Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Strathmore Past and Present

On the southern side of Strathmore, partly in Perthshire, but mostly in Forfarshire, lies the quiet parish of Kettins. The Perthshire portion—called Bandirran—about a square mile in area, is six miles south-west of the nearest part of the main body, which is 4 miles long and 3 broad. Two rivulets, of 6 and 4 miles’ course respectively, pass through or bound the parish, and unite a little south of Cupar-Angus. The village of Kettins, about a mile south-east of Cupar, 12 from Perth and 14 from Dundee, is delightfully situated upon one of these streams, almost hidden among trees. It is much admired by the lovers of the picturesque. For rural simplicity and artless loveliness it cannot be surpassed,—the neatly-kept cottages, with their pretty flower gardens, adding to Nature’s beauty. The village green in the centre forms the field of many an innocent amusement; the Church looks out from its belt of trees, uttering pax vobiscum, and the Manse nestles close below, with its peaceful shelter of yew trees, all embosomed in a magnificent wood, —not unlike the “Taxwood” of Dr. Macduff’s last story. Henry Dryerre thus beautifully addresses this sweetspot:—

“Serene, sequestered, and supremely sweet,
For dreamy poet’s habitation meet;
In tender beauty, peacefulness, and ease,
With softly-murmuring stream, and whispering trees ;
Fair Kettins! Nature hath bestowed on thee
Such gifts as only for her favourite be!”

A learned antiquarian has suggested to us that the name—originally spelled Kethenys—is derived from the East-of-Scotland god Keth, as in Inchkeith and Keithock. Possibly his sidhe or attendant spirits haunted the hills on the south (Sidlaws), and spread terror into the minds of the people for many a day after Christianity had obtained a hold. The parish is bounded on the east by Newtyle and Lundie, north by Cupar, west by Cargill and Collace, and south by Abernyte.

The soil is various, a great part being light and thin, but some of strong clay and friable black mould. A century ago there were seven villages in the parish, whose inhabitants had small pendicles and eked out their honest living by handloom weaving of coarse linen. To a great extent these are now joined into large farms. Nearly ail the hills and the least productive of the low grounds have been planted with trees of various kinds, which adds to the value and beauty of the district. The principal points of the Sidlaw range in the parish arc Keillor Hill (1068 ft.), and Gask Hill (1141 ft.), partly heathy, partly wooded, and partly pastured. In his “Agriculture of Perthshire,” Dr. Robertson suggests that the range received its name—Seed-law, as he spells it— from the circumstance of its commanding a prospect of the German Ocean from Aberdeen to Berwick ; but we cannot easily reconcile this suggestion with the oldest way of spelling the range, Sidlo.

Besides the more common plants to befound in the parish, may here and there be seen the Round-leaved Sundew (an insectivorous plant) ; the Water Lobelia (with light-blue drooping flowers) ; the Bloody Crane’s Bill (with handsome bright purple (lowers); the Marc’s Tail (a singular plant, with narrow-leaved whorls); the Bladderwort (adorning ditches with large bright yellow clusters); the Sweet-scented Orchis (with rose-purple flowers) ; and the Trailing St. John’s Wort (whose yellow flowers open only in the sun).

The honourable family of Hallyburton had for a considerable time extensive property in this parish. In the early part of the fifteenth century, the family built the Castle of Pitcur, one mile south of the village. This castle is now in ruins, which give no idea of its former grandeur. The mouldering remains stand on the brow of a gentle declivity, romantically backed by the wood-clad Sidlaws, and facing the grand panoramic scene of Strathmore. Pitcur is an ancient barony, which came into the possession of the Hallyburtons by marriage, in 1432 ; and which gave its title to the family afterwards. A very celebrated member of it was James, who was Provost of Dundee for thirty years, and was one of the Commissioners appointed by the estates of Scotland to go to France and arrange the marriage of Queen Mary and the Dauphin. The Laird of Pitcur was a strong supporter of Viscount Dundee, and followed him in his engagements. Ochterlony in his “Shyrc of Forfar” (dated 1684), says of Pitcur:—“It is a great old house, with much fine planting. It is ane ancient great and honourable familie.”

