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


PRESBYTERY OF ALFORD, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. WILLIAM MINTY, MINISTER.

I.—Topography and Natural History.

The parish of Kennethmont consists of Kennethmont, strictly so called, and the parish of Christ's Kirk, which, at a very remote period, had been annexed to it. Of this annexation there is no written evidence nor oral tradition ; and both are now comprehended in the common name of Kennethmont.

Name.—The name is said to have been derived from the circumstance of one of the Kings Kenneth having been interred in the church-yard, which is a small mount. [This opinion was probably taken from a tradition that a grave-stone (still to be seen within the walls of the old church) had been originally placed over the reputed grave of the Scottish monarch, which is supposed to have been at the church-yard gate. On inspecting the stone, no information can be derived from the inscriptions on it to trace it back to the days of Kenneth;—the date being 1085. A shield, on one quarter of which is a boar's head, is visible, and under the shield the initials "H. G." As this stone is now placed in the burial-ground of a family of the name of Gordon, the date, the shield, and the initials evidently refer to that family, and it would appear that either there is no foundation for the tradition, or that these inscriptions had been engraven, when the stone bad been removed from its original site to the place where it now is laid.] The name is some times spelt Kinnethmont, derived from two Gaelic words signifying head and moss; which, from the natural shape of the eminence on which the old church is placed, and its proximity to mossy ground, is by no means an unlikely derivation of the name.

Extent, Boundaries, &c.—Kennethmont or Kinnethmont is the most westerly parish in that fertile district of country known by the name of the Garioch. The Bogie, a good trouting stream, separates it from the parish of Rhynie on the west; the Melshach hill (in which there is a medicinal spring, long in much repute among the country people,) separates it on the north from Gartly; on the east, it is bounded by the parishes of Insch and Leslie; and on the south, by Clatt. Its shape is almost a regular rectangular oblong, about 6 miles in length from east to west, and 3 in breadth from north to south.

Topographical Appearance.— The surface is much diversified by high and low-lying ground; but, with the exception of two or three eminences, the high ground can scarcely be called hilly.

Climate.—The climate is variable. In consequence, however, of the great improvement which has taken place within the last thirty years, in draining marshy grounds, and planting the more elevated parts of the surface, it is less changeable in general, and less severe in winter than formerly.

II.—Civil History.

Land-owners.—There are four heritors in the parish, viz. Sir Andrew Leith Hay of Rannes, who has upwards of one-half of the valued rent; Mr Gordon of Wardhouse, who has nearly one-third; His Grace the Duke of Richmond, who has rather more than one-fifteenth ; and Mr Grant of Druminner, who lately purchased the lands of Craighall, the remainder. Sir Andrew Leith Hay is the only heritor who, at present, resides in the parish. The late Mr Gordon of Wardhouse (who died about seven years ago) resided about twenty years of the latter part of his life at Wardhouse, in this parish, and devoted the whole of his time to the improving and beautifying of his estate.

Eminent Men.— The late Lieutenant-General Sir James Leith was born at Leith-hall, August 9th 1763. He died Governor of the Leeward Islands in 1816. His brother, the late General Hay of Ran-nes, erected a very handsome tablet, with a suitable inscription, to his memory in the parish church. Sir Andrew Leith Hay, present proprietor of the estate of Leith-hall, besides some smaller works, published some years ago a very interesting narrative, in two volumes, of the Peninsular War, in which he had served. He was, for several years, Member of Parliament for the Elgin District of Burghs, and Clerk of the Ordnance. Rear-Admiral Sir James A. Gordon is also a native of this parish.

Antiquities.—In regard to antiquities, there is little worthy of remark. King Kenneth's reputed grave-stone has been already mentioned. The remains of two Druidical temples are still to be seen —one on the hill of Airdler, belonging to Sir Andrew Leith Hay; the other on the lands of Cults, the property of His Grace the Duke of Richmond. A bag of small silver coins, with Alexander I. engraven on one side, was found some years ago in trenching the hill called the Cockmuir, belonging to Mr Gordon of Wardhouse. The coins might be about the value of 3d. Sterling each.

III.—Population.

Many of the inhabitants have attained to a great age. In 1835, there were fourteen persons in the parish between the age of eighty and ninety in a population of little more than 1100. On comparing this number with that of those who had attained to a like age in 1792 (when the former Statistical Account was drawn up), it appears that now almost three arrive at the age of eighty and upwards, for one who then attained to such an age; or if allowance be made for the difference in number of the population at these two periods, more than two for one ; a circumstance which may be accounted for, by the improvement in climate, in the dwellings of the inhabitants, their mode of living, and general habits of temperance and cleanliness.

Habits of the People.—The habits of the people are, in general, quiet, temperate, and industrious. Heinous crimes are unknown among them, and, with the exception of some small offences, the result generally of drunkenness, which is now fortunately becoming every day less frequent, no criminal case has occurred for many years.

IV.—Industry.

Agriculture.—The modern improvements in agriculture are now in full operation, not only on the farms in the actual possession of the proprietors, but on those also occupied by their tenantry; and crops of every description are frequently raised, both as to quantity and quality, equal to any in the county. The farms (with the exception of one upon Sir Andrew Leith Hay's estate) are not very extensive. They vary from 80 to 100 acres in extent. There are twenty occupiers of land qualified (in consequence of their rent being L. 50 and upwards) to vote at an election for a Member of Parliament. A considerable extent of ground is let in small farms under L. 50, and crofts of from two to fifteen acres. The greater part of the ground susceptible of cultivation is now under a regular rotation of cropping. What is commonly called the seven years' shift is the mode of cropping generally adopted.

