As the Ice Age came to an
end, Neolithic men, i.e. men with the finely polished weapons and tools of
the New Stone Age, followed the reindeer northward. Their presence in
Banffshire is denoted by the existence of flint arrow-heads. These men—often
designated Iberians—were small, dark-haired, long-skulled. They have today
their representatives outside Britain in the Basques. Names of places such
as rivers and mountains are, like flints, very permanent traces of
inhabitants, and the word Isla has been held to indicate Iberian influence.
Later came the Gaelic invaders and the period of bronze tools and weapons.
Then followed the age of iron, the time of the coming of the Brythons or
British. In early historic times Banffshire, Iike the regions to west and
east, formed part of the kingdom of the Northern Picts. The name Fiddich has
been declared to be identical with the name of one of the Pictish
subdivisions. The precise relationship of Picts to Iberians, to Gaels and to
Britons, is problematical; but the Pictish tongue appears to have been akin
to British (Welsh) not to Gaelic (Irish). Pit and for (as in Pitlurg and
Fordyce) are Pictish elements; while British or Pictish are Spey, Keith, and
aber as in Jberchirder. Knock is Gaelic, and so are bal and inver in names
like Ballindalloch and Inveraven. English is evident in $andend, Lintmill,
and the first syllable of Kirkmichael.
The language of the
English-speaking settlers has ousted the Gaelic. Or if there be stiII a few
old people in Tomintoul who can converse a little in Gaelic, assuredly the
old language, as far as concerns Banffshire, will die with them. In the
Minute Book of the Synod of Moray (1715) it is recorded that the Synod
considered that "Irish was necessary in the case of the minister of
Glenlivet," but it does nc#t appear that he, either at that time or
afterwards, was a Gaelic-speaking minister. It is the view of Rev. R. H.
Calder, the present minister of Glenlivet, that Gaelic probably became
extinct in that district about the close of the eighteenth century. It held
its ground more tenaciously in the neighbouring parish of Kirkmichael. There
is evidence that in 1794 it was the dominant, if not the sole, language at
the Tomintoul markets, and there is reason to believe that it continued to
be the dominant language at these markets till the middle of the nineteenth
century. The late Rev. James Grant, minister of Kirkmichael (18431896), was
a hi-lingual preacher and a good Gaelic scholar. On the half-yearly
pre-communion Fast-days, his custom was to conduct a short Gaelic service
before the English service. By and by he would say to the minister who often
assisted on these occasions—" Another of my Gaelic hearers gone since you
were here last," and again, "Another of my Gaelic hearers gone since you
were here last," and so on until they were all gone. The Gaelic service was
finally discontinued about 1893.
The vernacular of Banffshire,
like that of Aberdeenshire, belongs to the north-east division of Scottish
dialects. Both counties have the characteristic of sounding f instead of wh
in certain words; as fah, fahn, fahr for who, when, where. "Fahr are ya
gain?" (Where are you going?) "Fah fuppit th' folpie?" (Who whipped the
whelp?) Folpie shows one of the favourite forms of diminutive so common in
Banffshire. Another is ik, and still higher, ikie; as beast, beastie,
beastik, beastikie. The idea of diminution is carried still further by the
adjective wee, by doubling the wee, and by adding yet again little, as
little wee, little wee wee. Diminution is expressed by the word bit, always
used in the construct state, as a bit beastie, and by the word nyaff, as a
nyaff o' a mannie, a nyaff o' a doggie. The word horse, for example, may be
used in descending scale from horsie through a multiplicity of degrees to
little wee wee horsikie.
Within the county four
divisions of dialect have been distinguished—the fishing, the lower, the
middle, the higher. The fishing population accent the last syllable, throw
the ictus on the last word of the sentence, and lengthen vowels. The lower
district is marked off from the middle by a softer pronunciation and a
slight lengthening of some vowels. Thus bone, stone are been, steen in the
lower district, but behn, stehn in the middle. In the middle district meal,
peat, beast, beat are sounded mehl, peht, behst, beht, while in the lower
they are as in standard English. The upper district has been influenced in
its accent by Gaelic.
The population of Banffshire
at the census of 1911 was 61,402. Since the first census was taken in i8oi,
the highest point of population was reached in 1891, when the number was
64,190. Ten years later that was reduced by 2702, and in 1911 the total was
again reduced by 86. The preliminary count in 1921 shows a decrease of 4109.
og. Ten years ago, 46.4 per cent, of the population was enumerated in burghs
and 53.6 in landward districts; and while the burghal population showed an
intercensal increase of 4.3 per cent., the landward population showed a
decrease of 3.7 per cent. The extra-burghal part of the county is divided
into two Public Health Districts—Banff and Keith. The population of the
former remained almost stationary during the intercensal period, but in the
latter the population decreased by 9.4 per cent.
Of nine burghs then in the
county, one only, Buckie, increased in population to an appreciable extent;
in 1911 its population was 8897. The only parishes which showed a material
increase of population were Rathven, the parish which contains the burghs of
Buckie, Findochty, and Portknockie, and the village of Portgordon; and
Boyndie, which contains the village of Whitehills.
The number of males returned
as having some remunerative occupation was 18,064, and of these 32.9 per
cent, were connected with agriculture and 21.5 per cent. with fishing, so
that 54.4 per cent, of the male population in employment was absorbed in
these two industries.
Of the total population
60,385, or 98.3 per cent., were returned as being of Scottish birth, and
75.9 per cent, of the whole had their birth-places within the county. Three
hundred and seventy-eight were returned as able to speak Gaelic as well as
English and none as speaking Gaelic but not English. Of the 378 only 89 were
born within the county, so that the theory of the sister of the Antiquary,
Grizel Oldbuck, that because a man "cam' in his youth frae the braes of
Glenlivet" he must needs know Erse, certainly does not hold good today.
The area of the county is
403,053 acres. In the Banff district of the county there are 125,645 acres
and in the Keith district 277,408 acres, while in the former district the
population in 1911 was 20,432 and in the Keith district 12,453, the
population figures being exclusive of the nine burghs then in the county. In
the Banff district there was on an average one person per six acres, and in
the Keith district there was an average of one person per 22 acres.
The following table gives
population particulars by families for the 22 civil parishes in the county
and deals therefore with Banffshire as a whole: