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Strathmore Past and Present

The northern part of this parish lies in the lowest hollow of Strathmore, where probably at a remote period was the bed of a large lake, which, finding a pretty level passage into a small valley among the Sidlaws, formed a basin. This basin, when the water was diverted into another channel, formed a marsh; and at the head of it was built a Church, probably in the twelfth century. From the nature of the situation, this Church took the name Kinnettles, meaning in Gaelic “the head of the bog.” The marshy ground still bears the name of “The Bogg.”

The parish is of nearly a square form, two miles aside; and is enclosed by the three parishes, Forfar, Glamis and Inverarity. Brigton Hill (543 ft), or, as it is sometimes called, the Hill of Kinnettles (being divided between the proprietors of the two estates of Brigton and Kinnettles), divides the parish into pretty equal parts. The form of the hill is elliptical and flat on the top; it is arable, except in a few acres of rocky land crowned with varied coloured trees ; and its appearance adds much to the beauty of the parish scenery. About half a century ago, a herd-boy sat on that part of the hill which faces the valley of Strathmore; and, fascinated with the grandeur of the view on a summer evening, when the fiercely brilliant streaks of the sun’s crimson were disappearing, and over the western hills a flush of orange hovered, ho made a strange resolve, which showed the inherent genius and ambition beneath the plebeian fustian, that if he should succeed in amassing wealth he would buy that hill, and on that spot build his house. The wish and resolve succeeded; and, in 1867, Paterson of Kinnettles built there one of the most handsome and most handsomely furnished mansions we can find in any part of the country.

Numerous springs supply the parish with excellent water; one at the Kirkton discharging about twenty-five gallons per minute. The Kerbet or Arity (rising in Dilty Moss, in the parish of Carmylie), affords a diversified beauty to the parish, gently flowing along, driving mills, and giving good sport to anglers.

Whinstone rock is found in several parts, but is difficult to work; though it is very useful, on account of its lasting qualities for drains and road-metal. Sandstone, stratified to the surface, forms the base of the hill of Kinnettles, and furnishes stones of very large dimensions. Slate-rock, though not extensive, is used for flagstones, which are of good quality. In these three kinds of rock various ores are found, copper is embedded, and veins of lead are disseminated; but the quantity is too small to pay the working. Garnets, micas, and lime-spar are frequently met with. The soil is various, consisting of brown clay, loam, mixed loam and clay, and mixed loam and sand. Boulders were once very numerous; but these have been blasted and removed. How these boulders, of a different character from the adjoining rocks or soil, got into their places is a problem which has excited the ingenuity of the Fellows of the Royal Society; and after ten years’ enquiry over all Scotland, these learned men have issued a Report (only the other day), making individual suggestions, but not agreeing as to the exact way of accounting for their existence.

With such a variety of soil and rock there is to be found a corresponding variety of flora. Among these we can see the Milk-Thistle (with the white veins on its leaves which give it its name); the Rest-harrow (with its handsome rose-coloured leaves), generally found nearer the sea; and the Scarlet Pimpernel—the Poor Man’s Weather-glass—whose brilliant petals close at the approach of rain, thus alluded to by Dr. Jenner in his “Signs of Rain ”:—

“Closed is the pink-eyed Pimpernel:
’Twill surely rain, I see with sorrow,
Our jaunt must be put off to-morrow.”

