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Northern Rural Life in the Eighteenth Century


Domestic Annals of Scotland from the Reformation to the Revolution. By Robert Chambers. 3vols. 1859.
Lectures on Scotch Legal Antiquities. By Cosmo Innes. 1872. Spalding Club Publications—
List of Pollable Persons within the Shire of Aberdeen in 1696.
Collections for History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff. Miscellanies, &c.
The Statistical Account of Scotland, drawn up from the communications of the Ministers of the different Parishes. By Sir John Sinclair, Bart. 21 vols. 1782-94.
Memorials for the Government of the Royal Burghs in Scotland. By Baillie Alexander Skene of Newtile. 1685.
General View of the Agriculture and Rural Economy of the County of Aberdeen, with Observations on the means of its Improvement, drawn up for the consideration of the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement. By James Anderson, LL.D. 1794.
The Bee; or Literary Weekly Intelligencer. By James Anderson, LL.D. 17 vols. 1791-3.
General View of the Agriculture of Aberdeenshire, drawn up under the direction of the Board of Agriculture. By George Skene Keith, D.D, Minister of Keith-hall and Kinkell. 1811.
General View of the Agriculture of Kincardineshire or the Mearns. By George Rohertson, landsurveyor. 1807.
General View of the Agriculture of the County of Banff. By David Souter, farmer. 1812.
The Political Works of Andrew Fletcher, Esq, of Saltoun, Glasgow, 1749.
Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland (Captaim Burt), to his friend in London. 1726-30.
True Method of Treating Light Hazely Ground; or an exact relation of the practice of farmers in Buchan: containing Rules for Infields, Outfields, Haughs and Laighs. By a small Society of Farmers in Buchan. Edinburgh, 1735.
A General Description of the East Coast of Scotland, from Edinburgh to Cullen. By Francis Douglas. 1827.
Present State of Husbandry in Scotland, extracted from Reports made to the Commissioners of Annexed Estates (by Mr. Andrew Wight), and published by their authority. Edinburgh. 1778.
Memoirs of the Life and ‘Works of the late Right Honourable Sir John Sinclair, Bart. By his Son, the Rev. John Sinclair, M.A., Pembroke College, Oxford. 2 vols. 1837.
Buchan. By Rev. J. B. Pratt, LL.D., Cruden.
An Echo of the Olden Time, from the North of Scotland. By Rev. Walter Gregor, M.A.


In June, 1739, a meeting of the Commissioners of Supply was held, and the minute bears inter alia:-

"As to the Kintoir road recommend to tbe town of Aberdeen the management thereof, so far as their freedome goes; and recommend to Dr. Gordon; Auchmull ; Stonywood, younger; Invercauld, and the factors of Caskieben and Craig, or any two of them to take upon them the management and direction of the Kintoir road from the place where the freedome of Aberdeen ends, untill it comes to the head of the Hill of Tyrebagger; and recommend to the Earle of Kintoir’s factor and the Magistrates of Kintoir to take the management and direction of the said road from the head of the Hill of Tyrebagger to the town of Inverury; and recommends to tbe Magistrates of Inverury to carry on said road through the whole of their freedome; and recommends to the laird of Pittodery ; John Innes of Tillyfour, and John Leslie of Afforsk, to carry on said road from Inverury to the west corner of the park dykes of Pittodery; and recommends to Overhall; Westhall; Premnay; Dunnydeer; and the laird of Law, or any two of them to carry on said road up through the Garioch. And as to the branch of the Inverury road which leads to Strathbogie, the Commissi9ners recommend to Inveramsay; Coidwalls; Three-field ; Gight ; Shellagreen, and Rothney, or any two of them to take upon them the management and direction of the said branch from Inverury to Strathbogie, ani particolarly orders a cassey to be made at Leggatsden; and appoints Inveramsay to deburse the charges thereof, and to be repayed at the next generall meeting."

In constrncting roads, what they did was simply to level out the site where the ground was hard and firm: and lay a causeway of rough stones in the low-lying and soft parts that could not otherwise be got over. The Legatsden Causeway

A lang mile frae Harlaw,

where a burn came down the Den and a hamlet stood, was a case in point.

