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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XXIII.—Churches and Churchyards


ON the extreme end of the sandy ridge or moraine, extending northwards to the Townhead and Nether-mill, are situated the Parish Church and Churchyard. When this elevated spot was first made a God's acre none can tell. But like many other places of worship and sepulture throughout the country, it was chosen because of its dry and elevated position, and it was probably at first the site of a Druidical temple. When in the fifth century St. Palladius introduced Christianity into the Mearns and planted a church at Fordoun, other places would come under the influence of his mission, and Fettercairn too-would have its church. But for the thousand years that follow, nothing is known till, in 1450, it is stated that the Kirklands of Fettercairn were held by a member of the Ogston family who owned lands in the parish. It is very probable that the kirk fabric which then did duty was that which underwent extensive repairs and improvements in 1788, and which in 1803 was pulled down to give place to the present edifice.

In Mr Foote's Account of the Parish he says, "The church is a very fine old house, too narrow for its length,. as most of these old kirks are." It may therefore be-supposed to have been one of the pre-Keformation kirks which, in rural parishes, were long, narrow buildings-On its north side was a small recess called the Balbegno aisle, and underneath the same was the Wood burial vault, still entire, only that its stair access is now by an opening with a cover recently formed outside the front wall of the church. The old church stood farther south > and, whether by accident or design, Mr Foote's monument covers the spot formerly occupied by his pulpit. The Wood vault is 17 ft. long, 14 ft. broad, and 7 ft. high to the crown of the arch. The two side walls and the inner end wall are of plain rubble, and the arched roof of freestone. In the roof, at regular distances, are inserted five iron hooks for suspending the lamps required at burials, and, in accordance with the old custom, to have lights burning for a stated time over the dead in their last resting-place. The coffins were laid upon the earth floor of the vault. In 1886, when it was opened up near the pulpit, in order to lay a foundation for the new organ, six oak coffins, three to three lengthwise, in a crumbling condition, lay across at the far end. They were no doubt those of the Ogilvy family of Balbegno, whose mortcloth entries appear, from time to time during the last century,. in the Kirk Session Records. All older remains of the Middletons and, older still, of the Woods had disappeared,, and had likely returned to dust, or were covered over at the building of the new church in 1803, the new foundation of which interfered with graves and with the " Bell hillock,r and its graves at the west end of the old church. It had to be levelled; its human remains and the coffins removable were taken and unceremoniously thrown into the vault. This accounted for the great mass of earth, bones and debris afterwards found covering the stair and closing up the entrance. Stranger tramps who died in the parish were interred in the "Bell hillock." One day, at the work of levelling, James Lyall, the beadle, had a large coffin on his barrow, destined for the vault. He was hailed by the workmen, and asked whose coffin he had now. "King James's," he replied, "and the Auld beggar has a gey weight." Of the many strolling characters of those days, the coffin contained the mortal remains of one who had been well known, and who, probably brain-affected, had assumed the title of King James, at a time when the adventures of James the old Pretender were -often narrated. Or it may be that "King James" was a nickname, for nicknames were then but too common. To -enlarge the area of the church, a north transept was added, in 1838, by the three principal and resident heritors of Fettercaini, Fasque, and The Burn estates. At the same time the tower and clock with pinnacles and spire, 100 feet in height, were erected by the late Sir John Gladstone, from s. design by Henderson, Edinburgh. A few years afterwards two of the four pinnacles were blown down by a wind .storm, but were re-erected by the heritors in 1859. Each pinnacle weighed about a ton; and again one of these fell during a gale in February, 1864, and crashed through the roof and ceiling into the body of the church. Another fell on the night of the Tay Bridge storm, in December, 1879, And likewise damaged the roof. Rain, frost, and wind split .and displaced a portion of the third; and in order to save from more accidents, it and the one remaining were condemned and hewn down, thus leaving the spire shorn of much of its original beauty of outline. In old times the church bell was suspended from a tree or the stem of a tree upon the "Bell-hillock." The old bell having become useless, a new one was got which bears upon its waist: "J. Dickson & Co., Montrose, 1821." A writer, on the Church Bells of Kincardineshire, describes it as being in shape like an inverted basin and not quite circular; with a row of large, clear acanthus leaves above the sound-bow; but unless he be a prejudiced scribbler, it is rather humbling to accept his statement that "Marykirk Free Church disputes with Fettercairn the unenviable distinction of being the possessor of the worst bell in the county !" In 1859, when the ground floor and old-fashioned pews were renewed, the earth underneath was found to be largely mixed with decayed pieces of bone; which showed that the old practice of burying within churches had there also been observed.

