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Banchory-Devenick, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

BANCHORY-DEVENICK, a parish, partly within, and partly without, the city of Aberdeen, district and county of Aberdeen, but mostly in the county of Kincardine; including the villages of Downies, Findon, and Portlethen, and containing 2736 inhabitants. The distinctive appellation of Devenick is derived from a celebrated saint of that name, who flourished about the year 887, and at one time ministered in this parish. The figure of the parish is extremely irregular; its extent from north-east to the southernmost point at the sea is about eight miles, and its breadth varies from two miles and a half to four miles. The river Dee, which passes through it, and here divides the two counties, rises among the highest of the mountains of Aberdeenshire, and after a course of upwards of sixty miles, falls into the bay of Aberdeen, about a mile and a half below the eastern extremity of the parish. Its span near the church is from 180 to 250 feet. Some years ago, a handsome suspension foot-bridge, connecting the parishioners of the Aberdeenshire district with the church and school, was erected over the river, at an expense of about £1450, by the Rev. Dr. Morison, the late venerable incumbent of the parish, and father of the Church of Scotland. The Kincardineshire district is bisected by the eastern range of the Grampians, the most elevated part of which afforded a station for the persons who were employed a short time since, by government, to make a trigonometrical survey of the island. For a distance of about three miles this district is bounded on the south by the sea, the coast of which is bold, rocky, and in many parts highly picturesque.

The soil is diversified, running through all the varieties, from pure alluvial to hard till, and from rich loam to deep moss. Agriculture is much attended to; the farms are generally small, and the farmers supply the town of Aberdeen with agricultural produce. The population is entirely rural, and has been much increased of late years by the allotment of portions ot uncultivated land to small tenants, who hold their farms under improving leases, and by whose means the greater part of the waste ground in the parish has been reclaimed. These tenants are mainly supported by the sale of peat from the extensive mosses in the parish, the preparation of peat forming a lucrative occupation to a considerable portion of the population, during the summer. Abundance of blue granite is to be found in the hilly parts: owing, however, to the hardness of its quality, it is not quarried to any extent, but is chiefly used as paving-stones for home use and for the London market. There are several plantations in the parish, one of them covering 250 acres; but those which are near the sea are not in a thriving state, as there is no shelter against the blighting influence of the east wind. In former times, it appears that forests of oak extended to the sea-shore, where no tree can now be raised. The annual value of real property in Banchory-Devenick is £6946. On the coast are three harbours for fishing-boats, Findon, Portlethen, and Downies: the villages thus named, conjointly contain a population of about 600; they send to sea about eighteen boats manned by from four to five men each, and are celebrated for the smoked fish well known by the general name of Finnan (Findon) haddocks. The great road from Edinburgh to Aberdeen passes through the parish, at about the distance of a mile from the three villages; and the line of railway from the south to Aberdeen runs between the above road and the sea. A beautiful line of turnpike-road extends along the south side of the river Dee, from the old Dee bridge nearly to Banchory-Ternan; and another turnpike-road, from Aberdeen to Ballater, runs through the Aberdeenshire division of the parish.

Banchory-Devenick is within the bounds of the presbytery and synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of the Crown: the minister's stipend is £150, being made up to that sum by an annual allowance from the exchequer of £22. 18. 10. The church, which contains 900 sittings, was built in the year 1822, on the site of a former edifice, the bell of which bears the date of 1597: the coping-stone of the old churchyard is dated 1608. At Portlethen, four miles from the church, is a church in connexion with the Establishment, with a minister of its own; and two Free churches have been raised in the parish, one in the Kincardineshire and the other in the Aberdeenshire division, and each about half a mile from the parish church. The former of these Free churches has a settled minister, but none has been provided as yet for the latter. The parochial school is situated near the church: the master has a salary of £30 from the heritors; £20 from a bequest left by Dr. Milne, of India, for educating twenty-five poor children nominated by the kirk-session; a third of the usual allowance from Dick's bequest, and other perquisites. There is a school at Portlethen, which is noticed under the head of that place: and at Cults, in the Aberdeenshire division, is a school erected by Mr. Symmers, late proprietor at Cults, and endowed by him to the amount of about £25 a year. A school is likewise held in connexion with the Free Church, and there is a female school, erected by the late Mr. Hogg, of Shannaburn, partly endowed by him, and partly by Dr. Morison. Sabbath schools are taught by the teachers of all these schools, except the female school. There is a parish library, consisting of a good many volumes; also a parish savings' bank, instituted in 1816, of which the minister is treasurer, and which contains deposits from the parishioners to the amount of nearly £5000. The antiquities of the parish consist of two Druidical circles, in a fine state of preservation; and of three very large tumuli, in an elevated situation, on the north side of the river. In Her Majesty's visit to Scotland in September 1848, the royal family, after landing at Aberdeen, passed through this parish on their way to Balmoral.

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


Online maps of Banchory-Devenick are available from a number of sites:

Postal districtAB12
Post TownAberdeen