock. About six miles from Thurso stand the ruins of Braal Castle, the residence of the ancient bishops of Caithness. On the coast of the Pentland Firth, 12 miles west of Dunscansbay Head, is the site of John o' Groat's house.

See S. Laing, Prehistoric Remains of Caithness (London and Edinburgh, 1866); James T. Calder, History of Caithness (2nd edition, Wick); John Home, In and About Wick (Wick); Thomas Sinclair, Caithness Events (Wick, 1899); History of the Clan Gunn (Wick, 1890); J. Henderson, Caithness Family History (Edinburgh, 1884); Harvie-Brown, Fauna of Caithness (Edinburgh, 1887); Principal Miller, Our Scandinavian Forefathers (Thurso, 1872); Smiles, Robert Dick, Botanist and Geologist (London, 1878); H. Morrison, Guide to Sutherland and Caithness (Wick, 1883); A. Auld, Ministers and Men in the Far North (Edinburgh, 1891).


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County of Caithness
File:CaithnessTraditional.png
Geography
Area
- Total
- % Water
Ranked 12th
438,833 acres (1776 km²)
? %
County town Wick
Chapman code CAI

Caithness (Gallaibh in Gaelic)[1] is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area of Scotland. The name was used also for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (1708 to 1918). Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is now entirely within the Highland council area. This year, 2007, the Highland Council, which is now the local government authority, created the Caithness ward management area, which has boundaries similar to those of the historic local government area.

Caithness became a local government county, with its own county council, in 1890, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. Although officially within the county, the burghs of Wick and Thurso retained their status as autonomous local government areas. Wick, a royal burgh and traditionally the county town, became the administrative centre for the local government county. County and burgh councils were later abolished, in 1975, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, and Caithness became one of eight districts, each with its own district council, within the new two-tier Highland region. In 1996, under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994, the region became a unitary local government area, and the district councils were abolished.

As registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area, Caithness has a land boundary with the equally historic local government area of Sutherland. Otherwise it is bounded by sea. The land boundary follows a watershed and is crossed by two roads, the A9 and the A836, and one railway, the Far North Line. Across the Pentland Firth ferries link Caithness with Orkney, and Caithness has also an airport at Wick. The Pentland Firth island of Stroma is within Caithness.

In 2001 Caithness had a resident population of 23,866 and settlement centres include those of Berriedale, Burnside, Castletown, Dunnet, Halkirk, Haster, Reiss, John o' Groats, Latheron, Mey, Reay, Sibster, Thurso, Watten and Wick.[2]

Contents

Geography

Caithness extends about 40 miles (64 kilometres) north-south and about 30 miles (50 km) east-west. The general aspect of Caithness, which measures in area about 712 square miles (1844 km²), is flat, in contrast to the majority of Highland Region. Until the latter part of the 20th century when significant areas were planted in conifers, this was rendered still more striking by the almost total absence of forest. File:Caithness.jpg Most of Caithness is old red sandstone to an estimated depth of over 4,000 metres. This consists of the cemented sediments of Lake Orcadie, which is believed to have stretched from Shetland to Grampian during the Devonian period, about 370 million years ago. Fossilised fish and plant remains are found between the layers of sediment. Older metamorphic (granite) rock is apparent in the Scaraben and Ord area, in the relatively high southwest area of the county. Caithness' highest point (Morven[2]) is in this area.

Because of the ease with which the sandstone splits to form large flat slabs (flagstone) it is an especially useful building material, and has been used as such since Neolithic times.

Caithness is a land of open, rolling farmland, moorland and scattered settlements. The area is fringed to the north and east by dramatic coastal scenery and is home to large, internationally important colonies of seabirds. The surrounding waters of the Pentland Firth and the North Sea hold a great diversity of marine life. Away from the coast, the landscape is dominated by open moorland and blanket bog, divided up along the straths (river valleys) by more fertile farm and croft land.

