PRESBYTERY OF ABERDEEN, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. GEORGE MACKENZIE, MINISTER.
I.—Topography and Natural History.
Name.—The name of the parish is said to be
derived from the Gaelic sgian, (or
skian), "the dagger,
or knife," that weapon having been used by the man who killed a wild
boar which had attacked King Malcolm (Canmore) whilst hunting within the
bounds of the parish, then supposed to be part of the King's forest. For
which service, the same tradition says, the young Highlander, was
rewarded by a grant of the whole land in the parish. [The
reward offered by the King is said to have been a hound's chace or a
flight. The latter was preferred.]
Extent, &c.-The extent of the parish is nearly 6
miles by 4. It is bounded by the parishes of Kinellar, Newhills,
Peterculter, Echt, Cluny, Kemnay, and Kintore.
Hydrography.—The Loch of Skene is nearly three
miles in circumference, situated near the west boundary of the parish.
Its greatest depth does not exceed twelve feet. It is supplied by
several small streams, and is the reservoir which supplies water for one
of the meal mills in the parish, and for the works of Messrs Hadden and
Sons (a wool manufactory) at Garlogie mills.
Geology.—The soil is various, from the undulating
nature of the grounds in the parish; several of the ridges (although
they can scarcely be called hills) rising to a considerable height, and,
with two excepted, which are planted, cultivated to the tops. There are
some rich and fertile fields; but few comparatively; the greater part of
the land being either light or cold. The subsoil is chiefly clay, part
sand or gravel, and there is a considerable extent of moss.
There has been a great improvement, by means of
plantation, since the time of the last Statistical Account. Almost every
heritor in the
parish has planted to a greater or less extent on his property. There
are some fine old trees around the house of Skene, particularly a
chestnut tree on the lawn, and some silver-firs in the line of the west
approach to the house.
Land-owners.—There are fourteen heritors in the
parish. Their lands are, Skene, Easterskene, Kirkville, Leddach,
Black-hills, Kinmundy, Concraig, Auchenclech, Newton, Fiddie, Easter Ord,
Wester Ord, Easter Carnie, and Garlogie Mills. The original charter of the lands of Skene, granted by King Robert
Bruce,* is still preserved. But the family and name of Skene, as lairds
of Skene, after long possessing the lands in the direct line, became
extinct in 1827. The lands are now in the management of trustees. The
Earl of Fife is heir of entail.
Parochial Registers.— The oldest session record
begins in the year 1676, and continues to 1696 ; the second, from 1709
to 1714; the third, from 1720 to 1744; after which year they have been
regularly kept to the present time. The register of baptisms begins in
1726, and has been carried on to the present time. The register of
marriages begins in 1756, and is continued to 1793; then there is a
blank of twenty years; and from 1813, it has been regularly kept. A
cash-book of the distribution of the poor's funds has been kept from the
year 1744; and minutes of the meetings of heritors, for the last ten
years, have been regularly kept.
Mansion-Houses.—The House of Skene consists of
two buildings united. The oldest has evidently stood for several
centuries, from the style of building and strength of the walls. The
date is not known. The other part of the house is comparatively
modern,—the interior having been completed only a few years ago. There
are some fine old paintings in the house, and an extensive library of
books, upwards of 6000 volumes in ancient and modern literature, well
arranged, and carefully kept.
The House of Easterskene, built by the present
proprietor, William M'Combie, Esq., is a spacious modern building of the
Tudor (or Elizabethan) style, surrounded by thriving young plantations
and belts of wood, and commanding an extensive prospect, having the Loch
of Skene and the lower range of the Grampians in the front view.
Kirkville House, belonging to William Knowles, Esq.
is of modern date, having been built within the last twenty years: it
is in the cottage style.
