PRESBYTERY OF ELLON, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. WILLIAM WATT, MINISTER.
[Drawn up by the late incumbent, the Rev. Maxwell Gordon.]
I.—Topography and Natural History.
The river Ythan is about a quarter of a mile east of
the village. It is here of a serpentine form, and is navigable nearly a
mile and a-half. The ships are loaded and unloaded at low water; but it is
hoped that a pier will soon be built, which would prove a great
accommodation to the farmers, particularly those at a distance. The river
abounds with salmon, sea-trout, flounders, and a great many other small
fish; but it is chiefly famed for its abundant produce of mussels. The
quantity taken out of the river annually amounts to some hundred tons, and
is sold at L.1, 10s. per ton.
It is much to be regretted that the entrance to the
river is bad, and occasionally dangerous, owing to the sand shifting at
its mouth, and there seems to be no remedy for it. The sandy beach extends
from the mouth of the Ythan, about one mile and a-half north, and eight or
ten miles south. On the south beach, there were lately many stake-nets for
catching salmon, but bag-nets have now been substituted in their room, as
they are worked with less trouble and expense.
The fine little burn of Foveran runs through the
parish, and falls into the Ythan near the village of Newburgh. There are
three meal-mills upon it, all of the best construction, and abundantly
It is well known that there is little wood on this part
of the east coast of Scotland; but the plantations around Foveran House
and Ythan Lodge, mentioned in the last Statistical Account, have thriven
tolerably well. In the western part of the parish, where Mr Hunter of
Tillery built, a few years ago, a most handsome and commodious house, and
laid out the grounds with great taste, wood grows very rapidly. The
Huntingdon willow seems peculiarly suited to the climate and soil of the
Antiquities. — The following is an extract from
a manuscript in the Advocates' Library of Aberdeen, written about the
beginning of the last century, by Sir Samuel Forbes of Foveran: "Foveran
has its name from the castle here, which is very old, and is thought to be
so called from a sweet and very impetuous spring (at the foot of the wall,
having an arch built over it,) for the Irish 'Foveran' signifies a spring.
There was once an hospital founded by Sir Alexander dimming, second Earl
of Buchan, and son to the founder of Deer Abbey, Justiciary of Scotland
under Alexander the Third, and one of the six regents on his death. Here
is still an hospital, founded for three poor men, by the first Alexander
Forbes of Foveran, who have each of them a peck of meal and a groat
weekly." There is still a small fund in the hands of the Foveran family,
the interest of which a poor man gets under the name of bede money.
There is now no vestige remaining of the Castle of Foveran, nor of
Turing's Tower, which was still more ancient; but we need not say that the
sweet spring, that bountiful gift of God alluded to by Sir Samuel,
continues to flow with all its wonted abundance. There is a marble bust in
the dress of the time of Charles I. lying on the ground, near the site of
the old castle.
Land-owners.—The heritors of the parish are,
Colonel Udny of Udny; Mr Robertson of Foveran; Mr Hunter of Tillery;
General Gordon of Cairness; and the family of Wardhouse. Colonel Udny
resides in London, and only occasionally visits his fine property here.
The Foveran family have not resided much at Foveran House for some years
past, but it is hoped that Mr Robertson will soon settle among us.
Antiquities.—There is a very ancient burial-ground
in the neighbourhood of the village. It is the burial-ground of the family
of Udny, and it should not be allowed to lie in so totally open a state.
There are some remains of an ancient chapel within the ground, which goes
among the people under the name of Rood Church. In a service before the
Sheriff of Aberdeen, on 10th January 1558, of Elizabeth Meldrum, relict of
Alexander Gray, burgess of Aberdeen, among others, of certain crofts and
roods of land, lying in the barony of Newburgh; the boundaries often refer
to the Cross of Newburgh, the lands of the altar of St Crispin, and
Crispinianus, the lands of the Holy Rood, the lands of the Chapel of the
The castle of Knockhall, now in ruins, is situated
about half a-mile north of Newburgh, and was, at one period, the residence
of the family of Udny. It was built in the year 1565, was burnt by
accident in 1734, and was never repaired.
Agriculture.—The land, generally speaking, is
fertile, and produces abundant crops of all kinds. There are many large
and fine farms in the parish, and the tenants are most industrious and
intelligent. An excellent understanding subsists between them and their
landlords, and they live in great harmony among themselves. They are very
hospitable. Their houses, or most of them, are built of stone and lime,
two storeys high, and covered with slates. They are neatly finished, and
comfortably fitted up.
As an instance of the progress of improvement in the
parish, it is worthy of notice, that, since the year 1824, in the
Culterculleri district, 250 acres of barren land have been improved; about
16,200 ells of ditches for fences, and about 10,000 ells of drains have
been cut; about 4900 ells of stone dikes have been built.
