Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume XII - Aberdeen
Parish of Auchterless
PRESBYTERY OF TURRIFF, SYNOD
THE REV. GEORGE DINGWALL, MINISTER.
I.Topography and Natural
Name.The name of the
parish is derived from a Gaelic word, signifying a cultivated field on the
side of a hill. The locality of the parish and the nature of the soil seem
to favour this interpretation.
Extent, &c.The parish
extends about 8 miles in length, and nearly 4 in breadth, and is of an
irregular oblong figure. It is bounded on the north by Inverkeithny; on
the east, by Turriff; on the south, by Fyvie and Rayne; and on the west,
by Culsa-mond and Forgue.
The temperature is
generally mild, particularly in the interior of the parish.
Hydrography.The Ythan is
the only stream of consequence in the parish. It takes its rise from two
springs in the upper district of Forgue, about a mile from the boundary of
Auchterless. It flows through the vale in a north-easterly direction, and
discharges its waters into the German Ocean below Ellon.
Geology.A formation of
clay-stone slate runs through the whole of this parish, nearly from
north-east to south-west, and through the neighbouring parish of Turriff,
till it reaches the sea at Melrose, in Gamrie. The rock lies too deep to
be worked for slate quarries, but it is available for this purpose in the
neighbouring parish of Culsamond. It was formerly worked both in Turriff
and Inverkeithny, but is now abandoned for the superior quality of slates
in the hills of Foudland.
The soil is of a gravelly
description, based on a clay-slate. It is almost uniformly dry, and varies
in depth from three to twenty-four inches, averaging about seven inches.
Land-owners.Mr Duff of
Hatton and Mr Leslie of Badenscoth are the chief land-owners.
registers of marriages and baptisms commence in 1680, and have been
regularly kept ever since, with some trifling exceptions.
remarkable remnant of antiquity connected with this parish is a camp on
the farms of Buss and Logie-Newton, commonly supposed to have been of
Roman origin. A great part of what was formerly included within the walls
is now improved. The south and west dikes only are entire. Near the
remains of this camp, and upon the causeway leading westerly through
Forgue, an urn was ploughed up, containing black ashes, and decayed animal
matter. This relic of antiquity is now in the possession of Sir Thomas
Dick Lauder, Bart. On a farm in the neighbourhood were found a great many
heads of darts, commonly called elf-shots, that had been used in war
before the introduction of metal in the forging of fire-arms.
In the immediate vicinity
of the church, there is a small artificial eminence, of an oval shape,
surrounded by a ditch, which is now in many places very much filled up. It
still retains the name of the Moat-head, and was formerly the seat of the
baronial court The gallow-hill, where the criminals were executed and
buried, is in its neighbourhood, and confirms the general opinion of the
original purpose to which the moat-head was applied.
There is a well at the
distance of fully a mile east from the church, supposed to have been
dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Within the recollection of some of the
oldest inhabitants, money, and other articles, were deposited on Pash
Sunday by those whose superstitious feelings led them to frequent the
well, in expectation of some benefit to be derived from drinking the water
dedicated to the Holy Virgin. Close by this fountain are the remains of a
place of worship, to which had been attached a burying-ground, where
several families of distinction were interred. The old chapel had been
used, as is thought, for a bead-house during the times of Popery.
The remains of Druidical
circles are pretty numerous in different parts of the parish. By far the
most remarkable of these is situated on a considerable eminence on the
farm of Logie-Newton, overhanging the Roman camp, and called the
Kirk-hill, probably from this cause. Three concentric circles may be
distinctly traced; the stones are very large, and of a white colour. A
trench of several hundred yards length, terminating about half a mile from
the camp in a north-west direction, called Cumine's trench, is still
distinctly to be marked, the ditch being in many places four feet deep.
This was probably one of the stations of the Cumines before their defeat
at Strathbogie, where Adam o' Gordon, who led Robert the Bruce's troops,
obtained a decisive victory, and laid the foundation of the future
greatness of the Noble family of Gordon.
On the front of the old
castle of Towie Barclay, the property attached to which is chiefly in this
parish, we find this inscription neatly cut in stone: "Sir Valter Barclay
foundit the Tollie Mills 1210." This corroborates the common opinion, that
corn-mills turned by water were introduced into Scotland by the Saxon
followers of Malcolm towards the end of the eleventh century. For, had
corn-mills previously existed in the country, this would not have been
thought an achievement worthy of recording. And as the ancestor of the
family (John Berkely, son of Lord Berkely of Gloucestershire,) was one of
the followers of Queen Margaret, and obtained a grant of this estate for
his son Alexander about 1100, this goes far to establish the fact, that
they had been introduced by the Saxons. About the thirteenth part of the
grain over Scotland and England was considered a fair multure or
remuneration for grinding the corn with machinery. This shows that the
labour of doing it with the quern or hand-mill formerly used must have
been very great. Immediately above the door of the old castle of Towie
Barclay is the following inscription: "Sir Alexander Barclay, foundator,
decessit, 1136." The estate remained in his family till it was sold by the
Honourable Charles Maitland, brother to the Earl of Lauderdale, who
married the last heiress in 1752. From this family was descended William
Barclay, an eminent civilian at the court of Lorrain, and the still more
celebrated John Barclay, from whom the late gallant Russian General, Field
Marshal Prince Barclay de Tolly, was lineally descended.
