PRESBYTERY OF ELLON, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. JAMES.WHYTE, MINISTER.
I.Topography and Natural History.
Name.The name of this parish is said to be
derived from two Gaelic words, which signify vale
of honey. The oldest spellings are Methelak, Methlayky,
Mythlik, Methlik. The parish was dedicated to St Devenick, who,
according to Dempster, flourished toward the end of the ninth century.
An altar in honour of him was founded in the cathedral church of
Aberdeen, and the office used in his day may be seep in that rare work,
the Breviary of Aberdeen, printed in 1509.
Extent, &c.This is a landward parish, and
contains upwards of 20 square miles. It is situate wholly in the county
of Aberdeen, the two-thirds which lie on the north side of the Ythan
being in the district of Buchan, and the remaining third on the south
side of the river being in that of Formartine, It is bounded by Tarves
on the south; by New Deer on the north; by Fyvie and Monquhitter on the
west; and by Ellon on the east.
A pendicle of Methlick, which lies to the extreme
east, is disjoined altogether from the main part of the parish by a
tongue of land belonging to Tarves. This pendicle is called Little Drum-quhindle,
or Inverebrie, from its being situate at the junction of the brook Ebrie
with the Ythan, and the Six Ploughs, from its extent as measured in
olden times by so many ploughs.
The length of the parish from north to south is about
8 miles, and its breadth from west to east, exclusive of the insulated
part above-mentioned, about 5 miles. It is of an irregular form, and
becomes narrower toward both extremities, especially northward. It is
traversed from west to east by the river Ythan, the banks of which are
mostly clothed with wood, the greater part of it having been planted,
between thirty and forty years ago, by the present proprietor. The
south-east division of Methlick is wholly occupied by the policies of
Haddo House, remarkable for their extent and beauty. Every advantage has
been taken of the undulating nature of the ground, which is tastefully
interspersed with wood, and lawn, and water. In a northerly direction,
there is a considerable tract of barren land,the hills of Balquhindachy,
Belnagoak, and Skilmoney, being to a great extent covered with heath.
If one may judge from the hale old age which not a
few reach in this parish, the climate may be said to be salubrious.
Hydrography.The Ythan is not navigable here ;
but it affords salmon, and abundance of trout of various kinds. At one
time, it was more famous for its pearl fishery than it is at present,
although there is still no want of shells in the river. It is a
favourite amusement of the schoolboys to fish for pearls when the water
is low, especially during summer; and occasionally they succeed,
although there are hundreds of blanks for one prize. The instrument used
for griping the shell is very simple, consisting of a long stick, with
two small pieces of plate steel at one end.
A rivulet called the water of Gight, or the black
water, or the little water, separates the parish of Methlick on the west
from Fyvie and Monquhitter and New Deer. Within the short space of a
mile and a half on this brook, are to be found two points, at which
three different parishes meet; at that nearest to the Ythan,
Fyvie, Monquhitter, and Methlick,and at the other, New Deer,
Monquhitter, and Methlick. The Ebrie, above-mentioned, divides Methlick
on the east from the parish of Ellon.
Another burn, called the water of Kelly, from its
running through the land, and near the House of Kelly or Haddo House, is
said, at its junction with the Ythan in this parish, to have produced a
pearl of great value. According to a tradition which can be traced to
the end of the seventeenth century, one of the crown jewels is reported
to have been found at the mouth of the water of Kelly. It was presented
to King James VI. in 1620, by Sir Thomas
Menzies of Cults, and in the language of Skene, in his succinct view of
Aberdeen, published in 1685, appears to have been, "for beauty and
bigness, the best that was at any time found in Scotland."
There are two lakes within the policies of Haddo
House, called the upper and the lower lakes, of which the latter is
wholly in the parish of Methlick, while one
half of the former is in that of Tarves. Each is beautifully embosomed
in wood. The lower one, in its formation by the present proprietor,
required only a very small embankment, and is almost altogether natural.
Together they contain nearly 40 acres. They are enlivened by the
presence of swans, Canadian geese, and native water-fowls of various
descriptions, and in great numbers. About two years ago, a wild swan
having been taken on the lower lake, and pinioned, now associates with
the tame ones.