About twenty fat cattle per week, on an average, have
been shipped from this parish for the London market during the last six
Navigation.—The number of ships belonging to the
port is eight. Tonnage, 646. These vessels are employed in the coasting
and foreign trade, and import coal and lime, timber and bones. Grain is
the only export. There are a pilot-boat and two fishing-boats belonging to
the village. The fish caught in the sea are, haddocks, cod, skate,
flounders, &c. There is a ferry-boat on the Ythan, about three-quarters of
a mile above the village, which gives at present a rent of L.16 per annum.
Village.—The village of Newburgh, a small but
thriving sea-port, is pleasantly situated on the banks of the burn of
Foveran, near its junction with the river Ythan. There are now several
substantial and commodious houses in the village, and its general
appearance is much improved. In former times, Newburgh was too much famed
for smuggling, but, happily for the morals of the people, since the
appointment of the coast-guard, this has been entirely suppressed. The
land at Newburgh is a fine strong black soil, and produces, abundantly,
bear, turnips, and potatoes, with a few oats. The average rent of the land
about the village is L.4 per acre. The village contains 450 inhabitants,
and 120 houses. There are no less than seven ale-houses, the same number
as when the last Statistical Account was written. There are in the village
a baker, shoemakers, wrights, blacksmiths, and fleshers. There are
likewise four merchants, who deal in all kinds of groceries and
haberdashery goods. A tide-waiter resides in the village. There is one
Society, called the Newburgh Shipmasters' Friendly Society. A branch of
the National Savings' Bank has been established' in connection with the
Ellon District National Savings' Bank. A bone-mill, belonging to Messrs
Black, of six or eight horse power, is in constant employment at the
proper seasons. There are eight granaries, large and substantial
buildings, belonging to Messrs Black, Falconer, Gray, and Mitchell. A
considerable sum of money was bequeathed by the late Mr Mather, native of
this parish, for educating and clothing twenty poor fishermen's children
belonging to Newburgh. The writer understands that the Magistrates of
Aberdeen, Mr Mather's Trustees, have established a school in the village
for the education of these twenty poor children. The same benevolent
individual left L.20 per annum to the minister, or schoolmaster, for
lecturing once a-week to the poor people of the village. The minister
preserves the right of lecturing in his own hands, but the duty has been
performed during the last three years by the Rev. Robert Abercrombie
Gordon, our parish schoolmaster. Mr Mather left also four bursaries at
Marischal College, under the patronage of the minister of Foveran, to be
given to boys educated at the parish school of Foveran.
Means of Communication.—This parish is intersected
by the Aberdeen and Peterhead turnpike road, on which two mails pass and
repass daily. There is also a daily coach from Aberdeen to Ellon. There
are three public-houses on this line of road within the parish. Another
turnpike road from Aberdeen to Methlick touches the western extremity of
the parish : and there is a most useful turnpike road now completed, I
believe, from Old Meldrum to the village of Newburgh. There are several
good cross roads which strike off from the Peterhead turnpike; and one of
them in particular, called "the Fiddes road," which branches off opposite
the Foveran Arms Inn, is most useful to the inhabitants of this parish, as
it joins the Udny turnpike road, and opens up a fine communication with
that part of the country.
Ecclesiastical State.—The church, a plain
substantial building, was built in the year 1794, and accommodates about
700 people. There are three very handsome marble monuments on the inside
wall of the church, two of them belonging to the Foveran family; and the
third, which belongs to the Udny family, is a most valuable monument,
(with busts said to be very striking likenesses of two of that family,)
and was executed at great expense, by Bacon, the celebrated London
sculptor. Handsome churchyard walls have just now been built, with a fund
bequeathed for that purpose by the late Miss Robertson of Foveran. The
attendance of the people at church is very exemplary, and their devout
appearance and great attention to the preacher have frequently been taken
notice of by strangers. The number of communicants is, upon the average,
about 630. Between 20 and 30 young communicants come forward annually.
The offices at the manse, which were built between
sixty and seventy years ago, are at present in a ruinous state, especially
the roof, and the manse will soon require considerable repairs. The glebe
is very small, and is most inconveniently situated at a distance from the
manse; but the minister is accommodated with suitable ground by Mr
Robertson of Foveran.
Education.—The parish school is situated in the
eastern part of the parish, and is much too small and low-roofed for the
accommodation of the large number of scholars who attend it. There is
reason to hope that the heritors will soon pay attention to this most
important subject. There is another school at Cultercullen, in the western
part of the parish, with an endowment of L.8, a free house, and ground for
a cow. It is well attended.
Poor.— The average collection at the church door is
about L.60 per annum. The number of the poor has increased greatly of
late, and their wants, from whatever cause, still more rapidly. Nearly
L.100 are now necessary annually for their maintenance. The session has
hitherto been enabled to meet the demand, by having received several
legacies and donations; but an application to the heritors for assistance
must very soon be made, or a small fund, which has not been broken in upon
for many a year, must be used.