History


The Caithness landscape is rich with the remains of pre-historic occupation. These include the Grey Cairns of Camster, the Stone Lud, the Hill O Many Stanes, a complex of sites around Loch Yarrows and over 100 brochs. And numerous coastal castles (now mostly ruins) are Norse in their foundations. When the Norsemen arrived, probably in the 10th century, the county was probably Pictish, but with its culture subject to some Goidelic influence from the Celtic Church. The name Pentland Firth can be read as meaning Pictland Fjord.

Numerous bands of Norse settlers landed in the county, and gradually established themselves around the coast. On the Latheron (south) side, they extended their settlements as far as Berriedale. Most of the names of places, and not a few of the surnames in the lowland parts of the county, are Norse in origin. A dialect of the Norn language was spoken, although little is known about it. Some of this linguistic influence still exists in some parts of the county, however. A native of Wick, for example, will tend to say til instead of to. This is an example of the surviving modern use of an Old Norse word (til is Old Norse for to).

For a long time sovereignty over Caithness was disputed between Scotland and the Norwegian Earldom of Orkney. Circa 1196 Earl Harald Maddadarsson agreed to pay a monetary tribute for Caithness to William I. Norway has recognized Caithness as fully Scottish since the Treaty of Perth in 1266.

Scottish Gaelic was spoken in the west of the county into the 20th century, although it is believed to be extinct now. It is sometimes erroneously claimed to have never been spoken in Caithness, but the Gaelic name for the region, Gallaibh, translates as "Land of the Gall (non-Gaels)". The language boundary changed over time, but the New Statistical Record in 1841 says,

"On the eastern side of [the Burn of East Clyth] scarcely a word of Gaelic was either spoken or understood, and on the west side, English suffered the same fate".

Historically, the Anglic language of Caithness has been defined and named, usually, as English. There is little[3] or no evidence, predating the late 20th century, of Scots being used as a name for Caithness dialect, but there is now, in some quarters, a tendency to see and name it as a form of Scots language.

Other quotes,

"Persons with a knowledge of Gaelic in the County of Caithness (in 1911) are found to number 1,685, and to constitute 6.7 per cent of the entire population of three years of age and upwards. Of these 1,248 were born in Caithness, 273 in Sutherland, 77 in Ross & Cromarty, and 87 elsewhere.... By an examination of the age distribution of the Gaelic speakers, it is found that only 22 of them are less than 20 years of age." (J. Patten MacDougall, Registrar General, 1912)
"A presbytery minute of 1727 says of 1,600 people who had 'come of age', 1500 could speak Gaelic only, and a mere five could read. Gaelic at this time was the principal language in most parishes except Bower, Canisbay, Dunnet and Olrig" (Omand, D. From the Vikings to the Forty-Five, in The Caithness book)

Natural heritage

The underlying geology, harsh climate and long history of human occupation have shaped this rich and distinctive natural heritage. Today we see a diverse landscape incorporating both common and rare habitats and species, and Caithness provides a stronghold for many once common breeding species that have undergone serious declines elsewhere, such as waders, water voles and flocks of over-wintering birds.

Many rare mammals, birds and fish have been sighted or caught in and around Caithness waters. Harbour porpoises, dolphins (including Risso's, bottle-nosed, common, Atlantic white-sided and white-beaked dolphins) and minke and long-finned pilot whales are regularly seen from the shore and boats. Both grey and common seals come close to the shore to feed, rest and raise their pups, and otters can be seen close to river mouths in some of the quieter locations.

Local government

See also: Politics of the Highland council area

County, burghs and parishes, 1890 to 1975

Caithness became a local government county, with its own elected county council, in 1890, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. At that time, two towns within the county, Wick and Thurso, were already well established as autonomous burghs with their own burgh councils. Ten parish councils, covering rural areas of the county were established in 1894.

Wick, a royal burgh, served as the county's administrative centre.

The parish councils were abolished in 1931 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929. The county council and the burgh councils were abolished in 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. The 1973 act also created a new two tier system, with Caithness as a district within the Highland region.

Parishes

Prior to implementation of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, civil administration parishes were also parishes of the Church of Scotland, and one Caithness parish, Reay, straddled the boundary between the county of Caithness and the county of Sutherland, and another, Thurso had a separate fragment bounded by Reay and Halkirk. For civil administration purposes, implementation of the act redefined parish boundaries, transferring part of Reay to the Sutherland parish of Farr and the fragment of Thurso to the parish of Halkirk.[4]

In the cases of two of the parishes, Thurso and Wick, each includes a burgh with the same name as the parish. For civil administration purposes each of these parishes was divided between the burgh and the landward area of the parish. Landward, in this context, means rural.

Name Notes
Bower Has the Stone Lud near its geographic centre
Canisbay Includes the village of John O Groats
Dunnet Includes the village of Dunnet and Dunnet Head
Halkirk Includes the village of Halkirk
Latheron Includes the village of Latheron
Reay Includes the village of Reay
Was, at one time, partly in the county of Sutherland
Olrig Includes the village of Castletown
Thurso Landward A rural area around the burgh of Thurso
Watten Includes the village of Watten
Wick Landward A rural area around the burgh of Wick

District, 1975 to 1996

Caithness was a district of the Highland local government region of Scotland from 1975 to 1996. When created, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the district included the whole of the county plus Tongue and Farr areas of the neighbouring county of Sutherland. The boundary was soon changed, however, to correspond with that between the counties. Caithness was one of eight districts in the Highland region.

The region was also created in 1975, as one of nine two-tier local government regions of Scotland. Each region consisted of a number of districts and both regions and districts had their own elected councils. The creation of the Highland region and of Caithness as a district involved the abolition of the two burgh councils in Caithness, Wick and Thurso, as well as the Caithness county council.

Wick, which had been the administrative centre for the county, became the administrative centre for the district.

In 1996 local government in Scotland was again reformed, to create 32 unitary council areas. The Highland region became the Highland unitary council area, and the functions of the district councils were absorbed by the Highland Council.

Management area and area committee, 1996 to 2007

In 1996, Caithness and the other seven districts of the Highland region were merged in to the unitary Highland council area, under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994. The new Highland Council then adopted the former districts as management areas and created a system of area committees to represent the management areas.

Until 1999 the Caithness management and committee areas consisted of 8 out of the 72 Highland Council wards. Each ward elected one councillor by the first past the post system of election.

In 1999, however, ward boundaries were redrawn but management area boundaries were not. As a result area committees were named after and made decisions for areas which they did not exactly represent. The new Caithness committee area, consisting of ten out of the 80 new Highland Council wards, did not include the village of Reay, although that village was within the Caithness management area. For area committee representation the village was within the Sutherland committee area.

New wards were created for elections this year, 2007, polling on 3 May and, as the wards became effective for representational purposes, the Highland Council's management and committee structures were reorganised. The Caithness management area and the Caithness area committee were therefore abolished.

Ward management area, from 2007

In 2007 an area similar to that of the Highland Council's Caithness management area was divided between three new wards electing councillors by the single transferable vote system of election, which is designed to produce a form of proportional representation. One ward elects four councillors. Each of the other two elects three councillors. Also, the council's eight management areas were abolished, in favour of three new corporate management areas, with Caithness becoming a ward management area within the council's new Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross operational management area, which covers seven of the council's 22 new wards. The boundaries of the Caithness ward management area are not exactly those of the former Caithness management area, but they do include the village of Reay.

The ward management area is one of five within the corporate management area and consists of three wards, the Landward Caithness ward, the Thurso ward and the Wick ward. Each of the other ward management areas within the corporate management area consists of a single ward.

Community councils, 1975 to present (2007)

Although created under local government legislation (the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973) community councils have no statutory powers or responsibilities and are not a tier of local government. They are however the most local tier of statutory representation.

Under the 1973 Act, district councils were obliged to implement community council schemes. The Caithness district scheme was adopted in 1975, dividing the area of the district between 12 community councils.

Statutory status for community councils was continued under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994, and the Caithness scheme is now the responsibility of the Highland Council.

