PAROCHIAL REGISTERS. It has
been said that divines, lawyers and archaeologists are the only people who
regard the musty records of the past with a business-like and professional
interest. But all who take any interest in the history of their country, and
specially in that of their own locality, must feel doubly interested in the
time-worn books that record the names and deeds of those who fulfilled their
life-work in former generations. And from these documents much of the simple
life led by "the rude forefathers of the hamlet" can be recovered.
The oldest register book of
the Kirk Session begins with the induction of Mr Hercules Skinner, in 1669,
and ends in 1682. It contains a promiscuous record of baptisms, marriage
contracts, church collections, disbursements, and other incidental
proceedings, stated in a very brief and cursory manner. There is reason to
believe that an earlier record existed. In Sir John Clerk's Memoirs it is
stated that, "according to a Kirk Session Record now lost/' Bishop Forbes,
minister of Fettercairn, baptized a John Clerk on 22nd December, 1611. This
record may have shared the fate of the others, from 1682 to 1720, which were
lost in the fire at the schoolhouse in 1747. Those from 1720 to 1747 were
partially destroyed. One of the same so far tells the tale. A number of its
leaves are half consumed, and the parts remaining bear evidence of the fire.
The frequent changes of
schoolmasters and clerks which took place from 1737 to 1747 account for the
various styles of writing upon the portions rescued from the fire. From 1747
down to 1855, when the Registration Act came into operation, the births and
baptisms were fairly but not fully recorded in one volume after another, now
in the custody of the Registrar-General. Proclamations of Banns were not
regularly entered till 1816, when, according to a cash entry, a Register
book was procured. Whether this volume was kept, or what became of it,
nobody could tell the writer, when in 1852 he became session-clerk. Thus,
for the period from 1816 to 1850, no record of proclamations has been
preserved. The supposition is, that the volume in question was lent to some
Edinburgh lawyers, who in 1851 wanted extracts bearing upon the famous
Morgan succession case, and that inadvertently it was never returned.
John Morgan,(of Coates
Crescent, Edinburgh, son of Thomas Morgan, Brewer, Dundee, having amassed a
fortune in India, was, for his later years, under a Curator bonis, and died
in 1850, leaving money and property to the value of £100,000.
Two brothers, Alexauder and
James Morgan, natives of Fettercairn, came forward claiming heirship, on the
ground that they were cousins-german of the deceased, and against other
claimants alleging a kinship more remote. After a protracted trial in the
Court of Session, a verdict of not proven was given against all the
claimants, and the funds, according to an alternative wish of the deceased,
were set apart to found an institution—the Morgan Hospital, in Dundee.
Although the principal claimants in the lawsuits appeared under the names of
Alexander and James Morgan, their claims were really prosecuted by and at
the expense of a firm of solicitors in Sydney, Cape Breton, to whom their
prospects had been assigned in return for a yearly annuity of £100 to each
of the brothers, and of £60 per annum to each of their wives after them. As
the Court of Session rejected all the claims, the speculative Sydney
solicitors had not only the cost of their suit to pay, but also, for a
considerable time, the annuities of the two brothers; and they continued,
till a very recent date, to pay the annuity to a surviving widow, until her
death put an end to their rather unsuccessful speculation.
A register of births, from
1843 to 1855, was kept by the Free Church Session, and then handed over to
the writer as Registrar to be delivered to the Registrar-General under the
provisions of the new Registration Act. During the year 1855 the writer, in
compliance with the Act, recorded about 400 entries of births which had in
previous years been neglected.
No register of deaths had
ever been kept, other than a record of mort-cloth and tombstone charges
among other entries in the cash books of the Kirk Session.
The following entries,
amongst others in the older books, may be quoted, and Scots moneys stated in
In 1678 "George Allan and
William Coupar were delated for drinking and fighting on Sabbath."Rebuked
twice before the Congregation. "Collected 30/ for two merchants of Montrose
taken prisoners by the Turks. Given 6d. to two Glasgow * broken' merchants
suppliants. Given 1/ to George Blacklaw in Brunt-iesland (uplands of Dalally)
burnt with fire."
In 1680 "Isabel Mill and
Margaret Walker delated for shearing on the evening of the Lord's day."
Rebuked before the congregation on three successive Sabbaths. "Two men in
Fordoun parish delated for cursing and swearing." "1723. Given to Wm. Clark
for mending Wm. Smith's cloaths, 1d." "1729. The minister intimated that no
sturdy beggars or vagabonds be relieved or harboured during the sacrament
week, so that their alms be kept for their own poor."
"1731. For conveying and
convoying a woman with a young child throw the mounth, lest she leave it in
the parish, 8d."
"For leather and tackets to
mend the lid of the girnall, ^d., and for mending the meal brods (weighing
boards), 2d. (Scots)."
"1736. For a candle to Margt.
Milne before and after her death, Id."
"1741. To John Crocket for
sugar and salt got to Janet Bruce, 1d."
"For carrying the foresaid
woman to Brechin, 10d. For a horse to carry the woman to Fordoun, 4d. To
carrying a madman to Fordoun, 6d."
"1758. To Alexr. Blenchart
for taking care of Jean Glen deprived of her judgment, 7/." "For a coffin to
Isobel Clerk, dead, 3/4."