The springs in this parish are numerous and
perennial, and the water thereof is of excellent quality. About two
miles in a northeasterly direction from the church, there is a strong
spring, which was some years ago in great vogue, and frequented by many
from distant parts of the country, in consequence of the supposed
salubrity of its waters, which were applied both externally and
internally with alleged success, especially in cutaneous diseases. The
water has been frequently subjected to chemical analysis; but it has not
been found to possess saline impregnations of any importance. It is very
pure spring water.
Geology, Soil, &c.There is nothing remarkable in
the geological appearance of the parish. Gneiss and syenite are the
rocks which prevail. Some years ago, a limestone quarry was wrought at
Inverebrie, and a considerable quantity of lime procured from it; but it
is now shut.
The best land may be said to lie within one mile and
a ha either side of the river. It is a yellow loam on a bottom of rock
and gravel. As you ascend on both sides from the valley,
the soil becomes poorer, and is principally a light black mould
on a band pan, which eats away the improvement. A subsoil of clay is not
common. There is a great extent of peat moss in the parish, which,
however, is being annually reduced, and brought into a state of
Botany, Zoology, Ornithology, &cSome of the less
common plants are,
The plants most commonly met with are those which
have found their way into the vernacular tongue, such as the gowan, or
the daisy; the horse-gowan, or dandelion; the tansy, or ragwort; blue
bells, or common bell flower; dead man's bells, or foxglove ;
chickenwort, or chickweed; dockens, or dock; arnut, or earth-nut; sit
sikker, or creeping crowfoot; sooraks, or sheep's sorrel; &c. &c.
The Scotch fir and the common spruce agree well with
the soil and climate. A great variety of foreign pines have been planted
in the immediate neighbourhood of his mansion, by the noble proprietor,
with various success. The Pinus Cembra appears to thrive very
well in the policies, and to have become in a manner naturalized in the
country. A very fine specimen of the Pinus Clanbrassiliana was
lately discovered in the midst of the wood near Haddo House, being the
produce of promiscuous planting. It measures 36 inches in height, and is
nearly thirty-six years old.
In gardens, the raspberry, the gooseberry, the
currant, and the strawberry, are produced in abundance, and of excellent
quality ; but neither the soil nor the climate appears to favour the
production of apples or pears, or even cherries.
Zoology.The following is a list of the wild
animals which are round in the parish, so far as I have been able to
ascertain their existence.
Eminent Men.Associated with this parish are the
names of the ancient family of the Earl of Aberdeen, among whom may be
mentioned the famous Chancellor of Scotland in the time of Charles II,
and Sir John Gordon of Haddo, who distinguished himself during the
Dr George Cheyne, an eminent physician, was born at
Auchencruive, in this parish, in 1671, and died at Bath in 1742. He was
the author of a treatise on the "Philosophical Principles of Natural
Religion," and various other works.
Dr Charles Maitland, who was the first to introduce
inoculation into Britain, and was sent to Hanover by George
II. to inoculate Frederick, Prince of Wales,
was born and buried here. In 1748, the year of his death, he mortified
L.333, 6s. 8d. for behoof of the poor.
Land-owners.The whole parish belongs to one
heritor, the Right Honourable the Earl of Aberdeen, presently her
Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The first property of
the family was the barony of Methlick, whereof Haddo was a part. His
Lordship derives three of his titles from this parish, namely, Baron
Methlick, Haddo, and Kellie.
Parochial Registers.The oldest register of
church discipline and accounts of the poor's funds commences in 1683,
and, with the exception of the years from 1689 to 1703, and from 1726 to
1729, is complete till the present day. The earliest date of the
baptismal record is 1663; but it has not been regularly kept, owing to
the neglect of parents in not attending to the registration of the
births of their children. The marriages have been registered for many
Modern Buildings.Towards the end of the
sixteenth century, the designation of the family of Methlick seems to
have been restricted to that of Haddo, probably from the mansion-house
having been situated there. Early in the seventeenth century, the
residence was transferred to Kelly, which gradually acquired the name
that had been given to the former mansion, namely, the House of Haddo,
or Haddo House. It stood a siege of three days in 1644, by the Marquis
of Argyle and the covenanting army, by whom it was taken on the 8th of
May 1644, and reduced to ruins. The writer of a View of the Diocese of
Aberdeen in 1726 says, "Here is now a castle begun in the last age by
two of the lairds of Haddo, but never finished, and in the low buildings
hard by it, their representative, the Earl of Aberdeen, lives." The
present mansion was built mainly from the designs of John Baxter, Esq,,
architect in Edinburgh, who executed several buildings in the north of
Scotland in the beginning of the last century. The Palladian was his
favourite style, of which Haddo House is a specimen. In its immediate
vicinity are some old ashes and beautiful limes, and a very picturesque
larch, planted more than a hundred years ago.
