Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

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


PRESBYTERY OF TURRIFF, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. HUGH GORDON, MINISTER.

I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name. —The name Monquhitter signifies the place for ensnaring the deer, and was derived from the farm on which the church was originally built.

Extent, &c.—From east to west, the parish extends about 8 miles, and from south to north, about 10 miles. It is bounded on the east, by the parish of New Deer; on the north, by King-Edward ; on the west, by Turriff and Fyvie; and on the south, by Fyvie and Methlick. The surface is generally of an undulating and monotonous character. The hills present a bleak and barren appearance. Nevertheless, they are of much value in their present state, from the great abundance of excellent peat fuel which they supply to the neighbourhood, and more especially, as the nearest sea-port, Macduff, from which coals can be procured, is, from some parts of the parish, upwards of twenty miles, and, upon an average, fifteen miles distant.

It is much to be regretted that so little has been done in this district, of the country in the way of planting. There are numberless spots which would appear to be particularly adapted for the growth of wood, and which are of little value for cultivation, where not a tree has been planted.

As there is a great extent of mossy and swampy ground in this parish and neighbourhood, it might have been expected that the atmosphere would have been much impregnated with damp, and consequently insalubrious; but, on the contrary, the air of Monquhitter is pure and healthful, and unquestionably the climate has been greatly ameliorated by the agricultural improvements which have taken place within the last forty or fifty years.

A species of scarlet fever, accompanied with violent sore throat, has much inflicted this and some of the neighbouring parishes, and has been known, at times, to carry off two, three, and even four in a family in the course of a few days.

Hydrography.— Monquhitter is watered by two small rivers, which receive the tribute of numberless and copious springs. The one of these, called the water of Assleed, runs in a southerly direction, separates Monquhitter from the parishes of New Deer and Methlick, and discharges itself into the river Ythan. The other, called the Water of Idoch, gives its name to the vale of Idoch. It passes within a short distance of the parish church and the village of Cuminestown, and runs in a westerly direction to the parish of Turriff, where it assumes the name of Dara, and falls into the river Doveron, at the village of Turriff. These streams still abound with delicious small trout of the common kind, and, although by no means so plentiful as in former times, in consequence of the extensive use of lime in agricultural operations, they still afford excellent sport to the angler,—the banks being in all places open and accessible.

Geology and Mineralogy.—Below a stratum of pebbly clay, extensive quarries of red sandstone lie in the direction of a plane, much inclined from east to west. This stone, though much impregnated with iron ore, may be raised in large masses, and is used in building. As the greater part of it is of a soft and spongy description, liable to decay, and moulders down from exposure to the weather, it is not calculated either for comfort or durability in the erection of dwelling-houses.

Soil—The two soils which chiefly prevail in the cultivated parts of Monquhitter are, the one, a reddish loam, the other, a deep black mould. They both rest on a stratum of pebbly clay, and, in the lower grounds, produce very luxuriant crops of oats. In former times, the crops throughout the parish seldom arrived at maturity, from the wetness of the soil, and the consequent damp and chill of the climate; but, by a system of judicious draining, for which the inclination of the surface affords great facilities, both the soil and climate have been greatly improved; and the consequence is, that our harvests are now but little behind those of our southern neighbours, and the grain little inferior in quality to theirs. There are also large tracts of moss in the parish, which are valuable for the supply of fuel which they yield. The peats generally are of a very superior quality, being of a deep black colour, and close in the texture, and, when properly dried, are little inferior to the finest description of Scotch coals. The greater part of the parish seems, at one time, to have been covered with heath, and, even yet, the cultivated land has a great tendency to return to heath, which is only kept down by a regular rotation of cropping. Under these circumstances, the land can never be allowed to remain sufficiently long in grass to afford very rich pasturage, which, in every situation, requires a series of years, as well as kindly soil for its production. Lands that have been long in cultivation are shy in retaining artificial grasses, while those which have recently been brought under the plough, after a proper application of lime, produce rich crops of rye-grass and clover, and retain the sown clover for two or three years, whereas, in land of a much richer quality, but which has been long in tillage, red clover seldom keeps the soil more than one year.

