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Auchterless, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

AUCHTERLESS, a parish, in the district of TURRIFF, county of ABERDEEN, seven miles (S. by W.) from Turriff; containing 1685 inhabitants. The name of this place is derived from a Gaelic word signifying "a cultivated field on the side of a hill", and the application of the term is favoured by the general appearance of the surface. The parish is of an irregular oblong figure, about eight miles in length and four in breadth, and contains nearly 16,000 acres, of which two-thirds are cultivated, and nearly 500 acres are in plantation. It is bounded on the north by the county of Banff. The lands are watered by the river Ythan, the only considerable stream, which, rising about a mile from the boundary of Auchterless, and flowing through the vale in a north-eastern direction, discharges its waters into the German Ocean below Ellon. In some parts the soil is clayey, but more frequently consists of gravel, lying upon a bed of clay-slate, and is almost uniformly dry. The cattle are of the Aberdeenshire breed, which sprang from a cross between the native and the old Fife stock about seventy years since; the sheep, which are not numerous, are the Cheviots. The husbandry is of the best kind, and the free use of lime, guano, compost manure, and bone-dust, has much contributed to the fertility of the soil. Almost every farm, too, of any extent, has a threshing-mill on the premises, turned by one of the tributary streams of the Ythan. The annual value of real property in the parish is £6773. The prevailing rock is a clay-stone slate, which runs through the whole of the parish from north-east to south-west, but lies at too great a depth to be available for the purposes of quarrying.

The villages are, Gordonstown, about two miles distant from the church, and the little hamlet of Kirktown. At the latter a market is held on the Wednesday after the second Tuesday in April (O. S.) for the sale of sheep and cattle, which is called Donan fair from the ancient tutelary saint of the parish. The Aberdeen and Banff turnpike-road runs for nearly three miles along the eastern extremity of the parish, and a new turnpike-road from Inverury to Forgue passes along the southwest of the parish. At Badenscoth inn, on the latter road, markets for the sale of cattle and grain are held on the second Mondays of December, January, February, and March. For ecclesiastical purposes Auchterless is within the bounds of the presbytery of Turriff and synod of Aberdeen; the patronage belongs to the family of Duff of Hatton, and the minister's stipend is £191. 6. 5., with a good manse and offices, and a glebe of about six acres, valued at £18 per annum. The church, a plain edifice, built in 1780, and repaired in 1832, seats 750 persons. There is a parochial school, affording instruction in Greek, Latin, and mathematics, with all the usual branches of education; the master has a salary of £34, £21 fees, and a house and garden. Near the farming-village of Glen-Mailen is the strong and extensive Roman camp called The Rae-Dykes, situated on the south side of the Ythan, a mile below the two well-known springs of the river. According to Mr. Chalmers, it was undoubtedly the Ad Itunam of Richard of Cirencester, which, from its central position, commanded the ample extent of the shire of Aberdeen, the ancient country of the Taixali. In the vicinity of The Rae-Dykes are other remains, indicating the long residence of a military people; and the antiquities of Auchterless also comprise some Druidical circles. This parish has been famed for the longevity of several of its inhabitants, one of whom, Peter Garden, a farmer, died about the year 1780 at the advanced age of 132, having lived under eight sovereigns, commencing with Charles I.: he was one of the garrison in the old castle of Towie Barclay when Montrose defended it against Argyll.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis