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History of the Parish of Banchory-Devenick
Parish School

The date when a school was first opened at Banchory-Devenick for the education of the young must be mere matter of conjecture; but the old parish records show that in the year 1711 the building used for that purpose, and believed to be on same site as the present school, was in a very dilapidated condition. The following suggestive entry occurs of date 1st July, 1711, “The said day it being represented to the Session that whereas in moist and foggy weather the roof of the school-house pours down so many soot drops that scarcely it is habitable : to remove this inconveniencie the Session did unanimously ordain that the said school house should be lafted with dails upon the publick charges.” On 24th June, 1714, “the sum of 10 lib. was paid for casting 900 divots, and 13 lib. scots for meal and meat to the man who laid on the divots on the roof.” In 1732 the school had fallen into such a ruinous state that the erection of a new building was contracted for at a cost of 36 13s. scots.

The kirk-session, having had the strongest voice in the appointment of schoolmaster, invariably gave with it the session clerkship and sometimes the precentorship. The emoluments of the appointments are thus recorded in 1707. There is due from the possession of every pleugh in the Parish twenty shillings scots, which in all amounts to above fourty eight payed at Candlemass. There is payable out of the Kirk Box for officiating as Session-Clerk twenty punds scots, and four punds four shillings scots for writing all testimonials gratis. Every husbandman pays for clerking his childs Baptisme ten pence and every subtennant payes halfe a merke, and for clerking of every marriage ten pence. Every Scholar learning to read and write payes to the Schoolmaster a merk (1s. 11d.) quarterly and every Latin Scholar twenty pence quarterly.” In addition, it had been customary for the session to allow the schoolmaster 1 Scots “for the casting and winning peats for the children’s use who are at School in the winter time.” Later on “a crown” was repeatedly granted “ to the Clerk for a hat as usuall.” It does not appear that the income of the schoolmaster had been in any way improved till the passing of an Act of Parliament in 1803 “the bettering of Parochial Schoolmasters.” Under this Act the minister and heritors of the parish met at the school-house on 10th September of that year, when the following resolutions were passed:—“ That the Schoolmaster’s salary for the first period fixed by the Act shall be three hundred and fifty merks Scotch, to be proportioned amongst the several Heritors agreeably to the said Act. Also that a garden, containing a quarter of a Scotch acre, shall be set aside and enclosed from the adjoining field belonging to Mr. Thomson of Banchory. The meeting was unanimously of opinion that the school fees, which had not been raised for at least half a century, should be augmented in the following proportions, all payable on entering to the School, and to commence on the expiry of the present vacations, vizt: For a quarter of a year at reading English, One Shilling and Sixpence. For Reading and Writing, Two Shillings and Sixpence. For Arithmetic, Three Shillings, and for Latin, Five Shillings." This scale of fees was repeatedly amended in subsequent years, with a view to still “further encouarge the Teacher in the discharge of his duties.”

As early as 1738 the catechising system began, “intimation being given from the pulpit that a Committee of Presbytery would visit the school, when all concerned were warned to attend.” These visitations were continued annually down to a comparatively recent date. I n October, 1799, in consequence of the distracted state of the country, all schoolmasters were ordered by the sheriffs of counties to take a formal oath of allegiance to his Majesty, George III. In 1807 the number of scholars in attendance was thirty. Of these, sixteen studied English only, twelve writing, twelve arithmetic, and two book-keeping. The gross income of the teacher, including emoluments of session-clerkship, &c., amounted to 44 6s.11d

The parish has been unusually fortunate for the last two centuries in the selection of teachers. For this too much credit cannot be assigned to the parish ministers, especially to Dr. Morison and his scholarly successor, Dr. Paul, whose respective efforts and influence secured the appointment of the best possible men. Indeed, it is questionable if any rural parish in the north, with a like limited population, could produce a list of such distinguished teachers.


1569. William Mar held the offices of schoolmaster, reader, and session-clerk. As “ reidar” he had a salary of “ xx lib” per annum.

