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The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume XII - Aberdeen
Parish of Kintore


I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name.—Kintore in Gaelic signifies the head of the forest. Both the history of the district, and its present appearance, supply many proofs that it was formerly almost covered with wood. [A distinguished Gaelic scholar has given a different derivation of the word. The origin of Kintore, he thinks, is Ceann Torr, the head or end of the heap. If this be the source of the name, the best explanation of it may perhaps be found in the circumstance, that by the old road from Aberdeen, the town of Kintore lay at the termination of a very steep and rugged track of many miles, and at the commencement of the comparatively level district of Garioch.]

Extent, &c.—The parish, including that portion of the old parish of Kinkell, which was annexed to Kintore in 1760, extends from north to south about 6 miles, and its greatest width is a little more than 3. It is bounded on the north and east, by the river Don, which separates it from the parishes of Inverury, Keithhall, and Fintray; on the south, by Kinellar and Skene; and on the west, by Kemnay.

The surface is broken by frequent inequalities; but there is no eminence of great elevation. The beautifully wooded hill of Thainston is the highest ground in the parish, its summit being upwards of 140 feet above the ordinary level of the Don at Kintore, and about 280 feet above the medium level of the sea at Aberdeen. The lands immediately on the banks of the river are flat, and very liable to be inundated, which renders the crops on them extremely precarious.

The immediate neighbourhood of the burgh of Kintore is well sheltered, and for the most part enjoys a very mild temperature. The most prevalent distemper here is low typhus fever, which often attacks whole families in succession, but seldom proves fatal. The exposed situations in the parish are cold and bleak.
Hydrography.—The river Don, when it passes Kintore, is a considerable stream, its size being much increased by the waters of the Ury, about two miles above the town. In this part of its course, it flows so gently as almost to resemble a lake. It is scarcely visible from the low grounds, except at some points very close on its banks; but when viewed from more elevated situations at a greater distance, its numerous windings form a pleasing object in the landscape. Were the course of the Don straighted, which is said to be a thing quite practicable, much new ground would be acquired, and that at present under cultivation would be enhanced in value. But many obstacles stand in the way of this improvement, and, among others, the law of entail. The fisheries on the Don at Kintore were of considerable value forty or even thirty years ago, but, owing to various causes, they are now of little consequence. The pearls also which Arthur Johnston says enriched our river in days of yore, have wholly disappeared in modern times.

Geology and Mineralogy.—No minerals of any particular interest or value are found within the parish. Granite abounds here, as in all the surrounding district, both loose on the surface, and in the condition of rocks from which it is quarried, but not to any great extent at present.

The soils in the parish of Kintore are of various kinds, but they may all be comprehended, without much inaccuracy, under the following descriptions: 1. A thin light sandy mould, which prevails in the higher situations, and has so little depth in many places, that the solid rock occasionally protrudes above the surface; 2. a considerable extent of peat moss, partly now brought into cultivation, and partly still used to supply fuel; 3. a species of soil generally situated between the two former kinds, and apparently partaking of the qualities of both; it is deeper, however, than the first, and of a firmer consistence than the second, and before being improved is full of large rude blocks of granite, which are removed with great labour; 4. the lands on the banks of the Don, which are manifestly of an alluvial character, and chiefly composed of a deep rich loam. The grounds immediately around the burgh are of this last description, they rest on nearly horizontal beds of sand or gravel, and are particularly fertile.

From the town of Kintore, which stands in the vale of the Don, near that point of the river where its course takes an easterly direction towards Fintray, the lands of the parish rise considerably to the north-west and south-west, but less to the south, so that their aspect in general is southward or eastward. Besides the flat haughs, however, there are several extensive hollows where the moss grounds occur, around which the exposure is different.

Botany.—There are but a few plants, that can be said to be rare, found in the parish. Of these the following may be considered worthy of notice : the alternate leaved golden saxifrage, Chrysoplenium alternifolium; the great water plantain, Alisma; and restharrow, Ononis arvensis. Other rare plants growing wild occur here, which are sometimes called native, though they seem to be in reality outcasts from gardens.

The woods in the parish are very extensive; some of which are full grown, and others but recently planted. On Lord Kintore's property, a great deal of the uncultivated ground is now covered with thriving plantations.

II.Civil History.

It is evident, from many circumstances, that Kintore was formerly a place of some consequence. The original charter of the burgh, tradition says, was given by Kenneth II. That, however, has long been lost; but one which bears to be a confirmation of it by James V. is said to be still extant. Kintore enjoys all the privileges of a royal burgh. It has always had a regular magistracy; and under the late Burgh Reform Act, its municipal constitution remains unchanged.

