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Dunnichen, Forfarshire

Historical Description

DUNNICHEN, a parish, in the county of Forfar; including the villages of Bowriefauld, Cotton of Lownie, Craichie, Drummetermont, and Letham; and containing 1625 inhabitants, of whom 54 are in the village of Dunnichen, 3½ miles (E. S. E.) from Forfar. This place, which is of considerable antiquity, derives its name, signifying in the Gaelic language "the hill or fort of the valley", from a prominent hill overlooking the vale of Lunan, and on which are still some remains of an ancient fort of loose stones, though the greater part has been removed to furnish materials for inclosing the lands. A battle is supposed to have been fought here at some remote period, which tradition refers to the time of Arthur, King of the Britons; but no authentic account of it has been recorded. Numerous graves, evidently of warriors, have at various times been discovered by the plough, filled with human bones, and some of them containing urns of red clay rudely ornamented and holding ashes. The parish comprises an area of more than 5000 acres. Its surface is gently undulated, rising in some places into hills, the two highest of which are Dunnichen hill, having an elevation of about 800, and Dunbarrow, an elevation of 700, feet above the level of the sea. Dunnichen hill, which is cultivated from its base to the summit, and interspersed with thriving plantations, forms a pleasing feature in the landscape, and commands a richly-varied and extensive prospect over the whole vale of Lunan to the east, and Forfar and Strathmore to the west, the view terminating in the distance in the Grampian range. The Vinney water, which has its source in the parish of Forfar, collects various inconsiderable tributaries in its course through this parish, and falls into the Lunan in the parish of Kirkden. A loch formerly covered an area of fifty acres, but it has been partially drained, and converted into pasture land; on the north side of it is a small chalybeate spring, strongly impregnated, and near the base of Dunbarrow is a much more copious spring, of similar quality but less power.

The SOIL in the higher grounds is a shallow friable loam intermixed with sand, which becomes deeper and richer towards the lower lands, where there is generally a clayey loam. Of the whole number of acres about 4000 are cultivated or occasionally in tillage, upwards of 500 in wood, and the remainder, much of which might be reclaimed and brought into cultivation, is rough pasture and waste. The crops are, grain of all kinds, potatoes, and turnips; the system of agriculture is in an advanced state. Bone-dust has been introduced for manure on turnip land, and shell-marl, by which the soil in many parts has been much improved, is procured in abundance from the lake of Restenneth, in the parish of Forfar. Considerable attention is paid to the improvement of live stock, and the dairy-farms are well managed; the cattle are chiefly the Galloway, with a few of the Fife and Teeswater breeds. No sheep are reared, but great numbers are sent hither from the Grampians to be fed on turnips during the winter, and many cattle of all breeds, bought at the neighbouring fairs, are pastured here. The plantations, being duly thinned, are in a flourishing state. The substrata of the parish are chiefly sandstone or freestone, with portions of greenstone occurring occasionally, and in detached situations; the sandstone frequently contains rounded pebbles of jasper, quartz, and agate. In the trap rocks of Dunbarrow is often found a siliceous incrustation, in which rock crystals are embedded; and in and near the summit of Dunnichen are several masses of granite and mica-slate. The sandstone, which is generally of a greyish white, and sometimes inclining to blue, is extensively quarried at Dunnichen; it produces excellent millstones and other blocks of very large dimensions, which may be easily cut, and are susceptible of a high polish, but, if suffered to remain long after being taken from the quarry, acquire a degree of hardness that bids defiance to any tool. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4600.

Dunnichen House is pleasantly situated on the southern slope of the hill, near its base, and commands an extensive and pleasingly-varied view; the demesne is richly planted, and is rapidly improving under the spirited management of its proprietor. The principal manufacture carried on in the parish is the weaving of coarse linen-cloth called Osnaburghs, and linens of finer texture for sheeting and shirting. Fairs are held at Letham twice in the year, for cattle, and the hiring of farm-servants; and a fair is also held in the Kirkton on the third Wednesday in March, O.S. The roads formerly afforded very few facilities of communication with the neighbouring places; but a new road from Dundee to Brechin has been completed, greatly tending to increase the intercourse with the larger towns. For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Forfar, and synod of Angus and Mcarns; patron, the Crown. The stipend of the incumbent is £158, of which £38 are received from government: the manse was built in 1815, in a very superficial manner; the glebe land is valued at £11 per annum. Dunnichen church, seated on an eminence in the small hamlet of Kirkton, was erected in 1802, but from the dampness of the situation, and the bad construction of the roof, which was covered with flags of sandstone, it was found necessary in 1817 to cover it with a new roof of slate: it is a plain edifice adapted for a congregation of 456 persons. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, Congregationalists, and the United Presbyterian Synod. The parochial school, situated in the hamlet of Craichie, allords a liberal course of instruction; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £6 per annum. On the area of the ancient fort was found, after the removal of the stones of the building, a thick bed of ashes mixed with numerous human bones, and in one part was discovered a number of small golden balls, thought to have been the current coin of the realm at the period of its erection. The late George Dempster, Esq., for many years representative of the county, was a native of this parish.

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