1693. Robert Jamieson was elected to the same offices, and in 1703 “he being before in holy orders commenced Preacher and Assistant to the Minister of Banchory Mr. James Gordon.” Having, however, secured a charge of his own at Inverness, he removed there in the summer of 1714.

1714. David Martin officiated for a year or two as schoolmaster under Mr. Jamieson, at whose removal he was appointed to the three offices.

1716. Charles Cay succeeded him, but he does not seem to have held the appointments beyond about twelve months. He appears to have likewise acted as precentor and session-clerk, and to have taken a great interest in the ministerial affairs of the parish. Having secured another appointment he left at Whitsunday, 1717.

1717. James Clark, who had been temporarily officiating as precentor, was formally elected to the vacancy in

1717. He left the district in the summer of 1726.

1726. James Hogg, who had previously been schoolmaster at Drumoak, succeeded Clark in 1726. He held the post for forty-five years, when he retired through old age. According to the minute of session, “he had filled the office with great abilities, diligence and success.” He had a son, George, who was a very successful merchant in Aberdeen, and who latterly became proprietor of the estate of Shannaburn. Like his father, the son took the greatest possible interest in Banchory-Devenick, building a female school entirely at his own expense, and endowing it with a legacy of 100. This endowment was supplemented by Dr. Morison, who added another 100 to the fund. This female school, which stood about three hundred yards south of the parish school, is now closed, the pupils having been transferred to the parish school; but the annual interest on the fund is regularly paid by the kirk-session, who are the trustees, to the School Board, thus enabling the latter body to reduce the school rate exigible from the ratepayers. George Hogg died in 1826, in the 78th year of his age.

1771. George Skene Keith, the industrious reviewer of Aberdeenshire agriculture, “who produced the best attestations of his conduct from the Minister and Session of Peterculter, whence he came,” was appointed both schoolmaster and session-clerk in February, 1771. He was the lineal descendant of Alexander Keith, third son of the second Earl Marischal, and had been laureated at King’s College the previous year. Whilst discharging the functions of teacher at Banchory-Devenick, he contrived to attend the divinity course at Aberdeen, securing license from the Presbytery there in 1774. Two years later he received a presentation to the charge of Keith-hall and Kinkell from the commissioners of George, Earl Marischal ; but his lordship having the following day given a presentation to the same charge to Thomas Tait, one of the ministers of Old Machar, a serious question arose as to which should be preferred. The Court of Session, and the House of Lords, both decided in favour of Keith, who was accordingly ordained on 14th May, 1778. In 1822 he received a presentation to the parish of Tulliallan in Perthshire, and, accepting it, his younger son, John, who was a graduate of Aberdeen University, and licensed as a preacher of the gospel, succeeded him as minister of Keith-hall. The elder son was Dr. Keith of St. Cyrus, author of the well-known book on prophecy. A son of the latter is the celebrated surgeon and ovariotomist, Dr. Keith, who recently removed from Edinburgh to London, and who claims to be the oldest surviving representative of the Earls Marischal in the male line. Skene Keith, who had received the degree of D.D. from his Altna Mater, died at Tulliallan House on 7th March, 1823, in the 71st year of his age, and his remains were interred in the churchyard of Keith-hall, where a handsome monument, bearing the following inscription, was afterwards erected to his memory :—

“Near this wall are interred the mortal remains of The Rev. Dr. George Skene Keith, Minister of the Parish of Keith-hall for forty-four years, and of Tulliallan, in Perthshire, for eight months. Born at Auquhorsk on the 6th November, 1752, he died at Tulliallan House on the 7th March, 1823. Distinguished and beloved as the clergyman of a parish, and remarkable in a wider sphere for his learning and science, of great mental and bodily activity, he preserved in age the same vivacity and cheerfulness, the same love of knowledge, warmth of feeling, and untiring Christian benevolence which characterised his youth and manhood. Some gentlemen of this county who had intended to present him with a memorial of their high respect for his character, but were prevented by his death, have erected this monument to his memory.”