Several of the small heritors hold their lands of the Crown on very old deeds. One possession has continued in the same family of the name of Hill ever since the days of Robert Bruce, from whom they received their charter. Another family of the name of Smith still possess a piece of ground which was given to one of their forefathers by James V.

Eminent Men.—Many persons born in the parish of Kintore have attained to the highest respectability in different spheres of life, and have been eminently successful in commercial or professional pursuits ; but the writer is not aware that any of them are sufficiently distinguished, on public grounds, to merit particular notice here. The celebrated Arthur Johnston, though not a native of the parish, when very young, attended the school of Kintore. This circumstance is beautifully adverted to in one of the lighter pieces of that most elegant Latin poet. The same fact is also mentioned in the Lives of Eminent Scotsmen. And surely his classical and general acquirements were such as to reflect credit on the seminary in which their foundation was laid.

"Jugera Kintorii si spectes, uber Eleusis,
Fertilis et dici Trinacris ora nequit.
Dona, Caledonios inter pulcherrimus amnes,
Hoc rigat, et pingui ditior unda solo est.

* * * * *

Hic ego sum, memini, Musarum factus alumnus
Et tiro didici verba Latina loqui
Carmine Masonio veteres tollantur Athensae
Urbs haec versiculis est eelebranda meis."

Poemata Varia—Kintorium.

Sir Andrew Mitchell, who acted with so much spirit and ability as British Ambassador to the Court of Prussia, in the reign of Frederick the Great, was proprietor of the lands of Thainston, and, though not born in this parish, often resided on his estate within it.

Land-owners.—The two great proprietors of land in the parish are the Earl of Kintore, and Duncan Forbes Mitchell, Esq. of Thainston. But there are, besides, a few small heritors owning from two to six acres each, in the vicinity of the town.

Parochial Registers.—The existing parochial registers are not voluminous. They extend only to 1713, the date of their earliest entry. For the last ninety years they have been kept with the greatest apparent exactness and regularity.

Antiquities.—The Castle of Hall-Forest is the only ancient building within the parish. It stands about a mile to the west of the Aberdeen road, from which it may be seen at various points, a little to the southward of Kintore. The date of its erection is unknown. It is now in ruins, and presents a most impressive picture of loneliness and decay. All that remains is a rectangular structure, nearly square, and of considerable height, containing two very lofty arched apartments, one above the other. The second arch is surmounted by an area of some extent, full of rubbish, in which several shrubs are shooting up amid long grass and weeds. Traces of much larger dimensions are still discernible, though the plough has evidently made encroachments on every side. At an early period, this castle was a hunting-seat of the Scottish kings, who often resorted to it, in order to enjoy the exercise and pleasures of the chase in the adjacent royal forest. In later times, it became a residence of the Noble family of Keith, having been granted, together with the surrounding domain, to their illustrious ancestor, Robert de Keith, Great Marischal of Scotland, after the battle of Inverury according to some, but according to others, after that of Bannockburn, in which also he rendered essential service to the cause of Bruce.("Hall Forest, (a royal castle,) according to tradition, was built by King Robert Bruce, for a hunting hall. It consisted of four stories, having battlements, besides what is called a Capehouse, with a moveable ladder, by which those who occasionally lodged in it entered to the first floor. The Earl Marischal, having acquired a right to it from the crown, presented it to his son the first Earl of Kintore."—Kennedy, Vol. ii. p. 323. )

The Rev. George Adams, in his Statistical Account of this parish, mentions the remains of three stone circles between Kintore and Inverury, and a fourth in another place. He notices, too," a tradition that prevailed in his day of a battle having been fought at Camiestane, near Thainston, where a general or chief of the name of Camus or Cambus is said to have been slain and buried. He also states that there was, in the same neighbourhood, a long and apparently artificial hollow or trench, about eight feet deep, called Bruce's How, in which it is probable that Robert Bruce, during his stay in this district, had concealed a part of his army for some particular object.

