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Transactions of the Buchan Club

Introduction to the Tenth Volume

Since the publication of the last volume of the Transactions the title of the Club has been changed from the “Buchan Field Club” to “The Buchan Club.” It was found that the title “Field Club” was too restricted in meaning when one considered the nature of the investigations carried out by the Society. An examination of the Transactions of the Club for the past 25 years reveals the fact that the Club has not only conducted researches on the flora and fauna of the district, but it has worked very frequently in archaeological, historical, and other fields. After due consideration, therefore, the new title was adopted. This title is descriptive only of the territory and does not indicate any particular branch of science as a field for study. The memoirs contained in this (the tenth) volume are chiefly historical and biological. No less than five papers appear dealing with the history of the North-East. A most comprehensive and able review of the life of James Francis Edward Keith, the great Field-Marshal, from the pen of Mr Robert Anderson, appears as the first memoir. Members will read with interest the account of the antecedents and career of this great Scotsman. The connection of the Keiths with Aberdeenshire dates from Bannockburn, when Sir Robert Keith received the forest of Kintore and other lands in the North-East as a reward for his unique service at Bannockburn and for his loyalty and adherence to the Bruce. Field-Marshal Keith was born at the Castle of Inverugie in 1696—a year famous in Aberdeenshire from the fact that every pollable person living within the shire of Aberdeen is known to us to this day from the poll book. In 1715 Field-Marshal Keith and his brother the Earl Marischal took the step which ultimately drove them to a foreign land and gave them the opportunities for carving out careers worthy of their ancestral qualities. This memoir should be read in conjunction with Dr Bruce’s “Earl Marischal” and Andrew Chalmers’ contributions to the history of Buchan.

Sheriff Ferguson contributes two interesting papers dealing in a comprehensive manner with the old castles and the old baronies of Buchan. The appearance of castles in Buchan is contemporary with the arrival of the great Norman family of Cornyn in the North-East. During the age of the great barons, which extended from the time of the Norman Conquest to about 1300, the old castles of Slains, Ravenscraig, Rattray, Dundarg, and others were built. The chief castles of the middle period which ran from 1300 to 1600 were Inverallochy, Cairnbulg, Fedderate, Fyvie, and Inverugie. The more modern castles are those of Philorth, Ellon, and Brucklay. The memoir on the old castles should be read in conjunction with the “Old Baronies of Buchan,” which is a mine of information respecting the earldom of Buchan, the regality of Slains, the lordship of Inverugie, and the baronies of Kinmundy, Pitfour, King Edward, Philorth, Pitsligo, Strichen, Fedderate, Fyvie, and others.

A most interesting account of “Cruden’s two Bishops” is written by the Rev. Adam Mackay, Cruden. Those two able men, James Drummond, Bishop of Brechin, and William Dunbar, minister of the parish of Cruden, and subsequently Bishop of Moray and Ross and Bishop of Aberdeen, suffered greatly at the hands of the Presbyterians during the stirring period at the close of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries. This historical note of the relations which the two Bishops had with the parish of Cruden is written by a kind hand and is full of just appreciation of two remarkable men.

Rev. J. B. Davidson contributes an excellent paper, full of great detail, on the “Third Volume of the Deer Presbytery Record,” from the year 1701 to 1710. It is interesting to note that Mr Davidson, as clerk to the Presbytery, has charge of the Presbytery Records, and it is quite evident that he has studied them with loving care. The records were carefully written, the penmanship being exceedingly good, although the style of writing would now be called old-fashioned. One finds from these records most interesting facts reflecting light on the life of the population of Aberdeenshire 200 years ago. One continually finds references to collections made for harbours in various parts of the country, Banff, Pennan, and Peterhead; for instance, and Eyemouth, to mention a harbour outside the boundaries of the north-eastern counties.

Major Cheyne contributes a short paper on “Some Heraldic Records of Buchan” collected by him from various churchyards in East Aberdeenshire. This paper is well illustrated, and should be read by all those interested in heraldry.

Biological papers are contributed by Mr H. B. Mitchell, who writes on “The Colour and Song of Wild Birds;” Dr Bowman, who writes on “Fish Life in the North Sea;” Dr Rennie, who contributes a short article on ‘‘Economic Natural History;” William Taylor, Lhanbryde, a Naturalist of wide experience, who writes on some ‘‘Records of Whales and Porpoises Captured or Stranded on the East of Scotland during the past 40 years;” and Professor J. Arthur Thomson, who writes on the ‘‘Wonders of Bird Migration.” These papers should be read by all local Naturalists—they are full of valuable information. Mr H. B. Mitchell’s paper is of a somewhat controversial character, dealing as it does with the problem o! selection. It is a difficult matter to upset or disprove Darwin’s conclusions, and one is afraid that until a larger mass of material of a quantitative character is collected and collated, little advance will be made in our knowledge of this most fascinating problem. There is no doubt whatever that selection in lower animal life has taken place, and one should never lose sight of the fact that selection of one character usually means unconscious selection of many other characters as well. It is possible that in some instances colour selection may be of this secondary nature. The Club is indebted both to Mr H. B. Mitchell and to Professor Thomson for having placed their views so clearly before the members, and it is hoped that their action will stimulate others to enter the field and to place the results of their observations before the Club.

A very interesting lecture was given to the members by Mr John Don on “Modern Methods of Water Purification,” a summary of which appears in this volume.

Four excursions were held during the period reviewed in this volume. The first of these was an excursion to Kinmundy under the leadership of Sheriff Ferguson on 1st September, 1909, when he gave an account of the old castles of Buchan. The second was held on 3rd September, 1910, to Inverquhomery, under the leadership of the late Dr Alexander Bruce, president of the Club. Dr Bruce read his retiring presidential address, the subject being “The Tenth and Last Earl Marischal.” This address appears as the second chapter of Section VI. of the Book of Buchan, and is not printed in the volume under review.

The excursion for 1911 took place on 5th August to Cruden, and was under the leadership of the Rev. Adam Mackay, who contributed the paper on “Cruden’s Two Bishops” already referred to.

A very largely attended and successful excursion was held to Pennan and Fraserburgh on the 31st August, 1912, under the leadership of Professor J. Arthur Thomson, who was assisted by Professor Trail, Dr A. W. Gibb, Mr Pycraft, and Mr A. Landsborough Thomson. Professor Thomson gave a short address on the “Cliff Birds of Pen nan.” Professor Trail spoke of the flora of the district, and Dr Gibb gave a lucid exposition of the reason why beds of old red sandstone were to be found in Pennan and nowhere else in Buchan. Mr James Grant, president of the Banffshire Field Club, followed with an interesting and detailed account of the history of the district.

This volume runs to nearly 300 pages and is full of interest to Buchan people born and bred. The editor sincerely trusts that the Buchan Club will continue to be supported by natives of the North-East at home and abroad, if only to prove among other things how utterly false is the statement that there is nothing of historical interest in Buchan.

"Nought of historical interest here!”
Where the soil hath run red with the blood of the Dane,
Where the ruins are grey of the Abbey of Deer,
Of the towers of the Comyn, the Keith, and the Cheyne!

Crown Mansions,
Union Street, Aberdeen,
20th January, 1914.

Download Transactions of the Buchan Club 1908-1913 here in pdf format

Buchan Field Club
Thursday, 5th January, 1899, Retiring Presidential Address by Professor R. W. Reid, M.D., F.R.C.S., University of Aberdeen (pdf)

With Special Reference to the Buchan Coast by W. J. Caird (1903) (pdf)

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