Forests and Plantations.—There are no trees of any great age to be found, and the only plantations worthy of particular notice, are those in the immediate neighbourhood of the mansion-house of Auchry. These were put down by the late Joseph Cumine, of Auchry, about the middle of last century, and consist of ash, oak, larch, elm, plane, lime, Scotch and spruce firs, all of which thrive remarkably well, when planted in anything like good soil. All the hardier kinds of forest trees seem to thrive well, but particularly the fir species ; Scotch and spruce firs and larches chiefly prevail, grow to a large size, and are excellent timber. In low and damp situations, the spruce fir grows with great rapidity, but the timber of this species is difficult to work, and by no means so valuable. Mr Lumsden, the present proprietor of Auchry, is at great pains in keeping his woods, both by thinning and pruning those that are advanced, and trenching and digging in the young plantations, which tends greatly to promote their growth.

II-—-Civil History.

The parish of Monquhitter was disjoined from that of Turriff in 1649, and Mr William Johnstone, the first Presbyterian minister after the Revolution settlement, was ordained to Monquhitter on the 15th November 1727. Till about that period, this district was one of the strongholds of Episcopacy in Scotland. It is true, that, some time previous to this, Presbyterianism had again become the established form of worship in Scotland, but wherever Episcopal ministers, holding cures, were peaceably disposed, they were allowed to retain their emoluments during their lifetime, which was the case in this parish. Mr Adam Hay, the last Episcopal minister of Monquhitter, has left a substantial memorial of the kindly spirit which existed between him and the people of his time, in a pair of silver communion cups, and a mortification of 200 merks, (L.11, 2s. 2d. Sterling,) on his lands of Assleed, the proceeds of which to be applied to any poor persons residing on these lands.

Parochial Registers. — The parochial registers commence in 1670 for baptisms, and in 1693 for marriages, and, with the exception of one or two chasms, have been kept regularly down to the present time.

III.—Population.

In 1755, the return to Dr Webster, from this parish, gave 997 inhabitants. In 1757, the number of souls fell short of 800, but since that time population has greatly increased, partly by the practice of dividing large farms to accommodate small tenants, and partly by the reclaiming of waste land, but principally by the establishment of Cuminestown village, in 1763, and afterwards of the village of Garmond. The population of these villages ill 1836 amounted to 715, and the country population to 1380, making a total of 2095. By the census of 1841, the population amounts to 2074.

Character of the People.—The great proportion of the people are industrious in their habits; and although the labouring population enjoy but very limited means of subsistence, yet they are distinguished by a spirit of independence, and are generally desirous of supporting themselves and their families by their own industry; and even the poorest are anxious to secure for their children the advantages of education.

IV.—Industry.

Agriculture.—Within the last thirty or forty years, a vast addition has been made to the extent of cultivation, although a considerable portion of the land still remains in a waste and uncultivated state. On some properties, by judicious draining, liming, &c. the number of acres under cultivation might be greatly added to, both with improvement to the climate, and profit to the proprietor. The average rent of arable land per acre is from 10s. to L.l; but some in the neighbourhood of the villages is let as high as L.2, 2s. per acre. In good pasture, the average rate for the grazing of an ox or cow is from L.1, 10s. to L.2 for the summer season.

Live-stock.—The breeds of sheep most prevalent are Leicester, south-down, and black-faced, but little attention, however, is now paid to breeding and rearing of sheep in this parish, except by Mr Lumsden of Auchry, who is one of the most spirited and intelligent agricultural improvers in this part of the country.

Attempts have been made to introduce various foreign breeds of cattle, such as the Teeswater and Galloway; but it has generally been found that, from the climate, the want of shelter, and the inferiority of pasture, they have degenerated; and many of the intelligent farmers prefer the native Buchan breed to all others.

The style of husbandry pursued is fully equal to that in any part of Scotland. Not only the larger farmers, but even the smallest crofters, adhere to a regular rotation of cropping, and bestow great-pains in tilling and cleaning their ground. Nothing has afforded such facilities for, and given such an impulse to, the reclaiming of waste land, as the introduction of bone manure, which is very extensively used by every farmer. But another stimulus has been given to agricultural improvement by the system lately introduced, of transporting fat cattle by sea to London; from which the farmer has the profit both of breeding and of feeding, besides the advantage of securing a much greater quantity of manure for his farm. The beef of our cattle is very highly esteemed, and generally brings a superior price in the London market.

The horses in this parish and district, though not of a large size, are well built, and of a very hardy description ; and as the farmers are generally careful, both as to their feeding, and the timing of their work, they can bear great fatigue. They seem to par-take somewhat of the old Galloway, which, perhaps, for all useful purposes, was the finest breed of horses ever known in Britain.

