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


PRESBYTERY OF GARIOCH, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. ROBERT LESSEL, MINISTER.

I.—Topography and Natural History.

Situation, &c.—Inverury, or, as it was sometimes formerly written, Ennerurie, lies between the Don and Ury, and, extending to the confluence of these rivers, thence derives its name. It is bounded on the west, by Chapel of Garioch; on the south, by the Don ; and on the north and east, by the Ury. Its length from east to west is nearly 4, its breadth from north to south something more than 2 English miles; and it contains fully 5100 imperial acres.

Topographical Appearances.—The vale of Inverury, in which the town stands, and the haughs and lower grounds along the river's side, embrace about 1000 acres of light fertile loam incumbent chiefly on sand. The ground gradually rises towards the west, and terminates in three hills within the parish, almost equidistant from each other, and separated by straths or valleys; that on the south is called the hill of Manar, the middle hill is named Knockinglew, that on the north the hill of Drimmies.

II.—Civil History.

Perhaps the first mention made of Inverury is in the short narrative of King Eth. It is noticed in a charter, of date about 1178, by David Earl of Huntingdon, brother of King William the Lyon, By this charter he conveys to the rich Abbey of Lindores, "ec-clesiam de Fintrichi (Fintray) cum omnibus pertinentiis suis; et ecclesiam de Inveruriu cum capella de Monkegin et omnibus aliis pertinentiis suis; et ecclesiam de Durnach (Durns) et ecclesiam de Prame (Premnay) et ecclesiam de Inchemabarim (Insch) et ecclesiam de Culsamuel (Culsamond) cum terris et decimis," &c. (Archaeologia, Vol. xiii. p. 177.) These churches came into the hands of Earl David, then probably the richest Lord in Britain, as part of the Lordship of the Garioch conferred on him by his royal brother. Prior to this time, a castle existed at Inverury, for, in 1180, Norman, son of Malcolm, Constable of the Castle of Inverurin, witnesses a charter, preserved in the Advocates' Library. It was situated near where the Bass now stands, and is the first fortified place in Aberdeenshire on record,—the Castles of Aberdeen and Kildrummy dating no higher than the thirteenth century. In the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, there is an MS. entitled, A View of the Diocese of Aberdeen, by an unknown author. It appears to have been written about the year 1726. In reference to Inverury the author says, "The families here are reckoned about 80, (so, if allowing six to a family), the inhabitants cannot be above 480." The Edinburgh Magazine for 1760 contains a notice of Inverury and the country of the Garioch, written by a Rev. Mr Forbes about 1738. Inverury was not improbably the head burgh of the Garioch as early as the days of William the Lyon. Its original charter appears to have been lost, for it is, by a novodamus, created anew by Queen Mary, June 22, 1558; and, on the 17th September 1663, on the petition of John Earl of Marr, it was appointed to be the head burgh of his Lordship's regality of the Garioch. "The Parliament appoints the burgh of Innerauray to be the place where all courts of justice and all executions belonging to the regalitie of Garioch, as hornings, inhibitions, &c. shall sit and be used." (Acts of Parl. of Scotl. Vol. vii. App. 97.) Its representative at that time was Mr William Ferguson of Badifurrow, the ancestor of the Fergusons of Pitfour in 1669. It was represented by Mr James El-phinstone.

The Bruce lay at Stonehouse, in the south end of Inverury, before his great battle with the Cummings. He had been carried in a litter from Sliach in Strathbogie in a very sickly condition, and was thought to be at the point of death. Hearing, however, of the insolent daring of his adversaries, who, relying on his weakness, had approached his very camp, he suddenly roused himself, called for his sword, and, riding out at the head of his troops, now inspirited beyond measure by the sight of their beloved leader, whom they looked on as almost miraculously restored to them, he pursued the Cummings across the Ury, and encountered their main body between Barra and Old Meldrum, where he gained his great and decisive victory. This is happily alluded to by Arthur Johnstone, who, though born on the other side of the Ury, being a native of Keithhall, links himself with Inverury in the beautiful lines subjoined.

["Inneruria."

Urbs dilecta mihi, te mollibus alluit undis
Urius, antiquum nomen, et inde trahis
Te quoque Dona rigat, cristallo purior, ilium
Mox Gariochaeis Urius auget aquis.
Cur tua Mygdoniis non surgunt tecta columnis
Nec radiat titulis Pyramis ulla tuis?
Cur humiles sorbis cinguntur vilibus aedes,
Sacra quibus potius debita laurus erat?
Ante triumphatus te juxta Brussius hostem
Trivit, et ex illo victor ubique fuit
Nec procul hinc populos Stewarti dextra rebelles
Fregit et Harlaeam sanguine mersit humum
Te jactare mihi fas est, quae divite gleba
Te beat, est cunis proxima terra meis,
Te prope vitales puer hausi luminis auras,
Te prope jam canis obsitus opto mori.
      Arct. Johns. Poems, Middelb. 1642, p. 441.

