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Fordoun, Kincardineshire

Historical Description

FORDOUN, a parish, in the county of Kincardine, 11 miles (W. S. W.) from Stonehaven; containing, with the village of Auchinblae, 2342 inhabitants, of whom 34 are in the Kirktown. This place, which is of remote antiquity, is supposed to have derived its name, signifying in the Gaelic language the "front hill", from the situation of the church on the brow of the hill of Fenella, in front of the Grampian range. The parish, or part of it, had also the appellation of Paldy, from the dedication of an ancient chapel to St. Palladius, who was sent from Rome in the fifth century to oppose the Pelagian heresy, and who, upon very doubtful authority, is said to have fixed his residence here. Of this chapel, on a pilgrimage to which, to visit the shrine of the saint, Kenneth III. was murdered by Dame Fenella, as related in the article on Fettercairn, some memorials are still preserved in the name of a well in the manse garden, called the well of St. Palladius. A sculptured stone, commemorative of the murder, appears to have been erected in the chapel, but at the Reformation it was removed, and for greater security concealed under the pulpit of the old parish church, where it was afterwards discovered on the rebuilding of that structure.

The PARISH, which is situated on the south side of the Grampian mountains, is about eight miles in length, and five and a half in average breadth, comprising an area of 27,800 acres, whereof 11,500 are arable, 2160 woodland and plantations, and the remainder moorland pasture and waste. Its surface is strikingly varied, rising from the south-east by bold undulations towards the Grampian range on the north-west, and broken into deep glens and pleasing vales by numerous streams descending from the mountains, and by the prominent hill of Fenella, nearly in the centre of the parish. This hill, which is one mass of sandstone, is about four miles in length and a mile and a quarter in breadth, rising in a gracefully curvilinear form to the height of 1200 feet above the level of the sea, and separated by the picturesque vale of Strath-Fenella from the Grampians, which in this parish do not attain an elevation of more than 1500 feet. The rivers are the Luther and the Bervie. Of these, the Luther has its source in the hills behind Drumtochty, and flowing to the village of Auchinblae, where it receives a stream from Glenfarquhar, takes a southeastern direction to Fordoun House, beyond which it changes its course to the west, and flows through the parish of Laurencekirk into the North Esk. The Bervie has its source in the hills of Glenfarquhar, and running to the south-east, by Glenbervie House, winds round the base of the hill of Knock, and after a devious course flows through the parish of Bervie into the sea. Among the small streams that descend from the Grampians, the principal are the burn of Craigniston, which for some distance separates the parish from Fettercairn; and the Ferdun, formed by two burns which unite at Clattering Briggs, and, after washing the western base of the hill of Fenella, fall into the Luther. The Luther and the Bervie both abound with small trout, and salmon are occasionally found in the latter.

In the lower grounds the SOIL is a tenacious clay, of moderate fertility; along the bases of the hills, a deep rich loam; and on the higher grounds, a brown gravelly loam: the crops consist of barley, oats, wheat, beans, peas, potatoes, and turnips, with the various grasses. The system of husbandry has been greatly bettered under the auspices of the Fettercairn Club, which includes also this parish and the parishes of Laurencekirk and Marykirk. The lands have been drained and partly inclosed; the farm-buildings are substantial and commodious, and all the more recent improvements in the construction and use of agricultural implements have been adopted. Much attention is paid to the management of the dairy-farms, and to live stock. The cattle are of the pure Angus or the Aberdeen polled breed; the best are sent to the London market, where they obtain a high price, and the remainder to Edinburgh and Glasgow. The sheep, which are reared solely on the hills, are of the black-faced or mountain breed, with a few of the Cheviot recently introduced; and the horses, reared chiefly for agriculture, approach very nearly to the Clydesdale breed. In this parish the wood is of modern growth, with the exception of some natural birch and coppice on the lands of Drumtochty Castle; the plantations consist of larch, spruce, and Scotch firs, interspersed with oak, ash, elm, beech, birch, and sycamore. The chief substrata are red sandstone, greenstone, in which occasionally amethysts are embedded, clay-slate, limestone, and freestone, of which there are several quarries. The annual value of real property in the parish is £12,967.

