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The Parish of Longforgan
Chapter I. Longforgan.


See, crouching quietly at her feet,
Inchture's sweet hamlet, warm and neat;
And eastward, three Scotch miles or so,
Where sheltering trees few shadows throw,
Old Forgan stretches to the day,
And sleeps the sultry hours away;
While all between, and far around,
O'er sloping hill and level ground,
The scattered farm-steadings show
The same bright, trusting, drowsy glow.

"The Tay" by David Millar.

The Carse of Gowrie may be roughly described as being in the form of a parallelogram. The river Tay bounds it on the south and west; the Sidlaws on the north ; Forfarshire on the east. It has three parishes that may be said to be low-lying—Inchture, Errol, St. Madoes. Four are chiefly upland or hilly—Kinfauns, Kilspindie, Kinnaird, Abernyte. A part of Kinnoull also lies in the Carse. Longforgan, to which Fowlis Easter and Liff adjoin, runs up a whole side, from the river to the Sidlaws, and is partly lowland and partly upland. It forms with Fowlis the eastern extremity of Perthshire and of the Carse.

Some doubt exists as to the meaning of the name Longforgan. It is spelt variously — Langforgend, Langforgand, Lanfortin, Langforgund, Lanforgonde, Langforgond, Langforgonde, Langfargunde, Langforgound, Langforgown, Langforgrunde, Langforgrund, Langforgund, Longfortin, Longforgund, Long-forgunde, Lonforgaund, Longforgun, Long-forgane, Longforgen, Forgan, Forgund, For-gounde, Forgrund, Fforgan, Fforgone, etc.

Three suggestions have been made.

(1) The first is that it means "long foreground." "The ancient name of the parish," says a writer in the New Stat. Account, "seems to have been somewhat different from the present, as appears from a grant of the lands and barony of 'Longforgund' or 'Lonforgaund' by King Robert Bruce, in the year 1315, to Sir Andrew Gray of Broxmouth. The epithet long, which is quite appropriate to the village, and by no means unsuitable to the parish itself, is prefixed probably to distinguish it from two other parishes—Forgan, in Fife, nearly opposite to Dundee, and Forgandenny, in Strathearn, another district of Perthshire. Forgan or Forgund, in the absence of a better or more certain derivation, has been alleged to signify foreground—a term, in fact, by which the parish is not unfitly described." This explanation, however, cannot be regarded as satisfactory.

(2) A second suggestion is that it gets its name from one of the hill-forts of antiquity. "The ancient name of this parish," says Dr. Marshall, in his Historic Scenes in Perthshire, "seems to have been Longfortin. It is so named in the life of St. Modwenna, who flourished in the sixth century. . . . On the top of the hill of Dron in this parish have been found traces of an oval fortification occupying an area of upwards of two acres. There seems no reason to doubt that these are the traces of one of those many hill-forts which our remotest ancestors, of whom we have any knowledge, had too much occasion to raise, for their protection and security, against both foreign invasion and intestine insurrection."

(3) A third and much more likely suggestion is that the "long" in Longforgan is the same as "lan," "llan," which means a church. One of the early forms of the name is Lan-fortin; and, in view of the connection of Longforgan with St. Modwenna, it is extremely probable that the "lan" in Lanfortin is a church. The Rev. James Johnston, in his Place-Names of Scotland, says of the meaning of Forgan and Longforgan :—

"Forgan (N. Fife), 1250 Forgrund. Perhaps Gaelic, fotkir gruuda, 'land with bottom or 'ground,' i.e. good subsoil."

"Longforgan (Dundee), 1160 Forgrund; 1461 Langforgend; but Acta Sanctorum. Lanfortin, where ' lan' must mean \ church.' A church is said to have been built here, a. 500. by St. Monenna or Medana. ' For' may be Old Gaelic, fothir, 'bit of land'; but the whole name is perplexing."

The parish of Longforgan is long but narrow —about eight miles in length, and from one to four in breadth. Its scenery is of the most varied character. The finest panoramas, perhaps, are to be got from the tower of Castle Huntly and from the hill of Dron. Looking from Dron away to the north, the eye rests on the bald chain of the Sidlaws; westwards, on the Carse, appearing almost as fiat as a bowling-green, the beautiful woods of Rossie, and the braes above Kimiaird; eastwards, on the fertile slopes that reach Dundee. In front, and at a little distance beneath you, lies Longforgan village; beyond, rolls the noble Tay; and beyond them both rise the shores of Fife, crowned by the Lomonds; whilst away to the south and west stretch the Ochils and the Grampian chain.

