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Keith-Hall and Kinkell, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

KEITH-HALL and KINKELL, a parish, in the district of Garioch, county of Aberdeen, 1 mile (E. by S.) from Inverury; containing 913 inhabitants. The former of these two districts was anciently called Montkeggie, a word of uncertain derivation; it assumed the present appellation after the larger part of it had come into the possession of Keith, Earl-Marischal of Scotland. The Gaelic term Kinkell, signifying "the head or principal church", was applied to the ancient parish of that name, because the incumbent, who was of great importance in the chapter of Aberdeen, had also in his possession the six inferior parishes of Kintore, Kinnellar, Skene, Kemnay, Dyce, and Drumblade. This patronage, however, about the year 1662, was annexed, by the influence of Archbishop Sharpe, to the office of principal of St. Leonard's College, St. Andrew's. In 1754, one-third of the parish of Kinkell was joined to Kintore, and the remaining portion to Keith-Hall. The PARISH is separated from the parish of Inverury on the west by the river Urie, and from that of Kintore in the same quarter by the river Don, which streams unite about the centre of the western boundary. Its figure is very irregular: the parish stretches in length about five miles, and its breadth varies exceedingly, measuring however in some parts nearly as much as its length. It comprises between 7000 and 8000 acres, of which 2000 are arable, 400 in plantations, and the remainder waste. Though occasionally undulated and hilly, the ground is marked by no particular elevations, and the principal features in the scenery are the two rivers, of which the Don, after the junction of the Urie, runs in a south-eastern course, with numerous picturesque windings, till it falls into the sea at Aberdeen, in the south-eastern extremity of the county. The canal from Inverury passes parallel to the Don, all the way, to the same city. Pike, eels, and trout are found in both the above-mentioned streams, and salmon are also taken in the Urie. In rainy seasons they overflow their banks, especially the Don, and occasion much damage to the neighbouring crops.

The best land is in the western district, near the rivers, where the soil is cither loamy or alluvial, and very fertile; the eastern portion has a great variety of soil, mostly of inferior quality, and the usual subsoil is gravel or clay. The grain and green crops comprehend the usual kinds. The South-Down, Leicester, and Scotch breeds of sheep are kept; the cattle are in general excellent, and of the Old Aberdeenshire kind. The late Lord Kintore, whose family possess about two-thirds of the parish, cultivated with great spirit and success the Ayrshire and Teeswater breeds of cattle; and his beautiful sfock is well known as having produced the celebrated Keith-Hall ox, which obtained the first premium at the Highland Society's show in 1834, and was sold, at seven years of age, for £100. Portions of waste land have been recovered within these few years, though not to the same extent as in many other parishes, the proprietors not offering much encouragement for those improvements. The old farm-houses with turf roofs have gradually disappeared, and more convenient buildings have been raised, neatly thatched, and in some instances slated. Some of the farms are inclosed with hawthorn hedges; but the inclosures are in general of stone, many of them of a secure and substantial nature. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4067.

The plantations consist of beech, oak, elm, ash, plane, Scotch fir, and larch, all growing well except the larch and oak. In the grounds of Keith-Hall, the seat of the Earl of Kintore, the luxuriant plantations constitute a beautiful feature in the scenery, and increase the effect produced by the view of the noble mansion, a quadrangular structure of ancient and modern architecture, with an elegant front. The immediate vicinity of the house commands extensive and striking prospects over a rich valley, well wooded and watered, with a fine range of mountains in the distance. Inverury is only about a quarter of a mile from the western boundary; and to it, therefore, the farmers convey their grain and other disposable produce, to be sent to Aberdeen by canal. The turnpike-road from Aberdeen to Inverury runs past the western boundary of the parish, at a short distance; and that from the same place to Old Meldrum passes on the east; but neither intersects the parish. An annual fair is held at Kinkell on the Wednesday after the last Tuesday of September, O. S., and is much frequented. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Garioch, synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of the Earl of Kintore: the minister's salary is £217, with a manse, and a glebe of 25 acres, valued at £30 per annum. The church was built in 1771, and accommodates 600 persons with sittings. The Society of Friends have a place of worship at Kinmuck, attached to which is a cemetery. The parochial school affords instruction in Latin and geography, with all the elementary branches; the master has a salary of £30, with a house, and £15 fees. Many illustrious persons who fell in the battle of Harlaw were interred in the churchyard, among whom was the high constable of Dundee.

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