On the moor between Kintore and Kinellar, numerous tumuli, of various sizes, occur—a circumstance which gives ground for supposing that it had at some time been the scene of great carnage either in battle or in flight; though no record or tradition now exists on the subject. One of the larger of these barrows was opened many years ago by Mr John Lumsden, then farmer in Bogheads. In removing the stones for the purpose of building fences, there were found several pieces of a black substance, very light, marked with dots of a different colour, and perforated, as if with the view of their being strung together. And from about the centre of the cairn, a stone-coffin was dug up, in or near which were discovered an urn containing human hair, and a large ring capable of admitting two or three fingers, and composed of a substance resembling finely-veined marble. These relics, which seemed to all who examined them to be of very high antiquity, were sent to the late Earl of Buchan. Another cairn was more recently opened, and found to contain, among some other things, a rude urn, which was put into the hands of Mr Wilson, at that time proprietor of Glasgowego. On the east side of the town of Kintore, near the Don, stands a mound of earth, to appearance artificial, called the Castle Hill, which probably at first served the purpose of a Law ; but, it is supposed, was afterwards used as a watch-tower, where beacon-fires were lighted upon any sudden invasion of the country, or other public alarm. And this last conjecture is the more likely, because Kintore, in former times, was a place of very general resort, being the point at which the great northern road by Aberdeen, and the roads leading from some of the principal passes of the Grampians, met.

The mansion-house of Thainston is the only private modern building of any consideration in the parish. It is a handsome and commodious family residence, in style and extent suitable to the property. The situation is particularly interesting, and the view from it very extensive.


By the return made to Dr Webster, the number of inhabitants in the parish of Kintore was 830. Immediately before the annexation of a part of Kinkellin 1760, it was between 700 and 800, and about 200 were added by that event. By the former Statistical Account, it was 802.

Population in 1811, - 863
                    1821, - 1057
                    1831, - 1184
                    1841, - 1299

The number of inhabitants in the burgh is 462; in the landward parish, 725; in the village of Port Elphinstone, 112. But in the late Government census, this last section of the population of Kintore is by mistake included in the parish of Inverury, owing to the circumstance that Port Elphinstone falls within the extended Parliamentary boundaries of that burgh.

There are no fewer than three fatuous or imbecile persons in the parish, all paupers; and two others, a boy and girl, who to appearance are simpletons, though not entirely incapable of instruction ; these also are supported from the parochial funds. At present, there is but one insane person connected with Kintore, and he is kept in the Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum at the charge of his friends.

In the customs and recreations of the people of this place there is nothing peculiar. These are the same as in the surrounding district. It appears, however, that, in ancient times, Kintore was the scene of a higher order of amusements, and boasted of a racecourse. On this subject Arthur Johnston has the following lines:

Hic locus hippodromi est, populo spectante quotannis,
Hic alacres pubis Scotica versat equos,
Hic fugit, hic sequitur; victori praemia cedunt,
Quae palmas superant, Elidis ora! tuas.


Agricultural Condition of the Parish of Kintore.

Cultivated lands, (imperial measure), 3408 acres.
Waste or in pasture permanently, 2477½
Susceptible of cultivation, at present waste, 652½
Underwood, 1892

Total number of acres, (imperial measure), 8430

Scotch firs, larches, and spruce firs are the only trees found in any quantity within the parish, except on the estate of Thainston, where (if put together) there may be a few acres of hard-wood. The firs are regularly thinned out, and their lower or dead branches pruned off. The hard-wood is pruned on the foreshortening system. For some years back, Lord Kintore has inclosed and planted upwards of 250 acres annually in this parish. The planting is done by contract with a nurseryman from Aberdeen, at the rate of about 10s. 10d. per acre. The planter is taken bound to fill up the ground regularly for three years. And great care is at the same time taken to cut down any broom or whins that might endanger the growth of the plants.

The average rent of arable land in the parish is L. 1, 1s. 11¾d. per acre.

A few grass fields are let annually by public roup; and on an average each full-grown ox or cow put on them may cost for the season L.2, 2s. No sheep are summer-pastured in the parish. In winter, in former years, there have sometimes been upwards of 2000 sheep brought to the Kintore moors; but this practice is nearly at an end, in consequence of the extensive planting now going on.

There are very few sheep kept by the farmers in the parish. The larger cattle are mostly of the Aberdeenshire breed. Much attention is paid to have them of a good figure, and free from horns. The system of husbandry is nearly the same with that which is in general practice throughout the country. The leases generally bind the tenants to a seventh course shift; but the rotation of five shifts is followed on the better soils.

During the last thirty years, 300 acres at least have been thoroughly improved, by trenching, draining, and enclosing, entirely by the tenants. Of late, Lord Kintore has trenched a good deal of moorland ground, and let it in small crofts at a very low rate. In such cases the tenant builds the houses, and the landlord affords the wood. His Lordship also trenches ground to his tenants who already hold land, on condition of their paying the interest of the outlay; or the amount is sometimes divided into equal portions, according to the remaining years of the lease, and added by such instalments to the old rent. There are several embankments on the river Don. The principal one is that which was erected by Mr Forbes Mitchell of Thainston, after the great flood in 1829.