He will be remembered best by his book on the Agriculture of Aberdeenshire, published in 1811. It is a wonderful collection of facts on a subject which was then in its infancy, and is thoroughly indispensable to a historian of Scotch agriculture. His other works are Tracts on Weights, Measures, and Corns; The Excellence of the British Constitution, and A Short Sketch of the Life of Principal Campbell.

1778. Robert Cormack was appointed successor in July, 1778, but only on the condition that “ he should grant his obligation not to commence as a Student of Divinity, and likewise that he should find one sufficiently qualified to precent in the Church and teach Church Music.” He was a painstaking and highly successful teacher, and was much esteemed in the parish. He continued to hold the double office down to the date of his death, which occurred on 13th January, 1813.

1813. Robert Adams, designed as “Student in Philosophy in King’s College, Aberdeen, and having ample certificates of his literature and abilities to fill the office,” was appointed successor in the following March. This being the first appointment under the Act of Parliament of 1803, it devolved upon the Presbytery, after Mr. Adams had been formally appointed by the heritors, “to make trial of his proficiency in Latin, English, Arithmetic, and Writing, and if found qualified to teach these branches of education, that they furnish him with an Extract from their Minutes in due form, so that his right to the endowments of his Office may be completed.” He was a most careful teacher and excellent session-clerk—the minutes and accounts in his handwriting giving evidence of his ability as a caligraphist. He qualified for the Dick Bequest; and his literary attainments generally were of a high order. In January, 1836, he contracted a malignant fever and died after four days’ illness. Under his deed of settlement he bequeathed a sum of money for behoof of the poor of the parish.

1836. Patrick McGregor Grant, M.A., “Preacher of the Gospel,” was appointed successor on 10th March, 1836. He was an active and energetic teacher and won himself many friends. Amongst these was John Irvine Boswell of Kingcausie and Balmuto, who, as patron of the living of Auchterderran, in Fifeshire, presented it to him on a vacancy occurring in 1844. Grant was accordingly ordained and inducted there in the autumn of the same year. He took an active interest in the spiritual welfare of Lochgelly, a mining village three miles distant from the manse, and for many years he preached there twice every Sunday, until his exertions, backed by the assistance of outside friends, got the Chapel of Ease erected into a Quoad Sacra parish with a duly ordained minister. He never married, but lived a quiet retiring life on his stipend, which amounted to the handsome sum of 463 per annum. Unfortunately, about ten years ago, symptoms of mental derangement began to manifest themselves, and he became quite incapacitated from discharging his duty. A curator was thereupon appointed for him, and he was removed to a private lunatic asylum in Edinburgh, where he died on 28th March, 1889.

1844. John Webster, M.A., who was educated in the parish school of Forglen and studied afterwards at the University of Aberdeen, where he also passed the divinity course, subsequently receiving license from the Presbytery of Aberdeen as “a preacher of the Gospel,” was appointed successor to Grant on 24th October, 1844. Entering upon his duties at Banchory immediately thereafter, he speedily gave proof of his literary proficiency and rare power of imparting knowledge to others. His ability in these respects led the University of Aberdeen, in 1850, to appoint him Murray lecturer, and in that capacity, and whilst still teacher at Banchory-Devenick, he delivered the lectures at King’s College during the sessions 1850-51, and 1851-52. In the autumn of 1852 he was presented to the charge of the parish of Strichen, and five years later he was translated to Anstruther Easter, in Fifeshire. In 1864 he removed to the parish of Cameron, near St. Andrews. At the end of 1876 the congregation of St. John’s, Edinburgh, recognizing his power as a preacher and organizer of church-work, which eminently qualified him for a city charge, made the most strenuous efforts to get him to remove thither. With considerable reluctance he severed his connection with Cameron, and was inducted to St. John’s on 23rd December, 1876. For the next seven years he discharged the multifarious duties of his office with indefatigable energy and assiduity, which resulted in a very large increase of the congregation. In the spring of 1884 a call from Cramond, one of the most beautiful parishes in the outskirts of Edinburgh, gave him an opportunity of again removing to the country, and, accepting it, he was inducted there on nth March, 1884. Next year his Alma Mater conferred on him the degree of D.D.; and in May, 1888, when the convenership of the Education Committee of the Church of Scotland became vacant, he was selected as being an experienced educationist and a shrewd business man.