Modern Buildings. There
are few modern buildings of any consequence in the parish. The church was
built in 1780is in good repair, and contains 650 sittings. A handsome
school-room was erected by the heritors in 1829. One of the proprietors
built an elegant mansion a few years ago. The two principal heritors are
non-resident, and have excellent modern houses on their other properties
in Turiff and Fyvie. Many of the farmers have substantial houses of two
storeys high, with neat and commodious steadings.
The population of the
parish in 1755, the earliest period at which we have any correct
information on this subject, was 1264. In 1801, it was only 1120. In 1811,
1257; and in 1821, 1538. According to the census of 1831, the population
had increased to 1701. One principal reason for the increase was the
number of subtenants or crofters, attached to the large farms, into which
a great proportion of the parish has been, for many years, divided. This
system of subletting has prevailed very much of late. These subtenants are
useful to the farmers as labourers, and when they have their possession on
moderate terms, are generally able to support themselves and their
families respectably. Unhappily, from the great increase of population,
the competition for these small possessions has raised the rents so high,
in many instances, that several of the subtenants threaten to be a serious
burden on the parish funds.
There are no towns nor
villages of any extent in the parish. What is commonly called the Kirktown
consists of ten dwelling-houses, with a population of 38. At fully two
miles distance south of the church, is the small straggling village of
Gordonstown, consisting of about thirty-five houses, with a population of
100. Both of these villages are inhabited partly by families occupying
Crofts varying from 5 to 30 acres, and partly by tradesmen of various
descriptions. None of them have any permanent feus.
The average of births for
the last seven years was 45; and that of marriages, 11. No register of
deaths is kept. This parish has been famed for the longevity of several of
its inhabitants. A few instances of longevity may be noticed. Peter
Garden, a farmer in this parish, died about sixty years ago, at the very
advanced age of 132. He retained his faculties to the last. He lived under
ten sovereigns; Charles I.; Oliver Cromwell; Richard Cromwell; Charles
II.; James II.; William and Mary ; Anne; George I., II., and III. He was a
page to Ogilvie of Banff, before that gentleman was raised to the peerage,
and was one of the garrison in the old castle of Towie Barclay, when
Montrose defended it against Argyle. He recollected having been sent, when
a boy, to the wood to cut boughs for spears in the time of the civil wars.
In his latter days he used to describe Montrose, "as a little black man,
who wore a ruff as the ladies do now-a-days." He was married to his second
wife when 120 years old, she being eighty, and danced with great glee on
that occasion. Margaret Leslie, who resided in the Kirktown, died about
the beginning of the present century, aged 112. George Paterson, also in
the Kirktown, died in the year 1808, aged 107, and William Andrew, in
Little Cushnie, died in 1817, at the same age.
There is only 1 blind
person in the parish, and 3 insane.
Number of illegitimate
births in the course of the last three years, 11.
Within the last forty
years, the language usually spoken has been gradually improving. The
habits of the people are in general cleanly. The higher classes live well,
using animal food. The common fare of the peasantry is meal, milk, and
vegetables. The people are generally respectable as to intelligence,
morality, and their observance of religious duties. Smuggling never
prevailed to any extent, and since the commencement of legal distilleries
is altogether unknown.
contains about 16,000 acres, nearly one-third of which remains
uncultivated. There are about 500 acres under wood, all planted, almost
entirely with larches and Scotch firs. A great deal more might be
profitably employed in planting. The greater part of the woods is young,
partly well cared for, and partly neglected. It is difficult to ascertain
the average rent of arable land per acre in this parish, as many of the
best farms are on old leases; and much inferior land has been lately
brought into cultivation. Perhaps it might average about L. 1 per acre, if
it were to be let at present. Few grass parks are let; but the average
rate of grazing an ox is from L. 2 to L. 2, 10s.
Live-Stock. Since 1792,
the number of cattle in the parish has greatly increased. Cattle may now
be estimated at upwards of 2000, and horses from 300 to 400. There are
only about 600 or 700 sheep, generally of the Cheviot or black-faced kind.
The cattle of this district were crossed with the old Fife breed about
sixty years ago, and these produced the far-famed Aberdeenshire stock.
There have been various unsuccessful attempts to improve this species,
first by the Lancashire, and afterwards the Galloway. Efforts are now
making to improve it by means of the short-horned. Whether these will be
more successful, time only can show. The quality of horses has been much
improved of late years. The general character of the husbandry in this
parish is excellent. The old system of ploughing with a number of oxen has
been long disused. Four of them are still sometimes employed for the
purpose of tearing in rough ground covered with heath and whins.
