Skip to main content

Full text of "Cabrach Feerings"

See other formats


3 1822 00780 9320 





o B 
o B 

o = 

9 a 
o E 
8 m 
8 = 

3 = 

o m 


V -•' ■' « /".. .',:,; 






3 1822 00780 9320 

7 //fe; k+M* a^*£ & 'seta* 
























A "Peering" is the first furrow ploughed, and 
is a guide for all the rest. 

The ploughing of the field of " The Cabrach" is 
only begun in the present volume, but may tins 
u feering" guide to a satisfactory "finishing." 


The late Mr James Taylor, of Milltown, Lesmurdie, was 
much interested in his native place, and when chance 
brought in his way some old diaries and newspaper cuttings, 
relating to The Cabrach, which had belonged to his uncle, 
John Taylor, of Boghead, familiarly known as "Boggy," he 
thought it might occupy some leisure hours to arrange and 
elaborate them. But soon his enthusiasm grew, so that he 
was not content with these meagre records, but sought out 
every book containing any reference to Cabrach, and 
gathered information from every possible source. 

I had the pleasure of helping Mr Taylor in this work 
for some years, and I spent days in research in the Public 
Libraries of Aberdeen and Edinburgh, in the Advocates' 
Library, the Scottish Register House, and the British 
Museum Reading Room, while Mr Taylor, who was pre- 
vented by ill-health from journeying so far from home for 
this purpose, would eagerly wait for news of some elusive 
land charter or family history. He was able to go to Elgin, 
however, and spent many an hour in the Library there, or 
in searching at home through the books he was able to buy 
or borrow. 

Mr Taylor had intended the work to be much more ex- 
tensive; as readers will see for themselves, the Upper Cab- 
rach is not touched on in the chapter entitled "Traversing 
The Cabrach," nor is there much information about the 
school there. I have by me a paper on which are noted 
points to be cleared up, and give them here, in case any 
reader can supply the information : — 

Beldorney, Belcherry, and Succoth. Guestloan, pro- 
prietors as tar back as possible. Tenants of the three? 

When did Corrinassie come to the Duke of Gordon ? 

The burying ground at Forteith. Is anything known of 
the writing of Mr Robertson, Woodside, Elgin, about the 
cists and skeletons found? 

What was the name of the chapel on the river bank on 
the farm of Tomb.. 

Is anything known about the chapel? 

When was the last laird of Lesmurdie in Invercharroch ? 

Can a copy of "The Missionar Kirk'' be had? 

Is anything known of the history of the Cabrach, or of 
the church, between 1707 and 

Are there any accounts, written or oil. 
of the smuggling? 

Arc there any writings about the Cabrach 186 -1-2-3, 
such as were contributed to the £._ .rant by the 


When and how was the boundary between the Soc 
and Lesmurdie defined? 

When the war commenced in the Ca 

history was put aside for the time. In 1916 I left The ( 
rach, but before my departure arranged all our manus. 
in a connected form to await an opportunity of publishing. 
They remained untouched till the summer of 191S, \ 
the bundle was to Mr James Grant, LL.B.. of Banff, 

who undertook to arrange for the publication. The 
negotiations were proceeding when Mr Taylor suddenly 

^.ptember 191S. I was staying at the Milltown at the 
time, and had some talk with Mr Taylor about "The Book," 
as his friends used to call it, but as his death took place two 
- after my arrival, we had no time to make any definite 
arrangements. When I saw Mr Grant a few days later he 
was very enthusiastic about his task, and keenly reg: 
that Mr Taylor had not lived to see his book in print. 
Within a few months Mr Grant, unfortunately, was sc 
with influenza, from which he never recovered, and the 
question of publishing "Cabrach Feerings" was dropped, 
until Mrs Taylor arranged for its issue in this form. 

We have been much indebted for ice in various 

ways to the late Mr James Grant, LL.B. ; Mr Y 
Banff ; Mr Fraser, Librarian of Aberdeen Public Library ; 
Mr John Mallett, London; and to Mr G. T. L: 
M.I.C.E., for his excellent map. 


November 1920. 



Introduction, - - - - 9 

Chap. I. — Position and Extent of the Cabrach, - 11 

Chap. II. — Cabrach and its Lairds, - - 24 

Chap. III. — Traversing the Cabrach, - - 37 

Chap. IV. — Weather and Crops, - - 51 

Chap. V. — Streams and Fishing, - - -62 

Chap. VI.— Education, - - - - 70 

Chap. VII. — Ecclesiastical History, - - 77 

Chap. VIII— The Library, - 106 

Appendix I. - - - - 112 
Appendix II. ... hq 

Appendix III. - - - 122 

Appendix IV. - - - - 126 

Appendix V. - - - - - 138 

Map of Parish of Cabrach, Facing Title 


" Resign the rhapsody, the dream 
To men of larger reach ; 
Be ours the quest of a plain theme, 
The piety of speech." 


Cabrach, or "The" Cabrach, for in common with some 
other districts, as The Tyrol, The Engadine, this enjoys 
the distinction of the definite article, though known and 
loved of many, yet is by others less fortunate totally un- 
known or much misunderstood. It is believed to lie in that 
far region, vaguely called "The Back of Beyond," to be 
difficult of approach, and to be, even in summer, a place of 
residence for only the most hardy of men, "a place abound- 
ing in nothing but precipitous hills, yawning passes, and 
endless marshy mosses^ through which stranger and 
foreigner may never hope to pass. A spot isolated from all 
known regions of civilisation, and destitute even of the 
ordinary privilege of accommodation roads, by which its 
wilds may be explored and its desolation seen. A land on 
which barrenness is so terribly written that corn grows but 
to frost and die ere its ear be full, leaving the inhabitants 
entirely dependent upon the fertility of other districts for 
their means of support. A place where the summer sun 
scorns to exert his influence, and where the rains of spring 
and the frosts and snows of winter linger with tenacious 
hold among its barren heights, like the robber caterans of 
old, long after they have been driven from the homes of 
civilisation, and scared from the genial face of the plains. 
A place so wildly desolate and inhospitably barren, that 
nothing but the firmest nerve, urged on by dire necessity, 
could ever induce a human being to traverse it." 

Such is the account given by a writer of the middle of 
last century of the popular idea of The Cabrach in those 


days, and even now some people seem to have much the 
same notions concerning it. Here is another interesting 
glimpse of the ideas formerly held about this elusive region, 
entitled, "Dr Michie's first impressions of Cabrach," which 
we found among some old papers. 

" The doctor by nature was a very stout built man, 
and a great pedestrian. On his first approach to 
Cabrach he preferred walking across the hills from Rhynie. 
On reaching the summit of the hill and looking down on 
the vallej'- below he observed a river winding its serpentine 
course along its midst ; this river had the appearance to 
emerge out from below a mountain to the west, and to dis- 
appear below a mountain in the east, there was no appear- 
ance of an ingress or egress, its banks were decked in green 
sward where black cattle grazed in abundance, and its 
heath-clad braes covered with fleecy flocks ; after surveying 
the scenery below he cast his eyes westwards and he could 
behold mountain after mountain. He said to himself "I 
have travelled mony a weary foot through this warl' but noo 
I have reached the back side of it. I wager this colony has 
escaped the researches of Dr Johnson, when he reached the 
Hebrides he said the}' were the outside or the riddlings of 
creation. I began to contemplate in my mind what sort of a 
race its inhabitants might be, it brought to my recollection 
the incidents related by a pedestrian something like myself, 
who had travelled largely through the world; on his return 
home he related that he found a colony whose inhabitants 
had but one leg, they had a very large round foot like a 
girdle, they hopped while they walked, and were called 
'Girdle Hoppers.' Well, I presume this to be that colony. 
I have made a wonderful discovery and perhaps a profitable 
one too, I may catch a pair of these creatures and have them 
exhibited, or at least I may do the public service and send 
one of them to the Zoological Gardens at London." 

The aim of the present volume is to dispel all these 
illusions, to introduce this charming countryside to new 
friends, and to make its history better known to old ones. 




"Fae Foggy loan to the Brig o' Potarch, 

An' sooth by the Glen o' Dye. 
Fae the Back o' the Cabrach thro' Midmar, 

Whaurever your tryst may lie ; 
At ilka toll on the weary road 

There's a piece an' a dram forbye, 
Gin ye show them your groat, an' say laich in your throat 

' The Back o' Beyont is dry.' " 

(Chas. Muhbay.) 

First, let us explain exactly the extent of the Cabrach, 
and the meaning of the terms "Upper" and "L,ower" 
Cabrach. A reference to the sketch map will greatly aid 
in understanding this. It will be seen that the Cabrach is 
all in the county of Banff, its limits are — N., Craig Watch, 
1540 ft. ; S., Craig an Innein, 2073 ft. ; W., Cairn na Bruar, 
2240 ft.; and E., East of Elrick, 1250 ft. The boundary 
line runs along the tops of the hills surrounding the district, 
and in no place is it lower than 800 ft. above sea level. 
The Upper Cabrach is the original parish of Cabrach, and is 
the district always indicated in charters, &c, previous to 
the year 1665. It was formerly included in the shire of 
Aberdeen, and extended from Craig an Innein on the S. to 
the burn of Altdauch on the N., and from the Elrick on 
the E. to Rounamuck on the W. The Lower Cabrach was 
at one time known as Strathdeveron, and was divided into 
three dauchs, Corrinuisie, Lesmurdie, and Blackwater ; it 
formed part of the parish of Mortlach, but was united to 
the Upper Cabrach for church purposes in the year 1665. 
In 18 the county boundary was moved back to coincide 
with that of Upper Cabrach, thus bringing the whole parish 
into the county of Banff, except for Parliamentary election 
purposes, when the people of Upper Cabrach vote in West 


Aberdeenshire. The extent of the parish is n miles from 
N. to S., and Si miles from E. to W. 

Of the entrances to the Cabrach that from Dufftown 
may be considered the chief, as the station there is the 
nearest point on the Great North of Scotland railway for the 
greater part of the parish, and at Dufftown also is the fort- 
nightly market, to which the Cabrach farmers take their 
cattle and other produce for sale, and there they transact 
their necessary business, while their goodwives do their 
shopping and study the fashions. 

Immediately after leaving the station at Dufftown a 
road breaks off to the left, and skirting the hill, joins the 
main road through the town about three-quarters of a mile 
further on. About three hundred yards along this road, 
on the side of the hill between it and the town, are the 
ruins of the old castle of Balvenie. The castle is said to 
have been built originally by the Danes, and a large room 
in it is yet called "The Danes' Hall." It was rebuilt about 
the year 1460 by the Earl of Athole, who obtained the lord- 
ship of Balvenie from King James II., his half-brother, it 
having been forfeited by the Earl of Douglas for joining in 
his brother's rebellion. It has been a strong building, with 
a large court enclosed on three sides by a turreted wall, 
the castle itself forming the fourth side, and above the 
principal entrance are still plainly to be seen the arms of 
Athole, with their motto, "Fvrth Fortvin And Fil Thi 
Fatris." The iron gates are supposed to have been brought 
from Rothes Castle. After the castle ceased to belong to 
the Stewarts, it passed into the possession successively of 
Lord Saltoun, Lord Ochiltree, Sir Robert Innes of Inver- 
markie, Sutherland of Kinminity, Arthur Forbes, brother 
to Blackton, and finally of Alex. Duff of Braco, from whom 
it has descended to the present Duchess of Fife. The new 
castle of Balvenie, directly opposite the station, was built 
in 1725 by William Duff of Braco; the Duke of Gordon 
allowed the builders to take what stones they wanted from 
the castle of Auchindoun, hence the demolition of that 
castle of its ornaments of freestone ; and also gave wood 
from Glenmore for its fittings. It is now converted into a 

The town takes its name from the family of the Duke 
of Fife, on whose land it was built in the years 1816-1817; 


it is situated on a hill about a mile from the station, and 
is a typical Scotch village, with low stone houses, wide 
streets, wind-swept and clean, and a central square with a 
clock - tower, erected by the 4th Earl of Fife. 
Dufftown produces excellent whisky — there are no fewer 
than seven distilleries in or near the town — there are also 
very up-to-date lime works, and in the main streets some 
good shops. 

The Parish Church is one of the oldest in Scotland, 
part of it dating from the time of Malcolm II., wiio founded 
the see of Mortlach, afterwards transferred to Aberdeen. 
There are besides, churches belonging to the United Free 
Church of Scotland, the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and 
the Catholic Church. 

A little below the town the road crosses the Dullan, a 
small and very clear stream, which, after a course of four 
miles, here joins the Fiddich. Next we reach the bridge 
of Sandy hillock, which used to be a very dangerous corner, 
but which has recently been much improved by the widen- 
ing of the bridge, and the cutting away of the bank ; turn- 
ing sharply to the right the way now begins to ascend, and 
presently the small wood of Tomnon is reached. This was 
formerly a commonty for the resting of cattle on their way 
south from the Muir of Ord and other markets in the north. 
After passing the farm of Laggan on the left, the character 
of the country begins to change, and we descend to the 
valley of the Fiddich, through a birch wood. Here is the 
entrance to Glenfiddich shooting lodge, three miles up the 
river Fiddich, which belongs to the Duke of Richmond and 
Gordon, with a keeper's cottage at the gate. From the 
bridge we look down the valley to the ruined castle of 
Auchindoun, standing in a commanding position on a knoll. 
Little is known of its orgin or history, but it is assumed that 
it belongs to the period between 1000 and 1200, when many 
forts were erected both as a means of defence against inva- 
sion, and as a protection to the surrounding country in the 
frequent inter-tribal wars. It was rebuilt by Cochrane, 
the favourite of James III., then passed into the possession 
of Lord Drummond, who sold it, with other lands and 
castle, to Sir James Ogilvy of Deskford, from whom it came 
to the Gordons. It was burned down by the Mackintoshes 
in revenge for the murder of their chieftain in 1500, and 


afterwards repaired, but is now fallen into ruin under the 
influence of the weather and the depredations of modern 

In front of us now lies a wild and picturesque region. 
On the farther side of the river rises the steep and rugged 
hill of Bemain, along the side of which our road winds its 
way steadily upwards till lost to view between the hills. 
On our right, as we follow it is first the burn of Allawakin, 
rushing down beside it, then a wide stretch of moor, with 
hill upon hill beyond, covered with heather, which in 
August will be richest purple, and at other seasons soft 
brown or green, with here and there patches of a brighter 
green where the ground is marshy, and on the brow of the 
nearest hill a dark fir plantation, just below which may be 
traced the site of the farm-buildings of The Brackery, the 
ground near showing signs of having been cultivated, but 
long since become part of the deer-forest. Fre- 
quently, especially in bad weather, when they come down 
from the higher parts of the forest, large herds of deer may 
be seen, and if it is the traveller's fortune to come this way 
on a dark night of autumn, he may be thrilled by hearing 
the roar and stamp of the stags as they send forth their 
challenge to battle. Plenty of grouse, too, will most likely 
be seen, rising with a birr-bik-bik-bik, to alight again a 
hundred yards or so farther on, while the cry of the whaup 
and the peewit but serve to increase the loneliness, remind- 
ing one irresistibly of Stevenson's lines : — 

" the vacant wine-red moor, 

Hills of sheep and the howes of the silent vanished races, 
And winds austere and pure." 

Three-fourths of the way up the hill is the "Wall o* 
the Balloch," a fountain with horse trough and iron dipper, 
where, judging by the number of spent matches on the 
ground, many a welcome rest is taken. It is told of a 
Cabrach man that he was returning from Dufftown with a 
bottle of the best in his pocket, and reaching this well, 
thought to taste, but he had no corkscrew and was com- 
pelled to knock off the neck of the bottle. Alas ! the blow 
was awkward and the bottle broke, spilling its contents in 
the basin. The worthy man gazed horror-stricken for a 
moment at the appalling sight of the good whisky mixing 
with the water and running over the edge, then, determined 


not to waste more than he could help, fell on his knees and 
drank till he could drink no more, then went regretfully on 
his way vowing thenceforth never to travel without a 

The well has attracted a more distinguished visitor, 
though, for the late King Edward has sometimes stopped 
here for luncheon, and on one occasion that luncheon was 
shared by a man who, though not a Cabrach man, was next 
door to it. 

Arrived at the top of the hill, after a climb of about a 
mile, we turn to look backward ere advancing farther ; 
below winds the path we have traversed, all around are wild 
bare hills, heather-clad, blue or purple or black as the light 
strikes them, not a house in sight, on the horizon to the 
S.E. the sharp peak of Ben Rinnes, and away to the N. 
the far blue hills of Sutherland seen across the Moray 
Firth ; this is, indeed, one of the finest views of the neigh- 
bourhood and no visitor should miss it. 

Just before entering the narrow pass in front, several 
mounds, known as Jean's Hillocks, are to be seen. They 
are said to have been so named in memory of a certain Jean 
Gordon of Lesmoir, who, having squandered her estate, was 
reduced to beggary and died here of hunger and fatigue. 
A ballad of the time describes her misfortunes, but the only 
fragment we could find was the last two lines : — 

" She drank her Ian' and sold her shoon, 
And died at Allawakin." 

This pass, called The Glacks of the Balloch, is just 
wide enough to admit the road at the base of the hills 
forming it. It is not quite straight, so that on 
entering one cannot see what lies beyond, but 
it is only about a hundred yards long and we 
are soon through it. Here, on the calmest day, a breeze is 
felt, and on a day of wind the gale rushes through the pass 
as through a funnel and seems to beat back the intruder. 
The road now slopes away, and if the visitor happens to be 
awheel, he will find an easy run down for the next three 
miles, to compensate him for the toil of the journey 
hitherto. We must not omit to mention the "Wormy 
Howe," the popular name applied to the Old Caledonian 
Road, the highway from Forres by Auchindoun and the 


Cabrach to the Mearns, which here makes its appearance as 
a fairly well-defined hollow, and which may be traced 
through the Glacks, along the base of the Muckle Balloch, 
on the left, crossing to the Garbet hill, and thence along 
its face and over the Kelman Hill to Boghead, where it 
crosses the Deveron and runs south to Tap o' Noth. By 
some it is thought to be a remnant of a Roman road, but as 
there is no evidence in its character to prove it such, and as 
also there is considerable douot as to whether the Romans 
were ever in this region, we prefer to believe it is the old 
Caledonian or Pict road. Tradition, however, supplies an 
explanation of its existence, from which its popular name 
of "Wormy Howe" is derived. At some far distant period 
two huge "worms" appeared in the north, and journeyed 
to meet each other, the one starting from Benachie, the 
other from near the Balloch Hill ; the latter, as it gathered 
itself together for the start, threw up those mounds already 
referred to as Jean's Hillocks, then with a thrust of its 
powerful head pierced the hill forming the Glacks, and 
dragged its length over the course described, hastening to 
join battle with its rival. What happened then, or if indeed 
the two ever met, is a question left unanswered by the 
legend, but not so long ago there used still to be in the 
Cabrach a few believers in the story, and one old man always 
concluded his version of it with the words, "Gad, man, I 
kenna fat wad hae happened if they worms had bit met." 

We shall not yet enter the Cabrach, but take a look 
first at the other approaches to it. The next in importance 
is that from the N.E., and in these motoring times it is 
fast becoming the more popular with travellers from the 
south, for though the road is twice the length of the first, 
yet an hour of railway travelling is saved. 

Alighting at Huntly Station, the visitor must pass 
through the town, which is a thriving place, with wool 
mills and farm implement manufactories. In the centre is 
the inevitable square, with a monument to the last Duke of 
Gordon, and on the right a road conducts to the Gordon 
Schools, under the arched portal of which one enters the 
park of the ruined Castle of Strathbogie, commonly called 
Huntly Castle, for long a stronghold of the Earls of Huntly. 
The lands of Strathbogie first came into the possession of 
the Gordons in 1327, when they were forfeited by their 


owner, David of Strathbolgie, a descendant of the houses 
of Athole and Fife, who as one of the "disinherited barons" 
joined the Balliol faction, and were given instead to the 
loyal Sir Adam Gordon, the founder of his line. 

Our way leads out of the town in a south-westerly 
direction, and bends away to the left till it reaches the river 
Deveron at Cairnford, where it forks ; one branch keeping to 
the right bank of the river is a fair road for some seven 
miles or so, then it dwindles to a mere footpath, and after 
another mile becomes again an accommodation road, finally 
crossing the Deveron at a point in the Cabrach three miles 
from the parish boundar}\ The other branch crosses the 
river by a substantial iron bridge at Cairnford, and is the 
main road to the Cabrach. The first place of importance 
is Cairnborrow, on our left, which is of some antiquity, 
being mentioned in a charter of 1353 as belonging to 
William of Keith, Earl Marischal of Scotland, whose 
daughter married one of the Gordons, into the possession of 
which family it had passed in 151 2, when the name again 
occurs in a charter. In 1594 it is recorded that the Marquis 
of Huntly came to Cairnborrow in search of recruits for his 
arnry before the battle of Glenlivet ; he asked the lady of 
the house if she could let him have some men, and she 
answered without hesitation that she would send her bus- 
band and her eight sons, with their attendants. Huntly 
wished the laird to remain at home, for he was an old man 
and had done his share of fighting; but "Na, na, my lord, 
I'll blood the whelps mysel', they'll bite the better," said 
old Gordon, and he and his eight sons, each with a jackman 
and footman, went to the battle, from which they all re- 
turned safely. In 17 15 a son of the house was Roman 
Catholic missionary in Glenlivet. Cairnborrow is now 
owned by Mr Stevenson. 

At about six miles from Huntly, the house of Asswan- 
ley stands on the right bank of the river. It is a good-sized 
house, with farm-steading adjacent, among old trees. Here 
lived Elizabeth Cr_uickshank, the mother of "Jock" and 
"Tarn" Gordon, on the question of whose legitimacy the 
authorities are divided. It was also the residence of 
Hutcheon Calder, who stole the cup from the camp of the 
Earl of Crawford, as related in "A Concise History of the 
Antient and Illustrious House of Gordon," by C. A. 


Gordon, published in Aberdeen in 1754. "There was one 
Hutcheon Calder in company with Huntley when he went 
to the batell of Brichen against the Earl of Crawford, who 
by his cunning and courage got into the camp of Earle 
Beardy, and likewise into his tent, who, after supper, 
brought away the said Earl's drinking cup (which cup 
Calder of Asswanlie keeps to this day) , being a large silver 
cup overlaid with gold, holding a Scots pint and two gills, 
of fine engraven and carved work, and with a cape upon 
which there is ane inscription, which is now lost; where- 
with returning to the camp, in the silence of the night, he 
gave account to Huntley of the situation of Earle Beardy 's 
camp, and number of his forces; and as a testimony of his 
being there, produced the said cup : upon which intelligence 
they attacked Crawford in the morning and defeated his 
forces, for which service the said Hutcheon Calder obtained 
the lands of Aswanlie, whose posterity possess it to this 
day." This Earl of Crawford was the terrible Earl Beardy, 
who figures in the weird and awful tales of the haunting of 
Glamis Castle, the family seat. 

The road now branches again, the lower path leading 
directly to the Haugh of Glass, the upper to Dufftown. A 
mile farther on these two are connected by a crossroad, at 
the foot of the Glass Market Hill, thus enclosing a triangle 
within which are situated Blairmore Castle, the property 
of Mr Geddes ; Invermarkie, the original home of the 
Geddes family ; Glenmarkie shooting lodge, and the Parish 
Church and Manse of Glass. Keeping for a little to the 
upper road, we presently turn down an avenue to the left, 
and see in front of us the gate of the Castle, while farther 
down the Church and Manse stand on a rising ground, one 
of the most fertile spots of the parish, as is amply testified 
by the gay garden. The Church, which is quite modern, 
contains a fine organ, the gift of Sir Frederick Bridge, who 
makes his summer home in the neighbourhood. From be- 
low the Church a good view of Blairmore Castle, towering 
above the trees, is obtainable. 

At the Market Hill is held annually, on the third Tues- 
day of July, Glass Market, originally called St Andrew's 
Fair, an ancient institution, and formerly of great import- 
ance, lasting two or three days, but since the extension of 
the railway, it, like many more of the old markets, has 


gradually dwindled till it is little more than an excuse for a 
day's holiday. Turning to the left along the base of the 
triangle, we next come to the hamlet of the Haugh of Glass, 
where there is a post and telegraph office, and farther on, to 
the right of the road, the farm of Edinglassie, at one time 
the property of the Gordons, now belonging to Mr Macpher- 
son. Edinglassie has a grim story connected with it. The 
house was at one time called Edinglassie Castle, though 
not a very large or well-fortified one, and in 1690 was occu- 
pied by Sir George Gordon, Joint Sheriff-Principal of the 
County. In that year the battle of the Haughs of Crom- 
dale was fought, and some of the Highlanders, on their wa}' 
from Strathspey to Strathbogie, burned the castle. On the 
return of the clans a few weeks later Gordon had his re- 
venge, for, seizing eighteen of the Highlanders at random, 
he hung them on the trees in his garden. They were after- 
wards buried on the moor, and the spot is still known as 
'"The Hielanman's Mossie." There is also Edinglassie 
Lodge, likewise the property of Mr Macpherson, standing 
near the river bank where there is a bridge and a road lead- 
ing across it to the U.F. Church and Manse, pleasantly situ- 
ated on a high bank overlooking the river and embowered 
in trees. 

Our next point of interest is the little graveyard of 
Wallakirk, close by the river, where many Cabrach people 
are buried. Conspicuous among its monuments are the large 
white cross erected over the grave of Lady Bridge, and the 
enclosed vault in the centre, covered with ivy, belonging to 
Wardhouse. The name is derived from St Wallach or 
Wolok, said to have been the first Bishop in the diocese 
before its formal erection at Mortlach, and one of the 
missionaries sent out from Iona. He probably lived about 
the eighth century, when the people hereabouts were little 
better than pagans, living in a half savage state. St Wal- 
lach lived the life of a hermit, but occasionally left his 
solitude and travelled up and down the country preaching 
and teaching and working miracles. In a description of the 
Parish of Glass, written about 1725, in Macfarlane's Geo- 
graphical Collections, the following occurs: — "Two miles 
below the house of Beldorney, clos by the river-side, are 
two natural bathes, called Saint Wallach's Bathes, much 
frequented in the summer-time by sick folk, especially chil- 


dren : lying betwixt two rocks, about six or seven paces in 
length, with two of breadth, and four or five foot in deepth, 
always full of water, even in the greatest drouth. Abbout 
a quarter of a myle doun the river, clos by the water side, 
there is ane ruinous kirk, called Wallachkirk. Some part 
of the walls do remain, with the Font. There is a large 
churchyard about it, where many of the dead thereabout 
are enterred, to this day, with a glebe, yet belonging to the 
minister of the parish ; with some marks of the priest his 
house yet remaining. About a hundred paces beneth the 
kirk is Saint Wallach's Well, much frequented by sick 
folk." The well was supposed to be useful in curing affec- 
tions of the eyes, while the baths were especially good for 
weakly children, who were immersed therein on the first 
of May by their superstitious mothers, who also hung gar- 
ments on the bushes surrounding them, and this practice 
continued at least until 1648, for on the 7th of June in that 
year the Presbytery of Strathbogie met at Glass, and "or- 
dained to restrain burialls in the kirk and to censure all 
superstition at Wallak Kirk." Wallakirk, or Dummeth, was 
in the parish of Mortlach, but when the Bishop removed to 
Aberdeen in the 12th century it was annexed to that of 
Glass ; the lands of Dummeth were given to the Church bv 
Malcolm II., afterwards passed to Duff of Braco, and now 
are included in the estate of Beldorney. 

The house of Beldorney, mentioned in the foregoing, 
was yet another of the numerous possessions of the different 
branches of the Gordon family. The founder of this branch 
was Mr George Gordon, a natural son of Adam, Dean of 
Caithness, son of Alexander, 1st Earl of Huntly. He built 
the house of Beldorney, and his descendants lived there 
until about the beginning of the iSth centurv. The Bal- 
bithan MS. brings down the succession to 1631, in which 
year the then laird of Beldorney married the daughter of 
the laird of Muirhouse, and had succession, but there it 
stops. In the graveyard of Wallakirk there is a stone to 
the memory of Katherine Gordon, daughter to James 
Gordon, " late of Beldorney." She died in 1795, in her 
94th year, so we suppose her father to have been the grand- 
son of the laird who married in 163 1. The representatives 
of the family now live at Wardhouse, near Insch. Bel- 
dorney is at the present time in the possession of Mr Grant. 


From here onwards there is nothing worthy of note in 
the scenery, the valley being like many another in Scot- 
land : green rolling hills, their slopes plentifully dotted over 
with farms, the river swift and clear, as upland rivers are,, 
now rushing over rocks, now widening into some deep pool 
beloved of the angler, and the white road winding along the 
hillside above. Passing through a fir plantation the Linn- 
burn is reached, where a mountain torrent makes its way 
through a deep gorge, which is spanned by a stone bridge, 
and again we are in the Cabrach, for this burn is the boun- 
dary, not only of the parish, but also of the county. 

The two main roads we have traversed give access to 
the Lower Cabrach. There is still another, which enters 
the Upper Cabrach at the Elrick at the foot of the Buck. 
In this direction Gartly is the nearest station, and it is 9^ 
miles from it to the Church of Cabrach. The road runs 
from Gartly over the lower slopes of Tap o' Noth, on the 
summit of which are the remains of a vitrified fort, the most 
massively built of the fifty similar forts in Scotland, having 
walls 8 ft. high, and from 20 to 30 ft. thick, with a well 
in the centre. (Macdonald's Place Names of Strathbogie.) 
If, as seems probable, these forts were built for defence 
against invasion, this one is admirably situated, for from 
it a view 7 of the sea can be had to north and east, and it 
commands two valleys leading towards the sea coast, while 
behind it the country is wild, mountainous, and at the time 
of its construction probably covered with tangled woods 
and treacherous bogs. 

The village of Rhynie is 3^ miles distant from Gartly. 
It is the post town for the Upper Cabrach, but otherwise 
has little to interest us. Four roads meet here, and we 
select that running west, and, beginning to ascend, pre- 
sently find ourselves at Scaurdargue, the former home of 
"Jock" Gordon, half-brother to the heiress of the Gordons 
of the ducal line, and himself, through his third son, the 
ancestor of the Earls of Aberdeen. 

From Rhynie to the Cabrach there is a long ascent of 
6 miles. With the exception of the small village of Brunt- 
land, few houses are passed. Just before reaching this vil- 
lage is the kirkyard of Essie, but no trace of the kirk itself 
remains. Near by was formerly Lesmoir Castle, the seat of 
an important branch of the Gordon family. "The Castle of 

Lesmoir has vanished. It seems to have been inhabitable 
about the year 1726. During the last century it was used 
as a quarry to build the neighbouring farms, and some of 
the carved work is still at Craig. One stone with a uni- 
corn's head on it was discovered some years ago in the wall 
of the Mains of Lesmoir by Mr Wm. Leiper, A.R.S.A., 
Architect, Glasgow (a descendant of the Gordons of Ter- 
pe-rsie) , who built it into bis house, Terpersie, Helens- 
burgh. Lesmoir may mean 'the large garden' (Lois Mohr) 
from the alluvial soil washed down from the hills. The 
name was derived by Mr Macdonald from Lios mor, the big 
fort, of Lesmurdie. The Gordons held the lands for 23 1 
years, 1537-1766." (The Gordons of Lesmoir, by Captain 
Douglas Wimberly.) 

After passing Bruntland there is little or no cultivation, 
and the only signs of human industry are the peats set up 
to dry, while an occasional post-box by the roadside indi- 
cates a lonely farm house, out of sight of the passer-by. 
The ground is hereabouts very rough and boggy, and there- 
are quantities of huge stones scattered about, which might 
seem as if dropped from a fairy apron, like those forming 
the quarry of Langannet in Kincardineshire, of which it 
is said that the fairies, desiring to build a castle near that 
place, were carrying stones in their aprons for that purpose 
when the apron string of one of them broke, scattering the 
stones, where they remain to this day. Evidence of the 
exposed and lonely region traversed is given by the posts 
driven into the ground at intervals, to mark the road in 
snowy weather, and to keep the unwary from losing the 
way altogether. This road from Rhynie is considered a 
good test of the hill-climbing powers of motor cars, and as 
such has on two occasions formed part of the route pre- 
scribed for the Reliability trials promoted by the S.A-C. 
At the top of the hill is the boundary between the parishes 
of Rhynie and Cabrach, and there a road comes in from 
Lumsden and the parish of Auchindoir, the shortest way to 
the Cabrach from Aberdeen, but rough and narrow from 
its leaving the main road at Lumsden, and not to be re- 
commended to motorists. 

In additon to these three important roads to the Cabrach 
there are numerous cart tracks and footpaths leading to it 
from the outer world, across the hills. Two of these, one 


starting from Gartly, the other from Finglenny, both in the 
parish of Rhynie, enter the Cabraeh near to the Hillock, 
while another, from Bruntland and Essie, comes in over the 
hill of the Newton and there joins an accommodation road on 
the right bank of the river. A footpath comes from Huntly 
over the Clashmach, through the Lang Hill, and along the 
foot of Gromack to Tomnaven. The Upper Cabraeh has 
communication with Glenbucket by a cart-track, which 
comes past the Gauch and Aldivalloch to the hamlet of 
Aldunie, and another path, entering at Aldivalloch, comes 
from Glenlivet, through Blackwater; while yet another, 
from Glenrinnes, comes through Glenfiddich, and, keeping 
to the east side of the Balloch hill, and passing Badchier, 
joins the Dufftown road at Bridgend. 

Surely now the would-be visitor to the Cabraeh cannot 
fail to find it from wherever he may set out, so we shall 
proceed to a description of the parish itself, and endeavour 
to give a short account of its history from our earliest avail- 
able records down to the present time. 




" There's a canld, cauld place they ca' The Cabrach." 

Well now, why do they call it The Cabrach? There is 
some diversity of opinion here; some philologists assert it 
to be a Gaelic word, others deny that there is any Gaelic 
at all in its composition, but as so many of the place-names 
in the neighbourhood are Gaelic, there is no reason why 
this too should not be Gaelic, and those who think it is so 
make out a much better case than the others. Even among 
those who agree as to the Gaelic origin, however, two or 
three quite different interpretations are given, and these 
we shall now consider. 

It must be borne in mind that Celtic place-names are 
almost invariably descriptive, either of the country itself or 
of some local happening; for instance, "Tom-bain," the 
white knoll; "Tom-ballie," the spotted knoll; and "Auch- 
mair," the field of the mair (or officer). In Irish Gaelic 
there is a word closely resembling Cabrach, namely, 
Cabragh or Cabrogh (bad land) ; but the natives of the 
Cabrach deny that the land is bad, asserting that the fault 
lies in the British climate, not the soil, for in good years 
the harvests are more abundant than in places commonly 
thought to be far superior in productiveness. Perhaps early 
settlers, attempting in vain to cultivate the boggy lands, 
might give such a name in disgust, but it is not likely that 
it would continue in use, for "It's an ill bird that fouls its 
own nest," and the Cabrach people are, above all, attached 
to their home. 

An entirely different meaning is "Deer-thicket." Now, 
some of the land may not be the best for farming, but it is 
of a nature well suited for deer, and from time immemorial 


large herds have made it their home. Originally it was a 
royal deer forest, and part of it is now included in that of 
the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. In the district, too, 
-are found names which confirm the probability of this 
explanation. Glenfiddich means full of deer; Badchier, 
hind's thicket; while the Buck of the Cabrach undoubtedly 
refers to a stag rearing his head above his fellows, as this 
hill towers above its neighbours. In this connection there 
is an interesting tradition. As we shall notice later, at one 
time the Cabrach, now treeless and bare, abounded in 
thickets and coppices, well suited for lairs of the deer, and 
for nurseries for their young. When these disappeared, 
the herds left the Cabrach and did not return, and as their 
departure was a great loss to the district it was determined 
to try to get them back. A certain Johnny Stewart was de- 
puted to perform this difficult task, and he, having suspi- 
sions that a large number had taken refuge in the forest of 
Glenmore, in Inverness-shire, went thither in search of 
them. Soon he came upon a herd and began driving them 
across the hills on the forty-mile journey to the Cabrach, a 
seemingly impossible feat. Anyone who has had experience 
of the keen scent, the shy habits, and the fleetness of foot 
of the Highland deer, can readily understand how nearly 
they baffled their driver. Often after, with infinite labour, 
having succeeded in getting them safely over the hill, he 
would himself reach the summit, only to see them rushing 
back along the valley below, and all his work to be done 
over again. However, Johnny must have had unlimited 
patience as well as a deep knowledge of wood-craft, for he 
succeeded at last in bringing all his captives home to the 
Cabrach, where they and their descendants have lived ever 

We referred above to the Cabrach having formerly been 
well wooded, and this brings us to another variation of the 
meaning of the name, and one which seems most likely to 
be the true one. In "The New Statistical Account" the 
Rev. James Gordon gives the meaning as "timber-moss," 
and later writers speak of it as a derivative of "Cabar," a 
tree, a word still in use, applied to the pole or tree which 
is "tossed" at Highland games. The suffix ach is also in 
common use, and signifies a place or field ; therefore Cab- 
rach is "The place of trees." It is worth while noticing 


that, although there is no authentic account of the Cabrach 
woods or their destruction, yet it is a common belief in the 
district that the hills were at one time covered with tree--; 
even said that so thick were they that once a man 
travelled from Finglennie in Rhynie, to the Gauch, in Cab- 
rach, without touching ground, swinging himself along on 
their branches. Evidence of the existence of these tradi- 
tional woods is found when cutting peats, for roots and 
stumps are constantly dug out, often showing marks of fire, 
and in the case of whole trunks, mostly laid in one direc- 
tion, as if by a gale. The story of how they came to be 
thus destroyed is as follows : — 

In the year 1263, Alexander III. repelled the invasion 
of the Norsemen, under King Haco, at the battle of Largs. 
Before, and for some time after the battle, terrible storms 
raged, which did Alexander good sen-ice in fighting against 
the sea rovers ; but as well as being a soldier, the king was 
a forester, and when he turned homewards he began to 
think that perhaps his beloved trees had suffered in the 
gales which had helped him, and in his anxiety to hear 
about the trees, he forgot to inquire first for his wife, Mar- 
garet, who had given him a son in his absence. Naturally, 
the Queen was angry, and in her anger took a lasting ven- 
geance, for she ordered the royal forests to be set on fire ; 
the wind helped, and for days the conflagration raged until 
scarcely a trace of her rivals remained, and The Cabrach, 
the place of trees, became what it is to-day, destitute of all 
but a few birches by the river-side, and some trees recently 

In attempting to trace the history of the Cabrach, it 
will very much simplify matters if we continue to preserve 
the distinction between the Upper and Lower districts, and 
consider each separately. And first as to the F/pper Cab- 
rach. From the earliest records it seems to have been a 
royal forest, and may have been reserved, like the neigh- 
bouring Strathaven, for the grazing of the king's horses. 
However that may be, it is certain that it formed part of 
the Crown lands prior to 1374, when King Robert II. 
granted to Wm. Douglas "all and whole the lands and 
forest of the Cabrach and a half davat of the lands of Auch- 
mayre," &c. From this time the Cabrach changed hands 
frequently, till it finally came to the family of the Duke of 


Gordon, in whose possession it now is. In 13Q7 it again 
appears in a charter. At that time Sir James Sandilands 
made a donation of lands, including Cabrach, to George, 
Earl of Angus. In these words is concealed a whole chapter 
of Scottish family history, and the Cabrach is brought in 
touch with the romantic career of that remarkable man, 
Alexander Stewart, bastard son of the Wolf of Badenoch. 
William, first Earl of Douglas, had a daughter, Isabel, who 
inherited his great estates. She became Countess of Mar in 
her own right, as heir to her mother, sister and heir of the 
Earl of Mar, and married Sir Malcolm Drummond, brother- 
in-law of Robert III. Earl Douglas also had a natural son 
by Margaret Stewart, Countess of Angus in her own right, 
his sister-in-law. This son, George, not being legal heir to 
his father, became Earl of Angus, as heir to his mother; 
while Sir James Sandilands of Calder, being the nearest 
male heir to his uncle, Earl Douglas, ought to have suc- 
ceeded to the Douglas title and entailed estates. On the 
advice of his friends, however, he voluntarily surrendered 
his claim in favour of his cousin George, as the charter 
shows, and the King undertook to ratify anj^ grants of 
land made to the said George, either by Sir James or by 
George's half sister, Isabel. In 1404, Isabel, who was to 
remain in possession of her estates during her lifetime, be- 
stowed them, with her hand, on Sir Alexander Stewart. 
Her first husband had been murdered in Kildrummy Castle 
(it was believed at the instance of Sir Alexander) , who 
then besieged the Castle and compelled the widowed Coun- 
tess to marry him, and to grant him a charter, giving him 
her lands and making him her absolute heir, to the exclu- 
sion of her own heirs. The King refused to confirm such 
a charter, and another was substituted, in which Isabel 
voluntarily took Sir Alexander Stewart as her husband, and 
made him life-renter of her estates, with remainder to her 
own heirs. Thus, The Cabrach, at Isabel's death, became 
the property of Sir Alexander Stewart, now Earl of Mar, an 
exemplary landlord, leader of the victorious forces at Har- 
law, and a prominent figure in Scottish politics. At his 
death, the nearest heir to his wife was Robert, Lord 
Erskine, who established his claim to the Earldom in 1438, 
but failed to obtain possession of the estates, which were 
seized by the Crown. In 1435 we have an indenture be- 


tween "Sir Robert Erskine and his son on the tapart and 
Sir Alexander Forbes on the tothir," in which Forbes pro- 
mised t<» help the Erskines to regain their rights, he to 
receive as a recompense, in the event of success, "the lord- 
ship of Auchindoir, with pertinences thereof, donacion <»f 
the Kyrk, the Buk and the Cabrach, with a half davach in 
fre forest annexed to said lordship." As Sir Robert, though 
succeeding to the Earldom, did not become the owner <>f 
the estates, Sir Alexander was given certain lands in 

Strathdee instead, and the Cabrach remained the property 

of the Ciown. In 1457 the Erskines' claim was upset and 

the Earldom, as well as the lands, was annexed by the 
down, in the possession of which they remained for half- 
a-century, twice within that period being given to younger 
members of the royal family. In 1508 the final donation of 
the Cabrach was made to Alexander, third Earl of Ilnnllv, 
who had performed great services to the King. In the same 
year it was sold to the Earl's kinsman, James Cordon of 
Auchmyll. In the charter of this sale the boundaries of 
the Cabrach an- defined. By the year i.s.^o the Cabrach 
had come back to Huntly, who exchanged other lands for 
it with his uncle, and it has remained in the undisputed 
possession of the Ilnnllv Cordons ever since, the present 
representative of the line being the Duke of Richmond and 

The following is a brief account of the Duke of 
'-onion's descent from Sir Adam Cordon, who gol Strath- 
bogie : — 

Sir Adam, of the family of Gordon in Berwickshire, 
was a loyal friend of Robert Bruce, who gave him the hinds 

of Strathbogie in 1327. From this time (la- Gordons in- 
creased in power and prosperity until a great part of the 
North of .Scotland was theirs. Sir Adam died in 1 ■; 1 ■; his 
son, Sir Alexander, was killed at the battle oi Halidon Mill 
m 1333 ; and his grandson, John, who succeeded his father 
in tin- title-, was killed at Durham at the battle of Neville's 
Cross in [346. Sir John was tin- first to receive- the desig 
tion "of Huntly.' Adam, his second son, was taken pri- 
soner, along with tne King, at the- same- battle, The- heir, 
Sir John, was killed at Chevy Chase- in [388, and his brother 
Adam fell at Ilomildon Mill in 1402. It is noteworthy of 
these live in lineal succession that four were killed in b. 

•J 9 

and one taken prisoner along with his king. From Sir 
Adam the descent is in the female line, for his elder 
brother's two sons, the famous "Jock and Tarn," were ille- 
gitimate. His daughter Elizabeth married a Seton from the 

South of Scotland, and from her arc descended the Seton- 
Gordons, the- ducal line. Alexander Seton-Gordon was 
created first Earl of Huntly in 1449. He obtained from the 
king Badenoch and Brae Lochaber, and by his marriage 
first with Margaret Keith, and second with the heiress of 
the Bog of Gight, became possessed of the estates of Touch, 
Fraser, Aboyne, Glentanar, Glenmuick and Clunie, and 
the Bog of Gight. He was succeeded by his son George, 
who built Gordon Castle, and he in turn was succeeded by 
his eldest son, Alexander, the same- to whom the forest of 
Cabrach was granted for his faithful service. Alexander 
was followed by his grandson George, who was Chancellor 
of Scotland in 1549, and who was killed at the battle of 
Coniclne. The fifth Earl was George, and also the sixth. 
To the sixth Earl came a further advance in the peerage. 
He was created Marquis of Huntly in 150c). The second 
Marquis was captain of the .Scots Guards maintained 1 by the 
King of Prance, and was beheaded by the Covenanters in 
[654. He was succeeded by his son Lewis, wdiose son 
George was created Duke of Gordon in 1684. The fourth 
Duke, Alexander, married the famous Jane Maxwell, of 
Monreith, in 1767. He was created Earl of Norwich in 
17S4 and died in 182S. His son, as Marquis of Huntly, with 
the assistance of his mother, raised the regiment of Gordon 
Highlanders. He it was who was known as "The Cock of 
the North" ; his portrait by Raeburn hangs in Gordon 
Castle and offers a marked contrast to the portraits of his 
noble ancestors which also adorn the walls, for it "lives." 
With the death of "The Cock of the North" in 1836, the 
title of Martpus of Huntly passed to the Aboyne branch of 
the family, and that of Duke of Gordon became dormant, 
for he left 110 heir male. Charlotte, daughter of Duke- 
Alexander, had married Colonel Lennox, who became Duke 
of Richmond, and her son, Charles Gordon Lennox, who, 
on the death of his father, became Duke of Lennox in the 
peerage of Scotland, Duke of Richmond in the peerage of 
the United Kingdom, and Due d'Aubigny in the peerage 
of France, succeeded to the Gordon estates. His son 


Charles - 'l liim in these titli i in i860, and foi him 

titli "i Duke oi Gordon was revived in [876. At hii 

in 1903, liis son, Chai les Hem ( roi don Lenno , 

Earl of March, became Duke oi Richmond and Gordon and 

r of tin ' rordon Castli 

al Foi hab< rs, and ' rood / ood I fouse in Sus 1 

The Lower Cabrach has passed through almo 1 as man, 
changes of ownership as the Upper Cabrach. At th< 

nt time it is divided among four landlords the D 
of Richmond and Gordon, who owns the Dauch 
Blackwater and Corinacy; Mr Leslie, the laird of Lesmurdie; 
Mr Grant of Beldorney, to whom the faun, ol Belch* 
o< li beloi 1 lor of Milltown. 

comprisi the land on th< U f 
banks of the Charrach burn and the Deveron, from ih< 
' I -, of the Balloch to Forteath, tended to 

Unnburn, and included the third pari of [nvercharrach, 
and Achnastank in G find 

a Strathauchin in Lesmurdie, and from him the main part 
le estate h in unbroken ion to the ptf 


At that - < trathauchin oi lyosmothie 

;;t from .' e 1 1 idi oi Ovir< tead a third part 

h, and Auchnastank. Thirty-nin< 
r Strathauchin divided hi 


and a third pari of In 
quherach, Auchnastank, and Balkery. In . ,g Ge< 
Strathauchin mind to inci in the 

Cabrs 1 of the 

from John ' \o ■ 01 part owner of 

in in 

Still further 

> one 
but on - thorn 

:. . . ■ 
' ' .'. • ... ' a bran 
He man .' / one < 


of the last Strathauchin, who died without male heirs, and 
by disposition from his wife, her sisters and their husbands, 
acquired the lands. His son, Alexander, succeeded him 
and conveyed the estate to James Stewart of Auchorachan, 
his brother, in life-rent, and to James's son Alexander, in 
fee, in 1697. James Stewart of Auchorachan, thereafter of 
Lesmurdie, married Margaret, eldest daughter of Alexander 
Duff of Keithmore, and thus allied himself with the family 
of the Earl of Fife. His son Alexander, fourth of 
Lesmurdie, had a daughter who married James Leslie of 
Kininvie. Her brother, Francis, succeeded his father in 
1758, and he sold Lesmurdie to his second son, William, 
who died before his father, and was succeeded by his son, 
Major-General Francis Stewart, w r ho married in 1795 
Margaret, daughter of Sir James Grant cf Grant. His son, 
Captain James Stewart, who died unmarried in 1S74, was the 
last of the family of Stewart to own Lesmurdie. It then 
passed to the descendants of his father's brother, Major- 
General William Stewart, who had a family of one son and 
three daughters. One of these daughters married Lieut. - 
Colonel Simon Fraser Mackenzie of Mountgerald, in 184 1, 
and had one daughter. Another married George Aber- 
cromby Young Leslie, Esq., of Kininvie, and had two sons 
and three daughters. Miss Mackenzie and the eldest son of 
Mrs Leslie became joint-heirs to the property of their 
cousin, and Lesmurdie fell to Colonel Leslie's share. At 
his death in 19 13 it passed by will to his second son, 
Archibald S. Leslie. 

Invercharrach was in time past a barony, and in- 
cluded in its lordship, beside the farm lands now known by 
that name, the several farms and crofts of Badchier, with 
Tomnavoulin and Crofthead. Its palmy days, when the 
castle was standing, and the tenants of the various farms and 
crofts rendered service to its owner, were about the 13th 
and 14th centuries. At a later period it was divided into 
three parts, belonging to different persons and included in 
different estates. The earliest mention of such a division is 
in 1473, when "a third part of Envercheroch" was sold to 
George de Strathauchin by Lawrence Nudry of Ovirestead, 
and this third continued to belong to the Lesmurdie estate 
until 0000. It is mentioned again in 1527, when Alexander 
Strathauchin granted it to his son George, and in 1578, 


i (hi;, and [663 it appears in the Lesmurdie charters. There- 
after no mention of it is made until 1725, when, according to 
a record in the Cabrach Session Minutes, the laird of Les- 
murdie was in residence at Invercharrach. The first entry 
of Invercharrach in the rental of the Gordon-Richmond 
estates occurs in 1750, so that apparently it was acquired by 
the Gordons between 1725 and 1750. It is probable that the 
register of the sale was among the lost Lesmurdie papers. 

Of the remaining two-thirds we have the following 
records: — In 1488, John Craigmyll of Craigmyll, Lord Por- 
tioner of Inverquherach, sold to Sir James Ogilvie of Desk- 
ford the lands of Inverquherach, &c. In 1517, Alexander 
Ogilvy got a Royal Charter of Glenfiddich and a third part 
of Invercharrach, &c, and the lands of Findlater, Desk- 
ford, Keithmore, Auchendoun, and other lands, with fish- 
ings on the Deveron and water of Ythan, the Constabulary 
of Cullen in the counties of Banff and Aberdeen, and the 
lands of Balehall and others in Forfar, were incorporated 
into one free barony, called the baroiry of Ogilvie, "to him 
and his heirs male of his body." In 1535, Alexander 
Ogilvy of Keithmore was confirmed in a half part of Inver- 
quherach and forest of Etnach, otherwise Blackwater. 

These Ogilvies were the ancestors of the Seafield family. 
On Alexander Ogilvy's death, his widow married Sir John 
Cordon, a son of the Marquis of Huntly, and a distant 
cousin of her own, she having been the daughter of Adam 
Gordon, Dean of Caithness. Alexander Ogilvy had left his 
lands to Sir John Gordon, on condition of his assuming the 
name and arms of Ogilvy, leaving entirely out of the suc- 
cession his own son by his first wife, Lady Janet Abernethy, 
daughter of Lord Saltoun. Naturally the son, James Ogilvy 
of Cardale, considered himself very badly treated, and, in 
view of the Charter of 1517, unlawfully disinherited, and a 
series of quarrels arose between the families of Ogilvy and 
Gordon. The Queen took James Ogilvy's part and called 
upon Sir John Gordon to surrender the castles of Auchen- 
doun and Findlater. This he declined to do, even refusing 
the Queen admittance to the latter, though it is not said 
that she applied in person. He defeated the troops sent out 
to take possession of Findlater, but shortly after the battle 
of Corrichie, in which the Gordons were on the losing side, 
he surrendered, and was afterwards executed in Aberdeen. 

As a consequence his possessions were forfeited to the 
Crown, and in a Charter of 1563 Queen Mary granted the 
lands of the baronies of Findlater, Deskford, &c, to James 
Ogilvy. But the Gordons still continued to claim part of 
the lands, therefore a process of arbitration was entered 
into, and a decree given that the lands of Findlater and 
Deskford were assigned to James Ogilvy, while Sir Adam 
Gordon, brother of Sir John, got Auchendoun and Keith- 
more, which included the second third part of Inver- 

We have still to dispose of the remaining third, so we 
turn to a MS. history of the Gordon family, written about 
1 73 1, and find therein that after the battle of Glenlivet in 
1594, George, first Marquis of Huntly, bought Inverchar- 
rach and Blackwater, but no mention is made of the seller. 
In another place it is said that Invercharrach, Blackwater, 
and Glenfiddich were in the possession of the Marquis of 
Huntly in 163S. 

Next come two very puzzling records, the first a Retour 
of Succession: "1662, Aug. 2S. Anna Forrester, haeres 
Willielmi Forrester, sartoris burgensis burgi Vicicanona- 
corum, patris, in terris templariis, et terris dominicalibus de 
Garfullie . . . Badchett (vel Badchier) dimidietate terrarum 
de Innercharrach (vel Inner channachie) tertia parte 
terrarum de Bellecherrie, cum juribus patronatum." 

The second is from the General Register of Sasine, and 
sets forth that on July 2nd, 1781, Alexander Duke of 
Gordon gets a Renunciation, May 4th, 17S1, by Alexander 
Penrose Cuming of x\ltyre, of "parts of the barony of Auch- 
endown, viz., Clunymore, Smithstown, and Old Screen, 
Tullachallum, Invercharrach, Badchccr, Brigfoord, Laggan, 
and Dryburn, Forrest of Blackwater, Over and Nctlicr Ard- 
wells, and Teinds, par. Mortlich and Cabrach, and of his 
liferent right, in two Disp. and Assig., Sept. 22nd 1772 and 
Mar. 14th 1774." 

It is possible that these lands had been transferred to 
the Cumings by a marriage treaty, and that in default of 
issue they had returned to the possession of the Gordons, 
but Anna Forrester and her father remain a mystery. 

Soccoch and Belcherric. — These two farms are be- 
tween the Lesmurdie estate and the boundary between the 
Lower Cabrach and Glass. They belong, with Greenloan, 


which is included in Soccoch, to Mr Grant of Beldorncy, 
in Class. They both came to the Grants in 1792, when 
"Win. ('.rant, Counsellor at Law, London, was seised, Jan. 
20th, 1792, in third part of Belcherrie, comp. Succoth, par. 
Mortlich, now Cabrach, &c." (Register of the Great Seal, 
Feb. 3rd, 1792.) Previously Soccoth had belonged to 
Alexander Duff of Keithmore, the ancestor of the Fife 
family, who, with his kinsman, Duff of Braco, was insati- 
able in regard to land. With monotonous regularity the 
records read, "formerly belonged to so-and-so, now to Duff 
oj Braco." The Duffs acquired Soccoch in 1650, and it 
ranked as a gentleman's seat, for it is given under a list of 
Manors in a description of the parish written about 1730. 
Before 1650 Soccoch belonged to the Gordons, the Birken- 
burn branch of which family had it for some time. There 
was a George Gordon in Soccoch towards the end of the 
1 6th century, who married a daughter of Alexander Gordon 
•of Tulloch, Chancellor of Murray, but its history previous 
to this is, so far as we have been able to discover, un- 

Belcherrie comes in for much more notice. It, like 
Invercharroch, has been divided into three parts, and of 
these one-third belonged from an early time to the Gordons, 
to one of the many branches of the family descended from 
"Jock" Gordon. Somewhere about the middle of the 15th 
century a daughter of Robert Gordon of Belcherrie married 
Thomas Gordon, a grandson of Alexander Gordon of 
Buckie, and a generation later there was a William Gordon 
in Belcherrie, a natural son of Gordon of Pitlurg. Both 
Buckie and Pitlurg were descended from "Jock" Gordon, 
but they could never agree as to which was the elder 
branch. The next mention of this third part is in 1627, 
when George Gordon of Beldorney was served heir to his 
father, Alexander Gordon, and Belcherrie appears in the 
list of his lands. In 163S his son George succeeded him, 
and after that there is a gap of nearly a century, when in 
1730 there is a Sasine to Jas. Gordon of Beldorney of the 
lands of Belcherrie, "sometime pertaining to the deceased 
Mr Robert Maitland." (Banff Field Club Transactions, 
Feb. 1 2th, 1909.) In 1776 Charles Edward Gordon, 
eleventh and last Laird of Beldorney, sold the lands and 
castle of Beldorney, with Belcherrie and Soccoch to Thomas 


Buchan of Auchmacoy ("A Glass Farmer's Diary"), who 
in 1792 sold them to Sir Wra. Grant, Master of the Rolls. 
The second third belonged to the L,esmurdie family, 
who bought it from Lawrence Nudry in 1473- In ^5-1, 
Alex. Strathauchin of Lesmurdie gave the third part of Bel- 
cherrie to his son George, and in 1539 the said George- 
bought "three eastern parts." In 1578, when another 
Strathauchin became heir, there is still mention of the 
third part only, so evidently "the said George" did not keen 
his three eastern parts. In 1607 Alexander Strathauchin 
became heir to his uncle James, and in 1663 the four 
daughters of the last Strathauchin became joint heiresses. 
After the transfer of the lands to the Stewarts through the 
marriage of one of the heiresses to a Stewart, the records 
cease, and as has already been explained, no more are- 

There yet remains a part of Belcherrie, and this, we 
think, must be that referred to in the entry under the Great 
Seal of June 22nd, 14S8, when John Craigmyll of Craigmyll, 
for a certain sum paid in ready money, sold certain lands, 
including Balkery, to Sir Jas. Ogilvie, of Deskford. In 
1535 Alex. Ogilvy and Eliz. Gordon had these lands con- 
firmed to them, and after this Belcherrie's history is the 
same as that of the part of Invercharrach which had be- 
longed to the Ogilvies. The mysterious Anna Forrester 
again makes her appearance, for Belcherrie is included in 
the above mentioned charter, " tertia parte terrarum de 
Bellecherrie, cum juribus patronatum." 

Blackwater appears several times in the foregoing 
charters. It included, beside the forest, the farms of Upper 
and Nether Ardwell, and Shenval. It will be seen that 
Blackwater was held by Alex. Ogilvy in 1535, and was 
bought by the Marquis of Huntly in 1594, while it appears 
also in the charter of Renunciation by Alex. Penrose Cum- 
ing. This is the only place in which the Ardwells are men- 
tioned separately, and Shenval is not mentioned at all. 

Corinacy. — The Daugh of Corinacy extends from the 
Raigie burn to the burn of Bank, and comprises all the land 
on the right bank of the Deveron between those two tribu- 
taries. It is obvious that the term Daugh was not used in its 
strict sense as meaning 416 acres, for there are several thou- 
sand acres in Corinacy, probably the arable land only was 


counted. This piece of land belongs to the Duke of Rich- 
mond and Gordon, and has apparently been in the possession 
of the Gordons since the 17th century. Before that nothing 
relating to it has been discovered. One of the farms is 
named Hillock of Echt, and this name is derived from the 
barony of Echt-Forbes, of which Corinacy seemingly formed 
part, being in the possession of the Forbeses of Echt, near 
Aberdeen. The two families, Forbes and Gordon, appear to 
have owned Corinacy at the same time. There are three 
possible explanations of this: — first, the Gordons had the 
"superiority" while the Forbeses had the land; second, that 
the two not being on friendby terms, as is well established, 
the- Gordons gained possession of the lands by force, the 
Forbeses still keeping up their claim; and third, that each 
owned part. The available records are as follows, and we 
give them without further comment, hoping that some light 
may yet be shed on this point : — 

Jan. 9th, 1610. Robertus Forbes de Phynnersie, haeres 
masculus Joannis Forbes de Echt, filii patrui, in 40 solidatis 
terrarum villae et terrarum de Corronasie, cum pendiculis, 
vocatis, Thomnavin, Glascorie, and Dalreanche. Nov. 23rd, 

. Thos. Forbes of Echt, nephew of Thos. Forbes, by 
eldest half brother, succeeds to barony of Echt-Forbes, com- 
prehending 40 solidatis of lands of Correnssies, with Hil- 
lock, Thomnavin, Oldtown, Newtown, Glascorrie, Dalreoch 
called Bank, and lands in Aberdeen and Kincardine. 


1664. Roll of Freeholders of Banffshire. "The Laird 
of Gight for his lands of Corronassie." This entry is re- 
peated twice every year until 5th Oct. 16S3, when the name 
is changed to the Marquis of Huntly for his lands of fforest 
of Boynd, &c, and Corronassie. 

Jan. 23rd, 1796. Alex., Duke of Gordon, gets Renun- 
ciation, dated Jan. 6th, 1796, by Benjamin Gordon of Bal- 
bithan, of the superiority of Cofforach, par. Rathven, 
Davoch lands of Correnacie, par. Mortlich, Tynet and Mill, 
par. Bellie, Mill and Mill lands of Correnacie, par. Mort- 
lich, and teinds, and of his liferent, in two Disp. and Assig. 
Sept. 19th, 1771, and Sept. 27th, 1773. 

Gen. Reg. of Sasines. 




" Green vale of Cabrach where the lambent waters flow, 

A glistening mirror to the golden broom, 
Think not that I forget thee when I go 

Or fail to carry happy memories home. 
"What tho' the wind blow cold from off the eastern sea, 

It floods the vale with scent of birch and peat, 
Nor dims the purple distance o'er the lea, 

Nor stirs in sheltered bank the noonday heat. 
The Cabrach moorland farm creeps upward to the heath, 

Mingle green corn and whin and russet ling, 
Lesmurdie's burn, quick emptying to the stream beneath, 

Adds its low voice where IJeveron's ripples sing." 

The Exile. 

Taking our course through the Cabrach from Dufftown, 
we must pass through the Glacks of the Balloch. On the 
left, about the middle of the pass, is the site of a cairn 
which formerly stood there. Many conjectures have been 
made as to its origin and purpose, such as that it covered 
the bodies of those who fell in some long-forgotten battle, 
or was a monument to their victory ; but the most popular 
is a version of the "hidden treasure" story, which is always 
fascinating and never lacks believers. The tale is of a 
bull's hide full of gold, hidden below the cairn and watched 
over by the fairies. It is always risky to meddle with any- 
thing belonging to the "Good People," and either from in- 
credulity or fear, no one seemed inclined to open the cairn 
and find out the truth, until at last one man summoned up 
courage to make the attempt. He went secretly at night 
and commenced to make a hole in the centre. As he 
worked he saw ghostly forms flitting round him, while 
ghostly voices sounded in his ear; still he kept to his task 
and the hole got deeper and deeper, but the forms pressed 
more and more closely upon him, and presently the stones 
he flung out came flying back at him. Then his courage 


began to wane, and he decided to wait for daylight. Pic- 
ture his astonishment and awe when morning revealed the 
cairn intact, with no trace of his night's labour remaining. 
Looking upon this as a sign that the treasure was not for 
him, he made no further efforts, and the cairn remained 
undisturbed until about thirty years ago. By that time 
superstition was nearly dead, and as in the winter the pass 
was frequently blocked with snow, which drifted in the 
shelter of the huge pile of stones sometimes to a depth of 
50 ft., and as, also, here was a fine supply of road metal 
without the trouble of quarrying it, the cairn was taken 
down and is now spread over the surface of the roads in 
such small fragments as would puzzle any spirit to put 
together again. Nothing whatever was found in it, and as 
the ground below was not disturbed, the secret remains a 
secret still. 

From the opening of the pass a good view is obtained, 
the Lower Cabrach beginning to spread out before us. 
Right ahead is the Buck, overtopping all, while nearer at 
hand are the hills of the Blackwater, with a few scattered 
farms and crofts in the valley at our feet, from which the 
hospitable smell of peat-fires rises to greet us. On the left 
of the road there is to be seen in August a large peat-stack, 
the property of Glenfiddich Distillery, which obtains its 
supply of fuel from the moss a short distance up in the 
Garbet hill, so the Cabrach deserves some of the credit of 
the fineness of the whisky. On the right a cart track breaks 
away, leading first of 'all to the farms of Badchier, then to 
Glenfiddich and Blackw T ater. The Charach burn has its 
source in these hills, and flows N.E. for a mile or so, then 
taking a right angle turn follows the road down to the 
Deveron. From its source to this turn the ground slopes 
towards it on both sides, and the valley is known as Bad- 
chier, a Gaelic name meaning, according to some author- 
ities, "Hind's thicket." Though not many trees now re- 
main, no doubt in times past the ground was well covered 
with the small thick wood which the deer find such excel- 
lent shelter for their wives and young families. Mr Mac- 
donald (to whose "Place Names in Strathbogie" we are 
indebted for most of the interpretations of Gaelic names 
which we give) says that the original form of the word was 
"Badtchear," which seems to point to the Gaelic "Bad-t- 


siar" as its derivation, that is "the place of the west," and 
that the name is given as this is the most westerly culti- 
vated ground in the parish. 

There are not so many houses here as there used to be, 
even within the last ten years, for the story of emigration 
and depopulation of the country districts is the same here 
as elsewhere in Scotland. Four or five houses are all that 
remain in Badchier, perched on the slopes on either side of 
the burn. The same families have lived in them for genera- 
tions : a Smart and a Jopp were tenants in 1784, and their 
descendants still carry on the farms of Westerton and Bad- 
chier; while Mr Maconochie of Broomknowes is descended 
from two families whose representatives have been in or 
about Badchier for 150 years. The best-known of these was 
Peter Cameron, who was at Broomknowes in 1804. At that 
time the barony of Invercharrach exercised certain rights 
of service, called "binnage," over the crofters of Badchier, 
who were compelled to supply labour every harvest to the 
tenant of Invercharrach. Besides the farms we have named, 
there were also included in this service those of Todholes, 
Burntreble, Crofthead, and Tomnavowin. Peter Cameron 
had on one of these occasions sent his young daughter to 
help at the harvest. In the friendly "kemping" match on 
the field she was left far behind, and being chaffed and 
made the subject of jokes, which were perhaps rather free, 
her father was so annoyed when she told him about it that 
he made up his mind to beg the Duke to remove this burden 
on the tenants. So when the "tacks" were almost out he 
repaired to Gordon Castle and represented the case so 
strongly to his landlord that he readily agreed that the 
Badchier tenants should in future hold their land directly 
from himself, and thus do away with the "binnage." 