The prayer of the poet in the concluding line was not vouchsafed, for his gray hairs were carried to the grave at Oxford.]

Inverury was the scene of a contest between the Pretender's and King's troops on 23d December 1745. The rebels being in possession of Aberdeen, and having imposed a tribute of L.1000 on the inhabitants, Lord Loudon dispatched from the north Mac]eod of Macleod with about 700 men, for the purpose of relieving the city, and preventing the exaction of this heavy impost. [Kames's History of Rebellion. ] Lord Lewis Gordon, informed that Macleod had reached Inverury, marched his own regiment and all the men he had of Lord John Drummond's regiment, with a battalion of 300 Farquharsons, commanded by Monalhie (in all about 1200 men), to attack him. They proceeded by the Fintray road, and reached the Ury about sunset. This river they crossed with difficulty, near Mill of Keith-hall, losing a few men in making the passage. [Kennedy's Annals of Aberdeen.] They, however, surprised Macleod, whose men were partly quartered at Artannes and other farms in the neighbourhood of the town. He collected hastily such as could be brought together, and formed in order of battle. The action took place under moonlight, but lasted only about twenty minutes; [London Gazette, 29th December 1745.] for when Drummond's men and the Farquharsons advanced to close combat, Macleod's troops, greatly inferior in numbers, gave way, and escaped as they best could. Of the rebels 20 were killed in the action, besides those lost in crossing the river, and a considerable number were wounded. Of the King's troops 7 were killed, 15 so wounded that they could not be carried off the field, and 41 taken prisoners. Among these were Maitland of Pithichie, Principal Chalmers of King's College, and a few other low country gentlemen who happened to be with the army. Musket balls are still occasionally turned up on the field of battle by the plough.

Antiquities.—Among the curious remains of antiquity deserving notice are the Bass and the Koning or Conyng Hillock, two tumuli of conical form. About the name and origin of these, especially the former, antiquarians have been much perplexed. There are at least two other places in Scotland called by this name, the Bass at the mouth of the Forth, and the Bass near Dryburgh on the Tweed. Chalmers, in his Caledonia, quotes an Icelandic Dictionary to show that Bass signifies, in that tongue, Pinnaculum, and a Celtic work to prove, that, among the Celts, it signifies a rock, a rock under water, something low. The French bas, according to him, is derivable from a Celtic source. He might have added, that in the Celtic tongue, las signifies death. In none of its features does the Bass resemble any of the earth forts found in Scotland. Some maintain that it had been used for judicial purposes; that it was the central court for the district to which appeals lay from the local courts held within the circles of stones, still popularly, though very erroneously, called Druidical circles. That the Bass, being in existence, may have been so employed, seems not improbable; yet it far surpasses in magnitude any of the places which we know for certain to have been used for judicial purposes. Thus on Sunday, 2d May 1349, the Justice-General of the north of Scotland, attended by many nobles, held a criminal court, "apud stantes lapides de Rayne en le Gariach;" and the chief seat of the Bishop of Aberdeen's courts was the small mount called Tilliedron. The old popular belief, that it would be of evil omen, unhappy, or dangerous to interfere with the Bass, as the plague or pest was buried in it, and if opened might escape, at once suggests the idea that it is of sepulchral character. Such traditions are found connected with not a few other sepulchral tumuli in Scotland, equalling it in size, and otherwise resembling it; and Dr Clarke, in his Russian travels, describing some burrows on the Steppes of the Don in that country, relates that the inhabitants were abhorrent from the idea of their being opened, lest the plague should escape from them. These tumuli, the Doctor has no doubt, are sepulchral. But if the Bass be of this kind, whose remains does it probably cover? When the bodies of the chiefs were burnt, says Mr Pinkerton, describing the customs of the Picts, "a burrow of earth, in proportion to the rank, was thrown up. That of a beloved king was sometimes like a little hill." (Vol. i. 392.) Chalmers (Cal. i. 381), describing the short reign of King Aodh, Hugh, or Eth (surnamed of the swift foot,) says, "It was his misfortune to reign while Grig was Maormor (ruler or earl) of the extensive country between the Don and the Spey. This artful chieftain found no great difficulty to raise up a competitor, with a faction, to oppose the King. The contending parties met at Strathalan, in a bloody field, where Aodh was wounded ; and, being carried to Inverurin, died two months after this fatal conflict, and one year after his sad accession, during wretched times in 881." The Chronicon Pictorum, a good authority, also assigns his death to Inverury in the following words: "Edus tenuit idem (regnum) uno anno, ejus autem brevitas nil historia memorise commendavit, sed in civitate Inruriu occisus est." (Antiqu. Celto Normannicae, 141). Another MS. has indeed Ururine (Innes's Critic. Essay), and Pinkerton makes it Uturin; but this last I should hold an error of the copyist. On the whole, looking to the sepulchral character of the Bass, and to the high probability that Eth finished his days here, I am inclined to believe that this burrow holds the remains of that unfortunate Pictish monarch. There is a prophetic popular rhyme concerning the Bass, of which the most ancient version on record is in the MS. of Sir James Balfour, Lord Lyon King at Arms, who flourished about 1660. He says, "Ye river Ury springs from the hills of Faudlane, near Gartlie Castle, hard by Strathbogie, and falls in ye river Done, a little below ye church of Inverury, near the old fort or mount called ye Basse. Ye inhabitants here have this foulishe ald ryme always in their mouthe,

