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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XXXIV.—Parochial Registers. Bequests, and Savings Bank


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 sterling value.

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 original amount.

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 attendance.

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 competition.

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 native parish.

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.


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