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Gartly, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

GARTLY, a parish, partly in the county of Banff, and partly in the district of Strathbogie, county of Aberdeen, 4 miles (S.) from Huntly; containing 1037 inhabitants. This parish is divided nearly in the centre, by the river Bogie, into two portions, one of which, called the Barony, is within the county of Banff, and is said to have been separated from Aberdeenshire by its proprietor Barclay, one of the feudal barons of the ancient Earls of Huntly, who, being at that time sheriff of Banff, was desirous of having his property under his own immediate jurisdiction. The other portion of the parish, called the Braes, is in the county, and within the control of the sheriff, of Aberdeen. Few events of historical importance have occurred in connexion with this place, which is chiefly distinguished for a visit by Mary, Queen of Scots, who, on her return from an excursion to Inverness and Ross-shire, spent a night at Gartly Castle, the baronial residence of the Gordon family, of which some small portion is still remaining, though in ruins. The parish is irregular in form, is about twelve miles in length and four miles and a half in breadth, and comprises about 17,000 acres, of which 5600 are arable, 11,000 pasture, moorland, and moss, and the remainder, with the exception of a few acres of natural wood and plantations, roads and waste. Its surface is diversified with hills and valleys, and with numerous glens of highly picturesque appearance: from the hills many rivulets descend into the Bogie, which rises in Auchindoir, and after winding for fourteen miles through this parish and that of Rhynie, joins the Doveron near Huntly. The eastern and western parts of the parish are especially hilly, and have extensive moors abounding in grouse and other game; the hills are covered with moss, which supplies both Gartly and the town of Huntly with fuel, and in the west the mosses are particularly deep. Tylliminnet glen is richly embellished with a fine wood of birch and several young and thriving plantations, and is seen among the surrounding hills with the most romantic effect. The banks of the river, also, are planted with alder; but there is little other wood in the parish. The moors are well adapted to the growth of timber, and if planted it would tend much to the improvement of the parish. A considerable portion, also, of the moors might at a moderate outlay be brought into a profitable state of cultivation.

The SOIL, especially in the valleys and lower grounds, is extremely fertile, producing abundant crops; and the system of agriculture is advanced: the five-shift course of husbandry generally prevails, being found best adapted to the soil and climate. Since the introduction of turnip cultivation, the breed of cattle has been greatly improved; the principal kind is the old Aberdeenshire crossed by the Argyllshire, which is found to answer well. A few sheep, not more than about 1700, which are chiefly the black-faced, are pastured on the hills. The substratum is mostly gravel. Limestone is found, but in so small a quantity, and at such a depth, as to render the working of it unprofitable to the farmer, who can obtain it in the neighbouring parish of Cairnie at less expense. On several of the hills are quarries of slate of good quality, the working of which affords remunerative employment to many labourers. Much improvement has been made in draining, and considerable portions of waste land have been reclaimed, including some on the farm of Bucharn improved by George Gordon, Esq., who in 1828 received the gold medal from the Highland Society: this gentleman and a few others have also subdivided and inclosed their fields with stone dykes. The farm-buildings are substantial and commodious; and there are tolerable facilities of intercourse with the neighbouring market-towns by the turnpike-road which passes through the parish for nearly four miles. The annual value of real property in Gartly is £4437.

Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Strathbogie, synod of Moray. The minister's stipend is about £190, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £16 per annum; patron, the Duke of Richmond. Gartly church was erected in 1621; but with the exception of the steeple, little of the original edifice is remaining: it has undergone many alterations within the last twenty or thirty years, and now affords accommodation to nearly 600 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school affords a useful education; the salary of the master is £32. 10., with £20 fees, and a house and garden. There is a parochial library containing more than 200 volumes. Some slight remains exist of Gartly Castle; and till lately there were several tumuli on the farm of Mill Hill, near the church, where, according to tradition, a skirmish took place in 1411. They have almost all been levelled: in one of them were found two ancient dirks, and in another some brass buckles, supposed to have been used to fasten the sword-belts of the warriors. On the farm of Faich hill has been discovered an urn containing bones; and on the lands of Cockston was found an urn of clay, in which were numerous round pieces of stamped leather, thought to have been anciently current for money. A stone coffin was found on the lands of Coldran by Captain Gordon, but nothing is known of its history. In a vault in the church are preserved the ashes of Viscount Aboyne, and of John Gordon, laird of Rothiemay, with some of their followers, who were burned in the old tower of Frendraught, in the parish of Forgue, in 1630. At Muirellis, James I. is reported by tradition to have passed an evening with the tenant of that farm, which he visited incognito, and he is said to have been so much pleased with the hospitality of his host, that he obtained from the Earl of Huntly a grant that the tenant and his descendants should possess the land rent-free. It is also traditionally stated that an infant son of the Baron of Gartly was drowned by an inundation of the Bogie, in returning from the chapel of Brawlinknows, after receiving the rite of baptism.

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