PRESBYTERY OF GARIOCH, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. JOHN WILSON, MINISTER.
I.—Topography and Natural History.
Nairn, Extent, and Boundaries—The name of this
parish is said to be derived from the Gaelic. In some old registers, it is
written Premanal. Its greatest extent from east to west is about 4 miles,
and from north to south about 4½ miles; but its average breadth of arable
land from north to south does not exceed 2 miles. It lies on the north
side of Benachie, and from 25 to 29 miles north-west from Aberdeen, the
county town. It is bounded on the east and north-east, by the parish of
Oyne; on the north and north-west, by Insch; on the west, by Leslie; and
on the south, by Keig.
Topographical Appearances. — Although the surface
of this parish is cultivated, it is considerably diversified by little
hills, having a few acres on the top of each covered with whins, the soil
there being rocky and too poor to admit of cultivation. These hills occupy
the centre of the parish, having on all sides extensive fields of arable
land sloping down to their bases. In the valley between these hills and
Benachie, the Gady runs from west to east, having the acclivities on both
sides, well cultivated, and interspersed in some places with hedgerows,
which, in summer, have a very lively and agreeable appearance. The parish
church stands on the north side of the Gady, and about a mile from the
east end of the parish. Opposite to the church on the south side of the
Gady Tillymuick rises, a bleak, lumpish hill, of no great elevation or
extent, having the lower part of the north side of it cultivated. Still
farther southward, rises the mountain of Benachie, the west end of which
lies within the boundaries of this parish. Although this mountain is only
about 1500 feet above the level of the sea, yet, as it rises rather
abruptly from its base, and as there are no other hills of much elevation
in its neighbourhood, it forms a very conspicuous and rather interesting
object in this district of country. From its tops or paps, of which it has
several, may be seen with the naked eye, in a clear day, the German Ocean,
for many miles along the eastern coast, the Moray Frith, and the Caithness
hills beyond it. The Brindy hill stretches along to the westward from the
foot of Benachie, cutting off a small portion of the arable land which
lies on the south side of it from the rest of the parish, and forms part
of the ridge of hills which separates the district of Garioch from the
vale of Alford. The parish is rather destitute of growing timber, there
being only three or four small plantations within it, and these of no
great value. There are, however, some fine old beeches at Licklyhead, the
old family seat of the estate of Premnay.
Soil and Climate.— The soil on the south side of
the Gady is various. On the slope along the base of Tillymuick and
Benachie, the soil is poor and on a hard and retentive bottom. On the
slope along the base of the Brindy, it is on a clay bottom and of good
quality. Throughout the rest of the parish, it is chiefly on a rocky or
gravelly bottom, and, except in very dry seasons, is very productive, and
well adapted for the turnip husbandry. The climate is dry and early. The
extent of arable 'and in the parish is about 3200 acres imperial.
Hydrography.—The two principal streams connected
with the parish are the Gady and the Shevock. The former enters the parish
near the church of Leslie, on the west, and continues its course for a
distance of about four miles to the eastern extremity, and receives a
number of small streams as it passes along the base of Benachie, which
swell it very rapidly in a thaw and in time of rain. The Shevock runs
along the north side of the parish for nearly a mile from
west to east, and to this extent separates it from the parish of Insch.
Both are reckoned good trouting streams.
Tillymuick abound in red granite suitable for all kinds of building
purposes, which, being light and easily wrought, is extensively used
throughout the adjoining district. No quarries have as yet been wrought
for any considerable length of time. About two hundred yards west from the
chureh, is found a bed of serpentine rock, which may be traced westward
through this and several contiguous parishes. Limestone rock has been
found in two places, and some attempts have been: made to burn it for
manure, but hitherto with little success. There were, at one time,
extensive mosses on Benachie. These are now greatly exhausted; but they
are still resorted to for fuel by the inhabitants of this and the
neighbouring parishes. Besides these, there were several other mosses in
the low grounds, but they are now almost entirely exhausted, and the
surface nearly all brought into cultivation. In the east end of the
parish, there is a bed of very fine clay, which, when wrought into mortar
and dried, is almost as white as lime. In most of the little hills, which
have been mentioned as occupying the centre of the parish, is to be found
a coarse kind of rock, which answers well for metalling roads and filling
drains, and, if quarried on an extensive scale, might also be available
for stone fences.
Land-owners.—The parish belongs to four
proprietors, all non-resident. The whole valued rent of the parish is
L.1878 Scots money, of which the valued rent of the estate of Premnay,
belonging to Harry Leith Lumsden, Esq. of Auchindoir, is L. 1082, 13s.
4d., that of Edingarrock, Mains of Leslie, Waulkmill and Ed-derlick,
belonging to Sir Andrew Leith Hay of Rannes, L.316, 13s. 4d.; that of the
lands belonging to Alexander Abercrombie, Esq. of Rothney, L.266, 13s.
4d.; and that of Overhall, belonging to Theodore Gordon, Esq., L.212.
The real rent of the whole parish is about L.3000
Mansion-houses.—There is a mansion house at
Licklyhead, built in 1629, which is inhabited, but much dilapidated. There
is also a mansion-house at Overhall, which is inhabited and in tolerable
Parochial Registers.—The parochial registers
commence in 1723, but are not complete.