Returning to the main road, two or three small crofts 
are seen to the left, on the slope of the Garbet hill, and 
behind them is a pretty wood of fir and larch, one of the 
very few plantations in the Cabrach. [Since this was written 
much of the wood has been cut down.] They belong to the 
Lesmurdie estate, which extends from the Muckle Balloch 
to the burn of the Soccoch, three miles farther on, and 
embraces the land on the left side of the road. The next 
farm on Lesmurdie is Rhynturk, so called from a fancied 
resemblance to the snout of a boar in the hill above. It 


occupies one of the most commanding positions in the Cab- 
rach, and has a fine view. 

Almost opposite, on the other side of the burn, is Tod- 
holes, a name which indicates the presence of foxes in the 
vicinity. As already stated, this farm was included in the 
"binnage" of Invercharroch, and was farmed by Peter Cam- 
eron, along with Broomknowes. On the same side of the 
road Burntreble is next. Here the Charach burn receives 
two tributaries, and consequently the name is usually 
thought to mean "three burns." This, though plausible, 
is, however, incorrect, for the name is a corruption of the 
Gaelic "triopall" ("a gathering"), and could be equally 
applied to four or five burns. The tributary on the left is 
the Luie, the burn of the calves, which flows down from 
the N.E. slopes of the Garbet Hill, making a deep gully 
between it and the Kelman Hill. In the gully are two 
farms, Ardluie, or i\luie, and Findouran, a name that 
puzzled Mr Macdonald, and Bodiemullach (the clump on 
the ridge) , which is more a croft than a farm, so small is 
it. Now we come to Bridgend, the nearest approach to a 
village that the Cabrach possesses. At Bridgend is "The" 
shop, with the Post and Telegraph Office, the Blacksmith's 
and five other occupied houses. There is another small shop 
at Crofthead. Not so long ago, indeed within the last thirty 
or forty years, there were no fewer than eight tradesmen at 
Bridgend, all of whom found plenty of work: two shoe- 
makers, a tailor, a dressmaker, a blacksmith, a merchant, a 
weaver and a joiner, but now that people find it so much 
easier to visit a town and have acquired a taste for town 
products, these country workers have sadly diminished in 
numbers. But there is no other blacksmith in the parish, 
and a great inconvenience it must be to fetch a horse with 
a dropped shoe for five miles, from the High Cabrach, to 
be shod at Bridgend. 

Bridgend is backed by the hill of Tomnavoulin, pro- 
nounced locally Tam-a-ooin, and an accommodation road 
leads round the base of it to the farms of Tomnavoulin and 
Shenval. The first-named has a pleasant situation on the 
S.W. slope of the hill. The name, according to Mr Mac- 
donald, is the Gaelic Tom-na-mhuilinn, the hill of the mills, 
so called from its nearness to the Milltown. From here the 
ground rises again to the farm of Shenval (Gaelic Sean- 
bhaile, old town) . 


This, from its associations, is one of the most interest- 
ing places in the district. Though now only one farm, in 
the early part of last century there were three or more 
farmers cultivating the land here, and earlier still there 
was, farther up the Blackwater, a collection of houses 
almost numerous enough to be called a village. At the 
present time the Shenval comprises a good-sized dwelling- 
house, with a large steading and a farm of about 
a hundred acres of arable land, with hill pasture also, 
occupied by Mr Macdonald. Though windy and cold, there 
being no trees to make a shelter, and the site being so 
exposed on the top of the hill, the bareness and exposure 
had a very decided advantage in troubled times. Malcolm 
Canmore built up here one of those forts, the line of which 
extended from Burghead and Duff us to Cairn-na-Mounth. 
No trace of the fort remains, but near by are some large 
hollows, surrounded by a sort of earthwork, which are said 
to have been fortifications, and have even been attributed 
to the Romans. This explanation of them, however, is 
obviously not the correct one, for not only do these hollows 
bear no resemblance to the usual well-authenticated Roman 
camps and fortifications, but it is extremely doubtful 
whether the Romans ever penetrated so far north inland. 
To the unimaginative eye they look far more like disused 
quarries, and as there is some tradition of lead being found 
in the Cabrach, they may be old workings. At present 
their use is to afford comfortable shelters for the sheep. 

The Castle at Shenval claimed to have sheltered 
Edward I. in his march, denying that honour to the Castle of 
Invercharroch, and perhaps this visit accounts for the name 
of "King's Haugh" given to the stretch of haughland of 
about to acres near to the Slochs, the so-called fortifications. 
Here are the remains of quite a number of cottages arranged 
like a street, possibly at one time occupied by the labourers 
employed on the farms of King's Haugh and Horseward, 
which lies still farther up the stream. These signs of 
habitation explain the name of Shenval (the old town), for 
the near neighbourhood must have been comparatively 
thickly populated, and so one can better understand the 
choice of this place for the building of the Roman Catholic 
Chapel. In 1804 Shenval was divided into three parts, 
leased by four persons, and the Horseward was also leased. 


In 1824 Shenval was still divided in three, and 
the Horse ward was tenanted by Janet Robertson, 
who is said previously to have farmed the King's 
Haugh. The Duke of Gordon had spent some time at the 
Shenval in his boyhood, and while there was not treated 
with that courtesy and kindness he expected by the 
mistress, whose delinquencies were, however, more than 
made up for by the maid, Jau-et Robertson. When, there- 
fore, the good wife journeyed to Gordon Castle to have her 
lease renewed, the Duke coolly told her she had no business 
to transact with him, and gave her farm to another tenant, 
first allowing the servant to choose a part of it for herself. 
She fixed on the King's Haugh, but finding it too windy, 
asked to be transferred to the Horseward, for which she 
paid £7 annually. 

Leaving the Shenval, it is a pleasant walk past the farm 
of Tomnavoulin and over the hill, descending at Crofthead, 
where there are two cottages, one of which used to be the 
post office, while in the other is a small general shop. From 
here a rough road leads down to a foot-bridge across the 
Charach burn, and after passing the school joins the Huntly 
road (which we left at Bridgend) at the gate of Milltown 
of Lesmurdie. Close by and just above the school, a flight 
of steps cut in the brae makes a short way to the Church. 
From the road is another flight of steps to the Manse door, 
and here, being quite out of breath with the climb, let us 
pause and look around, for it is a truly lovely view that 
meets us. The hills here form a wide basin, from which 
there seems at first sight to be no outlet : green and purple 
they lie, fold on fold, with here a clump of trees and there 
a burn, their grassy and heathery slopes scattered over with 
sheep. Below the Firbriggs a deep cleft shows the course 
of the Blackwater, and at the foot of the hill of Corinacy, 
on the left, flows the Deveron, its farther bank edged with 
a fringe of birches. Opposite to us is the Richmond Hotel, 
and just beyond it the road disappears round a corner on 
the way to Upper Cabrach. It all sounds simple and idyllic 
enough, but the charm lies mainly in the play of colour — 
never the same for two hours together, and always beauti- 
ful, whether under the grey sky of autumn or the brilliant 
sunshine, in the early morning or at sunset of a winter day, 
when the afterglow is almost Alpine in its beauty. Some 


measure of it is perhaps gained from the "I'm-Monarch-of- 
all-I-survey" feeling that one has in standing on this high 
terrace and looking down and around. As a full description 
of the Church and Manse is given in another chapter, we 
will leave them for the present, noting in passing that the 
name of the site is Sunnybrae. Just below the Manse a 
cottage used to stand, inhabited by Alexander Stewart, kirk 
officer, known as "Pachles." After his death in 1874 the 
house was occupied for a short time by his daughter, and 
then pulled down and the stones used for building dykes. 
On a rising ground, loking like an island in the centre of 
the basin, is the farm of Invercharroch, one of the best in 
the Lower Cabrach. Time was when this was the seat of 
a barony, with lordship over much of the surrounding 
country, and the Castle of Invercharroch was well known to 
many famous people as a half-way house and resting-place. 
Among them should be noted Edward I., who is said to 
have stayed here on his march through the North of Scot- 
land in 1296, though possibly (as remarked above) Edward 
really stayed at the Castle of Shenval, for in the diary of 
his march kept by one of his suite it is stated that at 
"Interkerachte" there were but "nj maisons sans plus en 
une valie entre deux montagnes." So perhaps the troops 
camped at Invercharroch, on the haugh of Delmore, while 
their leader lodged at Shenval, the Castle of Invercharroch 
being built later. Robert Bruce is also said to have rested 
here, and David I. and James II. are among the royalties 
who have honoured it; while more than likely the 
"Gaberlunzie Man" passed this way in his wanderings 
about Strathbogie. Mary Queen of Scots, too, is credited 
with having spent a night under the Castle roof, though to 
be sure, if she slept in all the houses that claim the honour, 
the poor lady must seldom have passed a night in her own 
bed. Among others, General Lesly, "the Great Marquis," 
and Graham of Claverhouse lodged in our Castle, the last- 
named giving his name to it, for it was alternative^ called 
"Claver Castle." But it is disappointing to find so little 
really authenticated information about this historic spot, 
and all we know is that the Castle was still standing in 
1725, and that probably it fell into ruin soon after. Between 
1850 and i860 a portion of it remained and formed part of 
the garden wall. Below the present farmhouse there is a 


large knoll, on which the castle stood, surrounded by trees, 
but most of its stones have been used for building, so that 
it is now impossible to trace its extent or design. The 
garden was to the N.E. of the present one, and a number 
of good trees grew close by, but of these only one or two 
remain. Thus, interesting as Invercharroch may be to the 
antiquary or historian, the casual eye discerns nothing to 
distinguish it from any other farm "toun," except its 
unique situation, which commands the valleys of the 
Deveron, the Black water and the Charach burn, and which 
no doubt inspired the original builders. The name means 
the mouth of the stony bottom (burn) . Its form has 
varied with the years, some of the earlier spellings being 
Interkerachte, Inverkerack, Enuercheroche, Inverquhe- 

The last incident of note in connection with Inverchar- 
roch was the pursuit and attempted arrest of its master, 
Lieutenant Roy, of the Scottish Royals, after Culloden. 
He escaped through the help of a devoted servant-maid, 
who was killed by a volley discharged through the door she 
was in the act of barring. The laird of Lcsmurdie resided 
there for some time until about 1725, and John Taylor, 
grandfather of John Taylor, Boghead, to whose historic re- 
searches we have referred, was born at Invercharroch in 
that year, leaving it for Milltown of Lcsmurdie some time 
previous to the '45. Apparently Lieutenant Roy succeeded 
the Taylors, and after his flight it became the property of 
the Duke of Gordon. 

In 1750 the tenant of Invercharroch and Badchier was 
John Fife, whose rent amounted to ^16 2s gel. In 17S4, 
Wm. Ferror, "&c," were tenants, paying for it yearly 
£21 ns. From 1784 to 1803 Wm. Ferror had Invercharroch 
on a 19 years' lease, at a rental of ^43 (a great advance) , 
while seven different persons held the crofts of Badchier 
at a total rental of ^24 15s. In 1804 Wm. and Alex. Forbes 
had Invercharroch and Burntreble for £6$ per annum, and 
in 1824 Alex. Forbes paid ^65 for Invercharroch alone ; 
while Jas. Jopp and Jas. M'Combie had crofts on it worth 
respectively £17 10s and £17 i8s 6d. In 1838 Jas. Merson 
became the tenant, and the two crofters remained. Jas. 
Merson was the grandfather of the present tenant, Mr 
William Merson, and the father of Dr Merson, now of Hull, 
and of the late Rev. David Merson of Stamfordham. 


On the hill at the farther side of the basin are the two 
Ardwells, Gaelic Ard-bhaile (the high town) , Upper and 
Nether, with the inn. The first stands high up on the face 
of the Firbriggs, in a cold and windy spot. Originally 
there were two farms here, but both are now merged in 
one. The road passes by the house of the Nether Ardwell, 
which is much more sheltered and has a small plantation 
to the N.W. which keeps much of the wind off the garden. 
In the early part of last century there were no fewer than 
13 dwellings at Nether Ardwell ; now there are but two 
farm-houses, one of which is also the inn, and a cottar house 
behind. The Richmond Hotel, formerly known as the 
Grouse Inn (locally as "the Airdwell") , has been an inn 
for a fairly long period, at any rate since the beginning of 
the last century. It is well known among a circle of fishers 
who return year after year to enjoy the sport provided in 
the Deveron and Blackwater, so generously granted by the 
Duke of Richmond and Gordon ; and before the erection of 
the shooting lodge in the Upper Cabrach, the Duke's 
tenants or guests resided here. As very little custom can 
be had in the winter, the innkeeper, Mr John Watt, culti- 
vates a farm also. His father, Mr Wm. Watt, who died in 
191 2 at the age of 85, occupied the farm all his life, but 
took over the inn only in 1876; before that it w T as in the 
hands of Wm. Stewart. 

Turning back from the Ardwell and the Upper Cabrach 
oad for the present, we continue the journey down the 
river, coming first to Milltown of Lesmurdie, which be- 
longs to Mr James Taylor. The Taylors have occupied the 
Milltown since shortly before Culloden, when Mr Taylor's 
great-grandfather removed from Invercharroch. The land 
owned by Mr Taylor was originally part of the Lesmurdie 
estate, and was purchased by him from the late Colonel 
Leslie. Here, as at most other "touns" of the Cabrach, 
there w ? ere several houses, occupied by the farmer, the 
miller and the joiner, w T hile in a corner of the steading was 
a building used for some years as a school. 

The eailiest mention of a mill is in 154Q, when a charter 
was granted by Mary to Jas. Strathauchin and Elizabeth 
Abircrummy, his spouse. Again in 1562 mention is 
made of it, when it is recorded that "Alester M'Grasycht, 
being bastard, and dying without heirs, escheat of the mill 

46 ' 

was granted to Jas. Strathauchin, Laird of Lesmurdie," so 
that for nearly 400 years the mill stream has run chatter- 
in- and sparkling down from the "intake" below the Manse 
to the wheel at the Milltown. The little stream has wit- 
nessed many changes, and has had variety of work, for 
from grinding corn it passed to threshing corn, and now its 
1 tower is used to supply electricity for lighting the house 
and steading. 

From Milltown we .still keep down the river on its left 
bank. Within easy distance of each other are four farms, 
all of which were lately tenanted by members of the Taylor 
family. These are Tombain (the white knoll) , Tombally 
(the spotted knoll) , the house of which is not now occupied, 
both farms being worked together by Mr John Horn, on 
the hill above the road; and farther down the river, Mains 
of Lesmurdie and Boghead, both below the road. At Mains, 
the most important farm on the Lesmurdie estate, is the 
Lodge of Lesmurdie, once no doubt a pleasant dwelling, 
overlooking one of the best pools on the river; but now, the 
trees having grown so closely about it, it is dark and damp, 
and from long neglect quite uninhabitable. Mains com- 
prises two farms, the other being Cauldstripe, the tenants of 
which were transferred to Badymullach, and one good farm 
made of the two. Mr Cran, tenant of the Mains, apparently 
hnds even this not too large for his energies, for he is also 
tenant of Findouran, another farm formerly tenanted by a 
Taylor, whose hill land marches with his. Until about 1S37 
there was a distillery at the Mains. 

Boghead was until lately the residence of Mr John 
Taylor, who may claim to be the first historian of the 
Cabrach, for though he never published anything he busied 
himself in research, and to his notes we are indebted for 
many of the particulars herein contained. Mr Taylor's 
literary interest and activity are the more remarkable in 
that he attended school for only six weeks, all his know- 
ledge otherwise being self-acquired. 

The next three farms are grouped together — Dry wells, 
Kasterton and Forteith. The steadings of all remain, but 
the house of Dry wells only is inhabited. Easterton is con- 
stantly mentioned in the Lesmurdie charters, and must 
have been of some importance. Forteith (cold homes) , may 
have been so called because of the prehistoric graves found 

there, but Mr Macdonald's more prosaic explanation is that 
the land slopes to the burn of the Soccoch, and so faces 
the north-east. 

Farther back in the hill are two cottages at Craigluie 
(the rock of the calves) , where there were two farms. A 
great part of the land is now uncultivated, and the cot- 
tages are empty. In one of them there lived for a number 
of years Mr David Rattray, who was born in the Cabrach, 
but had been a teacher in Glasgow for a long period. When 
he retired from work, he thought there was no place like 
the Cabrach, so here he came, and what a change it must 
have been from the city to this quiet spot among the 
heather, with his bees. He died in 1908 at the age of S3, 
and since his death no one has occupied the house. 

The majority of these farms are on the Kelman Hill, 
which is one of the most interesting parts of the Cabrach 
to the antiquary, for on it are nearly all the remains of a 
primitive race that have been found in the parish. The 
principal of these are the graves, of which a dozen or more 
have been discovered at different times on the farm of For- 
teith. A very circumstantial account of them, written about 
1S62, says: — "The stone cists . . . are of one descrip- 
tion, the bottoms, sides, and ends of them being formed of 
a sort of green stone found in the hill beyond the ruins of 
the ancient settlement, while the upper or covering slab 
must have been taken from a basaltic rock on the opposite 
side of the river ; and considering their vast size, and the 
distance and elevation to which they had to be carried, it 
becomes a curious problem to ascertain how in those primi- 
tive times such heavy blocks could have been carried 
thither. From the fact that most of these cists are bedded 
upon charcoal, and that they also contain quantities of the 
same material, it has been conjectured that it points to the 
destruction of the wives of the chieftains whose bones are 
interred in the rude stone coffins ; for acting on the axiom 
that it is not good for man to be alone, when a chieftain 
died, they sacrificed his widows that their spirits might 
accompany nim on his journey to the great hunting-land 
beyond the grave." (The writer has surely got his ideas a 
little mixed, for the "happy hunting-grounds" of the West 
and the Suttee of the East are not generally associated with 
the Picts, while even the polygamy is uncertain.) "The 


skeletons, so far as they have been seen in the 
eleven eists that have been opened here, have been of enor- 
mous proportions, and would seem to point to the chieftains 
of those days being chosen, like Saul among the Israelites, 
for their extraordinary physical stature. One of the skulls 
that were found was large enough to contain within it the 
head and hair of one of the largest men in the Cabrach 
(whose head measures 23 ins.) , and from the general ap- 
pearance of the bones, all had evidently been giants as 
compared with the present generation of men. The skulls 
were all flattened or receding in front, like those of the 
American Indians, and a remarkable feature of all that were 
found in anything like a good state of preservation was 
that not a bad tooth was seen, and what was stranger still, 
all the front teeth were almost square. ' From the length 
of the cists, which did not exceed four feet, these large 
bodies had to be crushed or doubled up, and such of them 
as have been found in the best state of preservation were 
always got in a half- reclining position, with their legs 
doubled up, so that the knees nearly approached the chest, 
and on the breast of each a rude clay urn was placed on 
which rough ornamental lines were cut, which were usually 
different from each other, save that round the bulge or 
widest part of the body of the urn a strip of carving like 
herring bone was found upon them. All the bodies were 
laid due east and west, with the heads towards the east, 
and from the circumstance that everything found in 
relation to them pointed in some way or other to the morn- 
ing sun, or was of a circular form, it is presumed that they 
belonged to the ancient fire or sun worshippers. We may 
also mention that at a neighbouring hill there are evidences 
of the remains of a flint manufactory, where the well-known 
arrow heads had been prepared; and such of these ancient 
weapons as have been found can yet be easily traced to 
the different districts where they had been made from their 
difference of colour. The extent of ground which this 
encampment covered cannot now be well ascertained, for 
the remorseless hand of agricultural improvers has rooted 
out a great deal of what not long since remained of this 
Caledonian city. There is reason to believe, however, that 
it had been miles in extent, and had extended "from the 
wood at the top of the Kelman Hill along the farms of 


Boghead, Drywells, Easterton, and Forteith, and following 
the Caledonian road had crossed the water and extended 
to the brow of the opposite hill." 

Thus the "Rollicking Rambler" of 1862, but in the 
accounts given in the Proceedings of the Scottish Society 
of Antiquaries, some of these particulars are contradicted. 
(See appendix.) 

The details are meagre, and though wishing to know 
everything possible about these cists and other remains, and 
therefore not despising any source of information, we are 
inclined to think that the "Rambler," not being a professed 
scientist, has, in his wish to make the facts interesting, 
drawn on his imagination. We may be sure 
that such careful observers as those who opened and 
examined the cists, and subsequently reported the facts to 
a learned Society, would not have been mistaken about the 
size of the skeletons or the position of the urns and so 
on, while the idea of the widow sacrifice is too grotesque to 
contemplate seriously. 

Alexander Robertson, F.G.S., of Elgin, excavated and 
examined several cists in 185 1 and after a detailed descrip- 
tion of the materials, size, position and contents of the 
same, he says — "There can be little doubt that sepulchres 
of very various dates, and containing the remains of people 
of very different races and creeds, are included by anti- 
quaries under the general denomination of primeval cists. 
Those to which this paper refers may, I think, be charac- 
terised as follows: Cist without any superficial mound, 
either of the nature of barrow or cairn, the chamber about 
three feet or a little more in length, and containing a single 
unburnt skeleton, and an urn, either empty (when the 
cavity happens to be so likewise) or showing by the char- 
acter of its contents that it had not when first deposited 
held any solid matter ; with or without chips of flint and 
traces of iron in their vicinity ; with or without ornaments 
of jet, or other similar mineral, but without weapons. 
Cists of this peculiar class have been found in considerable 
numbers in dry, generally somewhat elevated spots all 
along the eastern coasts of Scotland, and they have also 
occurred, although apparently in fewer numbers, on its 
western side. They are far from rare in some parts of 
Germany, and indeed the figure of one at Rossleben, in 


Prussian Saxony, in Prof. Kruse's Deutsche Alterthumer 
might, except that the floor, like the other sides, is formed 
of slabs of stone, and that the urn is different, very well 
serve as an illustration of some of those at Lesmurdie. 
Similar cists appear to have been found in England, Ire- 
land, Denmark, Sweden, and in various others of the 
northern states of Europe; but there is too often such a 
want of precision in the published accounts of these anti- 
quities, that it seems premature to attempt to found any 
ethnological generalisations upon them, although they may, 
I think, be pretty safely regarded as Teutonic. As to the 
absolute or even the comparative time of the mode of 
sepulture referred to, little can be said, but its era must, 
at all events, be advanced from the so-called Stone Period 
to the so-called Iron Period. Whether it was practised 
during the earlier or the more advanced ages of the latter 
is also quite uncertain ; it seems, however, very likely, from 
the elaborate character of the work expended on the cists, 
and the infinite variety of the ornaments sculptured on the 
urns, that such a custom could either have been invented, 
or carried into execution, by a very rude or uncultivated 
people. My own impression is that the antiquity of these 
sepulchres has been very much over-estimated." 

The other remains consist of the foundations of houses 
and of larger buildings, thought to have been military 
stations, and altars. Heaps of burned grain near the altars 
point to the sacrifice of first fruits, the altars being made 
by placing a flat stone on four or five uprights, and this 
form, with the burned grain, and the circular house-foun- 
dations carries out the idea of sun-worshippers. On the hill 
opposite, across the river, we have ourselves found several 
evidences of those early inhabitants. On a ooint overlook- 
ing the inn, where the ground is flat, about 50 yards be- 
low the peat road, are several circles, which are about n 
paces in diameter, and are formed of single stones, more or 
less flat, placed at a distance of a few inches apart, whilst 
at a point nearly S.E. there is a gap or doorway of 4 feet in 
width. On the face of this hill is also a line of hollows 
(some hundreds of yards apart, 6 to 8 feet in diameter, and 
about 4 feet deep) , which are variously thought to have 
been pitfalls for catching deer, lookout posts, and the holes 
left after digging up tree trunks for firewood. Farther 


round the hill towards Upper Cabrach, in a hollow called 
the Howe of the Hawk's Nest, is a large stone, 2 ft. 7 ins. 
by 3 ft. 8 ins. by about 6 ins. at its thickest, having on its 
flatter side some marks which a lively imagination can see 
to be the serpent of the Druids, and which the natives 
declare to be a "Sculptured Stone," but it is probable that 
the sculptor was simply Nature. 

The settlement, being beside the road which is pretty 
generally known as the Caledonian road, was most likely 
inhabited by one of those Caledonian tribes which, under 
Galgacus, repulsed the Romans in their attempt to explore 
the northern parts of Britain ; but more we cannot say. 

A most fantastic theory as to the derivation of the name 
Kelman was that put forward by a Cabrach man, who 
imagined that the people that had settled on the hill came 
from Kiel in Holland, and that they named the hill after 
their native place, and the Deveron from a stream near to 
it, which rises in the Doufrefield mountains. In pursuance 
of his theory, he sought out everyone named Kelman that 
he could find, and observed that they all had a sauat, 
Dutchman-like appearance, and further that Cabrach butter 
and Kiel butter were alike excellent and superior to that 
of other districts. We believe Mr John Taylor to have held 
a somewhat similar view, but do not know his reasons, 
though no doubt they had a firmer foundation than the fore- 
going. Our own opinion is that Kelman comes from the 
Gaelic Cella (a hut) and monadh (a moor) , and means thus 
the moor of the huts, the present spelling having been 
adopted in the erroneous idea that the hill was named from 
the family of Kelman. 

The next three farms, Soccoch, Greenloau and Bel- 
cherry, belong to the estate of Beldorney. Soccoch, fre- 
quently and wrongly called Succoth, is from Soc (a point 
of land) , a name given on account of the natural features 
of the place. Greenloan (or Guestloan) is from loan, a 
protected place between dykes for cattle; Guest is probably 
ghaist, from the eerie appearance of the white stones in the 
dyke at twilight ; and Belcherry is Eastertown, the most 
easterly cultivated land in the Cabrach, or as it was at one 
time, the eastern boundary of Lesmurdie. There were 
formerly one or two crofts at the top of the hill on Bel- 
cherry, and a smithy at the same place. 


Below Belcherry, a convenient footbridge across the 
river takes us to the Daugh of Corinacy, which includes all 
the farms on the right bank of the river in Lower Cabrach, 
and also the farm of Bank, now reckoned in Upper Cab- 
rach. The first place we come to is Tomnaven, the little 
hillock of the river. Formerly it comprised both Upper 
and Lower Tomnaven, and there was a flourishing distil- 
lery in the early part of last century, and for some years 
a private school. Now, like so many other of the Cabrach 
touns, it is inhabited by one family only. Further up the 
river another farm has disappeared entirely. This was 
Berryleys, between Tomnaven and Hillock of Echt. This 
latter still preserves the name of the Forbes property near 
Aberdeen. At the boundary between Hillock and Auld- 
town was the site of the first Secession Church. Some 
part of the walls of the second building still remain, while 
the foundations of the manse are seen on the opposite side 
of the burn. Auldtown and Newton are names which ex- 
plain themselves, and between them is Pvke, or more 
correctly Pyketillum, the origin of its name being lost in 
obscurity ; the house stands on a knoll and has a splendid 
view up and down the river, it is now occupied by one of 
the gamekeepers, the farm being incorporated with Auld- 

After passing the Newton, we come to a large semi- 
circular hollow in the bank, made, it would seem, by the 
action of the river, which has since changed its course. It 
looks, to the ordinary non-geological observer, as if in 
former ages the river had stopped here, making, in fact, 
a lake, and that in course of time the water wore down the 
softer part of the barrier, cutting through just below the 
present intake pool, and wearing into the Craig of the 
Mains. Still, most likely, the river swirled round this 
hollow, making it ever more and more regular, till one 
spring a big spate came and changed the river-bed to its 
present place, leaving this amphitheatre dry. If the 
Cabrach folks followed the example of some of the English 
villagers, and produced pastoral plays in the open air, here 
is the theatre ready, wanting only a little draining to make 
it the equal of many of the classic open-air stages. 

Just where the river has broken through the bank is 
the Mill of Corinacy, a meal mill, and also a small saw-mill. 


The road on this side of the river soon after crosses an iron 
bridge, built in 1913 to replace a suspension foot-bridge and 
ford, which at times in a heavy spate was verv dangerous, 
the river rising so quickly that sometimes a farmer who 
had crossed easily in the morning found on his return that 
it was impossible to get his horse and cart home. 

A right-of-way follows the river on the Corinacy side, 
a pretty walk through a birch wood. This walk can be 
continued by either of two foot-bridges, one at Dalriach and 
one opposite the hotel, to join the road leading to Upper 

Dalriach is one of the two remaining farms included 
in the Dauch of Corinacy, the other being Bank, on the 
Upper Cabrach side of the hill above us. In a Retour of 
16S1 there are mentioned Glascory and Dalreoch, called 
Bank. Glascory (the grey Corrie) was the name originally 
borne by Bank, and possibly when this retour was made, 
it was just beginning to be known as Bank, and so there- 
was a confusion in the name. This seems a credible solu- 
tion of the difficulty about these names which puzzled Mr 
Macdonald. Dalriach is now a croft occupied by a keeper, 
but when it was a farm it embraced all the land on that side 
of the river from the Burn of Bushroot to the boundary of 
Auchmair, and included some fine haugh lands now given 
over to sheep. At Bushroot itself were one or two houses, 
and the hill for some distance up was cultivated. The ex- 
tent of the fields may yet be discerned, though the heather 
is rapidly encroaching. 

Bank lies in a very commanding position on the S. side 
of the hill, and from it a view of nearly the whole of the 
Upper Cabrach may be had. Mr Gordon, late farmer there, 
and uncle of the present tenants, was a man of great intel- 
ligence and considerable learning, and interested himself in 
the antiquities and history of the Cabrach. His brother, 
Dr Gordon, w 7 as in the habit of spending his holidays at 
Bank, and he wrote some account of the stone cists, &c, 
several of which he had seen opened. 



Weather and Crops. 

" A misty May and a drappy June 
Mak' a fat stackyaird in ilka toun." 

These two subjects are inseparably connected in the 
farmer's mind. For all his failures he blames the weather; 
occasionally he gives it credit for his successes, but who 
ever saw a contented farmer? The utmost he can do is to 
be philosophical, like Punch's farmer, who, standing in the 
midst of his sodden fields watching his sheaves floating 
away in the swollen river, says to his neighbour, "Well, 
I've always noticed when things are as bad as they can be, 
they'll either mend or get worse." 

The Cabrach has the reputation of being a cold, wet 
district. People say, "There's a place they ca' the cauld, 
cauld Cabrach, far it dings on delaverly, for sax 'ooks on 
ither's en', neither upplin nor devallin'." But this is a 
libel, and what one may particularly notice is this, when 
it is as bad as it can be in the Cabrach, it is much worse 
somewhere else. It seems very hard, however, to convince 
strangers of their mistake about the climate. A friend 
asked, "But do you ever have it really warm there?" 
When she was told that the polish on some furniture that 
happened to be outside in the month of May was blistered 
by the sun, she began to think it might not be such a bad 
place after all. Another question was, "How many really 
fine weeks do you have in the year?" A great many more 
than in some other places thought to have a good climate. 
The Lower Cabrach especially, as a rule, enj'03's excellent 
weather. There is plenty of sunshine all the year round, 
no fog, warm days in summer, and bright frosty ones in 
winter ; while the air is bracing and exhilarating, and is 
often compared to champagne. For those in want of a new 


place in which to spend the winter, we can thoroughly re- 
commend the Cabrach. 

This may sound exaggerated, but it is a fact that of late 
years the winters have not been severe, and indeed the 
farmers have found a new source of discontent in the lack 
of snow, for water has been scarce in the succeeding 

At the same time, after studying the weather records 
of the past two centuries, we are bound to admit that there 
has been good ground for the popular notion. What strikes 
one very forcibly on reading over these old records is the 
"disappointing" quality of the weather. So often, after 
perhaps a hard winter, the farmers' hopes were raised by a 
fine, genial sowing time, only to be dashed by a cold, wet 
autumn, when the unripe grain stood out in the fields till 
all chance of securing it in good condition was gone. Or it 
might be reaped in good time, full and ripe, and then be 
rotted by the damp before it could be stacked. Turnips, 
too, often suffered, and even if spared by the weather, were 
sometimes attacked by disease. If farmers are discontented, 
truly they very often have reason to be so, but they are 
also characterised by patience and perseverance, and those 
in the Cabrach display these qualities in a marked degree. 

The most outstanding of these bad seasons of which 
we have been talking were the "seven ill years," 1693-1,700. 
The continuance of bad harvests told so heavily on the 
Cabrach that the meal mill fell into disuse, and it is said 
"the thistle grew from the mill 'ee, and the fox nursed her 
cubs in the happer." One family after another was forced 
to leave the district and seek a living elsewhere, until in 
the Upper Cabrach only one house was left inhabited. This 
was the house near the Gauch, which afterwards received 
and still bears the name of Reekimlane. It was the only 
house with a smoking chimney left, and it "reekit its lane" 
for some days before the tenants finally decided to leave 
it and to follow their neighbours to some better provided 
district. They had just started on their sorrowful journey, 
when, in crossing the burn, they saw a brown trout flash 
by. This gave them an idea, and having with little diffi- 
culty caught a few fish, they returned to the house to blow 
up the still smouldering peats and enjoy a last meal. 
While so engaged a horseman was sighted ; he proved to 


be carrying a sack of meal to Glenbucket, and gave them a 
share of it. He also brought news of a shipload of grain 
from the south having arrived in Aberdeen, and cheered by 
the timely help and the prospect of more to come, the 
farmer and his family unpacked their belongings and 
settled down to wait and hope for better times. By and by 
matters improved and the farms were again occupied ,. 
though in many cases by strangers, and the "seven ill 
years" were gradually forgotten. Not again have the 
farmers experienced such a run of ill-luck, though now and 
again there have been very unproductive seasons. 