The leases of farms generally extend to, and seldom exceed the term of, nineteen years. As the farms are generally small, with few exceptions exceeding two or four horse labour, the farm-buildings, which are mostly thatched with straw or heather, are not large, but commodious, and well adapted to the extent of the farms.

Till within the last few years, and for several generations past, the Cumines of Auchry were the principal proprietors in the parish of Monquhitter, and were much and deservedly esteemed for their public spirit and private benevolence, About the middle of the last century, the late Joseph Cumine of Auchry was distinguished, not only in this district, but throughout the whole of the north of Scotland, for the stimulus which he gave to agricultural improvements. When he assumed the management of his estate in 1739, it was principally covered with heath, and yielded only L. 150 Sterling of rent. He laid out extensive plantations around his own house, subdivided his farm into ornamental enclosures, introduced a superior breed of cattle, founded the village of Cuminestown, in the immediate vicinity of the church, and, in connexion with some neighbouring gentlemen, established in this village a linen manufacture, which has been kept up ever since. By the judicious management of his property, he left it to his heirs, yielding an annual revenue of more than L.600 per annum. The rental of it was upwards of L. 2500 per annum in 1830, when it was divided into lots, and disposed of by his son, the late Archibald Cumine, Esq. James Lumsden, Esq. who was the purchaser of the principal part of the property, and who is the only resident heritor of any extent in the parish, has been doing much, and setting a laudable example in the way of improvement, He is draining and trenching to a great extent, and by planting, hedging, and fencing, is not only beautifying his estate, but affording employment to a great number of labourers. He has introduced several agricultural implements of a new and improved description; he has also secured a daily post, and, by his persevering exertions and his great liberality, in conjunction with several other proprietors, a turnpike road through the village of Cuminestown is about to be commenced, which, when completed, will afford great facilities to farther agricultural improvements, and will form the nearest route between Banff and Aberdeen. [From some misunderstanding the projected turnpike road has not been proceed-ed with, whilst the roads in the parish are in the most wretched condition.] But still the want of other resident heritors of influence and public spirit is severely felt, and stands much in the way of improvement on other properties.

In the letting of farms, it is usual for the tenant, at the commencement of his lease, to pay to the proprietor or to the out-going tenant, the amount of the valuation put upon the farm-buildings, receiving in the same way value for the houses at the end of the lease. This system, although it affords an additional security to the landlord, (it being generally covenanted, that if the tenant fail to implement his lease, he shall receive nothing in the way of meliorations), yet, is in many cases, a great obstacle to improvement. For many a judicious and industrious tenant possessing, perhaps, but a limited capital, and being obliged to sink the half of it upon farm houses during the currency of his lease, is thus disabled from making improvements, which would not only yield a good return to himself, but ultimately also prove beneficial to the proprietor.

Till within the last few years, much employment was afforded to females in the spinning of flax and knitting of stockings, by which they were enabled to earn a comfortable livelihood. But the former source of industry is now almost completely dried up, the manufacturers finding that they can import spun flax at a much cheaper rate from Germany and Holland than they can get the work done at home. Upwards of 100 individuals till lately were employed in the weaving of cotton and linen cloth ; these were paid by the piece, and, if industrious, gained from 8s. to I2s. per week. About L.30 was paid out weekly for this branch of industry.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Market-Towns, &c.—There is no market-towu in the parish. Periodical cattle-markets are held at the village of Turriff, distant six miles from the church of Monquhitter. Macduff and Banff are the nearest sea-ports for the exportation of grain, whence all the lime and coal used here are driven. They are distant about fourteen or fifteen miles from the church. There are few parishes in this district of the country which have been worse provided than this with roads.

Ecclesiastical State—The parish church is conveniently placed for the greater part of the population, being close to the village of Cuminestown, and not more than a mile from the village of Gar-mond. It is situated upwards of seven miles from the most distant part of the parish; but since the erection of the chapel of ease of Millbrex, in the parish of Fyvie, which was built in 1833 for the accommodation of remote districts of Monquhitter and Fyvie, there are few houses more than three miles distant from one or other of these places of worship. The minister of the chapel of ease is ordained, and is paid partly by an annual grant from the royal bounty, and partly from the seat rents of the chapel. He has also an extensive glebe, which is given rent free by the Earl of Aberdeen, on whose property the chapel is situated, and who not only affords this liberal accommodation, but also subscribed L.100 toward the erection of the chapel. In 1835, a comfortable manse and offices were also erected; and the whole of the funds needed for the building of these and the chapel were raised by voluntary contribution within the parishes of Fyvie and Monquhitter, with the exception of L.70 obtained from the Church Extension Fund, and about L.30 of a presbyterial collection.

