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Bellie, Banffshire

Historical Description

BELLIE, a parish, in the counties of Banff and Elgin, 8 miles (E. by S.) from Elgin; comprising the village of Fochabers and part of the quoad sacra district of Enzie, and containing 2434 inhabitants. By some the Gaelic word bellaidth, signifying "broom", has been considered as giving name to this place; but others derive the appellation from beul-aith, the meaning of which is "the mouth of the ford". The parish is situated on the eastern bank of the river Spey, and is bounded on the north by the Moray Firth. It is of an oblong form, but narrower at the northern than at the opposite end; and comprises 12,048 acres, of which 3658 are arable, 643 pasture, 2852 wood, and the remainder chiefly moor. The highest land is in the south-eastern portion, consisting principally of barren uncultivated moor, diversified by hills of various figure and altitude; the soil here is partly clayey loam, mixed with moss, and resting on a substratum of blue slate. On the west and south of this high district is a red impervious clay, intermixed with gravel and small stones. The soil near the eastern boundary of the parish is sandy and light, and the lower lands are of the same nature, approximating in the vicinity of the river to a fertile loam, resting on a stony or gravelly bed, once overflowed with water. The tract along the coast, about a quarter of a mile wide, is altogether barren. All kinds of grain and of green crops are raised, of good quality; and an improved method of husbandry has been pursued with considerable enterprise, for a number of years: barley was formerly the leading crop, but since the suppression of illicit distillation, wheat has been grown in large quantities, and, with oats, turnips, and potatoes, receives much attention. The manures comprise lime, sea-weed, farm-yard dung, and the refuse of herrings obtained from the fishing-station of Port-Gordon; with, sometimes, portions of bone-dust. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4802, including £617 for the Elginshire portion.

The principal rock is the red sandstone, consisting of a mixture of dark argillaceous and siliceous earths, large masses of which are applied to various architectural uses; but though very hard when first quarried, its friable quality after long exposure to the air renders it necessary to cover it with a thick coating of lime. The loose strata, of the same component parts, in which it is generally found, are much in demand for roads and garden-walks, and its interior often contains breecia rock. Beautiful specimens of asbestos are frequently found, washed down, as is supposed, by the mountain streams. The scenery is relieved with Scotch fir, and some birch and larch. The grounds of the splendid mansion of Gordon Castle exhibit a fine display of numerous other trees, among which are many limes, planes, and horse-chesnuts, with majestic rows of elm and beech; and an eminence known as the "holly bank" is covered with a profusion of that evergreen, of the most luxuriant description. The magnificent Castle, the seat of the Duke of Richmond, is situated in a spacious park in the immediate vicinity of Fochabers, and extends in a direction from east to west nearly 570 feet. It is a modern structure, and the roof and interior of the eastern wing are of very recent date, having been restored in consequence of an accidental fire on the 11th of July, 1827. The great road from Edinburgh to Inverness through Aberdeen traverses the parish, and crosses the Spey by a bridge originally built in 1804, at a cost of upwards of £14,000. Two of the western arches of the bridge were carried away by the flood of 1829, and were replaced in 1832 by a beautiful wooden arch of 184 feet span, raised at an expense of more than £5000, for defraying which a pontage is levied on wheel-carriages, horses, and foot-passengers.

For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is in the presbytery of Strathbogie, synod of Moray, and in the patronage of the Duke of Richmond: the minister's stipend is £158. 6. 8., of which about £60 are received from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £33 per annum. The church is situated in the village of Fochabers, and is a handsome edifice, built in 1798. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church. An episcopal chapel was lately built by the Duchess of Gordon, on the north side of Fochabers; the Roman Catholics have a place of worship in that village, and another about four miles distant, near the eastern boundary, where their clergyman resides. The parochial school affords instruction in the classics, in addition to the usual branches: the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house and garden given by the Gordon family, and £18 fees; he also participates in the Dick bequest. A legacy of 100,000 dollars was left by Mr. Alexander Milne, merchant of New Orleans, and a native of Fochabers, who died in October 1839, for the erection and endowment of a free school for the parish of Bellie: a great part of this money has been realized, and a body of directors, incorporated by act of parliament, have established a free school. To the north of Gordon Castle are the remains of a military station of quadrangular form, styled the "Roman Camp", thought to have been formed by a portion of the troops of Agricola, and intended to cover a ford on the river Tuessis, or Spey. A little to the east are the remains of a Druidical temple; and not far off, a mound called the "Court hillock", supposed to have been the seat of an ancient court of justice. Within the Duke of Richmond's park is an old cross, around which the village of Fochabers stood, until the latter was removed to its present situation by Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon. See Fochabers.

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