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The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume XII - Aberdeen
Parish of Echt


PRESBYTERY OF KINCARDINE O'NEIL, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. WILLIAM INGRAM, MINISTER.

I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name.—The etymology of Echt is not known with certainty. An old tradition refers it to the Gaelic word "Each," which signifies a horse. It bears that a division of an ancient Caledonian army having encamped in this parish, the officers and men, in the time of a severe drought, were reduced to great straits for want of water, when a horse which had been brought to the camp was seen to gallop to a spot where he had been accustomed to drink; and that, by pawing and scratching with his feet, some signs of water were discovered; in which spot, a well having been dug, afforded relief from thirst to the army. In memory of that event, this particular district, and afterwards the parish, is said to have been designated by the above term.

Extent, &c.—The parish of Echt lies west from Aberdeen, the eastern extremity nearly ten, and the western fourteen miles from that city. It is almost of a square form, each side about 4½ miles. It is bounded on the east and north-east, by the parish of Skene; on the south-east, by Peterculter and Drumoak; on the south, by Banchory-Ternan; on the west and north-west, by Midmar; and on the north, by Cluny.

Topographical Appearances.—The hill of Fare lies about one mile south-west from the church. The base of this mountain is nearly eighteen miles in circumference, and its height about 1794 feet above the level of the sea. Its surface is now divided among the proprietors whose estates surround it, and contains 7700 acres, 2 roods, 29 falls imperial measure; of which 1826 acres, 1 rood, 4 falls belong to this parish. Mr Forbes of Echt has a thriving plantation of young firs on its north-east corner, and has formed another on its northern side. All kinds of game known in this country abound in the hill of Fare. Several chalybeate springs are found there which have been reckoned beneficial in scrofulous, scorbutic, and gravellish complaints. In the north-west corner of the parish stands the Barmekin, a conical hill, now entirely planted with wood. Its height is scarcely two-thirds of that of the hill of Fare. On its top is an ancient fortification hereafter to be taken notice of.

The soil of the best lands in this parish is mostly a light loam, incumbent on a substratum of clay. Part is of a light sandy soil, and the low grounds for the most part mossy. The climate is mild, the harvests early, and the air salubrious.

II.—Civil History.

The chief historical event relating to this district is the battle of Corrichie, which was fought on the 28th October 1562, in a vale of the same name, by the forces commanded by the Marquis of Huntly and the Earl of Murray, the brother and general of Mary Queen of Scots. This battle is taken notice of by most of the Scottish historians. It appears that the Marquis was offended at the Queen for bestowing the earldom of Murray on her brother the Earl of Mar, and for her intention of giving him a great part of those large and valuable northern estates which belonged to that earldom, several of which had been seized by the Marquis. His son, Sir John Gordon, had escaped from the prison to which the Queen had sentenced him for some feudal outrage; and had placed himself at the head of the vassals of his house,—soon after which, the Marquis assumed arms in person, and advanced towards Aberdeen. Murray drew up his men on the hill of Fare, and awaited the approach of Huntly with only a few troops from the midland counties on which he could depend, and some troops belonging to the northern Barons, whose intentions were doubtful. Huntly encountered first the northern troops, who fled towards Murray's main body, pursued by the Gordons, sword in hand. The Gordons were repulsed by Murray's firm battalion, and victory was completed by the clans that had fled, who turned upon the Gordons as soon as they began to lose the day. Huntly, a bulky man, and heavily armed, fell from his horse, and was trod-den to death. Other accounts say that he fled nearly a mile, and there is a spot in the south-west corner of this parish, on the bor-ders of the estate of Cullerley, yet denominated " Gordon's moss" —where it is thought he was killed. Sir Walter Scott affirms that his body was afterwards brought into a court of justice, meanly arrayed in a doublet of coarse canvas, that the sentence of a traitor might be pronounced over it. The Queen, who was at Aberdeen during the battle, three days after beheld Sir John Gordon beheaded there. Murray was put in possession of the estates belonging to his new earldom. An excavation on the side of a rock, where it is said Mary sat soon after, and viewed the scene of action on her way south, still retains the name of the Queen's chair.

Chief Land-owners.—James Forbes, Esq. of Echt is the principal and only residing heritor; William Innes, Esq. of Raemoir has the lands of Cullerley; the Trustees of the late John Harvey, Esq. of Kinnettles, those of Bragiewell and South Meanecht, and the Earl of Fife, as heir to the late George Skene, Esq. of Skene, the lands of Mill of Air. The valued rent is as follows: Echt, Tillyshoggle, and Easter Echt, belonging to James Forbes, Esq. L. 1808, 8s. 8d.; Cullerley, L.432, 19s. 1d.; Bragiewell and S. Meanecht, L. 75, 13s. 9d.; Mill of Air, L. 47, 13s. 6d.; total, L.2364, 15s.

Parochial Registers,—The oldest begins in 1642, and they appear to have been regularly kept. They amount altogether to fourteen volumes.