It would appear that the population of this parish has
fluctuated very much within the last hundred years. The former Statistical
report states, that "in Dr Webster's account, it was 448. Fourteen years
ago, it was as low as 260, after the old farmers were removed. Three years
ago, it was 471 examinable persons, or about 550 of all ages; and at
present it is only about 450." Since the date of last Account the
population has gradually increased. In 1831, it was 625 ; it is now 691.
The people are sober, honest, and industrious, and
regular in their attendance on the public ordinances of religion.
The males are chiefly employed in agriculture, and also
many of the females at certain seasons of the year. About thirty years
ago, such of the females as were not engaged in agricultural pursuits were
chiefly employed in spinning flax. The perfection of machinery has
superseded this branch of industry. This was succeeded by the knitting of
stockings and jackets,—in which employment many of the females are still
engaged. But the allowance for this kind of work has been of late so much
reduced, that a woman, labouring constantly, cannot earn more than from
1s. to 1s. 6d. per week. Servants are usually engaged by the half year;
men at from L.4 to L.7 ; women at from L.1, 10s. to L.3 of wages, all with
victuals and lodging.
Husbandry.—The husbandry pursued generally consists
in rearing black cattle and a few sheep and horses, and in raising oats,
bear, turnips, and potatoes. A seven years rotation of cropping is that
which is commonly adopted, that is to say, the ground is allowed to lie
three years in grass; two white crops are then taken; one green crop; and
one of bear or oats, with grass seeds sown. Leases are usually granted for
nineteen years. The farm steadings are mostly covered with thatch; only
fourteen dwelling houses are slated. Little has been done as yet in the
way of enclosing fields with stone fences. Thomas Gordon, Esq. already
men-honed, when improving his estate, laid out a considerable sum in
raising earthen fences and planting hedges; but these having been long
neglected, are now quite useless as inclosures. The average rent of
outfield land may be stated at L.1 per Scotch acre, and of infield at from
L.2 to L.2, 10s. per Scotch acre; and some croft land is let at L.2, 15s.
per Scotch acre.
Manufactures.—There are three mills for the
manufacture of grain in the parish, one on the Shevock, one on the Gady at
Auchleven, and one at Gariochsford, the southern extremity of the parish.
At the village of Auchleven, there are three engines for carding wool, and
two spinning jennies, and the owner manufactures woollen cloth on a small
Means of Communication.—The parish is intersected
by two public roads, which cross each other near its centre. The one leads
from Insch to Keig, and crosses the Gady at Auchleven, by a neat bridge of
two arches, erected in 1836, at a cost of L.70. The other road leads from
the upper district of the country to In-verury and Aberdeen. In 1824, this
road was made turnpike from the church to Mill of Carden, where it joins
the great north road from Inverness to Aberdeen, and affords easy access
to the canal basin at Inverury, where lime and bones, for manure, and
coals are to be had at all seasons, and where granaries have lately been
erected for storing grain to be carried to Aberdeen by the canal. The
distance from the church of Premnay to the canal basin is eleven miles.
Another branch of turnpike road has lately been made, leading from
Kennethmont to Inverury; passing through the north side of this parish, it
joins the former road a mile below the church.
Ecclesiastical State.— The church, which was built
in 1792, affords accommodation for 360 persons, and, with additional
galleries, could be made to accommodate 120 more. The sittings are all
free, with the exception of 60 in a gallery erected by the kirk-session,
with consent of the heritors, in 1828. These sittings are let annually for
behoof of the poor, at a rent of from 6d. to 1s. 6d. each. The number of
communicants is usually about one-half of the whole population. The number
of Dissenters in the parish does not exceed 15 grown up persons of both
sexes, exclusive of their children. The manse is very old; date of
building not known. It received an addition, with repairs, upwards of
fifty years ago, and also some repairs seventeen years ago. The glebe,
including some pasture land, and sites of the manse and offices, extends
to about six Scotch acres, and may be estimated at L.12 of yearly value.
The teinds of the parish are exhausted, and the stipend is paid, partly in
money, and partly in victual. The money stipend is L.95, 13s. 6 8/12d. The
victual stipend consists of 71 bolls, 1 peck, and 1 lippie of meal, and 14
bolls, 1 firlot, 3 pecks, and 3 lippies of bear. The patronage of the
church and parish bslongs to Sir Andrew Leith Hay of Rannes.
Education.—There is only one parochial school in
the parish. The schoolmaster's salary is L.27; allowance for garden, L.2,
2s. 9¼d; mortification, L.l, 11s. 8d.; amount of school-fees, about L.12.
The teacher participates also in the Dick Bequest. The average number of
children that attend school in summer may be stated at 30, and in winter
at 50. The branches of education usually taught are, English reading and
grammar, writing, arithmetic, mathematics, book-keeping, geography, and
Latin, the fees for which are very moderate. The schoolmaster's
dwelling-house, which was lately built, is ample and commodious. The
school-room is too small.
Poor and Parochial Funds.—The number of regular
paupers on the roll varies from 15 to 20, besides others who require
occasional aid. The usual allowance to the former is at present 12s. per
quarter, which must vary according to circumstances,—the available funds
for the support of the poor arising chiefly from the in-terest of a
bequest of L.l000 by the late Thomas Gordon, Esq. of Premnay. The amount
of weekly collections at the church does not exceed L.10 annually,
exclusive of occasional collections for charitable and religious purposes.
The temperate habits of the people may in no small
degree be ascribed to the circumstance, that there is no licensed public
house or inn for the sale of spirits within the parish, and only one
merchant has a shop license for that purpose.