PRESBYTERY OF DEER, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. JOHN IMRAY, A. M. MINISTER.
I.Topography and Natural History.
Name.This parish was disjoined from Peterhead,
about two hundred and twenty years ago. For a considerable period, the
Presbytery appointed several of its members, with some elders of
Peterhead, to "travell with my Lord Merschell," who was at that time
chief proprietor in the district, to have "ane new kyrk
bouldit in the head," or west part, "of the paroche." This was at
last effected in a. d. 1619 or 1620,[From the Presbytery records it
appears, that church extension was zealously Prosecuted here about that
period; for within a few years, four parishes (Longside, New Deer,
Strichen, and Pitsligo,) were erected, with a church in each,all
of them exceedingly needful, from the extent and population of the
district. ] and the church was for some time
termed "the ower (i. e. upper) kirk of Peterugie," or "Peter-heid."
The parish, however, was soon after called "Longsyd," from the name of
the farm on which the church was situated.
Extent, &c. - It is of
an irregular, four-sided figure, containing about 30 square miles; and
is bounded on the east by St Fergus and Peterhead; on the south, by
Cruden; on the west and north-west, by Old Deer; and on the north, by
Lonmay, or rather that part of it which forms the new parish of
Kininmonth. Like Buchan in general, it is very level, or rising into
gentle undulations which afford facilities for draining the land. The
Ugie, which divides the parish from west to east, frequently overflows
the adjoining ground to a considerable extent, but might easily be
confined by embankments. This the proprietors concerned have, for some
time, been proposing to do. Were the work well executed, there is no
doubt that the result would be an ample remuneration for the outlay, as
well as the removal of a nuisance unfavourable to the health of the
Hydrography. The springs are
abundant, and generally free from mineral admixture. About 400 yards
south of the village of Longside, two springs flow within little more
than a foot from each other, the one of very soft water, and the other a
strong chalybeate. The two branches of the Ugie, after a separate course
of ten or twelve miles from the west, unite in this parish; and the
river, flowing eastward, falls into the sea near Peterhead, about four
miles below the confluence.
Geology.There are several quarries of excellent
granite, the principal one of which is wrought at the hill of Cairngall,
one mile from the village of Longside. The stone found here is of a
light grayish hue, and has been, and still is, in
considerable demand for public works in England and elsewhere, being
valued for its colour and durability. When highly polished it looks
remarkably well in the form of mantel-pieces, tables, and other articles
of which the surfaces are plain. [Fine
specimens of it are to be seen in the Duke of York's monument, London,
Covent Garden market, and the river wall of the new houses of
Parliament. It turns out large blocks more frequently than the Aberdeen
granite, and is harder to work.]
The other quarries, which are chiefly on the Rora property, yield stone
of a darker appearance, and are not much wrought, except for local
purposes. Pieces of quartz and felspar are plentiful throughout the
district, and prove useful, with granite chips, in the erection of
cottages and dikes. On the southern boundary of the parish, there are
found great quantities of nodules of a yellowish brown flint, many of
which, when broken, disclose a cavity, and appear as if they had been
formed around an insect or small shell, of which they retain the
impression. It is conjectured by some geologists that these nodules had
been, at a
remote era, imbedded in ice, and floated over from the Scandinavian
coasts, where they are said to abound.
At least five tracts of peat moss yet remain to
supply the fuel, which is chiefly used; but on these cultivation has of
late been fast encroaching,an advance, which, with draining and other
improvements, must have a favourable effect on the climate. Imbedded in
the peat are found many trunks of hardwood trees, especially oak, the
roots of which, remaining in their natural position, show that here they
must at one time have grown in a congenial soil. So well have some of
them been preserved in the bog, that they have been cut up and formed
into articles of furniture, which appear as if made of ebony.
The soil is in general light, and of no great depth.
It is in most places bottomed by a ferruginous stratum, called pan,
which is broken up with considerable difficulty, and by its
admixture lessens for a time the fertility of the land.
Zoology.Occasionally a few deer are seen in the
Ardlaw wood. Foxes, badgers, and several other quadrupeds seem to have
disappeared. Hares and wild rabbits are numerous and destructive.
