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History of Aberdeen and Banff
By William Watt (1900)


The History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff was undertaken by Mr Alexander Allardyce, and at the time of his decease he had carried the work, at least in outline, as far as the early years of the Reformation period. When the task, auspiciously begun by him, devolved upon another, it seemed desirable, on various grounds, that the writer should make himself responsive for the whole book. The proportions to be allotted to the different parts were accordingly determined afresh, and the treatment proceeded from the beginning in conformity with the writer's estimate of the significance of events and his interpretation of the manifold data with which he had to deal. But portions of the materials left by Mr Allardyce have been used, and frequently also there is an incidental indebtedness to him in the early Chapters.

Throughout this brief retrospect of the two shires, the aim has been to give as clear a presentation as possible of the essential facts and the sequence of events in the course of their progress, bringing into prominence whatever has been distinctive in their life and action and showing wherein they have differed from other counties and from the country as a whole, and what have been their special contributions to the national history.

The broad general principle has been steadily kept in view, that no statement or tradition should be accepted as historical for which there is not clear and definite evidence. There is the less temptation to give heed to legendary or mythical elements that here the authentic records are so exceptionally abundant and complete. By the great work carried out in connection with the first Spalding Club, supplemented in recent years by that of its successor, a large body of the true materials and data of the history of northeastern Scotland has been collected, arranged, annotated, and indexed, to the great advantage of every one entering on this field of historical research. Less socrial to the north-east, but invaluable in relation to all such inquiries, are the many volumes now published in which the contents of the national archives are analysed and rendered more conveniently accessible, as also the calendars and abstracts issued by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, of papers in the hands of private persons and corporate authorities, to all which has to be added the extensive results of private enterprise, through book-clubs and otherwise, in publishing the documents of the provincial as well as the national history of Scotland. While the writer's main indebtedness has necessarily been to these various sources of documentary evidence, he has to acknowledge the generous assistance he has invariably received from possessors of local information, or custodians of records, to whom he has had occasion to apply with regard to particular points.

Acknowledgment has also to be made of important assistance in the compilation of the bibliography. It is almost exclusively confined to publications having a direct bearing on matters coming within the scope of this history. A full bibliography of the two shires, including works by Aberdeenshire and Banffshire authors, is announced by the New Spalding Club, and is expected to form a large volume.

17 Queen's Road, Aberdeen,
 February 1900.

Welcome to Aberdeen


Chapter I.
The place of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire in history—Physical features — Earliest history : The Romans — The Taixali and Devana—Severus's expedition : Supposed Roman camps—Eirde houses, pit dwellings, and crannogs—Duns, laths, and cathairs — " Druidical circles" and " standing - stones " — Sculptured monoliths—Flint implements — Early population — Legends of the saints and the researches of the Aberdeen historians—The ' Book of Deer'—St Columba and the conversion of the northern picts: Traces of him in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire—Other saints — Ecclesiastical controversy and the expulsion of the Columban monks —St Fergus—St Rule and King Hungus at Braemar—King Grig's connection with Aberdeenshire and his services to the Church—St Manire and religious decay—The Viking age : Inroads of Scandinavians—Thorfinn and Macbeth —Final overthrow of Macbeth at Lumphanan — Lulach and Maelsnechtan—Power of the northern kings in Buchan.

Chapter II.
The transition epoch—Coming of the new population—Influence of Queen Margaret—Malcolm Canmore's northern expeditions—The Aberdeenshire mormaers become earls — Renewed immigration under David—Rise of towns : Aberdeen, its founders and early population—Trading privileges and charters: The northern Hanse —Aberdeen mint and markets—Restriction of taverns—Banff— Cullen, Inverurie, and Kintore—The ecclesiastical revolution: The Church in Aberdeenshire—The see and its endowments—Parishes—The new territorial aristocracy and feudal barons— Sheriffdoms—Flemish settlers—The earldom of Garioch—The Leslies—The earldom of Mar and the Durwards—The Bysets— Advent of the Cumyns : Statesmen, castle-builders, pious founders —The Abbey of Deer—Durward and Cumyn rivalry—The Le Neyms, Cheynes, See.—The north-eastern thanages—Serfdom— Fusion of races.