When Dee and Don runs both in one,
And Tweed shall run in Tay,
The little river of Inverury,
Shall bear ye Basse away."
                  —MS. Adv. Library.

The Coning Hillock.—The popular belief gives this mound as the burial-place of the King. The mound is undoubtedly artificial; but whether raised for sepulchre or a seat of judgment, it is impossible to decide. If we should hold it for the former, it seems of far too insignificant dimensions for marking the resting-place of a Pictish king.

Landholders.—The landholders, with their valued rent Scots, are,

The Earl of Kintore holds nearly one-half of the burgh lands. The other burgh heritors are fully 100 in number. Of the landward heritors, Mr Gordon of Manar alone is resident. His mansion lies three miles west of Inverury; it is situated on the southern face of the hill of Manar, and has the Don in view at a distance of 500 or 600 yards, is well wooded, and completely sheltered on the north and west. The house is modern, and is at once substantial, comfortable, and commodious. On the lands of Manar the now ruinous chapel of St Apolonarius, the patron saint of the parish, stood. The farm is hence, by a corruption, called Polander. One of the two annual fairs, formerly held in the parish was called Polander Fair; the other, on the 8th of September, was called Latter Lady Day, from being held on the anniversary of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. To Mr Gordon now also belong the lands of Blackhall and Conglass. In reference to the former, it is said, in the View of the Diocese of Aberdeen, already quoted, "Blackhall, formerly the seat of the Blackhalls of that Ilk, but since purchased by Thane of Blackhall, and now, 1726 sold to one Grant."

Parochial Records.—The session records of the parish date from 1716, and make up three volumes. They have been kept with sufficient regularity. For many years after the Reformation Inverury appears to have been left without any pastor. The first provision made for its spiritual wants was in November 1570 when Andro' Spens was appointed Reader at Monkegye with a yearly stipend of L.20. The reader was the lowest of the three orders of ecclesiastics, in the early stages of the Scotch church His office was simply to read the Scriptures to the people; the expounder was allowed to lecture or explain what he read; while to the clergyman alone, was entrusted the administration of the' Sacraments. James Mill, Minister of Inverury, was one of those who held the forbidden General Assembly at Aberdeen in 1606. (Spot. Ch. Hist. p. 480).

III.—Population.

The population continued pretty stationary during last century, and, at the beginning of this, was not above 500. By the census of 1831, it was 1419 ; and, according to that completed in 1841, it is 2020. This great and rapid rise has taken place within the burgh, which now contains 1619 souls.

IV.—Industry.

Placed as the terminus of an extensive, naturally fertile, and rapidly advancing agricultural district, this parish has attracted merchants, artisans, and additional labourers, in order to supply the wants of an industrious and thriving tenantry. But the main cause of the increase and prosperity of Inverury is, without question, the Aberdeen Canal, which has conferred on it many of the advantages of a sea-port. This patriotic undertaking was supported chiefly by the landholders, through whose property it passes, and those of the Garioch. The Inverury Port (deservedly called Port El-phinstone, from the encouragement which Sir Robert Elphinstone gave to the canal), exhibits a scene not unlike the quays at Aberdeen ; hundreds of carts, sometimes, in a day, delivering grain, and carrying away coals, lime, bones, dung, bricks, iron, timber, or other materials for house-building. For many years, the benefits of the canal were comparatively unappreciated, and perhaps the carriage rates were injudiciously high; at least, since they were lowered from one-third to one-half, about ten years ago, the increase of traffic has been very remarkable, as the following tables show:

Articles transported on Aberdeen Canal in tons weight.


Even now, the original subscribers to this undertaking derive no interest for their money, but the land rents have been raised from the facilities of transit which the canal affords. There are on the canal about thirty barges, besides an iron boat for passengers and light goods, which runs to Aberdeen daily. [For ten years before the reduction of the rates took place, the annual revenue was not beyond L 700, for several years it has averaged L. 1300; for 1840 it was L. 1430, 12s. 11d.]