Flights of wild geese appear in the spring months, but retire to the
north-east every evening about sunset. In the low grounds through which
the Ugie flows, wild ducks abound; and the heron comes from a distance
of fifteen or twenty miles to prey upon the finny natives of the stream.
Lapwings, bitterns, cornrails, starlings, and one or two other birds of
passage, visit us in their seasons. Swallows, we regret to perceive,
have of late decreased, while jackdaws have increased, in number. Grouse
and partridges have been almost exterminated.
BotanyThe plants indigenous to the parish cannot
be said to be either numerous or uncommon. Among the rarer species are,
The plantations are chiefly of Scotch fir, spruce,
and larch; but hardwood might be raised, especially beech, sycamore,
alder, and ash. The land, however, being mostly arable, little room is
left for the growth of timber.
Eminent Characters.-The Rev. John Skinner,
though a native of a distant parish, was for sixty-four
years minister of the Episcopal congregation here. An ecclesiastical
history and some letters or dissertations by him, on theological
subjects, have been published; but he is perhaps better known as a
correspondent of the poet Burns, and as the writer of several popular
songs, viz. Tullochgorum, John o' Badenyon, Ewie wi' the crooked horn,
&c. A handsome monument to his memory has been
erected in this churchyard, in which he lies interred. His residence at
Linshart has been, and still is, occupied by his successor. [No
offence is meant by introducing here the name of an individual who had a
county (if not a national) reputation, and whose printed memorabilia
have gone through several editions. This was Jamie Fleeman (or
Fleeming), "the Laird of Udny's fool," who flourished here about the
middle of last century. His name appears frequently in the session's
list of paupers ; and his sayings and doings have been a theme of
wonderment to a generation or two.]
Land-owners.Only two heritors are resident, viz.
John Hutchison, Esq. of Cairngall, and James Bruce, Esq. of Innerquhomry
and Longside,both of whom are also extensive ship-owners. The other
proprietors are George Ferguson, Esq. of Pitfour, who has all that part
of the parish lying north of the main branch of the Ugie; James Russel,
Esq. of Aden, who has Ludquharn; Thomas Arbuthnot, Esq. Provost of
Peterhead, Nether Kin-mundy; James Buchan, Esq. of Auchmacoy, Yokieshill;
the Heirs of the late Mrs Hay Mudie, Faichfield; and Charles Wilkinson
Gordon, Esq. a minor, as successor [His
right of succession to Buthlaw is likely to be contested by Dr Young of
Fawside, the heir-at-law.] to the late
General Gordon of Buthlaw, who distinguished himself in the Greek war of
independence, and wrote its history.
Parochial Registers.The records of discipline
and of the administration of the poor's fund commence at the erection of
the parish in a. d. 1620, are very legible, and continued till the
present day, with the exception of four portions, viz. the four years
preceding 1637, thirteen and a half years preceding 1663, nine years
preceding 1722, and ten years preceding 1733. The register of baptisms
extends (with a hiatus or two) from 162], and those of marriages and
interments (with like defects) from 1692 to the present time.
Antiquities. Occasionally a tumulus is opened,
and found to contain an urn of baked clay, with ashes, and perhaps
fragments of bones. Little, however, can be added on this head to what
has been stated in the last Statistical Account.
In Dr Webster's report made in 1755, the number of
inhabitants is given as being 1979; but there is reason to think this
statement inaccurate. In the beginning of 1791 the writer of the last
Statistical Account found the number to be only 1792, of whom 817 were
males, and 975 females, there being nearly 4 persons to a family.
From this it appears that no decrease has been found
at any census within the last fifty years; but that the rate of increase
has been smaller, during the last twenty years, than during the previous
part of this century. One cause most probably is, that, during the first
quarter of the century, two villages, Longside and Mintlaw, had been
founded and encouraged, in which, for about fifteen years past, scarcely
an additional house has been built. Another cause is, that, during the
former period, there was a flourishing manufactory of woollen cloth,
which ceased in 1828, and thus occasioned the removal of many of the
people employed, previously to the census of 1831.
Number of illegitimate births within the last three
Instances of insanity are very rare. There are, at
present, 3 fatuous persons, 3 blind, and none deaf and dumb.
Illicit distillation and smuggling of all kinds have
been disused for many years. The people are diligent and painstaking.