On September 30th, 191 3, there appeared in the 
Banffshire Journal "A Glass Farmer's Diary," which we 
may give in full as far as it refers to weather conditions : — 

"1769. One of the worst harvests on record ; storm 
prevented corn being got in till Martinmas Day. 

1770. No sowing till April 3rd; whole month of March 
storm}-, eight weeks of storm, but peats all well home 
before Glass market (3rd Tues. of July) . 

1 77 1. First bere cut 1st Sept. No dry weather from 
beginning of July. 23rd and 24th Sept. storm (snow) , all 
corn not cut, and none taken in. 

1772. Jan. 13th. Ann Gordon or Leslie, Ardwell, 
died. Funeral delayed by great blowing and drifting. 

1773. Jan. 9th. Great wind, Huntly Tolbooth dam- 
aged and houses and stacks broken. 

1 783-1 784. Winter very severe, cattle going to low 
country to eat straw. No meal to be had. Duke of Gordon 
and others brought pease from England. 

17S4. Storm lasted eight weeks without a break. 

1793. Broken harvest, but good winter, only eight 
days' storm. 

1794. A brave spring. 

1799. June 23rd. Snowstorm, three feet of snow in 
some places in Glass. 

1801. July 2nd. Great cold and dearth of meal. 

1805. J an - 5th. Adam Slorach lost on Gormach in 
storm and drifting. May 29th. Spate in Deveron, twelve 
ankers of whisky lost between Invercharrach and Church 
of Glass. Glass market that year a day of thunder and 


iSii. A comet appeared, the like not seen since Cul- 
loden — a warning to all." 

The diarist omits to mention the year 1782, commonly 
called "the black aughty-twa." There was, according to 
"The Old Statistical Account," a great fall of snow on 
Sept. 15th of that year, which ruined the oats, and it was 
Christmas before all the crop was cut, then it was mostly 
given unthreshed to the cattle. There was great scarcity 
of meal, and the people were so far dependent on charity 
for food. John Gordon, Esq. of Craig, proved a good 
friend to the Cabrach at this time, importing meal to be 
distributed to the poor, and the Duke of Gordon gave his 
tenants a rebate of their rents, or time to pay them. Next 
year in some measure made compensation, for the calves 
were earlier and more numerous than usual, and there was 
very little sickness among the people. 

In the diary kept by John Taylor of Boghead, which 
•contains records of the weather at intervals from 1816 to 
1887, only the bad seasons and severe storms have been 
noted, except in one or two entries. Presumably when 
nothing is said to the contrary, the weather was good and 
the crops plentiful. 

In 1S16 the summer was cold, snow lying on Garbet 
during the whole season. On Oct. 20th there was a great 
hurricane and snowstorm. The stooks of corn were yet out 
in the fields, and the snow had to be cast to get at them ; 
when dug out they were a frozen lump, and could not be 
thawed for the cattle. 

1 Si 7 was a very bad year. The corn was all frosted 
early and of no use for seed. Seed had to be imported at a 
cost of £2 2s per boll on board ship. 

In 1836 the crops, especially those on low-lying ground, 
were blighted by mildew. Snow in October delayed the 
harvest, the cutting of oats not being finished until Nov. 

In April of 1S37 the snow was so deep on the hills that 
the deer were dying for want of food, and the frost was so 
severe that many lambs died immediately they were born. 

The year 1S3S had a particularly bad record. In 
January the river was frozen sufficiently to allow 7 of horses 
.and carts crossing on the ice ; snow T commenced to fall on 


the Sth, and on the 16th James Ramsay, a drover, was lost 
on the hills, and though diligent search was made for him. 
by a party of two hundred men his body was not recovered 
until May 7th. During February the drifting was so great 
that the mails from Aberdeen could be brought through 
only with the greatest difficulty. A party of three carried 
them four or five miles, being then relieved by a similar 
party, who carried them the next four or five miles, and so 
on to their destination. Sowing commenced on April 7th, 
but it was a slow business, for snow fell nearly every day. 
From Jan. Sth till May 3rd hardly a day passed without at 
least a shower of snow, and it still fell on some days of 
June. On the longest day there was a spot of snow on 
Gromack, above Tomnaven, the remains of a wreath that 
at Whitsunday had been a mile in length, while at this time 
peat-casting was stopped by the frost. The crops, already 
very late, were damaged by frost in August, and frosty 
weather continued through Sept. and Oct. Capt. Stewart's 
tenants received back 20% of their rents in consequence of 
the short, poor crop, much of which was lost. 

In March 1839 there was a severe snowstorm, with 
much drifting, and Charles Stewart of Haddoch perished on 
the hill's. About the middle of May there was a heavy fall 
of snow, and a funeral party from Rhynie going to Walla- 
kirk across the hills had the greatest difficulty in performing' 
the journey, being compelled to lift and pull the coffin 
through enormous drifts. In September there was a re- 
markable spate; the river rose to within six inches of the 
flood mark of '29, and bridges at Milltown of Cabrach, Tor- 
nichelt, Lesmurdie and Wallakirk, besides three others in 
Glass, were carried away by the Deveron. 

The year 1S40 was not so cold, but there was a great 
deal of rain. A month after being cut, the corn was still, 
too wet to be brought in, and large quantities were spoiled. 
During five weeks of the autumn there were not forty-eight 
consecutive hours of dry weather. 

1 841 began with severe weather and deep snow, but the 
crops were well forward in June. There is no further 
entry for this year, but we hope the promise of June was 

The harvest of 1S55 was good, and there was plenty of 
straw, but owing to the late spring and wet summer turnips 
and peats were scarce. 


In 1S75, for the first time, a really good harvest is men- 
tioned. There was a great deal of rain during the time of 
reaping and much grain was lost on Donside and Deeside, 
but "eight days of dry windy weather dried the corn in 
the Cabrach, and the whole of it was led! in fine condition." 

1S76 began with a dry, mild January, but the next 
three months more than made up for this. Sheep and lambs 
were lost in the snow and the roads were blocked. The 
land was very wet for ploughing and sowing, and was in 
much worse condition than in the springs of '37, '38, and 
'55, which were all late and wet. The harvest this year 
was, however, on the whole, good. 

The vear 1880 was one of the best. Sowing was fin- 
ished early, and the hot summer ripened the grain, so that 
harvest commenced on August 20th and was finished by the 
end of September. The winter came in early, there being 
a heavy fall of snow in the second week of October. On 
the Wednesday before the term, the day of the feeim? 
market, twelve inches of snow fell in two hours. In 
December heavy snow and the most intense frost for fifty 
years destro3 r ed the turnips, which had been an excep- 
tionally good crop. The hard winter weather of the end of 
1880 continued till April 1881. The roads were blocked by 
snow from Dec. 8th, 1880, till March 10th, 1881 (fourteen 
weeks) . Many persons, cattle and sheep perished 111 the 
snow, and the railways were blocked five times during the 
winter. For twenty-seven weeks (half a year) the land- 
scape was covered with snow, and sowing commenced on 
April Sth while the hills were still white. The seed was 
deposited in good condition, and the month of May, the 
hottest May on record, promised well. But during June, 
vermin, "like large black beetles," destroyed all the seed, 
and the fields had to be resown (in some cases three times) 
up till July. These vermin appeared all over Scotland ex- 
cept in Argyllshire. There were snow and frost in June, 
and young grouse died in large numbers. June, July and 
August were very cold, and snow fell on August 12th. 
Harvest began in the second week of October in wet, cold 
weather, and much of the corn was cut while still green 
and stacked "in a deplorable state of dampness." The 
weather for thirteen months, except the month of May, 
was one continuation of wet and cold. It changed for the 
better in December. 


January and February 18S2 were mild and dry, with 
hurricanes of "birsling" wind, which dried the corn stacks 
and prevented the straw from rotting. Windy weather 
continued up till the beginning of June, but the summer 
was wet, consequently the turnips were poor, though there 
was a remarkable growth of grass. The harvest was pretty 
fair, but protracted owing to rain. 

The first severe snowstorm of 1SS3 was in the first week 
of March; bad weather continued until the middle of April, 
and the sheep were hand-fed till that time. After one of 
the best seed times on record, there succeeded intense 
drought in May and half of June, then rain and cold till 
the end of October. The turnips were a poor crop, and 
failed altogether on damp land. There was no peat and 
coals had to be used ; while the crop of cereals was "thin," 
though harvested in good condition by the middle of Nov., 
its average weight being 38 lbs. to the bushel, and the 
meal very good. 

The year 1SS4 commenced well, but a great snowstorm 
on January 26th did a great deal of damage ; the cattle could 
scarcely be attended to in the byres, and many sheep were 
smothered in the drifts. The rest of the winter was very 
windy, and the failure of the turnips the previous year 
was much felt. The oats were deficient in weight when 
they came to be reaped. 

1SS5. The whole of this year was cold, chilly, dry and 
windy. Harvest did not commence till October 10th and 
finished on November 23rd. The corn, damaged by frost, 
was of no use for seed, though the meal was very good. 
The average weight was 37 lbs. -to the bushel. 

As a consequence of the frost in 'S5, all seed had to be 
imported in '86, at an average price of 24/- per quarter. 
Sowing began in the last week of March, the season up till 
the end of July being dry and cold. About the end of 
August mildew blighted the crops on Auchmair, Milltown, 
Kirkton, and other low-lying ground. More elevated 
farms escaped, and their crops were exceptionally good. 
The latter half of August, September and October were 
very warm, and harvest was finished about November 12th. 
December was a snowy month and the sheep were hand-fed, 
but there was abundance of cattle food of all kinds, and 
grain and beef were very cheap. 


The year 1SS7 was also good. The snow had all dis- 
appeared by January 10th, and fine dry weather continued 
up till the end of February, ploughing being uninterrupted 
for seven weeks, and sowing finished by the end of March. 
In consequence of the hot, dry summer, water was scarce, 
but the grass was abundant and good and the grain heavy, 
though short in straw. Harvest was finished the first week 
■of October. Oats sold this year at 10/- to 12/- per quarter, 
.and meal at n/- per boll. 



Streams and Fishing. 

" Give me mine angle, we'll to the river." 

Fishing is one of the great attractions which the 
Cabrach holds out to visitors, and few places in Scotland 
can boast of being able to provide such excellent sport at 
so little cost to the angler. The Deveron is one of the best- 
known salmon rivers in the north, and its course from 
birth to adolescence being through our parish, it brings 
knowledge of it home to many who would otherwise never 
hear the magic name of Cabrach. There may not be, for 
many reasons, so many fish in the river as there were say 
fifty years ago, but, after all, what is the size of the basket 
compared with the joy of a summer day by the river, the 
glint of the sun on the streams, the splash of a big fellow 
in the pools, the glorious brown water flashing over the 
stones, gurgling and whispering its secrets to the under- 
standing ear, the midday lunch and the afternoon siesta 
among the honey scented clover ; and then the evening, 
when the westering sun streams golden through the trees 
above our favourite pool, and the trout are on the feed, 
and the midges busy, the midges that drive us home to 
supper and fishing tales; or a rainy day, when there is a 
big spate and the yellow flood foams down, and we return 
soaking wet and happy, with full baskets, to a peat fire and 
a "tousy" tea. 

Sixty years ago poaching for salmon and trout was 
common among the country people. Very little is done 
now, and if we give a description of the methods used, it 
must be on the distinct understanding that no reader will 
take advantage of the information. The chief implements 
were the bag-net for salmon, the silk-net for trout, the 
spear and cruisie, the gaff and the creeper. The bag-net 


was used in the following' way: first a pool was stoned, to 
drive the salmon upstream out of it, then the net was 
stretched at the neck of the pool, between two uprights, 
each held by a man, with a long tail floating down-stream, 
and the fishers, with sticks and stones, drove the fish back 
again into the net. The trout-net was three-fold ; it 
measured about 30 ft. in length by iS ins. in depth, the 
two outer layers were of cord mesh, and the middle one, 
which was about twice the size of the outer ones and of 
smaller mesh, was made of silk. This net was held between 
two men who walked down-stream with it. When a trout 
came in contact with it, he passed through the outer la3*er, 
became entangled in the silk and passed out again through 
the third layer taking with him a portion of the silk, and 
there he hung as in a pocket. Sweeping-nets were also 
used for the big pools, and the ordinary bag-net could be 
manipulated in this way. 

vSpearing salmon was quite another thing, and required 
considerable skill. Towards the end of the season, when 
the salmon were on the "reds," was the best time for 
spearing. It was done at night, like most poaching, and 
light was given by a "cruisie," an iron basket in which 
"knabs," resinous fir roots dug out of the moss, were 
burned. The light not only showed where the salmon lay, 
but it also attracted them towards itself, so that they came 
within reach of the spearman. The spear was five or six 
pronged, about six inches in width, w 7 ith prongs of six to 
eight inches long ; the wooden handle was six to ten feet 
long. A skilful spearman could soon secure most of the 
fish in the pool, but the novice not infrequentlv fell in head 
first, if his spear handle was too short or his aim bad. 

The creeper was in use as a means of poaching much 
later than the spear, and is still used without a rod by the 
water bailiffs for removing dead fish from the river. There 
was more than one kind of creeper, but the most common 
was an arrangement of three hooks bound together with the 
barbs outwards; a short length of gut or cord hung below, 
on which was a lead sinker, and the whole was attached to 
an ordinary fishing line and rod. The way to use this is to 
stalk your fish, then cast out well beyond him and null 
in the creeper towards you ; when it is quite near him give- 
it a sharp pull, and if you have been careful one or other 


of the hooks will hold him fast. A salmon hooked in this 
way will give far more play than one hooked by the mouth. 
Another different form of creeper is a large Stewart worm 
tackle, with a piece of lead wrapped round and a worm 
entwined. It is used in the same way as the other, but has 
this advantage from the poacher's point of view : on inspec- 
tion by a keeper, it looks much more like the real thing. 
This form of fishing has not altogether disappeared, and is 
known as "sniggling." 

There is also fishing with the minnow. Now, the 
minnow itself is not an illegal lure, but the essential point 
is that it must spin in the water; by this means the hooks 
are concealed from the fish, the lure is taken and the fish 
caught by the mouth. By flattening the lugs, it is pre- 
vented from spinning, and with the addition of a little lead 
in the shell, the lure is at once rendered impossible as a 
means of catching by the mouth, and transformed into a 
first-class instrument for "sniggling" ; that is, catching by 
the body. The mere fact, however, of catching a fish by 
the body is not a proof of illegal fishing, and it is estimated 
that three-fourths of the number of fish caught with the 
spinner are foul-hooked ; but the form of the minnow is 
the point to be considered. 

The right to net salmon at the mouth of the Deveron 
was purchased from the Duke of Fife in 1907, by the 
riparian proprietors, and since then there has been some 
increase in the number of fish in the river, but the last two 
seasons have been so dry that fewer than usual have made 
their way to the Cabrach. 

The fishing streams in the Cabrach are the Deveron, 
the Blackwater, and some of the burns. The Deveron rises 
in the hills between Glenbucket and Cabrach, at a height 
of 16S8 feet above sea level; it is sixty miles in length, and 
drains an area of 474 square miles. Within a short distance 
•of its source it is joined by several burns, the West Lewie, 
the- Burn of Alansheal, and the Kindy Burn. It next meets 
the Rouster, the red or rusty burn, so named from the red 
cliffs near the Milltown, a stream nearly equal in size to 
the Deveron at this point, and after this meeting assumes 
the dignity of a river. Salmon are not so plentiful in these 
upper reaches until the end of the season, but good baskets 
of trout may be obtained at all times. Several burns now 


join the river on both sides, till, on the right the Burn of 
Bank, and on the left the Burn of Alltdaueh, mark the 
boundary line between Upper and Lower Cabrach. The 
youthful Deveron now flows through the beautiful pass of 
Deldorach, and skirting under a high wooded cliff rushes 
over a small fall to Pool Hurry, just below the Richmond 
Hotel, the first of a series of splendid pools. Lower down 
are the "Sauchen Pot," beloved of fishers, and Dalriaeh 
pool . 

The course of the Blackwater is almost parallel to that 
of the Deveron, and it is about the same length as the 
latter is at this point. It is formed by the junction of four 
burns rising between the Crespet Hill and Geall Charn, and 
thence flows in an easterly direction till it joins the 
Deveron. All except the last three miles of the stream is 
in the deer forest. About five miles from its source is the 
Blackwater shooting lodge, and between the lodge and the 
end of the forest are several excellent pools, where in the 
latter part of the season fair-sized salmon may be taken. 
It is as a trout stream that the Blackwater is chiefly notable, 
however, and trout weighing as much as 12 lbs. have been 
caught in it. Such big fellows are scarcely common, 
though, and the average basket usually contains trout of 
i lb. to 3 lbs., and occasionally a few five-pounders. A 
white-painted footbridge crosses the stream about 
a mile within the forest, and from here to 
its meeting with the Deveron, the Blackwater 
is, as a rule, open by permission to anglers. Two good 
"pitches" are the Muckle Rush and the Little Rush, be- 
tween this bridge and the postman's bridge at Shenval. 
There are also several pools worth trying before the Shenval 
burn is reached, and two or three tributary burns may 
yield a trout or so. Below Shenval are the Tomnavowin 
and Tor pools, and the largest pool of all is Pool o' Viachan, 
cutting in under the cliff below Upper Ardwell. A good 
bit of trouting water lies between this pool and the Dev- 
eron, which we rejoin at Dalriaeh pool. 

From here to the Glass boundary is a series of pools 
and rushes, all of which will yield salmon of fair size, and 
good trout, to the experienced or lucky angler. The 
heaviest salmon we know to have been taken from the 
Deveron in Cabrach weighed 35 lbs., but the usual weight 


is from 7 lbs. to 23 lbs., or thereabouts. The best-known 
pools in the portion of the river to which we have now 
come are, first, the Beach pool, named from a large patch of 
shingle, which the river, ever wearing into the opposite 
bank, has left dry. Here the Oyster Catchers lay their eggs, 
and the innocent fisherman is sometimes driven away from 
the pool by their violent shrieks of "Go back! go back!" 
while the\- swoop towards him with formidable beaks. Next 
in order is Bannochie, after the Burn of Bushroot ; then 
come the rush below the new bridge, the intake for the 
mill, and Lesmurdie or Lodge pool, a favourite place under 
the Craig o' the Mains, a high cliff, tree-crowned. At the 
tail of the pool, "Lesmurdie's burn, quick emptying to the 
stream beneath, adds its low voice where Deveron's ripples 
sing," and the old house of Lesmurdie keeps ghostly watch 
and ward. 

Below Lesmurdie is the Bridge or Parapet pool, named 
from the old bridge, built for the convenience of the 
church-goers, when the church at Auldtown was in use, 
and part of which remains on one bank. Here more salmon 
are caught than in almost any other pool in the Cabrach, 
with the exception of Pool Hurry. Broken Troder (the 
name always puzzles strangers, who variously call it Broken 
Tooter, and Broken Tooth — it probably means the stream 
broken by rocks, over and round which it "purls") ; the 
Boghead pool and the Craigies of Tomnaven follow. This 
last is an excellent pool under a rocky cliff, near the farm 
of the same name. The Crooked Pot is the last pool in the 

The Deveron receives a number of tributaries on both 
banks, mostly, with the exception of the Charach (the burn 
of the stony bottom) , quite small, which no one troubles 
to fish, though trout are got in them by "guddling." The 
Charrach, on the left bank, forms the boundary between 
Invercharrach and Lesmurdie. Two or three "stripes" 
follow, then two good burns on the right, the Auldtown and 
the Hillock burns, next the Soccoch and Countlip burns 
on the left, the Raigie burn on the right, and the Linnburn, 
the boundar\- between the parishes of Cabrach and Glass, 
and between the counties of Aberdeen and Banff, on the 



(Reprinted from the Banffshire Journal.) 

In November 1913 there was sold by auction the foot- 
bridge across the Deveron between Milltown of Lesmurdie 
and the Daugh of Corinacy, in Lower Cabrach. This was 
the last of the foot-bridges on the Upper Deveron to make 
way for one that could carry the road, and it ma}- be of 
some interest to recall a few of the old bridges, and the way 
in which improvements have been made. 

The bridge referred to above was erected in iSSS, in 
place of another which by reason of its nearness to the 
river level was often damaged, and even occasionally 
■washed away by floods. The new suspension bridge was a 
•great improvement upon this, for it was quite above the 
reach of the highest spate, though often the approaches to 
-it might be under water. It was constructed by William 
Kellas, blacksmith, Bridgend, Cabrach, at a cost of ^25, 
exclusive of the carting of materials, which was all done 
by farmers in the neighbourhood. The money was raised 
by public subscription. Just below the bridge was a ford. 
Both foot-bridge and ford have now been replaced by an 
iron bridge erected in 191 3, at a cost of between ^400 and 
. £500. 

The two oldest bridges in the Cabrach are those at 
Bridgend, across the Charrach burn, and across the Black- 
water, on the main road. Both were built about 1S27. The 
next was the bridge across the Deveron at the King's Ford, 
built in 1 851. The King who is thus remembered was 
Edward I. of England, who passed this way in 1296, but 
found no bridges to aid his progress. The bridge across 
J the Deveron near the Church of Cabrach was probably the 
next to be built, and then, as the most difficult fords were 
thus rendered passable, there was a lull in the improving 
of the highway until the early 'eighties. A movement was 
then set on foot to build a number of bridges across various 
burns on the road from Dufftown to the Upper Cabrach. 
Mr Robertson, Schoolmaster, Lower Cabrach, was one of 
the principal workers in this cause, which conferred a very 
great benefit on the district. The bridges erected at that 


time were across the Fiddich at Bridgehaugh, across the 
Balloch burn at Ballochford, one near Bridgend across the 
Lewie burn, one at the Burn of Alltdauch, one across the 
Burn of Bank, and one across the Burn of Auchmair. With 
funds left over a drinking trough was erected at the Burn 
of Alltdauch, just at the boundary between Upper and 
Lower Cabrach. Some of these bridges are the single arch 
stone erections of the usual type, others are of iron, floored 
with wood. The contrast between these substantial bridges, 
over which even traction engines safely pass, and the old 
rough fords, which made the use of vehicles with springs, 
inadvisable (to say the least of it) , is very great. At the 
fords there was usually a bridge for foot passengers, but 
this in the eighteenth century was of the most primitive 
description. It was merely a couple of logs thrown from 
one bank to the other, with a few boards nailed between, 
and quite innocent of a hand-rail. The logs were as a rule 
"moss trees," dug out of the peat. The Kirk-Session saw 
to it that these bridges were kept in repair, and very often 
the penalty inflicted on a delinquent would be the providing 
of a bridge tree. The crimes which were thus expiated, 
besides that frequent one technically referred to as "dis- 
cipline," might be "gathering grossets on the Sabbath," 
fighting, or bringing home a millstone, on the same day. 
Or it might be that a party of roysterers came home late, 
disturbing decent folk, and then the punishment seems 
entirely fitted to the offence, for those same merrymakers 
would be very dependent on the state of the bridges they 
had to cross, and a gap in the floor meant a fall into the 
water and a sudden sobering. Later on moss trees gave 
place to well-built wooden bridges, with hand-rails, and 
these in turn to those of which we have spoken. Several 
foot-bridges still remain, but all of them are bridges of ac- 
commodation only. The whole of the roads in the Cabrach 
are to be traversed easily by motor car, traction engine, or 
any vehicle the traveller's fancy dictates. 

" On 1 6th May 1722 the Commissioners of Supply of Banff- 
shire appointed Lesmurdie, with Recletich and Tullich, to 
superintend the highways in Pittriffnie and Mortlach. This 
must have included Lower Cabrach, because at a meeting of 
Justices of Peace held at Banff on 26th October 1725 Les- 
murdie reported an estimate for building a timber bridge on 


the Blackwater; and an advance of one hundred pounds 
Scots for buying materials was authorised. At a meeting of 
Commissioners of Supply held on 15th November 172S, 
another hundred pounds Scots were voted to Lesmurdie to 
complete the bridge at Blackwater. He was ordered also 
to repair the causey from Balvenie to Glenlivet, which is 
the first recorded improvement of any road south of Keith 
and Boharm undertaken by the County Commissioners of 




At the present time there are two schools in the Cab- 
rach, one in the Upper end of the parish, near to the 
Church, the other in the Lower, at Invercharrach ; thus 
each is in the centre of its district, and no child is more 
than two miles away from it. There are about 40 scholars 
at the Upper School, and 60 at the Lower, their ages 
ranging from 5 to 14 years. Any who are ambitious, and 
wish to learn more than can be taught at an elementary 
school, must go to Dufftown or elsewhere to a Higher Grade 
School. Much is being said against this method of sending 
children to "centres" to continue their education, thus 
losing the benefit of home-life just at the time when it is 
most needed, and many sigh for the old days, when the 
country dominie sent his boys straight to the college ; but 
something is to be said on the other side too, for often these 
bright boys were trained at the expense of the average 
pupil, and for the sake of scoring a few outstanding suc- 
cesses, the dunces were neglected. As Professor Ed- 
gar, who occupies the Chair of Education at 
St Andrews, says, "The parish school in many cases did 
good work, but I honestly believe that if the ghosts of even 
the best parish schools could visit your schools to-day, they 
would blush when they saw your wonderful efficiency, and 
wonder to see all the children, even the poorest and the 
least clever, receiving a good and serviceable education. 
And they would hurry back to the Elysian fields, where 
the ghosts of old schools dwell, muttering as they went, 'we 
taught a little Latin, and our pupils sometimes lived to 
wag their heads in pulpits, but we did nothing like this 
for all the children. We let the duffers remain duffers 
still.' " 

Each of the Cabrach schools employs a headmaster. 


who resides in an adjoining schoolhouse, and a lady assist- 
ant. The Upper school is by far the older of the two, 
having been founded about the beginning of the 18th cen- 
tury, while that in the Lower Cabrach did not exist till 
1863. Both were originally parochial schools, though now, 
of course, under the Education Authority. 

Before the Reformation, no one thought much about 
education as a necessity, except for priests and clerks ; to 
all others it was a luxury, and like most luxuries, ener- 
vating in its effects and calculated to unfit a man for his 
duty who had to live by strength of arm, either in fighting 
or in labour. We remember the famous saying of the Earl 
of Douglas, who thanked God that " son of mine, save 
Gawain, ne'er could pen a line." Another reason against 
teaching all to read and write was that it facilitated intrigue, 
especially on the part of women ; therefore, for long after 
boys were allowed to learn a little, girls had 
to be content with sewing and spinning and 
with listening to what was told or read 
to them. Certainly no one ever dreamed of a time when 
every child in the parish would receive at least the begin- 
nings of an education, far less that country boys and girls 
would go to college and themselves become teachers. Edu- 
cation was almost altogether in the hands of the Catholic 
priests, and boys destined for the Church, and a few others, 
eldest sons of noblemen and any perhaps too delicate lo 
become soldiers, or who had a decided taste for learning, 
were received by them into the monastic seminaries. The 
ordinary country boy, such as the Cabrach "loon," learned 
only to rear stock, to till the ground, and to drive a bargain, 
all of which arts his father was well qualified to teach. 

After the Reformation the Church commenced to De 
very active in spreading education, especially in remote 
places, for, she argued, this was the best means of driving 
out the superstition and pagan beliefs that had such a 
hold on the people in Catholic times. Parochial schools 
began to be founded, and in 1696 the Act was passed 
which provided for a school in every parish. The heritors 
were required to erect a school, and to pay the school- 
master's salary, half of which, however, they were entitled 
to raise by levying a rate on the tenants. The amount was 
decided every 25 years, according to the market price of 


Bv the Act of 1872 the School Board, acting under the 
Board' of Education, took over the existing schools, and has, 
henceforth been the managing body. 

The tirst public school in the Upper Cabrach was most 
likely established about the year 1714, in accordance with 

Act already referred to. In the Session Minutes at our 
disposal, there are occasional references to school affairs, 

6rst being in 1731, when a Mr Wm. Chisholm was re- 
commended by the heritors as master, it being apparently in 
the power of the Session to confirm the appointment. Later 
on a regular parochial board was formed, but at first it 
appears that the Session performed the duties of such a 
board. Xo further entry is made till 1740, when Mr Rhon- 
nald, the master of that time, represented to the Session the 
need of a sehoolhouse — "The schoolmaster of this place, Mr 
Rhonnald, did represent to the Session, That whereas the 
Winter was coming on Apace, and no Sehoolhouse in the 
parish, he desired their Advice and Assistance towards the 
furthering such a Pious Resolution, since he was wearied in 
giving no less than three Petitions to the Presbytery of the 
bounds anent the same, and if they did not contribute their 
Endeavour this way, It was more than lay within the small 
Compass of his power to please the parish, Since the One 
part would have him to stay on Doveranside, the other 011 
the Cabrach, and that this was the proper time to Concert 
'gainst the Term. The minister was to speak to the Pres- 
bytery thereanent." Apparently Mr Rhonnald got his way, 
for some later minutes are dated from "The Sehoolhouse." 
A new school and sehoolhouse were built in 1836. 

During the next 40 years we have the name of only one 
teacher, Wm. Taylor, son of Wm. Taylor of Invereharrach, 
and later of Milltown of Lesmurdie. He was an elder, and 
held the post of session-clerk ; indeed the schoolmaster was 
nearly always session-clerk, as being the man most fitted for 
the work. Mr Taylor died in 17S2 at the age of 42, and, 
with one of his sons, is buried at Wallakirk. The next 
teacher mentioned is James Gordon, son of the minister of 
the parish. In 1793 the Old Statistical Account of Scotland 
was compiled, and according to it, the parochial school 
salary was ^5 ns iM sterling per annum. So far we have 
heard nothing as to how the Lower Cabrach children were 
provided for, but in the Statistical Account mention is made 


of the charity school having been "taken away from Do- 
vernside in 1779, a want which the people there felt very 
much. To remedy this in some degree, they hire a 
country man to teach their children to read and write iu 
winter, the only time they can dispense with them from 
herding their cattle." (What a difference to the life of the 
country child the introduction of fences has made !) Noth- 
ing more is known of the charity school here spoken of, but 
it was probably an auxiliary school, supported by the 
Session, for those children who were unable to travel the 
distance from Deveronside to the Upper Cabrach. We have 
the note of a collection, amounting to £3 15s 4d Scots, made 
for charity schools, and doubtless this was one of them. 
After this date the Session minutes on the school relate 
chiefly to the schoolmaster's salary. In 1S2S appears the 
following, dated from "The Schoolhouse" the 9th April — 
"The Heritors and Minister of the Cabrach having met 
here this day in consequence of having been Edictally cited 
from the Pulpit in order to modify the Schoolmaster's 
salary, in terms of the Act of Parlament : Present, George 
Gordon, Esq., Factor for the Trustees of the late Duke of 
Gordon, and Proxy for Sir William Grant of Beldorney, and 
the Rev. James Gordon, Minister of the Parish of Cabrach, 
and having taken into consideration the average price of 
value of oatmeal, as struck by the Barons of Exchequer for 
ail Scotland, for the twenty-five years preceding the 
eleventh day of June Eighteen hundred and twenty-eight. 
Resolved in terms of the Act of Parliament passed the nth 
June 1S03, That the salary of the Parochial Schoolmaster 
of Cabrach shall be in time coming, yearly, one and three- 
fourths chalders of oatmeal, payable in money according to 
the above rate of seventeen pounds two shillings and two- 
pence one farthing for each chalder, being in the whole 
Twenty-nine pounds eighteen shillings and ninepence ten- 
twelfths of a penny sterling, and this sum they order and 
ordain the whole Heritors of the Parish of Cabrach pay 
annually at the terms of Whitsunday and Martinmas by 
equal portions, to Mr Wm. Ronald and his successors in 
office, proportionally according to their respective valua- 
tions, beginning the first Moiety at Whitsunday ensuing for 
the half year immediately preceeding, and so on thereafter, 
and they pray the Lords of Council and Session to interpone 


their authority thereto, if need be, that all necessary dili- 
gence may pass at the Incumbent's instance as accords of 

" The meeting having further taken into consideration 
that no garden has hitherto been set apart for the school- 
master, and that such could not be done without inconven- 
ience, do hereby in terms of the Act of Parliament in lieu 
thereof, grant as an addition to his salary, Two Bolls of Oat- 
meal yearly, payable at the terms as before mentioned and 
at the same rate per chalder, viz., ^17 2s 2 3/i2d." 

A new school and schoolhouse w T ere built in 1836. 