Within the policies, there is an obelisk of granite
erected by the present Earl to the memory of his gallant brother, Sir
Alexander Gordon, who fell in the van at Waterloo, acting as
aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington.
At the last census in 1841, there were 871 males and
865 females. Ninety-two were found to reside in the village and
kirk-town of Methlick, and 1645 in the other parts of the parish. The
number of houses inhabited was 354.
There are 2 blind persons in the parish, 1 fatuous,
and none deaf and dumb.
Habitual intemperance is rarely met with in the
parish; and the average number of illegitimate births in the parish
within the three years previous to 1840 was 11, of which 7 were ante
nuptial cases. The attendance on the ordinances of religion is
Agriculture.According to a survey made in 1803,
the extent of the parish was ascertained to be, exclusive of that part
of the policies around Haddo House, which belongs to Methlick, about
11,217 Scotch acres.
Since 1803, not fewer than 2000 acres Scots have been
brought under the plough and into a state of regular cultivation; and
nearly 2000 acres have been planted.
The extension of the policies about Haddo House,
during the present century, is a remarkable feature in the appearance of
the parish. In 1803, they comprehended only 701 acres Scots, or about
885 imperial acres, of which 186½ acres Scots,
or 237 acres imperial, were planted. Now, the extent of land within the
policies is upwards of 1960 imperial acres, of which about 1080 are
The present rental may be stated at L.3600, fully
three times the rental in 1803. In mentioning this great rise of rent,
it is not to be forgotten that, in 1803, the demand for farms was
comparatively small, and especially, that it was very common for the
proprietor at that time to receive a part of his rent in the form of a
sum of money paid at entry, and called a grassum,a mode of payment
which is now wholly done away.
The infield, or best quality of land, may be reckoned
to range from L.1 to L.1, 10s. per Scotch acre; and the average rent per
Scotch acre of the whole arable lands at the commencement of the
subsisting leases may be said to be from 10s. to 12s. 6d. The number of
tenants paying rents to the proprietor is 206; of whom 60 pay L.5 and
under; 62 above L.5 and under L.10; 31 above L.10 and under L.20; 35
above L.20 and under L.50; 13 above L.50 and under L.l00; and 5 L.100
Besides a number of small crofts, sufficient to keep
a cow, and partially to supply the day-labourer's family with meal and
potatoes, there are possessions from 12 to 30 acres, occupied by tenants
who very often yoke an ox and a horse together, and labour with their
own hands. The farms vary in size, from two horses' labour to that of
six horses. This subdivision of land is found to exert a wholesome
influence on the population.
Since the breaking out of the French Revolution,
agriculture has progressed rapidly in this parish. The better quality of
the soil has been brought into a state of cultivation, while the traces
of former husbandry are in many places to be seen in the shape of curved
ridges, which, because of their poverty, have been allowed to revert to
a state of nature.
All the good land is now enclosed by stone dikes,
besides a great deal of indifferent quality; and we have many specimens
of the charm which bones, as a manure, have wrought on the poorer soils.
Nitrate of soda as well as bones dissolved in sulphuric acid and water,
according to the proportions recommended by Liebig, have been tried on a
limited scale; but it is believed that this year the new manures will
have a fair trial here and throughout the district.
In cropping, the seven-shift is by far the most
common in the parish, but some of the more intelligent of the farmers
are beginning to give the preference to the six-shift, where three
grasses are taken in succession, then a grain crop, then turnips and
potatoes, and then another grain crop. Several farms are wrought on the
five-shift; but it is more common to find this mode of cropping among
those who have small crofts of good quality.
The duration of leases is nineteen years. The leases
are always renewed except in a case of arrears of rent, which is not
common. A small part of the rents is payable in meal at the fiar prices.
The farm-houses are mostly of one floor and slated, while the dwellings
of the crofters are thatch-roofed.