The whole parish, except the small possessions within the burgh, being held under entail, the leases are seldom for more than nineteen years; and they are drawn up with reference to the rules and regulations of the different estates. The tenant is allowed meliorations for houses and dikes to the extent of from one to two years rent. The rent is all payable in money at Whitsunday and Martinmas. But Lord Kintore has now altered the terms to Candlemas and Lammas, which his tenants justly consider as a very great favour. The occupiers of his Lordship's lands seldom or never remove; for when the leases are within about two years of the expiry, a competent valuator surveys the farms, with instructions to value them on the liberal principle,—"Live and let live;" and at this valuation the tenant may continue to hold his farm.

The farm-buildings have been much improved of late. The dwelling-houses, in many cases, are slated, and a few of the steadings also. They must all be built of stone and lime, and on an approved plan, before meliorations can be obtained. Happily the bothy system is almost unknown here. The farm servants, though their sleeping accommodation is often separate, generally have their victuals provided in the farm-house. An intimate and kindly intercourse is thus promoted between master and servant, which has for the most part a very salutary effect.

The extensive planting which has, for some time, been going on is deservedly considered to be a great improvement. Much of the waste land, indeed, is better adapted for that purpose than for cultivation, on account of the immense quantities of large stones on or near the surface of the soil. Considerable progress has also recently been made in bringing new land into cultivation. One of Lord Kintore's tenants, Mr Abel of Auquherton, has improved, within the last thirty years, upwards of 120 acres, for part of which he had the honour to receive the Highland Society's medal. On the farm of Crichie, several fields have lately been dried by furrow draining. The materials used were granite broken to a proper size, and filled in to a considerable depth. The result of this expensive but effectual mode of improvement has been very satisfactory.

The straighting of the Don, followed up with proper excambions, it is thought, would add considerably to the value of both the great properties in the parish. It has been calculated that a new cut of 528 yards would shorten its course 2280 yards, and reclaim 21¼ acres of land, which might soon be made of fine quality.

Produce.—The average amount of raw produce raised in the parish, as nearly as can be ascertained, is as follows: (The above statement was kindly furnished by Mr Tait, farmer at Crichie, in this parish.)

V.—Parochial Economy.

There are several very good shops in the burgh of Kintore, which supply the neighbourhood with all commodities for common use ; but Aberdeen being distant only twelve miles, and the means of conveyance numerous, almost every article of merchandise of a superior description is purchased there.

The post-office here is that of longest standing in the district of Garioch. The great northern road runs along the whole length of the parish, namely six miles, and a branch of it extends to the west, a distance of three miles towards Kemnay, and ultimately joins the Alford turnpike. Three stage-coaches, besides the Royal Mail, pass twice through Kintore daily.

The Aberdeenshire canal terminates at Port Elphinstone in the parish of Kintore. This is a work of great importance. It has proved extremely beneficial to a large and populous tract of country. When originally constructed it was only 17 feet wide and 3 feet deep; but these dimensions have since been enlarged, and it is now from 21 to 23 feet in width, and about 3f feet in depth. Its length from the harbour of Aberdeen to Port Elphinstone is 18¼ miles, of which about a third part lies within this parish. It was opened in 1807. The expense of its construction and subsequent enlargement amounted to nearly L. 50,000. And though it has unquestionably accelerated improvement very much in this quarter, the shareholders receive but a low rate of interest as yet on the money expended. The trade on the canal, however, is steadily increasing. The tide-lock, an important addition, was completed in 1834. There is a small wharf at the town of Kin-tore, as well as at the canal head.

At Port Elphinstone there are mills, on a very extensive scale, for grinding all sorts of grain ; and the enterprising proprietor of these works, Mr Tait of Crichie, sends the meal there manufactured to all parts of the kingdom. There are also in that village two saw-mills, one driven by steam and the other by water power. Since the last census of the parish of Kin-tore, there has been a great increase of the population at Port Elphinstone; and as the trade on the canal is daily extending, of which it forms the principal depot, it is likely to become more and more a place of general resort. Besides the mills already alluded to, it contains several large granaries, some wood-yards, and numerous storehouses for lime, coals, bone manure, and various other commodities, conveyed to or from Aberdeen by the barges.

(Note of Articles transported upon the Canal, season 1841. —Hay, ¾ tons; whisky, 3§; calves, sheep, and pigs, 37¼.; lime, 4153 ; coals, 5279; oats and bear, 5717¼; sand, 8; meal, 1087¾ ; flour, 66; potatoes and turnips, 53; salt, 60; goods, 22¼; slates, 8½; stones, 1042; bricks and tiles, 95¼; metal, 69¼; wood, &28| ; bark, 63½; dung, 616¼; bones, 1429½.)