1852. William Skinner, M.A., who was born in the parish of Clatt in 1830, received his early education at the parish school there. Afterwards removing to Aberdeen he attended the new town Grammar School, where he studied under the celebrated Dr. Melvin. In the bursary competition of King’s College he took fifth place, and in the University classes carried off the first prize in moral philosophy. After graduating in 1849 he took to teaching. He first acted as assistant substitute to the Rev. Gordon Raeburn of Keig, then an old man, who had been for many years unfit for duty. From Keig he was appointed schoolmaster of Banchory-Devenick in 1852. While teaching there he attended the divinity classes in Aberdeen, and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Aberdeen in 1854. Of his work at Banchory-Devenick Dr. Paul wrote: “He (Mr. Skinner) was selected by me from about twenty candidates, as being the best qualified, as regards his literary and scientific attainments, and his aptitude for communicating knowledge. I can certify with great confidence that his scholarship is of a high order, and extremely accurate, and that I have never seen a better teacher, or one who more thoroughly understands the business of instruction.” After teaching at Banchory-Devenick for about three years he was, in 1855, appointed assistant to Dr. Paterson, minister of the second charge at Montrose, In 1857 he was appointed to the West Church, Dairy, and, in the following year, he accepted a presentation to the parish of Coull. Ten years later he removed to the parish of Tarland where he still ministers to an attached congregation.

i1855- John Black, M.A., was born in the parish of Glenrinnes in 1834. After studying for a time at the parish school there, he went to the school at Keith. When only about thirteen he entered a law office in Keith as a clerk, but did not take to the drudgery of the desk ; and, after some preliminary training, took the third bursary at Aberdeen University. He subsequently became one of the most brilliant students, not only taking either the first or second place in all his classes, but carrying off the Simpson mathematical prize of 60. His abilities and distinction as a student secured for him a large amount of private teaching in Aberdeen, and, immediately on his graduating M. A., Dr. Paul selected him as schoolmaster of Banchory-Devenick, where he entered upon his duties in the autumn of 1855. In addition to gaining the Milne Bequest he competed for the Dick Bequest, making the best appearance of any candidate up to that time. As a recognition of the scholarship displayed he received the highest possible grant and a premium of ^30. Whilst still acting as teacher at Banchory-Devenick, he received an appointment as one of Her Majesty’s inspectors of schools, an office in which he was at first associated with Dr. Woodford of Edinburgh; but, after a time, he came to Aberdeen as inspector for the counties of Aberdeen, Kincardine, and Forfar. In 1868, on death of Dr. Maclure, he was appointed professor of humanity in the University of Aberdeen, and afterwards had the degree of LL.D. conferred upon him. No gentleman in the north commanded greater esteem and respect than did the portly and dignified professor of humanity. He died suddenly on 17th November, 1881. He was married to a daughter of the Rev. Mr. Strahan, some time headmaster of Gordon’s College, and she, along with two sons and four daughters, survived him.

