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Cabrach, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

CABRACH, commonly called THE CABRACH, a parish, partly in the district of ALFORD, county of ABERDEEN, but chiefly in the county of BANFF, 12 miles (W.) from Clatt; containing 827 inhabitants. This parish extends in length from north to south about twelve miles, and about five miles in breadth in the upper end, and three in the lower. The portion in the county of Aberdeen consists of a deep tract in the form of a basin, surrounded by hills, the highest of which is the Buck, on the south, rising to the height of 2130 feet. This part of the parish abounds much with moss and fir roots, and hence arose the name of the whole parish, from certain Gaelic terms signifying "the timber moss". The Banffshire portion, which is separated from the former for about two miles by intervening hills, juts out into three glens or valleys, skirted by lofty eminences, and stretching along the courses of their different streams, the Blackwater, Doveron, &c. Another river, in the upper part of the parish, is called Ruster. The surface is exceedingly rugged, and the entire district bleak, wild, and mountainous, being occupied, to a great extent, with tracts of peat-moss, affording an inexhaustible supply of fuel; large moors abounding with grouse, partridges, hares, and almost every kind of game; and waste land incapable of cultivation. The parts under tillage bear a very small proportion to the aggregate number of acres. Green crops, and grass for hay, thrive better than grain; oats and bear, which are the kinds of grain chiefly sown, seldom come to maturity, especially in the higher district, except in fine seasons. In the lower district, the climate is much more mild, and not so subject to frosts. The inhabitants engage in agricultural pursuits with great spirit, and have introduced most of the improvements of the southern parts. A considerable extent of waste has also been brought under tillage within the present century, and inclosures of various kinds are in progress; but the bad state of the roads, and the want of sufficient capital for their repair or enlargement, render agricultural improvement difficult. The cattle are the black native breed, large numbers of which are reared, with a good many sheep; and much of the stock is sent for sale to the markets in the south, as well as to the surrounding districts, most of the farmers being cattle-dealers. The annual value of real property in the parish is £2462, being £1632 for the Banffshire portion, and £830 for the Aberdeenshire portion.

The district abounds with limestone; and a small grey slate is occasionally dug up, and used chiefly for building within the locality: small garnets are found in a sort of serpentine, about two miles south of the manse; and asbestos, about two miles west, in great abundance. The mountain streams supply abundance of trout; the Doveron, which rises here in several heads, contains excellent salmon, and in addition to the game upon the moors, the forests of Glen-fiddich and Blackwater are well stocked with fine deer. There were formerly two establishments for the distillation of malt spirits, producing 10,000 gallons annually. An annual market is held on the Thursday after the third Tuesday in July (O. S.), and another on the Monday before the second Tuesday in October (O. S.), chiefly for the sale of black-cattle bred here. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Alford, synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of the Duke of Richmond: the stipend is £158. 6. 7., of which nearly half is received from the exchequer; there is a manse, built in 1802, and the glebe consists of about twenty-eight acres, valued at £10 per annum. The church is a plain edifice, erected about 1786. The parochial schoolmaster receives a salary of £32. 2., with a few pounds derived from fees. Another school has a small endowment from the Duke of Richmoud. On the farm of Spenwell, at a place called "King's haugh", is an ancient ruin, traditionally reported to have been the residence of Malcolm Canmore, and near Lesmurdie, on the north bank of the Doveron, are the remains of a chapel and burying-ground. Cabrach lays claim to the old ballad and beautiful tune of "Roy's Wife of Aldiwalloch"; the walls of Roy's house are still standing, and several of his descendants live in the parish.

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