Statute labour unwillingly given, and amateur overseership made but a poor business of it, arrange it as the county would. And in April 1759 "all the plans hitherto proposed having proved inefficient," eight separate Road Districts were formed in the county, corresponding with the eight Presbyteries. And here we may as well give the Districts, valued rental and rating as they stood in 1770.

Names of
Presbyteries or
Total valued rent
of each Presbytery
Proportion of
Highway Money
to each District
Proportion in
Deer £40,233 17  4 £188  8  6 £15 14 12
Ellon £39,191  2   6 £183 11 0 £15   5  11
Garioch £34,238 12 10 £159 16 0 £13   6   4
Turriff £27,835 13  8 £129 15 0 £10 16   3
Aberdeen £26,160  5   0 £121 14 0 £10   2 10
Kincardine £32,271 13  6 £149   4 0 £12   8   8
Alford £22,292 18 10 £103   7 0 £  8 12   3
Strathbogie £11,224 11  9 £  52 11 0 £  4   7   7
  £233,448 15 5 £1088  6  6 £90 13 10

The sum of £90 odds as Highway money for the whole county was not a large sum.

The turnpike from Stonehaven to Aberdeen was made in 1797; and that from Stonehaven by Durris to Banchory-Ternan in 1800.

In appendix to a report prepared in 1863 for the Aberdeen-shire Committee on Road Reform, by the late Mr. George Marquis, accountant, a llst of the turnpike roads in the county of Aberdeen, in the order in which they were opened, and the number opened in each decade after 1790, and other particulars, are given.

The total amount of original subscriptions for the foregoing 447 miles of road was £108,857 19s. 3¼d., but this did not suffice for their construction; preferable subscriptions, or borrowed monies, were needed in all but six or seven cases; and, adding these amounts, the total sums raised for construction of turnpike roads in Aberdeenshire amounted to £176,678. The total debt upon the various trusts (only two roads, the Inverury and Bridge of Dee being free of such burden) was no less than £409,433 9s. 3d.; and in 1863, the estimated value of this large amount of debt was, at twenty years’ purchase, only £39,521 9s. 6d., the revenue being in many cases seriously affected by the opening of railway lines. The average cost of construction (calculating by the amounts raised) was £394 per mile.

About 1787-8 there were only eight post towns in Aberdeen-shire, viz., Ellon, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Kintore, Old Rain, Old Meidrum, Turriff, and Huntly. After the establishment of the mail coach to Aberdeen, Post Offices were opened at Banchory-Ternan, Kincardine O’Neil, Aboyne, Tullich, Tarland, Strathdon, Braemar, Old Deer, Mintlaw, Strichen, New Pitsligo, Keith-hall, Monymusk, Skene, Alford, and Rhynie.


The Aberdeenshire Canal, the total length of which, from the river Don to the Shorelands of Aberdeen, was nearly eighteen and one-fourth miles, was designed by Telford. It reached the summit level, 168 feet abovelow-water mark, at Stoneywood. There were on it seventeen canal locks, five aqueduct bridges over considerable streams of water, and fifty-six accommodation bridges. By the first Act, obtained in 1796, the Company were authorized to raise £20,000, in £50 shares. The Corporation of Aberdeen subscribed £1000; ,James P. H. Elphinstone, £1000; and the Earl of Kintore, £1000. A few other county gentlemen subscribed to half that amount, and others in less sums; but only £17,715 in all was realised. A second Act was obtained in 1801, under which a farther sum of £11,421 10s. was raised. The difficulty of completing the undertaldng was, however, found to be veryformidable. The mOnies subscribed under the second Act (and which were placed as preference shares), proved quite inadequate, and a further mortgage loan of £10,000 was raised upon the credit of revenue. At the close of 1808, the total expenditure had been £43,895 18s. ba.; the super-expenditure above capital, at that date, being £17,259 8s. 10d., and the original design had not then been completed by formation of a lock and basin connecting the canal with the tide-way at Aberdeen Harbour. The canal was opened for navigation, in the beginning of June, 1805; but again completely stopped. in a few days, on account of no fewer than fourteen of the locks having failed, through insufficiency of the mason work. Before this was completely got over, the season of 1806 even was partially interfered with. Next season, 1807, a revenue of £339 2s. lId, was drawn, and in season 1808, £706 12s. 11d., irrespective of rent for the passenger fly-boats. The average revenue does not scorn to have much increased for fully twenty years. In 1834, it had risen to £1141 in 1844, to £1619; and in 1853, when the canal was superseded by the Great North of Scotland Railway, the revenue was £3062.


