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History of the Parish of Banchory-Devenick

The few houses bearing this title stand a few hundred yards west of the Bridge of Dee. Tradition gives us to understand that the name was assumed “ from a huge tree, which long ago had been floated down from the hills and landed here, where it took root and grew to an enormous size. It was blown down by the storm of 3rd October, 1860, but its root is still visible.” At one time public executions are believed to have taken place here, and for many centuries there was an hostelry at which travellers could regale themselves when they were on the road. In the beginning of the present century, the lessee of the inn was a man named Kirton, who was a sort of character in his way, and the hero of the following curious episode—

James Selbie, a blacksmith in Aberdeen, had long courted Betty Tamson, the only daughter of a worthy neighbouring couple. Unfortunately his advances were not looked upon with favour by the parents of Betty, who expected a better match for their daughter. Jamie, however, having received the full consent of his sweetheart, had the necessary proclamations made, with a view to the celebration of the happy event. At this juncture, Betty’s parents peremptorily refused to allow the marriage to proceed, and, acting on their resolution, “put her under lock and key in a back closet.” Jamie, smarting under the indignity, communicated his case to a few of the weavers at the Rigg and Windmillbrae factory, and, after being duly fortified, a large relief party sallied down to the residence of Betty, to rescue her from such parental tyranny. With the assistance of a ladder the window was reached, and the fair enchantress was tenderly and lovingly lifted out, and laid in the arms of her faithful Jamie. Acting under the advice of friends the party at once set off by way of Hardgate for Banchory-Devenick, assured that Dr. Morison would tie the knot on production of the necessary papers. Off they went, a motley crew of weavers in their working garb, and others of a nondescript order, bent on a bit of fun. Refreshments were obtained at Watson’s in the Hardgate, after which they pushed on to Kirton’s celebrated house. Here a fresh fortification of courage was obtained, and a section of the more respectable members of the cortege accompanied the pair to the Doctor’s. He refused, however, to have anything to do with them; so, considerably crestfallen, they returned to Kirton’s. That worthy, however, was equal to the occasion, for over a “tappit hen” he told them that, by the law of Scotland, the due acknowledgment before witnesses of their taking one another for husband and wife was quite sufficient. The form was gone through—as was also a considerable amount of Kirton’s best—and they returned to town—“a’ fu’ an’ a’ happy.” A meeting with the parents took place, and, after considerable ado, they agreed to be pleased if the pair would get Mr. Gellatly in the Shiprow to marry them like decent folk, which he did, and so ended “the Banchory weddin’.” The wedding has been commemorated in a ballad by George Smith.

An excellent idea of the city and its suburbs is obtained in walking between Murcar and Hilldowntree, which doubtless gave rise to the composition of the following doggerel lines, which appeared in the Aberdeen Almanac for 1722:—

“’Twixt Murcur and the Hilldown Tree
These following things a man may see :
Two Noble Rivers there doth run,
Adorn’d with Splendid Briggs of Stone ;
One of one Arch without compare,
The other of Seven, and very Fair,
And yearly throughout every Arch
Cathedral Fish in Legions march
Long time these have the Fronteers been
Of the Antient towns of ABERDEEN
For if these Briggs were quite away
They would be a
Peninsula ;
Bounded on East with Neptune's Fleet,
With Braid-hill, Block-house, Canno-Sweet
With famous Town of antient
Where dwelleth Women wise and wittie
On West with a large fertile Field
Which Parsneps, Turneps, Carrets yeeld
With finest Cabbage, Sybows, Leeks,
(Which women sell who wear the Breeks)
Potato’s, Beans,
& caetera,
Abound in this Peninsula,
Wake, Wind and Water Mills these Towns
Do separate from Rustick Clowns :
In midst of these there may be seen
The beauteous Towns of ABERDEEN
Whose UNIVERSITIES discover
Their learning all the World over,
Their Musick, stately Buildings, Bells,
Their spacious Streets and Suggared Wells
Which any may observe who will,
Tillidron and Ferrihill:
Battle and Harlazu,
Did their Ancestors Valour shaw,
All which demonstrate in a Word,
The comeliness of BON-ACCORD.”

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