Live-Stock.The cattle reared are numerous, and
about equally divided between the Aberdeenshire breed, and the cross of
it with the Teeswater. Within the last thirty or forty years, the
country breeds have been much improved by superior keep, and in those
parts of the parish which are less favoured in point of soil, they are
still reared exclusively; but there is scarcely a good farm of any size
where the short-horn is not preferred as crossed with the Aberdeenshire.
The number of sheep reared throughout the parish is
very small; but within the policies of Haddo House, there are generally
kept about 1000, principally of the Cheviot and black-faced breeds.
Produce.At a rough calculation, the number of
quarters of grain may be estimated at 10,000 and upwards, and the number
of acres annually in turnips and potatoes, the latter of which are
raised only in small quantities, at 1000. The number of horses used for
husbandry, kept as pleasure ponies, and bred for sale and use, is about
250 ; and the number of cattle above 1600. The average value of a
quarter of oats is L.l ; of an acre of turnips, L.3, 15s.; of an acre of
potatoes, L.4, 10s.; of an acre of new grass, L.l, 15s. ; and of an acre
of second and third year's grass, 18s. 6d.
Cheese is made for the most part from skim-milk, and
is sold at 3s. 6d. per imperial stone. Butter of good quality is made on
the large farms, and on crofts where there is little else of produce to
spare for the market, and is bought by the country merchants on an
average at 8d. per pound, and sent to Aberdeen.
The mode of cutting down the crop with the scythe has
supplanted the sickle universally. All farms of two horses' labour and
upwards, with scarcely a single exception, have threshing-mills driven
by water or horses. According to the last Account, there were six
meal-mills in the parish, and now there is only one. This is to be
accounted for partly by the improvement of machinery, and the consequent
expedition with which the work is accomplished, but more particularly by
the fact, that grain and not meal is now exported to Newburgh, Inverury,
and Aberdeen. Thirlage is abolished, and sixpence is paid for drying and
grinding a boll. Formerly, the thirteenth, or even the eleventh peck in
some instances, was payable to the miller. There is a saw-mill in the
parish driven by water. The crops usually cultivated are sown grasses,
oats, bear or big in very limited quantity, turnips, potatoes, and, to a
small extent, there may be added tares, principally for the purpose of
supplying the cows with food when the grass season is over, and before
they are put on turnips. The species of oats most; commonly sown are
Scotch barley, sandy oats, and early Angus.
There is an Association for the encouragement of
agricultural enterprise and improvement, which is called the Methlick
Manufactures,The knitting of stockings with
wires was, at one time, a common and lucrative employment for women, and
also for old and infirm men. 2s. and even 3s. were paid for spinning the
wool and knitting a pair of stockings, and now 3½.
or 4d. is the paltry sum which a poor old woman receives for
knitting a pair of them. Formerly, the rents were, in a great measure,
paid by the money which was earned by spinning and knitting.
Market-Town.There is no market-town within the
parish. The grain exported is delivered at Inverury, Newburgh, and
Aberdeen. From the two places first named, each fully twelve miles
distant from Methlick, bones and English lime are imported for manure.
Scotch lime here made use of by some farmers, more especially to be
applied to newly trenched ground, is brought from the three following
kilns, according to their nearness to the different corners of the
parish,Udny, Aquhorthies, and Barrack.
Means of Communication.A mail-gig runs between
Aberdeen and Methlick daily,a convenience which is highly appreciated
by all living in this neighbourhood. Formerly, there was no
post-town nearer than Old Meldrum, which is more than seven miles
distant from Methlick. No turnpike passes through this parish; but there
are good commutation roads to New Deer, Fyvie, Ellon, Old Meldrum, and
Tarves; and, from the four places last mentioned, there is a turnpike to
Aberdeen. A carrier leaves Methlick at least every fortnight for
Aberdeen; but there is no stage-coach nearer than Tarves.
Ecclesiastical State.Methlick was a prebendary
in the cathedral of Aberdeen, having been added to the bishop's chapter
in 1362. The rector or parson, who drew the great teinds, resided in the
canonry of Aberdeen, and officiated in the cathedral,the duties of the
cure being discharged by a perpetual vicar who lived at Methlick, and
drew the vicarage or small teinds.
