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Fearn, Forfarshire

Historical Description

FEARN, a parish, in the county of Forfar, 8 miles (W.) from Brechin, and 9 (N.) from Forfar, the county town; containing 404 inhabitants. This parish not long ago had its proportion of Urns, cairns, and Druidical remains; but almost the only vestige of ancient times now visible is the castle of the Vane. The name of the structure is doubtless a corruption of the word Ba7ie, signifying "white" or "fair", and the castle is said to have been built for the residence of a lady of that name, by Cardinal Beaton, who lived in the former half of the sixteenth century. Tradition reports that the secret cause of Colessie's defection at the battle of Brechin, in the year 1452, proceeded from a refusal on the part of Crawford to put him in possession of the barony of Fearn as a proper reward for his services: the result of the battle was fatal to Crawford and his coalition, and the family of Stuart was again firmly established on the throne. The extreme length of the parish is nearly seven miles, and at several points it is nearly three in breadth. On the east' it is bounded by the parishes of Careston and Menmuir, on the north by the united parish of Lethnot and Navar, and on the south and west by the parish of Tannadice. The surface is rather strongly marked by two ridges, running parallel to each other and to the Grampian range, and the one rising so considerably above the other as to exhibit, at a httle distance, the appearance of one continued declivity from the Grampian summits to the valley of Strathmore. There are two small streams, one the Cruach (or Hunchback, a name rather singularly applicable), which winds diagonally through the middle of the parish, and the other the Noran, which, from the point where it comes in contact, forms the south-west boundary of the parish. This latter stream falls into the Southesk; its waters are proverbially crystalline, and the banks generally picturesque and beautiful. Upon a careful examination of topographical landmarks, few would hesitate to conclude, that at some former period the Noran joined the Cruach, first by one channel, and then by another; that, thus united, they both fell into the Northesk; and that the channel by which the Noran enters the Southesk, is one of the most recent instances in the country of a river-channel that has been scooped out of a rocky field. Very little more than a slight embankment would still give the streams one course, and empty both into the Northesk, seven or eight miles to the north of the present junction of the Cruach with the Northesk.

On the southern declivities the soil in general is rich and fertile, and on the northern obdurate and barren. The whole extent of the arable surface is little short of 3100 acres, divided into sixteen farms of unequal size; there may be about 330 acres under plantation, and the remainder is quite in its natural state, open, and overgrown with heath, whins, and broom. At one time, the growth of wheat had its share of attention; but this crop is now altogether superseded by the alternations of green crops with oats and barley. The deep free loam upon which the farmers work gives them plentiful returns of these, followed by a pasturage unsurpassed for richness and abundance by any section of the county. The minerals are such as are common in the neighbourhood, with the exception of a red argillaceous rock which decomposes upon exposure to the atmosphere, and is known by the local name of kalm. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4270. Noranside is a respectable modern mansion here, beautifully wooded, and commanding a singularly extensive view of Strathmore from east to west. Fearn parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Brechin, synod of Angus and Mearns, and in the patronage of the Crown. The minister's stipend is £155, with a manse, and a glebe of ten acres. The church is situated on the summit of a natural mound in the middle of a circular den, with the manse and the school and school-house almost contiguous: the site is good, and commodious for the population. The master of the parochial school has a salary of £28. 12. 6., with a house and garden, and the fees.

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