In more recent times Lord Douglas Gordon Hallyburton represented the County of Forfar from the passing of the Reform Bill till his death. He was succeeded by his nephew, who in 1886 married the daughter of William IV., and cousin to our present Queen. After the Castle of Pitcur became unfit for a residence, the family removed to Hallyburton House, a modern mansion east of the village. A few years ago the property was sold to Graham Menzies, Esq., father of the present proprietor, Robert Stewart Menzies, Esq., a candidate for the Kirkcaldy Burghs in the Liberal interest.

About a hundred years ago some tumuli were found in the parish, when digging for the turnpike road from Cupar, through the deep ravine, dividing the Sidlaws, on to Dundee. One at Pitcur contained at least 1000 loads of stones; and in its centre, a few flat, unwrought stones, without date or marks, contained some human bones.

In another, a mile farther south, an urn was discovered full of bones. At Campmuir, in Lint rose, close to Cupar, there arc still observable vestiges of a Roman Camp (with only one gate opening towards Cupar); where part of Agricola’s army put up in 83 A.D., when the rest camped at Cupar-Angus, on the site of the ancient Abbey and the present Parish Church. At Baldowrie, in the north of the parish, there is an creet Danish monument, six feet in height, containing some figures, which are almost wholly defaeed. On the summit of one of the hills which streteh along the south side of the estate of Piteur are the ruins of the Castle of Dores; in which, according to tradition, Maebeth resided for some time during the creation of his stronghold on the neighbouring hill of Dunsinane. On this hill, near the ruins, great quantities of ashes have been discovered, whieh show that it had been one of the hills where fires used to be kindled in ancient times, to alarm the eountry on the approach of the enemy. In 1763, when some quarriers were working, they discovered an cxeavation in the solid rock, in which they found some half-consumed bones of a soft consistency. The hole was a yard square, and seemed to direct its course towards the south; but it had no means of communication with the outer world. No light has ever been thrown upon this mysterious piece of human handiwork. A Weem or Peghts house was discovered fifty years ago in a field at Lintrose, with built sides, paved floor, and two fireplaces the breadth of the inner end being 8 feet, and height 5 feet, gradually narrowing to 3 feet at the entrance. Lintrose, onee called Todderanec.. from Lord Todderauce, a senator of the College of Justice, is one mile west of the village, environed with fertile fields and thriving plantations. About six years ago, a cave was discovered at Piteur, through the overturning of a large stone which interfered with the progress of the plough in turning over the land. On removing the stone, an underground passage was discovered. In digging out the rubbish an earthenware bowl was found, broken in pieces by the workmen’s implements. These pieces were gathered and cemented together, and form a bowl well-made in good preservation, and with well defined figures of ancient warriors and lower animals on the outside of the rim. When the property came into the hands of Mr. Menzies, he, at great trouble and outlay, had the passages to a large extent opened up and cleared out. Many cup marks were seen on the stones. An ancient coin and several articles of interest to antiquarians were found; but nothing to determine accurately the date or history of this subterranean passage, which, being about 500 yards to the east of Pitcur Castle, is supposed by some to have extended itself to it, and to have been employed variously. Hopes are entertained that interest will not abate in these excavations, and that further light may yet be thrown on the history of the place.

The estate of Keillor, the mansion-house of which is in Kettins, was anciently a part of the Earldom of Strathearn. Randulph de Kelore, who did homage to Edward I. in 1296, was a vassal. In the time of King Robert the Bruce, the lands seem to have been divided ; for then Robert Harkers had a gift of the barony, and again, in the time of Robert III., Walter Ogilvy had Easter Keillor. In 1384, in a charter “by John of Kelor to John of Ardillar (Ardler), six merks were to be given annually out of the two towns of Keillor.” In 1407, Walter Ogilvy gave an annuity from it to the altar of St. George in the Cathedral of Brechin. Subsequently Sylvester Hadden (or Haldane) held it. In 1514, he witnesses the retour of service of Alexander Lindsay to the office of hereditary blacksmith of the Lordship of Brechin. In 1645, Easter Keillor fell to Susan, sister of Alexander Haldan. Tradition says that for some act of kindness whieh was shown by one of the “auld guidwives” to King James, when travelling incognito as “the Guid man o’ Ballcngcieli,” in this district, the patrimonial estate of the family was increased by royal grant, and held upon this curious tenure :—

“Ye Haddens o’ the moor, ye pay nocht,
But a hairen tether—if it’s socht—
A red rose at Yule, and a sna’ ba’ at Lammas.’’

