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The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume XII - Aberdeen
United Parishes of Auchindoir and Kearn

THE REV. WILLIAM REID, A. M. Assistant and Successor.

I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name, &c.—The parishes of Auchindoir and Kearn were united by the annexation of Kearn to Auchindoir in 1811. Previous to this period Kearn was in union with Forbes; but circumstances of local conveniency having led to a disjunction of these parishes, Forbes was united to Tullynessle, and Kearn annexed to Auchindoir. The name Auchindoir, by which both these parishes are now usually designated, is of Gaelic origin, and is said to signify the "field of pursuit." This derivation is supported by the historical fact mentioned by Buchanan, that "Luthlac, son of Macbeth, was slain by Malcolm in the valley of Bogie." Tradition refers to several tumuli on an extensive moor (now improved), about two miles south of the church, as the scene of battle where Luthlac was defeated, and also points out the spot, about four miles northeast from this, in the parish of Rhynie, where he was overtaken and slain. The circumstance of his being pursued through the valley of Auchindoir to the place of his death, may have given rise to its present appellation. Kearn is understood to be a corruption of cairn, there being a remarkable cairn or tumulus in that parish; but of the history of which there is no tradition.

Extent, &c.—These united parishes form an irregular figure, the length of which is about 7 miles, and the breadth about the same extent. They are bounded by Kildrummy on the south; Rhynie on the north; Cabrach on the west; and Clatt and Tulleynessle on the east. Auchindoir is the much larger parish in point of superficial extent. Their general aspect is varied and uneven. This characteristic is particularly applicable to the eastern portion, comprehending the whole of the parish of Kearn, and the northern extremity of Auchindoir. The surface here is either raised into long undulating ridges of extremely dissimilar elevation, or depressed into deep valleys of every variety of breadth; several of which are marked with features of a very striking and picturesque appearance. Towards the southern extremity, the parish is of a more level description, with a gradual ascent to the surrounding mountains, particularly Correen, round whose base it sweeps for a distance of five miles. The altitude of Correen is about 1350 feet. On the west of the parish stands the Buck, or "Buck of the Cabrach," as it is usually termed, the elevation of which, according to Ainslie, is 2377 feet. It lies partly in Auchindoir and partly in Cabrach parish. It is of a very elegant form when viewed from the north and east, presenting a pyramidical shape, tapering beautifully towards the top, and crowned with a cluster of rocks placed as if in studied artificial regularity, by the gigantic efforts of man.

Climate.—The climate of Auchindoir and Kearn is, on the whole, salubrious. The heights, indeed, are cold and exposed; but the lower grounds in both parishes are mild, sheltered, and dry. The distance from the sea, (not less in any part than thirty miles), and the interception of the easterly winds, by frequent ranges of hills, exclude those vapours, which bestow, too truly, the character of dampness, on the climate of the west coast of Scotland. On the other hand, the westerly winds are often boisterous and stormy, and the frosts somewhat early, and frequently severe. Snow falls in abundance, and sometimes lies long; still the climate of these parishes may be denominated healthy, at least if longevity be the best criterion,—of which there are many unquestionable instances.

Hydrography.—The quality of the water in this district is excellent, and its quantity sufficient for all the necessary purposes of human life and industry. There are no medicinal springs, properly so termed, although there are various rills tainted with iron; but neither their strength nor virtues are such as to merit particular notice. The burns of Craig and Corchinan, which unite and form the Bogie near to the Manse, take their rise in, and for a considerable space run through, mossy ground, from which they derive a strong antiseptic quality, the effects of which have been frequently ascertained. This is particularly obvious in the preservation (the reporter may almost say the partial restoration to firmness) of salt water fish brought from a distance, and deposited, in wicker baskets, under the running stream for twenty-four or forty-eight hours after their arrival. It may be mentioned, however, as somewhat singular, that this effect is not perceptible on what are usually termed flat fish. The Bogie is a beautiful little river, meandering through a fine valley until it joins the Doveron at Huntly, about eleven miles from its formation. The Burn of Craig, its original principal constituent, is rapid and impetuous. The course of this brook, from its source to its junction with the sister stream at the commencement of the Bogie, is not more than five miles; but it presents all the characteristics of a mountain torrent, suddenly rising to a great height, and as quickly falling to its ordinary level. In passing through the Den of Craig it forms several beautiful cascades ; one in particular is very fine, where it is seen leaping from rock to rock in a zig-zag direction, and finally dashing down a precipice of considerable altitude. The scenery here is of a romantic description. It may be farther mentioned that at this place, in the far-famed flood of 1829, the burn was proved by measurement to have risen 18 feet perpendicularly. The only other rivers connected with this parish are the Don and Mossat. The Don forms its boundary for about two miles on the south-east, after receiving the Mossat, a small stream which divides it from Kildrummy on the south.