They are also, in general, contented with their circumstances, unless we
except from this remark the unmarried servants of both sexes, who, of
late years and throughout this district, have been haunted by a restless
spirit, which causes them to change their employers almost every six
months. In many cases, however, it is hard to say whether they or their
masters are most to blame. The habit is clearly unfavourable to the
character of those who indulge it; and means have been taken by church
courts and other bodies to counteract its injurious effects.
Though generally intelligent, the people are by far
too indifferent about acquiring useful information, except in regard to
their ordinary pursuits. Their moral conduct is less open to objection.
They are neighbourly, kind to the poor, and so free from those offences
which are condemned by human laws, that a committal for crime has not
been known to take place here for a very long period. Their attendance
upon the outward ordinances of religion is, for the most part, regular.
Most of the inhabitants are now employed in
agriculture, or in occupations connected with it. For some time after
the beginning of this century, the manufacture of woollen cloth was
carried on with spirit and success. A large work of this kind was
erected at Milbank, near the confluence of the two branches of the Ugie,
where broad cloths of the best quality were made, and many hands
employed both on the spot and throughout the parish. But a sudden
stoppage of the work in 1828 proved disastrous to all concerned ; and
nothing of the same kind has again been attempted.
A distillery has been carried on, for at least
fifteen years; but the proprietors, becoming disposed to employ their
capital otherwise, have lately advertised the buildings and apparatus
The retail-dealers, termed merchants, of whom there
are 10, keep a supply of excellent goods at moderate prices, and do much
business in exporting dairy produce and eggs chiefly to London.
There are six meal-mills, seven smithies, and such a
proportion of other handicrafts, as to meet the demands of the parish.
Of professional and educated men, there are three clergymen, one
physician, one land-surveyor, and three parochial teachers.
Number of imperial acres in cultivation, 12,550
in waste, or in pasture, 3,450
which might yet be improved, 3,000
Average rent of arable land per acre, 16s.
Price of grazing an ox or cow, L.3. Rate of labour
without board, from 1s. 3d. to 1s. 10d., according to the season.
The cattle are generally of the pure Buchan breed,
which, as it deserves, is highly valued. Of late years, indeed, by the
introduction of Teeswater bulls, for which very high prices have been
given, a cross breed, thought to possess some desirable qualities, has
been produced. Some enterprising farmers have carried this branch to a
high pitch of excellence, particularly Messrs Robert and John Hutchison,
whose father, the proprietor of Cairngall, has been long a very zealous
agriculturist. [The estate, when purchased
by this gentleman nearly forty years ago, was little better than waste
moorland; but, by his energy and liberal outlay on its cultivation, it
has for some time been raised to a state of order and productiveness
which few, if any, ever expected it could have attained. About a third
of it is in old pasture, and the whole is estimated at about four times
the annual rent which it brought, when it came first into Mr Hutchison's
hand.] Mr John Hutchison, the younger brother, at Monyruy,
obtained the second prize for a Teeswater bull of his own rearing, at
the Highland Society's show at Aberdeen in 1840. The animal was
immediately sold for eighty guineas; and this year, three bull calves
after him, about six months old, brought the same gentleman L.100. Very
good work horses, also, are reared throughout the parish.
Both five and seven course shifts are used, but
chiefly the former. Almost the only grain raised is oats. Very little
barley is sown; and wheat does not appear to be suited to a climate so
often beclouded and moist. Furrow-draining, at an expense of about L. 6
an acre, has been tried with much success on several farms; but deep
cuts for water are often made, and sunk or tunnel drains laid with
stones or hedge prunings, which act very effectually where there is a
declivity. The mossy soils, before being sown, are burned on the
surface, and treated with sand, lime, or clay; and when the season is
not too dry, make a very good return. Except for these, very little sand
is used, and lime seldom, unless at the beginning of a new lease.
Bone-dust being well adapted to the soil, has become indispensable for a
turnip crop, and is given, if alone, to the extent of 25 to 30 bushels
an acre; but ordinary dung is commonly laid in the bottom of the
furrow, over which is strewed a slight covering of mould, and then
bone-dust, at the rate of about 15 bushels an acre. [The
first bone-mill in all this district was erected here by Mr Hutchison of
Cairngall, and is still used for his own supply. The jaw-bones of
whales, brought home to Peterhead by his ships engaged in that fishery,
are what he chiefly employs; but they are not considered equally
efficacious as manure with the tones of land animals.]