In a contract between a mill superior and certain burghal and other suckeners, of date 1790, the parties, under a penalty on either side of £100 sterling, bind and oblige themselves as follow Primo, the said------—hereby becomes bound at all times to keep a sufficient qualified miller at the foresaid mill for the service of the sncken, and to be at all times ready to discharge his duty as a millart at the said mill, particularly to carry the clean shilling from the shilling bill to the said mill. Srreodo, On the other part, the said~-for themselves and their successors, &c., hereby become bouad to continue thirled aad astricted to the said mill of , in all time coming, and to grind their hail corn, iacluding pease, of the growth of their said lands at the said mill, and to pay the 25th peck to the tacksman of the said mill theref or, in name of insucken multure, and a peck of each six bolls of shilling, in name of knavcship, and no more ; as also to grind all their malt at the said mill, and to pay the 25th peck, in name of multure and knavesbip therefor ; and further to pay the 25th peck for all grain of whatsover kind of the growth of their said lands, that shall be sold by them or any of them without the bounds of the said sucken. They also further become bound to grind all grain of whatsoever kind at the said mill which they shall purchase and bring within the bounds of the foresaid thirlagc, and which they shall have occasion to rnanufactnre, and to pay the usual outsucken dues therefor, being the 48th peck, besides the usual knaveship. It being in all eases understood that the dust and shilling seeds is to be at the disposal of the suckeners. Tertio, The said become further bound, as said is, to bigg and uphold their just proportions of the mill house and mill damms, and to east the water gang or lead, and trail or carry stone, yeird, and tree for upholding of the said mill, mill water, and mifi house, as oft as the same shall be necessary, and that they be required so to do. The tacksnean of the said mill being always obliged and subjected to fnndsh the timber upon his own expenses, and to cart and win the yeird for upholding of the said mill, mill water, and mill house upon the most commodious part adjacent to the said mill without the corn grounds. And further, it is agreed upon betwixt the said parties that in ease the millart to be employed at the foresaid mill shall be complained upon as not sufficient for grinding of the corn or discharging the other parts of his duty thereat, and the same being tried in a Court to be holden by -—, with the advice and concurrence of the said [superior], arid the said millar to being convicted thereon shall be fined to double the skaith which any of the inhabitants within the sucken shall happen to suffer through his default, and shall be removed at the term of Whitsunday thereafter, and another sufficient millart placed in his stead."


At the close of his Memoir, Malcolm Gillespie appended an abstract of his seizures dnring his career as an exciseman; and which, being made up officially, is probably correct. It will be more intelligible if it is borne in mind that his period of service was divided thus—Collleston, 1801-1807; Stonehaven, 1807-1812; Skene, 1812-1827. The abstract is as follows:-

Foreign Seizures while stationed at—

Colliston - Seized 10,000 gals. 15 horses, 15 carts - Destroyed 1000 gals.
Stonehaven - Seized 4,000 gals. 18 horses, 13 carts - Destroyed 800 gals.
Skene - Seized 291 gals.
Other places - Seized 100 gals. 4 horses, 2 carts - Destroyed 25 gals.

British Seizures made while stationed at—

Colliston, 300 gals. 7 horses, 4 carts.
Stonehaven, 500 gals. 17 horses, 12 carts.
Skene 3,759 gals. 92 horses, 33 carts.
Other Places, 1,000 gals. 12 horses, 3 carts.

British Seizures destroyed while stationed at—

Colliston, 17 stills, 20 gals. aqua, 900 gals. wash.
Stonehaven, 20 stills, 100 gals. aqua, 1,000 gals. wash.
Skene330 stills, 500 gals. aqua, 60,000 gals. wash.
Other places, 40 stills, 150 gals. aqua, 500 gals. wash.

Seized since date of last Seizure referred to in the Memoir, from May 9 to May 19, 1826—
206 gals. aqua, and 3 carts.


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