Keillor passed from the Haldanes to tho Hallyburtons of Piteur; in 1800 to the Hon. James M'Kenzie (Lord Privy Seal); and now is in possession of Lord Wharneliffe.

According to Skene, Kettins was a Thannge for a considerable peiiod; in 1264, Eugenius, Thane of Kathenes, possessed a large grange, a small part of which was an abthanrie. Thereafter it was erected into a Barony; for we find that, in 1309, King Robert I. on the resignation of Malcolm de Kaithness gave a charter of the Barony of Kettins to Sir Patrick dc Ogilvie, an ancestor of the Earl of Airlie.

Ecclesiastically it is believed that Kettins was once the seat of a Celtic Monastery. The occurrence of the word abthen as descriptive of land may always be held to point out the territory of an ancient Abbey. In one very old work (Martin’s Relig. Divi. Andree), the “abdenrie” of Kettins occurs; and in another (Inquisit. Retorn. Abbrev. voce Forfar), certain lands are described as “abden of Kettins.” This view is supported by the fact that in a charter, dated 1292, Hugh of Kettins granted the well in his lands of Ketcncs, callcd Bradwell, with its aqueduct bounded and servitude and waterage, to the Abbey of Cupar; lienee it was the site of an early ecclesiastical establishment. Bradwell is just Bride’s Well, afterwards changed to Saint Bridget, the virgin, the patron saint of Kettins. The Kirk of Ketyns had six chapels dependent upon it—Peatie, South Coston. Pictur, Muiryfaulds, Denhead, and Kettins—each of these having small enclosures used as burying-grounds. It belonged to the Diocese of St. Andrews, and was dedicated by Bishop David, in 1249. In the Register of the Priory of St. Andrews, according to the Taxatio of 1250, Ketenis was rated at 55 merks. In the Registrum vetus de Aberbrothoc Ketyns was rated in the Taxatio of 1275 at 55 merks. The fruits and revenues were granted to the hospital or Domus Dei of Berwick. But, in 1390, Sir James Lindsay of Crawford granted his house in Dundee first as a convent for the ransom of Christian captives from Turkish slavery, and then to the Red or Trinity Friars for an Hospital or Maisondieu, in which the old and infirm might reside. King Robert III., in confirming this charter, enriched it with a gift of the Church of Kettins and its revenues. These the king transferred from Berwick to Dundee:—“Because the burgh and castle of Berwyk have been in the hands of our adversaries the English, we will and give the church of Ketnes with all its fruits and forthcomings to the hospital of Dunde.” In the rental of the lands of the Priory of Rostinoth, Ketynnes-mill paid 40s., and the lands of the Barony of Kethenys £4 Scots. The patronage of the teinds of Kettins belonged at one time to the Church of Peebles; for, in 1536, James Paterson, minister of Peebles and Rector of Ketnes, granted a lease of some of the teind-sheaves of the parish to George Hallyburton, who agreed to give 4 merks yearly out of the same to Sir David Jack, for five years, on account of “his thankful service and labours done for us at our command to the minister of Peebles.” In 1558, Friar Gilbert Brown of the Church of the Holy Cross at Peebles, granted by charter the Kirk lands at Kettins (now called Newhall) to James Small of Kettins. In 1590, James Anderson (who, in 1574, also served Bendochy and Collace), was minister, and “his haill buikis were estimat at £200 Scots, and uteneils at £40; he wrote a treatise in verse, (reprinted in 1851), on the first and seeond eoming of Christ. In 1606, Colin Campbell was one of the forty-two ministers who subscribed a petition to Parliament against the Introduction of Episcopaey. In 1G38, James Auehinleek of Ketins, whose wife presented the Communion cups, was brought before the General Assembly, accused of “defending the doetrine of universal grace;” but satisfying the Assembly of his orthodoxy, he was acquitted ; however some years afterwards he was deposed by the Assembly’s Committee for visitation. In 1G54, for some time there was no Session, “ because of the Englishers coming alongs who made the people to return quicklie to their bowses.” In 1716, James Patone was taken prisoner by George Duncan, his cousin, one of the Lieutenants of the Shire. In 1793, James Trail published a translation of the rather curious description in Latin, of date 1678, of the Shire of Angus by Robert Edwards of Murroes. In 1800, when Mr. Symers was nominated by the Crown to Kettins, the Magistrates and Town Council of Peebles presented another; but the Court of Session decided in favour of Mr. Symers because of proscription. In 1786, the Court of Session decided, in the ease of Kettins, that when the minister, as pursuer of the proeess of augmentation and modification of stipend, is not culpable of ui. luu delay, the decree of augmentation operates retrospectively to the date of tho demand in the summons: in this case the summons was dated in 17G4, and decree was pronounced in 178G, so that the minister received at once twenty-two years of augmentation. In 1808, a Committee of Presbytery reported that Kettins had no grass-glebe designed for it by decreet of the Presbytery. Protests were taken by the Heritors and £20 Scots were given in lieu of this glebe. According to the Parliamentary Return, the total sum levied by way of assessment for building, and repair of, the Church and Manse during the 10 years ending 31st December 1879, was £1,045.

