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Duthil, Elginshire

Historical Description

DUTHIL, a parish, partly in the county of Elgin, and partly in the county of Inverness; comprising the district of Rothiemurchus, and containing in the whole parish 1769 inhabitants: the church is distant 2 miles (N. E.) from Carr-Bridge, and 7½ (W.) from the village of Grantown. Duthil proper is situated on the north side of the river Spey, in the county of Elgin, and Rothiemurchus on the south of the river, in the county of Inverness. They were united in 1630, but still had distinct places of worship, and a glebe in each parish. In 1830 Rothiemurchus was erected into a parliamentary parish, with a manse and glebe to the minister, and a stipend of £120 per annum: it is more fully described under its own head. In ancient times Duthil was called Gleann-chearnach, that is, "the glen of heroes". Its present name was given to it after the year 1400, when Matilda Gumming, called Bigla beg because she was of small stature, the heiress of Gilbert Gumming of Gleann-chearnach, and proprietrix of these lands, residing in the castle of Dunmuilzie, on the banks of the Spey, near the church, then situated on the Deiser, fixed on another site for public worship, and built a new church, which was at length thrown down in 1826 in order to erect the present building. The new site was chosen, that she might have the pleasure of a longer ride on Sunday to hear mass and attend worship; and in order to distinguish it from the old place, which is on the south side of the ridge of hills between the Spey and the Dulnan, still called Deiser or Deasail, in Gaelic signifying "southward or southerly", the new church, being on the north side of the ridge and of the Dulraan, was called Tuathail, signifying "northward or northerly". Hence the modern name of the parish.

Duthil proper is wholly situated in the southern part of the county of Elgin, on the north-eastern bank of the Spey, and in a mountainous and thickly-wooded tract, in ancient times an almost impenetrable forest; it was the scene of many deadly feuds between rival chieftains in past ages, and the residence of the powerful Cummings or Cumyns. This family possessed the principal part of the estates, and for many generations maintained hostilities with the Grants; but the enmity between the clans was ended by the marriage of the before-mentioned Matilda, heiress of one of the Cumyns, to Sir John Grant of Freuchy, the great rival, thereby fixing the property in the family of Grant, with whom it has remained to the present time. Duthil proper measures about sixteen miles in length and thirteen in breadth, and comprises a large proportion of uncultivated ground, and of natural wood, consisting chiefly of fir; the part under tillage being of small extent. The surface presents a hilly, bleak, and dreary aspect, the scenery taking its principal character from the extensive moors and mountains, the latter covered with heather, and the whole only occasionally interspersed with patches of grass or corn land. A lofty range traverses the entire northern side, and terminates in the Monadhlia, an imposing chain of mountains common to the districts of Badenoch, Strathdearn, and Stratherrick. Parallel with this, but not of equal height, a ridge passes along the southern portion, bleak and barren like the other. These two ranges skirt the intermediate valley of the Dulnan stream, which takes its rise in the Badenoch hills, and flowing through the vale from west to east, loses itself in the Spey at Belentomb of Inverallen, five miles below the church of Duthil. Though generally small, it overflows its banks when swollen after rain or snow, and carries desolation among the neighbouring lands. Hence its name, Dulnan, or Tuilnean, in Gaelic signifying "floods". The forest of Duthil or Dulnanside was destroyed by fire at the beginning of the last century, an event which was the occasion of the final extirpation of the wolves, so long before the terror of the neighbourhood. There is still, however, a large forest of natural Scotch fir in the northern district, where two saw-mills, of two saws each, have been erected for cutting the timber felled in the locality, the mills being turned by the waters of the Dulnan. The lochs are of small extent, but some of them contain fine trout, especially Loch Bhruach, situated on the northern hills; in others are pike; and salmon and trout are taken in the rivers.

The SOIL near the Dulnan and the Spey is chiefly alluvial, upon a deep clayey subsoil, producing in favourable seasons heavy crops of oats. Some of the higher grounds, also, though the soil is thin and gravelly, and intermixed with stones, yield notwithstanding, through the recent improvements in cultivation, and when aided by genial seasons, an ample return in oats, bear, barley, turnips, and potatoes. The system of husbandry has been greatly improved within the last twenty or thirty years: the five-shift course is usually followed; much waste ground has been reclaimed, and the former huts of the farmers, raised with turf, have been replaced by well-built stone dwellings, neatly thatched with straw. Birch, alder, and fir thrive well here, and the first, which grows naturally to a considerable extent, greatly relieves the generally uninteresting scenery: an extensive tract of barren moor along the northern bank of the Spey was planted by the late Sir James Grant upwards of half a century since, and the trees are now in a flourishing condition. The annual value of real property in Duthil and Rothiemurchus is £2674. The Highland road between Perth and Inverness passes through the parish for about fourteen miles; and from the hamlet of Carrbridge, where a post-office was established in 1836, a road branches off to Grantown. Besides the bridge at the hamlet, there is one at Sluggan, built shortly after the year 1745, on the line of road formed under the direction of General Wade; but it has been almost impassable since the flood of 1829. The cattle of the district are sold at neighbouring markets to the southcountry dealers: the timber cut in the forest is sent partly down the Spey, but chiefly by land-carriage to Inverness. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Abernethy, synod of Moray, and in the patronage of the Earl of Seafield: the minister's stipend is about £200, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £5 per annum. Duthil church is a commodious edifice, built in 1826, and accommodating between 800 and 900 persons with sittings: a handsome mausoleum of grey granite has lately been erected over the burial-ground of the Grant family. Earls of Seafield. Rothiemurchus church is thirteen miles distant from the parish church. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £25. 13., with about £12 or £15 fees, and £32 from the Dick bequest, besides a house, and a quarter of an acre of ground for a garden. There is a school endowed by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and another is supported by the education scheme of the General Assembly: there is also a female school endowed by the above society and the Rev. William Grant, minister of the parish.

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