PRESBYTERY OF ABERDEEN, SYNOD OF
THE REV. JOHN LESLIE, MINISTER.
THE REV. WILLIAM LESLIE, A. & S. MINISTER
I.—Topography and Natural
Name.—The name of this
parish is supposed to be Gaelic, and to signify the fair bank or boundary
of the river.
Extent, &c.—The parish is
situated in that district of the county of Aberdeen which is called
Formartin, and extends from five to six miles in length along the north
bank of the river Don, and from three to four in breadth—containing about
fifteen square miles.
Boundaries, &c.—It is
bounded on the south by the river Don, which separates it from the
parishes of Dyce, Kinellar, and Kin-tore; by the parish of Keith-hall, on
the north and west; and by New Machar, on the east. Its shape has some
resemblance to that of an Irish harp, with the broad end turned to the
The ground rises gradually
from the river towards the north to the height of perhaps 300 feet; but
there is nothing in this parish that deserves the name of a hill. It sinks
again towards the north boundary of the parish.
Climate. —The climate, in
general, is dry, early, and healthy; and from the extent of ditches,
drains, and other improvements which are carried on,—partly by the
heritors and partly by the tenants,—the climate will be much improved.
Hydrography.— The only
river connected with this parish is the Don, already mentioned, which runs
from west to east, and falls into the sea near Old Aberdeen. There are
three burns also, which supply as many meal and barley mills, with a kiln
attached to each of them.
Geology.—The parish abounds
with granite of excellent quality; and there is also some limestone; but,
owing to the scarcity of fuel, it is not converted into lime. The soil is
various. Along the bank of the river it consists of deep, rich, haugh
land. Further removed from the river the land consists chiefly of light
early soil of good quality. In the middle or elevated district the soil is
very much inferior, consisting partly of peat-moss, and partly of moor,
interspersed with considerable and yearly increasing patches of arable
land. In the north district of the parish, the soil is much better, and
there are several well cultivated farms.
Live-Stock.—A great number
of cattle (chiefly of the Aberdeenshire breed) are reared and fed in this
parish, many of which grow to a very considerable size. There are also
some fine horses reared. Searcely any sheep are reared ; and few are fed,
except on the lawns of Fintray House and Disblair.
Zoology.—Formerly the river
Don abounded with salmon and very fine trout; but the cruives and
dam-dikes, erected by manufacturing companies in the parishes of Old
Machar and Newhills, have almost ruined the fishings; and have given rise
to many disputes between the upper heritors and manufacturing companies.
Hares and partridges are in abundance ; but no rare species of animals are
Wood.—Upwards of 600 acres
of the surface of the parish are covered with wood, of various ages and
kinds, and all in a thriving condition.
II.— Civil History.
Heritors. —The principal
heritor of this parish is Sir John Forbes, Bart, of Craigievar, who is
patron of the parish, proprietor of somewhat more than the half of it, and
the only residing heritor. The other heritors are, the Earl of Fife; Mr
Ramsay of Barra; and the Rev. Dr Morison of Disblair,—who have lands of
considerable extent and value; also General Benjamin Forbes of Balbithan;
and William Gordon Cumming Skene, Esq. of Pit-lurg and Dyce, who have
small properties in this parish. The rental of the parish is supposed to
be nearly L. 5000 Sterling. The valued rent is L. 3007, 8s. 4d. Scots.
Antiquities.—There are two
cairns in the parish, but their origin is unknown. The present minister
when improving his glebe dug up the foundations of some buildings,
supposed to have belonged to the Abbacy of Lindores, in Fife; a branch of
which is said to have stood where the principal burying ground of this
parish now is; in which burying ground, a vault of extraordinary strength
was built a few years ago by the parishioners, to secure dead bodies from
resurrectionists; from whence, after remaining perhaps three months or
more, the bodies are removed and regularly interred. The proprietor of the
lands of Fintray collects and pays to the Exchequer the feu-duties which
belonged to the Abbacy of Lindores—several of the landed estates in this
part of the country holding of said Abbacy, and paying feu-duty thereto.
The buildings (denominated
the Northern Abbey) are supposed to have been erected about the year 1386,
from a stone bearing that date having been observed many years ago in the
dike of the burying ground, which had probably been composed of fragments
of the demolished abbey, whereof no vestige now remains above the surface
of the ground; but foundations of its walls occasionally interrupt the
digging of graves.