The population of the parish keeps pretty steady, the losses of one part being nearly balanced by the gains of another. In 1755 it was 1285; in 1795 it was 1526; in 1811 it was 1809; by 1821, through depression of trade, it had fallen considerably, but in 1831 it had increased to 1638. In 1881 it stood at 1854, but at last census it had fallen to 1779. This population is fairly scattered, but it has its chief centres in the villages of Longforgan, Kingoodie, and Mylnefield, now commonly known as Invergowrie. At Mylnefield there was an earlier hamlet, Balbunnoch, part of which is still to be seen behind the Free Church. A map of 1817 calls it Balbonachy. Older forms of the name are Balbunnok, Balbunnock, Balbonnie. It means probably the homestead or dwelling at the foot of the hill or brae. (Gaelic, bail, a dwelling; bonn or bun, signifying the foot or end of anything ; nock is Gaelic—cnoc, a hill.) Last century, before Mylnefield took its rise, there was a small village at Lochton, belonging to Mr. Haldane, the proprietor of Airthry. There were also a good many hamlets both in, and on the borders of, the parish. Across the stream which washes Balbunnoch, there were a number of cottar homes. Between the present village of Kingoodie and Monorgan, there were little groups of houses. But these and others have disappeared. "The reasons you give for this decrease are quite satisfactory. It is by the ingrossing of land into few hands, and driving the people either out of the country altogether, or into towns where they are consumed by vices and diseases. In this way the great gentlemen swallow up the lesser, the great tenants the small, and the crofters or cottagers, who were by far the most numerous of these three orders of men, are, in many parts of Scotland, almost totally extirpated" (Lord Monbocldo, 1780).

In former times, a considerable weaving industry was carried 011 at Longforgan, and in other parts of the parish. About the end of last century, the people were most successful in raising crops of lint. Down to 1S64, linens were woven in handlooms, to a moderate extent, in the parish. (Warden, The Linen Trade, p. 519 ) There were about 150 looms in 1840. Then there were extensive quarries at Kingoodie. The former industry (weaving) has ceased; the latter, after a long pause, have been reopened, but, for the most part, the industry is agricultural, except at Invergowrie, where the Bullionfield Paper Mills give employment to a large number of people. The land, most of which is under cultivation, is well wrought, and is divided into a number of farms.

Several families have their residences in the parish. The chief are Mylnefield, Castle Huntly, and Lochton. Rossie Priory, the seat of Lord Kinnaird, is in the parish of Inchture; but his lordship is a considerable landowner in Longforgan. Formerly, the Lords Kinnaird had a residence in the parish, called Drimmie (Gaelic, druim, a ridge — cognate with Latin dorsum, a back or ridge—which describes the appearance of the ground perfectly). When Moncur Castle was burned down in the beginning of last century, the Kinnairds moved to Drimmie, where they resided till Rossie was built. Drimmie "originally consisted of a lodge built as a banqueting-room, in order to facilitate conviviality with the then proprietors of the estate of Castle Huntly; and to this lodge additions have been made from time to time, as necessity dictated " (Old Stat. Acc., xix. p. 479). There are now no traces of Drimmie.

A large part of Balruddery is also in Longforgan. Most of these estates are finely wooded, with oak, beech, ash, elm, lime, chestnut, and plane. According to Robertson, in his General View of the Agriculture in the County of Perth, there were ashes at Castle Huntly (circa 1810) whose trunks measured from 19 to 27 feet in circumference. He quotes this in reply to Dr. Johnson's taunt that there were no trees of value in Scotland. The Glamis Tree measured 27 feet near the root and 17 feet a yard above the ground. One of the approaches to Castle Huntly from the turnpike is through a grand avenue of beech and ash trees. And who that remembers the beeches of Mylnefield in spring will wonder at the praise of

"Fair Milnfields woods,
Deep mirror'd in the murmuring river,
Where, joyous to the summer wind,
Their leafy broad boughs bend and shiver"?

Hunter, in his Woods and Forests of Perthshire, gives some valuable particulars about the trees on Castle Huntly estate: "Perhaps the most notable of all the trees at Castle Huntly is a grand old Scots fir, about 250 years of age, and which is in some respects as remarkable a tree of the kind as is to be seen in the country. The girth of the tree at the ground is 24 feet; at 1 foot up the girth is 16 feet, and at 5 feet it is 15 feet. The trunk then swells out until it has a girth of about 30 feet, and carries a magnificent head. The tree has a noble appearance, but there are indications of its breaking up. Another Scots fir, much younger, and in good condition, girths 11 feet 6 inches at 1 foot and 11 feet at 5 feet, with a bole of 15 feet. A very fine yew girths 10 feet at 1 foot, and 9 feet 2 inches at 5 feet from the ground, with a bole of 9 feet; while the circumference is 68 yards, the branches sweeping the ground in beautiful style. There is another specimen of the same variety closely approaching this one in size. There is a splendid scyamore girthing 16 feet at 1 foot from the ground, and 12 feet at 5 feet, with a bole of 30 feet. A great ash, girthing about 30 feet at the ground, stood at the stable-door until it succumbed to the fury of a gale, but an excellent idea may be formed of its size from the trunk, which now forms a summer-house at Longforgan Manse. There are still several very good ash trees throughout the property, as well as oak, sycamore, elm, beech, ash, and horse-chestnut trees. There is also a nice little mixed plantation of about 60 acres " (p. 502). " The next largest (= second) orchard in the Carse is that of Monorgan, near Longforgan, on the Castle Huntly estate. It extends to about 25 acres, and although it was probably planted about 150 years ago, it is still in a fair state of bearing " (p. 503).

Ben vie lies just beyond the border of Longforgan. In front of the farmhouse there is an enormous ash tree. It "girths no less than 32 feet at the base, 25 feet at 1 foot from the ground, 19 feet at 3 feet, and 17 feet at 5 feet, the bole being about 27 feet" (p. 488). At Gray, which is close at hand, there are two magnificent cedars of Lebanon.


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