Antiquities.—On the Barmekin hill already mentioned, there is an ancient fortification, which is generally denominated a Danish camp. No record or tradition, however, confirms this supposition. The entrenchments which enclose the summit of the hill are five in number, in a perfect state of preservation as far as regards the lines of fortification, though more or less crumbled into ruins. There is no appearance of cement having been used in construct-mg these ramparts, which, in several places, are still so entire as to exhibit a regular structure of masonry done with skill, particularly at the gateways, of which there appear to have been three on the south side, and two on the north, all in an oblique direction. The walls measure about five feet in thickness, the height appears to have been considerable, but cannot now be exactly known. The three outer ditches are nine feet in breadth. The inner rampart exhibits great care and strength in its structure, being at least 12 feet thick at the base, of which several feet in height still remain entire. The interior inclosure, which has been reduced to an uniform level, and nearly circular, is 300 feet in diameter, and contains about one acre of ground. On the skirts of the hill, there are three cairns, two on the south and one on the north. The largest and most entire on the south side, now nearly covered with wood, was probably connected with the fortress above, as an entrenchment or out-post; and afterwards selected as the sepulchre of those chiefs who may have fallen in battle. The circular entrenchment formed by the earth dug out of the ditch is 60 feet in diameter, surrounded by six great stones, the remains most likely of an entire circle. In the centre is a cairn of loose stones supporting five large ones, which have all the appearance of sepulchral monuments. Besides these, there are three other cairns, and several tumuli in different parts of the parish, and the remains of three Druidical temples." On the farm of Tilliorn, in the land of Cullerley, there is a large Pictish work in the form of a horse-shoe, hollowed out; but it is uncertain whether it had been a fort, or a tank or cistern for holding water. It goes by the name of "Fusee." An ancient spear was lately dug up on the estate of Echt. It is now in the custody of Mr Forbes of Echt. It appears to be made of bell metal, is 2 feet 3 inches in length, at the broadest part of the blade 1¾ inch in breadth, and weighs 4 lbs. 2½ oz. Avoirdupois.

Modern Buildings.—A spacious, elegant, and most commodious mansion-house was built by the late William Forbes, Esq. of Echt in 1820, and finished by his son, the present proprietor. It stands near the site of the former mansion, in a park containing 80 acres. The grounds are laid out with superior taste, and as soon as the young trees have attained to a proper size, the effect will be delightful. To promote this, and to obtain early shelter for the house, Mr Forbes has transplanted 145 large trees, on the plan of Sir Henry Steuart of Allanton, Bart. These trees consist of oak, ash, beech, elm,geen, plum, lime, thorn, and maple, of which only four or five have died. The size of the trees runs from 15 to 45 feet in height.

III.—Population.

The cause of the decrease was the uniting of a great number of small farms or crofts into farms of larger dimensions; and the singular fact of the population in 1821 and 1831 being the same, principally arose from the peopling of a small property, formerly wholly in grass, by dividing it into three separate farms and a croft for agriculture, and by a similar decrease of the inhabitants of a neighbouring estate. None of the population reside in towns or villages.

Three of the proprietors of land have upwards of L.50 of yearly rent.

IV.—Industry.

The number of arable acres in the parish, imperial measure, is about 6806. The number of acres that have never been cultivated, about 7370. No land is in a state of undivided common. There were 144 acres under wood on the estate of Echt in the end of last century. Since the beginning of this century, the late and present proprietor have planted from 1500 to 2000 acres, consisting of the following kinds of trees, viz. Scotch fir, larch, spruce, oak, ash, elm, beech, alder, birch, plane, lime, maple, horse chestnut, and Spanish chestnut. A number of farms were under old leases of long duration, including the rentals of which, the average rent of arable land per Scots acre would not exceed 15s. These leases are now worn out, and the average modern rent per acre may be about L. 1, 15s.

The common breeds of cattle are the Aberdeenshire and the short-horned or Teeswater. Few sheep are kept. The prevailing kinds are the Cheviot and black-faced.

No parish in the county has undergone greater improvements in reclaiming waste land, inclosing, draining, roads, and farm-buildings. The estate of Echt contains 11,000 imperial acres, including 1441 acres, 1 rood, 14 falls on the hill of Fare. Of this quantity 5585 imperial acres are arable; and of these fully one-third, or 1861 acres, have been reclaimed from waste land, chiefly at the expense of the proprietor. And the last and present proprietor have built 157,108 ells of stone-dikes, at an average expense of 10d. per ell, and have sunk upwards of 40,000 ells of drains.

The estate of Cullerley contains 2886 imperial acres, whereof 1001 are arable, 89 meadow or haugh ground, 296 moss, and 1500 uncultivated, including its proportion of the hill of Fare. Improvement is going on there also with considerable spirit. The duration of leases in this parish is generally nineteen years; but many of the old leases were double that extent. Most of the farms are substantially inclosed, and almost every farm-house is substantial and convenient. The style of farming has been improved exceedingly within the last forty years. The seven years shift is chiefly practised. Turnips and sown grasses are raised in abundance. Lime is much used, and the use of bone manure begins to be adopted at the rate of twenty-five bushels to the acre, and it succeeds well. Some farms are in a high state of improvement, particularly the farm of Wester Culfosie, lately in the natural possession of the proprietor of Echt. There are thirty-five mills in the parish for thrashing grain.