Antiquities.—Besides the Druidical temples and
tumuli noticed in the former Account, with the Hill of Keir, the top of
which seems to have been well adapted for a watch-tower in former days
we have now to mention two Roman urns and a Roman sword, and the points
of two spears, which have been lately found near the line of the Roman
road, passing through the parish from the river Dee to the Don. These
relics are in the possession of the proprietor of Kirkville, on whose
lands they were found. Among the antiquities may also be noticed some
valuable manuscripts in the library at Skene House, beautifully written
previous to the invention of printing; and, not less valuable to the
proprietors of the lands of Skene, the identical skian by which
the lands were won, said to be in the
possession of a relative of the family. A stone, [It
is said that Mr Irvine, the laird of Drum, rested on this stone, (his
men drawn up in line near by,) whilst on his march to the field of
Harlaw, where he fighting hand to hand with M'Lean of Coll.]
bearing the inscription, "Drum stone, Harlaw, 1411," stands on a height
upon the lands of Easterskene.
Live-Stock.—Number of cattle, 2200; and of
horses, 230. Very few sheep are now kept in the parish, as the greater
part of the moorland is either improved or planted with wood.
Considerable attention is paid by farmers to improving the breed of
cattle, as also to the feeding. Some of the best oxen have been sent to
the London market, for several years past, from the port of Aberdeen,
particularly by Mr Milne at Fornet of Skene, who occupies an extensive
Rent.—The rental of the whole parish is about
L.6410. The average rent per acre is L.1. Valued rent, L.2500, 6s. 8d.
The length of leases is generally nineteen years.
A general improvement in agriculture has taken place
since last Account; and of late, furrow-draining has been introduced,
which must ameliorate the soil in several parts of the parish, where the
ordinary mode of draining had little effect in preventing the injury
done to the land by surface water. Most of the fields are inclosed with
dry-stone fences, as there is a superabundance of material for this
purpose throughout the parish. A good specimen of these inclosures
presents itself to the eye of the traveller on the Skene turnpike road,
upon the lands of Easterskene, where the proprietor has furnished
employment to the labourer for several years past, in trenching the
land, and in building dikes.
A considerable extent of waste land has been brought
into cultivation (above 1000 acres) since last Account, particularly on
the lands of Ord, Fiddie, Carnies, Easterskene, Leddach, Blackhills,
Kinmundy, Concraig, Newton, and Auchenclech. The late proprietor of
Kirkville added (by draining) two new farms, with farm-steadings, where
farm had never been before, on the haughs (rather bogs) of the Leuchar
Burn, on his lands of Hillcairnie, This he effected by straighting,
cutting, and deepening the burn at considerable expense, part of which,
of course, was borne by the heritors on the opposite side of the Leuchar.
Manufactures.—At Garlogie, there is a spinning
manufactory [Part of the worsted spun at
Garlogie is manufactured at Aberdeen by the same Company into carpets of
excellent quality.] for wool, belonging to Messrs Hadden and Sons
in Aberdeen, where about 120 people, old and young, are generally
employed. Steam power is occasionally added when the supply of water
from the Loch of Skene falls short. Gas has been introduced of late for
lighting the works in the winter season. The Company are very attentive
to the comfort of the families employed at the work: they have built
neat cottages for their accommodation, and give them garden ground
attached, all divided and inclosed. A commodious school-house has been
added, which is attended by about 50 scholars during the day, consisting
of the younger children, and by nearly as many of the older children in
the evening, after the work of the day is over in the mill. The
school-room is also occupied every alternate Sabbath evening as a place
of worship for the families in the place, as
they have pot sittings in the parish church On the other Sabbath
evenings, the younger branches of the families attend for instruction in
the Sabbath school, under the care of the schoolmaster of the place,
with three assistants connected with the works.