The parish has an atmosphere of considerable humidity. The climate is mild and genial in the valley, and pure and cold in the elevated situations; on the whole it is good and salubrious. The Rev. Mr. Ferney, in the “Old Statistical Account”—written in 1793—naturally wondered why so many people left the healthy air of the country to live in the stifled dens of towns :—“ The sickly looks of many children, in large, crowded, ill-situated towns, show that the country is the preferable place for children. But how is the prevailing resort to towns to be prevented, when the present taste is to raze or suffer almost every unrequired house to go to decay?” According to his experience, the year 1782 must have been a most exceptionally bad one. The driest lands were not for receiving seed till the 17th of April. About the 29th of May, it rained without intermission for fifty hours. On the 10th of August, an uncommon flood chilled the ground for a considerable time. On the morning of the 12th of September, there was hoar-frost as thick as at Christmas; and after this was melted by the sun’s heat, peas and potatoes had tho look of having been dipped in boiling water. The corn soon grew white, then from whitish to green, according as the frost or rain prevailed. The fine, deep, black soil only produced from three to four bolls of oats per acre, so light that it yielded mill-dust instead of meal. Considerable misery was the result. Fortunately the next year’s harvest was early, producing a heavy crop ; thus convincing men of the compensating powers of Nature. The Rev. Robert Lunan, in his scholarly and elaborate notice in the “New Statistical Account” of the parish—written in 1835— remarked:—“Every species of corn is less or more exposed to the depredations of insects. Wheat suffers from slugs ; but the greatest enemy that has yet assailed it, is a fly that was introduced in 1826. This insect inserts into the ear its ova, which, soon becoming small worms, injure it very much. Wheat has in consequence been almost banished from the parish for the last six years.”

Ecclesiastically, the Church of Kinnettles was in the Diocese of St. Andrews. It stood upon an eminence— called Kirkhill—not far from its present site. Kyneties, Kinetlys, Kynathes, and Kynnecles are the oldest forms of its name in the several charters. In 1189, during the Chancellorship of Hugh, King William the Lion gave to the Priory of Rostinoth (then a cell of the Abbey of Jedburgh), the lands of Cossans in exchange for those of Foffarty in Kinnettles, which, with waters, woods, and plains, meadows and pastures, muirs and marshes, were to be held in free and perpetual alms by the Prior and Canons. In 1226, Laurence of Montealt was rector of the Church. In the Taxatio of the Priory of St. Andrews, in 1250, the Church of Kinetlys was rated at 18 merks. In 1264, Robert of Montealt, Sheriff of Forfarshire, and his brother Laurence, the rector of Kinnettles, were witnesses to the foundation charter of the Hospital, or Maisondieu, of Brechin. Homage was paid to King Edward I. of England, in 1296, by "Mestre Nicol de Merton, persone del Eglise de Kynathes.” Four years afterwards, tliis parson was a witness to a grant by Bishop Luniberton of the Kirk of Dairsie, in Fife, to the Priory of St. Andrews. From the Register of the Abbey of Arbroath we find that Mathew was rector of the parish in 1364.

For two centuries we can trace no references to this parish. In 1597, James Fotheringham was minister of Kinnettles along with Inverarity and Meathie (suppressed in 1667 by the Court of Teinds), with a stipend of £8 6s. 8d. It was joined to Forfar, Rostinoth, and Tannadice, in 1574, Alexander Neva being local reader under the minister Ninian Clement. In 1604, King James VI. gave the Church of Kinnettles to the Archbishop of St. Andrews. James Lawmonth (with seventeen other ministers) was deposed in the Synod by the Assembly’s Committee of Visitation, in 1649, for “insufficiencie for the ministrie.” After his death, his widow received twelve shillings from Archbishop Sharp, and was referred by the Synod to the charity of the Kirk-sessions in the diocese. Alexander Taylor, the last Episcopal clergyman of Kinnettles, was the author of a curious poem entitled:—“Signal dangers and deliverances both by land and .«ea with a violent tempest, when going to Edinburgh, in 1681, with Claverhonse and many of his brethren for the purpose of taking the oath required by the Test Act between Burntisland and Leith in the boat called "The Blessing.” Here is a specimen of his quaint style, where he is describing the effect of the stormy waves on the frail vessel:—

“Kach kept his time and place,
As if they meant to drown us with a grace—
The first came tumbling on our boat’s side,
And knockt us twice her breadth and more beside
But next that it had wrought'ti no moro disgrace,
It spits oil us—spits in its follower’s face."

