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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter III.—Population


OF the population, the first authentic account was given by Dr Webster in 1755, who made it 1950 souls; but according to Mr Garden's statement it was in 1774 only 1500. In the old statistical account of the parish by the Rev. Robert Foote, he states it as 2000 in 1791. By the first Government census in 1801 it was 1794, and by the next, in 1811, it was only 1562. Hence it appears that in the twenty years from 1791 to 1811 a great decrease of population took place, viz., from 2000 to 1562. The first two or three years of the century were years of dearth; food and provisions were at a ransom. Oatmeal was sold at 4s. a peck, or 64s. per boll. Many of the people were reduced to beggary, and scores of poor people were relieved by the Kirk Session. Those dear times no doubt tended to reduce the population, which however must have been abnormally high in the earlier years of the period, when Lord Adam Gordon employed a large number of workmen on The Burn estate at the building of The Burn House, the trenching of the surrounding moorland, the planting of his woods, the formation of roads, and of the beautiful walks along the rocky banks of the river. The following table shows the total population of the parish, and the number residing in the village, according to the census returns from 1821 to 1891 inclusive:—

From the foregoing, it may be noticed that in the fourth •decade of the century there is a marked and irregular increase •of 157 in the population, raising the total to what it was in 1801. To account for this increase, only one cause can be assigned, viz., that during these years, on the •estate and policies of Fasque, extensive improvements, the formation of the lake and other important works, giving employment to many additional labourers, were carried on by the late Sir John Gladstone upon his newly .acquired property. Sir John had made Fasque his principal family residence, and a large accession of servants .and employees increased the population.

In the Balfour and Newdosk section, now disjoined from Edzell and annexed to Fettercairn, the census of 1801 gave 107 souls, and in 1891 only 45; which, if added to the above 1376, makes the total population 1421. In the above enumerations of the village, Leith, West Burnside, and the Free Church manse are included. At this date (1899) there remain of the 1741 people in 1851 only about 4 males and 7 females in the village; and about 17 males and 19 females in the country district of the parish. •Of every 100 persons in 1801, 46 were males and 54 females; in 1831, 47 were males and 53 females; and much the same proportions appear to hold till 1861, when the males were to the females as 48 to 52; in 1871, 48.5 to 51.5; in 1881, 49.1 to 50.9; and in 1891, 50.75 to 49.25. These figures indicate a steady increase of males and a corresponding decrease of females, which may be accounted for by the gradual change that has taken place in the conditions of agricultural employment. Owing to the introduction of improved machinery and implements for farm work, fewer women are now employed. In former times women for outdoor work were hired at the half-yearly term markets; but now the market hiring of women has ceased and they are engaged only for domestic service, either near home or in the neighbouring towns ; while not a few have gone to work in mills and manufactories. If the relative numbers of males and females in the village, with the 21 males and 27 females in the hamlet of Old Mains at last census, be omitted from the above calculations, it will be found that in the rural parts of the parish the percentage of males to females is as 53*6 to 464. And it may be taken for granted that the same changes are taking place in other rural parishes. For the forty years (1855-95) -during which the writer was Registrar, the highest number of births in a year was 62 and the lowest 37; of deaths, 37 and 10; and of marriages, 16 and 5.

The following table contains a summary of statistics brought out by the census of the parish (excluding Newdosk) in 1891, which may be of use to future Registrars and enumerators :—

The most striking fact in the foregoing table is that in the Dalladies and Drumhendry division, a purely farming district, the males are 78 and the females 45—a fact which proves so far that females, as above stated, are less and less required for farm labour.

Mr Foote, in his Statistical Account (written a hundred years ago), gives the numbers employed in certain trades, and these are presumed to include journeymen and apprentices as well as masters, and are as follows:— Handloom weavers, 50; shoemakers, 25; tailors, 16; wrights, 18; blacksmiths, 10; and millers, 10. There are now no handloom weavers: John Caithness, who died a few years ago, was the last; the shoemakers are only three or four; the tailors also three or four; the blacksmiths have not decreased; and the millers are only one-half the former number. Mr Foote states the number of tenant farmers as 170; the number now is about 60, of whom at least seven are tradesmen with crofts or small holdings.

Of the male population employed as farm servants, about 105 are householders, and from 15 to 20 are young men lodged for the most part in farm bothies. The number of male heads of households in other callings and trades is about 115. The manufactures in the parish are few and not very important. The largest is that of Fettercairn Distillery at Nethermill, which employs ten or twelve men. It was founded in 1824 by a company, with the late James Durie as manager, who, after a time, acquired the concern, and carried it on successfully till his death in 1854. His son David succeeded, and extended the business till October, 1889, when the premises were destroyed by fire. From its well-known quality the genuine "Fettercairn" commanded the highest price in the home and foreign markets. In 1891 a joint-stock company renewed the buildings, fitting them with machinery and apparatus capable of greatly increased production.

For thirty years previous to 1875 a successful pork-curing business was carried on by the late James Dakers, and since then, with the exception of a small woollen factory at Arnhall and a freestone quarry at Caldcotes on the estate of Fasque, the chief sources of employment are to be found in agricultural pursuits. In former times the parish contained five or six inns or ale-houses, of which the Ramsay Arms Hotel, the Forbes Arms Hotel, and the Red Lion Inn were in the village. The only one now remaining is the Ramsay Arms, owned and enlarged by the Edzell Hotel Company.


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