Liferents have now ceased, and the leases are
generally of nineteen years' duration, which, it is believed, might be
extended with advantage to at least twenty-one years. The
farm-buildings, though plain, are in general good and commodious. The
cattle-feeding system has occasioned a considerable extension of the
outhouses; and almost every farm of 20 acres and upwards is provided
with a thrashing-mill. Very few hedges have been planted; but most of
the fields are enclosed with dry-stone dikes, the materials for which
are abundant. The most marked improvements are found in the rearing of
superior stock, subsoil and trench-ploughing, reaping with the scythe,
draining, enclosure, and judicious cropping. It is much to be desired,
however, that the roads in general were kept in better condition by
those to whom this matter belongs, especially considering that the
materials may be so readily procured.
Produce.After careful inquiry, the following may
be found nearly accurate:
In 1831, along with a census of the population, an
account of the live-stock was taken as follows, viz. 420 horses, 2921
cattle, 463 sheep, and 205 pigs.
Most of the farmers are members of the Buchan
Agricultural Association, which, by its meetings, and by its premiums
for choice stock and grain raised in the district, and for superior
ploughing, has done much to advance improvement. To these premiums may
be added those given by Mr Bruce of Innerquhomry and Longside, to
servants who have continued for some time in one place and maintained a
good character; an encouragement most creditable to the donor, and well
worthy of imitation.
The nearest market-town is Peterhead, six miles
eastward from the church. There are two villages, distant two miles and
a- half, Longside and Mintlaw, in the latter of which is the
post-office. At Longside, markets for cattle and horses are held
twice,at Mintlaw six times,and at Lenabo, in the south-west corner,
thrice in the year. The parish is crossed by two turnpike roads, viz.
that from Aberdeen to Fraserburgh, which passes through Mintlaw, and
that from Peterhead to Banff, which passes through Longside, and crosses
the other at Mintlaw. On the former; a mail-coach runs twice a-day; and
on the latter a stage-coach runs from Peterhead to Banff, and returns in
the evening. The other roads are numerous and well-planned, but not, in
general, kept in good enough repair. The bridges on the turnpikes are
substantial, but the two at Auchlee and Rora are old, dilapidated, and
much needing to be altered both in site and construction. In the
north-east part, about forty years ago, a canal was partially executed,
and used chiefly for transporting shell-sand from the coast of St
Fergus, but has been long abandoned.
Ecclesiastical StateIncumbents.The first
minister was Mr Alexander Martin, from 1619 till about 1635; then Mr
Alexander Irving till 1662, when he and other six members of the
presbytery of Deer chose rather to demit than to violate conscience by
submission to impious and unconstitutional power. The vacancy was
supplied by the appointment in 1662 [Though
Episcopacy was established for nearly thirty years after this, no change
seems to have been made on the mode of worship or of discipline. During
that period, the parochial records contain no allusion to the use of a
liturgy, to the keeping of Christmas, Lent, Easter, or any other fast or
festival (except those occasionally enjoined by authority), and the
communion was regularly celebrated on two successive
Sabbaths about midsummer.] of Mr Thomas Robertson, whose
son, Mr Alexander Robertson, was instituted his assistant and
successor in 1687. A few months after this, the father died, and his son
was permitted to continue in office after the Revolution till 1716, when
he and some other ministers in this district were deposed for abetting
the Rebellion in 1715. The Presbyterian ministers who succeeded were, Mr
John Lumsden, in 1717; Mr John Brown, in 1733; Mr William Greig, in
1790; Mr Thomas Kidd, in 1829, who died only three days after his
ordination; and the present incumbent, who was ordained in 1830.
The church is situated in the village of Longside, as
nearly as possible in the centre of the parish. The old church, which
had continued without enlargement from 1620, having become insecure, and
by far too small for the greatly increased population, a plain building
for about 1000 sitters was founded in 1835, and opened for public
worship on the 7th August 1836. The seats are apportioned among the
heritors, and occupied by their tenants without charge for rent. The
manse, situated about 200 yards south-west of the church, was built in
1825. The glebe, including garden and site of manse and offices,
contains nearly eleven Scotch acres. Were the arable part let, it would
probably rent for about L.25. The stipend is the value of 16 chalders,
half meal half barley, according to the county fiars, with L.8, 6s. 8d.
for communion elements. The only Dissenting place of worship is an
Episcopal chapel, the minister of which derives his salary chiefly from
the seat rents. The number of families belonging to the Established
Church, in 1831, was 424: of persons of all ages, 1751; of Seceders
attending meeting-houses in other parishes, 122; of Episcopalians, 606.