Bequests. Of the benefactors
to the poor of the parish, the earliest on record is that of James Black,
who, as-before stated, died in 1750, and left to the Kirk Session 200 merks
for the poor, and 50 merks to uphold the Gannochy Bridge. The next is that
by Alexander Christie, Provost of Montrose, who died in 1791 and left ,£50,
of which the interest was to be distributed annually in January, and
preferably to persons of the name of Christie. "He bestowed the gift in
memory of his father, Provost Thomas Christie, [He died in 1765, according
to his tombstone in the north glebe of Montrose old churchyard. Provost
Alexander Christie, along with Mrs Carnegie of Charlton, founded the
Montrose Infirmary and the Lunatic Asylum in 1781, the latter being the
first of its kind in Scotland.] who was born in the parish of Fettercairn."
Sir Alexander Ramsay Irvine
died in 1806, and bequeathed to the Kirk Session the sum of £450, to be
managed at sight of, and with the approval of, the proprietor of Balmain ;
the interest to be divided among the poor. After the passing of the Poor
Law, in 1845, the distributions were restricted to those not on the
Parochial Roll. The capital sum, together with other funds, were lent to the
late William Shand of The Burn, and after his bankruptcy and death, in 1834,
they were reduced to a small amount. His representatives, to a considerable
extent by voluntary contributions, made up the fund to nearly one half its
Early in the century Robert
Valentine, tenant, Bogendollor left .£50; and Anthony Glen, manufacturer,
Luthermuir, £20; and these sums were distributed among the poor of the
parish, in compliance with the will of the donors.
George Cooper, merchant,
Slateford (Edzell), died in 1831; and among legacies for Educational and
other purposes to Edzell, left £20 for the poor to the Kirk Session of
Fettercairn, and £20 for immediate distribution among: the poor in the
Arnhall district of the parish.
James Smith, flaxdresser in
Fettercairn, died in 1816, leaving a widow. By his will he settled that
after her death his property, consisting of money and houses, should be
managed by trustees for behoof of indigent persons in the parish and
district. In terms of the deed, a succession of trustees has been kept up,
to meet every December for the despatch of business, "to dine in the hotel
and distribute the proceeds," which now arise from the rents of a tenement
at the Burnside of Fettercairn.
Mrs Christina Rew or Callum,
Laurencekirk, left, at her death in 1846, to the Parish and Free Church
ministers of Fettercairn .£50 each, with the annual interest to provide
Bibles for the aged poor, and Sunday School requisites for the children in
A few years ago two brothers,
James Johnston, Raw of Balmain, and John Johnston, Gallowhillock, bequeathed
£10 each to be distributed among the poor of the parish.
Ramsay Bursaries. As the sole
patronage and right of presentation of these valuable bursaries'was
bequeathed to Sir Alexander Ramsay, Bart, of Balmain, and to the lairds of
Balmain of the name of Ramsay for ever, it is of importance that special
notice should be taken of them here. In making choice of a presentee to any
vacant bursary, the patrons have all along shown a preference for local
candidates; consequently many young men belonging to Fettercairn and its
immediate neighbourhood have been enabled to go to college from the
fortunate circumstances that the "Lairds of Balmain" have been so closely
associated with the parish.
The bursaries now in the
patronage of Sir Alexander E. Ramsay are no fewer than seventeen in number:
eight Ramsay Bursaries available at St. Andrews University, eight at
Aberdeen University, and one Glenfarquhar Bursary, which is available at
Aberdeen. It goes without saying that this extensive patronage has involved
the successive Baronets of Balmain in great responsibility of selection and
labour of correspondence, a task which has invariably been cheerfully
undertaken and carried through with admirable judgment and unfailing
kindness and courtesy.
The bursaries at St. Andrews
were founded in 1681 by the Rev. John Ramsay, Minister of Markinch, who
mortified his lands of Duniface for the maintenance and education of youths
at the University of the ancient city by the sea. Their value used to be
about ,£30, but now they are probably not more than from £20 to .£25 per
annum. They may be held for eight years, provided that the bursar takes the
degree of M.A. at the end of his Arts course, and afterwards proceeds to the
study of Divinity at St. Mary's College. The balance of the money proceeding
from the Endowment is devoted to two Ramsay Scholarships, which are open to
The Ramsay Bursaries,
available at Aberdeen, were founded in 1727 by Mr Gilbert Ramsay, Rector of
Christ Church, Barbadoes, who bequeathed the sum of £4800 for the education
of youths at Aberdeen. In 1802 Sir Alexander Ramsay Irvine gave an
additional sum of £1000, by which the endowment was supplemented and the
original value of the bursaries increased. Four are available for Divinity,
and are of the value of £20, and four for Arts of the value of £24, the
additional £4 being derived from an earlier bequest of £400 made in 1714 by
Gilbert Ramsay for the benefit of the students belonging to Birse, his
The Glenfarquhar Arts
Bursary, bequeathed by Sir Alexander Falconer in 1717, is of the annual
value of sixteen guineas, and is tenable for four years.
Savings Bank. A Parish
Savings Bank was established by the late Sir John S. Forbes and the Rev.
Alex. Whyte in 1831, which was among the first of the kind in Scotland. For
a number of years down to 1858, when it became a branch of the National
Security system, the deposits and withdrawals did not exceed .£150 and £100,
respectively. They are now five or six times as large, and the amount at the
credit of depositors is nearly six thousand pounds.