In 1S45 the New Statistical Account of Scotland ap- 
peared, to which the Rev. Wm. Ronald, schoolmaster, con- 
tributed the portion relating to the Cabrach ; he says: "Last 
winter there were four schools in the Cabrach, one parochial 
and three private, one taught by an old woman was for 
reading onhy." That is the Upper Cabrach parochial and 
3 private in Lower Cabrach. This old woman must have 
been Ann Broun at Tomnaven, some of whose scholars re- 
mained in the Cabrach until a few years ago. She taught 
until the year 1S59. Another private school was at Milltown 
of Lesmurdie, and we can trace several of the teachers. 
One was Wm. Anderson, who lived at Ballochford, and 
carried on the trades of a thatcher and dealer in manure in 
the summer season, for still the school da} T s were almost 
altogether confined to the winter months. Another was 
David Rattray of Craigluie, on the Kelman hill. He after- 
wards became a teacher in Glasgow, and ultimately returned 
to his native place, where he continued to live a simple life 
among the heather with his bees, until his death at the 
age of 84, in 1909. Robbie Robson, of Glass, was another 
of these worthies. He had a club foot, and the reputation 
of being "a bit of a character." People w 7 ere fond of 
playing pranks on him, and once someone sent him by post 
an elaborate Valentine, addressed in rhyme, as follows : — 

" Cabrach is the parish, and Milltown is the toun, 

And Robbie Robson is the man, a handsome, clever loon. 
Xoo Charlie, see, tak' care o' me, and ye shall never want, 
Hae me up to the Haugh o' Glass, gie me to Peter Grant. 
Oh, Peter mon, ye ken yersel, that ye gae by Dummeth, 
Syne never lowse a grip o' me till ye gae past Forteith, 


And leave me no at Drywells, Boghead, nor yet the Mains, 
But tak' me on to Rob himsel' or ane o' Milltown's 

"Charlie" and "Peter Grant" were the two postmen 
through whose hands the missive had to pass. 

John Smart of Badchier, a nephew of Mr Smart, 
who was minister of the parish, also taught at the Milltown 
for a short time and the school there was continued until the 
parochial school was built at Invercharrach. 

There was still another private school, at Bridgend, 
taught for nearly half a century by Jimmy Coskie, and his 
school also came to an end when the parochial school was 
built. According to a wTiter of that time, though he had 
laboured for so long he was allowed to retire without any 
public recognition of his services. He died in 1864. 

All the private schools, as well as the parish school, 
were regularly visited and examined, generally by the 
minister, and, according to the standard of the time, they 
appear to have reached a high plane of efficiency. 

But while the private schools did very well, it was 
pretty generally felt that it would be more satisfactory to 
have a properly established public school, than to depend 
on the efforts of whomsoever chose to teach. Mr Smart, 
the minister, who remembered the long trudges of his boy- 
hood to the Upper Cabrach or to Dufftown in search of 
learning, exerted himself to bring this about, and it was 
largely owing to his efforts that the parochial school and 
schoolhouse in Lower Cabrach were built on a site at In- 
vercharrach granted by the Duke of Richmond in 1863. 
The first master was Mr Kissick, from Portsoy, who came in 
1864. In 1865 he left and Mr Thomas Robertson, a native 
of Upper Cabrach, was appointed. With regard to Mr 
Robertson we cannot do better than append the following 
account of him published at the time of his death in the 
"Banffshire Journal" of 1909: — "He was a splendid type 
of the old parochial schoolmaster, and was among the last 
in Banffshire of that once famous class. In the vigour of 
his life his reputation was more than local. His pupils are 
now scattered widely, and many have won professional dis- 
tinction, or made their mark as successful men of business. 
Being a 'parochial,' he viewed the advent of School 


Boards with suspicion, if not absolute distrust. To such 
democratic, or as it might be, autocratic, interest in edu- 
cational affairs, he never took kindly. . . A year ago Mr 
Robertson had a severe illness, and for some months was 
granted leave of absence. He resumed duties after the 
autumn holidays, but at Christmas his health again gave 
way. With the grim determination so characteristic of him, 
enfeebled though he was, he stuck to his work in school 
until the end of February, when he had to cease from sheer 
exhaustion. As he had often expressed the wish, he died 
practically in harness, his latter days showing that indomit- 
able and unyielding spirit by which his whole life was ac- 
tuated, and which bore him firmly, even triumphantly, 
through the stormy passages incidental to the life of an old 
parochial such as he was." After Mr Robertson's death, the 
Board was able to assert itself, and the teachers appointed 
since have been essentially modern. 

Ecclesiastical History. 

" While thus the lave o' mankind's lost, 
O' Scotland still God maks His boast." 

In this chapter we propose to give an account, as far as 
the available data allow, of the Churches of the Cabraeh, 
past and present. There are now two churches, that in 
the Lower Cabraeh belonging to the United Free Church, 
and that in the Upper Cabraeh to the Established Church. 
It is more than likely that in the course of a few years we 
shall see these two bodies, between wdiich there is so little 
real difference, united, and another stage in church history 
will be reached; the Cabraeh people will then be all of one 
creed, a state in which they have not been since the earliest 
Christian times. 

The first religion of the Cabraeh is lost in obscurity. 
It is quite certain that the Cabraeh was inhabited long 
before the introduction of Christianity into Scotland, for 
there are many indications of a primitive people, and among 
these relics are some which seem to be connected with 
religious observances. In the face of the very different 
opinions held by scientists with respect to the meaning of 
circles, cup-marked stones, and other monuments of the 
Pictish people, it is difficult to arrive at any definite under- 
standing of their religion, but we take it that whatever it 
was, the religion of the Cabraeh was the same as that of the 
rest of Pictland. Apparently these people worshipped a god 
or gods who were incorporate in or represented by the 
powers of nature, and, notably, by the heavenly bodies. 
Through the erroneous derivation of Beltane and kindred 
words, from the Baal of the Phoenicians, represented by the 
sun, a belief has sprung up that the ancient Picts also 
worshipped Baal, and an elaborate fiction has been built 


on this foundation. (Skene's Celtic Scotland) . Probably, 
however, the sun was only regarded as one of the mani- 
festations, perhaps the chief, of their god, and very many 
present-day superstitions are traceable to the primitive 
nature-worship, and especially to the adoration of the sun, 
or of fire. 

In the Cabrach there have been found several altars, 
and near by them, heaps of charred grain and straw, which 
indicate the sacrifice of the first fruits of the field by fire. 
These altars were not at time of their discovery examined 
by experts, but if they had been so examined, no doubt 
something significant would have been noticed in their 
position. There are still to be found numbers of stone 
circles, which appear to have been the foundations of houses 
and of larger buildings, and in almost every case the 
entrance is placed at the S.E., suggesting that the family, 
on rising, might have greeted the sun and nerformed their 
morning devotions facing him. In the graves which have 
been found the bodies usually lie with the head towards 
the sun-rising, but there is woefully little besides to give 
a clue to the religious belief of the departed. 

Pagan the Cabrach people certainly were until Christi- 
anity was brought to them, and this work is generally attri- 
buted to St Wallach. He is said to have laboured either in 
the fifth or the eighth century, but as he is also said to 
have come from lona as a missionary, we must choose the 
latter date, for Columba settled in lona only in 563. 
He is also called the first bishop of the diocese, before its 
formal erection at Mortlach, but as he can hardly have had 
a diocese over which to be bishop, he is more likely to 
have held this degree, which was superior to the ordinary 
priests' and carried with it certain privileges and abilities, 
before he left lona. He followed the practice of Columba 
in preaching by example, as well as by precept, and lived, 
in a hermit cell, a most ascetic life. He travelled up and 
down the country teaching the Christian doctrine and 
working miracles of healing, and had the satisfaction of 
making many converts. His name is still held in reverence 
at Wallakirk, and his blessing, which he conferred on the 
miraculous well and baths, continued to be invoked occa- 
sionally as late as 1648, when the Strathbogie Presbytery, 
being met at Glass, censured "all superstition at Walla- 


So far the written records are very meagre, and for 
some hundreds of years they do not shew much increase of 
detail, but after the erection of the see of Mortlach by Mal- 
colm II. in ioiq we begin to find out something 
more definite about the Church as a whole. The bishopric 
of Mortlach included five churches with the dependent 
monastery of "Cloveth." (This Cloveth has caused us a 
great deal of trouble in deciding exactly the place 
meant b}^ it, and we have not yet cleared up the point ; if 
any reader, better informed, can do so, we shall be glad to 
hear from him.) Cloveth must have been either Cabrach 
or Strathdeveron, and there are arguments in favour of 
both. The only reference to the monastery is the mention 
made of it in counting the sources of revenue of the Bishops 
of Aberdeen. Possibly it was not a monaster}- in the usual 
sense, but may have been a presbytery house for the ac- 
commodation of two or three priests whose duty it was to 
act as missionaries in the surrounding country. In 1266 a 
grant was made of the revenues of Dummeth (Wallakirk) 
and Cloveth, 3 marks each, for maintaining the lights of 
the great altar, and the ornaments in the Cathedral Church 
of Aberdeen. This is an argument for Cloveth being the 
little church in Strathdeveron, as it is close to Dummeth, 
and the joining of the revenues would seem natural ; but 
again in 1363, Alexander, Bishop of Aberdeen, "because of 
the smallness of the revenues" (the stipend of the vicar 
being 100s sterling, with the kirk land) , united the parishes 
of Kildrummy and Cloveth, and here surely Upper Cabrach 
is meant, for it is the next parish to Kildrummy. In 
another record, mention is made of " Cloveth, otherwise 
Cabrach" ; still another speaks of Cloveth in Banffshire, 
this long before Cabrach was included in that county, and 
some of the old people remember the little church on Les- 
nmrdie, near the Mill of Corinacy, being called Cloveth. 

We are certain, though, that there was a church in 
Upper Cabrach. It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin 
Mary, and apparently occupied a site on the Royster near 
to that of the present parish church ; here again there is 
some doubt as to the exact place, for one map shews the 
church on the right bank of the river, nearly opposite to 
the farm-house of Auchmair, while another shews it near 
to the present site. The land belonging to it, in extent 


about a half-davach, was usually leased by the Bishop to 
one tenants, who had to undertake to defend the 

rights and liberties of the church, and to resist heretics and 
- of the orthodox faith. In 1520 the rent was £.10. 
In 1549 Robert Lumisdane was tenant on a 19 years' lease 
and he paid annually "£g 6s Sd, 1 mart, 12 kids, 4 geese, 
and 3 4 for bondages, with the accustomed service." 

There were, besides the church, at least three chapels 
in the district, though whether they were all in use at the 
same time is uncertain. The oldest was situated on the 
left bank of the Deveron, just opposite to the present Mill 
of Corinacy. It has long since disappeared, but its founda- 
tions are still easily seen. It was quite a small place, 40 ft. 

: - ft. This is the chapel which may have been the 
Cloveth mentioned above, and if so, was built 900 years 
ago, for the lands of "C:oveth" were given to the church 

lalcolm II. in 1010. If this is not Cloveth, then more 
than likely it was used as a mission chapel, with occasional 
services by the priest at Wallakirk and others. A bur- 
place adjoined it, and within living memory was used as a 
place of interment for infants, but now only a few irregular 
mounds mark the spot, and the cattle wander over it at will. 

At Badchier there was another chapel, small and ram- 
shackle, probably used also as an occasional place of wor- 
ship. The only fact about it we have been able to discover 
is a story of the penance inflicted on a certain man by the 

st, the delinquent being compelled to take the place of a 
mat when the congregation were assembling, until he 
was begged off by the female worshippers, who found the 
penance more to their embarrassment than to his. 

The most important of the three chapels was that at 
al. There is some uncertainty about the date of the 
foundation of this station ; according to one writer it must 
have been in existence in the 16th century, for he gives an 
account of its demolition by the Protestants shortly after 
the Reformation. In the absence of direct evidence we 
can only conjecture, and it seems to us more likel- that the 
chapel owed its erection rather than its destruction to that 
upheaval in Scottish religion. When the Cabrach Church 
became a Protestant Establishment, probabv those who re- 
mained Catholics then erected the chapel" at Shenval for 
their own use. If this were so, it would explain the choice 


of the site. The Shenval certainly seerns a strange situation 
for a chapel, and especially for a Catholic one, as commonly 
the builders of such shewed their good sense by selecting 
the most sheltered and picturesque spot available, and as 
there was a priest's house attached to the chapel, which was 
intended to be occupied during a great part of the year, there 
must have been some good reason for choosing such a bleak, 
cold place. The reason was that its inaccessibility made for 
safety at a time of great unrest throughout the country, 
and it offered little temptation to those zealous Reformers 
whose chief idea was the destruction of the outward signs 
of the Catholic religion rather than the improvement of their 
own virtue. 

The coldness and bleakness of the situation were well 
known, and the thought of living and working there did 
not commend itself to some of the Missioners, who looked 
upon it as a severe discipline, and deemed an appointment 
to the Shenval as equal to exile, nick-naming it "Siberia." 
Young missionaries often began their course there, and were 
promoted to better stations as they approved themselves, 
and as fresh candidates arrived from the colleges abroad. 
"When Mr Reid, later known as the 'Patriarch,' arrived 
from studying at Douay, he waited on Bishop Hay t 
ceive an appointment, and was told the Cabrach was vacant. 
'Very well,' said Mr Reid, 'I can have no objections, it is 
very proper that every one should take his turn in that 
place.' 'Stop,' said the Bishop gravely, 'that is not a 
proper way of speaking of it : you should be willing, if 
necessary, to go and labour there for the rest of your life.' 
'Of course, of course,' answered the young Priest, 'but if 
that should happen, may the Lord have mercy on me.' ' 
(Life of Bishop Hay.) 

Little is known of this chapel previous to the 
year 1731, and for what follows we are indebted to Dom Odo 
Blundell's interesting book, "The Catholic Highlands of 
Scotland." In that year (1731) as many as 700 Catholics 
were ministered to by the priest at Shenval, Mr Burnet. 
Several other districts were served by the same priest, so 
probably the 700 were spread over these, for it is difficult 
to imagine 700 Catholics in the Cabrach alone. The next 
priest, Mr Brockie, leased a croft at the Shenval and lived 
there, and his example was followed by his successors until 


1746 when the Duke of Cumberland's soldiers, perhaps on 
their visit to the Cabraeh in pursuit of Lieutenant Roy, 
burned the chapel and priest's house. During this time we 
know the name of only one missioner, Alex. Menzies, who 
ministered to 250 Catholics in Cabraeh, Auchindoun and 
Glenrinnes. For 34 years thereafter Mass was said in a 
barn, until in 17S0 Abbe Macpherson persuaded the people 
to build a new chapel, and roused such enthusiasm that 
even the Protestants and their minister lent a hand. Mr 
Macpherson had under his charge, as well as Shenval, Brae- 
lach, Tullochallum, and Aberlour, and there were 127 
Catholics in or near to the Cabraeh. At this time Mass 
was said at Tullochallum in a granary, and for these occa- 
sions the altar stone and other requisites were carried from 
Shenval. Shenval was visited b}- Bishop Hay in May 17S7, 
while on one of his walking tours of visitation. He was 
evidently favourably impressed by the ability of the mis- 
sioner, Mr Andrew Dawson, and in August of that year 
called him to take charge of the seminary at Scalan, sending 
to Shenval in his place Mr Alex. Farquharson, the former 
master of Scalan, who had been found incompetent to direct 
its affairs. 

One of the priests of Shenval, Father Brockie, is buried 
in the Wardhouse family enclosure at Wallakirk ; his grave 
is covered by a "flat stone, which was entirely hidden under 
a covering of earth, thought to have been put there pur- 
posely, to preserve the stone from fanatic Protestants, until 
quite lately. The inscription is as follows : — 

Hie jacet R V Thomas Brockie, Presb. Tern. Scot ratis 
B A L et in Parochiis Murth. Drost. Glass et Cab- 
raeh miss, ap an vixit IATII F E R E et XX 
summa cum laude missionem. obiit. stiorum om- 
nium et verbis Doctor et moribus exemplar merito 
que dictus pauperum pater vitam piis laborious im 
pensam pretiosa morte. Elausit maii mo A.D. 
MDCCLIX. Sit in pace. Locus ejus et habitatis 
ejus et habitatis ejus in Sion. Mimento Mori, (sic) 

Not much is known of the later history of the Shenval 
chapel, but we can imagine the gradual dwindling of the 


congregation, as the older members died off and the younger 
left the district or joined the Reformed Faith, until only a 
very few were left to worship in the old. place. The last 
priest was not a good specimen of his order, paying much 
more attention to worldly affairs than to the spiritual needs 
of his people, and at last he was compelled to leave secretly. 
After his departure in 182 1 the chapel was allowed to fall 
into ruin, and at the present time nothing remains of it 
but the foundation, which, though covered with turf, may 
easily be traced out. The priest's house and some minor 
buildings may also be identified, while a solitary tree marks 
the former garden. 

The Established Church. 

The Established Church stands on a knoll on the right 
bank of the Deveron, a little distance above the point at 
which it is joined by the Rooster. The road which connects 
the hamlets of Aldunie and Aldivalloch with the highway 
to Rhynie passes under the kirkyard walls, and the manse 
occupies another knoll across a small ravine. Both are of 
the simplest architecture, but very substantial, as Cabrach 
buildings are; the church was rebuilt in 1786, and we be- 
lieve the manse to have been erected near the end of the 
17th century. 

The church, which is long and narrow, with windows 
on one side, is of the pattern common at the time. It ac- 
commodates about 200 people, the seats are arranged in the 
centre with a passage down each side, and the pulpit is "in 
the gale." It stands on the site of the former church, which 
was probably built about 1580, to accommodate the mem- 
bers of the Reformed Church. The Catholic edifice we 
believe to have stood in the angle of the road, between the 
present schoolhouse and the farm-house of the Kirkton. In 
Sir Robt. Gordon's map, dated 1654, the church is shewn 
on the left bank of the river, almost opposite to Auchmair, 
but this is no doubt an error, for, to give only one reason 
against it, th^ spot indicated is a peat bog, while the name 
of Kirkton is an almost infallible guide. 

It is not at all certain at what time the Cabrach became 
Protestant. There were two important factors which pre- 
vented the spread of the Reformed Faith in districts such as 


ours: first, their remoteness, and second, the opposition of 
the great landlords. In Reformation days the people were 
accustomed to obey their lord without question, and if he 
happened to change his religion, more than likely they 
would have to do so too. It is told of a certain laird that, 
having erected a building opposite to the Catholic Church, 
he took his stand between at service time, and shepherded 
the people with the aid of his cane into the new place, to 
worship after the Protestant fashion. On the other hand if 
the laird chose to resist the innovation and remain a Cath- 
olic, his tenants would have little choice but to follow, and 
we know what dire consequences came upon those who in 
certain parts of the county resisted the power of the papists 
and adhered to the Reformed religion and the Covenant. 
Happily, in our part of the country we were free from these 
horrors of oppression. 

In these remote glens and straths Protestantism made 
little headway for many years, in spite of the devotion and 
hard work of the missionaries of the cause, who had to 
battle against not only rough roads and inclement weather, 
but also the attachment of the people to the Catholic faith, 
and in many cases, too, their personal affection for the 
priest. Indeed in many places, especially throughout the 
Highlands, the establishment of the Reformed Church was 
not an unmixed blessing, for it meant often the closing of 
the Catholic church without any other being provided in 
its place, and the taking away of even the meagre educa- 
tional facilities which existed. In some of the more inac- 
cessible glens, the Catholics held out against the new order, 
and they have remained Catholic to this day. 

The Earl of Huntly was one of the most powerful 
nobles of the north, and a strong Catholic, but events oc- 
curred to bring him over to the Reformed Church. In 
1597, at a meeting of the General Assembly held in Dundee, 
he with others of the Catholic nobles, who had been excom- 
municated, was formally reconciled to the Church of Scot- 
land, and publicly declared his acceptance of its doctrines. 
This action, though no doubt dictated more by policy than 
conviction (one of the chief inducements to landowners to 
become Protestants was the appropriation of the Church 
lands to them) , would have great influence with the Earl 
of Huntly's tenants throughout his extensive possessions, 


and this influence may be traced in the Cabrach in the 
settlement of a regular minister shortly thereafter. 

The Church of Scotland was at first Presbyterian, 
though still retaining some of the forms of Catholic Church 
government, as, for instance, the Bishops who worked along 
with the Synod, and it also had a book of Common Prayer. 
With the Restoration, Episcopacy gained ground, and for 
many years the church wavered between the two, till in 
168S the Presbyterian finally became the Established 
Church of Scotland. 

At first, after the Catholic religion was driven from the 
Cabrach, the spiritual wants of the people were cared for 
by "Readers," Thos. Christiesoun (1567-1580) and Jas. 
Warrok (15S8-1599) . The office of "Reader" was a common 
and very necessary one in the early Church ; the duties 
were, primarily, to read the Scriptures, the Book of 
Common Prayer, the Creed and the Commandments to the 
people, few of whom were able to read with fluency, to keep 
a register of the baptisms, marriages, and burials, and, in 
the absence of a minister, to hold services. Certain restric- 
tions were, however, placed upon these men, for they were 
not to consider themselves equal to duly licensed ministers, 
though many of them became so afterwards. For instance, 
they were not allowed to pronounce the blessing, except on 
a week-day, nor to marry nor baptise; their position was 
very much like that of the unordained assistants of the pre- 
sent day. Sometimes a parish would have a "Reader" only, 
or again one minister might have the care of several par- 
ishes, and have one or more "Readers" to assist him. As 
education advanced, the need for these men was not so 
great, and ministers increased in numbers, so that the 
General Assembly of 1581 abolished the office. This edict 
was not, however, strictly enforced, and was certainly not 
obeyed in the Cabrach, and "Readers" again became 
common during the Episcopal period of 1662-16S8, gradually 
after that becoming fewer until they at last finally dis^ 

The records of the Cabrach Church are very meagre 
for some 150 years, only now and again some events of out- 
standing interest having found a historian. The names of 
the first three ministers were Peter Calmeroun, Andrew 
Ker, and James Ross. The last-named at first conducted 


service for Strathdeveron at Invercharrach, but on the union 
Strathdeveron, or Lower Cabrach as it is afterwards 
1, with Cabrach in 1665, by the Commissioner of 
Tenuis, he obtained the Church of Cabrach and the annex- 
ation to it of the Church lands of Strathdeveron, and re- 
moved to the Upper district. He left Cabrach in 16SS for 
Tarland and Migvie. In that year John Irving became 
minister of Cabrach, being presented to the parish by the 
Earl of Mar. During the nine years of his incumbency he 
was perpetually in trouble with the Presbytery , chiefly on 
account of his absence from their meetings. At this time 
attendance was compulsory for all members of Presbytery, 
and they were not permitted only to record their attendance, 
but had to sit throughout the meeting, however protracted 
or uninteresting they found it. But later on Mr Irving got 
into much more serious trouble, certain charges being made 
against him by members of his congregation, and the Pres- 
bytery sent a deputation to Cabrach to investigate and re- 
port on these. He was accused of setting fire to the corn 
of a widow named Jannet Roy, and also of "some endea- 
vours to kill some persones." When the Presbyterial de- 
putation met, there were still other charges brought against 
the minister. It was said that while two women were tend- 
ing their lint, he came pulling at it, evidently trying to take 
his teind of it, and when they asked him to desist and to 
take his teind at the proper time and place, he still con- 
tinued pulling at it, whereupon they did both "fly in his 
hair," and the witness, Alexander Fordyce, endeavouring 
to separate them, the}^ "did flee in hk hair also and trailed 
him the length of ten oxen bj* the hair, whilk Mr John 
Irving seeing, struck the foresaid Janet Thomsoune to the 
ground with ane el-vand, and brak it on her head." We 
are inclined to think that in this case the men had the worst 
of it, though the charge of assault is against the minister. 
He retaliated with complaints of certain of his parishioners 
having called him "dwarf bodie," "lyar," and other libel- 
lous names, and having struck himself and threatened to 
beat his sen-ant. Affairs were thus in a lamentable state as 
between pastor and people, and after consideration, extend- 
ing over several months, Mr Irving was suspended from the 
ministry, having refused to attend the meetings of Presby- 
tery and submit himself to that court. He appealed to the 

S}'nod and Bishop, without avail ; five months after, the 
suspension was "reponed" and the minister again settled 
in his parish. However, his was apparently not the nature 
to settle anywhere quietly, nor to submit itself to authority, 
and quarrels between him and his people were frequent, 
while at nearly every meeting of Presbytery mention is 
made of his absence. In 1676 he committed the grave fault 
of going to Edinburgh without letting the Presbytery know 
of his intended absence, or arranging to have his place 
supplied. The next April inquiry was made into several 
scandals at Cabrach, of which he was accused, and as the 
result he was deposed. His brother ministers did not, we 
are glad to find, cast him off altogether, for in 1687 it was 
recommended to them by the Lord Bishop and Synod that 
the3 T should make him an allowance "in consideration of 
his mean and necessitous condition." The matter is again 
mentioned in 1688, when the allowance was fixed at "a 
fourteenpence from each minister at each Synod," and this 
is the last we hear of him. 

The next minister of Cabrach was also a protege of the 
Earl of Mar, by name James Irving. His chief claim to 
notice is in his departure. The king in 16S1 passed the 
Test Act, designed to bring the Church completely within 
his power ; it required that every person who held any 
office, whether civil or ecclesiastical, should swear that "he 
acknowledged the king to be supreme in all causes, and 
over all persons, both civil and ecclesiastical ; that he would 
never consult about any matter of State without His 
Majesty's express license or command, and never endeavour 
any alteration in the government of the country." About 
So of the clergy of Scotland refused to take this oath and 
were accordingly deprived of their livings and among them 
is believed to have been the minister of Cabrach, who left 
the district in that year. 

Mr Irving was followed by the Rev. Alex. Brown, who 
was the last minister in the Episcopal period. He com- 
plained that he had to live in a furnished room at some 
distance from the church, owing to there being no manse; 
apparently the manse was built not long afterwards, for a 
reference is made to it in 1715. Mr Brown's successor was 
Mr Wm. Anderson, who came in 1707. He staj-ed only two 
years, then, having had to be rebuked by the Presbytery 


for neglect of duty, he was removed to Premnay. After a 
mcy of two years, Rev. Robert Gray came in 171 1. He 
was translated to Edzell in 1714, and the church was again 
vacant, this time for three years. At this time there were 
a great many vacancies throughout the church in the north, 
which the Assembly endeavoured gradually to fill up. In 
1 715 a Mr Garioch had been sent to Cabrach, but the con- 
gregation refused to attend his service, and he preached in 
the manse to only three hearers. Apparently the good 
people of the Cabrach enjoyed being without a minister as 
they seemed opposed to having one placed over them ; quite 
possibly, too, many of them had left home to follow the 
fortunes of the Old Pretender, in the rising of '15 and the 
stirring times of the rebellion, and the unsettled state of 
the country may account for their seeming indifference to 
religious matters. At any rate the}- had no minister in 1717, 
and when Mr Strong arrived, sent by the Assembly, they 
did their best to keep him out. The following account of 
his arrival is taken from the papers of the late Mr John 
Taylor, Boghead. The same story has been told of other 
parishes and ministers, but whether true of the Cabrach or 
not, it illustrates the times too well to be passed over. 

" I stated that the Assembly sent down about a dozen 
ministers to fill up the vacancies in the north ; among that 
number was the Cabrach, to which Mr Strong was ap- 
pointed. Mr Strong arrived on a Sabbath morning, and 
found the people collected in the churchyard, exercising 
themselves at athletic games, throwing the putting stone, 
with a strong guard upon the door that no strange person 
should enter. (It should be mentioned that the Synod had 
sanctioned Sunday games, to induce people to attend ser- 
vice. ) Mr Strong, wearing the habit of an ordinary 
traveller, mingled among the crowd. They invited him to 
take a throw at the stone. Being Strong by name he was 
also strong by nature, and pitched over them. Mr Strong 
then asked them did they not expect a new preacher to-day"; 
they said they did, but they hoped he would not come. He 
asked, being a stranger, for a sight of their kirk, and they 
granted him the request. On Mr Strong entering, he im- 
mediately mounted the pulpit, appealing to the audience: 
T have taken part in your exercises without, I trust vou 
will take part with mine within; I am vour minister.' the 


greater part sat clown quiet and composed, and Mr Strong 
laboured among them a considerable time, being a very 
acceptable pastor, and did much good, but at last Mr Strong 
committed a fault and was deposed. I have been told, 
however, by local tradition that the attachment between Mr 
Strong and his parishioners was such 'that when the Pres- 
bytery met for his deposition, the inhabitants shut the 
church doors, the ordinance having to be performed in the 

Mr Strong's subsequent career was somewhat discredit- 
able. He was excommunicated, and finally imprisoned for 
celebrating irregular marriages, and continued doing so 
even in gaol, where he died in 1744, at the age of 70. 

Mr Strong's successor was the Rev. Theodore Gordon, 
who was minister from 1731 to 173S. He was the son of the 
Professor of Oriental languages in King's College, Aber- 
deen, and had been schoolmaster and itinerant preacher it 
Cairnie. He was a scholarly man, and wrote "A Genealogy 
of the name of Gordon." Although Mr Gordon did not get 
into serious trouble like some of his predecessors, yet he 
too came into conflict with the Presbytery, for he had to 
confess to them "his soirow at having gone to witness a 
rope-dancing at Old Aberdeen." 

The Church thus exercised a paternal care over the 
morals and behaviour of her ministers, and not onlv of them 
but also of their wives and families, for the General 
Assembly went so far as to prescribe the kind of dress the 
latter ought to wear, forbidding them to appear in "all 
kinds of light and variant hues in clothing, as red, blue, 
yellow and such like," also "silk hats, and hats of divers 
bright colours, also rings, bracelets, buttons of silver, gold, 
and other metal." 

After the Rev. Theodore Gordon left to go to Kenneth- 
mont, three others of the name of Gordon followed in suc- 
cession. Thomas Gordon was minister during the '45. 
when a great many of the Cabrach people declared for 
Prince Charlie, and the minister left his parish for two 
years on accuunt of the unsettled conditions. He was uot 
very happy in Cabrach ; the people accused him of Arian- 
ism, and he found the climate not too genial, therefore, 
shortly after his return, he applied to be removed to Auld- 
earn, on the Moray Firth. He had a lively settlement there 


and must have almost wished himself back in Cabrach, for 
the inhabitants had built up the church door, and assaulted 
the members of Presbytery as they arrived for the induc- 
tion. In the end the ceremony had to be performed in the 
manse, and the military called from Fort-George to open 
the church. On this occasion a Cabrach man who had ac- 
companied Mr Gordon as servant distinguished himself in 
the melee. 

It was during the incumbency of the next minister, the 
Rev. James Gordon, who was here from 1749-1795, that the 
Secession Church — of which we shall have more to say 
later — was formed in the Lower Cabrach. During this long 
period, religious affairs seem to have moved ,along very 
quietly, and the congregation became more settled than it 
had been for many years past. 

Rev. James Gordon's son, John, stepped into his 
father's place and occupied it for 21 years, being succeeded 
by the Rev. William Cowie in 181 7. Mr Cowie had been 
schoolmaster at Mortlach before coming to the Cabrach, and 
left it in 1826 to become minister of Cairnie. Yet another 
James Gordon came next; he died in 1849 and was followed 
by Mr Smart. 

Mr Smart was a native of Cabrach, his family belong- 
ing to Badchier. He received his early education at the 
parish schools of Cabrach and Mortlach, for there was then 
no school in Lower Cabrach ; he then attended King's Col- 
lege, Aberdeen, to prepare himself for the ministry. It is 
said to be the ambition of every Scotch mother to have one 
of her sons "Wag his head in a pulpit," and the fulfilment 
of this ambition often meant not only study during the 
winter, but manual or other labour during the summer on 
the part of the student, and the most unselfish economy on 
the part of his family, to provide the necessary funds for 
college fees and city lodgings. Mr Smart was one of these 
poor but determined students, and cheerfully broke stones 
in the summer time. As he deserved, he triumphed over 
all the difficulties in his way, and was finally licensed to 
preach by the Presbytery of Alford. His first appointment 
was that of schoolmaster and preacher at Blairdaff, then he 
became assistant to the Rev. James Leith at Rothiemay. In 
1849 he was presented to the parish of 
Cabrach by the Duke of Richmond and Gor- 


don, his appointment being the last exercise of 
patronage in the parish. He was very popular, and did 
much for the benefit of his parishioners, specially in obtain- 
ing the provision of a school in Lower Cabrach, remember- 
ing as he did the disadvantages of his own youth. Mr 
Smart died, much regretted by all, in 1882, and the Rev. 
George Macmillan was chosen by the congregation in his 
place. Mr Macmillan lived a quiet and uneventful life in 
the Cabrach until April 1911, when he met his death under 
sad circumstances. He was returning from a meeting of 
Presb} r tery, and, as was his custom, performing part of the 
journey on foot ; when near the Castle of" Craig, about 5 
miles from home, he was apparently overcome by faintness 
and sat down to rest by the roadside, where he was dis- 
covered in the early morning, having passed away as quietly 
and peacefully as he had lived. 

The congregation immediately set about finding a new 
minister, but had great difficulty in choosing one to suit all 
parties. On two occasions the voting was equal between 
the candidates, and a second leet had to be prepared and 
other condidates heard by the congregation ; eventually, Mr 
D. M'Lean, assistant to the Rev. Mr Grant of St Stephen's, 
Glasgow, was elected. Even then the difficulties were not 
over, for the day fixed for the ordination ceremony was so 
stormy that it was doubtful if the members of Presbytery 
could reach the Cabrach. The people arrived, mostly in 
sledges, and after waiting two hours beyond the time for 
the service were rewarded by the advent of the new min- 
ister and the representatives of the Presbytery, who had 
driven through the snow from Alford. 

The Session. 

" The solemn elders at the plate 
Stand drirjkin' deep the pride 0' state: 
The practised hands as gash an' great 

As Lords o' Session ; 
The later named, a wee thing blate 

In their expression." 

