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Craig, Forfarshire

Historical Description

CRAIG, a parish, in the county of FORFAR, ½ a mile (S. by W.) from Montrose, containing, with the villages of Ferryden, Usan, and Rossie, 1945 inhabitants. This place was formerly called Inchbraynck, "the island of trout", by which name an island of forty-three acres within the parish is still known. Craig was at that time only the designation of one of the chief estates, and it is supposed that, when the place of worship was transferred from the island to the property of Craig on the continental part of the district, the name of Craig, which is naturally derived from the rocky nature of the shore, was extended to the whole of the parish. The parish comprehends two distinct titularities, viz. Craig and St. Skeoch, which were united in the year 1618, and the latter of which, pronounced St. Skay, is said to have received its name from one of the northern saints. The site of an ancient religious edifice on the coast is still called the chapel of St. Skay; a small burying-place round the spot is occasionally used for interments, and the site of the manse is pointed out in a neighbouring field. Craig appears to have been a feudal barony, a field behind the house being still called Law-field; an adjoining farm-steading is styled Balgovie, that is Withie, or prison-house, and a rising ground on the property bears the name of Govan-hill, the Withie-hill, or place of execution.

The PARISH is about six miles long, and two miles and a half in extreme breadth, comprising 5138 acres, 2 roods, 37 perches of land. It is partly bounded by a basin about nine miles in circumference, through which the river South Esk flows into the sea, and which is filled with the tide at high water. This basin separates the parish on the north from the town and harbour of Montrose, and on the south-east is the German Ocean. The surface gradually rises from the north and east towards the south-west, where it attains a height of 400 feet above the level of the sea. The coast is rocky, and towards the south quite precipitous; it forms about five miles of the boundary line of the parish, and has Montrose bay and ness on the north, and Lunan bay and Boddin point on the south. The shores abound in all kinds of fish, which are taken in great numbers in the respective seasons. In the middle of the parish the soil is a strong rich loam; towards the eastern quarter it is sandy, and in some places, especially in the western portion, it is damp and moorish. About 3509 acres are cultivated, 331 waste or pasture, 757 undivided common belonging to the parishes of Craig, Marytown, Farnell, and Kinnell, and 291 acres are in wood, comprising almost all the kinds of trees usually grown. Grain of every kind, and the principal green crops, are cultivated in the parish; and as the husbandry adopted comprehends all the most approved usages, the crops, both as to quantity and quality, are in general of a superior character. The cattle are the Angusshire black, without horns, and the sheep are chiefly the black-faced Highland breed. The annual value of real property in the parish is £9645.

The rocks consist of the old red sandstone and limestone, intermixed with several varieties of trap, in which very fine specimens of the Scotch pebble are often found embedded. There are some quarries of the trap formation, and the produce is in considerable demand for building, but requires, for facings, the more ornamental material of sandstone. The mansions are, the house of Rossie, built in 1800; the villa of Inchbrayock, built in 1813; the house of Usan, in 1820; and that of Dunninald, in 1825. A few of the inhabitants are employed in manufactures; but the principal attention of the population is divided between agriculture and fishing, the produce of the latter of which amounts in value to about £7000 annually: the salmon taken are mostly packed in ice, and sent to the Edinburgh and London markets. The turnpike-road from Montrose to Arbroath passes through the parish, and during the summer the steamboat from Aberdeen to Leith touches at the village of Usan. There are harbours at Ferryden and Boddin, large enough for the use of small sloops with coal and lime, and piers and warehouses are expected shortly to be built at Ferryden: the dues belong to the town of Montrose. Facility of intercourse is afforded by several bridges, the chief of which is a magnificent suspension-bridge over the South Esk, opening up an immediate communication with Montrose.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Brechin, synod of Angus and Mearns, patrons, the College of St. Mary, in St. Andrew's. The stipend is £257, and there is a good manse, built in 1805, with a glebe valued at £24 per annum. Craig church, which is an elegant structure, with a square tower eighty feet high, was built in 1799 at the expense of the late Mrs. Ross of Rossie, and for many years after its erection was the only church in the county possessed of any architectural beauty: it contains 800 sittings. A place of worship has been erected in connexion with the Free Church. There is a parochial school, in which the classics, mathematics, navigation, and all the usual branches of education are taught; the master has a good house and garden, with a salary of £34, and about £17 fees. The parish also contains three libraries, to which the inhabitants have access gratis; two of these are small, but the third, instituted in 1809, consists of nearly 600 volumes, and has proved of great utility. Among the chief remains of antiquity is the Castle of Craig, situated on the northern side of the parish, and formerly a place of considerable strength; it has a square tower and gateway, apparently of great age, but in good preservation, and a part of it, bearing the date of 1634, is still occupied as a dwelling-house. Near Boddin, on the south coast, are the remains of an old castle called Black Jack, supposed to have been thus named in comparison with Red Castle on the opposite side of the bay. A strong earthen fort, also, with out-works, and accommodation within for men and ammunition, was to be seen a few years ago, at the point where the South Esk falls into the sea; it is said to have been used in Cromwell's time, but it is not known by whom it was built: cannon were placed at it in 1745. The eloquent and pious Archbishop Leighton was descended from a family of some celebrity in former times, who were proprietors of the lands of Usan, and the well-known Andrew Melville was born at Baldovie, in the northern part of the parish.

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