In the churchyard are three burial enclosures belonging respectfully to the proprietors of Fasque, Balmain, and Arnhall. The first of these was constructed by Sir John Gladstone, and contained a vault now disused and demolished since 1847, when Fasque Chapel and vault were erected. In the Balmain enclosure many members of the Ramsay family were buried, but no stone was raised nor line carved to preserve their memory. In the Arnhall enclosure the only interment, so far as known, was that, as before stated, of John Shand, in 1825. However dear to many & heart are many of the names recorded on the various tombstones, it is only the ancient memorials of men and women long departed, and whom "the place knows no more," that can here be given. The most of them were copied by the writer, in 1870, for Jervise's Epitaphs from Burial Grounds in the North-East of Scotland. Form and fashion in tombstones, as in other things, have changed from time to time. Those of the seventeenth century were flat slabs, few in number; of the eighteenth, table-shaped erections and small sized headstones with elaborately carved death emblems; and of the nineteenth, plainer but larger headstones, obelisks and crosses. Granite headstones are now the order; and the large number of these in the churchyard have all been placed within the last forty years. A carefully drawn plan of the graveyard and its layers, for the guidance of the sexton, was made by the late Sir John S. Forbes; and a few years ago, at the proposal and under the superintendence of the Rev. William Anderson, the surface was levelled, and the old flat stones-and the displaced table ones were taken for preservation and set up against the end walls of the church and the-inside of the Arnhall enclosure. The oldest existing one is a slab that lay flat in front of the church, having round its margin the following inscription :—

" Heir . lays .... ithful . brother . Alexander .... Ros -
MERCHANT . AND . BURGES . OF . DUNDIE . QuHA . DEPAIRT . . . . E .
lyf . 2 . Mai . Anno . 1615 . of . his . age . 88."

In 1731 a David Austine in Bogmill was summoned before the Kirk Session for removing this stone and defiantly claiming a right to the ground.

The next is an ornamental slab with representations of a wright's mallet, chisel, compass and square, &c, with the initials J. R., CM., D. R. It bears this inscription, in capitals, round the margin :—

"Hie jacet pius et honestus Jacobus Rochus qui commutavit lucem, in Anno Domini 1642. His ag. 43. y." Or (Here lies a pious and honest man, James Roch, who died in 1642, aged 43 years. )

Upon another flat stone :—

"Here resteth in the Lord, William Christy, who departed this lyf, ninth .... 1677 .... his spouse Margaret Davidson,. who departed this lyf ... . and 79 her age."

Upon a flat stone in the south-west side:— "Here rests in the Lord, Iohn Wallentine, late Mosgrive in Arnhall, who departed this lyfe, 23rd Febryr, 1679, and his age 65-years. And his spous Agnes Lowe, who departed this lyf the 12th. June, 1682, and hire age 68 years :—

''My parents here in hope doth rest, Again to rise, and be for ever blest; .... live in hope here to lye, And rise and reing with them eternaly."

One of the many carvings upon this stone is a human hand, upon a shield, holding a coil of rope, and on the left a, short pole or stake. These objects referred to the occupation of the "mossgrive"—the rope for measuring the moss, and the pole for marking the boundaries. At the same period the peat-mosses of Arnhall are noticed among the possessions of the laird, Charles, fourth Earl of Southesk.

In front of the Kamsay enclosure stands a line of headstones marking the graves of a generation or two of Austines, a name now extinct in the parish. The oldest is a flat stone, now removed, with this inscription :

"Hear rests in the Lord William Avstin, hvsband of Isobel, Gentleman, who depe . . . the 30 of Ivne anno 1685, and of age 68." " My glas is rvn, and thine rvnneth ; Remember death, for jvdgmenfc cometh."