Such is a brief account of the church under its succes- 
sive ministers. As for the general course of events, the 
history of any northern parish would read very much the 
same as that of the Cabrach, so that the gaps are easily 


filled, but the kirk-session records that are still preserved 
cast many interesting sidelights on the manners of the 
time-, and we nun' notice a few of these. It is a matter for 
regret that the minutes dealing with what to us would be 
a most interesting period, namely, the rebellions of 1715 and 
1745, are missing, very possibly none were kept then, for, 
at any rate during the later rising, the minister was absent 
from the Cabrach for two years, and it would be no one's 
business to keep the record of events. Those we have had 
access to date from 1731 to 1797 and from 1824 to 1S31. 
During these early times the kirk-session was a body of far 
greater importance than now, when its attention is wholly 
confined to matters of ecclesiastical significance. Then the 
session charged itself with the care of the poor, the preser- 
vation of roads and the building of bridges, besides the 
morals of the inhabitants and a quite extensive lending of 
money ; in short, the session was parish council, road 
board and school board, banker and conscience-keeper to 
the whole community. The members of it were selected for 
their general uprightness of character and business ability, 
and at first, lest they should feel unduly puffed up by the 
honour, thej^ were elected for one year only. Sometimes 
there was difficulty in getting men willing to serve as 
elders, so the Assembly had power to compel them to take 
office if appointed. 

Here follows the declaration which all elders had to 
sign on their appointment: — "I, undersigned, do sincerely 
own and declare the Confession of Faith approven by 
former General Assemblies of this Church, and ratified by 
law in the year 1690, to be the Confession of my Faith, 
and that I own the doctrine therein contained to be the 
true doctrine, which I will constantly adhere to. As like- 
wise, that I own and acknowledge the Presbyterian Church 
Government of this Church now settled by law, by Kirk 
sessions, Presbyteries, Provincial Synods and General 
Assemblies, to be the Government of this Church, and that 
I will submit thereto, concur therewith, and never endea- 
vour, directly or indirectly, the prejudice or subversion 
thereof, and that I shall observe uniformity of worship, and 
of the ministration of Public Ordinance within this Church, 
as the same are at present performed and allowed." 

Here are a few of the cases wheh came before the 


session of Cabrach, shewing the direction of their acti\it\- : 

In 1732 John Wright of Invercharrach and John Gordon 
of Newton were rebuked for righting on the Sabbath daw It 
is noteworthy that the offence was not the mere fighting, 
but the fighting "on the Sabbath day," so we may conclude 
that such an affair happening on a week-day, if serious 
enough to come before a court at all, would be attended to 
by the civil court. Many of the cases before the session 
are those of persons committing offences on the Sabbath 
day, and we know that the offenders had often to satisfy both 
civil and ecclesiastical judges. The session of those days 
was pretty severe in its punishments, and relied a great 
deal on the shame attending a pubic rebuke and profession 
of penitence to deter others from following a bad example. 
In ordinary cases the usual plan was to inflict a more or 
less heavy fine, and in this way funds were collected for 
the behoof of the poor, but in what are technically called 
"discipline cases," the offenders had to make public repent- 
ance on a special seat in the church, often barefoot and in 
sackcloth, and if they belonged to another parish than that 
in which the offence was committed, they might have to 
appear in both churches. In aggravated cases, where re- 
pentance was slow in shewing itself, as many as five to ten 
such appearances would be exacted; the culprits were in 
addition fined, and if they chose might be allowed, on pay- 
ment of a heavier fine, to make repentance in their own 
pew in the church instead of on the special seat. After 
the session was convinced of their penitence, the unhand - 
transgressors were absolved and took their place again as 
respectable members of society. 

Another offence which was punished was that of bring- 
ing home a millstone on the Sabbath day. At first sight 
this does not appear such a grievous sin, but when we think 
•of what the bringing home of a millstone meant, it seems 
much more serious. Most of the millstones in Banffshire 
and Aberdeenshire came from a quarry at Pennan in Aber- 
dour, and when one had to be brought home, all the tenants 
who shared the services of the mill turned out to help. No 
cart was strong enough to carry the heavy stone, so it had 
perforce to be trundled on its edge all the way. A wooden 
frame was fixed over it, to which five or six horses were 


attached, and on which was a sort of tiller for steering; 
through the hole in the stone a long spar was thrust, pro- 
jecting two or three feet on one side and fifteen on the 
other, the short end being used for guiding it, while the 
long one was held by a number of men, who by its aid 
kept the stone on its edge while others braked the whole- 
thing with ropes when going downhill. Altogether it was 
a rather dangerous operation, as sometimes, in spite of all 
efforts, the stone got out of control and either overran the 
horses or toppled on its side, when the men at the lever 
would be hoisted in the air, still hanging grimly on, or 
knocked down. The undertaking of this job on a Sabbath 
probably meant an almost empty kirk, and the session 
reaped a harvest of fines for the good of their poor proteges. 

On February 20th, 1763, there was a funeral at Mort- 
laeh, and the occasion seems to have been the excuse for a 
carouse on the part of those from the Cabrach who attended 
it, for twenty of them, nine married men and eleven bach- 
elors, were summoned before the session, and subjected to 
fines varying from is sterling to £2 8s Scots, for "going to 
the public house at Hardhaugh, Mortlach, and drinking, 
then calling at the Brackrie and drinking to the extent of 
5 pints, and then several of them quarrelling, whereby it 
became late and suppertime before several of them got 

Once or twice we have compensation given to sufferers 
by fire, and imbeciles or others unable to maintain them- 
selves were usually boarded out by the session, who thus 
filled the part of a Board of Guardians. There are frequent 
references to bridge building, and sometimes the provision 
of a bridge tree was allowed to count instead of a fine. Of 
course these bridges were for the use of foot passengers 
only, all others having to cross by the fords, and very 
dangerous these were sometimes, after a heavy snowfall or 
in an autumn spate. The present good stone bridges did 
not come till later. 

In the famine years of 1782-3 the session was very 
active in trying to buy meal to sell at a reasonable rate to' 
those unable to pay the high prices demanded. When they 
coidd not obtain it otherwise, the minister offered to sell 
to them a quantity he had purchased for the use of his 

95 - 

family, at a low price, "rather than the poor should go 
without." For Nov. 23rd, 1783, there is a quaint entry: 
"The Sheriff-substitute of Banff acquainted the session that 
there were n bolls of unused meal at Ss 6d per boll, to be 
sold out among the poor in Deveronside in Banffshire. The 
Session, finding they could not please the poor when they 
gave it them for nothing, agreed that the minister should 
intimate it to the people of the parish in Banffshire, to pur- 
chase it with their own money if they thought it a bargain." 

The session had the arranging of most of the affairs of 
the parish in its hands, largely because of the lack of swift 
means of communication, so that business had to be done at 
home, to send for the official, or to send to him, took up far 
too much time. 

Among the benevolent acts of this paternal body was 
the provision of a midwife for the parish. "September 6th, 
1788. The Session, taking under their consideration the 
situation of the parish for want of midwives properly nuali- 
fied for the office, did unanimously agree to recommend 
Margaret Gordon, widow in Tombain, as a woman fit to be 
taught that office, and to send her to Aberdeen to Dr 
Gordon, instructed in the business, as soon as he 
would admit her, and all necessary expenses to be paid out 
of the poor funds." The fees paid amounted to ^27 iSs. 

Repairs to the church and manse had to be looked after, 
though the heritors were responsible for these, and in the 
minutes we find a long account of the distribution of seats 
among the tenants of the various heritors, after the rebuild- 
ing of the church in 1786, besides a notice of the church 
bell having been sent to Aberdeen to be recast. 

Two of the chief concerns of the session were their 
money affairs and the relief of the poor. Again and again 
there were meetings devoted to the counting of funds, the 
collecting of bills and receiving of fines. When accounts 
were to be made up, they naively say, "The box being 

opened, there was found therein ," as if the amount 

were always a surprise. When they found it, whatever it 
was, it was often distributed among the poor parishioners 
and casual strangers in need of help, and sometimes lent at 
a good rate of interest. The amounts of the weekly collec- 
tions are always- entered, and they often included a number 


of had coins, which were sold to merchants for half value, 
or exchanged by the Synod of Aberdeen. After the return 
of the minister, who was absent for two years during the 
Jacobite rising, there was a great "redding-up" of accounts. 
We conclude these notes with an extract from the 
minutes of the meeting held by representatives of the Pres- 
bytery at Cabrach, on 29th December 1746, for this pur- 
pose : — 

"Then Mr Gordon (the minister) reported that the 
heritors of this parish having signified their inclination to 
him that Alex. Donald, student in the King's College, Aber- 
deen, should be settled as schoolmaster at this place at the 
foresaid term of Whitsunday 1745, he reported the same to 
the Presbj^tery, who agreed to it, and had appointed him to 
undergo an examination at the foresaid visitation, which 
they appointed to have been at this place in the month of 
June 1745, but that none of the members having attended, 
this had been neglected. Meantime the said Alex. Donald 
having officiated as session clerk from the foresaid term of 
Whitsunday 1745, be had kept all the collections in his own 
hands ; the minutes and session box not having been de- 
livered up by Wm. Robertson, late session clerk, and that 
the said Donald having left this parish about the beginning 
of Jan. 1746, without acquainting the minister or any of 
the elders of his intentions, had carried off an account of the 
collections and likew ; ays all the money that had been col- 
lected 'twixt the foresaid term of Whitsunday 1745 and the 
beginning of January 1746. So that during that time there 
had no collections come in to the session for the behoof of 
the poor. And it having been likeways represented that the 
said Donald immediately on his leaving this place had 
entered into the King's service, in Lord Loudon's regiment, 
there was no method thought of so proper for recovering 
the said sum of money as to appoint some proper person 
to deal with the said Donald's Father, who lives in the 
parish of Mortlach, to prevail with him to make restitution 
of the said money belonging to the noor of the parish, and 
accordingly John Grant of Rothmais was appointed for this 

' The Committee in conjunction with the elders pro- 


ceeded to consider what collections had now been given in 
to them, which were as follows: — 

Given in by Win. Robertson, late 

session clerk £iy 4 2 

Given in by Mr Gordon, being the 
collections 'twixt the beginning of 
Jan. and the beginning of Mar. last 1 14 o 

Given in by Alex. Horn, present 

session clerk 16 o o 

£34 lS 2 

'* Out of which they proceeded to make the following dis- 
tributions : — 

To Alex. Horn, present session clerk, 
as full and complete pajnnent of 
his Salary till the first of March, 

1747 ;£S o o 

To Alex. Horn, Kirk Officer, as full 
and complete payment of what 
remained to be paid to him of 
his fee till the term of Martin- 
mas last, 1746 1 16 o 

Item, given to him as the price of a 
pair of shoes for last year, and 
which they appointed should be 
given to him yearly as part ot 

his salary o 15 o 

^10 II o 

" After which they proceeded to make the following dis- 
tributions to the poor of the parish." (Here follows a list 
of seventeen names of poor persons, one of whom received 
£2 and the rest £1 each, the disbursements on this occasion 
amounting in all to ^28 ns od. 

United Free Church. 

The United Free Church and manse occupy a com- 
manding position on the slope of the Kelman Hill in 
Lower Cabrach, the road between Huntly and Dufftown 


sing in front. The hill gives shelter from the north 
wind and the garden slopes towards the sun, while there 
is a splendid view over hill and stream from the terrace. 
It would be hard to find a pleasanter spot in the Cabrach. 
The buildings are very plain and most substantial. The 
Church is of the pattern usual in country districts, with 
windows down one side only and a belfry above the porch ; 
the inside, however, is more comfortable in appearance than 
in many similar churches, the walls being coloured a warm 
crimson instead of the usual white plaster. The manse is 
a two-store}- house of the type seen in the neighbourhood, 
the two standing gable to gable, the space between being 
rilled by a building of later construction, half of which is a 
hall used for the Sunday School, &c, while the other half 
is an addition to the manse. 

It is about 150 years since the foundation of this con- 
gregation, and naturally it did not belong to the U.F. body 
then, for, as everyone knows, that is of very recent date. 
The original Church belonged to the Secession, and the 
manner of its foundation makes interesting reading, shewing 
as it does how great things may come from a small be- 

This was the first Secession congregation in Banffshire, 
and it is somewhat remarkable that the first appearance of 
dissent in the county should have been in a place so remote, 
and at that time so inaccessible. It fell out in this way, as 
related by the late John Taylor, Boghead, who had the par- 
ticulars from his uncle, John Taylor of the Mains : — Among 
the parishioners of the Rev. Jas. Gordon, who was minister 
in the Cabrach for the long period of 48 years (from 1747 
to 1795), was Thomas Christie, a weaver at Bushroot, a 
place where now only a few scattered stones remain to mark 
his dwelling. Thomas was inclined to serious thought, and 
like many of his neighbours, was a great reader of the 
bible, but like many others too, before these days of Higher 
Criticism, he was liable to interpret the Scriptures almost 
too literally. He had aspirations, but thought rather to attain 
their fulfilment by physical than by spiritual efforts, and 
felt a longing such as that of David when he said, "Oh, 
that I had*wings as a dove, that I might fly away and be at 
rest.'' Possessed with this idea of flying, he one morning 
provided himself with two shemacks from his loom to serve 


as wings, and mounting to the roof of his house, summoned 

all his faith to his aid and flung himself into the air, con- 
fidently expecting to soar upwards and alight at the gates of 
paradise. Alas for the poor weaver, neither his faith nor 
the shemacks were sufficient to sustain him, and he found 
a disappointing though safe landing on the midden. Dis- 
couraged, he was in danger of going to the other extreme 
and believing nothing, but fortunately for him, and for the 
Cabrach, he fell in with an earnest and godly man, who 
guided him to a saner view. This was Mr Joiner, a fanner 
from Morayshire, who in the summer of 1760 had, according 
to his usual custom, sent sheep and cattle to graze in the 
Cabrach. On one of his visits to see after their welfare, he 
was introduced to Thomas Christie by the farmer of the 
Bank. To him the weaver spoke of his disappointments 
and difficulties, and Mr Joiner was so interested in him that 
he invited him to pay a visit to the Secession church at 
Elgin, and hear his favourite minister, Mr Troup. Mr 
Troup made a great impression on Christie, who continued 
for some months going to hear him, travelling (or travel- 
ling, as the Cabrach people say, meaning he went on foot) 
to Elgin on the Sunday for that purpose. But after a while 
he found the distance — it was 28 miles each way — too great 
to allow him to attend as often as he wished, and so re- 
moved to Elgin and formally connected himself with the 
Secession congregation. (We may remark parenthetically 
that when questioned as to the state of the crops near to 
Elgin, which are some weeks earlier than in the Cabrach, 
by his neighbours, he always refused to give any informa- 
tion : this visit was to church, not to report on the crops.) 
However, he still hankered after the Cabrach and his 
friends there, and after a year's residence in Elgin returned 
to his native parish and took up his quarters at Belcher ry. 
When settled there he invited Mr Troup to preach in the 
Cabrach. The service was held on the farm of Hillock, 
beside the river, near to the spot on which the first church 
was subsequently built. Thomas had spread the new of 
Mr Troup's intended visit, and so great was the desire to 
hear him that the people poured in from far and near. It- 
is said that 17 different parishes were represented, and that 
no fewer than 7 neighbouring parish churches had to he 
closed that day, the congregations having departed en masse 


to the Cabrach. The text from which Mr Troup preached 
was Isaiah xxxviii., 14, "Like a crane or a swallow, so did 
I chatter," and he scums to have delivered a very able 
sermon, the first preached in Banffshire by a dissenting 
minister. Open-air meetings, addressed by Mr Troup, were 
held on his frequent visits to the Cabrach, attended by 
large numbers of people, and ultimately a preaching-station 
was established. 

In 1768 Mr Cowie was ordained over the congregations 
of Cabrach, Grange, Auchindoir, and Huntly, and preached 
to them in turn for four years. In 1772 the first church was 
built on a site between the farms of Hillock and Oldtown, 
near the place of Mr Troup's famous open-air sermon. It 
was a thatched building and cost only £p.2 10s, but it served 
well for twenty-five years. From 1772 till 17S0 there was 
no settled minister, but only occasional preachers, among 
whom was Mr Brown of Craigdam. In 1780 the Cabrach 
Secession Church got its first minister, when the Rev. Jas. 
Wylie was ordained, but his ministry was of very short 
duration, for he was deposed, we know not for what fault, 
after onby a year in the Cabrach. The same year (1781) the 
manse was burned down, so that when the congregation 
called Mr Robert Laing, a probationer, he felt himself justi- 
fied in refusing on the score of there being no suitable 
house for him. 

The second minister, Mr Waddell, who came in 1786, 
was shared by the congregations of Mortlach and Auchin- 
doir, and remained for nearly fifteen years. During his 
time several matters of importance happened in the history 
of the church ; one of these was that as the attendance at 
the services was rapidly increasing, it was decided to build 
a new church, which was done in 1797 at a cost of about 
;£6o. In view of this fact, it is an amusing commentary on 
the feeling towards the Secession by those of the "Auld 
Kirk" to read what Mr Gordon, the parish minister, had 
to say about it in the paper he contributed to the "New 
Statistical Account of Scotland," published in 1793. Mr 
Gordon writes — "Besides the Established Church there are 
tw'o chapels, one for Papists, who are not half the number 
that they were thirty years ago, and one for Seceders, who 
are much on the decline. One great reason for the decline 
of both sects is the moderation with which they are treated 
all over this country." 


In the course of our researches, we have found a note 
of the amounts paid to the different tradesmen employed 
in building the church, and learn from it that the new 
church had a slated roof, and that its dimensions were : — 
Length within walls, 42 ft. ; breadth, 20 ft. ; height, g ft. 

To James M'Kay and John Craib, Masons £ig 12 o 

A. Lawrence, Slater 10 12 o 

Lime for building 6 16 7 

Alexr. Milne, for wright work, &c 6 18 1 

For roofing wood at Balvenie 3 15 8 

Peter Green, for carting deals (@ 6/6 per day) 5 10 o 

Additional sarking, deals, &c 2 1 o 

Nails and carriage, for sclates and roof 1 17 4 

Extra expense at the settling , workmen, &c. 100 

Free stone for rigging, from Auchindoir 150 

Alexr, Laing, Wright, for setting up pulpit, &c. 117 4 

£61 5 o 

About this time the brothers Haldane, known as the 
pioneers of the Independent or Congregational Church in 
Scotland, appeared in the north, and arranged to hold a 
service at Soccoth of Glass. Natural curiosity led a 
number of Mr Waddell's people to hear them, including 
several office-bearers. Sectarian controversy ran pretty high 
at the time, and Mr Waddell, along with some of the mem- 
bers, wished to compel those who were so tainted with a 
wandering spirit as to countenance lay preaching, to confess 
their fault before the congregation ; this they refused to do, 
and a great deal of squabbling took place, which so marred 
the harmony of the congregation that Mr Waddell deter- 
mined to leave. Next year he laid his cause before the 
Synod, and on the second Sabbath of May was able to in- 
timate to his hearers that he had been released from his 
charge. On the first Sabbath of September the church was 
preached vacant, and on the next Mr Waddell bade farewell 
to the Cabrach. This was the last minister of that congre- 
gation, as after his departure it was split in two, the one 
part adhering to the Secession principles, the other to the 


One of those who had gone to Glass to hear the Hal- 
danes was John Taylor, Mains of Lesmurdie. He was at- 
tracted by what he heard there, and after further inquiry 
into their principles and doctrine, adopted these for his own. 
At his death he left a sum of money in trust, the income 
from which was to be devoted to providing two sermons 
yearly, in the Lower Cabrach, one to the old and one to the 
y oung, to be preached by an Independent minister ; the 
minister chosen was also to nold as many more services as 
the funds would permit, and to distribute a quantity of 
religious literature. One of the most frequent visitors to the 
Cabrach in this capacity was the Rev. John Murker, well 
known in the north as the Congregational minister of Banff. 
He first came in 1S50, and continued his visits nearly every 
3-ear until 1880. He was very popular in the Cabrach, and 
was very fond of staying there, usually spending a month, 
and amusing himself with fishing. He is still remembered 
with affection by the older generation in the Cabrach, and 
stories are told of his prowess in the gentle art, and of his 
encounters with herd4addies and "auld wives." On one 
occasion he, while fishing for trout, caught that bane of 
anglers, an eel. After trying in vain to disentangle the 
wriggling body from his tackle, he said, sadly looking at 
the mess, "Well, I've often heard Satan likened to a ser- 
pent, but if anyone wants to know just how wily and agile 
he can be, let him catch an eel." Now that Mr Murker's 
visits to the Cabrach have ceased, different Congregational 
ministers continue to be invited to officiate under the terms 
of the trust, and are given the use of the U.F. Church. 

During the long period of sixty years, the Cabrach was 
without a minister of its own, and received only occasional 
visits from Secession and Independent ministers in turn, 
and for two years, 1827-1829, even the Original Seceders 
occasionally sent a preacher. One Sunday three ministers 
turned up, one from each body, all prepared to conduct ser- 
vice in the church at Oldtown. One of them managed to 
gain possession of the building, and the others had to hold 
their services, one at Milltown of Lesmurdie and the other 
at Mains of Lesmurdie. In this unsatisfactory way the 
Church dragged on till, in 1836, the visit of Mr James Mori- 
son revived an interest among the people. He preached to 
large congregations, and at one of his services £4 was 00!- 


lected for missions, "a collection larger by half than any 
made in Cabrach before." Some years later the pulpit was 
being supplied more regularly and the Cabrach had a si, are 
in the M'Phail bequest, a legacy of ^iooo, the interest of 
which was devoted to evangelistic work in Banff sliire. In 
1847 the United Presbyterian Church had been formed by 
the union of the Secession and Relief Churches, and when, 
in 1852, a U.P. Presbytery was established at Banff, the 
church at Cabrach claimed its attention. In 1853 the com- 
munion was dispensed at Okltown after an interval of two 
generations, but for the next twenty years little progress 
was made. 

By the year 1874 the different sections of the congre- 
gation were once more united, and all joined in trying to 
get a church built. For some time before several of the 
members, notably Mr Wm. Cran, Mains ; Mr Robertson, 
Tomnaven; Mr Gordon, Bank, and Mr Jas. Ta}dor, Mill- 
town, had been making efforts to have a minister settled in 
the Cabrach, and as one of the first requirements was a 
suitable house for him to occupy, they turned their atten- 
tion first of all to building. Capt. Stewart of Lesmurdie 
proved a great friend, and granted the site described 
above. The help of the Church Committee for Manse 
Building was obtained, and various sums contributed in the 
district, and also by friends outside. When the manse was 
finished, the Cabrach people bethought themselves to take 
advantage of the interest they had awakened, and proceeded 
to collect money to build a church too. In this they were 
helped by the Synod, who gave a subsidy of ^100 on condi- 
tion that the building should be free of debt before a min- 
ister was inducted. Mr Rattray, a native of Cabrach, who 
was at this time a teacher in Glasgow, collected £u^ hi 
that city, and the cellection on the opening day amounted 
to £76 7s 4d, a record for the Cabrach. Capt. Stewart gave 
the bell, which was sent to him at Elgin, where he was 
lying ill, that he might hear its tones. He died before the 
church was opened, and a marble tablet was erected in it 
to his memory by his relatives. 

The church and manse together cost between ^1100 and 
;£i200, and the former was opened in lune 1875 by Dr 
Scott of Glasgow. On the Monday following a soiree was 
held, at which Mr Macfarlane, Keith, presided. Mr 


Simmers, Portsoy, had all along taken a deep interest in 
the congregation, and he was present and addressed the 
meeting. Mr Macfarlane, who was ordained at Keith in 
Oct. 1874, had been appointed Moderator of the Session, 
as being the nearest U.P. minister, and from that time to 
the present day has performed numberless acts of kindness 
and helpfulness both to the congregation and their min- 
isters. Among the speakers at the soiree were also Air 
Xicol of the Free Church, Dufftown, and Mr Riach, Cab- 
rach, and Dr Scott. Mr Simmers gave a brief account of 
the history of the congregation from the time of Thomas 
Christie, and Dr Scott described the events which had led 
up to their presence in the church that day. 

The next thing was to choose a minister. The people 
undertook to contribute £60 towards his stipend, which was 
augmented from the Church funds to ^150. In Dec. 1875 
Rev. Alex. Withers, formerly of Westray, was called, and 
remained for 17 years. During the first years of his min- 
istry the congregation increased in prosperity, and the U.P. 
Church, after all the vicissitudes through which it had 
passed since the days of Thomas Christie, became firmly 
established as a part of the life of the Cabrach. The mem- 
bership at the end of 1S76 was 40, and the stipend ^190. 
In 1893, as Mr Withers' health was on the decline, he . c- 
signed his charge and became chaplain to the Fever Hos- 
pital of Edinburgh. His successor was the Rev. George 
Tulloch, from Moyness, who was ordained at Cabrach nth 
Dec. 1894. In 1900 the U.P. Church joined with the Free 
Church, and the Cabrach congregation then agreed to stvle 
themselves the "U.F. Church of Cabrach." Mr Tulloch 
resigned in 1907, and the church was vacant for a year. 
During this time the General Interests Committee of .he 
Church had under consideration the project of making the 
congregation a preaching station, with an "ordained 
preacher" in charge, for a term of years, as the Cabrach 
congregation came under the rule of the U.F. Church that 
congregations contributing less than ^80 to the Central 
Fund should not have the status of an independent congre- 
gation, nor the ministers of such churches a seat in the 
Presbytery, but should be under moderatorshrp of a neigh- 
bouring minister. But the Cabrach people, having had so 
many ups and downs, were not at all pleased at the prospect 


of being degraded to such a position, and protested against 
this idea. They agreed to raise their contributions from ^40 
to ^50, and after strenuous efforts on their behalf on the 
part of members of Presbytery and others interested in the 
case, the G. I. Committee made an exception to their rule, 
and the Rev. T. Anderson, Edinburgh, was inducted in 
March 190S. Before Mr Anderson settled in the Cabrach 
he had been working for it, and had already collected from 
friends in the south a sufficient sum to erect the new build- 
ing between church and manse, already referred to. The 
members of the congregation gave their services in 
carting material, and the children collected money to 
pa\ T for chairs in the Hall. The building was opened in 
November 1908, and has proved very useful as a comfort- 
able, well-lighted place for evening sendees and classes, 
and meetings of all kinds. 

We have now come down to the present day, which finds 
the Cabrach well provided in the matter of religious facili- 
ties; but it is the same here as elsewhere, things easily ob- 
tained are not so much appreciated, and manv more might 
take advantage of these facilities. We should like to know 
what young man in Cabrach would walk, or even cycle, 
twenty-eight miles to hear a sermon. 



The Library. 

The Cabrach boasts one of the oldest circulating- 
libraries north of the Tweed, it having attained its hun- 
dredth birthday on March 22nd of the year 1916. Long before 
the days of Carnegie, of Coats, and of School Boards, intel- 
ligent country people in Scotland were trying to add to 
their scanty store of book-learning and general knowledge, 
and to cultivate their minds as well as their fields. In 
many parishes there were Mutual Improvement or Debating 
Societies, and such a Society flourished in the Cabrach in 
the early part and middle of last century. The usual plan 
at the meetings was for one member to read a paper jn 
some prescribed subject, which was followed by criticism 
and argument from the rest of those present. From what 
we know of the leaders, whose names are household words 
in the Cabrach, we may be sure that the papers would be 
interesting, and the criticisms free, and there is no doubt 
the "Mutual," as they called it, was both popular and use- 
ful. But such a Society requires of its members a certain 
amount of study, and books were scarce and dear in 1815. 
How then was progress to be maintained? To form a cir- 
culating library was to solve this difficulty, and the plan 
once thought of, was rapidly matured. 

There were other reasons, besides, which nade a 
library a desirable thing. On many a night throughout the 
winter it would be impossible to traverse the dark and 
snowy roads to a meeting, and further, meetings like those 
of which we have been speaking called for initiative and 
self-reliance, not found among the majority in a scattered 
population who have little opportunity of sharpening their 
wits by contact with others. On the other hand, books to 
be read over the fire in the long evenings, and volumes 


of sermons, specially desired by the older folk, to beguile 
the Sundays when no going to church was possible, were 
of very real benefit. 

The motto of the Library was "Add to virtue know- 
ledge," and the reasons for its founding are set forth in 
the minute book : 

"It is generally, if not universally allowed, that if the 
soul be without knowledge, it is not good. Yet on account 
of the high price of books, the smallness of their own 
funds, or their distance from a well-chosen circulating lib- 
rary, many, particularly in remote parts of the country, 
find it impossible to devote so much of their time as they 
would wish to the improvement of their minds. With a 
view to remove these inconveniences, and to bring the 
means of useful knowledge within the reach of themselves 
and others, a considerable number of people in this parish 
and neighbourhood resolved to erect a Library for the sole 
use of such as may obtain an interest in it by subscribing 
and conforming to the annexed regulations. In conse- 
quence of this resolution (after several intermediate steps 
had been taken) , a meeting of the subscribers was called 
and held at Mains of Lesmurdie upon the 22nd day of 
March 181 5, when the following Regulations for the estab- 
lishment and management of said Library were passed." 

The first rule decided for all time the character of the 
Library and it is still maintained, though recently the 
members have permitted themselves a few volumes of 
poetry and essays, some of Sir Walter Scott's novels and 
the plays of Shakespeare, which perhaps the early com- 
mittees would not have allowed. The regulation reads — 

" The Library shall consist of books on Divinity, 
Natural, Civil, and Ecclesiastical History, Biography, Ag- 
riculture, and Geography, and other useful books, to be 
chosen by a Committee of Subscribers as afterwards 
directed. But no plays, novels, romances, or any other 
book which has a tendency to unsettle the faith or corrupt 
the morals of Christians, shall ever be admitted." 

Rule 2nd is — " The Library shall be permanent, unless 
some event shall arise in the course of Providence which 
shall render the dissolution of it absolutely necessary. In 
that case, the books, or the value of them, shall be equally. 


divided among the subscribers or their heirs, who are then 
alive." The remainder of the rules chiefly concern the 
choosing, exchanging and replacing of books, the payment 
subscriptions and the guidance of the Committee. 

The entry money, which has now been abolished, was 
four shillings stg. for members who joined at the begin- 
ning, and six shillings for those who became subscribers 
after November 18:5. The annual subscription was, and 
still is, one shilling. All mcney received in this way was 
to be spent in "buying new books, binding old ones, and 
defraying any incidental expenses, which ma}- be incurred 
on account of the library." On looking over the accounts, 
there appears at intervals the item, "one candle," and it 
may interest you to know that the original candlestick is 
still in use. 

Rule 4th is as follows — "A Central Meeting of the 
Subscribers shall be held annually at the dwelling-house of 
the Librarian for the time, upon the last Friday of Novem- 
ber, at which the oldest member of the Committee shall 
preside, for the purpose of examining the state of the 
Library and the Cash Accounts of the Committee ; for elect- 
ing a Librarian, who shall also be Clerk, and a Treasurer, 
and lastly, for choosing a Committee of five members, who, 
with the Librarian and Treasurer, shall have the sole man- 
agement of everything relating to the Library for the en- 
suing year. Should a member of the Committee die, or 
remove in the course of the year, the remaining members 
shall have power to choose one of the subscribers to fill his 
place till the first General Meeting." 

With regard to the choosing of new books, the next 
rule states, "When the books are to be bought, every 
member of the Committee shall make out and give in to 
the Committee a list of such books as he would recommend, 
and the books which have the most recommendations shall 
be first purchased." The Committee had full power, but 
at the same time were restricted in regard to the accounts. 
The Clerk had to minute all proceedings, particularly the 
Cash Accounts, which were to be laid before the General 
Meeting; further, no Committee had power to contract debt 
beyond the sum of ten shillings stg. on pain of being re- 
sponsible for the payment of such debt. 

Books were to be exchanged "on the last Fridav of 


November, December, Januarj-, February, March, May, 
July and September, at two o'clock p.m. for the five winter 

months, and at six o'clock for the other three months, and 
on no other day. Subscribers neglecting to return the 
books on the above-mentioned days shall be liable to the 
following penalties for every such offence, viz. : for a folio 
one shilling, for a quarto sixpence, for an octavo three- 
pence, and for all books below octavo twopence, to go into 
the Libran* funds." Pretty heavy fines. Apparenty a book 
was valued solely by its size, and not by its interest or 
rarity. However, a loophole is left to escape the fines, 
"That no inconvenience may arise to Subscribers from the 
observance of this rule, any person, if he has not satisfac- 
tory perused a book, may, if the Committee think proper, 
have the same book again. But no Committee shall have- 
power to give the same book oftener than twice to the same- 
person in succession." 

No Subscriber was allowed to have more than one 
volume of folio, quarto, or octavo, but two volumes under 
octavo were allowed at the same time. All books were 
scrutinised on their out-going and in-coming by two mem- 
bers of the Committee who attended in rotation for that 
purpose. Xo transferring of books from one subscriber to 
another was allowed. 

The first General Meeting took place at Mains of Les- 
murdie on March 22nd, 1S15, and after the above rules 
had been drawn up the first Committee was chosen, to 
manage the concerns of the Library until the next meet- 
ing. Their names were — James Gordon, Bank, Preses; 
William Taylor, Boghead ; James Horn, Xewton ; Alex- 
ander Forbes, Invercharrach ; and the Rev. John Murray, 
Schoolmaster. John Gordon, Oldtown, was chosen Trea- 
surer, and John Taylor, Mains of Lesmurdie, Librarian and 
Clerk, both of whom were members of the Committee. 
Later on these offices were combined, and one man did all 
the necessary work, his only reward being the remission of 
his subscription. In order that no one might feel his duties 
irksome, the Committee and officials were elected every 
year, and "no one could be forced to serve on the Com- 
mittee for more than one year." 

