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


I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name.— The name of the parish is said to be derived from a term in the Gaelic language, indicating its northern exposure. In a valuation of the thirteenth century, it is, however, written Tul-lyunch, of which the present name may be a corruption.

Extent, Boundaries, &c.—The parish occupies the northern and western skirts of the range of hills called Corrennie, or the Red Hill, where it descends into the vale of Alford, and is of a very irregular figure. Its length, from the south-west to the north-east, is from 5 to 6 miles; its breadth, which at one place is more than 3, at another place, where it is nearly cut across by the parish of Leochel, is scarcely half a mile; and its square surface may be estimated at about 10 miles. It marches on the north with the parish of Keig; on the east, with those of Monymusk and Cluny; on the south, with Midmar, Kincardine O'Neil, and Lumphanan, from which it is separated by the hills already mentioned; and, on the west, with Leochel and Alford. Along with the parishes of Alford, Tullynessle, and Keig, it occupies that enlargement of the valley of the Don, called the Vale, or Howe of Alford; but no part of this parish touches on the river. The distance from Aberdeen, the nearest point of the sea coast, is twenty-two miles. There is no part of the parish less than 420 feet above the level of the sea; and the hill of Corrennie attains to the height of 1578 feet.

Topographical Appearances,—The appearance of the surface is diversified and broken, and presents many varieties of soil; the prevailing one, perhaps, being a light reddish mould, of no great depth, but "sharp" and kindly. The best soils, generally speaking, are to be found about the first risings of the hills. The low lands have a tendency to be wet and marshy, and often suffer from untimely frosts. In the beginning of winter, it is nowise uncommon to find every thing frozen over in these low grounds, while in high and exposed situations on the hill no ice is to be seen. In spring again, the reverse of this is the case.

Geology.—The prevailing rocks are red granite and mica-slate, and, where the latter rock is laid bare by the courses of the various burns, it is seen to be everywhere penetrated by granitic veins. On the hill above Whitehouse, some huge masses jut out, of a nature approaching to quartz rock. Near Tillyfour, a magnesian limestone occurs; and, in one or two situations, a primary trap appears. The eastern side of the parish is traversed by a remarkable dike of claystone porphyry, of great hardness, and of a reddish colour; it runs pretty continuously, for several miles, in a direction nearly north and south; and, it is said, that dikes of the same material, and in a direction corresponding with this one, may be traced, crossing the country from the mountain of Ben-nochie, to that of Clochnaben. Boulders of two or three feet in diameter, and sometimes of much greater size, of red and blue granite, of gneiss and mica-slate, of claystone and felspar porphyry, (the latter extremely beautiful), are scattered over the surface, and mingled with the soil and subsoil in many places very abundantly, furnishing a ready and excellent building stone. It is perhaps worthy of remark, that those consisting of blue granite often contain veins of the red variety, and nodules of mica slate; while, in the boulders of red granite, no foreign material is almost ever to be observed, and some of the outlying blocks of this material from the hill have been polished into slabs and pillars of the greatest beauty. In some situations, the red granite exists in beds, in such a disintegrated state, as to be dug out with the help of the pick-axe, as a material for road-making.

High up the hill, by the side of a little waterfall, there is a very strong chalybeate spring. The supply of water is abundant. To the taste, it certainly appears as strong as the well-known Pananich water; and those who have used both, say that its effects are by no means inferior.

Throughout the parish, generally, there is an abundant supply of pure and excellent spring-water.

II.—Civil History.

Land-owners.—The landed property is in the hands of four individuals ; viz. General Byres of Tonley; Mr M'Combie of Tillyfour; Mr Farquharson of Whitehouse; and Mr Elmslie of Tullochvenus. The valued rent is L.1670, 14s., Scots. The real rental, stated in the last Statistical Account at L.600, now amounts to L.2200 Sterling.

Parochial Registers.—There are entries in the parochial register as far back as 1706, but it has since been very irregularly kept.

