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Duffus, Elginshire

Historical Description

DUFFUS, a parish, in the county of Elgin; including the villages of Burgh-Head, Cummingston, New Duffus, and Hopeman; and containing 2529 inhabitants. The name of Duffus is supposed to be derived from the Gaelic word Dubuist, signifying the black lake, in reference to the lake of Spynie, now drained, or to some other lake of which there is no trace left. The parish was formerly remarkable for its castle, and as the scene of military operations; and there are several monuments of antiquity still remaining, with which its ancient history is closely interwoven. The most interesting relics are those of fortifications at Burgh-Head, by some thought to be Roman, and by others considered Danish, but most probably originally constructed by the Romans, and afterwards occupied by the Danes. The works were divided into two parts, a higher and a lower, and presented four strong ramparts, built with oaken logs, directed towards the small isthmus upon which the village of Burgh-Head now stands. A few years ago an obelisk was standing nearly in the centre of the parish, thought to have been erected by Malcolm II., in memory of a victory over the Danes under Camus; and not far from it there was once a village called Kaim, supposed to be the same as that mentioned by the historian Buchanan as retaining the memorable name of Camus. The village is now removed, but the place nevertheless retains the appellation of Kaim. Duffus Castle, the picturesque ruins of which are still visible, was the ancient seat of the lords of that name, a branch of the noble family of Sutherland, and who yet bear the title, recently restored from attainder, though they now possess no property in the district.

The PARISH is nearly six miles long and three broad, containing about 10,000 acres, and lying along the Moray Firth, by which it is bounded on the north. The coast at the east end is rocky and very bold, and contains some large and remarkable caverns; in the western part it consists of a level sandy beach. Along the shore, and for half a mile inland, the surface is mostly meagre pasture, supposed to have been once richly-cultivated land, and to have been reduced to its present condition by the blowing of sand from the western beach. The remaining part of the parish, with the exception of two slight acclivities, is a continuous plain of good ground in a high state of tillage. With respect to climate, the parish is highly favoured: the finest stone fruits ripen on the open wall, and the more rare and delicate flowers and shrubs attain a luxuriant growth, and prolong their blossoming until December. In the western district the soil is a black fertile earth, mixed in some places with sand; in the eastern quarter it is a deep rich clay, similar in many respects to the fine soil of the well-known Carse of Gowrie. The number of arable acres is 5381, in pasture 2962, and 310 are in wood: grain is produced of excellent quality, and to a considerable extent, greatly predominating in amount over the green crops, the annual value of the former being four times that of the latter. The cattle are of the Morayshire breed, which is very similar to the Highland, but more bulky: they have been recently crossed and varied with the Teeswater and other esteemed breeds. The best method of cultivation prevails, and many improvements in every department of husbandry have taken place; the farm-buildings are generally thatched with straw, but are substantial, and of suitable extent. The rocks consist of sandstone and limestone, of each of which there are quarries. The annual value of real property in the parish is £7902. Among the residences is Duffus House, a commodious and handsome mansion in the old English manorial style. The village of Duffus is regularly built, and is a neat, clean, and interesting place. The chief communication of the people is with the town of Elgin, to which there is a good turnpike-road; and a light post curricle brings the mail. Burgh-Head has an excellent harbour, and regular steam communication with Leith and London. There are three fisheries carried on, namely, a salmon, a herring, and a white fishery, which generally prove very profitable. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Elgin and synod of Moray; patron. Sir Archibald Dunbar, of Northfield, Bart. The minister's stipend is about £250, with an excellent manse, built in 1830, and a glebe of the annual value of £18. Duffus church, situated in the eastern extremity of the parish, at a very inconvenient distance from the bulk of the population, is an old and ill-constructed edifice of unsightly appearance, with a very picturesque and ancient porch; it was repaired in the year 1782, and is in good condition. There is a chapel of ease at Burgh-Head, where are also two dissenters' meeting-houses; and near Kaim is an episcopal chapel. A parochial school is supported, in which the classics and mathematics are taught, with the usual branches of education; the master has a salary of £36, a portion of Dick's bequest, about £12 fees, and a house and garden. There are several other excellent schools in the parish.

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