Ecclesiastical State.—The parish church stands in the town of Kin tore. It occupies a centrical situation in reference to the population, but not in reference to the extent of the parish, being very near the boundary towards Keithhall and Fintray. The most distant parts, however, are not more than four miles from it. The church was built in 1819, and is at present in excellent repair. It affords sufficient accommodation for 700 people. It is quite large enough for the parish as yet, and, on the whole, convenient; though the plan may be exceptionable in some respects, and particularly in the arrangement for dispensing the communion. All the sittings are appropriated. The country parishioners are amply provided for, but the inhabitants of the town have too limited a number assigned them.

The manse was built in 1784, and repaired in 1835-6; new offices were erected the previous year. The glebe consists of two separate pieces of ground. That portion adjacent to the manse measures 6 acres, and the soil being good, it might be let for L.3 per acre. The other part, containing nearly 2 acres, lies at a considerable distance, and is of an inferior quality. The stipend is 112 bolls of meal, 33 bolls of barley, and L. 87, 9s. 10d. in money, which includes the allowance for communion elements. The teinds are exhausted.

There are seven families of Protestant Dissenters in the parish, and one family of Roman Catholics, comprising in all about thirty-six persons. The rest of the population adhere to the Church of Scotland. The average number of communicants may be stated at 560. On the last sacramental occasion the number was 600. There is a parochial Association for religious purposes. The funds, amounting to L.12 or L.14 yearly, are chiefly devoted to the support of the General Assembly's Schemes; but some portion of the annual contributions is always given in aid of other missionary objects.

The two Sabbath schools in the parish are numerously attended. One of them is taught in the church by the minister and four assistants, the other in the Port Elphinstone school, by the teacher of that seminary, and a well qualified young man, who assists him, and occasionally supplies his place. About 150 children are usually in attendance at these two schools. The Sabbath school library contains 200 volumes.

Education.—In the parish school all the ordinary branches are taught. There are also classes for English grammar, geography, and Latin. The Scriptures are daily read. The present schoolmaster has been in office since 1836. His salary is L. 30. He has a dwelling house, but no garden is provided by the heritors. There is a good female school in the town of Kintore. About two years ago, Government aid was obtained for the erection of a school at Port Elphinstone. This is now a very thriving school, but has no endowment as yet. The number of children attending all these seminaries is upwards of 200.

A legacy of L. 260 has just been left by the late Mr John Bu-chan of Aberdeen, a native of Kintore, for educational purposes. The benevolent donor appoints that L.200 of this sum shall be laid out at interest, and that the annual produce thereof shall form an endowment to a school to be founded in the west end of this parish where it is much wanted.

In the town of Kintore there is a subscription circulating library. Among the young here, a taste for reading is very generally diffused.

Poor and Parochial Funds.— The number of ordinary poor in this parish has considerably increased of late years. But the parochial resources, supplemented as these have always been by the liberal yearly donations of the Earl of Kintore, would still have been amply sufficient, notwithstanding the increase of paupers, to afford the means of relief to all common cases of poverty from old age or adverse dispensations of providence. The cause which has chiefly operated to augment the disbursements of the kirk-session, has been the heavy charges of regular board, unavoidably incurred by recent circumstances. The cases here referred to are those of orphans, deserted children, and imbeciles. Most of these cases, of which there are six, have arisen within a few years. The number of ordinary pensioners on the roll is 40. Paupers of this class, embracing the aged and infirm, receive a very inadequate provision. Occasional supplies are given besides to families and individuals under temporary pressure from sickness or accidents. The yearly expenditure at present may be thus stated:

To meet these charges the kirk-session derives revenue from the following sources:

Such being the unfavourable state of the poor's funds of this parish, the kirk-session felt it to be their duty to draw up a report of the same on the 16th of March last, which report or statement was given in to the agents of the heritors.

Lord Kintore's annual donation of L.25 is distributed separately among about seventy objects of charity, including all persons on the ordinary roll, and a great number of indigent families and individuals besides.

Davidson's mortification, amounting to L. 9 a year, under the management of the magistrates and minister, is restricted to the poor of the burgh.

Savings Bank.—In 1837, a National Security Savings Bank was established in Kintore. This institution has proved remarkably successful. It appears from the last annual statement, dated 20th November 1841, that the number of depositors was upwards of 300, and the amount of deposits above L. 4000.

Revised 12th May 1842.

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