Antiquities.—There are several of those remains, known by the title of Druidical circles, in the parish, and among the hills adjoining it, and generally, where one of these is found, others of smaller size are to be met with, in its close vicinity. The largest of these lies in a very sequestered situation, and is called the Auld Kirk of Tough (does this designation in any degree confirm the opinion, that the original purpose of these moss-grown remains was a religious one?). It is surrounded by numerous small tumuli, which suggest the idea of a burying-ground connected with the place of worship. There is one on a smaller scale, but more complete and interesting, on the moor which divides this parish from that of Monymusk. The tumuli around it are without number ; and the remains of ancient walls or causeways may be traced among the heather, running out from the principal circle, and connecting it with several lesser ones. Altogether, it seems to deserve the inspection of an antiquarian. At Tullochvenus, in a small cairn opened a few months ago, there was found an urn containing calcined bones, and among them a lance head of bronze, of an elliptical form. Stone axes have been dug up in various places. On the hill above Whitehouse, near its summit, there stands a stone evidently monumental. It is upwards of 12 feet in height, and bears the name of Luath's Stone, from a tradition that a son of Macbeth's, so called, fell here, in flying from Lumphanan, where his father was slain. Lower down the hill, are some fields, known by the name of the Bloody Faulds, where some of Bailly's men are said to have made a stand in their flight from the battle of Alford. Towards the end of last century, a human skeleton, a sword, and a shilling of Queen Elizabeth, were found in a marsh near the foot of the hill, through which Bailly's men are likely to have passed. But the most singular relics of antiquity, of which the parish can boast, are two stone collars, preserved among other articles of curiosity in the mansion-house of Tonley. They are neatly cut in stone, and bear an exact resemblance to the horse's collar now in use. They are 17 inches in length, and 12 in breadth at the broadest part, so that they might fit the neck of a Shetland pony. These puzzling relics are said to have been found at Glenroy.

The late James Byres, Esq. of Tonley, by whom these and many other articles of curiosity were brought together, and who died here at a very advanced age in 1817, was a gentleman highly distinguished for his profound knowledge of architectural antiquities, and the fine arts in general, and no less respected for his sterling worth, by those who were unable to estimate these acquirements. A great part of his life was spent at Rome, where he gave lectures, at one period, on the favourite objects of his study; and Sir James Hall, who has occasion, in his work on Gothic architecture, frequently to refer to his authority, bears testimony, as well as many other writers, to "the very great success with which he contributed to form the taste of his young countrymen." A curious and valuable work of his, on the Sepulchres of Etruria, is likely soon to be given to the public, which will show that he had anticipated, by half a century, many of the recent investigations of these monuments of antiquity.


* No regular register having been kept, I can only state the numbers within my own incumbency.

This increase of the population is owing to the extended and improved cultivation, and to the encouragement that has been given to small crofters on the estate of the principal proprietor. There is no village, nor any manufacturing establishment.

The number of insane or fatuous persons is 3.


Agriculture.— The quantity of land in tillage is about 2970 imperial acres; the quantity of waste land, 2260 acres, of which 400 or 500 might perhaps, with proper drainage, be brought into profitable cultivation. The range of hills which bounds the parish on the south, extending to 6000 or 7000 acres, is in a state of undivided common; but what proportion of that tract belongs to this parish, it is hard to say, and no part of it is included in the above estimate. A process for the division of this common is at present before the Court of Session. There are in the parish 1097 acres of planted wood, covering most of the eminences. Some of the plantations are of only a few years growth, and are in a thriving state; while others, which have attained to fifty or sixty years of age, are now cut down as a market offers; and in a good many situations, the ground they occupied is now trenched and turned into corn land. The Scotch fir, the larch, and spruce, are the prevailing kinds of wood, but largely intermingled with the other sorts of forest trees; all of which attain a large size, and yield excellent timber. In a picturesque dell, in the midst of the finest of the woods, lies the garden of Tonley, a spot which nature and art have combined to render singularly attractive.

Rent of Land.—The rent of land varies exceedingly, from differences of quality and other circumstances, some being let at 8s. 6d. some at L.2. The average of the parish, however, may be stated at about 14s. the imperial, or 19s. the Scotch acre.

Leases.—The duration of leases is, in almost every instance, nineteen years, and they are not clogged with unfavourable or oppressive terms. The rents are payable half yearly, and are chiefly in money. It would be of considerable benefit to the tenants, if, instead of Martinmas and Whitsunday, the terms of payment were changed to Candlemas and Lammas, as not hurrying them into the markets with their crop.

