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Insch, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

INSCH, a parish, in the district of Garioch, county of Aberdeen, 3¾ miles (W.) from the village of Old Rain; containing 1379 inhabitants. The name Insch is thought to be of Celtic derivation, and to signify "an island": the reason of its application is doubtful, but the site of the village appears to have been formerly surrounded by water. The parish is situated on the northern bank of the small river Shevock, which separates it from the parishes of Premnay and Kinnethmont, and running eastward, falls at length into the Urie. The lands measure six miles in length and three miles in breadth, comprising 7618 acres, of which 5410 are under cultivation, 108 in plantation, and the remainder waste. The surface is varied by several interesting elevations. That of the hill of Foudland is the most lofty, forming the chief of a series of slate hills stretching into Gartly on the west, and into Culsamond on the east; it rises 1100 feet above the level of the sea, and commands extensive and beautiful prospects, especially of the rich and fertile vale of the Garioch. The hill of Dunnideer, however, about a mile west of the village, though only half the height of the former, is by far the most striking object in the scenery, not only on account of its isolated situation, and its ample base, measuring 3000 yards in circumference, but especially from its abrupt and almost perpendicular ascent, and its conical form. Its summit, somewhat flattened, attracts the antiquary by the curious ruins to be seen on it, and the tourist by its picturesque beauty. Opposite to Dunnideer, on the west, is the equally abrupt eminence of Christ-kirk, in the parish of Kinnethmont, which is separated from Dunnideer only by a narrow valley, watered by the Shevock.

The SOIL, in general is a light loam, upon a gravelly or clayey subsoil: on the sides of the hill of Foudland it is a clay, mixed with slaty earth; and in this and various other parts are peat mosses, supplying fuel. Most of these, however, have become nearly exhausted, so that wood and coal are now much used, the latter brought from Aberdeen by canal to Inverury. Much of the arable land is of superior quality, and produces excellent crops, chiefly of oats. The cattle are of the Aberdeen or the Angus kind, which are frequently crossed with the short-horned or Durham breed; and the improvement in the stock has been considerable, in consequence of the great encouragement offered by the cattle-shows held by the Highland and the local agricultural societies. A six years' rotation is prevalent; and the general system of husbandry includes all the modern improvements: bone-manure is liberally and successfully applied to the turnip lands; and threshing machines, generally driven by water, one of them by steam, are every where in operation. The chief deficiency is the want of inclosures and of good farm-buildings. The annual value of real property in the parish is £5334. J. M. Lesly, Esq., of Balquhain, holds the estates called the Barony of Meikle-Wardhouse, Knockenbaird, and others. The slate of the Foudland hill quarries, an excellent material of blue colour, has long been highly celebrated, and wrought to a great extent. About 900,000 slates used to be annually raised, a large portion of which were sent to Aberdeen; but not more than half this number are now produced, the demand having diminished on account of the facility with which the Easdale slates, from Argyllshire, can be conveyed by sea. In the smaller hills the rock is principally gneiss, with black or grey granite; and on the low grounds, near the base of Duunideer, considerable quantities of bog-iron ore have been found. The only gentleman's seat is Rothney, a handsome modern mansion in the cottage style, finely situated on a gentle acclivity on the northern bank of the Shevock; it is beautifully ornamented with wood, and the approach to it from the village is particularly admired.

The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in agriculture, and in trading in corn and cattle; a few are employed in making stockings for the Aberdeen manufacturers. The feuars of Insch are heritable proprietors of their houses and small gardens; they also mostly rent about four acres of ground each, under Sir Andrew Leith Hay, superior of the ancient burgh of Insch, to which it is supposed the power of "pot and gallows" was formerly attached, there being a mound near the village called the Gallow hill. Within the last thirty years, the village has been almost entirely rebuilt; the houses are generally of two stories, constructed of stone and lime, and there are several good shops. It has been some years supplied with gas. The Aberdeen mail-road passes through the parish, and is of considerable service, the produce of the district being conveyed along it to the canal at Inverury, from which place the carts bring back coal, lime, and bones for manure. Two fairs for cattle, horses, and general wares, are held respectively on the third Wednesday in May and third Tuesday in October (both O. S.); and there are feeing-markets on the Fridays before the 18th May and 18th November. The weekly market, held on Friday, has been discontinued.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Garioch, synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of Sir John Forbes, Bart. The minister's stipend is about £200, with a manse, a glebe of twelve acres, valued at £15 per annum, and a right to fuel, which has been commuted for an annual payment of £9. 8. 10. Insch church, a plain building in the village, is supposed, from a date on its fine old belfry, to have been built in the year 1613; it was well roofed in 1789, new-seated in 1793, and contains 460 sittings, of which sixty are under the control of the Kirk Session, and are let on very low terms for the benefit of the poor. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school affords instruction in Greek and Latin, English grammar, geography, mathematics, &c.: the master has a salary of £27, with a house and garden, and about £15 fees; he also participates in the benefit of the Dick bequest. There is likewise a school supported by the General Assembly; the master receives a salary of £25, with £14 fees, and has a house, garden, and three acres of ground. The same branches are taught in this school as in the parochial school; and its situation among the glens of Foudland, convenient not only for part of Insch, but for parts of the parishes of Forgue, Drumblade, and Gartly, far removed from their respective parochial schools, renders it a source of much advantage. A savings' bank has also existed some years: the deposits are upwards of £2700. The relics of antiquity comprise several Druidical remains on eminences, and stone pillars, and obelisks; but the principal relic is the celebrated vitrified fort on the hill of Dunnideer. It consists of an outwork in the shape of a parallelogram, inclosing an old ruin of a tower; and the stones, which are of granite, have been cemented by that singular process seen in similar antiquities in the country, but of the precise character of which many opinions exist. The castle in the interior, constructed apparently of the materials of the vitrified fort, is supposed by some to have been built by King Gregory.

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