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History of the Parish of Banchory-Devenick
Estate of Cults

In 1650 the proprietor of this estate was Alexander Thomson, advocate in Aberdeen, great-grand uncle of the first Alexander Thomson of Banchory. He was twice married, and by his second wife left issue—John, and Alexander, the latter of whom became an advocate in Aberdeen, and proprietor, by purchase, of the estate of Portlethen.

On 7th October, 1674, John Thomson was served as nearest heir of his father “ in the lands of Cults, with the mill, mill lands, multures, and pertinents thereof, with the salmon fishing on the water of Dee, adjoining and belonging thereto within the parish of Banchory-Devenick, and sheriffdom of Aberdeen, held in chief of the King and his successors for service of ward and relief.” In June, 1679, he sold the estate to Robert Irvine, son of John Irvine of Murtle, who had three years previously acquired the lands of Bieldside.

Irvine was twice married; first to his relative Jeane Irvine, who died on 21st March, 1678, aged 32; and secondly to Margaret Coutts, who died in 1710, aged 45 years. In 1696 he had his valuation of Cults entered in the Poll Book at 286, anent which, and for himself and his lady, he paid 9 12s. of poll. He also paid 2 2s. for the following “ childring in familia—Marie, Margrat, Hellen, and Bettie, Robert and James Irwings.” One of the daughters became the third wife of “ Robert Skene of Ramore, descended of a second brother of the laird of Skene;” whilst another—lssobell—married Dr. James Donaldson, who was professor of medicine in Marischal College, Aberdeen, in 1732. Irvine, who erected a new house on the same site as that of the present one, had his coat of arms painted on his seat in the parish church. He acted as a commissioner of supply for many years, and died 10th April, 1728, aged 89. He was buried in the churchyard of Peterculter beside his two wives.

In 1750 Alexander Livingston, provost of Aberdeen, purchased the estate from the Irvines. He was the only son of Alexander Livingston of Fornet, Skene, who, in 1714, became a member of the Guildry of Aberdeen, dean in 1730, baillie in 1731-32, and died 8th July, 1733, aged 52 years. Provost Livingston, who was born in 1716, was entered in the burgess roll in 1730, and subsequently became a merchant in the city. He was provost for two years, 1750-51. In 1752 he feued the sixth lot of the lands of Gilcomston ; and in the same year, in partnership with John Dingwall, William M'Kenzie, Alexander Milne, junior, and Andrew Walker, under the title of the Porthill Company (afterwards Milne, Cruden, & Company), feued part of the Porthill where a linen manufactory was erected. This venture proved unsuccessful, and about eleven years afterwards the company suspended payment—Provost Livingston being pecuniarly involved to a heavy amount. The worthy man sold off his whole belongings—including the lands of Cults, Countesswells, and Loanhead—and with the proceeds satisfied the creditors, who, to mark their appreciation of his conduct, presented him with a handsome dinner service with his arms painted upon them.

He went over to Rotterdam, where, entering into business as a merchant and banker, he speedily amassed a fortune. He died in 1783 survived by his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of John Hardie, of Aberdeen, and one son and two daughters.

By disposition, dated 23rd June, 1763, George Chalmers, merchant in Edinburgh, acquired the estate, he having paid ,10,500 of purchase price. He did not long continue as proprietor, for in 1774 William Durward was returned as such. The latter during his ownership improved the estate very much ; and, according to Dr. Keith, “by cultivating his personal farm, and by giving lime in great quantity to the tenants, trebled its rental in a few years.”

In the end of last century the lands, including West Cults and Bieldside, were in the possession of John Burnett of Countesswells, who, in 1804, sold them in separate lots. George Symmers, cloth merchant, Aberdeen, acquired two of these lots, now known as the Estate of Cults. He gave a site for, and substantially aided in the erection of a school at Cults, which is now largely attended and in a high state of efficiency. After his death, which occurred on 22nd December, 1839, and in terms of a deed of entail which had been executed by him, the lands went to George Gibb Shirra, afterwards George Gibb Shirra Gibb, who, by special instrument dated 28th July, 1876, got disentail. Mr. Gibb, who was a son of the Reverend Robert Shirra, minister of the Associate Synod, ‘ Auld Licht,” congregation at Yetholm, was born there on 23rd June, 1811. He enlarged and altered the mansion-house, and erected several dwelling-houses on the estate. In 1843 he married Margaret Turnbull, daughter of the Reverend Alexander Turnbull, Glasgow, by whom he had issue three sons and five daughters. Of the sons, Alexander and George died in infancy, and Robert, who qualified as a doctor, is now an extensive sheep farmer on the borders. Of the daughters, Mary married the Reverend James Cameron, minister of the Free Church, Glenbervie, who is now deceased ; Elizabeth married the Reverend Edward T. Vernon, minister

of the Free Church, Arbirlot; and Lillias Jessie married Mr. J. R. Russell, solicitor, Dunfermline. Mr. Gibb died in Edinburgh, on 5th January, 1880; and the estate is now managed by his trustees, who are rapidly feuing it off.

The lands of West Cults, which lie to the south-west of the Estate of Cults, were for a considerable period in the possession of Dr. Campbell, thereafter of Dr. William Stephen, and some time ago they were sold to Mr. David Allan, upholsterer, Aberdeen.

Bieldside, which lies contiguous to West Cults and Cults properties, although in the parish of Peterculter, was bought in 1805 by the late Mr. William Corbet, supervisor of excise. On his death, in 1841, it passed to his second surviving son, the Reverend Adam Corbet, D.D., minister of Drumoak, who died in 1876, and thereafter to his half-brother, Dr. James Corbet, late of the H.E.I.C.’s Bengal Medical Service.

Elizabeth Hardie, the daughter of James Hardie and Helen Fairly/Fairlie, was born in Bo’ness (Borrowstounness/Borrowstowness).

Elizabeth and Alexander are my ancestors.

Kind regards

Marcia Watson
Western Australia

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