There is at present no Roman Catholic in the parish. Among the Seceders
are reckoned two families of Baptists, some of whom have lately joined
the Establishment. Divine service is generally well attended, especially
since enlarged accommodation has been provided in the new parish church.
In this, the average number of communicants, for last three years, was
841. Besides the ordinary collections for the poor, there are occasional
collections made in the church for the General Assembly's five
benevolent schemes, and also for the Sabbath schools in the parish. The
average amount collected for the former purpose, during last three
years, may be stated at about L.30, and for the latter about L.8, which
is laid out on catechisms, and books for circulating among the scholars.
The church session consists of eleven members, including the minister
and clerk. Education.There, are three parochial schools, at
Longside, Mintlaw, and Rora, the last two of which were not endowed till
1829. There is also an unendowed school near Dens, with a male teacher,
besides five taught by females. The late Mr James Mitchel, factor to
Pitfour, left money for the endowment in this and other parishes, of
some female schools. One of these, at Mintlaw, has been in operation for
more than a year, the mistress having a house of two storys free of
rent, and L.15 of salary. Another has just been settled at Rora, with a
house and L.10 of salary. In the village of Longside, a female school
has lately been commenced, the mistress of which is to be paid with the
fees and about L.8 from the subscribers. The branches usually taught
are, English reading and grammar, writing, and accounts, with; the
addition of Latin and mathematics at the parochial, and of sewing and
knitting at the female seminaries. Religious instruction is duly
attended to, especially in the Sabbath schools, of which there are four,
besides one belonging to the Episcopal chapel. The parochial teacher at
Longside has of salary L.81, 6s. 7d., and the other two have L.10 each
from the heritors, with the addition to the teacher at Mintlaw of a free
house left for this purpose by the above-mentioned Mr Mitchel. The fees
drawn by all the three may amount to L.70. The teacher at Longside has
the legal accommodation. The school fees, payable quarterly, are,
English reading, 2s.; English reading with writing, 3s.; English
reading, writing, and arithmetic, 4s.; English reading, writing, and
arithmetic, with Latin, 5s.; with Greek, 7s.; mathematics and geography,
10s.; book-keeping, 10s. 6d.
Most of the youth between six and fifteen years of
age can read and write, or are learning to do so. There are scarcely any
upwards of fifteen who cannot read and write. The people, in general,
are much alive to the benefits of education. As one proof of this, it
may be mentioned, that they erected, at their own expense, the parochial
schools at Mintlaw and Rora, and the unendowed schools at Dens and
Lenabo, while a part of them pay a salary, besides fees, to the
schoolmistress in Longside.
Literature.There is a small library at Rora, and
another for the Sabbath school at Longside. Some of the people subscribe
to libraries in Old Deer and Peterhead.
Friendly Societies.Several of these had existed
subsequently to the former Statistical Account, but being formed on
imperfect data, and meeting with losses at the stoppage of the
manufactories, they were dissolved. In 1809, there was instituted, or
rather revived, at Nether Kinmundy, of this parish, a society for mutual
benefit in case of sickness, and for defraying funeral expenses,
remarkable for the simplicity of its plan, and the advantages it
continues steadily to afford. No accumulating fund is kept, but 6d. is
received from each member and lodged with the treasurer, and, out of
this collection, sick and superannuated allowances are paid till the
money is expended, when a fresh collection is made. A regular
certificate of age must be produced, and no one is admitted a member
under eighteen or above forty-five years old.
If the age exceeds thirty-five, instead of 6d.
on admission, 1s. must be paid. A sick member receives 2s. a-week for
the first six weeks of his illness, and 1s. a-week for the next seven,
when, if he continue unable to work, he is considered superannuated, and
receives 6d. a-week. When a member or his wife dies, each surviving
member contributes 1s. towards the payment of the funeral expenses. On
admission, various other regulations are agreed to, which tend to
maintain the usefulness of the institution. A society of Odd Fellows has
lately been set on foot, and, being founded on a surer basis than most
of the old societies, bids fair to afford more permanent advantage.