1858. Robert Ogilvie, M.A., was the youngest of the seven sons of Mr. W. Ogilvie, a highly respected farmer in Rothiemay. He was born there towards the close of 1834, and received the rudiments of his education at a small side school. He attended the Rothiemay parish school for about a year, and was afterwards for a short time under the tuition of an elder brother. With a view to prosecuting his studies still further, he removed to Aberdeen in 1852, and after attending the Grammar School there for about three months, entered the University of Marischal College where he gained a bursary. His career thereafter was of the most brilliant character, for in almost every class he carried off the first prize, and finally won the Gray mathematical bursary of 60 and the silver medal. He studied at the Divinity Hall for some time, and, on the removal of Mr. Black from Banchory in the spring of 1858, was unanimously appointed his successor .in the offices of schoolmaster and session-clerk. He continued to discharge his duties as such until the autumn of i860, when he was appointed to succeed his eldest brother as rector of Milne’s Institution, Fochabers. Eight years later he was appointed H.M. inspector of schools in succession to Mr. Black. It is a singular coincidence that in this appointment he should have followed a second time in the footsteps of Black, whose work in Aberdeen as inspector of schools he now took up. A year later he was transferred to the Stirling district, and in 1882 promoted to the senior inspectorship in succession to Mr. Hall, when he returned to Aberdeen. In 1888 he was appointed successor to Dr. Kerr as senior inspector for the West of Scotland, with his head-quarters in Glasgow. In recognition of his scholarly accomplishments and distinguished career the Universities of Aberdeen and St. Andrews simultaneously conferred on him the degree of LL.D. One of his brothers is principal of Gordon’s College, and another is rector of the Church of Scotland Training College, both in Aberdeen.

1860. John Garden, M.A., who was born in the parish of Rathven on 15th August, 1835, received his early education at the parish school there. Thereafter he for a short time attended the parish school of Keith, then under charge of the famous Mr. Smith. Removing to Aberdeen he attended the bursary competition and carried off the second prize. His college career there was of a bright character. In each of the Greek, Latin, and moral philosophy classes he took a high place, finally graduating M.A. in 1857. From the University he went to Wakefield, Yorkshire, where he taught for a short time under Dr. Bewglass. Thereafter he held an appointment in Daniel Stewart’s Hospital, Edinburgh, from which he went to Arbroath as rector of the Academy there. In October, i860, on the vacancy occurring at Banchory-Devenick, he was, out of many excellent candidates, unanimously elected. His duties as teacher were of an onerous nature; but he continued not only to discharge them to the entire satisfaction of the parish, but also to win for himself fresh laurels by passing the Dick Bequest examination and obtaining a premium of twelve guineas. In 1863, on the rectorship of the Elgin Academy becoming vacant, he was induced to accept the appointment ; but, not finding the duties of that office altogether congenial, he secured the mastership of Rothes parish, where he has continued ever since, and is still active in the discharge of his duties.

1863. Robert Gray, M.A., who was educated at the Gymnasium, Old Aberdeen, and at Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he graduated in 1853, was appointed successor on the last day of 1863. For the previous eight years he had taught Mr. Thomson’s private school adjoining Banchory-Devenick Free Church, but on his receiving the new appointment this school was closed. He continued to discharge the duties of teacher till the summer of 1887, when failing health compelled him, very reluctantly, to seek retirement. The Education Act of 1872 being then in operation, the School Board of the parish, under its powers, voted him a handsome retiring annual allowance, while, at the same time, many of his old pupils and friends presented him, through Mr. Ogston of Ardoe, chairman of the Board, with an illuminated address and a purse of sovereigns. He has for many years acted as registrar of the parish, and is a respected office-bearer in the Banchory-Devenick Free Church.

1887. William Reid, M.A., son of a wood merchant and fishcurer, was born at Portgordon on 1 oth December,

1861. He received his early education at Burghead and Sandhaven public schools. Subsequently he attended the Grammar School, Old Aberdeen, and King’s College where he graduated in 1884. Choosing the profession of a teacher, he for some time held appointments in King Street School and Gordon’s College; but in January, 1885, on a vacancy occurring in Glentanar public school, was unanimously elected as schoolmaster. In 1887, on the retirement of Mr. Gray, he was appointed successor, and entered on his duties at Banchory-Devenick after the autumn holidays. He is a most diligent and painstaking teacher, and keeps all departments of the work in a thorough state of efficiency. His success in the latter respect is remarkable, every scholar in attendance (about 140) having passed the last Government inspection.

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