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Boharm, Banffshire

Historical Description

BOHARM, a parish, partly in the county of Elgin, but chiefly in that of Banff, 6 miles (W.) from Keith; containing 1261 inhabitants. The original word Bucharin, or Bocharin, from which Boharm has been formed, is said to signify "the bow or bend about the hill." It was correctly applied to this locality, on account of the cultivated part consisting chiefly of a valley, stretching in a circular form around the north, east, and south sides of the mountain of Benagen, which rises abruptly from the Spey river, the boundary line of the district on the west. There was formerly a church on the estate of Arndilly, called the church of Artendol, and it appears that, about the year 1215, one of the family of Freskyn de Moravia, who had large estates here, granted to the cathedral of Moray, "the church of Artendol, with all its pertinents, excepting the corn-tithes of the two Davochs, which lay next to his castle of Bucharin." It is therefore conjectured that the old parish was named Artendol, and that, upon the church there falling into ruin, the chapel of the castle of Bucharin was used in its stead, as the parochial church, in consequence of which the parish was called Bucharin. The parish was augmented in 1788, to the extent of about one-third, by the annexation of part of the suppressed parish of Dundurcus, lying on the east of the river; the whole measures about twelve miles in extreme length, and four at its greatest breadth, comprising 4739 acres under tillage, besides a large extent of wood, mountain-pasture, and waste. The lofty eminence of Benagen, situated about the middle of the parish, and attaining an elevation of 1500 feet above the sea, occupies so large a portion of the surface, as to render the valley at its base comparatively narrow. At its summit level, the valley is about 400 feet above the sea, and from this height gradually descends towards each extremity, when it abruptly falls into the valley of the Spey. The sides of the vale are cultivated for a considerable distance upwards, as well as the bed; and the southern and eastern sides of the mountain, for nearly half way up, have been brought under tillage.

The Fiddich, a stream of some magnitude, flowing between beautifully-wooded banks, forms a confluence with the Spey near the bridge of Craigellachie, from which point to the distance of a mile above the village of Fochabers, the latter river separates this parish from Rothes. Both these streams are subject to violent floodings, and sometimes, by the sudden and irresistible impulse of their waters, have destroyed the bridges, tenements, crops, and almost every thing in their way. A very ancient bridge, chiefly of wood, formerly crossed the Spey, near the influx of the Orchil, and was supposed to have been constructed by the Romans under Severus; but no remains of it have been visible for many years: the passage was afterwards accomplished by a ferry-boat. An establishment called the hospital of St. Nicholas stood near this bridge, on the Boharm side of the river, having been founded in the beginning of the thirteenth century by Muriel de Pollock, heiress of Rothes, and dedicated to God, the Virgin, and St. Nicholas, for the reception of poor passengers. Andrew, Bishop of Moray, granted to the hospital the church of Rothes, with its pertinents, and Alexander II., in 1232, endowed it with a chaplaincy: it had pretty extensive estates also in the neighbourhood. It is supposed that the bridge was kept in repair by this house, and that, about the time of the Reformation, the structure either fell to decay, or was destroyed by a flood, and, having lost its means of support, was not renewed. The ruins of the hospital were removed, and a new bridge built, a few years since, at a cost of £3500, on the suspension principle, with a span of 235 feet. The Orchil, or burn of Mullen, formed by a collection of the waters of the lower part of the district where a valley from Keith opens into the circular valley, runs rapidly through a rocky and romantic channel into the Spey at Boat of Bridge; and the rivulet Aldernie conveys the waters of the upper district to the Fiddich. These streams abound with trout, which, as well as grilse and salmon, are also found in the Spey.

The soil in some parts is gravelly, and in others sandy, but is more frequently clayey, and very retentive of moisture. All sorts of grain are raised, the wheat in small quantity, and most kinds of grasses and green crops. Much attention is paid to turnips, the growth of which has increased of late years, and large applications of bone-manure have been made, with great success. Lint also is cultivated, but oats of excellent quality are the staple article. Lime is extensively used for agricultural purposes, and draining and the improvement of waste land have been carried on with spirit; good inclosures and farm-buildings are still much needed, though in several parts the latter have been greatly improved. The black-cattle, which are small in size, are chiefly the Highland and Aberdeenshire, and the sheep are the Leicesters and the Linton, the former kept on the lower, and the latter on the higher, grounds; there are some sheep also of the large English breed, valued for the wool. The annual value of real property is £3764.

Gneiss is the prevailing rock in the southern portion of the district. Talc-slate is found in the principal valley, and up to the summit of the hills, traversed by veins of quartz, and by a strip of primitive limestone originating in the great limestone formation of Banffshire. This last is wrought for burning into lime, and also for building, being well adapted for the latter purpose on account of a siliceous mixture. The rocks in the valley of the Spey are gneiss and quartz, in some places overlaid by a large deposit of red clay and gravel, spreading itself extensively in several directions. Boulders of granite and hornblende are numerous, and supply an excellent material for buildings. Mica-slate is also found in large beds.The woods and plantations form a prominent feature in the scenery, and comprise almost every description of trees grown in the country. In the south-west corner of the parish, on the bank of the Spey, is the mansion-house of Arndilly, occupying an eminence once the site of the church, the remains of which were removed to make way for the present residence, and the ancient glebe now forms part of the lawn before the mansion. It is situated in a recess of Benagen, nearly surrounded by wood, with the river in front, and commanding fine views. The only other mansion is Auchlunkart, a spacious residence in the midst of plantations, and enlivened by a pleasing brook; it has a colonnade and portico in the Grecian style, and a conservatory, attached to the southern portion, communicating with the drawing-room.

Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Aberlour, synod of Moray, and in the patronage of the Crown and the Earl of Fife; the minister's stipend is above £200, with a manse, built in 1811, and a glebe valued at £22. 10. per annum. The church and manse stand nearly in the centre of the parish, upon the boundary line of the old parish and the annexed portion of Dundurcus; the church was built in 1793, and accommodates 700 persons. The parochial, or grammar, school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house, £17 fees, and a portion of the Dick bequest. Boharm has also a parochial library, and a savings' bank instituted in 1821. The castle of Bucharin, now Galval, supposed to have been built by the Freskyns, is the chief antiquity, forming a fine ruin, situated on an eminence between the brooks Aldernie and Fiddich: silver spoons were found under the buildings some years since; and lately, from beneath a stone in the floor of the oratory, a silver ring was taken up, on which was a small shield, with two martial figures. James Ferguson, the celebrated astronomer, received the rudiments of his education here; he died in the year 1766.

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