About sixty hand-looms for weaving linen have been for some time employed; the introduction of a manufacturing population has not been favourable to morals. The number of low public-houses and of houses for harbouring vagrants, is also a just subject of complaint.

Of the 5000 acres which the parish contains, 3000 are under tillage, 1000 are in thriving plantations, and 1000 uncultivated. The rotation of cropping most generally followed is what is called the seven shift, i. e. two green crops after grass; 3d, turnips or potatoes; 4th, grain crop, (bear, barley, or oats), with grass seeds; 5th, 6th, and 7th, grass. Perhaps 500 of the 11000 acres uncultivated might be reclaimed by a proper application of capital. The average rent of arable land (including the burgh lands) may be L. 1, 5s. per acre. No flocks of sheep are kept by farmers here; many have a few ewes and lambs of the English breeds for domestic use, and chiefly for the sake of the wool. The Aberdeenshire breed of cattle is most general, but with a few of the more extensive and opulent farmers, the short-horns are corning into favour.

The leases are mostly for nineteen years; the farm-houses and steadings have, within a short time, greatly improved, and the condition of the tenantry is, I believe, on the whole prosperous: this I know, that when the Earl of Kintore's farms were nearly out of lease, he sent for an experienced land-surveyor of character, and the only instructions he gave him for valuing were, "now remember the maxim, 'Live and let live.'"

V.—Parochial Economy.

Burgh.—The government of the burgh continues by the Municipal Bill of 1833, vested in a provost, three bailies, dean of guild, treasurer, and three councillors who seem to prosecute with zeal whatever they conceive for the interests of the burgh. The number of electors in the parliamentary burgh, (which includes Port-Elphinstone, though locally situated in the parish of Kintore,) is (in 1841) fully 100.

There are twenty fairs for cattle, horses, sheep, and grain, held annually in the burgh, the revenue from which, as they are well frequented, is considerable, perhaps L.60 a year.

Branches of the Old Aberdeen Bank, the Town and County Bank, and the North of Scotland Banking Company, have been within a few years established; and among recent improvements ought to be noticed the lighting of the town with gas, and the opening of a new turnpike road from Inverury, through Chapel Daviot, Fyvie, Auchterless, and Forgue, towards the bridge of Marnock. There is a post-office in the town, and three coaches at least run daily to Aberdeen. The length of turnpike roads through the parish is about five miles.

Ecclesiastical State.—The church formerly stood near the river side, where the church-yard still is. A new church was built on the present site in 1775. From the recent rapid increase of the population of the burgh, the church had become wholly unequal to the accommodation of the congregation. It contained, with difficulty, 600 people, while the communicants averaged in number between 700 and 800. This having been represented to the heritors and the magistrates of the burgh, they, with enlightened liberality, resolved to raise a church in all respects suitable to the increased importance of the burgh and parish. The new church is to contain 1330 sittings. It is built of beautiful granite, and is of most substantial workmanship. The style is Gothic, moderately ornamented. A neat Episcopal chapel is also in the course of erection. There are, besides, in the town, a Methodist and Independent place of worship. Notwithstanding these differences of religious persuasion, it is pleasing to record that they do not influence the charities or courtesies of life.

Education.—Besides the parish school there are five female schools, chiefly for reading English, knitting, and sewing; none of these last is endowed. The schoolmaster's salary is L. 30, with the statutory allowance for a garden. The average number of scholars may be, summer and winter, 90; the school fees for the last ten years have averaged L. 32, the other emoluments arising from the office of session-clerk, &c. may be L.4, 10s.

Savings Bank.—There were formerly several Friendly Societies in the parish, but they have all, so far as we know, been one after another dissolved. Their place, however, is well supplied by the National Security Savings Bank for Inverury, and the Garioch, which was established May 26, 1737. The progress of this valuable institution will be seen from the following statement:

The number of depositors on November 20th 1841, was 692, and the amount due to them, L.6919, 9s. 8d.

Poor.—The number of persons receiving regular parochial aid is 38; those who receive occasional supplies fully equal that number. The collections made in church for their support amount to about L.45. There are no legal assessments, but the heritors give annually in donations, a sum varying from L. 32 to L. 40 Sterling. There is also a coal fund, to which the benevolent contribute liberally. Formerly it was considered degrading to receive parochial aid, and those in labouring circumstances would have submitted to hardships and privations, rather than "come on the box," but this feeling of honest pride has of late years been greatly weakened, which I attribute partly to the influence of the manufacturing population, and partly to the indifference shown by some of the burgh proprietors to the characters of those whom they admit from other parts of the country as tenants of their houses.

May 1842.


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