Apparently, at the beginning, the privileges of the 
Library were "to be confined to male members, women no 


doubt being thought to be more profitably employed in 
household duties. In November 1S15 this rule was added — 
"An unmarried woman shall be admitted upon condition 
of paying half the entry money, besides the annual contri- 
bution, but when she is married her husband must pay up 
the other half, and cannot transfer her right to any but a 
woman. When her husband pays up the one half, her 
right shall go to her husband." So, you see, these students 
of a century ago had very decided ideas about "Women's 
Rights," and when one of them married, he expected his 
wife to devote all her time to his needs, in return for which 
he would pay her dues, and possibly, if she asked him 
humbly at home, he would consent to give her information, 
in the true Pauline style. 

From these regulations and minutes we gain a fair idea 
of the kind of people who founded this Library, and of the 
character of the Library itself. A further understanding is 
given by a study of the lists of books purchased from time 
to time. They include a large number of sermons, books 
on Church government and theological problems, memoirs 
and "remains," a sprinkling of history and biography, and 
a few books on farming, household medicine and domestic 
matters, while now and again an attempt was made to pro- 
vide something in a lighter vein by "Religious Anecdotes," 
and "The Aberdeen Black List." Now 7 adaj T s books of 
more general interest are found on the Library shelves. 
The best of the sermons, by such favourite preachers as 
Spurgeon, MacCheyne, Tannage, &c, remain, but the 
others have been replaced by works on elementary science, 
bee-lore, husbandry, flower and wild life, and modern his- 
tory. But still no novels, romances, or plays are admitted, 
with the few exceptions before-mentioned. 

In the winter of 1826-7 a "Disjunction" took place. 
There were then sixty subscribers, of whom only seventeen 
belonged to the Upper Cabrach. Having in mind the ir- 
regularity of their attendance and payments, on account of 
the distance between the districts, it was agreed to divide 
the books and to let each part of the parish have its own 
Library. That in the Upper Cabrach has gradually 
dwindled, and has not been used for more than twenty 
years, though the books still remain. 

In the Lower Cabrach the Library con- 


tinued to flourish. John Taylor, Mains of 

Lesmurdie, was the first Librarian, and he continued in 
office until 1837. In 1S24 he assumed also the duties of 
Treasurer, and since then the two offices have been com- 
bined. John Taylor, Boghead, was Librarian from 1S37 
till 1S67, and James M'Combie, Crofthead, from 1867 till 
1883. In 1883 Mr John Sheed, Upper Ardwell, was appointed 
and continued to perform the duties of Clerk, Librarian and 
Treasurer till December 1914, when Mr Alexander Rattray, 
Burn treble, was chosen to succeed him. Our Librarians 
have thus always given long periods of service, there 
having been onty four in the century. 

The Library was accommodated first of all at Mains of 
Lesmurdie, and the General Meetings were held there 
from 1815 till 1823. In November of the latter year it 
was removed to the U.P. Church at Oldtown, and con- 
tinued there till 1844. That was not a very central or con- 
venient place, so in 1844 another move was made to Mill- 
town of Lesmurdie. The books were kept in a large "kist," 
and on the appointed evenings the Librarian would have 
them all laid out on the kitchen dresser, while forms would 
be set against the wall for the accommodation of subscribers 
who attended at the General Meetings. These General 
Meetings were dear to the hearts of the founders, but after 
the first two or three it does not appear from the Minutes 
that anything was done at them beyond the election of the 
Committee. Probably after that business was over there 
followed an evening's friendly gossip. 

In 1865 the Library was moved for the last time, and 
found suitable accommodation at the new school. There 
the books, which number about 500, are housed in book- 
cases, and a more up-to-date way of keeping the record of 
loans is used. The subscribers number between twenty 
and thirty, but far more people might with advantage be- 
come members. 

1 . 




In memory of John Taylor, farmer in Boghead of Les- 
murdie, who died 3:st March 1S08, aged 83, and 
Janet Donald, his spouse, who died 20th Oct. 1781, 
aged 48. 

2. William Taylor, late schoolmaster at Cabrach, who died 
. . . Nov. 1782, aged 42 years, and William Tajdor, 
junr., his son. 

In memory of James Taylor, Boghead, Cabrach, who 
died 8th Nov. 1903, aged 85. Also his parents, 
William Taylor, who died 25th Dec. 1854, aged 91, 
and Helen Moir, who died 13th Jan. 1863, aged So; 
his sister Jean, who died nth June 1S50, aged 40, 
and his brothers William, wdio died 24th Jan. 1876, 
aged 63, John, who died 21st Aug. 188S, aged So. 

4. Erected by George Petrie in memory of John Stuart, 
crofter, Badchier, who died 9th Oct. 183Q, aged 72 
years, and Anne, his wife, who died 14th Feb. 1847, 
aged 79 years. Also of their daughters, Jane, who 
died in July 1S25, in the 26th year of her age, Marv, 
who died in 1S35 in the 24th year of her age, and 
Christina, who died 26th Nov. 1S77, aged 73 years. 

Hear lyes John Gordon, some time farmer in Dalriach, 
who was spouse of Margaret Grant, and departed 
this life on the . . . Oct. 1763, aged 68. Also his 
son Frederick Gordon, who departed this life on the 

. . . November 1764, aged two of his grand 

, John Gordon. 


6. Here lies Elizabeth Wilson, spouse to Frauds Horn, 
sometime farmer in Mains of Lesmurdey, who died 
March 12th 1783, aged 60 years. 

7. Under there lyes William Taylor &c. 

(Same as No. 2.) 

S. Robert Perie, Hillock, died 27th Feb. 1879. 

9. William Dawson, Aldewalloch, died 20th Jan. 1830, 
aged 84, with his spouse, Ann Gordon, who died 
14th May 183S, aged 85. 

10. This stone is erected by George Taylor, farmer in Tom- 
ballie, in memory of his daughter Mary Taylor, who 
died 2nd Nov. 1845, aged 23 years. Also IsobcL 
Taylor, who died 7th Feb. 1823, aged 3 years, and 
of Margaret Taylor, who died 20th March 1848, aged 
35 years, and of his wife Margaret Taylor, who died 
24th July 1856. [George Taylor died Dec. 1, 1859.] 

11. Erected by Janet Henry in loving memory of her hus- 
band, George Taylor, who died at Tomballie, Cab- 
rach, 3rd Nov. 1893, aged 84 years. Their son 
George, who died 25th Oct. 1850, aged 11 weeks, 
also the above Janet Henry, who died at Waterside, 
13th June 1901, aged 78 years. 

" Till the day breaks." 

12. In memory of John Taylor, farmer, Backside, Glass, 
aged 43 years, who died 22nd July 1855, also his 
wife, Isabella Strachan, who died 13th Aug. 18S2, 
aged 73 years, and their daughter Isabella, who died 
6th March 1S54, aged 15 months. 


13. In memory of James Horn, sometime farmer in Newton 
of Cabrach, who departed this life the Sth of June 
1S46, aged 86 years; also his spouse Margaret Brem- 
ner, who departed this life the Sth Feb. 1836, aged 
66 years; also their son John, farmer, Newton of 
Cabrach, who died 4th June 1876, aged 71 3-ears; 
also his wife Alexina Taylor, who died 7th July 
1S86, aged 62 years; and their son Alexander Horn, 
who died 16th August 18S6, aged 30 } 7 ears. 

14. Erected by William Horn in memory of his mother, 
Margaret Smith, who died at Badchier, May 1S44, 
aged 75 years. 

15. James Watt, late farmer in Ardwell, Cabrach, who died 
10th May 1837, aged 54, and his wife Margaret 
Kellas, who died 3rd September 1842, aged 47, and 
their sons, Peter 1839, Alex. 1840, John 1S47, 
daughters, Isabell 1S17, and Jane 1S47. 

16. Erected in memory of John Riach, farmer, Greenlone, 
who died 1st April 1827, aged 77; his wife, Janet 
Riach, who died 1829, aged 77 ; their son, James 
Riach, farmer, Greenlone, who died 5th Jan. 1S62, 
aged 77 years; and his wife, Margaret Shearer, who 
died 14th July 1877, aged 78 ; also Margaret Riach, 
who died 19th Dec. 1853, aged 54 years. 

17. Erected by Mary Taylor in memory of her husband, 
James Watt, late farmer in Badymullach, who died 
4th May 1S44, aged 36 years; also their daughter 

Mary the above Mary Taylor, who died at 

Tomnaven on the 31st March 1890, aged 76 years. 

*i8. Here lies the body of Katharine Gordon, second daugh- 
ter to James Gordon, late of Beldorney, who died in 
Banff the third of March 1795 (?) in the 94th (?) 
year of her age. 


*io, Dom. 

Hie jacet R V Thomas Brockie, Presb. Tern. Scot ratis 
B A L et in Parochiis Murth. Drost. Glass et Cab- 
rach miss, ap an vixit LATH F E R E et XX suinma 
cum laude missionem. obiit. suorum omnium et verbis 
Doctor et moribus exemplar merito que dictus pau- 
perum pater vitam piis laboribus im pensam pretiosa 
morte. Elausit maii ino A.D. MDCCTIX. Sit in 
pace. Locus ejus et habitatis ejus in Sion. Mimento 
Mori, (sic) 

* These two are in the Wardhouse enclosure. 


"To The Lord of Hosts," or "To The Glory of God," 

Here lies Rev. Thomas Brockie, Priest, Student of the 
Scotch College, Ratisbon, and missionary apostolic in the 
parishes of Mortlach, Aberlour, Glass and Cabrach. He 
lived fifty-eight years, and died, having spent almost 
twenty-eight years with the greatest acceptance on the 
mission. Of his own and of all both a teacher in word and 
an example in deed. Justly called the Father of the Poor, 
he closed a life spent in pious labours by a holy death on 
3rd May in the year of our Lord 1759. 

May he rest in peace, and may his place and dwelling be 

in Sion. 

Remember thou shalt die. 

The chalice and breviary or missal at top of stone are the 
insignia of the priest. 




Drawn up from the Communications of the Ministers of 
the different parishes. 

By Sir John Sinclair, Bart., 1793. 

Parish of Cabrach. 

Count}- of Banff — Presbytery of Alford — Synod of Aberdeen 

By the Rev. James Gordon. 

Name. — The name is derived from the Gaelic language, 
and signifies the Timber Moss : accordingly, the parish is 
full of moss and fir. Every place within the bounds, ex- 
cept such as are new, has a name of Gaelic extract. 

Boundaries, Extent, &c. — Cabrach is 30 miles distant 
from the county town, viz., Aberdeen, and surrounded by 
a range of hills, not very high, covered with heath. The 
length of this parish, at a medium, from South to North, 
is 5 miles; the breadth, from east to west, 3 miles (all com- 
puted) . 

Climate, Soil, Produce, &c. — In summer the climate is 
pleasant enough; and, for the benefit of goats' milk, is re- 
sorted to from the low country by many of weak constitu- 
tions, or labouring under consumption, for w : hose accom- 
modation there are 4 goat whey quarters. In winter the 
frosts are more intense, and snow lies deeper and longer 
here, than in some of the neighbouring parishes ; but from 
this the natives feel no inconvenience. They have an in- 
exhaustible moss at their doors, and depend not more for 
subsistence on the produce of their fields, than on the pro- 
fits of a traffic they carry on in sheep and black cattle. 
The soil is wet, and full of swamps, productive enough in 
provender for cattle; but owing to the frosts, mists, and 
hoar frost in autumn, the annual produce of grain does 
not exceed the consumpt of the inhabitants. 


The farmers sow bear and birley oats only ; and these in 
the upper part of the parish are always more or less affected 
by the frosts, in so much that if the season has not been 
extremely favourable, they never depend on their own. 
bear, and but seldom on their birley oats for seed. Some- 
times one half of a field is frosted, and the other safe ; 
and what is still more extraordinary, the upper half of the 
ear has been found to be affected, while the lower was safe. 
Daily experience evinces that the corns on the heights and 
eminences run less risk than those on flat low grounds. 
For the most part they begin to sow in the end of March, 
and reap in September and October. Potatoes are the most 
uncertain of their crops. Turnips thrive ; but for want of 
inclosures through the whole parish, experiments are not 
tried on a large scale. Clover and rye-grass have been 
sown in yards with success ; cabbages are common. 

Agriculture and Employments. — The mode of culture- 
is perhaps the same at this day which it was a century ago. 
The plough in use is the old Scotch, drawn by 6, 8, or io 
oxen, or cows and oxen, or horses and oxen together. The 
dung is, in a great Tneasure, carried out in creels, on the 
horses' sides, a method by which there is a great waste of 
time that might be gained, 3 of these loads being only equal 
to one of a cart. 

Men and women are employed, and as soon as the seed 
time is done, plough and harrow are laid aside; the far- 
mers mind little else but their cattle; the women, besides 
their ordinary domestic affairs, are employed in providing 
coarse cloths for the family, and spinning linen yarn to the 

Nevertheless, with all these peculiarities of climate and 
customs, the tenents, especially within the four hills of 
Cabrach, are in good circumstances enough for their rank, 
and are thriving. Nature seems to have intended the 
countrv more for pasture than for agriculture; aware of 
this, the inhabitants pay their attention chiefly to sheep and 
black cattle. Early in the spring, they stock their little 
farms with the former, and about Whitsunday with the 
latter. During the course of the summer, they are ever 
buying and selling at home and in the markets. About the 
end of August, they clear their towns, if the sale is brisk, 
of all except as many as they have provender to support 


in the winter. If the market has been bad they keep more 
than their usual number, and buy corn and straw for them 
in the neighbouring parishes. By these means they seldom 
meet with much loss, nor indeed can it ever be great ; their 
flocks are small, and the circle of their trade but narrow; 
of course the little speculation that is here depending 
merely upon the appearance of a good grass crop, or a de- 
mand from the south, is seldom attended with bad conse- 
quences, even if the crop should happen to be short. Ac- 
cordingly, one year w ? ith another, they replace the capitals 
employed in this trade, with a small profit, deducting 
all charges. 

Estimate of Black Cattle, &c. :— 

Black cattle bought and sold, about 500 

Kept in winter on each farm 30 

Sheep bought and sold 2000 

Kept in winter 1000 

Horses in the parish, all small 335 

Black cattle, taken to hill pasture annually, at 2s each 350 
Black cattle, taken to infield grass, at 5s Sterling each 200 

Quarries. — Those who reside in the northern parts, 
contiguous to Mortlach, burn and sell annually about 4000 
bolls of lime, at 6d per boll ; two firlots Aberdeen measure 
make a boll. Lime is little used here as a manure, on the 
supposition that it turns the crop late. It is presumed, 
however, that in some parts it would be attended with ad- 

Besides great numbers of lime-stone quarries, there is 
a slate quarry of a light grey colour, on the Hill of the 
Bank; there being little demand for the slates, the quarry 
is not in lease. They are not sold, but given gratis. 

Forests. — The banks of the river Dovern, about half 
a century ago, were covered with birch, although, since 
the sale of it, there is not a plant of w 7 ood to be seen there, 
or in any part of the parish, except in Glen Fiddich, where 
there are some old trees, and on the Burn of Bank, where 
there are some young bushes. The Feddick, which runs 
into the Spey between Aberlour and Boharm, rises between 
Cabrach and Glenlivet, and runs into Mortlach. On its 
banks the Duke of Gordon has a house for a hunting seat 


in a beautiful romantic spot, but within the parish of 
Mortlach. He has another farther up on the Blackwater, 
in the same parish. The forests of Glenfeddich and Black- 
water are stored with red deer and roes ; the hills all around 
with innumerable flocks of muir-fowl. Here there are 
partridges, hares, foxes, otters, wild ducks, and blackcocks. 
The migratory birds are the swallow, the plover, and 
cuckoo, who appear about the middle of Anril. 

Church, School, and Poor. — The minister's stipend is 
^45 Sterling and the services; besides £2 15s 6^d Sterling, 
for communion element money ; with a glebe of 19 acres 
arable, and 2 of pasture ground. The parochial school 
salary is £5 ns i^d Sterling. The charity school was taken 
away from Dovernside in 1779, a want which the people 
there feel very much. To remedy this in some degree, 
they hire a country man to teach their children to read 
and write in winter, the only time they can dispense with 
them from herding their cattle. The number of poor on 
the roll who receive occasional supply are 12. The weekly 
contributions amount annually to £2 sterling, besides a 
fund of ^50 sterling at interest, under the management of 
the heritors and kirk-session. 

Religion, Sectaries, &c. — Besides the Established 
Church, there are two chapels, one for Papists, who are 
not half the number that they were thirty years ago, and 
one for Seceders, who are much on the decline. One 
great reason for the decline of both sects is the moderation 
with which they are treated all over this country. Inter- 
marriages with Protestant families have been frequently 
observed to bring over Papists, especially the female part, 
from their former persuasion. 

Character, Diseases, &c. — The inhabitants, whose or- 
dinary size is 5 feet 10 inches, though variable from 5 feet 
6 inches to 6 feet, are industrious, sober, and healthy ; live 
much better, are neater and cleanlier in their dresses and 
dwellings than their predecessors were some generations 
ago, when men and beasts lay under the same roof. They 
all read and write, are intelligent in the ordinary and even 
some of the less common affairs of life, beyond what could 
be expected from their opportunities, and of an obliging 
disposition. Notwithstanding the temptations inseparable 
from the species of traffic they are constantly engaged in, 


in the cattle markets, they are not addicted to drinking. 
However unaccountable, in such a place, the want of inns 
and alehouses may be, there is not one in the parish, a 
circumstance perhaps not unfriendly to health and morals; 
nor are the inconveniences attending it felt by travellers, 
because of the hospitality of the people. With all the 
necessaries and some of the conveniencies of life, they live 
happy and content at home. They are not in general 
litigious nor are law-suits frequent, which is a consequence 
of their honesty in dealings. That the natives of a place 
full of mosses, and interspersed with swampy ground, 
should be healthy and subject to no local distemper, may 
appear a little problematical ; yet excepting a few fevers, 
which are by no means frequent or fatal, the whooping- 
cough, measles, and small-pox in the natural way, are the 
only diseases known here. The most common disease of 
which they die is old age. Of late, consumption has 
appeared in 4 instances; in each of them fatal, excepting 
one case. Those who died of it were attacked when at 
service in other countries. It is not pretended to account 
for the healthiness of the people. Perhaps the great fires 
constantly burning in their houses have considerable in- 
fluence in counter-acting the effects of the exhalations which 
are continully rising from the earth. Strangers not accus- 
tomed to them catch cold. 

Valued Rent, Servants' Wages, &c. — The valued rent 
in this parish is .£1290 2s iod Scotch. 

Men servants gain yearly about (Sterling) 
Women do. do. do. ... 

Geese are sold at 
Hens are sold at 
Butter per lib. ... 
Cheese per quarter 

The services which used to be paid to the principal tacks- 
man were happily done away when the present leases were 
given by the Duke of Gordon, by getting tacks immedi- 
ately from himself; the best thing he could have done to 
this country. 















Population, &c. — The number in 1755 wa s 960. 

Within the parish are, above 8 years of age, catechisable, 550 
Children below S years of age 150 

Each marriage, at an average, produces 4 children. 

Remarks. — The number of inhabitants has decreased 
about 200 since 17S2 and 17S3, at which period the house- 
holders or crofters were driven in quest of subsistence to 
other countries and towns, where manufactures are carried 
on. The upper part of the parish in Aberdeenshire seldom 
produces sufficiency of grain for itself. The lower part of 
the parish in Banffshire produces sufficiency of grain for 
itself, and disposes of about 200 bolls, which would make 
up the deficienc3 T in the upper part, was it not disposed of 
to the neighbouring distilleries. The defect is made up 
from other places. The state of the inhabitants then (in 
17S2) , when few places hereabout had enough for them- 
selves, ma}^ be learned from the circumstance that the mill 
multures of Cabrach amounted to a ninth part only of what 
they are in ordinary years ; yet, by means of the indulgence 
of the Duke of Gordon, who allowed them to detain their 
rents for buying meal, and supporting their families till 
they were able to pay without hurting them, and the 
spirited exertions of individuals, particularly John Gordon, 
Esq. of Craig, who imported grain of different kinds for a 
subsistence to the indigent poor, which he gave to this and 
some of the neighbouring parishes, nobody suffered for 
want ; but their circumstances were much impaired : there 
was no demand for cattle. Meal was sold at is 6d and 2s 
per peck, 9 lib. Servants suffered most, for everybody re- 
duced their numbers, and day labourers got little if any 

So early as the 15th September 1782, there was a great 
fall of snow, which laid all the corns, then hardly begun 
to fill, in most places. The frosts were often intense, and 
vegetation was stopt here. 

The corns which had milky juices in the ear were 
totally ruined; those which had only watery juices wanted 
season : there were none of them perfectly full or ripe. 
They were therefore mostly given unthreshed to the cattle. 


It was after Christmas before they were all cut. The meal 
mack- of what was threshed was bad. To some it may ap- 
pear trivial, to others worthy to be remarked, that, in 
spring 1783, cows had calves much earlier, and in greater 
numbers, than w T as ever remembered; a fortunate circum- 
stance, in a year when the victual of home produce was 
excessively bad, and in a place where milk is a constituent 
part of ordinary fare. It was observed, too, very truly, as 
to this parish, that there was less sickness that year than 
usual, a fact which the curious will, no doubt, trace up to 
several causes. 


John Gordon married KHz. Gordon, relict of Alex. 
Ogilvy. She w ; as daughter of Adam Gordon, Dean of 
Caithness, third sou of first Earl of Huntlie, and sister of 
George of Beldorney. After the battle of Corrichie and 
John Ogilvy 's execution and forfeiture, the Queen on Sth 
Feb. 1563 virtually revoked the above charter in favour of 
John Gordon and his heirs of the Ogilvy estates, on the 
ground that Alex. Ogilvy had unjustly disinherited his own 
son, James Ogilvy of Cardale, and that John Gordon had 
failed to infeft James and his dues. Accordingly she 
granted charters of the baronies of Deskford, Finletter, 
Auchindoun, &c, in favour of James Ogilvy of Cardale. 
Notwithstanding this the Gordons still claimed part of the 
Ogilvy estates and the matter was submitted to arbitration. 
James Earl of Bothwell and Sir John Bellenden, Justice 
Clerk, were arbiters for the Earl of Huntlie and James and 
Adam his brothers, while Wm. Maitland of Lethington and 
John Spence, the Queen's Advocate, acted for James Ogilvy 
and her Majesty as Overswoman. By their decree arbital 
the baronies of Deskfurd and Finletter with other estates 
were affirmed to James Ogilvy and the lands of Auchindoun 
and Keithmore to Adam Gordon. (Douglas Wood's 



Keithmore, 1490. The King (James V.) confirmed a 
charter by John, Lord Drummond, and of the barony of 
Keithmore, in which for a certain sum of money paid, he 
sold and alienated to Sir James Ogilvy of Deskfurd, 
Knight, his heirs and assigns, the lands and barony of 
Keithmore, viz., the lands of Keithmore, Auchindoune, 
half of the lands of Clunymore, Clunybeg, BaldoniL-y, 
Gowlis, Tullochallmn, the Glenfethek with forest of the 
same, and Mill of Auchindoune, Sheriffdom of Banff, to 
be held of the King. Dated Linlithgow, 31st Dec. 1490. 
Confirmed at Linlithgow, 1st Jan 1490-1. 

Lesmurdie, 1473. The King (James III.) confirmed a 
charter of Lawrence Nudry, Lord of one part of Ovirestead, 
in which he sold and alienated to George-de-Strathauchin, 
Losmorthie, his heirs and assigns, the lands of Third part 
of Belchere, Envercheroch, and Auchnastank, Sherrifdom 
of Banff, for a certain sum of money paid him, or for 
making service outside or abroad, so far as pertanis to said 
lands only, the first witness, John Strathauchin of Thorn- 
ton, dated at the Chapel of St Mary of Gillismald, 5th Feb. 
1473. Confirmed, Edinburgh, 13th March 1473-4. 

Losmordy, 1527. The King (James V.) confirmed a 
charter by Alex. Strathauchin of Losmordy in which he 
granted his first born son George Strathauchin and Mar- 
garet Gordon his spouse, the lands of Easterton of Los- 
mordy, from the Green welhed, and a third part of the 
lands of Inverquherach, Auchinstank, Balkery, Sherifdom 
of Banff, to be held by the said George and Margaret and 
the longest liver of them in conjunction, and the heirs law- 
fully begotten between. Reddendo service of ward and 
relied to the king. Signed at Elgin, 20th Feb. 1527- Con- 
firmed at Elgin, 24th March 1527. 

Belchery & Losmordy, 1539-40. The King (James 
V.) confirmed a charter by John Gordon, portioner, Auch- 
instynk, in which he sold to George Strathauchin of Ester 


Losmordie and Margaret Gordon his spouse, three eastern 
parts of his lands of Balchery in the barony of Inverquher- 
raueh, Sheriffdom of Banff, to be held by the said George 
and Margaret and the longest liver, &c. Signed at Carne- 
burrow, 6th Dec. 1539. One of the witnesses, Mr James 
Gordoune, confirmed at Edinburgh, 14th Feb. 1539-40. 

Invercharroch, 14SS. The King (James IV.) con- 
finned a charter of John Craigmyll of Craigmyll and Lord 
Portioner of Inverquherach, in which for a certain sum 
paid in ready money, he sold and alienated to Sir James 
Ogilvie of Deskford, Knight, the lands of Inverquherach, 
Balchery and Auchinstank, Sheriffdom of Banff, to be held 
of the king in fee. The first witness out of ten, Thomas 
Ross of Auchlossni, uncle of the said John Craigmyll. 
Dated Chapel of St Mary of Garroch, 22nd June 14 88. 
Confirmed at Perth, 25th June 1488. 

Invercharroch, 1535.— The King (James V.) confirmed 
to Alex. Ogilvy of Oglivy and Elizabeth Gordon, his 
spouse, the lands and barony of Keithmore with the Castle 
and fortalice of Auchindowne, milltanandries of the same, 
and the free forest of Glenfiddich and privileges of the same, 
the third part of the lands of Auchinstank and Balquhery, 
and a half part of Inverquhirauch forest of Etnach, other- 
wise Blackwater, lying on the north side of the water of 
Dovern, Sheriffdom of Banff, which the said Alexander re- 
signed. To be held by the said Alex, and Enz. and the 
longest liver, &c, &c. Signed at Stirling, 31st Dec. 15^. 

Cabrach, 1374. The King (Robert II.) granted to 
William, Earl of Douglas, all and whole the lands of the 
forest of Cabrach, and half davach of Auchmair, which is 
called Clova, with parts in Sheriffdom of Banff, which was 
the property of David Brown of Glandriston, but the said 
David had resigned it. Dated at Edinburgh, 9th Jan. in 
the 3rd year of our reign. 

Cabrach, 150S. The King (James IV.) for good ser- 
vice, granted Alex., Earl of Huntlie, Lord Gordon and 


Braidenach, his heirs and assyns, the lands and forest of 
Cabrauch, Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, to be held in free barony 
and free forestry. Reddendo ward the barony of Huntlie. 
Dated at Edinburgh, 25th April 1508. (The Earl sold these 
lands the same year to James Gordon of Anehmully.) 

Cabrach, 150S. The King (James IV.) confirmed a 
charter by Alex. Earl of Huntlie, in which he sold and 
alienated to his cousin, James Gordon of Auchmully and 
his heirs, the lands and forest of Cabranch in the Earldom 
and barony of Huntlie and Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, divided 
from his own property of the said barony by these marches, 
viz. : Beginning on the south at the spring (burn rising 
between Elrig in Cabrauch and Blackmiddyns in Huntlie, 
which was otherwise called Strathbogie) and thence by the 
summit of Lunddishill to the Hundehillock between Garbet 
and Reidford, and by the summit of the hill between Cairn- 
aloquhy and Tullochdowy, between the heads of the three 
burns in Strathbogie and Glascory in Cabrauch, by the 
summit of Cornabroicht to the north and east angle of 
Ballochbegg, which is called Greenwelheid which is div- 
ided between Cabrauch and Corrynuisy, with power of 
bringing of said lauds into cultivation. Reddendo to the 
Earl three suits at three head courts of Huntlie, also ward, 
&c, when contingency should arise. Dated at burgh of 
Jedburgh, 4th Dec. 1508, confirmed at Jedburgh, 4th Dec. 

Cabrach, 1539. The Earl of Huntlie must have ac- 
quired back the lands of Cabrach, for in 1539, George, Earl 
of Huntlie, granted to his uncle, iUex. Gordon, formerly 
of Strathoune (Strathavon) , a charter of the lands of Cluny 
and others in exchange for the lands of said Alex, elder of 
Stiathoune, viz., Strathoune, Inverrourie, Fotterletter, fort- 
alice of Drummyn, and Mills, fishings, advowsons of bene- 
fices, &c, Sheriffdom of Banff, and the lands of Cabrach, 
Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, in conformity with a contract dated 
at Dundee, 31st Aug. 1539. 

Cabrach was leased by the Earl of Maryr at the end 
of the 16th cent., for James Gordon of Lesmore rented part 
of it. (Huntly rental 1600.) 


Auchindoun, 1545. The Queen (Mary) confirmed a 
charter by Alex. Ogilvy of Ogilvy and Finletter, in which 
: anted John Gordon, third son of George, Earl of 
Huntie, on condition of the said John and his heirs in all 
time coming, bearing the name and arms of Ogilvy, his 
baronies of Ogilvy, viz., Finletter, Deskford, Keithmore, 
Auchindoun, Drumnakeith, Blanskinnacht, Casterfrith, 
Castelyard, ike, with the castles of Finletter, Deskford and 
Auchindoun, with Mills, Milltowns, forests, &c, and a 
long series of substitutes in case of male issue — the free 
tenements reserved to the said Alexander and Elizabeth 
and the longer liver. 

- _ ued at Finletter, 4th Sep. 1545 . confirmed at Linlith- 
gow, 28th Sep. 1545. 


From the Gordon Richmond Rent Roll. 

The Cabrach. 


Tenant. Rent. 

Kirtown, Tornichelt, & Cragincate — Cxeorge 

Gordon ^25 o o 

1 766-1 784. 
Davoch Lands & Milne of Coirrenassie — George 

Gordon ... ... ... ... ... 87 12 5 

Invercharach & Badchier — John Fife ... ... 16 2 9 


Haddoch — James Gordon ... 
Auchmair— John & George Gordon 
Redford — Wm. & Jas. Yates 
Elrick — Jas. Gordon 
Howbogg — Wm. Robertson 

,, Wm. Fittas 

,, Jas. & John Harrison 

,, John Robertson 

4 16 10 


'.'". 6 



... 6 




... 4 










Howbogg — Mary William ... ... ... ... 

Easter Bodybaes — Jas. Gordon 

Bodybaes — Thos. Stewart 

,, Wm. Robson ... 

Gauch — John Fife ... 
Powneed — Thos. Robertson 

,, Alexander Robertson 

Braclach — John M' William 
Buck — Jas. Cruickshank 

Largue — John Reid 

,, John Milne & Thos. Roy 

Aldvhalloch — John Milne, Thos. Roy, Alexr Bain 
,, Robert Gordon 

,, Alexr. Robertson ... 

Aldewnie — Jas. Henderson 
,, Jas. Seott 

Jas., Chas., & Alexr. Scott 

Milne Miln Towne — John Grant of Rothmaise 
Xo Tack. 

Brock Hillock— John Mill 2 8 ro 

1 766-1 785. 
Ardwalls — Francis Lumsden ... ... ... 22 4 4 

Xo Tack. 
Blackwater, Grazing — John Gordon ... ... 23 o o 

Total Rental— £368 3s 5d. 






















































Upper Ardwell — Alexander Leslie. 

,, ,, W T m. Laird. 

Xether Ardwell — James Kelman & John M'Combie. 
Shanwell — James Murchie, &c 


Haddoch — John Gordon ... ... ... ... £1 3 r 

Achmair — Wm. Gordon 2 18 o 

Redford— Wm. Yates SSo 

Aldvhalloch — Paul Gordon, ike ... ... ... on 4 

Aldewnie — James Henderson, &c. ... ... 2 4 

Invercharach & BadchTer — Wm. Ferrier, &c. ... 21 11 



i 784-1803. 

Hens. £ s. d. 


Badchier — Peter Cameron 

Alex. M'Donald ... 

Thos. & Rob. Jopp 

Lachlan Milne 

Christian Deason 

Alexr. Smart 

Robt. Deason 
Invercharach — Wm. Ferror ... 
Shanwell — James Kelman 
Upper Ardwell — Wm. Forbes & Wm 
Nether Ardwell— Robt. M'Combie, &c. 
Davoch of Corenassie — George Gordon's Heirs 
\ Tornieehelt — Hugh & Alexr. Kellas 

,, Alexr. Robertson 

Achmair — Wm. Gordon 
Haddoch — John Gordon 
Redford— Wm. Yeats 
Kirktown — Mr Gordon, minister 
\ Powneed — Alexr. Bain 

,, Thos. Robertson 

Upper Howbog — James Ferror. No Lease .. 
Nether Howbog — John Sutor, John & Wm. 

