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Keig, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

KEIG, a parish, in the district of Alford, county of Aberdeen, 4½ miles (N. E. by E.) from the post-town of Alford; containing 662 inhabitants. This parish, which includes the north-eastern portion of the vale of Alford, is bounded on the north by the mountain range of Benachie, and on the east by the Menaway hills. It is about five miles and a half in length, of irregular form, and nearly two miles and a half in average breadth, comprising an area of 7900 acres, of which 3100 are arable, 2300 woodland and plantations, and the remainder moorland pasture and waste. The surface in the central part of the parish is generally flat; and even the acclivities of the hills are under tillage, to a height of 700 feet above the level of the sea. The river Don flows in a winding course through the parish (dividing it into two nearly equal portions), and, after receiving numerous tributary streams, falls into the German Ocean at Aberdeen, in the south-eastern extremity of the county: it abounds with trout and salmon. For the most part the scenery is of interesting character, being enriched with wood, and in some places beautifully picturesque; and it derives much additional interest from the extensive and finely-planted demesne of Castle-Forbes, which is within the parish.

In this parish the soil is mostly a gravelly sand combined with clay, with the exception of the grounds along the banks of the river, which have a rich alluvial mould; there are also some tracts of peat-moss in the hills, furnishing but very indifferent fuel. The chief crops are oats and bear, with a small quantity of wheat occasionally, and crops of potatoes and turnips, of which, however, not more is raised than is sufficient for home consumption. The system of husbandry is greatly improved, and a due rotation of crops regularly observed; much of the waste has been drained and brought into cultivation, and the lands are well inclosed, chiefly with dykes of stone. In general the cattle are of the native Aberdeenshire breed, with a few crosses of the Galloway and the short-horned; but not more than 1100 or 1200 are reared, and of these a considerable number are fed for a few years for the market, and many of them sent by steamers to London. The sheep, of which about 600 are fed on the pastures, are principally of the black-faced Highland breed, with some of the Leicestershire; the latter are kept principally for their wool, which is used for domestic purposes. The plantations, chiefly on the lands of Castle-Forbes, consist of oak, ash, white and black poplar, birch, weeping-birch, aspen, beech, laburnum, elm, lime, plane, cork, horse-chesnut, maple, Weymouth pine, and larch, silver, spruce, and Scotch firs. The prevailing rocks in the parish are granite, with gneiss, greenstone, and clay-slate; some masses of porphvry, also, are to be found, and fine specimens of rock-crystal. The rateable annual value of Keig is £2563. Castle-Forbes, the seat of Lord Forbes, premier baron of Scotland, is a spacious and elegant mansion in the castellated style, beautifully situated on the north bank of the Don, and on the acclivity of the mountain of Benachie, commanding a fine view of the river. The demesne, which is very extensive, is tastefully laid out in walks and rides, and richly embellished with timber and thriving plantations. There is no village; neither is there any trade, except the pork-trade to London, or any manufacture, except the knitting of worsted stockings for the Aberdeen houses, in which many of the poorer females are employed. At Whitehouse, on the borders of the parish, is a post-office, by which a mailcoach runs daily to Aberdeen. Facility of communication is maintained by the Aberdeen and Alford turnpike-road; by statute roads kept in good repair; and by a handsome bridge of one arch, 101 feet in span, erected over the Don in 1817, at a cost of £2300, one-half defrayed by government.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Alford, synod of Aberdeen. The minister's stipend is £158. 13. 6., of which one-fourth is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £11 per annum: patron, the Crown. Keig church, erected in 1835, is a handsome structure in the later English style, crowned with pinnacles, and containing 500 sittings. The parochial school is conveniently situated: the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and a portion of the Dick bequest; and his fees average upwards of £20 per annum. There are two Druidical circles in the parish, one of which, more entire than the other, is within the grounds of Castle-Forbes, about half a mile from the house, in a wood on the Cothiemuir hill; it appears to have consisted of eleven upright stones, and is twenty-five yards in diameter. The other, situated near the farm of Old Keig, is about twenty-two yards in diameter; and within the area are two upright stones, nine feet high, between which is an immense slab, apparently used as an altar: this slab bears a striking resemblance to the rocking-stone, which was poised in such a way as to vibrate with a touch of the hand, and yet to be scarcely moveable by the greatest force. On the summit of a hill on the north-west of the parish, is a circular wall of loose stones, inclosing an area nearly eighty yards in diameter, called the Barmekin; but nothing of its history is known. The place anciently gave the title of Baron to the Bishop of St. Andrew's, who sat in the Scottish parliament as Lord Keig and Monymusk.

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