Geology, &c.—Freestone of a very fine quality abounds in one particular stratum in this parish. It first presents itself in the adjacent parish of Kildrummy on the south, then passes through Auchindoir, and reaches the confines of Rhynie on the north, where it dips and disappears. The common whin or moorstone is also found in huge blocks and immense quantity on the estate of Craig. Limestone is to be had both on the estates of Clova and Craig, but its purity is not remarkable, and at any rate, the distance even from imported coal is so very great, that it has not been found expedient to work the quarries to any noticeable extent. The asbestos is also found on Mr Gordon's estate; but in one place only, (a ravine in the bosom of a mountain,) and in no great quantities. There are also serpentine, mica-slate, and a course laminated marble, in the hills of Towenreef and Correen. On the estate of Druminnor there has lately been discovered a rather singular quarry, affording a hard and heavy stone, somewhat resembling granite in external appearance, but (unlike granite) susceptible of being split into slabs of great thinness, and of almost any length or breadth. These form excellent pavements for footpaths around farm offices, or for the floors of kitchens or cellars. The soil pf these parishes is various; towards the hills mossy and poor; but in the lower grounds sharp, dry, and productive. Where the upper soil is incumbent upon freestone, it presents a rich fertile alluvial loam. Clay is found in many places, sometimes in a pure state, but for the most part mixed with sand and small stones, in different stages of decomposition. In the mosses, which are extensive, in the western quarter especially, there is plenty of peat of an excellent quality, and in these mosses there are not unfrequently found the remains of imbedded trees of considerable size, chiefly firs, and sometimes oaks and alders.

Zoology.—These parishes afford roe-deer, grouse, partridges, snipes, and woodcocks; hares and rabbits. Blackcock and ptarmigan are sometimes seen. There are also foxes, polecats, weasels, and occasionally badgers; hawks, wild pigeons, and singing birds of all the varieties known in the north of Scotland. The breed of cattle is mostly the pure Aberdeenshire; of sheep the Scotch black-faced and Cheviot kinds. The insects most commonly injurious are the wasp and caterpillar. The former are usually destroyed, by cutting the nest at night and letting it drop into hot water, or by blowing it to pieces by a large charge of gunpowder. The latter are never effectually removed but by regular hand-picking.

Botany.— The writer of this article is not aware of any of the rarer plants having been found in these parishes; but he has reason to affirm that the mountains of Auchindoir and Kearn, and the plantations and glens within their bounds, contain all the Scottish varieties that are usually met with.

The plantations are extensive. On Mr Leith Lumsden's property of Clova, there are several plantations of thriving Scots fir and larch, and there remain a few specimens of the former tree in a comparatively low situation, of which the size is large, and the quality understood to be good. On Mr Grant's estate of Druminnor there are also promising plantations, though of a lesser age; and in that part of the parish which belongs to the Honourable Walter Forbes of Brux, there are similar young woods. Mr Forbes has planted over a very wide surface, but mostly in the adjoining parishes, which do not fall within the present report. The most noticeable plantations in this district belong to Mr Gordon of Craig, because these (and especially the romantic Den already alluded to) exhibit forest trees and hard-wood of considerable variety, and demonstrate how much may be done, by care and perseverance, in the rearing of valuable wood, even under the opposing obstacles to be met with in a highly elevated country. Of the sorts which have been successfully cultivated at Craig, the beech, the oak, the ash and elm, the chestnut, the lime, the sycamore, the silver-fir, the black spruce, and the larch, are conspicuous. Mr Gordon affirms that, next to first nursing, the whole art of raising wood consists in thinning; that wherever forest trees or any sorts of trees are raised either for cutting or for decoration, it is in vain to expect success unless a steady, regular, and unsparing course of thinning is maintained. It is this which enables the ground to bring to maturity a certain number of plants; it is this which alone contributes to the indispensable admission of light, and the free circulation of air; and it is the neglect of this practice which exhibits in many plantations, which otherwise would have been valuable, stunted and unhealthy trees, covered with moss, disfigured in appearance and ruined in value. The congeniality of the soil in this district is decidedly in favour of the larch in thin dry land; and of beech, oak, ash, elm, and lime, in richer situations. The pinaster, the Weymouth pine, the balsam or balm of Gilead fir, and the holly, do not succeed here. In all the plantations in this part of the country, three facts are observable, 1. that the portion which fronts the north thrives the best, at least in the earlier stages of growth; 2. that trees planted on sloping banks prosper better than those on a flat; and 3. that trees of different sorts intermixed, succeed better than when masses of the same description are planted together. If there be any exception to the last rule, it is in the case of the oak.