In 1743, Thomas Brown was deposed for deserting his charge for seven months. Under an assumed name he celebrated an irregular marriage, for which he was indicted and tried before the High Court of Justiciary, and transported to the British plantations in America for fourteen years.

At the time of the Reformation, the Bishop of Dunkeld was propietor of 250 acres (quoad dvilia in Caputh), which he let to Alexander Pyott, a staunch papist. Alarmed at the progress of Protestantism, Pyott, with the Bishop's consent, went to Rome, and got the deed of conveyance confirmed by a Papal Bull. Though we cannot ascertain the date, yet sometime after the Reformation this propietor of Foffarty, aided by the Catholics in the neighbourhood, built a chapel there (probably on the site of an old chapel), and appointed a priest, with manse, offices, and glebe. This chapel was burnt by a party of royal dragoons in 1745. Remaining roofless and ruinous for many years, the stones were afterwards used for making drains. Mr. Bower of Kincaldrum removed the stone, which contained the holy water, to his own premises. The glebe of the statutory five acres remained unclaimed for many years after the demolition of the chapel. The Earl of Strathmore, in 1758, bought the lands of Foffarty; yet, for a long time, he would not venture to break up the glebe, but let it lie waste and unclaimed. As it was declared by the General Assembly of 1773, quoad civilia in the parish of Caputh, the minister of that parish about eighty years ago advanced his claim to it; but he lost it in the Court from the want of a charter and occupancy. But the whole lands of Foffarty, being church-lands, pay no teind to this day. The Parochial records consist of six old volumes, containing notes of the doings of the people under the old and time-honoured ecclesiastical police supervision. The modern ones are in accordance with improved ideas.

Historically, we have not much to say about Kinnettles. A branch of the famous family of the Lindsays settled there about the year 1511, and flourished in considerable repute for nearly a century and a-half. Robert, a descendant of a younger brother of the third Earl of Crawford, was the first Lindsay of Kinnettles. In 1612, one of the family of Wishart of Logie- Wishart, who was proprietor of Balindarg in Kirriemuir, had an interest in the lands of Ingleston (in Eassie) and Kinnettles. In the churchyard of Rescobie is a tombstone where the inscription shows that one of the two wives of the minister there (David Lindsay), in 1677, was Marjory, daughter of Lindsay of Kinnettles. This Marjory was the aunt of the famous Dr. Thomas Lindsay, Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of all Ireland, who died in 1713. With him all trace of the male descendants of the house of Kinnettles passed away. Mr. Bower of Kincaldrum then became proprietor. Of this family was the learned Jesuit Archibald (1686-1700), whose principal work was a “History of the Popes,” in seven volumes, concerning which, as well as his connection with the Jesuits, he stood accused of much imposture. About the middle of last century, the proprietor of Brigton was Mr. Douglas, who did much good to the parish, and after whom the village of Douglaston took its name. His gardener’s son, William Patterson, born in 1755, had the good fortune to receive the patronage of Lady Alary Lyon of Glamis, by whom he was educated, lie rose to the dignified station of Colonel of the 102nd Regiment and Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales. After a long period of ill-health, he attempted to return to his native country, but died on the voyage in 1810. A cenotaph, with a suitable inscription, containing an account of his services and abilities, was afterwards erected in Kinnettles churchyard. About the beginning of this century, Kinnettles was possessed by the family of Harvey, one of whom, John Inglis Harvey, in 1823, obtained an appointment to a very honourable and distinguished office in the East Indies; afterwards becoming a Civil Judge there. It is stated that Harvey was to be proprietor of the estate (which came by his wife) so long as his wife was above ground; accordingly, to keep to the letter of the deed of settlement, he, after his wife’s death, put her into a glass case which he laid into a mausoleum above ground, and thereby retained his vested rights.