Chapter III.
The wars of succession and independence—Attitude of the Cumyns and the Earl of Mar—Robert Bruce and the Mar earldom— Macduff and the regents—Aberdeen and the French alliance— Buchan's border raids—Edward I. in Aberdeenshire—Wallace : Popular support of the national cause—Edward's second visit— Coronation of Bruce—His wanderings : In Aberdeen : Illness— Battle of Barra and devastation of Buchan—Disappearance of the Cumyns—The part taken by Aberdeen—" Bon-Accord "—Second partition of the counties—King Robert's charter to Aberdeen : Municipal government—Civil war—Aberdeen sacked and burned —Battle of Culblean—Beaumont and Mowbray—The Parliament of Aberdeen—Progress of the burgh—The wolf of Badenoch— Lady Lindsay's defence of Fyvie—Caterans—Close of the fourteenth century.

Chapter IV.
The fifteenth century—Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar : His career in Aberdeenshire, France, and the Netherlands—The battle of Harlaw—Irvine of Drum and Provost Davidson—Mar as protector of Aberdeen — Rise of the Gordons — Huntly appointed Lieutenant - General — His part in the civil wars — Aberdeen fortifications—The second Earl of Huntly—Battle of Sauchie-burn and death of James III.—Action of Aberdeenshire lords— Sir Andrew Wood and the forest of Stocket — Hospitality of Aberdeen — Royal visits—Perkin Warbeck—Municipal organisation— Privileges of the guild — "Simple burgesses" — Civic oligarchy—Burgesses of trade — Crafts versus Guildry—Crimes and punishments—The Candlemas pageant—Maritime commerce —Enlargement of St Nicholas' Church—Episcopal, municipal, and private liberality—Importation of materials—Condition of the Church in the two counties—Bishops as statesmen and courtiers —The religious orders : Arrival of the Franciscans—Pestilence.

Chapter V.
State of education—.Medieval schools of Aberdeen—Song-school and grammar-school—Monastic schools—Aberdeen students at Oxford —John Barbour : At English and French universities — The beginning of Scottish literature: 'The Brus' — Masters of the grammar-school—A Compulsory Education Act—Bishop Elphinstone—His early career—Foundation of Aberdeen University— Comparison with preceding universities—Points of resemblance to and difference from the University of Paris—The royal charters— The first principal—Boece as scholar, historian, and biographer —His colleagues — Early students and alumni — Endowments— Elphinstone's munificence—Elphinstone as author—The Aberdeen Breviary and the introduction of printing into Scotland— Scottish art — Plays and pageants — The reception of Queen Margaret Tudor — Flodden—Death of Elphinstone — Bishop Dunbar—His completion of Elphinstone's works—The Bridge of Dee—The cathedral and its heraldic ceiling—College extension —Alexander Galloway—Dunbar's "new foundation" — Early prosperity and celebrity of the university.

Chapter VI.
Premonitions of the ecclesiastical revolution—Relaxation of social and ecclesiastical bonds—Gordon raid on Kinloss Abbey—Night attack on Aberdeen by Garioch lairds — Breach between the citizens and the Forbeses—The trial and execution of the master of Forbes—Robbery of the cathedral treasure—First appearance of Lutheranism and the measures against it — Repression of irreverence and enforcement of Church dues by the magistrates of Aberdeen—Episcopate of William Gordon—Increasing aggrandisement of the Gordons—Bonds of manrent—The fourth Earl of Huntly : Lieutenant of the North and Provost of Aberdeen—The Battle of Pinkie—The burden of taxation—Huntly's unsuccessful expedition to the Highlands : Deprived of office and honours: Magnificence of his establishment—Earl Marischal and the Reformation—The Forbeses—Burning of the Church of Echt—Morals of the clergy—Memorial of the dean and Chapter.

Chapter VII.
The Reformation—Contrast between its course in Aberdeenshire and in Scotland south of the Grampians—Church revenues absorbed by outside superiors—Church-wrecking in the south—Division of opinion in Aberdeen—Destruction of the monasteries—Attack on the cathedral—Pronouncement of the citizens—Adam Heriot, first Protestant minister of Aberdeen—Visitation by Knox—Attitude of the university and the ejection of the Catholic teachers—Principal Arbuthnot — Ordinances of the kirk-session — Ministry of John Craig and establishment of Episcopacy—Rivalry between Huntly and Lord James Stewart — The Queen's return from France : Mission of John Leslie—Her northern tour—The battle of Corrichie—Death of Huntly—Execution of Sir John Gordon —Forfeiture and restoration—The Forbes and Gordon fights at Tillyangus and Crabstane—The Towie tragedy—Sir Adam Gordon of Auchindoun—Exactions of the Regent Morton—Vacillation of the sixth Earl of Huntly—Proceedings of the " Popish Lords"— Their ultimatum to Aberdeen—The battle of Glenlivet—Termination of the struggle between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.

