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Durris, Kincardineshire

Historical Description

DURRIS, a parish, in the county of Kincardine 5 miles (E.) from Banchory-Ternan, and 13 (W. S. W.) from Aberdeen; containing 1109 inhabitants. It is supposed to derive its name, often pronounced Dores, from a Gaelic word signifying a mouth or entrance, which is descriptive of this part as affording a principal entrance into the Highlands. The parish was once a chapelry belonging, as is generally thought, to the ancient order of Knights Templars; but its primitive history is involved in considerable obscurity. The estate of Durris, which extends into the neighbouring parish of Banchory-Ternan, was formerly in the possession of Lord Peterborough, who let it upon lease to the late John Innes, Esq., of Leuchars, near Elgin. On the reduction of this lease by the supreme court, the property came into the hands of Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon, as next heir of entail; and by authority of an act of parliament transferring the entail to other lands, the estate was purchased from the fifth and last duke in 1834 by Anthony Mactier, Esq., late of Calcutta, by whom it is at present held. The parish is five and a half miles long, about three and three-quarters broad, and contains about 17,000 acres. It is bounded on the north by the river Dee, which separates it from the parish of Banchory-Ternan, and from Drumoak in Aberdeenshire; and on the south by the Grampian mountains. The surface is marived by great irregularities, consisting of considerable tracts of flat ground, alternated with abrupt acclivities and the lofty hills of Mindernal, Mountpower, Craigberg, and Cairnmonearn, the last of which rises about 1200 feet above the level of the sea. There are several rivulets, but the only one worth notice is the Shiach burn, which, after a rapid course of twelve miles, falls into the Dee at the church.

The SOIL on the haugh lands by the river side is in some parts a rich and fertile loam, and in others light and sandy; in a few places the soil has a mixture of clay and gravel to a considerable extent, and rests upon a stiff tenacious subsoil. In almost every direction throughout the parish, and even in the cultivated fields, occur enormous masses of gneiss. The hills are usually covered with two or three feet of moss and heath, but the naked rocks often protrude; in the hollows at the base is a greater depth of moss, supplying peat in large quantities and of the best description. Upwards of 4000 acres are under tillage, about 1500 in plantations, and the rest in pasture, moss, and moor, 1000 acres of which are capable of improvement at a moderate expense; oats and barley are the grain raised, and of the green crops turnips and potatoes are the chief. The sheep are the black-faced, and the cattle the black-dodded kind, to which the Ayrshire breed has lately been added. The five and the six years' rotations of crops are generally followed; the farm-buildings are in good repair, and all belong to the proprietor. Draining on the plan of Mr. Smith of Deanston has been carried on to a great extent; large tracts have been reclaimed, and the appearance of the estate has been entirely changed, since it came into the hands of Mr. Mactier. The rocks consist principally of granite, whinstone, and gneiss, the last of which is most abundant, and appears to be inexhaustible; there is limestone in several places, but it has never been quarried, and its precise quality is not known. The annual value of real property within the parish is £3778. The chief house is that of Durris, comprising a modern structure connected with a more ancient mansion by an extensive colonnade: both have lately been subject to considerable additions and alterations. There is no village. A turnpike-road runs through the parish for about four miles, leading from Stonehaven to Banchory; a new road from Aberdeen to Banchory, completed in 1840, passes through from east to west, and several cross roads are well adapted to local convenience. Fairs are held in May, June, and September, for the sale of cattle and sheep. There are two or three salmon-fisheries in the river, but they have for some time past been decreasing, and are now in a very low condition.

Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery and synod of Aberdeen; patron, Mr. Mactier. The stipend of the minister is £158, of which £81 are received from the exchequer; and there is a manse, with a glebe of fifteen acres, valued at as many pounds per annum. Durris church, a very plain edifice, was built in the year 1822 by the late proprietor, and accommodates 550 persons with sittings: part of the old church still remains, bearing the date 1537. There is a parochial school, at which Latin is taught, with the usual branches of a plain education; the master has a salary of £29, with £20 fees. Another school, commonly called Hogg's Charity School, was instituted by Mr. Hogg, a native of the parish, who left £5 per annum to a teacher, who was required to educate gratuitously ten poor children recommended by the Kirk Session. The master has also £4 per annum, the interest of money left for the support of the school; a small plot of land, given by the late proprietor; and the fees, making in the whole an income of about £30 a year. The same branches are taught in this school as in the parochial school, Latin excepted. There are some Druidical remains, and tumuli, and several chalybeate springs in the parish: one of the last, called Red-Beard's Well, from a robber of that name, who is said to have lived in a neighbouring cave, is in considerable repute, and in many respects resembles the Harrogate chalybeate water.

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