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


I — Topography and Natural History.

Name, &c.—Tradition gives the origin of the name to the settlement of the Leslyns or Leslys in this district, which took place so early as the eleventh century.

Boundaries, &c.—The parish is bounded on the south by the parishes of Keig and Tullynessle, from which it is divided by a ridge of hills, which form part of a range beginning with Benochie on the east, and, terminating at Cabrach on the West, divide the Garioch from the Alford districts; on the west and north, by Clatt and Kennethmont; and on the east, by Insch and Prem-nay. Its greatest length is about 3˝ miles, and breadth about 2˝ miles.

An elevated ground, rising in some parts into hills, and running from east to west, divides it into two nearly equal parts. Between this ridge and the hills which divide the parish from the Alford district, lies a valley in which runs the Gady. Skirting the base of this central ridge on the west, north, and east, lies the remainder of the lands of the parish.

The climate is rather moist, and very variable. In the valley mentioned, it is warmer than in the north-west part of the parish, which is exposed to the north winds, and in the vicinity of a moss.

Hydrography.— The Gady is the only stream worth notice in the parish. It takes its rise in Clatt, and running through Lesly and Premnay, falls into the Ury in the parish of Oyne.

[This stream has been celebrated in song by the poet Arthur Johnston, in Latin. There is also a beautiful ballad once often sung by the natives, beginning "Oh an I were where Gady rins," &c. It may not be thought improper to mention a striking anecdote connected with this song, as illustrative of the power of association. After the siege of Pondicherry, when a Scotch regiment was marching into the town, the whole soldiers stood still on a sudden, being arrested by hearing this song sung by a Scotch lady from an open window. The song, being now very scarce, is subjoined.

O an' I were where Gadie rins,
'Mang fragrant heath and yellow whins,
Or brawlin down the boskie lins,
   At the back o' Ben-no-chie!
Alice mair to hear the wild bird's sang,
To wander birks and braes amang,
Wi' friends an' fav'rites left so lang,
   At the back o' Ben-no-chie.
How mony a day in blythe spring time,
How mony a day in summer's prime,
I've saunterin' wil'd awa the time
   On the heights of Ben-no-chie.
Ah! fortune's flowers wi' thorns grow rife,
And walth is won wi' toil and strife,
Ae day gie me o' youthful life
   At the back o' Ben-no-chie.
Ah! Mary, there on ilka night,
When baith our hearts were young and light,
We've wandered by the clear moonlight,
   Wi' speech baith fond and free.
Oh! ance, ance mair, whar Gadie rins,
Whar Gadie rins, whar Gadie rins,
Oh! might I die whar Gadie rins,
   At the back o' Ben-no-chie.]

Geology and Mineralogy.—The soil on the opposite sides of the Gady differs considerably, that on the north side being a light loam generally on a gravelly bottom or subsoil,—that on the south being a strong "rich mould on clay bottom." On the south side of the parish, there is serpentine. No quarry has been opened, but the country people make snuff-boxes and trinkets of it. It has a greenish tinge, with gray streaks interspersed. The serpentine of this district, of which there is a great abundance, is most probably a part of that tract which, it is conjectured, runs from Portsoy across the country to Strathdon. This serpentine does not take a fine polish, owing to its being interspersed with small pieces of spar resembling schiller spar in appearance, but much harder. The other minerals to be found in the parish are, steatite, manganese, asbestus, shorl, mica, albite, beryl, and the more common minerals, felspar and quartz. A farmer, in cutting a ditch through part of the serpentine rock which was contiguous to his fields, found in a fissure about 2˝ feet from the surface, several pieces of petrified wood.

Zoology.—The domestic cattle are of the Aberdeenshire breed. Greater care than formerly is now taken in the selection of breeding stock, but very much remains to be done in this respect. Some attempts have been made at "crossing" with the short-horned breed. There are very few sheep, and these are generally a cross between the Leicester and Cheviot. Pigs are not much raised in the parish; but the farmers are beginning to pay attention to this department of husbandry.