A table-shaped tombstone west of the latter recorded the death of John Kinloch in 1690, aged 60; of his first wife, Jean Kinloch; and of his second, Elizabeth Blacklaws, who died in the same year, aged 66. The Kinlochs were tenants of Meiklestrath down to 1803. Upon a brass plate sunk into the same stone is the name of James Kinloch of Wester Balmanno, who had been for seventeen years in Jamaica. He died in 1831, aged 78. An adjoining headstone stands to the memory of George Kinloch, Deputy Judge Advocate and Master in Chancery in Jamaica, who died at Stonehaven in 1802, aged 60, and of his spouse, Susannah Wigglesworth, who died at Edinburgh in 1841, aged 81. One of their children, George Ritchie Kinloch, principal keeper in Edinburgh of the General Register of Deeds and Probative Writs, published a volume of Ancient Scottish Ballads in 1827. Upon the grave marked by the headstone of James Nicholson, parish schoolmaster (1817-1843), lay a stone inscribed as follows:—

"Under this stone are reposited the bodys of David Mores,. aged 80, departed this life May 5, 1696, with his wife Isobel Mitchell, who died March 7, 1694, aged 74; as also their daughter Elizabeth Mores.

"Under this stone the man and wife do ly,
What was one flesh, we but one dust now spy;
Their daughter also lodgeth in this grave;
So far three bodys, we one ashes have.
The great Eternal Three and One with ease,
Will from one dust all the three bodys raise,
Which winged to the celestial joys above
Shall never cease to sing their praise and love."

These verses were probably written by an Alexander Mores or Morrice, a student of Marischal College, supposed to be a son of the above David Mores, and who was-appointed schoolmaster of Fettercairn in 1674.

On the south-west side, a small sized headstone, elaborately carved, bears the following:—

"Here lys Margaret Dickie, sometime spouse to James Law in-Chapel ton of Arnhall, who dyed, May the 28, 1737, aged 76 years;. and those her children, Robert, Janet, Tsobel Laws, who dyed in their nonage."

Upon the reverse of this stone is a representation of our first parents, and the figure of a serpent at the forbidden tree, with the couplet:—

"Adam and Eve by eating the forbidden tree
Brought all mankind to sin and misery."

On the next stone the inscription relates to a daughter of James Law and Margaret Dickie, who, with her husband, as aforestated, kept the brewhouse of Sandyford :—

"Erected, 1792, by James Gibb in Mill of Arnhall and Robert Gibb in Drumhendry, in memory of their parents John Gibb and Hellen Law in Chapelton of Arnhall. John Gibb, died, 19 March, 1755, aged 55. Hellen Law, died, 17 June, 1769, aged 62. And George, son of James Gibb, died, June, 1789, at the age of 14."

Upon a table stone, in local parlance—Kirky Croll's—is, the following:—

"Under this stone is interred the corpse of Alexander Croll,. who sometime lived in Kirkhill of Fettercairn, and departed this-life, Dec. 25th day, 1747, aged 45 years. As also the corpse of" Margaret Smith, his spouse, who died, the 21st of April, 1756,, aged 50 years.

"The tyrant, Death, spares neither age nor sex,
The gayist mark it haughtily affects;
Parents from children, Husbands from their wives
He often tears, when most they wish their lives;
Learn then to fix on nothing here below,
But on thy God, he'll Heaven on thee bestow."

John Smith, V.S., Fettercairn, is fourth in descent from a brother of Margaret Smith.

A flat stone now set against the church wall has a Latin inscription, supposed to be written by a member of the family, James Peat, a licentiate of the church, who for a year or two acted as substitute teacher of the school and Session-clerk in the parish. Mr William Peat, farmer, Pittarrow, is a descendant of this family. The following is a free translation of the inscription :—

"Here lie the remains of Eliza Peat, who died, 2nd August, 1779, in her 19th year; and of Alexander Peat, who died, 25th January, 1781, in his 81st year. This monument was erected in memory of James Peat, who died in 1750, in his 20th year, grandson of Alexander Peat, late in Bogmill, who also rests in this tomb. Death draweth near to all.""

Another flat stone, with a Latin inscription, and dated 1753, lay at the east end of the church. The inscription may thus be rendered :—

"In this tomb are laid the remains of Alexander Scott, A.M., a most distinguished and learned professor of the more liberal and other Arts and Sciences, especially Mathematics. He was born at Nethermill of Balmain, 14th December, 1708, and died • at Bankhead of Birse, 18th February, 1751, in the 43rd year of his age."