Chapter VIII.
The second university and the wandering scholars—The fifth Earl Marischal — His embassy to Denmark — The Keiths and the Church revenues—The response in Aberdeen to the new demand for education—Futile attempts to reform the older university— Grant of Church lands to the Earl Marischal—His foundation-charter of Marischal College—Organisation and early officers—A university at Fraserburgh—Aberdeen professors in Continental universities—The grammar-school : Cargill and Wedderburn—Illiteracy of craftsmen — Lack of schools in rural Aberdeenshire— County families and the grammar - school : Fight for the Yule holidays—Education in Banff—The witch mania : Witch-burning in Aberdeen and Banff.

Chapter IX.
The age of castle-building and Episcopalian culture — Advance of wealth and taste—The seventeenth-century castles and mansions and their builders—George Jamesone, "the Scottish Vandyck" —Description of the city of Aberdeen—The darker side of the picture—Poverty and mendicancy—Cateran irruptions—Tumults of "clannit men"—The burning of Frendraught—The prohibited General Assembly of Aberdeen—Revival and reign of Episcopacy —Brilliant episcopate of Bishop Patrick Forbes: Church organiser and patron of learning—Forbes and the universities—"The Aberdeen Doctors "—Raban the first Aberdeen printer—Death of Bishop Forbes.

Chapter X.
Beginning of the "Troubles"—The nobility and the Church endowments—Charles's ejection of Provost Patrick Leslie—The anti-Episcopal party in municipal politics — Samuel Rutherford in Aberdee'n—Visit of the Commissioners of the Tables—Death of the first Marquis of Huntly : Overtures by the Covenanters to his successor—Rival proclamations at the Cross—The Glasgow Assembly : Abstention of Aberdeen clergy—Division of parties in Aberdeenshire—First occupation of the city by Montrose—Huntly entrapped and sent to Edinburgh—The Trot of Turriff—Royalists again hold Aberdeen—Invasion of the Mearns by Aboyne : Fiasco at Megray Hill—Battle of the Bridge of Dee—The forced loan and Articles of Bon-Accord — Monro's sieges of Royalists' residences— General Assembly in Aberdeen—Dr Guild appointed Principal of King's College—Lord Gordon joins the Covenanters —Supplies for the army in England—Rejection of northern recruits—Haddo and the Jaffrays—Execution of Sir John Gordon— Montrose as Royalist leader—Fight at Justice Mills and sack of Aberdeen—The "Cleansers" in Deeside—The battle of Alford —Huntly and Montrose—Huntly again in command of Aberdeen —His execution.

Chapter XI.
Charles II. and the Covenant—His landing at Speymouth and visit to Aberdeen—Provost Jaffray—Arrival of General Monk—Rule of the Commonwealth and Protectorate—Enforcement of toleration—Divisions among the Presbyterians—Cant's hostility to the Episcopalians—The Restoration in Aberdeen—Revival of Episcopacy—Flight and deposition of Cant—Archbishop Sharp—The Synod of Aberdeen unanimous for Episcopacy—Bishop Scougal revives the bright traditions of Aberdeen Episcopacy—The penal laws against nonconformity and conventicles — Harsh measures against the Aberdeen Quakers—Distinctive position of the two counties mainly ecclesiastical—The first Earl of Aberdeen—The Duke of Gordon's mild opposition to the Revolution—Viscount Dundee in Aberdeenshire—Collapse of Jacobite resistance after Killiecrankie—Only one Presbyterian minister in the two shires —Resistance in Aberdeen to the Presbyterian commission of "visitation"—The provost imprisoned — Division in the town council — The north - eastern clergy generally take the oath of allegiance — Gradual extension of Presbyterianism—The nonjurors—The "Rabbling of Deer"—Deprivations after the Rebellion of 1715—Persecution and close of non-jurancy.

Chapter XII.
The Jacobite rebellions—The Earl of Mar as courtier and rebel leader —Aberdeenshire and the Union—Colonel Hooke's mission—Mar's "hunting party"—Fire-raising to compel his vassals and their tenants to rise—Proclamation of the Pretender—The Jacobites occupy Aberdeen and elect a town council—Landing of the Pretender at Peterhead: His court at Fetteresso — Flight of James and Mar, and collapse of the rebellion—The forfeited estates: The York Buildings Company's operations—The Earl Marischal's return — The political influence of the Church : Moderatism— Overhaul of the universities—Cattle-lifting and smuggling—The ' second Jacobite rising—Meagre part taken in it by Aberdeenshire —Lord Lewis Gordon and the other leaders—The Jacobites in Aberdeen—Its relief by Cumberland—The severities after Cul-loden—Final suppression of cattle-lifting—Abolition of hereditary jurisdictions:—Social and economic changes.