The churchyard contains some very old tomb-stones. One of date 1626 is quite legible, and another of 1630. From the shape of the letters, and the quality of the stone, some undated appear to be even much older. Two large monuments, and a number of stones, well designed and executed, occupy prominent places; but most conspicuous of all are those erected, in 1814, for the three principal families in the parish. The Church was entirely rebuilt in 1812; and is commodious and substantial, seated for 420 sitters. With the exception of the seats of the heritors, minister, and elders, the sittings are let annually, to keep up the neccssary expenses. The Manse was rebuilt in 1801, and has been frequently repaired— the old Manse having lasted from 1737, with one repair in 1785. Mr. Femey, in his Account of the parish, very judiciously suggested that the ordinary glebe to a minister is little more than a “ white elephant,” for he said:—“A minister, labouring it at the expense of a man and two horses, must be a considerable loser. It was an unlucky circumstance, in assigning land to ministers, that the Legislature did not think of allotting more.” However, the good feeling which ought to subsist between a minister and his people is often creditably shown by the farmers working the glebe for the minister—a great saving to him, and no loss to them.

In 1833, the upper stone of a hand-mill, of mica-schist, was dug up in a grass-field. It was 25 inches in diameter, and 1½ inch in thickness—being nearly circular, with a neat chisel ornament round the central opening. This is probably of great antiquity—having been in use long before the larger mill driven by oxen; and that would likely be before the Romans were in Britain, or two thousand years ago.

Towards the end of last century, Mr. Douglas of Brigton erected a large and commodious spinning-mill, of twelve horse-power—driven originally by water, then partly by steam, which gave employment to a considerable number of hands. The same gentleman superintended the thorough repairing of the roads, and the erection of stone bridges, which do him lasting honour. There are two villages — Doucdaston and Kirkton — where the houses are well built, and tidily kept. The public school is in the former, and is a very commodious building. What a difference between the life of the teacher of to-day and that of the dominie of a hundred years ago ! Now ho is far better off than the minister, for his salary is as good, and he is expected to keep up less ; but before he had a pitiful living—salary, £5; fees, £4 13s. 9d.; registrar and session-clerk’s extras, £2 8s. 4d.—in all, £12 2s. 1d., less than the income of a common labourer of his day. There is also a Free Church in the parish.

The population has decreased from 616 in 1755 to 418 in 1881, principally by reason of the enlarging of the farms. The rental has increased from £1600 in 1790 to £6529 in 1883. The valued rent is £155 sterling.

A century ago, tinkers—a class of sturdy beggars of both sexes—were a source of great annoyance to the poor people. Their insolence, idleness, and dishonesty made them ready for prey of all kinds. Mr. Ferney wisely remarked of these:—“So long as mankind are supported by strolling, the industry and ingenuity of thousands must be lost to the community, and vice cherished to a considerable degree.” Of his own parishioners he was proud, as they were “pretty remarkable for an acuteness of genius, which enables them to attain to dexterity in their several occupations.” The boundaries between the ranks were more distinctly marked, and more attentively observed. There were in the parish only one coach and one two-wheeled chaise. The judicious difference of rank, which forms the very life-blood of a healthy nation, is by no means so carefully respected in our day; and, by the test of the very existence of our country as a recognised great power in the world, our successors will judge which is the more lasting and disastrous evil—the old aristocratic tyranny, or the levelling despotism of communism. Yet it would be well for the proprietors here, as in other parts of Scotland, to recognise the fact, which will be taught them yet more bitterly—whatever be their political leanings—that it is unwise, and ultimately suicidal, to attempt to force out of the land a rent which is not in it; and it would be for the true conservation of this important interest, if they, admitting this fact, would arrange, by arbitration and common-sense, what (we are afraid) may yet be done by statutory enactment. If they are wise in time, and act on this principle in a body, the clamant cry will be smothered, and Westminster will be saved from displays of the passionate clashing of interested classes, which, in the peculiar circumstances that occasioned the passing of the Land Act for Ireland, well nigh broke up the Constitution of our United Empire.

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