At present, 2007, one of the Caithness community councils is moribund, due to lack of nomination of candidates for election to the council.

Constituency

The Caithness constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain (1708 to 1801) and the Parliament of the United Kingdom (1801 to 1918) represented essentially the county from 1708 to 1918. At the same time however, the county town of Wick was represented as a component of Tain Burghs until 1832 and of Wick Burghs until 1918.

Between 1708 and 1832 the Caithness constituency was one of the Buteshire and Caithness alternating constituencies: one constituency elected a Member of Parliament (MP) to one parliament and then the other elected an MP to the next. Between 1832 and 1918 it was a separate constituency, electing an MP to every parliament.

In 1918 the Caithness constituency and Wick were merged into the then new constituency of Caithness and Sutherland. In 1997 Caithness and Sutherland was merged into Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

The Scottish Parliament constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross was created in 1999 and now has boundaries slightly different from those of the House of Commons constituency.

The modern constituencies may be seen as more sub-divisions of the Highland area than as representative of counties (and burghs). For its own purposes, however, the Highland Council uses more conservative sub-divisions, with names which refer back to the era of district councils and, in some cases, county councils.

In the Scottish Parliament Caithness is represented also as part of the Highlands and Islands electoral region.

See also

Local media

Newspapers

The John O'Groat Journal and The Caithness Courier are weekly newspapers published by Scottish Provincial Press Limited[5] trading as North of Scotland Newspapers[6] and using offices in Union Street, Wick(Public reception, however, is via Cliff Road.) and Olrig Street, Thurso.

News coverage tends to concentrate on the former counties of Caithness and Sutherland. The John O'Groat Journal is normally published on Fridays and The Caithness Courier is normally published on Wednesdays.

Historically, they have been independent newspapers, with the Groat as a Wick-centred paper and the Courier as a Thurso-centred paper. Even now, the Groat is archived in the public library in Wick, while the Courier is similarly archived in the library in Thurso.

Radio

Caithness FM has been broadcasting since 1993.[7]

Websites

Various community organisations, including Caithness Arts,[8] Castletown and District Community Council[9] and Castletown Heritage Society,[10] maintain their own websites, as do the trusts that run the [[Castle of Mey[11]]] and Castle Sinclair Girnigoe[12].

The Caithness Community Web Site [13], established in 1998, hosts a number of other sites. Caithness.org includes a great many photographs, news and coverage of Local Galas, and makes available archives of its News front page back to August 2001.

Notes and references

  1. ^ The Cait element of Caithness is Norn, and may be read as meaning Horn (or Nose) of Cait. The Gaelic name, Gallaibh, means land of the Norse (or of the foreigner). The Cait element of Caithness is represented as Cat in Cataibh, the Gaelic name for Sutherland.
  2. ^ a b Ordnance Surveys:
    • Towns and villages:
      • Berriedale
      • Burnside
      • Castletown
      • Dunnet
      • Halkirk
      • Haster
      • John o' Groats
      • Latheron
      • Reay
      • Thurso
      • Watten
      • Wick
    • Topographical features:
      • Morven
  3. ^ Jamieson 1879, Grant and Dixon 1921, SND Vol. I 1946 etc. etc.
  4. ^ Boundary changes as described in Boundaries of Counties and Parishes in Scotland, Hay Shennan, 1892
  5. ^ Scottish Provincial Press Limited website
  6. ^ North of Scotland Newspapers website
  7. ^ Caithness FM website
  8. ^ Caithness Arts website
  9. ^ http://www.castletown.info/ Castletown and District Community Council website]
  10. ^ [http://www.castletownheritage.co.uk/ Castletown Heritage Society
  11. ^ [http://www.castleofmey.org.uk/ Castle of Mey website
  12. ^ [http://www.castlesinclairgirnigoe.org/ Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Caithness website
  13. ^ http://www.caithness.org/ Caithness Community Web Site

See also

Wikipedia articles

External pages


This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Caithness. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

This article uses material from the "Caithness" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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