Chapter XIII.
North-eastern commerce and agriculture—Trade of Aberdeen with Flanders, Holland, and the Baltic—Its connection with Camp-vere—Aberdeen merchants in Poland—Rise of textile manufactures—Extent of the cloth and hosiery trades of Aberdeen—Why the Aberdeen trade flourished—The trade of Banff--The linen manufacture in Aberdeenshire—Backwardness of husbandry till after Culloden—The early improvers of agriculture—Sir Archibald Grant: The Earl of Findlater—Dr James Anderson—Miraculous transformation round Aberdeen — Beginning of turnip husbandry and the fat cattle trade—Cattle-breeding a speciality of Aberdeenshire—Improved communication and transport—The fisheries—The granite trade.

Chapter XIV.
Characteristics of the people—Influences of race, history, and physical circumstances — Teuton and Celt: "Natural selection"— Success of the early immigrants—Land and people—Situation unfavourable to international commerce : Aberdonian enterprise in shipping, foreign and colonial trade, and banking—Former extensive participation in the trade of the West Indies—Aberdonians in foreign armies: The soldiers of fortune and their great success—In the British service : Empire makers—Lumsden, • Outram, Sir William M'Gregor, General Gordon—Naval officers —Statesmanship and administration—Jurists and judges—Ecclesiastics—Medical men—Travellers—Inventors—Gifted families and hereditary genius: The Gregorys, Reids, Fordyces, &c.—Aberdeen society in the eighteenth century—Principal Campbell and his contemporaries — "The Wise Club" — English students: Burney, Colman—Hall and Mackintosh—Dr Johnson's visit— Honorary burgess-ship—Aberdeenshire poets and men of letters —Burns and Skinner—Byron—Criticism—Philosophy : Aberdeen the birthplace of the Scottish school—The association philosophy —History a speciality—Journalism: Perry, Gordon Bennett, Douglass Cook, &c.—Artists and architects—Aberdeen scholars : Latinists, Hellenists, and Orientalists—The influence of education.

William Watt
Joint proprietor and editor of the Aberdeen Free Press from 1872-1906.

List of books relating to Aberdeen and Banff and List of Map's of Aberdeen and Banff

Records of the County of Banff 1660 - 1760
Compiled by James Grant and published by the New Spalding Club (pdf)

The Annals of Banff
Volume 1 By William Cramond (pdf)

The Annals of Banff
Volume 2 By William Cramond (pdf)

Brian the Aberdonian
Now 87 years of age he provides some reminiscences of earlier years.

Antiquarian Gleanings from Aberdeenshire Records
Compiled by Gavin Turreff (1871)

Aberdeen Worthies
By W Bannerman (1840) (pdf)

Aberdeen Awa'
Sketches of its Men, Manners, and Customs by George Walker (1897) (pdf)

The Port of Aberdeen
A History of its Trade and Shipping from the 12th centaury to the Present Day by Victoria E. Clark, M.A. (1921)

The Shipbuilders of Aberdeen
By Stanley Bruce

Charters and other Writs
Illustrating the History of the Royal Burgh of Aberdeen 1171 - 1804 edited with translation by Peter John Anderson (1890) (pdf)

Memorials of the Aldermen, Provosts and Lord Provosts of Aberdeen 1272-1895
By Alexander M. Munro FSA Scot (1897) (pdf)

Notes on the early history of the Brig of Balgowny
And illustrative of the position and legal aspect of the fund conveyed by Sir William Hay of Whytburgh and Newton for its repair and maintenance known as the Bridge of Don Fund compiled by William Paul (1876) (pdf)

Banff Through the Years
An illustrated History of the Royal Burgh. Volume 2 - 18th Century by Stanley Bruce, Banffshire Maritime & Heritage Association (pdf). Banff Through the Years is the 4th book in the 'Through the Years' series. As the title implies it is read on a timeline giving the reader all the important aspects of the history of the Roya1 Burgh of Banff. This part looks at the 18th century, which was a time of expansion for the town which led to the building of many grand houses including the wonderful Duff House. There are three other volumes for Banff covering Up to 1699, the 19th century, and the 20th century. (pdf)

Topographical, Antiquarian, and Historical papers on the City of Aberdeen By John Milne, LL.D. (1911)

Churches of Aberdeen
Historical and Descriptive by Alexander Gammie (1909)

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