Husbandry.—The seven-shift husbandry is in almost universal use, the land being allowed to remain for three years in grass, after which two crops of oats are taken in succession, then turnips, and lastly, oats or bear with grass seeds; the ground being well cleaned and manured when in green crop. The soil is very favourable to the growth of the turnip, and its culture is well understood and much attended to. Bone manure is a good deal used, sometimes in combination with dung, and is found to answer well. Potatoes are reared only for domestic use; and the field cultivation of cabbages, carrots, beets, &c. is unknown. Oats and bear are the only kinds of grain raised, and in the proportion probably of ten acres of the former to one of the latter. The rearing of black-cattle is here a leading object with the farmer, and oat-straw, and turnips furnish the best winter keep. The cattle are in general excellent, of the old Aberdeenshire breed, crossed, however, with the West Highland and various other sorts, and of late years, in many instances with the Teeswater. They are usually brought to market at three years old. The number of cattle, stated in the last Statistical Account at 625, is now about 1000, and the increase in weight is probably in a much greater proportion; while the number of sheep has very much diminished, there being now only a few of the black-faced kind kept by those farmers who are close upon the hill.

The farm-buildings are in general sufficient. There are about twenty thrashing-mills, most of them worked by water power, and the drains and enclosures, in both of which, especially the former, great improvements have of late been made, are kept in good order. The fences are in general dry stone dikes; but the small holdings are still mostly unenclosed. The lower part of the parish is pretty well accommodated with roads; but of its upper end the same cannot as yet be said.

Since the date of the last Statistical Account, the whole agriculture of this parish and district has been placed on a new footing. The ancient cumbrous plough, with its five or six yoke of oxen, whose whole force was often necessary to tear up the wild and matted surface, has been laid aside : the turnip husbandry, the rotation of crops, the periodical cleaning and manuring of the whole ground, and the sowing down of proper grasses, have displaced the old infield and outfield practice; and the use of lime has become universal, which, when applied in the small quantity of sixty or seventy imperial bushels to the acre, is found to have the very best effects.

Produce.—The average gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish may be estimated as follows:—

It may be added, that there are annually exported from the parish about 6000 dozen of eggs, amounting, at the average price of 4d. a dozen, to the value of L. 100; and 186 cwt. of butter, amounting at 6id. a pound, to L.564, 4s. The quantity of cheese sold is not great. Altogether, however, the attention paid in this part of the country to these minuter points of "husbandry" or "housewifery" is such as would have delighted the heart of old Tusser to behold, and these results show that such attention is not bestowed in vain. There is no manufacturing establishment in the parish or district. A number of the females employ themselves in knitting stockings for a mercantile house in Aberdeen. The worsted is furnished to them at their own houses, and they are paid for their work at the rate of 3˝d. or 4d. a pair. About 3000 pairs of excellent worsted stockings are in this manner made in the parish yearly.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Market-Towns.—The nearest market-towns are Inverury and Kintore, each distant about thirteen miles.

Mean's of Communication.—There is a good turnpike road the whole way to the latter of these places, and our farmers occasionally resort to it with their produce, (which is thence transported by the canal boats to Aberdeen,) bringing home lime in return. But by far the principal communication is with the county town itself, where it is found that both sales and purchases can be effected on more favourable terms. The distance is twenty-two miles, but the turnpike road is excellent, and the acclivities few.

The length of turnpike road within the parish is about two miles and a half; the road from Aberdeen to Strathdon passing through it near its northern extremity, and that from Aberdeen to Tarland touching it on the south. There is a stage-coach and a mail-gig, which calls daily at the post-office at Whitehouse, in its way from Aberdeen to Strathdon. The bridges over the small streams which cross the turnpike and other roads are in good repair.

Ecclesiastical State.—The situation of the parish church is perhaps as convenient for the great body of the people as could well be found in a parish of such irregular figure. A small proportion of the inhabitants, however, at the south-west corner of the parish, are four miles from it; but in almost every other direction, its distance from the boundary does not exceed two miles. The church was erected in 1838. It is seated for 550 persons, and is handsome and commodious in no ordinary degree. The manse was built in 1835, and bears testimony also to the good taste and liberality of the heritors. The glebe consists of about 7 imperial acres of good land, and may be valued at L.9 Sterling per annum. The stipend is L.96, 12s. 1 1/10d. in money, (with L 8, 6s. 8d. for communion elements,) 25 bolls, 1 firlot oatmeal, and 2 bolls, 1˝ firlot bear, and an Exchequer allowance of L.33, 17s. 1˝d. under the small stipend act. There are about 60 Dissenters in the parish, of the United Associate Synod, who attend a chapel on the immediate confines of this parish, but situated in that of Leochel. The original cause of their separation, as stated in the former Statistical Account, was their opposition to a new mode of singing introduced into the parish church in 1760, which, however, has been long since adopted by themselves.

