Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

Name: Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673  
Title: Nova Moraviae Descriptio. Vera Sovtherlandiae Chorographica Descriptio  
Pagination: 106-107
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Translation of text:

but far larger, seed in clusters at the top of the stem; I have not seen the flowers; it never rises from the water or sees pure air; the local people call it swan-flower; botanists have not yet taken note of it, as with innumerable other plants native to this climate; swans cut it and glady feed on it, hence their great familiarity with this lake. If you now look at the city, there is no elegance to the houses, none of the culture that such a blessed region demands, which plainly proves the inhabitants’ sloth; but once inside nothing will be lacking on the table, but everything bountiful and of the best quality. A friendly people, merry, open, and lavish with food and especially drink.

There is a story of Thomas Randolph, the bravest Earl of this region: on his return from war he met a great line of widows of this city, whose husbands had fallen in battle, bewailing their widowhood and destitution; taking pity on them, he decreed that land around the city should be divided into sections, which later and today are called eighths, not from their number, for they are many, but that was the name given; he decreed further that in future the widows of citizens should have the use for life of those parts, of which their husbands had died as possessors; this too is still maintained.

As one goes above Elgin, Forres and Nairn, into the interior, hills are met with and a more withered region, not comparable to the lower: this they call the brae of Moray, that is, higher Moray; as one proceeds further, woodland, wilderness, mountains, and grassy valleys are seen.

There remain three sub-regions, Stratherrick, Strathnairn and Strathdearn (for we put off Strathspey to another point); there is no reason to tarry in them. Stratherrick (Strath Arkeg, or Strath Eriggeg, or as it is pronounced Strath Herrig), is located by a small river of that name, which discharges into Loch Ness. It is totally rough, marked with lochs, streams and mountains, inhabited in villages; it belongs to Baron Fraser of Lovat and his followers.

Strathnairn is set on better soil on the course of the River Nairn, and is owned by various lords.

Strathdearn lies along the Findhorn, quite cultivated, and filled with estates and villages. In it is Loch Moy, and on an island there the house of the chief of Mackintosh, a name which means son of the Thane. These Thanes were in olden times the prefects of regions, and leaders of the highest nobility. In their place about the time of Malcolm III succeeded Earls, a kind of dignity previously unknown here. This chief is the head of a very old and wide-spread family, called Clan Chattan. This clan is scattered over this area, and also in many parts of lower Moray. A branch of them also holds Badenoch, under the name of Clan Pherson, and also upper Mar under the name of Farquharsons.

The legal prefecture of Elgin and Forres belongs hereditarily to the family of Dunbars, which has wide lordship in places around Forres; they trace their origin to the Earls of Moray of that surname (who died out long since). Around Elgin and its vicinity the family of Inneses (rival of the Dunbars), of which the head is Baron Innes, has its seat.

The title of Earls of Moray has often found different homes, so that its history is uncertain and confused. It was held by Thomas Randolph, the nephew of King Robert I from his sister, a man to be mentioned favourably, who after the death of his uncle ruled the kingdom under the title of regent with great loyalty and bravery. Later it passed to the Dunbars. The Douglases held it around the time of James II, at some time it fell to the treasury. At some time the Earls of Huntly gained right in it for themselves, of which they were deprived by Mary of Guise, dowager of the kingdom; her daughter Queen Mary presented her brother James, afterwards regent, with this Earldom: his most illustrious and noble great-grandson now happily enjoys the titles and revenues of this Earldom.

from a most valuable Manuscript belonging to Lord ROBERT GORDON,
Tutor of Sutherland & King’s Vice-Chamberlain. (Section Note)

This whole province is abundantly productive in flocks, herds, crops and fruits, and the other necessities of human life. Fishing here is most profitable. As for its location, all who have hitherto undertaken its description have made far-reaching errors. For Sutherland to the east and north-east is bounded by Caithness and the German Sea; to the west by Assynt; on the north (since Strathnaver is now part of Sutherland) it is pounded by the Ocean; and on the south it has partly Ross and partly the German Sea.

It is divided from Caithness by the burn Aldi-tuder[?] and Creag Thoraraidh; this mountain stretches from the Southern sea to the Deucaledonian Ocean. Sutherland is also separated from Strathnaver by certain mountains extending from east to west: but since Strathnaver has now been annexed by Royal charter to Sutherland, we can truly say that the limit of Sutherland on the north is the Ocean. This province is also divided from Assynt by three lochs, Gorm Loch, Fionn Loch and Loch an Eircill, and by the mountains Glas Bheinn and Ben More. From Ross it is divided by the Rivers Portnaculter and Oykel. All the fields therefore irrigated by the River Cassley as far as Aultnacallagach (1) and Ledmore are in Assyint, and whatever pays tithes to the parish of Criech belongs to the Earldom of Sutherland.

This province was called in the beginning Cattei and its inhabitants Cattegh: from the Cattei of Moray, who emigrated here from Germany. For so they are named today in the Scottish Gaelic language (which the inhabitants still use). Later however it was named Sutherland.

Once this region comprised that whole area lying between Portnaculter and Duncansby and divided by Creag Thoraraidh, which runs over a long area from one sea to the other. Now that county which now enjoys the title of Caithness, once had its name from the promontory of the province of Cattei, which in the native tongue they call ‘ness’, so that Cattey-ness is exactly the same as promontory of Cattei, or Sutherland; this promontory extends from the eastern side of Creag Thoraraidh. The bishopric of Caithness undoubtedly first took this title from Cattei: for this diocese includes in its ambit not only Caithness, but also Sutherland, Strathnaver and Assynt, all of which were formerly known under the one name of Cattei. The bishopric therefore enjoyed the title rather of the whole of Cattei than of that part and promontory of Caithness. Further the cathedral church with the houses of the canons and the episcopal seat still exists, not in Caithness but in Dornoch, a town of Sutherland. So in the course of time this province of Cattei, the old name being neglected, began to be called by the title of Sutherland. Boyce in his History derives Cattei-ness from the word Catus (the proper name of a village) and Ness, i.e. promontory. Certainly the ambiguity of these words Cattei and Cattei-ness, together with ignorance of the Scottish Gaelic language, has given rise to quite a few errors in naming these provinces.

Today Sutherland is divided into ten parishes, where there are the same number of parish churches (apart from innumerable chapels): Dornoch (or Durnogh), Criech, Lairg, Rogart, Culmailly, Clyne, Loth, Kildonan, Durness and Farr. This last is in Strathnaver.

There are in this county three woods of better class, namely [?] Dirimoir, Dirichat and Dirimeanigh; besides various woodlands and parks shaded with trees, very suitable for conserving and nourishing wild animals, and given up to hunting, full of stags, deer, wolves, foxes, wildcats, otters, and every kind of woodland bird. In this province there is a kind of bird not dissimilar to a parrot - the inhabitants call it ‘knag’ - which each year with its beak digs out a nest for itself in the trunk of an oak. Here there are all kinds of hawks. There is no stream in these woods which does not supply innumerable shoals of every kind of fish

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