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History of the Parish of Banchory-Devenick
Estate and Village of Potlethen


This estate, which embraces the village of Portlethen, comprises 720 acres, and was formerly comprehended in the Barony of Findon. It is situated on the coast, south of Findon, from which it is divided by a deep ravine and small rivulet. According to “an old writer,” cited in the Book of Bon-accord, Portlethen is more correctly “ Port-Leviathan, so called, by reason of certain whales that came ashore there.”

In the middle of the fifteenth century the lands were owned by David Menzies, burgess of Aberdeen, who is described in Wilson’s Aberdeen as “a person of great affluence.” In 1424 Aberdeen, together with Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee, became bound as security to the English for the due payment of “forty thousand pounds of good and lawful money of England, to be paid in yearly sums of ten thousand marks till the whole was discharged,” as ransom for James I. after his eighteen years confinement in England. Menzies, from his influential position, was selected as one of the hostages for Aberdeen, and as such, it is believed he was for a time resident in England. In 1459, he granted an annual annuity of four pounds payable from these lands to Lawrence Pyot, archdeacon of Aberdeen.

In 1618 Sir William Forbes, of Monymusk and Banchory, had a charter of Portlethen, in favour of himself and Elizabeth Wishart of Pitarrovv, his spouse.

A few years later the estate passed to Robert Buchan, who built the house of Portlethen. He was the son of Gilbert Buchan of Dorbshill, and married Marjorie Patrie, daughter of Hendrie Patrie, burgess of Aberdeen.1 During his ownership the struggle of the Covenanters raged with fierceness, and he suffered severely at their hands. Spalding says that “with his second sone efter his houss and ground wes plunderit, he takis the sea, and so ilk man schiftit for himself, pairt by sea and pairt be land as thay thocht best,” In 1677 George Buchan, then resident in Lublin, in the kingdom of Poland, as only surviving son, proved his descent before a Bailie Court in Aberdeen.

The next proprietor was Robert Patrie, who was Provost of Aberdeen on several occasions between 1664 and 1674. He received the honour of knighthood at the hands of Charles II., ?nd married Anna, second daughter of Sir William Forbes, first Baronet of Craigyvar. He is said to have been the representative of the ancient family of Glenavon in Banffshire. His arms were Azure, a bend between a stag's head, erased, in chief, and three cross crosslets fitchte, in base argent, on a chief of the sccond, three escallops, gules. Crest—An eagle soaring aloft, looking at the sun in splendour, proper. Motto—Fidi sed vide (Trust but observe).* Burns says “The lass that made the bed for me” was composed on an amour of Charles II., when skulking in the north about Aberdeen, in the time of the usurpation. He formed une petite affaire with a daughter of the house of Portlethen, who was “the lass that made the bed for him.”

“Her hair was like the links o’ gowd,
Her teeth were like the ivorie ;
Her cheeks like lilies dipt in wine,
The lass that made the bed for me.”

Facsimile of the Signature of Provost Patrie.

Patrie’s daughter, Elizabeth, became the wife of Robert Farquhar of Mounie, who received the honour of knighthood at the hands of Charles II. in 1651, whilst his sister, Elizabeth, was married to James Chalmers, second son of William Chalmers, the first legally established minister at Boyndie after the Reformation. He was first, professor of philosophy in Marischal College, afterwards minister of New Machar, thereafter of Cullen, and subsequently of Paisley. It is recorded that during his incumbency at Cullen, and when Cromwell’s soldiers were in possession of the town, he one Sunday preached such a fiery and pointed sermon on Jotham’s parable— Judges, 9th chapter—that the soldiers who were in church became indignant, and as a revenge carried him prisoner to Elgin, where he was confined for some time. He left two sons—James, who became minister of Kirkpatrick-Fleming; and Charles, who succeeded his uncle, Provost Patrie, in the proprietorship of Portlethen. The latter studied for the law, and passed W.S. in 1704; but not liking the legal profession he gave it up, and joined the Scots Guards. He attained to the rank of captain, but sold his commission in 1714, when he went to reside in Aberdeen. In the following year, on the outbreak of the Stuart rising under the Earl of Mar, he threw in his lot with the insurgents, and joined their army. He took part in the battle of Sheriffmuir, at which he was mortally wounded, his remains being afterwards interred in Dunblane, in the burying-place of Chisholm of Cromlicks, within the church there. He married first, Jean, daughter of Alexander Boog of Burnhouses in Berwickshire, and secondly, Helen, daughter of Bishop Young of Edinburgh, by both of whom he had issue.

The estate passed by public sale into the possession of Alexander Thomson, advocate and town clerk of Aberdeen. He was married to Helen Gregory, who died in 1711. His daughter, Helen, became the wife of George Skene of Rubislaw. In 1751 the estate was owned by James Thomson, advocate in Aberdeen, after which it passed into the hands of the Auldjo family, one of whom was for sometime Provost of Aberdeen.

Facsimile of the Signature of Provost Auldjo.

The estate was afterwards broken up, part being acquired by John Yeats, and part by the family of Gammel. The portion acquired by Yeats afterwards passed to the University of Aberdeen.

It is worth noting that John Burness, the author of the interesting “ Thrummy Cap,” whilst following the calling of a book canvasser, perished in a snow-storm at a spot near the church of Portlethen, on the night of 12th January, 1824. His body was found four days later by some farm servants, who were casting the road of snow ; and it was afterwards interred in the Spital Cemetery, Aberdeen.

Within the last three years, funds were collected towards defraying the cost of erecting a public hall, which is intended to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee, as also to supply a much felt want in the district. On the evening of 12th August, 1889, the foundation stone was formally laid by Mrs. George J. Walker, Hillside House, whose husband designed the building. It is to be 70 feet in length by 35 feet in breadth, and although of plain appearance will be substantial throughout.

A suitable school was erected for the accommodation of the district by Dr. Morison, who also mortified 200 towards the support of the teacher. The Rev. William Paterson, schoolmaster of Nigg, also bequeathed 200 for the same object. There have been several excellent teachers in office including Charles A. Ewen, David Silver, John Watt, and Charles Meston. Mr. Watt, who some time ago had the degree of D.D. conferred upon him, is now minister of Anderston Church, Glasgow.

During the present century the fishing industry has largely extended. In 1792 only three large boats and one yawl fished from the village. There are now fourteen boats employing seventy-six hands constantly engaged.


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