In 1791, the first
thrashing-mill was erected in the parish. At present, almost every farm of
50 or 60 acres in extent has one. As the ground gently rises from both
sides of the hollow, and as many tributary rills fall into the Ythan, an
opportunity has been afforded in almost every case of turning these by
water, so that although there are now about thirty machines in the parish,
not more than four or five of these are driven by horses. Along with the
system of fallowing and cleaning the land, was introduced that of liming.
The whole parish has been substantially limed oftener than once, and has
generally got as much calcareous earth as it requires, so that at present
less lime can be used. Placed at a distance from large towns, or even
considerable villages, the great desideratum has been to get manure. For
this purpose alluvial earth from the banks of the Ythan and smaller
streams has been taken in great quantities for forming compost dunghills.
Lately, bone manure has been much used. Given at the rate of 25 to 30
bushels per acre, it has produced splendid crops of turnips, and thus, by
increasing the means of keeping cattle, has in some degree increased the
manure, and promises to contribute materially to the progressive
improvement of the country. A mill for bruising bones has been lately
erected by an intelligent farmer in this parish for his own accommodation,
and that of the neighbourhood. Upon the whole, few parishes in the country
are at the present moment in a higher state of cultivation.
Rate of Wages.The rate of
labour has lately fallen much. Labourers generally get 1s. a-day in
summer, and 8d. in winter, with victuals. The wages of masons and
carpenters from 2s. to 2s. 6d. in summer, and about 1s. 6d. in winter.
Labour, on account of the pressure of the times, is sometimes below the
rates mentioned above, and few labourers can get at all times full
There is no market-town in
the parish. Turriff, which is six miles distant from the church, and is
also the post-town, is the nearest. The turnpike-road leading from
Aberdeen to Banff runs along the eastern extremity of the parish for
nearly three miles. Two stage-coaches pass every lawful day.
parish church is nearly three miles from the north-east extremity, and
about five from the south-west, and is conveniently situated for a large
proportion of the inhabitants. It was built in 1780, and repaired in 1832.
The church contains legal accommodation for 650. An aisle was added in
1835, capable of containing 180. There are no free sittings. The manse was
built in 1769, and was put in complete repair in 1814. The glebe measures
about six acres, and at an average may be valued at L. 2 per acre. The
present stipend is 14 chalders, half meal, half barley. There is an
allowance of L.8, 6s. 8d. for communion elements, and of L. 1, 13s. 4d.
for grass money. There is no chapel of ease, or other place of worship of
any description in the parish. Most of the families are regular in their .
attendance at the parish church. About twelve families frequent the Scotch
Episcopalian chapels in the neighbouring parishes; and one family attends
an Independent meeting in Culsalmond. The number of communicants is
generally about 830. The average amount of collections for charitable
purposes is nearly L.45.
Education. There is one
parish school, with five unendowed schools. In the parish school the usual
branches are taught, such as Greek, Latin, mathematics, arithmetic,
English reading, grammar, geography, and writing, &c. In the other schools
English reading, writing, and arithmetic are taught. In one of the
unendowed schools Latin is taught, and in two others sewing. The parish
schoolmaster has the maximum salary, and the legal accommodation. He has
the benefit of the Dick bequest. The fees in the different schools vary
from L. 10 to L.25 per annum. The average expense per quarter is from 1s.
6d. to 5s. All upwards of fifteen years of age can read. A few cannot
write. The people are, in general, alive to the benefits of education, and
even the poorer classes show a laudable anxiety to have their families
instructed in the common branches. There is only one corner so remote from
the parish school as to be inaccessible to their children. Their distance,
however, from the school of Culsamond is only about two miles.
Poor and Parochial
Funds.The number of persons presently receiving parochial aid is 38, and
each at an average is allowed about 10d. per week.
The sums arising from
church collections amount to about L.40 per annum; and from other sources
about L.8. There is still a general reluctance among the people to seek
parochial aid; but this disposition is neither so common nor so strong as
Market.One market, called
Donan Fair, is held in the Kirk-town in the month of April, for the sale
of sheep, cattle, &c. The market derives its name from Donan, formerly the
tutelary saint of the parish.
Alehouses.There are 7
alehouses, but these have little bad effect on the morals of the people,
as the individuals licensed are decent and respectable characters.
Fuel.Peat and turf are the
only kinds of fuel to be got in the parish. English coals are a good deal
used by many of the inhabitants. They are driven from Banff and Macduff,
about eighteen miles distant.
The most striking
variations betwixt the present state of the parish, and that which existed
at the time of the last Statistical Account, are to be found in the
improved mode of laying out and enclosing the fields; in the great
increase of turnip husbandry, and the consequent fattening of a number of
cattle for the home and London markets; in a stricter attention to the
rotation of crops; and in the general superiority of the various
cross-roads, thereby affording increased facilities for agricultural
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