The minister has in his
possession a silver cup belonging to the parish, bearing date 1632, which
tradition says was formed from a silver head of St Meddan, the tutelar
saint of the parish; which, in the days of Popish superstition, was wont
to be carried through the parish in procession, for the purpose of
bringing down rain, or clearing up the weather, as circumstances might
Modern Buildings.— The
principal building in the parish is Fintray House, a large, elegant, and
commodious mansion in the Tudor style, lately erected by Sir John Forbes,
Bart. There is also a neat and commodious house on the lands of Disblair,
built in the cottage style, and of a size suited to the extent and value
of the property attached.
most remarkable events in this parish, within the memory of the present
generation, are the floods of the river Don, which were till of late years
a very serious bar to agricultural improvements. The first great flood on
record happened in the year 1768, which carried away the greater part of
the crop from the haughs and level lands, at the period between reaping
and stacking. A similar inundation took place in August 1799, which
carried off considerable quantities of hay, and destroyed, in a great
measure, the grain crop, the whole of which stood, at that time, on the
ground uncut. A similar, but still higher flood, happened on 4th August
1829, when the river rose about fourteen feet above its ordinary level,
and nearly eighteen inches higher than any flood of that river in the
memory of the oldest person alive, and extending (where the river was not
confined by elevated lands or embankments) to from half to three-fourths
of a mile in breadth. This extraordinary flood occasioned very serious
losses to many individuals; and had it not been for strong embankments,
which had been erected a few years before, (some of which withstood, while
others yielded to the impetuosity of the torrent,) the whole crop on the
most valuable lands in the parish must have been completely destroyed. A
great part of the haugh-land is now protected by embankments, on the lands
of Fintray and Wester Fintray, extending to upwards of 6000 ells in
length, and protecting from 200 to 300 Scotch acres of very fine rich
land, from the river floods.
oldest record belonging to the kirk-session begins on 25th May 1662 ; but
only fragments thereof remain, scarcely legible, and all in loose sheets.
With the exception of the register of baptisms, which appears to be pretty
complete since the year 1728, the registers of this parish are rather
defective. Minutes appear to have been kept, but seldom entered in a bound
book, previously to the year 1795—since which time regular records have
III — Population
The decrease between 1790
and 1811 seems to have been owing to two or more small farms having been
occasionally thrown into one.
The average number of
births in this parish for the last seven years is 26 per annum ; of
deaths, 13; of marriages, 13. The number of families, by census of 1831
was 225 ; inhabited houses, 215; fatuous persons, 2.
Number of illegitimate
births during the last three years 6.
Character, &c. of the
People.—The people, in general, are active and industrious, and, with a
very few exceptions, they are temperate. They enjoy, in a moderate degree,
the comforts and advantages of society.
three-fourths of the population depend for employment and subsistence on
agricultural concerns. The chief productions of the parish are oats, bear
(sometimes barley), pease, hay, potates, and turnip, of which latter crop
a very considerable breadth is sown annually, the soil being particularly
adapted to turnip husbandry.
Rents.—Arable land rents
from 15s. to L. 2, 15s. per acre, according to its quality;—average about
L. 1, 5s. per acre.
There is a very
considerable extent of barren ground in the lands both of Fintray and
Wester Fintray, which might be rendered useful by being either cultivated
or planted. And the judicious improvements of draining and inclosing,
which Sir John Forbes has introduced on his lands, and which are being
carried on, partly by himself and partly by his tenants, will, it is to be
hoped, cause the barren district of the parish to present a more cheering
aspect at no distant period. For, notwithstanding the clamours of
agricultural distress, improvements were never carried on here with
greater spirit than at present.
Farm-houses and offices
have been greatly improved in appearance within the last forty years, and
the occupants are much better clothed, and fed, and lodged.
duration of leases is nineteen years—a space too short for encouraging an
enterprising tenant to lay out his capital on improvements, with any
reasonable prospect of advantage.
