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Fettercairn, Kincardineshire

Historical Description

FETTERCAIRN, a burgh of barony, and a parish, in the county of Kincardine, 15½ miles (W. S. W.) from Stonehaven; containing 1793 inhabitants, of whom 372 are in the burgh. This place is supposed to have derived its name from several cairns (on the face or ascent of one of the mountains by which it is bounded on the north) raised over the remains of the warriors who fell in battles which, according to tradition, were fought in this pass of the Grampians. The only event of historical importance connected with the parish, is the murder of Kenneth III., King of Scotland, which took place in the castle of Fenella about a mile westward of the village. The details of this occurrence, though variously recorded by historians, ascribe the murder to Fenella, the proprietor of the castle, in resentment of the death of her son, whom that monarch had sentenced to execution for rebellion. Fetfercairn was formerly the property of the Middletons, of whom John, the zealous adherent of Charles I. and Charles II., was after the Restoration created Earl of Middleton and Viscount Fettercairn; and the estate continued in the possession of that family till 1777, when it was purchased by Sir John Stuart, Bart., maternal grandfather of the present proprietor.

Though possessing the privileges of a burgh of barony, the village is not distinguished by any features of importance. There are two libraries, one of which, of about 500 volumes, is the property of the Fettercairn Club, and the other, containing nearly an equal number, is parochial, and supported by subscription. At Nethermill, adjoining the village, is a distillery of whisky from malt only; and at Arnhall, on the banks of the North Esk, is a mill for carding and spinning wool, and manufacturing coarse woollen-cloths. The post-office, under that of Montrose, has a regular delivery; and facility of communication is afforded by good roads, kept in repair by statute labour, and which pass through the village, and intersect the parish in various directions. The PARISH, which is situated in the western portion of the county, on the south of the Grampian hills, is bounded on the south-west by the North Esk river for about three miles, and is nearly eight miles in length and four and a half in breadth, comprising an area of 13,000 acres, of which 7500 are arable, 1800 woodland and plantations, and the remainder pasture, moss, and waste. Its surface rises gradually, in gentle undulations, to the base of the Grampian hills, of which the highest within the parish has not an elevation of more than 1600 feet above the level of the sea. There are numerous springs, some of them with a chalybeate property; but the only river is the North Esk, over which is the romantic bridge of Gannachy, connecting the parish with that of Edzell, a structure of one arch thirty feet in height and fifty-two feet span, springing from two precipitous rocks: it was built in 1732 by Mr. Black, of Edzell.

The soil is various, in some parts alluvial, in some a stiff clay, and in others a deep moss alternated with gravel; the crops are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips. The system of agriculture has been considerably improved under the auspices of the Fettercairn Club, who hold their meetings in the village: tracts of the waste land have been reclaimed by draining; the farm-buildings are comfortable and substantial, the lands well inclosed, and on most of the farms threshingmills have been erected. Much attention is paid to the improvement of live stock. The sheep, with the exception of a few Cheviots, are generally of the black-faced breed; and the black- cattle, of the Angusshire, with some of the Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire. Considerable numbers of swine are also reared, all of the Chinese breed. The annual value of real property in the parish is £9107. The plantations, which are extensive, consist of the usual varieties, the most conspicuous being ash, beech, and fir; they are under careful management, and in a thriving state. The principal substrata are red freestone, whinstone, and limestone; and porcelain clay of fine quality is found on the banks of a small burn, at Balnakettle. Fettercairn House is an ancient edifice, to which large additions have been lately made by Sir John Stuart Forbes, Bart., the proprietor. Fasque is a spacious house in the castellated style, beautifully situated on an eminence, in diversified grounds, in which is a fine sheet of water twenty acres in extent, which, with the stately approach to the house, was formed by the present owner. Sir John Gladstone, Bart. The Burn House is a handsome modern mansion, on the banks of the North Esk, in a richly-planted demesne, tastefully laid out in walks, and commanding much picturesque scenery. Balbegno Castle is an ancient and spacious building, on the parapet of which are various sculptures and the date 1509; the interior contains a noble hall, whose lofty roof of stone is richly groined, and divided into sixteen compartments, in which are emblazoned the armorial bearings of the sixteen peers of Scotland.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Fordoun, synod of Angus and Mearns. The minister's stipend is £232, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum; patron, the Crown. Fettercairn church, erected in 1804, and enlarged in 1839, is a handsome structure, with a tower, and spire rising to the height of 104 feet; it is beautifully situated, and contains 1000 sittings, a number which may be easily augmented. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £30 per annum, to which may be added £1. 15., the rent of a bequest in land. A female school in the village is supported by Sir John Stuart Forbes, who provides a school-room and house rent-free for the mistress, to whom he pays a salary, in addition to the school fees. An almshouse has been built by Sir John Gladstone for eight people, to each of whom he allows a room and garden. Dr. Ramsay, of Barbadoes, bequeathed the sum of £500; Provost Christie, of Montrose, £50; James Black, the builder of Gannachy bridge, 200 merks; George Cooper, of Slateford, £20; R. Valentine, of Bogindollo, £50; Anthony Glen, of Luthermuir, £20; and James Smith, of Fettercairn, several houses; all for the relief of the poor of the parish. In the village is preserved the ancient cross of Kincardine, an octagonal column to which is an ascent of six circular stone steps: on the capital are the arms of John, Earl of Middleton, with his coronet and initials. Greencairn, the supposed residence of Dame Fenella, is now a heap of shapeless ruins.

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