Savings' Bank.This was established in 1815,
being thus one of the earliest of the kind, if not the first, in the
north of Scotland, and effected by the judicious exertion of the Rev. Mr
Greig, then minister of this parish. The deposits were made chiefly by
servants and small crofters; and the institution continued to prosper
till 1837, when it received a temporary check by the failure of the
cashier. The directors, however, aided by some friends, paid up the sums
deposited, with the interest due, and a new cashier being appointed, the
bank is again proceeding favourably, and the business increasing. At the
stoppage in 1837, the sum in the bank was L.2178, held by about 100
depositors. At present, the amount is L.1170, belonging to 65
depositors. This change is owing chiefly to the establishment of
savings' banks in the surrounding parishes.
Poor.The average number of persons receiving
parochial aid, as paupers on the roll for the last three years, was 77,
and of those occasionally relieved, 39. The average sum allowed to each
of the former per year was L.l, 4s. 6d. The annual amount of
contributions for their relief, averaged as above, was, church and
chapel collections, L.81, 16s. 3d.; interest
of money lent, L.22, 16s.; other sources, L. 16,
10s. The Episcopal congregation, much to their credit, relieve their own
poor, so that they do not come as a burden on the general fund; but they
receive from the church session a share of any donation or legacy paid
to them, proportioned to their part of the population. The average
numbers and sums, therefore, which are stated above, include the
Episcopal poor and their relief, in order that the account of pauperism
in the parish may be complete. Mr Ferguson of Pitfour gives annually
L.5, to be distributed among the poor on his estate; and the Honourable
Mrs Ferguson has frequently sent blankets and flannels for the same
purpose. The late General Gordon of Buthlaw also gave an annual donation
of meal or money to the poor on his property. In particular cases of
distress, two men of good character are usually requested to collect
alms from the neighbourhood, and generally discharge this duty with
fidelity and success. It is often said, that the spirit of independence
among the poor is decreasing ; but it must be taken into account, that
their wants may be more pressing, owing chiefly to there being scarcely
any employment for females who are not able for out-of-door-work, and
even this not being procurable at all seasons. The stoppage of the
manufactory left a good many unfit for other employments, and
consequently dependent, in some measure, on the public bounty.
Notwithstanding, therefore, the increased collections at the new church,
the session have been obliged to uplift a considerable part of the sum
which had been laid up twenty or thirty years ago; and thus, unless the
heritors make timely and regular contributions, this barrier in the way
of a legal assessment may speedily be removed.
Fairs.Of these, eleven are held in the course of
the year, viz. two at Longside, in May and November; three at Lenabo, in
March, June, and November; and six at Mintlaw, in February, April, June,
August, October, and December, all for cattle, sheep, and horses. The
two at Longside are also for feeing servants. Farmers attend the weekly
grain-market in Peterhead.
Inns.There are three inns; that at Mintlaw,
being convenient for travellers, is most frequented. Of spirit-shops,
there are not many; and truly desirable it is, that such temptations
were more withheld from the community than they are.
Fuel.This consists chiefly of peat, dug in the
parish, and carried home generally before harvest, costing about 2s. 6d.
a cartload. What with casting, setting, and bringing home, it cannot be
reckoned cheap, except to those who reside near the moss. Wood thinnings
are partially used. Coals are also brought from Peterhead, the nearest
sea-port, and must, at no very distant period, prove almost the only
fuel that can be procured.
In all that respects the profitable cultivation of
land and rearing of cattle, the efficiency of implements and
commodiousness of dwellings, an incredible advance has been made in the
course of the last fifty years. Superstitious notions and usages have
mostly fled, prejudices have given way, and sympathies have been
extended to a wider range. Business is transacted in a more liberal
spirit, and credit is placed on a more solid foundation. Other
improvements have been already noticed in the course of this account.
Happy would the writer be, if, with equal certainty, he could record a
corresponding advance in all that relates to vital Christianity, and to
the infinitely higher interests of the life to come.
Drawn up November 1841.
Revised July 1842.