Next to the agricultural
population may be mentioned tradesmen of various crafts, who reside in the
parish, such as 4 blacksmiths; 4 masons; 8 carpenters; 4 tailors; 6
shoemakers; 3 millers; 2 sawyers; 1 watchmaker or mechanic, and 4
shopkeepers: amounting in all to about 36, independently of their
manufacture of this parish is that of fine woollen cloth, by the Messrs
Crombie, at Cothal Mills, which was begun about the year 1798, under a
different firm, and has been carried on since that period without
intermission. Mr John Crombie has conducted it since 1806. It produces, on
an average, from 7500 to 8000 yards per annum, of the value of from 14s.
to 24s. per yard. This branch of business, principally owing to the number
of complicated and variable processes, through which the material must
pass before it be brought out in a finished state, is attended with
several difficulties, and is almost confined to three or four counties in
the west of England and Yorkshire. These difficulties have been overcome
here, by encouraging English operatives to settle in this country; and the
business is now managed by an English foreman over each different
department, having under his inspection Scotch and English labourers, who
perform the operative parts. The advantages which attend the manufacture
of cloths here, are a plentiful supply of excellent water, and a powerful
waterfall, which saves the expenses of steam-power. Wages are also lower
here than in manufacturing districts where provisions are high.
Considerable encouragement has been given to this manufactory by the Board
of Trustees for the Encouragement of Manufactures in Scotland, who have
annually given considerable premiums, in the gaining of which the Messrs
Crombie have been very successful.
Since the year 1836, a
branch of manufacture has sprung up in the south of Scotland, which has
had the effect of considerably decreasing the consumpt of fine cloths
throughout the kingdom. The article alluded to is plaid, or what is now
more usually denominated "tweed." The managers at Cothal Mills, finding
that their clothing machines were particularly well adapted to the
manufacture of this article, by working finer wools than were generally
used for these goods, soon produced stuffs that found a ready market in
London as well as in Scotland. The consequence has been, that, from the
steady demand, they have been enabled to double their production, and of
course the number of hands' has been increased.
Market-Town, &c.—Fintray is
distant from Aberdeen, the nearest market-town, from eight to thirteen
miles; from six to seven of which miles are turnpike, and the rest good
commutation roads. The road from Keith-hall to Aberdeen divides the parish
into nearly two equal parts.
present church of Fintray was built in 1821, and is neat, substantial, and
commodious. It is the only place of worship in the parish. It is about
equally distant from the east and west boundaries of the parish, but much
nearer to the south boundary than the north. It would accommodate nearly
800 persons, having been purposely built large, to meet an increase of
population. It is divided among the heritors in the proportion of their
valued rents; the heritors subdivide it among their tenants, and no
seat-rents are demanded or paid. The average number of communicants is
about 450. The congregation, on an ordinary Sabbath and favourable day,
may be reckoned a full half of the gross population. There are only a few
Dissenters in the parish, and not one of these is a native of the parish;
almost the whole of them belong to the Cothal Mills' Manufactory.
The present manse was built
in 1804. The glebe measures nearly 6 acres, about two of which were
reclaimed by the present incumbent from barren ground ; and the greater
part of the glebe (both old and new) is land of inferior value.
The stipend consists of
sixteen chalders of victual, the one-half meal, the other half barley,
payable by the fiar prices of the county, together with L. 8, 6s. 8d. for
Schools.—There are two
schools in the parish, besides two Sabbath schools, one of them conducted
by the minister, viz. the parochial, which is well situated for the
southern (the more popoulous) district of the parish; and a school, built
and endowed by the proprietor of Disblair, for the accommodation of the
northern district. The parochial teacher enjoys a school-house, with two
small rooms for his own accommodation, a salary of L. 28 Sterling, and a
quarter of an acre of garden ground. Average number of scholars from 60 to
70, and school-fees may amount to L. 20 per annum. The teacher of the
other school receives as salary, the interest of L. 200, mortified for
that purpose by the Rev. Dr Morison, proprietor of Disblair, together with
a school-house, dwelling-house, and garden, for a nominal rent of 5s. per
annum. Number of scholars from 40 to 50. School-fees may, perhaps, amount
to L.15 or L.16 per annum. The teacher officiates as precentor, and
receives L. 3 per annum.
The branches usually taught
in the parochial school are, reading, writing, arithmetic, Latin, (now
seldom required.) English grammar, geography, mensuration, mathematics,
and sometimes book-keeping. Most of the above branches are also taught at
the school at Disblair. School-fees vary from 2s. 6d. to 5s. per quarter,
according to the branches taught, but they are often not regularly paid.
The Dick bequest to the parochial schoolmasters in Aberdeen, Banff, and
Murrayshires, now makes their situation comfortable.
There are exceedingly few
persons (if any) in this parish who cannot read; and it is believed that
(with a few exceptions among the aged) all of them have more or less
knowledge of writing.
