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Fordyce, Banffshire

Historical Description

FORDYCE, a parish, in the county of Banff; containing, with the villages of Sandend and New Mills, and the town of Portsoy, 3442 inhabitants, of whom 243 are in the village of Fordyce, 2½ miles (W. S. W.) from Portsoy. The name of this place, which appears to have undergone no variation since the most ancient times, is supposed to be derived from the two Gaelic words fuar "cold", and deas "south", which, from their original appropriation as descriptive of the southern portion of the parish, were subsequently used as a name for the whole of it. The lands once belonged to the family of Sinclair, but afterwards came into that of Ogilvie, in which they have remained for about 400 years to the present time. Sir Walter Ogilvie, in 1455, obtained permission of James II., to fortify his house of Findlater, situated here; and the castle seems to have been regularly occupied till nearly the end of the reign of James VI., when it was in the possession of John Gordon, son of the Earl of Huntly, who had received the castle and estates from one of the Ogilvie family that had disinherited his own son. After much litigation and many severe feuds, however, it returned to the former possessors, chiefly through arbitration. During its occupancy by Gordon, it was one of the places that refused to acknowledge Queen Mary when she visited the northern districts, in consequence of which she sent a party of 120 soldiers against it, who were attacked by Gordon at Cullen, and all of them either slain or routed. The district of Findlater gave the title of Earl to its proprietors: the present Earl of Seafield, who holds the estates, is grandson to Sir Ludovic Grant, who married Lady Margaret, eldest daughter of James, fifth Earl of Findlater.

Fordyce anciently comprehended the parishes of Ordiquhill, Deskford, and Cullen, long since separated. It is bounded on the north by the Moray Firth, and is about seven or eight miles in length and from two to six in breadth, comprising 18,670 acres, of which 9306 are either cultivated or occasionally in tillage, 5960 waste or natural pasture, 1500 undivided common, and 1234 occupied by wood. The surface is diversified with hill and dale, and several lofty elevations give to the scenery a very bold and decided character. The principal of these elevations are, the hills of Durn and Fordyce, nearly in the middle of the parish, which extend in a form almost semicircular from north-east to south-west, the former rising about 700 feet above the level of the sea; and the hill of Knock, near the southern boundary, which, attaining an elevation of between 1200 and 1400 feet, serves at a considerable distance as a land-mark for mariners: on the summit of it is a bed of peat-moss. Though not precipitous, the coast is marked by a strong rocky outline, broken by numerous caves and several headlands and bays. The chief points are, the East and West heads, taking their names from their relative positions with respect to Portsoy; and Logic head, at the western extremity of the parish. The bays are Portsoy and Sandend, the former possessing a secure and convenient harbour, and the latter having about half a mile of sandy beach, in which is Redhyth point, where small vessels find anchorage and shelter. The streams are inconsiderable, comprising only the burn of Boyn, which marks the eastern boundary of the parish; the burn of Durn, which joins the sea at Portsoy; and the burn of Fordyce, falling into the bay of Sandend.

The SOIL, which is incumbent on strata of almost every description, comprehends strong clay and light and clayey loam. It is wet and cold in the southern quarter, but rich and fertile about the coast, producing all kinds of grain, with potatoes, turnips, hay, and flax. The cattle are chiefly a cross between the old Banffshire and the Buthan breeds: their improvement has been greatly promoted by premiums given by the Banffshire Farmers' Club and the Highland Society; and a decided advantage has been obtained by the introduction of the Teeswater bull. The sheep are the Cheviots, with a few of the native black-faced. The horses are in general of the ordinary kind, with the exception of those bred from Clydesdale mares, which are very superior in strength and appearance. Though the fences and farm-buildings are still to a great extent in a defective condition, much has been done within the present century in the way of agricultural improvement, especially by draining. Upwards of 10,000 yards of ditches, and nearly 20,000 yards of drains, have been completed on one farm since 1837, independently of 1600 yards of marsh ditches cut in another part. Bone manure has been introduced, and several threshing-mills erected. The annual value of real property in Fordyce is £8712. The parish is of considerable importance in a geological point of view. It is celebrated for its extensive strata of serpentine rock, of which there are immense beds, and which, admitting of a very fine polish, has long been a favourite material, not only in Britain, but also in many parts of the continent, for the manufacture of various kinds of ornaments. In the palace of Versailles, where it is known by the name of Scottish marble, it has been employed in the construction of several chimney-pieces. Among the numerous geological varieties are hornblende, syenite, granite, felspar, mica-slate, quartz, and clay-slate; also limestone with veins of granite, and small portions of magnetic iron-ore. The plantations are principally larch and Scotch fir, with some ash, the last of which is found in a thriving condition near the ancient castle of the Boyn. The seats are, Birkenbog, an old plain building, inhabited by the tenant who rents the farm; and Glassaugh, a neat and spacious modern mansion, recently much enlarged and improved. The village of Fordyce was made a burgh of barony in 1499. About fourteen miles of turnpike-road run through the parish, branching off in various directions to Banff, Cullen, Keith, and Huntly; and there are several good substantial bridges. Two fairs are held; one in November, for cattle and for hiring servants, and the other in December, for cattle only.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Fordyce, synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of the Earl of Seafield. The stipend is £226; and there is a manse, with a glebe of two acres and a half, valued at £5 per annum, and a croft of five acres, called the Vicar's Croft, bequeathed in 1,59.5 for the use of the minister. Fordyce church, built in 1804, contains 1050 sittings. The parochial school affords instruction in Greek, Latin, mathematics, and all the branches of a useful education; the salary of the master is £34; he has also ten acres of land, left by Thomas Menzies of Durn, and receives about £30 in fees. Walter Ogilvie of Redhyth, in 1678, bequeathed land for the establishment of bursaries at the parochial school, and at King's College, Aberdeen; in the former there are seventeen, extending to five years each. George Smith, who was born in the village of Fordyce, established nine bursaries in his native parish, likewise of five years' duration; they commenced in 1801, and are worth £25 per annum each, appropriated to board, clothing, and education: he also left £25 a year to the minister for superintending the youth on the foundation. The Rev. James Stuart, rector of Georgetown and All Saints, in South Carolina, left £1200 for a bursary in the school of Fordyce, for boys bearing the name of Stuart: this endowment commenced in 1810. There are two other small bursaries, founded by James Murray. The chief relic of antiquity is the old castle of Findlater, situated on a rock almost surrounded by the sea, and which appears to have been of considerable strength: the lower apartments, cut out of the solid rock, are strongly arched; and on the south were formerly a fosse and drawbridge, beyond which, at the distance of about one hundred yards, there was an outwork for greater security, consisting of a fosse and rampart. On the hill of Durn are the remains of an encampment, supposed to have been thrown up by the Danes; and some urns, containing ashes and bones, have been occasionally dug up in different places. There are several chalybeate springs, the most celebrated being that called "John Legg's Well", which is much frequented in summer both by natives and strangers. Sir James Clark, physician to Her Majesty, and Dr. John Forbes, physician extraordinary to Prince Albert, were educated at the parochial school.

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