Improvements.— Much has been done in the way of improvement, since the beginning of the present century. Several hundred acres of marshy ground have been completely drained, and now produce weighty crops; many acres of moorland, upon which the appearance of ridges was still visible, showing that they had at one time been cultivated, have again been brought under the plough, and a very considerable extent of land has been trenched, particularly upon the estate of Wardhouse. The old custom of erecting folds for young cattle in summer, has now gone into disuse; the modern style of farming having rendered the land unfit for erecting such fences. The dwellings and mode of living of the inhabitants have also kept pace with the improvements in agriculture. Many of the houses of the farmers are now built of stones and lime, instead of turf—and covered with slates instead of straw : they have generally one apartment at least floored with wood, and the walls and roof neatly cieled and plastered. The more extensive farmers use machinery in the thrashing of their grain; and in harvest, the scythe has universally supplanted the use of the sickle.

V.— Parochial Economy.

Market-Town.— There is no market-town in the parish; the nearest is that of Huntly, distant about eight miles. The greatest part of the grain, however, is taken to Inverury, distant eighteen miles, and conveyed to Aberdeen by a canal—the carts in return bringing lime and coals ; and as the journey can be accomplished in one day, farmers seldom or ever send their carts with grain or meal to the east or north coast, as formerly.

Means of Communication.—The roads were, until lately, bad; but a turnpike road, intersecting the parish from east to west, was completed about six years ago, which opens up a communication between Aberdeen, Huntly, Inverness, &c. Two public coaches, for some time, have run on this line of road, instead of passing by the turnpike road through the hills of Foudland, as formerly, although the distance be about three miles greater. The Kennethmont line of road is, however, so much more level and easy than the other alluded to, that time is rather gained than lost by travellers coming in this direction; besides, as an inducement for travellers to take the Kennethmont line of road, they pass through a fine, rich, romantic valley; by the other, they have, for many miles, nothing but barren and bleak hills.

Ecclesiastical State.—The parish church, since the annexation, is not very centrically situated. A new one was built in 1812, capable of holding about 600. It is neat and commodious. The parishioners are, in general, regular in their attendance upon religious ordinances, notwithstanding the distance of four or five miles which some of them have to travel. They all belong to the Established Church, with the exception of a few families who attend a Congregational meeting-house in a neighbouring parish.

The manse was built in 1794, and has lately been repaired. The glebe consists of 12 acres of tolerably good land. The stipend at present is 4¼ chalders of victual, and L. 137, 14s. in money, including allowance for communion elements.

Education.—Although the parish school is so situated as to be almost inaccessible, from its distance, to many of the young, yet their parents have, at their own expense, for some years supported two private schools in those parts of the parish most distant from the parochial school; which now enables every child to become early acquainted (along with other useful knowledge), with that knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation; so that it is very rare, indeed, to find a child eight or nine years of age, that cannot pretty distinctly read the Bible, and repeat the Assembly's Shorter Catechism. The emoluments of the parochial teacher may average about L. 35 per annum, exclusive of what may be received from the Dick Bequest. Those of the other teachers are from L.10 to L.15. Library.— There is a small circulating library in the parish, principally composed of religious and historical publications. It was established some years ago. Small additions are made to it from the annual subscriptions. It has already been productive of some good effects, giving the people a taste for reading, and tending to check the habit of wandering from house to house, (a custom very common in the winter evenings.)

Savings Bank.—A Savings Bank was instituted about eight years ago, which, considering the decrease of wages, and the low rate of interest, has succeeded far beyond the most sanguine expectations of its originators. It is managed by a President and twelve Directors;—who have authority to hold four meetings annually, and two extra meetings, if necessary. About L.1000 are already lodged.

Poor.—The funds of the parish for behoof of the poor amount to about L. 200. The average number of persons receiving parochial aid varies from 16 to 20. The weekly collections average about 7s., from which, along with the interest of capital, and what arises from other sources, nearly L.40 are distributed annually. The highly commendable feeling of independence is still prevalent here; and it is a rare occurrence for any to ask assistance from the parish funds, unless in cases of actual necessity.

The population are, almost, exclusively, agricultural in their pursuits. About twenty years ago, many of the female sex derived a livelihood from the knitting of stockings for the foreign market. This species of manufacture is now almost given up, unless in the case of a few of the more aged, who, with the greatest diligence, are unable to earn the small pittance of 1s. per week.

Fairs.—There are three annual fairs held in the parish for the sale of cattle, &c, the first in the month of April, the second in the month of July, and the third in the month of October. A market was once held at Christ's Church, in the east end of the parish, during night, in the month of May, and which place is said to have been the scene of the celebrated ballad of Christ's Kirk on the Green, composed by James I.: but this market has been long ago given up. There are still the remains of a church and church-yard or burying-ground to be seen at this place, but very few are now interred there.

Fuel.—Peats are still generally used for fuel; but, as the mosses are considerably exhausted, and no small difficulty and expense incurred in obtaining peat fuel, coals are coming daily more into use; and, were it not that the people in the country are as yet unacquainted with the proper method of using coals economically. there is little doubt they would be preferred by them to peats, being upon the whole almost as cheap,—and, moreover, the time which is spent in preparing peat-fuel might be more profitably employed in agricultural and other operations. November 1840. Revised April 1841.


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