Elrick — John & Alex. Gordon 

Buck — Jas. Fettas. No lease 

Mickle Bracklach— John & Peter M' William 
Little Bracklach — Alexr. Bain 
Little Bodybaes — Alexr. Bain 
Upper Bodybaes — Thos. Ingram. No lease .. 
Craigencatt — John M'Hardy ... 
,, John Riach 

Robt. Mackie. No lease 
Theodore Gordon. No lease .. 
Wm. Stephen. No lease 

Mill & Milltown— John M'Hardy 

Anldewnie — Alexr. Scott, &c. 

Anldevalloch — Paul Gordon, &c 

Largue — John & Wm. Reid ... 
Gauch — John & Adam Gordon 
Wm. Ferror 










... 4 

... o 

... 16 
... 16 

... S 
2 wedders 

5 o 
7 o 

6 o 
3 o 
o 15 
2 o 



















S7 12 



Davoch of Correnassie. 


Hens. £ s. d. 

Pyke — Jas. Gordon ... ... ... ... 2 6 10 o 

Oldtown — Wm. & Chas. Gordon ... ... 2 10 o o 

Berry leys & Glack Shalloch— Alexr. & Arthur 

Browster ... ... ... ... 4 n o o 

3 Ox-gales of Upper Tomnaven — John Mac- 
intosh ... ... ... ... ... 3 10 o o 

5 Ox-gales of Upper Tomnaven — At. and Wm. 

Robertson ... ... ... ... 5 16 o o 

Newtown & Milne — Jas. Horn ... ... 4 21 o o 

Hillock & Dalriach — Jas. Gordon ... ... 6 24 o o 

Bank — Jas. Adam & John Gordon ... ... 6 n o o 

Grazing of Black water — Wm. Ferror 

o 18 o a 


Pyke — Adam Gordon 2 

Oldtown — John Gordon, (Bank) 2 

Berryleys, &c. — Arthur Browster ... ... 14 

Upper Tomnaven — Alex. Macintosh ... 3 

Nether Tomnaven — Wm. & Alex. Robertson 5 

Newtown & Mill — Jas. Horn 4 

Hillock— Alex. Scott 6 

Dalriach — Wm. Deason ... ... ... 2 

Bank — Jas. & John Gordon ... ■ 6 

25 o o 
18 o o 
25 o o 
42 o o 
40 o o 
25 o o 

Tornychelt— Hugh & Alex. Kellas . 
Achmair — Wm. Gordon 
Haddoch — Alex. Henderson ... 

Redford— Wm. Yates 

Kirktown — Rev. John Gordon 
Elrick — George & John Gordon 
Craigencatt — Wm. Riach & Alex. Bain 







Hens. £ 



O 12 

i 14 

1 11 

1 5 

3 7 

1 4 


1 4 



Badchier : — 

Toclholes — Peter Cameron 

Broomknowes — Peter Cameron 

I. M'Conachy's part — Peter Cameron 

Alex. Robertson 
Own & E. Deason's part — Alex. Smart 
Isobel Horn 
Robina Japp 
Invercharach, incl. Burntreble — Wm. & Alex. 

Forbes o 65 o o 

Tomnavouin of Invercharach — John & Alex. 

Mitchell o 16 o o 

Shanwell — John Bremner 

Margt. M'Conachy & John Bremner 1 
John Cottan 
Horseward of Shanwell — Chas. M'Donald . 
Upper Ardwell — Wm. & Al. Forbes (Inver- 

Upper Ardwell— Wm. Watt 

Nether Ardwell — Jas. Gow 

John Deason 



















Davoch of Correnassie. 

Pyke — Adam Gordon 

Oldtown — John Gordon (Bank) 

Berryleys, &c. — Arthur Browster 

Upper Tomnaven — Alex. M'Intosh 

Nether Tomnaven — Wm. & Alex. Robertson 

Newtown & Mill— Jas. Horn 

Hillock— Alex. Scott ... 

Dalriach — Wm. Deason 

Bank — Jas. & John Gordon 


25 o o 

iS o o 

17 o o 

25 o o 

42 o o 

40 o o 

12 O O 

25 o o 

Tornychelt— Hugh & Alex. Kellas 
Achmair — Wm. Gordon 
Haddoch — Alex. Henderson ... 
Redfoord — Wm. Yates ... 

S 20 o o 

S 28 o o 

8 12 o o 

8 10 o o 


Kirkton — Rev. John Gordon ... 
i Powneed and Little Bracklach — Wm. Bain 
i ,, Thos. Robertson ... ... 

Upper Howbog — Wm. & Jas. Fettas & Jas. 

Nether Howbog — Jas. Robertson & John Souter 

Elrick — George & John Gordon 

Buck— John M'Hardy 

Mickle Bracklach— Adam Gordon & Thos. 

M' William 

Little & Upper Bodybaes — John M'Hardy 

Craigencatt — Wm. Raich 

Alex. Bain 
Milltown of Cabrach inch 
part of Craigencatt- 
Aldunie — Jas. Sheed 

Alex. Scott ... 
John Stuart ... 
Aldivalloch — Paul Gordon 
Largue — Alex. Innes for Alex. Gordon and 

Arch. Reid ... ... ... ... 4 

Wm. Deason ... ... ... 4 

Brockhillock and 
-John M'Hardy .. 






. £ s. d. 

22 o o 

19 o o 

10 o o 

iS o o 

24 o o 


12 O O 

34 o 

24 O o 

I 10 o 


Gauch — John Gordon 

Grazing of Blackwater — The Duke 

2 wedders & 

10 o o 
10 o o 
60 o o 

Sum Parish of Cabrach crop 1804 216^885 4 o 


Dalriach — Lt. Jas. Taylor 
Mill Croft — George Hendry 
Berryleys — John Leslie ... 
Upper Tomnaven — Jas. Smart ... 
Upper Tomnaven— Alex. M'Intosh 
Nether Tomnaven — Jas. Middleton 
Invercharach — Alex. Forbes 
Jas. Jopp 
Jas. M'Combie 
Burntreble — Peter Mitchell 
Todholes — Jas. Dow 
Broomknowes — John M'Connachy 




















Badchier — Jas. Sector 

John Stewart 
Jane Hay 

Wm. Horn & Jas. M'Hardy 
Alex. Smart 
Shanwell — Wm. Bremner 

Wm. M'Lauchlan 
Widow Leslie 
Horseward — Janet Robertson 
Tomnavonin — Alex. Mitchell 
Upper Ardwell — John Sheed & Alex. Kellas 
Nether Ardwell — Wm. & Adam M'Combie 
Jas. Watt 

Alex. Gow's widow 
Christian Deason 
Torniechelt — Hugh Kellas, jun., & Wm. Horn 
Aldunie — Jas. Sheed 

Alex. Scott 

Aldivalloch — Paul Gordon's widow 
John Gordon 

Wm. Sheed 

Wm. Deason's widow .. 
John Kellas 

Largue — Wm. M' William 

Chas. M'Donnald 
John Cockburn 

Alec. M'Lean 

Robt. Grant 
Elspet Dawson 
Gauch — Peter Gordon 
John Gordon 

Alex. Gordon 

Bracklach — John Gordon 

John Robertson 

Alexr. Beattie 

Isobel M' William 
Bodiebae — Thos. & William Robertson 
Buck — Wm. Souter 
Nether Howbog — Alex. Robertson 
Upper Howbog — John Souter 
James Fettas 
Margt. Ferror 







































































Powneed — Wm. Bain 

Alex. Bain 

Alex. Kellas 

John Kellas 
Milltown— David Scott 
White Hillock— Sam M'Hardy 
David Scott 
Widow Sharp 
James Forbes 
Achmair — Alex. Gordon 
Haddoch — Chas. Stewart 
Kirktown — John Cottam 
Part of Kirktown — Rev. James Gordon 
Reddford — William Yates 
Elrick — Widow & George Gordon 
Blackwater Forest — The Duke 

£ s. d. 

25 o o 























£i744 o o 


Berryleys — Alex. Scott 
Invercharrach — Jas. Merson 
Jas. Jopp 
Jas. M'Combie 
Horseward — Wm. Bremner 
Bracklach — Alex. Beattie 
Whitehillock — John Sharp 
Kirktown — John Cockburn 
Rev. J. Gordon 
Blackwater — Duke 

£$0 o o 
65 16 o 

80 o o 

Total rental — 158 fowls and ^1704 7s 6d. 


Badchier — George M'Lachlan £7 

(Removed and let to Peter Cameron, for crop 
1794 at 20/- additional rental.) 
Isobel Horn 

o o 


Shanwell — Jas. Kehnan 

Wm. Farquharson 
Chas. Macdonald 
Margt. M'Conachy 
Nether Ar dwell — Robt. M'Combie 
John Deason 
Wm. Watt 
Jas. Gow 
Hillock— Let to Wm. Taylor for 3 years from 

Whit. 1800 at additional rent & Dalriach 
Haddoch — Jas. Henderson 
I Torniechelt— Hugh & Alex. Kellas, jun. 
i Torniechelt — Alexr. Kellas, Elder 
i Torniechelt — Jas. Kellas 
Upper Howbog — Jas. & Wm. Fettas 

Buck — Alexr. Gordon 

Little Bodybaes — Thos. Ingram 

Aldunie — Jas. Sheed, Chas. Scott, Alexr. Scott, 

John Steward, Jas. Scott 
Aldevalloch — Paul Gordon 

Jas. Reid, Elder 
Jas. Reid, Elder 
Largue — John Reid & Alexr. Gordon 
Blackwater Grazing — The Duke 

M' William for 1794 
Old Town— Wm. Sutor 

£ s. d. 


































21 o o 


Aldunie — James Sheed 
Alex. Scott 
John Stewart 
Aldivalloch — Paul Gordon 

Upper Cabrach. 

Farm. Tenants. 

Redford 1 765-1 7S4 Wm. & Jas. Yates 

1 784-1803 Wm. Yates 

1804 Wm. Yates 


Wm. Yates 





i 765-1 784 





1 765-1 784 









1 765-1 784 

Mickle do. 

1 784-1803 


Little do. 







1 765-1 784 

1 784-1803 












Jas. Gordon 

John & Alex. Gordon 

George & John Gordon 

George & John Gordon 

George and Widow Gordon 

John Fife 

John & Adam Gordon 

John Gordon 

Peter, John, & Alex. Gordon 

Thos. Robertson 

Alex. Robertson 

Thos. Robertson 

Alex. Bain 

Thos. Robertson 

Wm. Bain (also Little Bracklach) 

Wm. Bain 

Alex. Bain 

Alex. Kellas 

John Kellas 

John M' William 

John & Peter M' William 

Adam Gordon & Thos. M ( William 

Alex. Bain 

William Bain 

John Gordon, John Robertson 

Alex. Beattie, Isobel M'William 

Alex. Beattie 

Jas. Cruickshank 

Jas. Fettas 

Alex. Gordon 

John M' Hardy 

Wm. Souter 

Wm. Souter 

John Reid, John Milne & Thos. 

John & Wm. Reid 
John Reid & Alex. Gordon 
Alex. Innes (for Alex. Gordon 
and Arch. Reid) Wm. Deason 
Wm. M'William, Chas. M'Donald 
John Cockburn, Alex M'Lean 
Robt. Grant, Elspet Dawson 
Robt. Grant, Elspet Dawson 


Milne & Milne Town 

1 765-1 784 John Grant (of Rothmaise) 
1 784-1803 John M'Hardy 

(With Brockhillock & 

part of Craigencatt) 




Brockhillock 1765 

(no tack) 


John M'Hardy 
David Scott 
David Scott 

John Milne 

John M'Hardy (of Milne) 
Now called White Hillock 

1824 Sam. M'Hardy, David Scott 

Widow Sharp, Jas. Forbes 
1838 John Sharp 

1 765-1 784 Wm. Robertson, Wm. Fettas 

Jas. & John Harrison 

John Robertson, Mary William 
17S4-1803 Jas. Ferror 
1790 Jas. & Wm. Fettas 

1804 Wm. & Jas. Fettas & Jas Yates 

1824 Jas. Fettas & Margt. Ferror 

1 784-1 803 John Sutor 
1804 John Sutor & Jas. Robertson 

1824 John Sutor & Alex. Robertson 

1838 John Sutor & Alex. Robertson 

1765-17S4 Jas. Gordon, Thos. Stewart, 

Wm. Robertson 
1 784-1803 Alex. Bain (& Little Bracklach) 
1790 Thos. Ingram. No lease. 

John M'Hardy 

Thos. & Wm. Robertson 
1838 Thos. & Wm. Robertson 

1 765-1 784 John Milne, Thos. Roy & Alex 

Robt. Gordon, Alex. Robertson 
1784-1803 Paul Gordon, &c. 


Do., Upper 

Do., Nether 


Little do. 
Upper do. 
Little & Upper 1804 


1790 Paul Gordon & Jas. Reid 

1804 Paul Gordon, &c. 

1824 Paul Gordon's widow & John 

Gordon & Wm. Sheed 
1838 Paul Gordon's widow & John 

Gordon & Wm. Sheed 


Aldunie 1 765-1 784 Jas. Henderson, Jas. Scott, Jas., 

Chas. & Alex. Scott 

1 784-1803 

Alex. Scott, &c. 


Jas. Sheed, Chas. Scott. Alex. 
Scott, John Stewart, Jas Scott 


Jas. Sheed, Alex. Scott, John 


Jas. Sheed, Alex Scott 


Jas. Sheed, Alex Scott 

Kirktown (Torniechelt & 


1765-17S4 George Gordon 


Rev. John Gordon 


Rev. John Gordon 


Rev. John Gordon 


Rev. Jas. Gordon & John Cottam 


Rev.Jas.Gordon & John Cockburn 

Torniechelt (i 

1 784-1803 

Hugh & Alex. Kellas 


Alex. Robertson 



Hugh & Alex. Kellas, jun. 


Alex. Kellas, senr. 


Jas. Kellas 


Hugh & Alex. Kellas 


Hugh Kellas junr. & Wm. Horn 


Hugh Kellas, junr., & Wm. Horn 



Robt. Mackie. No lease. 

1784-1803 John M'Hardy 


Wm. Riach & Alex. Bain 


Jas. Sheed 


Jas. Sheed & Alex. Bain 


Jas. Sheed & Alex. Bain 


1 765-1 784 Jas. Gordon 


John Gordon 


Alex. Henderson 


Alex. Henderson 


Chas. Stewart 


Jas. Henderson 


Chas. Stewart 


1765-1784 John & George Gordon 

1 784-1 803 

Wm. Gordon 


Wm. Gordon 


Wm. Gordon 


Wm. Gordon 




No. i. Vol. i. p. 205. 

Session 1S51-1854. 

No. 2. Vol. 5. p. 362. 

Session 1862-1864. 


Containing Primitive Urns, &c, along with human remains. 
By Alexander Robertson, Esq., Elgin, F.G.S., &c. 

During a visit to my friend' Captain Stewart, at Les- 
murdie, in the autumn of 1849, I was shown a nearly per- 
fect urn of coarse earthenware, which had then recently 
been found in a stone cist on the property. Mr John 
Taylor, the owner of the relic, informed 1 me that the se- 
pulchre had been accidentally discovered in digging a sand- 
pit, and that on gaining access to the chamber it proved to 
be full of earth and sand, in excavating which he had 
detected the urn and some half-decayed bones. He also 
stated that not far from the same spot, his father had wit- 
nessed many years before the opening of another cist, the 
interior of which w r as quite free from earth. Its only 
contents were a skeleton in a bent condition 
and an urn, and its floor was. described 
as having been formed of small variously-shaped 
stones nicely fitted together. Mr Taylor further expressed 
his belief that more antiquities of the same kind might yet 
be met with in the neighbourhood, as in certain places the 
ploughshare occasionally encountered large stones, which 
the generally fine-grained nature both of the soil and sub- 
soil led him to think were foreign to them. 

Captain Stewart fully sympathised with my anxiety 
to make some further explorations, but the fields where 
they were supposed to be were then under crop, and this 
of course prevented any effectual search being made for 
them on that occasion. The same obstacle presented itself 


during several subsequent visits to the locality ; but in the 
course of the year 1S51 we were more fortunate, having 
succeeded in exposing three cists for the first time, as well 
as had an opportunity of inspecting two others which had 
been previously examined. All the relics found that were 
of any interest have been already presented to the Society 
by Captain Stewart and myself, and I have now the honour 
of communicating a notice of the observations made during 
their disinterment. 

On the 21st May 1S51, I accompanied Captain Stewart 
to Lesmurdie, and we were not sorry to learn from Mr 
Taylor, senior, that the plough was then at work in the 
field where he had seen the cist before-mentioned. The 
tenant of the farm, to whom we trusted for information as 
to the probable situation of the sepulchres, was from home ; 
but on going to the field his son pointed out a stone which 
the plough had struck upon a day or two before, and which 
he felt pretty sure was an indication of the existence of 
what we were in search of (Cist A) . After removing a 
quantity of earth mixed with stones of various sizes, an 
irregularly-shaped slab of mica-slate was exposed at a depth 
of about one foot eight inches from the surface of the 
ground. It lay horizontally, and measured about four-and- 
a-half-feet in length by two-and-a-half in breadth. On rais- 
ing the somewhat ponderous mass, we saw the upper edges 
of the side stones of the chamber, which appeared to be 
completely filled with firmly packed dark-brown earth, 
similar to the soil of the field, and shewing two runs of 
a mole on its surface. In removing this earth, it was found 
to be only superficial, the greater part of the cavity being 
occupied by a yellow micaceous sand containing a few 
pebbles, and identical in character with the arenaceous 
deposit out of which the tomb was excavated. The vertical 
walls of the cist were arranged in a nearly rectangular form 
and composed of five slabs of mica-slate, two having been 
used for the longer sides. Its direction was nearly north- 
east by south-west, and it measured internally about three 
feet two inches in length, two feet in breadth, and one foot 
eight inches in depth. All the joinings of the various stones 
were carefully plastered with loam, evidently as a pre- 
caution against the intrusion of rain-water. The floor was 
paved with small stones, but the greater part of it was 


inadvertently broken up before we were aware of its nature. 
On searching among the sand we found portions of bones 
in so decayed a state, however, as to be readily reduced to 
a sort of dryish paste on compressing them between the 
finger and thumb. From their condition it was evident 
that they must entirely disappear with the lapse of time ; 
and although at first somewhat annoyed that none of them 
should be fit for preservation, I was in some measure con- 
soled at finding a satisfactory explanation of the total ab- 
sence of osseous remains, as well as of all trace of increma- 
tion, in several cairns which I had explored on the Brown 
Muir, near Elgin. Portions of what appeared to have been 
teeth were met with at the south-west end of the chamber, 
and near them a rudely but profusely ornamented urn 
lying on its side, and filled with the same materials as the 
lower part of the cist was. The urn is now in the Museum 
of the Society and is figured here. (See Woodcut, fig. 2.) 
Cist B. — On the following day we returned to the 
ground, and found that our active assistants had already 
exposed the roof of a second cist, some of the stones of 
which had been come upon in digging a pit for storing 
potatoes. The grave in this case was larger than that just 
described. Its lid was formed of two massive pieces of 
mica-slate; over the junction of these was another slab, and 
on each side of it a smaller one. Through the chink of the 
lid we saw that the chamber was not full, and almost ven- 
tured to hope that, on raising it, we might behold the 
skeleton and its accompaniments in the same state as those 
which Mr Taylor, senior, had told us of. But we were dis- 
appointed, as about three- fourths of the cavity were found 
to be occupied by a mass of earth and sand, which reached 
the roof on the south-eastern side, and sloping downwards 
to the opposite one, left the rim of an urn exposed to view 
at the northern angle of the chamber. The lid of the cist 
was about two-and-a-half feet from the surface of the 
ground, and the longer axis of the chamber lay nearly 
NNE. by SSW. Four slabs of mica-slate formed its sides, 
the longer pair measuring three feet eight inches horizon- 
tally, one of the others two feet four inches, and the re- 
maining one two feet. All the joinings of these stones were 
daubed with loam, as in the previous example. The depth 
of the chamber was two feet, and its floor was neatly paved 


with small flattish water-worn stones, such as are found 
along the margin of the adjoining river Deveron. From 
the careful way in which the variously-shaped pieces of the 
pavement had been adapted to each other, and imbedded 
in the same kind of loam as was used for closing the crev- 
ices of the cist, it became evident that considerable pains 
had been bestowed on the execution of this part of the 
work. The skull, which is now preserved in the Society's 
Museum, was found at the NNE. end of the chamber, 
lying on its left side (into which position it must have 
fallen when its ordinary attachments to the rest of the 
skeleton gave way) , and with the lower jaw still in its 
place. It at first appeared to be in a perfect state of pre- 
servation, but on raising it a softened portion of the lower 
side remained behind. The upper side of the skull, where 
the earth only came in contact with one surface of the 
bone (and where, therefore, the moisture was less) , was 
but little changed from its natural condition. The teeth, 
incisors as well as molars, were much worn but all were 
sound; and although some of them now happen to be 
amissing, the whole were in their sockets when disinterred. 
A tibia and part of a humerus, both of the right side, were 
the only other bones that were found in a state for removal, 
and they are of little interest, further than shewing, con- 
trary to the vulgar opinion, that the stature of these 
ancient inhabitants of Scotland did not surpass that of 
their modern representatives. The urn (Fig. 3) stood up- 
right on the right hand side of the skeleton. Its height is 
7f inches, and both in shape and style of ornamentation 
it strongly resembles one from Ratho, preserved in the 
Museum of the Society, although the latter contained ashes 
and human bones. 

After securing the relics that have been mentioned, and 
when about to leave the cist as fully explored, Mr W. 
Taylor discovered, in a little mass of sand that had been 
left near the spot on which the urn stood, three chips of 
flint and some minute fragments of a dark brown oxide of 
iron: the latter, exhibiting a peculiar fibrous structure on 
their surfaces, were also presented with the urns to the 
Society's collection. The flints were cemented together 
by a ferruginous concretion of sand, the greater part of 
which was thoughtlessly destroyed in attempting to free 


:ones from the extraneous matter. A small remnant 
of the agglutinated sand is still, however, attached to the 
surfaces of the flints; but as I shall have occasion to refer 

particularly to these traces of iron before concluding 
this paper, I postpone any further notice of them at pre- 

We next proceeded to re-open the cist which Mr 

r, senior, had described to us, and as it was very 

:he surface — so near indeed as to prevent the tillage 

the soil above it — the lid was speedily rais-. The 

direction of the sepulchre was nearly the same as those of 

thers, and it lay almost in a straight line between 
them, at the distance of three yards from the first and of 
five yards from the second. It had been opened more than 
once, and was full of earth, among which we found frag- 

- of a large urn and some bones. Of the skull, nearly 
the whole of the frontal and a portion of the right parietal 
aether with the anterior part of the lower jaw, 
were met with. The cranium is of unusual thickness, and 
the incisors do not exhibit those flatly-worn surfaces so 
usually observable in teeth from cists. The upper portion 
of the right femur is of the usual size, but the humerus of 
the same side is diminutive. 

Cist D. — On the iSth August of the some year, Captain 

art observed the edge of a flat stone projecting from a 

bank, where it had been exposed owing to the earth which 

originally covered it having been carried away during a 

of the rivulet below. The chamber in this instance 

round to be larger than any of the others that we had 
seen, very rudely constructed, and filled with earth, the 
surface of which was marked by several mole runs. The 
direction of the cist was about north-east by north by 
south-west by south, and it measured four feet four inches 
in length. Its greatest breadth was two feet four inches. 
The north-east end was composed of two slabs, of nearly 
equal size, and the north-west side also of two, but not 
joined in a straight line. At the south-west end four rough 
stones were laid one upon another, and five others were 
similarly employed to connect these with the south-east 
side, which was, as usual, made of a single slab. At the 
noith-east end we found an urn ornamented like the others, 
but displaying less skill on the part of its artificer, which 


is shewn in Fig. i of woodcut. The vessel stood just at 
the junction of the two slabs already mentioned, and had 
been shattered by the shifting of one of them. The floor 
of this cist differed from the others in being unpaved. 
After a very careful search, no traces of bones could be 
discovered ; and as the position of the urn shews that the 
trunk of the corpse could not have rested at the north- 
end of the chamber, and it is not likely that it would have 
been placed against the rough stones at the other extre- 
mity, I am disposed to look upon the cist as a cenotaph, 
constructed in honour of the manes of some one whose body 
could not be recovered for the performance of the usual 
rites of sepultre. A few yards from this last sepulchre, 
and between it and the others, we found the remains of a 
fifth one ; but beyond an addition to the number discov e 
and shewing apparently that the arrangement of the graves 
was intended to be rectilineal, it presented nothing worthy 
of notice. 

There were no superficial eminences, neither burrows 
nor cairns, to indicate the position of any of the cists. On 
the contrary, indeed, the ground seems to have been caie- 
fully levelled over them, with a view probably to prevent 
their detection and the risk of the disinterment of the 


In direction the sepulchres varied only a few degrees, 
and they may be generally described as lying north-east by 
south-west. They differed considerably in size, but with 
one exception (Cist D.) where some of the side walls were 
formed of stones laid one upon another, and there was no 
pavement, their structure was similar. There cannot be a 
doubt that, as in the instance so often referred to as having 
been observed by Mr Taylor, senior, the bodies, along with 
the urns, &c, had been originally deposited in empty cham- 
bers, the sand and earth found in the other cists having 
been introduced subsequently, partly carried along with 
the percolating atmospheric waters, and partly cast in by 
the workings of moles. In the only two cases in which 
we found osseous relics, the head had in the one been 
placed at the north-east, and in the other apparently at the 
south-west end of the chamber, so that there seems to have 
been no uniformity of practice in this respect. 

The contents of the urns were most carefully examined. 


and were found to consist of nothing but the same mic- 
aceous sand as occupied the lower part of the chambers. 
There was not the slightest discolouration of the sand at 
the bottom of the vessels, and this would certainly not 
have happened had they been deposited with any solid pro- 
visions in them. Even supposing that mice or other vermin 
had devoured the food, there would still have been evidence 
of the fact in the stains resulting from the excrements which 
such creatures invariably leave behind them ; and as noth- 
ing of the kind existed, it may be concluded either that the 
urns had been empty when interred, which is very un- 
likely, or that they had contained water or other beverage 
for the use of the departed. 

In describing the second (Cist B.) I mentioned the 
occurrence of chips of flint held together by a ferruginous 
concretion of sand, and of fragments of oxide of iron, with 
a fibrous surface in contact w T ith them. Mr W. Taylor, 
who found these relics, was happily quite unbiassed by any 
knowledge of the Copenhagen theory of periods., and per- 
sisted in his investigations after I felt perfectly satisfied 
that we had seen all that could be worthy of inspection. 
There was no appearance of iron in the sand of any other 
part of the cist, although I scrupulously examined it im- 
mediately after the flints were found; and notwithstanding 
that such flints are usually supposed to belong to the stone 
period, I have no hesitation, from the appearances which 
came under my notice, in expressing a conviction that the 
flints were originally accompanied by a steel (iron?) and 
tinder ; the decomposition of the former having supplied the 
latter with its oxide of iron, as well as furnished a cement 
to the sand which enveloped the whole. 

There can be little doubt that sepulchres of very vari- 
ous dates, and containing the remains of people of very 
different races and creeds, are included by antiquaries under 
the general denomination of primaeval cists. Those to 
which this paper refers may, I think, be characterized as 
follows : — Cist without any superficial mound, either of the 
nature of burrow or cairn, the chamber about three feet 
or a little more in length, and containing a single unburnt 
skeleton, and an urn, either empty (when the cavity 
happens to be so likewise) , or shewing by the character 
of its contents that it had not when first deposited held 


any solid matter ; with or without chips of flint and traces 
of iron in their vicinity; with or without ornaments of jet, 
or other similar mineral; but without weapons. 

Cists of this very peculiar class have been found in con- 
siderable numbers in dry, generally somewhat elevated 
spots, all along the eastern coast of Scotland, and they 
have also occurred, although apparently in fewer numbers, 
on its western side. They are far from rare in some parts 
of Germany, and indeed the figure of one at Rossleben, in 
Prussian Saxony, in Prof. Kruse's Deutsche Alterthiimer 
(B. ii Heft. 2 Tab. i; fig. 5) might, except that the floor, 
like the other side's, is formed of slabs of stone, and that 
the urn is different, very well serve as an illustration of 
some of those at Lesmurdie. Similar cists appear to have 
been found in England, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, and 
in various others of the northern states of Europe; but 
there is too often such a want of precision in the published 
accounts of these antiquities, that it seems premature to 
them, although they may, I think, be pretty safely re- 
garded as Teutonic. As to the absolute, or even the com- 
parative date of the mode of sepultre referred to, little can 
be said ; but its era must, at all events, be advanced from 
the so-called Stone Period to the so-called Iron Period. 
Whether it was practised during the earlier or the more 
advanced ages of the latter is also quite uncertain ; it seems, 
however, very unlikely, from the elaborate character of the 
work expended on the cists, and the infinite variety of the 
ornaments sculptured on the urns, that such a custom could 
either have been invented, or carried into execution, by a 
very rude or uncultivated people. My own impression is 
that the antiquity of these sepulchres has been very much 

(The skull found in cist B is rather well-formed, large, 
full, and rounded; broader posteriorly, rather flattened at 
the junction of the occipital and parietal bones; but these 
last are unsymmetrical, the left parietal bone projecting 
more backwards than the right) . 





By the Rev. John Christie, Kildrummie, Aberdeenshire. 

The cist was discovered while excavating in a field 
for building sand. It was situated on a grass-covered 
slope, declining with a north-eastern exposure towards 
the banks of the Deveron. There was no tumulus nor 
any apparent mark of its existence above ground. 

Some years ago another cist was discovered close by 
it in a line towards the south-west. It contained bones 
and an urn (a sketch of which was exhibited) . Numerous 
other cists have been found in the same field, containing 
urns and bones, generally in a good state of preservation. 
Great care was taken in opening the cist. It was about 
3 feet below the surface of the ground to the covering 
stones. The excavation made in laying down the cist would 
appear to have been circular ; about 6 feet in diameter. 
In excavating two stones were first reached, one towards 
the west 2 feet S inches by 2 feet 6 inches, and the other 
on the east 1 foot 8 inches by 2 feet 2 inches. They were 
laid above the ends of the cover of the cist. That cover 
was 4^ feet in length by 3 feet 7 inches at the broad end, 
1 foot at the narrow end, and 2 feet 11 inches about the 
middle, the whole of an irregular heart shape, ~\ inches 
thick at the thinnest part, and ioi at the thickest. 

The cist was formed in the usual manner, with two 
stones set on edge forming the sides, one at the foot and 
another at the head. The bottom was paved with one large 
flat stone irregularly shaped, with smaller ones carefully 
laid to complete the causewaying. Where the head had 
rested was a stone, the whole breadth of the cist, raised 
like a pillow at an angle of about 30 . The dimensions 
of the cist were 2 feet 4 inches in width by 2 feet 4 inches 
in depth. 

The cist contained the remains of a skeleton, lying in 
a line from east to west, the head being in the east end. 
Of the skull only one of the parietal bones remained in pre- 


serration. The skeleton was in a contracted position, as if 
lying on the left side, with the legs bent upwards, at the 
knees and thighs, and the arms crossed over the ribs. The 
bones were so much decayed as not to be removable with- 
out fracture, but by carefully removing the superincumbent 
sand which had completely filled the cist by gradual per- 
colation, most of the bones were uncovered and seen in 
their original position on the causewayed floor of the 
The thigh bone measured i foot 5^ inches in extreme 

The cist also contained an urn, lying on its side as if 
across the neck. It appeared as if it had fallen into that 
position from the perpendicular, the bottom towards the 
north ; the bottom of the urn was separated by fracture 
from the bod}- of it, and lay at a distance of about 2 inches 
therefrom. It contained one of the pieces of a flint which 
had been split in two, and a whitish yellow powder, which 
dyed the part of the pavement on which it had so long 
rested. The urn when taken out was completely filled with 
the gravelly sand which had filled the rest of the cist. It 
broke into several fragments on being lifted, but on being 
reconstructed was found to be of the following dimensions, 
8^ inches high, circumference at the top 21 inches, at the 
contraction 19 inches. (A sketch of the natural size was 

In excavating to come at the cover of the cist, some 
pieces of charcoal were found. Some were also found near 
the skeleton in the cist. It is reported also that on after- 
wards lifting the flag with which the bottom was paved 
considerable quantities of charcoal were found. Some re- 
mains of a darkish fibrous-looking substance like dry 
were also found beside and under the remains of the : 
What it had been, whether hair, wool, or vegetable matter, 
could not be discovered. 

Mr Shand, the farmer in Forteith, deserves great 
credit for having left the cist untouched after discovering 
it, until it should be carefully opened and examined. 

There were present at the opening of it, Dr Taylor, 
Leochel Cushnie; Mr Smart, minister of Cabrach ; and Mr 
Christie, minister of Kildrummie. The urn taken from the 
cist formerly opened close by it is in the possession of Mr 


Taylor, Boghead of Lesmurdie. Its dimensions are 6f 
inches high, diameter of the mouth 6J inches, of the 
bottom 317 inches, and circumference of the narrowest part 
iq inches. 


AA 000 908 830 

■:' ; v ■.'■■' 


s . ,.\..> . , V.