The benefice does not seem to have*been of great
value, as in Bagimont's Roll, which exhibits the amount of the tenth
part of each benefice in the reign of James V.,
it is rated at L.6, 13s. 4d. In 1644, it was valued at L.4026.
Some of the rectors of Methlick, before the Reformation, occupy
prominent places in the records of the diocese of Aberdeen. The last
Romanist Principal of King's College was parson of Methlick. His name
was Alexander Anderson. He was a person of some note, and held this
living in 1560. In 1541, Duncan Burnet, rector of Methlick, as appears
from volume first of the Spalding Club Miscellany, lately published,
bequeathed to the chaplains of the choir of the cathedral of Aberdeen an
annual rent of 26s. 8d. for the celebration of an obit on behalf of his
own soul, and the souls of all his successors.
At the Reformation, a large part of the north of
Scotland was left in a state of great spiritual destitution; and, in the
register of ministers, 1567, we find Methlick, together with the three
neighbouring parishes, Tarves, Ellon, and Fyvie, superintended by only
one clergyman. His name was Mr Alexander Ogilvie, and his stipend six
score merks. Readers were provided in each of the four parishes
above-mentioned ; and the name of the person who then held that ancient
ecclesiastical office at Methlick was Nycoll Smyth.
The ministers of Methlick since the Reformation have
been Mr John Mercer, Mr Adam Reid, Mr William Seaton, Mr William
Strachan, Mr Robert Ogilvy, Mr George Anderson, Mr Alexander Clerk, Mr
John Mulligine, Mr Alexander Howe, Mr Andrew Moir, Mr Alexander Knolls,
Mr Robert Adam, Mr Ludovick Grant.
Besides the parish church, there was, before the
Reformation, a chapel at a place called Chapeltown, the name of which
remains unchanged; and there was another chapel at Andet, dedicated to
St Ninian. That last mentioned must have stood near a farm-house now
called Chapel-park, where there is a good spring that still goes under
the name of the Chapel Well, and where, until recently, traces of a
church-yard were distinctly visible,they having disappeared, about
fifty years ago, under the plough.
The present church and manse are situate upon the
south bank of the Ythan, about five miles from the northern, five and
a-half from the eastern, three from the southern, and two from the
western boundary of the parish. The church was rebuilt in 1780, repaired
in 1840, and may contain about 600 persons. The sittings are all free,
and are apportioned among the several tenants. One gal-lery is occupied
by the family seat of the Earl of Aberdeen, who is sole proprietor and
patron of the parish ; and adjoining to the church is the burying-place
of that Noble family.
The manse was rebuilt in 1806, and repaired in 1840,
when a wing was added to the offices.
The gift of the kirk land in this parish may be
traced as far back as the reign of Robert II.,
who, by a charter dated the 16th June 1373, confirms a charter by Walter
de Menteith de Pedina-calan to the Virgin Mary and the parish church of
St Devenick of Methlick, and the vicar of the same, of a piece of land
called the Haulch, bounded on the one side by the water of Ethyon,
stretching, on one hand, from the ford of the burn of Melok to the ford
which is called Cloy or Clochy on the other. It is probable that the
present glebe is very nearly the piece of land referred to in the
charter just quoted. For it is bounded, on the one side, by the river
Ythan ; at one extremity of it, there is the burn of Methlick, at the
entrance of which, into the Ythan, there was formerly a ford, now
superseded by a bridge, and a little below the other extremity there is
another ford, which is now called Golyford or Cloverickford, evidently
corruptions of Cloy or Clochyford, the name mentioned in the foresaid
ancient charter. This haugh or parson's croft was transferred by the
chapter of the cathedral of Aberdeen along with the parish church, to
King's College in 1586, at the instance of Principal Walter Stewart; and
they remained in the hands of that institution till they were conveyed,
along with the patronage, to the Earl of Aberdeen, in the middle of last
The present glebe, inclusive of the garden and site
of the manse and offices, measures 6| acres imperial, and is worth L.7
or L.8 annually.
The stipend is L.80 in money, 64 bolls of meal, and
64 bolls of bear, the meal and bear being payable at the fiar prices of
the year. There is no Episcopalian, Catholic, Seceding, or other
Dissenting chapel in the parish; but there are twelve Dissenting and
three Episcopalian families that go to meeting-houses in the
neighbouring parishes, and all the other families, amounting to 342,
attend the parish church; at which the average number of the
congregation is about 600, and that of the communicants is 650.