The chapel of Keillor is believed to have had the largest burial enclosure. Ancient sculptured remains are found there, especially one remarkable sculptured monument, embellished with the rude outline sketch of a boar. In the churchyard of Kettins there is an interesting sculptured monument (tully nine feet high), of the same type as those in the churchyard of Meigle; this had been used, from time immemorial, as a foot-bridge across the Burn flowing through the village of Kettins, until the spring of 1860, when it was properly placed in its present site by Lord Douglas Gordon Hallyburton.

The bell in the belfry of the Church was unearthed from the Baldinnie bog, some hundreds of yards south of the Church, while the ground was being trenched. The occupants of Baldinnie at the time presented the bell to the Church, in return for which they obtained a right of burial beneath the belfry. The present incumbent—Rev. James Fleming, M. A.—has kindly furnished us with the inscription on it in relievo, which he took down personally to prevent mistakes:—“ Maria Troon es minem nsem Meester Hans Popen reider gaf mi. Anno Domini MCCCCCXIX.i.e., “Mary Troon is my name. Mr. John Popen, the owner (or knight?) gave me. A.D. 1519.” Somewhat similarly the old bell of St. Lawrence of Edzell was brought to light in the early part of the present century, after a long lapse of years, by being accidentally dragged from the bottom of the old Well of Durayliill. The Ferne bell is about the same period as Kettins :—“Je ben ghegotan int iaer MCCCCCVI.”

Two silver Communion cups, of date 1636, are still in use; and comparing the weight marked on them with the weight now, they have only lost 2 dwt. Troy. The two collection plates are of date 1723. In 1684, Ochterlony says:—“Keatens is in the Dioeese of Dunkeld, but the minister’s name and patrone are unknown to the informer.”

From the Parochial records, which go back to 1618, we find that, in 1645, Robert Yullo had to pay 6s. 8d. for “drinking on the Sabbath, and make his repentance before ye pulpit.” In 1654, the same delinquent compeared and confessed that “he was taken with drink and promised to tak heid to himself afterward, and he was sharply rebuked be the Session for his fatt.” Along with him, “James Yullo confessed that his drunkenness was the cause of his Sabbath-breaking, and professing his sorrow he was ordained to compoir next Sabbath in sackcloth before the congregation ”—which was done on two occasions. In 1664, Janet Yullo compeared before the congregation, and professed her repentance and sorrow for her sin of “scalding and swearing, cursing and railing, against lior Christian neighbour, Catherine Small;” and was duly dealt with. Shortly afterwards, the said Catherine Small was guilty of the same offence, and suffered similar punishment. For four years George Yullo was dealt with for the sin of ante-nuptial fornication, but would not confess, as he professed his innocence; but at last, in 1715, “having now (!) come to a sense of his sin, lie compeired in the public place of repentance for his sin, and was spoken to and exhorted to a serious repentance.” On May 10th, 1713, “The Session convened for enquiring into the scandal committed by Patrick Smith, in West Town-End of Ketins, anent the selling of his wife to one Lindsay in Glenisla, which scandal was recommended to ye Session by ye Justice of ye Peace. So being summoned and called compeired not, therefor the Session remitted him to the Justices of Peace.”