He was a son of Alexander Scott, tenant of Nethermill,. and an elder in the parish. He appears to have been the first teacher appointed to the school at Finzean, founded .and endowed about 1727 by Dr. Gilbert Ramsay, Rector •of Christ Church, Barbadoes, who also left 500 for the poor of Birse, his native parish; money for the building -of a bridge over the Feugh at Whitestones; and mortified 4800 under the patronage of Sir Alexander Ramsay of Balmain and his heirs for Bursaries and a Chair of Oriental Languages at Marischal College, Aberdeen. It may here be 'stated that the above interesting memorial has disappeared. Some time, about twenty years ago, the ground was used for burial by certain parties claiming kinship with the Scotts; and they, when setting up a headstone of their own, carried off the old stone, which, although .afterwards diligently enquired for, has never been discovered.

Within a railing, in front of the church, stands an obelisk, which bears upon its west side:—

"Erected by the Parish of Fettercairn in memory of the Rev. Robert Foote, their late pastor, as a mark of their esteem for an honest man and an able and zealous minister of the Gospel. He died on July 1, 1809, in the 67th year of his age, and the 41st of his ministry."

Upon the north side panel is inscribed:—

"Here is interred Jane Smith, widow of the Rev. Robert Foote, who died in 1842, aged 83 years."

Upon the east panel are recorded the deaths of four of their family, and also upon the west one, that of a son, Archibald, merchant in Montrose, who died in 1867, aged 71. He amassed a large fortune, of which, it is said, 1000 was to be paid by his executors to the Free Church of his native parish. A correspondence with the managers took place, which resulted in keeping back the money.

A headstone, on the right of the walk up to the church, hears the following:—

"In memory of James Smith, Flaxdresser, who died in 1816, aged 86. While in life he acted as Father to the Poor, and with the consent of his spouse, devoted nearly all his property for their benefits, by appointing it to become at the survivor's death a permanent fund for their aid. Erected by his widow, Isobel Taylor, who died at Montrose, 18 May, 1824, aged 71."

A headstone, near the north-east corner of the kirkyard, erected by the late Sir Thomas Gladstone, bears:—

"Sacred to the memory of Sandy Junor, a kind-hearted, simple-minded, upright man, and a faithful friend. Poor himself, his heart and hand were ever open to the wants of others. Born at Fortrose, he died near Fettercairn, 27 November, 1863, aged 60; deeply regretted by all classes."

Sandy Junar's Well, on the Cairn o' Mount, so welcome to travellers, was his handiwork. His object in constructing the fountain is thus told upon a polished granite panel fixed in the structure:—"This fountain was erected in memory of Captain J. N. Gladstone, R.N., who died in 1863, by his grateful friend, Sandy Junor." The labour of collecting and rolling down, even with occasional help, the large quartz boulders off the hillside to form the sides of the fountain, overtaxed his strength and brought on the illness of which he died. At Fasque he was allowed to indulge his hobby of rearing trees from seed and working in the nursery. To be mementos of the marriage of the Prince of Wales, in March, 1863, he planted, at a few special places on the estate of Fasque, "a Prince and a Princess." As many of these as have grown must now be of large size; but where they are may not now be well known.

Within a railing, at the north-west corner of the church, stands a massive granite headstone, erected by the Rev. Adam Inch Ritchie, minister of the parish (1858-67), in memory of his wife, Marion Elizabeth Young, who died, 11th January, 1858.

Within the church are two mural tablets, one to the right and the other to the left of the pulpit. That on the left was erected by Sir Alexander E. Ramsay, Bart.:—

"In memory of Sir Alexander Ramsay, Bart, of Balmain, died, March 3rd, 1875, aged 61, and was interred in the cemetery, Cheltenham. Also of his mother, Jane, Lady Ramsay, daughter of Francis Russell, Esq. of Blackhall, died August 24th, 1819, aged 30."

The tablet on the right is of marble, and bears:—

"In memory of the Reverend Alexander Whyte, A.M., ordained to the ministry of this parish on 18th March, 1817, died on 11th January, 1858, aged 68. Erected by Parishioners."

His grave is marked by a headstone, with a Latin inscription, near the front wall of the church. It was erected by himself in memory of a brother David Whyte, surgeon, Montrose, who died in 1839, aged 39; and of a sister Ann Whyte, who died in 1842, aged 25.

A considerable number of monuments, though worthy of notice, are passed over, as casual references at least to some of them will be made in a future chapter.


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