Drumtochty Castle is a spacious castellated mansion in the early English style, erected by George Harley Drummond, Esq., at a cost of £30,000, and seated on an eminence rising from the bank of the Luther, in a richly-wooded demesne, tastefully laid out in walks commanding much picturesque and finely-varied scenery. Phesdo, an elegant mansion of Aberdeen granite, in the Grecian style, with a handsome portico of the Doric order, built by the late Alexander Crombie, Esq., of Aberdeen, is beautifully situated in grounds embellished with plantations, and near the base of Fenella hill, embracing a fine view of the vale of Strathmore and the Grampians. Monboddo, the birthplace of Lord Monboddo, is an ancient mansion, greatly improved by the late Mrs. Burnett, his daughter. Fordoun House, together with the farm, is in the occupation of a tenant; as is also Castleton. The Kirktown merely contains the church, the manse, and school-house, with a few cottages and an inn. Kincardine, once the county town, and the residence of the sheriff, who held his courts here till the reign of James VI., when they were removed to Stonehaven, has dwindled into an insignificant hamlet: the ancient cross that stood in the market-place has been removed, and placed in the village of Fettercairn. The castle of Kincardine, the ruins of which are situated on the adjacent lands of Castleton, was a celebrated palace of several of the Scottish monarchs, of whom Kenneth III., while here, was murdered by Dame Fenella; and John Baliol is said to have been residing in this castle when he abdicated the crown in favour of Edward I. of England. From the ruins it appears to have been a spacious quadrangular structure of great solidity, but only the foundations of some of the walls are now remaining. The village of Auchinblae, situated to the east of Strath-Fenella, contains several inns: the inhabitants are partly employed in the spinning of flax and the weaving of coarse linen; and the place, which has a thriving appearance, has been erected into a burgh of barony, and is governed by a baron-bailie appointed by the Earl of Kintore. Fairs are annually held in the parish, of which the most considerable is Paldy fair, for horses, sheep, and cattle, which takes place in July on a moor near the foot of the Grampians. Another fair for horses and cattle is also held in July, at Lammas muir, in the western portion of the parish; and at Auchinblae, besides two annual fairs, are weekly markets during the winter for grain and cattle. Facility of communication is maintained by the Aberdeen railway, by the turnpike-road from Aberdeen to Edinburgh through Strath more, and by statute roads kept in excellent repair.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Fordoun, which holds its sittings here, and the synod of Angus and Mearns. The minister's stipend is £'249, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £12 per annum; patron, the Crown. Fordoun church, erected in 1S29 at a cost of £3000, is a handsome structure in the later English style of architecture, with a tower at the west end, ninety-three feet in height; the interior is well arranged, and contains 1230 sittings. The burying-ground is inclosed by a wall of masonry, in which is an elegant gateway. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church. The parochial school, for which an appropriate building has been erected, is attended by about seventy children: the master has a salary of £35. 12., with a house and garden, and the fees average £1.5 per annum. A parochial library was established in 1827, which now contains nearly 700 volumes; and there is also a small library belonging to the Sunday school. Alexander Crombie, Esq., bequeathed £100, Mrs. Bogendollo £50, and the late Mrs. Burnett of Monboddo £50, for the benefit of the poor. Close to Fordoun House are the remains of a Roman camp, of which the prætorium is in a tolerably perfect state; near it have been found urns containing ashes and half-burnt bones, a gold ring, and other relics of Roman antiquity. In a secluded glen, not far from Drumtochty, are some remains of a small friary; and on the hill above Newlands, and near Castleton, are Druidical ruins. John of Fordun, author of the Scotochronicon, appears to have been connected with the parish by birth or residence: George Wishart, the martyr, was a younger son of Wishart of Pittarrow in the parish; and Professor Beattie, brother of the author of The Minstrel, was a native of the parish, where the poet himself was for several years schoolmaster. Pittarrow House was pulled down in 1802.

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