The valued rent of the parish is £428; and the real rent £12,206, besides £734 for Railway. The population, in 1726, was 1400; now it is 903. The Old Statistical Account (1793) states that “there were only 4 unmarried women in the parish, 41 farmers, 3 bleachfields whitening 130,000 yards of linen annually, and one man alive at the age of 106.”

In 1757, an Association was formed in the district for the Improvement of Agriculture, by giving premiums for the best stock and produce. Hugh Watson of Keillor will be long remembered as the most enthusiastic and successful breeder, particularly of the Angus breed. Of him Mr. M'Combie of Tillyfour—the highest authority—testified that “he was the first great improver, and no one will question his title to that distinction; for there is no herd in the country which is not indebted to Keillor blood.” From the Polled Herd-Book of Edward Ravens-croft (1862) we notice that Mr. Watson’s first breed were from the old stock of Keillor doddies, which obtained celebrity so far back as 1800. In 1844, he produced his first animal at the Highland Society’s Show, and gained the first prize. The Herd-Book contains notices of 23 pedigreed bulls and 22 cows belonging to Mr. Watson. Among these we will mention one cow—Old Grannie— which was photographed, in 1859, two days before she died, by request of His Royal Highness Prince Albert. She died at the age of 36, of sheer old age ; for Mr. Watson wished to see how long an animal of this breed, with a fine constitution, could bo profitably kept. She was the mother of 25 ealvcs, 11 of which arc registered as first-prize takers. The cattleman who had attended her all her life-time was awarded 100 francs by the “Soeidt" Protection des Animaux Justiec et Compassion Hygiene de Paris;” and Mr. Watson received a special silver medal from the Highland Society..

In 1825, Lord Hallyburton valued his lands and let them to the tenants at rents according to Coventry’s principle, which was, that the rent increases as the square of the produce; so that land that produces eight bolls per acre will have to pay four times the rent of other land that produces only four bolls per acre; and this principle was considered very equitable, for bad land required as mu eh seed and labour as good land.

Owing to several good bequests for education and tho poor, the parish of Kettins is about the minimum for loeal taxation. As far as we can trace, the walls of the present Manse were built in 1792 ; and those of the Church in 1768. The situation of the Manse is not desirable; being below the level of the adjoining churchyard. In 1871, the Church was very much improved in the interior with the addition of beautiful memorial windows. And recently a very handsome American Organ was presented to the Parish Church and congregation by Mungo Murray, Esq., and Mi's. Murray of Lintrose, in memory of their nephew who died at sea.

The Very Reverend Principal Tulloeh of St. Andrews was minister of Kettins from 1848 to 1854, during which lime he wrote some of his best articles to the Edinburgh Review, and the Burnet-Prize Treatise on Theism. Little did the parishioners think that the pleasant-mannered and quiet-dispositioned minister who used to go in and out among them was in that seclusion preparing himself for a brilliant career in the future; for now he is unquestionably the most distinguished preacher, theologian, and litterateur that Scotland possesses in any denomination : he is Dean of the Order of the Thistle, Her Majesty’s Chaplain, Senior Clerk and ex-Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. A quaint old man was parish teacher during the time of Principal Tulloch’s incumbency—James Gibb—who died about ten years ago. Lord Hallyburton, having a leaning to phrenology, selected Gibb as schoolmaster on account of his mathematical head. In his younger day he was a good teacher, especially in arithmetic and mensuration of land—at which he was an adept. His holidays were taken up in searching the curiosity shops in London, for old instruments, which he would purchase and fit up for use. At the sale, after his death, we never saw such a collection of astronomical and meteorological instruments, gold and silver watches, and eccentric curiosities of vertu. He wrote the excellent “New Statistical Account” of the Parish, in 1842—the year that Dr. John Macduff' was inducted minister. Dr. Macduff left the parish, in 1848, and has since devoted himself to religious literature. Kettins has neither Dissenting Church, nor public-house, nor poor assessment, and is in many respects a model country parish.

“Thou Kettins art so fair,
Let sweet consistency breathe everywhere—
Kind hearts and noble deeds with Nature’s gift abound—
The True, the Beautiful, and Good, in one bright round!”

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus