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Birnie, Elginshire

Historical Description

BIRNIE, a parish, in the county of Elgin, 3 miles (S.) from Elgin; containing 407 inhabitants. This place is said by some to have been the site of the first cathedral of the diocese of Moray; and it is probable that Simeon de Tonei, one of the bishops, was buried here, in 1184. The parish approaches in figure to an oblong, extending about seven miles in length and one and a half in mean breadth, and containing nearly 8000 acres, of which about 2000 are under tillage, 304 in wood, and the remainder waste. It is separated from the parish of Knockando, on the south, by the junction of the parishes of Dallas and Rothes, and is bounded on all the other sides by the parish of Elgin. It lies on the north side of the high ground that rises between the Spey river and the flat of Moray. The surface is irregular and abrupt, is marked with several ravines and high hills covered with heath, and has in general a bleak and rugged appearance. The lands are intersected with the rivulets Lennock, Barden, and Rashcrook, which flow into the Lossie, a stream containing abundance of common trout. The arable soil is in general of a gravelly or sandy kind, occasionally clayey, and by the sides of the Lossie and of the rivulets it is loamy; parts are of a mossy or moory nature. All kinds of grain are produced, as well as potatoes and turnips, with a small quantity of flax. The cattle, which have been lately much improved, are usually a cross between the low-country cows of Moray and West Highland bulls; the sheep are chiefly Cheviots, and the horses, though small, are active, and well adapted for ploughing the light shallow land of which the parish mainly consists. The improved system of agriculture is followed, and very considerable advances have recently been made. The annual value of real property in the parish is £1249. The chief rocks in the district are sandstone and gneiss, with a small proportion of slate.

Ecclesiastically, the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Elgin, synod of Moray. The patronage belongs to the Earl of Moray, and the minister has a stipend of £156. 8. 4., a portion of which is received from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe of about eight acres of good land. The church is a very ancient structure, repaired in 1817, with accommodation for 250 persons. It contains a fine Saxon arch, separating the choir from the body of the edifice; also a stone baptistery, and an old bell composed of silver and copper, of an oblong shape, which tradition asserts to have been made at Rome, and consecrated by the pope. There is a parochial school, the master of which has a salary of £26, with a house and garden, and about £4 fees. The poor have the benefit of a bequest producing about £3 per annum. About a mile east from the church, on the side of the road, is a stone called the "Bible Stone", having the figure of a book distinctly engraven on it: and in the corner of a field once called Castlehill, the foundations of what is supposed to have been the ancient episcopal palace were dug up about half a century ago.

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

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