The average number of communicants at the Established Church is 350, and divine service is well attended.

About twenty years ago, a decree of the Court of Teinds was passed for the annexation of this parish and that of Keig; Government having agreed, in consideration of the saving thus effected of L.57, 17s. 3d., payable yearly to the ministers of the two parishes under the small stipend act, to give about L. 1200 towards the erection of the bridge over the Don at Keig. This arrangement, though, for the sake of obtaining the bridge, it appears to have been acquiesced in by all parties at the time, came afterwards to be felt so highly unsatisfactory, that when, by the death of one of the incumbents in 1832, the annexation actually took effect, subscriptions to the amount of several hundred pounds were raised by the heritors and the people of the two parishes; the claims of Government, in so far as insisted on, were liquidated, a decree of disjunction was obtained, and the ministrations of religion replaced in both parishes on their ancient footing.

Education.—Besides the parochial school, there has lately been opened, under the direction of the kirk-session, a school for girls, which receives a small salary from the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and promises to be of great utility. The salary of the parochial schoolmaster is L.25, 13s. 4d., and the average amount of school fees which he receives, does not much exceed L.12. He is provided with a neat and commodious dwelling-house and school-room, with a garden adjoining, and these, with the allowance from the Dick bequest, constitute the whole emoluments of the office.

Library.—There is a subscription library in the parish, established a few years ago. It contains from 400 to 500 volumes, in general judiciously selected, which are much read and enjoyed, especially in the long evenings of winter.

Poor.—There are at present 15 persons receiving regular aid from the poor's funds, at the rate of about L.1, 10s. each per annum. They are almost all old women, who are unable to earn anything for their own subsistence, beyond the pittance that is to be made by knitting worsted stockings, at which they labour with the utmost diligence. It is of course often requisite to give occasional supplies to persons disabled by sickness, or otherwise in circumstances of temporary distress. It may not be uninteresting to state the amount of church collections made at different periods for the poor.

In addition to the collections, there are available for the poor (after paying the session-clerk's, precentor's, and beadle's salaries,) the interest of L. 200, made up by a bequest recently left to the session by the late P. M'Combie, Esq. of Lynturk, and some accumulations. It would be, on all hands, looked upon as most degrading, were any person capable of otherwise obtaining a livelihood, to apply for aid from these funds.

No market is held in the parish, but there are several, in the course of the year, at Alford, Scuttry, Monymusk, and other places in the vicinity.

Inn.— There is only one inn, that of Whiteley, which is situated at a point on the high road, where such an accommodation could scarcely be dispensed with, and is respectably kept.

Fuel.—The fuel chiefly used is peat, which has hitherto been abundant and easily procured; but as the principal supply is from the common already mentioned, and persons from all quarters have been at liberty to avail themselves of it, it is likely in a few years to be much less plentiful. The peat is made up, in a considerable degree, of the decayed branches of trees, among which the birch is the prevailing kind.

Miscellaneous Observations.

As there is not a single beggar belonging to the population of this or any of the neighbouring parishes, the prevalence of common begging, by persons from other quarters, to the extent to which it was, till lately, carried on, is an evil of which we have good cause to complain. The greater number of those engaged in it describe themselves as belonging to the large towns, and although, no doubt, many of them are real objects of charity, in very many instances they are individuals whose dissolute habits have deprived them of employment, and of every inclination for it. The opportunities for theft, and many other vices, which such a practice affords, are too obvious to require to be pointed out; but the tax thus levied on an industrious and charitable population is perhaps not sufficiently adverted to. Suppose (which probably is below the truth) that every day twelve of these wandering mendicants, or seventy-two per week, perambulate a parish such as this, in which there are about 160 inhabited houses; that they call at one-fourth of these, and receive alms to the amount of a halfpenny each, (and where they are served with meal or provisions, so little as a halfpenny worth is never offered them), then the sum thus levied would amount to L.6 a week, or L.312 a year; one-tenth part of which would probably exceed the contingent such a parish would be called upon to furnish, were any general measure for the suppression, of begging entered into throughout a district. This evil, we are happy to say, has been much lessened since the establishment throughout the county of a rural police.

December 1835.—Revised May 1842.

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