Botany.—Wild mustard [Sinapis arvensis), dock (Rumex cris-pus), ragweed (Senecio Jacobcea), bishopweed (Ćgopodium poda-graria), bur-thistle (Cnicus lanceolatus), knot-grass (Holcus avena-ceus), couch grass (Triticum repens), are the most common weeds. The farmers are now becoming careful in rooting them out; but still a good deal remains to be done.

Among the rarer plants may be mentioned, Arenaria verna (serpentine tract, mentioned above), Senecio saracenicus, Sambu-cus ebulus. Statice armeria may also be mentioned as a rather rare plant in districts not maritime. It grows on the serpentine tract, along with Arenaria verna above alluded to.

There is one small plantation in the parish, but not in a very thriving condition.

II.— Civil History.

Land-owners.—-There are only two proprietors, viz. Sir Andrew Leith Hay of Rannes and Leith Hall, &c. M. P.; and Colonel F. Leith of Whitehaugh. The former has about two-thirds, and the latter about one-third of the parish.

Parochial Registers.—The session records begin in the year 1699, when Mr William Watson was minister. A register of marriages and baptisms, and minutes of session have been generally kept from that time, but they are incomplete. No register of deaths has been kept. The following is a list of the incumbents at Leslie since 1698, viz. Mr William Watson, admitted in 1698, died about the beginning of 1699. Mr Forbes, admitted in May 1701, removed to Tarves in September 1706. Mr Thain, admitted December 30, 1707, removed to Auchindoir in June 1719. Mr Robert Abercrombie, (grand-uncle of the present Dr Abercrombie of Edinburgh), admitted 24th August 1720, died in July 1751. Mr Alexander Stewart, translated from Grange 3d June 1752, date of his death not ascertained exactly, but it was in 1797 or 1798. Mr Harper, who was translated to Kildrummy in 1795, was appointed Mr Stewart's assistant and successor in 1782, Mr David Dunbar, admitted February 24, 1796, assistant and successor to Mr Stewart, died February 20, 1830. Present incumbent admitted November 30, 1830.

Antiquities.—This parish has little to boast of in this respect. There were, till lately, the remains of a Druidical temple. The farmer on whose ground it was, demolished it, and used the stones in building fences. On the south-west of the church is Chapel-ton, where there had been once a Roman Catholic chapel. The ruins were dug up many years ago. The font stone is still to be seen in one of the buildings of the farm-steading. There is a tradition, that the farmer who removed the stones lost the whole of his horses, and one race of horses after another, till he was completely ruined, and obliged to give up the lease of his farm. Farther south, near to the road leading to Alford, is a circular hollow about five feet in diameter, and about three feet deep, called the Four Lords' Seat, or Little John's Length. The former name is given to it from a tradition that four Lords met here and dined together each on his own ground, viz. Lord Glammis, the Lord of Leslie, the Lord of Putachie, the Bishop of Aberdeen. A little to the south-west of this are some vestiges of an encampment, and a few cairns or tumuli. One of them, larger than the rest, is called Cock's Cairn. Tradition says a battle was fought here. A number of tumuli on the farm of New Leslie have been lately discovered.

Leslie House, formerly the seat of the Barons of Leslie, may be now numbered among the antiquities of the parish. It was first the seat of the Lesleys or Leslyns, from whom it got its name. It afterwards came into the hands of the Forbeses of Monymusk, by John Forbes marrying the widow of George the last Baron of Lesley, who had left the property deeply burdened. John Forbes, by paying the debts, became possessed of the estate. The present house, of the castellated form, now ruinous, was built by William, son of the said John Forbes. It was founded, as appears from an inscription on the walls, June 17, 1661, and was inclosed by a rampart and fosse. The draw-bridge was on the west, and guarded by a watch-tower. Over the gate is the date 1643. Over the door of the house or castle is the inscription, "Hćc Corp. Sydera Mentem." The Forbes coat-of-arms is to be seen in several places. The said William Forbes was buried in the church-yard of Leslie. On his tombstone is the following inscription, viz. "Here lyes William Forbes of Leslie, who lived fifty-five years, and departed this life, November 12, 1670 years." John Forbes succeeded his father, after whom the lands came into the Leith Hall family, in which they continue. There was also a castle at New Leslie, a little to the west of the present Castle of Leslie, the foundations of which were lately dug up. At the time to which the tradition mentioned above refers, the lands of the parish were held by Lord Glammis, the Bishop of Aberdeen, and the Baron of Leslie. The part possessed by Lord Glammis belonged at one time to the Abbey of Lindores. A charter of a very ancient date is said to exist, conveying the part of the lands of the parish, now called Courtieston, but, in the charter, Cruterston, along with power to the proprietor of ruling cum Flaminga lach.