Means of Communication.—There are two branches of
turnpike-road leading to the west from Aberdeen, (which is distant only
six miles from their junction at the east boundary of the parish) the
one branch running nearly through the middle of the parish towards
Alford and Strathdon; the other, more to the south, towards Tarland and
Kincardine. A stage-coach passes by the former line, every alternate
day, from Aberdeen to Alford. A mail-gig runs daily on the same line;
and there is a sub-post-office near the centre of the parish. The
disposable produce of this and the surrounding parishes finds a ready
market in the town of Aberdeen. Coals, lime, and bone-manure are brought
from Aberdeen. The commutation-roads are now kept in a much better state
of repair than formerly.
Ecclesiastical State.—The church was built in
1801; has been lately repaired by the heritors; is centrically placed
for the parishioners; but is now rather small, being seated for 700,
whilst there are 800 communicants; and the preceding table of the
population shows an increase of 706 since the year in which the church
was built. The manse was built in 1779, and contained, only four rooms
and two small attics; but, with an addition lately given by the heritors,
without solicitation, it is now amply commodious. The glebe contains ten
acres of land, part of which was brought into cultivation by the last
incumbent, having been formerly pasture or grass glebe. The stipend is
one of the small livings, made up to L. 150 by the Exchequer. In some
years it exceeds this amount, as some of the heritors pay their
proportions by the fiars' prices.
There is a small Congregational chapel in the parish,
seated for 200 hearers, the members [There
are not above twelve families members within the parish.] of
which belong partly to this and partly to the adjoining parishes. Their
present pastor is well educated, and is an acceptable and faithful
labourer among his people.
Education.-—The parish school is centrically
situated. There is an average attendance of from 80 to 90 scholars in
winter, and from 40 to 50 in summer. The ordinary branches of education
are taught, including Latin, geography and book-keeping. The salary is
L.30, with an allowance of L.2 for a garden. The teacher has the benefit
of the Dick Bequest, and also L.20 yearly from the funds of the late Dr
Milne of Bombay, for teaching 25 poor schloars.
Since the time of the great increase of the
population, there have been two private or unendowed schools set on foot
by the parishioners, one in the east, and the other in the west end of
the parish. The average attendance of scholars at both these schools is
from 60 to 70 throughout the year. There are also two small schools
taught by female teachers, attended by about 50 younger children. The
school at Garlogie mills has been already noticed. There are seven
Sabbath schools in the parish, well attended. These facts prove that the
people generally are fully sensible of the benefits of useful and
religious instruction to their children.
Libraries.—There is a parish library, supported
by regular annual contributions of 1s. by each reader. There are now
upwards of 600 volumes. There is also a library connected with the
Sabbath schools, supported by an annual contribution of sixpence from
each member of the society. There are now upwards of 900 small volumes
entered upon the catalogue. The books are given out to the scholars by
the teachers at a monthly exchange.
Society.—There is a Juvenile Missionary and Bible
Society in the parish, which has contributed about L.12 yearly for the
last three years to the Assembly's Schemes, besides giving a donation to
the Aberdeen Bible Society, and Bibles and New Testaments to the poor
children within the parish.
Poor and Parochial Funds.—-The average number of
poor on the roll is 36, besides orphan children, and others who receive
occasional assistance. The ordinary poor receive from 6s. to 10s.
quarterly. A few bed-rid paupers have received from 2s. to 3s. 6d.
weekly. The sources of supply are, collections in the church, L.50 in
the year; interest of money, L.16; proclamation of banns and mortcloth
dues, from L.2 to L.3; all of which having been found insufficient, the
heritors have for several years past made up the deficiency by a
voluntary contribution of from L.45 to L.60 a year. Part of the
allowance to the poor on the roll is given in meal, and
the rest in money.
Inns, &c.— There are two inns on the middle line
of turnpike-road, where travellers and carriers may be comfortably
accommodated. There are 6 grocers' shops within the parish, and 4
meal-mills. There are 3 blacksmiths, 6 cart and plough-wrights, and 1
Fuel.—There is, as has already been stated,
abundance of moss in the parish, so that most of the parishioners are
well supplied with peats. Wood is occasionally got from thinning of the
young plantations; and coals are brought from Aberdeen.