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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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; 4bolls, 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 4½acres, 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,
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