Education.In the parochial school, Latin, Greek,
and mathematics are taught when required, in addition to the ordinary
branches of reading, writing, and arithmetic. The teacher has a salary
of L.28, besides an annual gratuity of L.5 from the Earl of Aberdeen;
school-fees and other dues, L.40; allowance from Mr Dick's Trustees, at
an average L.35; from Moir's Mortification, for teaching ten poor
children, L.8; total L.l16; also a house with the legal accommodation,
and an enclosed garden.
Besides the parochial school, there are three
adventure or un-endowed schools, where the ordinary branches of
education are taught. At Cairnorie, about three miles distant from the
parochial school, the Earl of Aberdeen has just erected a neat and
commodious school, which it is intended to place on the establishment.
This institution will prove a welcome boon to the inhabitants of the
district, while one of the adventure schools in its immediate
neighbourhood will be superseded. At Inverebrie, on the very verge of
the parish, and nearly six miles distant from the church, there is
another school, the teacher of which receives an annual gratuity from
the Noble proprietor.
In 1841, a parish library was instituted for the
purpose of affording instructive and religious reading to the
parishioners. There are about 80 subscribers, and nearly 400 volumes.
There is one Sabbath school in the parish, which is
superintended by the teacher of the school at Throopmuir; and a Bible
class, numerously attended, is taught by the minister in the church
every Sabbath day.
Friendly Societies.The only Friendly Society
which exists here, and which remodelled its rules agreeably to the Act
of Parliament, is called the Methlick Wright's Friendly Society. In its
membership, it is not confined to wrights, but admits all tradesmen and
others who wish, by paying a small sum quarterly, to share in the
advantages which it holds forth.
Savings Bank.A District Savings' Bank, on the
security of the National funds, was opened in Ellon at Martinmas 1839,
and the industrious classes in this and the other parishes of the
Presbytery, with the exception of Cruden, already supplied with an
institution of a similar description, have gladly availed themselves of
the means of providing for the wants of age. At Methlick, the deposits
from 25th November 1839 to 20th November 1840 amounted to L.353; the sum
withdrawn between these dates was L.1; and the interest payable at 20th
November 1840 was L.6, 3s. The deposits from 20th November 1840 to 20th
November 1841 amounted to L.381; the sum
withdrawn during that period was L.53, 12s. 8d.; and the interest
payable at 20th November 1841 was L.18, 13s. 3d. At 20th November 1841,
there were at Methlick fifty depositors, and the sum deposited was L.
It may be mentioned, that the deposits from all the
parishes of the Presbytery, with the above exception, amounted in
November 1840 to L.1584, 9s. 6d., and in November 1841 to L.2915, 11s.
8d.; and that the number of depositors was 160 in November 1840, and 257
Poor and Parochial Funds. Of poor persons on the
roll, the average number is 45, of whom 20 receive a permanent, and 25
an occasional allowance. The yearly amount of church collections is
L.45, 7s. 1d.; interest of poor's funds lent, L.31, 4s., besides L.8
paid to the schoolmaster for teaching ten poor children, as mentioned
above; proclamations and other casual supplies, L.10, 6s. 6d. The
average sum received annually by the occasional poor is 18s., and by the
permanent poor L.l, 18s. 6d. The session makes a weekly allowance to
some of the most indigent from 1s. to 2s. 6d. These sums for the support
of the poor are supplemented by the kindly and charitable dispositions
of their neighbours, and by other seasonable supplies in the shape of
clothing, meal, and fuel. The application for relief is at first made
with a reluctance which nothing but the pressure of want is in most
instances able to overcome.
Fairs. The only fairs in the parish are, one
which happens early in May, and Dennick's fair, of great antiquity, and
held toward the end of November, which, allowance being made for the
difference of styles, will be found to correspond to the day of St
Devenick, the saint to whom the parish was dedicated. Both are useful,
especially as feeing-markets for servants; but at neither are many
cattle brought forward for sale.
Alehouses.There are at present 4 alehouses, and
3 spirit shops in the parish.
Fuel.The fuel most used is peat, dug from bogs
or mosses in this parish and in Fyvie about Whitsunday.