The parish church was built in 1764, but in a very insufficient manner, and is now in considerable disrepair. An addition was made to it in the year 1792, and it accommodates about 1000 sitters. There are no free sittings in the church, but the proprietor of Auchry charges no rent for the seats occupied by the villagers of Cuminestown and Garmond. The manse was built in 1778, and was thoroughly repaired in 1830, and then considerably added to. The glebe contains about nine acres, and may be valued at about L.15 per annum. The stipend consists of 15 chalders, one-half oatmeal, and one-half barley, payable according to the fiars of the county, besides L. 10 for communion elements. There is one Episcopal chapel, which is the only dissenting place of worship in the parish. There are 1808 individuals attached to the Established Church, and of other denominations, 236, bees about 50 who cannot be said to belong to any denomination. The Lord's Supper is dispensed twice in the year, and the number communicants, by the last survey, taken a few months ago, amounts to 946. There are no Societies specially established for religious purposes, but collections are made annually for the various objects embraced by a Presbyterial association, and last year the contributions and extraordinary church collections for religious and charitable purposes, amounted to L.22, besides L.48 of ordinary collections for the poor.

Education.—There is in the parish one parochial school and one unendowed, [There is a Sabbath school library, and also a subscription library, in the parish.] the teacher of which latter depends entirely on school fees for his payment. The parochial schoolmaster has the maximum of salary, with the legal allowance for a house and garden, besides an annual payment from a munificent bequest left by the late Mr Dick.

The fees in the parochial school, upon an average, amount to about L.30 per annum, and those in the unendowed school to about L.15.

There are two localities which are at a most inconvenient dis-tance from any school, the district of Greens, containing a population of upwards of 300, the greater number of whom are distant about three miles from any school, and the lands of Balquholly, containing a population of upwards of 100, who are distant from four to five miles, and if schools were set down on both of these districts, they would accommodate equal numbers from the ad- i joining parishes, both of New Deer and Fyvie.

Besides the schools for ordinary education, there are four Sabbath evening schools, which are attended by upwards of 220 young persons and children ; and since the extensive introduction of this important department of religious instruction, a change for the better is visible in the conduct and morals of the young.

Charitable and other Institutions.—Till within the last few years, there was a Friendly Society in the parish, which had accumulated a considerable amount of funds, but, as in many other institutions of the kind throughout the country, the calculations had not been made upon correct and sound principles, and, finding the funds to be fast diminishing, the society was lately dissolved, and the pro-perty divided amongst the members. This has been succeeded by the establishment of a parish Savings' bank, which is likely to prove very beneficial in its effects. Although instituted only five years ago, the sum deposited in it amounts to about L.2000, and the depositors are all of the labouring classes.

Poor and Parochial Funds.—The average number of persons receiving parochial aid amounts to nearly 50, and the average sum allotted to each per year is L.2, 3s. 6d. The average sum of church collections for the relief of the poor for the last six years amounts to L. 50. This is contributed entirely by the farmers and labouring classes, the heritors being principally nonresident. In consequence of this, an accumulation which had been made, when the principal heritor, the late Mr Cumine, was resident in the parish, and steadily and largely contributing to the poor's funds, is now fast diminishing. There is a disposition amongst the poor to refrain from seeking parochial relief as long as they can do without it; and many individuals have actually refused to accept of it when offered, although some cases of rapacity do occasionally occur. In the year 1806, the sum of L.200 Sterling was left by the late Mr Grieve, merchant in Cuminestown, under the control and management of the kirk-session, the interest of which, according to the terms of his will, is annually applied to the relief of poor householders, not paupers, in sums not under 5s., and not exceeding 10s. to each.

Fairs, &c.— There is an annual horse and cattle fair held in the village of Cuminestown, on the last Thursday of April, old style. The proprietor of Auchry has lately established several other markets.

Inns and Alehouses.—There are five inns and alehouses in the parish, one-half of which might suffice.

Fuel.— Hitherto peats and turf have been almost the only fuel used here. The mosses belonging to the property of Auchry, whence the villagers have been supplied, are almost entirely exhausted.

June 1842.


Return to our Aberdeen Index Page