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 17½ ft.
long, 14½ 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
" 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
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
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
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
"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,
"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.