Population in 1755, - 319
1782,  413
1792,  392
1831,  473
1841,  556

There are about 107 families in the parish, either engaged in, or dependent on, agriculture, with the exception of a few aged and infirm women, who gain something by knitting stockings, the wages for which are now reduced to a mere pittance; a young and active woman being able to gain only from 1s. to 1s. 6d. a-week. The trades-people, such as wrights, blacksmiths, tailors, &c. are merely sufficient to supply the wants of the inhabitants in their respective branches. One fatuous person belongs to the parish.


The number of acres under tillage is about 2000; valued rent, L.1566, 6s. 8d. Scots, and real, about L.2300. The rent of land varies very much. What is called infield lets in some cases at L.3 per Scots acre; outfield varies from 10s. to L. 1, 5s. per Scots acre. The rotation of cropping is generally a seven course shift, which allows three-sevenths in grain crop, three-sevenths in grass, and one-seventh in turnip. This system, which is almost uniformly pursued, might, it is thought, be profitably exchanged in many cases for a six course shift, with only one grain crop before turnips, another after, and three grasses, which would allow the same rest, and crop the land less than the seven course shift. Complaints are general of the deficiency of the grass crops, which may be owing, in some measure, to the frequent cropping of the land.

Produce.—The following estimate is made of the produce of the parish:—

V.—Parochial Economy.

Means of Communication.—A commutation road, running almost along the banks of the Gady, leads by Premnay to the turnpike to Inverury and Aberdeen, and another, in the direction of Kennethmont, leads from the church to the turnpike to Huntly. From Inverury and Huntly the church is nearly equidistant, and the farm produce of the parish is almost wholly carried to either of these towns ; but the greater part to Inverury.

Ecclesiastical State.—The parish church is situated on the south bank of the Gady, at nearly the eastern extremity of the parish, and was built in 1815 to accommodate nearly 300. The manse was built in 1794. The teinds are exhausted, and, an allowance from the Exchequer is required to augment the stipend to L. 150. There is also a Dissenting chapel belonging to the Independents, on the north-west extremity of the parish, built in 1818.

Education.—The parish school is situated within a few yards of the church. Instruction is given in English, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, and Latin. Salary, L.25, 13s. 4d. Fees in 1834 about L.13. In lieu of a garden, an allowance is given of L.2, 2s. 9d. There is a mortification of L. 1, 13s. 4d. per annum as fees for the children of poor widows.

Poor.—At present there are only four upon the poor's roll. One of these, however, has a family of four children, wholly dependent on the sessional allowance and the charity of the neighbourhood. Miscellaneous Observations.

Since the date of last Report, a good deal of meadow and barren land has been improved. Much has been done in draining) and a good deal remains to be done. Furrow-draining on Smith of Deanston's plan would do much good in several localities; but the expense is too great for the farmer. As the improvement would be permanent, the outlay by the proprietor would be amply repaid. The rental of the parish is about thrice what it was at the date of last Report, and the value of stock is increased in about an equal ratio. There is good field for plantations in the parish, and they are much wanted. Farmers have to drive wood from a distance: and much might be done by enclosing with paling, if wood were more plentiful. The people are generally industrious, and a great change has taken place in their mode of living.

June 1842.

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