Produce.—This parish produces, as nearly as can be ascertained,

There is a very large and productive garden at Echt House, containing within the walls 2 acres, 1 rood, 4 falls Scots, and nearly 2 acres more without, cultivated as garden ground.

Manufacture.—The only manufacture carried on in the parish consists in knitting stockings and mitts for one of the principal manufacturers in Aberdeen.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Market-Town.— The nearest market-town is Aberdeen, to which much of the produce of the parish is carried weekly.

Means of Communication.—A penny-post office was established here about three years ago. There are nine miles and a quarter of turnpike roads on three different roads, and three toll-bars. The Lord Forbes coach from Aberdeen to Alford, &c. runs two miles within this parish. A public vehicle on the middle road, which goes from Aberdeen to Tarland, and another on the Raemoir and Cullerley road from Aberdeen to Kincardine O'Neil, Aboyne, &c. would add much to the accommodation of travellers. On the roads here, there are nine small bridges in good repair.

Ecclesiastical State.—The parish church is nearly centrical, and is convenient for the greater part of the population. It was built in 1804, is in good repair, and very commodious. When full it will hold 600 people; and from 450 to 500 usually attend. The inhabitants are all of the Established Church, (excepting ten or twelve individuals), and are regular and decent in their attendance on Divine ordinances, and generous and kind to the poor. The average number of communicants is about 500. No Dissenting or Seceding chapels in the parish. One of the farmers acts as an Anabaptist clergyman to a very few members of that persuasion.

The manse was built in 1805, substantially finished, and suitable for the incumbent. The living consists of L.117, 0s. 4½d. in money, (including the allowance for communion elements;) 88 bolls 1 firlot oatmeal, at 140 imperial pounds to the boll; 4 bolls, 2 firlots, 2 2/5 pecks bear, Aberdeenshire measure; and 1 firlot 2 2/5 pecks malt. The teinds are valued and exhausted. The glebe measures little more than 4½ acres, is not all of good quality, and would barely rent at L. 10 per annum. There is no grass glebe, nor any allowance for it. The Earl of Fife is patron. The present incumbent was translated from South Ronaldshay, in Orkney, and settled here in March 1815.

Education.—There is one parochial school, and two private schools. One of the latter is supported by an yearly salary of L.5, paid by the proprietor of Cullerley, and by the school-fees. The other private school is supported by the school-fees alone. Placed at the northern extremity of the district, the scholars are chiefly derived from the east end of Cluny, and the west end of Skene. The salary of the parochial teacher is L.29, and nearly L.2 arising from mortified money. The school-fees may amount, communibus annis, to L. 18 or L.20. He has a house and garden of the legal size. He receives a proportion of Mr Dick's legacy.

Poor and Parochial Funds.—The funds destined for the support of the poor arise from the interest of the following sums, viz. L.300 accumulated from the savings of former years, except two small legacies amounting nearly to L. 60; including L. 100 bequeathed to the session by the late William Forbes, Esq. of Echt, to which the poor on the estate of Echt have a preferable claim, if preferred quarterly by the proprietor; from an annuity of ten merks Scots left by the late Mr Duff of Premnay, to which the poor in Cullerley have a right; from the weekly collections, mortcloth dues, fines, &c, amounting to L.30 and upwards annually; and from the share which falls to the parish of the Synod Fund, circulated by the Trustees of the late John Burnet, Esq. of Dens, of which this parish has received two payments of L. 20 each, at an interval of sixteen years, and L.35 in the year 1839. Twenty-six persons, at an average, receive permanent parochial aid at the rate of from 7s. to 10s. quarterly, according to their necessities. Several persons receive occasional assistance, including repairs to dwelling-houses ; and the session are often called upon to bear the funeral charges of the poor. None of our regular poor travel from door to door begging bread. All who are able support themselves in part by working. They are not disposed to claim parochial relief, unless when they need it, nor backward to receive it when compelled by necessity. The kirk-session have the management of the interest of L. 40 bequeathed by a Mr Thomson of Banchory to poor persons of the name of Reith or Mennie, or to relations of the testator. The late Mr Alexander Fowler, a merchant in this parish, bequeathed L.200 to the poor. He died in 1837.

Fairs.—Two old established markets are held on the estate of Echt—the one in June, the other in August, for cattle, sheep, horses, &c.; and seven trysts for the same purpose, and for selling and buying grain. Two of them are held, one at Whitsunday, the other at Martinmas, for engaging servants.

Inns, Alehouses, &c.—There are five inns or houses of entertainment in the parish, all on the turnpike roads. The morals of the people do not seem to be, in any great degree, deteriorated by them. .

Fuel.—Peat fuel has hitherto been chiefly used ; but the mosses, especially on the estate of Echt, are beginning to be exhausted, and English coals are getting into use,—the average price of which, at the harbour of Aberdeen, is about 5s. per boll. Wood is scarce, but will be plentiful in thirty or forty years. Besides the plantations already mentioned, there are about 100 acres of wood on the property of Bragiewell and South Meanecht,

July 1842.


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