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Drumoak, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

DRUMOAK, a parish, chiefly in the district and county of Aberdeen, and partly in the county of Kincardine, 11 miles (W. S. W.) from Aberdeen; containing 811 inhabitants. Its original name was Dalmaik, by which it is still generally called by the inhabitants, though the denomination of Drumoak has also been used for more than 300 years. The latter appellation is said to be derived from the Gaelic word drum, signifying the ridge of a hill, and from Moloch, corrupted into Moak, the name of a celebrated saint to whose honour a monastery was erected in St. Servanus' isle, on the water of Leven. Dalmaik is compounded of the Gaelic dal, a haugh or valley, and St. Moloch, corrupted into Maik; and signifies the valley of St. Moloch, a description applicable to the district containing the ruins of the old church, near which is a well called St. Maik's Well. The lands in the parish belong to four proprietors. The estate of Drum comprehends one-half of the whole, and is possessed by the Irvine family, the first of whom, William de Irvin, was armour-bearer to Robert Bruce, and was rewarded by him for his zeal and fidelity with a grant of the forest of Drum, one of the hunting-seats of the kings of Scotland, conveyed to Irvin by charter under the great seal in 1323. Part of the lands of Leys is also comprised in the parish: it is situated in Kincardineshire, and has been held for more than 500 years by the ancestors of the present proprietor, Sir Thomas Burnet, Bart. The lands of Park formed part of the chase attached to the royal forest of Drum, and having been reserved by Robert when he made the grant of the forest, were given by David Bruce to Walter Moigne, since which they have passed through different families. The lands of Culter formerly belonged to the family of Drum; and almost the whole of that portion of them which lies within this parish, has lately been purchased by Mr. Irvine, and reunited to the Drum estate.

The PARISH approaches in figure to a triangle, but the outline is very irregular. It measures six miles in length, and averages two in breadth, comprising 7190 acres, of which 1797 are in the county of Kincardine. Of the Aberdeenshire portion 3467 acres are under cultivation, 485 are waste or continual pasture (including 80 acres capable of improvement), and 1441 are occupied by wood; of the Kincardineshire portion 798 acres are under cultivation, 793 waste or continual pasture (300 being capable of improvement), and 206 are in wood. The surface is agreeably varied by gentle undulations, rising from the boundaries on all sides but the east to the Drum hill in the centre, which is 500 feet above the level of the sea. In the eastern part the Ord hill attains an abrupt elevation of 430 feet, and its ridge stretches to the boundary of the parish in that direction. The most extensive and beautiful prospect in the neighbourhood is obtained from the southern peak of Drum hill, comprehending a tract stretching almost from the German Ocean on the east along the valley of the Dee, which river forms the southern boundary of the parish, and closed on the south by the Grampian range, and on the west by lofty mountains often topped with snow. The Dee has long been celebrated for its fine salmon: the fisheries were once much more profitable than they are at present in this locality, a diminution in the number of fish having been caused by stake and bag nets being thickly planted along the coast, and at the river's mouth. The loch of Drum, a fine sheet of water, of oblong form, covers nearly eighty-five acres, and is highly ornamental, its margin being beautifully fringed with alders, and three of its sides dressed with thriving plantations of larch, birch, and Scotch fir. Excellent pike, numerous eels, and a few perch are found in the loch, and common trout are taken by angling in the burns of Gormac and Culter, which separate this parish on the north from those of Echt and Peterculter. These fish also are all found in the pellucid stream of the Dee, with par, seatrout, white trout, and flounders.

The SOIL is mostly of inferior quality, and on account of its general dryness, occasioned partly by a gravelly and porous subsoil, the farmers have much to contend with. The lands near the river are light and sandy, incumbent on gravel, and when penetrated by the heat of the sun in scorching summers, are dried up; the parts, however, which have been the lousiest under cultivation and most manured, are rich and loamy, bearing good crops. In the other portions of the parish the land is either thin and moorish, resting on till or some retentive subsoil, or consists of beds of peat, in which many fragments of trees are found, and from which, though to a great extent exhausted, fuel is still partly obtained for the supply of the parish. All kinds of grain are raised, with turnips, potatoes, and hay. The number of sheep has been greatly reduced in consequence of the conversion of large tracts of pasture into arable ground; the black-cattle are the Aberdeenshire polled breed, variously crossed, and lately much improved, and many swine are reared both for domestic use and for the pork-curers at Aberdeen. The prevailing system of husbandry is the seven-shift course, and large quantities of bone-dust are applied as manure. A considerable portion of marshy land has been reclaimed, and embankments have been raised at a great cost on the estate of Park. The annual value of real property in Drumoak is £2532. The rocks in the parish are of little interest, consisting chiefly of gneiss and granite, boulders of which are abundant, and are used for the erection of fences and farm-steadings. The wood principally comprises larch and Scotch fir, intermixed with birch and other trees; and very fine specimens of old oak, ash, plane, and elm adorn the grounds belonging to the mansion of Drum. This mansion is a spacious edifice in the Elizabethan style, built in 1619, with a venerable tower adjoining, supposed to have been erected in the twelfth century. The mansion of Park is also a handsome structure, in the Grecian style of architecture, built in 1822, and surrounded with extensive and well laid-out pleasure-grounds. The turnpike-road from Aberdeen to Braemar passes through the whole length of the parish. Fairs for the sale of cattle are held at Park Inn on the first Monday in January, the first Monday in April, the Monday after the second Tuesday in May, the second Tuesday in July (O. S.), and the Tuesday before the 22nd of November. They are of recent institution, and are badly attended.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery and synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of Alexander Irvine, Esq.: the minister's stipend is £158, of which upwards of a third is received from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £11 per annum. Drumoak old church, removed in 1835, is supposed to have stood about 300 years, and was inconveniently situated on a strip of land stretching into the parish of Peterculter. The present structure, placed on nearly a central spot, is a neat and comfortable place of worship, raised at an expense of about £1000, and contains 630 sittings. A parochial subscription library was instituted in 1827, and comprises upwards of 300 volumes. The parochial school affords instruction in Latin and mathematics, in addition to the ordinary branches; the master has a salary of £30, with about £11 fees, and receives £10 in meal, for teaching twelve poor children, left by the family of Drum. James Gregory, the inventor of the reflecting-telescope, was a native of the parish. On Her Majesty's visit to Scotland in September 1848, the royal party passed through this parish on their way from Aberdeen to Balmoral.

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