Poor and Parochial
Funds.—There is not a beggar belonging to the parish. Only one person of
that description has resided in the parish in the course of the last forty
years; and, as that person begged more from avarice than necessity, the
kirk-session gave him the choice of desisting from public begging, or of
allowing his name to be expunged from the pauper roll. By the advice of
his wife, who had practised the begging trade in Aberdeen before her
marriage, he preferred the latter. The average number of persons receiving
parochial relief, may vary from 20 to 25, receiving from L. 1 to L. 3,
10s. per annum. The annual amount of funds under the management of the
kirk-session may be reckoned from L. 60 to L. 65 per annum, (burdened with
the expense of the session, precentor, beadle, &c. in all about L. 5,)
arising from weekly collections in the church, (L. 40 to L. 45,) interest
of L. 220; donations from non-residing heritors, pall-dues and other
casualties. Besides the weekly collections for the ordinary poor, annual
collections, of very considerable amount, are made for the Infirmary and
Lunatic Asylum at Aberdeen; and a collection was lately made in aid of the
The poor of this parish owe
a large debt of gratitude to Sir John and the Honourable Lady Forbes of
Craigievar, who, of late years, have given several donations; among which
may be mentioned one of L. 20, and another of L. 10, for the immediate
relief of the poor, besides their very liberal collections in the church
on ordinary Sundays: and well-judged supplies of clothing, coal, meal, and
other things, to the more necessitous, during the inclement season of the
It is but justice to the
poor of this parish, to say, that few apply for parochial aid, before they
stand in actual need of it; and in some cases, it has been necessary to
press it urgently and repeatedly before it was accepted. At the same time,
it cannot be denied, that some few have been found of a contrary
disposition. Subscriptions are sometimes successfully made for an
individual, or family, who have met with any misfortune.
A blacksmith, who died in
this parish some years ago, bequeathed to the kirk-session, L. 70
Sterling; the interest of L.40 to be applied to the education of poor
children; and the interest of L. 30, towards the clothing of aged and
indigent females belonging to and residing in the parish. These small
funds are useful at the present time. And another blacksmith, in like
manner, disponed to the kirk-session, feu-duties to the annual value of
L.10 13s. 6d., for charitable purposes in this parish; to take effect,
under the eye of the kirk-session, upon the death of certain persons named
in the disposition. Poor rates are happily unknown and unnecessary here.
In this parish there are
neither markets, saving banks, nor circulating libraries.
Inns.—There are at present
two inns or alehouses, one of which would suffice. One of them has been
lately erected, and is an excellent and substantial building, with good
accommodation— possessing many attractions for such as prefer rural
pleasures to the gaieties of a town during the summer and autumnal months.
Fuel.— The fuel hitherto
most commonly used was peat and turf, from a moss in the parish, but that
moss being now in a great measure exhausted, coals, brought from Aberdeen,
begin to be generally used.
Northern Abbey of Lindores.—When
the Abbacy of Lindores was suppressed at the Reformation, it was erected
into a temporal lordship, in favour of Leslie, Lord Lindores, who acquired
from the Crown an heritable right to collect the feu-duties formerly paid
by the vassals of that Abbacy, and to account for the same to the Crown.
That part of the Abbacy's rights which lay north of the Tay was afterwards
acquired from the Lindores family by the family of Craigievar, who, as
heritable collectors, have ever since uplifted these feu-duties, accounted
and paid them to the Exchequer, and received for that trouble an annual
allowance of L. 5 Sterling. The sum thus paid to the Exchequer is L. 73,
13s. 1 4/12d.
Rents.—The highest rent
paid for a farm in this parish at present is L. 400 per annum,—the lowest
Cropping.—Some of the very
deep haugh land has been worked, for some time past, on a four years'
shift, viz. oats, turnip, bear, hay ; but a five years shift (including
one year of hay and another of pasture grass,) is by most farmers deemed
preferable. On the infield or medium lands, a six or seven years' shift is
generally adopted, and on the outfield or inferior soils, a shift of not
less than seven years,—three or more of which they are in grass.
Reaping.—About the year
1810, William Anderson, a farmer in Hatton of Fintray, began to cut down
his crop with a scythe instead of a sickle. But this mode of reaping,
which is now universally practised in Aberdeenshire, did not become
general till two or three years after.
The process of reaping is
more expeditiously carried on by four scythes than by any other number,
viz. four cutters, four gatherers, four binders, two stookers, and one
raker, the binders making the bands. These fifteen persons may be supposed
to finish about six acres per day.