PRESBYTERY OF ALFORD, SYNOD
THE REV. WILLIAM MINTY, MINISTER.
I.—Topography and Natural
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.
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.
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.
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
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.