There are few trees of remarkable age, size, or figure in these parishes, if we except two venerable sycamores near to Mr Grant's house of Druminnor, and a few old ashes round the garden at Craig; one of these (of large stem, and of which the tradition is that it was planted in 1688,) showed evident symptoms of decay about fifteen years ago, the tops fading and the trunk spoiling in the heart. To save it if possible, the proprietor pollarded the tops, and caused the opening in the stem to be carefully covered over with sheet lead, in order to exclude the rains. The consequence has been that this ancient tree is again in vigour.

II.—Civil History.

Eminent Men.—One may be mentioned, whose talents, learning, and accomplishments seem to have been considerable, from the terms addressed to him, in a Latin poem of great power and beauty, by Dr Arthur Johnstone in his "Parerga," published in 1642. This was John Gordon of Craig, born in 1607, the seventeenth in descent from the principal stem of the family of Gordon, [See printed tables of the pedigree of the families of Gordon.]—a man who appears to have been held in great estimation at the Court of James VI.

Antiquities.—The prominent objects of antiquity are the old parish church, the moat or mount on which the ancient Castrum Auchindorić, mentioned by Boethius, seems to have stood, and the houses of Craig and Druminnor. The old church, now a ruin, is extremely venerable, and every justice is done to its ivy-mantled walls, by the proprietor on whose estate it stands, in order to exhibit this impressive object with effect. The fine Saxon gateway or principal door; the carved representation of our Saviour on the cross, with the letters j. n. r. j. ; the recess for the elements, &c. with the inscription immediately over it, Hic e. corp. d. n. j. c. v. m., (Hic est corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi, Virginis Mariae); the stone vessel at the entrance for the holy water, &c. are the clearest indications of its once having been a Roman Catholic Chapel, though at what precise period it was converted into the Presbyterian parish church cannot be ascertained. The oldest date is on the north gable, and bears 1557.

The Houses of Craig and Druminnor, (still habitable even in their more ancient portions) are of considerable antiquity, and exhibit many of the characteristics of remote times ; the oldest date at Craig is 1518; that at Druminnor (which was the ancient Castle Forbes, once the chief seat of the Forbes family,) is 1577. Of modern buildings it seems unnecessary to say any thing farther, than that on all the principal properties, the owners have, by modern erections or additions, given comfort and embellishment to their several residences. The proprietors are five in number; Mr Leith Lumsden of Clova; Mr Gordon of Craig; Mr Grant of Druminnor; the Honourable Walter Forbes of Brux (now Master of Forbes); and Mr Gordon of Wardhouse. The three first named are the principal heritors ; and reside either wholly or for a considerable portion of the year within the parish.


Within these few years there has sprung up a village in the parish, named Lumsden, of which the population at this time is 243. The creation of this village has led to the sudden increase of the population, by attracting individuals, who resort to it from all parts of the country. At present there is something of a counterbalancing decrease in the population, by the disposition to emigrate, which for two seasons has prevailed, especially among the young men.


These parishes have never been entirely surveyed, and, consequently, their precise arable extent cannot be stated; but it is progressive both in measure and in manner; both in the reclaiming of land heretofore barren, and in an improved style of operation. The appearance, comfort, and substantiality of the houses and cottages are much improved within the last twenty years.

Leases.—The usual duration of the leases on good farms is nineteen years; on farms more pastoral than in tillage, seven, nine, and eleven years.

The people are almost all employed in agriculture and the rearing of cattle. In Lumsden village there are a few traders and handicraftsmen; and blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, and tailors, are distributed through the different estates; but the mass of the population is agricultural, and the people are sober, frugal, and industrious in their habits.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Market-Town.—The nearest market-town, with the exception of the village of Rhynie, is Huntly, distant at an average twelve miles. The road is turnpike, and excellent from the church onwards. This turnpike runs in whole about seven miles through the parish. There is a stage-coach which passes through the parish to and from Aberdeen on every alternate day.

The only village in the parish is Lumsden, already mentioned. The reporter can hardly say that it is as yet marked by the more striking features of great prosperity.

Ecclesiastical State.—The parish church is, on the whole, not inconveniently situated. It was built in 1811, and its only fault is that it is too small for the existing population. It contains accommodation for 450 sitters only. There are in these parishes 10 individuals belonging to the United Secession; 8 Independents; and two Roman Catholics. The members, also, of one family of the resident heritors are Episcopalians; but the members of this family regularly attend the parish church, there being no Episcopal place of worship in the neighbourhood.

The present incumbents of the parishes under notice are, the Rev. James Reid, and the Rev. William Reid, assistant and successor. The former of these clergymen was inducted in 1785, and the latter in 1834. The manse was built in 1764: it is incommodious, and in very bad repair. The stipend of the united parishes is L. 150. The proper glebe of Auchindoir is 8 acres in extent; and a compensation or excambion for the glebe of Forbes affords a rent of L. 8, 2s. 6d.

Education.— There is only one parochial school for both parishes, with two or three unendowed schools. The schoolmaster's salary is L. 30; the average amount of school-fees, L. 21. He has the legal accommodations. The branches of education taught at the parochial school are, Latin, English, mathematics, geography, arithmetic, and writing.

Poor and Parochial Funds.—The average number of poor persons receiving parochial aid is 22. The annual amount of parish church collections for their relief is about L. 32, with about L. 14 additional from two mortifications and other sources. The whole of this is divided among them, and, small as it is, yet it seems sufficient for supplying their necessities. There is a manifest reluctance on their part to be indebted to parochial relief, which leads to industry and economy. For many years, there has been no strolling beggar belonging to these parishes.

Fairs.—Four cattle markets are held in the parish during the year.

Inns.— There are one inn and three ale-houses. The latter cannot be described as a blessing.

Fuel.—The fuel in general use is peat. Coal is extremely expensive. The carriage of it from the coast is more costly than the article itself on the shore : and even if sent for by private carts, the loss of time and labour, together with expenses for men and horses, raises the price of this best description of all fuel, to a very heavy amount.

Miscellaneous Observations.

The most prominent variation between the present state of these united parishes, and their condition at the date of the former Statistical Report, arises from the improved state of husbandry; the tillage of waste land ; the superior style of cultivation; and the adoption of many of those advantageous changes, both in cropping and in the implements of husbandry, which have been equally recommended by the precept and example of eminent agriculturists.

Next in order may be mentioned the less essential, but certainly not the unimportant improvements in cleanliness, dress, and modes of living. The becoming regularity, decency, and attention of the attendants in the parish church of Auchindoir could not have been improved; it has always been noticeable, praiseworthy, and exemplary.

The most crying evil here was the overwhelming concourse of travelling beggars, to whom a mistaken liberality afforded the temptation to come among us, but whose visitations were in many ways prejudicial to the parishioners. This burden was considerably lessened about two years ago, by a general resolution not to give alms of any sort to stranger beggars, but to confine our parochial charity to our parochial poor; and the recent institution of a rural police has added to our security and protection.

The mischiefs of absenteeism are luckily little felt in these parishes. The presence of certain heritors for the greater part of the year affords, in the first place, the facilities of the magistracy, and what is of not less moment, it sets an example in the way of improvements; it leads to the employment of tradesmen, to the extension of charities, and to the reciprocities of kindness and confidence between dissimilar ranks.

October 1840.

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